Holiday Weekly Workouts and Updates 12/22-12/28

It’s the last Monday of 2015, but with the extraordinarily warm week of Christmas we just experienced in New England, my holiday weekly workouts and updates are looking a little more like April than December. I ran outside 4 days and wore shorts and a tee or tank every time, walked my dog in shorts and flip-flops on Christmas Eve, and didn’t even bring a coat when my family went to see Star Wars and go for sushi on Christmas Day. I baked while we caught the end of the A Christmas Story marathon on TV, and we made frozen hot chocolate to drink with the treats. Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining. I love a snowy white holiday season, but it’s been nice to spend so much time outdoors!

 

hanukah bush

 

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Weekly Workouts and Updates 12/14-12/21

Instead of the usual blahs that accompany a Monday morning, it seems like everyone is truly in the Christmas spirit, eager to get through the next few days before heading home for the holidays! At least, that’s what it seemed like on my walk to work this morning. Even though my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas (it’s Hanukkah for the family and Chrismukkah with friends) I am definitely looking forward to enjoying their company come late Thursday afternoon. Until then, here are my weekly workouts and updates.

 

 

Christmas wreath

 

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How to Choose a Charity for a Holiday Gift

As promised in yesterday’s post on giving back during the holiday season, I’m checking in to share some knowledge I’ve gained over the past few years about how to choose a charity for a holiday gift. So let’s get to it!

 

How to Choose a Charity for a Holiday Gift

 

 

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Giving Back During the Holiday Season

This Thursday, I’m thinking out loud about giving back during the holiday season. Sunday marked the start of eight nights of Hanukkah, and with Christmas coming the halls are decked. The holiday cheer all around brings the desire to ensure that others can share in our joy at this time of year.

 

Giving Back During the Holiday Season

 

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Christmas in Connecticut

Most of the time, I write about life in Manhattan, the busiest borough in one of the liveliest cities in the world. But the idea of “home” for me has a split personality…or, as I prefer to think of it, a multifaceted meaning appropriate to a renaissance runner girl! I am a native of both New York and Connecticut, and in truth consider myself both a city mouse and a country mouse. I love the lights and bustle of the city, the unparalleled arts scene and the holiday season merrymaking. But I am equally enthralled by this time of year in ‘the country’ at my home in Connecticut.

 

Ridgefield, Conn. is probably not ‘the country’ to anyone who hails from a rural area. But it’s far enough from the main line of Metro North, away from Long Island Sound and into the hills, to feel like a peaceful place even while resting at the outer fringe of the city’s orbit. It’s closer to Litchfield (and Stars Hollow, if my dreams came true and it really existed) than to the metropolis. And while it’s a town with a substantial population and its fair share of commerce, our Main Street is the very picture of an ideal place for a holiday stroll in Americana.

 

 

Town Hall with Nutcrackers standing sentry

Town Hall with Nutcrackers standing sentry

 

My favorite bookstore in the area

My favorite bookstore in the area

 

 

The streetlamps are wrapped in holly and tied up with red bows. Trees are strung with white lights, and Christmas ornaments and Hanukah dreidels sparkle in shop windows.

 

 

 

 

 

Santa's sleigh

Santa’s sleigh

 

 

 

Santa’s sleigh is filled with gifts, and nearby are shops where you can both buy presents for loved ones and donate to philanthropic causes in the holiday spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is simply no more magical place to take a holiday stroll. At the end, a steaming mug of cocoa with a candy cane to swirl in awaits!

 

The best sweetshop in Connecticut...cocoa, and candy cane ice cream for the brave!

The best sweetshop in Connecticut…cocoa, and candy cane ice cream for the brave!

 

 

© 2014 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Giving and Gifting

As a follow-up to my earlier post on the holiday season in New York City, I thought I’d take the time to share my thoughts about a major part of the holidays for many fortunate people – the giving of gifts. Whether it’s a pile of presents beneath a Christmas tree or the steady stream of them over the course of eight nights of Hanukah, most children grow up dreaming all year long of the bounty that awaits come December. I’ll be honest, I was one of them. Every year, once Thanksgiving had come and gone, I’d start making a list of all the things I wanted. But at some point in my late teens, I took a look around and realized I had enough “things” and didn’t really need any more. I started to understand that experiences are really what matter in life.

 

 

I used to spend trips I was lucky enough to take trying to choose the perfect souvenir to remember a place by. I’m not sorry I did that, because I ended up with a pretty great shelf in my childhood bedroom of bits of culture from around the world. A tiny Canadian Eskimo dog from Quebec, a painted glass charm from Florence, a nesting doll from St. Petersburg and even an Anne Boleyn Christmas ornament from the gift shop at the British Museum (I was obsessed with the Tudors when I was eight). But now, looking back, my memories of those trips did not become any more vivid because I had the objects I associate with them. It’s the constant telling of certain stories, over and over, that embedded some experiences more firmly in my mind than others. The way a certain place made me feel is hard to forget.

 

 

I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way - it brightens your evening to pass by

I think this house is a gift to the world in its own way – it brightens your evening to pass by

 

 

Now when the holidays roll around, I think less about the gifts and more about the giving. Some of my best memories are of times made possible because a family member or a friend gave of themselves to make something happen. My mom driving me to and from a thousand Nutcracker rehearsals, so I could have the unforgettable experience of performing on stage in front of thousands. My friends at Oxford organizing a potluck party for ‘Oxmas’ replete with a Secret Santa in which the gifts were all tasks we would be willing to perform for one another when each was struck with the malady known as exams. My little brother letting me hold the Shamash on the first night of Hanukah, and pick the colors of the candles because he knew I liked to make different patterns and see how the colors fit together.

 

 

I still love holiday windows!

I still love holiday windows!

 

 

 

These times are what make the holidays so special, and why I love this season. And lately, I’ve had cause to think more and more about what I can do to create a little bit of magic for others, and not just my own family and friends. One of the biggest parts of my life is the time, energy, and money I put into philanthropy, both as a volunteer of the Junior League and supporter of other organizations. I love contributing to the Met and the ballet.  They are particularly important to me because they shaped the person I have become. Ballet taught me grace and strength, not just in the physical sense but in how I handle everything that life throws my way. Art has been both my refuge from reality and a way for me to develop a more nuanced view of the world and all the people in it.

 

 

I’ve come to believe that though I am just one (rather tiny!) person, I can make a difference in my own way. This holiday season, I’d like to ask you all to think about the places that educated you, shaped the way you think, brought a smile to your face and made you feel good about your life. Choose to give to them, and it will be the best gift you can imagine.

 

 

 

 

© Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.