cloudy scene with snow covered trees

Wine for the Annual Slump

It’s just past the Ides of March, the time of year when inevitably, no matter what is happening in my life, I hit the biggest slump. I don’t really know why. Sometimes I think it might be the time change; Daylight Saving Time is usually just before the middle of March. Other times I blame it on the weather; it’s usually still winter and gray and cold but with a few 50-degree days thrown in to remind us that spring is coming. Whatever the reason, I’m grouchy, groggy and listless.

I’m not sure there is a wine on earth that can help when you’re feeling exhausted, bored and drained. It’s hard to know what to do other than to put one foot in front of the other and try to stay motivated. I also am trying to get enough sleep, though the past few nights I’ve actually gone to bed later than usual, which isn’t helping. At any rate, I am trying to stay on my game and motivated despite the lack of energy. Here are my top 5 tips on how to survive a slump:

  1. Recommit to your New Year’s resolutions. By now, if I’m being honest, some of my resolutions have gone by the wayside. One way that I recharge my batteries is to review my progress and step up my game, if needed. For example, one of my resolutions was to read the Bible and I realized I haven’t been reading a chapter a night as I intended. I went all in and joined a Bible study at my church. Now, I have a game plan and a new way to understand how to read the Bible, which is reinvigorating that resolution for me.
  2. Read a few great books. I love to read. I always have. When I’m feeling lethargic, there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a blanket and a good book.
  3. Give yourself a new goal. If you need motivating, set a new goal for yourself. You can reach for a new personal record at the gym or start training for a 5K. If there is a hobby you’ve wanted to explore or skill you’ve always wanted to master, do that. Find something toward which you can work.
  4. Clean out. Start your spring cleaning a little early. It helps to reduce the clutter in your life physically, so you can feel spiritually cleansed, too. I’ve seen a meme floating around social media about getting rid of 40 items during the 40 days of Lent. It’s a great way to get started.
  5. Start planning summer camps and vacations. Looking ahead to summer is great way to beat the blues of mid-March. Begin to plan your kids’ summer camp schedules or your family vacation. Thinking about warmer weather just might kick you into a higher gear.

As I mentioned earlier, wine typically makes me more sluggish and relaxed, not more energetic! But, I suppose if you’re in a slump, trying something new is one way to beat it. For #WineWednesday this week, I’m planning to try a Chardonnay/Riesling from Salmon Run, one of Dr. Konstantin Frank’s from New York State’s Finger Lakes region. It sounded interesting to cross the two grapes together. It’s not the riskiest move in terms of trying a new wine but it’s new to me! Maybe, it will remind me of warmer days driving through the vineyards along Seneca Lake without a care in the world! Cheers!

dumbbells on a rack

Wine for a Gym Challenge – The Outcome

As promised I’m sharing the outcome of my 45-day Athletic Apex Transformation Challenge. I killed it. Nailed it. Beat my own goals. And it feels great! In only 45 days, I managed to gain 1.24 pounds of muscle, reduce my body fat from 15.2 percent to 14.9 percent and nearly everything across the board moved in the positive direction. How cool is that? Below is a chart I made to show the improvements:

A comparison of my two Dexascans, 45 days apart.

Below is a comparison of my two Fit3D Scans, showing my measurements at the beginning and today.

A comparison of my body measurements, 45 days apart.

What is so amazing about this is how much I gained in such a short period of time. I really didn’t get into my new workout and macros until about two weeks ago. If I can do all this in 45 days, imagine what I can do, if I stick to this plan?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have data helping to support you on your fitness journey. You can’t argue with the numbers and they help keep you honest. But, even more than that, I was focused in a way that I haven’t been before. I knew what I needed to do and I was able to dedicate myself to reaching the goal. For me, the numbers were motivating and inspiring. If there is a future challenge, including scans, I will definitely jump right in again, but even if there isn’t I can seem myself getting these assessments every three to six months just to see my progress.

For me, these last 45 days have been a reboot that I desperately needed for my own fitness journey. I’m excited about the next 45 days and beyond. What kind of wine goes with killing all your workout goals? Why, a glass of bubbly, of course! Prosecco is my go to. But, since it’s not #WineWednesday just yet, that celebration sip will have to wait. Cheers!

kids posing on a hill

Wine for a Scientific Review

Last week was a blur for me with a bunch of deadlines at work so I didn’t get a chance to post about our trip to Ithaca, New York over Winter Break. I took the kids to the Sciencenter, a place we had driven by but had never visited. While it wasn’t all that large, it made up for it with the quality of the exhibits. The kids enjoyed all kinds of activities from touching a starfish and horseshoe crab, to making music with their feet to creating origami creatures.

We spent a couple hours in the morning, and then made our way to lunch at Purity, famous for its ice cream. Before we filled our bellies, though, we had to stop at a wine store, of course. Right around the corner from the center is a shop called Red Feet Wine Market and Spirit Provisions.

Red Feet Boasts a Unique Variety of Wines

At first I wasn’t sure what I would find inside, but the kids and I decided it was worth a look. I was not disappointed. From the floor to the ceiling were many rare and hard-to-find wines from smaller producers from around the world. I was shown a few different kinds of wine, based on the description I gave for what I was looking for. I went home with a French red from a smaller producer from the Cru Beaujolais region. Leading sommeliers will tell you that the best value wines on earth come from this area and I was excited to try one.

I added a white to my pairing, choosing a grape I had never tried before called Passerina from the Abruzzo region of Italy. It reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc but instead of citrus overtones, I tasted apple and pear. It’s my new favorite white. Wow. Such a great tasting wine. I nearly drank the bottle on my own! It would be amazing with sushi and for good reason. The region is known for its fishing.

It’s a blessing and a curse that this shop is not closer to home for me. I might go broke stopping in there all the time,” but I wish I had the opportunity to stop in more often!

Purity Lives Up to the Hype

I’ve lived in Central New York my whole life and have never visited Purity. Well, if I did, I don’t recall. Since it was a kid day I knew we had to get some ice cream but we wisely decided to eat “real food” first. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered from grilled cheese to a turkey avocado BLT to a hot dog, everything was excellent. Of course, the dessert was the best part! I do understand why everyone says this is a “must do” when in Ithaca.

After lunch we headed back to the Sciencenter since the kids wanted to play with everything more. This day trip, door to door, took about seven hours so it’s doable when you have a day off or just want to skip town on the weekend. Just make sure you manage to stop at Red Feet and Purity while you’re there!

weights on a rack

Wine for a Gym Challenge

This Monday marks the end of the Athletic Apex Transformation Challenge. A 45-day contest, the challenge allowed members to establish a baseline for their fitness journey, using data obtained from DexaScans and Fit Body 3D assessments. My challenge officially began Jan. 18 with my own scans and I learned that for me, the challenge is continuing to build muscle, particularly in my legs and trunk.

For the past nearly 45 days I’ve changed my macros a bit, taking in healthier fats and fewer carbs and I’ve worked with a personal trainer to establish a muscle building routine that will help me reach my goals, as well as improve areas where I am weak. I even added a Resting Metabolic Rate assessment to ensure my calories and macros are on target for how my body behaves.

This assessment required me to fast for 12 hours. It measured how many calories my body burns just to exist, as well as what my total energy expenditure is on a daily basis. It even showed me that I burn 66 percent of my daily calories as fat, rather than carbs, which is good information to have. Overall, the assessment was short, taking only about 20 minutes but it wasn’t the most comfortable test. You had to wear a nose plug and breathe only through a tube for the duration of the assessment, which I was not a big fan of! But, I’m glad I did it because it’s more data I can use to reach my personal fitness goals.

While I’m excited to see if I’ve made any progress at all over the last 45 days, I’m also disappointed that I didn’t have more time to reach my goals. I only just figured out my formula a couple weeks ago, which to me is not enough time to even see if it’s going to work! But, I do have two points of pride as I head into my final scans this Monday evening: 1. At my annual physical my doctor said I gained four pounds since last year! 2. Since the start of the challenge, I’ve gained one pound!

Hey, it’s the baby steps. Consistency and focus are what counts when you’re on a health and fitness journey. The other night, I celebrated #WineWednesday with a Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, a yummy, simple red perfect for sipping at the end of a long day and reflecting on success. While I’ve cut back on wine drinking quite a bit since refocusing on my fitness, I still enjoy my Wednesday habit, as well as a glass or two on the weekends. I’ll keep you posted on the final results next week! Until then, cheers!

dumbbells on a rack

Wine for A Personal Training Review

Faithful readers know that in the past couple of years I’ve fallen in love with training. I love to lift. Nearly every day, the first thing I do when I wake up – 5 a.m. on weekdays – is head to the gym. Currently that health club is Athletic Apex – New York, located in DestiNY USA in Syracuse, New York. This place is amazing but part of its draw is the specially-trained personal trainers it has on staff.

These trainers not only bring their own expertise and certifications but also are trained by Athletic Apex in something called bionetics. This allows them to custom tailor programs to individuals based on their bodies and goals. Already there have been some pretty spectacular transformations of members who worked with the trainers to assess their needs and create a fitness and nutrition program that works best for them.

Athletic Apex periodically hosts transformation challenge events where members can pay a fee to enter into six-12 week challenges where they commit to changing their body composition. The latest one is under way now and I’m a contender! I first went through a series of assessments to determine my own personal baseline. This data informed my goal, which is consistent with what it’s been thus far, to gain muscle. Along the way, to help me reach my goal more efficiently, I decided to pay for a few sessions with one of the personal trainers, Shawna Moran.

Shawna is no stranger to training. A former bikini competitor herself, she knows what it takes to build muscle. During my three sessions with her, I also discussed what my ideal macros and caloric requirements should be, and a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) assessment will soon be completed to provide even more insight into my own body’s needs.

One of the first things Shawna shared with me is a macro breakdown that had me consuming more healthy fats than carbs, which is different than the way I had been eating. At first, I questioned that because I knew I was trying to build muscle while maintaining or lowering my body fat, especially in my trunk and legs. But, Shawna knows that healthy fats stimulate muscle growth by affecting hormones in a certain way. So, I’m trying her plan! It sure is a challenge to eat fewer carbs after working so hard to eat all the carbs!

Shawna also is helping me with new workouts and approaches to the areas I most need to train – legs and trunk. I now have a new glute-focused leg workout, back workout, concentrating on traps, and next week a hamstring-focused leg workout! She also will write me a full workout to try for the next several weeks. I’ll check in with her periodically so she can see how I’m progressing.

Learning a new way to do curtsy lunges during my first personal training session with Shawna at Athletic Apex.

Working with a personal trainer is not an inexpensive proposition; it’s a huge investment of time and money. But it’s worth every bit of that investment, if you find the right trainer for you. Athletic Apex takes the guesswork out of a big part of that equation by using hard data and science to craft workout programs that get results. But, you also have to kinda like the person you train with! And I like Shawna!

She’s personable, encouraging, smart and efficient. Even on days I haven’t worked with her, I find myself working harder and using many of her techniques I have picked up from training with her. Today, for example, I did a chest workout from Lyzabeth Lopez that I’ve done dozens of times. But, I added a starter set of Smith machine bench presses and a decline bench dumbbell chest press to further focus on chest, an area where assessments have shown that I’m weak. Plus, I’m pushing myself to do one more rep when I think I can’t and concentrating on time under tension for the muscle groups in a way I wasn’t before.

Shawna is your best champion no matter where you are in your health and fitness journey. I’ve observed her working with beginners to people who are more advanced, young and old. And she’s not alone. Athletic Apex has a team of personal trainers, all specially trained and all with the same approach as Shawna. It’s a great place to consider if you’re new to lifting, looking for a new program or just want a nudge in the right direction.

I love my wine as much as I love my lifting routine, and although wine is not the best when you’re trying to stimulate muscle growth, I still reserve a day or two a week to have a glass at the end of a busy day. Last evening, we enjoyed Jargon Pinot Noir. Harbor View Wine and Liquors had it on sale buy one, get one free. It went wonderful with our homemade pizza (I love homemade better than any take-out and it’s healthier, too!).

I think that choice of wine also goes with the idea of personal training. There’s quite a bit of jargon that you end up learning as you work with the experts. From bionetics to RDLs to RMRs, the acronyms and vocabulary are a whole new world! But, it’s a world I highly recommend for anyone who wants to look and feel like a million bucks! Cheers!

notebook that says weekly planner on it

Wine for a Change of Plans

I haven’t always been the best at rolling with the punches. In fact, I often would get severe anxiety whenever plans were about to change or if I had no plans or was unable to make plans. Honestly, sometimes I still do get out of sorts but not nearly as bad as it used to be. I’m not sure why I behave this way when change is in the air but I do. Since I’ve had children and several life events over which I had/have NO control, I’ve started to adapt to changeability and am a bit more able to just handle it.

This morning, for example, I arrived bright and early at my usual haunt, Athletic Apex – New York, which opens at 5 a.m. Part of the draw for me and what contributed to me changing gyms in the first place was the fact that it opened a half hour earlier than my previous gym, the Northwest YMCA in Baldwinsville, New York. In fact, typically, it appears as though Apex has been open for hours by the time I pull into the parking lot at 5 a.m. sharp. This morning, however, I noticed that all the cars in the lot had lights on and were still running. The gym was still closed.

At first, I figured it would just be a minute. I thought I saw the guy who works there just inside the doorway and figured maybe he was waiting until exactly the stroke of 5. But then I realized he was on the outside looking in, just like us. After waiting about 10 minutes I got out of the car and asked him if someone was on their way to open. He admitted he had not gotten a hold of anyone yet. In a split second decision I decided to head back out to my old haunt, the Northwest YMCA. Fortunately, we still have the family membership there due to Jon’s voice teaching and the kids’ swimming lessons.

I arrived there just as it was opening at 5:30 a.m. and realized the more things change, the more things stay the same. I recognized the same faces, said hello to some old friends, some of whom I know by name, others simply by face. I put my stuff in the same old locker number 23 and started my workout. Immediately, I noticed how busy the place was and I had to adjust which workout I was going to do to accommodate what was available. I had gotten used to my personal space at Apex! It sure was an adjustment being so close to the person next to me and having to adjust when weights were not available.

It made me appreciate my new gym that much more. I got through the workout just fine and was able to make it home and to work only about 10 minutes behind schedule. See? Change wasn’t so bad. The more I allow myself to embrace it and just go with it, the more I realize there’s no reason to be anxious. This is something I know deep down inside but still is difficult to call forward in the moment.

Tasting new wine is always fun and not at all frightening to me, despite the fact that I may be faced with wines I’ve never had before. I tend to enjoy returning to my old haunts once in a while, too. The other night, I did one of each. I tried a new Pinot Noir called Butternut, and an old standby Sauvignon Blanc from Brancott Estate. Which one did I start with that evening? The old standby. Old habits sure do die hard. Cheers!

dexa scan machine

Wine for a Fitness Challenge

With a new year comes new opportunities for those who are committing or recommitting to fitness goals. Gyms offer sales on memberships, personal training and other ancillary services to help entice those who are thinking about prioritizing exercise and health. What’s more, trainers and gyms offer challenge opportunities to keep engagement and dedication high and provide a way for people to reach their goals.

A quick scroll through the Instagram fitness stars and you’ll find lots of fitness challenges in progress from the Sweat app to Lyzabeth Lopez’ TWL program there is no shortage of competitions out there for people to take before and after pictures and show real progress with their personal goals. I’ve participated in the Hourglass Challenge a couple of times in the past but as a hard gainer, I really struggle with making visible progress in a short period of time (usually these challenges are about 12 weeks). Despite my previous experience I decided to enter a different challenge this year – one that is only six weeks! But, to me, it’s worth it.

Athletic Apex New York, a gym located in Syracuse, New York, is sponsoring a fitness challenge beginning Jan. 21 and running until early March. Despite the short time period, this challenge offers something I haven’t had an opportunity to do before. It includes full body scans at the beginning and end of the challenge so you have real, hard data to use toward meeting your goals.

Understanding Full Body Scans

The scans, a DEXA and a Fit Body 3D scan, will help take the guess work out of results and progress, according to the gym. The DEXAS scan, which stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, assessment gives specific and reliable data so you can see how your body is responding to training and where you are gaining or losing muscle and fat. This helps focus and optimize your efforts!

Known as the most accurate body composition bio-marker in the world, according to Athletic Apex, it’s a custom calibrated machine that measures bone mineral density, as well as body mass down to the gram in each part of your body.

My results were pretty cool, if I’m being honest. The scan showed that I have 15.2 percent body fat, the rest is lean muscle. A quick Google search shows that this is in the athlete range for women, which is pretty cool since I’m not an athlete, just a fitness enthusiast. In my arms, that percentage was more pronounced; I only have less than a pound of body fat on my arms. Most of my fat is concentrated around my middle and legs, which is normal for women.

The chart above is a breakdown of my body fat versus muscle composition. It shows right down to the body part what the breakdown is. You can see my waist and hips are the leanest parts of my body, followed by my arms. My legs and trunk are the areas on which I need to work to build more muscle while minimizing fat gain.

The scan also provides a bone density assessment; in my case I’m doing well, but could be slightly better. In the color-coded chart below, you will see that the green area is the desired outcome. The manager who performed my scan, Joshua Haan, said that the best way to increase bone density is to lift heavy weights, which I will be doing! Because in order to change my body composition, I’ll need to build lots of lean muscle while minimizing fat gain. Now, that’s a challenge!

The photo above shows my bone density results, right down to body part. Overall, my bone mineral density is in the mid-high range but it ideally should be in the dark green.

In addition, I did a Fit3D scan that includes an assessment of my full body posture, from eyes and ears to feet. A posture analysis evaluates your shoulders, hips, knees and ankle positions when you are standing. It also provides posture Wellness Metrics on body shape, waist circumference, waist to hip and trunk to leg volume ratios, and more, allowing me to see whether I truly am changing my body shape from what many call a “banana” to what I’m hoping for – an hourglass!

This was a fun scan for me because up to now I’ve been measuring on my own and who knows if that’s been accurate. This validated some of my measurements but showed that I was off in other areas. For the most part, the hourglass shape I’m striving for is slowing coming through. My measurements are shown below:

Bust33.4
Waist28.3
Hips33.3
Biceps (R)9.4
Biceps (L)8.9
Thigh (R)18.8
Thigh (L)18.5

What’s interesting here is that you can see where you are “uneven.” For example, I want my biceps/arms to be the same or as close as possible, similar to my thighs. So, that is something to work on. In addition, the FitScan results tell you what your body ratios are, letting you know where you need to improve. For me, I am ideal except for my trunk to leg ratio, which could be improved to move into the ideal range.

These scans will serve as a baseline for me to use with the challenge and I will do them again at the end to see how far I’ve come. In between, I will work my tail off on the areas I need to grow or diminish to create the shape and muscle I want. Along the way, I also plan to work with a personal trainer for at least three sessions to assess my form and get some pointers to help with progress.

To me, this challenge is unique because of the access to the scans, which normally can run upwards of $125. But, I’ve never had this kind of data about my body before and as a type A, detail-oriented person this will likely focus my efforts, helping me get to my goals that much faster.

I had my scans done on a Friday evening after a long week, which included the first classes of the semester. I teach public relations writing at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in addition to my full-time job as a public relations and marketing director for the Martin J. Whitman School of Management there. So, I enjoyed a glass and a half of a Cotes du Rhone aptly named 100%.

In the coming weeks, I’ll post check-ins so you can see how I’m doing on my quest to positively alter my body composition. Challenge accepted! Cheers!

resolutions

Wine for Resolutions

The start of a new year means rededicating yourself to whatever dreams, goals and objectives you want to achieve. For me, a new year happens twice annually – fall, when school is back in session, and Jan. 1. This year, my New Year’s resolution is to attempt to establish realistic goals that I can reach over the course of the entire year, or at least that is my overarching commitment to myself.

Looking back on 2018, I did pretty well with my resolutions. Did I reach them all? Nope. But, I did meet three of the four, with the fourth one coming in halfway! This year, I have many goals, big and small. I’m sharing them here in case they are inspirational to you, as you think about what you want to be in 2019.

  1. Become a certified personal trainer. OK, this is the biggest goal I have and one I’m calling my “stretch goal.” I really want to do this. I love working out, I love people and I love to teach. This is a way to combine all three. But, to get here, there are steps along the way. I need to complete a course successfully, but before that, I need to choose the course from the many out there. But, before that, I need to find time in my schedule to do this, both the course and then the actual training. So, this one will be a process. But, I’m committed to trying!
  2. Finish Jon’s Christmas stocking. Those who know me know that I am an occasional cross stitcher. Due to the intermittent nature of my cross stitching activity, it often takes me years to finish projects. I’m halfway through my husband’s Christmas stocking that I started a year ago. I’m going to attempt to finish it by Christmas 2019.
  3. Read 30 books. Last year, I read about 30 books, give or take but I really didn’t keep careful track so I’m not positive. It could have been more. This year, I am tracking it, listing each title in my bullet journal as I finish it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll read 40!
  4. Read the Bible. I haven’t read the Bible cover to cover since college. This year, I’m going to do it again. Each evening, I’m reading a chapter until I’m done. I’ve started with John, and will follow with the rest of the Gospels before methodically moving through all the remaining books. Chunking this goal down makes it doable!
  5. Post 24 blog posts. This is also an attainable goal. It requires me to post at least two blog posts a month and since I usually do at least three to four, I think two will be just fine! This post is one of 24!
  6. De-stress with a bath and/or massage twice a month. A friend and co-worker reminded me at the end of 2018 of the importance of self-care. I’m considering myself reminded and am committing to it in this way. Even if I only do this once a month, it’s one more time than I did it in 2018!
  7. Gain five pounds. The elusive 100-pound goal weight is in sight now that I’m nearly 96 pounds. It’s been a long time coming for this hard-gainer but I think 2019 is my year. I need to make sure I hit my macros, workout consistently and progressively and drink ALL the water.

I have seven goals, my lucky number. I wrote them in my bullet journal/planner but documenting them here is extremely therapeutic, as well, and makes them more real somehow. I’m excited to have a mix of super attainable, practical goals along with those that are a little more challenging.

Since Christmas, I’ve enjoyed 10 wines (it was my two-week vacation so I had more time to sip!). Of all the bottles we opened, the one that spoke to me most in terms of resolutions was 2015 Mystic Red from Auspicion Vineyards. I want to believe that 2019 will be an auspicious year for me and the play on words reminded me of that favorable feeling. Funny enough, that was my least favorite wine in terms of taste! That prize goes to a 2013 red blend from the Tuscany region of Italy. Bottled by Monte Antico, it’s a combination of grapes from a variety of vineyards and it’s in the true Tuscan, light-bodied red style.

Come to think of it, none of my resolutions involve wine. Might need to add a bonus goal at some point this year. I’ll keep you posted. Cheers!

barbells

Wine for Top Posts of 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, I decided to review my analytics to see which of my posts were most popular this year. By and large this year marked a turning point in the type of content I’m sharing with my followers. After sharing details about my own fitness journey, I discovered that fitness was a topic that resonated with my readers. I added more of that type of content not only on this blog, but also through Instagram, where I’ve been chronicling my daily workouts and challenges. At any rate, without further ado, below are the top 10 most popular posts of 2018 here at Wine for All Times.

10. Wine for When Dinner Cooks Itself

9. Wine for Field Hockey

8. Wine for An Instant Pot

7. Wine for A Day in the Life Fall Edition

6. Wine for a New Workout App

5. Wine for Workout Friends

4. Wine for Sharing my Workout Journey – Part 1

3. My Hard Gainer Fitness Routine

2. My Hard Gainer Meal and Supplement Plans

And the winner is…..

Wine for A New Gym Review

What do you want me to blog about in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Happy new year, everyone!

Wine for Baking Cookies

The holidays are an extremely busy time of year for me, as they are for most. Between buying all the gifts, decorating, preparing for special Christmas Masses at church and attending all the kids’ activities, it can get downright stressful! As an Italian, I also have the tradition of baking Christmas cookies. Each year we do anywhere from six to eight to 10 different kinds, which takes hours of work. 

Last weekend, we did five of them, and when I say “we” I mean my daughter and I. My 8-year-old seems to be more engaged in helping with the baking than my 12-year-old but both do end up helping me frost and dip cookies. I don’t complain! Whatever help they can give is that much less that I need to do! This year, we made eight different kinds at about four dozen each for a total of around 400 cookies. We put them in sealed containers and freeze them all in the big freezer in the basement, removing them as we create cookie tins and trays for our friends and family.

Some of the cookies we bake are age-old recipes from my great Italian grandmother, Assunta Amore Toscano. My oldest daughter is named after here (Maria Assunta). I was really little and don’t remember much about her except going to her house for dinner sometimes. But, she left recipes for Italian Fudge and Almond Macaroons, among others. Italian Fudge are my favorite holiday cookie. They are chocolate balls dipped in chocolate frosting and they have whiskey inside so, hey, what’s not to like?

The Almond Macaroons are a tricky one to bake, at least for me. One change in an ingredient or variable in the recipe and the whole thing comes out badly. This year, unfortunately, was one of those years. I tried different almond paste and I had a tricky time measuring out the sugar (long story). The kids say they taste the same but I don’t know. Plus the consistency is a little off. Anyway, you can’t be perfect every year and there is still another week to go. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try again!

The remaining cookies we made were: Hermits, Cut-outs, Hazelnut Thumbprints, Peanut Butter Dips, Biscotti and Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip. My husband makes a few of his, as well, so we have a total of 10 or 11 different kinds in our house right now, plus any that we receive from others. It’s a sugar festival!

While baking, I try not to drink too much. It’s hard enough to keep all the balls in the air and juggle all the stuff. The mixer, oven and sink all get quite the workout as I move through all the baking. But, afterwards, as I rest my poor feet and back, I definitely enjoy a glass or two of wine. This year, my husband brought home an Old Vine Zinfandel from Bogle, a relatively easy to find vintage. I don’t normally like Zins at all but this one wasn’t terrible. I tend not to enjoy the spicy character but this one had enough fruit that it balanced out some of that peppery taste I dislike. 

The fact that it was Old Vine was appropriate given that some of the recipes are so old. I’m sure even the versions I’m baking aren’t exactly the same as what my great grandmother baked. They hardly wrote anything down! But, someone tried to write it down and I go with that plus a little of my own experience through the years guides me through to the final product.

For those who are interested, below is a recipe I’m willing to share! Happy baking and happy holidays!

Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies