birthweekend with the family!

After my Tuesday birthday, I impatiently waited my family came down Thursday night. Lucky me, I got to see them so close to my birthday because my sister was coming to see… my program at UNC! That’s right, we might end up with two family MPH/RDs. (I’m in an ongoing, blatant effort to get all of my family and loved ones here- this is a great first step).

While my sister listened to my classmates and professors, my mom and I gallivanted around Eno River State Park, one of the most beautiful places in the area. I was very proud to zen motor there (despite the fact that in the past I’d only gone as a passenger in the boyf’s car; he loves that place!) and before we knew it we had reached the beautiful quarry.

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Note the bobbing heads of the late-season swimmers in the water for perspective.

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Sodreamy there.

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Since we were already in Durham, I decided a lunch in cool downtown Durham would be a great way to make an even better case for the Triangle to my mom. We went to Toast and both got the crostini-and-a-side.

I got a salad with three kinds of crostini: avocado and manchego, fresh ricotta with roasted beets and oranges, and goat cheese with local honey and pepper. Heavennnn.

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My mom got a potato-leek-lemon soup and also crostini, but she swapped one of my crostini for a “fairy tale eggplant” (aww) marinated veggie salad one. Delish! She also opted for a potato-leek soup.

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After we picked up my sister from her orientation to campus, the family had an extremely leisurely afternoon. Relaxing coffee date, hanging out on the deck and doing face masks and manicures, and then taking YOGA together! I took my mom and sister to my favorite yoga studio: my sister’s first yoga class in her life! She waited til she was 23! We had lots of fun.

Then we met my friend Andrea at Mediterranean Deli. Always a delicious choice, and fun for people watching. I opted for three sides: the beets (which my mom and Andrea also got), a carrot pate, and foul mesdames, delicious Egyptian fava beans. Plus their yummy pita.

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While at dinner it started pouring rain, and my car was still at the yoga studio. Oops family, sorry I got you so wet!

Saturday we romped around the lovely Carrboro farmer’s market, then I took a spontaneous detour to University Lake. It’s the reservoir for our water in Orange County, and it’s also open to the public on weekends to walk around and canoe and so on.

In lieu of water activities (we had lunch plans!) we just took some selfies. We got a lot of guidance from my sister, which is good, since my family is photographically challenged. She helped my mom and I rise to the occasion (the beautiful background certainly helped)…

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.. and then my ever attractive baby sister Malindi was front and center in our family selfie. It helps that it was a beautiful day and we were endlessly entertained by one another, but I think we pulled off a pretty good picture, eh?!

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Then it was time for SOUL FOOD!

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After my nutrition culture class at Mama Dip’s, I knew I’d have to take my family to Chapel Hill’s best source of soul food. I knew from my one previous trip that their portions were formidable, so my sister and I split an entree, the special of fried oysters. It came with two sides- we got the squash casserole and the greens- and then we got an additional side of the baked apples.

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But then being out with my mom and Steve too, there was more sharing to be had! So my plate also ended up including a bite of Steve’s chicken and dumplings and a bunch of his mac and cheese.

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Meanwhile, we’d all gotten bread with our entrees. Some of us got cornbread, some got biscuits. They were generous with how much they gave us. (In the background is my mother’s PERFECT fried chicken, which she shared generously with us, and blackeyed peas and okra).

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In class, Mama Dip herself recommended putting molasses on the cornbread, so we all did that. (Great iron source, too!)

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Steve was kind enough to take another family photo next to the Mama Dip’s sign. Lovely though we looked, I really wish I’d bothered to look down before posing with my leg off to the side… since I in fact ended up stepping on an ant nest and getting bites all over my foot that itched and burned for days. Oh, me. This is why I don’t like having my picture taken (and many, many, many more reasons!)

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Saturday night I’d imagined a social evening outside Weaver Street Market, people watching and introducing my Carrboro besties to my family, drinking wine and relaxing in the fresh air. However, the weather did NOT cooperate.

Nonetheless, the wine did, accompanied with Indian takeout and the ambiance of my apartment. Steve cleverly brought over Taboo, and we had a ball.

Sunday, I was already sad at the thought of my family leaving. We had afternoon reservations for my birthday celebration (!) but had a few hours to occupy. First we went to one of my favorite breakfast establishments, Jesse’s. My mom had eaten hotel breakfast, but my sister had slept too late, and I was not staying at the hotel, so Malindi and I got yummy breakfast and my mom got a cappuccino. Isn’t my quiche pretty?! It was spinach and portabella.

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Then we took another tea and coffee break at Oasis, a cozy little tea shop in Carr Mill Mall. We sat on cozy floor cushions next to the fake fireplace and gabbed with my roomie and her boyfriend, who’d spent most of their weekend getting hailed on at a music festival.

And then off we went to Durham, for fancy afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn! I’d celebrated my friend Andrea’s birthday with her there, so we decided to just make it a classy ladies’ birthday tradition.

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My mom super generously treated us to the full afternoon tea. It was quite the amazing production!

The top tier of our beautiful tray (with one serving for each of us) had deviled eggs, open faced cucumber sandwiches, smoked turkey sandwiches, and fig jam and cheese sandwiches.

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Next we had smoked gouda slices, pimiento cheese toasts, chicken salad cups, and mushroom mini quiches.

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At the bottom were chocolate covered strawberries, blackberry-topped lemon bars, chocolate cherry truffles, fruit tarts, and caramel apple tarts.

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Also, unpictured scones (a choice between brown sugar walnut and dried blueberry and orange peel) that came with clotted cream, strawberry jam, and lemon curd.

SUCH a treat, and in a beautiful location that made me feel like a very very special birthday girl. Plus with my favorite ladies!

And just when I thought the birthday celebrating was done, out came the cake!

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so much sweetness

I don’t talk about my roommate a great deal in this blog. But want to note that she is a perfect human being. For example, she turned our deck into a day spa.

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And just sat there, playing her autoharp, singing La Vie En Rose like a perfect human being.

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Astonishingly, along with being perfect, she is also actually really nice and puts up with my tendency to trash our kitchen and fling school materials all over the living room. I have a sweet deal.

Speaking of perfection, I launched off this particular week of school both enjoying my perfect roommate’s company and hanging with my boyfriend at the wonderful Gugelhupf for a pre-birthday brunch (yes, time jumps all over the place in this blog. Just go with it) (Also, you’ll note that I failed to take any pictures this week of anything related to grad school. It clearly reflects that this was one of the last weeks before fall break and I was feeling under the gun during the school week and desperate to relish flowers, food, and sunshine over the weekend. C’est la vie).

So here we were in the lovely courtyard at Gugelhupf. They give you the mug for their perfect coffee with a cute little perfect cookie next to it.

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It’s always a great scene for people watching. Which is good, since the food is so delicious it’d otherwise be very hard to wait for it!

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Steve got a sandwich that included turkey, cheese, and apple chutney. He found the temperature frustrating (the turkey was kind of cold, everything else was kind of hot) but still liked it. And LOVED the german potato salad on the side (and so did I!)

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I, meanwhile, ordered what I’d like to eat for every meal if cost and nutrition weren’t a consideration: bread and cheese. With fruit on the side! The cheese was Saint Andre, a tripe cream brie. I gave the croissant to Steve (I just am not wild about them for some reason, unless of course they’re packed with bittersweet chocolate) but thoroughly enjoyed the cheese with (especially) a rye and some of the nut and fruit flecked breads.

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Since we’d done such a me pleasing activity (brunch) then we embarked to do a Steve pleasing activity: we met up with some friends in Raleigh for the bluegrass festival! I have to say the name was a bit of a misnomer, since it seemed to just as much be an everyone hangs out outside and eats fried food occasions.

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I randomly ran into a gazillion people I knew, which was fun. I’m hoping a random Bulgarian with whom I worked on a science education project is going to end up rock climbing with my boyfriend, as they discussed the possibility, ha!

Also, there were deep fried Girl Scout cookies. Our friends assured us that they’d had them and they were amazing. We did not partake, and in fact left fairly early because we had another friend date!

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Because I can’t go to a friend’s house without bringing something, I used the geographic opportunity of being in the Raleigh/Carey area to stop by my favorite Indian grocery store to pick up a host and hostess gift. Around the World Market recently expanded into the shop next door and now feature a bakery full of Indian treats!

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Going entirely with my eyes and their perceived deliciousness level, I selected this one pound box to share with our friends Dan and Bethany.

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The (more than a few) tastes I had were delicious. There were flavors of cashew, coconut, rosewater, and more delicious mystery spices. It didn’t totally match, since our friends had actually invited us over for tacos and margaritas, but it was still lots of fun. It was also just a very fun get together because our friends have an eight month old daughter who is the BEST! She laughs like Beevis and Butthead (I’m allowed to say this because her father said it first): “Heh heh. Heh heh.”

She’s also doing this cute thing where she’s close to crawling, but she’s very right legged. She basically gets on her belly, pulls her upper body up with her hands, and then uses her right leg as a tripod to shove her body across the floor. It looked exhausting, but she was very determined and was amazingly mobile using this technique. Babies, man. The coolest.

Lest I cope with the tragedy of not having enough sugar and treats for the day (sarcasm), we then joined our friends for chocolate fondue (!) and scary Halloween movies (!!!)

Myra was in charge of the chocolate fondue and when it looked a little thin just dumped in like an extra pound of chocolate, hahahaha. A girl after my own heart. For dippers there were rice krispie treats, apples, bananas, graham crackers, marshmallows, and potato chips (!). This was of course nutritionally justified because she’d bought everything at Whole Foods, so they were brown rice rice krispie treats and vegan marshmallows, so obviously the calories don’t count. God, so delicious.

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We watched Insidious and I contributed Indian snack mix, also purchased at Around the World Market.

Since it continued to be beautiful outside the next day, we went to Duke Gardens.

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And to finalize all the beauty in my life, then Steve got me some of my very own, in the form of these amazing orchids.

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In an astonishing and very uncharacteristic accomplishment, I have managed to keep these guys alive for at least three weeks now- and in fact they still look beautiful! (See the dying parsley hidden in the background to understand that this is rare for me).

So, though grad school continues to be tiring, I have my home arboretum and day spa, so I can’t really complain.

Lately I love…

This is too much about TV. Grad school is rotting my brain a little bit.

1. The Mindy Project.

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My friend mentioned a funny quote from it offhand during a separate conversation, and I watched the entire first two seasons (and the five episodes that have aired so far in this one) in a matter of about a week and a half. I am appalled at myself, yet also entrance. Some thoughts:

- I love that she uses her bed as a storage unit, because so do I. It’s such a young woman living on her own characteristic. I always have random books/cosmetics/hair things/papers/snacks in my bed. These are the advantages of not living with a boy! (I do not, unlike her, have a knife under my pillow for safety. I’ll take that risk.)

- I love that there’s a woman with a more normal body on TV, looking beautiful, being fallen in love with.

- Morgan Tookers delights me. I especially enjoy his silly memories of prison musicals. I wish the supporting characters got more attention (and it bothers me that all of Mindy’s girlfriends have disappeared- a show truly examining the young single woman needs to include girlfriends! And shows on network television should include women! A lead woman doesn’t mean studios should just feel free to not bother with any more substantive female characters!)

-I loved watching the buildup of her and Danny’s inevitable love. I always feel such a mixture of delight and disappointment when couples get together on TV shows. Delight because it’s always done so well and makes me feel all soft and fuzzy and reminiscent about the beginning of my own relationship. Disappointment because it means the will-they or won’t-they tension is over and now the episodes will just be about them having arguments or (God forbid) break up. The exception to this law of TV couples is exemplified in Andy and April on Parks and Rec which brings me to

2. Parks and Rec. So many things to love.

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- Andy and April’s relationship, as mentioned. His Burt Macklin, FBI alter-ego. The fact that they just both let each other be each other.

- Ron Swanson. A lot of people who annoy me are fans of his (not making a political statement; he seems equally loved by members of both parties, some of whom think he’s ironic and some of whom think he’s incredibly sincere). But, just, annoying people for nonpolitical reasons. However. He is SO funny!

- Minor characters. Specifically Perd Hapley, the name I plan to give my next cat.

- Amy Poehler. God I love her so much. I can’t wait to read her book. I’m still sad she and Will Arnett got divorced. Like… really really sad. And it’s been awhile. I just choose to believe that the best attributes of her character- the optimism, the willingness to work really hard and get caught in the nitty gritty, the earnestness, the amusingly phrased wisdom, the lack of fear of looking stupid- are all real qualities of Amy Poehler. Also I think I’m most like her and Steve (reluctantly) thinks he’s most like Ben, so soul mates!

- The whole Joe Biden thing. I also love the ridiculous Onion articles about Joe Biden.

3. Trader Joe’s reduced guilt guacamole. I love it… and I have a hard time eating it in moderation. But because it only has healthy things in it, and packs less of a whallop than regular guacamole, who cares?!

4. Fage 2% Greek Yogurt with honey. Fun fact: when you’re in grad school, you sometimes end up grocery shopping at odd times. Like, for example, 10:30 on a Monday night, because you just finished up a project. My groupmate’s house was closest to Harris Teeter which, score, is open 24 hours. Imagine my delight, having not been to Harris Teeter in awhile, to discover a bunch of really good deals! (I think this may have something to do with Kroger buying them). The best by far was Fage being 10 for $10. I didn’t quiiite buy ten, but I came pretty close. I love them so much. They are so satisfying and indulgent and are actually good for you. Love you boo.

5. Foxy Lady socks. My mom and my sister both gave me Treat Yo Self type birthday gifts (if you don’t get that reference, see #2 and immediately start watching it on Netflix) and my mom’s included these shockingly soft socks. I love sleeping in them.

6. BB cream. I am an absolute Neanderthal when it comes to skin care/cosmetics/generally caring about my appearance/remembering to shower regularly. My sister occasionally attempts to intervene. One of her most successful efforts was giving me her old Aveeno BB cream.

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I love it because:

- It adds only 30 seconds to my morning routine, and includes several beneficial components. Specifically…

- It includes sunblock, and I’m a bum about sunblock on its own and also hate how it makes my ordinarily agreeable skin break out but this stuff doesn’t mess up my skin

- It makes me look dewy and more put together (via the subtle tint) without requiring cosmetic effort

7. Chill Situations. I love this twitter feed more than I can say. It’s okay if you don’t get it/don’t like it. I want to state for the record that I don’t smoke pot, and think the writers of this probably do. I just find it so… perfect. Perfect!

8. Littlest Critic. Once again plugging my cousin’s blog because it’s so good! I say my cousin’s blog, but really it’s my cousin’s two year old son’s blog- or at least a blog consisting of his direct quotes. I so enjoy these hysterical reviews of really good music from the perspective of a two year old. He calls the Violent Femmes the Flying Hens!

9. These sexy men’s Halloween costumes. Good if you need a laugh/cringe.

10. These adorably named shelter cats.

11. This sweet video of elderly Jewish people explaining Yiddish words. My mom sent it to me; she lived in New York City long enough to incorporate quite a bit of Yiddish into casual conversation. I completely love the words, and their meanings, and this video has a lovely message.

12. Finally, I love my current yoga studio. I’m reluctant to name it, lest it get too popular. Let me count the ways I love it:

- It’s donation based. Great for poor students!

- The inside is beautiful. Soft colors and lighting, and pictures of leaders of all the world’s religion around the walls. And there are NO MIRRORS! Mirrors are horribly distracting in yoga, for me.

- The fullest class I’ve been to there had six people. You get SO MUCH individual attention from the teachers. They give you these teeny tiny adjustments to make huge differences. This class leaves me feeling muscles I don’t feel after my other preferred forms of exercise- shoulders and lower ribs and things. Thus, I count it as strength training (which is great as I hate formal strength training.

- Unlike many studios, there are people with truly varying ages/abilities/appearances/body shapes and it’s wonderful and inclusive and non-competitive

birthweek: cake, cake, cake and cake!

Birthday cake number one: self purchased. I met my friend Andrea for lunch and discussed angsty issues discussed in my pre-birthday post. She was also having some Being a Grownup Is Hard-itis so it was gratifying to talk to her. We decided that we ought to have some cake.

I ate about 3/4 of this magnificence over the course of the afternoon as I continued to work on a paper (yes, shockingly, grad school did not give me a dispensation from all of my assignments for my birthweek)

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The cake was splendid, though. From Weaver Street Market, and vegan! You never would’ve known- it had all the decadence, density, and moisture one would expect from something packed with cream and butter. The first ingredient was coffee, which I think really helped keep it moist and give it a depth of flavor.IMG_0984

As for my birthday itself, October 7th- lucky 7!- Steve took me out for an un.believable. dinner at Lantern. Never mind the lovely ambiance (the eponymous lanterns were all over the restaurant’s ceiling; as the sun set, they cast a warm glow over everything) or the attentive service, the food was ridiculously delicious. Fancy and tasty and requiring way too much cheffy technique to ever imagine making at home.

Steve had heard the dumplings were good, so we split an order of the veggie ones.

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And a second appetizer, these unbelievable shrimp. First of all, they were cooked with their shells on, so you ate them whole, explained our waiter, like you would a soft shell crab. They were perfectly cooked (no hint of rubberiness that can happen with shrimp) and flavorful. Best of all, however (avert your eyes, Malindi) was the flash-fried cilantro on the side. Woe to you, cilantro-haters like my dear sister, because this stuff was innnnncredddible. Rich and crunchy!

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As we nibbled on the appetizers, the drinks arrived. WHOO this cocktail. Hibiscus-infused vodka, lime, and thai basil. Herby, citrusy, and not too sweet. Everything I like in a cocktail! So delicious. Beautiful, too.

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For my entree, I got the North Carolina sturgeon. Dude, have any of you ever eaten sturgeon? I had NOT. I wish I had known what kind it was, since sustainable seafood is important to me and the Monterey Bay guide is a little fuzzy on this fish. Crossing my fingers it’s a sustainable choice, cause DANG it’s good. It was smoked (swoon, I love smoked fish) so it had delicious smoky flavor and was not at all dry (which is always the danger with fish). Its accompaniments were, circularly, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, steamed black sticky rice, and baby bok choy, all topped in a miso butter. The bok choy was like buttah, the black rice was perfectly starchy and chewy and flavorful, and I could’ve eaten ladlefuls of the miso butter.

I feel like at restaurants I often prefer appetizers, but this was definitely the best restaurant entree I’ve ever eaten, and both the most substantial and most delicious part of the meal.

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Unpictured is the cake Steve and I split to end the meal. Demonstrating that almost four years (!) into our relationship Steve is still capable of surprising me, HE picked dessert! I am always the Team Dessert member in our relationship; he is Team Eat More Of The Main Course. We split a flourless chocolate cake, which came with slightly salty, slightly crunchy peanut ice cream, mmm.

Then there was MORE cake! I was innocently lounging on the couch watching Parks and Rec with Steve, thinking my birthday celebrations had ended for the day, when there was a knock at my door. Who should it be but Myra and Alex and their puppy Lochsie! (Who promptly peed all over Alex, who was holding her, because she was so excited to see me. Heh.) With them was caramel pecan cheesecake whaaaaaaa?! So delicious. We hung out on the day spa deck and had a lovely, relaxing end to my birthday. Lucky, lucky lucky me!

The penultimate cake of the week (there was another in my birthweekend, when my mother and sister came to visit, but that’s a separate post) was provided by my classmate Sophia. Sophia is the ish! She, like so many of my peers in my program, has such an interesting background. A little business and fashion, a little culinary school, an obsession with the microbiome and healthy fats. She was appalled to discover that it was my birthday on facebook only at the end of the day, after she’d already had a few classes with me. She called me at dinner to personally apologize (so adorable). Then, my next day of class with her, she led the whole class in a round of “Happy Birthday” and gave me this carroty piece of heaven.

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of m+ms, manicures, and mansions

Week 6 of grad school (I’m compressing time to catch my blog up with the present day! Thank you fall break).

A last-of-the-summer produce meal. Bruschetta, tomato salad, roasted corn on the cob. Plus yellow split peas for protein/deliciousness. I cannot get enough of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe. It’s in her cookbook World Vegetarian, a great read. I got it from the library but (foolishly) forgot to copy down the recipe, but I managed to recreate it with a combination of this and this.

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Spent a lot of this week doing research for a group project, which led me here:

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A lot of people complain about the WIC office, but I sure loved visiting this one. They had a great staff (one member of whom was an internationally board certified lactation consultant, which is awesome!) and really awesome pro-breastfeeding resources (one of the topics of my project). Love how this flier is both informative and adorable. Tiny baby tummies that don’t need a big bottle of formula!4

Since I was in Hillsborough anyway, I stopped by my favorite vintage shop. They weren’t open (like nothing in Hillsborough is open on Monday, it’s super small town ish) but I admired their blooming flowers.

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Then I invited Steve to meet me for a spontaneous Monday night date. Rooooomance! I think that Wooden Nickel, the pub in downtown Hillsborough, randomly has the best burger in the triangle. And they are awesome about having local beef. So I got that, with the tots (!), and Steve got his sandwich with a salad so we could split our sides and each have a little nutrition and indulgence in the same meal.

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The tots were perfectly crunchy. I couldn’t eat that many… because they’re tots. But they were great.

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But man, this burger, I don’t know HOW they do it. It’s super simple: they don’t even put on lettuce and tomato and onion; it’s just beef, cheese, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. It’s just that the meat is SO JUICY and SO FLAVORFUL and the bun is yummy and the pickles are good and just… it’s perfect. Wondrous mystery.

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Steve got a sandwich special which involved chicken, bacon, cheese, and apple chutney.

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Then, as I drove home, there was this gorgeous sunset I had to capture. Not particularly safely, heh.IMG_0848   IMG_0851

Another highlight of the academic week was when our biostats professor gave us M+Ms to demonstrate a binary distribution sampling technique.

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Later I went and got sushi with my friend Andrea, as I have quite a few times. But never before have I noticed that DOLLY ATE THERE YOU GUYS OH MY GODDDDDDDDD! (Have I talked about my adoration for Dolly Parton on this blog yet? If not, just know that I LOVE HER AS MUCH AS I LOVE PEOPLE I ACTUALLY KNOW)IMG_0889

I tried to get a “healthy dessert”. Love that this was named a “Carrboro bar”, because I love Carrboro. It has all the dried fruit and whole grains and *crunchy*, in both senses of the word, elements you’d expect. But eh. Sometimes you just want real dessert.

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I met up with a new friend to get manicures that weekend. I THINK I LOVE YOU, orange nails. I got a lot of compliments on these. Take a chance for fall, ladies, it’s very fun having pumpkin nails.

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Post-manicure, I hung out with a friend who’d been house sitting at the most GORGEOUS house in Durham. Like, dream house territory. Woodland paradise house. This was the perfect screened in porch (a must-have in my dream home).

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The living room was also lovely and artistically arranged.

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I thought one of the best parts of the whole place (that my friend Leesie, the house sitter and clearly not a cat lady like myself did not get) was this sweetheart who came with the place. She nestled herself between us while we gabbed on the porch eating pie, and demanded lots of petting. I miss having a cat so badddd. I’d like this house and this cat, please.

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And finally, the Sunday afternoon of that weekend marked the annual Carrboro music festival, a chance to walk through shut-down Weaver Street, listen to bands, and get sunburned! Lots of fun quirky venues.

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Tarheel Creamery, I will love you forever. (There are a gazillion local ice cream makers in the area, because we are spoiled beyond belief. I alternate in my favorite but right now it’s definitely Tarheel. This strawberry ice cream was to die for). It’s so fun hanging out outside, listening to relaxing music, and eating ice cream.

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This guy played a violin with a puppet whaaattttttt?!IMG_0927

We took a music break to take in some food and views at Top of the Hill.

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Steve had these yummy classy grit cakes in cashew-rosemary gravy.

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And I had the nachos I’d been randomly craving for weeks. Paid extra for avocado because come on. This was enormous.

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After:

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Went and enjoyed a last performance at Weaver Street Market. As ever, a zoo.

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There’s this man who seems like a character from a children’s book. I seem to allllways see him at WSM, and whenever there’s a band playing he’s front and center, dancing beautifully. He looks like a wise, semi-elderly but still very limber yogi. At this particular moment all the children were following him around and copying his dance moves like he was this magical pied piper. So fun to watch!IMG_0941

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Lovely Carrboro!

In other news, this marks the first blog post I’ve written in the WordPress editor, rather than relying on Windows Live Writer. WLW had been growing increasingly glitch-y on my old PC, particularly because it’s no longer supported by Windows. Then my old PC became almost increasingly useless. And there’s no WLW equivalent for Macs… and the software there is costs money. Womp womp.

I’m trying this for now but I have to say the photo uploading process thus far has been super annoying. On the other hand, the photos look nicer. Let me know what y’all think.

week 5

In week 5 I was reminded (not for the first time) that my immune system is fairly pathetic.

Thank God my sister loves me and frequently sends me pictures of the cat to elevate my spirits.

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(Sheila is in love with that boy. He is a little on the feral side right now but we’re confident he’ll soon become a member of the family, never mind how coy my mother is being about it)

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(Sheila agreed to appear in a selfie with my sister which is shocking to me)

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Apparently shortly before this picture was taken Sheila started retching over the carpet, so Malindi passed her a dish towel on which to barf. Sheila looked very pleased and started rubbing herself against the dish towel. No barfing, crisis averted, the cat is thrilled!

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Done being a cat lady now. For the moment.

Also, thank God my sweet boyfriend brings me flowers and makes me dinner.

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Nutritious to boot! Sauteed veggies 9cabbage/potatoes/mushrooms/herbs) topped with an ever-restorative fried egg. Plus corn on the cob and (I didn’t end up eating this all as it didn’t sit that well with my illness) tuna mac and cheese with buttery bread crumbs.

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Also thank heavens (but my wallet says otherwise…) for Weaver Street Market, where I impulse shopped for healthy and easy foods. Along with myriad frozen items, I got hot bar for dinner one night. This was delicious and definitely fulfilled the veg requirement for the day:

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From the top left: spiced sweet potato wedges, vegetarian refried beans, sauteed greens in a Chinese dressing, red curry tofu salad, grape tomatoes, mashed butternut squash, and steamed green beans with dates.

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I made myself another nice hippie pizza thanks to this yummy whole wheat pizza dough recipe from Handle the Heat. Topped with sauce, low fat cheese, and crumbled tempeh sauteed with soy sauce and garlic powder.

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My mom and I always excitedly/anxiously text each other when these little buggers appear in stores. We both have a problem. Not so much candy corn, just the little pumpkins. Obviously the fact that I bought them with salad greens (at, er, ten at night in an impulse purchase) suggests that my life is filled with balance and moderation. And I think both items helped my healing process.

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When the weekend arrived, I took in a, per usual, totally fun and totally Carrboro event at the Carrboro farmer’s market. Doesn’t The People’s Peppers kind of sound like a communist propaganda flier?

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It entailed a lot of things…

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But most excitingly, lots and lots of healthy samples!

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This soup was so, so, so good.

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Sounds a little fussy but I might try to make it anyway. Though I’d better hustle since I think these ingredients may be few and far between by now.

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I’d like to point out that the Carrboro farmer’s market has an adorable cookbook lending library.

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Later on Saturday, I joined my pals Myra and Alex and their adorable puppy to take in an arts festival. They’d shut down several blocks in the coolest part of downtown Durham, and we wandered around oohing and aahing (and pausing every two seconds so someone could pet the adorable puppy).

Stuff that stood out included this uhh-mazing copper:

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These sweet wood carvings:

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A contingent from The Scrap Exchange, which I think is one of the coolest organizations ever.

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Fun giant animal sculptures

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And this lady’s amazing photographs (which she yelled at me for snapping, oops)

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Since we were nearby, we had to stop at The Parlour, an amazing ice cream shop. I was bummed that they were out of my favorite, lavender, but consoled myself with

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on birthdays

I started today as a verifiable bucket of angst. Birthdays haven’t really done it for me since I left childhood. As an October baby, I was perpetually starting new schools and awkwardly trying to figure out whether it was even appropriate to bring up my special day with people I’d only known for a few weeks. Moreover, I’ve had some truly depressing birthdays as an adult. Awkward, tenuous college friendships often led to strained and uncomfortable birthday dinners, with a culminating low my senior year when everyone had midterms and blew me off on my 21st birthday, leaving me to eat candy for dinner and cry in my room (wow that sounds really grim- the following weekend I went to the Cape with my best friend and had an amazing time, I’m being very woe-is-me to illustrate my grimness earlier today).

It’s just, getting older is just… getting old, once you’ve gotten the legal ability to do the exciting things (drive, vote, drink, etc.) And getting old is sad- that sounds terrible, but hear me out. When you’re a real adult, you realize every single decision you make, even when you’re choosing something good and exciting, means giving up something else… that’s also really good. Choosing graduate school, which has brought me so much joy and learning, meant giving up making money and a meaningful job, and watching my savings hemorrhage. Having someone I love, who I can imagine marrying and having babies with, means having to decide where to live (and since we’ve departed the era where you stayed within 30 miles of your birthplace for your whole life, that’s a real drag when you both have families you love). Choose one place and its opportunities and advantages, mourn the place you can’t choose. Self care, too: trying to take care of my body and sanity means not being skinny. Accepting my introverted self means disappointing people who want to go out and turning down opportunities for fun and youthful irresponsibility on days when I know I need to lay low.

All that being said, I had lunch with my dear friend Andrea, who I’ve known since the summer after freshman year of high school. She was also in a mood, and it was so nice to have an ally/advisor in this Me vs. Adulthood war. Also, I tend to be a hippie about things I see over and over, and thus far in the past four days I have run into SO MANY PEOPLE who represent virtually every major life experience, paid or otherwise, I’ve had thus far in my time in North Carolina.

Friday: at the coffee shop where I was doing a health behavior assignment, one of my classmates from the Nutrition Through the Lifespan class, and my wonderful professor Carmen who taught us motivational interviewing. At the Tex-Mex place where we got dinner, one of my coworkers from Early Head Start (which was nice but bizarre, taking me back to a really difficult time in my life), and the director of the planetarium where I used to work (who, as when I worked at the planetarium, did not recognize me)

Saturday: at the Bluegrass Festival in downtown Raleigh, one of my favorite classmates and her husband, and a nice dorky computer scientist with whom I collaborated on a project while at the planetarium who had a very enthusiastic chat about rock climbing with Steve

Monday: at Weaver Street Market (where I’m pluggin’ away on a take home test right now), my coworker from the summer camp I ran through the planetarium (and her boss from the partner organization, which is slightly awkward, since they offered me a job at their organization and I turned it down because I was nervous about having a lot of school work), and then my awesome advisor and then another classmate from my Nutrition Through the Lifespan class, and then the teaching assistant for my health behavior class

And this excludes the conscious interactions I’ve had during that time (hanging out with my roommate, boyfriend, and friends doing various activities like scary movie viewing, delicious brunch, playing with chubby babies, ambling through Duke Gardens, and more). And all of these interactions I’ve had have been… positive. Really positive, actually. There is definitely something to be said for the South, a region where people are actually excited to run into you and up for a nice long chat in the grocery line. There’s something to be said that I left behind my old demon boss in Virginia and now anyone I run into from a previous position I am actually… excited to see! I’ve had positive professional experiences here through which I’ve made really nice connections! And I have good, fun, interesting friends! Yes, Steve and I had a draining conversation about how we could make decisions about where to live someday (and how to live, and who to visit when) but it was also a conversation rooted in really good listening and empathy. Based on the fact that we love each other and can more and more imagine a happy life together but also both have awesome families who we love.

So, as I turn 26 (bleh. Don’t let the previous paragraphs convince you I’ve now attained enlightenment, it’s still kind of a bummer) I am going to be really conscious and grateful for this web in which I find myself situated. On an occasion that I think is too often wrapped up in glorifying the individual, I am choosing to largely disregard that (except for the cake, on which I already got a head start on this birthday eve!) and instead raise a glass to this pond in which little fish me is swimming.