Friday, August 31, 2012

Richmond Rave: Cafe Rustica

Today I want to share one of my favorite little hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Richmond:

Cafe Rustica 
Cafe Rustica
I know it doesn't look like much, but let me assure you - the food at Cafe Rustica is fabulous.

For 2 or 3 whole years, I drove past Cafe Rustica every single day and never even knew it was there. There is nothing overt on the exterior that signals "awesome restaurant located here." I found out about Rustica through my dear Work Wife, who took me there for my birthday in 2009. When she parked I remember saying, "Uh... there is a restaurant on this block??"

Yes, indeed Kathryn. Looks can be deceiving.

Rustica really is a tiny hole in the wall kind of place... emphasis on the "RUSTIC"

You won't find gleaming wood booths or a polished marble bar at Rustica. But for me, that is what makes it such a great place. It feels comfy, lived in, and familiar. Adding to this cozy feeling is the fact that the place is pretty darn tiny - and quickly fills up during lunch hour. If I had to guess, they can accomodate 24 at tables and booth and an additional 8 at the bar.

Being a planny plannerston, I always arrange to meet my lunch date at 11:45 to ensure a table.

This past Monday I was in need of a pick me up to start off my week, so I asked my former co-worker and now good friend Gail if she'd like to join me for lunch at Rustica. She immediately agreed (she never turns down Rustica, which is just one of the reasons I love her), so off we went.

The daily menu is limited, but there are always great specials and the prices can't be beat. The house salad, which is gigantic, is only $5. Pair that with a cup of soup du jour for $3 and you've got yourself a fresh delicious lunch for $8.

The most expensive item on the lunch menu is Insalata di Pesce (pan roasted salmon over spinach, bacon, & red onions tossed in a feta & herb vinaigrette) for $12. One of these days I'm going to try it because it sounds amazing.

On Monday, however, I went with my stand by: the Salad "Ballerina molta piccola." It's a romaine based green salad with local apples, sugared walnuts, pulled roast chicken & gorgonzola vinaigrette. It is also gigantic and only costs $8.

I have never been a big fan of salads-as-a-meal. Generally I eat the salad and then during the afternoon I find myself starving. But not this salad. This salad is completely fulfilling. It is one of the few salads that I actually crave. Big time. The walnuts and the gorgonzola vinaigrette are my favorite parts.

It's served with two big pieces of the house-made garlic herb bread. Sometimes I resist the bread but honestly, not eating it seems like a crime because the stuff is so darn delicious.

Gail decided to try the special. I don't remember all the details but I know it was - salmon cakes over mesclun with some kind of divine sounding dressing.

This lovely concoction was just $9!

In the end our bill was under $20 for both of us (before tip).

Yep - Twenty. Dollars.

I am forever in-debted to Work Wife for introducing me to Rustica... I'm sure I never would have found it otherwise. Since that birthday lunch I have been back more times than I can count for a lunch and even managed to drag Husband there for dinner once (which was also wonderful).

Some of my other favorites from the menu are the Hummus Platter, the Rustic Skillet (if you feel like blowing your entire calorie allotment in one meal), Aosta Valley Panini, and Grilled Fromage (with a cup of soup for just $7!).

One neat thing that Rustica does is Sunday Supper - a 3 course set menu for $15. Each week of the month has a different supper:

1st week: Roast Chicken
2nd week: Pot Roast
3rd week: Cioppino
4th week: Salmon
5th week: Chef's Choice

I've always wanted to try it, but haven't made it yet.

I'll have to put it on my restaurant bucket list - and you should to!

The lowdown:
  • Don't let the appearance fool you - this place is the real deal
  • Satisfying portions and top notch food for a low low price (I'm not kidding)
  • Arrive just before noon to ensure a seat
  • Parking is available on the street, bring your quarters because there are meters
  • On that note, if you are going to split your bill, bring cash. Rustica will not split bills (the only tiny complaint I have against the place) between credit cards or otherwise
  • Not the fastest lunch spot on the planet, so not recommended if you're on a tight schedule
  • If you're so inclined, there is also a reasonably priced wine list with good by-the-glass selections

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liquid Motivation

This evening, I completed my vinyasa yoga class with a bottle of liquid motivation close at hand:

You see, during my lunch hour today I went on a little visit to River City Cellars in Carytown to obtain a pinot noir to accompany this evening's dinner of spicy sausage ravioli.

When I left work, I realized that I was going to need to take the bottle of wine in to yoga class with me because it was hot outside and I did not want to leave it in a hot car for 2 hours.

The wine, partially camouflaged in my brown paper bag (I say "partially" because said bag has a giant River City Cellars sticker on it), accompanied me to class. I set it next to my yoga bag and consequently could not take my mind off of it while I sweated it out through vinyasa after vinyasa.

When class was over, I was collecting my things when our instructor came over and said, "I saw that River City Cellars bag over there. Looks like you're going to have a good night!"

"It's my treat!" I replied as I basically bolted out of the door to get home to enjoy my well-earned glass.

Florida Trip Photo Journal

The view from our room in Key West

Key Lime Pie #1 demolished

Butterfly Conservatory

The whole point in going to Key West

Resident rooster holding court at one of the vendor stands

BFF and I with J. Seward Johnson's "Time for Fun"
based on Renoir's dancing couples series

Having some fun with the other Johnson statues around the art museum

Sunset at Mallory Square

Key Lime Pie #2 is history

Our bathroom at the resort in Palm Beach had a TV built into the mirror.
I was amazed.

Where I spent all day day on Monday

Ah yes... paradise.

And because this is a running blog... I insisted we stop
in Marathon to take this picture as we drove through the Keys

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Richmond Marathon Training - Week 7

Week 7 in the can (does anyone even say that anymore?)

4 runs for not 30 miles but 29.75 miles, .75 more than my training plan called for.

Even though it's tempting to take credit and say this was my first 30 mile week ever, I won't because it's not official. I should have just run an extra quarter mile on Saturday but it was all I could do to finish the 14.

Training highlights:
  • Longest run EVER completed on Saturday!
  • Two fun "surprise" runs with my running buddy Greg.
  • Continuing to suck it up and running outside when it's "hot" (keeping in mind that my definition of hot is anything above 80 degrees).
  • Making myself do 4 miles on the treadmill while on vacation in paradise when all I really wanted to do was go to the beach and drink a giant frozen margarita.
Training lowlights:
  • I had been planning to join a group run on Saturday morning for the long run, but I woke up at 4:30 am to pouring rain. As my fear of blisters is greater than my hate of the treadmill, I texted my friends to let them know I wouldn't be coming to the group run and instead socked out 14 long, tedious miles on the treadmill at the Y.
  • Some arch pain in both feet. I have ordered a pair of insoles prescribed by BFF Steve to see if they help.
Running the 14 on the treadmill made me feel kind of invincible... like a torture survivor or something.

This long run also came with a mental break through. As I was driving to the Y, I was trying to convince myself that it wouldn't be that terrible. Even when I was planning to do the group run, I was feeling intimidated by the distance. What if I crashed and burned? What if my ankle started to hurt? What if I had to WALK? (I dread having to walk... it makes me feel like a big failure.)

Eventually I convinced myself that I would be ok by using one of my favorite mind tricks. Whenever I feel nervous about a run or race, I just tell myself that it is just running. That's it. And if the run is longer than it has been before, it will only be a few more minutes. What is another mile when I've already successfully run 13? It's 9 measely more minutes. That I can run if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other like I always do.

I think this mind trick is the only way I'm going to be able to do this marathon because this evening I made a kind of scary realization as I was driving back from a visit with my parents in Hagerstown...

Running the marathon is going to take me as long as it takes to make the dreaded drive from Hagerstown to Richmond.

Holy. Crap.

But this week for the first time ever I also started thinking that 26.2 miles isn't that far (yes folks, it appears that I have officially lost my mind).

I'm just going to continue to live in that state of mind for now.

If all goes according to schedule, week 8 will be my first official 30 mile week. Bring it on.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Richmond Marathon Training - Week 6

This post is early because tomorrow at 6 am I am headed to Key West and I'm not running a step again until Monday!

Meadnwhile, I'm 1/3 of the way through my marathon training and I'm still alive!

3 runs for 17 miles (4 behind my goal of 21), one Slim in 6 workout video (never again).

Of course the first third of marathon training is also the easiest... so far I haven't had a "longest distance EVER" run, with my longest being a 12 miler last weekend.

Training highlights:
  • Going out of my comfort zone by working out on my lunch hour and inbetween work and meetings

Training lowlights:
  • A Slim in 6 video that totally kicked my a$$ and made my legs hurt for the next 3 days
  • A very busy week after work schedule and headed to Key West tomorrow (which actually is a good thing) means that I didn't hit my mileage goal for the first time in training
I'm trying not to let the fact that I didn't hit my mileage goal bother me. Not getting in 4 additional miles this week won't make or break my training as long as I get back in the saddle next week.

While in Florida I am determined to get at least one run in. Whether it will be on the beach or the resort treadmill is yet to be determined... but it will happen, probably on Monday.

I am also determined to stuff my face with as much Key Lime Pie as possible.

Image Source

And enjoy some serious QT with the other half of Team Wino.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fitting It All In

My unusual schedule this week is resulting in me cramming work outs into some interesting/never before tried spots.

A post-work appointment on Tuesday meant no yoga class for me but I really wanted to do some kind of work out. I opted to join my former co-workers at the Symphony, who have been doing fitness videos during their lunch break. I've never been a fan of fitness videos. When I was in grad school I bought a Tae-Bo video and then tried it once. The results were disastrous but I discovered some important things about myself:
  • I have no coordination, especially for quick moves that require arm and leg motion.
  • I feel like a complete idiot jumping around in my living room by myself.
  • Tae-bo was (and is) not for me.
But I was desperate to get a work out in during my allotted 60 minute lunch break on Tuesday, so off I went. We did one of the Slim in 6 videos. It reaffirmed that I still have no coordination, my upper body strength is pathetic, and that I hate work out videos.

Slim in 6 - more like Sore for 6
Also, please enjoy my sad drawing skills.
It's now Thursday and my hamstrings are still howling at me. Needless to say, as much I enjoyed the company of my buddies at the Symphony, I probably won't be joining them for Sore for 6 again. I just can't engage in a cross training activity that makes me hurt for days afterwards.

Last night (Wednesday), I daringly squeezed a 4 mile run into the hour that I had to kill in between work and a 6:15 pm work meeting. Daring because my legs still felt like jelly thanks to my friend Debbie up there and because I was going to go sweat up a storm and then put work clothes back on and attempt to be presentable for my first appearance in front of this particular group. Luckily things worked out ok. Strangely enough, the only time my legs weren't hurting was during my run and I must not have smelled too bad at the meeting because folks sat (voluntarily) on either side of me and I didn't see any weird faces.

My experience this week is making me a little bit nervous about when training becomes really serious next month. I see a lot more jamming-of-runs into weird places in my future.

But no more work out videos.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Richmond Marathon Training - Week 5

Week 5 is d-o-n-e.

4 runs for 25 miles (1 mile beyond what my training plan called for), 1 yoga class.

Training highlights:

  • A fabulous twelve mile run with Katie (aka Marathon Winer) that included the canal walk, flood wall, North Bank trail, Byrd Park, a stop by the new Chihuly exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and of course Monument Avenue. Unlike last weekend's 11 miler, this run felt great and renewed my faith in myself. When we were finished I really felt like I can do this ("this" being run a marathon).
The Chihuly installation at VMFA

  • A super fun Richmond Road Runner club race on Thursday night with Hot Mother Runner Marcey. The Moonlight 4 Miler was hot and extremely sweaty but another great confidence booster. A year ago I never would have run in those conditions and this time not only did I run, but I completed in 34 minutes - an 8:30 pace. Aside from having a running date with Marcey, the best part was the free ice cream that was handed out at the finish line.

HMR booking it to the finish 

Training lowlights:

  • Earning myself a nice big blister during last week's 11 miler, which then had to be coddled and bandaged for all of this week.

This week is a drop back week and it is a good thing because I'm leaving for a 4 day trip to Key West, Florida on Saturday morning on a 6 am flight. Combine that with 2 after-work appointments and my training week isn't looking good overall. I'm hoping to get in 3 runs including my scheduled 9 mile long run. 

I have been a little bit quiet this past week and don't have a lot of hope that I'll be able to be very active this week... but I'll try, especially given that I joined the grown up blog world this week by purchasing a domain name ( Now I have to do it justice and earn my figurative keep.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Richmond Marathon Training - Week 4

Week 4 in the bag.

4 runs for 23 miles, 1 yoga class, 2 rest days.

Can I ask what the heck I have to do to get that stupid smiley face to actually smile? Geesh.

This week's highlights:
  • Getting discharged from physical therapy on Thursday.
  • Running a 7 minute mile during a speed training session on Friday.
  • Meeting fellow blogger Katie (aka Marathon Winer) in Richmond today for the 11 miler. I don't know how I would've done it without her. It ranged from 75 to 85 degrees with 70-80% humidity for our run, even though we started at 7 am. If I had been on my own I know I wouldn't have fared as well. And I got to meet a pretty cool chick and make a new running buddy. Always a good thing.

This week's lowlights:
  • Serious abdominal cramping during the last mile of Wednesday's 6 mile treadmill run that had me doubled up for the rest of the night. Not cool. Also not sure what the culprit was.
  • My ankle hurt yesterday after the long run, though not nearly as bad as it has prevoiusly. I'm thinking that this whole "discharged" thing might have been a  bit premature... and I'm afraid that it's going to completely crap out of me midway through training.

On Saturday I also had kind of a freak out when it comes to this whole marathon thing. Husband and I were talking about the fall and looking at our calendar and it just dawned on me that I am going to have some serious high mileage long runs on weekends when we have a lot going on. The 11 miles I put in today completely wiped me out. I don't know how I'm going to do it... the thought of running more than 10 miles by myself is incredibly daunting, let alone figuring out how to do it in cities that I am unfamilar with or when I have a weekend of entertaining guests or attending a wedding to get through after said run.

The 11 miler yesterday was pretty difficult, which didn't boost my confidence either. I keep trying to tell myself that it was extremely warm and super super  humid and that it would have been hard for anyone. Basically, this weekend I have second guessed my ability to run a whole marathon for the first time. It's got me rattled.

Thankfully, Katie is going to be in Richmond through next Sunday so we are hopefully going to be able to do 12 together on Saturday morning. And (as of now anyway) the weather is supposed to improve by Saturday. If it was just less humid I think I would fare better... and get some confidence back. I hope.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lulu, I'm Over You

You all remember how I gave up Lululemon for Lent this year, right? In my entry I prophesied that the result of this 40 day abstinence would likely be a Starbucks-fueled Lululemon binge. I'm a bit late with my reporting and I hate to say it, but all of that money that I theoretically saved during my 40 days without Lululemon (or Starbucks) was flushed down the toilet and then some over the past few months.

But recently, something strange and dare I say - miraculous - happened.

Have you ever been obsessed with something and then one day you wake up and you just suddenly decide you can't stand it anymore? One example for me is Campbell's Select Egg Noodle Chicken soup. From senior year of college through my second year of grad school, I ate that soup nearly every day for lunch. Every. Single. Day.

One day while at work, I went into the kitchen, plopped it in a bowl, and stuck it in the microwave just as I had 54852 times before. When it was finished I took it back to my desk, sat down, took one bite, and decided I was over it.

I dumped the soup that day and haven't had a bowl of it since.

This is kind of what happened with me and Lulu about 2 weeks ago. Since Easter my level of obsession had risen - absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know - to the point where I was waking up early on Tuesdays so I had time to check the "This Just In" email before I went to work (and order an item, of course). I was stalking the Lululemon Exchange Facebook group, checking for new items probably at least 20 times a day. I watched the Lululemon Addict blog like a hawk for hints on what new merchandise was coming our way. I even purchased items from eBay.

Then, suddenly, I decided I simply did not need any more Lulu. I had been feeling disillusioned for a week or so for no apparent reason and then one night when I was folding laundry (my Lulu-only load, of course), I went to put the items into the under-the-bed rubbermaid devoted to my running clothes and noticed that I was having trouble fitting it all in. I realized that maybe I had gone too far with my purchasing over the past few months. Maybe my disillusionment was really subconscious guilt.

I thought it would be a good exercise to lay out all of the items I had purchased so that I could see the depth of my ridiculous addiction and therefore seal my disillusionment with the bitter balm of self-shaming.

It worked.

My shame.
12 tops, 3 pairs of shorts, and 2 pairs of crops. In a matter of 4 months.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I then decided to calculate how much money I had blown on this little addiction. I won't tell you exactly how much it was, because it is downright embarrassing. But here's an idea of what I could have purchased instead:
  • 5 pairs of Brooks PureCadence
  • 169 Tall Caramel Macchiatos
  • 3 nights in a Luxury Red Room at the Paris Las Vegas resort
  • An iPad
  • 22 pairs of my favorite jeans
  • A really nice dinner for the entire family (Jason, me, our parents and siblings) with everyone ordering whatever they want
  • A generous fiscal year end gift to one of my favorite local non-profits
  • A pair of good seats for at least 2 upcoming Redskins home games for Jason and me
  • Our entire gasoline bill (and then some!) for a month
  • Our entire grocery bill (and then some!) for a month
  • 33 sessions of physical therapy with my pal Steve
  • A bright new head of freshly dyed red hair every 6 weeks for a year
So, my friends, I can now safely say that my days of horrible, awful, SHAMEFUL conspicuous consumption with Lululemon are past. I may buy a piece every now and again, but the terrible binge that happened over the past 4 months will not be repeated.

I have somehow conquered the brainwashing.

Lulu, I'm over you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Resolution Check-In

Running - Goal: Run at least 500 miles this year; run at least 1 half marathon

Through July 31

January: 47 miles
February: 72 miles
March: 80 miles
April: 69.5 miles
May: 76 miles
June: 81 miles
July: 67 miles

Total for the year: 492.5 miles

July was a sad, low mileage month. This is because I decided to pretty much take a week off before officially beginning my marathon training plan. If only I hadn't been so lazy, I might have surpassed my resolution goal of 500 miles this month!

Reading - Goal: Read at least one book per month

January Books
Riggs, Ransom - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Bray, Libba - A Great and Terrible Beauty

February Books
Moran, Michelle - Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution

March Books
Massie, Robert K. - Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
Sussman, Ellen - French Lessons
Gilbert, Elizabeth - Committed: A Love Story

April Books
Clark, Colin - My Week with Marilyn
Morgenstern, Erin - The Night Circus

May Books
Raybourn, Deanna - Dark Road to Darjeeling
James, P. D. - Death Comes to Pemberley

June Books
Martin, George R.R. - A Song of Ice and Fire Book 3: A Storm of Swords
James, E.L. - 50 Shades of Gray (for the record, I hated this book)

July Books
Martin, George R.R. - A Song of Ice and Fire Book 4: A Feast for Crows
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Mantel, Hillary - Wolf Hall

Currently reading:  
Dunant, Sarah - The Birth of Venus

Movies (no resolution; just to keep track)
The Artist
Underworld: Awakening
The Hunger Games
Wrath of the Titans
The Avengers
Mirror Mirror
Men in Black 3 
Magic Mike
The Dark Knight Rises