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?

Anniversary Weekend Part 1: Hiking Strickler Knob

Today marks two years that Andrew and I have been married!  We celebrated this weekend with a getaway to a cute mountain cabin in Luray, Virginia.  The trip was both awesome and exhausting, filled with hiking and exploring the area.

Friday morning we drove straight from Richmond to the base of our first hike–Strickler Knob–with plans to check into the cabin that evening.  I’d like to give this section of the post a special title based on our (my) experience:

Pack More Water Than You Think You Need

Strickler Knob is about a 9.5-mile hike with an incredible 360 degree view at the top of the mountain.  Now, 9.5 miles is a pretty long hike, and the reviews I read rated it 5 out of 6 in terms of difficulty, but for some reason I was not taking that thing seriously before we started.  I only packed one 24-oz water bottle, and that turned out to be a dangerous mistake.

About ten minutes into the hike, the trail turns very steeply downhill–the kind of downhill that isn’t fun at all–so steep that after .6 mile, when the trail finally started going uphill, it felt relaxing.  During that section all I could think was, “This is going to be terrible on the way back…”  And it was…but more on that soon. 🙂

The entire hike was beautiful;  there was a stream, rock scrambling, and these views at the top:

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Amazing.

The return trip is where it became painful.  The temperature was hotter than expected, and with no leaves on the trees yet, there was very little shade.  I’d consumed all of my water, and Andrew refilled my bottle with half of his second bottle (so by being under-prepared, I endangered both of us).  In addition to being dehydrated, rationing water meant that I had only eaten a few bites of my sandwich when we stopped for lunch–with a dry mouth it was tough to swallow.  All around, I did not have enough fuel in my system.

For most of the return trip I felt okay.  We even ran a few downhill sections!  And then we reached the bottom of that d**n hill that I knew was going to be terrible from the start.  Friends, I am in good shape.  Cardiovascularly I can go the distance; the muscles in my legs are strong.  After 8.5 miles, however, with not quite enough water or food, this ascent was not pretty.  I had to stop and rest–and not just rest, but sit down–every .05 miles.  That’s roughly every minute, maybe two on that terrain.  I’ve certainly felt tired on hikes before, but this was the first time I’d ever thought, “I cannot make it to the top of this hill.  How am I going to do this?  I’m going to have to camp here.”  Andrew said he was preparing himself to have to carry me.  It was awful.

And then after a grueling .6 mile, we reached flat ground…and I turned around and cursed the mountainside.

With adequate fuel, it would have been a tough hike, but with only 4.5 cups of water over that distance, it was almost more than I could take.  I was thankful to have Andrew there to encourage me and share his water! Anytime you go into the woods, pack more water than you think you need.

After completing the hike, we made our way to the cabin.

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Isn’t it cute??  We refueled with dinner cooked on the grill, then relaxed in the hot tub 😀

Despite the dehydration, it was a great day.  I’d like to tackle that hike again with better preparation…the views are worth it!

I will post about the rest of the weekend tomorrow, but for now…

Happy anniversary to the love of my life! 😀

Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine’s Day was full of good food and love for us this year.  My mom gave us a heart-shaped egg cooker, so Friday morning Andrew fried us some heart eggs to go with our banana muffins from earlier in the week:

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I met my good friend Kate for lunch at The Daily (the restaurant where Andrew and I had our awesome date night last week).  Kate and I realized that, for various reasons, we’ve had lunch together on Valentine’s Day for the last three years.  New tradition 🙂  We went to The Daily because I really needed some more of those Brussels sprouts:

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Mmm 🙂

After work I went for a 30-minute run–the first in my new running shoes that I bought last week!  I’m not usually a pink girl, but these are the best shoes for me, and this is the current color.  It’s tough sometimes, but I never pick running shoes based on the look!  It was festive for a Valentine’s Day run, anyway.

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Friday was a beautiful day here–I’m pretty sure the temperature was in the upper 50’s when I ran, but not all the snow had melted yet.  It feels a little funny to run in shorts with snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining!

After my run I took a quick shower and was getting ready for our Valentine’s date when Andrew arrived home with these goodies:

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Beautiful flowers and all-natural chocolate:  he knows the way to my heart 🙂

We turned to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and began prepping dinner.  While cooking, we enjoyed some festive pink cocktails that were quite delicious: cranberry-pomegranate juice, passion fruit rum, and lime (plus tonic water for Andrew).  Amazing.

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We tag-teamed the cooking and ended up with this very tasty dinner: steak, garlic green beans, and baked sweet potatoes.

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(I only ate about half of that giant steak :)) 

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After taking our time and really enjoying dinner and good conversation, we started watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Netflix.  Neither of us had seen it, and it was so good!  Midway through the movie, once our food had digested some, we brought dessert to the living room:

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Dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, and rice crispie treats

We made the fondue in our Crock-pot “Little Dipper”– chocolate chips + almond milk + vanilla.  We plugged it in while we were making dinner, and it was ready to go by the dessert course!

Overall it was a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the day before V-day we did fulfill #4 on this list:

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Have a great Monday!

-How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
-What was the highlight of your weekend?

-When buying running shoes, how much does appearance affect your choice?

A Valentine’s Day Survey

…because everybody likes taking surveys 😀  Feel free to re-post and answer for yourself…or answer any/all the questions in the comments section!

1. Valentine’s Day:  Love it, hate it, or something in between?
I don’t have super strong feelings towards the day.  If you have a significant other, celebrate together;  if not, it’s not a big deal.  I really don’t get the whole, “Singles Awareness Day” thing, and I didn’t when I was single either!  It’s like Mothers’ Day.  We childless women don’t turn it into “Childless Awareness Day”–the holiday simply doesn’t apply to me at this point in my life.

2. Most memorable Valentine’s Day you’ve had so far (good or bad)?
Two years ago Andrew had to have a minor surgery… on Valentine’s Day.  I spent the day in the waiting room, driving to the drug store, and playing nurse while Andrew came down from his pain medication high.  Yaaay. 😉  He did think ahead and bring me flowers and chocolate the day before.

3. Do you have a Valentine this year?  If so, who is it?
Andrew, my handsome husband.

Catherine & Andrew Storey

4. Favorite love songs (cheesy or not)?
“I’ll Stand by You” by The Pretenders
“(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams
So good.  So cheesy.  Don’t care.  😀

5. Worst pickup line you’ve ever received or used?  (And did it work?)
-A (very inebriated) guy walked up to me at a bar one time and said, “We’ll have to think of a different story to tell the kids.  We don’t want them to know we met at a bar.”  It didn’t work.
-My junior year in college I was studying at Panera one afternoon, and a guy walked up to me and said, “Excuse me, I don’t usually do this, but I was just noticing you from across the room…”  Once I realized he was serious, I was flattered and went on a date with him.

6. What’s your favorite gift to receive on Valentine’s Day?
Flowers.  Cliche?  Maybe, but I love flowers.  Chocolate is a close second.

7. If you were a conversation heart, what would you say?
I think I’d just be a winky face:  “;-)”

8. Favorite flower?
Tulips.

9. Favorite candy?
I’m a chocolate girl.  I love anything mint chocolate or sea salt caramel chocolate.  Mmm…

10. Most meaningful way someone could show you they love you?
Quality time.  Simply taking time to do something with me is better than any gift in my book!

11. How are you planning to spend tonight?
Andrew and I are having a nice dinner at home–we are making steaks, sweet potatoes, and green beans, with chocolate fondue for dessert!

IMG_4043Rice Krispie treats for the fondue… but we may have already eaten a few 😀

Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Tell me your answers to any or all of the questions above!

Snowmageddon Chicken Stew and Other Snow Adventures

We have another snow day here in Richmond!  In anticipation of the snow, which started yesterday around 4 PM, I felt compelled to cook a lot of food.  (If that sounds familiar, yes, I did the same thing a few weeks ago.  It must be a primal survival instinct.)

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For dinner–and what will be dinner for at least two more days–I made a big pot of Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew.  What makes it Snowmageddon stew rather than regular chicken stew?  The chicken is only from drumsticks because when I went to the grocery store in all the storm preparation craziness yesterday, there was no chicken remaining except drumsticks.  I am not exaggerating.  The poultry case was empty except for a few packages of chicken legs.  Chicken legs it is. 🙂

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Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew
10 drumsticks (~3 lb)
8 whole carrots
4 large celery sticks
8 oz green beans
8 oz mushrooms
5 large kale leaves
2 cloves garlic
1.5 c brown rice
2 qts chicken broth
Salt, pepper, thyme, smoked paprika, rosemary, onion powder
Olive oil

1.  Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown; add garlic and saute for about a minute.  3.  Add all remaining ingredients, including whole, raw chicken legs.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.  4. Check chicken in about 15 minutes.  When it’s cooked through, take all drumsticks out of pot.  Remove chicken from each leg (yes, this is very tedious), discarding the bones and putting meat back in the pot.  5.  Continue to let simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked through (or longer).

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Best if eaten while sitting under blankets on the couch 🙂

The legs definitely give the stew more flavor than we would have gotten using breasts, so that’s a plus!

While the stew was simmering, Andrew and I tag-teamed a batch of banana muffins.  We used a recipe from a gluten-free, dairy-free cookbook we have, and they turned out pretty great:

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We added a cinnamon-brown sugar crumble on top…not the prettiest, but they taste wonderful!

After dinner and dessert, we suited-up and played in the still-falling snow.  We took our sleds and found the best sledding hills in the neighborhood, threw a few snowballs, and give our inner-children free reign for an hour or so. 😀

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Eating snow + Snyoga

We warmed up and capped the night with two mugs of green chai tea:

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Andrew and I are both home from work today and have one snow adventure planned so far: making an igloo.  🙂  Have a great snow day, everyone!  Stay safe and warm!

-Do you have a snow day today?
-When was the last time you went sledding?
Do you cook way more food than you actually need when it’s about to snow?

Andrew at the Gym and Other Gym Things

Happy Friday, everyone!

Last night Andrew and I hit the gym right after work.  I don’t typically work out in the evening–the gym is the most crowded, and my flexible schedule allows me to go other times–but Andrew does, and he asked me that morning if we could go.

As soon as we walked in, Andrew realized he’d left his lock at home (which is kind of amazing considering there have been at least three incidents in the last month in which Andrew has been on his way out the door to the gym and said, “I can’t find my lock… I think I left it on the locker the last time I was at the gym.”  He’s been right every time.  He just locks it back up like it’s high school :-D).  Without a lock, Andrew decided to give me his stuff to put in my locker.  He disrobed in the hallway and gave me his sweatpants, sweatshirt and big winter coat–I looked like I was carrying a full load of laundry into the locker room, friends.   😉

Anyway, I met him back out in the main exercise room and hopped on an Elliptical beside him (he was biking at this point.)  I wanted to do a little cardio warm up before lifting weights, and Andrew was just killing time until a treadmill opened.  After about 5 or 10 minutes, a treadmill in the row in front of us opened.  Andrew got off his bike, went to wipe it down while the treadmill user did the same for his equipment, and just as Andrew was walking toward it, a girl swooped in and took that treadmill!  The nerve! (I’m kidding, she had no idea;  she saw an open treadmill in a very crowded gym.)  After a few more minutes, he was on another treadmill, and I hit up the weight area.

At this point, I saw an opportunity.  I always feel a little bit funny taking pictures, especially selfies, in the gym, and Andrew would NEVER agree to me taking a photo of him at the gym.  While I was doing the leg press, however, I realized I could take a sneaky shot of both of us.  My feet + Andrew huffing away on the right.  Heh heh heh.  (Yes, it’s the little things. :-D)

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After I’d lifted all the weights I cared to lift for the night, I hopped on the treadmill next to Andrew to do a cool down walk.  I glanced over at his dashboard to see how fast he was running, as I am in the bad habit of doing (earlier in January when I was recovering from being really sick, I went to the gym with the firm plan of running 3 miles at a 6.0 (10 min/mile pace) just to help myself ease back into exercise.  The girl next to me was someone I knew from high school, and I saw that she was running at an 8.0-9.0 and had been for a few miles already.  Competition kicked in, and “The Club Can’t Handle Me” came on my iphone, and I thought, “Yeah, the club can’t even handle me right now,” as I foolishly upped my pace to an 8.0.  I maintained this for about a mile, then had to walk because… I was still getting over the flu.  It wore me out for the rest of the day.  Lesson learned: listening to and honoring your body trumps competition and pride.)  Anyway, I looked at Andrew’s stats and saw that he, my I-hate-running-but-sometimes-do-it-because-it’s-good-for-me husband, was running a 7:30 mile pace and had been doing it for quite a few miles!  I know he has the advantage of long legs and male body composition, but I just didn’t know he could run that fast for that long!  There was no time to get competitive at that point, but I think I’m going to have to up my running game and challenge him to a duel race in a couple of months.  I don’t see any other option.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. 🙂  Have a great weekend!

-Do you look at how fast other people are running/pedaling/ellipticaling next to you at the gym?  Does it ever cause you to alter your own speed?
Do you take pictures at the gym?  How do you do it without feeling awkward?
-Are you and your significant other competitive when it comes to fitness things?

Snow Day Cookin’

Greetings on this beautiful, snowy morning!  Is anyone snowed-in, legitimately or otherwise?  Richmond is notorious for shutting down at the first suggestion of flurries.  I was thrilled this morning to see that my office is closed today; sure, we only have about two inches of snow, but I gladly rolled over and fell back asleep!

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Yesterday was my day off, and I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures, anticipation of the snow, or procrastination of the cleaning projects I’d planned to do, but all I wanted to do was cook delicious food!  And cook delicious food, I did. 🙂

First up was a batch of Raspberry Orange Muffins:

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I started with this basic muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food, but used gluten-free flour rather than whole wheat.  I used a cup of chopped, previously-frozen raspberries and mango-orange juice in place of the regular OJ.  Delicious.  They aren’t super sweet, but they are healthier than your average muffin.  Each one of these guys contains roughly:

-150 calories
-5g fat
-3g protein
-2g fiber
-5.5g sugar

Not bad!

Next up was dinner, and I was feeling ambitious.  For the first time in my life, I cooked a whole chicken.  You culinary pros are probably thinking, Yeah, so?, and my vegetarian friends probably just closed out this window (sorry, guys :)), but this was a big deal!  As someone who regularly reevaluates her stance on eating meat (you can expect a post about that in the near future), this was huge.  Aaand it was delicious.  I mean, seriously… how beautiful is this? :

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I basically used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  Inside the chicken I put a lemon (quartered) and about four cloves of garlic (crushed).  After looking at a few other recipes I decided to cook it at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees.  I took the chicken out of the oven after it had been on 400 for an hour just to check it, thinking it would need more time, and the internal temperature was slightly above where it was supposed to be, so I just let it rest!

With the chicken we had roasted beets, carrots, and red potatoes with rosemary

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When Andrew came home from work, the chicken was in the oven, and I was prepping the veggies.  He peeked in the oven, and was clearly surprised/impressed.  Because we still had about an hour to go until everything would be ready, Andrew decided to go to the gym for a quick workout.  When he walked back in the door, he was holding these:

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Me:  Flowers?? And wine??  What are these for?

Andrew: You made such a fancy dinner, and I wanted you to know that I appreciate it.

Me: I don’t know if it’s that fancy; I just felt like cooking!

Andrew:YOU COOKED A WHOLE CHICKEN!  That’s FANCY!

Love that guy. 🙂

So we ate our fancy chicken and roasted vegetables, and we drank our fancy wine, and we watched our fancy show, The Biggest Loser.  (Okay, I may be overreaching with my use of “fancy” ;-)).

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Andrew’s taste-test of the chicken went something like this:  “That’s good.  Whoa.  That’s like really good.”  I must say, I was not at all disappointed by how it turned out either!

Now that we have enough food to last us a few days, I’m afraid I actually have to use this snow day to do some house-cleaning…after I go to the gym, perhaps. 🙂

-Any snow outside your window today?
Have you ever cooked a whole chicken?