Weekend Fun: Billy Goat Trail

I’m back! I had a really intense couple of months at work, but it all ended on Sept 14 :) I spent the afternoon giving blood for the first time.IMG_20170914_150337

I had wanted to give blood before, but I didn’t meet the weight limits until a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t comfortably over the limit until last year.  One of the benefits of gaining weight, lol. The process was surprisingly fast (about 5 min?) and not terribly uncomfortable – definitely bearable, especially given the fact that my blood could save up to three lives! The Red Cross workers/ volunteers were so kind, and they had awesome snacks in the break area for afterwards.

I took Friday off and spent the morning hiking the Billy Goat Trail (A and B) in Great Falls Park.

It was a gorgeous hike, with lots of rock scrambling! I exercised some caution and brought along my mace just in case (for bears or bad dudes), but I felt pretty safe the whole time.  I started at the top of Billy Goat A, went on to finish Billy Goat B, then crossed to the Berma Road for an easy return back.  It was about 7.5 miles round-trip and took me about 4 hours with some short water breaks.

I was so hungry afterwards and craving meat, so I headed down to Annandale for some korean BBQ at Honey Pig.  I got a whole order of galbi for myself and it was amazing.  The ladies gave me extra side dishes for free because they thought I was a starving student, lol.  I waited till the end to let them know I was 30 years old, haha.

The rest of the weekend was pretty restful – I got a massage later that afternoon, church small group started up again, and I was laid up with a cold the rest of the weekend =\ Thankfully I’m feeling better now and ready for some new adventures this week!

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Life Lately

I’m still alive!

I know I haven’t blogged in a while – I started a new job (my first job change since 2008!) and my commute went from 10 minutes to 1 hour. The good news is that I really love my new job, and I’ve been fine with the commute thanks to audiobooks I’ve been borrowing from the library. And surprisingly, I’ve grown to love driving – so weird, I would have done anything to avoid having to drive just a few months ago.  Anyway, here’s a few things we’ve been up to lately!

We bought a new (used) car! After tons of research and visits to multiple dealerships, we ended up with a great RAV4.  It’s the car I use to commute everyday, and I’ve come to love driving it.

Lots of delicious home-cooked food, thanks to Mike’s new obsession with sous vide cooking, which is a method that uses a water bath to cook food to a precise temperature.  It’s super time-consuming, but all the meats he’s made have come out perfectly cooked.  My favorite dish so far has been the Asian pork belly buns (top right below).

We went skiing a few weeks ago! Well, sort of – Mike’s coworkers planned a trip to Deep Creek months ago, but the weather has been so freakishly warm here that there was no snow, lol.  No matter, we went hiking instead :)

More food – we discovered UberEATS.  Boru Ramen delivered within 35 minutes to our condo.  I might never leave the house again.

And finally…more food.  We went to Bad Saint in February, a Filipino restaurant that’s gotten tons of buzz in DC.  It also doesn’t take any reservations, so we showed up at 3:30 PM on a Saturday, waited two hours and just barely got into the first seating.  Whew! How was it? Honestly, I’d describe the food as interesting, but any given weekend, I’d rather be eating the bowl of ramen above ;)

On the training front, things were going great – until I injured my left Achilles on a long run about two months ago. Wah wah. I DNSed the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half last weekend, and I won’t be running Reston in April.  But honestly, I’ve actually been happy doing lots of cross-training, especially now that the weather has finally gotten cold around here.  I’ll talk about what I’ve been doing to stay in shape (and balance out all the eating) next week!

Christmas in Richmond + Temecula

We’ve had a great winter holiday week, sandwiched by a weekend in Richmond over Christmas and now a late Christmas celebration with Mike’s family in southern California! I haven’t been great at remembering to take pictures, but here are a few from our celebrations :)

First Richmond with my family, where highlights included a candlelight Christmas Eve service, gingerbread cookie decorating, Christmas dinner at a random Japanese restaurant (what happens when you don’t make reservations and don’t feel like cooking, lol), and secret santa gifts.

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My Elvis cookie!

dsc04793 We stopped by the Jefferson Hotel, which had a gorgeously decorated lobby! No drinks though – they were really packed on Christmas day. 1225161718_hdrThis was our first year doing Secret Santa, and the results were seriously hilarious.  My brother bought me a single hand towel (I asked for a pair), and my mom ignored the price range completely and bought J a designer bag.  It’s okay T, you can buy me the other hand towel for Christmas next year ;)richmond-collageAnd now we’re in SoCal celebrating a late Christmas and New Years with Mike’s family! Our family has grown to the point that we don’t fit in his parents’ two bedroom condo anymore, so we’ve started a tradition of renting an airbnb with room for all eight of us.  This year, we found a lovely house in Temecula with lots of fun activities nearby; we took an archery lesson, checked out a brewery, opened presents, and ate – a lot.  temecula-collage dsc04798I’m managing to get in a few miles while we’re here too – we went for a run together this morning, and I’m hoping to get in two more runs before we leave – a long run tomorrow and a recovery run on Sunday.  I’ll check back in next week with a training log update – I have two weeks of marathon training under my belt already!

Life Lately

Whew, I can’t believe it’s November already! Our last few weekends were much busier than usual, starting in mid October. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:

BBQ and hiking with our small group at Great Falls – true to form, we spent 99% of the time eating and 1% of time on the hike, haha. In fact, Mike and I had to leave early for a co-worker’s birthday party and we didn’t make it on the short hike to the falls at all =\
image1We made up for the next weekend though – my mom came up for her birthday, so we headed to Shenandoah National Park to hike the short and easy Stony Man trail! I underestimated how cold it would be – it was 60s in Alexandria, but closer to 40 up in the mountains. And so windy (hence the crazy hair, lol).
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dsc04742And just a few days later, our good friends Alex and Lexi came to stay. They had a wedding the following weekend, and spent a few days with us :) Always have such a good time with these two.14900454_10104579739352481_6026810513841415406_nAlex requested Toki for one dinner – oh well, if you insist ;)1027161729_hdr It had been way too long since I got to eat this bowl of deliciousness. I think we’ll be back soon, especially since they now do reservations on weekdays. 1027161745_hdr This past weekend, our friend Christina came to town, so we met up at Rustico for brunch! So fun to be back together with a bunch of MIT alums again. My burger hit the spot after an 8 mile run that morning.1029161201b_hdr-1 We left brunch and headed directly to Maryland to cook dinner for three families with our small group – we auctioned this dinner off as a service item during a church fundraising event! Our chef-in-charge planned a fancy 5-course dinner for the adults, starting with tuna tartare, then salad, beef bourguignon, chicken piccata, and passionfruit tart. It was a ton of work, even with the ten people we had prepping, but also a lot of fun.img_6263
I’ll be back with more run chat next week – truth be told, we’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to train, and I finally made the decision last week to push off my race till next year. I’m still running, but I’ve backed off my mileage and am doing more cross-training to gain more overall fitness. I’m a little disappointed, but I ran a half with minimal training last year and have no desire to repeat that experience, lol. I’ll be back at the starting line next year!

Life Lately

Hey friends! I’ve been a bit absent on the blog front for a while, mostly because life has been busy and running has taken a bit of a back seat.  I thought I’d talk about what’s been going on around here lately, and provide an update on the running front.

1. We went to Disney! I had such a great time at Disney with my two friends a few years ago, and I really wanted to take Mike (he’s been to Disney Land but not World). When we saw that the Epcot Food and Wine festival coincided with a good deal on rooms this year, we booked our trip! We had an awesome time at all 4 parks, ate a ton of food, watched all the shows, and rode our favorite rides. I only wish it had been about 20 degrees cooler ;)0915161417_hdr

2. We celebrated Mike’s 30th bday! Our trip was also just a few days before Mike’s birthday, so we celebrated at Morimoto’s new restaurant in Disney Springs one night. To be honest, I thought our sushi platter was over-priced and sub-par (supermarket quality), but the cooked dishes (lobster chow fun and crispy branzino) and desserts were excellent. I keep telling Mike he’s my “older man” now (I’m about 7 months from 30 ;)0918161925_hdr

3. Lucy is doing fine. Despite the fact she might have lung cancer, Lucy seems to be doing well right now! I’m feeding her extra kibble and pumpkin to fatten her up a little, and I also ordered this L-lysine supplement that’s supposed to help with eye and respiratory function (she wheezes every once in a while). I can’t tell if the supplement is doing anything, but she LOVES it.

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Source: inclover.com

4. I love my class this semester. I’m pursuing an Operations Research masters at GMU, and was really dreading my fall class (Discrete Systems Modeling) and even considering dropping it because 60% of the grade is from a semester-long group project and I have lingering group-project-trauma from my middle/high school days.  But I got over my anxiety and found two great partners for my group! The class is also really fun because we’re learning to use a modeling software. So happy I sucked it up and didn’t drop the class.

5. Church small group has started. After a break for the summer, we’re meeting every Friday night with our church small group again. I really like the people in the group and want to be more involved this year, so I volunteered myself (and Mike) to be activity coordinators for the group! It’s not a lot of work – we just have to pick and schedule 2-3 activities a semester for group bonding time. So far, we’re thinking hiking, bowling, and dimsum!

6. My sleep is suffering again. After a couple of months of stellar sleep, my insomnia came back. After a couple of weeks of reaching for the ambien or nyquil every night, I finally bit the bullet this week and increased my thyroid meds. It took a few days, but I slept about 10 hours last night with no sleep meds, so I’m hoping this new dose is it.

7. I haven’t been running much. With all the above, my motivation for running has been really low. I decided to drop Richmond to a half marathon, and will be running 4-5 days a week instead of 6. This gives me time to do more cross training and/or sleep in until I feel 100%. I think my full marathon days may be behind me for a while, until I decide I’m really ready for the commitment and pain. Honestly, I’m more than okay with that and am excited to rock the half marathon distance this fall!

Lucy

This is my cat Lucy.DSC02835.JPG

In the fall of 2009, we went to the animal shelter to find a companion for our first cat Buster. While we saw several nice cats, my decision was made for me when Lucy walked into the room, promptly jumped onto my lap, and started purring. She’s been my cat ever since – following me around from room to room and sitting on my lap when I’m at my desk, on the couch, or even at the dinner table.  She got used to Mike and loves him too, but from day 1, she’s been my cat.0119150723.jpg

On a Thursday night two weeks ago, we made an impromptu decision to take her to the vet because she had been throwing up more than usual and had lost a bit of weight. I figured that she was developing a sensitive stomach as an older cat and thought the vet would tell us to feed her a different type of kibble. The vet took a few xrays and did some bloodwork to see if she could determine what was going on. She brought us back to the labwork area later that evening to point out a light-colored mass in Lucy’s lungs, and asked to send it to a radiologist for a diagnosis.

Friday afternoon, the vet called me with the one word you never you want to hear: cancer.

I was a mess for the next couple of days, and even took a little time off work because I couldn’t hold it together.  I stopped running because I couldn’t muster the energy and spent time cuddling her on the couch instead (she quickly got tired of all the attention, lol).  The truth is, I know Lucy is an animal and I’ve dealt with loss and grief on a far bigger scale – but somehow the loss of a beloved pet who’s been my companion for most of my 20s (and who’s been a comfort during some of the toughest periods of my life) is incredibly difficult to face.  1219151419a.jpg

We’ve decided not to pursue treatment (there’s also a slim chance it’s not cancer, but we won’t know without more expensive tests) and just keep her comfortable and happy as long as we can, especially since she looks quite healthy right now.  I’m also going to stop grieving her (in the words of Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet!”) and enjoy her company as long as I can.1124142122~2.jpg

I’ll be back with more #runchat next week, but this has been what’s on my heart and mind for the last couple of weeks.  Thanks for letting me share.

Pineapple and Pearls

It’s not often that a restaurant/meal warrants a blog post of its own here (this is a running blog after all), but I thought our visit a few weeks ago to Pineapple and Pearls AKA P&P achieved that threshold. P&P opened earlier this year to great excitement thanks to its acclaimed chef/owner Aaron Silverman (2016 James Beard winner and chef/owner of the very popular Rose’s Luxury), strong emphasis on hospitality, and innovative cooking. There is no menu, the dishes change weekly/monthly, and you have to make a reservation in advance on their website. As part of their focus on hospitality, there’s also no check at the end of the night! You pay beforehand (flat cost, no tipping) when you make your reservation. Our waiter quipped, “It’s like uber for restaurants – when you’re done, you just leave!”

We decided to go as an early celebration for our 5th anniversary, and showed up Friday night at 5 PM with great anticipation. I’d read some of the reviews from magazines and food critics, but since the dishes change so frequently, we knew the evening would be a surprise. The next two hours included 13 courses with beverage pairings (we got 5-6 different drinks through the course of the meal).

The dining room is small and intimate, with about 30 seats and eclectic, modern Japanese-inspired decor. DSC04685Loved the view of the open kitchen!
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The dishes started coming shortly after we were seated, and each one was AMAZING and surprising. Each dish was either a play or twist on an existing version, or meant to highlight an ingredient in a new way.

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Fennel Absinthe Bonbon
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Boby Elotes (mexican street corn)
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Oysters and Vodka
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Black Pepper Pan Au Lait (bread course with strawberry preserves and butter foie)

You might be wondering, but what if I don’t like some of the ingredients/foods they use? When you make the reservation, there’s an opportunity to add notes about foods you strongly dislike or can’t eat. For me, I put down cilantro, and Mike noted squid/octopus. I was really impressed that they served us slightly different variations of dishes keeping those dislikes in mind. For example, the dish below came with a cilantro oil in Mike’s dish, but a basil oil in mine.

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Charred Sungold Tomatoes & Peach Broth

I’m glad I kept an open mind though – I totally forgot to note eggplant as one of my dislikes, so I was nervous when the waiter announced the dish below. Turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night! The eggplant had been pickled and diced to remove the rubbery/chewy texture and was so flavorful. I told the waiter how surprised I was to enjoy it, and he confessed that he was an eggplant hater too, but also loved this dish ;)

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Fairy Tale Eggplant Tart
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Fluke “Veronique” – scales on the fish replaced with thinly sliced grapes!

Sweetbread – another strong dislike of mine, but I didn’t know till afterwards the chicken wings below had been stuffed with them! They lended so much juiciness and flavor to the chicken, and the watermelon hot sauce was TO.DIE.FOR. This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

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Sweetbread Stuffed Chicken Wing
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Summer Red Curry & Coconut Rice – the broth is being infused
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Same dish as above – served with seafood and rice!

We were so full by the time the dessert courses started – we couldn’t eat more than a small bite of each, and I wish we could have taken a two hour break or so to enjoy these better! So much creativity went into each dish.

Blueberry Shortcake & Brillat-Savarin
Blueberry Shortcake & Brillat-Savarin
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Coffee Kakigori – shaved ice

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Roasted Fig Crostata and Sundae Bar (3 types of ice cream with toppings in background)

A little surprise at the end, with rainbow cake and pistachio ice cream!
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The only thing I could have wished for was more cocktails during the meal – we got several interesting wines and beer (probably some very expensive ones too), but I’m a cocktail/ bourbon girl all the way. They did serve one cocktail about 2/3 of the way through – the pea shoot concoction below – and it blew my mind! The muddled peas added such a fresh, sweet and unusual flavor.DSC04712
At the end of the meal, the chef gave us a lovely surprise – doggie bags with pistachio shortbread and coffee for the next morning, along with a note from the chef and a printout of the menu from the night. Such a nice way to carry the magic into the next day! DSC04730
I can honestly say that night was the most fun I’ve had at a high class restaurant. The dinner felt far from stuffy – we were relaxing on the pillows placed throughout the dining room and enjoying chatting to the staff. You can tell that they genuinely enjoy working there – the restaurant is one of the few that is only open on weekdays to allow their staff to take the weekend off, and everyone is paid a salary (instead of relying on customers’ tips). The server told me that no one has left from the day they opened, which is rare in the high-turnover restaurant industry. Such an awesome place to celebrate our 5th anniversary – thanks P&P! DSC04683