Christmas in London

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

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I’m finally on Christmas break! Today is supposed to be the first day of Paris Marathon training (16 weeks out) but my left IT-band is still painful. I am still seeing a physical therapist, and found a very, very basic marathon … Continue reading

Holiday Parties and Goals for Sunday’s 5K

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The holiday season always flies by once we get to December, doesn’t it? I’m on winter break starting Friday and I’m really looking forward to relaxing a bit and hitting reset before January! My last two weeks have been filled with parties, … Continue reading

Jingle Bell 5K for Arthritis NYC

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On Saturday morning, I did my 13th and final race of 2013 – the Jingle Bell 5K for Arthritis in Riverside Park. The night before, I had a holiday sleepover with my best friend Lael from high school, who lives … Continue reading

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgivukkah

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Happy (almost) Thanksgivukkah! If you haven’t heard, for the first and last time in any of our lifetimes, Thanksgiving Day and the first day of Hanukkah coincide. I’ve always been a fan of Chrismukkah, since my mother’s family is Catholic … Continue reading

Someday at Christmas

“Someday at Christmas”

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a land
With no hungry children, no empty hands
One happy morning people will share
A world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
When all men are equal and no man has fears
One shining moment, one prayer away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime
Someday at Christmastime


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May your days be merry and bright!

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Signing (and Other Holiday Adventures)

Last week was a long week.

On Wednesday, a girl I went to middle and high school with passed away suddenly. I didn’t know her well but my high school was very small, and some of my friends did know her well. It was shocking and saddening for us all.

Then on Friday, news broke of the tragedy in Connecticut. Like most people, I spent Friday glued to the news, crying, heartbroken, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

More eloquent people have put much more beautiful words out there, and there is not much more I can add. I want to try to think of happier things now. It seems more than unneccessary to say we should remember the victims and keep them in our minds and hearts, because I can’t stop thinking about them and I’m sure that we’ll all be thinking of them for a long time.

So, acknowledging that, I’m going to focus on the wonderful, festive, and fun things that did happen last week, because I could use a little distraction, and maybe you can too.

Starting with – the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook signing!

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You know Smitten Kitchen, right? Anyone who’s ever read a cooking blog or googled a kickass chocolate cake recipe knows Smitten Kitchen, the queen of all cooking blogs with gorgeous photos and delicious recipes. I was excited to meet Deb, the author, whose only “angle,” if she had to have one, is that she cooks in a tiny Manhattan kitchen. I DO TOO! (Along with almost  everyone else in line to get their book signed, no doubt.)

Deb was signing books at Fishs Eddy, a quirky and very New York dishware store, and was very sweet and humble. We chatted for a bit about cooking and baking. And the book is beautiful! I later discovered that Fishs Eddy posted a photo of me and my mom talking to Deb on their Instagram feed.

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The only recipe I’ve tried so far is the Gooey Cinnamon Bars, which are soft buttery snickerdoodle cookies in bar form. They were a little work intensive (cookie layer, then gooey layer, then cinnamon sugar top) but so worth it.

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Unfortunately I only took a few quick iPhone photos, but I froze half the batch to bring to a holiday party this weekend, so recipe and better photos to come!

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The sugary kick continued through Friday, when I went to a friend’s house for a gingerbread house-making party. We listened to Christmas music, made eggnog pancakes for dinner, and assembled our gingerbread house.

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A is for Alexander!

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photo 3Before…

photo 4 (2)And after.

I’ve been doing a lot of cookie-baking and even more cookie-eating lately, but not a lot of running. (Some would argue that’s how the holiday season should be.) That’s because I injured my foot in the middle of October, and have decreased my running more and more until I finally admitted that I should see a doctor about it, since the pain wasn’t going away, and haven’t run since last weekend’s Jingle Bell Jog in Prospect Park. Even though I did two Jingle Bell Jogs in December, which may seem like a lot of running, those races ended up being almost the only running I’ve done this month. I ended up removing myself from the NYC Half Marathon lottery last week, because even if my foot injury is minor, I’m in no place to start training for a half marathon right now, and not knowing if I was going to get in was stressing me out.

Today I saw an orthopedic and sports medicine doctor and got my foot x-rayed. The good news is that it’s not a stress fracture. The bad news is that I have to go in for an MRI because it might be neuroma, which, as the internet tells me, is a swollen, inflamed nerve. Treatment will probably be rest, ice, and possibly a shot of cortizone. I also have a spiffy insert in my shoe. Nothing too drastic. So I’m counting my blessings, and not running for a while.

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And tonight I’m going to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with my parents, one of our favorite holiday traditions. I read a few weeks ago that one of the camels in the Living Nativity scene is named Gabby, which I was very excited about. They named that camel well.

Nothing like a sparkly kickline of dancers singing Christmas songs and a camel in a manger that shares your name to put you in the holiday spirit, right?

Only 6 days til Christmas!

NYRR Jingle Bell Jog Recap and Eataly Dessert Class

NYRR Jingle Bell Jog

The NYRR Jingle Bell Jog, a festive 4 mile race through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, was only my second NYRR race, but I can see it quickly becoming a favorite. How can you go wrong with a race where people are dressed up in holiday costumes, and served hot chocolate and bagels at the finish line?

Mom and I brought back our holiday costumes from last week. Luckily it wasn’t nearly as cold as it had been in Riverside Park; I didn’t need gloves or a hat, and after a mile or so I was wishing I hadn’t worn a turtleneck either. Perfect weather for a winter run.

Jingle Bell Jog

You can’t see our knee-high Christmas socks in this picture or the jingle bells on our shoes, which completed the outfit!

My last NYRR race was also a 4-miler, the Fitness Games race in September 2012, so I wanted a PR, even though I haven’t been running that much or that often lately. At the Fitness Games race, I was in great shape since I was at the height of half marathon training, but I had also run 8 miles before the race to get a total of 12 miles for the day, my longest training run before tapering for the Hamptons Half Marathon two weeks later. So I figured there was a slight chance I could eke out a PR, all things considered.

During the first mile I ran into a friend from college, Farah, who ran the Philadelphia Marathon (in place of the canceled NYC Marathon) a few weeks ago. We chatted for a few minutes and I tried to keep pace with her, even though I know that she’s a faster runner than I am. We ran together for about a mile, up the biggest hill of the race, until I relented, lungs burning, and let her go ahead. After that I had to slow down a bit to get rid of a side stitch and catch my breath, cursing myself for running too fast so early in the race. But I grabbed some water and enjoyed the jingling of hundreds of bells on peoples’ sneakers all around me, and tried to enjoy the costumes, reminding myself that this was just a fun race and it really didn’t matter if I PR’d at all. When I passed the 3 mile marker, I could tell from the ticker that I still had a chance at a PR and tried to kick into gear, which I failed at a few minutes later. I mustered enough energy to sprint to the finish line (although a little girl who must have been about 8 came from behind and sprinted way ahead of me) and came in at 36:36, 5 seconds faster than my time from September. Not a big PR, but better than no PR at all!

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In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to go to a holiday dessert-making class at Eataly. The pastry chef and her assistant made all kinds of delicious holiday treats using Pavoni silicone dessert molds, and we got to sample all of them, along with two sweet sparking wines.

Disclaimer: I work at Eataly but I’m blogging about it for fun – all opinions are my own and don’t represent those of the company.

Eataly dessert class

On the original menu: biscotti natalizi (Christmas cookies), torta al limone (lemon cake), and dolci al cioccolato (mini chocolate cakes), as well as an Asti Spumante sweet sparking white wine and a Brachetto d’Acqui sweet sparkling red. But the pastry chef got a little carried away and made even more desserts, including a frozen tiramisù cake, coconut mousse, mini carrot cake, and a lemon mousse cake with raspberry preserves. We also got a few recipes to take home, so I might be trying to recreate some of these desserts before the holidays are over.

Eataly christmas tree cakes

Frozen tiramisù cake (front) and lemon cake with chantilly frosting (back)

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Asti Spumante with tiramisù and lemon cake

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Filling molds with chocolate cake batter

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Flourless chocolate cakes and carrot cakes

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Flourless chocolate cake and lemon mousse cake with raspberry preserves

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My friend Carly filling molds with “polentine” (corn flour) cookie batter

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Cookies galore!

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Solid milk chocolate ornaments

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Regular and chocolate “polentine” (corn flour cookies) and molded milk chocolates

After the dessert class I met a friend for coffee in the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle, and enjoyed the annual star decorations and holiday music. This wasn’t on my NYC Holiday Checklist but it should be!

Columbus Circle stars

Tonight marks both the 2nd Sunday of Advent and the 2nd Sunday of Hanukkah. My mother was raised Catholic and my father was raised Jewish, so when I was growing up we always honored traditions from both religions.

This year I have a mini Advent wreath and a mini Menorah, next to my mini tree in my mini Manhattan apartment, and they both have two candles lit (plus the shamash on the menorah) tonight!

menorah advent wreath

Did you Jingle Bell Jog this weekend? What’s your favorite holiday dessert?

My NYC Holiday Checklist

I’ve lived in NYC my whole life, and except for a semester abroad in college, and last year when I was teaching English in Sicily, I’ve spent every holiday season in Manhattan. Last year I was traveling in Europe with my parents during the holidays, but this year I’m back in the Big Apple and ready for a festive NYC holiday season.

This is what’s on my holiday checklist this December:

Go skating in Bryant Park (did this once in November, but want to go back now that the Christmas tree is up, and since I have my own skates, it’s completely free!)

Run a Jingle Bell J0g (one down, one to go!)

Go skating in Central Park (but only after it snows so the scenery is worth the admission price…a tall order, I know)

Go to the Inside the Lion King exhibit (thru Dec 16th)

Can you believe it’s been 15 years since the Lion King opened on Broadway?! I’ve seen it several times over the years and it never ceases to amaze. I’m really looking forward to this free exhibit of the breathtaking costumes and props.

Ride the Holiday Nostalgia Train

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Station

See the Nutcracker (at my old ballet school in the East Village, where they put on an adorable and free performance of the Nutcracker every year)

My days in pointe shoes are long over, but I do love me some Waltz of the Flowers.

In other news, we found out a few days late that my mother won 1st place in her age group at the Jingle Bell 5K Run on Saturday! She got to pick up her gold medal at the Arthritis Foundation’s office. This wasn’t the first time she’s gotten an age group win – she got 2nd place at Ellen’s Run 5K in August – but it’s her first 1st place win.

Also, this is not something I would usually draw attention to but curiosity has gotten the best of me: my blog has gotten an unusually high number of views from Germany in the past two days, but the wordpress stats page isn’t showing me any referral links. I’m so curious as to how so many German readers are finding my blog all of a sudden. Wilkommen! But also, how did you find me??

What’s your favorite holiday tradition? What’s on your checklist for December?

Jingle Bell 5K Run for Arthritis Race Report

Yesterday I ran the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk for Arthritis in Riverside Park, along the west side of Manhattan. It was freezing, but very fun and festive. I ran it with my mom and one of my best friends from college, Estefi, who was running her first 5K (and first race ever!) so my mom and I decided to run it at her pace and enjoy the atmosphere.

Sea of Santa hats in the cold morning along the Hudson River

The Arthritis Foundation made a point to note that dogs get arthritis too (walkers were encouraged to bring their dogs to the event) and they had some puppies up for adoption in one of the tents at the expo. This little guy – 7 weeks old! – and I really bonded, and it took all of my willpower to put him back in his little pen and walk away.

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My new best friend

Unfortunately, it was the most disorganized race I’ve ever been to. For starters, there were only 3 porta potties for the entire crowd, so we spent about 20 minutes in line for the bathroom before the race started.

But most infuriating, there was massive confusion before the race began about where the starting line was. The crowd was led downtown along the river for about a block, then we were told that the runners should have stayed back where the expo was, since they were just trying to move the crowd back so the walkers would be behind the runners. Everyone kept asking each other “Is this where the runners start? Where’s the starting line?” As it turns out, there was no starting line, or any indication that the race was starting. Some people at the front just started running, and everyone else followed suit.

Since we weren’t racing for a time goal, we didn’t mind much, and put on our Jingle Bell Jog playlists and enjoyed the festive mood and the jingling of the bells on our sneakers. There were volunteers along the course cheering and holding up signs with facts about arthritis, or little sayings that reminded us we were running to fight arthritis. As we neared the end, it became obvious that the course wasn’t a full 5K, which I was not happy about. (All three of us used the Runkeeper app on our iPhones, and it reported distances of 2.88, 2.95, and 3.01 for the course.) But as we crossed the finish line – which I made Estefi sprint across, because isn’t it always more fun that way? – we were just happy to be done.

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And we were so proud of Estefi, who trained for her first 5K in just a few weeks and ran for 35 minutes without stopping for the first time ever! And was a trooper to do so on a freezing cold Saturday morning.

Jingle Bell Jog

After the race, we got bagels and granola bars at the tents, and then we headed to Starbucks for holiday lattes (peppermint mocha, gingerbread, and eggnog) to end our Jingle Bell Jog right.

Next Saturday…Jingle Bell Jog #2 in Prospect Park!

Jingle Bell Jog Playlist and Christmas Cookies

It’s that time again!

Time for Jingle Bell Jogging, and more importantly, Christmas cookie-baking.

I’ve never done a holiday-themed race before, but somehow I ended up registering for not one but two Jingle Bell races: a 5K fundraiser for arthritis in Riverside Park on December 1st, and a NYRR 4-miler in Prospect Park on December 8th. One of my best friends from college will be running her first race ever at Saturday’s 5K! We’ve got our Christmas-themed outfits all planned out, so all that’s left to do is make an upbeat holiday playlist, and carb-load with cookies, of course.

Here’s my holiday running playlist so far:

This playlist is exactly 40 minutes long, and although my 4-mile PR is 36 minutes, I’m going to pad it with a few backup songs before December 8th…just in case.

These are two holiday cookie recipes that are foolproof and sure to be crowd-pleasers. The first ones, Pumpkin Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies, are very soft and cakey. They’re the perfect bridge between late fall and early winter, when you want to use up the last of your canned pumpkin while still getting some holiday flavors in there.

Pumpkin Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Chelsea Bakes

Makes 3 dozen cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2  cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg until incorporated. Add pumpkin puree and beat until well-blended; mixture will not look advertising (thick and orange-y), but worry not. Pour in half the flour mixture, beat until just mixed, then add the rest of the flour mixture and beat again until just mixed. Pour in cranberries and white chocolate chips, and mix until fairly evenly distributed throughout dough.

Use a tablespoon or tablespoon-size scoop to place small balls of dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; edges are golden but cookies are still springy and cakey). Allow to cool on wire racks.

Keeps for up to a week in an airtight container.

While the pumpkin cookies are a happy amalgam of fall and winter flavors, these Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies are decidedly festive. They make no pretenses about being anything but holiday cookies. In fact, they taste like peppermint hot chocolate. In a big, fudgy brownie-like cookie.

The recipe is from the back of the Trader Joe’s peppermint bark baking bits bag, and I made a few adjustments (and possibly corrected a typo or two.) These are winners for a cookie exchange for sure, but be careful not to eat the whole bag of peppermint bark before you start baking. They’re described as “peppermint infused dark chocolate layered with crushed peppermint candy and white truffle fudge.” But…save some for the cookies if you can.

Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Trader Joe’s

Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 bag peppermint bark baking bits (9oz)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until completely blended. Beat in one egg at a time, until well-blended. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, beating until completely blended. Fold in the peppermint bark baking bits. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a lightly greased or nonstick baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes and move to a wire rack to cool.

What’s your favorite holiday cookie? What upbeat Christmas songs should I add to my playlist?