Sunday, December 30, 2012

Musing

30.XII.12
Kristen says...

I saw this over the weekend at a store and thought, 'I wonder if this will be what my shopping cart looks like in Russia?' (Minus the pink plastic, of course!)



KF

Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter Wonderland! Snow! Family!

23.XII.12
Kristen says...

Happy Birthday Christopher!! :)

Holiday greetings from the great state of Iowa!! :)

I have been struggling a little with finding my "Christmas" spirit this year because this is the first year EVER I have not been on a school calendar; it's the first year ever I have not counted down to Christmas with my fellow students or co-workers...it's weird.

Luckily Chris' and my Russian departure date was pushed back so we could take time to come back home for Christmas....

Unluckily this happened on our way home:
We drove back to Iowa to make life easier on Pip, but Mother Nature decided not to make life easy on us. We made it through Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and half Ohio on our first day unscathed, and the next day had a dry 2nd half of Ohio, a VERY wet Indiana, and a great first half of Illinois...and then, Winter Storm Draco hit.

It started out small, nothing two Iowans couldn't easily get through:
But it very quickly grew:


And then we started seeing cars in the ditches:
And then we couldn't see anything at all:

We drove into the storm thinking we would drive straight through it, but after passing our highway exit backed up over a 1/4 mile, we decided it was easier just to stop for the night in Monmouth, Il, just over 30 miles from the Iowa border. So close!

Of course, the funny part of that story is that we were traveling with a dog...and Monmouth is not a big city...and it only had like, 2 hotels...and the one hotel that accepted dogs was full...and so we had to sneak Pip into our 2nd floor hotel room... :) He was a VERY good boy and we left a nice tip for the cleaning staff (not that he made a mess...but there was probably some excess hair floating about...)

Anyway, despite "driving not advised" warnings, early the next day we got back on the only road that was open out of town and got to witness all this:

 We even almost got stuck in a miles-long traffic jam! Thank goodness for rest stops! :)
Of course, by the time we (finally) made it to Iowa the roads were starting to clear, but it was pretty dicey for a little while, especially because the wind was so high and the roads really were pretty icy...
But anyway, we made it, and have started to celebrate all the fun things about Christmas. We had Chris' birthday and Christmas gifts/meal with his family today, and will do the same with my family tomorrow. We also got to meet another new niece, Chris' brother and his wife's new daughter. Good times. (Brings the niece and nephew total to 4, in case you are keeping track!)

We hope that you all made it through Draco unscathed, and that any traveling you are doing this holiday is safe and event-free! Happiest holiday wishes, Merry Christmas, and we hope you have a wonderful 2013 and will keep reading about all our crazy adventures!!!
 -The Finks

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Little Things Add Up...Time is Ticking!

14.XII.12
Kristen says...


First of all, for any readers in Connecticut, or anyone with small children, my heart bleeds for you in light of today's tragedies...not only did horrors occur at a school in Connecticut, but children were also slain outside a school in China...as a teacher and an aunt this truly concerns and saddens me...

Also, I apologize (again) for the long blogging hiatus. We are getting closer to leaving, and so are getting busier trying to fit things in.

Among the things we have done recently: Shopping!!
I can't believe how much "stuff" we "need" to go to Russia...food, clothing, a happy lamp...
Yep, we got a happy lamp. If you close your eyes and sit real close, you can imagine that you are on a warm Caribbean beach...it's lovely! (and will probably be really lovely in Vladivostok!)

I also (FINALLY) got a new coat (which you can see in the pictures below)...also, the handsome man standing with me (the non-statue) is my dad, who came to visit this past week!

(If these pictures are giving you déjà vu, don't worry; yes, Chris and I went to Monticello a few months ago...but Dad had always wanted to go, so we went!) :)
Pip also got a new coat! Lucky dog!
We had some other fun times with Dad, among them visiting the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and watching my "Russian Spectakle" today...

On the very first day of Russian, even before we started learning the language, the heads told us about the Новый год (New Year) party and film festival, and we have been working on it ever since. That event was today, and I was really happy both Dad and Chris were able to come watch!

In order to really get into the spirit of the even I joined the choir...I got to learn Russian songs and I also got to dress in a fun Russian outfit!
 Not only did I sing, but my classmates and I also made a fun video which was one of 14 shown at the festival: (Don't worry...the movie is in Russian but there are English subtitles throughout! Also, it's only four minutes long!)

And even better...we were voted first place by the attendees of the event!! We won the Golden Pinecone!! :)


So Russian's not going too badly...it's still not really fun, but most days I feel like I am getting somewhere...

I also took a progress test a few weeks ago, and got pretty positive results--at least, I tested better than I thought I would, so that was exciting! I take my official language test after the Christmas holidays...And then we're off!
So soon...
Other than that, life is just tripping along so quickly! Basically we have just the holidays, my test, and then we will be packing out and off to Russia...I am so excited for this new adventure, but nervous as well...it's going to be VERY interesting! What an adventure! :)

KF

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Too Much Food!! (Happy Thanksgiving!!)

22.XI.12
Kristen says...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Also, Happy Birthday to my sister Michelle, my sister-in-law Katie, AND my cousin Madden!

I hope everyone is enjoying sleeping off their Turkey-hangover...we certainly are!


We have actually been full basically all week...we started the Thanksgiving glut a little early...

We have passed the 5-month mark since Chris started his training, and some of his classmates are heading out to post as early as this next week, so the good-bye parties have begun. We started this past weekend with High Tea at the local Ritz Carlton hotel...and oh my, was it good!!

Not only was there tea...
 But there were also tea sandwiches...

And that was the beginning...next came the dessert...

Most of the people got their desserts served on multi-tiered serving trays, but since I have a tree-nut allergy, they brought me my own, individual, nut-free plate...
 And my own individual serving of nut-free CREME BRULEE!! SOO GOOD!!!
 So this was basically my lunch...
 This is what the bottom of the chocolate-dipped strawberries looked like...
 And this was our last course...I couldn't even eat it I was so full!
 It was beautiful, but WAY too rich...

So basically I was full from that experience for most of the week...and then came today...

We had planned to be in Iowa today but had some things changed in our schedules and now it seems we will be home for Christmas instead (yay!) so at the "last minute" we ended up being here for the holiday...not that that meant we missed out, because we were invited to TWO Thanksgiving feasts, one that started at 4:00, and one that started at 5...needless to say we had no shortage of food. :)

While I can't claim Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, I do appreciate the ability to legitimately make some foods that normally don't show up on my table...

For example, NOODLES!!

These have long been my favorite part of both Thanksgiving and Christmas; my Grandma's noodles. Of course, Grandma was busy making noodles for God today, so I had to make them for myself. This was made considerably easier by a nice friend who loaned me her rolling pin, since mine is packed away in storage.






Another favorite Thanksgiving/holiday food for me is pie. EVERY year for many years I spent the day before Thanksgiving baking pies with my other Grandma. Since she was making pie for God today (it's a sad trend in my family...), and since I had the rolling pin, I decided to make my own pie crusts as well, instead of using the Pillsbury ones I bought.

I also didn't have a pastry blender, but thankfully I learned how to blend pastry without one at Living History Farms (seriously, that internship was one of the most worthwhile things I did!).





 Chris specifically requested pumpkin pie since he wouldn't be home to have his mother's, and I specifically requested French Silk, and used my third Grandma's recipe...luckily she is still around for me to call and ask questions to, and it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. I even made my own whipped cream!



I also made two corn bread casseroles, one for each of the Thanksgiving feasts we attended...it was a good day, but I am WAY too full...

Still, it was fun to have the time and reason to make delicious food!! (Much more fun than spending the day studying Russian!)

The best part for me is that now I can listen to Christmas music without people looking at me like I'm crazy!! :)

Excuse me while I start decorating for the holidays... :)
KF

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Veteran's Day Weekend in DC (and surrounding areas!)

17.XI.12
Kristen says...

Hello again!

I have really had a veterans-filled last couple of weeks! Of course, I had the delightful visit from my veteran Grandpa (and my mommy!) when he came on his Honor Flight in October, and this past Monday we had the day off to celebrate the sacrifices of those veterans on the Veteran's Day holiday!

Thank you Veterans!!

We celebrated the weekend with friends and on our own...

On Saturday a group of Chris' classmates and we went to the Air and Space Museum's "companion facility" out by Dulles Airport...it was the first time I'd seen that museum and it was pretty neat! I especially appreciated it since my Grandpa was in the Army Air Corps during WWII and they even had the type of plane he flew at the museum! They also had historic information about the War and the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first of the two atomic bombs on Japan.



We also saw more recent airships:

So big!! I had to go way high just to get most of it in the picture. It had a really interesting texture--it looks like a patchwork quilt!
We were all bemoaning the loss of the Concorde and thinking about how much more quickly we would get to post if they were still flying!



We also had a little bit of fun in the Gift Shop...



The next day we decided to go to Annapolis, MD, mostly because Chris wanted to drive our NEW CAR!! (see below) and because neither of us had been to Annapolis before. So we went!

Annapolis is a beautiful city! And very pedestrian and dog-friendly. We had a nice breakfast and bought an apple and apple cider at a small farmer's market near the wharf, and were treated to patriotic displays by midshipmen from the US Naval Academy:
Later we walked over to the US Naval Academy and went through the Visitor's Center there. It was during that stop that Chris and I heard a small group of people speaking...ПО-РУССКИЙ! (RUSSIAN)! :)

I told Chris that I kind-of wanted to say hi, since I can kind-of speak Russian, and he encouraged me to do so, so I did...and I kind-of sounded like a moron, (I said, (I think) "Excuse me, are you speaking Russian?) but we had a nice, short English conversation with a nice man from the Ukraine who was, indeed, speaking Russian with his friends. :)

They were looking at this...
...which is the name tag on the suit worn by one of the astronauts aboard the Мир (Mir) Space Station.

So that was not as successful as I wanted it to be (as we were walking back to the car I kept saying to Chris the things I should have said instead of what I did say) but at least I tried.

Anyway, on the way to Annapolis, I made the suggestion that Chris and I go to Hershey, PA "on our way home" (haha it was two hours north of Annapolis, so it was a random way to go home!) and he agreed, so we did!

We had a great couple hours at Hershey World; we took a "factory tour," saw a 3-D film with dancing chocolate, and even got to make our own custom bars:


Mine was milk chocolate with semi-sweet chips. Chris' was milk chocolate with pretzel bits. They were delicious!! We also purchased two HUGE peanut butter cups and some bite-sized candy...and we even have a bit of of it left! :)

We saw something really cool when we left Hershey, something I hadn't seen before:
If you've never seen it either, I'll tell you what it is...it's a car-charging station!! Way to go Hershey!

Of course, neither of our two Veteran's Day trips would have been possible without this little beauty:
Our NEW CAR!!!
We purchased it (it's a Toyota RAV4, in case you're interested) the Saturday before, and we have had so much fun being able to drive it around!!

Chris also had another milestone this past week...he "graduated" from school (even though he still has a few more weeks of class!)
Isn't he handsome?
I also bought a new coat! It's black, hooded, and supposedly "waterproof"...I'll believe it when I see it...

So that's what's been happening in our neck of the woods...

I continue to take Russian classes 5 days a week...I feel that it is going pretty well, but we'll see. I scheduled my final test for a few days before we leave to go to Russia, so I will be interested to see how well that goes...luckily I only have the pressure I am putting on myself to do well, and not the pressure of having to preform for a job! :)

I hope your Veteran's Day weekend was long and relaxing! :)
KF