Friday, August 31, 2012

Best of the Week #74

Guess what I’m doing this weekend? Leaving the city behind and going camping in West Virginia! Yes that’s right, Operation SpeedyKate and Mollie Conquer the Wilderness (shorter version: Operation Wild) will soon be under way. I’m super-psyched to leave the city for a whole three days!

But before I go, here’s a Best of the Week for you.

My most popular post this week was Pizzeria Orso and Thai Crossing. Because both restaurants were A-MAZING.

Mango Sticky Rice me NOW please.
Remember the Ryan Hall commercial from the Olympics? Well this person spent waaaayyy too much time thinking about it. "An Audiobook Marathon: How Far Does Ryan Hall Travel While Listening to the Unabridged Odyssey?"

  • In a recent commercial you've seen 115 times, American marathoner Ryan Hall listens to The Odyssey as he runs, all thanks to AT&T's impressively expansive 4G network.
  • The inevitable question: How many miles did Ryan Hall cover while listening to Homer’s epic poem?
  • If only the answer were that simple. A close reading reveals that Hall, not known in running circles for taking shortcuts, seems to have skipped some of the performance. When the commercial starts, the time on his phone is 8:07 a.m. When he begins listening to Moby Dick (a 21-hour audiobook in its own right), the phone reads 7:12pm. That means that Hall, if he never hit pause along the way, listened to 11:05:00 of The Odyssey. What happened to those missing 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 46 seconds? Given that the gap in the Watergate tapes ran just 18.5 minutes, this AT&T commercial leaves us to ponder whether Ryan Hall is seven times trickier than Nixon.
A little political violence for your Friday: “Democracy and Coups: Taking Civilian Control of the Military for Granted.”
  • Of course, the challenge is how to get from a to b: how to get from a weak democracy with a powerful military to a strong democracy with a military that holds a narrower conception of its own role in the society? Time, and hard work. Legitimacy and norms do not happen overnight, no matter how much international organizations like NATO try to inculcate civilian control of the military. Birthing these norms requires powerful individuals to be strong enough to decline power and to refrain from taking it.
This sauce was on everything in Costa Rica and we were mildly obsessed with it. Now I want to make it! Or just go back to Costa Rica

Thank you McSweeny’s -- this is hilarious and also makes me uncomfortable on multiple levels: “It’s Naked Time.” I’m sorry I’m not sorry.
  • You want to see what thirty-five minutes of elliptical machine a month can do to a man’s body? You’re about to.
I wish I had sweet moves like this kid.

I love coffee in all forms. “15 Healthy and Creative Ways to Get Your Caffeine Fix.”
  • 6. Balsamic Coffee Reduction -- This tasty glaze is an easy and delicious addition to any salad (and especially tomato and mozzarella based ones). Combine 1 cup of coffee, 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and the zest of a lemon to a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Drizzle away!
10 Food Lover Problems.”
  • 2. When 24/7 fast food joints shutdown their ice cream machine because it’s nighttime. Milkshake or ice cream cravings are intense and passionate, so the only real way of halting such powerful desires is the actual consumption of one.
  • 7. Trying to distinguish the difference between sheer boredom and actual hunger. At times they can be indistinguishable, resulting in minor gluttony.

And that my friends is that. HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Literary Bite: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I have no new book to post this week because I’m still chugging through Moby Dick. Therefore, in keeping with the looooong-reads theme, here’s my review of Anna Karenina from back in 2010. And oh so timely!  –  it’s going to be a movie this fall – here’s the trailer.
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

A month ago, my book club chose to read Anna Karenina, which is quite the solid brick of literature. It’s 817 pages of Leo Tolstoy-ness, so you’ll understand why I haven’t blogged about reading in a while.

I’m a fast reader, so I have to remind myself that not everything can be finished in a week. Anna Karenina took me a whole month to read! That’s the longest I’ve spent on one book since I read A Suitable Boy back in 2004 (which happens to be one of the longest books in the English language). It’s the kind of book that you just settle into, get comfortable, and realize that you are going to spend a lot of time with these characters.

And spend time with them I did! This book accompanied me to Costa Rica and back to DC and then home to Tahoe – not to mention many many inner-DC trips on the metro and busses.

Though it’s long and solid, it’s really quite a breeze. Anna K. (as I so fondly refer to it) reminds me of a Jane Austin or Charles Dickens book, with a wee bit of philosophizing thrown in just to remind you that you’re reading Russian literature.

Like Dickens’ books, Anna K. was originally published in installments in a 19thcentury Russian magazine. For readers today, this means that the chapters are short and concise, which I think really kept the story moving. Compared to his other books, Anna K. is Tolstoy-lite (even thought the book itself feels like carrying a brick in my purse!), and is supposed to be a good introduction to his writing.

The story is about the tragic love of the title character, but also just as much about Konstantin Dmitrievitch Levin ("Kostya"), who is Anna’s brother’s wife’s sister’s suitor (are you confused yet?). Both stories run parallel and intermingle within the Russian elite. I actually preferred Levin’s story to Anna’s, minus the parts when he philosophizes about the state of the Russian worker/farmer. But the dull parts are short and interspersed within the narrative; so don’t let them dissuade you!

Go here for a complete plot summary. But I actually recommend you don't - the story is easy to follow and will be better if it's a surprise!

I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. There were some I liked more than others (Dolly, Kitty, Stiva). I will warn you in advance – the names are TRICKY! I suggest you read the note on names in the front of the book. Also, read the end notes as you go, it will make some parts make a lot more sense.

Since this is kind of an impressive academic book, let’s talk about themes. According to Lemony Snicket, "The central theme of Anna Karenina is that a rural life of moral simplicity, despite its monotony, is the preferable personal narrative to a daring life of impulsive passion, which only leads to tragedy."

That sounds pretty solid to me. I thought a theme was the unreasonableness of love. Levin comes to that conclusion at the VERY end of the book (page 797-ish I think).

Anna K. is one of those impressive classics that you just want in your reading repertoire – so I suggest you read it! Good luck!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cake of the Week: Cherry Vanilla Bran Muffins

Remember that beautiful smoothie I made last week? Well, you may recall that there was a muffin involved - in the interest of making that "part of a complete breakfast." (Sidenote: Mini-Mollie always wondered what the heck "complete breakfast" meant in all the cereal commercials...was that just me?) 

Anywho, you all know that I love breakfast. And I love baked goods (obviously). So a + b = c, I LOVE muffins! Homemade muffins are essentially healthy cake. If I tell someone I ate a piece of cake for breakfast (which may or may not happen on occasion), they get all shocked and judgey on me. But a muffin for breakfast? Totally acceptable. 

And these little guys are the perfect accompaniment to your usual yogurt or smoothie or apple

I was inspired by the gi-normous bag of fresh juicy cherries I bought last week. And I've been in the healthy muffin mood the decision was really quite easy. The original recipe called for dark chocolate and dried cherries...which is normally totally up my alley. But if fresh cherries are an option you just have to use them, and for some reason white chocolate struck me as a good idea. So I planned them out mid-yoga, and Cherry Vanilla Bran Muffins were born. 

Cherry Vanilla Bran Muffins

(Yield:  12 large muffins, 16 small muffins)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp almond extract (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 c wheat bran
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • Cooking spray or paper liners 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  
  2. Beat together the eggs, oil, honey, milk, and almond/vanilla extract.  
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  
  4. Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet, then stir in the chips and cherries until just mixed (do not over-mix). 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist with just a few crumbs (careful not to overcook so they won’t be dry).
These muffins are best fresh out of the oven. I froze some in the interest of prolonging my muffin availability, but unfortunately they kind of dried out. So if you don't want a lot of muffins at once, make a half-batch at a time to maximize your muffin enjoyment. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekend Report: Pizzeria Orso and Thai X-ing

I did things this weekend – ya know, the usual seeing the friends, going to the places, doing the vatious endurance exercises and outdoorsy activities. Any regular Eat Run Reader knows the drill. But it’s not every weekend that I hit the culinary jackpot and eat at two amazing restaurants – so this is a Weekend Report of food: Pizzeria Orso and Thai X-ing to be exact!

I’m pretty sure I consumed more in two nights than I did in the entire preceding week, and I have absolutely no regrets because every bite was so worth it.

The food adventures started on Saturday with a post-rock climbing excursion to Pizzeria Orso. We left the Great Falls rocks (i.e. the aforementioned outdoorsy activity) as it began to rain and made our way to Falls Chruch, VA (a bit outside of my normal neighborhoods, but totally worth a return trip). We expected good pizza, but sweet monkey pumpkins! the pizza was delish but I hardly had tummy-room for one piece due to the preceding assortment of small plates we tasted (read: inhaled).

(BLT Gnocchi and Fried Calamari)
The restaurant is casual and from the outside looks like nothing particularly special. But once inside you watch the pizzas go in and out of the wood-fired oven and smell the everything-awesome-about-Italian-food and swoon. Executive Chef Will Artley might be my new favorite person.

So what did we eat that was so good? WELL LET ME TELL YOU.

BLT Gnocchi - spinach gnocchi, truffled-cream, applewood-smoked bacon, tomato
Sophie’s Meatballs with Creamy Polenta
Fried Calamari - basil aioli or marinara sauce

Artley described the the BLT gnocchi as mac and cheese crack, saying that diners come in and order plates and plates of it. The sauce was rich and cheesy, but the gnocchi itself was incredibly light. Yummmm. So yes, it was good, but I think my “crack” of the afternoon was the meatballs and polenta. The polenta especially – I don’t know what he does to make it so creamy but holy meatballs it was far and away the best polenta I’ve ever had. And the basil aioil with the calamari. Sigh. I need more of that in my life.

Pizza-wise we got three – the Orso (mozzarella, pecorino Tuscano, fontina, grana, ricotta, garlic, prosciutto), the Orso Bianco (mozzarella, pecorino Tuscano, fontina, grana, ricotta, garlic, prosciutto), and the Verdure (tomato, basil, eggplant, sweet peppers, onion, capers, mushrooms, mozzarella). Mine was the Verdure, which was good for people (i.e. me) who prefer pizza with less cheese and more veggies. But for cheese-lovers I think the Orso Bianco was the best.

Epic food excursion #2 occurred on Saturday. Thai X-ing is the best Thai food I've ever had ever and I cannot stop thinking about how delicious it all was. For the uninitiated, Thai X-ing is a DC legend. It's super-tiny (accommodates 25 diners total) in a row house and you have to call weeks in advance for reservations. LOTR-Emily's boyfriend did just that, and invited her best friends along for a birthday surprise!

"Does it feel as though you're entering a Thai speak-easy? It should...There's always a whiff of confusion in the air, not unlike the dinner party where you show up earlier than the host expected." (WaPo review).

The menu is prix-fixe and it's all chef's choice. It's BYOB, and Sundays are vegetarian night. Just sit down, relax, and expect the servers to bring you a Thai  feast of deliciously epic proportions. 

Since there's no menu I can't tell you exactly what we ate, but it definitely started with Chef Vigsittaboot's signature appetizer: Green Papaya Salad (green papaya, julienned tropical fruit, halved cherry tomatoes, crisp green beans and crushed peanuts), and ended with the even more famous Mango Sticky Coconut Rice. 

For six people we had four huge entrees, and as a non-vegetarian, I can promise you that you won't miss the meat. Everything was spicy in a wonderfully flavorful way, and the hottest dishes were balanced out with cooling cucumbers or bits of fruit. 

My favorite dish was probably the most simple -- pumpkin in creamy red curry. 

Our other entrees included a spicy string bean stir-fry, pad see ew (i.e. thick noodles), and some sort of sweet and sour tofu with soybean sprouts and fried garlic and peppers. 

Even the rice on the table was special -- it was a mix of earthy beans and redish-brownish rice (does anyone know what this is? I need it in my kitchen). So. Good. 

To quote LLC:  I want it all again. A million times.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Best of the Week #73

Happy Friday! Not going to's been a rough week. So these Best of the Week is ALL fun to make up for it.

I want to be here right now. La Jardin de la Connaissance (Garden of Knowledge)

This story "Brag, Build, Banana" is a bit long but a great read!
  • See, I had always loved to brag. Even when I was little, I loved to go around telling people awesome stuff about myself. But somewhere along the way, I had lost it. My boasts had fallen away like pebbles out of a hole in my pocket. Where had it gone, the courage to tell complete strangers about my preternaturally fast metabolism, my ability to put my feet behind my head? And so the first part of my journey would take me to India to brag. To brag as freely as I wished in the marketplaces and hovels and temples. To shout of my own virtues upon the banks of the Pangiswani river, which isn’t even a real river, but a river that I made up because I am incredible at making up names of rivers. See what I mean?
  • And then, from India, I would go to Iran. Not to delve into politics or foment revolution, no, to do something I had always dreamed of doing. To take part in something at once large and microscopic: to build nuclear weapons.
  • And finally to Iceland, because it starts with “I,” where I would wear a banana costume for four months. Because I have a banana costume and I want to go to Iceland for free.
  • So that was the plan. Brag. Build. Banana.
Stockholm has the awesomest subway stations ever. "The Mundane Made Magical."

Ok so I promised all fun, but I feel like some combination of these factors surprisingly often: "I Hate Everything Right Now."
  • If I were Picasso, we’d call this my “blah” period. It’s a time when I feel like absolute moose dung and everything that happens sucks forever. If I could sum up how I feel it would be a video of me going, “Uuuuuuuuugh” for twenty minutes until I passed out in a pile of my own saliva.
Cool but also kinda sad. “Fascinating Photos of Abandoned Olympic Sites Around the World.”

1984 Luge and Bobsleigh Track — Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
"Can Women Write About Technology? And Other Useless Questions."
  • Three very interesting points about sexism — all made in a rant against internet commenters. So thanks internet commenters. Er. I guess.
I’m not in school and I’m not a teacher, but these “5 Digital Field Trips For Your Class” are pretty sweet.

Not gonna lie, the title got me on this one: “Life without Pants.” Plus the newsletter is called “Pantless Wisdom” which is equally awesome.

I love this: "Dog-Shaming."

Ooh and in fun news, I'm going to see The Devil Makes Three next month! 

Mmmmk that is all. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Literary Bite: Moby Dick and The Time Traveler's Wife

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Literary Bite, but for good reason! I am reading Moby Dick right now and it is taking some time. I’m 368 pages in…256 to go!

So far in 2012, I’ve been averaging about 296 pages per week. (Did I just math that out? Yes, yes I did.) But Moby Dick is particularly slow reading (I’ve been at it for 3 weeks now) because I can’t honestly say I’m enjoying the experience. Usually I would stop reading a book I didn’t like, but this is a classic, I want to have read it, I said I would read it, so I will finish it!

Anywho, yesterday I counted a win for fiction-lovers everywhere when Ex-Co-Worker-Rachel  (a non-fiction devotee) asked me to recommend a good character-driven fiction book.

I love recommending books, so here’s a re-post of a book I read back in 2009 that I'm hoping Rachel will like!

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This week, I'm reading The Time Traveler's Wife. Again. I know that there's millions of good books out there that I have yet to read, but sometimes it's nice to be guaranteed a good experience... 

I read this book for the first time five years ago, and I remember loving it. But I didn't remember too many of the details, and since the story is kind of complex (considering it involves time travel...), it stands up well to a second reading. 

The book is Audrey Neffenegger's first novel, which surprises/pleases me. Usually authors' first novels tend to be kind of meh...but this one is very impressive! And actually, go to her website...apparently she is an artist in addition to an author. She has a graphic novel that will come out in 2010. Here's a quote from her bio:
  • Miss Niffenegger trained as a visual artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her MFA from Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice in 1991. She has exhibited her artist’s books, prints, paintings, drawings and comics at Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987.
If you haven't heard of the book, I will just tell you that it is an epic love story, set in the context of a time-traveling husband. Sounds weird and sci-fi-ish, but it actually works quite well. There is more to the time-traveler, Henry, than just his weird talent/defect/time-traveling thing. Neffenegger develops both him and his wife, Claire, as complex and interesting characters. They have flaws and quirks, which endears them to the reader, and makes the story feel much more real than fantasy. 

Odds are, you have heard of this book because it was made into a movie earlier this year.  I haven't seen the movie...but I've heard it's good...obviously that's all hearsay and I can't tell you much... [Note: I have since seen the movie. It is good. But you should still read the book!]

Anyway, I highly recommend this book. It's romantic, but not mushy. And it's a super page-turner (as in, I get in bed to read before I go to sleep...and 2 hours later, I find myself practically manually holding my eyes open!)
  • What do you do when you meet the love of your life when you're six years old? And he's 36, but he's really only eight years older than you are? If you're Clare Abshire, you wait for each of his visits throughout the years until you meet him in real time.
  • Henry DeTamble is a time traveler, although not by choice. A genetic mutation causes him to spontaneously travel through time, disappearing from view, leaving behind his clothes and possessions, and arriving naked in another time and another place. For the most part, this is a curse.
To read the rest of this review, go here. Enjoy the book!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cake of the Week: Key Lime Cake with Coconut Caramel

If I went on a fabulous beach vacation, this is what it would taste like. Key limes and coconut and awesomeness. I can picture the palm trees swaying, hear the waves crashing on the beach, the sun and the sand and a drink in my hand (oh wait, did this just become a Kenny song? Yes it did…) 

All summer people have been asking me if I have any trips planned (it's one of those stock in-the-office-kitchen questions, right after asking how your weekend was and commenting on the weather). NO I DO NOT. Alas, I’m just here in DC for the summer…but at least I can still taste what a beach vacation feels like, right? I’ll take a piece of this cake, hit up the public pool, close my eyes and imagine myself on a nice sandy strip of ocean. Done. 

(Though, I don't feel tooo bad for me -- I did go to Costa Rica back in January.)

I’ve made a version of this cake recipe before and I can promise you that it is DELICOUS. Seriously, a whole half-cup of lime juice in just one layer of cake = flavorful and amazing. 

It's fancy and fantastic as a layer cake, but for just Mollie/SpeedyKate weeknight consumption, one layer is enough. 

Key Lime Cake with Coconut Caramel 

Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¾ tsp. baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup fresh or bottled key lime juice
(I used regular lime juice)
  • ½  cup sour cream
or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lime zest
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
Caramel Ingredients:
Note: This caramel recipe makes about twice as much as you need...tupperware the extra caramel and make another cake later -- might I suggest the Cookie Butter Cake with Cashews and Coconut Caramel
  • 1 cup coconut milk, divided use
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray and flour 1 9-inch round cake pan.
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into mixing bowl. Add egg, oil and lime juice mix on medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. 
  3. Add sour cream/Greek yogurt and zest -- mix until smooth. 
  4. Pour cake batter into your pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
  5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turn the cake out onto cooling racks. Cool for 1 hour.
  6. Toasted Coconut: Spread on baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 375 for about 5-10 minutes. Stir often. Let cool. I like to cook mine until some of the coconut is lightly browned.
To make the caramel sauce:
  1. Bring to a boil over medium heat: 1/2 cup coconut milk, brown sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan.
  2. Boil, without stirring, until caramel reaches 236 degrees (soft ball stage).
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining coconut milk, butter and sea salt.
When the cake is completely cool, pour coconut caramel on top and sprinkle with toasted coconut. 

Slice, serve, then pretend you're on a beach and enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend Report: If I were Batman I could have climbed out of the pit.

The rock gym where I climb in Alexandria can be ridiculously crowed on weeknights. Peak time is around 8 pm, and it can be almost impossible to find an open route. Tuesdays appear to be the worst, but that whole Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday chunk is pretty popular.

Fridays, however, are comparably empty and excellent. I went this past Friday night, got in my preferred number of 10 climbs easily by 8:30, climbed quite a few 5.10s, and attempted a 5.11 (I didn’t get far…at all…but at least I tried!).

And then my friend and I went to the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Ever. (Bold statement, I know, but it’s one I’m very willing to make.)

BonChon is a Korean restaurant in Annadale promising to "make sure that he who seeks BonChon shall always find it.” Win. Apparently they fry the chicken, then let it soak in spicy sauce for a while, then fry it again. (I will have none of your deep-fried judgement – chicken and kimchi and radishes for the heat – it was totally worth it.)

Then on Saturday I ventured deep into the depths of Maryland to go hiking at Rocks State Park. We started with a very brief out-and-back to a waterfall, and then drove a few miles to another trail head for a longer hike.

The second part actually involved rocks, but more in the stand-on-top-and-peer-over-the-edge sort of way than the climb-them-with-ropes way. Overall, Rocks State Park was nice, but the driving to hiking ratio was not ideal (I think we hiked maybe a total of 5 miles…and it took all day), so I don’t think I’d recommend it to DC dwellers.

Sunday was wet, so I SpeedyKate and I donned our hats (aka umbrellas for our eyes!) and went for a rainy long run around the Mall, Tidal Basin, and all the way to Stadium/Armory. We arrived home at awkward eating o’clock (3:45 pm on a Sunday – is it lunch? Dinner? Whatever it is, I need to eat now!), and decided to solve out problems by getting early take-out dinner from Tortilla Café (my new favorite local place, and it was on DDD!).

We needed an early dinner because at 7pm we saw The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX. The movie was long, but pretty great as long as you don’t look for plot holes…(anyone else notice that when they rob the bank it’s daytime, but the subsequent car chase is middle-of-the-night dark?).

Also, as I said in the title, I could have climbed out of that pit prison thing!!! (Slate agrees.) That whole section took a lot of suspension of disbelieve on my part because that was the grippiest-looking rock face ever and I’m pretty sure any rock climber could do it.  Just saying…

This is the end of this Batman trilogy, which is a-ok with me because (not to give anything away) I strongly suspect that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be starring in movies of a similar nature in the future…

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Best of the Week #72

Siiiiiiigh a Friday in August. Don't worry, I'm pretty much the only person in DC at work. (Actually, anyone reading this is probably also having a summer-Friday-style workday too...) So let's amuse ourselves with some Best of the Week links and get to weekend time asap!

Things were a bit touch-and-go crankypants earlier this week in World o'Mollie, mostly due to this whole IT Band Knee Pain (Foam Rolling, Stretching, and Strengthening) situation. But I'm happy to report that the foam rolling, stretching, and strengthening is working and I ran this morning!

This day last year was my last day in India. Crazy that was a whole year ago!!!

Ok well, let's start this off silly: I am far too amused by this.

This is kind of trippy: "13 Stunning Examples Of Tilt-Shift Photography At The London Olympics"
  • Tilt-Shift photography uses a special lens to create a shallow depth of field, and make the subjects of a photo look like toy miniatures. Here are some striking examples from the Olympics. 

Best read of the week: "Where Do Sentences Come From?" is exactly what it is like inside of my head all the time. 1) Be afraid. 2) Anyone else???
  • So experiment a little. Make a sentence of your own in your head. Don’t write it down. Any kind of sentence will do, but keep it short. Rearrange it. Reword it. Then throw it out. Make another. Rearrange. Reword. Discard. You can do this anywhere, at any time. Do it again and again, without inscribing anything. Experiment with rhythm. Let the sentences come and go. Evaluate them, play with them, but don’t cling to them. If you find a sentence you really like, let it go and look for the next one. The more you do this, the easier it will be to remember the sentences you want to keep. Better yet, you’ll know that you can replace any sentence you lose with one that’s just as good.
  • But learn to play with every sentence you make in your head, shuffling words, searching for accuracy, listening for rhythm.
Awesome. My prayers definitely contributed to this: “All Those Months of Praying for Another Snowmageddon Have Paid Off” Remember Snowmageddon? Best week ever.

Thanks to this, "33 Best GIFs of the London Olympics," I now know that handball is a sport.
  • 10. Handball Death From Above (Or Definitive Proof That Handball Is Awesome)

Wow. Just wow. This might make your week.

How’s this for a political violence metaphor? It seems the market needs regulation; the sovereignty bubble needs to be deflated by slowing the pace of recognition and by putting some existing states on notice of the danger of foreclosure.Atop the Sovereignty Bubble
  • Like home ownership, sovereignty brings clear benefits: political independence, access to international aid and development loans, increased foreign investment, a seat at the United Nations, and legal parity with great powers like the United States and China.
  • The problem is that the criteria for granting recognition today rest more on politics and principlesthan on whether a new state can actually govern…
  •  Since 1945, dozens of states without much practical sovereignty have been welcomed into the international community. Their enfranchisement is often born of good intentions….In fact, to curtail the self-serving maintenance of imperialism, the United Nations forbade denying colonies independence on the basis of incapacity to govern.
Random quote provided by Coach George: "It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things." - Leonardo da Vinci

Good thing toddlers dress better than I do: "Children with Swag."

"Marathoning: The One Olympic Event You Could Compete In (for 4 Minutes)"
  • Long-distance running is the one exception to this paradox. It's a sport where the average person can begin to understand what professionals go through. The last-place finisher in the 2008 Olympics men's marathon was Atsushi Sato of Japan, who completed the race in two hours, forty-one minutes and eight seconds. Several participants did not finish. To achieve that time, Sato averaged an approximate speed 9.77 miles per hour, which is about the equivalent of running a six minute and eight second mile.
  • Most people on this earth can reach a speed of 9.77 miles per hour. Whether on a treadmill, a dirt path, or a track, the average human, when pushed, can achieve that type of speed. It may take a hefty ounce of determination, or an oversized can of Red Bull, but running 9.77 miles per hour is achievable. The average human cannot, however, maintain that speed for anywhere near as long as Mr. Sato of Japan, but by replicating that speed for as long as possible a person can begin to understand the level of fitness Olympic runners possess.
  • While the vast majority of us will never be able to experience the speeds achieved by top sprinters, we can run, for at least a short amount time, at the same speed as Olympic marathoners.
I promise to keep Eat Run Read mostly campaign-free, BUT Paul Ryan fans close your eyes/ears because this is hilarious: @PaulRyanGosling

Alright that's enough.

My weekend plans involve rock climbing, hiking (with a waterfall!) and who knows what else...seeya back on Monday!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Provençal Vegetable Tian

Every summer starting with the Tour de France, my family goes through a Francophile phase. It's definitely more about Provence than Paris -- yellows and blues, and lavender and grapes, and tomatoes and herbs and olive oil.

We read Peter Mayle books, watch “A Year in Provence,” and go to the cheese factory for an assortment of brie (Sister1’s favorite), camembert (mine), and breakfast cheese (Sister2’s favorite) to take to picnic at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Garden.

At the house we lived at when I was in elementary school, my mama actually took it so far as to plant her own acre-square lavender garden. Rows upon rows of pretty-smelling plants patterned our front yard à la un champ de lavande Provençal.

And the food – la cuisine – well let’s talk tians. A tian is a layered, baked vegetable dish that originated in Provence. It’s kind of like a tart sans crust. Yummmmm.

I saw this recipe last week and realized that I already had everything it called for (thanks to my CSA). Done and done. It’s beautiful and summery and easy to make and délicieux.

I ate it with a fried egg on top to call it dinner (a common theme in my real egg on top makes almost anything dinner).

Provençal Tian

Serves 4

Printable recipe. 

  • 1 small onion or a medium leek
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 or 2 small yellow squash (summer squash), or zucchini
  • 1 or 2 small eggplants
  • 1 or 2 small potatoes
  • 2 or 3 medium plum tomatoes
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 leaves fresh basil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice the onions (or leeks) and peel and mince the garlic. Coat a small pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and onions (or leeks). Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions (or leeks) have begun to soften and the garlic smells awesome -- approximately two to five minutes.
  3. Spread the onion/leek-garlic mixture across the bottom of a 9-inch baking dish or cake pan. Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper; strip the leaves from two of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the mixture.
  4. Remove the ends from the yellow squash and eggplants. Cut each crosswise into coins 1/8-inch thick. Cut each tomato crosswise into rounds 1/8-inch thick. Scrub and dry the potatoes and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices.
  5. Layer the squash, eggplant, potato, and tomato on top of the onion/leek-garlic mixture, alternating each and overlapping slightly. I made sure to put the juicier things (squash and tomato) between the drier veggies (eggplant and potato) to keep the whole thing consistently moist. If you’re using a square or rectangular dish, layer in rows; if you’re using a circular or oval dish, work in fans from the center. 
  6. Once you’re done layering, drizzle with olive oil (however much you like – I did about 1 tablespoon), and pour the wine over it all evenly. Sprinkle with salt and a few grindings of fresh black pepper; strip the leaves from the remaining thyme and sprinkle over the whole tian.
  7. Cover it all with parchment paper or foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove cover and finish baking (about another 10 minutes, but it depends on your oven) until the vegetables are soft but not mushy while the edges are nicely crisp and brown.  
  8. Julienne the basil and sprinkle it over the top. 
Printable recipe. 

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IT Band Knee Pain (Foam Rolling, Stretching, and Strengthening)

Life Rule: If something hurts, you should probably just foam roll it.

Foam rolling addresses muscle tightness/knots/scar tissue by literally rolling them out (I’m not saying it’s fun, but it is effective). And that fabulous foam roll is especially effective for Ilotibial Band (IT band) problems, which in my experience account for about 90% of running problems.

So the dreaded runner’s knee? Nope not a thing. Your IT band is tight. Hips hurt? Again, probs your IT band.

I’m blogging about this now because, well, my knee hurts a bit. But don’t worry, this is a constructive post, not a whiny one! Basically, I’ll do the Googling so you don’t have to.  (So says the girl immobilized by the ice pack tied with a scarf to the side of her knee.)

What is an IT band?

The Iliotibial band is a layer of connective tissue that goes from the lateral hip and attaches down below the outside of the knee. Runners usually feel IT band pain in the side of the knee, but it can also hurt up in your hip where the IT band connects.

What causes it to hurt? 

  • Muscle imbalances (Quadricep muscles that are too strong in relation to the Gluteus Medius and Minimus);
  • Running downhill fast;
  • Running on flat even surfaces (i.e. pavement) while heel-striking/over-striding.

How do I treat this problem?

1. Rest. A couple days off to let the area calm down should do it. But time off without any foam rolling or stretching probably won't do anything.

2. Foam roll. Aah the aforementioned foam roll. There could be a knot at anywhere between your hip and your knee, so just use the foam roller to find it, then roll over that place repeatedly until you want to cry/scream/have to stop (I told you it’s not fun).
  • Sidenote: I had an injury in college that was originally diagnosed as a knee problem. So I did the prescribed stabilizing and strengthening exercises for a couple weeks, but it did not get any better. Then long-suffering ever-patient cross country athletic trainer (God bless Brian for not murdering all of us) decided to start back from square one and re-evaluated me. He was testing the muscles in my leg when he came across a giant knot – Mollie, what is this????? Ummmmmm? My leg is just like that? No. And then we progressed to an extremely bruising series of Active Release massages and a lot of “foam rolling” on a PVC pipe. Painful, but it worked!
3. Stretching (source)
  • Stretch #1: Pull foot up toward your butt. Cross your uninjured leg over the injured leg and push down, hold for 30 seconds.

  • Stretch #2: Cross injured leg behind and lean towards the uninjured side. This stretch is best performed with arms over the head, creating a "bow" from ankle to hand on the injured side (unlike how it is depicted).
  • Stretch # 3: Cross injured leg over the uninjured side and pull the leg as close to your chest as possible.

4. Strengthening
  • Side leg lifts: Lie on the ground on one side with legs straightly aligned. Contract your hip muscles to open your hips and raise your top leg. Keep leg straight and lift to a 45-degree angle from the ground. Pause for one second, then slowly return your leg to the starting position.

  • Standing side leg lifts: Stand with both feet together. Lift one leg out to the side while keeping your body upright (don’t lean!) It is more important to maintain good form than to lift your leg high. Slowly lower and repeat on the other side.

  • Single Leg Step Up

Also read my post: “Hip Flexor and Piriformis Stretching and Strengthening.”

How do I prevent this from happening (again)?

  • Get off the road or treatmill and run on uneven surfaces (grass! trails!) to strengthen your balancing muscles.
  • Avoid over-striding and heel-striking.
  • How old are your shoes? How many miles are on them? Could it be time for a new pair?
  • More info from the Runner's Corner.
Hope this is useful!