Thursday, July 10, 2014

Can't Think of an Interesting or Fitting Title

Just, like, "Life," or something, maybe?  Anyway, blogpost title creativity notwithstanding, things are going pretty well at Wandering Family headquarters these days.  Production has paused at the pine nut facility while we try to sort out the sales side of the business, so that's given time to return to language study and things while we wait for all that to be arranged.  (Please lift up sales, by the way; we need to get a few contracts for regular sales soon in order for things to operate smoothly through the fall.)

Anyway, Bobbie has returned to her cake baking as an occasional thing to do to help build relationships and to just enjoy her hobby.  Above is a recent example she made for a friend's wedding, and she already has a deal arranged to do another wedding cake next month.

Below is what really takes up all our time; two active boys!  The summer weather is the perfect time for us to get outside and enjoy the limited months we have where outdoor activities are possible, so we've been doing that as much as we can.  And of course, like for all little boys, a bit of tree climbing is always fun!

I think I may have introduced you to our swing before?  Matthew got a swing for his birthday; the local swingsets are all broken or have parts missing so we take our own rope.  It's really easy, actually - I pre-tied all the ropes so all we have to do is swing them over the swingset, tie one knot and voila! - a functioning swing.  The boys love swinging, and then after a half-hour or so we untie it and take it home (it would definitely get stolen if we left it up).

I haven't taken a picture of the garden in a few weeks so this is when everything was still just coming up, but it's been a pretty decent success.  The iceberg lettuce and chard aren't doing well, but the spinach, salad greens, corn and even okra (much to my surprise, that last one) are doing OK.

I know, to look at me you definitely wouldn't think "That guy probably really likes a leafy green salad" but it's true, I do!  It's probably down to craving it since we don't get any fresh vegetables for a really long time in the winter, and when they're available in the summer I wolf them down whenever I get a chance!  Throw a few radishes and pine nuts in with these fresh greens and it's like heaven.

Sorry I don't have a lot of pictures this month.  Please keep lifting us up, as I mentioned we need to get sales going for the pine nut business very soon, plus we're trying to get back into language study so you can be thinking about that as well.  See you again soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wandering Faster

Well, I've already had more than one person ask if we were pregnant again (!), so I guess I didn't word that bit on our last post about how we had a "big surprise that will change our lives" very well!

No, just to clarify.  It's a surprise that changes our lives, sure, but not THAT much.  It is something that allows the Wandering Family to increase the range and extent of our wandering - a new car!  Well, not new.  New to us, though.  It's a 2005 Toyota Succeed, with the extremely dubious figure of 160,000 kilometers on the odometer (many Russian cars have had their odometers wound back).  Not that we're complaining, though, it's the first time anyone in our family has owned any car that was fewer than 10 years old, and we love it.

Obviously, purchasing a car meant taking a trip over the mountains out of T-land, to a magical city known as Krasnoyarsk.  Ah, Krasnoyarsk.  A city with peanut butter and marshmallows in the stores, a city with fast food restaurants with displays for kids to poke their heads through for photos, a magical place!

Sadly, I didn't actually take very many pictures there.  It would look too much like your home city to be interesting, anyway.  Much better is the beautiful Siberian scenery on the way:

Eventually, driving our own car (full of peanut butter, marshmallows, and the like, of course), we got back home.  One tire blowout on the road, but fixed quickly enough.

I must be turning Russian, because where in America I would almost never wash my car, I felt a compulsion to go down to the river to enlist my sons in a project to immediately wash off all the dirt the road had added to our new baby.

They hated it

Oh, and I just popped this post up really quickly to avoid any more of you thinking we were going to announce a pregnancy any time soon (seriously, not happening), but thought some might be interested to see the latest progress in our little experimental garden.  From front: American spinach, sweet peas, salad greens, and Russian spinach, all growing nicely so far.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Summer is the best, isn't it?  Especially when it comes after 7 months of winter!  So, what do we do here when it heats up?

Well, Bobbie does this year-round, but the first picture I have is of some of the cakes she made this month.  She started doing this a few years ago for some friends and it has blossomed into a sort of tiny cakes-for-order business.  No money is made, but fun is had, and more importantly relationships are strengthened.  This one was part of an order for a party for some kids leaving kindergarten to start school in the fall.

Above: school-related items, below: a copy of a Russian cake she found online with a stylized figure going off to school.

Last post we mentioned Matthew's birthday, and one of the presents he got was a swing.  Unfortunately, all of the playgrounds we have here are missing their swings (with one exception - I think we posted a picture of the lone surviving swing in the city a few posts back?).  Anyway, we don't leave this one out on the playground because it will get stolen but I rigged up a way to hang it up with ropes and we can set it up in just a few minutes every time we go outside.

The other fun outdoor project of late has been a garden!  Our pine nut facility has to have a rather large area as there are sanitary requirements for the septic to be at least 50 meters from the well.  So, we have a lot of space behind the building that's not being used for anything, and we decided to take advantage to see if we can't grow a few things there.  Just three raised beds (all Russian gardens are raised beds, pretty much), so it's more of an experiment than anything but the boys still love it.

Of course, all of our friends think the expanse is the perfect place to plant potatoes and can't understand why we wouldn't just do that.  Perhaps this illustrates a difference in cultural values, but my take on it is that potatoes are so cheap in the fall as to be virtually free, and I don't see the point in putting in all the labor to grow them if I can just buy them for next to nothing.  

So what did we plant instead?  Mostly long shots, plants we brought over from America that we can't get here in the stores.  Sweet corn and especially okra are very unlikely to succeed, but who knows?  If you're growing a garden for fun you may as well take a few chances on stuff like that and hope to get lucky.  Most of the rest (spinach, peas, squash, Swiss chard, salad greens, lettuce, and Brussel sprouts) should do pretty well.  In fact, since I took these pictures a week ago most everything has at least sprouted, so we'll see how it goes.

Our soil had to be reinforced with some organic material as it was pretty much just a sandy loam (I knew there would be some benefit to that soil science class all those years ago!) and the boys have had a great time with it all.

Unfortunately it requires a good deal of water as it runs right through the sandy subsoil, but that's why we had boys, right?  

Found this interesting: a pretty decent-sized snake on our property the other week, sunning itself.  Don't know how they make it through the winters; must be a pretty deep cave somewhere around?

The pine nut facility, by the way, is in full swing.  This is a picture of one day's produce - around 100 kg.  You may think "wow, that's nothing" but it's worth a decent chunk of change and if we can be consistent with that amount we can start heading towards profitability in short order.

Boxes loaded up onto pallets, ready for someone to pay us for them so we can send them out!  Recent contacts with potential customers have been encouraging so hopefully in a few weeks we'll have fewer pallets just sitting there.

This is what the boxes look like right before they get sealed; 4 vacuum-sealed bags of 3 kilograms each in every box.  That's an awful lot of yummy!

 Again, as always, thanks for stopping by.  We love you guys and look forward to hearing from you - see you again in a few weeks.  In fact, we should have a surprise in our next post, something that will be sure to change the lives of the Wandering Family!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy Easter/Birthday to Matthew

You'd think, after so long with no posts, that this would be a long post, full of extended discourse on what we've been up to.  But I'm too lazy for that, so instead I'll show you some pictures of Matthew's birthday celebration and Easter.  Deal with it.  :)

A functional swing!  Can't tell you how long we've waited for one of these in town, and within walking distance of our apartment, no less!

We celebrated Easter in multiple stages.  First, we went out for shashlyk with some friends.  Then, as seen below, Bobbie hid a few eggs in our living room for the boys to find.  I don't think they associate eggs with Easter, really, but there was candy inside and that was plenty of motivation.

For Matthew's birthday celebration, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and went down to the river to engage in his favorite activity, throwing rocks into the water.

His "big" birthday present was from his aunt Andrea and his Papa (Poppa?  I don't think we ever discussed how this is spelled when talking about grandparent nicknames?) and Grandma - a trampoline!  I think just about every day since he's spent at least a half-hour or so happily bouncing away.  It's a perfect combination of a way to get exercise in a little apartment and a toy.

And that's about it, I guess.  Work is going well, we're producing a ton of shelled pine nuts every month or so now from our factory and slowly but surely it's taking off.  Please continue to lift up the business as well as our relationships and friends here.

I will try in a few weeks to get some photos of our latest adventures with the boys - a garden - onto here.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Thaw

Global warming has most certainly taken hold here in Siberia, to which I say ... about time!  It may eventually flood all you guys in Florida, but here it can't be anything but good! ;-)

Anyway, after a particularly warm winter (only -40s for one week!) we have had a really, really early spring.  Where we're normally just starting to melt in mid-April, this year we could see parts of the ground as early as the first week of March and the last of the snow melted by the 20th or so.  We've had sweater weather for about 2 weeks now!

All of which means we can do things like take the boys out for a walk, which we usually try to end down by the cafe we like to eat at:

And, of course, it wouldn't be spring if we didn't go outside and play a bit of footy.  Both the boys are now enrolled in a class at the local football club, where they go to practice 3 times/week.  They're both pretty new to it and still figuring out what to do, but Steven in particular is starting to get the hang of it.

Not everything can be outdoors yet, even if the weather is a bit nicer.  We still have time to have friends over for board games (and you can be lifting these two up, we spend a lot of time with their family):

Last week we even decided to have shashlik (shish-kebab-style barbecue, cooked over coals outside) it was so warm.  Of course, my business partner Scott and I were still working when the evening came (long days at work these days) so in the end we asked our wives to bring the food out there and we made a little fire in the yard and cooked there while we continued to work.

And I'll save the update on the factory and how it's coming for next time.  Suffice it for now to say that it's pretty good news; we have our first sales going out the door and are hopefully on track to start selling a few tons of nuts every month in the very near future.

As always, thanks for stopping by and thanks for remembering us!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pine Nuts!

The lovely Bobbie will, at some point, be on here to tell you all about her "Ladies' Retreat" up in the frozen north, but since it's been too long I wanted to at least post something while we wait.  And, since we have the first nuts off our production line:

Above: Loose-sorted pine nuts.  Below: Vacuum-packaged 3 kilogram block of pine nuts (this bag is worth around $75!)

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Siberian Winter with 2 Lively Boys

So, too busy to keep up with this every week, but I did want to post at least a few pictures of the boys' winter.  At times when it's -40 our small apartment can feel like a prison for them, but Bobbie does a good job of varying the activities in an effort to keep them occupied and growing/learning.

Above we engage in a family game of Monopoly (kids' edition), one of their faves.  Below, dressing up for a party at school.

The snowman outfit was actually part of Matthew's Christmas present, so he put it on Christmas morning to open the rest of his presents.

The boys, who both love to help their mommy cook, got a kitchen toy to practice their skills with and a pirate boat-tent thing.

Poppa and Grandma also got in the act, as they skyped in to watch the boys open their presents on Christmas morning.

Gingerbread house master-in-training.

Of course, we have to get outside some, too.  Even when it's -45 like last week, we can still do it, you just have to cut it short after 10-15 minutes or so.

Sledding is one of the only things to do outside when it's that cold, but it's so much fun that I don't think the boys mind much.

Steven has started football training with a bunch of other boys. He goes 3 times/week; he's only just started this so he's catching up to the other boys a bit but he LOVES it.  Matthew will start next year (if he wants, currently he can't wait).

Oh, and we couldn't complete the post without showing you the jackpot we hit a month ago!  It turns out that there was another foreign family living in town, and they had decided to move back to their home country.  We got word through the grapevine that they were looking to sell some of their stuff (and, of course, this being T-land, there aren't a lot of people looking for Pam spray and Ranch powder).  

Well, we were more than happy to take all of it off their hands!  We've been thoroughly enjoying the Oreos, vanilla flavoring, Crisco, etc.  It won't last forever but it makes a nice break from our regular fare.

And that'll do it for today.  Check back soon for more interesting pictures of the pine nut factory, which officially began production on Friday!