Fitness Friday – Half Marathon Training Update #1

Hi everyone and a belated Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had a nice time visiting with family and/or friends, eating good food, and enjoying the season. I know I did!

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On Christmas Eve, we drove to Marin County to spend the evening with my Grandma. My mom’s family is Italian, so our own tradition is Italian food on Christmas Eve. This year, we brought that tradition to my dad’s side of family and my mom made an epic lasagna, which we enjoyed before going to church and checking out some Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

On Christmas morning, the rest of the family arrived and we had a Christmas brunch, complete with mimosas (because duh, this is me we’re talking about!) and plenty of eggy, cheesy dishes. There was no shortage of cheese this Christmas hahaha #godblessusEVERYONE!

I got a few nice things this year, but the two best gifts I got were a job offer (!!!) and my parents treated me to a new pair of running shoes.

I went to Fleet Feet to get fitted (they’re the ones putting on my half marathon!). I’d had my old shoes for almost a year, and when I got fitted last time, I told them I was running 3 miles max (which was the truth!)… this time, I made sure to get inserts and running socks as well.

Which leads me to my next subject… An update on my Half Marathon training!

I am currently in Week 4 of my “12 week” training plan. I have 12 weeks of runs planned, with 2 weeks extra in case I need to delay a long run because of travel or sickness. I actually did have a bit of a head/chest cold this past week, but luckily since I stayed in on Friday night and slept 10 hours, it didn’t get in the way of my long run on Saturday.

Last time we spoke, I had worked out a training plan…

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I have since decided to create another spreadsheet showing my actual progress where I can keep track of my pace.

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Any run labeled as “run” is supposed to be at an easy pace, and any run labeled at “pace” is supposed to be at race pace. I have basically been pushing myself to stay under 9 minutes for my race pace runs.

You can see last week my pace SHOT up after getting new shoes and replenishing my fitmixer Clean Energy supply. At this point, I think/hope I can manage a 2:00:00 half marathon time, which would be about 9:10 min/mile. We will of course see if I can keep up my pace as I increase my distance!

Thoughts After 4 Weeks:

aches & pains

I decided I couldn’t wait till Christmas to get new shoes because I had been getting bad blisters and, since increasing to 3 runs per week, a little bit of knee pain. So I went on December 18th, and learned that my right knee over-rotates a little bit, which I think accounts for most of the pain I experience. One of my feet is also SLIGHTLY (like less than half an inch) bigger than the other, which may cause some hip pain eventually. So basically I’m feeling a bit of wear and tear, but I’ve got fingers crossed that it’s nothing that will develop into a more serious injury!

Moral of the story: stretching and icing are my friends right now!

the course

For 5 miles or less, I usually just run loops around nearby Capitol Park or McKinley Park…But as my distance increases, I’m changing up my routes, because it would be a little boring to run around Capitol Park 8 times 😉 This past week, I ran on part of the actual Half Marathon course and was less than thrilled that there were a couple of hills…

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The view was nice though!

It motivated me to go for a bike ride on Sunday for my cross training, and I biked pretty much the entire half marathon route. It was extremely humbling, to say the least. There were way more hills than I expected on the bike trail that the course follows! This definitely solidified my plan to train on the actual course.

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lifestyle changes

One big reason why I decided to do this half marathon was to force myself to make changes as far as diet/lifestyle/etc goes. I’ve already started using my Saturday morning runs as an excuse to stay in on Fridays (and drink tea instead of beer 😉 ) and the result is definitely tangible. Being well rested for my long runs makes a huge difference!

I’m hoping that once I start my job, I will get back on track as far as food goes. I’ve been all over the place: some days eating cookies for breakfast, vegetables for lunch, and going out to eat a lot more than I prefer. Tis the season, right? I’m interested in seeing how much weight I lose post-holidays, if any – I’ve put on about 10 pounds, but am fairly convinced it is mostly muscle!

Tomorrow will be my first “furthest run ever” training run of 7.25 miles, and it’ll be a fun exercise in self control to abstain from adult beverages tonight 🙂

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That’s it for today! I doubt you’ll be hearing much from me until the new year, since we are trekking out to my roomie’s family cabin on the Oregon Coast for New Years. We went 2 years ago and had a fantastic time, so I’m excited to escape to the little lakeside cabin again!

Happy New Year!

Do you have any fun Christmas traditions?

Half marathoners: How did you predict your race pace? Were training runs a good indicator for you?

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I must admit, even though I’m a “food blogger” and a self-proclaimed foodie, I don’t think I really have a signature go-to dish. I feel like every blogger, mom, homemaker, Pinterest-obsessed lady, or even BBQ-loving man out there has a signature thing that they make well.

Unless throwing a bunch of veggies in a saute pan with various spices and serving it over rice/quinoa counts as a “signature dish”….I am a little bit all over the place, and I prefer to try my hand at as many different kind of dishes as possible rather than specialize in just one.

However, there is one flavor profile that I may have a borderline obsession with…

Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins (one of the most popular recipes of all time on my blog, probably because I put the word “skinny” in front of them)… Basil-Lemon Breakfast HashBraided Lemon BreadLemony Brown Rice with Spring Veggies…. Seeing a trend here?

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Which brings me to this cookie. I have made these cookies (in Lemon Shortbread Square form) every year for the past 4 years. I thought, nay, KNEW they could not be improved upon…and then I made them into cookies.

GAME CHANGER!

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Not only do you get more cookies out of a batch than you would if you put the dough into a square pan and cut out squares (bonus: it makes them fewer calories!!)… The cookies are just straight up BETTER. Slightly browned and crumbly on the edges, covered in the same heavenly lemon glaze (it’s really what seals the deal here), you need these on your cookie tray!

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Seriously. Nothing is better than lemon juice and powdered sugar. Even people who aren’t huge fans of lemon have told me they liked these cookies. Plus, I tend to prefer a cookie dough that doesn’t have raw egg in it. No danger in eating it off the spatula as you bake 😉

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If you’ve found yourself behind on your Christmas baking, or if you’re like me and you have eaten too many of the cookies you baked that were supposed to be gifts…look no further for your next cookie recipe!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
makes 24 cookies

For Cookies:
2 sticks softened butter
1 tsp lemon zest (about 1 small lemon)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Lemon Icing:
2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
juice & zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 300˚. Beat together butter, lemon zest, and sugar. Whisk the flour and salt separately, then add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until well combined. The dough will be scraggly; this is okay!

Lay down a piece of plastic wrap and turn over dough onto plastic wrap. Form the dough into a log with a diameter about the same size you want your cookies to be (about 1.5 inches). It will be pretty long, about 12 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

Remove shortbread from fridge and slice into cookies that are about 1/2 inch thick. Score the shortbread with a fork, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown.

While shortbread is baking, combine sugar and lemon juice/zest. I usually start with the juice of half a lemon and add powdered sugar as needed. You’ll want it to be semi thick because it’ll get thinner when it touches the hot cookies.

Remove cookies from oven and immediately drizzle with as much icing as desired (ALL OF IT). Let cookies cool and icing harden before storing.

Weekend in Photos

Hello and happy Monday! Um, how crazy is it that Christmas is just over a week away? Anyone else lightweight freaking out right now? Luckily, I find baking to be stress relieving, because I have a lot of it to do over the next 7 days 😉

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Now…on to the weekend recap! On Friday afternoon, my brother Andrew picked me up and we headed to our parents house for yet another holiday party. My mom has done a great job this month, hosting Thanksgiving, my dad’s birthday party, and this time was her faculty holiday party. My mom teaches at my high school, so I had a fun time catching up with some of my old teachers 😉

photo 2On Saturday morning, I finally got back to my old routine! I hadn’t been to the Farmer’s Market in a few weeks – once because of the craziness of Thanksgiving, and the other time because I just plain old forgot 😉 I started the day with the 2nd long run of my half marathon training…I was aiming for 5.75 miles, but my course ended up being a little bit longer. No worries! I figure there’s nothing wrong with being a little bit ahead of schedule 🙂

At the Farmer’s Market, I picked up mustard greens, brussels sprouts, a turnip (which I have NO idea how to cook…roast it?), a butternut squash, and my fave salsa that is already half gone. Oops 🙂 I wasted no time in cooking it all up in a very typical Katie meal: eggs, salsa, and a boatload of green veggies!

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On Saturday evening, I was double booked with holiday parties. I started off the evening at my friends CJ and Julie’s party, where I stayed and visited for a bit before heading home and getting ready for party #2: the 1960’s Mad Christmas Party!

Scott did a great job hosting, and everyone looked amazing all dressed to the nines! I was stoked to reuse my Betty Draper costume from Halloween 2010, which worked even better now that I actually have Betty Draper length hair 😉 (in 2010 my hair was halfway down my back!)

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The highlight of the weekend by far was dodgeball last night – it was playoff night and my team won! It was my first undefeated season ever, and my first championship in 2 and a half years of playing Xoso sports. It made the victory even sweeter considering that everyone on my team is a longtime (Xoso) friend of mine. It’s crazy how many friendships/romances/memories have been formed through that league!

On the menu this week is present wrapping for charity, Christmas light viewing, more holiday parties, and hopefully lots of cookies 😉 Gotta love this time of year!

Have you been to any themed holiday parties yet this year?

What typically Christmasy things do you look forward to this month?

Mulled Wine à la Française

Today, I’m taking you all to France.

Doesn’t matter if you’re willing or not. We’re goin’ there. Sorry ’bout it.

Ever since I spent a year studying (and eating) in Lyon, the month of December and the holiday season bring back very specific memories.

Twinkling stars and dazzling colors…

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Hustle and bustle, the sound of haggling voices, shiny gifts…

And wine. Sweet, hot, spiced wine.

One of the most special memories I have of my year living in Lyon is of the Fête des Lumières, or Festival of Lights. I often heard native Lyonnais residents remark of their snobby adversaries — the Parisians — that they never leave Paris…except to go to the South for vacation during the summer, and to Lyon for the Fête des Lumières.

Centre-ville (downtown) Lyon is guarded by a river on each side – the Saône on the left and the Rhône on the right — as well as a large hill on the left. On the top of the hill, you will find Notre Dame de Fourvière, a beautiful old cathedral that overlooks the entire city. Atop one of its towers sits a huge bronze statue of the Vièrge Marie (Virgin Mary), to whom the cathedral is dedicated.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of cities in Europe have giant churches and statues dedicated to everyone’s favorite virgin. But homegirl is especially special to the Lyonnais. Legend has it (OK, its recorded in history…but doesn’t legend sound cooler?) that though the cathedral wasn’t built until the 1800s, the hill has always had important religious significance to the Lyonnais.  Throughout the years, small churches and chapels have been constructed on the hill. In the 1600’s when the city was fighting a plague (or was it in the 1800’s during a cholera epidemic? I’ve heard different stories…), many people would make an annual trek up the hill to thank the Vièrge Marie for keeping them alive one more year. This tradition grew and grew, until a larger cathedral had to be built.

Each year, on December 8th (the commonly attributed date of the Immaculate Conception), residents began to light candles in their windows honoring Mary for protecting the city. Hundreds still make the trek up to the Colline qui Prie (the hill that prays) to pay their respects. But now instead of just candles being lit in window sills, the entire city lights up.

{click photos to enlarge}

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on the Colline qui Prie, overlooking the city

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Notre Dame de Fourviere, with la Vièrge Marie hidden on the right

And this is the view from the city.

The rest of the city:

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Place des Jacobins

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Cathedrale Saint Jean, which usually looks like this

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Musee des Beaux Arts – these lights changed to tell a 10 minute story

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Only several times per year, Hôtel de Ville (city hall) is opened up to the public…Fête des Lumières is one of those times.

The pictures don’t do it justice…It’s an amazing few days. These photos are from 2008, which means there are 4 more years of amazing photos you can likely find online.

Another lovely thing about December in France (or any European country, for that matter) is Christmas markets.

This is where you go to buy super French hand crafted gifts to send home to your family and friends for Christmas when you’re studying abroad. Tins full of cookies, soaps, artisan foods… you name it, they’ve got it.

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Left- my German colocataire (roommate) and I, neat cuillères & fourchettes (spoons & forks), and beautiful lamps. Right- escargot DUH, and fruit-shaped candles.

Have you spotted the highlight of all of these holiday Frenchie things?

Hint: it’s in my hand in front of Cathedrale St Jean, and in my roomie’s hand at the market…

Vin Chaud. AKA Mulled wine.

Around every corner and at every market during the cold winter months, you will find tables with Frenchies standing behind signs advertising “VIN CHAUD – 1€”

or this guy, charging 2 euro for his ORGANIC vin chaud

Every year since I returned from France, I have craved the stuff.

If you like spiced cider, you will love mulled wine.

If you like wine, you will love mulled wine.

If you like being happy and warm inside, you will love mulled wine.

Have I sold you yet?

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Mulled Wine
serves a small crowd

This is a very make-it-how-you-like-it kind of recipe…I rarely make mulled wine the same way twice. Adjust ingredients to your liking! My only real suggestion is to use a wine that is not too sweet, because you’ll be adding a lot of sweetness to it.

2 bottles red wine (or make it simple and just get a jug of Carlo Rossi)
1-2 oranges or 1/2 can orange juice concentrate
1/3 cup sugar
1-2 cinnamon sticks (ground cinnamon can work in a pinch)
1 tsp whole cloves
1/4 cup brandy (optional)

Place the sugar and spices into a pot and squeeze in juice from the oranges (save half of one of the oranges to slice as garnish). Heat on low until the sugar is dissolved. Add in wine and warm to a simmer, stirring occasionally. I like to add the juiced orange halves to the pot. Taste and adjust according to your preferences. Add more sugar, orange juice, or wine as you see fit! Don’t let the mixture boil, keep it at a simmer. Keep in mind that the longer you simmer, the less alcohol will remain in the wine. Add brandy just before serving…To serve, ladle into cups and enjoy!

Christmas Recap + Elf 4 Health

Merry Day-After-Christmas, everyone!

I hope none of you are, like me, sick and at work this December 26th. What started as feeling just a little under the weather on Sunday has grown into a full-blown cold that exploded on Christmas morning and is still lingering today. Luckily, I’ve had my friends DayQuil and NyQuil to make the days a little brighter 🙂

This was probably one of the best Christmases my family has had in a long time…Instead of breaking out into a fight as early as dinnertime on Christmas Eve, we had no squabbles until after returning home from Grandma’s house last night 😉 A new record!!!

I got a lot of items on my list, and even a few that I didn’t ask for (like new socks…because my mom saw the ratty ones I wore to the hospital during my tests and felt a need to replace them, haha). Lots of kitchen goodies, and a few gadgets for my bike too!

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On Christmas Eve, I arrived at my parents’ house with all my baking in hand, but my mom wanted to add some of her own cookies to the mix too. So we baked together and snacked on wine, hummus & guac. Snacky meals are kind of our thing 😛

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I tried my hand at baking my Grandma’s favorite Lacey’s Cookies. They turned out pretty good, and I sandwiched melted chocolate between them so they were just like the store-bought kind 🙂

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In a break from the normal Italian cuisine, Mom made Monterrey Chicken with a side salad and (can-shaped) cranberry sauce. That bottle of wine is one my parents bought when we went wine tasting with T-Man’s mom to Jessup Cellars in Napa. So good!

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A bit of the loot I accumulated…that wheel is to replace the one that was stolen right off my bike around Halloween – I’ve been bikeless ever since! (And UMMMM how epic is that nonstick pan!!! What a lucky girl I am!!)

Christmas Morning- off to Grandma’s house!

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Look! I don’t have to steal T-Man’s anymore!

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Me and my brother & some of my cousins (+ Grandma in the bottom picture) wearing the crewneck sweaters that Grandma bought everyone. She found them on sale at Target and bought 17 of them…Can you imagine what a sight that must have been???

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Om nom nom. Rolls, ham, sweet sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and a green salad (the only thing I went back for seconds on, thankyouverymuch!)

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Grandma’s tree, and an…..interesting snowman ornament I made for my grandparents in 1994, haha.

The other thing I’ve been trying to keep up with this week is the final round of Elf for Health, which I finally got on board for!

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I wanted to sign up for this weeks ago, but with my health issues being how they were, I haven’t been exercising much and a lot of the challenges are fitness-related. However, I am all in for this week and next!

Week 5 Challenges

Monday

Call a friend just to chat! Go through your list of contacts until one of them answers… then you can look forward to getting call-backs all week.
Bonus points for a handwritten note too!

~I think having 9 friends over for brunch and Secret Santa gifts on Monday definitely fulfills this challenge! Most of us don’t see each other often during the year, so the fact that we always make time to meet up for Secret Santa every year is really special. If you didn’t see it on Monday, check out all my friends in my living room:

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Tuesday

Go for a walk with a family member!
Bonus points for fitting in a workout before your Christmas feast.
~Unfortunately, this was quite impossible yesterday, as Northern California experienced a ton of flooding from all the rain we got! Fortunately, my head cold kept my appetite down and also kept me away from the wine supply, so I didn’t overeat (or drink) like I think most of us usually do!

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Wednesday

Look at yourself in the mirror & find THREE things you love about yourself.
Show us what they are!

~I was a little bleary-eyed when I woke up this morning at my parents’ house and didn’t have it in me to even pass by a mirror on my way out, haha. Now that the DayQuil has hit me, I’ll have to do this when I get back to my apartment. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram, or follow the hashtag #elf4health to see what I decide 🙂

Christmas Weekend in Photos

So, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m sick. This scenario is also known as My Worst Nightmare. I knew it was coming, since T-Man started feeling under the weather Thursday night, and was pretty much bedridden Friday and Saturday…

So with a weekend full of parties and baking and gift shopping ahead of me, I made the unwise decision of hanging at his place the entire time. Wish I didn’t like being around him so much 😛

Here are photos of some of this weekend’s festivities!

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Hot Toddys on Friday night in an attempt to ward off our colds (apparently you’re only supposed to have 1 and not 3, whoops!)

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On Saturday after finishing my (and some of sickly T-Man’s) Christmas shopping, we went to my boss’s Christmas party. It was there that T-Man tried to convince this kid that a giant nutcracker would talk…he didn’t have much luck. Stopped by to have a drink with friends, and then I stayed up till 1 baking more cookies…this proved to be my fatal error, as I woke up the next morning feeling like crap 😦

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Nonetheless, we still braved the awful weather and made it to Napa, where I exchanged gifts with T-Man’s mom (see the toy I got her dog? :-D) and we went to his dad’s annual Christmas party.

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Check out that massive tree!

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We made it back home in one piece and I finished wrapping gifts before we went into our NyQuil slumber 😛

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This morning, I hosted the annual Secret Santa that I do every year with 9 other friends. I made coffee cake & cocoa, put out herbal tea and a cookie plate, and the Christmas music was playin’!

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Check out this awesome panorama I took of all my friends at my apartment!

It was a fun time as always, and now I have to clean up and head over to my parent’s house, where I’m slated to help my mom bake and cook Christmas Eve dinner (traditionally, we have something Italian with carrot-ginger soup!).

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday Faves (Christmas Edition!)

1) Christmas Movies

And telling everyone on Instagram which ones I’m watching:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the OG version!!

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (the best one!)

Not a movie, but watching the Rockefeller Tree Lighting + Highlights of SNL Christmas pasts is another favorite of mine!

Since December 1st (I’m not a CHRISTMAS STARTS AFTER THANKSGIVING kinda gal ;)), I’ve also watched Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Nightmare Before Christmas (I watch it every year between Halloween & Christmas!). Looking forward to watching It’s a Wonderful Life and I know that A Christmas Story will be playing throughout the day at my grandma’s house on Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

2) Baking Christmas Cookies

Well, this one is a given. I even told you all about my cookie making plans. I ended up making the first two doughs on Monday and putting them in the freezer until Wednesday (Best idea ever. Saved me a lot of time!), when I baked them up and made a 3rd batch of dough. I’m planning on making another 1-2 kinds of cookies this weekend AND some peppermint bark!

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Thank goodness for 4 day weekends!

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In these Tupperwares, you’ll find my Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Brown Eyed Baker’s Sugar Cookies (probably THE BEST sugar cookie recipe I’ve come across), and Two Peas in Their Pod’s Pomegranate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies!

Also, I must add that I listen to Christmas music the entire time I’m baking. It helps keep the stress at bay!

What have you baked so far?

3) Making homemade gifts

So I knew my Christmas gift list, which only included my family and T-Man, would be costly. Because I didn’t want to stress myself out by buying too many gifts (especially since I don’t have a car to drive myself to whatever store I want), there are a few special someones in my life who are getting homemade edible gifts in jars!

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When I was in college, my friend Lindsey handed out hot cocoa mixes in jars and I thought it was the cutest thing. When Ashley at Edible Perspective, one of my favorite blogs, started posting ideas for Gifts in Jars, I knew I had to do it! I’m not uploading any pictures of the finished product because some of the recipients are blog readers 🙂 But if you head over to Ashley’s blog you can see the #giftsinjars that a few bloggers (including me) came up with!

Have you ever gotten a gift in a jar?

4) Homemade gift wrap & tags

Oh man, I hope to 8 lb, 6 oz, Newborn Baby Jesus in his golden fleece diapers that I have enough time to do this sometime this weekend. I am most definitely going to wrap my presents using all our unused paper grocery bags…and with any luck, I’ll get my hands on some glitter glue and do something like this:

c/o A Cozy Kitchen

I love what Adrianna did here with the polka dots! And who doesn’t like some sparkles?!

Printable gift tags are something new I discovered this year, and I found a couple that I think are super cute:

c/o Emily McDowell/Poppytalk.blogspot.ca

How good would these look on brown bag wrapping?

c/o eatdrinkchic.com

And I just love the simplicity of these!

I was hoping to print these “Have a cookie!” gift bags for my cookie gifts, but I don’t think it’s in the stars. How adorable are the little flags though? Teri & Jenny over at Spoon Fork Bacon really outdid themselves with some super designs in that post!

5) Our tiny Christmas tree

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My roomie and I have a pretty small/crowded apartment. But I think this tree fits juuuust right!

5) Being with family and friends

Yeah…I’m getting murdered for sharing this picture, haha.

Anyway, I’m finding that the stress of making baked goods and bringing gifts all kind of melts away the moment I actually arrive at my friends’ homes to celebrate. We went to a Kinda Classy Christmas party this weekend and I met up with three of my oldest friends last night, and it just feels good to enjoy the company of friends. I tend to start feeling more sentimental every year around this time, but after what happened exactly a week ago in Newtown, I think the feeling of gratefulness is just heightened this year.

And on that sappy note, here’s a sappier photo. Good luck with your last minute gifts and baking, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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