Monday, August 18, 2014

Happy Running on the Fairfax County Cross County Trail!

Several times this summer, (usually on Sunday mornings), Kevin and I have run together on local trails. There are a few good trails that are very convenient to our home and those are the ones we usually run to and then run on. However, in mid-July, I discovered a new favorite trail...the Fairfax County Cross County Trail, a 40 mile maintained trail which crosses Fairfax County, beginning at the Occaquan River (where Caitlynne rows) in the South, and continuing North to the Potomac River at Great Falls Park. 

The description of the CCT from the Fairfax County Park Authority's website (link is here), "The Cross County Trail is the primary multi-use north/south trail in the county, passing through woodlands and open space along much of its length. Users can experience a variety of landscapes, from remote wooded terrain to ballfields and developed parks, from wide stream valleys to rolling hills. The trail surface varies too, with parts of the trail wide, paved formal paths and others stonedust or even natural surface trails more appropriate to hikers, mountain bikers or equestrians. The trail crosses several streams and many of the county's main east-west roads. Where no off-road route is possible, the trail follows roadside trails or sidewalks. The trail has multiple points of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian access. There are maps of each section, available on line or through the Park Authority trails office. Interpretive and directional signs are being installed to assist users in understanding what they are observing and directing them to parking, drinking water, points of interest, etc. This facility crosses through all nine supervisory districts and the City of Fairfax and is an important recreational amenity for all citizens and visitors to Fairfax County." 

And a map (the trail is in red and the link is here)...

Although we have to drive a short distance from our home to access the trail, it is worth the effort. 

We have run on this trail twice this summer, each time running only a portion of the fifteen miles of the "Difficult Run Stream Valley" section of the CCT. This section (7 of 10), is the northern half of the CCT and follows the Difficult Run Stream Valley through the heart of Fairfax County before it ends on the Potomac River at Great Falls. 

The map below is a very accurate route of our run on Sunday (links to similar maps can be found on the Fairfax County Park Authority website). We began our run at the trail access point on Jermantown Road (lower left corner of the map) and ran to Vale Road before turning around and running back to Oak Marr Park for a total distance of 8.5 miles.  
This is the entrance of the trail located off of Jermantown Road. I have driven by this spot a gazillion times (it is on the way to the kids' high school) and have never noticed the trail. 
The first time we ran on the CCT, we accessed the trail from a spot on Miller Heights Road (with good parking), ran to Vale Road, and then ran back to Miller Heights Road for a total distance of 6 miles. That first time, we did cross over Vale Road and continued to run on the trail towards Lawyer's Road but it had recently rained and the trail was incredibly muddy and slippery so we did not go very far before turning around. 

On the portions of the trail that we have run, there are a lot of other paths that cross over or break away from the CCT and, in some spots, figuring out which way to go can be very confusing. However, the trail is pretty well marked and, if there is a question, we have learned to look ahead to try and spot a trail marker farther along the path.
Below is a photo of the marker for Accotink Stream Valley Section 6-10 of the CCT segment that ends at Oak Marr. I have yet to find the marker for the Difficult Run Stream Valley.
We began to run and Kevin took off. I saw his back for most of our run.
I ran a little slower and enjoyed the scenery.
At about mile 2, we began running parallel to Difficult Run Stream and its flood plain...
It is odd to be out running (and running for so long) in such a natural and peaceful setting and then realize that you are just 20 minutes away from the White House! There are a few places on the trail where you can spot homes through the woods and hear cars in the distance but, for the most part, it is very quiet.
 In a couple of places, proper bridge access across the stream is available.
 And, in others, it is not. 
I was so glad I didn't fall in because Kevin crossed the stream and was gone. Thanks, honey.
Some portions of the trail are paved or graveled but other areas are a little tricky. You really have to pay attention where you place your foot because the trail surface can be very rough.
A forest friend. 
I think this is the closest I got to Kevin during our entire run. My stopping to take photos did not go over too well with him! So much for marital bonding.
There he goes. Again.
The sign below was posted on the edge of the trail near the Oak Marr Golf Course. Since Kevin was with me and I knew my dad was in New York, I had no worries. 
Although my feet have never been so sore (I ran 7 miles on Saturday as well), it was a great run and I was able to get 8.5 miles in the books. 

Have a great Tuesday!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Football 101

Christopher made it through his first week of two-a-day practices and, although very tired each night, he handled it like a champ. He is playing the position of wide receiver which seems to be a good fit for him because he has good hands and he can run fast. Hopefully fast enough to not get tackled. This year, the freshman team plays three scrimmage games and ten regular season games. Almost all of the games are local and I think we are at home more than away which is very convenient. The season finishes in early November - just before it gets too cold. 

I am not sure how I feel about Christopher playing football. I am very worried about him getting injured and I know that seeing him be tackled for the first time (and probably for the fiftieth time!) is going to be nerve wracking. He has grown a couple of inches in the last few months and we are continuing to try to bulk him up and put some meat on his bones so he can withstand being hit. I guess the good news is that he is definitely not the smallest player on the field and he can run fast. He has also made a lot of new friends from other middle schools and will be very comfortable when high school begins in a few weeks. 

After listening to Christopher and Kevin talk football, I realized how very little I knew about the different offensive and defensive positions and the specific responsibilities of each position.  I turned to my trusted account and soon I will be an expert on all things football!
I reached mile 2,895 on my transcontinental run early Sunday morning and this was my spectacular view at Old Faithful - Yellowstone National Park, Teton County, Wyoming...
I am getting close enough to the end of my journey that I am beginning to think, "what next?".

My run on Sunday morning took quite an interesting turn...I set out very early Sunday with a plan to run three miles. At about mile two, I realized I was in the vicinity of a house that I had read about some time ago in The Washington Post. You can find the original article here. I decide to extend my run and see if I could find it. The house I was searching for, Squirrel Hill, located in Oakton, VA, is Fairfax County's oldest documented historic dwelling, dating to 1705. I found the photo below of the original house on-line but could not identify the photographer.
New owners recently purchased the property in and are in the process of preserving the history of the ancient house in a very unique way. An extensive renovation includes an attached three-car garage built on one end of the original house and a four-bedroom home built on the other end...the original structure is situated between the two additions. This house has a lot of history (and maybe even a ghost!) and, after reading the article way back when, I really wanted to see the piece of property and the modifications made to incorporate the old structure into the new. The article in The Washington Post includes some photographs that show the modifications and the new additions.

I had a general idea where the house was located and, after a few wrong turns (which added to my mileage!), I was happy to find it. Unfortunately, I did not have my phone with me to take any photos but plan on running in that area again this weekend and will make sure I take it along. Much progress has been made in the renovations and the house looks very different than the photo above - it was truly impressive, as was the property it was located on. Although this little expedition increased my run to 7 miles, it was worth the effort.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 4, 2014


Whoa! What happened to July?!? Thanks to all of those snow days that we enjoyed? endured? this past winter, the kids did not get out of school until very late - June 26th (!).

Right after school ended, Caitlynne went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland for crew camp. 
The girls stayed on-campus in the dorms and ate in the cafeteria so Caitlynne got a little taste of college life (although at an atypical college). Unfortunately, her desire to attend the Naval Academy was probably quite a bit diminished as the plebes arrived while she was there and, according to Caitlynne, "they looked incredibly miserable and sad. Why would anyone want to go through all that?"

As a belated anniversary celebration, the day before the camp ended, Kevin and I went to Annapolis for the night. We stayed downtown at the Marriott and took a water taxi across the harbor to the Chart House for an incredible dinner. Very early the next morning, we were able to catch the girls as they left the Academy for their morning rowing session on the Severn River. 
What a great experience it was for Caitlynne and what an absolutely amazing place to row! 

Christopher drove with my brother and sister-in-law to Turtle Town, Tennessee where my sister and her husband just purchased a beautiful lake house. Christopher did all sorts of things that I would not approve of...
And, having never eaten a fried insect or worm while living in Thailand, he dove right into these bacon and cheese crickets...
After he returned home, Christopher went to a basketball camp for two weeks at the high school that he will attend. He won the individual "Hot Shot" contest the first week of the camp and his team won the league championship both weeks. He was happy to add some more hardware to his collection! 
The camp was run by the high school basketball coaches and some of the current players so he got some great exposure to them and the program and is looking forward to basketball season.

The other day, I realized that, although school is not even in session, I have been at the high school at least once, if not twice, every day this summer with the exception of Saturdays, Sundays, and July 4th. One or the other kid always has something going on there and it is only going to get worse as back to school activities begin! Both kids have been weightlifting and conditioning in the high school gym three days a week (and, of course, on different days and at different times). Caitlynne has been training for crew as Fall rowing will begin in early September and, until today, Christopher had been conditioning for football. This morning, Christopher began "two a day" practices for the freshman football team. For the next three weeks, the team is dressed and on the field at 5:50 a.m., ready to begin their practice. They take a 1 1/2 hour "break" to eat lunch inside and have team or position meetings and then, at 10:50 a.m., they head back out to the field to practice until 2:00 p.m.

Other than the obvious concussion/injury concerns, my biggest problem with Christopher playing football has been trying to figure out what to feed him. He does not like to eat in the morning but, really needs to eat something to fuel him for the morning practice session. He and I talked about what I could make or get for him to eat in the morning and a quiche was one idea that he was agreeable to. So, yesterday, I very quickly threw together a quiche. And I mean quickly...I was very pressed for time. It wasn't pretty but it turned out really well. 

I combined a few recipes that I saw on-line and created this "Bacon, Spinach, and Onion Quiche". 
I would have preferred to make my own pie crust (or at least take a few minutes and make this ready-made one a little "prettier") but I didn't have the time. 
For the filling, I used 7 eggs, 3/4 cup of half and half, one cup of  shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese, and 2 cups of shredded Cheddar Cheese. I did not add salt or pepper and, after tasting it, I don't think I needed too. Next time I might add some dry yellow mustard for more flavor. 
I covered with aluminum foil, baked for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, and then took the foil off to bake for another 20 minutes.  
 Voila! Lunch is served.

This is certainly not a low calorie meal but, at 5'9" and 122 pounds, Christopher can use all of the calories he can get. And then some. Before he left the house this morning (at zero dark thirty), I warmed a piece of the quiche in a Tupperware container and he ate it in the car on the way to practice. 
Figuring out what to pack for his lunch was much easier.
The first day was hard but he made it through and will probably sleep like a log tonight!

Have a great Monday! 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A "SpongeBob Squarepants" Inspired Dinner

Many years ago, Christopher was a fan of the Nickelodeon show "SpongeBob Squarepants". Please don't judge! One evening way back when, he asked me to make Krabby Patties for dinner. In case you don't know (and I didn't at the time), Krabby Patties are the type of burger sold at the Krusty Krab (the restaurant on the show). Krabby Patties are the best-known food at the Krusty Krab, the most famous sandwich in Bikini Bottom, and SpongeBob's favorite food. 

Since the show took place under the ocean and given the name of the patty, I concocted a recipe based on what I *thought* a Krabby Patty would be. I assumed it contained crab meat, however, since I am deathly allergic to shellfish, I substituted salmon for crab meat and made "Keating Krabby Patties". They were easy and delicious but, for some reason, I never made them again. 

Fast forward about 4 years... this week, my office had an off-site luncheon and, several of the women ordered crab cakes. They looked amazing and the women raved about how good they were. I couldn't get them out of my mind and thought back to our "Krabby Patties". I did some searching on the internet but couldn't find a recipe that suit my fancy. I found a lot of recipes but most of the recipes for crab/salmon/fish cakes called for crushed crackers (i.e., Ritz crackers), potatoes, or even pancake mix (?!?). None of these "binders" appealed to me so, using several recipes as guides, I wrote down a few ingredients that inspired me and went to work creating our dinner. 

My ingredients assembled and ready to begin. 
The green pepper was from my garden. I used canned salmon - it was not cheap but worked very well for this purpose. There were larger cans of salmon available at the grocery store but those contained the bones and skin which needed to be picked out before using. That is the ONE thing I do remember from the last time I made Krabby Patties! Totally. Gross. 

I guesstimated measurements (as I do when I make meatloaf) and adjusted according to taste once everything was mixed together. 

The patties shaped and ready to cook. 
 I swirled some olive oil around a warm pan and began to cook the patties.

Ready for the table. 
I made a very simple garlic aioli to top the patties. 
Again, no measurements, I added salt and pepper and adjusted the other ingredients to taste after mixing. We prefer our aioli to be very garlic-y and lemon-y so I tend to use a heavy hand with those ingredients. When we use this aioli to top grilled salmon fillets, I throw in a handful of capers as well.  

Yum - aioli! We are totally addicted to this stuff.
Slice tomatoes for topping the patties. One is from the garden, one is from the grocery store - can you tell which is which? This year I am going to save some seeds from my tomato plants and begin a tradition of "heirloom" tomatoes.

I made a green salad to serve on the side.
And Kevin contributed some grilled corn - another thing that we can't get enough of in our home at this time of year.
Taa Daa! The composed Keating Krabby Patty. 
Everyone gave this dinner a "thumb's up" and I was quite pleased with how the patties turned out. The one thing I would do differently next time would be to make the patties smaller and serve on slider rolls. I think these were Kaiser rolls - they were large and I made the patties to fit but it would have been nicer to have smaller portions. I think the patties would have cooked better too if they had been smaller. 

I recently found out, *real* Krabby Patties are made out of a frozen hamburger with fresh lettuce, crisp onions and tomatoes with undersea cheese, pickles, mustard, ketchup, and with a special secret formula (a pinch of King Neptune's Poisedon Powder. Mine didn't even come close in terms of ingredients but they tasted pretty darn good!

Have a great Saturday!