Today, I did something a little crazy.
I signed up for a marathon. In Paris.
All together now: Eeeeeeeeee!
Really, I could not be more excited to go to Paris again. And heck, to run a full marathon for the first time. I just can’t think too hard about it. Or about the training.
Oof, the training.
I’m running it with my pal, Diana, who ran the Philly Half with me, and of course Joey will be there to support. It’s actually the same week as our anniversary, so it will be nice to celebrate by revisiting one of our honeymoon spots. (You know, without getting food poisoning this time.)
So I’m psyched. And terrified. And totally open to any marathon training suggestions/schedules my marathoner readers have to share.
Is there anything better than going home for a visit? Not if you’re me.
Joey and I spent a long weekend over Thanksgiving with my parents, and it was exactly what I needed. I’ve loved living in New York these last (almost) five years, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out of the city.
Besides, going home means so much more than a change of scenery. If you’re me, it means your mom cooking you breakfast every morning and making your favorite dinners most evening. And if she’s not cooking, your dad is taking you to your favorite local restaurants, as well as a few new spots. So now, I’m sharing the wonder with you.
Here’s a quick guide on what to do (and, let’s be real, what to eat) should you ever been lucky enough to spend a weekend in DSM.
First, a few things you can’t eat unless my mother is also your mother:
Our first night home, my mom made my favorite soup IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, Italian Wedding Soup. But trust me, it’s so much better when my mom makes it.
The next night, we had a family dinner. FEAST YOUR EYES (since you can’t feast your belly):
Dinner featured a few of my favorites, like my mom’s sweet potato casserole, butternut squash casserole, and corn bread. (My name is Justine, and I like carbs.)
The next day, I hit the gym with my dad (to work off the aforementioned carbs), shopped with my mom, had ANOTHER delicious dinner by my momma, and then hit up downtown Des Moines with a few of my oldest friends. If you’re in town, I recommend El Bait Shop if you like beer, The Lift if you like hipsters and creepy art, and Fong’s Pizza if you’ve gone to the other two places and need something to soak up all the incredibly inexpensive drinks you ordered.
Because, guys? I didn’t pay more than $6 for a single drink all weekend. And the $6 one was fancy.
The next evening, my mom had a party for some of our family friends, so we got dressed up and ate fancy apps for a few hours.
Aren’t my parents cute?
The next night, we had another family dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Des Moines, Centro.
I got the Avocado Tartine, and I wasn’t disappointed.
And that night, Joey, my parents, and I stormed downtown Des Moines, grabbing dinner and drinks at The Continental (so many cheap cocktails and apps…) and playing a few rounds at the arcade bar Up-Down (I own at skeeball).
Our last day, we had lunch at Zombie Burger (the one place Joey requested) with my family and a few friends we hadn’t had time to see yet. If you go, I highly recommend getting one of the milkshakes. (Spiked, of course.)
Sadly, then it was time to pack up. And while it is nice being back at our home, I’m already looking forward to our next trip back to Des Moines.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m not a camping person.
I like the food, remember? I like hiking and lakes and campfires.
So at this point, I thought I could safely say that while I may not be the ultimate camper, I do like camping.
I thought wrong.
As I actually pointed out in the post at that first link, I had only ever camped in cabins before. Bare-bones-wooden-bunk-communal-restroom-type cabins, but cabins nonetheless. I had never expressed nor felt the desire to camp in a tent. And if I had just followed my (prissy little) gut, I might never have had a bad camping experience.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.
Last weekend, we joined a few of our friends in Vermont for a little camping adventure. I knew going in that it was tent camping. I knew it. But I had convinced myself that it would be fine. FINE. I mean, how much time do you spend in your tent anyway, right? I would still have all the parts of camping I genuinely like. And the company would be great. WHERE COULD THIS WATER-TIGHT PLAN GO WRONG?
Actually, “water-tight” is particularly apropos. Because it rained. The entire time.
And what did we discover upon arriving at the campsite and opening our tent? That we were missing the top part that keeps the rain out. Le sigh.
Fortunately, Joey was able to fashion a frankentent out of a few extra tarps:
Unfortunately, the door zipper was also broken, meaning water could leak in from all sides. Fun!
After one night of torrential rain and damp EVERYTHING, I opted to sleep in the car. I have no regrets about that.
Other than the rain, though, it really was a nice trip.
We toured the Magic Hat Brewery:
Visited the Ben & Jerry’s factory:
Shopped at a local farmer’s market that made me miss the Midwest like whoa:
And, you know, spent some time communing with nature:
Plus, we swam and rowed at the lake, ate way too much of everything, and enjoyed the company of our friends. All in all, can’t complain.
Though I think we can rule out tents for the rest of my life.
My mom is pretty great.
In the last couple of years, she’s dealt with the stress of marrying off two of her children, the addition of multiple grandchildren, and being diagnosed (and beating) cancer.
Like I said, a pretty awesome lady.
So a few months ago, I decided I wanted to do something nice for her. I thought about flying us both somewhere, but ultimately decided I couldn’t afford it. Then I remembered I live in a destination city. Why not just fly her here and have a little “stay-cation”? (For me at least.)
That’s exactly what I decided to do.
With my dad ensuring she didn’t make plans on the weekend I had in mind, I set out making reservations, buying show tickets, and generally planning the ultimate NYC weekend for my momma.
A week and a half ago, I sent her a package of five envelopes:
As she opened each envelope, she found a clue as to what her surprise was. (Spoiler: It was that she was coming to New York. Have you really not been paying attention?)(yuk yuk yuk)
Once she got the packages, we only had to wait a few days before her visit. And now I’ve decided to share our weekend with you! Here’s where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did.
FridayMy mom got in on Friday around noon. Joey and I both took the day off to pick her up and keep her entertained.
That night, we headed into the city for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Smith.
Fun side note: The Smith is actually where I first heard of my favorite drink, the French 75. So obviously it’s near and dear to my heart.
My mom had the trout, I had grilled shrimp with jalapeno grits (AMAZING), and Joey had the moule frites. It was all pretty great. We ended the night with the Quarter Pounders, three homemade chocolate chip cookies. If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that there is nothing in the world I would prefer to warm chocolate chip cookies. So…yeah. I liked the dessert.
Saturday I had planned the New York-iest day I could think of for my mom. We started out by heading in to the city early in the morning. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel (more on that later), we headed to Union Square. After a quick breakfast (at Panera…not every meal can be fancy!), we took part in a little retail therapy.
I mean, is it really our fault that our first appointment was on 5th Avenue? No, no it is not.
Next, we headed to Bloomingdales (because why not more shopping?), and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.
We stayed at The Sanctuary Hotel, which was conveniently located near Times Square. The rooms were…compact, but not in a way that felt claustrophobic. More like, in a way that made you feel like you were in a well appointed New York City studio.
Post-primping, we hopped in a cab to dinner at The House, a restored 1854 carriage house in Gramercy Park. We started off with drinks (I had The Ellington, my mom had a gin martini) and a deviled egg tasting appetizer, followed with the tile fish and the sea scallops. For dessert, we had a cookie sundae topped with fresh berries.
And, you guys. It was so good. Like, ridiculous. We couldn’t stop talking about it.
Then it was time for the highlight of the evening: Newsies!
We both loved it — the singing/dancing is pretty awesome. Plus, the cast is made up of cute, talented boys. Definitely a good choice to take your mom to. (In case you were wondering.)
My mom and mother-in-law had The Three Sisters sandwich, my sister-in-law and father-in-law had burgers (one beef, one kangaroo), Joey had an omelet, and I had a spinach salad with shrimp. We all had mimosas. Because it’s brunch, you guys.
Then it was time to take my mom to the airport. (Sigh.) The weekend was over too fast, but we definitely made the most of it. Can’t wait until we’re together again!
I’m officially back on the East Coast. In all its 34 degree glory. Le sigh.
At least things seem to have continued plodding back to normal. My in-laws have power, the gas shortage is mostly over, and you can get fresh food at the grocery store. The curfew in my town is apparently still on (yay…), and there is still a ton of damage in some areas, but things are definitely going in the right direction.
The only complaint I could possibly have is that my usual train still isn’t running (despite all the other trains on the same line running…?), but I’m keeping that in perspective. There are other trains.
Anyway. Let’s talk about happier things. Warmer, sunnier, happier things. Our trip to California!
We went to see my brother and his newly enlarged family (now plus two twin nephews), and we had a really great time.
Joey and I joked throughout the long weekend that this trip was our peek into parenting. My two nieces are six and four, and combined with two brand-new babies, we got a glimpse of the first few years at least. (Though, in our case, we most likely won’t start out with four.)
We spent most of our time with the girls (lacking a few vital abilities required to keep the boys happy), taking them to a movie and the zoo and playing a few hours of tickle monster.
I had tried to warn Joey before we left that this wouldn’t be a relaxing trip. The kids are high-energy and looking for as much attention as they can soak up, meaning there wouldn’t be a lot of downtime. We fell into bed utterly exhausted around 9:20/10:00 every night. I’m not exaggerating.
Of course, we carved out a little time for grown-up stuff too, visiting a brewery for a beer tasting and eating Thai and sushi just the two of us. All in all, it was a great trip and we had such a wonderful time reconnecting with everyone.
Out general conclusion was (not surprisingly) kids take a lot of work, but they’re still pretty great. (And we definitely want to ease into things with one at a time when we’re ready to start having kids of our own.)(Though watching Joey holding a tiny baby was definitely among the top five cutest things I’ve ever seen.)
For now, we’re very okay with just being the fun aunt and uncle.
Hooooo-boy. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that I’m in a much better mood now than I was when I wrote that post yesterday. THAT was a doozy. (And in case you’re wondering, no, United Airlines still has not replied to my complaints. The ball’s in your court, United. Make it right.)
Anyway. Let’s talk about something fun, shall we?
The rest of our trip was actually very nice. Don’t believe me? Check it, Instagrid style.
1. Home, sweet home. Joey calls this Hotel Blanchard. And boy do they treat you right.
2. Pictures of the corn I took along my morning run. Yes, parts of Iowa do look exactly like what you think they look like.
3. Downtown Des Moines, where we had lunch with my parents at my favorite DSM restaurant, Centro. See? I TOLD you it’s a city.
4. Trip to visit my dad’s office.
5. My adorbs parents at the movies later that night.
6. Dairy Queen Blizzard. We have to get our fix while we can. (Now in the cute-as-pie mini size!)
7. Turning my husband into a corn-fed country boy one ear at a time. Not that he’s complaining.
8. Lunch at the Des Moines Art Center restaurant with my sister and her husband.
9. BBQ with friends and family Saturday night. Here’s me and my lovely momma.
10. The IOWA STATE FAIR!
11. First stop: days-old piglets.
12. Second stop: my favorite, the baby goat born that morning. If I ever own enough land, I’m totally getting a goat.
13. Prize winning crops, including a wall of corn.
14. The men and their turkey legs. 1,136 calories each. And worth every single one.
15. Butter cow! ‘Nuff said.
16. THE LONG-AWAITED CUP O’ COOKIES. I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is the best part of the fair. AND MY LIFE. (Okay, that’s a mild exaggeration.)
17. Deep fried Twinkie, anyone?
18. And we ended the night with a little Matt and Susan and a couple of Fat Tires at The Royal Mile. The perfect ending, if you ask me.
All in all, a pretty great trip. We saw a bunch of friends and family (even though hardly any of my friends live in Des Moines anymore!), ate great food, and got loads of sleep. Thanks to my parents for hosting and everyone else who helped make it such a great trip!