The Mystery Date: A Fun Idea for Couples

Recently Jeff and I have been taking each other on mystery dates. One of us plans a date, but doesn’t tell the other what will happen – just tells them the basics they need to know.

If you are into surprises, this is great fun! The title says it’s a fun idea for couples, but honestly, I think it could be just as great with friends or even groups of friends. You have to trust each other a little bit, and make sure you’re not including anybody who would do something mean-spirited (like sign you up for hang gliding when you’re terrified of heights).

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This Month in Reading

Each month I round up the best things I have read. In April, I went to the Kite Festival at the Washington Monument while Jeff attended an improv reunion. We went to a free concert at the 9:30 Club (Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – we hadn’t really heard of them but won the tickets). We hung out with friends, ate at new places, did some archery, and went indoor skydiving! It was a good month.

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This Month in Reading

Each month I round up the best things I have read. In March, we enjoyed some nice weather and biked home once a week. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and the tourists were out in full force! Jeff thought up a mystery date for us (more on that later), we had fun with friends and celebrated Jeff’s brother Kevin’s birthday. I settled into my new job and we generally had a good time!

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Enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

My recent change of jobs allowed me to take a week off to relax and complete some chores. I also looked into cheap flight options and decided to go to Orlando to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Jeff and I had been to Universal’s Islands of Adventure just a few years before they opened the Harry Potter section. We loved the park on that trip, and I was really excited to see what they’d added.

In 2014, they opened a section in Universal Studios as well. That section is a recreation of Diagon Alley. We obviously wanted to see that as well, which necessitated a park-to-park ticket, which is currently $155 per person. After we got over our sticker shock, we purchased the tickets and got ready to go.

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A Tale of Two Donuts

We went to Philadelphia over Valentine’s Day weekend this year. It was also a long weekend, and we thought we’d make the most of our day off. A friend of ours has a sister who lives in the city and had always claimed he knew where the best donuts in Philadelphia could be had.

As two lovers of fried dough products, we couldn’t resist trying this place that had been highly recommended to us for years. So we made sure to stop by Federal Donuts at some point over the weekend.

We also wanted to check out Reading Terminal Market, and when we got there we discovered another very highly rated donut shop with an excitingly long line (given that long lines usually mean a place is popular if not delicious). So we jumped in line and tried Beiler’s Donuts as well.

I came to the conclusion that one of the two places was significantly better than the other – read on to find out how each rated in different categories and which was the overall winner!

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This Winter in Reading

Each month (or thereabouts!) we round up the best things we have read. In December we went to a parade, did some archery, went to holiday parties, enjoyed Christmas at Jeff’s parents’ place, and went to Zoo Lights at the National Zoo. We visited my parents for New Year’s, and also spent a weekend playing board games in Luray, and another weekend snowed in by a big blizzard in January. In February, we went to Philadelphia and to Orlando, and Rachel started a new job.

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Latest Eats in Northern Virginia

Last July I gave you a glimpse into what we’d been eating in our current location, and now seems like a great time to update that! I’ve expanded beyond Arlington to get a better glimpse at what’s available in the area.

Piola

black olive pizza

I came to Piola twice to meet a friend (she had forgotten about the meeting the first time so I just ate at the bar). They have a few free food appetizers at happy hour. The pizza is pretty good. The first time I got one with goat cheese and black olives (above) which had way too few olives. The second time I got a Carbonara pizza, which was good after a while but the fact that the eggs were scrambled weirded me out a little.

At a Glance:

  • Location: 1550 Wilson Blvd (Rosslyn)
  • Hours: 11-11 most day, open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday
  • What to Expect: Decent Naples-style pizza and pasta at medium-high prices.

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This Fall in Reading

Each month (or thereabouts!) we round up the best things we have read. September was hectic what with getting ready for the wedding – my work threw me a shower and then I had a bachelorette party – we did an aerial silks class, then did dinner and karaoke! In October we dined at Rose’s Luxury, got married, and had one heck of a honeymoon! November involved getting back into the swing of things at our respective jobs and lots of tasty eating. This post is far overdue!

Rachel’s Reads

Blogs 

Books – I read 11 books in September, plus one that I quit. In October I only read 3 books. I read 9 books in November. 

 

  • Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson – 3 out of 5 stars. I can’t believe I gave a Sanderson book 3 stars! But yeah, it was just okay. I haven’t been into this era of the Mistborn series. Had trouble getting through the middle but it got better near the end.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 3 out of 5 stars. It was fine but not worth all the hype. At least it wasn’t terrible like Gone Girl. Not as dark. But still, not the sort of characters I root for.
  • After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 4 out of 5 stars. Great depiction of a relationship and someone trying to learn how to fix a broken relationship (or if it even should be fixed). Very realistic.
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – 4 out of 5 stars. It’s like an episode of Buffy where it only focuses on the extras. It was quirky and cute. Liked it a lot!
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler – 4 out of 5 stars. A 70s era black woman accidentally time travels to the antebellum south to repeatedly save her white ancestor. Pretty well done. Also it takes place pretty close to where I grew up. Worth a read!
  • Over You by Amy Reed – 3 out of 5 stars. I like what they did there partway through. But it wasn’t my favorite. In fact, pretty forgettable. It’s about two friends who are really bad for each other and learning that that is the case.
  • Pawn by Aimee Carter – 2 out of 5 stars. Kitty Doe (yes really) is surgically transformed into the Prime Minister’s niece! Dystopia! Annoying characters! It’s all very ugh – I like this review which sums it up well.
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews – 4 out of 5 stars. The latest in the Kate Daniels series. I was interested to see where they’d go with it, and was pleased with how it turned out.
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone – 5 out of 5 stars. I learned a lot from this book. Great tips on making conversation more effective and communicating better. Especially great to help you be less emotional during a hard convo. But it’s going to take a lot of practice!
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – 4 out of 5 stars. Very enjoyable! Comparisons to Patrick Rothfuss make sense structurally. I will continue the series.
  • Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O’Keefe – 3 out of 5 stars. An okay romance novel. Not sure how to feel about characters falling back in love when there had been so much pain in the past, and it seemed obvious that old patterns would re-emerge.
  • Paper Towns by John Green – 3 out of 5 stars. I have mixed feelings about John Green novels usually. No exception here. Some very nice writing, but: felt too similar to Looking for Alaska, and again the characters weren’t totally believable.
  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray – 4 out of 5 stars. This is the second in the Diviners series. I really enjoyed the first one. This one was also quite good (with a different focus character, though there is character overlap).
  • Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan – 5 out of 5 stars. I can’t get enough Saga, gimme more!!!!
  • Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore – 3 out of 5 stars. A Dirty Job was great (this is the sequel) but I have definitely enjoyed more recent Moore books less than his earlier ones. This was fine but nothing special. It had its moments.
  • Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center5 out of 5 stars. Gorgeous! Sweet and inspiring and insightful.
  • Murder With Peacocks by Meg Langslow – 3 out of 5 stars. Quick but kind of annoying. The weirdly British sounding dialogue (set in and written by a Virginian), the inexplicable fact that every unattached male wants the main character and all but one physically assaults her to show it, and the uncanny timing of interruptions were all annoying. At least the main character was likable even if her best admirer wasn’t fleshed out like a real character.
  • The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron – 5 out of 5 stars. This is a compendium of three novels. It’s awesome! I love Eli & Miranda and the world building is good.
  • Rat Queens, Volumes 1 & 2 by Kurtis J. Wiebe – 3 and 4 out of 5 stars, respectively. The first volume was cute – this second was awesome!
  • The First Bad Man by Miranda July – 3 out of 5 stars. After reading I wrote: WTF did I just read? It’s good…ish but also bad…ish. I can’t decide.
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan J. Stradal – 4 out of 5 stars. This follows a bunch of different characters while both tangentially and directly telling the story of one great chef. It’s quite good!
  • On Paper: The Everything of Its Two- Thousand-Year History by Nicholas A. Basbanes [quit] – no rating. I tried but it was just written in too pretentious a style for me.
  • Delicious! by Ruth Reichl – 4 out of 5 stars. So this was a fun read. I want to have a magnificent palate too! I feel like the main character was a little too good at everything despite her Tragic Past.

 

 

Jeff’s Reads

Books – I read 20 from September through December including a few that I didn’t finish

  • Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson – There were a few interesting hints into Cosmere related stuff, but not one of Sanderson’s better novels.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – The story of when a not very good detective tries to track down a not very good criminal and must contend with her own drunken blackouts.
  • A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar – Quite a good book. The movie doesn’t really communicate how much of a monumental asshole John Nash was.
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews – I love how rich a series gets after it has a whole bunch of novels worth of world building under its belt.
  • Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan – I continue to enjoy this.
  • Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center – Pretty good story with a pretty good message.
  • The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron – I was finishing up this compendium right around our wedding weekend. I really enjoyed it. Some of the tropes and visual themes strongly remind me of shonen anime.
  • Rat Queens, Volumes 1 & 2 by Kurtis J. Wiebe – Not a big fan. I found this series way too cheesy.
  • Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan J. Stradal – 4 out of 5 starsI liked the story a lot, but I disliked almost every viewpoint character. Overall, I would recommend.
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon – I was unable to finish this one. After Kavalier and Clay, I had such high hopes.
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Rachel and I read this one together out loud to each other. It was a pretty decent story, but was also enjoyable to make fun of.
  • What If? by Randall Munroe – I enjoy the blog, but the book has extra content/content that I’ve forgotten. It was a quick read.
  • Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski – A very good piece of nonfiction that covers some interesting sexuality research.
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris – I haven’t read anything by Dave Sedaris in several years after not really enjoying Naked. I enjoyed this book a bit more, there were a few essays that were pretty funny, but I was only lukewarm about this book.
  • As You Wish by Cary Elwes – Growing up I probably saw The Princess Bride over 100 times. It was the movie we watched any time we were home sick from school. With that background this history on the movie’s production was fascinating.
  • Golden Son by Pierce Brown – For this sequel to Red Rising, Rachel and I once again read it out loud to each other and I once again had a great time!
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – Well written. It’s amazing how quickly Shonda Rhimes was able to turn her life around; going from extremely successful and unhappy to extremely successful and happy.

 

What did you read this fall/winter?

TV Shows I Am Currently Watching

Whenever I’m not traveling (and even sometimes when I am), I seem to gravitate towards TV shows. I have found lately that I am less inclined to watch movies and much more inclined to watch TV either on Netflix or through the website of the appropriate network. Here are the ones I’m watching (some of them are not currently active, but I will get around to it).

Grey’s Anatomy

  • My Rating: Currently, 9 out of 10 black panties on a bulletin board.
  • Why I Love It: It’s super dramatic, almost basically a soap opera. But even though the cases are ridiculous (bomb in a guy, tree through a guy, etc), the relationships and characters feel real.
  • Favorite Characters: Cristina Yang, Addison Montgomery-Sheperd, Meredith Grey
  • Last Episode I Watched: Season 3 Episode 2 (I Am a Tree). Actively bingeing this one really hard.
  • Status of Show: Season 12 resumes on February 11.

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Latest Eats in DC

Even though we aren’t currently living in DC, we still go in to the city quite regularly (or, for Jeff, every day, since he works in the city). Here’s where we’ve been eating.

Beefsteak

Kimchi Wa at Beefsteak

This is Jose Andres’s fast casual vegetable joint. The Foggy Bottom one is on the GWU campus, basically. I had the Kimchi-wa bowl and it delighted my tastebuds with flavor memories of Korea.

At a Glance:

  • Location: 800 22nd St NW (Foggy Bottom) and 1528 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle)
  • Hours: Foggy Bottom location is open 10:30 am to 10 pm daily
  • What to Expect: Huge bowls of tasty vegetables.

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