Monday, December 31

Huevos Rancheros

I've made it to California. And it's so nice to see my friends. It has amplified the things I miss about living here: being able to buy local, organic produce. Being able to walk around small neighborhoods. Dark skies at night. However, I do not feel the need to move back, even though I miss my friends, it's not compelling enough a reason.

I've had a great two days. The first spent with Nate and Vero in my old neighborhood. We managed to go to my two favorite restaurants in one day - Sahn Maru, Korean and Pizziaola, Italian. Sigh. So good. Not cheap, but definitely not Moscow prices. The next morning I tagged along to SFO where Nate was dropping Vero off for a trip to Spain with her mom. Together we're planning a trip through Russia at the end of July. Hopefully I'll be able to convince Vero to come out earlier and travel Europe with me.

Now I'm at Max and Sha's. Max made us huevos rancheros yesterday, I agree with Vero's statement that "huevos rancheros are my favorite American breakfast." Although it's a close tie with a toasted buttered bagel. Which reminds me to go to Bagelicious when I get back to my parents. Anyway, yesterday I was exposed to the video game "Rock Band." I played the bass and it was a lot more fun then I thought it'd be. I also saw the Golden Compass which I thought was great! It wasn't quite as dark as the book, but they managed to get most of the book into a 2 hour movie.

Wow, yet another boring post. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try to find something exciting to write about next time.

Thursday, December 27

'Tis the Season

Somebody told me I should update my blog more, so here goes. It might be boring and mundane, but I haven't updated since the acapella Christmas carols, so here you go. I"ll start off with my arrival into Atlanta which was on Dec. 21st. I don't know if I've ever flown internationally into Atlanta. It's hell. You arrive and go through immigration. Then you wait for your bag - the bags from my flight were arriving on two different belts, so I felt like I was watching a tennis match looking back and forth at the two belts. Finally, after about 45 minutes, my bag arrives. Then, I head towards the exit. At least I thought it was the exit. But no, you have to put your bag on another belt to be sent to domestic baggage claim, you have to go through security, TO EXIT, and then you have to get on the inter-terminal train to head 5 stops to domestic baggage claim. If you were to walk, it is 1.5 km! Finally I arrive to domestic baggage claim and then have to wait another 20 minutes for my bag. And all this after a 10 hour flight. However, I can't really complain about the flight because I got bumped up to business class where I had goose for dinner and a seat that reclined completely so that I was laying flat. This happened because the flight was over sold and I have status on the Star Alliance. Unfortunately, I haven't flown enough this year to qualify for status next year. Sigh, it's back to traveling like the "normal folk" (said very tongue in cheek.)

Anyways, so I finally get to Atlana and my mom has a bad cold. We had our annual dinner with the O's, our parents have been friends with this couple for almost 20 years. Their daughters are about the same age as my sister and I, so we all grew up together. It's a great tradition.

Then the next day, I spent the entire day catching up with the friend I mentioned a few posts ago, Mickey. Mickey and I were really good friends growing up, all through middle school, if I'm remembering correctly. But we lost touch after I left Atlanta. He found me through a Google search. Apparently the first hit is actually for me. It was great. We spent almost 12 hours together and I could have spent another 12 hours with him easily. We talked about our past and present and future. We went to Waffle House. We went and saw Walk Hard with my sister and her not boyfriend.

See this post, isn't really all that exciting at all. What can I write about that's exciting. Hmm, yep, nothing really. Oh, in a very impulsive decision (which follows along with all my decision making) I used the rest of my frequent flier miles to get myself a ticket to San Francisco for New Year's. I figured that if I'm not coming back to the states this summer, I might as well see as many friends as I can. And speaking of doing that I'm going out with 5 girls I went to high school tonight to play trivia.

Ok, guess that's it for now.

Sunday, December 16

Acapella Christmas Carol Mashups!

So good. And so festive!

Choosing to Take Action

My science teacher friend Carole sent this to me. I think it's worth sharing. Another global warming action argument.

X-Mas Poll

Courtesy (that is a hard word to spell!) of zombiegrrrl:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Whatever is laying around as I think of it at the last minute. But I prefer wrapping gifts.
2. Real tree or artificial? N/A, however, Joy and I used to go cut our own tree when I lived with her at 418. However, it doesn't kill the tree - or at least that's what the tree farmer told us. You cut it roughly at waist level and then a new tree grows out another knot.
3. When do you put up the tree? Again, N/A, however, I put up decorations 1st week of December.
4. When do you take the tree down? This year it will be when I get back, the 2nd week of January.
5. Do you like eggnog? Only if heavily spiked with rum and cinnamon.
6.Favorite gift received as a child? In retrospect, the dog house my dad built for my pound puppy though at the time I was mad they hadn't bought me the plastic one. Damn, I was a spoiled brat.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Noooo. But my mom has one.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My parents!
9. Easiest person to buy for? My sister (she sends detailed lists)
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? ?? Artificially scented soaps.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, though I only do it every 5 or so years.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Christmas Vacation
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas ? Whenever the first "oh, they would love that" item catches my eye.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies!
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear
17. Favorite Christmas song? Baby, It's Cold Outside (is that x-mas song??)
18. Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Travel
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yes
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Hrm, I don' t remember what we had at 418 house. Probably a star...
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? When I was growing up, it was one x-mas eve and then the rest x-mas morning. Now-a-days we've been doing them all x-mas eve and having a very relaxed x-mas day.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Crowds.
23. What I love most about Christmas? The lights. (I didn't even bother to edit zombiegrrrl's response.
24. Favorite Christmas Cookie? Any of my mom's. I love the peppermint ones shaped like candy canes. She makes a great mini-pecan tassie or snowballs. I can't wait to go home for the cookies!

Saturday, December 15

In which the sun reappears!

There is this startling brightness in the sky. I'd actually forgotten what it was like to have blue skies and sun. I went out a bit, walked the 20 minutes or so it takes, to get to the US Embassy for a cookie exchange. One of the parents, who's also a substitute at our school, hosted. There were about 8 or so women who showed up, all of us bearing 2 dozen cookies each. We snacked, chatted and all left with a variety of cookies. It was lovely.

But, damn, do those army/navy/marine families procreate! Dear lord, just what we need, more babies on this planet. The women hosting us has 6, the oldest 35, youngest 13. There was another mom who has 2 in the high school, 2 in middle, and 2 in elementary. The tuition at our school is four times what my former car was worth (a 2000 Toyota Echo, I miss that car!) and my guess is that Uncle Sam is footing the tuition cost for her 6 children...

Friday, December 14


I've gone and gotten myself a good strong head cold. It sucks. My sinuses are so full it makes me feel as if my skull is trying to crack open. I am so glad, that I can feel confident leaving my classroom not having to worry about whether it will be destroyed. I took 3 days off and returned today, though now that I'm here, staying home would have been a better option.

In talking with Russian's about being sick two language quirks have popped out of me. Russian's are far more likely to negate something than use the opposite. For example my masseuse said "Today, not hard massage." Rather than, "Today, easy massage." And "Nose is not working." Also, there are no articles in Russian, so when they speak English, "You got cold." And things like that. I love learning new things about the way people think and speak.

Anyhoo, I'm glad I'm sick now since I go back to the states in a week and quite honestly I'd rather be sick now then on vacation!

Also, a friend from high school just commented on my blog. I don't think I've spoken with him since I was in college. And it's great to see him, so, "Hi, Mickey!"

Saturday, December 8


There are times that I feel like my life here is hard, that I'm at times lonely and feel very isolated. I think a big part of it is that I'm struggling with being single. I feel like I'm ready to be sharing my life with someone, but I just haven't found that someone yet. And I'm not willing to settle. I don't know that I'll be able to meet that someone here. And then there's the air, which really, really bothers me. I feel like I can constantly smell the air, whether from pollution or cigarette smoke. When I go out, people are constantly pushing you or crowding you. They never hold the door and at all metro entrances the doors swing back like you would not believe.

But then I was on the metro last night with 3 friends, heading out to Daikon (my favorite restaurant here so far), and there was a homeless man on the metro. By the smell, it was fairly obvious that he had defecated recently. People would step into the car and either crowd to the opposite side or just get out and literally run to a new car. And I had the realization that, unless I suddenly develop a shattering mental illness, that will never be me. I have the ability to move from country to country, seeing new places, meeting new people. I will most likely, always have my own housing, sharing it only if I chose to. I won't be sleeping on the metro as it is the only warm place I can sit down. I complain that I can't get the wide range of Asian foods that I used to, poor me. At least I know that I will never spend a night hungry, nor have I ever.

Pho the love of pho!

I love pho. Really, I love all Asian food. I think I could eat it happily every day for all meals. In fact, I'm sitting here eating left over pad thai that I made earlier this week for breakfast. This is one thing I really loved about living in SF. William and I ate Korean food at least one a week and had pho probably once every two weeks. I keep trying in Moscow, but it's just not the same and it's significantly more expensive. I've yet to see pho, so I resolved to make it myself.

I took inspiration from Barbra at Tigers and Strawberries as well as this Washington Post article she refers too. And in the end, I've come to the conclusion that make pho is a big pain in the rear. But for the love of pho, here's what I did.

Inspired by the Pioneer Woman Cooks, I began taking photos about 15 hours into the process, yes, 15 hours in. Here's what you missed in the first 15 hours. I took 2 kg of beef bones, that's roughly 5 pounds, and I put half in my large stock pot and half in my large crock pot. I covered both with cold water and let it sit. Then I walked away. In fact I went out, but now I don't remember where, probably for Asian food at Daikon. Oh, wait, no, I remember, that's the day I went to the Lotte Plaza (the link is to a post below). Anyway, back to the pho, When I got home, I
rinsed the bones. This time I forced them all into the stock pot, covered again with water and brought to a boil. I let it boil for 10 minutes and you would not believe the gross grey scum that rises to the top. If only I'd begun taking photos!! Anyway, all that went down the drain. The pot was cleaned, the bones were rinsed and then shoved back inside. Only to be covered with water again. I put them on the stove, got it back to a simmer and left again - this time to the holiday party. Seven hours later I returned and turned the heat off.

In all honesty, it was midnight, the pot was hot, so I just left it sitting on the stove. The next morning, I removed all the bones, saved the meat that was falling off, and put the pot outside in the snow. Then I went out for dim sum - yes! Yummy Chinese dumplings do exist in Moscow! I returned and scraped off the thick layer of golden yellow fat. And here's your first picture. The fat was already in the trash by the time I remembered, but still:

Remove layer of fat (aren't my socks great!)

Here's the pan post fat removal - doesn't it look gross!
Make a beef stock

Next you take two onions and a big ol' piece of ginger and char them in a pan, then add them to the stock (note I've wiped the pan):

Char Onions and GingerAdd charred onions and ginger to stock

Simmer for another hour or two, then strain the liquid:
Strain stock
Be sure to press on the solids with a spoon, liquid likes to hide in the onion layers. And be sure to strain into a pan, not down the drain. My large crock pot insert is actually blending in with the sink...

Now it's time to get spicy. Toast peppercorns, star anise and cinnamon sticks in a dry skillet. You should also include whole cardamom pods, but I didn't have any. So I just used about a tsp of ground in my tea bag:
Toast spicesIf you don't have the whole podsAdd toasted spices

Another 10 minutes of simmering (note the plan has actually been cleaned now) with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. I actually prefer the squid brand to the cock, but haven't been able to find it here:
Simmer another 10 minutesAdd 2 tablespoons fish sauce

Oh, you're so close to being ready to finally eat this stuff. Just soak some rice noodles and prepare a plate of garnish - bean sprouts, purple basil, mint, lime. What's missing is hot pepper rings and cilantro, which I rarely see. However, I had the siriacha to make up for the lack of hot pepper.
Finally, enjoy!
You may notice some mushrooms floating in there. Well, I had them and I like mushrooms. It was very traditional up until that point, I promise!

And the verdict. Well, let's just say it wasn't really worth the 30 hours that went into it. However, since I can't just run out and get a $6 bowl of pho, it sufficed. But the broth wasn't as rich and complex as it is when I get it at a pho restaurant. However, when I'm again over whelmed with the craving, I've got 6 cups (3 servings) of stock left in the freezer.

Monday, December 3

Here's one

Me and Kate, the intern, at the holiday party. Thanks to Lynn for the photo!

Sunday, December 2

Party Girl

I was out past midnight two nights in a row. That's both weekend nights. This is a huge rarity for me. Friday night found me at the Australian Embassy. The last Friday of every month they have a happy hour. I started off with a glass of wine and then a glass of champagne at Carole's before heading to the embassy; oh, we had some pringles too. Once at the embassy I proceeded to have another 4 glasses of wine (though I didn't finish the last one). No dinner. Yeah, I was a bit tipsy. But managed to make it without slipping on the ice to another bar. Yes, that's right, rather than heading home (as we all know I'm prone to do), I followed the crowd to a bar. Here I had 2 bottles of water. I know myself well enough to know that any more booze would have ended badly. It was fun. It was nice to hang out with other ex-pats who don't work at our school. It was nice that it was easy. Being here, having to translate in your head all the time gets difficult. At the embassy when someone bumped into you, which would happen as the small little room turned bar was packed, they would say "excuse me." It's the little things.

Then last night was our holiday party. I don't actually have any pictures of me, though many were taken, so I hope to return here with some. However, in the meantime, here's a shot of the festivities.

There's a band

There was a lot of food, a lot of booze - wine, champagne and at the end of the evening vodka and whiskey. I danced all night, drank in moderation and looked fine, if I do say so myself, in my favorite red corset and ball gown type skirt.

Saturday, December 1

Little Korea

Tyler and ventured out into the cold today in search of Korean yumminess at the Lotte Plaza. Lotte is a Korean department store. I went to a few when I was there, they are very big - usually 5+ stories. This one was 7. We headed first to the food court. On this cold (-6) day, I was really hoping for some chi-gae, spicy bean soup, but no. I did get to have some chop chae (sweet potato noodles) and kim chi (spicy, but not quite right) and bean sprouts. Tyler got an ok ramen and a pretty good stir fried beef thing. Then we wandered the floors of the mall looking at the crazy expensive goods - Dolce and Gabana, Juicy, JLo. I looked at a pair of 13,500 ruble ($550) boots. The grocery store part was just fancy grocery store not a Korean market like I'd been hoping for. Oh, well, the quest continues.