The Siberian American: March 2019

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?