Monday, February 28, 2011

Young at Heart

This weekend I went to Northern Virginia and fell in love....with the National Zoo. I know, I old am I? I must admit whenever I am searching for things to do in a city I always read the "Kid Friendly" or "Best Places for Children to Visit" lists first. Its good to be young at heart, right?

Obviously I googled those searches before heading up to Fairfax and found rave reviews about the zoo. Where else can you see exotic animals in the middle of the city for free?! Not to mention, when I read about the lion cubs it went from being a simple suggestion to a must see in my mind. Lucky for me Jon was totally ok with it, or at least he obliged - probably so I would stop talking about it.

After a week of reading every paragraph on the website, the day had finally come and we arrived around 12:30 on Saturday. Let me just tell you- it exceeded every expectation. The orangutans, tigers, leopards, pandas, elephants, BABY great. There were hardly any cages in sight and (weather permitting) the orangutans could travel from one house to the next on lines right about the walkways! I am pretty sure I didn't stop smiling the whole day.

2 of the cubs and the Momma from the Smithsonian Mag
Now before you all convince yourselves I belong in elementary school (which is probably true), we got to do some more mature things like watch some of the Caps game (and NFL combine...go Tyrod!), visit the largest Whole Foods I've ever seen, attend a housewarming party, watch the VT/Duke game (GO HOKIES!!!) and tour the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.

Over the years my mom has told me plenty of stories of how she used to frequent the Torpedo Factory when she lived the city life. It was a nice opportunity to walk in her footsteps while seeing all the incredibly talented artists who reside there! Plus I even purchased my very first (small) piece of art!

My little painting!
All in all, it was another great weekend...except now I want a pet lion cub...or to at least live in an apartment overlooking the zoo!

Also for all you Richmonders: if you are like me, the weekday mornings are consumed by - what I like to call - organized chaos. I somehow always find myself frantically running from the shower to my closet, trying on three outfits (but always selecting the first), and then inevitably searching for my keys, phone, jacket etc. which I have no doubt "lost" in the hustle and bustle. After all of that running round, I am desperate for some morning convenience (and a cup of green tea) when I get to work. Plus the thought of the approaching weekend and a few good deals never hurt. {Enter my favorite website} This website compiles all of the daily deals (groupon, living social, etc) and posts them every morning. In addition, they also tell you free or cheap events going on in Richmond every weekend. Free things? Discounts? Shopping? Events? Must have for my morning Google Reader list.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"My Best Friend, Concetta"

For the entire month leading up to last weekend I had told Jon countless stories about "my best friend, Concetta." In fact I have done it so many times that now every time I mention Concetta, Jon always immediately (and sarcastically) says "Concetta? Your best friend?"

My best!

Though they had each heard 1000 stories about each other, they had never met - until last weekend! For the important introduction, Will, Concetta, Jon and I headed to Duck, NC. 

The weather must have known we were heading to the beach because, for February, it could not have been more perfect! Jon and I headed down late Friday night, after a stop in Hampton to meet the Pimp (*if you have ever been to the corner of LaSalle and Kecoughtan you know exactly who I am talking about) and have a delicious dinner with Mom and Dad. When we arrived in Duck we toured our new home  (appropriately named "Inn Like Flynn") and, after about an hour of me fighting to keep my eyes open, decided to call it an early night. 

Inn Like Flynn

Saturday morning we woke up around 8:30AM, eager to begin our fun filled day with Will and Cetta. We had planned on bowling, climbing (and jumping off!) the Dunes, and - as previously mentioned - playing an very competitive round of Minute to Win It. It may seem like a lot for one day but we were able to check every activity off our list, with a few added bonuses along the way:
  • Our very mature Bowling Names: Ca-Ca Head (Me), Lil Jon Ok Yeah (Jon), Lucky Lefty (Will), and Sweata (Cetta)
  • The terribly embarrassing/hilarious moment where I actually threw the bowling ball BACKWARDS (yes, towards the people not the pins) which almost hit Will in the head because I was laughing so hard
  • Getting the high score in Photo Hunt while waiting on lunch! Total success.
  • Visiting the Wilson's old beach house in Nags Head
  • Jon running, jumping off the Dunes, and rolling halfway down instead of landing (picture it...hilarious)
  • A delicious dinner at Blue Point with my Godmother and her husband
  • And- as expected- a night full of laughter at Inn Like Flynn...which included a "man cave" (pool, darts, and cassette tapes) for the guys while Cetta and I gossiped 

Cetta and I after jumping off the Dunes

Cetta and Weem

I would also love to be able to write a paragraph here about how Concetta and I schooled the guys at Minute to Win It but....since it was Jon's first time with the group and Will had an injured shoulder...we tried to go easy on them. Good girlfriends let their boyfriends win....right??? 

After our action packed Saturday, we were ready for a lazy Sunday. This of course meant we did not get out of our pajamas until 2pm and were guaranteed to look about as good as when Britney lost it and shaved her head. Regardless, we all Concetta and I, had the perfect Sunday morning/afternoon!  Chicken BBQ and Father of the Bride (Part I and II!)? What more could two girls want? As Concetta and I sat in utopia on the couch, Jon packed the car and prepared for our journey back to Richmond. We then reluctantly said our goodbyes (which included Concetta running and jumping on Jon) and headed down the road.

I was sad the weekend was over and my best friend was no longer in sight so, to cheer me up, Jon treated me to the romantic experience of visiting The Border Station on the way home. I know, I am a lucky girl. He was positive this was a must-see and I was cautiously optimistic about what was in store. For those of you who are unfamiliar The Border Station, it is the only gas station I have ever visited where you can buy fireworks, college flags, cigars, raw meat, snacks, collectibles, $3 t-shirts, and about 100 other random gifts - all at once. It was the perfect Price is Right pricing game waiting to happen. One 1/2 diet coke, 1/2 root beer and a "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" trivia book later, we were on our way home from an incredible weekend.

Now, after only one weekend together, I am pretty confident Jon will be the one saying "my best friend, Concetta."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

As I previously mentioned, last weekend was a whirlwind.

When I arrived in Fairfax I was greeted by my long lost little sister (from DG), Marie. Since Jon was at work, she decided to take on the daunting task of entertaining me until he got home...and man was she good at it! :) As we talked about everything under the sun, I simultaneously used her as my personal stylist to help determine my look for dinner that night.

A couple miles (and over an hour) later, Jon walked through the door. I finished curling my hair as we debated which part of Northern Virginia we would venture to for dinner. I love Old Town Alexandria, LOVE it, and he knew off we went! To me Old Town is the perfect example of an extremely classy city which somehow appeals to both old and younger generations of people. Sure, you may not find the hippest bar nestled on the corner of King Street, but there is hardly a more beautiful place to escape the hustle and bustle of DC. And of course: what could make me happier than year round Christmas lights??

King Street in Old Town
The only requirement we had for dinner was a seafood restaurant, so we headed to The Warehouse Bar and Grill. The food was absolutely delicious, wine was outstanding, and I guess the company was pretty good as well. When we finished our meal we walked down to the waterfront to take in the beautiful views and chilly wind gusts, as I worked on convincing Jon to make the drive to Georgetown for a few drinks at my favorite bar in DC:  Mr. Smiths

Shelby and I stumbled upon Mr. Smiths almost a year ago, when I was interviewing for my job, and instantly fell in love with it. When you first walk in the bar seems like nothing out of the ordinary - until you hear the music - not only is it a piano bar, but it is the best piano bar I have ever been to. So again off he and I went to sing the night away. Perfect night in my mind. 

(**To be fair, we did go watch the Caps game Saturday morning to make up for the Jessica-centric Friday night (although, I will admit there was a little, ok a lot, of hesitation on my part.))

Saturday afternoon I headed back down to Hampton for Christie's birthday. At dinner Mom, Dad and Christie became fascinated by what Cetta and I had planned for this upcoming weekend. We are going to Duck, NC with Jon and Will,  and are obviously going to spend the whole weekend impressing them with our incredible gaming skills. What better way to do this than with our own game of Minute to Win It? 

A few glasses of wine later, we finally convinced our Moms to play a couple trial rounds with us.  Concetta and I headed to Food Lion to get all the essentials: tissue boxes, ping pong balls, duck tape, straws, M&Ms, water bottles, and (of course) more wine. We had narrowed our practice round to four games: Junk in the Trunk, Elephant Walk, Hanky Panky, and our own version of an M&M game.

Since I am the epitome of a coordinated, graceful individual you can imagine how me and my knock-knees looked playing some of these games. Black Swan, here I come. We couldn't have possibly chosen four better ways to look extremely attractive.

I do not think I have laughed harder than I did that night, I mean can you picture your mom doing the Elephant Walk? Hilarious. (Check back for pictures later.)

I can't wait to see how the real competition goes this weekend: brace yourself Concetta, I've been practicing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day

When we were younger my dad used to run up to our front door, place two boxes of chocolate on the porch, ring the doorbell, and enter the house again without us knowing. My sister and I would then sprint to the door, swing it open, pick up the gift, and run around the front yard frantically searching for our yearly secret admirers. Needless to say, we never felt a shortage of love on Valentines Day, or any other day for that matter.

Ever since the doorbell ringing, our family has somehow made Valentines Day a little more than the day your boyfriend feels obligated to buy you flowers or jewelry (even though that is always nice too!).

Since I knew Dad would not be able to ring Katie's dorm door bell and leave chocolates this year, I figured the least I could do was leave her a surprise in her mail box. (After all, I am a real person now!) After lots of searching I found the perfect gift...a set of hand decorated cookies. Sure they were simple but they would hopefully make her feel a special and loved, the same way those 5 dollar boxes of chocolate did when we were younger. Plus, who doesn't love a surprise??

Katie's Cookies!

Now, don't get me wrong, I think the whole romance aspect of Valentines Day is wonderful too. What other day are you going to convince your boyfriend (without any complaints) to turn off the sports game and put down a beer, in return for a fancy dinner and wine? Or have him magically turn into quite the romantic for 24 hours, without catching any grief from his friends?

So...To all my girlfriends: enjoy your romance filled (or anti-Valentine) Monday. To my family: I love you with all my heart. And to the guys: thanks for going along with it :)

Happy Valentines Day!!!! <3

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Friday!

I admit I had a little trouble getting motivation this morning. After all, who likes going to a work on a Friday? I certainly don't, and I am pretty sure even Bill Gates feels the same way.  After rolling out of bed, hoping in the shower, and getting ready, I finally convinced myself it was time to go. Begrudgingly, I headed out the door.

When I finally reached my car, I was shocked to find a paper bag on my windshield. The bag read: "To: Jessica Happy Friday! <3 God" and inside was a circe (*a word my family has always used for a random/"just thinking about you" gift) from Elyse! It was such a nice surprise and it made the fast approaching Friday workday just a little bit easier to stomach.

Before I got a visit from God this morning, I got an incredibly exciting phone call around 10:30 last night.

At first I was a little worried when I saw Emily calling because I had already talked to her a couple hours before. After a quick "HI!", those four telltale words came out of her mouth: "I have some news!". I am pretty sure the only words I said from that point on were "oh my God, ohmygod! OH-MY-GOD! and of course, CONGRATULATIONS!" She and David are engaged!!!!!!!

I cannot express in words how happy I am for them. As I have said many times, in many posts, I have been blessed with some of the most incredible friends in the world and David and Emily are certainly among the finest examples of that (even if David did start the Messy Jessie trend). :) There is no doubt in my mind that they will spend the rest of their lives making each other the two happiest people in the world (unless Emily wants more cats...haha). Seriously though, they are absolutely perfect and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them. <3

So while it is now a happy Friday for me, I know it is an even happier one for the newly engaged couple. Congratulations!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Cities...And Seven Birthdays

For someone who doesn't enjoy driving, I am certainly doing a lot of it this weekend. Tomorrow I will begin my journey by heading to Northern Virginia to get a taste of the higher cost of living and traffic I decided to forgo by moving to Richmond. Don't get me wrong I have always loved DC, but I think I continue love it so much because I do not live there.

My mom spent her twenties living the ideal city life in Northern Virginia, while consistently accomplishing every career goal she had along the way. "No grass, no kids" was her mindset until (of course) she met my dad. Once he wooed her, she packed her bags and headed to Hampton, Virginia for grass AND kids. This weekend I'd like to think I am reliving the trip that took her a couple years to make, all in two days. :)

After a quick overnight stay in nova I will head back down to Newport News in order to celebrate Mrs. Christie (Concetta's Mom)'s birthday. Concetta is coming in town for the occasion and I am looking forward to our much needed girls night out. I have no doubt that the night will be filled with ridiculous stories and tons of laughter...probably at one of our expenses.

With the impending celebration in mind, I have noticed that there are a large abundance of birthdays in February: Aunt Marsha, Dad, Megan, Christie, David, Emily, many reason's to celebrate!

I love birthdays.  LOVE them. After all, your birthday is one day you can forget about every stressful detail of life and (hopefully) completely enjoy the day. BUT, since I will probably not get to write a post on every single one of their birthdays I would like to take this time to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to them all. Each one of you, in your own way, has made my life ten times better and I am so very lucky because of that!

And, since today is actually Christie and David's birthday...a very special shout-out to them!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dad, Pescados, and Heaven...Oh My!

Today is my Dad's birthday, I know what you are all thinking...and you're right...I did call the NFL commissioner and arrange for the Super Bowl to be played today just for my football loving dad! How great, right?

Dad is the epitome of a wonderful father...he writes us poems or makes us card on our birthdays, loves Christmas as much as I do, and (like my mom) has been a a great source for my sister and I to look up to both in our personal and professional lives. Each of our parents has supported us in endeavor and I love them for it more and more every day.

So... Happy Birthday, Dad!!!! And happy football watching, world!! (you're welcome) :)

On another note, even though I am a terrible chef, I think am very good at discerning good restaurants from bad ones. I have a large disliking for most chain restaurants and believe I can tell a big difference in fresh food (probably because I eat so many SmartOnes).

One of the reasons I love Richmond is because of all of the hole in the wall, family-owned restaurants. Elyse and I frequent Joe's Inn for Greek Salads and splurge on the delicious meals at Accacia. I've been to Can-Can brunch on a lazy Sunday, and hit the most talked about spots with my roommate Julie. If I was not so picky I would consider become a food critic...

Anyways, on Thursday night Shelby was Downtown and we wanted to try something new. I had heard good things at work about Pescados, so I convinced her to go there. When we pulled up I was almost positive Shelby was going to make us turn around. The restaurant is off the beaten track, compared to other restaurants in the area, located between a number of houses and dark street lamps. Despite to the dark exterior, the interior is something straight from the Bahamas - very colorful and Rastafarian! Very unassuming in my mind. Once we sat down we ordered a glass of wine and took a look at the primarily seafood menu. We ended up having the BEST meal I have had in Richmond to date. Shel had Salmon with Spaghetti Squash while I chose Scallops with a pomegranate reduction....they were both de-licious! The restaurant seems to take normal ingredients and add a Caribbean twist of perfection! Obviously, I will be going back asap.

If that is not convincing enough, check out the menu their website:

And a final, more serious, topic:

I am not usually one to push/talk about/ focus on religion. I am a firm believer in people have very valid reasons for the way the feel, and whether or not their life involves some sort of religion is up to them.

With that said - I just finished reading a really incredible book. I honestly purchased it on my Nook because, in between browsing for Marie Claire and Water for Elephants, the title caught my eye. After reading the description, I figured it was worth $9 to feed my curiosity. I did not think that those $9 dollars would instead be spend for, an even more beneficial, piece of mind.

The book is called Heaven is for Real. It is a true story about a four year old boy who has a near-death experience and claims to have been to Heaven. I use the word "claims" because obviously there is no way to completely prove this, and I admit I was very skeptical. However, after reading the book I believe the proof is in the details. I highly recommend this to anyone who has any interest in the topic:

You can read an expert and more about it here:

Happy Birthday Dad and Super Bowl Day!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hokie Pokie

So...I know, I am slacking. BUT I had such a wonderful weekend last weekend that I was busy telling everyone about it and running out of time to blog before my real-person bedtime. Obviously I want to tell all of you about it as well, so here it goes:

This past weekend a large group of us packed our bags and headed to Blacksburg for Reavis' birthday. It was my first time back since we graduated and I, for one, do not think the (much needed) reunion could have been any better. I think the pictures do a much better job of explaining the weekend than I do, but I do have to say weekends like this remind you why you love college.

Even though I have proven my body can no longer handle the "game-day" mentality, I did remember why I love my friends so much. :) We not only managed to get the Sharkey's jukebox shut down because of our inappropriate song selection before 5PM, but also spent the whole weekend laughing, playing numerous games, and celebrating everything we possibly could: Reavis' birthday, Ryan and Gina's engagement, Brandy getting into Grad School, etc.

The weekend, of course, went by far too quickly. It seems that just as soon as I got there, I was packing my bags to leave. I made a stop to see Mollie before leaving Blacksburg, and then headed to Roanoke College to meet my sister for a quick tour and early dinner.

While there are a wide-array of nice restaurants in Roanoke, Katie already knew where we were going to end up. We had to go to my favorite fast food place. Anyone who has taken a trip down South with me already knows what this is because they have had to stop there also (even if it is 10 miles out of the way...), but for those of you who don't -  let me introduce you to Zaxbys!

Zaxby's is quite the treat  for me because, prior to a new Williamsburg location,  the only two in Virginia were in Roanoke and Salem. Even though almost everyone makes fun of me for getting a "Grilled Chicken Zalad (salad)" at a restaurant specializing in fried chicken and french fries, I am pretty sure I am always going to loveeee this place.

 All in all I have to say this was absolutely one of the best weekends in a while, so Happy (now-late) Birthday Reavis!!! And to all my friends who made the trip, I hope we get to do that a million more times. Love you all  <3