Sunday, December 18, 2011

Training for a marathon

From the many blogs I read and the few people I have talked to about marathons, it is clear that there is not a golden training plan that guarantees the successful completion of a marathon. Rather, everyone has their own unique training plan that works best for their fitness level and end goal. For many first time marathoners, it is all about finishing! This is the case for me. I just want to finish the 26.2 miles and want to run as much of those 26.2 miles as I can. While it is completely acceptable to walk portions of a marathon, I would like to keep a steady pace throughout the entire race. I have not set a time goal for myself but may have a better idea once my long runs become longer.

Most marathon plans follow the same pattern. Short runs during the week with a mixture of cross-training, and a long run on the weekend that continues to get longer. For someone like me that has a hard time focusing on 26.2 miles, a training plan is vital. Since I have never run anything over 13 miles, it will be important for me to stick to a training plan that helps me build up to 26.2.

During the week, I want to focus on high intensity interval training, strength training and yoga.  It may take me a few weeks to get into a rhythm of what my workouts will look like during the week, but I am hoping to find a nice balance of workouts that will allow for recovery time and help me get stronger for my long runs on the weekend!

So my training plan looks something like this:
DATE
MILES
12/17/11
8
12/24/11
6
12/31/11
10
1/7/11
12
1/14/11
8
1/21/12
14
1/28/11
16
2/4/11
10
2/11/12
18
2/18/12
12
2/25/12
20
3/3/12
15
3/10/12
6
3/17/12
26.2!!!!


The great thing about running with a group like TNT, is that we meet at a different place each weekend for our long run. This last Saturday, we ran a 4 mile course (twice) starting at the Capitol Building, up the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial and back down the National Mall to the Capitol. It is a run that almost every DC'er has done and a run that I could never get tired of! Something about running along side our national monuments that gives you just an extra boast of motivation.
You will have to excuse all of my pictures. They are all taken on my phone camera and in the early dawn hours....

I am still in need of someone to give me my first donation! How great would it be if you were my first donor??!!
To donate, click here! 



Get Adobe Flash player

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spring Marathon-Team in Training 2011

As you may know, I have been waiting to run a marathon for a LONG time. I have signed up for a couple but when it came race time, I would have zero confidence in myself and my training and come race day I wouldn't follow through.  So knowing myself too well, I knew if I even wanted to complete a marathon I would need more of a purpose to run, not just to fulfill a goal of mine, but running for a purpose bigger than me and running with other people that had the same purpose.

So in comes Team in Training (TNT).  Most of you have probably heard of TNT before or have seen their famous purple shirts running around your city. They are an amazing organization that brings together people that train for endurance races while raising significant amounts of money to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training has raised over $1.2 billion to fund lifesaving cancer research! As a member of TNT, I will have the exciting opportunity for 3 months of group training to complete the Rock-n-Roll Washington DC Marathon on March 17th.

I had my first long run this morning and I am already convinced that my training for this race will be much different from other races that I have trained for by myself.  Not only do I get to run with other people that have the same goals as I do, but there we have a group of motivated coaches, support from families and friends and an overall camaraderie that will surely be needed when the runs become long and the weather gets colder. Our long run today was 8 miles and while it was certainly cold outside, you soon forget the numbness in your limbs and enjoy the conversation and laughter of your fellow runners.


So I am committed to training with this great group of people and putting in the time and distance to run my first marathon this spring in Washington DC.

Of course, in order for me to do that, I will need YOUR help! You can help me by donating to my fundraising efforts for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Any amount, $1, $10, $100....would help me reach my fundraising goals which allows me to run with my other teammates on March 17th in the Rock'n'Roll DC Marathon! And more importantly, your donations go to a great organization that is making a real difference in the lives of cancer patients.

How can you donate? CLICK HERE  or copy and paste this link into your browser.

 http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/natl12/mhardinksx
 
At this page, you can securely donate plus learn more about my progress toward my financial goal!   You will receive a confirmation of your donation by email and I will be notified as soon as you make your donation. Each donation helps accelerate finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Nearly 958,000 Americans are battling these blood cancers.  I am hoping that my participation in Team In Training will help bring them hope and support.

I will blogging about my training here and on my donation page. So check back often to see how my training is going and how I am feeling leading up to race day. I need you to keep me accountable to my commitment and will need your support! I have never run more than 13 miles, so 26.2 will be a challenge!

As my family, friends, colleagues, friend of friends, I am excited to take you along this journey with me. And if you feel so inclined, sign up to run with me! There is still time to train! If you are not runner, but still want to participate, schedule a much needed trip to DC and come out to cheer me on! It will certainly be a celebration for all that are involved! I can even offer you free lodging!

In the season of giving, please make your donation today! THANK YOU!



Get Adobe Flash player

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Resolutions

Well, it is that time again. The time when everyone becomes overwhelmed with holiday shopping, countless office parties,  uber amounts of sugar-laden treats and the stress of wrapping up the end of another year.  The thing I love most about the end of the year is the perception that you can start the next year resolving to be a better person. Every year at this time I start to make my long list of resolutions for the coming year. The list almost always includes some sort of fitness goal, finance goal, career goal, and character building goal. The list tends to be very ambitious but it makes me feel accomplished to just get these things down on paper.

But I have decided my approach for 2012 will be different this time. I will not create an ambitious list of resolutions that will probably be forgotten by February, rather I am going to take things I did in 2011 that I enjoyed and made me feel better and do more of them in 2012!

One of the things I did in 2011 that truly changed my outlook on food and fitness is adopting a diet with "real food". Real food?? Yes, real food! Food that is natural like meats, vegetables, and fruit. Foods that are nutrient dense, minimally processed, with lots of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.  I threw out attempts of calories counting and focused on foods that would help me maintain a heathy metabolism and reduce inflammation within my body. So what did I eat?

  • Lots of eggs 
  • MEAT! Beef, chicken, turkey, etc
  • Fruit 
  • Vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Fat Sources (olive oils, coconut milk, etc)
What don't I eat?
  • Grains
  • Pasta
  • Milk
  • Soy products
  • Processed/added sugar
  • Anything processed..
Now this might seem extreme for people that know me well. You know I love food and that my "death row" meal consists of homemade pasta and roasted tomatoes accompanied with a large side of fresh bread! While thinking of this meal still makes my stomach hungry, I haven't had this meal in over 6 months and would probably now pick a big hearty salad if given the choice between the two. 

This all started over the summer when I enrolled in the CrossFit South Arlington Nutritional Challenge.  While I was confident I could do anything for 6 weeks, I am a chronic dieter that has failed at any diet that restricted my favorite foods.  I tried Atkins for 5 days, have never made it past the first phase of South Beach, and was a vegan for 4 days. My track record was dismal. 

Before I agreed to start this nutritional challenge, I did my research.  I read countless blogs and the evidence was everywhere...our bodies need real food, our bodies thrive off on nutrient dense food! 
This nutritional challenge that I was about to embark on is based on the Whole9 Nutritional Program.  Whole9 is not a "diet",  rather they stress eating as much as needed to maintain strength, energy, activity levels and a healthy body weight.  

So after spending the first half of 2011 with some sort of illness, being diagnosed with seasonal asthma, and failing to meet any of my fitness goals, I know I needed a serious change. Not just a diet to lose weight but a wholesome approach to becoming a healthier person. I knew this challenge was something I couldn't pass up and owed it to myself to at least give my all-out effort to complete. 

I will be honest in saying this was hard! I spent the first week with sugar withdraw symptoms, the second week I had to fight to stay upright in the evenings, and by the third week, I was starting to feel normal again. By week 4, the changes started surfacing. I was falling asleep easily at night and waking up feeling energized, I had a great amount of energy all day, and recovery from my workouts was getting quicker. By week 5 my allergies were disappearing, any food cravings were eliminated and none of my clothes were fitting any more. By week 6, I was reaping all the benefits of this program! No allergies, no asthma, the best sleep of my life, high energy, and had dropped 20 lbs! 
And my workouts were also improving, my runs were getting faster, my knee pain had disappeared and my endurance was increasing! 

At the end of six weeks I had figured I would run out to the local pizza place and inhaled a large pizza all by myself and be back to my normal ways, but I love the way I am feeling too much to ever go back to eating the way I used to. (Disclaimer: The day after the challenge ended, I did go out for pizza and paid for it dearly the next day...ouch)

While I admit to having non-Whole9 food occasionally, especially during the holidays, I am quickly reminded how bad unnatural food makes me feel and I always go back to eating clean. 

I never realized just how much control we have over the way we feel! Sure some things are uncontrollable, but we contribute GREATLY to the way we feel inside and out.  You have the power to change things and invest in giving your body the best it deserves. GOOD, CLEAN, NATURAL FOOD!

So I resolve in 2012 to continue to eat as clean as I can! The great thing about resolutions is that you can make them at any time. Don't wait until the end of a year to resolve to eat better and become healthier, start now! 

Check out the Whole9 blog for an amazing amount of great information and a community of people that are supportive of helping you live your healthiest life. 




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

...and we're back!

Well, as you can see, I have taken a bit of a break from this blog. No particular reason, rather life got busy and time passed way too quickly. Since I last posted, so much has happened and I can't imagine trying to recount it all but now that the weather is getting colder and the days shorter, I am finding myself indoors more and thinking back to the warm days of the summer and fall.

My days are now filled with reading as many health and wellness blogs as I can, loading up on fresh, non-processed food and getting in regular exercise. While there is still room for much improvement, the small changes in the way I live my life have led to big rewards!

One of those rewards is my new found ability to run! I have never liked to run and I still don't think I like it very much, but my 2011 racing season was my evidence that I am becoming a runner! I started off the year signed up for a half marathon in March but opted to let Brian run it for me since I let the winter months keep me indoors and was far from prepared to run 13.1 miles. He did a great job running and I will be forever envious of his ability to do an endurance race with little to no training!

So skipping a race was hard on my ego and I knew it would be tough to get back into good enough shape to be part of the racing world again. So I took a big leap and signed up to join a local Crossfit gym close to our apartment. More blogging on this later, but if there was anything that changed my perception about fitness and a healthy lifestyle, it would be my involvement in Crossfit.

Working out at Crossfit really ignited my desire to get back into shape and even gave me confidence to sign up and run in a 10k trail run in June.  Trail runs are much more challenging than road races and a regular 10k would have probably been challenging enough for my first race of 2011, but this trail run really pushed me physically.  I was able to finish (...at the very end of the pack) and that was the confidence booster that I needed to get back to gym to get stronger.


I completed my first half marathon of 2011 in September. My approach to training for this race differed greatly from my training for my half marathon in 2010. I did few long runs, more speed work, and strength training (Crossfit) 2-3 times a week. What a difference this training made on my run! I felt strong the entire race, I kept a pretty constant pace and only took 3 short walking breaks. And the best feeling was that after the race, I felt fantastic. I wasn't limping, the knees were not hurting and I had the energy to continue on with my day! Such a contrast from my first half marathon. Oh and I took about 5 mins off my previous time!


So my fitness confidence was up! I continued to run occasionally and incorporated Crossfit into my training plan, but my long runs didn't exceed 8 miles and I didn't have the confidence I needed to run in the 2011 Marine Corp Marathon. I had a spot in the race but 3 weeks before decided to defer to 2012. I am definitely disappointed in this decision, but feel very strongly that when I do run my first marathon, I want to be well trained and want to push myself as hard as I can for 26.2! So stay tuned and keep me accountable for training for a full marathon in Oct 2012.

This brings us to my last race. This past weekend I raced in the first Annapolis Half Marathon. Again my training for this race including few long runs, 5k speed workouts and lots of Crossfit! The race started out slow and I started having my doubts immediately. I had the same conversation with myself that I do at the beginning of ALL races... "why are you doing this?? why did you pay money to do this?? this will be the last time you ever do this!"
It was cold, it was windy, and the course remained crowded for the first 3 miles.
This race experience was a bit different in that I had my Garmin Forerunner with me and I got to track my timing, pace and milages. (Good thing because they didn't have any mile markers!) This helped tremendously! My goal was to keep a constant 10 min mile pace and finish under 2:20. My first few miles went quickly and I was keeping a great pace, I figured I even had time to stop for a break and would still be able to meet my time goal.
Well, around mile 8, I twisted my knee and felt intense pain throughout my whole leg. I hobbled around for a bit and took some motrin. I kept running but my pace slowed down to about a 12:00 min mile.... basically walking! I think I made it through all of mile 8 in this condition. I finally made it to a water station, stopped running and stretched a bit. I saw the injury van drive by and I was so very close to calling him over but resisted. I continued on and I think the motrin must have kicked in because I was back to my 9 min mile pace as I started mile 9.
The end came so quickly and I found myself pushing myself faster and faster during the last quarter mile. I am always amazed at the energy the human body can summon in those last meters of a race. It is those last seconds of a race, when you are sprinting toward the finish line that you really experience that "runners high" everyone speaks of!
My finish time ended up being 2:08!! Far better than the goal I had set. How cool is that! I still can't get over how great that time is for me!

So I end my 2011 racing season with a great race and the confidence booster I need to start eyeing the 2012 races! This time I will not let the winter months keep me inside and out of the gym!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Last year at this time....

Hard to believe that last year at this time we were wrapping up our weeklong adventure to South Africa to attend the 2010 World Cup.
Not only is it hard to believe that a year has already gone by but it is hard to believe we were actually at the World Cup!
The city of Johannesburg really rolled out the red carpet for all the visiting fans and the people of South Africa were so proud to be at the center of the world's attention.  I remember getting off our 18 hour flight from DC to Johannesburg and seeing signs everywhere welcoming World Cup spectators. It was such an awesome feeling to be walking into something so big and for someone that has very little international travel experience, I was just an awe of everything that was around me.

As soon as we got to the airport, our first task was picking up our tickets to the games. We entered a lottery for tickets back in Feb of 2009! It was quite a surprise that we received tickets to three games but after going to our first couple of games we realized it was pretty easy to buy tickets right before the game. We actually met another guy from the US that didn't have tickets to any of the games but just depended on buying tickets when he got to the game.

The place that we stayed at the whole week was an empty YMCA-type building that they set up beds and brought in staff to operate the kitchen. It was a great place to meet people as they came and left Johannesburg, but there were no heaters and it was a lot colder than we anticipated. Despite being the sickest I have ever been to date, staying at "Tent City" offered us a safe, secure place to stay every night and I would do it again in a second! Just with warmer clothes!

The people watching at the games was the best. I pick the Netherlands as having the best fans! They were pretty serious about showing some team spirit! Of course, once we got to South Africa and saw all the camaraderie amongst fans we regretted not having our USA flags and face paint! We will be better prepared next time.



Two of the games we went to were played in Soccer City. This stadium was the host to the opening match and championship game. It was refurbished for the World Cup and holds 94,000 fans, which makes it the largest stadium in Africa.

Every time I think back about this trip, I try to pick out one thing that was the highlight of the trip and for me that is hard, but one of my favorite things about this trip was seeing Brian surrounded by all the things that he lives for. His love of international travel, meeting new people and being surrounded by soccer certainly put him in his element. I would have to say that despite the low temperatures, the pneumonia, the cold showers, the taxi fights and getting lost in the dark streets of Johannesburg, experiencing the World Cup with Brian will remain one the best weeks of my life. We definitely learned a lot about each other and managed to make it back to US still married! So, I think we can handle just about any adventure that comes our way and I am anxious to start planning our next big trip!! 

Here is a fun video I put together last year with all our pictures! It is so fun to watch and be reminded of the amazing time we had attending the 2010 World Cup! 


Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Look back at May


Well, apparently May was so busy I didn't even have time to post any blogs! Hard to believe my last blog was about Cinco de Mayo. This month has really flown by and as always, things have been as busy as ever.
I enjoyed so many fun things in May, I wanted to share a few of them with you before I start writing about June which has already turned into a busy month!

Virginia Gold Cup
During the first weekend of May, we joined the New Mexico Society for an outing to the Virginia Gold Cup! It was just a well planned day. We started with breakfast burritos at Arlington's Santa Fe Cafe and boarded a bus for the 45 min drive to Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia. The 86th running of the Virginia Gold is a steeplechase race that is a spring tradition in Virginia and definitely a social event for all Virginians. There was an estimated 50,000 spectators, which makes this race one of the largest and most popular sporting events in the greater Washington metro area. In addition to horse races, there was Russell Terrier races (sadly we missed these), TONS of tailgating, and of course hat contests. As guests of the New Mexico Society, we had our own tent area with food catered from Santa Fe Cafe and PLENTY of beverages to last the whole day.  Although the horse races were exciting to watch, the people watching was probably the best part for me. Seersucker galore!


Tart Party! 
I am fortunate to work with other people that have the same love for all things food that I have! A few of us have come together to form a cooking club that meets monthly. It would probably be more appropriate to call it an eating club, because in our first meeting, just two of us cooked and the rest ate! This month's theme was tarts! So I baked two tarts, savory and sweet. This savory tart was so delicious and was a big hit. If you are ever looking for a great brunch item, I highly recommend this Roasted Cherry Tomato Tart

Marine Corp Half Marathon
As you may recall, in my post "Spring Race Schedule", I signed up for a few races this spring/summer with the hopes that I be prepared for a full marathon come fall. Well....my training schedule has not gone as planned due to a long list of excuses and overall lack of motivation. So the Marine Corp Half Marathon date quickly approached and I had done little running to prepare for it. So I looked to my ever-fit husband to fill my spot in the race. Fortunately, he can go from not running for weeks to easily running a half marathon! So I was his cheerleader for what turned out to be a great race for him! It was also great to get a visit the town of Fredricksburg. Such a cute town that I hope to visit again soon. (the pictures are a bit blurry....Brian was running so fast! )


(this was Brian's cheer squad)

Beach Trip
Before the beaches filled up after Memorial Day weekend, we drove done to Outer Banks, NC with some friends for a couple of days relaxing on the beach. Although it is a long 6 hour drive that was made longer from terrible traffic on I-95. It is always nice to get out for a weekend. We stayed at a hotel that was conveniently located right on the beach. We spent the weekend eating and trying to get as much sun as possible! It was scary to see how translucent our skin had become over the winter! Too much time sitting in our office cubes!! We also took Sasha with us to the beach! Not only was this her first road trip, but also her first beach encounter. She did so well in the car and had a blast playing in the sand. She was a little too timid to play in the water, but we are hoping her love of water will develop in time. 
Outer Banks is such a great weekend trip and we were lucky to have great weather and plenty of beach space to enjoy. I can't wait to go back again. 


A visitor
YAY! Look who came for a short visit!
My sister was in Baltimore for a work trip and she made time to drive to DC to spend some time with us! I love having her here! Of course, Alexa didn't make this trip, but I am hoping to see her sooner than later! My sister was here long enough for some cupcake tasting, happy hour and movie watching. It was a great treat to have her here!

Rolling Thunder
For Memorial Day weekend, we stayed in DC and enjoyed some of the events held here. Washington DC is definitely the best place to spend Memorial Day weekend. It is easy to be reminded of the true meaning of Memorial Day when you are surrounded by monuments to the fallen and Arlington Cemetery.  In the few years that we have lived here, we have never attended Rolling Thunder.

In 1987, Rolling Thunder was started as a demonstration to bring awareness to POWs  and MIAs of the Vietnam War. The first ever group of motorcyclists was just over 2500. They rode the streets of Washington DC as an attempt to petition the government to take responsibility for the soldiers that were abandoned after the Vietnam War ended. Today, it is estimated that over 250,000 motorcycles ride during the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day event. Since we live within walking distance of the start of this event, we had a great view of all the motorcycles assembling in the parking lot of the Pentagon as well as getting a good view of them crossing Memorial Bridge from Virginia into Washington DC.
The Pentagon Parking Lot (all motocycles!)


Well, that was a quick look at May! It was a great month and June has already started with many exciting things! I vow not to wait to the end of the month to write again!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cinco de Mayo

Happy belated Cinco de Mayo!

This year's celebration was filled with the laughter of great friends, amazing food and a margarita (or two).

It is so fun to have an excuse to celebrate any and every holiday and use the occasion to indulge in some of the best things that life has to offer! As I think about all the traditions that make Cinco de Mayo fun, I can't help but think about my grandparents, particularly my grandfather. While he enjoyed every holiday with family and friends, he didn't really need a reason to indulge. He started every day with a shot of whiskey, made frequent trips to the mexican bakery, sat on his porch daily with a beer in hand and music playing in the background, and never turned down good, homemade food.

While I would certainty love to relive any of those moments with him, I can do my very best to relive his memory through all my favorite indulgences.

Nothing quite brings back the memory of my grandfather like some mexican sweet bread (pan dulce)! I am sure there are many great bakeries that in the area that do bake this quite well, but I wanted to take on the challenge of making some myself.  For me, bread either goes very bad, very quickly or turns out to be the most delicious thing ever. In my opinion, the greatest gratification in cooking is taking a perfectly browned, risen loaf of bread out of the oven.  So I was prepared for this recipe to fail and even started to google some bakeries nearby that I could visit to satisfy my craving.  The recipe I used was from Allrecipes.com. They have many recipes for pan dulce, but I picked this one solely on the fact that I had all the ingredients already.

Starting with the staple ingredients (milk, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, yeast)

Combining the wet ingredients with the yeast (this is normally the step where my bread goes bad).
Adding flour until you get a nice ball of dough that separates from the slide of the mixing bowl.  (this recipe calls for 6 cups of flour and I only needed 5)
Let rise.
One hour later....
Separate into small balls and let rise again for an hour.
Flatten into ovals and place on greased baking pan.
...and what makes this bread so special.....the sugar topping!!!
You have to literally spread the sugar topping on top of the dough. The recipe tells you to just add the crumbled topping to the dough, but in order to get that nice design, you need to smooth the sugar topping on. I found that the back of a spoon worked well.
The sugar topping is also the chance to make this bread look fancy! You can add any food color and make a fancy design in the sugar topping. I opted to stay on the safe side and leave it as is. I did add some almond extract to the sugar topping which is not in the recipe, but I think almond extract makes everything better and it certainly added a little something special to this bread!

The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes of baking but I left mine in for about 25 minutes. The topping got slightly golden and the bread was browned on the edges. The smell in the apartment was DELICIOUS! I couldn't contain myself.
I helped myself to one right away! It was exactly as I remembered. I was right back at my grandmother's kitchen table.

Although, I do have to say eating this right out of the oven made it exponentially better!
They didn't quite look like those served in the bakery, so I do have some room for improvement, but I am excited to make these again and share them with my family.

I can say I indulged in a few too many of these but it was in the spirit and celebration of my grandfather, who was never hesitant to indulge in something sweet and delicious.

Here is a little video that shows just how excited my grandfather would be to celebrate any occasion!


Sunday, May 1, 2011

To the market!

Wow, how is it May already? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was posting about all the exciting things I wanted to do in April. Sadly, that was my only post in April and even sadder, I didn't do any of those fun things! After returning from San Antonio in early April, I came down with a terrible flu-like bug that took me out for weeks! I haven't been that sick in awhile. Well....I should say, I haven't felt that sick in weeks. Between an ugly case of bronchitis in January and severe allergies in Feb. and March, I feel as though I have been sick for all of 2011! So I spent most of April indoors trying to recover.

This was the first whole weekend that I felt totally normal. The kleenex use has decreased significantly and I have all my taste buds back! 

So I took advantage of feeling better and the gorgeous sunny day to check out Eastern Market. I am ashamed to say, but in the 2 years that I have lived in the DC area, I have never been to Eastern Market. I have been to restaurants and shops in the area, but have never walked the streets of the market on a weekend. Eastern Market is Washington's DC's oldest operating fresh food public market. It has been around in some form for over 136 yrs! It is located in the beautiful Capitol Hill neighborhood and is easily accessible from the metro.  


Instantly I was in love. All the fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and delicious aromas were enough to capture my attention for a couple of hours. 

First I made a quick round through all the fruit and veggie stands and inside the North Hall. North Hall houses more of the established vendors that include a butcher, fish market, bakery and additional produce stands. It was so full of people, you couldn't even move. So I immediately went back outside and did a second round by the outdoor vendors and took the time to take in the sights and smells of all the wonderful produce. Look at these great colors: 



It was tough to resist buying everything, so since many of the vendors only accept cash I made a trip to the ATM and only took out $20 and vowed to not spend more than that. (I also vowed to be back again next weekend!)

The one thing I was most interested in was buying herbs so I can start a herb garden on our apartment balcony. There was a lot to chose from, but I decided to start with a beautiful rosemary plant and basil. Two of my favorite herbs! (Only $6 for three large plants)

In addition to my herb purchase, I bought a couple ears of corn and potatoes for dinner tonight and treated myself to a delicious, fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade. It was delicious! There were lots of fresh fruit options to mix-in with your lemonade. What a great idea! 

I resisted all the food stands that included many different options from organic soups, fresh doughnuts, and BBQ. There was also tons of beautiful art that got me thinking about all the fun gifts I could get that would differ from my normal gift card or bottle of wine. 

And of course, it doesn't hurt to have your walk through the market serenaded by beautiful saxophone music...

Of course, many of the other markets in the DC area offer the same things that Eastern Market does, but it was a great experience for me to do some outdoor shopping on a beautiful day. 

You can see all my Eastern Market pictures at my new photography website here

I look forward to writing about more of my market finds and keeping you posted on how my herb garden does! 

Happy Market Shopping and Happy May Day! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New month, new things!

5 days into April and I am finally realizing that we have started a new month and March is far behind us! Time really flies when your work consumes your life, which has definitely been the case for me. While work is always busy, the last few weeks have been particularly busy as my program will be gearing up for a round of site visits and regional meetings will have us all on the road and working on endless reports and memos. Sounds fun, right? :)

While my calendar is starting to fill up with work travel, I am excited to fill my weekends with fun DC area events. As the weather starts to warm up, I know there are going to be tons of fun things to do, it is just a matter of deciding which ones to do and of course find some rest time in between!

Here is just a few of the events that I am eyeing, let me know which ones you recommend!

  • The Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum (international modern and contemporary art) is hosting the  exhibit, "Directions: Grazia Toderi". The exhibit is Toderi's recent projections and drawings of landscapes and night skies taken from military and satellite footage. It has been described as "frescos of light".
  • The New York City Ballet is coming to the Kennedy Center! After Black Swan and my favorite movie, Center Stage, who doesn't want to see some of the best ballet dancers in this country! The show will be three mixed programs that include a variety of pieces by George Balanchine. (He inspired the director role in Black Swan). 
  • An Opera that I have always wanted to see (we had to watch the video in high school) is Madama Butterfly. In April the Virginia Opera will be staging Madame Butterfly at George Mason University Center for Arts. 
  • One of my favorite DC spots, the Library of Congress, is hosting an exhibit titled, "The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs form the Liljenquist Family Collection." The Liljenquist family began traveling to Gettysburg and Fredrickburg on weekends and amassed a collection of images through dealers, estate sales, and eBay. To add to the collection of photographs of generals and politicans, the Liljenquist will add their collection of Civil War solider photographs to the already stunning Library of Congress. 
  • The ever so popular Ira Glass from This American Life will be at Lisner Auditorium to talk about the show's experience as a television series on Showtime and why the TV show ended. (I had no idea there was a TV show!)
  • In Lewes, Delaware (2 hours away) there will be a Tulip Festival with blooms expected to carpet the entire park. In addition to being able to walk the park, there are trolly tours and photography workshops for only $5! Additionally, the nearby restaurant Striper Bites (not sure about that name....) is suppose to have a fabulous fresh lobster roll. 
  • Down the street in Crystal City, there will be a 5k race every Friday. While the 'race' is very casual and not very competitive, people are more focused on the great happy hours that await them after the race. Running a 5k after work is a good excuse for a few drinks and great happy hour bites. 
  • Brian is in a kickball league that starts next week with games every Wednesday. The games will be on the National Mall next to the Washington Monument. I can't think of a better place for a game of kickball! It should be a fun weekly event that will of course be followed with celebration and team bonding at the "assigned" team bar. 
  • and of course, with the anticipated fabulous weather that awaits us, we are anxious to get out on the hiking trails, take the bikes out of the city and enjoy spring in the DC area!

Fortunately, the one thing that I have been looking forward to the most this month is coming up this weekend! 
I am going to San Antonio to see my beautiful niece that has grown way too fast since the last time I have seen her! I couldn't be more excited to see her and get to know this little person that now has a personality! 

I look forward to writing about all the great things that are going on this month! 


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cherry Blossoms

If I could pick one season where I thought Washington DC really sparkled, it would definitely be Spring time. While the fall colors are gorgeous, nothing really beats spring blossoms. The many budding trees are a gorgeous sight to see and it is hard to drive anywhere in the city and not see streets and buildings surrounded with small, pink and white blossoms. The sight of these beautiful blossoms is our first sign that Spring is really upon us, despite this harsh, cold weather that still lingers around.

What Washington DC is best known for are the Cherry Blossoms that surround the Tidal Basin. Every year, our nation's capital celebrates National Cherry Blossom Festival, a tradition that showcases the Yoshino cherry trees that were given to the US from Tokyo as a gift of friendship. The first two original trees, that are still standing, were planted by First Lady Taft and Vicountress Chinda (wife of Japanese Ambassador). The celebration of this occasion started in 1927 with a re-enactment of the original tree planting and 84 yrs later, the festival is still celebrated for 2 weeks each spring. (The date of peak blossom varies each year depending on the weather)

There are always floods of people that flock to the view the Cherry Blossoms, which makes traffic crazy around Tidal Basin, especially during the rush hour time! Today, I joined my friends after work in an effort to find parking in the area and do a quick lap with pictures around the Tidal Basin. After what seemed like hours in the car, I decided to jump out and snap a few pictures, while my friends waited for me in traffic.
They are too sweet! 

So here are some quick pictures that I shot before I had to jump back in the car! I hope to make it back at least one more time, but with rain and wind predicted in the forecast for this week, I am glad I got in a few good pictures! 





And after a long day at work and waiting in endless traffic, we decided we earned a yummy hamburger and fries from Good Stuff Eatery! YUM! 
(I had to try the many sauces they had. Ketchup won out as my favorite!)