Friday, January 30, 2009

Do you embrace your new appliances?

My neighbor asked me if I hug my new appliances the other day. He was on the landing because he had to move the large box that his new refrigerator came in so I could open my apartment door.

At first I thought he was asking me if I literally hug my new appliances so I answered "no!" He smiled and said "O, you just accept them?! Well tonight we will be embracing and toasting our new refrigerator!" And then he went back to work in his kitchen. In his mind the new refrigerator was worthy of a celebration and he was going to drink to his new appliance as his way of greeting it into his home.

I came inside and Tom and I decided that we should give them a gift. So I found a brand new magnet with a Russian scene painted on the front, wrapped it up very prettily in a gift bag and took it over. This was the first time I had been in their apartment in the 3 1/2 years we have lived here.

It was frightening to knock on their front door and hand her a gift. We had only been on a 'greet one another on the landing and make a comment about the weather' basis up until that point. Now we finally know each others first names!

Zoya and Misha are both retired and they are doing their remodeling all by themselves. Misha has a great sense of humor... he told me that in English his name is Michael. His wife, Zoya, was sweet and somewhat shy. She told me she was "accepting my gift with discomfort and thankfulness".

I think she was just as nervous as I was over my being in their home. We are still learning what is culturally appropriate and what is not. At least Tom and I felt like we made the right decision about me going over alone instead of both of us foreigners barging into their home!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Mops Morning

Alyona had the dough and the eggs pre-made

Lena placing the ingredients on the dough

Four hands were better than two!

It smelled divine!

And it tasted great too!

In Russian this is called a "pirog". Dough with some type of filling. We followed Julia's recipe after watching the DVD to see how she prepared everything. It was a fun cooperative effort. Alyona premade the dough and hard boiled the eggs, Lena brought tomatoes and parmesan cheese and I contributed the bacon and printed out the recipe.

We each took turns rolling out the dough, and layering the ingredients. We doubled the recipe to make 4 pirogi and brought the children and childcare workers to feast with us. I was a little hesitant of the hard boiled egg inside but once it all came together it truly was tasty!

It doesn't seem to matter what activity we choose to do or how many women show up...the best thing about the morning is that we are together. This week we had 7 moms and 7 kids... it was just right!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My new Haircut and "A mother's work"

I was finally able to get in to see my barber today. Yep, that is right I see a barber!

She is a master at cutting mens hair. I keep my hair pretty short now and since she cut Spencer's hair for almost two years, I knew that she would do a great job with mine. Besides paying the price for a man's haircut beats paying the prices that women pay their hairdressers hands down!

While I was getting my haircut which takes all of 7 minutes... Natalia received three phone calls from home. Just like any working mother she handled the calls and her work with ease.

No matter where you go in the world... a mother's work is never done!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eat at Home

I was assigned the task of choosing the MOPS video for Thursday. We have been trying to alternate between having something active and something more mellow like a short lesson or film.

I found an excellent culinary series on DVD called "Eat at Home". Unfortunately, only the first season is on DVD. But, the wonderful thing for our group is that the host of the show is pregnant in this season and is also the mother of a preschooler!!

The show has been on the air here in Russia since 2003. And it is a very high quality show. The host of the show is Julia Vysotskaya and she reminds me of Rachel Ray. She is not a chef but she loves to cook.

I was watching her make a dessert and as she gives the measurement for sugar she smiles and says:"add one fist full of sugar and if your hand is bigger than mine, then your dough will be sweeter!"

She talks fast and is very energetic and keeps me on the edge of my seat watching to see what she will do next!

This Thursday at Mops we will watch an episode on putting together a picnic for children. I was able to download and print all the recipes to hand out to the moms. I am looking forward to seeing if the gals like her as much as I do!

The website is only in Russian:

However, I did find a short write up about her in English at this website:

Julia is the reason I was bold enough to overcome my fear of the meat mallet and make Chicken Cordon Bleu for Tom's birthday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Looking back at the weekend...

Tom's 46th birthday was Saturday. And he chose to celebrate by starting up the Saturday teaching sessions!!

He spoke on the 12 steps and gave an overview of each step and he taught us the Biblical priniciple behind each one. We had 13 in attendance!

Each week I make something for the tea that we serve after Tom teaches. This week instead of a cake for Tom's birthday I baked Stephanie's Cinnamon Rolls. They were a big hit. One of the ladies really like the frosting on top... she licked the pan clean as she was asking for the recipe!!

After the seminar we went out for his birthday lunch along with our friend Katya. She is translating for Tom while Dima is in Moscow. We went to the Sky Dragon Chinese Restaurant and had a great time. We ended up letting Katya ask for the check because we had been joking about how if you end up pronouncing the word for check incorrectly you will be saying "sh*t". We were laughing so hard that Katya was the only one who could keep a straight face and say it correctly!!

Tom heard from Spencer and from Nathan on his birthday and had lots of greetings from our friends here and abroad.

Sunday Tom was given a birthday card and greetings from the church. And we had the privilege of hearing Chuck speak about his journey as a believer and all of the work he has done in various countries in the former Soviet Union. He came to Russia for the first time in 1979. His distinguished grey hair and years of experience gave him an attentive audience!

To finish off Tom's weekend birthday celebration I made Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner. However, if you ask Tom what I made he will call it Remont Chicken. In Russian the word remont means remodel. Tom heard me pounding away with the mallet to flatten the chicken breasts and to him it sounded like one of our neighbors doing remont!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What is your word?

I took the same test as my friend Jeano and I ended up with the same answer as her! Oh well, great minds!!

Your Word is "Love"

You see life as possibility to form deep connections with a few people.

Relationships are the center of your world, and you always take time to bond with those you love.

You are caring and giving. You enjoy helping those you love.

And when it comes to romantic love, you feel passionately ... even in a very long term relationship.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

sights from the neighborhood

As Tom and I were out walking the other day we noticed this makeshift antennae. This is such a contrast to the other nearby homes which have satellite dishes!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thought for Today

"True service...builds community. It quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It puts no one under obligation to return the service. It draws, binds, heals, builds. The result is the unity of the community."
Richard J. Foster, from his book Celebration of Discipline

As this year unfolds it will be interesting to see how well people embrace the call to service that President Obama mentioned in his inauguration speech. My prayer is that we will each seek to make where we live a kinder, stronger, and healthier environment by embracing true service to one another. So that we as a people will be drawn together, healed of past hurts and focused on building one another up... like Richard concludes, the result will be unity of the community.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Barack Obama

I am at a complete loss for words... I never thought I would see this day!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dinner with Joe and friends

Jim asked me if I would put together a pizza dinner for Joe's visit since his wife Joyce had already left for America. It was actually easy... Jim gave me a list of people to invite. I ordered the pizza, purchased salads and drinks.

I planned the meal for about 14, that number included two children so I thought we would be safe with 5 large pizzas. But, we had 22 show up so we ran out of food! It is not that I don't know how to count... but when people attend all day meetings and they see a table laid out with food they follow the crowd and come in to eat!!

We prayed for the food, sang Happy Birthday to Joe and dove into the pizza! When someone asked Joe how it felt to be so old (he just turned 70) someone else yelled out "it is better than the alternative!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Mall in Krasnodar

After church Tom and I went over to the Galleria downtown. We strolled around the new mall, Tom tried on jeans at the Levi's Store, we ate lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken and had dessert at Baskin Robbins!

There were several different places to choose from for lunch... we decided against a Hooters-like place called Cafe Boobs. That just did not seem right for an after church outing!

The new mall has it's own website: Galleria It is in English if you want to check it out!

Friday, January 16, 2009

the adventures of Tom and Alida

Tom sold his first painting!! We are thrilled!! It was purchased right off the wall of our living room.

I had my first lesson with my new private tutor. In our effort to scale down our expenses I am no longer studying at the Language school. My tutor was one of the original teachers at the school, she helped write the courses, so she is highly qualified and very tough!! I am fortunate that she agreed to tutor me.

I should be working on the powerpoint of the worship music for church on Sunday. However, I am feeling a little frustrated with how slow I type in Russian so I am taking a break!

Tom is off teaching an English class. We start up the weekly Recovery teaching sessions again next week. This is our last free weekend for about a month. Tom wants to teach 4 weeks straight since we had to take such a long holiday break.

He and his friend V are making plans for an English speaking AA meeting here in the city... more news about that later!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Clearing off the snow

We have had snow on the ground for quite some time now... the other day Tom took this photo of one of our neighbors clearing off his garage. Last year there were cases of roofs collapsing from the weight of too much snow on them. This guy is making sure that doesn't happen to him!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old New Year

Today is the day that New Year's used to be celebrated according to the old calendar. Hence the title of this post is the title of today's holiday. Old New Year!

We celebrated today first by me going to the dentist... then this evening we went out with our friends Ekaterina (Katya) and Alexei. We attended a Big Band Concert featuring the music of Glenn Miller.

We had a great time with our friends and the music was great too. The band leader George Garanian is very famous here, selling millions of records in the 70's. His MySpace page:
features music played by his band.

We were surprised to see a fair number of young people in the audience and Katya told us afterward that some of the attendees were prominent people here in Krasnodar. We need to watch the news to see who was there... the news camera was going all night long!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

root canal part 2

I went back today for more work on my teeth. She worked on the other side this afternoon. I had four more root canals started, my mouth is sore, and I am wiped out.

One interesting difference that Tom and I have experienced here is that patients are responsible for maintaining their own medical records. She sent me home with copies of all my records including xrays on a CD!

Monday, January 12, 2009

root canal...

I survived my first trip to the dentist here in Russia. Everything was clean, the equipment is all state of the art, and my dentist was young enough to be my daughter!

She started a root canal today in the tooth that I lost my filling in. I was grateful that it was completely painless! I have two more appointments to finish off that procedure then she will redo my fillings on the other side of my mouth.

The xray machine was interesting. I stood up, bit on a freshly covered dental grip, while the machine whirled around my head taking pictures. By the time I walked back upstairs the dentist had my teeth displayed on her computer screen. I was able to clearly see all of the things she suggested needed to be worked on.

And yes, Russian dentists, just like those in America, will also ask you questions when they have your mouth wide open and filled with instruments!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

sights from Christmas

Children singing!

Yulia, Alexei, Misha and Leeza performing together!

Alexei P. taking his turn pulling the girls on the sled... Tom is taking the photo!

Yanna in back and Eera in front enjoying the ride home!

Friday, January 09, 2009

it is not the date that counts...

When December 25th rolled around it was a difficult day. Not just because Nathan and Spencer were not here to celebrate with us, but, because the rest of the country was not celebrating with us.

Russia celebrates Christmas on January 7th. This year our church held a Christmas morning service. The children sang and recited poetry. Everyone was in a festive mood. After the service there was a “sladky stol” or sweet table. Tom was able to stay for that and enjoyed spending time laughing and celebrating with everyone. There were guests at the service who had come from various parts of the country to celebrate with family and see the children perform.

I had to sneak off to a Christmas concert that I had been invited to. The Kuban Cossack Choir put on an incredible show that was sold out! I was grateful for the invitation and that we were able to get tickets! She and I both got to hear our favorite singers. She likes a tenor who truly did a fantastic job. However, my favorite is a bass… he was tall and thin with an unbelievably deep voice. After the concert my friend had to rush off to her church’s celebration, Tom came to pick me up and he and I went to Valera’s home to celebrate with his family and their long time friends.

Being invited to Valera and Ludmilla’s home was a significant event in our lives here. They celebrate Christmas each year with family and friends that they have had since childhood. We felt very welcome among this group of men and women who have been together more than 50 years. As we left there two of the women invited us to share a taxi with them. That was another first for us… we got stuck in the elevator! Fortunately our call for help was answered and we were only confined about 15 minutes. After getting the doors open we chose to walk down six flights of stairs to our waiting taxi instead of trying the elevator again!

It was a long day… but a truly enjoyable one. Tom and I both realized that the date we celebrate Christmas on is not important. It is the spirit of the season that counts. Celebrating the birth of Christ on the Orthodox date of January 7th with all of Russia was much more fulfilling than our attempt to celebrate on December 25th alone.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Snowy weather...

Tom just got back from running errands in the snow. It is only 1 below. So it's not that cold. But, there are about 8 inches of snow on the ground!

Over the holiday I lost a filling. Everything that I have read online says this is not an emergency... although it does make eating uncomfortable. We called a dental office this morning but they are closed for the holidays. Christmas here in Russia is Wednesday so I will have to tough it out for a few more days.

Having the AA group over on New Year's went well. Tom got a call from his friend V. who said that everyone had a great time! V came with his entire family. He brought his wife, two daughters and his granddaughter. Two single gals, E and T, who would have been alone otherwise also came. For several of our guests it was their first time in an American home. We made every effort to follow as many Russian traditions as possible.

We had the table set holiday style with New Year's presents for everyone. We watched President Mevedev on tv to bring in the New Year. Prior to his address to the nation we toasted the old year. Everyone had an opportunity to say what they had learned or what they were grateful for and we raised our glasses of 7-up, juice and non alcoholic champagne and joyfully clicked them together after each person shared! Following Medvedev's address the fireworks started on the street. We watched from our balcony and saw a great display from various points around the city! We laughed together, watched the fireworks and then went back to the table to eat some more and toast the new year! Dinner began at 11 pm and our guests left together in V's van at 2 am!!

During the evening, T, one of the single gals, got a phone call from a woman who had been invited but chose not to come... she was drunk. Another guy who could not make it sent Tom a text message saying that he had 5 months of sobriety that day and that is the longest stretch that he has gone so far!

Tom has suggested this gathering every year for the past 4 years and this was the first time that we had people actually agree to come over. We were glad that it was a success and we pray that it will become a new tradition!!