Friday, August 31, 2012

Garage Clean Up, Before & After

Our garage was a mess. When I moved in a year ago, we were in the midst of refinishing all of our hardwood floors upstairs. We ended up living in our cramped basement for the first couple months. We simply did not have room for all of my belongings in the house, so... we stuffed it all in the garage. I was contemplating whether or not to show these pictures, because they are quite frightening. However, Vladimir has done such a wonderful job the past week cleaning up that I had to show the before pics... If not, you wouldn't be able to tell how much work he's done! So here it is...

Can you spot Vladimir?
The amount of random stuff that piled up was just completely overwhelming... we didn't know where to start, so we sat down and made a game plan. Take everything out of the garage, and slowly, neatly put it all back in piece by piece. Unfortunately, the day we finally decided to tackle this project was in the end of July, on one of those sweltering 100 degree days... It was MISERABLE!

Our belongings out in the front yard
 The shelves along the sides of the garage were completely unorganized, stuff was just piled up. Slowly, we took each item out, organized, and cleaned off the shelves.

It felt so rewarding once the shelves were all cleaned off.
Unfortunately, that day in July was just too hot. We organized as much as we could, but ended up having to just throw the rest of the stuff back in garage. It was a miserable day, neither of us wanted to finish this project. However, the past week, Vladimir and his friend Andrey have been working on the garage every single day after work. They've done a wonderful job, it's cleaner than it has been for quite some time. There's definitely still work to be done, but compared to before, it's like night and day.

Before & After
Before & After
Before & After
Before & After
It's far from where we want it to be, but it's such a relief to be able to see one side of the garage to the other... ::sigh:: Suuuch a relief! Since we never use our garage for parking cars, we are going to make it into Vlad's "man cave." He and his friends are already making big plans, and I've been looking up some inspiration. Here's a few of the amazing "man caves" I've looked up so far.

Love the little bar and all of the storage. Not so much the motorcycle... ;)
Absolutely love how organized this space is. And the workspace counter & island.
We're planning to move our pool table into his "man cave", love the ceiling light fixture in this space
Now that it's clean and organized, we get to do the fun part... turning the space into a functional man cave.

Do you park your car in the garage, use the space for storage, or entertain in the space? Or all three?

<3 Lauren

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Photography Series "США"

Today I wanted to share with you my Photography portfolio from my senior year at VCU. During this time, I was in the first year of my relationship with Vladimir. I was introduced to his culture and lifestyle; to so many wonderful friends who each have stories of immigrating to the United States. I was so moved and inspired by learning about this new culture, that I devoted my final series to it. I named the project "США", pronounced "sss-sh-ah", which is how you say "USA" in Russian. It was a documentation of my new friends and family and how they adapted their culture in America. Hope you enjoy.


<3 Lauren

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Postcrossing is a worldwide project of sending and receiving postcards. It's such a great program. You sign up online, make a profile, then request an address. The website then randomly selects an address from somewhere in the world. When you are given an address, you're also given that person's profile page; which gives information about them and what kind of postcards they'd like to receive. For every postcard you send that is received, your address is randomly sent to someone else in the world. While you send postcards, postcards are sent to you. 

It's so much fun, not only receiving postcards from around the world, but trying to find the perfect postcard to send someone else. 
In my profile, I asked for vintage cards and soviet-era cards. The cards I've received from Eastern Europe are the most dear to me. I also asked that when someone sends me a card, they write down a list of their "likes" and "dislikes"... it's a lot of fun to see what each person comes up with.

So far, I've received cards from over 30 different countries. Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Ukraine, & the United Kingdom.

The website is completely free to use. The only cost is that of the postcards you buy and the stamps to send them. Check it out!

<3 Lauren

Monday, August 27, 2012

NYC and a little Ukraine

Early Friday morning, Vladimir and I made the drive up to New York City. Vladimir's parents had been visiting Ukraine for the past month and were flying back in to Newark Airport at 9pm. Since we had to drive up there anyway, we decided to make a day of it in the Big Apple. We got up at 4am, got our things together, and headed out. We arrived in Newark around 11am, hopped on the NJ transit and we were there!

We kept seeing billboards for one of our favorite tv shows Boardwalk Empire
Since we only had less than a day to spend, we made a short list of things we wanted to see. We started out in China town to try this little dumpling place I read about on Yelp. Then we explored Times Square. We began walking over to Central Park, when we were stopped by a charming young man from Instanbul begging us to take a ride in his bicycle carriage on a tour of the famous park. Normally we would politely say no, and keep walking. However, since Vlad had never seen Central Park and it was on our list, we said "Why Not?" After bargaining to get his price down a bit (Vlad's quite the bargainer...), we hopped on and listened for an hour as he showed us the sights. It was a great little ride and we were both happy that we spent the money to see the park that way, it's so big we would have never been able to see it all on our own! Plus, it was just nice to get off our feet for a while. :)

One of the views in Central Park
We, like many other tourists, were tricked into thinking this was the famous fountain from the "Friends" opening scene... I later found out it was night. Cute picture though ;)
Our little stroll through Central Park ending up being one of the best moments of our short trip
We walked around the upper east side for a bit before heading south. We originally thought of checking out Brighton Beach and all of the Russian markets. Instead we headed to the East Village to see Little Ukraine.

A Ukrainian Catholic Church in the East Village
After some shops, we stopped at a Ukrainian Restaurant for dinner. It was SO good. We started off with some Ukrainian Borscht, with a dollop of sour cream of course. 

Vladimir got the Hungarian Letcho, which is stewed peppers, onions, and beef; they served theirs with potato pancakes. 

I got the Ukrainian Platter which came with 4 different perogies (spinach, potato, meat, and cabbage) topped with sauteed onions, kielbasa with sauerkraut, and a stuffed cabbage with a mushroom cream sauce. 

All of the food was excellent, if you're ever in the East Village, definitely stop by. Their aptly named Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, hah!
We both wanted to drop in and surprise our friend Chris who bartends in the East Village. We stopped by his bar Proletariat, which is a great craft beer bar, only to find out he wasn't working that night. The bartender told us to try Amor y Amargo, a small bitters bar where he also works. We walked around the corner and there he was! He crafted us two amazing whiskey cocktails. 

As we sipped on our fancy drinks, we mentioned that we only had an hour left before we needed to head back to Newark and asked what we should see. He told us about the High Line park and we were so glad he did!

We had so much fun walking through High Line Park and looking at the contemporary buildings
One of the best parts of the day was walking through this park. It's a one mile long linear park built on an old high rise railroad track. Walking down the line, you can see all of the beautiful new, modern, contemporary buildings. The sides are filled with different plant life and they left in the original train tracks. It's a beautiful urban park and a definite must if you're visiting New York!
We picked up my in-laws from the airport and made the trek home. We spent the next afternoon at their house hearing stories of their trip and getting spoiled with all of their gifts and souvenirs for us from Ukraine. 
This spread is only a small part of the gifts we received from Ukraine :) 
My Ukrainian matyoshka doll set
I have always loved matryoshka nesting dolls. My mom has a collection and I always played with them growing up. When my mother-in-law asked me what I wanted her to bring back from Ukraine for me, my own Matryoshka set was my answer. She picked out these Ukrainian Matroyshkas. The Ukrainian dolls typically portray a family (father, mother, and children); while the more famous Russian dolls are typically only female.

Ukrainian tea and some beautiful magnets
 The magnets they brought back for us will look great with our collection :) And Vlad always has to get some Ukrainian tea.

Chocolate and Vodka
We got some handmade chocolate and Vodka from his hometown L'vov (not sure if this vodka is related to the Swedish brand haha)
All in all it was a great weekend. We want to visit New York again, hopefully soon and I cannot wait until the day I can visit my husband's hometown in Ukraine. One day... one day...
<3 Lauren

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hall Bathroom Remodel Update

Our hall bathroom is almost complete! Vladimir has been working everyday after work and it's really coming together! It will be so nice to have a functioning bathroom in the hallway, asking your guests to go through your master bathroom or down to the basement is a little awkward and inconvenient. 

We picked out our paint color; SW6526, it's called Icelandic. It's a perfect light, soft, icey blue. I picked out this color because I thought it would go well with the white and gray marble. 
I can't wait to decorate this space... I'm thinking lots of white with yellow accents. 

Vladimir installed all of the fixtures we picked out. We just got this faucet from home depot, and without even meaning to, got the exact same style from Kohler as our shower faucet :) It's so nice when things work out like that.

The fixtures need a good cleaning, as you can tell from the photos. All that's left to do is installing the light fixture, installing the toilet, putting finishes on the electrical outlets, and giving the whole space a good wash down. Then it's finished! It's amazing to look back at what this space used to look like... It was one of the most hideous bathrooms I've ever seen. Now it's on it's way to being one of the most beautiful :) 

Are you working on any home renovations currently? 

<3 Lauren

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers Recipe

A couple nights ago, one of my best friend's Sarah came over and cooked dinner for Vlad and I. It was a special treat :) She made some delicious stuffed peppers (with fresh peppers from her parent's garden!) They were so yummy. She stuffed them with a yellow saffron rice and ground beef, topped them with marinara and shredded cheese. This recipe was so good and so easy to make! Definitely keeping it in the back of my mind for future occasions. 

Since Vlad and I try to limit the amount of red meat we eat, I decided to adapt her recipe into a vegetarian one. I tried this one out last night, and it was a big hit! We used Portobellos instead of meat, but honestly, you couldn't tell the meat was missing! Here's what I came up with.

You will need:
6 Green Bell Peppers
10 oz. Mahatma Yellow Saffron Rice, or whatever rice you like/have available
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion, diced
2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
10 oz. Baby Portobello Mushrooms (or white mushrooms); chopped
3/4 Cup Marinara Sauce
1 Cup Shredded Mexican Cheese (mozzarella or parmesan would work as well)

1. Follow the directions on the packet to cook the rice. Takes about 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, fill a large stock pot up halfway with water and heat to boil. When boiling, add the bell peppers. When the color has changed from bright green to an olive/jade green, they're ready. About 15/20 minutes. 
2. Set the peppers aside to cool. Once the peppers have cooled enough that you won't burn yourself handling them, carefully cut off the tops. I'd recommend doing this step over your sink, some of the peppers retain the water from boiling and will spill everywhere! Set aside.  Preheat your oven 350 degrees.
3. In a medium frying pan, heat up the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute another 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the onion/mushroom mix cool. 
4. Once the mixture has cooled a bit, scoop the mixture into a food processor and chop until fine. If you don't have a food processor, you can just finely chop the onions and mushrooms yourself before cooking.
5. Combine 1 1/4 cups of cooked rice with the onion/mushroom mixture in a mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the Marinara sauce and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and give it all a good mix.
6. In a glass casserole dish, add enough marinara sauce to line the bottom of the dish, about 1/4 cup. Line the peppers up in the dish, keeping the open side upright. Add the remainder of the rice in between the peppers to help keep them upright.
7. Scoop the mushroom/rice mixture into each pepper filling them up to the top. Take a spoonful of marinara sauce to each of the open tops of the peppers and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on each. Pop in the oven about 10-12 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

When you boil the peppers, they still have their bright green color.
After boiling, they turn to a more olive green color.
The mushrooms only need about 5 minutes of sauteing when added to the onions.
The onion/mushroom/rice mixture is not pretty, but man does it taste good!
Mahatma Yellow Saffron rice has such a great flavor, and it's cheap! I used Prego Roasted Garlic & herb sauce, but any marinara will work great! 
Fill the peppers with the mixture, dab some marinara and sprinkle cheese on top.
When they're ready, the cheese will be nice, hot and gooey.
These peppers are so delicious and easy! And they make great leftovers.

Do you have any good recipes for bell peppers? 

<3 Lauren