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.

week 4

Grad school continues! (And continues… I just finished week 7 and this is my week 4 update. Going to have a bit of a time warp to catch up on posting!)

We begin week 4 with a fabulous weekend. It started with a relaxing getaway to Jordan Lake.

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Steve and Adrienne (his super cool work friend) grilled away. I, rocking my usual sunlight induced headache and nausea (because I am a vampire?), sat on a blanket in the shade chatting with people.

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It was a great barbecue with the tiniest of hitches that no one remembered plates. Fortunately, we’d all perused the Free Will Astrology column in the Indy paper (which is a hoot) and had newpaper plates/utensils. I had a Paleo lunch, hahahaha.

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Later that day, I was a baby matchmaker! We have friends with a 14-month-old little girl and friends with a six month old little girl and I went BUT THE BABIES MUST BE BEST FRIENDS!

It worked pretty well. Little T was enthralled by big A. A is getting to be soooooooooo mobile. I spent most of the time chasing her around to give her mom and dad a break. It was lots of fun; she just wandered around (we were on the lawn of Weaver Street Market, where the entire town of Carrboro hangs out when the weather is nice). She’d go up to random tables of people, throw open her arms, and exclaim “Heeeeeeeeeeeeey!” like a teenage girl :)

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The next day Steve and I had a nice lunch at a pizzeria in Hillsborough and the people at the table next to us HAD BROUGHT THEIR TWO PARROTS TO THE RESTAURANT WHAT?! Yet another advantage of outdoor dining (though I think about bird flu and still shudder a little when I see this picture)

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Parrots like pizza. These were the most entertaining dining companions I have ever had.

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Lunch was great, too!

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This was a white pizza with lobster (swoon) and scrambled eggs, given some zippiness with green onions and herbs.

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Nice crisp crust, too. Man, home pizza just can’t top restaurant pizza.

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And this vegetable side dish, which the nutrition girl forced us to get, was actually SUPER good too! Parmesan helped, for sure :) But I always appreciate when restaurants appreciate seasonal vegetables and don’t do too much to them (these were still al dente!)

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WHAT a treat we had in my Nutrition Counseling, Communication and Culture class this week! We went to Mama Dips, the most critically acclaimed soul food restaurant in Chapel Hill (if not all of North Carolina) and got a talk about traditional Southern food from Mama Dip herself!

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So great to see someone older who is just 100% with it with so many great stories to tell. It’s also interesting, we hear so much about unhealthy Southern food, but a lot of the elderly folks from this area I’ve talked to have really emphasized the importance of vegetables (ideally ones you’ve grown yourself) in the diet.

That is not to say there weren’t cookies. These were made by her granddaughter, Tanya (who grow up with playing with my professor, who was the one who got us the introduction) and they were the lightest, airiest, richest wonders. In pecan praline, chocolate mint, and (my favorite, for the melty chocolate morsels within) chocolate. YUM!

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As for home cooking, I tried to get a little creative this week. Steve and I had gotten some spring roll wrappers to use for ravioli, and we had a whole leftover pack with which to experiment.

First I made… spring rolls! I chopped up raw cabbage (in the future I’d cook it a bit; I like my spring rolls crunchy but this as excessive) and tofu and then drizzled it in a yummy peanut sauce (coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriracha, garlic powder, rice vinegar… think that was it?). Then baked off. Execution wasn’t perfect but they were still good.

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The real highlight, though, I have to say were these.

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I’d also had some leftover ricotta after our ravioli making, so I browsed the Internet for ideas and came upon DESSERT RAVIOLI! Here’s what I did:

- Made the filling: mashed up banana, plums, ricotta, stevia, a little lemon zest, and mixed together.

- Cut the spring roll wrappers in half and filled each with a tablespoon or so of the filling (this wasn’t very runny so I could fill them with a decent amount of filling; I hate ravioli with too little filling)

- Fried the ravioli in a little coconut oil on both sides, then added a little water to the pan and covered to let them finish steaming and heat through.

DELISH! And not terribly unhealthy!

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While that was a culinary triumph, I’ve become too reliant on buying “a little something” on campus…. most days! Yes, Umpqua oats are awesome, but they’re like $4 for $.50 of ingredients.

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Truth: the last time I was a full time student I was in the throes of some seriously messed up eating habits. So, I didn’t spend a great deal on spontaneous snacks because the food I ate was devoid of spontaneity (or, largely, joy, but that’s another post). I’d measure out my apple slices and 7 almonds and that was the snack, period. Actually responding to hunger cues now (what a concept) marks a healthy transition for me personally, but it can’t work this way if my current spending habits and current income (aka none) continue. 

Also, there is a certain sense of shame that comes with being a master’s nutrition student and bringing something wholly artificial to class. However, being a master’s nutrition student often entails needing caffeine to get through it all. C’est la vie.

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grad school week 3, and a public service announcement

Week 3 of grad school began with Labor Day weekend. Naturally, that meant attending a cookout with my new classmates.

At an event earlier in the week, my friend brought her husband which means the significant-others barrier had been broken so I brought Steve.

Not only is he better at small talk than I am, thus making social occasions much more pleasant, he made this decadent dish right here:

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He used homemade bread to make French toast (with local eggs and whole milk) and then topped the slices with tomatoes, green onion, and lots of cheddar. SO good.

My contribution paled in comparison, just desserty things (I made gluten-free stuff and then none of the gluten-free people were there!)

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The meal also involved a watermelon-gin drink (in the pitcher), carrot muffins, tomato-basil-mozz skewers…

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And lots more unpictured stuff- deviled eggs, guac, the BEST tandoori chicken I’ve ever tasted, made by our classmate whose family is from Goa.

Later that night Steve and I got dinner in Durham, eating outside.

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Mount Fuji had a ridiculous selection of rolls, which are BOGO.

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We started with a shared seaweed salad (totally faked for the picture; I am not left handed).

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And then we split four rolls- shockingly, I, the nutrition student, was not the one who ordered the deep fried one on the left :)

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Mount Fuii is so reliably yummy.

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On Labor Day itself Steve and I got brunch at Elmo’s. It was hot, but the powerful fans made the patio a comfortable place to eat, and it’s great for views and people watching.

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Steve got one of his favorites, which he’s dubbed “The Hypocrite”: a veggie burger with bacon and cheese :) Plus REAL good creamy, smoky and subtly spicy macaroni and cheese.

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I got a yummy dish they’ve been having as a special for awhile (my sister got it when she was here), the “Cowboy Eggs”. It’s cornbread topped with veggie chili, scrambled eggs, green onion, sour cream, and LOTS of cheese. Plus baked cinnamon apples as my side.

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Once the relaxing long weekend was over, I dove back into school. Lots more fascinating chat about pregnancy in my Nutrition Through the Lifespan class. Which brings me to my nutrition/public health service announcement.

LADIES. I am LOOKING AT YOU. Are you in your reproductive years? Then TAKE FOLIC ACID RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Let’s talk about it.

You need adequate dietary folate equivalents (either dietary folate, the best source of which is leafy green vegetables, or synthetic folic acid, which is now in all fortified grain products as well as any women’s or children’s multivitamin) to prevent neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are BAD NEWS. Two you may have heard of are spina bifida and anencephaly (which is awful awful awful)

Now, you may say to yourself, “I’m not pregnant or trying! I don’t have to worry about this yet!” WRONG. The critical period to prevent neural tube defects is before the 9th week of pregnancy. Since 50% (HALF! HALF!) of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and most women wait til a missed period (or two) until confirming that they are pregnant, they mostly miss that critical period during which they should be focusing on getting enough folic acid. That means, ladies, that you need enough of the good stuff in your system before your babies are twinkles in your eyes, so that when your little teeny bambinos are just multiplying bundles of cells, you can count on the fact that they’re getting that folic acid even if you don’t even know they’re there yet.

Now, what if you said to yourself, “I eat a healthy diet, so I must be getting enough”? Well, that’s where I was before I started taking this class). However, the nutrient is much more easily absorbed as synthetic folic acid than it is as folate.

Definitely eat your leafy green vegetables (a great source of natural folate and a bunch of other things that are good for you).

Also, appreciate a recent public health success: folic acid fortification became mandatory in the US food supply in 1998, for the exact reason that we need our women in their childbearing years to maintain good nutritional status in preparation for pregnancy. That is credited for a huge drop in neural tube defects.

But, don’t count on diet alone to get you enough folic acid- dietary folate (veggies) and dietary folic acid (enriched grains) may only get you part of the way there.

What I’m opting to do is taking a children’s multivitamin. One because apparently I am only motivated to take vitamins when it means eating delicious gummies (because I am four years old, apparently). Two because almost all children’s multivitamins have 400 mcg folic acid (the recommended amount to prevent neural tube defects- though note that any mamas who’ve already had a child with a neural tube defect need to supplement with a LOT more than that- like, milligrams, not micrograms!)

A prenatal vitamin will also get you there (and my sister swears by then and I hear they give you great skin and hair).

Just ladies, whatever you do, just promise me you’ll do something, okay? Even if (like me) you aren’t planning on getting pregnant anytime soon, maybe someday that will change. Knowing you have those stores built up and are putting your little nugget on a good path is pretty great for peace of mind.

End of rant!

Speaking of peace of mind, there was randomly a super classy (healthy) reception for students at the school of public health.

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Some (all?) of it was catered by Vimalas (delicious, community-oriented restaurant nearby) and there was an amazing selection of local, seasonal fruits and veggies and generally great for you stuff.

This was my plate!

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Particularly delicious were the grapes (muscadine and scuppernong; they smell super amazing and boozy), the oh so juicy and sweet yellow watermelon, and the (slightly buried under the cheese) homemade chickpea flour and herb crackers. So yummy! I smuggled out a plate for Steve, too, since he was nice enough to pick me up from class.

Now, I woke up the following day with a gross, gross stomach bug. I’m going to muse further on stress and illness (since I finish this post coming off a weekly cold I was scared would turn into bronchitis), but for now I’ll just give ginger a shoutout, and thank it for helping nurse my gut back to health.

Weaver Street Market, thanks for making me this awesome lemon ginger muffin and stocking this awesome light ginger beer.

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Hard to fault this ingredient list.

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Also, thank you friends, who aid my recuperation- and, absurdly, pay me- by asking me to puppy sit.

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