Gingerbread out the Ears

Happy Day After Christmas!

For the next few weeks I’ll be in a state of depression because the world that has been so beautiful and sparkly will return to it’s normal, unadorned state.

Our Christmas weekend was fantastic with lots of family time, gluten free cookies, and general festivities.  And considerable drama trying to get Aaron his Christmas present after Nordstrom shipped him a size 10 black dress.

On Saturday we had some friends over for a Gingerbread House decorating party, and I was amazed at some of the creative structures that can be formed with graham crackers and frosting.  I’m not sure why we aren’t all architects  (for the record, one of our friends is actually an architect).

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AND…

I finally finished my own gingerbread house!  After an inspiration photo, a sketch, a scaled drawing on graph paper, a 3-D prototype, lots of gingerbread, royal icing, sugar, fondant, food coloring, chocolate, (an exploded Pyrex glass, but NO fire this year!!! and as I’m typing this, there is a segment on The Today Show about exploding Pyrex.  WHAT ARE THE ODDS?), and weeks of countless hours spent baking and decorating….

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…the finished product is done and ready to decorate the kitchen until at least July! Thanks for all of your sweet comments! Everything on here is 100% edible (though…ewe) and made from scratch.

While my gingerbread project does cause self-induced stress, kitchen disasters, and usually a fire or two, seeing everything put together makes me extraordinarily happy, and it really is one of my favorite parts of the holidays!

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IMG_5633I hope Santa was good to you, and I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

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Christmas Survey Because I Love Christmas

I saw this Christmas Survey on Christina’s blog, and I decided to steal it.  Consider this a gratuitous fluffy non-running related post (they do ask a running question!).  But I mean, who doesn’t love more Christmas (well, except Aaron who apparently has watched one too many Hallmark movies and now goes around calling himself Ebeneezer)?

1. Favorite Christmas Album/CD/Song?

I mean, really.  There are so few that I don’t like (Feliz Navidad comes to mind…I think they play it more here in New Mexico).  For traditional songs, O Holy Night and Silent Night.  Newer,  All I Want For Christmas is You is my jam.  Frank, Dean, Rosemary, Nat, and Buble can sing anything and I’d be a big fan.

This however, is hands down THE WORST Christmas song ever.  But I can’t stop listening! It takes some talent to express gratefulness for being born in the USA and wish Jesus a happy birthday in one sentence.

2. Run on Christmas morning or take the day off?

Confession…we almost always take Christmas off.  There just isn’t a good time of day to squeeze it in.  One year, when we first got engaged, Aaron had to work on Christmas, so I hung out at the gym for a couple of hours.  But otherwise, if you can’t let go on Christmas, when can you?

3. What do you usually eat on Christmas morning?

Aaron and I always get up and go to my parents in our pajamas and open presents there with some mimosas.  Breakfast is usually some fancy pancake dish or traditional tamales and eggs. There are usually always baked goods.

Slightly deranged looking. It’s ok.

4. Favorite holiday or Christmas tradition?

My gingerbread house is probably my favorite “Amy” tradition.  I think Aaron is still wondering how he married into such a crazy kitchen disaster.  Otherwise, watching Christmas movies, our annual Christmas party, River of Lights, falling asleep to the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve, and spending time with family are my favorite.

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What Christmas looks like at the Lavender House

5. Real tree, fake tree or no tree?

REAL.  A few years ago my mom bought an artificial tree because nothing in nature was as perfect as she wanted (plus, they always look pretty dead by the time Christmas comes around).  But I can’t do it.  I love the smell.

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6. Christmas pajamas… yay or nay? For as long as I can remember, we always get to open one present on Christmas Eve…Christmas pajamas.  So, always yay. (See picture above).

7. Where do you spend the holidays? Both of our families are in town, so we do presents/breakfast/Disney parade with my family and more presents/dinner with Aaron’s family.

8. Food that you always have during the holiday season? Favorite Christmas food/treat? 

When I think of Christmas food, I think of traditional New Mexican favorites.  Tamales, red chile enchiladas, taquitos, and biscochitos.  It ain’t Christmas without them.

9. Open presents all at once or take turns?

All at once! That way you don’t have the awkwardness of having everyone watch you and your reactions.

10. Favorite Christmas(ish) movie? 

I’m going with It’s a Wonderful Life because Jimmy Stewart is my boyfriend and the story is SO GOOD. I really like almost any Christmas movie though. Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Love Actually, Eloise at Christmastime, Miracle on 34th Street, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Polar Express, The Holiday, The Grinch.  You name it.  Except for those wretched Claymation movies.  I’ll watch Rudolph, but anything else is just not gonna happen.

Which Christmas song do you think is the worst?

According to the Christmas Song Authorities, Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey is the worst.  I still think I Love Christmas beats it. I’ll let you decide.

(Half) Marathon Reflection…Tuesday

I know there are days of silence going on right now.  I’m not really sure when the official one is (I’ve seen several), but I know I couldn’t bring myself to post for the last several days.  I am heartbroken over the events of last week.  I came home for lunch on Friday and I sat in front of CNN and cried, and I still can’t make it through a news story without getting a terrible feeling deep in my gut.  I don’t think anyone, myself included, will recover from this emotionally for a very long time.  My thoughts and prayers are, and have been, with the people of Newtown.

The family of one of the little girls just moved to Connecticut from an Albuquerque suburb recently and they were members at the gym that Aaron manages.  Emilie Parker used to go to the gym day care pretty often and a few of Aaron’s employees knew her pretty well.  According to the news, her favorite book was Charlotte’s Web, and she used to greet her kindergarten teacher here in New Mexico last year with a “salutations, teacher” every morning.

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This weekend I was looking at my calender, and I realized that, even though I’m doing two separate training cycles, I am 4 months out from Boston meaning I am officially in the marathon training time frame.  So soon?  Truthfully, right now the thought of 17 mile runs is slightly overwhelming. I was so excited to start training for my first marathon back in June, and even though I’ve forgotten the pain of the actual race (MARATHONS ARE FUN!), I remember vividly the lost weekends, miserable 800’s, and chaffing/bleeding/blistering.  Even now that I’m getting back into the 10-12 mile runs, I’m starting to get a slight feeling of dread as I lace up my shoes.

And this weekend’s 10 miler wasn’t my most inspired long run.  Turns out, if you spend the winter running on a nice flat treadmill in a climate controlled guest bedroom and then attempt to run up a mountain, your body rebels in grand fashion. On Saturday, we kept hoping that if we waiting a bit longer to head out, the temperature would rise.  It kind of did (36 degrees is warmer than 27 degrees)…  As much as I run, I haven’t invested in any long running pants, so I wore shorts and compression socks. Meanwhile I saw people walking dogs who looked prepared for a walk in Antarctica. I was ok, but I think that my legs took an extra long time to warm up, and they had that weird tingling and redness that comes from sweating and simultaneously freezing.

The uphill miles were SLOW and I didn’t quite get the exhilarating feeling of flying during the downhill miles either.  Our past few (flat coursed) long runs have been fast, and I’ve been able to get 7 miles in during the first hour.  On Saturday I barely got 6 in during the first hour.  Luckily, it wasn’t completely miserable, but it did serve as a good wake up call that I haven’t been keeping to my weekly goals and and apparently I’ve forgotten about those lessons learned the hard way during marathon training.

So, as a reminder to myself of what I said I would do at the beginning of the cycle, here’s what needs work for the next 5 weeks leading up to Operation Fast Half.

1) Train in harder conditions than you want to:  Neither RnRAZ or Boston are flat.  So why am I training on a flat surface? Hitting pace goals is nice, but that won’t help power me through Heartbreak Hill.

2) Weight lifting/muscle burning exercises: my muscles are tiring faster than they should.  And my shoulders keep tensing.  During marathon training I discovered that rows helped prevent shoulder tightness.  Yet I haven’t been doing them.

3) Yoga, stretching, and general injury prevention: My calves are tight every day.  Running on tight muscles without taking care of them is a sure way to get injured.  I also have been neglecting the foam roller.  I will say though, I don’t see myself icing any time soon.  Ice is cold.

4) Cross-training: This isn’t nearly as essential during half training because the mileage really isn’t enough to completely burn me out or really injure me from over-training, but I still want to be doing more spinning and swimming for overall fitness. I haven’t in a couple of weeks.

5) Core exercises: I haven’t been doing my daily core exercises.  Instead of feeling like a cohesive unit barreling through space while running, I feel like I’m flopping around like an octopus.  My body parts aren’t working together.  And my lower back has been aching more recently.

I’m less than 5 weeks out from what is supposed to be a strong fast half that will help me transition into “Don’t Be the Slowest Person at Boston” marathon training, and I need to start taking this seriously.

I think I started falling into the mindset that, hey, it’s the holidays, I can be lazy.  But I can’t.  (Sidenote: this new enthusiasm may be slightly prompted by the creation of my 10 year high school reunion facebook group.  I’ve never been very keen on actually going to my high school reunion, but I suddenly feel pressure to have some noteworthy accomplishments.  Like, maybe I haven’t climbed the corporate ladder or moved out of state after talking loudly about how much I hated New Mexico for the first 18 years of my life and the last 5 years after college, but I can run a fast marathon, gosh darn it!).

And really, I should be taking advantage of the fact that my long runs are only 10 miles and weekly mileage is between 20-35 miles because too soon I’ll be back to thinking 10 miles is any easy day (just kidding…I’ve NEVER thought that!).

On the Christmas front, I am now way behind on my gingerbread house.  I need it to be done by Saturday, but I have so much left to do.  I  may have to pull some all nighters here this week….

Hope everything on your Christmas to-do list is getting done! Only one more week to fit in as much Christmas as you can!

WINNER! And (Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Random.orgCongratulations, Emily! I’ll be emailing you later today, and I hope you enjoy your North Beach Sunglasses from The Sunglasses Shop! And thanks so much for everyone who entered!

Project Gingerbread House hit a bit of a bump yesterday while I was heating sugar for the windows.  I do this every year (one year I set the microwave on fire because I put the sugar in a METAL cup), and I’ve gotten good at the process, but as best as I can tell, I probably caused a crack in the glass when I rinsed it out right after it was super hot (extreme change in temperature), so the next time I put it in the microwave, it shattered because the glass was compromised.

Sometimes it helps to know science! (I don’t know science).

BUT, this is what the windows look like when finished! What’s a little fire or shattered glass when we’re talking Christmas joy?

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Oh, and I take back everything I said about making swimming progress.  I couldn’t even get my head underwater in the pool yesterday without hyperventilating.  So, it’s looking more and more like doggie paddle for me! If you ever thought I was afraid of looking like an idiot in front of a bunch of people (then you probably haven’t met me?), this should prove you wrong!

Happy Wednesday!

Time to Get Christmasy! (AND KATE IS HAVING A BABY!)

Just wanted to let you know that this week’s (Half) Marathon Reflection Monday post isn’t done yet (or started…).

This weekend Aaron and I went to Phoenix for the wedding of two of my friends from college.  Talk about AMAZING wedding.

I also got to hang out with Jac (I am a really terrible person and didn’t look up the address of the restaurant until we were leaving…40 miles away from our hotel! Thanks to that and the world’s slowest hotel checkout procedure, we were ridiculously late to lunch).  I LOVE meeting blog friends, and Jac was so sweet despite us being so late.  Although she did talk some major smack about green chile which is sacrilege in these parts! There is a picture but it is currently living on Aaron’s phone, so I’ll share that tomorrow.

Because we were out of town on the weekend that I usually do all of our Christmas decorating I am way behind.  We wanted to put it off until we came back, but now I’m stressing about getting a tree, decorating the tree (somehow always a 2-3 days process) putting lights on the house (likely in the dark), sending out our Christmas cards, Christmas shopping (I have bought exactly 1 thing so far), putting up my little Department 56 Dickens Village, finishing my gingerbread house, etc. etc.  I think it takes a very special type person to get this stressed over being Christmasy.

photo (4)My lone Christmas cheer…for some reason I can’t get it to rotate!

So, the points of this blog are to tell you:

1) I am a terrible real life blog friend

2) Despite loving Christmas so much, I have NO decorations up aside from the Poinsettias I bought at Home Depot on Black Friday

3) REMEMBER TO ENTER THE SUNGLASSES GIVEAWAY! The winner will be chosen tomorrow night, so time is running out!

4) MY BFF KATE IS PREGNANT! I mean, I shouldn’t be this happy for someone who I will never ever meet, but I AM SO HAPPY!

5) My blog is snowing! Cool since it doesn’t look like anyone is getting any real snow.  The weirdest thing ever is to be in Phoenix (so warm) with Christmas decorations everywhere.

I'm pretty sure she's not showing yet...

I’m pretty sure she’s not showing yet…

Hope you are having a wonderful Monday!

A Lovely Christmas Weekend

December 26th is one of the worst days of the year.

The radio stations have stopped playing Christmas music.  Everywhere, people are (prematurely in my opinion) taking down their lights from their houses.  The presents have been opened.  The cookies have been eaten, and now I just feel fat. 

And the weather is cold.  Around Christmas, it is acceptable.  Now, I’m miserable and so ready for Springtime.

At least I have the memories of this weekend to reminisce on.

Friday night we had our friends over for a small gathering.  Our signature “Poinsettia Cocktail” slightly based off a Martha Stewart recipe was a big hit! (Vodka, cranberry juice, Martinelli’s, and orange zest). 

Saturday night we took Giuseppe and walked around the Ridgecrest neighborhood to see the traditional New Mexico luminarias. Ridgecrest is a very charming old neighboorhood, and the medians are lined with little bags of light.  It was pretty cold, but definitely worth it!

Sunday, Christmas Day, bright and early, we went over to my parents’ house (in our Christmas pajamas) for presents, brunch, and the Disney Christmas Parade.  Then we went to Aaron’s aunt’s house (after changing out of our pajamas of course) for Christmas dinner and board games. 

Instead of buying each other gifts, Aaron and I opted to each put in half toward a fancy Canon Rebel EOS T3i camera.  (Silly Aaron bought me something anyway which was against the rules!). I am amazed at the difference in picture taking between this camera and our little old one.  I suddenly feel like a real photographer!  I am a little intimidated by it though.  So many settings and options that I don’t understand.

We were able to get some pretty good pictures of our Christmas weekend, even if we did stay pretty much on the automatic setting!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work, back to a diet that isn’t completely cookie-based, and back to our half-marathon training regimen.  Today’s 11.1 mile run was a little torturous after all the merriment.

I hope you had a lovely and merry Christmas, that you got to spend time with family and friends, and got everything your heart desired!

Eve of Christmas Eve! (And a Completed Gingerbread House)

In the word’s of one of my favorite literary heroines, Eloise, “It’s the Eve of Christmas Eve!”

I discovered this year that The Plaza Hotel unveiled their Eloise tree, designed by the Queen of whimsy, Betsey Johnson.  AMAZING!

In other news, I finished my Gingerbread house this morning! This will mark the first year since 2007 that I actually followed through the whole project.  Aaron will be happy that no miscellaneous gingerbread parts will be laying around the kitchen until April.  He’ll get a fully constructed house instead!

I baked and constructed and frosted and decorated, and ate a lot of raw gingerbread dough (and fondant) along the way.

I kept taking pictures of the progress, afraid that I would come home from work to find it collapsed and lost forever and we’d have another year of an unfinished product.

But, after 6 days of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to work on it, working on it during my lunch hour (and returning to work covered in flour), and spending every waking hour since Saturday morning working on it, I am finally finished!

Now I have to go be a good little elf and clean/bake non-gingerbread things/cook/shop/wrap presents/frolic (run) in the snow/sing Christmas songs loudly to spread Christmas cheer/and of course get the obligatory Christmas mani/pedi!

Only 2 days until Christmas!

(Is everyone else this excited?!?!)

 

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Can you believe it?

In one week from now, the Christmas parties will be over, the presents will be opened, the cookies will have been eaten, and the magic, engery, and excitement will be fading.  I’m trying really hard not to think about it because it makes me sad.

So until then, I plan to cram as much Holiday Cheer as possible into my hours.

We’ve made our wine stop at our favorite winery, Casa Rodena, which was decorated for Christmas!

My house is finally all decorated.

The Christmas shopping is *almost* done.  I only have 1 more thing left to buy. Aaron on the other hand hasn’t even started…. (typical).

The Christmas cards have been sent.  And thanks to my mom the photographer, and Minted the amazing photo card design company, they are looking quite spiffy I must say.

Project Gingerbread house is on schedule to be finished by Friday evening.

Now all I have to do is wrap presents, and watch Love Actually/It’s a Wonderful Life/Miracle on 34th Street/Home  Alone/Eloise at Christmastime/The Polar Express/How the Grinch Stole Christmas/The Christmas Story.  In fact, the only Christmas movies I’ve watched this year (aside from the Hallmark Channel/Lifetime ones) is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and The Holiday.  I have a lot of  catching up to do.

And baking.  My goal is to make 2 varieties of cookies and 1 batch of cupcakes by Saturday. Sometime, in between work, sleeping, half marathon training, finishing my gingerbread house, cleaning the house, hosting some friends for a gathering, prepping some food for said gathering, wrapping, and helping Aaron with his gift purchases, I will do the baking!

Christmas music will be played non-stop unless a Christmas movie is on. Here’s to a very Christmas 7 days left of Christmastime!

The Art of the White Elephant

Tis the season for lots of Christmas parties.  Whether they be office, friend, or family, it seems like our whole December is filled with them. 

Where the idea of a “white elephant” gift exchange came from, I have no idea (I’m sure it would take about 5 seconds on google to figure it out).  Sometimes, the gift exchange is cordial.  You give fancy chocolate sauce, a bottle of wine, or gift certificates to Starbucks.  While the gift is typically useful and appreciated, it is also very boring.

Sometimes, the white elephant is tacky.  The purpose is to hand off some terrible present that you’ve received in exchange for something equally terrible that someone else didn’t want.  Useful, no.  Entertaining, you bet.

We went to one of those last weekend. 

Aaron and I don’t have a lot of terrible gifts in our house, and the ones we do have were given to us by very nice people, and we’d feel bad if they ever knew we gave their treasured gift away in a white elephant gift exchange. So, we had no choice but to head to Goodwill and do some treasure hunting.

I don’t really go to thrift stores too often, but maybe I should start.  Where else could I find some of these amazing treasures! If I ever need a VCR, a figurine, or some vintage 90’s decor, I know exactly where I’m going!  In addition to getting some pretty marvelous White Elephant presents, I got a $6 tennis racket in great shape, and a $1 vase.  Can’t beat that!

This was one of the winners!

This was another winner!

I don’t even know what this is…

One of the rules of White Elephant is that you can steal other people’s gifts, but usually the gifts are so hideous, no one wants to do any stealing.  Apparently that didn’t apply to the ones I chose.  My gifts got stolen TWICE.  First, I was deprived of a genuine Village People Live and Sleezy record. I guess there will be no dance parties at Amy’s house anytime soon.

THEN (and this one hurts), a bottle of rum was stolen from me (the person who brought this obviously thought this would be a cordial White Elephant exchange).  We ended up leaving with a lovely mermaid figurine that is meant for hanging (don’t think that it isn’t!), and a lovely box full of incense should I ever need to conceal certain aromas. 

Lesson learned from all this….Goodwill is a good source of entertainment.  So are white elephant gift exchanges!

River of Lights

I am on a mission to be as Christmasy as possible.  This weekend Aaron and I went to River of Lights, which is Albuquerque’s version of a large scale light display of happiness hosted by the Botanic Gardens.  Neither of us had been in years, and it looks like Christmas light displays have come a long way since then.  Before, there were a lot of flat light displays.  Technology now allows for 3-D animated light figures! My newly discovered “night scenery” camera mode was in picture taking heaven!

The River of Lights opens at 6:00 p.m. daily and runs through December 30 (closed Dec. 24 and 25).  Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.  Adults are $8.  There was plenty of parking when we went and it was free.  Hot chocolate is available throughout, which is nice because standing outside for over an hour at night makes for some very numb fingers and toes.

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