01 September 2014

My Survival Kit

*Disclosure: I was approached by the super awesome company Man Crates a couple of weeks ago and asked to write a blog post about my top 5 must-have survival kit items. In case you've never heard of them (I actually had just a few weeks before they wrote me and was already planning on getting Ben their Zombie Annihilation Crate for Christmas--so shhhhh if you know us in real life!!!), their mission is to create unique "man" gifts (though some of these I would also adore). I am totally happy to tell you about their company because I think it's a really fun idea and shopping for the men in your life can sometimes be a bit difficult. I also really like how these crates all come with a crowbar so there is no need for gift wrap--you get to rip that sucker open with a crowbar! How cool is that?!

Anyway, check out their site Man Crates and let me know what you think!

And now on to my survival kit:

I put a lot of thought into things I couldn't live without. Obviously there are a ton of things that I wish I could add, but I needed to break it down to five so here we go!

First up, a notebook and pen. If you know me, if you have ever met me for even like, five seconds, you'll know I'm a diary-keeper. My brother was getting his hair cut a couple weeks back and the girl recognized his name and asked if he was related to me. When he said yes she told him she remembered when I wrote a book when I was in eighth grade based off my journals. Like, I did that. It makes me want to shrink up into a ball and die of embarrassment that I showed people this, but people read it and dug it. Which is a crazy thought, but all thoughts were crazy back in eighth grade. 

Writing in journals has been the longest and strongest relationship outside of family I've had in my life. I have told the pages of countless Moleskines my deepest secrets and wishes, I have confessed, I have contemplated, I have lied, I have asked, I have figured-out and I've done it all within journals. 

To me, writing is the way I process life. I used to think I wanted to be a writer professionally, and maybe I still do, but it has occurred to me recently that maybe this is just what it is: me and my diary. I don't need to make a career out of this--just having it, just knowing that part of myself is always there to lean on can be enough. 

I know writing in journals can intimidate people, but I believe in it so strongly. If you're ever just feelin' all over the place and need something to do, go buy yourself a nice Moleskine and an inky black pen and just let it all out. It can do wonders. I truly could not survive without something to write on, which may sound dramatic, but don't forget I'm the girl who wrote memoir in eighth grade. 

Alright, let's take a step over to my vain side. This stuff rocks. It rocks my socks hard. It's the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate and it has saved my skin from everything from big pores to stress-induced cystic acne to flaky-dry Moscow-beaten and winter-stained cheeks. 

I put this baby on every single night and wake up the next morning feeling like $1,000,000. I know it seems a bit pricey, but I'm always going to be in the "do-what-you-need-to-to-feel-good" boat. And it's important to take care of your skin too.

Chocolate. I couldn't live without chocolate. I wouldn't want to live without chocolate. I actually don't even really like this one, but it's all I had in my kitchen (I'm trying to force myself to like dark chocolate for health reasons, but I just want to run down the street and pick up the creamy Sea Salt chocolate bar I actually want). 

Fun fact: I actually eat chocolate at every meal except for breakfast. I know this is really weird, but I can't help myself. For both lunch and dinner, I also break off a tiny bit of my chocolate bar and eat it with my meal (I don't eat dessert after dinner). I'm not really sure where I picked this up from, but it's pretty crucial to my enjoyment of my dinner. I've even got Ben hooked on it now too!

My iPad mini. 

I don't know if this makes me uncool for including a piece of technology, but I really do rely on this baby for a lot. It's my translator, my connector, my maps, my friends, my books, my news, my immersion into the world. 

I don't really fear technology and never have. I mean yes, there are aspects I fear, but I'm always wanting to get my hands on whatever the newest gadget is (I had a palm pilot when I was in the fourth grade) and I think having the internet at your disposal can be a very valuable thing. 

But my iPad is really important to me and it has made my life as an expat a lot easier. Even in small ways like have access to magazines or books in my own language, but it's definitely coming with my survival kit (but also because like duh, if there's a zombie apocalypse going on---which I am always prepared for--you might have some time to plan an escape route before the internet goes out... just sayin...)

And last but certainly not least, my trust toothbrush. 

I love my teeth and I love taking care of them. I'm an avid two-times a day brusher and I feel really uncomfortable if I don't, so yeah. Toothbrush comes too. 

Alright, so that's my survival kit! What would you guys pack? Feel free to write your own survival kit posts and send them to me, maybe I could link a bunch of them up! And don't forget to check out Man Crates. Seriously, I can't wait to get one for Ben (I've been taunting him with hints and he has no idea what it could be--I just keep telling him I have the best gift in the world waiting for him back in the states for Christmas). 


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.
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