Welcome to my blog!

I was thinking about starting a blog for quite a while but could not decide what to write about. My husband and I travel quite often because of his job. We always loved it even before we met. We actually met because my husband decided to take a job overseas and came to a place where I was, about 7 thousand miles away from him. His decision changed our lives for the very best!

I also like to cook but I don't think that I need a blog to document every meal I make. Only occasionally, maybe. We also decided to eat healthier so the blog will help me to keep track of our meals and weight.
That's how I eventually signed up for a blog and named it Veronika's Travel and Living.

Hopefully, I'll like blogging. We'll see.. ;)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ready for the trip with my two visas!

As we thought it was not a problem to get the visas for me. It's always just a matter of timing. It takes about one week to get the Schengen visa and about 10 days for the UK visa from the moment you submit your documents. So we did it right! These are my visas! Yeah, only 14 days left :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Defender's Day = Success!!

So My Dearest Defender was very happy with his day! On Monday night I took C. out to dinner to his favorite steak house. We had such a fun time! Chris had foie gras and I had pork ribs in orange sauce as appetizers. For the main course we both had steaks with fried potatoes and mushrooms and cream spinach. Of course, could not resist the dessert: chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream for C. and strawberry cheesecake for me. Awesome dinner!!!!
On the actual day (Tuesday) we stayed in which was a great idea! We watched movies, played Scrabble and poker. Scrabble was pretty funny as I was leading the whole time and in the end C. came up with some weird words :) such as "wino" and "din" and scored a lot. I said weird as I never heard them or saw them. Great times! Of course, we tease and put down each other sometimes and cheer up depending on the situation.! He was happy to win on his day and take revenge as I won the last time. When we play Scrabble, we play a handicapped version: I can use a dictionary, Chris cannot use a dictionary as it's his native language. It makes us equal at our chances to win. Then I practiced at playing poker with C. He is trying to teach me popular card games. He made a cheat sheet for me with all kinds of combinations and their ranking system. So far I like Poker but I need lots of practice, control over my emotions (the hardest) and I have a loooong way to go :)

I cooked some awesome food for us to snack on during the day. These are the pictures! The first round was: tomatoes with mozarella and basil in balsamic/olive oil sauce, then rolls with smoked salmon, cream cheese and spring onions and the hot appetizer was one of our favorite: baked mushrooms stuffed with fried onions and mushroom mixture topped with a drop of mayo and some cheese! Yummy!!!!

The second round was: onion tarts, pear salad and chicken fingers. Agent, if you are reading this, thanks a lot for your recipes for onion tarts and pear salad! We really loved these new things I made for the first time. Pear salad was very unusual for me and great. I say unusual as most Russian salads are mayo based and consist of boiled eggs, ham, cheese, boiled carrot, potatoes, beet etc. Most of them are heavy.

Now I'm introducing myself to American salads which seem lighter to me. Again, it depends what salad I'm talking about. I never understood how a salad with bunch of grass (lettuce) and occasional nuts or pieces of meat can be good? I thought that it would be very boring and tasteless. When we decided to eat more vegetables I looked more into healthy American recipes and I keep finding new fresh ideas for great salads with bunch of lettuce and vegetables. They are not boring at all and very tasty.
So C. loved all the food and was impressed by how much I cooked. I like to make him happy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let it snow!

The weather is being crazy lately in Moscow. It snowed for 4 days straight! They said that we had a month worth of snow in those 4 days. I cannot imagine traffic on Wednesday when people will go back to work after a long holiday weekend. Here is a view from our window.
Speaking of long holiday weekends. Russia is very big on moving work days and holidays around to make "a bridge" and have long holidays. For example, this year the Defender's Day is on Tuesday (today). What they did was move Feb. 22/Monday (work day) on this coming Saturday (Feb. 27) and have Feb. 20 through 23rd off! 4 days off! I know that it's pretty crazy for Americans as, you guys, don't get that many days off for holidays. Another "bridge" I believe will be on March 8th, Women's Day. Well, actually we'll have 3 days off: Sat, Sun and Mon. Not bad :) Then we'll have May holidays :)) Did I mention that Russia has about 10 straight days off in January? Yep, 10 days! From Jan 1st through 7th. Plus weekends. Pretty awesome, I guess. At the same time, there are lots of arguments about so many days off as people, obviously, don't work on these days.

Check out my new hat! It's a wool beret! I love it a lot! It was kind of expensive (about $120) but I decided that it's a gift to myself from myself for Women's Day. The lamest reason you can imagine! :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Defender's Day and general update

I did not realize that I haven't post for almost two weeks. That's very bad of me. Well, what happened was that I got more freelance translations to do. So I barely had time for cooking/groceries/gym and other stuff. Now I'm free and back to appreciating my free time.
I have to say that working at home is definitely not for me. I like going to work and be there from this time till this time and communicate with other people. I know that it's crazy. But I like it. C. hates it and it would be better for him to work from home and me going to work :) But it's impossible. Working at home is tough because you have work/translation to do and yet the kitchen is here, laundry also needs to be done and groceries too. It seems that it does not take that much time to turn on the washer, take out laundry, put it in the dryer and then fold everything. It takes about 30 min to get groceries as the store is really close but if you add time it takes to put on clothes, come back, unpack and undress... Again, it adds up. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying that it's hard. At the same time, you don't have to walk in the cold, you are your own boss, you can plan your time. But given a choice I would choose work in an office somewhere close.

I've been working out four/three times a week and now I'm going to belly dance classes twice a week and work out twice a week. We continue eating healthy. C. works out four times a week. He is doing great with his running. Every time he improves his results. It takes him less time to run the same distance. He lost a few kilos. UNLIKE me :) I feel that my waist got thinner. At least skirts and jeans are not that tight any more, but when I weigh myself I'm just 500 grams lighter than a month ago. Weird and annoying :)) Well, I hope that one day I'll weigh myself and I'll be 2 kg. less. Hope!

So I decided to start watching American famous chick flicks. Some of them I already watched 100 times and they are my favorite. Some I haven't seen for quite a while. So I watched Bridget Jones's Diary (both movies). It was the first time I watched it in English. I have to say that watching movies in their original language is so much better. Sometimes the jokes are funnier and it's nice to hear real voices/acting of actors instead of dubbed versions. I liked it. Though I cannot say that I'm a big fan of Renée Zellweger. Today I watched Never been kissed. It was alright. Probably I won't watch it again. It was too much of high- school stuff.

What else? The Defender's Day is coming up. It's a Russian (obviously) holiday that initially was celebrated in honor of soldiers, former soldiers and future soldiers who defended or will defend our country in case of war etc. Nowadays, it's basically a men's day. Women get gifts and do something nice for men/husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers etc. It's an equivalent of Father's Day in the states except you don't have to be a father. There is also a Women's Day which is celebrated on the 8th of March. Again, equivalent of Mother's Day. Usually, we don't give each other big gifts, we just do something nice for each other to make this day special. In previous years Chris got me girls' magazines, bought massage oil and gave me a massage, bought my favorite chick flicks, got me flowers, ordered food for us or took me out. I did the same. One time back in 2006 I even wrote a small poem about him and made a Powerpoint presentation with his/our pictures. It was pretty cool. The whole idea was that I have found my Defender and I love him :)
I'm not sure about what to do this time. It will be next week. Probably, I'll get a few small things (gifts) and make sure he enjoys his day. I'll think of some delicious food to make. I'm also thinking about taking him out to lunch or dinner whatever he wants. We'll see.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Beautiful flowers and random stuff

This beautiful bouquet of flowers made my weekend! The best part is that Chris bought them for me without any reason. it was a nice surprise on a Friday night when he got home from work and the gym. It's so nice!

Today is Monday. The UK visa center starts processing my application today. Hopefully, everything will be fine and I get my visa this week. Once I get my passport back, I'll start preparing papers for Shengen visa for Netherlands. It should take about 4 working days according to their site. One of the huge pluses of living in Moscow is that I can apply for visas myself without trying to find an agency and convince them to help me, not to mention ridiculous prices they charge for their intermediate services. When C. and I met we lived in central Russia, Ural region, it's a 2.5 hr flight from Moscow. I used to pay about $300 to get a visa, when its real cost was about $30-$50.

Now I'm the visa expert. The main thing you have to prove when you apply for any visa is that you have enough money to pay for the trip, you have an agenda, reservations and that you will come back to your country. To prove the last you have to submit proofs that you have a job, bank account and property or car, not to mention family you will come back to. In other words, you have to prove that you are not going to stay in the country for more than your visa dates say. I was almost proud of the package I submitted to the UK visa center: copies of our marriage certificate, green card, my previous visas, bank statements, work statement about my salary, copies of tickets, hotel reservation, a letter from C. that he will be responsible for me while we are there :), copy of my insurance, my old travel passports. And then they also took my picture and finger prints. C and I always joke about Russians and Americans. This time he said: "Just make sure you tell them that you are married to the greatest people! Once they know that I'm an American they'll let you enter the country". :))

Speaking of Russia and England. The world is getting smaller. Today I talked to a lady working in a meat department of the grocery store I go to every day. It turns out that her daughter is married to an Englishman and they just had a baby girl. The lady went to visit them and see the granddaughter. It was interesting for her to ask me a few questions about me and my husband since he is also a foreigner. She says that she misses her daughter a lot. I totally understand her because I miss my parents and Chris misses his family. Luckily nowadays it's easier to stay in touch. We totally love Skype. I talk to my parents every week and we talk to C's Mom once a month. It's amazing that you can see each other and it seems that we are all in the same place not thousands of miles apart. Amazing!

I thought about another thing that we may do in London. In 2006 C and I came a cross a cool pub that we liked a lot. It's called THE HUNG, DRAWN AND QUARTERED. The name of the pub goes back to the thirteen century and means the harshest punishment the court could hand out. Horrible to even imagine!!!! We went there twice and even bought their T-shirts. C. loves his a lot but it got very old. I'm thinking about getting him a new one this time. Speaking of pubs in London, we were surprised to learn that you don't tip a bartender. At first we did until we read somewhere in a guide magazine that you don't. What you can do instead is just say: "Get yourself a drink on me", that's considered a nice way of "tipping". :) Interesting, right?