Friday, April 27, 2012

Best of the Week #57

I had a great week:
  1. Monday President Obama launched the Atrocities Prevention Board (and I got to go to the White House event).
  2. Tuesday my new book club convened at Teaism, which has delicious food, and I met a whole new set of book-lovers. 
  3. Wednesday I posted this on Facebook, and it’s still true: I can't stop smiling because I just hit up the DCPL and now have Where the Red Fern Grows, A Girl Named Disaster, Redwall, and the first 5 Glee soundtracks in my purse! #WinningWednesday
  4. Most importantly, Thursday I learned that Sister1’s baby is a boy – I’m going to have a nephew in September!!! 
  5. And I’ve started Friday with yoga and a morning glory muffin. 
What awesome things happened to you this week?

My most popular post was Polenta Lasagna with Eggplant and Greek Yogurt. I’m finishing off the last of it for lunch today…

And now for Best of the Week!

I love this blog: "Adulting, how to become a grown-up in 387 easy(ish)steps." It includes everything from having first-aid supplies in your apartment and what to wear to work (see below) to how and when to send follow up emails and maintain perspective when injured. Even if you already consider yourself a full-fledged adult, you’ll probably finds something good on here.

I disagree with this “The Flight From Conversation.” While rude people text/check their email mid-conversation Go on, I’m listening… (I’m looking at YOU. You know who you are.), I really don’t think I spend that much time “alone together.” I like conversations!
  • We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
My mama recently went to London and wanted to buy some Olympics gear but couldn’t do it because the logo and mascots are so freaking weird and ugly. "Are London's 2012 Logos the Worst in Olympic History?"

  • So far, London 2012’s visual identity has been among the worst ever, making this year’s otherwise well-planned games something of a laughing stock. Take those awful mascots, for example. Supposedly modeled on droplets of steel fallen from the stadium, Wenlock and Mandeville’s huge cyclops eyes make them sinister rather than cute.
  • Instead, they’ve played up Britain’s quirkiness, the brand of mild eccentricity the country seems to have decided unilaterally that the world finds adorable. In place of a sleek, corporate logo, something fresh, edgy and slightly provisional-looking might have helped Britain differentiate itself effectively from its predecessor. 

25 of the Most Powerful Women You’ve Never Heard Of” from FP. I’m embarrassed to admit that they’re right…I’ve only heard of Fatou Bensouda and Mary Schapiro.

I do a vegetable CSA…but umm hello yes please Pie CSA!
  • Sweet AND Savory Monthly Pie CSA Subscription: Get a sweet AND savory pie every week for a month! Choose between our six inch or nine inch pies. Six inch pies are perfect for two people; nine inch pies serve six to eight. Get dinner and dessert all in one subscription. 

Why DC's buildings are so short, and the arguments for making them taller: "Legalize Skyscrapers
Washington, D.C.’s height restrictions are bad for the nation’s capital and terrible for America."
  • The basics are that no residential building can be erected that’s taller than 90 feet and no commercial building can be taller than 130 feet, “except on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 1st and 15th Streets Northwest, where an extreme height of 160 feet” is allowed. This is really short.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I find this video hilarious.

I like this idea – they read it so I don’t have to – “Eight Things I Learned from Reading Every Last Word of the Economist.”
  • Every day for the next two weeks, an editor is going to read an entire issue of another magazine and report back on what they learned. These are not meant to be digests or summaries. I have asked the editors to cite specific facts and/or insights that they did not previously know.
  • Also appreciated this comment in the intro: "To subscribe to The New Yorker is to accept the feeling of inadequacy that comes with flipping on SportsCenter rather than attacking the unread pile of them on your bedside table."

I am a sucker for built-in bookshelves anywhere and everywhere. 

Because I spend far too much (mostly professional) time nerding out about commercial satellites: "A Military and Intelligence Clash Over Spy Satellites."
  • In recent years, advances in commercially available technology have allowed private companies to develop satellites carrying high-resolution sensors and perform many of the surveillance tasks that were once the sole preserve of classified satellites owned and operated by the intelligence community.
  • “The beauty of commercial imagery is that it is unclassified,” said Walter Scott, chief technical officer of DigitalGlobe, a satellite company based in Longmont, Colo.
And finally, this is just funny. "My Life as a Failed Country Gentleman."
  • I decided to become a rustic squire when I was 32 and stupid as only 32 can be. Youth's frantic idiocy doesn't have the means. Simple-minded old age lacks the energy. In midlife, we're as dumb as we get. So I bought land in New Hampshire—first a little, then more and finally too much.
  • I'd majored in English literature and, as sometimes happens, thought this was supposed to make me English instead of literate.
  • I can't give up my estate. I've become too strongly attached to its precipitous slopes and…other precipitous slopes. I've formed an inviolate bond with the land. The bank calls it a mortgage.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Polenta Lasagna with Eggplant and Greek Yogurt

There is something incredibly satisfying about polenta. It's dense but not heavy, pleasantly yellow, and just generally good

I remember making it with my mama from scratch (Don’t stop stirring! Don’t stop stirring!) -- pouring the creamy polenta into a pan, then slicing and serving like a savory pie topped with tomato sauce.

Then in college I made a groundbreaking Trader Joe’s discovery: you can buy pre-cooked polenta in a roll! Just slice, heat, and eat! All of a sudden polenta was again  easy and accessible for my too-lazy/busy sophomore self.

The following recipe uses that super-easy already-made polenta, but jazzes it up quite a bit to make something fabulous. Meet Polenta Lasagna with Eggplant and Greek Yogurt, where polenta parades as noodles, and the fillings are only limited by your own creativity!

It may look long and labor-intensive, but this recipe really only takes about 30 minutes to prep and 30 to bake. The fillings can be adjusted to fit your fridge's contents, mood, and the can make it vegetarian, vary the vegetables, and add as much or as little cheese as you like. 

And this makes for great leftovers...Do it!

Polenta Lasagna with Eggplant  and Greek Yogurt

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup white mushrooms, diced (optional)
  • 2 1/2 cup eggplant, diced
  • 1 roll of polenta, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup jarred marinara sauce
  • a sprinkling of cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 2 pre-cooked/frozen turkey meatballs, finely chopped (optional...I used these)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (set aside 1 teaspoon for sprinkling on top)
  • 2 teaspoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (they usually come whole or in strips, so you have to chop them up)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mediterranean herb blend, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium-low until the oil is hot (about 2 minutes). Add in onions and saute until translucent (5-10 minutes).
  2. Add in eggplant and saute until slightly cooked, about 10 minutes. The secret of this recipe is NOT to over-cook the eggplant now, because it'll cook much more in the oven. If you over-cook at the beginning, it'll end up a soggy mess.
  3. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, just to start the cooking (same principle as the eggplant).
  5. In a small bowl, mix the diced meatballs, Greek yogurt, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, and salt and pepper.

  • Preheat your oven to 375*. Spray or grease an 8-inch pan. 
  • Lay down 1/3 of the polenta slices, covering the bottom of the pan as best as you can. (TIP: Thinly slicing the polenta can be difficult. I recommend refrigerating the roll for at least an hour before slicing. Then, clean off your knife every few slices. And don't worry if it's not perfect, it really doesn't matter that much.)
  • Spread the eggplant mixture over the polenta, then spread 1/2 the marinara over the eggplant.
  • Lay down the next 1/3 polenta slices. Spread the Greek yogurt mixture on top. 
  • Sprinkle mushrooms over it.
  • Lay down last 1/3 of polenta slices.
  • Cover the polenta with the rest of the marinara, then sprinkle grated cheddar and the 1 teaspoon of Parmesan on top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Let the lasagna sit in the pan for 10 minutes to set before cutting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Literary Bite: Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was like reading a really good romantic comedy (and I mean that in the best way possible).

The setting (New York, 1938s) and the characters (25-year-old women trying to figure out work and life) were similar enough to me to forge a connection, but different enough to amuse rather than annoy.

The entire book is kind of like a daydream – what if my life involved accidentally running into multimillionaires and going on fabulous dates to the fanciest places? (Yes, I realize that in that case my life would be fiction. But it’s still fun to read about!) However, though it appears to be all good and wonderful in the lives of the main characters, best friends Katey and Eve, one of the major themes of the book is that appearances aren’t always what they seem.

The story takes place over the course of one year (as stories that start on New Year’s Eve almost inevitably do). The author also wrote it in a year, starting January 1, 2006, and finishing 365 days later. Interestingly enough, “The book was designed with 26 chapters, because there are 52 weeks in the year and I allotted myself two weeks to draft, revise and bank each chapter.”

And I was surprised to realize half-way through reading that Towles is a man! In an interview he said, “I prefer to put myself in an environment that’s farther afield and look through the eyes of someone who differs from me in age, ethnicity, gender and/or social class. I think a little displacement makes me a sharper observer.”

This review likens it to Sex and the City and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is semi-accurate, but I felt the novel had more depth that those parallels suggest. "One night at the novel’s outset touches off the chain reaction that will produce both Katey’s career and her husband, and define her entire adult life," (NYT) but at the time she doesn't realize it. The characters themselves feel real and are generally likeable (or detestable when appropriate). And as a detailed period piece it really transports you to (at least my imagination's version) of New York in the late 1930s.

Rules of Civility is a fast-reading amusing book. I recommend it!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cake of the Week: Brown Butter Cake with Cinnamon Chocolate Frosting

Saturday morning I made a classic Mollie-mistake. I got up, ate breakfast, and hopped on the metro over to Virginia. I texted my friend to let her know I'd arrived, only to learn that we have furniture-shopping plans for next Saturday! Fail. (Dates, numbers, and just general attention to detail are clearly not my strengths).

So I found myself suddenly with a whole day and absolutely no plans. I texted 6x6 and we decided to do what all city-dwellers do on a nothing-going-on beautiful day: urban hiking. (Just kidding, I realize we're the only ones who do this.) Our route covered a lot of DC: from Dupont Circle to Eastern Market, then to Farragut, Foggy Bottom, and finally back to Dupont. Some beings are sedentary, some are migratory...we're perambulatory. I mapped our walk when I got home - over 9 miles! With only one sit (for Fro Zen Yo - the main indicator that it's summertime!).

I felt my newly-acquired sunburn as I pulled on my sports bra to go for a run. Other summer indicators were out in full force: the Mall was full of tourists, I ended my run very sweaty, and I had to water my garden to keep the roses alive.

In contrast, Sunday was all-day rainy, so I spent it curled in my reading chair with a cup of tea, baking and cooking delicious food. I hadn’t made a layer cake in far too long, which means I was over-due to pull out my bowls and measuring cups, crank up my music, and start baking! So this Browned Butter Cake with Cinnamon Chocolate Frosting was born out of semi-boredom, but in the best way possible.

Browned butter is soooo easy to make and adds amazing flavor. It’s hard to describe…like butter, but buttery-er! And cinnamon chocolate (aka Mexican chocolate) is one of my favorite flavor combos. And it’s a one-bowl cake. So basically this recipe is a total win.

Brown Butter Cake with Cinnamon Chocolate Frosting

Printable recipe.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup browned butter*
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/4 tsp baking powder

*To brown butter:

  1. Heat pan on medium heat.
  2. Cut butter in to pieces and melt in pan.
  3. Stir continuously. Butter will foam up.
  4. After foam subsides, small brown flecks will start to appear in bottom of pan.
  5. Continue stirring, until butter has reached a nice brown color, and nutty aroma - once you can smell it, it’s done! It takes about 5 minutes. 
  6. Remove from heat and continue stirring until cool (about 3 more minutes).

For cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Grease and flour 3 8- or 9-inch pans, or line 24 cupcake tins. 
  3. Beat sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about a minute.
  4. Add milk, browned butter, and vanilla, stirring just until combined.
  5. Add flour and baking powder, beating until well mixed--about a minute. Don't over mix.
  6. Bake in preheated oven: 18-22 minutes for cupcakes, about 25 minutes for cakes, until tops are springy to the touch or a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.
  7. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to finish cooling on a wire rack. Once they’re cool, I recommend refrigerating for at least 15 minutes before frosting. 
  8. Cake recipe adapted from Honey and Jam.

Cinnamon Chocolate Frosting

This recipe makes about 2 cups frosting -- just enough for one 3-layer cake. If you like A LOT of frosting, I recommend 1 ½-ing it. 

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter, cinnamon, and cocoa until smooth. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Beat in vanilla and add small amount of additional milk, if needed.

You know the drill: frost, serve at room temperature, and enjoy!

Printable recipe.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Best of the Week #56

Let me start this Best of the Week by saying that I love Boston in the springtime, and major congratulations to all who ran that horrifically overheated race!

My most popular post this week was Hip Flexor and Piriformis Stretching and Strengthening (and in running news, I ran 7 miles on Tuesday night! And then pooled the rest of the week.). 

Speaking of Boston, I loved Cris’s post, “Why'd they do it? (brain droppings on Boston).”
  • And every once in a while, you exceed even those dreams, and stun yourself with the time on the finish clock.  And that rare moment is addictive -- as soon as it's over, you're chasing the next hit. 
Graph of the Day: Tweets in Translation.

By now I’m pretty sure everyone on the interwebs has seen “The 21 Absolute Worst Things in the World.”  This is a nice follow-up from the New Yorker:
  • I contend that “The 21 Absolute Worst Things in the World” is an ingenious specimen of thisness, and it also partakes in another quality of great literature: it points out that lonely experiences of aggravation (dunking a big cookie in a glass that turns out to be too small, fitted sheets that slip off a mattress) are actually universally shared. 
I love this TED talk on "The power of introverts." Definitely worth watching/listening to the whole thing!

Is this person me? Possibly… “Warnings for my future husband
  • I talk to my mom every day. We talk about everything. This will never change.
  • I don’t play well with others in the kitchen. I will try to boss you around, even if you are making your great-grandmother’s recipe that you’ve made 200 times.
  • I don’t like carrying things. Especially when going out. I will probably ask you to hold any of the following items in your pockets: my phone, cash, ID, keys, lipgloss. Unless my dress has pockets, in which case, I will make a HUGE deal out of the fact that my dress has pockets and I don’t need to ask to use your pocket space. Because, have you seen this? It’s a dress with pockets!

For some reason watching the making of this insane cheese ball is mesmerizing. 

This very long but interesting Sports Illustrated article: “To Run In Kenya, To Run In The World - 
  • The result of this concentration of prize money in the marathon has been a dominance unparalleled in modern international sports. Though a power in distance running since the 1960s, Kenyan men have made the marathon their own since Wanjiru's bold example in Beijing. It's the kind of supremacy that usually exists when just one country truly values a sport: Japan in sumo, Canada in curling. Between April and November 2011, Kenyan men broke course records in the five most prominent marathons—Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London and New York City—by a collective sum of six minutes and 22 seconds. It's hard to come up with any measure sufficient to characterize the strength of the Kenyan marathon army, but try this: Sixteen American men in history have run faster than 2:10 (a 4:58 per mile pace); 38 Kenyan men did it in October.
  • In the Chinese capital, Wanjiru changed the marathon forever. Runners could once coast the first 20 miles of major marathons, but since Wanjiru's bold example, the race has started when the race actually starts. Thirteen of the 17 sub-2:05 finishes in history have come since Wanjiru's epic performance at the Olympics. Expect Kenyans at the London Games to try to break the rest of the world from the gun. That will be Wanjiru's legacy.

I’m not especially afraid of heights, but I get a little dizzy just looking at this picture of a super-high suspension bridge in China. Note (from LLC): Keep in mind that Chinese structures have a habit of falling down…and that they are terribly dangerous drivers…

Thanks to East Coast Calling I just discovered and enjoy parts of this tumblr: "As You Like it, Notes on the complexities of like liking someone."
  • When a tall chick sees a short chick dating tall dude, they have the same reaction that a black chick has when she sees a white chick dating a black dude. It's like "bitch get your own! We only have so many good ones!" 
  • Internet dating is like shopping at a thrift store.  There are a few gems here and there, but mostly its just pit stained T-shirts and old underwear. 
  • Guys. Wear Suits. You think Clint Eastwood was like “nah, I think that dude is her boyfriend” NO. Suit.

The Chork, for the chopstick impaired. Brilliant or ridiculous? I think both!

  • However, Banda’s, or any other good leaders’ skills are insipid if they are used to lead a nation of bad citizens. Citizenship, not leadership, is the concept that we more urgently need to examine. Good leaders can be in charge of bad citizens namely and as a result achieve little long-term solutions, but good citizens can”t elect, accept or rejoice bad leaders.

If you’re in DC and want an event this Saturday, I plan on attending this in Dupont: Dance in the Circle

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bobbi Gibb: The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon

This year’s Boston Marathon marked 45-years since the 1967 race where Kathrine Switzer registered as K. V. Switzer to hide her gender and race officials tried (and failed – she finished in 4:20) to physically remove her from the course. Switzer holds the honor of “the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon,” (5 years later in 1972). However, the honor of “the first woman to run the Boston Marathon” goes to Bobbi Gibb, who ran unofficially in 1966.  

I interviewed Gibb and wrote the following profile when she was in Boston to shoot off the gun for the Elite Women’s start in 2006 commemorating her first marathon’s 40-year anniversary. 

“I hid in the bushes and waited for the race to start. I let about half the pack go by and then I jumped in. I have to give them credit, it didn’t take long for the men around me to notice,” an older woman with wild blonde hair relaxes into a plush chair at the Fairmont at Copley Plaza on the eve of the 110th Boston Marathon. “’Is that a girl? Hey girl, are you going to run the whole thing?’ they asked me.” She pops a few peanuts into her mouth and explains that at first she was afraid they would be angry, that they would throw her out of the race. But Bobbi Gibb quickly learned that not everybody adhered to the typical 1960s stereotypes. The runners welcomed her, a woman, into their elite circle saying, “It’s a free road, she can run if she wants to.”

On April 17, 1966 Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run a marathon. She did so in defiance of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), world running standards, and common stereotypes. By finishing the Boston Marathon, Gibb called into question all restrictions on women, and contributed to the women’s movement of the 1960s.

For most of the twentieth century, women’s athletics were severely limited. People did not believe that women could exercise like men could. Until 1910, doctors believed that women breathed differently than men, making them unfit for strenuous exercise. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, is quoted on the official Olympics website saying, "It is indecent that the spectators should be exposed to the risk of seeing the body of a women being smashed before their very eyes. Besides, no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks," as his reasons for banning women from the Games.

When Women’s Track and Field was introduced to the Games in 1928, women ran up to 800 meters. However, when several women collapsed at the conclusion of the 800-meter race, officials banned women from running any distance greater than 100 meters. “It was believed that women would do themselves irreparable damage to their procreational capabilities, so no longer events were held," says John Thresher, president and CEO of Athletics Canada. Women ran no further than 100 meters until 1948 when the Olympic Committee introduced the 200-meter dash. In 1964, only two years before Gibb ran her first marathon, women competed in 100, 200, 400 and 800-meter races.

While growing up in Massachusetts, Gibb knew absolutely nothing about competitive running. Nothing “inspired me to start running,” she laughed, in response to my question. “It’s not that I started running, I actually never stopped running,” she explained. “I just loved to run since I could stand.” In high school she played field hockey, one of the few sports available to girls, and in her spare time she ran with her dogs, exploring the woods around her house.  While attending college at Tufts University where her father taught, Gibb met a man on the cross country team. “After a while I was keeping up with him. We’d run all over Boston…. I felt so happy when I ran – so relaxed.”

In 1964, a friend’s father suggested she watch the Boston Marathon. “A marathon!” Gibb exclaims, mocking her own naiveté. “I hadn’t even heard of marathons.” But after watching the race, she was inspired. “I saw the marathon and fell in love with it. I started to train in nurses shoes.” (In the 1960s nobody made women’s running apparel.) Unlike contemporary marathoners, Gibb had absolutely no formal training, coach, or idea of what she should do. In the summer of 1964, she traveled across the country in a VW van accompanied by her dog, a malamute named Moot. “I’d run two, three, four hours a day,” she said. “I was running 30 to 40 miles at a stretch.”

Gibb does not approach the sport with the same attitude as other runners. “Running is not a chore or punishment to Bobbi, it’s a joy,” explained fellow marathoner Dave Dial. Dial and Gibb run together in their hometown of San Diego. “She’d be quick to pause and say, ‘Wow, look at that rock formation,’ or, ‘look at that flower.’” Gibb’s offbeat style may surprise many runners. She doesn’t run for time but for the connection with nature, for her love of “the earth, the sky, the trees.” And Gibb did not compete in marathons for her own personal glory, but to open up fields closed to women. Dial explained, “Some people do things for fame or money, but Bobbi did what she did out of love.”

As an undergraduate, she attended art school, but Gibb wanted to study math and science so she enrolled in UCSD for pre-med, until, “They told me I was too pretty and I’d upset the boys in the lab.” That fall of 1966, she mailed her marathon entry to the BAA. Gibb was shocked when she received a letter from the race director, Will Cloney, stating, “women are not physiologically able to run such distances and furthermore are not allowed to do so.” Gibb was unaware that the race was closed to women, but she knew she could destroy the false claim that women could not run 26.2 miles. “I was angry and upset,” she said. “So I decided to run the marathon anyway.” Reflecting on it 40 years later she still gets excited at the injustice. “It’s a Catch-22!  If you’re not allowed to do something how can you prove to people that you can do it?” Gibb knew that “somebody had to do something” and saw her opportunity to “blow the whole thing wide open.”

According to the BAA’s website, the Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world. The race was inspired by the first modern Olympic marathon in 1896, and was first run April 19, 1897 by only 15 competitors (ten of which finished). The race is now held every Patriot’s Day, which falls on the third Monday in April. It attracts entrants from all over the world, numbering in the 20,000s. In 1966, before the running boom of the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were 540 entrants.

On the day of Gibb’s first marathon, she convinced her mother to drive her to the start of the race. She knew that she was about to make a huge social statement for women, and “when you do something that far out of the social norm you don’t know how people will react.” Once the runners around her realized Gibb was a woman and accepted her, she began to relax and enjoy the run. Spectators along the way cheered enthusiastically for “the girl.”

“When I got to Wellesley, the girls went crazy,” remembers Gibb, a smile of satisfaction on her sun-tanned face. Even though she has told this story countless times, it is clearly a fond memory. “I felt like I was setting them free – I was really doing it.” She ran the race conservatively. “I felt a great sense of responsibility because I didn’t want to risk failing and setting women back 15 years,” explained Gibb. Blisters from her first pair of real running shoes and dehydration challenged her in the last few miles. Nevertheless, Gibb finished in 3:21:46, placing her 126th out of 540 male runners.

She described the finish in Copley Square, “The governor of Massachusetts came down and shook my hand. He’d heard on the radio that I was running and wanted to congratulate me.” The press was all over Gibb and her family for the next few days. She took a taxi home from the race, and when she arrived her street was lined with cars – she found her parents in the midst of a crowd of reporters.

“I didn’t realize it would take so long to change the rules.” She ran the Boston Marathon unofficially in 1967 and 1968, waiting for the day the race opened to women. “I thought, I’ll keep doing this until everyone believes a woman can run this race,” she said. Each year more women ran. In 1967, Katherine Switzer snuck into the race by lying about her gender. She ran under her initials, K.V. Switzer, and had her coach attend her pre-race physical and registration. When race officials realized their mistake, they tried to physically remove Switzer from the course. Gibb didn’t know about Switzer until after the race, and was appalled to hear the drama Switzer’s lie had caused. “I wish I’d known Kathrine was running, then we could have done it together. I didn’t want the race officials to see women runners as a problem because then they would never let us run.” In 1968 a total of five women ran, all without official numbers. “It was really positive that year,” Gibb smiles. “It felt like a celebration.”

The BAA did not open the Marathon to women until Title IV forced integration in 1972. Title IV states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” In 1972 at the 76th Boston Marathon, eight women entered, and all eight finished. Official BAA records state that Nina Kuscsik was the first women’s champion, finishing in three hours, ten minutes and twenty-six seconds.

Gibb is pleased with the lasting effects of her marathons. “I wasn’t trying to be a role model, but I did want to inspire people. I did it in order to prove that women could run 26.2 miles and to call into question every other false belief about women.” Gibb’s race was a pivotal event in the women’s movement. According to Gibb, within two months of her marathon the National Organization for Women, dedicated to eliminating gender discrimination, was started in New York. In 1972, the Olympic Games in Munich included the 1500-meter run in Women’s Track and Field for the first time. The women’s marathon was not added to the Olympic schedule until 1984, when American Joan Benoit won the gold medal.

“Bobbi’s done a lot of things in her life, and she’s done it all on her own terms,” says Dial. After 1968, Gibb decided to focus more on her education, earning her law degree and working as a lawyer for 25 years. “The most important thing for women is to get an education,” she says.  When reflecting on women’s rights today, she says, “Things have really moved in the direction I wanted them to move in,” but Gibb recognizes that women have a way to go. “People still don’t believe that women can really think. And in part it’s the fault of women,” she lectures. “I’d like to see women taking themselves and their minds more seriously.”

When Gibb ran her first marathon, she knew she was making a huge social statement, but even so she tends to shun attention. Gibb’s independent spirit has shaped her life and affected the lives of those around her. She has recently returned to her interest in biology and is doing research for an ALS lab in Cambridge. She laughs and says, “About ten years ago I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.” She hopes to publish the books she has written, and continue to work on her art and sculpture. But Gibb will never forget her love of running. She was planning on running the Boston Marathon this year for her run’s 40th anniversary, but the race organizers asked her to shoot off the start gun for the Women’s Elite race instead. According to the BAA, 7,625 women finished the Marathon this year. Gibb’s reaction to the magnitude of women’s running today is uplifting. “I see women running and they look so strong and confident. I feel like they’re all my daughters. That’s the reason I did all this – so women could feel strong and confident.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hip Flexor and Piriformis Stretching and Strengthening

Almost all of my running injuries stem from one problem area: my right hip and hamstring. My most recent injury iteration is a pain in the hip flexor (psoas major and/or illiacus if you want to get technical), so I’ve been dealing by:
  1. taking time off running,
  2. stretching,
  3. foam rolling,
  4. and strengthening. 
Injury treatment is very personal – everyone has different issues – but the following stretches and exercises are pretty standard and might be worth considering even if you’re not injured. (Had I been stretching my piriformis none of this recent business would have happened.)

The following are a few of the stretching/strengthening exercises I've been doing at least once a day. Disclaimer: I’m just a runner, not an athletic trainer or doctor.


Hip Flexor:

As seen in the picture, go into a lunge position.  Keep your front knee at a 90 degree angle, keep your lower back straight, and gently push your hip flexor forwards while you lean back slightly.  You should feel a light stretch in your hip flexor.

Hold the position for 5 seconds, go slightly further into the stretch for 5 seconds more, and go slightly further once more for 5 seconds.  Alternate legs, and repeat twice more for a total of 3 sets for each leg. (source)


Starting Position: Standing at table of hip height, place right leg on table with knee bent and the hip externally rotated so the outer low leg resting on the table. The standing leg is in parallel and the torso is square to the working leg (Figure A). Hinge forward from the hips with the back straight and rest your hands on the mat (Figure B). All motion comes from the hips, so the spine should not be curved or arched.
Then perform the same stretch with the standing foot turned out with the body facing in the direction
the toes are pointing (Figure C). Then hinge forward from the hip with the back straight (Figure D).
Last, perform the same stretch with the standing foot turned in with the body facing in the direction the toes are pointing (Figure E). Then hinge forward from the hip with the back straight (Figure F).
I hold each stretch for about 3 seconds, then hinge back up, then repeat about 5 times. (source PDF)

Foam Rolling

I've been rolling out my quads, piriformis, hamstrings, and IT band. Read my article about foam rolling here, and check out the slideshow to see pictures of how to foam roll.



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Hip Flexor 

Starting Position: Lie on your side on a mat/floor with your legs lengthened straight away from your body. Stack your feet in neutral position. Your lower arm can be bent and placed under your head for support. Your upper arm rests upon your upper hip. Your hips and shoulders should be stacked up and aligned vertically to the floor. Your head should be aligned with your spine. Engage your abdominal muscles to support your spine.

Upward Phase: Exhale. Gently raise the upper leg off the lower leg. Keep the knee straight and the foot in a neutral position. Do not allow the hips to roll forward or back. Both knees should be "looking" straight ahead. Continue raising the leg until the hips begin to tilt, the waist collapses into the floor or until your feel tension develop in your low back or oblique muscles.

Downward Phase: Gently inhale and return the leg to your starting position in a slow, controlled manner. After completing your set, roll over and repeat with the opposite leg. (source)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cake of the Week: Salted Coconut Maple Oatmeal Cookies

This weekend I learned a new term from my very smart finance friends: Alpha

For funds and investments and other money things that are far over my head, it means, “The excess return of the fund relative to the return of the benchmark index for a fund,” and/or, “a measure of an investment’s performance over and above the performance of investments of the same risk.” 

In normal person (super-duper simplified) terms it could be described as extra value added or something performing above expectations. 

So what does this have to do with cookies? Well an oatmeal cookie is good. But an alpha oatmeal cookie performs above and beyond, taking the expected result and making it better. This weekend, in the context of these Salted Maple Coconut Oatmeal Cookies, Jess and I combined our alphas. 

She added the maple, and I added the knowledge that you can half the butter (leading to “healthier” cookies…or you can just eat twice as many). And her boyfriend Zac added the kosher salt component, taking these cookies to a whole new level of awesomeness. And the resulting cookies were aaammmaaazzziiinnnggg. 

Lesson conclusion: Alpha + alpha + alpha = yum

Salted Maple Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

This is a half recipe that makes about 24 normal-sized cookies. You can easily double it for a full batch. (Printable recipe.)

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • Kosher or sea salt for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Mix in the water. 
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, coconut, and chocolate chips. 
  4. Chill the dough for 15-30 minutes (if you have the patience. It won’t be the end of the world if you don’t chill, but chilling softens the oats a bit which is definitely a good thing). 
  5. On a silpat of greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, scoop out cookie dough in 1-2 tablespoonful sized balls. Using your hand, flatten the balls just a little (since this recipe has less butter, they won’t spread very much). Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt. 
  6. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. 
  7. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best of the Week #55

Best of the Week is a little bit out of control this time around…basically there’s been a constant stream of gchatting and site/blog-sharing this week. Soooo win for you all!

My most popular post was S’Mores Cookies. (Ooh as the weather gets nicer, I’m thinking grilling! Fires! S’mores!)

This is officially the BEST TUMBLR EVER. When In DC. I would love to specifically share with you each awesome post…but that would be like 75% of them, so I’ll let you explore yourself. (LOVE this and this and this and this and this...ok I'll stop.)

"Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed in You." I love the bear and owl. But scroll to the bottom because the last one is great too.

4. This Baby Bear
This baby bear is frankly shocked that you missed that deadline. Shocked.

The original pitch for The Muppet Show. I LOVE the muppets. (It gets really funny around 1:20…or at least I think so.) (source)

This will be interesting to a very select few people…"Peak Intel: How So-Called Strategic Intelligence Actually Makes Us Dumber."
  • The problem is, the market for intelligence is now largely about providing information that makes decision makers feel better, rather than bringing true insights about risk and opportunity.
Video of a real life fruit ninja – he succeeds the second time around. Great use of a Phantom camera.

This is an interesting and very well-written article. Definitely worth the read. "Africa's Tuareg Dilemma." (There will always be a special place in my heart for all things Tuareg.)
  • These aren't countries so much as city-states -- Nouakchott, Bamako, Niamey, Ndjamena -- with armies that try to keep some order in the far-flung, far less populated reaches. State armies never have ruled this desert; rather, they have maintained for much of the time a stable cease-fire with the Tuaregs there (often through integration of key Tuareg fighters into local military bases).
  • ...many governments in places like Africa cannot simply be classified as democratic or authoritarian, because their most "distinguishing characteristic" is sheer "fragility," no matter who is in charge.

 I win at this. Does that mean I have the intellect of a pre-schooler?

I’m so glad the internet has come to recognize that corgis are the cutest dogs in the world. (source)
  • Corbin the Corgi (full name Corbin Dallas Multipass) is an impressively cute dog, stemming from the fact that he is a Corgi. Here he is being especially cute while submitting to his mandatory pre-house vacuuming.

Furniture shopping? I know people LOVE Ikea, but it kind of scares me. And it’s plan for world domination scares me even more. "Welcome to Ikea-land: Furniture giant begins urban planning project."
  • There are feelings you get when you enter an Ikea store. The vertiginous experience of getting lost in their craftily designed labyrinth. The surprise of wandering into something you hadn’t intended to buy. The discomfiting almost-warmth of a fake apartment. The faintly reassuring sense that your children and your car are in someone else’s hands. Then the odd realization that you’re really inside a high-security structure on the distant edge of town.
  • Would you like to feel that way all the time? The people who run the Swedish home-furnishings behemoth are launching a bold push into the business of designing, building and operating entire urban neighbourhoods.
Followed by this of course:

This article inspired my YA Fiction Challenge. "The Greatest Girl Characters in Young Adult Literature."
  • [Katniss] might have been a red-headed spitfire determined to live life on her own terms (or that other red-headed spitfire, who did the same). She might have been a prairie girl, or an orphan girl, or just a little girl who didn't quite fit in—maybe one who squeezed a whole tube of toothpaste into the sink, just because she felt like it. She might have been a girl spy. Part of what makes Katniss such a relatable character, despite being put into a situation to which none of us can truly relate, is that she's a girl character like so many who came before her, if writ slightly larger, and with different, more violent bells and whistles. 
A list of banned words for food writers.
  • "Spheres" or "orbs" to describe round foods. Ice cream is served in scoops. Doughnuts can be fried as balls. Neither are orbs. That's just forced use of thesaurus right there.
Want to go back to my place for some geospatial analysis? Read more "Pick Up Lines for the Planet".

chocolate printer exists:
  • A chocolate printer that allows sweet lovers to create their own custom-made 3D treats is to go on sale tomorrow at a cost of £2,500.
  • The machine squirts out chocolate and, via computer instructions, allows the user to build any shape they like out of the food.

Genius: "The Most Difficult Dinner Guest Ever and 5 Meals to Feed Them."

When writing my waffle blog post on Tuesday, I came across some questions about waffle terminology that I’d never considered before. (source)
  • Suggestions included nooks and divots [1]; indents, syrup holders and pockets [2]; honeycombs, dimples, grid indentations, dents and windows [3]. Wikipedia's waffle article uses the word pockets one time, in passing.
How to design the foam on your latte. Just in case you need/want this skill.

"How Muslims View Easter"
  • With Easter on the way, I became curious about what the Koran has to say about the crucifixion. I called an imam I know, Ibrahim Sayar, and we got together over glasses of Turkish tea. Sayar does a lot of interfaith work, much of which involves getting people from different religions together to eat kebabs. In the company of Christians, he said, mentioning the status of Jesus in Islam can be a great icebreaker. “I always tell people, there are millions of Muslims named after Jesus and Mary—we call them Isa and Mariam,” he said. “Nobody names their children after someone they don’t like.”
I am dying to have a red tiled kitchen. "20 Small Kitchens with Style."

This is a super-cute Nike commercial. My only complaint is running skirt??? Jeesh. (source)

Are you amused? You should be. Have a great weekend!