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Two weeks

Hey everyone! Today starts my two-week work assignment in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I’ve pre-written a few posts to publish over the next few days, and then if I have time I’ll give you little updates about how things are going here! I’m a little nervous about these upcoming two weeks (I don’t speak any Russian!). It’ll be an adventure for sure. Wish me luck!

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I figured that I snack enough throughout the day for them to deserve their own post. Dear readers, I would like you to know that I eat constantly. All day, every day. It’s a running joke between me and J that I’m always ready to eat or thinking about food, and I don’t take offense to it because I’ll be the first to tell you that three square meals a day is not the style of eating for me. Smaller meals and snacks throughout the day? Yes please.

I tend to get hungry every 2.5-3 hours, so after breakfast at 7:45 the first snack of the day comes around 10:45. Actually around 10 I’ll get my morning coffee with some steamed milk and a tiny bit of sugar. I like the taste of coffee but I prefer to add sugar to take a bit of the bitter edge off. And I stick to one cup a day for the most part because I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine. Too many coffees in a short amount of time make me feel dizzy and sick, and coffee after 5 pm or so means I won’t sleep well that night. Anyway, along with coffee is my morning snack, which is a handful of nuts and dried fruit.


Two hours later comes lunch, and about an hour and a half after that I’m usually ready for a snack again. The afternoon is tricky, though, as I’m sure you all know the mid-afternoon slump, when you start to feel kinda bored and restless. So during that time I sometimes want to snack but I’m not sure if I’m legitimately hungry or just bored. Anyway, I always have something with me like another small apple, a probiotic yogurt drink, carrot sticks, a homemade baked oatmeal bar, a cookie or a digestive biscuit. When somebody in my department has a birthday we usually have a gathering in the afternoon, so my afternoon snack could also be some cheese, fruit, a piece of cake or a glass of wine. If I end up eating a bigger snack or lots of party food, I’ll have a smaller dinner.

A legitimate reason for needing to eat something in the afternoon is that I work out after work and don’t want to be starving when I get home. If I do still need something in my system shortly before a run, I stick to banana and peanut butter (half a banana smeared with peanut butter and honey, or a piece of bread spread with pb and banana slices). This awesome combination has never made me feel icky during a run, ever. A pre-workout snack like this happens more often on weekends, since my afternoon snacks during the week usually suffice.

My final snack of the day comes in the form of something sweet after dinner. I’ve actually gotten better about snacking at night, so some days when I’m really satisfied from dinner I’ll just chew some gum or have a mug of green tea and that’s enough. Those are the good willpower days :-). But often I need something more. If I want something more substantial I’ll usually stick to yogurt or kefir with berries and raisins (similar to breakfast, but a much smaller portion). Dried apricots, a piece of fruit or fresh berries also work, when we have them. But of course when we have cookies lying around (and come on, you know we do) I’ll have one or two.

Since during the week J and I both try to keep our eating healthier, on weekends we allow ourselves to indulge a bit more. We both have sweet tooths, so chocolate doesn’t last long around here. Sometimes we buy chips or candy, and we also like making our own popcorn. I love ice cream, so during the summer that slips in about once a week :-).  If we go out to eat, that usually happens on the weekend. And then of course there’s beer, which I don’t really count as a snack but it is an additional source of calories.

Speaking of beer, I guess I could also say a word about what I drink. In short, mostly just water. I drank juice and milk as a kid but now that happens very rarely. Soda (or pop, or whatever you call it) is also something I only drink once in a blue moon. I’m not depriving myself; it’s just not something I crave, especially not diet soda– fake sweeteners leave an aftertaste in my mouth. So I drink water, and tons of it (I would estimate about 3 L per day, but I’ve never actually measured). I drink one coffee a day with milk and a touch of sugar, and I also try to drink a cup of green tea most days. When it comes to alcohol, I mostly drink beer (the cheapest option here in Estonia!) or cider. I don’t mind sweet cider, but dry is better. I also enjoy wine, both red and white, but I’m more likely to drink those at home than out in a bar.

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It was an adventure, all right

Haha… reading the final line of my last post makes me laugh a little. I knew our first half marathon experience would make for a unique and exciting day, but as sometimes happens, life brings some unexpected twists we can’t even begin to anticipate. We were both successful in the half– me with a time of 2:26:50, and J with a time of 2:00:23 (the man is a speed demon!). It was after the end of the race that things got a little crazy– I’ll be back with the whole story tomorrow!

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I’m ready

So. It appears I’m running a half marathon in two days. Yikes? Actually, training has gone really well and I know I’m capable to running the distance (the greatest distance I did while training was 11.6 miles [18.6 km]). The only snag has been that the last few times I ran, I felt a pain on the front of my right hip that starts after about 2 miles and then just stays there. It doesn’t get worse, and it stays sore for about 12-18 hours after running, then goes away completely. Walking, using an elliptical trainer, and having to be on my feet for three days in my most professional heels don’t bother it at all. What gives? So now I haven’t run at all for nearly two weeks (and the two weeks before I ran very little, alternating runs with elliptical workouts), so I hope whatever it is has healed up so I can get through the race. I don’t want to worry about pain. Happy thoughts only.

I was kind of surprised that even during the high point of training (when I was doing 17-22 miles per week), my appetite wasn’t all that different. In the afternoon and evening after a long run, I did tend to get hungry fairly soon after eating, but since I’m one of those eat-every-two-to-three-hours people anyway, it really didn’t feel all that different. I will, however, say this: the first thing you eat after completing a long run is the best-tasting thing IN THE WORLD.

I also just realized that I never talk on the blog about what my normal eating habits actually are– I tend to only write about eating or making something special. Well, to assure you that my days do not consist entirely of cookies and fried chicken, soon I’ll do a little overview of what I eat on a daily basis. I know I complain quite a bit about the foods that I can’t get here, but there are also plenty of wonderful things available here in Estonia that I happily thrive on.

Anyway, wish me luck for Saturday! We’re getting up early (well, only a little earlier than usual) to catch the ferry to Helsinki, then we have a few hours to hang around and eat lunch. We have to be at the race area to pick up our numbers by 1:00 and the race starts at 3:00, and since I’m in the slow starting group my start isn’t until 3:40! Kinda bummed about that for some reason, but what can you do. After the race we’re going to have dinner and then hop on the ferry, which will arrive back in Tallinn at midnight. It’s gonna be an adventure for sure :-).

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Our basil is sprouting!!!

The basil we planted is already sprouting! And the first sprouts were visible yesterday already, just three days after planting! We (or, you know, the lovely sunshine) must be doing something right! It’s only a matter of time before we can make ourselves a tiny Caprese salad. We’re so proud.

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Will run for food

I know I already talked about my food and blog-related resolutions for the year, but I have one more I want to share. It’s not directly food-related and it’s also not really a resolution, more like something I just decided I want to do. I decided that I want to attempt running a half-marathon, so J and I signed up for the Helsinki City Run on May 8. That’s exactly ten weeks from yesterday. I’m simultaneously excited and completely terrified.

I’ve never considered myself much of an athlete, and my race-running history has developed slowly. I ran my first 5k in October of 2006 with Siret. Training for that race made me feel like a runner– able to run for more than a few minutes at a time– for the first time in my life. While I continued to run to stay in shape, I didn’t run another race until May 2008, a 7k here in Tallinn. I signed up for a 10k in the spring of last year, but in the end I didn’t run it because it was just a few days before we left for our trip to London and I didn’t have time (I would’ve been ready for the race, though!). I actually ran my first 10k race in September of 2009, the SEB Tallinna Sügisjooks, with a time of 1:08:12. That race was so much fun… it was an incredibly warm and sunny day for September, and there were various music groups performing every kilometer or so along the route, which was very fun and entertaining.  I think my favorite was the guys beat-boxing at kilometer 3. The 10k felt really good, and after that I couldn’t help but wonder whether I could do more. I’ll never be marathon material, but a half… I could do it. I think. I don’t usually run for time, but in this race my goal is to finish in under 3 hours, because only the people finishing under 3 hours get medals. And I want that medal.

I’m not going to write about my running all the time and turn this into a fitness blog. But I’ll probably give some updates as I start building up mileage and increasing my own personal distance records. Plus with all that running, I’ll be able to allow myself a few more chocolate chip cookies!

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This past weekend was a long one here in Estonia. April 30th is Volbriöö, or Walpurgis Night in English, which in pre-Christian times was thought to be a night when witches gathered together. Now it’s pretty much just a night for partying, particularly for student organizations like sororities and fraternities. May 1st is a holiday– Kevadpüha— but it doesn’t have the working-class holiday connotation like it does in some other countries. It seems more like a day to recover from a hangover and welcome the (hopefully warm) spring weather.

J and I headed down to the university town of Tartu to see friends and also observe the Tudengipäevad, or Student Days, which is a spring festival intended to allow university students to refresh their spirits before they have to hunker down to study for final exams. Events during Student Days range from the culturally fulfilling– concerts and film nights– to the utterly ridiculous– students building “flying machines” and attempting to fly over the Emajõgi river, although the real point is that the spectators get to watch all the participants fall, along with their elaborate contraptions, into the incredibly cold river. Now that’s entertainment.

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We had a cookout along the river with a bunch of friends. The weather was incredible, perfect for the season’s inaugural cookout. I didn’t photograph most of the food, but we had typical grill stuff– sausages, marinated chicken, and, of course beer. (I wish I’d taken some pix of the different designs A.Le Coq Premium cans are sporting these days).

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J made this lovely bacon-wrapped mushroom and cooked it over the fire we had going.

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Unfortunately, the bacon didn’t crisp up very well, so it wasn’t great. However, the mushrooms that we tossed into a foil packet with some blue cheese and then set on the embers for a while came out amazing.

Disposing of any leftover food from the cookout wasn’t a problem, seeing as these two were in attendance:

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Granted, they’re chewing on wood in the photo, but they got plenty of goodies that day, believe me. This weekend was something of a breakthrough for me, because the last few times I’ve seen these dogs, the male has had some kind of problem with me– keeping his distance, eying me suspiciously, even growling sometimes. It sucked, because I had no idea what I’d done to upset him, and he made me nervous. But this weekend I tried to act normal and not anxious, and he acted normal too! Yay. Now he’s fine with plopping his 95-pound self on my foot so that I can scratch his back.  🙂

In the evenings when it got too cold to be outside, we sat in bars with our friends, catching up and watching World Championship hockey games. My alcohol consumption was kept reasonable, but I did take my first ever flaming shot, a B-52. It was OK, very sweet. I prefer Hot Shots, which are incredibly popular here, but perhaps I’ll discuss those in a later post.

Although I’m not a student facing finals, my spirit was refreshed by our weekend in Tartu. 🙂

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