Archive for April, 2012

April 27, 2012

Easter: Part III

The last item on the Easter list was dying eggs.

When Andrei and I arrived in Moscow after a ten day trip in Jersey it was a couple of days before (Orthodox) Palm Sunday. We popped into the grocery store to grab some essentials and were excited to find a bunch of Easter stuff – egg dye, chocolates with XB (Hristos Voskrese = Christ is Risen) written on them, faux (but beautiful) pussywillow branches and shrink wrap egg decorations that were either spring-y or religious-y. We went a little crazy and bought a bunch of the egg decorations/dyes. I was excited to see some all-natural dyes that were made from greens, carrots, beets etc (Don’t worry Sis, I grabbed an extra container or two for you). It was fun to see Easter stuff that reflected the religious aspect of this holiday (Christ’s Resurrection) as opposed to in the States where, as my aunt pointed out, next to the Passover/Sader books, you have a Peter Rabbit display.

Nothing crazy fancy was done with the eggs. I tried sticking sprigs of parsley on them for some special design elements, but that did not work out at all and was quickly given up. Unfortunately the green dye in the box we opened was a little funky. Too bad because that’s my favorite color. Although our orange ones came out gorgeous! We had white and brown eggs so we were able to get two different shades from each dye.

Andrei was in charge of the shrink wrap eggs. I think he was into helping me decorate, but I sort of made it mandatory since I felt like I would be too lonely doing it on my own. He claimed to be an expert and veteran at the shrink wrap method (basically you put this decorated sheet of plastic over the egg and hold it in steam and it shrink wraps around the egg), but none of them came out. I’ll let him blame the Russian eggs (they come in cartons of 10 and some still have feathers on them, so that’s enough to unsettle anyone).

I think I like dyed eggs more, but I’m glad we did the shrink wrap too. The first time I tried doing shrink wrap was for Easter 2008. That year, while I was standing over the steam messing up every single egg (it’s much harder than you think), Andrei walked into my parents’ kitchen. He had flown in from the East Coast for a surprise visit for Easter. He later proposed after the Easter night services. So as funny as it may sound, shrink wrapping eggs is what I was doing the moment my entire life changed.

Easter is an incredibly important and special time for any Orthodox Christian and Andrei made it even more so with such a happy memory. Only days before that I was guided by my spiritual father to pray to St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (whose relics are in the cathedral in San Francisco) to help me find my next steps in life. My graduation from Boston University was approaching and I was getting that slightly nervous/clueless feeling of what I was supposed to do after. Standing by the Saint’s relics, I did as instructed and felt more at ease. Four days later, Andrei was kneeling in front of me with a ring and I had my answer.

And in addition to the Easter We Got Engaged, we have the Easter We Were In Jerusalem, and now the Easter We Were In Moscow (Somewhere in there is also the Easter Papa Accidentally Yelled Christ Is Born).

Easter in Russia is pretty much the same as Easter at home. Just…more. More people, more services, more red. Everything was red. At home the clergy serves in white. Here it’s red. Candles are red. Flowers are red. Women’s scarves are red. It’s SO red. And very beautiful. We were lucky to attend services at St. Tatiana’s church at the Moscow State University campus near the Kremlin. The main priest there knows us by name so we felt very at home. Which is nice, because you want to feel at home if you are away from home on Easter.

A Few Other Differences Between Russia & The States on Easter:

-In Russia, it’s normal to walk by a huge office building with an enormous pixilated projection of Jesus Christ on it

-In the States we have an “Italian Shower” where in an attempt to save time or energy you skip a shower and spray lots of perfume. Here I started practicing the “Russian Shower” where you throw on a bigger scarf to make sure it covers all of your hair

-In Russia, no one looks at you funny when you sit down at a restaurant right after church and place a basket on the table that has frosted ‘cake’ in it with a candle sticking out of it and don’t sing Happy Birthday

-In Russia, there isn’t a long awkward pause after you answer the phone with, “Xpuctoc Bockpece!” (“Christ is Risen!”)

-In Russia, you must stay out of the way of old ladies when any priest starts spraying holy water. Unless you like the taste of gravel.

A week after Easter, in answer to recent vandalism and riots againts the Church, Patriarch Kyrill called for a service in defence of the Russian Orthodox Faith. 65,000 people showed up and filled the streets in front of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. Andrei and I being two of them. Before heading out Andrei had asked, “Do you think we should get there really early?” We had no idea what to expect. The answer was yes. Most of the people had gathered by the time we got there and it was packed. But we peacefully stood on the outskirts of the crowd and watched the service, which was held primarily outside, on a jumbo screen. I don’t even think I have the right words to describe how blessed I feel that we were able to be a part of this. The happiness that exploded out of us as we joined 65 THOUSAND people in exclaiming “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” and recited the Symbol of Faith. The joy still lingers on and goosebumps visit my arms every once in a while when I remember some moment from that day. Despite my lapses of laziness, God continues to bring me these amazing experiences. This one came with a renewed and strengthened confidence in our faith.

I hope to be back in Burlingame for Easter next year, but if I am not, a piece of my heart will be there anyway. And a piece will be in Jerusalem and a piece will be in Moscow. And a piece will say yes all over again to the man of my dreams.

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April 26, 2012

Easter: Part II

For some reason I decided to make sirnaya pascha (think cheesecake filling, but maybe a little less sweet) the same day as I made the kulich. I felt like I was on a pretty good roll, so why not just whip it up? Right, Olya, because it can be ‘whipped right up’. My excuse is that I was a rookie at sirnaya pascha so I had no idea – even though the recipe told me everything that was involved before hand. It’s not like it was hiding anything.

To make things even easier (sarcasm) I decided to follow a recipe in Russian that a new found friend on facebook shared with me – to go along with my naive ‘whip it up’ attitude.

First you squeeze 2.8 kilograms (roughly 6 pounds) of farmer’s cheese through a fine mesh seive and set aside. Psh, who needs pilates this week? – this was a serious arm workout. And I almost had to bury my new sieve next to my new mixer in my quickly growing kitchen appliance graveyard.

I was dorkily excited to buy the farmer’s cheese at a regular grocery store in Moscow. I kind of splurged on it as there were cheaper brands available – I had overheard a woman in the store ask a salesperson where their ‘amazing farmer’s cheese’ was so I really wanted to use it. Plus it looked like it was packaged and sent over from a farm. I just couldn’t resist. It came in little packages of anywhere from an inconsistent 264 to 311 grams so I may or may not have looked super silly standing there for 20 minutes with my cell phone calculater trying to gather the exact amount I needed over several pre-packaged containers 🙂 (Does anyone have a simpler way to do that, by the way??)

Anyway, with the ‘sifted’ cheese to the side, separate 10 egg yolks into a metal bowl (or double boiler), add a 1/2 cup of milk, 2 cups of sugar and one packet of vanilla sugar. Now, I wanted to use fresh vanilla beans so I opted to just replace regular sugar for the vanilla sugar. Having seen different sizes of packets of vanilla sugar, I wasn’t really sure how much regular sugar to substitute. I don’t think I put enough because the result was not as sweet as I would have liked.

The yolk, milk and sugar mixture gets heated over a pot of simmering water. You must stir constantly (and avoid making scrambled eggs) until the mixture becomes a thick cream. Take it off the heat and add 400 grams (or a little over 4 sticks) of butter that have been cut into cubes. Mix until the butter melts, and let it cool.

Add the milk-egg-sugar cream and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to the farmer’s cheese and mix it very well. The recipe suggests using a blender. Probably even an immersion blender would work. I have neither so I got another bonus arm workout. Add some grated lemon zest. I used a vegetable peeler and a knife, which was fine, but it made me sincerely miss my microplane zester. Seriously, I miss it…like number one after family and friends.

Then the recipe says to add raisins, dried fruits, and/or nuts. We all know how I feel about this, so I will move on.

Line an upside down pascha form with gauze/cheesecloth (which I purchased at the pharmacy like a true local!) and fill it with your (totally fat free, I swear 😉 ) sirnaya pascha mixture.

Some forms come with pegs that will hold it over a bowl to drain. Mine didn’t, so I put one in a pasta strainer over a bowl and the other in my mesh seive over another bowl. If you can, add some kind of weight on top – I stacked a couple plates on each. They should drain for 12 hours or more in the fridge. Then you can flip it over and take it out of the form. If you don’t have a form at all, you can just put it in a bowl and let it set in the fridge. The XB on the side of mine (and most) stands for “Hristos Voskrese”, which is “Christ is Risen!” To which one would answer, “Truly He is Risen!”

My sister and I always had a theory that if you eat ice-cream in a giant spoonful, taken right out of the carton, without using a bowl, then the calories and fat do not count. It used to drive my brother absolutely insane. Not even sure why – it’s not like sticky drops of something on the floor by the refridgerator were uncommon in our house. In any case, I have chosen to apply this theory to eating sirnaya pascha as well. So skip the bowl and you’ll skip the calories too.

Andrei will not eat sirnaya pascha unless it’s spread across the top of a piece of kulich. That is also a tasty (soul-healthy) snack.

***(When making the sirnaya pascha, I revised the measurments recorded in the blog for 2 kilograms of farmer’s cheese. That gave me enough for 2 sirnaya pascha forms plus some extra in a bowl)***

April 25, 2012

Easter: Part I

April 15th this year was Russian Orthodox Easter. And we got to be in Moscow. It was a tremendous blessing really, especially since last year we were in Jerusalem. Two years in a row spending Easter somewhere meaningful – Jerusalem because that’s were everything happened, and Moscow because you are celebrating with a good chunk of the city/country.

I do have to admit that it was still a little sad to be away from Burlingame, where I grew up. Every priest kid (PK) will say this because being where your dad is serving on Easter is always special. I shouldn’t really say that Burlingame is the best place to be on Easter, but…let’s be honest, it is. When we got married the fine print stated that since I was moving to New Jersey every Easter would be spent in California (life permitting). I was happy to make an exception for Jerusalem and Moscow.

Last year we were staying in a hotel so I couldn’t make the traditional Easter fare – Kulich (Easter bread) and Sirnaya Pascha (a caloric bomb of happiness made with farmer’s cheese and lots of sugar and eggs – kind of similar to cheesecake filling). This year, abroad but equipped with a kitchen, I didn’t want to miss out. I actually had never made sirnaya pascha before so why not now when I have access to all sorts of brands of farmer’s cheese just steps out my front door (back home it’s not always easy to find the right kind). It would be very silly and careless of me to miss out on this opportunity. Especially since special sirnaya pascha forms were also on sale at the grocery store. I mean, we just don’t get that in the States. What kind of born-and-raised-in-America-but-considers-herself-Russian-so-please-stop-offering-me-the-English-menu Russian would I be if I didn’t do it? Even if here you can also buy ready made kulich in almost every store, and even on the street!

For the kulich I used a simple recipe that my mom gave me the first year that I baked them on my own. That first year, I had my electric stand mixer mixing the dough as I cleaned up. Everything felt like a breeze. And there was only one dough rising. I know some people follow recipes that require several dough risings and strenuous attention to detail. I felt guilty that I was gliding across my kitchen in ease as I imagined in other kitchens there were women/men biting their nails in anxiety, sweating in overly heated houses and locking their kids in closests so as not to disturb the dough. Oh the horror those children must have felt when a ball they were secretly playing with went rolling down the stairs. In the end my kulich were only ok. The next year I used a more complicated recipe and again my kulich were only ok. Despite my mom’s culinary fame in parishes across the USA, Canada and beyond, she too has a kulich achilles heel. So I feel ok about it. This year was no different.

I decided to use that simple recipe since my results are basically the same. The recipe involves making a sponge by dissolving about 2 packets of yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm milk adding 1 cup of flour, a tablespoon of sugar and letting that rise until it’s bubbly (about 30min). Then you beat 12 egg yolks and 2 egg whites until light and creamy, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, some fresh vanilla, saffron that has been steeped in vodka or brandy, and lemon zest. Next add the sponge, 2 sticks of melted butter, and 2 lbs of flour.

I only have measuring spoons for measuring out ingredients according to American recipes. I used to psych myself out and re-count 7 cups of an ingredient, afraid I messed up the amount. Now I have to count out 16 tablespoons for each cup…it can get a little confusing. I bought a measuring cup here, but of course it’s marked with grams. Which is a little annoying, because it only has sugar and flour on it really. So it would be better to have a kitchen scale. I have been managing with the conversions though – no serious mishaps yet (knock on wood)!

Knead/mix the dough until it doesn’t stick anymore. I grew up in an age I will call BSM – Before Stand Mixer. Kneading the kulich dough with my mom was a crazy job. We would have a huge tub of dough balancing on a kitchen bar stool, the furniture around us dusted in flour, my sister, mom and I taking turns dunking our hands in the super sticky mass. When you tried pulling your hands out, the tub would lift up off the stool. It was messy and time consuming, but it was fun. When the stand mixer came, everything changed – except the kitchen was still covered in flour (This was a Pavlenko kitchen, afterall). That’s why when I first did this recipe on my own it was also so easy, having the mixer work on the dough while you prepare the next steps or wipe up the layer of flour on your counters. But I look back fondly on bonding over a tub of sticky kulich dough. I bought a hand mixer this year to help out. It came with dough hooks so I was pretty confident. Well, I killed it. RIP hand mixer.

At this point you can add raisins too, but I really prefer kulich without them. Just like I don’t like raisins in my zhavoranki. Andrei likes raisins in kulich. Same situation goes for sirnaya pascha too – Andrei is for, I am against. I think spring time for us should just be called The Raisin Troubles. Sometimes I will do part of the kulich batch with raisins to be a better wife, but this year I didn’t.

…Divide the dough into your kulich forms (about 1/3 of the way up). Now, in the States we usually use old food/coffee cans lined with parchment paper or foil. The new kulich trend that is quickly spreading across Russian Orthodox America is to use glass beakers – the chemistry kind that can withstand high heat. These are great because you just have to grease the beakers, you can see the dough through them, and they make smooth edges (I plan to do this the next year I bake kulich at home). With aluminum you have those ripples which will sometimes bake into the side of the kulich. Some reporter one time did a piece on Orthodox Easter traditions and tried to explain a special meaning for the ripples in the sides of the kulich. Unfortunately, he was mistaken. The only things those ripples represent is how many bowls of tomato soup or cups of coffee that family had to get through before they had a working kulich form.

Anyway, I bought kulich forms in Ashan – because I can! 🙂 Greased and floured them, divided the dough into them and then covered them in a makeshift kulich incubator by a heater and let them rise for about an hour and a half. And they did rise so that was very exciting.

 Then you bake them at 350F for about 45 minutes to an hour. I overbaked mine a little. They still came out good, but a bit dry and crumby (as in it would fall apart into crumbs, not crummy, as in they sucked). They weren’t as dense as most kulich. But we are still happily eating leftovers so I think we’re ok.

To decorate, I usually just make a quick royal icing with powdered sugar, a bit of lemon juice and some water. Then pour it on the kulich and add sprinkles. For some reason my royal icing was coming out way too thin. I really think it was the sugar and not me, but who knows :). I went out once to get more sugar and try again, but then I gave up. So we had glazed kulich instead of iced. I like the big gold sprinkles I found.

April 10, 2012

The Adjustment Period

I am the type of person that will attempt to grab all the grocery bags out of the car, despite their weight or number, and carry them up the stairs to the front door, risking breaking everything (and incurring a possible dreaded extra visit to the West Orange Shop Rite) just to avoid taking more than one trip. Even though it would be so much simpler (and safer) to just take two trips. Or gasp…even three. I think this all began when my spoiled little self had one chore growing up: after my mom would pick up everyone’s abandoned items downstairs and place them on the staircase, I had to deliver them to each individual’s room on the second floor. To cut my chore duty time in half, I would try to do this all in one shot. I would throw on any jackets, put on my brother’s hats, drape my sister’s clothes over my arms, all while balancing stacks of my mother’s food magazines and my father’s thirty seventh all-in-one mini tool set from Walgreens. I remember being pretty good at this; however, I also have distinct memories of being yelled at after tiny screwdrivers and wrenches that turn into nail clippers would inevitably come tumbling down the stairs.

The one good thing about this is it was practice for apartment living. I don’t really have the comfortable option of two short trips from my car to the front door since my only choice really is to drag all the bags at once for several metro stops and a good 30 minutes total of walking on the street. Sure I could hail a gypsy cab, but what’s the fun in that? For some reason I choose to nervously reach for my key while holding two slipping bags on my shaky and sweaty pinky (not sure why I can’t put the bag down in the hallway, but just go with it), praying I don’t drop the one with the carton of eggs in it and crack them all. Yes, that has happened. I wouldn’t be a Pavlenko if it didn’t…Flash back to several trips to the grocery store: my mom holding an empty container on top of 7 others in her hand. Around her, salad, dressing, or blueberries spread (or bounce) across the entire produce aisle while my mother quietly, but forcefully, tells me to ‘just turn around, and walk away’. I think I’m starting to understand where I get this from…

…I am letting myself get distracted. The point here is that this little habit has at least eased me into one of the adjustments of apartment living in Moscow. Really having to carry your groceries in one shot. But please, I’m a pro. Just ignore the coffee dripping down my hair and into my face. Yes, that has happened too. The harder change for me was mastering shoe removal upon entering the apartment. In the beginning I was tripping over groceries and overheating in my coat (when does that come off??) while balancing on the tiny entrance rug, afraid to step off until I took of my shoes. Russians From Russia (RFR), will take their shoes off upon entering their or a friend’s apartment. It makes sense since Moscow is a very dirty city, but it raised so many questions for me I kind of stressed myself out. Do I need to provide slippers for guests? Will they understand we are here temporarily and don’t have extra slippers? Should I bring my own slippers to a friend’s apartment? – or would BYOS have been on the Facebook invite? What happens if I didn’t bring my own slippers and the ones they have are too small? Do I still wear them? And if I stretch them out? Make them smell?

A lovely change is how great RFRs think our Russian is. They are fascinated that we speak any at all since we weren’t born here, didn’t live here before, and grew up in the States. And our parents weren’t even born in Russia/nearby (except Andrei’s dad). So I speak more confidently even though I know I am making mistakes. Because it’s a wonder I speak any Russian at all. But when I return home or talk to Russians Like Me (RLM) I revert immediately back to English. Because I feel like my Russian to them is much less impressive. Silly. But it’s the truth.

I think my Russian has been getting a tiny bit better. The accents here can sometimes be hard to understand. Or people also just talk really fast. I am taking pilates and the instructor speaks pretty quickly. It’s funny though because even in American fitness classes the instructor could be screaming, ‘Bend your knee!’ in your face and you will still be staring at your very stretched out and straightened knee trying to figure out what to do. But anyway, for the whole first class  I kept thinking she was randomly saying toilet. Pelvis in Russian is taz. A toilet bowl/toilet in Russian is oonitaz. When she would say to stand pelvis width apart, the combination of her sentence really sounded like oonitaz. Made for a confusing first pilates class.

Another difficulty, which sometimes happens to me in New Jersey or mostly in New York City, is not being able to find a lot of things in one grocery store. I feel it more here though. And the stores in the city center, of even Ashan, won’t always carry the same thing, even the next day. There seems to be less consistency.

Hence I used whole, instead of ground, cumin and elbow macaroni instead of orzo in this Spicy Chickpea and Lemon soup (which was almost identical to the delicious Hale & Hearty version):

So, I recently went to four grocery stores in one day in preparation for making traditional Easter (and one more lenten) sweets. Not sure if either store would carry all the spices I need, I picked up any that I saw along the way at each grocery store visit. When I got to the last place on my agenda, I still needed cardamom. I found it. It came in a convenient combo pack with the other spices I had already bought seperately. So if you need ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg…I have plenty to give away.

Because of all the prep for Easter and church services taking place during this last week of our Great Lent (hello, WHERE did the time go?!), our meals won’t be very creative this week. Plus I’m too exhausted from my full day spice hunt to come up with some brilliant dishes to close out this lenten season (no worries though, another lent is lurking just around the corner). So it’s soup, spaghetti, leftover soup, and more spaghetti on the schedule.

But I’ll very quickly share a meal I made (that I thought tasted pretty fabulous) from before our short trip to New Jersey. Judging by the busy week ahead, I don’t think I will be able to work this into another post before Lent ends, and I wanted to get it out there. Maybe someone sick of spaghetti and shrimp can use this (you know, since you would never dare to eat this outside of a lent 😉 ). A little twist on my mushroom patties:

Mushroom & Tomato Sandwiches served with Arugula & Orange Salad

For two sandwiches: Boil a medium size beet until tender (or buy pre-boiled beets). Meanwhile, dice 1-2 tomotoes. Toss in a bowl with 1 chopped garlic clove, fresh chopped basil, olive oil, white balsamic, salt/pepper to taste. Set aside and let the flavors soak. Chop about 3/4 lb of mushrooms (large slices of portobello would probably also work every well). Saute them until tender and liquid has evaporated. While they are still warm, season with salt/pepper and mix in some lenten mayo (I do try not to rely on fake this and that, but the lenten mayo in Moscow is actually quite delicious). Spread some of the mayo plus dijon mustard on one or both sides of some bread, preferably a baguette. Top with the mushrooms then the tomatoes and greens of your choice.

For the salad: Make a dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of white balsamic, salt/pepper. Toss two handfuls of arugula with some of the dressing, reserving the rest of the dressing. Remove peel and pith from one orange and one blood orange carefully with a knife along curves of the fruit – keeping it intact. Slice crosswise. Peel and slice the beet. Top bed of dressed arugula with orange and beet slices, and some black olives. Drizzle remaining dressing (to taste).

April 8, 2012

Zucchini Improv

I just got back from a fun date with my husband at a chain Italian restaurant in Moscow called Mi Piace. I enjoyed a delicious tomato soup from their lenten menu. We happily walked back home in the only slightly chilly evening to find we had walked ‘auto-pilot’ to our previous apartment building on Noviy Arbat (just one identical building over from where we currently reside). “We were due,” Andrei said as we back tracked to our current building.  We were bummed to only have discovered the lenten menu with one week to go. Last time we were there they only gave us English menus (everyone always guesses we are American) which never include the lenten options. This menu at Mi Piace is great because it includes a good variety of options instead of the typical fried potatoes with mushrooms (which I admit I could happily eat everyday for the rest of my life). Variety is key though because sometimes things can get old fast.

A great group was started on Facebook to let Orthodox friends share their favorite lenten dishes. It’s an excellent way for everyone to add some variety to their days of vegan-ness. Despite the vast vegan recipes now available, on Facebook and beyond, I find it’s easy to feel like you keep making the same things, or are ordering the same foods (raise your hands if you’ve eaten hummus, shrimp and pasta more than three times this week!).

In my Russian food magazine, Hleb i Sol (Bread and Salt), I found a nice alternative to the lenten staple of stuffed bell pepper – Stuffed Zucchini. I liked the recipe because it seemed like a hearty dish of just veggies with no rice (which also gets tiresome) in the filling.

In a very simple translation, you take two zucchinis (for two people as a main, or 4 if you are serving with a bunch of other stuff), cut off the ends and then cut them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out the inside of the zucchinis creating a sort of boat and set aside. Drizzle the zucchini “boats” with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven at about 390F for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile chop the zucchini ‘meat’, fennel, garlic, and capers. Cube eggplant, peppers, and onion. Cut some green and black olives in half. Make a ratatouille with all the vegetables, some canned tomatoes with their juice (breaking them up with a spatula while they are in the frying pan). Add a bit of tomato paste, let it all cook, then stuff the zucchini boats and sprinkle with some bread crumbs. Put the stuffed zucchini back in the oven and roast for another 15 minutes. Top with fresh basil.

While I was prepping the dish, our neighbors from across the hall came by to ask if we could look after their suitcases. They were checking out of their temporary apartment but still had some time before their train. Although they were much more pleasant than the very very scary old lady in the other apartment across the hall that I swear was cooking little children in her apartment, they definitely didn’t make us doing them a favor easy! When they came back for their stuff they parked themselves in our kitchen (after 12am) and almost demanded tea. It was all easy to laugh off of course (since growing up we had all sorts of people in and out of our house all the time), except that when they were dropping their stuff off, I was cooking the ratatouille and distractedly added too much of the canned tomatoes. The result was very watery so I had to add some couscous to absorb the extra liquid. Although they didn’t come out like the picture, they were delicious nonetheless. It’s always good to be able to improvise.

…just like I had to improvise with this apple tart when I realized I had no foil. But that was easy – I guess I can’t really call greasing and flouring the sheet pan improvising :). I found a recipe that had a great tip – make a syrup by reducing water, sugar, and vanilla with the apple peels and brush the dough with it before baking. Makes for a delicious crust. I used lenten dough for this and thinly sliced apples. (before baking, top the apples with melted margarine, the syrup and sugar)

April 3, 2012

Love Triangle

We’ve been at home in New Jersey visiting and renewing visas, hence my small break in posts. Not that I was super on top of it to begin with! 🙂

Anyway…we head back to Moscow tomorrow making today a full day of cleaning, packing and prepping. When I was leaving Moscow to come here, I have to admit I was a little sad. I somehow wasn’t ready to leave this place that was starting to feel like home to me. I love so many things about our life in Moscow and despite the mostly freezing weather I have been very happy there. Experiencing so many churches, making friends and slowly getting better with our Russian language. And despite the fact that he has to work a lot and I know he is stressed, seeing my husband proud of his project and so dedicated to his work in itself is worth being in Russia.

So somehow, although we had been traveling back and forth, this time, after two months in Moscow, it was much harder to leave. Even if for just a quick ten days. I got all lame and weepy saying goodbye to my fellow volunteers. I lingered in every room of the apartment until I wasted most of my packing time (kind of like I am avoiding packing now 🙂 ). It’s silly because I knew we would be back very soon, but I think deep down I was afraid that I would remember I also love home. Ten days is enough for me to miss everything that is back in the States. Not that I didn’t before, but I am used to being away from home and I have gotten better at kind of pushing aside those feelings. Bring me back, and all the emotion floods right back into me.

I went to New York City last week to take care of some errands. And it went right for my heart strings. I was uptown, midtown and almost all the way downtown in one quick day and it was dangerous. Emotionally dangerous, that is. Walking around I could literally feel in my chest how much I adore this place. I wanted to hug it. But I’m too cool for that, ahem. Maybe it was the sunshine. Hadn’t seen that for a while 🙂

My mom also came to visit and that made me miss Burlingame and San Francisco in California. What amazing places. I was so happy to see her face, and not through a computer screen via skype. We actually chatted about how awful it is when you are attached and happy in more than one place. For about 7 1/2 years it’s been two for me – West Coast (the Northern California part) where I am from, and East Coast where I went to school and married into. Well, now I have a third. Moscow. It’s a blessing, I know. I am so fortunate – so much love across so many big places. But it’s tough too – so much love across so many big places.

I am happy that we got to see a lot of our closest friends and family. I didn’t realize how much I needed a great gab fest with old girlfriends and I got one. And it was perfect. And I got to use my new food processor for a dinner party meal which I will make sure to blog about soon! I have some catch up to do with some back logged posts, but I will end this one here.

We say goodbye to New Jersey & New York tomorrow, with a little wave in the direction of California. See you in approximately three months…try to go easy on me.

I’m looking forward to our continued adventures in the land of our roots.