Author Archives: Elizabeth

Being A Tourist in Athens

During our 24 hours in Athens we wandered around the city, visiting some of the most popular tourist spots. Below are some highlights of our visit.

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The Acropolis Museum is built over a set of ruins. Look down once you get inside! There are spots where the glass floor lets you see the ruins beneath. Unfortunately photos weren’t allowed inside, so you’ll have to visit to see the artifacts.

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Pictures are allowed on the balcony (where there’s some café seating), with a great view of the Parthenon at the top of the Acropolis.

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The Theater of Dionysus is on the walk up to the Acropolis. It’s pretty impressive, but there’s an even bigger theater further along the walk.

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A view from above and below of the bigger theater.

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Temple of Athena by the entrance to the Acropolis.

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The gate to the Acropolis.

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The Erechtheum, across from the Parthenon.

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The Parthenon is huge!

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A view of the Temple of Zeus from the Acropolis.

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And up close.

That’s a wrap for our touristy Athens photos! I’ll be back soon with restaurant reviews from Athens and details from our visit to Crete.


Visiting Athens

Sorry I’ve been MIA for so long! We had an awesome back to back set of vacations (what happens when a work trip backs up on a previously planned vacation). I’m back to report on our trips to Greece and the Outer Banks, with reviews on lodging, food and some activities we really loved.

First off, hotels in Greece—we stayed in Athens for one night and just outside of Chania, Crete for six nights. In Athens, we stayed in the Athens Diamond Homtel, and loved it. The location was great, only a few blocks from the metro (a direct line from the airport) and within walking distance of the Acropolis, Plaka, National Gardens, and plenty of restaurants and shopping.

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Our room at the Athens Diamond Homtel. You can see our balcony through the window.

We booked our room using a discount site, so I was pleasantly surprised to find our room was a large, suite-style room, with a separate sitting/dining area and generously sized bathroom. There was even a mini balcony overlooking the main entrance of the hotel. Unfortunately our short stay meant we didn’t have time to take advantage of the generous amount of space or balcony, but we did enjoy not feeling crammed in like sardines and having plenty of room to dig through our bags after almost 24 hours of travel.

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We didn’t turn on the tv once, so I’m not sure how much English programming there was, but it’s always nice to have!

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Good sized shower and cute bathroom. The glass only covered half the tub and there was no curtain, so showering required a bit of an art to prevent flooding the bathroom.

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Mini kitchen by the bathroom. It’s always nice to have a mini fridge for when you order too much food at a local taverna!

The hotel provided a complimentary breakfast—fresh squeezed orange juice, yogurt and honey (Greek honey is amazing! I made sure to bring some home with me), pastries, sausage, eggs, and plenty more. It was a great start to our day of exploring and kept us satisfied through exploring until our late lunch. The hotel was also great about holding onto our bags. Our flight wasn’t until evening, so we left them with the front desk until late in the afternoon with no issues.

We were lucky enough to end up having our day to explore Athens on International Museum Day, which meant we were able to visit the Acropolis Museum and ruins (Acropolis, Zeus’ Temple and more) for free! The Acropolis Museum was great, and it was definitely a good decision to stop by before viewing the ruins in person. We then walked right across the street to the entrance to the Acropolis entrance (by the Theater of Dionysius) and hiked up to view the ruins. We made sure to pick up a couple bottles of water by the entrance, which was a great decision because the walk up to the Acropolis is almost entirely in full sun, and there’s little shade by the ruins and Parthenon. The views of Athens from the top of the hill were great, and seeing the ancient temples up close was pretty cool (I’ll post a picture post later today, once I’ve gotten access to the picture files from Patrick).

We grabbed lunch (Athens food reviews will be up later this week), and continued to wander through the Plaka and Zeus’ Temple before heading back to the hotel, picking up our luggage, and making our way to the airport. It was a whirlwind 24 hour visit, but we managed to squeeze in a bunch of the touristy highlights of the city while we were there.  I think the one thing I wish we’d had more time for was to try out more of the delicious Greek food. I’m hoping to be back tomorrow with some restaurant and food reviews from our time in Athens. I wasn’t great about taking food pictures while we were traveling, but we got to try some great things, and visited some wonderful restaurants!


Do you know what Gluten Is?

So, this Jimmy Kimmel clip has been making the rounds on the internet this week:

It turns out that lots of people who have gone gluten free because they think it’s healthy have no idea what gluten is. Some people knew it was somehow related to wheat and flour, but their understanding stopped there. Bakers and Alton Brown fans might know that gluten is the reason you don’t overmix baked goods– mixing too much leaves you with tough, chewy treats, which is not a happy thing when you’re going for a light fluffy bread or cake. Recently, gluten-free diets have taken off as an approach to lose weight and get healthy. Patrick and I have started to try to eat gluten free during the week because gluten sensitivities are sometimes linked to auto-immune reactions. There are tests for gluten/dairy/etc sensitivities that can be run by a doctor that could save us the effort of trying an elimination diet, but meal planning for a few weeks seemed a little more straightforward than finding a specialist and having the tests run. I haven’t noticed any significant difference in my reaction to the lack of gluten, but subbing fruits and veggies for cookies and crackers does leave me with more energy (not too surprising). We’ve avoided most gluten free snack food substitutes; this might be an option if one of us does seem to have a real reaction to gluten containing products, but for now, it’s probably a healthier option to stick to real food based snacks.

Anyhow, back to the point of this post: as Jimmy explained in the start of the video, gluten is a composite of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is the major culprit in celiac disease and gluten sensitivities—the body develops antibodies to gliadin, causing an immune reaction to the presence of gluten in the body. It takes nearly two years of a gluten free diet for someone with the most common anti-gliadin antibody to allow these antibodies to return to normal levels. For the 15% of people that have elevated levels of these antibodies, a gluten free diet is important to decrease their immune response and any related complications. Gluten sensitivity seems to be a lot trickier of a situation—some people with sensitivities don’t always generate elevated levels of the anti-gliadin antibodies.

While it is possible that gluten sensitivities and wheat allergies are more common now (in the same way other food allergies are less unusual), the gluten free diet trend has really taken off. It reminds me a bit of the fat-free craze from a while back. Gluten free diets might be great if you fill in the gaps in your diet with fruits, veggies and other real, whole foods, but subbing your wheat based food for gluten free substitutes made with simple alternative carbs isn’t much of a healthy diet option.

Did you know what gluten was? Has a gluten free diet made a difference in your health?

Note: I am not a trained dietician or nutritionist. This post is solely based on my understanding of protein science and biology and not meant to advise.


HOCO Blogs Petit Louis Event

I know this is a bit late and I apologize to those of you who may have been waiting. I did finally get to sit down with the wine list to share my thoughts on Petit Louis with you!

Last Thursday I had a chance to attend my first blogger event, and it was a good one! HoCo Blogs teamed up with Petit Louis to put on an event to celebrate the opening of their outdoor patio space. I rounded up a couple friends and Patrick and we had a great time sampling some of the restaurant’s amazing house wines and small munchies. I was having too much fun to remember to take too many pics but I’ll share the few I did take!

We had the opportunity to try four of Petit Louis’ house wines, all of which were delicious. The first was a bordeaux blanc (Chateau Reynon “Cuvee de Louis” 2012). It was delicious, not too dry and went well with the salty waffle chips, olives and the passed terrine (a duck and chicken pate, picture below) with mustard on a baguette. The second wine, a Chablis (Domaine Verget “Terre de Pierres” 2011), was probably my favorite and would be great for summer drinking on their patio. It was a chardonnay, but tasted more like a vino verde to me, much more crisp, acidic and dry than your typical chardonnay.

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The third wine was a rose, Coteau D’aix en Provence’s, Cammanderie de la Bargemone Rose, 2013. For those who like the traditional white zinfandel, this is not your typical American sugary rose, and is fairly dry, but smelled deliciously fruity and would hold up better to the dinner and lunch fare served at Petit Louis (a quick Google search suggests that you could probably buy a bottle of this for $15 or less and it’s one of the commonly recommended affordable rose wines, something to keep in mind if you’re a fan!).

Our final tasting was of a red, Beaujolais Villlages’ Setphan Aviron, 2013. I’m typically not a big red fan, and often only find myself enjoying Italian reds (Nebbiolos in particular), but this was pretty tasty, and I might consider ordering it to pair with one of the richer and heavier menu items.

We also had the chance to sample gruyere puffs, a bite of endive filled with pickled beets and goat cheese, and a selection of cookies and macaroons, all delicious (unfortunately for you all, I was having too much fun at that point to remember to take any photos). I’m fairly certain that everything that comes out of that pastry kitchen is delicious—you can try most of their goodies in the Comptoir next door to the restaurant.

Not only were the food and wine excellent, but the service was wonderful. The wait staff and sommelier were happy to answer all the questions we had about the food and wine, and the bartenders seemed more than happy to serve and chat (as any good bartender should). As the weather continues to improve, this area by the lake will probably be the place to be in Columbia, and a meal on Petit Louis’ patio space is a great way to enjoy the weather while people watching, or perhaps to cap off an afternoon on the lake in a rented paddle boat!


Snacking Lately

Patrick and I have adopted (well, we’re working on it) an elimination diet over the past couple weeks. The goals are two-fold, we chose an elimination diet in the hopes that eliminating some typical trigger foods for auto-immune issues (namely gluten and dairy, though soy and processed sugar have been implicated in these kinds of issues too) we could improve Patrick’s allergies. The second goal is to help me clean up my diet and get in bikini shape by the time we leave on our summer vacations. Being based in the house all day for nearly a year has taken a major toll on my activity level, and I’ve gained a few pounds since the wedding. Joining a gym last August has helped in some ways—so much more fit! I have abs! I don’t feel tired all the time! But I also think my increased muscle mass has contributed to my weight gain, so now it’s a matter of losing some the extra padding I put on before I got my gym routine off the ground.

Finding gluten and dairy-free snack foods that aren’t all sugar or fat has been tough. We’ve been going through eggs like its our job (18 in a week), and I’ve had my homemade Lara bars to snack on, but neither of these are great for when the munchies attack. Patrick is also allergic to peanuts and isn’t a huge fan of most other nuts, so trail mixes and most gluten-free snack bars aren’t an option for him. I did a bit of snack-prep last week in an attempt to give him things to snack on at work that are diet friendly.

Stop #1 was Jessica’s roasted chick pea recipe. I prepped a can of chick peas for Patrick to munch on at work as an alternative to his usual afternoon granola bars. Unfortunately, one can’s worth of chick peas looks like such a small serving, it’ll probably take a Costco sized can to last him through the week.

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Keeping with Patrick’s favorite snack bar theme, I also cooked up some gf Rice Krispy treats. Homemade is always better than store bought, and sprinkles make them feel a little more festive. I cut them up and individually wrapped treats, so I hope they’ll be the perfect grab and go snack.

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My final new snack option (and probably my favorite) is peanut butter stuffed dates. I originally bought them for Lara bars, but they’re amazing with peanut butter and make the perfect bite size snack. Patrick can’t have any, but that doesn’t slow me down! In a pinch, it works almost as well to just scoop a spoonful of pb and grab a handful of dates, and dip and eat!

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We definitely “cheat” on special occasions, and I have a review of a HoCo Blogs event at Petit Louis that was a totally worthwhile cheat afternoon that I’ll be posting later today or tomorrow. Stay tuned!


Hunting for a Job with A Bio PhD

I’ve been job hunting full-time now for almost 4 months. I’m not going to lie, it’s been pretty tough. Even considering that I’ve probably averaged over one job application per day, I’ve only had real interviews for 2 positions. While I’m pretty excited about those options, I’m still really nervous about whether or not they’ll pan out, and if I’ll need to manage 3 more months of applications before racking up any more interviews.

Two weeks ago, the American Society for Cell Biology released an infographic illustrating the career path typically taken by Biology PhDs. The data was based on surveys of bio post-grads and only reinforced my goal of trying to get started on my career path without getting stuck in the post-doc loop. While I can appreciate the new skills and benefits a post-doctoral position would impart, I feel like it’s 2+ years of consolidating my scientific knowledge even further, and I’m not sure if such a narrow scientific focus will really help me get where I eventually want to be long term. Doesn’t it make more sense to join a company or organization and focus my knowledge further there on what they do, rather than on something that might not be as directly related to company goals beforehand as a postdoc? It’s a tough call, especially since I’m pretty sure I’m competing against post-docs who have given up on trying for those rare academic and other typical research positions, and are going after my “dream jobs” as a second choice.

Bio Careers

Source.

I’m definitely proud I’m one of the 63% who finished my PhD, and that I finished in five and a half years, instead of the average of 7-ish. I’m still hoping that I can be one of the 30% to proceed to my career path without a post-doc, but I’ll probably start writing letters to PIs in June if I haven’t heard anything promising before then. I know there are definitely labs nearby that are doing exciting work, so with any luck, finding something I’ll love doing for the next few years will happen, whether it’s a post-doc or what I like to call a “real” job!


Friday Faves- 4/18/2014

Even though I don’t have a job yet, I’m super excited for the weekend. Weekdays are full of errand running, job applications, and, lately, yoga. It’s always nice to know I can take it easy and relax with my favorite person on the weekend.

Here’s what has been making this week a good one!

1. My best friend from junior high and high school got engaged!

We haven’t been able to have a real conversation since she started her residency last year, but I’m super excited for her and am now wrangling even harder for a trip to Philly to see her. Hopefully I’ll manage it before our summer travel picks up!

2. My garden.

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I planted tulips and crocuses last fall and the tulips are finally blooming! My container herb and veggie garden is doing well too, in spite of the snow and sleet we had on Tuesday night.

3. Scandal.

I still haven’t watched last night’s season finale yet, but the last few episodes have really turned this season around (I wasn’t feeling the first half of the season), and I’m excited to see what happens to Olivia’s dad, and how the bomb plot plays out.

4. Under Armour’s Heat Gear See It Through Tank.

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I bought two of these Wednesday in the hopes of finding something that would handle super sweaty hot yoga sessions better than my Lulu No Limits tanks (they’re great until cool down, when they stay sopping wet until I hang them up to dry, which means I’m usually freezing when I get home). I tried one out yesterday and loved it, it was already mostly dry by the time I got home, and I didn’t have to half dislocate my shoulders to get it off (a downside to most fitted yoga tanks I’ve tried). As an added bonus, UA is a local company and I got a great deal on 2 at the factory store!


Friday Faves -4/11/2014

Hi all! This week has really flown by—I had an interview Monday (I think it went well, but it’s kind of tough to tell, since it was on the phone and only stock interview questions), and have made my return to yoga post-cold! With the weather so warm outside, these past few day of classes have felt even warmer than usual. I have to make an extra effort to stay hydrated after all that sweaty yoga! Zulily had a deal on mat towels this week, so I’m hoping that’ll come soon.

1. Sushi kit!

We finally got around to using a sushi kit we got as a wedding gift almost a year ago. The sushi was delicious, and a lot easier to make than I thought. Now that we know how, I think sushi night is going to become a more regular event!

2. Container garden.

With the weather so nice lately and a busy few weeks coming up, I couldn’t resist starting my summer garden. I stuck to herbs and spring friendly plants, since I’m not 100% convinced we’re done with chilly nights, but I can always add my tomato and zucchini later in the season.

The strawberries already have fruit growing and the lettuce is looking impressive after less than a week in the pot. Hopefully I’ll be able to make some fun homemade salads soon!

3. Summer travel plans.

Our summer travel is shaping up and it’s looking like it’s going to be a fun filled few months! We’ve had a week in the Outer Banks booked since August of last year, and we finally booked a trip to Greece this week! I’m tagging along for one of Patrick’s work trips, but it looks like he should have some free time to explore with me. It’ll be my first trip to Europe, with (I hope) many more to follow!

We also might have a chance to spend some time in the Hamptons with Patrick’s sister and family. They’ve rented a house for a few weeks and invited us to stay. With any luck I’ll have a job and time to take off to make the trip.

4. Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.

I finished a library copy of the first audiobook last week, and just checked out the second earlier this week. The first was definitely slow to start, and felt a little like a retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, but it’s definitely one of the better books I’ve come across lately. I’ve been finishing up other books before getting started on the second, but I’m hoping now the scene is set it’ll be even better than the first.


That’s all that’s new this week! With any luck I’ll have something fun to report before next Friday’s update!


Friday Faves- 4/4/2014

These past two weeks have flown by. We had a little weekend trip to Tampa for the last couple Yankees spring training games this past weekend, and it was a lot more fun than I was expecting! We’ve got a busy few months ahead of us, with a decent amount of traveling. Here’s hoping it all goes as smoothly as this last trip!

1. Tampa foodie scene.

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Crème Brule French toast and Pastrami Benedict at Datz. Everything was delicious!

There were so many good places to eat in Tampa! I’m glad Patrick wants to go back for future spring training trips, because there’s plenty more eating to do. We managed to visit during the weekend of the Largest Food Truck Rally Ever (I didn’t manage a pic, but my grilled cheese filled with mac and cheese and pulled pork was pretty awesome), loved how tasty (and healthy) Ciccio’s/Water was so much we visited twice, and stuffed ourselves over brunch at Datz. Of course, we can’t forget the deliciousness we found out in Plant City either: amazing strawberry shakes and shortcakes, along with some surprisingly tasty Florida fruit wine at Keel and Curley Winery (still a little sad we ended up with the wrong wine in our bag, the mixed berry was delicious, but finding the Key Lime in MD is next to impossible).

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Parksdale Farms strawberry deliciousness!

2. Yoga mornings.

I haven’t been able to go as much as I wanted this week due to a cold, but I’m a big fan of my am 90 minute hot yoga sessions. They get me out of bed much earlier than I’d get up on my own, give me an excuse to work on headstands, and I feel great for the rest of the day so long as I hydrate right and get out of my sweaty gear asap. I’m definitely not a fan of sweating (I’m pretty sure people who actually enjoy being drenched in sweat are just a little crazy), but the yoga itself makes up for it, so it all balances out. I’m hoping I get over this cold fast so I can get back to it!

I’m also loving my new Glyder Mantra Crop leggings I mentioned in my last Friday Faves. They’re super comfy, cute and quick drying (which is great after a super sweaty yoga session!).

3. Spring!!

The crocuses I planted in the fall have bloomed and the daffodils are starting to peek out here and there! I’m looking forward to more blooms and green trees that I’m sure will make their appearance later this month. I’m hoping to get some gardening done this weekend, so fingers crossed we don’t get anymore late-season snow storms!

4. Job Interviews.

I’ve been applying to every job I can find that’s even a semi-decent fit for the past 3 months, so it’s nice to FINALLY be getting some positive response in the form of interviews. I’m really hoping to have something ready to go by early June, so it would be great if the “when it rains it pours” cliché would hold true for my job hunt, because suddenly there seems to be a job draught online.

5.  Homemade Lara bars.

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Patrick’s not a huge fan, but these have managed to keep me out of our stash of marshmallow crispy and cookie dough oreos when I’m craving sweets at night. I used this base recipe to make a coconut-fig version and a cherry version, but there will definitely be more flavor options on the way!


Friday Faves- 3/21/2014

So apparently pressing the ‘B’ button on my alarm clock does not mean the alarm is set. I thought I had 15 minutes to doze after Patrick left, and when I checked the clock what seemed like a few minutes later, it was 9:20. Guess who missed her 9:30 yoga class? Luckily I can make it up by going tomorrow morning. This actually might be a blessing in disguise, we used heavy weights in barre last night and my right bicep is not interested in letting my arm straighten today, so yoga probably would have been rough.

Anyhow, since it’s Friday, here are a few things that have been making me smile this week:

1. My weekly date with Science magazine at my favorite local coffee shop.

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The drink specials are always delicious and change once a month, and I get to satisfy my coffee habit while keeping up with the latest and greatest (or what was the latest and greatest 2 weeks ago) happenings in the science world.

2. My local library’s ebook selection. I’ve had enough time on my hands to get plenty of fun reading done lately too, so I’m glad I can download good e-books and audiobooks from the library without breaking the bank. In the past week I’ve listened to Sabriel, which I hadn’t read since high school, and read Shadow and Bone, and For Darkness Shows the Stars. The audiobooks have been great for driving around and keeping me entertained while doing chores, and I’ve been staying up late reading the ebooks, both of which were fun reads.

3. The official start of spring! The tulips and crocuses I planted in the fall have been peeking up for a week now! I’m super excited for everything else to turn green and bloom soon! Patrick and I got our bikes serviced this week, so we’re ready to ride as soon as the weather allows! Here’s hoping I haven’t forgotten how to clip in and out!

4. My new workout policy.

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Since moving to B-more I’ve had a pretty sedentary lifestyle. Yes, I make it to the gym ~3 times per week, but I spend my days sitting at my computer with the occasional 15 foot stroll to the kitchen. Not having to run back and forth in lab, or to and from the bus on my way to work has not been a good thing for me, so while I’ve built a lot of muscle since joining the gym last August, I’m not as healthy as I could be. Luckily, I have some motivation to get in better shape in the form of a beach trip at the start of summer! I’m hoping that getting up and moving 6 days a week will make enough difference that my new muscles will actually be visible when it’s bikini time! This also gives me an excuse to do a teensy bit of shopping so I’m sure I have enough workout clothes to get me through my week’s workouts. Hello new Glyder Mantra Crop leggings! Now, if only my favorite top would go on sale.

5. Juice!

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We registered for a juicer for our wedding and I’ve been doing my best to make a juice at least once a week. This week’s featured kale, apples, pineapple, and lemon, but I’ve also been making beet juices pretty regularly. I also learned that drinking a huge glass of juice right before an hour and a half of gym classes is not the best way to fuel. I’m pretty sure I’ll never learn to snack well before leaving for class on my cardio circuit days.

6. New yoga moves. In Monday’s yogalates we worked on side crow, which I’m semi-decent at, and I did my first tripod headstand without flipping right over onto my back. I also started classes at a local yoga studio, and while I think I might like yogalates better, it’s definitely something I plan to keep up for my month-long trial.