The Siberian American: September 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Our Travel Traditions

Several of you mentioned in my reader survey last month that you wanted to see more travel and personal posts, so today I thought it would be fun to combine the two and share a few of our travel traditions.

Wear a Baylor shirt (me) and a “vacation shirt” (him) to the airport
I accidently started this tradition on our honeymoon because we were still in college, and a Baylor shirt was a comfortable thing to wear, but I love how it gives me a chance to interact with fellow Bears. I have had so many people come up to me and talk about Baylor. On a recent flight, a flight attendant wanted to know more about Baylor because her daughter wants to go there.

Chris always wears what I call his “vacation shirt” to the airport. I hate it because it’s old and looks tacky, but he thinks it’s comfortable, so I don't complain (too much) when he wears it on planes (and in the Caribbean).

Take a minute to sit down right before leaving 
The last few minutes before leaving for a trip can be hectic with a million thoughts running through our heads—Are we going to make it to the airport on time? Did we forget anything? Right before we leave for our trip, we sit down, calm down, and pray for a safe trip. My parents started this tradition, and I love doing it because it’s a great way to relax before heading out.

Take a sad face photo right before heading home 
We love taking a goofy sad face photo at the end of our vacation. We love being silly together, and it’s just a fun way to mark another great trip. In the spirit of "I can't believe I'm actually sharing these photos" here are two of our sad faces:

How about you? Do you have any travel traditions?

Monday, September 28, 2015

California Road Trip: Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

I have always wanted to take photos in a giant field of flowers. Growing up in Texas, I loved seeing photos of people surrounded by bluebonnets, but my family never took any because my parents didn’t get the point of it. Temecula to Morro Bay was our longest day of driving on our road trip, and I love to break up long hours of driving with fun stops. When I saw the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was on our route, I knew we had to try to stop there.

The week leading up to our trip, I kept (obsessively) checking the bloom status of the poppies, and everything looked good to go. Sadly, by the time we got there, the poppies were mostly gone. The park volunteers told us the season had started and ended a month earlier than anticipated due to the weather. Even so, we still found a beautiful patch to enjoy and take photos.
California poppies are California’s state flower, and their vibrant orange hue is a beautiful sight. Although we didn’t get to see huge fields of poppies, I am still glad we stopped to enjoy the views of the Mojave Desert.

Catch up on our California Road Trip: 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites: Favorite Fall Etsy Finds

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a crazy week here with us getting used to a new rotation and schedule, but Chris has his first day off since his vacation on Saturday, so we’re excited to spend some time enjoying the gorgeous fall weather in Chicago. Speaking of fall, I am currently trying not to buy all the the fall things I see, so decided to share some of my favorite finds from Etsy with y'all instead.

/ / One
I have looking for a fun “Happy Fall Y’all” printable, and this one is perfect! Our loft has a lot of gray tones in it, so I think it will work really well.

After finding that printable, I also came across this wood sign, and I might have to have both.

/ / Two
I wish I was crafty (and patient) enough to make my own fall wreath, but that’s just not going to happen. There are so many beautiful (and expensive!) wreaths on Etsy, but this one is my favorite.

/ / Three
I am obsessed with this burlap banner, and if we had a mantle in our loft, I would have bought it by now.

/ / Four
Aren’t these plaid pumpkins adorable? Pretty much anything plaid is on my to-buy list right now, and I would love decorating with these.

/ / Five
How fun would this pumpkin accent pillow look on the patio? If you put together pumpkins and burlap, I’m sold!

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

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Seven Books I Read This Summer

With the constant changes in Christopher’s work schedule, I have spent less time sleeping and more time reading this summer. The result is that from June 1-August 30, I read 32 books. That’s a little crazy to me since there have been times when I haven’t read that many books in a year. I won’t bore y’all with all 32 books (and I am skipping all the books I read for the Literary Ladies Summer Challenge since I posted reviews here), but I wanted to share some of my favorites.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
c/o NetGalley 
Simon receives a mysterious book that is the key to unlocking a curse his family has suffered for generations. I have seen a lot of people compare this book to The Night Circus, but I don't think that's fair. The only thing alike about the two books is they're both well written and about a circus. That being said, I loved The Book of Speculation. The past/present format worked really well to explain the curse on Simon's family, and the beautiful writing kept me interested the whole time. I highly recommend it.

Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams 
c/o NetGalley 
I have mentioned my love for The Secret Life of Violet Grant in the past, so I was really excited to find out Beatriz Williams was writing more books about the Schuyler sisters. I didn’t love Tiny Little Things quite as much as The Secret Life of Violet Grant because Tiny didn’t have Vivian’s spunk, but I was intrigued by Tiny's story, especially about the incriminating photograph. It was interesting to learn more about high society in the 1960s and the pressure Tiny felt to be perfect. The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing are loosely linked and work as stand alone novels. Now I can’t wait to read Along the Infinite Sea.

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall 
c/o NetGalley
I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, but it turned into one of my favorite reads of the year. I liked that it was focused on the 1920s and really liked Henry, Gil, and Cora, three strangers with secrets from their past that join together to host a flying circus. The book was very well written and kept me entertained. I liked Henry as the main character and enjoyed learning more about barnstorming and planes in the 1920s. I honestly didn't want this book to end.

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino 
c/o NetGalley 
What a unique, sweet, and touching story. I loved the concept of a “missed connection” post on Craigslist and how the author wrote about Grace and Matt's time in college falling in love and what made it all fell apart. It was both heartbreaking and uplifting. A great summer read!

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan 
c/o NetGalley 
What this book isn't: a comedy. I really don't think it's fair to compare it to Where'd You Go, Bernadette.
What this book is: A beautiful, well-written story of a mom who has too much on her plate: trying to fit into a new job after working part-time, dealing with new financial problems after her husband leaves his job, and worrying about her sick father. Not to mention raising her three kids and helping her husband deal with his new career change. It was interesting to read about how Alice deals with the pressure and the decisions she ultimately has to make. I would definitely recommend this book-just don't expect it to be funny!

Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexander 
c/o NetGalley
I didn’t think I would like this book because I didn't know anything about the Spanish Civil War. I loved it, and I learned so much. I was constantly googling to find out more about the Spanish Civil War throughout the book. The past/present format is my favorite, and I loved both Evelina (past) and Paloma (present, though in this case present is 1975). The story was intriguing from the very beginning, and I loved that the book was centered around dancing (ballet and flamenco). The plot twists surprised me, and it didn't feel like I had read over 500 pages when I finished. In fact, I loved Paloma so much I could have kept reading! This book is definitely worth a read if you love historical fiction.

Saving Sophie by Ronald H. Balson
c/o NetGalley 
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I don't usually read books about the Middle East, but this one was suspenseful and interesting. The book starts out with a missing $88 million dollars in an embezzlement case and Jack Sommers as the main suspect. But why would someone who has never broken the law suddenly steal $88 million dollars? His daughter, Sophie, has been kidnapped by her grandparents and taken to Palestine. The story was intriguing from the very beginning, and I couldn't stop reading. I loved the characters, from Jack and Marcy to Catherine and Liam (I have been wanting to read Once We Were Brothers, and now it's moved higher on my to-read list!) I never expected to finish this book in one night, but that's exactly what happened.

Have you read anything good recently? I love book suggestions!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quick Thoughts: Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip

Hello, friends. I am so glad to be back on the blog this morning. I decided to go ahead and take Friday off from blogging last minute because my in-laws came to visit. Thank you so much to my wonderful guest posters for holding down the fort while I was gone.

After several stressful months, this trip was exactly what we needed to get us through the rest of the year. Honestly, going into the road trip I was a little bummed that we couldn’t do something a little more “exciting” since this is Christopher’s only real vacation until the end of intern year in June, but everything turned out so much better than I expected. I easily fell in love with the Midwest. Chris and I were constantly talking about how great it would be to live in this area (minus the winters!)

We crammed as much as we could into each day, but there was so much more we could have done. One of the things that surprised me was how good the food was—Chris keeps “joking” about driving the three hours back to Grand Haven just so we can eat.

Skyler was such a trooper. She loved all the hiking we did. Those little corgi legs were trucking all over the place. The hardest part of hiking with Sky is people constantly stop us to ask about her. Don’t get me wrong—I love talking about her, but when you are on a five-mile hike, sometimes all you want to do is get to your destination.

Even though we mostly stayed on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour route, we made detours so we could see three Great Lakes on this trip—Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. We have had people from the Midwest tell us they don’t have to visit an ocean because they have everything they need at the lake, and I can see the appeal. The water, especially at Lake Superior, is so clear and beautiful, and you don’t have to deal with it being salty.

I am so excited to share our trip with y’all. I hope it inspires you to give Michigan and Wisconsin a try.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Guest Post: How to Plan for a Trip

Today, I'm excited to have Julie from Say Yes to Happy share how she plans for a trip. I love seeing how other people do their planning, so I was interested in what she had to say. Thanks for guest posting, Julie!

Recently I saw that Olya was looking for guest bloggers and I emailed her to see if she'd be interested in me talking about traveling and how I plan my trips, and she graciously accepted! So here I am today! Hi my name is Julie and I blog over at Say Yes to Happy. I like to blog about my life, travels, what I'm reading and I also love getting to know other people through my interview series. With Olya off on her own trip I though it'd be fun to share how I go about planning my trips.
I absolutely love to travel. It is one of the things I am passionate about. I know that I will be traveling for the rest of my life to places near and far. I have a major case of wanderlust. I always get excited to go on a trip and I always feel a little melancholy when I'm coming down from the high of traveling. I've been to a lot of places but still have so many places still on my bucket list. I am dying to get over to Europe and see Paris, London, Rome, Venice, Lucerne, etc. Some of my favorite places I've been to are Alaska, Togo, Chicago (my hometown!) and the national parks. I've been to Zion, The Arches, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Sequoias, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Estes Park, etc. 9
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the planning stages. I love to look online to search for things I shouldn't miss. My go to sources are Pinterest, Google, Lonely Planet, and other blogs! I usually type in Must See in (Name of City/state/country) and then I map it out on GoogleMaps and see how far apart the places are. pinterest paris
I also like to look up high recommended restaurants and coffee shops. I love seeing local coffee shops that have character and a muffin or bagel. :) Don't get me wrong, I love Starbucks as much as the next girl, but I like support local businesses too. And it's fun to see places that are special to that specific location. I make to do list or things I need to buy or pack to make sure I don't forget anything. I always pack reading materials, like magazines I haven't had time to read, and whatever book I'm reading at the moment. And I love bringing my journal to write in on the way to get to the destinations.
I also make sure to reach out to friends and bloggers and ask for suggestions of places I shouldn't miss. The blogging community has been so supportive and awesome and I'm so happy to be a part of it. I'd love to hear how you guys plan your trips and your tips and tricks! Thanks again so much for having me here today Olya! Chicago

Monday, September 14, 2015

Guest Post: Cherry Cobbler With Cheese Cream Crust Recipe

Hey y'all! Chris and I are still on vacation, and today I have a great guest post! Zully from made a delicious recipe based on Traverse City, one of the places we visited in Michigan. I can't wait to make this cherry cobbler when I get home!

When Olya was looking for a guest post while on her trip I was really excited to jump at the opportunity to share a recipe with her readers! She mentioned that she would be visiting Traverse City, which is known for producing at least 70 percent of the tart cherries in the U.S. annually! That's over 200 million pounds - and lots of cherry cobbler!

I made these cherry cobblers from scratch and I know that might seem a little daunting for some of you at first, but believe me it's very easy. They are topped with a cream cheese crust, which you can easily make in 2-3 minutes. I swear once you make my cherry filling once, you will never buy the canned stuff again.

Cherry Cobbler recipe foodiezoolee1 Cherry Cobbler recipe foodiezoolee2

This recipe makes 4 servings (each person gets a ramekin). Total prep time is about 10 minutes. Total cook time is 45 minutes (10 minutes for filling + 35 minutes for baking).

1/2 cup + 2 tbps sugar, divided
2 tbsp cornstarch
3 cups fresh cherries
3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp salt
4 oz cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp heavy whipping cream

For the Cherry filling: In a large saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch. Add cherries. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil until thickened. Spoon the mixture into 6 oz ramekins (I used a set of 4).

Cherry filling

For the Cream Cheese Crust: Preheat oven to 350º. In a bowl combine flour, 1 tbsp of sugar, and salt. Mix until combined. Add cream cheese and butter. Mix until you have a dough.

Topping your Cobblers: Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Use the lip of a small bowl to cut a circle for each serving. Place on tip and lightly pinch edges with your fingers. Make a few slits to vent. Brush top with cream. Sprinkle the tops with remaining tbsp of sugar.

Bake for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a bonus treat!

Safe travels Olya and thanks so much for having me!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Guest Post: Five Things to do in West Palm Beach, Florida

Melody Pittman is a middle-aged luxury travel blogger who resides in Vero Beach, Florida, and Boquete, Panama.  She has been married half her life,an empty nester, and enjoys all travels whether big or small.  Melody’s motto for life is “If you want to be happy, be” by Leo Tolstoy.  She finds that travel blogging is the perfect combination to showcase all her passions: food, photography, writing, social media, and traveling. Find her on her website at

Since moving to Florida, I have taken many road trips to wonderful destinations, but West Palm Beach is a city I love exploring and find myself ending up there frequently. West Palm is one of the ritziest areas in Florida and unofficially the start of the area of Florida what is referred to as "Southern Florida". West Palm Beach begins around I-95 and continues over to the east coast, where after crossing the intracoastal waterway, it simply becomes Palm Beach. Palm Beach is the richest zip code in the entire state of Florida and a gorgeous place to roam and sightsee, not to mention a prestigious address to have.

Here are five things things to do that showcase what West Palm Beach has to offer:

1. Open Your Wallet and Go Shopping- West Palm Beach is the home to high-end shopping, including both the CityPlace Mall and the newer Palm Beach Outlet shops, featuring a Nordstrom Rack, Sak's Off Fifth and over 100 other stores. CityPlace is an eclectic mix of stores, my favorites being Apricot Lane and Life in Palm Beach, with a wide selection of restaurants to choose from, including Cheesecake Factory and Copper Blues Rock Pub & Kitchen. Though technically Palm Beach Gardens, it is still the part we consider West Palm, it is home to the upscale Gardens Mall. This 1.4 million square foot world-class shopping megaplex features 160 stores with anchor stores Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Macy's, Sear's, and Sak's Fifth Avenue. Shopping at this mall could literally take all day; but do not worry, great restaurants will help nourish you while you recharge. South of downtown is Antique Row, with over 40 stores to cater to collectors or browsers. Antique Row is often regarded as one of the best antique shopping neighborhoods in the country.

This photo of West Palm Beach is courtesy of TripAdvisor

2. Indulge in a Gourmet Meal- So much food, so little time. West Palm Beach is a culinary treat, with foods ranging from upscale comfort to dozens of ethnic varieties and about 50 sushi joints in between. ER Bradley's Saloon is one of my favorite stops (make sure to check out the primo rides at the Valet parking) as well as Grease Burger Bar, for delicious gourmet burgers, a cool drink menu, and root beer on tap. There are so many restaurants here that my bucket list for eating my way around West Palm Beach covers two full pages, and that is only based on referrals. See for yourself; visit West Palm hungry!
fish tacos from e r bradley's saloon west palm beach florida
grease burger west palm beach photo collage
3. Visit the Flagler Museum- Standard Oil tycoon Henry Flagler's gilded age estate located in Palm Beach was one of the most opulent palaces in the world for its time. Flagler's rich influence and sense of style is apparent not only in St. Augustine, where the famed college sits, but at Whitehall as well. The National Historic Landmark is open to the public, as the Flagler Museum, to commemorate one of Florida's most important Magnates who brought the East Coast Railway System to the state of Florida. One can see the grandiose stylings from the outside of the building, lined with Doric columns, and in everything this man laid his hands on. The drawing room on the first floor is my favorite, decorated elegantly. Another favorite feature is the wrought iron looking ceiling in the breakfast room, modeled after Warwick Castle. The museum has a pristine afternoon tea service, served in the Cafe des Beaux-Arts, that is available from November to late March, or during 'season' as we call it in Florida. Tea and museum admission to non-members is $40 per person.
henry flagler museum palm beach florida
4. Stroll Clematis Street- Clematis, the heart of downtown West Palm Beach, is a stylish street to people watch and be seen in the West Palm Beach neighborhood. A most interesting bunch of people are sure to raise a few eyebrows strolling around in the latest fashions or lack of clothing. This popular street is home to a gorgeous theatre that shows off-Broadway style shows as well as local productions. Boutique retailers and national brands offer designer threads, gorgeous bed linens, antiques and collectibles lining the street separated by nightspots, international restaurants, and trendy cafes. Many work lofts and luxury condos dot the landscape as well as historic landmarks. In the heart of Clematis is a fountain that is surrounded by appealing gardens. Flagler Drive at Intracoastal Waterway is where the street begins and is home to a fun filled sandcastle competition in December. The views of the Intracoastal are spectacular and the size of the yachts, impressive!
photo collage clematis street floridastores and street art on clematis street west palm beach florida
exploring clematis street for shopping in west palm beach
sand castle from west palm beach competition
5. Tour the Breakers Hotel- The West Palm Beach icon, another of Henry Flagler's legacy, the Breakers Hotel is a five star luxury oceanfront resort that has the most magnificent drive leading to the entrance, lined with palm trees and beckoning the well to do. It will leave you feeling like you have just driven onto a movie set in Hollywood. Valet park your car and spend $25 inside the hotel (get your card stamped) and the parking is free. I recommend ordering 2 desserts at the Seafood Bar, $25 total, and that should take care of the parking fee. The Seafood Bar restaurant is nautical in theme and features two custom bars made of fish tanks full of colorful fish and eels. My friends and I shared the creme brûlée and the key lime pie desserts- sensational! Even the little seashell tipped silver spoon and cloth linen napkins were memorable. Be sure to visit the Breaker's boutiques and walk around to see the exquisite ballrooms, meeting rooms (adorned with explorers) and gardens. The Lily Pulitzer store offers a special printed scarf designed exclusively for the Breakers Hotel. Maybe you will get lucky and spot a celebrity on your visit. Unfortunately you will not get at a glimpse of the pool without a room card. This timeless classic is on my bucket list of hotels to stay at.
breaker's hotel photo collage lobby creme brûlée beach driving into the breakers hotel palm beach florida