Recipe: Peach Breakfast Crisp

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A free long weekend (yay for the August Bank Holiday!) put me in the mood to try some new recipes. As you’ve already seen, on Saturday I made these stuffed flatbreads, which did indeed fuel F and me well for cycling the next morning. For post-cycling brunch on Sunday, I turned to the incredible smitten kitchen cookbook for inspiration. The result was this peach breakfast crisp, which I adapted from Deb’s apricot breakfast crisp — as she points out, any stone fruit (or berry, I imagine) would work well.

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This crisp is just right: tender, juicy peaches contrast beautifully with a crispy, nutty, not-too-sweet topping. Great with a dollop or two of plain yogurt. (F agrees!) As a bonus, the crisp comes together quickly — you can have it on the table in less than 45 minutes. Enjoy it for breakfast or brunch, like we did, or serve it as a light dessert. I’m definitely making this again, though I might have to double the recipe next time so it sticks around longer than one afternoon!

Peach Breakfast Crisp (adapted from smitten kitchen; serves 2-4)

Ingredients

  • Fruit filling:
    • 4 peaches, pitted & chopped into chunks (feel free to use other stone fruit or berry of choice)
    • 1.5 tbsp granulated sugar
    • 1 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
    • to taste: grated nutmeg
  • Crisp topping:
    • 65g (4-5 tbsp) unsalted butter
    • 60-65g (~1/3 cup) granulated sugar
    • 45g (~1/2 cup) oats
    • 30g (~1/4 cup) plain/all-purpose flour
    • 35g (~1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
    • pinch of salt
    • 3 tbsp sliced almonds
    • optional: 1 tbsp wheat germ

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
  • In a small baking dish, stir together the chopped peaches with the sugar, flour, and nutmeg.
  • In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, oats, flours, salt, almonds, and wheat germ.
  • Scoop/sprinkle the topping over the fruit, the bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown and the fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or cold with yogurt.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil

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You know those recipes you see and immediately go, “I have to make this”? This, from Melissa Clark over at NYT Cooking, was one of them. I don’t know exactly what got me so excited, but who doesn’t love cheesy-doughy goodness? A free long weekend coming up meant I had time to make the dough on Saturday morning, let it rise, and prepare the flatbreads for dinner. Great cycling fuel, too, as F anticipated a long ride — and I a slightly shorter one — for Sunday morning.

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I was unsure how to do the folding and re-rolling (probably should’ve watched Melissa Clark’s video first — oops), so my flatbreads ended up very doughy on one side and very cheesy on the other. That also could’ve come from using cubed rather than grated mozzarella. That said, I didn’t care because the dough is delicious. Dollop on some extra basil oil, sprinkle it with some salt, and you’ll be good to go. Feel free to stuff the flatbreads with whatever you want — I’d like to try olives next time — or don’t stuff them at all and just enjoy them with that delicious basil oil. The dough would also be amazing as pizza dough — after all, these are basically calzones.

Stuffed Grilled Flatbreads with Basil Oil (adapted from Melissa Clark at NYT Cooking; makes 8 flatbreads, serving 6-8 people)

Ingredients

  • Flatbreads + Filling:
    • 1 tsp honey
    • 7g active dry yeast
    • 375g whole wheat flour
    • 13g sea salt
    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 250-375g plain/all-purpose flour (+ more for counter dusting)
    • 200-300g mozzarella cheese, grated or cubed
  • Basil Oil:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 50g fresh basil leaves
    • 1 garlic clove OR 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together honey and 2 cups of warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves.
  • Gradually stir in the whole wheat flour, taking about 1 minute to stir everything together. Let the mixture rest uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the salt, yogurt, and olive oil, along with 250g (~2 cups) of the plain flour. Add more flour as needed, until the dough is too stiff to easily stir.
  • Flour a flat surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it’s smooth, elastic, and only a little bit sticky.
  • Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a dish towel and let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles (~2-3 hours). If you want to make the flatbreads the next day, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.
  • Make the basil oil by pureeing the fresh basil, olive oil, and garlic in a blender or food processor.
  • After the dough has risen, turn it onto a floured surface and divide it into eight equal pieces. If the dough has warmed up too much, chill it for 30 minutes.
  • On your floured surface, roll a piece of dough into a circle about 6in (15cm) across, or about 1/4in (1/2cm) thick. Brush it with some basil oil, then evenly distribute some mozzarella over the dough round. Fold edges of dough to the middle of the circle, pinching them together  to seal in the filling. Re-roll the dough into a circle. Repeat with the rest of the dough pieces.
  • Before cooking, brush each side of the dough rounds with some olive oil. Place the dough rounds either on a grill or in a skillet over medium heat, and cook for about 3 minutes per side (flip when the dough/bread starts to puff and bubble). Alternately, place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 450F (230C) for 10-15 minutes.
  • Before serving, brush each flatbread with some basil oil and sprinkle some salt over the top.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Basil Pesto

green=good

green=good

Every summer since I can remember, my dad has made an amazing basil pesto with basil from the garden. He used to make it with pine nuts — the classic combination — but those are so expensive now that he has started using a mixture of pecans, walnuts, and almonds. We always eat it on whole wheat spaghetti — the secret to extra creaminess is a dollop of buttermilk or yogurt — with frozen peas on the side.

peas are a must

peas are a must

F and I had been wanting to make pesto for a while, and when Simply Recipes published a pesto recipe — which coincided with Cookie and Kate posting this dish — I knew it was time. My dad has always used the classic Silver Palate recipe, but as I forgot to write it down during my most recent visit, I went for the Simply Recipes version. Making pesto is so simple and satisfying: combine basil, nuts, cheese, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Toss with pasta or spread on pizza or a sandwich.

Do you have a favorite pesto recipe? How do you like to eat it?

Basil Pesto (adapted from Simply Recipes; makes 3 cups of pesto)

Ingredients

  • 4 packed cups basil leaves
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 1.5 cups grated parmesan and/or romano cheese
  • 1 cup nuts (I used 1/2 cup walnuts + 1/2 cup almonds)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • to taste: salt & pepper

Procedure

  • Place the basil and garlic in a food processor and pulse until blended (you can use an immersion blender if you don’t have a food processor). Add the cheese and nuts and continue pulsing until the mixture is uniform.
  • Slowly add the olive oil while running the food processor continuously. Keep blending until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Stir in salt and pepper.
  • Note: If you’re adding pesto to pasta, reserve/mix in 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid per 1 cup of pesto.

Enjoy!

DELTA Course: Week 2

Need to catch up? Click to read about DELTA Course: Week 1.

———

It was a good week in DELTA-land — the input sessions were interesting and I learned a lot. Here’s what we did:

Monday: Bobby (one of my CELTA tutors last year — fun to have him for some input sessions on the DELTA) led two sessions. The first one, on analyzing language (MFP), was very useful and, as Bobby pointed out, is one of the most important parts of the DELTA: we’re asked to analyze language on the Module 1 exam as well as in our background essays and lesson plans for Module 2. We, as teachers, basically need to be prepared for any and all language questions that students might have for us. A large part of that is being able to anticipate problems that learners might have with certain language structures. And of course, any language system (grammar, lexis, phonology, discourse) lesson should include work on MFP: meaning, form, and pronunciation. We did an activity in which Bobby gave us a text that could be used for a lesson and asked us to identify the target language, talk about how we’d set it up for a class, and think about what aspects of MFP we could teach (including key features and anticipated problems). It was a really useful session, although it made me realize that I’m definitely the least experienced (or have a more eclectic range/order of experience) of/than my classmates. I know I’ll have to work hard to keep up to snuff, but I’m confident that taking it a week at a time and being my usual methodical self will pay off.

Our second input session on Monday was a brief discussion of classroom management. Bobby handed out a sheet of questions that we discussed with a partner and then with the class. While you might think classroom management is just about “controlling” the students and making sure they stay focused, it actually encompasses a lot more than that, including:

  • facilitating equal participation
  • establishing and maintaining rapport with the class
  • how/why teachers might vary their role in a lesson
  • keeping students focused on lesson aims and learning outcomes
  • when to ask open vs. closed questions
  • when a teacher should limit how much he/she speaks
  • when to give quick vs. longer feedback

In reading through and discussing the aspects of classroom management, I realized that this is stuff I really enjoy and am already pretty good at as a teacher. That’s not to say I can’t improve, but I’m quite confident in my ability to manage a classroom.

———

Thursday: Howard came in for a guest lecture titled “Approaches to teaching and learning: a brief history of English language teaching.” While he gave a disclaimer that many of us might find it dull, I actually found it fascinating to learn about how language teaching approaches have developed, from good old Grammar Translation in the 18th century up to Lexical Approaches and Task-Based Learning today. It was refreshing to be reminded that, in Howard’s words, we English language teachers “are part of an intellectual tradition.” There has been tons of research and experimentation with different approaches and methods to language teaching — and there is no golden, magical method for what’s most effective. I won’t go into too much detail, in part because I wrote a little about it during the CELTA course, but suffice it to say I enjoyed being reminded of all the possible approaches and thinking about how my personal approach to teaching uses bits of many different approaches.

Piggy-backed onto the history of ELT session was a brief overview of one of our DELTA assignments: the Experimental Practice assignment. We must choose one approach (or aspect of an approach) that we’ve never used before, design a lesson plan and evaluation criteria, and teach the experimental lesson. It’ll be wild! I have a few ideas for what approach/method I’ll use, but I won’t disclose them quite yet…

Recipe: Kholodnyk (Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup)

vibrant

vibrant

While I was visiting my parents in Rochester, T invited us over for Sunday brunch on the cozy back patio (S was away hiking). As usual, T provided a delicious spread: blueberry cake, salmon quiche (have to get that recipe!), and this incredible kholodnyk. It’s a traditional Russian/Ukrainian/Polish cold buttermilk and beet soup — it made a delicious first brunch course on a warm morning. I immediately asked T for the recipe, which she said came from epicurious and was really easy. She was right — this takes 10-15 minutes to whisk together and makes a vibrant, healthy summer soup. It works well as a brunch accompaniment, as we enjoyed it, or as an appetizer before dinner. It received full marks from F when I made it back in London. I went heavy on the beets and forgot radishes — it still tasted great. Feel free to take this recipe as a base and modify ingredients and amounts for a chunkier or thinner soup.

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Do you have a favorite cold summer soup? Share it in a comment below!

Kholodnyk (Cold Beet & Buttermilk Soup) (adapted from epicurious; serves 3-4)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-3 cups (~250g) grated pickled beets
  • 1/4 cup beet liquid (if not using pickled beets, use 1/8 cup water + 1/8 cup white wine vinegar)
  • 1.5 – 2 cups English cucumber, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Procedure

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, & salt.
  • Stir in the grated beets, beet liquid, cucumber, radishes, & dill.
  • Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes, then serve cold as an appetizer or light main course.

Enjoy!

DELTA Course: Week 1

You may recall that from January-April 2013 I took a CELTA course — not to “do EFL/ESL teaching as a career,” according to my previous self, but merely to have some job options during my MA.

Oh how things change. Now, about a year and a half later and finishing up my MA in English literature, all I want to do is teach EFL/ESL. Seriously. I love working with adults to help them become more confident communicators in English, and teaching adults also has an amazing cross-cultural dimension. With that in mind, I thought my job/career prospects would be improved my some more teacher training. So here I am, back at Oxford House College for the 16-week DELTA — Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults — course. As with my CELTA course, I will do my best to provide weekly summaries of our DELTA doings. Hope you enjoy!

———

DELTA Week 1 was mostly introductory. Monday consisted of information overload from our primary tutor, Chris. He told us about the structure of the course — three modules — and the main assessed materials:

  • Module 1 (“Understanding Language, Methodology & Resources for Teaching) is assessed via written exam
  • Module 2 (“Developing Professional Practice”) is assessed via four Language Skills/Systems Assignments (observed teaching and background essays)
  • Module 3 (“Extending Practice and ELT Specialism”) is assessed via an extended written assignment that consists of a course plan, needs analysis, etc.

That’s the bare bones of it. Over the next 16 (now 15) weeks, input sessions for each module will be mixed and mingled together, and each of us will teach an observed lesson every three weeks or so. We also have to do ten observations of qualified teachers — these we can do at Oxford House College or our place of work (most DELTA students are full-time English teachers at languages schools or elsewhere, though some of us do not currently teach).

On Thursday of Week 1, we started delving into more detail with an input session on lesson planning — the DELTA lesson plans are more detailed than CELTA plans and have to include a class profiles/needs analysis as well as assumptions and commentary about the learners and lesson plan. We also had a short session on anticipating problems that learners might have with certain language/grammar structures. It was a good first week — a bit overwhelming, but I’m sure all twelve of us will get through the course.

Recipe: Miso Ramen with Bok Choy, Chard & Oyster Mushrooms

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While waiting in the airport to fly back to London from Rochester a few weeks ago, I treated myself to a Women’s Health magazine for some light and fun reading. It had a few tasty-looking recipes, including one for “quick miso ramen with poached eggs.” I tore out the recipe and presented it to F upon my arrival in London. He was game, so we whipped it up — adding chard and oyster mushrooms for more veggie punch — for dinner that evening. It took a mere 30 minutes start-to-finish, tasted delicious, and definitely helped with jet lag! Feel free to adjust the vegetable and liquid amounts to make it as soup-like or not as you want (we prefer lots of broth and vegetables).

Miso Ramen with Bok Choy, Chard, & Oyster Mushrooms (adapted from Women’s Health Sep 2014 issue; serves 4-5)

Ingredients

  • 5-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp white miso paste
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp freshly-grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 250-300g ramen noodles
  • 200-300g bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 200-300g chard, roughly chopped
  • 100-200g oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • optional: chili sauce (such as Sriracha), for garnish

Procedure

  • In a large pot, whisk together the stock, miso paste, soy sauce, ginger, & garlic. Bring to a boil.
  • When the stock mixture boils, add the noodles, bok choy, chard, & mushrooms. Cover the pot and let simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the noodles are cooked and the veggies are tender to your liking. Serve into bowls and garnish with as much or as little chili sauce as you’d like.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Corn Cakes with Fresh Corn & Green Onions

Browsing through some recent issues of Cooking Light for the pretty pictures recipe inspiration, I came across these “Silver Dollar Corn Cakes.” As I do love my pancakes, I was intrigued by this more savory variant. Turns out that we had bought corn and green onions in our last shopping and so had almost all the ingredients on hand.

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The corn cakes turned out really well, acting not as a side but as the main event for our dinner, complementing chard and green beans. F thought they were great — even with ketchup! I could also imagine them being good with a dollop or two of sour cream. These are basically cornbread in pancake form, so they’d be great alongside any meaty main. We actually enjoyed the leftovers with fried eggs for Saturday brunch. I made most of my corn cakes bigger than silver dollar-sized, in part because that shortened the cooking time, but the little ones are so cute that I might do them all small next time.

Corn Cakes with Fresh Corn & Green Onions (adapted from Cooking Light Aug 2014; serves 3-5)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 – 1.25 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 cobs)
  • 4 green onions, minced

Procedure

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs.
  • Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture, then stir in the corn kernels and green onions.
  • Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add dollops or ladlefuls of batter to the pan and cook about 2 minutes per side.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

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Happy to be back in the home London kitchen, Sunday put me in the mood to work with food. I had been planning to make granola and pizza dough, but then I remembered seeing frugal feeding’s recipe for “courgette loaf cake” — aka zucchini bread. As it is zucchini season and we happened to have a couple in the fridge, I thought the bread would make a delicious post-run treat and that F would enjoy it after returning from a very long cycle. (For the record, he did enjoy it — so much so that we devoured half the loaf between the two of us on Sunday alone.) I was also surprised at myself for not already having a go-to zucchini bread recipe (though I do have these tasty zucchini bread pancakes) so had to remedy that quickly!

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This quick bread is packed with zucchini, well-spiced, and not too sweet. Lemon zest — which I was initially skeptical about — adds a nice, zesty brightness to the flavor, and I subbed in some whole wheat flour for a semblance of health. The result is a moist, filling, delicious loaf, great on its own or warm with butter.

Zucchini Bread (adapted from frugal feeding; makes 1 loaf)

Ingredients

  • 200g plain/all-purpose flour
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 325g zucchini, grated (~1.5 medium zucchinis)
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150mL sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
  • optional: 50g (~1/2 cup) pecans or walnuts

Procedure

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (160C if using a convection oven). Grease a loaf pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda & powder, spices, lemon zest, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the zucchini, brown sugar, eggs, and oil.
  • Pour the wet into the dry mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the nuts, if using.
  • Scrape the batter (it will be thick) into the loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. (You may have to cover the loaf with foil partway through baking, so the top doesn’t burn.)

Enjoy!

Recipe: Fresh Corn & Avocado Salad with Basil & Lime

Visiting my parents in the summer is always fun, in part because there are always so many delicious fresh/seasonal fruits and veggies around the house. My dad and I, finding ourselves alone for dinner on a Friday evening, improvised with what ingredients we had and created a colorful and healthy spread: He made delicious BBQ chicken and I came up with this salad, inspired by Mark Bittman. Add some grilled eggplant, and you have a perfect summer meal.

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Fresh Corn & Avocado Salad with Basil & Lime (inspired by Mark Bittman; serves 3-4)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 generous handfuls of your favorite salad greens
  • 4 cobs of fresh corn, blanched & kernels cut off
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • handful of fresh purple basil, minced (feel free to use “normal” green basil)
  • small handful of fresh mint, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 glugs olive oil
  • to taste: salt & pepper

Procedure

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch the corn cobs in it for about 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the water, let cool, then cut the kernels off the cobs.
  • Combine the corn kernels, diced avocado, minced herbs, and salad greens in a large salad bowl. Squeeze the lime over everything, add some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss until the salad is evenly coated.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Terry’s Gin-Barbecue Chicken

Extra-crispy, May 2014

Extra-crispy, May 2014

I grew up eating a lot of chicken. One of the family staples, especially in the summertime, is my dad Terry’s amazing gin-barbecue chicken. Usually baked in the oven, though occasionally grilled, this is one of the simplest chicken recipes you’ll come across: marinate chicken pieces in gin and barbecue sauce, then bake for an hour and voila! An easy and delicious dinner.

Not-so-crispy (but just as good), July 2014

Not-so-crispy (but just as good), July 2014

Barbecue chicken goes well with grilled vegetables — I prefer eggplant and/or zucchini — and a big salad. Also gin and tonics, which my family affectionately calls “G&Ts”. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination! If you want some more carbs with your meal, rice does a good job of soaking up the barbecue juices.

Terry’s Gin-Barbecue Chicken (family recipe; serves 3-5, but easy to adjust for more or fewer people)

Ingredients

  • 5 bone-in chicken pieces (thighs &/or drumsticks)
  • 1.5 – 2 cups barbecue sauce (choose your favorite brand, or make it yourself)
  • 1/4 cup gin
  • to taste: salt & pepper

Procedure

  • Rub some salt and pepper into the chicken, then marinate it in the gin and barbecue sauce for at least one hour and up to overnight in the fridge.
  • Bake the chicken in the oven at 375F (190C) for 1 hour. Alternately, grill the chicken on a barbecue (this may take longer for the chicken to cook through).

Enjoy!

Race Recap: Women Run the ROC 5k

The first thing I do when I know I’ll be be visiting my parents in Rochester is to see if the local Fleet Feet running store is putting on any road races during the time I’ll be there. This year, a race coincided with my last day in Rochester: the second annual (?) Women Run the ROC 5k. Yes, an all-women’s race — with one man who was lottery-picked to run with the ladies. That sounded like the perfect thing to round off a week with my family and to see where my fitness is after six months of low running volume and inconsistent speedwork (sorry, Jacob & Kabir — I’ll try to get back to the track soon!). 

Women running the ROC! (Photo courtesy of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester)

Women running the ROC! (Photo courtesy of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester)

The day dawned cool after a dramatic nighttime thunderstorm. I thought the storm would’ve cleared the air, but when I stepped out of the car at Frontier Field it was anything but cleared. Hello, 85% humidity! At least the air temperature was only 70F/21C, which made pushing through the humidity less painful than it might have been.

I knew from looking at last year’s results for this race that I had a good chance at being in the top 10 (this being cozy Rochester, there are not as many super fast runners as in London, where I generally rank somewhere in the middle of the pack and my club). I thought I might be able to manage a PB if I had a really good run but I also knew that would be a tough goal, since my running and speedwork volumes have been low. Nonetheless, I lined up near the front of the starting line in order to put myself in a good position and to try to let the faster women pull me along.

At 8:30am on the nose, we were off down Morrie Silver Way. I found myself among the “lead pack” (can you even call it that in a 5k?) and even got to be a front runner for a hot minute as we went up and over the High Falls bridge. Probably the only time that’ll ever happen! The one man running was up in front, too, and he said that we were under 7:00/mile pace going over the bridge. Great, I thought. Just try to keep this up. But I must’ve lost some momentum because about six or seven women pulled in front of me, while I maintained pace with a younger (I think high school) runner whose coach (dad?) was egging her on from the sidewalk. I went through the first mile in a slightly disappointing 7:10 — you have to pick it up, Tamm, you could still make it under 22:00.

The course took an interesting, windy route through downtown Rochester: up St. Paul Street, around to Liberty Pole Way, then a slight downhill on Main Street back to Plymouth for the homestretch and wind-around to the finish (that extra bit at the end, up to the parking lot and back down, was sneaky!). Though there were a few gradual ups and downs, it was essentially a flat course — especially compared to north London.

My second mile was a bit quicker than my first, about 7:05, but by then I was already starting to struggle a little to maintain my form and pace. Let the downhill carry you along, I thought, before seeing a couple women ahead of me who I was slightly gaining on. You can catch them, just stay steady and pick them off. I passed one woman right before turning onto Plymouth. Come on, only four minutes to go. Then I saw a woman in a purple tank top walking — it looked like she’d gotten a cramp. But just as I passed her, she started running again and breezed by me. That’s okay, just catch that other woman who also looks like she has a cramp. No problem. Then the purple tank to woman had to drop to a walk again. Just keep running and you can pass her. Don’t walk. You can finish! It won’t be a PB but it’s effing humid out here so that’s okay.

Finishing (photo courtesy of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester)

Finishing (photo courtesy of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester)

The last couple tenths of a mile were brutal, but I managed a small kick to bring it home in 22:00 flat (average pace: 7:06/mile, 4:24/km) for the 5km/3.1mi course. And I ended up placing 4th overall! (Remember, this was an all-women’s race, and this is Rochester, not London. But still.) The woman in 3rd beat me by a substantial 24 seconds, and the woman who won it ran 20:45. So not a super fast field overall, but I was pleased to be up in the rankings and 2nd in my age group (if you count the overall winner). I was a bit bummed not to have broken 22:00 — this was 42 seconds off my PB — but given my lack of speed training it’s pretty solid. I’m starting to enjoy the shorter races again, too, so maybe I’ll make it a goal to try to lower my 5k time and PB again. Better get back to the track!

Have you ever run an all-women’s (or all-men’s) race? What did you think of it?

———

Living Abroad & Perspectives on the US

This week has brought some interesting perspective on life and living abroad. I’ve been back in the US for my grandmother’s 80th birthday party/family reunion and a brief visit to my parents (and also some quiet time to work on my MA dissertation). It was fantastic to see all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins in California for the birthday party — I’m really glad I went. It has also been nice to be in Rochester and not have any official household duties — of course I help out, but visiting the parents is different from living with F like a “real” adult; here, I can be a bit like a kid again, albeit a grown one.

almost the entire family on my mom's side, gathered in Ventura, CA for my grandma's 80th birthday. Photo credit: Nancy R.

almost the entire family on my mom’s side (missing a couple cousins and partners), gathered in Ventura, CA for my grandma’s 80th birthday. Photo credit: Nancy R.

I lived at home for two months last summer, but that felt normal as I had only been in the UK for six months beforehand and was still on the heels of transitioning from Peace Corps/Ukraine life. Peace Corps was so different that returning to the western world was an adjustment in and of itself — it didn’t matter where I was, and there were so many changes that I had to take each one as it came.

But this year, I’ve become settled in my UK life and haven’t been back to the US for almost a year. Being “home” has felt different, in part because I’m here for a vacation-y 10 days rather than a long period of “living” time. Here are some things that have struck me about the US after living in the UK/Europe for a year and a half (of course, the following things seem extreme because I live in London, a city of 8 million, and am comparing it to Rochester, a much smaller city of 300,000. But I think I’d feel some of these differences no matter where in the US I was):

  • Open space. Americans often take for granted how much space this country has. On the flight from London to LA, my British seat-mate and I marveled at the hugeness of the land, particularly in the southwestern US, and at how much of it is uninhabited (and uninhabitable. And beautiful).
so much space!

so much space!

somewhere in the Southwest

somewhere in the Southwest

  • Traffic and driving. Okay, so LA has crazy freeway traffic, but the Rochester streets are so peaceful! My dad and I were driving to Panera the other morning for breakfast (and endless coffee refills, yes!) and I remarked on how quiet the streets were. My dad replied, “Oh, I was just thinking it was pretty busy.” That’s perspective for you! It comes from living in London, where traffic is dense no matter the time of day. In a similar vein, driving has felt really easy here after cycling in London, where I have to be hyper-aware on the bike so as not to be run over by aggressive drivers. Cruising around in a car here feels quite calm in comparison.
  • People and friendliness. Maybe I’m becoming more like a reserved European, but Americans are so friendly and open…sometimes overly so, it seems to me. I’m happy to strike up the odd amiable chat, and do it regularly in London with our fruiterer shopkeepers. But many people here seem a little too in-your-face-potentially-forced friendly. It’s fine, and I do appreciate the openness, but it’s funny to come at it now from another perspective — if anything, it reflects how living abroad has changed me. I will say that it’s refreshing to go into a store here and be able to ask an employee about what I’m looking for, because I know that they will provide good customer service and help me find what I need. In the UK and other parts of Europe it sometimes feels like people are mildly annoyed when you enter their shop…but I sort of like that, too — or at least am used to it by now!
  • Short distances. Again, this is me comparing two cities of vastly different sizes and areas. But still, it is so easy and quick to get around Rochester. In London I have to plan and map out where and when I want to go somewhere, taking into account the time and money and clothing I’ll need. Here, pretty much everything is a 5-20 minute drive away. I could get used to that again…

Oh, the cross-cultural life is always fun and interesting! I wouldn’t have it any other way — it has opened my eyes to how different people live and how different societies function, and has brought me a hefty dose of perspective along the way. I love it.

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