Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 30, 2012

New apartment




 As you know we moved to Keila about two months ago, and we love it.  Our apartment is really nice, much nicer than the old one.  It has more room (67 sq. meters vs. 50), it has a sauna, and it has a normal sized fridge which is awesome!  This first picture is of our entry way, strait ahead is the living room, the first door to the right is an office and then the second door to the right is the bedroom.  The door to the left is the bathroom.  The glass is smoked so you can't see through, but light shines through pretty easily it is kind of cool.  The sauna is in the bathroom, I didn't include any pictures but who wants to see someone's bathroom right?

 
 This is the office, we got a nice new snowman quilt for Christmas it fits well on our new couch. This room will double as a kid's bedroom when that time comes.  The couch folds down into a bed.  By the time he/she is old enough to realize that it is a fold down couch is a crappy bed we should be out of here into a better bigger home.

 The bedroom is pretty big which is nice, there is a door to the balcony next to the window.  The shelves were really hard to put together, they look pretty nice but are poor quality.  Whenever we move we will be leaving them here. 

This is the living room and dining room.  I got the green rug on sale back in 2008, I figured I would use it for 2 years and that would be it (my MA program was 2 years and I had no idea I would be staying in Estonia for this long), it is still going strong.   And yes we have a fireplace in our apartment, we haven't used it yet.  Maybe someday though.  It is just for looks mostly.  I would prefer to replace it with a 55 inch HD TV, but I'm not the one who designed the apartment and it is nice not having a TV most of the time.

 The kitchen opens up from the living room.  It is small, but nice.  You can see a nice big fridge that is really nice compared to our old one.  You can also see the empty box of fruit by the foot on the floor.  

If anyone wants to come visit us just let us know!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas

Today in church the Wilkinsons gave us a Christmas card!  I am always amazed at how many people are able to send out Christmas cards.  I have thought on several occasions how nice Christmas cards are and so this year I am writing a Christmas card blog.  One of my favorite parts of Christmas cards, is the year review that comes with them.  So here is ours! So for all you readers out there consider this your Christmas card. (Interesting note: After looking through our 2012 pictures I noticed that there were only two with both me and Maris in in!  We'll have to work on getting more family shots in 2013. On a positive note, they were both good pictures). 

Merry Christmas from the Crandalls!


2012 was a great year for both of us filled with many highlights and blessings.  Maris turned 25, graduated with a Master degree in education (thesis was a killer, but she passed!), and joined a choir with her best friend from high school.  She is singing first soprano for the first time and loving it.  The choir director heard her beautiful voice and told her that her days of singing alto were over.  Maris has enjoyed going to the gym which is something she has wanted to do for a long time but hasn't been able to in years past due to financial reasons.  Maris has done a great job as young women's president, she loves the girls and they love her back.    She is so loving, kind, smart, and talented.  She will be the first to say that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has played the biggest role.  She was certainly loving, kind, smart, and talented when she was singing viking death metal before she joined, but nothing compared to who she is now.  I'm super lucky to be married to Maris!

I also had many highlights in 2012.  I got bumped up to full time at work, published my first article, made a pretty big splash in the Estonian media with blog posts, opinion pieces and an in depth interview about Mormonism and Romney, and a short clip on TV.  If you can believe it I also started working out.  No protein shakes this time, but it feels good to work out after a year or two (or three) of doing nothing.  I also enjoyed being in the same calling for the whole year.  I get to serve with Brother Lepp and Timakov who are awesome.  Going home in the summer for three weeks was a blast, and getting to go to a conference in Salt Lake at the U of U in October was super fun.  Going to a Jazz game with my family was a treat that doesn't happen every year.  I also was able to go to Bremen Germany for another conference. 

2012 has also been a year of Star Trek. Since the new movie came out in 2009 my interest has peaked again and I am really enjoying it.  Last year for Christmas we got a fan set of about 20 episodes all about the Borg, we quickly realized that small fan sets weren't going to cut it.  For my birthday this year we got all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine, my all time favorite Star Trek series (Star Trek is not very popular in Europe, which means it is also much cheaper! Thank you Amazon.co.uk).  We have both really enjoyed watching Star Trek together.  Every time we watch it I think to myself how lucky I am to have a wife who likes Star Trek!

One of the biggest highlights for both of us was moving from down town Tallinn to Keila.  We went from renting an apartment to being home owners! It is a beautiful place (future blog coming at some point) much bigger and nicer than our old place.  While our life style still isn't special compared to American standards, we are very happy living the Estonian dream and couldn't ask for anything more.  It's amazing how happy you can be when you have the gospel, each other, all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine and a sauna.

We hope everyone reading this blog Christmas card had a good 2012 as well.  Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Matthew and Maris


Glad the move is over

So I was looking through some old pictures and I found this video Maris made when we were moving!  I am really really glad it is over.  Moving is the worst.  I had to work a lot those days, so Maris did most of it.  Thanks Maris!!  We also had a lot of help from our friend Raul, who helped us get a van to move the stuff to Keila.  I am still amazed at how much stuff we had.  I moved to Estonia in 2008 with two suitcases, where did it come from?  I'm not the pack rat type and I don't have oodles of money to go buy stuff.  It's just a mystery I guess.  We love our new apartment and we love living in Keila!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Orange you glad you live in Estonia?

This blog is about the color orange.  It is beautiful.  I remember in high school, Brian Brown loved the color orange and I never really got it, but now I do.  I have Estonia to thank for my new found love.  Estonia also loves the color orange.

As you noticed in my blog posts about the Astra and Nova buildings, there was a lot of concrete involved.  I can't stand this style.  Luckily, this is not the only architectural style that people are using.  Another trend I have noticed is the color orange.  The most active advocate of the color orange seems to be the Estonian government itself.  Good for them.  If any country needed a boost of bright color it is Estonia.  Dark winters and cloudy skies can be depressing at times, and there is nothing better than a nice bright orange pick me up.

Recently the Tallinn bus station was remodeled.  Since it wasn't being expanded, and since it wasn't that bad to begin with I wasn't expecting much.  In the first phase of construction it seemed that they were using weird cheap materials on the outside so I didn't expect much.  Last Sunday when I went to Tartu I got to see the finished remodeled bus station, and it was gorgeous!  It is amazing what the color orange can do.

 




The outside was fitted with a huge Tallinn Bussijaam sign in bright orange.   The right side of the building is mostly orange as well.  The inside was really pretty with a nice ceiling, and plenty of bright orange signs, and paint.  They did a great job with it.

Also, Estonia just received some new trains.  They need to be tested for 6 months, then they will go into service in June.  It has been one of the biggest events in Estonia this year.  Finland is already using them, so when we go to the temple we take one of these from Espoo to Helsinki.  Theirs are white.  Estonia choose to make them bright orange!!  They also look fantastic. 



These will replace the super old trains currently in use.  We take the train to Tallinn, so we are very excited for the new trains to come into service.  

And speaking of the color orange, it wouldn't be right to leave out the Estonian postal service.  They have been using bright orange for years.  mail boxes, tape, signs.  All orange. 


 I'm glad that Estonia has realized the beauty of orange.  Hopefully they will continue with this wonderful trend and continue to give eyes everywhere a bright pick me up.  What will be  next for Estonia?  Well there is still lots to do.  Here is a quick top 10 of things that Estonia should consider making orange.

10. The vanakaubamaja in Tartu.  The Tartu center is really beautiful, except for one old building.  I think they have plans to renovate it, but if they do it should definitely be in orange.
9. Pelgulinna sünnitus maja.  The birthing hospital next the the church looks terrible.  If you look closely you can see the ugly grey exterior falling off in places revealing an even uglier grey brick. 

8. The LDS chapel in Tallinn.  The LDS chapel in Tallinn is nice and small, it is also grey.  We have applied for an expansion, why not add a little touch of orange while your at it?  If the goal is to get more people to come to church then a little orange wouldn't hurt. Here is a look what it could look like with a little orange!

7. The great wall of Õismäe.  The great wall of Õismäe, is a really long building, I think between 20 and 30 stairwells!  It is just massive.  As of now, it has not been remodeled.  It should be, and they should choose orange.  The bottom right of the circle is the huge wall, you can tell that it is about 3 times longer than all of the other buildings around it. 


6. The Police.  The Estonian police have typical colors, blue and white.  Sometimes they wear florescent yellow vests, why not florescent orange vests? 
 

5. The Balti Jaam.  The train station in Tallinn could use an upgrade.  The waiting platforms recently were renovated but the main building and the surroundings could use an upgrade, similar to the new bus station.  Wouldn't be awesome if the train station matched the new trains?  I say paint it orange!
4. The national Estonian Museum.  Estonia is planning on building a massive national museum in Tartu.  It looks pretty good, but man wouldn't it look great if it were orange?
 
3. Riigikogu.  The riigikogu (parliament) building is currently a beautiful pink.  It stand just across the street from the large Russian orthodox church in old town.  Right now the building is totally overshadowed by the church an the parliament hardly gets any attention.  I think it is time for an orange remont!


 I didn't have time to turn the entire building orange, but you get enough of an idea.

2. President Ilves' bow tie.  President Ilves is famous for wearing a bow tie, wouldn't it be awesome if he wore a Bright orange one?
1. The Estonian flag.  Blue, black and white go pretty well together, but why not orange, black and white?

  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beautiful Maris


 Maris recently joined a choir and had a beautiful Christmas concert.  The concert was in the AHAA science center in Tartu, it was awesome.  Maris sang beautifully and it was a wonderful concert.  One of her best friends from high school Anni is also in the choir, she invited Maris to join.  Maris has had a great time so far, she sings first soprano.  Before she always sang alto and is really happy to finally have the chance to sing soprano.  Here are a few video clips from the concert, enjoy!





Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beautiful Tallinn

 Winter is a very beautiful time of year in Estonia.  The best is Old Town Tallinn where they have a really nice Christmas market. 



 This view was just breathtaking.  My camera isn't the best, but Old Town Tallinn is just gorgeous when all the roof tops
This was my favorite part, over the sea it was really dark, almost black and then over the city it was pretty light.  If anyone is starting to plan a vacation to Estonia make sure to still come in the Summer.  It is really beautiful here but after 15 min you notice that it is still dark and really cold. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

New building


This week was the official opening of the new Astra building!  This year our university got two new buildings (see the October post on the other building here) This is a pretty big building, 10,500 square meters or 113,000 square feet.  It cost 9.8 million euros to build, most of which was paid for by the EU.  It has five floors, and our department is on the third floor.  We had been previously across the street in an older building.  We are all very happy with the new building, it is nice to not have to cross the street in the winter time.

Compared to BYU, the quality is lacking, but we are still very happy with it.  The construction was pretty cheap.  For example in 2004 when BYU built the 280,000 square foot JFSB it cost 78 million dollars, or  60 million euros.  It cost 6 times more to build the JFSB, but it is only a little more than twice as big.  The new Astra building follows a similar design as the Nova, lots of cement inside which certainly is one of the reasons it was pretty affordable.

The first picture is the outside of the new building, connected to its left is the main building.  Then behind them are three more buildings forming the main part of the university.  There are a few other buildings in other parts of Tallinn, but most if the university is in this one block area. 


 
 This is my office!  I have the orange chair.  The map is to cover up the concrete.  We don't have much of a view, but it is nice to have an office.  Our department probably will paint some of the walls in the future.

 This is the main part of the inside of the building from the fifth floor.
 
Here is looking up.  Since the buildings are so smashed together they don't have a lot of light coming in, so they added this nice sky light.

 This is what a standard staircase looks like.  Part of the floor is done with really nice tile, and the rest looks like a parking garage.

 This is a typical hallway, the floor is actually ok, but again you can see one of the walls is plain concrete and the ceiling looks like it is from a factory.  I do like the big clock though.

 This part of the building will be the library.  The main library will still stay in its old location, but the text books will be here and this will be a quiet study area.

 Now the people who designed this place aren't complete idiots, so in an attempt to spice up the grey concrete they add small bits of nice color.  These are the bathroom doors, in bright colors.  The interior cubbords and doors of the bathroom match the colors of the outside doors.  This is all fine and nice, but it can't cover up a cement wall. 
 This picture is for my friend Eoin.  In Estonia they have a problem drinking hard liquor.  You can find empty bottles everywhere, although usually it is a single bottle sitting right side up.  I'm not really sure how it turns out that way but I found one in the new building already.  It is left over from the opening ceremony I suppose.

 This is the outside of the building with the new flags flying.

You can look at the photo gallary the local newspaper put together here they have some really cool pictures that I didn't get.  Maybe I have been a bit harsh on the architechts of the building (given Estonia's grey concrete Soviet past, how could they not know better?), but it is really nice to have a new building.  It will make life a lot easier for everybody. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

1 down, 239 to go!

Today we paid our first morgage payment on our apartment!  We have a 20 year loan, so that means 1 down 239 to go!  It is really nice to have our own home, even if we won't own all of it for another 20 years or so.  Hopefully by the end of the month we will have all the furniture we want with all of it put together, then I'll post some pictures.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Snow!

In Estonia there is no escaping winter, this year it came a bit later than normal but it came!  I really enjoyed the month of November, it was unusually warm and only a little rainy.  A day or two ago it started snowing, and it it doesn't look like it will stop.  This is a picture of the building across the street from us.  This is the view we have from our kitchen window. 


UPDATE:  It is still really pretty outside, it was very humid yesterday so now all the trees are frosted with ice and snow.  This is a view from the bedroom on the other side of the building.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving



I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving this year!  Ours was pretty laid back.  It is always a little hard to be away from home during holidays, but especially the holidays they don't celebrate.  We were lucky to both have a free day so we made a nice Thanksgiving lunch.  Turkey went on sale Thanksgiving day morning, so it worked out pretty well.  We also had Idaho mashed potatoes! (from the mix, not the actual potatoes).  This has been a great year for us, we are doing well in work and we love our new apartment and life in Keila!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

6 more months!

 

Six months from today the new Star Trek movie comes out!!  Star Trek into darkness is going to be great, and rumor has it, it will be even better than the last one.  The first trailer comes out in a month, very exciting!  It has been a long wait (4 years in between movies is way too long for me).  The 2009 reboot movie really got me interested in Star Trek again, I had totally forgotten how awesome it is.  Since May we have been enjoying Deep Space Nine, we are almost done with season 4.  This is one of the main advantages Star Trek has over Star Wars, with Star Wars you have a few movies and that is it, with Star Trek you have 28 seasons of high quality TV shows (not counting the animated series) and counting the upcoming movie, 12 full motion pictures!  Of course the biggest reason why Star Trek tops Star Wars is content.  I think JJ Abrams put it best, Star Wars is like rock and roll and Star Trek is like fine classical music. Sometimes I wonder if Star Trek was the reason why International Relations was so interesting to me.  Of course the mission was the biggest impact, but watching Deep Space Nine I see all the main concepts of International Relations.  The role of values, international organizations, democracy, sovereignty, minority issues, balance of power and the list goes on.  I was soaking all this up as a little kid and I had no idea.  We're not sure what we will do after Deep Space Nine is over, but luckily for us we have plenty of options. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

End of an era

 

Ron Paul will be stepping down soon, this is his final speech.  It is long (48 min), but good!  While the main stream media (especially Fox News and the Neocons) have tried to treat him and his ideas as crazy, the endless wars, recession and debt problems of our nation have only confirmed his ideas to be true.  Liberty is an answer for our society, fiscal restraint not printing money will result on more wealth in the long run, and a foreign policy of non-intervention will make us more safe by reducing the amount of hatred towards our country.

You can watch the speech below!




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts on the new and old apartments

We moved last week and we love our new apartment!  It is just amazing, a big step up from our last one.  We also love living in Keila, it is a really nice little town.  I thought I would give you the three things I liked and didn't like about our old apartment and about our new apartment.

Old apartment likes:
 1. The view.  It was on the 6th floor looking out at old town, it was just beautiful.  An added bonus was the fact that there was a little dirt road where cars would get stuck in the winter time.  When there was a lot of snow it would happen every night and all in the same spot in the road.  It is pretty entertaining watching the cars try to get unstuck. 
2. Close to work.  I could just walk 15-20 min and I would be at work, that made things pretty nice and easy for me.
3. Close to the central market!  You can see my previous posts on the market and the cheap meat prices, it is just an awesome place.  

Old apartment dislikes:
1. Too soviet.  The building was not remodeled, old shaky elevator, small creepy balcony (there was recently a Soviet era balcony that just fell off the building in Tallinn). Old Soviet furniture too. 
2.Small fridge.  It was really small.  Too small.
3. Homeless hangout.  This might be connected to the fact that we live close to the central market, but there are a lot of homeless people who live right by our apartment.  I have nothing against homeless people, but it is kind of weird watching them drink, start fires, pee in the bushes, leave their trash everywhere and so on. 

New apartment likes:
1. Nice everything inside.  Floors, cabinets, fridge (we can now fit our water filter in the fridge, meaning we can drink cold water!).
2. Sauna.  I hope Larry is reading this, he can appreciate it.  We have a Finnish style sauna in our apartment.  It is electric, not a wood burning sauna but I like that better.  It is really awesome. 
3. storage room!  There is a storage room in the basement of the apartment building, so we can put our suitcases, boxes, Christmas decorations and all the other stuff we don't often use.  

Life is great!  No negatives about the apartment yet!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A great week in Salt Lake City

 Recently I got to go to a conference in Salt Lake City for work.  It was at the University of Utah and co-sponsored by BYU.  I had never really been to the U before (just once a long time ago for a gymnastics event).  The campus was beautiful!  The conference took place in a new building for the humanities, it was awesome.  The conference was very small and the presentations were on a wide variety of stuff.  All in all it was a good conference, my presentation went well and now I am hoping to publish my paper in a journal they produce from the conference, we'll have to wait and see how that goes.

 
 When I got to Salt Lake it was really cold, and then it snowed!  The same day it also snowed in Estonia, but in Salt Lake it melted within 2 days.  It took Estonia about 2 weeks before it melted.  Now it is a little warmer, no snow but rainy. 
 The best part of the week was seeing family!  My parents came down and met me at the airport. My brother Jeff and sister Lynne also came up for it.  My uncle David happened to be in Salt Lake for business, so we got to go out to eat at the Cheesecake factory, a great place for Cheesecake! We went out to eat with my uncle Brian as well at the Macaroni Grill. 



 


 We also met up with a lot of relatives at Madox's steak house, classic!
 I met up with my Buddy Bryant and his wife Rachelle, we ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  You'll notice a pattern, lots of eating out!  It was a great week.
 
 We went to BYU and I saw an old buddy Collin and my sister Lynne.



In Utah they have a drink called Apple Beer, it isn't really beer, it is just an apple flavored pop!  It is great.  
 
 
 Another awesome part of the trip was getting to experience Halloween!  I forgot how much people celebrate it in the US.  This is a table my mom set up in our hotel room!


 They had some killer pumpkins too!


 Salt Lake is always an awesome city to be in, this is a mural on the side of one of the buildings there.


 This was an old church building where I went to Church last Sunday, it was pretty cool.

 
 We even had time to fit a Jazz game in!  I love the Jazz.  This was their last preseason game and they won.  This is one of my favorite Jazz games in recent memory!