Christmas away from home


Well everybody loved the soup and I expect I will have to make it again! I haven’t had a single soup that I’ve tasted before since I’ve been here so it was nice to have something as familiar as tomato soup. I made gingerbread with the children. They loved baking with me and I got the feeling they hadn’t done it before or had gingerbread before!! I did not enjoy it as much as them as it was sooooo sticky!! I found it so difficult to work with. Saying this, I loved seeing the children having a good time. It was a bit of a failure trying to cut out the shapes before baking so I decided to bake and then cut which worked fine, plus there were scraps to eat which everyone loved. I can honestly say it was the best gingerbread I’ve ever tasted! But I won’t be making it again in a hurry! The best part for the children was decorating. Elizabeth was so funny with the sprinkles and Daniel was sweet enough to let me have a go. I will definitely bake more with them. It was slightly too tempting for Elizabeth as it was so good she did not want to stop eating, which is not good since she’s diabetic, but it was nice for her to take part and taste something different.

We went to a Charlie Brown Christmas concert at the San Francisco symphony hall. Daniel and I loved it! It was arrangements of Christmas songs performed by an orchestra, as well as a choir and a famous opera singer, during the first half. The second half was an amusing performance of a Charlie Brown story which was very entertaining. Daniel particularly enjoyed singing ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’ at the end.

I have also been to two restaurants recently with the family. I have not exactly broadened my horizons food-wise so they took me to a Chinese restaurant. All of the food was served in the middle of the table for everybody to try. I tried all kinds of things, from fried shrimp, to crab, to duck, to sea-bass (too oily), to frogs (which I actually enjoyed!), to shrimp dumplings and so much more. It sounds like a sea-food restaurant from what I’ve described but they must be the things that stood out most. Anyway, I was so intrigued and happy to get to try all of this new food and was so surprised at what I liked, which was most of it! We also went to an Italian restaurant, much to my delight as I would be able to eat my king of food, pasta, again. It was Luba’s leaving meal since she is going back to Estonia (she is Russian but lives in Estonia) because her 90 day limit was up (Estonians do not need a visa for 90 days but she could not obtain a visa to stay longer and she has a family in Estonia). Once again, Ilya suggested ordering for everyone and having everything in the middle to try, however, I asked for a particular pasta and so had a bowl to myself which I was pleased about. I had meat ravioli with a meat and tomato sauce which was very good. Then I was encouraged to take some of the other food (there was so much) to try. There was a buckwheat pasta which I did not like (in the house they eat buckwheat a lot and I am not a fan at all!!). There was a lovely squid ink pasta which turned Anya’s mouth black. There was wild boar which was absolutely delicious. And, of course, Daniel had asked for pizza which I enjoyed tasting very much.  I also drove to and from the restaurant which was good practice. I’m finding it very strange driving here.

Anya’s parents arrived this week so there are a lot of people in the house. They are nice and very Russian. I received a wooden bracelet from them when they arrived. One of Elizabeth’s gifts from them was a gorgeous white fur coat – so splendid. I was pleased to meet them but the dynamic of the house changed when they came which was another adjustment for me and, of course, more Russian speakers means less English speaking which as left me out at times. They are staying for 3 months so I will have to get used to them. They shared a bedroom with Elizabeth and Daniel slept in his parent’s room wile Luba was here. Elizabeth rejected me for her grandmother, which is understandable, but she is coming back to normal again now and wanting to play with me again. I feel slightly intimidated by Ira, the grandmother, I think because she keeps telling me off in Russian. It is difficult since we don’t understand each other and do things a bit differently. But I do like Ira and Sergei and Sergei is always trying to get me to eat.

We had a party on Christmas Eve with lots of guests. I had been asked to watch the kids before dinner which was fine. However, some of the guests started talking to me and I talked and watched at the same time. Ilya came and asked me to watch them more closely since they were getting a little out-of-hand. I felt like I was not doing my job so quickly went and stayed with them until dinner. I felt overwhelmed since there were several children and I had no idea exactly what they were allowed . At first I stopped a sword fight and tried to take a sword from Elizabeth after she hit Daniel but I was told off by Ira. So I let it be and she put down the sword anyway. There was one boy who was very boisterous and unruly and led Daniel into running and play fighting. He was my target and I told him sternly not to go into the kitchen as it was dangerous. With me watching intently, he soon calmed down. Then a game of hide and seek broke out and the children were upstairs before I could think about whether they were allowed or not. It was at tis point that Ira came to check Elizabeth’s blood sugar. Of course, the kids were running wild trying to hide and she told me to look after them. Another failure! I then ushered everyone downstairs and a more sophisticated game followed. I felt a bit left out since the guests were all having fun, but I was soon gotten for dinner.

There was so much food! We had salad and cold meats to start. Then eggplant with mozzarella. Then duck and potatoes. Then Yule log and pound cake. Then pears in red wine sauce. I was stuffed!

Christmas day was not much of a Christmas day and I was really sad to be away from family and friends. The best part was that I made Yorkshire puddings, which were a huge hit and everyone wanted more. I will have to make them again. Luba wanted the recipe. The downside was the mess in the oven that I had to clean.

Today Luba left an she is a massive loss. I don’t know what things will be like without her.

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