Monday, June 24, 2013

A brief photographic recap

As our resident image perfectionist and I were separated for 27 days, all photos taken by me during that time couldn't be posted until he'd had a chance to take a swipe at them. So, here's a bit of what was missed (and bear with me, I recognize this is normally too many photos for one blog post):

Alex trying to sleep on the plane under a 2-blanket-cave
 Alex holding her favorite dog Ruby.

Memorial Day, including all-family silly string battle and cousin photo bomb

Our new house: Alex playing in the mulch pile that used to be an enormous tree; and roses.

Reading with Uncle Howie (with "cousin" Anjali listening too); and reading with Bubby

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Philadelphia, Part II

The next morning we woke and quickly headed out. First stop, Liberty Bell. There's a new exhibit in front of the building, all about the original President's House and the slaves who lived there. It's really well done and we did have to tear Alex away from the videos of reenactments of the slaves' stories. Zoltan practically raced through the building asking where the bell was and was thoroughly unimpressed when he finally saw it, but he did allow a photo op. Alex declined to participate.
 Snack time in the park was followed by a trip to the renovated-since-we-lived-here Franklin Square.
 It houses what is probably the only fountain you can't dip your feet into. The kids as usual loved the carousel ride.
 Then we hit the playground. I got a lovely nostalgic feeling for Russia when I saw the playground equipment all taped up but not fixed.

We considered the mini-golf through important Philly buildings, and instead opted to treat the kids to ice cream before lunch.
As we headed back to the playground, it started to rain. As we headed to the metro, it started to pour. We stopped in at the hotel to grab our rain gear and off to Lee How Fook for lunch. That DID hit the spot and we even found another menu item the kids would eat - score!

Last stop was getting some Dunkin Donut hot beverages at Suburban Station to warm us all up and being serenaded by a couple of violin-playing kids (OK, teens). Remembering this story about violinist Joshua Bell I made sure we acknowledged the performers and gave a tip. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the concert - hey, we did live in St Petersburg for 4 years!

Philadelphia, part I

Alex had a follow up appointment at CHOP, which I had deliberately scheduled for midafternoon, not knowing where we'd be coming from 6 weeks ago. I had figured the whole family would go and we'd spend some time in Philly, a place so meaningful to Terry and me but where Zoltan has never been - other than as a fetus, which doesn't count.

We ended up deciding to cash in some Marriott points and stay overnight to soak in more of the city, and got a fabulous room overlooking City Hall. I have to put in some props for Marriott, this is the 2nd time we've stayed in one recently and they have great customer service.

We also decided to increase the stress-free quotient of the trip and ditch the car at the nearest regional rail station and take the train into town. Bonus that the kids love trains and we ended up in a nearly empty first car where the kids could watch the man (engineer?) drive the train.

After dropping the bags at the hotel we hit Reading Terminal Market, where Terry satisfied his craving for DiNic's sandwiches and I got me some Sang Kee duck. A quick stop for fresh produce at the Iovine Brothers market for our fruit bat children, and we were set. Mmmm, Philly food, how we have missed you!

Alex and I had to head to CHOP for her follow up visit and the boys went down for naps. I have been meaning to snap some photos of the hospital, it really does look like what you'd expect a world class children's hospital to look like (i.e., very child friendly).

These interesting bell sculptures are right on the walk from the metro to the hospital and something else I've been meaning to photograph.

Before we got back to the hotel room the boys ran out for a bit to the LOVE statue and fountain (Zoltan's exuberant "I want to go to the fontanka!" was often heard these 36 or so hours).

The only less-than-perfect event of the day was when we ventured for Indian food that was metro-able (Malik's, alas, is not, but we have not forgotten you!). The place we intended to patronize turned out to be closed, so we went around the corner to another place we knew existed. All the vegetarian dishes were delicious, but the butter chicken was inedible, the tandoori chicken nothing special, and the goat curry tender but not very flavorful. When what you're really craving is butter chicken, a meal like this doesn't really ease the craving.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A pink room and a blue room

While the kids hang out at Camp Pop-pop and Nana, Terry and I are having our own boot camp - make the house liveable.

Our first day went much better than expected - we got to MD hours earlier than we thought/feared, so were able to go ahead and start on two of our main priorities: the front flower bed (pulling the dirt and mulch away from the foundation so termites don't come back, as well as to make room for what we want to plant; and paint the kids' rooms.

We got Alex's room trimmed out before realizing Zoltan's was a higher priority, and got the front flower bed torn apart pretty well, aka it looks awful. We tried to transplant some lilies and a little bush, plus hacked away all the big bushes. We'll have to wait and see if any of the transplants survived. We tried not to overdo it because we have days more work to do but I won't lie - I was sore the next day. At least it was sore, not useless.

Next day was the Pepco inspection of our electrician's work. Pepco, apparently, gives a range of time and refuses to narrow it. So we had to be at the house at 8:30am and we had to get to Lowes beforehand. 6:30am was our wakeup, 7am at Lowes, and we pulled up to the house at 8:29am. Pepco didn't come til after 11am, of course, but we were busy. A bit of time in the front yard, then off to paint bedrooms.

They both need more work, we'll see in the light (bought a lamp!) just how much.

Here's my issue: I really like how the blue turned out in Zoltan's room. I am not 100% sure about the pink in Alex's. In both cases, however, the paint in the room looks NOTHING like the paint on the chip or in the can. Curiously, The paint spattered on my body looks exactly like the paint on the chip and in the can. How does this happen?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

UAB have not arrived but I am able to borrow someone's machine right now.  Expect sporadic postings for the near future.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Strawberry picking = jam making

When we lived in Bucks County PA Terry and I discovered a fabulous pick your own place, called Penn-Vermont after the native states of the couple that owns the place. They have the best peaches and blackberries you've ever had, and are probably the only place anywhere to pick black raspberries. So, as we're finally into strawberry season and our kids don't handle hanging out at home very well, we went to pick berries.

We left the camera in the car so no photos of Alex's red hands or Zoltan's Little Sal-like performance (kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk). However, I can report that we picked 5 quarts of berries, which turned into 2 batches of jam and enough leftover berries for snacking for the next day or two.

The other highlight was our quick pit stop at Bolton's Farm, home of all-good-stuff chickens and turkey products - anything you'd see as a processed pig product they will do with turkey. The best turkey bacon I've ever had. They even get their milk from a farm in the next town and uses glass containers, discount when you bring them back when you buy the next gallon.

More than any other thing ever has, today made me nostalgic for our Pennsylvania life pre-FS. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Miracle of Lollypops

My kids totally dig lollipops  I am sure part of the appeal is that they are only given pops in times of desperation - doctor visits, flights, etc. This is a deliberate strategy to keep the value high.

This weekend we were at Terry's niece's graduation. A class of 500+ students (larger than my entire high school!) called for a large venue, so it was at the Giant Arena in Hershey. It was loooong. You'd think it would take a while to hand out all those diplomas, but that was actually the speediest part of the day. Zoltan of course got antsy but we could get him out to the part of the stadium where there's concessions, bathrooms etc. Alex, however, was the model child she always is whenever we're in public. She sat in her seat, sometimes watching and listening to what was going on, sometimes coloring or having a snack. The only time she got up in the 3 hours of the ceremony was when I encouraged her to go to the potty so we wouldn't have any issues when we sat in parking lot traffic at the end.

Not suspecting the ceremony would go so long, we had been a bit too parsimonious with the snacks. So, by the time we were sitting in aforementioned traffic an hour past normal lunch time and creeping up to nap time, the kids were understandably crabby.

I had a glimmer of a possibility, and ransacked my purse to come up with 2 lollipops. Instant happiness.

About 2 minutes after handing over the pops, I noticed Zoltan's eyes were closed, with the pop dangling out of his mouth. Apparently, at least one kid would get a nap!

We've been thrilled to discover that Zoltan does actually have the ability to sleep in the car, an ability his sister lacks and has always lacked. The unfortunate part is that he usually wakes disoriented and unhappy and there's nothing very soothing we can do as we're all seatbelted and such. But, on this day, when he woke about 1/2 hour later, this happened:  he opened his eyes, took the lollipop out of his mouth, looked at it, smiled and put it back in his mouth. Easy-peasy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Money Pit

Terry got his first look at the house this week. The more I am there the more I realize the good things are very good (recently refinished hardwood throughout the house) and the bad things are very bad (the pond that appeared during the rainstorm right at the walkway to the house from the front yard).

Our first thought, last month when we bought the house, was that the kitchen was top indoor priority. The stove violates code and the previous owners slapped a granite counter on top of 50 year old cabinets. However, we've since decided the top priority needs to be the bathroom with the nasty tub. We're hoping to shame the contractor who did the kitchen into at least moving the stove for us - it involves running a gas line, which we aren't thrilled to do ourselves - and I know he cares about his Angie's List ratings. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

The trees are down and the electrician is done other than having the city come and do the inspection to certify his work. We've chosen the company to do the bathroom although installation won't be until later this summer. So, things are moving along .....

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wordless Wednesday hiatus

Wordless Wednesday is on vacation, at least until UAB arrives with a computer bearing editing software.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

adorablisms again

Playing I Spy in the car. Alex spies something brown. Zoltan's guess "Is it the tree holder?"

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reunited and it feels so good ...

The Poczak-Madnick clan is once again under one roof. I can't believe how much I missed my boys and I am so glad Zoltan is still small enough to smother me in hugs, not being "too cool" to hug mom yet. The 4 week separation makes me, once again, marvel at all the foreign service and military families that do this for longer stretches, and more often, and when someone is in actual danger. So, yay! and thank you (as I never said it on Memorial Day)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Goodbye Piter

Four years have now come and gone for me in St Petersburg.  I have now lived in this city longer than anywhere since I lived with my parents almost 20 years ago.  Zoltan has never lived anywhere else and Alex has lived there as long she can remember.  The last two members of the family now will say good bye to you.  There will always be a special place for me in my heart for this city.  St Petersburg and Philadelphia are the two cities that most touched me, and I will always slight miss being in each of them.  So until I return Goodbye Piter and we will all look forward to when we can return.

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