Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Found a Picture of the Winners!

Kristen says...

Thank goodness for social media! I found a picture I uploaded before the iPhone ran off...

Winners! :)


Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Husband, the Grillmaster

Kristen says...

Happy Memorial Day!

 It is always fun to observe US traditions in other parts of the world...if for no other reason than to compare how similar or different they are!

 For the past two weekends Chris has been grillmaster extraordinaire, first at a grilling competition sponsored by a local grocery store, and today, at our Memorial Day BBQ!
The grilling competition was one of the events of the Vladivostok Boat Show
 Teams of two from many local businesses and organizations were invited to participate. Our Consulate had provided a team last year, so Chris was invited to participate this year.
USDA apron, decorated tables...go USA!
 The competition rules (as distributed to us a few weeks ago) said the organizers of the competition would provide the steaks and grills--everything else was up to the competitors.

 So, we went over to Chris' cooking teammate's house on Saturday and, based on the experience of last years' team, tried out some different rubs/marinades/sauce combinations and came up with what we were sure was a winner...

And then we arrived at the competition.

 Apparently, last year there were raised electric grills to cook on...this year they were flat...and CRAZY hot...so the teriyaki marinade the boys used on the chilled steaks basically became burned glue the minute they hit the surface...oops. :)
So that didn't go as planned...
I love the looks on their faces!
 Along with the steak the boys made a riff on this balsamic-mustard sauce and a side of mushrooms...

 The boys were among the first to cook their steaks, so we had to wait almost three hours to see how they did...fortunately we were at a boat show, so there was plenty to look at while we waited.
Chris really wants one of these
  Unfortunately, these are the only boat pictures I have...you see, it was raining almost the entire time we were at the boat show, so I put my "nice" camera in the car and took a bunch of pictures (including pictures of the awards ceremony) on my iPhone...which my grillmaster husband LOST this week! (But don't worry, it wasn't on purpose and I still love him).

 Still...I have no pictures to prove it, but even with slightly crispy edges, the boys won 3rd place in the grilling contest! :)

 High on the wings of this success, a Memorial Day steak BBQ was suggested for this weekend, with the assumption that the boys would re-create their award-winning steaks.

 This was easier said than done, though, because the grill we used today was a charcoal grill...and the charcoal we had to use was REAL, natural charcoal...good times!
This, as you may have guessed, caused a bit of a problem on another chilly and wet day...
Don't worry, he washed his hands before he grilled!
 Thank goodness for the guy with the blowtorch!
The can he is holding, I kid you not, says "GAS" on the outside...eek!
Again, the looks on their faces!
So we finally got the grill going, and had an amazing American lunch of potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, and a variety of desserts. Yum yum!
We were quite pleased with the quality of the steaks...T-bones!
My grillmaster in action! :) (This was my steak...first on the grill, and one of the last off...I like my steak well-done!)

So, even though we are far from home, it is fun to have some "American" experiences once in a while! :)


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Small Victories

Kristen says...

Sometimes I need a reminder about why I want to live this lifestyle.

You know, besides just waking up in the morning and realizing living in another country is actually pretty exciting. :)

I was feeling a little down this morning...I got up when Chris left for work, checked my e-mails and found out one of my favorite people in the world is moving to Des Moines! This, of course, makes me so, so happy...except now I have another friend there while I am here!

 Next I walked on the treadmill, something that would ruin any day!

Then I talked to my sister and two nephews, which in itself isn't depression-inducing, but it did make me see all the fun things I was missing out on (the temperature was in the 90s in Iowa today, and there were water tables to play with!)

We will also "celebrate" the 4-month anniversary of our arrival in Russia this week, with no return trip to the States planned in the near future. 

All that, coupled with missing Mother's Day and a family wedding this past weekend, plus the upcoming Memorial Day, a traditionally-family full day was getting me kind of down.

Anyway, Pip needed to go to the vet to get an annual vaccination, and Chris didn't drive to work today, so I decided to take Pip to the vet. Not only did I successfully drive alone through Vladivostok for the first time ever, I was able to get across what I needed with the minimum of problems. Yay.

But that is not what actually lifted my spirits.

After the vet I decided I needed some cookies (we have found these amazing butter cookies with chocolate glaze here...soooooo delicious!) so I stopped off at the grocery store.

After I'd grabbed some Diet Pepsi and cookies (the essentials, you know!) I was walking toward the milk section when a woman walked up to me and asked if I could help her. In English. 

Surprised, I said yes.

Then she asked, "Do you speak English?"

Of course, I said, "Yes."

Next, "Do you speak Russian?"

Ah. "Yes, a little."

Basically she needed help identifying an item in the deli case, and the woman behind the counter didn't understand what she wanted.

So, I helped.

I asked the understanding and patient woman behind the counter if the food was fish (it was), if it was salted (it was), and if it needed to be cooked (it didn't).

I only had to look up one word during the exchange, which I thought was a good thing.

Turns out the woman was Chinese but had studied English in Canada...what she was doing here I don't know, but I do know that she made my day, because she asked me to help, and I was able to.

And that is why I am here. I very highly doubt that experience could have been had in Des Moines, Iowa (if for no other reason than I would not have learned any Russian if I was still living in Des Moines!)

I miss my family and my friends every minute of every day, but I really treasure the experiences I'm having here, too...which is the point of it all, really.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Three Holidays, Two Weeks, One Big Celebration

Kristen says...

Hello again from sunny...

 Well, it seems May is the new October for us (In Honduras we celebrated three major holidays with three long weekends in October...in Russia the many holidays/long weekends event seems to come in May!)

 Last week, May 1, was the celebration of International Worker's Day. In my last post I mentioned that the bridges were going to be closed to motor traffic on that day...unfortunately we didn't get to go walk over the bridge because we had a mix up with the timing of the bridge closing. :/

 However, we did enjoy Chris having those three days (Wed-Friday May 1-3) off from work. We spent a lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing, but we also enjoyed going on walks around the city, cleaning the house and spending time with friends.

I also decorated the table for the May 5 holiday, the Orthodox observance of Easter:
I was given the real willows on Palm Sunday, and purchased the pearline ones at the grocery store. I was surprised to learn that willow branches are used in lieu of palms here...I asked one Russian friend about the significance and she assured me that willow branches were waved at Jesus when he entered Jerusalem...the Internet told me that locally-available branches have traditionally been substituted in parts of the world where palms are not readily available.
Honduran paintings, Guatemalan table runner, Russian Orthodox Easter decorations, my grandmother's vases, and our wedding "china." Love it!
Final additions included some hoarded Cadbury's eggs and Russian kulich
 Work resumed for three days this week and then paused again for the Victory Day celebration on May 9. Victory Day is the celebration of the defeat of the Nazi's in World War II and memorialization of those who fought and fell during that conflict. It was very much like the US celebration of Veteran's Day, even though February 23 is the official Defender of the Fatherland Day. (It was also what the military men were cleaning the park for a couple weeks ago!)

 Speaking of cleaning in parks, here is a picture of some of the pre-Victory day cleaning we saw last week:
and the decorations for Victory Day:

As part of the celebrations, the city hosted a myriad of entertainments, including a parade, concerts, and fireworks.

  We had tickets to be close to the center of the parade (we and hundreds of our closest friends) which didn't give us a great view but made us feel part of the event:
 The best view in the "house" (well-deserved, of course) was reserved for the veterans:

We had to park a ways away and walk to the parade route...it was crazy how empty the streets were!

However, the walk gave us a chance to check out some of the city's Victory Day decorations and events:

Again, our view wasn't great, but here are some pictures of the parade:
It started with columns of soldiers representing the various parts of the armed services standing along one side of the road
Two gentlemen in white convertibles drove along and welcomed each branch, which answered with a chorus of "Hurrahs"
Next each branch paraded up the street
Followed by some examples of Russian heavy artillery
Patriotic displays
and families of soldiers marched carrying images of their loved ones. It was quite moving.
 We also saw these fine fellows in the parade:
 Yes, the United States and France were both represented, because a French ship and the US destroyer USS Lassen were docked here for a couple of days this week to "participate in the celebration of the Victory Day and further to strengthen friendship and naval cooperation between the Navies of Russia and the United States".
So much Red, White and Blue! :)
French, Russian, and US ships
 Of course, having so many US citizens in Vladivostok was a fun event for the Consulate, and we were lucky enough to get a tour of the ship after the Victory Day parade:

 Chris' maternal grandfather was in the Navy during both World War II and the Korean conflict, and served in the Pacific. For Christmas Chris' mother gave Chris a bear made from his grandpa's Navy blues, and Chris brought the bear on board the Lassen.

"Captain" Chris!
It was a really neat tour, and lots of fun to celebrate Victory Day with some of our fellow US citizens!

Chris returns to a full 5-day work week on Monday, but later in the month we get to have another long weekend, courtesy of Memorial Day.

May is a great month! :)

PS: And if that's not enough to celebrate:
Blue M&Ms have come to Russia! :)