Tag Archives: Road Trip

An Excuse, an Accident, and a Great Listener

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I hate being away from le blogge for such an extended period of time (i.e. only writing once a week), mostly because I miss sharing my life with you guys! Every time I have a topic to write about and I don’t write, it feels like I held in a sneeze. It’s like I’m waiting to feel the sweet relief that is a published post, tied up neatly with the metaphorical bow of a catchy title and ten thousand tags. I can’t blame anyone but myself, though, for choosing alternative activities. C’est la vie sometimes.

In much more exciting, non sneeze-related news, Ian and I just spent an incredible weekend with two of our favorite people, Lauren and R.D. Lauren and I have been friends since we were freshmen at Longwood, and Ian and R.D. became friends when Ian pledged the same fraternity, Alpha Chi Sigma, at Hampden-Sydney. They live in Virginia Beach, and we finally had a free weekend to go and visit them in their beautiful new apartment!

I’ll start at the beginning.

I picked Ian up straight from work on Friday, hangry (the term he dubbed for hunger + anger, during which I morph quickly into a bear and then back again as soon as my blood sugar is stabilized) and ready to get on the road. It should have been less than 90 minutes between downtown Richmond and where Lauren and R.D. live in Virginia Beach, but we knew we’d hit horrendous beach-goer traffic on Interstate 64. And we were exactly right. Somewhere between Yorktown and Williamsburg, we got into a fender-bender. The other driver wasn’t paying attention and let her foot off the brake between bouts of stand-still traffic, so she only caused the tiniest of dents in my bumper. What should’ve been a 90-minute trip became a 3.5-hour journey between bumper-to-bumper, waiting for the police to come, and battling the Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Nevertheless, we arrived at our friends’ apartment just before 7:30, hungry and ready to get our Mexican on. They took us to a local favorite hotspot, El Tapatio. I didn’t waste any time drowning my sorrows (dramatic much? ;-)) in a jumbo marg!

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As soon as I was properly *hydrated*, I buried my face in some grub.

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I know that I need to lay off the processed carbs, but there’s just something about bottomless chips and salsa that does a weary soul good. (Okay, I’ve milked it enough. I guess we can move on now.)

As soon as we were back at the apartment, Lauren broke out the Angry Orchard, and Ian and R.D. dove headfirst into rum and Coke. Five hours and many ciders later, Lauren and I were still having one of our heart-to-hearts on her bed, while our significant others…

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…were down for the count.

[Bear with me, as I’ve noticed that one of the recurring themes of this weekend was covering the lens of my iPhone slightly with my finger…]

Thankfully, my OCD and my over-planning had led me to blow up Ian’s and my air mattresses before we went out to dinner, so our beds were waiting, and more than inviting. Lauren and R.D. graciously offered us their guest room/office and their second full bath for the weekend for our living and sleeping quarters. Within minutes, we were both sleeping like babies.

Saturday had much more of a lazy start. I awoke at 9:45 after about 5 hours of sleep, and after a short conversation with Ian, I fell asleep again until noon. Lauren had a strong cup of black coffee waiting for me when I finally emerged. We went to this quaint little diner for brunch, where I had the most excellent Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit. Lauren had a mimosa that smelled to die for, but I thought water would better suit my recovery 😉

After brunch, we spent an hour or so wandering around Harris Teeter. I’m a huge fan of Whole Foods, but I could easily see myself becoming HT-loyal if there was one near Ian or me. After all, I found my splurge drink: grape Synergy Kombucha with chia seeds!

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I took mine for a dip in the pool as soon as the groceries were unloaded. It wasn’t hot or humid, but the water was calling our names. We had planned to hit the beach, but the forecast of thunderstorms for the rest of the evening put a stop to that in a hurry. We all agreed we’d try the pool for as long as we could, and then begin dinner preparations.

Can I just say that Lauren and R.D. are so fortunate to be able to live in such a beautiful and lavish apartment complex? I don’t mean to expose their business to the world, but I am incredibly jealous of their new digs and all that their rent includes. I mean, look at this pool!

Lauren, please don't be mad at me... but you are so freaking cute!

Lauren, please don’t be mad at me… but you are so freaking cute!

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As can be seen behind R.D., there was also a spacious hot tub we tried out for about five minutes before we decided it was just too hot for hot tubbin’. Poor Ian tried to get in a few minutes of study time…

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…but the storm put a damper on our pool visit after about 30 minutes.

No matter! Lauren got right to work on dishes of chips and salsa, and we enjoyed watching the storm from the porch.

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Not many people would allow me to unload multiple times in one weekend, but Lauren is one incredible friend and one patient listener. She’s also a good advice-giver without being judgmental or condescending. In my opinion, not many people achieve that balance! Thanks again, girl! 🙂

As soon as we were all cleaned up, Ian got to work studying a bit, R.D. got to work on some video games,

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and Lauren got to work on dinner: shrimp, steak and veggie kabobs.

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She swore I could not do a thing to help her — and she was probably right, judging by the beauty of our dinner — and that I should relax and enjoy being her guest.

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I was pretty full between the kabobs and the couscous, but we decided that a trip to Coldstone was in order, anyway. I cannot thank Lauren enough times for driving all weekend and for truly treating Ian and me like guests.

My absolute favorite flavor: That's How I Roll

My absolute favorite flavor: That’s How I Roll

After we got back from Coldstone, there was a surprise waiting for us: Lauren and R.D. threw us a party! There were only seven of us total, but we rabble-roused enough for about 20 people. We even dug out ye olde HSC game table and played pong and flip cup.

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Not only did I rock at flip cup and help carry our three-man team to victory, I rocked this hilarious koozie of Lauren’s:

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We partied undergrad-style, complete with a rousing game of Kings, until the very late hour of 11:00, when everybody crashed in front of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Our party guests bid us adieu around midnight, and we called it a day. I was all too happy to crash on my double-sized air mattress again.

Ian and I got up at 9:30 this morning, got ready, packed up, and hit the road. I cringe when I think about our McDonald’s breakfast, because my eating habits have been pretty abysmal lately. Spruce it up however you like and title it whatever you want; an egg white sandwich from McDonald’s is still egg, cheese, meat, and bread. My iced coffee kept me going through a few small bouts of low blood sugar, but I was determined to make it to Richmond without stopping for lunch. Ian and I have become unabashed experts at being cheap-asses.

I dropped him off at his apartment shortly after 1:00, and I got gas quickly before heading home. Even though I was desperate for a nap and a shot (or five) of caffeine, I somehow managed to study for more than two hours for the CPCE I am taking August 24.

As of right now, I’m not long out of bed. I just couldn’t wait to share this magnificent weekend with my blends! Hopefully, I’ll be back before another week passes… Ta ta!

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Mini Cheesecakes and a Mega Weekend

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I never meant to wait this long between posts. We got Internet back five days ago, but the past few days have been a very, very busy blur. Please pardon my extra-long post in advance…

Friday was Ian’s birthday, as well as the end of his first year of medical school, as well as the day my sister and her boyfriend flew in from a week visiting his grandparents in Florida. In addition to helping Ruth whip the house into tip-top shape for the weekend, we ran approximately 3.7 million errands. Friday afternoon, Ian and I drove all the way down to Once Upon a Vine downtown for a specially created four-pack of craft beers, Ian’s choice. I knew I could’ve picked out 4 beers for him to try and he would’ve probably loved them, but his favorite part of Once Upon a Vine is the experience 😉

Friday evening, Ruth and Ian and I met Mike, Caroline and Rob (the boyfriend) at Kobe in downtown Richmond for the most delicious hibachi I’ve ever tasted. (Granted, the only other time I’ve ever eaten hibachi-style Japanese food was on a field trip in Kindergarten.)

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For his birthday “party” and end-of-M1 celebration, Ian chose to sit around the fire pit at my parents’ house with a few friends and sip his $4-apiece craft beers. Hey, that’s easy. I’m down!

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Saturday was all work and all play! My family hosted an engagement party for a friend I have literally known all my life, whom our mothers refer to as each other’s “first friend,” and his lovely fiancée. I love an excuse to experiment in the kitchen. Culinary whiz that I am I somehow managed to create a spicy cheese ring accented by strawberry jelly and toasted pecans; fudgy brownies with a secret ingredient (sour cream!); chopped, sliced and diced veggie and fruit trays; and miniature cheesecakes with impromptu garnishes. (By strawberry leaves* I mean the cut-off top of each strawberry, carefully removed so that each ring of leaves is still in an intact circle.) Here is the recipe I used:

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 3 hours, 20 minutes (including refrigerating)
Makes 18 servings

What You’ll Need
1 C graham cracker crumbs
3/4 C + 2 tbsp sugar, divided
4 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 C Cool Whip
1 C blueberries
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 C diced strawberries + strawberry leaves*
handful mini chocolate chips

What You’ll Do
– Preheat oven to 325°.
– Mix graham cracker crumbs, 2 tbsp sugar and butter until blended; press onto bottoms of 18 paper-lined muffin pan cups.
– Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crusts.
– Bake 25-30 minutes or until centers are almost set. Cool completely. Refrigerate 2 hours.
– Top cheesecakes with a dollop of Cool Whip.
– Garnish half of cheesecakes with diced strawberries, strawberry leaf, and chocolate chip. Garnish other half with blueberries and lemon zest.

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They sure as heck were delicious, but I never promised they’d be healthy! While cooking, I refrained from BLTs (bites, licks, and tastes).

My mom truly is an incredible cook, and she created this lavish spread for Scott’s and Chelsea’s guests. At this point, I didn’t refrain from sampling anything 😉

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Sunday morning, Ian, Caroline, Rob and I were up early to head to King’s Dominion. The high for the day was supposed to be in the low 80s and there was a 40-50% chance of rain all day, but we decided to take our chances. The park was open 10:30-8:00, the public schools weren’t out for the summer yet, it was an overcast day, the water park wasn’t open yet, and it was a Sunday. With the odds stacked in our favor, we set out at 8:45.

We arrived well before the park opened, parked so close to the gates it was almost ridiculous, and blazed through security. In exchange for a 30-minute wait by the Eiffel Tower, we were able to ride in the front row of every coaster with a maximum of a 15-minute wait for any given ride. I think we rode the Volcano twice, Outer Limits once, Intimidator 305 twice, Backlot Stunt Coaster three times, the Ricochet once, the Avalanche once, the Dominator three times,

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and even a few smaller rides, like the Triple Spin and the Flying Eagle — all in just 6 hours. With so few people in the park, the lines were ridiculously short. Even though I was sweating like a crackhead because of the humidity, I cannot emphasize enough how perfectly we planned our trip yesterday. For four adrenaline junkies, we rode coasters until we literally couldn’t ride them anymore.

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And today, I finally got to sleep in, and I finally got a chance to blog. This weekend was a surreal blur, but it was completely perfect. And with that, I’m off to help prepare chicken fajitas and margs!

What were you up to over the weekend?!

Scenes From the (Wild) Weekend

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Well, my bracket is sucking…

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But let’s not talk about that. I’m already the laughingstock of my bracket group. You can go ahead and have a chuckle.

This weekend was an absolute blast.

Friday, Ian arrived around 4:15, so we opted for an early dinner. His dad had sent us a gift card to this little steak place, so we treated ourselves to prime rib au jus 😉 I’m not sure that place serves salad underneath all that cheese or green beans with their salt, but I made an attempt at some veggies.

Our waiter overheard us discussing our wedding plans and even though we protested that we were too full for dessert, he brought us a little ice cream treat. I was bursting! But I can’t complain about free ice cream.

Then we grabbed some moscato and headed over to Rachel’s for what was supposed to be girls’ night. It was essentially an estrogen-fest plus poor Ian, who was trying desperately to watch basketball and analyze our brackets. It turned into this:

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I was essentially drinking out of a bucket with a stem, which didn’t bode well…

Saturday morning I was feeling a little green around the gills, but about a gallon of water, a snack of Tums, and a shower later, I was ready to hit the road.

We met our friends Mark and Heather in Charlottesville at the Mellow Mushroom. Neither Ian nor I had ever been there, but the pizza was spot-on. We split a medium House Special, which was this treasure:

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I won’t even try to pretend that this weekend was one of my healthier ones, but it sure as hell was delicious. The Mellow Mushroom has some incredible and unique pizza creations.

We left the pizza joint and carpooled to John Paul Jones Arena for — wait for it — Thompson Square, Florida-Georgia Line, and LUKE BRYAN!!

Even though my bank account is feeling pretty naked right now, I couldn’t resist tickets to two of my very favorite country musicians. I’m not super familiar with Thompson Square, but their music was just icing on the cake.

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I didn’t try to take pictures during the concert; I just soaked up every minute of music and time spent with Ian.

Florida-Georgia Line opened, followed by Thompson Square. Luke, of course, was the main event 😉 He was fantastic, from signing posters about squirrels, to throwing full Solo cups into the crowd, to passing a jar of “moonshine” around with his bandmates. My only complaint is that he didn’t sing “Sorority Girl,” which was the only reason I dressed like a tool in my ADPi letters. Somehow, we missed taking a picture of me dressed for Luke (whose wife is an ADPi), but the concert was phenomenal from start to finish.

Our seats were on the opposite side of the arena from Mark and Heather, and by some miracle, we did not have the drunkest assholes seated behind or in front of us. Even from row Z (literally) Luke Bryan was just as yummy (and loud) as I’m sure he would’ve been had we paid $200 per ticket. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Actually, our seats were great. We could see and hear everything perfectly, and we even had room to stretch out.

We got back to my apartment much later than I anticipated and pretty much passed out. We were on the go from the time Ian arrived on Friday until he left an hour ago in the midst of a… snowstorm?

Yep. We awoke this morning to this:

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I don’t know how long it’s been snowing or how much longer it’s expected to keep up, but I think we already have more snow than we got during the “storm” a few weeks ago.

Now, it’s time for me to sit back with a cup of coffee, the TV on mute to monitor my bracket (perhaps the first time in my 24 years that I’ve been concerned about sports), and some reading for class.

Happy Sunday!

Why Did I Eat That Much?!

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For the first year in about a decade, I actually ate turkey. I’m 98% sure we’re all sick to death of hearing about Thanksgiving and looking at other people’s Instagrammed turkeys, but I’m going to be cliché and blog about my Thanksgiving anyway, if for no other reason than that most families — with the possible exception of the Obamas — would be hard-put to have as ridiculously large a spread. I’d like to pretend that I’m not bragging, but I totally am. The Gradys and the Smiths put on one hell of a Thanksgiving celebration.

Let me back up to Thursday morning; we were to be out the door by 8:30 sharp, and somehow we met our goal. As I mentioned previously, we celebrate Thanksgiving at my mom’s oldest sister’s house, which is 3 hours from our house. With (miraculously) just one bathroom stop, we arrived around 11:45. I’m pretty sure Caroline and I were supposed to make ourselves useful, but we pretty much explored photo albums and socialized with our cousins. Finally, when all 16 of us were present and accounted for, we feasted. I tried to snap a few photos before my 20-year-old, 6-foot cousins devoured everything, but this is just a sampling:

A new addition by Gina, pizza dip (I will definitely be modifying and trying this recipe!)

Sylvia’s famous carrot cake, as well as pumpkin pie

Pecan pie, and my mom’s “magic cookie bars,” which I successfully recreated

Corn pudding, Gina’s deviled eggs, Sylvia’s sweet potato casserole, homemade cranberry sauce

Requisite mashed potatoes and gravy — literally, the best I’ve ever had!

There was whipped cream for the pies…

…but we were not lacking for anything, even so.

There were also collard greens, turnips, pickle and olive selections, cream cheese dip, creamy garlic dip, port wine cheese dip, country ham, frosted pumpkin bread, mini cranberry muffins, hot spiced apple cider, homemade dinner rolls… and probably more that I’m forgetting, as I’m still recovering from yesterday’s gluttony.

Yesterday, for the first time in many moons, I ate until I could not eat anymore. I was terrified that as in Thanksgivings past, I wouldn’t have room for dessert, so I sampled almost all of them. Indulgence is both a blessing and a wicked curse. Thankfully, after our belly-bustin’ meal, everyone wanted to go see my cousin Bethany’s new house, so we (literally) piled 10 people into two cars and set off. If I had not walked up and down sets of stairs, climbed over piles of plywood and siding, and mozied around the yard, I would have lapsed into a food-induced coma. I am absolutely not ashamed that after my meager “exercise,” I returned to the food. After all, part of being grateful for all that I have is not insulting the cooks 😉

We finally decided to pack it up around 7:30, which put us home just after 11:00 last night. If I hadn’t still been so full, I would have been just the tiniest bit sorry to miss the last quarter of the ‘Skins-Cowboys game, which was in full swing when we departed:

Today, my sister and I are planning to venture out to do some Black Friday shopping. We are not those midnight-to-6 a.m. crazies, or the loonies who’ve been camped out for three days in front of Best Buy. Any deals I was hoping to catch will still be available around lunchtime or on Cyber Monday. For me, Christmas shopping on Black Friday is a rush, though the parking situation is a different kind of rush…

Needless to say — as evidenced by the above — I am thankful.

I hope your Thanksgiving was excellent! What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?

What Is There to Love About Solo Road Trips?

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For me, actually quite a lot.

As Ian and my parents live in one city, my sister lives in another, and I live in another, I travel in different directions most weekends. Ergo, I take a lot of solo road trips. Ian and I are taking our first real road trip in March — we are driving from Richmond, VA, to Miami, FL. I know. But in the meantime, I wrack up a lot of lone-driver highway miles. I’m not one to get drowsy as the only driver because I entertain myself in various ways.

Probably first and foremost, I karaoke like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve been Miley Cyrus’s backup singer, Maroon 5’s opening act, Taylor Swift’s duet partner, Linkin Park’s screamo sidekick, and Luke Bryan’s inspiration. In my dreams. But seriously, I have no problem belting out tunes all the way down 460. Sometimes I draw the line at stoplights, when I know the elderly people in the sedan next to me can hear the profane lyrics I’m crankin’, or when a cop pulls up next to me and kills my buzz. There’s no time like 4 hours on the highway each weekend to improve my technique and allow me to experiment between alto and soprano 😉

I work on my mental to-do lists. Mondays are usually busier days for me because they’re the start of the academic week, and because I have class at 4:30 as opposed to 7:00. I “pencil in” assignments and appointments, and I “cross off” work that’s been completed or messages that have been sent. I assess what I need to do for the week, and I lay out a tentative work schedule for each day. I plan when I’ll grocery shop, and which workouts might fit nicely into the week’s agenda. I’m telling you — you’ve never met anyone as type-A.

I do a lot of soul-searching and honest thinking with myself. I’ve decided on some of the most critical turning-points of my life while behind the wheel of my little Hyundai. There’s nothing but the road stretched out in front of me, the wind (i.e. the fan on “wind tunnel,” as my mom calls it) in my hair, and the soft beat of the radio to interfere. I believe that living holistically means taking care of my mind just as much (if not more so) as I care for my body.

I try to sincerely take in my surroundings. One of my favorite roads in Virginia is a 20-mile stretch in the middle of nowhere. You can see the mountains from the road, and the leaves always seem to change color there first. There aren’t many houses or businesses along the road. It almost feels like I’m driving along someone’s private driveway, through nature, on the brink of civilization. I always lose cell reception, and sometimes the radio cuts in and out. For that 20-minute portion of my drive, I’m almost completely alone. And in some introverted way, I relish it.

Given the option between road-tripping with people I love versus driving alone for more than an hour, I’ll take friends or family every time. But ya know, solo road trips really aren’t so bad, if you choose to appreciate the little things 🙂

Anniversary Weekend Treats

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Sometimes, it’s really hard to believe Ian and I have been together for three years. It seems much shorter some days, but often I feel as though I’ve known him all my life. Three years have absolutely flown by and so much has happened in the interim, so it was extra exciting to celebrate in Richmond this weekend.

We accidentally dressed exactly the same — down to brown leather footwear.

As it turns out, P.F. Chang’s makes special arrangements for couples celebrating their anniversary. The second we walked in the door, two hostesses and two waitresses wished us a happy anniversary and asked us how many years. They seated us in a special part of the restaurant, and they even brought us a complimentary bottle of champagne to toast.

I know I always say I would have taken pictures, but… but on Friday, I just wanted to soak in every moment.

We ordered my favorite appetizer — vegetarian spring rolls — and Ian’s favorite appetizer, lettuce wraps. I got my absolute Chang’s favorite entrée: the Ma Po Tofu. It’s crispy silken tofu surrounded by fresh steamed broccoli and served with white rice. I can’t even explain the perfection. Plus, most people don’t swoon over tofu. I really wanted to order my favorite dessert, the Chocolate Dome, but we were just too stuffed!

Because we had a 5:30 reservation, we got back to my house around 7:00. We decided to rent The Campaign, which was absolutely hilarious. Obscene and ridiculous, of course, but just what we needed to top off our evening. Accompanied by some Strawberry Cheesecake Skinny Cow 😉

At 7 a.m. on Saturday, I was rudely awakened by my alarm. Yes, Ian had us up at the crack of dawn (or so it felt) to head to Hampden-Sydney with some of our couple friends and his med school buddies.

Armed with secret-ingredient brownies which I borrowed from Colleen, camp chairs, buffalo chicken dip, and enough beer for a small army, we set out while there was still frost on the grass. I always love a road trip 😉

Even though my parents couldn’t make it, Ian’s parents set up one of the most fun and well-attended tailgates we’ve had in 4 seasons of Tiger Ball. HSC was playing their top rival, Randolph-Macon College. Unfortunately, they lost at home yesterday, which was a tough loss to watch. In fact, my sister and some of our friends and I didn’t return to the stadium after halftime. We checked the live stats from the Tiger Athletics website, which is something I don’t normally care about, but the Macon game is a big deal at Hampden-Sydney.

After the game, we tailgated for a few more hours before finally packing it up. Some of us even shared dance moves…

We were supposed to attend VCU’s Med Ball ’12 with some of the friends we’d brought to the game, but frankly, we were exhausted. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to wear the beautiful dress I had spent weeks picking out, but there will be other opportunities. Actually, I enjoyed watching Parks and Recreation with Ian at his apartment, simply talking and spending time together, and hitting the hay before midnight.

Today, after brunch and a little more R & R, I’m headed back to my apartment. Guess it’s time to get my head back into Work Mode. T-minus 24 days until my much-needed Christmas break!

I hope you had a fantastic weekend!