Sunday, February 28, 2010

Why Not Try: Oatmeal

I know what you're all thinking: "geez they just did a Why Not Try post & it was on granola, how old are these broads anyways?" and while that would be a valid complaint & question {indeed how old are our souls Britt?}, I have been eating a giant bowl of oatmeal for breakfast {and sometimes dinner..hey I'm a graduate student here} for years & years.
Always inspired by my illustrated & illustrious soulmate, Eloise, who had it right when she said: “You have to eat oatmeal or you'll dry up. Anybody knows that”{Like derr} I'm what you could label an 'oatmeal fanatic.'

Oatmeal has some amazing health
benefits. Particularly, in its high content of fiber {both of the soluble and insoluble variety}. This fiber can help with more regular digestion & it makes you feel full longer and can contribute to better managing your weight. It can help lower your cholesterol & is heart friendly {which is important for us ladies to keep in mind}. Oats also contain phytochemicals, great for fighting off diseases.

I prefer mine with a spoonful of brown sugar & a heaping handful of some raisins or blueberries {for those antioxidants}; I'm just crazy about blueberries, go
here to find out why. While Brittaney adds some flax seed to hers for some extra help in well, just about every thing beneficial for our bods. Check out more facts on flax here.

So, when deciding what to have for breakfast in the morning, something that will last longer in your tummy than a bowl of Lucky Charms, break out those oats.

If you're going for more of an after dinner meal, try this great maple hazelnut bruleed oatmeal recipe that the ever amazing Lauren over at The Lo Down introduced me to. If you think oatmeal is too bland, this will change your mind.


Friday, February 26, 2010

MUSIC: Folk Friday {Mumford & Sons}

I found these guys in a weird series of events. They were featured on NPR one night and the next morning I opened our Sunday paper to find a nice little article about them. They are a really cool group of guys, very humble and witty, which can only be expected from a bunch of British lads. They have been called "this generation's answer to Crosby, Stills, and Nash" and likened to another British Invasion band, The Kinks. This is probably due to their use of close harmonies and emphasis on poetic lyrics.

Mumford & Sons are: Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett, and Ted Dwane. Their debut album is a highly recommended addition to your growing music collection.

The album begins with the extraordinary title track, Sigh No More, a statement of intent that references the romantic language of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, as they sing: "Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you / It will set you free / Be more like the man you were made to be." Amongst darkly reflective tracks such as Thistle & Weeds and ballads like White Blank Page, Winter Winds and Roll Away Your Stone, show the band's sprightlier side, the rollicking banjo of the former conjuring up stormy weather that "litters London with lonely hearts"; the latter a fabulous hoedown about a man unsuccessfully filling the hole in his soul.

Give them a listen:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why not try: Homemade Energy Bars

I am so excited to add to Carolyn's Folk Friday Series... but until then why not try making your own energy bars!

I'm a pretty active girl... if you don't know me, let me just give you a small taste of one of my favorite hobbies. On any given day you'll find me swimming, biking, or running, lifting, stretching, or eating all in preparation to race triathlons. I've been racing for four years and I'm becoming just a wee bit competitive. Okay maybe more than a "wee." To help fuel my "multi-sport" life, I've done some self testing on the best foods for triathletes and in today's why not try I want to share it!

I am a big fan of Clif bar products. They are my go to during a two plus hour bike followed by an hour run. Or when I need something quick between the track and training at the gym. But as filling as they are, I found my pocket book to emptying. So I found a few recipes to make my very own energy bars.

I started my shopping at Henry's, SoCal's answer for Whole Foods (side note, there are a few Whole Foods Markets in the area... few and far between). I picked myself up some whole figs, hazelnuts, raw almonds, craisins, dried cherries, and some old fashioned rolled oats. In a food processor I threw in all the fruit ingredients, plus the almonds and hazelnuts (finely chopped) and some honey. I let the f.p. do its job, then dumped out the contents on a cutting board and formed it into a long rectangle. I sprinkled the oats on top and wrapped the whole thing in clear wrap and threw it in the freezer. In a second batch I added some natural peanut butter as I mushed the mess into a square. Within a few hours, I had an awesome little snack that my coach even couldn't resist. In fact he ate the three servings I gave him in under 20 minutes!

Here is just one of many links to a recipe (if you hate mine). Energy Bar Recipe

And since we are technically a book blog I thought i would add a quick review of... THE ATHLETE'S PALATE. This is a fun little cookbook full of gourmet but very healthy recipes specifically for athletes. I've made a bunch and the directions are pretty easy to follow. My dad is himself a great cook, so he likes to peak over my shoulder as a cook and add his flair. Really we just add some extra peppers and spices. There is a awesome energy bar recipe in here too!

Really most of recipes you find will have the same basic format. What is fun is adding your own little details to make the bars your own trademark. If you love raisins, but hate walnuts, well hold off the walnuts and go a little crazy with those dries grapes. Some little extras you could always throw in could be things like flax seed, hazelnuts, natural peanut butter, almonds, or dried fruits of all kinds! So have some fun in your kitchen and make some nutritious and energizing snack bars. Go on give it a "tri" :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Feel the Rhythm, Feel the Rhyme, Get on Up...It's Olympic time!

After about as much anticipation as an athlete waiting for gold... I present to you my OLYMPIC POST.
I have to say, while I do love reading, watching the Olympics for the next 17 days has replaced my evening literary dessert.

Okay here we go:

I loved, absolutely loved, the First Nations. I think it was just right, in fact I would have liked to watch it longer. It was beautiful mix of colors and dancing. They are athletes in their own right; dancing through the entire parade of nations! Awesome!

I have to shout out to the Jamaicans - no bobsled!? Travesty.

And to the gentleman from the Cayman Islands, what a charmed life you lead.

I was disappointed that the Flame Lighting did not go according to plan. I know you can never predict a mechanical failure, so I cannot blame those ambitious Canadians too much.

Overall the word I would use to describe the Opening is whimsical. I would not necessarily describe it as the media told us time and time again as "intimate." Far from it in fact. The thing about the Olympics, is the whole world is watching. This gives me chills, but is oddly comforting. The fact that for the next two weeks countries all over the globe are hoping for the best, whether it's a personal record or facing the world on the podium for the first time, it's a wonderful way to examine what it means to be human. Everybody watching, participating, cheering, hoping, celebrating, consoling, coaching, or breathing, is just that: a body. We are connected for this brief moment in time in the spirit of testing ourselves against only ourselves.

Okay enough waxing romantic, I know I get carried away, but I LOVE IT. And rightly so, I think, after all I'm working my way to Rio in 2016...

Girl Power!

{image: Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard}

While searching for a "Today in Women's History" calendar, I came across this amazing quote. It's ideas like this that inspire me to keep reading:

"Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less." {Myra Pollack Sadker}

Go here to learn about Myra Pollack Sadker {interesting lady!} has put together a list of Notable Female Characters of Great Literature. Some of the books listed are definitely in my personal library.

Who are some of your favorite literary heroines?

I think B & I can agree on our love for that sassy redhead, Anne, with an 'e', of Green Gables. She was never afraid to be herself, however clumsy & kooky that self was!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why not Try: Mint Tea

So, Brittaney & I are avid tea drinkers. I have been enjoying tea basically my whole life. I can't handle the caffeine or taste of coffee. Although, coffee milk & coffee ice cream are amazing, we now have to enjoy the non-dairy versions!

This past summer I spent some time in Morocco and totally fell in love with Moroccan Mint Tea. For those of you who have traveled to this lovely place, you know that this yummy drink is just about everywhere! I have had stomach issues forever {i.e newly discovered intolerance to lactose} & this mint tea just made my tummy feel better!

When I got home I decided to do some research on why? Turns out mint is awesome for you, especially in aiding digestion! I'm a big believer in natural alternatives to pharmacy purchased medicines; pills and other such things just scare me. So, super stoked to have found something that I would have consumed anyways that has a soothing effect on my tummy aches.

You can go here or here to read about about all the wonderful benefits, but to give you a short summary, mint helps to:

  • reduces stress & anxiety
  • discomfort from IBS {Irritable Bowel Syndrome}
  • nasal & sinus congestion
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • stimulates brain activity
  • I read somewhere else that it helps reduce excessive hair growth in women, so yah, rock on!
If you're a regular tea drinker, put down that Earl Grey or Green, & put some mint in your cup...or if you're more into coffee, why not give tea a try?

I'm trying desperately to find some authentic Moroccan Mint Tea in the states, but so far have been relying on my homemade brew {I use this recipe, if you're interested, but be warned it contains a lot of sugar!}

I did manage to locate a brand of authentic Tourareg tea, but it's not available for purchase in grocery stores. You can order it through this website, it's the first tea listed under Africa. My mainstay brand for mint tea would be The Republic of Tea's Mint Fields Herb Tea, which has spearmint, peppermint, & lemon in it & highly recommended by moi!

Happy brewing!

Brittaney Recently Finished {Pharmakon}:

Now I am all fired up about writing, so I thought I would take a swing at my first review! Its kind of an unofficial book review for our club since we haven't come to a consensus on what to read first. Hopefully that will kick off in March. (See My Suggestions below) Nevertheless, I finished this novel over my breakfast of egg whites and green tea just this morning, so while it is still fresh, I wanted to dive in.

PHARMAKON {or the story of a happy family!} by Dirk Wittenborn {2008}

I think what struck me the most about this book was the opening. Authors work for years mastering the hook. What exactly will get a reader past the first 60 seconds of reading to the next 6 days of book munching?

Clearly a master at fiction, there can be no doubt that author Dirk Wittenborn {or his editor!} edited and reedited until he was able to capture this reader. Posing questions and only answering them with more questions, Wittenborn, like his protagonist plays mind games with his audience, luring them into a sense of security and familiarity, just like a good psychiatrist should. But is Dr. Will Friedrich a good psychiatrist? By the end of the novel it is clear that Friedrich is brilliant, & by all standards “good” at analyzing and studying his fellow human beings, but it’s what he does with his finding; how he manipulates and alters the fates of all those in his life that really must be examined.

In the first scene, we are made to immediately trust and like Friedrich. He is the underdog, carving out his own niche among the snob of Yale academia. Will is everyman: he is bright and fresh, ambitious, not ruthless. Yet, I think this is also a good metaphor for the first time setting of the novel: 1952.

I always think of the 50’s as a wholesome age. True Americana and national pride bursting from sea to shining sea. Hula hoops, doo-wop, ice cream floats, and poodle skirts. But what I forget, and what Wittenborn subtly reminds us all, is that 1950s America had seen two world wars, the most recent ending in the most devastating atomic assaults. America is not naive, we are just in shock. It would be years before post traumatic stress disorder is formally diagnosed, I think Wittenborn is alluding to this among the plethora of psychological jargon and disorders he illuminates in his book.

The book follows the Friedrich family as they transition through the decades facing all kinds of issues. Anyone who has ever complained about the head games their parents play will appreciate latter half of the novel. And by "everyone" I mean those who have been raised by passive aggressive Catholic parents, but also really everyone.

I totally recommend this book. I think it would also make a great movie or miniseries. This is probably due to the fact that Dirk is a writer for HBO.

Oh! Also, fun fact about the book, it is loosely based on Dirk’s life. So the adage is true: write what you know!

Friday, February 12, 2010

MUSIC: Folk Friday {First Aid Kit}

We wanted to bring some music into our blog & decided on the catchy alliteration of Folk Friday. Although, it might not always feature "folk" musicians; the genre just happens to be one of our personal faves.

This week, B & I discovered a cute duo of sisters {Johanna and Klara Söderberg} hailing from Sweden, that call themselves First Aid Kit. Their folky, woodsy music makes me want to break out some chunky needles & yarn & knit bulky reindeer sweaters or perhaps be involved in an unrequited love affair {or maybe just watch one transpire onscreen}.

Their debut album, "The Big Black & The Blue," was just released on January 25th, 2010. So, open up those ears & give these gals a try.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Carolyn's Current Read {Tess of the D'Urbervilles}:

Last week I started Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy {1891}. I'm really really enjoying it thus far {only on page 121 so about 344 to go!}. I'm a sucker for poetic language & this does not disappoint. People just don't write like this anymore!

I was totally creeped out by Alec D'Uberville the moment he was introduced...the back of the book sort of gave away the general plot & I'm great at solving mysteries {hehe!}...perhaps it was the cigar or the demeaning and false appreciation of Tess {you know sleazeballs who are all 'oh baby baby baby, blah blah blah,' but are really huge pervs. They enjoy wearing message t-shirts that say things like 'Single' & may have a propensity towards roofies-& equally tacky kinds of things}. Phew...long winded rant!

I don't want to give anything away for those who haven't read this yet, so I won't go into too much detail about where I am in the book. While I'm enjoying it, I sometimes want to give Tess a swift kick in the behind for allowing Alec to even be in her presence. Girls got to watch out for themselves!

While I'm busy finishing...Go turn some pages yourself!

Carolyn Recently Finished {I Capture the Castle}:

So, for Christmas I received a stack of books & I'm currently on book #2. Recently, I made the switch from historical biographies of famous women {mostly royals or the elite} to classic literature and I have to say it's been a great switch.

My first conquest in my Christmas literature stash was a phenomenal book entitled:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith {1948}. Fun fact: she also is responsible for 101 Dalmations.

What I loved most about this book was the narrator, Cassandra. At times, I truly felt that she was writing from my thoughts. Particularly the sections where she discusses daydreaming and imagining futures for other people based on reading into small situations too deeply. This describes me perfectly. Daydreaming is a serious problem in my life, especially when it comes to fantasizing about the future. I did, however, take some advice from Cassandra- she recommends not imagining for yourself because you can only be disappointed when what you hope for doesn't happen. So, create all kinds of crazy lives for those around you, but let nature take its course when it comes to yourself.

The book is set up like a diary {three diaries actually} and follows a romantically impoverished English family in the early 20th century who currently live in a dilapidated castle. Cassandra has an older sister, Rose, a younger brother, Thomas, an eccentric step-mother Topaz, and a, formerly famous, writer for a father, known as Mortmain. The story follows the Mortmain family as their, otherwise bleak, lives change course, for better or worse, when they are introduced to some wealthy Americans. The age old drama on marrying for love or money ensues.

I'm also obsessed with anything having to do with England & as I'm in grad. school for historic preservation, yah, the whole living in a castle thing didn't hurt matters either.

A few of my favorite quotes from this selection:

  • "Noble deeds & hot baths are the best cures for depression."
  • "After being an artists' model for so many years, she has no particular interest in Nudism for its own sake, but she has a passion for getting into closest contact with the elements."

I would totally recommend this book for those of us who like to be transported into a more romantic & dramatic setting {in England!}. Really light read, so perhaps it would be lovely for traveling?


I Capture the Castle

I know we are all skeptical about movies from books, as they usually leave out major plot points or simply don't imagine the characters as we do, but the movie version of this book is really excellent & totally worth checking out!

Directed by Tim Fywell {2003} it is a beautiful adaptation of the novel. It doesn't omit any part of the plot & the costumes and setting are lovely & perfect too!

It's in the Watch Instantly section of Netflix too, so check it out yo!

And on that note...

Basically, Brittaney & I wanted a fun way to stay in touch with each other and a companion to share in our first attempt at blogging. We hope to introduce each other to new books/ideas/etc, but we also wanted to open up the conversation to anyone else out there with some thoughts on things that make us tick, and basically rock all over. While we wanted the blog to revolve around literature, as Brittaney mentioned, we would like to include all of our interests....exercise, art & crafts, travel, feminism, tea, sushi, cookie dough, kitsch, folk music, bohemians, learning how to be lactose free, and all things trashy pop culture. We are two modern gals with old fashioned tastes. Join us for Mankala hour!

Separated at Birth, blog to blogger

In the footsteps of so many famous bloggers, I am happy to present our first real crack at Internet publishing. Like staking a claim in the wild frontier, I feel as though I have been waiting for just the right time to finally face the blogging masses with something to say.

Okay, maybe I have nothing really all that interesting to write about. Maybe Carolyn does... Well really it doesn't matter because whether we are writing just to pass the time between our cross country visits or for a hundred million followers, we proudly present: our blog. Ta dah.

The thought came to us almost simultaneously while chatting one afternoon. The two of us, Carolyn and I, shared an apartment with, shall we say, much character, our senior year at the University of Connecticut. We both knew we had a lot in common, love for nature, co-counselors at the same "art camp" {that's us dressed as Gilligan & Mary-Anne above circa 2007}, tea, musical tastes, what we didn't know was that that list would grow and grow until we would exclaim (almost on a daily basis): we are the same person!

Now the graduation diplomas hang on the wall (or in the envelope still under my bed) and we have taken new steps in our respective lives. Fortunate for the both of us, we are, like Anne and Diane, kindred spirits (Ah! first literary reference of the post!) and though we can't share an evening of tea and wine spritzers while watching Tool Academy, we can certainly talk about how we both kept up the ritual even while 2000 miles away.

But that isn't the real reasons we have secured this Internet domain. No, we wanted to have a main focus for our postings. Following in the great tradition of readers and reviews, we decided on a book club. We hope to discuss and review books of all kinds, fiction, non-fiction, classical, humor, graphic (?), historical while adding our own tidbits of insight about pop culture (America's Next Top Model premiers March 3 on the CW) and what make us tick. It was Carolyn who recommended extra posts about craft projects, travels, and musings of all kinds, and I think she is brilliant.

So read it and weep world. Well hopefully don't weep, unless you are so moved by my first post. Feel free to add to the conversation or just sit back and enjoy the ride. If nothing else, Carolyn you and I will have something to laugh about when you FINALLY come visit me. (wink).
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