July 31, 2015


Back on my Very First Ever date with Chris, he asked what my weekend plans were. "Oh, I'm headed to Chicago," I answered. "What for?" he asked, completely reasonably, but I flew into a small internal panic. Because I was going for BlogHer, which I was very excited about, and it wasn't a secret or anything, but this was a first date and it had been going very well up until that point, but not everyone *gets* blogging - especially not back in 2009! - so announcing that not only was I a blogger, but the kind of blogger who attends conferences about blogging seemed like it might be a little much on a first date. Yet on the other hand, I am a terrible, terrible liar.

"...ah.. for, um, a blogging conference," I muttered/replied, internally wincing.

Chris, to his credit, took it in stride. And aside from a few follow up questions - presumably to suss out exactly HOW crazy a person who goes to blogging conferences might be - let the date continue on as if I was mostly normal. (I later learned he really did think it was VERY VERY WEIRD, and had Concerns, but luckily I must have charmed myself past those on subsequent dates. I like to tell myself that anyway.)

ANYhoodles. I was reminded of that incident this weekend, because I found myself back in Chicago for my brother- and sister-in-law's baby shower, and I used my time there to try and meet up with every possible person I know in town... virtually all of whom I met through the internet, and many of whom I met up with back at that 2009 BlogHer.

My first stop upon landing was scooting downtown - because even though @pseudostoops had like 3 other lunches to attend, and was leaving straight from work to catch a flight, she STILL made time to meet me for lunch because she is extremely lovely.

The next day was pretty epic, in terms of meeting up with internet friends. I started with Dasi (or is everyone doing real life names now that hardly anyone still has a blog?) who - and I just went back through all the comments on my blog to verify this - I have "known" through blogging since TWO THOUSAND AND FIVE, and I *think* met in person for the first time in 2008. (Oh! Yes, indeed 2008 it was, and turns out I could have just referenced this post recapping that 2008 meeting for another all-caps exclamation of how long we have blog-known each other.)

This is obviously a turrible picture, but pretend I am not this bad at phone selfies, if you would be so kind.

We had a totally fabulous breakfast, where I only once threw my arms violently into our waiter while he was attempting to set drinks for me down on the table. Am very good at restaurants.

D, I am going to need an update on the dating situation, stat.

Next up was lunch at the best-named-restaurant ever, the Slurping Turtle, with a special guest appearance by Melissa, who remains as pocket-sized and adorable as the first time I met her.

I am like 4 feet taller than her. The first picture was even MORE awkward as a result, which I realize is hard to believe.
Then, interesting fun fact that I just learned last weekend: happy hours have been banned in Chicago since 1989. I KNOW! What kind of tyranny is that?! But right before we arrived - like, just in June - this ban was lifted, I can only assume with accompanying angelic fanfare, etc. 

Or, you know, accompanied by SUPER INSANE HAPPY HOURS to celebrate, like the one I hustled my butt to at the Godfrey Hotel, where for one hour Veuve Cliquot Rosé was $0.89 a glass. 

The silliest bar total ever.
And THEN look who trekked all the way over to meet me because they are also lovely? (I am sensing a theme, Chicagoans. Why you so lovely all the time?)

Kristin and Sara! Best happy hour!

It was SUCH a fabulous weekend. I also got to fit in a visit with some college friends I haven't seen in nearly a decade - and their two children! which they now have! - as well as eat and drink at some of the most fantastic venues with my in laws. (Little Goat Diner, Sunda, The Aviary... all so very, very good.)

Chicago never stops being awesome. And filled with awesome folks. The two may be connected.

July 21, 2015

It's been a while since I posted a nice embarrassing story about myself

Back in October, after a long and wonderful 12 years, I bid farewell to my much loved and faithful 2001 Honda Civic and bought a brand spanking new Honda CR-V.

I had been resisting the upgrade, because a) I loved my Honda, b) it had been completely paid off for years, and no car payment is niiiiice, and c) there was nothing *technically* wrong with it, despite the fact that it had earned the nickname "Hobo Wagon" due to its rapidly deteriorating aesthetic appearance.

And then I spun out across 4 lanes of traffic on a highway during rush hour. Which, you know, not exactly my car's fault, but did indicate I needed new tires... and I wasn't sure the value of the car was more than a full set of tires.

And then a piece of my car literally FELL OFF in a carwash.

The jig was up. I capitulated and let my civic go to the great car farm in the sky.

And I actually love my CR-V! It is a great little mini-SUV and I am super pleased with the upgrade. The only problem is it appears that about 1 out of every 5 people in this region felt the same way, because this car is evvvverrryyyywhere. Any time I look around me I can spot like 5 other CR-Vs within a 100 yard radius. Which, I mean, isn't really a PROBLEM per se.

Unless you are me! Naturally!

Yesterday I was coming out of a store and sauntered up to my car, which was sitting exactly where I'd left it in the parking lot, as it should be. I did the little remote clicky thing to unlock my doors when I was about 20 feet away (sidebar: HOW GREAT is that little remote clicky thing!!? I had a REALLY OLD car for a REALLY LONG time. The upgrades that, like, every other car now has? They continue to delight me on a daily basis!).

Anyway. I get to my car, open it up, and start to get in... when I notice some rags tucked under the seat. I could not for the life of me figure out what they were from or when they would have gotten there. I hadn't gotten the car washed recently... I definitely hadn't put them there myself... was it possible they'd been there since I bought it and they had just slipped out from under the seat now....?

And actually... why was there a glasses case in the cup holder? Covered in leopard print...?


As panic started to rise with this realization, I went to quickly close the door and back away... but before I could even get the door shut a woman appeared next to me and cheerfully commented "I think that's my car!"

At this point I basically died on the spot. You are hearing this recap from my ghost, because I melted into the pavement from sheer mortification and ceased to be.

"I think your car is, like, three down from here," she continued kindly. "I totally thought yours was mine first, too!"

"q987hwf;m 8i7ey0kdn loiasueugyqe," I stammered, turning what I can only imagine was a truly impressive shade of magenta.

"We both have good taste in cars!" she joked.


To sum up, it might be wise for me to slap some obnoxious bumper sticker or something on my car to make it stand out in a crowd.

July 16, 2015

Summer days, boozin' away

It's been such a busy summer already! We've been out of town nearly every weekend so far - and the weekends for the foreseeable future all look about the same - but it's always doing pretty fabulous things so I'm not complaining.

Shall we have a picture round up? Let's have a picture round up! I've put my photos in collages to make it seem like I have fewer, but it will not fool anyone!

So, back in June, our friends in Maryland organized a MD Beer (and Mead!) Crawl as a brilliant way to lure us into their state.

We started at a pretty small brewery called Jailbreak, which does interesting, all-natural small batch beers. They were DELICIOUS. I highly recommend.

Next up was a pretty unique stop at Charm City Meadworks. It was in the least obvious place ever - down amid the rail yards of south Baltimore, in an industrial garage next to lots of rusted out semis. You know, your normal tasting room location.

But it actually worked pretty well inside, in a bare bones kind of way, and they did a good job of keeping that space relatively cool considering it was about 200 degrees out that day. I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't love mead, though. For me it hits a similar palette as sour beers, which I similarly can't seem to get into. If you're a local mead fan, though, this is a place you should for sure check out.

We rounded out our day with a favorite stand by for many of us, Heavy Seas. We got a pretty neat tour there, since one of our group is friends with an Actual Employee, so we were treated to the personalized super secret tour.

I did not take great photos that day, as we can all see. I blame the oppressive heat which apparently wilted even my camera phone.

Two weeks later, we decided it was time for something thoroughly and completely different... so we drove down to Charlottesville, VA to tour cideries and vineyards with my wonderful college friend Shannon and her husband.

(Totally different, obviously. We went south instead of north, for one! And cider is SO TOTALLY not like beer, duh.)

(Actually, the reason we were at cideries in the first place is because Shannon's husband Bret is gluten intolerant, and was very very sad to have to give up beer as a result. Cider has been a welcome replacement to fill that hole in his heart liver.)

So! We started at Castle Hill Cider at 11am on the dot, when they opened, because we are dedicated to our craft. This place was AWESOME. The selection of ciders was SUPER diverse - it had both my favorite cider of the entire weekend and my least favorite that I've probably ever tried, but the quality was undeniable and the ones I loved, I LOVED.

They had a gorgeous outdoor space as well, but it was pouring rain at the time. We bought a bottle of cider anyway and sat on their porch to drink it and plan out the rest of our weekend itinerary.

Next up was a vineyard, Keswick. I hear this place also has a lovely outdoor space, but if it was pouring at Cider Hill, it was MONSOONING at Keswick. So we just scooted inside and were happy to remain at the tasting bar inside the entire time.

I am notoriously hard on Virginia wineries. They have been getting increasingly better over the ::coughcoughmumble*many*cough:: years I've lived here, but there are still some major quality and consistency issues, in my opinion. I thought Keswick was... OK. I did actually buy a bottle of their V2 white - a viognier and verdejo blend - but I just couldn't get into their reds.

By the time we got to Pippin Vineyards, the rain was stopping and our stomachs were rumbling (and some of us were getting a weeeee bit tipsy). I don't really remember the wine here because I was far more focused on putting delicious, delicious food in my gaping facehole as quickly as possible.

I succeeded in that, and holy cow was the food fantastic there. The views were also AMAZING, despite the fact that it was still completely overcast. I imagine a sunny day here is nothing short of breathtaking.

Last up (....for Saturday...) was another cidery, Albemarle CiderWorks. It's possible some of us were still a little tipsy for this one as well, but I do recall the cider here being quite nice, if generally a little on the sweeter side for me.

Interestingly, almost everything we tried the entire weekend was "dry" or "off-dry" - meaning "not at all sweet" or "just barely sweet" in cider terms - but I like my cider SUPER SUPER DRY and even the off-dry ones I generally could only enjoy in small quantities.

After Albemarle, we definitely did not go back to our hotel and drink two more bottles of cider while playing board games, then go out for dinner and further drinking.

(...Of course we did.)

The next day was GORGEOUS. Brilliant blue skies; puffy clouds; beautiful weather with almost no humidity (at least up in the hills!).  Our first stop - after the most perfect diner breakfast ever- was Bold Rock Hard Cider.

OH MY LANDS. I could have stayed here for the entire day. The set up is WONDERFUL - they have a huge, lofty tasting room, but an even larger and more expansive outdoor space that overlooks a picturesque river valley. Their cider was all on the sweet side (for me), but I didn't care at all. I would spend A LOT of time here if I lived in Charlottesville.

After peeling ourselves away from the Bold Rock patio, we switched back to wine for a stop at Flying Fox Vineyard.

So, if I don't tend to think Virginia does reds well, I tend to think they do rosés terribly. Not here! I was entirely charmed by their rosé and left with two bottles of it.

Our next stop was a bit of a dark horse - a brand new distillery that popped up in 2014 along the VA wine trail called Silverback.

YOU GUYS. It was phenomenal. I am not usually a gin person because... meh. Gin. Also I strongly dislike tonic, which seems to be the primary vehicle for consuming gin. This gin though! I tasted it straight, and I LOVED IT. They suggested pairing it with a pink lemonade, which... oh my. Yes. Go buy this and do it and let me know if it's as good as I'm imagining.

And then, to round off stop #8 in 2 days, Michael Shaps Wineworks. Their tasting room is a bit of a work in progress, but honestly you don't need a lot to keep us happy when you are also pouring many kinds of wine.

This was a favorite of friends of Shannon & Bret, and I can see why. It was not my cup of tea, but it most certainly did not taste like a Virginia wine (...which is a complement :) ).

I guess what I'm trying to say here, is find some friends and make a weekend of tasting booze. It's hard to go wrong with that plan.

OK, this post was going to cover 2 additional weekends in the wrap up, but I think we can all agree this is plennntttyyy for now. Everyone go drink some booze to celebrate making it through this post.

June 28, 2015

Orange Theory, or How To Break Your Butt

First off, can we start with a little bit of INSANELY WONDERFUL CELEBRATION?


(Hee! look what Google does to your results when you search on this topic!)

I don't have the words to do this justice. It's huge and fantastic and I admit that I am taking a teensy bit of pleasure in all of the conservative religious nuts losing their righteous little heads over this.

I love that if I have children, they will never have known a United States where gay marriage wasn't allowed.

But! Back to my intended topic: have you guys heard of Orange Theory? I went from it being completely off my radar to suddenly hearing about it all the time - I have a bunch of friends obsessed with it; I started seeing mentions of it all over my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and a sign popped up directly in front of our building letting us know one was opening across the street.

My friends who have gotten into it have been suggesting I join them for months now, because it's "super intense" and "really competitive" so it would be perfect for me, they point out.

....which made me terrified to try, because I'm pretty sure I only SEEM intense and competitive to people who, say, don't actually play ultimate frisbee. I have lots of scars and injuries from it, sure! But is that because I'm intense? Or perhaps because I'm clumsy?

(Hint: it's the second one.)

Also, my cardio has been SAAAD the last 9 months or so. In that it has been non-existent. And the problem with that is I *am* actually competitive, but only in the least useful way: I don't have the KILL KILL GO FOR IT instinct that would be useful in, say, ultimate frisbee (where I'm more likely to duck out of the way and let someone else catch a disc rather than go in for the aggressive defense) - but I *do* have the kind of competitive instinct where if I think someone is watching me, I'll continue working out far longer than I would on my own so that I don't appear lazy or weak.

Basically, I appear to be the exact target demographic for Orange Theory, which is essentially an hour of someone pushing me harder than I'd push myself, with my stats projected onto a giant board at the front of the room so everyone would be able to see if I were slacking off.

I've always enjoyed classes at the gym, like kickboxing or lifting, because I need both the shaming element ("these people who definitely don't actually care what I'm doing and are not paying any attention to me can't see me slack off! that would be so embarrassing!") and the discipline of someone else telling me what to do - on my own I do, like, 4 push ups and then decide I'm tired, and haven't I been getting sick this week? It really would be better for me to take care of my body by resting, don't I think?

(This is also why I am BEYOND THRILLED that one of my friends became a personal trainer, because she now comes to force me to work out twice a week. Right in my own house! It's the best!)

Anyway. Orange Theory takes this concept up a notch by adding a super appealing dose of gimmicky technology into the mix: everyone wears a heart rate monitor, so your heart rate and calories burned are shown on a giant screen at all times along with everyone else's in the class. The box with your name changes color depending on the percentage of your max heart rate being achieved - orange being the "push" zone, hence the name Orange Theory. You're only supposed to peak into orange or occasionally red a few times during the hour (12-24 minutes total in orange is the goal, I believe) so the workout is circuit-based, giving you time to keep bringing your heart rate down between various "sprints" on the treadmill, rowing machines, and weights/floor exercises.

Well. For some of use whose hearts are apparently weak like a 90 year old grandma, just looking at treadmills is enough to push us into the orange zone, it would appear. After class, the trainer asked how I liked the class and commented that I be aiming to get at least 12 "splat points" - aka minutes spent at 84% or more of my max heart rate.

"Uh. So is 43 good....?" I asked him, peering up at my results on the big board.

Guys, you're supposed to spend 50% of the time in the green. I spent 55% of the time trying to explode my heart. My AVERAGE heart rate during that hour was 169 bpm. On the up side, nearly murdering yourself burns a lot of calories!

I did actually love the class, though. It's all super short goals - for example, sprint 300 meters on the rowing machines, then hop off and do 10 lunges; hop back on for another 300 meters, etc. Those are PERFECT for me.

Ask me to run 5 miles and I'll give up before I finish tying my shoelaces because ARE YOU KIDDING ME that is like HOURS of running, I'm pretty sure. Give me a 30 second goal? ALL IN!

However. This willingness to push through anything for 30 seconds is not the smartest when you're not in peak physical form, as everyone else attending these classes apparently is. Do you know what one of the sprints on the treadmills was? A 90 second sprint, at TEN PERCENT INCLINE. That is basically VERTICAL UP THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN. But I did it! Because the trainer was shouting that I could do it for just a short time! Just 30 more seconds now! Don't cheat yourself! Make it count! YES I CAN DO IT MAKE IT COUNT WOOOO LOOK AT ME GO!!

Turns out that is maybe a lot for the glutes of someone who doesn't run, much less sprint, up the sides of mountains regularly. My ass was literally sore to the touch for 6 straight days because I'd jacked it up so good. It took a full week to recover and I'm still kind of scared to do anything else in case I anger my ass further.

Naturally I signed up for a membership. This shit is great.

June 22, 2015

Excellent Saturdaying: accomplished

Ahhh PMS. You can be aware that it is causing your fiery inferno feelings, and you can know those feelings are irrational, but it doesn't make you actually FEEL those feelings any less. By which I mean, last Friday's feelings were (thank jeebus) temporary and Saturday was a much better day. 

I started the day with my first ever Orange Theory class (more on that in another post!) which was a great physical and mental reset from the prior week. Then, the much awaited, much anticipated event of the summer.... Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center. (!!!) 

I decided to do a Full Head Curling Iron Experiment to celebrate the occasion. These pictures may not look like much, but DUDES. I curled ALL my hair! On my whole head! With a curling iron! I only bought my first curling iron a few months ago and this is like the 6th time I've used it. I realize my hair does not actually look curled here but I assure you, compared to regular Flatts McStringalot, this is positively bodacious. 

We made our way to Georgetown for a quick pre-dinner drink before meeting the rest of the Book of Mormon gang at Farmers Fishers Bakers for a nice 4:30pm dinner with the rest of the senior crowd. 

Derek, Jenn, and many jars  of... foodstuffs.

(Actually the place was jam packed, and not with early bird-ers. The Georgetown Waterfront has no downtime, it would appear.) 

The problem with such an early dinner time is that I didn't eat lunch after working out, since I didn't want to be full by dinner. So the drinks maaaaay have hit me a little hard as a result. 

We are classy diners.

Anyway! We made it to the Kennedy Center with time to spare, so we headed up to the roof for the views. Although the views were a bit obscured, since the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill were rolling in right around then.

I mean, obviously we took pictures anyway. At least until staff closed the roof access due to the high winds.

The show, of course, was fantastic. Hilarious and well done and wonderfully sung, especially by the woman who played Nabulungi, Candace Quarrels.

And then check this out - I can't decide whether this is delusional, ballsy, or a combination thereof. Here's the playbill... and here are pages 3, 5, and 7:

FULL PAGE ACTUAL ADS for ACTUAL MORMONISM. In the playbill for a show that does a whoooole lotta mocking of not just Mormons, but of religion in general - this is a show with an entire musical number whose chorus is "Fuck You, God," So: brilliant? Tongue in cheek? Wishful thinking? Pretty amazing, either way. 

June 19, 2015

Cheers to the freakin' weekend

I am having an unusually crabby day and mostly want everything to burn to the ground in a fiery inferno so we can all start fresh.

(Uh. This is maybe a combination of all the unbelievably terrible news this week along with my hormones, which I swear to god have been more ridiculous ever since the brief pregnancy situation earlier this year. Is this a thing? Once you get like, ONE TASTE of pregnancy hormones, it's a permanent change? I'm now someone who cries at sappy (or happy! or sad! or name an emotion!) videos, which is not particularly normal for me. It's like my hormones flared up and never came back down. I dislike it.)

Anyway. Thanks for all the input on the hair post guys! Speaking of, do you get my comments as emails when I reply? I suspect not, but I would LIKE that to be the case. Is there a way to get Blogger to do that, or is such a feat of technology reserved for Wordpress plugins only?

But back to hair. I'm still playing with it and trying various styling / product combos to see what works and what most reasonably tames my hair. Do normal people brush their hair like once an hour? Is that the secret to good hair? Because if my hair is down, there is not one thing I've ever tried (aside from fully curling it with rollers) that remains looking styled for the whole day. Hair down for me devolves into flat and stringy within hours. But perhaps multiple stealth brushings throughout the day at work is the way to go? Maybe I can hide a brush in the bathroom at work and start taking frequent bathroom breaks. Or maybe I can learn how to use hair products properly. Orrrr maybe I can accept that my hair is just not destined for greatness, which is the most likely scenario.

This weekend is packed with excellent plans and activities with lots of friends (including BOOK OF MORMON!! I've been trying to see this for years!) so I'm confident that will dislodge the large angry storm cloud that is currently hovering comically over my head. In the meantime I'll be here snarling at anyone who has the audacity to call or approach my desk for the remainder of the afternoon. Coworkers and cold sales callers, be forewarned.

June 16, 2015

Haircut results via possibly the most unflattering pictures I plan to ever post of myself

(...aside from the classics, of course)

So! I cut my hair off! And I am happy with it short!

...although I am not actually sure this is the RIGHT short haircut yet.

When I told my hair gal I was ready for a Big Change, she got excited and asked how changey she was allowed to get. I told her I would be up for a big chop, so she sent back a picture of a "lob" - a "long bob" - as a suggestion. I said I was down for that, but if we were going to cut it, let's CUT IT and take the length up past my shoulders.

So we did! And I like the length! But I don't know if bobs work for me. I have very thin, very flat hair - and while having it short certainly does help in giving it SOME body and shape - I don't think it's enough to carry a bob. I think I need layers.

Here are some incredibly alarming pictures from my apparently terrifyingly-lit bathroom of me before makeup, but after having blow dried my hair with a bit o' mousse in it (so, at absolute PEAK body and fullness potential):

That second one was after I flipped my hair upside and ran my hair through my roots for "volume."

I *almost* like it. But my hair isn't thick enough to keep that wall effect along the side of my face where it's supposed to remain untucked. I can't help tucking my hair behind my ear, and then it's back to flat against my scalp with the ends looking weird.

I next tried curling a few sections right up front, to give some extra body & break up the uniformity of the length on that side (also, put on some mascara FTLOG):

This works a little better, I think. And would (I think) be more in line with the results if I got some layers added in so that different bits were landing at different lengths rather than The Wall Of Hair That My Poor Thin Hair Cannot Maintain.

(Curling my hair every day is also a reasonable option unfortunately. BLOWDRYING my hair every day will be a stretch and a sacrifice, I assure you.)

That was a lot of words to hang-wring about maybe needing some layers. I.. apologize.

Other short-ish haired girls who tend toward flat and stringy: might I get some suggestions for products you've found to keep your hair from looking flat and sad and stringy within an hour of blowdrying and styling?

(The answer may be as simple as "hair spray"... I did not grow up using hair products and they are still sort of a mystery to me. So seriously any suggestions are welcome.)