The Siberian American: May 2016

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Best Things to Do in Vegas If You Don’t Gamble or Drink

Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to go for a long weekend, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people dismiss it as a vacation destination because they don’t drink or gamble. I think Vegas sometimes gets a bad reputation due to its Sin City nickname when the city has so much more to offer. Today, I decided to make it my mission to share why I think Vegas is a fun place to visit.

things to do in Las Vegas if you don't gamble or drink

See a show
My favorite part of visiting Las Vegas is definitely watching a show. I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil (though I think Le Reve beats all the Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas) and have enjoyed several comedy shows and musicals. Click here for a guide to my favorite shows in Vegas.

Once upon a time Vegas was solely known for its buffets. While it still has good buffets (check out my favorite Vegas buffets here), the whole food scene on the Strip is seriously amazing. Whether you want a delicious snack after a day at the pool or a fancy meal for a special occasion, you can’t go wrong with your options in Vegas. Stay tuned for a future post about my favorite restaurants.

Wander through the hotels 
One of the best things to do in Vegas is to explore all the hotels. If I had to pick, my favorite hotel would be the Bellagio with its conservatory and gorgeous fountain, but all of the hotels have unique experiences. Go up the replica Eiffel Tower for a gorgeous view of the Strip at Paris. Ride a gondola at The Venetian. Check out the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

Another great thing about hotels on the Strip is their amazing pools and spas. I love spending the day on the lazy river at the MGM Grand Pool or in a cabana at the Bellagio. The best part is the pools are open during the winter for those looking for an escape from the cold.

Try Coca Cola from around the world at the World of Coca-Cola
For just $8, you can try 16 Coca-Cola products from around the world (and eight ice cream soda flavors for an additional $4) on the top floor of the Coca-Cola store. It’s such a fun experience to watch the faces of your friends and family as they taste the flavors.

Vegas has some of the best shopping around. On the Strip, I love shopping at the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, the Fashion Show mall, Las Vegas Premium Outlets-South, Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay. If you feel like leaving the Strip, my favorite places to shop are the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas and Las Vegas Premium Outlets-North.

Go to a museum
I have only recently discovered that Vegas has several museums worth seeing. Of course, Madame Tussauds at The Venetian is always fun, but next time I’m in Vegas, I plan to check out the mob museum in Downtown Las Vegas and The Neon Museum.

Get out of town
As much as I love being on the Strip, I love taking day trips to see the gorgeous scenery in the area. The Grand Canyon is the obvious choice, though it takes over eight hours round trip, which doesn’t leave you a lot of time to spend at the Grand Canyon. If you want to visit the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, I recommend spending the night at a hotel close to the Grand Canyon or booking a plane or helicopter tour from Vegas. If you prefer to take a shorter day trip, I love the Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire State Park. We visited the Valley of Fire State Park last time we were in Vegas, and I would love to go back!

Curious about my favorite place to stay in Vegas? Check out my Instagram for the answer! 

Things to do in Vegas if you don't drink or gamble

Have you been to Vegas? What’s your favorite thing to do?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Baylor University: When Sexual Assault Hits Close to Home

Today, my heart hurts. I ache for the sexual assault victims and how my beloved university has failed them countless times. I have been hesitant to comment until we knew the results of the Pepper Hamilton report, and I was sick to my stomach reading the results of the investigation.

I especially hurt for those fans who call Baylor the “scapegoat” and say this problem has occurred many times at big name programs without the head coach and president taking the fall. That’s not the point. We shouldn’t point fingers at other schools when our school failed women. Baylor chose football over sexual assault victims.

I will never stop loving Baylor. It’s where I met the love of my life and pursued my passions. At Baylor, I grew and was constantly challenged in my faith. My love for the school is unconditional. Some of my favorite memories are associated with Baylor football. I will never forget Baylor Homecoming 2010 when, after an insane rainstorm, we stormed the field after Baylor became bowl-eligible for the first time since 1995. I have always admired Coach Art Briles and how he overcame tragedy to become a successful football coach.

Although my heart bleeds green and gold, I will never make excuses for the awful decisions made by the university and football team. After failing so many times, the first step in the right direction is to fire Coach Art Briles and demote Judge Ken Starr. Now is the time for humility and forgiveness. We can’t change what happened, but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May 2016 PopSugar Must Have Box Review (+ Huge Discount)

My May 2016 PopSugar box came super late this month, so I haven’t been able to post it until now. Compared to the last few PopSugar boxes, the May box was pretty disappointing. Still, I thought the box was worth what I paid for it, and that’s all that matters to me.

PopSugar is having a huge sale on their subscriptions until tomorrow, so if you are curious about PopSugar Must Have boxes, now is the time to try it out since they average about two sales a year. Check the bottom of this post for all the code details.

Note: This post contains referral links. If you decide to purchase a PopSugar box, I would love it if you used my link.

Bluma Project Capri Bracelets ($44)
I am not a huge fan of the tassel trend, but these bracelets are actually pretty cute! I love that they are made by artisans in the Philippines.

Spongelle Spongology Body Buffer ($20) 
I usually don’t love when PopSugar repeats brands, but I really like Spongelle. The smell is a little stronger than I like, but I will definitely use it.

Kocostar Foot Therapy Foot Exfoliation Wrap ($9.50)
I’ve never done a foot exfoliation wrap before, but I think it will be fun to try out before summer starts.

Happy Spritz Breathe Deeply Spray ($25)
I am allergic to essential oils, so I didn’t try to spray this. I will be passing it on to a friend, though!

Gaiam Foldable Yoga Mat ($24.95)
Since this yoga mat is designed for travel, it is thinner than regular yoga mats. I can’t think of a reason I need a travel yoga mat, but it will also make a good gift.

JimmyBar! Peanut Butter Clutter Bar ($2.49) 
Chris loves getting bars in my PopSugar boxes, and I think he will like this one. It is made with only simple ingredients: dates, peanut butter, crisp brown rice, peanuts, almonds and honey.

Special Extra: Hint Caffeine Kick Water ($1.69)
I’m not sure if Chris and I are brave enough to try water with cayenne pepper in it, but it’s an interesting concept.

Special Extra: Revlon Volume Length Magnified Mascara ($9) 
I am always up for trying a new mascara, so I was excited to see this one in the box.

As I mentioned above, PopSugar is currently having a huge sale on its subscriptions. You can get $10 off a one-month subscription with the code SPRING10, $20 off a three-month subscription with the code SPRING20, and $50 a six-month subscription with the code SPRING50.

What do you think about the May 2016 PopSugar box? What is your favorite item?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chicago Travel: Chicago Cubs Game at Wrigley Field

Christopher and I have been trying to go to a Cubs games since we first moved to Chicago, but the timing never worked out last season. I was so excited when the Cubs had a home game on Mother’s Day that worked with Christopher’s schedule! It was an absolutely gorgeous day at the ballpark for us to see the Cubs play the Nationals.

I only became a baseball fan a few years ago when I needed a sport to get me through long summers without football and basketball. For a long time, I thought it was a boring game that took too long, but once I learned the rules, I ended up really enjoying it. Chris and I are Texas Rangers fans, but we decided we can also be Chicago Cubs fans since they are in the National League.

Besides cheering on the Cubs, I wanted to visit Wrigley Field because it’s the second oldest active ballpark in the United States (the oldest is Fenway Park) and the oldest National League ballpark. Built in 1914, it has been the home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916.

It’s always interesting to see the differences between ballparks. Even though it wasn’t fully grown, it was neat to see the famous ivy-covered brick outfield wall. I was also amused by hand-turned scoreboard and had to sneak a few peeks at it to see how the Rangers were doing!

Of course, you can’t go to a ballpark without trying some food. Chris and I opted to share some chili cheese fries and a cheeseburger…because calories don’t count when you’re at a sporting event.

Chris and I have a knack for picking games that don’t end in regulation. This game lasted 13 innings and was five hours long. We ended up leaving in the ninth inning since we were taking the “L” train and wanted to beat the crowd. The game took so long we were able to see the Cubbies win when we got home!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Let’s Have a Coffee Date

I so wish I could sit down with each and every one of you, so we could chat about our lives. Since I can’t do that, I thought I would catch y’all on what’s been happening in my world lately with a virtual coffee date (and an iced white mocha, please!).

If we were having coffee, I would tell you there are only 20 days left in Christopher’s intern year (he got two weeks of vacation time at the very end, so he is finishing early). It’s been such a crazy, hectic year, and I am so proud of the way Chris has handled it.

I would tell you that I have been going crazy with the construction outside of my window for the last two weeks. Chicago let the building across from us have an unusual permit where they can do three times the construction you can usually do at a time, so I hear constant banging from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Usually, I would just leave to work somewhere else, but I can’t because of my health.

I would mention that I’ve been to Russian/Ukrainian restaurants twice in the past two weeks. I haven’t had my Mama’s cooking in a year, and all my favorite Russian food is too time consuming to make. Chris and I went to Russian Tea Time for pelmini, varenyky, and blini last weekend. This past Sunday, we met up one of my childhood friends and her fiancĂ© for an amazing assortment of Russian and Ukrainian food at Shokolad.

I would tell you I am so excited I found an apartment at the place we wanted with an earlier move-in date. Now we won’t have to put our things in storage for over a month and move twice.

I would probably grumble a little about Christopher’s current rotation. He was supposed to be on a super easy rotation with weekends for the next few weeks, but he got pulled to do a much harder one that he had already done (even though there are people in his intern class who won’t have to do it this year). He has to leave at 5 a.m. every day and comes home around 9 p.m. It’s such a bummer when they change the schedule on us.

I would tell you I am thankful I feel so hopeful and positive about my health. It’s not easy, and I have weak moments (and get discouraged when I can barely move), but I believe God is in control, and everything will work out.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me?

Monday, May 16, 2016

California Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway Tips

Our entire California road trip itinerary was incredible, but our day driving up Highway 1 goes down as one of my favorite days ever. I must have said wow approximately 10,000 times throughout the drive, and my only complaint is that we couldn’t stay there forever. I hope everyone gets to enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway, so I wanted to put together a list of tips, so you can also have the best experience ever.

Pacific Coast Highway Tips

Drive south to north if you don’t like heights (San Diego to San Francisco)
Most people will tell you to take Highway 1 north to south, so you can be closest to the ocean. I will admit it’s way easier to get in and out from the scenic stops, but there are places where you are super close to the edge, and that’s just not my cup of tea. Plus, if you have the time, you can keep on going all the way to Oregon!

Big Sur
Pacific Coast Highway
Highway 1 Views
Highway 1 Fog

Don’t miss the elephant seals in San Simeon
After touring Hearst Castle, we had to stop by the Elephant Seal Rookery at San Piedras Beach. It’s crazy to see so many seals in one place, and when we were visiting, there were a lot of babies! There was a guide on the beach who told us 23,000 seals came to the six-mile stretch of beach during the 2014-2015 season.

San Simeon seals
San Simeon seals

Stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park deserves its own post (check it out here) because of its beauty. It was stunning to see the McWay Falls, one of two waterfalls in the area that flow into the ocean. I could have stayed there all day.

Julia P Burns Park
McWay Falls
Pacific Coast Highway Views
PCH views

Go in the spring
We took our Pacific Coast Highway road trip in March, and the timing was perfect! It wasn’t as crowded as it would have been in the summer, and the weather was amazing. (Plus, it meant we got to see some of the California poppies at Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve!).

Pacific Coast
Big Sur fog
Highway 1 trees

Don’t rush the experience
Sadly, we only had a week for our road trip, so we had to do the Highway 1 drive in one day. Someday, I would love to stay at a hotel in Big Sur and take it all in for several days. Even so, we tried to make the most of our time in the area. Drive slowly. Stop often. Make amazing memories. Take lots of photos.

Highway 1
Pacific Coast Highway

Have you ever taken a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway? Did you love it as much as I did? If you haven’t, have I convinced you to add it to your bucket list?

Catch up on our California road trip: 

Hearst Castle Grand Rooms Tour
Hearst Castle Upstairs Suites Tour and Roman Pool

The Most Beautiful Place in Big Sur

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Favorites: Five Places I Want to Visit in Canada

Happy Friday, y’all! I have been really enjoying putting together lists of places I want to visit, so today I thought I would continue with places I want to visit in Canada. So far, I have only been to Canada for a day or two at a time on various cruises (we’ve been to Victoria, Vancouver, and visited Halifax and Saint John and Saint Andrews on our fall foliage cruise in 2015), but there is so much more to explore!

Banff National Park
I have always wanted to visit this gorgeous national park in the Canadian Rockies. My dream would be to stay at the Chateau Lake Louise on the stunning Lake Louise.

Quebec City
I’ve heard Quebec City is the closest place in North America to feeling like you’re in Europe, and from the photos, I believe it! I would love to walk the cobblestone streets, check out Le Château Frontenac and La Citadelle, and speak French!

Whistler reminds me of Vail, Colorado, and I would love to visit around Christmas someday!

Niagara Falls
I have always heard the Canadian side of Niagara Falls has a better view than the American side, and one of these days, I’d love to see it for myself!

Montreal is the largest francophone city outside of Paris, so of course, I would love to visit! It is also often considered the cultural capital of Canada. I would love to check out Old Montreal, the Old Port, Place Jacque-Cartier, Notre-Dame Basilica, Mont Royal, and the Musee des Beaux-Arts).

Check out my list of the five places I want to visit in the United States, six places in the United States I would like to visit again, and five places I want to visit in Europe.

Have you been to any of the places on my list? Where do you want to visit in Canada?

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

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Our Chicago Mini Photo Session

I have been wanting some updated professional photos of Chris and me for a while (since our engagement photos are seven years old), so I thought it would be perfect to do our photos in Chicago as a way to remember our time in this gorgeous city. I pretty much abandoned the idea once I found out about my health (it suddenly became an unnecessary expense), so I was thrilled when Lex from Lex Nelson Photography offered to do a free mini session for us in exchange for me doing some modeling for her so she could try out her new film camera.

I really wanted our photos to feature the Chicago skyline, so the spot she picked was perfect! Chris and I had a blast being our silly selves in front of the camera, and I think the photos turned out great! I would love for y’all to tell me your favorite photo. I’m planning on framing a few once we get back to Texas!

A few verticals:

Just for fun, here are a couple of shots from my shoot with Lex: