Monday, July 29, 2013

Some lovely books to recommend

Since I have stopped blogging about every single book I read, a ton of stress has been alleviated.  On the other hand, however, I don't feel I'm doing my job.  So let me give you a few recommendations based on some of the books I've read recently.

  1. The Ocean at the end of the lane- Neil Gaiman.  I had to start with him, right?  This is a really lovely book by my favorite author.  It is short, but doesn't feel like it is missing anything, so you don't really notice that it is not his usual 400+ page heft until you get to the end, and you realize you read it all in a day.  This sweet story has the perfect meld of what I love about this author's style- a little longing, a little other-worldliness, and a lot of personality.
  2. Broken Harbor- Tana French.  I've read three by this Irish mystery author now, and have really enjoyed each one.  This one, however, has a really great twist that builds carefully through the novel.  It is better than your typical crime/mystery novel, with an Irish flair and some returning characters from another one of her books- however you don't need to read the other one first.
  3. The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao- Junot Diaz.  In Denver, I stepped into a used book store, and while looking at the shelves, overheard a young lady mention this book, so I decided to pick it up, and read it on the plane ride home.  It is a beautifully told story of Oscar, a Dominican "Ghetto Nerd."  Not only is it told through multiple perspectives (of Oscar, his sister, his mother, and his friend), it is also told interchangeably in English and Spanish.  My Spanish is a little rusty as I've not needed to use it daily in a number of years, but context clues made it come back pretty quickly.  In addition, the author makes frequent references to nerdy ideals, such as Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and graphic novels.  All in all, this was a refreshing, interesting read that kept me on my toes.
  4. Joyland- Stephen King.  I've ended up reading a few by King this summer, and really enjoyed this, his pulp homage novel.  It contained everything I like about King- including unrequited love, adolescent longing, some ghost stories, and a little human evil.  Nothing too gory or scary, a fun read.
  5. The Watermelon King- Daniel Wallace.  I got on a kick for this author, and read everything he's written that is still in publication this summer.  His biggest novel was Big Fish, which became a Tim Burton movie, but I think I liked this one the best.  Wallace incorporates the weird and surreal in his stories in such a seamless fashion, it seems like anyone could relate.  In this story, the oddities and rituals of a small rural town are put to the test when a prodigal son (literally) returns home.
  6. The dreams of my father- Barack Obama.  I initially read this book a number of years ago, but picked it up from the library as a sound recording with the POTUS narrating his own book.  That really brought it to light, and was interesting to reflect on with more discussions of race in America as of late. 
Keep reading!  Currently I'm reading The Map of Time by Felix Palma, and I just started Stephen King's Cell which Rob is about halfway through with.  I've got about 10 more books I want to read this month, but that may not happen, as it's the 29th....

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Reading, Eating, Running Plan week of July 28

Reading this week: I will finish Elanor Brown's The Weird Sisters, and attack Felix Palma's The Map of Time, Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake, and Rich Roll's Finding Ultra.

I am also getting into the throes of:
a) writing my dissertation- I want to have my topic approval plan submitted next week.
b) planning for Kid's College- I am teaching a STEM camp in addition to my usual LEGO math in August
c) planning for Fall 2013- I am teaching a brand new course which I need to put the finishing touches on (MTH 2120- Statistics for teachers)

Eating this week: This week is going to be salad week.  Summertime is so good for produce, I want to eat fresh things and not cook too much.

Running this week: Now that the worst humidity of summer is nearing an end, I want to ramp up my distances.  Not only am I signed up for the Half-Marathon in early 2014, but I am also planning on some longer (longer than 5k) races this fall.

Rest day
Dinner: Taco Salads (we missed that meal last week- so I still have the ingredients!)

Walk 1 mile
Run 3 miles
Dinner: Portabello Steaks with baby potatoes and asparagus

Walk 1 mile
Run 1.5 miles
Dinner: Creamy Quiona Salad with Apples

Walk 1 mile
Run 3 miles
Dinner: Mia's Seitan & Greens recipe

Walk 1 mile
Run 1.5 miles
Dinner: Italian Pasta Salad

Walk 1 mile
Run 5 miles
Dinner: Citrus Sweet Potato Salad (for this one, I need to pre-roast the yams- hopefully it will be a rather cool day)

Walk 2-3 miles
Dinner: Portabello and Asparagus tacos

Walk 1 mile
Run 3.1 miles (Dog days of summer virtual 5k- race #10 of 2013)
This will be my first virtual race- in which I will run on my own, but record my times with a national group.  I figured this'd be a good idea, since the next big race I want to run is in September, and is a 5 miler.

Here's some pictures of a few of the meals last week.  Curry Tofu steaks with sweet potatoes and asparagus, and BBQ tempeh tacos with cucumber dill salad.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vegan eating in Colorado (and other adventures along the way)

We traveled out to Colorado for a family reunion, and here are some gathered thoughts and musings from the trip:
  • Rob and Mia are two of the coolest people I know.
  • Denver is a really neat city. We stayed downtown, and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Our hotel was inexpensive,but recently remodeled. The staff at the front desk was super nice.

  • City o City is a fantastic vegan restaurant. So good,in fact, that we ate there twice! The neighborhood was very urban. When I had tried to go there in the past, my folks were concerned about the location and the locals. There were no concerns this go-round. In fact, we were very comfortable walking there.

  • Ordered for dinner: We started with cocktails and buffalo seitan wings. I ordered the BBQ tofu plate, which came with Mac and cheese and greens. Rob got the Summer Kimchi Stew, and Mia got the vegan Savory waffle topped with veggies and vegan cheese fondue. Rachel got the don noodle bowl, and Jeff got the El Jefe veggie burger. City o City is a vegetarian restaurant, and Mia, Rob and I all had vegan meals.
  • The next morning, we wanted to go for a run, and the front desk clerk gave us directions to Cheesman Park, which was a gorgeous run!  We earned breakfast at City o City and returned there.

  • Some of us started with Bloody Marys, which included skewers of pickles, peppers, and brussels sprouts.  Mia had another waffle- this one being carrot cake in flavor, with icing and candied carrots on top.  I had the biscuits with vegan tofu gravy, Rob had the City Relleno with tofu.  All in all, this was one of my favorite restaurants ever to eat at, and I will absolutely return there.
  • Heading out of Denver, we decided to make a few adventure stops along the way.  First up, the Hammonds Candy Factory, where we passed on the factory tour, but bought lollipop provisions for the trip.
  • We went to Golden, Colorado, to the Coors Brewery, but there was an hour and a half wait.  Am I kidding?  You might think so, since it was a THURSDAY, and it was COORS, but no.  So we passed on that, too.
  • We stopped in Boulder, Colorado, at the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory, and after sampling their teas in the tea room,decided to give that tour a go.  It was fun and interesting, and the Mint room was absolutely refreshing.

  • In Boulder, we had a late lunch at Native Foods.  This is a chain out of Southern California, that has restaurants in a number of states out west.  It is all vegan, but you wouldn't think it just popping in.  A lot of the dish descriptions read meaty, if you know what I mean.  I ordered the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl (incredibly healthy- wonderful tempeh), Mia had the Classic Deli Reuben (deceptively vegan- it looked and tasted like a real reuben according to the table's meat-eaters), Rob got the Indo Noodle Salad (my favorite of all that we ordered- great peanutty sauce), Jeff got the Portobello and Sausage Burger with sweet potato fries, Rachel got the Baja Blackened Tacos, and we HAD to try the mac and cheese, so we split a side of that.
  • When we went to leave, I ended up talking with one of the chief executives of the chain who was there interviewing new employees.  She told me that they are planning on opening 4-6 Native Foods restaurants in the DC area in the next few years!
  • Finally, we ended up in Estes Park, Colorado, at the YMCA of the Rockies where we spent the weekend with family. 

  • A group of us ran the first morning, and running mountains (steep + high altitude) is TOUGH.  Then we did an hour of yoga, and topped it off with a 4 mile hike.  After that we decided we could either run OR hike, but not both.
  • We hiked each day we were there, one day doing a 9 mile hike with Jeff & Rachel, the next (because our legs were sore) a much shorter hike with Tim, Jess, Niki & Ryan.
  • Rob, Tim, and Josh did that same 9 mile hike the day before us, and saw a BEAR.  I am so jealous.  We really wanted to see a bear, but only saw what it left behind...
  • Climbing that trail, though, was incredibly gratifying- when we arrived at Sandbeach, it was one of the prettiest sights I'd ever seen.  
  • Hiking DOWN a mountain is much easier than hiking UP.
  • Vegan eating at the Y was not overabundant.  There was fruit and soy milk available each morning, and a salad bar each afternoon.  Two nights we were there I requested an additional item to be made, and each night it was tofu.  The first night, it was served with asparagus, the second with curry and sirrachia.
  • After the 9 mile hike, I wanted something just a little more vegan friendly, so a group of us went out to Poppy's Pizza and Grill in town.  It was a neat little pizza place on the river, with a number of vegan options on the menu.  I chose the Hummus pizza, which was incredibly tasty.  It may have been the hike, but I thought it was great.  The best part about this restaurant was the incredible swiftness that they were able to seat and serve our party of 12.  Kudos to Karen, our waitress.
  • We had a fantastic time- great food, great exercise, but the best was the company.  I love being able to spend time with my family- especially with my brothers and their families.  The only thing that would have made this trip better was if my folks were able to come.  I missed them!

Eating, reading, running, my plan for the week, July 24

Walk 2.5 miles
Dinner: tofu steaks, sweet potatoes, asparagus, and curry sauce

Walk 1 mile
Run 3 miles
Dinner: BBQ tempeh wraps, cucumber dill salad

Walk 1 mile
Run 1.5 miles
Dinner: taco salads

Walk 1-2 miles
Run 3-4 miles
Summer concert Dinner: hummus, spinach artichoke dip, dolmades, pita, calamata olives

Walk 3-4 miles
Dinner: grilled corn, veggie burgers, peaches & watermelon

Rest day

Reading: Junito Diaz's The Short and Wonderous life of Oscar Wao, Tana French's Broken Harbor, Terry Pratchet's The Color of Magic, Rip Esselystein's E2 diet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Oh, an Ode to Running Shoes.

My first pair of Running Shoes (shoes specifically purchased for Running!) Sept. 10, 2012.  I put approximately 300 miles on these shoes, which I purchased the week I decided to become a runner.  Look closely at the heel- you'll notice a trend in the next picture.

Second pair.  Saucony Cohesion 6's, purchased February 15, 2013.  Not only were these running shoes, but they were  also Runner's running shoes.  Saucony- I never would have thought to purchase those before. My first real LOVE to shoes is for these.  More than 500 miles later, I realized I needed a new pair...  Notice that heel...

Here's those Saucony shoes up against a new pair- Yep, that pink outline spot on the heel is not supposed to be black.  Apparently I run on the outside edge of my heels.  I do it like a crazy person.  Ah- can't fault the shoes, though- I mean 500 miles!

So, I went to go buy a new pair (since I'm documenting dates- July 3, 2013)  I told the shoe clerk about my issue with the heels wearing out, and he suggested these:

Nike Anodyne DS.  Supposed to have a super cushy heel.  I tried them on (along with a bunch of others at the store) and they felt really good there.  

Weirdly enough, though, the next morning when I went to put them on for my run, they felt weird.  I was doing a long run that day, so I decided not to risk it, and wore my trusty worn out Saucony shoes.  But the same thing happened the next day, and the next.  Each day I put them on to go run, and they just didn't feel right.  So I decided to wear them a few days to work, to break them in.  Don't get me wrong, they're fine shoes, and I think I'll be able to wear them to work fine, but they're not my running shoes.

In the meantime, I ordered another pair of Saucony Cohesions.  This time in blue.  Wore them today- and they felt like home.  I think these may be my shoe.

Look at those virgin heels (only worn today- July 10, 2013!)

That being said, I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this week on the trail.  I decided to take up running in September of 2012.  I thought it would just be to run a 5k, and cross that off my list.  I hated it, I hated it, and then weirdly enough, I loved it.  According to dailymile, I've now run 0.02 around the globe, and powered thousands of televisions with the energy I've spent.  Aside from swim team in high school (which, let's face it, was a social event rather than an exercise regimen), this is the longest I've ever stuck with any sort of sport or training.

I love running.  Mostly I love running when I am DONE with my morning run, but I do love it.

And I need to buy new pants, too.  But for a totally different reason.

I'm slow, but:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Holy Batman, July! Where did you come from?

July 2?? It seems like this summer is flying by!

I'm teaching classes during both our summer semesters, so it is really passing quickly in my opinion.  Summer I started the week after Spring Graduation, and Summer II starts the day Summer I ends!  On top of that, I'm teaching two weeks of Kids College (STEM and LEGO) that will overlap Summer II classes.  Sigh.

You know those people who say that teachers have it so easy because they get their summers off?  Well, those people can go shove it.

I am getting some good runs in- I've been working on increasing my distance runs on Fridays so I can build up to 13.1 miles next spring.  It's been wicked humid, though- which is killing my pace.

I am also getting some good reading in.  I've been on a Daniel Wallace kick- and have read quite a few by him in the last week.  Sometimes it feels good to get on an author kick and read everything they've written all at once.

I was thinking this morning that it would be nice for Rob and I to have a week off where we just got some stuff done around the house- you know, clean the garage, organize the closet, finally hang that light fixture in the dining room...  But then I realized that if we did have the week off, we'd stumble into crazy adventures, and none of that stuff would get done anyway.  It'll get done.  Eventually.  And if it doesn't, that's okay, too.