Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cooking in Moldova

Buying spices here (ok, actually anything here) is an interesting process, because living in a multilingual city means that any given item can come in one of several languages (most common are Romanian and Russian, though I've also seen English and German). In preparation for Thanksgiving, I had to look up some spices I needed in both Romanian and Russian, hoping that between the two I might find what I was looking for (I was 1 for 3 but I don't think it was because of my language deficiencies). This sure makes the experience of going to the grocery store interesting every time!

Another interesting difference about living in Moldova arrived the other day when I bought some powdered sugar. I was using it for some sort of baked confection, and I tasted some of it before adding it. Upon tasting it, I immediately felt like it was less sweet than American powdered sugar--but how could that be?? It's just sugar, right? 

As it turns out, no: this powdered sugar includes powdered milk, butter, and several other ingredients, making up more than half of the powdered sugar mix. 

After using it in several recipes, I don't actually mind it not being as sweet, but it was sure a surprise at first!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Out and about in Moldova

I realized recently that I don't post a lot of photos of Our Fair City Chisinau. I really enjoy walking around the city but am usually too busy walking and tending kids and not getting lost (actually not too hard) and not looking like a tourist to take pictures. I'll try and do better about that in the future, but for now here's a tiny sampling. 

The post office/cell phone store (they share a lobby):

The awesome compass out in front of the post office, with distances and ordinal directions for Bagdad, Athens, Bucharest, Paris, Ulan Bator, Beijing and more. 

And my favorite part of walking around the city: the Moldovan version of the "walk now" person, who looks like she's confidently striding across the street: 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Of Dan Balan and Visas

I have a very long story to tell you, but bear with me: it's worth it.

Once upon a time, when we first arrived in Moldova, we saw these billboards for Dan Balan EVERYWHERE. We had no idea who Dan Balan was (Somehow I thought he was some kind of lawyer) but Jesse and I both loved his intense, over-serious stare. For awhile, it seemed like Dan Balan was on every billboard in the city, and whole jokes developed in our conversations about making Dan Balan-like faces and so forth. Before we knew it, Dan Balan had become a beloved part of our humor and lives. 

Several months later, we went to the Moldovan Immigration Office to pick up our completed Visas. This was after we had already spent an entire morning at the office a month before with every possible identifying document we could possibly gather (passports, blood type documents, three separate letters of invitation from the US Embassy, some sort of stamped document we had to pay to get, birth certificates and our marriage license), making copies and paying fees and arguing with serious governmental office employees about seals and signatures and so forth. 

A month after all of that, we all were various degrees of sick (all the way from Jesse and Nikolai with un-diagnosed pneumonia and me and Miriam with annoying colds), but that couldn't stop us from trekking across the city to pick up the completed visas. We got to the office and sat there for 20 minutes, only to hear an announcement that the office would be closing for an hour for lunch. *Sigh* Unfortunately, Jesse had to go teach class, so we headed back home, unsuccessful. 

Miriam, coloring in the waiting room, with pacifier in tow to help her forget she was missing her nap

On Wednesday we returned, waited for an hour in the waiting room and finally made it to the desk to pick up the visas, only to discover terrible news: despite the fact that we had already provided every form of identification ever, we were supposed to bring several of those same documents back at THIS appointment in order to pick up the visas. Yes. The same documents they already had copies of. 

SO. We returned on Thursday, with every single possible document we could think of, even the documents they hadn't said we needed to bring (because the lesson learned from this situation was always bring every possible document). And we were successful! The visa process was pushed along (we don't technically have the visas yet because *surprise* they have to be processed further, but we have legal status here now) and we left triumphant (to return in a few weeks to pick up the actual documents). 

But the really exciting part of this entire process happened when we were sitting in the waiting room on the third and final day of our visa pick up attempt. The flat screen on the waiting room wall was on (it had been off during the other two attempts), and was showing a series of charming videos for the Moldovan tourist industry. I duly noted a few places I hadn't heard of for us to visit, and then, WHAM! They started showing clips from the pop group O-Zone's international hit Dragostei Din Tei (also known as the Numa Numa song):


This song was HUGE in my high school in freshman or sophomore year, and I was minorly obsessed with it. I knew all the words (who knew I knew Romanian?), looked up the lyrics in English, and watched as many versions of the video as the burgeoning internet would allow. It was all I could do to not sing along with every word there in the waiting room, and, after all this time, I was blown away to find out that the group was from Chisinau!

I started babbling to Jesse about how excited I was and was trying to explain to him what song this was (he missed the clip in the waiting room, and, as it turned out, the song hadn't made it to his high school back in the day all the way out in Idaho). I looked up O-Zone on Wikipedia to try and figure out other details to tell him, when one of the band members' names caught my eye. 

"Jesse, this might be a game changer," I said, frantically clicking the Dan Balan link (because I had to make certain there wasn't a plethora of unrelated Dan Balans running around Chisinau, and because sitting in an immigration office with two children for the third time that week was making me lose my mind).

LO AND BEHOLD: It was the very same Dan Balan as our billboard Dan Balan.



My head exploded and my worlds collided and everything everywhere came full circle. 

the end

Saturday, December 3, 2016


We're in a pretty good place with the kiddos lately. Nikolai was home from preschool for 3 weeks when he was sick and we all went a little crazy, but he returned to school this week and balance has been restored in our little universe. 

I've had several moments lately where I look around at these kids, and Jesse, and think, "Wow. Look at these awesome people that I get to spend my life with." Those moments sometimes even happen in the middle of both kids screaming over dinner, or running around crazy right before bed (though sometimes those moments also make me feel like I'm going nuts).  

None of those moments have been captured on photo but I'm including some other pictures here so I can try to remember the feeling. 

Nikolai and Miriam watching Romanian kids tv:

I usually leave Miriam's hair down in a messy bob that gets in her face because she hates me putting it up, but the other day I put on a show for her and somehow she let me put her hair in adorable little french braid pigtails. She pulled them out an hour later during her nap, but they were cute while they lasted! 

Speaking of Miriam: she's recently transitioned to two naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) to one nap (in mid afternoon) AND we made her pacifier disappear (previously used almost exclusively for nap and bedtime) SO that has been really rough for everyone. Basically, Miriam used take a pacifier and go straight to sleep like a tiny cherub, and now she runs around the room and wiggles and shrieks instead of letting us snuggle her and sing her lullabies, and it's really rough. Nikolai ditched the pacifier on his own at 7 months so we've never had to do this before, and it's hard giving up our angel sleeper! 

But she still really cute during the day:

Speaking of Nikolai going back to preschool, he's learning tons of Russian! My classes have been going really well too, and we've started to be able to speak a fair amount of Russian together. I wanted to capture him counting to ten in Russian the other day, and then he surprised me by counting twenty, which I had no idea he could do! He does that a lot--surprises me with words that I had no idea he knew. Way to go smart Nikolai! 


Friday, December 2, 2016

Thanksgiving in Moldova

Happy late Thanksgiving everyone!!

I meant to post this last week, obviously, but obviously that didn't happen. But better late than never, right?

We had been planning on having Thanksgiving on our own, but then some of Jesse's colleagues suggested that we have Thanksgiving together! I was excited at having someone to help cook (because let's admit it, Thanksgiving mostly means cooking non-stop for 2 days so you can eat until you never want to eat again) and someone to share the holiday with, and Jesse's colleagues were excited to celebrate their first ever Thanksgiving. 

And that is how we ended up spending Thanksgiving with two Ukrainians and three Moldovans :) 

Without further ado, here are some obligatory (and strangely colored, due to my phone's bad lighting settings) photos of the spread. Major kudos to Kiseniia for making the delicious turkey!

(Also, major apologies to Vlada, because none of these photos of you turned out well. So sorry!)

I couldn't quite pull off a pumpkin pie here (while there's no canned pumpkin, you can find whole pumpkins, but I don't have a blender so I couldn't turn one into puree) but I found this recipe for an apple pie and it was INCREDIBLE. I don't like pie all that much but I LOVED this one!

We had a huge spread of dessert, most of which we couldn't even eat because we had eaten SO much good food. But we sure tried! 

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends! 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mid-fall in Chisinau

I always love fall, and I am falling for fall in Chisinau!

It has been wet and cool and crisp and delightful.

Also, the low sunlight coming through my bedroom window in the morning is divine (that is what I try to remind myself when the sun sets at 4:30 and makes me sad!): 

We are a long ways from the beginning of fall, when leaves had just begun to flutter down and wash up on the shores of sidewalks and curbs. Now, the leaves are almost all down, and have settled in as temporary cement, filling in the potholes and cracks in the sidewalk. 

On days when the kids were sick this last week (meaning I was stuck inside A LOT), I would make an excuse to go to the store for something, and Jesse would insist that I not rush while I was out. What followed was several leisurely walks, basking in the light coming through the barren branches. The lack of foliage this time of year always feels like a revelation to me, literally--I can suddenly see further than I could before, and buildings that used to be obscured by trees are now visible. 

One of those days, the Moldovan flag on our street looked really lovely: 

And it's hard for me to get over how beautiful I find the colors of fall: rich oranges, reds, yellows and browns that make the world seem like it's full of golden light at any time of day. 

I sat in my bedroom window the other week and painted the trees out in our courtyard. I meant to take a photo for this post but forgot (I will try to remember to soon), though I don't think it was terribly good. What was most delightful was mixing the right watercolors for the job--taking time to observe and mix just the right shade of golden brown for this tree, and noticing that the tree next to it was a slightly brighter shade. It was really soothing to spend so much time noticing and appreciating the fall colors, and I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kids in fall and such

Some fall miscellany:

Since the kids have been sick lately, I haven't felt comfortable taking them to the park. As such, we have spent WAY too much time at home, so I've been trying to find ways to break up the mediocrity. On a day when Nikolai was feeling a little better (and complaining about being "BORED!") I put together a little spider web hunt for him in the kitchen. First, I showed him how to draw small alphabet letters (he knows the big ones but not the small ones) and had him write each one on a little square. Then I made him leave the room while I strung up a bunch of string, criss-crossing the room  and taping up the letters as I went. When I was done, he had to come in and find the letters in order by climbing under and over the strings. It was a fun learning activity and I hope to do more things like this in the future!

I took these next photos a few weeks ago when the leaves had just started falling (they're mostly down now!). Some of the maple leaves here are GIANT, and Nikolai wanted to pose with this one in front of his face: 

On a different fall day, we went out into the courtyard and played in the leaves, including having a giant leaf fight. Afterwards, Niko and I built this little fairy house:

This photo is even older (and those of you that follow me on instagram or facebook have already seen it). We've started a new tradition of making homemade hot cocoa on Sunday evenings just before the kids go to bed, and I LOVE it. I always sort of wanted to make homemade hot cocoa in America, but it seemed like so much work when I could buy powdered stuff at the store. But I can't find powdered hot cocoa here and I had really been wanting some (especially for that 2 week period when it had gotten cold but the city-controlled radiators in our Soviet-era apartment weren't working yet--brr!!), so I finally got the chance to make it from scratch! I think this is a tradition we are going to carry on long into the future. 

Also, please notice Miriam's frilly floral blouse layered over a stripey shirt. The child has been obsessed with changing her clothes lately and that was what she chose! Obviously, she gets coerced into changing her clothes again before we leave the house ;)