Sunday, November 30, 2014

American English

Alex has a friend at school who has one American parent. The school is English speaking, although they learn British English (and yes, there is a difference, every so slight).  So tonight she tells us that when they are back at school she is going to ask the other girl if they can speak American English at recess, because they usually speak British English.

I wonder if they will notice the difference?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Epic Thanksgiving Post

The problem with being married to someone with artistic and design experience is that it is difficult to argue convincingly with them about layout and design issues. Of course, the family also knows not to argue with mommy about spelling or grammar, we all have our strengths. Why am I writing about this on Thanksgiving? Because I want several photos included in this post and the only way Terry will agree is if I write enough to make the pictures look nice spread among the text.

When you don't have your stuff, a lovely chilled bottle of white wine makes an acceptable rolling pin for the pie dough.  A tiny baby medicine dropper is a better-than-nothing baster. The borrowed roasting pan is too small so you use a tray meant to fit into the Mickey Mouse oven we used before getting our hands on the full sized American one, with the cooling rack sitting atop (and you hope the cooling rack is actually safe to use at high temps).  You lose a lot of turkey juice goodness because the tray is shallow and any movement makes the liquid slosh over.  There's a lot of talk between Terry and me of how things will be different next year.  The good news is that even with all that, everything looks delicious - which is why I wanted so many photos!  Notice the tray the turkey is sitting on - it's our new Uzbek pottery platter that we bought when we had a local craft bazaar at the embassy a few weeks ago. I am so completely thrilled with our purchases.

This year we're doing Thanksgiving at home, with only one dinner guest.  I am pretty sure this is the very first turkey we have ever cooked - we've always had somewhere else to go for Thanksgiving.  I am amazed at how relaxed this day is.  I made cranberry sauce this weekend and apple pie this morning. Terry made an overnight bread (started last night, baked it today).  We made dressing this afternoon while the turkey cooked, and cut veggies for the raw veggie tray.  Terry made gravy and mashed potatoes while I managed to get our car washed - it is so pretty! Such a deep dark red!  We got to the produce stand near the house and ran a couple of other errands.  We even had time to watch Frozen as a family (only our 4th time) and the kids got naps.  Our guest brought roasted beets and pumpkin pie. We managed to hit pretty much every mandatory Thanksgiving day food item without having to freak out about timing.  Maybe setting dinnertime for 5:00pm has a little something to do with it?

We also got a surprise visit from the owners of this apartment, with sweets and happy Thanksgiving wishes.  So lovely!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

cooking up a storm

Today the kids went to Sunday rugby.  Beforehand Terry made a full breakfast and I started bread.  After we came back:  pumpkin puree, pumpkin bread, applesauce, bread, oatmeal cookies, and homemade dinner.  It was quite a day.

We have friends with now-adult children. When we met them their youngest was a teenager.  They used to tell us to get the kids in the kitchen as young as possible. Part of the reason today's kitchen-fest was possible was that the kids helped and - as importantly - didn't need supervision so that it was help, not "help".

We still haven't convinced ourselves to work on their knife skills, though.  

Friday, November 14, 2014


Image result for kazakhstan flag
I know so many people around the world were excited and nervous at whatever time corresponded to midnight in D.C. on Monday, which was when handshakes went out.  I forgot that it was an important handshake day for us too.

Congrats, Terry!  Next summer when we go home for R&R, he'll actually return to post on a PCS out of his teleworking position and into the IPO slot in Astana.  I am sure that sentence just made some travel tech's head explode.

My little love

Zoltan is definitely more free with his affections than his sister. The other day they got the idea to make me birthday cards (6 weeks early).  Zoltan gave me his right away. He explained the picture and the very long word in "silly language" as meaning "Mommy, I love you. Thank you for all the love. Love, Zoltan"

I'm going to miss this when he grows up.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Astana is a relatively new city created in the middle of nowhere, with a lot of great open steppe around it and not much else. For the most part, a "getaway" involves an airplane. Except for Borovoe (now known by some - including Wikipedia - as Burabay, but I have never heard anyone use that word).

The Astana Outdoor Adventure group planned a hike in Borovoe that was reportedly very child friendly, so Saturday morning we got up and met almost 80 people in a parking lot and then caravanned in a dozen or so vehicles for three hours to a spot that I thought was remote enough I couldn't imagine how anyone could have discovered it. Nobody got separated from the group or otherwise lost. Some of the sedans almost didn't make it the last part of the drive, and we did agree that the Xterra really is the right vehicle for this post.

I've got to give the kids credit - they were rock stars.  Zoltan doesn't really love hikes anyway, and he missed his nap.  I had figured we would be out there 1.5-2 hours then call it quits.  We hiked around for more than 3 hours!  There were fits of whining but those were surprisingly weak and brief.  There were piggy back rides on the walk back to the cars, which was an excellent strength training exercise for mom.

When we made it back to the cars, we headed out to the second adventure of the day - a hotel stay at the Rixos Borovoe.  Many embassy families had recommended it and I can see why.  The place is a little resort - two playgrounds outside, a walking path along the lake, an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and apparently if you can find the correct site there's inclusive deals with dinner or spa treatments included in the room rate.  We somehow hadn't eaten even a fraction of what we'd brought for the day of hiking so we ran to the restaurant after settling into the rooms.  I had promised the children at the worst moments of the hike that we could swim before going to bed so we hit the pool for 40 minutes too.  Next morning we were up early enough to see the last pink fading in the sky, reflected in the lake.  At breakfast we ran into friends who were also staying there, Alex got to borrow a book (she just runs through them and we still don't have our ship freight), and then back to the pool for a couple of hours before rinsing all that chlorine off and heading home.

On the way home we bought honey and vareini from a guy selling it on the side of the highway.  He was one of at least a half-dozen similarly-situated vendors or groups of vendors we saw on our side of the road.  Of course the vareini, made from some berry we didn't know, was очень полезно (very good for health).  I guess Terry should start slurping it down!

As a follow-up, it turns out our hike was captured on Kazakhstani television (must have been a slow week).  You can watch the clip here.  Look for Alex around 0:50.

Monday, November 3, 2014


This was our first year of an embassy Halloween celebration that we hear is pretty common worldwide.  The offices decorated doors, staff got slightly early leave and kids trick or treated from 5pm around the building. After their bags filled with candy, there were games and activities, followed by pizza (for kids) and potluck (for adults) and more games and activities.

After last year's USA Halloween I worried the kids would be disappointed not being outside, going door to door, and the significantly lower volume of candy. I shouldn't have worried, they had a blast!

Ready to trick or treat. Note they are holding hands - adorable when they want to be!

After the face painting. Alex already had her kittycat whiskers, so she opted for hand-painting. It's a bit hard to see but a very nice looking black cat on a fence in the moonlight.  I have no idea why Zoltan is striking that pose.