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Take Time Tuesday

In the spirit of the beautiful new month, I’m linking up with Katie today and participating in Take Time Tuesday. Exhale my friends, March is here. That’s the first thing I’m grateful for…

Take-Time-Tuesday-Winter-Blues-Edition

Whether it be a physical change or simply a mental one that came about from the completion of February, I feel better than I have in a while. But that doesn’t mean the February Funk isn’t still lingering in my heart. So today is the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the aspects in my life that fill me with gratitude and keep the winter blues under control. Only 17 more days until spring. Let’s do this, I’m happier already.

I’m grateful for running. The NYC Half Marathon is less than two weeks away (how?!?) and I’m feeling good about it. Despite the freezing weather, I’ve kept up with my training and enjoyed most early morning runs. My shins are also feeling better (*knock on wood*) and are doing their part in carrying me through double digits. But most importantly, running is the only thing that has truly kept me sane in February. I desperately needed the endorphins to counteract the February Funk, and running helped like nothing else could. Free therapy indeed!

Central Park

I’m grateful for friendships. My high school besties are coming to town for this upcoming entire weekend! I’m already concerned about what a sh*tshow it’s going to be, these girls and I are one big hot mess when together. I’m looking forward to a weekend filled with exploring, fine dining, gossiping, lots of laughing, and of course partying it up in Manhattan.

I’m grateful for my mom. She calls / texts me every day to check up on my well-being. I don’t think she has any idea just how loved she makes me feel. AND she’s coming to visit on the 14th! I absolutely cannot wait, especially because she’ll be cheering me on during the NYC Half (my #1 fan). Plus, I’m taking two days off from work to dedicate all my time to this glorious 4-day weekend with my soulmate.

mom

I’m grateful for my apartment. I’m constantly thankful for it, basically every time I return home after a long day. I feel endlessly lucky to live in New York City, and even more grateful to have a studio of my own. It’s warm, cozy, comfortable, and a symbol of my independence. I owe you all a video tour before moving in June!

I’m grateful for volunteering. I don’t talk about it much, but I’m currently a volunteer at an emergency department and recently started a second volunteering opportunity at a free clinic in the Bronx. Above being an incredibly rewarding experience, volunteering has allowed me to meet fascinating people. I’ve learned more about humans and human nature in the past few months than I have in all my time anywhere else.

♥ Irina

Frames From The Weekend 2/27/2015 – 3/1/2015

It felt so good to write “3/1/2015″ because that means March is finally here! Goodbye February, goodbye funk, hello spring! Ok so the February funk isn’t actually gone yet, I didn’t expect it to just disappear the moment I woke up on Sunday. But let me tell you…something is brewing within and I can feel little sparks of happiness come through more and more. I didn’t mention that I’ve also been struggling with the loss of my motivation, which is horrible because I have so much to do in preparation for this upcoming school year.

FFTW Winter2

 (Link up to ‘Frames From The Weekend’! Read the official “rules” here.)

I had a 6AM wakeup call on Saturday so of course that meant Friday evening was spent on the couch with trashy TV. Saturday morning started super early with my typical breakfast of avocado toast + eggs + coffee, followed by a trip up to the Bronx for a new volunteering opportunity at a free clinic! It’s going to sound so ignorant and privileged but can I just confess how nervous I was to go there? I used to be so fearless but age and experience (and my mom’s constant pestering) have turned me into a paranoid woman. WOMAN, that stands out to me in particular. Why must I, as a female, constantly worry about my safety? Why must I spend so much extra time and energy thinking through every step I take in a new place? Why must I deal with this stress? At a fundamental level, I fear men and I hate feeling this way. I have so much more to say about this, but I’ll let it be for now. End rant!

frames from the weekend

{So I already ranted enough about Saturday morning. The volunteering opportunity itself is amazing and I look forward to continuing it every weekend. I spent the entire train ride back to Manhattan debating on whether I was going to run that day or wait until tomorrow. The great debate raged on as I plowed through a sweet potato skillet & coffee for lunch and continued through two episodes of ‘Friends’ until I finally decided I had no choice – the 11 miler was happening. I was in a race against the sunset (no pun intended) and was super worried that my stomach would rebel against the huge lunch I had two hours prior. Luckily, my stomach was a trooper and my legs powered through the run at a speedy yet comfortable pace of 9:07 min/mile. I felt super strong and conquered each Central Park hill with ease. Peak week = success! Oh and that cheesy egg & avocado sandwich and the tomato chickpea soup with shrimp were two of the best things I ate all weekend.}

frames from the weekend

{I happily stayed in on Saturday – the last thing I wanted was to wake up exhausted and hungover on the first day of the new month. I wasn’t able to sleep in yesterday but I slept so well and woke up very happy knowing that I had absolutely nothing on Sunday’s agenda! Let’s ignore the fact that it snowed though, I’m pushing away all thoughts of winter because spring is right around the corner. I did sneak in a grocery trip, changed a high lightbulb all by myself (#independence yo), and made delicious vegan mini chocolate pies. I didn’t love the crust but the filling is soooo good, I think I’m obligated to share the recipe.}

I have another short week because my friends are coming to visit this upcoming weekend! One flies in on Thursday evening and the other on Friday morning. A third might even take the train in from Boston on Friday. I can’t wait for our wild NYC adventures together, sh*t’s about to get crayzay!

P.S. – #blackandblue or #whiteandgold ? I have to know! The first time I ever saw the photo of #TheDress I saw it as white & gold and thought it was all a joke as I read through the comments of people claiming it was black & blue. Like, duh the damn dress is white & gold people, is this a joke?! A few hours later I checked on social media again and saw a black & blue dress. Craziness! I never saw the white & gold version again. I guess the mystery is now solved, the mind is a powerful thing…

P.P.S. – To all my science/physics lovers out there (what, just me?), check out this article on an interesting new theory of the universe’s beginning (or lack of).

Ladies – do you worry excessively about your safety?

Are you able to run on a full stomach?

Team black & blue or white & gold?

♥ Irina

Beauty 101: Mint Matcha Green Tea Ice Cube Facial

* Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and am only sharing my own thoughts, experiences, and opinions. Please consult with a doctor before using any medicinal/herbal supplements or beauty products.

I think it’s safe to assume that approximately 75.58% of you have heard of the ice cube facial. For those who haven’t, read this article. For those who have, well, I’m here to step up the game and introduce you to the next level of ice cube facials.

Ice Cube Facial

Ice is a phenomenal (and quick!) way to prime your skin for the day. Not only does it reduce any puffiness and inflammation (us runners know this better than many), but it also refreshes the skin in ways that even some of the best facial creams cannot.

I truly believe in eating wholesome foods for optimal health, and do my best to steer clear of chemical-heavy beauty products for the same reason. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same foods going into my stomach also occasionally end up doubling up as DIY beauty products. Skin is an organ too after all, it deserves equal care and consideration!

Ice Cube Facial

Now let’s chat about some of these magical versatile foods! Green tea is a popular drink embraced by foodies, hipsters, and health nuts alike, but it can easily be used as an effective beauty aid. Yet we’re not stopping there…we only want the best for our skin! Enter: matcha green tea powder.

Matcha is a type of potent green tea. It’s been said that it has over 100 times the antioxidants of regular green tea. Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves that are later dried and ground into a fine powder.

Ice Cube Facial

So hopefully it’s now crystal clear why matcha powder is the perfect addition to any medicine cabinet. But why mint? This extraordinary herb provides much more than just a lovely smell! It serves it’s purpose as an exfoliant in this ice cube facial, but it also helps sooth the skin and reduce any lingering redness.

Ice Cube Facial

Green tea and mint and ice, oh my!

ice cube facial

What You’ll Need:
– 2 Tbs. matcha green tea powder
– 1 Tbs. dried & finely crushed mint leaves
– 2 cups warm water

Directions:
1.) Use a whisk to mix together all ingredients. Make sure that you use warm water to ensure the matcha powder doesn’t clump together.

2.) Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for at least 4 hours until completely frozen solid.

3.) Pop the cubes out of the tray as you would with regular ice. Run the back of the tray under hot water for a few seconds if the ice cubes are difficult to remove.

4.) When ready to use: simply gently rub the ice cube around your face in a circular motion! Focus on your acne-prone areas, blackheads, under-eye circles, and any wrinkles. Use the top portion of the ice cube to gently scrub your skin, the bottom portion to exfoliate rough patches, and the middle smoother portion for calming relief. Take a look at the image below for more details.

Ice Cube Facial

The best part of this facial-in-the-palm-of-your-hand is that physics + gravity make it the perfect 3-in-1 tool. How cool is that?!? No pun intended…

Ice Cube Facial

After completely frozen, I prefer to remove the ice cubes from the tray and store them in a plastic baggie in the freezer. This way they’re quick and easy to grab every morning! Yes, it’s safe to ice once a day.

Ice Cube Facial

Fair warning – this facial can and will get messy! I suggest covering up your clothes with a towel and staying close to the sink to catch all drips.

Ice Cube Facial

Useful Tips:
– Don’t use an ice cube directly from the freezer! It can damage the sensitive capillaries in your skin. Allow the ice cube to sit for a few minutes before using.
– Be gentle with the skin below the eyes…dark circles are not pretty but hurting the sensitive skin is worse!
– If you can’t handle holding the ice cube directly, hold it with a plastic bag or paper towel to prevent frostbite
– Avoid icing for more than 10-15 minutes

I hope you love this simple DIY beauty trick as much as I do!

♥ Irina

My 2015 Inspiration Board

Creating a yearly Inspiration Board has become a tradition of mine since January 2013.

My past Inspiration Boards and one year later reviews:
2013 Inspiration Board
2013 Inspiration Board: One Year Later
2014 Inspiration Board
2014 Inspiration Board: One Year Later

Have you ever heard the mayonnaise jar story? This year I approached my 2015 Inspiration Board with this story subconsciously guiding my planning. I first focused on the most important aspects of my life – my family, my friends, myself – and used up as much space as needed on the poster board. I then moved on to the next priority and built it around priority #1. After that I proceeded onto the next priority in my life, and so on until the entire board was filled.

2015 Inspiration Board

And then, when I stepped back and evaluated my masterpiece, a few truths became apparent. My priorities this year will focus on those closest to my heart, especially my family, and the continuation of making NYC feel like home (especially because I’ll be moving mid-year). School tied in closely with these importances. Together these three aspects took up over half of the board. The remaining open space was filled with typical areas of focus – running, health, beauty, and travel. But the main difference I noticed was how much cleaner and more refined my Inspiration Board was overall. It seems that every year I’m de-cluttering my life more and more as I pinpoint what truly matters. It’s a beautiful thing.

~Relationships: Family, Friends, Myself, Romance~

relationships

{ * continue building stronger relationship with my parents * spend more time with my sister * travel somewhere with my sister * have weekly phone dates with my besties * stop screening phone calls * rekindle old friendships * travel with friends * learn to better control anxiety when it hits * love all aspects of my body * live outside of the rules * never settle for anything or anyone * be open to love * date fearlessly * avoid introverted ruts * live in the day * }

I am wide open to love this year – giving and receiving. The older I get the more I realize just how much my relationships mean to me. My family is truly my whole world. Distance has made me even more appreciative of the infinite dedication my parents have, their sacrifices make me burst with love and gratitude. My sister and I continue to grow closer. This year will bring huge changes for her as well, and I’m determined to strengthen our relationship despite the distance. My friends and I grew much closer last year as well, and I’m looking forward to our reunions together all over the United States. Now onto myself – I spent quite some time in January really thinking about the qualities of myself that I either wanted to develop further or drop. In short, I want to mellow down a bit and tame my wild ways. I’m a woman now and I’ll be turning 27 this year. It’s time to get my sh*t together and build on that powerful feeling that’s been brewing within. But because I’ve already reached the point where I can confidently say that I love myself, I can now safely move on to allow external love into my life. I’m putting the intention out into the universe – I’m open to love, I’m willing to give good men a chance, I’ll put the effort into dating.

~NYC & Social Life~

NYC

{ * find a great new NYC apartment * forget the fomo * explore New York City * meet new people * find a balance between introverted and extroverted tendencies * embrace a social life * avoid alcohol * choose sleep over partying * manage my finances closely * learn to live on a budget * grow my blog* }

I spent a few weeks pondering over this particular section of my Inspiration Board. My thoughts ranged from partying it up all year to completely cutting out alcohol and wild nights out. I still haven’t made a decision and probably won’t (just go with the flow yo), but I’m leaning towards the less scandalous side of the spectrum. 2014 was a wild year for me – I feel like I truly embraced my social life and the opportunities it brought. This year, I don’t have that same urge to let my hair loose and go crazy although those nights will certainly still happen. But because I also don’t want to turn into a hermit who doesn’t take advantage of glorious Manhattan, I’m going to do my best at balancing social life with other priorities. Along with strengthening my current friendships here, I want to expand out of my social circle and continue meeting wonderful men and women who help make me a better person. And finally, I want to grow my blog! It’s becoming a fun little side project that I have big plans for in the near future.

~School~

school

{ * conquer school * get great grades (A’s please!) * find research opportunities * continue volunteering * stay focused on the final prize * avoid burnout * }

I haven’t spilled the details on school yet and won’t until May (gotta wait, sorry!), but school takes top priority, second only to family/friends. My studies will soon become my main focus and it’s crucial for me to get great grades…no exceptions. There are many other aspects that tie into school – volunteering, research, etc. – that I need to dedicate additional significant time and effort to. It’ll be difficult to get back into school mode after being out of school for four years, but I’ll survive.

~Running~

running

{ * conquer the half marathon * make running a habit * start strength training * train smarter * avoid injuries * }

After some extreme indecisiveness regarding a 2015 marathon, I decided to postpone it to 2016. Instead, I’ll be participating in the New York Road Runners 9+1 Program, which will give me guaranteed entry into the 2016 NYC Marathon! Other perks = guaranteed entry into the 2015 NYC Half Marathon and the opportunity to run half marathons and other races in all 5 boroughs! In other words, I’ll focus primarily on running shorter distances. I want to conquer the half marathon and beat my PR. I want to gain strength and run injury-free. I want to make running a true habit and eventually increase it to 4 days per week. And perhaps most difficult of all – I want to finally add in some cross-training!

~Beauty & Fashion~

beauty & fashion

{ * shop smarter * choose quality over quantity * buy investment pieces * embrace my personal style * take better care of my skin * experiment with hair and makeup * }

Instead of bombarding this section with a bunch of random images of clothes / shoes / makeup, I focused on minimalism. I’m a hoarder at heart but quickly learned to embrace minimalism after moving to NYC (AKA no closet space). I now focus on purchasing timeless quality pieces that can be worn for many years. This year I hope to add a few classic pieces into my closet – black pumps, a large black purse, and a trench coat – I’m willing to $pend what’s needed for the quality I desire. In short, I want to experiment with my clothes while remaining true to my own personal style. Part of this exploration also features hair and makeup – I’m having a bit of a love affair with my long hair at the moment and cannot wait to start styling it in fun new ways. At 26.5 years old, it’s also time I start caring more for my skin. This means more sleep, less drinking, night creams, and whatever else I research about soon.

~Health~

health

{ * establish a grocery budget * shop organic * eat wholesome foods * stick to simplicity * experiment with cooking and baking * snack less, eat more * }

Health is much more than just eating wholesome foods. While the images above mainly focus on food, I want this year to be one of simplicity as it related to both food and overall well-being. My approach to food changed significantly last year – I brought meat back into my diet, focused on savory breakfasts, and got back in-tune with my body – and I plan to keep the momentum going. I’ll soon start living on a student’s budget but I want to do everything in my power to continue shopping organic. My mental health is equally, if not more, important than physical well-being. It’s undoubtably going to be a challenging year and I don’t want to make the same mistakes I once did that broke me down.

~Travel & Exploration~

travel

{ * travel to another state * explore New York * take a staycation with friends * travel abroad * }

For whatever reason this was the last part of the board that I focused on, and it ended up taking up the least amount of space as well. But that doesn’t mean this year will be light on travel! In fact, it’s going to be quite the opposite – I have tentative plans to visit Seattle and New Orleans in the summer, and I’ll *hopefully* go to India for a close friend’s wedding at the end of the year! I’m not sure whether a beach vacation will be on the agenda this year, but I definitely want to take a few staycations and travel to local beaches and national parks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So you see, the love in my life (in the form of family, friends, self-love, and the possibility of exploring dating / relationships) takes up the most space in my heart. If I start with less important desires, such as fashion or even too much focus on eating habits, there would be no room for the important things. These are the things that keep my life full even if I don’t fill in the remaining open spaces with triviality. For this reason, I choose to focus on those everything that will enrich my life and make me a better person.

Cheers to an incredible 2015!

♥ Irina