Art of Disguise: Sneaking Vegetables Into a Carb-Lover’s Diet

I might as well be watching Game of Thrones, blasting EDM and owning a cat I so hardly recognize myself: for the last several months, I’ve eaten ZERO vegetables. (Fine, zero may be an overstatement, but it’s been capped at, like, six total bites.)

Once a staple of my diet – I’ve literally been known to call kale chips my favorite food – vegetables have totally lost their luster for me this winter. And you can’t really blame me: New York City isn’t particularly known for its farm-fresh produce this time of year.

The farmers’ markets have been hawking nothing but cabbage, onions and last fall’s potatoes, and the perfect summer tomato is still a full fiscal quarter away. (Don’t @ me. I know its actually a fruit.) I even asked my west coast bestie to stop sending me salad recipes calling for “fresh spring greens” out of crippling jealousy. Bib lettuce may be paving the streets of San Francisco but it’s still an unattainable luxury in this concrete jungle where it definitely doesn’t yet feel like May.

But I’m wearing my spring bandana!

But (wo)man cannot live on carbs/meat/dairy/fruit alone, and I know I’ve got to find a way to add more veggies into my diet whether or not the arugula seeds I planted in my upstate garden ever poke through. Even if the off-season variety is boring as all heck, they’re still crucial for the fiber, nutrients and reduced risk of chronic diseases they provide, and I’ve got to convince myself to eat some.

So I’ve been doing everything I can to add more vegetables into my diet, or — let’s be honest — treating myself like a four year old in a bid to disguise all the healthy stuff I’m sneaking past my lips. For example:

  • To trick myself into eating carrots, I made this “carrot cake” smoothie, which, weirdly, was surprisingly good.

  • To trick myself into eating cauliflower, I made this cauliflower-crust pizza, which would have been better covered in pepperoni and/or build on top of a real pizza crust.

  • To trick myself into eating kale and sweet potatoes, I doused my Dig Inn “salad” in mac and cheese (no regrets.) 

Fortunately, my local upstate farmers’ market reopens on Sunday after a dark four-month hiatus, and hopefully it inspires me to love green things all over again. But in the meantime, at least I’ve been getting my green in other ways…

How do YOU sneak more vegetables into your meals?

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Pouring One Out for the OG Blog Dog

Before Lucille — or even Ben — graced these pages, about 85% of my posts were dedicated to a certain goldendoodle with great hair, a sunny personality and immediate star power that probably warranted its own spin-off blog but then what would I have written about here? Oh yeah, running. Forgot that’s what I founded this thing on back in 2012.

If you felt a disturbance in the force yesterday, you weren’t imagining it: Keira, my original muse and the poodle mix voted most likely to play Joe Biden in a musical, passed away at the far too young age of seven. I know I owe her perfect prose and a eugoogaly to make Derek Zoolander proud, but I’m too profoundly sad to be funny or thoughtful tonight. So instead, I bring you six life lessons that my brother’s very special pup taught me, complete with — of course — photos. Because, let’s be honest, Keira would have wanted it that way.

Without further ado, I present to you a pictorial recap of everything Keira taught me as a runner, not least of which was that time she ate an entire crockpot of gravy until she nearly burst, making her, quite clearly, my self-control spirit animal.

Keira Life Lesson No. 1: ALWAYS BE PREPARED. 

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Whether you’re training for a long run with an emergency $20 in your pocket or donning a pair of goggles before your aunt Anne forces you to complete the ice bucket challenge, it’s good to be prepared.

Keira Life Lesson No. 2: DRESS FOR THE ELEMENTS.

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Running 12 miles is hard anyways. Don’t make it harder by forgetting your warmest spandex or leaving your gloves behind.

Keira Life Lesson No. 3: DON’T RACE HUNGRY.

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I’ll run 5-6 miles on an empty stomach, but any more than that and you’ll be swooning your way to the finish line. Try some peanut butter toast or a banana several hours before you toe the starting line — or your aunt’s delicious arm in a pinch.

Keira Life Lesson No. 4: DON’T SWEAT A BAD HAIR DAY.

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Or a bad training day. Some days you’re on top of the world, some days you feel like scum, but it all averages out if you let it. Shake off the bad days.

Keira Life Lesson No. 5: GET GOOD SLEEP.

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Eight hours a day isn’t just for babies and mattress models like Keira. Go to bed early, and stop scrolling through social media from the comfort of your pillow. (If you can figure out how to pull that off, please tell me.)

Keira Life Lesson No. 6: ENJOY IT.

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Move to Hawaii. Have a best friend. Be nice to strangers. Smile. Life’s too short for anything else.

Rest in peace, K. 

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Party Like It’s 1997

I might be biased by the fact that I was a very impressionable twelve years old, but 1997 was a true golden age of music.

The world gave us so many hits that year: Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping, the Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony and Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), to name a few. We got P. Diddy’s I’ll Be Missing You, Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life and Hanson’s MMMBop, and yes, I’ve seen two out of three of those musical acts in concert (and no, one of them wasn’t Sean Combs.)  And let’s not forget that five minute and eleven second long soundtrack version of My Heart Will Go On that graced airwaves, my family’s communal CD player and pre-teen piano music recitals for months on end as we imagined life aboard the Titanic and debated why Leo didn’t try at least one more time to get on that extremely buoyant door.

I believe I’m 11 in this photo, not 12, but 1. you get the picture and 2. what I wouldn’t give to still own that amazing velvet, pink headband.

But while billboard-topping hits including Spice Girl’s Wannabe and R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly Aqua’s Barbie Girl still sometimes find their way onto my upstate dance party play lists, the piece of 1997 poetry that I probably think about most often is that hypothetical commencement speech Wear Sunscreen.

Written as an essay for the Chicago Tribune in 1997 and recorded two years later as a spoken-word radio hit produced by none other than Romeo+Juliet director Baz Luhrmann, it gave listeners unsolicited advice like “do one thing every day that scares you” and “keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements.”

It’s chock full of wisdom, but the line that pops into my head on a nearly daily basis is this one: “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Last spring, when I was considering applying for a job that would require a cross-country move (to Southern California, but still), I wondered quite a bit whether my more than a decade in NYC had made me, as they say, “hard.”

It’s certainly made me an excellent photographer.

And in some ways, I it has: I have no patience for families walking three-abreast down a city street, I jaywalk like it’s my job and I secretly plot to destroy anyone standing still on the left side of an escalator. I’m not a monster: I’ll always try to help a perplexed tourist reading a subway map upside down. But I also once mashed a baby cockroach with my bare fist while drunkenly making post-bar grilled cheese in my cousin’s Brooklyn apartment, so yeah, you could say I’ve toughened up.

That is, I THOUGHT I’d toughened up. And then the temperature dropped to negative 9 degrees this past week, and I realized just how soft I really am.

Normally, Mongolian-like winter temperatures wouldn’t be a big deal: bundle up, stay indoors and binge watch Sex Education, which is so, so good but (public service announcement) too full of nudity to watch on an airplane or with your dad. But I made the mistake last fall of entering a game of chance I never expected to win — the NYC Half Marathon lottery – and accidentally secured myself a spot in the March 17 event.

WHAT HAVE I DONE

Or in other words, not running in this frigid, cruel February isn’t really an option, at least not if I want to try for my 14th (?) sub-2:00 finish.

So I’ve made myself a deal: when it’s so cold that frostbite is a real possibility, I’m doing the unthinkable and churning out my workout on my robot nemesis, the treadmill. But when it’s 25 degrees and up, I’m layering on the Spandex, channeling my inner Bernese mountain dog, and getting outside for my miles, icicles and all.

“The Bernese mountain dogs of the world have voted and we’re never coming inside again. Please leave our kibbles in the snow.”

And yes, I’m wearing sunscreen while I do it.

How is your arctic training going?

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It’s My Party and I’ll Hygge If I Want To

My childhood was leave-it-to-beaver charmed, and never more so than on the days leading up to November 18. Every year, we’d check out the same “how to plan a birthday party” book from the library, design six to eight handmade invites for a sweet group of babes I’m mostly still friends with, and print a ’90s banner on a ’90s printer that I’m sure you remember sounding exactly like this.

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Sweet pants, ma! No joke, these are totally back in style.

With my siblings born on back-to-back days in April, my November birthday always felt like an outlier, and my parents worked hard to make sure I felt special even with Christmas just weeks away. So we threw theme parties every year, and they were epic.

There was the pirate party. The backwards party. The hippy party. The “tell-a-joke-to-a-video-camera” party, which — yes — I still have on record. As the theme got a makeover each fall, the only thing that stayed the same with each passing year was my love of cake — and my terrible haircut. #SelfBurn.

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Why yes, I AM incorrectly signing the birthday song in a bowl cut! But enough about me, let’s talk about how cute Meredith is.

(Of course, once my parents stopped planning my birthday parties, they got a little less idyllic. That “Buffalo wing themed” 18th birthday party at Bill Bateman’s didn’t quite have the same ring. Neither did the “shot-gunning-beers themed” 21st birthday party on the streets of Madrid. The “whoops-I-just-threw-up-on-my-co-workers’-shoes-but-it’s-OK-because-SURPRISE-I’m-going-to-marry-him-in-four-years” themed 27th birthday party was funnily enough a bit more successful, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Suffice to say, my mom’s themes were better.)

So why do I bring this up? Because I just had my birthday this weekend — my 33rd, to be exact — and while my parents weren’t there to plan it, I took a page from their playbook and threw a bit of a theme day, if you will. The theme? Being in my mid-30s and loving every basic second of it.

What’d I do, you ask?

  • First, I woke up, not hungover, at 7 a.m. without an alarm and made a pot of my favorite coffee.
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People who defame flavored coffee have never tried Frosty’s Favorite which, yes, tastes as seasonal as it sounds.

  • Then, I curled up with a book in our cozy upstate house while my husband and dog relaxed across the room.
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Just kidding, Lucille never relaxes.

  • Then I went to my fabulous no-frills Hudson Valley gym (more on that later), where I treated myself to not one but two episodes of Flea Market Flip.
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The worst show on the best channel is still worth watching.

  • Then, after lunch and some Christmas shopping and a hike with Lucille and a nap, Ben and I went out for a delicious dinner — and were in bed by a most glorious 10:30 p.m. cutoff.
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I shared these, even though I wanted to be shellfish.

It may not have been one of the wild-and-crazy birthday celebrations of yesteryear, but it was exactly how I wanted to spend this November 18.

(The only thing that could have made it better was if, like on my fifth birthday, I’d looked outside to find my friend Sarah hiding in a tree.)

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Hey pals: What do you do to celebrate your birthday as an adult?  

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Walk on the Wild Side

I’ve always loved going to the movies.

I love the smell of popcorn. I love the pure escapism. I love stubbornly following the rituals of theater-going that my dad instilled in me 30 years ago: never arrive after the lights go down, always guess how many previews there’ll be in advance, never sit behind a man in a tall hat.

And of course, always stay for the credits. We did that decades before hidden scenes were a thing and, much to the chagrin of my friends and husband, I will never, ever stop.

So I guess you could say growing up, my family took the movies pretty seriously. I mean, did anyone else don their snowsuits and Bean Boots and trudge a mile-and-a-half to the theater (uphill both ways!) on snow days to catch a matinee screening of Homeward Bound? I think not.

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“But does Shadow make it at the end?!”

In fact, the only thing I don’t appreciate about the movies is the preposterous idea that in the event of a fire, we should walk, not run, to our nearest exit. (And that’s not just because as Mitch Hedberg so sensibly said: “If you’re flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit.”) It’s also because — in dangerous situations or otherwise– why would you walk somewhere if you could run?

For that past seven years, that’s essentially been my motto: running > walking. Why walk the dog if you can run with her? Why walk to brunch if you can jog there? I mean, did Forrest Gump walk for three years, two months and 14 days? I rest my case.

I’ll be honest: I never took walking all that seriously as a form of exercise. So I was as surprised as you’ll be when I found myself waking, not running, every single time I exercised in September. Or more precisely, walking rapidly uphill while carrying a backpack. I believe it’s called, as they say in French, hiking.

It started simply enough: Lucille wanted to check out some trails upstate, and I found myself accidentally hiking. I suppose that’s pretty on-brand for mountain dogs.

The next weekend, my friend Z threw a hiking party — a far healthier alternative to how we celebrated her last 14 birthdays — and we covered seven miles in a Hudson Valley forest, chatting the whole way. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “This hiking stuff isn’t half bad. I’ll look forward to doing it again some time in 12-15 years.”

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One of these women has a torn ACL and probbbbbably shouldn’t have joined us, cough cough, Rogan.

Turns out, my math was a little off. Two days later, I flew to Hawaii, where hiking appears to be a way of life — or at least a way for my kid brother to keep me busy until it’s an appropriate hour to frequent the neighborhood karaoke bar. We did two quite vertical hikes together to massive waterfalls, plus I took my niece Keira (remember her?) on a solo hike to this gross view.

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“Remember when I starred in this blog?”

“But why hike on just one continent?” I foolishly asked myself before boarding a plane out of Honolulu. (I was getting cocky.) Turns out the past five hikes were just warm-ups for the big finale: Hong Kong Island’s Twin Peaks. The internet calls this trek to Stanley Beach “very difficult,” and that’s not #fakenews. My bud Kenneth and I hiked up — oh I don’t know — 875 trillion steps on our way over the first peak. We’re still friends after that insane climb, but only because I convinced him to walk the long, flat way around the second peak. (And because he treated me to a beer and spa day afterwards, like a champ.)

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Hidden behind this smile: so much pain.

So what did I learn spending several weeks on a running hiatus in favor of hiking instead? Lots!

Hiking is much more social than running, and it allows more opportunities to take in the scenery and unwind. It also works different muscles than simply hitting the pavement, including those stability muscles in my feet and ankles that I know are massively underused on the mean streets of Queens. Most importantly, no one even blinked when I pulled a 12-inch turkey sub out of my backpack mid-hike in Westchester and started chomping away — a surefire perk that running can’t match.

Does that mean hiking is going to become a bigger part of my routine going forward? I’ll let you be the judge:

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*siblings Christmas card*

Other runners, is hiking part of your routine? More importantly, how excited are you for the day Keira and Lucille can be in a photo together on this blog? Ten months and counting!

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Something Old, New, Sweaty & Blue

Weddings — no matter how you slice it — tend to be pretty decadent affairs.

  • If you’re a guest, it means hours of unlimited crab dip and bubbly, unless you were at our wedding, in which case you strangely chose to drink the bar dry of totally healthy full-cream White Russians. Mmm.
  • If you’re a bridesmaid, it’s that plus two extra weekends of Bloody Marys and Mimosas and cute hashtags and hangover quiches, all of which can hit your waistline.
  • If you’re the bride, it’s all of the above — and a year of celebratory toasts and cake trials and a whole additional dinner where you literally taste everything you’ll be eating again in six months’ time.

(And you wonder why the global industrial bridal complex tries to convince us all we need to lose weight.)

It’s this notion — that weddings are unhealthy and there’s nothing you can do about — that many of us resign ourselves to as we enter the celebratory season. But in 2018, I’ve noticed a wonderful new trend emerge: every one of my girlfriends to tie the knot this year invited her friends to a sweaty, empowering fitness class to build excitement (and muscle!) for the big day. Who says a party can’t be healthy.

In March, we did a barre class with the world’s tiniest mats at a West Side dance studio to celebrate some upcoming nuptials.

This awkward photo of Cat definitely beats a group photo.

In April, we did a reformer class in Venice Beach because the super fit bride wanted to torture me for learning to read before her in kindergarten show me her favorite kind of machine-based core-stabilizing workout.

Perhaps I should take fewer fitness classes and more photography ones. That said, the shirts I designed rocked.

And just last month, we celebrated another happy couple with kettlebell swings and burpees at the very intense Fhitting Room on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that my hamstrings are still reeling from.

These three classes definitely went in ascending order of pain.

After the bridal workouts, did I still go on to drink seven glasses of white and eat all the bacon-wrapped things within arm’s reach during the main event? You know I did. But I did it with a little more muscle, and THAT’s my kind of wedding mass.

(Now don’t get me wrong: weddings are not just about the bride. The groom is very important too. And speaking of grooms…)

Look who just visited hers! 💇🏻‍♀️
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Runner Regrets

I’ve regretted a lot of things in my life:

  • Mentioning every single one of Lucille’s ailments while on the phone with her prospective pet health insurer.
  • Skipping Mitch Hedberg’s October 2004 show in Portland, convinced I’d get the chance to see him another time.
  • This haircut.

(Which I rocked for far too many years.)

But you know what I’ve never once regretted? A run.

I’ll be honest – it doesn’t take much to talk me out of a workout. It’s raining? I’ll just wait til tomorrow. It’s icy? I’ll just wait til it melts. It’s scorching? I’ll just wait til global warming ends.

But you know what? Even though forgoing a morning run feels good for about five indulgent minutes – when instead of lacing up, I make some coffee or scramble some eggs or climb back into bed – it quickly turns to regret. I don’t know about you, but I’ll spend the rest of the day wondering if I could’ve squeezed in a few quick miles, or imagining that I’ll head to the gym after work – which, let’s be honest, is always a lie. When I walk through that apartment door at 7 p.m. and my tiny lapdog climbs into my arms, it’s clear I’m not going anywhere. The refrain is constant: I should’ve run when I had the chance.

Feel free to print this motivational poster for your office.

Skipping a run that I could have done is probably the second worst feeling in the world for a runner. The worst? Skipping a race that I could have done. And not just any race: one that passes directly in front of my house.

That happened to me last year: by the time I learned about the Rhinebeck Hudson Valley Half Marathon, there wasn’t enough time to train, so I had to sit in the rain on my front porch and just watch it go by like the world’s saddest parade.

I vowed never to let that happen again, so when I saw that next Monday’s local Labor Day 10K goes by our house not once but twice, I knew what I had to do, even though I haven’t logged more than five miles at a time since May and my main speed work these days is running to the nearest soft serve parlor. In fact, you could say the only kind of fitness I’ve been doing this summer is “fitness entire bottle of rosé in my mouth.” Jokes.

Photo credit: my enabler sister in law

Come Monday morning, I’m sure I’ll want to hit the snooze button and roll back over on a precious day off, but I’m going to toe that starting line anyways. Because even if I briefly regret registering for a sweaty, hilly, 6.2-mile slog, I’ll surely regret not doing it even more. And that’s what Labor Day is all about — right?

What’s your running regret?

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