Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Christmas!

OK, I know Christmas is past now, but I hope it was merry for everyone! Actually, Christmas for most Russians is on January 7, according to the Orthodox calendar, so I can still say, "Merry Christmas!"

Here are some pictures from our Christmas morning.

Reading the Christmas story (toddler version!)

Opening some presents. The toy coffee maker was a big hit.

Playing with new toys.

I have to add just one more picture from a few days ago, just because I was so amazed that these kimbobs (korean sushi) actually turned out looking like the real thing! My first time to try making these. Yum!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trip to Riga

Last week we had a nice time in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. We had to go for business reasons, but we had a lot of time to be tourists, too. We took an overnight train there and back, and we had a total of 5 days there. It was a cold week, but we still enjoyed lots of walking and sightseeing. Riga is a very nice city, with a quaint historic section of town. Winding cobblestone streets, small houses packed tightly together, churches dating back to the 1200s. It had a real medieval feel to it. Most of the historic buildings had been destroyed somewhere along the way, especially in WWII, but have been rebuilt. Here are some pictures from the trip.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Wet Morning

This morning as Aaron was getting ready for school, he noticed something unpleasant- water was dripping from a crack in the ceiling in our kitchen. So, I called our landlady and told her as well as I could what was happening. She called back later and said that our neighbor from upstairs would come and look at it. He came a while later and said something about mice and rats (could a rat chew through a pipe?) and said (I think) that he would wrap something around the pipe to stop the leak. At times like this I wish my Russian was a little better! So, we'll see what happens.

On another note, here are some fun quotes from Lydia:
  • "Can you pray for my crayons, the tea ball, and my plate?"
  • (While walking outside behind some pigeons) "I can't walk with not wearing my boots, like the birdies. But they CAN!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exciting Day for Science Teachers

Yesterday we got to see a very special monument on the way to visit some friends... A monument to Mendeleev, and his periodic table of the elements! Here we are in front of it:

It was an exciting evening for Lydia too, because she got to play with another little two-year old girl. They had quite a time together, and at the end of the evening little Olivia said, "I love you! You will come back!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Fall Frolicking

We've been having some really great fall weather here! We try to get out and enjoy it to make the most of it! Yesterday afternoon we walked to the Summer Gardens and joined many others who were out strolling and enjoying the beautiful sunny day. It was interesting to see so many people picking up the colorful leaves- adults and kids. Another interesting thing was that many people were weaving the leaves together somehow to make a garland-type hat! We asked one lady if we could take her picture with her wearing her hat and Lydia, and she was so nice and put the hat on Lydia's head for the picture. Even the statues were getting in on the fun (see below!)

Here we are in front of Peter the Great's Summer Palace:
Today Lydia and I made a craft with some of the leaves she picked up a few days ago. Here she is showing off her work:
This is her face after I told her to give me a big smile!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enjoying Autumn

We have had some amazing sunny days lately (truly amazing for fall in St. Pete, it seems), and the leaves are so pretty right now.

Here are some pictures of Lydia in the park.

Lydia has gotten quite daring on the playground equipment lately, so I really need to keep my eye on her (and my hands ready to grab her!) She thinks she can do everything by herself, and she watches other kids closely and tries to copy whatever they do!

In other news, Aaron went to a leadership conference with some students last week in Hungary. He had a great time, but came back very tired. They took the overnight train to Moscow, and flew from there, and he had a hard time sleeping on the train. The conference kept the kids (and chaperones) busy from early in the morning until late at night too, so Aaron took a long nap on Sunday after he got home!

Here's another random quote from Lydia for the day: "I need my sunglasses, so I can eat better."

Monday, September 22, 2008

We're Still Here!

It's been a long time since we updated this blog! After Aaron's parents visited this summer, we took a trip to Hungary for a conference. Lydia loved being with her daycare class while we had conference sessions. Here are some pictures from the short time spent in Budapest. It's a beautiful city! Unfortunately Danielle was sick the one full day we were there, but we still got to see a bit of the city. The first pictures are from the castle hill.

Here's a view of the city from a hill called the Citadel. Aaron is wearing his Hungarian hat made out of a mushroom! Near the bottom of the hill is this church built into a cave.

After we got back from Hungary in August, it was time for Aaron to start getting ready for the school year. He's back to teaching now, and autumn has arrived in St. Petersburg. The leaves are just starting to change color, but it has been very chilly. Today has been unusually warm and sunny (60 Fahrenheit), so Lydia and I had a nice time in the park with some friends this afternoon.
Here's a picture of our family from last Saturday. We went with a group to Pavlovsk, and we had a nice time strolling through the huge wooded park.

And finally, a random quote from Lydia today: "I have armpits and elbows!" (Exclaimed with great excitement and arms up in the air!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Another post today! A few hours ago we had to say goodbye to Aaron's parents, and Aaron took them back to the airport. Their friends left on Wednesday. We had so much fun with them here, and we gave them a good whirlwind tour of St. Petersburg. They did about as much as possible in two weeks, without dropping over from exhaustion. (And a few times I think they almost did!) It was hard to say goodbye, not knowing when we'll get to see them again. Lydia will really miss having Mimi and Poppi around. At least we have skype!

Here is a slideshow of some highlights from their time here.

More Catching Up- Lydia's Birthday

I'd been wanting to post a few pictures from Lydia's birthday, back in May, and never got around to it until now. She turned 2 years old! We had some friends over and had fun playing in the park and then eating dinner and birthday cake. I also have to show off my birthday cake creation- I made a "Very Hungry Caterpillar" cake. I made some cupcakes to go with it, that were decorated with the fruit the caterpillar ate through. This story was Lydia's favorite book at the time. Now she always wants to read "Sheep in a Shop" and "Time for Bed." Here are some pictures from her birthday party.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer Fun (Catching Up)

Wow, it has been a long time! It feels like our lives have been a whirlwind since the last post, but it's been a good whirlwind.

The end of May brought the end of Aaron's first school year of teaching in Russia! It was a great year for him.

The first week of June was spent at a dacha (a Russian country house). It was a rustic, but fun experience, even though it was chilly most of the time. Lydia loved it, although it took her a while to decide the potty (an outhouse) was a "nice potty." She loved running around in the great outdoors, and "helping" the landlady with the gardening. Some of our favorite things were hiking through the forest & fields, seeing a beekeeper, walking to the little country store in the morning to buy fresh tvorog (like cottage cheese) and smetana (sour cream), making shashlik over the grill, and last, but definitely not least, experiencing a banya (Russian sauna). Here's what a banya is like: You all strip down and go into a little room with your friends (and maybe the landlady), and the room is so hot you feel like skin is going to roast and burst into flames at any moment. After you sit there for a while, the landlady pours water over some hot rocks, and steam bursts out all over the room, making you realize that the way you felt before wasn't hot at all. (At this point, I was begging the landlady to let me out... she wouldn't let me...) You gasp for air, and once you start breathing again, you all start beating each other with birch branches. They do make the air smell nice, and you're supposed to breathe deeply to get the full healthful benefits. After a few beatings, you head out to the outer room again, where someone promptly douses you with COLD water. Yipes! I was screaming for mercy again. The landlady had none! Then you sit around in the lounge area of the banya cabin, drinking tea, and discussing how great it all is for your skin, your heart, lungs, and overall health. Oh, and then you go back in and do it all over two more times. Quite the cultural experience. I do have to admit, I felt refreshed and relaxed after it was over. And after the second time I learned to endure the heat/cold like a real Russian. Here are some dacha pics:

"Our" dacha

Making shashlik

People buying fresh milk, smetana, and tvorog

The rest of June and the first week in July was spent in the US! It was so great to spend time there again, and to see some friends and family. To get there, we took the train to Helsinki and flew out from there. Here's a picture from a boat parade we saw in Helsinki.

At the beginning and end of our trip, we were in PA, with my (Danielle's) parents. Here are some highlights:
Fun with Grandma...

And Grandpa!
Visited with lots of family (here with Great Grandma & Grandpa)...
Went canoeing...

Visited my brother and his wife in Washington, DC (you can see this view from their apartment!)...

And celebrated the 4th of July!

In the middle of our trip we went to Kansas City for Aaron's friend's wedding, and then headed to Arkansas to visit family there. Here are some highlights from that part of the trip:

Croquet at Mimi & Poppi's house...

Riding on the ski boat and "ski-bob"...

Kayaking & playing at the Buffalo National River

Meeting up with Aaron's brother's family (Lydia loved being with her precious cousins!)...

Time with family (here with Great Grandma)...

Playing in the water and seeing a big fish at the War Eagle Mill...

Dancing at the wedding...

And becoming a Razorback fan!

Now we are back in St. Petersburg, and it actually felt good to come back here again. A week after we got back, Aaron's parents and their good friends came for a visit. Their friends got a good cultural experience right off the bat, riding the metro at rush hour, with all their luggage on the way to our place from the airport. They got squished good! We're having fun showing them all around town, and I think they're enjoying taking it all in. They did a great service project for us, putting screens in our windows. We can finally sleep all night without having to wake up at 2am to swat mosquitos for an hour! Yea! Thanks, guys! Yesterday we took the electric train to visit the Peterhof palace, so here's a slide show of that. The fountains are amazing! This was our first time there, too.