Saturday, January 23, 2016

My got my camera back! Winter wonderland!

Here are some photos I took yesterday, driving around, kids sleeping in the back. I used to hate winter because I was always cold. I was dreaming there would be pants and winter jackets that you can put on and you would never be cold... Yes, now we do have that kind of clothing, but remember, I was still born in the Soviet Union and most of my childhood was coping with the aftermath of the collapse... in rural South Estonia. So I was always cold, especially in the morning, walking to the bus stop for 1,5 kilometers just to wait there for too long because the bus broke down because it was too old. My only way of survival was wearing cheap tights under my pants. So thank heavens for the awful capitalists!

Now I love winter! It is just full of wonders. Look at these photos:

There was winter fog:

These are foggy too, right after the sun set, about at 4.30 p.m:

A special one for Monte! While taking photos in the middle of nowhere some snowmobile guys drove by, waved at me and I had to take some photos of them. The other one got stuck so this one here stopped to help him out. 

I am so thankful I have so much beauty around me.What a blessing!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter! Snow! Cold! And my birthday...

Here are some photos of our awesome, cold, snowy winter. December was very warm and then in January it just hit us so suddenly we froze. :D

Here are some photos:

This is from our bedroom:

This the park in the center of the town (Keila): 

This is burning of Christmas trees. All town people can bring their old trees to be burnt. Some towns make sculptures of them and then burn them. We had a super tiny fake Christmas tree so we did not take ours there.

Snow joy: 

Digging out joy:

Local hill for sledding. We still have to go there.

Find a child:

A local boy after school:

Morning by the Keila river:

Here is a photo of the day when the Baltic sea was steaming because of extremely cold temperatures. This is as close as I could get with kids in the car.

Winter is awesome and our little Polo still drives after crazy cold and tons of snow.

My birthday.

Here are some photos of my birthday dinner. I did not eat cake because I am trying to eat as little sugar as possible. It just... does not do any good to my health. And it is addictive. But Matthew bought a cake and some other treats for himself for my birthday. :D

Monday, January 4, 2016

When radical religious militants take over America

As you all know the security environment has been tense in Eastern Europe over the last year.  Russia's aggression in Ukraine, violation of air space, and a lot of posturing and show of force.  With all the news many asked us over the last year if everything was safe in Estonia.  It was almost as if they were waiting to read about Russia's hybrid warfare come to Estonia with "local" militias taking over government buildings.  Nothing of the sort has happened in Estonia but it has in Oregon.  It's now my turn to ask our readers in America, is everything safe?  Radical religious militants have taken over a federal wildlife refuge building in Oregon.  Terrorism and radical religious extremism is a hot topic in the US right now but it should be noted that these were not ISIS members they were a bunch of white Mormon ranchers.  So the next time a conversation comes up about national security rather than finding scape goats far away or make blanket statements about other religions, we could look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are part of the problem or part of the solution.

Update!: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints just issued a statement that condemned the takeover.   Things to watch are whether this statement will have any impact on the radical militants and whether the church will designate them apostates and excommunicate them.  If Kate Kelly and John Delhin got kicked out the Church has to kick out radical militants right?!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Year in review

We don't do Christmas cards because we are lazy but we got a few this year that were very nice, almost made us want to start sending them out.  This blog post is the Christmas card replacement and the standard year in review. 

We got family pictures taken this summer, they turned out very nice.  Our first kid is running away in the background, she is very active and we love her energy and good attitude towards life. So here it goes, the Crandall family's 2015 highlights! Lowlights left out  for your convenience  :)


Time goes by pretty fast, how did 2015 already end?  It was great celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary in March, we took a quick trip to a spa near by and we had a great time.  One of my favorite things to do is go on family vacations.  Since our kids are too young to go to super fun places I am already making future plans.  2017 Disneyland Paris?! Hopefully so.  2019 Canary Islands!? You better believe it.  Star Trek pilgrimage to Jordan or Spain in 2020? Full speed ahead! 

The biggest highlight was when our second child was born in May, the best way to describe her is a cute little bundle of joy.  It is really great being a dad.  Double the kids  and triple the fun!  In the summer I spent a lot of time with our first kid, we went for lots of walks outside, it was great. May was a crazy time, I was supervising a lot of students who were graduating and I had to get my own PhD dissertation done to meet a deadline.  My parents came to help out with the baby, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to make it.  The start of this academic year has been very crazy but I'm glad that I survived.  Tallinn University decided to undergo large structural changes, and that meant new administrative duties for me. I submitted the final version of my PhD before Christmas, so it was good to get that done.  The final defence will hopefully be in the end of February.  

 One special thing about 2015 was getting to see my parents four times this year and all my brothers and sisters.  We went home for Christmas last year so I got to see them in January, then they came to visit in May and August, then I went home in November for my Grandma's 90th birthday party.  The hardest thing about living in Estonia is not getting to see family that often so this year was definitely a treat. 

I enjoyed watching a lot of Star Trek with Maris.  We are watching Voyager and The Next Generation at the same time, we'll probably finish up both of them in 2016.  I got an NFL gamepass to watch all the 49er games this year, they didn't do as well as I hoped but it was still fun getting to watch them. 

All in all 2015 was a great year, hopefully 2016 will be equally as good.  Things I'm excited for: summer trip to Idaho, conference in Istanbul, defending my PhD, and more of the good life with a nice family. Also the most amazing NFL off season in 49ers history! A potential top 5 pick, 12 total picks and 45-70 million in salary cap space depending on who they cut (Kaepernick, Brooks, Pears, Bethea the likely candidates) and how much money they roll over from the 2015 year.


Before I start it is important to say that although Matthew thinks he does not see his family much, the truth is that time wise (hours spent with them) in a year probably equals or is more that what I spend with my family. The 3,5 hour drive down to Southern Estonia is somehow just as awful as going to America. Wait... no. It is not the same. Traveling to the States is way worse. I get travel depression every time I have to stand in the passport line for a long time. I only do the entire traveling thing because love is blind and I married an American. To end on a good note - if I eventually get there it is always just super fun and when we travel back I have always  packed my bags to the fullest and I have also packed  something else - extra pounds on!

Here are some awesome things from my perspective:

- Baby no 2 was born. And she is super cute, the calmest, most easygoing baby and very cuddly. Yay!
She started crawling 2 days before turning 6 months old, and now, at 7 and a half, she is pulling herself up, standing and trying to stand like her life depends on it. She sits like a little teddy bear. Seriously, the cuteness meter is just off the charts. And, we usually do not post pictures of our kids on the blog but this is an exception, and these are quite old pictures too and the kids are changing constantly anyway.

 - No 2 is photography madness. I have loved taking photos but this year I really got into it and all the technical knowledge like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Before this August I knew nothing of it but now I have gulped in all the knowledge that I have gotten my eyes on. I got a couple of new cameras and lenses and it has been fun learning more. It all started when I bought a book in Estonian and then learned the technical terminology. Then, from there, I understood it also in English and started reading and watching videos on line. I tried to do it a year ago in English but it did not work. It did not make any sense. I had to start in my 1st language to move on. You can see my photos in . And I love web site. Scott Kelby is a really funny guy and teaches photography very well, especially in his books. And Adorama channel in Youtube is so nice.

- Matthew thinks I have to point out our kitchen remont (or remodeling). It was a little on where our favorite handyman Märt added some tiles to the kitchen wall. It looks great, but most of all, the oil and red sauce does not splash on the wallpaper any more (who puts white wallpaper in their kitchen?).

- The very 1st Baltic Mission girls camp that started from my idea! Yay! It was pretty cool and a great success. It is most likely happen again this year. I helped last time and will do my best this time. 
- Young Women CD with Church songs in Estonian (there is nothing recorded in Estonian, ever). We will use it as a fund raiser to raise money for the YW camp. We recorded half of the songs already. My girls are the best!  

Updates from our older daughter: big step was starting to go on the potty! It took 4-5 days to start asking to go and we through the diapers out after a week because it was too confusing to use them at night. Water proof bed liner has been our friend. She wet the bed just some times but figured it all out really fast. She was almost 2 years old when we started the training, and after a month she was a pro. They key was being persistent from the beginning of the training, using regular alarms and "Tell me when you have to go"s million times a day, letting her run around with bare bottom and using undies right from the start and praising her like crazy, even clapping for her. Also, M&Ms and cartoons (on the phone) were great motivators. And it was so important to RUN - when ever she made a funny face we ran like wind to the potty, sometimes a trail of... behind us. She quickly understood that it was serious! It was also important to let her flush  and try to dispose the stuff on her own.  I used 3 days to potty train books for ideas. Preparation was important too, like showing how it is done and talking about it and watching potty books (I even wrote one myself) and cartoons in advance. She has done an excellent job!

She also talks way more and is figuring out two languages and is doing a great job. 

 This was our year in a nutshell! Thank you for following us on the blog! We love blogging!

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve in America and in Estonia

 (Tallinn fireworks -

The first time I spent my New Years Eve in Idaho I was expecting a spectacular fireworks show. You know, America and all. I had seen the 4th of July fireworks and it was just like our New Years Eve - crazy and hazardous and magnificent. In Estonia you get TV channels fighting over who makes the funniest shows, the president gives his talk on TV right before the clock strikes 12. It is very exciting, official and big. The New Years Eve in Twin Falls was a little different. I could not see a single firework going off. For a spoiled Eastern European it was devastating. Then Matthew explained that big fireworks are illegal because of 4th of July - that is the main fireworks holiday, but as it is in July, the hottest, driest time of the year, the big fireworks are fire hazard.

The moral of the story is that you have to tell people in advance that they have to be ready to be disappointed and even give them facts, just in case they are not listening. Just like the first time I went to San Francisco. I thought of California, sunshine, heat and beaches, just like I had seen California on TV all the time in my childhood. That time I was warned many times that I have to take warm clothes with me. I did not listen. My brain just would not accept such a thought that California can be cold. I was freezing the entire time there. Hundreds of sea lions that we were so excited to see turned into 4 freezing sea lions far in the distance. This photo illustrates it well:

(the daily mail)

Moral of the story: when visiting new places do not rely on what you have seen on TV and what your brain has constructed, instead, listen to those who have been there and look up the temperatures.

So I wanted to share a video of fireworks yesterday from Keila, the town of 10 000 where we live. It is taken from our balcony. We could not go out because we have small kids who sleep through the noise like nothing ever happened. There is a 5 story building blocking the view, a nice gift from the Soviet times. But notice the beauty of non-illegal wonderful fireworks that people spend their last Euros on.

Happy New Year, folks! Head uut aastat!