Mountain Biking at Dutch Gap

Well, it seems the warm weather we had Saturday was just another spring teaser, as it is very likely to snow again tomorrow.  I feel certain that even the greatest snow lovers in Virginia are over it by now.  <Sigh.>

Andrew and I enjoyed the nice weather while we could; on Saturday we packed up our bikes and drove to the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, a park not too far from home.

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The park has a 4.5 mile trail that runs around a pond, with lots of spur trails that we rode down as well.  We didn’t ride super fast or super far, but it was a very enjoyable afternoon!  We spent about two hours exploring the area and enjoying the outdoors.

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At one point we took some photos with the self-timer on my camera…

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In case you were wondering, jumping photos are incredibly difficult to capture with a self-timer. 🙂

We did have a pretty good laugh at my expense at the beginning of our trek:  Andrew’s sister, Jenny, gave us the water bottles seen in the bike photo above for Christmas.  My previous water bottle was a Camelbak.  As we were getting set up…

Me: I can’t quite figure out this water bottle.

Andrew: What do you mean?

Me: I don’t know how hard to bite the straw part.  Sometimes hardly any water comes out, and sometimes it flows freely, but I can’t figure out the right way to do it.

Andrew: You don’t have to bite it at all.  It’s just a straw.

Oops. 😀  We laughed.

The rest of our weekend was filled with doing some odds and ends around the house, watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights on Netflix (I loved this movie as a kid, and it was exponentially funnier as an adult, :-D) and watching basketball (my March Madness bracket is pretty much done, by the way).  Speaking of basketball–and backtracking because I’ve been very undisciplined about blogging lately–the basketball team that Andrew and my brother, Ross, play for won their championship game on Thursday!

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So proud of these guys 😀

The medal is now hanging from our mantle, of course.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

-What was the highlight of your weekend?
Did you fill out a bracket for the NCAA tournament? Are more than two of your teams still alive?

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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?

Warm Days in February + Homemade Baked Beans

Looking out my window now at the cold, gray rain, it’s hard to believe that yesterday was uncharacteristically warm and sunny for February.  Andrew and I took advantage of the beautiful day by heading to a park for a walk.

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The lake, which had clearly been frozen solid, was beginning to thaw, and it was beautiful.  I loved watching the ducks waddle from the ice into the water. 🙂  We spent about 45 minutes walking around the trails and the lake, and it was a much-welcomed change of scenery from the gym workouts we’ve been doing lately due to the cold weather!

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Crazy Eyes: we got ’em

 As we were heading back to the car, we ran into one of the girls in the youth group that I work with.  Naturally, Andrew decided to throw a snowball at her and her friend.

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Sorry, Brooke;  it’s never a fair fight with that guy. 😉

Later in the evening, we went to our friends Evan and Kristina’s house to watch the Super Bowl with friends.  I had decided to make baked beans (from scratch) in the Crock Pot to bring as our contribution.  Despite the fact that I’d started cooking them at 8:30 AM, they were still not quite done nine hours later, so we brought the whole Crock Pot to the party to allow them more cooking time.  😀

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Navy beans (soaked over night and rinsed) + bacon + brown sugar + molasses + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper + onion powder + water

The flavor was really good, but they never got quite soft enough.  Any advice from more experienced Crock Pot users?  Is that just the texture of beans that don’t come from a can?  I’d love to give them another shot… once we finish the half-gallon of this batch still left in our fridge. 😉

Have a great Monday!

-What was your favorite Super Bowl snack/dish from last night?
-If you had a warm day yesterday like us, how did you spend it?
-What’s the best thing you did this weekend?

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?

Paddleboarding, Disc Golf, and Friends

Did this weekend fly by for anyone else?  Andrew and I had an action-packed couple of days–which is just how we prefer our weekends (usually).

On Friday our good friends Gabe and Jeff invited us over for dinner.  We cooked a delicious and healthy meal of grilled chicken kebabs, rice, and stir-fried veggies:

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After dinner we hung out, talked, and played a little Dance, Dance Revolution.  It was my first time playing (I know…I’m way behind), and I was terrible.  Notably bad.  During one game, just as I said, “I am killing it right now!”,  the word, “FAILED” crossed the screen.  Oops. 😉

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Andrew was slightly better than me…

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We just love these guys 😀

On Saturday my church had a huge craft show + used book sale, with all proceeds going to the youth ministry (yay!)  The event was a huge success–there were so many awesome vendors, food trucks, thousands of books, and pumpkins.  So. Many. Pumpkins.

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I am tremendously grateful to the group of moms and other women who coordinated this event for the benefit of our youth!

Early Sunday morning, Andrew cashed in on one of his Christmas presents from me: a guided Stand Up Paddleboard trip down the James River.  We let the summer get away from us, so we decided to take advantage of the out-of-character-for-October hot weather we’ve been having.  Unfortunately, we could not bring a camera, as it most definitely would have been ruined by the water, but the morning was beautiful, and the adventure was SO much fun.

The trip was through Riverside Outfitters, and because we were the only two people on this particular trip, we had a private tour guide. 😀  We started on flat water to get our bearings, then moved through a series of rapids.  Andrew may or may not have fallen in the river a couple of times, but our guide did as well.  Me?  I think my low center of gravity (i.e. my general shortness) helped me keep my balance, so while I dropped to my knees a few times, I never actually went in the water.  If you ever get the chance to do a downriver paddleboard trip, take it…It was such a blast!  And my chest and arms are only slightly sore today from all the paddling :).

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Looking awesome post-river 😉

Sunday afternoon we played disc golf with a group of friends from church at a local park.  In spite of the freak 90-degree October day that was yesterday, we had a lot of fun.  We also had a lot of back sweat.

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We wrapped up the weekend with youth group, turkey tacos, and an episode of Once Upon a Time.  It was a whirlwind weekend, with little time between each event, but we packed in a lot of good stuff. 🙂

Have a great Monday!

Have you ever tried stand up paddleboarding?

Weekend Backpacking: The Priest and Spy Rock

On Saturday Andrew and I ventured into the mountains for a couple of days of backpacking and camping.  The original plan was to car camp–set up our tent beside the car, which we could then use as a base to store our stuff while we slept or hiked.  At the last minute we decided to make it more of a backpacking trip.  We parked our car in a gravel lot about half a mile from the Appalachian Trail and about 1.5 miles from where we camped, with the intention to still use it as a (less convenient) base, resupplying Sunday so we wouldn’t have to carry everything at once.

When we arrived Saturday afternoon we took what we needed for the night and started the ascent–the very steep ascent.  Here’s a map for reference (I’ve added red dots for your viewing convenience 😉 :

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From the parking area (marked “P”) we hiked to the AT (marked “i”).  From this point on, I will refer to that stretch as, “the half mile of doom”.  It’s a steep, dreadful dirt road that is tough with nothing on your back; add a 20-something-lb pack, and I started questioning my physical fitness levels.  From there we hiked east on the AT to the Priest, which provided little relief in terms of incline, and finally arrived at our campsite (the red dot near the shelter).

We set up camp, met a nice family from very rural Virginia, and made dinner.

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If we’d had a few more days to plan for backpacking, we would have been more intentional about bringing a lightweight pot/stove and dried food.  We didn’t though, and heavy dinner is the main reason we kept a few things in the car.  Before leaving we’d prepped dinner in a large zip-sealed bag and traveled with it in a cooler–soup with canned chicken, green beans, squash, mushrooms, peppers, cooked rice, black beans, and a bunch of spices.  We put the combination in the pot with water, heated, and enjoyed.  For a somewhat random mixture of canned foods (and a few from our garden), it actually tasted very good!  Who says you can’t eat well in the woods?

We slept–not particularly well, but not horribly either–and I woke around 6:00 AM when the smallest amount of light was coming through the tent walls.  I decided to pull myself out of the sleeping bag and try to catch the sunrise at the overlook less than half a mile away.  (Andrew decided  to keep sleeping :)).  Oh man, it was worth it:

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After enjoying God’s awesome creation and the stillness of the morning for a while, I made my way back to camp and waited patiently for Andrew to wake up.  On second thought, “patiently” might not be the right word;  as soon as I heard the faintest stirring sound, I unzipped the tent and demanded that he come outside and play :-D.  We ate breakfast, packed what we didn’t need for the day, and began the 1.5 mile hike back down to the car.

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Coffee and a French press;  it’s all about priorities, people

We dropped off a few items at the car, grabbed our day packs and pre-made lunches from the cooler, and reveled in the lightness of our loads compared to the overnight packs. 😀  Looking at the same map above, we tackled the half mile of doom from the parking lot to the AT, then hiked west to Spy Rock (well, we went a little beyond Spy Rock, but that was the highlight.)

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MmHmm.

 

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We ate lunch, hiked a bit more, then started walking back.  When we had roughly two miles left until we’d reach the car, it started raining.  Then it started pouring.  In case it’s unclear, two miles is a long way to hike in the rain.  We finally made it back to the parking lot and sat in the car to wait for the rain to stop.  At that point, I was done.  If it was necessary, I could tough out camping in the rain, but my dry bed sounded very appealing at that moment.  Andrew was not as sure, but eventually conceded that the rain was not likely to stop anytime soon and that would not make a great night of camping.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just start the car and go at that point?  It sure would be… but wait!  Our tent and much of our gear was still at the top of the dang mountain.  So, with 10 miles under our belts and water sloshing in our shoes, we had to make the 1.5 mile hike back up the steep mountain, pack all our gear, and hike back down.  Oy.

We survived but were pretty whipped by the time we arrived home.  Thankfully we had a pre-made dinner in a bag that we just poured in a pot on the stove and heated. 🙂

Even with the rain, it was an awesome trip, and I don’t regret going.  I love those mountain views and the workout they require to view them (our legs were hurting so good the next day!)

How did you spend your long weekend?
Have you hiked Spy Rock or the Priest?

Jamaica Part 2: Fitness and Adventure

While it may be tempting on vacation to lie on the beach all day–especially when a waiter walks by at regular intervals and says, “Hey Princess!  Are you doing okay?  Can I bring you a drink?”*–it’s also exciting to explore all that the activities the area and resort have to offer.  And you’ll feel better if you move a little bit between those buffets and fruity drinks. 😉

(*After this happened a few times, I requested that Andrew start addressing me as “Princess” and offer to bring me drinks regularly;  he declined.)

Here’s how we stayed active in Jamaica:

Snorkeling
When we were on our honeymoon we purchased snorkeling masks, which we brought with us last week.  The resort offered snorkeling trips, which we did once, but most days we also explored on our own just off the coast.

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A huge thanks to our friend Kevin for letting us borrow his waterproof camera for the week!

Sailing
The resort offers a variety of water sports, so we went sailing one day!  The culture difference related to this cracks me up:  In the US, in order to take out a sailboat you’d probably have to take a class, sign a waiver, pass a test, etc.  In Jamaica they said, “You know how to sail?  Have fun!”  😀

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Beach Volleyball
This was more Andrew’s thing, but I played one day too!  Every day at 4:00 the resort staff organized a volleyball game, and Andrew played most days.  Also, if I may brag on my husband for a moment, Andrew is kind of awesome at volleyball.  I had no idea (he never played on a team or anything), but I supposed I should have realized, considering is good at most sports.  The one afternoon he didn’t play, all his teammates kept saying, “Where were you??  We needed you!”

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Also, minutes after the above photo was taken, the guy on the right dove into the water to cool off and came up screaming expletives, his foot gushing blood.  We looked in the water and saw that he’d stepped on a stingray, which then pierced his foot!  We talked to him the next day after he’d spent a good portion of the night in the medical center; he was in some serious pain, but he’s okay!

Offsite Adventure: Ziplining and Waterfall Hiking
The only thing we did that was not included was an excursion to Ocho Rios (about 90 minutes from Montego Bay) to zipline and hike a waterfall.  The trip was absolutely worth the extra cost!

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The view from the sky lift

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Dunn’s River Falls is a series of 3-4 ft waterfalls with big pools at the bottom of each.  We hiked from the ocean to the top of the falls.  It was awesome (and provided some great photo ops! :-D)

The Gym
In addition to staying active outside, we did hit the resort gym a few times–once for Andrew, twice for me.  Each time I completed 20 minutes on the treadmill (intervals + a short warm up/cool down), and 20 minutes of weight circuits.  I wanted to make the workouts count without feeling like I was spending too much precious vacation time at the gym.

That was our Jamaication!  I’m still not sure about this whole, “not on vacation, back in the real world” thing, but I am slowly adjusting.  Yesterday afternoon I made myself a “transition from paradise to reality smoothie”: pineapple, mango, and strawberry.  I compromised by not including spinach, flax meal, or rum. 😉

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Not bad, but not Jamaica.

Have a great Tuesday!

Where did you go/are you going on vacation this summer?
Have you ever been to Dunn’s River Falls?