The Siberian American: November 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life Lately: November 2016

I’m not sure how it’s possible today is the last day of November. As much as I love sharing my travels, fashion picks, and favorite reads, I realized I haven’t shared anything about our life lately on the blog in the last month. Today, I wanted to share some highlights of our month.

November was such a fun month filled with family and friends. The month started out with two fun parties: a make-your-own pizza party with the residents in Christopher’s program, and a girls’ lunch put on by a friend. Isn’t this cake from the girls’ lunch adorable?

Date nights with Christopher are my favorite. I am always looking up Groupons and other restaurant deals, so we can go as much as possible. Some favorites this month were Village Burger Bar, CafĂ© Madrid, and Peggy Sue’s Barbecue.

When we aren’t going on dates, we have been cooking together from the new Skinnytaste Cookbook. We love that Skinnytaste Fast and Slow features both quick recipes and delicious crockpot meals. Our favorite meal so far has been the baked fish and chips with slow cooker strawberry and peach cobbler for dessert. When I was flipping through the categories, there were so many unique dishes I wanted to try. We are slowly going through the cookbook, but I can already tell it will be one of my favorites!

I received a free copy of Skinnytaste Fast and Slow through Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.

We loved going to a focus group for new brunch items at Taco Diner. It was so fun to try ten different options and share our opinions. My favorite was their new eggs benedict.

After the focus group, Chris and I went on a blate with Emma and her husband, who were visiting from London! It was so fun to get to know them, and I can’t wait to visit them in England sometime!

Christmas came a little early for us this year when we decided to go to ICE! at the Gaylord Texan. A full recap of our visit is here, but we had the best time seeing all the stunning ice sculptures.

Thanksgiving was the best this year. I loved seeing all my Red Army girls and my little brother (more on that here) at our big Russian Thanksgiving. On Friday morning, we headed out of town to visit my in-laws. We had Thanksgiving with them on Friday and had a family Thanksgiving with his dad’s side of the family on Saturday. Chris was able to get Monday off work, so we stayed till Monday afternoon. It was the best to have an extended amount of time with them and not have to rush home quickly!

What was your favorite part of November?

Linking up with Kristen and Gretchen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Seven Things You Must Do in Chicago During the Holiday Season

During our year in Chicago, one of the things I was most looking forward to is spending the holidays in the city. It didn’t disappoint. I am always in love with Chicago, but it’s absolutely magical during the holiday season. I made it a goal to experience the season to the fullest, and today, I’m sharing my list, so you can, too!

Going to Chicago during the holidays? Here are seven things you have to do!

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival kicks off the holiday season in Chicago and is similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City. The difference is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is held the weekend before Thanksgiving. The parade, which ends in a tree-lighting ceremony, is in the evening, followed by a stunning fireworks show over the Chicago River. The festival has plenty of fun activities for the kids and great shopping for adults!

I have always wanted to visit Germany during the holiday season to see the Christmas markets, but Christkindlmarket in Chicago is the next best thing! I’ve been told by Germans that Christkindlmarket is exactly like the markets in Germany. Most of the vendors actually fly in from Germany for the market. I love the unique, hand-crafted items, amazing German food, and, of course, the mulled wine.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
I love visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo any time of the year because it’s free, but it’s even better during ZooLights. Just like on regular days, the entrance is free. It’s so fun to look at all the gorgeous lights and enjoy the light shows while drinking some delicious mulled wine. One of my favorite parts was watching sculptors make amazing ice sculptures. Don’t forget to stop by the gorilla house on the way home to watch them go to sleep!

See the windows at Macy’s on State Street
The Macy’s on State Street is famous for its gorgeous Christmas displays, and they are worth seeing. My favorite last year was the blue mythological window.

Eat at the Walnut Room
Eating at the Walnut Room with the giant Christmas tree was high on my holiday season list, and it turned out to be one of my favorite things we did during the holiday season in Chicago. Click here for a full guide to the Walnut Room.

Go Ice Skating
Ice Skating at the rink in Millennium Park is a perfect holiday season activity. The park is gorgeous during the holidays and has a beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink opens the same day as the tree lighting ceremony.

Christmas Around the World at The Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is always worth visiting, but it is even better during the holiday season when they have their “Christmas Around the World” exhibit. It features over 50 Christmas trees, each one decorated with holiday traditions from a different country. The trees were beautiful, and I loved seeing all the traditions from other countries.

Have you ever been to Chicago during the holiday season?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Tag

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I saw the Thanksgiving Tag on Biana and Ashley’s blogs, and I thought it would be a fun way to celebrate the holiday! I’m taking Friday off from blogging to spend time with family, so I’ll see y’all on Monday!

Favorite part of the Thanksgiving Day meal:
My favorite part of Thanksgiving in general is seeing all my close friends and family. Since only my immediate family lives in the United States, we have always had Thanksgiving with our extended Russian family from church. Growing up, I had a close group of Russian friends (we were nicknamed the Red Army). They came to visit us in Chicago in March, but other than that, it has been years since we have all been able to make it to Thanksgiving. (Usually one or two of us is missing. I didn’t go last year because Chris had to work on Thanksgiving.) This year, all of us will be there, and I’m super excited!

Thanksgiving 2014
As far as my favorite part of the meal, it’s the pecan pie! My mother-in-law makes an amazing chocolate pecan pie that I look forward to every year.

Favorite side(s):
I’m going to be super honest and say that, in general, I don’t really like traditional Thanksgiving food. I will eat the tiniest piece of turkey you can imagine to feel like I participated. The one side I really do love, though, is corn casserole.

Have you hosted before?
No, and I don’t think we will until we move away from Texas. We do like to bring dishes, though. For Russian Thanksgiving, we are bringing an American side (corn casserole), and for Thanksgiving with my in-laws, we are making pumpkin bread and bringing a Russian side (a Russian potato salad. I have thought about putting the recipe on the blog if anyone is interested!).

Favorite decor for Thanksgiving:
I just want Thanksgiving to feel like fall, so no Christmas decorations, please! I like pumpkins and cornucopias.

Tree up before or after Thanksgiving (if you celebrate):
Always after, but I like to get it up as soon as I can!

Smooth or chunky cranberry sauce:
Neither. I’m really not a big fan of cranberry sauce.

Pumpkin pie or another:
I feel like some of y’all might disown me as blog friends, but I really don’t like pumpkin pie. The texture bothers me. For Thanksgiving, I love apple pie and pecan pie. In general, my favorite is cherry pie.

Biggest thing you're thankful for this year:
My health! It has been a hard year for my health, and I am so thankful that I ended up with the best-case scenario. I am also so thankful that Chris has Thanksgiving off! This could be the last year he has it off for a while, so I am going to enjoy it as much as I can.

What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 21, 2016

ICE! at the Gaylord Texan: Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town

Usually, I’m a strict no Christmas before Thanksgiving person, but there is one thing I love more than rules: bargains. When I heard that ICE! at the Gaylord was 50 percent off if you go before Thanksgiving, I knew we had to make an exception.

This year, the theme was “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” based on a classic TV special from the 1970s that none of us had actually seen. Still, the story and the characters carved out of the ice were adorable. I actually liked it better than ICE! exhibits from previous years. Usually, it’s characters from an animated movie (Shrek, Ice Age, etc.) dressed up in Christmas outfits, so it was nice to see a Christmas story this time.

One of my favorite parts of ICE! is the video at the beginning that explains how the exhibit is made. They use over two million blocks of ice, and amazing artisans come from Harbin, China to carve the designs. I am always amazed by how detailed each sculpture is.

It’s nine degrees inside the exhibit, so everyone is required to wear blue parkas to enter the exhibit. Gloves and hats are recommended, but they’re not required. I decided to skip the gloves for the sake of taking photos, but my hands were definitely frozen by the end.

ICE! is showcased at the four Gaylord hotels (Washington, D.C., Nashville, Tennessee, Grapevine, Texas, and Kissimmee, Florida), though the theme is different at each hotel. All exhibits are open now and run through January 1, 2017. If you are interesting in going, I suggest searching for a Groupon before you go.

Have you ever been to ICE! or any other ice sculpture exhibit?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five Easy Ways to Brighten Someone's Day

Quick note: Today is the last day to sign up for Mattie’s and my Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange. Sign up here, or click here for more details. It’s definitely a way to brighten someone’s day. ;)

Lately, there has been so much hate in our country. People are hurt and angry, and their response is to lash out at people who have differing opinions. I am not here to blame anybody because it is truly a tumultuous time, but I do think we need some kindness in this world. Why not take a minute today to brighten someone’s day? None of my ideas are groundbreaking, but I don’t think it takes much to spread kindness.

Compliment a friend
I recently told a friend that her new top looks amazing with her eyes. She sent me a message later that day telling me how much my comment meant to her because she always feels like a plain Jane. We are sometimes our biggest critics, so a simple compliment can be a big encouragement.

Buy someone coffee
I love the idea of paying it forward by buying coffee for the person behind you in line. If you’d rather do it to someone you know, buy a coffee for a coworker. My coworkers and I used to do this for each other every once in a while, and it always felt like a big treat!

Write a heartfelt note
Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten note? Just something as simple as “have a great day” goes a long way.

Offer a hug
Has one of your friends been having a hard time? Offer to give them a hug! I say offer because some people just aren’t huggers, but it’s a nice gesture for those who are.

Bake cookies for your office
Dessert makes the world a better place. Brighten your coworkers’ day by bringing cookies (or other baked goods) to the office.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me how you like to brighten someone’s day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thanksgiving Fashion Inspired by Happiness Boutique

Companies with social initiatives are my favorite. There’s nothing better than buying something and feeling like you contributed to a great initiative. When Happiness Boutique contacted me for a collaboration, and I discovered that not only do they sell gorgeous jewelry, but their social initiative is to spread happiness, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

I love how jewelry can completely transform your outfit. When I searched through Happiness Boutique’s extensive inventory, I was on the hunt for two statement necklaces for the fall: one to wear with casual outfits and another one for going out. It was seriously so hard to narrow my choices down to two when there were so many gorgeous pieces. I even asked Chris for help! With the two necklaces I picked out, I put together three looks perfect for Thanksgiving.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I get a tiny commission!

Casual Thanksgiving
I love putting together casual outfits and dressing them up with a fun necklace. For a casual Thanksgiving, I picked out this gorgeous honeybee statement necklace.

I love how it looks with my mustard boatneck tee from Loft (currently on sale!) and my Old Navy Rockstar skinny jeans in glorious pine. I was a little worried because the necklace felt heavy when I first picked it up, but I didn’t feel it at all when I put it on!

Formal Thanksgiving
Russian parties are always on the formal side, so I wanted a sparkly necklace to go with the dress I picked out for this year’s Russian thanksgiving. Since my houndstooth dress (similar) is a little busy, I went with the vintage jewels statement necklace.

I love how the necklace brings a little sparkle without clashing with the dress.

Casual Thanksgiving with a Formal Twist
Thanksgiving at my in-laws’ house is the complete opposite of our Russian Thanksgiving. They prefer all things casual, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that! One of my favorite things to do is to pair a fancy necklace with a casual outfit.

I love how my dainty statement necklace looks with the rust-colored top from H&M (sold out) and olive green pants from JCPenney.

Happiness Boutique is based in Germany, but it offers free shipping worldwide. I was impressed by the quality of the necklaces, and I love that they have a customer reward program (who doesn’t like earning free stuff?). If you want a gorgeous necklace of your own, Happiness Boutique is currently offering my readers 10 percent off with the code thesiberianamerican.

I received two complimentary necklaces from Happiness Boutique, but all opinions are my own.

What are you wearing to Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Announcing the Second Annual Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange

We all need a little bit of happiness this week, so I am so excited to announce that Mattie from Northwest Native and I are hosting our second annual blogger Christmas exchange! We would love for you to join us as we get to know other bloggers and spread the holiday cheer!

The Details:

Our Blogger Christmas Cheer Exchange is a fun opportunity to get to know another blogger! We will also be having a linkup, so everyone can see the great gifts you picked out.

11/18: Signups close
12/2 Deadline to ship your package
12/16: Show off your gift by linking up with us!

How much will it cost me?
We have set a minimum of $20. If you would like to spend more, we don’t mind, but please don’t expect anyone to spend more than that.

Am I sending to/receiving from the same person? 
No, this is a Secret Santa exchange. This way, you get to know two people!

Should I contact the blogger who is my partner? 
If you need to contact your blogger, please do it through the Elfster site. We want your identity to be a surprise!

How can I let my Secret Santa know what I want/don't want? 
Elfster has a great wish list option, where you can add anything you want! Please update this! It's so helpful to your Secret Santa.

Is this open to international bloggers? 
Yes! If you are a US blogger willing to ship internationally, please let us know when you sign up. :)

We would love to have as many people as possible participate, so please share our button:

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Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend!