Saturday, January 20, 2007


Ok, we're still in the process of renovating the kitchen. And by "we", I mean Chris. He does all the work and I can't even help with simple things such as painting. I'm happy to say that the new cabinets are in and look great. Also, Chris widened the existing pantry and is turning it into a niche for our new side-by-side refrigerator (and it's counter-depth too!). He moved beyond cosmetic touch-ups (paint, minor drywall repairs, etc) to bigger and better things - some carpentry, some electrical work, doing new drywall, etc.

This is work in progress for now. Today Chris is fixing drywall and doing some electrical work. We should be getting our new quartz counter-top in a couple of weeks. After it's in, we'll be able to put in our new ceramic-top slide-in electric range and our almost new dishwasher. Hopefully the fridge will go in place within a week or so. As soon as the plumbing gets hooked up to the new undermount Corian sink, we'll be in business. And I can't wait since all those microwaved dinners are aweful!

Cold Snap, Flowers, and Melted Cheese

... all happen to be signs of our wedding anniversaries. First, it gets predictably cold. Just last weekend, it was a balmy 73 degrees here in Raleigh. But a couple of days before our anniversary the weather soured and temperature plunged to lower 30ies. Finally, we even got some snow that stayed for longer than 5 minutes. This is nothing new to us. After all, on the day of our wedding in Key West, with its average yearly temperatures of around 75 degrees, it dipped down to lower 50ies!

Last year, I thought that we'd turn this anniversary into a mini-vacation and go on a 3-day cruise or something like this. But with me being too pregnant, we can't even drive to the mountains for a weekend, since it's more than an hour away from my doctor's office. Which, after all, is not all that bad considering how much money it saves us to stay home. And Chris has been spoiling me with all the gifts. I already wrote about the spa package. He also got me these nice flowers. Look closely and you can see the coded love message. I guess it says that I'm fun like all the yellow and pink flowers, bright like the white ones, beautiful like the lilly-looking ones, undemanding like ferns, fragile like baby-breaths, and am overall the most adorable thorn-in-one's-side a husband can wish for (that's the prickly flowers).

We also went out to our traditional anniversary restaurant, the Melting Pot, for dinner. Of course, there are plenty of choices around here for a decent restaurant. And for a while I struggled between the Pot and the Angus Barn (which only sounds suspicious, but is apparently very classy and its chef defeated Iron Chef Cat Cora on the Iron Chef show). Ultimately, the Melting Pot won because fondue rules! So we had a 4-course fondue meal consisting of a four-cheeses fondue, a California salad, a Mojo style entree with a mix of shrimp, chicken, raviolli, and beef, and a chocolate-marshmallow fondue for desert. Since it was our anniversary, the hostess snapped our picture, table-side, and even framed it in a nice frame. And then on the way out, we asked her for another picture, this time - with our camera (it's taken in the wine-cellar, so the lighting really sucked).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Spa 101

For our upcoming anniversary, Chris gave me an early present - a spa package. It included an hour of massage, a manicure, a pedicure, and some other nice things. So I finally, for the first time in my life, went to a real spa.

I tried very hard to listen to all the instructions, not be late, do the right things, and in general not to embarrass myself. Oddly, I succeeded. First of, I arrived almost an hour ahead of time. I was shown into the changing room and handed a key to my own personal locker. I was to change into a soft white rob with the spa's logo and a pair of comfy white slippers. In the locker, I saw another matching piece of fabric that looked like a sarong wrap. Eager to use 100% of provided services, I put it on as a skirt underneath the rob. Then I proudly shuffled into the relaxation room where the patrons wait between the treatments while helping themselves to snacks and water. To my utter surprise, I noticed that none of the other women were wearing "skirts", only robs. I sensed danger and quickly retreated back to the locker room to get rid of the "skirt". As I put it back into my locker, I realized that it was indeed a body wrap of a kind used when getting a neck and decoltage treatment! Humbled by a near-miss, I returned to the relaxation room and stayed away from snacks for fear of committing another faux pas. Finally, the other women left for their treatments and I hurriedly ate a saltine cracker and some grapes.

Then it was time for my first treatment - a massage. Since I can't get a real deal right now, I had to settle for a Mother-To-Be special massage. Actually, it was absolutely great! The massage bed was extremely comfortable complete with an oversized and, get it, heated body pillow! A warm blanket, dimmed lights, and soft music relaxed me and almost put me to sleep even before the massage session began. As for the massage itself, let's just say one thing - the following night was the first time in my pregnancy when I did not have any back pain!

After the massage and a brief stop at the relaxation room, I continued on to the next station - the pedicure. I'd never had one done before so I have no basis for comparison here. I thought that everything, from a cushy chair that not only reclined, but also massaged, to hot oil treatment to the color of nail polish, was wonderful. I traded my fluffy slippers for a pair of pink flip-flops and merrily flopped across the hallway to the manicure room.

All my previous manicure experience was limited to Vietnamese salons at various malls across the country. These are usually very crowded, noisy, and smell of acetone and other chemicals. This was a whole different affair altogether. There was no unpleasant smell and the only sounds were soft music and trickle of water from the fountain. The treatment that I got was also much nice and more thorough and included an exfoliating rub, a hand massage, and a parafin treatment. The last one gets to be boring since you sit there for 5 minutes with your hands wrapped in plastic bags wrapped in fluffy mittens. But I entertained myself looking at my newly painted toe nails.

After the manicure, I got an eyebrow wax and a haircut. Oh, and all the while, I was sipping cucumber water. I'd never had it before, but it is really pretty good. It taste more cucumbery than the cukes you buy at a grocery store and is very refreshing. Plus it has a certain snobby spa quality to it unlike say lemon water.

So all in all it was a great experience! Now I'm spoiled for life. I'm already looking forward to returning for more massages (hot stone one would be nice) and maybe some exotic facials.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Our Neighbors

We finally met most of our neighbors. No, we did not go door to door with a basket of freshly-baked muffins. I always thought that it was a bit lame. Instead, on Thursday night, one of our neighbors, Ellen, stopped by and invited us for a social at a local restaurant the following night. And so, over some really good food (mine was a monster plate of tilapia and grilled shrimp over pasta) we met and chatted with Ellen and Doug, Heather and Will, Sybil, Amanda, and others. Yes, we were all wearing name tags, but I still managed to forget some of the names. The entire social went so nicely, that we decided to have another one a couple of months down the road.

The next day, Saturday, was one of those perfect-weather days, that makes you want to get out of the house and do something, anything, just to be outside. Unfortunately, Chris also had to start demolishing the kitchen. We still managed to get out for several hours and go on a walk and have lunch at the Village Draft House, a sports bar in Cameron Village. When we got back, we were basically assaulted by girl scouts trying to sell us boxes of cookies. I really-really hate this whole thing. First of, why don't girl scouts think of something creative for once to raise money. The whole thing of turning little girls into peddlers of sugary trans-fats filled crap made by some ABC Foods or Little Brownies Bakers is pretty disgusting. Not like boy scouts are far behind with their popcorn and candy bars. And it is virtually impossible to say no to them either since their neat appearance and a pleading look make you feel like Grinch that's about to steal not only Christmas, but Easter and 4th of July as well.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year

Our first New Year's Eve in Raleigh turned out a lot better than I thought it would. I guess, I should take it as a sign of great things to come and adjust my usually rather pessimistic outlook accordingly.

First of, I got a very pleasant surprise at work - a promotion to a Project Manager (up from a mere Project Coordinator) and a very nice raise. Better yet, even though I went in fully prepared for some serious negotiating, it was not to be - my boss brought up the promotion and the raise himself. And since what he offered was about twice what I hoped to get out of the year-end review, I was simply stunned. Miracles do happen :)

Another nice surprise was that we were not busy at all on 31 December. And we even closed early, at about 3:30pm. That never happened before. Usually we get these awful last-minute projects right before a holiday that keep us busy until all hours. For example, for Christmas in 2005 I didn't get off work until after 7pm!

But the biggest nicest thing that happened was that my parents finally made it to NC. They arrived on Friday afternoon bearing gifts. Their blue Toyota, quickly dubbed "Welcome Wagon" was loaded with enough food to serve a holiday feast to a small and ravenous nation. Along with food, some baby stuff, and IKEA furniture, they brought plenty of crazyness and disorganized authoritativeness that distinguishes my family.

In the next 2 days we tried to show them the area, secretly hoping that they would like it enough to consider moving within the next couple of years. We already had rosy pictures of free baby-sitting on select weekends and generous helpings of freshly baked four-cheese pirogis (my Mom's specialty). And so we tried to go to the Monet exhibit, which was, as usual and to my father's great relief, sold out. And we took them to several of the stores that they do not have in Rockland County, NY (i.e. Trader's Joe). And we fed the ducks at Lake Jonhson. And we went on short walks along the greenways and around the neighborhood. And we drove through the downtown, pointing out all the advantages of living in the capital city. And did I mention reviewing real estate prospects in the area? Alas, that was not to be. It's not that the parents remained completely unresponsive to the area's attractions. It's just considering our past, they don't entirely believe that we'll stay put for any significant length of time. To be honest, we're not that certain either, again, given our previous history of almost semi-nomadic existence.

For New Year's Eve Mom pretty much took over the kitchen and I was not going to object either. I was a bit sick and anyway, it was getting rather difficult to move much with a size 42 belly. But I did my fair share of holiday cooking. I made a pot roast (ok, so it was pre-marinated and then done in a slow cooker; but I did cut the veggies) and an apple pie (ok, so what it had crust made out of Pillsbury sugar cookies). And Mom made a traditional "Olivier Salad" and tons of little sandwiches and other yummy stuff. So our little card table was positively overflowing with food. Chris made me proud by eating not one, but two herring sandwiches! I think he's getting more and more used to weird Russian food. Mom drank two tablespoons of champaign and got tipsy. Dad entertained us by calling all his friends and acquaintances to wish a happy New Year.

Xander, oblivious to the holiday, stretched out on the floor acting cute. We stayed up until midnight and heard fireworks at the FirstNight Raleigh celebration in the downtown. All in all, it was a very nice New Year's celebration. And the important thing was I finally didn't bother making any resolutions!