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

Don’t even think about reminding me that I haven’t blogged in three weeks, I’m doing my best…except not really. I’ve been here and there and everywhere during this time, but I truly have no excuses for my absence.

My biggest adventure during this time was a trip to Colorado to reunite with my sister. It was an awesome trip, albeit one filled with sleepless nights and basically everyone catching a cold.

We spent time in Denver and in Vail, where we basically went from 70 degrees down to the low 30s! I’m still working on a recap post so stay tuned.

Other that this adventure, not much else has been going on in life. My friends and I went to Glazed Expressions recently, a BYOB painting studio, where we let loose our inner artist. I was pretty ambitious with my project, and it turned out shockingly well.

Here’s the before:

And here’s after it was glazed to perfection:

I know right?!? Even I’m surprised at how legit it looks. I totally want to return and do bowls painted as other fruits – oranges, lemons, etc. By the way this wasn’t my original idea…I have Pinterest to thank for the inspiration.

I also embraced my inner baker and whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffin vegan breakfast cookies, which were beyond delicious even though I replaced the dried blueberries with raisins.

I also had a craving for soft pretzels and ended up improvising using whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods. This dough is super rubbery and instantly shrinks, so my pretzels came out looking small and weird but tasted great regardless.

Now let’s talk running! I haven’t done any interval training since Valentine’s Day, and I finally dragged myself out to the lake. I was just not feeling it at all and ultimately ended up doing only 4 x 400m instead of the planned 6 x 400m. But I was incredibly pleased to discover that I ran these about 10 seconds faster than when I did them exactly one month ago! I love seeing progress, it’s so encouraging and it inspires me to keep pushing my limits (within reason of course).

4 x 400m Interval Workout (~3 min rest between each interval)
warmup: 0.25 miles in 2:05 min (8:12 min/mile)
interval 1: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
interval 2: 1:32 min (6:06 min/mile)
interval 3: 1:38 min (6:22 min/mile)
interval 4: 1:34 min (6:12 min/mile)
cool-down: 0.25 miles in 2:20 min (9:04 min/mile)

I’ve also continued strength training, with a focus on squats + lunges + hip strength, and I’m almost certain this has contributed to my running gains. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such rapid (and visible) muscle definition in my legs, and I fully attribute this to doing weighted squats and lunges multiple times a week. Here are some of my most recent runs outside (I run so much slower on a treadmill and don’t keep track of those):

2/16/2017 – 2 miles: 18:03 min @ 9:00 min/mile
2/20/2017 – 3 miles: 26:28 min @ 8:48 min/mile
2/27/2017 – 4 miles: 34:51 min @ 8:42 min/mile
3/4/2017 – 4 miles: 36:30 min @ 9:06 min/mile

These numbers may not seem like much to many people but I’m incredibly proud of myself! I’m thrilled to see that I didn’t lose too much fitness during the two months I took off after the NYC Marathon, and I cannot wait to start formally training in 1.5 weeks for my half marathon. My half marathon PR is over 3 years old, it’s time for a new one.

That’s all I have for today, happy Tuesday!

♥ Irina

It’s Monday, yay! Just kidding, Mondays are never exciting. I hope everyone had a great weekend! I certainly did. I’m not sure what is happening with the weather lately but I’m not complaining at.all. 40 degrees in February? And possibly reaching the 50s and 60s next weekend? Um, yes please.

This weekend featured a casual Friday and a wild-ish Saturday. My friends and I started our night early at a fun tiki bar called Lost Lake, which featured fancy tropical drinks in awesome mugs.

One was even on fire!

Our large group stayed there for a few hours sipping our drinks and slurping up instant ramen noodles (we were starving and that’s all they had) and then we transferred to another local bar. Eventually we all made it back to the city center and danced all night at Joy District followed by Cuvée. I know I know, it was a super bougie night apparently (that’s how the River North area is in general) but we always have a great time there and I not-so-secretly love it!

I “accidentally” ended up staying out until the wee hours of the morning again and still woke up early for absolutely no good reason. By some miracle I dragged myself out to run along the lake – 4 miles with a 8:52 min/mile pace. The wind was INSANE the first half of the run, and it completely wore me down to the point that I had to take a short break at the halfway point to catch my breath. I hit up the gym immediately after and attempted to do squats and lunges, but my glutes were so sore from Thursday’s workout that I had to give up after only 2 sets!

While we’re on the subject of running, I tried out the new Brooks PureCadence 6’s and ugh. I don’t think I like how they feel! I’m so bummed because they are absolutely beautiful and by far the most attractive version I’ve seen. But for some reason they press on the top of my left foot and seemingly aggravate my mysterious injury. So I’m probably going to return them, and I already ordered a second pair of the PureCadence 5’s.

The rest of my Sunday was mellow – I hung out at home and watched the Grammy’s. Beyonce slayed. As usual. I thought her entire performance was so unique and beautiful and she totally rocked her belly. She reminded me of a fertility goddess. Sigh…#goals

I have my weekly Bachelor viewing with my girls tonight, which is my guilty pleasure and I adore it. And tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and for the first time in five years I’m not riding solo. And then I’m flying to Denver on Wednesday to visit the sis and my precious little niece for a few days! Cheers to a great week ahead.

Valentine’s Day plans?

Who watched the Grammy’s? Thoughts? Best and worst dressed?

♥ Irina

Hello again! Yes I’m actually back and trying extra hard to maintain this blogging habit. I truly missed this little old internet space of mine. So let’s just jump right into it, shall we? Chicago. Yes hello I live here now. My studio is perfection and I cannot imagine having to move out of this dream apartment anytime soon. I mean…check out this view:

Chicago

Yup, it’s magical and makes me happy daily. The studio is huge too, at least twice as big as my Manhattan one. Here’s a photo of the living space:

Chicago apartment

Chicago apartment

The hallway (not pictured) extends quite far back, the kitchen is fully updated, the bathroom is great, and there is so much closet space. My building even has a gym (yessssssss) and a pool. And to top it all off, the rent is significantly cheaper than what it was in NYC, even here in the Gold Coast (for those who don’t know, it’s a neighborhood in Chicago). What is this magical midwestern city with cheap rent and fancy yet affordable buildings in upscale neighborhoods?!?

I’ve been on the go since moving back in early December. Suddenly there is so much to do and so many people to see and I love every moment of it. I attended some holiday event a few days after moving in and savored the fact that I now live downtown and my travel time to meet up with my ladies is a few short minutes.

holiday party

I magically saw the holiday train the same week I moved back:

holiday train

And it was just as cool as expected.

holiday train

The best part is that I no longer have to feel major FOMO when I see my friends all getting together because I can now join in on all the fun!

holiday party

One of my friends threw a Christmas/holiday party and it was basically a reunion of our India crew, plus the parents.

holiday party

Ah I can’t believe my trip to India was a year ago, how is that possible?! It’s still one of the best trips I’ve ever taken and I hope to make it back there at some point in the near future.

Anyway, let’s see what else… I got to reunite with two of my old college roommates! Here’s a classic polaroid of me, my sophomore/junior year roomie, and her friend:

friends

We cute.

New Year’s Eve was surprisingly fun, despite my hatred for it. We bought tickets to a bar in Lakeview that hosted a wig party. Apparently they later cancelled the wig theme of the event, but we all chose to embrace it.

New Year's Eve

Now I’m dying to dye my hair red (pun totally intended) because I felt like a bombshell that night.

New Year's Eve

My closest high school friends and I did our annual Secret Santa gift exchange a few days into the new year.

Secret Santa potluck

Our menu featured a homemade Italian potluck followed by adventures out and about in the city.

Another highlight has been my official return to running! I took exactly 2 months off after the NYC Marathon, mainly from fear and subtle/lingering foot pain that never really went away, but I knew I couldn’t stay away forever.

running

This was my first run back at the start of this month, and it felt surprisingly great! I thought I would be completely out of shape and unable to run even 1 mile, but my fitness has been excellent. I’m slowly (key word SLOWLY) building up my mileage and running around 2 miles, 3 times per week. I’ve finally added strength training into my routine, as well as basic exercises for runners to keep my hips/knees/ankles healthy (squats with weights, one-legged squats, clamshells, plank, etc.). I’m not sure if it’s the added strength training or just my excitement to be back pounding the pavement (or treadmill, whatever), but I’ve been knocking out paces in the high 8’s low 9’s without too much trouble.

My first outdoor run took place in 55-degree weather (in Chicago, in January, yup), and I ran 2 miles with a 8:37 min/mile pace. This view probably helped:

Chicago

This past Sunday I ran 3 miles, my longest distance yet, with a 8:24 min/mile pace and it was awesome. I’m really hoping to finally focus on my speed this year, and this feels quite encouraging.

Ok I got a bit off topic because I love running so much. Before I end this random extra-long blog post I wanted to show you these pretty photos from two weeks ago. A few of my old coworkers from Spain and Argentina were in town and I reunited with one of them, who just so happens to also be a close friend. We spent an entire day playing tourist and eventually made our way to the Millennium Park ice rink:

Millennium Park

We also went up to Cindy’s Rooftop for (pricey) drinks and incredible views:

Cindy's Rooftop

You must go there if you’re in Chicago!

These are just some of the wonderful adventures I’ve had since moving back to Chicago. Even the most casual happenings have made me exceptionally happy lately – cozy visits home to see my parents and cat, weekly Monday night Bachelor viewings, last-minute happy hours and dinners with friends, impromptu movie nights turned Cards Against Humanity marathons – the list goes on and on. Damn, it feels good to be back.

♥ Irina