Showing posts from 2012

Happy Holidays!

I am so excited about the holiday season this year! I can't wait to spend Christmas with my in-laws (!) and their extended family, and then celebrate my favorite holiday, ringing in the New Year, with my entire family. Christmas / New Year tree 2012 Happy holidays! May the new year bring you love and health, and above all, happy times with your families. P.S. The world did not end, which is good news because we didn't wrap all those gifts for nothing!

House Hunting: The Learning Process

When looking for a house, it's useful to sit down and make a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves and talk about the neighborhoods and schools and price ranges . But it's not until you start going to open houses that you actually begin to figure out what it is you REALLY like and what you absolutely cannot stand. At least, that's what we are learning in our house hunting process. We connected with a realtor at the end of September and quickly came to the realization (which I was mostly trying to be in denial about) that our $300,000 target price would not get us much in the neighborhoods where we've been looking to buy. So we cautiously expanded our price range to $350K, which was like a drop in the bucket in this real estate market, but at least some houses now appeared on our radar (though not many, and not very appealing ones, I assure you). After upping our budget, we decided to start checking out open houses to see what we could actually buy for that mo

Blog Design Update

I am currently taking a web design class (thank you, unemployment , for the gift of free time), and it has inspired me to make some changes around the blog. After learning a little bit about the concept of user experience, and then observing how I interact with some of my favorite blogs, I came to the realization that the design of my blog made it difficult to navigate it. Readers were finding the blog through links or searches, but it appeared that they were not finding other content that was relevant to what they were looking for, even though it does exist somewhere on the blog. So, with the goal of streamlining the blog layout and making it easier to navigate, I thought about the changes that I wanted to make to the design, and I've since started implementing them. One of the first things I did was install Google Analytics to figure out where my readers were coming from and what they were reading once they got to the blog. I highly recommend doing this because the vast amount


New York City at night. From here . Eighteen years ago today, my family landed in the JFK airport in New York, stepping on the American soil for the first time. It was a long journey, and I don't mean just the fourteen hour flight. The immigration process had started years earlier, with applications and interviews, stolen documents and pointless blackmail. But on November 21st, 1994, our bags were packed and we were ready to leave our lives behind and fly to the land of opportunity. For breakfast, I had cottage cheese and cold cuts. I remember that meal so well because I spent the next fourteen hours throwing it all up. At least a decade passed by before I touched cottage cheese again. The vomiting was particularly bad on takeoffs and landings, and our layover in Helsinki did not help the matters. We arrived in New York amid darkness and downpour. Our plane attempted to land three times. To my stomach, that was three additional landings and takeoffs. Mercifully, the plane

Life and Death with ALS

She lifts her leg to step into the minivan, and is surprised to find herself falling backwards moments later. Her family hurries to lift her up, and everyone fusses and worries about the bump now growing on the back of her head. No one pays any particular attention to how she ended up falling in the first place - she is an elderly woman, it happens. But she is confused. She is sure that she lifted her leg high enough to get into the car. After all, she has done this many times before. She told her foot to lift, so why didn't it listen? Three years and many symptoms later, she finally gets her answer when she is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. "Diagnosed" is a bit misleading, since there is no definitive diagnostic test for this destructive and unstoppable disease. ALS is particularly difficult to diagnose in the early stages, when there are virtually no visible symptoms. Not that it would do her any good - there is no cure and no effective t

My Home Office Reveal!

Remember how back in April, I put together a post on what my dream home office would look like? It was full of images with West Elm's Parsons Desk (in white, of course) and white chairs with interesting lines. Well, after months of acquiring and rearranging furniture, I present to you my home office: My home office! As you can see, I am finally a proud owner of the white West Elm Parsons desk! And I have Craigslist to thank for it. At $350, buying the desk new did not seem like a viable option to me, especially since we were planning our wedding at that time and had other major expenses to worry about. I found this desk on Craigslist back in May for $150, less than half the price, and bought it immediately. Sure, it's not in a perfect condition - there are some scratches in the veneer. But for this kind of bargain, I am willing to overlook the imperfections. Especially considering that my office looked like this before: That four-year-old IKEA desk had served me w

A touch of color

Life has been incredibly difficult this month, in ways I am not ready to talk about yet. So when I spotted these beauties while shopping at Trader Joe's today, I knew they were coming home with me. My life needs a touch of color right now. A touch of color. I have no idea what these flowers are called. They are bright red and fuzzy, and their stems remind me of bamboo. Whatever they are called, I am grateful to these flowers for making my day a little bit better.

Unemployment: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A month and a half ago, I left my work office for the last time. It was not a voluntary departure - I was being laid off. The truth is, I suspected that my days on that job were numbered when phrases like "cost cutting" and "restructuring" were used in meetings to explain the massive layoffs that preceded in the months leading up to the end of the fiscal year. And if I am being honest with myself, it was time to move on from that job anyway. It's just that I had pictured the transition a little differently in my head. I was somewhat mentally prepared for the diminished monthly income that was to follow. It was the emotional roller-coaster of unemployment that caught me by surprise. So here they are: the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of my unemployment. The Good I am not a morning person. The morning of my first day of unemployment was glorious - I slept in till noon, and there was no alarm clock in sight. Much to the chagrin of my early bird husband, w

How DIY Saved Our Wedding Budget

Post cards for our guestbook Shortly after we started planning our wedding, we were bombarded with the message that no matter how much money we decide to spend on the big day, we would inevitably go over budget. Well, last week we ordered our thank you cards, the last of our wedding-related expenditures, and I am happy to report that we actually came in under budget! I admit that coming in under budget was one of my goals, but it was no small feat to get it done. It took a lot of careful planning and decision making over the year of wedding planning. But before any cost-cutting measures could be implemented, we first had to set our wedding budget. Setting the Wedding Budget After we got engaged, one of the first questions we asked ourselves was how do we decide what the wedding budget would be? Should we get some quotes from vendors in our area first, and then use them as a ballpark estimate to create our budget? But that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen – the quote

Our Wedding

Just married D and I got married on June 9, 2012 in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Piers Park, East Boston. During the days leading up to our wedding, the rain did not let up. Everyone was worried that our outdoor ceremony would be rained out. Everyone, except for me. I was convinced that the sun would come out on our wedding day - and it did! Our ceremony in Piers Park A long time ago, during our venue search , we came up with the idea of having an "urban beach" wedding. I would say that our wedding came pretty close - the ceremony was in front of a gazebo on a pier jutting out into the waterfront, with a marvelous view of downtown Boston. Also, I just realized that the roof of that gazebo kind of goes with my dress - surprise bonus points! And speaking of the dress , I ended up wearing a Betsey Johnson number that required exactly zero alterations. You know you got the right dress when it fits you like a glove. We wrote the entire ceremony ourselves and i

Improbability of Home Ownership

Yes, yes, I know I still have to write about the wedding (it was awesome) and the honeymoon (we loved it), but we are still waiting on the professional photos from the wedding, and quite frankly I want to talk about something else for a change. Like home ownership. In the Boston area. Ha ha ha. So, you've all heard about the housing bubble that burst back in 2008, right? Well, apparently, no one remembered to tell Boston about it. Not only did the housing prices in the greater Boston area neglect to drop, they actually continued to steadily climb in the most desirable neighborhoods. Which means that for the amount of money that can buy you a (deeply depreciated in price) 4,000 square foot McMansion in Florida, Arizona, or California, you can maybe purchase a run-down closet in Boston. Maybe. But I didn't discover any of this until D and I recently started looking into the housing market in the area. We've talked about buying a house in the past, but it was more like


Image caption: In English: "Just Married" In Russian: "Caution, newlyweds!" As of June 9, 2012, D and I are officially married. I drove us to the wedding in my car. Our sisters and cousins took the opportunity to decorate it while we danced the night away.

DIY Yarn Pom Pom Centerpieces

So, remember how back in January I made an ambitious plan for our DIY wedding centerpieces? Yeah, now that May is almost over, they are finally finished. I confess, the plan was so intimidating that it took me a while to get started. And because making the centerpieces was a multi-step process, it took me a long time to finish them. But the centerpieces are finally complete! Here is how it all went down. If you remember, my plan was to take the cheap mason jars I bought from Kmart, wrap them in jute, and put pom-pom yarn ball arrangements into the jars instead of flowers. My reasoning was that yarn balls are way cheaper than real flowers, and I could make the centerpieces ahead of time (yeah, that didn't happen) and not stress about them the day before the wedding. I found my inspiration on Offbeat Bride : My inspiration for yarn pom pom balls, found here . First thing first, I bought my supplies: Supplies for centerpieces. Supplies included: Mason jars (I used

Bargain Hunting: 1960's Round Wicker Chair

After literally years of craigslist hunting, I am finally a proud owner of the most awesome 1960's round wicker chair. And, no, I'm not insane. I just love bargain hunting. And chairs. And this particular chair has been eluding me ever since I spotted it on Young House Love: The elusive round wicker chair in YoungHouseLove nursery . After Sherry confirmed that this chair has remained comfy after a year of nursing, my desire to make this chair mine increased exponentially. Not for nursing, mind you, but because it is vintage, comfortable, AND looks so unusually cool. Several times, I found this chair on craigslist. But they were all near-misses, as craigslist frustratingly tends to be - someone got to my chair first. But last weekend, my persistence finally paid off. We drove an hour to get this lovely chair for a mere 35 bucks. 1960's round wicker chair. I love it. Side and back view. The chair is in great condition. Other than a small tear in the wicke

DIY Floral Wedding Bouquet

We are going to be DIYing the flower bouquets for me and the girls the day before the wedding, so I figured it would be a good idea to do a dry run in order to figure out how hard it is to make a bouquet and how long it would take an amateur like me to do it. Turns out, it was super easy and only took about twenty minutes. Of course, it helped that I kept it real simple. Back in October, I collected inspiring photos of floral bouquets and centerpieces that were beautiful, bright, and happy. But I'm not a pro, and flowers are expensive, and many flowers I was falling in love with would not be in season anyway. So I went back to my engineering roots and decided to follow the KISS principle (as in, Keep It Simple, Stupid). Sherry's bouquet from their YoungHouseLove wedding pointed me in the right direction. Sherry's hydrangea wedding bouquet. From here . Hydrangeas are perfect for keeping it simple. They are in season in June, each stem is very voluminous and has hi

Miracle (re)growth in the kitchen

I had read somewhere (probably on Pinterest) that if you chop up the green parts of spring onions, but leave the white parts intact, you can regrow the green parts simply by placing the remainder of the onions into some water and leaving them alone for some time. Someone even claimed that you can do this repeatedly! Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical about this miracle re-growth, but I decided to do a little science experiment anyway, just to test it out. After making a salad one day, I was left with the white parts of five spring onions. The onions came with their roots mostly chopped off, but some roots remained attached, which gave me hope. Here is the "before": Spring onions, before. I put the glass with the onions on the window sill that got the most sunshine during the day and left them alone for eight days. I didn't even bother changing the water. At first, there was no noticeable growth. But after a few days, some new green tips began to appear. It wa