Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whole30 Part 1

After my last post about the books I read, this should be no surprise. After hearing for years about friends’ success with this diet, learning more about nutrition, and reading It Starts With Food, we decided to give the Whole 30 diet a try. If you’ve read any other post on this blog, you know how much I love food. So I hope you’ll rejoice with me that today marks the 30th day of our Whole 30 diet! I know we’re not quite over, but at least the end is in sight. No more quickly scrolling past pretty desserts on Instagram. No more quick walks past food trucks. No more avoiding the pantry. No more planning what treats I want to eat a month out! If I learned anything during this diet, it’s that I love talking about my “misery” despite the fact I can easily find this trait annoying in other people! But really, I found it really helpful to have friends who could share their experience, so I wanted to share our experience for the first 30 days.

The basic premise if Whole30 is this: you take 30 days to get all the potentially negative things out of your system so you can evaluate how you feel when you are eating “clean” food; it then gives you a baseline to tell how different foods affect you. This mean no sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains, gluten or legumes. Sugar and alcohol get cut out because they can throw off hormone balance plus are never actually “good” for anyone. All of the other foods have properties that cause adverse reactions in some people. The detox part can take up to two weeks, but then the second two weeks you are supposed to experience your body functioning optimally. After the 30 days you reintroduce the foods you want every couple days so you can evaluate their impact in a way that pinpoints exactly what food is causing your symptom. If you are at all interested, you really really should read up on the website and the book written by the inventors of the diet, Dallas and Melissa Harwig. 

I’m glad we did it in January because everyone usually hunkers down a bit after the holidays. It would have been a lot harder during a month with a lot of social functions not to take part in the food, and the one party we planned to go to (before I remembered about the diet) got postponed due to snow. So we literally were in the house for a week straight. This probably says more about our lack of friends than the time of year, but at least we weren’t traveling in January, and since it’s a good time for new resolutions, we had a few friends doing Whole 30 with us, which helped. We definitely wouldn’t have wanted to schedule it over a month we were traveling (mostly because food is such a big part of the experience for us, not because it’s impossible to eat good on the road). 

I do feel a little ridiculous talking about a diet. For most people, dieting is associated with losing weight, and that wasn’t our goal. True, Jason has gained over 15 pounds since we got married, but that’s because he ate bachelor meals like “chips” for dinner and looked like he was auditioning as a castaway. Actually, Jason needed those 15 pounds and had to be really mindful to eat enough so he didn’t lost weight. Really, we did it to understand the relationship our body has with food – how does each food make us feel. 

Why we did it:

1. It’s not about losing weight – it’s about being healthy. While you may lose weight if you haven’t been eating great before, the point is to figure out what makes your body function best.

2. By eliminating snacking and sugars, you are learning about (and hopefully breaking) your emotional connections to food.

3. Cure symptoms – neither of us deal with anything major, but the book makes it sound like Whole30 is a magic bullet that will solve all your ailments. We deal with minor things like muscle pain, allergies, occasional stomach pains, etc. that I was hoping would go away. I have perpetually dry lips, and went to an acupuncturist who said that it was because I make my stomach work too hard (I think it was a nice way to tell me I eat too much). That’s a whole other story but I do think many of the systems in the body are connected, so thought it was worth a try.

4. Increased energy – this was one big result I had heard people like about this diet. They could pinpoint what foods zapped their energy and then know to avoid them.

5. The book convinced me – the first few chapters were about how for a typical person, even one who eats healthy sounding food, too many carbs and sugars create insulin resistance, which, builds leptin resistance, meaning your brain sends you body messages you are hungry when you are not, which leads to overeating, and, at the end of this spiral of doom, diabetes. Or something like that… I had to skip some of it because reading about when thing go wrong in the body makes me physically uncomfortable.

I really a lot of things about Whole30. Here are the main ones:

1. It’s scientific – the book had all sorts of background on why they authors came up with this. I loved that they addressed a lot of the misconceptions about food and nutrition in their book. Plus, the best part is, it’s like a controlled experiment with your body. It’s no longer wondering which of the 50 ingredients you ate that cause your stomach pain, because you are reintroducing each group one at a time so you know exactly what the culprit is.

2. You cannot cheat – because you are trying to cleanse your body of any potential irritants, it’s not like a diet where you can easily justify breaking the rules (ie: “I’ll just go over on calories today and make up for it tomorrow”). Nope, on Whole30, if you cheat, you ruin all the work you’ve done and if you are on day 2 or 20 you have to start over or the experiment doesn’t work.

3. You aren’t ever hungry – true, you basically an only eat meats and veggies and some fruit, but you can have as much of it as you want, and most of what we made was really good.

4. The authors don’t intend for you to eat that way forever. Diets that have you cut out certain foods forever don’t seem realistic at all.

Things I didn’t like:

1. Cost – while you technically can eat out with this diet, we found that it wasn’t relay worth it to us since a) we didn’t want to have to ask about every ingredient on the menu, and 2) we felt like we’d rather spend the money to eat out when we could experience all of what the restaurant had to offer. So by cutting out restaurants and alcohol, I was excited to save money in our budget.

What I did not factor in was the cost of eating so much meat. We’re not vegetarians, but meat is usually not the main course for us. We often have no-meat meals or meals with meat more as a side. I usually only plan half of our meals with meat. Without beans, rice, pasta, bread, it takes a lot more meat and veggies to get full. Plus, I usually buy cheap meats: chicken, ground beef and maybe some pork loin. But I get tired of the same foods pretty quickly, and because I thought we were going to be saving so much money by not eating out, bought more pricey meats: some seafood, brisket once, steak once, and even lamb (which actually was on sale for the same price as beef).

2. Time – I spent probably 2-3 hours the first week coming up with menus. You could really easily just pick one book or website that already has a 30 day meal plan and stick with it. I didn’t do that because I overcomplicated things. By the second week, I was back to the normal amount of time I spend meal-planning. I rotated back in our favorite Whole 30 meals, got the hang of making some of our normal meals whole 30 compliant, and the most helpful thing is that once I started pinning a few whole 30 recipes on Pinterest, other great recipes started showing up in my feed.

In terms of time for meal prep, it depends what you are used to. For some people the meals will take a lot more time to prep and cook because let’s be honest, cooking vegetables in a tasty way often takes time. (Sidenote: I once read that vegetables are one of the most frequent dishes ordered at restaurants for that very reason.) We don’t eat many pre-processed foods anyways, so I don’t think it took that much more time. It maybe took a little more time than normal since I tried to do two vegetables with every meal, but it wasn’t a significant amount. 

What actually took the most extra time besides meal planning was adding in meals for breakfast. I basically never cook breakfasts on weekdays (poor Jason - he used to eat breakfast until he married me), so the first few weeks of this diet I tried to make hash, frittatas, etc. ahead of time, but by the second two weeks we simplified our breakfasts to some nuts, hardboiled eggs, and a carrot.

3. Breakfast - That kind of brings me to the third thing I never really liked or got used to on this diet: eating breakfast before 10am. I am not a morning person, so forcing food in when I’m not hungry, much less awake, never is enjoyable. I did break their rule and usually had coffee first, as I always do, so that could be why my body was never that hungry on waking.

So… how did our 30 days go?

I still got tired and craved snacks around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The third week a blizzard hit, and we teleworked all week, so it was hard to tell if I felt better because of the diet or just because I was at home. During week 4, I got headaches every afternoon, so I think it means I am allergic to work outside of the house.

Cravings never really went away, but I feel like I did learn how much I eat out of habit or emotion. I got a flat tire. Spent two hours waiting at Costco. All I wanted when I got home was some kind of chocolatey treat. I wasn’t hungry for it but I realized how much I eat because I think I “deserve a treat” or just out of boredom. I’m hoping I can cut some of that out in the future.

The first two weeks I was so tired much earlier in the evening than I used to be, but then when I went to bed, I had a hard time falling asleep. I think I was more tired because without sugary food to snack on, or trying to stay awake to finish a glass of wine, my body was able to get its message across. However, my insomnia, I think, was because I started drinking kombucha in the evenings as a beer replacement, forgetting that black tea has caffeine. Once I limited the kombucha to day-time, I was fine.

I guess the good news and bad news is that I don’t feel any different. No aches went away, I haven’t notice an increase in energy, and everything seemed pretty much the same. I’m hoping this is because how we were eating before wasn’t all that bad, and I can just go back to cream in my coffee, and cookies before bed. I guess we’ll see since the next two weeks is the reintroduction period, when we’ll add one food group back in at a time – the final step in our experiment!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Year in Book Review

There's a setting in your Google profile to enter your age and gender. Of course I don't give that info out (I let the government leak my data through OPM hacks instead), but if you don't enter it, Google guesses based on your searches. It guessed I am a 60 year old woman. That is an accurate reflection of my mental age at least since my ideal New Year's Celebration is to share what books I read this year, and then hopefully go to bed early. Posting about which books I read has become a bit of a tradition for me, but after struggling to remember what I even read last year, I'm streamlining this year's post to one sentence about each book. (Given the few other posts I've had this year, this makes my life actually sound way more boring than the 60 year olds I know.)

Of course, there are a few things I don't count because I read with somewhat regularly every year: The Bible, Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, and the blog Housetweaking. (She posts practical house stuff and just enough of her personal life that it's fun to follow along. I can't take blogs that post a million perfect house pictures. I just get depressed and overwhelmed because I can't keep up - with the house or with reading so much.)

So I didn't finish all these books, but the books I didn’t finish, I at least got 50 pages in, so I definitely gave it the old “college try.” (Although, I probably only did 20% of the assigned reading in college, so that phrase means nothing.) I used to feel guilty about not finishing a book, as if I was breaking a rule, or hurting the author's feelings.  But, ironically enough, the book Essentialism that I didn't finish reading, helped me realize that I'm only hurting myself if I read things I don't enjoy.

I started a new role at work towards the beginning of the year that kind of put my brain on overdrive, which is part of the reason I was drawn to so many books on organization and thinking.  I kind of wish I'd read them sooner.  I kind of also wish I could remember more of what I read (part of my reason for doing these summaries).

And so, I give you the books of 2015:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo – Yes, it changed my life, or more accurately, my closet.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown (didn’t finish because too vague) – I liked the theory of only focusing on the essential goals at the moment, but I just didn’t think I could skip family obligations with the excuse that, “It’s not essential.” (I do think it would be more helpful if my job looked different.)

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, by Daniel Levitin – Probably my favorite book of the year and the reason I have become so dependent on my lists (I skipped the chapter on probability and statistics since I had multiple semesters of the topic - and still have the books to prove it – you should skip that chapter because it’s boring).

Think Like a Freak, by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – The third book in the Freakonomics series, it was the most entertaining book I read this year, but that’s really not saying much considering my list reads like a class syllabus.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (didn’t finish because too frenetic) – My mind jumps between topics like a pinball, but this classic book was just so scattered that I gave up, despite some witty and insightful quotes.

We are Not Ourselves: A Novel, by Matthew Thomas – While beautifully written, the melancholy ending was so drawn out, which is probably most like real life, which is probably why I don’t read fiction.

Human Croquet, by Kate Atkinson (didn’t finish because… just… so… slow) – My second attempt at fiction was even less successful, despite great things I’d heard about the author.

Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman – I know I don’t even have kids, but I got into the French vs. American culture, especially after trying to feed my picky nephew. (It’s all the "lessons" out of Bringing Up Bebe, which I now want to read.)

The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli – This is the perfect summary of The Organized Mind and Black Swan, plus, the only one on the list I bought all year after borrowing it from the library.

Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends, by Brian Voltaggio – I spent just as much time looking at this and trying recipes (good but complicated) as I spent actually reading most of the other books, so I think that counts for something.

Happiness of Pursuit: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us about the Good Life, by Shimon Edelman (didn’t finish because too scientific) – More like an anatomy and physiology lecture than like the sequel to a Will Smith movie.

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probability and Statistics on Everything You Do, by Kaiser Fung – Clearly the author is very smart, but as much as I love numbers, he took a painfully large number of pages to make sure his points were redundantly clear. (The entire last chapter was a summary of the entire book, when a bulleted list would have done nicely).

Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck – This book made me love Steinbeck almost as much as it made me want to just pick up and move, or at least go on a road trip.

The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extrovert Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PHD (didn’t finish because even government classes I’ve taken on employee-relations have been more beneficial) – The author put me off from the beginning by making it sound as if she had personally invented the idea that there are benefits to working with someone with the opposite personality, but her watered-down examples and vague principles only confirmed I’d rather waste my time in other ways.  (It was so bad I'm not even going to waste time linking a picture.)

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways, by Dallas Hartwig & Melissa Hartwig – I’m begrudgingly starting to think maybe my diet isn’t as good for me as I think it is, and am convinced to try the Whole30 diet in January.. starting tomorrow, of course.

Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (currently reading) – Not at all related to the Natalie Portman movie, this book about the how highly improbably events shape our behavior is the most entertaining of the neuro-psychology-related books I read this year, although it’s not exactly a page-turner, considering I have renewed it four times from the library and am still not done.

So there you have it. I'm not sure that I can recommend the entire list, unless you also want to live like a 60 year old woman.  Depending on your perspective, I am desperately in need of other book recommendations, so please feel free to share. I'll definitely need something to get my mind off all the food not allowed on this Whole30 diet!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Christmas Letter

We don't have kids, or even a dog, so I felt somewhat silly sending out a Christmas card this year since cute pictures of couples tend to trigger my gag reflex, but lucky for us, we aren't especially cute.  I did send a picture card, mostly because since we moved, I felt like I'd have to send a change of address card anyways, and I probably needed to send a picture for all the people who forgot who we were, so I may as well make it a Christmas card. 

I toyed around with printing my own, but Costco can do photocards cheaper than I can anyway (in case you are ever tempted to do the comparison yourself).  Costco does have a cool feature where you can create your own design and just upload the jpeg. I did this in attempt to make a design that was more my style, but really just wasted a ton of time, and ended up with off-center text and low resolution pictures, which ended up working out ok, since one of the pictures was blurry anyways it just made everything look blurry. The other problem, as my brother-in-law pointed out, is that at first glance, it looks like we are friends with 7 billion people and are literally sending our card "To the world. Love, Jason & Sarah".

Speaking of pictures, we literally only had ONE good picture of us from the whole year, but we used two since we wanted to include something that was indicative of our new house - the main event for us this year.  We had a semi-normal, albeit blurry, one of us from the lake near by.  I need to learn a new pose besides that awkward hand-on-the-stomach one.

In past years, I've had fun writing a letter, but this year felt like I didn't have the time, and frankly, you probably don't have the time to read it!  So this year I tried to summarize as simply as possible.  I'm sharing it here in case I should have sent one to you and didn't! (Let me know too! Or let me know if you have suggestions for our card next year!) Thanks for reading along this year!

Hello and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! I’ve been trying to focus on simplifying this year, so in that spirit, and in case our last Christmas letter was a bit too wordy, we have tabular summary of our year!

Much love,

Jason and Sarah

Our Life - 2015

Beginning of the year
End of the year
Sarah's parents
Moved into our own house
Bank Account
Some savings for house down payment
Drive to train station
Walk to train station
Jason's job
Same place as Sarah
New job!
Sarah's job
Same place as Jason
Same place as the beginning of the year (but in a new role!)
Jason's hair
Still… NA
Sarah's hair
Short and dark
Longer and greyer
Home Projects
Planned: so many
Done: one
Redeemer Church of Arlington
Covenant Life Church
Nieces & Nephews count

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

List of Unsolicited Advice

My niece on Jason's side turned 13 recently.  She is amazing, smart, and talented. I wish I had the confidence and ability to talk to anyone as easily as she does. She definitely doesn't need advice from me, but it got me thinking about advice I'd like to give my younger self. I don't know. Sentimentality turns me into an over-sharer I guess. It's not just advice for a 13 year old, and I'm not even going to pretend it's comprehensive.  Everyone is definitely allowed to roll their eyes at me and take this with more than a grain of salt, as even I realize I'll never actually be qualified to give life advice. 

1.  Use proper grammar.  I am not the best speller, so am a bit of a hypocritical grammar Nazi, but really, I just have so many emotions about the English language, education, and the state of society when I see such rampant disregard for the proper use of "your" versus "you're" and the like.  I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but friends, I plead with you, it is.  I have heard stories of people who do not get recommended for a job because of poor grammar.  Ok - off my grammar soap box.  I think I just shot myself in the foot and will probably have a typo in every single post from now on.

2.  If you are asking someone "When are you going to start dating/ get married/ have kids?" then I hope you are close enough to that person to be in said wedding.  Some people really would love to be in that next stage of life and aren't, so questions about it can be salt in the wound.  I'm finally realizing how guilty I am of asking insensitive questions and the silly part is that I often do so simply because I can't think of anything else to say.  It takes a little more brainpower, but here's to more creative topics of conversation.

3.  Be nice to people who are new or without friends.  Don't just not be mean.  I often wish I had been more friendly to less popular kids growing up instead of being so concerned that I'd miss out if I wasn't with the cool kids.  When it was my turn to be the "new girl," even just a short conversation with someone could turn into the highlight of the day.

4.  Mom is always right.  My mom still supported me when I didn't make the choices that she recommended, but I can't even tell you how many times I've looked back and wished I'd done the harder/ less popular/ less "fun" thing that she recommended. I'm grateful I can say that too, because I know not everyone can.

5.  Jewelry and a belt are all you need to make most outfits look put together, although I usually just do one piece when it's big.

6.  If you have to risk being either overdressed or underdressed, be overdressed.

7.  Say thank you to those whose job it is to help you - teachers, train conductors, waiters, etc. If nothing else, it can only help to have a friend if you are in a jam.

8.  You can pick your friends, but not your family.  This means be careful to pick good friends.  It also means that if you can have a close relationships with your family, it is something to prioritize and treasure. 

9.  Don't say to someone after they break up with their significant other anything along the lines of, "I never liked so-and-so anyways... He/she wasn't good for you..." Two reasons why: First, if you had legitimate concerns or reasons to dislike that person, it is your job as a friend to share those concerns in the most caring way possible, as soon as you can.  What if the relationship continues, and they get married?  You'll be too late. Second, if your concerns aren't actually legitimate, then saying negative things about someone is never helpful, and can really come back to bite you if they get back together.

10.  Time is so precious.  Don't waste it - yours or others'.  Don't let others waste your time who don't actually care about you.  Don't waste other people's time if you don't actually care about them.

11.  I know a lot of these aren't necessarily specific to being any age, much less thirteen. But maybe the thing I wish I'd realized most at that age is that there is a big, huge world out there! There are way more friends, places to live, colleges to go to, people to fall in love with or jobs to get than just what you know now! I sometimes look back now and realize what a narrow view of things I had at the time. I made choices based on the few experiences I'd had or others I knew had. It's hard to remember in the moment, but I wish I had been less concerned about the small worries of the moment, spent less effort on being liked.  I wish I had been more willing to go somewhere I didn't know anybody, and more open to deviations in my life plan. Those deviations are probably the only thing one can count on anyways. You don't know what you don't know, but I suppose that isn't just a curse for the young.

So that's my list. I didn't even have 13 things for 13 years old, and I'm sure some things would have been different if I had different life experiences.  Not to say I don't have more advice - want to know where the best cupcakes in DC are? Want to hear about coupons? Ways to get motor oil off carpet? Just call me Ann Landers - but that's it for now.  I'll probably have a new list when my niece turns 21.  Probably the top recommendation would be, "Don't make lists about life recommendation." :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DC vs Suburbs

It's been a year and a half since we moved out of our condo in DC to the suburbs of Maryland. We were in DC for three years and loved it, but moved in with my parents when Jason's job required some long term travel. So there we were, in the same house I spent my high school and college years, living in my old room.

The first few weeks after moving, with Jason gone, it was a little surreal to be driving the same routes in the same car as I did in my high school/ college days.  It was like a time warp had erased the eight years after college.  I always felt like I should be listening to Blink-182 or early 2000's rock since it felt like I had regressed back to those days. The changes all seemed hard, and it was disorienting to be back at home, yet living a life so different from last time I was there. It's amazing how fast we acclimated though, compared to how agonizing the first month seemed. Now the 15 minutes we have to spend in the car to get anywhere seem standard. The hour plus commute is part of normal life. And the quirks of being so close to family are far outweighed by the fun.

After we moved a few people asked if we missed DC (yes!), but when they asked why, I had a harder time answering. Less commuting time, for sure. Long commutes equal death according to some studies (ok, that's my paraphrase), but that not actually what I missed most. So I started thinking about the differences between the city and the suburbs, and what I actually missed.

I most miss the walkability. We lived in a spot in DC with great walking access to all sorts of stores, restaurants, the library, parks, and public transit. Even though driving to the grocery store takes the same ten minutes as it did to walk there, something about not driving made it seem so much easier. I will admit, I'm not really a good or patient driver, and burning calories instead of gas is so much more appealing to me. I get that not everyone likes so much walking or even can, like if you've got kids. But evening walks through Adams Morgan became a habit for us especially in summer. There was always something new to see: construction progress, people watching, scoping out the next date night spot. Walks through our current neighborhood aren't as dynamic, but the bridge over the creek behind my parent's house is actually very scenic, and we've traded our walks for chats on the back deck.

The walkability and plethora of so much packed in a few square miles really had this effect of shrinking my world. When everything is in biking distance, there's not much reason to go farther. We left the confines of the city pretty regularly to visit family, and for our church in Arlington, but man, even going to another quadrant of the city seemed like a trek. Like you may as well drive to Massachusetts. One time I suggested driving to the nearness pool (maybe a 20 minute ordeal once you account for parking), and Jason literally said, "If we have to drive, we may as well go to the beach." That's how much of a mental hump it was to get in the car - driving 20 minutes was equally as painful as driving three hours. I should have suggested driving to get lobster rolls because then maybe we would have gone to Maine.

Speaking of transportation, I brought my habit of honking liberally back to Maryland with me. I just feel like more of a jerk about it because it seems like I'm the only one honking when traffic rules are not obeyed. I actually feel like it would be easier to honk so much if we still had DC plates on the car cause then people could be all, "Oh, she's from DC. So of course she is impatient and in a hurry." If I honk with my mom in the car, she locks the doors because she thinks the person I honk at will attack me in a road rage. (She also locks the doors when driving by the prison off the highway in case a loose convict carjacks her at 60 mph.)

I miss the grocery options. Within a mile of our house were 2 Yes! Organic Markets, a Whole Foods, and two farmer's markets (during summer). The organic section at my current Giant is pretty measly in comparison - plus I can't walk there. I will say though, in the burbs, we have better access to Costco and ethnic (specifically Asian) grocery stores. They were in DC, but we never went. Without designated parking, I usually walked, and since the Asian grocery was far enough away that I had to pass two or three other grocery options on the way, going that far never made sense, especially when it meant carrying things back...remember what I said about our world "shrinking?" There's a good example. When I have to drive to anywhere in the burbs, the extra mile or two matters a lot less.

It's not really that I hate driving, I just hate traffic, bad drivers, and parking lots. (Have you been to the Costco parking lot on the weekend? Case in point!)

This is probably a tic mark against DC, but I never knew what drugs smelled like until living there. I think it was simply because I wasn't around so many people before, topped with a scoop of naïveté and friends who followed the rules, but there you have it. I suppose now at least I know what various shops in Colorado are peddling by the smell.

I miss being a mile from Rock Creek Park. Marathon training was a whole lot easier when you have miles and miles of trails through the woods, along the Potomac, and past scenic memorials. The funny thing is, we've done runs on the Maryland part of the same trail, but the 15 minute drive to get there is a huge mental hurdle. The other funny thing is, I only used it maybe once a month on average, but I liked the option. I think it is like the "healthy" options at McDonald's. Of course everyone gets the fries, but complains if the healthy option isn't there.

So now that I've made myself sound like an entitled yuppie, let me tell you what's been great about the suburbs. We can get packages delivered to our house. No more notes from Fed-Ex that they couldn't get into the building, fear of stolen packages, or returned items that we were never home to accept. We also don't need to walk two blocks to drop off out going mail.

Without a bunch of buildings crammed into each city block, I've been able to see sunsets better. Granted, I'm usually seeing them from the train or the car, so it could be the extra time spent just sitting, rather than the change of topography, that gives me the opportunity to see more sunsets. Either way, stopping to appreciate the beauty of nature is something I want to do more.

I suppose it will depend on your routine (ie: whether you have kids who meltdown at bedtime) as to which is better, but I have noticed that the busy time for dinner in suburbia is closer to 6, whereas in DC it was more like 7-8.  "Lucky" for us, we spend over two hours a day commuting, so when you also have to drive to the restaurant, we still don't make it until closer to 8 anyways, but now don't often have to worry about the dinner rush.

Another thing I've had to laugh about is that despite living in close proximity to dozens of people in our DC condo building, we only knew the name of one of our neighbors. I mean, we shared a wall with people with whom our most personal interaction was a half-hearted wave. I think the "unfriendliness" had less to do with population density and more due to a culture of mutually ignoring other people.  Everyone is busy, on their phones, already has friends, or - the biggest risk of befriending a neighbor- they might actually need something from you. It was quite a contrast when we moved back into my parents' house, where walking down the street makes you feel like Jesus on Palm Sunday. Seriously, there is one lady whose name I don't know because my sister and I have always called her "the waving lady." I have never seen anyone go that much out of her way to wave to passing cars.  Even other suburban friends would comment on how many people waved as they enter the neighborhood. Never got to be in a parade? It's pretty much the same as driving down my parent's street.

Of course there are obvious differences - more biking, politics, and crime in DC versus cheaper drinks more strip malls, and huge lawns in the 'burbs - but my list is more about the things that affect my day-to-day life that I appreciate in each place.

So now a year and a half later, I do still miss the city, and I do still get frustrated at all the driving, but the last year has given us a chance to figure out our long-ish term plan. The final advantage of the suburbs for us personally, is that we have family there.  Plus it is the only place with somewhat close to public transportation that we can afford more than 1000sq ft and that didn’t have schools that were still “in transition” for future consideration. So yup, that meant buying a house in the suburbs. In the very town my parents live now. We close in about two months. I have a lot of feelings about the new place, which definitely deserves its own post. But there you have it.  Goodbye to carrying crock pots on the metro, Presidential motorcades blocking traffic, and contradictory road signs.  Goodbye to night time bike rides on the Mall, to the restaurant where the waitress knows us as the couple that orders three entrees, and goodbye to the ability to spontaneously go to a Nat's game.  Hello chain restaurants, SUVS on paved roads, and giant parking lots.  Hello to being close enough to see family (well, at least half is better than none) on a whim, a garage to store bikes in, and outdoor space for a grill.  Cue Ben Folds - "Rockin' the Suburbs" - yeah, from 2001.