Sunday, November 23, 2014

Grand Re-Opening!

Guess what, people?

We (by which I mean the Back Row Girls) are finally re-opening! As the proper two-gal outfit! This has been in the works for longer than is decent to admit.
But the good news is that the shop is up and running, and is getting stuff added as we speak (or as you read, possibly).

Look, see? See how pretty?

That there is our banner.

And this here is the link: THE BACK ROW GIRLS ETSY SHOP!

So, if you were going to shop anyway (what with holidays and all), why not browse our shop? Just a thought. You may find stuff like this:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Goddess of Spring and Plumbing

So, this was the outfit I wore to Lowe's today.

Not, like, on purpose or anything. I just happened to wear what my co-workers very generously dubbed my "Spring Goddess" outfit, and at lunch my friend happened to need to go to Lowe's, and I happened to be obsessing over the hook to put on the back of the boys' bathroom door, so it just happened.

When we got there, as a properly helpful spring goddess, I hoisted a huge PVC pipe (that my friend needed to return) on my shoulder and traipsed over to the entrance, tripping a person in the process.
I did not, like some of you may have imagined, hit him comically on the head with the PVC pipe. He just caught the sight of me, which probably looked a bit strange to him, and he tripped. No casualties, though, so that was good.

Next, we agreed that I was going to go obsess over small hardware (heh), and she was going to return her pipe (heh again), and we'd meet up in plumbing (I know, middle school comedy gold!)

I did manage to score some sweet, sweet industrialish-looking double hook in brushed steel for a cool $3-something, and then - because we were on a tight schedule and I didn't want to get lost - I decided to ask for directions.
So I walked up to two Lowe's (dude) workers, and politely said, "Excuse me!"
They went from [very serious conversation expressions] to [ohai little girl, aren't you in the wrong store? expression], which was kind of funny to see. So, I asked them where the plumbing department was. They actually looked very concerned, like they weren't sure I knew what I was saying, so they - very helpfully - asked me what was it I was looking for, probably as a test.
Well, I personally was looking for my friend, but I thought it might be weird if I said I was meeting someone in the plumbing aisle, and I did know that she was looking for some 1/4" copper couplings, so I told them that was what I was looking for.
They actually looked pretty shocked, like a teacher who just realized her stoner student scored a perfect "A" on a test, and looked at each other before muttering, "Huh, yeah, that would be in plumbing." And they pointed the way. And I thanked them and went on my way.

And then I arrived, and my friend wasn't there yet, so I went to look for her and got distracted by paint, and ended up with some plastic pain trays, a new brush (an angled 1/2"! check me out!) and a whole lot of yellow paint chips. Because, um. Shiny. What?

Also, before any outrage has a chance to start (not that I anticipate any), I feel like I should say that I find this very funny, not offensive. Because think about it from those dudes' perspective. Also, I think I might start dressing in frilly skirts EVERY time I go to a home improvement store and troll the crap out of people there. #BurlyGirlyFTW.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I Can't Get No… Motiva-tion!

Around this time of the year, according to Statistic Brain, a lot of people are struggling to keep their New Year resolutions. "What gives?" one wonders, and the answer to this is simple: lack of motivation, or, more accurately, lack of proper motivation.

So it makes sense for me to do a follow-up on the last year's post (in which I shared tips and tricks that help me stay on top of things).
In this here now post I will give out some of the tips that specifically target motivational part of achieving goals. Hopefully, some of these (possibly crazy weird) tips will make sense to you enough to implement them in your own life.

Before I get into it, let me say that this is not the kind of motivational guide that talks about support system (which, absolutely, is a great thing, and you should ideally have it and if you don't, feel free to share your motivational struggles in the comments, and we'll get through this together!) or 12-step programs or normal things.
This is going to be about weird little tricks that totally work for most people, but most people are not weird enough to either come up with them or to admit that they use them.

So, get comfortable, it's going to be a long ride.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Soup Time!

The weather on the East Coast has been rather - how you say? - wintery with vengeance lately, so of course it means soup time!

I make some mean (by which I mean, "really yummy") soups, and because I'm all about sharing and I can't share actual soup over the internet, I will give you recipes for 2 soups: pickle soup and a vegetable soup.

So, here we go:

Pickle Soup. 

8 cups of water
2 medium potatoes
1 average carrot
1 small onion
1-2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup rice
7-10 kosher pickles (I prefer B&G brand) salt to taste (about 1/2 tbsp.) 

Makes enough for about 6-8 portions. 

Set water to boil. Peel potatoes and carrot. Cube potatoes, and grate the carrot. By now your water should be boiling, so add rice, then add potatoes 5 minutes later. Bring back to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. You want it to simmer. Stir occasionally.
Cut up the onion. I like to cut it in tiny pieces, because I don’t like the texture of it in my soups, but you’re welcome to experiment. Warm a large frying pan and let butter melt in it. If it looks a bit excessive, don’t worry, the extra space will be used later. Add onion and saute it until golden (about 5 minutes on low-medium heat). While that’s happening, cut up the pickles into small squares. This is the part where I tend to add a pickle or two to the mix. Don’t skimp on them!
When your onions are golden, add the carrot (possibly adding more butter, if it needs it) and saute for 3-4 more minutes, or until the whole thing looks soft and is a golden color. Don’t let it burn, because it will turn your soup brown.
When the onions and carrots are done, add the pickles to the frying pan and cook uncovered with the onion and carrot for about 7-10 minutes. If necessary, add the liquid from soup to the pan.
Then add the whole thing to soup. Bring back to boil, then cook for 5 minutes, then add salt. This optimises salt absorbtion, because otherwise a large portion of it will be absorbed by potatoes, creating impression that the soup needs more salt. Then cook for 20 more minutes or until your potatoes are easily breakable with
a spoon. 

Vegetable Soup. 

8 cups of water

2 medium potatoes
1 average carrot
1 small onion
1-2 tbsp. butter
1 pack of frozen vegetables, such as Bird’s Eye 1 pack of frozen broccoli or California Mix salt to taste (about 1/2 tbsp.) 

Makes enough for about 6-8 portions. 

Set water to boil. Peel potatoes and the carrot. Cube potatoes. By now, your water should be boiling, so add potatoes.
Bring back to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. You want it to simmer. Stir the soup occasionally.

Cut up the onion. I like to cut it in tiny pieces, because I don’t like the texture of it in my soups, but you’re welcome to experiment. Warm a frying pan and let butter melt in it. Add onion and saute it until golden (about 5 minutes on low-medium heat). While that’s happening, grate the carrot. When your onions are golden, add the carrot (possibly adding more butter, if it needs it) and saute for 3-4 more minutes, or until the whole thing looks soft and is a golden color. Don’t let it burn, because it will turn your soup brown. When the onions and carrots are done, add them to soup and also add the frozen vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes, then add salt. This gives the time for ingredients to soften up a bit, and also, if you add salt too early, a large portion of it will be absorbed by potatoes, making the whole soup taste less salty and creating impression that it needs more salt. Then cook for 20 more minutes or until your potatoes are easily breakable with a spoon.
That’s it!
You can customize it by adding spaghetti about 10 minutes before the end or dill weed about 15 minutes before the end.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mirror mirror on the web...

How did I never know of this tumbler till now?
This is amazing in its simplicity: the person just searches for craig's list posts on mirrors and posts pics to his/her tumbler.

I love how the photos are little works of art, most likely unintentionally: from simple graphic jobios like this one:
or this: 

to kind of trippy ones like this:
 and this:

to gritty Arte kind of things:

Another case of "The Phenomenal in the Mundane".

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In Defense of Things

Right now, blogs and social media outlets are full of advice on how to simplify, organize, and de-clutter your life.

Which is great.

Except - and this might be my Russianalization talking - I have a huge problem with "if you haven't worn/used it in a year, throw it out/donate/get rid of it" mentality.

You see, I grew up in a world where you couldn't just traipse down to the mall and get yourself something that you need at the moment. It just wasn't available, and most people didn't have that kind of income. Instead, I had a dad and a grandfather who collectively filled a sizable shed/barn with pretty much everything. Like, if you needed anything at all, chances were you could find it in there. Almost everything was labeled and sorted, so it wasn't like a situation where you know theoretically that probably there are 12mm nails in here, but for the love of Pete, can't find them.

Now that we live in US, my dad's basement has acquired that same magical quality. It helped me greatly in my college years when I had to take insane classes like "Space Design". Carpet remainders? Check. Old wire? Check. Window screen? Sure, step right up.

Last winter, ornaments made of old bicycle chains were pretty popular on Etsy, and, since H cycles, I thought, hey, that's a great idea! So, thinking there's no way, but trusting in my dad's magical basement, I still asked if he had any old bike chains. Sure, he said, how many do you need?

This does not mean my dad's basement is a hoardy-hoard. Things are collected in jars, on shelves, old stuff like paint is regularly inspected and thrown out if it's dry. And the high I get when I've found, say, 15" French Country bench legs that I can use for a project is akin to browsing my local Goodwill and finding an Armani Exchange sweater for $3.75.

Now on to my own closet, and, by extension, house.
I have things in my wardrobe that I haven't worn in a decade, and some that don't quite fit me at the moment. And, as long as things don't get out of hand - it's ok for me.
I've kept my senior collection after I graduated from Drexel Fashion program, even though I was way to scrawny to fit into anything. That was ok (though I did give away some clothes to some deserving individuals).
After my pregnancy (more than 10 years later), I gained weight and all of a sudden I could wear most of the clothes that I made for the runway models (I know it sounds weird, but they are really around size 6-8, they are just super tall, which makes them look skinnier). If, years ago, I had gotten rid of the pieces that I put so much of myself into just because I couldn't wear them, then I would deprive myself of intense feelings of joy that I have every time I put on that skirt or this top.

This is not to say that I never purge.

(You can start paying attention now, because this is the practical part).

 I don't purge by seasons, normally, or on a schedule. When I notice that I start rifling through my closet a bit too much when I'm getting dressed instead of just grabbing the first (or second) thing that I see, then it's probably a sign that I've fallen out of love with too many things in there. That means I need to go through the closet and sort things into 3 piles:

*stuff I still love that fits me well;
*stuff I still love that does not fit me OR stuff that fits me that I don't love;
*stuff that I can't stand to see anymore because OMG what was I thinking?

The first pile just gets put back, obviously.
I like to take this time to sort things either by color or function (skirts together, pants together). It may not stay that way, but at least it's an effort.

The second pile gets edited.

Things get put on the spot and asked the existential question of WHY do I love this item?
Is it still a great item that won't look dated in 5 years and I'm just temporarily sick of seeing it? Then it goes into a storage box that is for things to "cool off" for several seasons. Actually, it's not a box per se, but a plastic zippable bag that my comforter came in, years ago (see how I don't have to buy things because I don't throw practical things out?)

 Do I love the item, but just not, honestly speaking, on me? Sometimes I buy something because I adore the pattern or the color or texture, but it's just not the best look for me, and it takes me some time to face the facts.
In that case, I might see if it's large enough to be made into something, like a throw pillow (my couch still rocks throw pillows made of a knit skirt (left-most) and a hawaiian shirt (right-most) that are darling now, but mos def were not when I tried to make them work as clothes).

I have doll sweaters that used to be socks, and scarves that at some point were t-shirts. If you're worried you can't make something yourself - outsource it or just bite the bullet and get on Pinterest for inspiration and tutorials.

Is it in good shape? Fancy label? Uber-flattering or so out-this-world outrageous that is un-reproduceable? Into another comforter bag it goes, for posterity. Who knows, I might have granddaughters some day (or my grandsons will have wives) that will be able to appreciate these gems. My best friend has a bunch of old slips and blouses that her grandma gave her, and they just rock. If I start running out of space, I just re-evaluate if I still believe that my old pink stripy sweater I bought in Paris 15 years ago will thrill my offspring's future offspring.

The third pile gets put in a bag and brought in to work in the hopes that some of the things will get adopted by my co-workers. If they do, then I get happy knowing that not only will I be able to still look at these clothes (just not on me), someone will get to enjoy it, too. Whatever does not get adopted, gets donated.

I know that I am making a blanket statement here, but you know how we all get huffy when we read articles in magazines that tell us to love our bodies right next to advice on how to lose weight? I get the same huffs when I read articles on "OMG vintage vintage vintage!!! GAAAAH." right next to advice on how to get rid of stuff. I mean… people hunt for antique photos of strangers, seek out that one perfect vintage skirt and pay pretty money for reproductions, but then get rid of things simply because they currently don't have a use for it.
Obviously, let's not all turn into never-throw-another-thing-out creatures, because then my thrifting experiences will be very sad and sporadic, but don't, for the love of Chanel, don't let the practical override the sentimental, at least not all the time. If there's a spot in your heart for that old dress, there's a spot in your closet for it, as well.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Things Russian People Say

I've been trying to embrace my utter Russianity, and to that extent, I give you the list of things that Russian people say, what they REALLY mean, and what people around them think when they hear those things. Be educated. Be happy.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Last of the Season by elfinity
Last of the Season, a photo by elfinity on Flickr.

I am slowly warming up to using flowers from our garden for decorating the house. Some of it is involuntary, like this time.
I was gardening and preparing the plants for winter. Moved a large branch out of the way and -crunch-! Oops, forgot how brittle mature mums were. So now our kitchen has a bit more fall flair.

Friday, June 28, 2013

D2 Report

D2 Doing His Thing by elfinity
D2 Doing His Thing, a photo by elfinity on Flickr.
So, D2 is pretty hilarious to be around these days.
Of course, I may be biased (or sleep-deprived), but here are some choice scenes from D2's life.
I fish him out of the tub (like I always do) and wrap him in the towel (like I always do), and ask him (like I always do), "Who did I catch?"
D2 usually says it like it is, naming himself, but this time he says, "Daddy!" and giggles.
I feign confusion and ask, "Really? I thought this was D2!"
He says, "No! Daddy!" and is really cracking himself up at this point.
I poke and prod him, eliciting more giggles, and say, "That's strange. I was looking for D2, not Daddy."
D2 - dying by now - says, "NO! DADDY!"
Later on, he graciously confessed that it was indeed him, without any further prodding from me.

Big Bro, aka D1: "Yes, D2?"
D2: "Hm… -smiles sociably- Funny."
That was it. He was just making small talk.

Toilet training D2 has been… interesting. He sort of wants to do the big boy thing and use the potty, as long as it doesn't, you know, involve the actual using of the potty. Like, sitting, taking off his diaper, that sort of thing. Other than that, he's all for it.
He even tries to potty train his stuffed animals. After one unsuccessful attempt, I looked away for a moment, and when I looked again, I see D2 holding his cow over his potty, the same way I hold him in place (because he sits down, realizes where he is and tries to wriggle up). He even bopped heads with it the way I do to reassure D2 when he's (not quite) sitting on the potty. After a minute, he took the cow off, flipped it upside down, sighed heavily, and toddled off, cow under his arm. I guess the cow didn't make water, either.

If I need to get D2 out of my hair for a spell, like when I'm making dinner and he's whining around my legs, I just tell him that I think we need to clean the floor. The boy rushes for his toy vacuum cleaner and occupies himself with the OCD task of vacuuming the floor for up to half an hour. I mean… part of me wishes we actually got him a real vacuum cleaner, 'cause then we'd have the cleanest floor in the county, but part of me worries that we are going to have a King of Janitors on our hands. The boy's been obsessed with vacuum cleaners and brooms since forever (and, please understand, we are not). Incidentally, do you know how hard it was to find a toy vacuum cleaner that is NOT pink? Domestic labor gender stereotypes much?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Things that are REALLY Tearing America Apart

I kid, I kid.

This is an article on a kind of strangely named Business Insider site (I say "strangely named" because, from what I can see, there does not seem to be THAT much emphasis on business there). ANYWAY.

The article is interesting in that it showcases research by a North Carolina State University's Joshua Katz, who studied all kinds of different ways different parts of US call the same thing.

For example, we all know the "pop-soda-coke" thing, but did you know that, apparently, only in Philadelphia region do people call a long sandwich with cold cuts, lettuce/tomato etc. a "hoagie" while the rest of the States call it a "sub"? Or the apparent fact that Americans can't seem to agree on how to pronounce "pecan pie"?

It's a real nice visual treat, as well, with maps looking very watercolor-y and everythin'. So, check it out.