I did a bit more advance planning this holiday, as Grace’s due date was 2/15. I figured Nick and I might well be ringing in the sweetheart’s holiday in a labor and delivery room… but instead we’ll be at home with a very happy, teeny, tiny baby.
While I’ve had a gift stashed away for my husband for a few months, some of you may be scrambling (as I usually am), so I thought I’d share a few inexpensive, last minute ideas.
You can’t go wrong with flowers and chocolate
You just can’t. I think a simple bunch of white tulips is perfect for any occasion. Including Tuesdays. Which is to say, you don’t need an occasion to give someone (or yourself, obvi) flowers. Same goes for chocolate.
Tea for one
I love sharing my favorite teas. Pair a few tea bags with a cute mug (try Homegoods for inexpensive, fun mugs) and you’ll have your Valentine warmed up in no time… quoth the lady in Boston presently wearing a bathrobe over a sweater.
Spruce up something ordinary
I am forever trying to justify the extent of my washi tape collection by embellishing any and everything I can get my hands on. I found these cute notebooks at Target and added friends’ initials to the covers.
To know me is to love me to be semi-concerned with my nail polish obsession. At a few bucks a pop, however, a new polish or lip gloss makes a fun little gift for a friend.
Get a little messy crafty
I love making things, but hate cleaning up the ensuing mess. And cleaning glitter off Clark’s snout days later. If only Pinterest (click here for my Valentine-inspired board… side note: my account was hacked by some dude in France, and I created such an airtight new password that even I can’t figure it out… ) had a messiness rating for each project I pin. Regardless, I love homemade gifts.
Then again, the best gifts (hugs, kisses, and telling it like it is)… are free. So maybe just skip the shopping, baking, and crafting altogether? Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Valentine’s Day!
If I had it my way (and all the time in the world), I would begin decorating for Christmas in September. And not finish until June. Despite getting a later start this year on all things Christmas, I am soaking up all the sparkly and shine while it lasts.
I love little trees. The more sparkles or feathers, the better.
The holiday season makes me inexplicably happy. Joyful, even. On my way to a meeting earlier this week, I was stuck behind a man who was walking slowly, but whistling “Frosty the Snowman” loudly. Were this any month but December, I’d be annoyed, and pass him as soon as the opportunity presented itself. (Side note: the whole idea of a snowman coming to life, let alone getting married? So creepy.)
I intended to make that garland super long… but I got super lazy. Story of my life.
Instead, I found myself smiling about that moment for the rest of the day. I get the same perma-smile from cars whipping around with Christmas trees tied to the roof, tacky holiday decorations in our neighborhood (my feeling: the tackier, the better… as long as it’s on someone else’s house), holiday stamps, fake Santas taking calls from children on the radio… you get the point.
Clark did a little crate decorating.
And I find myself being a kinder, more gentle, more patient version of me this time of year (save for the random outbursts of pregnancy-related ‘tude). I notice it in other people too. It’s really quite lovely.
Spotted a pink nutcracker for the baby’s room and couldn’t help myself…
I’m also more aware this time of year than any other how much I have to be grateful for. While the twinkly lights and warm Santa socks are nice, I know how lucky I am to have a husband who is just plain incredible and a healthy baby on the way, family and friends who love and care for me, a safe and comfortable place to live, plenty to eat, good health, a fulfilling career, and the freedom and flexibility to make all kinds of choices.
I have so much, and so it feels as important as ever do what I can with what I have– whether that’s time, money, or donated goods. Perhaps you’ll join me in supporting a cause, organization, or program that you find compelling? A few suggestions, if I may:
This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Koss.
Growing up, we opened our stockings before tackling our pile of presents. I always loved the fun of reaching into the toe of those giant socks to pull out Lip Smackers, toothbrushes, card games, and other smaller gifts. With Christmas fast approaching, I’m looking forward to putting together stockings for Nick and Clark (obvi), my secret Santa person (who shall remain nameless) and a few fit friends.
Stocking stuffers for fit friends
Koss Fit Series headphones
Koss’ Fit Series headphones were designed by a team of women (including Gold Medalist Dara Torres) specifically for women. The Fit Series features two models: FitBuds, which are great for everyday use (I wore them on a recent flight and found them super comfortable… and effective at blocking out the snorer seated next to me), and FitClips, clip-style buds ideal for workouts. Available at Best Buy, Walgreens and Walmart (as well as online), these headphones come in a range of fun colors (hello, mint green) and sell for less than $30.
Tech-friendly running gloves
While the only marathon I’m training for this winter is labor and delivery, I’ve spent the last few years logging very cold miles in Boston. Comfortable, wicking gloves with iPhone screen-friendly finger tips made those miles more bearable and are also great for commuters. This pair is from New Balance (here’s a similar pair), but you can find great options at Target, too.
Katie recently sent me one of her adorable (and very wintry!) BAMR band to review. I am forever on a mission to keep my unruly curls and fly-aways out of my face while at CrossFit, and this band certainly does the trick. Like other non-slip bands, the underside is lined with velvet ribbon, which keeps the band in place and prevents the dreaded hair dent. What I love most about the bands, though? One dollar from each purchase benefits Every Mother Counts, an international organization committed to ending preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth.
With so many different designs and patterns to choose from, you’re bound to find something you a friend will love.
iTunes gift cards (great for fitness apps and new jams)
Digital magazine subscriptions
Nutrition bars, Gu, and other on-the-go fuel
A DIY “race day kit” – include extra safety pins, Chapstick, a small handheld water bottle, etc.
I love finding little projects at the market. Satsumas were on sale at Whole Foods last week (I’m a sucker for produce with leaves attached. Plus, they taste amazing.), so I picked up a few to snack on, and a few to use for pomanders.
The more cloves you add, the more fragrant your pomanders will be (click here for easy instructions… from Martha, obvi). This pregnant lady can smell a scented candle being lit six city blocks over at this point, so I dialed it back a bit and went with a simple (but still lovely smelling) message.
If only this were smell-o-vision. Citrus and cloves? So, so good.
Also On Tap for Today:
Enjoying a lovely baby shower with family and friends 🙂
If the Easter Bunny left you with a heap of Peeps, I’ve got a plan for you. It involves making gluten free graham crackers (that’s the only hard part, and it’s really not that hard… I mean, I was able to do it), committing Peepicide in your microwave and consuming 14,000 calories in the span of mere seconds. You with me?
Gluten free graham crackers
1.5 cups of brown rice flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 tbs cold, unsalted butter
6 tbs almond milk
3 tbs agave nectar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly dusted with brown rice flour
Using a food processor or stand mixer, combine dry ingredients
Add butter, mixing until no large pieces are visible
Add almond milk and agave nectar and mix until dough is formed
Move dough to baking sheet and form into a rectangle and sprinkle lightly with additional brown rice flour
Add a second sheet of parchment paper on top of dough and roll out until the dough is approximately 1/4 inch thick (you may need to trim excess dough from the edges of the pan)
Remove the top sheet of parchment and score dough (I used a butter knife, but a pastry wheel or pizza cutter would likely work better), making graham cracker squares
Prick the dough all over with a fork or toothpick
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned
Remove the graham crackers and transfer to a wire rack to cool, parchment and all
Once the crackers have cooled completely, break along scored lines
Notes: I adapted this recipe from glutenfreebaking.com. I am sure you could play around with which gluten free flour and milk you use, and substitute honey for agave nectar. The dough is a bit dry, but it might make a good pie crust with the addition of some oil.
I found these tasty graham crackers to be less sweet than the graham crackers of my childhood (and non-gluten allergic adulthood), but in a good way. Plus, Peeps are straight up sugar, so it all balances out in the end. Sort of. I melted a Peep in the microwave and sandwiched it, along with a bit of chocolate, between two grahams. I recommend you do the same, but with one caveat:
There is a fine line between melty, gooey Peep and full on exploded Peep, so keep an eye on your microwave. You have been warned.
I hope you enjoyed a very happy Easter. We hit the road with Clark the Easter Frenchie (click the link for a video of him sitting in a basket, wearing rabbit ears, chomping on a carrot…) and spent a lovely, sugary day with our Peeps families.
Though the skies have been quite grey today, I’ve been holed up in our condo since this morning’s crossfit class, thinking pink. Our Christmas cards arrived yesterday (don’t tell a soul, but I somehow spelled Christmas with an extra i on our return address wrappers and was forced to break out the scissors), addressed to friends and family members at no extra cost (I’ll say it again, Minted.com is the best) and just waiting for stamps.
It would seem I’ve forgone tradition in my old age – hot pink Christmas cards and nary a wise man in sight? Welp, they matched my compression gear (this morning’s WOD was a leg killer) and basil and pomegranate spritzer. It all just felt so right. Or whatever.
In my lifelong quest to sprinkle basil atop everything, I added a bit of my favorite fresh herb to a glass of seltzer with pomegranate juice. If I weren’t lazy, I may have thought ahead and added the basil to an ice cube tray. It adds a subtle flavor, but packs an aromatic punch. I find the smallest amount of pomegranate juice results in the perfect pink color. Which, apparently, is very important today. (Subtle flavors? Aromatic punches? I need a nap. And a new personality.)
The lovely folks at PRO Compression sent me two complimentary pairs of their marathon socks (one white, one hot pink), which I’ve been living in since they’ve arrived. They remain undetected under pantsuits: business on the outside, recovery on the inside… and now you know. I’ve been a devoted compression-er since my first marathon, when Nick and I would spent Saturdays after our long runs in head-to-toe compression, devouring pizza. I distinctly remember writhing in pain in our hotel room (no pizza this time) after my second marathon, demanding that Nick cram my broken foot into the tightest compression sock known to woman. I was convinced it had healing powers. (It sort of did, but I still mostly couldn’t walk afterward.)
Unlike those compression socks that look like they just may fit a Barbie doll, PRO Compression socks don’t require a helper to pull them on. They are comfortable enough to wear on long runs and during workouts, without lacking any support. Compression gear is said to help with circulation (which is why compression socks and stockings are often prescribed for diabetes patients and those with poor circulation), and can help ward off fatigue. I’ve found that they speed up the recovery process, and that my calves and shins are less sore when I wear them immediately after working out (well, um, after I shower… obvi).
PRO Compression Marathon Socks come in a number of fun colors (I’ve got my eye on the USA edition for hero WODs and 4th of July races). They also sell calf sleeves, low trainer socks and golf socks. In partnership with FitFluential, PRO Compression is offering a discount code good for 40% off and free shipping. Use FIT40 at check-out; the code is good through December 15th.
I’m off to sprinkle pink glitter all over the condo. Just kidding… or am I?
With our Christmas tree up and decorated (and smelling like heaven), we celebrated quite a festive weekend in Boston. There is so much to see and do in ye olde Cradle of Liberty this time of year; we’re lucky it’s all just a walk (or Uber ride) away. We bundled up on Saturday night for dinner, drinks and lots of lights in Faneuil Hall with Tina and Mal. Our first stop was dinner at Anthem, one of Nick’s favorite lunch spots. I studied their gluten-free menu online beforehand, which made my dinner choices (a Boston Bibb salad and a side of garlic mashed potatoes) easy and stress-free.
My three dining companions started with the fondue… which for me, was a fondon’t. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Did anyone else have “fondue day” in their high school French classes? I think I will forever associate fondue with those awkward chair/desk combinations. We left the restaurant just in time to catch the tail end of Blink!, a three minute light show set to the music of the Boston Pops. We ducked into Durgin Park for hard ciders while waiting for the next show to start. If you’re passing though the area, the quick show is definitely worth checking out. Here’s a little iPhone/YouTube preview:
If I wasn’t already high on the Christmas spirit, I certainly would have been after Blink.
[For more information about the show, click the image above.]
If you’re in the area and looking to celebrate your own festive weekend in Boston, here are few more ideas:
See the “new” Nutcracker – this year the Boston Ballet is debuting new sets, new costumes, new choreography and new characters. I am so looking forward to seeing how this Boston tradition has been updated.
Get in the holiday spirit, have your dog’s photo taken with Santa and support the MSPCA at Bark Place on 12/8
Check out the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus’ annual holiday show, described as a “joyful celebration of diverse holiday traditions.”
Lace up your skates (or rent a pair for a few bucks) at one of our local rinks. Many are free and open to the public during specific hours. This is one of my favorite ways to pass a winter weekend afternoon.
Because two light and sound extravaganzas are better than one, I met my brother and niece for the tree lighting aboard the U.S.S. Constitution yesterday. I think we may have been running late (mostly because I wanted to tell the baby all about Christmas in a weird baby voice), since the tree was already lit when we arrived and guests were being ushered off the boat. Welp, can’t win ’em all.
After walking along the Harbor Walk and admiring all the boats decked out for the holidays, I headed home to light the first candle on our Advent wreath, and whip up a few treats for the week. My sister-in-law is hosting a cookie swap next weekend and I want to be sure my gluten-free peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies with pretzel bits and sea salt are both edible and palatable. Hopes are high. Expectations are slightly lower.
The highlight of my weekend had to have been Clark, wearing his little Santa hat, greeting the patients at the hospital where we do pet therapy. Needless to say, his chapeau was a hit. I always leave the hospital with an overflowing heart (and a very sleepy French bulldog), and can think of no better way to kick off the first week of December.
Also On Tap for Today:
Kicking off week 3 of HBBC with new goals and solid plans
Taking Clark for his annual check up and shots (I mostly always almost faint, while he totally plays it cool)
Finishing wedding thank you notes and starting Christmas cards
What is your favorite local holiday event or tradition?
I waited as long as I possibly could (specifically, the day before Thanksgiving) to deck the condo. We are waiting until next weekend to pick up our Christmas tree, so I suppose I have practiced some restraint. I capitalized on my half day Wednesday and dug through our storage unit for our Christmas boxes. I squealed as I peeled back the covers of each box. Clark was very interested in their contents too, and as a result, I spent much of the afternoon cleaning glitter from his fur. He lives for sparkle. As the photos below will tell you, so do I.
I cashed in a Crate and Barrel gift card a while back when this sparkly wreath (it’s far more sparkly in person, I assure you) caught my eye.
This little vignette on our mantle came together when our somewhat Catholic-looking Buddha (he’s very St. Francis from the neck down, wouldn’t you say?) kept threatening to topple from a side table and needed to be relocated. I can never decide if the horse head is The Godfather creepy or equestrian chic. Or both. For now… it sparkles, so it stays.
One of my favorite things to come out of storage is my improvised Advent wreath, which I pulled together last year, two hours before my Advent faith sharing group came together for the first time. I couldn’t find an actual Advent wreath anywhere (likely because everyone else in Boston planned ahead), so I grabbed four crystal candle holders and a strand of glass garland and voila. As much as I love traditional holiday decor, I really like the simple beauty of this wreath and what it symbolizes for me. Plus, it doesn’t need to be kept alive.
My sole Black Friday purchase this year was this perfect set of sparkly, yet subtle, linen and sequin stockings. They match our real life and holiday decor perfectly. Because I am the worst secret keeper in the history of secrets, and have to fight a strong urge to give everyone their presents the second I have them in hand, I like being able to drop small gifts for Nick and Clark in their stockings in the days leading up to Christmas. Neither of them peek before the 25th. It’s quite remarkable, really.
Yep, the condo has been decked and the stockings have been hung. With care. Despite the lack of a chimney.