Monday, April 29, 2013

Washington DC: Where to Drink

I never thought I'd have to do a whole post on Where to Drink, but it turns out it was that kind of vacation. On our last few vacations (Miami and Seattle) Eric has mentioned a bar visited by the guys on the TV show Drinking Made Easy. Somehow we did not make it to a DME spot in either place, so I was determined that we would while in DC. It turns out we made it to three DC Drinking Made Easy spots. Go big or go home? Yes. 


Bier Baron: Our first drinking spot was at this basement bar located in the Dupont Circle area. They have 50 beers on draft and they are all craft beers, plus they also have seemingly endless bottles of beer. 

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Tune Inn: Tune Inn is a diver bar, located near the Capitol and Library of Congress. We visited here on a Monday (not a holiday in DC) at about 11:30am so you can imagine how hilarious our experience was. We met a small group of bar owners who only have Mondays off and were celebrating a birthday, as well as a few other local people that I'm pretty sure frequent the bar on Monday mornings. Eric got a drink called The Bill Clinton shot. Somehow our time there ended with whiskey shots. I really don't even know how. If you are looking to have a hilarious Monday, I highly recommend visiting this bar. 

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Old Ebbitt Grill: I wrote about this place already because we ate dinner here. I actually didn't even have a drink by this point, but you can imagine a place frequented by presidents must have good drinks? I mean, talk about the most stressful job ever. 

POV Roof Terrace and Bar: My last Drink in DC suggestion actually comes as a recommendation from Iowa Girl Eats. As soon as I saw her blog post on this place, I knew we had to go there. It's a beautiful bar located on the top of the W hotel, right next to the White House. It's a beautiful outdoor space, complete with the best view of DC and delicious drinks. What more could you ask for? 

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Do you enjoy checking out drinking spots on vacation? Where is the best place you've ever had a drink? 


Friday, April 26, 2013

Washington DC: Where to Eat and Stay

If you missed what to do in Washington DC, go back to my last post :) 

I'm not an expert on the hotel world in DC, but from my extensive research I'd say: avoid them. They were super expensive in April and the reviews were not great. I decided to go with an apartment I found on Home Away and (airbnb is also a great place to look). I narrowed it down to 3 places based on our budget and what we were looking for (basically a whole apartment, not just a room) and then e-mailed two friends who live in DC to help me narrow down the location. They both thought the Foggy Bottom area of DC would be best for us. They were SO right. Foggy Bottom is a great location to walk to monuments, The White House, and Georgetown. Plus, the Metro was right across the street so we could use that to get to Arlington and any time we were sick of walking. Foggy Bottom also has a CVS, Whole Foods, Starbucks (many choices) and great restaurants. 

We didn't have a bad meal in DC. Here are some places I highly recommend: 

Founding Farmers: If you don't go anywhere else while in DC, I think you should go here (and get a reservation). It was recommended to me by a couple of people, and my local friend picked it out for us. It's owned by a collective of family farmers, and the local food is as good as you would expect it to be. We went there for dinner with a friend of mine, and I ordered this ridiculous fish special they were doing that night. To start we ordered the cornbread, which actually had real corn in it! 

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The next morning Eric and I went back for breakfast. I got french toast, which tasted good but my stomach was not impressed by. If I went back I'd get something with eggs. I never though eggs were something that could look amazing, but they really did. 

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Pizzeria Paradiso: I left this dinner choice up to another local friend and yet again she did not lead me wrong. There were lots of fun local beer and wine choices, and the pizza was great. They had some good happy hour specials if you get there early and eat in the bar area, definitely a good idea. 

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Old Ebbitt Grill: I chose this place myself using my online research. It's right next to the White House, and apparently a favorite of many past presidents and current political insiders, so they say! I knew it would be a bit touristy, but the reviews were good and said the prices were reasonable so we went for it. I'm glad we did. I got a ridiculously yummy crab cake dish for dinner and Eric got a steak, both of us enjoyed our meals. 

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Thai Place: Our first night in DC we arrived late, so I researched restaurants right near our apartment that I thought wouldn't be super crazy on a Saturday night at 8pm. I don't think Eric was expecting much since he asked me the name of the Thai Place and I said, "it's Thai Place" haha. Seriously though, this was a great local place and the Thai food was delicious. I had enough leftover to eat it for lunch the next day. Eric has been saying he wants to go back to DC just to eat at this place again, so I think that's a good sign! 

The last place that I think everyone should check out is Georgetown Cupcake. I had heard a lot about this place, but I actually didn't even get that it had a show about it called DC Cupcakes. I am a big fan of Cake Boss so I'm surprised I've never watched this show, but anyways. I really wanted to go and I had learned about the epic lines but luckily I can report on a Monday night we waited no more than 10 minutes. Also, the place is managed well so the line looks kind of intimidating but really they just don't allow insane numbers of people inside (unlike some famous bakeries in Boston) so it's actually a pretty low stress experience. Plus, the cupcakes are really yummy. 

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What kind of food do you like to eat on vacation? Do you prefer to stay at hotels, houses or apartments? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Washington DC: What to See & Do

Eric and I went on a quick whirlwind trip to DC early last week. DC was a favorite city of mine as a kid, and it was fun to return after a 10 year break. 

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I was determined to have a relatively relaxing few days with Eric so we did not run all over like crazy people. We did walk quite a bit and manage to see a lot in three days. 

On Day 1 we visited the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and Vietnam Memorial. There we also saw the Reflection Pool and Washington Monument. I love that unlike Caroline and I (above), Eric basically blocks the entire Washington Monument because he is so tall. Hilarious. 

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Next, we headed over the White House (about a 20 minute walk away)...

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Our final stop on our super tourist morning was the Old Post Office, located another 10 minute walk from the White House. 

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The Old Post Office has a crazy food court in the basement, but the real selling point is the view from the top. It's free to take the elevator up and it's a great view of Washington from above. Don't be intimidated by the security at the door :) 

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Our second day of touring involved checking out the Library of Congress and Capitol Building. 

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We also revisited a favorite museum of mine from childhood...

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Finally, we walked along the mall and discussed all the museums we hope to visit someday!

Our last day we headed over to Arlington to visit the cemetery and the Pentagon Memorial. Of course you know about my Massachusetts Kennedy obsession, so we had to visit his grave. We also went to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where we were lucky enough to see a guard changing. 

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The Pentagon Memorial marks my first memorial visit where I actually remember the event (I have not yet made it to Ground Zero in NYC). The memorial is really artistically interesting. Each victim, both on the plane and in the building, gets a bench and a fountain. Each row is based on the age of the victim, with the youngest being a three year old. The way that the bench faces tells you whether they were on the plane (bench facing towards the Pentagon) or in the building (bench facing outwards). 

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DC has truly ENDLESS things you could do, so I can't say any of this is better than anything else. But my goal was to see a lot and not feel crazy, and that was a goal we met :) Next time, I want to see a few more touristy things and have a chance to meet Becky!  One thing is for sure, I will not let another 10 years pass before I'm back in DC. 

What is your favorite thing to do in DC? 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Hard Class: The Silver Lining

I wrote this post last week when I thought I had already addressed the Boston situation. It turns out things got even more crazy on Friday, when total chaos happened about 10 minutes away from me, and my students were placed on lock down all day so they could be safe (at home, no school last week because we were on vacation). I'm relieved it's all over, still can't believe it really happened, and pretty nervous about how things will go tomorrow. But unfortunately, tragedy has struck many times since I started teaching and generally hanging out with 22 kindergartners is the best possible way to start to move on. I know that tomorrow when they share the best part of their vacation, there will be lots of stories of trips, play dates, and baseball games. For that, I am very thankful. Instead of going on forever about Boston, I'll just say I'm very thankful that everyone I know is okay and I'm very proud of my city, the emergency personnel has worked tirelessly to keep us safe and for that I will forever be thankful. Over the course of my life, my pride in the USA has wavered at times, but my pride in Boston has never, and will never. And now back to my regularly scheduled post, because what I have learned this week as I have learned so many times before is to keep everything in perspective.

Even if you are not a teacher, you've probably heard that some years we have great classes, and some years we have rough classes. For me, as a rule, my odd number years have been tough and my even number years have been much better. I used to say Year 3 was the hardest, but I'm telling you, Year 7 is really giving them a run for their money. And Year 7 does not like to lose, so I hope they win to avoid meltdown.

The tough classes are the ones where I can't have an off day or they will eat me alive. The tough classes are the ones where I can't do fun, exciting activities because they get too crazy and someone will probably get hurt. The tough classes are the ones where they encourage, support and enjoy each other's behavior issues. The tough classes are the ones where a lesson I have done 3 or 4 times before suddenly seems like the worst lesson ever.

But the tough classes always have a silver lining. They are always filled, overflowing with, personality. They have the wild boys, the mean girls, and absolutely everything in between. As a result, they are always hilarious. If I ever recorded all my funny stories from teaching, I would probably double the amount with a rough class that I do with a delightful class, maybe even triple. I don't know what it is, but hard kids are always funny.

Hard classes also always make progress. They can never get any worse than they are in September, and so as long as I stick to my routines and my rules, they always make progress. I've never made them into a delightful class, and they often lose that progress when the anxiety and excitement of the first grade transition looms in June, but there is progress nonetheless.

Best of all, sometimes they surprise me. This Thursday my class surprised me and had a moment where they were the most delightful of all the classes. Just a moment. Thursday morning we had a Author Signing. We have been working hard on our writing, and writing progress is by far the most amazing part of kindergarten. They go from barely writing letters to full sentences of adorable kid writing in a 10 month period. My kids were ready to show off an amazing collection of narrative writing, nonfiction books and posters and a slideshow of writing I helped them make on my iPad with an app I will never use again because it did not allow me to save or make any changes (yes, I was aware of this before I began and proceeded anyway- rookie move). As we prepared for the parents to arrive, there was a predictable meltdown, the overexcitement and there was my thought of "what was I thinking?" But miraculously, once the parents arrived, all was well in the world and we made it through with only one technology snafu that I fixed before it was noticed. The kids were happy to show off their writing and sign autographs and the parents were impressed with their child's writing. I was patting myself on the back that we had made it through without losing a kid, having anyone cry, or the most likely wrestling match showdown.

Once the parents had left and it was time for snack, one of my little girl's raised her hand. "Thank you for doing that," she said sweetly, tilting her head of beautiful red curls to the side. "Doing what?" I replied, assuming in true kindergarten form she was talking about something completely random that may or may not have occurred months earlier and was just being remembered or mentioned now. "Having the Writing Celebration!" she exclaimed. "Oh! That's so nice and polite of you to say," I responded, genuinely shocked that a child would recognize that I put any effort in at all and mentally questioning if perhaps her mom had told her to say that. "But actually, you guys did all the work, you did all that writing, it wasn't my writing!" I continued. Another child cuts in (without raising his hand, obviously), "Yeah but, you TAUGHT us how to do the writing!"

In that moment I think, maybe this is the best class I've ever had.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston, You're My Home.

I was not at the Boston Marathon on Monday. In fact, Eric and I were on a whirlwind trip to DC, so I was nowhere near the marathon. But, the flood of text messages, e-mails, and tweets I received is enough to show me just how easily I could've been. I've been to the marathon a million times, and my uncle was running it so if I was here, I definitely would've been watching it somewhere along the route. 

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I'm not going to lie. I am scared about how common it has become for there to be a crisis. I am scared that the last crisis was in an elementary school classroom and the most recent crisis was in my city. It's too close. Actually, no matter where it is, or what it is, it is still too close. 

But I am also thankful that in these terrible moments, we very clearly see the good in most people. It's easy to let a dark cloud highlight only the terrible person responsible for this. But there are so many good people, and their light is overpowering the shadow.

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I am thankful that most people are putting aside our differences, to support the people affected by these terrible events. I am thankful that even as far away as Australia, wonderful people are rooting for Boston. No matter what, I will always root for Boston. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Against the Odds

As you know, I love triathlons and I love reading. So when John Pendergrass e-mailed me and asked if I'd be willing to review his book Against the Odds, of course I responded yes immediately. In the interest of being upfront, I did get a free copy of this book to review it, but the opinions expressed are mine. Do bloggers really have to say this legally or do we just like to feel important? Let's be honest, I could totally rip the book apart and the worst thing that would happen to me is he would take his book back… which I've already read. Though it is signed, and I love signed books. Also, disclaimer number 2- I am going to pretend we are friends and refer to John as John for the rest of this post. 


The premise of John's book is that he was a pretty average guy, who just decided one day to complete an Ironman Triathlon. Then another, and another, until he decided to do six in six different continents. The book took me a few chapters to get really engrossed in. I think this was because there was a lot of history and information about the Ironman at first. I think this was probably smart on John's part, given that he had already encountered so many people who did not know what a triathlon of any distance entailed. However, as a person who knows about triathlons, I wavered between interested in some of the historical facts and ready for him to just get to the part about him. 

The parts of the book I really loved were when John talks about his own experience, particularly his stories about trying to form a training plan, starting his training, and his actual first Ironman which he did in Brazil. My favorite stories included one about a bike ride where he actually ran into a bull that had escaped wherever it was bulls are supposed to be, and another about him being hugged and kissed by Kiwi girls on the running leg of the New Zealand Ironman. I also loved the Brazilian he befriended on his long flight and his wife's reactions to all of his training and race adventures, "I hope you got it out of your system!" What I love most about John throughout the book is that he is humbly aware that what he is doing is pretty awesome, but he is also constantly having humorous self deprecating thoughts. I can tell he is one of those people who in real life can deliver a hilarious comment with a completely straight face. 

The other aspect I loved about the book was that John did these Ironman triathlons in six different continents. He integrated travel and sightseeing with his races, and so at some parts I felt like I was reading a travel memoir. After his Ironman in Brazil, he visits Rio de Janeiro and befriends a man named Eduardo, who helps him sightsee, eat local food and practice his Portuguese. John makes sure to see the sheep in New Zealand. He even has some wonderful travel adventures with his wife and daughter in Switzerland, and his daughter in South Africa. His travel adventures in China, are so great they overshadow a disappointing race. Of John's travel adventures, the only two places I have been were Arizona and New Zealand, but everywhere he went is somewhere I would love to go someday, sans Ironman triathlon. 

As far as the actual Ironman itself- I mentioned that I have a good understanding (on paper- not from experience) of what goes into an Ironman. However, what I think amazed me throughout this book was just HOW MUCH happens in an Ironman before you even consider running the marathon. A normal marathon runner tries to get some sleep the night before, wakes up in the morning, eats breakfast, gets to the race etc. An Ironman, has already swam and biked and it's probably early evening and NOW they are starting a marathon. Just the idea makes me feel a little sick. I think John does a good job capturing this experience, particularly in Switzerland where he really struggled throughout the bike course. I was actually feeling pain for him during this section, until he told a hilarious story about being given nonalcoholic beer at the end of the course, and then I was back to giggling to myself. 

There was even more to the book than I've mentioned: John went through Hurricane Katrina (he lives in Mississippi), a bad bike accident, swimming with sharks in South African waters, and a swimming collision in Arizona. Overall, this was my kind of book: triathlons and traveling. Fun to read about, not something I ever plan to do. I have a major fear of traveling with my bike, which John's story of bringing his bike to Brazil did nothing to tame :) If you are interested in any of these subjects, or just enjoy reading about inspirational people who barely even know they are inspirational, you should definitely read this book. Also, you can support John by liking his Facebook page. 

Do you enjoy reading inspirational memoirs? Would you ever do an Ironman? 


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Operation: Goodbye Clutter

As I mentioned in my April goals, I am on a total mission to eliminate clutter from my house. I wouldn't say I'm a crazy hoarder or anything, but I do like to save a lot of random things. Not even intentionally save, just throw into a bag, then into a closet, and then forget about. 

Last week, beginning on Sunday, I spent about an hour a day on this goal. Don't worry, I still went to work and continued to exercise, I swear. Some of my major accomplishments were: reorganizing my two upstairs closets so that I really know what I have (and tossing a ton of crap I had just stuffed in the bottom of the closet), reorganizing my dresser drawers for the same reason, getting rid of 3 bags of clothing, cleaning my bathroom and tossing out empty or old lotions/make up etc and donating some old books I will never read again to Good Will. 

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I thought I'd share some of the fun things I did to get rid of clutter that you might want to try. 

Sell Clothes on Twice: I usually get rid of clothes about once a year, either by giving things away to people I know or donating to Good Will. However, this time I decided to try out a company called Twice. It's an online clothing company that will buy your old clothes and it's absurdly easy. All you have to do is go to their website and request a bag, they will send it in 3 days. Fill up the bag with clothes you don't want any more. The clothes must be less than 5 years old and on their brand list- things like JCrew, Express, Gap are good- but they won't accept cheaper brands like Old Navy or Target. Then, you take your bag and drop it off at the post office or just give it to the mailman, no postage required. In a few weeks, they will e-mail you an offer for your clothes. If you accept it, you get paid immediately. If you reject it, you can have your clothes back for $5. Apparently the average person sends in about 20 clothing items and gets paid about $50. That's $50 I wouldn't have had otherwise. Also, if you want to buy more clothes you can get more money in Twice cash, so you can buy clothes from other's closet. I don't need more clothes so I won't be doing this, but the idea is good. Anything that didn't fit the description because of brand mostly, I just put in a bag for Goodwill and I still had 2 bags for them. Yay! 

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Consolidate Gift Cards: I've mentioned before that I have a gift card hoarding problem. It really has not improved much, and part of this is that I end up with too many gift cards to actually keep in my purse at all times. I decided to consolidate some of these gift cards onto my phone which will help me actually use them, and cut down on clutter. I had 9 Starbucks cards, which I put all online, consolidated them all into one card and I can now get rid of ALL the cards and use the app on my phone to pay for my drinks. I was also able to consolidate my Target gift cards. I also had an absurd number, and a lot of them had like $2, or $8 etc. I put them all my online account, and I think I can also get rid of those cards too with the Target app (but I haven't figured that out yet). Finally, I had a couple of iTunes gift cards which I finally put on my account. I still have a few gift cards to a local teacher store, TJ Maxx and Bertuccis which I can't do anything about, but now I can actually fit them in my purse because I'm down to less than 10 total rather than probably 30 something!


Do you have any tips for eliminating clutter?  

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Goal: Declutter My Life

As I mentioned yesterday, committing to "cleaning" (by this I really mean getting rid of the clutter) for 10 minutes a night was a huge accomplishment in March. It showed me two essential things: #1- taking small steps is a wonderful way for me to complete big goals and #2- I enjoy a clean and clutter free space (well, I knew this already but I wasn't committed to getting myself there). 

In April, my big goal is to get rid of the clutter in my life. This is something I am always trying for, but I now feel like if I do a little bit each day it will really be attainable for me. Maybe even in a month. 

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Therefore, my April goals are: 

1. Celebrate and acknowledge my successes. I already have some great habits as far as living with less clutter. For one, I have my new found habit of getting rid of clutter for 10 minutes a night. That's not going away. I also visit the library once a week. It's been forever since I bought a real book, and I very rarely even create clutter on my Kindle. I love the library. I also already am in a habit of donating clothes, though I want to go even further with this in April. I also started about a year ago keeping a clean inbox. I delete like crazy, and then move things to folders. It's a nice feeling. In general, I'm not a crazy buyer of stuff. But I could still be better. 

2. Get rid of stuff. In the spirit of my small steps philosophy, I want to get rid of 5 items or clean out one space every day. If I don't have much time, I may just go through the mail that day and find 5 things to recycle, but if I have 15-20 minutes, I will clean out a bag or a space. I plan to donate, give away and sell a lot this month. 

3. Change my blog reading. I still love reading blogs, especially of my blog friends. Since I switched from Google Reader to Feedly, I did some major organization of my reader including deleting people who no longer blog, and reorganizing blogs I read. I now have a section for blogs I want to read every single time they post, and blogs I want to read when I just have a little bit of spare time. I am hoping this helps me not feel massively overwhelmed by my reader every day. 

4. Don't buy any new food until I eat what I have. I need to banish the fear that I will run out of something mid week (who cares? I have a car and a Trader Joe's 3 minutes away!). Last Wednesday I was going to stop to get some food on the way home from spinning, but I ended up getting a ride with a friend so I decided to just eat something I already add. I ended up with a totally random mix of sweet potato, tuna (mixed with greek yogurt) and avocado. It was actually tasty and healthy. I need to do this more often before going out and buying more stuff. 

5. Don't overcommit and then enjoy social events. I have mentioned here before that I tend to overcommit and then get stressed out about things that are supposed to be fun. I know I say all the time that I am going to say no more often and then I never do. This month, I am taking a new approach. I can yes all I want, but then I can't complain (or even THINK about complaining) about anything I already agreed to. Maybe this will encourage me to either say no, or just embrace the crazy schedule? We shall see. 

Have you ever done anything to simplify your life? Send tips my way :)