Boost for the Glutes

29 Mar

A few years ago, I injured my knee after running my first half marathon. During my visit to the sports doctor, I asked what might’ve caused it. She responded that my core and glutes may not have been strong enough and my knees therefore compensated and got injured.

I was shocked at first, thinking there’s no way my core is weak! I do sit ups almost every day. But through the physical therapy, I realized there are lots of other muscles –such as my lower back, glutes and middle abs–I wasn’t developing properly.

As I continue training for my next half marathon just 5 weeks away, my new routine has more variety and consists of more than just running and kickboxing. 🙂  In addition to running, I’m now including Barre3 classes and strength training at the gym.

But if you’re just getting started, check out these 5 exercises from Map My Run to really focus on the glutes.


Hot Chocolate Run 5K 2015

1 Apr

Probably my coldest run to date, this year’s Hot Chocolate Run 15k/5k was a lot colder (33 F) than the run two years ago when we last ran it. But running with a great partner, joking around, and my awesome new zip up hoodie makes it all worth it!

Parking? We always try to go prepaid to avoid the headache. This year, we parked off of Ralph Abernathy and exiting was a breeze. And the 5-minute walk to the site wasn’t too bad.

It’s all about the “base”
The biggest takeaway from this race was the importance of having the right equipement. While shoes are important, so is having the proper base and outer layers (for when you get too hot or the temperature rises), head wear (hat or beanie), gloves and pockets for storing necessities.

The last time I ran the race, it was too warm for January (temperatures close to 70 I believe), but I was dressed with a thick base layer underneath a fleece tech hoodie. I ended up sweating profusely to the point where I felt like it was Spring within the first mile.


This year, I had my Underarmour base layer which I use for snowboarding under the full-zip fleece hoodie that all runners received. While it was chilly in the morning! The zipper and layers were perfect post-race while we enjoyed our hot chocolate and snacks!

Pressing Persimmons

13 Dec persimmon apple sauce

Every Fall, I somehow miss my chance to go apple picking in some gorgeous Georgia apple orchard. While this year is no different, I did get to do a little persimmon picking at my sister’s in-laws’ persimmon trees.

What is it? It’s actually a berry, but resembles a firm tomato or small pumpkin. Besides persimmon’s beautiful color that ranges from a light yellow-orange to a dark red-orange that’s perfect for Fall, the name translates to “divine fruit” or “the fruit of the gods.” Sweet, tangy and usually fibrous, persimmon is popular throughout Asia.

fresh picked persimmon

But beware…not all all species of persimmon are the same. The Japanese hachiya is bitter and firm at first, but softens and sweetens as it ripens. So unlike the fuyu persimmon, the hachiya specie must be completely ripe before consumption. Trust me on this one.

After a friend posted a photo of her homemade persimmon applesauce, she graciously shared her simple recipe. With just three ingredients: a handful of peeled apples, persimmon and about a cup or two of water (depending on your preference of consistency) plus a pot, persimmon applesauce is great for everyone!


I peeled both fruits, but I know some people like to keep the skin on since that’s the layer where the most nutrients are. I used two giant apples and three persimmon, but feel free to use equal parts depending on how much persimmon flavor you want to include.


Heat the fruits and water on high until it boils, then bring the heat down to low-medium and boil for another hour or until the fruits are tender. After the fruits have cooled, purée in the blender (or Vitamix), and enjoy!


This recipe is simple, delicious and such a healthy treat. Way better than store bought applesauce! I hope you enjoy.

Peanut butter pumpkin fudge

27 Nov

I’ve never cooked with pumpkin outside of savory dishes, but I was determined to make a pumpkin dessert this year in preparation for Thanksgiving. Inspired by my sister’s Pinterest board, I used the chocolate pumpkin and peanut butter fudge recipe from Diethood.

After buying Ghiradelli semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice mix and condensed milk all from Kroger, I was ready to get started. After reading how simple the recipe was, I prepped all the ingredients and decided to make the fudge with my niece.


The PB&P fudge was a hit with my niece and co-workers! We even dipped the fudge in vanilla Frosty (from Wendy’s) and it made it taste even better. I’ve also eaten it as a breakfast snack as I tell myself the peanut butter and pecans are good for me.


Below is the full Chocolate Pumpkin Peanut Butter Fudge recipe from Diethood that I followed exactly. Hope you enjoy!


1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk, divided
1-1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup chopped pecans


  1. Line an 8×8 pan with foil; grease with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a microwave-safe dish combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir and put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted. Mine melted in 1-1/2 minutes.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pan and spread it evenly using an offset spatula; set aside.
  5. In a microwave-safe dish combine white chocolate chips and canola oil; melt on high for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from microwave and stir; put back in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until almost all chips are melted.
  7. Remove from microwave and stir in pumpkin puree, peanut butter and pumpkin pie spice; stir until thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour over previously prepared chocolate layer and spread evenly using an offset spatula.
  9. Sprinkle with chopped pecans
  10. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.
  11. Cut and serve immediately.
  12. Refrigerate leftovers.

USMC veteran Sergeant Le bounces back and inspires everyone around him

13 Nov

I’m a few days late from Veteran’s day, but it’s better late than never. So today I’m recognizing a veteran who has completely changed my perspective on our US military and given me a deeper appreciation. USMC veteran Le bounces back and inspires everyone around him – Check out the full article in USTA.

There are a lot of inspiring stories about people who’ve overcome many obstacles and grown so much through the process, but U.S. Marine Corps veteran Sergeant Le is my favorite. Aside from the fact that this is one of the most playful and encouraging people I know, I am proud to call this guy my “little brother”…not by blood, but definitely by heart, sweat and tears.

USTA  Balboa Tennis Club

Sergeant Lam Le (left) and Balboa Tennis Club director Geoff Griffin. Image from the USTA article. © San Diego District Tennis Association

To begin, I have known this guy since middle school and watched him grow alongside my younger sibling. He then ran cross country with me (and throughout high school) in addition to swimming. No matter his grade level or position on the team, he was always an encouragement not just to the slower runners, but to everyone. After graduation, he immediately enlisted in the USMC and excelled quickly scoring not just high marks, but placing in the top percentage in many activities and exams.

While on active duty in 2010, he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, also known as bone cancer, which is defined by an aggressive, malignant growth within the inner bone. For someone as fit and healthy as Le and from a family with no previous history, this was truly a shock. Even harder to swallow, the best option for Le was amputation of his left leg which would prevent him from his previous activities including running. As a runner and swimmer, I personally could not imagine having to be in his shoes.

The cancer was tough, but not tougher than his unrelenting spirit, supportive family and determination to be more than his circumstance. The chemo was exhausting, but Le kept such a positive and playful attitude, the doctors and nurses couldn’t help but welcome him back for every visit. Amidst the chemo, the cancer had spread to his lungs and surgery to remove the cells followed. Despite the physical exhaustion and pain, Le maintained composure, patience and was back out on the courts and in physical therapy whenever possible. (Which served as a great reminder for me of the privilege it is to be healthy and to work out.)

Bubble Tea break

As a “big sister,” I’ve had the privilege of watching him from across the country grow not just as a determined athlete, but as a young man, as a student of new sports, as a “new runner” with his running leg, as a racquetball amateur, as a San Diego local and so much more.

Racquetball in action

During his last visit, Le taught myself and a friend the basics of racquetball. While neither of us were exactly naturals at the sport, Le was great at guiding the ball to our spot so we could practice our swings. Similarly, he was also great at making us run all over the court when we were playing matches. For the basics of the sport, check out this “how to” from Racquetball Challenge.

Work hard, play hard

New leg and pumping iron

What working out beside this guy looks like

Late Night Munchies Brown Bag Style

7 Oct

What do you do when you’ve got a salty late night craving, but don’t want a sit-down experience? You sit outdoors and do a little people watching at Ben’s Brown Bag.

Ben’s Brown Bag is an excellent walk-up spot for easy food. The staff is humble, friendly, and very welcoming. Although fairly new to the Howell Mill block and neighbor to LaFonda’s, the “Little Food Joint that could” isn’t shy about strutting its stuff on cool fall nights. The place is very simple with outdoor seating. The colors of brown, orange, and yellow remind of us a time where we would all “brown bag” our lunches at school or just bringing something to the office. Prices are a little higher than your “fast food joint,” but they have local, quality ingredients going into every food item…and you can taste the difference.

Ben's Brown Bag with coke

I stand at the window and order the special of the day, “The Big Ben”. A small burger with white cheese, thick bacon, and a special house sauce is aligned with Ben’s theme. My friend (MR) ordered the popular Boom Chicka sandwich which is a marinated and lightly battered chicken breast with garlic mayo and four pickles. No skimping out on the chicken and it’s pressure fried. All items are served in a brown bag (of course!) with a smiley face in line with the feel and theme. One order of chips to share and an ice cold bottled glass Coca-Cola  completes it all. Other drink options include other fountain drinks, sweet tea, lemonade, and Kool-Aid of the day.

Chicka Boom chicken sandwich

The brioche bun is buttery and soft. It’s more like a pillow than a foundation to house the combination of meat and cheese. The burger was cooked to perfection, medium well to be exact. Melted white cheese and thick cuts of fried bacon cooked on a flat top soaks the bun delicately without drowning it to the depths of sogginess. The special sauce is spicy, smoky and yet it’s not a chipotle type sauce. The sauce definitely kept it interesting and quite simply, “special”.

Big Ben Special Beef patty and bacon

Beef patty and bacon

Chips were the perfect complement. Who eats sandwiches/burgers without a side? I call blasphemy on those who think that is acceptable for such an abomination to happen. Chips were sliced a bit thicker than your standard chip. They were crispy, light and with just enough density at the same time. Not quite kettle chips, but crispy enough to hear a loud crunch between your ears. The potatoes were fresh and not oily at all. I guess deep-frying in soybean oil is something I can agree with. Also, the chips were lightly seasoned perfectly for sea salt & vinegar flavor (MR’s chose). Not exactly complimentary to the sandwich and Coke, but satisfying nonetheless. Other chip flavors include cajun, sour cream and onion, sour cream and cheddar.

Lastly, the crowd was ratchet due to the many events in the city of Atlanta including the BET Awards (and after party at Compound), Falcons game, Braves game, “Money” Mayweather in town, unknown rappers trying to market themselves, the ladies headed to the club, and the police to “keep the peace.” Ben, the owner, was a pleasure to talk to. He gave us the background on why and how he started the business and is a very down to earth person with a passion for selling good food in the Atlanta area at competitive prices.

Chatting with Ben the owner

Although the guys in front of us ordered the last shakes of the night, I’m sure we’ll be back again. I hope his business thrives and that Ben continues to share his love of the “brown bag”. And don’t worry, the place closes at 2 a.m.

Ben’s Brown Bag

1021 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318

This is a guest post by my buddy who goes by the name “Cookies.”

Hearty Ethiopian

19 Aug

About seven years ago, I used to think that Ethiopian food was only for vegetarians. After writing an article on Ethiopian cuisine (during my freelance writing days in college) and trying different dishes with Ethiopian classmates and friends, this hearty and spice filled food cannot be limited to vegetarians. In fact, most of the dishes I order include lamb, fish, or beef!

Lamb tibs

Ribeye goden tibs – the bf’s favorite

When taking first-timers, my favorite spot in Atlanta to take them is Desta Ethiopian Kitchen just off of Clairmont Rd. It’s authentic, served individually for those who aren’t comfortable sharing family style, and provide eating utensils (if you prefer those over eating with your hands). The menu is great at explaining what everything is with a key/dictionary for common food terms (Tibs, shiro, firfir, gomen, ater etc.) and includes substitution options for those who may prefer other sides instead of the traditional injera.


What’s Injera?

Injera in Ethiopian cuisine is equivalent to rice for asian dishes. It’s served with everything and goes with everything. It’s often described as “spongy sour bread” known for its great absorbency, but with the flexibility of a tortilla. In some dishes, such as fit fit or fir fir (which literally means broken), the injera is cooked as part of the entree with the meat and seasonings. This dish is named as so because the injera is broken into smaller pieces and mixed with the sauce and spices. When eating in the traditional style with your hands, medium-sized pieces of injera are torn from the rolled injera and are used to grab or pick up other food. This allows the injera to soak up the flavor and prevents the sauce and spices from getting all over your hands. And even if you do get a little messy, the way I tend to get, there’s hand sanitizer at every table along with wet naps that they provide with the check.

Lamb tibs

Lamb tibs with a side of mesir (without gomen)

Lamb tibs with gomen

Lamb tibs cooked with gomen and a side of miser

The good stuff

I usually skip over the appetizers and order straight for the entrees. I’ve been to Desta quite a few times with different groups of people, but my favorites have been the fish, lamb and ribeye. The BF loves the ribeye or goden tibs (served on a sizzling plate), my father and a few friends prefer the fish tibs (with tilapia) or the fish dulet when they want something lighter and I usually end up with a lamb or fish entree. I can’t speak to the sandwiches or pasta because I am usually looking for a hearty meal, but I’ve heard everything on the menu is pretty great.


Lamb cooked with gomen served with mashed split peas on the side

Fish dulet served with salad

Fish dulet served with salad

Fit fit served wrapped

Fit fit served wrapped

Fit fit (unveiled)

Fit fit (unveiled)

The other good stuff

While I typically order water or mango juice, some of my other favorite drinks for special occasions are tej (honey wine),  tella (beer) or their famous coffee. They also serve a variety of desserts, but I usually don’t have any room in my stomach for anything else. Do you have a favorite Ethiopian dish? Let me know and I’d love to check it out!

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen

3086 Briarcliff Rd.
NE Atlanta, GA 30329