Monday, October 14, 2013

Changing My Rules

A new walking challenge is underway at work. As I've written about, I never really stopped after the last one, but this new, official challenge has me stepping up my game.

Especially since two of the people on my team won the last challenge! We kicked off on October 1 and I've been walking like crazy ever since.

My rule during past walking challenges was that I had to walk to the Starbucks 3 blocks from my office instead of stopping on my drive in to work in the morning. This time, as I'm trying to do even better step wise, I decided my rule is I have to walk to the one about seven blocks from my office if I want coffee. This was my M-F rule, driving to Starbucks on the weekend was ok.

Yup, was.

On Saturday I wanted Starbucks, and decided that I needed to walk there to get it, about a mile from my house one way. Yesterday, I was out for a walk and kept pushing myself to go a little further and then a little further than that and finally realized I was within about half a mile of a different Starbucks, and a coffee seemed like a good idea, so I headed that way.

So now, my new rule is that on weekends, if I am already out and about and want Starbucks, it's totally ok to drive there. But if I'm home and I want it, the sneakers go on and I have to walk.

I can't decide which outcome I'm hoping for more - that these new 'rules' I've made myself will increase my step count or decrease the Starbucks line item in my budget.

Either way, the outcome will be worth the effort.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Boston Recap

I spent all week (M-F) in Boston for work and was supposed to be away this weekend, but rainy weather meant staying home made more sense. Which makes me happy, as the stupid cold I've picked up also makes a weekend with no travel a much better idea than my original plans.

But, back to Boston.

Downtown in the distance, from
 the public gardens. 
This was my fifth time visiting and I definitely like it more and more with each visit. It's a tricky city to navigate - lots of curvy streets and no grid system like NYC or DC, but there's lots to see and do, yummy food to eat and it's a very walkable city.

I didn't have much time for exploring, I was there for back to back conferences for work, but I did manage to work some fun into my week. Here are the highlights:

1. Friends. My former work bestie lives in Boston now and I got to see her twice this week! Sometimes work friends just stay work friends and other times they become real friends who you love having in your life, even after your day to day connection of shared work drama has faded. That's the case here and I hate that the times we get to spend together are so few and far between.

2.Food. Boston is a very good food city! From the dozens of Italian restaurants in the North End, to seafood options galore, to the food truck scene, I really didn't go wrong with any meal I had. Within hours of landing in the city I went to Parish Cafe, a yummy restaurant whose Mac and Cheese I've been thinking of since I left there last, over a year ago. I love that they serve it in half portions so you can indulge without the guilt. Other culinary highlights on my trip included dinner at Limoncello, cannolis from Mike's Pastry and a yummy grilled cheese lunch from Roxy's Grilled Cheese Truck.

Boston Cream Pie = YUM

2.5 Food History. The hotel where I started my week was the Omni Parker House, originators of the Boston Cream Pie, which meant indulging in a piece was an absolute requirement. Early in my stay I noticed they sold them in their little gift/coffee shop off the lobby
, but the evening I wanted one they were sold out. I had just come from the fitness center and didn't think sitting down in their nice restaurant in my sweaty attire was a good option so... room service dessert it was! It was just as tasty as it looked!

Lily Winters, Zombie Tour
Guide Extraordinaire 

3. History. Obviously Boston has a lot to offer on the history front. On my last visit to the city I walked the Freedom Trail and got quite the refresher on Revolutionary history. This time around my history lesson came in the form of a super campy ghost tour. My colleagues did the research and made the arrangements and I just agreed to go along, thinking it was a walking tour. I also thought it would be like ghost tours I had been on in other cities.

It wasn't. On either front. We rode around town on a Trolley, hopping off at two graveyards to learn more from our Bristish, Zombie tour guide who liked to tell pop culture inspired jokes and scream. A lot. It wasn't bad, just wasn't what I was expecting.

So there you have it, the highlights of my week, minus the work related highlights, of which there was actually a fair number as well. All in all a trip very well worth taking!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh how time flies

Ten years ago this fall I spent a weekend in the mountains with 3 good friends.

We stayed in a cabin that was stocked with every board game you could imagine, had no tv and where the owners left a plate of warm brownies on the table and a fire roaring in the fireplace to greet us upon arrival. We explored the area, visiting a few small towns, going to a vineyard for a wine tasting, checking out the gorgeous views and enjoying each other's company.

Fast forward to last weekend. The same friends gathered, at my friend's (relatively) new house on the Eastern Shore for another fall weekend together. Only this time the group included four kids, ages 5, 3, 2 & 2 months.

The four of us have hung out since that weekend long ago, though much less frequently since two of us moved away 5 or so years ago. I see all of them individually fairly frequently, and in pairs on occasion, but this was the first time in a decade all four of us spent a weekend together. And though the dynamic was certainly different with the kiddos around (case in point, none of my friends would have ever woken me up at 5:48 in the morning with a "cockadoodle doo!" but a certain two year-old thinks that is hysterical!), at the same time, it wasn't really all that different.

We easily fell back into pace in conversation, and activities. We all stepped in and did what needed to be done with the kids, and as soon as they were asleep the cards came out and the laughing picked up. The four of us are pretty different, but as a group we really work well together, and it was nice to be reminded of that and have the opportunity just to hang out.

I've known for a long time that I'm pretty lucky to have such great friends, but this weekend made me appreciate them even more.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lessons from Vacation

I spent four days last week in St. Thomas. It was absolutely beautiful and I'm wondering why it took me this long to take a trip to the Caribbean.

Here are the lessons I learned during my vacation: 

1. Obsessive sunscreen application really does work. I used a combo of styles and strengths, and reapplied several times a day each day and amazingly enough my pale skin stayed burn free in the tropical sun! In fact, I'd say my face, neck and chest actually look a bit tan. 

2. Snorkeling is not for me. The resort offered free use of snorkel gear, so I decided to give it a try on our beach. I put my flippers on and not so gracefully walked out into the water, put the mask on and the mouthpiece in and then put my face in the water. And pretty much immediately went into hyperventilation mode. The fact that this was in waist deep water where I could easily stand up and breathe was apparently meaningless to me. I tried a few more times, and attempted to keep going through the panic, but it just didn't work. The next day we went to a different beach on the other side of the island and my friend wanted to take snorkel gear with her. I decided I'd try again, and did have better luck. I think the calmer waters at the cove we were in that day helped. I was able to successfully get a handle on the breathing, and did a bunch of exploring in the cove, but... the fact that snorkel masks require my glasses to be off means I couldn't really see much anyway. So, in the end I'm sticking with other activities in the water and leaving the snorkel gear behind. 

3. While I enjoy traveling, I'm not actually good at it. Between work trips and personal trips I fly around 8-10 times a year. Yet it's pretty much a guarantee that I will wake up with a bad headache the day before a trip that won't go away until I'm through security and at my gate the day of the flight. I don't usually get motion sickness on flights (anymore), but cars, buses, taxis, subways, etc still can do me in quickly. St. Thomas is filled with curvy, mountainous roads with lots of switchback turns and up and down hills. I liked the time spent exploring the island, but it left me feeling completely and totally sick and dreading the next time I'd have to get back in the car. 

4. Pina Coladas taste even better when ordered from a swim up bar. No elaboration needed. 

5. Maryland crab cakes are apparently quite famous. I was quite surprised when dining at an Austrian restaurant on a Caribbean island to see Maryland crab cakes on the menu. They were available as both an appetizer and an entree and I really should have ordered them just to see how they compared to the real thing, but I didn't. The rest of the food we had at Bella Blu was great, so I'm hoping their version of a local favorite was good as well. 

6. I need more of this in my life. I'm thinking trips to the Caribbean need to become at least an annual occurrence. It really isn't that expensive (especially when you go during hurricane season), and with views like this, it was worth every penny.