The Siberian American: February 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

Lake Michigan Circle Tour: Grand Haven, Michigan Food Adventures

When I picked Grand Haven, Michigan as our first overnight stop on our Lake Michigan Circle Tour, I wasn’t expecting for the food to be one of my favorite parts of our stay. Chris and I have discussed the food at Grand Haven several times since we got home and have even thought about driving back for another visit (which is slightly ridiculous since Chicago has amazing food). Today, I thought it would be fun to share our food adventures in Grand Haven.

Righteous Cuisine 
After having to wait out the crazy storm, Chris and I were starving, so we picked a place in close walking distance to our AirBnB. We stopped by a shack with some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had. Righteous Cuisine is a fusion of two of my favorite cuisines: barbecue and Mexican food. The chicken nachos were a great size with unique ingredients, and I loved the brisket taco with slaw, apple and parsnip purée, queso, cilantro, and pickled carrots. Chris and I also shared the chicken taco, which had sweet potato salad, queso cotija, chipotle yogurt, and cilantro. We loved it so much, we have even encouraged my in-laws to try it next time they are visiting us.

Pronto Pup 
While walking the Grand Haven Boardwalk, Chris had to try a Pronto Pup. A Pronto Pup is like a corn dog, but it is made with a pancake-based batter instead of corn flour. The Pronto Pup kiosk has been in Grand Haven since 1947, so we knew we wanted to try the tradition. Since we had already eaten dinner, I just tried part of Chris’s Pronto Pup, and I’ve got to say the batter really is delicious. I don’t usually eat corn dogs, but I can definitely see the appeal of Pronto Pups.

Morning Star Café 
Before heading out on our next adventure, Chris and I had breakfast at the Morning Star Café. It was a vibrant breakfast and lunch place with a Southwest emphasis. I had one of the biggest, most delicious homemade cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had, and Chris loved his pancakes. I am not the biggest fan of breakfast food (crazy, I know), but I would still love to go back here and have another cinnamon roll.

Have you ever been to a place that surprised you with its food options?

Catch up on our Lake Michigan Circle Tour Road Trip:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Blogger Galentine’s Exchange Reveal

I had so much fun hosting the Blogger Galentine’s Exchange with my blogger friend Mattie from Northwest Native. It’s such a fun way to get to know other bloggers.

Emily from Yippee! It’s MLE sent me my gift, and she really outdid herself. Not only did she send a beautiful knit scarf perfect for a Chicago winter, she sent me two heart containers filled with Starbursts and gummy lifesavers, sticky notes (I love office supplies!), a mini red Essie nail polish, and a mini perfume.

It was such a great gift that I was surprised when I opened up the card and read this was only part one! Emily also sent me $10 to Starbucks, which was such a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much, Emily, for these amazing gifts and for feeding my Starbucks addiction! I can’t wait to read more of your blog.

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 will remain open for a week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Favorite Russian Superstitions (Part Two)

When I did my reader survey back in August, many readers mentioned they would like to see more posts about growing up Russian. Today, I wanted to share three more Russian superstitions I heard often. Click here for part one of my favorite Russian superstitions.

Don’t whistle indoors…or you will lose money.
After growing up with this superstition, I can’t stand whistling, even if it is outdoors.

If you sneeze while telling a story, it means you are telling the truth.
This also works if someone else is telling a story and another person in the group sneezes. Basically, if someone sneezes, whatever story is being told at the time is true.

If your ears or cheeks are hot, it means someone is thinking of you.
I always thought this was cute growing up because you never know if it means your crush is thinking of you!

Do you have any favorite superstitions?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Three European Travel Stories I Will Never Forget

My husband often jokes that I am a magnet for strange situations. Since I have been feeling nostalgic about our time in Europe lately, I wanted to share some stories from our travels.

On our first solo weekend trip in Europe, Chris and I decided to visit Berlin with eight friends. Everything went smoothly until the third train change. We had about 45 minutes to wait between trains, and our train was late.

The local train ended up coming a minute before our train so we accidentally got on the wrong train, which took us to...Herzogenrath-August-Schmidt-Platz. Our friend Jonathan knew a little German (enough to ask, do you speak English?), so we found a nice lady at the grocery store near the train station who told us the local train we got on makes a loop and would be back at the station in about 30 minutes.

Four hours later, a little after midnight, we made it to Berlin. We were all incredibly exhausted at this point, so we went to the taxi line to get a ride to our hostel. The taxi driver told us the hostel was “200 meters to the right” and refused to take us.

So we walked….and walked….and kept on walking. We ended up stopping at another hotel for directions and found out that the taxi driver was very wrong. The hostel was over a mile and a half away from where we were. As we made our way to the hostel, three men started following us and asked if we were American. Of course, some of the girls in our group shouted “Yes!,” and we had to walk quickly and take random streets to lose them. Thankfully, we lost them and finally made it to the hostel around one in the morning.

Middle of Nowhere, France
Transportation and I just don’t get along (I have about a million strange airplane stories I can share), so I can’t say I was surprised when our train randomly stopped on route from Barcelona, Spain to Marseille, France. We found out that someone in the compartment next to us had a seizure, so the train was stopped to get him medical attention.

For some reason, they decided to stop the route after the man was taken to the hospital, and everyone had to find a new train connection. We knew we were somewhere on the border of Spain and France, so I turned to one of my friends and told her if we were in Spain, we needed her to get us tickets, and if we were in France, I would take care of it. Once we got off the train, we found out we were in France, so I headed to the tiny train station to find out a way to get to Marseille. The next train didn’t leave for a while, so we ended up wandering around the tiny village.

A Nice Butt
Our train connection in Switzerland gave us only five minutes to get from one platform to another (because of a late train), so I was walking up the escalator when I heard two men discussing my butt in Russian behind me (I was the only woman on the escalator at the time, so it was obvious the conversation was about me). Apparently, they thought I had a nice butt and were upset because my backpack was covering up part of it. I wish I wasn’t in a huge hurry because I would have loved to respond back to them in Russian.

I was planning on sharing more stories, but I don’t want to bore y’all with too many words in one day. Stay tuned for part two of my strange European adventures!

What’s one of your favorite travel stories?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Friday Favorites: Five Winter Chicken Recipes I Love

With single-digit temperatures and plenty of snow the last few weeks, I have been all about comfort food. This season, this has meant a lot of soup, pasta, and anything with chicken. Here are the five recipes I have had on repeat lately:

/ / One
Creamy Southwest Chicken Chowder

This is one of Christopher’s favorite recipes, and I love it because it’s easy to make and super delicious.

/ / Two
Chicken Carbonara

I love eating chicken carbonara any time of the year, but it feels like comfort food during the winter.

/ / Three
Crockpot Chicken Taco Chili

You all know I love a good crockpot recipe, and this crockpot chicken taco chili has been great when I went chicken chili instead of beef or turkey chili. (Of course, I also love to make our quick and easy chicken chili recipe).

/ / Four
Tex-Mex Chicken and Quinoa Soup

This soup is perfect for when I really miss Tex-Mex.

/ / Five
Roasted Chicken & Sweet Potato Risotto

Christopher loves sweet potatoes, so this dish was a hit in our house!

I love trying out new recipes! What are you making this winter? 

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

Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Twelve Books I Loved This Winter

I’ve read more books in January and the beginning of February than I ever have this time of year. I’m almost embarrassed to say how many books I have read (27), but my excuse is my terrible insomnia. Since reading has become a bigger part of my life, I’m considering doing posts like these once a month (and including books I didn’t like), so I would love to hear if anyone is interested in that.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I love World War II historical fiction, so I knew that I would love this book. I was right-it was so beautiful and well written, and I loved Isabelle and Vianne's stories equally. I loved reading about women in the wartime and Isabelle's unrelenting desire to make a difference. That said, it is not my favorite novel about WWII, and I thought it was slow at times, which was surprising. I think those who rarely read historical fiction will like this novel more than those who don't. I think I have read too many books that are similar to this one, so it didn't blow me away.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner 
(c/o NetGalley)

I was instantly swept away by this story of two pool secretaries becoming friends while they worked on the set of Gone With the Wind. It was interested to learn more about the filming of the movie, and I loved both of the main characters-Audrey, an aspiring actress hoping to get discovered and Violet, a girl from Alabama who came to Hollywood to start over. I loved how the book followed them throughout the years as their friendship was tested. I didn't love the "current" sections as much as they didn't add a lot to the story, but overall, this was a fantastic read.

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
(c/o NetGalley)

Last year, I read The Secrets of Midwives, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I feel the same way about The Things We Keep. I loved that the story had three points of view-Anna, a young woman diagnosed with early on set dementia, Eve, a woman struggling with the aftermath of her husband's Ponzi scheme and suicide, and Clem, Eve's daughter. All three women have to face a new reality, but I loved seeing their strength throughout the novel. I loved Luke and Anna's story and Eve's role in helping them be together. If you love stories about unlikely love, this one is a great read!

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns 
(c/o NetGalley)

This book was much better than I expected. It starts off with Sarah as a young child witnessing the death of her parents. Even though she was only three, she has a special memory that allows her to relive events from the past. After years of foster care, she is irestigious Sanctuary Bay Academy, where she feels like she gets a second chance at life. Then, her roommate goes missing, and Sarah begins to uncover the secrets behind her school. The last half of the book was so interesting and fast paced that I couldn't stop reading. I hope there is a sequel because there is still so much more I want to know!

The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch
(c/o NetGalley)

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book. Honestly, the writing was not that great, but the story made up for it. It took me some time to get into it, but it kept getting better. The plot was interesting, and I thought Sara was a great main character. It was interesting to learn more about wine making, and once the book finished, I wanted to know more. I just found out there is going to be a sequel, so I am really excited to read it.

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
(c/o NetGalley)

I really enjoyed Black Rabbit Hall. I loved how the story revolved around the gothic house, and even though the story was dark and heartbreaking at times, it was intriguing and kept me interested. In past-present novels, I usually like the past more than the present, but in this case, both parts were equally interesting. I will say I figured out the secret in this story pretty quickly, but it didn't detract me from liking the novel.

I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable 
(c/o NetGalley)

I really enjoyed this story of Pru, Win, Annie, and Gladys Deacon. Although part of the story was definitely predictable, it was interesting to watch everything come together. I loved both Pru and Laurel and their strength and curiosity. I think the story started off a little slow, but it picked up and kept me engaged.

Find Her by Lisa Gardner
(c/o NetGalley)

This is the eighth book in the D.D. Warren series, but I think it worked well as a stand alone novel. This thriller about a woman who was kidnapped and held in a pine coffin for 472 days was both heartbreaking and interesting. When Flora gets kidnapped again five years later, D.D. must find her and another missing college student. The book is written in two points of view: Flora's and D.D. Warren's. Through Flora, you learn what it is like to lose your identity in order to survive. Through D.D Warren, you get a behind the scenes look on what it is like to look for a kidnapping victim. The book is fast-paced, dark, and one of a kind. It kept me up way past my bedtime, and I would have finished it in one night if I wasn't too exhausted.

The Two of Us by Andy Jones 
(c/o NetGalley)

This is not your average love story. Told from the perspective of William Fisher, it begins 19 days after he starts dating Ivy with a huge, sudden change in their relationship. The story is told over the course of a year as Fisher and Ivy try to make their relationship work. Throw in a best friend with Huntington's Disease and Fisher's job directing commercials in the mix, and it's easy to see why Fisher is struggling. This story was raw and heartbreaking. I loved that it was from a male perspective, even though I think it made Ivy a little one-dimensional. Overall, The Two of Us is worth a read.

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft 
(c/o NetGalley)

This is the best kind of thriller-the kind where I can't say much or it'll give away the story. I read it one sitting (and well into the night!). It was suspenseful, full of many twists and turns, and the ending was truly surprising. Such a great read!

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
(c/o NetGalley)

I was surprised by how much I liked this book about life in Alaska in the 1970s. I usually don't love books with many narrators, but I loved every single one of these narrators. It was interesting, and I loved how the stories collided.

Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop 
(c/o NetGalley)

This book made me nostalgic for my time studying abroad-that feeling of being young and feeling like the world is your oyster. It was written beautifully, and I was so eager to keep reading to find out how it ended. I loved all the random French phrases throughout the novel (though I speak French, and I think it could be a little confusing for those that don't). Overall, it's a wonderful coming of age story in a beautiful setting.

What have you been reading lately? I love book suggestions! 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Chicago Travel: Best View in Chicago-Skydeck or 360 Chicago?

I’m not being biased when I say that Chicago has one of the best skylines in the world. The architecture is stunning, and Lake Michigan is the icing on top of the cake. While there are rooftops throughout the city that offer amazing views, I think it is worth it to visit the Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck or 360 Chicago, formerly the John Hancock Observatory. I wanted to break down our visits to both places and explain what I liked about each one.

Skydeck (Willis Tower)

The Experience: 
Although the lines are usually long (you can buy a discount card such as Go Chicago or the City Pass to shorten the wait), the Willis Tower does a great job of entertaining people in line with interesting facts. Before heading to the 103rd floor, we watched a nine-minute video about the tower, which was actually fascinating. Even the (super short!) elevator ride was fun, comparing the current height to other attractions around the world.

The View: 
Skydeck offers one of the best views of the city and beyond. On a clear day, you can see four states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin). I think the city view here is better than the lake view, but overall, the view is incredible.

The Attraction (Ledge): 
I am terrified of heights and thought there was no way I would be able to get on the Ledge. The first step was the hardest for me to take, but once I was on it, I thought it was so worth it. It was a whole new way of experiencing the city.

Lines are shortest as soon as Skydeck opens. If you want to get photos at sunset, go at least an hour and a half before the sun is going to set to make sure you get up in time. Weekends are super crowded, so try to go on a weekday.

360 Chicago (John Hancock Center)

The Experience: 
We didn’t have to wait to go up to 360 Chicago, but I noticed the walls also had fun quotes and interesting facts about the city and its many neighborhoods. Once you get up to the observatory on the 94th floor, the viewing areas are divided by direction, and each area has an interactive screen that tells you more about the buildings you are seeing.

The View: 
It’s no secret that I prefer lake views to city views, and I thought the lake views from 360 Chicago were breathtaking. It was also easier to spot other Chicago landmarks with the interactive screens.

The Attraction (Tilt): 
Honestly, I had no interest in doing the Tilt experience. My desire to face downward at 1000 feet was nonexistent. My father-in-law and brother-in-law did it though, and they said they preferred the Ledge. I watched them do the Tilt experience and was surprised by how short it was.

Go to the Signature Lounge for gorgeous views and delicious drinks. Like Skydeck, the earlier you get to 360 Chicago, the better the lines should be.

The Verdict: 
Personally, I give a slight edge to 360 Chicago, but I think both places are worth visiting. I loved seeing the city from a different perspective with the Ledge, but the lake views at 360 Chicago are just too stunning to ignore. The Willis Tower was built away from the lakeshore and is a further distance from most of Chicago’s other landmarks, but it is still an incredible view.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February 2016 PopSugar Must Have Box Review

After a somewhat disappointing January box, I was eager to see if I liked the February box. PopSugar completely redeemed itself because the February 2016 PopSugar Must Have Box might just be my favorite box ever (It’s hard to beat the December 2014 box, though).

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

Beauty Counter Nourishing Cleansing Balm ($50):
This balm comes with a muslin cloth and a small spatula. My skin is super dry in the winter, and this left it feeling moisturized and super soft. I love discovering products like this balm!

Tilo Heart Print Scarf ($125):
I don’t think this scarf is worth $125, but I love it in this box! It’s super soft, I love the gray color, and the hearts are super cute.

JewelryStorm Endless Arrow Ring ($28):
I don’t wear a lot of fashion rings because I have a wedding ring on each hand (Russians wear wedding rings on their right hand), but I love this one! The ring is adjustable and looks great stacked.

Fringe Studio Hello Beautiful Tray ($14): 
How gorgeous is this tray? I love the message and that the entire backside is metallic gold. I think I’m going to buy a few of these for friends.

Victoria’s Secret Coconut Milk Hydrating Body Lotion ($18): 
This is the only thing in the box I don’t love but only because I am picky about smells and don’t like the smell of coconut. I’m sure I could pass it on to a friend, though.

Foodstirs Heart Cookie Mix ($12.95): 
I love to bake, so I was really excited to see this in the box. It came with a heart cookie cutter and a recipe for Valentine’s Day sugar cookies.

Special Extra: Victoria’s Secret $20 Reward Card: 
This works like a gift card, so I will have to stop by Victoria’s Secret soon.

Special Extra: Victoria’s Secret Sports Socks ($5): 
These have an extra cushioned sole and arch support, and I think socks are a great extra.

The total value of this box was over $250, which is huge!

If you are interested in a PopSugar subscription, PopSugar is currently offering $5 of your first box with the code “REFER5.”

What do you think of the February 2016 PopSugar box? What is your favorite item?