Monday, August 31, 2009


I found these in a little producty store (think bodega) across the street. Not much in this particular store except for snacks and booze. I was the only one in there who wasn't shopping for booze, either. Or so it seemed.

Aren't they lovely? I was willing to risk buying them even if they weren't any good just because they are so pretty. I confess, I was hoping to open the package and find chocolate on the underside.

No such luck.

But they're not bad. They taste like Lorna Doones (shortbread). And they really, really want a glass of cold milk to go with them.

The girls even liked them.

Back in the USSR

Our return trip to Moscow was the best kind: uneventful.

We arrived Friday around noon. In spite of The Spouse's warnings that the cats had fouled the apartment, I found little, if any evidence. Someone peed on his courier bag. And no amount of laundering or applications of Febreeze has rendered it usable again. But I had another camera-style bag he was able to use. Not ideal, but at least the problem was solved.

Saturday afternoon we went to a Scottish Stramash here in Moscow. It was summer garden party sponsored by the St. Andrew's Society of Moscow. The kids had a ball. I danced too much and limped around the next day. But it was a very nice way to ease back into life in Moscow: we saw lots of friends.

So now that I'm back and the contrasts are still fresh, what have I noticed about both the USA and Russia, you ask?

Well, the people, to start.

Americans are GINORMOUS. Depressingly so. On more than one occasion The Spouse and I would look around a restaurant and realize that EVERY table held at least one obese person, and often more than one. Clothing sizes are all out of whack now. I mean, a medium should not be too big for me. Restaurant portions have been too big for a long time, but I was still a bit surprised sometimes at exactly much food was presented to me.

Americans like to believe that all Russians look like the roly-poly babushka. And a few of them do. But they are far and away the exception.

Russians are slim.

Americans are not.

It's shameful, really.

What else did I notice?

Prices. It was often very frustrating to be in a store like Wal-Mart or Target and see how inexpensive items like shampoo and pet supplies are in the US. I couldn't even justify bringing shampoo and conditioner back with me because the size and weight of the bottles was just too much with everything else in my suitcases.

Smells. Moscow is a city, and it smells like a city. I like cities. In Ohio, I was struck by how often I smelled flower gardens, freshly cut grass, fallen leaves in the woods, and just fresh air. It was delightful, and I tried to be appreciative every single day.

Now that I am back, I notice the dusty, metallic smell of the Moscow Metro. Diesel fumes around the Garden Ring. A whiff of alcohol on the breath of a passer-by. But also the smells of delicious meals being cooked in apartments and in local restaurants. I am overwhelmed by good-food smells.

Tomorrow, the girls return to school. Baboo starts college, which is middle-school and high school combined. There is a lot of unknown here, including her daily schedule, which, as I understand it, can vary from day to day. So I don't know yet what my schedule will look like until we get in there and start figuring it out. I'll know more tomorrow, I hope.

I also hope I can get back to the gym soon. I'm looking more American these days, and not in a good way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Word Games

None of this has anything to do with being an expat.

File all this under "If you can't say anything nice . . . then come sit right here next to me."

I love the idea of having a stock phrase you can use when you have been discussing something catty or gossipy or otherwise inappropriate and need to suddenly appear to be talking about something mundane.

The Spouse and I have long relied on switching, mid-sentence if necessary, to " . . . and what's left over is butter."

As in, he and I are discussing something and a third person walks into hearing range and we need to appear as if we were not previously talking about them.

The scenario: a business cocktail reception.

Me: "I dunno. I think it's a toupee."

Him: "It IS a toupee, it is a BAD toupee, and every time I see him I want to snatch it off his head . . ."

Enter the toupee-wearer.

Him: " . . . and what's left over is butter."

Today, I was in a car with my mother, one daughter, and one of my nieces. I overhear Niece say, "That's what my feet smell like."

I think I have an alternative to the butter-phrase.

Next topic: Fun With Fortune Cookies.

It's always much more interesting to read one's fortune aloud and then add the words "between the sheets."

For example, Skittles got this fortune tonight: "Great things happen when men and mountains meet . . . between the sheets."

But mine was even better.

I got the following fortune: "A small act of charity will go a long way."

Between the sheets.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again

. . . when expats' thoughts turn to shopping lists and packing two tons of Very Important Stuff into too-small bags and asking themselves how seriously over-weight WILL those suitcases be?

I sent The Spouse back to Moscow today with

*A fencing helmet, protective clothing, and a chest protector
*Items purchased from Ann Taylor and Victoria's Secret for a friend of ours (she bought them, we're just delivering)
*School supplies . . . sooooo much cheaper at Target than at World of Books in Moscow. Not to mention sooooo much calmer shopping in July instead of The Day Before School Starts.
*A cardboard cat scratching box. It's a clever thing that one of our evil cats actually uses, sparing our fine IKEA furniture.

His bags totaled something like 48 or 61 pounds. It seemed to change. But the Nice Lady at Check-In didn't say "boo" about it. Hurray.

I will be packing the following later this week:
*Two rubber spatulas. Mine died.
*A ginormous Zip-lock bag filled with Splenda packets.
*Some sort of little video recording camera type doo-hicky-gadget for a friend.
*A year's supply (I hope) of my Preferred Brand and Flavor of Lady Products. Maybe this menopause thing will start to work in my favor for once, and I'll get to stop importing these.
*Cough medicine. Extra strength. It's not that the Russians don't make cough medicine. I just wasn't terribly impressed. Didn't like what the Brits sold me last winter either. I wanna be silent as the tomb.
* Industrial-sized bottle of Febreeze. See earlier "cat-astrophe" blog entries.

Yet to be purchased: appropriate measuring cups. Like what Ina Garten uses. Not those dumb collapsible ones that seem to be all the rage these days. Does anyone actually use these things? I could see a college student-type buying a set once. But I can't imagine anyone ever buying these a second time. Aren't they going to wear out instantly? I already balked at the $30 price tag for the nice stainless steel ones. But it isn't like I never cook, right?

Oh, and today, I acquired a Ganesh pendant. He's the Lord of Obstacles and a Patron of Letters. Seemed like just the thing for me.

Departure: Thursday. We arrive in Moscow on Friday.

This event is coming up shortly upon our return. See anyone you recognize?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Little, If Anything, to Report

Just a note to let my Loyal Beet-niks know I'm not dead.

Spent a week visiting the in-laws. It was hot, but uneventful, really. One day we went here, which I really liked. Ate a lot of pie.

A lot.

Of pie.

Got some sun at the swimming pool. Read the Julie and Julia book, a Lucas Davenport mystery, and a chick-lit novel called Certain Girls while I was there. Went on a few bike rides with The Spouse, including a 35-mile jaunt from his Ancestral Home in Bryan, Ohio to the bank in Edon, Ohio.

Did you know that the Etch-A-Sketch factory is in Bryan? Well, it was anyhow, before they shipped all the manufacturing to India or China or something.

The Spangler Candy Company is still in Bryan. They make Dum-Dum lollipops, Circus Peanuts (ugh), and most of the candy canes sold in the USA. We visited the factory last year, and I can tell you that the only suckers we saw there were those of us on the tour.


Have now seen the guinea pig movie (G-Force?), Aliens in the Attic (when did Kevin Nealon get old?), Night in the Museum 2 (when did Hank Azaria get so buff?), and the latest Harry Potter movie (in 3-D and on an IMAX screen).

Now we are all back at the Summer Dacha in my Ancestral Village. Been doing the 22-mile bike ride every morning with The Spouse. One day I was able to do it in 90 minutes, but I've been dragging ass since then. The Spouse, of course, doesn't even get sweaty.

I bought a Kindle. I am loading it up with books to read during the long, dark Moscow winter.

Tomorrow, we are taking the girls to King's Island. On Friday, 16 of us are celebrating Skittles' and her cousin's birthday (they were both born on August 21) at the Chum Bucket. Chum-balaya. Chum-on-a-Stick. The Akron branch of the Expatresse Clan will be joining us, so it should be loud and chaotic.

The Spouse returns to Moscow mid-day on Saturday, August 22, and the girls and I follow on August 27.

The two months have gone so fast.

At least Moscow is more likely to produce interesting blog entries.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Fair Is a Veritable Smorgasbord

The Ohio State Fair, that is.

What I ate at the fair today, more or less in the order I ate it:

1. A lamb gyro
2. A lemon shake-up
3. Ice cream in the dairy barn (while admiring the Butter Cow)
4. Another lemon shake-up
5. Grilled corn on the cob with hot sauce (not Tabasco, but similar . . . it was VERY good)
6. An Italian sausage with grilled onions and peppers and marinara sauce on a bun
7. Another lemon shake-up
8. The rest of the girls' funnel cake and elephant ear
9. Inky Dinky Donuts
10. One more lemon shake-up for the road

Glut! Glut! Glut!

The girls had corn dogs as well. Now Baboo is in the bathroom puking up funnel cake. A lesson in moderation, I suppose.

Skittles is across the street at the cousins', eating! What she can possibly have room for is God's own mystery. Personally, I won't be eating again until Halloween.

Below are some images from the fair.

This is the state flag of Ohio. It is the only US state flag that is not rectangular.

This is a view from the Sky Ride. One of the funniest moments of the fair was when I passed a gondola heading the other direction. In it were two Hispanic men, talking on the phone, in speaker-phone mode in rapid-fire, idiomatic Mexican Spanish. One of them was holding the phone, and they both were carrying on a detailed conversation with whomever was on the other end. I couldn't hear enough to tell you what they were saying, but it just tickled me.

Skittles climbed the Corn Wall. I was so proud of her. She didn't make it to the top, but she had never climbed anything like this before.

"It's hard work!" she said. No kidding.

Three cousins rode the Avalanche. Skittles was brave enough to try the Corn Wall, but not brave enough to ride the Avalanche. Excuse me. The Fiery Fist o' Pain!

She was brave enough to tackle an elephant ear, however.

Here is Baboo working on the Funnel Cake of Doom.

They all tried fishing in the Department of Natural Resources park.

We saw the Great Lakes Timber Show. Here they are demonstrating competitive log rolling.

And spring-board tree chopping.

We also saw Retriever Dogs in Action! but that was during the fishing portion of the day, and I didn't get any photos.

The cousins met Smokey the Bear, who had them pledge to never-ever, ever-ever play with matches, lighters, or fire. Interestingly, he also knew their names, which rocked their little world.

We did not get to see this.

My brother told me that those are monkeys racing on sheep. But I think he was pulling my leg and that the event involves children instead. Not sure which is worse. Guess I ought not be offended by monkey acts in the Moscow Circus when we have World Championship Mutton Bustin'.

I guess the difference is that here in the US of A, we're Bustin' for Glory!

We did get to see an All Breed Dog Agility demonstration. It was a riot. Included breeds as diverse as pugs and Weimaraners. Pure hilarity.

The photo below is from the Sheep Barn.

Me: "That's one big ass ceiling fan."

My brother: "I think that's really the brand name of these fans."

Pause while the two of us move our heads around and around in little circles trying to read the name on the center of the fan works.

It was, indeed, a Big Ass Fan.

The fair also includes concerts every evening. Alice Cooper played opening day with special guest Blue Oyster Cult. Since I saw Alice last summer, I know he puts on a good show. And I would not mind hearing "Don't Fear the Reaper" under the August stars.

But the concert I really want to see is Wednesday night.

Foreigner and Eddie Money. I love Eddie Money! For $24. Wouldn't that be a blast? Is anyone willing to go with me? Show starts at 7:00 p.m.

Two tickets to paradise . . .

In other news, the garage sale netted about $25 for each of us (that's me and my father), not counting what I spent on advertising. Seriously, I don't think I covered my expenses. The good news is that we did make some things go away. But sheesh. I honestly expected to make a couple hundred bucks off this. Times is tough all over, I guess.

In other, other news, the girls start a week-long art camp tomorrow. They are very excited. They participated in this last year and enjoyed it immensely. There was an article in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday about how this might be the last year of this program, so I'm glad they get one more chance.

Now, off to bed.

Must digest.