Malden Rotary Club 10K… and a few thoughts

I did it.  I ran my first 10K yesterday.  And I ran the ENTIRE THING.

I didn’t necessary stick to my original training plan and even though I did get my butt out to run a few days a week, I wasn’t feeling super prepared.  Plus, my head hasn’t been 100% in the game (any game) over the past few weeks and I considered not running it at all. But then I figured if anything, this was something I had to do for me.. and only me.

So let’s go back to the day before my biggest running accomplishment to date.

Friday was rough for the good portion of the daylight hours.  After seeing the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games with my friend Greg, I had a completely unrelated breakdown, cried until I got sick, cried myself to sleep and then all morning.  I didn’t even go to class.  Eventually I dragged my sorry excuse of a human being out of bed, picked up my camera gear from school and spent the afternoon with my friend Sara.  And by spend the afternoon with, I mean that I fell asleep at the end of her bed for three hours, probably because I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep in weeks.

A few hours later, Sara worked her magic, made me look gorgeous (not to toot my own horn, but even I was like holy crap,) and we went out for our other friend Steph’s birthday.  We went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory where I fueled with their Skinnylicious Pasta with chicken, basil and marinara.  I only got about halfway through the bowl before my tummy told me to stop.  Apparently 2 weeks of hardly eating will shrink your stomach.  Either way, it was delicious and I spent the next few hours having fun with my friends without thinking about any other worries in the rest of my life.

Sara does good work... I even felt pretty.

I went home to Lynn to get a full, yet restless and nightmare-filled, eight hours of sleep.  In the morning, I had my usual pre-race breakfast of 3 pieces of wheat toast with peanut butter and a bottle of water before my mom and I headed to Malden for the 11:30am start.

Toast and water.. I am boring.

When we got there, I headed right to registration, picked up my swag bag and tried my best to push all sad thoughts from my head.  I visualized crossing the finish line.  Before I knew it, I was hugging my mom and heading to the start.

So much swag!

And this is the face of a very nervous runner…

2 words: fake smile.

The race itself was pretty small.  There was a 5K course and 10K course but only about 350 runners total.  The 10K headed out first.  As I started running, I felt good.  Just 1 mile in, I knew I’d be able to run farther than I had in any other race without a walking break.  Usually, I have to stop a few times to walk but as I hit the mile 2 mark, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t need to stop at all and that’s where I started to think “Oh my God, I can do this without stopping.”  And once I get a goal in my head, it’s pretty tough to get it out.

I had my Garmin on and it kept my pace beautifully.  Sadly, every time I looked at it (which was pretty often), I felt a small searing pain hit my heart.  It was a gift from someone very important to me, but we’ll just leave it at that.

I also kept my eyes on a girl in a bright pink tank top who was running ahead of me for the entire race.  I could’ve passed her multiple times, but I let her pace me and I think it was the better decision.  At times, I’m sure I felt like a shadow to her because I was so close but if I hadn’t used to her to speed up and slow down, I don’t think running the whole race would’ve been possible.

At 4.75 miles in, I called my mom to tell her I was close to finishing.  She was reading in her warm car but I didn’t want her to miss my finish.  After that, my groove seemed out of step, my stomach was a little less uneasy and I wanted to be done.  I kept telling myself “keep going; I want to tell people I ran without stopping; prove to yourself that you can really do it.”  Eventually, we rounded the corner to the finish line, I could hear my labored breathing over my music but I didn’t care – I dug deep and pushed, crossed the finish line and grabbed a much-needed bottle of water.

I threw myself into my mom’s arms and started crying.  I cried because I finished, I cried because I ran the entire thing without stopping once.  I cried tears of joy, sadness, anger, resentment, disappointment.  I cried because the one person I wanted to collapse into, to hug me, to be proud of me at the finish line, wasn’t there.  I was angry, overjoyed and devastated all at the same time.

And then I stopped crying.  Because this day was about nothing other than the fact that I set my heart on something and got it.  And it felt amazing.  I knew then that if I didn’t give up on running, no matter how hard and painful it was at times, I wouldn’t give up on other things I loved either.  And for that moment, I felt calmer than I have in weeks.

The farthest I've ever run..

On that note, here are some happy/crappy details of the race:

The Happy:

– The weather.  I could not have asked for a better day.  It was incredibly chilly out, a complete difference than the past few days in the Boston area.  I was thankful for the crisp breeze the second I started running because I knew it would keep me from getting too overheated throughout the run.  And the overcast kept the sun from beating down onto my already reddened face, so that was nice too.

– My new shirt.  A gift from my friend Kim for my birthday, it’s sweat-wicking and didn’t get heavy or overheat me in anyway.  I even wore my long-sleeved NDA zip-up for the whole race and only felt super hot towards the very end.

– The swag.  I got a long-sleeved T, running gloves, a baseball cap, bread from a local company, a water bottle and other goodies from sponsors like VitaWater.

– The price.  The student rate was $10 which is the least expensive race I’ve ever run.  I think I got more value in just my swag bag than I paid for the actual race.

– Shot Blocks.  Ya know how good runners say to never try something new on race day?  Well, I did.. oops.  I bought a pack of Tropical Fruit flavored Shot Blocks at New England Running Company and was excited to try them.  The only thing I was worried about was any stomach issues that might occur but I took one just pass the mile 2 marker and then another a little ways into mile 4 and chased both with some water from water stops and felt a sudden surge of energy after each.  They tasted great, had a consistency that didn’t hurt my stomach and gave me a boost that I needed.

The Crappy:

– My running capris.  Apparently they are too big, which shouldn’t be a surprise since I’ve lost about 15 pounds since I bought them.  I had to keep pulling them up, which got a little annoying.  I’ll buy new ones for my next race.

– The finish line.  Not the actual finish line itself, I could see the clock, the girl took my number, normal end of the race.  It was who wasn’t at the finish line that hurt the most.

On another happy note, I mentioned on Facebook that if I finished my race, I would reward myself.  So this little guy is all mine.  My new motto: “Slow and steady wins finishes.. the race.”

My nickname in elementary school was "Tortoise" so I suppose this is pretty fitting!

And as the title promised, a few thoughts…

I think running is a lot like being in love.  It’s an incredible feeling, good for your body, your mind and your soul.  Sometimes it hurts like hell, sometimes you want to quit and give up or stop because it’s just too hard.  But when you push yourself through that pain, find your stride and look deep in your heart, when you can breathe again and take look around, it is the most rewarding and breath-taking experience in life.

And if, at the end of the race, you have the person you love’s arms to collapse into, well.. I’d say you’re the luckiest person in the world.

For when you need a Pick-Me-Up…

Sometimes life gets away from us.  One minute things are completely calm and the next, you feel like you are spiraling out of control.  Nothing seems right, your heart hurts, and your stress level is sending your tear ducts into overdrive.

When my life gets like this, I usually turn to tried-and-true “me things” to make myself feel better.  Working out is one of them, dancing is another, baking rounds out the trifecta.

I’ve been feeling pretty down the past couple of days and today wasn’t any better.  So I broke out the list.  I got up early and got in a (very sweaty) workout at the gym and I have 2 hours of dance later tonight so the one thing missing from my “pick-me-up” list was baking…and only one thing came to mind.

Cookies have always been a comfort food of mine.  I’ve made these and these and even these but the recipe today is one that Stephen and I have used over and over again and we’re never disappointed.  We have the recipe printed out and we’ve used it so many times, it’s got molasses and dough smears all over it.  That’s how you know it’s a good recipe.  I wasn’t a huge fan of ginger snaps until he and I made them together – now, they are one of my favorites too.

He's bad for my cookie addiction.

Ginger snaps are one of those cookies that you probably always have the ingredients for in the house.  They have a deep, warm flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture… one of those “can’t have just one” type of cookies.  And they are easy to make.  It’s especially fun to take extra flour and put it all over your special someone’s face – they’ll really enjoy that, I promise.  These are perfect to give as a gift or to show that special someone how much you love them.  Or you can just come over now and have one while they are still hot… seriously… It’s worth it.

The offer to come over is still good...

Our Favorite Ginger Snaps
Courtesy of AllRecipes.com

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TB ground ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
Cinnamon-sugar (for coating)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Sift flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl.  Stir to blend.

3.  Place shortening in a mixing bowl and mix until smooth.  Slowly add the white sugar while the machine is on.  Beat in the egg and then the molasses until it is all combined.

4.  In batches, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until a soft dough forms.

5.  Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into 1-inch balls.  Coat the dough balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

6.  Bake in preheated oven until the tops are rounded, about 10 minutes.  Let cool or invite that someone special over while the cookies are still hot!

A Not-So-Normal Wednesday

If you haven’t heard by now, yesterday was Super Tuesday.  This is how I spent my day:

– 6:00am: Wake up.  Shower. Try to look decent.

– 7:30am: Drive to Vermont

– 9:30am: Keep driving to Vermont.

– 10:00am: Arrive in Brattleboro, Vermont.  Scope out election scene at the high school, drive around Smalltown, USA.  Shoot lots of video.  Buy a shot glass and a stick of maple syrup.

Welcome to Smalltown, USA.

– 10:45am: Ask some guy if we can shoot from his back porch.  Guy agrees.  We get great footage with minimal tree intrusion.

– 11:00am: Head back to the high school, shoot more video, interview people, do a standup, freeze bum off

– 12:30pm: Get amazing lunch at random, hole-in-the-wall pub.

– 1:30pm: Start driving home.

– 2:00pm: Stop for gas before we run out.

-4:00pm: Arrive at school, return camera equipment, start editing, writing, recording.

-9:00pm: Finish package, figure out chyrons, write other stuff, tweet, tweet, tweet.

– 9:45pm: Go into newsroom.  Send texts so people will watch the show.  Get on the phone with Skype crew.

– 10:00pm:  Live Super Tuesday show.  A little rocky, but successful.  Vermont package airs.  I get 3423 text messages from family and friends telling me they loved it.

– 11:00pm: Go to bar and drink beer with classmates (and prof) on the dean’s tab.

Report the news.. then drink.

– 11:45pm: Train home.  Almost miss stop.  Set morning alarm for 5:45 and 6:15.

-12:21 am: Sleep.

– 5:45am: Alarm goes off.  Almost throw phone across the room.

It was a long day.  Thankfully today, we don’t have class because we had it last night instead.  But that doesn’t mean I got to sleep in.  Quite the opposite.

I didn’t actually end up rolling out of bed this morning until closer to 6:30.  I had to meet the rest of the Unyted Stylz crew at the New England Aquarium at 7:30 for a show.  I was nervous that I’d totally miss our call time so I left my apartment just after 6:45 to take the Green Line to Government Center and switch to the Blue.  I met up with another crew member waiting for the blue line train and was happy that I wouldn’t get lost the rest of the way.

At the Aquarium, the host of the event was beyond thrilled to see us.  When it was time for us to perform, I was pretty nervous since it was my first show with the crew since joining last month.  Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t as Oh-My-God-I’m-Gunna-Throw-Up nervous as I normally am before performing.  Either way, it was great and the crowd really liked us.  And I looked pretty decent in the video we watched after so WIN.

Some of US Crew (with baby CJ!) at the Aquarium

When I got back to my apartment, I made some breakfast, watched Jenna Marbles (anyone else obsessed with this girl?  Fun fact: She got her Master’s at BU like me) and tried to make myself look decent for the second time today before heading off to Cambridge to meet up with Alaina for the first time in person!

I’ve been reading Alaina’s blog for a while now and when we figured out we live super close to each other, we decided a blogger meet up/coffee date would be the way to go.  Unfortunately, we are both incredibly busy so it’s actually taken months to finally take the time to do it!

We met up at 1369 Coffee House in Central Square, Cambridge just off the red line.  I had never been there before and was excited to try it.  I ordered a blood cider instead of coffee (who am I?) and it was delicious.  Locally produced piping hot apple cider with a deeply aromatic tea steeped in.  I also tried the cranberry-walnut muffin which was delicious.  Alaina and I talked about anything and everything you could think of: our blogs, running, working out, living in Boston, school…  It was great to get to know someone in person that you feel like you have known from reading their blog.

The rest of my day looked like this:

– YouTube videos.

– Nap.

– Oversleep from nap; frantically get ready; train to school.

– Anchor BU’s “Inside Boston”.

– Fro Yo (aka dinner) with a treat-obsessed dance friend.

– Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube.

And now I think I’ll sleep because I have an live guest coming tomorrow to interview on our class news magazine show and I should probably wash my hair and put make-up on in the morning.

How did you spend your Wednesday?  Do you have to set three to five alarms to ensure you’ll wake up on time?

Friday Things… and why I can’t feel my legs right now.

I’ve come to a point in my grad school life where I don’t particularly enjoy any day of the week ever.  Not even weekends… not even Mondays when I don’t have class.  I’m either shooting, editing, making myself look pretty to be on camera, getting yelled at for doing something wrong, working my ass off and only getting B’s, etc.

I know I’m being whiny and annoying.  I just hate school.

There's me.. 2nd computer in. Typical night.

Okay, I’ll try to stop being annoying now.

If you read the title of this post, you’re probably wondering why my legs are numb at the moment.  Well, it’s because yesterday, despite the nasty weather, I decided to get my sweat on in the form of a gym workout (including a treadmill/speed work run) and 3 hours of dance to follow it.

I had 3 miles on my agenda yesterday and after reading Hilary’s “HIIT to FIT” treadmill workouts, I decided to give it a try.  I modified it, of course, because that girl can run at a 7:07 pace and that just doesn’t seem conceivable for me since I usually run between 9:50 and 11:00 per mile.  Cool.

Here’s my version of Hil’s HIIT to FIT:

3 minutes warm-up, walking at 4.0.
90 seconds running at 6.7 (9:50), 30 seconds running at 5.7 (10:31) –> repeat 4 times.
3 minute recovery, walking at 4.0.
45 seconds running at 7.2 (8:45), 15 seconds running at 5.7 (10:31) –> repeat 4 times.
1 minute recovery, walking at 4.0.
60 seconds running at 7.7 (7:47), 60 seconds running at 6.7 (8:45) –> repeat 2 times.
Walk at 4.0 to round out 30-32 minutes.

Did you keep up with all of that?  Well, I was drenched in sweat and my legs were trembling by the end of it.  7:47?  Seriously?  I was pretty proud of that.

I chased my run with some ab work and a few arm exercises before hopping on the train to go to an hour of ballet.

The second I tried to move when I got to the studio, I knew it was going to be a rough night.  My legs felt like lead and even the simplest “failli assemble” seemed too advanced for my sweaty self.  Rehearsal was fun as always, but after the hour was up, I headed to a much different rehearsal, knowing I was in for a good ass-kicking.

I recently joined a hip-hop crew in Boston called Unyted Stylz.  They are amazing.  I promise to explain more about them later but just know that by the end of the 2 hours I spent with them, I was completely drenched, bright red and along with my legs being shot, my right big toe was not doing so well.  I think  I sprained it…

When I got back to my apartment, I took the hottest shower of my life, microwaved some dinner and passed out with my computer on my lap.  Today is a “good hurt, but I’ll take it easy at the gym later” kind of a day.

Tell me: Was your Thursday incredibly sweaty like mine?  How do you do your speed work?  What do you think about the treadmill… great training tool or way too boring?  Do you like microwave dinners?  Smart Ones are my fave.

Winning, Losing, Sickness, School

My team lost, it was a rough game and that’s that.  There will be no more talk of Super Bowl 2012.

Let’s talk about things that are happy or stressful.  Anything but football.  Since I’ve been away from the blog for a little while, I think this is a perfect time for an update.

School… is stressful.  I thought last semester was hard.  My fall courses were a cake walk compared to what I’m dealing with now.  One of the worst feelings in the world is when one of your professors shoots down every single idea you have for your projects.  When May 4th rolls around, you can find me doing cartwheels outside of 640 Commonwealth Avenue because after this semester, it’s smooth sailing (and flying if you’re referring to London!)

My new apartment… is amazing.  My roommates are great, it’s super convenient and I love being a 5 minute walk to the gym. 

Running… has not really been happening.  See “my health.”  I’m also still looking for a race to run this month but since Sundays are now dedicated to dance, my options have been limited.  Help!! I plan on getting back into a routine this week so hopefully that new 5K PR is in the near future.

Dance… is wonderful, albeit a huge time consumer.  Not in a bad way, just in a I-wish-I-had-more-time way.  I had to drop a night of DanceWorks Boston to free up some time for school things which was awful, but the 5 routines I’m in are going to be great.  And cardio is never a bad thing.  Last weekend, DWB even got to travel to New York City to perform in a show there.  It was a blast and dancing in NYC is always a dream come true.  That’s the “winning” aspect of this post. 

The dance I choreographed... "Hello World"

And sometimes in NYC, I put my leg in the air.

Can you find me?

My health… has been CRAP.  I got sick last Friday (of course the day I was going to NYC) and have been sick ever since.  And when I say sick, I mean it.  Gastroenteritis, norovirus.. whatever you want to call it, infultrated my body last Sunday and well, I’ll spare you the gorey details.  I managed to lose 8 pounds in 1 night if that’s any indication.  Then once that was all out of my system (literally), I caught a head cold and have been dealing with that ever since.  Good job, immune system, thanks for your hard work.

Cooking… also hasn’t really happened this week.  Between NYC and getting a sickness that didn’t make food appealing for most of the week,  I wasn’t really in the mood to cook.  I did make some delicious guilt-free piggies in a blanket and an amazing trifle for a certain football game we aren’t talking about and they were both a hit so we’ll count that as a good cooking for the week.   I want to use my crockpot at some point in the upcoming week so stay tuned!

Aren't these the cutest munchies ever? And guilt free!

Well, that’s pretty much it for now.  Next on the agenda?  Surviving this week.

Tell Me!  How has your week been?  Have you managed to avoid getting the stomach flu?  What upcoming races are you running?  What was the best thing you cooked this week?

Oh, PS – Anyone want a yummy trifle recipe?

Oreo and Brownie Trifle
Adapted from Baking Away

Mmm.. trifle...

Ingredients:
1 9×13 inch pan of fudgy brownies
2 small boxes of fat free, sugar free chocolate pudding mix
4 cups of skim milk
8 ounce container Cool Whip Free
12 ounces regular Cool Whip
18 Oreos

Make brownies and set aside to cool completely.  Mix milk with pudding powder and let chill for 30 minutes.  Then, gently fold in the 8 ounces of Cool Whip Free until there are no streaks.  Chop the oreos and set aside.

To assemble:  Lay half of the brownies in a trifle bowl followed by half of the pudding.  Sprinkle half the oreos over the pudding layer and top with half of the regular Cool Whip.  Repeat layers.  If desired, garnish the top with crushed and/or whole oreos or dark chocolate shavings.  Chill until ready to serve. 

Delicious AND beautiful!

Virtual Bake Sale!

Attention Chocolate & Wine Readers!

I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference.  A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity.  And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!

My good friend/fellow Boston blogger and bruncher, Amanda, is running the Boston Marathon for the first time.  She is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is attempting to raise $4,000.  Right now, you can attend her blog’s virtual bake sale and bid on a variety of baked goods by some of her favorite bloggers (myself included!!!!)

These are my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls. You should probably go bid on them.

Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items.  All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal.  Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity.  YOU can help her make it happen.

Questions?  Shoot me an e-mail!  And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!

MY PLEDGE:

For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity.  For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity.  And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!!  Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!

Rules:
(PS – these are based on the honor system.  If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)

1.  Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did.  Include what you bid on and how much you bid.

2.  If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.

3.  If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it.  Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!

I mean... yum.

I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!

On Moving.

I moved out.

That sounds so dramatic, right?  Conjures up all sorts of story lines and skepticism of family issues.  But in reality, I’m just a 23-year-old grad student who was sick of her hour and a half commute to school 4 days a week.  I love my parents and living with them is wonderful most of the time, but I needed a change in a big way.  So I made one.

You might remember when I panicked last semester and had a meltdown, but eventually came around to the idea that I actually kind of enjoy getting my Master’s Degree.  But the commute had to go, friends.  I know there are people out there who have much longer commutes than I do, and they are very strong people.  I am simply not one of them.

Back at the beginning of October, I began searching BU’s website for possible apartments close to my college.  The only one that fell into my price range (AKA cheap) and desired location was a 4-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom, 3rd floor walk-up a little less than a mile away from BU’s College of Communications.  I went to check it out, fell in love with it, and found myself signing a lease for my first big-girl place a few months later.

Now, I am unpacked (for the most part) and already loving life outside of Lynn, MA.  I have 3 roommates, a good-sized room, still plenty of space to cook and a 3-minute walk to the gym.

I heart my new kitchen. That's my new crockpot already taking up space on the counter.

And while I’m only in here until the end of May, when I have to gear up for my summer in London (still more details to come!), I find it very cool to say that “my apartment in Boston” is the best loan money I’ve spent so far.

No, sadly, Boyfriend is not my roommate.. yet. But the ribbon/clothespin photo idea is courtesy of my cousin Ali.

Not sure what that says about the actual degree I’m working so hard for, but it’s the little things, like my very large schedule board, that make me happy.

What? You mean everyone doesn't have a huge bulletin board dedicated to their daily routine? I don't understand. And yes, the shiny black and silver things on my bookcase ARE pom-poms. Don't judge.

I want to know: Did you love your first real home-away-from-home?  Was it super expensive or was the price just right? How do you feel about my crazy bulletin board?  What craft on Pinterest can I add to my room decor?

2012 will be BIG.

2012 promises to be a huge year for me.  I have big ideas, big dreams and big goals.

This year will include a lot of milestones.  I’ll turn 24, study abroad in London covering the Summer Olympics, create and present a media thesis project, choreograph for DanceWorks Boston and Kinetic Synergy, work my 4th summer with the National Dance Alliance, finish my last 2 semesters of grad school, run a bazillion more races… the list is endless.

Goals-wise, I am all about the resolutions. I love ’em.  Not the kinds that say “I’m going to drop such-and-such amount of weight” but the ones that make you feel good when you accomplish them and make you want to work harder if they slip away from you.

I feel like this can be referred to in all aspects of life...

2012 Goals

Run 10 5K races.  I know this is attainable.  I just need to buckle down and register.

To go along with my 5K race goal, I want to run the 2012 Marblehead Beach to Beach 5K again this year.  It was my first ever race and I’d love to keep running it every year.

Run a sub 27:00 5K.  That’s about a 9:00 min/mile.  I can do it.

Run 5 longer races this year, 5-milers, 10Ks and one half marathon.  Holy crap, I can’t believe I’m writing that, but there it is, out there for the world to see.

Choreograph 3 more dance pieces.  It took me until 2011 to realize how much I love choreographing and I don’t want to stop!

Try out and review 1 new restaurant a month.  I want to expand my food horizons and experience as much of it as possible… on a budget.

Work 3 NDA camps.  This one might be tough because of London, but I think three is a good compromise since I usually work 9.

Ace my study abroad.  6 weeks, 1 class, 1 internship, 1 chance.  An internship with a huge news networks could lead to a possible job.  I want to kick ass during my time in London; it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and could set me apart from a million other applicants in the real world.

Rock my media thesis.  No specifics just yet but it will include a website where I am happy to say I just buy the domain.  It will come with a lot of physical and mental changes and challenges.  Stay tuned.

Finish graduate school successfully.  Without too many meltdowns would be ideal.

Save money.  This year will be especially difficult since London alone is very expensive, but I have a number in mind and achieving it at least once this year would be great.

Love others more.  Personal goal.  Be nicer also ties in here.

Overall, I hope 2012 will be as successful, productive and eye-opening as 2011 as been.  Thank you to all of you who read Chocolate & Wine and support me through everything I do.

I raise my glass (of Asti) to you.

Last question of 2011: What are your biggest goals for the new year?

 

2011 Recap & Wrap Up

2011.  I feel like it went by so fast.  At this time last year, I was a completely different person and I’m happy to report that I’m a better me than I was at the close of 2010.

This year, I achieved things I never thought I ever could.  I choreographed three group routines, I started running and ran four 5K races, I got into grad school and survived my first semester, I realized what I truly want in my life and I am starting to become the person I have always wanted to be.

I worked my third summer with the National Dance Alliance, I now dance in an amazing company in Boston and BU has opened my eyes to incredible new opportunities, including an acceptance into a 6-week study abroad program to cover the London Olympics next summer.

2011 taught me to not take life too seriously.  To enjoy each day, love whole-heartedly and appreciate myself for who I am.  It’s a great feeling to look back on this year and know that I have grown in so many ways.

Back in July, I set some mid-year goals for myself.  So let’s recap them and see how I did.

1.  Work (at least) 8 NDA summer camps.  Done.  I worked 9!  I traveled everywhere from Kansas to Maryland and loved every minute of it.  

NDA friends take awesome photos.

2.  Run 2 more 5Ks.  Done.  I ran 3 more: Run for Ryan’s Cup 5K in SeptemberWitch City 5K in October and the Lynnfield Turkey Trot 5K in November.  I wanted to run one in December as well but since I didn’t get to, I signed up for the “Run Your Hangover Off 5K” on January 1st.  I think it’s the best way to kick off 2012!

I heart bib numbers.

3.  Host a blog giveaway.  Done. I hosted my first giveaway in September for Chocolate and Wine’s 1st Blogiversary!

4.  Stick to Weight Watchers (not playing a numbers game here. Work out, eat right, follow the points, be healthy and let the body do what it will.)  Kinda done.  I don’t exactly stick to the WW plan but I did manage to drop 12 pounds this year and I am VERY happy about that.

I, I, I, I WORK OUT.

5.  Rock the first semester of my grad program at Boston University (all A’s would be sweet but we like B+s too.)  Kinda done.  1 A-, 1 B+ and 2 Bs.  I am very proud; grad school is hard, man.

Dream job.

6.  Try 1 new recipe a week.  Fail.  Sometimes when I cook, I use the same recipes over and over.  But now that I have a beautiful new crockpot, I might be able to achieve this goal in 2012.

7.  Dance in 4 DanceWorks Boston fall pieces.  Done.  I danced in 5!  6 if you include the finale/Flash Mob!  

Some of my DanceWorks family...

8.  Train for and run a 10K.  Fail.  I chickened out.  2012 will hold at least one 10K and maybe even a half marathon.

9.  Take hot yoga regularly.  Fail.  I probably did it a total of 3 times between the summer and now.

Overall, I think this has been a great year.  I achieved most of my goals and really let myself let go of the rest of the emotional baggage leftover from undergrad.

So long, 2011…On to 2012! Goals and “resolutions” to come!

It’s Almost Christmas!!!

To start this post today, I’d like to say a very Happy Birthday to my cousin Sam!

Sam's 21st Birthday... 22 will be much calmer.

I can’t believe how fast this year flew by.  It’s crazy to me that Christmas is a mere 2 days away.  Am I ready?  YES YES YES!

Our Christmas Tree... It takes up the better half of the living room.

First, I want to give a special shout-out and thank you to to Boston.com for featuring my Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti recipe the other day.  Because of you, I reached a record number of page views for one day at Chocolate & Wine!  What a great early Christmas present for my little corner of the Internet.

You should really make these for Christmas..

Lots of people ask me what I cook this time of year for Christmas and the various holiday parties I go to.  To be honest, the list is endless.  I try not to bring the same thing to the same place so it’s always a never-ending search for new recipes to try.

This year, I narrowed it down to a few winners.

For my best friend’s ugly sweater party, I made kale chips.  The recipe could not be simpler.  Take a bunch of fresh kale and wash thoroughly (they can be gritty so really let ’em soak).  Then rip the leaves away from the stems and place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray.  Top with more cooking spray (instead of oil to save some cals!), a little salt and a little black pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  They become crisp and golden and melt in your mouth.  A really great snack or appetizer for hungry girls watching their waistlines!

Check out those sweaters. We don't play around.

For a Christmas Eve appetizer, I pinterest-ed a recipe (did I mention I’m on Pinterest now?  And obsessed with Pinterest?  Well, I am.) And I found mini toothpick caprese salads.  So easy, so healthy, so beautiful!  I’m even going to make a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top.

Christmas Day is my favorite.  Because I come from a large Italian family, we do things in a traditional way.  And by tradition, I mean we eat and drink for approximately 6-8 hours and pass out in food comas at the end of the night.

Food Coma 101... Christmas 2007!

Christmas is a time for family and the Torto family’s ancient recipe for homemade raviolis.  These are no joke, my friends.  We already made them (in November) and they are sitting in plastic baggies in my aunt’s basement freezer waiting for their bath in from-scratch, simmered-for-hours tomato sauce.

Christmas day is served in multiple courses.  Antipasti, then escarole soup, then the ravs with meatballs, sausages and pork, then salad, then dessert.  Not to mention the finger foods we munch on before sitting down to the table or the bottles and bottles of Asti Spumonti and 2-Buck-Chuck red wine we go through.

This is Asti and it will be gone.

And that’s only with my family.  I mentioned that Stephen is Italian too, didn’t I?  That’s a whole ‘nother story (and food coma..)

I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and great food.  And maybe a surprise or two!

Beautiful pillows of ravioli perfection. Photo courtesy of Miss Ali Reed.