Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Well, Now! Okay...

Never know what you'll see when walking down the street (Noviy Arbat) in Moscow...


Was running an errand to pick up some resources for the high school English department... I have NO idea why she was there...

I guess you can see that it's still rather warm here! It will be great to have nice weather for all the outdoor ceremonies for the first day of school tomorrow, as opposed to how cold and rainy it has often been in the past...

MANY, MANY PHOTOS and some video coming tomorrow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Safe and Secure, Thanks to Lenin...


We're back in Moscow... Slowly emerging from jet lag and unpacking a year's worth of stuff...

We haven't changed apartments since moving here and we're literally bursting out of it, which makes daily life stressful and unpacking a real challenge! Given how prices for apartments SKYROCKET once you go from a two-bedroom to anything larger (and how hard bigger places are to find, irregardless), we decided to look into a self-storage place to free up space in our current digs.

Brilliant. No more fake Christmas tree hanging over your head when you walk in... No more boxes with birthday and Christmas presents... No more seasonal items (tires, sleds, skates, scooters), craft supplies, hand-me-downs that don't yet fit, etc., etc., stacked up to the ceilings...

I highly recommend Red Box Co.! The facility is fantastic. Climate-controlled, great security measures, a variety of sized storage spaces, very clean... Two locations in Moscow and more opening throughout the city this year.

Lenin himself watches over our stuff when we can't... (He's a statue in the courtyard of the space that primarily houses factories). 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cousins, Part I...


My dad comes from a BIG family (nine kids) and I have so many cousins here! As a result, my kids have a bunch of really great second cousins here to see! We had lunch with my beautiful cousin Lindsey and her fiancé on Sunday; their wedding is this coming weekend... Then this week they're seeing all the other kids who are more their age. For kids who haven't seen each other in two years, they sure picked up where they left off!



Can't wait for them to see my other dear cousins' kids as the week goes on... 

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Daughter the Hiker—and Budding Photographer!


One day this week Katya and my in-laws went for a hike at Beaver Brook Trail outside of Denver. It was nice for them to spend some time together just the three of them... plus two eager dogs!


Katya took such fantastic photos! I'm very proud of her!

 Beatrice...

 And Henry!


The girls miss all their grandparents as they say good-bye during the summer... Now on to our last stop (I'm enjoying in-flight wifi for the first time) with my dad in Portland, OR!

No, You Can't Light It on Fire!



You can now get marshmallows more easily in Moscow... Ironically, the brand is "Rocky Mountain Marshmallows!" Hah! Here are the girls at a big food festival in Moscow this spring where they tried to teach Russians what you DO with marshmallows :-)


 My girls gladly participated in their demo...

And here we now are in the Rocky Mountains, roasting them the REAL way!


Last night we continued our tradition of having a fire and making s'mores with my in-laws' next-door-neighbors on the eve of our departure. Natalia and Andy, one of their sons, are best buddies... He even came over EARLY today to spend time with her before we left for the airport.

Normally we chat, roast/burn our marshmallows and jump on the trampoline—but this year, Natalia got a new idea... Luckily we caught on to what she had in mind before she went through with it!

She actually wanted to light both ends of a big stick on fire and do the following!

Yikes! (But... I bet she would have done brilliantly!)




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wonderful Weekend Day in Winter Park, Colorado



This weekend we went to Winter Park, Colorado with friends from when we lived in Michigan (who now live here). What FUN!


Winter Park offers a plethora of fantastic summer activities: mountain biking; an alpine slide; a human maze; safe bungee trampolining, a kids' zip wire; a climbing wall; mini golf; a bounce house; and a gyroscope. Really great! All of the kids ended up loving an activity that initially scared them a bit; it was a great opportunity to build confidence while having a blast.

The maze made me a little sick, but the kids did it over and over!

Who doesn't love a trampoline?


Everyone did this... Some only once!



I also climbed this wall, making it to the top on my first try. I think I earned some "cool mom" points for that one—but I won't share the many pictures Katya took of my rear as I made my way up...! There's an indoor climbing center in Moscow we'll have to visit; Natalia was very good and loved it. 

Our kids all had such a wonderful time together. Katya even went to school with their daughter yesterday and their classes are going to be pen pals! Natalia and their son also became good buddies; to think that the two of them first met seven years ago when we had just moved to Moscow and my friend was still there waiting for her newly-adopted son's passport! Very special.

It goes without saying that their youngest gal stole the show...

 

Wish we could see our friends more often! And it sure would be nice to spend more time in such beautiful mountains!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Voda s Gazom

I am a dolt. I literally JUST realized that "вода с газом" is club soda in America! I never buy it in America, and have never really had it in America, so I had no idea! Guess I never stopped to think about it... ! 

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!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mila Kunis in Russian

I saw this article on people.com the other day and it made me laugh... I've never seen Mila Kunis act before, but I thought it was really neat how she accepted a marine's invitation to his ball this fall (that he filmed in Iraq and posted to youtube).

Turns out she was born in Ukraine, and here she jumps in to defend Justin Timberlake against a snarky question  by a reporter. She's funny!

Quite a few people in Hollywood are multilingual. Beyond the obvious (Heidi Klum and various Latino actors), there are Brooke Shields (French); Gwyneth Paltrow (Spanish); Michael Vartan (French); and Kristen Scott Thomas (French)—but I just read that Sandra Bullock is a native German speaker! Didn't know that one of her parents is German.