Anniversary Weekend Part 2: Caverns, Bird Knob Hike, and Wine-Tasting

Day two of our anniversary weekend in the mountains (you can check out the day one recap here) began with coffee-sipping on the porch of our cabin.

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We could hear a stream rushing somewhere in the woods below and a rooster crowing somewhere in the distance, but there were very few sounds beyond that.  This cabin was the epitome of seclusion, and it was awesome.

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After a leisurely breakfast and a quick dip in the hot tub, we drove into Luray to check out Luray Caverns.  They were pretty cool–it is amazing how it all was formed–but after a while it all kind of looks the same to me.  Andrew, on the other hand, my rock-loving mine engineer, was geeking out the whole time, and that was fun to watch.  There’s basically one rule in the caverns:  don’t touch the rocks (the oil from our skin breaks them down).  We saw one guy in our group sneakily reach out and touch a rock with his finger;  Andrew shook his head, and under his breath said, “Exhibit some self-control, buddy.” 😀

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After our caverning adventure we stopped for lunch at this wonderful restaurant called Gathering Grounds.  It’s a coffee/sandwich shop with delicious food…and gluten-free options!  In a little mountain town like Luray, we weren’t sure how well-versed the restaurants would be in food allergies, but they were incredibly accommodating.  They even had a few GF pastries available for dessert.  Andrew finished his meal with a giant peanut butter cookie and was a very happy camper. 😀  If you find yourself in Luray, check out Gathering Grounds!

We spent a little time exploring Main Street and letting our food digest, then we drove back into the mountains for our second hike of the weekend:  Bird Knob.  Our criteria for choosing this hike were 1. good views (always) and 2. shorter distance… something less strenuous and time consuming than our crazy hike from the day before.  While the Bird Knob hike is 8 miles if you do the entire thing, the overlooks are only 1.5 miles into the hike, so we could make it a 3 miler if needed.

I made certain to pack enough water for this hike, but I didn’t pay much attention to the elevation chart.  My thought process:  “Three miles?  That’s an evening stroll around the neighborhood.”  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The entirety of the 1.5 miles to the overlook was uphill, and parts of it were annoyingly steep.  It probably wouldn’t have been as difficult if our legs weren’t sore from our hike the previous day.  As we neared the top Andrew said, “Next time I choose the hikes.” 😉

As usual, the views made it all worthwhile:

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We hiked about a mile beyond this, then turned around and made our way back down the mountain.

Back at the cabin we grilled some steaks, poured a couple of drinks, and watched the sun set.

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Gender role reversal: Andrew with a fruity mixed drink, Catherine with a dark stout 😉

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We concluded our weekend with some wine tasting on Sunday on our drive back to Richmond.  We stopped at Barboursville Vineyards, which is an Italian-owned winery, made to look like an old Tuscan farmhouse.  The wine was pretty good–none of them tasted as much like grape juice as I want wine to taste–but the scenery was beautiful:

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The weekend was simultaneously relaxing and exhausting.  It was so great to get away and be in the mountains, but we (I) picked some tough hikes 😀  Regardless, we were very thankful for the opportunity to celebrate two years of marriage!

-Beach or mountains?  Andrew and I discussed this Saturday; he picked the beach, I picked the mountains (but ask me again when I’m at the beach this summer ;-))
-Have you been to any caverns (Luray or other)?  What did you think?  Are you a rock-toucher/rule-breaker?

Road Trippin’ in a Van + Travel Snacks

Today my coworkers and I drove up to Ohio for a work conference.  Last week, this is the conversation I had with Andrew regarding the trip:

Catherine: Just a reminder, we leave Wednesday for that conference in Ohio.
Andrew:  Oh, yeah.  Do you need me to take you to the airport?
Catherine: Oh, no!  We are driving the church van.
Andrew:  Your driving to Ohio??

Oh, yes.  We spent 10 hours a 15-passenger van and traveled in three different states today, but we arrived in one piece. 😀

We will be away from home for four days (including travel days), and in the spirit of setting myself up to make healthy choices, I packed plenty of snacks for the time away.  We’ll eat breakfasts at the hotel, lunches at the conference, and dinners out at restaurants, and while I’m sure the food will be excellent, you just never know what the produce situation will be.  And four days with insufficient produce sounds like a headache to me.

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I packed:

~Bananas
~Clementines
~GoGo Squeez Fast Fruit
~Trail Mix
~Almond milk
~Energy bars (not pictured)

For traveling I love having “pre-packaged” fruit like bananas and clementines that can be thrown in a bag without any special preparation.  I was excited to find the Fast Fruits too–they’re essentially pureed fruit in a pouch!

Additionally I packed my running shoes and scoped out the hotel fitness center situation (there is a gym!), plus found some “do anywhere” workouts that I can do in the hotel room.  Preparation leads to healthier decisions.

After we arrived this evening we settled into our rooms, went out to dinner (our travel meals were pretty good today–Cracker Barrel and Outback Steakhouse, both of which have quality, healthy options!), then turned in for the night.  I am glad to be out of the van and looking forward to the conference starting tomorrow (Thursday)!

-What food do you pack when traveling?

-What tips do you have for working out on the road?

Spring Cleaning Our Healthy Habits

This weekend Andrew and I cleaned out the closet in our bedroom.  Our closet is wonderfully huge–it could probably fit two queen-sized beds foot-to-foot with some walking room–which I love, but it also means there’s great potential for huge messes.  Generally speaking, Andrew is a lot neater than I am.  His side of the closet had a few articles of clothing scattered on the floor, some drawers open, and some shoes out of place, but nothing that couldn’t be straightened in 15 or 20 minutes.  My side of the closet looked like a suitcase had thrown up its contents after I’d packed for a month-long trip.  Cleaning it involved multiple hours of sorting, folding, trashing, and Goodwill-ing.

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Epic, mostly clean closet.  With my wedding dress hanging on the left. 😀

Also this weekend Andrew and I discussed doing some type of wellness challenge during the month of April to get ourselves in better shape.  As we examined our exercise and eating habits, we realized that our current routine is pretty good…when we actually stick to the routine.  Our lifestyle doesn’t need a complete overhaul, like what I had to do on my side of the closet Sunday, but rather a dusting off of our healthy habits, more akin to straightening Andrew’s side of the closet.  <Phew.>

So how do we stick to the routine?  A crucial part of maintaining healthy habits for me is planning ahead.  I know what I need to do, and I have this great idea in my head that I will get up early each morning to workout, pack a healthy lunch, and go to bed early at night.  If I am not intentional about planning ahead, however, this is what ends up happening:

We stay up late one night watching one more episode of whatever on Netflix.  I wake up too tired to workout in the morning, reset my alarm, and tell myself I’ll go for a run when I get home from work (it will be warmer then, anyway.)  I go to work, but run out of time/forget to pack a lunch–I’ll just grab a big salad around noon.  Noon arrives, and I’m in the middle of something, so I delay going out.  Around 2:00 I finally decide I can’t put off lunch any longer, and by this point I am starving, so I end up buying something greasy/fried/cheesy/etc.  (The later in the day it is, the more unhealthy my lunch will be.)  When I arrive home after work, I’m tired and have a stomach ache because I ate such a crappy lunch, so instead of going for a run I park myself on the couch, telling myself that Andrew and I can go to the gym after dinner.  We don’t, but instead watch a few more episodes of whatever on Netflix, once again staying up too late…

Can anyone relate to that?  I consider myself a fairly healthy person;  I know what good eating and exercise habits look like, and I still fall into that trap if I fail to plan ahead.  In light of that, our “spring cleaning” involves committing to some guidelines that will set us up to make healthier decisions, and recommitting to some fitness goals.  By doing it together, we can hold each other accountable and encourage one another to get our butts of the couch more often. 🙂

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Here are our goals and guidelines for the month of April:

Spring Cleaning Our Healthy Habits

~Start getting ready for bed by 10 PM. 

~Plan lunches and snacks for the week, and make sure we have all necessary ingredients

~After dinner, only snack if actually hungry 

~Complete at least 4 cardiovascular workouts each week

~Complete at least 1 yoga + 2 weight-lifting workouts each week

What are are NOT doing:  counting calories, restricting what we eat in any way, or trying to lose weight.  Again, we both know how to eat well and have a desire to do so; if we are proactive with lunches, they will be healthy, so we don’t feel the need to dictate what exactly we’ll eat.  Plus, we don’t believe in deprivation.  My weight hangs out in the same 5-lb range no matter what I do, and Andrew’s is pretty steady as well.  Body fat, on the other hand, we’d both like to lower a bit.  We did weigh-in this morning, and while we are not super concerned with the actual numbers, I am curious to see if there will be any changes at the end of the month!

Andrew
Starting weight: X
Starting body fat %: Y

Catherine
Starting weight: A
Starting body fat %: B

(Unsatisfying, I know. 😉   All numbers fall in to the “healthy” range.)

I will give progress reports each week on Wednesday or Thursday–and because there are 30 days in April, but only 28 days in 4 weeks, we’ll have two freebie days in there somewhere. 🙂

The first major challenge for me will be this week, as I am traveling for a work conference Wednesday-Saturday!  I won’t have to think about packing lunches, but I will have to find time to workout.  (This will also be a major challenge for Andrew, who won’t have me there to drag him to the gym. :-D)

We are looking forward to embarking on our “spring cleaning” , and even more so looking forward to feeling better, stronger, and healthier by the end of the month!

-What are your wellness goals for the spring?
-How do you set yourself up to make healthier decisions throughout the day?

Tastes of Spring

My office is closed today, and I’m watching the snow fall outside through the kitchen window…again.  I like snow, but I am ready for the warmer weather we experienced briefly this weekend.  It was quite the teaser!  We did manage to squeeze in a few spring activities, one of which I am so, so excited about: planting vegetable seeds!!

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Last year we took the “go big or go home” approach with our vegetable garden, tilling a 10-ft x 20-ft plot in the middle of our back yard, and we experienced surprisingly great success.  (You can check out last year’s garden updates starting here.)  We ate amazing, fresh produce throughout the summer, and we are still working our way through the veggies we froze by using them in soups and stir-fries.  It’s been wonderful.

This Saturday we gathered our supplies–some seeds saved from vegetables last year, some new seeds, dirt, a seed starting box, a clear storage bin to use as a makeshift greenhouse–and set up a planting station in our driveway.

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We planted:
-Brandywine Tomatoes
-“Sweetie” Cherry Tomatoes
-Black Krim Tomatoes
-Yellow Pear Tomatoes
-Bell Peppers
-Pimento Peppers
-Tomatillos
-Butternut Squash
-Spaghetti Squash
-Watermelon

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And now our guest bathroom is a greenhouse. 😉  In the seed starting box in the foreground, which has a clear plastic lid, we planted all the tomatoes and peppers.  For the others, we are experimenting with 1. bigger containers and 2. a bigger greenhouse: a clear, upside down storage container.  We put our space heater in the bathroom with the seeds to make sure they are nice and warm. 🙂

Even though our garden last year was a success, I feel so nervous about how well these little guys will do;  we are still rookies who just happened to have ideal growing conditions last summer.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens!

Sunday was even more gorgeous than Saturday.  With temperatures in the 70’s, we simply couldn’t stay inside, so we drove to the University of Richmond to play disc golf.   If you’ve never played disc golf before, I think it’s the perfect compromise activity for people like Andrew and me–it’s essentially taking a walk in a park with elements of competition and athletics. 🙂

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Also, we found a turtle:

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It was an awesome way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon. 🙂

And now we return to our regularly scheduled winter weather.  On the upside, I took these photos this morning of a giant hawk that sometimes hangs out in our back yard…so beautiful in the snow!

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Have a great Monday, everyone!

What’s the weather like outside your window today?
-Have you ever played disc golf?  What do you think?
-Are you growing veggies this summer, and have you started the seeds?

10 Good-for-Your-Heart Valentine’s Day Ideas

Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly, but who says it has to include huge, artery-clogging dinners and blood-sugar-spiking desserts?  The way I see it, the day is about spending quality time with your significant other.  Here are 10 ways to strengthen your love and your heart this Valentine’s Day:

1. Take a new-to-both-of-you class together at the gym.  Last year Andrew and I tried a yoga class on V-Day (well, technically the day before V-Day).  We had a great time laughing at ourselves because we were both horrible, and it was the start of healthy routine that we both really enjoy now.

2. Take a walk together at a local park.  V-Day is on a Friday this year, so this is probably a Saturday activity unless you both happen to have the day off work.  Hand-holding is optional, but recommended.

3. Visit an indoor trampoline park.  These places are popping up all over the country, so chances are there is one near you (we have two in Richmond now.)  Jumping on trampolines is an insanely good workout and so much fun.  For any guys reading this, make sure you know your girl before surprising her with this;  while I would enjoy it, I realize that some girls need something slightly more romantic.

4. Build a snowman in your neighbors’ driveway after dark.  This is a personal favorite of ours any time it snows, and there’s a good chance we will have snow on the ground Friday!  Building a snowman requires some physical exertion, plus, doing it sneakily is inherently fun and gives you a bonding experience.

5.  Run a Valentine’s 5-k together.  Festive.  Good for your heart.  Good for your relationship.  Bonus points if you run in coordinating costumes.  (I don’t foresee Andrew ever wanting to do either the running or the costume part of this.)

6.  Cook dinner together.  Chances are you’ll cook something far healthier than what you’d order at a restaurant, plus it gives you the shared experience and probably costs less than going out.  Cooking dinner together has my vote every single Valentine’s Day (Andrew, you’re welcome.)

7.  Go ice skating.  It’s a classic winter activity with lots of potential for romance–hand-holding, leaning on each other for balance, helping each other up when you fall, etc.

8. Go to your husband’s basketball game and sit in the bleachers with the other wives.  Wait, don’t plan on that.  That’s what we did last Valentine’s Day.  If you have an activity like this scheduled for Friday, maybe plan something special for Saturday instead. 😉

8.  Take a cooking class together.  Preferably one that utilizes a lot of whole, fresh ingredients and not a deep-fryer.

9. Go skiing or snowboarding.  Bonus romance points if this is out of town and you book a cabin for the weekend.

10. Go dancing.  Even if it’s just the two of you in your living room.

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Andrew and I are planning to cook dinner together, and we will probably play in the snow at some point if there is any on the ground. 😀

Have a great Wednesday!

Do you have any heart-healthy activities planned for Valentine’s Day?
-Anything you’d add to the list above?

Running: When Dogs Bite

I experienced a running first yesterday: a dog bit me. 

I was running on a semi-major road near my house, and I saw the dog and its owners (or more likely owner + friend) up ahead on the same sidewalk.  As we approached one another, I could see that the dog–a mutt, maybe 40-50lb–was very excited, so I slowed to a walk and tried to give it as much space as possible.  The dog was barking, and the owner pulled the leash a little tighter, and just as we passed each other, the dog lunged and grabbed hold of my thigh with its teeth.

“Oh my gosh!  Did he bite you??  Did he bite you??”

“Yeah, yeah, he bit me!”

“Are you okay??  I’m so sorry!  He’s had all his shots!  I can give you my contact information and am happy to pay any medical bills!  He’s a puppy, and he just doesn’t do very well!”

“It’s okay; I’m okay.  Thank you.  I’m sure a band-aid will cover it.  It’s okay!  It happens!”

It happened so fast, and I was wearing running tights (now ripped), so I couldn’t see the extent of the damage.  It definitely hurt, but it was also cold, so I knew my skin was more sensitive.  It was just a very surprising situation, and I didn’t think through my reaction.

I tried to resume running, crossing the street into a neighborhood, and immediately was met with a lot of pain in my leg.  I investigated as best I could without pulling down my pants in public, and the one gash I could see was not pretty.  I can’t promise that I didn’t utter a few four-letter words.  From there I hobbled home, not quite crying, but definitely whimpering.

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24 hours later–Tilt your computer screen as needed to get the full color-effect of that bruise 😉

After inspecting the wound, I sent a picture to Andrew, my mom, and a couple of friends in the medical field, and they all urged me to go to the doctor just to get it checked out.  Friends, that was a funny telephone call:

“Hi, I’m a patient of Dr. So-and-So.  Um, I just got bitten by a dog.  Is that something she could take a look at today?

They were able to to see me right away, and said it looked all right, and it was time for me to get a tetanus shot anyway.  They gave me the shot and some heavy-duty antibiotic cream, and sent me home.  The left side of my body–my leg where I was bitten, and my arm where I got the shot–is super sore today, so I am going to take it easy for a few days, but otherwise, I think I will be all right.

After the incident, I did some research to learn what one is supposed to do if bitten by a dog.  If you happen to find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what to do:

To avoid the bite:
-Slow your run to a walk so you are less threatening.
-Don’t stare, but keep the dog in site.
-Walk in the opposite direction of the dog.

After being bitten:
-If the owner is present, take the contact info!  (I am kicking myself for not doing this!)
-Apply basic first-aid: wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and sterile bandage.
-Go to the doctor.  Just in case.  I know it’s a pain, but why risk it?
-If you took contact information, ask for proof of up-to-date vaccinations for dog.
-Report the incident to animal control.

Stay safe out there, friends!

-Have you ever been bitten by a dog while a running?  How bad was it, and what did you do?

Biggest Loser Finale: Shame on You, America

**Warning: this post contains spoilers for The Biggest Loser finale.**

The Biggest Loser season 15 finale aired live last night, and the results are controversial.  All three finalists lost incredible amounts of weight both on and off the Biggest Loser Ranch.  The winner, Rachel Frederickson, lost almost 60% of her original body weight, now weighing only 105 pounds.  According to the internet, she is 5’4.

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Immediately after she walked on stage, fans began weighing in with their opinions via social media:

“Rachel looks horrible.  I’m appalled.”

“She should be disqualified.”

“Rachel looks so bad!”

“Rachel went way too far!!  Way too thin…doesn’t look good.”

“She looks wrinkly and old.”

“She cheated!”

I have a few reactions to these comments that I’d like to share:

1. It’s not okay to criticize someone’s physical appearance, period.  Some of the contestants are still technically overweight; it wouldn’t have been acceptable when they walked on stage to say, “Eww, he didn’t lose enough weight.  He looks gross,”  or “I’m appalled by how fat she is.”  So why is it okay to say cruel things about someone for being thin?  There is no scenario in which it’s acceptable to say someone is “gross” because of their weight.  Rachel is a real person who will very likely see all those mean comments, and that makes me very sad.  Mean commenters, stop hiding behind the internet;  would you ever say those things to someone’s face?

2.  You have no idea.  You have no idea if she is at the appropriate weight for her body type.  You have no idea what she did to reach that weight.  You have no idea if she is struggling with an eating disorder.  You have no idea if she is simply trying to win the game and will regain a few pounds in the next month.  You just have no idea, so stop assuming and passing harsh judgments.

3.  What would you do?  At the risk of contradicting what I just said–I am not saying the following is what happened, but let’s speak hypothetically for a moment–if $250,000 were at stake, and you had no idea how much your competitors had lost, wouldn’t you be tempted to lose that extra 5 pounds on a temporary basis?  And yes, according to BMI standards, she is 5 pounds underweight.  I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do–in a perfect world a contestant on the Biggest Loser would reach their goal weight and say, “Oh, I don’t care about a quarter of a million dollars.”–but it is a game, and it’s a lot of money, and Rachel was competing against two big guys who had a lot of weight to lose.  It’s a game that, if you commented about it on any form of social media last night, you’ve probably been watching all season and applauding the weekly 10-lb losses.  It’s that kind of game.  She didn’t cheat; she won.

4.  “Lose weight, but not that much weight.”  Society, you are cruel.  What a horrible, yet perfect glimpse of our culture this situation provides.  We tell women (and men) that they need to look a certain way.  We shame them for carrying a few extra pounds, we cheer them on when they start to lose weight, and then we criticize them for being too thin.  Which way do you want it, America?

Don’t mishear me:  I’m not saying Rachel isn’t too thin, and I’m not saying that she is.  I’m not saying she set a good example, and I’m not saying she didn’t.  I don’t want to comment on Rachel’s weight at all.  Instead, I want all of us to examine our responses and ask ourselves, “Is this kind?  Am I being compassionate?  Am I speaking about her like she is a human?”

She is a real person with real feelings and real struggles.  If you are concerned about Rachel, pray for her.  Write her a letter and ask her how she’s doing.  Don’t call her “gross” on the internet.

I think we could all benefit from practicing a little more compassion.