Saturday, February 6, 2010

Olesya's 17th Birthday

January 27th, 2010, and Olesya turned 17 ... again.
Наступило 27 января и Олесе исполнилось 17 ... снова.

So, I had been wrestling around in my mind what to do for Olesya's birthday. Most of that inner dialog sounded like this: "What about a surprise birthday party with a lot of guests? No. She really isn't that close to a lot of people yet. Should I buy her some awesome surprise present? No. We just started managing our finances together, so there's no way it would be a surprise." This went on for days ... even weeks. I had no clue what to do. Eventually, it was too late to do anything big like that anyway. I was out of options. Fortunately, I had a little help from her on the night before her birthday:

"Not all presents cost money," she told me, as we drifted off to sleep.

What did we already have at home? Candles, a cake stand that we got for our wedding, and some materials left over from making our wedding announcements. So, after work, I went to the grocery store and bought a chocolate cake mix, a carton of whipped cream, some strawberries, and some modest flowers.

I came home from work and banned Olesya from the kitchen, put on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and set to work.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Message, Spock?"
"None that I am conscious of, except of course, Happy Birthday, surely .. the best of times."

I made the cake mix and poured it into this awesome ginormous cookie sheet that someone gave us for our wedding. While the cake was baking, I whipped up the cream. I hate using real frosting because it is so sweet. Whipped cream is just enough to lighten up the cake and dress it up all perrty and all, but not enough to overpower the cake.

The cake cooled. I cut it into 6 square/rectangular pieces, 5 of which I used to make a layered cake. By layer 5, the cake was already too high. A sixth layer wouldn't have fit under our glass cake cover.

On went the cream. Then went the strawberries. And to make a long story short, I made chicken with pasta and had written a poem for her earlier in the day, which I printed in the card I made for her. I did all this by the time Spock managed to sacrifice himself for the Enterprise and get shot down to the Genesis planet.

The end result looked like this:

Here's her reaction when she came down the stairs and saw this sweetness waiting for her:

We ate dinner. It came time to light the cake, which we did. I sang, she blew out the candles, and all that jazz. I stopped the camera from recording only to realize that I had never started it. Let's just say it was the best of times.

Happy Birthday, Olesya!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thin MInts

So, I was sitting on my sister Emily's couch talking with my fiancee over skype. At one point, the door to the boys' bedroom opened up and my nephew Adam walked out. He was very quiet, as he frequently is when he has just woken up from a nap.

"Adam, come talk to Olesya!" He came over and sat down. "Can you say hi?" He said hi. I then began to give Adam hints as to the kind of things he could ask Olesya. He asked her what her favorite song is: "The Princess and the People-Eater." He asked her what her favorite color is. Adam learned that her favorite color is green - something even I didn't know. So, my three-year-old nephew now knows my fiancee better than I do... maybe... depending on how you look at it.

So, we wrapped up the conversation, I said my goodbyes to Olesen'ka, and we let her go to sleep. Adam left the room. A few minutes later, he came back into the room with an entire box of girl scout thin mint cookies.

Suddenly, I felt extremely torn. In the next few minutes, I would have the opportunity to make many decisions of high influence on my nephew ... but ... those thin mints sure looked good. Adam disappeared from the room for a few minutes. Crisis avoided. He probably just found a nicely colored box and went to go put it back. A few minutes later, he came back with just the plastic-wrapped stack of cookies... opened ... with chocolate-influenced stains around the general area of his mouth. "They're cookies and they're chocolate!" he exclaimed.

He gave one to me.

I ate it.

"Adam, does your mom know that you're eating those cookies?"


Okay, so at least I asked him, though I don't know how I could possibly expect Emily to absolve me from eating those cookies on the basis of her three-year-old son's accountability.

"Can I have another one?" I asked.

He gave it to me.

I ate it.

He popped another one into his mouth. I thought I'd better confirm with my sister that it was okay that we were eating these cookies. But then it hit me.

"She doesn't have to know."

My nephew can really pop those cookies into his mouth, and I probably exercised just about as much restraint as he did. We kept popping them. There was only one thing left to do.

"Hey, Adam. You want some milk?"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Awesome Dinner Rolls

Lately, I've been trying to simplify my nutrition by making a big pot of something hearty to eat every week. That way, I can just ladle myself a bowl-full of goodness whenever I want. Three weeks ago, it was a chili-like minestrone soup with corn bread. Two weeks ago, it was a lentil soup with ground turkey and tofu, also with corn bread. It actually was pretty good, and I did eat multiple bowls of it, but there was just so much of it, that it lasted into this week, when my appetite fell through the cracks and I started eating this huge plate of mint brownies that the Bishop's wife gave me.

Thank you, Sister Wright! I am still eating those brownies ... and it's all in the name of, uh, ... overtraining recovery. Yeah, that's it! I NEEDED to eat all that sucrose because my body was depleted.

So, I had to throw the last few servings of the lentil soup away. I should just make less next time.

So, today, I made this big-ol' whoppin' pot of beef stew. Mmmmmmm.... As I was shopping at Food Lion tonight, I saw this stew meat that looked very nice and seemed reasonably priced, and I immediately thought, "Ah-HAH! There's my pot for this week." No, I'm not on pot.

Then I thought that the stew needed something to accompany it, but corn bread just didn't seem to fit the bill. Fortunately, I have my trusty Russia Yekaterinburg Mission Cookbook, with plenty of awesome recipes from my MTC comp, Elder Todd Tyler. Love that guy. Need to find his contact info.

Out of all his recipes, the one that I make the most is called "Rolls in 60 Minutes." I hope you don't need me to explain why the recipe has that title. This is the recipe that I make the most probably because I have never had the forethought to make other bread recipes that actually require you to let the dough sit and rise overnight or for several hours at a time. I like to think of it as being an expression of my spontanaity, rather than my laziness.

The thing about this recipe, however, is that it yields about 40 rolls. So, I made them in all sort of shapes and sizes. The pan that I am the most pleased with had six rolls in the shape of a pyramid, with a little crossed peak at the top, and the other six were spherical, also with a little crossed peak. It got me thinking, "Oh, cool. These are like hot cross buns, since they're hot, they have a cross on them, and they're buns," except that I have no idea what real hot cross buns are. Maybe mine qualify, maybe they don't.

But they look GREAT!!!

They look kind of Tudor-like, as if they had come from the kitchen of King Henry the VIII himself.

And they taste good, too.

How's that for the most random blog entry you've ever read?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Snatching Again

Since the Rosetta Stone world tour seems to have ended, I've been able to get back into some olympic-style weightlifting, which is SOOOOO fun! Why, do you ask? Why is it so cool to sling iron around? Gee, I wish I could answer that question. Let me offer a few reasons:

It's unique. It is so different from what everyone else at the gym is doing. Go to the gym and do curls, and you'll be in good company. Do squats, and other guys will take you seriously. Do snatches and high pulls, and people will think that you're either really weird or really cool, to both of which I say, "Great! 'Works for me!" I have this personality thing that says that I have to be special ... different ... unique, so I look for constructive ways to be all of those things, always trying to keep my pride in check...

... which leads me to add that there's a stereotype out there that guys that go to the gym are just vain jerks that only think of themselves. That may be true of some gym rats, but not more so than in any other arena of life. Plus, the same qualities that contribute to a person being a jerk are the same qualities that prevent such a person from achieving any significant success in the gym. Those guys usually get lazy and leave anyway, since they're not getting what they want.

The community rocks. The truth of it is that the more I interact with olympic lifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders alike, the more I'm impressed with how un-jerk-like they are (pardon the terrible overuse of the word "jerk" but this IS a post about olympic weightlifting). Most of these guys really respect you, regardless of who you are, where you come from, or what you haven't achieved yet. They're just glad you showed up. Most of them are ready and eager to help you with your lifts and to ask for help with their own. They respect the success that other people have experienced and are genuinely happy for them. Bear in mind that this is a description of the weightlifting/bodybuilding community at large. If you look at the community within olympic lifting, o-lifters have an even more supportive community. Again, pardon the terrible pun. This is when my brother Mike would say, "Thank you for your support," and I would say, "Don't be such a jock!"


It's productive. O-lifting is all about goal setting and gradually working toward the realization of these goals. You might argue that I could be spending this time setting goals about getting an MBA, developing a rich stock portfolio, yada, yada, yada, to which I say, "Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof." There's plenty of time for that.

Here's a video that my friend Glen took while we were snatching in our friend Jeff's garage in 2007. The video is old, but it's pretty representative of what snatching is and where I'm at now in my progress.

It's relaxing. It's so great to just clear your head of all the business of today's world and just focus on getting the bar over your head and up in the air.

It gives me something to do with my disproportionately large traps.

It's so stereotypically Russian. I know we shouldn't propagate negative stereotypes, but this one doesn't seem so negative. I love this sport because it helps me to feel a connection with the athletes in it. Take for example Russian Beijing 2008 silver medalist Evgeny Chigishev. What a cool dude! And do you know why? Not only can he snatch 211 kg, but he is also a humble person. Fancy that! Definitely not the stereotypical, self-centered gym rat that many people are so afraid of.

For example, in this brief interview from the 2007 Russian Weightlifting Championships(toward the end of this clip), Chigishev says words to the effect that "I'm very grateful that there's such an interest in this competition."

Notice also, that while he is speaking to the reporter, his beautiful wife is standing next to him, and if you listen carefully, you can here the squeaks of his little son, which is not visible to the camera. Big man, beautiful woman, pure little son ... Ahhh. That is sweet!

It's inspiring. Chigishev was stabbed, I believe, in the shoulder, and so he had to skip the olympic games in Athens. But, he healed up, trained up, and went on to take silver at Beijing. That's such an inspiring story to me about how a person can experience set backs, but still pick themselves up and move forward.

In addition to that, after winning the 2008 silver medal for the over 105 kg weight class, Chigishev could have said anything he wanted to the reporters about how cool Beijing is, how cool he is, and what not. What he chose to say was, "I just want to say hi to my wife and son. I love them very strongly."

So cool.

What's even cooler, is that my fiancee knows of my fascination with this sport, and with Evgeny Chigishev in particular. Once she said, "I'm not interested in Evgeny Chigishev. I'm interested in Dale Richards." It's just cool to know that the girl I love perceives me that way. Good stuff.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Distance Relationships are Crazy

My fiancee and I have this little predicament. We live 8 time zones apart from each other. She lives in the greater Moscow, Russia metropolitan area. I live on the east coast of the United States. This situation has its advantages, which I am going to try to list and try even more to feel like it's better this way:

1. Hmm... trying to think of some advantages...

2. The distance helps us to focus our relationship on friendship. Well, that is only partly true. It's true that our relationship isn't founded on physical affection, since we can't have any. But Olesya and I share a little romance every day, whether it's a skype call, a facebook message, or a wall post. In the absence of all these, I can always reach into my pocket and squeeze her heart with my hand. Actually, it's a little felt valentine of her heart that she gave me on the Valentine's Day after we were engaged. It has my name written on it with little beads.

3. The cyber nature of our relationship affords us many opportunities for internet sillyness. We have skype to thank for that. You see, when you make a skype video call, there's a big window where your partner's video is displayed, and another little window where you can see your own video (the stuff that is being broadcast to your partner). The thing is, when I get behind a web cam, I have great difficulty resisting the temptation to make funny faces. It's fun when you are just looking at your own video. But now that I also have Olesya watching, I often wait for a moment when she's not looking at the computer screen. Just then, I'll concoct some wacky face and hold it in position until she looks back at me. She looks and then laughs. It's a great way to see her smile, which, in case you didn't know, was cannonized by Elder Bednar as being "The Smile of the Plan of Salvation," or a testimony that the plan of salvation is true.

Olesya dishes her own fair share of sillyness back. My favorite is when the video call freezes up just as she's making a ridiculous face. That's usually when I reach for the "print screen" button and preserve that moment for later enjoyment, as was likely the case with this screen shot. Sometimes, I do it without the call freezing up, but I have to be quicker on the draw.

4. Because of the time difference, the only times that Olesya and I can usually talk are early in the morning, during my lunch break, or late at night. That means that she is one of the first people I talk to and one of the last, as well. Plus, it means that I get to see a lot of her as she has just woken up. No makeup, no glamour, and as beautiful as ever.

So, there you have it: The advantages of maintaining an internet romance. Doesn't that sound inviting? Just know, my friends, that if you decide to pursue this route, there really is no substitute for holding the one you love in your arms.

Olesya, I love you. 'Talk soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Arrival in London

I don't know what it is about London that makes me want to blog ... probably just that I used to be so good at blogging when I lived here, but that was before the word "blog" even existed. 'Flew into London Heathrow Terminal 5 on Saturday morning at around 10:00 am. After waiting for my audio engineer and finding our driver, we got to the hotel, checked in, I washed up, and crashed on my bed for a quick nap. Steven, the owner of the recording studio here, picked us up from the hotel and took us to the studio so we could have a look. It's a pretty nice operation. Steven has started this business from scratch and has been building it up since 2002. Hence the name ... 2002 Studios.

Steven is very professional and helpful. He arranged the schedule with all the talents, and knows his technical stuff. I'm glad he's here.

After the quick preview of the studio, we went back to the hotel and I fell asleep again. Woke up, went to the store, got some groceries for Sunday (of course including a Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar), ate, and fell asleep again.

Sunday, I woke up, had breakfast, prepared for church, and left the hotel for the metro. 'Walked into the metro, inserted my debit card into the metro ticket machine, and the machine swallowed my card. I couldn't get it out. The station attendants all tried to help me. They called an engineer and everything, but the engineer couldn't come right away, so we concluded that the card wasn't going anywhere, so I bought a day card to get into town. I was concerned that the debit card problem had caused a considerable delay that might make me miss sacrament meeting, but by the time I arrived at the Hyde Park chapel, a sign said that the Britania singles ward didn't start until 2:30. I was right on time!

I met several interesting people at the Britania ward: Ryan is English and is a facilities manager for a London office. Sergey is Russian, is from Latvia, and works in finance. Leif is Swedish, but is ethnically a quarter everything. He speaks American English very well and has family living in the states.

Anyway, back to Sacrament meeting. London has always had associations of Romance for me, so I decided to gird up my loins and sit next to a pretty girl, which I did. She wasn't very talkative ... mostly just kept her nose in her scriptures the whole time before the meeting started. Several minutes into the meeting, another young man came and sat between us and put his arm around her. "I knew it. She has a boyfriend."

As I sat there, Kristen Green walked in and sat a few rows in front of me. It was nice to see a childhood friend from the Oak Hills Stake. Kristen is getting a masters degree in London... That is, living in London while getting a masters. Her masters isn't in London.

After church, I walked the few blocks over to the Royal College of Music. I walked up the steps toward Royal Albert Hall and looked back at the college and a flood of memories came over me. I thought about the trumpet lesson that I had in that room over there, I thought of the concerts I had attended, and of Andy, and how friendly and personable of a teacher he was. That was such a magical time.

As I walked back toward the metro, I thought of how different I am now, socially, emotionally, professionally, personally and considered which changes were positive and which were negative. I think I've grown a lot since then, but there was something in my step, in my smile, in my naïveté, in my innocence, in my heart that was different. Of course, that thing was Katrina Feller. As much as I would like to not think of her, being in London kind of makes that impossible. Maybe this trip will be helpful for me ... you know, a little more closure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Campbell's Vegetable Beef


Professional development, career planning, GMAT, PMP certification ... Do I really want to stay here and make a long-term contribution or should I be pursuing something else? 'So much estimation instead of thorough planning ... Why don't those people know what it takes to produce this stuff? They must be totally oblivious! And why can't they see that I have so much to contribute?!!!

Boy, the fall foliage here is beautiful.

Application due dates, fees ... How and the heck am I going to find the time to prepare for this test? I'm going to be all over the planet in the next two months! How am I going to study? A better question yet, how am I going to pay for all this schooling? It's expensive! Ah, but just think of the experiences, the people, the skills, and your own marketability! It will pay for itself! But, will it really? Do I even want to pursue this?

I should just call Nange to say hi and see how her kids are doing.

What's up with this Project Management stuff? Do I even want to get certified and make this my life? I don't seem to have enough hours in the day to plan this out, make a decision, and then pursue it and keep myself healthy and fit all at the same time.

Sometimes, you just want a bowl of Campbell's vegetable beef soup.