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Every March 9, in some regions within Romania, folks celebrate the day by making măcinici. The măcinici are different depending on the region… they vary from a pasta-like dough to a bread-like dough. Growing up, my family always made the pasta-like dough (read more about the tradition in an old post).

Since having Julia, exposing her to my childhood traditions have been important and fun. We have also exposed her to the Jewish traditions, which I also love. Julia is curious and seems to enjoy them all, which makes it even more fun.

March 9 fell on a Friday this year. Making anything on a weeknight is challenging, but my mom and I decided to still make them… we could not break the tradition. My mom made the dough and I took a half a day vacation so we can get an early start. Making măcinici is time consuming.

As soon as we rolled the dough into a sheet, Julia insisted that she wanted to use the punch. The punch is not an easy tool… you really have to press it into the dough, wiggle it a bit to release the dough from the rest, and then lift and press the top to release the cutout. She tried a couple of times and got frustrated. My mom and I told her that it was even hard for us to do, but I am not sure if that made her feel better.


My mom had an idea… she tasked Julia with moving the măcinici from our working area to the towel so that they can dry. Julia thought that it was the best idea! She was even counting them.


At one point I looked over and Julia was arranging the măcinici in rows… it looked so pretty so we continued the pattern.


As with any 5 year old kids, she eventually got tired of moving the măcinici over so she abandoned her post. My mom and I continued for a while. After about 2 hours and a few breaks, we were ready to boil them.


The măcinici are pretty much considered fresh pasta, so just like fresh pasta, once they come to the surface, they are done. To finish them off, we added finely ground and chopped walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla and rum extract, sugar, and a pinch of salt. We boiled it a bit more until the sugar dissolved and then we were done.


We truly enjoyed our hard work… the măcinici were delicious.



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Ever since I met Joel, we have celebrated the Jewish holidays… Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Chanukah. But of course there are many more, including Purim. A traditional dish for Purim is hamantaschen cookies, which are triangular shaped cookies, that resemble a hat, and are filled with poppy seeds as well as fruit jams. I was surprised to learn about the poppy seed filling tradition… poppy seeds are used in traditional Romanian cooking and baking too, especially for Christmas. I love all the similarities that I discover about the Romanian and Jewish traditions. There are more than I have ever imagined.


My favorite hamantaschen cookies have always been the fruit filled ones, specifically the prune filled. I must admit that I have not seen any poppy seed filled cookies at the local Jewish bakery or the grocery store. Not sure why that is. Also, I have always wanted to make them, but the recipes that I have found did not appeal to me, since most of them require a ton of dairy… butter, cream cheese, and/or sour cream.

My friend Mark and I were chatting the other day and he asked me if I was planning on making the cookies since Purim is this week. I explained my recipe dilemma to him. But then I got inspired and decided to search for a non-dairy recipe. After reading through the search results on Food52, I found the perfect recipe! I also thought that it would be fun to make the cookies with Julia, since she loves to help me bake.


The dough recipe is super simple… it requires flour, baking powder, salt, a bit of water, vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar. You mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then you mix the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then you mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a thick dough forms. Lastly, you knead the dough a bit to bring it together into a ball, cut it in half, and then form two disks. The caveat was that you had to let the dough chill for at least 3 hours or overnight, so Julia and I made the dough first thing in the morning and then continued with the rest 3 hours later.

Although the recipe included the chocolate poppy seed filling, I really wanted to use prune jam and apricot jam, since I love both flavors. Also, my mom gave me a few jars of her home-made prune jam, so I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to use some of it. As I was grabbing the prune jam, I realized that I forgot to buy the apricot jam. But then I remembered that my mom also gave me a jar of her home-made peach jam, so I decided to use that instead. The cookies came out delicious!


I do have a few things to share about the recipe…

I, of course, cut the sugar… I cut it from 1/2 a cup to a 1/3 of a cup and the cookies were plenty sweet. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla since I like the flavor. I did not have to add any extra water since the dough seemed good.

The recipe suggests rolling the dough to an 1/8 inch thickness. I found this to be too thin when shaping the cookies. Having the dough slightly thicker made shaping them much easier. Also, the folding technique explained did not make any sense to me, so I just pinched the circle in 3 spots, which still resembled the traditional cookie shape.


A few of my cookies did loose their shape during baking. After talking to my sister, I found out that she had the same issue when she baked some and she used a different recipe/dough. I do not feel too terrible about it, since they still taste good. I wonder how the cookies that are sold at the grocery store come out so perfectly-shaped… they must have a bunch of discards. I am picturing the bakers enjoying them.. I hope. Ha!


I am glad that I finally gave these cookies a try. I would definitely make them again, even though they were a bit time consuming. It is also a nice tradition to start with Julia. Happy Purim!!

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I recently read an article on Outside that smiling makes you a more efficient runner. The article went on to say that “a hard effort makes you frown, and, conversely, frowning might make an effort feel harder—and smiling might make it feel easier“. Seems reasonable. Apparently, a study was even conducted, which pretty much proved that smiling does make you a more efficient runner.

I liked what I was reading and wondered if that was indeed true. Not that I am doubting science, but I just wondered anyway, as a personal experience. I thought about my past races, especially when Julia and Joel cheered for me or when others cheered for me… I feel that their presence and inspiration definitely helped but I was unsure about the smiling part. I do tend to smile a bunch if I see someone who I know, especially Julia or Joel. Did that brief period of smiling really help? I definitely think that their cheer was a distraction, which helped reset my thoughts at that particular point in time. But the actual smile… I was skeptical. So I decided to conduct my own experiment (because that scientific study did not convince me… ha!).

The article could not have been written at a more perfect time… I had a race coming up. This past Saturday I raced the 10k option of the Mendon Trail Run, which took place in Mendon Ponds Park. Joel ran it too. The weather changed a bit drastically and it was a chilly morning so I did not want to get to the start line too early. But once at the start line, there was no pep talk from the organizers and all of a sudden we were off. I hardly had enough time to start my watch. Also, as the pack hastily took off, the front group did not pay attention and missed the required turn. All of a sudden I found myself at the back of the pack. Joel ran past me annoyed. I was annoyed too… we just started and already got lost. Ugh!

As I was trying to settle on the route, I noticed that I was frowning and felt very annoyed. I was going up a small hill and I felt out of breath. That sudden start and missed turn really affected my mood. I then thought about my experiment and I laughed. And I kept smiling for the entire race. I even found myself bursting into laughter thinking about the experiment. I wondered if the other runners saw my smile and heard my laughter. That made me laugh too… I must have looked a bit ridiculous. I ran past the only aid stating, which was located at the half way point, and the volunteers cheered for me and one actually said “good job and you are still smiling!“. That made me smile even more! So with the biggest smile on my face, I thanked them for their cheer.

As I was coming close to the last stretch, I ran as fast as I could… still smiling. I felt super good and finished strong. Joel finished ahead of me, so we chatted about our runs. He mentioned that he did not feel too good. I told him that it was one of my best races and felt super!

I believe that the smiling really helped my run. Throughout the race, I felt super good. My legs were not in pain as they usually are. Even my breathing was calmer. Also, throughout the race, I really enjoyed the run and was not dreading each mile, especially towards the end of the race. I also felt like the run was easier than any of my previous runs or races. And lastly, I think that smiling really changed my overall mood and attitude.

As Joel and I were hanging out in the lodge resting and having a snack, the organizers presented the race awards. For my age group, she called my name. I could not believe it! Also, looking at the results, I placed 23 out of 65 for the overall group and placed 7 out of 32 in my gender group. That is just crazy! I thought that I had a good race, but I felt like there were a bunch of runners and women who were much stronger than I was.

The convincing part of this experiment was the pace. Recently, my pace has been around 11 to even 12 minute miles for 3 to 4 mile runs. I have actually been pretty disappointed about it lately since I feel like I was much faster in the past and even at the beginning of the year. Granted that I have only been able to run twice a week and I do run on my own a lot, so perhaps those are some of the reasons. Running or cycling with a group has always motivated me… I know this for a fact. For the race, my pace was 10:19… and this was a 10k! I am really excited and proud of myself that I was able to run it at that pace! And although there were many runners around to motivate me, I definitely think that the smiling helped. Every athlete should give this a try! And if you do, I am curious to hear all about it.


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I am always on a lookout for easy dinners. Recently, I have discovered a new dish… One Pan Creamy Tuna Pasta.

I have been subscribed to the Martha Stewart Living magazine for a super long time. Over the years, the magazine has evolved; however, recipes have always been spotlighted throughout. In recent editions, towards the back of the magazine you can find four recipes that are printed on a perforated page, which can be torn into four small recipe cards. I have discovered a bunch of good finds over the years. The pasta dish is one of them and is definitely a keeper!

The recipe is simple… shallots, pasta, broth, water, a couple of veggies, tuna, lemon zest and juice, and cheese. What I really like about it is that you make the entire dish in one pot! Super easy cleanup! You simply add the shallots, broth, water, pasta, and salt and pepper and boil until the pasta is tender. Next you add your veggie. Once the veggie is tender, you remove the pot from the stove and add the tuna, cheese, and the lemon zest and juice. That’s it!

The first time that I made the dish, it came out very dry and I had to keep adding water to it while cooking the pasta. I later realized that the recipe required 8 oz of pasta and I used 16 oz. It made perfect sense why my version was so dry. Since I like to make enough to have leftovers, I adjusted the amount of water. I usually add enough to cover the pasta, which I think that it is somewhere between 4.5 or 5 cups of water, depending on the pasta.

Speaking of the pasta, I used gemelli and penne and both worked. One thing that I would like to mention is that my version has never had a sauce. If you look at the recipe photo, it includes the clear sauce on the plate. Not sure how that is realized. I just made the dish using penne and this is the first time that I have actually had some sauce, but definitely not enough to add it to the plate. Not sure if the gemelli absorbs more liquid during cooking or not, but when I used it, I never had a sauce.


The recipe requires asparagus and arugula. The first time that I made the dish, I did not have either, so I used peas and spinach since I did have both. I have also used peas and kale. All worked! I am sure that you can also use green beans or any other veggie such as corn and broccoli. As far as the greens go, I am sure that swiss chard or any other greens would work as well.


Another adjustment that I have made is the required cup of shallots. I tend not to like a lot of onion in my dishes, so I have cut it to 2 small shallots and it was plenty. Same goes for the cheese… the recipe requires a 1/2 a cup of Paremsan. I used about 2 tablespoons of Romano cheese and that also seemed plenty. But if you are a big onion fan, use the full amount. Same goes for the cheese.

One last thing that I would like to mention is the salt. I use the Better Than Bouillon (which really is better than any bouillon) for the broth and it is a bit salty, so I never add salt to my dishes until the very end. Most of the time it is plenty salty.

I hope that you will enjoy the dish as much as we do! It is one of Julia’s favorites!


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This past Saturday I ran my longest distance ever… 13.1 miles! I finally accomplished my goal of running a 1/2 marathon. Joel and I ran the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay as a two person relay. The race took place on the Finger Lakes Trail, which is on the east side of Letchworth State Park. It was super hilly. It was hard.

Two years ago, Joel and I ran this race as a four person relay. At that time, my leg happened to be leg 1 and Joel’s leg was leg 3. I felt amazing after completing my leg. It was actually pretty easy. Joel’s leg on the other hand was not as easy… he mentioned that it was pretty hilly and technical.

This year, Joel ran legs 1 and 2 and I ran legs 3 and 4. Julia and I sent him off and cheered for him along the way. He looked great at the end of leg one, which was 6.1 miles… he maintained a good pace and seemed happy. The next checkpoint was around 8.6 miles and he still looked great and mentioned that he would probably finish his second leg after an hour and 10 minutes or so.


Off they go!

Julia and I caravaned to the third checkpoint and I prepared for my run. My allergies (or whatever it was) during the week leading up to the race were terrible! I was super congested, my nose was running like a river, and had headaches. The allergy pill that I was taking did not seem to do too much for it. I hoped that by race day it would be better, but no such luck. So after taking some acetaminophen and some saline spray in my nose, I was set.

Joel took a bit longer to finish than what he predicted. I was was not worried, but I felt a little uneasy. As soon as I saw him, I grabbed Julia’s hand and we headed over to the trail. He did not look as great as he did at the last checkpoint. He mentioned that the terrain got more technical and hillier. He was tired. He just ran 15 miles. I grabbed the timing chip race bib and off I went.

The Finger Lakes Trail runs along the Genessee River. There are about 8 inlets, which allow you to access the trail, and that is where the checkpoints were stationed. Those inlets were super muddy. Deep, wet mud gardens… I was tired of running in mud. Luckily the actual trail was in perfect condition.


Stopping at checkpoint 6…

I felt pretty good during the run, I guess. It was definitely hilly and technical… lots of roots and some rocks. I cannot even tell you how many stream crossing I ran over. I remember a couple of times where I had to jump into the stream since the ground was eroded and there was no step. Also, a few places included a decent climb after crossing into the ravine in order to get back on the trail. The entire first leg, which was 6.5 miles, was pretty much up and down over and over and over again. There was no room for getting into a groove… no constant pace. My shins cramped a couple of times, probably due to all that constant up and down.

Checkpoints 4 and 5 were closed to spectators, so I finally saw Joel and Julia at checkpoint 6, which was at the end of my first leg. It was nice to see them! Joel was able to give me some Skratch Labs and a couple of gels. I told him that it was really hard.


The last leg, which was 4.4 miles, was not as technical and was flatter. I feel like that was even worse than the first. It seemed to take forever. I was tired by that point and I just wanted to be done. And finally there was a road (on a hill of course, since all the finishes for all events have to end on a hill!!) and I heard Julia cheering for me. I was so happy to hear her voice. As I was heading towards the finish line, I saw her standing on the side. I yelled asking if she was going to run with me and she said yes. So that is what we did… we ran together to the finish line. That was the best part of this entire race!!

So I was not really done yet. The 2 legs that I ran equaled to about 11 miles and my goal was to run 13.1. So yes, I went back to run an additional 2.1 miles. That was the hardest 2.1 miles that I have ever run!! It seemed worse than the 11 miles that I just did. Joel told me about this other trail that was nearby, so I decided to run there instead of on the race trail. As Beck was blasting in my year… “WOW!”I imitated it as I came to this vista. The sight blew me away and for a moment helped me think of something other than my remaining mileage. As I continued on, I came across two other vistas. Since the trail was short, I had to do a bunch of laps to reach the 2.1 miles. Not even the vistas inspired me anymore. As soon as my watched read 13.1, I stopped. I was so happy to be done with the entire thing.

Once the results were posted, I found out that our team placed 5 out of 12. SO proud of us!! This was a huge accomplishment for both of us!

Looking back, I do not think that I could have done anything much different. Not being congested would have been a big plus. It did not seem to bother me too much during the run… I think that the acetaminophen and saline spray helped. I did have to ask for a tissue at one of the checkpoints and it made it better from a breathing perspective. But it definitely affected me. As soon as I finished, I was SO tired! I am sure that the congestion/sickness was a big culprit. Also, later in the day and on Sunday, I was in so much pain. I could not breathe without my chest and upper back hurting. I have spent the last 5 evenings with a heating pad on my back, chest, and face. I also started to cough, which did not feel too good. The run really did a number on my lungs and body.

The terrain was not too surprising, since Joel warned me about it. But I guess that talking about it and actually experiencing it during a race is different. I trained on the Cerscent Trail, Whiting and Gosnell, Bay Park West, and Mendon Ponds, which all are pretty hilly trails. I think that was good from a training perspective.


This says it all!!

From a nutrition perspective, I think that I managed well. I had 2 gels, a PBJ sandwich, a bunch of watermelon, and some pretzels. The watermelon tasted SO good! That was my favorite. I also drank close to 4 12 oz bottles of Skratch Labs/drink mix and some water from the aid stations/checkpoints.

The last thing that I want to mention is all the checkpoints. The 2 legs that I ran, which as I already mentioned was 11 miles, included a lot of checkpoints… 6 to be exact. I was required to run to all of them since each checkpoint had a timing mat that you had to cross over. Honestly that was too much!! Especially since a bunch were only after a mile or so. I feel like that made the run seem longer. I realize that I did not have to actually stop at all of them, but it was definitely an incentive. The volunteers were there for a reason and I felt that I had to use them. The worse part about it is that Joel’s portion was 15 miles and only had 2 checkpoints. I realize that this is due to the access points along the Finger Lakes Trail, but it seemed unfair to have 2 checkpoints for a 15 mile run and 6 checkpoints for an 11 mile run. They could definitely cut it in half or something like that.


It has been 6 days since I completed the race and I am still recovering. My legs are completely fine and my chest no longer hurts, but I am still a little congested and coughing a little.

Now that this is done, I am looking forward to riding my bike a bunch! It has been too long!!


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This past weekend I raced the Medved Madness Trail Race. Last year was super fun, so I decided to race it again this year. Just like last year, I ran the race as a relay with Joel and our friend Marc. We were “My So Called Legs”.


Since I needed the extra miles due to my 1/2 marathon training, I decided to start the first leg and then run the second leg unofficially. Joel needed the extra miles too, so we decided that he was going to do the opposite and then add a couple of extra miles more so he can get 12 miles. Marc did not need any extra miles, so he just ran the last leg… lucky him!!

The week leading up to the race was a wash. It rained everyday for five days. It was awful! Not only that, it was also cold… in the 40s at times. Joel and I kept watching the forecast, hoping that it would improve. It did improve a bit on race day. No downpours, but still a chance of rain and 40 for a high.

medved madness

Listening to the pre-race speech.

About 300 people signed up for the race, so the turnout was amazing. As we were all huddled waiting for the start, we were sprinkled with a little snow. “Oh, perfect!”, I thought. Once the race started, the sun actually came out for a while. That was a welcomed sight!! But then around mile 7 or 8, it started to rain pretty hard. Luckily it only lasted for a short period of time. Nevertheless, I was drenched.


Off we go!

Overall the race was not too bad, I guess. I ended up with 9.31 miles and with a 10:47 pace. I am not sure how I managed that pace. The trails were crazy muddy!! In multiple spots, it was a pond with deep mud. After a few of those, I just accepted them… the goal was not to fall or loose a shoe. The cold did not bother me too much. I wore tights, a short sleeved base layer, a long sleeved shirt, my lightweight rain jacket, gloves, and a headband. I was not cold, but a combination of sweat and the rain definitely got my clothes pretty soaked.

medved madness 2

(Photo credit: Medved)

As soon as I finished, I went to the car and changed. As I was walking back to the race event lodge, I ran into Dave Farrands, who works at Medved. We chatted a bit and then he asked me if I wanted some hot cocoa or tea and brought it over to me. That was super nice of him!! I felt cold and was shivering uncontrollably, so I went into the lodge to warm up by the fireplace. Then I saw my sister who stopped by to bring my rain coat, which I forgot at home. As soon as she saw me she told me that my lips were purple. It took 2 cups of tea and some food to stop my shivering. I guess that the cold and wetness affected me more than I realized.

The post-race food was once again an amazing feast! The Medved folks are so nice!

I checked the race results and we placed 14 out of 35. Super proud of my team and our efforts!!


Joel finishing up his leg.

Julia did not race this year. She planned on it but ended up getting a fever and had to stay home. She was so upset that she was missing it! During the week leading up to the race, I mentioned that it will probably be raining during the race, but she insisted on racing. Also, on the Thursday before the race, I overheard my sister asking her if she will still race if it was raining and her answer was “Yes. I can just wear my new rain coat.”… love her!! :) Turns out that the kid race was canceled anyway, so when I mentioned it to her, she felt a little better about not being able to go to it.

The Medved store posted some nice photos of the run on their Facebook page. It definitely shows the race conditions. Not pretty!!! Haha!!


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On a fine November day last year, Joel and I decided to sign up for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay. We ran it as a four person relay two years ago, which was fun, so we thought that it was a good idea to run it as a two person relay. Hmm…

The official training started in February. Luckily for me, Joel figured it all out. Run two short runs during the week and then a long run on the weekends. Seems easy enough. I quickly realized that running two days a week was not very feasible. Working full time and taking care of our daughter, the house, etc. kind of put a damper on my training plan. My weekday runs were 5 or 6 milers, so they worked well enough to run longer during the weekends. But once I hit the 9.5 mile mark, I also realized that I did have to run two days a week, otherwise I would not be able to start increasing my mileage without risking an injury. Luckily for us, my parents live in town so they have been very helpful with watching Julia for us so we can do this thing. I am super grateful for it! Even our neighbors helped us one weekend… so grateful!!

The 9.5 mile run was not too bad. On that run I surpassed my longest distance that I have ever ran since I started running about 5 years ago. Then two weekends ago, we ran 10.5 miles. “That was crazy!”, I thought. I felt super good and it gave me more confidence that I will be able to do this race.

Then, as I was running mile 10ish of my 11.5 mile training run on Sunday and Parachute Youth was blasting in my ear “Can’t Get Better Than This…“, I thought to myself… “Oh yes it can, actually!!”. At least I was in the woods and the song distracted me a bit and made me think of the mountain biking video where I discovered the song.

I remember after riding for a few years, a bunch of my friends were asking me why I was not racing. “You would do well!”, they said. My answer was always that cycling would become work. You have to ride a lot of hours to be able to have the stamina and fitness to be a racer. I ride because I love riding and because I love to explore the area on my bike. It is not my job… it is my hobby. The same goes for running. I love being in the woods and exploring our parks.

I recently read this article, which made me laugh but also resonated with me. It was called “I Hate Running” and the writer’s statement after finishing a 50 miler was on point. When someone congratulated him for finishing the race, his answer was something like “I just ran 750 miles… you just saw the last 50 miles!“. (Another great article to check out is “People Who Say That Running Is Fun Are Lying To You“.) Although my feat is not as great as his, this idea of running three times a week in order to complete a half marathon is kind of a chore. It has become work.

I am not sure why it feels this way. Perhaps all those years that I spent on the bike riding thousands of miles burned me out and this is starting to feel that way. Or perhaps the fact that I love to ride, run, hike, and other things makes me feel like I am stuck with this one thing. I guess that is the downside of having multiple hobbies. Ha!

Nevertheless, I am glad that I signed up for this race. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be able to run 10 miles, 11 miles, or even a half marathon. It is a good challenge and I do not want to stop. The race is on May 20th, so I am almost there. I guess that this race also made me realize that long distance running is not for me and that I am happier if I am able to do everything that I love instead of only one single activity.

As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for rain for tonight, on Thursday, and on Sunday. Another reason not to sign up for a race in Spring. Hooray for training!


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