Monday, February 27, 2012

Now that's something different

In April Terry and I will have been a couple of 12 years. That feels like a long time. And in all that time, one particular phenomenon has been a constant: if we both get sick with something, regardless of who got it first, he ALWAYS gets it worse. This means I'm the one who has to keep life going because I'm healthier.

Another constant of my life had been, until the last 3 years, that I don't get the flu. For about 15 years this held true. One of the last two winters we both had the flu and had to call in a nanny on a Friday, or maybe it was a Saturday. In any case we were equally useless and grateful to have someone who could care for our children because they don't have a 10 hour appetite for TV.

Until this week. Because I don't get the flu, I don't get the flu shot. Everyone else in my family did. Hence, I am the only sick one. It's been so long I didn't even remember what the symptoms were or how long it's supposed to take to feel better - I had to look them up.

Next year I will get the flu shot, promise!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Defenders Day

Today is Defenders Day (the full name is Defender of the Fatherland Day).  This is a Russian Holiday to celebrate the men who served in defense of Russia/Soviet Union.  It is a Soviet hold over holiday.  There is more information here.  This is not to be confused with Defenders Day in Maryland.  So in preparation for the holiday Alex's deski sad class made little tanks to give their fathers.  As you can see from the picture.  Originally it had a piece of candy inside for the father's, but Alex ate the piece and left the wrapper.  This morning she kept telling me that she was giving me trash for my present. I guess it is fitting since I never defended Russia from a foreign invader.

Ice Museum

Back in December I saw a fascinating advert for the "Ice Fairy Tale". Constructed outside of a shopping center in the southern part of Petersburg, it boasted a winter fairyland including bell towers, a maze, snow maidens, and evil sorcerers all built out of over 1000 tons of ice and 300 tons of snow.

I wanted to go over Christmas long weekend. I wanted to go during the 10 days of New Year's holiday. It was going on through March so we kept postponing and postponing. This week is fabulous - two holidays! Monday was an American holiday so Terry and I had a "date day" and Thursday is a Russian holiday - no preschool - so we decided to do a family day. We asked another family with kids our kids' ages if they wanted to come too and we caravan-ed out to the mall.

A few navigational hiccups later, we arrived at the place. It definitely looked a bit disappointing from the outside, which was frustrating as we spent about 20-30 minutes extra in the car (due to said hiccups). But then we went inside. It was amazing. You can see our kids sitting on a throne made of ice. Unfortunately, my husband claims almost none of the other photos came out :( There was a huge heart in ice all studded with flowers on the inside, that was my favorite. There was also a maze of ice blocks, about the height of a 1st grader so the adults could look over the whole thing and keep an eye on their kids but the kids got to wander and get "lost".

The outdoor ice slide was a bit disappointing as it was near freezing today so the melt erased any amount of slickness it originally had.

There was also a 2 tiered slide made from linoleum stapled to a wooden structure. We totally are making this at the cabin! My friend and I each went down this one with one of our kids. We thought our coats were long enough to keep our bottoms dry through the slide and onto the ground. Ooops!

After the outdoor fun, we went in the mall for lunch. The kids got Burger King for the 2nd time in 2 days - lucky them!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Arctic Hysteria

For President's Day, Terry and I had a little "date day" - nanny came for Zoltan, Alex went to preschool (American holidays sure aren't holidays for the Russians!) It was all last minute as I thought until Sunday night I might have to deal with an IWC mini-crisis but it got resolved enough that my Monday freed.

Although there are many items on the Petersburg "bucket list" we hadn't yet checked off, we're also realizing that we don't care that much about some of the Must See sites. I'd also noted an exhibition at the State Russian Center of Photography ( that looked interesting, called "Arctic Hysteria". The museum is interesting, it takes up half of two very separate floors (meaning, to continue the exhibition we had to go out the door, down the stairs, and ring the bell for the second part of the museum to let us in, show the tickets we had purchased on the floor above, and then be admitted). The artists were Finnish, and the art was varied. Our favorite piece was this one. Terry is astonished that I like it, I tell him I studiously ignore that the bunnies are stuffed - as in, formerly lived.

We also discovered a new artist to admire, Ilkka Halso.

Then we lunched at Russkii Dachinki on Nevsky. My Greek salad was great, and that's about all we can say about it. The pelmeni were the worst I've ever had and most of my pelmeni experience comes from the frozen food aisle.

Baby's Rock-a-bye

Some time in the last 2 years, Alex decided she could singlehandedly stop Zoltan's crying no matter what caused it (even if it was her own action or inaction). I think she got the idea from one of her "I'm getting a baby sibling" books, where the girl sings her baby a little baby song.

The song goes like this "Baby's rock-a-bye, Baby's rock-a-bye, Baby's rock-a-bye..." over and over in a singsongy voice.

2 interesting things regarding this song happened in the last week:

1. For no apparent reason, one evening Zoltan asked Alex to sing the song. He even said "please" and asked several times. She, also for no apparent reason, steadfastly refused.

2. On a different occasion, when Alex was crying over something, we hear this little voice singing "Baby's rock-a-bye, Baby's rock-a-bye, Baby's rock-a-bye..."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Butternut squash smoothie

The kids love smoothies. I love that I can usually sneak into smoothies foods they won't normally eat, as well as simply give them foods they can't get well other ways (any ideas for other good ways to use frozen fruit? I hate how they are mushy when thawed, they have to be used IN something - like a smoothie).

I honestly can't recall how the idea came to me, but I decided to get a butternut squash figuring I'd eat it if nobody else in the family did (I'm the only fan ... or rather I WAS). I also thought to add a bit of the baked squash to the kids' smoothie to give them some nutrition different from what they were already having. I looked up Butternut Squash Smoothie to see what flavors would go well with it and in the end decided to make a smoothie with the rest of the squash. Oh YUM. And the best part is Alex loved it too. Even Terry liked it. Zoltan wouldn't go near it.

So here's the recipe:
  • Butternut squash baked until tender (about 1h)

  • 1 banana

  • 1/2 - 1 cup of milk (can be rice, soy, almond etc. I used rice)

  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)

  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (or to taste)


Combine everything into a blender. That's it.

* The proportions listed are just guidelines. I didn't measure anything except the spices. I also didn't have quite enough rice milk and used some ice to thin it. It was still thick so when I poured it for Alex I put in a bit of cow's milk for her so she could get it through her straw.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I've spent many a fine evening at Korovabar on Karavannaya - with girlfriends. Terry had never gotten there yet so when he really wanted a steak that he didn't cook himself, we schlepped to Stroganoff. There's no good way to get there so someone can't have a drink when we go, which does damper a nice steakhouse dinner. As much as everyone raves about Stroganoff, I've never felt the hype, but I kept thinking maybe I just didn't remember it well as I haven't been as frequently or as recently.

Nope. Korovabar has it all over Stroganoff. The meat is at least as good (I still maintain it's better at Korovabar, it's seasoned a bit more strongly and has a lot more flavor), the prices are better and it's a heckofalot more convenient.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ingenuity and creativity

Alex attends a Russian preschool. Her teachers don't speak English (well, their English is even worse than my Russian so I just go about as though they don't speak any). When they post notices I take a picture on my phone and then look up the vocabulary if I'm feeling adventuresome, or I just ask someone to translate otherwise.

There was a notice on Thursday but I only got around to translating it today. I got as far as: We need to urgently inoculate Alex against something that isn't in the dictionary. Google Translate to the rescue!

p.s. - it was measles. She's has her MMR. We're all cool. Maybe next time I'll be sure to translate the same day though!