I truly started “thrifting” in NYC where there were tons of thrift and consignment stores, especially high-end ones where I could score some stunning designer clothing. My best purchase remains to be a brand new Burberry dress, although the price tag was still pretty steep on it. My mom and I also picked up two stunning silk dresses on my final day in NYC before moving.

But thrifting was never just about clothing for me. I’m a huge book nerd and am obsessed with reading. Always have been and always will be! I don’t blink an eye spending money on books and love seeing my collection grow. But this habit gets pricey, which is why I love stopping into Goodwill every month or so to scope out and snag books.

Nothing beats practically new books at $0.99 for paperback and $1.99 for hardcover! I thought I cleaned out the shelves recently, but I managed to find these three books on my latest trip:

Be still my book-loving heart.

Now let’s get back to clothes. The only time I purchased clothing from Goodwill was when I bought a pair of sweatpants I intended to use as throwaway clothing for the NYC Marathon. And then I ended up keeping them because I liked them too much… But this time I decided to explore the women’s section and found two gorgeous vests in perfect condition! I’m a sucker for vests and couldn’t resist.

This faux leather French Connection vest was only $9.99 – a true bargain! It’s going to look great over dresses and t-shirts this summer.

I fell in love with this Eddie Bauer vest almost immediately and didn’t hesitate spending $5.99 on it. It’s in perfect condition (looks to be never worn) and is 100% wool. Love love love

My next mission is to scope out the thrift/consignment stores in the city (the one I went to was in the suburbs). There was actually a Second Time Around right near my current apartment, which is the store where I bought my fancy dresses in NYC, but apparently it just closed 🙁

Who else enjoys thrift shopping? What’s the best thing you’ve scored?

♥ Irina

Confession: I’m a total bandwagon baseball fan. I never truly enjoyed watching it until the Chicago Cubs won the Pennant and made it to the World Series last year. The electricity in Chicago was palpable and the excitement reached me all the way in NYC. And when they won the World Series for the first time in 108 years? Well…go check out that blog post and see the madness for yourself.

I knew I absolutely had to attend a Cubs game in the near future, so I jumped at the chance when my friend received tickets through work and offered me one. The Cubs were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and I’m pretty sure that the only other baseball game I’ve ever been to was actually a Brewers game in Milwaukee back in 2010.

I always joke how FOB (Fresh Off the Boat…totally offensive I know, but hey I’m an immigrant after all!) I am because so many “American” things make no sense to me to this day. Baseball is perhaps the most American thing I can think of, alongside football perhaps, but I absolutely loved the entire experience (even though I did feel like a fraud at times). Good thing I actually understand the rules of baseball!

Of course I had to purchase a hot dog and peanuts. It’s all part of the experience!

Unfortunately I don’t drink beer so I couldn’t add that to my list of experiences (friend’s beer pictured below).

You guys, it was SO COLD though. My toes and fingers tend to numb up very quickly and it got to the point where I could barely feel my right hand.

All in all, I loved the entire experience and cannot wait to do it again! My mission is to see every Chicago sports team (Cubs = check, Bulls = check but way too long ago, Black Hawks = must-see, Bears = must-see, White Sox = mehhh we’ll see).

Who else enjoys watching sports, and which ones?

Baseball, yay or nay?

♥ Irina

The Shamrock Shuffle was held on Sunday, April 2nd in the heart of Chicago. I last ran this race in 2012, less than one year after first starting running, and finished it in 47:28 minutes (9:33 min/mile pace). I had high hopes of making this my speediest 8K to date, but my body and I weren’t really on the same page. Oh well, it was still fun though!

I stopped by the expo a few days prior to race day but didn’t stay long. It was decently sized though and looked to have some interesting booths to explore.

I gotta say, it’s so nice to live within walking distance of Grant Park. I woke up around 6AM, ate some toast + PB + banana with coffee, got dressed in all black (totally on theme with the green right? oops) and ran over to Grant Park. I had 6 miles scheduled for my half marathon training, so I covered 1 mile to Grant Park and barely made it in time for the Wave 1 start.

I kind of wish I waited for Wave 2 instead because I ended up entering the Wave 1 corral with only 2 minutes to spare (no joke) and didn’t have a chance to go to the bathroom beforehand. Running with a full bladder sucks! I was greeted with a sea of green as we waited to start. It took me almost 20 minutes to cross the start line. Luckily, the weather was perfect – 50’s with overcast skies.

Miles 1-3
I really should start training myself to become a morning runner again because it took forever for me to feel awake. I was just not feeling it at all the first few miles and decided early on that I wasn’t going to actually “race” this race. My Garmin lost reception and remained wonky the entire race, so I never actually knew my pace. Anything under a 9 minute mile (based on my Garmin) felt challenging, so I eased up and ran by feel.

Miles 4-5
I finally started feeling better around the 3.5 / 4 mile mark, which is generally how long it takes my body to actually warm up these days. At this point I started speeding up and pushing myself into the challenge zone. I felt pretty strong throughout the race but really hit my stride near the end (sadly). The last 0.5 miles featured a slight uphill climb which made me cringe but didn’t cause much torment. I sprinted at the end and crossed the finish line in 42:34 minutes, and only then did I remember that my 5 mile PR was 42:35. Now, an 8K is a tiny bit short of 5 miles, so I’m hesitant to call this a new PR, but whatever. That 1 second though…ugh!

Final Time42:34 (8:34 min/mile pace)
Place: 4,060 / 20,003
Age Division (F, 25-29): 321 / 2,337

Pros:
• Race course – Nothing beats running down the wide streets of downtown Chicago! Although it sucked to lose Garmin satellite reception almost immediately…
• Water stops –  It was nice to have multiple water stops despite the short distance
• Swag bag – I love the material and the emerald green color of the tech tee, and the green hat is adorable (although I don’t think I’ll ever wear it)
• Medals – I’m not sure when they started giving out medals for this race (they didn’t when I ran it in 2012) but I’m always thrilled to receive more race bling!

Cons:
• Cost – I paid $50 for the race, which is pretty steep considering the distance
• Race photos – Perhaps others did not have this problem, but there were no photos identified of me. Annoying, although I’m sure I would’ve looked horrific in them as usual.

Overall, I think this is a great race to start one’s spring running season. I may just run it again if I’m still in Chicago this time next year!

♥ Irina

Another trip to Colorado in the books! I flew out to Denver last month to visit my sister for four nights at high elevation and it was wonderful. My sister is moving this month and I knew this would probably be the last chance I had to hang out in snowy Colorado.

But…it wasn’t snowy at all in Denver. In fact, it was in the 70s! In February. My sister, niece, and I decided to take advantage of this oddity, so we drove out to Red Rocks for a short hike.

The weather did not disappoint, it was beautiful. Gisela was fussy because she skipped her nap, so we only made it a bit over 1 mile before heading back to the car.

I was Gisela’s carrier, and let me tell you…hiking with a 1-year old is hard! I consider it to be solid cross-training 😛

I eventually passed this small chicka to my sister and conquered the remaining trail solo alongside them.

But it wasn’t the added weight that ended up killing me. It was actually the climb back up on 589591710945 stairs in the amphitheater! My sister and I both woke up the next morning with unbelievable soreness in our calves. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from any sort of exercise. Stairs…I must add them into my workout routine.

We decided to drive to a local park afterwards, where I ran 2 quick miles and then played with my niece.

She’s so much fun to watch! A baby’s fascination with the world is truly a beautiful thing. May we all enjoy the smallest joys like babies do.

And then it was time for lunch! My sister whipped up homemade taco bowls and we feasted like queens. I must recreated these at home because yes, they are as good as they look. Inside = chickpeas, ground beef, avocado, roasted onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

My sister’s husband’s brother and his wife flew into town that evening and we ended the night chatting away before bed.

The next morning we loaded up two cars and drove to snowy Vail, where it was nearly 40 degrees colder! The change in scenery was surprisingly welcome, and the views did not disappoint.

We were staying in a nice lodge within the small city, and conveniently spent the afternoon exploring.

Vail is such a cute, quaint town with so much character. There were shops and restaurants everywhere, and the mountainous backdrop made the entire experience feel like a winter wonderland.

After a scrumptious lunch at the base of the mountain…

…we hopped onto the gondola and made our way to the top.

Those views though…

I know right?!?

Jaw-dropping, heart-stopping beauty.

We had an early wakeup call the following morning, so our day ended with pizza and a movie in our hotel. Our plan the following morning was simple: my sister and I would spend a luxurious amount of time eating breakfast and then hanging around the city and eventually going snowshoeing, while the remaining three would go skiing.

It was my first time snowshoeing and I loved it.

We spent an hour walking around the top of Vail Mountain, stopping occasionally to snap photos and take in the stunning views.

It was quite a workout!

And then our time in Vail came to an end and it was time to drive back to Denver for our final night together before I flew back to Chicago. Once again Colorado did not disappoint! I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I’m sure I won’t be able to stay away for too long.

♥ Irina