On my way back from Wisconsin I took the scenic route up along the Mississippi River. (click for larger view)
Another Beautiful Day!
I drove down to Wisconsin for my mother-in-law’s 100th Birthday. She was born in Ukraine and lived through many experiences, good and bad, but she is still enjoying special times with family.
It was truly a beautiful day.
May 8th, Victory Day or VE Day, marks the end of World War II in Europe. Due to the time changes, the Russians celebrate this occasion on May 9th. They have military parades on Red Square, civilian parades down city streets, run old war movies all day on TV, and they gather with family and friends to eat and make many toasts. The USSR suffered the most casualties of any country during World War II, estimated at 27 million. China comes in a distant second with 10 million. Indeed they have reason to celebrate.
I was in Moscow in 1995 when Boris Yeltsin pulled out all the stops to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this day. Celebrities from all over the world attended including US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major, French President Francois Mitterrand, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
We were living in an apartment on the 5th floor right on Tverskaya, one of the main streets downtown that led right into Red Square and on the parade route.
One night we were shaken out of bed in the middle of the night. I thought it was an earthquake, but it kept going and going and after a while I thought we were being invaded because it sounded like large trucks. I looked out the window and there were huge tanks rolling down the middle of our street in the middle of the night. What was going on? Turns out they were practicing for the big military parades on Victory day. This went on for several weeks.
On May 8th, we were glued to the BBC watching the celebrations in the UK including the church service at St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace with the Queen and the Queen Mum. From there BBC took us to Paris and we saw the parade around the Arc de Triumph and down the Champs Elysees.
We took the video camera and went down to Red Square and saw the big banners and the stage set up. The Hare Krishnas placed a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (very surreal). We ran into some high school students from Wisconsin who said they were part of a marching band. We figured they were just on some school trip.
On May 9th we didn’t have to leave our apartment. First we watched the parade on Red Square on TV. Then the Communists paraded down our street so we watched them from the balcony and later in the day those tanks came rolling down in formation.
The last parade of the day was the marching bands. And in the middle of all the marching bands was the McFarland High School Band from Wisconsin playing “On Wisconsin”.
The 70th Anniversary celebrations last week were the largest in Russian history but President Obama and the EU leaders chose not to attend this time.
Any gathering in Russia starts with Zakuski. These are the warm ups, the small plates, the appetizers. They can include beet salads, potato salads, cabbage salads, pickled mushrooms, pickled herring, dried fish, caviar, or any other thing you can think of. Just so there is lots of it. For the toasts, vodka is the staple, followed by cognac for desert. Sometimes champagne precedes the vodka.
Here are a couple of my favorite Zakuski (they are easy to make):
Julienne (Mushrooms in Sour Cream)
1 lb mushrooms
3 Tbsp butter
1 ½ Tbsp flour
1 cup sour cream
½ tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper
Slice the mushrooms. Sauté in butter for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring. Add sour cream and lemon juice. Keep the heat low and cook for 15 minutes more. If the sauce seems too thin, sprinkle in a little flour or if too thick add water. The sauce should be like thick cream. Season with salt and pepper.This can be served in individual cups or all together in a large dish.
Cucumbers in Smetana (Sour cream)
2 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
3 Tbsps chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsps chopped fresh dill
1 ½ cups sour cream
2-3 Tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
½ tsp black pepper (or to taste)
¾ tsp salt (or to taste)
Toss and chill
Last year was a busy one. Some challenges and some fun.
My child’s father, Nicholas, died a year ago today after a battle with cancer. In February we traveled to Milwaukee to bury him. We stayed a couple of extra days and saw the Quadracci Pavilion and the Alumni House at the University of Wisconsin.
In March I spent four days in Miami reunited with old friends.
In July we went to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A beautiful amazing place – Public Gardens, Halifax Part Two. This piece was so good somebody stole it and put it on their Facebook page claiming to have written it themselves. After asking him politely to take it down, I had to write to Facebook to get it off.
I had a promotion on Amazon that gave away my memoir, Expat Alien. I was surprised when 712 people in the US and 103 people in the UK downloaded it. I hope you all enjoyed it! Write a review on Amazon!! Help me out!
In November it was a quick trip to New York City.
What will the New Year bring? My son graduates high school and goes off to college. I’m going to Europe in June. Anything can happen, and probably will. Let’s hope we all have a great year!
We decided to drive to Wisconsin this year because I wanted to bring “the chair” back with me. We had a lovely family gathering for Christmas as usual. On the way back we packed the car up the night before and started out at six a.m. It was minus 12 F.
As we entered Illinois the sun was rising.
The cold produced steam-filled air in Indiana.
Ohio was uneventful but it started snowing in Pennsylvania.
It started feeling like home when we hit the Maryland gateway.
And then crossed the bridge into Virginia.
Today we woke up to snow again.
The weather is following me.
Here We Are and There We Go by Jill Dobbe
Jill and her husband were school teachers in Wisconsin USA when one day they moved half way around the world and their lives changed drastically.
Like Jill’s children, I was born into the nomadic life of the serial expat. I lived in West Africa, Mexico, Asia, South America, and Europe, so I can identify with many of her experiences. I grew up speaking different languages, like her children did, and I continue to have the travel bug today. Like her children do.
What truly amazed me about this book was that they just jumped headlong into it with no safety net and blinders off. They made the decision to move to Guam almost on a whim. They didn’t even know where Guam was. That was either very gutsy or completely crazy. And what was even more interesting was that they stuck it out, learned, and grew through it all.
It didn’t sound like Guam was the dream South Pacific location we all imagined. It actually sounded pretty challenging. But they worked through it and learned a lot. That made their next posting to Singapore a bit easier. Of course Singapore was probably not a hardship posting. But they were still half way around the world from family and friends in a place with a different culture. They seemed to breeze through that one.
By the time the got to Ghana they were seasoned travelers. Although, having lived in Nigeria myself, I know that Ghana was probably not paradise either. But as they came to understand, there are wonderful things all over the world. You just have to be open to them. Jill and her family discovered the joy, frustration, sorrow, and unending surprises one finds when traveling.
I might be reading something into this but it seemed to me they decided to return to the USA for the sake of the children. Their children spent their high school years (or most of them) in the USA learning to be US citizens. This probably made it a much easier transition for them in the long run. It might have given them a clear identity at a young age. However, from my experience, it doesn’t work. My son returned to the USA when he was six and now that he is about to enter college all he dreams about is going overseas. And it seems their children were the same. They were happy to continue traveling.
Returning to the USA was a difficult transition for all of them. Jill says she realized people were not interested in her stories and could not relate. I know exactly what she means. It is so far from what people know, it is difficult to imagine and therefore not interesting. Re-entry is a challenge for all expats but travelers know how to adjust and tweak and adapt. Jill and her family were no exception. They had a good few years back home with friends and family but the itch was still there.
At the end of the book they leave the USA again for distant lands and new experiences. I think Jill has more to tell. Perhaps she will write part two some day!
Check it out, it is worth the read!!
I visited Madison, Wisconsin recently. It is the capital of Wisconsin and has a capital building housing both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature as well as the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Governor’s office. It was recently the site of a major demonstration against the Governor that ultimately led to the people of Wisconsin voting on the repeal of the Governor. He was not repealed.
The building itself was completed in 1917. The architect was George Post of New York and it cost $7.25 million to build. It is 284 ft, 5 in. to the top of the dome, three feet shorter than the capital building in Washington, DC.
The white granite on the outside is from Vermont and makes the dome the only granite dome in the United States. It is the also the largest dome by volume in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Inside the rotunda there is marble from Greece, Algeria, Italy and France; limestone from Minnesota; red granite from Wisconsin.
It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001
The state of Wisconsin is known for Beer and Cheese. Come people call Wisconsinites, Cheeseheads. It makes a perfect combination. Beer and Cheese. So why not… Beer Cheese Soup? Coincidentally, I am on my way to Wisconsin so this is going out a bit early this week. Enjoy!
1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken broth
3 cups milk
1 12 oz bottle beer
3 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar)
Cook onion and butter
Blen in flour and seasoning
Stir in broth, milk & beer
Stir constantly over medium heat
Boil & stir until thick
Garnish with popcorn