Home Design Project #62738


The time has finally come.

3 months ago I left NYC and moved into a new (empty) apartment in Chicago after approximately 72 hours of apt hunting (hell).

The next couple of months had me befriending couch salesmen, threatening to sue Amazon, constructing tables from scratch and sending questionable invites to anyone working at HGTV (Finally, a use for LinkedIn).

One thing about home decorating/design/furniture buying was learned:

It separates the aggressive from the emotionally unstable.



The couch it took 579 magical elves 90 days to construct is in its place (why else would it take so long?).

In the place of the once shattered television stands an operational television that broadcasts 1995’s Clueless in a way that allows one to see Alicia Silverstone’s head (new feature on the LEDs).

The storage bench originally delivered with an informative hand-written letter on the box, stating “please note this item is damaged” now sits in its designated nook area where I can look out on the city while reading.

And so the big pieces are in.

Yesterday was the day I got to hang stuff.

Project one: hanging three steel frames side by side above sofa.

Feels like an easy task. Smells like an easy task.  Sounds like an easy task.

Somehow not so easy a task.

How do I hang them equidistant from one another?  How do I makes sure they don’t fall (they’re heavy)? How do I make sure they’re level?  What if I make a hole and I need to start over?????

painter's tape

One week of mulling this over and 85 deep breaths later, I was having an informative yet firm session with my neighborhood therapist, known to the public as the salesperson at Ace Hardware.

She was helping me through visualization techniques while explaining to me the science behind the ANCHOR and SCREW combination.  Fascinating stuff.

Some breathing exercises and hugs later, I was on my way home ready to tackle this project.  After all, I constructed 4 pieces of furniture by myself, got my comforter into a brand new duvet and furnished an apartment from scratch.  How hard can it be to hang 3 fairly large, very heavy steel frames equidistantly on the wall??

The rest of the journey is best described with the following sequence of events:

1)       Measuring exact lengths of the frames and constructing them with painter’s tape on the wall (success)

2)      Spending entirely too much time measuring and re-measuring the placement of the holes for the screws in relation to the rest of the frame (15.5in ???  15.577in ???)

3)      Deciding to go for it with the hammer

4)      Making a hole in the wall with screw

5)      Taking screw out

6)      Watching pieces of plaster fall out of the originally believed to be dry-wall material (what. I guessed)

7)      Deciding to ignore this fact and keep going

8)      Sticking anchor into wall and attempting to hammer it the rest of the way in as demonstrated by Ace Hardware therapist

9)      Breaking the anchor in half

10)   Realizing 1.5 hours had gone by and it was 9pm

11)    Receiving noise complaint number 1

12)   Considering noise complaint (who sleeps at 9?)

13)   Deciding to ignore noise complaint

14)   Fetching another anchor

15)   Hammering

16)   Finding success

17)   Placing screw into anchor, finding the screwdriver and step-ladder  and applying some serious muscle to get that thing in there

18)   Measuring again

19)   Hammering

20)  Getting another anchor

21)   Hammering

22)   Screw-driver-ing

23)   Attempting to fit both screws inside the designated spaces on the back of the frame

24)   Cursing

25)   HANGING!!!

26)   Breathing

27)   Snacking

28)  Receiving noise complaint number 2

29)   Repeating steps 2-25

30)  Realizing it’s not level

31)   Cursing

32)   Using the hammer to knock those screws into place


34)   Repeating steps 2-25

35)   Realizing the spacing between the 3 frames is off

36)   Using the hammer to knock the screws around a bit


38)  Victory dance (Safe and Sound by Capital Cities)

My apartment

Post victory dance, I sat and admired the wall.  Currently hanging on my wall are three large frames housing enlarged 8 X 10 black and white photos of me with my mom, my little brother (lil bud) and my dad all taken in Kiev and developed at night by hand in our bathroom by my mother.

So happy to be making my space my home.


Wet Saunas, Moscow Mules and the Russian Bath


Today I went back to my cultural roots.

It was the perfect occasion.

My childhood friend flew in from London to pay me and another pal a visit.  Our friendship started in the 1st grade when her family immigrated to the US from Ukraine, where it was fated that we would meet.  My family had also immigrated from Kiev about a year prior and I was already experiencing the joys of coloring by number without the faintest clue what any of the colors were in English (Stop yelling lady, I have no idea what color G-R-E-E-N is).

This history coupled with her relocation (abandonment) to England meant we needed a real bonding activity to utilize our few days together to the fullest.

The two of us plus the third (non-Russian speaking and scared) leg of this tripod in tow, we settled on the only fitting activity we could come up with:

The Russian Bathhouse.

Quick history lesson.

Everything you’ve heard about a Russian “Banya” is, well, true.  This famed Russian pastime, traditionally enjoyed by men, involves scalding hot saunas, the unique experience of being whacked by various forms of tree branches and the fittingly loud atmosphere of bathers being absurdly social in 200 degree heat after which participants enjoy rounds of salami, herring and an appropriately Russian alcoholic beverage.

A quick search and we found the Red Square Spa – a new establishment that has been getting some buzz in the Chicago area.

It’ll do.

The three of us entered the building, were immediately met with the sight of groups of men in white robes (in what looks like a 5-star restaurant) feasting on chicken, borscht and vodka shots and quickly paid our admission in order to receive a robe and towel (bed sheet) to sit on (lest our butts get burned).

Let’s get the party started.

The next 4 hours were full of relaxation, massages, vodka, new friends and salty fish.

The highlights include:

  • Sipping on Moscow Mules in the sauna
  • Making friends with extremely friendly (inebriated) fellow Eastern European peers
  • An up close and personal deep-tissue massage performed by strong Russian male.  (As someone who usually asks for the “less painful option” in the massage realm, I’m not sure why I chose to have my very first deep-tissue massage  at a Russian bathhouse. Whoever was in the room next to mine might have been scared).
  • Playing the “tell a boy secret” game while sitting in the female-only steam room (Yes. This happened)
  • Forcing non-Russian friend to recite Russian words while in the Sauna (she knows 4)
  • Feasting on dried packages of “Taranka” (super salty, cured and dried Cod-like fish).  I made a request for this favorite snack of mine and it was produced from the back where they keep a few in case they have requests (obviously).  This might have been the highlight of my day.  My mom and I used to devour packs of this fish.

We laughed all day.  We experienced extreme amounts of sweating.  We told boy secrets (if this doesn’t bond you, nothing will).

4 hours later we found ourselves at friend’s place laying on the couch too relaxed to move, oscillating between the rest of the dried fish (clearly, they let me take the entire package home) and 5 boxes of girl scout cookies.

Pretty exceptionally Awesome experience.

I recommend it.

The 8-Hour Dining Adventure


Based on the pattern of randomly wonderful experiences I have had in my new city (and generally), you’d think I would have predicted last night’s dinner.

I did not.

In fact, last night, circa 8pm, as a friend and I stood on the street outside the establishment where we had planned to dine, wine bottle in hand, enjoying a breezy evening of sub-zero temperatures, I was just hoping we would find a place to eat.

After the dining facility of our choice had informed us that seating would not be an issue, we showed up ready to take this BYOB restaurant by storm only to be told that yes… seating would not be an issue… in about 3 hours (sir, I’m trying to take you seriously right now).

Thanks but no thanks.

So much for careful restaurant reviewing and recommendation assessment.

It was looking like our dinner plans would be left up to the restaurant gods.

We decided to walk a few blocks and sample different menus.

2 minutes later we were freezing and decided any place would do.  We were standing 2 doors from our original destination.  We looked at the menu.  We saw the words cheese, risotto and chicken.  We were sold.

The hostess graciously sat us at the bar, the bar tender uncorked our wine and we spent the next 3 hours enthusiastically catching up on life (possible MBA program for her and positive work momentum for me!) while sampling surprisingly amazing food (butternut squash risotto).

It was at the 3 hours and 30 minute mark that we noticed that we were basically the last customers at the restaurant and the crew was washing floors and cleaning up.

We introduced ourselves to some of the staff, apologized for overstaying the hours of operation and promised to be out of there pronto.

30 minutes later we were seated around a table with the restaurant owner, the head chef and their chief mixologist, enjoying a glass of chardonnay.

20 minutes after that we were getting a private tour of the kitchen.

An hour after that we were making our way through a full wine tasting.

And about 2 hours after that we had all decided to be best friends forever (the only logical conclusion) and were making our way through certain contents of the industrial refrigerator.

Some highlights from 4 hours with our new friends:

  • Learning a bit about the restaurant business.  Takeaway: companies send you free food and alcohol to taste-test in hopes of receiving business (top 5 best job perks).
  • Witnessing loyalty among three friends who have been working to find success in the restaurant business for the better part of a decade (awww).
  • Enormous cheese plate expertly prepared by head chef circa 2am (heaven). That manchego had my name all over it.

The night was an unexpected success.  Friend and I caught up on major highlights of life since high school (it’s been a while), made some new friends and found a place we might call our “regular spot,” an arguably very important aspect of life in new city.

There was laughter, wine and the sharing of stories.

The restaurant is called Deleece…it’s Awesome.

Valentine’s Day with Balls


Today is (was) Valentine’s Day.

I wouldn’t have known…


When I got to work this morning there were numerous tables with roses covering our enormous lobby and multiple individuals were walking towards me with arms extended.

Initial reaction was to initiate the palm-heel strike (used to ward of your attacker) but then I took an awkward pause and thought… oh.  Valentine’s Day. (I’m not a morning person).

Naturally, I took one (two) roses.

And anticipated tonight’s glamorous V-Day activity.

It involved new shoes, multiple beer tubes and heavy balls.

Yes.  February 14 of 2013 had me and a friend joining a bowling league for the night and playing our hearts out.

It was a classy night.

Mac and cheese and tater tots, a couple party fouls and some bowling instruction by some “pros” had us obliterating pins, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones and getting all sorts of hyper.

It wasn’t your typical V-Day.

But it was…


Just Do It.

keep calm and cycle on

Today’s workout was Awesome.



I set a goal and I met it.

I told myself that no matter what — I was going to get to a certain number.

No excuses.

Recently, I’ve been feeling more lethargic during class and falling well below the level I know I can meet.

The burrito I ate before class didn’t help (stupid).

Neither did the lack of sleep last night (stupid).

But.  There’s always an excuse to pedal at a lower rpm.

A few things did help.

Friends. Music. Mental game.

I’ve found that the key to cycling consistently every week is getting your friends involved (evil plan).  I’ve introduced spinning to a number of friends who now go every week.  Knowing they’re reserving bikes pushes me.

The playlist was perfect (Careless Whisper by Seether is new favorite).

I put everything out of my mind.  For 45 minutes.  Nothing was going on in my life besides Enrique Iglesias (that’s right).

I sang along. I cheered out loud.  I passed my goal.

I was pumped.


For the Love of Role-Modeling

skating coach

This past week, a younger co-worker asked to shadow me at work;

I was offered the opportunity to coach a group of figure skaters ages 6-8;

I was assigned a prospective candidate to interview for my college.

My plate was pretty full and little sleep was had (nothing new)…

But I threw myself into each experience.

And in the process remembered how much I adore mentoring, coaching and passing on wisdom (used loosely here).

Each separate event had me deep in preparation.  I outlined appropriate questions to ask an ambitious high schooler, considered work tasks most interesting and even went on the United States Skating Association website to look up basic skills I may have forgotten (I admit it).

The result was worth the effort.

Offering work advice left me feeling humbled.

Speaking to a high school student determined to surpass insurmountable life obstacles was inspiring.

And helping to mold a new generation of athletic character in the form of 6 and 7 year olds…

Was just plain Awesome.

Fueling the Entrepreneurial Fire


It felt like the coldest day in Chicago thus far.

A friend and I traded Uggs, hats and generally appropriate attire used in negative temperatures for heels and skirts.

We were headed to an alumni happy hour in our new city and chose to ignore frost-bite chilling temps (naturally).

After being outfitted with drinking wristbands in our school’s color at the pub (never gets old) we were ready to meet fellow alumni who called Chicago home.

And after first standing in the bathroom to de-freeze and run hot water on frozen fingers we were ready to go.

We drank 3 dollar beers on special (dream).  We caught up with old friends.  We made some new ones.

A few introductions later, I found myself deep in conversation with a fellow Gen-Y alumnus about the extraordinary ventures so many of our peers were engaged in post-college.

We traded our own desires for the future, discussed our jobs, personal projects and the spirit and creativity by which we were surrounded.

The conversation was the cherry on top of an entrepreneurial-themed week.

Exciting things people in my life are doing:

  • A friend taking her love of baking to the next level by launching a cake pop venture.
  • A friend working every week with her band, holding a debut concert and promptly booking a couple shows.

I can’t help but be inspired.

We “millennials” might have the reputation of lacking loyalty and feeling entitled but survey says we are also creative, collaborative and above all else – entrepreneurial – (reportedly we also “take no bullshit” – I’ll accept that).

Either way I’m feeling proud and motivated.

And impressed.