And That’s A Fact, Y’all.

I dyed my hair black this week. I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve done this before, so I guess it’s not that big of a deal. But this time it’s much, much darker—almost blue. So that’s a little weird. I’m probably getting too old for this shit. But I don’t care. Or maybe I’m in denial. I don’t care about that either. Hey, at least it wasn’t Manic Panic!

What else? I signed up for the Brooklyn half, even though while I was running the DC half I said to myself, “Don’t do something stupid like sign up for the Brooklyn half.” I started saying this at mile 10 and I continued to say it repeatedly up until mile 12.50 when Ludacris’ P Poppin came on. And then I just started sprinting. I will forever remember that song as the one that saw me to the finish line. It’s so far from being work safe. You’ve been warned. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s human ears safe, perhaps not even animal ears. But it worked! I got a much needed boost of energy and hit the ground running.

Truth be told, I don’t think I was quite ready for a half marathon. Or maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be? Maybe it’s supposed to be difficult. Because it was. Granted, it was also 80 degrees and humid and DC is hilly! (SHUT UP, SAN FRANCISCO. AND RYAN!) But I don’t want to sit here and make excuses, even though I have them! I have a list of them. (For example, ladies: what do you do about planning? You know what I’m asking without having to ask it? What do you do about that?)

This is what I keep coming back to: I am not injured! I finished injury free. In fact, recovery time was almost nonexistent. So, that’s good, right? If I truly wasn’t ready, or if I’d done something wrong, trained improperly, wouldn’t my body be injured? I did take it easy, but still.

People often ask, “When did you know you were ready to have kids?” And the answer is usually something like: “You’re never ready to have kids. If you wait, you never will.”

I keep telling myself the same thing when it comes to running.

So. I signed up for Brooklyn. Whether or not I do it, that’s another story entirely. But I signed up. And it sold out within 9 hours. 15,000 spots and it done sold out. So, I guess it’ll be a popular one.

That’s all for now.

13.1!

I did it! I walked a bit. That hill into Adams Morgan was a lot more intense than I’d remembered. And my right knee got wonky at mile 11. But I did it!

I’m damn proud of myself too. I’ve only felt this proud three times before. (This is the first time it was all about me though.)

Updates On Random

I’m a terrible blogger and getting worse by the day. It’s been, what, a month since I last updated? Is this how things will finally end? Slowly, without realizing they’re going to? I’m sorry. I just don’t know what’s happening.

I never anticipated it ending this way. I always thought I’d get irritated by some other blogger (or whatever) and be done with it once and for all. Or a lurker would send me some hateful email, which has happened many times over the years, and I’d say, “This ain’t worth it! My skin isn’t thick enough!” and finally mean it. But like this? I never thought it’d end like this, like I’m backing out of the room slowly, hoping by the time I let the door close behind me, no one will be left to notice.

I just never thought it would slowly fizzle to nothing. And writing that down makes me feel a little blue.

So! Enough.

Here’s a picture of me after falling asleep with wet hair. Sexy.

Let’s see. I’ve been running. A lot. And then I got a little hurt. I did an 11 miler a week and a half ago and BAM! two days later the outside of my left foot hurt. I haven’t run on it since. I’m hoping that it will heal entirely by this Saturday’s race. This past weekend, things weren’t looking so good. But it’s better today and has been for over 48 hours. So I’m going to give it a shot. The worst that will happen is I’ll get out there, start running and find I’m still injured and can’t finish. But I have to try. I must. And I’m excited about it. I love DC. When I found out I hadn’t made the lottery for the NYC half, I jumped at the chance to do the Rock ‘n Roll half in Washington, DC.

We rented a hotel room right downtown. It has a pool AND a hot tub, which I’m sure I’ll be using assuming I finish the race. It’s also near the Air and Space Museum. And I can’t wait to take Emory. He’s going to love our nation’s capital. I am so excited for him. I’m excited to see my friends, and to run through the streets of a city that means a great deal to me.

What else? I’ve been baking. A lot. I have been baking cakes, muffins, galettes and eclairs (to name a few). And I plan on sharing some recipes, specifically the eclair recipe, because you would not believe how easy it is.

I’m practicing cake combinations for future wedding cakes. This has been oddly fun. The only downside is I’m eating too much of my work and therefore my waistline is expanding. All that weight I lost last fall is inching its way back. Not cool. I felt so awesome back then. So I’m doing Weight Watchers again. I am 10 pounds above my ideal weight and, no, it’s not much, but it’s so easy to slip up and have that rise to 15 and then 20. I don’t want that to happen again.

I’m rambling but at least I’m writing! Something. Anything. Filler? Oh god. No.

We moved! I love our new apartment building. It’s fantastic. We gave up our personal view, but we gained a super patio, a gym, a roof deck, a massive playroom which is often filled with kids. We have a nice kitchen and a bit more (definitely more useable) space. I’m happy here. And we’re right on the East River. So the views from outside (and the roof) are spectacular. I go to the gym during the day while Elliot naps. I wheel him down in the stroller and work out while he sleeps next to me. The view from the gym is of the entire skyline. It’s pretty great.

That’s all for now. I have a bunch of pictures I need to upload, pictures of the new place, all my cakes, the kids. And I’ll do that soon.

And I’m sorry I haven’t written much.

Runners Are Stupid.

I don’t write much about running. I think that for most people it’s super boring to read about. It’s like hearing about someone’s dream. BORING. So I don’t do it very often. But I run a lot. I’ve been running for years.

Currently, I run four times a week, with long runs on Saturdays. I am training for two half marathons next year. I’m following a novice runner’s schedule. Basically, a variation/combination of this one and this one. It’s a little tricky for me since I’m a full-time mother. Em goes to school, but Elliot is with me every day, all day. So I run at night after Toby gets home from work. And holy crap! It’s been tough!

Y’all. It’s cold out there. And at night it’s even colder. Part of my running route is alongside the East River and sometimes the wind rips at you like a million tiny daggers, like Manhattan is purposefully slapping my face for residing in Brooklyn. Yes, I could change the route, but that would make sense. Plus, have you seen the view from Kent Avenue? It’s awesome! I’m not going to change my route. If I change my route, I wouldn’t get the opportunity to ask myself, “Why are you doing this? You’re just stupid.”

Here’s the deal: I believe to be a decent long distance runner one has to be a lot crazy and a little stupid. People say it’s about endurance, but I think stupidity has a lot to do with it. Why else would you plan on running during a snowstorm? (I’ve got an 7 miler tomorrow during a snowstorm.) Why else would a person come up with something like this to make sure you don’t miss one single mile? Why else would you dress like this? Because you’re a runner and you’re stupid.

Take Stuart Calderwood, for example. As of today, he’s been running every day for 25 years. If he’s not a lot crazy and a little stupid, I don’t know who is. Every day for 25 years. That’s insane!

I kid. A little bit.

In all seriousness, when asked why I run, the answer is simple: I run to beat me out of me. Running is my antidepressant. It has been for years. I outrun my demons. I let thoughts come and go freely. I don’t judge any of them. I don’t hold onto any of them. I don’t let them go too quickly if they’re troubling. It’s my therapy. And it works every time.

I love running.

So! Rain or shine, hot or cold, snow or ice, I make sure to embrace my inner crazy and make her go for a run. And while I’m a little less crazy with every run I complete, there seems to be enough of it to fuel the next one. And I’m totally OK with that.

Or maybe I’m just stupid.

Vegan What? Who? Why!?

I’m going to try vegan. At least for 30 days. I know! Why would anyone want to do such a thing in a world with cheese and bubble tea? I’ve no idea. I just want to give it a go. Mostly, I want to see how difficult it is. And I don’t plan on adding a bunch of processed vegan junk food into this diet. I am going to attempt to cook for my family.

This isn’t going to be easy because I have pretty serious addiction to milk-based bubble tea. Plus, I’m finding out that pretty much everything is made with some type of animal product. Take wine, for example. Most wine isn’t vegan and a lot of it isn’t even vegetarian. Everything is made with animal, even water.

Ok, not water. Although, I bet we’re drinking a fair share of little, microscopic creatures with every gulp. But they aren’t fuzzy and cute so who gives a shit, right?

So, yeah. Vegan. I’m going to try. Just for a month. Maybe. I hope.

Are you vegan? Were you vegan? Do you have any sites you’ve used? Books to suggest? I’m all ears! Learn me something, Internet. Or just call me stupid. I can handle that too.

Now I Know Why They Call It A "Stress" Fracture.

I run about 20 miles a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. But that’s been my average for a while. I love running. I run to avoid depression. I don’t take pills. (Not that I’m against doing so!). It’s just that running works for me. I run because it gets me high and makes me unbelievably happy. I can’t imagine not being able to do it.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice some pain at the top and center of my left foot. I continued to run, of course, because, if you know anything about runners, we tend to be a stubborn bunch. It was fine. I mean, it hurt, but I ran through it. I ran and iced and elevated and then last Sunday I hit Central Park for a NYRR 4-miler and finished in great time (for me). I was so proud of myself. I came home and immediately signed up for another race. Sure, I could barely walk at the time, but I figured I had time to get back to normal again. I guessed it was just a bruise but I made a podiatry appointment just to be safe. This time I even stayed off of it. I used the elliptical machine and lifting weights instead.

Today my doctor ran a series of x-rays and I have a stress fracture—a bloody painful one. When she touched the magic spot, I nearly puked. So, she put me in a soft cast and gave me a boot. She told me to stay off of it. (Yeah, right! Have you met my son?) But, worst of all? I can’t run for 8 weeks. I can’t even use the elliptical machine.

Of course, with every fairly uncool event that takes place in my life anymore, there’s always an element of humor involved.

You see, I live in Brooklyn and I have a car, so a depressingly large chunk of my daily life is spent abiding by the alternate side parking calendar. Naturally, I was concerned.

“Can I drive?” I asked her.

“Yeah, because you don’t need that foot to drive.” She joked.

“I drive a stick.”

“Oh gosh. Well, the more you use it, the longer it will take to heal. So, I would suggest you not drive.”

And you know what my first thought was? I wondered if she might write a doctor’s note so I could get out of having to move the car from one side of the street to the other, as if the NYC government was going to take pity on the fact that I am wearing a cast. You could be a headless person without hands and the New York State Department of Transportation would continue to ticket your car.  Hell, you could be giving birth and they’d give you a ticket and make you pay it. (YES, THAT HAPPENED TO ME! The birth part, not the headless bit.)

The NYSDOT does not care about my left foot.

When I left the doctor, I couldn’t call Toby because I knew I would just cry into the phone, so I texted him instead. I told him what was going on. Here are those texts:

Me: Stress fracture. I look like a freak. Huge boot and soft cast. WTF have I done? Can’t run for 8 weeks.

Me: Can’t do much of anything. This is going to make me into a crazy person.

Him: Will take care of ya. CAN YOU MOVE THE CAR?!!?

The first thing I did when I got out of the subway was move the car.

But seriously, people: what I am going to do without my antidepressant?

Mom It Down: 100% Whole Wheat Pancakes

This morning I decided that since Em is on his fourth round of antibiotics, we’d revisit the homemade pancake. He’s not supposed to have much wheat, but we let him have a little bit from time to time.

One of the best things about this pancake recipe is they’re excellent on their own. Even my husband, who loves his syrup, eats them dry. They’re really quite good!

What you will need

  • Mixing bowl
  • Hungry people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 – 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups milk (depending on desired thickness)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Mom it down!

Add everything together into your mixing bowl. (Make sure to beat your eggs first.)

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Mix it well. You’re done!

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Heat up a skillet and coat it with a little bit of butter. (I usually wipe out the visible butter with a paper towel after it melts.)

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Drop some dough onto the pan, let one side cook until it bubbles a bit. Flip it over.  Let that side go for a while as well. That’s it. It’s really quite simple!

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Overcoming Obstacles

These are some thick pancakes, so they don’t cook as fast on the inside as your average pancake. To make sure that they are cooked all the way through, you may need to adjust your heat. I tend to mash mine down a bit with a spatula just to make sure. The last thing you want is for your pancakes to be gooey in the middle.

If this happens to you while making your pancakes, you’re screwed.

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Variations

These aren’t as healthy as they could be. So I reckon you could substitute applesauce for oil. (Although, I haven’t tried personally.) 

I have added cinnamon I’ve also left out some of the sugar. I have added chocolate chips and I bet bananas would work really well in this recipe

I hope you try it! And as always, I love suggestions!

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Mom It Down: Apple Crisp!

I know it isn’t really apple season, but I’m from Pennsylvania. Plus, I can’t think of too many smells more awesome than baking apples.

This recipe is a two-parter, but don’t let that scare you. It’s really simply and each step can be broken up.

What you will need:

  • 2 -3 Ramekins (or something similar)
  • Food processor 
  • Peeler (optional)
  • Tinfoil

Ingredients

Baked Apples:

  • 2 – 3 green apples
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • pinch of salt

Topping (Taken directly from The Pie and Pastry Bible)

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • pinch of salt

Mom It Down!

Preheat oven to 375.

Peel and core the apples. Cut them up. 

Add your orange juice, sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up. You’re done! Let that sit for however long you want but for at least 30 minutes. 

cutapples

Chopped, marinating apples.

After your apples are good and marinated, distribute them into two or three ramekins. I use these cute little tomato-shaped Le Creuset casserole dishes we have. (I know it’s a tomato, but let’s pretend.) 

precooked2

Ready for baking!

Bake covered for 30 minutes. (Tinfoil works, if your dish doesn’t have a lid.)

Part 2

You can do step 2 anytime during the day and put it aside. Just make sure it’s ready to go before the apples are done pre-baking.

Pulse the nuts, sugars and cinnamon 20 times until the nuts are chopped coarsely. Add everything else, and pulse it until it looks like this:

topping

My topping shows the variation I discuss below.

You’re done. Put that aside until your apples are ready.

When the 30 minutes are up, remove the apples from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, distribute the topping evenly to the top of each dish. (I usually have some left over.)

Put the apples back in the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

finisheddish

This dish features the variation I discuss below.

That’s it! You’re crisp is ready for consumption. Serve it warm or at room temperature. 

Overcoming obstacles

Most of what I bake these days isn’t done for show. That said, my apple pieces tend to be all different sizes. My husband makes fun of me for it. I always tell him the same thing: I don’t have time for perfection. And if it tastes good, who cares? 

So, the first thing I let go of whenever working with this recipe is the size of my apple pieces. I fly through this step. I peel the apples using an peeler like this one. (It lessens the time substantially especially if you’re doing more than two apples.) I core them using a simple knife and chop them with the same one. Fancy equipment may lessen the amount of time spent here. I’m not sure. A peeler and a knife works just fine (and quickly!) for me.

Depending on how accurate your oven is, you may want to check the topless apples after 25 minutes. Since these apples are to be baked for a while before the topping is added, you don’t want them to be overcooked. I have done this before and while it still tastes great, it ends up being more like applesauce with a crunchy topping.

Variations

I have added Bear Naked Granola to my topping. It was delightful. (Shown above.) I reckon you could add whatever you want as long as the fat content remains intact. Too much flour, for example, can lead to a powdery top and you really want some crunch. (Another mistake I have made.)

I hope this proves helpful! And as always if you have any suggestions and/or comments let me know!

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Breathe Locally

This post was going to be about organic food and locavores both of which are growing trends here in America. Just last week, Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn – the first garden at the White House since the FDR administration.

It seems that people are starting to care more about what they eat, where it comes from and who is potentially harmed (or helped) in the process. I like that. I like that more people are curious about and buying locally grown foods. I like the idea of waiting until something is in season before adding it to a shopping cart. I especially like the idea of cutting down on the pollution involved in shipping and producing many of the foods we buy and consume today.

farmersmrkt_mod

Union Square Green Market

At home, my family tries to buy food grown, produced, caught, and slaughtered locally. I know what some of you might be thinking – how the hell does one do that while living in New York City? I thought that at first, as well. After all – I’m from Pennsylvania. Growing up, our milk was delivered by a local farmer before the sun came up. Our eggs could have rolled themselves over to our house. We got nearly everything locally. (The exception was Tang, which was made on the moon, by astronauts, and mostly of rocket fuel).

In my mind, the term “local” used to mean “in my neighborhood”. That’s not an option for the majority of New Yorkers, as so much of our food travels thousands of miles before it hits our bodegas and grocery stores, our restaurants and street meat stands. Our food is trucked in, shipped in by boat, train or plane and tends to leave behind it a long, dark carbon footprint.

For New Yorkers, “local” is a relative term and has come to mean “within a hundred-mile radius.” Since we have more farmer’s markets than you can shake a stick at, getting to some of those local foods is really easy.

mombadge_final1I was excited to cover this topic as my first March Of Dimes Moms post, especially since they wrote an article recently on whether or not organic is better for your baby. Their conclusion seems to be that it’s not necessarily better. But how about trying to buy foods grown locally? I couldn’t wait to tackle this topic! But Monday came along and it had different plans. I was steered onto a much different road. You see, my son was diagnosed with asthma on Monday and that’s all I can think about right now.

Here’s how the last few days unfolded.

My son kept us up all night Sunday. He woke up every hour. His belly was tight. We thought he might have gas and constipation on top of the usual congestive rattle we’d come to know. On Monday morning, I began to realize that things were much worse than I had thought. At 3 PM he was hit with a high fever. I called the doctor. By 4 PM we were in the waiting room.

And by 5 PM we were armed with a ProNeb Ultra II, some albuterol, a more powerful round of antibiotics than he’s yet been given, and a new worry.

At that point, my husband and I did what parents do with an Internet connection: we started researching. I was looking for ways to blame myself. That’s what mothers do, right? And at first glance, my research told me that I was right. I was to blame for this—we were to blame for this. After all we live in a very polluted area. The rates of asthma in children living in North Brooklyn are on the rise.

“Ever look at dirty truck exhaust? The dirty, smoky part of that stream of exhaust is made of particle pollution. More new evidence shows that the particle pollution—like that coming from the exhaust smoke—can lead to shorter lives, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs.”  (American Lung Association: State Of The Air)

Fact: Emory spent the first year and a half of his life living right next to the BQE (The Brooklyn/Queens Expressway). We were so close to it, the trucks used to shake our apartment. We knew all along we were inhaling harmful toxins, but we chose to stay there. We were in a lease and rent was affordable and we thought we were leaving the area at any moment.

Actual view from our apartment.

Actual view from the back window of our apartment.

We used to clean an alarming amount of dark black soot from our windowsills. And it didn’t take long to build up. A few days would go by and a black film would lazily blanket every surface in our home. We used to joke about how our lungs must look. We were nervous.

Signs of Asthma include:

• wheezing
• rapid breathing
• labored breathing
• gasping
• difficulty breathing when exercising
• chest tightness

Generally speaking, a child must first be vulnerable to airway inflammation. Everyone is vulnerable, to some degree – and often to any number of irritants. Next, the child needs an antagonist or trigger. Triggers can range from a common cold, a sinus infection, or bronchitis, all the way to secondhand smoke, smoking, cleaning agents and air pollutants. Triggers can also be as simple as getting too much exercise or experiencing too much stress, or the absurdly cold air of a NYC March day.

When I started digging in a bit further, I realized that this isn’t specific to Brooklyn. Emory probably would been diagnosed with asthma no matter where we lived especially since almost every place we’ve ever discussed living is also on the highly polluted area list. And that’s not because our list is really short. It’s that the master list is really long. Even the small, idyllic town we’ve  been pining over for years has some of the worst statistics when it comes to the two types of air pollution at the root of the problem.

Dare to dream.

Dare to dream.

In Brooklyn, the biggest asthmatic culprit is exhaust from vehicles. This is why you’ll also find Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, The DC Metro, and a great deal of the Northeastern corridor on that list. Pretty much every city or town near a major trucking route is seeing a rise in asthma, cancer and other related illnesses. And most large, polluting vehicles (as we used to watch from our bed) are used to transfer goods – like food – into our cities.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports:

“Mortality rates were most strongly associated with cigarette smoking. After adjusting for smoking and other risk factors, we observed statistically significant and robust associations between air pollution and mortality. The adjusted mortality-rate ratio for the most polluted of the cities as compared with the least polluted was 1.26 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.47). Air pollution was positively associated with death from lung cancer and cardiopulmonary disease but not with death from other causes considered together. Mortality was most strongly associated with air pollution with fine particulates, including sulfates.”

The simple truth is that asthma rates are on the rise, as is infant mortality and in many cases we have air pollution to blame for that. And we need to do something about it. And I don’t mean we need to come up with more medicine to throw at the problem. (Though, I am really grateful for our new nebulizer.) I think we need a more preventative approach.

So, while buying organic and/or locally grown foods may cost you a bit more monetarily,  I think that cost might be worth it when it comes to the greater good. Change won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if we just put our minds to it.

A funny thing happened as I was writing this post, I ended up within a hundred mile radius to the original topic.

Why Do I Cry When I Jog?

I jog. I jog so I can eat cake. I’m not kidding. 

I’m a slow, steady runner. I jog between an 11-minute mile and a 12-minute mile. I jog five times a week and I love it.

But here’s the weird part: Sometimes I cry. 

My friend, Heather Champ mentioned that she has emotional moments after a run and I wrote back letting her know she wasn’t alone. But it still seems a bit peculiar. I’ve always wondered about it.

The triggers tend to be so sporadic and unrelated to one another, I’m not sure there is a trigger. They range all the way from a song, to a podcast, to a story on the news, to smelling someone’s treadmill fart, to nothing at all. The only regularity has to do with time. It always happens after the 20-minute mark. 

I just cry. 

I don’t feel unhappy. I just cry. And I know that some folks may roll their eyes at this next part, hell, I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it, but is this what folks mean when they talk about reaching a level outside of oneself, (and because I can’t think of a less sophomoric word) is this some type of zen? 

I’m not suggesting that I reach some major breakthrough, quite the opposite. I’m wondering if it’s one of the few times during my life, I am without thought. Do I run myself empty? Do I exist without care, responsibility or worth? Or is it simply that I have run off all the sugar coursing through my blood and I’m crying because my body needs more cake?

I just cry.

I try and hold back, because who wants to see a girl crying on a treadmill, but I get the feeling that if I let myself just go, like, become a blubbering mess, I’ll end up on the other side (going nowhere, mind you) different.

Whatever the reason may be, sometimes when I jog, I cry.