Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Weekend Report: Camping and Hurricane Sandy

First things first: HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I started mine with a handful of candy corn and I hope you did the same. 

The weekend feels like a loooong time ago because, well, it was. But thanks to Sandy (oh Sandy), today is a work Wednesday that feels like a Monday, so I have a semi-delayed Weekend(/Hurricane) Report to post!

Way back on Friday night, after working late (what the WHAT? I know, that never happens to me!), my co-worker/officemate/climbing friend, her husband, and I drove out to Shenandoah. We had originally planned to go backpacking in West Virginia last weekend, but after hearing predictions of storm and rain and wind and snow (all of which came true), we canceled (major bummer). We settled for one night of car camping over no camping, which wasn’t quite the same as backpacking through the wilderness, but still fun!

We sat around a campfire (go Mike and his ax!), slept in a tent, and went for a glorious tail-end-of-fall-foliage hike the next day.

It was a 7-ish mile loop called “Little Devil’s Staircase.” We ended up walking down the stairs, which is apparently (as observed from everyone else coming up the stairs), the backwards way to go. Oh well. It looked like fall and felt like Thanksgiving  I love it!

We saw some local flora (mushrooms and trees for the most part) but no major fauna (except for the deer we almost hit driving out).

By 7 pm Saturday we were back in DC and ready for the storm. Sunday, however, was quite pleasant. I went for a long run and watched the tail end of the Marine Corps Marathon. I’m not going to lie guys…I’m having thoughts of doing a marathon myself…please feel free to talk me out of this insanity…

Route details on MayMyRun.
Sunday night the oh so glorious Office of Personnel Management (OPM) made the call – no work on Monday! And then again on Monday – no work on Tuesday!  Luckily I live in a place where the power stays on, so my major hurricane accomplishments included 4 movies (Winter’s Bone, Kissing Jessica Stein, Vanity Fair, and Love Actually), a run and a hill workout, reading on my front stoop mid-hurricane, a multi-CVS expedition to secure us some candy corn, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin pancakes, and once the Metro re-started, a trip to the rock gym. 

I hope everyone weathered the storm ok and is staying safe and dry!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal

I'm a little bit sad because this hurricane we appear to be having means that I did not go backpacking in West Virginia this weekend as planned. However, I did get today off of work, so I suppose it's not a total loss! (Disclaimer: As off now this storm is pretty minimal. I hope everyone has a happy hurricane, and if something terrible does happen I am sincerely sorry for the flippant tone of this post. Peace, love, and rainstorms.)

So here I am at home on a Monday, nothing major to accomplish, and nowhere to go (the Metro is closed). It's just like snopocolypse/snomageddon/snoverkill of 2010!

What happens when you're stuck at home? TV! Reading! FOOD!!! It recently came to my attention that SpeedyKate has never experienced Pumpkin Oatmeal. Which means there are probably a lot of people out there who have not experienced the hot and flavorful pumpkin-y goodness that is this breakfast (/lunch/anytime) meal. 

It's like a hot satisfying bowl of pumpkin pie. Oh wait, that sounds weird...but trust me it's good! And adding pumpkin is SO HEALHY! It's a vegetable, with a billion times your recommended vitamin A (that's an exaggeration, but close enough), vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. Basically, this is SUPER OATMEAL! 

SpeedyKate just made what can best be described as a vat of pumpkin oatmeal. We ate some, and the rest is now tupper-wared and frozen, ready as an easy to-go breakfast for those days that a morning run goes too long/picking out clothing takes too much time/oversleeping that necessitate bringing breakfast to work.


We have decided that oatmeal is like eggs but more extreme -- as in, everyone is very particular about how they like it. Thick or soupy or chewy or mushy? For this reason, I am not going to tell you how to cook your oats (I like mine on the mushy well-cooked side, a bit soupy but definitely not watery). But I will tell you what to put in them!

The first time I made pumpkin oatmeal I didn't like it at all -- turns out I didn't add enough sugar, so it just tasted squash-y. If something seems not so delish, I recommend adding more sweetness. 

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Serves: 2 (multiply times however many servings you want)
  • 1 cup Trader Joe's Multigrain Hot Cereal (a mix of rye, barley, oats, and wheat), or old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups water (approximately)
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar (brown or white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • dash of cloves
  • dash of allspice
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Prepare your oatmeal as you normally would, either on the stovetop or in the microwave.
  2. When your oatmeal is almost done, add in pumpkin, spices, and salt. 
  3. Add in sugar and taste -- you may need to add more sugar, depending on your preference.
  4. Add in raisins and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee!

 See? SO EASY!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best of the Week #80

This week, in the interest of getting better at running uphill (I really am that bad at it), I embarked on a modestly ambitious plan of doing squats and lunges every day. Don’t be too impressed – these are literally me in my living room, watching Parks and Rec after a run, doing 2 sets of 30 squats and 30 lunges, no weights…but better than nothing, right?

Also in the interest of getting better at running uphill, I actually ran uphill last night…SEVEN TIMES!  Oh that’s right. Hill repeats. At 7 pm, I met up with some of my Ragnar teammates and did seven horseshoe-style hills around the Capitol (meaning: up the Senate side to the middle of the courtyard in front of the Rotunda, recovery jog down the House side; then up the House side to the middle in front of the Rotunda, recovery jog down the Senate side; etc, x7 -- for those of you not in DC, Capitol Hill is in fact a hill). It was fun!

What else of note? Well my nephew and I are rooting for the Giants. He is doing it in much better style than I can ever aspire to…(Cutest thing EVER, right?)

I’ve been having a bit of a sad week (here’s part of why -- for the love of all things not crying at work, do NOT watch the slideshow). So this Best of the Week is specially designed to make you and me smile!

Let's start with some happy animal news, "Outrageous Animals Break Records."

And, "Brookfield Zoo Animals Enjoy Tasty Halloween Treats."

I felt like this SO MUCH on Tuesday: "It Only Tuesday." I love the “quotes."
  • "The current Tuesday is keeping apace with past Tuesdays with no more than one ten-thousandth of a second's variation at the most," NIST spokeswoman Dr. Geraldine Schach said. "However, I sympathize with the common consensus that this week has already been a colossal pain in the neck."
Why “English is like a child.”
  • Everything we’ve done to and for English is for its own good, we tell it (angrily, as it slouches in its chair and writes “irregardless” all over itself in ballpoint pen). This is to help you grow into a language people will respect! Are you listening to me? Why aren’t you listening to me??
"Weird and Cool: Geometric Food Art"

I haven't watched this yet, but it's on my list of things to do: "Sara Baxter Rips Mt. Sac Course Record! G Team Sweeps 2012 Mt. Sac Cross Country Invitational.

Want to learn more about the Lord's Resistance Army? I build a whole new website section this week. So pretty! So informative! (Obviously I'm biased.)

40 Ways To Stay Fat Forever
  • 1. Learn how to cook — pancakes.
  • 2. Avoid jogging when it’s hot. Or cold. Or early. Or late.
  • 9. Brunch.
  • 12. Buy reduced-fat ice cream — eat eleven times as much.
Check out my friend’s article in the New York Times: "Gleaning Clues on Sunny Days From the Clouds," and the awesome slideshow that goes with it!

This is actually very interesting and constructive: “The Structural Barriers to D.C.'s Hipness: An Anti-Rant.” As a DC resident, I don’t actually care if DC is “hip” because, well, I’m not hip (still not entirely sure what that means), and I like it here anyways.
  • The city is not hip and it never will be…. But rather than beat a dead trucker cap, we're going to take this opportunity to ask new questions: just why won't D.C. ever be "hip"?
  • It is too expensive. 
  • It's too small and can't get bigger. 
  • No one lives here long enough. 
  • Many residents are professional squares.
  • The metro: Too clean, too little.
  • No promise of glamorous success. 
Good news! “The secret to happiness? 7 portions of vegetables a day.”
  • In cross-sectional data, happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables. The pattern is remarkably robust to adjustment for a large number of other demographic, social and economic variables. Well-being peaks at approximately 7 portions per day.
I love Tina Fey:
  • Actress Tiny Fey was seething on Wednesday as she try to express her outrage at recent comments by several Republican politicians about rape. 
  • “I watch these guys and I’m like, what is happening? Am I secretary on Mad Men?” Fey said on Wednesday. “What is happening?”

An excellent list from SUAR: “20 Things No One Tells You About Running.”
  • 7. You will go through phases where you feel totally inadequate as a runner.
  • 8.  You will go through phases where you feel totally like a rock star as a runner.
  • 15. You will get addicted. Yes, there are worse things to be obsessed about than running (like meth and prostitutes), but you might be surprised by how hooked you get into the whole running thing once you start.
  • 17.  You will never be the fastest runner you know. You will always never be the slowest runner you know.
"Backup Spatula Always Ready To Go In Case The Unthinkable Happens." The title and picture is literally the extent of this "story" and for some reason it strikes me as HILARIOUS.

As a person about to go backpacking this weekend, I’m a little bit concerned about this: "How to Feel About a Snor'eastercane."
  • Batten down the hatches, have you heard? There's a weather situation a'brewing, one with the best of all possible weather situation names. (Disclaimer: Should Snor'eastercane Sandy actually hurt people, which we really hope she doesn't, we will disavow any and everything in this post. Her name is Sandy! She's a snor'eastercane. What could she have to hate about?) But what's a snor'eastercane, you ask? 
But I'm even more (unreasonably, yes I know) concerned about this part: “There will also be a full moon, meaning TIDES and WEREWOLVES. Keep an eye out.”

Have a great weekend! And Happy Hurricane to all of you on the East Coast!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Literary Bite: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

I really enjoyed this book! I borrowed Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo from my mom last time I was home, and judging books by their covers –  this cover is GREAT.

The story is totally predictable – a well-intentioned but stubborn man experiences enlightenment on a road trip with a spiritual guru – but no less enjoyable for its predictability.

The writing is readable and funny and could be cheesy but really isn't! The main character, Otto Ringling (seriously? That is the character name of choice?), is tricked into going on this road trip by his kooky sister. Volya Rinpoche, the guru, is delightfully impermeable and just genuinely happy. And reading about someone so happy made me happy.

Otto shows Volya things about America, like mini-golf, bowling, swimming, and baseball, while Volya teaches Otto about meditation and yoga. The chapter about yoga is hilarious. And on the more serious front, the chapter of Volya's speech at Notre Dame and the last chapter are my favorites.

Also, Otto works in food book publishing and part of their road trip from New York to North Dakota is to stop at interesting and good restaurants. (We all know I like some good food writing...)

Personally I’m all set on the spiritual front, but this book offers some very good (very universal, non-denominational, or even particularly religious) ideas on life. The narrative ventured into the realm of preachy at times, it could be just a bit too political for my fiction taste, but never really crossed the annoyance-line.

This was a quick read for me – just a couple days – and I would definitely recommend it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cooling Down after Running

I always cool down – after races; after workouts; I even do a cool-down walk around the block after regular mileage runs.

In an email on Monday, my friend Carrie said: “Reading your race report I decided this is the difference between between people who really run and those of us who are hacks. Real runners run a couple miles after the race to cool down. The rest of us say "F#$# that was hard," pass out on the grass, and stuff ourselves on more calories worth of pizza than we possibly could have burned (but tell ourselves otherwise) and then limp home.”
Cooling down/cheering for CAR teammates after a 1-Mile race

Carrie is by no means a “hack” – she’s done an Ironman!!! And I may or may not hit up the pizza and M&Ms after my cool-down…but I do see her point.

In my opinion, good cool-down jog is almost like reward-running: I go as slow as I want for as long as I want – sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes 5 miles – and after a race it just feels soooo happy and easy! In my experience cooling down does decrease muscle soreness, plus it keeps me from getting light-headed after a hard run.

I realize the science on this is not conclusive (anti-cool-down arguments here), but I am 100% pro.

What is a cool-down?

Cooling down is usually a slow jog or walk that allows your body to gradually transition from exercising to resting.

How long does it take?

I am in the former-college-runner habit of warming up and cooling down at least 20 minutes, but really anywhere from 5-15 is totally reasonable. The easiest cool-down would be to jog for 5 minutes, then walk for another 5. Then it's pizza-time.

Why should you cool down?

Most people understand the concept of warming up. Warming up dilates your blood vessels, supplying your muscles with oxygen, and also raises your muscles’ temperature, which increases your flexibility.

Cooling down is equally important because it slowly lowers your heart rate and keeps blood flowing to your muscles, which will result less soreness/stiffness the next day. (You’ve probably heard of “lactic acid build-up” causing soreness, but apparently that’s a myth.)

What kinds of workouts require a cool-down?

As I said, I at least walk a bit after every run. In the summer it’s more about body temperature (you know when you get in the shower right after running, then get out of the shower and are still sweating? Not ideal). This is a personal preference though, born of the habit of taking my dog for a walk after running.

Cooling down is a lot more important after races and hard workouts. For shorter/faster races (5k/10k), jog for 10 minutes and walk for 5. For longer/slower races (half-marathons and up) just walking for 10 minutes is probably fine.

Who should cool down?

Even the cool-down haters agree that athletes can benefit from cooling down.
  • Exercise researchers say there is only one agreed-on fact about the possible risk of suddenly stopping intense exercise. When you exercise hard, the blood vessels in your legs are expanded to send more blood to your legs and feet. And your heart is pumping fast. If you suddenly stop, your heart slows down, your blood is pooled in your legs and feet, and you can feel dizzy, even pass out….“If you are well trained, your heart rate is slow already, and it slows down even faster with exercise,” he said. “Also, there are bigger veins with a large capacity to pool blood in your legs.”
If you’re not “well trained” (whatever that means), maybe you won’t benefit from a cool-down. But if you run hard (whatever pace “hard” is for you), I say do it! And if the idea of additional running horrifies you, just go for a little walk.

Again, these are my opinions, and some people disagree. But no one is saying that cooling down will hurt you in any way, so why not add a couple more miles to your week, right? Do what you feel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cake of the Week: Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Bundt Cake

My very best friends and I have a super-amazing tradition. It all started way back in late-summer 2010, when I’d been living in DC for just over a year. I saw a Groupon deal for a one-man show of The Lord of the Rings, and sent out an email to a random group of friends – Hey, This looks like it might be awesome and I’d really like to go. Anyone interested in coming with me?

Through the subsequent email exchanges, I learned that 6x6, LOTR-Emily (now her blog name makes sense, huh?), and LLC also happen to love The Lord of the Rings. (I’m not sure if this makes it more or less ridiculous, but for the record, I loved the books loooooong before the movies.)

After seeing the show, 6x6 had an absolutely genius idea – We should have a Bilbo Baggins Birthday party on September 22! (That is his “actual” birthday.)

We decided to celebrate by watching the movies while eating LOTR-themed food. None of us has the stamina to do all the movies at once, so this became a 3-part party: over the course of late September through October we took turns hosting, choosing different Middle Earth species-themed food for each movie: The Fellowship of the Ring = Hobbits; The Two Towers = Elves and Ents; The Return of the King = Orcs and Men.  Anyone who liked LOTR was welcome, so these nights ranged from 5-15 people!

Up until that time, we’d all been friends separately – I was friends with 6x6 through work and running, LLC was(/is) my Long Lost Cousin (obviously), and LOTR-Emily and I had lived together for almost a year – but our LOTR parties solidified us as a group. The first series was such a success that we just had to do it again in 2011 (when Uruk-hai joined the party, bringing super-extended Blu-Ray to the table). And two occurrences clearly makes it a thing, so there was no question of not doing it in 2012.

Now let’s talk food, since that’s about 75% of the fun! I’ve made Hobbit Truffle Cakeballs, Lembas Bread (shortbread), “Red Sun Rises at Dawn, Blood Has Been Spilled this Morn” Cupcakes, Dead Marshes Dip (not photogenic enough for the blog, but similar to this), and now: THE ONE RING CAKE.

My original plan was to make a gold cake, but I was in the mood for chocolate this weekend, so whatever. This cake, like most things made with Oreos, is obscenely delicious. The chocolate cake itself is excellent, the Oreo Cream Cheese Filling is dense and intense, and the glaze over the top makes is super-pretty. I’ve adapted the recipe from Baker’s Royale to make it easier (i.e. instead of three egg yolks and then 2 eggs, how about 3 egg yolks and 3 egg whites? Efficient. Instead of milk and buttermilk, just use buttermilk for both, since every time I buy milk it goes bad in my fridge. Again, efficient.)

As we watched the lighting of the beacons, Faramir riding out to re-take Osgiliath, and Frodo and Sam struggle up Mt. Doom, this cake kept us good company.

Even if you don’t love LOTR (what? No.) you should make this cake.

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Bundt Cake 

Preparation: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray bundt pan and lightly coat with cocoa powder or flour.
Printable recipe. 
Oreo Cream Cheese Filling
  • 1/2 cup Oreos, crushed (about 10 whole Oreos)
  • 4oz. cream cheese (1/2 block), softened
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
  • 3/4  cup coffee or water, boiling
  • 3 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (if you’re using chocolate chips, it’s about 2 tablespoons less than ½ cup)
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cups butter, melted and cooled to warm
  • 1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 egg whites (leftover from making the filling)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup of confectioner sugar
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed Oreos

To make the filling:
  1. Place Oreos in a food processor bowl and pulse until crumbled. OR, place Oreo is a Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. Set aside 1 tablespoon of crushed Oreos for icing.
  2. Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To make chocolate bundt cake:
  1. Place flour, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. In a heat proof bowl, add cocoa and whisk in boiling coffee/water. Add in chopped chocolate and whisk until combined. Add in buttermilk and whisk until combined.
  3. Mix melted butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add in egg whites and beat until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and beat until combined.  Fold flour into wet mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cocoa mixture.
  4. Pour half of batter into pan. Using a spoon, make a well for the Oreo filling and evenly spoon it in, keeping filling toward the center. Pour remaining batter on top. 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50-60 minutes or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Place a wire cooling rack on top of the cake and carefully turn over – remove the pan and let cool completely.
To make icing/Assemble:
  1. Add confectioner sugar and buttermilk into a bowl and whisk to combine. Add more milk as needed to thin icing to preferred consistency.
  2. Pour icing over bundt cake and sprinkle remaining Oreo crumbs on top.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Weekend Report: Backyard Burn 10 Mile Trail Race #2

Sunday morning was a total win, both literally (!!!) and figuratively.

It was the second Backyark Burn 10 Mile Trail Race -- the weather was clear and sunny and perfect, the course was, well, challenging (more on that later), and I WON AGAIN!!!

The occurrence if this race in my life was called into question a couple weeks ago, but luckily it all worked out. Because you know what’s absolutely mandatory? Friends at races. And you know what’s incredibly helpful and awesome? Friends who can drive a roommate’s borrowed stick shift car to get you to said races! (Going to a race, running, then driving home all alone sounds like the most un-fun thing ever, right? Plus clearly I am feet and public transit-reliant, DC-resident-style, transportation impaired.)

In contrast to last week’s race at Prince William Forest Park, the Laurel Hill Park course was less over-the-river-and-through-the-woods, and more rolling ups and downs on single-track through open fields. I thought it would be faster, and I felt like I was running faster than last week; however, due to the some switchbacks, many many hairpin turns, and section of a series of bobsled-style banked U-turns, the course was actually a couple minutes slower for everyone.

I finished in approximately 1:15:28 (official results here), and won the women’s overall and my age-group. Plus I got 14th in the men's race, pretty much exactly where I was last time. Even though my time was slower, I definitely felt like I ran harder, and today’s tired legs agree. Things got rough from miles 6.5-8.5 (me, all alone, tired, ready to be done, you know the drill), which culminated in me taking my first ever mid-race drink of water at an aid station. That was a mistake – I ended up with about a tablespoon of water in my mouth and the rest of it up my nose and on my shirt. Thank God I opted for water over Gatorade! And how do people do the running/drinking thing???

Speaking of wanting to be done, I managed to pull out a 6:30 last mile, so at least I finished strong! And I passed Mr. Blue Shirt, who I’d been following from a distance for most of the race (oh yeah, part of the mid-race Mollie-brain entails making up names for everyone around me. And having this song on repeat in my head. Sorry I'm not sorry.).

After the race I jogged (soft J) a couple miles cool-down, ate an apple and some M&Ms, lay in the sun, and collected two more Winner Cups (working towards a full set!). It was excellent.

(I will hopefully be posting more a link to official results and some trail racing pictures later today...)

But that’s not all I did this weekend! Rewind to Saturday: LOTR-Emily and I toured the White House Gardens on an absolutely perfect autumn-y day. We were literally FEET from the West Wing and Oval Office. Unfortunately no Obama-sightings to report…

In the Obama's backyard.
The Obama's view. Pretty sweet!
The Oval Office.
The White House Kitchen Garden.
Fun Fact: This administration is the first to have a kitchen garden since WWII.

As one of my friends said, the weather was so perfect this weekend I felt like I was in a musical! I am enjoying it while it lasts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Best of the Week #79

What a week! Want to know the fun things I did? Work-wise, this report/blog post. And life-wise, my post-work fun included rock climbing, pooling, and dinner at Ghana CafĂ©.  So nothing too too crazy, but all fun times.

In other news, presumably Sister2 made it to Thailand. Sawadee ka! (Follow her blog here.)

And in other other news, I got some great feedback on Sara’s By the Book yesterday. And now I want to go back and read The Chronicles of Narnia

My most popular post this week was my Backyard Burn 10 Mile Trail Race Report. And I’m doing it all again this weekend, so think me some fast thoughts around 9 am on Sunday!

This is wonderful and I want to go: “Puppeteers, public broadcasters planning 'Million Puppet March' on Washington.”
  • Puppeteers and broadcasters are planning a 'Million Puppet March' to protest calls to end funding for PBS.
  • More than 1,000 puppeteers and public broadcasting supporters have signed on for a march on the National Mall in Washington three days before the election.

I am sold. "You. Must. Vote."

I have been to 7 of the “38 Essential DC Restaurants.” If only I were independently wealthy…

The whole concept of pain confuses me a lot. I just don’t understand how to quantify it – like, on a scale of one to ten? I have no idea. It either hurts or it doesn’t!  “Can Athletes Handle More Pain?
  • We see it all the time: The NFL running back who’s tackled by a 270 pound linebacker; the ultra-marathoner who pounds through 100 miles of trails; and the soccer striker who battles injury and dominates the Olympic Games. So what helps athletes who get knocked down get back up again? Scientists have found compared to the average Joe, athletes certain cognitive strategies that help them deal with the pain.
  • Researchers looked at 15 studies that examined pain threshold and tolerance in athletes and non-athletes. While both groups had similar pain thresholds (the point when pain is felt), athletes consistently tolerated more pain (the maximum amount one can handle before it becomes unbearable — fun!).
This is an MRI of broccoli.

Awesome and hilarious, I am always impressed and surprised by how clever and creative and funny some people are: “Meet the Mom Bloggers Behind @PaulRyanGosling.”
  • Daily Intel can now reveal that @paulryangosling is the creation of five humor writers, three who live in the New York City area and two in Texas. All mothers of small and school-age children, they blog at a website called “The Mouthy Housewives,” an advice site that one of them described as “Dear Abby if she were a little bit tipsy.”
  • Today, PRG has 70,000 followers. Praised byForbes; aggregated by HuffPo and the Daily Beast, and declared “over” by this website, @paulryangosling is read by political junkies everywhere: Politico’s Mike Allen is a follower, as is Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post. Someone even flew a PRG-esque banner over an event by the actual Paul Ryan. It read, "hey, girl, choose me, lose choice. P Ryan."
  • And what, exactly, do the women behind Paul Ryan Gosling hope to accomplish if they are allowed to stay open for business? “We hope to be in Mitt Romney’s binder. Obviously,” says Kay. 
Sometimes I remember to try to work on my posture.  Here’s a good infographic about posture at work, and this article, “The Ultimate Guide to Good Posture.”

Optimist Mollie would like to point out that the news does not have to be ALL doom and gloom: “Social Change’s Age of Enlightenment.”
  • After looking at hundreds of examples of social change efforts, I see a side of reality that goes unreported: namely, that we’re getting smarter about the way we’re addressing social problems….Today’s Enlightenment stems from new understandings and practices that have taken hold in the social sector and are producing better and measurable results against a range of problems.
  • We are not econs. It may sound strange, but we are increasingly addressing social problems with the recognition that human beings don’t behave rationally much of the time, or even most of the time. Recent research from behavioral psychology and neuroscience has shed light on the different ways that emotions, unconscious drives, group identities, and situational cues guide human behavior. 
  • Just the facts. Alongside these behavioral insights, we are increasingly using data, well-conducted studies, and evidence-based decision making to evaluate and sharpen the effectiveness of social interventions.
  • The Integration of Labor. For the past century, society has grown ever more specialized and balkanized. Today, we’re getting smarter about bringing people back together to build comprehensive solutions.
Oh dear. This is too good. "Maxipad Company Replies to Man’s Facebook Rant with Awe-Inspiring Sarcasm."
  • Last week, a guy named Richard Neill posted a long, funny comment on UK maxipad maker Bodyform's Facebook page about how the company had lied to him through their advertising campaigns over the years, leading him to believe that periods involved a lot of blue liquid, extreme sports, and fun music. It received nearly 85,000 likes. Instead of ignoring it, Bodyform responded with the video above, featuring CEO Caroline Williams (played by an actress) apologizing to Richard personally, explaining that the company needed to lie to protect men from "the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide." And then she drinks blue liquid and farts. Amazing.

A little Friday inspiration. (Though, my alarm went off this morning and I definitely made the executive decision to skip my run and sleep another hour. I fail at running in the morning alone. So do as I say, not as I do!)

Oh Glee. This is so emotional it’s a bit awkward…but at the same time awesome. And this is just 100% awesome.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

By the Book: Sara

This interview is part of my By the Book series, in which I interview interesting people about their reading. Any readers out there interested in being featured here? If so, email me:

And now, meet Sara who blogs at Wordy Evidence of the Fact, and has far more book authority than me because she's a English teacher!!! (Leave it to me to get excited/impressed by that job!)

So, here’s what you need to know about me: after 5 years with the same brick of a cell phone, I am considering an iPhone.  For years now, I have railed against the rhetoric that claims Apple is the guardian of cool.  I have thrown my phone, dropped it, gotten it wet, and refused to charge it for days on end, and through all that, it has persevered.  I assumed we’d be together forever.  So, why am I being so fickle?  Why am I being wooed by the iPhone?  Twitter.  That’s right.  I have finally gotten on board the ship of tweets, and it is so decidedly a mobile technology that I feel crippled without a smartphone.  Talk me out of this insanity, please.  You can find me there @wordyevidence.

When I’m not worrying about my cellular relationship, I teach courses in Rhetoric and Composition, Western Humanities, and American Fiction at UTC (Univ. of TN at Chattanooga).  I love my work but secretly dream of being a children’s librarian.  Or a professional Pinterest-user.  Or a house-flipper.  Really, I just dream of keeping my own house clean and growing and making good food and occasionally crafting beautiful things with my own two hands and writing and reading and running whenever I feel like it.  Too much to ask?

What book is on your night stand now?
John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley (2 copies, actually), Mark Haddon’s The Red House, the Bible, and my husband’s kindle, which I have been borrowing to read The Aeneid.

What was the last truly great book you read?
Though I’ve read some good books this year, 2012 has been rather a low point in my reading life.  Not a lot of standouts yet, but there’s still time, right?. Though I read it for the first time last year, the best of the most recent has to be rereading The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis.  It is just so tremendous.

Any literary genre you simply can’t be bothered with?
Mystery and Romance.  I like my fiction to have elements of realism, things I can chew on.  I don’t like the formulaic or the ridiculous, even though I do like solid science fiction.

A young, aspiring teacher wants your advice on what to read. What books do you suggest?
What?  How could I possibly suggest what an English teacher should read?  Uh….the Western canon?  Uh….all the amazing international authors?  Uh………ALL.  THE.  THINGS.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare?
I think I’ll have to go with King Lear.  Or maybe A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  Although I think we teach it and Romeo and Juliet too young for students to appreciate it fully.  It’s been awhile, though, for all of these.  I’m about to read Henry V for the first time, so maybe I should do a reread on another while I’m at it.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?  
Really, I just wish I could require every president to read one book a year.  As Yann Martel has expressed much better than I (and as I’ve posted on a few times at the blog), a reading president has the ability to understand the “other” so much more, an invaluable skill in a representative democracy.  If I had to choose, I think the president should read the National Book Award winners each year.  They may not always be my choice for the best books of our country, but once chosen, the president should read them.

What was the last book that made you cry?  
I don’t cry easily.  In fact, my family says I’m dead inside.  But I did cry reading The Book Thief.  And I have John Green’s The Fault in our Stars at my elbow, and my tear ducts know a threat when they see one.

The last book that made you laugh?
I laughed out loud a few times while reading Lewis’ The Horse and his Boy and Prince Caspian with my kids (we’re reading through The Chronicles of Narnia).  Some really funny lines in there.

The last book that made you furious?
I get furious on a semi-daily basis reading the news.  I think I know myself enough, however, to not choose books that are going to make me furious, so it’s not often.   But last year, I did just about lose my mind reading Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish.
I’m really – really – bad at abandoning books.   I am making progress, though, and the Mark Haddon book on my nightstand is likely to fall.  I’m about 100 pages in, and it’s not badly written.  In fact, there are frequently beautiful and intriguing lines.  I’m just not jiving with the characters, and, well, life is too short, right?

What were your favorite books as a child? Did you have a favorite character or hero?  
No nontraditional heroes here.  Anne of Green Gables, Jo March, and A Little Princess Sara Crewe were dear favorites of mine.  I can’t imagine why I would like these spunky, literate, independent, and fiery young women.

What’s the best book your mother ever gave you to read?  
My mother gave me just about all the books I read as a child, so how could I choose?  I can say this: my mother gave me the unmatched gift of weekly visits to the library, something that fed my reading addiction as a child and my undying appreciation for those places as an adult.  The titles don’t linger, but the habit certainly does.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?  
I’ve met a few of my literary heroes, but after seeing Salman Rushdie on The Daily Show the other day, he’s topping my wishlist right now.  He was funny, erudite, and engaging.  Also, I know I’m not alone in wanting to hang with John Green and his brother, Hank.  Those guys are just too smart, too fun, and too hilarious.  What I would want to know?  That makes me laugh…I mean, I would want to know them, the people.  It would be rude, wouldn’t it, to be like “Hi, Mr. Rushdie, uh, what did you mean by making the men so weak in The Moor’s Last Sigh?”  “Oh, was that it?  Ok, bye!”

Have you ever written to an author? Did he or she write back?
Definitely.  Having the blog has given me some boldness about talking to authors, so I’ve corresponded with several of my favorites, Jess Walter and Ann Pancake most notable among them.  Both were warm, considerate, and thoughtful. [Editor's note: Ann Pancake might be the best name ever.]

You’re organizing a literary dinner party and inviting three writers. Who’s on the list?
Didn’t I already answer this question? Rushdie and the Green brothers!  Oh, you want me to invite three more?  Okay, how about Jill McCorkle (because she is a fabulously witty), and Mo Willems (because he seems cool and funny), AAAND Barack Obama (duh). [Editor's note: What the what? Good call!]

What’s the best movie based on a book you’ve seen recently? 
I actually thought they did The Hunger Games pretty well.  But the only movie adaptation I’ve ever been fully pleased with is the Harry Potter movies.  I LOVE them beyond all reason.

What are you going to read next?
Well, most immediately next, I’m going to read the 75 Western Humanities papers in front of me.  But after that, I’ll start The Lemon Grove by Ali Hosseini, an Iranian writer I found in the library last week.

Thanks for playing Sara -- I'm going to follow up on some of your recommendations! Everyone should definitely check out her blog, Wordy Evidence of the Fact.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Humbling Marathon/Next Time Wear a Unitard

This is a guest post from Sister2 about her most recent marathon experience. 

You may know me as Sister2, or if you have been reading Eat Run Read for over 2 years (is there anyone besides my family that does?) you may know me for marathoning in unitards and spandex. Well, marathon number 3 took place last weekend and I am here to tell the story of a race going very much not according to plan.

I ran Boston (as a bandit) in 2009 and had an amazing time. It was my first marathon, I wore a neon unitard, and there wasn’t any real pressure to do anything besides finish the thing. I ran 3:56 and was very happy with my first marathon experience.

The following spring I ran the DC Suntrust Marathon (both Boston and DC were based on visiting Mollie, of course), this time wearing a gold unitard with pink spandex underneath. Although the course wasn’t too amazing (the second half went through a pretty ugly part of DC), I had another great experience and improved my time by over 25 minutes (I ran 3:30 and some odd seconds). These two experiences led me to believe that time improvement was an inevitable result of running races. OH HOW WRONG I WAS.

Skip ahead to early 2012. [Editor's note: Sister2 was busy being a bad-a** mountain biker/world traveler for a while there, and so took some time off marathons.] I was originally going to run a marathon in Buena Vista, Colorado where I worked at a summer camp for 3 years, but work plans made that impossible, so I decided to run the Biz Johnson Trail Marathon in Susanville, northern California, mostly based on convenience, timing, and price. I also read great things about the course, so I signed myself up for the marathon and my boyfriend for the 10k and kept training!

Training went great. I felt strong and relatively fast. I set a goal of running under 3:15 and was excited to race. I went to Tahoe a few days before the race to hang out at altitude and be closer to Susanville.  Although I had some cold symptoms in the week before the race, I was feeling well and ready to go the day before. This time around I opted to wear normal clothing...I just didn't think a trail race was the place for a unitard.

I was on the start line at 9:00 am with the other 200-ish runners (waaaay different than Boston) and was off.  At one point I was even the first woman (which lasted about 30 seconds). Last year’s first place woman ran 3:26 so I thought it was realistic for me to try to win. First and only real problem – I was way too concerned about my time and place and not focused on truly enjoying the race.

Things were going relatively well the first 6 miles – despite the 5,000 foot altitude, I was enjoy it. I’m not sure exactly when things really went south, but I know things weren’t feeling good at mile 9 and after.  Overall the race was pretty bad – varying levels of pain, unhappiness, and giving up – with occasional glimpses of enjoyment. On the positive side, the course was very beautiful, the other runners were always very positive (when you are so few in numbers, you always encourage the others), but I mostly ran alone, wondering while my legs wouldn’t move faster.

Taking two years off from running a marathon made me forget the degree of mental and physical challenges, and also how hard it is to run alone without a crowd cheering me on (Sidenote: I love being cheered for.  During the DC Marathon, when I was really struggling around mile 23, Mollie, who was running the last 9 miles with me, ran ahead to the aid station and told everyone my name and demanded that they cheer for me).  [Editor’s note: Awww that was so much fun!!!] 

When I was pretty sure I was too far off my goal pace, I thought I would still go for a PR. When I realized that wasn’t happening, I hoped for a Boston qualifying time (sub 3:35). When that wasn’t going to happen, I just wanted to finish (please under 4 hours).

It sounds bad, and as any runner knows, a bad race is bad, but I promise I wasn’t such a downer the entire time. There were times of gratitude for the few people cheering us on, for the people at the frequent (thank God) aid stations, for my dad going to each place he could to encourage me, for the other runners, and for my boyfriend running the last half-mile in with me.

I finished the race in 3:53:07, swearing I would never run a marathon again, disappointed, and feeling like I didn’t deserve any special treatment. I knew I couldn’t just end my running “career” feeling that way, so I thought about it a lot, discussed it with some very wise people, and I now feel so grateful for this learning experience.  I may not run another trail marathon (ever…or at least for a while), but I am sure I will want to run another marathon. My training wasn’t a waste – did finish a marathon and I learned something about dedication even when things aren’t going well. Above all, I was humbled exactly when I needed to be, when I was feeling overly self-centered and conceited.

I am looking forward to running another marathon in the next couple years, but next time I will wear a unitard just in case that was my problem with this one!

[Editor's note: Obviously Sister2 was a bit bummed about this, but she did win her (very small) age group, finished 11th out of all the women, placed 36th out of 198 overall runners! Plus oh hello, it was 26.2 miles!!! I am proud. Results here. Also, she leaves today to move to Thailand  you can follow her adventures on her blog.]