Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 is here

It is hard to believe that December and January have gone by in such a flash.  We had a great time back in Washington and Oregon over the holidays.  The weather was cooperative so that our trips on I-5 were uneventful.

On December 26, we took Mary and David and Peter and flew down to Las Vegas for a few days.  It is very handy to have a direct flight from Bellingham.  It was sunny there, but not quite as warm as we would have liked.  We wanted to see Cirque du Soleil's Beatles Love show again and we wanted our kids to experience it as well.  We all enjoyed it thoroughly and we had some good times together celebrating Mary and David's fourth wedding anniversary and David's birthday, which is also in January.

Once a year, our flight back home gets to be in business class, so it was a little more comfortable.  We got to fly back together which always makes the travel better too.  Since I've accumulated so many frequent flyer miles, I was allowed to have an extra checked bag.  That was soon filled with all sorts of goodies like Triscuits, frozen sausage patties, and of course, fabric.  Besides the fabrics that I need personally, there is always some shopping to do for the crafts group.  We've figured out that getting ready for that bazaar in November should be a year round effort, so we are hard at it again.  I also decided to bring my newest Bernina to Baku.  Although my little Elna Stella is a great machine, there were a lot of sewing things that would be easier with a newer, better machine.  So I padded it with some clothing and packed it in my carry on bag.  Thank goodness Ed was with me to heft it into the overhead bin.

Having a better sewing machine here really gave me a boost in January.  I've decided that 2012 is the year of the scrap, which means that I'm trying to make a major dent in all of those scraps that I brought here with me.  It's been fun keeping track of just what I've done with them, and I'm going to try to continue with that throughout this year.

When we were first back here in January, the weather was quite nice.  The days often included some sunshine and temperatures in the high 50s.  Then we came to Martyr's Day, January 20.  Twenty years ago on that day, the Soviet military slaughtered over a hundred people on the streets of Baku.  January 20 is now a holiday when the Azeris like to visit the cemetery on the hill.  The president always takes a walk there and there are usually traffic jams because so many people want to visit the same site.  This year, the weather was horrible that day and it hasn't improved much since then.  It has snowed several times and it is very cold.  Ed has been sent home from work early more than once, and the schools have been closed.  Since Baku isn't used to snow, they don't really know how to deal with it.  I've stayed in a lot.  Even when it hasn't been snowing, all those tiled sidewalks are horribly slippery.  Today we've finally seen some blue skies and the temperature warmed to 47°, so maybe we are going to go back to having normal winter weather.  Fortunately, we didn't suffer the power outages that some of you in the Pacific Northwest had in January.  We did lose power for one hour one evening, but we were already on our way to bed anyway.

Last night was one of the major social events of the expat community.  There are a lot of Scottish people here so they have formed a Caledonian Society, which puts on the Burns Ball and supports several charities.  In past years they've had a St. Andrews Ball in November and a Burns Supper in January.  This year they combined those two events into one and called it the Burns Ball.  This is in celebration of poet Robert Burns' birthday, which is January 25.

It was held at the newly opened Hilton Hotel.  It was our first time in this new hotel and it seems to be very nice.  As we arrived, they had a photographer set up to take our picture.  Then we were handed a glass of champagne.  We had purchased our tickets with friends, so we all got to sit together.  The decorations included miles of tartan swags and table runners, and the centerpieces had a thistle flower and purple and silver balloons.  There were bagpipes, of course, for piping in the haggis.  A band had been flown in from Scotland, so there was dancing after dinner.  They also read some Burns poems and there were a few speeches.

First we had a very nice salad, which was followed by Scotch Broth (a nice warm up on such a cold night).  I was advised to order the vegetarian haggis since I'm not too excited about the ingredients in the traditional recipe.  Ed had the traditional variety.  We both poured a little whiskey on it and it was quite tasty, along with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed pumpkin and carrot (neeps).  The menu noted that this is as close as they could get to neeps in Baku.  My Scottish friends tell me that neeps are mashed turnip, but not the variety that we are used to; theirs is a sweeter, bigger turnip.  Dessert was a heavy chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream and a berry compote.  There was also a piece of candy in a little silver bag at each place.  It was called Scottish Tablet and seemed to be a combination of butter and sugar.  The table also had boxes of Scotch shortbread, a bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey, and a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream along with both red and white wine.  The waiters were very attentive, so we never had to wonder where our next drink was.  We finished the evening feeling more than well fed.

The new Hilton Hotel was the first of the new ones to open in the main part of the city.  We can see that several more are nearly ready.  There will be a new Marriott, Four Seasons, and a Fairmount.  I'm sure that they are all racing to be ready for Eurovision in May.  We can see from our window the construction of the Crystal Hall out near the big flag.  That is supposed to be the venue.  A German construction company is building it, and they've said that it will be done by the end of March.

This will be another big year for travel for us.  Ed has a week off in March for Novruz (a celebration of spring) so we will be home to see the family.  Mary has started her student teaching in North Bend, Oregon so we will drive down there.  Peter is working on his senior project.  They should both graduate in June so we will be home for that too.  Then our niece, Kelly, will marry Adam on Labor Day weekend so we can't miss that event.  And of course, the last trip of the year is for Christmas.

As I've mentioned earlier, it is time to get our new residence permits.  The Azeris have come up with some new hoops for us so they aren't ready yet.  Two days after we returned we had physical and psychological exams at the clinic.  Apparently we passed those exams so now we are waiting.  If they aren't ready when I want to leave on February 25, there is a method for leaving without it.  I've got my fingers crossed that they will be ready in the next couple of weeks!


  1. So enjoyed this! Can't believe that Mary and David have been married four years already. Boy, time does fly. And I guess I haven't seen Peter in years because I didn't recognize him. Very handsome young man. I do hope we get to see you on one of your travels home but understand how much must be crammed into a few days, but keep us up with pictures anyway! Have a lovely Valentines Day.

  2. Great to hear of your time in Baku! I use my Elna Stella for everything on the boat but stop at 3 layers of sunbrella. She is an amazing machine that can sew with UV thread. I am thankful for her. Have fun with the new machine. deena