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Seriously, Mother Nature??? March 28, 2015

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This blogger is dreaming about maxi dresses, taking my dog swimming, strappy sandals, running outside, and patio drinks.  How about you?

Grocery shopping in the modern age December 22, 2014

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When we chose our apartment, a big factor was how convenient it was to the grocery store.  The Harris Teeter is literally right downstairs (we don’t even have to go outside to get there, if the weather is crummy), so I’ve gotten pretty spoiled.  Unfortunately, when the store was closed down by the health department recently – yes, you read that right – I was faced with the challenge of finding another option.  Thankfully, this article had recently stoked my curiosity about some new delivery options in town, so it was a perfect opportunity to test some of them out.

First, I decided to grab some basics from Safeway via Instacart.  Instacart gave me the option of about 6 nearby grocery stores, including Whole Foods and Costco (for which you do NOT have to have a membership, as it turns out).  You can get things as quickly as within one or two hours, but I chose a later delivery window since I wasn’t in a huge hurry.  The website is super easy to navigate, so ordering was a breeze.  Some items were marked up, but overall, I didn’t feel like I was getting completely robbed (especially considering the time and energy I saved).  My delivery was free, but it generally ranges in the $4-$10 range, depending on how quickly you need your items.  My courier texted me a couple of times with questions about substitutions, and I appreciated the desire to get things right.  I can definitely see myself using Instacart for parties or other time-sensitive moments, but I like grocery shopping too much to give it up completely.  🙂

Then there’s Postmates.  Postmates isn’t just groceries – it basically turns every store and restaurant in the area into a take-out joint.  When I used it first, I opted to get some of my favorite items from Trader Joe’s.  The actual items on the app (no website here – you have to do everything from the phone) were more limited than in the store, but it saved me a schlep to TJ’s, which was awesome.  There is a delivery fee (which varies) and a 9% service fee, so the charges can add up.  But…Shake Shack, delivered straight to my door?  Worth the premium, especially when I’m in the middle of a move and have no plates or silverware.

Next service to try – delivery booze from Klink!  Anyone tried it?

And the leaves that are green turn to brown November 16, 2014

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Fall in DC really is beautiful, though it tends to be short-lived.  It seems like this fall will be no exception.  Frankly, it didn’t even feel like fall until right around Halloween, and then this weekend, less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, felt more like winter.  The leaves are in big crunchy piles on the sidewalk, it is dark when I leave for AND come home from work, and folks have broken out their scarves and knee-high boots – so, I guess there’s no mistaking the season.

Some animals prepare for winter by hoarding.  In our household, we seem to be doing just the opposite – we have decided to buy a house, so we are thinking about what we can eliminate, reduce, and streamline.  While that process unfolds, I find myself looking and feeling a lot like the many neighborhood squirrels – like I have packed on extra heft to protect myself from the impending cold.  I have been exercising less and less – not only because other things have been more pressing, but also because I seem to have lost the inherent drive to better my body.  Is it unreasonable to think I might get that drive back during the short, cold days of winter?  Past patterns do not give me hope in that regard.

In any case, I will write here when I can – about training, yes, but also about life in our new neighborhood, as we put down real roots and try to become a part of a larger community.  Perhaps our neighbors will turn out to be running partners, or I will find that biking to work is more rewarding on the new route.  Who knows?  Anything is possible.

And, of course, there is always spring to look forward to…

Pucker Up, Buttercup July 29, 2014

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Who knew?  Today, July 29, is National Lipstick Day.  In the past, I was very leery about lipstick, especially in the summer – but with today’s super-moisturizing, super-long-lasting shades, why not put a pop of color on your lips in July?

My favorite shade these days is from NARS, and it is called Heat Wave:

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Fun, no?  It’s a really punchy orangey-red, and you should not let the strong color out of the tube scare you away!  It wears beautifully, and you can even run some clear gloss over it to lock it in and give it some shine.

Of course, anytime I think about lipstick and icons, I think of Miss Marilyn.  Girl could rock some red lips!

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And, no mention of lipstick in the modern era would be complete without an homage to Claire from The Breakfast Club.  Happy National Lipstick Day, everyone!  🙂

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The Travel Bug – Lewes, DE July 22, 2014

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Originally, my summer travel plans consisted solely of my August trip to California (to see my amazing sister and ADORABLE nephew).  But…sometimes I just get that bug, ya know?  When the walls I’m used to just won’t do, and when I’m dying to explore something new and different and exciting.  And it’s great when the travel itch can be scratched by driving just a few short hours away.  That’s exactly what happened when we spent July 4th weekend in Lewes, Delaware – and now I am completely enamored with “the first town in the first state.”

The real reason we chose to go to Lewes for the holiday weekend was…beer.  🙂  I found out the week before that Dogfish Head was opening a beer-themed inn in Lewes, which is more or less halfway between the brewery in Milton and the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.  Hubby and I didn’t need much convincing, let’s just leave it at that.  But if you do, there have been a few articles written about the Inn – and Jason and I (and Jack!) really enjoyed our stay.  It is pricey, but the location can’t be beat (short walk to both beach and town), and the hospitality was top-notch.

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The beach at Lewes was another big draw for us – unlike the other area beaches, they allow dogs (before 8 AM and after 6:30 PM during high season, and all the time in the off-season).  I have never seen my puppy happier, or sleepier!  He and his mama had fun splashing around and chasing tennis balls in the waves – while daddy stayed in ankle-deep water, of course.  What can I say?  Jack and I are definitely the water babies of the family.

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There were tons of dog-friendly restaurants and shops, and even though there were obviously a lot of out-of-towners (it was July 4th weekend, after all), the whole town had a very relaxed, welcoming vibe.  But, there was still plenty to do – we opted for an afternoon of kayaking the Broadkill River, followed by a tour and tastings at the Dogfish Head brewery.

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Even in holiday traffic, Lewes was only about 2.5 to 3 hours away from DC.  It was also a pretty drive, between crossing the Bay Bridge and going through some quaint Delaware farmland.

I can’t believe it took me so long to “discover” Lewes and the surrounding beaches.  This fan of sand and surf is awfully glad to have them nearby!  I am already plotting my next trip…

Going Gaga for Yoga June 18, 2014

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After eating my way through San Francisco, I needed a pretty big reset on my (lack of) fitness routine.  Fortunately, my local Bikram studio was running a promotion for 30-days of unlimited classes for $99.  Ideally, they wanted the purchasers to try the 30-day challenge – at least one class every day for 30 days.  I felt like I could at least give it a try (and even if I didn’t take 30 classes, the per-class cost would be less than usual).

For those unfamiliar, Bikram yoga is a particular genre made popular by Bikram Choudhury in the early 70s.  Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises, practiced in a hot room (generally 104 degrees and 40% humidity).  The instructors typically use a standardized dialogue to lead students through the postures, but of course each teacher’s style varies.

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I had practiced Bikram off and on over the past few years, but this would be my first attempt in taking back to back (to back…to back…) classes.  During the first class, I felt exhausted and completely out of shape (but, it should be noted, that was all me – yoga is not about everyone being at the same level, and there is no judging).  I concentrated and tried to watch some of the more seasoned students, and even by the third or fourth class, I noticed significant improvement.  It’s just like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Even though I noticed steady improvement, I had one particularly bad class where I felt like I was going to simultaneously pass out and throw up – blargh.  Because of the heat and the strenuous nature of the workout, you have to be very well-hydrated AND very well-nourished to sustain a serious practice.  That day, I hadn’t eaten nearly enough at work, and it showed almost immediately.  I didn’t make that mistake again!

Even though I only made it through 8 days of the 30-day challenge (that sounds a lot worse than it is – I just decided to vary my workouts and spend some quality time walking with my pup and biking), I definitely plan to make Bikram a regular part of my exercise routine.  When my marathon training starts in about a week, I can definitely see one or two classes a week being helpful in terms of flexibility and stamina.

And, of course, I want to eventually look like this in Standing Bow Pose:

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A girl can dream…right?  🙂

California Eatin’ June 7, 2014

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I’ll probably be writing a lot more about my fitness pursuits in the upcoming weeks, because holy cow did I eat a TON in California.  I feel like all we did was bounce from meal to meal to meal.  Not sayin’ it’s a bad thing, but after four months of business travel, it was the straw that broke the very overweight camel’s back.  Here are just a few examples of the deliciousness…

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Xiao long bao (soup dumpings) at Yank Sing

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Fried soft-shell crabs over a spring pea salad, cooked at home by my very talented chefly brother-in-law.

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Ridiculously awesome sushi goodness, including the best uni I have ever tasted, at Akikos.

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Dinosaur-sized sandwiches from The Deli Board.  Yes, we cleaned our plates!

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Lemon tart and eclair from our (second) trip to Tartine Bakery.

And that is only the food that stuck around long enough for a photo.  🙂  Trust me, there was more…

I’m going to back for a couple of weeks in August, so I guess I’d better get my ass in gear now!  Anyone want to go for a run?

Where have I been? June 1, 2014

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It’s amazing how time flies, isn’t it?  I can’t believe today is the first day of JUNE!  Even though I’ve gotten a couple of Birchboxes and another Stitch Fix since I last posted, I don’t think I’m going to be reviewing any of them individually.  I haven’t even tried all of the Birchbox products yet, and I only kept one item from my last Fix.  Oh, well.

The biggest reason for my absence?  Travel!  April was mostly work-related (as were January, February, and March – blargh), but then in May I finally headed west for some vacation time.  My sister lives in San Francisco, and she is having her first baby in a few weeks – squee!  I threw her a baby shower, and she got me this:

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Here are some other shots from a gorgeous day hanging out near the Ferry Building farmers market.  We really lucked out with the weather!

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The really important stuff – what we ate (hint: everything) – will come in another post.  California is delicious!

Plated review April 6, 2014

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It is no secret that I love to cook.  Heck, I used to write a food blog (RIP, Trouble With Toast) that centered primarily on my home cooking adventures.  However, you all know how it goes – in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s not always easy to shop, prep, and cook tasty (and hopefully healthy) meals for me and the hubs.

A friend started posting on Facebook about his experiences with Plated – a company that provides “chef-designed recipes and fresh ingredients delivered to your door.”  I have to admit, I was pretty darn skeptical.  But, he gave me a promo code for 1/2 off my first order, so I figured I’d give it a go.  And, it was nice that by placing an order, I was able to score my friend 2 free plates for himself.  What goes around comes around!

Generally, when you order from Plated, you pick from their weekly selection of meals/menus, and then you pick your delivery day.  If you don’t select your meals far enough in advance, they can sell out of particular ones.  I picked a delivery date pretty far in the future, so I was able to get two recipes I was genuinely interested in tasting – Citrus Soy Chicken Thighs with Soba Noodles, and Pan Fried Redfish with Lemon Caper Sauce.  It cost me $30 for 2 meals (each portioned for 2 people), which would normally have cost $60.  If you sign up and pay a membership fee ($10/month for a month-to-month membership, and $8/month for an annual membership), meals that normally cost $15 per person would cost $12 per person.  A bit steep, if you ask me, but more on that later.

The box was delivered when promised, and everything was properly refrigerated.  All of the ingredients are pre-portioned and labeled, and each recipe comes with a step-by-step instruction guide, with photos.

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I made the chicken dish first, on the same day I got the box, and I must admit that I was very impressed with the quality of ingredients.  All of the produce was super fresh, and the meat looked great as well.  The instructions were easy to follow – to be honest, I didn’t have to look at the directions much, as the recipe seemed very intuitive to me since I have made similar dishes on my own.  The finished product was, in fact, very very tasty.

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One of the main pluses of Plated is that there is ZERO waste in terms of food – since everything is perfectly portioned for each diner, you never run the risk of buying (and then throwing away) too much of any one ingredient.  That doesn’t matter so much for things like soy sauce and soba noodles, since they aren’t perishable, but produce is another story.  I confess that I often buy more than I need (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) and then struggle with how to use the excess.

On the other hand, though, Plated creates a lot of other waste.

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There were multiple plastic bags/bottles left over at the end of the process, and while they can be recycled, it still gave me a bit of pause.

My order came in on a Tuesday, and I intentionally waited until Sunday to make the second dish.  To my (pleasant) surprise, all of the ingredients survived the extra time in the fridge.  The instructions for the fish dish were just as simple, and the end result was just as tasty (even earning raves from my normally fish-averse hubby).  Unlike the chicken dish, I probably wouldn’t have cooked something like the redfish on my own.  The lemon-caper sauce in particular made me think, “Duh, why haven’t I made something like this before?”

So, would I order from Plated again?  It WAS nice not to have to deal with grocery shopping – when work is busy or when we are traveling, Plated could very well provide a nice alternative to going out or ordering take out.  However, the normal cost of $60 for two meals for two (I would never commit to a membership for something like this) seems very spendy.  My time is definitely worth something, but I’m not sure it’s worth THAT much, especially since I live on top of a Harris Teeter.

Bottom line, I think there is a huge market for Plated, and I hope they have continued success.  I think next time we order from them, I’m going to insist that my kitchen-wary husband prepare the meal – now THAT would be an experiment!

January Birchbox review January 25, 2014

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I was out of town on a business trip when my most recent Birchbox was delivered, so I was extra excited to dive into the samples.

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You can probably guess which item got sampled first – I love it when Birchbox sends chocolate goodies!  I got the honey version of the Chuao ChocoPod, and it was delicious.  I don’t think it was out of the box for 2 minutes before I had devoured it.  🙂

The only product I haven’t tried yet is the Color Club Cocktail Hour polish, in Top Shelf.  Frankly, I was a bit disappointed to see this sample – a couple of months ago, I got the On The Rocks shade, and it was fine but nothing special.  The website said that we were supposed to get a color from the Harlem Lights collection, which I would have preferred.  Oh, well.

My favorite sample was definitely the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream).

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It was such good timing to get an amazing moisturizer, since it has been colder than cold in DC lately.  This cream is very powerful, but it still manages to feel light and not greasy at all.  I loved it even before I knew that it doubles as a makeup remover!  I will definitely be buying this product when my current moisturizer runs out.  This is exactly why I adore Birchbox – you can really find your next go-to product at any moment!

The Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle was a pleasant surprise.  I thought nothing could outdo my B&B Prep spray, but this absolutely did.  It’s thicker than I was expecting, but it didn’t weigh my hair down at all.  And the smell?  AMAZING.  I’m going to continue using it and make sure I really love it before I switch, but right now I’m thinking I have a new standard.

Finally, another perfect-for-winter product – the Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for lips (yeah, the name could use some work).  This is a very thick balm, so I think I would mostly wear it overnight.  However, I am going to try it over some of my matte lipsticks to see if it adds any moisture and/or staying power.  I’m not sold on this product yet, but we shall see.

Are any of you Birchbox subscribers?  What did you think of January’s selections?