The Siberian American: 2019

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

All About Baby #2: My First and Second Trimester

I can’t believe I’m already in the third trimester with our second baby! I’ve gone back and forth on writing a full post about this pregnancy because it’s been a bit on the tough side, and I really didn’t want to make it seem like I’m complaining (I’m honestly so thankful to be pregnant, and all the difficulties are worth it). I mostly decided to write this post as a way of documenting some of this pregnancy for myself. During Anthony’s pregnancy, I wrote a daily journal about my symptoms and everything we did to prepare. This pregnancy, I haven’t written a single entry in my journal. I want to have at least some sort of record of this time, so I thought I would answer some frequently asked questions and share some more details about this pregnancy.

Was this baby planned?
First of all, why do people ask this? Does it really matter? I’ll go ahead and answer it here, but I do think it’s a strange question. Yes, this baby was planned. The smallest age gap we wanted was two years, but I honestly didn’t think I would get pregnant as quickly as I did with Anthony. It turns out I did, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

How do you feel about the age gap?
Ask me this question when the second baby is here! Haha. I’m excited to have children close together, but I know it won’t be easy at first.

How did you find out?
With Anthony I took a test while Chris was at work and told him in a creative way. This time around, I took a test while he was home on a Sunday (March 10) literally minutes before his parents came to visit. Like I said, I didn’t expect to get pregnant on the first try again, but I had been suspecting I might be pregnant for a few days because I was starting to break out pretty badly (I usually never break out, so this was a big sign for me). Chris was pretty convinced I was pregnant at that point, but I don’t like to take a test until my period is due. It took about 10 seconds to see a positive result, and we were so excited!

How far along are you? When are you due?
I’m 31 weeks! I can’t really say this pregnancy has been going quickly, but we sure have accomplished a lot in those 31 weeks. (Life update is here). My due date is November 15. If the baby isn’t late, the age gap will be exactly 24 months!

When did you start showing?
I definitely feel like I started showing faster this time around, but I think I really started to look pregnant about halfway through our trip to Europe (around 24 weeks). It’s funny because you can really see the change in our photos from the trip.

Did you have a feeling this time around whether you were having a boy or a girl?
I have felt strongly since I found out I was pregnant that I was having a girl. I was constantly doubting myself, though, because the joke is that my husband’s family is more much more likely to make boys.

Are you excited about having a girl?
I honestly would have been excited either way (I also liked the idea of having brothers close in age!), but I am definitely excited for Anthony to have a little sister. I can’t wait to see the two of them together, and I am all about the bows and dresses!

Do you have a name?
We do! We actually decided on a girl name more than ten years ago, so it will be really special to be able to use it. We didn’t have a middle name set for sure, but we have pretty much decided on that too. We don’t like to share names until birth, though a few people do know this time around because I’ve randomly shared our girl name throughout the years.

How have you been feeling?
I have been pretty open about it—this pregnancy has not been easy. I thought I had a rough time with Anthony, but this pregnancy has been much harder. I spent the first 20 weeks vomiting many times a day. Around 16 weeks I started having debilitating migraines that also caused vomiting. I would wake up in the middle of the night just to vomit. I also have a hard time breathing, and I have a lot of heartburn, which isn’t something I really dealt with during my first pregnancy. I actually mostly felt decent on our trip, though, which was a huge blessing! The vomiting just recently came back in the morning, but it’s only once a day, so it’s much easier to handle. I’m feeling quite a bit better overall the last week or so, other than pregnancy insomnia, heartburn, and normal third trimester aches and pains, so I’m hoping that the third trimester ends up being the best trimester for me! I think it’ll definitely be much better if we ever get past these 100 degree days!

Does Anthony understand he is getting a sibling?
I think he understands as well as an almost two-year-old toddler can. He loves to give my belly hugs and kisses, and he brings me toys to show to the baby. He thinks it’s hilarious when he’s sitting in my lap reading a book, and she kicks him. He did ask me the other day if there is also a baby in his belly, which was the cutest thing ever.

Have you had any cravings?
For a while, nothing really sounded good. I basically couldn’t eat chicken at all, and it honestly still barely ever sounds good to me. At first, I always wanted chips and salsa and fajitas. That craving has changed to ground beef tacos, which I basically never eat when I’m not pregnant (not that I don’t like them. I just like other Mexican food more). My biggest craving is fruit. I survived the first trimester on smoothies, and I pretty much always want peaches and watermelon.

Apparently I either don't blog at all or write over a thousand words! Honestly, it took me a few weeks to write this post, but I've also been working on a few travel posts, so I hope to have some of those ready soon.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Best Books I Read This Summer

Hey, book friends! I can't believe I haven't written a book review post since February. I was on a roll with reading until I got pregnant, and then I couldn't pick up a book for weeks. I've actually only read 15 books since the last time I posted, which is crazy to me. Also, I don't know if I just read a string of bad books, or my taste changes when I'm pregnant, but I didn't love most of what I did read. Instead of sharing all of the books I've read and a bunch of so-so reviews, I decided to pick out four of my favorite reads!

(c/o NetGalley)
It's official: I will read anything Blake Crouch writes. He has an incredible knack of mixing thrillers with science, and I'm always eager to see how the books end. I really enjoyed Recursion. It wasn't quite five stars for me because it got a little tedious towards the end (though it was still close to five stars). The concept was fascinating and really made me think. I already can't wait for his next book!

(c/o NetGalley)
I usually make it a point not to read historical fiction based in Russia, but since this is a prequel to Lilac Girls, I decided to give it a try. I liked it more than I thought I would, though definitely not as much as Lilac Girls. It seemed a little slow at the beginning, but it did pick up, and I liked the last bit of the book.

I honestly expected more from this book. I heard so many people talk about how amazing it is, and it lacked emotion for me. I think this one fell victim to too much hype for me, and I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't have high expectations going in. Overall, it's a good book. I just wasn't blown away by it.

(c/o NetGalley)
I really enjoyed this read and was surprised by how deep it was. It is one of the first books I've read that really focuses on infertility, and I was impressed with the way it was handled. There were a few things that bothered me about the way Kristen handled things, but overall, I thought it was a great read.

Linking up with Steph & Jana.

I love book suggestions. What have you read lately?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Quick Thoughts: Our British Isles Cruise

Hey, friends! We're back from our trip, and I am so excited to share it with y'all. I have all of these posts in my head I want to share, so hopefully I will get to at least some of them before our next baby is born (just being realistic here. Haha). This pregnancy has been rougher than my first (and my pregnancy with Anthony wasn't easy), so I usually take things one day at a time. Anyways, today I just wanted to share a few random things about our trip before I get more into the specifics.

I have been asked often if I think a cruise is a good way to see these spots, and in this case, I do. We were in each port for about 12 hours, so there was plenty of time to explore. Plus, we sailed to new destinations while we were sleeping, so it worked out better than having to drive from one place to another. The time at each port is what really sold me on this cruise, though. Honestly, we were both so exhausted from our adventures by the end of each day that we were thankful to get on the boat, relax, and watch a show. Plus, we really enjoyed the beautiful views when we sailed away from the different locations!

Speaking of exhaustion, I was a little worried about keeping up with our excursions, but thankfully, I did well! I did have to rest more than usual after climbing a bunch of stairs, but overall, I was able to do everything we wanted. The most difficult part of the cruise was when the boat rocked. It had more to do with the placement of our cabin than anything (we didn't have a choice with cabins since we had to book late due to not knowing Christopher's schedule), but I was really thankful I had just gotten over the severe nausea/vomiting I had for the first 22 weeks because I would have wanted to get off the boat. We did have one super rough night due to a storm where we barely slept, but overall, it was manageable. 

It was so fun to get to celebrate our big milestones in some stunning places! Chris got to celebrate his 30th birthday in Edinburgh, a city he has always wanted to visit, I celebrated my 30th birthday at Mont Saint-Michel in France, and we celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary in Guernsey! 

Chris and I both admitted that this trip was just about the right length for us, and we wouldn't have wanted it to be longer. We saw so much and truly enjoyed it, but we were both exhausted by the end of it and ready to see Anthony. The jet lag was much worse than normal too, but thankfully, we're finally feeling adjusted back to Texas time!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Life Lately: Moving, Pregnancy, and a Trip to Europe

Hey, friends! Thank you so much for all of your messages on various social media about our baby news. I was going to write a big baby post for today, but I thought I would share a broader life update and save most of the baby news for when we get back!

Photo by Brittnie Renee Photography
I’ve never been one to sugarcoat things on my blog, so I’ll start off this update by saying these last few months have been rough for us. It just felt like one thing after another (sorry to be vague; there are just some things I can’t share), and we’re both exhausted. Chris was also in the middle of intense studying for his radiology board exam from the beginning of this year until the end of June (he won’t know the results for several more weeks), which added to the chaos. This was the first time I’ve taken time off from my blog and haven’t felt guilty about it. I just couldn’t add more to my plate.

We are so excited and thankful for this second baby, but this pregnancy has been hard. I thought my nausea and vomiting was rough with Anthony, but that was nothing compared to what I’m experiencing this time. I could barely function for weeks (so thankful for my mom helping me out with Anthony!), and once the nausea got better, I got hit with intense migraine headaches. I’m still dealing with those (and honestly, still vomiting at least once most days), but I think I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Just to add to the fun, we moved on Tuesday! I need to go back and see how many times I’ve mentioned moving on this blog because we move an excessive amount. By an excessive amount I mean we have moved nine times in our almost ten years of marriage. I honestly didn’t want to do it again with how much we have going on right now, but it was necessary. Our rent went up so much for our townhouse (seriously, what is the deal with the rental market here?), and the place we were living in would have been crowded with two kids. We just moved into a house for the first time and signed a two-year lease, so fingers crossed we can stay put for that long! We picked this place because of the neighborhood-there is a really great park, an athletic center, and a large pond with a bunch of ducks. Have I mentioned that Chris has been on nights for the last two weeks and while this move was happening? Yep, it’s been all kinds of crazy around here.

Let’s talk about something happy now, shall we? We leave for our big trip to Europe to celebrate our big milestones (we turn 30 two days apart and then celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary two days after that) on Sunday! Once again, the timing is interesting, but it’s the only thing that worked with the dates Chris could get off work. We are flying into Dublin, Ireland and doing a 12-day cruise to several places in Ireland, Scotland, England, and a day in France. I picked a cruise because we wanted to go to lots of different places, and for once in my life, I honestly had no desire to plan. Of course, I did set up tours in various ports, but that was the extent of my planning, and I’m thankful for that.

I have been wanting to do a big Anthony update since it's been a while, and he has learned so much, but I will have to save that for when we get back! I continue to be impressed with how well he is handling the constant switching between Russian and English. He can say four-word sentences and recently learned colors (and now tells me the color of every object he sees). He also really loves to color and often asks me for his crayons and paper. He has really enjoyed exploring his new house the last few days and is excited to have a dedicated playroom until the baby moves out of our bedroom.

That's the gist of what's been happening lately. I'm hoping to share parts of our British Isles cruise on Instagram and Instagram Stories, so look for those if you're interested. I'll also hopefully be writing some more updates and travel posts when we get back!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Red, White, And...

Due with Baby #2! 
I know some of y'all had guessed why I suddenly stopped blogging again (though there was much more involved in that, and I will address most of it in a life update soon), but I am excited to share that Anthony will be a big brother this November! I will be sharing all about our newest little love next week, but I thought I would share on the blog in case y'all hadn't seen my Instagram announcement. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Best River and Lake Cruises in Chicago

Even though it feels like it's been forever since we lived in Chicago (it's been 2.5 years), I answer emails about what to do in the city all the time. One of the emails I answer most often (other than where to eat!) is about Chicago river and lake cruises. We went on six cruises during our year in Chicago! Now that the weather is nice again, I wanted to share some of my favorite Chicago cruises.

Chicago Architecture Foundation Center River Cruise
This is one of Chicago's most popular river cruises, and there's a good reason for that. It's packed full of information about Chicago's gorgeous architecture. The one negative I will see is this tour would be a little better if it was shorter. I thought it went into too much detail on some buildings that weren't all that interesting. Overall, it was a great tour, though!

Shoreline Sightseeing Classic Lake Tour
This was my least favorite of the tours that we did, mostly because I prefer guides to audio tours. It was the cheapest and shortest of the cruises we did (only 40 minutes), and it's a nice way to see the skyline from Lake Michigan. If you are short on time, this cruise is worth doing!

Odyssey Cruises Sunset Dinner Cruise
This cruise was more about the views and the food than learning about Chicago, but it was a great experience! We loved the boat, and the food was good. Plus, watching the sun set over the Chicago skyline is just magical.

Wendella Lake Michigan Fireworks Cruise 
If you are in Chicago during the summer (on Wednesdays and Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day), a fireworks cruise is a must! The fireworks cruise includes a short overview of Chicago's architecture, but the real highlight is watching fireworks with a view of the Chicago skyline.

Wendella Lake & River Architecture Tour 
This is by far my favorite cruise tour in Chicago (I'm hoping to do a full review of it in the future). I went on this cruise three times with family and friends, and I would happily go again. The guides are funny, the architecture portion was really interesting, and it was fascinating to go through the locks to Lake Michigan. The combo of being on the lake and learning Chicago's architecture is just perfect!

Have you done a river or lake cruise in Chicago?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ten Books I Read in February

Hey there, book friends! I am excited for another month of book reviews. I read 11 books (I posted one of them last time) in February, which is a lot for me, but Christopher has been on nights, which means I have to wait for him to watch our shows, and I read after Anthony goes to bed. I also decided to do the bonus round for Erin's Book Challenge, so the list of books is very diverse. I included the categories again in case y'all are curious!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I receive a small commission. 

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: A Title with Six Words
Katherine Center is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She writes romance novels, but there is always so much depth to them. I loved the main character in this novel, an incredible firefighter who no longer believed in love. I try not to read late into the night anymore, but I couldn't help it with this book. The firefighter culture was interesting, and there were several great twists. It was heartbreaking but also beautiful, and I loved the message of forgiveness.

(c/o Goodreads Giveaways)
Not Part of Erin's Challenge
I wasn't sure how much I would like this book, but I ended up loving it! Consuelo Vanderbilt led an extremely fascinating life, and I read it much faster than I thought I would. This book made me google a bunch of random things about the Vanderbilts and Blenheim Palace, which means it was a good historical fiction read!

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Favorite Book of Family/Friend
This book started off slow, but it ended up getting interesting fairly quickly. It is more of a mystery than a thriller (it has a bit of an Agatha Christie vibe to it), and it is one of the most complicated books I have read in a long time. The twists were really good, and it is one of those books that I will think about for a long time. I would definitely recommend reading it, but only when you are in the mood for something with a slower pace and a lot of little details that add up to a fascinating story.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Title Starts with N
Lisa Gardner's D.D. Warren series is one of my favorite detective series. D.D. Warren is such a great character, and I like the recurring minor characters, too. I enjoyed this book-it was fast-paced, and the plot was exciting. It was interesting to learn more about Flora's abduction and the details of the dark web. I did figure out what happened pretty early, but it didn't detract from the rest of the story. I read this one out of order for a challenge, so I can't wait to go back and read the D.D. Warren books I missed.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: A Title with Six Words
I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the first 3/4 of it, and it was a quick read. I originally thought it was going to be a sweet second-chance love story, but it is so much deeper than that. I liked the back and forth between Annika and Jonathan's college years and 10 years later as it showed Annika's progression and confidence. That said, I didn't love the last part of the book. I get why the author decided to do it, but it felt like it was a little much. I also didn't really like the ending. Right now the book is 3.5 stars for me, but I rounded up to four stars.

Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Originally Published in a Different Language
I read WWII historical fiction often, but this book didn't work for me. There were way too many characters, and it was hard to get invested in their stories because the chapters were short, and you would constantly flip from one character to another. I thought it was interesting to learn about Turkey's involvement in World War II, but the author would randomly throw out facts that felt like you were reading a textbook. The writing seemed a little off at times (maybe a translation issue), and I think some chapters were completely unnecessary to the plot.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Set in Europe
I really liked the "IOU" premise of this book and liked the family business concept, but I had a hard time with the main character of this book. I couldn't believe how horrible the people around Fixie were and how she had no backbone and did everything they wanted. It was really frustrating to read. Parts of the ending seemed super unrealistic to me, too. I definitely liked parts of the book, but it wasn't my favorite Sophie Kinsella novel.

Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Newberry Award Winner/Honor Roll
I read this book in elementary school, and now reading it as an adult, I'm surprised by how many adult themes there are in it. I really enjoyed how all the clues came together, and the ending was surprising.

Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Published 100+ Years Ago
I think this book was a case of reading the right book at the right time, but I thought this book was delightful. Pollyanna was such a great character, and I loved reading about how she brightened the lives of those around her.

Erin's Challenge Bonus Round: Cardinal Direction in Title
I've seen this book described as the Pride & Prejudice of the Industrial Revolution, and I thought it was a perfect description. I really enjoyed it and am glad I selected it for a challenge.

Favorite reads in February: Things You Save in a Fire,  The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Pollyanna, Never Tell, and North and South. 

Linking up with Steph & Jana.

I love book suggestions. What have you read lately?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Five Delicious Instant Pot Recipes

Hi, friends! I've decided to switch my posts (other than book posts) to Wednesdays for now because it works better with my schedule. Anyways, I promised I would share some of our favorite Instant Pot recipes, so I'm doing that today. We originally got the Instant Pot to steam vegetables for Anthony, but we realized that it was great for dinner, too! We've enjoyed most of the recipes we've tried and will be definitely making more in the future. The one thing I have noticed, however, is the time on these recipes is never correct. It usually takes about 20-30 minutes more to cook than what is stated.

Instant Pot Award-Winning Chili
I love a good chili recipe in the winter, and this one was delicious! The only problem is it did take about 30 minutes longer to cook than what the recipe suggested.

Instant Pot Honey Sesame Chicken
Chicken is my favorite meat to cook in the Instant Pot. It just melts in your mouth! I really liked the flavor of this dish.

Instant Pot Brisket 
Brisket usually takes forever to make, so we decided to try it in the Instant Pot and were pleasantly surprised!

Instant Pot Sunday Beef Roast
We don't eat pot roast often, but we are going to have to add it to our rotation because this was delicious! It was so tender and juicy. I am planning on experimenting with some spices to add a bit more flavor next time, though.

Instant Pot Corn on the Cob with Cajun Butter and Lime
I love a good corn on the cob recipe, and this is now one of my favorites!

Have you ever used an Instant Pot? What's your favorite recipe?

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Ultimate Biltmore Estate Guide: What to Know Before You Go

I have wanted to go to the Biltmore Estate since I was a kid, so when we were planning our Smoky Mountains road trip, a stop in Asheville was on the top of my list. I’ve always loved history, beautiful architecture, and extravagant homes, so I knew I would love the largest privately owned house in the United States! I’ve been wanting to write a guide to the Biltmore Estate since we visited, so I’m super excited to share this stunning home with y’all today.

Before You Go

Buy Your Tickets
Tickets to the Biltmore Estate can be purchased here ( Not only do you save $10 per ticket by buying it online more than a week in advance, but you also skip the usually long line once you get to the reception & ticketing sales center. Keep in mind that if you are going to the property during a busy time (holidays, school breaks, and most weekends), you will be required to make a reservation. With your reservation, you will receive a specific time to enter the Biltmore House.

Purchase Your Tour Tickets
Unfortunately, the price of admission to the Biltmore Estate does not include a tour. You are welcome to take a self-guided tour, but in this case, I would strongly encourage taking a guided tour. I’m usually a big fan of audio tours, but due to the size of the house and the amount of people visiting at the same time, I think a guided tour is the way to go.

Tour Options
We did two tours while visiting the mansion, so I wanted to share what I liked about each one.

Guided Biltmore House Tour
This was the standard 90-minute tour of the house, which provides a very detailed overview over many rooms. I loved learning interesting facts such as the most guests that were at the house at one time was 38. If you only have time for one tour, you will receive a fantastic overview of the house with this one.

Rooftop Tour
I absolutely loved this tour. If you are interested in stunning views and amazing architecture, this tour is a must. The rooftop tour explains all the little details about the intricate architecture. For example, the two gargoyles are different because the tail broke off on one of them (so they added a butt). Plus, the views from the balcony were absolutely stunning! I personally preferred the rooftop tour to the house tour, but I would still do the house tour to see more of the rooms.

Plan to Get to the House Early
Plan to get to the Biltmore Estate as early as you can, even if you have a reservation. The drive to the entrance can get really backed up. The Biltmore Estate recommends getting there at least 45 minutes before your reservation time, so you have enough time to park and take the shuttle to the house. We got to the house around 8:30 a.m., and I noticed that it was already getting crowded by 10 a.m.

Once You Get There

Go on a Tour
I’ve already shared about the two tours we did, but I think a guided tour is the best way to experience Biltmore. We learned so much about the Vanderbilts and everything that went into building the estate.

Visit the Gardens
The gardens are a must! I really enjoyed the beautiful mixture of flowers and plants, and I could have walked around the area for hours. I especially loved the Rose Garden and Conservatory.

Visit the Antler Hill Village and Winery
A wine tasting is included with your ticket to the Biltmore Estate, and it’s worth checking out! The Antler Hill Village also includes temporary exhibits, a farm with a historic barn, trails and outdoor adventures, and several places to shop and dine.

Eat Lunch at Stable Café
The food at the Biltmore Estate was surprisingly good! I really enjoyed my burger, and I’m still dreaming about that peanut butter cake with raspberry jam.

When Should You Visit?

The Biltmore Estate is beautiful throughout the year. We went to the Biltmore during the fall, and the fall color was spectacular (though it would have been even better if we had gone a few weeks later). They had already started to set up for Christmas while we were there in October because it takes them that long to decorate the whole house, and I would love to visit during Christmas someday to see all of the gorgeous decorations. The gardens are also stunning to see in the spring, but if you go during the spring, try to avoid Spring Break weeks to minimize the crowds.

Where to Stay

I honestly wouldn’t stay at any of the hotels on property. The prices are really high, and they don’t add anything to the experience. If you are looking for a luxury stay in Asheville, I would pick the Omni Park Grove Inn, which has a fantastic spa and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Other Smoky Mountains Road Trip Posts:
Have you ever been to the Biltmore Estate? Tell me about your visit!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Anthony's Milestone Photos: Six Months, Nine Months, and One Year

I know, I know. Let's file this under "blogs Olya should have posted last year," but I really wanted to share some of my favorite photos from our milestone sessions with y'all. I loved doing milestone sessions because even though I take photos of Anthony often, we only really take photos as a family for special occasions. I already love looking back on these and seeing how much Anthony has grown, so I know they'll always be special to me. Also, I have to give a big shoutout to Brittnie Renee Photography for being a great photographer!

Six Months

This was our first session after our newborn photos, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Anthony ended up loving the camera, though! He kept staring straight at Brittnie. It was also one of the hottest days we'd had in April in a long time. The other memorable thing from this session was Chris and Brittnie ended up getting chigger bites from our time in the grass. Thank you, Texas.

Nine Months

For Anthony's nine month session, we decided to do another home session. We had moved by that point, so it was nice to have a session in our new place. Once again, Anthony loved the camera and had so much fun! He was really on the move at this point, so getting those shots on the bed was entertaining!

One Year

His one year photos might just be my very favorite! The State Fair of Texas has always been special to our relationship, so we knew we wanted to take Anthony this year. Since he has an October birthday, I thought the fair would be perfect for his one year photos! He loved looking at all the lights, and I'm a big fan of how these photos turned out.

Did you do milestone sessions with your babies?