Half Marathon Training

The countdown has begun for the Central Park Half Marathon.  17 days until me and about 15 of my friends will wake up at four in the morning to make a freezing cold trip into the city with all of our race essentials.  Trying to figure out the timing of when to eat, when to have coffee and when to get in line for the bathrooms is all part of the crazy fun of race day.  Hopefully when we arrive it will look like this

central park

and not like this!

central park snow

One way or another I know it will be a great day with my friends and I will have run a race in Central Park – something I have always wanted to do.

To run a half marathon you really do have to train.  There are all different levels of training plans available – for novice to experienced runners.  There are even couch to half marathon plans (I bet you have already heard of couch to 5k plans)!  If you are completely new to running but would like to tackle a half marathon, set aside about 14 weeks to get ready.  It is actually a good idea to give yourself 15 or 16 weeks because life sometimes doesn’t cooperate with our plans.  This way you will have a cushion if you or someone in your house gets sick or if anything else comes up.  Here is a couch to half marathon plan if you are interested.

I have mentioned before that I have not done very well with planning the half marathons I have already run.  It is not ideal, and I am sure I could run a better time with better training.  But, if you already run at an intermediate or above level, you will be fine training for less time.  Here is a sample of a 10 week plan for an intermediate level runner.

10 week half training

To see this plan in more detail, look here  From past experience I have learned that it is best for me to get 13 miles in at least once before race day.  Many people do not find it necessary though.

Surprise, surprise, I am behind on training for the upcoming half.  I ran 10 miles today and only have two weeks left until race day!  That means next week has to be my 13 mile week, since you would never want to run that too soon before the race.  Now if only the weather will cooperate…  I am just not a treadmill runner.  I did get to try out my new ponytail hat today.  It worked great – it was warm and not annoying.  What else can you ask for?


Tonight we tried pumpkin pizza for dinner.

Pumpkin pizza 1  pumpkin pizza2  pumpkin pizza3

I adapted this recipe from the one posted on  That recipe looks great too, but we love garlic and parmesan cheese and I didn’t have time to make the dough.  We liked this pizza a lot, and it is a nice alternative.  Traditional pizza is still our favorite though!

So, I am wondering, do you get up early to work out?

Valentine’s Day Recipes

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  I love this holiday – no pun intended.  To me, this is just a fun day to tell people that you care about them.  No expectations – no grand gestures.  I think that is why I like it so much.  Small thoughtful acts of kindness seem so much more genuine than expensive (or even not so expensive!) obligatory gifts.  When my siblings and I were growing up our mom always made this a special holiday for us.  She always had a token for each of us of how much she cared for us.  So even when we were teenagers we were never let down by the lack of a “valentine.”  Now I get to do the same for my boys.  : )

Valentines Heart

So who is your valentine?  Maybe you have more than you thought?  Your kids, your friends, your parents – of course your significant other.  Maybe even your pet!  Here are some fabulous recipes to show them how important they are to you.

strawberry hot chocolate

Strawberry Hot Chocolate – from


Strawberry Hot Chocolate


  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pint strawberry ice cream
  • 4 cups water
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate sprinkles
  • chocolate chips


  1. Melt chocolate chips in a ceramic bowl in the microwave. Dip mugs in melted chocolate and set aside to harden.
  2. In a medium pot, whisk together butter, sugar and ice cream until melted. Add water until your desired consistency is achieved. Heat until steaming. Pour into mugs and garnish with whipped cream and sprinkles.

red velvet cake mix bars

Red Velvet Cake Mix Bars – from

Red Velvet Cake Mix Bars


  • 1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup Valentine's M&Ms


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 11 3/4" x 7 3/4" baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Mix cake mix, egg, butter and vanilla until blended. Fold in half of the M & Ms. Press batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining M & Ms, pressing them into the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to completely cool before cutting into bars.


Peanut Butter Blossoms with Chocolate Hearts

Valentine’s Day Peanut Butter Blossoms


  • 48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Chocolate Hearts
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Additional granulated sugar


  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Beat canola oil and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate heart into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 48 cookies.
  5. Hint - put the cookies in the refrigerator to cool so the chocolate heart will retain its shape.

I know you have made these before…

valentines rolo pretzels

Valentine’s Rolo Pretzels.  They are quick and easy to make and everyone loves them.  Just unwrap the rolos and place them on top of the pretzels.  Put them in the microwave for a short period of time – around 30 seconds or less, depending upon your microwave.  Then top with a valentines M&M.

There are so many options!  Here are more ideas.

rice crispy treats

cinnamon rolls

valentines cookies

(Yes, these are twinkies!)


cookie heart

heart cake

So, I am wondering, will you bake for Valentine’s Day?  What will you make?


Comfort Food

It’s snowing!  Snow is not a given where we live, so a weather forecast of snow becomes a state-wide event.  First, the meteorologist predicts snow.  The forecast is then repeated and retweeted and posted until even our pets know that snow has been predicted.  (Poor little Fezzy.)  Second, everyone in town immediately goes to Shop Rite.  What are we buying?  More milk, more bread, more water?  Just in case… Third, everyone wonders when/whether school will be cancelled.  I would like to say I am not a participant in this craziness, but I would be lying.  Today after the kids went to school I got gas (I really needed it though) and went to Shop Rite.  Then I had to pick the boys up from their half day.  LOL.

This snow may actually warrant the craziness though.  As of now, 8 – 15 inches are predicted in our area and a “State of Emergency” has been declared by the governor.  My last minute decision to make comfort food (hence the Shop Rite trip) is seeming like a pretty good idea.

Carrot Ginger Soup is always a good idea.  I love this soup when it is freezing outside and in the summer.  I will be very happy to come inside to this after shoveling us out tomorrow.

carrot soup1 carrot soup2

Carrot Ginger Soup


  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 lbs carrots (approx. 15), peeled and chopped
  • 3 + tbsp. ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook onion in butter in a soup pot until soft.
  2. Add garlic and sauté for a minute.
  3. Add carrot, ginger, thyme, salt and pepper.
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  6. Puree and serve.

Tomorrow morning I am making Crock Pot Pepper Steak.  There is something wonderful about the smell of something delicious cooking in the crock pot when you come in from the cold.  It warms you and just makes you happy.  This recipe is so versatile.  We might have it in tortillas or with rice or pasta.  I will let the boys choose.


Crock Pot Pepper Steak


  • 2 lbs beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 beef bullion cube
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 3 large green or red peppers
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar


  1. Season meat with garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. Brown meat in a frying pan in oil, then transfer to the crock pot.
  3. Mix bullion cube in hot water until dissolved. Add cornstarch and mix until dissolved. Add mixture to crock pot and stir.
  4. Add onion, pepper, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce and sugar.
  5. Cover and cook on high for 3 - 4 hours or on low for 6 - 8 hours.

One last note.  Before I went to Shop Rite today I finally had my dryer vent cleaned.  I was quite delinquent in this task and I feel so much better now that it is done.  Did you know that dryer vent lint causes a lot of house fires?

So, I am wondering, what is your favorite comfort food?

I am also wondering, have you had your dryer vent cleaned recently?


Happy Friday!

Despite a slippery start, today has been a happy Friday for us.  I made real progress on finally taking down the Christmas decorations and the boys had a good day at school.  They each had two tests today and they came home with all A’s.  I am very proud of my smart guys!  I also got started on Aidan’s birthday “stuff.”  I am always amazed at how much there is to prepare for a birthday!  It is work that I really enjoy though because I know how happy it makes the boys and their friends.  Aidan has chosen Clumsy Ninja as his theme for this year.  Have you played it?  It is a cute game.  There is not much merchandise available yet.  I guess it is a relatively new game.  That’s ok.  It gives us an opportunity to get creative.


The juice making went well today too.  I made three different juices – red, orange and green.

Beet Juice

Ginger Apple Beet Smoothie


  • 1 large or 2 small apples, seeds removed and quartered
  • 1 large or 2 small oranges, peeled
  • 1 large or 2 small beets, cut into quarters
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1+ inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 3 large carrots


  1. Place everything in a juicer or blender and puree.
  2. Chill or add ice, then enjoy!

I like this smoothie.  It a beautiful red color and I like the taste, although I find it hard to describe.  Ginger is the most prominent flavor, but not the only flavor.  Once I started to drink this, I wanted to keep going.

Next I made a Carrot Orange Ginger Smoothie.  I was excited for this one because I love Carrot ginger soup.  I was surprised that it did not taste more like the soup, but I still loved it.

Oragne smoothie

Carrot Orange Ginger Smoothie


  • 1 pound carrots
  • 3 naval oranges
  • 1 + inch piece of ginger, peeled


  1. Add to juicer or blender and puree.
  2. Chill or add ice and enjoy!

I saved the green smoothie for dinner time.  I was a bit apprehensive about this one, I have to admit.  It has a lot of ingredients!  I was pleasantly surprised.  The lemon and ginger are the most prominent flavors in this one.  It is funny because the ginger seems to be the stand out flavor in all three smoothies I made today, but they taste nothing alike.

Green smoothie

Green Smoothie


  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber
  • 3 kale leaves without the stem, chopped
  • 1 apple, seeds removed and quartered
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 + inch piece of ginger, peeled


  1. Add to juicer or blender and puree.
  2. Add water if needed.
  3. Chill or add ice and enjoy!

I was going to make a strawberry almond smoothie after dinner but, to be honest, I was full.  I will save that for tomorrow.  In fairness, I did not go “all juice” as I planned.  The kids pizza crusts were just too enticing!  Oh well.  Maybe tomorrow.

The boys and I had game night tonight.  It is nice to spend time with them without any screens involved!

juice 022

The boys and I are going to see The Bronx Bombers play in the city this winter.  It is an inspirational story of Yankee history told by Yogi Berra and his wife, focusing on why the team celebrated such success.  The boys and I love the city and I will sneak a little culture their way whenever possible!  I got the tickets through a promotion run by  They offer free tickets to Broadway shows for children accompanied by an adult during the offseason (2/24 – 3/2).  We are excited to go!

So, I am wondering, will you be at a youth sporting event tomorrow too?

Healthy Eating

It seems like everyone I know is trying to eat more healthy now that the holidays are over.  This means something different to everyone, however, as I believe it should.  There is no “one size fits all” perfect meal plan.  Kids need to eat differently than adults, athletes have different caloric and dietary needs and those with special health concerns may have to avoid or increase certain foods.  Other people may have religious or moral concerns about the food they eat.  I became more aware of this when I had a child with special health needs and dietary concerns.  “Healthy Eating” means something different for everyone.

Even so, we all know when our diet has taken a turn for the worse.  We don’t feel as good as we should, we may lose or put on a few pounds.  Our skin doesn’t look great and our energy levels are low.  If you are feeling this way now, it may be time to take a look at how you are fueling your body.  The best way to do this it to keep a food journal for a few days.

We do our best to eat healthy at our house.  I was brought up by a mom who was a nurse and believed very strongly in a healthy diet.  We love superfoods and have them on our table as often as we can.  You will always find almonds, spinach and pumpkin here, and blueberries whenever possible.  We are not even close to perfect though!  So this week, we are focusing on raw, whole food juices, made at home.  Today I made Ginger Apple Beet Juice.

Beet Juice


  • 1 large or 2 small apples, quartered and deseeded
  • 1 large or 2 small beets, quartered
  • 1 large or 2 small oranges, peeled and cut in half
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 inch + piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 handful of spinach


  • Add all ingredients to your blender or juicer and puree.

I made this juice with my Vitamix blender, which I love because I get to use all of each ingredient (no pulp to throw away) and the end consistency is great.  Not all blenders can handle this though.  I have not really explored this type of juice smoothie before and I didn’t know if I would like it.  Turns out, I did!  I love ginger and that is the most prominent flavor in this juice.  The boys have not tried it yet, but they promised to at least try my new juices.

Some people are wary of just drinking juice for a day or two.  Today I had other food as well, but I am going “all juice” tomorrow.  Look at the ingredients in the blender!  It is a salad!  Tomorrow I will round it out with a green smoothie and an orange smoothie as well.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

My friend Sandy makes the best vegetarian food!  I am lucky enough to get to sample it sometimes.  She inspires me to eat better!  Today she shared with me Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts.


It was delicious!  She got the recipe here  Some of you might know that I have not been a fan of brussels sprouts – ever.  And I have tried!  In this recipe I actually loved them.  Sandy, I ate all of it!  So now I have to go to her house for a tutorial.  Next thing, she will have me eating kale chips.  LOL.

I am still working on my mom’s shawl.  The base was done for Christmas, but the ruffle was not.  The ruffle is now half done, anyway.  It’s getting there!


Ken and Fezzy say hello.


So, I am wondering, do you like brussels sprouts?


Happy New Year!

2014 here we come!  The boys and I will be bringing in the new year with friends tomorrow and we are looking forward to it.  My contribution to the festivities is holiday sangria – a delicious and festive drink that was passed on to me by my friend Eileen.  We tried it at Christmas and everyone loved it.  Here is the recipe:

NYE sangria

  • 2 bottles of Merlot
  • 1 bottle (2 liter) of ginger ale
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2-4 oranges, sliced
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 bag cranberries

Here is a hint – add the sugar to the wine first and make sure it is dissolved completely before slowly adding the ginger ale.  The sugar will make the ginger ale fizz all over otherwise!

If you want to make the kids a “drink” a shirley temple is sure to be a hit.  Add a little sword toothpick in the garnish and the boys will be happy for sure.

NYE shirleytemple1

To make this drink, mix the following:

  • 1/2 lemon lime soda
  • 1/2 ginger ale
  • a splash (or more) of grenadine
  • garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice

We are still enjoying the boys’ loot from Santa.  : )  Today was a game day for us.  Nana came over and we played ping pong, Uno Blast and a Diary of A Wimpy Kid game.  If you see this game, consider it.  It is so much fun and very family friendly.  It has so many great conversation starters.  It definitely exceeded my expectations!  The boys have read all of the Diary of A Wimpy Kid books, so they loved it as well.

NYE cheese

Have fun tomorrow!  I am not sure if I will post, since it will be a late night.

NYE bitstrip1

So, I am wondering, do you make a New Year’s resolution?

Time For Fun

Finally we have reached a point where there is not much left to do and we can just enjoy ourselves!  Well, mostly.  The presents are wrapped – thanks to a couple of late night wrapping sessions, the shopping is done, the meals are planned.  Phew.  So today the boys and I played Monopoly and caught up with friends for a movie and pizza.


By the way, the boys were right about Frozen.  It is a girls’ movie.  Very cute though.  If you have a girl you should consider seeing it.  Finally a Disney happy ending that isn’t contingent on finding the perfect man!

The boys are getting very excited for Christmas morning!  Which reminded me of our traditional Christmas breakfast.  We have funnel cakes.  Mmmm.  This is a tradition we started when the boys were young and not interested in anything for breakfast Christmas morning, let alone a breakfast casserole.  Funnel cakes are exciting though.  We only make them once a year.

funnel cakes

If you want to make them, here is the recipe:


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 4 tbsp. melted butter
  • confectioner’s sugar (for topping)


  • Combine milk, egg and vanilla in a large bowl.
  • In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and sugar.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Combine.
  • Mix with a mixer until smooth.
  • Fold in melted butter.
  • heat oil in a frying pan on the stove.
  • Drizzle batter into oil using a funnel or squeeze bottle.
  • Fry until golden and slightly puffed.  Flip if needed.
  • Remove funnel cake from oil and place on a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

After a late night last night, I was thankful Sammy delivered breakfast this morning.

sammy donuts1

sammy donuts2

So, I am wondering, will you miss your Elf when he returns to the North Pole?

Christmas Cookies – Day 10!

The last day of my Christmas cookie baking is here!  Today I made one of my mom’s favorites – Pecan Sandies.  We always have these at Christmastime.  My mom usually makes them though.  I had to read the recipe twice when I noticed there was no egg in them.  Once in college I accidentally made chocolate chip cookies without eggs.  I do not recommend it!  My roommates and I had a good laugh at that one!  They were hard as rocks!  But not these cookies.  These are crumbly and delicious.  These are for you, Mom!

Some people have other names for these cookies.  I don’t know why.  You might call them Russian tea cakes or snow balls or Mexican wedding cookies.  We call them sandies.

cookies pecan sandies


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar (for coating)


  • In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy.
  • Add confectioners sugar.  Mix until combined.
  • Add water and vanilla extract.  Mix until combined.
  • Add flour; mix until combined.
  • Add pecans.  Mix until combined.
  • Cover bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls.
  • Bake 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Place 1 cup confectioners sugar in a large ziplock bag.
  • Once completely cooled, add cookies, a few at a time, to confectioners sugar bag.  Coat completely with sugar.

That’s a wrap!  Mostly.  I might still make oatmeal cookies before Christmas.

cookies boxed

I would love to hear what you think of any of my recipes that you make!

Christmas Cookies – Day 9

The cookie of the day is Cinnamon Iced Pumpkin Cookies.  These are a cake cookie and so delicious!  I might have to go get one now!  These cookies are new to me this year, but I can guarantee we will have them throughout the year from now on.  Since I was young my family has had a rule about pumpkin foods – you can eat them whenever you want!  Pumpkin is a superfood, after all.  Growing up, if pumpkin pie was in the house you can bet we were eating it for breakfast.  So yes, the boys and I had these for breakfast.  In fairness, we ate the ones I did not ice (I was saving them for breakfast, of course!)

cookies iced pumpkin


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For Icing:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. milk


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  • Add egg, vanilla and pumpkin.  Combine.
  • Mix dry ingredients in separate bowl.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Mix until combined.
  • Drop onto cookie sheet using cookie scoop.
  • Bake 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Once completely cooled, ice cookies.

Icing Directions:

  • Combine confectioners sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.  Add milk as needed to achieve desired consistency.  I made my icing thicker than a glaze.

If you haven’t noticed, I do not like cloves.  I omit them from all of my recipes.  Feel free to add ground clove wherever you would normally include it.


Today was Dane’s class holiday show.  The kids showcased holiday traditions from around the world through song.  Dane had France.  I love France.  I have been lucky enough to visit different parts of France on occasion and hope to take the boys there some day.  This was a fun introduction for him.

Dane's class show 003

It is great to have the opportunity to support the boys school activities.  Nana and Aidan came too, and we were all very proud of Dane.

Dane's class show 020


Christmas Cookies – Day 8

Today’s Christmas cookie is Gingerbread Cookies.  Not gingersnaps.  These cookies are a little crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy in the middle.  I make these every year at Christmas and often at other times as well.  They are one of mine and Dane’s favorites.

cookies gingerbread


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp. ginger
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • about 2/3 cup sugar, to roll the cookies in


  • Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  • Add egg and molasses.
  • Combine dry ingredients in another bowl.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar.
  • Press each ball gently with a fork to make design on top.
  • Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

Hope you enjoy!



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