Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making a Difference with Charity Running

This is a guest post by Jackie Clark, who blogs for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance's blog. Jackie has a personal blog, Jackie's Arc, that shares health and fitness tips. Jackie has been participating in charity marathon running for the past 3 years. To stay in shape she runs 5-6 times a week either outside or at her local gym. Feel free to contact Jackie with any questions @

Many people take their good health for granted. Until recently, I never thought anything at all about being able to take a deep breath or get up out of bed, feeling ready to take on the day. However, people who are battling cancer often struggle just to maintain a halfway normal routine. Some days they cannot get out of bed at all. Because they cope with so many physical demands of their illness, they cannot go out in the public and fight for awareness and research funding to help find a cure for cancer. People like me are needed to advocate for these patients.

I like to run charity races for cancer patients. My family has witnessed several relatives fight cancer, as a matter of fact. My great-uncle, who served in the Navy, developed mesothelioma and lost his battle against it. His cancer, as with so many other mesothelioma patients, left him unable to breathe, eat, and go to the bathroom unassisted as the disease progressed. When I run these races, I keep him in mind, knowing that each mile I conquer makes a difference in the lives of patients like my uncle. 

These races are important. They help raise funds for cancer research, and they also provide money for basic necessities for patients and their families. Without this funding, a cancer patient's survival rate may not be as high as what it is now. In fact, in most cases if the cancer is caught early, a patient has a very good chance of surviving the illness. As the website indicates, with 100% of money going to research and assistance programs, cancer patients need us to keep racing. 

But people often ask me what I get out of participating in these events. Why would I continue to run if I myself do not have cancer? I participate for many reasons; the most important being that because of my relatives, I know firsthand how the disease affects people. I would rather run and raise money than sit idly by, hoping that others continue to advocate.

Second, scientific studies have shown that exercise is an important part of keeping cancer and other diseases away. By keeping fit, if I ever do develop cancer, I can fight it better by having a healthy and fit body rather than one that is out of shape and unhealthy. Running is a fun way to advocate for people who have no way to advocate for themselves. It also gives me the benefit of staying in shape and having fun running with others. Yes, it is a physically demanding activity, but the rewards of running general charity races outweigh the physical efforts of them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cake of the Week: Pumpkin Streusel Pancakes

My home is kind of a scary place when it comes to food…and by that I mean there is a lot of it, most things involve buttercream, and I don’t have to do anything except appreciate and lick the frosting off my fingers.

If I lived there full time, this would probably become an issue (and by that I mean I’d have to buy bigger pants). But since I only go home once in a blue moon, it’s instead a perfectly acceptable vacation from reality and venture into the realm of all-desserts-all–the-time

The tour guide on this sugar vacation is, of course, Sister1. She bakes and I eat. And then I let her and her husband mock me for my whipped cream consumption. Trust me, it’s a win-win. 

One morning over Thanksgiving break, she decided to make us pancakes (us = me, Sister2my dad and mama, and Geoff - the aforementioned husband). But not just any pancakes – Pumpkin Streusel Pancakes

They were absolutely insane. Because not only are they pumpkin pancakes (yum), but they have a cinnamon streusel cooked into them (double yum), and then, because we are intensely awesome eaters, we slathered them with cream cheese spice frosting, syrup, and whipped cream (quadruple yum to the max!!!).

Sister2’s recipe is based on this one from Two Peas & Their Pod, but with some modifications (noted below in pink).

Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Pancakes
Yield: Serves 4
For the cinnamon streusel:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

To make the pancakes: 
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup milk (Sister2 used buttermilk)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 large egg (Sister2 used flax egg substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. First, make the cinnamon streusel. In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Mix together with your hands or a fork, until you have a crumbly mixture. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Set aside. 
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg, pumpkin, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk until combined.
  4. Heat a griddle or pan to medium low. Coat with cooking spray. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto heated skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon streusel. Cook on the first side until bubbles begin to form, about 2-3 minutes. Carefully flip pancake over and cover very generously with cinnamon streusel. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Continue this process to make the rest of the pancakes.
  5. Serve pancakes warm with maple syrup and butter. (As previously mentioned, we did it up and used frosting and whipped cream…be prepared for the ensuing sugar coma…it’s worth it.)

Thanksgiving Break In Pictures

I went home for Thanksgiving this year, and here's what it looked like...

After picking me up at the airport in San Francisco, my mama and I stopped by the Legion of Honor to see a Pissaro exhibit. This is the view from the museum (you're looking at the Marin Headlands). 

Let's make this easy and all agree that my friend's baby is the cutest in the world. 

My mama's rolls (recipe here). They are flaky and buttery and my family's favorite holiday food. 

Sister2 showed me and Amy (our corgi) her newly acquired dance "moves" in the kitchen.

The big deal of this Thanksgiving was that our entire family was together for the first time ever. Here are all the cousins, plus our grandma. 

Amy, trying to blend in with the floor.

What you're drooling over here is a pumpkin streusel pancake with syrup, cream cheese spice frosting, and whipped cream, compliments of Sister1. Yes, that is the intensely awesome sugar coma it sounds like.

It's tradition that on my last day home my mama and I always go on a beach walk. We barely fit it in this time, but made it out to Dillon for a beautiful sunset.

Mama looking cute.

And finally, on Saturday night before I headed back east, we did one final Thanksgiving dinner for just my immediate family. I made another turkey...

And my sisters picked it apart while my mama carved. (Don't worry, this is totally normal in my family. I'm not sure what that says about us.)

Hope you too had a wonderful family-full Thanksgiving break! And you know what this it's Christmas season...get psyched!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pumpkin Hummus

It's only a matter of hours until Thanksgiving! I hope you're ready...I know I am!

If you need something to bring to a party, or think your own feast might need a little spicing up, make this Pumpkin Hummus. It's a great seasonal dip -- it's savory, just slightly pumpkin-y, has some of the usual pumpkin pie spices, but also a little kick. (I know, it sounds weird, but trust me, it's really good and insanely easy.)

Pumpkin Hummus

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • About 3/4 of a 15-oz can pumpkin 
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 shake of cayenne pepper


  • Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. (I said it was easy, didn't I?)
  • Serve with toasted pita bread, carrots, etc.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cake of the Week: Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I’m on my way home!!! I have spent Thanksgiving many places –- at the homes of friends and families of friends -- in Boston, Virginia, and Niger. But this year I’m going home to California for the big Thanksgiving celebration for the first time since high school. And I am SO EXCITED. 

I love going home. It always involves excessive family time: shopping with my sisters, running with my dad, fighting over the cross-word with my mama (dibs for this week!). Plus, of course, some good quality Petaluma-style chilling: meandering downtown, taking our dog (Amy) for walks, losing myself in a book on my parents’ bed. All things good.

And this year, for the first time ever, my entire family will be together. That’s my immediate family, plus my cousins’ family, grandma, and aunt (all of whom we usually spend holidays with), PLUS  LLC’s family! YAY! My aunt will host the feast, so I don’t think I’m making anything for the big day.

(You may remember that I already put in my fair share of Thanksgiving cooking time.)

As you make your last-minute Thanksgiving plans, consider adding this super simple and insanely good Cranberry Upside Down Cake to your menu.

I made it for my feast, and no joke, one of the guests ate 4 pieces! He said it was the best cake he’s  ever had. I love when I get that kind of reaction...And this cake really was delish, I wish I’d made two!

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake (from Brown Eyed Baker)
Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 30 minutes
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1¾ cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

2. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter (it will be a really thick layer of butter). In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup of the granulated sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange the cranberries in a single layer on top of the sugar mixture.

3. Using an electric mixer, cream together the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.

4. Spoon the batter over the cranberries in the pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. 

5. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake; invert onto a rimmed platter. Store any leftovers at room temperature.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Report: Pre-Thanksgiving #3

Friendsgiving, Thanksfriendsing, Pre-Thanksgiving – whatever you want to call an excuse to eat feasts for the entire week leading up to the big T-giving day is alright with me.

For the third year in a row, I prepped my house, roasted a turkey, and hosted a mix of roommates, friends, friends-of-friends, and family to celebrate the start of the Thanksgiving season.  It was, as always, a process.

I started Saturday with a 10-miler, to properly prepare for a weekend of eating. (I love this run!) Then it was house maintenance time. I channeled my inner old man and handled the extreme leaf situation in my front yard, all the while grumbling to the trees that they’d better not drop any more leaves on my beautiful walkway. 

I don’t own a rake, but a snow shovel worked surprisingly well! Two full trash cans and two trash bags later, I was extremely pleased with my accomplishments.

The grocery store was surprisingly uneventful – for once Soviet Safeway had everything I needed! (We call it the Soviet Safeway because of the long lines and lack of food. To give you an idea, “While Belarus can only dream of recreating life in the USSR, we live the dream every day in Dupont Circle. An optimist would say the shelves were half full, but on most days they’re just totally empty. And the lines go on forever because Dupont hipsters enjoy the ironic semblance of waiting for bread rations…")

Anywho, I bought a 20-lb turkey and carted it home. Brining worked really well for me last year, so I wanted to repeat the process. The only problem was, how do you brine a toddler-sized turkey without a bucket or bathtub??? I contemplated a few unreasonable options -- maybe it’ll fit in my biggest bowl? I could block up the sink and do it there?  -- until genius struck and I pulled out a trash bag. What you see below is a 20-lb bird (ceremoniously dubbed “Trudy”), in a bag, in a bowl, filled with brine, and duct-taped into shape. Win!

On Sunday Trudy made her way into the oven at 12:45.

All was going relatively well party-prep-wise -- I made pumpkin hummus and a cranberry upside down cake (recipes tomorrow!) -- until I checked on the bird around 4:30. She was drowning in her own juices!!! Seriously. Turkey juice almost filled the pan she sat in. Uhoh. I tried to take her out of the oven, but 20+ lbs of turkey and juice is no joke, and the flimsy aluminum pan was useless. 

I panicked, called my mom (no answer, she was skiing), panicked some more, contemplated the situation, and finally came up with a plan of action.

Ok, alright, let’s do this… (Crisis like this are when it’s ok to talk to myself.)

I slid a cookie sheet under the flimsy pan, braced myself, and went for the lift. Ok ok ok oh oh… All went well until the pan tilted on its way up to my stovetop, and Trudy juice sloshed all over. Oh-God-oh-no-oh-God-oh-no-oh-God-oh no no noooooo!!!

I got her to the counter and sprinted upstairs for paper towels to wipe the worst of it from the inside of my oven. Then I used a measuring cup to scoop out most of the extra juice.

With that crisis averted, Trudy returned to the oven, covered in foil, to finish cooking.

The rest of the party went smoothly. I love potlucks because you never really know exactly what you’re going to get. Our menu included: turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, mashed sweet potatoes (sans marshmallows, thank God!), roasted sweet potatoes and apples, salad, homemade cranberry sauce, cheese and bread, pumpkin hummus (recipe tomorrow), apple oat bars, cranberry upside down cake, apple and pumpkin pies. 

All was awesome! And the best part, of course, was enjoying it all with my family of friends here in DC!

Countdown - 3 days until Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Best of the Week #39

Sometimes my mama and I text and it is always amusing. She’s a smart lady, but can’t seem to figure out the T9 situation. For example,  yesterday:
Mom:  I now have a vain.
Me: Is that a typo? Do you mean a weather vane?
(This seemed kinda sorta logical to me since my parents’ house is being re-roofed, and my mom loves ridiculous rusty things like rooster weather vanes…but also totally illogical, since their house is in Tahoe and you don’t usually see weather vanes where it snows…)
Mom: Oops. I now have a local library card. 
Me: Well duh.
Another random thing – this week I finally totaled my weekly mileage for the past couple months. I always keep track (see my 'Running Log' on the left sidebar), but I rarely/never  add up the miles to see how things are going. From September through last week, it looks like: 10, 15, 7, 18, 21.5, 23.5, 20, 24, 25, 39. That last jump at the end is a bit extreme

Conclusion: I should add mileage up more often and make intelligent workout decisions accordingly.

In other news, my article made the Christian Science Monitor for week #2! To quote my mama again, “Mollie, this is exciting. It’s like you’re a real writer!”

And finally, I went swing dancing at the Kennedy Center last night as part of their 2 week long Swing Festival. There was a free lesson at 8:30, then a live band and dancing from 9-10. I’m definitely not good, but it was really fun!

My most popular post this week was a flashback – Zen Master Mollie: Bikram Yoga (which I am still going to twice a week). And thanks to everyone who commented on my Running Safety post - great ideas! 

And now it’s time for some linky-love.

I’m going home next week for Thanksgiving and I’m SO EXCITED! I want one of these pictures of San Francisco! (more)

This woman is a bad-ass/totally insane? “Elana Nightingale Dawson, SPA/BA ’03, made headlines this summer as the woman who went into labor while taking the Illinois Bar Exam and delivered a beautiful baby boy just two hours after finishing the exam.” (more)

The Nyamulagira volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo is spewing out lava in what volcanologists say may be its biggest eruption in 100 years. Watch the video, it is crazy!

6x6 loves this video - Catvertizing!

It’s beginning to look a lot like eggnog season!!! From 1000 Awesome Things, Walkinginto a grocery store and seeing the first shipment of eggnog - “Because if we drank eggnog all the time we’d get pretty fat.”

This amuses me. No good reason.

These photoshopped images blew my mind yesterday. They’re for a United Colors of Benetton add campaign.
"Another photo shows presidents Kim Jong-Il and Lee Myung-bak kissing. In Benetton's world, the fact that they preside over one of the most contentious borders on the planet just adds to their latent steaming affection for one other."

Sorry to be such a Debbie downer, but you all know I am…this is important: The Shock of Modern Slavery
The great Nicholas Kristof has another difficult to, must-read piece today on human trafficking. Including this arresting statistic:
By my calculations, at least 10 times as many girls are now trafficked into brothels annually as African slaves were transported to the New World in the peak years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
FYI, at its peak the trans-Atlantic slave trade was on the order of one hundred thousand per year. Figures on human trafficking differ widely but one million is on the lower end so Kristof’s estimate is sadly reasonable.

Apparently this is old news, but I had no idea! Conspiracy theorists unite: Why is China building gigantic structures in the middle of the desert?

These tea bags are ridiculous but awesome.

Have a great weekend!