Category: Travel

When it’s good to be home

Light a candle
Take a bubble bath
Make a cuppa tea
Bake bread
Shop for groceries
Use real dishes
Cuddle
Pet Leo
Clean the litter box
Run the dishwasher
Check the mail
(Pay the bills…)
Make the bed
Wear different shoes
Take a sick day
Sink into the sofa
Visit a friend
Go to church
Eat real pizza
Walk to work
See the skyline
Be a family

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Long-term Work Travel Advice: the good and the bad

When I decided to accept a short-term detail in Washington, DC three weeks ago, I had only a few days to prepare for my departure. Like any Millennial faced with the unknown, I took to Google to gather information. I searched “long-term business travel” and read message boards from the suitcase brethren who had traveled before me.

A lot of the advice was pretty spot-on, if not a little obvious. Many commenters mentioned how easy it was to forget comfortable evening/weekend wear, and that packing a pair of sweats and a few cute, casual outfits was essential for any non-work activities that might pop up. Others articulated more health-conscious commentary, including the difficulty of maintaining weight-loss while eating so many meals in restaurants, or ensuring that the workout clothes you pack could do double-duty for either a quick jog or an impromptu yoga class.  One of the best pieces of advice was about the dangers of unintentionally over-consuming alcohol: when every dinner is a once-in-a-blue-moon evening out for your friend, it’s easy for a glass or two of wine at a nice dinner to become a glass or two of wine at every dinner. It’s okay to have iced tea, or seltzer with lime, even if you are hanging out with a friend you haven’t seen in years.

But, the one comment that I couldn’t forget was about coming home. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to, one poster said. Coming home means leaving again, and you want to leave as few times as possible. Avoid coming home as much as you can.

It’s true that saying goodbye is incredibly hard, but I have to tell you that, at least for me, coming home this weekend was exactly what I needed. The stress and anxiety of a new job melted away as I talked with H about my worries, my goals, what I’m doing well and what I want to do better. (I want to arrive earlier into the office each day this week, for example, and do some significant early-morning research so I can stay ahead of deadlines.)

Seeing H and having an intense round of cuddles from Leo the Cat helped me remember that my physical presence in Chicago is not essential to the daily functioning of my family – the boys are just fine without me. I don’t have to feel guilty for leaving or be distracted from the cool and important work I’m doing, because they are just fine and my professional goals are important to all three of us. Well, maybe Leo is more concerned about getting his white fur on my black work slacks than he is about financial outlays or budgetary priorities or spreadsheets or regulations, but he’s a cat so I think we can give him that.

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And just in case this isn’t obvious, spending the weekend in my city was also pretty dang fun. Fun is important, and having fun with the people you love is the most important thing of all.

I’m back in our nation’s capital today, working hard and learning a lot and enjoying hot muggy weather [for America]. Going home helped me remember why I left.

Hotel Living: What I’ve Been Eating

I’ve been living in a hotel for the last ten days, and thought I’d share a little about how I’m doing that.  I always love reading those sorts of things from other bloggers.

I’m very lucky to have found a hotel with a kitchen (two burners and a full-size refrigerator) instead of just a mini-fridge and a microwave.  If you’re ever dealing with long-term hotel stays, I absolutely recommend a similar set-up.  It is the best.

When I arrived last Sunday, my flight had been delayed three hours and I was exhausted.  So, CVS was my grocery supplier.  I picked up a half-gallon of milk (still barely used), a carton of half-and-half for coffee (barely used, but WORTH IT), a box of multi-grain cheerios (barely eaten, but they were on sale), a box of knock-off whole wheat crackers and a container of Sabra hummus.  I didn’t love any of these items, but they were essential in getting me through my first few days in the new job — particularly since I was way too exhausted to think about shopping for groceries on Monday evening after my first day.

Monday evening I grabbed Thai take-out and a six-pack of beer.  (Classy, I know.)  That Thai food fed me for three straight evenings (and the six-pack is still going strong in the fridge, right by that nearly-full half-gallon of milk).  With dinner plans Thursday and Friday, I made it until Saturday afternoon without purchasing additional rations.

I had brunch with a friend on Saturday morning.  It was beautiful, and we ate on the back-patio at Kramerbooks.  I walked her to the metro and then sauntered over to the Logan Circle Whole Foods to do a little grocery shopping.  After purchasing my lunch all week last week, I really needed to eat a little healthier this week.  I could only purchase what I could carry, and wanted to spend as little money as I could while still eating healthy this past week.  Here’s what I purchased:

  • The basics:  olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • A package of quinoa (easier to cook than rice, in my opinion)
  • 4 nectarines
  • A pint of blueberries
  • 2 avocados
  • A pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • A large container of pre-cut stir-fry veggies (broccoli, onion, peppers, etc.)
  • Citrus:  1 lemon and 1 lime
  • Whole Foods’ brand soy-ginger sauce (15 calories per tablespoon and pretty good-tasting)
  • Two fage yogurts, honey flavor (the best flavor that exists)
  • 1 package of Ezekiel  4:9 cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 6 individual servings of Justin’s Almond Butter (80 calories per package)
  • One microwavable packet of brown rice (I hate cooking rice)

All of this together wound up costing about 80 dollars.  But, it was Whole Foods, not Safeway, so I still think that was a pretty okay deal.  It was probably $12 just for the olive oil, salt, and pepper alone.  Here’s how I used the ingredients:

  • I ate a slice of cinnamon-raisin toast with almond butter for breakfast each day, along with a large handful of blueberries and a yogurt (until they were gone.  Then, same thing without yogurt.)  I also had coffee.  Obviously.
  • I made a quinoa salad with quinoa, cherry tomatoes cut in half, one avocado in small pieces, juice of the full lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper, which I ate for dinner Sunday as well as took to work for lunch Monday and Tuesday.  It was a great work lunch because there was no need to reheat.  Nectarines were for lunches too.
  • Stir fry with brown rice, veggies, chicken, and soy-ginger sauce was dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights.
  • To finish off the leftovers, tonight I cooked up sliced chicken breast with quinoa, veggies, and avocado to take for lunch on Thursday and Friday at work.  I’ll squirt the juice of the lime over the top of the avocado once I cut it so it stays green.

I plan to take my olive oil, salt and pepper, and cinnamon-raisin bread to work on Friday and leave it at my desk so I don’t have to purchase them again.  I’ll leave the half-and-half in the office refrigerator too.  Otherwise, I need to finish everything off tonight or tomorrow night and throw out the rest.  I’ll start again next Sunday when I check back into my hotel.

Any tips from your own hotel-living adventures? 

Living the Dream

On Tuesday of last week I was asked to accept a short-term assignment in DC.  It was a fantastic opportunity — doing work that I’ve always wanted to do, that I can’t do from Chicago — and with only 24 hours to decide we said yes.  It was kind of surreal, one of those outside-your-own-body moments.  I don’t know that I actually ever wanted to say “yes! I’d love to leave my home and my little family and my beach-access apartment and spend 45 days in the hot humid DC summer,” but I knew somehow that I was supposed to say “yes!” and so I did.  I don’t like to make uninformed decisions and I don’t like surprises and yet, somehow, I did it anyway.

Even now that I’m here and in the hotel and enjoying my lovely desk (with a window!) and doing the work, I’m still not sure how it all happened.  And I’m not sure it wouldn’t be better if I was in Chicago following my normal routine and making sure Leo gets enough cuddles and H gets sufficient calories from baked goods.

I spent the weekend soaking up the early Chicago summer.  We biked to the beach and went out for burgers and drank my favorite beer.  I purchased a new suit (it’s navy blue and from Ann Taylor!) and packed a TON of clothes and more shoes than I’ve ever traveled with at one time. In one large checked bag and one Vera Bradley duffel, I packed work clothes, hanging out clothes, gym clothes, work supplies and my bike helmet.  (You know, just in case I need to ride one of those  rental bikes around the national mall while I’m here.  Safety first.)

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Everything I’ll need for the next two weeks is crammed into these two bags. There was a little rearranging due to that pesky 50-pound weight limitation.

I spent 8.5 hours traveling on Sunday, due to repeated delays and airplane events and bad luck.  When I finally checked into my hotel in DC everything around was closed.  I was tired and hungry and had just paid $98 for a cab ride that was worth every single penny.  I went grocery shopping at the 24-hour CVS.

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Life essentials: multi-grain cheerios, half-and-half for coffee, hummus and crackers, and 100-calorie ice cream bars.

I’m lucky to have the greatest of friends and family here in DC, which is my first love of cities and was my first “real” adult home.  I’m so happy to be back here, for a little while, making memories and learning a lot and building on my work over the past year.  But while you absolutely can go back (you just purchase a ticket and pack a bag and leave), it’s never quite the same.

It’s hard to really embrace a new home, like my new home in Chicago, unless you let go of your former residence.  If you spend every spare minute talking to old friends and every holiday visiting old places, you don’t give the new things in your life a chance to change you.  These past ten months in Chicago have been hard (and remarkably cold), but they’ve made an impression.  I’m still a DC girl at heart, but I’m not a DC resident anymore.  I miss my skyscrapers and my lakefront views and my ever-present breeze.  I miss my short commute too.  (Seriously, even shorter than my train ride from the hotel!)

It’s a lot easier to be a game changer when you’re just talking about pipe dreams.  Being a fierce independent woman is harder when it means traveling 700 miles from home and seeing your husband every-other-weekend.  But also worth it. These 45 days could open a world of possibilities.  And even if they don’t, a dream fulfilled is a life well lived.

DC Weekend Play-By-Play

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It’s weird, how they say you can’t go home again and yet — you can.  You just purchase a plane ticket and pack a bag and there you are.  This weekend we traveled back to Washington, D.C. (our home for the previous five years) and spent a few days in our favorite city, visiting with our favorite people and eating at our favorite places.  This isn’t a recipe for a perfect tourist weekend, but here’s a DC resident’s perfect weekend in our Nation’s Capitol.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  land in city and sleep in the guest room of your bestie’s house.

SATURDAY MORNING:  eat Bethesda Bagels.  Recommendation:  bacon, egg, and American cheese on an everything bagel.  Grab coffee at Quartermaine next door.  If you go with a friend one of you should order coffees while the other stands in line for bagels because, unless it’s snowing or raining the bagel line will be out the door.

SATURDAY ERRANDS:  close your old bank account.  Or, you know, whatever.

SATURDAY MORNING HANG-OUT: meet your best law school buddy for coffee at Politics and Prose Bookstore‘s Modern Times Coffeehouse, the place where you studied for all of those finals before they instituted completely unacceptable laptop policies that ruined everything forever.  Recommendation: London Fog.

SATURDAY LUNCH-ISH: brunch/lunch at Open City in Woodley Park.  We learned that the music makes babies dance.  The service can be a little slow so make sure to tell the waiter exactly what you want the first time.  Recommendation: Greek Pizza, BLT, iced mocha.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON HANG-OUT:  Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  Avoid boring pandas but be sure to see the Lions.  They are awesome.  Best part of America are the Smithsonian’s river otters.

SATURDAY DINNER: Coal Fire Pizza in Gaithersburg. Recommendation:  Dark and Stormy, Ring of Fire Pizza (Italian sausage, banana peppers, and spicy marinara).

SATURDAY POST-DINNER:  Celebrate your friend’s birthday back at her house with carrot cake and red wine.  They are a perfect pairing.

SUNDAY MORNING:  Grab a coffee and cheer for your husband and friends as they run a ten mile race around the National Mall.  Take in the monuments for a bit while it is sunny and relatively warm, but head toward brunch by 10:30.  It’s definitely time to eat.

SUNDAY BRUNCH:  Ted’s Bulletin on Barracks Row is a bit of a wait, but totally worth waiting for.  Recommendation: homemade poptarts (strawberry is the best), sausage biscuits and gravy.  If you’re lucky you’ll see the cadets marching around with their giant guns.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: After a shower for the runners, head down to H Street to hang on the back patio of the German Biergarten.  Recommendation: the hefe-weizen that is “very carbonated,” pretzel buns with mustard.  The mustard is the best part.

SUNDAY EVENING: Return the rental car and grab your last dinner at The Silver Dinner, airport edition.

We landed in Chicago late Sunday night and it was technically early Monday morning before we were back in our Condo in the South Loop.  We both worked today and we are exhausted, but our wonderful weekend was worth every minute.

Las Vegas Adventure [Photos]

It’s Ash Wednesday, and I’m away on travel for work.  I’ve signed up to start receiving daily emails from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (courtesy of prestonyancey.com) beginning today, and hope to read these devotionals each day during Lent and beyond.  If you’re interested, you can sign up to receive these emails here

Today I have photos for you from our January trip to Las Vegas, which have been sitting on my computer for about six weeks waiting patiently for this moment.

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#1 and #2, the Las Vegas Strip.

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#3 and #4 Red Rock Canyon.

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#5 I am completely in love with old vegas.

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#6 After brunch at the Bellagio, which was decorated for the Chinese New Year (the year of the horse).  Geez my hair was long!

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#7 Red Rock Canyons continued.

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#8 I had all of these wild hopes for the Luxor (the pyramid).  They were dashed.

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#9 Red Rocks again; me and my favorite DC-ite!  (Yes those are Old Navy Rock-Star-Super-Skinnies.  You’re welcome.)

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#10 We watched the fountains at the Bellagio and I thought our friends might get engaged there.  They didn’t.  I was disappointed.

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#11, #12, #13, #14  OH MY GOSH HOOVER DAM IS SO BALLER.  I LOVE AMERICA.

Well, there you have it.  If I had to do it all over again, or give you recommendations for a first-time trip to Vegas, I’d recommend these three things:

(1) Go to the Hoover Dam.  Seriously, it is amazing what we can do when we work together.

(2) Stay in a hotel in Old-town Las Vegas.  I loved The Beat coffeehouse/bar/record shop we stopped at, and there were so many awesome cover bands playing in the street!  I could have danced to fake-Bon Jovi and fake-Bruce Springsteen all night long.

(3) Eat tacos at Tacos El Gordo.  It’s kind of by Circus Circus (which is hilarious and you should totally go there too) and these are the greatest tacos in the entire world.  I know tacos.  Bring cash.

What are your favorite spots in the Las Vegas area?  Any recommendations for travelers headed in that direction?