Spring is here, and my social calendar is blooming. For some reason, my life’s calendar in the spring, summer, and fall are jam packed. My winter ones? Barren. I have the same number of friends in the winter that I do in the other months…it really just makes me wonder.
The topic at hand today? Dining out.
WeWa gives plenty of advice and materials on how to handle restaurants, happy hours, and special events. However, over the years, one bit of advice seemed to stick with me in a meaningful way.
I am calling it the Diner’s Golden Rule.
If you are going out to see friends; make safe decisions. If you are going out for the restaurant and experience; order whatever you want.
So, in theory, he is how it works:
I never go to Chick-Fil-A, so when I do go, I order whatever I want from the menu.
When having dinner with my best girlfriend, I try to order safe meals with salads and grilled meats.
When going to a restaurant on my master DC’s dining list, I order whatever I want.
New wine bar? Try the wine.
Didn’t feel like brining lunch today? It usually turns into a Subway day because I know there are plenty of healthy options there.
Is following the Diner’s Golden Rule easy? Hell no. I have had to talk myself away from the Jack Daniels Burger with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Fried Onion Rings, and BBQ sauce plenty of times. But, I think it is a fair way to try new things when you go out and not feel like a stick in the mud.
Do you have any tricks and tips for dining out?
I talk about my Peace Corps (PC) service a lot, I know, but those two years have been instrumental in shaping the person I have become – in one way or another. After meeting with some fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), I realized that 5 years later, I have started to forget stories, experiences, and memories. I questioned myself, “Does Peace Corps still influence my life?” Without even 30 seconds of thought, the answer came to my mind as a resounding, “YES, duh!” Here is a list, in no particular order, of how two years in Ukraine affects my day-to-day life now. (Rest assured, no talk of the Third Goal is mentioned here.)
A. Tomatoes – Before PC, I never at tomatoes. To be more accurate, I didn’t eat any vegetables, but in particular, I hated tomatoes. The texture creeped me out and they tasted bland; ketchup was the sum of my tomato intake. And then I discovered life without veggies (aka winter in Ukraine). When tomato season struck, I bought them by the kilo. I learned to cherish tomatoes, and now they are my favorite vegetable (fruit?)!
B. Potatoes – I used to be a meat and potatoes girl. After eating a potato at every meal for two years, it is accurate to say that I hate them. I push them aside from soups, I won’t order them as a side dish, and unless I have a weird desire for them, I just won’t buy them. I have gone from meat and potatoes to just meat…and I am ok with that.
2. Bathrooms – It took years for me to break the habit of asking people, “So, how was the bathroom?” and I still let it slip every now and then. I guess I am still concerned that one day I will walk into a restaurant and there will be a hole in the ground with a pile of steaming shit and I will have to go so badly that I will use it. It hasn’t happened, but the fear is real and still there.
3. Packing – I was always a pretty good about leaving the kitchen sink behind, but two years abroad turned me into a packing superstar. I can live out of a duffle bag for two weeks; I can travel abroad with a carry-on; I can recycle outfits and not feel guilty…and I have room for souvenirs!
4. Book Selection – I used to be a very picky reader, but of course, before PC, I have never experienced utter and complete boredom. Watching foreign language TV shows can only entertain a person for so long, and a person can only talk about potatoes and the weather so many times. I read anything written in English – including shampoo bottles – to stave off boredom. Salvation had arrived when I received boxes of Harlequins and spy thrillers. To this day, I love a good trashy romance novel and I won’t turn down an international espionage book.
5. Patience While Traveling – When you survived a 36 hour train ride, an hour delay in the airport seems like a blink of an eye. Fortunately, I have an uncanny ability to sleep just about anywhere while traveling, so if I get bored with reading – I zone out until I pass out.
6. Apartment No-Shoe Policy – I grew up in a house where shoes were permitted anywhere feet went. I always kept my shoes on – until I went to Ukraine where “shoes off” was the first rule of being a guest. Often you were given a pair of slippers to keep your feet warm. I continue the no-shoe policy in my apartment and when I visit people; as for me, it is more respectful that way.
7. How to Tour a City – I hadn’t traveled internationally (or to any new city, really) alone before PC. Abroad, I had ample opportunity to explore, and I learned how to see the highlights of a city in relatively short period of time, find interesting local places, and ward off frustration when I inevitably become lost. I think it’s a useful skill, and I am glad to still be able to apply it!
8. Defining Hardships –We all have low days, and I feel like Ukraine has given me benchmark for things I can survive. Case in point. Last year I lived in a hellish nightmare basement apartment with a cracked-out, bat-shit crazy landlady. To make myself feel better about my dire housing situation, I compared the basement with my dilapidated studio from Ukraine. Sadly, I determined the basement was worse, but the comparison helped… a little.
9. Languages – It seems like a no brainer that language skills would be something that you continue to have well after your PC years. Except, I have forgotten all of my Ukrainian and Russian. I can pull a random word tut or tam, and I can still say the pleasantries, but I have forgotten a lot, which is sad. What I have retained is an acute awareness of how bizarre the English language is, how to speak slowly and clearly when speaking with non-native English speakers, and a deep desire to eavesdrop into Ukrainian/Russian conversations I randomly hear.
Have you ever had an experiece that changed your life?
I have had my Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) membership for a little over two months now. In that time period, I:
- Took 44 CaBi trips around DC and VA
- Saved about $43 in Metro fare
- Biked over 60 miles
- Almost teetered into 2 cars
- Made 2 complete commutes to work
Not too shabby for a girl who hadn’t really ridden a bike since Jaleel White was on primetime as Steve Urkle and not a dancing star.
Pop quiz, hot shot. What is my favorite excuse for not losing weight (or even gaining!) in a particular week?
- I forgot to track my meals and portions this week.
- I blew one day, so I gave up on the rest of the week.
- I had a salty meal, and the gain is water weight.
- I worked out too hard this week, and my muscles are recovering.
If you couldn’t choose just one answer, you are almost correct. I seem to have many excuses for gains/plateaus. But, the one I use most often? C for copout, Alex.
Excuse D: This is the one I fall back on when I had a big race or workout session. (Ahem, Cherry Blossom 10-miler anyone?) After running my first half marathon, I was completely dejected when I saw a gain on the scale 2 days after the race. In time, I realized it was a false gain, but it still stung. Since then, I have learned to just avoid weigh-ins for a few days. Problem solved.
Excuse B: I rarely use this one, but occasionally I pull it out of my back pocket and throw it on the table. If I am having a bad day, or I went overboard at a meal, or I accidentally ate a bag of Cadbury mini-eggs, I might just say, “Fuck it” to the rest of the week. However, I usually have more self-control than that and try to get back on my game after a day or two.
Excuse A: This is 90% of the reason why I do not lose weight, but I have trouble using this excuse because it’s the truth. If I tracked and watched portions, I wouldn’t need excuses. What a novel idea!
Excuse C: When I am up a pound or two, it is water weight without a doubt. My favorite monthly visitor doesn’t always have to be the culprit. Maybe I ate Chinese food. Maybe I ate 3 potato chips. Maybe my body is abnormally sponge-like and soaks up every drop of water that I consume. For whatever the reason de jour, it’s always water weight.
As a rule, I am no a person who likes excuses, but when it comes to gaining weight, I feel like there must be a cause. The one that is gentlest on my ego, whether its true or not, is the water weight argument. Now, there is some fact to the excuse – foods high in sodium do cause a person to retain water, and women do become bloated for a few days out of the month. But is it the primary cause, week after week for me facing the scale stalemate? Highly unlikely, but this is the real world, and I am going to tell myself what I tell myself, I have to just face the yo-yo.
Until then, I am fueling up for the Annapolis Triathlon May 12, my first big-girl sprint tri!