Tag: Russia

A Writer's Day in Moscow

Moscow is a city of wonder especially in the winter. The hardest adjustment here is learning to grocery shop in bursts. While we have one-stop shopping available, it’s not as convenient to either get to (you have to have your car to haul the groceries back) and unless you get there when they open or very early in the a.m., stores such as Metro (Cash&Carry) and Auchan are so busy that you have to add hours to your shopping trip. And of course, there is the sticker shock.  I paid the equivalent of $9.00 for a pint of raspberries yesterday. I needed/wanted them for a dessert I’m making for a dinner. A luxury, yes, but sometimes in the cold and often gray days of winter the simple burst of red from a raspberry can be paradise.

I prefer to support my local vendors when I can, which means a trip out to the kiosks that are sprinkled all around the metro stations. So many of you ask me what a typical day in Moscow is like–there is no “typical” day. But here’s a glimpse…

I began the day with my usual morning routine–coffee, prayer, coffee, writing. Did I say coffee? Actually I don’t drink that much, and keep my caffeine intake low. But I do enjoy that hot drink to coax me awake. Then I prepared to go shopping for fresh fruits&veggies, some flowers, and maybe even take-out lunch from the local kebab/shashlik place. As it was a Russian holiday I was lucky enough to get my husband to go with me, to carry the treasures. I didn’t tell him about my plan to take pics all along the way, so in one picture you’ll see his “okay, how many photos of an alley are you going to take?” expression. Yup, I married a saint and I know it.

A Glimpse of Where I want to go Later!
A Glimpse of Where I want to go later!!

When we walked out of the embassy gate I looked to my left as we crossed the street and spied where I knew I’d be later. Can you see the skaters in between the fence posts? It’s part of the biggest ice rink I’ve ever been on–they flood and freeze a soccer field. And it’s only a 5 minute walk from my door!

My Down Coat Is a Lifesaver!
My Down Coat is a Lifesaver!

Back to the grocery shopping. Check out the snow–we’re in the midst of a record-breaking year for snowfall and temperatures. We stomped and climbed through snow to get to the alley that we cut through to get to the major kiosk area near us–at the Barrikadnaya Metro Station.  Notice the statue that is our protector as we walk through the alley. It’s only one of several magnificent statues on this particular Seven Sister building–there are 7 of these gothic-inspired, “wedding cake” buildings that were commissioned and built in the 1950’s.

There are kiosks for flowers, beer, bread, kebabs, fruit and veggies, rottisserie chicken..pretty much whatever you need when you’re going to or from the Metro on your way home or to some romantic rendezvous (I put this in here to keep your attention). Because of the heavy snow and flat rooftops of the kiosks, the owners have to shovel off the snow, which can be a danger to those of us walking below!

And more alley--yes, I'm taking this photo, too!
And more alley–yes, I’m taking this photo, too!
Our Shortcut Through the Alley
Our Shortcut Through the Alley
Alley Sentry
Alley Sentry
Barrikadnaya Metro Station--Kiosk Heaven
Barrikadnaya Metro Station–Kiosk Heaven

I found most of the fruits and veggies I sought, minus any fresh herbs like parsley and mint, and green onions. It’s interesting to me what can be available depending on the day and time of year.

While I bought flowers, Steve went over to the shaslik place and got us our yummy lunch–tortilla wraps stuffed with  roasted meat, veggies and a great sauce, then put in a panini press. Our teenaged kids were grateful for the snack.
Fruit and Veggie Stand
Fruit and Veggie Stand
Shoveling snow off the Prodykty (Produce) Kiosk
Shoveling snow off the Prodykty (Produce) Kiosk
My-My's, Can we go there for lunch?
My-My’s, Can we go there for lunch?

I was distracted for a moment when I saw the new My My (moo-moo) restaurant that’s opened near the zoo, also near the Barrikadnaya Metro. My-My’s has a tasty, affordable selection of Russian faire to include borscht, beet salads, roasted meats and pemeni, the Russian verson of tortellini/ravioli.

On the ice in front of one of the Seven Sisters
On the ice in front of one of the Seven Sisters

I was lucky to be able to finish out the day as I’d hoped–on the ice. My kids took these pics, and while I’ve come a long way from skating during the Blizzard of ’77 in Buffalo, New York, it’s a great thing to be able to get on the ice again, all these, um, many years later.

I hope you get to go out and make the most of your day, wherever you are, whatever your abilities, limitations, blessings, or crosses.

It’s how you feel, dahlink, not the date on the birth certificate!

Yes, I'm really on skates!
Yes, I’m really on skates!

Now this is Russia!

Steve on the Volga
Steve on the Volga
Our family went to a winter resort north of Moscow this past weekend. Whatever winter activity you dream of doing…cross country skiing, ice skating, cruising the frozen Volga river on a snow mobile–it was all there. But from all of the great activities to chose from, I have to say walking on frozen paths and taking in the spectacular scenery was my favorite way to pass the time. Oh, and the Turkish bath! My newfound quest–can I have a Turkish bath installed in my dream retirement home?

Frozen Volga River
Frozen Volga River
I actually forgot how much I love a sunny winter day. I grew up in Buffalo New York, so I had plenty of winter days, and know what a dazzling effect the sun has on new fallen snow. But I’d forgotten…living in the middle of Moscow, I’ve gotten used to getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible (usually via metro, where the tunnels are so warm and cozy). It’s often overcast and rather gray in the city, as well, which made this sunny weekend all the more invigorating.

As a child I loved the winter–it was hands-down my favorite season after a beautiful autumn in Western New York. But as the years have gone by and I’ve had the privilege of living in sunnier climes, I somehow decided that I don’t like to feel as though I’m freezing.

It’s time to regain my love of winter and enjoy the beauty of a frozen wonderland.

Our Weekend Dacha
Our Weekend Dacha

While I may live thousands of miles from home, I keep in touch by getting the daily weather updates for Annapolis, MD and Buffalo, NY on my email account.  My friends and family on the east coast are taking a major hit right now, with historical back-to-back blizzards and record snowfalls. The most important thing in all of this, as always, is to stay safe and healthy. If you have your health, and it’s safe to go outside, I encourage you to get out and soak in the spirit of winter. It’s beauty is like no other.

My Computer Blew Up and the Red Piano

No, really. Okay, it was just the power source, and it was my fault. I knew that the computer, just like the monitor and other electronics we have, is dual voltage. But the computer, UNLIKE the other electronic items, requires one to flip the physical switch on the back to “220v.” I didn’t. I was trying to conserve transformer usage–I blew up a transformer a couple weeks before the computer, as I printed out the revised copy of SASHA’s DAD, my June 2010 Harlequin Super Romance.  Laser printer + 362 pages + small transformer = loud “pop,” smoke, horrible odor, tears of frustration.

A writer is a professional, though, and I finished and turned in the revisions on time. No excuses, ma’am. I didn’t like using the “family” computer but found myself practicing gratitude that I had any computer at all. How did Charles Dickens do it? By hand.

More good news is that the computer appears to have only lost the power source–I should be able to use it, eventually. The tech hasn’t returned it yet. And I deftly manipulated these events to justify the purchase of a new laptop for moi. I use an alphasmart (think small word processor, very portable) but I need Internet hook-up and an ability to edit on the road. The flight back to the States from Moscow is 10 hrs–that’s a lot of writing time. The laptop will be lovely to have.

I have so much to share about my new life in Moscow. I’ve been to so many fantastic places to include the honey market (think wine fest/tasting but with a rainbow of honey colors and flavors).

Last week I fulfilled an adolescent dream (that’s a long time ago in my lifespan to date) and saw Elton John on his Red Piano tour. His voice is so powerful at 62–he rocks! And he played the old songs I grew up to–many from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The number that remains with me a week later is Someone Saved My Life Tonight. While Elton and his marvelous band played, a mini-film of a younger Elton struggling (I interpreted) with his addictions lit up the screen behind the stage. While the images were sobering (no pun intended) and grotesque, I found the overall presentation to be incredibly spiritual. I left the concert wanting to write the best stories ever, to contribute my best work to the world of art.

I promise many incredible photos of Moscow and Russia in the next post, provided that my computer is returned and/or I receive my new laptop in the mail by then. Keep on doing whatever it is that brings you joy in life!

Moscow is for Writers

I’ve lived in Russia for over a month. An entire month–longer than most vacations, shorter than any Navy deployment I ever completed. Yet I feel the hands of the Russian culture as they beckon me to explore.

Reminders of this nation’s culture and history are everywhere. From the statues throughout the city, to the breathtaking views along the Moscow River, to the varied architecture, it’s obvious this is not a young country by any means. Moscow was founded in the middle of the 12th century. Keeps my own years in perspective–I’m still young!


What’s impressed me most is the constant flow of ideas for my writing. Whether I’m looking at a statue of Pushkin on the Old Arbat or watching folks sunbathe in Gorky park as I float down the river on a city cruise, ideas and themes abound.

I had an opportunity to visit Tolstoy’s estate, approximately 3.5 hours south of Moscow. Used to these types of bus tours, I packed appropriately. Knitting helps writing ideas come to mind, and I have a notebook with me  at all times.

The bus ride was bumpy and seemed endless at times, until we wound through the town of Tyla and then into Tolstoy’s estate grounds.

The Road to Tolstoy's EstateThe view as we started our walk is one I’ll always treasure and associate with Russia. The birch-lined road felt more like a cathedral as the sun filtered through the tallest boughs. The white bark contrasted with the lush greenery and it was clear this was a place of respite and serenity.

From the cafe-laden streets of Moscow to the majesty of one of Russia’s, and the world’s, greatest author’s home, I daresay this is a place for writers.