Thursday, August 4, 2011

Expat Trips to the Mall...


We were thrilled today that Halloween stuff was already on display at Bath and Body Works. HOORAH; that means we can stock up on some little things to celebrate at home... That must sound so insignificant to some, but when you live in a country where Halloween isn't celebrated—and schools are forbidden from mentioning it—you tend to do what you can to jazz it up at home! We can't trick or treat, but I can at least have some decorating fun and let the girls have some themed sleepover parties... 

Natalia LOVES the Halloween soap dispensers we got last year; this year I'll simply refill them (a cute ghost and a pumpkin). Today we picked up some cute votive candle holders that won't weigh much at all in our suitcases, but will work well with IKEA tea lights back in Moscow. I also picked up some fun holiday-themed scented pocket hand sanitizers for the girls and the two Russian-American girls I've been tutoring for five years... Such little, little things—but they mean a lot when you can have them in a place where they don't exist! 

I'll also track down some Halloween candy before sealing up those boxes. In fact, I've already got Easter candy set aside... 

I'm also almost done getting thirty birthday gifts for the girls' classmates... It's customary at their school to do something (small) for each kid on his or her birthday—but "small" is still rather expensive at Moscow prices, and I hate to have to rush around finding something there when I'm working full-time... So far I've found really neat stuff on clearance at various places: sets of Jelly Belly lip glosses; mini packets of cotton candy that turn to gum; VERY cool Japanese eraser sets; and cute necklaces ($1.50 at Forever 21!). I'll get a few more little things and then mix and match for little gift bags... I'm going to get some neat flashlights I saw at Eastern Mountain Sports for the boys and some other girls—all different mini animals whose mouths open up to reveal the lights. 

Every time I go somewhere I snag something... Back-to-school shoes or clothing; birthday and Christmas stuff for the kids and other family members (I hid my mom's Christmas presents in her house in a place she'll never find them until I tell her in December, and I've even already found something for her for Valentine's Day and Mother's Day...); and other stuff I can't get once in Moscow...

Before I leave Colorado, I'll be stocking up on various dried peppers for my Mexican cooking...

Here are two of the necklaces I found today! It's funny how fashionable matrioshkas now are! I chose non-Russian themed necklaces to give as gifts to the girls' friends, though. Mine, however, will be thrilled to get these at Christmas. 


Oh—speaking of Christmas, as of this morning, Santa is already set to stuff the girls' stockings... I must say, getting everything out of the way over the summer makes it nicer as the holidays approach (if only we didn't have school up until—or even on—the 25th!).

And Natalia's birthday in December? Can't wait for that hand-cranked $16 shave ice mini machine to arrive from Amazon, along with some syrups and cute bowls. She's really into Hawaii right now, having read the American Girl Kanani books,  then learning  to paddle board two weeks ago and looking forward to her godmother's wedding in Oahu next summer (who was my student when she was in 7th grade Spanish and is now a teacher herself). She also wants to learn some Hawaiian, so I'll surprise her with a CD "Learn Hawaiian" set for $11...

Just curious—what essentials do other expats stash away in post-summer suitcases? Even though things I used to have to bring are now available in Moscow, there are still many things that aren't...

Gel food dye... Cream of tartar... Glycerin for making fondant... Molasses to make my own brown sugar... Almond, vanilla and orange extracts... Mexican peppers... Pretty larger and mini-sized cupcake liners (the ones from IKEA are too narrow)... Specialty ingredients for baking/cooking certain things (allspice come to mind, and I need to make up my list of others)... Ranch dip mix... Knox gelatin... Halloween and Easter candy... Candles with favorite autumn/Christmas scents... Oreos for a special occasion (when I make individual Oreo cheesecakes)... Candy canes... American stocking stuffers... Interesting (and somehow inexpensive and American) party favors for all the girls' classmates when we have their birthdays at school... Birthday gifts they really want that won't make us go broke... This year a few "Glee" music items for Katya (a neat book for writing her own music and a travel mug) and a the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" game for Natalia...

Then there are other more essential items such as: boxes of knee-high nylons; regular stockings (American ones are better made and so much cheaper); shoes for everyone; outerwear for the girls; boots for the girls and for us adults if they need to be replaced; back-to-school clothing for the girls, in a range of sizes to last the whole school year; any clothing needs for Chris and me; prescription medications (we can't get some of ours in Russia); over-the-counter medications; make-up; reading material you can't get on an e-book; magic eraser cleaners; Goo-Be-Gone; earring backings; printer inks (SO much cheaper in the US); all books I'll be teaching out of to supplement the curriculum; all books for the girls' English classes at school; the gear I'll need to run the half marathon in Siberia in March; some random gifts I can give as nice "hostess gifts" when invited somewhere by Russian friends and I need something thoughtful...

I'm sure I'm forgetting other stuff, too... But I *WILL* remember when not tired late night and closer to our departure date!

I'm SO, SO thankful that we no longer need to bring back books (well, almost no books) now that it's so easy to get e-books!!!! That is SUCH a help!

9 comments:

Tina in CT said...

In case the girls read your blog, remove all references to stocking stuffers or you'll blow it.

The Expatresse said...

Oh, how I remember doing this sort of provisioning. Last year when R broke his arm and we flew to the airport with virtually no time to pack, I left almost everything here.

And it was okay.

It would have been a disaster if I still lived in Moscow or Bratislava.

MoscowMom said...

They don't read my blog; I'm way too boring for them...!

Remembered some more stuff—I need to go through any possible crafts we might do this year and make sure I have the supplies. This is particularly true with holiday-time crafts...

Tina in CT said...

Don't forget to use your teacher's discount at Michael's.

Banker Chick said...

Oh my,you really have working vacations stateside. But from what you write about Russia, I can see how necessary it is to bring a little of the necessities back, from a cost standpoint. When we first moved to Missouri in the 70's from California, I use to take an extra small suitcase to bring back the ingredients for Mexican food. Especially tortilla's both corn and flour. At least when we move back this year, it is all available in stores.

Muddy said...

I saw some cute little matryoshka measuring spoons at my local target a week or so ago in the college back to school stuff. They were made by Fred and Friends (found at World Wide Fred under the kitchen stuff) Thought about you and your blog when I saw them. After reading this post thought it might be worth the mention to you.

I don't know how you do it; to plan for a whole year's worth of needs while here while keeping within limitations you have. Amazing!

Oahu Mom said...

You're heading this way next summer? We've made the trip between here and Russia several times and it's a long one! Hope you have a great time while you're here. If you have questions about Oahu when you're planning your trip feel free to send me an email.

Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading about my kids' birth country (our son was born in Moscow region, our daughter in St. Petersburg) from an American perspective. I sure hope your blog is still around when we take them back to visit so I can utilize some of the great links in your sidebar to plan our trip.

Amy Parulis said...

I saw the American Girl Doll with the paddle board stuff when I was at the Mall of America! Paddle Boarding rocks. I still think you should order a blow-up paddle board and show the people of Moscow how fun it is.

Natalie said...

Love the matryoshka necklaces!! I bet security gets a kick out of screaming your bags through customs.