Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween on the NEC

Trick or Treat is over. The girls have changed out of their costumes. Candy wrappers are strewn everywhere. I may have eaten a few Snickers bars myself, plus or minus a Butterfinger or two. (What? Every kid knows about the mom tax.) A few moments ago, A surveyed her huge stash of candy, sighed with satisfaction, and said "I just can't believe it's almost Christmas."

Happy Halloween everyone. 

(And remember: if you're in the States, and you're turning your clocks back this weekend - we don't do that here. So we'll be an hour off of the usual difference.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

The GlobeHoppers go to the Kremlin

It was a short visit, but we managed to cram most of the major sites into just a few days.

We spent one whole day touring the Kremlin, the Armory, Red Square and GUM. I kind of lost count of how many churches we saw, but it was a lot.

On the grounds of the Kremlin. Church in the background.

One church of many.

That's the Moscow River on the other side of the wall.


Another church.
Unfortunately, there are no pictures allowed inside the Armory itself. It was amazing. Every single coronation outfit of the czars is on display in there. I loved the old dresses and shoes. Loved. And they have a ton of old carriages belonging to the czars.  And suits of armor. And Faberge eggs. And, and, and.... Really. If you're ever in Moscow, make the time to go there.
The GlobeHoppers themselves. Such fun guests they were!

My beautiful family.

These two were missing some other old pals from Jordan. I think a reunion might be in order this summer.





Thursday, October 29, 2015

Evening at the Ice Palace

The GlobeHoppers came for a visit! Well, 50% of them did, anyway. It was fun to have visitors to show around town. And these were the best kind of visitors - smart, funny, curious, easygoing, adventurous....

Mr. G reallyreallyreally wanted to go to a hockey game. I guess you could say he's sort of a fan. He found the game online - all I had to do was find the stadium and purchase the tickets before they arrived.

I explained to the ticket lady that my friends are crazy hockey people and that this was Number One on their List of Things to Do In Moscow, before Red Square and everything. So I needed good tickets. She found me some tickets. "Are you sure?" I asked. "Will they be happy with these tickets?" (Because they were only around $25-30 apiece, and I would've paid more.) She laughed, replying "your friends will be very happy with these tickets."

They seemed happy indeed. We were just 3 rows back from the ice, and our seats were directly above the home team dugout, or whatever you call it in hockey. (I'm not the fan, they are.) We were close enough to see the specks of blood on the ice and the floor of the arena when one of the players got clubbed with a stick. We were close enough that I was a bit worried about getting bashed in the skull by an errant puck - the safety net was conspicuously absent from our section.

The home team - Dynamo - got crushed by the visiting Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team, but their fans never gave up hope. So fun to see the fans screaming at a nearly sold out match, even if I still don't exactly understand hockey.

Crowd outside of the Ice Palace.

Not on zoom.

Friends since middle school - in foreign service years that's an awful lot.

Monday, October 19, 2015

In Search of the Chicken Guy

We mostly eat vegetarian in this house - and in case you were wondering, "vegetarian" and "overseas" are not two words that go well together in most places we've lived.

There are 2 vegetarians in my household (I'd bet you can't guess who they are if you don't know us!), but I do try to feed the rest of the family animal protein about once a week or so. Usually this means chicken - it's the cheapest and easiest form of meat to procure and cook. The kids won't eat fish anyway - 3 years in Beijing, where we were told never to buy local fish because of polluted waters, turned them off fish forever. And I don't like handling raw beef, pork or lamb - it grosses me out a little. So chicken it is.

For awhile, it was super easy to do chicken in Moscow. Each of the two closest metro stations had a "chicken guy" out front selling rotisserie chickens out of a little kiosk. Depending upon the exchange rate, each small chicken cost about $6-8. I'd buy two for dinner and then turn the bones into stock for another meal. Easy! Both of the chicken guys were good guys - polite, helpful, always offering lavash or bread to go with the chicken, which they wrapped carefully and quickly in foil as they worked their way through the line of shoppers.

But last spring, both of the chicken guys disappeared, along with the vegetable ladies and the rest of the kiosks outside of the metro stations. Rumor has it that one of the higher-ups in the city government either didn't like the way they looked, or had other business plans of his own for the site. Who knows what happened? All I know for certain is that suddenly, chicken acquisition wasn't so easy. Gone were the days when I could simply hop off the metro and buy dinner on my way home.

Instead I've been walking to Billa, or Zelyonyi Perekryostok, both close-but-small grocery stores, to buy raw chicken parts, which I then roast and turn into dinner. This means a longer walk, with more work in the kitchen. I once tried to buy a roasted chicken from one of these stores, but that creature must've sat under the heat lamps for a few hours too long before I bought it - it was tough and dry and stringy.

I despaired of ever being able to find a simple way to add some chicken to our main meal. Then, just last week, my friend M offered to take me to her favorite big grocery store, about a 20-minute drive from the Embassy, so I gladly hopped in her car and headed out. Along the way she told me that the store (Auchan, for those of you here in Moscow) has really good rotisserie chicken, but the lady who sells them is "a bit crabby."

Auchan's great! Why haven't I been there before? So much better than Metro - closer and quieter, too. I'm not sure I can find it again on my own, but I'll certainly try.

As for the chicken lady, indeed she was about the crabbiest Muscovite I've met in some time.

I waited my turn behind a policeman who was buying several chickens, and was quite particular about which chickens he wanted. Between his indecision and her slow pace, I thought I'd never get to the front of the line. But finally his chickens were bagged and tagged. She turned to me with a dour expression, gesturing to indicate it was my turn.

"I'll take three, please," I said cheerfully, thinking maybe she'd cheer up if I was cheerful myself.

But no.

"Which ones?" she shrugged, waving at the pile of chickens.

"It's all the same to me," I answered. Really, each chicken looked pretty much like the next, all legs and wings and crispy skin.

She bent over the tray and pulled one out, muttering under her breath, just loud enough that I could hear her.

"All the same?" she mocked me. "All the same? It's never all the same. All of these chickens are different. Why would you say it's all the same when it obviously isn't?" She picked through the chickens deliberately before shoving a chicken in a bag roughly and looking up at me with contempt.

"Okay," I said, because clearly she couldn't be bothered to choose a chicken without my input, "I'll take that one over there, and the one next to it."

"Ha!" she snorted, as if to herself. "So I guess it isn't 'all the same', is it? The lady wants a specific chicken now, does she? All the same, yeah, right." On and on, until the chickens were all separately weighed and bagged.

It would have been annoying, actually, this blatant rudeness, if it weren't so sad-funny, listening to this gold-toothed babushka in a dirty butcher's smock ridicule my ability to properly choose a chicken. They really, truly, honestly, looked pretty much the same to my un-chicken-trained eye.

After about 5 minutes of abuse, I got my chickens and continued on my way through the vast supermarket. Seriously, why have I never been here before?

The chicken, as it turned out, was delicious.

Still. I miss my chicken guy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

STEM on my dining room table

"We dissected owl pellets in school today," K exclaimed as she ran into the dining room.

"Owl pellets? You mean, like, poop?" I asked.

"Naw," she replied. "Pellets. You know. The stuff they can't digest."

As I was about to explain that "stuff they can't digest" is frequently synonymous with "poop," she upended a dixie cup onto my table. My table where I eat.

Just in time for Halloween, I have a dining room table covered in rat bones that only hours ago were encased in owl poop. I mean, pellets.

Anyone want to come over for dinner?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Soccer in the Snow

A few short weeks ago, we experienced an Indian summer here in Moscow - one last blast of warmth and sunshine before the cold dark days of winter set in.

Sadly, that Indian summer ended just a few days before the Middle School hosted an international school soccer tournament.

In practical terms, this meant we went from t-shirts and shorts to winter coats and hats almost overnight. This is what it looked like from the sidelines of the first game of the tournament. In October:

I'm a wimp. I readily admit it. I love sunshine and warm weather. Cold weather is fine, too - as long as I can stay inside and bake bread all day. Yeah, I know - I'm in Moscow, so quit complaining already. I'll never learn to love the snow, but after so many cold-winter posts, I've learned to deal with it. Mostly by avoiding things like all-day-outside-in-the-snow-soccer-tournaments.

The kids, for the most part, had a great time despite the snow - or perhaps because of it. Conditions on the field were less than ideal, but taking a day off school to run around in the first snow of the year isn't exactly a hardship for your average middle-schooler.

Every so often the skies cleared and all of us sidelined parents put on our sunglasses and cheered a bit more, well, cheerfully.

And actually, by the end of the (very long) first day, the snow was mostly gone from the field. It still blew around and stung our eyes, but it couldn't stick for long on the field.

Of course, there was still Day Two to survive, for both parents and players. By about lunchtime on the second day, the kids were all exhausted. Three games in a single day will do that to you.

The team from Warsaw took first place overall. There were other teams, from Prague and Bucharest and Budapest. Istanbul, too. Some of these kids were seriously impressive players, and they obliterated A's relatively young team. His team lost every game.  Every single one.  It's painful, as a parent, to sit on the sidelines and watch your son's team get crushed, over and over. But I was so proud of his team. They never gave up. Even knowing, going in, that they were probably going to lose (they were the B team, after all), they still fought down to the last minute of every game. 

Anyway, you get the idea. It was a long, cold weekend. The day after the tournament, the snow disappeared, and this week we're expecting practically balmy temps in the mid-40s. Which is good, because Halloween is just around the corner.

And now, I'm off to bake some bread. Because winter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Week, Two Articles

I have two new publications this week.

The first is in Time Magazine - my first ever for that pub.

And the second is on Scary Mommy.

Click on the links to go take a look.

In other news: it is snowing in Moscow. Snowing.

I'm not ready.
Please. Write your own stuff.