Christmas Vacay 2012: Ann Arbor

Last year when we got engaged, John and I decided to take a trip to Niagara on the Lake, ON. We decided that a short trip at the start of the holidays is our new preferred gift to each other, and so this year we went to Ann Arbor, MI. It was also a convenient place to stop on the way south to Bloomington for Christmas. This was our second trip to Ann Arbor, as we visited it for Music Theory Midwest last summer. Even after two trips, I could definitely spend another weekend there sometime. There are so many restaurants I still want to try.

For lunch, went to Seva, one of the vegetarian restaurants in town. Here's their TLT (tempeh, lettuc, tomato, with cheddar and guac) and steamed kale on the side. Everything there looks SO good. And apparently my aunt Becky is friends with their owner! Small world.

We spent some time wandering around in all the little stores downtown. I felt like we were acting very Canadian, as it was pretty windy, cold, and snowy, but John and I were so excited. "It's snowing! It looks like Christmas! This weather is fantastic!"

Bongs and Thongs, one of the charming Ann Arbor stores.

If we're close friends, then you're likely to receive a card from me from this stationary store, Rock Paper Scissors

John wanted to take an espresso break before we started tasting beer - obviously the real reason we selected Ann Arbor for vacation. We stopped in at Espresso Bar, whose espresso John raved about. I had some chamomile tea while we wrote a funny note to Sargibso. This place was one of several options for brunch that we considered. It was hard to choose, and I was thrilled with Cafe Zola below, but I could have awesome brunch there every day for a week without repeating a place. Ugh. 

Then it was time for the beer tasting to begin. Our first stop was Blue Tractor, a brewery and bbq place. 

We both agreed that Blue Tractor was the most consistently good beer we had. It also had a nice atmosphere and a good looking menu - I would definitely go back for dinner. You can read the list of beers on the photo below. I think my favorite was the Sudworth Bock, but I also liked the Bearded Pig Pilsner, which I think would be a great beer to have on hand at a party. One of the consistent characteristics that I generally liked was the crispness. Everything was very crisp, light, and had a nice finish.

The Wassail Ale was also really good and reminded me of the (Canadian) Great Lakes Winter Ale, with some nice warm spice. Neither of us liked the Mint Chocolate Stout, but I think that's because neither of us like chocolate and mint together. If you really like peppermint patties or those minty girl scout cookies, you would probably love this beer. I could tell it was a good beer, but really not for me. I also generally liked the Pitmaster Porter more than I expected (what is happening to me? I like dark beer now? I guess). 

The bar tender was impressed with my method of taking notes on a coaster.

We also stopped in at Ashley's, a bar with a ridiculous number of beers on tap and in bottles, not to mention a varied whiskey selection. This is a must-stop place for a beer lover. 

They gave us a pretty serious beer guide that started with info on various types of beers, and then page after page of available beers. 

I only ordered one beer there: Bourbon Barrel Wizard, from Short's in Bellaire, MI (no picture, so seasonal that they only show up in bars and maybe on site). This beer....where do I even start? It's like Kentucky Bourbon Ale, in that it's aged in bourbon barrels, but it's darker than that beer. The bourbon flavor is a lot stronger, too. Since it's such a strong beer (11% ABV), I just had the one. And I loved it. While we were there it made me think of that quote we learned in undergrad music history. I don't remember it exactly, but at some point, Schubert said something to the effect of, "But who can do anything after Beethoven?" That's how I would describe this beer. How could anything be as good as that? 
(It may have been the beer that made me led me to make such a comparison)

We also happened by a liquor store that sold these mini-Rogues. I didn't buy them, but look how cute! The Dogfish Heads next to them are regular sized beer bottles, just for scale. The Rogues would be like bombers for American Girl dolls.

Next stop: Jolly Pumpkin, where we ordered both the flight of 9 beers and a plate of cheese, olives, veggies, bread, etc. Perfect for that point in the day.

After visiting this brewery twice, my feeling is that the beer is somewhat inconsistent. Some of the beers I think are outstanding, but a lot of them are kind of meh. It's not about the sourness - the sour beers are generally my favorites there. I just don't think I'd go out of my way to buy them. The food, on the other hand, is amazing. I really want to stop in Ann Arbor sometime and eat dinner there on our way back from IN. Everything on their menu looks delicious and they have several vegetarian options.

More coaster notes.

In fact, I wish we'd eaten dinner at Jolly Pumpkin instead of at Sava (not to be confused with Seva). Sava was good but not great. The food was pretty good, and the restaurant had gorgeous decorations, but John felt his food didn't taste particularly fresh. Of course, it didn't help that I was pretty tired from walking around all day and drinking beer. 

Before hitting the road on Saturday, we worked out in the hotel gym and then went to Cafe Zola for brunch. Both John and I had savory crepes, a spinach and a mushroom crepe respectively. Their menu is pretty huge, with many things that caught my attention. That's fresh squeezed OJ to the right of my plate, and a basket of homemade breads just above it, with almond-hazelnut and herb butter. I would definitely make a point of going back to Cafe Zola.

After brunch we hit the road for Indiana where we're spending Christmas with my family. They have more snow than London, where we have none!  

Side note: I counted the walking around as a WALK IT OUT work out, and my run as a FIRST TIME, as it was my first run in Ann Arbor. That meant I got another GYMGO, my sixth! Only one more day of Gym Christmas 2012.


Gym Christmas Day 16

Gym Christmas Day 16!

Work Out: Iron Strength, plus some additional yoga stretches at the end. 

GYMGO: This was a GRAB BAG for me, which gave me my fifth GYMGO! I'm on a roll! These GYMGOS just keep coming. I hope to get at least 2 more by Dec. 24th. Only a few days left!

Thing I've eaten today: I plan on having another big salad for dinner. Some new friends (!) invited us over for informal beer tasting/board games/hang out time this evening, so these are some of the goodies we're bringing: chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered almonds, raspberries (not shown), and this Trafalgar Cognac-Aged Porter, from Oakville, ON. I've never had it before, so I'll taste it tonight and report back next time I blog.

In other news...

Today I handed in a new version of my dissertation proposal/chapter outline, which was the last thing I had to do before Real Vacation could start. And with that, I am officially done thinking critically until 2013!
Besides working out, I've also watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Since John has to grade papers with his supervisor for another couple of hours, the question is: should I watch it again with commentary? 

John and I are having an 80s movie streak (Christmas Vacation only just qualifies, as it was made in '89). So far we've watched: 
  • Ghostbusters
  • Top Gun
  • Ghostbusters 2
  • Christmas Vacation
We are in the middle of Point Break. 
We also have these things from the London Public Library and will only finish some of them before we leave town: 
  • Goonies
  • Gremlins
  • Willow
  • Never Ending Story
The series will continue in IN once we get there for Christmas, so if you have any suggestions for great 80s movies, please let me know!


Gym Christmas Day 15

Gym Christmas Day 15!

Work out:  4 miles with John around town.

GYMGO: I counted it as a Grab Bag, which means I get my 4th GYMGO!! WOOOO!!!!! I have my sights set on a few more GYMGOs before the 24th.

Thing I've eaten today: a giant, beautiful salad for dinner with more maple thyme biscuits. 

Picture: My parents' dog, Toby, aka, Mr. Tobes or Toblerone, a regular on this blog. This was his Christmas look a few years ago. Look how he sits like a gentleman! I'm looking forward to seeing him and my family on Saturday. 


3rd Annual Shu'Pippen Family Christmas Photo 2012

Over the weekend, John and I sat for the 3rd Annual Shu'Pippen Family Christmas Photo 2012. It was hard to decide on a single winner this year, so I'll show you some of the sillier takes.

This one is probably the best mix of silly and sincere. It's the Official Selection for 2012.

John's facial expressions in these last three really make me laugh.

And for comparison, here are the previous two photos. 


Gym Christmas Day 14

Gym Christmas Day 14!

Since I've completed the basic requirements for Gym Christmas, I decided I'm only going to post on work outs that give me GYMGOs, like this one did. 

Work Out: walk with John, almost 60 minutes. 

GYMGO: We went on a new-to-me trail, so I'm counting it as a FIRST TIME, which means I got my third GYMGO! More to follow.

Thing I ate today: maple and thyme biscuits from this book. Delicious! 

Here are some photos of the trail we walked, near the Wonderland bridge over the Thames.


Gym Christmas Days 12 and 13

Yeah, I missed a day of blogging. Since I turned in my second directed study and then hosted a party last night, I don't feel too bad about it. Also it's hard to feel like your work outs are that important after what happened in CT yesterday. Here's yesterday and today's Gym Christmas updates. 

Gym Christmas Day 12!

Work out: 2k swim. 
I did basically the same work out I tend to do, except there were no pull buoys, so I made an adjustment: 
  • 400m freestyle warm up
  • 6 X 200ms, alternating swimming and kicking (no pulling). 
  • 400m free cool down. 
Finals week is a great time to swim or do anything at the gym really. I think swimming once a week has been really good for my brainz. 

GYMGO: I checked off a Get Wet box that didn't really advance my GYMGO chances.

Then, John and I had some UWO friends over to decorate "Gender Non-Specific Gingerbread Persons," as Matthew likes to call them. I used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook, and cookie cutters that my Aunt Becky gave me two summers ago - including a couple of turkeys and menorahs. 
Let's count gingerbread cookies and dough as the thing I ate.

The one menorah was turned into a martini glass, about 6 o'clock in this picture.

And one person made this very attractive Ginger Pope.

Gym Christmas Day 13!

Work out: 3-ish mile run with John around the neighborhood. Based on my perceived level of effort, I'd say we did more like 3.2 or so, since it was more like a tempo run. But we didn't map the route before or after, we just ran around for 32 minutes.

GYMGO: Socialcize, aka, GYMGO #2! Woo hoo!

Thing I ate today: definitely no more gingerbreads. I sent the leftovers home with our friends. But I did a healthy portion of the greek olive hummus I got at the store this week. Mmmm olives in hummus.


Gym Christmas Day 11

Gym Christmas Day 11!

Work out: Speed work at the oval near our house, pictured below. I did the same work out of 6 x 400M at 2:10. I've been able to hit that time more consistently, so I think I'm going to try to start doing 8 X 400, and then eventually move to 800s, etc. 

GYMGO: I checked off a socialcize box because John and I do track work outs together. One more socialcize to go. 

Thing I've eaten today: my standard winter breakfast of rolled oats with almond milk, about 4 chocolate chips, a spoonful of almond butter, and a sliced banana.  

Lots of photos!

Last night we went to see the Orchestra London's performance of A Christmas Carol. They had a bunch of lawyers from London read all the staves of the story, and the orchestra and a choir played Christmas tunes in between. It was a fundraiser for the Unity Project, a group that provides different types of shelter and services for the homeless, and they just asked for a free will offering. 

The concert took place at Centennial Hall, right next to Victoria Park. I took some photos as we crossed  the park on our way out.

Here's the oval where we do our track repeats. It's in a park just around the corner from our house, and it has a soccer field in the center.

The track is also next to some skating ramps, usually empty this time of year.

One more day of Gym-going and I'll have earned my button! 


Gym Christmas Day 10

Gym Christmas Day 10!

Work out: 4 mile run at Springbank Park. I left my watch at home and vowed to stretch during the run if my foot hurt. This was the first really wintery run of the season, and I was glad to have my phone on me in case I slipped. And since I had my phone, I've included some photos of Springbank, my favorite running route.

GYMGO: I crossed off another Grab Bag day. If I work out with someone else, then I'll have another GYMGO soon. I know you're relieved.

Thing I've eaten today: I just had my post-run snack, a serving of cottage cheese. I try to make sure I only eat it after a run or work out. Otherwise I'd eat it constantly.

Before I get to the Springbank photos, here's what I did this morning: made some graphs of Rameau's fundamental bass. My paper is due on Friday, and since I don't have access to Finale, I had to make some figures by hand. I don't own a protractor (surprise), so I used this old can of tuna snack mix to draw some circles. Do you like to draw tedious but relatively simple graphs? Then a career in music theory might just be for you!

Back to running...This is at the start of the route. 

I've mapped out many a distance from this yield sign. It's a great place to start out-and-back runs.

This is almost 2 miles from the yield sign. The route includes asphalt and some dirt trail. It's my favorite place in London.


Gym Christmas Day 9

Gym Christmas Day 9!

Work out: long walk with John. He thinks it was about 2 miles or so, but I didn't measure. Definitely at least 30 minutes. And then I did some stretching because, GAH, I'm still sore from Iron Strength. Back to running tomorrow. 

GYMGO!!!! AT LAST!!! I needed one more walk to get a GYMGO up the diagonal from the lower left corner. Woo hoo! Also, I predict I will have another by the end of the week.

Djillian posted this on my wall to celebrate.

Bonus picture and thing I've eaten today: Spicy Pumpkin Soup from Make it Naked and Vegan Cornbread from the PPK. Both recipes make for a quick and tasty weeknight dinner.


Gym Christmas Day 8

Gym Christmas Day 8!

Work out: 3.5 mile run. 
I can't believe how sore I am from doing Iron Strength yesterday, so this short run was pretty hard. Fortunately, I can tell that the sore muscles are the same ones I use to run with good form, so that soreness will pay off. Meanwhile, it hurts to stand up or sit down. 

GYMGO: This one counts as another GRAB BAG. No GYMGO yet. 

Thing I've eaten today: today's lunch was leftovers from last night's very impromptu dinner of lentils, roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts, along with an apple from the farmer's market. John bought 10 lbs. of apples yesterday. I bet you can't guess which pie he wants to make next. 

Photo: random photo of the IU ornament on our Christmas tree (you can see a holiday cupcake ornament just behind it on the left). The Hoosiers are having a good basketball season so far! 


Gym Christmas Day 7

Gym Christmas Day 8!

Work out: Iron Strength. Man, that routine is hard. 
I was supposed to run today, but I delayed until Sunday morning because it's raining and I'm trying to get over a mild cold. Yesterday was also a rest day to prevent the cold from getting worse. It seems to have worked! Back to running tomorrow.

GYMGO: I'm counting this as a WEIGHT A MINUTE day, since all of the exercises after the warm up involve either body weight or free weights. Now all I need to do is go for a walk or try something new to get a GYMGO. Woohoo!

Thing I ate today: wonderful wonton soup (shown below) at Zen Gardens, an Asian-themed, vegetarian restaurant in town. I can't believe I waited so long to try it! When I looked at the menu, I felt overwhelmed with choice - I wanted one of everything. It's not pricey, so I hope we go back soon. This soup had a tasty broth, mushrooms, big fat wontons, shredded carrots, and baby bok choy. A++. John, DJillian, and I also split a sushi platter, veggie tempura, and pan fried dumplings, all delicious.

Multiple pictures today, because I want to show you both the soup I at at Zen Gardens, and the pie John made yesterday.

I think I mentioned before that this is Pie Christmas, i. e., John has decided he wants to learn how to make pie crusts. Yesterday we went to a potluck, so John made the Pear and Cranberry Galette from Vegan Pie in the Sky. It turned out really well, despite John's anxiety over the crust. He's signaling here that the recipe makes two small galettes, and that the galettes were the second pie recipe he's tried from this book. They were a big hit at the potluck. Everyone passed over my whipped eggnog cake (also delicious) to eat his pies, which were pretty visually impressive. Pie Christmas is going to be awesome.


Gym Christmas Day 6

Gym Christmas Day 6!

Work out: 4-ish miles of speed work, including warm up and cool down. 
  • A little over a mile warm up
  • 6 X 400 meters at 2:10
  • 90 second recovery interval
  • A little under a mile cool down
I'm never sure of the total mileage, but it took about 41 minutes. 

I've slowed my 400s down to 2:10, instead of 1:58 or 2:00, in order to focus on form. Speed work outs are actually the easiest on my foot, probably because my form is actually good. Now that I've realized that it's easier to run with proper form when running a bit faster, I've modified my running plan for December: no long runs. I want to do 3-4 mile runs for the rest of the month to give myself time to make those form changes into an actual habit. Three to four miles seems to be the limit of how long I can sustain the right form, in part because I'm not yet strong enough, and also because it's mentally taxing. Meanwhile, my speed work outs will get longer, and I'm cross training a lot. This kind of change is a nice break from training for races, and I know my foot appreciates it.

GYMGO: Socialcize! John and I warm up and cool down together, and we run different intervals on the same track. So close, GYMGO, so close.

Photo: I actually took this sort of crappy photo last night, when we had the Hottie Black-Eyed Peas and Greens for dinner, with mashed sweet potatoes with apple and ginger on the side. I definitely went back for seconds on the black-eyed peas, which, btw, are very simple to make. So far I'm enjoying Appetite for Reduction.*

*I know I'm always on about how great everything from the PPK is, including the books. And I thought I might as well say, lest you get the wrong impression, that I do not get paid or compensated in any way to talk about them. I am just obsessed with their recipes, books, and general website. If Isa Chandra wanted to pay me to review her recipes, that would be just fine. 


Gym Christmas Day 5

Gym Christmas Day 5!

Work Out: a simple 30-35 minute walk from our house to Cherryhill Mall, where we visited the creepy but charming Christmas decorations, the LCBO and the public library. It's nice to be able to do our errands on foot, especially during rush hour. 

GYMGO: I was able to cross off one of the "WALK IT OUT" boxes, and if I go for one more walk, I will have a GYMGO! IT WILL BE MINE!

Photo: One of our purchases at the LCBO, the Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, Winter Beard from the Muskoka Brewery. We decided to toast tonight since John heard this afternoon that he is officially ABD - as in, all-but-dissertation, as in, will soon graduate and, as in, will soon get a job and buy me things. Or so the saying goes. Anyway, back to the beer - I'll let you know how it is. 

Dinner tonight: Black eyed peas and greens, with ginger apple mashed sweet potatoes from Appetite for Reduction, a relatively new PPK book we're both in love with. I may ask Santa to get it for me from myself.  

This walk was a nice way to stretch my legs on a rest day. Tomorrow it's back to the track for some speed work!


Gym Christmas Day 4

Gym Christmas Day 4!

Work Out: Swimming. 
All in meters:
  • 400 free warm up. 
  • 2X: 200 pull + 200 swim + 200 kick, mostly freestyle, mixed with a little breast stroke and back stroke pull, for funsies. Tried to do breast stroke for some of the 200 swim, but my knees didn't like it. 
  • 400 free cool down. 
Total: 2000, a little under an hour.

High school Abby would laugh at this work out because it's so much easier than what I used to do. But high school Abby had energy to burn and no dissertation to write. I've been swimming once a week, no more than 2k each time, and it's been pretty awesome, but it makes me pretty tired. I can't believe I used to swim for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week! I'm trying to incorporate it into my routine more regularly, since it's such a good way to cross-train. 
Everything about swimming is nostalgic. That weird chloriney taste on the lip of my water bottle really takes me back. The good thing about swimming now is that only a handful of gym-goers are into it, so I often have a lane to myself. High school Abby would be jealous of my private lane.

GYMGO: Crossed off the "GET WET" box, top left. I still need to go on a walk twice to get a GYMGO. 

Photo: the pool at UWO. Short course on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thing I ate today: a plate of vegetables, cheese, and crackers, plus 4 potato and pea samosas and some app-sized pizza pieces at the department Christmas party this afternoon. Surprisingly, the Grad Club makes a pretty decent samosa.

Tomorrow I plan on taking the rest day that I was supposed to take over the weekend. It'll be the first in about 9 days, so I'm ready for a break.