Today I Tried Ballet

Feel free to start imagining a bull in a china shop, or an elephant dancing.

I have absolutely no rhythm and no sense of body movement. I have taken a multi-week hip-hip/jazz class (and yes, was the person who actually crashed into everyone else because I went right when they went left). I have tried Zumba (really not my scene, and also I can’t do it because I have no sense of rhythm).

Here’s what I can do, before you think I’m totally lame: I can run an ultra with training. I can run 25 miles of technical trail without training (yeah, that shocked me, too, and my Achilles are still kind of pissed about it). I can do an hour-long HIIT or Tabata or boot camp workout without breaking much of a sweat or hurting the next day.

But I cannot dance.

Because I am unemployed right now (and can only apply for so many jobs per day, because there are only so many jobs out there), and because I’m sick with a cold,* today I decided to go to the gym. There was a Burn class followed by a ballet class (the suburban branch of my gym has classes all day long to meet the needs of a big stay-at-home population, which is awesome). The Burn class was great. Very familiar stuff: weights, core work, some cardio and Tabata thrown in.

I had read that the ballet class was open to everyone. I saw people in ballet slippers and skirts lining up at the door. I ran down to the locker room to get my barre socks (I once did a barre class and was given the grippy socks). I got into ballet after class started.

The people were very kind. They had lots of pointers for me. There was no space for me on the bars in the middle of the floor, so I had to go to the front of the room. The teacher demo’ed each warmup thing. The very nice (and amused) woman behind me cued me in a whisper throughout each routine.

People, ballet is complicated! And fussy! And the instructions are all in French!! And your arms aren’t just waving mindlessly; there’s actually some sort of protocol for arm movement, and your eyes are supposed to follow your hand (did you even know that??), and anyway even if your feet are doing silly things your arms are also supposed to be doing something that coordinates, and your head/eyes should follow, making it a lot more complicated than it should be.

Plus, the teacher kept saying “Fondue!” but there was no cheese. But I think I kicked ass (no pun intended) at arabesque.

So we did half an hour at the bar, following her routines. Please note I was the youngest person in the class by far.

Then the bars were pushed aside and we moved into the middle of the room. And then all the friendly wonderful nice people kept coming up to me to say, “You should stay at the back of the room” and “Watch the woman in the gray tie-dyed tights; she keeps it simple” and “We’ve been building on this choreography all month and today is the 30th, which is why everyone knows the routines but you” and “We’ve all been dancing together for 20 years; this is our second teacher!” and “You should try the beginner’s class on Monday” and “When you plie, keep your back upright; don’t lean forward” and “It’s so brave of you to be here!”

Yes. I’m the bravest ballet motherf*cker on the planet. The name is Bond. Ballet Bond.

So they were all doing parts of this choreography they’ve been working on all month and everyone already knew the routine.

I tried. I tried hard. And then I gave up. I couldn’t handle the tinkly piano music and constrained movements anymore. My movements are big. I carry too much. I can do mind over matter like nobody’s business. I can push myself to the edge when no one else gives a shit. I can carry a bundle of asphalt shingles to the roof (or, used to be able to; it’s been a while since I’ve had to). I can run. But I cannot dance at all.

I am not a ballerina. (Note: I deeply respect ballerinas. They’re super-strong and work incredibly hard and obviously can handle mind over matter. But we are different.)

So I sort of tried to follow the routines but just needed to move my body. I stepped. I kicked. I pirouetted. I leaped. I flapped my arms.

Everyone encouraged me to come to the Monday beginner class.

Honestly, I’d rather do boot camp.

*I have this theory that if I have a bad cold, I’m better off getting out there and moving and working rather than just sitting around sipping tea. I mean, I do that, too (and also drink tons of hot garlicky lemony broth spiked with cayenne), but I can’t do that all day. Exercise is good, too.

Post-Election, With Kids

I have children. We listen to NPR a lot, such that when we’re driving anywhere, if we don’t have a favorite book on CD, the older one (age 8) asks for 90.9, WBUR. So what if I want a little hip-hop or hard rock or pop music for a change. Nope, he always wants the news.

Granted, it’s not been the easiest year for our children, what with the parental separation and then the moving. But even for kids with the most even, smooth lives, this has not been an easy election season.

How do I know this? Because I while I have my political opinions and am honest with my children — to an appropriate degree — they’d come home from school with statements and questions such as, “If Trump becomes President, he’s going to make all the Muslims leave.” Or, “Is it true Trump would start slavery again? I heard a kid at school say that.” Or, “I hate Trump. He’s a liar.” Or — out of nowhere, it seemed, “Mom, why would any woman vote for Trump if he’s against healthcare for women?” (My admittedly flip and feminist response: “Why would any man vote for him, for that exact same reason?” before getting into a brief explanation, which honestly I couldn’t answer, because I do not understand why anyone but either the severely disenfranchised white male or else someone who’s totally privileged and can’t see outside their own little window would vote for him. Also, not sure where he heard about this except from NPR or kids at school; I sure as hell haven’t brought it up.)

My kids have had a lot of questions. I have tried to be honest. I have been careful not to badmouth. I have tried to answer their questions with facts. In our little bubble, we only know one Trump supporter,* and I only know one Gary Johnson supporter (in a swing state, no less). Fortunately my kids are not yet aware of the role of third-party candidates in swing states. (Yes, we live in a very precious little bubble here in Eastern Massachusetts.)

As kids do, they have some opinions, and they also hear things from other kids.

I went to an election results party Tuesday night (which, yeah, was probably the least relaxing party in the history of parties, with people getting tense; some of us crying; some of us warning people we’d just met that we might need to hug them, for comfort; one guy swigging Maker’s Mark from the bottle at 2 a.m.).

I don’t know what time it was or where in the results we were when I turned to a friend, another parent, and asked, “How will we explain this to our children tomorrow?” Neither of us had an answer.

I wasn’t with my boys last night or this morning. I picked them up after their after-school program today. “He’s mad,” said the older boy’s after-school yoga teacher (also my sometime yoga instructor). “They all are,” she added, nodding toward two third-grade girls talking about how much they hated Trump and some of the bad things he might do.

It wasn’t until dinner that we could really talk about it. Until then, it was clear the boys were a little edgy and angry.

******

I get it. I woke up and started to cry this morning, after too little sleep. I reached out to a friend and we met for coffee — after I stood waiting near the kindergarten drop-off at school and had to move away so the kids didn’t see me crying, and other parents passed me after dropping off their kids and stopped to hug and also start to cry. I texted faraway and near friends to share support.

I cried more. I tried to work. I took a break to listen Clinton’s concession speech. I turned off CNN and worked more. More texts, hugs, support, plans, love shared. I got myself to the woods for a little bit and ran and cried and was grateful for my local favorite trail and forest and nature space.

I planned on an easy dinner and a slightly more involved comfort-food meal tomorrow, bought groceries, and went to pick up the kids from school.

******

They played on the playground with friends; we came home and they did homework. Emptied lunchboxes. Set the table. As usual.

We sat down to dinner.

“So, did anything happen at school today? Did your teachers talk about anything?”

Older boy: “You mean the election?”

“Yes, I mean the election. Did your teachers talk about it? Did kids talk about it?”

“Some kids did, but then then the teacher wouldn’t let us talk about it anymore.”

Ok. Let’s grab this bull by the horns.

So one time, years ago, I dated a grumpy comedian, and though he usually sucked, he did this one show at the Davis Square Theater (now renamed) in which he completely improv’ed and completely blew our minds. He started to talk and I have no idea where what came out came from, but it was amazing and stitched together somehow and led us on an amazing journey and brought us out the other side, laughing hard. It was spectacular.

(That was actually the only time he did that. It was amazing. The rest of the time, I winced as he bombed, poor delivery and timing and clumsiness and all that; I think he eventually gave up and went into social work).

I kind of felt like I channeled that one amazing show of his at dinner tonight, minus the humor.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I launched into a friendly monologue about how this election surprised a lot of people, but Trump isn’t evil (*crossed my fingers*) and we’re all going to work together and move forward. And we can work for change, but we support each other. and we’re not going to call Trump supporters bad names. We’re all safe and going to be safe. So are your friends. No, we are not going to build a wall. Yes, you’re right; there are a lot of ways to get over, under, or around a wall with Mexico, but there will not be a wall. And the President of Mexico reached out to Trump and they will work together (that shocked them). And other world leaders reached out, and they will work together. And it’s not perfect and we are going to work hard for change, but you’re safe and you’re loved and your friends are safe and we’re going to move forward and work together, and we’ll all be OK. It’s all OK.

I answered their questions as they arose, and by the end they seemed bored. Which, honestly, is fine with me for children who’ve had a year of many tough transitions. I will work hard for change, and they will at some point really understand what it means and why it is important.

**Yes, they know of only one Trump supporter in their sheltered world. I suppose that’s a special sort of privilege. And I would love to know how that Trump supporter can look her own granddaughter in the eye and admit that her vote says that her granddaughter’s healthcare needs and rights don’t matter at all. That her vote says women don’t really matter and they’re at fault if they’re sexually assaulted and maybe they’re not pretty enough to be pussy-grabbed, which they should not dare complain about should it happen. That her own immigrant parents shouldn’t have been able to stay. That her gay friends don’t matter. And so much more.

Friends, last night and today are hard. But we can mobilize. We can make change. Let’s go.

 

 

Yeah. Stuff Is Hard.

My old pal and running partner Sasha used to say that you can only do three things well. At the time, we both had small children and were training a lot for races. Her three things were running, writing, and parenting. Mine were….running, parenting, cooking, working, knitting….I might have been trying to do too many things, actually. I’m like that. It doesn’t mean I’m doing them well. It just means I “never have time” and I have too much going on.

I’ll be honest: I am having a hard time lately. Obviously, I cannot say too much here. But that is the truth.

A big part of it, I’m sure, is the damn election. As for probably every other woman out there, it’s triggering rage at the lifetime of sexism, minor assaults, etc. No need to belabor this point. At all.

And divorce. It’s hard. I’ll just leave it at that.

The cat I lost custody of* went missing for several days (one of which was cold, rainy, windy, stormy). Thankfully, she’s been found, and in other happy news, my landlord said I can get a cat, so the boys and I will start looking around for a kitty for our home. So that is very happy news.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Parenting, trying to help my kids be happy and healthy and thriving during this big transition in their lives.
  2. Working (and I have an extra client right now, one I want to impress, of course, but it means the current couple of weeks are kind of a strain on me).
  3. Training for an ultramarathon (go ahead and say, “WTF are you thinking?”).
  4. Socializing and trying to recover myself and my interests (climbing, mountain biking, baking, etc.).
  5. Finishing unpacking and setting up this apartment (actually, screw that; I’m hopefully here only 10 more months and I don’t want to put much more money into this apartment or unpack anything else; we still need some rugs and some storage items, but I’m not doing much else).
  6. Figuring out what happens next regarding the divorce, where we’ll all live next year, future employment, and so on.

That is a lot. 

Honestly, fitness has fallen right out the window. I’m not going to the gym. I’m barely running. I should be doing multi-hour runs at this point. Instead, I’m trying to get sleep or get extra work-time in when I can.

And sometimes, like tonight, I just need to spend some time baking and vacuuming and then curled up on the couch watching old episodes of “House.”

So if, by Sasha’s rules, I had to pick three, it would be parenting, working, self-care/sleep. Some of that self-care involves time with friends; some of it involves baking; some of it involves time on Facebook, and I am not ashamed of that. Some days Facebook provides my only social interaction, since I work from home. Don’t judge.

Anyway. Lately things feel hard. Maybe I’m doing too much. The ultra training, much as I hate to say it, has to go. I just don’t have the time or energy for it right now, and it’s not where I should be putting my energy, and it’s becoming a stressor instead of something to look forward to. I hate to let go of it. But I need to take care of myself and conserve energy (physical and mental) right now.

So that’s where I’m at. Feel free to give me an unsolicited hug. Or ask how I am. Or tell me a joke.

*because when I found this apartment, it was “No pets allowed,” so C took the cat when we all moved in August. But now I can have a cat, YAY THANK GOD.

The Fresh Horror of Bike Accidents

*Warning: This is a horrible post. I saw something awful today (though not the accident itself), and it reminded me of another bike accident I saw years ago, and talking about what I saw is a way of coping. Feel free to skip this post. I completely understand. And if you’re a cyclist or pedestrian, please use all caution, and if you’re driving a motor vehicle, please check twice or three times, and yield the road.*

Today, as I was biking to meet friends/colleagues at a cafe for a work-date, I turned onto Mass. Ave. into very heavy traffic. I don’t normally travel Mass. Ave. at 9 a.m., but it seemed extra-heavy to me.

And then there was a cop, diverting traffic off of Mass. Ave. near Porter Square. I had a feeling…I asked someone walking what had happened.

“Someone got hit,” he said, gesturing up the street.

“Cyclist?” I asked. He shrugged.

I had to cross, because the street was not only cordoned off but screened off. Imagine big colored tarps hanging so you can’t see what’s behind them. I asked a cop directing traffic what had happened.

“A cyclist was hit around 8:08 a.m,,” he said.

“Is the cyclist…deceased?” I asked. Deceased. Why did I put it that way? Who says that? I don’t know. Maybe because I feared the worst. He gave a curt nod and, observing my bike/helmet/yellow cycling jacket, told me to be safe.

I joined the small crowd near a semi, which had its hood open. The screened area was behind it, and there was another, smaller truck behind that.

And then I saw it. The bicycle where no bike should be, under the cab of the truck. But then I could see the body, through a corner of the screening, covered in white, on the road, well behind the truck. An hour after he (it turned out to be a he, age 60) had been hit.

Cops were all over the scene, not just directing traffic but rolling on those little mechanic’s dollies under the truck, checking things, studying the underside of the truck. The whole scene was cordoned off.

Two younger women walked by. “Ohmigod, why is everyone staring? Is that truck, like, about to explode?” one asked her friend. “I think it broke down. Why don’t they just tow it away?” said the other. They stood watching.

It was time for me to go. I was shaken and had seen enough. I paused as I passed the two young women, who were still staring at the scene. “The truck didn’t break down,” I said. “Look under the cab.” I said this as gently as possible. “A cyclist was hit and killed.”

Their faces registered the awful bike, the awfulness of it. Their hands flew to cover their mouths. I don’t know why I had to tell them except maybe I wanted them to understand the gravity of this, that we weren’t a bunch of dumb-asses staring at a broken-down truck. People get killed, and it could have been any of us on our bikes.

*****

I used to bike to work all the time. From North Cambridge out to Lexington. From Central Square to the South End in all weather. From Medford to the far side of Waltham. It was such a nice way to get to work. I knew accidents happened. I joked that the 77 bus was out to get me (seriously, that bus was terrifying). I refused to ride on Mass. Ave. in Boston because it was too much of a mess of traffic and buses and trucks and too scary and dangerous. I had other routes.

One day, in 2002, my friend Lisa drove me home from work for some reason. As we approached Central Square, we saw emergency vehicles and the road being hosed down. Being hosed down. We were diverted. “I bet there was an accident,” I said. “I bet it was a cyclist.”

I don’t know how I knew.

It was a cyclist indeed, named Dana Laird, doored by an SUV and thrown under the back wheels of an MBTA bus, and it was horrible, and a nearby light post was covered with flowers and notes for a long time.

Her death has stuck with me. I stay well out of the door zone, when possible, and try to give buses a lot of space.

*****

I left the scene, finally, walking my bike until I felt I could ride it again. I locked it up when I got to the cafe, amazed. “I’m alive. The rest of us are alive. It’s all chance,” I thought.

And on the way home, going through a tricky part of Harvard Square (also up Mass. Ave., of course) a car tried to edge me out of the lane (there was no bike lane or shoulder). I know my rights and took the full lane, which you’re allowed to do, and glory be but then there was a sign: “[Bicyclist] May Take Full Lane” and I pointed at it as I biked past. And the car passed on my left, the driver shouting at me, something about “Cambridge” and “bikes,” and he drove on, and I biked on, thinking Don’t you know? Don’t you know we can take a lane? Don’t you know bikes can travel on these roads, and another person just died this morning?

…and then I went through Porter Square again, more than five hours since the accident had happened (and please leave now if you’re squeamish, but I need a place to put this). The body had been removed; the screens were down. The truck was still there. The driver (the poor driver! Yes, I have sympathy for him; he may have been careless, but I’m sure he didn’t mean to harm or kill anyone) was gone.

The bike had been removed from under the cab and was at the side of the street. And this, this is the awful part: Three people dressed in full medical-type protective gear and headcoverings (the surgical kind) were under the truck, with spray bottles and small brushes, carefully spraying and scrubbing the treads of the rear tires, and I want to throw up when I think of it.

I’ve just recently gotten back into biking everywhere, in part because I reclaimed an ancient Fuji steel-frame total beater 10-speed I’d lent to a friend, which is a comfortable ride and I can park it anywhere, even if I’ve forgotten a bike lock (yes, really — let’s hear it for ugly old bikes). But today reminded me to be more careful than ever, to assume nothing, to trust no cars or trucks and to get off and wait on the sidewalk and walk my bike on the crosswalk in some places rather than make the left turn I’m legally allowed to make. I’ve been so lucky for years.

But the Greater Boston area has a long way to go in becoming a safer place for cyclists. And as-yet-unnamed cyclist, your death was needless. And truck driver, you’re not evil. I hope you can get some sleep at some point.

I trust a ghost bike and memorial will appear tomorrow.

Be safe and careful, everyone.

This just in: A bunch of elementary school students saw the crash.

 

 

Five Nights/Six Days

My babies left tonight. I dropped them off on a chilly soccer field as it was growing dark. I hugged and kissed them goodbye on the way there, because I’m aware of what’s socially acceptable for these boys. And after I waved goodbye, the older one ran after me for a final hug.

We’ve had six days and five nights of bliss together. Normally our schedule is 2-2-3, meaning two nights with me, two with their father, three with me (including a weekend), then it switches: two nights with him, two with me, three with him (including a weekend).

It’s a lot of going back and forth. And it’s hard. And it’s hard to keep track, sometimes — “Whose night is it tonight, Mama?”

But this long stretch? It was gorgeous. Relaxed. The three of us were calm and happy. There were none of the usual transition challenges, no anger, no tough behavior, no fighting between the boys that didn’t also involve a lot of laughter. We all just settled in happily for our extra days together, and it’s been beautiful.

There were two days of school, of course (today was a holiday — Happy New Year!). And they got to choose what we had for dinner (“Sloppy joes!”, declared one, but the other wanted a burger, but since both involve ground beef and buns, everyone got what they asked for). They did their homework. We had hilarious drawing sessions. They made a new neighborhood friend and spent hours outside with him (and other kids). We ordered pizza in the next town and wandered around in the rain waiting for our dinner to be ready. We finally had our first movie night in this new apartment.

We bought pumpkins and made lunches together and went to the trampoline park with friends. We spent a few hours in the woods, hiking and climbing around and listening to a red-tailed hawk screaming in the distance. We lounged around together on the couch, all in a pile, laughing and sometimes reading. Some mornings I woke up to find both or just one in my bed, snuggled against me. Other mornings, I woke alone, finding they’d stayed in their own beds all night, warm and snug.

They’re gone now, at their father’s for the next two nights. Their room is dark and empty, and the apartment is quiet. I kept up on the dishes like a pro for the past many days, but now that the boys are gone I’ve already fallen into a kind of ennui and the sink is already piled up. I don’t care. I’ll have the place clean and tidy before they return.

For now, I just listen to the crickets outside, all of my apartment dark except for the kitchen, and feel so, so glad my boys and I had a long stretch of time together. We all needed it.

 

Fall Baking With Bob’s Red Mill and Stonyfield

Finally, fall is here! I don’t know about you, but the change in the weather makes me want to bake up a storm. I’ve cranked out cranberry coffee cake and monster cookies so far, but the baking season is just getting under way!

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-59-01-pm

In partnership with Stonyfield, Bob’s Red Mill sent me Organic Coconut Sugar and Steel Cut Oats. Steel cut oats are also known as “pin oats.” They make an excellent, slightly chewy bowl of oatmeal, and you can make them in the slow cooker overnight to have them ready in the morning. Or just make them in the morning (they do take a little more time than rolled oats), topped with nuts and fruit and yogurt.

Or, you can do what I do and use them in cookies! Here’s a handy round-up of cookie recipes that use steel cut oats — without having to cook the oats first!

  1. Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. I list these first for a reason. These wonderfully crunchy-chewy cookies are darkly chocolatey. You do have to roll them into little balls (which, if you’re like me and prefer an effortless cookie, might seem like an extra step) but this recipe is a must-try. They’re really good.
  2. Super Simple Sweet Steel Cut Oat Cookies. With bananas, almonds, and (optional) flax seed, these cookies would pass nicely as a nutritious breakfast cookie.
  3. Fatherly Cookies. These oatmeal raisin cookies have all the same ingredients as regular oatmeal raisin cookies, but they use steel-cut oats instead of rolled oats. Sounds like a crunchy oaty treat!
  4. Steel Cut Oatmeal Walnut Cookies. These use both rolled and steel cut oats. And while this recipe, like the last one, calls for raisins, remember that it is always appropriate to substitute chocolate chips for raisins, in any situation.

Bob’s Steel Cut Oats are also available in a gluten-free version, which is nice, because everyone should be able to enjoy the cookies listed above.

As for the coconut sugar, I’d never tried it before. It’s brown, with a slightly caramel scent. It’s made from the nectar of coconut palm blossoms. I was baking a big cranberry coffee cake for an annual weekend camping party in Vermont (imagine a field full of tents, children running wild on the hillside cutting down trees and building forts and piling up leaves and adding fuel to the bonfire, only returning to the barn when they got hungry), the musicians and singalong at night, long and spirited games of Capture the Flag, s’mores, coffee and oatmeal and toasting bagels over the bonfire in the cold morning air (well, near the bonfire, so not too cold)….

…anyway, the coffee cake. I doubled the Cranberry Almond Cake recipe from Budget Bytes but left out the almonds and almond extract and used an oatmeal crumble topping (with rolled oats, in case you’re wondering). I used coconut sugar both in the cake and in the topping.

The coconut sugar definitely made the cake darker and added a slight (and pleasing) caramel note to it.

Dark, right? But tasty.

Dark, right? But tasty. I’d use more cranberries next time. This was obviously before the entire 80-or-so people found their way to the breakfast table.

It’s National Breakfast Month! With Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs

img_9421.jpgSeptember is National Breakfast Month! To help me celebrate, the nice people at Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs sent me coupons for a few dozen eggs, plus some handy egg rings to make, well, round eggs. Circular.

I grew up on a little farm, and I was in charge of feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. We sold some at our little farm stand. I grew up on very fresh (and tasty) eggs from a reasonably happy little flock of Rhode Island Reds, who had a roomy coop and a nice outdoor space.

While I can’t have my own chickens right now, because of where I live, I still want good fresh eggs…and eggs from chickens that have room to move around, not factory-farmed chickens. So if I can get local fresh eggs, great, but living in the city, that’s not always possible.img_9424.jpg

Egg labels can seem confusing, can’t they? “Organic,” “Natural,” “Cage-Free”…what do they all mean? “Organic” generally means no pesticides were used to grow the feed. “Natural,” well, that varies. “Cage-Free” means the chickens aren’t kept in cages…but it doesn’t always mean they have enough room to move around, and some have said that “cage-free” can be cruel to chickens.

Make 'em round!

Make ’em round!

“Certified Humane,” however, is the label to look for if you want chickens who have a happy life. “Certified Humane” means that the chickens (or whatever animals) have been certified by a nonprofit organization called Human Farm Animal Care, whose mission is to ensure kinder and more responsible farm animal raising practices. For Pete and Gerry’s, “Certified Humane” means that their chickens have gentle handling, low stress, plenty of room and fresh air and water, and freedom to dust bathe, roost, and stratch…plus good, quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free feed.

Here’s more information:

Sounds good to me! I like eggs. They’re one of my main forms of protein, in fact: eggs with pasta, egg soft tacos, eggs on quinoa with kale, egg sandwiches, scrambled eggs…

 

 

Scrambled, anyone?

Scrambled, anyone?

Oh, yeah, on a corn tortilla with cilantro and hot sauce...great post-run breakfast!

Oh, yeah, on a corn tortilla with cilantro and hot sauce…and some quinoa, roasted eggplant, and peas…great post-run breakfast!

Or on corn tortillas with sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes, topped with avocado and, yes, hot sauce! Another great post-run breakfast!

Or on corn tortillas with sauteed arugula and cherry tomatoes, topped with avocado and, yes, hot sauce! Another great post-run breakfast!

Know your eggs. Know what you’re buying. Support small family farms (the kind of farms that supply Pete and Gerry’s). Support happy chickens.

September may be National Breakfast Month, but you should eat good breakfasts every day!

Disclosure: Pete and Gerry’s provided me with product coupons, egg rings, and compensation to facilitate this post. 

The Quiet Blog

Hi! You may have noticed this blog has changed a lot over the years. I can’t be as open as I was before, for so many reasons. For one thing, it’s not as private anymore (which is fine, mostly, and not a surprise, but it’s funny/awkward when someone I don’t know well tells me they read my blog, and they seem embarrassed about it, like they’re confessing to reading my journal, and I’m wracking my brain to remember if I wrote anything especially personal or embarrassing recently). I can no longer write about the kids, because they’re not anonymous babies doing Every-Baby types of things. They’re actual people (not that babies aren’t people, but you know what I mean). They want privacy, and I respect that.

I’m going through a divorce. That shuts down a lot of what I might talk about right now, for various (obvious) reasons.

My training and nutrition are undergoing an overhaul but not (in my opinion) terribly interesting. I’ve been encourage to try to exercise every day, and I’ve been trying to stick to that (not so easy with my current schedule). There’s been a lot of 6 a.m. runs and Tabata workouts and boot camps and yoga. It’s great. And mountain biking! I am mountain biking again! Last weekend I went up to New Hampshire to explore some fun singletrack I haven’t been on in a decade or so. So much fun. And last month I reconnected with a local mountain biking group (alas, and then they ended their weeknight rides for the season and don’t seem to have the weekend rides they used to).

I’m also trying to follow a vegan diet but sometimes I just need to eat what’s available, with limited prep time, and I don’t have a microwave for some of the wonderful frozen vegan Indian wraps and burritos I bought before the move. (And no, I don’t have the patience or desire to heat up my entire oven to spend an hour reheating one frozen burrito.) (And no, I don’t want to buy a microwave.) So last night for dinner, much as I would have liked a kale salad topped with crumbled sauteed tempeh and roasted beets (I have the washed kale and roasted beets in my fridge and had them for lunch, but the tempeh was still in the package), by the time I got home from Back to School night I was so tired I could only pour myself a bowl of cereal with soymilk and yogurt (cow milk yogurt — thanks, Stonyfield!). I need to eat, and if salmon or beef or pork or yogurt come across my path and I’m hungry, well, so be it. I’m accepting what I can spend energy on right now, and I’m cutting myself some slack, and that’s OK.

Well. So things will be quiet around here for a bit, on the personal level, but I’ll be back, in full, at some point. I’ll still be blogging but it might be more of a lighter version of me. Thanks for reading.

 

How to Scare Your Child Away From Running: Vegan Black Bean Nut Brownies

I whirred the blender after the boys’ bedtime.

“Mom!” called Max. “What are you doing?”

“Sorry about the noise,” I said. “I’m making vegan black bean nut brownies.”

Even in the darkness I could see the horror on his face. “Who would eat that??”

“I’m bringing them to a race on Saturday,” I said. I have a trail race Saturday. Despite my grand training plans, I barely ran in August: according to my Garmin, I got in 4 slow miles per week (PER WEEK), withhttp://training plans no running at all in the last two weeks. I mean, come on, I’ve had a lot going on. But I have a trail half marathon Saturday followed by a trail 5-miler Sunday. I will slog through. Wonder how I get overuse injuries?

“But who would EAT that?” he repeated, his face still curled in horror.

“Oh, the runners,” I answered.

“But WHY? Why would anyone EAT those? Why would RUNNERS eat those?”

Let’s hope the runners eat them. Two months ago, I was making a recipe that I ended up not having a key ingredient for. I’d already ground walnuts, cashews, and pecans in the food processor with soaked dates. So I froze that mixture.

Now, both in hopes of having a nice treat to bring to Saturday’s race and to make room in my tiny freezer (I sold my chest freezer before the move, and my new fridge/freezer is SMALL), I pulled out the mixture, thawed it, and decided to make energy bites.

But after adding coconut and cocoa and cinnamon, I didn’t feel like rolling a million little balls. So I added a can of black beans, ground flax seed, water, oil, vanilla, and maple syrup, threw it into the blender (at least the beans/flax/water part) and now I have a pan of weird vegan brownies in the oven. I hope they’re edible!

 

 

 

Gather Chocolates: Eat Chocolate, Help the Bees (and a Giveaway!!)

SUPER update (12/1/16): I have a discount code for you!

Looking for a great gift idea? Salem, Mass.-based @HarborSweets suggests: artisan chocolate that saves the bees!
Solo or bundled in a gift set, visit harborsweets.com and use code GATHER4FUN through 12/14 to save 10% off your shipping.
Pro tip: check out the Gather Tea Set – a great gift idea for the tea lover and gardener on your list, or for an anytime gift.

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I like good dark chocolate. I like bees. I like good causes. I like pretty boxes and nice packaging. I am a fan of pollination and small businesses and local companies and good food.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the honeybee declines in recent years. The USDA reported that pesticides and parasites caused a 44% loss of honeybee colonization in just one year. The White House has a Pollinator Health Task Force to study and address the problem.

Harbor Sweets, an artisanal chocolate maker in Salem, MA (and long recognized as one of the top women-owned businesses in Massachusetts), has a new line of chocolates called Gather. And yes, I was lucky enough to be asked to review a box.

6 CHOCOLATES ON PLATE (1)

Gather is a new  small-batch line of chocolates Harbor Sweets. Contained in a honey-yellow honeycomb-shaped box is a flight of six filled chocolates and truffles, each coated in excellent dark chocolate. Inside each chocolate is a filling with a subtle note of local honey. The flavors include:

  • Caramelized Honey Truffle
  • Pomegranate Molasses
  • Sesame Crunch
  • Cashew Caramel
  • Coconut Cluster
  • Sour Cherry

img_9383.jpgGather shot (2)Inside the lid is a little map to indicate which is which (unless your brother eagerly opens the box and everything gets mixed up and you’re not sure which is which, but it doesn’t matter — they are all good! And, ok, maybe I was yelling, “No, wait, I’m a blogger!! That’s not how we open things to review them! Put the lid back on and let’s start over!”).

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And then, like crazy people — or because I insisted we each try every single flavor — we cut each beautiful chocolate into four pieces, to share. Please, don’t be like us. Eat a whole piece, and buy your family and friends their own boxes. Or buy a few boxes and go halfsies.

And, they’re pretty. The Sour Cherry has a flower on it. Caramelized Honey Truffle has a bee. There’s a beehive on Pomegranate Molasses.

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Gather was inspired by the plight of the honeybees. A portion of sales (2.5%) will be donated to the Pollinator Partnership, a 5013c NGO that educates about and advocates for best practices for honeybee protection.

Here’s a nice little video on the backstory (plus, you can see how chocolates are made!):

So: Good cause, good chocolate, good company. You can order Gather from Harbor Sweets ($12.50 for a six-piece box, $18.50 for a 12-piece box) or use their store locator to find out what retailers sell the chocolate. Plus, they ship coast to coast. These chocolates make an excellent hostess or thank-you gift.

THE GIVEAWAY BELOW HAS ENDED. 

But wait! One lucky person will win a six-piece box of Gather Chocolates from me! I have to ship it to you, so the winner needs to be within the contiguous 48 United States.

To win, leave a comment telling me what’s most appealing about these to you: the cause, the chocolates themselves, or the company itself. (Please make sure your comment is connected to or contains your email address so I can email you if you win! — and if you follow me on Facebook, I will give a little shout-out there to the winner, in case you don’t get the email).

You can leave an extra comment (another chance to win!) telling me if you’re going to eat these yourself, share them with a friend/loved one, or give them as a gift.

A winner will be randomly drawn Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at 8 p.m. EST and notified by email (see above, re: Facebook). Winner will have 24 hours to respond or else I’ll pick another winner.

UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations, Michelle G.! Thanks, everyone, for entering. Go try these chocolates!