Panda’s Gettin’ Married!

Oh, hey.

This is awkward.

Two weeks, huh? I guess I probably should’ve called. Or at least texted. I mean, it’s OCTOBER already, for cryin’ out loud! My bad.

It’s not you, I swear. It’s all me. After my last long, declarative, overly verbose post, I really did intend to come back to blog again the very next day. And when that didn’t happen, I meant to come back the day after that. And, well, here we are, two weeks later.

But the good news is, that kind of statement USED to be reserved for making excuses as to why I didn’t go to the gym. And for, like, the first time in my life, that hasn’t been necessary. I’ve been maintaining a pretty regular gym schedule for the past couple of weeks actually, and I think it’s already paying off! My clothes are fitting a little bit better and, more importantly, I’m feeling pretty dandy too. So hooray!

Alas, though, the past few days have been woefully absent of any fitness activity. Or any activity at all, really, except for slowly dying in my bed. And sometimes on the couch. I’ve been crazy sick since the weekend, and it hasn’t been fun. My throat feels like I basically swallowed a razor blade, I’ve been running a temperature for the first time since high school, and just the simple act of going up or down the stairs has made me feel totally wiped out.

Soooo yeah, not so great. And since my beautiful sister and Mia are coming up to visit tomorrow (I know, it seems like I I just went to visit them, but this is why life is amazing!) I’ve been trying to get on the fast-track back to health. Lots of green tea, water, drugs, schnauzer cuddles, and REST. I am feeling much improved today (although it does still hurt to swallow), and hopefully this is the last bit of it.

Anyway, so that also has contributed to the distinct lack of blog-age this week, which was especially lame because I actually, miraculously had something to blog about! On Saturday (before I realized I was truly down-and-out sick), I attended my good friend Amanda’s bridal shower.

And because she is already oh-so-aware that I am that friend I took a few obnoxious photos while I was there!

Of course, as with most things, this is mostly a thinly veiled excuse for me to show off my new dress to those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram. Isn’t it pretty? $40 at Nordstrom Rack, baby!


Amanda’s bridesmaids threw a beautiful shower that was perfectly themed around her. Not only were there classic Bridal Shower games like toilet paper bridal gown making and “How Well Do You Know the Groom?” trivia (complete with video-recorded responses from her fiance!), but there was also one that I would ONLY ever get to experience at a party for Amanda, who is a huuuuuge history nerd. I mean, history buff.


Yep, there was Presidential Trivia at this shower. Well, First Lady Trivia, to be specific. Suffice it to say, I did not do great on this challenge. In my defense though, they didn’t exactly make it easy on us! There was not one single “Jacqueline,” “Michelle,” “Hillary,” or “Barbara” on there.

I tried not to be too obnoxious with my camera during present-time, so I only snapped a couple pics as Amanda opened my gift, which was OBVIOUSLY a wok set. I mean, c’mon.

In addition to adorable and delicious-smelling candles (pumpkin-scented!) as our bridal favors, we each got to go home with our own chalkboard champagne glass as well. Such a great idea! I gotta remember to Pin that after this is posted, hahaha.



So there you have it: definitive proof that I still have some semblance of a life outside of Yelp, hahaha. Hopefully by the end of today I’ll be back in tip-top shape health-wise and will have even more fun stuff to report on throughout the next week! And if by some unlucky circumstance another couple of weeks goes by between now and when I see you again, just remember: it’s not you, it’s definitely, definitely me.

And remember: if nothing else, I am almost certain to be back here on Friday, if not solely to express what I’m sure will be CONSIDERABLE FEELINGS after watching the season premiere of Vampire Diaries tomorrow night. OMG I AM SO EXCITED OK BYE.

Founding Farmers, Take 2

Happy President’s Day, everyone! I’ve got the day off, and thus have sworn to high heaven that I’ll be making use of my holiday by writing (we’ll see how well that goes), but for those of you who are stuck dredging away the day in the office, I’ve got some mouth-watering photos for ya.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I had dinner with my good friend Lauren from Oatmeal After Spinning, and my new friend Kelly from Kelly Fiore Writes on Saturday! Lauren and Kelly are best friends from high school, and while I’ve known Lauren for a while thanks to the mad and lovable world of blogging, I got to meet Kelly for the first time last weekend (at the Frederick Restaurant Week sneak peek).

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We dragged our significant others out to dinner to belated celebrate Lauren’s birthday, and to celebrate Kelly’s husband’s birthday. While I was obviously super excited to get to hang out with these lovely ladies (and their equally lovely husbands), I was admittedly a little hesitant as well. See, our dinner destination was the Montgomery County location of Founding Farmers, and some of you may already know that I had a pretty miserable experience at the original Founding Farmers in DC a couple years back. So even though I knew this was an entirely different location, I was still a little bit unsure of how the experience would go.

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Well, I’m happy to report that things went MUCH better this time around! It wasn’t an impeccable dining experience, service-wise, but it was like 10,000 steps up from what I experienced before. And since the food was indeed delicious, and the company was perfect, overall I really did end up having a great time. I started with a glass of Willamette Valley pinot noir (the best!) and we all shared a few of the small plate appetizers from FF’s extensive farm-to-table menu. (Seriously, I spent like 15 straight minutes poring over the menu–so many options that ALL appealed to me!)

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The selection of apps included housemade ranch popcorn, bread and dips (including this garlicky green goddess dip that I wanted to spoon directly into my mouth), and spicy pickled carrots. Lauren also ended up getting a thing of skillet corn bread with her meal, which ended up being my favorite thing on the table. Lots of real pieces of corn, and an epic honey butter (which was literally butter and honey combined in one little condiment cup, haha)… mmm, I’m drooling just thinking about it. Regretting not having snagged a picture.

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For my meal, I started out with a sample sized Farmer’s Salad, which included romaine, avocado, figs, cherry tomatoes, grapes, slivered almonds, olives, and a bit of parmesan cheese. Yum.

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Then, for my entree, I ordered the Lemon Meunière Diver Scallops, which were delicious. I loooove scallops, so it’s pretty hard to screw them up for me, and these were garlicky and lemony and cooked very well.

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They were served with a butternut squash risotto in the middle, which ended up only being okay for me. While I loved the concept of the butternut squash in the risotto, there was just something off about the flavor–it had kind of a bitter aftertaste that I wasn’t expecting. Still, overall I enjoyed my plate a lot. And I also enjoyed the bites from Sean’s steak and enchilada dish that I stole, hehehe. Ultimately it was an awesome dinner out with friends, and certainly helped redeem Founding Farmers in my eyes–at least at the Maryland location.

Now I’m off to write! And if you’ll allow me just one li’l shameless plug before we part ways here, I do have a fun announcement: My book, Terra is currently on sale!!

Pick up a digital copy for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iPad/iPhone for just $3.99. Happy President’s Day!

Weekend Update: Labors of Love

Howdy folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, mine has ended with me picking up a(nother) little cold, but prior to waking up with my head feeling like it needs to be popped (seriously, cannot even hear out of my right ear right now) the weekend was pretty rad! Let’s flashback to Friday for a hot second.

Shocking though it may seem, I actually did start my weekend off with a workout. I know, who am I? I ventured back for my third CrossFit class and it totally kicked my ass.

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Coach Jeremy was cruel kind enough to document the experience for me. The warm-up this time was actually really fun. We grabbed a partner and a medicine ball (ours was 15 lbs) and went out to the parking lot.

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Then, one of us would throw the ball as far as we could, then the other would sprint from their position to where it landed. Then the second partner would throw the ball while the first stayed in place, and so on, and so forth.

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Turns out that just because something is shaped like a ball does NOT make it easy to throw, hahaha. 15 lbs is a lot to toss forward!

After the warm-up we spent 10 minutes working on a particular CrossFit skill that we have a hard time with (note how it’s phrased on the whiteboard in the first pic, hahaha). Since ALL of the skills are new to me, I didn’t particularly know where to start. Jeremy suggested I try working on my jump ropes, since “double unders” are a pretty standard CF move. I’m pretty sure that 11-year-old Gretchen would be VERY disappointed in how my jump rope skills have lapsed. I could barely make single unders happen. Oh well, something to work on, I guess!

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Then came the Workout of the Day itself. Just like last time’s, this was an “AMRAP”, or “As many reps as possible” in the allotted time (10 minutes). The WOD consisted of 5 power cleans, 5 thrusters, and 10 burpees. Since I had absolutely no clue was a “power clean” or “thruster” was, the coach spent a good amount of time going over the movements, and then gave me a little extra practice time, too. I practiced with a PVC pipe at first to get the general motion, and then did the actual workout with a 15-lb practice bar (rather than a 45-lb + weights bar like everyone else). At first I thought that 15-lbs was totally lame, and almost asked if I could use a heavier weight, but in the end I’m sooooo glad I didn’t try to get ahead of myself.

Dude, this ish be hard! I had a really hard time getting the proper form down for the power clean. A power clean is where you take the bar (from the floor for the others, from my knees for me — like in the picture above) and lift it up under your chin with this kind of jumpy/jerky move. It’s really hard for me to explain in words, but I found it very difficult to do correctly without leaning back and doing all sorts of weird stuff with my posture. I actually think it’s one of those things where it would have been a little easier with more weight on the bar, because I would have had more resistance keeping me in place.

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The thrusters I did okay on. They involve starting in a squat position with the bar under your neck, then standing and thrusting (get it?) the bar over your head and back (keeping your head “through the window” that your arms make).

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Then… came the burpees. 10 of them. After doing them at the first CrossFit class I attended (in which I was supposed to do 20 burpees), I thought that 10 would be no problem! Boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong.

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I don’t know what it is about this move but it is basically like an instant recipe for me to become nauseous. I don’t know if it’s all the bending, or just the fact that they’re always in combination with some other hardcore movement, but seriously. It is awful. I had to take like a 5 minute break after my second set because I suddenly felt so terriblw. Wtf, burpees?

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This face is all for show. (Also, apologies for the cleav shot, hahaha.)

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There we go. That’s a little more accurate as to how it felt.

In the end, I ended up making it through 3 full sets, plus an additional 7 (5 power cleans and 2 thrusters). Each class I’ve been to has been so different from the last, I still feel like an uber-n00b. That said, I can’t lie: the variety does make it kind of fun. And at least the fact that I started off the weekend with such a hard workout made me feel slightly less guilty for eating out so much over the weekend. I promise I had good reasons to though!

Saturday night my bestest best friend Bethany and her husband Colt came into town. Bethany and Colt have been living in Texas for the past two years and just moved back to Charlottesville. I couldn’t be happier! It’s hard to believe it’s been over TWO YEARS since I’d seen them last (at their freaking wedding!) Bethany and I were roommates throughout almost all of college (we were hallmates Freshman year), and we definitely have one of those friendships where it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, we just kind of pick right up where we left off. Sean & I took the two of them to Dogfish Head and spent the night chatting away. We had such a great time I literally took 0 pictures. Oops! 🙂

But, much to my other friend Lara’s chagrin, I more than made up for the lack of picture-taking Sunday night.

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Sean & I met Lara and her new fiance (!!) Dan for dinner on Sunday at the Vietnamese restaurant Four Sisters.

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I’d been hearing rave reviews about this place for a long time but had never gotten a chance to go. Lara said she was in the mood to try something new, so I immediately suggested it!

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We started off sharing an order of fresh summer rolls (the best!) and fried shrimp wontons. When it came down to ordering, the menu is HUMONGOUS. Like, of Cheesecake Factory proportions. Luckily, I already knew what I was in the mood for:

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Pho!

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With all the appropriate accouterments, of course.

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Theeeere we go.

I thought it was really good. A lot of the time Pho broth can be way too strong for me, but Four Sisters’ was very balanced. I got it with beef and meatballs, which was kind of a weird combination but I dug it. The meatballs reminded me of the fish balls that my mom puts into soup noodles sometimes, so it was nostalgic for me. Next time I go to Four Sisters I’ll want to branch out a little for sure, but it had been so long since I had pho that there was no reasoning with me. The caramelized fish in clay pot is particularly well-reviewed on Yelp…

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Since Four Sisters is located right in the cute new little shopping center in Merrifield, we walked right past a Coldstone on our way in. Both Lara and I agreed that we couldn’t just pass up the opportunity!

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Sean and I shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream in a waffle bowl. Sadly, I think it’s the last bit of ice cream I think I’ll be seeing in a while. Good thing it was delicious!

Monday was spent primarily bumming around the house. There was one ill-fated trip to Target that I mildly regretted (Target was CRAZY on Labor Day!) but other than that, it was just a lot of Guild Wars 2…. as well as a lot of Virginia Tech Football talk, haha. I guess that since Sean and I didn’t really start dating until college football season was almost over, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting into dating a Hokie! As someone who is almost entirely apathetic when it comes to sports of any kind (especially including my own alma mater, JMU, ahahaha), I guess it’s a good thing they won last night?

Have a great day!

I Heart DC II

This morning’s drizzly, grey (but blessedly SO much cooler) weather is quite in line with my feelings: today marks my friend Ai Rei‘s last day with me here in DC. I shall now pause for a moment of silence.

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While she’s been here, it’s been really fun for me to see the area that I live in with fresh eyes. I think that all people tend to suffer from “local” syndrome, no matter what city or town you live in. Despite the fact that there are so many awesome things about living in the DC area, I rarely take advantage of them because they’re either too touristy or too crowded or I’m simply too cool for that ish (bahaha). Rei’s visit has, as a side-effect of taking her around to see the sights and whatnot, rejuvenated my appreciation for our nation’s capital — which is really cool! Though I am, admittedly, pretty affected by standard Northern Virginian superiority to things that go on in the actual District, but I guess the truth is that I really do <3 DC. 🙂

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There’s a reason why things are touristy, after all. It’s because they’re worth seeing! I can tell you that the last time I really ventured into the city to take in the monuments was when my LAST out-of-town guest came to visit… and that was like three years ago (oops!). I want to say that I’ll be making an effort from now on to take better advantage of the cool things my city has to offer, but the truth is that I probably won’t really change things up that much. I will, however, be much looking forward to the next time I get to experience this stuff through the eyes of someone new.

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Ai Rei’s trip down here has also brought some hilarious and adorable excitement that I wasn’t actually expecting. Specifically, her raging excitement over things like how many varying flavors of chewing gum we have (Creamsicle! Key Lime Pie! Mint Chocolate Chip!), The Cheesecake Factory (for the cheesecake, not for the food), inexpensive books, Amazon.com (vs. Amazon.ca), and Target. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in Canada, so I forget that even though our countries are obviously super similar, there are still a lot of things that aren’t quite replicated in either. Neither is better or worse, of course, it just makes me more appreciative of the things that I have access to here that Rei doesn’t. And it’s not just a Canada vs. US thing either; Colorado doesn’t have Trader Joe’s, we don’t have In-n-Out burgers, the list goes on.

What’s one traditionally “touristy” thing you tend to avoid where you live?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I am thankful.

I am thankful for family.

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Furry and otherwise.

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Photo by Ben

I am thankful for good food.

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For great friends.

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Both old and new.

Ladies

And for more than my fair share of guilty pleasures.

I am thankful for being able to conquer my fears and set new goals.

Errrrr.

And for progress, no matter how slow it may be right now.

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Have a wonderful, love-filled, delicious Thanksgiving!

What are you thankful for today?