Monday, August 31, 2015

A perfect date

Early in the week we booked the babysitter. 7:00 pm on Friday evening we're still bantering back and forth "where do you want to go"? We decide to try Trattoria, an Italian restaurant in Highvill where I have had several business lunches but have never had a real meal.

The night was stunning (and of course the camera was at home), we weren't starving, so we decided to go for a walk first. Somehow a year in we had never ventured into the Pyramid Park, but this was certainly not the last trip!  We spent about 45 minutes strolling the grounds, watching the fountains, and checking out different angles for possible future family photos with Astana backgrounds.

At the restaurant the waitress spoke excellent English. She asked if we wanted our pasta al dente or soft.  When she forgot our water she remembered on her own and was appropriately apologetic.  When I did not finish the dinner she asked if anything was wrong with the dish: "Really, you can tell me. If it wasn't good we want to know." (it was tasty, just too much food). I have rarely experienced this level of customer service outside USA or Japan. We tipped heavily.

The food was also good. The pesto was fresh, they used generous quantities of fresh mozzarella on the brushetta. Terry's carbonara sauce tasted more like a light alfredo so it was a surprise but actually the dish was a bit better than mine. His strudel didn't look much like a strudel but tasted just right. All in all we'd go back on the rare night we're in the mood for Italian food.

After driving home we decided to go for a walk around the Baiterek to digest some of that dinner and were amazed how many kids were still out so late in the evening. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dinnertime, foreign service style

Last night for dinner we had steaks, snow peas, and baked potato. Halfway through the meal Terry looked at me and said "You know, these peas cost more than the steaks."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Polite society

Kazakhstanis are known for kindness, generosity and tolerance.  Here's something I am really getting used to and will miss when we move on.  When you let someone into traffic, or quite frankly even when they cut you off, they put on their hazard lights for a few blinks to say "thank you."  It turns out that being acknowledged for doing something for someone, even if they forced you to do it, reduces stress and road rage by 50% (using my very non-scientific method of asking Terry and mentally rating how I feel.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Our summer vacation

What did we do on summer vacation?

We spent as much time at the cabin as humanly possible, although as always it wasn't enough. Cabin highlights included:
  • counting the trees (planted last year) that are still alive. Not as many as we wanted, but at least the counting required us to go through a nice nice hike in the woods.  
  • grilling dinner and roasting marshmallows over the fire
  • fighting over who got to spend time in the hammock. Next year we put up a second one. 
  • beach time! for some reason my children get along like Brady Bunch children when they are in or near water, and that's the only time.
  • an "after dark" night hike up to the field to look at the stars. Mommy misjudged the time, we went to early, and the kids were bored before the constellations were visible. Next year we'll try again.
  • Walking straight through the lower part of the property that we are studiously adversely possessing. We've been mowing it and are considering putting in a pond. That would certainly be notorious!
We went to Massachusetts to see my family. Highlights included:
  • going into Boston to see my dad and riding both the Duck boat and the swan boats. Alex even got to drive!
  • shopping with Bubby. No, seriously, the kids like clothes shopping.
  • Terry grilling dinner in a thunderstorm. He pulled the grill right up to the sliding glass doors so he could get the least of his body outside and still cook food over fire.
  • the epic game of Uno where my mom finally pulled out of last place when she decided to apply herself.
  • spending time with both of the kids' uncles at one time, a feat normally accomplished once every 5 years or so.
  • (for Terry and me) stumbling upon some kind of open air music performance at the park by the water in Newburyport on our date night.
We managed to hit one cousin's kid's graduation party. We managed a few date nights while grandparents got to spend quality time with the kids. We got to see some friends although not nearly enough.  We got to see some siblings although not nearly enough. Terry and I went ice skating one afternoon while the kids napped.  We saw movies in the movie theater (in English); spent loads of time at the grocery store; shopped for a year's worth of [fill in the blank]; left the kids in grandparent care in order to run errands; and managed to glut ourselves on various sorely missed food items.

Bless America! See you again next year!