Category Archives: Food

Candy Review – Trader Joe’s Boffo! and Quasar Bars

Boffo! and Quasar, from Trader Joe's.

Boffo! and Quasar, from Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s has been a long-time source of candy for candy-loving cheapskates like me, but while shopping for dark chocolate peanut butter cups spinach the other day, I spotted two new Trader Joe’s brand candy bars and I just had to have them – for science!

Denuded.

Denuded.

Boffo! to you! to!

Boffo! to you! to!

First up is the Boffo! Bar “with peanuts, caramel, and nougat enrobed in milk chocolate,” which sounded delightful and much like a Snickers bar.  Once sliced, it looked like a peanut-stingy, nougat-generous Snicker’s bar, and tasted that way, too, except the nougat was much chewier than in a Snickers.  Despite being the lead descriptor, the peanuts definitely come as an afterthought.  The chewiness of the nougat was at first overwhelming (as it was unexpected) but after eating a few more bites I began to thoroughly enjoy it.  Would I buy this candy bar again?  I don’t know that I’d get this over a Snickers Almond, M&M Almond, or Twix, for example, but it wasn’t horrible.  And while I wouldn’t be disappointed to find this in my trick-or-treat stash, at 240 calories and 28 grams of sugar, my doctor would.

Look at that thick coating!

Look at that thick coating!

The fine print...

The fine print…

I was excited by the dark chocolate covering the “whipped chocolate nougat and rich caramel” of the Quasar Bar, but immediately put off when I sliced into the bar and discovered a cross-section that looked suspiciously like the dreaded Mars Bar (don’t get me started on Mars Bars, the once-wonderful, chock-full-of-almonds candy bar that turned into the horrid English caramel and nougat-only Milky Way-esq monstrosity!!!).  However, for science, I tried a piece and then another piece and then another piece and then another.  Surprisingly delicious!  This is no Mars Bar/Milky Way!  The dark chocolate outside is fairly thick and good quality (cough cough for an American candy bar cough cough) and the caramel and nougat are a pleasing texture and sweetness.  At 220 calories and 30 whopping grams of sugar, I would have to be embracing my inner diabetic to eat this a second time, but then again my inner diabetic and I are pretty tight.

 

Overall, I’d put these two candy bars in the “buy” category if you’re looking for candy from Trader Joe’s.  (I also put the aforementioned Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups in the solid “buy” category, with instructions to store them in the freezer or fridge and eat them cold, but I’d put the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds in the “pass” category, because for some reason, possibly the quality of the chocolate or the waxy coating, they’re unappealing in my book.)  And if you’re looking for non-chocolate sweets, the best thing to buy at Trader Joe’s right now is the Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls, which are everything good about the fall season and frozen foods and life itself.

 

What Trader Joe’s items do you love?  Is there a candy that you used to love that you can’t find anymore?  Do you like pumpkin pie?  Share in the comments!

Percy Sutton Harlem 5K – A Pain in the Ankle & Bonus Candy Review – Aug 27, 2016

Waiting at the start of the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K.

Waiting at the start of the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K.

Today I walked my second NYRR race since spraining my ankle in May, and while it was a really nice race overall, my ankle started hurting more than I expected and now I’m a little worried I overdid it.  Good thing I have chocolate.

 

Race Review

Gradual uphill with views of Yankee Stadium in the distance off to the right.

Gradual uphill with views of Yankee Stadium in the distance off to the right (not captured but it’s there).

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K Run (honoring the former Manhattan borough president who was a supporter of the 5-borough NYC Marathon and NYRR in general) is a typical NYRR race but the course actually is in Harlem instead of following the typical Central Park loop.  It’s a pretty delightful loop starting at 135th and St Nicholas Ave, heading north to 155th, cutting west a few blocks, then south along St Nicolas Park before rounding back north at 127th to finish basically where it started.  The neighborhood looks beautiful, you can see Yankee Stadium in the distance for part of the race, and you get to walk run past some beautiful architecture that’s part of City College.  At the beginning of the race the announcer said that in the first year of this race there were only a few hundred runners, but in this, its 7th year, there are over 5,000!  (Actual total finishers was 4,803.)

 

The start of the hill at about mile .4.

The start of the hill at about mile .4.

The course does feature some hills, most notably a 1/4 mile hill about .4 miles from the start, but there are a few other shorter uphills and downhills scattered along the 3-mile course.  Despite the hills, I foolishly walked about as fast as I could for the first mile (slightly under a 15 minute per mile pace, too fast for my still-healing ankle), until about mile 1.3 when my ankle screamed in protest and I stopped to roll it around a bit, as if that would do anything.  As much as it killed me, I slowed down my already slow pace and tried to baby my ankle a bit, but by mile 2 I was pretty obviously limping.  I limped my way through the last mile, and despite the pain and the frustration, I was actually having a good time and even got a bit emotional from all the lovely people cheering all of us slowpokes.

 

Weirdest looking bagels I've ever seen.

Weirdest looking bagels I’ve ever seen.

He made me take off my shoe to "ice properly."

He made me take off my shoe to “ice properly.”

At the finish line we were greeted by the standard apples and non-standard deli rolls (I guess they ran out of bagels?).  I got ice from the med tent and actually sat on a park bench to ice my ankle while chatting with a friend.  My doctor friend told me to take Advil and my physical therapist friend told me to ice it, so I did both because I’m very obedient.

 

While I didn’t take a roll, I did have pizza after the race because my ankle hurt and thus I deserved it.  I also had some ice cream and the chocolate featured below, because I am a glutton.

Bonus Candy Review!

I didn't make the cleanest breaks but you get the idea.

I didn’t make the cleanest breaks but you get the idea.

I got this delightful chocolate as a gift, but you can actually buy it on Amazon.  It’s somehingsomethinggreek Ion brand milk chocolate with almonds.  (It’s not the first Greek chocolate I’ve tried, and it won’t be the last.)  The milk chocolate is better than standard American candy bar chocolate (ok, I know that’s not a high bar, pun intended), and the almonds are crunchy, but the best part is just how thick and large each square is.  Why is that the best part?  Because you’re basically forced to eat at least one large square every time you encounter this candy.  I mean, it’s not that you want to eat a ton of chocolate, you’re a delicate flower and only take the tiniest nibbles of things, but if that’s how the bar is divided, I guess you have to.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Now I’m sitting on my couch, icing and elevating and wondering if I could eat more chocolate.  They didn’t mention that it heals ankles in this recent Runner’s World article on ankle sprains, but I’m pretty sure it helps, right?

 

Have you ever run the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K race?  Have you ever had Ion chocolate?  Are you able to justify your food choices based on lingering pains in your body?  Share in the comments!

Snack Review – Pop Tarts Frosted Pumpkin Pie & Happy Thanksgiving!

pumpkin pie pop tarts

“LIMITED EDITION”

I finished the Philadelphia Marathon, but haven’t had time to write my recap of the race yet as I’ve been too busy eating cheesesteaks and packing for a trip home for Thanksgiving.  Instead, I’ve taken some time to give you a brief glimpse into the life of Pop Tarts Frosted Pumpkin Pie flavor toaster pastries.

 

First, I gotta say that I love Pop Tarts.  They are my current go-to breakfast pre-marathon, as I can usually eat (and enjoy) two entire pastries (400 calories!) even at 4:00 in the morning, which helps me not become a ravenous beast a mile into the race (instead delaying the beast until about mile 6).  I never toast my Pop Tarts, as I feel that turns them into a sad attempt at a hot breakfast, which they most decidedly are not.  (Also, the toasting ruins the pastry, IMO.)

The sorta pumpkin-y, sorta goodness.

The sorta pumpkin-y, sorta goodness.

 

Pop Tarts Frosted Pumpkin Pie Limited Edition toaster pastries smell sweet and have a very slight pumpkin pie fragrance, but so slight that the smell of the unflavored pastry itself almost obscures the pumpkin pie smell.   Since the pastry itself smells more like “nothing” than most edible things, that means the fragrance is slight indeed.

I wish there were more pumpkin in the real thing!

I wish there were more pumpkin in the real thing!

The Pumpkin Pie flavor is not bad.  I love strong, spicy pumpkin pie, and I usually double the spice called for in a recipe when baking pies at home.  The Pop Tart version is disappointingly bland, because “a pumpkin doesn’t taste like anything,” and Kellogg’s decided to use a light hand on the spice.  But there is some pumpkin-y flavor to it, and it’s sweet, and not objectionable.  It’s not nearly as good as Frosted Blueberry, Frosted Strawberry, or Frosted Grape, but it’s a fine novelty limited edition treat around Thanksgiving, I suppose.  I had to order these from Amazon (“had” here meaning something that doesn’t actually mean “had”), and I actually finished both pastries (400 calories!) while writing this post and I didn’t even notice.

 

Finally, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are just a few of the things I’m thankful for – I’m thankful I’m still running.  I’m thankful I can take my time to write my Philly recap and not fail a class or something.  I’m thankful for this video, which seriously if you didn’t watch it while clicking around above, I urge you to watch it now.  I’m thankful for Pop Tarts, and the minds at Kellogg’s that will continue to put new and ill-advised flavors into those Pop Tarts.  And I’m thankful you’re reading this.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

What are you thankful for this year?  Are you doing a Turkey Trot today?  What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?  Share in the comments!

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners in 2015 – Good Stuff & Weird Stuff

Some of the (mostly weird) stuff I recommend for runners!

Some of the (mostly weird) stuff I recommend for runners!

A gift guide before Thanksgiving?  Yep, that’s apparently what we’re doing now!  So, it’s (already) that time of year again…  The time of year where you have to do a lot of holiday tasks, like possibly roasting a turkey, possibly sending out Christmas cards, possibly decorating cookies, possibly doing some extra cleaning in case you’re having guests over and you don’t want them to know how you actually live, and definitely shopping for yourself under the guise of holiday gift-giving.  To help you, I’ve highlighted some of the nifty gadgets and gear any runner (aka you yourself) would enjoy.  (For more ideas, click here for my extensive wish list from 2013 and here for my “dupes” edition from 2014.)

 

The Good Stuff!

Soundpeats Bluetooth Headphones – I’ve finally found a pair of bluetooth headphones I love!  The SoundPEATs Q9A Bluetooth 4.1 Wireless Sport Headphones fit well in my ear (almost too well, blocking quite a bit of ambient noise) and hook over my ears ensuring a sturdy fit and no bounce, but can still be worn with sunglasses.  They’re lightweight, the cord doesn’t get in the way or make noise, the battery seems to last quite a while (they claim 5 hours but I haven’t tested them), and they even have a microphone for calls (which I only just discovered, thanks Mom!).  Occasionally I’ll get some interference or a dropped signal, but it usually resolves itself in a second or two.  The controls (on/off, volume up/down) are small and I wish they had a separate skip button (instead of having to hold down the up volume), but otherwise these are currently the bluetooth headphones to beat.  (SoundPEATs Q9A Bluetooth 4.1 Wireless Sport Headphones, currently $50 at Amazon, sometimes on sale at Amazon for $30.)

 

Athleta topAthleta Neothermal temperature control top – I don’t own one of these (yet…) so I don’t know if they really work or not, but the idea sounds fabulous – a winter top that magically regulates your temperature so you’re never too hot or too cold.  How does it do this?  With magic???  I don’t know!!!  (Neothermal Top, $79 at Athleta.com.  Note that reviews say it fits small, so consider sizing-up, and to wash it inside-out to prevent snags.  Also available in a hoodie version.)

 

Vizlet snowflakeVizlet Snowflake – I’ve loved Vizlets for years now, and this season they have a cute new snowflake shape.  Be seen, be safe.  (Vizlet LED Snowflake, $10 each at Amphipod.)

 

 

Fenix HL23 Headlamp – After my headlamp disaster at Ragnar Trail New England, I wanted to get a nice, powerful headlamp.  I’ve also committed to taking the NYRR running class at 6:30 pm, which currently starts and ends in the dark, so I felt like I could justify spending some cash on another headlamp.  I went with my Ragnar teammate’s recommendation and got the no-BS Fenix HL23 150 lumen LED headlamp (currently $35 at Amazon, includes two batteries, requires one battery).

 

Phillips Wake-Up Light – In keeping with the light theme, let’s round it out with this sunrise alarm clock.  I’ve been skeptical about these things for years, but after noticing how it’s dark now almost the entire day (and it’s still only mid-November!), I finally got one during an Amazon Gold Box sale.  I’ve been using it the last week or so and while I don’t know if it really makes a difference in mood or energy levels or any of that jazz, it is a lot nicer to wake up to a bright bedroom than a dark one.  This could be an especially nice present for the runner who wakes up early to run, or for your single friend who doesn’t have to compromise on their alarm situation.  (Phillips Wake-Up Light with Radio, currently $119 at Amazon, newer, fancier version Philips HF3520 Wake-Up Light With Colored Sunrise Simulation available for $115 with instant coupon.)

 

Garmin Forerunner 225 – Ugh, I already have a great Garmin (my Garmin 620, currently on sale at a jaw dropping $240 with heart rate strap included, originally $450) but now really I want the 225.  I love my Garmin but hate wearing the chest strap, so I almost never do.  This new Garmin 225 (pictured at left) has a heart rate monitor built into the watch itself – no more uncomfortable strap!  Huzzah!  Will knowing my heart rate change the way I’m currently training?  Probably not, but still – heart rate without strap!  (And it’s currently on sale at Amazon for $266, regularly $300.)

 

Luggage – Everyone always needs a new bag.  No?  You have plenty?  You must be mistaken.  Get a new bag.  Pretend you’ll use it to carry stuff to the gym, or to an out-of-state-marathon, or on a trip around the world.  Fantasize.  Get another bag.  Repeat.  (Price on bags and fantasies vary.)  (The bag on the left is Heys America Lightweight Pro 21″ Carry-On Spinner, the lightest-weight dual-bar handle spinner I found after copious research (only 5.1 lbs), available on Amazon for $112 with free shipping, but might be cheaper elsewhere on the interwebs.  The backpack on the right is the Adidas Rumble, available in multiple colors at Amazon from $20 to $49 (price depends on color), is lightweight, water-resistant, and holds a ton.)

 

Weird (but still really good!) Stuff

 

Ruby’s Lube & Monistat Anti-Chafe Powder Gel – Ruby’s is my current favorite anti-chafe product for my feet and Monistat’s Powder Gel is my favorite anti-chafe product for bra lines and other, um, sensitive areas.  Good gift items because nobody wants to buy this stuff but all runners need it. (Ruby’s Lube, 3 oz tube plus free mini tube, $15, & Monistat Anti-Chafe Powder Gel, 3 for $21 or 1 for $9.75 both at Amazon.)

 

Folca Pill Case – This isn’t specifically running related, but I learned about this case at EMT camp this summer and now it’s something I’ll never travel without.  It’s about the size of a thick deck of cards and has 8 compartments (4 small, 3 medium, and 1 large).  I recommend filling it with whatever OTC meds you use or might need on a trip, and then LABEL everything with the brand name, the generic name, the amount of active ingredient per pill, the expiration date, and ideally the dosage if there’s room (there’s a plain space on the case you can use to tape a small piece of paper with dosages printed on it).  This ensures no forgetting which pill is which like when they’re all just dumped into a single container (like I used to do) and lets you know exactly what’s in each pill (extra handy if you’re overseas and need to restock, since you’ll have the generic name right there).  Note that this case is not completely airtight or waterproof.  Also, I do not recommend using this case for prescription medication – that you should keep in the bottle with your prescription information on it.  [Shhhhh…. I made one of these for my parents and each of my siblings, which took a long time (and a lot of pills), but I hope they’ll find it as Type-A pleasing as I do.]  (Folca Pill Case, $5.80 at Amazon.)

 

Skinny Pop Popcorn – This also isn’t exactly running related, but it is the most delicious 100-calorie snack I’ve found.  I’ve eaten multiple, multiple boxes of this stuff, and I never get tired of it, because it’s simply popcorn with a little salt and oil.  Freakin’ delicious, and sorta healthy I guess (and definitely better for you than those three-flavored tubs of popcorn that go stale after a couple days but you still eat because you can’t stop eating waste food), and no one would be disappointed to get a box of this stuff this holiday.  They might be puzzled, but not disappointed.  (Box of 30 for $25.66 at Amazon.)

 

Stamina X Adjustable Height Plyometric Box – They have adjustable-height plyometric boxes?  That’s almost inspiring enough for me to consider getting one someday!  (Stamina X Adjustable Height Plyometric Box, $200 at Amazon.)

 

Undress dressUndress dress – My sister got this for me last Christmas (while it was still a Kickstarter project) and it’s pretty nifty (sorry I haven’t done a proper review of it – I haven’t actually used it in the wild yet).  It allows you to change without exposing yourself (sort of like the Chawel – but instead of changing inside a bag/towel, you slip the dress on over your bottom and under your top, so when you peel off your top layers you’re just wearing the dress.)  If that’s confusing to you like it was to me, visit their website for the video.  (The Undress, $79.)

 

 

Just Weird Stuff

 

Gotta go running skirtThe Gotta Go Running Skirt – Another Kickstarter project, this is basically running shorts with a skirt on top and a trap door on the crotch, so you can just drop the flap and pee behind a bush, without exposing yours.  It’s a great idea if you don’t wear underwear when you run, don’t ever poop when you pee, and don’t mind not wiping before closing the trap door and running with urine-speckled shorts.  (The Gotta Go Running Skirt, $75 on Kickstarter but MSRP of $79 – what savings!)

 

 

Race Dots or Race Clips – Can you not be trusted with sharp objects?  Do you have issues with safety pins?  Are you good about bringing small objects to a race?  Are you good about then saving those small objects after a race and not losing said small objects?  Do you not mind having extra weight (e.g. magnets, plastic clips) on the front of your running shirt?  Do you like spending money on something you’ve been getting for free?  Then race dots or race clips might be the perfect thing for you!  (BibBits Magnetic Race Bib Holders, $17 with shipping at AmazonEventClip Pinless Bib Race Number Fasteners, $8 with shipping at Amazon, Magnetic Bib Dots, $36 with shipping at Amazon.)

 

tigerlady clawstigerlady claw singleTigerLady Self-Defense Claw – OMG.  It’s a device you grip in your hand during a run, and when you squeeze it literal claws come out, so you can scratch your attacker and run away with DNA evidence.  Just don’t accidentally reach up to wipe sweat out of your eyes!  OMG omg OMG.  (TigerLady Self-Defense Claw, one for $29 or get the “running grips” package, two for $51 – one for each hand!)   (Mom, please don’t even consider getting this for me – I already have like a dozen.)

 

What’s on your holiday wish list?  What have you already bought for yourself?  Are you going to have more nightmares about the TigerLady or the pee pee shorts?  Share in the comments!

Candy Review – Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms (& more!)

Even the M&M seems vaguely pissed to be associated with this abomination.

Even the M&M mascot seems vaguely pissed to be associated with this abomination.

 

Happy National Candy Day!  It’s a real thing, even though it definitely sounds like something I’d make up on the regular.  In honor of this great holiday, you’ll get the week off from work and a candy review!  (Week off might vary from workplace to workplace.)  Now I don’t know if they still have Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms in stores, but in case they do, or in case they ever bring them back, I feel obligated to make this PSA – do not ever buy these terrible, terrible M&Ms.

 

A close-up and cross section of the PSL M&M.  You'll notice many are crushed due to shipping.

A close-up and cross section of the PSL M&M. You’ll notice many are crushed due to shipping.

I had to order these special Pumpkin Spice Latte M&Ms from Target, since you can’t buy them in normal stores.  Ultimately, I think it was M&M-Mars Incorporated’s subtle way to spare the general population from this offense to candy.  Because of the shipping, they got crushed in transit, which was the least bad thing about these M&Ms.  Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Pumpkin Spice Lattes in general – they are ok, but they’re generally too sweet for me (!? seems impossible, right?).  I thought the extra sweetness would not be a problem in a candy, and it wasn’t.  The problem was the artificial pumpkin spice aspect, which tasted more like soap or some sort of chemical that is flavored in such a way as to warn you not to eat it.

The entire contents of the bag.  Normally I'd be sad it was so small, but this was actually 100% too much of this candy.

The entire contents of the bag. Normally I’d be sad it was such a small amount, but this was actually 100% too much of this candy.

I hate to waste food, but I felt no pangs of regret upon dumping all the remaining PSL M&Ms into the trash, since these cloying, waxy soap shards were most definitely not food.

 

I also tried the Mint M&Ms for the first time.  I’ve been seeing these at checkout stands for so long I finally caved and tried them.  I expected to be as underwhelmed as I was with the birthday cake M&Ms, and I pretty much was.  The mint flavor wasn’t bad, but again there was something disturbingly waxy about the candy.  That waxiness lingered, too, and successfully prevented me from ever finishing the (small) bag.  The candies were also puffier than plain (just like the birthday cake ones), and for no good reason, since they weren’t filled with anything but chocolate (again, just like the birthday cake ones).  A definite let-down.

M&Ms from left to right:  Plain, Mint, Pumpkin Spice Latte Horror, Almond

M&Ms from left to right: Plain, Mint, Pumpkin Spice Latte Horror, Almond

 

Lest you think I just don’t like M&Ms, let me introduce you to the greatest M&M creation, nay, one of the greatest candy creations in history – the Almond M&M.  Perfection in every bite, the candy has no hint of waxiness, the almond is always perfectly crunchy, and you can tell yourself you’re eating healthy because it’s almonds and that’s protein and good fats and junk.  (Mostly junk.)  The Almond M&M is better than the Peanut M&M (similar but the peanut just isn’t as good, and sometimes the quality control on the peanuts is lacking), better than the Pretzel M&M (good but after several bags it’s hard to keep eating them, and I prefer my candy without limits), and better than the Crispy M&M (although delightful, it doesn’t have the body the Almond does).  I won’t discuss the Peanut Butter M&M, as you’ll either love them or hate them or be mildly indifferent to them or be somewhere along that spectrum (I’m between indifferent and hate).  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

How did you celebrate National Candy Day?  Do you drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes?  What’s your favorite M&M?  Share in the comments!

Jackrabbit’s Free Pizza Run

All this, just for running 3.3 miles!

All this, just for running 3.3 miles!

I said I was serious about training this fall, and that apparently extends to training for my upcoming NYC Pizza Run this Saturday, as I went to Jackrabbit’s 2nd ever free pizza run tonight.

 

Every Tuesday at 6:30 pm, Jackrabbit (a running store on 72nd Street between Broadway and Columbus) is sponsoring a fun group run (3-4 miles) followed by free pizza.  Last week was their first pizza run, and two people showed up (not including me, since I didn’t know about it yet).  This week there were seven of us plus the pacer.  They said they’d like to grow the event so if you’d like to run and/or like free pizza, c’mon out!

 

We gathered in front of the store and one woman asked what pace we were going to do.  The Jackrabbit employee/pacer said “easy.”  “What does ‘easy’ mean?” asked the woman.  “9 minute? 10 minute?” and he said “yeah, about that.”  That’s when I knew I would not be running with the group.  Since I know Central Park like the back of my hand,  I just assumed I’d fall back and meet up at the store after the run.

Sorry this is so blurry, but I took it while running (haha).

Sorry this is so blurry, but I took it while running (haha).  Central Park was PACKED tonight.

As luck would have it, there was another woman who was my pace as well, so we dropped back together and chatted.  The main group ran into us as we were on the transverse heading back to the west side and semi-shamed us into doing another loop.  They said they’d go slower but we fell behind immediately and again I assumed we’d just see them at the store.  But lo and behold they were there waiting for us at the entrance to the park.  I’m not sure what they did while they were waiting (I suggested sprints and/or burpees) or if they were annoyed they had to wait for us, but everyone seemed friendly and happy enough.  Note the free pizza was moments away.

 

Back at the store the pizza was all laid out with plates and soda.  I wasn’t hungry but since I’m in training I dutifully ate a slice.  It was pretty good, but the best part was it was free, and it had gotten me off my couch and into Central Park, so it was a win-win-win.  Win.

 

How do you like your pizza?  Are you training for anything?  Is there a Halloween Candy Run I could possibly train for?  Share in the comments!

Candy Review – Russell Stover Dark Chocolate & MARSHMALLOW Pumpkin

Too soon.

Too soon.

Today is August 11, 2015.  It’s 90 degrees and sunny here in Portland, Oregon, and people are frolicking on the sandy beaches of the Columbia River, since it’s hot and it’s summertime and that’s what you’re supposed to do on a hot summer’s day.

 

Today is also the day I stopped by the drugstore for some ice packs and happened upon a Halloween Candy display.  Halloween.  As in October 31st.  As in the second best candy holiday in America, but one that is firmly rooted in the chilly fall.  Nevertheless, I purchased one of these Halloween candies for (cough cough) research purposes.  Here are my findings:

 

Pumpkin-ish.

Pumpkin-ish.

The Russell Stover Dark Chocolate & MARSHMALLOW Pumpkin is 110 calories of sugary goodness.  There is no actual pumpkin involved in the treat.  Except for the fact that the candy is vaguely pumpkin-shaped (although, let’s be honest, pumpkins come in a wide variety of blob-like shapes and almost any candy could arguably be called pumpkin-shaped), this tasty treat has no connection to pumpkins or Halloween or summer or food.  I’m also not sure why it must yell MARSHMALLOW at me, but that’s an issue for another day.

 

Cross section candy marshmallowAs for the candy itself – the dark chocolate coating is wafer thin and the marshmallow is soft, gooey, and as fresh as only a 2.5 month premature marshmallow can be.  It was so sweet it actually hurt my teeth, which is worrying on a number of levels, but it was also exactly how I expected it to be.  It was like eating the candy incarnate of diabetes itself, and it was delicious.

 

For those who want a more descriptive account of the taste – are you familiar with soft marshmallow, more firm than marshmallow fluff but softer than your typical store-bought bagged marshmallows and minus the powdery exterior?  Are you familiar with briefly running your tongue against a cheap bar of dark chocolate?  Can you imagine combining those two experiences and injecting them into the center of your teeth where unborn cavities live?  Can you also imagine some small part of you enjoying this experience in a deeply guilty way?  Then that, my friend, is the Russell Stover Dark Chocolate & MARSHMALLOW Pumpkin, enjoyed on a hot summer’s day in mid-August, after a big lunch and before a long nap.

 

How early do you think it’s acceptable to start selling and/or consuming Halloween candy?  How many naps will it take before my EMT camp sleep debt is repaid?  Did you know Easter is the best candy holiday in America?  Share in the comments!

The Best Marathon in Every State

My marathon schedule as laid out last April is already off (missed Missoula, only did half of Blerch, and 2015 is all over the place).  But the schedule was not so much about hitting those exact races in those exact years but rather seeing how long it could (would?) take to run the 50 States, and to create a list of the top races to do.  The whole goal is to enjoy this quest, so I want to make sure to pick the right races.  How can I know if I’m picking the best race?  Random internet lists to the rescue!

 

The venerable website VacationHomeRentals.com (“by Trip Advisor”) recently posted a list of the Best Marathon in Every State in the USA.  I agree with the sparse comments more than I do with the list – not that I’ve run that many of the listed races, but the fact that they included my least favorite marathon to date (Marshall Marathon in West Virginia) leads me to suspect they just randomly threw this list together.  Shocking, I know, considering what a leading runners’ resource VacationHomeRentals.com is.  Is my sarcasm coming through?  This thing on?  <thump thump feeeeedback!>

 

Since that wasn’t a reliable list, I decided to suss out (aka Google) other lists of the “Best Marathon in Each State.”  There aren’t all that many.  Interestingly enough, FlipKey.com (also “by Trip Advisor”) posted an unannotated list of the 50 “top marathons & races” in each state here (dated April 9, 2014).  Not all are full marathons, but it looks like most are.

 

The 50 States Marathon Club also has a “favorites” list from suggestions from members, but it’s unclear how many members have actually given input or how often they update it, plus it often includes more than one marathon per state.  I only found one comprehensive 50 Marathons in the 50 States list from a site that actually has to do with running – Active.com’s Top 50 Marathons to do Across America – which also includes a short description on each race.  There’s no date and no comments, so I have no idea when they put this list together.  I also hate that it’s spread across 7 pages so you have to click-through everything, making it difficult to compare this list with the others – so, I did it for you!

Best marathon in each state page 1 of 3Best marathon in each state page 2 of 3Best marathon in each state page 3 of 3In alphabetical order by state, here are the 50 “best” marathons in each state from VacationHomeRentals, FlipKey, the 50 States Marathon Club, and Active.com.  Click the images above to expand, or click here for a 3-page PDF of the compiled lists.  I also included my tentative “to do” list but did not highlight when my selections overlapped with another’s.  Someday I hope to be able to create a compact review of a race in each state myself!

 

I highlighted those races that appeared in more than one list (and bolded the races in my list I’ve completed).  It’s interesting to note that no race was included in all four lists, but several races were included in three (Little Rock, AR; Hartford, CT; Mesa Falls, ID; Boston, MA; Steamtown, PA; Myrtle Beach, SC; & Richmond, VA).  Are those 7 races the best of the best, or do those states just not have a lot of great options?  There were 10 states that didn’t have any overlap on the four lists (Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, & Washington).  Not surprising for those states that are full of natural beauty and/or a lot of runners (e.g. Alaska, Colorado, Montana, Washington, etc.), but I was surprised there were that many “best” races in Maryland and Missouri.

 

For the sake of thoroughness, although I did not include these lists in my compilation:  here’s Men’s Health’s 2012 article 11 Races to Run Before You Die, clearly written by someone who was asked to name every race that he could name off the top of his head, with a couple of randoms thrown in (if you hate the slideshow format like me, here’s a spoiler:  Chicago Marathon, NYC Marathon, Honolulu Marathon, Boston Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, Mt Desert Island Marathon, Indy Mini Half Marathon, London Marathon, Bay-to-Breakers, Miami Half Marathon, & Covered Bridges Half Marathon).  But it’s no worse than the TopEventsUSA.com’s list (updated Feb 2014) of the “Top 20 Marathons or Marathon Events in the USA,” presented in such a maddening non-list I can’t bother to re-create it here.  There’s also this crowdsourced list of marathons by month, but the links simply send you to comments made on MarathonGuide.com.  Finally, here’s Marathon and Beyond’s 1998 list of the top 26 Marathons in North America.  Surprisingly I think most are still being run!

 

As always, I think the best resource for information on marathons in the US is MarathonGuide.com – bless all those people who write detailed reviews – but now you have a color-coded compiled 50 “best” list, which is better than actually training for anything, right?

Hazelnut chocolate wafer candy bar

And for a bonus candy review – the candy pictured above was one of the new candies I got in Houston.  It’s super delicious, like a delicate Kit Kat with chopped hazelnuts on top.  The wafer is airy, the chocolate and hazelnut flavors are good, and the chopped nuts go perfectly with the wafers and chocolate.  I could easily eat 50 of these things in every US State.  Too bad I have no idea what this candy is called, even though I’m looking directly at the wrapper.  (Ion Chocofreta?  It’s all Greek to me!)

 

Do you have a list of the top 50 marathons by state, or a list of races you’d like to do?  Do you have a list of the 50 best candy bars?  Which list would you rather research and compile?  Share in the comments!

Candy cross sections unwrapped - starting at top going clockwise - Ohio Buckeyes, KitKat Chunky Hazelnut Cream, something-something fruit chew candy, Hi-Chew peach, Birthday Cake M&Ms, Divine Dark Chocolate with mint

Snack Review – 6 New Candies & New Haircut Revealed

6 new candies - Divine Dark Chocolate with mint, Ohio Buckeyes, Birthday Cake M&Ms, KitKat Chunky Hazelnut Cream, Hi-Chew peach, something-something fruit chew candy

6 new candies – Divine Dark Chocolate with mint, Ohio Buckeyes, Birthday Cake M&Ms, KitKat Chunky Hazelnut Cream, Hi-Chew peach, and Puccho grapefruit chewy candy

This is a lot of candy I’ve never tried before.  Before going to my running class, I ate all of these candies so I could review them for you all at once.  Let’s begin, shall we?

 

  1. Candy cross sections unwrapped - starting at top going clockwise - Ohio Buckeyes, KitKat Chunky Hazelnut Cream, something-something fruit chew candy, Hi-Chew peach, Birthday Cake M&Ms, Divine Dark Chocolate with mint

    Candy cross-sections unwrapped – starting at top going clockwise – Ohio Buckeyes, KitKat Chunky Hazelnut Cream, Puccho grapefruit chews, Hi-Chew peach, Birthday Cake M&Ms, Divine Dark Chocolate with mint

    Divine Dark Chocolate with Mint – The wrapper in the photo above is empty and the little piece pictured is actually all that is left of this magically delightful, appropriately named “Divine” dark chocolate mint bar.  I bought this as part of my groceries one day at Fairway, since dark chocolate is healthy and with mint added it counts as one of my vegetables.  I wasn’t planning on reviewing it until I ate it and realized just how delicious vegetables can be.  It’s currently my favorite dark chocolate bar, but that is subject to change as easily as my TV on a Friday night.  (PS there is no good tv on Friday night.)

  2. Ohio Buckeyes – Technically the name is Continue reading

Being a Runner (Again)?

Lancaster soft caramels

I fell victim to the incessant Lancaster caramel ads on the TV.  Now I have a big bag of sticky caramels and no boy in a stairwell to whom I can feed them.

After weeks and months of injury and Polar Vortices and general laziness, I finally ran multiple times this week (for multiple miles each time), and I finally feel like a runner again.*

 

When did you start calling yourself a runner?  Was it when you could run over a mile without stopping?  After your first 5K race?  When you consistently ran a couple times a week?  When you bought your first “running outfit”?  When other people started calling you a runner?  Or do you still not call yourself a runner?

 

I can’t remember the exact moment I started calling myself a runner, but I think it was well after my first marathon.  Even while I was training for that marathon, I wasn’t really a runner, I was just somebody training for a marathon.  And even after I completed those 26.2 miles, I was still just somebody who ran for an inadvisably long time one day – I wasn’t a real runner.

 

My friend who ran my first marathon with me downplayed her own accomplishment, too.  Not long after finishing our race, I called her a marathoner.  She quickly said no, that she was just someone who ran a marathon, not a real marathoner.  A real marathoner, she explained, was someone who has run at least three marathons.  I thought about her words often in the years that followed, and the day I completed my third marathon I was so excited to join the “real marathoner” club.

 

But when I don’t run for a while, even if it’s because I injured myself running, I feel like I can’t call myself a runner anymore (nor, oftentimes, can I actually run).  So identifying myself as a runner is a delicate thing, a phrase usually followed by a knock on wood.

 

Identifying myself as a runner in a group of people that might include someone who used to or currently can run much faster than me is also fraught with anxiety.  Does that person who used to run cross country in high school silently mock my current 11 minute mile pace?  Can that dude who just ran a 5K last weekend in 17 minutes even comprehend why it would take me 35 minutes to run the same distance?  And how could I possibly call myself a runner if I am so terrible at said activity that I’m almost a “brisk walker,” and so much fatter than a typical runner that it looks like I may have just eaten one?

 

Calling yourself a runner, whether it’s just in your head or proudly announced to the world, is a brave, potentially fleeting thing.  (Certainly more fleeting than me running…)  I encourage everyone to self-identify as a runner, size and speed be damned.  Because runners are the best, and who wouldn’t want to be in such a cool club?  There aren’t a lot of sports that specifically design food to be eaten during the actual sporting activity.  Plus you get to justify shopping at Lululemon and taking naps, because hey, you ran at some point this month.  And don’t worry about your speed, I’ll bring up the rear.

 

P.S. Those caramels are just ok.  The ad made me think I’d be blowing glitter off records, kicking my striped stocking feet over the top of my couch, and dancing with my hipster friends in skinny jeans, but they’re actually just really sticky soft caramels that taste like so-so caramels, and my jeans are still just jeans… but maybe feel tighter?  Nevermind, it works!

 

*Unless you are faster than me, or run more often than me, in which case you might disagree.  I know how to knit, but I wouldn’t call myself a knitter, either.  Also, congrats to all of you who just finished the LA Marathon!  Share your tales of woe and triumph in the comments!