2014 Running Recap

I can’t believe it’s already the time of year to look back and reflect on where we’ve been. It really feels like it was just a few weeks ago I was planning out my 2014 running plans, making goals, cheering on an injury-free 2013, and so on.

2014 was a pretty good year running wise. I really don’t have many complaints – while I didn’t run as many miles as I did last year (2013 had 1500+ miles, I slacked off somewhat this year and had about 1,350 miles) I did meet all my running goals:

Goal #1: to run 2014 km in 2014. This comes out to 1,251 miles. My total? 1,350+ miles in 2014.

Goal #2: to run at least three half marathons. I ran four half marathons this year! In March I ran a race in Chicago (COLD BUT a PR), in May I ran the Cleveland Half Marathon, in August I ran the Adirondack Half Marathon in Schroon Lake (hot, hilly and humid – definitely not a PR) and in November I ran the Savannah Rock N Roll Half Marathon. (photo below is in order of races – starting at the top left and going clockwise)

2014 running recap

Goal #3: to PR in at least one half marathon and get under 2 hours as my time. I did this! I somehow ended up getting under 2 hours in my first half marathon of the year – Chicago – and proceeded to get under 2 hours in every other race except the Adirondack Half (which I was just happy to survive the humidity and hills).

In the Chicago half I ran behind/in front of the 2 hr pace team (with the yellow balloons) on and off the entire race. I grew to hate that yellow balloon by the end! But it worked – I got my sub-2 hour race.

Some other highlights from the year?

I came in first female! Despite minimal speed training and 5Ks, I did manage to place in one race – I came in first female in a Columbus, Ohio 5k to support autism. In all fairness, it was a SUPER small race, but I’ll still brag where I can! I wish I had gotten a chance to pick up my prize.

I have running buddies! I’m sure B is more excited about this than I am (he doesn’t like running nearly as much as I do and he’s much faster than me), but I’m proud to say that I now have official running buddies.  There are two girls that I meet for runs in the morning on occasion and we’ve pretty much figured out our running groove. I look forward to running with them and we motivate each other on races (even ones we don’t do together).

Me and my running buddies after the Cleveland Half, celebrating with brunch (thus why I’m already changed)

I found out I was chosen to be a Cleveland Marathon Ambassador for 2015! Just last month, I learned that I was selected as an ambassador for the 2015 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I’ll be running the half marathon and hoping for a PR – and of course I’ll be sharing all my experiences with you!

I ended the year INJURY FREE. This is a big deal for me. Yes, I’ve had some shin pain on and off and my heel bothers me if I don’t massage it with a golf ball nearly every day, but NO STRESS FRACTURES this year. I will be thankful each and every year that this is the case. I’m boot free for 2 years in a row now 🙂

To read more about my running this year, check out ALL my running-related posts.

Some questions for you:

  • What’s something you’re proud of that you accomplished this year? (doesn’t have to be running focused)
  • Did anyone else meet a running goal, or 2, this year?
  • What should be goal(s) be next year?

The Most Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful … Time of Year!

As we start to wrap up 2014 and the holiday season, I just wanted to share some highlights of my few days in New York celebrating the holidays with family and friends. ❤

This tree. I love the lights, the ornaments we put on together, and how at home I feel when I’m standing right here.

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Sushi with friends at my favorite sushi restaurant in New York. Nothing beats it!IMG_20141221_134726

Holiday baking with my mom. We don’t actually bake together, but rather discuss recipes and baking choices and then pretty much bake on our own. We enjoy finding new recipes, like this year’s raspberry almond thumbprint jam cookies.

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Seeing friends I haven’t seen in ages. My three best friends from high school this year lived in San Francisco, Brooklyn and Finland – a.k.a. waaay too far. I’m happy to share that this lovely lady is back from her Finnish stint and living in the U.S.A. again!

"Is this going on your blog?" was probably said a few times.

“Is this going on your blog?” was probably said a few times.

And seeing my cousins. We haven’t had a cousin photo in a while.

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Slightly change of running scenery pace. For example, one day I ran past cows. Grazing. On snow. A little different from my downtown Cleveland runs, huh?

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How have your holidays been so far? What’s your favorite part about this time of year?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Almond Thumbprint Jam Cookies

The countdown until Christmas is here! Each year, my family goes into full holiday baking mode, making a combination of new cookies as well as Christmas classics from past years (including Lemon Bars, Tuxedo Hugs, Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies and more). One of the cookies we do year over year are the Thumbprint Jam Cookies. They’re light, flaky and have just the right amount of jam to add an additional sweetness.

This year, we decided it was time for something new. My mom is a big fan of almond (And so am I!) so we opted to try these almond thumbprint jam cookies. My mom loved them, so I’ll consider them a win – and perhaps a new addition to our holiday cookie mix?

Almond Thumbprint Jam Cookies

Almond Thumbprint Jam Cookies

(via allrecipes)

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Add in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.
  3. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Refrigerate dough at least 4 hours or overnight. This prevents cookies from spreading!
  4. When ready, roll dough into about 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Make a small hole in the center of each ball, using your thumb and finger, and fill the hole with raspberry jam.
  5. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.
  6. Make the glaze: In a medium bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon almond extract and milk until smooth. Drizzle lightly over cooled cookies.

Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Enjoy!

Some questions for you:

  • What are 2-3 standard holiday cookies or things you bake? Jam cookies, tuxedo hug cookies, lemon bars! 
  • Have you tried any new cookies lately? Yes! This year we also have a ginger cookie (I LOVE GINGER) and chocolate chip dried cherry cookie. 
  • Any types of cookies you don’t like? Anything super chocolatey. Chocolate cookies with peppermint are one example. I prefer vanilla or non-chocolate (including peanut butter!) for my cookie base.

How many holiday gatherings is too many?

Sorry for not posting any life updates n a while. I know, you’re all probably wondering what I’ve been up to besides baking (because let’s face it, that’s all I’ve been posting about). Well, I assure you, the days these past few weeks have looked pretty much the same. Wakeup. Workout. Work. Go to ____ holiday party/get-together/dinner/drinks/etc. Go home, finish up last minute holiday activities or work, go to bed. Repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOVE all my holiday gatherings and love a chance to catch up with different people – I realllly love this time of era and the holiday lights, drinks, get=togethers, sparkly outfits, etc. but it hasn’t given me a lot of time to blog! Anyway, here are a few ways I’ve been enjoying the holidays in Cleveland before heading home to New York:

Running in the mornings when it’s cold and dark can be tough but with views like this? It isn’t soooo bad:

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Drinks (and dinner) with my sisters-in-law! Every year in lieu of gifts during the holidays we all make time to hang out – for dinner, drinks, or really anything we want. We were going to get manis this year but it didn’t work out so instead, a delicious meal and tasty festive drinks.

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Holiday party with my coworkers! We hit up Platform Brewery for a tour, tasting and fun.

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Holiday baking makes me happy. I wish it were acceptable to marathon bake like this yearround! (Recipe for the below peppermint Oreo bark is here)

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The Holiday Flea! I love the Cleveland Flea (giant flea market with crafts, local food, antiques, etc.) all year long, but there’s just something about the Holiday Flea that makes me feel all warm inside (and it could be the holiday beverages).

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More treats! Holiday cookie exchange with coworkers.

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FaceTime with my brother who is on the opposite coast. Happy to be able to see him thanks to technology – even happier to see him in person for Christmas!

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Making limoncello. And finding it to be easy and quite delicious! (Recipe coming soon)

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Holiday parties with friends. Because holiday drinks+treats+Santa outfits make this time of year splendid.

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Buying gifts for our adopt a family, wrapping them, and delivering them.

Groceries, blankets, etc. wrapped up and ready to be delivered with gifts!

Groceries, blankets, etc. wrapped up and ready to be delivered with gifts!

And enjoying this lovely lights right in my neighborhood. So. Beautiful. I stop to take a picture nearly every time.

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So yeah, that’s what we’ve been busy with. How about you? Any holiday events still to come? What are you most looking forward to now that December is halfway done?

 

White Chocolate Oreo Peppermint Bark

Yikes. There is suddenly less than one week until Christmas? I know what you’re thinking – that’s plenty of time to get my holiday baking done, right? Well, okay … it probably is. But if you’re looking for a sweet treat to make that won’t take too much time so that you still have time for some holiday shopping (or napping) then this one’s for you! This bark is sweet, delicious and takes no time to make (and no oven to preheat). Pack it up in a fun container and you have the perfect hostess gift (it pairs well with a bottle of wine too …. just saying) for a holiday gathering this year.

 

oreo peppermint bark

White Chocolate Oreo Peppermint Bark

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. chopped / crushed andy canes (about 2-3 regular ones or 8-10 mini candy canes)
  • 12 holiday (red creme) Oreos, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Red/green/white sprinkles (optional)

Here is what you do:

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt milk chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl. Mine took about 1 minute 30 seconds to melt and I heated them up at 30 second intervals, stirring after each Pour onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet and spread flat with a spatula.Let cool for at last 10 minutes or until hardened.
  3. Add white chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl and melt like you did with the chocolate chips, stirring about every 30 seconds. Pour over chocolate layer and spread to the edges of the milk chocolate. Sprinkle with chopped candy canes, chopped Oreos and sprinkles.
  4. Chill until set, then break into pieces enjoy!

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your go-to hostess gift?
  • Do you still have some last minute shopping to do?
  • Who is the hardest on your list to get gifts for?

Peanut Butter Fudge Caramel Bars

Just in time for the holidays, I’m excited to share with you a recipe that is delicious and perfect for peanut butter and chocolate lovers.

This is not realllllly a holiday recipe, but you can dress it up with red and green and then it’s the perfect for the holidays! It’s not difficult to make but it IS somewhat time consuming because it’s a few layers. But I promise it’s worth it because it really is that good.*

*if you don’t like peanut butter or chocolate you WON’T like these. I can’t be held responsible for your taste buds.

Peanut Butter Fudge Caramel Bars - icrashedtheweb

Peanut Butter Fudge Caramel Bars

Here’s what you need:

For the cookie layer

  • 1/2 c butter (1 stick)
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c flour

For the peanut butter caramel layer

  • 30 caramels, unwrapped
  • 3 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream

For the peanut butter fudge layer

  • 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips (I ended up using about half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate)
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. candy topping – I used peanut butter M&Ms that were red and green

Here’s what you do:

  1. For the cookie layer: Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 in. pan with foil and/or spray with cooking spray. Creaming the butter and sugar with a stand mixer until fluffy. Slowly stir in flour. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 18 minutes until it starts to slightly brown. Cool for at least 20-30 minutes before continuing.
  2. For the peanut butter caramel layer: Mix caramels, peanut butter, and heavy cream in a pot over medium to medium low heat. Stir until smooth and melted. Carefully pour on top of cookie layer. I used a spatula to evenly spread on top of cookie. Chill at least 15 minutes before adding chocolate peanut butter layer.
  3. For the chocolate peanut butter layer: Melting chocolate chips and peanut butter together in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir until smooth and peanut butter is incorporated and pour over caramel layer. Again, I used a spatula to spread evenly and carefully. Top with candy of your choice – I use red and green M&Ms and sprinkles to fit within my holiday theme.
  4. Chill bars until completely firm; I chilled mine in the fridge for a few hours and then let sit at room temperature before cutting.

Peanut Butter Fudge Caramel Bars (1)

Celebrating the Season

Warning- this post was written after a run, while listening to some holiday music, so it may be a little too cheery and full of holiday spirit.

What a great weekend! I really love this time of year and I definitely got my fill of holiday cheer this weekend.

Friday night I finally got to check out the lights in my neighborhood downtown. It was slightly warm and drizzly, but don’t they look great?

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Then B and I went out for a late dinner at Cowell & Hubbard. We enjoyed a few appetizers (including a cheese plate and clams with chorizo!), a great meal (I love skatewing …) and festive drinks (I had a spiced mulled cider with rum). I have leftovers too to enjoy thank goodness. My meal was amazing.

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Saturday, B and I went out for a 5 miler together. I hadn’t run with B outside of a race in forever – so I was so grateful to have him with me. He paced me the entire time so we were able to finish with a sub-9 minute mile pace.

After our run, we hit up the West Side Market. Again, it had been so long since we’d ben there – and the place was all decked out in holiday lights and even a live band playing holiday songs!

Then it was time for my monthly Ladies Craft Beer Society meeting. This week we were making holiday cards! Finally, a craft I could somewhat excel in. Earlier in the week I had seen this story on the Today show about a 6-year-old girl whose dying wish is to receive hundreds – or more – holiday cards. So sad – I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So LCBS made our cards in honor of Addie – I can’t wait to send her and her sisters all the cards next week!

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When I got home that evening, it was time for an Italian feast! Well sort of. B had bought all the goods to make sauce and homemade pizza and I finished making homemade limoncello while we decorated our apartment for the holidays and listened to Christmas tunes.  I told you – it was a festive weekend!

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homemade limoncello – almost done!

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We finished the night watching my favorite holiday movie – can you guess which one?

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Sunday, B had tickets to the Browns game with a friend, so I was able to spend the afternoon being somewhat productive – I did some laundry, cleaned up a little, listened to more holiday music and even caught up on some work. And since the sun was out, I had to get out for another 5 miler. Without B to pace me, I wasn’t sure if I could keep up the same pace we had done yesterday, but I decided to put on Serial (if you’re not listening to this podcast you MUST) and was able to get in the groove and get it done.

This used to be easy ... i've gotten slower this year!

This used to be easy … i’ve gotten slower this year!

Sunday afternoon we met up with B’s family for another Italian meal-this time in Little Italy.

After dinner, we all caught the Christmas performance by the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus. What a great show – I always love to hear them perform Christmas music and it really gets me in the holiday spirit. As if I needed any help, right?

Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, lit up for the holidays

Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, lit up for the holidays

How was your weekend? Did you do anything to get into the holiday spirit? Yes, see above 🙂

What’s your favorite holiday movie? It’s a tie between Love Actually and Christmas Vacation and Muppet Christmas Carole 🙂

If you could eat only one genre of food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Oooh a tough one (not sure why I am asking this – I don’t like difficult questions!). I’d choose Italian.