Author: Lauren

Preparing for takeoff

I write this just having bought a bunch of new clothes at Target (most of which will be returned now that I’ve tried them on…), thinking they could be comfortable not only as pajamas, but in a pinch, as real clothes that could be worn on a plane without looking super out of place.  Genius, right?  (Although honestly, I may want a second opinion just because…well, fashion has never really been my thing.)

But I have larger concerns than what I’ll wear:  My AirBNB reservation in Seattle cancelled on me yesterday without even giving a reason (thanks guys!).  I leave a week from tomorrow!  A friend offered to let me stay at his place, but he lives half an hour outside town (and that’s with no traffic–trust me, after living in the DC area, you learn to take these things into consideration). So finding new accommodations is what I’ll be focusing on this weekend.  Well, that and laundry.

I am thinking about taking a combination body wash/shampoo, but unless I put it in a smaller bottle, it could be confiscated by the TSA.  I don’t like checking bags, but the suitcase I was planning on taking is a little too wide to be considered a carryon according to the airline I’ll be flying with.  I may risk it and see, but I’m not sure how forgiving they’ll be.

Let me know any places I need to check out in Seattle and Portland!  I welcome your advice!  And by all means, tell me about your trips this summer!  I have a bunch of friends who are either in Europe or who have just come back, and I am envious of all of them…

Why I dig where I live now

I had to make a trip to my local post office (to pick up my Matt & Kim signed goodies <3) and decided to make a morning of it by wandering over to the farmer’s market nearby. I remembered during my walk about how I’d long wanted to live in Falls Church…and now I do!

  • The bus actually runs all day 7 days a week.  Not like I’ll ever take it, but I know I have that option.
  • 10 minutes from work.  Beat that!
  • 10 minutes from the gym at work.  Again, doubtful I’ll take much advantage of that, but hey, you never know.
  • Great farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.  It was surprisingly quiet there today, but I guess it’s not primetime for markets yet.  (Bonus:  I can measure its approximate distance from my place by the length of the extended version of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” as I was nearly home this morning by the time the song finished.)
  • Cool restaurants nearby.  Taco Bamba, Mad Fox Brewing, I think Pupatella is not far (still haven’t been there after years of wanting to go), the Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is opening soon…good times.
  • Very walkable.  Sidewalks everywhere in the City of Falls Church (CFC).
  • Also lots of cute houses (that I will never be able to afford) in CFC.
  • Close to two Metro stations.  It’s the Orange Line (bleh), but hey, at least I can be in Arlington somewhat quickly and not have to worry about parking!
  • CD Cellar.  I have to keep myself from wandering in here whenever I’m nearby. Great selection of used albums, and some new goodies too.
  • I can walk to my local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  There aren’t sidewalks the whole way, but it’s only a 15-minute walk to either, so one day, maybe I’ll actually avail myself of that.
  • Close to 495 and 66.
  • CFC is being built up a little bit, with the addition of new (almost certainly extremely expensive) apartments.  Not sure that this is necessarily a great thing, but curious to see what it will mean for the city.
  • Close to the hot mess that is Tysons Corner mall (but mostly Shake Shack). There’s a reason I only go there on weekdays after work, but again, it’s here if I want it.

So, your turn:  Why do you love where you live?

So…where have I been?

In hibernation, apparently.  It was another cold, long winter (the season increasingly grates on my nerves), and to be honest, the year didn’t start off the way I was hoping it would.  My living situation became increasingly stressful (had TMJ symptoms for three months which magically vanished when I moved out a couple weeks ago–imagine that), work was at times completely nuts…you know, usual stupid adult life stuff.  But with the first quarter of the year over (wait, seriously?), hopefully all that’s behind me.

One shining moment from that time was London.  Yes, that trip was nearly three months ago (!!!).  My friend and I had a great time, fitting in a lot of stuff into not quite four days.  And the weather was not typical rainy London–in fact, it didn’t actually rain the entire time we were there!  We saw the sun every day, and for most of the day. Add to that that it was warmer there than in the States, and we were doing pretty well for ourselves.  I hope to do a full post about London soon.

And would you believe that even before I went to London, I was already hatching a plan to check out Portland and Seattle the week of Memorial Day?  I need more of the West Coast in my life, and the trip will allow me to check two more states off my list.  I am desperately trying to save enough leave to take off the rest of that week and maybe have a little left over so I can take a long weekend over the summer.  I promised myself three and a half years ago that I would go back to Asheville, and this summer might be when that happens.  We’ll see.

So, what are y’all up to this summer?

I finally realized why people hate cabs

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  Mine was good, though much too short, but I saw my family, played with my parents’ cats, got out of town for a bit and ate some good food, so it was a win.  I had a great trip on Amtrak (minimal/no delays!  hooray!) and the ride back on Thanksgiving was even better because hardly anyone was on the train.  Compare that to Thanksgiving Eve, when the train was packed.

So I got back to the train station last night and was going to get a Lyft (since Uber is having all that bad PR lately; sexism and stalking journalists are not cool), but the train station was already closed and I felt that it was too cold to wait outside for 10 minutes, so I got in the White Top Cab waiting in the parking lot.  Almost immediately, the driver was on the phone, and he remained so for the entire drive–he held his phone in his hands, which aside from being an unsafe, bad idea, it is not legal in this state.  To top that off, he nearly went on the wrong exit and I had to correct him–probably because he was on the phone.

Meanwhile, every driver I’ve met through Uber (including the cabbie from O’Hare, since you can’t get an Uber directly from the airport) and the one I’ve met through Lyft has been incredibly pleasant and easy to talk to.  In other words, they treated me like an actual person.  AND Lyft and Uber tend to be cheaper than cabs anyway so they can be competitive.  Win-win!

So give Lyft or Uber a thought next time you need a ride.  You might meet some pretty interesting people!

Back from Chicago

I don’t know if you guys could tell from the almost 40 Instagram photos I took while in Chicago last weekend, but I had a really good time.  I made new friends, finally met someone I’ve been keeping up with on social media for years, drank good beer, saw a lot of cool things, did a ton of walking, ate great food (although sadly no Chicago-style pizza or hot dogs), and just in general had a blast.  I did a lot of stuff in a short amount of time, so I will try to keep this post appropriately short.

My trip started Friday night with me making a new friend who upgraded me to first class.  I mean, that’s a pretty stellar way to start out.  (And yes, I definitely took advantage of the free drinks.)  I got in to town to find that my hostel was….actually really awesome (aside from once again being stuck with the top bunk).  A friend of mine had bristled when I told him I was staying at a hostel in America–they don’t exactly have great reputations, do they?  Had I known I would love this one that much, I would have stayed in it for my three nights instead of moving to the AirBNB rental, the location of which was out of the way (although it was easy enough to get downtown by bus) and there was little in the neighborhood of interest unless you loved Mexican food–which I do, but not enough to eat it every meal of the day.  After fees, the hostel was actually cheaper than my AirBNB rental and I was already downtown, which meant less time and money spent getting from place to place.  PLUS they give you free towels, breakfast (cereal and bread, but still; if you want more than that, go to the Panera across the street) and wifi, which blew me away since I’d had to pay extra for most of that stuff when staying at hostels in Australia.  One of the guys working at the hostel, Leo, was super cool and we talked for probably 20 minutes or more.  He even gave me his e-mail so we could keep up–to me, it further solidified my idea that people from Chicago seemed so much more polite than people in DC (Uber isn’t allowed to pick you up from the airport, so it can arrange a cab for you, and the driver who got me was also very cool).  Leo also talked about how working at the hostel gave him the opportunity to stay at hostels operated by the Hostelling International chain for free worldwide–hard to argue with that!

The reason I had gotten in Friday night was so that I would already have all of Saturday to accomplish whatever.  My friend Janice now lives in Wisconsin but is from Chicago and had already planned to be in town last weekend, so we finally got to meet over a fantastic lunch at Longman and Eagle, which is spectacularly hipstery and has a miles-long drinks menu.  While we waited for a table, we went in the back to get donuts and beer (definitely recommend the sweet potato donut).  Lunch was absolutely fabulous, and I even managed to eat all of it.

Some friends of mine from DC were also in town, and Janice had suggested that we check out the very busy (and rightfully so) Revolution Brewing, which was yet another excellent suggestion–she and I have very similar taste in beer and she knew it would be a hit (Russian imperial stout Deth’s Tar was my favorite, and not just for the name).  The food was great too, and it was a fun way of celebrating my friend Rachel’s birthday–with bacon fat popcorn and beer.  Isn’t that what everyone does on their birthday?

So Saturday I spent much of the day eating, drinking and being merry with friends.  Sunday I did almost all of my sightseeing.  I went to the David Bowie Is… exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is downtown amidst some touristy shopping and wonderful architecture.  Sadly, photos weren’t allowed inside, but I can gladly say that the exhibit was well worth the trip. There are, of course, lots of classic Bowie outfits and pieces of memorabilia from his life, items representing people or ideas that heavily influenced him (and there are tons of different and diverse influences), as well as clips from his music videos and movie appearances.  (I adored the blue suit from the “Life on Mars?” promotional clip–so funky with the red hair and wild makeup, just performing for the camera against a white background.)  I was surprised that the exhibit was so busy at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and pleased that there were people of all ages there–parents with their kids, teenagers, “older” folks who would probably remember vintage Bowie and the days of Ziggy Stardust.  I didn’t spend any time in the other museum exhibits…let’s just say contemporary art is not usually my thing.  (Ahem, you may remember my opinion of the MONA in Hobart…)

The John Hancock Tower was not far away, so I made that my next stop.  I opted not to do the Tilt at 360 Chicago even though it was only $7 more on top of the $18 price of admission.  Shame, really.  Otherwise, the weather was good enough that you could see for miles, and the view was fantastic.

 Afterward, I walked to Navy Pier and wandered around.  There are your typical touristy shops, and quite unexpectedly, a stained glass museum.  There was also a big “functional art” show that weekend.  I got a bite to eat before making my way back downtown, where I explored the Magnificent Mile for a while, and eventually I stumbled upon Mario Batali’s Eataly, my first experience with the gourmet grocer (that hardly seems like an adequate term for it).  Let the sandwich speak for itself.

The next morning, I was again up early and ventured into the city to see Cloud Gate, a.k.a. the Bean.  It was smaller than I expected it to be, but it was still cool.  I had no idea that Millennium Park had so many art installations, and while I was there, I checked out the temporary Red Bull Art of Can installation of “art” made from–what else?–Red Bull cans.  Okay, maybe that’s contemporary art, but I still thought it was pretty cool.  I just wish my pictures had turned out better–the lighting was not great.

After breakfast, I made my way back to the MCA in the hopes of exchanging my too-small Bowie t-shirt for a larger one, but alas, the museum is closed on Mondays, so I went back to my rental, gathered up my things, and got an Uber ride to the airport…where I was five hours early because my American Airlines flight got changed twice due to problems with two different planes.  Needless to say, I will not be flying with them when I go back to Chicago.

When will I get back to Chicago?  Not sure exactly.  But I would definitely go there again, and not just for the Chicago-specific culinary delights I missed out on this time.

Tomorrow marks two months until my friend Lance and I leave for London.  If you have any advice or recommendations, let me know!  Until next time!

I’m back!

So I know I’ve been pretty quiet the past couple of months (and my last post was a little bit of a downer…), but I’m settling into the DC area again.  The new job is going well so far, even though I have to just accept that it will be a long time before I feel like I really have a handle on anything.  But that’s the way new jobs go.  It’s nice to be back in Northern Virginia too, where I know good places to eat and shop and I can randomly call one of my friends and ask if they want to get dinner (as I did last night).

And I’ve been making plans to travel!  Earlier today, I made plans to go to Chicago next month!  Super excited for that since I’ve never been!  Plus, a friend and I are going to LONDON in January!  So lots to look forward to (and save money for!) in the coming months.

I can’t believe we’re in the last quarter of the year already!  Where has it gone?  This time last year I was in Sydney living the high life in an amazing AirBNB apartment rental in Mosman.  Yeah, I miss that place.  Hard not to.

Do any of you have exciting plans coming up?

The year has not gone as I thought or hoped it would.  I came back from Australia too early.  I spent months looking for a job and thinking about how life could be in the Pacific Northwest even though I’ve never been there.  I did no travelling since I came back in late January.  Finally, a friend told me, “I have a job coming up that you need to apply for.”  It’s at the place I used to work in Northern Virginia, where he and I became colleagues and friends, a place I never intended to return to except to visit.  I start Monday.  This Friday, I’ll be moving back to my old stomping grounds, where I can visit my favorite cupcake shop, eat way too much at BGR, and get overpriced brunch at Le Pain Quotidien, but mostly, it means I’ll be returning to where most of my best friends live, and I am extremely excited about that.  I’ve felt a bit out of the loop all this time, only seeing and talking to my NoVA friends sporadically.

My point is that finally things are happening.  I know what’s happening next.  I have some travel on the horizon too–more details about that later.

So for now I will settle in and see where things go.  Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be.

Pros and Cons of Taking Amtrak for a Weekend in DC

The first time I took the Amtrak between Alexandria and Richmond, I wasn’t thrilled with the experience.  The train was about 30 minutes late leaving Alexandria and it was crowded.  On the way back from Richmond that evening, you had to practically fight for seats.  The one I ended up with was broken, which I didn’t realize until after I claimed it.  The stations were unattractive and needed updating (still true). I thought trains were supposed to have some element of glamour!

My subsequent rides have been much better–quieter and much less crowded.  I’ve actually had productive train time.  While taking Amtrak is more expensive than driving for me, is being able to reclaim that few hours for myself worth the price of admission?  Consider looking out from the train window and seeing that 95 is completely swamped.  Even if your train is slow or not moving, at least you can do something else like watch a movie or read.  You could even nap!

What should you do when you’re stuck in traffic, whether on 95 or on a delayed train?  Relax, because there is not a damn thing you can do about it.  Just make sure that if you’re on the train, you have plenty of reading material/entertainment and snacks.

I’ve been hankering to get back to Alexandria and hang out in Old Town, and this weekend I got to, again staying with friends who live there.  This weekend was Old Town’s sidewalk sale, so a lot of the boutiques and stores had great sales running–my friend and her coworkers got some fantastic steals at the consignment stores!

Saturday night, some friends and I went to see Carbon Leaf at The Hamilton Live, a venue none of us had ever been to before.  (You may remember my friend Amanda and I have a history with this band…)  A friend and former roommate of mine used to work in the restaurant that houses the venue and he raved about it.  We made plans to get dinner at the restaurant before the venue doors opened.  Dinner was fabulous (pricey, sure, but that’s DC for you; Amanda balked at the fact that my cocktail was $13) and the service was fantastic.  Our waiter was very personable and accommodating.  Our tickets at the venue were standing room only, which naturally was right in front of the stage, in front of all the people who had paid more for actual seats and tables.  (You can order food and drinks in the venue, and their menu is different from the restaurant’s.)  The venue was very cool and posh-looking.  I saw TVs in the back for people who couldn’t see as well from where they were sitting.  Not only was the venue outstanding, but the band put on a legendary performance, and the crowd ate it up.  Carbon Leaf has a very devoted following, and it’s easy to see why!  Their opening act, The Christian Lopez Band, were also excellent and I recommend that if you live in NoVA that you go see them Saturday night at 10 p.m. at Jammin’ Java in Vienna (another cool venue)!

I also had a craving for an overpriced brunch from Le Pain Quotidien, a place my friends and I sometimes went in Old Town.  I went there Sunday morning with my friends Mileva and Aaron (you may know her from Capital Fit Geek) and I got the amazing avocado toast summer special (I have to figure out how they made that citrus cumin salt–sooooo delicious) and liberally slathered any bread available to me with the chocolate hazelnut spread (I still regret not buying a jar of it even though it’s $10).

So all in all, another great if short weekend in Northern Virginia.  Until next time…

This Week in RVA News

Richmond has had quite the week!

The Metro Richmond Zoo might get yet more cheetah cubs!

Another cheetah could be expecting at Metro Richmond Zoo | Richmond Times-Dispatch

On the heels of Richmond’s recent first-ever National Beer Expo…

Guide: Craft beer a heady growth industry | Richmond Times-Dispatch

I went to this yesterday, and it is pretty swanky.  Plus the dessert cases and cooking school look pretty impressive.

Customers get first look at Southern Season store | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Richmond will get more of a taste of DC!  We already knew that another Top Chef alum, Mike Isabella, plans to open a restaurant in Richmond, and the RVA offshoot of DC’s Rappahannock Oyster Bar has been in town for a while.  Personally, I was hoping the news was that yet another Top Chef alum, Spike Mendelsohn, was bringing his Good Stuff Eatery or We, the Pizza to Richmond, but the Voltaggio brothers have made quite a name for themselves, so no complaints there.

Another Top Chef makes a Richmond move | Richmond Times-Dispatch

…Not to mention the less flattering continuing news about apparent poor personal decisions made by our former governor and his wife (widely publicized enough that you hardly need me to tell you about them), and the fact that my high school has chosen to keep the Rebel mascot name, even though it has already done away with the Rebel Man mascot (who was essentially a Confederate soldier).

Richmond-area school to keep Rebels name | Washington Post

Thanks for reading, and make it a good weekend!

Dinner at Rock Bottom is not as bad as it sounds

Last night, my parents and I wanted to get some dinner after seeing the new Transformers movie.  We tossed around some ideas for places to go but none of them stuck until I recommended Rock Bottom Brewery in Short Pump.  Sure, it’s a chain, but they make their own beer on the premises and the menu sounded really good.  I knew there was one in Arlington, but never went there when I lived in Northern Virginia.

It was a gorgeous night out, so we were able to sit outside and enjoy the nice big patio.  We were quickly attended by our waitress Nicole, who proved to be exemplary.  My stepfather and I enjoyed our limited-time-only nitro coffee cream stouts as we waited for our dinner.  I had ordered the Bourbonzola burger, which combines my love of burgers, gorgonzola, onion straws, and bourbon; my mom got fish and chips; and my stepfather ordered the bell peppers stuffed with chicken and chorizo.

After a little bit, not too long we thought, Nicole came back to apologize for the food taking so long, offering to get us something like the chicken tortilla soup to eat on the house while we waited.  We discussed appetizers, which she said would likely arrive after our entrees.  Mom and I decided that the chicken tortilla soup would do fine (we’re big fans of that in this family), and we asked for a loaf of their bread as well.  Nicole had hardly left before the manager Tim came by to also apologize for the “long wait,” saying that someone from the kitchen had left early, causing our food to be delayed.  He offered to pick up the check as recompense.  We were floored by his generosity!  Then we started talking about beer, and before long, our food arrived, including the chicken tortilla soup and the sourdough bread loaf.  Mom and I sampled the soup and both agreed that it was really good.  We dug into our respective meals and agreed that those were tasty as well.  I wondered how the black beans I had ordered as a side would taste, and they were good, not spicy or anything.

Full as we were, we wanted dessert.  My parents ordered the carrot cake, apparently made from a recipe by the founder’s mother that had never been changed–and why would it need to be?  It was moist and delicious and had pineapple in it.  The cream cheese wasn’t slathered on too thick, which was nice.  I ordered the brownie sundae, which was also very good–dark and rich.  We were told that the desserts were all made in-house, which impressed us.

We enjoyed our dinner enough that my parents signed up for a Rock Rewards loyalty membership, and Nicole told us we would get $10 toward our next dinner.  Can’t pass up that deal!  Plus my parents had gotten wind of an upcoming beer that would incorporate Nutella, so I know I have to go back for that…and I could probably be persuaded to have a meal there too!

Thanks to Nicole and Tim for making our dinner even more awesome!  We’ll be back!