Oh, Virginia (+ some)

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you likely know me personally somehow. You likely know that Patrick and I moved to Virginia this year and you should definitely know that I love to run. A recent development in my running is that Patrick joins me now! He started doing my weekend, trail runs with me when we first moved here and now he’s just following along with my whole training plan. He realized quickly that the weekend mileage would become unsafe for him to do if he wasn’t training during the week, too.

I’ve always enjoyed trail running, but didn’t do a ton of it back in Austin because there weren’t a ton of convenient options. However, Virginia has a bounty of parks and trails to explore, and with COVID closing down anything else to do, we’ve been venturing out west to trail run almost every weekend! I’ve been wanting to make a list of all the places we’ve been to, but never quite got around to it. I finally started sorting through my photos and Strava runs to try to figure out where and when we went to different parks and trails. I can now present to you a definitely incomplete list of the beautiful places we’ve visited to run/hike/camp/explore. If it didn’t have a picture, it didn’t make the list 😉

Potomac Overlook Regional Park

We actually went hiking here with Erica when we had first arrived! The park’s trail ultimately leads to the Potomac River and the Potomac Heritage Trail. Great for hiking, unexpectedly technical for running!

Theodore Roosevelt Island

LOL. My only image is my hairy, scraped up leg from a fall while running there. The island sits in the river between VA and DC, though I have no clue which it actually belongs to. The nation maybe? Who cares. It’s small, but has trails running around the island with a sweet memorial to Teddy Roosevelt smack dab in the middle. Crazy busy on weekends.

Great Falls National Park

The Virginia side, I should say! We trail ran at Great Falls and got lost and confused hahah. The falls are awesome, though. Every time I see them I think of the Land Before Time. The VA side of Great Falls gets very crowded, too, but the trails are pretty magnificent.

Trestle & Palisades Loop Trail

Our go to DC trail. Nestled in by Georgetown, the Glover Archbold Park/Trail system is so convenient and fun. It’s maybe 15 minutes away and we frequently do 5k or 5 mile loops. Always sporting the bandanas as makeshift masks for running. We’ve been back to this trail many times since June and, wow, it has changed so much with the seasons. What was once a shady, green trail is now a leaf-covered path with plenty of sunlight.

Appalachian Trail

We’ve hiked and ran on the AT in many places, many different times. As you can imagine, the trail is long af, so we’ve encountered it at many parks. The photos above are from a single trailhead, though different hikes! It’s a popular entrance because the overlook (as seen in the first photo) isn’t too far from the trailhead. I’m always low-key worried about encountering bears, but so far so good.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

Another great park, not too far from our house! Lots of intersecting trails and the park ultimately borders the Potomac, so it was very popular in the summer. Parking is scarce (bc it is a nature preserve), so we don’t go too often anymore, but the trails are wide and smooth.

C&O Canal aka The Towpath

Oh, the beautiful towpath. We’ve done a little bit of everything here: bike riding, running, hiking. It’s so pretty and the gravel is so nice to hear crunch. It starts in Georgetown, but goes all the way to PA. The old canal still has many of the locks that were used to move boats along it back in the 19th century, so it is very cool to visit.

FYI if you ever find yourself on the towpath going past Brunswick, MD stop for burgers at Boxcar Burgers. Thank me later.

Potomac Heritage Trail

The PHT is gorgeous, technical, and all over the place. When I think of the Potomac Heritage Trail, I think of the trailhead I used by Roosevelt Island back when we lived in Rosslyn in 2017. The trail runs through many parks (especially the ones mentioned above) and follows the Potomac River closely. While sort of a pain to trail run on (so. many. rocks.), it is definitely fun to hike!

Mason Neck State Park

A small, but pleasant state park south from where we live. We hiked, we picnicked, and we splashed in the water. You can also rent kayaks or canoes, but you had to make reservations. The boardwalk and the swampy feel of the park reminded me of Florida, actually! Man, I miss sunshine and sweating.

Sky Meadows State Park

Quite possibly my favorite park so far. Out west on 66, Sky Meadows is so peaceful and pretty. The AT runs through the park, the trail running is fabulous, and it has the most ridiculous hill at the very start of the course. The camping is all back country and the vibes are so serene. The 10k route we run we’ve lovingly dubbed Sky Meadows Soul Crusher, but that’s beside the point.

Fort Marcy

AKA more Potomac Heritage Trail. Fort Marcy is a remnant from the Civil War. It’s about 15 minutes from our house, down George Washington Parkway. You can still see the grooves and hills in the earth from the trenches that were dug for soldiers. The PHT connects to the park, so we hiked down towards the river. It’s an awesome park to visit and it makes me wonder what it was like being a Union soldier in one of those trenches… so many mosquitoes…

Shenandoah National Park

You knew it was coming. The classic Shenandoah NP. We’d been there before and it is so beautiful. I’ll be honest, though. It’s definitely not my favorite park! We still haven’t hiked Old Rag, which I hear is great. The greenery at the park is next level and there’s some definite elevation gain.

Prince William Forest Park

A shockingly large park with miles of trails! Sooo many roots, so watch out while running. I had my first running fall since June at this park because I caught my foot on a protruding root. Bummer. I love this park because you really start to feel that you are in the thick of the woods, despite being decently close to Quantico.

Loudon & Fauquier Counties

Not parks or trails, but Loudon and Fauquier Counties are full of unpaved, gravel roads that we’ve enjoyed running and riding on! You get into the rural country side with nothing but the sound of crunching gravel under your feet or tires. Good stuff.

George Washington & Jefferson National Forest

This park is great for hiking and is well known for mountain biking on many of its trails (Massnutten is the most popular, I think). The route I made for our run, however… not so much. We started off a great forest road and eventually started climbing up the side of the hill. We got to the ridge and fully realized how rarely the trail is used. The blazes were clear (thank god), but the path was overgrown with brush and extremely rocky. It ended up being 3.5 miles of running and 3.5 of trying not to sprain ankles or get sliced by anything thorny. The views were excellent, though. Not to mention, Patrick got to try out his new poop trowel.

Rivanna River Trail

We ran on the Rivanna River Trail when we explored Charlottesville for Erica. The trail runs around the city. It was super cool, though a bit confusing at times. You would really not know that you were running right around Charlottesville (except for in a few parts). We did a 10 miler and then finished right as it started to downpour. Followed up with burgers on Main Street.

Fountainhead Regional Park

Another popular mountain biking park! This park has easy to follow trails, is maybe 30 minutes from our house, and wasn’t technical for running. Patrick again got to try out his poop trowel. TMI? Whatever. This was not my favorite run, but that’s likely because we essentially did an out and back.

Poolesville, MD

Okay, calling this Poolesville is an oversimplification because that’s just where we started this bike ride. We rode 40 miles around the MD countryside and finished on the C&O Canal. There was some gravel and lots of open skies. That’s what I do miss about Texas a lot. Of course, I love desert > forests, but also I love looking up and seeing blue skies with white fluffy clouds and lots of sun.

Blockhouse Point Park

Blockhouse is in MD and we’ve been twice! The trails are always challenging, but the loop we do takes us on the C&O for a few miles, which is always a nice bit. The neighborhood this park is by is a sight to see in and of itself. There’s one home that looks straight up like a French chalet. Our most recent run here was followed up by a trip to Safeway for chips and a MASSIVE sandwich that we split between the two of us.

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Definitely one of our go to routes! It’s roughly half an hour away, the trails aren’t too steep or technical, there’s wide open skies, and the battlefield is always interesting to see. We have a 9 mile loop we like to do here and it takes you through such a variety of scenery. One of these days we will go just to walk and actually read the signs. Just like Fort Marcy, I always wonder what it looked like for troops to actually be in those fields. Wild.

Cross Country Trail

We took the CCT to Great Falls Park for a 10 mile run one weekend, but Patrick has also ridden parts of it on his bike. It’s pretty solid dirt/rock single track and we passed a few other friendly runners. I have a special place in my heart for water crossings. Even if I get my feet wet, they’re always so fun.

Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve

I’ll be honest right off the bat, this park was a little underwhelming hahah! We also did get a flat when we were trying to leave the park, which always makes me salty. It was a nice park to walk through and the leaves on the ground were outstanding. A bit too far of a drive to make it worth another visit, though.

Shenandoah River State Park

I might’ve spoken too soon. This is our favorite park in Virginia. Quietly nestled right next to Shenandoah NP, this state park was BEAUTIFUL. The trails were excellent for running, but would likely be a blast on a mountain bike. It never got too crowded, people were great about trail etiquette, and this was the day we found out Biden won!

Philadelphia, PA

Okay, this was not an outdoor adventure but an adventure nonetheless! We took a quick overnight trip to Philadelphia in November. Of course, we had to get cheesesteaks. That was low-key my primary motivation for going. I would love to go back once COVID is over. Seeing people dining on the streets was so romantic and the city came to life when the sun went down.

Cedarville State Forest

A sweet little state forest in Maryland. It’s actually not too far from Mudd’s House (who was the doctor who aided John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated Lincoln). The park reminded me so much of Texas. The trees and greenery were so similar to that in Magnolia or The Woodlands. We also had a great time figuring out how to cross a very flooded area. Followed up with McDonald’s because it was an hour’s drive and we were going to get hangry.

Lake Fairfax Park

We drove out to Lake Fairfax on Thanksgiving for our Turkey Trot! The trails flow nicely and it’s geared (heheh pun) to mountain bikers. I would absolutely give it a try! They were great for running and weren’t ever too technical. The signage could be a bit better, but we made it work.

Arlington Loop

So Arlington is awesome. It has miles and miles of paved hike/bike paths around the city and some that lead into DC or deeper into VA. I’ve ridden my bike and run on pieces of the paths many times, but we most recently crushed our long run primarily on these paths. My favorite part is that they’re not just an afterthought. Like this wasn’t just a lazy attempt to get cyclists and pedestrians off roads. They are well developed with playgrounds and bathrooms and the scenery is beautiful. We had to crush an extremely icy bridge when we ran yesterday, which was a first for me too!

Whew, that took longer than I thought it would! I can’t believe all the places we’ve been. And these were just the places I had photos for. I think we’re pretty intense weekend warriors. Hopefully this list will continue to grow. I’m dying to go cross country skiing in West Virginia this season, too. Happy holidays!

Hello there

Well, hot dang, it has been a MINUTE. I’ve been wanting to write here for quite some time, but I think WordPress is no longer compatible with Google Chrome or something. I haven’t had the brain power to jump over to Safari to write, so instead I just went MIA for 7 months. Those 7 months have been quite the experience. In summary, I got married, moved across the country, started a new job, ran lots of miles, Patrick finally started his job, and then I found a new job. Needless to say, it’s been a lot. Today I’ll hit you with some random photos from the last few months. Bye!

I must say, I freaking LOVE Virginia. The weather, the people, the trails! A part of my heart has been yearning for some dirt, desert roads (hi, Big Bend, I miss you) but I love being able to drive 1-1.5 hours and being in a national forest. It’s pretty sweet. This weekend Patrick and I went out to Loudon County to do our long run on the gravel roads there. They weren’t wildly gravelly, turns out, but they were definitely unpaved. I also got to see wide open, blue skies towards the end of our run. It’s been pretty gray and cloudy here lately, so it was a very welcome change of pace. Made me very excited for the spring, too!

In other news, can you believe we’re getting a vaccine soon?! I’m completely pumped and will absolutely be getting vaccinated once it’s my turn in line.

What else to write about?! It’s actually sort of nice to do a brain dump. I’ve got some instrumental Christmas music going, the candles are burning, and my Christmas tree is nice and bright.

The other day I stepped outside to feel the temperature and this was the beautiful sky I was greeted with. I honestly could not tell you if this was morning or evening because the days are so short. Longer days and more sunshine cannot come soon enough, let me tell ya. It is supposed to snow on Wednesday. I’ll believe it when I see it! It’s so hard to imagine actual snow accumulation on the ground, so I guess we’ll see.

Have I mentioned that VA is beautiful? This photo is from Shenandoah River State Park, just outside of Shenandoah National Park. On this day we ran 14 miles, found out Biden Harris won the election from a 6 year old girl on the trail, and celebrated with burgers. Not shabby at all.

I’m currently reading Dying of Whiteness by Johnathan Metzl and it is excellent. I actually had no idea what it was about when I picked it up to start, but it extremely interesting and thought-provoking. At the start of the year and during the first few months of the pandemic, I was a reading fiend. I had set a 12 book goal for 2020 and crushed it in the first few months. Unfortunately, during the summer, life got absolutely wild and my job was so stressful that I had no mental brain power left for books. I managed to slowly read a few of the Harry Potter books, but… I actually got… bored… I abandoned the series #sorrynotsorry. Then fall came and the semester started. I learned how to do my job with slightly less stress, but still did not have the time or energy to read. I would come home, do my school stuff (sometimes, maybe-ish), and then scroll through Instagram. Classic. Insert eye roll emoji.

All this to say, as I am moving into a new job and enjoying my break from school, I am hoping to get back into the swing of reading regularly. My hope is to read about 20 pages a day, maybe right before bed. Who knows!

Thanks for reading this nonsense! Maybe I’ll be back soon!

Bye!

pleasant observations

I don’t know about you, but I’m having one of those “oh my god get me out of quarantine” kinds of days. These days normally creep up on me when I feel overwhelmed with all of the non-quarantine related stressors in my life. Although, between working and my internship and the wedding and job hunting and preparing to move across the country and all the small, but important details that go with all of those things I am impressed with how well I am doing.

Make no mistake, some days I have no mental or emotional capacity for anything outside of the bare necessities. Other days I get into a downward spiral of fear about not finding a job and the nasty voice in my head that ties my worth to my job title yells at me. Sometimes I feel like a machine and I can power through anything: finding a job? The universe works in crazy ways and things will work out the way they’re supposed to. Have a few weeks off of school before the summer semester starts? Why not relearn calculus.

I know that many of the tasks and habits I’ve picked up on recently are a result of me needing to put anxious energy somewhere. On the flip side, some days I literally end up doing nothing because I just cannot. No explanation needed. Sometimes we just can’t and the sun still rises the next day.

Anyway, in the face of many fears and expectations and anxieties in my life, there are still many reasons to celebrate and countless sources of joy. I’ve mentioned here before about not forcing the good or desperately looking for something to be grateful for, but rather to just notice passively what seems to be working well and bringing some semblance of peace and calm into your life.

So, that’s what I’m going to do now! Reflect and notice.

Observation #1: Peloton

I recently signed up for Peloton’s 90-Day Free Trial of their app and I am loving it. Not only is it a unique way for me to move my body, but the coaching is so fun and I am a sucker for motivational slogans when I’m working hard and they’re yelled at me over music.

I also love that I don’t have to do the workouts when they’re live, I can go back and play them later. This allows it to become another option of something I can do during the day. Feeling a little anxious or bored and don’t have the attention span for anything? I’m going to throw on a 10 minute stretching video! Running the same route around my house for 2 months getting majorly old? I’m going to download a guided run and change up my efforts!

I genuinely enjoy doing the Peloton workouts and it makes me feel more like myself every time.

Observation 2: Learning is super fun

I jokingly mentioned relearning calculus, but I am actually doing that. Seriously. I was doing some pre-research about Economics PhD programs and they look for your previous econ and calculus courses. I realized I am going to have to take/retake those courses eventually, so I’m just freshening up. I have been quick to take a step back from the materials when they feel too overwhelming for my brain, but it has been so fun to exercise a different side of my brain.

For example, the Khan Academy course I’m working through started with limits (remember those?) and has all sorts of practice questions. I was explaining to Patrick how strange it is to tackle a math questions – when there’s always a right answer – versus thinking through a social work framework or scenario. Having the combination of both sides of my brain firing off feels good.

I also still love my Paul Krugman Masterclass. I started the Ron Finley Gangsta Gardener Masterclass too and it is excellent!

Lastly, I’ve signed up for a ton of social work relevant webinars and have enjoyed learning about such a vast range of topics. From the financial implications of caring for an aging adult to veterinary social work!

Observation 3: Harry Potter is truly wonderful

Hi, I’m almost 25 years old and am just now starting the Harry Potter series for the first time. I finished the first book a few days ago and it was so fun! I wish I could go to Hogwarts.

Patrick and I are going to watch the movies as a I finish the books. Although I am alternating between a Harry Potter book and something non-fiction. We’re in the process of watching the first movie, but it’s taking us a while to get through it. It’s long and sometimes we’re too tired to commit to watching it at night!

I was telling Patrick on a walk the other night that I’m sort of glad I read them as an adult. Obviously I would’ve loved them as a kid, but I feel like I can appreciate the creativity more deeply as an adult. And I can escape into the world, which is so appreciated especially right now.

And that’s all I have! I tried to think of a 4th observation but realized it was making me think too hard.

Patrick bought a pennant and hung it up in our house. It reads “Together We Will See It Through.”

So, I’ll leave you with that.

Together We Will See It Through.

-Juliana

‘up’ moments

Good afternoon, I hope you’re having a beautiful, wonderful Sunday. It’s gorgeous here. Sunny, breezy, warm, clear skies. I love these kinds of days. I just finished up some school work that needed to get done before tomorrow and after I finish typing this up I may go do some yoga outside. I wanted to make an effort to post more often on here, not because I felt like I had an audience to appease (lol), but because it’s a self-care/coping skill for me.

I know many people love to journal privately, but I don’t mind journaling publicly. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve seen the ups and downs of my life and that’s something I don’t want to cover up. COVID-19 times are full of so many ups and downs, too. Just yesterday while walking with Patrick I explained to him that the fear of not getting a job and moving to DC and being in financial distress made me feel like I was going to have a panic attack.

Some moments I feel confident and positive and ready to charge straight ahead. Others? Not so much. That being said, I prefer the ‘up’ moments. I try to let the emotions and sensations that accompany the better moments stick around in my memory and experience longer than those that accompany the scarier moments.

I’ve also made an attempt to document my life more in photos. Sometimes I go weeks without taking a single photo, which stinks! I like being able to look back and see what I was up to and what I was interested in. I made the effort this week to snap photos of the stuff that held me in ‘up’ moments, pulled me out of lower moments, and the things I just love. Here they are! 🙂

Sitting outside with Patrick in the AM drinking coffee and water and talking about life and politics and whatever comes to mind. He became Dr. Patrick this week, so there were celebrations! Without school to focus on 98% of the time, we’ve been able to hang out and talk more which I love. We also started doing daily PSAs on our Instagrams. We alternate who chooses the topics each day. It’s fun and it gets us outside in the morning and thinking about something silly or serious.

I stumbled across this quote on a blog and loved it. I want to appreciate normal days more, even while they feel so not normal. I’ll try right now: outside the window at this desk I see my tomato plant swaying in the breeze and the dryness of the dirt. I can imagine how it feels to put my hands on the warm soil and can imagine the smell of the rosemary on my fingers when I harvest some to make bread.

I love the flowers that grow on weeds – haha! I love how I can find them no matter where I look. I snapped this photo while on a walk the other day listening to podcasts. They’re growing on a pretty steep hill not far from my house in a field that I want to lay down in. I enjoy flowers that grow in strange places. They’re not always the prettiest, but I feel lucky to stumble upon their pops of color.

The other morning Patrick and I were hanging around in the bedroom when I remembered this book of quotes on the bookshelf. I flipped through it and read each one. This one popped out at me. I had dog-earred the quotes I liked years ago when I read through the book for the first time and it was so interesting to see how my preferences changed.

I really love this one, though, because it is how I hope to live my life.

Okay, this one I stumbled across on Instagram. I love these little jams. They’re so cute and so tasty! When I saw that they were selling these advent calendar Mother’s Day gifts, I was so… tickled! That’s the best word I can find to describe what I felt! They’re so mini and adorable and quaint.

For an early birthday present, Patrick bought me a digital subscription to The Economist. I’ve enjoyed their Morning Espresso Briefings a lot. Plus, there’s normally a great quote at the end of the slides that gets me thinking.

I came across this post and the caption blew me away. Maybe we all ought to make a list of the wonderful experiences we’ve had. When I think back to some of my favorite moments in life, they’ve usually been the most unexpected, otherwise unspecial. There’s something sweet about the surprise enjoyment of an ordinary moment or experience.

I hope to look back to this time and somehow, someway categorize it as one of my favorite times in my life.

I made a whole post about this, but there’s something so marvelous about eating outside on a sunny, warm day. I feel like I’m sitting at the picnic table next to the pool at my childhood home. Eating to have the energy to continue swimming and playing and enjoying life.

And that’s all I have for you today. See you next week?

Best,

Juliana

you should eat outside

Let me spend a few moments making the case for you, okay? I realize not everyone has a patio or porch or yard or what have you. I’ve never been so glad to have our own little outdoor space! Maybe you take a seat on the curb while on a walk to drink some water. Or you bring some nuts with you while you’re strolling around the neighborhood. Whatever it may be, let’s wax poetic about my favorite past time these days: dining al fresco.

iced espresso with a splash of whole milk

Cold drinks taste better in the sun. Period. Afternoon espressos create a wonderful dichotomy between waking you up and the sunlight lulling you to sleep.

A camping favorite: sausage in a tortilla with mashed potatoes and onions and peppers. Salad with olive oil and vinegar, too.

Eating? Not just necessary to literally sustain your life. More like a beautiful, celebratory event, even in quarantine. Bonus points if you’re enjoying a drank, too.

Quinoa with bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, olives, sundried tomatoes, feta, olive oil, and vinegar.

COVID-19 is out here trying to steal our spring and summer! But it can’t take dining on fresh, summery foods in the sunshine from us. Not today, satan. I’m going to watch the March/April showers transform my yard into a jungle of flowery-weeds, thank you very much.

Open face patty melts (??) and cucumbers with the spiciest salsa ever.

Vitamin-D is good for you. And so is fresh air! I could do without the flies being a bother, but I’ll survive. Have you sat outside, tilted your face towards the sun, and taken a really deep breath lately? No? Let’s make it a breakfast date tomorrow.

Banana bread and coffee.

Also, is there anything more peaceful than hearing birds chirp in the AM? It transports me back to the house I grew up in during the summer. Can’t wait for a full day of playing in the pool (I wish)! But seriously. The birds chirping is one of my favorite sounds. Soon enough the cicadas will be out in full force in the evening and I’m stoked for their music.

Fried rice and herbal tea.

Alone time. Sometimes moving into a different room isn’t enough, so you just need to go outside. Take a breather for yourself. Patrick tends to gravitate to wherever I go (he would deny that, but I love him very much for it, so it’s not a roast I promise), but he’s allowed to sit peacefully with me outside. Plus he’s always ready for a snack or coffee.

Watered down (oops!) iced americano

And you get to watch your ridiculous old dogs try to chase lizards on the fence. They’re never going to catch them, but it’s so cute to watch them try. Alaska likes to stomp all over my garden, which is annoying, but also awesome. Alaska SMASH!

So tomorrow… what are you eating outside?

Update: quarantine still sucks, no surprise there! BUT, not going to work/internship has allowed me to eat more of my meals outdoors. Not to mention, we’ve been having some pretty spectacular weather here in Austin! I think I’d like to eat at least one meal/snack/drink outside a day (weather permitting). What about you?

let’s rejoice, shall we?

You don’t need me to tell you these are strange times we are living in. I find that I fluctuate greatly day to day, even hour to hour, how I feel. Sometimes I feel okay, settled in, and able to do the things I need and want to do. Other times I feel antsy or frustrated and I feel overwhelmed by all the things and experiences I am missing out on. Spring is my favorite season and it’s usually when all my favorite events happen.

Birthdays. Adventures. The end of the school year. So much sun! Spring feels like a celebration every year to me. And while I am still excited for birthdays and Patrick finishing his PhD, it doesn’t feel the same. I want to kayak and have a party and grocery shop like a normal person! I’m sure you feel the same.

Of course, you feel the same. I’m also having a hard time finding gratitude right now. And I’ve sat with that realization for a while. It isn’t that there aren’t things to be grateful for or that I have no good things to say at the moment, but rather it feels forced. Yes, there is plenty to have gratitude about, but also, this sucks! And it’s okay that it sucks, I don’t have to try to erase that with positivity.

You feel?

That being said: it’s old news that this whole situation sucks. I’m sure we nearly all agree that a global pandemic is not exactly an ideal situation. So, while we are allowed to feel negatively about this whole shindig, we are also not going to dwell on it. And even though we aren’t dwelling on the negative, we’re not going to force positives either. Instead, we’re going to notice them as they naturally arrive and rejoice in them. Sound good? Good!

I’ll start, so you can see some examples of what I’m talking about!

Pre-Pandemic I was drinking an unnecessary amount of coffee a day. Like 3 cups in the AM when I woke up and then probably more in the afternoon. I knew I definitely didn’t need that much coffee, but I liked it. Well, I liked it until after the second cup, but I didn’t want to waste it so I forced myself to drink the third. It was sort of a waste of coffee and just tooooo much caffeine. Nowadays, I drink one cup of coffee in the AM and enjoy it far more. Then, I have an afternoon espresso (doppio). It normally takes the form on a very short iced latte, but recently I’ve been making affogatos (as pictured above) and it’s been awesome. Less caffeine and way more fun!

Need another example? I got you.

The muscles in my legs get uncomfortably tight if I sit for too long during the day, so I try to walk quite a bit every day. (I realize this is a massive privilege). Last night, Patrick and I were fitting our walk into the day in the evening and ended up still walking when the sun went down. I saw freakin’ fireflies!!! They’re here!!! I love those things. I want to just sit outside on someone’s patio and watch them flash around in the yard. They are a little joy.

This past winter I got weirdly into tea. I’ll never be a tea > coffee person, but I’ve learned to really enjoy it. I’ve been drinking it hot, but we’ve reached the point that it’s uncomfortable to do so. I also enjoy iced tea and I remembered someone on Instagram making sun tea many moons ago, so I Googled how to do it. Turns out it’s insanely easy. And now I’ve been enjoying iced decaf green tea! Plus it looks so pretty sitting out in the sun.

See what I mean? Nothing crazy. Nothing forced. Some of these things I’ve noticed in passing, some I didn’t realize until I was glancing at my camera roll. Y’all, this sucks. I know we’re all going to be good eventually, just probably not right now.

If you’re in that boat, I hope you find something to rejoice about. I hope you don’t sit down and force it. I hope you just pry open that part of your mind that notices the good things and see what comes wandering in again.

Anyway, I’ll have my mental crowbar at the ready since I know it’ll be a struggle to not let it close shut. If you find that you’re really struggling with your mental health, I would encourage you to seek out your local mental health authority. Many are offering hotline services for those in need of someone to talk to or who are in crisis.

I guess let my parting phrase be this: you’re not alone in this. Your feelings, wherever they may fluctuate in this experience, are valid. There are so many stressors in this time, many of which are out of our control and can feel insurmountable. Like we’re being asked to climb Everest without a map or an oxygen tank.

But you’ve been climbing mountains your whole life! I’ll see you at the top of this one.

Love,

Juliana

2020 Goals: January Update

Hello! I can’t believe it is already February. January didn’t feel long and it also didn’t fly by, it just felt packed full of stuff! I started my field placement and work picked back up and school started and it’s just been a lot.

That being said, I’m still pretty excited about my goals. Let’s just get straight into it!

Max out my IRA contributions

Let’s talk money. This is probably going to be my most challenging goal. Mostly because my priority is to pay for grad school without taking any loans, so any cash I have to save goes straight to that first.

However, because I know future me will be thankful for any contribution I make, I am still focusing on investing as well. I have increased by savings rate and, through some fun frugality, have opened up quite a bit of cash to throw into savings or investments as well!

Visit somewhere new

This is happening! We stayed relatively local (aka Texas) this month, but we planned some exciting trips. In April we’re going to DC and Philadelphia for a wedding and I can’t wait. I’ve never been to Philadelphia (or Pennsylvania, in general) and I am 100% going to get myself a Philly Cheesesteak.

I’m getting ahead of myself. In January we went to Bandera for my 50k. I had never been to Bandera, and honestly didn’t see much of it since I was running the whole time. However, my race was in Hill Country State Natural Area – a park I had never been to – and it blew my mind. It was so rugged and beautiful; it could easily be a national park. I’ve recommended it to anyone who has asked about the race. I’m like, “forget about the running, let’s talk about that park!”

Unfortunately it’s roughly 3 hours away from Austin, but it would make for an excellent day or weekend trip!

Read a book a month (at least)

Not to be dramatic, but I am crushing this one. I started using Goodreads and it has helped me keep track of what I want to read, what I have read, and how long it is taking me to read books.

In January, I read: Economics for Social Workers by Michael Anthony Lewis (no, this was not for school), Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (did not like at all), The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker (a little scary at first, but a must read!), and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (fun read).

February is not off to as ambitious of a start. Mostly because the book I’m currently reading has been a slow starter and I’m struggling with it. Will update next month!

Pursue finance, professionally

Not a whole lot going on here, unfortunately. In early January I applied to be volunteer at the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, but haven’t heard back. I do think I am going to try to start a financial therapy group of sorts at my field placement, but that probably wouldn’t happen until later this spring anyway.

While I do want to make progress on this goal, January was just too crazy of a month to reserve a lot of time or energy for it. That being said, it is 100% still on my radar. I’m excited to attend an awesome investment event later this month, too!

PR my half marathon

Woof. We’re getting there. When I made this goal, I hadn’t run my ultra yet! I ran 31.1 miles on January 12th and planned on taking a whole month off before I began training.

Well, I needed to run. Life has been crazy (sensing that theme?) and while I have many outlets to process my stress, running is my favorite. I actually didn’t have my first run back until February, so that doesn’t really count here. I decided to just get my legs back underneath me with some casual, shorter runs and then I’ll start building speed and distance in a few weeks!

I’m pretty excited about that!

And that’s January! I cannot believe a month has already gone by! I’m looking forward to chipping away at those goals this year, especially since 2020 is going to be the largest year of my life thus far.

Talk to you later!

Juliana

Dinner$: Success!

Hi!

Life got crazy really quick. And this post is – uhhhh, like – two weeks late. Nonetheless, we made it through January without going out to eat (well, paying for it at least)! January was the right month to go for this goal. Why? Well, I started field placement for school and it has thrown a wrench in my normal life schedule. Along with working and doing my regular school work, I can already feel myself wanting to just go out to eat all. the. time.

HOWEVER, Patrick and I are working hard to resist that urge. Meals will probably become simpler than they already were and Patrick will have to do more cooking probably. TIA Pat.

Anyway, back to a few weeks ago. To be honest, I didn’t take pictures of everything we made and I can’t even remember what was on the menu that week. Regardless, we’re going to try our best:

Monday: Instant Pot Chicken Tinga

Not to be dramatic or anything, but these were one of my favorite things we’ve ever made in the Instant Pot. They were so good and so much better than crappy HEB fajita meat tacos.

Two pounds of chicken made tacos for the whole week. We probably ate this 12 times throughout the week. We also had rice and beans that we just mixed straight into the shredded chicken after our first meal of it. The chicken gets pretty oily, so definitely have a napkin handy.

We ate this as tacos, but it would be excellent in a burrito bowl!

Another day (oops, can’t remember when): Buddha Bowls

This is a staple in my diet. I don’t actually know what a true Buddha Bowl that you’d buy from some bougie restaurant for $14 actually consists of, but I love mine so I don’t care.

This was: roasted Brussel Sprouts, roasted asparagus, roasted sweet potatoes, a 5 grain mix, and fake Quorn chicken pieces. And, of course, this peanut sauce. Made in ATX. So delicious.

These bowls are so filling and are excellent leftovers! I’ve also added avocado or sriracha in the past. And if you’re someone who is a self-declared vegetable hater, do this: ROAST YOUR VEGETABLES IN OIL. ADD SALT AND PEPPER AND WHATEVER SEASONING YOU’D LIKE. For us, that’s garlic powder.

Again, another day: Green Lentil Soup from The Feed Zone cookbook

Color me unimpressed. Y’all, I had such high expectations for this and was just let down. For a couple reasons!

First, we make Ina Garten’s Split Pea Soup a couple of times a year and absolutely love it. This was in no way split pea soup, nor were the recipes similar at all, but it looked enough like the split pea soup that I was disappointed it didn’t taste like it every time I had a spoonful.

Second, it was so so so salty. Which is cray because I didn’t even salt it. I used chicken broth that we already had and I think that’s what took it over. The recipe called for broth or water, which was weird since they are definitely not the same. But whateva.

Third, it just didn’t satisfy me. I was not in the mood for it that day, but it’s what I made. Also we ate it at maybe 4 pm. We are old.

LOOK! I am missing two meals from this week… I know we cooked something, but I didn’t take any pictures so I can’t remember what it was. Whateva whateva.

I probably won’t keep doing these posts in February, because I just don’t have the time or mental capacity for it, BUT we will keep making food at home.

Why? Well, because of my budgeting and frugality in January, I saved an extra $1900. That’s EXTRA money, y’all. I had already saved and invested and included that in my total “spent” for the month. This crap was just not spent. I rule. Grad school debt, who? (Brb need to go knock on some wood).

Thanks for reading! Cook something delicious tonight!

Best,

Juliana

Dinner$: A Crazy Week

Let me begin with an apology. I forgot to take photos this week. I snagged a few, but ultimately mostly forgot.

I know you’re wildly disappointed. The people love my mediocre, iPhone food pictures!!! 😉 I’ll try to be better next week.

This week was a doozy. I started my internship and was running from South Austin to Georgetown multiple times a day and was tired. I listened to NPR and Marketplace like a maniac, though! I may be hustling around, but I am very well informed.

Anyway, we hosted a party last Saturday, so when the time came to meal plan for the week we were not super creative. The weather was also on the chillier side and rainy some days, so we went for comfy foods.

Also I want to mention that last night Patrick commented that he doesn’t even miss eating out. And neither do I! It’s kind of awesome. To be honest, I never really cared much about eating out unless it was for something I really craved. We normally just did it when we were feeling lazy or uninspired.

Cooking things that are:

  1. Cheap
  2. Quick(ish) & easy
  3. Fun to make
  4. All of the above

definitely improves the experience! And makes eating out less enticing. Anyway, let’s begin!

Monday: Spaghetti & Meatballs in Red Wine Tomato Sauce (from The Feed Zone cookbook)

YUM. Writing this now I wish we still had leftovers. Not going to lie, this took a hot minute. It’s like a 90 minute recipe because that sauce needs to simmmmmmmmmer. It was even better as leftovers the next day.

This may be the first time I have made my own pasta sauce. Well, this summer I made some from scratch but didn’t use a recipe, so it was a little more onion-y than I would have preferred. This sauce was excellent.

I even got hard parmesan to put in our new (to us) Parmesan grater than I got from Buy Nothing! And, of course, garlic bread. A must. My only regret is not eating this on plain old white spaghetti. I bought whole wheat (because fiber) and it was good, but classic spaghetti would have been even better! Highly recommend this one.

Tuesday: Ramen

LOL. This was not fancy, homemade ramen, y’all. This was the 19 cent ramen that college students joke about. I love me some salty, MSG noodles time to time.

A couple weeks ago I finally got Patrick to try it, because he swore he never had, and he acted like it was just fine. This week, though, he suggested it. We soft-boiled two eggs each (for protein) and didn’t add anything else.

Patrick might’ve overcooked the noodles just a tad. And evaporated too much water out. But we love him anyway.

Last time we had this we had leftover tofu and pickled vegetables from banh mi and I wish we had had them this time around, too! Either way, still delicious. I inhaled this 10 minutes before having to start an online video meeting for school. Fun!

Wednesday: Chili

Another day, another no photo! Does that make sense? Whateva.

It was rainy and dreary all day this day, which meant it was perfect for chili. I don’t follow a chili recipe and – before you jump down my throat – I am not claiming this to be Texas Chili! Why? Because there’s a whole lot of beans and zero meat.

I am particularly proud of this one, though. I bought dried black beans and kidney beans months ago to save money and not buy cans, but I attempted to make them once and didn’t soak them long enough and had a bad time.

When I was making my grocery list, I saw those dried beans and decided to conquer it. SAVING THAT CA$H MONEY!

I soaked the kidney beans and black beans (separately) for roughly 6 hours and then threw them in the Instant Pot (again, separately) for like 20ish minutes? I don’t know, Google it.

Anyway, in the chili went those cooked beans (nailed it), pinto beans, garbanzo beans, frozen diced bell peppers (that we already had in the fridge), some chicken stock I wanted to use up, a Ranch seasoning packet, and a chili packet. We ate it with tortilla chips and cheese and sour cream for me.

Confession time: I always make my chili too soupy. Yes, I could probably let it keep cooking until the water evaporates, but that requires patience. Do you not know me by now?

Moving on!

Thursday: Veggie Burgers & Curly Fries

Awww yeah. A classic. A grilled veggie burger and curly fries.

That’s it. That’s the tweet.

Eaten on a whole wheat brioche bun from Whole Foods that has been in the freezer. Topped with avocado. HEB curly fries (that we put in breakfast tacos the next morning).

I love our mini grill. I love Patrick for making this for me after teaching Bodypump.

Friday: Tuna Cakes with Rice

The photo is art, honestly. So, here’s the deal about tuna cakes. I used to work at a place that made jalapeno tuna cakes with cilantro lime rice. I didn’t become obsessed until after I left.

It’s just such a great pairing. The tuna, with the protein and the fats. The rice, with the carbs. The cilantro and lime and jalapeno with the flavor.

This was not that. I had forgotten to get cilantro and Patrick isn’t really into cilantro… or lime… or jalapeno. Loser. I found some random recipe for tuna cakes and ran with that. I added lemon juice and some salt to my rice, but I’m pretty sure Pat ate his plain…

Regardless, the most important thing to report on about this meal is that we ate it at 4 PM. Like actual old people. The early bird special. I still can’t believe it. We were both hungry and figured we’d just have snacks later.

Don’t judge us. Or do. Whateva.

Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with our final week of January! I have a feeling we will continue to just cook. I’ve got lots going on, especially in the evening, next week so I’ll be interested to see what our meals and distribution of meal preparing labor will look like.

I’ll report back. Eat something delicious this weekend! And transfer $20 to savings right now.

Okay bye!

Dinner$: Week 2

Heellooo! I survived my 50k! That’s a whole story for another time though. Let’s talk about dinner some more!

This is an easy week. Why? Because Erica is cooking for us twice this week and we’re going out to eat for Erica’s birthday on Friday! I know this goes against my whole not-eating-out thing but it’s a legitimate exception.

Let’s get to it!

Monday: Tuna Casserole (from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook)

This was a meal Erica made for us and it was delicious. It was basically cheesy, gooey mac n cheese with tuna in it and topped with jalapeno chips. Probably could have just cut the recipe in half!

Tuesday: Chicken Nuggets & Mac n Cheese

Erica was going to cook us salmon this night, but none of us were really in the mood for it and she ended up babysitting anyway! This meant that Patrick and I had to figure out dinner that we hadn’t planned for.

We went with a Nicolini-Mannon classic. Fake chicken nuggets (Quorn brand). And Annie’s Mac N Cheese. Two items that we almost always have on hand! So good. Feels like I’m 5 years old. Always satisfying!

Wednesday: Scallion Herb Chickpea Salad

Eaten #AlFresco. My favorite way to eat! I really enjoyed this one. I was skeptical at first, for whatever reason, but it was so fresh and creamy. I grabbed cilantro and parsley from one of the school garden’s I work at, so they were fresh and amazing. Also, pair it with chips. And lemonade spiked with cherry juice.

Also, this took maybe 3 minutes to whip up. I didn’t have the yogurt the recipe called for, so I subbed it with ricotta… I brought the leftovers in my lunch the next day and ate it with pita chips – highly recommend!

Thursday: Vegetable Pot Pie Skillet

Whoa buddy. This was awesome.

We followed the recipe to a T, except we added fake chicken to the mix and I used Red Lobster’s boxed biscuit mix instead of making my own. It was so warm and comforting and cooking it in the cast iron skillet was amazing.

Next time, I would cut the amount of biscuit I put on top in half because the biscuit to inside ratio was shockingly high! I would also make this with real chicken or would ground turkey, because I think that would rock.

Friday: Pinthouse Pizza

I didn’t take any pictures of this one! Patrick and I shared a large pizza that was half Honey Fig, half The Armadillo. Both were, unsurprisingly, excellent! Not going to lie, though. I think I get sick of pizza pretty easily. Especially since we made it last week!

I’ve enjoyed making food at home so much that going out to eat wasn’t that big of a deal!

I’m excited for what we’ve got lined up for this upcoming week! Stay tuned!