Friday, September 27, 2013

Best of the Week #112

Friday!!! Am I right? I don’t have much to report (seriously, it’s all a blur since Monday) so we’ll just get right to the Best of the Week. Enjoy!

Ever reach that point in the day where you think it would be fun to look at amazing photos? If yes, then: "Adrenaline-Pumping Photos From Some of the World’s Biggest Thrill-Seekers."

"Smack me on the head with a shovel?" Hmm ok? (Aka new bike helmet technology)

Kids like this make me wonder what I’m doing with my life: “Could a teenager save the world's oceans? Student, 19, claims his invention could clean up the seas in just five years.”
  • Device could remove 20 billion tonnes of plastic from the world's oceans
  • Boyan Slat came up with the idea of a series of floating booms and processing platforms designed to 'suck' in floating plastic rubbish
  • The young engineering student's 'ocean cleanup' concept is designed to be self sufficient and harness energy from the sun and waves
  • His invention could even make money by selling the plastic collected from the oceans, which kills millions of animals every year
This captures exactly how I felt as I took my Quantitative Methods for Economics (i.e. calculus) midterm yesterday:

"99% of what I do is still a mystery to me." (source)

MUST WATCH: this to the very end. Joseph Gordon Levitt singing “Super Bass” is my new favorite thing. “Jimmy Fallon's Latest Lip Sync-Off Was Actually Epic.”

Also, "Baby's Reaction to Eating Her First Ice Cream Is Too Cute for Words." (Sister1 -- has Liam tried ice cream yet?)

SO many cool maps of so many random things. "Maps that will change the way you see the world." Particularly interesting: population density, bribery, maternal leave, Pangaea, highest paid public employees, Area codes in which Ludacris claims to have hoes, Literal Chinese translations for country names.

I was mired in starting school at the time, and therefore completely failed to blog about my good ski friend Mer’s BEAUTIFUL wedding mid-August. Check out Mer and Dan’s Wedding Video!

Meredith + Daniel // Sugar Bowl California from JOHNNYBFILMS on Vimeo.

A very useful flowchart of "How to argue about research you don’t like."

Woah damn these look amazing! What if I made these stuffed portobellos and sandwiched them between toasted English muffins? The most EPIC breakfast ever?

Speaking of breakfast, my weekend plans involve reading all the things, yoga, and whole wheat pumpkin pancakes -- yep, it’s officially fall!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekend(ish) Report: Red Sox, Walden Pond, and Martha's Vineyard

This Weekend Report is more of a Last Week report, since I have been a bit overwhelmed by all of the things and thus have neglected blog writing. I'm sorry, but I have to prioritize, and right now it looks like 1) school, 2) sleep, 3) exercise, 4) everything else. 

So here's to the everything else!

Last week I attended my first Red Sox game ever. I am fully aware that this is baseball blasphemy, considering I spent four years of undergrad within a mile or two of Fenway Park. But better late than never, right?

I and about 30 classmates bought three rows in right field and enjoyed the game (they lost, womp womp). It was really fun, but I am about to commit further baseball blasphemy here -- I have to admit that I prefer Nats games in DC...Nats stadium is just so much better!

Next up I did another Boston-area "first" and finally saw the famous Walden Pond! I've been taking time off running (some seriously strange low-back business going on here), so last Thursday, after many many classes, I walked out if the school building, realized how gloriously autumn awesome it was outside, and made the executive decision that I needed a bike ride. I started around 4:30 pm and peddled to the end of the Minuteman Bike Path in Bedford (11 miles from my house).

I was feeling good, so I consulted the map on my phone and decided to keep going. Let me tell you guys, Walden Pond is FAR. And the route is very very hilly. I arrived there at the most beautiful time of day -- the sun was setting over the water and swimmers were lounging on the beach after evening dips (it's a legit sandy beach! Who knew?). 

Sunset = beautiful. But sunset when on a bike ride about 20 miles from home = problems. I decided to take a different, supposedly faster, route home. But the roads were windy and hilly and not at all well-marked. I got lost SO many times and kept having to backtrack to re-find my way. By the time I got to the bike path in Lexington it was completely dark out -- way too dark to be on a bike path. So I cursed into the night and wiggled my way through some neighborhoods and side streets to find my way back. (In my head: I am never going to get home and it's dark and I'm in the middle of nowhere and I'm tired and hungry and I'm going to get hit by a car and die and it's all my own stupid fault for starting too late so I can't reasonably call anyone to whine/get help! Out loud: Ugggfhhhbbbllleerrgggggg dammit Massachusetts!!!)

Well, I'm happy to report that I lived (well duh) and made it home, 43 miles later, by 8:30 pm. Lessons learned: think of about time of day when choosing to depart on a long bike ride. Also, bike lights. 

Next up (this is the actual weekend part), I went to Martha's Vineyard. I've never been to the Cape or any of the islands in that area, so this was all new to me. Guys, it was beautiful! I hardly took any pictures, so you'll just have to trust me on this. The weather on Saturday was perfect -- warm and sunny and just the right mix of summer with a hint of fall.

Andy (remember our Asian adventure?) came up to visit, and we stayed in Vineyard Haven, a tiny adorable little New England beach town (not like SE Asia at all, i.e. same same but very different.) We rented bikes to get to the ocean-side beach.

No filters on this -- the colors were really that great!
I was talked into swimming (the air and water were warm...but not THAT warm), and did not regret it. And the route to the beach was so pretty! The island is a lot bigger than expected (post-ride mapping says that it was 15 miles to the beach), and also hillier than expected, but so nice that I didn't mind the long ride at all.

We had delicious brunch at Art Cliff Diner in Vineyard Haven (I highly recommend), and amazing seafood at Larsen's in Menemsha. Can I please have lobster mac and cheese and stuffed scallops all the time? Ok thanks.

And that, my friends, is that. It was a great weekend, during which I did no homework...a decision that I am paying for this week. But I think it was worth it! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Literary Bite: The Crimson Petal and the White

Let's talk about books, shall we? It's been far too long since I've written a Literary Bite, but if you look at my "reading log" on the left sidebar, you'll see that I've been reading! Most of those entries account for books I read during my travels this I spend all my time reading scholarly articles and fascinating works of literature and poetry such as "The Use of Force and Statecraft," and "The Global Negotiator," and "Quantitative Methods for Economics." (Me = sarcastic much? Though those things are interesting to me in their own way...but I won't subject you all to the details...)

Anywho, traveling and reading are like chocolate and peanut butter: you can have one without the other, but why would you??? Long bus rides, hang out time in a beautiful location (remember our Beautiful Nap Time?), afternoon tea, guest house resting, really whenever! Especially when I was alone in Thailand for six days -- I inhaled books in that time because there was no one to talk to! In preparation for that time alone, I picked up a tome of a book in a used bookstore in Kathmandu (maximizing words per rupee, like you do!), and luckily for me, The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber was soooooo good!

I knew nothing about the book and had never heard of the author. I bought it on the recommendation of a random woman in the store (she first recommended a Vikram Seth book, all of whose works I have already read, so I trusted her judgement).

The Crimson Petal and the White is incredibly well-written and engaging, but also border-line trashy. But I propose we forgive its raciness and keep it in the "real literature" category based on its merits as an AWESOME story, and just not recommend it to our grandmothers? (Actually, just kidding, go ahead and recommend away, I bet yours and my grandma will like it!)

It's the story of a smart and ambitious prostitute in 1870s London, who seduces the heir to a perfume business, and gets involved in the business herself. But then as she grows to love him more (and love the new lifestyle?), issues arise (crazy wife!). I realize I just made it sound like a cheesy soap opera...BUT you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll not want to put it down. Seriously, I think I read this book for five hours a day while I was camping alone, and spent the better part of an all-day bus ride from Bangkok to Siam Reap engrossed in these pages.

Read it!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gorgonzola, Butternut, Kale, and Beet Bulgar Salad

The weather this past Sunday was the perfect beginning-of-fall warm with a hint of crisp in the air. I got all excited about autumn ingredients at the store, and brainstormed this hot (or cold) bulgar salad in the aisle of Trader Joe's. Butternut squash, beets, kale, and apples -- it reads like a autumn CSA bag-of-veggies-list. The following recipe is vegetarian, and could be vegan if you omitted the cheese. However, as I enjoyed it on my couch while watching Top Chef Masters, I thought that oooooh crispy bacon top would be AMAZING. And if bulgar isn't your jam, you could use any grain (rice, quinoa, couscous, wheatberries, etc.).

For me, a big part of settling into a new life routine is finding a food routine that works. And we all know that getting established food-wise is a bother -- staples, snacks, condiments! -- I have spent so much at grocery stores recently! I feel like these things should just exist without me having to do anything. And then there's the questions of where do I shop, how often can I shop, what do I make, and what kinds of food do I need (i.e. transportable-ness)? 

I moved just over a month ago, and I'm finally figuring things out. My class schedule is all over the place, so every day is different -- sometimes I'm at school for just one class in the morning, sometimes I'm there ALL day and into the night (blerg). And the issue with that is lunch

I don't like buying lunch because a) I'm not a big sandwich person; b) it's not usually that good; c) it costs money; which directly corresponds with d) I have no income. (Student life woot woot!) And though I could join all of the on-campus clubs, thereby ensuring myself a steady supply of free pizza, ain't nobody got time for that.

So! To solve my mid-day meal problems, I am experimenting with tupperware-friendly purse food possibilities, and came up with this salad. As I said, it's good hot or cold, and this recipe makes about 6 servings. It's really easy to make, and as with all my real-food recipes, you can switch out any veggies/cheese/grain/spice combo you like.

Gorgonzola Butternut Bulgar

  • 1 1/2 cups dry bulgar (i.e. one Trader Joe's 10-minute bag of bulgar)
  • 3 cups butternut squash cubed
  • 1 apple, cut into chunks about the same size as the bns
  • 1 beet, cut into chunks about half the size of the bns (because beets take longer to roast)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds kale (it started as about 12-16 cups and cooked down to about 3)
  • 1 can black beans
  • Gorgonzola cheese (oooh yeah)
  • slivered almonds (optional, to sprinkle on top)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. For the kale: Rip or cut kale into small-ish pieces and stuff into a large pot with a lid. Add a splash of water. Turn the stove on to medium-low, and let it cook with the top on for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if it looks like it's burning or drying out. 
  3. For the roasted veggies: While the kale is cooking, on a large baking sheet, use your hands to toss butternut squash, apple, beet, onion, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for about 30 minutes (or until done), tossing with a spatula every 10 minutes.
  5. For the bulgar: Prepare according to package instructions (it cooks the same as rice, and takes 10-15 minutes)
  6. Assembly: Add everything to the big pot with the kale (which will have cooked down a lot), add black beans (drained), and mix thoroughly. For serving, sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese and almond slivers. 
  7. Storing: Tupperwares in the freezer! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cake of the Week: Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Ok so I know that a frosting recipe is not a cake of the week per say. But I also know that (for most of you out there) frosting is your favorite part of the cake eating experience. And though I'm more of a cake girl myself (I value a reasonable frosting-to-cake ratio), I bake for friends, so I know what's up. More frosting is always appreciated.

This Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting is delightful. You know when you stick your finger into something you've made for a taste and immediately think (or say) Ohmygosh wow go me? That is this frosting. It has fresh strawberries and jam, so take advantage of those end of summer berries while you can! Pretty soon we're going to be all pumpkin all the time, but it is currently in the mid-90s here in Boston (ugh), aka still summer.

I used this frosting on Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (my favorite chocolate cake recipe). I imagine it would also go well with a white cake, or oooh lemon cake! This recipe makes enough for one cake (2-3 layers), or for a batch of cupcakes. You could also adapt it for any fresh berry/jam combo -- I'm thinking blueberry? Or raspberry, though raspberries have seeds.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons strawberry jam or jelly
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 fresh strawberries, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons milk, as needed
  1. Beat the cream cheese, butter, fresh strawberries, and jam with a hand mixer or stand mixer until smooth(-ish, the fresh strawberries will be a little chunky of course). 
  2. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.
  3. Add milk if the frosting is too thick.
  4. Spread on everything!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Weekend Report: Jess Gets Married!

This weekend key components of BU Cross Country and Track reconvened in Boston for the super-exciting long-awaited event of Jess and Zac's wedding!

Back story: They met in February 2006 at the Valentine Invitational Indoor Track Meet (let's take a moment: awwwwww), and have been dating pretty much ever since. We were all there when it started (Jess: What do you think of that UMass boy over there? Introduce me!), and I'm happy to report that many of us were there to celebrate with them this weekend.

The center pieces involved vegetables, well duh.
This is the 4th BU runner wedding, and as always, it was SO MUCH FUN! Teammates came from Colorado, New Hampshire, Texas, and Toronto -- people need to keep getting married so we can all see each other more often...

I happen to find myself in the position of sole Boston(ish) local (besides Jess and Zac of course), so my house is the guest house! Amy arrived from Colorado and John from DC on Friday night. We went to dinner at Redbones, a well-reviewed barbecue place in Davis Square that definitely lives up to the hype!

Oh hello Pulled Pork Sandwich!
Then Saturday morning Abbey came in from Colorado on a red-eye before we met up with Camille (from Texas, representing the non-distance runner side of the team) to all drive to Amherst. 

The weather was perfect and they had a beautiful ceremony outside...

...followed by an awesome dance party reception inside that may or many not have involved jumping up and down like crazy people for five hours straight, fueled by regular trips to the Candy Bar and Dessert Table.

Jess looked beyond beautiful of course. And considering that she and I email and text pretty much constantly, I feel like I have been IN her and Zac's relationship since the beginning. So excited for them!

And though the wedding may have ended Saturday night, the weekend of fun continued through Sunday! A group of us headed back to Boston to take advantage of the glorious weather downtown. 

We got pizza at Upper Crust, walked to the Harbor, walked all the way to the Bunker Hill Monument along the Freedom Trail (Why? Because why not?), and then hit up Border's in Harvard Square, just for old time's sake. It was a pretty epic and awesome day. 

Amy and Abbey, back in their natural habitat.
Weekends like this make me so happy to be back in Boston, and so sooo happy to have such silly friends! Also, again (how many times can I say this in this post?) SO HAPPY FOR JESS AND ZAC!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Best of the Week #111

This is my first best of the week in a while, and as you can imagine, due to traveling and starting school, I have been deplorably absent from the fun side of the interwebs for a while now. So first things first: you have my apologies if these links are way out of date, and/or if as you read through all you’re thinking is been there, seen that. Rest assured that I already know you are far cooler than me.

Second things second: many millions of high-fives to Chris, who kept up the Best of the Week tradition while I was away!!!

A quick life update: I just finished my first real week of school. What am I taking? Role of Force (Security Studies), International Negotiations, Social Networks in Organizations, and Quantitative Methods. Look at me, getting the skillz. Maybe it’ll be fun, maybe it’ll be torture. Only time will tell...

Now on to the links!

I love everything about this post: “19 Jokes Only Grammar Nerds Will Understand.” Especially the semicolon video at the end, and this:

About her diet, which is funny, but the best part comes when they talk about her child’s “Africa-themed” nursery. “Gwyneth's Sad, Simple Meal

  • Huh. What does that mean exactly? Well, William says, "I'll have toy elephants and rhinos around the room. We'll cover it in, you know, lots of bushes and things like that. [We'll] make him grow up as if he's in the bush." Huh. OK. Sure. Kids love animals and nature and all that stuff. I can dig it. And I know that William and Kate got engaged in Africa, and that he spent time there as a boy with Diana, so it has some meaning for him. But isn't there... Hm. How to say this. Isn't there something maybe a little tone-deaf about a British royal going to sleep every night in a room decorated with stuff that's reminiscent of a continent that is still struggling with the ravaging effects of colonialism, a lot of which was British? I don't know! I am probably being silly. But that seems a little off to me somehow.
This is hard and I am not good at it: “The Great Language Game
  • Amongst the thousands of languages spoken across the world, here are just seventy. How many can you distinguish between?
Here’s a thought-provoking conundrum for your Friday: why isn’t there frozen rhubarb in grocery stores? That’s it, I’m dropping out of grad school and starting a frozen rhubarb company STAT. That way we could eat things like this (Rhubarb Gingersnap Icebox Pie) all year round!

This very well sums up exactly why I am the way that I am: “Lessons Learned From Ski Racing.” Time management, sportsmanship, risk analysis, organization, etc.
  • Risk analysis is perhaps the thing most effectively ingrained in young ski racers, because every single part of skiing is pure risk assessment...In short, a ski racer makes countless analyses about how far he or she can push the limit without crashing. The freeskiing endeavors of racers also teach this skill; there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity when considering a 50-foot cliff, a 70-foot tabletop, or an avalanche-prone slope. Without the initial inspection and planning of a course or feature, you’re probably crashing. However, equally important are the adaptations during your run. If you ski your run exactly as planned without adapting to the conditions, you’re definitely crashing.
  • Nothing could be more applicable to life outside of ski racing; one prepares as best he or she can for a performance, a presentation, a test, or a job, all while knowing that it’s not going to go exactly to plan. On-the-fly adjustments, both conscious and subconscious, keep you on track. Adaptability to quickly changing scenarios is critical, and skiing is one hell of a way to learn how to deal with rapid variable change. 
Animals Talking in All Caps got my group through some loooong and rough project work sessions. Two particular favorites:



This is interesting if you are me: “Analyzing Organized Crime Brief.”
  • This month, we look at how illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons has contributed to the protracted and increasingly violent conflict in Syria.  The article looks at where weapons have been coming from and how they got there.
  • A number of incidents in August highlighted the growing influence of criminal groups in the mineral industry, funding conflict and violence across the globe.  We highlight in particular, natural resource exploitation in the DRC, the role of the FARC in tungsten and coltain trafficking in Venezuela and Colombia, and corruption in the mining sector in Guinea.
  • Finally, we give a brief overview of the heated debate on Barclay’s decision to close its remittances service because of “Know your Customer” concerns in Somalia, and look at how effective this is as an anti-money laundering strategy.
“Shantaram” the movie may be back in production! Hooray!
  • Warner Bros is in talks with Joel Edgerton to star inShantaram, an adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel that is being produced by Inifinitum Nihil partnersJohnny Depp and Christi Dembrowski, and GK Films’ Graham King. Following a couple of stalled attempts to get this movie up and running after the studio paid $2 million for the rights in 2004, Depp himself jump started the process by personally courting Edgerton to play a role Depp once intended to play before the film was derailed by the Writer’s Strike.
And you all saw this right? “Dark chocolate chunk cheesecake baked oatmeal.” 100% my thing.

In conclusion, guess what happens this weekend? JESS IS GETTING MARRIED! Hooray!!!

Words cannot properly express how excited I am.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Weekend Report: My New Rock Gym!

Well friends, I think I just found my home away from home (...away from home away from home? California, DC, Somerville, Brooklyn Boulders, if that makes sense?). Anywho, you get what I mean: I found a rock gym that is amazing and I plan on kinda sorta living there for the semester.

It's brand new, just mile and a half from my apartment. I'm not saying Brooklyn Boulders Somerville is why I chose to get my master's at Fletcher...but I'm also not saying it wasn't a significant check in the pro column. (Are you confused yet? How many negatives can I fit into one sentence? I swear, grad school might be making me dumber.)

There's climbing and bouldering well duh, and also auto-belays so if I want to (/have to) climb alone I can! And yoga classes! And a gym! And wi-fi and a cafe and couches! So I plan on some doing combination of climbing and studying there on a regular basis. Now really, who wants to come climbing with me?

OH and guess what else? I got a bike! The bike I rode in DC actually belonged to SpeedyKate, so upon returning from my travels, I found myself in Massachusetts bikeless and in desperate need of wheels. 

Let me tell you guys, there is nothing like the freedom that comes with having a bike! Want to go on a ride? In. Need to go to the store? No problem. To the rock gym? Be there in five! I feel like I am all of a sudden free free free from my 2-mile walking radius of Davis Square and it is glorious. Clearly I tested out my bike yesterday evening. The plan was a casual cruise along the Minuteman Bike Path...which of course turned into a 22.5-mile, one hour and 40 minutes ride (to the end of the trail at Bedford and back). It was so nice!

After two weeks of pre-session class, one week of orientation, and around 60 hours of group project work time (for serious), school ACTUALLY starts this week. Yay? (I don't know. I'll be at the rock gym.)