May 30, 2013

Summer Fun

I am looking forward to the summer!  Even though summer is not quite here yet it is supposed to be in the upper 80s and 90s the rest of this week and this weekend; which means it is going to be HOT for the Freihofer's Run for Women!  Since summer is fast approaching I figure I should write about our plans!  I am planning a couple of run things, a few trips but nothing too major.  We are striving for a frugal summer and I am focused on saving for some exciting things in the future!  But savings doesn't mean that a girl will give up her vacation - so here's what we're planning!
We are headed to Hampton, New Hampshire in late June for a long (5 day) weekend!  Where we are staying is only 1/2 mile from the beach and I couldn't be more excited!  I love the beach, growing up my family spent at least a week at the beach every summer, but since moving to Albany I haven't been to the beach in a while - so this was the perfect opportunity!  Hampton is also located about 45 minutes from the White Mountains and we are planning to hike one day.  So this will be the perfect little get away - beach time and hiking, the best of both worlds!  What is even better is that I got a great deal on the place we are staying.  We are staying at The Victoria Inn, which has been reviewed as a great little bed and breakfast.  (I have never stayed at a B&B before so I am also pretty excited about that.)  Oddly enough I found the deal on Living Social Escapes; normally I just look at those deals and drool because they are either for exotic locations or week long getaways to resorts, but this deal offered two nights at the The Victoria Inn with a private room, two bottles of wine and a vineyard tour for an amazing price!  I was SOLD!
So anyway, not soon after that it will be the 4th of July and as of now I have two options for the 4th - I will either be running the Saratoga Firecracker 4 Miler for the second time (in my opinion last year's race was not that well organized so I am hesitant to completely commit again) or we will be heading to Boston to watch the Red Sox play.  Either way it should be a run 4th, and since the 4th falls on a Thursday I decided to take off that Friday to make it a 4 day weekend.
In later July I will be in Washington D.C for the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference and we decided to take advantage of that and extend the trip.  The conference runs Sunday - Wednesday and Adam will be coming down that Thursday.  We will be staying with some of his family for a couple of days and doing all the fun things DC has to offer!  Even though I have been to all the monuments numerous times, I still can't wait to go back and visit.  After that we will head up to Baltimore, MD to meet up with my parents and go to the Orioles/Red Sox game that Saturday.  I am pretty excited about the game, as a kid my father had season tickets to the Orioles and it seemed liked we would go every Sunday - but it's been a while since I've been to 'the Yard'.
As of now we have no plans for August but I am hoping something will develop.  Work this summer will be VERY light as far as travel is concerned; I will travel to NYC in mid-June and then I will be attending the conference in July but those are about the only trips I have on the books so far.  It'll be nice to be in the office for a while because come September, I will pretty much be gone the entire month!  Aside from those few trips we are also planning a bunch of hikes, hopefully heading up to Burlington, VT for a long weekend and a couple of day trips around the area.  All in all it should be a fun summer and I am looking forward to what we have planned!
Bring on summer!

May 29, 2013

Hiking Bald Mountain (Green Mountains of Vermont)

Memorial Day weekend was f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s!  Aside from the constant rain and frigid temperatures the first two days, Monday turned out to be beautiful!  Saturday of Memorial Day weekend I participated in the Survive the Farm 5K Obstacle Course Challenge and you can read all about that here.  After the race I was pretty much down for the count, but after a hot shower and a 2 hour nap I was feeling somewhat human again; that night we had dinner with some of Adam's family and then called it a night.  Sunday morning we hit up the gym, Adam made a lentil salad and then we headed down to Kinderhook Lake to have a cookout with some of our friends.  Kinderhook Lake is where we spent last 4th of July but this time there would be no boating or swimming because it was rainy and cold.  Luckily it cleared up a couple of hours before we left and I was able to enjoy some time by the lake!

Kinderhook Lake during the nasty weather on Sunday.

 Angry lake!

The sun finally came out!  Enjoying some time hammock by the lake!
Waving from the hammock!

Kinderhook Lake!
Since Monday was beautiful we decided to go for a hike!  We settled on Bald Mountain which is located right outside of Bennington, VT (Vermont is one of my favorite places!) and is only about 45 minutes to an hour outside of Albany.  The hike took about five hours - approximately six miles round trip and had amazing views!  The trail was pretty rugged, not nearly as rugged as our hike in the Adirondacks but definitely less used and less maintenanced than other trails we have done.  It was also extremely muddy (what is with me and mud this weekend?) because of the amount of rain last week, on top of already being soggy from the spring snow melt.  At times long portions of the trail was a made into a stream by the rain/melt and we had to not only figure out ways around the water but also how to continue along the trail.  My foot did end up going in a stream and pile of mud at one point, but luckily that was on the way down.  The view at the top of gorgeous!  We stopped, ate lunch and enjoyed the view before heading back down.  Great way to spend Memorial Day!
Just as we began our hike - if you look closely you can see the Bennington Battle Monument!

Tunnel under the highway toward the start of the hike.

 View from the top of Bald Mountain!

Me and the awesome view!

Adam and another portion of the awesome view!
Surveying my land!

Bald Mountain, Vermont!

Adam perched on a rock!  Love this picture!

<3 Vermont
So by the time Tuesday rolled around and it was time to head back to work I was sore and exhausted from the weekend!  The combination of the Survive the Farm race, Sunday gym session and a strenuous hike pretty much did me in for the week.  It was also somewhat difficult to adjust my mind back to work mode after a three day weekend.  So after taking it easy for a couple of days - yoga and some biking - I will be gearing up for my third race this weekend, the 35th Freihofer's Run for Women! 

May 26, 2013

Race #2 - Survive the Farm 5K Obstacle Course Challenge

Oh man, where do I even begin?  This race was beyond tough.  This weekend I ran the Survive the Farm 5K Obstacle Course Challenge which benefited the 'Operation Adopt A Solider' and 'Hope for the Warriors'.  If you want an idea of the obstacles and the course, you can check out a video of the course here.  This was also the second race of my three races in three weeks - you can read about my first race, the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge here.  The weather leading up to the race was nasty - it rained all week and race day the high topped out at only 42 degrees with constant rain.  Perfect day for running an obstacle course race - right?  I cannot even begin to tell you how tough this race was; I finished in just under an hour an ten minutes. 

The entire course was mud, everywhere you stepped you sank.  It was so muddy that throughout the majority of the race it was nearly impossible to run - every time I started to run I sank even deeper or slid all over the place.  My two goals for this race were to 1 - finish and 2 - finish without breaking anything, which was a very real possibility!  It was also COLD, really really cold.  Which didn't help anything when you were running through and jumping over creeks with water up to your knees, sliding into a pond that was chest deep and crawling under barbed wire. 

We got there around 9 AM, signed in, got our shirts and chips, after that we were freezing so we decided to go sit in the car for a while.  Around 9:50 we lined up for the race (there were 3 heats running at 10 AM, 11 AM and 12 PM) and waited - the national anthem was sung and then we were off!  Within the first 100 yards I was COVERED in mud up to my knees.  And at this point all the runners were still pretty close together so when I reached the first obstacle there was a bit of a line.  The first obstacle was five logs (approximately 50 feet long) over a creek that if I fell in would have been about up to my chest (I know this because I saw other women about my height fall in.  I made it over without falling in but the real test came when I had to climb up the hill on the other side! 

Following that obstacle there were about 13 more - everything from climbing a rope ladder to ducking and climbing over logs and army crawling under barbed wire.  All those were intense but the most challenging part of the entire course were the hills - and there were A LOT of them.  Envision trying to climb a 45 degree hill (at least) that is straight mud; and to make things even more challenging think about having to go down the opposite side!  I was basically mud surfing down hills, going from tree to tree trying not to fall flat on my face.  At the end after the barbed wire crawl (with worms) we climbed a decent hill to a slide at the top (an actual, huge slide) complete with what looked like dish soap and a huge hose.  Going down I picked up a lot of speed and at the end was dumped into a pond with water that came up to my chest!  After that it was about a 1/4 mile to the finish where there was a towel, warm clothes and a beer truck waiting!

Huge flag anchored to a fire truck for the race - the race was on Memorial Day weekend after all.
Group #1 getting ready to take off - I was somewhere in that pack.
Look at all that mud!
Coming in at the finish!
Almost there!
Completely exhausted and SO happy to be finished!
Our team!  Team Upstate/Downstate!
My very much earned dry fit shirt!
I survived the farm!

All in all the race was extremely challenging!  The rain (including the entire week of rain leading up to the race), the cold and of course the extreme mud made everything about the race 100x more challenging.  It would be interesting in seeing how the race could be on a warm sunny day (I think I could actually run a good portion of it) but at this point I am not willing to definitely commit to doing it again next year, we'll see though - I think I need time for my extreme soreness to go away.

May 24, 2013

Good Reads

Many of you know that I have been trying to read more lately.  Ever since I finishing grad school and took a little break from reading post academia I started picking up a book here and there.  See I have never been very much of a 'reader' - my mother and sister are HUGE readers, they can easily put away a couple of books in a week - however that's just never been me.  Growing up, when I wasn't reading for school I was much more of a 'newspaper' or 'news magazine' gal (nerd alert); in college I didn't do much personal reading and that continued throughout graduate school.  But now that I am finished with school forever for the foreseeable future I have started to read on a pretty consistent basis. 
I am not a very 'heavy topic' book reader shall we say - you won't find me sitting down with a book about a major global conflict or a book that has been reviewed as overly sad or depressing.  I like to read happy books and what other's may call fluff, but hey my philosophy is this - I work hard and I work in a field that deals with homelessness and poverty and I read a lot for work so when I come home I want my choice of reading to be happy, entertaining and light.  That's not to say that I won't ever delve into a piece of epic literary work but for now I have chosen to keep it light.  I have also become a big fan of the Bethlehem Public Library!  It is a great little community library within walking distance of work and Adam's house, so we end up going there often. 

So here is a list of what I have been reading lately - you may also realize that I have a bit of 'author loyality', if I like a book by an author I will more than likely read other books they have written.  For example, I have now read five of Emily Giffin's six books, I got on a bit of a Tom Perrotta kick and I plan on reading more books by Gillian Flynn.
Books Read
The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta
Fifty Shades of Grey, Book 1, 2 & 3 
(I definitely jumped on this bandwagon so no judgement!)
The Leftovers - Tom Perrotta
Where We Belong - Emily Giffin
Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer
(this book was incredibly interesting)
Love The One You're With - Emily Giffin
Something Borrowed - Emily Giffin
Something Blue - Emily Giffin
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Baby Proof - Emily Giffin
Gods in Alabama - Joshilyn Jackson
Next Up
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
The Expats - Chris Pavone
Of the books that I have read I would definitely recommend Under the Banner of Heaven, The Abstinence Teacher, Love The One You're With and Gone Girl (although I will say that about 100/150 pages in I was ready to put it down, but keep going!).  So read up and enjoy!


May 23, 2013

Homemade Pizza Sauce

The other night was pizza night!  I love me some homemade pizza!  I normally  just use Trader Joe's pre-made pizza sauce (along with Trader Joe's pizza dough and fresh mozzarella) but this time I decided to make my own pizza sauce!  The end result was tastey and fresh and it definitely did not taste like traditional jarred pizza sauce - this recipe knocked out all the preservatives and (almost all the) sugar!  It was  also incredibly simple - just tomatoes, onion, EVOO, garlic and spices!   
Homemade Pizza Sauce

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
28 ounce can of tomatoes (diced or whole)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until combined and no large chunks remain.  Pour into a large saucepan simmer uncovered over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally or until reduced and thickened. (Be sure your cook the sauce for the full 30 minutes - if not, the sauce may be too thin and appear 'watery' on the pizza).

All the ingredients into the food processor!

Post - blend
Pizza with homemade pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella and fontina cheese!

May 22, 2013

Hark Upon the Gale (William & Mary, Part II)

This post may as well be called 'A Post Dedicated to My Bootch'.  My bootch is Dana - my best friend.  You may be asking yourself 'uhhh why do you call her bootch'; well we have been friends since fourth grade, pretty much grew up together and we learned to curse together.  At one point we started calling each other 'bitch' - in the best friend sense of course.  My mother, however was having none of it, especially since I had two younger sisters.  So we started calling each other 'bootch' and it stuck.  One day we may have children and they may call us 'Aunt Bootch' - haha probably not, but you get the point.
So anyway, Dana graduated with her Master's in Public Policy (with a focus on environmental policy) from the College of William & Mary - my alma mater.  You can read all about my William & Mary nostalgia here!  Throughout the weekend I attended both her departmental graduation and the school wide graduation.  We also went out, spent some time in Colonial Williamsburg and ate a lot of good food!  It was great to spend some quality time with my bootch and her finance Charlie.
The Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy
The College of William & Mary
May 11, 2013
The list of graduates!

Getting her 'diploma'!
(It was just a rolled up piece of paper - she would get the real thing (which is in latin btw) later)

Pretty proud of my picture taking abilities right here!
Post graduation ceremonies there were lots of pictures, cookies and then a walk down to Colonial Williamsburg to take some pictures!  Here we have a series of pictures in which we attempt to get a good one of the three of us together.
Take One
"Dude, you arm!"

Take Two
"Dana and her crazy eyes"

Take Three
"There we go!"

William & Mary cookies post graduation ceremony! 
Saddly they looked a lot better than they tasted.
Pictures with TJ! 
At the Thomas Jefferson statue on Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg!

Dana and TJ!

I took the exact same picture of Dana about five years ago - so clearly we had to take another one!

Speakers at the College wide graduation ceremony included FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (W&M alum and current chancellor of the College).  It was interesting to listen to all the speeches throughout the weekend.  Normally graduation speeches are full of 'go forth and do whatever you like', 'change the world' and 'you can do anything' - but these weren't.  The major theme of all of the speeches was 'you may not know what you are going to do, and that's okay' or 'you may not get your ideal job right off the bat, it's important to work toward your dreams'.  The speeches were definitely a sign of the times and it was interesting to see the transition from my graduation ceremony four years ago to today.

Sitting in the 'nose-bleeds' at the College wide graduation ceremony!
Overall the weekend was great!  It was a ton of fun and I loved seeing my friends - we don't get together nearly enough.  Who knows when my next trip to William & Mary will be or when I will see Dana and Charlie again so I tried to enjoy ever minute!

May 21, 2013

Weekend Happenings

This past weekend went by wayyy too fast - but don't they always.  I am already looking forward to next weekend - which will be three days long thanks to Memorial Day!  Next weekend I will also run my second race - Survive the Farm 5K Challenge.  But back to this past week/weekend.  Last Tuesday we went to see Aziz Ansari at The Palace in downtown Albany.  This was my first live comedy show and I was excited!  He was incredibly funny!
Ticket to Aziz!

Saturday I attended a bridal shower for my friend Elise.  Elise and I worked together at Northeast Parent & Child Society and we have remained friends since I left almost two years ago.  Elise is one of the sweetest people I know - she is also incredibly crafty, has a pet rabbit that acts like a cat and is an incredibly gifted social worker!  Her shower was held at Pat's Barn in Troy; I wasn't quite sure to expect (would it be an actual barn?) but it was one of the best venues for a party I have ever seen - it would also be a great place for a wedding!

Elise with her 'bow bouquet' from all the presents she opened at her bridal shower!
After Elise's bridal shower we headed up to Saratoga for the night to hang out with some friends and say goodbye to another friend who will be moving out of the area this week.  One of Adam's friends has a motorcycle and I couldn't help but hopping on to take a picture - suites me don't you think?
Me and my hog!
For dinner we went to Druther's Brewing Company which is where we had a six course dinner (with beer pairings) on New Year's Eve.  Druther's has a great vibe and some pretty awesome food on the menu.  I ended up ordering the Mac & Cheese (y'all know I can't resist a good mac and cheese every now and then) which was served in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  This thing was HUGE!  It was so much food - I ate about 1/4 of it and took the rest home - Adam and I ate the rest for lunch the next day.  The mac and cheese was delicious and had a great smokey flavor to it!  Druther's also serves a 'loaded mac and cheese' which I was told we may need to go back for!

Druther's Mac & Cheese
** Drool **

Sunday was spent relaxing - we slept in, went to the gym, got some fro-yo and went to Trader Joe's.  For dinner I made homemade pizza with homemade sauce and a big chef's salad (more on that later).

Pizza with homemade sauce and fresh mozzarella!
On to another week!

May 20, 2013

Hark Upon the Gale (William & Mary, Part I)

Two weeks ago I headed down to Williamsburg, Virginia for an extended weekend to watch my best friend Dana graduate from the College of William & Mary.  This was exciting for many reasons - a long weekend away with my best friend, the fact that she was graduating with her masters (and has an awesome job, woot woot), gorgeous weather and beautiful Virginia but even more so is the fact that I graduated from W&M and was determined to go back and enjoy the campus and the area as much as possible. This trip might as well have been called - Abby's Nostalgia Tour - because that's pretty much what it was! 
I have always felt like I never truely appreciated W&M and the area while I was there. When you are a student there you often scoff at the tourists and (in my opinion) don't fully appreciation of where you are and how historic the area truely is. During my four years there I was completely focused on track & field and often times I wonder how my college experience (and post college life) would have been different if I had focused more on school (not just academics but also social life, extra-curriculars, etc...) and less on athletics - but that is neither here nor there. This was also my first visit back where I found myself really embracing my alma matre; I wanted to walk around campus and Colonial Williamsburg, take pictures and remember what it was like when I was there (hello nostalgia!).
I was there Friday - Monday, however the majority of the bookended days were spent on the train (12 hours each way), so I ended up having 2 full days in Williamsburg. Each mornings I got up early, took Dana's car and headed down to campus/Colonial Williamsburg to go for a run. The first day I ran 'Old Campus' and Colonial Williamsburg and the second day I ran 'New Campus'. Both mornings were rainy and one of my runs had to be cut short because of a downpour but overall I had a great time running and snapping pictures!
So here we go - Abby's tour of William & Mary!

We start off with the dorm I lived in senior year - I had a single and the building had a prime location!
'Old Dominon Hall' also referred to as 'OD'.
The Tyler Family Gardens!  President John Tyler attended W&M (as did Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe - we have some pretty famous alumni), his father was president of the College of William & Mary and his son was the Governor of Virginia!
This picture may seem a bit odd but it is really cool!  In this picture I am facing the Tyler statues (see above).  If you stand at the exact intersection of the + everything echoes!  It's something about the way the garden was designed.
Class of 2009 - my class' stone on the walkway.  '09 - so fine!
The Wren Building.  The oldest academic building still in use in the United States.  Thomas Jefferson took classes there and so did I!  It is such a beautiful building and many events at W&M take place surrounding it.  When you first begin at W&M (convocation) you walk through building and right before you graduate you walk through the opposite way.  A pretty awesome tradition!
Standing on the steps of the Wren Building looking down toward Colonial Williamsburg.
Wren Building and statue!
Entering the campus from Colonial Williamsburg.
'College of William & Mary in Virginia - February 8th 1693'
'Hey TJ!'  Statue of Thomas Jefferson on Duck of Gloucester (DOG) Street.  Always a good statue to take pictures with!
Old armory in Colonial Williamsburg.
'The Capitol'.  This building was the capitol of Virginia until it was relocated to Richmond.
Richmond Road is one of the main roads in Williamsburg that runs along side campus - you can see the Wren Building in the backgound.
Oh the memories - Tribe Throwers!
Throwing circles - so much of my college life was spent on this field!
Discus circle (front) and hammer circle (back).
My freshmen dorm!  I lived in Nicholson in the Botetourt Complex.
Swem Library and the sun dial in the middle of 'New Campus'.
The bridge over the Crim Dell.  This is one of the crown jewels of campus!  On graduation day after you have walked through the Wren Building you also cross over the Crim Dell bridge.  Many graudtes get engaged on this bridge and it is rumored that if you walk across the bridge with your signifcant other you are destined to be married.
William & Mary Intercollegiate Athletics!  Go Tirbe!
So those were some of the highlights of campus!  I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed running through campus and colonial Williamsburg every morning.  Next up will be all about the actual graduation and graduation festivities!