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Monday, September 30, 2013

My My

We haven't been out to eat here as a family yet.  It's expensive, so we have just been cooking at home.  It also seems that we are busy enough that to throw the time in to go out to eat just hasn't happened.  But Sunday after church we felt it was time.  I did quiet a bit of asking around and if we wanted to try some Russian dishes we should just go to My My around the corner.  Close and cheap.
First, as an American I read this restaurant name and think "my, my".  But the pronounciation is actually "Moo Moo", as in the sound a cow makes.  This chain restaurant is easily identifiable with the red logo and black and white cow patches on the building.
Cafeterial style was a nice way to introduce ourselves to Russian food.  Salads, soups, rolls and entrees were simply laid in front of us and we went through the line saying "Ya hachoo" (I want) and a finger point.  Not much outside of the mashed potatos was identifiable so we each picked something different and enjoyed a smorgasboard of dishes.
Bland in spices, but flavorful in a mix of ingredients I found Russian food much more to my liking than Colombian food.  I can't say we were jumping up and down in excitment over this wonderful new menu but it wasn't bad.
The price was the best thing of all.  Cheaper and much more healthy than McDonalds, and less money than going to the coffee shop as a family we will keep this on our list of emergency places to grab a meal.  And if you visit us here we are likely to take you there, shuffle you through the line and let you decide if you like Russian food or not!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Vodka Repurposed!

Vodka runs through the veins of every Russian, thicker than blood.  Stacked on shelves in the supermarket, on the counter in bars and on the table in homes - it's everywhere.  I really have no desire to try a shot of the stuff.  I'm sure it would burn the whole way down leaving a painful hole in my stomach and ache in my head.
Last week a friend gave me 5 vanilla beans they had purchased at the post they were coming from - Madagascar.  Like gold I have had these beans tucked away safe from harm. I have been anticipating a bit of extra time at the grocery store to select a bottle of vodka to make homemade vanilla extract.  
Today day was the day.  That friend and I stood in front of the huge display of vodkas.  We both had the same purpose - vanilla.  We looked at bottle after bottle. We compared prices.  In the end I made my selction based on the lables.  I picked two .25 liter bottles that I thought would look absolutely cool sitting in my kitchen.  
Back home,
I got out my beans and carefully split them putting two beans in each bottle.  The miniscule seeds began to settle on the bottom.  A sure sign of full flavor.  I gave the bottles a shake and tucked them away in the dark pantry.  A shake a week for a few months and they will be ready for baking.  I'm thinking that this year all my Christmas goodies will be flavored with true Russian Vodka Madagascar Vanilla!
If you are a sucker for good vanilla like I am, this is actually a cheaper way to have vanilla that buying pure extract in the store!  Give it a try, the longer you let it age the more divine it is.

- Kris

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Experience of Shopping

"Getting there is half the fun!" is a quote that comes to mind as I think of what it's like to go to the grocery store.  "Fun" doesn't seem like the exact term I mean to express, maybe "experience" would be a better word.
In days of old, when I lived in the states, I would get in my car, back out of the garage and drive 10 minutes to Meijer where I would load my cart with everything I could possibly need and more.  After loading it into the car I would run a few additional errands then drive home, unload and put things away.   I never really worried about running out of anything and if I did it was a quick drive to Family Fare to pick-up a gallon of milk at the last minute.  
Then there was Bogota.  To do a good shopping trip I needed to walk 20 minutes to Carrulla.  There I would buy everything I needed and depending on the weather and my time constraints I would either hail a taxi and help the shopping attendant, who pushed my cart to the curb, load everything in or I would just pay the $2.00 delivery fee and enjoy a nice walk  home before my groceries arrived.  
Now I am in Moscow where it appears my feet are the only transportation available.  Shopping for a family of four has taken on a new responsibility.  Up to this point I have tried to plan a few meals and add a couple items to my stock-pile every trip to the grocery store.  But then it rained and rained and rained.  And I didn't want to haul my butt out in the rain to walk to the grocery store and back.  So we ran out of food and were completely scrounging for things to eat.
The grocery store in our neighborhood is a 15-20 minute walk away.  Just this week my granny cart arrived and yesterday I decided that I was going to plan ahead a bit and stock-up on those necessary items.  No more hungry people in my family!  The walk to the store is a bit like traveling through many parts of the city in a very condensed format.  I begin on the embassy compound where we live.  Manicured lawns and trimmed shrubs give a nice quiet, park-like feeling.  When I pass through the metal gates I am confronted with a busy street and people bustling to and fro.  I cross the street and short-cut it through a bus depot type area where people are milling around smoking their cigarettes while waiting for their bus to arrive.  I skirt around the metro station where pigeons like to sit on the wire.  I watch the air for pigeons pooping and pigeons swooping as I also watch my feet so I don't step in a big gooey pile while dashing under the wire.  As I approached the wire today I felt something slam into my face.  As I was about to splay myself on the sidewalk spread eagle style I realized it was just a pigeon that underestimated his route and found my face a bit in the way.  Onto another busy street and I am almost there.
Yesterday I walked to the grocery store and piled the produce, milk, flour, sugar and canned goods on my list into the cart.  I quickly realized that I was at my max of what I would be able to get home alone.  I packed the canned goods into my backpack, loaded up the cart to overflowing and carried and additional two bags.  Upon entering the compound I realized for the first time that there are about 50 steps to climb up to my apartment.  Determined I dragged that cart up one step at a time with my fingers crossed that I would not drop the whole thing and have to clean-up eggs from the embassy pavement. 
Today I ventured out again to finish my list - meats, bathroom products and rice.  Once again the cart became over heavy and my backpack was popping at the seams.  I quickly noticed a slight imbalance in the wheels of my cart as I headed home.  I looked down and saw that the sad little pieces of velcro holding the bag to the metal frame  just couldn't handle the load.  For a bit of extra insurance I grabbed ahold of the bag with my hand and slowly dragged my load home.  By the time I reached the embassy a cramp was running up my arm.  
I stopped the cart at the bottom of the first step to show the guard my badge.  He took one look at my lopsided cart and came down to pick- up the whole 50 lb. load, frame and all.  Relief flooded through my soul.  He asked how far up the steps I needed to go.  "Our apartment is at the top." I said.  And he kindly, with a smile on his face carried the whole load up.  Fortunately I still remember my one Russian word "spaciba" I said with a heart overflowing with thankfulness. 
Back home I unloaded my cart, got out the scissors and zip ties and rigged up the cart a bit.  It will be interesting this winter.