Tuesday, December 31, 2013

С Новым Годом! (Happy New Year!)

Kristen says...

It's 2 minutes to the New Year!! (And that is very apparent from the ramping up of fireworks outside...boy do Russians love their fireworks! :)

There are, I'm not kidding, probably 50 or more different firework "displays" going off simultaneously (Chris says dozens and dozens)...and have been for the past 45 minutes, with no sign of them letting up. It's amazing!

(Pip does not agree...he is hiding in the quietest room in the house!)

Clearly the Russians take New Years seriously!

Here is the city square:

It's a small luge built for children to slide down :)
The city Christmas tree and another icy slide

 Some of the people on our floor got into the decorating mood, too:
 Chris and I had a low-key celebration, "champagne" at 10:30 before Chris went to bed...

Sadly, not very good...but Chris liked the picture on the bottle! :)
...of course, he was right back up once this started! :)

We wish you the best for your New Year's Celebrations, and a VERY HAPPY 2014!

Thanks for following our adventure in 2013, here's hoping it only gets better in the new year! :)

-The Finks

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas from Vladivostok!

Kristen says...

OK so it's a couple days after Christmas (or the day after, depending on what part of the world you are in) but still, the thought behind the expression remains--I hope all of you who read this have had a blessed week, and if you celebrate Christmas, that you enjoyed it to the fullest.

Chris and I had a pretty low-key Christmas celebration this year...in fact, it was the first we've ever spent away from our families, which was sad, but FaceTime and Google Hangouts made it a lot easier!

Christmas always starts a few days early for us because Chris' birthday is just a few days before... (and yes, like me, he turned the big 3-0!)
 We had dinner out with friends then returned home to eat cake...yum
 We had to work on the 24th (something this teacher is NOT used to!) and then were awakened at 5 by an excited dog...of course, he was not excited about what was in his stocking (dog biscuits) but by a trip outside on Christmas morning, then went back to sleep for a few hours until we were awakened again by my family opening presents in Iowa...

It takes about 2+ weeks to get mail from home to here, and the presents that had been sent for me hadn't arrived, but Chris had a few under the tree and in his e-mail inbox, so we were able to take part in the online Christmas exchange.

During that time we also got to watch the beautiful Vladivostokian sunrise:
 Later, after all the gifts were opened we got to work; we decided that we would make all the Christmas goodies we had ingredients for then take plates to the co-workers who were in town for the holiday...
Pretzels with almond bark, molasses cookies and no-bake cookies
Sugar cookies (they later were frosted, but not very well...they're much prettier in this picture!)
Oyster Crackers
 We also made some goodies to keep at home:
Mango pie
Pumpkin pie
 The baking, no-baking and frosting took quite a while, so it was after 5 before we made it out of the house to make deliveries, and due to the heavy end-of-day traffic (most Russians don't really celebrate Christmas, and most that do won't celebrate it until January 7), so our Christmas dinner of corn chowder was delayed until last night.

Not the  most exciting Christmas Day ever, but we enjoyed spending the time together and making new traditions that we can keep when we aren't able to be home for the holidays.

 Of course it was back to work yesterday and today, but next Wednesday starts the Russian New Year's holiday, a week+ break from work and school! :)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Table Tennis, Dancing and a Visit from Father Frost (Дед Мороз)

Kristen says...

Happy Winter Solstice, those of you who are still enjoying that day...it's well into the day after the solstice for us!

So, it's been a big weekend for the Finks of Vladivostok...

It began on Friday with our Consulate holiday party, which was well attended and had a lot of really good Russian and American food (I brought molasses cookies and some seasoned oyster crackers.)

Ded Moroz (Father Frost) also made an appearance to give gifts to the children in attendance:
What a hunk! :)
I even managed to snap a picture with him before he headed off for his next visit!
 The next morning we woke up bright and early to represent the USA at the Indian Consulate's Table Tennis tournament:
The team of Fink and Fink (or as they kept announcing us, Chris e Kristen...I guess Fink is a weird word to say in Russian?)
 Neither of us is all that great at table tennis, we will be the first to admit (although we did play in jr. high and high school PE!) but we had a really fun time trying hard to win against some Vietnamese, Koreans and Russians who had clearly practiced once or twice before attending the event (most of them even brought their own paddles! We had to borrow ours from kind people.)
Chris has his game face on
Showing fine form
All tied up
Alas, it was not to be...all day...
My first game of the day
My face of concentration.
A little bit of action in women's doubles
 We competed in singles competition, women's and men's doubles and finally, mixed doubles.
 A great (but not so talented) pair!
In the end, we decided it was more about the participation than the winning...but at the awards ceremony I was SHOCKED when my name and my partner for women's doubles were called as 3rd prize winners! We were so surprised, we had no idea we had even placed!

We left the competition around 4:30 and had to be downtown at the Philharmonia at 6 for a dance recital given by Lehrer Dance, a very talented group from Buffalo, NY (no crowd-taken photos allowed during the event but you can check out the Consulate's Facebook page for some WONDERFUL official photos from the performance). We made it, just, but I was sooo tired and this morning I am rediculously sore from all that table tennis...

The trophy makes it all worth it, though! :)


PS: We also made a new cooking show in the past week! You can find it on our YouTube channel or just click play below! :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Blink Trip to the States and Christmas arrives in Vladivostok

Kristen says...

So, a week ago right now I was really, really jet lagged.

Why, you ask?

Well, because we made a "blink trip" to the States (as in, so short that if you blinked, you might miss it)...and like many short trips home, this trip was not for happy reasons, because unfortunately my last remaining grandfather passed away two weeks ago Friday.

Two days later we were on a plane.

We arrived on a Monday, attended the visitation on Tuesday and had the funeral on Wednesday.

The silver lining (besides seeing all my siblings and cousins) was that we were home over Thanksgiving, and were able to have dinner with Chris' parents and grandmother on Thursday, and then with my family on Friday. We also were able to celebrate my nephew's 3rd birthday on Saturday before getting on a plane early Sunday morning...and, thanks to an overnight layover in Seoul and the time changes, we arrived back in Vlad mid-day Tuesday...thus my jetlag.

But all sadness aside, it was a great trip...mostly because of these adorable kids:
Our newest niece, Gemma!
She was just over two weeks old and sooo tiny and cute!
The 4-month chunk Bennett!
What a happy baby!
Sweet Norah!
She has the most expressive eyes!
The J-man, Jackson! He is always smiling and lots of fun!
The biggest boy, Ezra!
Actually, on Saturday we celebrated two birthdays:
Ezra turned 3
And Chris turned 30 (almost)
Chris had some old friends at his party
 We also celebrated Christmas with Chris' family, which was lots of fun!

 The Christmas theme has continued since we arrived back in Russia...this weekend I went and bought a Christmas tree (our first since 2009!) and some fun Russian decorations:
Yay Christmas tree!! (Ёлка in Russian)
Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz--Father Frost)
Снегурочка (Snegurochka--Snow Maiden) She is Ded Moroz's grandaughter
Santa Claus!
 This will be our first Christmas away from Iowa, so Chris' grandmother got us an ornament to commemorate it!
Thanks Grandma Marge!
 I also decorated the rest of the house--I have over 10 nativities out, and this homage to Santa:
 Good times.

So that's where we're at.

In other news, Chris grew a beard in November for Movember

and won an award at work, which is nice

And Pip, as always, is very cute 
With freshly-fallen snow on the ground and the twinkle lights blinking merrily, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...in Russia. Can't wait. :)