Sunday, January 31, 2010

God Makes Them

Yesterday The Spouse, Baboo, and I went out to the market at Izmailovsky (Metro Partizanskaya). Skittles had a play-date/sleepover.

I've been many times before, but I wanted to get some things before we leave Moscow. Namely a fur hat for The Spouse, one for Skittles that covers her ears (her white fluffy one does not), and fur scarves like the one I bought for myself in Suzdal. (See photo here.)

Here are the girls in their hats.

Aunt Heidi is now the proud owner of the white hat.

I already have a crazy Russian hat that I love.

The City of Moscow shut down part of the market, but just the rabbit warren of vendors hawking cheap Chinese-made crap outside the "vernisage."

Unfortunately, Baboo was charged with remembering to bring my camera and she forgot. So no photos of the shopping. But if you look on Google Images you will find other people's photos.

Since I bought all our chapki (hats) from a dealer there before, I came armed with cash, prices I was willing to pay, and ready to bargain.

We got The Spouse a hat like this, but a better one (no suede) for about a quarter of this price. I got Skittles a white hat like Baboo's pink one. She is thrilled. Plus, two fur scarves (better than mine, I'm afraid to confess).

We had shashlik from one of the shashlik stands. Because it is winter, they directed us to the dining room upstairs, behind the grills.

I had never been there before, and it was very Russian-y, I tell you. It was not heated at all, but enclosed with lots of windows, like a sun porch. No one took off their coat to eat. Two men at the table next to us were eating all sorts of sausages and pickled vegetables, smoking endless cigarettes, and splitting a bottle of vodka between them. They were cheerful and boisterous.

There was a babushka-type clearing tables. The Spouse saw her saving uneaten meat in a plastic bag. Whether it was for herself, street dogs, or to go back on the grill for the next customer, I told The Spouse, "I am going to leave her a tip."

We left her 20 rubles. She was gobsmacked. "Spasibo," she told The Spouse.

Although I wasn't feeling a burning need for any more Uzbek ceramics (I have some, although they are really, really lovely), I said I wouldn't mind wandering by the vendors' stands, just to see.

I looked. But I didn't find anything calling my name.

What I DID find were these whimsical ceramic figures that I absolutely did not need at all.

The little one is for you, VW.

The vendor was a very large woman in a chapka like mine that rode so low on her face I could not see her eyes. She spoke a mile a minute about her products (in Russian, of course):

Her: "We don't do it [make the ceramic items] for the money. We do it for art. Doing it for the money is senseless."

Her: "We don't know how we make them [the decorative designs on the pieces]. God makes them."

Her: "It's cold today. I'll give you a discount because it is so cold."

Her: "You can see yourself reflected in their eyes."
Her: "They will be lonely. You need to buy more!"

Her: "Each piece is unique. No two are the same." 

Her, noting a chip in a piece: "Let me give you another one. It's the same. That one has a bad ear."

She had a Laika dog I kind of liked.

Her: "She's looking up at the stars."

Then I noticed the piece below.

When she turned it around to show me the back, I had to have it.

I don't know the significance of the rabbit (or the mosquito), but that clenched the deal for me.

Yeah, yeah, I know: more tchotchke clutter to dust and break. And right before moving, too. But I only regret the things I DON'T buy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Moscow By Night and By Day

I hesitate to share this link because I do not believe it is in any way representative of the majority of Russian women. That said, it's like a car crash: you cannot help but look. And I will say that I have come across this demographic in Moscow.

I sat next to one last night.

Now, in fairness, Russian women outnumber Russian men, so they have a lot of competition. They tend to be extremely well-educated, attractive, and smartly put together at all times. Age and BMI is no excuse: above all else, you must be well-dressed, well-shod, and womanly (I hesitate to say "feminine," for that could carry a negative connotation: Russian women are not weak nor are they subservient).

That said . . . Moscow is . . . well . . . Moscow.

So I was at this little Thank You Do last night in a local English-style pub. (No, they didn't give me anything for mentioning them . . . the Thankers paid.) The owner or manager or General Big Cheese stops over to chat with us briefly about some plans he has to promote the place with the expat sports crowd.

And he brings along his companion.

I don't know if she was his steady or his Pay-As-You-Go. But she was a hoot. Asian features (I thought maybe she was Thai or Chinese, but the Russians with me said no). Pretty and very slim. In the tightest, most sprayed-on-looking lavender mini-dress I have ever seen. Bare legs. Super high heels.

Honestly, she looked at me and I looked at her, and then I looked at the woman across the table from me and she and I both rolled our eyes.

And then I turned to Miss Thing and said, in all sincerity, "Girl, you are working that dress."

That was it. We were officially BFF.

"What clubs do you go to?" she asks me.


" . . . I went to Krisis Genre once . . ." I say meekly.

"Oh, that's not a good club," she tsk-tsks. "You should go to We Are Family. It's a good club." She then proceeds to describe someone she saw dancing the last time she went there.

"A drag queen?" I keep asking, but she didn't seem to get what I was saying. Hmmm. Maybe she's the drag queen? Note to self: If I ever see her again, I will look for an Adam's apple.

"You should go," she repeats.

"Now how am I supposed to get past face control in a place like that?" I ask her.

"Oh, you just reserve a table," was the [obvious . . . duh-oh!] answer. "Then there's no face control."

N.B. Reserving a table in one of Moscow's ultra-popular clubs could run you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

We are from vastly different planets.

But she gave me her number. Just in case, I guess.

I was still laughing a few moments later out on the street as my hostess hailed us a gypsy cab. The driver was charming and courteous, if gold-toothed. He chatted amiably with my companions, all of us more covered in warm, winter clothing than not, as we flew through the dark Moscow night. I was home within five minutes.

Today had its own adventures. We had to run an errand at the Luxembourg embassy. It's over near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The church is another one of those rare places where photos are not permitted, so I don't have any to share of the interior, but you can read about it here.

Outside was a real winter day. In spite of the Mayor of Moscow's claims that he would seed the clouds and prevent snow from falling in town, we had gray skies and light, but steady snowfall all day.

Very Russian-y.




This is the famous House on the Embankment. Wikipedia gives a very bland description of it here. A more thorough explanation about the significance of this building can be found in this blog.  

Can you see the ghost of one of the Seven Sisters in the background?

Here you can see the dreadful statue of Peter the Great. This article gives the background.

And here we are looking towards the Kremlin. The Moscow River is actually frozen. We could see footprints in the snow on it.

By then it was lunchtime, and at first we thought we'd head back to The Spouse's office as there is a quick, but uninspiring restaurant in the basement. But we spied a cafe/pizzeria next to the cathedral and ventured in. When we lived in Slovakia we had lunch together more days than not, so it was a really nice treat to sort of have a date in the middle of the day. We just had the set lunch menu or "business lunch," but the cafe was elegant and chic and the weather outside delightfully frightful.

Then it was back to work for both of us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"A Thing in Life"

Our kids are teetering on the Cusp o' Adolescence these days. The Baboo One even has a few blackheads along the side of her nose.

The Baboo One has taken to spending more and more time in the bathroom examining herself in the mirror, and she tends to close the door now to do so. She was in just such a position the other night, examining her misbehaving pores, when she spied Skittles, peering at her through the opening left by the ever-so-slightly-ajar-door (no door in our place closes properly).

Skittles assessed the situation and declared, "Pimples. A thing in life."

We think it's "spot on," pardon the pun, and a great comment on so many of life's "things." We've starting substituting anything that vexes us for "pimples."

"Icy Sidewalks. A Thing in Life," for example.

You know, the last two winters were sort of ho-hum here, and I was actually a bit worried that we would never get to experience a Proper Russian Winter, and that, years from now, we would look back on our time in Moscow and remark, "You know it never got very cold," and feel cheated.

Well, I am getting my money's worth this winter. And I don't mind, really. I mean, if you're gonna be in Moscow, this is the weather you want!

Boy, oh, boy, has it been cold this week. So cold, in fact, that I've actually taken to SHUTTING the little windows in our apartment (fear not: I always open them in such a way that the cats cannot get out). Highs have been around -16C, and the lows have been in the mid -20sC.

The good part about this sort of Really Cold Weather, or, perhaps I should say the reason for this Really Cold Weather is the clear blue sky. No Clouds = Extra Cold. So we've had glorious sunshine sparkling off the golden onion domes. It is a lovely thing.

Honestly, today I was Out and About running various errands, and the air was full of tiny, twinkling snowflakes. Not a cloud in the sky. The sun was shining, but there was this glitter all around me. It's probably the result of condensation from car exhaust or something equally horrible. But at the moment, it was magical. Just magical.

What is NOT fun about this weather is the City of Moscow's insistence that Salt On Ice Is BAD! Oh, they "clean" the sidewalks. They shovel and sweep, removing any terrain on which your boots might find purchase until it's smoother than an NHL hockey rink after the Zamboni's been by.

I taught the kids to say "slick as snot," but, honestly, snot would provide better traction.

May I introduce Exhibit A:

The photo above was taken at 7:30 this morning on our trek to school. Long story, but we all had to go today. See the sidewalk? No? Neither can I because it is COVERED IN FREAKING ICE AND SNOW!

The one above is the entrance to our building, otherwise known as The Plaintiff's Steps.

It's about 11:30 in the a.m. See how clean our walkway is? And they've been working on it, too!

I stood by, at the ready, in case I had to help the woman in the hat go up the steps. I can barely do it, so I was worried I'd see her fall and break a hip before my very eyes.

Here's a guy working on a larger part of the sidewalk near our building. You think he's got the whole area clean with his twig broom (at least that creates SOME texture on the ice/snow). But click on the photo and blow it up: the sidewalk isn't clean. It's all BROWN AND ICY. Just in case you started to get all confident or something.

This has nothing to do with ice, snow, or treacherous surfaces. It's just funny. What cat lies like that?

Speaking of funny, you might get a chuckle out of this.

I've been wearing my "winter silk" long-johns the past few days. They aren't too, too heavy and really do help keep me warm when I'm outside. But today, when I got home from one of my many jaunts about town, I was too lazy to take them off. I only took off my pants ("trousers," to you Brits) since I was home alone and the long-johns are not too warm to wear in the house if they are all I have on.

Mine are black with a little bit of lace trim around the ankles. Very fetching.

So I'm typing away on email or something and the doorbell rings. The one to the door to my apartment, not the exterior door to the building. I go and look through the spy-hole, and there's a guy there, with a tool bag and a uniform. Like a Repair Dude.

"GAS!" he shouts cheerfully, and I remember: I saw him last year!

Against the advice of my Faithful Russian Girlfriend in Bratislava, I open the door and let him in, only then realizing that I am wearing these dumb, black, silk long-johns. They are opaque enough, but it isn't really the sort of thing one wears to receive guests.

I don't know what Gas Dude's goal is. Last year he puttered around my kitchen, smelling strongly of vodka, until he gave up looking for whatever it was he needed. He's sort of avuncular and not at all threatening.

This year was not so different: he looked at my stove (and in cabinets and around the fridge and under the sink), all the while chatting cheerfully in idiomatic Muscovite. He was not at all flapped by my attire. Instead, he politely ignored it, filled out a form, thanked me, and left.

Gas Dude (or maybe Black Long-Johns?): A Thing in Life.

Babble Update: 15??!! The blog is currently at Number 15??!! Oh, there's a lotta love in the room. Thank you all so very much.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Beet Goes On . . . Literally

Oh, Loyal Beet-nik. What a long, strange trip it's been.

And it seems that our time in Moscow is just about over.

Next stop: LUXEMBOURG!

No, I don't really know anything about Luxembourg either, other than what I have gleaned from the Interwebz over the past few days. But, it looks interesting, and it's happening soon (say, mid-February).

The Spouse got a new job (something neither of us was especially looking for . . . a virtual friend from one of the expat forums sent him a message right after Christmas and said, "Dude, you might want to apply for this!"). It's a good job with lots of room to grow professionally. In fact, it sounds like it might be a lot of fun, and not just because it has to do with VODKA!

Isn't that funny? So perfect for us. A fun product in a truly multi-lingual country (they have three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish).

Party at Beets' place!

So the Million Dollar Question is: SHOULD I CREATE A NEW BLOG? Or should The Beet Go On?

The Spouse came up with the title to this blog after watching me flail about with boring ideas. I've been brainstorming new blog titles, but I thought I'd share a few and let you all weigh in with your thoughts and title ideas. I haven't asked him for any help yet.

First, in keeping with the idea of using a song title in the blog title and recognizing that Luxembourg is a DUCHY, I could call the Luxembourg blog PASS THE DUCHY.

Yeah, I know. Now I have the song stuck in my head.

Then there are titles with plays on the word Luxembourg:
  • If LUX Could Kill
  • LUX Can Be Deceiving
  • LUX Like a Winner to Me
Then there are possible titles with plays on Luxembourg's size (since it really is tiny . . . only about 500,000 people in the whole country . . . I mean duchy which is smaller than Rhode Island).
  • 999 Square Miles
  • Bigger Than a Bread Box
  • Size Does/Doesn't Matter
And while there are a million details to work through regarding the whole move, THIS is the burning question for me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ticking Away the Moments That Make Up a Dull Day

Not really dull: just sort of everyday. IF you live in Moscow.

Thursday, I went out to find a place to get a new battery for The Spouse's watch. Easier said than done. LOTS of places had signs that said "Watch Repair." But when I inquired, they would apologize (or shout) that there was no "Master" there. In two places the clerks pointed down the street.

I headed down the street, twice, but had no luck until I ran into a French friend (her kids are classmates of mine).

"Oui, there is a place near here," she told me. "You continue up the street a while . . . maybe 400 meters. By the church on the left is a small street. Turn onto it, and you will see a door with a sign. Go through the door and downstairs. But I can't promise he's any good."

It was one of those typical Moscow places that you would NEVER in a MILLION YEARS be able to find if you did not know it was there.

But I found it, and the Master was on duty, and not only did he have the tools to open the watch, he had the right battery, AND he cleaned up the watch a bit for me before putting it back together and charging me 400 rubles.

"Do you want a receipt?" he asked me in Russian. "It's got a two-year warranty."

I declined the receipt.

"TWO YEAR WARRANTY!" he shouted after me as I left. "ALL THE BEST!"

Friday, the girls were hungry after school, so once we entered the Metro perehod (under-the-street-mall) I bought us all sloiki (pastries). We were standing outside the Metro entrance, eating our sloiki, when a man walked by and said something to us. Twice. He was clearly addressing us.

"Any idea what he said?" I asked the girls.

"I'm pretty sure he said 'Eat with you mouth closed'," said Baboo.

Today, we had to go sign up for after school activities for the second half of the year. It was extremely well-organized, and so we were in-and-out in all of ten minutes.

Since we were already up, fed, and dressed, and since Baboo had recently remarked that she wanted to see inside St. Basil's, we decided it was a perfect day to walk over to Red Square and go in St. Basil's.

I don't know why they all look so morose. I made them stand here because this is THE first Star/Crap Dogs stand I ever photographed in Moscow.

But when we got to Red Square, we realized that Lenin's Tomb was not only open, but there was virtually no line. I'm the only one in the family who had seen Mr. Lenin. After the trip to Gorki Leninskiye, it seemed appropriate to make sure everyone made the pilgrimage inside Lenin's Tomb. So we did!

The reviews:

Baboo: He was waxy and weird. I would have enjoyed it better if it hadn't been FREEZING!

Skittles: Mlah! Don't waste your time!

The Spouse: That was weird. Wow, look at all the flowers in front of Stalin!

The Kremlin wall has a necropolis where you can find "Iron Felix" Dzerzhinski, Josef Stalin, Konstantin Chernenko, Yuri Gagarin, and American John Reed, among others.

No cameras allowed in Lenin's tomb or along the wall, so no pictures to share. You have to check your cameras (including phones with cameras) for 20 rubles each at a small office in the History Museum building.

Then we went inside St. Basil's Cathedral. The inside is especially beautiful and my lousy camera cannot begin to capture what a jewel box it is.

I took lots of pictures of the murals. In case I ever decide to paint my dining room walls.

St. Basil, who is interned in the cathedral, was really a bit passionate in his beliefs. Next to his tomb was a sign with information about his life. He was apparently a "Fool for Christ" and what the sign called a "nude walker." That made me run right home and google him.


 St. Basil's tomb.

Here is St. Basil doing his famous Nude Walk. 
Religious Zealot or Neighborhood Nutter? 
You Make the Call.

There are windows in the cathedral. I was able to take a few pictures from inside.

Lenin's Tomb is blocked by the statue.

A lovely blue sky. We've had great weather the past few weeks, actually. Yes, it's been cold. But it's been sunny like this: not a cloud in the sky.

Souvenirs for sale inside St. Basil's. We bought a book about czars and a Faberge-type egg charm. blog contest update: As I type this I am currently ranked #28 over here. NUMBER 28!!!!!! That is SO COOL, and I thank all of you for voting for me. Today was especially wonderful as I watched my blog ranking pass that of Mommy Wants Vodka, a blog I and LOTS of other people follow. She's actually well-known in the Blog-O-Sphere. And, she's been nominated for more serious competitions, namely this one over at the 2010 Weblog Awards. Go over there and vote for her (and The Bloggess). Spread a little love.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moscow Never Ceases to Surprise Me

First, an update on the Mystery Contest over at

It is an odd contest and poorly defined (for example, I have no idea when it ends). That said, their Top 50 Bloggers are pretty well-known and well-regarded around the Blog-O-Sphere. It seems any of these contests could result in an expanded reader base, and, frankly, that's all I ever want from these things. (Okay, and Julia Powell's agent, but a girl can dream, right?)

Anyhow, thanks to you, Loyal Beet-niks, Yours Truly has broken into the Top 100. The ranks are someway fluid, but I'm now in the 60s 30s! That's really, really nice, and I thank you all.

But shameless vote groveling is not why you're here, is it?

No, you are here to read about My Misadventures in Moscow.

I had a minor one yesterday afternoon. Nothing really New & Shocking, but, instead, perhaps a pleasant reminder not to take anything in Moscow at face value.

Skittles got invited to a classmate's birthday party yesterday.

Does anyone else hate birthday party invites? It's awful of me, I know, but I find they break up the weekend so. Weekends are precious because, if I may blatantly plagiarize from a virtual friend's blog, we (this being me and The Spouse) are loathe

to leave the warmth of our cozy little flat . . . anticipating instead a stubble chinned, lazy, booze fueled Saturday on the couch. . . .

Usually we tag team birthday parties: he drops kid off and I collect. But yesterday The Spouse was out of town.

No matter. This was a bowling party, and the lanes were connected to a shopping mall.

I had visions of sitting in an upscale coffee shop, reading a spy thriller on my Kindle for two hours while my kid merrily bowls and celebrates. Perhaps strolling the mall and even stumbling upon a Nespresso outlet. (I just bought a used machine, and have yet to use it because I haven't yet bought any of the coffee capsules.) Most of the malls in the city center are quite up-scale, so this is not an unreasonable expectation.

Have you ever been to the Moskovskiy Shopping Center at Komsomolskaya Ploshad? No? Well, you're in for a real retro treat then.

First, if you are unfamiliar with this corner of Moscow, Komsomolskaya Ploshad is home to THREE train stations. I knew this; I have even gone by in a van on my way to a tour of something or another. But I had not yet had the pleasure of experiencing it from the ground.

Oh, I've been in the Komsomolskaya Metro station. It is GORGEOUS.

But the area above ground is, well, what you expect to find around a bus station or a train station in any big city.

Lots of kiosks.

Lots of somewhat disreputable-looking people.

Lots of cops.

The largest, wildest looking pack of street dogs I have ever encountered in Moscow. Seriously, they played Chase with each other, running through the perehod/underpass, around the square, up and down, barking and leaping. They were not paying the slightest attention to anyone with two legs, but it was a little unnerving.

The cops watched them and laughed.

Then there was the I've-emerged-from-the-Metro-but-I'm-not-sure-which-way-I'm-facing moment. The best reason for having an iPhone-type product complete with a GPS. Which I do not have.

Got myself oriented, and realized I was across the street from the shopping center that I believed housed the bowling mall.

I was still thinking I was heading to something reminiscent of Au Park in Bratislava.

But I wasn't: the shopping center looked like this instead.

Very Russian-y.

Inside is a series of kiosks and stands. Skittles and I wander around for a while, looking for a sign or evidence of the bowling alley. The party was only scheduled from 2:00 until 4:00, it was almost 2:15, and I was starting to feel that desperate claustrophobia that comes from knowing you are on the verge of ruining a kid's birthday party experience. (FLASHBACK!)

Finally, I resolve I would have to rely on the kindness of strangers. I have no choice: the clock is running, and I'm not making any progress.

I decide to ask a woman selling icons.

Me: "Скажите, пожалуйста . . . Bowling Club Globus . . . где? Я говорю по-русски не очень хорошо."
[This is pretty much the limits of my Russian: "Tell me please, Bowling Club Globus, where? I speak Russian only a little."]

Nice Lady: "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"

Me, sadly: "Nein."

Nice Lady, closing up her kiosk: "Komm mit mir."

She takes me to the service elevator, pressed the button labeled "Office," and explains that I should ask there. No sighing, no eye rolling. She just very kindly goes out of her way to help me solve my problem.

The elevator doors open on a fluorescently-lit hallway where a security guard-type sits at a desk. I repeat my Russian sentence.

"Oh," he says in accented English. "You must go outside this building."

So it is as I suspected: the entrance is on the side of the building.

After that we had only to retrace our steps (Is there really only the one entrance to the "mall"?), go outside, and walk around the side of the building to the bowling alley entrance.

Here, although the place looks a bit dodgy, we are greeted by Doorman/Coat-Check Dude who, although he speaks no English, is extremely nice.

"Are you staying, too?" he asks me (and Skittles translated), offering to take my coat.

I do not stay, but bail out and go to a coffee shop chain across the street.

While I walk over there I consider how I always thought we lived in the ugliest corner of Moscow, but that now I have to revise that opinion. THIS is the ugliest corner of Moscow. It has the ugliest perehod (pedestrian underpass/under-the-street-mall), the saddest shops, the most impressive collection of drunks, and the most train stations in one block in Moscow. The streets are lined with those imposing Stalinist apartment buildings (yellow brick, huge arches), but the street-level shops are all low-end eateries one would associate with a train station neighborhood.

In short, the worst a Big City has to offer.

Yet, inside the coffee shop my waitress is professional, kind, and efficient. One more example of how this ugly corner of Moscow isn't really so ugly once you look beneath the surface.

Skittles has a nice time at her bowling party. She reported they ate unlimited sushi. (I know, I know. Bowling alley sushi. But sushi is ubiquitous in Moscow.) As I arrive back the waitress is serving the kids plates of ice cream in tuile dishes and garnished with whipped cream, lovely fresh fruit, and small flowers. At a BOWLING ALLEY!

In fact, the worst moment of the entire experience comes as we head home.

I cannot find how to enter the Metro station, and we have to sort of circle around a bit until I figure it out.

While doing so, I slip on a patch of ice.

I do not fall down.

But I do pee my pants.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

C'mon! Do It! You Know You Want To!

I'm bossy.

You should know that about me.

I like order in the universe. Always have.

Perhaps it is OCD Lite. Or Not So Lite.

I dunno.

But I'm gonna tell you what to do now.

First, go here and look for me. I'm hovering around Number 326 184 164 136 129 119 100 69 (Wow! Thanks!).

You don't have to register or anything. And I think you can vote every day (Nah . . . maybe not) (Actually, YES, you can). You definitely can vote for more than one blog. If you have a blog there, let me know: I'll vote for you, too.

Then go here and make a donation.

Well done.

Now stop playing around on the Interwebz and get back to work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What I Got The Spouse for Christmas

It finally came today.

The artist's photo is better than mine. Here is her link.

I'm really, really pleased.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The High Cost of Healthcare

Remember in November when The Spouse spent a week in the posh Russian hospital that caters to expats?

He spent seven nights there and was treated for pulmonary thrombosis.

He had lung scans.

He had MRIs.

He had IVs practically around the clock.

He had a private room.

He had four meals a day.

We were convinced that when the bill came, our part would be at least $10,000.

Today the bill came.

Wanna know what the total was?

The total bill, for everything, was 7,510 Euro or $10,900.

Of that, we owe 1,838 Euro or $2,670.

Not the greatest news right after Christmas, of course. But a hell of a lot less than I was braced for.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas Round Up

I found some pictures on my camera that I had not yet posted anywhere. A bit random and, perhaps, not interesting if you aren't family, but here you go. You do get a sense of the Summer/Winter Dacha, I guess.

Tiara Baboo

Skittles Shows How Old I Am

Skittles Made Me a Birthday Cake

New Year's Eve/Birthday Festivities

WHAT Am I Wearing?

Nana and the Cousins

Assembling Cars at Steak 'n' Shake

It Is Serious Work

My Mother-In-Law Made Me Pumpkin Pie

The Girls' with The Spouse's Potty-Mouth Grandmother

"You talk too much!"

My Sister-In-Law Took This One

And This One

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I'm All Shook Up

So I'm celebrating Elvis' birthday while typing merrily away on my New Christmas Laptop in my Moscow dining room.

Elvis would have been 75 today. Well, make that yesterday. It was January 8 when I started my day.

Jet lag, you know.

The Spouse's Potty-Mouthed Grandmother is/was 94 today/yesterday. And she's still rockin'.

Our 22nd wedding anniversary is today.

Really today.

January 9.

At least that's what it is where I am.

We celebrated by dragging our luggage on the Airport Express train, through the Metro (with one line change), and across the (surprisingly) snowy Moscow streets.

WTF, Moscow? What happened here yesterday? I've never seen so much snow. The mayor promised he was going to seed all the clouds so the snow would not fall here.

At the apartment, the cats were actually happy to see us. Cat-O, who apparently was on a bit of a hunger strike protesting our departure, looks a bit thinner. Crooky looks bigger. She even climbed onto my chair and sat behind me for a bit while I typed. For her, that's the equivalent of full frontal nudity. Or at least getting to second base.

Late lunch/early dinner where else? Taras Bulba. So I could have a slice of their heavenly Kievski torte.

Now I am celebrating the Festival of Laundry. Both The Spouse and I have unpacked and put away the things in our suitcase. So I have time for some observations about this traveling between Russia and the Ancestral Village thing:
  • First, this summer my suitcase was filled with odor eliminating products on my return trip to Moscow because the cats had been using the children's room as a means of protesting our absence. Seriously, I must have brought back four or five products, at least three of which were large, heavy spray bottles of liquid. Result: I arrived back in Moscow in September to a surprisingly pleasant smelling house. This trip the heavy and (probably) over-purchased items were shampoos/conditioners and moisturizers. What was I thinking? Cheaper in the US, I guess. If you have an odor problem, let me know.
  • Why is it Americans don't provide a place for your coat in restaurants? Maybe we tend to leave our coats in our cars, but I found myself thinking, "The Russians ALWAYS have a ГАРДЕРОБ/garderobe/coatcheck or at least plenty of coat hooks near your table."
  • The American cashiers never tore my receipt, but insisted on handing it to me intact. That's just wrong. Now I know I've lived in Russia too long.
  • I found myself mortified at the condition of my boots while in the US. Practically the first thing I did upon arriving at our Moscow apartment was polish my boots. They look so much better.
  • Hot water: here it's UNLIMITED!!!
  • And the heat, my God, the heat. Granted, it was a (beautiful) sunny day (all the better for enjoying the snow), so that just added to our already very warm apartment. I could not get out of my traveling outfit and into the shower fast enough.  Actually, the dacha was warmer than I expected, and in spite of the unusually winter-y weather, I did not need my long underwear. But back in Moscow means back to t-shirts and shorts. That Festival of Laundry actually dries faster on the line this time of year than in the dryer.

We did a basic grocery store run . . . just enough to get us through breakfast tomorrow . . . which for us meant eggs, bacon, and alcohol. I got some coffee, too. Because I might have more to write about tomorrow after I've had a decent night's sleep.