22 July 2014

Lately, Flowers, Missing Friends

Despite the beautiful flowers, sun-filled windows, and cheating-day chocolate chip cookies, this has actually been a pretty sad week. 

Our best friends left Moscow. Even when I type that sentence, it doesn't feel real. It's not even a real thought to anyone that is not Ben or I because they weren't your best friends and it can be hard to feel for other people's losses over the internet. But we felt it quite hard. Our best friends left Moscow. 

It's strange how empty our lives are without their weekly conversations, without our texts and phone calls planning mid-week dinner parties, card playing nights, cigarette smoke dominated porch hangs--all of it. It's just gone now. Just me and Ben once again in a city that doesn't speak. A city we feel like most of the time we have overstayed our welcome in. 

We met one of them in college, but though he lived only a literal fifty feet away, we never really seemed to cross paths. He met a girl on a semester abroad and they came here and met again, moving into the center at the same time Ben and I did. We went out for Mexican food one night and came back with ten thousand weekend plans. Sometimes it felt like we started hanging out one night and never stopped. 

For a long time, Ben and I were really lonely here. We moved to Moscow in the dead of winter almost two years ago and worked at a small school with only one other teacher who would drink a beer and turn angry. We hardly made any money at all and going out on the weekends absolutely drained us. It was a hard time. Though Ben and I are totally best friends and complete partners, a lot of times we feel as though were one person. Of course Ben fills me with more happiness than any person in the world, but we all need more people in our lives. That is something all couples must realize at some point. 

Our two friends were a real gift in that way. They lifted up our weekends and filled us with an excitement and energy we had been really missing. They shared their Moscow and we shared ours. Together, we all made a bit of a home for ourselves. They moved nearby and it felt like we had a bit of a family here. 

But no matter how fabulous a weekend may be, life must move on. Our friend W. from college accepted a place at American University and no matter how much my "subtle" hints about how lame international relations graduates are (they're not, okay? I just wanted him to stay!), he booked his ticket and went to Washington, D.C,. She left too. 

We had what felt like a million good-bye parties. We went out every night for those last two weeks. We watched the sun come up over the chic apartments in our neighborhood night after night. We took B-52 shots and smoked cigarettes until our lungs hurt. And we kept doing it as though it wasn't the last month, the last week, the last weekend, and then finally... the last night. 

When they left, both Ben and I cried little rivers down our cheeks. Ben swung his arm around my shoulders as we left the place we'd had our last lunch and told me they were great friends to have and at it was a great thing that we'd had them. I hid under my sunglasses and wished everything could just stay the same forever. 

Before she left, F. came over with a bouquet of flowers she'd gotten at work but couldn't keep because she was leaving. Ben and I carefully cut the stems, warmed and sugared water, and brought flowers into all three rooms of our three room apartment. It has somehow made things a bit better. Flowers just have that way on people. 

I'm sorry if this is all kind of dramatic or sad, but it's been awhile since I just flowed through this blog. When I was at college I remember professor after professor giving the same advice to me and to my peers. "Bleed it out--let it flow through you."

Which is actually quite a frustrating thing to tell anyone who is in the creative field. Sometimes I'd sit on my squeaky little dorm bed and slam my fingers into the keys and use nasty words and tell deeply personal stories just to like, hit some vein or something. But the times that people really cared about my words and the times that my professor would smile and tell me he could really "hear" me was when I was just telling my diary something. Just because I really did need to tell someone about something. So I guess that's what I'm doing here. 

Ben and I are 99% sure we are going to move to Japan (still possibly Taiwan though) come the early spring. We have some great plans in-between, but to save everyone who reads this and our poor parents, I will wait to finalize them before I talk about them. There are still good things, but we will sure miss our favorite friends. 

Sincerely, Lisa

21 July 2014

Easy, Healthy Coconut Blueberry-Apple Crumble

Hello all! 

So I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had this epiphany and wanted to really start taking better care of myself. I cleaned up my diet, bought some running shoes, and have been actually really liking how I've been feeling. Ben and I usually spend a lot of time cooking and thinking up new meals, so cleaning them up a bit to fit a more balanced diet has actually been really fun and we have a ton of new recipes to add to our little cookbook (if you are interested in following along with some of the recipes we've been trying you can follow my clean eating board on pinterest and of course, my general dinner board). 

Anyway, whilst all that has been going by swimmingly, I still do have my absolutely out-of-control sweet tooth and just eating some berries is never going to cut it for me. Luckily, I found this recipe online and baked it up only to find that it was freaking amazing. 

I know this isn't the healthiest dessert you can find online, but I'm not the healthiest girl you're going to find online either. But I think it's a good middle and a super yummy summer treat when you serve it with ice cream. 

Also, this dessert is super easy because ya don't really need to follow the recipe (I mean, read it), but for the most part it's pretty basic. So I'll give you my lazy girl run down. 

So without further adieu.... 

Chop up some apples. I did one because I only wanted to make four cupcake sized crumbles. 

Throw in some blueberries. Then add in a couple teaspoons of vanilla (or break open a vanilla bean if you have one and empty out the seeds). Mix it around with your hands or a spoon until combined. 

Put the contents of the bowl into your cupcake cups or pie tin (depending on what you decided). 

Now take some coconut chips...

And combine them with a couple tablespoons of butter, flour, and sugar. Really, this is the step I eyeball after making it by the recipe the first time. I personally wanted the coconut to be a more dominating flavor, so I try to use as little as possible of the other ingredients. I think the most important part will be the texture and you can just mold everything around in your hands until the butter helps push the other ingredients into crumble balls. 

But not to be obnoxious, the proper measurements are...

1 Cup Flour (sifted)
1/3 Sugar
120 mg Butter (melted)
2/3 Shredded Coconut

Sprinkle on top, bake at 350 for 22 minutes and viola! Serve with vanilla ice cream!

10 July 2014

Watch: The Great Dictator Speech

I'm sure a lot of you have seen this video before, but if you haven't here is a dose of inspiration for the day. 
I don't know if I've ever watched this video and not teared up by the end. If you haven't seen it before, I hope you feel as passionate and inspired and alive after seeing it. 
***The link isn't working on my iPad so incase you cannot access this life changing speech, click here.

09 July 2014

Moscow Nights: A UFO Russian Circus Date

Another installment in our dating series!

So on our way back from Vilnius, Ben and I saw this commercial for a UFO themed Cirque de Soliel esque circus that was happening in Moscow. The commercials looked really cool and dark and Russians love the circus (we actually live across the street from the big Moscow circus) so we thought, "Why not?" We'd had some money returned to us, so we decided to use that and treat ourselves to some tickets.

First things first: I had been under the impression that this was an adult-circus (along the lines, again, of Cirque de Soliel), but when we showed up to the arena there were like, small children everywhere. We both had a bit of panic that our cool date night was about to turn into an embarrassing joke, but we took our seats anyway and waited for the show to begin (of course while bingeing on buttered popcorn and chocolate syrup ice cream cones).

The show began with a klutzy, out-of-luck-in-love fellow who after a failed picnic with his girlfriend is abducted by aliens. The show got great fast. It was very dark and eerie (I actually wondered if it was going to scare some of the kids) and the score was along the lines of dubstep/rock and roll which was actually pretty cool to watch incredible acrobatics to. Most of the people in the circus were incredibly talented and really enjoyable to watch (however the chorus line's dance moves really tickled Ben--they reminded us of our liberal art college's dance program).

All that being said, there was of course an element of total terror because this was still Russia and the grace and fluidity that Cirque du Soliel members display was noticeably absent here. People were justing flingin' their bodies around, safety nets and wires were deemed unnecessary, none of the equipment seemed really stable and then there was... the roller skating routine.

Russians love roller skating. They freak-ing love to roller skate. If you ask a Russian what they are going to do on a summer weekend, chances are they are going to go roller skating in the park. So why not include a roller skating routine into your circus show? Makes sense.

Except it didn't!

They brought out these rickety old ramps and just kind of... put them near each other. Then the skaters came out, not in professional roller skates, not in--amateur leisure skates, but in costume designed silver space boots with wheels at the bottom!

Ben and I both turned to each other and had a "They're not..." look. But they did.

Those crazy circus folks jumped off those shaky ramps and almost broke everything 100 times. It was terrifying, but in the end, they all survived.

And overall, it was a really fun time. I can't even remember the last time Ben and I saw a show together... it's certainly been a hot minute. But it was a really great date and I highly recommend going to see something like it in your area (or if you're in Moscow, go see that!).

06 July 2014

My Oil-Pulling Routine

Have you ever heard about oil pulling? It's an ancient Indian tradition (and form of meditation) that has been making its way through the blogosphere and pinterest boards for quite some time for it's DIY beauty quality and health benefits. Basically oil pulling is taking a small spoon of coconut oil and swishing it around your mouth for about twenty minutes, giving your mouth an intense and effective cleaning. I've always had a lot of interest in oral health and I do my best to keep my mouth and teeth as clean as possible, so after reading about all the benefits oil pulling can provide, I decided to give it a try.

First, some reasons to try oil pulling:

  • Brighter, whiter teeth
  • Healthier gums
  • Bad breath prevention
  • Increased energy
  • Clearer mind
  • Decreased headaches
  • Clearer sinuses 
  • Alleviated allergies
  • Better sleep
  • Clearer skin
Okay, so first let me say that while I did notice that my teeth were a bit whiter and my garlic breath was gone from lunch, I can't say that the last few items on the list came up for me. But hey, a lot of people swear by oil pulling and I don't do it daily, so maybe there's some truth to it?

Essentially, the oil acts as a cleanser and it helps remove bacterias that are fat soluble that toothpaste cannot effectively remove. It "pulls" out the bacteria and debris from your teeth and gums. 

So I thought for today I would share my oil-pulling routine and encourage some of you who like to take DIY beauty risks into trying this out. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I really do find the process relaxing, and I love how clean my teeth feel afterwards.

First, your supplies. You'll need organic coconut oil, a spoon, a bit of water and salt, and your toothbrush and some toothpaste. 

Oil-pulling is best done in the morning on an empty stomach. I rarely follow this rule because I like to eat first thing in the morning, but technically, that is how it should be done.

Take a small amount of coconut oil and put it in your mouth. You'll be swishing for about twenty minutes, so I would advice against any amount bigger than this because the oil will begin to collect saliva and expand in your mouth. 

And don't feel the need to "swish" for twenty minutes. Sometimes I just move the oil into different parts of my mouth and let it sit there so my jaw can relax a bit. 

Watch some Portlandia.

After about twenty minutes (or as long as you'd like to do it, really), spit out the oil in the trash (not good for drains). Do not swallow the oil. It has just spent the past twenty minutes collecting bacteria from your mouth, the last thing you want to do is then swallow it into your body. 

Then take a bit of water, pour some salt in, and swish that around in your mouth for a minute. I usually do this step right after I spit out the coconut oil, so I have never noticed any unpleasant, greasy feelings in my mouth. The salt water helps to break that up. 

Finally, go into the bathroom and brush your teeth as usual. 

When you're done brushing, your teeth should feel clean and dentist-new!

Have you ever tried oil-pulling? Do you think you might now? Let me know!

03 July 2014

Eating Well, Living Better

Cereal (I usually eat granola, but I was out), skim milk, and blueberries for breakfast.

Greek yogurt and fruit for snacks. Sometimes fiber toast with peanut butter. 

Toast with avocado slices and peanut butter and strawberries.

Vegan chili (and a dollop of greek yogurt) 

Dark sea salt chocolate and pistachios for dessert, sometimes.

My brand-new Nikes.

5 lbs.

To be honest, I have never been a very good eater. For a long time, I just didn't have a lot of interest in food. I didn't care about trying new flavors or textures, when I ate I just wanted to eat safe things I knew. I'm sure you can imagine how boring that got and eventually I started to venture a bit more out of my comfort zone. When I met Ben, I was amazed by how he connected with food. He told me once he loved spicy things because he wanted to "have a connection" with his food, which was something I had never really thought of before. He introduced me to a lot of new recipes and I've really enjoyed growing my palette. 

That being said, I still wasn't a very good eater. Eating vegetables was still very new to me when I entered my twenties and I didn't want to find ways to make them work for me which caused a pretty unbalanced diet. I often felt sick and lacked energy and even though I knew it was probably because I didn't eat a variety of foods, I really just didn't feel motivated to change it. 

As I have begun to turn the corner on the big milestone birthday of 25 (less than 6 months!), I've tried to look at my life and ask myself what is actually working and what I need to focus on changing. Well, a couple weeks ago I woke up and decided I didn't like the way my body felt anymore and I wanted to get control of my diet. I wasn't eating terribly per-say, but I also wasn't eating great. And I want to eat great. So I talked to Ben about it, did some research online, and came up with some replacements for my usual snacks and meals (we do usually eat pretty well at dinner, though). 

I also went to the store and bought myself some running shoes and new workout clothes. I had been doing "indoor exercises" all winter, but I really wanted to get outside and push my body a bit more. I didn't really have any weight or size goals because I'm pretty comfortable with how I look, but I did want to just feel better throughout the day. I wanted to be stronger and I wanted to feel younger. So run I have (which is actually pretty intense to do in Moscow-I usually pretend I'm in the zombie apocalypse, and spend my time dodging people, cars, cigarette smoke, etc). 

I have given myself some goals for the time being which I hope will change in the direction to a healthier lifestyle eventually:

-Healthy snacks throughout the day (pistachios, fiber toast, granola bars, if I have to)
-Drink a glass of lemon water in the morning (and more water throughout the day)
-Include fruit in my breakfast always
-Run for at least 15 minutes for days a week
-Do indoor workouts (crunches, yoga, stretching, squats, etc) five days a week. 
-Only drink alcohol three nights a week (this makes me sound like an alcoholic, but I'm referring to only some glasses of wine at dinner)
-Only eat chicken or turkey and only eat it once every two weeks or so. 

Yeah, so that's where I am right now. I have already been feeling so much better. I feel a lot happier and excited for the day and I've been looking forward to making a lot of new foods. I actually need to go and finish draining my tofu for the Indian Curry I'm making tonight. 

If any of you have any 'stay healthy!' tips for me, I'd love to read about them:)

Have a great day!

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