S Vosmim Martom!

Translation: Happy March 8th!

And why am I so excited about this day, you may ask?

Well, today is International Women’s Day throughout Eastern and Western Europe. This year it’s extra special because it’s the 100th anniversary of the holiday!

So why is this day important?

Started in 1911, IWD celebrates the accomplishments and progress of women politically, economically, and socially.

Here is was the International Women’s Day website has to say:

“The International Women’s Day Centenary should make the women of past proud, the women of current inspired, and the women of the future envisioned. Women have made great strides in equality yet there is still a great deal to be achieved on many fronts and the 2011 IWD Centenary will provide a unique and global opportunity to reignite, inspire and channel women’s equality for the future.”

Sadly, the United States does not acknowledge this day, but it is starting to catch on! In fact, President Barack Obama even declared this March to be “Women’s History Month.” Progress baby!!!

I have fond memories of this day throughout my life. Every year, my dad always brings flowers home for the ladies of the house. My senior year of high school, a fellow Russian student brought 2 dozen roses to school and handed them out to girls all day. Such respect and kindness really leave a lasting impression.

Ladies, today is the day to be proud to be a woman! Go pamper yourself, treat yourself to some shopping, or even buy yourself flowers. Today is about YOU!

Gentlemen, show the ladies some love! This ain’t no Valentine’s Day, this is a day to be grateful for all of the strong beautiful women in your life: moms, sisters, daughters, wives, girlfriends, aunts, grandmothers. Tell them how much you value and respect them, and maybe throw in a bouquet of flowers as an added bonus.

I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many strong and persevering women in my life. Just to name a few:

Mom: Growing up in Russia, starting a family, and then suddenly moving to America has molded my mom into the incredible woman she is today. Her life has been filled with obstacles that one only hears about but never experiences, and the life that she helped establish for my sister and I is truly remarkable. I love you mommy!

Sasha (sister): Having to move to America at 12 years old with no prior knowledge of the English language and no friends to have as comfort, the difficulties my sister has experienced in her early years have taught her many valuable lessons. She learned to appreciate her life and belongs, and her love towards family and friends has always guided me in the right direction. We are sistahs for life!

Christina and Anya (my two best friends): Two of the most beautiful people I know. Both are so different yet so similar in many ways, and without them being the two musketeers in our three musketeer bond, I would not be where I am today. ~BFF~

Despite waking up excited for this holiday, I’ll admit that Tuesday (and Thursday) mornings are my least favorite of the entire week. Why? Two words: 8am class. AKA 6am wake-up call. AKA exhaustion all day. Don’t get me wrong- all summer while working I woke up at 5:30 every morning. It’s just that with school it somehow feels more torturous.

Yesterday morning I had some coffee left over, and instead of pouring it out I had the brilliant idea of refrigerating it and making a decadent breakfast with it the following morning.

No one, especially not me, wants to spend half an hour in the wee hours of the day slaving over a hot stove making breakfast. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and simplify my morning by attempting (for the first time) overnight oatmeal.

I believe I first came across the idea of overnight oatmeal on Angela’s website Oh She Glows. Eager to try out this unique breakfast, I devised a recipe that would serve as a little perk-me-up this morning.

And what did I come up with? See below…

COFFEE CAKE OVERNIGHT OATS
(Vegetarian, Vegan)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

-1/4 cup cold brewed coffee

-1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (beware if using sweetened!)

-1/8 tsp. ground coffee

-2 tsp. maple syrup

-1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

-1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

-1 Tbs. Chia Seeds

Directions:

1.) Combine all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. They will be ready in the morning!

Honestly, I was wary with this recipe. The idea of coffee in my oatmeal was exciting and scary at the same time.

However, one bite and I was in love with the taste. The sweetness was not overwhelming and the coffee taste was subtle yet noticeable. Better yet, the aroma was absolutely divine (think: vanilla latte).

My take on overnight oats? I was not a huge fan of the coldness combined with oats. The texture felt a little off to me, and it is probably something that requires some time to grow on you. I’ll stick to hot oatmeal for now.

This recipe is definitely worth a try though if you’re a bit adventurous and dangerously sleepy every morning.

*UPDATE #1: Day 2 of Lent has been successful thus far (*knock on wood*). I did put my fingers in my mouth a couple of times both yesterday and today with my teeth baring and ready to rip me off some nail, but I immediately stopped myself! Now that’s what I call self-control.

*UPDATE #2: What nice thing will I be doing for myself today? Giving my body a much needed stretch! Hmm I’m thinking Yoga…

Have a great International Women’s Day! Make it count!

“Be proud of who you are.”

♥ Irina

Happy Monday!

For me it has not been the best start to the week. I am still feeling the after-effects of the eventful (and not to mention draining) weekend. I feel sluggish and groggy, not only from the consumption of alcohol on Friday but also from the abundance of unhealthy food consumed all weekend.

So this morning I decided to start the week off fresh and clean with a delicious bowl of OATMEAL! Duh.

The carrot cake oatmeal recipe has been stalking me for quite some time already…I’ve been seeing it everywhere! This morning I woke up and instantly made up my mind- today was the day I was going to attempt making this mysterious concoction.

One word, two syllables: SUC-CESS.

Check it out!

CARROT CAKE OATMEAL
(Vegetarian, Vegan)

Ingredients:

-1/3 cup organic old-fashioned oats

-1 cup finely grated carrots

-3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)

-1/8 tsp. ground cloves

-1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

-1 Tbs. ground flax seed

-1 Tbs. maple syrup or honey (can be adjusted to taste)

-1 Tbs. coconut butter or oil (basically the same thing)

-shredded coconut to sprinkle on top

Directions:

1.) Combine all ingredients except for the shredded coconut in a small pot. Stir well.

2.) Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for ~10 minutes or until oatmeal is thick and soft. The cooking time will be much less if you are using quick-cooking oats. If the consistency of the oatmeal is too dry, simply add more liquid.

3.) Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with shredded coconut, and enjoy!

So SIMPLE!

Suggestion: sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top as well! I forgot to…

It has such a bright and beautiful color to it, so refreshing to see in the morning! I feel healthier and happier just looking at this picture!

So as I mentioned last night, today is Day 1 of Lent. It’s settled: I’m giving up nail-biting for Lent. Let me just tell you, this is not the first time I’ve made this sacrifice.

I believe that it is very important for people to always strive towards being the best they can be. Stepping out of your comfort zone, working towards dropping a bad habit- those are all sacrifices. With sacrifices only then can you learn true appreciation.

So to me, eliminating my nail-biting habit is a sacrifice, but it’s a good one.

It’s true. I’ve been a nail-biter my entire life. My mom has been a nail-biter her entire life. Like mother, like daughter. Thanks mom. My sister got lucky and escaped this addiction.

Believe it or not, my nails are shorter than a man’s nails. Seeing that tiny bit of white at the tip of the nail triggers something in me and I immediately MUST chew it off. Ugh it’s awful!

So today is Day 1 of not biting my nails. So far so good!

Later that morning, I spoke with my sister and we thought of a cute idea to do together for these next 40 days of Lent. We decided that everyday we must do something nice for ourselves. It must be something unique and positive…no negativity allowed!

It is so important to love and pamper yourself. Many times, doing something generous and kind for yourself is as lovely and gratifying as having someone else do it for you.

Remember, your first and last love is self-love.

So today I am going to give myself a manicure as encouragement for my non-nail-biting adventure.

I gotta feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good good night.

“Patience gives the power to practice; practice gives the power that leads to perfection.”

♥ Irina

Today is a very special day in Russia known as Maslenitsa. It signifies the end of a week long festival that celebrates the ending of winter and the start of spring. Since it takes place the day before the start of Lent, Maslenitsa is a time for great feasting, as Lent prohibits the consumption of meat and dairy.

The holiday’s name comes from the Russian word “maslo” meaning butter. Russian pancakes, more popularly known as blini or crepes, are the traditional food made on this wonderful holiday. And, of course, butter is one of the main components. It is said that the beautiful round, golden pancakes symbolize the warm sun and the imminent coming of Spring.

I honestly would have forgotten that today was Maslenitsa had my mom not reminded me :/

BOOM. Instant homesickness.

And to make matters worse (and more depressing), apparently Anya and her mom came over to my house to eat blini and Borsht (a traditional Russian beet soup) with my parents.

SO. JEALOUS.

All I could think about was how much I would have loved to be sitting around the kitchen table with the people that I love, eating my mom’s amazing blini topped with caviar and other goodies, drinking tea, and just enjoying life.

Oh it’s times like these that I will never outgrow no matter how old I am, and I’m totally fine with that. Home truly is where the heart is <3

So to make myself feel a bit better, I decided to take part in the festivities instead of miserably moping around.

I am quite the health freak, so I decided to make a healthier version of blini using whole wheat flour and no dairy/eggs.

Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner huh?

The result? An immediate homesickness remedy!

RUSSIAN WHOLE WHEAT BLINI
(vegetarian, customizable vegan)

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

-1 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy milk)

-2 tsp. honey*

-1/2 tsp. baking powder

-1/2 tsp. baking soda

-1 tsp. vanilla extract

-pinch of salt

*to make vegan: use maple syrup or other vegan sweetener

Topping/Filling Ideas:

*caviar (YUM my favorite)

*jam

*fresh fruit with honey/maple syrup

*butter and a sprinkle of sugar

*Nutella (another favorite of mine…soon I’ll show you how to make a homemade version!)

*peanut butter and banana slices

Directions:

1.) Coat a 12″ skillet with cooking spray and preheat on medium heat (do not turn up the heat too high as it will make your life much more difficult when making the blini).

2.) Combine all ingredients and whisk together.

*NOTE: Don’t worry if the batter looks too liquidy, the thinner the blini are the better they taste! I used a 1-to-2 flour-to-liquid ratio, but if your blini are too thin to even flip over and are falling apart, then add more flour as needed.

3.) Use a soup ladle to carefully pour batter onto the skillet while simultaneously moving the skillet around to spread the batter.

4.) Allow to cook until little bubbles start forming on the surface (about 1-2 min). Use a spatula to carefully flip the pancake and allow to cook for another 2 or so minutes.

5.) Transfer onto a plate and allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

I’ll be completely honest with you, I had a very hard time achieving the right consistency. I must have made 3-4 batches before I approved the taste and consistency of the blini.

Have fun with the recipe! Mess around with it and see what the outcome is! This is a great basic recipe that has so much potential for unique adjustments, so be creative!

Bubbles can be seen forming on the surface, indicating that it is time to flip the crepe!

This must have been from my second batch. The blini had better consistency but were still pretty thick.

FAIL.

Hey, practice makes perfect right?!?

In the end? Sweet sweet success.

I topped my blini off with some fresh blueberries for a light night-time snack.

Hmm so now that I calmed my homesickness, my mind is clear enough to think about what I want to give up for Lent starting tomorrow. It needs to be somewhat of a sacrifice- in other words, something that would be difficult to be without for the 40 days of “fasting.” Traditionally, people give up meat and dairy, but I would prefer something more personal and meaningful to me (I barely eat meat and dairy anyway).

Any suggestions?

“You only give when you love.”

♥ Irina

WOW. Friday was INSANE. A great reminder of how much I LOVE college. Love love love. There is honestly nothing like a bunch of people all dressed in green, flooding the streets in mobs, drinking all day (many started at 8am!).

I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that nothing compares to the college experience. Even more so, nothing can match our school’s Unofficial holiday. Apparently, it was started by one of the bar owners here on campus as a way to bring in extra revenue and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (since the actual St. Patties Day always falls on our Spring Break).

The holiday took off immediately and quickly established itself as a yearly occasion. The students look forward to it all year, and the professors and local police dread it all year.

Of course, being a senior, I was determined to make my final Unofficial absolutely amazing. Anya’s last-minute unplanned visit definitely helped make it perfect!

We started our day at 8am with some green eggs and toast. Part of the tradition is what is called “Kegs n’ Eggs” where people gather bright and early to drink green beer and eat green eggs and pancakes.

We wanted to be healthy so we used spinach to color the eggs.

It might not look too appetizing but trust me, the breakfast was fantastic! We added mushrooms and avocado chunks for an extra flavor boost.

Afterwards, it was already 11am and we wasted no more time and immediately met up with friends to get the party started.

See…we’re being good girls and drinking orange juice *wink wink*

It really is exhausting to stay out all day, so naturally, nap time soon followed around 3pm.

5pm- We woke up and out we went again! This time we paid a little visit to my fellow engineers’ apartment and continued our all-day outing with full force.

My fingers look freakishly long! Kinda ew…

Unofficial is a casual-dress holiday- people usually make their own t-shirts and wear them around all day. My friend designed the shirt that I was wearing. It was adorable! On the front it said “Do the pretty girl shot shot shot” and on the back it said “Unofficial 2011 We are who we are.”

Yes, as you can see I completely decked myself out in green!

The remainder of the night consisted of us going to a local bar and literally dancing for ohhh ummmm 4 HOURS STRAIGHT! Anya and I looovee to dance so we made the most of it.

Oh boy was I sore the next day (still am)…my entire body got quite the workout from all of that dancing.

Overall, I would call the day a success! Anya had a blast and loved experiencing what most people know as “the college experience.”

To me, college is not about the parties and the drinking (I barely do either since school keeps me incredibly busy), although those are still a blast! It’s about spending time with old and new friends, making memories, and always remembering how blessed you are to have the opportunity to live carefree for the greatest 4 years of your life.

I am so lucky to have had the greatest and most valuable 4 years yet.

But as they say…the best is yet to come.

“Don’t sleep counting sheep. Count blessings, then sleep.”

♥ Irina