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Ah, the Michigan Spring

15 April 2014
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It’s sure been a cold, cold winter…

April 15 in Ann Arbor

April 15 in Ann Arbor

But slowly, things start to look up! Hard to believe how time flies.

He said yes (and so did I)!

23 January 2014
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In which I formally announce, since we, you know, told Facebook last night, that we are engaged. And also, planning a wedding on short notice, by the current standards of the Wedding Industrial Complex. Because we believe five months is enough time to plan a party.

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A Champagne Toast – in Columbus, Ohio.

I ended my last post hinting vaguely about 2014 being a year of champagne toasts. Truthfully, by the time of writing, we had already had quite a few, and we anticipate many more in the coming months. I guess in posts like this, it’s customary to offer the “story” of the engagement. We’ll start, then, I suppose, with the fact that we’ve both been toying with the idea of a proposal for quite some time, rather indecisively. Maki, I learned later that night, had been considering how to propose since last March, during our epic road trip through the South. I started seriously considering the possibility of proposing back in August, driven, in large part, by the fact that I’ve been pretty intent on not having an engagement ring for years now, and I have not always been sure how clearly Maki understood that. At first, the idea of proposing was kind of daunting. I’ve always held that women ought to be able to propose, if they wanted to, but I’ve also always felt that was something for other people to do. Some time around the time I was in Budapest, my thinking grew more serious. And late one night in early January, on a rather uneventful day with his parents (I made pizza using my Christmas gift pizza stone), after everyone else had gone to bed and we were staying up late chatting, I came back to this months-long consideration. And, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like I ought to go for it, simply in order to face my fears. And thus, I decided just to go for it, and I asked him to marry me. I should admit, it was terrifying.

We looked around the room, and a bottle of mead (honeywine) was what we found. And so we cracked it and toasted to our future together.

We looked around the room, and a bottle of mead (honeywine) was what we found. And so we cracked it and toasted to our future together.

Maki, for his part, was caught off guard. Mostly because it was something that he felt he was supposed to do. But also, because he had been making plans of asking in January, after we returned to Ann Arbor after a long holiday season spent with my family and with his own, allowing him time to touch base with my parents. Perhaps best of all: he had taken my (in retrospect, more explicit than I thought) hints that there was to be no ring. Rather than answering immediately, he initiated a conversation about how we’d possibly pull this off and about what time frame we were looking at. And, he mused, how were were we going to tell people that it was me who asked? Would that change people’s opinion of us as a couple? I, for my part, stood my ground, though he made a last ditch effort to get me to agree first. Tempted though I was, I saw his trap, and told him he’d have to answer me before I answered him. And he agreed, and then I agreed. A decision about as mutual as could be, just the way we wanted it. We marked the occasion by sharing bottle of Drake Brothers mead from Columbus that Maki had received for Christmas. A small, private celebration while the house slept.

The first Russian edition printed in the US, published here in Ann Arbor long before it was published in Russia.

The first Russian edition printed in the US, published here in Ann Arbor long before it was published in Russia.

Maki, ever sentimental, actually had a gift ready for me to mark the occasion — an early edition of Doctor Zhivago that had been published by the University of Michigan Press in 1959. He had been saving it for the right moment and got it out immediately. Not your classic engagement marker, I’ll readily admit, but a highly appropriate one for an engagement between Soviet historians. Book delivered, Maki spied a broken clock on top of his bookshelf and set the dial to commemorate the time: 1:20 am, January 4, 2014. A lovely moment. The next day, we made crepes for his parents for a fancy lunch (complete with caviar!) and shared the news. We popped a bottle of champagne that Maki had gone out to get earlier that morning.

Maki picked appropriately.

Maki picked appropriately. Technically cava, for the nitpickers.

We broke the news to his grandmother that afternoon, and she rejoiced at the thought of having a “new daughter.” The following day, Sunday, we had intended to drive back to Ann Arbor, but, excited by the news we had to share, and prevented from getting through Cleveland by an enormous winter storm, we decided to head to Columbus instead. We surprised my parents by simply showing up, unannounced, to their annual Three Kings’ Day Party (after a stop in Pittsburgh, where we shared the news with Maki’s cousin and her family). The blizzard created the perfect alibi for our unanticipated visit. Much to our delight, Ruth (my sister) was even home, her flight back to Minnesota having been canceled due to the weather. After the guests had taken off, we shared our news, and celebrated with yet another bottle of champagne. Also, a plate of forgotten deviled eggs that had been prepared for the party and had never made it out of the fridge. The perfect pairing.

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Deviled eggs and champagne. Spiked with cassis for those who wanted.

It was then that we took the picture that leads off this post. Although the news is, at this point, getting to be kind of old — we made our decision to get married nearly three weeks ago already — I felt like my blog would be incomplete without an announcement here. We’re now aiming for Memorial Day weekend, in May, and we’re looking forward to celebrating. The truth is, the best part about our engagement has been the fact that it has given us an excuse to be in touch with a wide collection of friends and family. A wonderful start to 2014!

2013: A Year in Review

14 January 2014

Each year, I put together a summary of the past 12 months, usually trying to have it done on time to start the new year (Past examples: 200920102011, 2012). This year, although I’m a little behind, I’d like to take some time to reflect on all the adventures of an eventful year. To capture it, I’ll present a collage of images from each month, except for April, when I took no pictures (I’m giving a bonus round to March). So, here we go, starting in January.

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January: Puerto Rico, Ann Arbor, Chicago.

We greeted 2013 at a hotel party in Rincón, Puerto Rico, and spent the first few days finishing up our Puerto Rico family vacation in San Juan, where Maki is pictures in the bottom left picture above. From paradise, we returned to snow and reality, but good times were had with visitors and visiting. Kate and Neil passed through on their way back to Connecticut, and Lydia and Kevin also stopped in for a visit (Lydia, Maki and I made the pictured mofongo with margaritas — it was great), and we even managed to surprise Maki’s father by turning up to his 60th birthday celebration… in Chicago! And before we knew it, it was February.

February: Ann Arbor, all around, minus the very start to Spring Break.

February: Ann Arbor, all around, minus the very start to Spring Break.

February was marked with snow and the occasional celebrations. I made a cake for a birthday party, I used my skis. Most excitingly, the very end of the month — the 29th — kicked off an absolutely fabulous spring break with our first stop, in Pittsburgh, PA, where we hung out with my cousin, and then stayed with Maki’s cousin. Stopping in Pittsburgh put us in striking distance of Maryland — where we arrived with sufficient time to surprise Maki’s mother with a surprise dinner party for her 60th birthday, but that’s already March.

March: Michigan to Maryland to New Orleans and back. The road trip was fabulous.

March: Michigan to Maryland to New Orleans and back. The road trip was fabulous.

From Maryland, we headed South, stopping to see Yuliya in North Carolina and then onwards to Atlanta. In Atlanta, we stayed with my aunt and uncle, though we also stopped in on friends in the city, before we headed onward, to New Orleans, before returning to Michigan via Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio. Some 3100 miles in all. A success on all fronts! And then, it was back to life in Michigan, for what continued to be an eventful March. Read more…

Homes for the Holidays

13 January 2014
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Another Whittington family Christmas, important introductions, and a long stay in Maryland to greet the New Year. All in a break.

Michigan in December.

Michigan in December.

The rest of the semester finished up uneventfully. The last couple weeks of classes flew by in a haze of grading and reading, and before I knew it, Maki had turned up for winter break, a couple days before my students took their finals. After a nightmare stretch of grading, we packed our bags and headed out for our winter break, resetting my car dial before we went so we’d know just how much we drove.

Found on campus in Ann Arbor. Appropriate to see on one of my last days.

Found on campus in Ann Arbor. Appropriate to see on one of my last days.

Our first stop: Columbus, for the Whittington family Christmas. Christmas with my family is one of my favorite times of the year, not least because of the glorious tree we have each year. This year’s tree was huge. And our first order of business upon arrival, now that we had all seven Whittington originals, plus spouse, a boyfriend, and an exchange student, was decorating the tree.

Putting the (real!) candles on the top.

Putting the (real!) candles on the top.

Tree decorating was exhausting. So much so that we didn’t even light the candles the first night.

Merry Christmas, from Daniel and Lila.

Merry Christmas, from Daniel and Lila.

With unseasonably warm weather (it was literally 60 degrees a few days before Christmas), we enjoyed a lovely family walk the following afternoon, after church and a filling family lunch. We got our family Christmas card picture, for whenever my parents get around to it. Such a nice picture — if only Kevin (Lydia’s boyfriend) weren’t missing, we’d have been really complete!

Left to right: Dad, Mom, Mykola, Daniel, Lila, Lydia, Ruth, Thomas, me, Maki.

Left to right: Dad, Mom, Mykola, Daniel, Lila, Lydia, Ruth, Thomas, me, Maki.

It was a lovely walk.

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And when we got home, we finally lit the tree. It’s beautiful every time.

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The next days preceded in a flurry. Read more…

A Maryland Thanksgiving

13 January 2014

…and adventures on the New Jersey Turnpike.

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Thanks to my recent busyness, I’ve hardly had a moment to keep this blog updated. So now, to cover the end of 2013, a post at a time. Given our plans to spend Christmas with my family, Maki and I decided in favor of Thanksgiving with his. This plan worked especially well, given that I was able to leave on the Tuesday before the holiday and return the Monday afterwards, which made tickets much, much more affordable. So with that, I headed to campus with a suitcase on Tuesday morning, and after I finished teaching my sections on Tuesday, I boarded a bus and headed off to Baltimore, where Maki met me that evening. The first couple days were spent in assorted activities: preparations, cooking, hanging out.

Pie baking on Thursday morning. I've made this pie four of the last five Thanksgivings.

Pie baking on Thursday morning. I’ve made this pie four of the last five Thanksgivings.

And then, after everything had been sufficiently prepared, we sat down for a lovely feast, joined by all of Maki’s immediate family and his grandmother.

The feast! With Maki's father, mother, and brother here.

The feast! With Maki’s father, mother, and brother here. Of this, I was responsible for a salad (not pictured), the green beans, the mashed potatoes, and the stuffed mushrooms. Maki’s mother did the rest. I hear the turkey was fabulous, though I kept to my veggies.

And then, of course, the desserts. My particular realm of expertise. With such generous portions of such great food, we were full and satisfied.

Apple-blackberry-pear pie, ginger cookies, and pumpkin pie. Success!

Apple-blackberry-pear pie, ginger cookies, and pumpkin pie. Success!

Thanksgiving completed, we woke up the next morning for the next adventure: attending a dance hosted by Maki’s Ukrainian scouting fraternity. Let us pause for a minute to take that in. Because apparently Ukrainian scouting fraternity balls are not only a thing that exists, but they are also a thing I attend. File that away under things I never expected to happen in my life. Read more…

Late Fall Nights

13 December 2013
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Clearly, grad school at its best.

A mid-November game night. We play the best games.

A mid-November game night. We play the best games.

Time flies so quickly, what with endless grading parties and other assorted tasks. Luckily, November also found a little time to enjoy my birthday present. Thanks, siblings!

Still life with Moscow mule and student essays.

Still life with Moscow mule and student essays.

Then again, November was back in the time where I was willing to go out for fun. More recently, we’ve had this sort of delight here.

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Which seems the perfect cue to be holed up at home, reading my books.

The name says it all.

13 December 2013

This delight, clearly straight from Russia, was for sale in Ukrainian Village:

"Gross" Chips. Flavor: kholodets (meat-in-aspic) with horseradish.

“Gross” Chips. Flavor: kholodets (meat-in-aspic) with horseradish.

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