Caspian Choir

This time last year I was persuaded to join the Caspian Choir, I hadn’t been in a choir since school aged (complete with red cassock and white surplice). It is a great bunch of expat ladies who meet once or twice a week to sing. We work towards performances throughout the year – at some of the balls, as well as the school concerts and out own recital at the end of the summer term. I missed the recital this year so really hope I can do the next one.

On Friday we were asked to perform by the Baku Rotary Club, who host regular cinema nights. This weeks showing was a French film The Chorus. We sang two songs, Keep You in Peace, By Sarah Morgan based on a traditional Irish blessing and  the second was Girdim yarın bağçasına, a traditional Azerbaijani love song. It is quite a challenge singing the Azerbaijani song as the words and sounds aren’t familiar and the harmonies are very different from those I am used to. (Here is a youtube video of the song with traditional Azerbaijani instruments – we were accompanied by a piano)

It was a really pleasant evening, temperature was perfect and wonderful group of friends to spend it with.

We were all given a rose as a thank you to take home. IMG_1054

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Gregor’s school field trip

Gregor’s year are doing the “How we organise ourselves” unit of inquiry – Public spaces play a role in the social and economic lives of our communities. They are looking at how public spaces are used but lot of different types of people and at the end of the topic they will design their own park.

This week they headed out on a field trip to tow parks in Baku, Zabitler Park and Yeni Yasamal Park. Gregor took a camera so I was looking forward to seeing some photos of the parks and what they got up to. This is what came back:

There were a lot more photos of cars, these are just a highlight. However they are all the photos that were taken at the park. Just three, two of which were of cats (one real one statue).

Oh well, it obviously kept him entertained on the bus journey.

New supermarket

I haven’t written very much about food shopping in Baku, which is odd as it takes up a lot of my time. There aren’t any big supermarkets here, just small to medium sized ones. And there isn’t one supermarket that you can go to and get everything you need. I go to a combination of shops now and, after a year (!) getting much better and knowing which one to go to when.

So I go the Meyevli, a greengrocers based near Sederek fruit and veg market. Then I go to Grand Mart if I am looking for meat and tinned tomatoes, I go to Bizim for store cupboard essentials – pasta, tinned beans and chick peas, cleaning products that sort of thing – and Bizarre store if I am passing, or I failed to find what I wanted from the other shops (or because I like their plain flour). All of them have milk, bread and cheese though not necessarily the brands that I want and have a small fruit and veg section as well, so useful for topping up. Grand Mart is dry so no good if you want a bottle of wine. There is also Gastronomy, which has a lot of imported products and prices to match, but is great if you just want a taste from home you can’t find else where.

Last week a new Bizim store opened, so today I went to check it out.

It isn’t as big as the old Bizim but it is a very clean, modern supermarket and closer to Stonepay so will definitely be added to the rota.

Testing the mini fire pits

Having brought mini fire pits/BBQs for Guides last week, we all felt that we needed to test them to make sure they worked. And obviously a sunny Sunday is 34 degree heat was considered the ideal time to have a fire in the back garden!

We roped in some extra children and headed off to gather firewood, in the scrub land behind the tennis courts. We easily managed to get enough small bit for kindling as well as some bigger branches for proper burning.

We then headed to our back garden to get everything going, we used tumble dryer fuss as the tinder, but probably didn’t need it as all the word was so dry it caught incredibly quickly.  And it wasn’t too long before the marshmallows were being toasted and enjoyed by all. Gregor likes his marshmallows extra blackened (you can see how hot it was that day by how sweaty he is in the last photo).

The Guides will have a lot of fun with these, perfect for practising fire skills and they can use them to cook with in the summer.

Hunting down random things.

I seem to spend a lot of my time hunting around for various bits and bobs that either I, or my children need or things for Guides, which I am often not looking to use for their original purpose which can make disturbing the items harder.

This weeks lists was

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A practise drum pad for Gregor, he has just started drum lessons, from the TISA music academy. He wants to get a full drum kit straight away but we want to a) protect our ears as long as we can and b) see that he really wants to learn to play the drums and will practise. This was probably the hardest item to find this week, but we eventually tracked one down in a music shop in the Baku Outlet Mall (at the bus station). Electra just fancied being in the photo.

IMG_0980A cheap keyboard, Katrine and I have started singing lessons, so I need something to be able to tap out the tune and rhythm to sing to. I don’t need anything fancy or particularly good, so I’m happy with this. It cost 70azn (£43 at today’s exchange rate), from a music shop in Sederek (row 12). Cheap and cheerful and does the job.

IMG_0981 (1)A giant bag of polyester stuffing. This is to make Liquorice a dog bed (which he is currently using curled up at my feet). Katrine made herself some curtains – well she got some ikea curtains, cut them to size and added heading tape, which I count as making curtains. Which left a large bit of material left over, just perfect for a dog bed. Here is the finished article and the dog being very happy sleeping on it.

4 mini BBQs for my Guide unit. We are going to have a fire skills meeting (we are thrown out of our regular meeting place for a week as there is a volleyball tournament), the girls will have to light their our fires in small groups with no firelighters or starter fluid. They will then toast their marshmallows to make s’mores. Plus we can use this to cook on when we camp in the summer.

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I’ve passed my defensive driving

And I have a certificate to prove it!

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To drive here in Baku BP insist that you go on a defensive driving course (the same as they do in Korea), this is on top of your regular license not instead of it. The driving in Baku is not the same as back in the UK but it is improving and more of the rules are being followed than they were 10 years ago.

Our course started off on the wrong foot as we went to the wrong place. Which I was quite happy with as the first place was a bit intimidating.

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The new place is  very nice house in the Badamdar region of Baku, which had been converted to a modern office and teaching rooms. The course started with the theory, mostly all known but it is always useful to have a refresher, it is very easy to get complacent about driving and forget about the hazards and how much information you need to process on a daily basis.

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My UK car, I love my little yellow Clio.

Dougal 2, our car in Baku.

Dougal 2, our car in Baku.

Then was the practical, which I had been dreading. We have a Mitsubishi Pajero (or Shogun if you are in the UK) which is way bigger than any car I have driven before – though Richard says it is similar in size to the car we had in Korea I disagree, it feels a lot bigger. And it is certainly bigger than the car I have in the UK!

Richard went first and then it was my turn. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected, yes the cars crowd round you and make more lanes than are marked on the road, yes there is sudden lane changes without indication. But there was no crazy driving and I love the traffic lights having a count down telling you when they will next change. The only difficult is roundabouts, sometimes they are true roundabouts, like I am used to, sometimes you give way to the cars to your right entering and sometimes (if there is a yellow rectangle) the main road has priority. There are signs to tell which is which but they are sometimes hidden in bushes and trees. I’m sure I will get used to it.

Not actually been driving since the test though. I am a wuss and I’m putting it off as long as I can. I think I might give it a go on Sunday and head out of Baku a bit.

Katrine’s birthday party

Katrine has had 2 birthday parties this year – one in the UK with family and then another one this weekend with her friends here in Baku.

She chose to have an Alice in Wonderland themed party and we ordered a few bits and bobs in advance from the UK, party supplies are possible to find here but it can be a hunt and you are not necessarily going to find exactly what you want. When Amazon is so easy.

Katrine made her own dress, she has written a bit about it on her blog, we didn’t have a pattern so had to create that first, which we did using baking parchment. Really pleased with how it turned out and it is nice to have made it herself.

We also made a toadstool cake, using a hemispherical cake mould from lakeland and a cleaned beans tin.

IMG_0949 IMG_0950We can’t find fondant icing and aren’t sufficiently good at baking to make our own so we tried marshmallow icing instead. Surprisingly easy and fun to work with.

  • 100g marshmallows
  • 200g icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp water
  • Microwave the marshmallows for 30secs
  • Add the water & stir with a greased spoon
  • Microwave for a further 30secs at a time until melted and smooth.
  • Gradually add the icing sugar until all mixed in.
  • Kneed on a greased surface for 5 minutes until smooth and pliable.

We used 3 packets of Haribo Charmallos (as they are easy to find everywhere here) and used all of the pink about about half of the white. The pink was for the top of the toadstool and the white for the base and to make white spots. Very pleased with the results.

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We also made a batch of jam-tarts, you can’t be the Queen of Hearts with out jam tarts can you!

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Hopefully a fun time was had by all.

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