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!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Proximity to greatness

Add to the list of great things about DC:

  • proximity to greatness
Where else can you go and find the epicenter of policy making, national defense and ambassadors from countries all over the world? 
Only Washington DC. 
This city that hold some of the brightest thinkers of our nation and is exploding with power and greatness. 
When thinking about all the political power that lies within this city, many people don't know that a majority of associations and non-profit organizations are headquartered in the DC/MD/VA area. 
One organization that is near and dear to my heart and headquartered right in downtown DC is the American Public Health Association (APHA). 
As a long time member and volunteer of APHA,  I have spent many days meeting in the headquarters office in DC. 
This weekend a new batch of energized and excited student members of APHA descended upon DC to meet at APHA for a planning meeting that would set the stage for the next 2 years of APHA's student organization, Student Assembly. 
As Past Chair of APHA Student Assembly, I was excited and encouraged to welcome this group to DC and pose the challenge to them, "How can you make this organization relevant to your fellow peers?"
The ideas and suggestions came spilling forth and the energy was palpable. 
Although, I know that these students are the best of the best and strong leaders within their communities and school, there is something about being in DC that fosters greatness and motivates change. 
These student board members meet regularly on monthly conference calls, but nothing replaces the camaraderie and dialogue that were taking place in this meeting.

While I was not able to stay for the entire meeting, after reading the meeting minutes, it was evident that work was accomplished and direction was set. 
This group of 20 students, ranging in age and educational level, shaped the future of one of the largest student health organizations in the country! In just 1.5 days! (and had a lot of fun in the time between meetings!)
I have worked on many boards in my past and it is always encouraging to work with students that have energy and vision. Decisions are made quicker, action items are identified and tasked out, and results are seen immediately. 

In an age where students want information fast and at their figure tips, non-profit organizations are struggling to stay relevant and stay afloat in a tough economy. It is going to take fresh, innovative and resourceful thinking to keep members engaged and coming back for more! I am confident that this is a great group of APHA student board members that accomplished everything they set out to do, but also set the stage for greatness and relevancy that will keep this organization thriving. 

Good work APHA Student Assembly!
 I can't wait to see and hear about all the wonderful work you will be doing in 2011-2012. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Not quite over......

Look what we woke up to this morning...
Yes, that is right. You are seeing snow flakes dusting the newly blossomed trees. It was a cool 30 degrees this morning when Sasha and I went out for our walk and snow flakes were slowly drifting down. From the looks of these pictures, winter is not quite over in the DC area.
It was actually quite a beautiful sight. It is not often you see spring flowers dusted with snow. I couldn't help but snap a few pictures.

It was only a few days ago that I declared winter over! Going from wearing flip flops to hat and gloves is a hard transition, but I am hopeful that warm weather is around the corner. Brian declared that today was the last day we would need to use the seat warmers in the car. Let's hope he is right! I am ready for warm weather to get here. (Notice I said warm weather...not hot weather!) The forecast for this week ranges in the 50s and 60s toward next week, so shorts may not be in the near future, but I know another creature that is really ready for some warm weather...

Sasha is not a fan of walking outside when it is too cold. She would rather be inside where it is warm and dry. Such a city dog!
The predictions for peak cherry blossoms is Tuesday. So stayed tuned for some of the best pictures of the year, Cherry Blossom Festival around the Tidal Basin!

Stay Warm!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scope It Out 2011

Last weekend (I need to get better about writing in "real-time"!) Brian and I ran in our first race of the year! It was only a 5k, but it was for a great cause! I say "only a 5k" like that is easy for me, but it actually kicked my booty. I haven't been running at all this year and to just get up on Sunday morning and run 3 miles was a rude awakening that my body quickly forgot to stay in shape! Funny how that works when you don't hit the pavement in over 8 weeks...
Luckily, I ran with my friend Molly the whole way, which was a good motivator to keep a nice, steady pace. And it was a great opportunity for us to catch up! 5K goes by much faster when you are talking about food blogs and vacations!

My former colleague and friend Kerry organized Team Java for a close friend of hers that has had to fight colon cancer. We were honored to be invited to run with Team Java and to be part of  such a great race. National Colon Cancer Awareness Month hosts a variety of events in DC, but Scope it Out has become one of the largest annual colon cancer awareness events in the country.  Thousands of people come out to support an important cause by walking and running a scenic course up Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol, symbolically taking the message to the doorstep of our nation's decision makers.

We were fortunate to have some very strong runners in our group resulting in Team Java coming in 3rd place!
I kept a steady 10:00 min. mile pace which is definitely not something to brag about, but at least I finished and now know I need to do some serious training!
The other great thing about getting up early on Sunday to race is the opportunity to go to brunch right after! We all gathered in one of my favorite DC restaurants, Commissary, for a much deserved bunch! Nothing like home fries and toast on a Sunday morning!

It was a bit cold out! 
We were all wearing lots of layers despite the fact that this picture was taken right after the race! 

Next race on the calendar is the Marine Corp Half Marathon on May 15th. Yikes....that is coming sooner than I like to admit. It is going to take some serious focus to get me ready for that!
First step though, is buying new running shoes! Sasha decided by old shoes had run too many miles and she chewed through my left shoe. So out to the running store this weekend to get a new pair to take me through 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Sign of Spring

After a week of heavy rain and cold winds, the first sight of sun and moderate temperatures brought everyone out to enjoy the weekend weather. While there are no spring buds in sight yet, I think everyone is anxious to dust off the bicycles and bring out the shorts, winter is done here!
We hopped in the car and took Sasha on a walk in Scott's Run Nature Preserve. There are a lot of great parks along the Potomac River that offer great trails and views of water falls and rivers. It is so nice to be a short drive from a great day hike. Another one of the perks of living in the DC area! You can have city life and 30 mins later, you can feel secluded in nature.
Scott's Run Nature Preserve in McLean, VA is within 1 mile of the beltway and encompasses a 2-3 mile loop. While some of the terrain is rugged, there are gravel trails that make this a very family friendly hike. There was actually a group of boy scouts a few steps ahead of us for some of the trail.

There were also a lot of pets enjoying the trail. Some that were even well behaved enough to enjoy a splash in the water without their leash on. Of course, Sasha can't quite be trusted without her leash and she hasn't quite built up the confidence to wade in the water alone.

As you can see by the pictures, the trees are still bare and fall leaves still mat the floor, but Scott's Run is actually known to have beautiful spring wildflowers. Guess we will have to make a return visit in a few weeks!

Another great thing about Virginia/Maryland trails, is the history of the land. As we rounded the last stretch of the hike, we passed the site of an old homestead with only its chimney still standing. Not an uncommon site for trails in VA/DC/MD.
Due to the large amount of rain that we received last week, the rivers were gushing and some of the trails were even covered with water. It is always a site to see the how fast and full the Potomac is just north of DC.

All and all, I would rate this trail a 5 (out of 10). It is convenient to the city, but you can still hear the buzz of the beltway not too far away. Easy trails and lots of rivers and small falls make this a great walk when you need to spend some time outside but don't have the time to drive far. Plus, no entry fee and plentiful parking.

I look forward to being back when the flowers are blooming and mud has dried!
Sasha enjoyed her time there, despite having to sit through the car ride over there. She hasn't quite beat the car sickness issue, so getting to and from our hikes and our trips to the park are always interesting. We are hoping she out grows it!

Next weekend's forecast is looking good too, maybe even a day in the 70s! I am really looking forward to that! Until then...another week in my office cube....