Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!!

I am very happy to wish you a merry Christmas from a cozy seat in my sister's home.  My mom and I made a sneak attack on Huntersville, NC last night in order to bring something very special to a wonderful little girl.  It was the funniest Christmas Eve I've ever had and I'm not sure I'll have one quite like it again.  Sadly, we were detected, but not by my niece, so it didn't take away from the "Santa Magic" we made happen in the yard.  It was absolutely priceless to hear that sweet two-year-old tell us about the amazing things Santa did for her.  "He's a nice guy like my Daddy!"

The beautiful neighborhood of Birkdale Village offers a lot of amenities, including walking trails.  We decided to take advantage of both the trails and the sunshine while I tested my newly downloaded app, Map My Run.  How did I not know about this awesome app?  It's free and follows my routes with terrifying accuracy.  I guess "Big Brother" will be watching, but that's okay as long as I can track the distance of my route, calories burned, and elevation changes.  Worth it!

Two great things about this picture... 1) My mom's shadow: we're professionals here.  2) My "fat", pregnant sister.  Yeah... that's 23 weeks in.

We covered 3.4 miles and we'll probably do something similar tomorrow before I drive home.  I'm always sad to leave this place; it has everything.  Well, not everything.  One thing Birkdale Village doesn't have right now?  My super husband.  He's back in The RVA (Richmond, Virginia for y'all out of staters) working, hanging out with the dogs, and celebrating another year of greatness.

For Brian's birthday, he just wanted to go for a hike in nice weather and bookend that hike with good meals.  Yep, he's easy to please( #luckygirl).

We started with breakfast in Hopewell, VA at a small place "downtown" called Carter's Courthouse Cafe.  It was quaint and well-priced, but don't go there if you're in a hurry.  It's the quintessential "Mom & Pop" restaurant with a very homey feel.  They also have a food challenge Brian wants to complete on a day we don't plan to hike: 16 oz Porterhouse, 3 giant pancakes, eggs, and some other stuff in 30 minutes.  Complete the challenge and you get the meal for free. I'm not sure why he feels the need to do that, but I'll go along with him.

From there, we took Route 10 east to Surry for our hike at Hog Island Wildlife Preserve.  The only problem?  It was Saturday and, unbeknownst to us, the area is only open to hiking on Sunday.  So, like the good scouts we are, we had to improvise.  Luckily, we were only three miles from another hike on our list so we turned around, reset the GPS and headed over to Chippokes Plantation State Park.  We had only planned to walk 3.8 miles and this one was listed at 5, but we were okay with the distance.  We were somewhat concerned about the timing of the hike because we had plans for that evening, but we decided to go for it.  We should have stuck to the trail.

When will my husband learn not to follow my lead?  Our map gave us accurate distances and expectations.  However, there was a "down and back" spur, 0.9 miles each way, that was super boring.  I don't do well with super boring walks, so when I saw a trail sign with an alternate option, I did the math and suggested we take it.  From my calculations, the new route would be 0.1 mile longer than the one we were on and would offer new sights.  There is NO WAY that trail sign was correct and that was before I had my sweet mapping app.  We felt like it would never end.  The walking wasn't difficult, it just never stopped and never got anymore exciting than the other path.  Shouldn't I know better by now?

We finally made it to the connection with our original route and things got back on track.  Sadly, the last mile of that track was on a sandy beach along the James River.  Yes, it was beautiful.  No, walking on sand for mile #5 (we guess) is not fun.  And, once again, it just wouldn't end.  Plus, the park administration should really organize a beach clean up; it was pretty trashy in spots.  However, for the second hike in a row, I got to see sights I'm only used to seeing in South Carolina.  I didn't know these trees existed in our area of Virginia and I love them.  Plus, the afternoon sunlight was perfect for pictures.

By the time we got back to the car, it was five o'clock and too late to do all the things we'd hoped to fit into the day.  But, we felt accomplished and stopped at El Patron in Chester, VA for a great dinner.  Have you ever been too tired to drink at a Mexican restaurant?  I have, and it was sad.  I guess that's a sign of a good workout?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Apologies

I know, I know...  But, it's a busy time of year, right?  Plus, I'm doing so much walking that I don't want to do anything when I get home except slump into the couch.  So, I grudgingly write this update.

To begin, I have a recipe you must try.  I got this from Everyday Paleo by Sarah Ferguson.  If you are interested in trying the Paleo Diet, but want more info and some interesting recipes to avoid the "meat, veggies, fruit, repeat," this is a great read.  I made this the other night and ended up eating the whole pan (not recommended).

Savory Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400
Peel and cube sweet potatoes to cover bottom of a 9x13 baking dish (typically 3 spuds)
Sprinkle potatoes with 1 tsp sea salt, 2 Tbsp dried basil, and 4 minced garlic cloves
Melt 3 Tbsp coconut oil and drizzle over potatoes (it doesn't taste like coconut)
Bake 30-45 minutes until browning, depending on size of  cubes.

Now for the walking... and walking, and walking, and walking.

I'm proud to report that I've made progress!  I'm now doing three miles 3-4 days a week after work.  Any teachers out there should understand how difficult it is to do that much walking after a day in the classroom.  I'm not quite sure what will happen after Winter Break when I need to bump up to four miles.  It will probably be getting dark by the time I finish (I can NOT do it before school) and I don't know how I'll make it that far or where I'll walk.  Then again, I wasn't sure how three miles would go and I rocked that while maintaining my slow, but steady, pace.  

In order to mix up the sights and sounds of these jaunts, I'm trying to visit local parks.  So, I did a short, 1.3 mile walk last week at Rockwood Park.  If you are in Chesterfield County, VA and haven't utilized the trails there, you need to get on it.  They've put a lot of work in recently and your tax dollars are paying for it, so get over there.  The main trail is paved and, while shortish, is intense.  I was so proud of myself for completing it at the same pace as I do my daily, basically flat walks.  The fact that it was freezing probably helped keep me moving.  I plan to combine two trails there on Thursday to get my three miles.

The hike this weekend was at Westmoreland State Park.  What a gorgeous place!  It's a National Historic Landmark and we enjoyed the views so much, we're planning to rent a cabin there sometime in the spring.  We're excited to explore the trails we missed and the fossil beach.  That's right, I'm a nerd.  What of it?
Anyway... I feel like I can best tell the story of this hike through pictures.  Keep in mind, we did this hike the day after our part of Virginia received roughly an inch of rain.  It was muddy in spots and slick almost everywhere due to the layer of leaves over the muck.  Think about that when you look at the first picture.  

It started flat enough.  Then we went down, and down, and down.  I may have slipped a few times, but always caught myself before death and destruction ensued.

Next, we crossed over a marsh and through a dead, forested area reminiscent of something from The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland.  Pictures simply cannot do this part justice.  It was fascinating.

Down a boardwalk, to the observation tower.  This made the slipping and sliding so worth it and reminded me of good times on the sea islands of South Carolina.  I had no idea the Potomac River looked like this away from civilization; it's just beautiful.

Feeling refreshed from our break, we continued down the boardwalk.  Here, it got REALLY muddy, but we surged ahead.  Obviously, on hikes, what goes down must go up, and up, and up.  Oh my gosh, did we hike up.

Ummm...yeah.  I don't think this needs a caption.

Here's a fun fact.  That hill came after a steep set of 87 stairs.  That's right, my husband counted the stairs.  When he told me how many there were, I thought maybe he was just picking a random number for sarcasm (I do that a lot).  I married a man who does not exaggerate numbers.  His response to my query about counting stairs?  "I had to do something!"  Apparently, while he is typically ahead of me, he is just as pissy about the inclines and climbs as I am.

After all that climbing, I was still in good spirits.  And then I got to the top of that ridge and saw this...

I broke.  It was just for a minute, but I did.  I truly thought, "That's it, I'm done."  And then laughed at myself.  What was I going to do, have Brian carry me up the stairs?  Call the local EMT?  Medi-Vac?  I haven't reached that level of desperation.  Plus, Brian yelled down, "Hey!  There's a bench up here."  So, I took these stairs much like I expect to take Day 3 of the Komen; just putting one foot in front of the other #3DayWalk.  I rested on each landing and plopped my butt right on the bench at the top to guzzle some water.  

Thankfully, it was smooth sailing for about the next mile back to the car.  And, you know what?  We want to do it again!  That's the sign of a great hike.  It had decent distance (3.6 miles - not too short or too long), beautiful views, and crazy topography to make for a serious workout.  Recommended!!

Also recommended?  Our breakfast stop for the day!  If you have the chance, hit up Sunday brunch at O'Banks Cafe & Grill in Ashland, VA. This was the best omelet I've had in a long time and every dish is served with fresh fruit.  Don't let the shopping center environment deter you, it is lovely.  O'Banks also has a great lunch/dinner menu, a long list of craft beers, and a hearty bourbon menu.  We will definitely make the drive for dinner and drinks sometime soon.  Check it out @O'BanksCafe&Grill, on any form of social media (they really put it out there) or I'm just glad I found it by checking Yelp for breakfast restaurants near Ashland because neither of us had ever heard of the spot.  I love that Brian wants to explore these places with me!!

Yeah, that's hot.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Glorious Relaxation

Has there ever been anything more luxurious than a HOT, steaming shower after a LONG, crappy day?

Now, don't get your panties all in a bunch.  I'm not talking about anything dirty here.  I'm actually talking about a shower to cleanse oneself.

Due to unfortunate circumstances, I was unable to shower this morning, making me quite the funky-monkey for my school day. Sorry kids!!  Then, I attended a faculty meeting, walked a mile, and tutored for an hour before an AWFUL drive home.  What is up with the traffic out there???  It took me about 50 minutes to make a 30 minute commute and my windshield was hit multiple times by rocks coming from a dump truck.  Infuriating, right?  So, I wanted nothing more than to crawl under the covers with all the animales and snuggle/sleep until morning.  I was even willing to give up dinner for some blissful ambivalence to the world.

But, no!  I told myself, "Self, get your stinky arse in the shower right now!  After that, you have to prepare for tomorrow.  Then, and only then, may you climb into bed."

"Okay, fine," I said.  I can be so bossy!

Well, it ended up being the best decision of my day.  I walked out of that bathroom rejuvenated, ready to make dinner, and even (possibly) deal with some laundry.

So... My advice to you for when/if you have a stinky day (literally or figuratively) is this...  When you get home, before you do ANYTHING else, shove your pets, kids, spouses aside and have this lovely "me" time.  Use the good shampoo and lather, rinse, repeat.  Shave with the five blade razor: smoother = happier.  And, break out the fancy face scrub; you know you have it somewhere.  You'll leave that shower a new woman (or man - you guys need to exfoliate too!)  Trust me, especially if you're a morning showerer, this will give you a second wind.  I mean, LOOK at this; I typed a whole blog because I feel so good.  Do yourself a favor and use this cheap, at home, relaxation method.


P.S.  I did hike over the weekend.  It was boring; not much else to say.