Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

6 Budget Friendly Things To Do In DC During the Government Shutdown

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

It’s day two of the shutdown and there is no end in sight. Suj and I have gotten a little stir crazy out of the office (probably a sign that we work too much). I know we are very, very lucky to have steady jobs that we both love, especially in this economy, but with talk of the shutdown potentially lasting weeks, I am conscious of the pressure that puts on our budget. In light of all this, we find ourselves with the opportunity to create a list of fun, affordable ways to take advantage of our (hopefully mini) staycation.

Picnic: Grab some cheese, crackers, and fruit and head over to Meridian Hill or Rock Creek Park for a relaxing afternoon on the grass. The shutdown might be a sorry state of affairs, but at least the weather in DC couldn’t be better.

Workout: It’s about time I use that fancy gym membership that I pay for every month! Exercise is not only a great low-cost activity but it is also a way to relieve some of the stress of the unknown. I hit a yoga class at Vida today and was shocked by how empty the gym was. I thought it would be packed in light of the shutdown, but it turned out to be a great time to enjoy my workout. If you don’t belong to a gym, you can always enjoy the quiet streets and run one of these popular city routes.

Sightsee: Just because the federal government is shutdown, doesn’t mean there is nothing to do or see in the DC area. Privately owned sights like the National Cathedral (donation suggested) and Mount Vernon ($17 for adults) remain open to visitors. There are also many private museums open to the public, including the National Building Museum ($8 for adults), National Geographic Museum ($11 for adults), Newseum ($22 for adults), The Spy Museum ($21 for adults), Crime and Punishment Museum ($18 for adults-online discount price), and The Phillips Collection ($12 for adults). These prices, however, are MUCH steeper than the free admission offered at the Smithsonian museums. That is, when the government isn’t on hiatus.

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Read: I am finally going to crack open a couple of the books on my ever-growing reading list, starting with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I am resisting the urge to make a new kindle purchase and, instead, opting for a free book from one of our shelves. If you aren’t book hoarders like us, a great resource is the DC Public Library. I frequent the Shaw location since it is close to my home, and the staff is so helpful and friendly.

Hang out with friends: The Sixth & I Historic Synagogue is hosting Shutdown Central where they offer daily activities, such as yoga classes, as well as a space to hang out and play board games, and best of all, free coffee, food, and Wifi.

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Take Advantage of the Swag! Local businesses have been amazing–throwing their support behind furloughed government employees by offering all kinds of freebies and deals just for flashing your government ID. The Washington Post has a great list of special food deals offered during the shutdown, including free sandwiches from three Jose Andres restaurants (we cashed in on that yesterday!) and drink specials all over town.

 

I am really hoping that the shutdown will end soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of a bit of free time in a city I love.

Jury Duty and the National Air and Space Museum

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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On the eve of a possible government shutdown, I am spending my time holed up in the jury waiting room at the DC district court. It seems like the only upside to a possible furlough is that I would have a day or two off to spend with my mom, who is in town. But no such luck. Instead I am catching up on my emails and watching soap operas in the waiting room.

The highlight of my service, so far, was the two hour lunch break, during which time I crossed the street and explored the National Air and Space Museam. I’d always heard this museum is better for kids, but I must be a kid at heart because I thought it was so cool! The building is spacious, with high ceilings and all kinds of aircrafts suspended from above.

Suj’s office is about a 10 minute walk from the courthouse, so I also got to spend a few minutes eating lunch with my sweetheart outside on a beautiful DC afternoon.  All in all, I guess jury duty hasn’t been too bad.

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The National Arboretum: best undiscovered date spot ever

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

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A few weeks ago I started making a list of all the places to go and things to see in DC that I haven’t gotten around to doing or seeing. One of the suggestions that came up over and over (thanks internet) was the National Arboretum. Now that we have been, I can say that this place is a must-see! According to Wikipedia, the arboretum functions as a major center of botanical research and conducts wide-ranging basic and developmental research on trees, shrubs, turf, and floral plants.

All great, but the best part, by far, is the bonsai tree exhibit. The trees are completely adorable, and the exhibit is in such a cool, peaceful space. The Arboretum is pretty difficult to visit if you don’t have a vehicle, but that fact seems to contribute to the quiet, peaceful atmosphere (i.e., very few visitors).

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At least it was peaceful before we got there…

 

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This place is an awesome date spot. Suj and I picked up some sandwiches before we got there, checked out the exhibits for a while, then had a nice little picnic lunch. We are planning to go back again, probably for a bike ride through the trails (this place is big). In the meantime, I am spreading the word to all my single friends about the bonsai exhibit.

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Many of the bonsai trees were gifts to the US from China and Japan.

 

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National Arboretum Bonsai Exhibit. Some of these trees have been “in training” for hundreds of years!

 

Balcony Garden: things we learned the first time around

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

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Suj and I are fortunate to have a huge balcony at our place in DC. It is really a ton of outdoor space in the city, so as soon as we moved in we knew we wanted to take advantage of it by planting an urban garden.  We considered building a medium sized planter box for a more traditional-type garden, but since we are just renting we decided that probably wasn’t a practical option. We settled on planting in a variety of mismatched pots, and we are pretty happy with the results.

I did a lot of research about when and what to plant, but I didn’t find much helpful information. Most of the posts I read suggested talking to a local garden store. We decided to just wing it and plant a random variety of veggies. We started in early spring (I think about mid-April) when the weather started to warm up.

We planted a few varieties of tomato, classic and purple basil, rosemary, lots of hot peppers, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini. The rosemary died immediately. We seriously had it for a few weeks before it totally shriveled and died. Apparently it is temperamental with heat and watering. On the other hand, the basil has done quite well. Suj’s sister had a garden last year and her basil plants grew into these crazy 4 foot tall monstrosities. Ours is only about a foot tall, probably due to the fact that it is growing in a small planter. In any case, we have had plenty of fresh basil this summer.

We have had mixed results with the tomatoes. One of the plants is an heirloom variety, and while it has given us a lot of tomatoes, they have a tendency to crack. We did some googling, and apparently the cracking is a result of inconsistent watering. This summer we have had a ton of rain storms followed by intense heat, so we haven’t been able to control the water exposure for our plants. Beside the heirlooms, we also planted a few cherry tomato bushes. These little guys were gifted to us and had been specially bred to be high-yield and compatible with DC conditions. These have been fantastic. I absolutely recommend the cherry tomatoes over the regular size. Not only have they grown well, but they are ready to be eaten so much sooner. I was shocked to learn that it takes over two months for a regular tomatoes to ripen!

The zucchini was a horrible idea. The plants were so tiny when we got them, so we planted them in a long container alongside our bell peppers. We soon learned that the zucchinis are basically plant terrorists. The leaves grew so fast and so big that they took over the place. In addition, we had to wait a long time before we ever saw zucchini growing. When we finally harvested one it was all goofy shaped, not like the ones at the grocery store. It is still in our fridge.

The jury is out on the bell peppers. We got one pepper from each bush and they were tiny. That said, it is unclear whether the problem was the bell pepper plant or the insane zucchini that basically grew on top of them.

The hot peppers have done the best by far. We have a couple bushes: jalapenos, serranos, and red peppers. The jalapenos and serranos have given us more than we can possibly use–and we love us some peppers. I would definitely recommend those for an urban garden.

Bottom line: My urban garden recommendations are hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Mid-sized planters work fine. Make sure to water them every day.

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Plant Based Diet Challenge

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

I have to admit, I have been feeling a little … well, unhealthy lately.  I’ve never been very diligent about diet or exercise, but I have a pretty active lifestyle and generally eat okay, so I have gotten away with a lot of bad habits (ahem, cheese-related habits).  Last weekend, however, I had a little beach time on Lake Michigan and realized I am not in my best beach body shape.  I decided to get proactive and dive into a plant based diet.  My parents have been eating this way for a few months and they love it.  The guidelines I’ve adopted are basically consistent with a vegetarian or mostly vegan diet, but with a little wiggle room.  I am eating meals with fresh, non-processed foods.  This should explain why my recipe posts will be a little “cleaner” for a while.

I’ve been hitting the gym more often as well, and with a little luck maybe I will actually start to enjoy running.  We’ll see.

{Cannellini Bean Salad}

{A little cheese-cheat}

At the Ballet

Friday, October 19th, 2012

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As part of Ashley’s self-improvement goals, we decided to add a little more culture in our everyday life.  We are off to a good start after our visit to the Kennedy Center to watch the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Cinderella.  Ashley, Suj, and I met for an early dinner at Founding Farmers then we cabbed the short distance to meet Beth at the Kennedy Center. The ballet was contemporary  and fun and the dancers were gorgeous.  It made me nostalgic for all those years I spent in the studio when I was younger.  It was such a great night, in such a lovely theater, I couldn’t help but sneak a few photos (shhh).

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Apartment hunting, football, and the past few weeks

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Whew, it has been busy around here. Just a little recap: Suj and I spent the past few weeks looking for a permanent apartment for him in DC, and after hours on craigslist and attending numerous open houses, I am happy to report that we found an incredible place. He moves in around the first of November, which will be awesome because (1) he is anxious to stop living out of a suitcase, and (2) he will be just a few blocks away from me! The move also means there will be lots of projects and organizing and moving furniture about (so hard to explain why I love moving furniture around) and housewarmings. In the meantime, I am reading up on design and décor so I can be totally ready to offer my unsolicited advice.

Other than apartment hunting, my free time has been filled with a lot of football and mandatory continuing legal education courses. I can’t really say which I enjoy more. Erin has been trying to convert me into a football fanatic, but as of now, I am only ever excited about the football food. (I’m trying. Promise.) As for the CLEs, well … I’m finally done. My work doesn’t pay for the classes like some employers do, so I shopped around for some online bargain courses this year. Unfortunately the inexpensive courses generally don’t feature the most exciting topics (ahem, pre-immigration income tax planning). Oh well, broadening my horizons, I suppose.

On a brighter note, here are some photos of the past few weeks of traveling, exploring, and celebrating nuptials:

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{beautiful view at the Philip Carter Winery}

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{mason jar accents}

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{looking glam–thanks Cindy!}

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{huge hot sauce selection at the Apple House}

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{soju bloody mary at Mandu, in Dupont}

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{my ongoing obsession with old globes}

Trivia Night!

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

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There are few activities more quintessentially “DC” than trivia night. Practically any night of the week you can find at least one local bar packed with young professionals coming straight from the office to meet up with friends and show off knowledge about obscure things. Teams are made up of about eight members and the competition features multiple rounds, some of which involve audio or video clips. The winning team gets $50 off their tab, so the stakes are high. Trivia night is a thing, and it is huge.

I have never been great at trivia. Give me a category about old Broadway shows or B-list celebrity relationships and I would dominate, but unfortunately, the questions are usually some combination of word riddles and geography. Not my strong suits. Anyway, I tagged along with Elizabeth to Stetson’s trivia on Tuesday and had a great time with her co-workers. Our team didn’t win, we didn’t even place (did I mention how serious DC folk are about their trivia??); but fortunately, Suj joined us in time to provide much needed help with a nineties-music round. That’s right, my boyfriend was able to correctly identify which “Now That’s What I Call Music!” album featured Chingy’s “Right Thurr.” One of the many reasons I love him.

Fall

Monday, October 1st, 2012

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(wedding candlelight)

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(giant yacht in the Greenwich harbor)

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The shifting season has brought a lot of excitement and change. For one, the city is flush with young students returning to DC for fall semester. Suj and I are wrapping up wedding season (I love that that is a thing), so we’ve been traveling to New York, Connecticut, and Virginia the past few weeks. But the most exciting news is that Suj is officially a Washingtonian again! The past year (plus) of long distance between DC and Detroit was difficult. We spent countless hours on the phone, waiting in security lines, trying to fix FaceTime connections, saying goodbye too soon, eating dinner over gchat video, spending weekends alone, riding on the B30, texting, simultaneously watching movie, and waving goodbye at the airport. We were pretty lucky though. We had the means and the flexibility to see each other a lot. We also had the advantage of crazy technology that wasn’t available years ago. I know many people spend time away from loved ones under more difficult circumstances than we had. I am amazed by that kind of commitment. And while I don’t wish for us to ever live that far apart again, I am very aware of how much stronger our relationship is because of this huge thing we did together. So now we are in the same place at the same time. I am excited for our new season.

Personal Improvement Plans

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

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Ashley and I did a little exploring in DC this weekend. We looked like major tourists as we snapped away with our DSLRs and snacked on cupcakes in Georgetown. Ashley’s been on a major goal/self-improvement kick lately, and I love it. She made us wander around the city for hours honing our photography skills (which, for me, meant taking my camera off the semi-manual mode I love so much and actually adjusting my settings).

The self-improvement day felt good and inspired us to set more personal development goals. We decided to share with one another our short (1-6 months), medium (6 months-1 year), and long (5 years) term goals. I made a huge, sloppy list of things I am dying to do. For instance, I want to get in the habit of writing more letters or cards, so a short term goal I set is to write to at least two people a month. For a medium-term goal, I want to invest in a sewing machine and brush up on my sewing skills. My long-term goals are much more daunting and will require a lot of short-term steps along the way. Examples: I want to work towards Spanish proficiency and learn to play the piano well enough to play in front of others (without feeling terribly embarrassed).

I think sharing my goals with Ash is going to be a huge motivator because she’s not going to let me quit. I learned on Sunday there is no quitting when Ash is in charge. She has a subtle way of motivating; celebrating achievements then ignoring me when I hinted about wrapping up for the day. And now I know the difference between ISO and aperture.

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