Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home Rules Police

I started to walk into the living room with half an orange I was going to eat in relative quiet while the kids had a snack in the kitchen and Terry was supervising. Out of Zoltan's mouth as I walk into the room "Mommy, back in the kitchen!"

You see, we don't eat in the living room.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

our little komunelka

So if you know my mom - and as she's one of two readers of this blog, I know you do - you know she, um, likes to shop.

Last year she got Alex an awesome doll house for Hanukkah. It's an eco-house, with windmill, solar panels, a rain barrel, and a motorscooter for more efficient commuting. It was also very sparsely populated with minimal furniture and a family of 3. We had decided that this year we'd ask my mom to get furniture for the house for this year's Hanukkah gifts. I think she forgot the whole house only had 4 rooms.

So now we have 2 families living in a house with 2 kitchens (well, 2 stoves), all 8 human beings stuffed into 2 rooms, and only 1 sink in the entire house.

I'll let the photos do most of the talking here ...

The first thing you see when you enter the home is the stove and sink, which live in the foyer because the kitchen is largely taken up by the bathroom (see below).

Yes it is an open floor plan. As all walls are in your imagination, please imagine a wall between the toilet and kitchen. At least the shower faces the wall for some privacy. As you can see the table only fits 2 chairs, so they eat in shifts. At least they have recycling!

One bedroom (each family has 1 for the family) does manage to fit some furniture other than the bed - an armoire that probably has to be shared among everyone, and a vanity with mirror - also to be shared among as everyone as it's the only mirror in the house. The poor baby has to be fed upstairs as there's no room for the high chair downstairs.

The baby belongs to the "other" family and you can see the crib in the corner of their bedroom. The blue to the right is the bedspread on the parents' bed. The baby's changing table doubles as the family's dresser.

The living room is surprisingly normal. They even have a TV. I can only imagine the family feuds that arise when everyone wants to watch something different.

Everyone is out in the playground because the furniture takes up all the room in the house.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Anticipated budget cuts

In anticipation of the likely upcoming budget cuts, State has decided to return our Kovenskii building to its former configuration of housing 45 families (from back in the komunelka days. Note, today there are 6 families in the building)

These will be Alex and Zoltan's "bunk beds".

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

It's hard to see with all the junk up on the counter, but the kids asked me to turn the lights off and they were just watching the candles burn.

Next to the real Menorah is the plush one Alex uses to count the days :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The deafening sound of silence

A large part of my job is organizing the celebration of American holidays. There's also the "job" of being co-president of the IWC. Between the two, November and December are nightmares. In the span of one month I put together Thanksgiving, the American table for the Charity Bazaar, co-put together the monthly IWC meeting which involves a guest speaker and lunch at a hotel, and, finally the Consulate holiday party which is the biggest event I plan all year.

That nightmare ended last night, with the successful conclusion of the last event. Zoltan was sick so he was in the nanny's hands all day - they were out when I came home to change for the party so I saw my son for 20 minutes (in the morning) all day. Terry did bedtimes. Tomorrow I will be with Z all day. Happy Hanukkah to me! Between now and January 10 I will work 4 more days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The samovar festival that wasn't

A friend alerted me to what appeared to be a samovar festival. It was definitely some kind of fair thing, sponsored by Petersburg Samovars, so our mistake is pretty understandable.

There was one stall in this huge convention center/arena thing selling samovars, plus about a hundred selling tea and a thousand selling honey. And every honey was different. In fact, the white one that looks like frosting was billed as bring good for childrens' health (polezni deti zdorovie) We ended up at only one honey stall, tasted about 10 different honeys - about half their supply - and spent what, to Americans, would be a scandalous amount of money on three small containers of honey. But ... ooohhhh ... let's just say I got the kids to keep their shoes on during the drive home with the threat of no honey when we got home if they didn't.

I'm pretty sure Terry is adding beekeeping to our retirement plan.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My swag bag

We're Friends of the State Hermitage Museum. That means that in addition to getting in for "free"* and being able to go past the long lines, we also get invited to regular evening events. For many reasons we've never actually attended one of the evenings, but December is the 15th anniversary of the Friends Club so I booked the nanny and told Terry he had to wear a tie and planned to go.

Well, Terry's been sick with nobody-knows-what and it turned out I knew a whole group of ladies who were leaving their husbands home so he got a bye, we canceled the nanny, and I went alone. Due to my uncanny ability to get lost going a straight line, I got there later than planned. After checking my coat and the fancy shoes I planned to wear, then showing my invite to a dozen people, I was haphazardly included in a group of people following a Russian speaking tour guide through a new exhibit I'd never heard of and that I think Terry would really like. As I was completely ignoring the guide due to my complete inability to understand what she was saying, I did catch an earful of English coming from a different corner and glommed onto that tour group.

The tour went on for about 1/2 hour and then we were led into the Throne Room, where the director of the entire museum gave a speech. We thought we would then hear the concert and eventually get a canape or glass of water but instead we hung out in a large otherwise empty room while a trio or quartet played (I forget which) and nobody paid much attention, which is a shame as they played well. Our tour guide eventually rounded us up and another 30-40 minutes went by as we toured a different special exhibit that I also have to bring Terry back to see. At this point, however, we were thirsty, hungry, with aching feet and getting grumpy.

Just at that time we were led into the atrium where the food and drinks were. We all got enough to eat to assuage our hunger, and I even got scolded by a Russian because I put my empty plate on the bench on which I was sitting. Completely uncouth and I may never be allowed to enter the Hermitage again! I was pretty happy to be so Russian-ignorant as had I known what she was saying I probably would have gotten upset. In translation it wasn't so bad although I did keep insisting my friend point out to the scolder the stain that was on the bench from before we sat down.
Time to leave, we gather our coats and things and note a very large quantity of plastic shopping-type bags and a couple of people who looked like they worked there. We almost walked right by, but then we asked what was in the bags. Turns out, it's for us! In addition to the Annual Report, we go a DVD, magnet, moleskin datebook, and yummy Frazer chocolate. A perfect evening all around, even if I could barely feel my feet the next day.

* it's not exactly free when the membership costs about a hundred individual visits, but I don't have to have cash on the day I go so in that sense it's free.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hermitage with Zoltan part II

Today was truly perfect. Alex went happily into her classroom at school. Zoltan even chose to wear his boots today rather than fight me for his sneakers. Traffic was normal, not awful. Garmin actually led me to my destinations.

First stop, the Grand Choral Synagogue to buy hanukkah candles. And, as I was there, a challah. Who thinks French toast will be on tomorrow's breakfast menu? Next stop, Hermitage.

Today the Hermitage must have staffed their dezhornaya nice-mean-nice alternating through each room. One lady smiled brightly when she saw Zoltan, chatted for a bit then gave what were clearly directions and a room number and said something like "On lubit" (he'll like it). Turns out that room held the suits of armor and replica horses, also armored. Another women gave me a nasty "neel zya" (not permitted) when I was showing Zoltan a painting, describing it by pointing to the different features, and I guess my hand went within a foot of the canvas. Horrors!

Completely by accident we got to an exhibit I've been wanting to see, Antony Gormley. His exhibit has 2 parts, one where he convinced the Hermitage to build up the floor in its ancient sculpture room so the sculptures are even with the visitors rather than being on pedestals, and the other part includes his own art. Zoltan had a blast with Gormley's figures, especially the one "laying down" (bottom right in the picture). He kept pointing to that and and yelling "lay down" and then to one of the other sculptures and yelling "stand up".

     The other interesting aside is that my 2 year old has a real preference in art forms. If there were no paintings or photographs in a room he'd sadly say "no pictures" and wander through to see if the next room would hold "pictures." My budding critic!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Goals, goals and more goals

On Sunday I went to see SKA host Spartak.  For those who don't know or forgotten from my previous post.  SKA is the local KHL hockey team in St Petersburg.  Spartak is one of the Moscow KHL teams.  This year SKA has been doing very well as of late.  The two previous games I have seen they won but they were close entertaining games.

This game started out similarly.   Spartak scored first in the first period then SKA answered with there own goal later in the period. The first period ended 1-1 so far continuing on the trend I seen up until this point.  The second period SKA came out flying early on and went up 3-1 and then started to play defense hockey for the last 5 minutes of the period.  Lots of short shifts and dumping the puck in the offense zone.  I figure they wold play a defense third period to try and hold on for the win.

Apparently the players in coach had another idea.  They came out aggressive and attacked the offensive zone.  In the end SKA added another 7 goals in the period.  They were 3 for 3 on the power play.  The only blemish in the period is they gave up one power play goal to Spartak.  The final score was 10-2 it was by far the most lopsided game I have ever seen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And then there were 4

Back on July 9 I made 119 muffins to store for the winter. It seemed like a lot to me. I hinted that I'd keep track of how fast they would be eaten.

Between play dates, morning coffees, and occasional treats for the kids, we are down to the last 4 muffins. They didn't even last 1/2 year. I guess next year I'm aiming for 200+!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

So we've had 2 flurries of about 10 minutes each and at least one hail but as it's only dropped below freezing a couple of times ... well, let's just say Indiana has a whole bunch of snow according to my friend and yet Petersburg is just damp and chilly. And dark. The dark is more annoying when it isn't glinty with snow and ice.