The Siberian American: April 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Three Great Sites to Earn Gift Cards

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my favorite survey sites to make extra money, so today I thought it would be fun to share my favorite sites to earn gift cards. I love discovering new ways to earn extra money, and last Christmas I bought many presents with the gift cards I earned.

Swagbucks is probably the most popular site to earn gift cards. There are many opportunities to earn points, such as surveys, searching the web through the Swagbucks search system, watching videos, shopping, printing coupons, and more. However, out of the three sites, Swagbucks is my least favorite because it takes the longest to earn gift cards.

At Crowdtap, you earn points by communicating with various brands through quick hits, discussions, and sample opportunities. At the end of the month, your points are entered into giveaways for various gift cards. Although you can’t directly redeem points for gift cards, Crowdtap is a fun community, and I get at least one gift card each month (and sometimes quite a few more)!

I first discovered MyPoints because it’s the way you earn prizes through BzzAgent, but since then, I have redeemed points through shopping, surveys, and deals. My favorite part about MyPoints is that there are so many great gift card options. So far, I have redeemed my points for gift cards to Cheesecake Factory, Loft, and Macy’s.

Monday, April 27, 2015

New Year’s Caribbean Cruise: Lamanai Mayan Ruins in Belize

Today, I wanted to switch gears a bit and share more about our day in Belize. Chris and I have always wanted to see (and climb on) Mayan ruins, so it was a priority for us to find an excursion with a ruins visit. We picked the Belize river cruise and Lamanai Mayan Ruins because it seemed like a great way to see as much of Belize as possible.

The minute we stopped off the boat (which was a huge relief after that crazy ride!), I knew I was going to like this tour. The whole area was lush, and our tour guide was both interesting and informative. One of my favorite facts was that the name Lamanai means “submerged crocodile,” which makes sense since there are crocodiles in the river by the ruins! The hardest part was that they told us to wear long sleeves and bug spray because of all the bugs, but it was super hot…and I still got a massive bite on my toe.

We visited the Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple, and High Temple. We learned about Mayan life, and the boys climbed to the top of the High Temple. I really wanted to do it, but my toe was killing me at that point…and I’m glad I didn’t because it started pouring as soon as they got halfway up (and I was on the ground under cover).
Other than the temples, it was interesting to walk through an area that was once a sprawling city but is now covered in forest. Our guide pointed out that the majority of the ruins were still unexcavated, and we walked by several places we didn’t know were building until our guide pointed them out.

At one stop we were shown a court where the Mayan’s played a game like a cross of basketball and soccer. Though legend has it that the losing team was executed, our guide assured us that the Mayans at this complex did not follow this practice. While at the court we got to see some of the local “wildlife”— the boat driver snuck up on the group with a five-inch hairy tarantula in his palm!
Our trip to the Lamanai Ruins made us eager to explore more Mayan ruins in the future. We are definitely hoping to book a similar excursion on our next cruise!

Catch up on our New Year's Caribbean Cruise:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Favorites: First Chicago Trip (+Giveaway)

Phew, we made it to Friday, friends. It’s been a busy week, so I am excited for this weekend. We are headed to a wedding on Saturday and celebrating a birthday on Sunday. On to my Friday Favorites this week:

/ / One:
We started off this week looking for a place to live in Chicago. It was super frustrating, but I think we found a great place! We put in an application, so hopefully we will find out soon if we are approved.

/ / Two:
I know no one really cares about weather, but it is supposed to be sunny tomorrow for the first time in I-don’t-know-when, and I am excited to be outside. It’s perfect timing too because we are going to an outdoor wedding. Also, it would be really cool not to worry about hail or tornadoes for a day.

/ / Three:
Skyler sheds a lot twice a year, so I was really excited when Chewy sent me the FURminator Dual Brush for Dogs. I paired it with the FURminator deShedding Edge, and it worked really well! I got about two gallon bags of fur, but now she isn’t shedding anymore.

Disclosure: sent me the FURminator Dual Brush for Dogs to review. No further compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

/ / Four:
On another Chicago note, I am so glad we were able to see our new city a bit! It definitely made me feel better about our move.

/ / Five:
Today, I am partnering with my friends at Chewy to give you a “Pamper Yourself and Your Dog” Giveaway. Skyler loves Hill’s Science Diet Jerky Snacks with Real Chicken, so when Chewy suggested giving them away, I was eager to share them with a winner.

I decided to add some beauty items to the giveaway, so both you and your dog can have a fun treat! The beauty pack includes: City Color Creamy Lip Stain, Cover Girl Eye Enhancers in Blushing Nudes, Figs & Rouge Hand Cream, Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask, and Julep Nail Polish in Bea.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a wonderful weekend!

Linking up with AmandaKarli, and the High Five for Friday girls.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Spring Texas Bucket List

Now that we are moving away from Texas for a year, I am eager to do as many fun activities as we can fit in for the next month. Here’s what I am hoping to get done this month:

Go to a baseball game. 
Chris and I went to a baseball game with my job last week, and we had so much fun! Even though the game we went to was terrible, we loved hanging out with friends and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Go on a picnic. 
Lately, it has been stormy and muddy (typical Texas spring weather), but every once in a while we have beautiful days. I would love to spend one of those days having a picnic in the park with my love.

Take a photo in bluebonnets.
Sadly, I’m not sure this will happen this year because they are all starting to die, but in all the years I have lived in Texas, I have never taken a photo in bluebonnets. If we don’t get to do it this year, it is definitely on my list for when we return from Chicago.

Have a barbecue. 
Memorial Day is right before we leave Texas, and I would love to have a nice Texas barbecue before we leave.

Spend as much time with Chris as possible. 
Have I mentioned that Chris will be working a ton of hours each week while we are in Chicago? I want to fit in as much time together as I can before we have to deal with his crazy schedule.

What’s on your spring bucket list?

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 2015 PopSugar Must Have Box

Hey friends! I am currently in Chicago looking for a place to live, so I thought today would be a good day for a PopSugar Must Have Box review. I love when PopSugar boxes are a mixture of practical items and fun items, so this box was another winner for me.

One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum ($39): I have heard good things about the One Love brand, so I was excited to try this serum. I am particular about scent, and I loved that this has a nice, subtle smell. I also love that it is not heavy and absorbs into my skin quickly.

Dabney Lee Umbrella ($20): How could I not love a polka-dotted umbrella? Not only is it adorable, but it looks durable. I’ve been needing a new umbrella, so this was perfect for me!

Produce Candles Rhubarb Spring Candle ($20): I honestly wasn’t sure I would like a rhubarb-scented candle, but it actually smells amazing! Also, I can’t get over the cute packaging. It’s almost too adorable to burn. Produce Candles are made out of natural soy wax and burn for approximately 50-70 hours.

Potting Shed Creations, Ltd. Garden-in-a-bag Basil ($10): This is the only item in the box that I won’t use, but my mom is excited to try it. I honestly just have no desire to garden, even from a bag.

Flip + Tumble Reusable Bag ($12): I love that this bag folds easily into a tiny ball that I can stick in my purse. It will be great if I need to make a quick trip to the grocery store!

Special Extra: Mott 50 $25 Gift Card

I came up with a total of $101 for this box (excluding the gift card since it was an extra). I really liked the variety of items this month, though I am sad it doesn’t have a food item to try. Chris and I like to share PopSugar snacks, so it was a bummer it didn’t have one.

What do you think of the April 2015 PopSugar Must Have Box? What is your favorite item in the box?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Real Talk: A Thankful Heart

It’s no secret that Chris and I are in a hectic season of our lives. Finding a place to live in a city you don’t know is all sorts of frustrating, especially when every place you like seems to get rented the next day. I would be lying to y’all if I didn’t say we have been feeling discouraged.

It is easy to dwell on the negative, but Chris and I are also so thankful for this opportunity. Medical school was a long journey, and it is a huge relief to move on to the next step. Chris is headed to a fantastic program that will provide a great foundation for him before radiology residency. I am excited to explore a new city with my love…and to come home a short year later!

Claire from The Studio by Fashion + Feathers sent me a beautiful gold foil print with a message I am trying to remember daily: “Start each day with a thankful heart.” I can’t tell y’all how much a difference it makes in my day when I wake up with a thankful heart and remind myself of the many blessings in my life. I can’t wait to hang it in our new Chicago bedroom!

Not only does Claire’s shop feature several beautiful gold inspirational prints, she also designed a fun phone case and a great T-shirt! Claire and I started blogging around the same time, and I have really enjoyed getting to know her. When she told me she opened a shop, I was so impressed with the lovely items she created. One of my favorite things about blogging is supporting each other, and I can’t wait to watch Claire’s shop grow! Claire also kindly provided a code for my readers. Use THESIBERIANAMERICAN to receive 10 percent off your purchase, good for the next week.

I received the gold foil print courtesy of The Studio at Fashion + Feathers, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 13, 2015

California Road Trip: Seven-Day Itinerary from San Diego to San Francisco

Seven day road trip san diego to san francisco
Our week driving up the California coast was full of incredible moments. I was enchanted by the gorgeous coastline, rolling hills, and sprawling desert. We packed as much as we could into each day, but we enjoyed every minute. Before I start sharing individual posts, I wanted to write out an itinerary for those interested. My goal is to link up my individual posts to this itinerary as I do them.

Day One: San Diego 

Highlights: Old Town San Diego, Old Town Trolley Tour, Balboa Park, Coronado, La Jolla Cove, and San Diego Mission

Spent the night in: San Diego 

Day Two: San Diego to Temecula 

Highlights: Spent most of the day at the San Diego Zoo (and did a private tour), then drove 60 miles to Temecula (in the Southern California wine region).

Spent the night in: Temecula 

Day Three: Temecula to Morro Bay 

Highlights: Longest driving day of the week (almost 400 miles). Stopped at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, enjoyed a beautiful drive with a desert on one side and green hills and trees on the other side, stopped at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo for a delicious milkshake and cake, and explored the beautiful Morro Bay waterfront.

Spent the night in: Morro Bay

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Day Four: Morro Bay to Monterey 

Highlights: Visited Hearst Castle (did the Grand Rooms Tour and Upstairs Suites Tour), enjoyed incredible views driving up Highway 1 (and stopped at what I think is the most beautiful place in Big Sur), did the 17-mile drive in Carmel, and explored Monterey.

Spent the night in: Pacific Grove 

Big Sur photo

Day Five: Monterey to San Francisco 

Highlights: Got fresh strawberries at a farm stand on our way out of town, toured the Winchester House, drove to San Francisco and went to the Painted Ladies and down Lombard Street, went to Baker Beach for a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and hiked in Muir Woods.

Spent the night in: Novato

Baker Beach

Day Six: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley 

Highlights: Wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa, tour at Beringer to see wine caves and learn about wine-making process, stopped by the Olive Press to taste different flavors of olive oil, and then drove back to San Francisco. Had dinner at Boudin in the Fisherman’s Wharf and really enjoyed the Boudin museum.

Spent the night in: San Francisco (Fisherman’s Wharf) 

Day Seven: San Francisco

Highlights: Rode a cable car to the Cable Car Museum, went to Chinatown and visited a fortune cookie factory, had an amazing banana split sundae at Ghirardelli at the Ghirardelli Square, and drove up to Coit Tower for one more amazing look of the city.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Favorites: Spring Obsessions

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a while since I have been able to write a Friday post, so I am glad to be back at it. It’s crazy to think it has already been three weeks since Match Day. We will be moving to Chicago before we know it (yikes!). I will definitely feel much better about the move once we head over there next week and pick out a place to live. Anyways, on to my Friday favorites this week…

/ / One:
I have today and Monday off. Life has been crazy lately, and this weekend is really busy, so my goal today is to do as little as possible!

/ / Two:
One of my favorite parts of vacation is having more time to read. I am currently reading Dead Wake by Erik Larson about the sinking of the Lusitania (c/o Blogging for Books). I love Erik Larson because he writes nonfiction novels that read like fiction (The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts are both fantastic reads). Dead Wake is another winner. I didn’t know much about the sinking of the Lusitania before, but I was instantly fascinated by all the details. I am always amazed by his writing and meticulous research.

/ / Three:
I am currently obsessing over fun spring dresses, especially all things light blue, lace, eyelet, and scallop. This dress from Loft is perfection!

/ / Four:
I started going through some of our photos from California, and I am truly thankful Chris and I got to spend such a fun week together in the middle of a stressful season in our lives. I am so excited to share more trip details soon!

/ / Five:
When I am really stressed, I love to paint my nails with OPI’s Pompeii Purple. It’s such a happy color and takes me back to carefree summer days.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Linking up with AmandaKarli, and the High Five for Friday girls.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Skyler Says: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Treats & JW Rhino Chew Toy Review

Hey there, Mama’s blog friends! Skyler here, also known as Sky Sky, but I prefer for everyone to call me Princess. Mama has been asking me to write a guest post for her for a while, but none of her ideas struck my fancy. Then the nice people at asked her if I would review TREATS…and a doggie just can’t say no to that, you know?

Now guys, these Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail Treats DuckBiscuits were really something. Mama had never given me duck before, and I firmly believe she was holding out on me. I am happy to sit, get down, and even leave it…as long as I get my paws on that tasty biscuit as soon as possible. I liked it so much I kept going back to the spot I got it, just in case I had missed any leftover crumbs. Now every time I see the package, I get really excited. I vote that Mama should give me this treat at least 10 times a day. Can you guys help me in convincing her?
After having a tasty biscuit or ten, a pup has got to play. I was beyond excited when I saw Mama pull out a squeaky rhino toy. The JW Pet Rhino Chew Toy was so much fun! I loved pouncing on it and throwing it up in the air with my nose. The pesky thing was a little too big for me, so it kept trying to run away. No worries, though, I managed to tame it. Then, I carried it to my favorite chair, so I could keep an eye on it. It hasn’t caused any trouble since.
Anyways, I’ve been awake much too long and better hand the blog back over to Mama, so I can take a nap! I can’t wait to be back soon to share about more tasty treats with you, as long as you don’t expect me to share any of the actual treat!

Disclosure: sent Skyler a package of Blue Buffalo Wilderness Treats and a JW Pet Rhino to review. No further compensation was received, and all opinions are our own. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Quick Thoughts: California Road Trip

Hello, friends! It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve blogged, and I am so glad to be back. First off, I want to say a big thank you to Erica, Claire, Jamie, and Kristen, who held down the fort for me while I was gone. I also wanted to thank y’all for all of your encouragement on our moving announcement. Now that we are back, we are in full planning mode. It’s hard to believe that we are moving in less than two months!

Our California road trip was exactly what we needed after the stress of Match Day. It was definitely a whirlwind, and we did so much every day, but by the time we got our hotel room every night we didn’t have the energy to think about the future, which was perfect for me.

It had been way too long since I had visited California, and I had forgotten just how beautiful it is. Although we loved everything we did on our road trip, the moments that stood out to me were feeding a giraffe at the San Diego Zoo, driving up Highway 1, and our beautiful day in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. I can’t wait to share these highlights and the rest of our itinerary with you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Expat Word Confusion

Hello, friends! Today, I have Kristen from See You In a Porridge sharing some differences between Australian English and American English. I loved Kristen's blog instantly because not only could I easily relate to her, but she's so funny! If you haven't visited her blog before, I couldn't recommend it enough. In fact, you should go visit it now (after reading this hilarious post, of course!).

Hello to The Siberian American readers! I'm Kristen, and I blog about books, cats, stuff and life over at See You In A Porridge (unrelated to Golidlocks). First off, wanted to say thank you to Olya for having me over at her place while she is off holiday-ing. I just love her blog (obviously you do too) because we have tons in common - the biggest thing being that we are both expats. Expats are like runners - you can have nothing else in common but you become instant besties because no-one understands expats like fellow expats.

Sometimes I don't feel like a real expat because most of the (blogging) expats I know are Americans living elsewhere- Iceland, Australia, France, England.. and I live in America. Most expats have to learn another language, and I thought I would have it easy because I was going from an English speaking country to another English speaking country. Should be easy as pie, right?


Technically, Americans and Australians speak the same language. But we all have our own words and slang. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of American words thanks to reading tons of American books growing up. I knew bangs meant fringe, crib meant cot, pacifier meant dummy and diaper meant nappy. I live in Kentucky, so some of these might not apply to you and you might be as clueless as me - I was born in Victoria, but lived in Sydney and some of the things Victorians say were just as foreign to me as the ones I am about to share.


A bunch of people from work were supposed to do a race the other weekend, but everyone said they were bailing because of the weather, and I bailed as well because I didn't want to do it alone. My boss ended up doing the race, and my other boss sent me a text saying 'what a sandbagger!' and I had to google it before responding. My mind went to tea bagging, so I was obviously quite confused and freaked out.

40 acres and a mule

I learned this playing Cards Against Humanity. Everybody laughed at me, but really - how am I supposed to know what this meant? I thought it was slang for a unit of measurement until everyone stopped laughing and my husband explained it. I don't even know what an acre or a mule is, let alone together.

For the win

Yep, never heard this before and my husband sent me a text one day saying 'FTW' and I was like.. feeling this way? So confused. A lot of the time, he thinks I am trying to be funny but I think he forgets I didn't grow up here so I really don't know or understand things. He explained it meant for the win, but I was still confused - what is for the win? What does that mean? You won something? You are doing this to win something? So confused. I eventually said 'ok, I understand' but I still don't really.


I am still not over this. I learned this pretty quickly but it still annoys me. What you call peppers, we call capsicums. Sometimes we will have 'hot peppers' which I think are chili pepperss, but I wouldn't know because I don't do spicy. Pepper to me is the black stuff that I hate, and it is so confusing when a name means 2 things. A menu says 'pepper' and I'm like hot, spicy pepper or red and green peppers that go in a salad? Why are they called peppers? It makes no sense to me!


At home we say 'al-u-min-i-um'. You say 'aloom-i-num'. I am so confused, I just say 'foil'.


Again, I learned this pretty quickly but to me, lemonade is sprite. To you, lemonade is real stuff made with lemons. I almost vomited the first time I made that mistake.


I thought I knew what this meant - just hard candy. But it's all called candy, right? Skittles, jelly beans, sour worms etc. We call them all lollies. Want a lolly? Kiss a dolly.

Silverware / Flatware even when it's not silver or flat

No matter how I ask for it, someone is confused. We call it cutlery but if I ask for that at a restaurant, I get blank stares. Silverware, flatware, I give up. I say 'can I please have a knife and fork?'


Ahem. The first time I saw this I was so confused. It was in a bathroom and you could get a tampon for 25 cents, or 25 cents for a napkin. I thought maybe it meant like a face wipe or something. My friend soon set me straight.


The first time my husband asked me where his toboggan was I looked at him like he had 2 heads. It snows here but we have never gone sledding. It doesn't snow where I am from, but we go sand tobogganing. Either way, I was like wtf dude I have no idea. He found his beanie right in front of me and thought I was being a jerk. I still can't comprehend toboggan meaning beanie IT MAKES NO SENSE.


I thought this meant all Americans. Apparently not, but it's not my fault! Blame the media and stuff. I bet you pronounce Aussie 'oh-see' so we're even. Just kidding.


No, not that one. The one that you put at the end of a sentence. To me, that is a full stop. It's what I learned in school and that's what it's called. Period.. why with the one word two meanings? 

Pound sign

We call it hash like 'press hash for more options'. So I guess that means hashtag was invented by an Aussie or a Brit? I don't understand where the pound comes from.


I only just learned that this stood for Pretty Hot And Tempting. I'm not kidding. I thought it was just a different spelling for fat, like we used to spell 'cool' like kewl. Kewl.


Ok, I knew this one but I still don't understand why it's called mail and not post, especially because it's called the post office. Ok, now I'm just being silly.

I hope you enjoyed my confusion - I have been here for a few years and it still happens! Did you know all of these things?