So here we are! It’s December 31st, the last day of the year, and it’s time to review my progress on all those hopes / dreams / goals / intentions set for 2014. I can confidently say that this past year has been one of the best, if not the best, of my life. I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds without really trying. I simply let life do its thing and almost blindly followed along with my instinct as validation.

P.S – check out my Frames From The Year post for 2014!

Inspiration Boards Through The Years:
2013 Inspiration Board
2013 Inspiration Board: One Year Later
2014 Inspiration Board

Back in early January, I sat down and created an inspiration board for the upcoming year. Seeing all the things I wanted out of life was a great way to put my intentions into perspective while pushing out aspects that might’ve not been a top priority. Life is not about crowding in endless goals but about focusing on what truly matters.

2014 inspiration board

So let’s see how I did, shall we? Note: original resolutions are in pink

~ NYC Life ~

NYC Life

{ * develop my life in NYC * meet new friends * explore the city * establish close, lasting friendships with females * venture out of my comfort zone * take (smart) risks * be limitless and fearless * manage my finances better * establish stability * socialize daily * say ‘yes’ more * embrace independence without isolation * avoid stay-at-home ruts * find the middle ground between my introvert & extrovert self * accept more dates * }

I started the new year in New York on a slightly negative note – the winter blues struck hard and I didn’t have any local close friends to help melt away the occasional icy sadness. But this all changed when I took matters into my own hands and actively pursued new friendships (see this post for great advice). My focus was to first develop fulfilling female friendships, because what is a male-filled life without some great girlfriends to vent about dating to? I’m happy to say that I’ve met some of the most wonderful ladies here in the Big Apple and couldn’t be happier! I even started dating near the end of this year, which was honestly unintentional but welcomed nonetheless. Boy toys are fun, amIright?!? Overall, I finally feel like a young woman (and not some childish girl) – sexy, unstoppable, intelligent, and happy. And New York, oh New York, I adore it more with each passing day!

~ Health ~


{ * get back in-tune with my body * add variety into my diet * embrace wholesome foods * continue shopping organic but add in more local purchases * focus on balance and moderation * eat to live (not vis-versa) * find what foods make me feel best * establish a proper runner’s palate * honor my cravings * balance my hormones * drink less alcohol * explore the food culture of NYC * manage my grocery budget * }

The biggest turning point in my relationship with food was the start of the breakfast challenge (part 2, part 3, part 4) which made me realize that my body thrives on savory breakfasts. The honest truth is that I am currently at my heaviest weigh ever. While I’m certainly not heavy by any means, I know my body well enough to realize that this is not where it naturally wants to be. I’m learning to be more accepting while the slow and painful process of eliminating odd food-addiction thoughts takes place internally. But it hasn’t been all bad though! I’ve undeniably enjoyed every single meal across Manhattan and its exceptional food culture. Don’t ask me about my grocery budget or alcohol consumption goals though…I kind of ignored those goals for the sake of my own happiness!

~ Happiness ~


{ * find what makes me happy * shift away from superficial happiness (materialism) * focus on joy-inducing hobbies (running, blogging, reading, writing, baking) * read more books * travel out of the country * visit new U.S. cities * take more spontaneous trips * travel somewhere solo * explore the East Coast * take more staycations in NYC * feel beautiful inside and out * stress less about the future and focus more on day-to-day life * never settle for good enough * }

Once again, travel was put on the back-burner while I continued to enjoy each day spent in my beloved New York City. I set an intention at the start of the year – “The intention here is to mold NYC into my life instead of molding my life into NYC standards” – and I can declare with certainty that I accomplished this with ease. Manhattan is a city of extremes and you truly need to love it to live here in peace. This year I’ve learned that, as cutthroat as NYC can be, the city is certainly not as difficult to survive in as many make it out to be. You need to truly have the desire to build a life here, and all else will fall into place. As for travel, I went on an awesome vacation to Aruba (part 1, part 2) with my parents but failed to travel within the U.S.A. Blogging had its ups and downs, as did running, but overall I made my hobbies a higher priority this past year. The true highlight was a mid-year revelation (or epiphany) of my true calling in life. Sadly, I have to hold off sharing the details on this blog until much later next year for privacy purposes, but I promise I’ll spill as soon as I can!

~ Running ~


{ * establish a running habit * focus on strength and agility * include weekly speedwork * add in cross-training * get faster * avoid injuries * run smarter (listen to my body) * conquer the half marathon * experiment with minimalist running * }

Despite not planning on conquering a full 26.2 mile distance, I ended up suddenly registering for the Hartford Marathon and totally kicking a$$ despite endless rain during the race. All other running goals fell wayside as I focused on training for the marathon for six full months. I undeniably got slower this year (possibly because of my higher weight) but I still take great pride in my running accomplishments this year. I even set a new 5K PR during the Memorial Day Ice Cream Social! Strength and cross-training were a part of my life for the first half of 2014 until I ultimately decided to quit the gym for good…with a smile on my face. Sadly, injuries are still a part of my running life and I’m doing my best to heal them for good.

~ Family, Friends, and I ~

Family, Friends, and I

{ * focus primarily on my family and our relationships/attitudes * spend more time with my sister * continue maintaining all friendships * reconnect with old friends * build lasting relationships * give more, take less * be open to love * continue focusing on self-love * never fear failure or starting over * go back to basics with who I am and always was as a person * }

Whether it be with family or friends, the theme of the year was friendship. As an introvert, I have the tendency to push my relationships aside for the sake of my own sanity when things get tough. Luckily, this wasn’t the case for 2014. Not only did I acquire wonderful new friendships on the east coast, but I also did a great job at maintaining those precious old friendships back home in the midwest. With each new experience I actively made an effort to learn something about myself, be it big or small. At the start of this year I stated the following: “I tend to make rash decisions and enjoy this quality of my personality, but I’m reaching the point in my life where some big decisions need additional attention.” Interestingly enough (and unexpectedly so), I made a huge life decision in June that addressed this quarter-life crisis head-on. It was a record year of growth and self-development.


I don’t intend for this to sound pessimistic, but I suspect this year will be a tough one” – This quote stood out to me when I went back and reread what I wrote almost an entire year ago. I can’t quite recall why I felt this way but my secret concern was glaringly obvious. The takeaway here is that optimism prevails. One should never set a certain mindset in stone because it could take up space where bigger and better things can otherwise reside. In a similar manner, I have a feeling that 2015 will be tough but I refuse to let that thought guide me in the upcoming months. The challenges that I’ll encounter will be blessings in disguise…how’s that for optimism?!

♥ Irina

Dear 2014, you’re officially my favorite year yet! I didn’t have high hopes on January 1st but was completely proven wrong. Seriously, these past twelve months have been life-changing. It was my first full year in New York and I continue to fall more in love with the city daily. It sounds like an exaggeration but I truly mean it with all my heart. Life has been so good to me, even with the lowest of lows that inevitably appear.

Previous posts:
Frames From The Year: 2012
Frames From The Year: 2013

Without further adieu, let’s recap this incredible year!

January 2014

{January: I started the year with my January 1st tradition of running 1 mile in order to set the right running tone for the new year. The motto is that “I can always run 1 mile” – it’s gotten me through the toughest of runs! I was still struggling with a shin injury though (stress reaction) so I had to take the rest of the month off from running. My friend rang in the new year with me and we spent a chilly few days together around Manhattan. We finally got a decent amount of snow too, but the accompanying polar vortex wasn’t welcomed with excitement. I flew back to Chicago right in time to experience said polar vortex and my sister flew out to visit me in NYC as soon as I returned to the Big Apple. We had an awesome time eating our way through the city’s hidden gems! I started the 7-day breakfast challenge after she left, and ended up continuing it for a full month (week 2, week 3, week 4)…it was and continues to be one of my best food-related decisions.}

February 2014

{February: The month, which has notoriously always been a low point for me, started off cold and dreary. But it wasn’t all bad – I started running again (pain-free!), finally put together my 2014 Inspiration Board, and watched way too much television (award shows and the winter Olympics). I shared a few recipes including vegan buckwheat waffles3-minute quinoa breakfast bake, and oatmeal beet breakfast cookies. Chicago and I reunited again mid-month, allowing me to spend a few quality days with the family. Overall, the month was mentally challenging for a variety of reasons and this semi-depressive state left me more determined than ever to start building a social life for myself in New York City.}

March 2014

{March: After reaching a mental breaking point in February, I took matters into my own hands and set out to make friends in the still new-to-me city. It was a beautifully positive snowball effect – I ended up meeting a lovely group of ladies almost immediately, many of whom are now my closest friends here! I continued having fun adventures out around Manhattan and finally started feeling like my old self again, right in time for spring. Cleaning out my closet and purging of unnecessary junk also helped perpetuate the transition. I flew back to Chicago again for a week and reunited with my all my besties. Some of us even spent a wild St. Patrick’s Day together in downtown Chi! I started pondering my career and thoughts on school, not knowing that only a few months from then I would make a huge educational decision! I ended the friendship-filled month with a Benny Benassi concert and a night out in my favorite area for nightlife in Manhattan (Meatpacking).}

April 2014

{April: With the arrival of springtime in NYC came a month filled with way too much partying and wild adventures with new friends! My new sidekick and I made it our mission to go out every.single.damn.weekend…and we succeeded! I don’t think I’ve ever consistently partied so much in my life, it was glorious. I continued other healthy habits though like cooking/baking (new recipe = vegan plantain pancakes), running, shopping, exploring Manhattan, and hosting girl’s nights in with meaningful conversations.}

May 2014

{May: I put together a long list of goals for the month, which served as a great guideline for areas of focus. My lovely mom came to visit for a few days and we had such a fun time together walking around Central Park, brunching, shopping, and dying my hair a deep dark brown. A few days later I (literally) ran into the Met Gala red carpet where I spent hours celebrity-spotting! Both my parents have birthdays in May, but I celebrated with them virtually from afar. I also explained my reason for shifting my focus to savory breakfasts. Food highlights included a simple chocolate + date combosuper seed chocolate bars, and even a picnic in Central Park! My newfound NYC friendships continued to blossom and the month was filled with nights out and brunches. I ran my first 5K of the year – Memorial Day Ice Cream Social on Roosevelt Island. Speaking of running, I declared my intention to run my first full marathon and started training!}

June 2014

{June: It was a crazy-busy month, which also happened to mark my 1-year NYC anniversary! It started with a night out in Meatpacking with my favorite chicka and continued the following weekend with brunch and an impromptu day spent dancing at Governor’s Ball. I ran my second race of the year – the JPMC Corporate Challenge. I flew back to Chicago a few days later where I once again reunited with my besties and witnessed two old friends get married in a beautiful ceremony. I ended up having a serious epiphany (school and career-related) at the start of the month, one that will impact the rest of my life, and ended up extending my stay at home in Chicago to surround myself with family to ease the emotional impact. The extension gave me the opportunity to celebrate my friend’s 26th birthday before flying back to NYC. The month ended with a bang – a few friends happened to be visiting Manhattan the same weekend and we quite simply partied it up…poppin’ bottles! And finally, I happily quit the gym once and for all.}

July 2014

{July: After a crazy month prior, July started off calmly – I happily celebrated the 4th solo. A week later I found myself on a plane jet-setting back to Chi city for our huge work release. My sis and I met up to watch the Spain vs. Argentina World Cup final (Spain won, boooo!) my first weekend back, and then I ended up working the entire following weekend for the successful project go-live. Marathon training continued in full force despite brutal summer heat & humidity, and I even managed to run a new PDR of 15 miles!}

August 2014

{August: The month started in Chicago – I took the entire week off from work and instead filled the time with three wild days at Lollapalooza and the celebration of my 26th birthday. The rest of the month was mellow at long last, and I had the opportunity to resume my normal life in Manhattan. Marathon training resumed despite an odd foot arch injury, I continued frequenting my beloved West Village digs with new friends, I celebrated my sister’s birthday from afar, and even saw Les Miserables on Broadway!}

September 2014

{September: The highlight of the month was a week-long trip to Aruba (part 1, part 2), which has officially become one of my favorite vacation spots! I had to sacrifice much of my social life for marathon training, especially during peak week where I reached a new PDR of 20 miles. New recipe = vegan chocolate pumpkin pie – a healthy favorite. I ended the month with a much-needed night out in the Upper East Side with great friends for a belated birthday celebration!}

October 2014

{October: The month began with the creation of a new tasty dessert – vegan chocolate salted caramel dessert cups – an obsession that continues to this day. My parents flew into town for a quick visit before we drove to Hartford, Connecticut for my first marathon!!! It was an endlessly rainy day but I ran the Hartford Marathon with ease and finished it successfully in a time of 4:19, with the support of my wonderful parents of course! My sister came to visit a week later and our four days together were awesome – we strolled around Central Park, ate delicious food, hung out at coffee shops, viewed Halloween decorations, and rested. I had quite a reflective month and posted a few favorite posts including 26.2 lessons learned while training for a marathon, the idea to draw a line around your feet to better understand the little control you have of anyone/anything except yourself, and the need to do one thing a year that scares you. I started volunteering at a hospital near the end of the month, finally saw ‘Gone Girl’ with friends, started dating, and ultimately skipped out on Halloween and opted for a relaxing night at home with a good book. My DIY project of the month was a runner’s no-slip headband. It was a great month indeed!}

November 2014

{November: My marathon fever continued as I spectated the NYC Marathon with jealousy. I maintained my running habit after a short break post-marathon and thoroughly enjoyed autumn in Central Park before getting derailed again by extreme shin pain. My UES friend and I had a fun night out in Meatpacking (her first time!) before I flew back to Chicago for the Thanksgiving holiday. Fun food for thought – stepping backwards, confidence color(s), TMI survey, why I quit the gym, we too are stardustcuatro. I continued battling with insomnia, which was only perpetuated by an extremely busy (and sleep-deprived) week at home. But it was great week because I got to see every single one of my close friends, even one who I hadn’t seen in years! The highlight of the month was celebrating Thanksgiving with my beloved family ♥ The month ended with a promotion at work!}

December 2014

{December: I welcomed the final month of the year with a open arms, a smile, and my first run back after over three weeks off. Speaking of running, I got into the NYC Half Marathon lottery which I’ll be running on March 15th, 2015! I didn’t procrastinate purchasing a Christmas tree and snagged a gorgeous one from a local seller. My ladies and I had one night out in East Village to properly celebrate a wonderful year. Soon enough, most of my friends were either busy, traveling, or visiting families out-of-state so I had the opportunity to relax at home and catch up on neglected reading. Once the Christmas holidays rolled around, my parents flew in for a full week and we filled our days with plenty of delicious food and even a short day-trip to Washington D.C! One of my closest friends got engaged the day after Christmas! New Year’s Eve will be spent at home with my family and bestie in Chicago.}

Thursday marks the beginning of a sparkly brand new year and I absolutely cannot wait! As amazing as 2014 was, I suspect 2015 will be even better. Work, school (!!!), travel, weddings, relocations (within NYC of course), family & friend visits – so much to look forward to in the upcoming year!

♥ Irina

My weekend technically started on Thursday and will continue until this upcoming Thursday the 7th of August because I’m on PTO all week! I really, really need today off from work because Lollapalooza, no sleep, and body soreness occupied the entire weekend.

FFTW Summer

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

This weekend was nuts. Nuts! I expected nothing less from my Lollapalooza weekend and it pretty much went as expected. Friday was *slightly* too rowdy but the weekend was wonderful regardless. I certainly feel as if I might be getting too old for these music festivals but I keep getting sucked back in every year!

Lollapalooza Friday

{Friday: flowy black dress, summer shades, perfect sunny weather, EDM at Perry’s stage, reunion with old friends, bracelet arm party, Thorny Rose wine, an early end to the day}

Lollapalooza Saturday

{Saturday: summertime heat, backless pink top, curly hair, Foster the People, The Head and the Heart, Martin Garrix, Fitz & the Tantrums, Outkast, Calvin Harris, deep dish pizza, dark chocolate ice cream, post-Lolla night out with friends, tacos at 3AM}

Lollapalooza Sunday

{Sunday: Sunday Funday!, muggy and rainy, poncho fashion, finally reunited with all friends (only to be separated again an hour later), The Avett Brothers, Cage the Elephant, Flume, Skrillex, staying up for 24 hours straight, the perfect end to an awesome weekend}

The first thing my mom did when I walked through the door was hand me two Advil and Vitamin C pills. Some of my friends are sick and I’m worried about following in their footsteps! I’m looking forward to the time off from work this week, especially because I have minimal plans!

Who else went to Lollapalooza? Favorite performances?

♥ Irina

August. It’s here. August has always felt like a transitional period in my life. Part of it has to do with the obvious fact that I add an extra year to my age on the 5th of this month (yikes). But the final days of July are always treated like a farewell to summer despite the fall equinox not happening until September.


School has always started near the end of August for me and the coming of September, while being a more appropriate academic transition, feels much more natural than August’s abruptness. August 1st always without fail slaps me awake from a daze. It’s when I suddenly find myself gasping at how quickly the year flew by and start panicking about the future.


Ahh the future…such a soft spot for me right now. Like most twenty-something young ladies, I feel confused about where life is taking me. I’m enjoying the ride but thoughts about “what next” cause significant anxiety. I alluded to some future plans that are currently brewing in my life but those won’t come into fruition until at least spring of next year. I’ve come to peace with the unknown and uncertain many many months ago.


I’m not sure where I’m going with this post so consider it a brain dump of sorts. As you read this I’m likely out and about Grant Park for Lollapalooza, which serves as the perfect way to welcome in August. I’m taking the majority of next week off from work and plan to do some relaxing soul-searching at home. Shopping might be involved. I turn 26 on Tuesday and hope to confront all panic & fears head-on immediately.

Cheers to a beautiful 2014 thus far and an even more glorious rest of the year!

What months are “transition months” for you?

♥ Irina