Sunday, August 31, 2014

The August Break Day 31: Love

Kristen says...

I love...
My amazing husband
My puppy
My parents, siblings
and nieces and nephews
I love
and travel
I love
ice cream
and cooking different things

 I love
my hometown
the Iowa State Fair
 and I love every one of you who have been reading this blog the past month! :)

31 blog posts in a row...whoo hoo! :)


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The August Break Day 30: Soft

Kristen says...

Full disclosure, I have no idea what to say that had to do with the word soft. Sorry. :)

It's Labor Day weekend and we had a BBQ today. I have been on a no-meat trend for a few months now, and decided to attempt to grill black-bean burgers instead of my usual veggie-packets.  The results were quite good--definitely worth having again, and an excellent substitute for something I don't really like, anyway (hamburgers). 


Not an exciting blog post today, sorry. :)


Friday, August 29, 2014

The August Break Day 29: Nature

Kristen says...

Sometimes nature is awesome. Like when there is a beautiful sunset or when snow falls like clouds or when a double-rainbow stretches out across the horizon...

And sometimes nature sucks, like when people get nasty diseases like cancer or Parkinson's or ALS...

I doubt anyone out there hasn't come across someone doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in the past couple weeks, and I am happy(?) to tell you it has made its way to Vladivostok via my lovely mother. :)

My answer to the challenge was fiscal:
Chris' and my donation in memory of Mike Poll

While Chris' was physical:

In the end, we both raised awareness and we both get to eat homemade ice cream...
He does all his own stunts!
Take that, nature!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The August Break Day 28: Something New

Kristen says...

In this life, it often feels like there is something new almost every day...unless you have to write a blog post about something new, and then it's same old same old. :)

I considered doing something new last week when I went to get my hair cut. It seems like everyone here has bangs, so I was considering them for myself.

Me with bangs (ish):

I went to the stylist (they call them "masters" at my salon) and asked her opinion about the bangs...

She took one look at me, smiled a bit, and shook her head a decided no.

So much for trying something new! :)


PS: Here is the actual haircut:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The August Break Day 27: Lines

Kristen says...

In general, the Russian people I have come across don't do well with lines. 

At the grocery store, it is a frequent experience to have someone slip in line in front of you just when it is your turn at the checkout counter. 

On the road, if one person slows or is stopped, instead of making a line behind the front car, drivers will simply go around (on either side, depending in the road conditions and the presence of solid or dashed lines. With all the rules if the road that aren't strictly enforced, the "don't cross the solid line" one will get you every time!)

At school, the students don't travel from class to class in an orderly line, they tend to clump together, blocking the whole of the stairway so you can't get around them or run in packs of twos and threes. 

[Yet, at the airport, they will happily line up at the boarding gate a full half hour before it even opens (and then swarm the counter once the flight is called).]

I find it quite annoying, to be honest, probably mostly because I come from a line-centric culture where it is considered polite to stand quietly and wait your turn. 

Some of the Americans at the Consulate and I had a discussion once about whether it's better to have lines and order (and a lot of passive people) or to be a culture that eschews lines in favor of striving for what one wants at all costs...

That is the beauty of living abroad; experiencing different ideas of what is right or good or normal and being able to come to terms with how you really think, not just what fits your upbringing or cultural norms. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The August Break Day 26: Morning

Kristen says...

I am not much of a morning person. Chris definitely is--he is up with the sun (or earlier!) but often I just can't seem to get myself up and going. 

Hence my alarm clock:

The theory is, if I "accidentally" turn of the first alarm, the second will wake me up...granted it's just a theory and has yet to be proven. It's just as easy to turn off one alarm as it is two!

I think the big priblem has to do with light. You see, we are on "eternal summer" here, which means a few years ago Russia sprung forward and never fell back. That coupled with our latitude (longitude?) means it stays light until late, but also doesn't get light very early. In the winter we don't see the sun until well after 9 am, which is the time we start working, but the sun stays up until after 7 in the summer and after 10 some nights in the summer. 

It's wacky, and messes with my sleep patterns. 

Oh well. At least I like my alarm ringtone--every morning I wake up to "Good Day Sunshine" by the Beatles!

It's the little things :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

The August Break Day 25: Little

Kristen says...

Tonight Chris and I wanted a little dessert. So, I made a little pan of brownies that only used a little bit of chocolate, butter and sugar:

I am only going to have to do a little bit of yoga to work off the calories from the little piece I just ate. 

Are you a little jealous? ;)


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The August Break Day 24: Memory

Kristen says...

I have a good memory in some instances.

For example...if you come to my house and move certain of my possessions around (especially my books and knick-knacks) I'll probably be able to tell you what you moved and where it used to be...also where I got it or who gave it to me, and some sort of random fact or funny anecdote associated with it. (Names, however, not so much...makes for an interesting time when trying to introduce new people to colleagues I don't regularly interact with. :/ )

As much as we move around and travel, I have thousands of pictures of memories, and it's hard to decide on which one(s) are best to use for this photo prompt.

I had to leave Pip in Iowa when I went home this summer to try to make sure he can get into Australia with as little pain as possible, so right now we are missing him terribly (Skyping with a dog is decidedly unsatisfying--they can't really talk back and you just feel bad when they look around for you and you're thousands of miles away...)

Tonight I went back through some old photos and found the first picture I ever took of him, way back in June of 2006, when Chris and I adopted after we had been married just 9 days!
Cute, right!?
I have so many fun memories of Pip as a puppy...he was so small when we got him, and had so much less hair!!
So small!!
So sleepy!
Smiling for the camera
What, I wasn't going to do anything to your camera, mom!
Yep, I miss that hairy little beast, but I have tons of memories and know I'll see him in just a few months...and seriously, I know he is having the time of his life with my parents in Iowa!! :)
See you soon!!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

The August Break Day 23: Adornment

Kristen says...

Showing new people around is so fun, an reminds me (and I have talked about it before), that one of the coolest things about Vlad (IMHO) is the large amount of public art here, and specifically the painting adornments on building, street and tunnel walls. 

Whereas in many cities aroud the world, buildings are allowed to be left in their natural color or painted a solid different color and other walls are kept bare or given over to graffiti, many surfaces in Vlad are adorned with beautiful and often historic and/or educational murals. 

For example, this tunnel adornment depicting the medal tallies from the Moscow Olympics in 1980:

And the 2014 Sochi Olympics:

(Notice who is on top of both lists...) :)

Of course, there is also the grafiti adornment here:
Often it, too, is a form of art adornment (not always, but often).

How lucky we are to live in a place so full of artistic talent and beauty--we do not have to go to a museum here to enjoy local art, we are treated to a full showing of artistic adornments just walking or driving around town!


Friday, August 22, 2014

The August Break Day 22: Shadow

Kristen says...

"Who knows? The Shadow knows..."

If you don't know this about us already, Chris and I are quite different in many ways. One of those ways is how we sleep. Chris is one of those lucky people who sleeps like the dead within 5 minutes of his head hitting the pillow. I, on the other had, toss and turn and think for sometimes hours before drifting into a fitful and dream-filled sleep. 

In order to channel my mind and attempt to sleep more quickly, and entertain him during his 1-5 minutes of head on pillow wakeful time, we listen to Old Time Radio at bedtime. 

Chris likes the nostalgic comedies like "Fibber McGee and Molly" and "The Aldrich Family" while I prefer westerns like "The Cisco Kid" mysteries like "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" and yes,  "The Shadow". 

We have found a couple of really great websites that host free OTR downloads ( is the best we've found) and we get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to the episodes, giggling at the historical differences, and discussing the advertising ("It's wise to smoke extra-mild Fatima"--Really 1940s? Really?) and other interesting elements. 

If you have never listened to OTR I suggest you give it a try. And if you want any recommendations, leave a comment with what interests you and I can give you some titles to look for.  :)


PS: They say it takes 21 days to make a habit...if I have posted 22 days in a row, do I have a blogging habit?

Eh, probably not. :) But I'll try to at least make it daily through the end of the month! :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The August Break Day 21: Treasures

Kristen says...

This one is easy. I have many treasures, but these two are my greatest:
(Charlie is anciliary treasure)


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The August Break Day 20: Peaceful

Kristen says...

I am not a particularly peaceful person. It's bot that I'm a fighter, or overly argumenatative, but I have a hard time sitting still and just being. I can't just sit and do nothing, I always have to be moving or twitching or tatting or reading or something. 

That may be one if the reasons I enjoy doing yoga. I feel most peaceful in the middle of practice. 

My first teacher in Honduras always started practice with a reminder that we might as well focus all our energy on our practice, because we had decided to be at yoga rather than do anything else. I like that mentality a lot, even though my mind does wander at times when I am practicing. 

Chris and I did our first Russian practice a few months ago--these photos were taken for a local online news source 

It was really nice to get bak to yoga, and to try something new (Ashtanga Vinyasa). 

I always feel good after yoga, and it does help quiet my restless self, and yes, make me more peaceful. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The August Break Day 19: Black + White

Kristen says...

It's summer turnover season here and quite a few officers are leaving post. Part of my job here is to help make sure the houses are cleaned and readied for the next officers to come in. The best part is that I get to see the inside of some of the houses I haven't been in, or the rest of the houses I have been in. It is amazing how different each house is. 

One of my favorite "finds" in one of the houses had been this black + white piano:

It is old and REALLY out of tune, but all the keys work and it is really pretty, especially the carving on the front:

I played piano off and on for a few years when I was in elementary school, but didn't enjoy it enough to continie theough the busyness of jr. high and high school...still, I remember a few songs, so I sat down to play a bit...

Good thing the piano was so out of tune, I was able to blame all my mistakes on the piano!! :) 


Monday, August 18, 2014

The August Break Day 18: Jump

Kristen says...

Well, the Iowa State Fair is over, so I have less of a reason to be grumpy for the next 365 days. :)

When I think about the Fair there are two main things I think about, the food and the contests. I love eating at the Fair, and I love goin around to see what has won all the cobtrsts at the Fair. I especially enjoy looking at the food-based contests, and thinking about what things I could enter if I were in town for the Fair. 

One thing I have occasionally thought to do but have never gotten around to it is making sourdough bread. The actual makin of the sourdough starter has always intimidated me, so when I was offered a cup of ready-to-use sourdough starter from  one of our fellow officers, I jumped at the chance! (Yes, that is how I am tying in the word of the day--not terribly impressive, is it?) :)

So, this weekend Chris and I made sourdough bread. 

I was going to do it all by myself, but like an idiot I burned the back of my hand with boiling water, so I had to enlist Chris to help because it hurt to do things like knead and stir.  
I was amazed at how "puffy" sourdough gets!!

The smaller loaf on the left just fit inside a gallon-sized ziplock bag, and the larger one on the right has a diameter of over 12"!

While the bread was baking, Chris decided we needed something delicious for lunch, so we looked up a recipe online and used a couple cans of pumpkin to make soup:

Um, delicious!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

The August Break Day 17: Bookshelf

Kristen says...

I know it has been mentioned here before, but I love books. I love them and I have a lot of them. Also, my husband loves me enough to let me bring them aroud the world, even though it makes absolutely  no sense to do so. What a guy. :)

When one has a lot of book, it makes sense that one would also have a lot of bookshelves. I believe that had also been covered a few times on this blog.

In fact, we have 12 bookshelf units in our current house. Granted, all but four of them are being use for something other than books (movies, my record player, art, and sheets are some of the various ways we are using our bookshelves) but the four we brought from Iowa are crammed full of books, with a sprinkling of other things in-between. 

Case in point, my favorite bookshelf:

Why is this one my favorite, you ask? Well, while all my books are awesome and have some special meaning to me, the books and items on this particular bookshelf have the most personal application.

From the top down:  
The left side of the shelf has classic books that I read and loved as a child. Also there is a bear I picked up in Chicagoland during a visit with family friends. When you squeeze his tummy he says, "I loooove chocolate." And I do, and have since I was a kid, which is why you can page through many of those books and find chocolate stains. :)

The right side of the top shelf has books inherited from my maternal grandmother as well as the book she hand-wrote for me with information about her life. The tiny plate in front was part of a family tea set--it is a salt-cellar, and each of the girls in our family was given one for Christmas before my grandma died. 

The second shelf down holds all my tatting books, which is an ever-growing collection and contains books in English, German, Russian and Japanese. (If anybody out there has tatting books they're looking to get rid of, let me know. I want them. :) It is also the only place in the house that I actually display any tatting, because Chris really isn't that big on the whole frilly lace thing, go figure. :)

The left side of the middle shelf holds my many books by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder, an author I have enjoyed reading and studying for over twenty years. (You can tell which of her books were my favorite growing up, just look at the damage to the spines!) I bought the blue and white sewing machine at her home in Mansfield, MO over the summer. 

The right side of the middle shelf has travel books, obviously an interest in the Fink family. We especially like Bill Bryson's books, partly because he is from Iowa and partly because he is hilarious! My copies of "Notes From a Small Island" and "In a Sunburned Country" are not currently on the shelf   because I was reading them in preparation for our UK trip and moving to Australia, respectively, and I haven't gotten around to reshelving them yet. The small boxes in front were purchased in a market in Thailand.

The second-to-bottom shelf has my Harry Potter books (perhaps my second-favorite book series) and our language-learning books for Spanish and Russian. I also have copies of Harry Potter in Russian and Spanish, just for fun. The print shows Southwestern Native American children and was given to me by my paternal grandmother who lived part of the year in Arizona. 

The bottom shelf has books I use in my classroom and as resources to improve my teaching abilities. There are some pretty major gaps there right now because all my US history books are being used for this summer school class I am teaching. The big paper pencil was given to me by one of my students at the end of last year. It had chocolate inside. I loooove chocolate!