Sunday, January 31, 2010

They know their smetana

The Russian word for sour cream is CMETAHA (pron. smetana). The different varieties can take up a whole shelf in the little produkty. CMETAHA comes in different cream percents, we generally get either 15% or 20% but there are varieties with as little as 5% and one time I accidentally bought the 42%. We ended up mixing that one with 15% to make it more palatable.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Imperial Porcelain Factory tour

The Consulate organized a tour of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory on MLK Day. We took the opportunity to leave the kids with the babysitter and went. The tour guide brought us through where the Masters work (Artists are the ones who develop the new designs and artwork for pieces, Masters replicate them by hand). It's funny, it was basically like a regular office building with desks in a room but instead of computers they had thousand-dollar pieces of porcelain and tons of different paints.
The tour guide explained what ingredients go into the porcelain, how it's poured into molds, where the term bone china came from (yep there's real bone in there - wild animals, so they say). She also explained the two different ways of firing porcelain and how the firing both shrinks the piece as well as changes the color of the paint. Cobalt goes on black but comes out the well-known dark blue.
We then went to the gift shop, where we looked at pieces that cost hundreds of thousands of rubles (roughly 30 rubles to the dollar) They were significantly less intricate, smaller, and less ornate than the pieces we saw being worked on. Hm.
Here's some more information about the factory

Friday, January 8, 2010

The dark side of Petersburg

We had our first, terrifying to us as parents, experience with frostbite yesterday. Terry and Alex went sledding in Tavrichesky Park, where we had spent at least 4 days each week in the summer. They got home just in time for lunch, and while Alex was eating I noticed her cheeks looked strange. It looked like someone had drawn on her face, in a waxy white, little circles right over the apples of her cheeks.
I commented on it to Terry and then we both ran for the computers to look up frostbite. It was definitely frostnip if not full blown frostbite We can't be entirely sure as Alex couldn't articulate for us very well how she felt. We went right into the home remedy (warm wetness .... if it had been feet we could have had her immerse them in water, as it was her face we just kept re-warming washcloths.) As she thawed it started to hurt and she didn't want to let us near her. Then out came the Motrin "Motrin makes you feel better" she kept saying after we gave her a dose. After a while her cheeks got back a lot of color and we had debates over how supple her cheeks were (the frostbite makes then hard, you know the home remedy worked when the skin is supple again). It was naptime and we decided nothing would get worse if we waited 2 hours for medical care so we put her down as usual.
The upshot is that it looks like she's totally fine, but now we are pretty freaked out about having her outside for any length of time. Of course, her cheeks will now be sensitive to the cold so she probably won't want to be out that long anyway.
We're looking into balaclavas.