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?

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NC Mission Trip Recap- Part 1

I am home from North Carolina and excited to give a full account of the week, but first, I must acknowledge what happened yesterday:  Andrew hijacked the blog.  It was a legitimate hijacking.  Not only did he not tell me he was writing a post, but he didn’t tell me he’d done it afterwards either!  I happened to glance at the stats page on my phone, saw a few notifications, and thought, two people commented on…what post?  Oh…  What a funny guy. 😀  Because the stolen post seemed to be well-received, Andrew has landed himself a contract job as a monthly guest blogger (he’s not getting paid for it.)  I hope those of you that we don’t know in real life enjoyed “meeting” Andrew!

Now the mission trip summary…I’ll do my best to keep in concise without leaving out any juicy details 🙂

The team:
Our team consisted of twelve middle school youth and four adults.  I’ve probably mentioned this on the blog before, but I love middle schoolers.  I think they are absolutely hilarious in that you never know what they will say or do.  In that regard, they did not disappoint this week.  Actually, they did not disappoint in any way this week;  I was impressed by how hard they all worked and the great attitudes they had despite the heat and persistent mosquitoes.

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The people we served:
As I mentioned in my midweek report, we worked with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley, who are in a very tough spot in life at the moment.  Chuck is sharp, witty, knowledgeable about many, many subjects, and full of hilarious one-liners.  “She’s as tough as woodpecker lips.”  “At least my report card didn’t stutter;  yours kept saying, “D-D-D-D-D…”  More importantly, he has a deep love for his daughters and a rock-solid faith that was evident to all of us.  Despite losing his wife, job, and being left to raise teenage girls, his devotion to God has not been shaken.

In addition to teaching us some legitimately useful life skills, Chuck showed us how “we rednecks” get strong out of in the country:  using heavy metal bars and sledgehammers:

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And that block of wood they are pounding with the sledgehammer?  After we took turns hitting it all day, Chuck stood it up and split it in two with the sledgehammer, prompting this response from one of our boys:

“If I took a girl out on a date, and you were her dad, I would treat her so well…”  😀

The work:
Half of our team painted the outside of Chuck’s trailer, and half the team replaced the floor in a few rooms inside.  As I mentioned above, everyone worked incredibly hard and finished the tasks we set out to do.

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The funny (part 1):
The man living next door to Chuck owns a bunch of goats and keeps them in a barely charged electric fence.  Think static electricity.  Or a first grade science experiment using a battery and a light bulb (I know this to be true thanks to one of our awesome adults, Robin, who teaches science to elementary school students. :))  One afternoon Chuck showed a few of our youth what that fence feels like, and, because they are twelve years old, that entertained many of them for longer than you might think.  Weird, but harmless.  Well, the phone calls home that night sounded like this:

“Catherine let us electrocute ourselves on an electric fence today!  We kept shocking ourselves over and over!  What?  Why not?  Yeah, I’m okay… No, it didn’t hurt… No, we didn’t do it for very long…”

Oh boy.  Parents, I did not let your kids electrocute themselves.  Again, think static electricity, and please consider that your twelve-year-old may have exaggerated.  I do think, however, that a few of them seemed slightly more balanced afterwards… 😉

I will leave it here for now, but I have plenty more to report tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

College House Reunion

First, I apologize for being MIA for the last week;  it was pure laziness rather than busyness.  I am back!

Last Sunday-Monday I got together with my college housemates.  There were five of us that randomly lived in the same dorm suite our freshman year, and we quickly became best friends and rented a house together for the rest of our time at JMU–the Dollhouse.

Amazingly, all five of us still live in Virginia, so it’s not impossible to reunite a few times a year.  This week we traveled to Norfolk and stayed with Leah.  Before I left Andrew asked what we had planned for our time together, then said, “Wait, let me guess:  eat breakfast and talk…go to a coffee shop and talk…eat lunch and talk… find another coffee shop and talk…”   😀  It’s true; we’ve noticed that when we get together, we just talk as we move from one eating establishment to the next.

We all arrived around noon Sunday–two of us from Richmond, two from D.C.–and immediately drove to a coffee/sandwich shop near Leah’s apartment.  Then we walked around by the water for a bit.

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…And Sarah decided to test-sit a stranger’s boat…after climbing over a locked gate to reach it… 😉

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After a while we found a place to sit by the water and enjoy the day.  And talk.  And laugh. And talk.

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Leah, with Kate’s help, reenacted a scene in which she fell while on a run and was groped (she suspects intentionally) by a homeless man who helped her back up.  Hah!  (Leah, don’t kill me for posting this photo… you are hilarious :-D)

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From the water we headed to the grocery store, then back to the apartment to make dinner:  quesadillas and bell peppers…

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…+ homemade salsa and sangria

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I’d also like to mention that our quesadillas were vegetarian because, while none of us are vegetarians, we all decided that the packages of raw chicken were just too gross to touch, and we’d rather go without.  Andrew’s mind was blown by this, but it’s one of the millions of reasons that I love these girls. 🙂

It was a beautiful evening so we ate dinner on the back porch, then talked for hours about life and love and pranks we pulled in college (and a few we’ve pulled since…)  Then ate ice cream & half-baked cookies.  Then talked until we fell asleep.  Glorious. 🙂

Monday morning, Leah made us waffles with a strawberry syrup, all from scratch, with strawberries she’d picked herself.  It. Was. Delicious.  After breakfast, Hannah and Sarah went for a walk while Kate, Leah, and I went running.  If there are two things the five of us share, it’s a love for food and a love for fitness. 😀

After running/walking, we cleaned up and drove to the beach!  We took lunch to go from a cute sandwich shop and ate on the beach.

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It was awesome.  Beautiful day… At the beach with my best friends…on a Monday.  All I could think was, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  Complete in-the-moment contentment.

That is, until Leah turned around and said, “Uh, check out those clouds…”

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To the East: perfect beach day.  To the West:  rain clouds of doom.  We sat in the sun and denial for a little longer until I finally said, “You guys, this really is coming towards us.  It’s probably already raining on the car.”  We packed up, and after trying to wait it out in the car, gave up and headed back to Norfolk.

In our final hours together we parked ourselves back on Leah’s porch, ate pizza (yes, I ate more dairy this weekend than I have in two months,) and squeezed in a few more laughs.

I miss these girls like crazy when we are apart, but thanks to regular life-update email chains, we are always able to pick up where we left off when we do reunite.

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(Our one, super-grainy, self-timer iphone photo group shot ;-))

Dollhouse ❤

Youth Retreat Weekend + Yet Another Easy Dinner

In just a few short hours, Andrew and I will be on our way to North Carolina with a few van-fulls of teenagers.  It’s spring retreat weekend for the youth group, and I am SO excited!  We are going to the beautiful Camp Willow Run on Lake Gaston, where I was a camp counselor during my summers in college.  CWR has a special place in my heart, and I am thankful for a job that takes me back there every year.

This morning I slept in as long as I could (7:15, then tossed and turned until 8… oh the joys of getting old 😉 ) in anticipation of the craziness that will be the next 48 hours.  In previous years, I’ve arrived home Sunday feeling like I was hit by a bus due to all the running around we’d done.  Here’s a quick flashback to last year:

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Capture the flag in an excellent wooded arena (this photo doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the game, but it is always hardcore!)

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Games I created for the sole purpose of making myself laugh 😉

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High ropes course

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Silly team-building activities

Throw in some good food, canoeing, a sunset over the lake, and great Bible studies, and it makes for a pretty epic weekend!  This year we are doing the climbing wall and giant swing rather than the high ropes course;  I can’t wait!

This week has been super busy in preparing for the weekend, so our dinners have been simple and easy, and workouts have been a bit shorter and lower-intensity as well: Short weight-lifting session Monday (like, 20 minutes in the living room with the TV on,) walk on Tuesday, yoga Wednesday, 30-minute easy run Thursday.  I wrote about our easy Monday/Tuesday dinner here, and our Wednesday/Thursday dinner was this:

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Baked chicken breasts (cut into smaller pieces to cook faster) marinated in Balsamic vinaigrette, leftover quinoa, roasted beets, and beet greens.  I started to make a marinade for the chicken and then thought, “Nope.  Not happening.  Balsamic vinaigrette will taste great.”  I told Andrew it was a secret family recipe. 😉

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I’ve said this before, but when in doubt about cooking a vegetable, slice it, toss it with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and throw it in the oven at 400 degrees.  Roasted beets?  Two thumbs up from this girl.  Andrew handled the greens, and they were pretty tasty too.  Both the chicken and the beets were done in about 20 minutes.  Can’t beet that (pun-intended…bahaha :-D)

Now I’m off to finish a few last-minute details for the retreat.  I hope to give a quick post at some point during the weekend, but if not, I will be back Monday.  Please pray with us for safe travel and no injuries, big or small!

What are your plans for the weekend?  Any quick and easy dinner ideas for busy weeks?

Colorado Part 2: Mountain Views and Hot Flashes

High altitude can do strange things to the body.  The lack of oxygen can cause shortness of breath (check,) headaches, digestive issues (check,) fatigue, dizziness, and…hot flashes? (check.)  Okay, so I can’t find proof that high altitude causes hot flashes, but I also can’t find any other reason that I experienced them on this trip!  It happened a few times Wednesday night and Thursday, which would have been when my body was trying to acclimate (plus, we drove even higher Thursday.)  At first I thought the hotel room was too hot, the heat in the car was turned up too high, etc.  When I noticed that Andrew and Jenny both were still wearing their jackets, I realized: I was having hot flashes.  Hah!

Has anyone else experienced this?  Are high altitude hot flashes a thing?

Moving on…

Saturday morning we ate brunch at Beatrice and Woodsley–a fairy tale-esce restaurant in downtown Denver.  I ordered the “Eggs Johnny Fever–Pan fried goetta on toasted onion bread with sunny eggs, mustard hollandaise, and roasted cauliflower.”  Yum.

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It was a sunny, 50-something degree day, so after brunch we met our friend Ashley at Washington (“Wash”) Park, walked around the lake, and chatted for a while.

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Then we continued chatting over ice cream at Sweet Action.  They serve a few dairy-free flavors, so Andrew was able to have some as well.  It was apparently the best DF ice cream he’s ever had!

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After saying goodbye to Ashley, we decided to get a late lunch (the theme of the day was “keep eating” ;-)) at Sputnik–a quirky, hipster, hole-in-wall restaurant with great tacos and waitresses that say, “What do you want?” when taking your order.  At least ours did.  We filled up on tacos and drove west towards the mountains to continue enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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 photo (21) Awesome.

Finally, on the way home we stopped at a point of geological interest:

photo (12)My husband.

It was a whirlwind trip, but we managed to pack in lots of great food, outdoor adventures, and time with family and friends.

Until next time, Colorado!

Colorado Part 1: Bison Burgers, Powder, and Hot Flashes

We are home from Denver and feeling a bit jet-lagged today!  While I only spent three and a half days out West, Colorado did not disappoint.  We packed as much as possible into our brief trip.

I arrived Wednesday evening after flying by myself for the first time (I know–how does a person make it nearly 27 years without flying alone?)  I made it through security without being pulled aside for the first time in three trips, I navigated the enormous Dallas airport, and it only took me one song on my iphone to realize the earphones were not plugged in all the way and everyone around me on the plane could hear my music.  Success!

Andrew and Jenny met me at the airport, and we drove downtown and had dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill.  After a day of peanut butter, bananas, and trail mix, I opted for a bison burger with fries and a side salad.  The burger was delicious, but huge, so I was only able to eat half of it (and Andrew helped with the fries ;-))  It definitely hit the spot!

Jenny had to work Thursday, so Andrew and I borrowed her car and took a trip to Golden–home of the Coors Brewery.

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We walked around town for a bit, then ate lunch at Windy Saddle Cafe, which boasts some excellent gluten-free grub.  We split a GF butterscotch muffin as an appetizer (because who doesn’t need a lunch appetizer?), and each ordered a sandwich–Andrew’s on GF bread, mine on a fantastic baguette.

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This is only half of the sandwich… the half I couldn’t finish 🙂

After lunch we took a tour of the Coors Brewery.  Neither of us are really beer drinkers–Andrew can’t have it because it contains gluten, and if I’m going to drink hundreds of calories of sugar, I’d rather have a Coca Cola– but the tour was actually very interesting.  Andrew said it was like being in an episode of Modern Marvels (that’s a good thing, in his mind.)  Of course, the few photos I took had little to do with how beer is made:

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We picked Jenny up from work just before 4:00 and headed for the mountains; we’d booked a room at a hotel close to where we were skiing Friday so we wouldn’t have to wake up early to make the drive.

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As we drove west, it began to snow…and snow…and snow…

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We arrived safely at the Alpine Inn, where Andrew morphed into an icicle maniac:

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(Side note: As we walked past this window to check in, we noticed someone changing clothes inside.  I quickly turned away, feeling awkward, but also wondering why the heck someone on the first floor would get dressed with the curtains open!  When we walked back outside to get our things out of the car, we noticed someone else changing clothes in another room.  As Jenny and I were saying, “What is wrong with these people?!” Andrew pointed out that, perhaps that was the pool room.  And it was :-D)

Friday morning, we hit the slopes.  Because it had snowed the day before–and continued snowing throughout the day–we had the opportunity to ski on fresh powder, or “pow-pow” as we’ve heard it called. 😉  All three of us were more or less beginners (I skied twice in 7th grade,) so we took a group lesson.  Our instructor was amazing, and by the end of the day, we were pretty much pros not half bad.

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The obvious height difference on the ski lift cracks me up 🙂

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Yes, I was wearing the same skis as 10-year-old boys.

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At the end of the day our instructor told Andrew to watch out, because the next time he took me skiing I was going to kick his butt 😀

photo (9)Awesome sunset on the drive home

To keep this post from becoming longer than anyone cares to read, I’ll stop here for now, but there are more Colorado adventures to come in another post!

Oh, and the hot flashes?  I’ll save them for my next post as well. 😉

Rocky Mountains, Here I Come

In a just a few short hours I will be on a plane headed towards Denver to meet up with Andrew and spend a few days with Jenny!  We traveled there over the summer as well and loved all the opportunities for outdoor adventures.  Here’s some of what we did in July:

DSCN6796  DSCN6783Hiking at Dinosaur Ridge

DSCN6753  DSCN6690Taking cheesy photos around Garden of the Gods 🙂

DSCN6830 IMG_3784Pike’s Peak (+meeting up with our good friend Ashley!)

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Seeing Ingrid Michaelson live at Red Rocks

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Ah, summer.  This will be a very different trip with all the snow, but I am looking forward to trying some new activities!  (We are skiing on Friday.  I haven’t skied since, oh, 7th grade.  Colorado is a great place to ease back into it, right? 😉

 I have my airport lunch and travel snacks packed and ready to go:

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-Peanut butter and banana on a whole grain bagel

-Luna Bars

-Apples

-Clementines

-Popchips

-Trail Mix

-Gummy Cubs(the all natural version of gummy bears, from the bulk bin at Kroger)

That should hold me over until dinner.  🙂

Stay tuned for our Denver adventures…