Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life as normal (as it's going to get)

Life is starting to feel normal here in Almaty. All our stuff has arrived and we are finished unpacking. Got some more organizing and putting-away to do but we've made real progress. Olivia says now it finally feels like we really live here. Activities are well underway with Sat soccer, Sun rugby, twice a month Girl Scouts, ice skating and soon hockey and dance class. I've been trying to keep up the exercise to stay busy but have also added JV (0-1) and Varsity (2-0) girls soccer coach, Sat soccer coach, library volunteer (with a possible part-time job available) and Russian lessons. And Frank of course is working hard. So, everything feel like status quo until you go to the grocery store and you see this wrapped in cellophane in the meat section.....

It could be ours, teeth, eyeballs and all, for just over $6! And the eyeballs are a delicacy and only presented to the guest of honor. Remind me never to sit at the head of the table at a party here.

Girl Scouts Almaty

We had our first GS meeting last weekend. Marcy is in Brownie Troop #1 and Emily is in Junior Troop #2 (since we are the only Girl Scouts in Kazakhstan, I think.) There are 10 Brownies and 10 Juniors which is a great small number and easy to handle. Once again, I may be sick of GS but it is a great activity that we can do anywhere. Among all the girls we have now been Daisies in Manila and Singapore, Bluebirds in Thailand, Brownies in Dallas, Singapore, Calgary and Almaty, Sparks in Calgary, Guides in Calgary, Juniors in Dallas and Almaty, and Cadettes in Dallas. That's alot of Scouting!

Here are Emily and Marcy in their new uniforms.
And the Junior group which I lead for the first meeting:

I think the girls will have fun and what's great is that there are about 3-4 sister combinations in the two troops - built-in friends for Emily and Marcy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Thanksgiving in September

FYI: A 6 lb frozen solid turkey breast packed in a lunch cooler and transported in the cargo hold of a plane will not stay frozen for 24 hours. In fact, it's likely to defrost and then leak it's juices all over until it seaps out of the cooler seams and all over your clothes and the precious stores of goods that are also being transported in that luggage. I will never transport frozen meat in my luggage again....probably.

Given the above information, I decided not to just cook the turkey (it was still slightly frozen and very cold for those concerned about food poisoning) but the whole Thanksgiving dinner. Last year we had Thanksgiving in October in celebration on Canadian Thanksgiving so this year we had Thanksgiving dinner in September in celebration of imported goods.

We had turkey, stuffing (with no celery as it's hard to find), mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Here are some photos of our feast:

Frank even wore his Turkey Trot shirt in celebration of the occasion:

And here's my Sarah-style artistic photo of pumpkin pie:

We were all stuffed, as should be the case, and Frank swears he was all tried after and that it must be the turkey. I was tired as well but I'm still jet-lagged so I don't think I can blame it on the turkey. Not sure we'll have another Thanksgiving dinner in November but at the very least they serve a big spread at the Intercontinental!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bonus visit

Yesterday my flight from Dallas to Frankfurt ended up being cancelled. Some mechanical problem with a flap on the wing that required a part to be flown in from Frankfurt. Probably best that we didn't fly out! So, I got a bonus day in Dallas. I went for a run, put the net on the pool, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, emptied all the trash cans in the house and best of all, got to take Madeline out for lunch. This year for the first time I didn't get to take a first day of school photo of her - how sad is that? I didn't want to miss out on the school photo in the school uniform so I took her photo today. She was not too happy about it but she put up with me!

Now I'll head off to the airport and try this again. This time I have to fly to Denver first but I felt lucky that I got flight out today. I don't think everyone on the cancelled flight did.

Turkey Update: For those concerned about my frozen turkey - I put it back in the freezer last night and even after 6 hours at the airport it hadn't defrosted at all. I adjusted the weight in my bags so that it can go in the checked luggage this time and I won't have to have contraband meat on my person!

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to smuggle a turkey (aka Thanksgiving dinner to go)

Ever since we started living overseas I've broken all kinds of "I will never..." rules - I will never live apart from my husband for an extended period of time; I will never live in one country while my husband works in another; I will never have a live-in helper who does all the cooking in addition to cleaning; I will never send my child to boarding school - all broken. Last fall I met a Calgarian woman who was living in Almaty. She routinely brought frozen meat back with her in her luggage. I thought - how desperate is that? I will never carry frozen meat in my luggage. Once again an "I will never..." rule broken.

When I was out shopping for supplies to pack in the luggage I purchased can green beans, french-fried onions, cream of mushroom soup, stuffing mix, gravy packets (because I can't make gravy), etc - all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner that we can't buy in Almaty. But what's Thanksgiving without turkey? So, when I saw that Target had turkey breasts on sale I succumbed once again to an "I will never..." Here's what I have with me for my flight to Almaty:

That's a 6 lb frozen solid turkey breast packed in a soft-sided lunch cooler (I have a frozen ice pack that goes on top.) I had intended it to be in my checked luggage but I packed for business class weight limits and forgot it is less in economy. So, the frozen turkey was a logical thing to move to my carry on. Nobody questioned me going through security about what was packed in there. I keep waiting for someone to track me down and arrest me for transporting frozen turkey over international borders. I only hope that it's frozen solid enough to make it 24 hours to Almaty and back into the freezer until we can enjoy it on Thanksgiving day!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Best wishes from Kazakhstan

Happy Birthday Chris!!

We toasted Chris' 40th birthday with shots of Kazakhstan vodka that I brought back with me especially for the big event. Sarah pulled the bottle out of the freezer at a point in the party when Chris was in a particularly "happy" place. There were 3 matching shot glasses in the box so Chris, Sarah, and I filled them the up....
and drained them down (while Mimi posed with the bottle.)

We were all coughing and gagging and wheezing. Little did Chris know, Sarah and I were totally faking it since we had just done a shot of water while his was the real thing. Not sure when Chris will read this blog and learn the truth but just about everyone at the party was aware and were loving the fact that he was not. We did sip a bit of the vodka after just to taste it and it did burn going down. Not sure how Chris managed that big shot. Later the bottle made it back out of the freezer and guys were passing it around for a taste and they all thought it was good. But, I'm pretty sure all their senses were numb by then. It was a great party - well done Chris and Sarah!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Long lost friends

I lucked out this weekend. Not only did I get to see Madeline's pep rally and football game but I also get to attend Chris' 40th birthday and as an added bonus, Krista Kett was in town this weekend. We debated when the last time we saw each other was. She says she was here in 2006 but I didn't remember that, but maybe I wasn't here. I'm thinking it's been at least 5-6 years. I invited all the Dallas friends to our house this afternoon. Amy D was too busy with kid stuff to make it over (are you *%$@! kidding me!) but Amy E, Cathy, Stephanie and Krista all hung out for a couple hours while various kids swam and played. It was great to see everyone. We still swear we are going to do a girls trip someday.....maybe someday.

St Mark's Cheerleading

Unfortunately, Madeline's half-time performance was not a premonition of the final score of St Mark's home opener. (She's the M and the I in case you can't tell.) They lost to Fort Worth Country Day 42-26. But, the cheerleaders did an outstanding job. Madeline's hands were bruised and swollen after the game from all the tumbling on the track but I think she had a good time. It's been a long time since I attended a HS football game. I forgot how much fun it is for kids. Madeline had lots of fans - Susan Lynch and a couple of her kids and friends came, Amy Erschen was there, Mimi was along and Pop-Pop attended and even wore the Madeline cheer button. Here are Pop-Pop and Madeline before the game:

Here she is cheering on the sidelines. She had alot of learning to do for football cheerleading. She's been doing only competitive cheer for the last 2 years and this is alot different. She had to remember how to do the chants and such from her St. Monica days.

Hopefully the football team will be more successful in future games but apparently they aren't really very good. Maybe one of these games those signs will be true.

The newest Cowboys cheerleader

Madeline's competitive cheer team got the chance to cheer at halftime of a Cowboys pre-season game. It was a very cool opportunity to perform in the big stadium in front of a huge crowd. Mary and Mark used the free tickets that Madeline got and took her to the game and got some photos for me. Wish we could have been there. Here she is in front of the big screen. Mary said it really is hard to watch the real action on the field when you can just watch the closeup on the screen.

Her team was one of four that were chosen to perform. Here they are coming out onto the field (Pride is on the lower half of the picture):
Madeline's stunt group is in the lower corner holding the D sign. She's the base on the left side. Usually she is a flyer but on this team, surprisingly, she is one of the "big" girls.

And here she is posing outside the stadium after the game. She was so excited that she landed her standing back tuck. She had so much adrenaline that she said she went higher than she ever has, even on a spring floor.

Thankfully, Madeline doesn't think that Cowboys cheerleaders are REAL cheeleaders but a dance team. So she does not aspire to one day don one of those skimpy outfits (although these shorts are not too far from the real thing!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Freedom to post

How nice it is to sit here in the Frankfurt airport and access the blog with no difficulty. I'm posting just for the sake of posting since I can from my own computer. I am about to board my flight to Dallas for a whirlwind weekend. I hope I can sleep on this segment of the flight so that I can survive the onset of jet lag.

I'll certainly post more during my stay in Dallas!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Part II

Today was the REAL birthday! I took rice krispie treats to school and Marcy's classmate Elizabeth brought cupcakes. Here are the two birthday girls:
And part of the class enjoying the snacks:

There are only 5 Americans in Marcy's class so those 5 were about the only ones who knew what a rice krispie treat was. It was funny to see them look at it and ask Marcy what it was. Many of them liked it but some I could see were not too fond of it. One boy in particular was pulling it apart and nibbling on it. He had it stuck all over his fingers and it clearly bothered him. Finally he came and told me he did not want it. Poor kid! Marcy's teacher asst (Kazakh) wanted to know how they are made - she liked it but had no idea what a marshmallow was and had never heard of Rice Krispie cereal. I'll have to buy her some ingredients and introduce her to an American classic!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Marcy!!!

Marcy turns 8 years old tomorrow. Hard to believe the last baby was born that long ago! We celebrated a day early since today was Sunday. Marcy had a birthday party to attend this morning for a friend from school so this afternoon we went to the mall to go bowling. Unfortunately the bowling alley is no longer there so we ended up at Babylon, the Kazakh version of Chuck E Cheese. It was surprisingly more entertaining for the girls than we thought it would be.

When we got home we grilled out for dinner and I made a cake which Marcy and Emily and I decorated. Here is the result of our efforts:

You have to take a REALLY big breath when you are getting ready to blow out 8 candles:

I remembered to put the Happy Birthday plate in the air shipment so Marcy did not feel left out on her birthday (but I did forget a can opener which I'm finding quite inconvenient and a spatula which meant Frank flipped burgers with a large spoon and a knife):

Here's the gang with Marcy and her presents. I also forgot wrapping paper but I found one roll of green foil wrap and some gift bags. Thank goodness I went birthday shopping before we left Dallas because there is not much here and what there is is expensive (a Barbie Doll costs about $20.)

We got some surprise visitors via Skype to join in on the opening of gifts. Wowa and Mimi got to watch Marcy enjoy all her presents:

The big birthday present was Molly, the American Girl doll. Marcy acted very surprised but I'm pretty darn sure she saw it in the suitcase when I was packing up in Dallas.

Marcy gets to celebrate her birthday at school tomorrow. One of her classmates even shares the same birthday as her. So, I'm bringing Rice Krispie treats (all ingredients except the butter imported) and the other mom is bringing cupcakes - sugar overload! Some day we'll be able to have a real birthday party with friends and party games, etc. Marcy has only had one when she turned 5 and that was combined with a going away party. Poor Marcy!

A big (little) purchase

Marcy requested grilling out for her birthday but we didn't have a grill. So, I went to the supermarket (called Ramstore but Russian spelling - Pamctop) and found a grill for about $25. It's awfully small but it did the job and Frank was master of the grill!
Frank wanted me to get a picture of the charcoal bricks they sell here. They are "pre-fueled" so you just have to light them. And apparently they are only sold "in season" so we have to stock up now (even though they use coal here all winter, charcoal for the grill is only sold in the summer.) The chicken we had tasted slightly like lighter fluid so maybe we'll have to use less bricks on the grill next time. This is about $10 worth of charcoal!

At least now we have something to cook on should we feel the need to cook out. I think we have at least another month or so when we can still cook out and eat outside. A good investment!