Monday, December 20, 2010

Instructions:

Arrange the photos in their correct order and tell me the story of my weekend.

A
Love how she stands out in that jacket

B
I swear they aren't both mine. And yes, I'm eating seaweed.

C
Obligatory St. Basil's photo

D
Post-modern photo

E
Very cool apartment that always reminds me of Cat

F
Ducks who found the one patch of water left on the otherwise frozen-over mighty river Yauza

G
Even the advertising is larger than life

H
Pretty church in the snow

I
They go hand in hand...

Friday, December 17, 2010

случайные вещи

I can't remember if I mentioned it in the blog or not, but Polly endeavored to make some chocolate vodka awhile back. We drank a little of it at the time, but mostly it was forgotten in her freezer due to a lack of creativity on our parts. Well, last weekend (on my birthday no less), we found the perfect mixer for it: it's some sort of a sweetened condensed milk flavored cream liqueur (not creamy flavored, which is a little dubious being that creamy isn't a flavor!!!). But, anyway, the two were meant for each other:


I discovered that I had my camera in my bag with me most of the week, so I took the opportunity to photograph a couple of things "at the office." This, for instance, is the hockey player that hangs out in our teacher's lounge:


Notice he plays for Khimik, NOT Mytishchi. That's probably why he's hiding behind the bookshelf.

And this here is the view from where I was sitting (next to the hockey player). The cacti made me feel right at home. Until I looked just past them to the snow outside, that is...


Now onto today, Friday, my glorious day off. I woke up and talked to my mom on the skype for awhile, then moseyed into the kitchen and proceeded to spend much of the day baking/cooking. First, I made two loaves of bread. This is a picture of one of them, you will have to trust that the other looks very similar:


This is probably the most bread-looking bread I've made thus far. And it's really all thanks to the awesome bread pan.

A little later in the evening, as I became hungrier and hungrier (as [wo]man cannot live on bread alone), I decided I would attempt to make a pizza. Once again, Polly is my source of inspiration for this , as she regularly makes it herself. I roughly based my recipe off of this one here (a site that I really like, btw), though with many, many differences. Mainly, I used that recipe for the dough... the only difference there is that I don't own a pizza stone and used a greased baking sheet (with no problems). Aside from the usual tomato sauce and mozzarella, for toppings I piled on: black olives, pineapple, red onion, yellow and orange bell peppers, and mushrooms. In the recipe, she warns not to pile too many toppings onto the pizza (because it will prevent the crust from becoming crispy), but in my excitement I completely ignored her advice. I can't say I regret doing so, as the pizza (apart from looking a little wonky, likely due more to my inexperience than anything else) turned out completely delicious(!!!!!!):


(i put most of the toppings on under the layer of cheese, so all you can really make out here are the olives and pineapple)

So that was definitely time well spent, and I have half of it left to eat tomorrow. Here are what the slices looked like:

Messy, it's true, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

My final oven-based product of the evening were some snicker-doodles from a recipe passed on to me by Colleen, from this evil, evil website. Here they are before going into the oven, in an attempt to document the sparkliness of them:


And here they are afterward: soft, chewy, buttery, delicious, warm cookies:

I'm planning to take a few to my individual students tomorrow, and then perhaps I will come home and make more. I'm also hoping to make some more banana bread tomorrow afternoon. It seems the holiday baking madness has begun...

Monday, December 13, 2010

stupefying...

... it's a good word. that's all.

this is what i look like at 24 years old

here i am, still 23, on the eve of my birthday. note the vast differences. photo taken by polly.


i'm watching The Big Lebowski, preparing for a class I'm gonna watch it with. baked a very normal looking loaf of bread (based on this super simple no-knead recipe, with rosemary and garlic added), in my fancy new bread pan that polly gave me for my birthday (awesome present! she is quite the bread-making enabler).

today so far as been really nice and chill... i woke up on my own volition around 9 am, talked with a friend on the phone for awhile, drank instant coffee, baked the bread (mostly i was just waiting for the dough to rise), showered, prepared my Big Lebowski worksheet, sliced up some banana bread to give to my students. working late afternoons does have its advantages.

something i am excited about: the time for my mom's visit is really drawing near... less than two weeks to her arrival!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

magic snow, armenians, russian eggs

made a little trip over to korolyov to hang out with miss polly this afternoon. it was nice to get out the kvartira. i spilled some hot coffee on myself because i'm a huge klutz but otherwise it was a good time. after the semi-madness of last night, it was so nice to just chill and bake today. and it's always refreshing to get out of the house, even if it means i'm spending time in the ghetto of the ghetto. although for some reason my banana bread didn't come out as amazing and delicious as usual. ugggh. depressing. do i still give it to my students tomorrow, or have i set the bar for myself too high? decisions, decisions...

i also forgot my mobilochka in her living room, which i didn't realize until after i got on the bus that i waited forever-and-a-day for. the reason i didn't realize this is that i was completely breath taken by the sparkly, soft snow drifting down from the night sky and blanketing everything in its shiny glory. i felt like i was in a snow globe. it was falling so lightly, and everything was so still and quiet. it was magic. so despite the fact that korolyov is kind of a wack place, the snow there is somehow a million times more magical than in mytishchi.

in other news, it took just over three months for my roommate to start joking about the fact that i am basically the loudest person ever. it all started when i was excitedly talking with my mom one morning on skype, just after she'd received some winter boots i ordered (she will bring them when she visits, and hopefully even give them to me). when i returned to the kitchen, ian remarked that i was like an armenian in a marketplace. apparently they are loud. so this morning, after i spoke with my dad for some time, ian asked me how the market was. ha-ha.

finally, tonight i made some egg salad, and had the same experience while peeling the eggs that i have had with just about every single egg since arriving in russia: they are impossible to de-shell quickly and cleanly, resulting in a painfully slow process of picking off tiny pieces of shell while trying not to throw away as much of the actual egg as possible. it's insanely frustrating. but, that's russia fer ya, teaching patience in every way possible.


с днём рождения себе!

today is my birthday. last night i went to dinner with friends. other than the loooong wait to get the check and a slight concern that my passport was not to be returned by the restaurant staff (they take birthday discounts very seriously in russia), it was pretty awesome. and it was an excuse to order a couple of those big platters (boats, actually) of sushi, which was very exciting/delicious for me. i was gifted some flowers, a sparkly bear candle, and a red leather riding crop*, photographed below:

both of my parents sent me emails wishing me happy birthday. in a shocking turn of events, my dad is the one who wrote the crazy long sentimental email telling me how he remembers the day i was born so vividly (then explains it) and has loved me ever since. it made me cry a little!!!!! and my mom's email was also sweet, but a lot more concise. no tears needed. today i am slowly convincing myself to go to korolyov to hang out and bake with polly. it's only made harder by the fact that my body is really sore from the hour and a half of yoga i did the other night. BUT, progress is being made. i am almost in the shower (mentally, that is. physically i am no closer than i've been while on my computer all day) as we speak.

-----

this is from a totally unrelated night a couple of weekends ago. apparently there exists a russian variant of billiards. the tables are gigantic, the holes smaller, and all of the balls are the same color:




*i was also given some other cool things from cool people, but those are what i have a picture of.

Friday, December 10, 2010

you're doin' yoga just to look the part

today, as planned, i did very little other than bake some rosemary garlic bread. it was delicious, also as planned. and, as with all bread i make, i was kicking myself afterward for not making two loaves. damn. DAMN! shortly after i removed the bread from the oven, a scene undoubtedly reminiscent of this one, from Zoolander* took place, as i impatiently attempted to remove the hot bread from the hot baking dish. very frustrating, though i eventually did free it.

since i basically did nothing all day and recently downloaded a bunch of p90x videos, i spontaneously decided to do some yoga tonight. the 90 minute yoga video is not too bad (pretty thorough and varied) and i impressed myself by making it through the entire thing. i am definitely out of yoga-shape. the video is cheesy but it sure beats having to figure out what to do on my own (somehow i seem to be incapable of putting together a substantial yoga sequence despite the fact that i've been doing yoga for over 6 years now). additionally, i seem to have forgotten how relaxing it is (afterward...), so in that respect it was totally awesome.

tomorrow, as with all saturdays, i teach my individual students. the first is an adorable seven year old girl who is full of life, and my main goal is figuring out ways to sneak vocabulary and grammar points into play time. afterward i have about an hour and a half break, and then i teach the other two students. one is a 12 year old girl, the other an eight year old boy (they're brother/sister, but since they are totally different ages and levels, the lessons are separate). the boy is really quiet (only with me, he's very loud the rest of the time) and sometimes it's hard to engage him, but he's SO CUTE when i can get him to smile/laugh. the girl is a total sweetheart, and her english is actually quite good, so the lessons have consisted of normal english learning stuff with a lot of chit-chatting in between.

so, really, other than the fact that i have to wake up kind of early for a saturday, and don't get home until about 4:15, it's a really nice work day.

annnnnd tomorrow is kind of exciting because i'm going to a sushi place with some friends as an early birthday celebration (one day early, because saturdays are way cooler than sundays for doing things).






*the italian version was the only version of this clip i could find!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

back with a vengeance

it seems to have warmed up so much that it's raining instead of snowing. i'm conflicted about this, so i've been weighing what it means:

pros:
  • temperatures above freezing
  • rain is one of my favorite sounds (when i'm inside, and particularly at night)

cons:
  • slush
  • no longer being able to slide around on the frozen-over pond in fear of it no longer being entirely frozen over and i will fall in and be too stunned/embarrassed to call for help in russian and die
since there seems to be a tie, the conclusion i've come to is that the weather outside doesn't really affect me unless i have to spend any amount of time in it. on the one hand, i don't work again for another 34 hours, a substantially long enough time period for the outdoors to re-freeze; on the other, it would be nice to buy food tomorrow so i can eat.

we'll see how it's looking in the morning, but based on the current conditions it seems unlikely that even hunger will motivate me to leave the apartment. polly is actually quite a source of inspiration for me. tonight, while chatting with her, i was lamenting that i didn't have anything to eat. i mentioned that i had an avocado (exciting!!!!!), rice, cilantro, and onion... and she said something like "well, there you go!!" somehow it hadn't dawned on me that i could make a satisfying meal with those things. as it turned out, i also had tomatoes and chili peppers, so i made a sweet little pico de gallo with avocado then mixed in the rice. not bad, not bad. i think that because i didn't eat a lot of rice growing up, it never really occurs to me as an option for food.

perhaps tomorrow i will just have to chat with her to find the motivation to stay indoors and get creative.

also on the agenda for tomorrow (after the skype date with moya mamochka, of course) is to bake a loaf of bread. perhaps with rosemary and garlic???

as for now: back to the horrible movie i'm watching (so bad i took a break to write a post here...), then sleep.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Black Beauty

I just read (a severely graded) Black Beauty over a few lessons with one of my individual students. Right now I am desperately trying to download a copy of the movie to take to my lesson tonight so we can start watching it.

I know I went to see this movie in the theater when it came out in 1994, when I was probably about 7 1/2 years old. Not surprisingly, I don't really remember anything about the movie except the scene at the bridge, and the fact that I went to see it with my dad, Pat, Leigh, Charlie, and Will (and possibly a few random neighborhood children). What I remember is how Charlie insisted on sitting alone a few rows ahead of everyone (he was a cool 9 year old, after all, embarrassed to be seen with his family), and at some sad scene we happened to look at him and he was wiping his eyes. We can't say for sure that he was crying, but that didn't stop us for ridiculing him for it long afterward. In fact, I'm still doing it. It left a lasting impression.

Success! Black Beauty has finished downloading!! I guess I can go to work now. I'll be home in roughly 12 hours...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

There is a treadmill in the hallway (inside our apartment, the one that connects all of the rooms), it looks like this:


(geography note: the door behind it is the kitchen, to the left is the roommate's bedroom, further left is my bedroom.)

I seriously love this thing. I'm not gonna lie, I think running on treadmills is boring as all get out, HOWEVER, it certainly beats running in the tear-inducing cold, and also in icy conditions, which frighten me even for walking. It's also nice to have a reasonable way of staying fit without resorting to P90X-- which, by the way, just goes to show that if you put an infomercial out there for long enough, it will eventually become popular. Plus, I can turn off all the lights and run in the dark. Well, near-dark, as I am a little afraid of mis-stepping, falling off, being thrown against the wall, knocked unconscious and crumpled on the floor for my roommate to discover when he comes home (obviously I only operate the dorozhka when the apartment is empty, since I would never subject myself to the humiliation of anyone witnessing me running on it).

In other news: the weather is starting to warm up a little, as it neared 0C today. My dad was telling me that he was looking at the weather report (which he does frequently, as he seems to know more about the weather here than I do) and it's supposed to be in the 30sF soon. Practically balmy!!

Oh yeah, and my birthday is soon. So that's weird.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was just over a week ago. We celebrated on Sunday. It was a mixed bunch, consisting of two Americans (U-S-A! U-S-A!), A Canadian, an Irishman, and four Russians. Much smaller and more manageable than the Canadian Thanksgiving back in early October. There was still no turkey, but I did roast a duck and a chicken, and they both came out amazingly. I've decided I prefer duck to turkey. Polly and Katie came over early to help with the preparation, and together we made: a giant salad that we forgot to eat and Polly took home in a bag (a variation of Texas caviar); mashed potatoes; ratatouille style veggies; delicious baked tomatoes and mushrooms stuffed with some sort of cream cheese and garlic mix; gravy; cranberry sauce; stuffing; and a seriously delicious apple crumble (I want to give Katie a special shout out for this, because she made it by herself despite the fact that she hates baked fruit and refused to eat it). I forgot to make some homemade rolls until it was too late, but I don't think anyone missed them.

Here are just a few things that I am thankful for:

  • the wonderful and huge variety of friends I've made here
  • my friends back home (or wherever the fuck y'all are), about whom I constantly think and miss
  • my parents, whom I also miss immensely; I am so grateful to have the relationship with you that I do
  • the USA: never before have I understood so clearly what it means to feel completely comfortable and home in a place. Plus, being the only American (effectively) makes me want to be as obnoxious as possible about it (...to steal a sentiment from Polly).
  • Russia and the Russians
  • the fact that my mom is coming to visit for nearly two weeks!!!!!
  • the treadmill in my hallway that guilts me into exercising so I don't explode
  • the words y'all and hella, neither of which I ever said back in the states, but have come to embody familiarity in a strange land
  • the pizza I am going to eat with my awesome roommate tonight
  • life

I know it's been a long time since I blogged. Mostly, I'm lazy. The newest remarkable thing is the fact that it's becoming seriously cold. Last week I woke up, moseyed into the kitchen, and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the temperature was -25C. The cold, however, is no match for the cheapness I seem to have inherited from my father, and I would rather walk almost in tears than pay $0.79 for the bus.