9 Mar


Grant unto thy servants
a place of solace,
of peaceful rest,
of glorious light.

It’s a Dog-Eat-Dog Cake

6 Mar

There is a enough room in my feline-philic heart for exactly 5 dogs: Bailey, Blue, Ryley, Murphy, and Cosmo. And though I love each of them with the exact same amount of reluctance (seriously — what is with the licking?), Cosmo is the only one small enough to let me treat him kind of like a cat, and so he gets some shine today.


Don’t be fooled by Cosmo’s less-than-Mastiff stature: he’s smart, sassy, and commands an impressive following on Instagram.  ChampagneOnlyKef and CafeKef throw him a party every year with the best birthday treat a boy could bark for: cake that is safe for both dogs and people AND is gluten free. If St. Matthew had to rewrite the Beatitudes for today’s world, it would go something like, “Blessed is the smallest dog in Chef Kefi’s favor: for he will get a social-media presence AND a blog post written about his 11th birthday.” With a promise like that one, who really needs to inherit the earth?

Before a lightning bolt strikes me down,  I better tell you about the recipe. This cake is safe for both dogs and humans, is refined-sugar-free AND can easily be made without gluten … just the thing you never knew you needed. CafeKef says the homemade version below (original recipe here) is one dogs LOVE and that humans “won’t mind” — she also suggests this canine cake mix that comes with its own frosting. Cosmo had no problem cleaning his plate with either version!

Doggie Birthday Cake



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt or cake pan.
  2. Combine the egg, peanut butter, oil, vanilla, and honey, if desired, in a large bowl; blend well. Stir in the carrots and mix thoroughly. Sift together the flour and baking soda and fold into the carrot mixture. Spoon cake batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes; then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9 Books I’ve Read Since the Last Book Report

20 Feb

Two things I do in random and unpredictable spurts: read and blog. So, if you want something that’ll really keep you on your toes, just try and figure out when the hell I’ll blog about the things I’ve read. Here’s a not-all-that-well-thought-out rundown of the last 9 books I’ve read:


Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — I’ve been a fan of Adichie’s writing since college, and really, really looked forward to her first full-length novel in awhile. And, for the most part, this one was worth the wait. Americanah splits its time between America and Nigeria, and it’s not always clear which is more comfortable for the author or her characters. Where Adichie focuses her attention on the peculiarities of experiencing a new nation for the first time as an immigrant from Nigeria, the writing is sharp and the observations are as funny as they are true. But the clarity of wit loses its focus in the middle section of the book, where critical views of liberal whites feel like watered-down tellings of jokes from White Teeth, and in the final section, which takes place in Nigeria and feels a bit like a Nollywood production of The Notebook. All that said–I’d read Adichie’s second-string writing anyday, and think you should read this one, too.

Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue — While we’re talking about West African immigrants, let’s chat about this guy. I am, of course, biased to any book by and about Cameroonians in America, but I can say with certainty that this book is enjoyable even without a serving of fufu on the side. Behold the Dreamers follows a Cameroonian family living in New York City just before the financial meltdown of 2008. There are immigration status struggles, examinations of what it means to live the American Dream, and a variety of representations of the choices one family makes to integrate into American society while maintaining the parts of Cameroon dear to them. Despite those big topics, Behold the Dreamers manages to stay just this side of “really heavy” and is about the closest I’ll ever get to a beach read.

My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout — For the love of all things holy, just go buy this book and read it. I resisted reading it based on the been-there-done-that gist alone: a woman is hospitalized in Manhattan, her mother comes to visit from a small town, family secrets come tumbling out. What I found, though, was a sparse novel that could carry the full weight of family dysfunction, unfulfilled dreams, and the ever-shifting line between love and resentment between two people who know everything about one another’s past and nothing about each other’s present. I LOVED THIS BOOK and I hope you do, too.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy — This is a book to be experienced, not described. It’s ostensibly about a young woman whose mother’s chronic pain have brought them to a revered homeopathic clinic in the south of Spain, but it becomes more surreal as it picks up steam. Levy manages to transfer the task of sorting through symptoms from character to reader — are the mother’s reported ailments real? are the slights perceived by her daughter actual insults? did anything I just read in the last chapter really happen? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward — oh, my my my my my. This book was everything. The story largely centers around JoJo, a 13 year-old boy who shoulders the burden of an inadequate mother, as he navigates the complicated terrain of a family both broken and reborn by death and loss. I cried more than once while reading this novel– the juxtaposition of the tender relationship between JoJo and his grandfather and the beyond-his-years observations JoJo makes about his own parents pack a one-two punch that had me all in every ONE of my damn feelings. But don’t take my word for it– Obama loved it, too!

obama book

The Mothers, Brit Bennett — Hm. There are a LOT of things I liked about this book, and the rest of the world loved everything about every line of every page of this book. I am glad I read this story of young love, familial duty, and the struggle to heal scars left by one with the other, but the pacing felt uneven and there are moments where the narrative ties up in ways that feel more cloying than inevitable. I’d recommend it, but if I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have racked up $20 of late fees for it.

Nutshell, Ian McEwan — I had been meaning to read something by Ian McEwan since 2006, and it was the one-line description of this book that finally sealed the deal: a soon-to-be-born fetus overhears his mother and her lover plotting to kill his father. It sounds like a gimmick, but the the pre-natal narrator doesn’t get in the way of stellar storytelling and attention to character detail… though I did have a hard time not reading the whole thing in the voice of Stewie from Family Guy.

The Nix, Nathan Hill — this is an epic.friggin.tome that somehow manages to address the lifelong impact of an absent mother, the challenges of healing dysfunctional family dynamics, annoying millennials, and America’s increasing insistence on self-indulgence. There’s a lot of stories within this book, and I liked some a lot more than others — but even the ones I didn’t like as much didn’t stop be from lugging this 600-page clunker around. And that’s a real endorsement, if you ask me.

Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson — a slim little novel about growing up, friendship, and the things that go unsaid. Great book that unfolds secret by secret, this would be perfect to read in tandem with a teenager (or a whole class of them).


Very Popular Peanut & Sweet Potato Stew

30 Jan

One day, I will write up a run down of how wonderful Cameroonian food is. Today, I will share a soup that is truly delicious and has proven VERY popular, but it is “West African” in the way that Chobani is “Greek” yogurt. Which is to say that I’m not bringing this home to MrKef’s mom as evidence of my mastery of Cameroonian Cuisine.

Anyway, I made this for a fun soup night during one of those Arctic Blasts a few weeks ago with my dearest friends. FlailKef and GingerKef suggested this recipe, and I doctored it up a little bit to suit my own preferences because, well, that’s what I do. It goes without saying that a soup is WAY above my paygrade, photography wise– so if you’d like a picture of the stew itself, you should head over to the original recipe. But, if you want pictures of the soup eaters and I on a night I was wearing a dashiki-print dress, then you’ve come to the right place!


The recipe below was PLENTY for 5 hungry people + leftovers– I had doubled the original, so I can say that this one scales up or down easily.

Peanut & Sweet Potato Stew


  • 10-12 c low sodium vegetable broth (less if you want thicker, more if you want thinner)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 5 TBS peeled and minced fresh ginger (I am currently really into frozen ginger and used ~5-6 frozen pods)
  •  5 cloves garlic, minced (I used frozen again and used about the same number as I did the ginger).
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 bunch collard greens or kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips (I used a 16 oz pre-shredded bag)
  • 1.5 c unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth, almond butter if you prefer to spend $8.99/jar vs $2.49)
  • 8 oz tomato paste
  • 1/4 c sriracha sauce (or youre preferred red hot sauce, and you could use wayyyy more if you feel so inclined)
  • 2-4 sweet potatoes, cubed (quantity dependent on how hearty you’d like the stew)


  1. In a medium  pot, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook until soft and fragrant, ~ 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add salt, then broth. Bring to a boil and then cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
  2. In a medium heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste. Transfer 1.5-2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour the peanut mixture into the soup, mix well. Stir in the greens, sweet potatoes, and hot sauce sauce.
  3. Simmer for 15-25 more minutes on medium-low heat (or until sweet potatoes are at your preferred texture), stirring often. If you’re working with a West African crowd do not even THINK of serving it without rice (or better yet, fufu)– but I ate it happily on its own.

Back with Lemon & Rosemary Cookies

24 Jan

Don’t call it a comeback — I been here for years.

Blogging about baking took a backseat to school, then running, then living my life, but I’m settling into 2018 and I come bearing a sophisticated lemon cookie.

I made these for my holiday cookie exchange and everyone’s mama said they’ll knock you out. Refreshing lemon with a hint of rosemary? Yes, please. Oh, and they only require ~30 min and ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen?

Don’t you never, ever
Pull my lever*.

This recipe comes from a Taste of Home (which I always thought was just for check-out aisle decoration … you live, you learn)– picture and recipe are reproduced verbatim.

Lemon & Rosemary Butter Cookies Recipe

Lemon and Rosemary Butter Cookies


  • 1.25 cups sugar, divided into 1 c and 1/4 c
  • 4 tsp grated lemon peel, divided into 3 tsp and 1 tsp
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 2.5 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon peel. In a large bowl, beat butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, rosemary and remaining lemon peel. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. 
  2. Roll dough into balls that are ~1.25 inches; roll in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Flatten to 1/4-in. thickness with bottom of a glass (ed note: I did not do this). Sprinkle tops of cookies with remaining sugar mixture. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

    *If you missed the references, do yourself a favor and go here.


Athens Marathon Recap

21 Nov

Last week, I joined the ranks of people crazy enough to run 26.2 miles just for the fun of it. The day didn’t turn out quite how I hoped it would, but the thing about the marathon is that you spend a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for a single day wherein dozens of crucial details will be out of your control … Which is to say that the day probably won’t go how you hope it will. We don’t get to choose the frame our hard work gets hung in.

The trip to Greece was fairly uneventful. MrKef was thrilled to have 6 hours of in-flight entertainment, while I was content to watch Girls’ Trip on rapid repeat for the duration of the flight.

My aunt and uncle picked us up from the airport and a three-day Greek feast commenced. My aunt was so thoughtful and prepared all kinds of perfect-for-running meals– pasta, salmon, salads, and I considered more than once declaring a new marathon event: eating 26.2 pieces of my aunt’s cheese pie. But that wouldn’t be hard so everyone would do it.

And then it was race day! JetSet jaunted in from Dublin (as one does), and we headed to the expo. It was superwell organized and, despite being forced to walk through all the vendors, we managed to have some fun.

Afterward, we met my cousins at the spectacular new Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, which is a spectacular building and worth a visit.

One tram ride later that nearly ended my running days for good (because when the tram comes but you still have no tickets, you stick your leg in the door until your brother gets the ticket machine to work), and MrKef and I were settled into the hotel. For the first time in my life, I actually chose to eat in the hotel restaurant because they were serving salmon and that’s what I like to eat the night before a run. We enjoyed a surprise date night– we were the only ones in the restaurant for most of the meal and got to dine by candlelight with the whole place to ourselves.

I got my things ready for the morning and settled in for a good night’s sleep. That lasted for about 2 hours, after which I woke up and was totally unable to fall back to sleep. MrKef came back from some revelry with JetSet around 3, and there I was… wide awake. I must have fallen asleep again sometime around 430, and when my alarm went off at 515, transferring to the eating race crossed my mind once again.

Despite my lack of sleep, I was feeling great. I ate an RX bar,  blasted my feel-good playlist, and headed out to the bus. My bus experience was seamless– I got on about 640 and was at the race start by 730 or so. I was hoping to sleep but, alas, it eluded me. There’s a short walk to the stadium, and there are tons of portapotties (but inside the dugout there are flush toilets whose lines are shorter and faster–a win!).

Here’s where the fun started. We were supposed to use the track at the Marathon Stadium to warm up, but the portapotties were lined up in the outer lane of the track, so of course the lines formed around the track. Undeterred, a group of guys in Spartan costumes started doing laps in the center, so there was a hilarious layered effect of portapottie lines, then people stretching and lounging about, and then the inner circle of Spartans and their growing ring of joggers.

And that’s also when the heat started– temps called for 65F with 98% humidity at the start. I knew the day would get hotter as the race went on, but also knew that the cloud cover would be my best friend. Well, my BFF was nowhere to be seen at the start, and I was already sweating before the race for underway. I was not thrilled by this turn of events, but was still feeling jazzed to get this show on the road. The race started promptly at 9, and I was off by 920 or so.

Things started off well enough.

My race plan was to keep things around 9:30 effort, knowing that the opening and closing 6ish miles were downhill, so I’d be able to bank some time in the beginning  before heading into 12 middle miles of hills. I kept to that perfectly for the first ~4 miles and felt good, but realized I was getting HOT quickly. I slowed down a bit for the next two miles and poured water over myself every water stop, but I just could.not.cool.down. The sun was definitely strong and I could tell other people were struggling as well, but it became clear pretty quickly that overheating was how the lack of sleep was going to manifest itself. I started to feel exhausted around mile 5- not muscle or mind fatigue, just get-me-to-my-damn bed tired. With 21 miles to go, this was not a good sign.

Luckily for me, we entered the first big town since Marathon right around then. Whole families were out to cheer, and people lined the street blasting traditional music, performing Greek dances, and cheering us on. I got a second wind, high fived everyone I could, and took in every “Bravo, kouritsimou!” that came my way.

At that point, I thought my tired troubles were over. The promised clouds showed up and I felt slightly less hot. I got a huge boost when I passed the first of my family members who came out to cheer — it was so special to have them out there. I was starting to feel pretty good. Maybe I had run through the fatigue.


Or maybe not. Just when I was starting to cool off and feel better, the hills started. And continued. And kept on going. These hills went straight up Elizabeth Warren on me and frigging persisted. 

I got to a water station somewhere around mile 12 or 13 and suddenly knew what it meant to “hit the wall.” I struggled to open my Nuun packet to refill my water bottle and was starting to feel dejected. I slowed down to a walk and just tried to focus on getting the damn Nuun open. And then all the Greek Gods smiled upon me from Mt Olympus– I heard my aunt calling my name and my uncle reached out, ripped open the Nuun and poured it in my water bottle before sending me back off on my way.

I passed JetSet somewhere between miles 16 and 17  — a good brother will fly to across the world for ~30 hours to watch you run, but the BEST brother will BRING YOU A SPINACH PIE AND OFFER IT TO YOU DURING SAID RUN.


I was all smiles there, but I knew I was sunk — I was feeling so crappy by that point I even refused the spanakopita.  I can’t even revisit such a low point in life. So let’s keep going.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find any energy to pull it together. There were maybe 30 seconds after seeing my aunt and uncle where I felt like I could finish the race running. I ended up run-walking the rest of the way, sometimes using long time intervals to break up the running with walking, and other times just trying to run until the next telephone pole. I was on track to finish under 4:10 until about mile 15, and then it was a never-ending descent into “I have no idea WHEN the hell I am going to finish.” The distance  between kilometer markers stretched on so long that I convinced myself that someone had messed up and used kilometer signs to mark off miles. Not good stuff.

The crowds only got bigger as we entered the city. The downhill felt good for about 3 kilometers, and then the wall I had been pushing since the halfway point became The Great Wall. After what seemed like 10,495 hours, I finally made the left turn and could see the stadium in the distance. The crowds were huge at this point, and all the excitement and adrenaline I had been hoping for finally kicked in and I made a mad dash for the finish. Running through the original Olympic Stadium was incredible.


4:42:36. Certainly not the time I had trained or hoped for. I eeked into the top 40ish% for total participants, gender and age group– so that’s something. About 4,000 people who started the race didn’t finish. Everyone was hot, most people were doing at least some walking, and the last 6 miles were filled with  many audible promises of “never again.”

I’m disappointed about my time, but I really meant it when I said the other day that the amazing 22-mile run was validation enough for a training cycle of hard work. I wish things had gone differently performance-wise, but I’m not too hung up on that.

The biggest disappointment to me is that I wasn’t in a good enough place to really enjoy myself. I wanted to finish the race exhausted but exhilarated, feeling proud of myself and filled with all the warm and fuzzies of having done some certifiably awesome. There were definitely times when I could appreciate how special this race is: running through an entire town of people dancing the Syrtaki, kids giving out Laurel leaves and olive branches throughout the course, couples in their 70s and 80s cheering on runners, seeing my family throughout the race and at the finish line, a cadence-quickening percussion troupe in a tunnel near mile 24, and — of course — that historic finish in an Olympic Stadium. But I was just too tired for too much of the race to really savor any of those moments.

There are definitely things that I’m proud of. Despite feeling like crap physically and knowing that I just didn’t have what I needed to run the race I wanted, I was never actually in a bad mental place. I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to have a great day and can say for sure that I made the very best of it that I could. I finished the damn thing, despite being out in the hot sun 30 minutes longer than I thought I was going to be, and despite the fact that I wanted to quit pretty much every step of the way after mile 12. I’m hoping that, with a little time, the disappointments fade and make some space for the special memories of the day.

When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! –Nikos Kazantzakis

I am so, so grateful to my family, who cooked runner-friendly meals, watched thousands of people run by just for a sweaty mid-race hug from me, flew across the world and then made the ultimate sacrifice and ate my spinach pie for me, waited for hours at the finish line (and then almost an hour more when I messed up the post-race meet-up point…), and congratulated me as if I had won the whole damn thing. Plus, they made sure I had the headgear of a champion, and I am now the proud owner of TWO στεφάνια, the famous leaf wreaths:





That’s right, people– TWO kinds of wreaths, and TWO kinds of cheese pie. Our Greekness is your weakness.

And, of course, I can never say enough about my incredible husband — who cheered me on throughout the training, delayed his summer vacation until November, and only complained about the months of early-to-bed Friday and/or Saturday nights when it meant he had to go alone to see whatever new superhero movie was out.

I don’t know if I’ll run another marathon. Of course, a part of me would love to go back to Athens next November and show that course what this Spartan woman is made of … but another part of me would be happy to never, ever, ever run farther than 22 miles ever again. I’ve known for some time now that I strongly prefer training to racing — so I might train for a spring marathon without signing up for one to keep mileage high and pressure low. But who knows– I may get the itch to try my legs at this beast of a race again. Only time will tell.


Athens Marathon Training: I Can Do Hard Things

9 Nov

Greetings from somewhere over Iceland! I’m attempting to tap this out on a tablet … So let’s just overlook any typos and hope I manage to avoid causing an international incident because I can’t find the caps lock, shall we?

Speaking of caps: IT’S RACE WEEK! I had a couple short runs this week and now all I have to do is keep running for 4ish hours come Sunday to cover a distance I’ve never done before on a course I’ve never run before. No big deal.

With just a few days to go, I’m alternating between heart- swelling excitement and pants-wetting fear. It’s basically starting the ascent of that first rollercoaster hill– as I inch closer, a sense of “who the hell thought this was a good idea?” grows, but eventually I know I’ll get over that crest and the dread will give way to sheer exhilaration… Or I really will pee my pants. But I’m cautiously optimistic because, as my Oiselle teammates like to say, I am an athlete who can do hard things.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am already incredibly proud of myself and the work I’ve put in to get to this point. A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I could run 22 miles, but it turns out that I can and that those 22 miles would become the best long run I’ve ever had. So I’ve already won, if you ask me.

… But because I am who I am, I still have some other goals, too.
A GOAL: have the time of my life, soak up whatever good stuff the day holds, finish the race feeling strong and proud of myself. Also, to scream “eff yes!” at the finish in tribute to Shalane’s epic bad-assery at the NYC marathon finish last weekend.

B GOAL: finish under 4:20. In life, I am quite sure I have a sub-4 marathon in me, but I have no plans to make myself nuts chasing it on a punishingly-hilly course with rain in the forecast and end-of-race temps projected to get close to 70.

C GOAL: finish under 4:30. Or really, just finish. B

Lots of people have asked if they can track me– you should all, of course, feel free to download the app and  wake up at 1 am EST to watch my little geotag bounce along some 7,000 miles away… Or just check Instagram Sunday morning ( EST) for an update.

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