Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Expat Holidays

We had a Christmas party this past weekend. Sasha had the brilliant idea of sharing the hosting duties with two other neighboring households, sort of a progressive dinner type of deal. We got the opening spot which meant that Ivan was in bed by 9 and Sasha had the house cleaned up before midnight. Awesome.

Never this many people in our pad.

Even better, of course, was that everyone had a great time. We served some appetizers and drinks, including a Mexican version of hot cider and Sasha's seasonal Swedish meatballs. We had lots of folks come through the house and we are officially feeling very Christmas-y around here.

Yule-in' it up

As usual, Ivan worked the room much more successfully than his parents. He really took to our friend Alla's mom who is visiting from Moldova.I daresay she liked him as well! There seems to be an international language of grandmas...

Ivan's dancing impressed the ladies and as the evening went on and he got sleepier, he started to really cut loose. Lucky Laura was entertained as he did his whirling dervish routine.

Now Ivan isn't the only baby on the block and he had to share the limelight with little William, who has the most appealing laidback attitude and is adorable to boot. This kid is a total angel and was a perfect party guest!

Speaking of angels, LouLou was banished from our party because she gets a little devilish around buffets. Earlier in the day while we were cooking and generally running around like maniacs, she had helped herself to several gulps of raw ground beef. So gross. Shame she was grounded as her best friends, Jeff and Meredith, came by the place and Jeff was even wearing his festive puppy-dog pants!

The party moved on next door to the Skarstens for the real holiday fixings including a sugary-delicious ham and real-deal eggnog, and later things carried on a little further down the corridor at Miss Gallagher's for the late-night crowd.

Least likely party hosts ever aka Dessert, Main Dish, and Appetizer.

Sasha's got one more party to throw this week when she cohosts a neighborhood baby shower for our favorite Angelenos, The Catheys. And the parties will only continue as we welcome Grandma Kathe and Uncle Sam next week for Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cough wheeze

This past week has been a bit of a doozy. Sasha and Sergio, especially Sergio, have been sick --- Mexico City's air quality seems to have reached some new lows this holiday season keeping everyone sneezing and wheezing. People even wear surgical masks around town on days like this:

That's not sunlight.

Pretty grim. But Ivan has been trying to keep us lighthearted by telling us jokes...

Okay, so this duck walks into a bar...

...wait wait wait, did I say duck? I meant a gorilla...


He's a regular Don Rickles. In general, Ivan is pretty full of himself these days.

He sits like a champ and he thinks he's started crawling. In reality, though, he doesn't really crawl, it is more of a scoot. And he only scoots in one direction - backward. Nothing makes him happier than mugging in the mirror and he has started screaming in outrage when you take away one of his toys, or worse, don't leap to retrieve one he has tossed from his high chair. Oh, and he drives like a real chilango. He has one of those little driving dashboard toys and he is constantly laying on the horn and generally demonstrating a proclivity toward aggressive recklessness...

Out of the way!

Speaking of driving, we did get a chance to get out of our dirty old town when we headed out to the countryside to get our Christmas tree last weekend. Our neighbors caravaned out there with us, sadly it turned out to be a never-ending journey with the 30 mile trip taking three hours on the way home. Really. We have decided we are never going anywhere in our car ever again.

Luckily, we did find a tree and that was pretty fun. Also fun: Father and Son pretended to be Elmer Fudd.

Wabbit season!

Duck season!

And our son the arborist continued his ongoing research. You cannot tear this guy away from anything with leaves.

We brought home this little fir.

And it will make its debut at a Christmas party we are hosting this Saturday night.

The other big story this week was the introduction of another diner to our household. On Ivan's 1/2 year birthday, we gave him his first taste of food. The kid quickly put to rest any doubts that he wasn't ready for solid food by basically attacking the bowl and snatching the spoon out of Sasha's hands and trying to stuff the whole thing in his mouth. We're kind of blown away by how quickly Ivan's growing up. Next thing we know he's going to be taking us out for a steak dinner and announcing his engagement.

Tears of joy/insanity

Finally, Sasha is very close to becoming one of those infamous government contractors. She got a job offer this week and once the miles of paperwork is completed she hopes to be gainfully employed while still spending most of her time hanging out at home with Ivan and LouLou. Hooray for the privatization of public services! What will she be doing exactly? Good question, but one hint is that her paperwork is coded: DETECTIVE/ARMORED CAR.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mayor of Turkeytown

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday this week! We're looking forward to a weekend of turkey sandwiches and unpacking Christmas decorations around here (ok guess which one of us is looking forward to which part of that sentence...).

This past week or so we've had some actual chilly days. We had to fire up the plug-in heater a couple of nights --- to give you an idea of how totally reasonable the weather is here ordinarily, we are equipped with neither central air nor central heat. And we rarely miss either!

We also had an unexpected emergency: our TV died. The cathode-ray tube era has finally ended for us. Apparently the life expectancy of a Sony Trinitron that Sergio "bought off some dude in West Campus" is about 5 years (not bad). We thought we could hold out for a while but literally within hours Sergio was walking the streets, window-shopping for a replacement, and within 24 hours the LCD flat-screen era had commenced.

That's flat, baby!

One fun part about a little chill in the air is dressing Ivan up like some kind of kooky elfin child.

"I live under a bridge and 'll eat your children..."

Or as a fancy Polanquito, courtesy of his fancy French footies.

And just in time for the holidays, Ivan's teeth have made their world debut. A little over a week ago, a little needle-sharp bump appeared on his bottom gum, and now we're looking at TWO of the little chompers.

Look real close:

He's like an upside-down Bucky Beaver.

Most of the time, though, Ivan tries to hide his new dental equipment.

We're only test-driving the high chair at this point. Ivan will try his first "real" food on December 7th, his half-year birthday. Gulp.

Its a shame he couldn't partake of the feast we enjoyed around here yesterday. The neighborhood potluck was extraordinary with 3 beautiful turkeys, a fleet of side dishes and an embarrassment of desserts. We had excellent company, a gorgeous evening and lots of leftovers.

Gorgeous presentation...

Turkey 1...

Turkey 2 (3 ended up being far too much).

Ivan works the crowd.

We love the crisp air of autumn, but turkey dinner outside at sunset next to a swimming pool is pretty nice too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Viva La Revolucion Day (off)!

We had a nice long three day weekend here in Mexico. As we've mentioned before, we have the great pleasure of celebrating both American and Mexican holidays and Sergio had Monday off for Mexican Independence Day.

We took advantage of the break to finally get around to a return visit to our favorite food market in the city, San Juan. We recruited our pals and neighbors Kate and Michael to accompany us which was great fun as they are extremely well-traveled, especially in the world of markets. Kate is a fantastic cook and also happens to be pregnant with her first child, due around Valentine's Day. Kate and Michael got a chance to see what is in store for them, family-wise, as we loaded up Ivan in the car seat and circled the city in our station wagon looking for parking. Baby = No more taxi rides!

We made it to San Juan early, and actually even stopped at the Ciudadela (artesania market) on the way there for what Sasha likes to call "the Christmas preview." But before we get to Christmas, there's still Thanksgiving and we saw a lot of turkeys at San Juan that looked like they might like to play a starring role at an old-fashioned American pilgrim fest:

We skipped the big birds for now, though, and concentrated on getting the fixings for a paella we planned to make that night. It turned out to be one-stop shopping as the market stocked everything from saffron to giant briny shrimp to chorizo. After the market, we were able to introduce Kate and Michael to a fabulous pastor stand that was even yummier than we remembered. The food festival continued as later that night, Sergio showed off his "I studied in Spain" cooking skills.

It really should be more yellow than that.

We were impressed!

Later that weekend, we cruised around Polanco's strangely empty streets (these folks take holidays really seriously) and found our favorite fast-food joint was doing its usual brisk business. We adore cochinita pibil, and this place is awesome. It is all they serve. We ducked in for a bite and then let Ivan spend some time with his favorite trees at the park.



We wrapped up the weekend with the discovery that Ivan does indeed have a little tooth poking through his bottom gum. A sharp little number, too. Ivan is taking it in stride, and seems to be more interested in practicing his bodybuilder poses...

He's a pocket Hercules!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Condesa Kielbasa

First things first, Sasha went to the dentist for Veteran's Day! With Ivan's teeth on the way (we hope! or else we have to come up with a new explanation for this fussy,drooling dude), Sasha decided it was about time she take some responsibility for her own dental health and set a good example.

"I'll punch the teeth!"

Also, it turns out that a super dentist is basically across the street from our house. And you can get same-day appointments. So Sasha had run out of the lame excuses she'd been using to avoid the dentist for the last few years. Yeah, years. Horrible huh? Happily, even with her brazen negligence the dental visit went well. Only one snag: the dentist did suggest she get a retainer. Welcome back 1988! Stay tuned for those awesome photos.

Besides Sasha's personal dentist drama, we've been trying to get outside to enjoy the glorious weather around here. That's trickier than we'd like because these dry sunny days are also filled with a whole mess of pollutants and we've all been suffering a bit from them. And now we roll in Ivan's new "aubergine" stroller set-up. Goodbye blue baby bassinet, hello all-terrain purple cruiser.

We did the usual Saturday morning market/bakery/park routine.


Boats! (and cops?)

And then we headed off to Roma and Condesa for a double-header of family favorites: flea market and sausages!

First we cruised up and down the avenue looking at junk in Roma -- mostly old books, amateur art and a strangely large amount of Beatles/Simpsons paraphernalia.

After that we walked on to Condesa and the sausage haus for a bite to eat. Sergio had spotted an ad in a diplomatic trade paper boasting of this place with dozens of sausage varieties so we were pretty excited to check it out. Consider it research for our upcoming stint in Poland!

Sergio loves signage where the food you eat smiles at you.

Overall, we thought the sausages were pretty good,and the beer selection above-average (meaning some choices beyond Victoria and Indio). We were disappointed, however, with the mustard. French's? How pedestrian. Mexico just isn't a mustard country. Of course when we're drowning in the stuff in Warsaw, I'm sure we'll be dreaming about table salsas.

This week Ivan went to his 5 month doctor visit which went swimmingly. He's not big, he's not small. He's healthy and doing all the stuff he's supposed to be doing. A quick, dull doctor's visit is just the kind we like! Dr. Hirsch summed it all up by telling us that Ivan "looks very nice."

We think so too, so we'll close out this entry with some more Ivan The Gordito snaps. He's getting to have a real sense of humor.

Delicious baby-face, grrr...

Sausage rules!