Finding Your Footwear: Nike Running Shoes 101

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When it comes to material possessions, these three S’s are my kryptonite: sunglasses, stationery, and sneakers. Even before I became a runner, I had too many kicks to count; running just gave me an excuse to go full throttle on the athleisure trend, to the point where friends flat out tell me not to wear Nikes on dates or upscale outings.

But what I never understood pre-NRC was that, when you were looking for more than a pearly pair of white AF1s, you had to look beyond the exterior of a shoe. When it came to running or training, you needed to ignore aesthetics and get to know the shoe: it’s all about inner beauty. After blisters, black toenails, and swaths of BodyGlide, you learn that picking the right shoe for your body and activity is essential to your performance and continued dedication to a sport. It’s kinda like love: you can try to force it but, if you’re not the right fit for each other, it’s just torture that will end with you on the couch avec a tub of Chunky Monkey.

As I learned last year, finding your one shoe love can be a tough and expensive lesson if you don’t do an online background check. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet here to save you the trouble. Don’t sweat over getting the shoes, sweat when using them.

BUT FIRST, most models have an upper mesh for breathability while the heels have responsive cushioning but Nike has patented technologies when it comes to the engineering of their footwear. Before we get to the goods, here’s a quick vocab lesson:

Free: allowing your bare foot to do what it does naturally but with protection
Lunarlon: 30 percent lighter than traditional Phylon and allows the force of impact to be evenly distributed
Flywire: strategically placed filaments that function like cables on a suspension bridge to offer support precisely where it’s needed
Zoom Air: durable airpockets that reduce the force of impact and return to original shape to brace for the next round
Dynamic Support: more soft foam on the lateral side for cushioning and more firm foam on the medial side for support

Now, there are three main categories of running shoes: run stronger/faster/longer. Anyone who does 5Ks or more regularly should go to the “faster” category. Let’s associate each with one word to break it down.

Run Stronger: flexible
(Nike Free RN/Motion/Distance/or FlyKnit)
Free RN: Free outsole and soft foam cushioning
Motion: Free midsole & outsole plus dual-density cushioning
Distance:
Lunarlon midsole with upper mesh of Flywire cables
FlyKnit:
Fits like a sock with Free outsole and soft foam cushioning



Run Faster: lightweight
(Nike Air Zoom Elite/Pegasus/Structure/FlyKnit/Streak/Wildhorse)
Elite: forefoot Zoom Air unit and Flywire mesh
Pegasus: two Zoom Air units (1 forefoot & 1 heel) with lighter
Structure: Dynamic Support in the midsole and more overall stability
FlyKnit: Fits like a sock but is mid-cut so your foot is locked in and ready for speed
Streak: a FlyKnit model with Flywire cables, Zoom Air unit in heel, and anatomical toe shape and midfoot shank for power and propulsion
Wildhorse:
Dynamic Fit with rock plate in forefoot to protect from rough terrain, rubber forefoot for wet tracks, abrasion resistant mesh, ideal for trail runners

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Fun fact: Allyson Felix’s kryptonite is Hot Cheetos and Ben & Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. Essentially, it’s like we’re the same person.

Run Longer: cushioned 
(Nike LunarTempo/LunarGlide/Air Zoom Vomero/Air Zoom Odyssey/LunarEpic FlyKnit/Airmax/Zoom All Out)
LunarTempo: Lunarlon cushioning, midfoot Flywire cables
LunarGlide: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, Dynamic Support cushioning
Vomero: double Zoom Air units in front & back, Flywire cables, and ankle support
Zoom Odyssey: triple-density Dynamic Support on the midsole, heel & forefoot Zoom Air units, Flywire upper mesh
LunarEpic FlyKnit: Lunarlon laser cuts on the sole, pressure mapped outsole for targeted cushioning
Airmax: full-length max air unit, polyester yarn body, waffle pattern outsole for even weight distribution, Flywire cables for dynamic fit
Zoom All Out: Asymmetrical Flywire cables for midfoot support, fits like a sock, waffle rubber outsole, segmented rubber crash rail

Nike models come out every year and runners await to see the colors, adjustments, and slight upgrades. Much like the iOs updates, auto body kits, or Pantone color of the year, based on research & design, Nike comes out with enhanced versions of running shoes every March and September. Pegasus is already on its 33rd iteration. Once a year is around the average time you should go for a new pair but trading in your sneaks is based on how much mileage they get. At around 400K, they’ll be worn down enough that your soles are going to need fresh cushion and you can track that by tagging your shoes on the Nike+ Running app in case you’re too much of a wa7esh to notice the pain.

Although heavier than other models, I’m a Vomero gal. I’m waiting for the 12s softer Lunar midsole and firmer cushioning so I can retire my half marathon 11s.  Remember, you can keep your older kicks for hikes and outdoor activities, strength training sessions at the gym, or donate them to the Beirut Marathon Association.

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5 Essentials for Marathoners

With just a few days left until the big day, here’s a list of some products all marathoners may need, available at Wesley’s, my literal home away from home. I wrote a list of suggested products for new runners but this post is for longer distances like the marathon.

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NEW: BodyGlide Anti-Chafing Balm
The biggest when it comes to anti-chafing balms, BodyGlide has entered Beirut! We’ve got the original BG, For Her, Foot, Skin, and Cycle in two sizes (standard and travel). Apply this on all sensitive areas to avoid rashes and irritation caused by chafing (friction from skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin). This product isn’t exclusively for athletes; it’s also for those who suffer from various forms of chub rub during their daily life. #thickthighssavelives

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Yogi Muscle Recovery Green Tea with Turmeric
This is a double win when it comes to healthy points. Green tea is recommended to runners because it’s loaded with stress-reducing amino acids that elevate your metabolic rate and up muscle mass. This Yogi variant has turmeric, an extract from curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties. It also has anti-inflammatory yucca root and blackberry leaf. Every box, priced at 8500LL, has 16 tea bags with little messages on the tags for that fortune cookie effect.

Another good option is Runa tea which contains Guayusa, a leaf with twice the antioxidants of bagged green tea and ~30 fewer mg of caffeine per cup than coffee.
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ProBar Energy Chews
On long distance runs, you need to refuel every hour or so. Each runner has their own preferred mid-run snack based on trial runs (edible gels, chews, or good old-fashioned nuts & dates). Wesley’s carries the 4 flavors of ProBar energy chews (2 with caffeine, 2 without). Each pack costs 4500LL and has 2 servings of 4-5 chews.

Do not take gels or chews with electrolytes (Gatorade). Your body will overload and you’ll need a potty faster than you can find one.

Coconut Water/Oil

Coconut water for hydration after the miles are done and coconut oil all over errythannnnng to soothe the skin. As I’ve said multiple times, coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and moisturizer. Coconut water is 3250-3500LL each and an 84oz jug of coconut oil is 48,000LL.

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Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt or a Cryopak Ice Pack
After putting that much stress on your muscles, you need to help your body recover. Epsom salts in a warm bath will do wonders for aches & pains. Stock of this therapeutic soak flies off the shelves so grab it while you can. A 6lb bag is for 24,000 LL.

Icing your knees and joints for 15min intervals is helpful as well. The Cryopak is usually for coolers but at 3500LL, this reusable plastic pack can be better than the lumpy bag of peas in your freezer.

Make sure to test the chafing balm and chews on a practice run before the 13th so you know it’s a good choice for future runs. Marathon Day is not the day to test the new, only tried and true.

Good luck fellow runners!

BambiRunsBey42K: Two Weeks to 21

This is the 8th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Two weeks away from the big day and I feel like such a fraud. Even though I’ve gone down to the half and my training intensity has gone down due to a mix of tapering and late nights at the office, it’s been a long road to November 13th and, at 13 days away, I’m feeling spent.

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PC: Marc Tanas

When with the group, we feed off of each other’s energy. But once you go home and you’re solo again, it wanes. Because of this, I began my Google expedition to find fuel. Fuel to keep my head in the game, fuel to save on my mental hard drive for those negative thoughts post 16K, and fuel to make my legs endure another 2 weeks of training.

On the Mental Hard Drive
It began with Ed Whitlock, an 85-year old who ran his latest marathon in under 4 hours. Runner’s World says, “he just runs slowly, for three to four hours a day, around a cemetery a little more than 100 meters from his front door.” That could not be more fitting. He’s giving death a giant middle finger. I’m 28. No excuses.

Another file saved: Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the NYC Marathon I’ve mentioned before, once said, “Hurry slowly. Move ahead, but be patient.” It will take time to get better and the endurance you build is not only the physical kind. You need to endure the process.

And then there’s this:


I’ve begun to fall off the wagon when we’re so close. Like the tortoise though, you can’t lose focus. Look for motivation elsewhere, find a boomtastic powersong, plan your post-finish line celebratory meal. Mine is fatteh from Le Professeur in Mar Elias.

Sundays Have Changed
Sundays in Lebanon are commonly associated with grandparents, meat on grills, and/or arak in the mountains. I can’t remember the last Sunday I’ve had that equaled that. Sundays during training seasons mean waking up before 4am, having your eyes water excessively while running at 7am (because they’re like why the f*ck are we doing this now?), being worn out before 11am, and staying hungry until 10pm when you pass out.

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PC: Marc Tanas

I missed yesterday’s morning run simply because I fell back asleep on the couch at 6am. This is just another lesson that training teaches you: set multiple alarms, drink the coffee earlier, and do not sit down on anything squishy for longer than 15 minutes. That last one may be misinterpreted. I meant the sofa, freaks.

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Sunday Mood.

Just for Kicks

A doctor told one of my teammates that the body isn’t built for the marathon, effectively saying, “you’re not supposed to be doing this.” And yet, here we are. I confess that I do not like running. It may seem blasphemous to say that as a NRC runner but, as a sport, it is grueling. It beats you up and knocks you down. However, every time you fight back, you’re taking control and proving that you call the shots. You’re telling your brain that you’re not going to fail, that you know your pain, that you do belong here even when your joints are shrieking. 

Accepting Your Strength
The 21 is still a formidable distance but, considering where I am physically, it is a enough. As a friend of mine said, “mish hayen bas mish mot” (it’s not easy but it’s not death). I don’t mean to make my future-marathoners feel discouraged but I’m recognizing my body’s capability right now. But that’s me. If you’ve seen my fellow beasts train, you’d know that they’ll be eating the 42 for breakfast in two Sundays. And I’ll be having fatteh.

BambiRunsBey42K: One Month Left


This is the 7th installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

The temperature has begun to drop as we make our way through October. One second we’re three months away from Marathon Day and the next, it’s Thanksgiving and all we’re worried about is how to expertly wear elastic waistbanded pants to hide the holiday weight gain.

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Breaks in Training
With each injury, flight, or skipped run, a runner can feel themselves take steps backward. Some would see these interruptions as needed breaks but, in the training world, they are breaks in momentum. In a matter of a few weeks, my athlete habits had begun to evaporate. I was forgetting to drink all my liters of water, slacking off on meal prep, and missing cross-training days at the gym.

After talking with my NRCers, it is a common peeve that we all have. As soon as we start to improve, something gets in the way and once you’re back, you feel like you’re starting from the bottom again…

But now we here: 4 weeks (3 Sundays) away.

I have to admit, I can’t wait to get my life back but I don’t want all this investment to start to go downhill when we’re so close to the peak. On Tuesday’s 8K, Coach Mark said, “Open your stride, stop being afraid of your injury,” and in trusting him, I was able to get back to and maintain my (slow) average pace. The trick now is to keep doing that.

Sunday Tapering 
Prior to Marathon Day, runners need to start cutting back on the kilos when running weekly long distance runs so their bodies can stay ready but avoid fatigue. Yesterday was my first Sunday back with the group post-NYC and I finished 16K but not with a desired pace. I’ve got less than 30 days to get it down just enough to make it across the finish line in under 3 hours comfortably. I don’t have a goal time in mind, I just want to get it done so I can have a benchmark for the future.

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Trying out NTC
I had to skip a Friday run to go to an extra Spanish class and I also won’t be attending Monday runs for a while for the same reason. I DID go to a NTC session though. Read more about that here.


Just for Kicks
During +5K runs, you have a lot of time to think. My mind wanders to blogpost content, to-do lists, and the occasional why am I doing this again?! During one evening run, I realized runners have 3 important PBs when it comes to training season: Personal Best, Peanut Butter, and Practice Buddy.

Personal best refers to when you reach a new record pace, distance, or time. The more often you run, the less often this happens. You’re not going to beat your PB on every run but it’s the only parameter you should use when evaluating your progress. Peanut butter is the snack of choice when needing a quick dose of food that’ll keep you functioning during a long afternoon. Some runners have a spoonful before a long run. My NRC crew would qualify as my practice buddies: the people who will train along side you so you’re not climbing a mountain alone. Can’t wait to see them all charge down the red carpet soon!

 

NTC: The Other Free Nike Club

After a year of El-Tanein Diet, 10 months of running with Nike+ Run Club (NRC), and a couple weeks of failing to cross-train during marathon training season, I finally made it to my first session of Nike+ Training Club (NTC). I recently signed up for an intro Spanish class at Cervantes that coincides with both NTC sessions but, thanks to Ashura/Spanish Independence Day, I was able to join the girls this past Wednesday night. I say “girls” because the NTC sessions are exclusively dedicated to women only in effort to encourage ladies to get their gains on. Relax boys, classes will become dual gender in 2017.

The sessions, which are built around the NTC app, are intensive 1-hour cocktails of easy-to-follow workouts using body weight or basic gym equipment. Diala El Khazen, the trainer and chef who throws together a new menu for every session you attend, is an encouraging coach who uses the you-can-do-it approach rather than the aggressive tactic that other coaches go for. Much like Mark Jibran, her NRC counterpart, Diala also pushes you to complete the workout without making you want to push her off the roof of the gym where the session takes place. That’s not to say that the workout is easy; however, the session is so diversified in activity with workouts taken straight from the NTC app that before you know it, you’re on your back doing cool-down stretches on the artificial grass.

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Strength training on non-running day: check.

It’s short and sweet in comparison to the tough runs we’ve been doing pre-marathon but they’re a necessary evil as a supplement to whatever else you’re doing at the gym or on the track. The only downside was knowing I wouldn’t be able to attend anymore because of Español. Lo siento, Nike.

BUT I could use the NTC app on my own, right? First, suggested workouts are based on your average weekly workout frequency. With a wifi connection, the app and the workouts are free to download and you can select ones with or without equipment in case you don’t have gym access. If going to the gym isn’t an option, I recommend using a mat or even doing the workouts at Horsh Beirut so you have a soft surface and space.

I gave it a shot today at home. I decided to go for a workout plan that will give me a structured schedule aimed at getting lean and building muscle in a 6-week period. The app sends you notifications the night before, walks you through the workout, and will adapt the plan according to your effort level/schedule/goals. Every following workout will be according to how you performed in the previous one. I’m hoping this 15-workout LEAN FIT plan will help rid as much excess fat as possible before Marathon Day. The lighter and stronger I am, the easier the 21K will be. All I have to do now is stay away from the tortilla chips.


The NTC app aims to be your personal trainer without the ~$350/month biceps packaged in a XS Lycra t-shirt. Does it work? Too early to tell but what I do know is I had some direction this morning and that’s already an improvement over my usual method: pick 5 machines that work the upper body and do 4 reps of 12. Not exactly well-studied. It’s true that you may need a human trainer to check your form and yell at you when you’re slacking off but that’s what the free NTC sessions can do: be your guide so you can continue on your own when you can’t make it to UEnergy.

Both NRC and NTC sessions grant attendees 20 points in your loyalty account.
1000 points translates to $100 store credit.

NTC
Mondays at 7:27pm at UEnergy Bliss Street
Wednesdays at 7:58pm at UEnergy Downtown
Book ahead, spots are limited. Free of charge.

NRC
Mon/Tues/Thurs at 6:34pm at Nike Beirut Souks

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BambiRunsBey42K: Hitting the Half

This is the 3rd installment from the BambiRunsBey42K biweekly series covering the marathon training journey with NRC Beirut.

Let’s start this one off with the Olympic Creed by Pierre de Coubertin: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”

This creed can be applied to our rigorous training since, just this Thursday, the coach said, “for those of you training for the 42, we’re just getting started.” The struggle is making it to and participating in the Beirut Marathon, not crossing the actual finish line. I missed two training sessions because my thigh muscles have been a little stressed and I’m hoping this will subside so I don’t need to take a full-on break now that I’m used to this momentum. But guys, I RAN MORE THAN A HALF-MARATHON YESTERDAY.

Even if Michael Phelps has 23 Olympic medals, the number 23 will forever be Michael Jordan’s. As of week 6, NRC owned 23 for a day, meaning we’ve overcome the half-marathon distance. I only made it to 22 before Coach Mark told me to turn back because I was going to drop but the Bulls legend would be impressed for sure. Then again, he’s a six-time NBA champ so he might just be like, “you alright.” Whatevs Mike.

Arab Ladies Running the Olympics
The first Lebanese woman to participate in the marathon, Chirine Njeim ranked 109 out of 133 with a time of 2:51:08 – less time than it takes me to do a half – AND she became the 28th woman to rep a country in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. 

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Photo Cred: Rick Egan, Salt Lake Tribune

Sarah Attar was the first woman to complete the Olympic marathon for Saudi Arabia in 3:16:11. There were 3 other female athletes from Saudi competing this year.

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Photo Cred: Lucas Oleniuk, Getty Images

According to Quartz, “All four women representing the kingdom this year could reach peak athletic level because they were either born in the States or have spent a large portion of their training time abroad. They had to leave the kingdom, where it is difficult for women to access athletic facilities, to earn their wildcard entries.” There is a group called Jeddah Running Collective (JRC) trying to change what it means to be active (and female) in Saudi. Read more about them here.

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Two Weeks of Hills
We did a lot of hills these last 14 days. Two days of climbing hills in Gemmayzeh with a bunch of hills by the ski lifts, let’s just say ’twas the season for inclines. All part of conditioning your body.

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Besides hills, we’ve been sticking to tempo & long distance runs in order to improve our stamina and endurance respectively. The wildcard run was our non-NRC fun beer run on cross training day. Our coach organized an easy route through BCD only to end up tracing the map of Lebanon, followed by beer and chips at Coop d’etat rooftop. It was a reminder that we’re doing this for fun, not for a podium.

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20K in Kfardebian vs 23K in Beirut
On a bright and shiny Sunday, we went up to do a 20K at high altitude in the mountains of Kfardebian. The 2000m elevation, dry heat, and uphill track were a different combination than what we’ve come accustomed to during our humid Beirut trainings. Add on the complete lack of toilets or tree foliage to hide behind and, as a female, you’re a little scared to down 6 bottles of water. Please note that I have never experienced penis envy before but men, in such moments, you are lucky that the world can be your bathroom.

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Oddly enough, Kfardebian was easier than the Beirut run for me. Yesterday’s was tough mainly due to lack of hydration and not having the right fuel in my pockets (I brought chocolate instead of nuts, bad move). I did what I could and next week, I’ll get it.

Bambi Stats & Mini Victories
Making it to the 23-1K is still huge for me. Let me flat-out admit that in the midst of every run, I’m not floating on clouds with joy but it is the feeling of accomplishment after completing every session that makes me come back. There were bad-run days in the last two weeks but I’ve never pushed myself beyond the limits that I’ve been overcoming during this process and it’s that question of “how much farther can you go?” that makes me want to keep trying.


Just for Kicks
In all the Rio madness, there was an article on Adweek that talked about how Nike changed Olympics marketing via their ambush marketing at the ’96 Atlanta Olympics. Their effective way of plastering Nike everywhere without being an official sponsor was genius and has changed the way brands can talk about the Olympics ever since. Read all about it here.

Running Will Run Your Life
A lot of fellow runners have been telling me that it’s normal for this commitment to take over your life since so much of what you do (eating, going out for drinks, sleeping patterns) affects your performance. As of now, even Amazon knows I’m a runner after ordering ShoeDog, a Garmin Forerunner, Shalane Flanagan‘s Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook, and a bunch of protein bars. I’m testing products for import but also stocking my pantry with the essentials. Looks like I’m just a sucker for pain. Kidding, but I’ve never felt more badass with this squad behind (or in front of, in my case) me.

 

El-Tanein Diet Week #49 and #50

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It’s been a month since I flew to Rome. Where the heck are the weeks going? As of the beginning of July, El-Tanein Diet would’ve been running for exactly ONE YEAR. A recap is in order and, quite possibly, a conclusion. On to slimmer and brighter things?

Workout Tally

– 3 NRC runs (not all tracked because some were more training based than distance)
– 4 elliptical (varying between 30min-1hour) sessions

Outdoor Activity

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It has been disgusting out there. Humidity is making NRC runs really tough and I’m not fasting like some of my fellow NRCers. Not only do you sweat through everything but, even when standing still, you’re dripping from plain condensation. Sexy.

Gotta say that I miss gym classes but I haven’t been able to fit them in since I’m still catching up on work post-Rome and trying to rebuild my routine.

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Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)

A late night at Abu Hassan in Bourj Hammoud followed by too many Iftars these past two weeks including one with my NRC peeps at Beit Ward. I love a good gathering but my conscience keeps yelling at me for having an extra cheese roll with basterma. Mezzas, be it Lebanese or Armenian, are very hard to monitor. Batchig wins and I have no pictures because I was too busy inhaling mhammara.

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Did I mention Jammal?

Other Highlights

Beirut Marathon Training: Our runs and trainings have been shorter this month in order to make it back by Iftar but starting July 11th, the NRC crew will be kicking it into overdrive to start training for the Beirut Marathon in November with runs scheduled 5x/week.

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

Keke Palmer is the latest why-do-I-like-this-pop-nonsense track to hit my playlist. The video makes no sense and I can’t take her seriously after Scream Queens but at least it’s not a panda song by a dude called Desiigner. Just no. Track #2 is from the local boys of WKBL. Their latest album (Distant Rendezvous) has some good stuff, loving Mastercraft’s 80s vibes especially.

Cheese of the Week(s)

My new low-fat love is Candia light fromage blanc. It’s not brie or burrata but it’s still cheese. Hush, let me convince myself that it’s okay.