Monday, August 18, 2014

An August Weekend

Let’s talk weekend, my very favorite subject of all. There were 10 things, or maybe 8 – I'll type them all out and see just how many things there were – worth sharing.
  1. Boyfriend and I began my three day weekend with Stuffed Zucchini Enchilada Boats and ice cream at Larry’s Homemade Ice Cream. I then enjoyed my second Friday off of the second AWS cycle. The schedule is not all it’s cracked up to be but I do enjoy my freedom Fridays, as I refer to them. I spent the entire morning cooking – a triple batch of granola and Fresh Corn Salad before heading out to the ‘burbs.
  2. I met my youngest brother for a coffee date at The Bucks. We chatted this (music and running) and that (school and work), until the panic of his unpreparedness set in; he was Richmond-bound for his sophomore year of college the very next day.
  3. Friday night I attended Sweet Neighbor’s housewarming party. There was so much food goodness, I tried to behave. There were also cocktails galore.
  4. The Braves beat the Oakland Athletics’, who came to Atlanta with the best record in baseball in the first, second, and third game of their three-game series. After Sunday, when the Braves were finished sweeping the A’s, they – the A’s – no longer held that record. Hooray! (Note: This win streak would be much more impressive, if the Washington Nationals were not on a tear of their own.)
  5. Mom and I went to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday. She bought white peaches and yellow tomatoes and other things. I would have bought the most beautiful zucchinis ever had I not left my wallet at home. I was treated me to Pain au Chocolat from Bread House, Inc., forever reminding me of A.L.R.L., who introduced me to such goodness at The Village Bakery & Café at the ripe old age of two. This also reminded me that the no longer little A.L.R.L. will celebrate her ninth birthday in three days. Oh my aging!
  6. I managed to find time to cuddle up with Louis for a nap on Saturday. Pure joy!
  7. I ran 18.2 miles on Sunday. That is the farthest I have ever run in my life. In.My.Life. I have eight weeks to add an additional eight miles to that number and I should be good to go in October. Except, major except, I felt like death the last mile and for about three hours afterwards. This marathoning is no joke.
  8. There was lots of deck time over the weekend – morning coffee and stretching; phone calls (with the recently engaged J.L.W. and my nowfamous brother) throughout the day; and dinner on Saturday night.
  9. Folks, the banana boat is back in business! My ever handy boyfriend built a rack for the current ride. And it held like a champion. We paddled from White Ford Regional Park to the Monocacy Aqueduct on the Cheasapeake & Ohio Canal and leisurely floated back down the river, cleaning up the Potomac River along the way. In route home, we stopped at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park to admire the sunflowers – gorgeous!
  10. Two years ago Sunday, Boyfriend visited me for the first time after his motorcycling around Southern Africa. How did we celebrate the time? Five Guys, obviously.
So it was a pretty good weekend, filled with pretty good people and puppies. (And another engagement!) 

Monday, August 11, 2014

I am 27.

Family and friends, thank you for making “my day” wonderful. And by day, I mean extended weekend. Because I started celebrating on Thursday. At this point, I think I have 27 things to be thankful for, potentially more. My coworkers kicked off the party by treating me to lunch at Nando’s, where we dined on all things Peri-Peri flame-grilled chicken. After lunch I was further spoiled with cupcakes. While my peers were not quite willing to swap meals for desserts—my original birthday request was for donuts, ice cream, or pie, they still willingly satisfied my sweet tooth with Red Velvet Cupcakery.
As we moved one day closer to my birthday, I was one of four people (on my team) at the office. After refusing yet another lunch, my coworker—the same one who already paid for my cupcake—treated me to Starbucks. We all know my undying love for all things coffee, especially Starbucks! Free Starbucks! She was not satisfied with my standard—‘boring and lame’—Tall Iced Coffee order, upgrading me to a Grand Iced Latte. Thou shall not complain.

When the weekend eventually came… Boyfriend and I headed to Rice Paper to begin things right. The meal was spectacular as always. We lamented about the time that has passed since our last visit and how we will not, under any circumstance, allow for that to occur moving forward. I essentially ate myself into a food comma because I was passed out on the coach prior to 9:00 pm while God Loves Uganda played in the background.

My (actual) birthday was upon us. And it was time to celebrate, first with donuts! The clock struck 6:34 am… and I put my walking shoes on. Before I hit the door, Boyfriend wanted to fool-proof our plan to grab coffee at Filter Coffeehouse, then walk and pause for donuts at three close-ish shops. Walk. Sip. Eat. Repeat until Astro Donuts & Fried Chicken, Golden Brown Delicious (GBD), and Woodward Takeout Food (WTF) were all accounted for. This is when he learned Astro Donuts & Fried Chicken opens at 9:00 am, GBD unlocks at 10:00 am, and WTF is closed on weekends. Since I had plans to meet my parents at the Fish Market around the time of GBD’s opening, I “settled” for a Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, an Arlington establishment with respectable hours and a decent location. There were pastries of all kinds. When I finished my admiring and roaming, I no longer felt as though I was settling. I purchased four donuts. (I had to make up for Boyfriends pathetic order—one donut. Fact: He’s not a morning eater.) We got home, plated them. And I began my feast.
I made a quick trip to the farmers’ market after neglecting it for most of the summer. And also because I wanted to replicated the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar experience from previous weekend in my backyard. This was mostly pretend play; my market has nothing on Baltimore. I purchased some pretty zucchini to perpetuate my love for Mel. And some peaches because I have not had fruit in days and my body is going into shock as a result. Just as the humidity increased, it was then time to board Metro for the Maine Avenue Fish Market. My parents met us moments after our arrival and shopping ensued. We were an indecisive bunch, ultimately deciding on two dozen Chincoteague oysters and a whole Red Snapper. I also thought an entire pound of ceviche was a good idea. We prepared a hefty meal and dined as though it were Thanksgiving at 1:00 pm on an August afternoon.
The eating continued at the wine and cheese party Boyfriend and I attended later that afternoon. S.A.K. brought donuts and A.J.S. made Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies to commemorate the occasion. (Of note, A.J.S. also made wheat thins. Also of note, she cooked about as much popcorn (and nothing else) as I did in Peace Corps. Oh—together—how far we’ve come!) Boyfriend and I partied WAY later than I intended, which meant I essentially went straight to the unmade bed I left at 6:34 am when I awoke.
I rose bright and early on Sunday to run forever before Six Flags. I was glad to have that crossed off the list first thing. In ever the rush, I stretched as Boyfriend packed our bag. Then we took off for the park, where we proceeded to spend the rest of the day in waterslide and rollercoaster glory. The day was awesome, although l-o-n-g. And altogether a grand success, especially considering we were not among the 24 unlucky passengers stranded on the Joker’s Jinx for hours.
To close the weekend, I lasted about three innings of the final game of the Atlanta Braves/Washington Nationals series before calling it a night. There was no need to sacrifice sleep in the name of poor baseball. First thing this morning—to my delight, I learned the Braves won. My birthday twin, Jason Heyward, did not receive a 'W' on our day (after a grueling three-hour and 41-minute rain delay and an extra innings loss); he did, however, take the birthday weekend series-win from our division rivals following an eight-game skid. We might indeed still have the Nationals' card.

Another workweek and year have arrived; Monday and 27 feel one and the same.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pure Michigan

In mid-July, I joined my parents on a trip to Michigan. Pure Michigan, if you’ve seen the commercials. We left early on a Friday morning, stopping for coffee and lunch along the way. Upon arrival at our hotel, Pops and I napped while Mom busied herself. We later headed to Comerica Park for a Detroit Tigers game. They had a rather pathetic showing, namely a rattling seventh inning. The rest of their four game series--the length of our trip--followed suit. I felt slightly better about the state of the Atlanta Braves' bullpen after witnessing the horror in Detroit. (Note: Time has since passed and the Tigers have not resumed their winning ways.) When the British Open was not playing, baseball was. I was thankful the Tigers had a double header on Saturday (plus a Sunday afternoon game), for it gave us something to watch as we spent the time with my grandparents. And because golf, snooze.
I wasn’t sure if I was more excited for Bagel Factory or to see my grandparents. I'm joking, of course. The bagels did not disappoint--they never do, and were enjoyed each morning of our stint in Michigan. We also had coffee, fancy coffee some days, to accompany bagel goodness. The only problem with this design was Grandma and Grandpa were as thrilled to feed us as they were see us, often making plans for lunch moments after our morning arrival. Food is love.

The getaway was all-in-all successful. I was (finally) able to see where my grandparents are living. My grandma and grandpa made the moved to assisted living some time ago, and I haven't been to visit since prior to that time. Grandpa gave me an extensive tour of their digs. And while we were touring, every single person stopped to ask him how my grandma was doing. It truly was heartwarming. There was not a single person that passed my grandpa did not know by name (as well they seemed to recognize him). He appeared to be an 'on duty' senior caretaker, often directing elders to their respective locations. He describes the place as jail and jokes, rather darkly, their ‘next move’ is to the cemetery across the street. And while I understand the need to vent, he seems to be well-adjusted to his not so new surroundings.
In addition, I was able to meet one of my grandmother's caretakers, who was absolutely wonderful. My great aunts, whom I absolutely adore, also stopped in for a visit. And their visit was immediately followed by my aunt, uncle, cousins, and one of their kids popping in. So I (met and) saw lots of people on this last-minute, quick trip.
I did not intend to write, as much as I intended to upload pictures for this post. And while I have provided an overall recap of the trip, it doesn't actually recount the emotion of this journey. I needed a break from work. My grandparents are always requesting visitors. I have wanted to see how and where they are living. My parents had plans to travel. It made sense to join. Though my grandparents are growing older--Grandma will turn 91 and Grandpa will be 90 in September, they are doing much better than they have been in awhile. So they can hate on their new home as much as they would like, their quality of life has increased (through my eyes). I can, rather selfishly, worry less. Beyond that, I don’t know. I don’t really have the words for the emotions I feel. I guess I just feel lucky to still have my grandparents in my life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Charm City

This weekend I was back on the road. And as mentioned, Baltimore was the destination. I was assigned tour guide, hooray. While in most cities I’m out to explore new ‘off the beaten path’ gems, in Baltimore, I know what I like and make sure to hit up these locales almost every time I’m there, which is less frequently than I would like. Baltimore is neat city; I’m glad we’re so close. I’m also glad the MARC Train now runs on weekends.

These are my ‘must visit’ spots:
  • Walk the National Harbor
  • Eat Pretzels at Cross Street Market
  • Have Brunch at Miss Shirley’s
  • Find Berger Cookies at Lexington Market
For something new on this trip, I wanted to take Boyfriend to Heavy Seas Alehouse. I also wanted to
experience Artifact Coffee and ShooFly Café.

I did not actually make it to Baltimore as early as I had hoped on Friday. Oh well, that’s life. Once Boyfriend and A.J.S. arrived, we headed to Heavy Seas Alehouse for dinner. It was not the atmosphere I was expecting. Boyfriend sold this place as a brewery, but turns out, the actual brewery is in Annapolis… so instead envision a bar. They also didn’t have Boyfriend’s favorite brew. The food and cocktails though were good, even if overpriced. The rest of the group joined us late in our meal and quickly munched down dinner. We headed towards Fell’s Point from there and decisively landed at The Admiral’s Cup. There was live music. And shots we were too old to be taking. We chatted and danced into the wee hours. By the time I hit the sack, it was almost my normal rise.
Needless to say, I did not run Saturday (or Sunday). When I finally, and I do mean finally, rallied the troops we headed to Miss Shirley’s for brunch, or lunch on my watch. And Shirley did not disappoint. We then walked around the National Harbor, up to Federal Hill, around towards Cross Street Market (but not actually to Cross Street Market—no pretzels this trip, boo), and last over to Lexington Market. The weather, for August, was nice and the threat of rain held off the entire day. A great day for a walking tour! The rest of the afternoon was spent sleeping; I guess we wore ourselves out. For dinner, we stumbled into Alewife and I’m glad we did. The fish tacos on homemade tortillas were absolute perfection. I cannot even explain. I’m only upset I traded one-for-one with Boyfriend for a Wild Boar Slider. The slider was yummy, just not when compared with my fish tacos. Turns out, this establishment is a fan favorite in Baltimore and ranks favorably in the ‘Cheap Eats’ category. There were also a million beers on tap, making for a happy Boyfriend. To boot, the restaurant was decorated with local art for sale, all of which was very neat.
Half of the group left early-ish on Sunday morning, while the remaining four of us went to Baltimore’s Farmer’s Market and Bazaar, where we spent the entire morning. This is definitely one of the best famer’s markets I have ever been to. I wanted everything and managed to indulge in such way—blackberries, cinnamon rolls, paratha. The prices were very reasonable too. I say that rarely these days. I settled for Zeke’s Coffee as Artifact was a bit out of our way. I am not sure it was worth the line we stood in it for, however, I liked the option for iced coffee at a farmer’s market.
I arrived home—starving and exhausted—and spent the rest of the evening reading, in solitude. The stimulation of the weekend truly took it out of me. I also went to bed at 8:00 pm on Monday, still totally wiped.

There are more visits to Baltimore in my future.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

There are so many unrelated thoughts floating through my head right now. Let's assume you care.
  • Dan Uggla played, as a professional baseball player, for the San Francisco Giants. He went 0-8 with three errors. Dan, Dan, Dan is not your—San Francisco or otherwise—man. Poor Uggla. We—we, the Atlanta Braves, still owe him upwards of 20 million dollars. So while he may not be doing good on the field work, he’s doing alright. (In other words, I would trade shoes paychecks with him.) Please note, I am absolutely not on the bandwagon rooting for Uggla to fail; I hope he finds success again at some future point.
  • Boyfriend went for a run (and then another run and one more run after that; he went for three total runs). I am not to speak of such events. He ran all by his lonesome in our apartment gym. And I am still gleaming a full week plus later. I am almost confident this was a three-time thing, though I will remain forever hopeful he will someday enjoy running alongside me (on the easy days).
  • The office bathroom is never empty. I am continually peeved by this. This girl appreciates her privacy.
  • I checked out I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai from the library four times to finish it. The entire book is 317 pages. I could not get into the book, until the final third. The message is fabulous. I am inspired by the young activist. I am devastated for the lives of so many of the people of Pakistan, specifically the women and children. I am in awe of the courage of Malala's father, standing out "against" his own people for education. I wanted to praise the book, but found it riddled with far too much history, history complex beyond my own understanding. This unfortunately translated to choppy reading. The story did, however, make me think and challenged me to remember these issues do touch my life—not to mention my heart.
 You can all sleep peacefully at once.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Alternative Work Schedule

I have some good news on the work horizon. That’s right, good news. My contract is entering the second and final option year, come late September. And as a result, things are being switched up a bit. As of this week, I officially have an alternative work schedule, the one I have dreamed of all my contracting days. This means, Monday through Thursday I work 8:30 am to 6:00 pm; I have every other Friday off; and the ‘working’ Fridays, I will work the standard 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. There are certainly pros and cons to this agenda. But for me personally, the pros outweigh the cons.

The ultimate pro is definitely the biweekly Friday off. Rather conveniently, I am going to Baltimore this weekend. And I realized I will not be rushing up to Baltimore with all the commuter train traffic. I can go at my leisure after some form of exercise and cleaning and laundry chores are completed. I can go whenever I want because I have the entire day off. The. Entire. Day. More, for this particular weekend, my afternoon arrival should allow for some one-on-one time with K.A.B. before 92 other Returned Peace Corps Volunteers join us for a pre-reunion weekend.

Further though, an unexpected plus thus far on the alternative work schedule front is the livelier streets (at 6:00 pm) during the walking portion of my commute. I am also back to commuting with Boyfriend in the morning. That results in more together time and less reading time, a tough toss-up.

The longer days might be a drag when the days get shorter. The days are long now, so I don’t notice a real difference between five and six. I should also note that all my coworkers had this schedule “forced upon” them, which helps diminish the difference between a 5:00 and 6:00 pm departure. At least on day one, two, and three. 

The daunting nine-hour day is easily dismissed after a quick analysis of the calendar: I’m slated for a four day Labor Day weekend—pro. Pros, from now until September 2015. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chicago Marathon, 10 Weeks From Now

There are 10 weeks until the Chicago Marathon. And my bursitis has relocated itself from my groin to my outside left hip. The nagging pain no longer hurts when I walk or twerk my leg in odd ways, however, sitting at a desk all day, oh the agony. But, Friday, I said to heck with it, I laced up my running shoes and set out for a jaunt to see how things were working. I have been doing sporadic weight training, but I find the motivation required to convince myself to get out of bed for that on a regular basis, especially compared to running around a city full of runners, is much too much. I cannot argue the time spent with Jillian Michaels has expedited the healing process. Though, I also cannot argue the icing, physical therapy, resting, and stretching regimen has seen me through either.

Alas, the weather—and sunrise!—was perfect when I set out on Friday. I headed down to Iwo Jima, through the Arlington Cemetery, around to Teddy Roosevelt Island, and up the hill of death to breakfast. I felt increasingly worse as the run progressed. And my positive, very positive, splits can attest to that. I rested up over the weekend; Monday, I hung out with Michaels, per my joke of a training schedule. Then Tuesday, I set out to run my favorite eight-mile loop at a more reasonable pace. I ended up racing all 71 of the other morning exercisers I crossed paths with. I could certainly be faster than the girl ahead running significantly faster splits. I am sure she wants me to chase her for two miles also. Positive thinking, anyone? I have lost my rhythm. And my faith in what was the plan.

So unable to walk, after logging fifteen total miles and an hour of strength training in five days, I reached out to Dr. M.E.K. for a consultation. I prefer to alarm her with dire messages super early, aided by her Central Time Zone. My text read, “I have Lyme disease and it’s caused early onset arthritis because this mystery has yet to heal. I’m looking for a 26.2 mile piggy back in October. Hope your training is going well.” She is, after all, deservingly responsible for getting me into this mess.

Avascular necrosis? Pain. Trochanteric bursitis? Pain, pain, pain.

I need a miracle, quick. I am not looking to be the untrained fool in October.