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).
dsc04746 Happy birthday mom!
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

{Weekend Fun} Hiking and Racing (sort of)

Our holiday weekend started off Friday night with a movie on a couch and a summer staple for dinner: okra/tomato/andouille/onion saute, which is just as simple as it sounds!0823151745

Saturday was the perfect blend of activity/ in-activity – a long run followed by an afternoon at the movie theaters! Reclining leather seats + soda + hot dog  = heaven.  We watched Now You See Me 2, which was just as entertaining as the first one.  It’s a fun blend of illusion and danger, and I didn’t feel stressed because I knew the good guys would prevail in the end (don’t they usually? haha).

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Source: WeLiveEntertainment.com

On Sunday, I got up at 5:10 AM (yup, it was rough) for a 5 mile run – surprisingly, not too rough given my long run the day before, and soo awesome to have the paths to myself.  Afterwards, I got ready for our next activity – a hike! Vivian, Bell and I had such a good time hiking in Shenandoah National Park a few weeks ago that we decided to go again this weekend, accompanied by Mike and another friend Edna.  I picked the 4-mile, moderately strenuous Rose River Run Loop, which goes by several streams and nice waterfalls.  The weather forecast called for rain, but it turned out to be cloudy and cool – perfect hiking weather!

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Loved this picture of Bell with her adorable dog

0703161025a_HDR9049The hike was fairly easy on the way down, if a little steep – but we paid for all the declines with the constant climb in the second half.  The trail took us about 2.5 hrs including photo/water stops.  I was definitely sweating by the end – great cross-training :) Can’t wait to go back!

We stopped in Sperryville on the way back for a burger at the Thornton River Grille, some antique-browsing and a quick visit to our favorite distillery – Copper Fox.

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This burger was so, so good.  Juicy and flavorful, it really hit the spot after 3 hrs of hiking!

We did a taste testing at Copper Fox, and ended up getting a bottle of our favorite blue top malt whiskey – it’s aged in a port barrel, which lends the whiskey a sweet and spicy finish.  Probably my favorite whiskey right now!0703161457_HDRAfter all these activities, it’s maybe no surprise that I woke up really sore on Monday morning.  I got up at 6 AM, ate a little snack with coffee, and headed out at 7 towards Fairfax for the Freedom 5K by Potomac River Running.  The weather was cloudy, 60s and a little humid, and there was a pretty good turn-out – maybe about 5000 people? I felt great during the first mile (~8:45), but started to quickly fade in the second mile, thanks to the humidity and my super tired legs.  It didn’t take me long to decide that I didn’t want to finish – I knew I could have done it, but I knew each mile would have been slower and more painful than the last.  I turned around and walked back with no regrets; I’ll do another 5K race or timed run in a few weeks and maybe not hike 3 hours and run 5 miles the day before…  Also, I would have missed this beautiful pond, which I passed on the way back!0704160818_HDRNo BBQ in the evening, sadly – it was rainy and dreary, so we opted for a cheese and wine night and a relaxing evening together :)IMG_20160704_173618

5 Things I Did in Boston

I came back from Boston yesterday morning, where I had spent the weekend to celebrate J’s bday! It was so great to see my sister and spend some time in the city I love, and we managed to pack a lot of fun into just a few days. Here’s some of the highlights:

1. Celebrated J’s bday!
Our celebration started at Takemura (sushi/Japanese/Korean restaurant) in Harvard Square, where I got to meet many of J’s awesome friends.  You know you have an interesting group of people together when the conversation includes everything from camping to philosophy to video games set in space to the unique qualities of ant communities ;) We followed up dinner with dessert and drinks at J’s place, with homemade desserts provided by J (more on that below) and an awesome bartending set-up by several of her friends.  I was a big fan of the grapefruit sage paloma!DSC04674 DSC04676 DSC04679

2. Ate at some new-to-me restaurants
Cambridge/Boston has has a thriving restaurant scene, and I love to try a few new places each time I visit.  Chicken cobb salad from Cafe Luna, Chinese BBQ pork banh mi sandwich and ginger lemonade from Bon Me, awesome pancakes with Greek yogurt and jam from Cafe Tatte, and (unpictured) mango chicken from Four Seasons Table – not a bad meal in the lot! I especially want to go back to try some of the other sandwiches and soba noodle salad from Bon Me – I’m a sucker for their sweet/spicy/salty flavor combinations.

I also cooked for J and her friends one night! Super easy Korean menu with cold buckwheat noodles, pre-marinated meat, a spicy/crunchy salad, and a few pre-made side dishes.DSC04682

3. Made homemade cream puffs
Okay, so J did the baking but I helped fill the shells (and provide moral support) :D After baking the cream puffs and letting them cool, we poked a hole in the bottom and filled them with homemade green tea whipped cream and diced strawberries.  And as if that wasn’t enough, J also made an AMAZING grapefruit custard pie.  Grapefruit theme for the evening!DSC04672 DSC04678
4. Spin classes at Turnstyle Cycle
Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was looking for fun cross-training activities in Boston and J mentioned that she had enjoyed a few classes at Turnstyle in Kendall Square (they have two other locations in Boston). At $16, the drop-in cost seemed reasonable so I signed up for a class on Saturday morning and loved it so much that I returned with J on Sunday! It’s basically SoulCycle at half the cost and none of the pretension. The studio is pretty bare bones, but the spin room has great bikes, lights, and instructors. I felt so revved up the entire 45 min and just focused on the awesome beat and motivation.


5. Boda Borg!

Boda Borg is a Swedish real-life questing environment, where you work with your team to beat physical and mental challenges within a puzzle.  At the Boston location out in Walden, there were about 16 puzzles, each comprised of  2-3 rooms (you progress from one to the next as you beat a room and unlock the next).  Once you enter a room, you aren’t given specific instructions, just maybe a hint or two, so you have to figure out what it takes to unlock a room and then accomplish the task with your team.  I went with J and her friend Andrew and we had a blast! I was a little nervous that it might be too easy or too hard, but they definitely weren’t too easy, and the more times we re-attempted a room, the more we got the hang of it.  But in the 4 hours we spent there, we still only unlocked 1 puzzle (but tried about 10 different puzzles multiple times) ;) It isn’t as frustrating as it might sound – we had a great time discussing various strategies we might employ and encouraging each other inside the rooms – such a great team-building activity!

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Source: Boda Borg

That sums up the highlights from the weekend.  Happy, happy birthday to my incredibly talented, kind and beautiful sister J!

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