Saturday, April 30, 2011

Laura Loves {April 2011}

Its that time again! Time for another round of things I LOVE! Last month I introduced “Laura Loves” and I’m excited to say that I’ve found even more things to love in April! So without further ado…
Here are the things I loved in April!

Thai Fishermen’s Pants

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                                                            [Source]                                                                      [Source]

My good friend Nick just got back from teaching in Thailand recently and home with him he brought me the perfect gift! These Thai fisherman pants! These pants are a bit odd looking at first. They have a WIDE waistband with just two ties attached to the back. Oh and they are one size fits all. How? Once you step into the pants with the ties in the back, you fold the excess cloth together and then knot the ties around your waist. Then fold over the large waistband and waaa-la! The most comfortable pair of pants ever! And they have a pocket! Thanks for my new favorite PJ pants Nick!!!

FitBit
Back in March, my blogging guru friend Rebecca, wrote about her love of this little gem for one of her “Fab Find Friday” posts. The technology looked tempting, but the price was a bit high for me (and I was nervous I would forget to use it). After my friend Shirin and sister Leslie joined the FitBit bandwaggon I started thinking more seriously about it. Once it was integrated with Runkeeper, I was hooked and I finally ordered one.

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[Source]

I absolutely love this thing. It tracks my steps, distance, calories burnt, activity level, and quality of sleep for any given day. It can also “record” specific activities for you so you can see how many calories you are burning, say, on your commute to work.

But what makes this thing truly awesome is the website, where you can connect with friends, set goals, log food, log your weight and measurements, log other activities that aren’t recorded well as steps, and see almost any graph you could think of! I have been really successful with it so far. The best part is I have discovered what motivates me to get out and move…graphs and data!

Eagle Cam
Get an 24/7 up close look at this Bald Eagle nest in Iowa where there are 3 eaglets growing up really fast! They hatched at the beginning of April and are huge already! Ummm hello…baby eagles...need I say more??!?!

Streaming live video by Ustream
And if you look in the links below the streaming website…you can watch the YouTube videos of the hatches!  

YouTube Channel - RealityChangers
This father/daughter singing duo is cute beyond words. This month they started something they wanted to call “Music Sundays” but they haven’t posted again recently. I first fell in love with them a few weeks ago when my old friend Amanda posted this video on her blog:


But this next video was their first post for “Music Sundays” and I love it too…Jorge has a wonderful voice and Alexa is just the cutest thing…and very good at remembering her parts of the covers they sing!


You can find their YouTube channel here (RealityChangers).

Milo Loves – Chuckit! Whistler Ball
Milo wanted to join in the fun this month as he has found something he really loves in April! He and I have always enjoyed Chuckit! balls. Not only are they bright and noticeable, but because they are made of rubber they are much easier to clean and aren’t as tempting to chew up as standard tennis balls.

Chuckit! also has variations on their standard balls. In my Christmas Wish List I mentioned that Milo would love their Erratic Ball which will bounce in unpredictable directions. The other day, at PetSmart, they didn’t have the Erratic Ball…but the Whistler Ball. I decided to get it for him and this past week we tried it out.

whistler ball
Milo loved this ball! Normally he will fetch a few times and then lose interest and leave the ball for me to go pick up. But the Whistler ball was different. He carried this ball all over the park, lie down with it, fetched it every time. I was walking around the park and he would carry it next to me as we walked. He would only put it down for me to toss it again. He carried it around almost the entire time we were at the park…and we were there for about an hour.

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I have no idea if it was the color, the slightly different shape, or the whistle sound it makes when it flies…but Milo has never had this long of an attention span for a ball before. We will definitely be getting a couple backups.

That’s all I have for April! Now Milo and I are off to enjoy this BEAUTIFUL spring weather!

Friday, April 29, 2011

My Take on The Royal Wedding

Everyone is talking about The Royal Wedding. My friend Rebecca (among many others) has referred to it as her Superbowl, while other people are discussing how fascinated they are that people even care. There are also the perfectly neutral...who then still get suckered into conversations about the wedding by one of the two extremes.

I'd like to share how I feel about it. On a scale of (1) "We are free from England I must not care in protest!" to (10) "OMG IT'S A REAL LIFE FAIRYTALE!!!" I fall somewhere around a 6 or a 7. I do...I care about the Royal Wedding. I don't care enough to be taking off of work. I do care enough to be recording the coverage on my DVR to watch at home. I don't care enough to have been watching the entire week of TLC specials. I do care enough to have realized they were on.

The odd thing about me...is that I can't quite put my finger on what really makes me excited to watch the wedding (unfortunately not live...but on one of 2 channels I'm recording it on (hey...I like options)).

Tonight there was a Royal Wedding special (of course) on ABC before my usual Thursday night primetime lineup. Please note I had to watch all my TV tonight because I didn't want the DVR to be too full to record all the coverage! (I care that much). In the special, they talked about how Prince William loves the feeling of Kate's "normal" family...and I felt relieved for him. They talked about how Kate is just perfect to be a princess and how the Royal family adores her...and I was excited for her. They talked about Diana and how she would have loved Kate...and I got sad.

I remember the day Princess Diana died. I was in middle school. My family had recently moved and we were sitting in our living room talking when someone called to tell us to turn on the TV because Princess Di had been in a terrible accident. We watched that news coverage in disbelief for a long time. I remember my parents really liking Diana. I remember her two sons, one two years and one two months older than me...and feeling so sad for their loss. I remember watching her funeral and being amazed at their composure.

They aired a lot of clips from Dianna's life and specifically the Royal Wedding around that time. I remember seeing how grand it was...being amazed at her huge dress...how so much of the world had watched. My mother talked about how she had watched and remembered it well. I hadn't been born yet. I've never seen such a widely televised wedding...which admittedly is also part of the reason I care. That only seems to happen every 30 years.

But mostly, I think I care about the Royal Wedding not because I'm a girl who dreams of finding her "prince," not because I want to see Kate's gown, not because I ever had a huge crush on Prince William, and not because its THE THING to watch tomorrow. I think I care about the Royal Wedding because it feels like a happy ending or happy new beginning for a generation that had a lot of pain and sadness in its formative years. A generation that is close in age to me. I honestly think I'm mainly happy for William...and I would like to witness his happiness at his wedding. I think, in some way, I sort of hope to replace the image of a sad young William walking so nobly behind his mother's casket...with happy William married to his very own "princess charming."

Alright and I also admit in general the idea of a "Royal Family" and all their rituals has always sort of fascinated me... but mostly its because of how I feel in the prior paragraph.

So...I hope I can resist video clips online at work tomorrow ... but I definitely won't be getting much exercise Friday afternoon because I will be landing on my couch to watch my hours of recorded coverage ... because yes ... I care about the Royal Wedding.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Walks with Milo ~ Cherry Blossoms, Kites & Picnics

Milo and I have been doing a ton of walking lately. Since spring has sprung I have been really motivated to walk around the city. I’ve also been motivated after finding the website & app Runkeeper as well as investing in a FitBit. Both those tools have really gotten me out exploring how walkable DC really is! Since March Milo and I have already walked a total of 72 miles! I have been posting a lot of these walks on Facebook, but one day my sister commented “I want pictures not run maps!”

So, at Leslie’s request, here are some fun pictures from our recent long walks!

Cherry Blossoms – April 3 – 8.5 miles

This was our second long walk during our Food Truck Weekend. You can see the map of this walk here.

Milo got to experience the Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin this year. It was really really crowded and I sometimes felt bad for Milo being slow low in the crowd…he got ran into a good amount. But he was a good sport and we got some pretty pictures.

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We also walked to the Lincoln Memorial…by that time it was warm and Milo was pretty tired. We decided to take a break and before I even put our stuff down…Milo had already lie down!

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You may recall this picture from my last post:

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Well…let’s play a game of “Where’s Waldo Lincoln?”

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We had a great walk…but I think this is probably the longest walk we can take…especially with the humidity of the summer coming…Milo was really dragging at the end.

Kite Festival – April 10 – 6.3 miles

Milo and I decided to check out the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival at the Washington Monument. You can check out the map of our walk here.

It was overcast that day, but we sat at the monument, had a picnic lunch, and watched the kites. At one point there were definitely more than one hundred flying at the same time!

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Milo didn’t get as excited about all the kites as he has about individual kites on the Mall in the past…but then he saw a kite that looked like a plane! (And made noise too)

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Capitol Picnic – April 15 – 5.4 miles

I had the day off on this past Friday so Milo and I decided to try to catch the $1 instant lunch deals that Living Social was offering. It was a great deal…such great deal that all the places I wanted to try were packed. At one point I decided on a place…and I thought I bought the deal and waited in line…turns out my purchase hadn’t gone through. At this point Milo had been waiting patiently for me outside and they were telling people that the food was a 15 minute wait. So instead of waiting in another line…I just got some hot dogs from a local street vendor and we headed to the Capitol to have a picnic. The walk was recorded in Runkeeper in 2 parts: pre-picnic and post-picnic.

On our way to the Capitol lawn I had to take pictures of the pretty tulips growing all over the Capitol grounds. They were soooo pretty!

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After picnicking and relaxing on the lawn for a bit, we walked down some of The Mall and then back up to the Capitol. The leaves on the trees are coming in and they make everything look so pretty!

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On our way home we stopped at one of Milo’s favorite parks to find that his beloved fountain had water in it! He LOVES playing in these fountains and was so excited to see the water! (As a note…he is not the only dog that goes in those fountains…I saw other dogs do this plenty before I let him 2 summers ago).

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We have really been loving walking around DC! I’m hoping that Milo (and I) can manage the long walks in the hot/humid DC summers. Even when the temperature goes up by 10 degrees he gets tired WAY faster. We usually find a good spot to sit down and take a break. But even now in the cooler weather, each long walk ends like this:

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(Sometimes I look like this afterward too…especially after the 8.5 miles)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Food Truck Weekend

The streets of DC have fully embraced the food truck trend. These trucks tweet and drive all over town. There is even a cool Food Truck Tracker made so that you can track down your favorite truck on any given day. All the awesome food trucks in DC are listed next to another tracker {here}.

I know you are all looking at the list of yummy and unique food trucks and thinking, “Wow Laura is so lucky to live in a city where there are cool food trucks to try!” I agree with you. Just one problem. These food trucks are targeted to the office lunch crowd. This makes them hard for me to come by considering (1) I don’t actually work IN DC…but just outside DC in Maryland and (2) the trucks pretty much only work midafternoon during the work week.

I hate the days when I see on the trackers or on twitter that one of these trucks is in my neighborhood while I’m away at work!

But there is a glimmer of hope for me! I work an alternative work schedule (AWS) which means that I work an extra hour each day and get a day off every 2 weeks. For the past few weeks I’ve been using my AWS days for weekend travel home. But I told myself that the next time I was in town for an AWS day…I would find and try one of these darn food trucks!

This Friday…was the day! I was determined to find myself a food truck. To be honest, I sort of had one truck in particular that I really wanted to try…CapMac. They serve twists on mac n’ cheese…the most basic of which is topped with crushed Cheese-its. On Friday however, I saw (via their twitter) that they were going to be across town at Farragut Square. Bummer right?

I considered taking the metro over there…but then I wondered…how far of a walk IS Farragut Square anyway? Using Runkeeper's “route” feature, I found out that it was only a 3.5 mile walk from my apartment. I’ve easily walked more than 4 miles recently (which I wouldn’t have realized had I not been keeping track on Runkeeper). I had also survived a 6 mile walk all over town last week. (Have I mentioned I love Runkeeper? Oh yea…I did!) I decided to get the dog out of the apartment…pre-burn the calories…and walk for some lunch!

When I got to Farragut Square…I realized what CapMac meant in their tweet by “Farragut Friday.” There were 10 food trucks all around the square competing to serve the lunch crowd. CapMac had one of the longer lines…but I had mac n’ cheese on the brain…and I got in line. I ordered their classic CapMac n’ Cheese - “Balls Out” (meaning they added chicken meatballs).

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This mac n’ cheese was sharp, cheddery…and seriously yummy! I know in the picture you can't even see the noodles...I promise it looks like more shredded cheese than there was...well there was a good amount but it really was only the topping haha. While the meatballs were good, I think next time I would get it without them…because it was REALLY filling. I was so glad I had walked that way to try it…especially since walking back would burn off even MORE of the calories haha.

On the way back, Milo and I walked by the White House…and as we were about to pass the Department of Commerce…we were stopped for the motorcade! (Umm so the video below uploaded pretty badly to the blog :-/ I will try to update with a better version soon....and it takes until about 1:19 for anything exciting to pass...The President was in the second limo)

video

The next day, Milo and I made our way to the South West Cherry Blossom Festival. The weather was sort of on and off so we went in the afternoon and then again later for fireworks. Turns out…all those food trucks that normally only work weekdays…were going to be at the festival (including CapMac…glad I didn’t know that the day before or I would have been lazy).

I decided I’m going to jump on this opportunity and try more food trucks! I saw Curbside Cupcakes and Tasty Kabob and they BOTH looked intriguing. I got myself a lamb gyro from Tasty Kabob and two cupcakes (one for now, one for later) from Curbside Cupcakes.

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I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of the gyro…but it was really really good. If I would change anything…it would be that I wish the pieces of lamb were a bit smaller…otherwise it was simple and yummy!

The cupcake I had at lunch was Oatmeal Raisin. It had a cinnamon cream cheese icing on top. The cupcake was really good. I loved the icing and the cake…I picked out the raisins…but I’m glad there weren’t tons! Much later I ate the Red Velvet cupcake I also purchased…it was even better! So moist! I loved it! But I’m not sure it beats my absolute favorite cupcake place in the city…Red Velvet in Chinatown.

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When Milo and I returned later that night for the fireworks, I hadn’t eaten dinner yet…and lucky for me…there was one more food truck still there and open…Eat Wonky! I decided to try their signature Wonky Fries… which are french fries topped with gravy and squeeky cheese. I had no idea what squeeky cheese was until I had heard of this food truck. Apparently they are cheese curds that sort of “squeek” when you eat them.

I couldn’t take a picture of the fries because it was dark…but they were pretty good. The cheese did in fact make light “squeeks” when you chewed it. Unfortunately though I’m not sure this was my favorite cheese…a bit too salty for me. I also like more of a melty cheese over fries. The gravy and the fries were great. The squeeky cheese makes it unique…but I could have done without it.

Today Milo and I walked around the Tidal Basin to check out the Cherry Blossoms. Early in our walk we passed the Austin Grill truck! I was really tempted to try their food…but unfortunately I had just eaten at home and wasn't very hungry (I was NOT expecting to see a food truck out on Sunday!). I’m happy to find out this truck goes out on the weekends! I have more of a chance to track them down!

On our long walk we did get to see some pretty blossoms around the basin…

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Oh and very tall President Lincoln on his way to the Lincoln Memorial…

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I know that the trucks being out on Saturday was a rarity for the SW Cherry Blossom Festival…but I’m sort of crossing my fingers that when summer tourists enter DC…more trucks consider some weekend hours. I would not only love to try more of them…but I’d also love to try other items from the trucks I found already!

I’d also love to have some motivation to walk more of the city with Milo in the summer…this three day weekend we managed to rack up 21.6 miles!!! I may have eaten a lot of food truck food…but I’m pretty sure I burned a lot of it off too! (At least I hope!)

Tried any good food trucks lately? Hear about any good ones? Let me know in the comments!