Belgian Relief

These past few months have been pretty waffle.

(I hear the confusion now: Surely you mean awful. We’ve been on lockdown for almost a year, Anne. Your child has no friends and has never met most of his extended family. We are nearing half a million Covid deaths in the U.S., people are at their breaking points mental-health wise and your siblings BOTH got puppies this month you might not meet until after they’re full-blown dogs.)

Cuteness: Who wore it best?

Ok, fine, it can feel pretty awful these days for all those reasons and more. But I didn’t misspeak: to get through [gestures around at world] all this, I’ve honestly been relying pretty heavily on a bulky, electric kitchen gadget. We all have our vices that are getting us through this pandemic, from French wine to Disney+, and mine happens to be a four-quadrant Belgian waffle maker with a steam release system. (Ok, French wine and Disney+, too.)

A Christmas gift from my husband, a waffle maker is something I didn’t know I needed. I’ve always been pretty against single-purpose gadgets (melon ballers, avocado slicers, a gag contraption a second cousin gifted me once to turn a hard boiled egg into a cube shape, which, on second thought, might play a leading role in future April Fools’ Day antics.) And I’m not alone: From Alton Brown to Marie Kondo, experts everywhere agree kitchen gadgets with just one use tend to clutter cabinets and lead to dangerous, unruly junk drawers. (We have two.)

At first glance, it would seem a waffle maker falls squarely into that category: it can only, well, make waffles. But I quickly came to understand that “waffles” are a very adaptable canvas, and — oh — the adventures we’ve had!

First there were traditional waffles, of course. Made from a mix or simple recipe, these will always get the job done. Beat served with bacon and a hungry Christmas toddler.

Next, I tried a waffle version of latkes, first with sweet potatoes and then with potatoes and celeriac. (Shred the vegetables, wring out the extra water, add some eggs, onions, seasoning and flour to bind it, and maybe some cheese. Griddle on the waffle maker and maybe top with an egg.)

After those successes, I experimented with leftover risotto. (Again, added some egg and cheese for a delicious binder.) It was better than even the original risotto, with the waffle maker creating pockets of crispy rice and softer bites. We served with a dollop of yogurt and a Caesar salad.

Perhaps most creative was this morning’s attempt to use up cooked spaghetti squash. Topped with sour cream and chili crisp, it was the breakfast combination I didn’t know I needed.

All in all, my favorite version is a riff on the classic: whole wheat waffles with blueberries. They feel both healthy and indulgent. I make them at least twice a month, and that’s one habit I hope sticks with me well after this pandemic is over. That and, you know, seeing my son grow up.

The recipe for these was adapted from a few on the internet, and the key is the cup of milk with a tablespoon of vinegar that sits for five minutes, maybe a buttermilk of sorts.

Whole Wheat Waffles

-1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar (sit 5 mins before using). I use whole milk but any would work, including almond milk.
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-2 teaspoons sugar
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-2 tablespoons melted butter
-1/2 cup blueberries

1. Mix milk and vinegar, let it sit.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
3. Whisk melted butter, milk/vinegar and egg in a small bowl.
4. Add wet to dry, stir until just mixed.
5. Lightly fold in blueberries (some people add a tablespoon flour to the berries to prevent the blue color running but I do not care.)
6. Waffle-ize.

No waffle maker? No problem! These also make excellent pancakes. They make exactly enough breakfast for two adults and one toddler, no leftovers. Double the batch if you plan on giving in to this begging face.


Cheese, Layers and Tots: My 2021 Survival Guide

If you’re anything like me, the pandemic has pushed you to do things you’d never before fathomed.

Maybe you’ve ordered your groceries online

Maybe you’ve hosted a birthday surprise on Zoom

Maybe you’ve washed your bags of Doritos with soap

From setting up a stationary bike in the dining to pumping gasoline through a plastic bag to raising a toddler who thinks he’s the only child in the universe, the past 11 months have been unlike anything I’d ever imagined. But one of my new behaviors that’s surprised me the most?

How many frozen tater tots I threw on top of a cheesy, Minnesota “hot dish” casserole I baked last week. Hello, 2021. I’ve arrived.

Words cannot describe the cheese levels.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I try to focus on whole foods and fresh ingredients, at least when I’m cooking for myself at home. That focus on “clean” eating made sense when I could occasionally dig into something salty and greasy and delicious at a restaurant or dinner party or happy hour – a little give and take to balance things out. But with basically all my opportunities to indulge in situational comfort food now off the table due to Covid-19, I realized I needed to let a little more lenience into my everyday diet.

I started in the fall by adding homemade pizza to the menu once a week. Then I got a waffle maker for Christmas, and both the Belgian variety and griddled hashbrowns were added to the rotation. Every now and then, I toss prosciutto or chocolate milk or some other tasty treat to my Instacart order. I know rewarding yourself with food isn’t always the best choice – the six pounds Lucille put on this year are proof of that – but I also now understand in the absence of other joy, a slice of thick-cut maple bacon can go a long way toward self-care.

What, me, eat chicken right off the baby’s tray?

That’s why, when I opened a recent issue of Eating Well, I kept returning to the photo of the cheesy, neon-yellow, tater-tot adorned casserole that looked like the epitome of comfort. It was nothing like how I usually cook – processed, layered and reminiscent of the 1990s — and therefore exactly what I wanted.

I ended up swapping ground turkey for ground beef, because that’s what I had, but other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter: the two cups of cheddar cheese, the four cups of milk, the entire bag of tots. (To be fair, these were Green Giant’s veggie tots, conveniently advertised as part of the same magazine spread, which – in theory – also contain broccoli. But I can attest they just taste like breading. Delicious, sodium-laden, artificial breading.

I was not compensated for this photo except via my waistline.

And you know what? It came out looking just as day-glo yellow as the photo and, dear readers, it was perfect. If you can’t #treatyoself during lockdown, when can you?

How are you treating yourself in the kitchen as the pandemic nears the one-year mark? Tasty answers only.

Get the recipe here.

Streaking, Together

It’s the holidays, and that means it’s time for tradition. But what traditions are left in this godforsaken year? I bet your annual Turkey Trot was canceled. You probably didn’t line up at your favorite retailer for midnight doorbusters. And if you’re like my family, you even made your little brother and his questionable quarantine status eat Thanksgiving dinner alone on the back patio while everyone else gathered at a family table inside. Sorry, man. At least I brought you wine.

Hello from the other side.

But traditions are important, even in this strange year. They impart a sense of normalcy and belonging, and I’d argue maintaining tradition is more critical than ever in 2020. If sitting on an elderly, corpulent North Pole resident’s lap is your tradition, sure, that one’s probably out amid coronavirus, but we can still bake cookies and deck halls and donate toys and build snowmen. And if you’re looking for one more holiday-season tradition, I encourage you to join me this year in a favorite of mine: streaking.

To clarify, streaking doesn’t mean stripping nude and sprinting through a football field though — honestly — if that’s what keeps you distant and sane this year, I’ll never judge. No, I mean a running streak, where we commit to getting out there for a run every. single. day. during the holiday season. I’m streaking from Thanksgiving to Christmas, at least a mile a day, and I encourage you to join me.

(I realize Thanksgiving already came and went without me telling you my plan, which I blame on how busy I was eating pies.)

Pie guard.

But flexibility is the name of the game here. If you didn’t start last Thursday, you could streak every day of Advent instead. Or you could streak the 24 days of December leading up to Christmas. Or if a multi-week streak feels a bit daunting, why not streak all eight days of Hanukkah, starting Dec. 10?

You don’t even have to run. You could instead choose a walking streak or a jump rope streak, if that’s what your body needs. Or if aerobic exercise isn’t in the cards this winter, commit to doing 10 cat-cows before bed each night, and that’s streak-tacular in my book.

For me, the beautiful thing about streaking is it changes the question “will I run today?” — something that to me always makes it sound like a chore — to the much more optimistic “when will I run today?” It will be tough come rainy or snowy days to get out there for at least a mile, but knowing there’s a hard stop at Christmas — and knowing you might do it with me — will help me get through.

And man, doesn’t doing something together sound nice right about now?

In Defense of Walking

I have 30 years of fantastic memories with my friend Meredith – borrowing her yellow marker in kindergarten, raiding the walk-in refrigerator at summer camp in search of day-old French toast sticks, drinking more bloody marys in an 8-hour span than the normal American should consume all year – but one of my favorites was the day she took me on an “urban hike” across San Francisco.

If I remember correctly – and I may not; my Bay Area visits were usually full of those previously mentioned bloody marys – we started near Land’s End Trail and “urban hiked” along the South Bay, through the Presidio, past the Golden Gate Bridge and back to her then neighborhood of Nob Hill. I remember it so clearly because 1. It was gorgeous, 2. I was with my best friend and 3. I thought the phrase “urban hiking” was so silly.

We weren’t urban hiking folks. We were walking.

We were also using aggressive instagram filters, because this was early 2015 and we didn’t know any better.

I don’t know why, but “walking” as exercise often feels like some kind of shameful disclosure for runners. “Did you go for a run today?” “No, just a walk.” “I’m so sorry. I hope everything’s ok.” Walking’s what you do when you’re injured, when you’re recovering, when you’re cooling down after a marathon. Walking is for strolling about town or for exploring the beach barefoot or for calmly getting to your closest exit when there’s a fire inside your movie theater, not for working up a sweat or cardiovascular health.

At least, that’s what I used to think. I was wrong.

During the hell year that is 2020, I’ve had to revisit my running for a lot of reasons – knee injuries, hip pain, scorching heat and humidity, and – oh yeah – my body healing itself after a 9+ pound baby was ripped from my insides. Although I successfully got back up to an arbitrarily acceptable distance earlier this spring, a series of setbacks have required me to put my running back on hold. At first, I did nothing in its place – if I can’t run, I can’t exercise, I thought.

But after far too many idle weeks, I finally laced up again at the start of the month and started doing the previously unthinkable; I went for a walk. Not with the dog, not with the baby, but all alone, wearing my running clothes, in an effort to stay active. And I feel great.

Now I’m not the only runner giving walking another glance during the pandemic. My favorite weekly running newsletter ran a column in July about the case of walking, and it made some great points:  not only is walking good for your heart, it’s also good for your brain.

“There’s quite a body of data in psychology suggesting that for creative problem solving, time focused away from the problem helps solve it. When you’re walking really fast or running, you’re not able to think about anything other than: Am I going to fall, or can I put my foot there, or can I jump around that dog? Just taking those sets of thoughts outside of your head for a period of time is a really good way to problem-solve.”

These walks I’m taking aren’t particularly long (20 mins here, 30 mins there), but it turns out I feel so much better afterwards – more alert all day, more comfortable sitting in front of a laptop for 10 hours straight, better able to fall asleep at night. I’m not hitting 10,000 steps – nowhere near it, really – but I’m hitting 3,000 steps, and that’s 3,000 more than I was a month ago. So you heard it from this runner first: walking deserves a spot in our exercise arsenals.


Waste Not: Chickpea Juice for Dessert

During this strange, strange time in our collective history, one smart way to make each shopping trip stretch just a little bit longer is to reroute some previously discarded food scraps into future meals.

You know, like turning your once-wasted kale stems into pesto or pickles. Or saving your carrot peelings and onion skins in a freezer bag to simmer into stock. Or, if you’re a die-hard thriftster like me, collecting the three tablespoons of rock salt at the bottom of the jumbo-sized pretzel tub and using it as a finishing salt on savory dishes. Don’t judge me.

She’s judging me, isn’t she.

But there are some throw-away food scraps that simply can’t be turned into palatable dishes, like banana peels. Or egg shells. Or the “juice” from a can of chickpeas. OR SO I THOUGHT. *dramatic mic drop*

Folks, as crazy as it may sound, the leftover water from in a can of garbanzo beans is the perfect ingredient for making – stick with me here – super decadent chocolate mousse.

I know, right?

Canned chickpea juice, smartly rebranded as “aquafaba,” or bean water, by a savvy marketing team somewhere, has been a staple of vegan pastry chefs for years. Because of its texture and the way it whips into peaks, it’s an easy substitute for eggs in dishes needed air bubbles and lift.

I’d been hearing about aquafaba for some time, but it wasn’t until a global pandemic forced me to double down on my depression-era frugality and I finally put it to the test. And man, was it worth it.

I basically followed this recipe, except I didn’t have cream of tartar, so I swapped in a half teaspoon of lemon juice to help stabilize the stiff peaks. The second time I made it (proof that it was good enough to repeat!), I used freshly squeezed orange juice instead.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. Melt almost a cup of chocolate chips/chunks in a double boiler. I used dark chocolate ones, but milk would probably work. Let it cool, for real, like 20 minutes.
  2. Whip the liquid from a can of chickpeas in a stand mixer if you have one (will take 4-5 minutes) with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, or, if you’re me, a half teaspoon of citrus juice. Mix until it turns white and forms stiff peaks (i.e. you can flip the bowl over the stuff doesn’t fall out.) You can also do this with a hand mixer but it will take a whole lot longer, the internet tells me.
  3. Add the melted chocolate to the mixer on low. Scrape down the sides to mix it together.
  4. Pour into bowls and cool in fridge an hour+.
  5. Amaze your friends.

6. Lick bowl.

Now if only I couldn’t figure out how to reuse those banana peels.

Hey, New Runners: You’re Doing It Wrong

For better or for worse, this whole quarantine situation has many of us trying out things we’d never even imagined back in the ancient era of February.

For some, that means cooking at home instead of ordering delivery or streaming a workout instead of hitting the gym. For others, that means home-schooling children while fielding sales calls or cultivating your own sourdough starter as yeast goes scarce. From baking a red velvet cake in a crockpot (my brother) to planting radishes from seeds (me) to drinking bleach (NO ONE! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS, EVEN IF THE PRESIDENT SAYS IT’S OKAY!), we’re all testing out previously unthinkable new hobbies and recipes and pastimes in an effort to stay sane.

Heck, even Lucille has traded her salon visits for DIY blowouts.

“Do not expect a tip.”

And what if, during this strange time, you’ve picked up running?

First of all, welcome! It’s a wonderful sport, which, if done right, can relieve stress and nervous energy while allowing you to stay socially distant.

Second of all, you might be doing it wrong. (I’m sorry, but someone had to say it.)

Now I don’t mean you might be wearing the wrong shoes (you can fix that) or ramping up mileage too quickly (you can fix that) or passing your neighbors a little too closely for comfort (you can fix that, too.) No, the biggest mistake new runners are making in abundance – and I know because I see it daily with my own two eyes, or four eyes when I wear glasses – is running on the wrong side of the street.

In case you didn’t know (and it’s not your fault! They don’t teach this in drivers’ ed!), proper running etiquette dictates that when you exercise on the roadway, you always walk or run AGAINST traffic. That means in the U.S., on the left side of the street, in the U.K., on the right side of the street, and on the moon, no rules.

I am a (U.S.- based) artist.

Facing incoming traffic may sound counter-intuitive to those of us more used to riding in cars than logging miles by foot, but there’s good reason for it: If you’re running in the shoulder and need to step into the street quickly to avoid a pothole or stick or roadkill, you can easily become roadkill yourself when the cars are approaching from behind.

It’s much, much safer to see them coming toward you – that way, you can choose when it’s a good time to edge further into the roadway to avoid an obstacle, or when to step deeper into the grass if they’re passing a little too closely or – most importantly – when to offer a smile, nod and wave to any magnificent driver who slows down and gives you a little extra space as they pass. Bless you.

Once you get the correct-side-of-the-road-thing right (or left, if you’re in the U.S.! Homonym jokes!), the rest is easy. Lace up, get out there, and move. Congratulations: You’re now a runner!

Join the club!


We’re All in a Pickle Here

If I learned anything last year, it’s that people LOVE to ask pregnant women what they’re craving.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t give the people what they wanted for I wasn’t really craving anything at all. It was actually the opposite: I’d suddenly developed a severe aversion to all vegetables.

“That’s such a strange coincidence,” my cousin JJ quipped when I told him. “I’ve had that same symptom for the last 30 years!”

But really, all the things pregnant women are supposed to want just didn’t do it for me. Ice cream? Hurt my sensitive teeth. Chocolate? Gave me heartburn. Sushi? I’d just order a cooked eel cucumber roll and scratch that itch. Pickles?

Oh well, duh, of course I craved pickles. But that didn’t have a darn thing to do with being pregnant. I would have been driving down Route 9 with an open jumbo jar of dills between my knees whether or not I was carrying a small human inside of me. Pickles are just a way of life for me.

Truly, I’ve loved pickles for as long as I can remember. From fighting over who got to drink the leftover pickle juice as a kid (as my father bellowed “it will put hair on your chest!”) to ordering entire cured cucumbers on a stick at state fairs to walking into my friend Meredith’s house and going straight for the condiment shelf, I’ve never been able to resist a good veggie in brine.

Other things I couldn’t resist at Meredith’s house: borrowing a stranger’s trucker hat during a raging party we threw during college.

And what’s not to love? They’re sour and crunchy and salty and tart, and they can transform a flabby hamburger or soggy grilled cheese into a textured masterpiece. Through various diets, I loved pickles for their low calorie count, and through my late 20s, I loved pickles for their post-whiskey-shot relief. But today, I love pickles for a whole new reason: they’re a fantastic way to preserve food during this strange period in world history, thereby limiting waste and curbing trips to the store.

If you’ve never tried making your own pickles, might I suggest you use this extra time on your hands (don’t lie to me, I know you’re sitting at home) to give it a go? It’s easy and fast, and the results are delicious. It’s a great way to use up fresh vegetables when you’ve bought too many, and even though pickles can be a salt/sugar bomb, making them yourself helps you control just how much sodium you’re putting in.

I prefer to make refrigerator pickles, which don’t require a pressure canner and can hang out in the fridge for a few weeks (if they last that long before making it into your mouth). I’ve tried a few recipes, and this one from Cookie + Kate is my favorite to use as a template and adapt. It’s good with radishes, but I’ve tried with red peppers and carrots and garlic and even leftover kale stems (now THAT’s ingenuity) to roaring success.

Last week’s batch.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 bunch thinly sliced vegetables (use a mandolin if you can, or just cut them thin and uniform)
  • ¾ cup vinegar (to maintain color, use a clear one like white vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, etc.)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (I’ve also used white sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Optional add-ins: red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic cloves, peppercorns, fennel seeds, etc. I never have things like this at my upstate home, so I’ve tried sprinkling in Harissa or whatever else I have on hand. These pickles are good even without a spice element.
  1. Slice the veggies uniformly and thinly and pack into a glass jar – I use an old mason jar or an empty salsa jar or whatever else is clean and in the recycling.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey/maple syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt dissolves. Then pour the mixture over the jar of vegetable slices. Totally cover them in liquid.
  3. Let it cool to room temperature, then leave in the fridge overnight. Consume.

Give it a try and report back. Lucille and I will be waiting to hear the results!

“Have you tried pickling bones yet?”

A Runner Returns

I moved to New York City fresh out of college, but it wasn’t until January 16, 2012 – at the ripe old age of 26 and two months – that I finally felt like an adult.

That night – instead of searching out free happy hours, discount chicken wings and the poor life decisions of a 20-something enjoying independence and a paycheck at the same time – I tagged along to a Kathleen Edwards concert at Tarrytown Music Hall with some of my older/wiser/more cultured friends. There were no cheap beers, no sparkly tops and no next-day hangovers, and it felt like the most respectable, grown-up outing I’d attended since relocating to (and quickly adopting the mantra of) the city that never sleeps.

In fact, here I am at a boozy costume party just months before with two random co-workers, one of whom I would eventually marry. 

My friends Beth and Karsten probably remember the evening in Tarrytown for the great music, the fantastic company and the fact that Edwards cursed so fervently between sets that the radio station hosting the event feared it wouldn’t get enough material to string together a PG-13 show.

But what has stuck with me most these last eight (8!) years was something else entirely: a seemingly inconsequential conversation with my friend Karsten on the drive to Westchester County. I don’t know why it’s so seared into my memory, but I vividly recall him asking as we left Manhattan what I’d done that day.

“Oh nothing,” I remember telling him. “I just ran four miles.”

“Four miles isn’t nothing,” he insisted. He was adamant that my Central Park loop was an impressive distance and something worth celebrating.

I disagreed. I was gearing up for my first marathon, regularly clocking 12-milers before breakfast, and I knew he couldn’t possibly mean it. Four miles was child’s play, I remember thinking. Four miles was embarrassing. Four miles was n-o-t-h-i-n-g. I spent so much time obsessing over distance running in my mid 20s – reading blogs, tracking mileage, comparing my training logs to strangers’ – that I truly, honestly thought four miles of running didn’t. even. count.

Oh, how wrong I was. But it took a life changing year to understand it.

Also a life-changing year for concert-goers Beth and Karsten, turns out.

After almost a decade of running, I stopped cold turkey last spring when I got pregnant. My doctor didn’t make me, but I felt heavy and tired and bloated, and my favorite sport simply didn’t appeal anymore. And after an entire year off, getting back into the swing of things with a new body has been tougher than I ever imagined.

Last month, after getting the post-partum clear from my doctor, I went out for a crawling 15-minute jog – and was subsequently sidelined for the next week with searing pain near my C-section scar. When I finally worked up the courage to try again, I only made it a mile then walked back home. I asked my doctor’s office whether there was a solution to my running-related abdominal pain, and the nurse’s response was a slap in the face: “Well, maybe you just shouldn’t run then.”

So I took off a few more weeks, focusing instead on stretching and strength and recovery. And eventually, I made it on a full 1-mile run, without pain. Then I did a 2-mile run. Earlier this week, I notched it up to a 3-mile run.

And today, pulling off a feat that seemed impossible just a month ago, I hit that elusive 4-mile mark.

Coach Lucille checks the splits.

I don’t care about my pace — all I know is that did it. And you know what, Karsten? You’re right. It’s not nothing after all.

It’s something.

We’ve Trained for This: The Coronavirus and Me

I may have forgotten to mention it: Did I tell you I’ve been training pretty hard for the past three months?

Training for a fifth marathon, you ask? A community 10K? A speedy half?

No, dear reader. I’ve been unknowingly training for a whole different kind of event: social distancing. And MAN, am I in shape.

For those of you who haven’t experienced it, the first few months of parenthood can be a downright solitary time. Sure, friends and family pop in for precisely timed 90-minute visits between feedings and naps, but until your newborn has his two-month immunizations, many pediatricians advise avoiding crowds of any sort. That means no restaurants, no bars, no coffee shops and no birthday parties. Sure, you have an infant to keep you company, but it can get pretty lonely if you aren’t careful.

All alone, as usual.

But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself healthy and sane during a social lockdown, whether you’re caring for a 13-pound human or responsibly hunkering down until COVID-19 slows its spread. That doesn’t mean it’s easy — it’s not, especially for all of you with mobile children to care for, too — but if you’re in a position to stay home these next few weeks, here are my best tips for maintaining morale when you’re forced to rip up your routine.

  1. Continue to exercise. Your gym is closed. Your barre studio is shut down. Your running club has halted group speed work. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your couch. Working up a sweat will help you feel better and keep anxiety at bay — you’ll just have to get a bit creative. My at-home workout of choice during Charlie’s first fiscal quarter out of the womb has been Barre 3 online, where you can choose 10-, 30- and 60-minute body weight workouts. Not for you? My local yoga practice has been streaming live classes for $10 a pop, and I bet other fitness centers and dance studios are doing something similar. (Heck, even Peloton husband looks pretty smart now.) My advice: find something you like and try to do it every day. (My baby personally recommends a play gym.

    This gym’s security is no joke.
  2. Get outside. If you can do it safely, try to get some fresh air away from crowds. We’re lucky enough to be hunkering down upstate, which means long walks with the dog are still on the table. If you’re in a densely populated area, you may have to think outside the box. Call us morbid, but Charlie and my favorite place to walk during his first few month in the city was a nearby cemetery — no crowds, wide paths and plenty of sunshine. Just be sure to wash your hands after pushing your apartment building’s elevator buttons, so when you visit the graveyard, you can stay just a guest.

    Baby on board.
  3. Cook something delicious. It’s tempting to survive on pop tarts and powdered sugar when quarantined indoors, but challenge yourself to make something homemade if you have the ingredients. It’s a particularly good time to cook something that takes all day, like chicken stock or stew. In case we’ll be inside a long time, cook up the fresh stuff first (I made chili yesterday to use the bell peppers), then start experimenting with pantry staples like you’re in an episode of Chopped. (Hint: Pasta, salt, canned sundried tomatoes in oil and Italian seasoning make a deliciously simple dinner.) If it’s your thing, it’s OK to have a drink, too, even if you’re camping out solo.
    Stockpiling, Baltimore style.
  4. Prioritize mental health, too. Eating well and exercising is important, but so is self care. Take a bubble bath. Read a novel. Bake some homemade bread. Plant a garden. Write a letter. Call your mother. Hug your dog. And most of all, try to stay off Twitter (and if you succeed in doing that, please tell me how.)
    More walks, please.

What are your best tips for healthy living during this turbulent time?

My 2019 Marathon

The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” may be one of the most overused cliché expressions in the world, alongside the cringeworthy “everything happens for a reason,” the phony “I hope you’re well,” and the totally deceitful “I don’t want fries – I’ll just have one of yours.” Sure, pal. One.

Don’t get me wrong: Advising a friend to think like a marathoner and not a sprinter makes sense in theory – take it slow, make a plan, think long term, etc. But when the idiom pops up everywhere from PR pitches to HR trainings to boozy nights out, it starts to feel a bit stale. Case in point: Having run four 26.2-mile events and attended countless bachelorette parties – both of which are said to be marathons, not sprints – I can assure you they have very little in common besides a desperate need for Gatorade the following morning. And the clever t-shirts. And the high-fiving strangers. And the inevitable post-event cheeseburger. Ok, fine, I guess they’re the same thing after all.

Still, I was surprised when I after nine months of waiting, I arrived at the hospital in mid-December and everyone kept telling me I was actually there for a marathon – which I guess is overused idiom-speak for a baby. (Did I mention I was having a baby?)

Reluctant big sister.

First, the nurse in triage suggested I get some sleep because the birth process isn’t a sprint. Then one in the delivery room ordered rest for the very same reason as my contractions hit the 12-hour mark. After a third offered identical advice as I took some of my first post-delivery steps, I started to wonder if I was hallucinating all the blatant repetition (those epidurals ARE magical after all.)

But the more I think about it, maybe they were right. I mean, no one gave me a medal or a poncho at the end of this particular “marathon,” but I did get to shuffle home in excruciating pain with a memento to help me remember it all (in this case, our son), so I guess there’s some overlap there after all. And maybe that’s not all. Behold: why having a baby is like running a marathon, written by a poorly rested new mother, so please be kind:

  1. You’ll spend months preparing for the big day but that doesn’t mean it will go according to plan. Much like a marathon, you’ll want to go into childbirth with several tiers of goals. For races, I usually have an A goal (a new PR), a B goal (a sub-4-hour finish) and a C goal (smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die.) Same for labor. My A goal was to have a baby in just four hours like my mom had me (fail) and B goal was to deliver a healthy baby with no weird complications (also fail). Luckily, I achieved my C goal, which, consequently, was the same for both events – smile at a bunch of strangers and try not to die. Success!
  2. Recovery is no joke. Marathoning wreaks havoc on your body, and apparently so does having a 9+ pound child sliced from your womb. Give yourself time to heal and be patient with your progress.
  3. In both races and childbirth, someone entrepreneurial will take advantage of your weakened state and try to sell you overpriced photos after the fact – and you’ll cave because you don’t feel like photoshopping the watermark out of the free teaser images.

Honestly, what do I need with all these professional photos of tiny feet?

But the main reason labor is basically channeling your inner Pheidippides? Because they say you aren’t ready to run a marathon again until you’ve forgotten the last one, and boy, do I have a lot of forgetting time left! 🙂

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