Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kids Clothes Week Part 2 & A Photo Discovery

Well, today and yesterday's efforts towards the Kids Clothes Week Challenge had a lot more to do with challenge and a lot less to do with sewing kids clothes.


Maybe that looks fine and dandy on the photo, but I can assure you it is a disaster that I am not sure I can recuperate from. This is the front panel of the O + S Sailboat Pants. I am using a french linen with a beautiful stripe that I lined up perfectly on the seam. Not that that matters!!! Why? Because if my next attempt at getting that button hole right fails I will have no option left but to re-cut and re-sew the front panel. shdkfjdshfksdfogfdksjgndfoigdvnfdkdgdioj!!!!!!!!!

Oh, and I just looked at the Oliver and S website and saw this is a "one scissor" difficulty rating. Seriously?!!!!

There are several, um, challenging aspects to my dilemma. 
1. I have already sewn a pair of these for Helen. They turned out perfectly cute. And the button holes were not a problem. 

2. The first time I went to make the button hole, my machine made its first pass, then just kept stitching in one spot, refusing to continue its job of making the button seam. So, I (carefully, painfully, meticulously) ripped out that mess-up. And somehow, I managed to not rip the fabric. All of my fellow sewists out there know what I'm talking about.

3. I made up another sample to test the button-hole maker-- complete with interfacing and fabric facing the same way, and. . . guess what? It worked perfectly perfect.

Do you see why I am sew frustrated? 

Two more passes and two more non-button-holing episodes.

maybe I should just make it a faux button hole and sew the buttons on directly...

And so, the pants sit on my sewing table, waiting for me to get enough moxie to give it another go.

That's all pretty depressing, right?

Well, you know me. I always try to find the silver lining. And today I found several.

First of all, when I went to upload the pics of the pesky pants to my computer I discovered that I still had pics from our recent trip to London on my camera.

If London doesn't cheer us up, what will? I mean, they speak English there! And the signs are in English! And it's such a nice kind of English. And lest you think these pics have nothing in common with the sailboat pants above, let me start us off with a few boat images.

On a fun boat trip down the Thames. The guide was great, the breeze was lovely... 

And while we're on the nautical theme, here's Thomas on the pirate ship at the
Princess Diana Memorial Playground. That place is simply fabulous. 
Helen and I in the toddler area of the same playground.

Straddling the Prime Meridian.
We weren't planning on going there, but when the nifty tour guide said "Greenwich" we thought, hey, why not?
Thomas in the hat I knit for him. 
I love that he loves his hat. It reminds me that sometimes I make cool, great things.

Early morning loooooooove.
Whitehall Horse Guard Parade. A fun and highly recommended way to avoid Buckingham crowds.
But we didn't avoid Buckingham altogether. Goofballs!
Oh, look! Travis is wearing his hat too!

Westminster, where we were able to worship on Sunday morning. 
The church is so rich in history. Just the week before, Sadie and I had been learning about Edward the Confessor, who founded the Abbey and is buried there. And the day before we had been to the Tower and seen the royal crowns, sceptres and diadems and watched the video footage of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation ceremony. Which happened right exactly where we were sitting for church service. That's pretty amazing.

In addition to finding the London photos, I also found the pictures of the clothes I made for my new niece Kyleigh.

O + S Class Picnic Blouses and After-School Pants with coordinating reversible bucket hat.

On the hat, I was able to add a cool feature that my friend Masha showed me last year. Chin strap with button holes that make the chin strap reversible along with the hat. How nifty is that?

By adding a button hole just above the chin strap, it is able to be threaded to the other side.

How the hat looks with the strap threaded through to the opposite side. 
And just to clear, yes, I do think it's somewhat freaky to have a picture of a baby doll modeling a hat you made.  But I thought it might also be freaky for me to go up to some stranger's baby and try to take a picture of it wearing Kyleigh's hat.

And, hey, this is good proof that I am capable of doing button holes!

The final group of unrelated (to sewing) photos I found on the camera are of the last big snow we had on March 15th. But I want to share them anyway.

Thomas pushing the base of his snowman up onto a mound.
Snow looks light and fluffy, but is actually quite heavy.
 (You can file that under "things Texans learn when they move to Moscow").

Just for reference, here is a picture of a birch-bark piece of artwork I recently bought. 

And here's what I saw when I looked out our window:

And here are their finished snow people:

Sadie made her snow maiden look like her. 
Thomas took a more sculptural approach. 

Look at how much the world around us can change in a mere six weeks. And just think how much more it will change again in the upcoming 6 weeks.

In the meantime, I will once again give those sailboat pants a try.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kids Clothes Week Part 1

I have been in a sewing whirlwind lately. As in, I am sewing nearly every day for several hours a day. As in, when I try to sleep at night I imagine patterns and fabrics and how seams should align and where I can add pockets and pocket design.... I guess it's better than worrying about the upcoming pack-out? Or, possibly a diversion? hmmm....

I had a desk put in the dining room so I can keep my machine out all the time.
It is so handy to have a place to keep my current works-in-progress!

So, when my friend Masha over at Where to Next?  suggested the Kids Clothes Week Challenge as a nice way to get back into the habit of blogging, I knew she had hit upon a great idea.

This is my first challenge to participate in. I have been diligently sewing garments for the past 3+ weeks, and I will keep it up until just before pack-out I think. Or until I punch my finger too many times with the seam ripper.

My plan here is to show you some of the things I've learned, show off a few things I'm making, and hope for mucho-praiso from you. (Can you tell I haven't spent any time learning Spanish yet?)

So, on Monday (first day of the KCW Challenge) I traced and cut the Oliver + S After-School Shirt and Pants pattern for Helen and cut the fabric for the shirts. I had already traced and cut the pattern in Sadie's size. And boy, in this pattern in particular I noticed how much larger the pieces are in a size 10 than in a size 3T.  It took me twice as long to trace and cut the pattern for Sadie than it did for Helen.

Before I started sewing for my kids, I didn't realize the benefit or need of tracing patterns. But, here's the deal: when you spend $15 on a pattern that has 4-6 sizes on it, you definitely want to be able to use all the sizes, and if you cut the actual pattern, you can only sew that one size. So, this is where tracing is a good idea, though a bit of extra work.

I trace my patterns using a spiky tool I found in the sewing bench from the estate sale where I bought my first Singer. I think it is a pattern tracing tool. Genius, right? To do so, I put my cutting mat on the tale, then a piece of moving paper.

Time Out!! 
(this is a Life of Fred reference)
A Mini- Essay on the Joys of Moving Paper:
Life in the Foreign Service means one moves around a lot. Moving means packing. Thankfully, not on your own, but with highly skilled movers with nifty boxes and papers for carefully wrapping up all your precious items. Or something like that.

Anyway, a thrifty thing to do is to keep that moving paper, most of which comes out of the box looking brand-new, to use for:

enormous children's artwork
play-doh play area
encasing for melting crayons with your iron so you don't mess up said iron or the carpet
or, my favorite...

So, I lay down my cutting mat, then the moving paper, (which is nearly the exact size of the cutting mat), then the pattern goes on top. I trace the size I need with the spiky wheel, move the paper to one side and use a sharpie to trace over that line. I then mark the piece with all details, including what size.

These are the After-School Shirts ready to sew.
All markings are transferred, with the addition of the size. 
On Tuesday, I walked to the fabric store nearby with the kids. It was a beautiful spring day here in Moscow and we enjoyed the walk through the city. I especially was thankful to be able to walk, as I've been struggling with a pesky piece of glass still stuck in my heel. Yesterday was the first time in a week I've been able to walk around and not be in pain. I guess it found a better resting spot in there. 

At the fabric store I was able to buy buttons for the shirts above, and for Sailor Pants for Sadie (which I'll show off in an upcoming blog post), as well as some ribbon for a Lazy Days skirt I have planned and thread. Apparently when you finish your seams properly you use a lot of thread. (Travis says I have a knack for stating the obvious).

I resisted the urge to buy fabric, though they have lots of cute prints there. I decided that was better done on my own. It's really hard to think through a catalog of patterns in your brain while looking at fabrics with your kids talking all around you. You know what I mean?

Ooo- that gives me an idea that I would love love love a fabric store with a kids play area. Bliss!

And now, for today's fashion show:

O + S Tea Party Sundress made on March 30th, when there was still thick snow on the ground.
I love the polka-dot trim, which is also used as hem facing and for the matching bloomers.
The buttons are red leather from stash I inherited with my machine.
I made Sadie's dress last summer, before I started using O + S patterns.
It is a peasant dress pattern from Simplicity. 

The girls in their new O + S Popover Sundresses made from some cotton I bought at the Saturday market in Apt, France.
The pattern is free and a good intro to working with O + S for the curious.
 I added french seams and inseam pockets. They love the pockets.
I printed, cut and sewed Sadie's on Saturday and then sewed Helen's on Sunday.
The sewing is only about 2 hours, including those pockets.

I just love the color combo!

Another freebie from O + S. This is the Ruffled Halter in a cotton/poly voile.
I also made one in a yellow branchy pattern that I'll show you later.
The back of the shirt.

Ready for summer!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Russian Banya

I've decided it is perfectly appropriate to coincide the resurrection of the blog with all you need to know to enjoy a Russian banya. After all, the banya, like saunas and sweat-lodges from many a culture, are linked to an expelling of toxins and bad spirits and a rejuvenation of the mind and body. Also, seems appropriate for spring, no?

I will preface all that I'm telling you here, by saying that I am in no way a banya expert. I have been only 4 times. Once in a rural dacha, in solitude, and thrice in a large public banya in Moscow, which was definitely not solitudinous. (new word!) Most recently, I took Sadie with me for her first time. More on that later.

What to bring:

towel (or 2): one for use in sauna and the other for when you are all done and showered. You could also probably just rent one from the banya, and not have to lug it with you there and back.

robe: for lounging pre- and post-sauna, or to wear in sauna, as you desire.

sandals/ flip-flops: necessary!

any scrubs/face masks/ moisturizers you like: now is the time to give yourself a pampering!

lip balm: to help keep lips moist and help them not feel like they are bursting into flames.

felt hat: you can probably buy one at the banya. Hair towel works too. You want to cover your head to control your body temperature. This is a must.

snack of oranges, or apple, or honey: perfect energizing food for between trips into the sauna.

clean underwear: for after.

The procedure: (this applies only to the large city banyas, and more specifically to the one in Moscow near 1905 Goda Metro)

First things first: go into the entrance for your gender.

After checking your coat and paying, you are ushered to a lounge area. You casually disrobe and put on either your robe or a towel. Now is when you want to order some tea, and perhaps some white honey, to be eaten straight from the spoon. The tea will steep while you take your first sauna. You are sure to have noticed by now that it is literally no big deal to be nude. If you are still feeling uncomfortable, get over it. No one cares how old, or flabby, or muscular, or perky, or if those are real or not. Well, probably no one.

So, you take your hat, your scrubs and towel and go into what I think of as the "wet room." Here you get a bucket for your stuff, hang up whatever covers you, and shower off before your first sauna. There is an attendant who is in charge of the sauna and they will announce when it is time to enter the sauna.

I like to bring my towel in to the sauna with me to sit on. Keep your flip-flops on. Make sure you have your hat on. This is probably another time you would get scolded by a babushka for not wearing adequate head gear. Find a spot. Stay lower on your first time, progressing higher in the sauna each round.

When you hear "glasnost" close your eyes. Or, when you see the super-talented sauna-woman start slinging water about, close your eyes. Next the super sauna woman will stoke the fire with water. Oh, yea, now it's starting to feel warm. If you see women raising their hands, it's to check the heat. Try it. You will see why you don't sit up high for your first round.

Then the super sauna woman will circulate the heat by swinging a towel, bringing the heat down. Let it rest on your shoulders and take away your stress. (you know, of moving, and home leave, and moving, and did I mention moving???)

She will then do the most blessed part. She will sprinkle you again with her ladles of water (close your eyes!) and issue a blessing for you to have a good sauna (or whatever you think she might be saying- here is when it helps to not understand the language. For example, she could be saying, "may your sauna bring you health, beauty and vitality" or "saunas make you pretty and young!") The appropriate reply is "spasiba."

She might stir the heat again before she leaves you all to sit and sweat away your evil toxins.

And sweat you will. It will flow, at first a trickle, then like a sponge being gently squeezed, painless, free-flowing water. This is my favorite part. Sweet mint and eucalyptus scented air, thick with steam. The weight and lightness dance about my skin, my mind. I feel a release- from pressures, from everything.

After some minutes the ladies up highest will begin their migration out; stay as long as you like, but do be sure to leave before you feel dizzy.

Here's an important detail: don't leave the sauna door ajar.

When you've had enough, you exit the sauna and briefly rinse in the shower before going for a swim in the pool. Don't dip your toe in, do hold your ta-tas as you enter, and then go for it. Now that's a sensation!

You can dry off a little, go back to the lounge area and sip some tea and chat with your girlfriends while you wait for the next go round. At this point, you are all bonded in a special way. The small booth of the banya lounge acts as a kind of confessional and there is an understanding that what's uttered in that small space is probably best left there.

After your second round, you might like to go to the shower with your scrubs and exfoliate. The traditional scrub is made of coffee grounds, which looks pretty interesting, though I've never tried it.

After your third round, you might do a face mask and have a snack.

If you were wanting to be beaten with the birch branches, you will probably do that during your third round or so.  What!? You don't want to be beaten with birch branches?! Sure you do. At least once. Your body becomes more acclimated to the heat with each session in the sauna. You sweat more easily and can handle the higher, hotter levels. The birch beating improves circulation, and increases the heat directly above the skin. Feels.... interesting. At the banya I go to, you hire the person who beats you (she is very talented!) and pay for the branches and beating separately. I think you can also do it yourself, but since I don't speak Russian, I couldn't verify for you. You can ask for those things at the desk and they will arrange it for you, letting the dried branches soak in hot water while you take your first few saunas.

If you decide to do the beating, you'll probably want to take a quick jump into the tall wooden barrel holding water that is so cold I actually don't know how they make it that cold. And deep. Now that has a slight suffocating effect, but also creates a strange tingling sensation upon exiting.

I like to lie on the top of the sauna during the third or fourth round. I think it makes me less dizzy than sitting up.

Last time I was there I saw many women doing the downward dog. I don't know why.

Once you've done as much as you wanted, you can shower off and get dressed, pay your bill, and go about your day. It takes me about 2.5 hours to do a good banya experience, and another hour or more to stop at a restaurant on the way home and eat a lot of food. Banya makes you HUNGRY!

I went over last weekend and noticed there were several girls there with their moms and grandmas. How nice is that? Sadie already had a hat and likes hot baths, so I thought her initiation was due. We invited friends (another mom and daughter) and enjoyed the banya all together. Sadie had a great time, especially swimming in the pool and the scent of the sauna air, and using special scrubs. Oh, and they really loved snacking on jelly beans and honey!

Sadie & I ready for the sauna!

Of course, when Travis and Thomas heard how great and uniquely Russian the banya is, they decided to go as well. They also had a blast. They went during the week when it wasn't crowded at all. They report that the procedure is pretty much the same, but that the men's section is more convivial, with plenty of rousting about and jesting. The men come and go freely from the sauna, with someone occasionally stoking the fire, and they each have their branches to beat themselves or each other with. They also don't sit near the bottom at all, but head straight up to the platform and stay there for quite a while.

Several of the men spoke English and were pleased and surprised to learn it was the boys' first time at the banya.

Probably it is not the last, for any of us. And Helen? Well, she likes to say, "when I am a big girl like Sadie I will go to the banya!" I hope so, baby girl.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Entering Motherhood

Have you ever considered that we enter motherhood anew with each pregnancy, with each birth? Each time we are a little different than we were before.

I have a friend named Stephanie. We found out we were pregnant in 2009 within weeks of each other. And I have another friend named Julie, who had introduced me to Stephanie. We found out she was pregnant first. We were over joyed that our little circle of friends would be bringing life into the world again, this time all together. Well, I had my usual doubts that I would make it all the way to life with a healthy newborn in arms, but I wanted to feel excited so I went along with the joy, and we were all swept up in a sweet storm of pregnant bliss.

Little did I guess that one of us wouldn't be cuddling with a warm wet babe come spring, and that it would be my dear friend Stephanie who would bear this tremendous, life- changing journey this time.

You see, the year before the three of us had gone to a mother's conference given by Sally Clarkson in Dallas, TX. We had stayed up late talking, and we had shared our hearts and our fears and our struggles. We all had great love and great life struggles. Maybe that's normal when you're in your mid-thirties.

I drove us home. It was a four hour drive in rain that was relentless, and deafening. There were times when we couldn't see out the windshield. We nearly had to shout to hear each other. It was almost as if there was a dark force wanting to drown out the love we shared on that drive home. For on that drive home I shared with Stephanie the full story of our daughter Eve.

I told of my pregnancy with her. I teared up when I recounted the diagnosis of death we were given for her. I told the full story of my last weeks of pregnancy, of the days of laboring to birth her, in peace, at home. Of her flight to heaven on the wings of angels. Of cleaning her still body. Of dressing her. The pain of taking her to the hospital, to the officials.

And then, incredibly, of the homicide investigation. Few know of the pain in our house in those days. But these two friends heard of all the heartache on that rainy drive home.

In that car, I felt a kind of propulsion from within telling me I needed to tell it all to my friend Stephanie. But I thought maybe I was being selfish, dominating the conversation. No, they declared. They wanted to hear all I had to say.

Eventually we started belting out songs from the eighties. Stephanie knew all the words, while I just sang the words I thought I heard, since I have a terrible memory for details like song lyrics.

And then.

And then, with our bellies full of life, the email went round. Be in prayer. Might be something wrong with Stephanie's baby.

No. No! Noooooo!

It all seemed so wrong, but also, so ordained.

I spent my wakeful insomniatic nights in prayer for my friend, for her husband, for her other children, and for that child. I knew where she was. I knew it in my bones and I hurt for her, as a sister.

In January, many of her friends flew to her new home in Connecticut to shower her with love. The love of a blessingway. We wanted to usher her and her sweet Amelia through their future with all the love a heart can hold. Some of us were zen, some quiet. Some of us carried our notorious talk of sex and the forbidden but together we gave her all we had.

And our small circle closed in tightly around Stephanie's belly, lifting her up in prayer, in song, in laughter, and in silliness.

Seven weeks later Julie gave birth to a pretty little girl. Stephanie and I kept in touch, not knowing which of us would give birth first, and both of us praying she would be able to give birth to Amelia while she was yet alive. To have even a moment, a day, with her baby before she was to pass on.

On March 11 Amelia was born. Sadly for her parents she was born to Jesus' arms before they held her in theirs.

That night I went to a concert at the new Catholic church in downtown Houston, with another mutual friend and her teenaged daughter. The friend was also my doula. Afterwards we went for a yogurt with yummy toppings.

The next morning, my doula and midwife came to my house to welcome our little Helen into this world. She was living, breathing, relaxed and the picture of a perfect home birth. A perfect young life.

And later, as we laid in bed, nursing, dozing I thought again of Stephanie and her empty arms, her empty womb, but knowing her breasts were full of life-giving milk with no one to claim that milk. And the pain was renewed.

I am happy that our daughters were all born so close in time. But to know that they will not graduate through life together is sad beyond words. And the pain my friend Stephanie must feel at the little stories, dramas, triumphs and moments of the daughters of her friends cuts deep I imagine.

Because even though I've been where she is in some ways, in many others I will never know where she is. The explosive nature of losing a child, of burying a child, of not ever hearing their name called out loud in the playground or the supermarket breaks each mother differently. And then it re-forms us.  And even if the world never sees the child we bore, they do see the resulting mother, and that mother is forever transformed.

Sometimes the entrance into motherhood is grand and celebrated. And other times it is quiet. But it is always substantial and vast.

My friend Stephanie has poured herself into her art in the days since the birth and death of Amelia. We, as her friends, have always been tremendously impressed by her sense of design, of graphic proportion, or color. When we went to stay at her house for her blessingway we were greeted with visions of thoughtful loveliness around every corner, in every room.

I invite you to visit a little piece of her world, over at Beyond Words Designs.

Because the joy of motherhood is beyond words.

Because the pleasure of pregnancy is beyond words.

Because the sting of losing a pregnancy is beyond words.

Because the heartache of burying a baby is beyond words.

Maybe your heart has been broken, maybe you want a unique way to celebrate your years of motherhood. Maybe you know someone who is hurting.  Connect them to Stephanie. Her artwork is healing, not just to her, but to all those who share in it.

Happy Birthday, Amelia!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's All Good...

Today I am finally writing a post all about what I love about being posted in Moscow. Now, much of this is from the perspective of a FS family, which we are!

The upcoming FS blog round-up is all about what's good at the post where you currently serve. And I am happy to write this one, as there are so many things I love about Moscow that I had them listed out as separate blog entries on the "pending" list, but now I get to cram them into one lengthy, photo-full post for you, and as a reward I get to check off several topics from that pending file.

Naturally, there are plenty of things about Moscow that I don't have pics of, because, well, it IS Moscow and though relations have improved dramatically with Russia in the last 30 years, I am selective in what I put out to you all.


We've only been in Moscow for 5 months, and so we've only seen a short spell of autumn, followed by winter. I am sure I will need to add to this topic considerably once I have experienced a summer.

As far as living on compound goes, there is plenty to like. Travis walks about 1.5 minutes to get to work everyday. Which means he gets to come home for his coffee, and lunch. At lunch time we all sit down and discuss our days, and usually get in some time to practice our Bible memory verses or the kids show off what they've been working on.

There is a full gym, again a 1 minute walk from our front door. The commissary is small, but well-stocked (usually!) and it's a whopping 2 minute walk. We can see the playground from the girls' bedroom, as well as the buses letting out, which means the kids can arrange playdates from their window at the end of the day. The large "green," which is a nice big grassy area has bbq stations and apple trees, and there are several dog runs.

Everything on compound is kept in great shape, which I really appreciate on snow-slushy days. There are trash cans, and toilets, and phones for the kids to use to call home if they want to stay out a while longer.

There is a toddler room, which is SO AMAZING!!!! (Oh, uh, did I tell you that I designed it?)  I am nearly finished getting it set up with the help of some truly amazing and talented individuals.

The kids get to take ballet with Russian professional ballet dancers. And yes, that is as good as it sounds. The fact that classes take place on compound and are affordable is some sweet icing for this cakey life we get to live.

We are located close to 2 metro lines and that makes getting around town as easy as it could be.

And now for some pictures...

I love that we have a nice communal backyard for the kids to play in, which often results in spontaneous neighborly fun.

This is how it looks in September. Wow, I miss seeing grass!

This is it in winter. 

There are stunningly beautiful parks and estates all around Moscow, very many of which are located within an easy stroll of a Metro stop.


St. Basil's Cathedral at Red Square. I don't need to explain that one, do I?

Eating out here is expensive and frankly a lot of trouble when you've got 3 kids. This has resulted in me making a LOT more meals at home. We roast 2 chickens nearly every week, and make homemade pizzas about every other week. I love the food we make here much better than almost anything we could eat out, and even when it is an expensive meal, it's only $20, compared to a cheap meal out which is at least $50.

The Moscow Metro. It is fast, inexpensive and you never have to wait more than 2 minutes for a train. Sure, it's crowded and smelly at times, but we regard that as good practice in keeping our composure in difficult circumstances. Every station is different and the artwork and style of each is breath-taking. Seriously, I could write a book about the stations. I love them.
Some artwork

cool lighting

Artwork inside a metro car.

Everywhere you walk around Moscow you are sure to find ornate, dignified Orthodox churches peeking around the corner at you, beckoning you to come closer.

And then there are the Stalin skyscrapers. They too dot the city's landscape, and are so massive it is difficult to imagine that they could be very practical.

The playgrounds! We LOVE the Russian playgrounds. Each is different, many have amusements that you won't find in many safety-conscious American cities and they are usually delightful. These too, are found easily, generally at congregations of apartment buildings and within larger parks. I do wish they had toilets, though. Seriously, someone could make a ton of money by just making some nice toilets that you have to pay for. I would be SO WILLING to pay for toilets. Oh, sorry, I almost forgot this post is all about what's good in Moscow.... carrying on!

At the zoo playground. Is that a cool rocking gizmo or what?

Our favorite nearby park

Getting to go to the ballet, or music performances, or opera. Moscow is a city with more than enough to keep your social calendar full of diverse entertainment.
Sadie and I about to go to the ballet for her birthday.

 The sculptures and statues and monuments, oh, my! Some are grotesque, some ornate, some earthy and realistic.
On the Old Arbat

In Sokolniki park

There is a wide variety of architecture. Wooden houses, tall boring buildings, Stalin-gothic, baroque, and Soviet all abound. The interesting thing is how often they exist within a single street.

Interesting wildlife wonders.
When was the last time you saw a squirrel with pointy ears?

 Cold, dreary, dark winter days gave us a chance to make lots of crafts, play plenty of board games and buckle down to school work. The kids learned how to finger knit, I learned to knit; Sadie has been doing great at hand embroidery work and we've all been learning to draw.
Building the perfect marble run.

And unfolding...
An impressive collection...

Of snowflakes to adorn our windows!

Our handmade-out-of-boxes-and-paper Calico Critter house. Do your kids also have a seemingly endless affection for anything that is so tiny you could probably swallow it whole without realizing you just ate $20 worth of plastic? 
Making crayon crafts. This was a step in making some stained-glass hearts for Valentine's Day.

Ice Skating!!! Indoor, or outdoor! There is even a small practice rink on the green on compound, which means I can practice away from snickering Russians. (I'm sure they aren't really snickering, but darn if I don't feel conspicuous trying to ice skate in front of them!)
Thomas at the local mall ice rink- this is the smaller of the rinks. 
Children at Sokolniki park, skating in the fresh air. We hope to skate there before it's all melted. 

Sledding! There is a sledding hill on compound, and at nearly every park and playground around here. That is some serious fun!
"Can you give me a shove?"

The joy of playing in snow! We never knew what we were missing. Snow angels and snowmen, and igloos, and tunnels, and snowball fights! The feeling of flakes fluttering on eyelashes and cheeks... the glitter of crunchy snow falling when it's coldest... the satisfaction of seeing your footsteps and those of the little people following closely behind...

 Making friends at the playground. You can't tell from this picture, but Sadie was talking to the Russian boy, practicing her new conversation skills she's been learning from their tutor, Victoria.

"Kak tibya zavut?"

Seeing something familiar in the midst of an unfamiliar city...
Really, why do people hang their sneakers from the wires? And what do they wear home?
Lady Liberty

Getting to see exhibits like Moroz City. Honestly, it was overpriced and not as big as I was expecting, but we got some cool pics, no?
Moroz City means "frost city" I think. Basically lots of pretty ice sculptures in the form of city structures, like jail, hotel, bar, museum and maze. We had fun letting the kids explore.

My three jailbirds

Sleeping Beauty

Snow Family!

Oh, good.  I was starting to get a little cold.

I see you...

Whoa! It's the train to the north pole! (aren't they getting good at posing?!)

This past weekend we took a trip to Sergiyev Posad, on e of the 7 Ring Cities circling Moscow. The Monastery was peaceful, tranquil and lovely in every way.

Finding dagger-like icicles is a fun I Spy game we like to play.

We also did a Troika ride on the weekend. We rode on a sleigh pulled by a horse through the forest. It was quiet except for the birds chirping and singing, the jingle of the horse's bells and the hush of the sleigh rails through the thick snow.

Sadie playing in the forest.

Helen LOVES the "We're going on a bear hunt" book. Here are Thomas and Sadie posing in the bear cave for Helen. She didn't want to go in because it was stinky.

A genuine, joy-filled smile from a babushka who made us feel happy and comfortable. Helen shared laughs and smiles with her...
Burning an effigy of the Russian equivalent of Old Man Winter. In Russia, it is a babushka who is burned at the stake. Only a little disturbing.
 Happy Maslinitsa!

The kind of day you can only dream about... and then, it's real.