Awesome DC-based deliciousness alert! I first ran across Nomad Dumplings during a record fair at Right Proper Brewing in Brookland – they were so good that I got two orders! Handmade with whole foods, Nomad’s line of precooked dumplings can be steamed, pan-fried, or even microwaved. Even better? Two of the flavors, Hunan Hottie and Xi’an Warrior, are vegan! My personal favorite is the Hunan Hottie (I’m partial to the spiciness), but the Xi’an Warrior is a close second. I picked these up at Old City Market just off of H Street, but I hear they’re expanding into Whole Foods, so I’d expect to start seeing them all over. You can check the website for more locations.
Lava fields, craters, basalt formations, glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls, volcanoes… The landscape of Iceland is a testament to the geological gymnastics that have shaped the small island over millennia. In fact, it’s still being shaped – just a few hours driving distance from Reykjavik sits a fracture in the Earth, the very spot where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly pulling apart. And because this is Iceland and there are no rules (direct quote from my glacier guide on a previous trip), you can go snorkeling right into the divide.
My trip to Iceland in March was a last minute one – I literally got on a plane the same day a friend called and invited me. Her friend was unable to go, so the trip was already set and I was surprised and excited to have snorkeling, of all things, on the schedule. But I also had a lot of questions. Like, “Can I bring a camera?”, “what if I haven’t snorkeled in awhile?”, and “wait, isn’t it cold AF in Iceland right now?” (Yes, but I had a better time without it; they’ll teach you what you need to know; and yes, it’s cold as balls). I’ll explain all that and more, just stay tuned.
Our day trip included the snorkeling in Thingvellir (Silfra, specifically), as well as a tour of the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a popular tourism route just outside of Reykjavik that features some very impressive natural marvels, including the thundering Gullfoss Waterfall and the Strokkur, one of Iceland’s many active geothermal areas that includes an impressive geysir.
We started the day in Reykjavik and headed straight for Gullfoss. The last time I visited this monster of a waterfall it had been so foggy we could barely see across, so I pretty excited to have a second chance. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s so massive and powerful, pictures don’t do the scale justice, but I’ll try:
In between our visit to Gullfoss and the geysir, we visited these jokers. A local farm allows buses to stop by and feed the horses in an effort to keep people from parking all over the place on the winding and narrow roads to take pictures. The horses seem to be ok with the arrangement. (Please, please, please, don’t feed or approach the horses in Iceland without permission, it really is a problem!)
Finally we arrived at Silfra, where we would be diving. We didn’t even need to get in the water to be amazed by the view. I snapped a few shots of the surrounding area post-snorkel:
Back to the main event. It’s time to snorkel y’all!
Once we were at the site is was made very clear that while we were there to have fun, it was also very important to listen to instructions and pay attention to our individual guides. We were broken up into small groups (I think about 6 people each) and given plenty of instructions.
Now onto what you must me wondering: wasn’t it cold? Why yes, it was absolutely frigid. As you could see from the solid ice evidence at Gulfoss, it was certainly plenty cold. But, no have no fear, there’s a lovely little getup for that. Charming, no?
Enter the dry suit. This evil, obnoxious, and necessary cousin of the wet suit has a pretty self-explanatory name. It keeps you dry, and in our case, warm. But instead of wiggling into a single, frustrating shell and being done with it, you first have to put on what is essentially a fluffy onesie (for warmth and insulation). You then have to stuff your fluffy patootie into a stretchy, far too small shell. It is an uncomfortable and infuriating process that is as much a lesson in humility as it is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit. It involved a lot of awkward jumping, shimmying, grunting, and, um, baby powder. By the end of it I was pretty sure I was just going to have to live in that suit forever. I have no suggestions. Scratch that, I have one. Make sure when they give you a chance to go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom.
After everyone had thrown down with their dry suits and come out, more or less, the victor, we received more instructions, donned our flippers and masks, and waddled across the road to our entry point. A number of explanations later, we were down a couple stairs and into the water.
I can easily say this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in Iceland, and Iceland is pretty competitive in the category of “awesome stuff I’ve done on vacation.” It was quiet, clear, and meditative. The clarity of the water was shocking – it was almost liking flying, as bubbles were the only obstruction between myself and the bottom of the spring. It is easily the clearest water I have ever seen in my life.
All I could really hear was my own breathing and that muffled underwater muteness that happens when you’re submerged.
I was definitely worried about keeping my breathing steady and freezing my lips off in the chilly water, but turns out everything was just fine once I was in the water. I credit our guide with good directions, since I haven’t been snorkeling in years. As for freezing my lips off? Eh, I adjusted quickly. Or maybe I just lost feeling. Same difference.I didn’t take a camera with me into the water, despite having a shell for my phone. Instead, I paid for the photos our guide took while we were in the water. While the part of me that’s usually glued to my DSLR wishes I had taken a waterproof camera, I think my experience was so much better going without. It’s such a breathtaking spot, so unless you have a waterproof GoPro that is hands free, I wouldn’t worry about extra tech. My recommendation is to buy the photos they offer and just enjoy yourself. After the dive you can sign up for photos that your guide took during the excursion, and they’ll email you a dropbox link later in the week.
I’m not going to stop lugging my camera around, I love photography and I really enjoy capturing my trips. But, I do think this experience might make me consider leaving it behind once in awhile. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Our tour was with Extreme Iceland. For information about their Snorkeling and Golden Circle Tour, visit their website here.
Just a few blocks east of Union Station sits the DC Craft Beer Cellar, one of a growing number of stores across the country run by “beer geeks” and dedicated to… well, the craft. DC’s lovely, museum-like store is curated by said geeks, who can help you find just what you’re looking for, and probably about 15 fantastic things that weren’t looking for and never knew you definitely needed.
A literal case in point – the 6-pack carrier that houses each month’s beer of the month club selections:
For $20 a month the experts at the Cellar put together 6 beers (or 12 for $40, if you’re feeling extra Sampler-y), usually revolving around a monthly theme. Along with the selection comes a monthly rundown and description of each brew, because this is DC and nerdiness and drinking goes hand-in-hand.
So far we’ve enjoyed a box dedicated to sours, sessions, Oktoberfest, and porters and stouts.
The design nerd in me would like to point out that while the beers are certainly awesome, one of the things I look forward to is actually the labels… I mean, how cool is this one?
If you’re in DC, definitely go check out the Cellar and pick up something you haven’t tried before (or check their website to see if a store is near you). Backyard BBQ pro tip: they can order kegs!
Emily St. John Mandel is also the author of Station Eleven, which was so good I wanted to make everyone read it just so I could talk to people about it without spoiling anything. I’ve been meaning to read more of her work ever since.
Last Night in Montreal is a short novel with a mysterious woman who can’t stop running and dead languages that describe the indescribable. Honestly… I’m nerding out over the language stuff, mostly, so that might need to factor into my next to-read 🙂
Ugh why did I get on this train so late?! History AND science fiction? Questions of fate, destiny, and free will? Kick-ass female characters? NBC WHY DID YOU CANCEL THIS?
This is one of THE best, most motivating, vegan podcasts I’ve listened to (and I’ve been listening to A LOT). Sometimes my vegan transition has felt a little… overwhelming. Hearing that “progress over perfection” is ok, and learning about the varying stories that brought people to veganism (her guests are awesome!), is so inspiring.
A few months back I wrote a post about how I would not be doing another Whole30. While I learned a lot of great things (sugar is lurking everywhere y’all!!), it was too much meat for me, and post-holiday season I was pretty much eating a vegetarian diet.
I’ve stuck to a vegetarian diet ever since.
This is both a big reversal (I’d tried a lot of paleo recipes last year!) and then again, not so surprising (I went vegetarian in high school, but returned to eating meat in college. I wish it had been easier to be vegetarian in the Midwest back then). After 6+ months, I’d say this change is for life. Meat has never been a big craving for me, but I was still kind of surprised how easy it was to just… go cold turkey (too easy, I know!). I had been vegetarian for periods of my life and I often chose the meatless options, so I guess it was easier for me.
Because it was so easy, however, I started to get curious about a vegan diet. I knew from my Paleo days that dairy didn’t agree with me, as much as I loved it, so from a health standpoint, it made sense. I also knew that a vegan diet was a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Studies suggest it’s one of the single most impactful things you can do for the environment as an individual – it can decrease your carbon footprint by 70%.
I had also started to learn more about many of the barbaric modern agricultural practices out there. As an animal lover and pet owner, this made me really sad. And super uncomfortable. Even more so when I realize that I was contributing to suffering by consuming non-meat animal products like dairy and eggs. I think on some level a lot of us, like myself, realize that the cognitive dissonance we tolerate while eating animal products is a bit crazy. I’d never be directly cruel to an animal… so how did it make sense I was eating them?
This is not to say I’ve stopped eating dairy overnight. I love cheese. This is a hard transition. But… I want to get there. So, after searching around the internet a bit, I found and signed up for a vegan challenge group called Challenge22+. Basically, for the month of August (or the majority of it, anyway), myself and others will be following a vegan diet, while exploring new foods through daily challenges, and sharing them on a private Facebook group. The Facebook group is AMAZING. There are mentors that answer questions, offer advice, and just generally are as supportive as can be. It’s also really heartening to see newbies like me starting out – we’re in it together and it makes it more fun!
Plus, it’s delicious. Check out this bad boy from Shouk, a completely plant-based, fast-casual spot in DC:
Obviously, new adventures ahead… I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going 🙂
(7/15/18) Awkward Update: Yeah, so, this was 2 months ago and obviously there’s nada… but things are coming in a few days, really! Moving is crazy. Let’s go with that.
So, the last few months have been crazy, and this little blog is mostly here just for fun so… I went ahead and just disappeared. Stay tuned for posts about trips to New Orleans, Reykjavik, and Prague, oh… and we’re moving across the river into DC. And I turned 30. (Like I said, busy!)
I had what was probably the best doughnut I’ve ever had in my life the other day. It was vegan. No! Wait! I’m not crazy, hear me out…
I really love plants. I go through times where I don’t eat meat for awhile. In fact I haven’t had any since Christmas and I’m thinking about making the change more permanent.
But if you had told me a week ago that I’d have a savory “everything bagel” doughnut filled with cream cheese, and it would be the best doughnut I’ve ever had, and that it was VEGAN… well, I would have called you a dang liar. Actually, I would probably have said something slightly nicer than “liar”, but I would seriously have questiond your sanity.
My favorite juice/smoothie place, South Block, has been taunting the area with a sign saying “Vegan Doughnut Pop Up Coming Soon” for a few days. I was super curious, so when the day finally came, I tried one. Ok, actually, I tried two. Guys. They’re amazing.
B. Doughnut is a local doughnut shop with locations across the DC area. So far, they’re only offering vegan versions of their doughnuts at South Block locations – but I hope they’ll be expanding. Because… wow. Full disclosure: I’m not a sugar hound most days, so doughnuts aren’t my usual jam (unintentional jelly-filled joke). But, I do enjoy one occasionally, so I gave the coconut flavor a shot because I haven’t really run across anything coconut that I didn’t like. It was so good I tried the everything bagel one as well.
I regret nothing.
Not being a huge doughnut person it’s hard for me to describe/compare – but these things melt in your mouth. And the savory version especially, was out of this world. The dough + savory topping combination reminded me of langos, a Hungarian fried bread that I fell in love with in Budapest.
Sure, these aren’t the healthiest options for breakfast, but I don’t think it’s healthy to never indulge, either. Life’s too short not to have something fried every now and again 🙂 As an added bonus, I can treat myself to one of these without having to worry about the nasty consequences of having dairy (I love it, but it does not love me…).
The Clarendon South Block location assured me that they would be stocking them for the foreseeable future, so you can get your fix there if you want to give it a shot. The other Virginia South Block locations will be selling them as well, check with your location for more info!
*sigh* You can really lose yourself in this place. Packed with thoughtfully-curated home goods and gifts, this place is an entertainer’s dream. Or a place for a would-be entertainer to dream about all the dinner parties and soirees they need to have (I might know something about that kind of aspiration). The shop also stocks creative craft tonics, mixers, and bitters, as well as other kitchen goodies like truffle salt and olive oil. Some of the small-batch items are made right here in DC – our city is full of creative entrepreneurs!
Below are some of the items you might find if you stop in at their Union Market location in DC. When I visited last weekend they were getting ready for a store refresh/makeover – I can’t wait to check it out and see the new look!
How lovely is this store?
I’ve been wanting to try a reformer class for awhile, but honestly, I’ve been kind of intimidated by the machine. I finally decided to challenge myself and signed up for a class at Pilates ProWorks. They use a custom-built, reformer-based machine called a FitFormer.
Pilates Proworks has a beautiful and spacious studio in Alexandria, VA. The reformer room is large and open with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to some other group classes in the area (I’m looking at you, barre class that shall remain nameless) that pack in as many people as possible.
Now for what you really want to know…
Yes, it was crazy hard. But I modified, I took breaks, and actually, I found the class went really quickly despite being very challenging. The instructor struck that delicate balance of coming around enough to correct my form/give advice and letting me struggle through and feel it out on my own, hahaha. Sometimes you just need to do it to understand, you know?
The two most difficult parts were keeping my weight evenly distributed between the stationary and moving portion of the reformer, and worrying about falling off or having a muscle give out and toppling in/over the machine. The fear of falling is easiest to solve – you just go to your personal limit, which, as the instructor pointed out, will be different than your neighbor. Additionally, she gave us plenty of modifications, which I recommend taking during the first class. As for the weight distribution – I’m sure that, like most workouts, this is something that just comes with practice.
I was told upfront that I’d feel a bit wobbly at first, so I’m guessing everyone has a bit of a learning curve. If you’ve been looking to try a reformer class, but are intimidated, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.
2017 began with the inauguration of Donald Trump – a bigoted man who bragged about grabbing women. The news from the executive branch pretty much went downhill from there (shithole countries? REALLY??). The day after Trump’s inauguration, however, was full of optimism. Women from across the country showed up in Washington, DC to say “we’re here for each other”, “the fight isn’t over”, “have faith, we’re going to change the world.”
It was a good reminder that there are a lot of smart, capable women that are working hard for equality, compassion, and progress.
It was a great day:
This weekend, one year later, my friends and I walked over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, signs in hand, to the Lincoln Memorial, where we marched yet again. To be surrounded by so many strong women and so much positive energy was really invigorating. It was a good reminder that there are a lot of smart, capable women that are working hard for equality, compassion, and progress.
After I got home I was still excited, and I went online to look at pictures from the day. And I looked at Twitter. Yes, that was a mistake. There was so much vitriol stuffed into so few characters and the weight of those comments really brought me down. One question stuck out to me, however. It was along the lines of “why are women even marching, [insert one statistic here about how things are totally fine now now]”.
Why are we marching? Good question. I’m going to pretend that it wasn’t a rhetorical question that comes from a place of ignorance, and instead answer it as if it came from a place of genuine curiosity and a willingness to learn.
We’re marching because…
- On average, women are paid 80% of what men are paid for the same work. For women of color, the disparity is even worse. (source)
- 1 in 5 women in the US have been raped in their lifetime. (source)
- At least 1 in 4 women experience sexual harassment at work. Those numbers are probably much higher, since we only have data from those who have reported. (source)
- Why don’t more people speak up about harassment at work? Well, one study found that 75% of those who have reported workplace harassment experienced retaliation. (source)
- After car accidents, homicide is the second leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women. (source)
- In the US, 26% of pregnant teenagers report being abused by their boyfriend, and half reported that the abuse started or got worse once they told their boyfriend they were pregnant. (source)
- The United States is the only industrialized country without paid maternity leave. (source)
- We have a president that brags about assaulting women by grabbing them by the genitals (source) AND — we live in a society where people think this isn’t a big deal and voted for him anyway. What does that say about how we value, or DON’T value women?
- We have a vice president that won’t have dinner with a woman that isn’t his wife. (source) So… women are a sexual threat to his marriage instead of colleagues. Doesn’t sound like women are going to get a fair chance to advance.
These issues affect our everyday life. They have an effect on the choices that young women make in school, at work, and in relationships. They alter every woman’s very existence in a fundamental way. That’s why we march.
On a lighter note – take a look at these awesome, funny, creative, and thought-provoking signs. Sometimes they were all of those at once!!