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!

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?

 

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.

Three Days To Celebrate the Fourth

As I recently (okay and more often than once before have) professed, I love three-day weekends. There are so many great things about them and I find that they allow me to do everything I want to do – be productive (meal prep, catch up on work, laundry and clean), bake, work out, catch up on TV shows, meet up with friends, go out AND relax. For some reason, a two-day weekend just doesn’t come close and the extra day makes all the difference!

This past three-day weekend was the same. It was full of good (and maybe a little too much) food and drinks. Sunshine. The beach. Hanging out with B’s family for the Fourth. Catching an Indians game. A few runs with friends. Lots of Orange Is The New Black (slowly making our way through the 2nd season!) and almost finishing the book I’ve been reading for the past few months.

Here’s a little peek at all that we were able to cram into our three days off!

What would Fourth of July be without some red, white and blue goodies? Of course I couldn’t let a three-day weekend go by without some baking!

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We enjoyed the Fourth of July and some fireworks with B’s family. They live right next to a park on the lake so we got to enjoy a BBQ and a great fireworks show on their front lawn!b and me on the fourth

I love BBQs as is evidenced by my plate. I ate everything on it minus the beans and the hot dog because I’m weird like that. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. plate on fourth

Saturday included a much needed relaxing beach day. I managed to get in some time on the elliptical before we headed to the beach with Dave and Anson and then back to their house for some pizza and beer on their porch. This time of year I really miss having a porch!20140705_161445

Sunday started out with a nice run with a friend that lives downtown. The weather cooled down during the run (started mid-70s and then got to low 70s) which made for a much more enjoyable run then the past few we’ve had together! Running in sunny, 80-90 degree temps < windy 70 degree temps7 miler with nicole

Then, B and I headed to the afternoon Indians game – and caught a win! We also had amazing club seats, which meant more good food (it’s all you can eat!) – as if my weekend needed it.20140706_153939And speaking of food, Sunday night included roasting a chicken (it’s the third chicken I’ve roasted – and this one was already cleaned and giblet free. I think I’m getting spoiled), prepping some lunches and other meals for the week and catching up on our TV shows. Meaning 24, Damages (we’re on season 3!) and Orange Is The New Black.IMG_20140706_212458

Yup, it really was the perfect weekend – great weather, food, friends, and more. Here’s to hopefully just as great a week!

Some questions for you:

  • How did you celebrate your Fourth of July holiday?
  • Do you like fireworks? Did you catch more than 1 show? Yes! I caught the free show downtown with the Orchestra earlier in the week and then the show at the park on the Fourth.
  • Do you like traditional summer bbq foods like hot dogs and burgers? Actually, I’m not a burger fan. Something about ground beef that gets to me every time. Yes, I tried a little piece of burger on Friday, but they’re still not for me! 
  • If you had three days off, what would you do? Do you like to relax? Be productive? Go out? All three and more?

 

Groundhog Day Cookies!

Today is Groundhog Day! It’s a holiday that my employer celebrates (no, not with a day off, sadly) with pancakes, games, and more. Last year we watched Groundhog Day (probably one of my favorite movies) and played pin the tail on the groundhog (I didn’t win). Anyway, I’m celebrating with these cute groundhog day cookies. The’re super easy (all you need is brownie mix an some frostings) and come out looking super adorable. I used the same brownie cookie base as these football brownie sandwiches and they came out perfect.

groundhog cookies for groundhog day - i crashed the web

Groundhog Day Cookies

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 box of brownie mix
  • Ingredients required to make brownies (according to the box) minus the water, I ended up needing 2 eggs and 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • Vanilla/white icing for the eyes and teeth
  • Chocolate frosting for cheeks
  • Black icing for nose and pupils

Here’s what you do:

  • Mix together ingredients for brownie batter according to package, WITHOUT the water. If your brownie box has options for “fudgelike” brownies v. “cakelike” follow directions for “fudgelike.” Place brownie batter in a piping bag, and cut  a small slit at the end of the bag.
  • Create a round-shaped stencil, or use a cookie cutter. Draw a circle, or the outline of groundhog’s faces on parchment paper. Be sure to leave space between each circle so that the circles don’t run into one another – they will spread some when baking.
  • Line cookie sheets with the parchment paper.
  • Pipe the brownie mix to fill in the circles (see photo).
  • Bake brownies at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Since they are thin, watch to make sure they don’t burn.
  • Cool completely before frosting! Use the white frosting to make the eyes and the teeth. Then use the black icing to draw on pupils and the nose. Then use the chocolate frosting and make the cheeks. I used a piping bag to make them extra cheeky. Get it? Hehe.
  • Makes about 2 dozen groundhogs.
  • Enjoy!
groundhog cookies for groundhog day - i crashed the web

batter on the cookie sheets

groundhog cookies for groundhog day - i crashed the web

finished product

groundhog cookies for groundhog day - i crashed the web

Aren’t they super cute?

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam

Let the countdown begin – Christmas Eve will be here in just a week! If you’re looking for a great cookie to add to your holiday cookie collection, look no further – here is a keeper.

Thumbprint Cookies with Raspberry Jam are a staple in my household and one of the cookies we have nearly every year during the holidays. When my friend Melgar, who typically joins us for dessert during the holidays (but sadly won’t be there this year), asked me to share the recipe, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already posted it here! So here you go – enjoy!

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam - i crashed the web

Thumbprint Cookies with Jam

Here’s what you need:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • about 1/4 c jam of your choice – I love raspberry!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cream butter with sugar in large bowl of electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla, stopping machine as necessary to scrape down sides of bowl.
  3. Add flour and continue beating just until mixed through; do not overbeat or cookies will be tough.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes for firmer cookies that will not spread very much.
  5. Shape dough into 2 tbs. size balls* and flatten with your palms. Transfer to cookie sheet.
  6. Smooth and round cookies using knife (or your finger) dipped in cool water. To make a simple filled cookie, press thumb into formed cookie to make an indentation. Fill with jam.
  7. Transfer to greased baking sheets.
  8. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until edges are brown and centers are just firm to touch, about 8-10 minutes. Cool on racks.

Makes about 2 dozen or so cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies w Jam - i crashed the web

*Feeling crafty and have extra time? Feel free to roll out dough and cut into cute, festive shapes instead of shaping dough into balls, before putting thumbprint onto dough.

Plus, as always, some questions for you:

  • Have you made these before? What do you do that’s different?
  • What’s your favorite type of jam?
  • What’s your favorite holiday cookie?  I love these! And Buckeyes, do they count? 

And here are two more of my favorite holiday cookies:

Super Easy Peasy Tuxedo Cookies - i crashed the web

Cherry Almond Chocolate Kiss Cookies - i crashed the web

 

Friday Five: Five Things To Do In Cleveland for the Holidays

I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. Yes caps lock is intended.

great holiday sweaters and sweater vests

Okay, I know I’ve said it enough. And the picture above probably says it all anyway. But seriously – it may have been 60 degrees yesterday (and it was amazing – I went for a run in shorts) – but don’t let the weather fool you – the holidays are here. So you missed the Holiday Flea, Winterfest and the Public Square tree lighting ceremony? Don’t worry, there’s still so much more to do in Cleveland to get you in the holiday spirit!  I know quite a few people have shared their favorite holiday activities – here are 5 things that I’m looking forward to:

1. Checking out the holiday decor and lights downtown

I LOVE living downtown – it seems like suddenly overnight the festive lights, trees, and even store windows popped up, all to get us in the holiday spirit. Want to feel the holiday spirit? Start in Playhouse Square (and see a show while you’re there! Spoiler alert – check out #3) at Euclid and 14thish and take the E line trolley until you arrive at Public Square. All along Euclid you’ll see various stores with lights, flower pots overflowing with wintry decor, and more. And when you get to Public Square, get ready to be in awe of all the lights – it’s gorgeous! And don’t forget to check out the big tree, as well as the Holidays at Higbee displays. Not had enough? Head into Tower City to check out Bruce the Talking Spruce, as well as the holiday shows in the food court featuring the Toy Soldier and Fairy Godmother (and more – the whole Tower City list of events is here).

Lights around the Theatre District

Lights around the Theatre District

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storefront window in the Higbee building

2. Enjoying a holiday performance from the Cleveland Orchestra

Did you know that the world famous Cleveland Orchestra and their chorus perform a series of holiday concerts each year? The concerts feature a variety of holiday music in the beautifully decorated Severance Hall. I’m lucky to be married into an Ignatius High School family – the Orchestra performs a private show for Ignatius alums and their family and I look forward to the event each year!

Here’s a sneak peak – disclaimer, I found this video on YouTube, it’s not mine:

3. Seeing a show in the Theatre district

Seeing  A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theater at Playhouse Square has become a tradition for B and me. This Great Lakes Theater production runs through December 22, and no matter how many times I watch it (or even A Muppet Christmas Carol), it never gets old. Interested in seeing the show? If you call 216-241-6000 or go to http://www.greatlakestheater.org/tickets/shows/a-christmas-carol to order tickets, enter GLT as your promo code for a discount!

Wine @ Gallucci's!

Wine @ Gallucci’s!

4. Feasting on local treats (going to Gallucci’s and the West Side Market)

OK, OK I know you can do this any time of year – but there’s just something SO magical about the West Side Market and Gallucci’s during the holidays. Stands are decorated in the Market, holiday food comes out, and the smell of the Italian food at Gallucci’s just seems more memorable (maybe it’s the fact that I grew up with an Italian mother and those cooking smells likely got stronger during the holidays?). Anyway, one of my favorite traditions that B and I have is going to the Market and Gallucci’s, buying supplies to make pepperoni bread and sauce, and then making the meal, decorating our apartment, and watching Love Actually. Try it. I dare you not to feel in the holiday spirit after doing that!

5. Local shopping

Let’s face it – the holidays wouldn’t be the same without shopping. This year, I’m buying a lot of stuff locally – if possible. The Holiday Flea was awesome, and there are so many other upcoming opportunities to get your holiday (or personal) shopping done:

Ohio City Festival (Dec. 7): Ohio City Festival is THIS weekend! So get your gift list ready and visit local shops like the Cleveland Bazaar and Made in the 216. If that doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, there’s also photos with Santa, Christmas tree sales, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday crafts for children, a photobooth, carolers, and mulled Christmas Ale from Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Holiday CircleFest (Dec. 8): Keep the festivities going all weekend long and stop by University Circle on Sunday the 8th for the Holiday CircleFest! In addition to shopping, the event in University Circle will feature horse-drawn carriage rides, ice sculpting, live music, a gingerbread house competition – and more!

Pop Up Shaker (Thurs/Sat/Sun through Dec. 15): Pop Up Shaker started last week along Chagrin Boulevard and I can’t wait to check it out! (Yes I do LEAVE downtown sometimes. See numbers 2 and 4 above) This festive winter pop up combines crafting, food, and shopping and will take place Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through the 15th.

Tremont Holiday BrewHaHa (Dec. 13-15): In addition to stopping by the BrewHaHa weekend in Tremont for the famous Santa Shuffle (where the picture of  B and me at the beginning of this post is from), I can’t wait to check out the Pop Up Shop and Party on Dec. 13. AND there’s even a Tremont Holiday ArtWalk!


And now, some questions for you:

  • What holiday traditions do you have? Love Actually and holiday decorating. And pepperoni bread. And seeing A Christmas Carol. Use the discount code I shared and see it yourself!
  • Quick! What are five things you are looking forward to about the holidays?
  • What’s your favorite local shop?
  • Do you run in any holiday races?