November 27, 2012

Pervey Sneg 2012

It snowed all day yesterday - small flakes that tend to pile up and stick around.  Unfortunately, the temps dropped overnight and the powder stopped falling.  It was a great snow for playing, as evidenced below.  The kids had lots of fun!  Goose-a-maroo (E) is in the pink snowsuit (shocker, I know).

November 4, 2012

I'm Thinking Most of You Don't Care...

...but if in fact you do, please comment.  Mostly this is for everyone to whom I sent a Facebook message regarding the fact that my hair is in need of some serious help.  Please ignore the crazy amount of split ends and shagginess resulting from my not doing anything to my hair at all except, you know, washing it and letting it air dry.  Also, apologies for my lack of makeup and other cover-up-the-bad-and-hopefully-enhance-the-good; I tend to forget to do those things.  Here are some photos of what Matt and I think might look okay:

Of course, I could just keep my hair as is and pin it like this each day, but Matt and I agree that I would probably get tired of that and not do it, so if I really want to do it I need to get it cut this way...or at least a variant of this way...

And now so that your time is not completely wasted, here is the Oldest looking particularly cute:

September 8, 2012


We had a baby shower for one of the women here in Olympia who recently returned with her 3 month old little boy.  I've been wanting to make something recently, but I had no idea what.  I took a look on ravelry and found this cute idea.  You can make pretty much any animal that you want.  I made it on Thursday, so start to finish it wasn't too difficult.  I think they are really cute and I think I'll be making them for the other babies we're expecting soon.

August 30, 2012


I came home from a farewell (not mine) coffee with the ladies today to find out that the wee one enjoys a car ride.  More specifically, she enjoys listening to the "radio".

Oh...and did I mention the dancing?

There was definitely some dancing.

I have no idea what the tongue is doing.  I mean, it had to be hard to keep it like that and yet she did so the entire time she was on the car, which was about an hour.  Once I finished taking video, which meant that there was no shiny black thing to look at while stopped, she shouted at us every time we dared to stop pushing her around.

Oh, yes, a bossy one have we...

...methinks her sister has been teaching her a thing or twenty.

July 29, 2012

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I've been thinking about posting some recipes on here that I use frequently...but I don't know if anyone is even interested in reading about them.  Granted, I've never exactly asked what people are interested in reading about, and lately I hardly even take the time to post (gotta get with that one), but I do tend to post about things that I find interesting or that I am excited about.  I have to post about my kids since helloooo, the grandparents and other family members want to see those things all of the time.  They have been very kind in not asking me where in the world are the photos and why aren't you posting them!?!?!  So "Thanks!" to the family for that one!  I write about places we travel to because I love to travel.  I write about language/culture because that interests me as well.

I like to cook and as demonstrated this week, finding a new recipe to add to the rotation makes me all but giddy with excitement (relief?).  Therefore I am just throwing the topic out there.  I am not a fancy chef.  I am not some super-cook-extraordinaire.  I will not have more than about five recipes to add...well, maybe more...but anyway.

If anyone is even reading this thing anymore, wanna know about my cooking?

In addition, I had Anna tell me once that she wishes that I would post more about my daily life here in Russia.  You know, 'cause it is oh so different (or is it?) than your own.  I guess what happens is that it becomes the norm for me, so I don't consider it to be anything interesting when perhaps it is.

Any takers on that topic?






To begin my cooking showcase, I give you The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie:

**Disclaimer:  If you don't care about cookies, don't read this!**

Normally I just make the cookies on the back of the Nestle Semi-Sweet Morsels bag a la Phoebe's grandmother.  They vary in quality and I am never happy with the way they look (although they always taste fine).  I saw the link for "What's Wrong with Your Cookies?" on Pinterest and decided that I'd follow that recipe today.

One difference in the recipes is that the Nestle bag calls for all butter while the perfect cookie calls for half butter and half shortening.  Aside from that, most of what influences the end result has to do with execution rather than ingredients/ratios.

For starters, in the Nestle recipe you combine everything and at the very end add the chocolate chips.  This really does not work well and makes for a very uneven distribution of chips as well as some major over-mixing if you want to evenly-ish distribute them.  This is the part of that recipe that leaves me all unhappy every time.

Yes, I get unhappy about my chocolate chip cookies if they don'y turn out.  Let's all remember that I can't buy them in the store nor can I get the chocolate chips to make them with over here so if they're all icky it is ochen ploha (very bad).

In the Perfect recipe the chocolate chips are added at the end of the wet ingredients.  Then you add the dry stuff and mix until just incorporated.  I found this to be much easier than the Nestle way and it definitely allowed me to not overwork the dough.

Overworking the dough.  One major mistake that I for one am very prone to make.  Very.  When you cook you can mess around with so many things and it doesn't really matter all that much.  When you bake it is so much more scientific and stringent.

Moving along. 

One thing I also did this time is I weighed all of my ingredients.  That's right.  I got out the food scale and weighed everything.  While that sounds like a pain and a waste of time it actually was very quick, easy and as far as I can tell, it really was worth it.  When I did add the dry ingredients to the wet+chocolate the dough came together very quickly and looked pretty much exactly like the website tutorial said it should.  For me that means that it was worth it and I'll be doing it again!

Something else I've learned recently regarding baking (and I think from the same website) is that when your oven first beeps to tell you that it is heated to the right temperature it is usually full of hooey.  That's right.  Hooey.  Normally it is off by a bit and that is a big problem when you bake.  Again, speaking from experience. Remember: science, stringent.  I do not think this is as much of a problem with gas-heated ovens nor is it a problem with new ones so much but people, I have an electric so-not-new-it-isn't-even-funny oven over here, so to me it matters.  My solution?  Once it tells me it is ready I set a timer for 30 minutes to let it really get ready.

Back to the cookies.

When I rolled them into balls (um, yeah, I did that don't have to, but you'd need a lot of refrigerator space not to mention cookie sheets to put in the fridge if you don't roll them.), the texture was mostly as it should be.  I found a couple of spots where the butter/shortening hadn't incorporated like it should and guess what?  Those cookies look a little like the mistake cookies on Pinterest.

Imagine that.

Overall my cookies turned out very good in my opinion.  Take a look:

I took a break between rolling the dough and refrigerating it and then finally baking it.  I thought this made it more manageable and the clean up was easier because I was doing it in two shifts.  Since you can keep the dough in the fridge for up to two days, I prefer preparing the dough at one time and waiting to bake them until later.  I've had good experiences with freezing dough as well, so whenever I can I try to make it all ahead and freeze it so that I can get it out whenever I need to make a quick dessert for friends.

Well, that is my cookie experience.  I prefer the Perfect recipe, that is for sure.  Maybe I'll post the cilantro-lime-quesadilla recipe I found this week sometime soon...or the lemon-cranberry scone recipe (I know, Mom and Bobbie, you're waiting for that one!).

If you read this whole thing, thanks for sticking with it!  If you have an opinion about my post topics, please leave a comment.

June 10, 2012

A Preview of Things to Come

Miss E is going to be the flower girl for her Aunt R-Shelley's wedding this July.  We thought about making it, but since we are going to be super busy while we're here, we took a look at some dressed this afternoon just in case we could find one...and we did!  Here's a look:

May 30, 2012

Haka Dance

Elena has been learning a new song/chant/dance for International Children's Day at her school here in Russia.  Each grade level chooses a country/culture that is not represented in their class, learns about it, and then performs something representative of that country/culture.

It is all supposed to be a surprise for the parents, but E comes home every day insisting that she teach me the words and motions.  She also thinks that if she performs it one time for me then I know it completely...if only learning new things were that simple!

I can't wait to see the class dressed up and performing!

May 20, 2012

Give Me Something Good To Eat

Charlotte had her first "solid" food today.  I've waited until now because she has mad acid-reflux skillz.  The reflux situation is waaaay better than it used to be, but today after eating this she still refluxed (is that a word?  It is NOW) some of it while the eating went well, I don't know if we'll continue if the refluxing (see above) continues to be an issue.  I might just wait until it is gone so as to make things better for all of us...I mean, who wants to taste their food again ever?

Also, could I have used the term reflux any more in that paragraph?

Anyway, here's the evidence:

Completely unsuspecting.

Still doesn't know what hit her.

Hey, wait a second... 


Oh, no - more?!?

Dear Lord, give me strength.

Maybe it's not soooo bad.

I mean, if sister likes it...

May 19, 2012

Hoppy Birthday...A Little Early

Hey, we have to take advantage of the good weather, people.  Since it was not raining today, a rarity lately here in the cold, cold, north, we decided to put together Elena's 4th birthday present.  Really is it a gift for the whole family as we can all join in the fun.

It was a family affair putting things together.  Miss E helped her Daddy (While wearing pajama pants, pajama gown, rain boots, a hill tribe hat from Thailand, and her jacket):

This lasted for all of about an hour (pretty impressive I thought) before someone was kinda tired of waiting and kept asking if it was almost ready.  Is it?  How about now?  And now?  HOW ABOUT NOW, DADDY?!?!?

Charlotte helped too, as you can see.  She is wearing the latest in baby cool-weather duds...and yes, the thing swamps her, but that seems to be normal for her.  Regardless she is one happy girl playing outside with the rest of us!

We took a break for some lunch but then worked some more to complete our task.  Finally, it was done:

And I know at least one little girl was very, very hoppy!  She bounced and she danced and she sang and she JUMPED! 

She wants friends to come over and she can't wait to show all of us her abilities.  Every minute she is coming up with new "tricks" for us to approve.

Overall, a very good early birthday gift, I think.   Even I've had a go...and hopefully I won't regret it tomorrow!

April 4, 2012


The conditions are like a hurricane, but with snow.  If I walked outside I would be blown away.  I cannot get out the door, so someone will have to dig us out eventually.  Elena and Matt are stuck in town; Charlotte and I are stuck here.  Since Debbie wanted photos, here's what I've got.

My view out the back door.
Usually that pile isn't there and you can see clearly above it. 

Snow between the screen and panes. 

My non-view out the windows.

Once the crazy is over I'll try to get out...and then maybe I'll have more photos!

March 12, 2012

We're All Breathing...

...a sigh of relief over here.  Charlotte has been attempting the roll-over for a few months now.  And by attempting I mean giving it her all whenever she thinks of it.  Which is not very often.  Unlike her sister, who tackled one milestone at a time, as if she had a check-list, Miss C practices everything at once.  She is a multi-tasker, which is fascinating to watch, frustrating for her to experience and irritating as all get-out (for both of us) when she wakes herself up mid-roll all night (and nap) long.

She has been so very close for ages.  So close that all I have to do is poke her one time with a finger and she'll plop on over.  The culprit seems to be the left just gets stuck under there and rather than move it she is bound and determined to roll over despite that despicable thing.  Oh, and she refuses to get her head into the action.  Oh, no.  The head must remain. on. the. floor. where. it. belongs.

Woe is she.

Today, I put her down on her play mat and away she went.  First there was some playing, then some talking, then some let's-see-if-I-can-get-my-whole-hand-in-my-mouth-ing, and eventually some grunting followed by extremely-irritatied-baby-ing.  She gets so incredibly ticked off that she is not all the way on her belly already and man does she let us know it.  I have decided the best approach for that is to ignore her and let her figure it out for herself.

Most days that has just provided me with an upset and tired baby, but today, oh, today, the extremely irritated baby-ing was followed pretty quickly by some quiet-ish hand sucking.  I walked over to see what was going on and found the following:

Baby on her tummy...with left arm completely stuck and right hand completely in her mouth.

"What's that Mom?  Hold on...

...let me turn so I can see you.

I'm so big.  Heh.

Holy cow, what IS that thing?!??

Oh, wait.  It's you.
Did you see?  I'm so proud!

Can you believe it?!?"

March 6, 2012

Men's Day; Women's Day

Here in Russia we've been having a few holidays.  February 23rd was Men's Day.  It is actually Defender Day, but is commonly referred to as Men's Day and compares to Father's Day in the United States.  Elena made a card at school:

I managed to make a yummy breakfast of eggs with cheese and toast...and Matt managed to work all day long.  It was a great "day off" for him, eh?

March 8th is Women's Day.  Back in the 1940s this was all about women wanting equal rights.  These days it is more of a combination of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day...and really not even the romance part of it factors in.  It is simply about honoring women.  For example, Matt gives gifts to all of the women who work for him.

Since he left for Houston this morning, he will miss Women's Day.  When he explained this to his admin and told her I would come with the girls to give gifts for him, she first said "Oh, no, don't worry.  It is okay; you will not be here; you can do it later."  He then asked her if it is really okay to do that and she smiled and told him nope.

Therefore, I, the woman, have made gifts for the women.  Elena calls them "Daddy's Ladies".  Yes, I realize how this sounds.  Her Papa Jim has some wonderful ladies who work in his office and Elena calls them Papa Jim's Ladies, so it is only natural that she would refer to the women who work with her Daddy as Daddy's Ladies.

I have made Zucchini Bread, Snickerdoodles, and Chocolate-Chocolate chip cookies:

Then I have managed to come up with some creative packaging:

Tomorrow we shall deliver them and Elena will tell each of them "Congratulations" in Russian, which is what you say to someone on a holiday here.  Let's hope they like them.

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, Big Sister and Little Sister:

February 13, 2012


I've been getting things ready for our Valentine's Day party tomorrow. At last count, there were twenty-two children invited and approximately ten Moms and/or Nannies. We've lost three kids and two Moms due to illness...bronchitis and ear infections. Good times. Here's hoping the rest of us can remain sick-o-less and that we all manage to fit into the house at once!

We will be having snacks (thanks everyone for contributing!) so that we can ruin everyone's dinner (not the goal, but somewhat inevitable methinks), games so as to use up all of the "energies" garnered from sugar, and crafts to calm everyone down again. Not that we'll be doing things in that order, but you get the picture.

Or do you?

Let's see:

Conversation Heart Decor - Cause we're Classy.

70's Throwback Decor - complete with 'Hearts by E'

Mmmmm - Energies

Craft Idea Decor - Because it Takes Too Much Time to Think of Your Own
a.k.a. We Don't Want to Foster Creativity Up in This Place

Welcome to the Post Office (pochta in Russian)

Not shown: games such as the Heart Hop Relay, Valentine Day Bingo, St. Valentine Says, Take This Heart Singing Game (of course I had to...I was a music teacher in my previous life) and more (you know, 'cause it always takes way less time to do things you think will take forever...and it always takes forever to do things you think will only take a few minutes).

I hope this is a success...if so, I already have ideas for April Fool's Day.

If tomorrow wears me out we can all forget that I said that...

February 6, 2012

Trying so very hard.

Someone has been working very hard lately.

She's definitely got the right idea.

So far she just can't quite get it.

With a little assistance she can reach her goal.

Holy smokes is it a shock-er-ooo.

And did I mention super fun to boot?