May 30, 2013

Cross-Country Drive: Great Smokey Mountains and To Our New Home

Our last full road trip day was a long one! We were planning to have breakfast at the Loveless Cafe, but the wait was so long that I wound up ordering lunch. Starvation central. Of course, we had to also order a plate of their fluffy, buttery biscuits. I had their dark meat fried chicken with green beans and hashbrown casserole. Although the food was scrumptious, the wait brought the whole experience down several notches. 

 From there we said good-bye to Nashville and headed towards Great Smokey Mountains National Park, where we did a driving tour. Some of the sights we saw along the way were historical buildings, Clingmans Dome Observation Tower and lots of beautiful views.

We went to the top of the observation tower and were rewarded with this breathtaking sky.

We left the park pretty late and still had a long ways to drive for the night. We made a pit stop in the strangest town I think I have ever been to: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We needed something to eat, so we stumbled in to the Old Mill Restaurant, which was likewise odd. Our dinner, which I don't have photographic evidence of, consisted of a main dish plus a cup of corn chowder, corn fritters, side salad, mashed potatoes, green beans and dessert. What the what? 

From Pigeon Forge, we still had another two and a half hour drive to reach Marion, Virginia, our stop for the night. The town of Marion is super cute and we stayed in an adorable hotel called the General Francis Marion.

The final leg of our drive would take us to our final destination, Arlington, Virginia. This has been my home for almost three years now.

But first, we had to stop for lunch in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After many days of eating heavy, Southern cooking, I was happy to have a vegetarian meal at the Little Grill Collective. I had the Go Ask Alyce (a wrap of falafel and veggie with tahini dressing). We have actually returned to this restaurant on other occasions, like on our drive back from West Virginia.

Two hours later we finally made it! Well, that concludes my "cross-country" drive. Thanks for looking back on it with me!

Loveless Cafe
8400 Tennessee 100
Nashville, TN 37221

Old Mill Restaurant
64 Old Mill Avenue
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863

Little Grill Collective
621 North Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802

May 29, 2013

How this Newbie is Gearing Up for TBEX 2013

TBEX 2013 

In just a few days, I will be traveling to Toronto to attend my first travel blogging conference and my second blogging conference.

There are two main reasons why I am hoping to get more out of TBEX than I got out of BlogHer 2012.

  • It's much smaller. TBEX recently surpassed 1,000 registrants, making it the largest TBEX in history. In contrast, BlogHer 2012 was the largest BlogHer ever with 5,000 attendees. It's no wonder I felt lost in the crowd and lost in general.
  • It's more niche. While attendees will certainly have their own niches within the travel niche, we are all, at the most basic level, travel bloggers. BlogHer is a conference for women bloggers. With such a broad audience, what that seemed to be interpreted as was that women bloggers = mommy bloggers. No offense to mommy bloggers or companies wanting to work with mommy bloggers, but some women bloggers aren't mommies and if they are mommies, not all of them are mommy bloggers. I found that many of the people I met at BlogHer and the sessions/events I attended didn't align with what my blog is about. I am hoping the sessions and key notes at TBEX will be much more relevant to me and my blog. More importantly, I am hoping the people I meet will be individuals who I can relate to and can relate to my blog.
To prepare for my trip, I've been doing the usual research I do when visiting a new city, but I have also been utilizing content on TBEX's blog to get myself and my blog ready. Here are some of the posts that I have found most useful:


Social Media:



My new business cards arrived in the mail and I am partially packed and ready to go. Can't wait to tell you about my trip to TBEX and Toronto! 

May 28, 2013

Cross-country Drive - Through the Deep South to Nashville

After our day of fun in New Orleans, it was time to move on with another 500-plus mile drive for the day, with our destination being Nashville. With it being July 4th, we hoped to make it in time to see some fireworks and live music. First, we had to make it through Mississippi and Alabama.

We didn't have any places for lunch picked out since we didn't know how far along we would be, so we wound up eating at Outback!

We made pretty good time today and were able to check into the fabulous Hutton Hotel before it was dark out.

Our original plans didn't pan out so we wound up at a sports bar-ish establishment that I can't remember the name of. The fried chicken shack I wanted to go to was closed and it was impossible to get a cab downtown. Thus, we were stuck with mediocre food.

We also had grand plans to visit a couple of bars away from downtown, but apparently, these bars all decided to be closed on the 4th of July. We had such bad luck in Nashville! So with an air of defeat, we went back to our hotel, watched fireworks out of the window and enjoyed our big comfy bed.

May 27, 2013

Week in Review (May 20 to 26, 2013)

"On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation!
                       Long as the sun doth shine upon it
                       Shall glow the goodly pine upon it,
                       Long as the stars do gleam upon it
                       Shall memory come to dream upon it."
                                            --- Thomas William Parsons, For One Who Fell in Battle

I hope everyone has been enjoying their long weekends. I encourage you to take some time today to remember what Memorial Day is all about and remember our fallen veterans.

This week was rather quiet on the social front so I had plenty of time to fit in my workouts. I will be traveling to Toronto later this week for my second blogging conference (more on that later). I'm planning to fit in some activities that will allow me to be active while enjoying the city's sights.

For now, here is what this week looked like: 

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Ran 2.62 miles + Daily Burn: Yoga 6 (60 minutes)
Wednesday: Body Sculpt class (45 minutes)
Thursday: Ran 2.05 miles
Friday: Daily Burn: DB15 Yoga (15 minutes)
Saturday: Daily Burn: Cardio Sculpt (30 minutes)
Sunday: Ran 4.23 miles + Daily Burn: Yoga 1 (35 minutes)

Total yoga this week: 3 times
Total mileage this week: 8.9 miles
Total mileage this year: 151.1 miles

Happy Monday! 

May 23, 2013

Business School Graduation!

After three long years, I graduated from Business School this past weekend with my MBA. My whole family came into town to see me walk across that stage. Thank you so much, family, for taking the time out of your lives to celebrate with me! 

On Friday morning, we all met up for brunch at Ted's Bulletin in Eastern Market. I ordered a couple of side dishes because I wasn't very hungry. I had biscuits and gravy and hash browns. The restaurant is apparently known for its housemade pop tarts, which I thought were a little too bready and sprinkely. 

Next, we spent about an hour at the United States Botanic Garden to see some beautiful flowers. 

Then it was time to head home to get changed for the School of Business graduation. I'm somewhere in there! 

We actually sneaked out of the ceremony after everyone in my degree was called so that we could take photos. Oh, the beauty of having cell phones. Definitely wasn't an option when I graduated from high school or undergrad!

There was a reception after the ceremony with some light fare, including cupcakes decorated with the GW logo!

For dinner, we went to Zentan for some very expensive Asian fusion. A few of the dishes we ordered were the escolar, pekin chicken and the panna cotta for dessert. 

The next morning my siblings and I took our mom to her belated Mother's Day brunch at the Tabard Inn, one of my favorite brunch places in DC. 

We shared a plate of their famous doughnuts and whipped cream. I also ordered the corned beef hash with poached eggs. Yummy!

For the afternoon, we spent a few hours at the National Zoo, seeing some of my favorite animals. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pandas!

One of my favorite areas of the zoo turned out to be the Invertebrates House. The sea creatures were so colorful. I could just stare at them all day. 

We rounded out the day with dinner at Village Bistro in the Court House area of Arlington. I ate here once before and didn't remember any of my first experience. Either that or it has changed considerably since then. They are very heavy on fish dishes and had varieties that I have not seen on any other menus in DC. Hello, opah? It was really cool. I ordered the monkfish and pistachio cheesecake for dessert. 

The family had to return to their respective homes the next day. It was so great to spend the weekend with them, and I hope they had fun! 

Ted's Bulletin
505 8th Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003

1155 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Tabard Inn
1739 N Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Village Bistro
1723 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22209

May 22, 2013

Cross-Country Drive: Biking, Dining and Music in New Orleans, Louisiana

What is there to say about New Orleans? It is one of my favorite cities in the world. The architecture, food and music somehow make me feel at home there even though I have only visited it twice. Our arrival to New Orleans coincided with the annual Essence Music Festival which takes places at the Superdome. What this meant for us was that everyone was at the Superdome during the day while other areas of the city were oddly quiet. 

We wanted to venture away from the Marginy for the day to explore the French Quarter. Our inn, luckily, had bicycles that we could borrow, so we went on a fun ride for the day with lots of stops along the way to appreciate the architecture. 

I absolutely love the wrought iron balconies that can be seen all over the French Quarter. It feels so romantic and charming. 

Along the way, we came across this group of musicians playing with some dancers on the street. *sigh* 

We also saw signs that the French Quarter is a tourism mecca with such establishments as Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop. 

Our first stop of the day was Pat O'Brien's to get some adult beverages. I started off with their famous Hurricane, which I still think tastes like Hawaiian Punch. We later ventured out to the courtyard and enjoyed the beautiful weather. If you have ever been to Pat O'Brien's at night, you are sure to be familiar with their fire fountain. Unfortunately, it was still early in the day so there was no fire yet.

Next we visited the world famous Preservation Hall. There weren't any shows scheduled while we were in town, but we got to poke our heads in to the venue. One day, I will get to see some live music there!

Lunch time creeped up on us so we enjoyed some amazing dishes from Coop's Place. Their seafood gumbo and Cajun pasta (shrimp, crawfish, oysters, tasso, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms in a spicy alfredo sauce) made us super happy!

What could make us happier? Iced coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde! I have fond memories of my first New Orleans visit, where I stumbled to Cafe du Monde at the end of every night I was there. Still as fun as last time.

After stuffing our faces, it was time for us to bike back to the inn for some rest before our dinner date at Arnaud's.

Arnaud's is one of those super, super, incredibly old school, white table-clothed restaurants that still exist in New Orleans. It has been around for almost 100 years! There are a few others, but we found ourselves at Arnaud's this night.

I ordered the Shrimp Arnaud (Gulf shrimp marinated in Creole Remoulade sauce) and the Crabmeat Karen (crabmeat and mushrooms baked in the most adorable puff pastry). We shared the bread pudding for dessert.

Arnaud's is so old school that they do bananas foster tableside! Fun to watch even though that wasn't our dessert. 

Located within the restaurant is also a small Mardi Gras Museum, which showcases some intricate costumes of Mardi Gras Balls past. 

After dinner, it was time to put on our brave faces and walk along Bourbon Street. Since this was Raisin Bread's first time in the Big Easy, I felt like he had to see all of the craziness. He had enough after about two blocks and seeing some things that are definitely not for children!

Instead, we spent the remainder of the night in a more laid back part of the city: Frenchman Street. We were able to enjoy some great live music at The Spotted Cat Music Club and the Apple Barrel Bar.

I love NOLA, but we had to continue on our way the next morning!

Pat O'Brien's
718 St Peter Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Preservation Hall
726 St Peter Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Coop's Place
1109 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

Arnaud's Restaurant
813 Bienville Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70116

The Spotted Cat Music Club
623 Frenchmen Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

The Apple Barrel Bar
609 Frenchmen Street
New Orleans, LA 70116

May 20, 2013

Week in Review (May 13 to 19, 2013)

I had an eventful week of graduation events and my family coming in to town to see me graduate. I managed to get quite a few workouts in. Having my DailyBurn membership definitely helped me fit them in this week. I also did a TON of walking on Friday and Saturday around DC to visit some sights. I'll be creating a post later this week about my graduation activities. Until then, here is what my week looked like:

Monday: Daily Burn - Restorative Yoga (16 minutes)
Tuesday: Ran 3.21 miles + Daily Burn - Yoga 3 (52 minutes)
Wednesday: BodyStep class (60 minutes)
Thursday: Daily Burn - Yoga 4 (60 minutes)
Friday: sightseeing with family
Saturday: sightseeing with family
Sunday: ran 4.0 miles

Total yoga this week: 3 times
Total mileage this week: 7.21 miles
Total mileage this year: 142.2 miles

May 14, 2013

Cross-Country Drive - San Antonio to the Big Easy

I am fast approaching my three year anniversary in the DC Metro area. It seems as good a time as any to look back on how I got here. Taking a cross-country road trip is something that I think everyone should do once in their life and if possible take a leisurely drive.

My drive "across the country" wound up being neither across the country nor leisurely. The week before I was to leave the West Coast, I found out that I needed to work on July 1st in order to get my annual bonus that I had worked all year for and was no small amount of money. We had originally planned to leave on June 30th, so that meant I would have to work two extra days. After weighing our options, we decided that I should stay the extra two days. Raisin Bread would begin the drive as planned on June 30th, and on July 1st after work, I would fly to San Antonio to meet up with him. Poor Raisin Bread had to make the drive all the way to San Antonio by himself in two days, which were the roughest two days of the schedule!

As you can see from our route map, I wound up missing half of the country.

I also learned that giving yourself seven days to drive across the country doesn't allow for much besides driving, eating, sleeping and driving. 

From San Antonio, our plan for the next day was to drive 544 miles to New Orleans. Our day started off with breakfast at our hotel, with Texas-shaped waffles and biscuits and gravy. 

We made a pit stop in Houston three hours in to have lunch with my former co-worker and former roommate Christine at Goode Company Texas BBQ.

Sliced brisket sandwich for me!

The weather turned from bad to worse after we finished lunch. It was pouring down rain, which caused us to fall behind on our timeline. Can't see. 

Considering the rain delay, we continued on to New Orleans without stopping except to grab a Texas-sized drink.  

We checked into our bed and breakfast located in Faubourg Marigny and then headed out for a lovely dinner at Elizabeth's. The restaurant in tiny but we lucked out and were seated right away.

The food was also amazing. In my opinion, it was the best meal of our trip. I was introduced to the most divine creation: praline bacon. So delicious. My entree, duck with cherry sauce, was also wonderful.

After that drive all day, we were ready to hit the hay. We planned on staying in NOLA for two nights so we had a full day of exploring the city ahead of us. 

Goode Company Texas BBQ
8911 Katy Freeway
Houston, TX 77024

Elizabeth's Restaurant
601 Gallier Street
New Orleans, LA 70117

May 13, 2013

Week in Review (May 6 to 12, 2013)

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably know that I have been taking advantage of my new found freedom from academic life.

On Wednesday after work, I headed to the headquarters of LivingSocial to make a terrarium. They are super easy to make and sound easy to care for, but I'm really bad at keeping plants alive. They are also so pretty to look at so I am hoping mine stays around for a while.

Then on Thursday, I visited the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX Theatre for the first time at the Natural History Museum. My friend invited me to a staff viewing of the 3D film Flight of the Butterflies. The film follows the migratory journey of the monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico. It is visually beautiful!

Image: Source

On Saturday, Raisin Bread and I tried out a new-to-us Japanese place in Falls Church called Maneki Neko. I ordered the vegetable tempura appetizer and shoyu ramen. Definitely the best green tea and ramen I have had in the DC Metro so far!

Yesterday, I decided to take a different running route and ventured to Theodore Roosevelt Island. This was my first time going to the Island and I loved it. The trails were still pretty muddy from the rains we have been having, but it was a perfect day to try something new in the glorious weather. I would like to go there again and do some hiking or some more trail running.

My Sunday run also took me past Artisphere's Yarn Bomb public art project. How can this not make you smile? 

I signed up for a free 60-day trial of Daily Burn this week and have done two of their yoga classes so far. I am trying to get myself to try some of their other workouts but have not gotten myself to yet. I'm planning to do a more in-depth review of Daily Burn after I have used it some more. For now, here is what my workouts looked like this week:

Monday: Daily Burn - Yoga 1 (35 minutes)
Tuesday: Ran/walked 2.4 miles
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: Ran/walked 3.1 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: 4 hours of spring cleaning
Sunday: ran 3.39 miles + Daily Burn - Yoga 2 (40 minutes)

Total yoga this week: 2 times
Total mileage this week: 8.89 miles
Total mileage this year: 134.99 miles

My entire family will be traveling to visit me this week for my graduation on Friday so my workouts this week and weekend might be on the lighter side. It will be the first time that we have all been together since November, and for that, I am excited!

Maneki Neko
239 West Broad Street
Falls Church, VA 22046