Monday, July 16, 2012

Finally photos of New Holland Awesomeness

The free library has a bit of a plexiglass type overhang for those rainy days

The community garden plot for the kids of Pavlovsk (they wuz here)

This is the scarecrow.

Amazing Leto sculpture/sign

Kids playing on said sculpture/sign

In this little kiosk building thing there's stalls from Shyrpa, Probka, Clean Plate Club, and more

There is also outdoor table tennis. A tournament is going on between the diasporas of St Petersburg.

A little waterfront seating

The best thing of all ... the play area. I didn't get photos of the amazing bean bag mountain on the other side of the building (the red siding you can see, it's actually an old shipping container). Inside the building there's all kinds of crafty and arty things for kids, mostly for kids over 7 and nothing for kids under 5.

Zucchini bread marathon completed!

Approximately 200 muffins taking up a lot of space in the freezer, but truly it's the only way to eat zucchini from about October to about May. At least I can get out of the kitchen now.

In other notes, I am more than halfway through the epic The 900 Days, THE seminal nonfiction book about the Siege of Leningrad. Light summer reading!

And, finally, we have plane reservations! Our trip home is now way more concrete than it had been this morning.

Photos of New Holland to come ....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mnemonic Devices

I'm looking at December and it's getting bigger and bigger on the horizon. I think I really need to step up my Russian studies ... which is a bit crazy as there are only so many hours, I do have this job thing they want me to do to get my paycheck, and the whole reason I've given for quitting my job upon our departure to the USA for R&R is so I can study Russian full time upon our return. So basically I'm freaking out even though I have a logical plan in place that should get me where I need to go by the time I need to be there ... it just requires me to WAIT to be able to turn full steam ahead.

That went longer than I thought. The point to this is I started looking up better methods to make vocabulary stick in my mind. Enter the mneumonic device. I started with a few words I'd been getting mixed up, such as "to memorize" (запомнить) and "to remind" (напомнить). Memorize and запомнить both have "Z" in them. напомнить is like NA[g]-remember, which is of course remind. So far so good.

Then in my homework I saw the word for "noteworthy" (достопримечательный). My neumonic for this is "Do stop, make a sandwich and tell me". Yes, my 9 syllable sentence is 2 longer than the 7 syllable word.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peter's Walks new boat tour

We took advantage of the beautiful weather to do our second Piter boat tour in 3 years. Yes, we've been remiss!  This time we wanted to check out what our favorite tour company had to say. Peter's Walks only started their tours within the last month, so the almost empty boat wasn't a huge surprise although it was a huge shame. Good for us, though, as it allowed the kids to roam a bit and use up some energy while both Terry and I got to listen to the tour guide.

Our tour guide was young and enthusiastic and did a good job personalizing the tour, answering questions and making conversation. His English was impeccable.

There was some issue with the boat, so we had to wait about 15 minutes. The kids took the opportunity to have a snack.

When we took our original tour in 2009, we saw the Neva, Moika and Fontanka rivers. This time, we accidentally got on the water on Red Sails day, and were unable to get onto the Neva at all. No matter as it meant we were able to meander through canals, under bridges, and around sights and monuments using a totally different perspective.

For example, here's the backside of the Mariinsky Theatre - not kept up quite as well as the front, eh?

I happen to be a big fan of all the Petersburg bridges and got a chance to snap many that I'd never seen before.

Another exciting aspect of today was how lightly we traveled. A & Z each had a backpack, I had my purse and T slung the Uppababy over his shoulder when someone wasn't in it. We even took the metro with the kids; I don't remember ever doing that with both of them before. Of course by the time we got home at exactly naptime, everyone was exhausted, dirty and grumpy. It was a great day!

Buddy Bears

What are the Buddy Bears? In Berlin in 2002, someone got the idea and artists started decorating 2 meter tall bears. According to the web site, there have been various iterations over time - at first the bears were on all fours like the Einstein Bear still is, now they stand with arms up "holding hands". In its present form, there's a Buddy bear from every member state of the UN and they tour around the world promoting tolerance. Except when the 4 year old gets bored, runs off and can't be found easily. Then, there's very little tolerance for such behavior and we go straight home.

We tried to get photos of the kids from each country they have visited, unfortunately they got bored about 4-5 photos. Alex announced she wanted to only shoot with bears she liked best, then made a beeline for Sudan. Which of course was next to the USA (It comes next alphabetically in Russian). Here's a snippet of what we did manage to get.

We tried to get photos of the kids in front of the countries they had been to, but Zoltan refused to move out of the way for this one. Oh well, he will get to the UK one day and then this will be accurate.


Kids riding the Einstein bear. See Alex being a good big sis and holding on to Zoltan so he didn't fall off.


Russia. Note that it's just Z and me. This is because this is when Alex ran off. I love the Khohloma design.


We agreed to dog-sit a friend's pup when he went away for a long weekend. I thought it would be a great time to let the kids experience a dog and to remind us how much we don't want one in the FS. Our friend assured us the dog was, if anything, overly submissive and had plenty of experience with kids. Hm.

The intro was as good as could be. The kids bounced off the walls and ran and screamed a lot but she was shielded from them and being petted by me so her freaking out was muted. She drank some water and wandered the house a bit. Eventually she settled down when we invited her onto the couch (she's definitely used to the good life!).

Unfortunately for the experience, she never really got calm. She only peed once a day even though we took her out more often than she's used to. Having her around brought back the visceral reactions of having had Kirby - every time she approached a new dog, I tensed. That probably didn't help her or the other dog view each other as new friends, although she did well enough.

Also, on our first night, Zoltan accidentally stumbled over her and she snapped at him. She growled many times when he got near. Saturday morning I got the idea of letting the kids feed her bits of bacon to reinforce that they are friends. It helped a bit but not enough.

I was amazed and impressed with Zoltan - he did a spectacular job of being gentle with her when he actually got close. I'm sad that he said he wasn't being gentle with her, I believe he didn't think he was because of her reaction. Alex fared much better, even when she tripped over Chancey the next day (just as Zoltan had) the dog had no reaction. Of course, Alex was, in general, quieter and slower than Z and not tearing around on a riding toy.

In the end, I am glad to have had the experience. It solidifies many things that have been nebulous: 1. No dogs while we're in this job, and quite frankly maybe not ever. It's just a PITA and for now my kids provide all the companionship I can handle, and then some.  2. Any dog we do get will be a puppy so its neuroses are unique to our lives and we're not worried about what s/he lived through before we got him/her.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The funny things kids do

We love our nannies. They are amazing and when we largely part ways in just a few weeks we'll all be sad. Yesterday when I came home from work and had to wake Alex from her nap, she started crying and saying she didn't want me, she wanted the nanny. She was still tired, a bit hungry, and generally distraught. Then she asked me to hold her. So, yup, I was holding and comforting my daughter for the fact that I was me and not the nanny.

I am pretty sure the irony escaped her.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Puttin' Up

No, this post isn't about how the kids handle the fact that mommy can only give one of them my full attention at a time. It's about berries in the winter!

We got 4 kilos of berries this weekend at the rinok, 2 blueberry and 2 raspberry. Here's the stats of how we processed them:
-- 9 jam-jar-size jars of jam
-- 6 babyfood-jar-size jars of jam
-- one half-liter jar of blueberries in light syrup
-- one mixed berry cobbler ... heaven! Which then led to using up the random cup's worth of whipping cream ... more heaven! and using the KitchenAid, meaning that I could pour in the cream, toss in the sugar, turn it on and go do something else for 5-10 minutes.... you get the picture. It was yum.
-- unknown number of small bowls of berries. At first they were naked, then they were topped with whipped cream.

Next week we're going back for another 4 kilos.

Shall we talk about the peaches?
Friends of ours who served somewhere that these peaches were plentiful introduced us to them about 3 years ago. I'm not the family peach lover and I remember being unimpressed. For some reason I picked up a few a week or so ago and ... wow.

As mentioned previously, Zoltan is a picky eater. He rarely lets an unknown food pass his lips and many previously loved foods soon fall to the same fate. Imagine how thrilled I was the day he asked me for a bite of my peach? Now, 2 kilos within 2 days later, the kids aren't yet showing signs of slowing down on their gorging. Of course, Terry and I have put in our fair share of the eating too :)

Alex is Terry's spitting image

and we have several recent examples to cement the deal.

1. She was doing puzzles backwards (upside down?) Either way, the picture was facing the floor and she was putting pieces together solely based on how well shapes fit together. Terry does this regularly.

2. She took a toy apart and tried to put it back together. Unfortunate results, now Terry's going to have to try to salvage the toy.

3. She complains of being too hot when it's 70 degrees outside. Actually, that's all of us these days.

Friday, July 6, 2012

New Holland

Of course it was the first day +30C that I decided it was time for us to check out New Holland. I'd heard too many good things and it was Friday - my day off. After somehow requiring 1.5h to get the kids fed, dressed and pottied, and all the snacks and other "just in case" accoutrement prepared, we ran out of the house before something could pull us back in.

The 22 bus is surprisingly convenient, as Ploschad Truda is a переход (underground crosswalk) and a block away from the entrance to the island. From the moment we walked in we were entranced. After crossing around a building that was being renovated, we saw the LETTERS.  лето, ("summer") is spelled out in letters a bit higher than me and are perfect for climbing (for example, E makes a stairway and the O is boxy enough for both kids to fit inside the hole). Then we saw the children's play area. It's not the typical jungle gym, rather it's one of those indoor soft-foam obstacle courses and soft foam shapes to stack or climb on, just outside. It's covered over to there's protection from rain and - more importantly today - sun.

It's much smaller than I thought it would be, although I know they are continuing construction and I am sure more and more of the island will open up over time. The community garden is about as big as my living room, with about a dozen plots. The cafe was very nice, my veggie panini fresh and clearly made after I'd ordered it.

My biggest complaint - my only real complaint - is the lack of shade. The cafe had a lattice-type structure over it so we weren't in direct sunlight, but I had promised Alex a picnic and couldn't deliver because the only trees - about 4-5 of them - are right by the entrance and we didn't notice them til we were on our way out.

All in all, it's worth schlepping over there a few times this summer. Who knows, maybe we'll go back tomorrow with Terry and actually take a few photos*.

* photos were in fact taken, but on my phone, the quality of which Terry finds overly dubious and only under duress will camera phone photos be allowed on the blog. Sometimes it's a pain to be married to a photo snob.