The Siberian American: August 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

California Road Trip: Private Tour at the San Diego Zoo

When Chris was in Kindergarten, he had to pull two pins at school for saying the word “pitchfork.” A kid in his class thought he said another not-so-nice word that rhymes with pitch and told the teacher. Poor Chris didn’t know any bad words, so he was confused by his punishment. His parents didn’t believe him, though, so he had to wait in the car with one of his parents while his younger brother got to go to “Boo at the Zoo” without him.
The story of this injustice is told often in Chris’s family, so when we visited the San Diego Zoo as part of his medical school graduation present, Chris’s parents decided to “make it up to him” by taking us on a private tour of the San Diego Zoo called the “Inside Look Surprise Tour.” I never considered doing a private tour at the zoo and honestly didn’t know it was something people did, but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of our time in San Diego.

Our tour guide took us around the zoo in a golf cart for about two hours, telling us interesting facts about the animals on exhibit. We found out there are currently 4,000 animals at the zoo, not counting reptiles.
We also got to skip the line for the panda exhibit and get some close up photos of the pandas. It was interesting to learn that panda means “one that eats bamboo,” and that they were named giant pandas because red pandas were discovered first. We also learned that the pandas are on loan to the zoo by the Chinese government. It’s one of the few ways we deal directly with the government. Each panda costs $250,000 a year.
My favorite part of our private tour was feeding the animals. Usually, there are two feedings on this tour, but our guide arranged for us to have three. First, we fed a camel. Camels have really dry mouths, so it felt really strange to have it eating out of my hand.
Then, we fed an okapi. I had never heard of okapis before, but they are interesting animals that look like a mixture between a zebra and a giraffe. The guide told us that the adult okapi's butt looks like zebra stripes to make it easier for its young to follow it through the forest. The okapi we fed was young, and it loved running around in circles around the tree.
The neatest part of the tour was getting to feed a giraffe. It was crazy to hold out a piece of lettuce and have its long tongue swoop down to grab it from me.
The San Diego Inside Look Tour was the most fun I’ve ever had at a zoo, and I would love to do it again in the future with kids.

 Catch up on our California Road Trip: 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Favorites: I See You, September

Happy Friday, friends! I had several fun projects this week, so it really flew by for me. I’m a bit bummed because Chris was supposed to have this whole weekend off, but the hospital called and told him he has to work tomorrow. I can’t be too sad though because he’s about to start his vacation!

/ / One:
Chris starts his two-week vacation on Wednesday! We are both so excited to spend time together. I have been planning some fun things to do in Chicago before our trip, but I think Chris wouldn’t mind a few lazy days thrown in the mix.

/ / Two:
I am so in love with the sunsets from our balcony. I may or may not take a photo of a sunset every week. Here is a recent shot I took #nofilter.

/ / Three:
Have I mentioned how excited I am for September? I get two weeks with Chris, then the in-laws come into town, followed by a few days with a close friend. My heart is full.

/ / Four:
I grabbed as many Loft riviera shorts as I could during Loft’s end of summer sale. They are so soft and comfortable. Of course, I was a total dummy and didn’t realize most of the shorts I bought were the 6” inseam and the ones I owned before were the 4” inseam. Good thing I got them for practically nothing because I can’t take them back!

/ / Five:
Thank you so much for your sweet comments on my blogiversary post. My survey is still open, and I would love y’all to take it if you haven’t already. It’s a huge help in deciding the future of my blog. Also, there is still time to enter the giveaway!

Click here to take the reader survey

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

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wish List: Summer to Fall Transition Picks

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link, I receive a teeny tiny commission.

I love the time of year when you can feel fall slowly pushing summer aside. In Chicago, this has happened sooner than in Texas with day to day temperatures fluctuating from the high 80s to the low 70s. It’s so fun to mix summer pieces with fall staples. Here are the items I have my eye on this time of year:

Summer to Fall

Loft Chambray Tunic Softened Shirt: I love the idea of continuing the chambray trend into the fall with a darker look. This chambray shirt from Loft is high on my to-buy list.

Loft Stitchy Boatneck Sweater: When I lived in Texas, I was always so excited to wear my first sweater of the season. This sweater is an open weave, so it is perfect as a transition piece.

Banana Republic Layered Silk Top: I love everything about this top. It is light enough that it can be worn in September, but the maroon color screams fall.

BP Plaid Scarf: I love fun, light scarves as a way to transition from summer to fall. Bonus points if the scarf is plaid.

Michael Kors 'Large Jet Set' Snap Pocket Tote (Merlot): Merlot is my favorite color purse for this fall, and I love the idea of wearing a fall bag with my summer to fall transition pieces.

Caslon® 'Collegiate' V-Neck Cardigan: I love layering and have about a million cardigans, but this one would be a great addition to my collection.

Loft Mixprint Shirtdress: I can’t have a wish list without including a dress. This shirt dress is light enough for September, but the pattern is perfect for fall.

What is on your wish list this time of year?

Monday, August 24, 2015

One Year Blogiversary + Reader Survey + Giveaway

Hello, friends. Tomorrow is my first blogiversary. It's crazy to me that I have been doing this for a year, but now I can't imagine life without it. It still blows my mind that people I don't know come here to read my blog. There is nothing like the blog community.

I am thankful for your support, dear readers, especially throughout the Match Day process and our new chapter in Chicago. I have put together a short reader survey to help me with the direction of year two of The Siberian American. I would really appreciate it if y'all would take it for me.

I thought about what to do for my blogiversary giveaway and remembered several of you mentioned that you want to try the Supergoop Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 I received in my July PopSugar box. I picked up one 3.4 ounce mist ($28 value) to give away to one of y'all! You don't have to take the reader survey to enter the giveaway, but I really hope you do!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Favorites: Food, Football and Fun

Happy Friday, friends! I’m so excited for the weekend—Chris has both days off, so I can’t wait to spend time with him and finalize some excursions for our trip.

/ / One:
This week, I created a massive list of everything I want to see on our Circle Tour of Lake Michigan. When I say the list is massive, I truly mean massive. It’s going to be so hard to narrow it down because I want to do everything!

/ / Two:
On Wednesday, Chris got off early so we decided to try a new place—Eleven City Diner. It’s this trendy Jewish diner and deli and was one of the best meals I’ve had in Chicago so far. I had the barbecue smoked brisket patty melt, and it was huge! The brisket was so tender, and I loved the sauce. The menu was so huge, it was hard to pick a meal, but now it’ll be hard to try something new next time we go!

/ / Three:
With the canine flu outbreak, I am trying to be careful and not let Sky play in the dog park with other dogs as often. It makes me sad, but I don’t want her to get sick. I’ve been making it up to her with the Merrick Jerky Chip Treats provided by our friends at Chewy! I know I’m always up for a cookie as a treat, so she would be too. These oven-baked cookies even look like mini chocolate chip cookies. I love that they contain no corn, soy, or wheat. She gobbled the treat up quickly and would easily eat the whole bag if I let her. Thanks for another winner, Chewy!

Disclosure: sent me the Merrick Jerky Chip Treats to review. No further compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

/ / Four:
My Influenster Wellness VoxBox came in the mail, and I love trying all the new products. One that really caught my eye is the Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizer. My skin gets insanely dry after I shower, and I am constantly putting on lotion. I applied this moisturizer before I dried and didn’t have to apply lotion for the rest of the night. This product might just be my new best friend.

/ / Five:
I can’t wait for football season to start. It signals the start of fall to me (let’s just ignore all those early football games where it is still 100 degrees outside in Texas). The beginning of a season is so exciting because no one has lost yet, and everyone is filled with hope that this is the year. I am playing in two fantasy football leagues for the first time this year (Sarah’s league and one I started in Chicago), so it’ll be a fun fall!

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

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 2015 PopSugar Must Have Box

The August 2015 PopSugar Must Have Box is the reason I love getting PopSugar boxes. I kept getting more and more excited as I pulled each item out of the box and ended up loving everything. Here is what I received this month:

American Colors Clothing Plaid Scarf ($79): I am always so excited when there is a scarf in my PopSugar boxes. I love the colors and patterns of this scarf (the back side is a gingham pattern) and can’t wait to wear it once it cools down! Do I think it is worth $79? No way. It’s definitely worth a spot in my PopSugar box, though! PS-I couldn’t find the exact scarf on the company’s website, so I picked the one that looked the most like it.

Royal Apothic Tea Balm Firming Eye Treatment ($36): I tried a sample of this eye treatment through one of my beauty boxes and loved it. I’m so glad PopSugar gave me a full-size version.

Shortstacks Birthday Cake Pancake and Waffle Mix ($7.99): Chris was beyond excited when he saw the mix in the box. He loves anything that’s birthday cake flavor. I can’t wait to make it together.

Toot Sweet Pink Stripe Large Napkin ($5.95): These napkins are so cute! I am going to use them at my next dinner party.

Happy Jackson Yay Lunch! Lunch Box ($10): This lunch box is so adorable. I am thinking of using it as an organization box since I don’t need a lunch box right now.

Pastel Best Day Ever Mug ($12): Like most people in the blogging world, I love mugs. This one is cute and is a great reminder to try to make every day the best day ever.

My Yoga Works Three-Month Trial ($45): I love that you don’t have to put in credit card information to redeem this trial. The videos look great, and I am looking forward to getting started on them.

Folgers Iced Cafe Caramel Macchiato Flavored Coffee Drink Concentrate ($4.99): I got sent four samples of the Folgers Iced Café Drink, but they accidently sent me two original lattes instead of a caramel macchiato. Chris loves these and uses them at the hospital, so he is eager to try the caramel macchiato flavor.

I came up with a total of $200.93 for this box. I seriously loved every item and wish I had another box to give as a gift!

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Catching Crabs: A Crab Feast Excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska

On Wednesday I mentioned that I love crab, so today I wanted to tell y’all about one of the neatest shore excursions I have done—pulling out crab pots in Alaska….and eating them at an all-you-can-eat crab feast!

The last time we were in Ketchikan, my in-laws surprised me with an excursion that was right up my alley—learning about how locals set up crab pots for Dungeness crabs. We set off on a small boat, surrounded by the incredible scenery of the Tongass National Forest. Our guide told us all about setting up the crab pots and even had us pull crab pots that had caught crab.

We learned that a crab would stop moving if placed on its back, so the guide flipped the crabs over and handed them to us. I may or may not have squealed as she handed one to me. Then, we headed to the George Inlet Lodge with our crab pots in tow to feast!

There is nothing like eating fresh crab. It was so sweet and practically melted in my mouth (though that might have a little to do with all the butter I used!). It was seriously one of the best meals I have ever had.

After eating all the crab we could handle, we had a crab shell-stacking contest. We kept cracking up as we attempted to make the tallest tower.

I am up for any opportunity to eat crabs, but the scenery and the beautiful George Inlet Lodge made this excursion an experience I would love to repeat.

Have you ever been to Alaska?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Favorites: Road Trip Planning + Giveaway

Phew. This has been a tough week, and I am so ready for this weekend. Sadly, Chris has to work on Sunday night, but we have some fun plans for Saturday!

/ / One:
Chris gets four weeks of vacation in two-week increments. They even schedule them for him, and he doesn’t really get to pick when he wants to take his vacation.

Anyways, his first vacation is coming up in September, and we decided to do a Circle Tour of Lake Michigan, going to Traverse City, Michigan, Mackinac Island, Michigan, and Door County, Wisconsin, with several cute towns on the way. We had more ambitious plans, but since it is our first vacation taking the dog (there is a canine flu outbreak near us, so we are too scared to board her), we wanted to make it simple and relaxing. Plus, why not see what the Midwest has to offer while we’re here? Needless to say, I am so excited to spend time with Chris for a week!

Guest Post Opportunity: If you are interested in guest posting for me while we’re gone, I would love to have you! Email me at for more information.

/ / Two:
My favorite weekday nights are when Chris grills for us on the pool deck. The weather has been perfect lately (in the 70s), and it’s such a fun (and tasty!) way to catch up on our day.

/ / Three:
I have been trying to catch up on my NetGalley books and have read several great books lately. I can’t wait to put together a post and share them with y’all!

Challenge Participant

/ / Four:
I love wearing Essie’s Sunset Sneaks in the summer. It’s such a fun, vibrant color.

/ / Five:
Remember when I got a pair of Firmoo glasses? Well, I love them and use them all the time! The frames are high quality and super cute. They actually make me want to wear my glasses. Today, I am partnering with Firmoo to give away a pair of glasses to one of my readers! Click here to view your frame options.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! 

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


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Ten Random Facts About Me

Hello, friends! I have never written a random get to know me type post, so I thought I would give it a try today.

I could seriously eat crab legs for every meal and never get tired of them. Sadly, they are super expensive, but Chris knows that I will be happy on my birthday as long as I get to go to a seafood restaurant.

I hate Styrofoam. You know how some people can’t stand fingernails on a chalkboard? Styrofoam has that effect on me. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

I am a Baylor Bear through and through. Baylor will always have a special place in my heart because Chris and I met on our first day there. I love Baylor sports and am eagerly waiting for football season.

My hometown has a 14-hour time difference with Texas. It made for some interesting phone calls with friends and family growing up.

I am a total night owl. I have no problems staying up till 5 a.m. (which becomes an issue when I am reading a good book). Good luck getting me up early the next day, though!

Fall is my favorite season. I love the clothes, crisp temperatures, and gorgeous fall foliage. We even went on a fall foliage cruise last year and had so much fun.

When we first moved to Texas, I spent years rejecting all things Texan. Now I say y’all all the time and will happily eat Tex-Mex and barbecue. I will never get used to the heat, though!

I am trying to eat healthy, but I love candy. If I’m having a bad day (or let's be honest, a good day), sour gummy worms or Sour Punch strawberry straws make the world a better place.

I am a total news junkie. Chris gets annoyed with me because I will happily watch (and read) the news all day.

I love blankets, even in the summer. I even keep a blanket in Chris’s car, so I can use it when he’s driving.

Now it’s your turn! Tell me a random fact about you.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Chicago Travel: The Field Museum

When my in-laws were in town, we accidentally ended up going to The Field Museum. We had planned to go to the Shedd Aquarium, but the line looked like it was two hours long, so we decided to give The Field Museum a try.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had originally had it on my list of things I want to do in Chicago this year, but I took it off because Chris told me it was a museum for kids. Actually, it is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and turned out to be one of my favorite things that we did while my in-laws were in town.

The Field Museum was founded in 1893 as a way to display leftover artifacts from the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, also known at the Chicago World’s Fair. I have been fascinated with the Chicago World’s Fair ever since I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, so I was instantly interested once I knew the museum included items from the fair.

I was especially eager to see the Tiffany collection of gems, which did not disappoint. The exhibit that featured the collection, known as the Grainger Hall of Gems, is both beautiful and interesting. Each case featured a description of a precious gem, including how it is formed and where it is found with gorgeous examples of the gem set into stunning jewelry pieces.

When you enter The Field Museum, you are instantly greeted by “SUE,” the largest, most complete, and best-persevered Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. This fossil is massive, measuring 42 feet long from snout to tail and is more than 90 percent complete. In fact, its skull is so heavy (600 pounds), it is on display upstairs with a replica attached to the rest of the skeleton.

Along with SUE, we enjoyed the Evolving Planet permanent exhibit, which takes you on a journey of four billion years of life on Earth and the Inside Ancient Egypt permanent exhibit, where you walk through a three-story recreation of a matsaba, which includes two authentic rooms from a 5000-year-old tomb. The Cyrus Tang Hall of China recently became a permanent exhibit and is a fascinating journey through China’s dynasties.

The Field Museum also features several special exhibitions that change throughout the year. While we were there the special exhibits were China (which is now a permanent exhibit), the Vikings, Mammals and Mastadons, and the Underground Adventure (all about dirt and bugs, no thank you!). I loved the Viking exhibit, which included everything from a boat replica to what the Vikings ate.

With so much left to see, Chris and I could easily spend several more days at The Field Museum. We might have to do just that when the special exhibition on the Greeks arrives in November.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

California Road Trip: San Diego Zoo Tips

I’m slightly embarrassed to say it has been two months since I have written a California road trip post, but our move to Chicago has been dominating this blog. I have been really looking forward to sharing our day at the San Diego Zoo with y’all because it was so much better than I expected.

I love animals, but a zoo is not usually the first place I want to visit in a city. However, Chris loves zoos and had always wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo, so I added it to our itinerary. I knew the San Diego Zoo was known as one of the best zoos in the country, but I expected to be disappointed. I loved our private tour (which I will discuss in another post), and the zoo had many unique animals…and absolutely adorable babies. I came away thinking I wouldn’t mind visiting the San Diego Zoo again next time we’re in San Diego.

The thing about the San Diego Zoo being one of the best zoos in the country is that it is often crowded. Here are a few tips to help you beat the crowds and make the most out of your day at the zoo:

Get there before it opens 
Get to the zoo about 30 minutes before it opens. The crowds are smaller first thing in the morning, so it’s a great way to see the most popular exhibits.

Visit the pandas and koala bears first 
Speaking of popular exhibits, many visit the San Diego Zoo just to see the pandas and koala. We went to see the pandas first, and there was no line. Later, we walked by the exhibit again and the line was over an hour long. We visited the koalas a bit later in the day, and it was really busy. Our timing worked well for us, though, because a koala had just been moved to a new habitat and was awake during the day (very rare for koalas), so he could spread his scent.

Do research about exhibits before you arrive 
The zoo is constantly rotating exhibits, so check online to see what is happening while you will be there. I was eager to see some babies and was really excited when I found out that a baby hippo had been born two days before the visit, and a baby gorilla was with its momma in the gorilla habitat. Seeing the babies was a highlight of our time at the zoo. The baby hippo was adorable, and I loved watching the momma play with her little one. The baby gorilla’s mom brought her little one close to the glass and played with it in front of us.

Next, I will share our private tour of the zoo (and why we went on one in the first place).

 Catch up on our California Road Trip:

Are you a big fan of zoos? Have you ever been to the San Diego Zoo?