Thursday, May 29, 2014

Road Trip: Raleigh/Durham and Nashville

As I said yesterday, the first stop on this southern adventure was Raleigh/Durham. We flew in Monday midday, and from there our most gracious host and her adorable human showed us around Durham. He (now we're talking about the human) took us to a quarry for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and riverside lounging.

Then we got on our way early the next morning for our first looong drive to Nashville, with a stop in Knoxville for our first barbecue experience.

If you're ever in the Knoxville area -- Sweet P's BBQ. This was the best brisket we tried the whole trip!

Pulled Pork and Greens yummmmm!

Then on to Nashville to visit my college friend Chris! Being the huge country music fan that I am, this was clearly an important stop on our trip. On our way into the city we stopped at Cummins Falls, the 8th largest waterfall in Tennessee. As you may recall from my Thailand experience, I looooove waterfalls.

Finally the seven of us rolled up to Nashville in our minivan, a bit dazed from the long ride but ready for some fun. Chris took us out Broadway, the city's main going out street. Neon lights, country music -- both old and new -- coming from every open door and window, and people everywhere!

We started at a more pop-country cover band that played us Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy upon Gustavo's request (funny story about how one time not too long ago he and I and six cowboy backup dancers performed that song in front of all of Fletcher...). Next stop was a more old school country bar. As per always, our enthusiastic group of seven brought the dance party and had a great time until way too late o'clock.

Next morning we started with a run around Centennial Park (running!!!!! Just two miles for me -- gotta start back slowly slowly), followed by arepas because always arepas. Then we drove downtown to walk around along the Cumberland River and see what there was to be seen.

In the afternoon we toured the Grand Ole Opry. I was into it because, again, I love and have always loved country music. And I think everyone liked standing on the stage and seeing the dressing rooms.

After a few beers at Yazoo Brewing Company, that evening we went back to Broadway to yet again sing and dance the night away -- different bars, different bands, but same fun country southern vibe. Nashvegas I am a fan!!!

Next stop: New Orleans!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Road Trip!!!

School has ended and internships have not yet started, which means that my friends and I are 100% focused on all fun times all the time! And what better way to intensely bond and get our fill of one another (as if that's even possible), than a 8-day road trip!?

The route: Raleigh/Durham, NC  ➨  Knoxville, TN  ➨  Nashville, TN  ➨  Birmingham, AL  ➨  New Orleans, LA    Jackson, MS    Memphis, TN    Kansas City, KS.

Seven people, one minivan, eight days, 1,904 miles, 4 amazing barbecue experiences, and too many live bands to count.

The cast: We make quite the eclectic crew.

From left to right in this picture (in front of one of Elvis's cars in Graceland) we have:

  • Peter, the trip planner extraordinaire, hailing from Kansas City;
  • Tim, who wins at everything (except a certain race up a certain very steep set of stone steps...we'll get to that story later), from upstate New York;
  • Julie -- aka JK -- our DJ extraordinaire from LA;
  • Gustavo, from Caracas, Venezuela, who is quite literally the nicest human being in the world;
  • Rose, the only person who might rival Gus for the Nicest Human Being title, all the way from New Zealand (via Hawaii), who is pretty much just awesome as
  • Katherine, coming from Germany, who is sadly sadly tragically done with school and not coming back to Boston in the fall;
  • And me of course! You all know all my things already. 

We rented a minivan (aka Big Blue Moon), and stayed with friends all along the way. We ate so much barbecue and saw amazing live music almost everywhere we went.

Stay tuned for a series of blog posts on our Southern sojourn. It was excellent!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Post-Finals FUNemployment

Well well well, I'm happy to report that post-finals funemployment is treating me gloriously. I wake up every morning to no class to go to, no required reading, no meetings to attend, no problems sets to agonize over. I wouldn't want to be funemployed always (at that point it would just be unemployed), but for a brief concrete period of time I am so in. Also, many of my friends are sticking around for a bit post-finals, so I have all my favorite people to hang out with!

What exactly have I been up to, you might wonder? Biking, rock climbing, reading, playing catch, friends-time, dancing, playing softball, and snacking.
Walden Pond from my bike ride on Sunday.

Let me tell you about my week -- feel free to live vicariously.

I started Monday early with a 22-mile bike ride to Bedford and back on the Minuteman Trail. Then in the afternoon I met a friend in Harvard Square for frozen yogurt followed by frisbee in the park. I am happy to report that I can now throw a frisbee both backhand and forehand, and about 4/5 times it goes where I want it to! Then finally, most of Fletcher convened in a backyard in Cambridge for a rather epic summer evening barbecue. I want summer nights for all the time always!

Tuesday was nowhere near as warm, but just as active. We had yet another barbecue (this time at school), followed by a solid game of catch, followed by a first- v. second-years softball game. The bad news is that my experience with softball is incredibly minimal. The good news is that a) my dad taught me how to throw and catch as a kid, and b) I recently watched A League of Their Own. So basically I was all set.

In a spate of spring cleaning last week, RoommateRachel and realized that we'd acquired five containers of real maple syrup over a year of pancake parties. There is only one solution to this "problem:" another pancake party! So I had people over on Wednesday morning to eat allll the pancakes -- inputs included bananas, blueberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Yummmm.

Then yesterday afternoon I was ready for yet another bike ride -- this time to the Arboretum via Marky Mark (BUXC you know what's up!). It was bright green grassy, pink tree blossom-y, and fields of yellow tulip-y. Lovely.

So basically, my week has been awesome. The plan for today is to go rock climbing, then eat southern food, then dance the night away at the final Los Flecheros concert.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cake of the Week: Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake

In celebration of finishing a rather epic math-y exam (blerg numbers and the letters that represent numbers!), my friends and I decided that a celebration of the cheese and chocolate variety was in order.

KatieHat was hosting this party  she convened the critical cheeses, baked some brie, and opened her apartment to all the exhausted students exiting the exam. Obviously I was in charge of the cake, as "Mollie-cake" has become a thing here at school (and we mean that entirely in the dessert and not drug sense).

I chose this Orange Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe because 1) it looked (and was) delicious; 2) the fruit makes it feel just a little bit springy hooray; and 2) it appeared to be reasonably transportable. It's very orange-y (4 oranges worth of zest and one o juice!), and I looove the dark chocolate chunks in the cake.

KatieHat lives a couple miles away, so after letting it cool out of the pan for about 30 minutes I popped it back in and wrapped it in a plastic bag, filled my backpack with ganache ingredients, hopped on my bike, and one-handedly steered my way to Medford with a cake tucked under my arm and my muscles screaming by the end (this is no angel food cake -- bundt cakes are dense!).

When I arrived I made the ganache. I made a traditional ganache (not the one in the original recipe), so it was just half heavy cream, half semi-sweet chocolate. Just a heads-up, it takes a while (like an hour) to cool to a drippy enough thickness.

Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

Adapted from SmittenKitchen
Cake Ingredients: 
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup grated orange zest (from 4 large oranges)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks
Ganache Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 heaping cup semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the orange zest.
  3. Mix together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in the chocolate chunks. 
  4. Pour into the pan, smooth the top, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  5. For the ganache: heat the cream in the microwave or on a stovetop until hot but not boiling. Add in chocolate chips and let sit for 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let the ganache cool (you can do this in the fridge if you're in a hurry) until it's thick enough to not just run off the cake when you pour it. Drizzle ganache over the cake. I had some ganache left, so we put it on the table for people to add additional chocolate to their individual slices. 
  6. Yum. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The State of Mollie: May 2014

I don't even know where/how to start. I feel like a re-introductory post is in order, as I completely dropped off the face of the internet earth about a month and a half ago. So hello! I'm Mollie. I'm a super-intense grad student, part-time baker, sometimes runner, all the times reader, and full-time all things enthusiast.

Alright now that we've handled that, I'm thrilled to report that I survived my first year of grad school and am officially half-way done! It went by so fast, but at the same time I'm amazed at how much has happened in the last nine months. I have learned many many things  about the world, about how to think (turns out we call this "analysis" when we're feeling fancy), how I think, and how to better work with others (in grad school almost all work is group work). 

I made a music video, got a job as an editor, and performed a swing dance and a silly country song. Also I've made amazing friends  it continues to blow my mind how nice and smart and motivated and awesome everyone is.

Conclusion: the state of school and friends is good. I may have had my doubts back in the fall, but turns out grad school is fun and I love nerd camp

Now on to running. Oooohhhh running. This is part of why I haven't been blogging  first not to jinx myself when things were going well, then out of sadness when they all fell apart. So I'll give you the short version and then fast-forward to the end. I started marathon training in January, with my eyes on running Boston in April. It was a very rough (i.e. cold) winter for running, but I had a friend from school to train with and all was going relatively well.

Then, out of nowhere the week I returned from Colombia, my knee started hurting. So I stopped running and went to physical therapy like the good athlete I am, hoping it was a short-term problem that could be fixed in time for me to still run the marathon (diagnosis: patellar tendonitis). One month later it was no better and maybe worse, so I went back to the doctor at school, got an MRI (holy space machines!!!), and now find myself back in PT with the diagnosis of IT Band Syndrome. Same s*%$ different day, huh? (But for reals, here's a post from 2012 about how to fix it.)

Obviously I did not run the marathon (though I did go out to cheer!), and am currently not doing much at all — just some yoga and occasional climbing. Maybe next year...

Conclusion: the state of running is non-existent. Blerg. (On the bright side it's not incurable.)

Ok to bring things back to a positive note, next up let's talk about the State of Mollie: future edition! I am currently lounging about Boston/Somerville for 10 more days, doing not a whole lot and loving every minute of it. Then I will go on a 8-day road trip to the South — Raleigh, Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City — with friends from school.

Then I will move back to DC for a summer internship. All the Peregrine coffee and rooftop grilling and weekend hiking and Shenandoah rock climbing will be mine!!! (Oh and some work too, but whatevs.) And then I will meet up with friends in Europe and travel in (probably) Greece and Turkey. Everything is amazing.

And that concludes this State of Mollie. Look forward to more frequent blogging in the next couple weeks!