VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD

Friends,

31DaysofAwesome was nominated for its first award!!  Thank you to http://mamasbeendrinkin.com/ for the recognition!  I am truly honored.

Blogging, although a fairly new hobby of mine, has been extremely rewarding. Thank you for reading!

Definitely AWESOME!!

Apparently there are some rules I have to follow in conjunction with this most gracious honor:

Rules of Participation:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 7 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven Things About Me

  1. I was born in Kiev, Ukraine
  2. I am a 4-time collegiate national figure skating team champion
  3. I have a slight cheese obsession
  4. I love my family and friends and feel blessed to have such an amazing network of support, love and hilarity around me
  5. My (former) roommate and I once pranked our other roomie by nailing underwear to cover one entire wall (classic)
  6. My father, brother and I can recite all the lines from the movie Adams Family Values (1993)
  7. I love Zack Morris and rollerblading

Nominees

http://jessicavealitzek.com/

http://fitrecovery.wordpress.com/

http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com/

http://awesomearchitecture.wordpress.com/

http://snapflycook.wordpress.com/

http://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com/

http://anthonydisney.com/

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Beets, Lemons and a Little Mahi

cooking

Today’s Awesome was simple.

I cooked for myself.

I’m not sure what it is about having my own apartment (it’s my first!) but it’s making me want to get out all the pots and pans and make a big mess.

The history of my food preparation prowess is a slim novel at best.  I never thought I’d like it.  I used to detest the idea and figured that any future male would just deal with this (modern) woman.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken a new liking to it and these days I find that it comforts, provides some zen after crazy days and allows me to keep track of the ingredients I’m putting in my body (some of the time).  I also find it’s a great way to spend with oneself.

SO.

After an intense workout, I took myself to Wholefoods to experience one of the greatest parts of the cooking process: the grocery store.

In my opinion, the grocery store is like a toy store for adults.  You no longer have to kick and scream in the aisles.  Just take the Frosted Flakes (pay) and go home.  Going in makes me giddy.

Plus.

Free samples.

Heaven!

After much deliberation and in-store iphone googling, I decided on a fish and salad.

I picked out healthy ingredients that would also facilitate a post-thanksgiving cleanse (see my family’s ability to eat) and walked home anticipating the next two hours of chopping, boiling, sautéing and grating.

I purchased the following main ingredients:

  • Radish bunch
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • ½ pound piece of Mahi Mahi
  • Also two jugs of pomegranate juice, sparkling water (my favorite) and babybel cheese (couldn’t help myself)

vegetables wholefoods grocery store shopping

After unloading, I went to work taking care of the steps that would take the longest.  I’ve found that cooking is really a lesson in time management.  For example, boiling beets takes 45min-1hour whereas sautéing Mahi takes about 20 minutes.  And no one wants cold Mahi.

Therefore, the beets were up first.  I trimmed back the leaf stalks per instruction, and placed them in boiling water.  Then set out to chop up the vegetables and dice garlic.  I chopped the radish and cucumber and boiled and sliced the eggs.

At the 10 minute mark (on beet timer) I threw the Mahi in the pan as instructed with garlic, lemon and white wine (I drank some too).  I peeled and sliced the boiling beets, made sure the Mahi was taken care of on both sides and arranged everything on plate (presentation is key!).

mahi mahi

The entire exercise took about1.5 hours and was extremely calming.

I felt a personal sense of accomplishment.  AND, it looked good enough to eat.

I think mom would have been proud.

Awesome.

Russian Thanksgiving: An Exercise in Over-Eating and Food Hopping

thanksgiving vodka russian people celebrating

I am accustomed to wading through crowds, airports and screaming children to make it home for the family – oriented holiday of the year.

This year was no different.  I was home for thanksgiving.  However, having moved to Chicago (from NYC) a few weeks ago – my heart sang when the typical airplane ride home was replaced with a friend picking me up and delivering me to my hometown in Michigan a few hours later.

The rest of the weekend was business as usual.

Of course I say weekend because a Russian family’s thanksgiving couldn’t possibly consist of one evening or of one household.

Instead, we prefer to see how many times we can prepare an entire feast and how many other homes can provide the feast for us.

My arrival on Wednesday prompted the setting of a celebratory feast.  A visit to the grandparents called for a banquet.  A check in with family friends was the perfect opportunity for a ceremonial spread.

By the time today rolled around, I had eaten more than I had in the past month and was really starting to crave bare vegetables.

For those of you from the Ukrainian/Russian/Jewish/Immigrant variety, you’ll probably relate to the following:

  • Roasted chicken instead of the traditional turkey
  • Spanakopita (the always beloved Greek addition to thanksgiving)
  • Herring, sardines, lox, cheese, salami and prosciutto (favorites the pilgrims overlooked)
  • One too many toasts about being thankful (for a reason to toast)
  • Turkey (or chicken) for breakfast
  • Family members discussing your figure while simultaneously scoffing at how “little” you’re eating
  • And of course (my favorite)… using what’s left of Vodka as gravy (see picture above)

We watched our family’s favorite movie (Other People’s Money) for the 187th time (and recited lines together).  Sis and I told stories under the covers with flashlight (modern times: flashlight app) and engaged in cartwheel competitions that dad judged (I still got it!).  Days were culminated with family swim hour after our hearty meals (not advisable).

Aside from the fact that comments such as “you should eat more” started to have negative effects on my aggression meter (I can’t fit anymore!), I’d say it was a perfect thanksgiving.

Awesome.

Australian Lungfish, Green Moray Eels and River Otters

jelly fish

On Day 4 of Chicago Awesome it was time for a little new-resident sight-seeing.

A friend came to visit to see my friends and I (and our new city!) and brought with her energy, excitement and … a list of things to do.

While the rest of us nursed our hangovers and just straight exhaustion from the past couple of weeks… visiting friend outlined our options.

A poll was taken and (acting like children at) the aquarium was picked as the mid-afternoon activity of choice.

We plane/train/automobile-ed it to the east and found Shedd Aquarium.  This iconic cultural attraction stands next to Lake Michigan in an enormous and gorgeous building better suited to be our country’s embassy.

However, no president or political figure was found inside this gem.  Instead, we feasted our eyes on 25,000 fish and 5,000,000 gallons of water.

As a child I basically abhorred museums.  I may have mentioned this in a previous post but 18 years ago I would take in a giant open space with things on the wall and think…. dance studio.  The only thing I tolerated was the science museum (dad’s favorite) where I could be kept preoccupied with hands-on exhibits.

Hoping to be sufficiently entertained, I decided to throw myself into this experience.

Our first encounter with those that live in the sea was an enormous aquarium (shocker) with sharks and string-rays and a host of other strange species.

Being surrounded by a plethora of small people under the age of 10 really inspired some of that science museum reminiscing and some age-inappropriate behavior:

  1. The purchase of a chocolate milk before heading into the first exhibit (absolutely necessary)
  2. Pressing ourselves to the glass of giant aquarium to say hi to sting-ray (move it kid)
  3. Group shot against green screen (thankfully we left that work of art at Shedd)
  4. Spontaneous eruption of excitement (SEA-HORSES!!!!!)……….(move it kid)
  5. Finding Nemo (no really. we found him. and his dad.)

nemo

3 hours later, having seen some pretty wild underwater life (such as the group-named “Snooki Poof” fish), we were exhausted and sufficiently smarter as far as fish are concerned.

snooki

Experiencing a part of my new city with friends…. Awesome.

Flat Washers, Allen Wrenches and Head Bolts

coffee table

On Day 3 of Chicago Awesome I put my manual labor-assembly-tool box skills to work.

Today I knew a large box awaited me upon my arrival home with my new coffee table (my first piece of furniture).

What I didn’t know was that I had to assemble it (what?!!).

First things first.  I had to get the box into my apartment.

After maneuvering all 72 pounds of said “table” to the 23rd floor on cart, I set out piecing this thing together.

Ok this is false.

I set out opening the box (probably the toughest portion of this exercise).  This thing was sealed and ready for mountain lion attacks.  I was like a mad woman on Christmas morning.  Industrial kitchen scissors in hand, I ripped, tore, removed, punched, whined and sliced that giant box into shreds until I could finally remove the pieces of said “table.”

After carefully removing the (heavy) pieces and placing them on all available empty floor space, I surveyed the catastrophic mess and contemplated my options: 1) summon all males in the Chicago area that I know 2) pay people on my floor 3) call the company and yell with no hope of result.

Upon careful reflection I recalled that my mother was always handy with tools.  I remember her always taking pride in being able to hammer and screwdriver with the best of them… I actually remember my grandpa teaching me how to use the hammer at a very young age.

I decided to take a stab at it.

Plus, I’m too impatient.  I wanted my coffee table.  Right.  Now.

Taking out the instructions (written in Chinese) and figuring out what all the weird parts were called, I began to construct these heavy pieces together.  I screwed in legs, added the bottom shelf, and tightened the screws.

The last screw took me about an hour to maneuver (so THAT’s why they said not to tighten anything…) and I ended up taking legs off and putting them back on but 3 hours later I had a coffee table.  An enormous coffee table.

Now I just need that couch to arrive and to pick out 7 more pieces of furniture and I’ll be good to go (oy).

Assembling first piece of furniture for new apartment?

Awesome.

Sofa Shopping: A Life Changing Endeavor


west elm
wine

On Day 2 of Chicago Awesome, after 1 too many days in an empty apartment (with a bed), I decided it was that time.

A friend and I took the subway somewhere north (friend got us there, I thought about fabric swatches) where we discovered the mecca of furniture stores (or rather Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and West Elm….)

It’ll do.

The arrival to this fabulous part of town meant I could start my mission: to find a fabulous sleeper couch with just the right shade of “white” to make my sofa dreams come true.

Turns out buying a sofa is not a color-by-number type of process.  There were questions I hadn’t thought of, hidden fees that hadn’t occurred (delivery isn’t free?) and the absurdly high sales tax to think about (should’ve checked this before moving…).  More importantly, a slew of questions and options were thrown at me that left me puzzled for a good 3 hours (sorry friend!).

Finally, after becoming best buds with the sales associate (Hi Dylan!), taking a good 30-minute turn on the sofa of my choice and then comparing it to every sofa in the neighboring store……. I picked one. With the custom fabric of my choice and forked over my life savings (turns out a nice couch is akin to a Ford Focus).

To celebrate this great stride in building a new home in new city, friend and I crossed the street to a suspiciously Awesome store that advertised the sale of wine AND furniture (what a combination).

This wonderful mix of random furniture, home goods and alcohol was just the right touch of hilarity and entertainment that we needed….

The wine tasting going on at that moment in the center of the store put the cherry on top of an exhausting and forward moving day.

Awesome.

Chicago Awesome: New Cities, High School Reunions and Bank Vaults

Experience 1 in my new state involved whiskey, sushi and some old friends.

Having chosen the great state of Michigan as our destination when immigrating from the Soviet Union (Mom? Dad?), I have always found that the mid-west is close to my heart.  This was strengthened when I left for college, east-bound, where I forged my identity (as the Midwestern girl who was really from Ukraine who stereotypically figure skates).

SO.

A move back to the Midwest was only natural.  And what better way to kick off this new chapter than to share some whiskey with some high school friends over dragon and California roles. (Note: turns out the two don’t go together.  Evidenced by the next day.)

We gathered at a trendy BYOB sushi spot in the Wicker Park area (look at me learning) where beer was not allowed but wine and liquor were welcome (someone please tell these people what BYOB stands for).

Everything was different and everything was the same.  We laughed our butts off, reminisced and caught up on life.  Toasts were made.  Stories were told.  Future plans were planned.

The night continued to Bedford: an underground night club that formerly housed MB Financial Bank.  The Bank’s vault and safety deposit boxes still stand, reminding intoxicated youth about past elegance and bygone eras (think Titanic – the one James Cameron built).

There was dancing.  There were classically bad poses for pictures.  There were cucumber coolers.

The night was a whirlwind and as we checked to see who would be home for thanksgiving, I already felt at home.

Awesome.