Sunday, June 29, 2008

Success

Since I know you were all so worried about our tummies being empty, I wanted to let you know that I have found something cheap and easy and Russian that I like to eat. Pyroshky. I haven't tried any of the meat-filled ones yet (pigs will fly the day I do) but I like the ones with fruit inside. And the ones with mashed potatoes. Strangely delicious.

So, we did all kinds of fun things this week, and we had so many opportunities for good pictures, but we keep forgetting to charge our camera batteries! So you'll just have to trust me when I say that I saw Tolstoy's winter home, and it was very cool. Apparently he didn't normally live in Moscow, but when his older kids started going to university in Moscow, he had this home built so he could move the whole family out during the school year, and they could all still be together. I'm planning to suggest this to my parents, so anyone who's reading this from Utah, can you look around for a place for my family? I know they miss me terribly, but they absolutely pine for Charles.
Since we don't have any pictures of our own to post this week, I'm going to leave you with this one because it's really funny. Watch out for Maggie's evil eye, and don't tell Lizzy that life vest makes her look fat, because I'm pretty sure that's what she's already telling my mom as she took the picture.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Meh

We're in a food rut. I'm usually a pretty good cook, according to the people I've fed. But I seem to botch everything I try here. Charles eats it anyway, because he's hungry and because it doesn't bother him that things never taste the same here. But I'm very sensitive to how much my food tastes like it's supposed to, and how much it doesn't. Remember that mac and cheese we bought when we first got here? I kept it in our little cupboard for weeks, as a backup to every meal I planned. It was really good to have around, because I was certain that if we were just dying for a taste of home, we could make that in ten minutes and feel American again.
We finally hit that point, and we made the mac and cheese, and it tasted funny. But it didn't make me laugh. I feel very out of my element here, because I am a feeder. I live to feed people, and I love making food that people love. Here, even my mac and cheese and my brownies from a box taste weird, and it makes me want to avoid the kitchen. Which I do, now. We eat a lot of pizza. A lot of pizza. I desperately want to make a meal that both of us can enjoy, and I'm totally out of ideas and inspiration. And I'm kind of homesick.
Ok, a lot homesick.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm IT

I've been tagged. Six random facts about me...
1. I have a titanium tooth. I can bite through anything. Except bread, apparently.
2. My favorite punctuation mark is the period. Followed closely by the semicolon. You may think they are the most boring ones, but they are not; they can be used to quite comical effect when used correctly and respectfully.
3. I shave my legs everyday.
4. If I can't sleep, I get up and change my clothes. Underwear especially. I don't know why, but it sometimes really helps.
5. I am allergic to the sun, even though I love the sun so much! If I get too much sun, I break out in a VERY itchy rash, like hives.
6. I can eat a dozen glazed original Krispie Kreme donuts in one sitting. Most of me is not proud of that, but part of me is.

And just for fun, six random facts about Charles!

1. He likes watching golf on TV.
2. He has seen President Putin in person (on Easter). He has seen President Bush in person (in Lithuania).
3. He does not like hot fudge on his ice cream, because if his ice cream melts even a little bit before he eats it, he won't eat it at all.
4. He is a news junkie. He regularly reads six newspapers everyday. He also reads Scientific American, Christian Science Monitor, and the Financial Times everyday. He also listens to NPR everyday. How he accomplishes anything else is beyond me. But his accomplishments are prolific, so I don't have an issue with his papers!
5. He likes to climb trees.
6. He doesn't like pickles. He doesn't like to eat things that have been close proximity to pickles. He doesn't like living in apartments where other people eat pickles, or where other people regulary pickle things for no apparent reason. He does like garlic and basil and oregano and he thinks he would like to try saffron someday. He likes paprika and pumpernikel. He doesn't like too much cilantro on his food. These are a few of his favorite things. He likes redvines and firecrackers and fireworks are his favorite and the fourth of July is his very favorite holiday. He enjoys 19th century French literature. He thinks platinum is a very pretty color. He believes in art. He believes my face is a work of art. He also believes that the past fifty years have trivialized the art that is music. He believes that good music is still made today, but that most people don't appreciate good music. Too many people say that they are music lovers when in fact music is just a backdrop in their lives, not a main event. He loves Papa John's. He has many leatherbound books. His apartment smells of rich mahogany. He is done with this speech.

I asked him for some random facts, and this is what I got. He was interesting to listen to, once he got started, so I just let him dictate. So my seventh fact is that I am a good typist.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Phone Number

We set up an internet phone number so anybody can call us and talk to us without having to pay long distance to Russia. Our new number is (801)542-9891. Feel free to call us, we would love to hear from you. Just remember that we are 10 hours ahead of Utah time. If we don't answer, leave us a message!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Independence Day

Yesterday was Russia's Independence Day. At least, that's what they called it when Charles was here seven years ago. (Man, my husband is old. He was leaving on his mission as I went on my first date.) But eventually enough people pointed out that they were technically celebrating independence from themselves, so now it's just called Russia Day.

Charles and I decided to head into town to see all the action, and we had the best night ever! We got Mcdonald's for dinner, which was very nice. I don't eat Mcdonald's very often in America, but every now and then it's very comforting to me here in Russia. The funny thing about ordering a double cheeseburger without onions or pickles here is that it's considered unusual. As soon as we order it, the cashier runs from the cash register to the back to tell them to get ready, because she's got a special order coming. So when she gets back to the cash register, and Charles tells her he wants a double cheeseburger with no pickles, onions, ketchup, or mustard, she nearly fainted. Having worked in fast food, I know it's not as big a deal as they make of it, so sometimes I like to watch them gape at our orders.


After dinner, we started walking around downtown, looking for a good fireworks show. Charles told me they'd be happening all over the city, so we just wanted to find a comfy spot to watch from. And as we were walking down into the Metro to head to the university, there was a really amazing show right in front of us. I got some of it on video, because it was really spectacular. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as cool on our camera, so just take my word for it. video


If the fireworks weren't cool enough, it was also snowing! videoNot really. But there was cotton blowing around in the air from all the cottonwood trees, and when we walked out of the Metro station Charles nearly threw a hissy fit until he discovered that it wasn't actually snowing. He made the funniest face! He howled in rage for a second, and then realized that it was still plenty warm and he got happy again. The sound was something like "WHAAAAAAT-hey! It's still summer!" Anyway, it was kind of cool, so we got some pictures and videos of the "snow" so you could see what we were talking about.


We were still really having a good time, and weren't ready to go home, so we decided to get dessert somewhere. We found the coolest little confectioner's shop and decided to stop in. It was all dark wood and peacock blue and magenta and turquoise, with tiffany lampshades above the tables, and some of the tables were pulled up to the window seats, which were full of cushions and pillows and silky blankets and stuff. It was the sort of place I would want to take a Jane Austen novel and curl up in forever. I am so in love with this place. And it did my heart good to know that it existed. Charles ordered a hot chocolate and an apple custard tart thing, and I ordered fresh squeezed apple juice (I'm so serious.) and chocolate mousse. We probably looked ridiculous, just ordering dessert, and then taking pictures of our dessert, and then I hate to think what we looked like actually eating the dessert, because it was so good! Charles' apple thing was a tart on the bottom, with kind of a pie crust outer layer, and apple slices with spices inside, and the top was a custard thing with caramelized sugar on top. From just looking at it, you couldn't tell where the tart started and the custard ended, which I thought was really clever. You don't bake custards and tarts at the same temperature, so from all I can figure out they had to put the two together after they were baked, so how did they make it so beautiful? The chocolate mousse I ordered was divine. As in, it was made by heavenly hands. It had a slight orangey taste, like maybe there was a little bit of orange zest mixed in. And it was so light and airy. Oh my gosh.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Part of my world

Back by popular demand, pictures of Russia.First off, we have the demonic duo: the scary looking bear and rabbit team who greets us every morning. Say goodbye to them, because they're being moved into a box on our balcony for the duration of our stay. No offense, Valya.
Second, we have our friendly neighborhood power plant. When I told Cecily I thought I'd be grateful for even a four-legged child after all the weird places Charles and I have lived, she said, "Well, the easiest thing to do is to line all of your clothes with lead." That's why she's my best friend.

We recently found a little pizzeria on the other side of the building behind ours, and we quite like it. The waitress recognizes us when we walk in, and knows automatically that Charles will have a Coke and I'll have a Fanta. The first time we went there, she complimented Charles on his Russian after she heard us speaking English and realized that he was actually American. That made me very proud!
They don't have American style pizza; they have more Italian style pizza, and it's good. Very thin crust and sweet tomato sauce. I really want to try their pork chops next. They're pretty cheap, and they haven't made us sick yet, so we're very optimistic! They're such a cute little family that runs the place.
This car says "Sputnik" on it in Cyrillic if you look closely. Makes me laugh everytime I see it. Charles just finished reading a very interesting book about the space race and the cold war. It was called Red Moon Rising. Sounds pretty funny, from what he's told me about it.
There are all these aluminum storage units around the apartment buildings here, and they almost all have murals on them. Some of them have summer scenes and some of them have winter scenes. I personally would want a summer scene so that I can have a bit of summer during the long, cold, dark, Russian winters. I always long for summer, but I detest winter at all times. Everyone always seems to talk about how dark Russian winters are, because they hardly get any sunlight at all here during the winters. But nobody told me to expect so much sunlight during the summer! The sun goes down around midnight, and it comes up around four or five am. I'm loving all the sunshine! Sometimes it makes me grumpy to be woken up so early, but it's really nice to go for late walks with Charles while the sun is still up.
There is a really nice playground right outside our building. Actually, all the buildings around here have big playgrounds. This is a newer area, and it's pretty spread out, so I don't know if this is the norm, but it's cool! The sad thing is, the baboushkas are still bundling the babies so warmly that I'm always afraid they're going to overheat! It's JUNE for crying out loud! It makes me kind of mad, but I've never seen any of them faint or anything.

This picture has a better view of our building. We're the big skyscraper behind the playground. On the other side of the playground there's an auto repair place. I wonder if that's why we hear car alarms all hours of the day. It's just background noise to us now, so we don't really notice it except at four am when it's the only sound!

Charles and I are feeling tons better, minus a migraine this morning, so we're going to be out and about more, and you can expect more pictures soon! We'll leave you with our beautiful self-portaits from when we went to dinner the other night. Don't be jealous of our beauty. Some get brains, some get talent, some get beauty, and some get it all. What can I say?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

goofiness


This is one of my favorite pictures from Emile's wedding. It's so us.

ThisoneguythatIlove

So, for anyone who didn't know, Charles' birthday was on the 22nd. We didn't have internet access at the time, but I'd like to create a retroactive post on his behalf. Happy Birthday, Charles! Charles wanted to go to TGI Friday's for his birthday, and luckily he remembered where it was! All these years later. Anyone else think that's admirable? I really do mean all these years later. He's pretty old, now. He's 26 now.
So in honor of Charles turning so incredibly old, I decided to make a list of 26 things I love about him. You don't have to read them, because they might be mushy, but you might learn some things about him, too. Oh, and these aren't in order of importance. Remember that when you read the first one.
1. His tiny toes. Charles has hobbit toes. He doesn't really like them, but I hope our kids inherit them.
2. His sense of humor. That guy is hilarious. I really just married him for the free entertainment.
3. His crazy dreams. When we were dating, I couldn't wait to see him first thing in the morning and hear all about his adventures the night before. He still has mission dreams and river guiding dreams. I think he's dreamt about us being called on missions like three or four times since we've been together.
4. His sense of style. I love the way he dresses. And I love that my favorite shirts of his are his favorites, too. And he has such a good eye. I prefer to send him shopping for clothes for me, because he tends to pick better clothes than I do.
5. He is a good boy. He really wants to do what's right. I know he will always encourage me to get my lazy butt out of bed even when we have 9:00 church, and he's always been ready to give me a blessing when I've needed one.
6. He wets his toothbrush before and after he put toothpaste on it.
7. He challenges me to learn and do new things. Like Russia.
8. His sweet tooth. That boy loves his chocolate. I never have to convince him that it's time for a Ben&Jerry's run.
9. His smell. He likes to be clean and to smell good, and he does a really good job of it.
10. He does the laundry. I don't think we ever meant for it to be his chore, but it's kind of become his thing, and I'm very grateful for the times he's done all the laundry.
11. He's good at math and science. He's willing to cover all the math and science homework issues our kids will eventually have, and he's willing to let me have the language arts and art projects. And he doesn't make fun of my pathetic attempts at math.
12. He's sweet to his mom and my mom.
13. He likes to analyze movies with me when they're over.
14. He cuddles me whenever I want. He even reaches for me in his sleep.
15. He's such a good cook. Especially when it comes to grilling, but also when it comes to breads.
16. His laughs. He has a few, but they're all contagious!
17. He likes to learn.
18. He likes excuses to take homework breaks.
19. He really really really encouraged me to finish school even though I really really really didn't want to at times.
20. He's good with money. He's smart about our finances, luckily.
21. He thinks raw onions are yucky.
22. He is a summer man. He lives for summer.
23. He can name songs from the first beats. Every song, every time. This man has two external hard drives just to hold all his music.
24. He plays the bass.
25. He has profound respect for women. Even when he doesn't understand us.
26. His belly button and his earlobes. They're just funny.

These aren't the only things I love about him. As I was making this list, I came up with dozens more things to love about him, so Charles, you're going to have to live a VERY long time to get the whole list. I love you, CharlesCampbell!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Save it for a rainy day



Today's a rainy day, and Charles stayed home sick. He caught my version of the plague, unfortunately. This is him on our balcony, next to our laundry that somehow manages to dry amidst all this humidity. Luckily, last night before we went to bed we went on a candy run and bought all kinds of different chocolate. So we're well stocked for a rainy day. We also have my homemade potato soup in the fridge, and the ingredients for my homemade tomato soup. Too bad Charles eventually has to go back to work, because we're having a lovely day laying around and fighting internal battles against our germs.
So, Charles decided on his internship, and he's going to be working for a capitol investment firm. There aren't very many in Russia, because they're just now redeveloping an upper class who has capitol to invest. This particular firm has only been in business for about six months. It's more than doubled its funds since then, so they seem to be doing pretty well. Charles' job there is to research various commodities and services to invest in. He may even be doing some pitches to companies when he finishes researching. It's very exciting to him, and the job's pretty much tailored just to him. He may even be paid to fly to America a few times! He actually won't be speaking too much Russian, which ironically is a selling point for him. He wanted to spend time in Moscow, but he wasn't as thrilled with the Russian speaking aspect as the rest of the people who are in his program. They're all Russian majors, and he's a public policy major.

For now, though, we're just trying to survive this evil bug, and having internet in our house is helping alot!


Oh, I forgot to mention that we don't have any hot water yet. Most of Moscow doesn't have hot water right now, actually. Apartment buildings don't have their own water heaters here, because the city heats water and pumps it directly into the buildings from central heating plants. That means you never run out of hot water, except for during the summer when they shut down the plants for maintainence and stuff. Then you don't have water for anywhere from two weeks to a month! Luckily, we're in a very new area, and all of our pipes are very up to date, so it's just two weeks for us. And it turns back on tomorrow, thank goodness! Charles has been heating up water for me in the mornings for my shower, because Valya has this electric teapot thing that heats your water to boiling in less than two minutes. I heat water for him, too. We take turns doing it. A couple teapotfulls is good for a semi-cleansing shower, but I always use the actual shower head with cold water for my hair, because I need that water pressure to get all the shampoo out of my hair. Shaving is a nightmare. I can't wait for my hot shower tomorrow!