Can someone turn up the A/C, please?

Mornings like these are hard.

I’m not sure of the exact temperature, but believe me: it’s a swamp out there. Even starting these weekend runs before the sun emerges doesn’t free me from the vice grip of humidity.

Observe:

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Post-run “glow” with AT photobomb

8 miles at 7:55/mile in the books. I have tempo runs sketched out on Saturdays, aiming for between 8 – 8:30/minute mile, and I save those big, juicy long runs for Sundays. Tomorrow is a 17-miler. Ugh. Even typing that hurts. Fortunately, two treats await me for tomorrow’s trek. First, it is supposed to be cooler. Second, AJT will be joining me on the trail, cruising alongside (and likely in front of) me on his bike.

As much as I enjoy the solo aspect of running, it can get lonely on those lengthier runs. I have tried to incorporate podcasts for entertainment and learning, but my propensity to sweat makes keeping headphones in my ears nearly impossible. I have yet to find a pair that sticks (if you have recommendations, I’m all ears — ha! No seriously, I am.)

It has been awhile since I’ve posted a recipe, and I have found a few gems as of late. Between my overextended life, many meals this summer have been born from frozen vegetables, pressed tofu, and some sort of stir-fry marinade. I’m not complaining – I could eat stir-fry nearly every day. But, cranking oven the stove and frying in the wok are not pleasant when it’s 5,000F. Really. I’m not exaggerating.

Enter this:

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Hello, darling.

Almost too pretty to eat, no? No. It’s so worth eating. Served cold, this quinoa-black bean salad can be tossed over greens, thrown in a wrap, topped with seitan or baked tofu or whatever floats your boat.

Black bean, quinoa, and red pepper salad with honey-lime vinaigrette

Serves 4 – 6 

1 cup quinoa

1 can black beans, drained, or 2 cups cooked black beans

1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 red pepper, 1/2 orange or yellow pepper), diced

1 tsp minced jalapeno (optional – and heck, I added the entire jalapeno! Seeded, of course)

1 scallion, finely chopped

2 tsp honey or agave nectar (I opted for the nectar)

1/2 lime

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp canola/vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)

Pinch of salt, or as needed

Directions:

1) Rinse quinoa in a strainer. Add to saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce to simmer and cook, about 15-20 minute or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. (If you have a rice cooker, take advantage of using it to cook your quinoa!)

2) Add cooked quinoa to a mixing bowl with black beans, bell pepper, jalapeno, and chopped scallion.

3) In a small jar, combine honey/agave nectar, lime juice, rice vinegar, and vegetable oil. Add a pinch of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake to emulsify the dressing. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed (should be a bit tart). Pour dressing on quinoa mixture. Toss to distribute dressing evenly.

4) If you are not serving right away, toss salad again before serving and adjust seasoning (dressing will absorb into the quinoa and the salad might need more moisture if it sits for awhile).

My moment of zen

In hindsight, I would not do this again. BUT, on Wednesday, I drove out and back to Asheville (7 hours in the car – what what!). During my brief stay in the beautiful mountain town, I had a chance to sit in one of my favorite places, Green Sage Cafe, enjoy a cup of coffee and a vegan peanut butter cookie while I cleaned data in a spreadsheet.

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If you have to clean data in a spreadsheet, it’s nice to have a cookie to go along with it.

 

 

Keep calm and kayak.

I never envisioned myself kayaking. Granted, I did grow up in a desert. The notion of participating in any water sport felt foreign, outside of the occasional boogie boarding in the Pacific Ocean during an annual San Diego summer vacation.

In July 2015, Aaron and I broke our kayaking-seals in Traverse City, Michigan.

 

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The first taste of kayaking – oh so swet

The 3+ hour journey took us through the calm, meandering Boardman River up the gut of the city, spilling us out into Lake Michigan. Our sense of peace shattered as we battled the wake from dozens of high-speed boats and wave runners. Our tired arms somehow found the last ounces of strength to paddle us in, leaving us exhausted and exhilarated (and gosh, did that ice cream afterward taste even better!)

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Vegan ice cream ftw!

Even after only one kayaking adventure, we both casually expressed the idea of investing in our own. One year and two more rental kayak trips later, we took that step. Aaron spent several weeks researching the various options: price points, length, sit-in or sit-on, etc. He read reviews, reviews, reviews, and drew up a list of about five potential candidates.

I lack the drive to research like Aaron does. I glanced at his list, looked at a few pictures online, and made my decision based on sitting in several at the Dick’s Sporting Goods on a Saturday morning. The moment I sat into the Perception Swifty Deluxe, I knew it was the one. The price was right (reduced to around $350), and the color options were on point.

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You won’t be able to miss us out on the water in these.

Aaron took his maiden voyage while I was out in Portland, Oregon, for a conference. But, the next two Saturdays, we tossed up our ‘yaks on our folding J-hooks (purchasing the equipment to go along with owning kayaks = both expensive and important lessons to be learned, including make sure you can drive your car out of the garage with said J-hooks own).

We started close to home, venturing over to Falls Lake both times. I learned several lessons from the first trip out, namely that kayak grips are critical to stop the blistering bonanza.

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Aaron played master photog on our first Falls Lake outing

This past Saturday, two friends joined us as we explored a quieter part of the lake (no boats allowed!), sharing the morning with many birds and plenty of jumping fish.

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Serenity now

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Exploring every cove 

 

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An ideal August morning to be out on the water

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Playing around with filters

I derive so much pleasure from the act of kayaking. The transition between movement and stillness; the sound of the oar dipping into the water, gliding me forward as I try to take in all of the sounds and sights.

Our kayaks open up so many more possibilities on how we can interact with our surroundings. While I’m tired after wrapping up our time on the water, I’m also eagerly anxious for our next trip.

Oh, what adventures await for the rest of 2016 and beyond…

Recap: Wanderlust 108 – Charlotte 2016

Wanderlust 2016 - Charlotte

Where it began

Run. Yoga. Mediate.

The trifecta of health and balance for one’s mind, body, and spirit. Back in April, I had the opportunity to engage in these trio activities with two incredible friends. We hopped on the Amtrak in Durham after work on a Friday, heading to the Queen City (Charlotte).

Sheila, Michelle and I outside the Charlotte Amtrak station

A group of 3? Talk about synergy!

Wanderlust, known for its enormous yoga festivals, often in exotic locations, created day-long spin-offs dubbed Wanderlust 108.  Under “what to expect” the site notes:

lots of high fives, a little sweat, and a deep chill.

Wanderlust 108: Ready to start the 5k

The chill factor was in full effect – brr!

If I could offer some additional “what to expect” thoughts, I would include: an incredibly array of multicolored yoga pants; patchouli; and

Kombucha

Kombucha, of course.

As this Saturday neared, we kept a close eye on the weather. North Carolina had plunged into a cold snap, and Saturday’s temperatures were not looking ideal for outdoor recreation. It was windy – several yoga mats attempted flight. And it was cold – at least at the start. Fortunately, the sun provided respite and made the experience much more bearable.

Wanderlust 108 - Charlotte

Queen City Yoga

The day began with a 5k run followed by a group dance party with MC Yogi (I kid you not), a Vinyasa flow, and a guided mediation (more on the last part below).

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Michelle is in to win

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Sheila gives peace and… brackets?

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Look ma! I’m sitting on a slackline.

A mindfulness triathalon. How zen. How challenging.

Never before had I meditated. I certainly had read my fair share of articles on the importance of mediation and centering and breathing exercises…blah blah blah. Yes, I shut those out because – let’s be real: we’ve got to get physical.


This is where the reader (that’s you) should leap from your chair and say:

 

YouLie

Ugh. I’m a bit ashamed I included such an image in this blog post. But, back to the subject at hand: my pursuits of strength have resided solely in the physical. I’m all about doing. I make to-do lists. I complete projects. I’ve got a plan. I’m constantly moving and moving and moving.

Not only does this lead to energy depletion, but it denies me from living fully. I don’t allow myself the space to turn inward and be still. For too long, I viewed that as a weakness. Diving headfirst by mediating in an open field among hundreds of strangers allowed me the first taste of meditation’s power.

I wish I could report that since attending Wanderlust 108, I’ve walked down a more enlightened path, prioritizing a time for quiet reflection each day. For the first two days after Charlotte, I tried to establish a morning routine. And then…oh, you know. Life happened.

Still, I had the opportunity of knowing what could be and now I can practice the intentional time-out.

As soon as I finish that run…

One of the other best takeaways from the 24 hour Charlotte adventure:

Vegan pimento cheese

Yes, that is VEGAN pimento cheese!

Do you meditate or engage in intentional mindfulness? If so, how did you end up making the practice part of your life?

The dreaded evil body image voice

Yes, I am going to go there: body image.

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Who in their right mind ever wants to be the fruit-shaped designs?! An apple? A PEAR? For crying out loud. My mother compares our family’s female shape of our family to the Irish potato.

Pass the bucket of vegan chicken now, please.

In all seriousness, I struggle with negative body image. I know that many of you reading this feel the same way. What prompted this post was the re-emergence of the inner evil voice this past Friday morning. Here’s how it unfolded:

  1. Step into black dress to prepare for a full day workshop presentation.
  2. Look at myself in the mirror, forward facing – ok, I can do this.
  3. Turn to the side and look in the same mirror.
  4. What is that? A belly? Why did I have two beers last night? I should have only had one. And then I ate falafel? IN A PITA? WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHY DID I DO THAT AND NOT WORK OUT THIS MORNING AND WHY DO I MAKE SUCH TERRIBLE CHOICES.

I have carried shame and hate towards my body as long as I can remember. As a child (we’re getting into some personal baggage right now, so buckle up), I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and berate myself: verbally and physically. I would tell myself that I was fat; I was ugly; I would hit myself on my thighs or my stomach with my hands, a hairbrush. This behavior would continue until I shocked tears from my eyes.

Why was I so viscous to myself? I was raised in a supportive, loving household. I recognized that I was heavier than other girls my age (as my mother reflected as I grew older: I wouldn’t be easily knocked over in the wind). But, what would drive a nine-year-old to treat herself with such disrespect and hate? Because it was hate. A unjustified self-loathing that consumed rational thought and compassion.

It would be overly-simplistic to point to teasing as the main culprit. Granted, I did receive my fair share of schoolyard taunts during my formative years. I was not above returning the favor, either. Did I start reading Seventeen too early? Did the own bodily insecurity of other women in my life plant those seeds of doubt within me? I liken it to the cocktail: external and internal forces at play, festering within me. At some point: the energy had to escape. Unfortunately, it escaped in a destructive, unhealthy manner.

I grew out of such disturbing behaviors. But, the little voice tucked in those inner recesses of my mind burrowed in, poking its nasty head out at some of the most inopportune moments: before a date, during times of peak loneliness, swimsuit shopping. In her book Yes Please, Amy Poehler talks about her own battle with this voice – the one that drips in doubt and turns sane women into monsters.

I am not alone in this struggle. It’s not unique to women either. And, I thought (and hoped) that as I changed my lifestyle, whether increasing my exercise or eliminating products, my body image issues would gently fade away. I would be happy with me.

Some days that happens. And there are some days, like that Friday morning, where I dismiss my hard work, try to ignore the enjoyment of living, and be my own worst enemy.

I am not writing this to elicit positive feedback or encouragement of “oh, but you look so X, Y, Z.” No. See, this inner voice – it’s inside me and my own head. External factors may have helped to plant that voice, but I’m the one who has to find and use the tools to extract it for good.

I write this because I want to be open with this struggle. This isn’t my only struggle. But, I feel like it can be one overlooked.

I hope this public discourse instills in me a sense of accountability greater than myself. At the end of my life, whenever that time may come, the memories and impacts of what I – or any of us – leave behind will have nothing to do with whether we were categorized as an apple, a triangle, or an Irish potato. It is about the gifts we give to this world through our talents and energies; it is about the relationships we forge and challenges we face head on; and it is about those moments of levity, of laughter, of love, and adventure that we experienced with others.

Time to press reset on self-love. I will acknowledge these negative feelings, and then I will change my self-narrative, one day at a time. I invite you to join me, if you are not there already. If you are: thank you. You are modeling what it is like to live and love fully.

keepcalm

Hark! I hear the call of the finish line

After an outward (and quite vocal) objection to ever running another marathon, I’m less than five months out from taking on another 26.2 mile journey.

Now that I have recovered from the initial race (over three years and counting), I feel that I’m in a better place emotionally and physically to run a second. With all transparency, I also feel that I have something to prove – to myself, mainly.

Looking back, I am so different from the person who ran the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in Arizona (in some ways – the good ones, hopefully!). With a couple of years added to my age bracket registrations, an entirely different eating lifestyle, and a deeper and more in-tuned understanding of my body, I think this will be a healthy challenge that I plan to enjoy.

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I even bought some new kicks for the journey. The Brooks Ghost 7 series have been wonderful for me, but I did pick up a deeply discounted pair of Mizuno Wave Runner’s (pictured above) to serve as the yin to the yang of my well-worn Brooks.

Time. For me, it’s one of the biggest burdens of signing up for any major race. The sheer willingness to devote hours upon hours, logging miles on trails, streets, in the rain, in the dark, and up hills. In the past, I have trained predominantly in Durham, specifically on the American Tobacco Trail. However, the hilly course of Knoxville requires me to take the training to a similar landscape.

Hello, Raleigh.

I’ll be gleaning insight from some of Raleigh’s top runners (in my humble opinion) on best trails to build endurance for the cascading waves I shall face in March.

While training “officially” starts on November 30, I’m spending this month building my base. That means Pilates, yoga, and core work: oh my. I picked up another Groupon for Arrichion hot yoga classes. If I could afford a monthly subscription, I would purchase one in a heartbeat. I absolutely love these classes: 45 minutes of demands, depending on the class.

Plus. when it’s 40 degrees outside and dark, the ability to sweat in a tanktop and shorts sounds pretty blissful. No, really.

Recap: Tackling the Trails for the Dirt-Y Durham Relay Race

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to take part in a completely community-organized relay race over 37 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea trail. A week prior, we held a logistics meeting: how do we get 20+ runners, moving in groups of 3 to 5, to and from each of the 11 sections our fearless leaders (Becky and Sean) had created?

ImageOld school = paper

ImageThis is the point when we had scraps of paper with each person’s name on it and moving them around like strategic generals in a game of Risk. I’m not sure if I was skeptical of this or in deep secretarial mode thought.

After nailing down the hatches of planning (including the critical potluck sign-up list for our concluding celebration), the Dirt-Y Durham County Relay was ready to begin:

ImageOrange was a critical component of our shirts to notify hunters that – while we may move through the forests gracefully, we were not, in fact, their future dinner. Unless.

Last Sunday proved to be an ideal day for long distance running. It was slightly overcast, in the upper 60s at the start, and no impending threat of rain. Our first section runners took off at 7am, setting the tone (and pace) for the day. Our group’s overall goal = completion. It had absolutely poured on Thursday night, and the trails remained soggy (although we would soon learn that mud was not our biggest obstacle).

I helped transition runners between sections 4 and 5 (where one of my friends was so impressed – and/or shocked – by my car having manual windows. Yeah, old school strikes again). Then, I was ready to get some trail time for section 7:

ImageSean, me, and Amanda – ready to rock

Alas, little did we know what await us in this six mile journey. About 2.5 miles in after moving at a great pace, we were stopped by a lake. Unfortunately, this lake was not supposed to be in existence. The rainwater from Thursday had completely flooded out this section of the trail. We scouted out an alternative route, but after not seeing an immediate path to dry land, we forged ahead and forded through the waters. Sean and I let Amanda lead since she had the vertical edge. Once the water reached Amanda’s waist (yes, we were wading through waist-high water), we decided to turn back around and try – one more time – for another exit. Now, I didn’t spend a lot of time growing up playing in rivers and lakes, so stepping into murky waters with unknown contents, I envisioned leeches, eels, and perhaps the creature from the black lagoon. None were present, but that fear pushed me to move through that water quickly.

Fortunately, we did find another way (with more water to wade through), and continued on, stopping to wring out our socks and touch base with the next team regarding our delay. (This is the point where I wish I had brought my phone for photo evidence of this experience). Another mile-and-a-half in, we hit another lake, this one even bigger and broader than the first. Again, we debated wading, but there was no end in sight, and none of us were keen on treading waters again. We circled back and discovered a path around a transformer station. Despite our challenges, we made it to the next leg, a little bit behind schedule, but with a great story to tell.

Fast-forward ahead, I came home, changed shoes and shorts, and headed back out for section 11, the final leg in this journey. We got started at around 4pm, which put us on time for our estimated 5pm celebration at Falls Lake. While there was still water, it was nothing like section 7. That was legendary. But, Aura and I still tackled it:

ImageSince this was the last leg, we definitely stopped to take a few more photos, including some “action poses” – what form!

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Alas, we cruised in, and then it was time to dry off, sit down, and, of course, eat. And celebrate.

ImageIt was just a wonderful day and experience. My trail running has been limited, but this opened my eyes to how much I really enjoyed trekking over hills, rocks, twigs, and more (not so much the water). On top of that, I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of people – some of which I had never actually talked to at a YMCA class – but we all spend hours working out alongside each other. This time, it was about the group rather than the individual, which was a nice change of pace. Looking forward already to 2015!

13 Memories of 2013

Oh yes: it is that time of the year. The time when lists upon lists emerge from the woodwork, from the top 10 songs of 2013 to the top 10 memes of the year to the top 10 list of top 10 lists.

I’m going to continue that tradition with three lists before the New Year.

The first list is the more thoughtful, reflective review of the past 12 months: the top 13 memories of 2013 (let’s just hope that I don’t see 2099 because that list would be ridiculous.)

In no particular order, the Pursuit of Paulson is proud to announce the finalists of what memories stuck out the most (and what I could recall thanks to my profileration of social media):

13 Memories of 2013

1) Getting engaged
(October 25, 2013 – Biltmore Estates, Asheville – surprise!!)

1393894_10101773345887515_307372616_nThe “Oh hai – look at this ring” photo

PostEngagementThe first photo post-engagement. This is a KEEPER (both the photo and the man!)

2) Graduating with a Master of Public Administration degree (Tar! Heels!)

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3) Transition into plant-based diet, more natural lifestyle

Goodbye dairy, eggs, meat…goodbye antibacterial sprays…goodbye Crest toothpaste. A slow but steady transition since June and will continue into 2014!

4) Surprise birthday party

That sneaky Aaron! We went to Saxapahaw when my friend Laura came to town to see The Old Ceremony at the Haw River Ballroom and grab a bite beforehand at The Eddy Pub:

485434_10101903551010412_1164865437_nWe happened to run into our friends, Ben and Dawnya, at the bar and they offered us a sneak peak of the digs for the soon-to-open Haw River Ales. As we were looking around the space and Dawnya explained the vision to me, a random dog trotted into the room. Following said dog were friends of ours. I was quite perplexed – why did our friends just come out of the shadows? Then, it hit me:

425211_10101903912281422_491576194_nRealism captured – “No way! NO WAY!!”

Great friends. Great partner. Great beer. So, so blessed!

5) O.A.R. concert in Raleigh

By far, the best O.A.R. show I had experienced (now, granted my number pales in comparison to Aaron’s.) Similar to 2012, we were up front on the rail. But, the energy this year was beyond comprehension. The guys simply melted all of our faces off, even on a Sunday night.

6) Cards Against Humanity

This ridiculous, sometimes inflammatory (sometimes? well, most of the time) game appeared at many social events this past year, making me realize that we are all terrible, terrible people. And then we laugh.

7) Chicago-Michigan road trip

Our annual adventure featured so many new sights, tastes, and sounds and some familiar ones as well: from checking off more breweries (Perrin Brewing, Right Brain, Short’s Brewing, Harmony Brewing, Three Floyd’s) to famous beer bars (Hop Cat, The Mitten Bar), to nature galore (Pictured Rocks State Park, Meijer Gardens) to a Taste of Chicago to meeting new people to learning Hand & Foot (great card game!) to visiting Mount Pleasant (Fire Up Chips!) – it was all amazing.

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8) Wicked Weed

How did a brewery make this list? BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. Seriously, Wicked Weed just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its entrance into North Carolina’s beer scene has been nothing less than explosive. Besides have over two dozen of their OWN beers on draft at the brewery, Wicked Weed is not afraid to take on adventurous styles, open fermentation processes, and challenging our palates. While not every beer is incredible (as would seem nearly impossible), Wicked Weed overwhelmingly produces delicious craft brew.

9) YMCA

From the physically-demanding classes (Bootcamp2, Cardio Intervals, Cycle) to those demanding in a different way (Yoga, PiYo), the Durham YMCA branches have helped me reach a new level of fitness this year. But, it’s been more than just 6am classes. There is such a strong sense of community, kinship and support from other members. I have had the immense pleasure of developing so many new relationships with such inspirational people.

10) Half-Marathon PR

So, that was pretty exciting. 1:44:12 in the 2013 Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon. Big kudos to the 1:45 pacers that I kept up with for the vast majority of the run. They were even kind enough to allow a Tar Heel to run amongst the Wolfpack (and the race was the day after UNC defeated NC State in football…which wasn’t saying much this year, kids.)

11) Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN)

I joined the YNPN – Triangle Chapter Board of Directors for 2013. YNPN is “a movement activating emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector.” Essentially, there are chapters across the country designed to bring together nonprofit professionals for collaboration, skill development, networking, and more. I had attended socials during 2012 and quickly realized what an amazing resource this is for those in the nonprofit sector. In May, I represented North Carolina at the national YNPN conference in Phoenix (guess why I went…?) The conference was one of the best I have ever attended. I left with a vast amount of knowledge, a reinvigorated sense of self, and a host of business cards from all the do-gooders I had the pleasure to meet. If you are in the nonprofit sector, I would highly encourage connecting to one of the chapters closest to you! (And, if you are in the Triangle, you better join us!!)

12) Attending a practice round at the Master’s

Augusta. The pinnacle of golf perfection. Hint: it lived up to its reputation. The immaculate grounds made you feel like you were in a different world (especially since outside of those gates was a not-so-glamorous look at low-socioeconomic America). The $2 pimento cheese sandwich was pretty baller. But, the best part was how relaxed the atmosphere was during the Par 3 competition. I had the opportunity to see those golfers I had watched on TV for years just a few feet away.

901578_10101383735669515_2090858712_oI love this photo because it looks like we were pasted in via PhotoShop. I promise we were not.

13) Beach living: visiting the Outer Banks

Somehow, despite living in NC for more than 5 years, I had not been to the OuterBanks. So, in honor of my birthday and graduation, Aaron kindly whisked me away for a long weekend at OBX. We toured the Wright Brothers Memorial, did some dune jumping at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, drove up to Duck and Corolla, visited the Outer Banks Brewing Station and Weeping Radish, connected with our friends to celebrate, and did some serious relaxation in our Tommy Bahama chairs.

1053323_10200658843126008_1416035097_oCelebrations at the Outer Banks Brewing Station467763_10101463083031765_888127377_o

Wee!

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