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What’s in a name?

So, the calendar here seems to be telling me that I have about three weeks of pregnancy left. Can that be right? Compared to the first go-round, Pregnancy #2 has gone at approximately the speed of light. We are a little bit behind in the “preparation” department, but the one thing that’s most concerning is the baby name process.  We did some major deliberation to settle on Ransom’s name, and even then, we went into the hospital with a list of ten or so mutually approved names.  We didn’t settle on the final combo until about 3 hours before we checked out of the hospital.

Now, if only I could find that list. But alas, no.

So we are starting from zero with Baby #2, and the current list only has about 4 options on it and none that we’re in love with yet.  The stakes here are so high.  Is your name not one of the most important things your parents give you?  Most people seem to grow right into their names.  Is that because their parents are a little bit psychic or more likely, do their names shape who they become?  Your name certainly influences how other people initially perceive and treat you.  All that to say, this is serious business.

We have some pretty particular criteria in our house:

  • Significance.  We go for names of family members, generally.  Significant Biblical or historical figures could work too, as long as we had a good reason for the choice, a good story behind the name.
  • Unique but still pretty classic.  With a last name like Johnson, its only fair to have a first name that’s somewhat off the beaten path.  Plus, we’re three for three in weird first names, so why stop now?
  • Sounds right.  Yes unique but it still has to sound right in this day and age, you know.  This eliminates a lot of family names – such as Harold, Clarence, Jethro, Thedford, etc.  And then there’s a whole set that just don’t work with Johnson, like John, Johnstone, Magic, and Howard.

So while we continue to ponder the options for the next three weeks, I wanted to take a few minutes to write out the stories behind all of Ransom’s names.

First, Ransom has three given names: Ransom Robert Fletcher.  This triple name tradition started with August’s dad and was passed down to August and then to Ransom. (And is further reason why we need more than four options.)

IMG_9437Nine given names among these three Johnson men

The name “Ransom” comes from Ransom Riley Hall, his 4th-great-grandfather or as I usually say – Ransom’s great-grandmother’s great-grandfather.  In other words, he lived a LONG time ago.  We learned this name when we were digging into Ancestry.com, and I thought it fit the “unique but classic” bill pretty well.  We don’t know much about Mr. RR Hall: he lived in the 1800s and migrated from North Carolina to Alabama while having a whopping sixteen children, all with the same wife.  But his tombstone inscription is what put us over the edge:

R. R. Hall??????????
Born Feb. 19, 1814
Professed hope in Christ, 1822
Married Miss Liddy Roberts
Aug. 15, 1834
Licensed to Preach in 1859
Died Dec. 21, 1889.
————
A sinner saved by grace.

How cool is it that R.R. Hall (or his children) chose to document those few events as his most important achievements rather than sticking with the usual tombstone “-“?  His hope in Christ, his marriage, and when he became a preacher.  And a proclamation that he was, like me, just a sinner saved by grace.

And also for bonus points, Dr. Ransom is also the name of the protagonist in CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy, great books by my favorite author.

Ransom’s first middle name “Robert” is after my dad, who I have always been very close to.  And to top it off, Ransom actually looks a lot like him.  My dad is named for his uncle Robert, my grandmother’s beloved older brother. That Robert was something of a mountain man in northern California, a great outdoorsman who got in a tangle or two with a grizzly bear but always made it out on top.

grandad 002My grandmother and her brother Robert

grandad 007My grandmother and her son Robert (my dad)

Finally, “Fletcher” is one of August’s middle names, after his grandfather, Hubert Fletcher, after his father, Floyd Fletcher, after his father Richard Fletcher.  That makes five Fletchers in six generations.  I love connecting Ransom  with so many generations of ancestors.

1994 granddadAugust and his granddaddy Hubert Fletcher Carraway

All of these men embody characteristics that we want for Ransom:  men of faith and kindness, lovers of the outdoors, diligent hard workers.  Ransom’s name is perfect for him.

Now the trick is coming up with three more for Baby #2.

Paint Color Selection

I know everybody has been dying to know which color of gray paint we went with, after trying 8 or so different options all over the living room walls.  And we have made a selection, I believe.

Its practically the neutral-est neutral there ever was, I guess.  No risk taking here – this is the Switzerland of paint colors.

Its so neutral that although I liked the looks of the paint chip in the store, I hesitated to try it for fear of being too boring.

The paint is named…

you’ll be shocked by this.

Dragon’s Mist.

..

..

.

.

Nope I’m kidding.

.

.

.

Its called “Off white”.

off_white

In our wacky house with all the fluorescent tube lighting, ‘off white’ does in fact look like a pale gray.  Its certainly an upgrade from the current ‘butter’ color.  And best of all, it doesn’t clash with the 51 cabinets that are already painted a green/gray/khaki color.  And since there are 51 of them, and the paint is in perfect condition, THEY will not be repainted.  They will be worked around.

But agh, is ‘off white’ too bland for all 57,000 square feet of wall space in this room?  Maybe.  But perhaps we have enough going on between the brick and the wood trim and the wood floors.  A little ‘Blah’ may be just the ticket.  Sure hope so.

Here’s a shot of the ‘off white’ right next to some cabinets.

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What we have here is a partially constructed kitchen desk area, which just one step in the plan for the baby nursery.  Hopefully we’ll finish this little project this week, and move on to stuff like putting the crib together.

Oh side note, the reason why I know we have 51 cabinets is because I just ordered new hardware for them.  NOW for the risk taking.

martha_brassBRASS!  Goodbye brushed nickel.  The knobs will go on the cabinet doors, which means I’ll have to fill 51 now-extraneous holes and paint over them.   Sounds like a perfect maternity leave project, doesn’t it?

New Orleans With Kids

Happy Valentine’s Day (if that’s your thing).  If its not, well I hear ya and this post is totally not Valentine’s related.

Bethany posted about a trip to New Orleans once before. Its a fabulously unique destination, so I thought I’d add a few pointers here for making a kid-friendly visit.  New Orleans is a quick trip from where we live, so Mississippians tend to head down there with some regularity.  Although, I personally only go about once every three years or so.  There is something for everyone, depending on what kind of experience you want to have – history, architecture, gambling, 24/7 bars, jazz clubs, a dazzling variety of unbelievable restaurants.  And, if you are under 5 years old, there’s actually a fair variety for the preschool set as well.  Here is what we did, and what we wished we could’ve done, with our 3 year old.

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1.  Book a hotel with a heated pool.

The train station dropped us off right down town.  Indoor pools are not very common down there, since its a generally warm climate, relatively speaking.  I had to do a good bit of scouring the internet to find at least a heated outdoor pool.  In Ransom’s mind, hotel = pool, end of story.  I used this website to determine pool information, and good ole Orbitz to find the best price.  Over night temperatures were in the low 60s and we adults fairly well froze in the pool.  It was heated but not to hot tub level.  Next time I think we’ll just go later in the year.

We stayed at the Bienville House, and I do recommend it.  Continental breakfast included, and the people are all very nice.

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2. Ride the streetcar.

Ransom LOVED the streetcar.  We only got to ride it once unfortunately, from the train station to the hotel. There was some major disappointment about not getting to ride it back to the train station.  We tried but it was apparently running at least 35 minutes late, and we had a actual scheduled train to catch.  So we took a cab.  Moral – use the streetcar for leisure travel, not necessarily when you actually have to be somewhere at a certain time.  If we’d had more time, I think Ransom would have loved to just ride the trolley out to the end of the line, get off, and then ride it back again.

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3. The Aquarium

This was our big planned excursion, and it was a hit with Ransom for sure.  We only had two hours and we assumed that we wouldn’t have time to see everything.  However, its actually not very big.  Two hours is plenty of time to see everything, and since we were going preschooler speed (which is pretty fast in places like museums and zoos), we could’ve easily been out in an hour.  We even made a return to the play boat section, of course.  The down side is, the ticket prices are steep – $60 for the three of us.  I kinda feel like something so expensive shouldn’t be viewable in two hours, know what I mean?  But it did make an impression on Ransom.  We’ve had lots of discussion about sharks and jelly fish ever since.

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4. The Cafe du Monde

This place is a New Orleans classic, and its great for kids.  You sit outdoors and all they serve are beignets which are essentially powdered donuts.  (Really really good ones.)  Doesn’t get much better, does it?  My advice – skip the coffee.  Its disgusting!  Who would drink that?  Okay try it once just so you can learn for yourself how disgusting the mysterious ‘chicory’ ingredient is.  Gag.  Order chocolate milk instead.  Also, the wait line for the restaurant was a little bit long, so we went to the ‘To Go’ window.  There’s a nice park right next door.

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That is basically all we packed into our 17 hours in New Orleans.  Our train was a whopping 5 hours late arriving in NOLA, so that kind of took a bite out of an already quick trip.  We did find two kid-friendly restaurants –  Daisy Duke’s Restaurant.  They serve breakfast 24/7 and some typical New Orleans fare (gumbo, po boys).  All was good but not life changing.  But hey, this was at 9 pm on Saturday night, right by our hotel, and not a bar.  So basically perfect for us.  And then we also ate at Arby’s.  ha.

Next time, we’ll plan a three-day weekend so that we have a little more flexibility.  A few more kid friendly options that are on my list for next time:

Swamp tour

These are probably overpriced and super touristy, but if there’s an airboat and/or an alligator involved, I know it would be a hit with our kiddo.  I saw these being offered from several ‘tourist information’ stands, as well as in the hotel lobby, visitors center, etc.

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

I’ve heard its good.  Kids love bugs. Its newer than the aquarium so it probably doesn’t have that “We built this in the 80s’ feel going on.

The City Park

We didn’t get to go here because their winter hours are kind of slim, but I’ve heard its awesome.  There is a small amusement park section, a storybook garden, a train garden, and a lot of huge live oak trees.  I bet you could get some fantastic instagrams of your kiddos riding the antique carousel, etc.  Seriously Ransom loves all rides, from the mall food court up, so I know he’d love this.  Definitely on our list for the next trip.  (And you can take the streetcar to get there.)

Fifty Shades of Gray Paint

This could’ve been a blog post where I explain how to pick the perfect gray paint color and show how grand it looks in our living room, but ahem… Our paint color selection process is not yet over.  Currently we have 5 shades of gray paint doing tryouts in the living room.  (Only 45 more to go.)

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Turns out that picking a gray paint is quite difficult.  I should’ve hired an interior decorator or color expert or whatnot but instead, I’m just going the usual DIY brute force route by staring at paint strips for hours and buying tons of little sample pots (5 so far).  Here is my collection of paint strips, very helpful indeed.

paintchipsI’ll let you guess which one was Ransom’s suggestion. 

Our living room has a lot going on already: pine trim, khaki-ish cabinets, several walls of exposed brick.. i.e. red with gray mortar.  Combine all that with decent daylight but very dim lighting at night (which we plan to replace).  So a nice light shade of neutral is in order, right?  Gray seems like the obvious choice.  Its kind of ‘a thing’ these days, just ask pinterest or google.  It can be ‘neutral’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘unobtrusive’ all at the same time.

But what I’ve learned thus far is, gray paint (grey? greige?) can actually completely transform, right before your very eyes – to pink, blue, green, even purple.  Which direction each paint sample will lean on my walls is totally different from how it looks on the paint strip, so we’re sort of in a guessing game at this point.  And, the colors that look half decent during the day look a lot worse at night, or look at lot worse right next to the cabinetry.

Also there’s the added pressure that this one room is literally 50% of our house, with vaulted ceilings.  i.e. painting will require extension ladders (or scaffolding?) and many gallons of paints..  I.e. lots of both time and money.  OH THE PRESSURE.

And a final tip to anyone else buying paint samples.  You can paint those samples on to white posterboard which can then be moved around, switched in an out, and then conveniently placed in the garbage when you finish.  Thus avoiding the permanent patchwork look in your home.  Here’s an example from the internet:

from here

I knew that trick, but was too lazy to implement since I didn’t have any posterboard on hand…

Later today I’m heading back to Home Depot to gather a few more options.  Maybe ditch gray entirely and go with ‘white’.  Oh but there are so many shades of white too.

January Goals and Eating Weird Vegetables

So, January 2014 is over and done with obviously.  I set three not-so-lofty goals for the month and here’s were we ended up.

  • Goal #1.  Don’t freeze.

Is this like the coldest winter on record or what?  Our huge propane tank is running low and we’re going to have to buy more in the next week or two.  {Sad face}.  Propane is not really a cheap heating fuel.  However, you know what is?  Fire wood.  We kept our home quite a bit toastier than usual during the January’s polar blasts by FINALLY firing up the wood burning stove.  I had been giving that thing the side eye ever since we moved in here because it takes up A LOT of floor space, and its just kinda ugly.  But you know what?  It works very very well.  Its easy to start and it can warm almost the entire house.

So I guess we have to keep it.  And purchase chain saw to replenish the wood pile.

photo 2(1)

  • Goal #3.  Visit a foreign country.  Did that.  Disclaimer: obviously the trip was plan well in advance of the goal setting effort.
  • Goal #2.  Cook four new vegetables or vegetable recipes.

This needs to be a perma-goal for the Johnsons.  We’re forever stuck in a rut called ‘canned green beans’ and I’m determined to broaden our vegetable horizons.  So the four recipes I tried in January were:

Kenyan Collard Greens and Ground Beef This was really good and super easy. Will definitely make again.

Georgian Lobio This recipe is from Georgia the country (not the state).  I had it in Russia and it was wonderful.  Something in the vein of refried red beans with an interesting spice mix, and pomegranate seeds on top. However, my version did not turn out so well.  On the upside, I did get to use the morter and pestle my grandma gave me for Christmas.

photo 1(1)

  • Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan I definitely felt like a mad culinary scientist cooking this weird red-stemmed plant.  And shocker – it was really good.  Approved by husband and even somewhat approved by preschooler.

photo 3

  • Baked Kale Chips I majorly oversalted these, but there is hope here. I’ll have to give this one another go.

So all in all, 3 of the 4 were “greens”.  I guess I should switch to root vegetables or squashes for February.  You guys got any suggestions?  What’s the weirdest vegetable you cook these days?

More Stuff to (Not) Buy Off Craigslist

I haven’t been spending as much time trolling Craigslist lately… The last few months of life were pretty much swallowed up by holiday fun and the big Russia trip but now we are back to regularly scheduled programming at Casa Johnson. And that means, its time to do some ‘nesting’. And by nesting, I mean – its time get our mattresses up off the floor and otherwise get things “settled” like “grownups” before we get sucked into the impending baby vortex.

First pregnancy nesting means agonizing over nursery decorations. Second pregnancy nesting means ‘do we have a place to put the baby?” (No, not at this moment we don’t…)

So, here are a few recent Craigslist posts that have made me laugh.

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First, this “antique” wheel “barrel” for $125.  Somebody please buy this thing.  It has been reposted continuously for at least 6 months.  That’s a lot of reposting effort right there.  And yet, the seller can’t even be bothered to bring this valuable wheel barrel down to ground-level for a proper photo shoot.  Also, after 6 months, perhaps the price is too high.  Frankly, you Mr. Seller are playing pretty fast and loose with the term ‘antique’.

wheelbarrel


Candle operas anyone?  For your fancy table settings. Very hard to find.

candleopera


The “candle opera” may be an iPhone auto-correct situation, but this next item – a Read valentine mannequin – was probably listed by someone who had purchased their first iPhone earlier that same day.  I guess the phone corrected the first use of the word ‘manikin’ but couldn’t fix the second version:

This is a beautiful red and half bust manikin for displaying me’s dresses any kind of clothing with that great in anyone shop I would put it in mine but I need the cash.

Likely the cash is needed to pay off that new phone on the credit card bill.

redmannequin


Who needs more flip-flop themed decor at their abode? Anyone?  This set’s been for sale for a good 8 or 9 months and regularly reposted throughout that time.  The price has also been RISING.  Ingenious marketing strategy, folks.  Just look at the sheer number of pieces of furniture you can purchase for $450 with flip-flop stickers on them.  Also, there are flip-flop knobs.  Clearly a bargain, the description lists the retail price for this set at over $2,000.  Discount what what!

flipflopensemble


Another lesson for you: Things that are VINTAGE are worth a lot of money. That includes potty chairs, especially when they are decorative. Seriously people, this is a huge step up from most of the potty chairs I’ve seen that look all utilitarian, and ‘medical device’-y. (New adjective coined.) Most potty chairs are clearly potties but this one is so sneaky.  And for $275?  What would you pick, a couple of pairs of Bethany’s fancy footwear or this chair?

pottychair


I posted this last time but just FYI, its still for sale.  Can’t believe no one has snapped ‘er up. You know, you could buy a car with $9k but that globe will look better in your library.

globe


Or, alternate idea, you could buy ALL this stuff and keep it in this little $50k cabin. That globe would look pretty great in there.  The cabin is so old that it was built without nails. In other words, this is basically a giant Lincoln Log set just waiting for you to come and pickup.  And sure, the asking price is a smidgen high, but I bet they would take less if you asked nicely.

cabin


Now, go forth and shop, all you Craigslist bargain hunters! (And here’s my first MS Craigslist round up, if you want more of this nonsense.)

What to Wear to Russia In the Winter

Fashion post alert! These are my favorite types of posts – where I play like I’m some kind of fashion expert when the exact opposite is true.  But, I can at least tell you what I saw.  Furthermore, there’s not a lot of information about this particular topic on the interwebs (because seriously who would choose January to visit Moscow?  Besides people who will have a newborn in April, I don’t know…)  Hopefully this post finds its way to the google searches of some other curious travelers like myself.  We managed just fine on our trip in mid-January, so here is my report on what to take and how to prepare.

So, there are two guiding principles.  First, you need to be prepared for COLD.  The temperatures are going to be low and moderately humid.  We caught the tail end of a warm snap, and temperatures for our trip ranged from about 10 to 30F – in other words, kind of like Mississippi during a polar vortex.  Moscow can be even colder than this, more like -10 to 10F, but I think my advice will hold up even in that case.

The second principle is this:  If you want to fit in with the Muscovite masses, you are going to need to be as ‘put together’ as you can possibly be while still dealing with the 10F weather.  Moscow ladies wouldn’t be caught dead without their hair fixed and makeup applied.  They regard American woman as sloppy dressers, and that may be true in comparison.  And frankly some of us may not care about that perception one bit (thumbs pointing at me anyway) when its 10F, but if ya want to fit in , stick to dark colors and sleek lines.

Coat

So, first you need a coat.  Far and away, the most common type of coat on a Russian woman in 2014 is:

  • Mid-thigh length
  • Slightly puffy but fitted and must have a cinched-in waist
  • Usually has a belt on that cinched waist
  • Dark color, either black or brown.  Some tan and red ones are out there as well.
  • Fur trim around the hood, either faux or real depending on how chic you really can afford to be

Something like this:

coat

If you’re searching from the US, I’d start with a brand like Victoria’s Secret or even a department store brand like Michael Kors.  I actually bought a second hand coat off Ebay just for the trip, primarily due to the fact that my own coats can barely zip up these days.  BUT, its a great place to look.  Second hand coat prices are quite reasonable, and who want to spend a ton of money on something just for one trip, right?   Also watch the fill content on the puffer coats.  You want as much ‘down’ as possible.

My purchased coat was a department store model (Kenneth Cole I believe), nothing special.  65% down.  Probably originally cost $120 or so.  I purchased for half off on Ebay, with tags still attached. It was perfect for the trip and plenty warm. In other words, you don’t have to have a fancy coat made for the Arctic Circle to be comfortable there.

The key is layers.. Under the coat, I’d recommend a sweater and one other underlayer.  Here’s my uniform for the week.

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Boots

I also bought a pair of snowboots for the trip, because I found some on Craigslist that I loved for a mere $40 – Sorel Caribous.  I can’t recommend these highly enough.  They are extremely warm.  And and AND, I wore them for 12+ hours a day for 6 days in a row, with lots of walking, and never got one blister.  Not even a foot ache.  Like, tennis-shoe level of comfort here.  That is sayin’ something for a pregnant lady and for literally never wearing them even once prior to the trip.  Seriously,  I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Also the liners are removable and washable.  Kicking myself for not owning a pair while I LIVED in COLORADO.  Hello.  (Also, spoiler alert, Bethany’s post for Friday is… more BOOTS!)

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Now the downside: lumberjack style is out in Russia.  Sleek is in.  Most Sorels are highly lumberjack-ish, which I prefer with my sloppy American outlook on life.  These Caribous are BIG and bulky.  If you want to fit in with the Russians, look for some Sorels that are solid black without a bunch of contrasting hardware and whatnot.

Actually most of the Russian women wear boots that don’t look like snowboots per se.  Example:

bootsBut I bet their toes weren’t as toasty as mine were!  And finally, DO NOT do what I did.  Make sure whatever shoes you bring are actually comfortable before you leave the US of A.  Blistery feet in a foreign countries are no fun.  Not a risk you want  to take.

Pants

Go for either skinny dark denim or skinny black.  You want them tucked into your boots.  And for extra warmth, bring some leggings to wear under your pants.  That trick keeps the frigid air at bay pretty well.

Accessories

You need all the usual winter stuff: scarf, hat, and gloves.  Simple knit hats are the most fashionable right now, often with a matching scarf.  For maximum warmth, pull your coat hood over your hat and then wrap your scarf on the outside of the coat.  Sarah and I conducted research into scarf positioning for maximum warmth and decided that outside is the way to go but makes for a more complicated assembly process.

For gloves, I bought a $25 pair at the local department store and they were just fine.  If you really want warmth, find some mittens.  If you want to operate your iphone camera, you need gloves with the little conductive fingertip.  Or just pull your gloves on and off 100 times per day like I did.

Moral of the story:  Ebay. Layers. Sleek.  Bethany II and I once swore off European winters entirely, but we were ready this time and that made all the difference.  The weather is doable, just be prepared.

From Russia With Love

{who saw that title coming?}

My third trimester Russian babymoon is over and done with, and I lived to tell the tale obviously. I have so much I could say about this, so I think I’ll break this post up into two parts. Today, I’ll show some highlights of the trip, and then next time I’ll cover what I did to prepare, what I packed, etc. Because trust me, “what to pack to Moscow in January” is remarkably undercovered here on the Internet. (Wonder why?)

We arrived in the afternoon on Monday at 3pm, after a remarkably smooth 9 hour flight. Monday turned out to be ‘Old New Years Eve’, a minor holiday in Russia. “New” New Years (Jan 1) is the biggest holiday in Russia, and that’s when Santa visits Russian children, rather than Christmas Eve. So this being effectively a minor version of New Years Eve, we found Russian Santa and his daughter in a holiday market set up in Red Square.  We busted up a bunch of kids to get this picture with Russian Santa and his daughter the Snow Girl (or something like that).

Santa and Daughter Frost

Santa and Daughter Frost, not your average mall santa costumes either

Tuesday we got up just in time to see the sunrise at approximately 10am. This side effect of Moscow’s latitude was not helpful for jet lag mitigation.  However, that was pretty much our schedule for the rest of our trip: staying up till midnight or 1am and then sleeping in till 9 or 10am. In some ways, this is just part of the life of Moscow, where life tends to happen a bit later in the day than we’re accustomed to over here in the US. And I never did kick that morning jet laggy feeling.

Late morning sunrise

Good morning sunshine! (Its 10am.)

We saw the biggest tourist stops – Red Square, the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral. Being the dead of winter, the tourist lines were minimal, and English speaking tourists were no where to be found. Even being the capital, Moscow (probably all of Russia) really doesn’t cater to foreign tourism as an industry.  There’s only English signage at the most touristy of locations, and none on the street signs, etc. I gather that the Russian attitude towards tourism is along the lines of ‘Hey don’t be an idiot and figure it out.’  Luckily we had Sarah to act as tour guide and translator. I do regret not versing myself in Cyrillic a bit better before the trip.  FYI “Щ” makes the “sh” sound but I never did learn all the letters. 😦

Hello Mr Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Hello Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Iphone panorama

Iphone panorama

We ate a lot of unusual foods, but nothing too shocking. Lots of beets, potatoes, buckwheat, meat, tea, and lots of cookies / tortes / candies (thank goodness! I do prefer cultures that emphasize dessert… )

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

We rode our fair share of subway trains, and I was often forced by a stern looking babushka to take her seat. Let me tell you, that is an unusual experience – switching places with an old woman on a subway train due to pregnancy. And let me tell you, there was no arguing with them – pregnant women have to sit or else they’ll go in to labor right there on the spot or something.

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Oh, and the subway stations were endlessly fascinating to me – many were built during the height of the Soviet era and not at all bashful about it. The decor usually focused on happy Soviet citizens doing happy Soviet things.

Soviet era artwork in the rear

Soviet era artwork in the rear

We wrapped up the trip with an evening of outdoor ice skating at this trippy skate park, complete with special effect lights frozen under the ice and a Nivea warming hut. This was the coldest night of the trip, but we were prepared. I’m not a good ice skater (blaming it on the baby bump) but it was a great way to wrap up the trip. Well, that and the fabulous Georgian restaurant we visited right after. More on that later!

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else...

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else…

In general, you would think that Moscow and western Russia would be fairly European, and they are a bit. BUT, at the same time, the Russian culture is really all their own. Everything is just a little bit different than you might think. They have a fascinating and complex history that’s fairly separate from the Roman / Anglo history I’m more familiar with. Its not the easiest place to live, and as a people they’ve been through a lot and continue to struggle through hard times in many ways. You can see it on their faces in the metro… and as they roll their eyes at you for taking up too much space… as they push their grocery carts through a foot of snow.

All in all it was a great trip, pregnancy, time change, snow, and all.  Of course its always good to land back in the good ole US of A.

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Just Up and Go.

Have you ever heard of the “babymoon” concept? The idea is to take a ‘last hurrah’ style vacation in the last few weeks before the arrival of a new baby and the accompany slog through weeks of a reduced sleep schedule all around. Usually you go somewhere warm and relaxing, I suppose.

Today I am on a plane bound for my own babymoon of sorts. Except, the destination is Moscow – maybe not relaxing and certainly not warm but a ‘last hurrah’ adventure none the less.

I have a dear friend Sarah to visit there, and one of my other best friends is coming along as well. This best friend is also named Bethany, but not the Bethany of this blog. Should we call her Bethany II to keep them straight?

Bethany II and I have traveled internationally together twice before. Once, sophomore year of college, to London and Paris:

scan0034Very early and very cold on the Seine River in Paris, 2002

Then to western Germany in 2004. After Germany we swore off visiting Europe in the winter, forever. Yes the tourist lines are short or non existent, but we were frozen popsicles for both trips.

Germany73Still cold, somewhere in Germany

Oh well. I like to think we’re better prepared this time. Here I am this morning at my local airport with copious amounts of luggage.

20140112-124158.jpgBasically maxing out the available space in more ways than one

I’m not as prepared as it looks. 75% of that space is stuff Sarah ordered and I am just the mule. I did purchase a pair of used snowboots and a larger coat to fit over my belly. I also borrowed my grandpa’s fur hat for added authenticity. Pretty pumped about it too!

20140112-125408.jpgReady for the cold

Unfortunately August is having to sit this one out due to vacation time limitations. Appropriately, I took a pic of him with his employer’s advertisement at our airport this morning.

20140112-125750.jpgWorking for the man…

So there’s the cold, snow, and ice. Plus We’ll only be there for 5 days which isn’t long enough to see much. I’m not sure we’ll even adjust to the 10 hour time change. Being right on the cusp of my 3rd trimester, I probably can’t walk the miles and miles I would normally. Nor can I sample much vodka obviously. But sometimes you just have to up and go, right?

20140112-171225.jpg

A Bit of January Goal Setting

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but once upon a New Year (two years ago), I made of list of 30 goals for the year of 2012.  Looking back on 2013 vs 2012, I can really see a difference.  2013 basically got swallowed up by the overarching task of “buy a house and move again”.  2014 will get similarly swallowed up by “having another baby and living to tell the story”, and obviously that’s just part of it, but I think laying out some simple goals will help.  It won’t hurt, anyways.

And, perhaps it will help me focus my blog posts a bit – Bonus!

January

  • Don’t freeze (kidding.  but wishing you warmth tonight, people.)
  • Cook 4 new vegetables or vegetable recipes
  • Visit a new country!! Cheating.. this is already planned…

February

  • Take that long overdue train ride. (One of my 30 goals from 2012.)
  • Build a desk in our kitchen.
  • Investigate freezer/crockpot recipes and start making tons of them.

March

  • Finish the baby room.
  • Get some chickens – this may be a bit of a stretch.
  • Make plans for a small garden.

April

  • Have the baby.
  • Name the baby.  (This is so hard for us…)
  • Plant said small garden – last frost date is 4/10!

May

  • Take that online course I’ve been thinking about.
  • Make a kitchen island.
  • Refresh this list of goals.

June

  • Start running again.
  • Make homemade tomato sauce.

July

  • Start back to work, and then
  • Take the kids on a vacation.

August

  • Happy Birthday! Buy a piano.  If you haven’t bought one by now, its time to get a cheap keyboard.
  • Cook stuff with our garden produce.

September

  • Start sewing a quilt.

October

  • Homemade halloween costumes, duh.
  • Go camping.

November

  • Get the nativity advent scene ready.
  • Fry a turkey.

December

  • Watch a Christmas movie.
  • Take Ransom on a Christmas outing.
  • Survive the holidays.
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