Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Going Back in Time

Last weekend I made my annual Memorial Day trek over the traffic-filled Bay Bridge en route to a long weekend at the beach. Even hitting the road at noon on Friday was not early enough to beat any sort of traffic, so the drive was long and slow. 

Though unlike prior years, the beach wasn't my first destination. This year I was stopping off to spend Friday night with Bug, Little Man and their parents. We had a relaxing Friday evening around their house and early bedtimes where yet again my sleep quality was 100%. My original plan had been to hit the road to the beach first thing in the morning but that got derailed when my friends invited me to go with them to the nearby Chestertown Tea Party Festival.  

No, it was not a festival celebrating the modern tea party, I would have skipped that for sure, but a weekend long festival & reenactment of when citizens in Chestertown had their very own tea dumping party back in 1774, about six months after the more well known one occurred in Boston. 

We arrived in Chestertown around 9:30, just in time to find parking and get to the parade route. We were surprised to see so much activity going on already - including the funnel cake and wine tasting booths with steady streams of early morning customers. Neither items really my breakfast of choice but hey, to each his own. 

We settled into spots along the side of the road to wait for the parade, and oh what a parade it was!

Chestertown rocks the Colonial parade. 

After the parade we wandered the festival, which was filled with people walking around in period costume like the "Kissing Wench" who left bright red smooch marks on the cheeks of random passersby and "Toss the Tory", when a "British loyalist" was captured and tossed into the Chester River. There were also more modern festival activities, like face painting, shopping and yummy food. 

As we sat in the town square enjoying a yummy seafood lunch my friends commented that they were really glad they live on the Eastern Shore now. And with fun-filled days like last Saturday I can certainly understand why. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wiggles and the cat

It's pretty mindblowing how a toddler can go from being a baby to a kid pretty much overnight.

I Skype with Wiggles at least once every two weeks. And within the last two weeks it's amazing how she started talking in complete sentences, and really having a conversation with me. Two weeks ago my cousin mentioned to her that I have a cat, and I moved the camera so she could see Emmy.

Last night as soon as our connection opened up Wiggles said "Hi Stacy. Where's your cat?"

Her mom laughed, and asked how she even remembered the cat. Wiggles just responded by asking for the cat again.

Finally, after our stilted conversation, punctuated by repeated requests to see the cat I went and scooped Emmy up from her nap on my bed so she could join in the Skyping fun. Once Wiggles got to see her we were able to move on with our conversation, about her dinner (which she thanked her daddy for making) and the doggies she sees on Skype and other family and friends she likes to talk to.

I love that kiddo so much, and I love how Skype makes it so easy for me, and my cat, to be in her life, even from so far away!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Day My Car Stayed Parked

I got a lot done yesterday. Met up with a friend at a book store, did some shopping, got a manicure and got yummy take out for dinner. And my car didn't move once.

Yup, I decided to take advantage of my very walkable neighborhood and do everything I needed to do on foot.

It's not uncommon for me to do some errands that way on a regular basis, and it is especially more common during walking challenges, but I've never consciously done as much as I did yesterday. A mile in one direction in the morning, for coffee, reading and catching up with a friend, then a mile back home. Then later in the day a mile in the other direction to try out a new salon for a manicure. Then cutting back through the neighborhood to try a new italian restaurant for dinner. I almost fit a trip to get a few things at the grocery store in too, but the weather was getting dodgy at that point and even though I was wearing a rain coat I really have had my fill of walks in the rain lately.

In the end I got 15,411 steps yesterday (5.35 miles at my stride). My highest for the week and my highest for the current challenge. I thought about continuing the walking only option for today, but my walkable grocery store doesn't have the best selection and it didn't really match up with what was on my shopping list, so I drove to the store, but then did walk to the library to return a book later in the day. My grand total of steps for the week is going to come in right around 80,000, a full 10,000 steps more than the past few weeks.

As much as I complain about the walking challenge it really does get me motivated to get moving. There's only 3 more weeks to go, and I'm not sure how I'm going to keep up with this activity once it ends, but I know I have to figure out a way to do just that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Healthy Dessert Amazingness, Where Have You Been All My Life?

A few days ago I came across a blog post about single ingredient ice cream.

Huh? What? How?

Yeah, I had all of those questions, but the "recipe" is so very simple.

1. Cut up some bananas into 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices
2. Freeze them
3. Put them in the food processor or blender and just let them keep going until they turn into a wonderful, whipped, 'so incredibly like ice cream you can't believe it's not actually ice cream' like dessert.

Here's a link to more specifics about the various stages of blending and processing that take place. You'll note it was written in 2009, meaning I could have been enjoying this yumminess for four years if only I was better at finding random things online.

I added peanut butter and then did a few final whirls with the blender. Then I topped it with chocolate syrup. And I really and truly thought I was eating ice cream.

4 bananas makes a pint, so I had a bowl of it last night and put the rest in the freezer. I just had some more tonight and I have to say I preferred it straight out of the blender, more soft serve style. After being in the freezer overnight I let it sit out for about 30 minutes, but it was still pretty hard to scoop and kinda ice-crystally.

But still, it really tasted like ice cream.

Frozen, whipped up banana actually tastes like icecream.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Music Monday: American Idiot Edition

I went to see American Idiot in Baltimore this weekend.

For those not familiar it's the Green Day album from the mid-2000's that was written as a rock opera and did a year or so on Broadway and now tours the country.

I really liked it. So did my friend who went with me. The people sitting next to us on the other hand  well, they got up a left about 45 minutes in. Honestly, I was a bit surprised I didn't see more people leaving.

The show is loud, has lots of bad language and "mature themes." And being a Saturday matinee on Mother's Day weekend I saw LOTS of older mom's and grandmoms heading into the theater. I'm guessing most were season ticket holders and didn't know what they were in for. I can't imagine many in the senior citizen set choosing to go see the show.

So, they had quite a shock, and I saw a show that was really unique, had a creative and engaging set design and featured the music of a band I've seen in concert twice.

All in all, a great Saturday afternoon in my book!

Here are a few peeks at what I saw thanks to the wonders of YouTube....

The opening number, as seen on the Tony's a few years back

At the close of the show, after a pretty emotional story line and less than uplifting conclusion, the curtain dropped and then came back up, with the full cast on stage, each with guitar and then broke out into this Green Day classic. 

It really was the perfect way to wrap things up. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

PeDominating, or not.

The name of my walking challenge team is the PeDominators.

Cute, huh?

Too bad it's not quite true.

Last week I did hit my goal of 70k steps, and this week I'll exceed it by a step or two, but only after getting roughly 750 more steps by pacing my apartment this evening.

I just got back from an hour plus long walk, and this morning I walked around the Inner Harbor (I started my day in Baltimore), but my slacker days from earlier in the week mean today I need to get 14,500 steps and I'm still not quite there.

The rain put a damper on things this week, bad pun most certainly intended. A few walks were cut short, a few days when I could have gone out for lunch or coffee, or just a walk during the work day I stayed in. I'm hoping this week brings drier weather, and just a little more motivation.

I've been doing a good job of getting walks in when I can tie them to errands - walking to pick up dinner, return library books, or buy a book and get Starbucks like I did tonight. But going for a walk just for the sake of a walk. Ugh. I'm having less luck with that one.

I'm not especially enjoying this challenge. But, that's not stopping me from doing it. I'm still managing to get up, get moving, and on average, getting in 10,000 steps a day.

So, maybe I am a PeDominator afterall.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Around the World on Mass Ave

Last Saturday was Embassy Open House Day in DC, a day when roughly 40 of the Embassies open their doors to the public to come in, learn about their culture and sample some of their country's specialties.

I went with one of my friends and our strategy involved wandering up Massachusetts Ave and going into the embassies that had no line or fast moving lines. That left us with a few so-so stops, one great one and one that was SO not worth the line. After the fact we wished there had been a blog we could have gone to to find out people's experiences from past years to get an idea of where to go and where to skip, so for my limited sample of five embassies, that's what I'm going to give you.

So Not Worth the Line
Japan wins the award for being such a crappy experience.

1. The line, it moved at a decent rate, but was pretty long
2. This was the only embassy with a security check and it was poorly run. We had to leave our bags and then walk about 50 feet ahead to be wanded, then go back for the bag.
3. Once inside we shuffled along, still in the crowd into a room that had some anime characters and plastic versions of Japanese food. Basically they raided some 3 year old Japanese kid's play kitchen so we could see what sushi looked like.
4. Then we got to the next room, oh... the next room. The next room transported us from the Embassy to the exhibit hall at an electronics conference. Yes, I'm serious. Cannon, Hitachi, ANA Airlines reps and more where standing there, shoving brochures and pamphlets at us. We got it Japan, you make electronics. It's a pretty well known fact and not exactly what I'd expect highlighted in an event like this.

We did get edamame and green tea samples outside and there were costumed gieshas and warriors you could pose for photos with, if you're into that sorta thing. Oh, and further reminder of Japan's production skills with a row of Honda's lined up for your pursuing pleasure. 

Not Bad, Not Great
Zambia - No line, friendly staff, free bottles of water. Interesting artifacts from the country on display, and they have a great yard.

Belize - This one didn't include a house tour, but was more of a walk through their garden, which was beautiful. They were grilling in the back yard so there was a long line, and after waiting in it for 10-15 minutes we realized we were basically in a line for food. We had plans to go to Founding Farmers after our touring so we didn't really want the chicken leg, rice and bread they were giving out. We stepped out of the food line and walked through the garden and back out to the street. If you are attending and want a meal, Belize is apparently the place to go.

Guatemala - As we approached the house we saw a sign saying to go to the tent to get our complimentary drink ticket. We followed instructions, and walked up where we were given the choice of beer, juice or rum. We got our ticket (we both chose rum) and then lined up to walk through the house, the line heading directly to the drinks and we got our half shot of rum and then followed the line right back out the door. Oh, we also were handed a small bird trinket on a ribbon. Someone asked what the birds symbolized/represented and the response was "um, I don't know, we're just handing them out."

The Weird
We didn't visit the Korean Embassy, but walked by it a few times. The first time they were blasting Gangnam  Style, which makes sense. When we walked by on our way back, there was a live band on the front steps. Of Korean girls. Singing Dancing Queen. By ABBA. Who are Swedish. When they finished that they moved on to the Titanic song (aka Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On). So, so weird.

The Best:
Haiti was the best of the Embassies we visited.

First of all, the line wasn't too long, and there was friendly embassy staff all around, greeting people and welcoming everyone to the house. In fact, when we arrived we were actually greeted at the door by the Ambassador, wearing a tshirt matching the rest of his staff and thanking us for coming. They had food samples of a traditional chicken dish downstairs and then upstairs featured coffee and rhum punch (their spelling) and live music.

It was festive and fun. You could tell they planned and put some effort into it, but it relaxed, not over the top or showy. All around, a great experience!

This weekend is the European Embassy Open House. I can't make it, but if anyone does I'd love to hear your reviews!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Yummy Dining

While DC isn't necessarily known for being a foodie town, there are a handful of restaurants that attract quite a bit of attention. One of those is Founding Farmers.

Up until this weekend I had only been once, for breakfast, several years ago. 

Now I've been three times. 

Yup, totally unplanned, I ended up having dinner there on both Saturday and Sunday nights.

Well, Saturday night was planned, as the conclusion to a day of playing tourist and crossing Embassy Open House Day off my DC To-Do list. (More on the good (Haiti), the bad (Japan) and the rest of that experience is forthcoming in another post.)

The friend I visited the Embassy's with was excited about Founding Farmers too. She had never been but had really wanted to try it. That's actually a pretty consistent theme with most people I mention the restaurant to, both from in town and out of town.

Anyway, my friend and I went Saturday night and had a great dinner. Deciding what to order was a challenge as so much of the menu sounded amazing. We started with the popcorn of the day (it was ranch), I had the plank salmon, she had goat cheese ravioli. It was a great way to cap off a fun day.

Sunday, I had to work. There was a big conference in town, bringing in colleagues from around the country, a small group of whom I work with on an ongoing project. In between sessions at the conference someone suggested trying to get the group together to go out to lunch or dinner over the next few days, and it seemed like that night would work best. I did a little multi-tasking as the session got fairly technical and WAY over my head and figured my time would be best spent on Open Table. I did a search for dinner for 10 in DC and came up with available reservations for many restaurants I had never heard of and one that several of my out-of-towners had mentioned wanting to try. Yup, looked like I was making a return dinner trip to Founding Farmers.

On Sunday night I had the goat cheese ravioli and it was great. I also got to try the corn bread, old bay popcorn and some amazing grilled bread that was served with someone's mussels appetizer. Yum, yum, yum.

I don't know when my next visit to Founding Farmers will be, I mean, I think I'll give it a few weeks, or maybe a month, but I'm certainly not waiting years before dining there again like I did after my first visit!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The downside to volunteering

I spent two hours this afternoon volunteering for a local organization and now I'm sore.

Seriously achey, my shoulders, my arms, my legs. I walked about 8 blocks home and was going at a snail's pace. I feel like I could go to sleep right now.

You're thinking I was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, aren't you? Or somewhere that involved painting or gardening or construction, aren't you?

Nope. I was volunteering at the library.

Ok, so before you think I'm a complete and total wimp, it was the Friends of the Library book sale and my job was "book wrangler." Basically it means I spent two hours restocking the table as books were purchased, pulling them from the boxes and boxes stored below hand. Then there was rearranging when people put things back in the wrong place and sorting and condensing the storage boxes so they were in the correct section.

It honestly didn't feel  like much in terms of manual labor while I was doing it, but about 90 minutes in I started to feel it. Then, when I left I stopped in to pick up take out, sitting down for 10 minutes to wait for my order, wow. Owie, owie, ow.

In addition to volunteering I joined the Friends of the Library so I'm sure this won't be my first time working a book sale, but hopefully next time I can just be in charge of the money box.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Favorite 'DC' Gift

Living inside the beltway means you don't have to look long and hard to find DC memorabilia. Lots and lots of cheesy memorabilia, usually with bad puns like an apron with "Commander in Chef" printed on it or tshirst with "I'm in the Witness Protection Program" printed or, better yet the oh so classic assortment of t-shirts with an alphabet soup of acronyms - FBI, CIA, ICE, etc.

But, in the midst of all of the over the top, cheesy DC stuff, sometimes you come across something really creative and cool. And then it becomes your go to item for going away gifts.

My great find are these cool flasks, decorated with DC landmarks. The artist is Liz Hutcheson of Fast Snail and she makes lots of things in addition to the flasks, and flasks in other fun designs, beyond just my favorite DC-centric ones.

I first came across them at a local shop back in December and wanted to buy one but couldn't come up with anyone on my holiday gift list that it would be a good fit for. Well, other than my boss, but somehow it seemed inappropriate to give her a flask.

Finally it dawned on me that my friends who had recently moved to Boston would LOVE a DC flask and it would look really nice on their bar. My latest brainstorm was this week, as I was getting a goodbye card for my friend who is moving back to Philly. You know, the one I watched sunrise at the Lincoln Memorial with while she drank champagne. It was definitely one of those 'a-ha!' moments that a flask with the Lincoln Memorial on it would be a PERFECT DC memento.

I also decided that this find was too good not to share, so there you have it. You can order Fast Snail products from Liz's website, at a bunch of stores in the DMV, or at a show.

Happy Shopping!

This post is in no way sponsored, I'm just feeling compelled to share something unique and nifty with you today.