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DC Burger Bash

22 Jul

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How do you feel about burgers? 

How do you feel about sampling 10 burgers within a few hours of a single afternoon? Would you be up for it?

Sean and I are burgers fans, so we were excited to attend the DC Burger Bash last weekend.

This event was a competition (a la Top Chef style) in which burger-lovers (like us) mill around and taste 10 mini creations from participating restaurants. At the end, we each voted for our favorite, and a winner was chosen.

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So, here’s how the afternoon went down… Walking up to the venue about a block away, we could smell what awaited us. The scent of sizzling charred meat wafted out onto the streets. This was pretty exciting because it was mixture of all different kinds of burgers cooked in different ways.

Once inside, we saw 10 tents with white smoke hovering above them, and it was overwhelming to know where to start. Some burgers were pure beef, others a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef, and even one was just goat meat. Some were cooked over charcoal, others over gas flames.

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At the beginning of the afternoon, Sean proudly announced, “I’m eating them all!”

But we soon realized that pacing ourselves would be important to keep going.

We came up with a plan: we’d share 3 burgers and a beer, then take a break. After a while, we’d get another 3 and another beer, and so on. Honestly guys, I started feeling full after the first 3.

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In hindsight, we should’ve been more strategic about our burger eating. We could’ve taken off the top bun and saved room in our stomach that way, or just eaten the meat with a fork as we saw many people doing. (A little recommendation if you find yourself at a burger bash in the near future)

Here we are 6 down and 4 more to go. There was no seating, so we resorted to the concrete. Our stomachs thanked us.

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Here’s Sean after 8 burgers. By this point, I had pretty much stopped eating. Maybe a tiny nibble of each, then no more.

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Not being one to give up, Sean made a valiant effort to complete the burger tasting in full, but after a bite of the last two, Sean gravely announced, “Can’t eat that!”

He was done.

In the end, my favorite burger was beef, havarti, and pickled onions from  Willow.  This was also the overall winner of the event. Sean’s favorite was the burger with the andouille sausage on top.

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So, what did we learn about ourselves at this burger bash?

While many of the burgers were tasty and creative and original, I learned that I am a burger traditionalist.

I like them simple, like something you’d have in your own backyard.

What about you? Do you like traditional or innovative burgers? Share in the comments!

Thai Night

10 Jul

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I’ve mentioned it a few times before, but one of the things that I love about living in DC is attending various events at foreign embassies.

A few weeks back, Sean and I went to the Thai Cultural Night at the Thai Embassy in Georgetown, hosted by the International Club of DC.

We both loved Thailand when we travelled there (separately years ago before we were married) and especially love Thai food.

This event featured appetizers, open bar with Thai beer and wine, a cultural dance performance (hello, butterfly men), and a scrumptious buffet dinner with duck curry, beef salad, vegetables, fried noodles, and coconut milk custard.

We actually ran into one of Sean’s old work friends from about 10 years ago at this event, so it turned out to be a very fun night!

Red White and Blue

8 Jul

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Happy 4th of July from Washington DC!

This year, we took a boat cruise down the Potomac to see the monuments and watch the fireworks overhead.

Getting on this boat turned out to be a little bit of a fiasco (there was a fire on the dock, the boat loaded from a different port, no stairs for people to board …)

But in the end, we made it and it was a beautiful night!

Friday Flashback: Cuddling a Sled Dog Puppy in Alaska

4 Jul

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Happy 4th of July! It’s super hot here in DC, so I chose this photo to help me imagine cooler days…

This picture was taken way back in 2006, when Sean and I took our very first trip together to Fairbanks, Alaska.

You can’t see my face because it’s negative 10 degrees, ya’ll!

We splurged one day on a sled dog ride through some back country trails and there happened to be a litter of puppies at the site.

I fell in love with this one and wanted to bring him home!

These Alaskan huskies are the most amazing dogs!

June Look Back

2 Jul

Can you believe another month has come and gone?

How was YOUR June? Mine was a mixed bag.

There were lots of highs and a few lows, but let’s only focus on the highs, shall we?

The month started off well with lots of early morning walks with Quinn. We usually got out of the house by 7:00 am when the air was still fresh and smelled like honeysuckle!

By the end of the month, even the mornings were stifling hot and humid.

The second week of June, Sean’s twin brother Michael and family came for a visit for a few days. We played games, took the dog for a walk, ate lots of food, and even spent one day at the Barrel Oak winery with them.

Which one is Sean and which one is Michael? Can you guess?

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After the family left, we headed to Dallas for Mark’s wedding and as I already described here, we ate a ton of food and gained about 10 pounds.

Here’s Sean with his college buddies at the wedding.

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The next weekend, we drove to Shenandoah, where we spent a heavenly relaxing time at a cabin in Shenandoah. Here’s Quinn enjoying the drive!

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The last weekend in June was packed with fun stuff planned and it flew by.

We went to a cultural performance and show at the Thai embassy (more to come on this!), where Sean ran into one of his friends from about 10 years ago.

That’s so common for him in this area. We can go to any random gas station in the 100 mile vicinity and meet someone he knows (or someone who thinks he’s his twin brother, Michael)

Here I am below with the butterfly dancer men…

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Another highlight was seeing the Lion King at the Kennedy Center. In all these years, I’ve never seen it except for the movie version.

Let me tell you, the musical is really something special, and Sean splurged for orchestra seats!

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We did another picnic with a friend from my work at our favorite winery, and this time got the sangria. So refreshing in the summer time!

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Near the end of the month, Quinn was a bad boy on one of his walks and got so dirty. The punishment? The dreaded bath ofcourse.

Look at his face… he thinks he’s being tortured.

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Goodbye June, and hello July!

We’re taking a little breather in July and sticking around home more.

I’m expecting to do lots of grilling on the green egg and soak up the summer before it disappears again!

 

Weekend in Shenandoah National Park

1 Jul

looking up Last weekend, Sean and I escaped the heat and hustle bustle of DC for the cool mountains of Shenandoah. We left Friday afternoon in the middle of rush hour, which definitely did NOT help reduce our workweek stress. But as soon as we pulled up to our cozy dog friendly Lewis Cabin and I breathed the fresh mountain air, I felt the stress just melt away. IMG_1847 sean flower maryquin boot The temperature was in the 60s, the scenery was so calm, and we got almost NO phone reception. It was heavenly to be so disconnected. And after an entire weekend of that kind of simplicity and quiet, we resolved to consciously unplug from our tvs, phones, and computers at home more often. The first night, we got there rather late, so we cooked dinner and took Quinn for a walk around the site. It was so nice to wander and chat with other campers, smell the fires burning, and observe big families eating dinner and enjoying the outdoors. As soon as we got back to the cabin, though it started to sprinkle. Then it started to downpour. So much that our clothes got soaked trying to get in our cabin. And so hard that it drowned out the screaming baby in the cabin next to us (a wonderful benefit) rain We weren’t disappointed by the rain, though. I love the rain and it was the perfect excuse to have an early night. The next morning, everything was hazy and dreamy. we made bacon, eggs,and flatbread, and then headed out for a morning walk. eggs breakfast seanquin IMG_1862 dinner path IMG_1869 Everything was so lush and green. There wasn’t much visibility at times, but the atmosphere was so gentle. Later that evening, we made dinner again. This time, it was chicken fajitas on the grill! That night, we were able to toast a few marshmallows on the fire until it started to rain again! Another perfect excuse to hit the hay early. Driving home, I felt so calm and peaceful that I have tried to bring that feeling back into my workweek. How do you bring the peace into your workweek when you start feeling stressed? 

Friday Flashback: Geisha Adventure

27 Jun

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Okay, it was one of those cheesy experiences.

It was also very touristic and contrived. But it was also one of my favorite memories now of Japan.

I’m talking about dressing like a geisha and strolling through historic streets of Kyoto.

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So what exactly are geisha?

They are entertainers who practice traditional dancing and singing, play instruments, and engage in witty conversation. Are they really prostitutes underneath it all? It’s hard to say. We couldn’t find anyone who would describe them that way. Instead think “Courtesan.”

While there used to be as many 80,000 geisha slinking around the backstreets and pouring sake for businessmen in Japan, today it is believed there are only about 1000. Moreover, they don’t come cheaply. Clients often pay thousands of dollars for a geisha’s exclusive entertainment. But more on that later.

So my friend Diana and I decided to enter the mysterious geisha world and find out what it’s all about.

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Turns out there’s a lot of prep work and a certain degree of discomfort. It took almost 45 minutes to get the makeup on and about 15 minutes to put on all the undergarments. I can’t even tell you how many pieces and parts are strapped this way and that underneath the kimono. In Diana’s case, she was uncomfortable with the heavy wig; As for me, I had a temporary moment of claustrophobia with all the articles on clothing on me.

But we got over that quickly as soon as we hobbled around the streets in our wooden sandals and got a celebrity welcome…

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It might have been the novelty of a huge lumbering foreigner dressed up as a geisha, but we were like Moses parting the Red Sea. Crowds split and formed around us. I think about 100 people took our picture. This is what it must feel like to be Angelina Jolie.

And even though now I’m freaked out by the pasty white makeup and pink eyeliner and wonder how I didn’t wipe out in those shoes– at the time, I felt so elegant.

Later that night, as Diana and I were strolling through Gion, we noticed a frenzy of activity outside an expensive club. Right before us, posed two actual real geisha with their group of wealthy businessmen. I mean, look at that one guy on the right. He’s wearing an ascot!

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Kyoto Travel Tip #2

Overall, dressing like a geisha was so fun. I highly recommend this experience. There are dozens of photography studios in Kyoto offering this service, but we used Maiko Studio Shiki and chose the Maiko Stroll Plan, which included a book of 10 portraits inside the studio and a hour walking around outside. Young girls can also participate and men can dress as samurai. I don’t know if this studio closed down. The website link I had for it doesn’t seem to work anymore. But I think most of these studios are about the same.

More geisha stories to come, including what my husband said upon viewing the studio portraits. Men just have a different way with words, I guess…

Texas Backyard Wedding

26 Jun

This is Part III of our weekend trip to Dallas a few weeks back, and my favorite part.

To see where we stayed, read Part I. To read about our bbq adventure, read Part II.

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This was a gorgeous backyard wedding. Thanks for the invite and congratulations again, Mark and Raney!

 

Gigantic Eyeballs and BBQ in Dallas

22 Jun

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These are a few scenes from our morning in downtown Dallas. 

The gigantic eyeball is a public art sculpture in the middle of downtown nestled between two tall buildings.

It was so strange to come upon a huge eyeball, but who are we to question?

For lunch, we decided to brave the line at Pecan Lodge, deemed by some meat authorities to be “second best BBQ in the country.”

We got there about 10 minutes after 11:00 when they opened, and the line already stretched around the block.

We’d heard the line could take a long time, but we didn’t mind.

We’d had a huge breakfast that morning (hello, huevos rancheros) so we were in no rush.

Here we are waiting for 30 minutes. Thankfully, there were two of us, so one could go down the street and buy water for the wait.

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Here were are waiting for 1 hour. Still in good spirits… by the way, the smell outside this restaurant was fantastic!

And who doesn’t like listening to Jimmy Buffet?

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Finally inside… but still waiting after 1 hour and 30 minutes. Okay, we’re starting to get punchy now… banana pudding or not?

That is the big question about now.

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From the line, we watched a woman eat her banana pudding and she did not seem impressed.

Decided to forgo that.

Here we are outside on the patio. You guys! We  just placed our order… but we’re still waiting.

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Finally after a 10 more minutes. Barbeque heaven.

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Okay, you’re probably wondering- Was it worth it?

Well, they goofed up the order and gave a pork rib instead of the pulled pork, but it was a happy accident because it tasted great.

The brisket, which is their signature meat tasted great, but it was a tad on the dry side.

I hate to admit that after waiting all that time for it, but it was.

In the end, we waited over 2 hours for this bbq.

While I do admit it was tasty, I’m not convinced it was worth standing in line in the hot sun on a Saturday for over 2 hours.

Instead, I recommend going in with a group of friends for the “Trough”. It costs about $70 but you get to stand in the to-go line which goes muuuuuch faster, and then take it to a picnic area or something.

How long have you ever waited for food at a popular place?

Flashback Friday: Kyoto, Japan

20 Jun

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Cherry blossom season in Kyoto is magical- and a little crazy.

All over the city from mid-March to mid-April, the blooms take on the most beautiful range of colors from white to pale and bright pink. The trees look like they are cradling fluffy pockets of snow.

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When the wind blows and blossoms flutter to the ground, people stop what they’re doing and immerse themselves in the flowery downpour.
As you might imagine, the crowds come out in full force. It’s such a festive time and there are so many community events going on at the temples. Ladies wear their finest colorful spring kimono and photographers are everywhere.
The best part is that trees look gorgeous day and night. This particular tree is famous in Kyoto. I captured this image at sunset on our first day.

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With the huge influx of people into Kyoto, hotels book up months in advance and can be alarmingly expensive, averaging $150 per person a night. Starting in January, I tried making reservations at half a dozen places to no avail.

I finally found one budget traditional inn, the White Hotel Kyoto with availability. The receptionist sounded completely wacky on the phone and the Trip Advisor Reviews for this inn were dreadful. Basically, they warned “Don’t stay here!”

But given the price and time of year, we went for it anyway.

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Thankfully, the inn suited us just fine. Yes, the receptionist was completely cuckoo and it was cramped and we slept on tatami mats on traditional Japanese futon. But the price was great at only 4600 yen per person (~$50/night), the location near the train station was excellent, and it did have loads of character.
Traditional Japanese inns require guests to leave their shoes at the front and wear hotel slippers inside. One hilarious particular about this inn were the “special” slippers designated for our humungous foreign feet…

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Kyoto Travel Tip #1

The Kyoto White Hotel is a good value during cherry blossom season and the location can’t be beat. It’s a 3 minute walk from the Kyoto Train, Subway, and Bus Stations with loads of restaurants and bars nearby. Don’t be intimidated by the Trip Advisor Reviews, but keep in mind it’s a little bit strange…

Next week’s flashback will feature a Blue Eyed Geisha… who do you think that could be?

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