Portrait of a GFFer: Lena Starostine (extended cut!)

Every so often we have one that breaks the mold. This week Lena is taking Portrait of a GFFer to a whole new level. She gave us 20 amazing facts and photos and we simply couldn’t cut any of them out. Each fact has it’s own photo and each photo is telling us a great story. This week, we let Lena speak for herself. Read more below…

1. These are just called meatballs where I come from (Köttbullar).

2. Before life got too busy my husband and I used to go on climbing trips during weekends and holidays. We would go visit friends in Boulder, Eldorado Canyon and Colorado Springs whenever we could. Sometimes we would even go as far as Mineral Wells State Park!

3. Yes. I know all the lyrics to “Dancing Queen”, “Mamma Mia” and” “Super Trooper”!

4. A while back I worked on the Riata Office Park in Austin before moving to Belgium for a couple of years. Here I am with Lawrence Cosby wearing a pair of really huge slacks. It must have been a trend.

5. Upon arrival in Brussels in July the first thing we wanted to see was Grand Place. It was an even year when we got there and every even year the city displays a carpet of flowers covering almost the entire square. Oh, and around the corner is Manneken Pis who happened to don his best Elvis suit that month. Of course we had to go see that. Some GFF:ers remember Celia Stewart who worked at GFF temporarily while working on  her degree in Microbiology. After she got her degree she moved to Belgium to join her husband to be and his family, so by the time my family and I arrived there she and her husband were very helpful in getting us settled and getting to know our new home. We are still in touch.

6. This guy is a fake. He really is Italian.

7. One of many great things about living in Brussels is that it’s so close to other interesting places. You can have your cake and eat it too! Or in this case waffles, French fries with mayo, mussels, Godiva chocolate, etc. etc. This picture was taken during a short weekend trip to Amsterdam.

8. My husband’s work took us to Portugal for a short visit. We visited the Castle of the Moors in Serra de Sintra dating from the 8th century, and went on to see the Pena National Palace and park which is in the same area. It’s considerably younger by comparison as it was developed in 1839 from the ruins of an old monastery originally built in 1503. Back in Lisbon, where we stayed, I couldn’t get enough of strolling around in Alfama, the oldest district on the slopes toward the river. I had been there when I was much younger and nothing had changed. It has a genuine and warm feel to it. Children play on the streets and women hang laundry from clotheslines outside their windows. You can walk into a café or a restaurant for lunch or dinner and the owner and his family will be sitting right there with you chatting away while the family rooster struts around and crows like it owns the place.

9. This guy is a fake. He really is Swedish.

10. I like to design and build furniture. Sometimes that rubs off on my children.

11. When my family and I go to Russia to visit my husband’s family I like going to their “dacha” in the forest. They have an incredible amount of vegetables, fruit and berries growing in the garden which they eat fresh in the summer and pickle for wintertime consumption. The house is deep in the Siberian forest and I am always amazed at how they find their way to it from the train station. There must be hundreds of paths running through the forest in every direction and no signs telling you anything. Not even in cyrillic!

12. When we go to Sweden we always go to Skansen in Stockholm. It’s an open-air museum of Swedish history and culture, as well as a zoo. Some 150 historically interesting houses and farmsteads have been moved to Skansen over the years. The oldest building dates from the 14th century.

13. Look Larry. No control joints!

14. Another favorite excursion when I go back home is to visit Öland, an island off the Southeast coast of Sweden. One way to get there is to take a 2 ½ hour ferry from Oskarshamn. I highly recommend including your spouse on a trip like this when the kids are young, eager climbers and like to run in opposite directions. There are way too many fun looking railings around which ultimately lead to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. If you don’t have the luxury of having your spouse around (because he didn’t get his passport renewed on time) but a miracle happens and at least one of them falls asleep then you’re in good shape.

15. I grew up wearing clogs. They are very comfortable. And quite fashionable with the right apron.

16. Sometimes life treats you unkind and you have to change into Angry Fairy.

17. Sometimes life treats you unkind and you have to change into Angry Bee!

18. Sometimes life treats you unkind and you have to change into Angry Snow Angel

19. Sometimes life treats you unkind and you have to change into Angry Swede.

20. I am very, very lucky to have my wonderful family. But time passes by quickly so I have to make sure that I don’t blink!