Friday, February 26, 2010

The Newbie: Food for Thought

Editor's Note: The following post is from my fabulous guest-blogger, the Newbie. And these pictures are from my birthday at work (I know, you're SO JEALOUS!). So read the following post...then note the irony of these pictures accompanying it...then just get over it and have a great weekend!

Sorry for the later-in-the-day post, NYC teachers and students got another snow day! Wooo! Not surprisingly I needed to catch a few extra zzz's after returning to my slightly insomniac ways this week.

Now we can all agree that exercise is an amazing thing, whatever activity you do. According to webMD (yes, your guide to scaring yourself silly over a common cold) they list some amazing and agreed upon benefits from regular exercise such as strengthening bones, increasing your immune system to fight off chronic illness as well as improved moods and less stress. And of course one of the most popular reasons to exercise in this day and age, weight loss!

I am a firm believer that diets are stupid. Any changes, whether physical or mental, can only come from and stick with lifestyle changes. For the past two years a goal has been to learn to take care of myself, in all senses: mental, physical and emotional. (Hence my agreement to run and therefore train for the NYC Half as part of this on-going process.)

After being on a competitive swim team for almost 10 years, I quit because I had lost some of the joy. One of the first things I noticed was how much my body changed post-swimming. I wasn't eating as much because I wasn't expending as much energy (definitely loved the excuse to carbo load before a swim meet!), and I lost a ton of muscle. Suddenly I could fit into everything meant for my age. It was exciting and shopping became a much less stressful ordeal.

While I could have become another girl ravaged by an eating disorder at the new-found weight loss, I was lucky enough to have had that team athletic experience early on. I appreciate strength in my body over the inches of my hips. And I've kept that mindset: I would rather have a healthy and strong body than a sample size one.

As you get older it's harder and harder to eat what you like and figure you'll work it off later because well, nowadays it doesn't work itself off quite as fast! Before running I was doing Bikram Yoga three times a week. One of the things I loved about this exercise is that I had to be cognizant of what I ate because you aren't supposed to eat at least 2hrs before the class....and it is a 90min long session. So in total, you need enough energy to sustain you for 4hrs!!

Now, I am a clean-plate-carb-loving-portion-challenged eater who loves some snacks and sweets, so this was definitely hard for me. But the benefits far outweighed the challenge. My skin got better because I was making smarter choices in energy-dense foods as well as drinking TONS of water, and I was so relaxed at work from all meditative activity. Plus my core muscles shaped up and my balance became stellar!

With running I've felt so strong and been able to get up the 4 flights of stairs at work faster without being as tired. I also have way more energy and don't end up as spent at the end of the workday. Towards the end of my first 8mi run I was feeling uncharacteristically tired, I realized that I hadn't eaten enough. Other days the combination of work stress and the energy used to run throw me for a loop and then I am late-night nibbling into the wee hours.

It is easy to trip up---taking care of yourself is a full time job! Active people need to be more mindful than anyone because we're eating not just for our health but for our performance. Even if you're not world-class, we all want to feel our best when we're out punishing the pavement.

These days I've been using a food tracker online to keep a record of my meals as well as how I'm feeling from them (i.e. bloated, sluggish or content). While this may not be for everybody there is a lot of valuable information in terms of figuring out what's "well-balanced" for you and how your eating is affecting your daily activities. I find that lately I've been way more energized and satisfied throughout the day, as well as feeling less pain/injuries. 

I think health and happiness are all about arranging different pieces to fit in a way that works for you. Sounds ideal but it can get tricky sometimes. I am keeping my goal in mind (my secret mile pace that I'd like to run in the Half!) and remembering to keep eating an ever-enjoyable activity as it was before...just perhaps a little more thought-out. ;)

Much love and happy running,


RW Article: The Best Food For Runners

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Literary Bite: Reading Lolita in Tehran

This might be my new favorite book. Seriously! I cannot rave enough about it. And then funny thing is, I almost missed it entirely.

My mama read it a few years back, and didn’t really like it. Now, I trust her judgement in most things (especially books) so I assumed that Reading Lolita in Tehran was more hype than anything else. But I was at the library mid-snowstorm (praise and glory to all DCPL employees who have to go to work when the Federal Government is off!), meandering the aisles looking for something to read, when 6x6 pulled it off the shelf and said This is your book. Ok. Why not?

And O to the M to the G. It is SOOOO GOOOOOODDD! (I know, I’m gushing. Sorry, I just can’t control it.)

Anywho, about the book:

Azar Nafisi is a great author. She balances elements of introspective memoir, literary analysis, and political critique so seamlessly and flawlessly, it’s really remarkable. The book is tagged “A Memoir in Books”, and is a bit too complex for me to give you a plot summary…but check one out here.

Nafisi is a professor in Iran, who is eventually forced out of teaching by Islamist extremism, and decides to start her own in-home literature course for young women. Reading Lolita in Tehran is divided into four major sections, each focusing on one author or classic book: Lolita, Gatsby, James, and Austen.

I have to admit, I have not read Lolita, nor The Great Gatsby, nor James. My Austen experience is long in the past, and I didn’t really like her books at the time (I think I read Emma and Pride and Prejudice sometime in elementary school or junior high…to young…I just couldn’t get into it). I’m sure there’s more I could get out of Nafizi’s writing if I were more familiar with all the authors she analyses, BUT one of the great things about this book is that you don’t really need to have read those books to get/enjoy the story.

It is as much a political critique as a literary one. All I know about Iran is purely academic. I’ve studied Political Islam and the Middle East, and I read the news every day – so Iran is definitely on my radar. But this book gave me a new perspective from the inside. Before, I was under the impression that the Iranian Revolution (1979) was a black and white event. Before = freedom, After = religious-based oppression.  Obviously that view is oversimplified. This book shows the nuances of the Iranian political structure, how it wasn’t just a before-and-after, and how society reacted to the new government.

Even if you don’t care about Iran, or Islam, or classic literature, this book rings true on so many levels. I realize this post is quite long, so I’ll stop there with my opinions and just say READ IT!

Here are some quotes I’ve pulled that I think might give you an idea of the essence of Reading Lolita in Tehran:

About the veil:

“A stern ayatollah, a blind and improbably philosopher-king, had decided to impose his dream on a country and a people and to re-create us in his own myopic vision. So he had formulated an ideal of me as a Muslim woman, as a Muslim woman teacher, and wanted me to look, act and in short live according to that ideal…It was not the piece of cloth that I rejected, it was the transformation being imposed on me that made me look in the mirror and hate the stranger I had become.” (165)

About Nafisi’s classes:

“Those forays into the personal were not supposed to be a part of the class, but they infiltrated our discussions, bringing with them further incursions. Starting with abstraction, we wandered into the realm of out own experiences.” (272)

About the “personal” v. “political”:

“…it was perhaps not surprising that the Islamic Republic’s first task had been to blur the lines and boundaries between the personal and the political, thereby destroying both.” (273)

The politicization of Islam:

“Islam has become a business, she went on, like oil for Texaco. These people who deal in Islam – each one tries to package it better than the next.” (275)

About the liberalizations of the 1990s:

“This was a period of hope, true, but we harbor the illusion that times of hope are devoid of tensions and conflicts, when, in my experience, they are the most dangerous. Hope for some means its loss for others; when the hopeless regain some hope, those in power --- the ones who had taken it away – become afraid, more protective of their endangered interests, more repressive. In many ways, these times of hope, of greater leniency, were as disquieting as before." (276)

Am I just blinded by my own love of this book? Or does it sound good to you too? I hope you read it, and I hope you like it!

Also: Children of the Revolution (BBC Podcast)

More Reviews

And this is kind of a tangent, but if you like this book, check out the movie Persepolis

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cake of the Week: Fluffy Puffy Coffee Spice Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

Oh wow…good birthday. Thanks to all who participated in any way! Let’s just say that my day consisted of a run, Indian buffet (one of my many hobbies), a cookies and cream cupcake…and shortly thereafter, a chocolate cupcake (from Hello Cupcake - thank you work!), and finally a whole chocolate cake (thank you LLC!) to round off the evening. Yowza!!!

I also got some good books, so look forward to hearing about those.

And now, since I didn’t give you a Cake of the Week yesterday, here it is today.

I don’t think of myself as particularly “creative.” You all know that I’m more of an art appreciator than an artist. But I do have my creative moments, and they usually happen in the kitchen.  Tried and true recipes are always good, and definitely hold a solid place in my repertoire. But there’s always that whispering question, What if…? I mean, nothing risked, nothing gained, right?

I found myself in that kind of mindset this weekend. I got in my kitchen, emptied my cupboards of all things yummy, and started mixing up a storm.

The results? Fluffy Puffy Coffee Spice Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts.

These cookies were inspired by LLC’s birthday cake, but remember how I couldn’t find cardamom? Well, I was perusing the aisles of Whole Foods the other day, when aha! There it was. So I had to try it. Cardamom is one of the spices that’s in chai, and can be overpowering if you use too much. But it smells FABULOUS, and adds that little extra something to these cookies.

They’re fluffy and puffy thanks to baking powder (usually cookies have baking soda). They’re also not too sweet or buttery, so they feel almost like a cross between a cookie, a muffin, and a scone. Breakfast cookie? Yum!

So here it is, an EatRunRead exclusive from me to you:

Fluffy Puffy Coffee Spice Cookies with Dark Chocolate and Walnuts

1 Stick butter (1/2 cup) softened

½ Cup unsweetened plain applesauce

½ Cup white sugar

1 Cup brown sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons ground coffee

½ Teaspoon allspice

½ Teaspoon cardamom

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1 Teaspoon baking powder

½ Teaspoon salt

3 Cups flour

¾ Cup chopped dark chocolate (I chopped up some Dove chocolates)

½ Cup chopped walnuts


1. Beat softened butter, sugars, and applesauce with a mixer (or super-fast by hand) for 1 minute.

2. Add vanilla and eggs and beat again.

3. Add all dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. If the dough is too dry, add a splash of water.

4. Drop in tablespoon-sized dollops onto a non-stick baking sheet.

5. Bake at 350* for 11 minutes.

6. Cool completely before storing. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Happy February 23! This day holds a very special place in my heart because…dun dun dun…it’s MY BIRTHDAY!!!

Thus, on this most glorious of days, I ask you to join me in celebration of all things…myself (if there’s ever a day when it's ok to be self-centered it’s today, right?).

That means that I ask you to:

Eat some cake (I haven’t yet, but it’s only a matter of time).

Run outside (yep – check – my morning run was a bit of a struggle, but as always, I’m glad I did it).

Read a book. Or at least start one. I’m almost done with mine!

And finally, I have one big birthday favor to ask of all of you. Just think of this as your gift to me – I provide you with daily amusement, decadent pictures, and witty prose all out of the goodness of my heart – and all I ask in exchange is this one birthday gift:

Tell people about EatRunRead! In honor of my birthday, post a link to my blog as your facebook status, tweet about me, email your friends, poke your head over the edge of your cubicle and tell your coworkers, send an office email to those people you like (not that I advocate neglecting your work duties!), and if you have a blog - link to me!

So just go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait.

Ok - I am now forever in your debt.

And now, all you new readers, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with EatRunRead. Awesome, right?


Best Cake:

Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling

Best Cupcakes:

Cranberry Maple Walnut Cupcakes

Best Running Posts:

The People You Run Into

A Weekend 5k Saga

We Are Running People (This was my FIRST post EVER)

Bad, Bad, Bad

Best Weekend Report:

Some Long Runs Are Longer Than Others

Happy Halloween, Spandex NOT Optional

Best Literary Bite:

Born to Run

Baking Cakes in Kigali

Suite Francaise

Peace Like A River

Best Ode:

Ode To Art Museums

Best Rant:

Sidewalk Rage

Hope you like! Now get out there and do something awesome because IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Weekend Report: I Just Wanna Dance

I love to dance. Going out to bars is pretty meh. But going out dancing – that’s another thing entirely!

Now, I’m not saying that I’m good at dancing by any means. The adjective I ascribe to my dance style is enthusiasm. Yes that’s right, I dance with enthusiasm. It’s not cool, it’s not classy, it’s not sexy. I don't have any "skills." It’s often just straight-up ridiculous. But I have fun with it, and if I’m ridiculous and don’t care, I think the people around me tend to feel the same way. (Everyone knows, but nobody really likes, the super-serious-face dancer.)

Because dancing, when you think about it, is an absurd activity. You go to an overcrowded location with a few people you know and a ton of people you don’t know, and wiggle your body until you can’t anymore. I mean, that’s just silly. But every culture has some kind of it must be essential on some very basic level.

And I think most people can agree that dancing is totally awesome! You wouldn’t dance at work, you wouldn’t dance walking down the street, most people wouldn’t dance in public at all, except for those occasions when you go out dancing – then it’s totally legit and anything goes!

And I also have this theory that dancing is good for running.

They’re not that dissimilar – when I finish a good run, I may or may not sing along with my ipod while I walk my cool-down. Runners high = dancers high? (I’m totally making this up, but I really do think there’s a parallel there!) It’s all about using your body to express music, whether that’s Born to Run, The Distance, or In Da Club.

Often after a hard workout, all you want to do is lie on the couch and not move…which feels awesome…until you have to move again. Then the soreness/fatigue/stifffness kicks in, and we all know that’s just a bummer. So next time you do a hard workout on a Friday or Saturday (or really any day, I won’t limit you!), resist the urge to get cozy on your couch. Instead, set your DVR to record the Olympics, and go out dancing! It uses your muscles in a different way, shakes them out, gets your blood moving, and is FUN! I promise, you’ll be less sore the next day, AND a happier person.

But before you do - please do yourself a favor and listen to this Dane Cook clip. (Watch out for my taser! that's all I'm saying.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Guest Blogger: Run NYC

Editor's Note: This is my fabulous Guest Blogger, The Newbie, who is training for her first half-marathon.

Here in the NYC DOE (Department of Ed.) we are smack in the middle of our wonderful mid-winter break. This break originated during the Depression: to save on heating costs they shut the schools down for one week during the coldest part of the winter. It worked out so well with the budgets that they've kept it (thankfully for us teachers!).

I love breaks probably just as much, or slightly more, than the average person. Teaching means you are always "on"; you don't get to mentally check-out in the middle of a lesson and heaven forbid you sit down---the kids suddenly run amuck thinking you're not paying attention. On an average day I am walking at least 3-5 miles....and then I come home and run.

Usually I'm heading home as the sun is setting (BTW: totally my #1 dislike about winter) so my only choices for running are the treadmill or the track. Now if it's snowing, I automatically head to the gym because there is no such thing as plowing the track (unfortunately). But on these glorious days of vacation, my options are suddenly thrown wide open due to the expanse of my free day-time! Running outdoors, I'm pretty sure all can agree, is better than anything indoors...hands down!! The wind in your face, the variety of things to look at while running (sometimes those long runs really do call for a little entertainment) and SUN!! Being active outdoors is a glorious thing.

NYC is a great city for its culture, food and sheer diversity. It's also a great place to be an athlete---especially a runner. Even though it is an island, it's got a lot of surface streets packed densely into it's little space, meaning runners have so many options---no matter what neighborhood you live in. There are so many online tools nowadays to find runs or to map and share your runs: or It can make any distance an adventure.

Besides the magic of running in some of NYC's most distinctive neighborhoods (think: near Chinatown and all its bustling open front markets or in Harlem by the famous outdoor pick-up basketball games) you've got the beautiful scenery of being surrounded by water. I live on the west side of Harlem, not far from Riverside which is the large road (expanded in recent years for runners and bikers) that runs all along the west side of NYC along the Hudson River. In the spring and summer months it is gorgeous to see the trees flush with flowers and verdantly green. In the fall and winter months you see the leaves fall and the icy waters crash on the shoreline. It is a magnificent sight to have the Hudson scenery next to you while you run, especially if you get to have the sunset as you're on your way back home.

Another great location for running is Central Park, with its myriad of loops there is a distance for everyone and you are guaranteed not only a beautiful setting for your run but some interesting people watching. Last week I did my first 8-mile run and decided to head to the Park. Now I can say that I completed it but I did get a little confused with all the loops in can't see the street numbers from inside the park so you have to use your intuitive sense as to when you should turn...otherwise you'll end up on the really long 6-mile loop like I did. :)

Even in the dead of winter the Park is full of bikers and runners, it's definitely motivating because suddenly you aren't the crazy girl on the block who wears spandex outdoors with snow and slush on the ground---you're just one of many enjoying the fact that running can take you places and you don't need anything to get you going except the sheer joy of the path.

Much love and happy running,



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mac and Cheese

I’m reading a really awesome book right now. So good, in fact, that I am going to wait until I finish it to write my blog. If you want to get a head start: Reading Lolita in Tehran = extreme awesomeness. Go to your library, order it online, whatever. Just read it, and I promise to get you the full book report next Thursday!

So in the meantime, I have a fantastic recipe for you.

It’s not sweet, because believe it or not, I do eat normal food on the rare occasion.

And it’s perfect for a cold winter day. Curl up on your couch, turn on some Winter Olympics (Did anyone see the Women's Downhill last night??? Women's Super Combined is on tonight!) and have a nice deep bowl of Mac and Cheese – grown-up style!

This recipe is from my favorite Food Network Star – Ina Garten. It's in her Family Style Cookbook, which is the first cookbook I ever owned. She’s fabulous, and this recipe is fabulous as well.

Mac and Cheese

- serves 6 to 8 -


Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (made from 5 slices white bread, crusts removed)


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drizzle oil into the boiling water, add the macaroni, and cook according to package instructions, 6-8 minutes. Drain well.

2. Meantime, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but do not allow it to boil. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour all at once. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Whisk in the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off heat, stir in the Gruyère, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart (9 x 13-inch) baking dish.

3. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, toss with the fresh bread crumbs to coat evenly, and sprinkle all over the top of the casserole. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top.

Mmmmmm mac and cheese. Yum!

And you could really add anything to this recipe. Meat, veggies, whatever! 

My Variations:

-       Skim (not whole milk)

-       Half breadcrumbs, half crushed White Cheddar CheeseIts for the crust

-       I added one bundle of asparagus to the béchamel sauce as I mixed it into the pasta. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mollie Rant: Sidewalk Rage

I like think of myself as a nice person.  I’m a little sassy, but not overly snarky…I'm definitely a glass-half-full, have-faith-in-people, expect-the-best, rainbows and sunshine kind of person.

Except for when I have to share a sidewalk. In that case, I HATE PEOPLE. 

Get ready…this is a Mollie Rant:

If you’re a runner, or even just someone who enjoys walking at a pace slightly faster than a meander, you know what I’m talking about. Sidewalk rage. And this phenomenon is only exacerbated by the snow. Snow encroaches on what are normally standard-width city sidewalks, reducing them to single-track lanes between icy burms, making it almost impossible to pass people.

“Excuse me, on your right!” 

I start off calling out politely. I mean, I don’t intend to ruin anyone’s day. But of course, it’s a rare person who moves on the first try.

“‘Scuse me! On your right!!” 

I try again, a little louder, as I am forced to slow my pace to an in-place jog.

“‘Scuse me!” 

Still nothing.


&^%$#*-^%&!!! (don't worry, I keep the obscenities in my mind, as I am forced to stop)

“EXCUSE ME!!!!!!” 

Translation: MOVE!!!

And then finally the person/people look back, shocked that someone might want to pass them, and grudgingly move to the side. If this happens once in a run, ok, whatever, people are dumb. But oh man, when it’s snowy out, and I get to the 10th time…watch out! Extreme rage.

And what really kills me is the people who scream when you pass them. Yes. Scream. It’s happened. Many more times than once. I’m sorry that you’re completely oblivious to all around you, but really, me in spandex is not quite scream-worthy scary. Other people do use the sidewalk too. Get over it!

What’s a runner to do? (Treadmill? Perish the thought.) Often I run on the road. This avoids the problem of ridiculous pedestrians, but presents the potentially more dangerous problem of vehicles. Because a collision with an oblivious walker is annoying…but a collision with an oblivious driver is straight up dangerous.

I was thinking about this on Monday afternoon, as I ran in the snowy rain. I was cranky to start off…and things only got worse. Pedestrians on the sidewalk were in my way. (Another topic for rant: Why is it that when someone has to move out of the way, and it’s me in running shoes v. some fool in a huge coat and snow boots, it’s me that has to step off into the powder???)

Anywho, there was wind was in my face and snow in my eyes. I hadn’t washed off my mascara pre-run, so I was looking like a deranged harlequin doll. Also, I hate squinting. This time it was so bad that I ran with one eye shut, and the other just open enough to see where I was going.

One eye open does not lend itself to good depth perception…And snowy weather does not incline DC drivers to behave as rational human beings…therefore, running on the narrowed-by-snow road was a bad idea.

Let’s just say that people got angry, but nobody died or suffered any long-term damage.

And thus concludes my rant. I live to run another day! As always, thanks for reading!

Here are some Tips for Runners and Drivers.