Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Burger, Tap & Shake - Foggy Bottom

Everyone has heard about D.C.'s obsession with cupcakes. What many are missing, however, is D.C.'s burger craze. Face it: on any given Friday, after a long week of work, too much time on the Metro or the Beltway, and not enough real food, most of us find a burger, shake, and fries too tempting to resist.

So after a long week, two friends and I set out in search of Burger, Tap & Shake in Foggy Bottom. 
  • Location - The close proximity to George Washington University means that college students fill the restaurant, children were definitely present and welcome and young professionals won't feel as if they're reverting to freshman late-night IHOP visits.
  • Parking -  Metro-accessible. Parking can be tricky in Foggy Bottom on a Friday night, but it's definitely available if one is willing to walk a couple of blocks.
  • Pricing  - A little pricey if you really just want a burger, shake, and fries, but reasonable for a food "experience". 
  • Staff  - Friendly, fast, and helpful. 
  • Food - Deliciously satisfactory. The burgers were generous and juicy, the buns were soft and fresh, and the shakes were inexcusably decadent. My only complaint is that the burgers are cooked to medium by default. The burgers were a little on the rare side for several of us, so if you're picky about how your meat is cooked, remember to say something.
If you haven't experienced a D.C. burger yet, you're legitimately missing out. Make plans to visit Burger, Tap & Shake this week. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Inspiration

My apologies to all of you who received the posts in error this morning! Several drafts went public by mistake....mea culpa.

Creative Commons License: "Books" by shutterhacks on Flickr.

"The vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Friday Linkage

After being granted a tantalizing taste of spring, the D.C. metro area has again been blasted with chilly weather. (I know I shouldn't complain and that 45 degrees is hardly brutal, but I am ready for some consistent sunshine and warmth by this time of year.)

It's not really Friday anymore, but here are some links for your weekend browsing.

Creative Commons: "Coffee for One"  © 2010 J. Ronald Lee on Flickr.

Tim Challies has made some beautiful desktop wallpapers available.

The Quest for Me on Humane Pursuits raises some thought-provoking questions on the purpose of community, the nature of our culture's craze with self-development, and my generation's obsessive avoidance of anything resembling commitment.

Christianity Today published an article that provided a unique perspective on Lent.

For those interested in breaking free of the traditional cubicle career, Leaving Work Behind is an interesting blog that contains a variety of rich resources.

Finally, my sister shared the beautiful Wayfare Magazine with me. I can't wait to explore it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reflections on Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

There is nothing particularly practical about Lent. 40 days spent purposefully suffering a minor inconvenience or small self-denial seems silly at best.

But then, there's nothing practical about giving instead of taking or in serving instead of demanding. There's no logical reason behind why humility breaks pride, why weakness breeds strength, or why death brings life. 

Miracles are something out of the ordinary, impractical, illogical . . . and yet, real and necessary. And part of Ash Wednesday is remembering the mystery of salvation.

Creative Commons License: "Lots of Blossoms" by aussiegall on Flickr

Of course, the crux of Christianity rests on the idea that logic doesn't always trump and that the visible doesn't always triumph. At the heart of Christianity lies the idea that something very real - though utterly invisible - happens during baptism or communion or fasting. Christianity insists that the physical not only represents, but truly, deeply affects the spiritual and emotional and invisible.

So we commit to giving something up for Lent, holding on to the idea that a gesture of humility will soften our hard hearts.

Uncomfortably, though,  we realize how paltry any self-denial looks when weighed against our guilt, how ineffective are our attempts to achieve our own repentance, how pathetic our penance.

But then, of course, that is what Easter is about, after all. Insurmountable debt paid in full. An irreconcilable gap bridged. Incurable guilt dissolved. And all this despite our inability to help ourselves.

Lent is a reminder of our need for Easter as penance is a reminder of our need for forgiveness and effort a reminder of our need for the gift of grace. The morning can only come after darkness; forgiveness can only come after confession; the rejoicing of Easter Sunday and the ironic gift of the Cross can only come after we acknowledge our failures and our inability to save ourselves.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Barre 3 - Georgetown

I am not normally easily won over by gyms, studios, or anything remotely related to working out in a public setting. Why would I work out in the light of day under the scrutiny of total strangers when I could work out under cover of darkness in the complete seclusion of my own living room?

But when I heard about Barre3 from a co-worker, I was curious. A studio that combined yoga, pilates, and ballet? Maybe this was worth trying. So one Saturday morning I proceeded to Georgetown.

  • Location  - Beautiful. Located in the center of Georgetown, the studio was clean, comfortable, and tastefully designed with a lot of rock and wood elements and a fireplace. 
  • Parking - As promised, it was available in plenty. During a busier time of day than 10:00 on Saturday morning, parking under the bridge is probably the best option.
  • Pricing - This seems very reasonable. My favorite part about Barre 3 - Georgetown's pricing plans? The option to purchase a few classes at a time and then use them at my leisure. This allows me to buy classes at a discounted rate, but without having to commit to a regular membership.
  • Staff - Lovely. All of them were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. As far as I can tell, each instructor designs her own class, so one might emphasize yoga while another might incorporate more ballet. Even if the first one doesn't quite suit your taste, it's probably worth your while to try a few and see if you enjoy the classes of one instructor in particular. I love the ballet aspect and highly recommend Sarah Milligan. 
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Barre3 - Georgetown and will definitely be returning soon.

*Please note that this is not a paid review.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Linkage

Happy Friday! Here are some links for your weekend browsing:

750 Words is an interesting site built on a genius idea.

I need to pin this prayer somewhere where I can see it regularly.

Creative Commons License: "True" by Joel Olives on Flickr

I thoroughly enjoy Lists of Note but this list of Henry Miller's 11 Commandments gives particularly wise advice.

Mancredible had a clear and helpful article about the basics of investing.

Here's some eye candy for bibliophiles.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Five Things You Could Do Today for Someone Else

1. Buy a co-worker coffee.

2. Write a note to someone you appreciate.

3. Bake cookies and give them to a neighbor.

4. Write a check to a charity to which you have been intending to donate.

5. Thank someone in your workplace for something specific.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nineteen Tips: A Valentine's Day Tribute

Happy Valentine's Day! Have you had enough yet of pink and red, chocolate, flowers, sickening pretension, socially imposed guilt, and relationship angst? Of course not. It's early in the day.

I actually enjoy this holiday, mostly because I'm desperately addicted to those weird candy hearts. I also feel like a holiday devoted entirely to love gives us all a great opportunity to think about, well, love. 

But while the gooey, sticky, heart-and-flowers kind of love gets the spotlight on this day, I think Valentine's Day offers a prime opportunity to learn a little bit about real love (you know, the married, committed, sacrificial, I Corinthians 13, day-in-day-out, Hollywood-forgot-about-this-part kind).

I thoroughly enjoy cornering my married friends and gleaning advice on relationships from them. I used this post as an excuse to fully abuse this privilege. I asked over a dozen married friends and family members to offer insight and advice for real relationships. Below are their responses. 

Some of the responses are from women and some are from men. Some of these people have only been married for a number of months. Some of been married for decades. All of them were generous enough to share some of their wisdom and experience with me and with you.

  1. Be willing to be vulnerable. Love the whole person, not just the good things. Express your love and appreciation daily.
  2. Just say it, even when you can't think of how to phrase it. It's better to talk about it than stew over it.
  3. If you have something that needs to be talked about, do it in the morning when you are both fresh from the nights rest. And take the time to pray together every day.
  4. Laugh a lot . . . at yourself and together.
  5. Never go to bed angry. You may not completely resolve the issue, but discuss it enough so that neither of you is angry anymore.
  6. Stay steady through the ups and downs, always sharing thoughts and feelings. Be perceptive to the others person's needs, because they are most often different from yours.
  7. Buy flowers at the right time. Don't just listen; give feedback, too. 
  8. Don't use "talk it out" as an excuse to air grievances that could easily have been forgiven
  9. "Constructive criticism" is not your job.
  10. Respect, civility, kindness, consideration - all will carry you much further than being in love. 
  11. Don't argue about the small stuff . . . and 99% of it is small stuff.
  12. As Ellen Goodman said, "We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck.  But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.  The understanding that although you’re no bargain, you love and you are loved. Anyway."
  13. Choose to think the best of your spouse in any given situation. You get to choose!
  14. "Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?"
  15. Pick the right girl and you're all set. Be a good companion to yourself, and you'll be a good companion for someone else. In short, be content, and do something in your spare time that not only is enjoyable, but worth doing.
  16. Live with gratitude. Your partner will not be perfect, and you aren't either. Thank your spouse profusely for any special attentions he/she offers you, and don't allow yourself to dwell on your spouse's faults.
  17. Learn laundry language.
  18. Marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to his children, a rich blessing.  It is also the meeting of two minds, personalities, and hearts . . . beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It is somewhat akin to nuclear fusion.
  19. The best advice comes straight from Dusty Springfield:   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Measuring Time

Time is a rare and valuable commodity in most of our lives. There's never enough of it. I am constantly learning how to better manage my time, how to serve better with it, how to be a better steward of it, and how to make every minute I have count for as much as it can (on both an esoteric level and a very practical level).

Here are a few things I do to make the most of my time:

Get up early. I've done this pretty consistently since college. I'm not a "morning person" and it isn't always fun. I like my pillow just fine when it's dark and cold and early. But I learned that 15 or 30 extra minutes early in the morning pay enormous dividends. 

I've been able to accomplish things early in the morning that would never find their way into later hours in the day. During college, I could do significant studying early in the morning. Now, I use that time to work out, read, and clean. Getting up early means I can take a lunch to work, so it even saves me money.

Just do. At the risk of being cliche, the goals you want to accomplish are not going to happen by themselves while you click through recently posted albums on Facebook. If you have set a goal to read a book or practice an instrument, just do it. Time drains like social media and cell-phones should be ignored until goals happen.

Make small amounts of time count. This is related to the first two points For the last few months, I've made a goal of spending 15 minutes every morning and evening reading. The morning reading normally consists of some kind of Christian living or devotional book, while I use the evening reading time for whatever else I am reading.

15 minutes isn't a huge amount of time, but with it, I can fit in anywhere between 15 and 40 pages of reading a day, allowing me to consistently move through quite a few books at a reasonable pace. This concept of using a small, dedicated period of time could be applied to a number of different activities.

Multi-task. Multi-tasking is not always a great answer, but turning on a podcast while running, listening to a book on tape during your commute, and cleaning the microwave while you wait for your dinner to cook can be productive ways to utilize otherwise wasted pockets of time.

Prioritize. Make a list of the five most important things in your life. Then make another list of five things that are less important but for which you still want to make time. Place the "top ten" list somewhere visible. There is not an endless supply of time. Making time for these ten things means that, at some point, time is not going to be available for something or someone else. Accepting this reality will save endless frustration.

How do you make time for your priorities? What are time management secrets or tricks that you have found valuable?