The Barrio

Our previous neighbors up and moved this summer and took with them our favorite pup. I miss that prissy princessy french bulldog. And I miss their always keeping us apprised of the goings on around the barrio. And their pet and plant-sitting services when we vacationed. Good neighbors are good.
So to make more good neighbor-friends, we invited the new family over for dinner. And they’re great!! They love Taylor Swift! They’re vegans. They love cooking and food! One of them plays guitar. Another is into photography. They like books I like – Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars, The Giver. (Well – granted, they’re books many people like, but still.) I think I said “Oh really?! Me too!” all night long.

Oh and bonus – we have a new Gina-sitter.

To the beach!

Just returned from a week at Outer Banks.
View from the balcony
It was my first time ever going to North Carolina. The place we stayed was right along the shoreline so even though I’m not a big beach person, we still managed to go out for a walk along the beach and play in the waves a little each night. And each night, we got a little wetter than the night before until on our last evening there, I got wiped out by a particularly strong wave and fell in the water. I consider that a full on beach experience. We found sand in our dryer when we did our laundry.

It rained the first day we were there so we mostly stayed in. The only excursion we went out for was to see the Wright Brothers Memorial National Park.
Model of the Wright Bros. Airplane
The park ranger lady here gave a great presentation about the Wright Brothers and how they came to Kitty Hawk to make their flying machine. (Some of the main considerations were the soft landing sand, windy conditions, and privacy in the middle of nowhere.)

This is the Nature Conservancy’s Nags Head Woods. We visited it on our second day.
Duck weed in the waters
It was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There were many trails to hike through and we saw frogs and mushrooms galore. The majority of this was nice and shady. While we walked, a park ranger and his faithful lab walked through the forest cutting down overgrowing tree branches and overgrowths to keep the trails clear.

After the hike through the woods, we drove past Jockey’s Ridge (sand dunes) to Roanoke Island. This is the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Manteo.
Lighthouse in Manteo
It’s just a small building with a little light on it. I was expecting the traditional tall swirly building along a rocky cliff with rough waves breaking along the shore. Nope. It’s along a peaceful bay by Roanoke Sound. Not much to ooh and ahh over really.

Right next to it is the Roanoke Island Festival Park where they have a sort of Colonial Williamsburg type display of how the colonists lived, how the Croatan natives lived, and the rinky dink Queen Elizabeth II sailboat that brought the men over to Roanoke Island.
Elizabeth II Replica
This ship (boat) had some guides on it who described the living conditions of the 50 men on board. I can’t imagine how 50 clowns squeezed into that thing. Even the captains quarters was tiny. They drank short beer and did their business at the front of the ship through wooden slats. The trip took 100 days to cross the Atlantic. Clearly the Disney movie Pocahontas had one more thing wrong. The scale of that ship needed to be way smaller. It wasn’t the same ship, but back in the day, their ships were all pretty small.

Finally, we rounded out the Roanoke Island tour exploring the Elizabethan Gardens.
Elizabethan Gardens
Started the day with a hike and ended with a hike. A more groomed version of the Nags Head Woods.

Oh, and I couldn’t leave North Carolina without getting a full on Brew Thru experience.
Brew Thru
You drive your car into the car port, turn off your engine and shop for beers and wines as the staff loads up your car. I took a picture as we pulled in and the lady asked, “Let me guess, this is your first time here?” Ah-yup! And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just hope we enjoy the local Outer Banks beers too. We got some Weeping Radish beer.

Pick Pick Picking

Look what we got at the local pick-your-own farm.
Sweet Onions! Yanking these things out of the ground was very satisfying. They were huge. I say were because we’ve since eaten them all up. I go through a lot of onions.

We also got some beets and leeks. I love leeks. They are so flavorful like onions and garlic, but sweeter. And a nice change from the typical alliums I cook. The beets we ate plain, boiled. They were incredibly sweet and tasty.

I want to go back for more!

The Silver Line


The Silver Line started operating 2 weeks ago. I took a leisurely ride out to the Wiehle-Reston station just to check out the sights and new stations. I was hoping to ride in a new train too but they aren’t out yet.

Since it was just the second day of operations when I did this, there were many people like me aboard. Riding just to ride and take photos.

Finally it’s here.

Highlight of the Week

Usually one evening out of the week, we’ll order take out or delivery for dinner. It’s the middle or end of the week and we’re tired of the same stuff or I’m tired of cooking. And my cooking is crap compared to this!

Last week was Indian. Chicken Tikka Masala and Daal.

Last last week was Thai. Pad Kee Mao and Green Curry.  I always want Thai food.

It’s almost always Asian food. We like the rich spices and flavors and options for meat and meat free.

This is what I’ve been looking forward to most during the week lately.

Why I don’t eat animals

So I get a lot of questions as to why I decided against eating animals. And I also hear random commentary which sometimes doesn’t make sense and sometimes is just spoken out of ignorance. Without pissing people off, my simple answer is, I read Eating Animals and learned more about what it means to eat animals and decided against it. But here’s a lengthier answer: There’s only 1 reason to eat animals and there are many reasons not to. So what’s the lone reason to eat animals? They taste yummy. Hey, it’s good enough a reason for many. Almost good enough for me. But no. The reasons not to eat meat hold more weight than just my selfish pleasure and enjoyment. You can find this info anywhere so I won’t get into the nitty gritty but here’s a very oversimplified list:

  • Suffering.  Yes.  We’ve all heard of the evils of how animals are raised in terrible conditions.  But there’s more to it. Even if you choose to eat an animal that was raised on a happy farm and frolicked in a yard, eventually it was sent to slaughter.  And the slaughterhouse processing so many animals, will have errors.  Gruesome, torturous errors. Suddenly, that burger doesn’t taste so good when all I can see is a cow screaming as it’s hanging by its legs going down a conveyor.  People think fish are okay to eat, some think they don’t feel pain. Who are we to know?  Because they can’t cry?  That seems more awful to me to be in pain but unable to cry. I’ve raised fish.  They’ve gotten sick or injured.  They shirk away near their wounds.  They feel pain.
  • Pollution.  Water and Air and Global Warming.  If meat were priced accurately taking into consideration the costs to society, to the environment, chicken would cost far more than $2/lb.
  • Disease. Overcrowding + Stressed animals = Illness.  Industrial farms are creating more antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Food Safety and Sanitation. The listeria on fruit.  The e. coli on spinach.  Mad cow disease. It’s all from animal farms. And almost all the chicken you purchase has e.coli on it.
  • World hunger. As nations’ wealth increases, so does the demand for meat.  It’s unsustainable to feed the large population of the planet the quantity of meat we consume.  The same land used to raise meat could feed far more people on a plant based diet.
  • Mass extinction. Industrialized fishing is contributing to loss of biodiversity in the oceans.
  • Health.  Call it the revenge of the animal.  Eating meat is detrimental to ones health.  I almost don’t want to put this on the list because it’s minor compared to the other reasons.  I know plenty of people willing to sacrifice a few years to their lives for a tasty morsel but  the thing is, you choosing to harm yourself is still a personal freedom which you’ve denied the animals. But it’s what led me down this path so I’ve tacked it on. Stroke, cancer, heart disease, all that yummy goodness.

So that it tastes good suddenly isn’t a good enough reason for me.

Here are some doozies I’ve heard lately, which ignorant me might have said before:

  • I can’t believe people eat… (fill-in”exotic” animal, turtle, dog, cat). They say this as they bite into chicken.  Then they rationalize, when I remind them that they’re eating animals, that those animals they eat are dumb.  Dogs/cats (whatever lucky animals that we deign to be non-food) are smart. I said the same thing when I ate meat.  Only my exclusion was primates.  I declared all animals are fair game to me, but primates feel too much like eating people.  Oh and I wouldn’t eat lobster because I had to kill it at home and I could hear the scratching on the side of the pot as they suffered to death.  It was the same kind of rationalizing.  For all the love we claim to have for animals (our pets), we sure are able to conveniently forget about the ones that land on our dinner table.  By the way there is vegan dog/cat food and no it’s not torturing poor Skippy to feed it vegan food because cats are supposed to eat meat.  When you feed your rescue cat chicken, you just sacrificed one animal for another.  A cat can be humanely put down, but the chicken suffered it’s entire life and then had a terrible death.  Somehow, I think the cat still comes out on top in a comfortable home eating a balanced vegan diet.
  • Animals eat other animals. Yes.  They do. But they don’t raise theirs in such conditions that breed disease and cause suffering.  The way our animals are raised and slaughtered isn’t the way they once were when people and domesticated farm animals once were codependent and the farmer slaughtered as needed to feed a town not a large corporation slaughtering en mass to feed a gigantic city. Animals also eat poop.
  • Plants feel pain too! This is an eye roller.  One kills more plants eating meat than eating plants alone.


Anticipation for the Silver Line

The Silver Line is starting on Saturday. That’s THIS coming Saturday. 3 more days. I’ve been hearing about this Silver Line since 2001. (I’m sure talk of it started way before then.) Still, it was just talk. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Well, this week, the Orange Line has been running Silver Line practice runs that end at East Falls Church where the Orange and Silver Line split off. That’s real enough for me.

Nibbles with Gibbles Red Hot Potato Chips

Of all the things we did in Lancaster the one side “project” we engaged in (which I tried to forget about) was hunting for the elusive Nibbles With Gibbles, Red Hot Potato Chips. Made with lard, in Pennsylvannia. So we thought of all places, Pennsylvania should sell them. Not so. Something about the company shutting down then getting bought by another company and they’re starting things back up, maybe they’re on back order. Who knows.

All we found were these at the local Weis Markets.

Not the Red Hot variety, so why bother?

Welp, nothing the Internet can’t fix.

I mean REALLY fix.

A dozen. One is eaten.

Now I’m not expecting potato chips to be healthy for you but these are pretty bad. Food coloring, TBHQ, soybean oil, no doubt courtesy of Monsanto.
Warning TMI:
Eating a bag of these will give you the runs.

And they weren’t as good as memory served.
Feedback to Nibbles With Gibbles: Make them spicier. If you added more cayenne, you wouldn’t need the food coloring. And the lard. Take that out too.

PaD is the best cure for a shopping addiction

Y’know that resolution I’ve been trying to do all year? Curb my frivolous shopping habits? I inadvertently solved it by getting into this game Puzzle and Dragons. It’s sucking up my life and I am hooked.
No time to shop. Must match colored orbs and sing Les Mis and Beauty and the Beast songs in my head.

Posted in Me!

Amish Country

May. That’s when I started planning a trip to Lancaster, PA. I picked it because it was within easy driving distance and some friends had gone there and recommended it. July seemed so distant at the time I can’t believe the trip has come and gone. We knew we wanted to check out the Amish countryside. Bird-in-Hand. And since we were doing small town, I thought a bed and breakfast would fit the bill too. Then I found the Fulton Theatre. Turns out they were showing Les Miserables. Sold! I nailed down the weekend we would visit based on the availability of better seats for that show. I built the itinerary around the show. We pre-watched song performances on YouTube in preparation for the show. As you can tell, this was the trip highlight.

So with one full day there, here’s what we did.
First, we went to Bird-in-Hand and rented bicycles. We biked around to their farmer’s market. Walked around that for a bit. They had knick knacks for tourists and sold jams, jellies, mustards, pretzals, sandwiches, cheeses. Y’know. Amish stuff. Then we biked over to another little market that had a little petting zoo right next to it.
The market wasn’t too different from the previous one, but the goats running around with the chickens were pretty cool.

The nice thing about bicycling around Amish country is, when you’re off the main road, there aren’t too many other cars or horse drawn buggies. I haven’t biked in years so even though I still remembered how, I was wobbly on it. We eventually got comfortable enough on them, even passed a buggy (going real slow, obviously). The roads weren’t too hilly.

After returning the bicycles, we drove to downtown Lancaster to explore yet another Amish market. Even though I generally love grocery stores and markets these weren’t all that interesting to me. Not a large variety of produce. The most interesting stall was a guy selling celery. They looked smaller and homegrown. That’s all he sold. We were in and out of the market pretty quickly. Next stop, Spring House Brewery for lunch and some beers to cool us off after that bike ride. They had some interesting flavored stouts. Egg Nog stout tasted like sarsaparilla. Yums.

And then, the pièce de résistance: Les Miserables at the Fulton Opera House.
This theatre was built in 1852. It’s old and beautiful on the inside. And the best part, it’s small. Not a bad seat in the house. I had managed my expectations about this show, thinking more high school production and less Broadway act. It turned out to be more Broadway act (or so it seemed based on what I saw on YouTube). My goodness, the music was amazing. I cried throughout the whole thing. The lady next to me cried. Everybody died. It was spectacular. For the Fulton Theatre alone, I would come back and do this whole trip over again. For a different performance of course. Les Miserables has great songs but it’s emotionally taxing. Once for sure, and once is enough.

For dinner, we went to the John J. Jeffries restaurant located at the Lancaster Arts Hotel.
Fresh ingredients make tasty dishes. We practically licked our plates clean.
By 8 PM we were back to our room at the B&B. It was a long day for us. Long, fun, and memorable.

Estimated Costs:
Gas: ~$40
B&B (2 nights): ~$200
Dinner (2 nights): $110
Lunch and beer: $30
Bicycle rentals ($10/hour): $25
Fulton Theatre: $120
TOTAL: ~$525