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Way Back When…

Flashback Friday: Beanie Babies

During my last trip home in August, I came across my old collection of Beanie Babies buried deep in the depths of the closet. I don’t even remember what I was looking for at the time but it didn’t matter, I became completely engrossed in this tangible evidence of my childhood and couldn’t resist sharing it with you all!

You can check out some of my old Flashback Friday posts here:
2007 High School Prom
2007 High School Turnabout Dance
The Love of my Life {HP}
2011 Dominican Republic Vacation
Ghosts of New Year’s Eve Past
Winter Holidays 2011

Thanksgiving 2011
The (High School) Student
2006 Paris Trip
Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day
Corkboard Memories
College Graduation
The Ring(s)


Beanie Babies are the epitome of our generation. Let’s be honest – we all thought we would make millions off our collections!

Flashback Friday Beanie Babies

I was no exception. I’ve always had an affinity towards stuffed animals and Beanie Babies were a unique breed. They weren’t soft and cuddly like stuffed toys but I loved the ability to pick and choose my favorite animals. Let’s not judge too much now…I wasn’t even a teenager yet at the time! In fact, I was still in elementary school. Yikes!

It’s pretty clear that I’ve always been a crazy cat lady at heart and it’s no surprise that my favorite (and first ever!) Beanie Baby was a tan-colored cat named ‘Nip’.

Beanie Baby

I adored this little cat! I even cut his ‘TY’ tag off *gasp* I vividly remember happily throwing him around our living room. Poor guy even hit the ceiling a few times. But Nip wasn’t the only cat who had my heart.

Beanie Babies

So many cats!

I also had a few canines in my collection, woof!

Beanie Babies

But they were always second to my beloved kitties. The proof is in their silky, non-mangled fur. I guess I neglected them…oops.

I had a few other random animals, but they mainly sat around for show:

Beanie Babies

And of course, no Beanie Baby lover could ever forget the “prestigious” bears:

Beanie Babies

I only purchased these because I felt obligated to add value to my Beanie collection.

So much for making millions huh?

Who else collected Beanie Babies? Where is your collection now?

♥ Irina

“Draw a line around your feet”

I read a version of this quote the other day while skimming the comments on a photo by Humans of New York. I can’t quite recall the exact photo or the name of the commenter, but it stuck to me like glue. I continued thinking about it over the course of the week and realized how much my own approach to life reflects this wisdom.

life quote

Our generation is driven, ambitious, and restless to make an impact on the world. We want to leave our mark. We expect to leave an imprint. But the reality is that most of us don’t. Before you bash on me for being pessimistic, hear me out first. We might not leave behind a famous legacy but I’ll argue that our ultimate success lies in the impact we have on our immediate surroundings.

We can’t control those around us. We don’t control what will happen in the future. We won’t know what the consequences of our choices will be. But we can live in the day, moment by moment, and be in charge of ourselves. It all starts with our actions. Our actions create a butterfly effect – they are the stones we throw into the water that start spreading outward ripples through the otherwise untouched surface. The larger the initial impact, the more powerful and long-lasting the resulting ripples. And sometimes, if all goes as planned, the ripples can turn into waves.

When I first entered the real world after graduating college, I quickly discovered the high anxiety that came with obligatory feelings to be grand. I believed it was what the world expected from me…it was what I was “supposed” to do. But the presumptions were all in my head. Some people are fueled by these expectations but I was quickly being crushed by them. And so I stepped back, gazed downwards, and started focusing on me. By taking charge of myself, I obtained control of my own life.

It’s tempting to dream big. In fact, I encourage it! But don’t neglect yourself first and foremost because it all starts with you. As they say, be the change you want to see in the world.

♥ Irina

Chocolate Salted Caramel Dessert Cups (vegan!)

Like many of us, I’m unable to resist the overflow of sinfully delicious candy available during the Halloween season. I’ve been a lover of candy my entire life (and have seven cavities sweet teeth to prove it) and only managed to get my sugar addiction under control during college.

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

Although I don’t believe in giving something up that makes me happy, this doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to the effect it may have on my health & well-being. Which brings me to the reason I adore vegan desserts – although they might be just as sweet and calorie-dense as their normal counterparts, there is something naughty about eating a tasty dessert that’s secretly good for you.

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

One day I was seriously craving a Snickers bar. So instead of heading out the door to my local drugstore, I beelined straight for the kitchen and embarked on a fun candy bar alternative to an old favorite. And now I’m kind of in love with these heavenly little dessert cups. They take some time to make but I promise it’ll be worth it.

Chocolate Salted Caramel Dessert Cups
(vegan – makes 12)


Vegan Caramel:
– 6 dates
– 2 Tbs. warm water
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1/8 tsp sea salt

Flaky Base Layer:
– ¼ cup cashew butter *
– 2 Tbs. coconut flour
– 1.5 tsp. maple syrup
– ¼ tsp sea salt **

Dark Chocolate Coating:
– ½ cup cacao butter ***
– 1.5 cups cacao powder
– pinch of sea salt
– optional: ½ tsp. sweetener of choice ****

Optional Toppings:
– toasted coconut flakes
– roasted peanuts
– pistachios
– pumpkin / flax /chia / sunflower seeds
– dried fruit: goji berries, dried cherries, raisins
– jam or jelly
– nut butter

* alternatives: use sunflower seed or almond butter; peanut butter is also an option but will give a stronger flavor
** optional, add only if nut butter is unsalted
*** alternative: use coconut oil
**** I prefer to leave the chocolate in it’s bitter state (the caramel balances it out nicely), but feel free to add in honey (not vegan), maple syrup, agave, or sugar to your preferred sweetness. Add in a bit more cacao powder if the chocolate mixture appears too liquid.


To make the vegan caramel:
• soak dates in water for 1-2 hrs. (optional but recommended for better blending)
• blend dates, water, salt, and vanilla extract until very smooth
• optional: chill in the refrigerator while preparing other ingredients


vegan caramel

To make the flaky base layer:
• combine cashew butter with coconut flour and salt, mix well
• add in maple syrup and use your hands to incorporate it into the mixture
• the dough should stick together well but it should not be sticky
• note: coconut flour quickly dries out the dough so make sure to work fast (see step 3 below); add in a drop or two of water if the dough starts crumbling easily

flaky cashew crust

flaky cashew crust

To make the dark chocolate coating:
• melt cacao butter in a pot over very low heat until it’s fully liquid, then remove from heat
• add in remaining ingredients and stir well to combine
• note: when ready to use, you might need to warm up the chocolate a bit

vegan dark chocolate

vegan dark chocolate

Optional topping creations:
• seed n’ fruit mix: toasted pumpkin seeds, toasted sunflower seeds, goji berries
• toasted coconut pistachio – shredded coconut (toasted on pan), coconut butter, chopped pistachios, honey


1.) Prepare the vegan salted caramel and place in the refrigerator to chill.

2.) Prepare the dark chocolate coating and set aside.

3.) Prepare the flaky nut butter base layer as instructed. Once ready, divide the dough into 6 pieces and create small flat disks by using silicone cupcake liners for size (see photo below). Once complete, pop out all disks onto a plate or wax paper. Use your fingers to smooth out the edges and make the disks slightly smaller to ensure they fit into the liners.

4.) Using the silicone cupcake liners, pour a thin layer of chocolate to fully cover the bottom. Move the chocolate around to coat the sides. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes until chocolate hardens.

5.) To make the layered candy: place the flaky base into each liner and carefully top with a layer of caramel. Top the caramel with your choice of seeds, nuts, etc.

6.) Pour the remaining chocolate over each candy cup, making sure to fill the sides and cover all toppings completely. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes until the candy hardens and remove from the cupcake liners. Keep refrigerated for up to one week; freeze candy to keep longer.

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

Now take a bit bite and enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

Make sure to keep the dessert cups refrigerated and save all the decadent melting-in-your-mouth for your first bite!

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

The beauty of these little dessert cups is how versatile they are. You can add any topping you choose! I personally loved the addition of salted peanuts to mimic some childhood favorite candy bars.

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

Get creative! Add in raisins, almonds, jam, dried cherries, nuts…the possibilities are endless!

Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups

With the holiday season quickly approaching, there is no need to sacrifice taste for “healthier” options. With a little time, effort, and creativity you can feast on decadent desserts that will fill your body with superfoods!

♥ Irina

26(.2) Lessons Learned While Training for a Marathon

About 2.5 years ago I set out to run my first ever half marathon. The distance seemed insane to me at the time but the entire experience taught me a few valuable lessons. Now that I have a full marathon to add to the list, I wanted to put together a list of lessons I uncovered during my 23 week training schedule.

marathon training schedule

1.) Marathon hunger is real and vicious if not treated properly

2.) Blue toenails, blisters, chafing, and tanlines really are a nightmare in the summer

3.) Bruises from foam rolling add a nice touch to any leggy summer outfit (*sarcasm*)

4.) Stocking up on running shoes during sales is always a good idea, just make sure there’s enough room to store them all!

5.) You will sacrifice some of your social life for training but with some effort you will learn how to balance it with running

6.) Use a metronome to determine your cadence early in the training schedule and continue using it until you get your cadence in the 170-180 range

7.) Summer heat is no joke but those July sunrises will take your breath away and make it all worthwhile

8.) Your doorman/neighbors/etc. will come to know you as the crazy runner girl

9.) You will inevitably see someone stumbling home in the early morning as you set out on your weekend long run

10.) Make an effort to run as many hills as possible…it’s a necessary evil that will help on race day (thank you Central Park)

Central Park

11.) Cross-training is not a requirement if you want to complete a full marathon! But it can and does help make you a better runner (and so I would recommend it…duh).

12.) Distances you once feared quickly become nice short breaks from those crazy long runs

13.) Setting a new PDR (personal distance record) is an incredible feeling

14.) Train your mind as much as your body. You need to learn how to break free from the mental barriers that stop you from succeeding!

15.) Ice baths and compression socks may not be necessary but foam rolling will always be the best thing for your tired post-run legs

foam roller

16.) Train yourself to become a morning runner, it’s truly the key to a successful summer training season

17.) Seeing the positive changes with your body will never stop being exciting

18.) You might struggle to fit into your skinny jeans but toned legs and defined thighs are super sexy

19.) When in doubt, see a doctor (and insist on X-rays or an MRI if possible) but ultimately trust your gut when it comes to advice

20.) Don’t overestimate the amount of carbs you really need…because the reality is that you don’t need to consume as many as you probably do

21.) Marathon training weight gain sucks but with a little willpower and positive thinking you can push it aside in light of weekly running accomplishments

22.) Dehydration is a serious problem! Embrace electrolyte-infused fuel and salt pills.

salt pills

23.) Track your training progress on a visible schedule you see daily. It will improve your mood and remind you that you’re a kicka$$ runner!

24.) Injuries are incredibly discouraging but running is a blessing that can easily be lost if you allow pains to progress

25.) If you’re on the fence about signing up for a marathon just take the plunge and do it! There’s no better time than the present.

26.) Marathon training is a huge commitment with even larger rewards so stick to your training, push through doubts, and enjoy the life-changing journey

26.2) In the grand scheme of things you must smile through the pain, wave to your loved ones, and cross the finish line in pure gratitude for the life you live. Each step is a blessing and a reminder that you’re alive in a beautiful world.

Runners – what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned during your running journey?

♥ Irina