Out and About

How relaxing is this?!

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I haven’t been pressuring myself to work out every single day, so after a few days of relaxation this weekend, I knew on Sunday that I would be getting outside on my bike. My bike was a birthday gift from my parents, and while I have been able to get out for a few rides, I have a December birthday so this is really the first “season” I will be out and about on it! I planned to bike about 9.5 miles down the Mt. Vernon Trail to Old Town (and the waterfront) in Alexandria for a hopefully almost 20-mile ride.

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The ride out of Arlington wasn’t too crowded, but once I hit the trail, it was game on as I navigated around runners, other cyclists, tourists, and families walking with their kids. Since I am pretty new to the whole biking scene, I’ve realized I really don’t like the speed I gain while going downhill…and I’m easily alarmed by other people who are flying down a hill towards me. I’m easily alarmed in general, so this fear should surprise no one, but I need to get over it quickly because most other cyclists are fearless in their swerving around others!

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I didn’t quite know where I wanted to stop, but once I hit the riverfront trail, I pedaled along until I felt like taking a rest. I drank my shake, laid in the shade, and people watched as others had picnics, played games, and walked around with their families and friends. This was pretty much the last good thing that happened. Hahaha

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I wasn’t looking forward to the ride back because I was being lazy and just wanted to be done, but when you ride 9.5 miles away from home, what choice do you have but to ride back?! As I went back up the Mt. Vernon Trail, it felt like the ride was flying by, and I saw a fork in the trail that could take me in another direction. I recognized the name (Four Mile Run), so I headed that direction. I was no longer riding alongside a river, and this water was SUPER calm. There were two turtles hanging out on this branch, so that was kind of cool!

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This trail isn’t straight through the woods…eventually you run into some residential areas and then the trail picks back up again. It was at this time that I started making ALL of the wrong turns. I knew one very specific way to get home, but for some reason my adventurous self decided to go another way, and I ended up getting SO stuck in Pentagon City. There are a lot of busy roads and highways surrounding that area, and the one particular way that I knew to get back home now seemed so far away. After sitting down on the side of the road and feeling sorry for myself, contemplating calling an Uber or taking the Metro, and walking up a HUGE hill with my bike next to me, I finally hopped on and got to work. At this point, I had gone in a complete circle and wasted almost an hour, so I was very annoyed with myself. I knew that I was going to pass my mentor’s house and I was PRAYING that she and her husband weren’t sitting on the porch, but of course, they were. Ha! I pulled into their driveway, scared the heck out of their dog, and they gave me just the motivation I needed to get the last 3 miles home.

And then a rabbit ran in front of my bike.

I kid you not.

Easily startled, remember?

The rabbit and I both survived and I won’t be biking for at least 3 weeks. One week off for every hour I was gone. Hahaha

What did you do this weekend?!

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MiMM

5 Things I’m Loving Lately

Alright Spring Break, I see you coming to an end. Slow down just a little, please! We have a solid three months of school left (June 23rd oy vey), so I’m enjoying this down time a little too much. 🙂 Linking up with Andrea, Erika, and Narci this Friday to talk favorites!

-Warm Weather-

No night class, a 65 degree day in March, and running distance from the National Mall means one thing and one thing only. You must go for a run. 😉 I will never ever tire of running to the Lincoln and sitting on his steps. It’s my second favorite monument (Jefferson is first).

– My Friends –

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On the topic of running…aren’t race expos the best? Everyone in the room loves running and there are so many goodies to collect! We had the best time in all of the photo booths, and this picture is one of my favorites. The Rock N Roll DC Expo seemed to understand just how picture obsessed our generation is. 😉 I am so glad I’ve connected with running friends in DC. If your local Lululemon has a running group and you’re a runner, you should GO!

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I went to see The Sound of Music last night with my mom, her friend, and one of my best friends in Pittsburgh and it was an AMAZING performance! We ate at Peter Allen’s, an Italian restaurant near the venue, and then headed over to the Benedum Center for the show. There were people of all ages there and I found myself singing along during the show! The Von Trapp children were SO cute.

– Jake’s 17th Birthday and Promposal –

It’s been an exciting week in the life of Jake. First…

I filled Jake’s car with 120 balloons while he was sleeping the night before his birthday. On Monday night it suddenly occurred to me that I just needed to decorate his bedroom door, so I stopped for supplies on my way home from the gym. I came home to decorations galore courtesy of my mom so I had to redirect my thoughts…and that went to filling up his car. 🙂 It was SO fun and he was SO surprised! His cookie cake was also my favorite AND I put the 10 candles we could find in the shape of a ‘1’ and ‘7’ on the cake, so I was quite proud of myself. #thelittlethings

Then, it was time for the cutest promposal ever. (Sidenote: I was asked two years in a row via text message. So special. Hahaha)

Jake HAD to ask his girlfriend to prom in a cute way because apparently that’s how it works these days. Ha! If you can see it, she wrote “yes” next to the question mark! He brought her home after school on Thursday, they walked down the little heart path, he gave her roses, it was adorable and they were both so happy!

– Life As A Teacher –

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The week before Spring Break was Science Week at school. I had to exert serious self-control as I let my students design their tri-fold boards. I was trying to micromanage every pair’s poster and it was not working. #duh Once I forced them to design their title and had them research/write facts, I decided they could just have the boards and create whatever they wanted to their heart’s content. Then everyone was much happier. 😉 It was my favorite to see how excited they were to present their posters to the sixth graders. There were some really awesome posters and presentations!

– My Little Sidekick –

Meet Amigo, the velcro dog. He has not left my side since I arrived home on Monday. Gotta love him. 😉 I was on the floor with free weights, modifying the exercise because I don’t have a bench, and he laid down and put his head on my stomach. Velcro!!! As you can see, I had to watch my step as I worked out because I never knew when I might trip over him. Hahaha

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And a little humor for your Easter weekend. 😉 Reese’s eggs really are my favorite, although I don’t know that I’ve ever had a white chocolate one. I might have to remedy that problem ASAP.

Happy weekending to you! And happy Easter!

Friday FiveFriday Favorites

MIMM: Pittsburgh Edition

What’s marvelous in my Monday? Well, after several much appreciated snow days, we are headed back to school today with a two hour delay. I was able to go home to Pittsburgh for a long weekend and so many wonderful things happened!

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First and most important, my dogs never left my side. We napped together, studied together, walked together, and worked out together. Except Amigo wasn’t really feeling the workout on this particular day. He was more concerned with his favorite toy, the penguin. Colby, on the other hand, was all about the resistance band. In retrospect, it looks exactly like his leash, so it’s no wonder he wouldn’t leave me alone. Hahaha!

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Cuddle buddies for life. #hesnotafanofmornings

I spent most of Friday with my aunt getting pampered all day long. We chatted, relaxed, and just had the best day. In between all the fun stuff, I was able to get some school work done for my night class that starts this week, so I also felt accomplished! My mom joined us for manicures and pedicures to end the night.

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On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early to go see this guy play in a volleyball tournament. My youngest brother’s team is playing other local teams in tournaments during their preseason, so even though the winner and loser didn’t really matter, of course we were all paying attention to the score! They played a lot of teams that have been playing together since middle school, and that gives them a bit of an advantage because Jake’s team has only played together in high school. They did win two games, though! And Jake is the one serving the ball in the above picture. 🙂

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My Dad and I headed to our favorite restaurant for brunch. Eat ‘N Park is a Pittsburgh classic, and I love eating there every time I go home. There isn’t a bad thing on the menu and their smiley face cookies are always delicious for dessert! We ordered breakfast food (our favorite) and then my Dad humored me and let me take him shoe shopping. Of course all at the same time, my running shoes, rain boots, and black boots bit the dust and so I need to replace each of those pairs of shoes. I was on a mission! I found my favorite pair of running shoes on sale for $90. That’s quite the markdown from $160! My mom and I shopped a bit before meeting up with my brothers for dinner. Then I took a nap and headed out for a night with some friends from college!

I had quite the clothes catastrophe because I literally threw yoga pants in a duffel bag and jumped in my car when I heard we would be off school for the rest of the week, so getting dressed to go hang out with real people was a bit of a challenge haha! Props to my mom for letting me borrow her shirt and not killing me for throwing clothes all over her bedroom and the family room. #shesthebest We met at a place on Pittsburgh’s North Shore called McFadden’s and the DJ played the best music. Julie and Felicia (the two pictured above) arrived early enough to snag a table and it was nice to have a “home base” once it got crowded. Just a place to sit and talk! We had the best time. And then I realized half way home I forgot my debit card… #oops

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Randi and I went to breakfast in Oakmont on Sunday morning at a place called What’s Cookin’ At Casey’s. I had only ever been once before for dinner, so I was excited to try their breakfast menu! We had the best time talking about life and eating all the food. Two older women sitting in the booth behind us told us we needed to stay all day because “we can just tell you are having so much fun!” Ha! Randi and I went to the same elementary school and even took gymnastics together for a short time but as we got older, we had different friends since we were in different grades! We reconnected through blog land, and it is so fun to have a friend who knows exactly what you are talking about when you talk about high school!

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I spotted this pay phone outside the restaurant as I walked in and I thought it was so random! Do people even use pay phones anymore?! Photo credit goes to my Dad 🙂 He lives in Oakmont and took this picture when he was walking around town one day. Apparently it strikes everyone as odd! Ha! He claims that it works and he will be calling me from it today. So I shall be waiting for a call from an unknown number. Any guesses on how many quarters he will need to use?!

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60 degrees in January, windows down, sunroof open, loud music…no explanation needed. #perfection

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When I was writing my year in review post, I came across pictures from the run pictured above and remembered that was the first time my friend Kristen and I met up to run in DC. When I told her, she decided we HAD to go running on this day because it is like our one year friend-aversary ha! Well, that day was yesterday, and we were busy driving back to DC from Pittsburgh, so how were we supposed to fit a run in?

Um…we stopped driving every hour and ran one mile. Hahaha! This was at the rest stop in Somerset, PA and we had to take pictures at this exact spot because the well-known huge windmills are in the background. No one really noticed us running here…we just did a loop of the perimeter of the parking lot and hit a mile in 8:27.

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Then we got in the car and ate a donut, because we deserved it, right?! Ha! I’m one of those annoying people who takes two bites of a sweet treat and puts it back in the box. Salty treats are my weakness! These donuts are from Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, which is a small shop in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. They really are little donuts, in case you were curious 🙂 Bite size, if you will! Flavors included vanilla, honey, apple pie, s’mores, cinnamon sugar, and mocha.

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An hour later, we were at our halfway point and stopped at our usual place to put gas in the car and get a salad at Subway. But while we were there, we had to get our mile in…so we ran around the perimeter of THAT parking lot. This one wasn’t quite as fun because we had to lap it 6 times;) I am pretty sure the big group of students we saw coming home from a ski trip thought we were weird. I didn’t ask them questions about their clothing, so they shouldn’t ask me questions about my running. 😉 #logic

Purple skies led us to our third stop at the Hagerstown outlets. Now THIS was a fun mile! It was our slowest yet at just over 9 minutes, but we got to “window shop”, we heard music playing through the outdoor speakers, and there were so many sidewalks/directions to run in! Do I sound crazy? I am aware this sounds really crazy and you are reading this wondering WHY I think this was fun. But I promise it was. And at this point of the drive, I am usually pretty unpleasant because I just want to be home…but we kept having a run to look forward to and that kept our spirits up!

We did not run a mile upon our arrival in DC, because important things like unpacking and grocery shopping and watching Grease Live needed to take place. 🙂 It literally made my whole Sunday to add a little bit of running to our drive and that is how I know I am a crazy runner person because no one else I know would do this. Haha! I cannot take credit for the idea because I saw someone I follow on Instagram (I can’t remember the name!!!) do this during a road trip a few weeks ago, but I’m very glad we stole the idea yesterday!

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Things that aren’t marvelous? Forgetting to bring back some of my mom’s delicious biscotti. WAH! #thelittlethings

What’s marvelous in your Monday today? Share something below! 🙂

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MIMM

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MIMM: Art Edition

It’s still the weekend if I’m not at work, right? Thanks to MLK Jr. Day, I’m spending my Monday doing marvelous things at my leisure. And tomorrow I’m headed back to work for a teacher work day, so this week is off to a great start. 🙂

Linking up with Katie for MIMM.

My Friday evening began with a reunion with friends in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of DC! A friend from my small group was back in town for a quick visit, so we all gathered together to eat, drink, and catch up with her! I was most excited to be served a Moscow Mule in a Moscow Mule mug. Just so you know, The Cheesecake Factory will serve you your Moscow Mule in a regular glass and you will be disappointed. 😉 This drink and the company did not disappoint!

I was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to take my car to the shop to be repaired. My youngest brother kiiiiiind of cracked the driver’s side mirror backing out of the garage, so I’ve been driving around with clear tape holding it together. #superclassy While it was broken, I noticed I had to lean down a bit to see in the mirror and I always had to check my blind spot, but it didn’t seem too difficult to use. Now that it is repaired, I feel like it is such a luxury to see what is around me! Ha!

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I didn’t even mind waking up super early because I wore the new crazy Nike pants that the same wreckless brother bought me for Christmas AND I got to hang out at Starbucks and read while it was being repaired! I am reading “The Residence” by Kate Andersen Brower right now and it is SO good! It is all about The White House, which I obviously find fascinating since it is right down the street. 🙂

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Kristen and I decided to do start checking things off our DC to-do list on Saturday and so we visited Renwick Gallery right near The White House. There are currently nine fairly new exhibits in the gallery and we didn’t realize quite how long the line would be…it went from the street corner all the way BACK to the front of The White House which is about 0.3 miles! That is really not far to walk at all, but when you are waiting in a line, it certainly seems lengthy! Thank goodness for the Starbucks coffees in our hands. 🙂

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The current exhibit is called “Wonder” and it features nine contemporary artists’ work. This means that we weren’t exactly looking at paintings…we were really seeing creative pieces!

The above piece is made from pieces (or as I like to call them, sticks) of Alaskan bush. The artist literally had himself dropped out of a plane and collected what he found when he landed. Other people’s professions (such as an artist) fascinate me!

Next, we walked towards a piece made from tons of strands of colorful thread. Doesn’t it look light the color comes from a light?! It’s really pieces of thread!

My favorite! Mountains of snow! Because DC has seen none yet this season. 😉 Really, this piece was made from a bunch of index cards. Crazy, right?!

Walking into this room, I immediately smelled leather. Then Kristen commented that it smelled like an auto body shop. Well, she was correct, because this piece was made from tires!

We headed upstairs and saw the most beautiful chandelier. It is made up of 320 diamond-like pieces and the colors fade and get brighter as you stand there and watch. It is all run by repeating patterns of LED lights. This isn’t part of Renwick Gallery, it is one of the pieces being featured with the Wonder exhibit!

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While we waited to see the last few pieces upstairs, we waited in line in a huge “salon” room with this colored net on the ceiling. It also changed colors! The green and blue hues were my favorite.

Upstairs, everyone was waiting to see this first piece that looks like a tree turned on its side and hollowed out. It’s made of 500,000 pieces of reclaimed cedar. It’s an imitation of a real tree in the Cascade Mountains. YEAH. Are you amazed?! I was!

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Green marbles to imitate the tides of the Chesapeake Bay and a pink room decorated with geometric designs…made of insects.

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With these odd drawers in the center, also full of bugs. Ah!

We went back to the Grand Salon before leaving to see the colored net.

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 I was amazed at its beauty, but I was also amazed at its simplicity. Net, hanging from all different angles on the ceiling, with a variety of lights fading in and out on it. And that’s art. And I thought it was cool. The real question is: did the artist think her idea was going to be a success or did someone have to TELL her it was going to be cool? It’s just so simple!

Sunday included serving in the nursery at church, attending church, drinking the most delicious Roasted Almond Tea from Capital Teas, a workout, and Steeler game watching. You can have your win, Broncos, the Patriots are going to kill you next week. 😉 Sidenote: while I was watching the game at a restaurant in Georgetown, I saw a wedding proposal out the window! There is an ice skating rink on the Georgetown Waterfront and after the Zamboni cleared the ice, a guy set up a bunch of red lights in a heart shape and his fiancee-to-be walked out on the ice (in high heels, I might add!) to hear his proposal. It was so sweet!

How was your weekend?! Are you still weekending today?! Happy Monday!

2015: A Year In Review

If you had told me last New Years Eve that THIS New Years Eve I would be on Christmas Break from my first year of teaching, I don’t know that I would have believed you. My life last year was so very different than it is now, but there have only been good changes!

I moved to College Park, MD in August of 2014 to start my Master’s in Reading. I took on three part time jobs at UMD: a research assistant in the Education Department, a writing consultant at The Writing Center, and a fitness instructor at the gym. That’s how last year began…a new semester of grad school plus my three jobs.

This is for my own memory. You will likely be tempted to skim or scroll past some stuff. Ha!

JANUARY

Right after Winter Break, I drove back to Maryland for a work trip to Boston. My research team worked with another team out of Boston College that we communicated with via Skype and phone calls. We went up to see them for 2 days in January to get LOTS of work done in person! It was also -4 the entire time we were in Boston, so thank goodness we were only there for 36 hours. 😉 This was a typical work trip in that I truly have no idea what the city of Boston looks like because I was at the airport, in a taxi to Boston College, at Boston College, at our hotel, and then all of that in reverse. This month, I also started teaching PiYo and I took myself on an adventure to Annapolis because I had never been and that’s what you do when you have few friends in a new place! I ran to the MLK Jr. monument on MLK Jr. Day and I met up with Kristen for the first time to run the National Mall!

FEBRUARY

I taught PiYo once before teaching it on a stage. At the beginning of the semester, the gym has a sort of “opening night” for its classes so everyone can see what’s available. That was a little bit out of my comfort zone! I started training for the Cherry Blossom 10-miler (you’re welcome for the selfie) and spent a lot of time on the indoor track because it snowed a LOT this month and I was a big baby! I went to running group with my church almost every Wednesday and found lots of new-to-me routes in DC. My mom and Jake came to visit for Valentine’s Day and my best friend Stef visited a few weekends later. I also worked at and attended a Fitness Expo at UMD’s gym that brought fitness instructors from up and down the east coast!

MARCH

I remember watching a lot of Grey’s Anatomy this month. Ha! I was obsessed and school kept getting delayed, cancelled, or closed early because of cold weather and snow. I made it outside when I could to keep training for the 10-miler, I took lots of selfies at The Writing Center (omg long hair), and I kept teaching PiYo every Monday morning and Tuesday night! My running group did a special run for those we knew going on a mission trip to the West Bank and I spotted the National Cathedral for the first time since moving here. And of course, my baby brother turned 16 and got his permit!

APRIL

And then it was warm. This was also the month I started tossing around the idea of applying for teaching jobs. My final decision was made while I was sitting in a Jason’s Deli. My memory, I tell ya… I was home this month for Easter and drove with Jake for the first time! I also went running on my favorite loop downtown (where I ran almost every morning in college) and I have a very vivid memory of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk and falling into a big X-shape. My leggings ripped, my hands were bleeding, I was half crying and half yelling, and then when I finally stood up…I kept running. Hahaha! I went to an event at UMD called “Grad Prom”, attended my first bonfire of the year in shorts and sandals, ran to Gravelly Point where you can see planes take off from Reagan National Airport, and ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. It was so fun to have my friends in town for that race! I’m a Beachbody coach so I went to a Super Saturday event in Baltimore and I also went to my first Nationals baseball game!

MAY

I started and successfully completed Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme program this month. I made a last minute decision to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon when an extra bib became available and I also ran to Gravelly Point for the first time. You can see the planes from Reagan National Airport taking off and landing here! My friend Sarah and I went to the Marine Barracks Evening Parade and my mom and my aunt came to visit for the weekend. We went to Atlantic City at the end of the month for Memorial Day Weekend and I rushed back to Maryland ASAP because I had my first teaching interview! My mom wanted to know what I was wearing and my dad wanted to see a picture of the Zipcar I had rented, so that’s how I ended up with that super awkward picture on the bottom right. Ha!

JUNE

First November Project workout.
First Duquesne Alumni Event at the Nationals vs. Pirates game in DC.
First adventure to Old Town, Alexandria, VA.
First time eating an apple fritter (that was the size of my head).
First time making and eating Strawberry Salsa for a Strawberry Festival Party!
Second Kenny Chesney concert.
Second Taylor Swift concert.
Second and third teaching interviews (third time was the charm!).

I also chopped all my hair off and spent a lot of time on the computer. It sounds terrible to say that in the middle of summer, but I was taking two online summer classes and apartment hunting!

JULY

My mom, Jake, and his friend came to DC for the Fourth of July. Kristen and I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon with a team of other runners from my church. I spent even more time on my computer, took my mom to see the elementary school where I was hired, started moving to my new apartment, and spent 10 much needed days on the beach!

AUGUST

I officially moved to my new apartment in Virginia. One of my friends from college also moved to the area so we spent a lot of time exploring DC together! I ate brunch with other DC area bloggers, made my first grown up purchase of porch furniture, and ran the Lincoln Memorial steps for the first time. I went home for a week to surprise my family (a conference I was supposed to attend was cancelled last minute), we celebrated Amigo’s 2nd birthday, and then I started new teacher orientation. My classroom was looking bare and empty! Kristen and I went to a Steelers bar to watch a preseason game, I went to Baltimore to celebrate my friend Shannon’s birthday, and I finally got tagged at November Project!

SEPTEMBER

A secret November Project workout that ended at a Biergarten in DC for yoga and drinks. My first day as a real teacher. 😉 The Pope came to town, I ran a 10k with my friends, I met Amanda for dinner, and I went to a 90s bar crawl in DC. I also made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for my mentors and coworkers as a thank you for helping me during my first month of teaching!

OCTOBER

My mom and my aunt visited the first weekend of October! My classroom finally started feeling like a real room. I visited the pumpkin patch and then I got sick for the first time in my adult life…not even ashamed of that selfie. I had a fever and a sinus infection and junk in my lungs and it was horrible and I had to take care of myself. Hahaha! I participated in a Blogger Scarf Exchange, spent time with my family from Indianapolis in DC, and went to New York City to see the marathon!

NOVEMBER

70 degree days meant evening runs as often as possible. I went hiking on the Billy Goat Trail, attended a Beer and Wine Festival at Nationals Park, and generally counted down the days until Thanksgiving Break. 😉 I flew home (which is unusual) for the holiday, spent time with my cousins, and helped my mom decorate for Christmas.

DECEMBER

Where did this month go?! There was a lot of Christmas cheer this month. I ran to see the Capitol Christmas Tree and the National Christmas TreeMy friends and I went to see Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. I took myself on an adventure to the National Harbor to see all of their Christmas decorations and check out the area. I went to a Christmas party and hosted a Christmas party, which I also labeled my birthday party. 😉 #decemberbirthdayproblems My mom, my aunt, and I made Christmas cookies, I met up with my college roommate for dinner, and of course, we celebrated Christmas. Then, we made a getaway to Hershey, PA and NYC for a few days!

Looking back, I was ready for this life (teaching and such) at the beginning of 2015. I loved being in school, but I wasn’t fulfilled doing a whole bunch of jobs instead of focusing on one job. The summer brought some stress as I started applying for jobs, interviewing, and apartment hunting. I also thought it would be a fabulous idea to take two online classes, so that just added to my stress. August was a wonderful month free of responsibilities, at least until I started orientation for my job. I was SO nervous to take the night class that I have with my job but after doing it for a semester, I realize it’s not ideal but it works.

In September, I remember being SO tired. I was overwhelmed, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing AT ALL, and I was just generally whiny to anyone who asked me about my life. In October and November, I feel like I started to hit my stride. I figured out that I will probably continue the rest of this year feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing…but having confidence to figure it out as I go is what is making me successful. I’m doing what I said I was always going to do…teach…and I’m doing kinda okay at it. I’m a perfectionist, so you will never hear me say I’m good. And let’s face it, as a first year teacher, I probably have some room to grow. 😉 I had a check up with my doctor last week and she was asking me about my life and just was amazed at how much has changed with me this year. She said she can’t wait to see what my life is like next year…and neither can I! Because I can’t even begin to imagine!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS! 🙂

Life Lately

The most accurate way to sum up the past few days would be comfy clothes, Christmas shopping, and a dog on my lap. The perfect Christmas Break, am I right?

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Let’s rewind to last week…because I kind of fell off the face of the Earth on Wednesday. Teaching last week was HARD, friends. The month of December is a little crazy because the students have Christmas and Santa and Elf on the Shelf on the brain at all times, but we tried to keep calm and carry on for as long as possible. My favorite part of last week was running to see the National Christmas Tree at The White House.

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I did this a few weeks ago with two friends, but it was much needed last week. I came home from work on Wednesday and took a 20 minute nap. That NEVER happens. I don’t believe in naps (hence the reason I only slept for 20 minutes…I set an alarm) but I was just so burned out that I didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything. My friends were meeting at lululemon near my apartment at 6:15 to go run and I decided promptly at 6:09 that I would put my shoes on and go meet them. Ha!

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We ran the 4 miles from lululemon to the National Mall and then made our way to the White House. All around the big tree are little trees for each of the 50 states and U.S. territories. Here we are by the Virginia tree, because technically that’s where we live. 🙂

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Doesn’t the tree look so bright?! There is actually a real pine tree under all those lights. The way they decorated it kind of just makes it look like a huge LED tree, but that is not the case. Some people were really unhappy with the decorations this year because you can’t tell it’s a real tree. Anyway, I like this view because you can see the columns of The White House right next to it. As I sit in my room in Pittsburgh and type this post, I don’t take for granted for a second that I get to live where I live. These huge, national monuments are just things I get to see on an every day run. That is amazing to me.

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Now…with the Washington Monument to the right of the tree. All the angles. All the pictures. 😉

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Those of us from Pennsylvania (and one honorary PA person who went to Penn State) took a picture by our state tree, too! We went to District Taco after our adventure for dinner (and queso) and it was so nice to just sit and talk and be social. I’m so glad I decided to get off the couch. Ha! While we were eating, we were discussing the necessity of going to the Adele concert in October. Yes, like 10 months from now. There was a four ticket maximum on orders so we had to split up when we purchased tickets. Well, three of us got tickets and three of us did not. Guess which group I was in?

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#bitter #butistillloveAdele

At work (or school…I never know how to refer to it), it was Spirit Week…you know, to keep everyone’s spirits up before break. 🙂 We had Crazy Hair/Hat Day, Twin Day, Rockstar Day, Cardinal Day (our school shirts/colors), and Pajama Day. Here are a few highlights:

I was twins with my mentor on Tuesday. She’s on the second grade team so we spend a lot of time working together! We have the same plaid shirt and black Toms, so that was the inspiration for our outfit. She suggested we wear jeans and our hair in a ponytail…I took her suggestions seriously and wore a nice ol’ messy bun to work. Which I was very happy with until I remembered I had a meeting with a parent and some other teachers at 9 AM. Ha! On Thursday, my team decided we were skipping school colors day and wearing Christmas sweaters because our classes were having their holiday parties that day. Nick took his Christmas sweater to another level and came in his elf costume! The kids thought it was hilarious. And on Friday, for the beloved PJ day, we wore matching pajamas because we love a good theme.

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The 6th grader who took a picture on my phone cut off the best part of our PJs…the plaid pants! So comfy and they have POCKETS! We had an early dismissal on Friday so I drove back to Pittsburgh as soon as I left work.

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My mom and I drove down to The Strip District on Saturday to do some Christmas shopping. If the name is throwing you off, the Strip is full of funky little cafes and restaurants as well as shops!

One of the best places to stop at while you are down there is Peace, Love, and Little Donuts. They really do make little donuts AND they make the most decadent flavors you can think of. For example, strawberry cheesecake, smores, Samoa (like the Girl Scout cookie!), salted caramel, maple bacon, chocolate chip cookie dough…I could go on. Of course we picked up a dozen because who doesn’t need more sweets a few days before Christmas?! So delicious.

So that’s life lately. How are you?!

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Christmas Cheer

This weekend, I continued my theme of trying to do all the Christmas things. Last year, I remember watching Christmas movies when I went home after finals and I felt like I was trying to squeeze everything in because I hadn’t properly celebrated the holiday season all December! I cannot say the same is true this year. 🙂

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I have heard a lot about the Christmas lights at the National Zoo, mostly because a few of the running groups that I like to run with have planned runs through the zoo at this time of year. The National Zoo is free, so why not make it part of your running route one evening?! Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to either of those planned runs this season so I made my own plans on Friday night to go take in the lights!

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The parking situation was not ideal, but that is probably because the zoo isn’t located near a metro stop. This means that everyone drives to the zoo and that means parking is a nightmare. #cityproblems One of the parking guys had orange cones set up in the entrance of the parking lot and after a lot of circling around the neighborhood, I finally just pulled up to the orange cones and stopped until he walked over to my car. He said he “wasn’t sure” if there were any spots left. How are you not sure if that is your job?! Ha! $22 later we finally had a spot and we could go in and see all the pretty lights!

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We ordered spiked cider and/or hot chocolate and made our way through the zoo. It was such a nice night to walk around. The weather has been amazing lately. Most animals were inside, so we really were just there for the lights! After a terrible experience in the monkey house, we were scarred for the rest of the evening. It smelled terrible OUTSIDE of the building and you really had to hold your breath inside, too. It was that bad lol!

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My mother loves palm trees and anything beachy. She appreciated this photo!

On Saturday, I ran errands like a maniac. I was in and out of a bunch of different stores and my Christmas shopping is still not complete! My roommate and I hosted a Christmas party that evening so I was on the hunt for an ugly Christmas sweater and other party supplies…like food. Of course, this Christmas party was totally also a birthday party for me. The life of a December baby. 😉

So the Christmas light sweater dress…definitely ugly. Like I didn’t even like it enough to buy it. Ha! I actually didn’t buy either of these outfits, but how CUTE are those elf pajamas?! My coworkers and I bought matching pajamas for our Pajama Day on Friday and I am so mad that we didn’t buy the elf ones! In case you are curious, Target has those elf pajamas for both men and women, adults and children, and even pets. I think Colby, Amigo, and I will be matching this Christmas because I am 100% certain Alex and Jake will never put those PJs on their body.

 I added some Christmas decorations, pictures, and bedding to my room and bathroom! I just replaced two pictures that are usually hanging with those canvases. I actually moved them and rearranged them once I took these pictures. 🙂 I also realized post-pictures that my tree doesn’t have any lights! It is staying sad and unlit. #toobadsosad

My roommate and I decorated both indoors and out because it was so nice out that we were able to use our balcony during the party! I cannot take credit for anything except the poinsettia by the fireplace…but then again, I decorated everything for fall, so I guess I was just letting her have a turn. 😉 I did, however, buy a star for the top of the tree!

Friends from church, friends from college, friends from blogging…they were all in attendance. 🙂

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On Sunday, it was off to church. My friend Sarah has played the harp for years and she played for the first time at church this past weekend! The band usually consists of guitars, drums, and singers, but this day was a “Creative Sunday” where other instruments like violin, standing bass, piano, and harp were included! They have never done this before and all of the instruments sounded so pretty playing Christmas hymns. Sarah did amazing! She even had a little solo at the beginning of Silent Night! Our pastor called her out when he said, “You know it’s going to be a good Sunday when there’s a harpist on stage!” and she told us after that she didn’t even hear him because her ear buds were in. Ha!

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I was in charge of helping her unload the harp from her car and safely take it back up to her apartment after church. I do NOT know how she lugs that thing around without help!

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To celebrate her harp playing, we ate a quick brunch at Bayou Bakery right near her house. I had a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and she had biscuits and gravy. Because every day deserves a little sugar, we shared beignets. I’m pretty sure this was my first time trying this dessert, but you can’t go wrong with dough and powdered sugar!

How was your weekend?!

Tried It Tuesday: ClassPass

If there is one thing to know about me, it is that I love to work out. My most favorite way to break a sweat is to go running, but as we all know, I have had my ups and downs with running. Any sport or workout can be hard on your body, but I don’t always take the best care of myself post-workout (just being honest!) and so injuries strike. Such is life. That would still be life even if I was doing everything right! It comes with the running territory.

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In the spirit of taking care of myself, I decided to join ClassPass. I don’t have a gym membership because there is a gym in my apartment building and like I said, I love to run. However, ClassPass intrigued me because I love the atmosphere of a fitness class. It’s part of the reason I became a fitness instructor! I found that for $99, I could attend classes at 231 different studios in the DC area. That is a LOT of variety!

Plus, studio classes tend to be on the more expensive side, so it is actually cheaper to go to some of my favorite places through ClassPass. I figure that most classes are around $20, so to get your money’s worth, you have to go to at least 5 classes per month. After that, it’s like the classes are “free”! This is my version of girl math. 😉 You can only go to each place 3 times every month, which keeps people from taking advantage of ClassPass’ cheaper price and using it to just go to their favorite studio. It also encourages you to mix up your workouts! Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to having this kind of gym membership.

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– Advantages –

  1. I can book classes online or through the ClassPass app on my phone.

2. I am able to search for barre, boxing, cycling, dance, gym time, martial arts, pilates, rowing, strength training, or yoga and choose a certain time frame to even further narrow the search. Gym time simply means an hour of time to use any of the machines at a certain gym like a regular member, which is a cool feature, too!

3. I am able to try a different studio every day of the week if I want to!

4. I can book at the last minute, so if I am not sure what I feel like doing that day or I am not sure how my day will go, I still have options when I finally have time to work out.

– Disadvantages –

  1. I lose a little bit of time driving to new places because I am not sure how long it will take me to get there and I don’t want to be late! Most studios don’t allow you to take the class if you are even a few minutes late, which is totally understandable.

2. You must cancel 12 hours in advance to avoid being charged. This rule sounds logical, but on Saturday night I signed up for a cycling class at 10:06 PM. The class was to take place at 10 AM on Sunday morning. Well, when my friend went to sign up for the class, she didn’t get in. That can happen. But at that point, I couldn’t cancel my reservation even though I had just made it because it was less than 12 hours away. See the predicament?! Luckily, lots of studios offer the first class free or have a free trial week, so you can squeeze in that way…or you can pray a spot opens by morning, which is what we did in that case. 🙂

3. Most studios only allow 3-4 ClassPass members in each of their classes. The rest of the spots are reserved for people who actually have a membership to that particular studio. Again, this makes sense, but it can be tricky if you are planning to go to a class with another ClassPass friend!

4. If you aren’t great at managing your schedule, you could possibly spend a lot of extra money with your membership. If you cancel less than 12 hours in advance, you are charged $15. If you miss a class completely, you are charged $20. However, this definitely keeps you accountable to what you have scheduled! Plus, I have been in situations where I am on the way to a class and I just know with traffic, I will not make it. In my experience, if you call the studio, they will move your reservation to another day or try to accommodate you in some way. However, that may not always be the case, so even if you are intending to go to a class, if something happens and you don’t get there on time, that may just be an extra charge for you!

– Final Thoughts –

Ultimately, ClassPass is the way to go if you are someone who loves studio classes but doesn’t love studio class membership prices. 😉 One of my favorite cycling studios, Zengo Cycle, is finally on ClassPass, which makes me so happy! Of course, you won’t find every studio included. For example, SoulCycle is a very popular cycling studio in DC, but it is not part of ClassPass. As ClassPass gains more popularity, I think more studios are jumping on board. When I looked into this membership at the beginning of 2015, it did not have nearly as many options as it does now!

Another thing I love is the opportunity to give feedback. After I take a class, the first thing that opens on the ClassPass app is this survey to rate the class and one question about the studio or the instructor. I love that ClassPass cares enough about its members to get their opinions on the studios and workouts they are attending!

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Do I use ClassPass every day? No. I make sure to use it enough to get my money’s worth and cross train, but I still get to do my favorite thing, which is run. I have tried more classes and had more variety in my workouts in the last two months than I have in a long time! I’ve done pull-ups (with lots of assistance), I’ve lifted kettlebells that are heavier than I ever thought I could lift, I’ve strengthened my core with the wonderful but terrible TRX bands, I’ve attempted Pure Barre, and I’ve actually picked up dumbbells and used them for more than 5 minutes. Ha! Overall, ClassPass has been a great investment for me. I will definitely stick with it through the cold winter months when running may be more weather dependent!

So tell me…do you have a gym membership? Are you a workout at home person? Do YOU have ClassPass?

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Linking up with Sara for Tried It Tuesday!

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Gone Exploring

When you move to a new place, you gain a new perspective about where you are from as well as starting to better understand the place you are in. As I browsed social media over the last year or so since moving to DC, I noticed many of my friends here going hiking on local trails. I suppose I could do this in Pittsburgh, but it is not something that my friends or family and I have ever done before. My brother and I have biked through trails in downtown Pittsburgh, but we’ve never really hiked. Once I figured out that there were so many cool places to hike in DC, I knew I had to do this, but you know, first I had to actually make friends. Would you just randomly ask one of your acquaintances to go hiking with you?! Hahaha

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Two weekends ago, my friend and I finally made plans to go to Great Falls National Park. Per her recommendations, we hiked on the Maryland side of the trails. There is a 4.7 mile loop called the Billy Goat Trail that runs between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. This is not your average dirt path through the woods or mountains…it is a very rocky climb!

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We started out on the path near the C&O Canal and the Visitor’s Center, where we parked our car. There were so many people biking and walking their dogs on this path! I was thinking about how nice it would be to run here, but on second thought, I love city running. The woods are pretty, but there is always something new to see when you are running in the city! This also made me think about why my friends like to go to places like this so much…probably because it is a great escape from city life and it isn’t very far away.

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The trail started out as a dirt path with a few boulders that you had to get over or around…and then we ran into this small creek. There was a makeshift bridge built for those too nervous to cross the tree trunk…but I decided to go the more adventurous route. 🙂 In all honesty, I wish I would’ve had a bag on my back or left my belongings in the car! I brought my phone and a water bottle and I wish my hands had been more free!

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Once we crossed the creek, there was a lot of terrain that looked like this. This is REALLY where having my hands free would have been helpful! We never really had to climb straight up, but there were definitely times when I was reaching up for stability or leaping across to the next part of the rocky path and would’ve rather had two hands!

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The best part of this hike is that it was very populated, so I never felt alone or scared in the woods. I’m sure more experienced hikers appreciate some solitude in the woods, but since I have never been to this park before, I liked all the human interaction. 🙂 My friend and I would often give advice to the people climbing right behind us or watch the people in front of us to see how they took their next steps!

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On one of the first “look outs”, we were just kind of taking in our surroundings when I found this huge leaf! I attempted to carry it with me for a bit because it was seriously as big as my head, but it ended up just being another thing to hold. Photo evidence had to take the place of actual evidence that I found this. Ha!

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Here, we were just coming up on Bear Island. So says Wikipedia, so say I. 😉 You can see how Kristen’s feet are kind of slanted, which shows the varying heights of the rocks we were tumbling across. We were making our way down to the edge of the water…

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…where I pretended I was at the rocky beach. So fun!

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The sun was especially pretty on this day, and also very appreciated. I was wearing two layers and a scarf and I was definitely warm enough, but in those moments when we stopped and weren’t moving, I needed a little sunshine to stay warm!

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Below, you can see the “beach” area that I was just talking about. If you notice where the people are standing in the bottom corner, that’s where we were that was so rocky and right near the water!

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But to take that picture of the “beach” and the other hikers, first we had to climb up the other side. There were blue markers for us to follow the whole time, but the hike definitely got more challenging (and more rocky) as we climbed on!

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#victoryismine

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It was around this point that we were almost done with our hike. I was sad and wanted to turn around and go back the exact same way that we came so that we could be out there longer! It only took about 1.5 hours to walk, hike, take pictures, and hike some more, but it was the perfect Saturday afternoon activity! We then followed up our great outdoorsy-ness with a trip to Tyson’s Corner Center, which included Starbucks, clothes that we definitely don’t need, The Cheesecake Factory, and a new movie in theaters called “Love The Coopers” (which you should definitely see because it was filmed in Pittsburgh!).

So tell me…have you been hiking before?

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Linking up with Katie!

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My Favorite Weekend

Hello there. 🙂

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I love weekends, but I especially love weekends when my family and friends come to spend time in my new town! Originally, my family was planning a trip to DC to see me run the Marine Corps Marathon, but life had other plans, and instead of prepping for the race and running, I simply got to hang out with everyone which was definitely just as wonderful. 🙂 My mom and my brothers arrived in town on Thursday night so they could have a longer day on Friday! I woke up and went to work because I am a great hostess, but they were able to meet up with my aunt and my cousins for brunch and some sightseeing, so they had a good day without me!

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I invited my mom to be a guest reader in my classroom so she could see it now that it is all put together and meet my students! I have been the guest reader and helper in her classroom many times over the years, so it was fun to have her come into my space to do the same thing! Alex and Jake surprised me by coming to say hi, too! They took a quick tour of the school, scared my students because they are both 6’5″, and then went to Target while my mom and I did teacher stuff. 🙂

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I left work and headed straight into DC with them. We checked into our hotel and immediately turned around to go meet our other relatives for dinner at a family style Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. My friends and I tried to eat at this restaurant a few months ago, but as we arrived, so did a tour bus. Guess who got to sit down first that night?! On this night, we had a reservation, and everyone got to enjoy lots and lots and LOTS of Italian food! The waiter will tell you that each dish serves three people, but I would safely say that each dish serves 4 people! We ordered the Carmine’s salad, eggplant parmesan, and shrimp with pasta in garlic and oil to share. My aunt and cousins ordered salad, steak, and chicken marsala. Needless to say, the eight of us had tons of leftovers…none of which we took with us! It was such a nice, cool night out that of course we had to sightsee a bit. Carmine’s is located in the Chinatown neighborhood of DC and my youngest cousin really wanted to go to the Spy Museum, which was nearby. It was closed on Friday night, but we peeked in anyways and made plans to go back later during the weekend! Alex and I moved my mom’s car closer to the National Mall while the rest of our family walked over, so we got to the Washington Monument first. One of my favorite ways to see the monuments is to lay on the ground and look up. 🙂 I know it’s weird, but it’s a fun perspective!

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Once we all caught up to each other, we took a family photo. 🙂 My mom was behind the camera on this one, but she was in attendance! My dad’s sister is the one in the pink jacket. She raised her family in Indianapolis, so that is where her kids and their kids live now. We have visited them many times over the years and it is always fun to get together, no matter what we do!

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On Saturday, we woke up and I made myself a delicious hotel breakfast! Jake and I were determined to get a made-to-order omelette. Alex and my mom were having none of the line, so they just got scrambled eggs instead. An omelette always wins in my book! Of course, I had a pancake on the side because I love something sweet with every meal. 🙂

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It was kind of chilly on Saturday but it wasn’t raining, so we decided to do one of my favorite things EVER! We rented bikes and rode around the city. My family and I love to ride bikes when we are at home or on vacation. It’s just a fun way to move around, plus it’s easier and faster than walking. 😉 We went to Big Wheel Bikes in Georgetown and were given four of the most random bikes ever! My mom had a cruiser, I had a road bike, and Alex and Jake had cross bikes…whatever that means!

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I took them along the river in Georgetown until we hit the National Mall. Then, we crossed the 14th Street Bridge to get to the Mt. Vernon Trail. I was determined to get us to Gravelly Point Park, which is the closest you can get to Reagan National Airport. I LOVE watching the planes land and take off. It is the coolest spot ever!

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We rode all the way back to Georgetown on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which is my one of my favorite places to run. It was perfect to bike on because it is made for runners and bikers! On the other side of the river, we kept running into the road and needing to cross at somewhat inconvenient times. It was nice to ride with no interruptions from other cars! We rode mostly a flat circle, except for the final climb to the Key Bridge…then we really had to use our legs to pedal up the hill. 😉 That was at the end of the ride, so no one could get too mad at me. Ha!

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I made them take this picture because the cobblestone street in Georgetown was just too picturesque. Can you tell they loved this?

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We headed to Pentagon City after our bike ride to get lunch and do a little shopping. I have had my eye on a $130 pair of fringe booties from Nordstrom, but while I was at Nordstrom Rack, I found these beauties…for the low, low price of $138! I was very sad. Rack is supposed to help me out, not make me feel worse! Ha! Lucky for me, I found a $39 blardigan. If you read Sheaffer’s blog, then you know what a great find this was! 🙂 I may have put it on my body as soon as I left the store and kept it on for the next 24 hours. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t…

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I’m wearing it here! Seeeee the beauty of the $39 blardigan!

Our hotel had a free happy hour for guests, so I went to have wine and snacks with my mom and this guy decided to tag along…he’s 21 and big stuff now. 😉 Cheers to happy hour!

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Once again, we met up with our family for dinner. We ate at Old Glory in Georgetown, which seemed to be known for it’s barbecue style food! I ordered a chicken wedge salad, so don’t ask me how the barbecue was, because I have no idea. The cornbread muffins and corn butter were delicious, though!

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We walked M Street after dinner and I finally stopped in Dean & Deluca. There were so many different kinds of food available in that store! Different varieties of candy, baking supplies, hot foods, cold foods…they seemed to have it all. I had to try their coffee. It did not disappoint!

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We bought the most typical thing you could buy in that store: two huge cookies! For all the variety we saw, it came down to the classics when we had to make a choice. Chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin? What is your favorite? I LOVE oatmeal raisin. 🙂

Other highlights from the weekend include:

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–> Alex stuffing his bed full of pillows to scare the maid when she came to clean our room!

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–> Jake trying to make me help him with 11th grade Pre-Calc/Trig. I think he forgot that I was recently hired to teach second grade…

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–> A present from my Dad. He makes fun of my selfies, so now I make them even weirder than they need to be! He sent me pumpkin butter. What a nice guy. 🙂 It is delicious and so sweet!

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–> This fountain. It kind of looks like a black staircase in this picture! I slept on the fold out couch this weekend because I am a good person (ha!) and I could hear the water falling from our room. So soothing!

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–> And a really good workout on Sunday morning. I have not been doing anything too serious in the workout department recently. Whatever I feel like, I do. I wanted to run on Sunday, but the two treadmills that worked were taken so I hopped on the elliptical for 20 minutes and then lifted for another 20 minutes. It ended up being a really hard workout and I was happy about it!

How have you been lately?!