Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Midwestern Flair

After numerous assurances that I had not tasted true BBQ until I came to Kansas, I was thrilled to make my first midwestern excursion. This trip was big for a number of reasons...

1) Meeting the boyfriend's family.
Parents, siblings, and dogs included. At the end of five days we had watched football, attended birthday parties, spent time with home videos, played Wii went smashingly (or they are very polite people)

2) Spending a non-stop 5 days with the boyf.
On the one hand, automatically awesome, but c'mon--girlfriends will know that the first time you take a vacation with the boyfriend can come along with some apprehension. There's always the lingering fear that over the course of the time you'll become suddenly boring or that all the weird quirks you manage to hide in the in-between moments will suddenly come out. BUT no need for that. i guess we sometimes underestimate how great it can be to be really close to someone.

3) In Kansas, they eat meat. Due to the over-catering of the birthday feast, we ate plentyyyyy of BBQ.
First stop, Gates. Gates is one of the oldest BBQ joints in Kansas City, and best known for the KC special--burnt ends. Apparently you cut crispy ends off of beef brisket and cook those suckers a little longer until they're fatty succulent little bits of beef. Slather in all kinds of sauce creations. On a white bread bun. Done. Heaven.
For more, you can look at the npr review:

Next, Oklahoma Joe's for pulled pork heaven. Also, I'd rave about their Joe's sauce any day and wish I'd had the good sense to bring some back with me to Maryland where such goodness does not exist. Tack on the qaintness of finding it tucked away in a gas station, and it's just trying not hard enough to make it awesome.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Get Smithsonian

One of the best things about Washington DC is the free museums that come from the downtown national mall. As a kid, the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum trumped them all, but of late I've gravitated to some of the more adult options--the National Gallery of Art, the Hirschhorn, and the National Botanical Conservatory are all things to rave about. On my most recent trip home, I went about the National Gallery and the Hirschhorn to satisfy the artistic cravings I've been having lately. I was most attracted to the pieces that did something new and interesting with light, either by manipulating it or using it in a unique way to give life to the space around the artwork. 

In the National Gallery, to connect the East and West (contemporary and old) wings, you'll find this AWESOME light tunnel. My excitement was topped only by the toddlers running to and fro beneath the lights with me. The tunnel gives you the impression of moving at warpspeed, or time traveling from the days of the ancient artistic masters of the West wing to the contemporaries of today in the East wing. 

In the East wing, the skylights caught my eye. Designed by I.M. Pei, this magnificent structure has something interesting everywhere you look. The sharp angles and unexpected turns to the different floors guide your eye toward the exhibits, like this massive hanging Calder piece in the main entrance. 

Over at the Hirschhorn, we discovered the Ai WeiWei exhibit. Best known in the USA for his recent work designing the Beijing Bird's Nest stadium for the Olympics, his is not as known for his political role as a sculptor and photographer. I loved this quote that the exhibit paired with this stool sculpture. 

I also LOVED his piece "The Cube." Like the National Gallery's tunnel, the cube was a beautiful exhibition of light manipulation and changing space. 

Over at the Natural History museum, we found the Windland Smith Rice International Awards for nature photography on display. These absolutely stunning pieces brought artistic forms out of the natural world. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ab Work

Since retiring from collegiate athletics in November, I'm experimenting with new kinds of workouts and strength training that doesn't Olympic bar. Body weights, circuits, and moves that I can do while traveling are key! Here are a few favorites so far for abs:

1. Side crunches: Lying on your right side, prop yourself up with your right arm with your body weight on your elbow and your forearm extended 90 degrees from the line of your torso. Place your left hand behind your head. With knees bent 90 degrees (beginner), straight (intermediate), or straight gripping a pilates ball (advanced), lift your legs off the ground using your obliques. When you're getting used to the move you may have to twist slightly so that you're slightly more on the back of your hips than on the side.
GREAT for obliques and hard to get at low abs! Try 2-3 sets of 15 reps.
2. Planks: nuff said.
just kidding--the traditional plank is great from the front and sides. BUT! while a three minute plank might be admirable, it's a better idea to keep mixing up what kind of plank you're doing to get the best results. Try these varieties
Rotational plank: A combination of the front and side plank. Stark with both forearms on the ground, elbows under shoulders. Extend the rest of your body push-up style behind you. The idea is to keep your midsection and hips in a straight line through the whole exercise. Hold for 30-60 seconds. TIP--focus on pulling your belly button up towards your chin and in towards your back. This will keep your back from arching!
For the rotational version, move between the front and side plank during the interval, where you're body weight rests on only one arm.
Yoga plank: like the original plank as well, but this time rest on your palm instead of elbow. In the side plank,  focus on reaching toward the sky with your index finger and opening your chest while you squeeze your abs.
When you're ready for a challenge, try lifting one leg into the air while holding the pose.
3. Cross crunches: Great for working your frontal and side obliques, as well as low abs. Lying down, cross your right leg over your left and lift them off the ground 6 inches. Press your palms together over your head. From this starting position, lift your legs up (still crossed) so they are 90 degrees with your hips. At the same time, reach towards the outside of your left knee by crunching up and reaching with your palms together. Return to start. Try 2-3 sets of 15 reps.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Capitol New Years

New Years Eve has not typically been a high-key kind of event for me. To recap by locale the last couple: '11--sofa with mom, '10--basement with a hand-full of friends, '09--basement, repeat. So, being a 21 year old, it was time to start doing an adult NYE, probably at home for the last time. The result? DC pub crawl through Adams Morgan. and awesomeness.

Here's the crawl:
9:00 Millie and Al's,
This place had a cool dive-bar feel to it, and it looked like we might have come a little too early to get its full potential. We stayed for a $1.50 jello shot that tasted pretty weak, and decided to move on.
9:30 Mellow Mushroom,
Definitely a favorite! With a restaurant downstairs and a loft-style up stairs, there was a good variety in the ambience. Combine that with a really friendly waitress, a great late-night menu, I'd definitely go again.
10:30 Roxanne
Worst stop we made. We got sucked in by a really charismatic bouncer but wouldn't make the choice again. Inside was entirely too dark and had a creepy smell that turned us off to imbibing anything almost immediately.
10:45 The Black Squirrel
Another real favorite. I'm putting this one on the top of my list for when an out of town friend wants to grab a drink. Again, having a separate restaurant and bar area was a plus, and it was packed with small groups of friends and people catching up in duos. A lot like the Mellow Mushroom, but perhaps slightly more upscale.
11:25 Bossa Bistro and Lounge
Another win, but maybe not a recommendation. The downstairs bar had really great live salsa so we decided to land there for a midnight champagne toast. Upstairs we found another fairly empty bar and a cool small (and totally empty) dance floor and DJ. Since I was out just with friends, the emptiness was a plus that allowed us to take full control of the dance floor--but any other night that might seem a bit of a bore. However, we got a really neat mix of people in the downstairs displaying excellent salsa skills (which is going on my list of things to learn)

On a night without covers, I'm definitely going back to try some of the heavy hitters we skipped over, like Madam's Organ ( a historic blues bar and Smoke & Barrel ( for when I'm looking for some really good whiskey.

Breaking in New things

Over the long period of winter break, my post-finals slump tends to let up after about a week or so, and I start to pick up a routine of exploring. I start monitoring the Washington Post for things to do around my metro-DC home. I start following blogs again. I pinterest...constantly. I watch documentaries. In a more productive state, I've started drawing for the first time since I was ten, with relative success.