The Siberian American: December 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Start Off 2016 with a New Camera (Giveaway)

Have you had an interest in getting into photography? Or maybe you want to up your photography game to help your blog or small business grow.  Either way, this beginner photography giveaway is just the ticket for you, and I have luckily teamed up with some awesome ladies to be able to offer it to you-this package has roughly a value of  $550 (or more, since Angie found some killer steals on what is included), so you definitely don't want to miss it.
  The Ultimate Beginners Photography Giveaway

Since this giveaway is all about helping you grow your photo-taking skills, Angie of My So-Called Chaos also asked each of the fantastic people participating in this giveaway to tell us what their favorite kind of photos to look at are.  This should help you also hone in on what you want to take photos of while you are working on building your skill and technique. Angie prefers photos that are clear (not blurry or too dark), bright, and have some good color and crispness to them. Here's what everyone else had to say:

What are your favorite photos to look at?

"I enjoy real pictures - the kind that make you think 'Cool... they are totally weird like I am'." - Kimi from Kimi Who

"Oh gosh, that's a really difficult question! I have no idea. Pretty ones?" - Anna from Anna in Wonderland

"Pictures are worth a million words. I enjoy seeing peoples lives in a photos. It is fun to think about what they were doing, what life was like for them, and to just see them grow." - Ashley from Simply Ashley Nicole

"I love photos that show personality! I'm a college student and it's nice seeing artsy photos (for your blog) but I love seeing photos with family, friends, etc!" - Kaci from Earth to Kace

"Environmental Portraits / Photojournalism. I love photos that tell stories of how people interact with their environment." - Esther from Local Adventurer

"I love travel photos because they inspire me to visit new places!" - Olya from The Siberian American

"Nature photos are my favorite simply because they are something gorgeous to look at." - Stella Kenton Body Shop

"Old analogue pictures, especially black and white portraits." - Caterina from Kate/idoscope "

I'm a bit of an Instagram junky and a fashion blogger, so I love looking at others' well-composed fashion photos!" - Nicole from Violet and Vine

"I love to see bright clean photos of peoples everyday lives. Getting to see a peak into someone everyday is always interesting to me." - Amanda of Life with Grace

"Fashion photos are my favorite photos to see because it inspires me to put my closet to use" - Jennifer of the Insta Boss eCourse

"I love travel photos! It's fun to see new places, as well as connect with others that are visiting locations I've been to." - Leeann of Join the Gossip

"I have to admit my first answer is animals - I adore cute animal pictures, but I also love seeing a glimpse into peoples lives and seeing what they are up to." - Sarah from Life in a Breakdown
The Ultimate Beginner Photography Giveaway is Brought to You By These Lovely Bloggers

"Cool food and drink shots, as well as vineyard and travel images." - Mary from Vindulge "Projects/recipes to do with kids." - Sarah from Twins and a Toddler

"I love seeing travel photos. I am such a huge travel fan, and I've been to many countries but I always get inspired to continue traveling when I see others' adventures!" - Casey from Lucy Loo Littles

"Children related photos and fashion." - Brittany from The Ashmore's Blog

"I like photos that are vivid and full of color." - Tish from The Veganista Foodie

"I love photos of cool items layed out on a desk or on a nice background creatively, especially with planners and such." - Lindsay of  Paperclips and Pacis

"I love any kind of photos as long as they are BRIGHT. I LOVE photos full of bright and happy colors!" - Kristen from The Road to Domestication

"I love seeing photos of everyday life. Because everyday life is so beautiful!" - LaShawn from Everyday Eyecandy

"I love candid photos of my family. It is very special to be able to capture a sweet moment between my children." - Amanda from The Mint Design Company

"I love travel photos! In the winter time, photos of tropical destinations help me keep the winter blues at bay." - Mar from T.O. & Fro

"We love all sorts of photos, but Disney photos are our favorites. :)" - Angela and Libby from Disney BFFs Blog

"Pictures of kids, because they are hilarious and fun, and pictures of flowers because they make me happy!" - Candace from Luxe... With Kids

"As a self-proclaimed foodie and maker, I love photos that inspire me to create. I also really love landscape and scenery. Nature is awesome!" - Jessica from Living La Vida Holoka 

"I love outdoor photos, mainly either animals to the beach. Those are my favorite things, so that's what I love to see the most." - Kathleen from Fearlessly Creative Mamas

"Candid pictures of people living their day to day lives. I get to see a glimpse of a stranger's life or at least guess it." - Nana from Foreign Geek

"My favorite kinds of photos are the ones taken in the middle of an adventure, and the photographer catches that moment of awe. Whether it's an unbelievable sunset while hiking or someone's reaction after they've tried something they've never done before. Photos like that inspire me to get outside and live a little; to escape technology and remember there's a huge world out there waiting for me to experience." - Julie from Mom Fabulous

"Travel because I've been bitten by the travel bug for over 25 years now." - Melody from Wherever I May Roam

"I love photos of family dinners and coffee runs. It reminds of all the little things that happen before and after those near 'perfect' moments." - Zobia from The Eternity Journal

"My favorite photos to see are beautiful vacation and travel photos because I love to travel or photos of people running that show their passion for running and health." - Jill from RunEatSnap

"Awesome ones! lol" - Melissa and Deynece from Deux Bella

"I love flatlays, especially beauty ones! I'm a beauty blogger and I love seeing what others have in their collections whether it's something I also use, or something new that gives me ides for future purchases!" - Megan from The Megan Chronicles

"I love food+drink photography, but especially photos of people with friends and family, laughing and enjoying each other's company with food & drink. I love how food can bring people together!" - Marlynn from Urban Bliss Life

"Adventure Photos." - Tiara from Ice Cream and French Fries

 "I'm such a visual person that any kind of photo can draw me in. My favorites are the ones that imply there's more going on than we'll ever know—a secret glance, a watering eye, a mischievous grin, a desolate road, a steaming plate of food—it's like getting a glimpse at someone's soul." - Heather from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

"I adore candid pictures of kids, especially with their moms. Motherhood is hard, but my favorite photos are the ones that remind us of why being a mom is worth it. The photos of our kids that show them laughing with us and loving each other? Perfect." - Meg from Snap Happy Mom

"Food pictures! I love to see how people cook." - Gaila from Petit Gourmet

 "I love pics that show a story, that are artful, sweet, thought provoking and show the beauty of nature, love, friendship, kindness." - Rocio from Your Sassy Self

"I love to see family photos. Family is so important and even if you don't think the pictures are great, they tell a story and I love to see those!" - Amanda from Green Tea and Cotton

 "I love natural photos that show a person's real personality. Nothing overly staged or forced looking." - Krystal from The Krystal Diaries

"Something fun, colorful & inspiring." - Linda from Brunch with Joy

Enter the Giveaway

This giveaway includes the following*:
  • Canon Rebel T5 DSLR Camera with Lens
  • Canon Rebel T5 Supplies**
  • The Beginner's Photography Guide
  • 2 Soft Box Lights
  • Enrollment into the Grow Your Instagram Mini Course
*Prize is subject to change based on availability. **Supplies may/may not be what is pictured in the giveaway image due to availability. This Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 1/12/16 at 12 a.m.. Entering below confirms that you agree to all terms and conditions within the rafflecopter widget.  Entries will be verified. Prizes sent via Amazon Prime for domestic winners (USA) or substitution of $500 cash & the Instagram Course given for international winners.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year in Review: 2015 Highlights (Part Two)

Here’s the second part of our year, and all the fun we have had in Chicago so far. Click here for part one.

July is always the busiest month of the year for us. Christopher and I were born two days apart (July 21 and July 23), and our anniversary is July 25. We started off July by eating our way through Taste of Chicago. Then, my in-laws visited us for the first time, and we had a great time exploring together. Some of the highlights of their trip was The Field Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Skydeck, and a sunset dinner cruise on Lake Michigan to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary.

July was also the first month I realized how tough intern year (and residency overall) was going to be. Christopher had his first two weeks of night float, and he had to work the night of my birthday (starting at 3 p.m.), which meant he had to sleep all day to get ready. He was super sweet and took me to lunch at Shaw’s Crab House before he had to leave to celebrate! I also got to see my parents on my birthday because they were flying home from visiting friends in Milwaukee.

In July we took our first two day trips to explore more of the Midwest. We loved hiking at the Indiana Dunes and eating as many pierogis as possible at the Pierogi Festival in Whiting, Indiana.

In August, we walked to the Chicago Air and Water Show, which was way better than I expected. We also had a great time trying out some of the restaurants in Chicago and all of the amazing delivery options.

We kicked off September, college football season, and two glorious weeks off by heading to Evanston, Illinois for Northwestern vs. Stanford. The highlight of September was our Lake Michigan Circle Tour road trip. We had such an amazing time exploring Michigan and Wisconsin, and I can’t wait to share more about our trip with y’all in the coming months. When we got home, I got to spend a fun few days with Christopher’s parents exploring more of the city.

October was one of my favorite months in Chicago so far. We started it out with a Chicago cupcake tour that I wouldn’t mind doing again. Since we don’t get much fall color in Texas, we took advantage of the gorgeous fall colors this year by going on two day trips. I loved seeing the beautiful mansions and fall color in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and hiking at Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.

My best friend from high school visited me for a long weekend, and I loved showing off our beautiful city. Christopher had a day off during her visit, so the three of us went apple picking for the first time.

Christopher didn’t have many days off in November, but we made the most of it. On his first day off, we walked to Northerly Island and enjoyed the amazing city views. We also had our first snowfall of the year, with almost a foot at O’Hare that delayed my in-laws’ Thanksgiving visit for 15 hours.  Once they arrived, we loved visiting new places in Chicago like Christkindlmarket, Chicago 360, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium.

Christmastime in Chicago was just as magical as I expected it to be. I loved checking out ZooLights, having lunch at the Walnut Room, visiting the Driehaus Museum, and enjoying all of the beautiful decorations around town. My in-laws came back to celebrate Christmas with us, and we had a wonderful three days together. We went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service at The Moody Church, which was the perfect way to start off Christmas.

2015 has been a crazy but wonderful year, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Year in Review: 2015 Highlights (Part One)

What a difference a year makes. This time last year we had no idea where we were going to be living, and here we are, nearly seven months into our year in Chicago. Even with all the stress, 2015 was a great year. 2015 was also the first full year that I blogged, which made it so much easier to look back on what we did this year than when I did last year’s year in review.

We kicked off the new year by going on a Caribbean cruise to Honduras, Belize, and Mexico. Although I missed celebrating New Year’s Eve Russian style, it was so fun to celebrate on the Emerald Princess. I also loved waking up on January 1 in Belize and starting the year off by going on an adventure. It was a trip Christopher and I needed after months of residency interviews.

We spent most of February waiting for March to arrive, but it was still a fun month. We went to see Odysseo, which was created by one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil but also includes horses. We also got our first taste of winter weather for the year with a few ice days.

March was the month we had been waiting for since the beginning of medical school. It started off with a massive amount of snow (for Texas) and constant thoughts about Match Day. Match Day finally arrived, and it took me a while to process God’s plan for us. All I can say now is I should have never doubted those results because we are exactly where we need to be right now.

After the stress of Match Day, we needed to get away, so Christopher and I took a seven-day road trip from San Diego to San Francisco to celebrate the end of medical school. It was definitely the right trip at the right time, and one of these days I will get around to finishing the recaps!

In April, I visited Chicago for the first time ever to find a place to live. It was such a frustrating experience, but thankfully, everything worked out. It really helped me to feel better about the move after I saw the beautiful city.

May was one of the hardest months of the year. We spent most of the month preparing to move, and I had a hard time coming to terms with leaving my job. That is still the hardest part of living here—I miss my wonderful job and amazing coworkers.

The best part of May was Christopher’s medical school graduation. I was so proud to see him walk that stage and officially become a doctor!

We moved to Chicago on June 1, and I instantly fell in love. We had a week before Christopher started intern year, so we spent as much time as we could exploring.It was so crazy how quickly Chicago started to feel like home.

Come back on Wednesday for the second half of 2015! 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating with friends and family. Christ is born!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Currently: December 2015

I haven’t done a “Currently” post since I was waiting for Match Day, so I thought I would do one more this year.

My in-laws coming into town on Christmas Eve. I am so thankful they will be spending Christmas with us.

I am so bummed Christopher has to work on Christmas Eve all of a sudden. I was prepared for him to work, but then they told us he had the day off, and we were super excited. It stinks to think you get to spend time together and then have it taken away.

Excited that Christmas is on Friday, and I still get three full days with my love and his family!

Angels Burning by Tawni O’Dell (c/o NetGalley). It’s an interesting book about how the violent death of a teenager shook a town and brought out parallels between this killing and the police chief’s mother’s murder. It comes out in early January, so I will be writing more about it when it comes out, but I am really liking it so far.

Skyler eat her Nutro Moist-N-Chewy Bites she received from Chewy. The treats are all-natural, and you can smell the hickory barbecue flavor as soon as you open the bag. I love the size, and Skyler wouldn’t mind eating the whole bag.

I received these treats courtesy of Chewy, but all opinions are my own.

All the Christmas decorations around Chicago! It’s so easy to get into the Christmas spirit with how beautiful it is here.

To clean up our place and finish wrapping all the gifts before my in-laws arrive!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Chicago Christmas: Lunch at The Walnut Room

Several friends and bloggers have mentioned the Chicago tradition of having lunch at The Walnut Room, so we thought it would be fun to do while we are living here this year. The Walnut Room is located on the seventh floor of Macy’s on State Street and has one of the prettiest Christmas trees in Chicago.

Lunch starts at 11 a.m., but the line opens at 10 a.m. We ended up being a little delayed and got to The Walnut Room around 11 a.m. By the time we went through the line to get a pager, we were told our pager would go off between 2:30 and 3 p.m. We knew we would probably have to wait a long time since it was the last weekend before Christmas, but it was the only time we could go.

I’ve mentioned before there is no way that I would wait four hours for food, and I still stand by that. In this case, we didn’t care much about the food and wanted to do it for the experience. We killed time by exploring Macy’s—There are nine stories, and each floor is massive. I’m glad we were finished with our Christmas shopping because it was so tempting to buy everything, especially the Frango chocolates.

By the time 3 p.m. rolled around, our pager still hadn’t gone off, so we headed over to the pager drop off area, and they let us get into another line to wait for a table. We were finally seated around 3:30 p.m.

Even though we had to wait forever, we still had fun. Our seats were right by the tree, and we enjoyed our late lunch and holiday cocktails. Christopher loved trying the chicken pot pie, and I had a peach nest chicken salad.

Would I come back and make this a tradition if we lived here? Only if we could go during a weekday and have a much shorter wait. Even so, I don’t regret the time we spent waiting because we got to spend the whole day together laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Linking up with Biana for Weekending. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Favorites: Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange Reveal + Linkup

Happy Friday and one week until Christmas, friends! I was just going to do the Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange reveal today, but I had a few more fun things I wanted to share with y’all today before I shared my fantastic gift!

/ / One
Christopher has a golden weekend this weekend (what people in the medical field call having both Saturday and Sunday off), and I am so excited to go on a few Christmas dates and celebrate him being done with the Step 3! He has had to study for several months after coming home, so it is a relief to have that out of the way.

/ / Two
I have been trying to mix up Skyler’s diet a bit, so I was excited to receive Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Mixers from Chewy. I put about 1/8 of a cup into Skyler’s food every day, and she gobbles it up. I love that it is natural, grain-free, and pure animal protein. She loves that it provides variety to her dry food.

I received the Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Mixers from Chewy, but all opinions are my own. 

/ / Three
Christopher and I finally got to decorate the tree on Monday because he got home early from one of his test days. It was so nice to spend time together decorating and listening to Christmas music.

/ / Four
This week, I finished my 100th book of the year! One of my latest reads was The Tsar of Love and Techno, which I picked up because it was short stories about life in Siberia when during the Soviet Union period. I don’t usually read short stories, so it took me a while to get into them, and I thought the first half of the book was pretty boring. That being said, once the back story was established, I loved the second half of the book. Everything came together and kept me engaged.

I received this book through Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.

/ / Five
Last but not least, I had so much fun putting together the Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange with Mattie! My Secret Santa was Katie from Running with Wine, and she got me a beautiful blanket scarf! I have been wanting a blanket scarf in those colors forever, and it is so warm and soft. It finally got cold enough here to wear it when Christopher and I went on a Christmas date to ZooLights last night. I love it so much with my red peacoat, and it will be on heavy rotation this winter. Thank you so much, Katie!

Ladies part of the exchange, link up with us below! I can’t wait to see what y’all got. If you haven’t received your gift yet, the link up is open until December 31.

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

I hope y’all have a wonderful weekend!