Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dublin re-cap Part II

Wednesday I actually woke early enough to go for a run. Here's the park right by our hotel (OK fine, it wasn't open during my run so I ran around it but I walked through on a different day. It doesn't make it any less pretty.)

Wednesday was also our "official" group outing to the middle of nowhere to Johnnie Fox's to hear Irish music and see Irish dancing. Yes, those are chamber pots on the ceiling. I think.

If I find where my husband hid the poor quality videos of Irish dancing, I'll post them later! I am sad to say I think I know where he hid them ...

Dublin long-overdue recap part I

The last week of August I was in Dublin for training. It was serious stuff, and I learned a lot, made good connections, blah blah. One of the main responsibilities of my job is event planning, so when you put together 20+ of us, the odds are good that someone's going to come up with a plan.

Our first night after training we went to the Guinness Storehouse tour - the tour went until 7pm until the end of August so we had until Wednesday. I forgot my camera that night so I don't have much to show about it, but it was really well done for a self-guided tour. And the "learn to pour" schtick was fun as was the beer tasting.

Monday night the fire alarm went off in the hotel. The story at the time was it was "electrical" but the next morning's tale indicated it might have been more like "user error". All I know is when someone pounded on my door at 2am all I thought of was stupid drunks so when I opened my door to yell at them, and they turned out to be hotel staff in bright orange vests and I could smell smoke, I impressed myself with the coolness and speed with which I figured out the most important things to bring with me, changed into jeans, grabbed my coat and got outside. The fire alarms didn't work everywhere in the building (hence the personal wakeup calls). Aren't we glad it wasn't worse? One of the women in the training was right by the fire site and the hotel dry cleaned ALL her clothes and, obviously, changed her room. We got back to bed some time after 4am.

I skipped Tuesday night's Jameson's Whiskey tour and studied Russian like a good girl at a Malaysian restaurant. Mmmm.

Here are some pretty things near the hotel. I love the bright colored doors in the somber brick or stone homes.

Here's the canal that stood between us and the heart of the city.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Licking the beaters

With all the baking I do, today was a special "first" for the kids .... I made frosting and let them lick the beaters. Alex enjoyed hers as much as Z enjoyed his, but of course he looks the part a bit more :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amsterdam airport

If you have kids and haven't planned your transit through Amsterdam, here's why you should stop being so silly (yes yes it does require you fly KLM, but I swear it's worth it).

There's a whole big room of these little "pods".

Yes that is an actual CRIB you see.

The library. See the whole shelf of "children's books"? See that it's written in English? There's even more books for adults, as of course you didn't pack reading material because all your time is spent making sure the little people don't melt down.

The "treehouses". Climbing, sliding, running. Things that wear out little travelers and give you a shred of hope they will sleep on the next leg.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Our new fancy pants car alarm

We have a new remote starter/alarm system for our car.

We drive a 1994 Toyota Corolla in "that" blue color. See? (photo taken in its younger, shinier days in Malta)


Absolutely. It is totally ridiculous. However, of course, there is a back story.

Last year we couldn't use our car for about 2-3 months because the locks froze. Can't get into the car, can't drive the car. Once the weather warmed a bit - to, you know, just above freezing - we were able to get in. The summer Terry tore apart the door and did various things to try to ensure the locks wouldn't freeze again, but you just never know. Also, the automatic door locks had been broken for a while and getting 2 kids into the car without anyone running into traffic is an unfortunate challenge - particularly when each door needs to be manually unlocked (meaning for the back seats, of course, that the front doors must be unlocked first, the one must awkwardly reach around to pull up the lock by hand). Now I push a button. Same for locking all the doors on the other side. Bliss.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Hermitage with Zoltan

We bought a membership to the Hermitage last spring and have definitely not used it to its potential. I had an epiphany that Z is getting much better about being able to sit in the stroller or otherwise behave when he's out and about so I decided on a Friday - my day off work - I would take him to the Hermitage. If the weather's good it's a nice walk, and because of the membership if we only make it 1/2 hour it's still worth it.

Today was the inaugural visit. As I didn't know about getting up and down the stairs or where exactly those elevators were, I took the umbrella stroller. It was raining so we caught the bus, totally by accident got let off exactly where we needed to (Moika) and easily got ourselves there. It was an absolute madhouse inside though, and the woman at the entrance told me I'd need to check my jacket if I couldn't fit it in the stroller basket. I looked at the line of people checking things and decided if I couldn't make it fit we weren't going in. Somehow I got the jacket, Z's sweatshirt and the diaper bag all in the tiny little basket.

When we got inside, Z wanted to walk. So we start going up the main staircase baby pace. I was bumping the stroller up behind us with one hand - no way I could have done it with the Phil & Ted. At one point a Russian woman was energetically trying to say something to be about a "detskaya kortka" (child's jacket) and I figured she was yelling at me for not dressing Zoltan warmly enough. After pondering what she could have possibly been saying, I realized that Z's raincoat had fallen out in the bumping so I ran down and luckily it wasn't too far down the stairs.

Z was amazing. He wanted a walk a while but was happy to hold my hand. Then he wanted to sit and eat his snack. We were there an hour and only left because it was getting close to nap time. We got to get back to the Annie Liebowitz exhibit, which Terry and I had seen on its opening day with massive throngs of people. Today was a much more leisurely pace. Z especially loved the photos of Sarah Liebowitz (granddaughter?) and in each room we looked for the photos of "the baby" (his words).

I will absolutely be repeating the experience.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Detsky Sad Part II

Day 1: Alex doesn't nap during naptime. Instead she and the boy next to her talk the whole time while every other kid in class sleeps. I ask if he's the American in the school and she says no. I ask if he spoke English. She says no. Hm.

Day 2: Alex's teacher instructs me to bring a hat or scarf for her for the next day. Alex and I are in T-shirts. Hm.

Day 4: When I come to pick Alex up she's so excited. She has 2 friends! Yes, one is the boy she talked with during nap and the other is a girl ... which for Alex is a bit of a novelty.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sightseeing off the beaten track

Happy Labor Day everyone! Two places I've been wanting to visit are finally crossed off the list:

- Alexander Nevsky Cemetery: the cemetery is comprised of two parts, one side holds famous artists and the other side, I believe, holds average citizens. We only got to the famous people side, and got to see Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Stradivarius, and other luminaries. As today was a mind-blowingly beautiful fall day, sunny and cool, it was a perfect day to be outside and contemplating mortality without getting totally depressed. We will definitely be back with a tour guide.

- Loft Project Etagi: this is a multi-level gallery and more, currently hosting the World Press Photo contest winners. We went to see the photo exhibit, although there are 3-4 other exhibits there according to the Loft Project's web site, as well as a restaurant that's gotten some good reviews. For another day, though. The photos were generally beautiful and powerful, but as the media's love of sensationalism requires, often shocking and horrifying. The photos chronicled many human and natural disasters that I don't remember heading about when they happened, which makes the photos all the more powerful as now the events are etched in my memory.

Detsky Sad

Today we brought Alex to Russian preschool for her first day - school began on September 1 but as I was away we decided to wait and bring her today. A few awesomenesses:

- The boy and his dad walking in behind us. The guard said dobri den (good morning) to us all, and I hear behind me "Can you say priviet ("hi")?" So I turned around and asked in Russian if he spoke English and it turns out they are American! I don't think he's in Alex's class but I am sure they mingle on the playground ... and I could be wrong, he looked about the right age to be in her class.

- The teacher. When I went to bring the paperwork to school 2 weeks ago I brought Alex and she met the teachers and saw the classroom. The lockers all have different animals on them and the teacher remembered that Alex had liked the elephant. Unfortunately, a kid who showed up on the first day had already claimed it, but Alex seems happy with the jaguar :)

When I report back on how it went, I'll try to get a few photos of at least the outside.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Early morning team building exercise

We now have fabulous fodder for our upcoming discussion on crisis management and personal preparedness! Around 2am those who heard the alarms from their rooms were awakened, the rest of us had hotel staff pounding on our doors (of course I assumed it was drunks and I opened my door to yell at them and noticed the smell of smoke).

I really hope we get to start late tomorrow. Oops. Today.