Weekend in Photos

Happy Monday! First of all, thank you all so much for your nice words on my last post. It was really encouraging to hear that other people have gone through the same struggle with seeing gains on the scale, especially while training for half marathons.

On to my weekend!

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It got off to a pretty amazing start, if I do say so myself: I stopped at Groce Out on the way home and got some wine cheese and crackers (my usual Friday night routine…I’m so predictable) and vegged out all night watching House of Cards Season 2 eps 5-8. So so so good!

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Saturday morning, I was up and out the door before 9am for my first long run in a couple of weeks (No long run last week since I was in NYC, but Joanna and I did fit in a 6 mile run one day which is better than nothing!)… It ended up being a beautiful 70 degree day! I ran 11 miles again and was SHOCKED that I ended up averaging 9:09/mi, which is my goal for my half marathon pace!

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Something happened and I totally just kicked it into gear for my last 4 miles or so. I think that might have been the point where I ditched my shirt! Haha EVERY week I’ve run more than 10 miles, I’ve taken my shirt off. Sista starts to sweat! And 8:28 for the last mile?! WTF?!

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Since I woke up so early, I actually had time to make it to the Farmer’s Market for the first time in weeks. I splurged and bought myself some daffodils and a chai latte because I was feeling so happy about my run. Treat yo self!

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After 4 more episodes of House of Cards (that’s 8 total for the weekend now, for those of you keeping track) I headed out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Good times had by all as always!

photo 5The next morning I woke up and went to Davis to hang with Roger, and more importantly his pug Pierre, my favorite little gremlin 🙂 Look at those ugly teeth! It was another beautiful day and a perfect one for a nice long walk with the pups!

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After one last episode of House of Cards (the finale! AAHHHH) and a few other various tv shows, I headed over to dodgeball where I actually got a great workout in..and looked real cool wearing my new tube socks 🙂 We played a bit of water pong at the bar and then I came home to slow down, send my BFF a weekend update email, and mentally prepare for the week.

Another good one in the books!

Do you watch House of Cards? What do you think of Season 2? I liked it a lot more than Season 1!

How was your weather this weekend? We seriously lucked out!

Surprise NYC Weekend in Photos

Greetings from snowy NYC!!

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Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows (and may have known for a while now) that I flew to New York City this weekend to surprise my best friend Joanna for her birthday. I got the idea back in November when tickets were really cheap, and bit the bullet & made the purchase just a week or 2 after Thanksgiving. This is the reason why there are very unspecific “travel day”s worked into my half marathon training plan…I knew this Saturday I’d be flying across the country!

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But first, I had to celebrate Valentines Day in Sacramento! Yvette and I met up with a big group of girls for sushi, but got there early and had our own private dinner date 😉 as soon as we finished our food (we were starving!) we joined the rest of the ladies. Unfortunately I didn’t stay long, cause I had a 6am flight to catch!

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And fly I did! My brother graciously picked me up at 4:30am and took me to the airport. There was snow on the ground when we connected in Chicago which I knew was a bad sign. My flight to NYC ended up delayed about an hour and a half (most of it on the runway).. THEN, the pilot announced we were in a holding pattern circling LaGuardia, and everyone on the plane started purchasing alcohol LOL- myself included. We made it eventually to NYC, where snow was in the air!

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I hightailed it to Joanna’s friend Arielle’s apartment where I could stash my stuff and get ready for the surprise party. Joanna’s roomie (and our longtime friend from middle/high school) Alex arrived and we had a photoshoot on Arielle’s amazing balcony!

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Eventually we made it to Swift, a bar in the East Village where Joanna was unassumingly led by her boyfriend. She was already crying before she was led to the corner where I was hiding and I was revealed.. It was an emotional moment when she realized I was there and not on a dodgeball pub crawl in Sacramento wondering which boy I should invite (like I told her I was 😉 )… I even sent her fake workout selfies and claimed I ran 11 miles that morning- HA!

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After drinks at Swift and dancing at Bowery Electric, I headed back downtown to Alex & Jo’s place, where I frolicked in their snowy rooftop lounge while waiting for Alex to get back and buy a pizza from 7-11. Which I proceeded to eat HALF OF. I was running on 3 hours of sleep and totally needed the fuel! Let’s just say it was glorious.

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I made up for it by having a healthy banana + coffee + kombucha recovery breakfast before high tailing it back up to midtown to get my stuff from Arielle’s apartment. Like my outfit? I call it “morning after chic” 😉

Then we took advantage of Joanna & Alex’s gym and I got in my best non-running workout in months! Made me kinda having a gym…

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Joanna headed out for her bday dinner with the BF, and Alex and I decided to walk around TriBeCa until we found a good spot to eat. Um, bad idea when it’s 25 degrees outside and feels like 18! After what felt like hours of walking, we started getting desperate and ducked into a cute little place called The Butterfly. I got bratwurst sliders and Brussels sprouts with bacon & apples and Alex got ravioli and it was all SO good! Pleasant little surprise!

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At dinner, I had the genius idea of staying in and watching the new season of House of Cards. After seeing (and posing with) an ad for it, we knew we had to do it! We stopped at Whole Foods to get a couple of fancy beers then plopped down in front of the tv for what turned into 3.5 hours of Netflix. We watched the first 4 episodes back to back… Soo good!

The weekend is far from over, as today is Joanna’s actual birthday and I’m not leaving until tomorrow. We are hopefully going for a long run this morning followed by birthday brunch, and I cannot wait! So excited to be here and celebrating with her in person! Happy birthday Joanna!!

Have you ever surprised a friend or had a surprise party thrown for you?

Have you been to NYC? How about in the dead of winter?!

Weekend in Photos

Happy week, everyone!

Haha, the President of my firm walked in this morning and said that and it totally threw us off. Not happy Monday, happy week! It has a nice ring to it!

Sorry for the radio silence lately. It is pretty crazy to have a job where I am more or less busy from the moment I arrive till the moment I leave pretty much every day! I have several blog posts planned (like a budget update!), it’s all just a matter of carving out some time to churn them out!

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On Friday evening, I had a lovely walk home from work at dusk. I love that I regularly get to walk past so many Downtown Sacramento landmarks!

20140203-133255.jpgI went home, nommed on a veggie-packed dinner (I’ve been trying to load most of my calories into breakfast & lunch, so I’ve been having a lot of salad & roasted veggies for dinner), then headed out to our favorite karaoke bar The Distillery for Angelique’s birthday! I sang my go-to, “Piano Man”, and a hilarious rendition of “Bug-a-Boo” with Yvette.

Unfortunately Danielle and I never got to sing Gaga & Beyonce’s “Telephone”, but she made up for it by KILLING it on her own with “Bad Romance”.. she serenaded her boyfriend Noel, which made for some hilarious photos (see above)! I also got guilted into joining my friend Greg on stage for Journey’s “Faithfully”, because I snuck his name in to sing it without him knowing 😉

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Despite staying out a little later than planned at karaoke (they didn’t call up Yvette and I to sing until almost 1am!), I didn’t have much to drink so I still made it out for my 10 miler the next morning. I ran the same distance as last week, but was exactly one minute slower. Either way, better than not doing it at all, right? 🙂

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Next on the itinerary was C.J. and Julie’s baby shower. C.J. is a longtime dodgeball friend and teammate of mine, and we are all so excited for their little ninja to arrive next month! The shower was hosted at the daycare that C.J. and Julie are opening with some friends- he showed us around and it was awesome! It was a great shower all around, complete with dirty diaper guessing games, a nacho bar, and tricycle races 😉

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That night was my good friend Kristin’s birthday party. It was a pajama pub crawl, so we all got decked out in onesies! I wish I had more pictures besides this one of Yvette and I getting ready- let’s just say we got some interesting looks throughout the evening 😉

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As you all know, the Super Bowl was yesterday. There was no way I’d be watching anywhere besides at my friend Dave’s house! (Where we had all of our Monday Night Football meals) I printed out a fun predictions questionnaire and there was food GALORE. Lots of different chicken wings, lumpia, steak sliders, cupcakes, variety packs from Popeyes and Taco Bell LOL, and I made sure to bring that spinach salad you see right up there 😉

Obviously the game itself wasn’t great, but there were definitely a few gems in the commercial department! I think Doritos always has great commercials, and of course Budweiser’s Puppy Love commercial made me squeal from the cuteness!

Hope you all have a great week! With any luck you’ll be hearing from me soon 🙂

What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Weekend in Photos

A little late, but happy Monday! Today was rough. As you’ll see, I had an action packed weekend so it was tough going back to work today! Worth it? Totally.

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Friday night started like most of my Fridays do- with WINE! I definitely felt like I deserved it, I stayed late at work finishing up a project. 2 weeks in and I’m already putting in overtime! I had to buy this wine I found at Grocery Outlet because I loved the label. After a glass or 2, I met up with friends at LowBrau and watched the Kings lose in OT… boooo! I headed home early to rest up for my run and watched old episodes of 30 Rock. The best.

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My run on Saturday morning was EPIC. I am a bit ahead of my training plan – I was only slated to run 9.75 miles, but I decided on Friday that I would go for it and push for 10 miles. It was super nice outside and I actually had to ditch my shirt at the end of mile 6! That’s probably why my mile 7 split was so fast 😉

Overall, it was a really good run, but it was HARD. My legs felt heavy and stiff from the very beginning. But I did it and that’s all that matters! I am happy with my pace (My goal for the half is to average 9:10/mile) and I didn’t have knee OR hip pain this weekend. Great success! I think I will run the same course next weekend instead of increasing my mileage.

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Next, it was time to replace all those calories! Yvette treated me to lady brunch at Limelight. I just got a simple breakfast with eggs, toast, 4 pieces of bacon (yesss so much bacon) and potatoes. And of course tea and mimosas!

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We kept the fun going and went to Der Biergarten since it was a gorgeous 75 degree January day (wtf)… Biergarten just opened on Friday so we wanted to check out all the hype! It was super fun, I can’t wait to sit out on that patio in the summer months! That evening I rallied and made it out for a friend’s house party. It was seriously a marathon of a day. I logged 25,000 steps throughout the course of the day!

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Yesterday, I did some grocery shopping (all that healthy goodness for $20! Score!) before hopping on my bike and heading to the dodgeball bar. Unfortunately, I got stopped by a cop on my way there and he gave me a ticket for rolling through a stop sign! 😦 I seriously always follow traffic signs… I’ve even ranted about bicyclists not following the rules on this blog! Go figure that the one time I don’t stop at a stop sign (there was NO ONE around) I get in trouble for it. I don’t know how much the ticket will cost yet, but I’m expecting it to be hefty… And I’ve also read that it might count as a point on my driver’s license 😦

Oh, and that’s Greg carrying Yvette’s purse for her on our way to dodgeball. Bahahaha!

Overall I had a great weekend. However, I definitely had the Monday blues today – it was so hard to focus at work, and I just generally felt sluggish. PLUS I am getting over a head cold…double whammy! I was probably a joy to work with today, sniffling and coughing and hacking all day long 😉

Have a great week!

75 degrees in January… love it or hate it?

If you’re a cyclist, do you follow traffic signs?

Fitness Friday — Half Marathon Training Update #2

Hello everyone and happy Friday!

First of all, thank you for all your sweet comments on Tuesday! My first few days at work have been great. There hasn’t been lots of substantial work for me to do yet, but I absolutely love being in a young, energetic office whose work I find extremely interesting and exciting! I’ve basically been spending my days reading news headlines about our clients’ areas of interest, which is totally up my alley. #newsjunkie for life over here!

It’s also been good to get back into a routine, which includes a “regular” sleep schedule and eating better (read: 3 real meals, and not snacks all.day.long). Well that is, besides last night…

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My after work dinner consisted of an entire basket of French fries (“I’m not even angry, that is impressive!”) and a few Jameson & Gingers at the dodgeball bar… I think I deserved it after almost 4 days of good, healthy eats! 80-20 people, 80-20… Ya can’t be perfect all the time!

Anyway, without further ado, here is my update on my Half Marathon training!

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My last update was 3 weeks ago, when I was nearing the end of week 4 of my training. I’m chugging right along at week 7 right now and have made awesome progress!

The Hal Higdon training plan I used to model my plan after suggests that you do 5K and 10K races at some point during your training. I was originally hoping to run the Hot Chocolate 5K in San Francisco last weekend, but I have pretty much decided that 2 more races (and all the $$$ fees associated) are probably not going to be possible with the tight budget I have allowed myself for the next 6 months.

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So you’ll see there were a few lapses in my training – that I’m TOTALLY okay with. When we were in Oregon, we stayed super active (I logged 12,000+ steps for 3 days in a row!) but I only made it out for one short, slow 2 mile run on New Years Eve day. I didn’t actually do the Hot Chocolate 5K like I said, but I still made progress and ran 8.7 miles with Chris that weekend instead. I’m on the lookout for a new course for us to run tomorrow and the goal will be 9 miles!

Thoughts After 7 Weeks:

aches & pains

Since my last update about experiencing knee pain, virtually ALL of that knee pain has disappeared. I attribute this to 1) getting used to my new shoes and inserts, 2) stretching well, and 3) running on a hilly course that isn’t 100% pavement. The only time I feel pain is usually during the week when I’m doing my shorter runs on the sidewalk.

Wearing heels to work probably doesn’t help the goal of avoiding aches and pains! Beauty is pain Running 16 miles a week is pain.

I also tweaked my ankle last night when I was carrying my bike up my stairs in heeled boots…And I totally brought my ice pack to work today when I woke up and it still hurt. Is it too soon to ice my ankle in front of my new coworkers? #noshame

the course

I’m still running on the grid during the week for my 3-5 mile runs and on the bike trail for my long runs. I have run on the half marathon course every week since my last update, and like I said I have been happy with my results. 7+ miles go by faster when you have a nice view and aren’t just running the same loop over and over! I’ve been training on the back end of the course, and am thinking about switching to the front end this weekend.

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the Half Marathon course!

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the course we ran last weekend!

I’m starting to wonder with these long runs if I should be hydrating or bringing some kind of fuel. Any insight? A couple of weeks ago, I brought some energy chews to get in the habit of eating while I run & see if it agreed with me…it went fine, but I didn’t feel too much of a difference energy wise during or after the run.

lifestyle changes

I have definitely been a lot better in recent weeks about alcohol consumption, especially on Friday nights before my long runs, as well as Saturday afterwards. I wouldn’t say I’m drinking less frequently (I am definitely a glass-of-wine-at-day’s-end kinda girl), but the amount I’m drinking when I do drink has gone down. Mission accomplished! My budgetary restrictions are helping on that front too 😉

This week, I had a pretty drastic change in routine when I started work. I woke up at 6:30am on Wednesday to do a light workout before work! This is crazy talk for me, because I am NOTORIOUS for sleeping late, and sleeping for a longgggg time. Needless to say, I was in bed by 10 and asleep by 10:30 on Wednesday night…just to wake up at 6am yesterday morning to fit in my 5 mile run. Strangely enough, I really like this new routine and I hope I can stick with it. I feel more productive and successful than I have in years! It’s also easier to find the motivation to work out when you’re fresh and awake in the morning, rather than after a long day at work.

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my first sunrise in… who knows how long!

That’s it for now! Hope you all have a great weekend (especially if you get Monday off for MLK Jr. Day!)

Do you fuel or hydrate during long runs? Any tips or advice?

When do you work out: during the morning, at noon, or at night?

Weekend in Photos

Hello and happy Monday! My last weekend of “funemployment” is in the books, and it’s back to work for me on Wednesday!

I’m excited to start a new chapter in my professional life. On my birthday this year, I reflected on what I called my quarter life crisis, and about how I’ve decided to start putting myself first and cultivating my own happiness. I didn’t know then that I would be losing my job just a month later. Instead of wallowing in self pity, I saw it as a blessing in disguise, and an opportunity to finally shift my career focus to what I have always wanted to do. Compound this with the fact that I’m running further and faster than ever, and have a great group of friends (& blends!)…I am just one happy panda right now!

Alright, enough of that mushy stuff. Here’s what I did this weekend:

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I had a few dollars left in my grocery budget (and a coupon for Ménage à Trois that was about to expire!) so I did some grocery shopping on Friday night. Yes, I am that cool. I redeemed myself by heading over to my trusty Alley Katz (closest bar to my apt) to watch the Kings beat the Magic, drink some strong ass IPA’s and play pool. #SuccessfulFridayNightAfterAll

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Not too many IPAs, though, because we had a long run to conquer in the morning! I was really excited that my friend Chris agreed to join me for my long run this week. He was a trooper and said he’d go as far as I wanted – I was aiming for 8.5, and we ended up going 8.7! It was a welcome change to have a running partner, and definitely made it feel like it went by faster. Plus he picked up my pace at the end- check out our splits for those last couple of miles!

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After a Farmer’s Market trip and some sober NFL playoff watching, I roasted up a bunch of veggies for dinner and cozied up for a night in with a classic movie- The Princess Bride! #inconceivable!

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Then it was up bright and early Sunday morning for some brunch and football! We hadn’t had a bottomless mimosa brunch since well before Christmas, so we were long overdue. Kupros definitely didn’t disappoint- look at those glasses! And the Niners won! Pretending to care about football is fun when the local team is kicking ass and champagne is involved 😉

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I came home to another dead goldfish… oops. #anotheronebitesthedust

Then it was off to game 1 of our new Sunday dodgeball season! And anyone who knows me knows it’s not a complete dodgeball outfit without funky socks 😉

That’s all for now, folks! Hope you all have a great week 🙂

Do you prefer to run alone or with a partner?

What’s your favorite weekend night in routine?

New Years & Weekend in Photos

Hello all and happy (belated) new year!

I celebrated on the Oregon coast with my roommate and 6 of our friends at her family’s cabin. Here are a couple of my favorite snapshots:

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Unfortunately, during our canoe trip pictured above, I took an unexpected dip into the river with my iPhone in my pocket. Oops. Luckily I had my iPad to capture a few precious moments from the trip for the 3 days that followed!

After 4 days with my phone in a bucket of rice, the verdict was in and my phone was dead. Lesson learned – bring a plastic bag next time!

Don’t worry though, I’m back in action now 😉

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Just in time for a dodgeball selfie. #typical

Here’s what I was up to this weekend:

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On Friday, I spent the afternoon with my mom and her best friend/college roommate Linda, who made it out of New York just before the big storm. We had an awesome photoshoot at the Sacramento City Cemetery, where we draped ourselves in shiny fabrics and posed with statues. No big deal. See more of Linda’s photos from the day at her blog Journal Your Journey, where she plans to document pictures of her doing yoga poses throughout her post-retirement travels!

We grabbed a bite to eat afterward at Tower Cafe, where Linda helped me food style my lunch 😉

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On Friday night, I went ice skating with friends at the downtown rink. It was crowded and the ice was choppy, but it was super fun! Even if 4/5 of us fell 😉

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I was nervous that I would be too sore from ice skating to run the next morning. I definitely was feeling it (especially my butt, since I fell right on it!), but not enough to keep me away from my 8 mile run! I even made it to the Farmers Market afterward 🙂

Eating pizza and nachos and drinking a beer the night before probably didn’t help my pace… This was a good 10-15 seconds/mile slower than my usual long runs. But I ran on the hilly half marathon course again and it went really well. The fact that I’m already at 8 miles a whole 10 weeks before my half marathon has me feeling very confident!

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Last night, I took it easy – caught up on some of the most recent season of Homeland (only 2 episodes left!), did my nails, and put green stuff on my face. Typical girly Saturday night in.

Today I have been laying low and am currently streaming the 49ers game on my computer… On deck for this evening is dinner and board games, followed by T-Shirt pick up for the next season of Sunday dodgeball! Apparently the fun never ends around here.

This post is coming to you on Sunday rather than Monday this week, because I have another post planned for tomorrow. My main New Years Resolution this year has to do with living on a tighter budget than I’m used to – my new job is full time, but only pays $10/hour. The next 6 months will be an interesting test in self control and cutting back! Check back tomorrow for more 🙂

Where did you go or what did you do for New Years Eve?

Do you set yourself a budget each month? If so, do you use an app or website?

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?

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 – Walnut Bars

Today is Cookie Swap reveal day!

Leave it to me, the typically Millennial internet-obsessed 20-something, to participate in a virtual/Internet-based cookie swap before ever participating in a real life one! I chose a good one, however: this year, the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000 (via entry fees, donations, and matching donations from sponsors) to be donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer. That is one seriously awesome cookie swap.

Those bloggers who participated had to bake 3 dozen cookies – each dozen going to one of 3 different food bloggers around the country. I was SERIOUSLY impressed by every batch of cookies I received! Each one was better than the last. But more on that later 🙂

My “cookies” went to Maria at Maria of the Best, Lauren at Have Fork, Will Eat, and Samantha at Haute Pepper Bites. I hope they enjoyed their goodies… take a look at my contribution to the cookie swap!

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My cookies weren’t cookies, per se, but rather bars! Walnut Bars, to be exact. These bars can be found in my family’s home every winter without fail. My parents have a walnut tree that produces pounds upon pounds of walnuts in the fall, and this recipe is one of our favorites for using them all up!

The pecan pie-like filling is a perfect complement to the buttery shortbread crust…I was happy to be sending these to Maria, Lauren & Samantha, because whenever they’re around me I end up eating them up super fast 😉 Walnut Bars for breakfast, anyone?!

Walnut Bars
makes 24-36 bars, depending on size

Shortbread Cookie Crust:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine, softened

Walnut Filling:
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup (corn syrup)…light is OK!
2 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cookie crust: Spray or grease 10x15x1in baking dish. Beat together the sugar, flour, salt and butter until mix becomes crumbly. Press into pan. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, prepare walnut filling. Beat eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in walnuts. Once the shortbread cookie crust is finished, evenly pour the mixture over tje hot crust. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm around the edges and set in the middle.

Let cool and cut into bars/squares/whatever shapes your heart desires!

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Now, for the delicious goodies I received… I’m going to use photos from the recipes’ creators, because my iPhone pictures seriously don’t do justice to how amazing these cookies were. Be sure to click through and get the recipes on their blogs! I am DEFINITELY making all 3 this month!

Cherry Almond Thumbprint Cookies from Sarah at Strawberry Plum

These had a great almond flavor and PERFECT texture. Plus, I need to find out where to get that sour cherry jam!

Peppermint Biscotti from Lynn at Turnips 2 Tangerines

Peppermint biscotti?! GENIUS! I can never say no to the peppermint+chocolate combo!

Triple-Ginger Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Deb at Cooking on the Front Burner

I can’t decide what I liked more about these…the zingy ginger flavor, or the huge chocolate chunks?!

Thank you ladies for some delicious cookies! I can’t wait to give them to my friends and family this month over the holidays.

Have you ever participated in a cookie swap?

What is your go-to cookie to make during the holidays?