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Summer Running Essentials

16 Jun

The extended spring we were enjoying here in DC was nice while it lasted, but the summer stank has settled in– and if things keep heading in our current direction, I’d bet 2017 will go down as the Swampiest Summer Ever. But I’ll leave that right there.

Anyway– here are some things I think are essential to summer running:

1. Shorts You Can Actually Run In

A few years ago, I chronicled my quest to move from capris to shorts here and here. I stand by the claim I made back then that the Lole Lively Shorts are the best thing to ever happen to my thighs, but my endorsement of them must have broken the internet because they are now sold out everywhere. I am happy to report, however, that the Oiselle Long Roga shorts I wasn’t 100% sold on have been through some updates since my original test run, and I am now a big-time fan of them. I suggest sizing up because the built-in brief seems to be about 1/2 size smaller than the shorts themselves– but, if callipygian isn’t the word the Ancient Greeks would have used to describe you, you might not worry about that.

roga

2. A Hand-held Water Bottle

When it’s damn near 80 degrees and 100% humidity by 6am, there’s no two ways about it: you need to BYOW. I love this little 10-oz guy, but admit that it’s only enough if I know I’ll have access to a fillup while I’m out for a run. I’m considering upgrading to a 16 oz and would love to hear your recommendations if you’ve got ’em.

water

3. Something–anything–to Keep the Sweat Out of Your Eyes

What is worse than being hot, tired, and soaked in your own sweat? Being hot, tired, and having that aforementioned sweat running into your eye and threatening to knock your contacts out of place, too. I love this Roga Visor from Oiselle (surprise). It’s made of the same super-lightweight and sweat-wicking fabric as the Roga shorts are, so it keeps the sweat out of your eyes without adding extra heat. The brim is a bit shorter than most other visors I’ve tried so I don’t find that it does a ton for face shade, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for eyes that don’t sting.

visor

If visors aren’t quite your thing, I also sometimes use those 80s terrycloth sweatbands as a headband and have found that easier than trying to keep one of those super-cute-but-not-all-that-functional sparkly ones in place. Plus, you can roll out with your squad looking like this… because nothing says “I’m ready to run” like pantyhose:

80s

4. Sunglasses

As a health professional, I should recommend sunscreen… but the best this sun-worshiping (and foolhardy) Greek woman can do is to recommend good polarized, non-slip, non-fog sunglasses. I am pretty into these fun and durable KnockArounds, most of which cost around $10-25. (Click here and enter your email address for $10 off any purchase of $20+.)sung

5. A Plan

Listen, y’all– I have learned this the hard way. July is not the time to figure your route out while you’re running it. Are there water fountains available on the route? Is there shade? Are the hilliest parts of the route also the parts in full sun? If you keel over from heat exhaustion, will anyone be around to find you? Is your main obstacle going to be bikers (who provide just enough breeze as they blow by to count as a blessing) or a group of middle schoolers from Iowa (who totally screw your Garmin stats by making you slow down at every crosswalk because their chaperone refuses to let anyone by)? These are things I want to know BEFORE I head out of the house.

Sweat Box DC Review

4 May

sweat

If you’re into fitness/working out in DC and the internet algorithms have been doing their job, you have probably been inundated with Sweat Box ads across every social media platform on God’s green earth. Never one to miss a new workout, I signed up for the first class on the opening day  to see what this was all about.

Like a lot of boutique fitness studios, most of Sweat Box’s hype is self-driven. The instructors are called “Bosses,” there are all kinds of complicated lighting schemes in the studio, and the front desk staff wishes you a haughty “good luck” as you enter the studio. None of this is too surprising, though–  the studio is an offshoot of Vida, the fashion show masquerading as a gym with memberships ranging from $94-$129 per month. Whatever.

Anyway, the check in area doubles as the locker room (protip: they’re the ones you can set your own code to, so need to bring your own lock), but do know that there’s no actual changing area except the single spa bathroom, so come ready or early. It also gets a bit crowded between classes when one group is coming and the other is going–so if, like me, you are not into any scene where Lulu-clad fitness freaks stand around sizing one another up, just come dressed in your clothes with 3 minutes to spare and head right into the studio. Yes, you know what I’m talking about:

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ANYWAY. The workout itself is similar to interval training and is set up similar to an Elevate or Barry’s, but, instead of separating the class into separate cardio and strength groups, you have your own little station that has a TRX setup, a set of dumb bells, and an awesome stationary bike. The class consists of three strength circuits alternated with ~5 minutes of work/recovery on the bike. The bike was really the interesting/novel part of the the whole thing– you answer a series of questions on the bike computer to get your Functional Threshold Wattage (FTW), and then the computer lights up in either blue, green, yellow, or red to indicate the “zone” you’re working in relative to that FTW.  Again- I am not that into gimmicks/gadgets, but I actually found this to be super helpful in maximizing those short spins and kept me working hard better than the usual 1-10 scale of spin classes. It was also REALLY accurate… when my instructor–err, Boss– said that, “By the end of class, Red should feel like you’ll die if you do more than 30 seconds,” he was spot on.

You can also use a heart rate monitor (has to be a MyZone), though my instructor didn’t focus very much on that. There are two screens in the studio so you can keep track of it yourself, though if you are really into HR training you should pick a spot right in front of the screens because otherwise they are hard to see.

The class was tough, and the instructor Isaiah kept us on cue and upbeat. The moves were easy enough to follow and I loved that it was a focused class (shoulders/chest) rather than total body. I was tired at the end of class but not totally pooped. I found the workout tougher on strength than cardio, and would probably pair this with a run in the future.

Pros:

  • they bring you a cool towel at the end, and this is heaven
  • great strength training with great attention to working the same muscle(s) in different ways
  • good instructor (mine was Isaiah) who read the room really well and pumped us up when we needed some pep and pushed us further when we needed a kick in the pants
  • nice, spacious setup with everything you need for class in one spot
  • awesome way to mix up your workout routine

Not My Favorite:

  • kind of a scene, though this may dissipate as the novelty wears off
  • tough to see the screens where heart rate and other data is displayed
  • a lot of bells and whistles, which I know jazzes some people up but kind of turns me off… just give me the workout, man!
  • high price point ($29-$39/class, depending on number of classes purchased)– I would pay $30/class for SolidCore because it is the world’s most insane workout… this was not that, and should be priced lower accordingly.
  • no locker rooms/shower– I sort-of snuck upstairs to use the main Vida showers (which are AH-mazing, btw), but I’m not really sure I was supposed to, so plan to shower somewhere else.

Bottom Line: I’d go back if I were really in a rut or if a friend really wanted to try it out, but I don’t see this becoming part of my regular routine.

Flywheel DC Review

15 Apr
Flywheel DC review

                                                             Thanks to Washingtonian for this picture!

It is well-established that I enjoy spinning and will try almost any fitness trend (search my college newspaper’s archives for the time I tried Trapeze School if you really need some proof). So the proliferation of boutique spinning studios around DC has been like catnip for me. Since I’ve already reviewed SoulCycle and Wired Cycling, I will assume we are all savvy in the art of spin studio reviews and will keep it to bullet points.

The Good

  • Flywheel has both spinning and barre class. I only took a spin class, but I heard the barre instructor putting his class to work as I was leaving and am looking forward to trying a class there soon!
  • Get your first class of either discipline for FREE just by making an online account–and rumor has it that you can call the studio to get your first class of the other discipline free, too (though I have not yet tested this and will report back if it is untrue).
  • While we’re talking pricing, Flywheel offers a student discount that makes classes just $15 each, which is pretty much a steal for any kind of boutique fitness.
  • The studio is huge, with a stadium-style spinning setup so you can shine in the front if that’s your jam or, if you’d rather, kick butt from the back corner. The facilities are also pretty awesome- 4 big old showers in the ladies’ locker room with a hefty number of amenities- hair ties, blow dryers, spray deodorant, FULL SIZED towels… if I haven’t hooked you yet, there are also free oranges and bananas. Such a treat.

The Workout

  • Unlike most other spinning classes, which are based on perceived effort (your own scale of 1-10), Flywheel works with “torq.” The instructor will say that torq should be at 25 and RPMs should be around 65 (or whatever). I found these to be mostly appropriate for me, but had to add some resistance on hills. It was both freeing and frustrating to have all these measurements on my bike’s unit whose indication I didn’t really know–on one hand I appreciated having to rely on feel to decide if I was working “hard enough,” but on the other hand, if you’re going to give me torq and power measurements I’d just as soon have watts, MPH, and distance. But I guess that’s a personal thing.
  • I took a class with Rebecca, who had a rocking playlist and was equal parts coach and cheerleader. No distracting choreography (just one or two songs with jumps or tapbacks), and not a lot of the sort of fake self-esteem stuff I find unsettling at SoulCyle.
  • Flywheel is similar to SoulCycle in that it touts itself as a “full body” workout because of some high-rep low-weight upperbody work in the middle of class. I was not particularly impressed by the one song of arms we did, but that may be an instructor preference.

The Verdict

  • I enjoyed my class and got a good workout. I really prefer a 60-minute (or more) spin class, and so the 45 minutes left me wanting a bit more… but that is what it is. Similar to SoulCycle, this is a good place to get an in-and-out workout, but I don’t see it becoming a weekly thing for me.
  • These fancy spinning studios are really worth it for the playlists- Rebecca kept us rocking and rolling and I should really bring my phone to Shazam songs from now on.
  • If you care to measure your performance and/or compete against complete strangers, Flywheel may be your new favorite place–after each class you get an email with your “performance data” that you can compare to yourself and, apparently, the rest of the city.

Elevate Interval Fitness Review

4 Mar

elevateOur tour of DC’s cross training opportunities continues today with a visit to Elevate Interval Fitness. I dropped in for a free introductory class on a cold, snowy Thursday, and here’s the bottom line: the folks at Elevate will warm you up and work you out. Quickly.

Elevate was founded by David Magida, who is a super Spartan racer (aka: a bad mamma jamma). The concept is simple: combine cardio and strength training to create a series of high-impact circuits, measure your effort with heart rate monitors, and watch the sweat pour off. The 55-minute classes are split into cardio and strength portions (though you’re doing both pretty much the whole time), and half the class starts out on a treadmill or rower while the other half works through the strength skill of the week and a circuit on the floor. Screens around the room display your heart rate and calorie burn, and awesome music keeps the time flying by. If you’ve been to a Barry’s, it’s similar in structure but has none of the BS.

I took a class with Eric, who was equal parts motivator and instructor without a bunch of disingenuous perk–in other words: we were there at 730 am to put in some work, and he was ready to get us there. He acclimated first timers to the class structure quickly and got us moving right away. I started with cardio on the rowers, and we did 12-minutes of rounds of 300M row at all-out pace, 12 standing dumbbell rows, and 12 tricep dips, adding 25M of rowing to each round. Then we headed over to the treadmill, where we ran at a sub-5k pace for 80 seconds at increasing inclines of 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 and recovered for 20 seconds. Finally, we did some speed work with the treadmill at 6.0 on dynamic mode (you are powering the belt, not the engine).

Oh, and that was only first half the class.

The second half was strength, where the skill of the week was kettle bells. We did three different circuits:

  • 14 kettlebell swims/sphinx push up/windshield wiper planks
  • Turkish get ups with TRX strap/kettlebell thrusters/speed skater jumps
  • squat jumps, reverse flys, burpees (ascending rep rounds: 4, 8, 12, 16, 12, 8, 4)

If that doesn’t mean a lot to you, my apologies, but know this: it was a tough enough series that the thought of writing more about it exhausts me all over again!

Some other awesome things to consider about Elevate:

    • after the class, you get an email which analyzes your heart rate information– this is an amazing feature that will really rock your socks if you’re someone who loves data
    • it’s in a brand-spanking new space with a big studio and ample locker area, plus 3 big single-person bathroom/showers

pricing

    is legit: free intro class, and packages that come out to $15/class (8 classes/month) or $18/class (15-class pack). The drop-in fee is a hefty $25–a tough pill for this nurse to swallow–but those packages are definitely deals.Generous cancellation policy: just call ahead and they won’t charge you for the class!

Eric and Elevate definitely get two big thumbs up from me, and I’m looking forward to going back again soon.

Wired Cycling- Cycling. Training. Seriously.

11 Feb

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I’ve been on a pretty serious running hiatus lately–just before Christmas I had a little ache in my foot that went from “hmm, maybe this is the beginning of plantar fasciitis” to “IF YOU DO NOT TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF THIS PLANTAR FASCIITIS-RIDDEN FOOT RIGHT NOW IT WILL QUIT YOU FOR GOOD.” I’m back to feeling nearly 100% but, in the meantime, I’ve been logging some serious miles on the spinning bike.

So the other night I headed over to my old neighborhood (which was awesome well before it had an arch) to check out Leticia Long’s Wired Cycling studio. True to form, I got there with about 1 minute to spare so I got changed quickly in the ample, clean bathroom and stowed my stuff in a cubby. I was THRILLED to see these brand-spanking new FreeMotion bikes–I’ll fight someone in order to claim one of the two my gym keeps in its spinning room.

The studio itself is gigantic by spin room standards–no back splash of your neighbor’s sweat here. All the bikes are equipped with ANT+ computers, whose data is available to you both on the bike computer and on two giant screens that are displayed at the front of the studio. The data measures your rank in the class via RPM, Watts, and another metric called “energy” that I couldn’t quite figure out (calories maybe? who knows). I swore I wasn’t going to get all into the rank thing, but then I stayed in second place for the whole dang class and I just wanted to beat bike 15 so badly… but I might as well have been riding a huffy trying to chase Lance Armstrong right after a blood transfusion. Nothing doing.

To say I loved this class is a vast understatement. I try to take the info a bike computer provides to put together a challenging bike workout for myself, but Leti (as she’s known to the flock of regulars) makes an art form out of this. She put together 45 minutes of sprints, hills, and drills that really challenged me and was great at translating the why behind each portion’s place in the class and in a bigger training picture. There was no choreography or knee-killing “jump” drills, just the kind of researched, reasoned series that after about 10 minutes I knew was going to be the real deal.

Some other reasons to love everything about Wired:

  • Leti runs an 8-week winter training cycle of 2-hour classes on Sunday morning that is developed using real, live training science (I’m a sucker for evidence-based anything). If I ever don’t work 8 weekends in a row, I am ABSOLUTELY going to be enrolled in this.
  • Wired provides gel seats for people who want a great workout without the butt burn later.
  • The pricing is unreal. Your first class is $5 (!). Single classes are $15 (half of Soul Cycle, for what it’s worth). If you buy a 10-class pass, they are less than $12.50 a class.  Leticia also made a big point of telling a regular to buy a cheaper pass rather than pay the drop-in fee– my point is that this is a woman who’d rather provide a quality community of accessible fitness than make a gimmicky buck (ahem… Soul Cycle…).

I have only two cons, and they’re small ones– looks like all the classes are 45 minutes, and I usually prefer longer rides (though if they’re all 45 minutes like Leti’s Monday class, then it’s really a question of quality v quantity, and Leti wins) and my class was called a “HipHop/R&B Ride” but it was heavier on Chris Brown pop, who will just never make it to into my definition of either of those genres… but if you’re focusing on the music at Wired, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Anyway, I can’t wait to go back. Thanks so much to Leti and everyone at Wired for creating such an awesome space!

Further Proof that God Loves Us: Gluten-Free Spanakopita

10 Feb

Years and years ago, I watched this video of someone making gluten-free phyllo dough–truly, God’s work. Despite how easy he makes it look in the video, I have neither the patience nor the pastry skills required to roll out that dough into fine sheets and usually end up with a doughy mess.

Enter Emily, of Goldilocks Goodies. I first met Emily through a mutual friend at a birthday party, and later ran into her at an awesome gluten-free happy hour she organized for local businesses. The point here is that Emily is not only a giant in the local gluten-free scene; she’s also a big supporter of other women entrepreneurs, and that is just awesome.

ANYWAY, back to the life-changing product at hand. Right before Christmas, Emily teamed up with Kat from Baklava Couture (another DC-area woman who’s work is as awesome as it is enviable) to make gluten-free baklava, which earned enthusiastic approval from ChampagneOnlyKef. This got my little wheels turning, and I asked Emily if she would sell me a batch of gluten-free phyllo. Because she is the loveliest woman alive, she had a batch ready for me within a couple days.

For the first few days after I picked up the dough, I would just open the refrigerator and bask in the knowledge that I was staring at my heart’s fondest dream. I finally took this baby for a spin last night, and I am so excited to share the results!

photo(3) This dough is awesome. Though It is not the paper-thin phyllo gluten-eaters know and love, and doesn’t quite produce the signature flakiness of spanakopita, Emily has gotten us as close as humanly possible. I am sure of that. Eaten immediately from the oven, it has almost the taste/texture of very thin puff pastry dough (which is also really delicious but not really in the style of spanakopita). However, eaten the next morning it has EXACTLY the texture of next-morning spanakopita!

!!! !!! !!!! REAL NEXT-MORNING SPANAKOPITA GOODNESS !! !!! !!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I knew had to use emojis, I would totally add some Greek woman doing backflips to all that overpunctuation.  Seriously–those of you who have a 90-year-old Aunt Stella who cooks enough for an army every time you visit know all about the morning race to the breakfast table to snag the last piece of leftover spanakopita. And if you don’t, well… now you have a thirty-something Aunt Emily who can help simulate that experience. Thank you, Emily!

Gluten-Free Spanakopita

Ingredients

  • 4-5 sheets of gluten-free phyllo dough from Goldilocks Goodies
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 leek (white part only), minced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4-5 c fresh spinach
  • 4-5 oz feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 c cooked rice

Assembly

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Use olive oil to lightly grease a small casserole dish (I used a 10×6 glass one, or you could use more than one piece of dough for a layer to fit the dish you have) In a deep pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until fragrant. Add garlic and leeks and saute 2-3 more minutes, until mixture is tender.

2. Add lemon zest and juice. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove from heat. Add feta and stir until well combined.

3. Pour mixture into colander or strainer and press out as much liquid as possible.

4. Carefully place your first piece of dough in the pan. Put about a quarter of the spinach mixture on top of the dough and all of the rice. Spread evenly. Repeat for another 2-3 layers (just dough and spinach, no more rice). For the top layer, use two pieces of dough on top of each other to finish. Lightly grease the top of the pie with olive oil and slice as desired, going through only about half of the pie’s thickness.

5. Bake at 425 for 17-20 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Definitely let cool to let flavors come together–if possible, refrigerate overnight and enjoy the net day for that awesome leftover spanakopita taste.

sss

2014 Cooking Up Kefi Gift Guide

11 Dec

For the Triathlete trying to keep it together in the off season:

Athleta Power Lift tights

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Bring on the winter blues! The fleece lining in these running tights will maintain heat and the flattering cut will keep her style intact… unless she could not care less about style, in which case the functionality of these guys will be appreciated twofold!

 

 

 

 

 

Bike Fitting by Smiley

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It’s unanimous: Smiley is the best guy in the DMV for a bike fitting. The DC Tri Club’s forum post with RAVES about his services is four pages long, and those people know a thing or two about bikes. Fittings with Smiley ain’t cheap, but the value is unmatched– for $275 he’ll give you as many visits as it takes to get the fit right, plus a six-month tweak if you need it. If getting fast is a New Year’s resolution for the triathlete you know, you cannot go wrong with Smiley!

Bike trainer

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The fairytale that runs through my head is that if I had a bike trainer, I would ride every single day for hours and hours. Basically, these systems turn your road bike into a stationary bike so you can ride for miles and miles without turning off the Kardashians. KMBGKef has one and swears by it. There are lots of different models at various price points, but conventional wisdom is that, with trainers, you get what you pay for.

 

Solidcore

SolidCore8Hear me now: there is no better cross-training work out for a triathlete/runner/ballerina/underwater basket weaver than Solidcore. The only way I can describe it is to say that it is Pilates on PCP–expect your clothes to be soaked with sweat and your muscles to quiver with fatigue at the end of this 50-minute class. PurplePenKef turned me on to it and after only a few classes I can say with certainty I’m stronger because of it! NB: most classes are not sausage fests, as pictured here.

For the food enthusiast who just-so-happens not to eat gluten or sugar:

Adjustable Liquid Measuring Cup

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File this under “things I can’t believe we didn’t think of before”– this measuring cup not only lists several different systems of liquid measurements for easy conversions (mL, oz, cups), but the plunger acts as a squeegee so you push out the entirety of the ingredient. The cook on your list will never waste the amazing Greek honey she lugged all over Monemvasia again! (Bed Bath & Beyond says it is dishwasher safe– don’t believe it. The numbers will wash right off!)

 

Babycakes NYC Complete Baking Kit

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Erin Mckenna is the queen of solid gold sh!t. Her bakery whips up dozens of the best gluten/sugar/nut/dairy free baked goods out there. They ship a few pre-made goods throughout the country, but I love to give these mixes for anytime use. Her cookbooks are great, too– I made recipes of hers for an ice cream parfait, a salted caramel ice cream cake, and a black forest birthday cake.

 

The Newest Cookbook from the Best Chef on God’s Green Earth

index

Still not hip to Ottolenghi? Check out his roasted eggplant with buttermilk sauce, the time I made the whitest (and yummiest) salad ever, a revolution in grape leaves and pies, or the post where I realized that fennel could be caramelized. Then go buy the new book and hop on a flight to London to eat in his restaurant.

The hostess who really loves to have people over even though she doesn’t own a dining room table:

Grey Moggie Paper

Screen shot 2014-12-11 at 12.03.49 PMAs JetSet will tell you, the number of social graces your girl Chef Kef feels compelled to fulfill become less by the year. One little piece of Emily Post I will never relinquish, however, is the handwritten note. There are very few things in life that give me the same thrill as finding the perfect card for the occasion and dropping it in the mail–bonus points if it’s a surprise or just-because card. Anyway, Grey Moggie is a DC-based paper shop with a great selection of sappy and sassy paper goods.

Neighborhood Coasters

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Take it from me: table space in a city is coveted real estate some of us would kill for. What better to protect that property than these cedar wood coasters etched with your host’s favorite neighborhoods? Sadly, there’s no DC option (boo), but Baltimore, San Fran, New York, Chicago, LA and …Minneapolis all made the designer’s list. Ouch.

 

Monogram Bangle

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It could just be that I am a product of my environment (where we took nameplate necklaces very seriously until about 2010), but I have always thought personalized gifts are the best ones. I love this elegant and modern update to the initial charm bracelet, and I bet there’s lots of hosts out there who would think so too.

Mother Necklace

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I work on a postpartum unit in a hoity-toity East Coast hospital–suffice to say I’ve seen a lot of “push presents” in my time. If multiple carats are in your budget this year, by all means… but if I were a new mom and was hosting for the first time since my world suddenly began revolving around poop consistency and feeding schedules, this is absolutely the gift I’d want.

The person who thinks we’d all be better off if we supported people doing amazing work instead of spending money on ish no one really needs:

The Ferguson Municipal Public Library. Through it all, the Public Library in Ferguson has stayed open and continued to serve the community as it grieves the murder of Mike Brown. Currently only one full-time librarian is employed there, and his plans for the generous donations pouring in are to create healing kits children can check out to help process traumatic events and to hire a full-time children’s or program library.

Legal Aid. There’s been a lot of attention paid to two cases that exemplify inequity in our court system, but countless Americans whose stories will never make the news don’t get the justice they deserve because they lack financial access to legal advice and council. The Legal Aid Society represents civil cases regardless of ability to pay in cases ranging from housing disputes to class-action consumer matters.

Metro TeenAIDS. My people, always and forever–these guys are arming DC’s young people with information, skills, and jobs to fight HIV transmission, stigma, oppression and cycles of poverty. In other news, they have some very cool intern opportunities (paid and unpaid!) — if you have any righteous college/master’s students in your life, you should let them know!

Girls On the Run. In the next life, when I marry for money instead of wonderful and fulfilling love, I will be a full-time Girls on the Run volunteer. This organization (which almost definitely has a chapter near you–they’re everywhere!) teaches girls the transformative power of running through a confidence- and skills-boosting curriculum. Ahmazing.

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