28 December 2012

Thoughts

I can't believe I'm moving to Moscow in two weeks.

It feels strange saying it out loud. During the holidays, I had to repeat my story to every single person I ran across.
"Yeah, I'm moving to Moscow. Yes, I have a job--teaching English. Yes, I know Russia is cold. No, I'm not sure when I'll be back. No, I don't exactly speak Russian, but what better way to learn that to go live there!"

'I'm moving to Russia' is a bizarre thing to tell people. I actually met someone at a party the other night and when he asked me where to live I fumbled around for a second.
Um, like, my parent's house I guess... for right now? I did live in Wisconsin, but I'm done there. I also lived in Chicago and then New Hampshire, but uh..."
"Moscow," was what ended up coming out.

I've been having a lot of different feelings about the whole process. Sometimes, I feel incredibly brave and adventurous. I'm proud of myself. With the exception of this summer, I've never lived outside of the midwest--hardly outside of Illinois. My parents have always been a phone call away and I have certainly relied on that stability. And now, with one nine-hour plane ride, that's all going to be gone. And though it puts me in an incredibly vulnerable position, I feel up for the challenge and ready to take responsibility over my life and make it exactly what I want.

I do have a lot of fears and even though most of them are silly, they're still there. I fear the cold. I know that's a silly thing to be anxious about, but I guess that when all you hear about Russia is the below-zero temperatures, it starts to creep up on you. But I'm prepared: I got a ton of L.L. Bean gear for Christmas (never thought that would happen) and it's not like growing up in Chicago hasn't shown me some serious cold (is what I keep reminding myself). I'm worried about my job and that I won't be good enough. I'm worried that I'll get lonely never hearing words I know. I'm worried that at some point I'll get overwhelmed and want to go home.

But really, I can't wait. Truthfully, I just can't wait. Every time Ben and I get a chance to talk (he's been in New Hampshire for about a week now, so we've only been talking on the phone), we both just explode with excitement. I have so many daydreams in my head, lists of places I want to see, foods I want to try. It's hard just sitting at home and waiting for the middle of January to roll around.

I don't know. My head is everywhere and my journey starts the day after tomorrow when I board my first plane to New Hampshire. There's no turning back. I'm moving to Russia for nine months. This is my life and I am taking it every chance I get.


26 December 2012

Holidays

Some images from this years Christmas.



new cousin, molly!




My parent's beautiful german shepard puppy running through the yard.





My dad got a hatchet and he was extremely excited about it.  






Hope your holidays were just as bright!
Lisa

22 December 2012

iPhone photos

Here are some pics from my super slick cell phone. I used the ever-lovely afterglow app as well as VSCO CAM.

Ben and my brother, Bobby. We all went and saw "Life of Pi" last night. It was beautiful, not only visually, but it's also an incredible and inspiring story. I read the book a few years ago and the movie totally lived up to it. Very impressed and highly recommend-- and see it in 3D! It's so fun!



Mickey loves me. 



Oh, this was a sad morning.
Saying goodbye to my best friend from Beloit, Shane. Love you, girl.


My dad helping Ben pack, haha. 


Ben playing with my parent's new puppy, Mia. 

The top ring is from my father. The middle stone is my birth stone and it's one of my most prized possessions. The bottom ring is Ben gave me last Valentine's Day.  

19 December 2012

Watch: The Jesus of Siberia

I'm a pretty tired from moving all day, but I wanted to share this little film.

Now, I love documentaries about religions. Well, love isn't the right word. I'm very interested in religion as a whole and am drawn to watching documentations of the extremes. My parents are agnostics so I didn't have a lot of exposure to religion and have spent my entire life sticking my nose into everyone else's. Though I have always felt detached from the typical concepts of God, I have never turned down an opportunity to discuss theology or learn about someone's personal beliefs. To each their own!

So, I found this little gem the other day when I was browsing for some films done in Russia (so I could listen to some Russian), but was drawn in mostly because of the title. This is truly a bizarre little bit of the world. The entirety of the film is set in the coziest nooks of Siberia where hundreds of people follow a man who claims to be Jesus Christ.

But that's not even why you should watch it.

On top of being an interesting cult study, the entire town is beyond whimsical. Everyone wears flowing dresses and lives in adorable little fairy homes covered in flowers.
Seriously, you'll think it's a joke, I couldn't believe people lived like this! And in Siberia no less. I spent the entire time I was watching this with my mouth hanging wide open. The flowers! The houses! The clothes! I'd be into it if I didn't have to give my heart and soul to "The Teacher".

Whatever. Just watch it because it's completely bizarre and beautiful all at the same time. It makes me want to shrink into some fairy wings and go live in a blueberry patch.


18 December 2012

a few words on leaving college

So much has been going through my mind as Ben and I pack up our little apartment, finish up our finals, and leave the midwest, and none of it is exactly where I'd like my mind to be. 
Because Ben and I stayed later at school (so I could finish up one last semester and Ben could complete an Honor's Term), the whole graduation feel that we experienced in the spring when our friends were leaving and when we walked across the stage is... gone. Instead, everything feels very rushed and hectic and it's been hard to stop, take a deep breath, and remember all the magical times this small school has given us. 

When I first came to Beloit, it was the middle of my sophomore year in college and I wasn't in the best of places. I had always wanted to go to this little quirky school, but when the time came to pick a college, I went with the safety university everyone from my high school went to. It's a decision I can't really explain, but in the end, am grateful I made. I don't think I was ready for this small, liberal arts school then and I don't think I would have been able to fully appreciate it had I not experienced ISU first. Though I left my old university with a bad taste in my mouth, I can see the importance it had on my life and I wouldn't change any decision I made.

Beloit really was everything it promise to be. It changed my life

When I first arrived, I didn't have a clue in the world. I remember thinking that everyone seemed so much more mature than me, with bigger vocabularies and fabulous world experiences. Their conversations seemed like they were out of movies. Their wits were impecable. They all seemed to speak multiple languages and make references to things I had never even heard of. And I envied that. I worked towards that. 

I'm not going to lie, transferring colleges and coming into a school of less than 1,000 during the middle of the year was not easy. I had forgotten how to make friends, how to put myself out there. It took a lot of courage I didn't think I had, but I worked through it and made some amazing relationships with not only my peers, but with my professors as well. After awhile, I suddenly became as passionate and thoughtful as the students I had first envied and I was proud of myself for finding the strength to change the things I did not like about myself and give myself this experience. 

When I walked across the stage last semester, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Even though I had no diploma in my folder at the time (haha...), it was the symbolism that moment held for me and my family. I had accomplished so much. I had graduated Magna Cum Laude with Honor's in English. I don't think I would have even come close to that had I still been at ISU, where I was an underachiever and felt no drive to push myself. No, instead I had excelled and had been a TA twice and been heavily involved in the writing scene and took every assignment I had as an excuse to learn something new about the world. Beloit gave me all that, and I will be forever grateful. 

The friends I made here are treasures. They have shaped me so much and made me such a more thoughtful and inquisitive individual. They have pushed me to explore new concepts and I can't imagine my life without them. 

I loved this school and this last semester made me forget that at times. But those feelings aren't real. My frustration with finals and anger towards this extra work I had to do because of the credits lost in the transfer, that's not really how I feel. How I really feel is just love. I love this tiny town and all it's quirkiness. I love the student body. I love the general Beloit College feel. I love it and I will miss it. I will never have a time like this again, but I'm glad I made the most of it while I was here. 

So cheers to you, Beloit. Your little college changed my life. 
Love always, 
Lisa



17 December 2012

Apple Cinnamon Crepes

Bonjour!
Today I'm going to share Ben's amazing Apple Cinnamon Crepe recipe. 
Ben and I are both big breakfast fans and on the weekends when we have more time, we like to get creative with our meals. This past week we haven't had classes for finals studying, so we've been cooking up some really great meals on our very small budget. Crepes are especially great because there are so many variations to this recipe and you can fill them with just anything! We had some great granny smiths in the fridge, so we went with apple cinnamon this time. 

These crepes are so delicious and easy to make. Just looking at the pictures makes me want to whip up another batch. But here they are!

Crepe Recipe 
1 cup of flour
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, melted

If you're making these by hand, place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously. Use a rubber spatula to get any remaining flour off the sides of the bowl and whisk until smooth. 

If you're using a blender, place all the ingredients into a blender and mix on high. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and pulse until smooth. 

Lightly grease the frying pan with butter and heat over medium-high heat. Pour just slightly less than 1/4 cups of batter onto the pan and swirl to coat the whole surface of the pan. Crepes should be done in about 30-45 seconds, or when the edges just start to lift up off the pan. 


as Ben cooks, I take selfies in the bedroom...


Apple Filling
2-3 medium sized apples
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch



Peel (or not if you want the added nutrients of the skin!) core, and finely chop the apples. Heat the frying pan on medium-high heat and add butter, the apples and sugar when butter is melted, cooking until the apples are soft and slightly translucent. 

Reduce heat and add brown sugar and cinnamon, stirring to incorporate. Mix together water and cornstarch in a separate bowl, then add to apple mixture stirring constantly until thickened. 


Add to the crepes and enjoy!

Cheers!
Lisa 
(and recipe modified and dictated by Ben!)

15 December 2012

finals will never end

I just want to remember what my life was like before these finals started. 
I love this guy! He works so hard all the time.
On top of our horrible finals, we have all of Ben's things from four years of Wisco storage to organize and sort. We've been sending somethings to donation bins and some back to New Hampshire. We have found some pretty sweet gems though. Like that coat. And a book of Ben's haikus. 
But, on the plus side, I have done some awesome Christmas shopping. I'm doing Christmas a little different this year because I don't know if I'll be home for Christmas next year. I'm trying to be extra thoughtful about all the gifts I give to my friends and family. I really do love holiday shopping, it just makes everything feel so right!

It's been nice to sit on the computer and shop in between power-sessions at the library and 15-page long papers on Women's and Gender Studies issues and the Sociology of I-can't-care anymore. 

Cheers,
Lisa

12 December 2012

Finals Daze/ Happiness Project

So finals have started and Ben and I haven't seen much of each other except during meals. I've been really engrossed in The Happiness Project, a book I bought with a gift card my mother had wrapped up and put in the most amazing advent calendar. The book really promotes a healthy and happy lifestyle and gives you really simple and easy tips to make the most of your days. It sounds a little bit corny, but it's also really inspiring and uplifting. The first chapter of the book is all about your health and the importance of eating right and working out, two things I always start trying to do, but never seem to finish. 

Ben and I talked about our current lifestyle and made a list of the things we wanted to change about it. We decided to take make a new list of things we wanted to change every week so that way we wouldn't get into a rut or make any changes we couldn't keep up with. 

This week we decided to:
1. Eat eggs for breakfast every morning (we got into a bad habit of eating bagels every morning).
2. Eat at least one vegetable every day. 
3. Drink less milk, more water. 
4. Eat less carbs, salts, and sweets.
5. Work out four times a week for 15-20 minutes.

It actually hasn't been so bad! I mean, I'm starving all the time because I'm not constantly snacking, but I do feel really good about doing right by my body. I really want to make a permanent change, so I'm working hard to change my mentality into one that wants to be healthy and is committed to staying clean and fit. 

Here are some photos I've been snapping around the house this week. 


Like I said, my mom made me the most amazing advent calendar. Seriously, it's the perfect cure for post-college depression. I felt like a little kid again every morning reaching up into one of her hand made stockings and pulling out a different treat. Some of them were candy, some were "big-kid" things (gift cards to book stores, $5 bills, make-up, etc) and then some were just nostalgia. These pictures came in a little wrapped bundle and were so nice to open. So many happy and sweet memories. I immediately put them in my wallet (along with an itty-bitty photocopied version of my favorite children's book she had made me) and knew they would bring me such comfort when I'm away. 


This beautiful painting is a print Ben got me for my birthday. It came a few days ago because he did not estimate the time it would take to arrive from Sweden. I love it!





Loving broccoli recently. Ben cooks it up with garlic and salt and saut├ęs it for a few minutes, and it's unreal. I'm glad I found a vegetable I like because I've always struggled with eating healthy. I actually look forward to eating broccoli with dinner now!

Cheers!

Lisa 

09 December 2012

Letter from Ben

Ben really wanted to be included more in this blog, but wasn't really sure how to go about it. While I was at work, he texted me and asked if he could write his own post. Obviously, I told him I would be thrilled if he did, but he struggled with coming up with an idea as to what to write about. I told him to just write me a letter about what he was thinking about and we could go from there. 

This is what he wrote:

Dear Lisa,

I guess I don’t know quite where to begin. That we are moving to Moscow in a month is still entirely surreal to me, and even though I’ve gotten into the habit of telling all those people who are so very interested in what exactly our plan is after this semester that yes, we are actually moving to Russia, and yes, we do know to a certain degree what we’re getting ourselves into, the confidence with which I say all these things in no way reflects the degree to which I have fully realized something that until now was just one of our daydreams.



But it’s becoming less cloudy every day, and each time we take a step and make some action that involves the day to day logistics of actually living in Moscow – securing an apartment, mapping out the route to the nearest train station, getting a bed – I believe in it more and more, and now that my mind is fully committed to the idea that I will once again be moving to Russia I am torn by two fundamentally conflicting desires. On the one hand I want to tell you everything I remember about Moscow, everything I remember about my friends and Muscovites and the places we frequented, and then too about all the places I wish I had gone and how the buildings made me feel like a communist and the best bread I’ve ever tasted cost less than forty cents. I want you to know about all the good experiences I had in Russia, and to understand the good memories and feelings that surface whenever we talk about it so that you don’t have to be so worried. It is a good place, and you will not be alone.


On the other hand, I want to tell you absolutely nothing. I want to leave you completely in the dark until we get there and let it hit you with full force. I want to run around that whole city with you and let it be the first time for everything. I want to forget what I’ve seen and paste the memory of you and I discovering all the nooks of Moscow together over the entirely ordinary scene of me passing half heartedly through the red square with a point and shoot having dutifully snapped a few photos of the candy towers. And even though I’ve already spent time in this city, there is so much left for us to discover together, and I want to make a point to go somewhere we’ve never been before every single week. You never know what the future holds, and we might stay in Moscow for a long time, but if nine months is all the city holds for us I want to squeeze the life out of every last second of that time.


God I hope we have a balcony. Do you know what I want to do our very first night? I want to go to the nearest produktiy and get a bottle of the cheapest and paradoxically most delicious vodka you’ve ever tasted, and stand on our balcony smoking cigarettes, toasting our first foray into the craziness of real life and seeing if we can’t see our pond.

Here’s to the first of many great adventures.

Love,
Ben


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