Friday, March 29, 2013

Best of the Week #98

This week things got a little CrAzY at work (womp womp boooring), and in life (exciting and scary and awesome -- I hate keeping secrets but I will for now and I promise details to come…#YearToBeBrave). So deal with all the madness, I put out the call (via my gchat status) for my friends to send me calming music suggestions. I got: Pat Metheny, The Hackensaw Boys, this station, and David Benoit. Enjoy!

Though this week was not the best, it is Friday, so we still have Best of the Week links.

My most popular post this week was IT Band Knee Pain (Foam Rolling, Stretching, and Strengthening), which means it must be spring marathon season. Foam rollers FTW!!!

Also, want to know a random bloggy fun stat? Here are my all-time (almost 4 years) top 10 search keywords: running, slutty brownies, lemon filled cupcakes, eat run read, cherry frosting, costa rica, reading, sweet potato frittata, jogging, and bikram yoga. So there’s that – thank you Google Analytics.

Yummmm. “Make a Wish! 39 Amazing Birthday Cake RecipesJess’s comment: “Omg these all look so good…why am I trying to turn this cake slideshow into a bracket??” GENIUS! That’s it guys. Next year I’m doing cake March Madness and anyone who lives nearby is eating/voting on winners. GET PSYCHED.

And similar: “42 Fantastic Cupcake Recipes: Chocolate, Red Velvet, Peanut Butter!

Infographic: “The World as 100 People” The continent, literacy, and water/nutrition breakdowns are particularly interesting.

Can I live here please? “London Opens Actual Cake Hotel For One Night Only

  • A London hotel has undergone a complete renovation to become a mostly edible ‘cake hotel.’ This extreme undertaking, headed up by Tate & Lyle Sugars, took 14 bakers and more than 900 hours to complete. What kind of stuff did they concoct? Edible books, rugs made from meringues, marshmallow garlands, bathtubs filled with caramel popcorn, a giant sea turtle cake and more more than you can sink your cavity-stricken teeth into.
HA. Though I feel like it should be more…and the real question is, how many Peanut M&Ms?

Ok teachable moment!

  1. Central African Republic is a country.
  2. They just had a coup, which at least in my very insular professional world, is kind of a big deal
  3. This is an interesting map: "Central African Republic: Map of Rebel Advance to Capital."

This has been all over the interwebs, and as a Boston University alum, I kind of love it: “What It's Like To Go To School In Boston.”
  • TRUTH: And if you're looking for cultural diversity, you're in luck! There are kids from all over New Jersey, Long Island, and California. They'll make it quite clear that they're respectively disappointed in Boston's bagels, pizza, and Mexican food.
  • AWWWW! The esplanade is your "campus."

This is totally 100% my kind of thing: “Snippets of random.” Two totally random and interesting posts:
  • Work in social genomics reveals that our personal histories of social connection or loneliness, for instance, alter how our genes are expressed within the cells of our immune system. When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health. If you don’t regularly exercise this capacity, it withers. In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so. [link]
  • Worst piece of advice: write what you know. Please don’t. You don’t know a lot of stuff. And what you do know isn’t enough. The fun of writing lies in finding out about all the things you don’t have a clue about or discovering new things you want to know. At this point, I’d like to be very clear: I have never ever had a tiger hide inside my bedroom. [link
What? But really, WHAT? Is this even real? I feel like The Atlantic is having us on…“Maybe George W. Bush Is the Dog in His Dog Paintings.”

A cool slideshow: “In Moscow, Little Girl Soldiers.”

  • The young students attend the Moscow Female Cadet Boarding School No. 9 — which Mr. Kozmin calls “one of the elite military academies in Russia.” It is a state school, free to all who attend, though the competition to be admitted is intense.
  • They are “the Little Spies of Putin” — or at least that’s what a French publication called them in a piece that inspired the photographer Sergey Kozmin to document them for his series “Girl Soldiers.”
These girls, Lennon and Maisy Stella are in Nashville. They are SO talented!

And more because they’re awesome:

Who doesn't need a little extra money on the side? "Five Steps To Finding Your Side Hustle."
  • I much prefer they make more money than spend less. So in those cases, I recommend a side hustle.
  • A “side hustle” is my term for earning money doing something other than your primary job. For self employed people, a side hustle can be the way to make rent while you’re building the business.  Regardless of the reason, a side hustle provides peace of mind and additional income to help pay off debt, build reserves and fund your goals when your regular employment cash flow seems too tight to make it all work.

And finally, watch this guy dancing. Horrifying and yet hilarious. I challenge you not to smile.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Literary Bite: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

I suggested my book club read The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, but honestly, I have no idea who recommended it to me in the first place. Anyone? [Update: mystery solved, it was this lovely grammarian.] Oh well, I’m glad it was good!

It's about an incredibly talent American painter, Robert Oliver, who attacks a painting at the National Gallery (I love stories that take place in DC!). After that Oliver refuses to speak, so his psychiatrist, Marlow, takes an unconventional approach to Oliver’s treatment and digs into Oliver’s past. “As Marlow is pulled deeper within Oliver’s troubled mind, he uncovers a tale of love, betrayal, and artistic obsession, and finds surprising possibilities in a package of nineteenth-century love letters.” (source)

Basically it is Marlow going back through the women in Oliver’s life – his ex-wife, mistress, and a mysterious and captivating woman in a painting – trying to piece it all together, but then getting sucked in to Oliver’s obsessions himself.

Don’t be intimidated by the book's length, just settle in for the ride. The story switches narrators and time periods chapter by chapter, so it really never drags. I preferred the modern-day parts of the story over the nineteenth century pieces, but they all came together well. The Swan Thieves isn’t particularly revolutionary, just a very nice read.

Oddly enough, as a non-artist, I really enjoyed reading about painters painting:

  • “The wilted garden is already covered with subtle color - indeed, it isn’t white. Beige, today? Silver? Colorless, if there is such a thing?”
  • “I believe in walking out of a museum before the paintings you've seen begin to run together. How else can you carry anything away with you in your mind's eye?”
  • “I don't think painters have the answers about a painting except the painting itself. Anyway, a painting has to have some kind of mystery to it to make it work.” 

The painting that Oliver attacks in the book is pure fiction -- “Leda” by Gilbert Thomas does not exist, nor does an artist named Gilbert Thomas for that matter. The swan myth it's based on is real though, and there are a lot of paintings depicting that story (Zeus comes to earth in the form of a swan and either rapes or seduces the beautiful Leda). The closest painting at the National Gallery is Raphael's Leda and the Swan, c. 1507:

Conclusion? A lovely read. I say go for it!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marathon Recovery

I went for my first post-marathon run this morning and I’m not going to lie friends, it was kinda hard!

Recovering from a long race, especially if you want to race again anytime soon, is important.  So I’m trying to do it right. (Having never done long race, I’ve never needed to take a long recovery – this is all pretty new to me…tapering! Recovery! So many things!)

The I-just-ran-a-marathon-so-I-will-do-what-I-feel-like-when-I-feel-like-it philosophy totally wins out here. I don’t have to do anything, so if I want to do nothing, that is what I'll do!  (Buuuut clearly I like doing things. Things being running, preferably.)

Why should you take time off after a race? 

Because you need to recover well duh! Even if you think you feel good. There’s a thing called “micro-tear muscle damage” which basically means that you worked really hard and your muscle cells are hurt (even if they don’t feel like they hurt) and so you need to a rest to get back to normal.

Micro-tears are not scary at all – they’re what happens always when you work out. You micro-tear your muscle cells (get micro-tears in your muscle cells? I’m not sure if I can use micro-tear as a verb.) when you make them do more than usual. These minor ruptures in the myofibril proteins (which serve as cogs to contract muscles) causes muscle soreness, usually repair while you rest, and ultimately trigger the body to rebuild stronger muscles. (Disclaimer: my expertise here is purely via the Google.)

Slow exercise increases blood (and therefore oxygen) flow to muscles, which will help with your recovery. This is why it’s important to take easy days after hard workouts. But when you run a MARATHON, you may or may not have micro-teared (micro-torn? HA this is silly.) everything, which means you need to take a looong time to slowly recover.

Do you need to mentally recover? 

Frank Shorter says, "You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one." Some people lose motivation to run when they don’t have a big goal race, therefore after finishing a marathon they feel a bit lost. OR if the race goes horrifically wrong – I imagine that would make getting back into running more difficult. Only you know you here – if running isn't making you happy or feel good, then don't do it!

I’ve never been a big goal-setter, and I always like running and training, so mentally post-race I'm good.

How much time should you take off? i.e. Reverse Tapering

One way to think of it is as a backwards/upwards/reverse taper – slowly run more and more as you feel better and better. Also, apparently running a marathon depletes your glycogen stores more than you think, so your reverse taper should involve a lot of hydration and carbs just like your actual taper did! (Hallelujah, am I right?)

It is reasonable and expected to take two weeks completely off after a big race. Coach George recommends 3-7 days of no running at all, followed by 2-3 weeks of very light running. Back when she was speedy, my mama took a full month off after her fastest marathons.

And all you crazy runners out there – yes I’m looking at YOU. And at me. Don’t worry we’re all in this together! – resting for seven to ten days will have little negative impact on your current fitness, and the long-term gains will outweigh any temporary reduction in fitness.

What I've been doing since the marathon: 

So I raced last Saturday (11 days ago). And luckily, last week I didn’t feel anywhere near as sore as expected. BUT as we have learned, just because I don't feel sore, doesn't mean everything is ok!

I took two days completely off post-race – two days that involved a lot of ice. Then I got in the pool to shake things out (ever so gently) on Day 3.

Small trash can + ice = fun?

By Day 5 (Thursday), I thought I was totally back to normal, but I definitely did not feel the urge to run.

Since then I’ve been puttering in the pool and at the gym, mostly to amuse myself and because, like I said, I like to do things.

Today was my first run and it felt odd, kinda like I forgot how to run. I also learned that I am definitely not recovered yet, so I may take some more time off. I’m over the pool…but other cross-training may have to kick in soon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cake of the Week: Tres Leches Cake

So I find myself asking myself, how have I lived this long without making this creamy cake confection of considerable amazingness??? (I ran out of “c” words there…#AlliterationFail…suggestions?)

But really – it is shameful that I grew up in California, have a Hispanic last name, celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the best of them, and yet until very recently had never eaten Tres Leches Cake! Well well well, welcome me to the light friends – I’m a full convert.

I made this for a party a while back, to go with some fabulous shrimp tacos. And holy YUM. Everyone started with “just a small piece” and before we knew it one small piece became another became another, and the four of us had eaten almost the entire thing.

Tres Leches is a yellow eggy cake (i.e. sponge cake) with milk in the cake, then soaked in a mix of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. (So technically this recipe is a Quatres Leches cake!) And then it’s all covered with a layer of fresh whipped cream. AKA not for the faint of heart.

It’s served cold and doesn’t feel soggy/gross at all. There’s no butter in the actual cake, so holds its shape well and is like a sponge of pure creamy goodness on your fork.

And I’m not embarrassed to admit: leftovers of this cake = best breakfast cake EVER.

Tres Leches Cake

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Printable recipe. 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅓ cups milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cups heavy cream
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
  • 1 pint heavy cream, for whipping
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Maraschino cherries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. Separate eggs into two medium-sized bowls (whites and yolks).
  4. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
  5. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. While still beating, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
  6. Fold egg white mixture into the batter (of yolks and flour) very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
  7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, and allow to cool completely in the pan.
  8. For the tres leches: Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork many times. Slowly drizzle all the milk mixture over the cake, trying to get all over and around the edges too. 
  9. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for at least 30 minutes. 
  10. For the topping: Before serving, beat  1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
  11. Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries. Serve cold and enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekend Report: It's Snowing! And Elephants at the Zoo

Umm guys. It’s snowing outside. Normally I would be totally psyched about this, but it’s the end of March, the cherry blossoms should be blossoming, I’m tired of being cold, aaaaand yeah. This is weird. Just look at my front yard!

Alright so back to the weekend. Can we talk about how awesome people are? Because people are awesome. I lost my phone on Saturday afternoon, and within 40 minutes someone found it, posted a note on my facebook page (I do not lock my phone, and thanks to this experience I don’t think I ever will), my friend in Hawaii responded tagging my roommate, my roommate called the friends I was with, and DONE. Thank you everyone!

In other news, my March Madness bracket is an epic fail…so I will only be participating in Animals March Madness from now on.

And speaking of animals, guess what I did on Sunday? I went to the National Zoo! Elephants are one of my favorite animals, and the Elephant Trails Exhibit has been under construction since 2006 (i.e. long before I moved to DC). It re-opened on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday I was in the area, so why not? Zoo time! (To all my friends: I am HAPPY to go back and re-see this as many times as you want.)

The only bad news is that because of all the new elephant stuff they got rid of my second-favorite animals – that’s right, there are no more hippos! Sad.

It was a cold gray day and the zoo wasn’t too crowded, which meant that a lot of animals were out and about! I saw wolves and pandas (to name a couple of the more rare animals). New cutest animal: Chinese Alligator (weird I know, but actually really cool).

And that is pretty much that. Hope you had a good weekend too!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Best of the Week #98

Well I kind of dropped off the face of the blogging world this week…but I’m here! And bringing you some Best of the Week linkage that is a little late but worth the wait.

On the running front, I feel like I’ve totally recovered from my marathon, but rumor/people more experienced than I have it that this is a misconception. So I’m relaxing, not running, and doing many fun things instead!

My most popular post this week was my Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon Race Report. Thanks again to everyone who cheered me on!

I like to think this was taken towards the end
and that's why my form is all twisty and weird...
Priorities guys: TEAM ALPACA! Vote now in Animals March Madness!!!

This may have been me recently…sorry. The race is over so I’ll stop now! (From SUAR.)

Well now I want to go to Laos. And am very impressed with Outside Magazine's writers! "Don't Mess with Perfect." I don't know if I have a "perfect" place or meal...anyone else?
  • Elizabeth Gilbert says she’s never going back to Luang Prabang. Her memory of the place—and of one meal in particular—is too wonderful to risk a second glance.

  • In the lifetime of every traveler, we encounter two distinct types of unforgettable cities. There are the cities we love so much that we wish we could return there every year. For me, this list includes such places as Rome, Bangkok, Miami, and Vancouver. Then there are the cities we love so much that we must never, ever go back again. For me, that list is short: Luang Prabang, Laos. It’s the only city I’ve ever encountered that is so marvelous that I refuse to revisit it, because I can’t take the psychological risk that anything might disturb my perfect memories of the place.

Every March when Holi comes around I think I WANT TO DO THAT! (source)

Every 9-year-old’s (and let's be real, 26-year-old's) dream – to have a dinosaur species named after you!!!

  • A nine-year-old girl has had a prehistoric creature named in her honour after fossilised bones she found turned out to be an undiscovered species.
  • Daisy Morris, from the Isle of Wight, stumbled upon the remains on Atherfield beach four years ago.
  • A scientific paper stated the newly-discovered species of pterosaur would be called Vectidraco daisymorrisae.
Guys, you can freeze avocados?!?!
  • AVOCADOS – Freeze quartered and peeled or mashed with a squeeze of lemon

"23 Apologies That Will Make You Less Embarrassed To Be Human." I like this one:

And probably someday will need to use this one:

I love everything about this and think it should be mandatory reading for anyone who writes anything ever: “Washington Post’s Outlook section avoids these words and phrases.”
  • At first glance
  • As a society (or, “as a nation”)
  • Observers
  • Pundits say (or “Critics say”)
  • The American people (unless in a quote)
  • The narrative (unless referring to a style of writing)
  • Probe (as substitute for “investigation”)
  • A rare window (unless we’re talking about a real window that is in fact rare)
  • Begs the question (unless used properly – and so rarely used properly that not worth it)
  • Be that as it may
  • It is important to note that
  • Needless to say
  • Any “not-un” formulation (as in “not unsurprising”)
  • To be sure

Need a thumbs up? Many more where these came from...

Yaaay good news! “Good News Beats Bad on Social Networks.”
  • One of his first findings to be reported — which I still consider the most important social-science discovery of the past century — was that articles and columns in the Science section were much more likely to make the list than nonscience articles. He found that science aroused feelings of awe and made Times readers want to share this positive emotion with others.
  • Readers also tended to share articles that were exciting or funny, or that inspired negative emotions like anger or anxiety, but not articles that left them merely sad. They needed to be aroused one way or the other, and they preferred good news to bad. 
  • [BAHAHAHA!] This social consciousness comes into play when people are sharing information about their favorite subject of all: themselves. This is intrinsically pleasurable and activates the brain regions associated with rewards like food, as demonstrated in a study by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard. In fact, the study showed, it’s so pleasurable that people will pass up monetary rewards for the chance to talk about themselves. 
Well this is some cool data visualization: “The Internet Map.” Type in different countries and see how they compare.

DR Congo
United States
  • Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle. Users’ switching between websites forms links, and the stronger the link, the closer the websites tend to arrange themselves to each other.
And similar (but in my opinion easier to conceptualize), “Global Internet Map 2012.”

Thanks to the “Flowchart: Gandalf problem solving,” I want every problem I have to be solved by “Call in the eagles!”

The future of keyboards? Oh dear I hope not!

So this exists: "Animals Eating Donuts, a Coloring Book." Awesome!

If I had way way waaaaaayyyy too many dollars (i.e. never) I’d buy these:

Oooh and new (to me) music: Carolina Chocolate Drops. Listen to this song. And this one is a silly/awesome remix situation.

Mmmmk that is that. Happy Weekend!!!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Post-Marathon Eating

So what happens after you run a marathon? You eat all of the things!!!

After struggling to consume a gu and two packs of jelly beans mid-race, I pretty much never want to see a sports “substance” (it’s not real food) again. But food that looks like food and doesn’t have the consistency of jelly or the taste of pure sugar? Yes please. 

After finishing the race I immediately drank a water bottle, followed by a big yellow Gatorade (I told you I was dehydrated). There were bagels and apples and bananas in the finish area but I was having none of that...I grabbed a little bag of potato chips, which seemed like it could be a terrible idea until I started eating them while waiting in an ungodly bag check line, and they were the best. Thing. Ever.

I walked (very slowly) home, showered, and laid on my bed responding to text messages until all of a sudden around 2pm it hit – FOOD NOW!!!

So SpeedyKate and I walked (again veeeerrrrryyyy slowly) over to Eastern Market to get all of the things. For me that meant a pupusa and a tamale from Tortilla Cafe, and a red velvet cupcake and mini chocolate chip cookie from the bakery inside the Market. We took our treats home, settled onto the couch (my feet in ice), and happily watched West Wing for a while.

Pork and cheese pupusa. YUM.
Then before I knew it, it was dinner time! So we went to H &  Pizza and split a “Farmer’s Daughter” (Spicy Tomato, Housemade Mozzarella, Hot Sausage, Farm Eggs, Spinach, Parmesan Reggiano, Red Pepper Chili Oil) on traditional crust. YUM.

The next morning was when the real eating began. Within days of registering for the marathon, I’d made a brunch reservation at Masa 14, because if I’m running a race there WILL be brunch.

One of these fine people just ran his HUNDREDTH marathon!!! (Hint: gray shirt and not SpeedyKate.)

And this, as my first marathon, was a big and special race, so a big and special celebration brunch was in order! We had a group of 6, all runners, so clearly we sat there for hours and ate everything. It’s all-you-can-eat small plates Latin/Asian fusion food. I’ve been twice before (1 and 2), and time #3 did not disappoint!

Since this time I went with boys, there was a lot of meat ordering going on – I think as a table we had at least 5 flank steaks and all of the burgers at least once.

Adobo-Marinated Flank Steak - roasted peppers / fried egg / black beans
Pan Dulce - ancho whipped cream / roasted pineapple syrup

I love the breakfast pizza, the pan dulce, the cheese grits, and, well, everything actually. If you go (which you should), go hungry, go with a group, go after running a marathon, and order it all!

Now I'm returning to normalcy, eating-wise and soreness-wise...which is probably for the best. But it was such a great weekend!!!