Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Training Tuesday: (Nike) Free as a Bird

As I mentioned in this post, my sisters, Justin, and I are training for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  I am almost done with the couch to 5k program that I started earlier this month. From there I’ll move on to the New Balance training program the Cherry Blossom folks recommend.  Now, I know nothing about training, but I figure every Tuesday I could fill you in on my progress in my training for a long distance race from a newbie perspective.  So, if I don’t fall too far behind in my blog posts, “Training Tuesday” will be in effect! J

Before starting this running regimen, I had been using  super cushiony Sauconys, with super supportive insoles for all of my gym activities—weight training, aerobics classes, exercise machines, etc.  However, I think they might have been too supportive and cushiony because as soon as I attempted to run/jog in them, my knees started to hurt. 

After doing a little research on the Internet, I discovered the barefoot running phenomenon.  It’s basically when someone runs barefoot or with as little cushion as possible.  The lack or lessening of cushion/padding is supposed to strengthen your feet, ankles, and calves, thereby decreasing the impact on your knees.  (Sorry if none of this makes any sense, it’s all pretty new to me as well, but I’ll leave some expert links at the end of my post so you can learn more about it.)

Since running barefoot (especially in the dead of winter) is out of the question, and I would probably be made fun of relentlessly if I wore these, I asked Justin to get me a pair of Nike Frees for Christmas.  They got pretty good reviews and I’ve been using them ever since.  They take a little getting used to at first (some minor shin splints, wobbly ankles at first), but so far I like them!  I hope they are able to carry me throughout my training, and as of course you can be sure I’ll be keeping you posted on my progress!

This is the pair I got from Lady Foot Locker

For some really great info on barefoot running click here: 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Week 6: Walls Come Tumblin' Down

Hello Everyone! Hope you all had a good weekend! It was mighty chilly over here so I spent the majority of my weekend trying to stay warm!  Headed out to DC to celebrate the birthday of my friend and spent Sunday Funday watching the NFL Championships beneath a bevy of blankets and a space heater on full blast.  And of course I tried to catch up on my blog entries...

I can't believe it has been over a week since my last post.  Work has been keeping me really busy and I haven't been able to come up for air.

Anyways, last week Justin checked out the progress on the house.  The good news is that the wall between the dining room and the kitchen has been torn down, thus creating an open space between the two areas.  The bad news is the ceiling height of the kitchen extension is taller than the dining area.  That means we have to raise the ceiling in the original part of the house.  And the bottom line is that we'll have to spend more money.  On the bright side, we won't be paying out of pocket for this expense.  We'll just use some of the money from a reimbursement for the foundation issue, and use it toward the ceiling.  As a consideration for the unexpected expense, our contractor has offered to paint the kitchen/dining area.

BEFORE:  This is a view of the old kitchen from the entry way of the dining area from the hallway.   That red wall is something, isn't it?

AFTER:  Now that the wall between the kitchen and the dining area has been knocked down, it has definitely opened things up.  Here is a picture from the same place.  I swear, every time   we move forward in the renovation, I can't believe it is the same space!

Here is a close up pic of where the wall was, with some of the bricks still remaining.

A view from our new kitchen door that leads to the hallway.  See that zippered entryway? That's where I took the first picture from.  It is plastic sealed and zippered so that that dust from the renovation won't travel throughout the house (although I think it might be too late because there is dust from the kitchen all the way up in the master bedroom!)

This week we are supposed to be meeting with our contractor to discuss cabinetry; everything from the layout to the type we like.  Things seem to be moving along swimmingly and I can't wait to see the kitchen a little more fleshed out!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Week 5: As Different as Night & Day

On Monday, Justin met with our contractor to go over what he has done so far (just so there wouldn’t be any surprises when I went to our inspection).

Yesterday, I met with our contractor and our FHA inspector to go over the renovation and grant approval for the first draw.  The two of them seemed to be getting along fine with all their "construction talk" and by the looks of their conversation everything seemed to be okay.  

Not sure if I have explained this to you already, but here is how our FHA 203k loan works.  The renovation is split into phases and in order to move on to the next step of the renovation, the FHA inspector must approve the prior work.  That is how our contractor gets paid.  In the first phase of the renovation our contractor fronted most of the money (with the exception of the surprise foundation issue) and upon approval of each phase he gets reimbursed.  This process goes on until our renovation is complete (or we run out of money…hehehe).

Anyway, enough of my rambling, all you really want to see is pictures, right?

Like I said, Justin visited our house earlier in the week and the pictures he showed me were dramatically different to what I saw yesterday.  Like day and night (Cue Kid Cudi—yes, I know I’m corny).  Or night and day, since he went at night and I went during the day. Whatever.

Here is a shot Justin took of the back of the house.  As you can see, the framing is up and in the top right hand side you can see the framing for a window.


This is a pic from yesterday.  Can you believe they were able to put up the walls, window and roof up within a matter of days?  That’s pretty amazing if you ask me.


Next is a picture of the area where the ceiling/roof of the extension will meet the original house.

Here is that same spot with the roof in place and the joists put in for the ceiling.  According to our contractor, he’ll be putting in a bunch of recessed lighting in the kitchen and dining area.  With lots of light it will be bee-yoo-ti-ful.

Of course this window will help with the natural lighting, too.  

Hey, I remember you ladders!

A shot taken from the entryway between the dining room and kitchen.

Well, that's all i got for now. Hope you have a good MLK Weekend!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sundance Selections

Yesterday I chose the movies N. and I will be watching at Sundance.  Of course it wasn’t without its problems.  At exactly 6:00pm (my designated time), I tried to log onto the system and it gave me an error message.  It was obviously overloaded and I was getting flashbacks of when I tried to get tickets for the last Virgin FreeFest (which required using different browsers, websites, etc.).  Now that was a shenanigan!  However, this time around the lovely people at Sundance provided us with a number to call in these types of situations.  Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to miss out on selecting our films, so I promptly dialed the number and was able to select our films through the operator.  She was nice and even offered suggestions when films we wanted were already booked.  After all of that, here is what we’ll be watching during our time at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival:

(Director: Braden King; Written By: Braden King and Dani Valent) - On assignment to create a new, more accurate satellite survey of Armenia, an American cartographer forms a powerful bond with an Armenian expatriate and art photographer.

Can you say hot and steamy romance?

(Director and screenwriter: Dee Rees) - When forced to choose between losing her best friend or destroying her family, a Bronx teenager juggles conflicting identities and endures heartbreak in a desperate search for sexual expression.

Benavides Born
(Director: Amy Wendel; Screenwriters: Daniel Meisel and Amy Wendel) - A high school senior in a forgotten town has earned admission to the University of Texas at Austin but can't afford to go. Her one shot is a scholarship for winning the State Powerlifting Championship.

Happy, Happy
Norway (Director: Anne Sewitsky; Screenwriter: Ragnhild Tronvoll) - A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door.

Another Happy Day
A wedding at her parents’ Annapolis estate hurls high-strung Lynn into the fire of primal, Byzantine family dynamics. It’s the wedding of Lynn’s son, whom she was deprived of raising because of her acrimonious divorce, and a feud still rages between Lynn and her ex-husband’s hot-tempered wife.  Cast:  Ellen Barkin, Ezra Miller, Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, George Kennedy

Hello Star Studded Cast!

U.S.A., Iran (Director and screenwriter: Maryam Keshavarz) - A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession.

Perfect Sense
When Susan (Eva Green), an epidemiologist, reemerges from an affair gone sour, she encounters a peculiar patient—a Glasgow truck driver who experienced a sudden, uncontrollable crying fit. Now he is calm, but he has lost his sense of smell.  Although Susan’s encounter with Michael (Ewan McGregor), a local restaurant chef, holds the promise of new love, the world is about to change dramatically. People across the globe begin to suffer strange symptoms, affecting the emotions, then the senses.  Cast:  Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Ewen Bremner, Stephen Dillane, Denis Lawson, Connie Nielsen

And how can you say no to Ewan McGregor?!

So, what do you think? How do you like our selections so far? Any of them pique your interest?

Film blurbs provided by the Sundance Film Festival website here and here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week 4: Pile O' Kitchen

Welcome back from a not-so-good weekend (Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, it always seems like I’m behind).  The shooting in Arizona hit a nerve with me, since our new home is one mile away from the U.S. Capitol building, and Justin and I have a lot of friends who work for Congress.  Kentucky losses in both football and basketball, a tough loss by my beloved Terps to Duke, and more bad news regarding a loved one made it an overall bad weekend for me.  L Here’s hoping the rest of the week will be better.  Sorry to start off the post like a Negative Nancy, but I will now change the subject.

Anyway, I am behind a week on giving you an update on our house. I figure, rather than ramble on about the renovation I should just show you.

This permit means we're too legit to quit...aka: the house is ready for some MAJOR renovation!

This is a view from the entrance of the dining room from the hallway with Justin peering into the "kitchen".  As you can see they are prepping to knock that wall down.

Where's the kitchen?

Here's the kitchen! Or at least where it's supposed to be.  This is the view from the former kitchen entryway of our new kitchen foundation in progress.


Here is what remains of our old kitchen.

This is Justin in the room above the kitchen.  They had to remove part of the wall on the second floor because the new kitchen extention will be taller than the original.

This week the FHA inspector will be coming out to look at the first phase of our renovation.  He will make sure that the work done so far meets FHA standards.  In addition, we'll get the go ahead to move on to the next steps in our renovation.  Justin won't be there for the inspection, so it will be just me.  I'm hoping it will go off without a hitch. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Week 3: An Ode to Our Realtor(s)

It’s been over a month since Justin and I bought our first place and I can’t believe I haven’t given full props to Greg, Christina, and even Mina—the whole Tindale Team.  Here’s my moment to give credit where credit is due! 

Last summer, we were looking for a new realtor and Justin did a Yelp search for realtors and came across the Tindale Team of Hounshell Realty.  We met up with Greg and Christina the next day, and we were able to find many common connections (both Justin and Greg played rugby; Greg, Christina and I all went to the University of Maryland—Go Terps!).  Both Greg and Christina had that ability of making you feel comfortable at a very stressful, yet exciting time. 

The following weekend Christina and Mina took us out to check out some homes.  Christina asked us what Starbucks beverages we liked, and when we met up at the first location there were two iced cafĂ© Americanos waiting for us in the back seat.  How thoughtful!

As they took us place-to-place, Christina gave us her honest opinions on each place we toured.  She pointed out smells and potential problems that we should know about.  We appreciated her honesty.  As a matter of fact, it was on that very weekend we found our home.  She thought our house had good bones and a lot of potential…and we couldn’t have agreed with her more! J

A house-hunting we will go!

Shortly thereafter, Greg started discussing the offer price with us.  We knew the house was way overpriced, but we didn’t know what to offer.  This is the part where Greg’s business savvy, and knowledge of the real estate market really shined through.    Now, I don’t know what the “standard” is in initial offers, but the offer price Greg suggested was very aggressive.  Justin and I were more than satisfied with that number, but we weren’t sure what the sellers would think.  After Greg pointed out the length of time that the house had been on the market, its current condition, and the comparables, I realized that his suggestion was more than justified. 

After Greg communicated these points to the sellers, they counter-offered with a price only slightly above what he suggested.  We gladly took it, also using the extra money we saved to renovate the kitchen.  We wouldn’t have had that extra money if it weren’t for Greg’s negotiation skills!

The home buying process was very stressful for us, and it helped that we were able to vent our frustrations to Greg and Christina, and get some reassurance that everything will work out.  Their positivity really helped us through the process, especially when our house hunt didn't look so good at the beginning.  Greg and Christina were very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions, issues, and worries.  That put us at ease because we knew we had someone there watching out after us, as wel as a resource we could turn to.  If you’re looking for a realtor, I highly recommend them!

For more info about the Tindale Team click here and here

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Years Cheers (and Jeers)

I hope everyone had a good and safe New Years.  Justin and I decided to partake in one of those “open bar/buffet hotel parties” for the night’s festivities.  All-you-can-drink and sometimes all-you-can-eat is usually a win-win situation.  In DC, there are so many parties to choose from.  We’ve actually done a bunch of hotel parties from Euronet’s 007 Themed Gala to Big Night DC (heck, I’ve even done Big Night San Diego many years ago).   This year we wanted to do another one, yet still be cost effective.  Now you might be thinking, how can you consider a hotel party to be cost effective, when most of them start at $100?  Well, in addition to hotel parties, we’ve also spent New Years at bars and clubs, and it’s no fun at the end of the night finding a cab to take you home.  Nothing will ruin ringing in the New Year more than standing outside in the freezing cold, wearing your party dress, and trying to haggle with cabbies on the fare.  Unless you plan on having a house party (where you can just stay in once place the entire night), hotel parties is the way to go.

After reviewing our options, we decided to go with the Passport to the World Gala, thrown by Professionals in the City.  We decided to go with this party because it had a no food option of $90 (‘cause really who wants to eat pasta that has been pawed at by hundreds of people, probably sitting there for hours?) that started at 10:30pm.  Perfect…or so we thought.

We arrived around 11:30pm and ran into some of our friends as we entered the main ballroom.  Realizing that midnight was nearing, we rushed to the nearest alcohol lines, in order to get some drinks for our toast to the New Year.  Justin got into the cocktail line and I got into the champagne line, hoping that we could meet up by midnight.  With midnight nearing, and the champagne line not moving, I was starting to get frustrated.  That is when I found out that the bar stations were only doing one drink per person.   It did us no good that we were in separate lines.  I tried darting to the line that Justin was in, but it was too late. It was an anti-climatic start to the New Year, as the clock struck midnight and I was running around looking for Justin, instead of waiting in line with him… L

Once we got our hands on some cocktails, we were none too pleased with what we got.  They were advertising “premium open bar” (YOU LIE!!!!), but the brands of liquor being served were names that I’ve never heard of (and trust me, after doing alcohol promotions for over five years, I know my liquor).  I didn’t know what vodka they were serving, but Justin said that the bourbon they were serving was Beam Eight Star, which to him is the “red headed step-child” of the Jim Beam family.  On the bright side, the lines for liquor were shorter after midnight, and the lines for beer and wine were non-existent.  Once we actually got some champagne, it was actually quite tasty.  We toured the other rooms and they seemed really dark, missing the usual disco ball/dance floor lighting.  Basically, people were dancing in dark with cheesy dance music.  Overall, we were pretty disappointed with the experience; however, because this was one of the cheapest options out of all the hotel parties, this might be an instance of “you get what you pay for.”