Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mikhailovsky Theatre

Through a fantastic fortuitous set of circumstances, I finally got to see my second ballet in Petersburg this weekend - and my first at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. The location is fabulous, only 2 blocks from the Gostiny Dvor metro or in good weather (and not in cute shoes) a 1/2 hour walk from home. The theatre is smaller than Mariinsky - which isn't exactly bolshoi either compared to USA venues - so it feels much more intimate. The performance was fantastic. The tickets were way cheaper. Maybe a true connoisseur would detect flaws that would render Mariinsky the preferred venue but I am not that good. I am thrilled that I'm going back to see the Nutcracker there next week!

Monday, December 6, 2010


(this is a little late)
I am thankful for so many things. For the Consulate employee who, rather than try to explain how to get to the place that could fix our busted stroller tire, decided he'd just get it fixed for me. For the same man who decided that, rather than do it over Thanksgiving and get it back to me on Friday, he'd get it done Wednesday. For the other Consulate employee who brought the tire home with him so it wouldn't be locked up in the Consulate over the holiday and then brought it to me Thursday morning so that, when Zoltan decided he didn't like his crib for morning nap, his babysitter could take him for the walk in the stroller that just about guarantees sleep. For being able to have a babysitter, who first got Alex to school so I could work on the apple pies I needed to make for Thanksgiving, then helped me with the pie preparations when everything was falling apart and Zoltan wasn't sleeping but we didn't have the tire yet, then ran out with Zoltan to walk him to sleep once we had the tire in our possession.
People are - in general - kind, generous and thoughtful. I'm thankful that I get to experience these gifts on a regular basis.

Friday, December 3, 2010


This morning Alex started to "read" (recite) Pinkalicious to the nanny. She has to ask me to explain the first page - "What does it mean, too much rain to go outside?"

No such thing in Petersburg.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


A second mall has just opened up in my neighborhood. It doesn't open til 10am - including the grocery store - but when I was finally able to get into the place I was thrilled. It's an Okey Express, but had 90% of the items on my list. I didn't get to check out the mall but it has a baby room with changing facilities on every floor, an underground parking lot that advertises how many open spaces it has, and either already or coming soon is bowling & billiards (pool). The best part? From the moment I got into the mall (and the store opened late so there was additional time before I could actually begin shopping) to the moment I walking into my building bursting with groceries was one hour.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My very Russian Sunday afternoon

     Weekends are always tricky with the kids' afternoon naps. Alex wakes Zoltan when she goes back there because he's so sensitive; Zoltan wakes Alex when he goes down because of the screaming. Sunday we put Zoltan down first, then 30 minutes later brought Alex in to her room. Scream, scream, the baby's awake.

     Terry took the hit on Saturday so Sunday was my turn to go walk him in the stroller for however long he was willing to sleep. I took him to Mikhailovsky Gardens. He fell asleep, and after about 10 more minutes I sat down on a bench where someone must have sat recently - the snow had been wiped off. I opened my thermos of hot tea and sat there drinking and reading my book while Zoltan slept in the stroller next to the bench.** 15 minutes passed. It began to snow. The tea was long gone. 15 more minutes passed. I couldn't feel my fingers. It began to snow harder. Zoltan was swatting at snowflakes in his sleep so I pulled out his rain cover to protect him, and decided he'd napped long enough and it was time to go home.

** This sentence is the quintessential Russian part, except that I wasn't wearing stiletto boots and an adorable but largely useless hat.


The new Stocksmann's store on Nevsky opened this week and I am already in love. Yesterday when Zoltan refused to be happy and Alex was napping I sent Terry out to check the place out and get Z out of the house (he's happier out and about, just like his big sis). Terry came home with tons of exciting news, the Stockmann's grocery store is just like Lend (the gourmet store that has all the stuff nobody else has like American brand cereals and maple syrup) but waayyy closer. They also have Lindex, our new favorite children clothing store that has ridiculously affordable clothes, Baskin Robbins in the food court, H&M, and I don't even remember what else. It's a whole 10 minutes walk from our house!
With Zoltan walking as of 3 days ago, I was able to run over to H&M and buy him some boots so he can play outside. Even with broken elevators and massive crowd of people the whole door to door transaction was 45 minutes and no car time.

The extra super awesome part is they have the big slow cooker 220W so we don't have to run it through the transformer. We've become big slow cooker fans especially now that I am working, we also use it for making stock after our friend's information that she just puts all the stuff in the slow cooker and lets it go for a couple of days. So now we don't have to schedule stock making. In fact, at one point over the weekend we had stock in one cooker and apple sauce being made in the other. Yum!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Halloween at the Preschool

Of 12 preschoolers, only 2 have 2 American-born parents. One kid was only 18 months old - and in Russia - last Halloween. Alex, however, participated in the traditional Halloween trick or treat in mom's neighborhood and was old enough to remember it. As it turns out.

The decision was made that "because the kids don't know any better" the treat bags would be filled with healthy food. They got raisins, Fig Newtons, peanut butter crackers, and fruit jellies.  The kids didn't actually trick or treat for them because the larger space we were supposed to have for their Halloween party got double booked and we were ousted. The regular classroom doesn't have enough room to move around that much so a group of parents quickly filled the bags with all the stuff and handed the ready-made bags to the kids. As there were plenty of treats at the party, the kids didn't really even look at their bags til it was time to go home.

When we got home, Alex eagerly asked for her treat bag. The crestfallen look on her face made me wish I had substituted at least 1 or 2 pieces of candy for the stuff in her bag.

He's walking

Last weekend Zoltan took an unaided step toward me - twice in a row. But there were no spectators even though it was the weekend and Terry was home. Today, he did the same for Terry!  Then later in the evening he stood for almost a whole minute, then took two steps forward before sitting down - right in front of both of us and while we were on the phone with a grandparent. I think the days before he's officially a walking are probably single digits!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Party Bus

The 30 seater party bus comes with a stripper pole in the back. The 15 seater has leather couches in a semi circle around the stripper pole. It's cheaper to rent the bus, in either case, with the stripper because there's a fewer hour minimum for rental.

At this point you're asking for the punchline. But instead, here are some photos (to come). And the backstory....

We were going on a tour of the Baltika Brewery. Russia has a no-tolerance policy on drunk driving, and the public transit option takes 90 minutes from door to door, if all goes well. In researching how to get us to and from the brewery, our friend discovered the Party Bus. Here's the third party synopsis of his conversation with the bus rental people.

Friend: I'd like the bus without stripper. We don't need it for 4 hours though, can you get a better rate?
Company Rep: Well, if you rent the bus with the stripper, there's only a 2 hour minimum for rental so it's cheaper.
F: I don't want the stripper.
CR: But it's cheaper... How about you rent the bus with stripper, but we don't send the stripper along.
F: No, I don't want to risk the stripper accidentally showing up.
CR: But it's cheaper!

In the end, he got the "stripper" rate without the presence of the stripper. A good thing, because everyone's first comment upon entering the bus was "Where's the 'tansey pole'"?

More rules and regulations of the Party Bus include no opening alcoholic beverages while on the bus (you have to open the bottles outside, then get back on the bus to drink); no standing on top of the bus; no throwing things from the bus ... you get the picture.

This experience totally deserves its own posting, but the Baltika Brewery tour itself deserves its own shout out, which is forthcoming. As are the photos.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Friends of ours have a standing date night every week. I am both impressed and amazed. I try to keep in mind they only have one child but still .... for months I have been promising myself that Terry and I will go out more. We finally picked a night and decided to make this a routine event - not every week, but at least every other.

We knew the sitter was coming in a few hours, and we had no idea where to go. Terry makes a strange request - Italian food (we never go out for Italian), and further surprise - it sounded good to me. There's a place just down Vossitanya a few blocks so we decide to try it out. It's next door to a new Czech brewpub looking place so that was our backup.

First, the drinks. I had a glass of the midrange Montepulciano. It was very mediocre. Drinkable, but it had me wondering what the house wine was like. Terry got the home brew, which turned out to be almost a wheat beer. I really liked it and offered to trade but he liked the wine even less.

Starters: I had the Caesar salad with warm chicken (there was no plain Caesar options) and Terry had vegetables with Feta. Turns out he was the big winner on that course. My salad was oozing with too much dressing and the dressing had way too much anchovy in it. It was fine, to be honest, but nothing to love. The pesto drizzled over the chicken was nice but the chicken itself was tasteless, which was strange given that it was so moist. Terry's salad was so fresh and refreshing. The dressing was light and just the right amount, it was basically a Greek salad with really good ingredients. Yum!

Main: I wasn't too hungry so I got the smoked tomato soup. Delicious! We tried to figure out how it got the smoky taste which was strong but more in the finish than the first taste. I have to imagine they smoked tomatoes then cooked and pureed them into soup. Terry got a spaghetti with spicy tomato sauce and salami. I didn't taste but he wasn't impressed.

Dessert: T stayed simple with ice cream and cappuccino. Turns out he's definitely the overall winner for tonight. I figured the desserts are all outsourced so there's a decent chance the apple strudel is tasty. Wrong! The pastry was heavy and soft and the fruit tasted lemony. It did come with cinnamon ice cream, which was tasty. In a city where a cheap blini takeout place serves loose leaf tea, I don't know what higher end places see in Althaus brand. The jasmine tea was worse than the stuff I got $3 for 100 bags in Chinatown.

Final verdict: If we actually want to go out for Italian food, we'll definitely be back. The standout dishes were good enough to warrant trying other dishes to find a full winner meal for each of us, and the location can't be beat.