other people’s weddings

Recently my life has been weirdly consumed by various activities associated with other people’s weddings. I love those people, so of course it’s nice to celebrate their joy with them. And yet, having observed all of this nonsense up close, I can now confidently say in the deeply, deeply unlikely event that I meet someone to whom I want to make a lifelong commitment I will run to city hall and then perhaps have a high caliber barbecue with friends but that is the closest thing to a wedding I will ever have. You have my word.

So here’s one bride and groom: my sister (!) and her Eric

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I mean they get to be in love but I get to hang out in the car with their doggo, Billie Jean. She is very beautiful as you can see.

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We decided to take an outing with the pets to Dorothea Dix park, which has lovely, expansive grounds and most weekends resembles sort of a dog party.

But wait… I said “the pets.” Yes, Bean was not the only pet there.

Little Mearl also joined us.

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My sister’s cat is an unusual young man.

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He does amazingly well in these huge public unfamiliar settings with tons of dogs around. He occasionally retreats into his little backpack when he gets overstimulated but he does seem to genuinely have a nice time sniffing grass and things.

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Malindi used her phone’s portrait mode to take this enchanting picture of her and Eric’s hairy children.

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And this one of me, hahaha.

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Before we went on our nice little outing we stopped for French pastries (!) at Lucette Grace, the most magic little patisserie in downtown Raleigh.

I got this lemon meringue tart which was ACCESSORIZED by a MINI LEMON MACARON. It wasn’t beautiful or anything.

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And Malindi lived her best life and got this double header of various cheesecakey and chocolatey things.

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Those were all great but honestly I think my favorite thing was this truly unbelievable brown butter pecan caramel. I bought one for each of us ❤

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So Malindi and Eric are getting hitched and that is very exciting. I already recounted their Virginia/hometown engagement party. But then their friends in Raleigh also threw them an adopted town engagement party!

And, as you’ll recall, until-recently Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was at their Virginia party… and current North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper was at their North Carolina party! Just ridiculous!

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He came in the door and everyone (Eric until recently worked on his staff and most of the folks at the party were part of his campaign and/or work for him now) was like “Wait, governor, weren’t you just on TV?” And he was indeed but that must’ve been his last official event for the day (a Saturday) because he stayed and hung out at the party for a good long while and was so friendly and nice!

It makes Eric look pretty dang likeable that all these fancy and important-ish politicians he works for are so nice and enthusiastic about coming to low key parties for their staffers.

Well I saw low key but actually it was pretty heckin fancy as parties go. LOOK AT THIS DESSERT TABLE.

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Because I had some leftover chocolate cake scraps sitting around (reasons will be revealed below!) I opted to add to the dessert enjoyment by making my first ever cake pops. I will confess that the cake itself was homemade, as was the chocolate ganache I dipped it in… but for the actual cake ball formation process I totally just used frosting in a can. And it was real tasty.

Anyway, I thought these turned out real cute!

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The savory department at the party was also really impressive. They had both fried risotto balls AND fried macaroni and cheese balls.

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Okay now for the other bride and groom who are quite close to me… my friends Shaylen and Kyle!

Kyle was part of my Americorps gang in 2010-2011, after college graduation. He and Shaylen had just started dating then, so I got to know her a bit too. We all stayed in touch while I did my little things and they did their considerably bigger things (most notably, living for two years in Indonesia!) Eventually (I like to fancy with a little bit of pull from me) they ended up moving to NC so Kyle could attend law school at UNC. I’ve gotten to see lots of both of them since then. Shaylen also works in public health so it’s been lots of fun having her around to gripe about various things with 😀

So THEY are getting hitched this August and THEY are the couple for whom I will be making a wedding cake!

So I got to get in a practice round at Shay’s gorgey bridal shower!

Shaylen’s friend Caroline is the most gifted flower arranger I have ever met. I mean, she works in the wedding industry so she’s had some practice, but my understanding is still that she is pretty self-taught.

She made the following bouquets using mostly flowers from TRADER JOE’S, supplemented with some peonies she bought wholesaler using a florist connection she has (… I mean)

Can you even?! SO gorgeous!

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And for my contribution to the shower I did a WEDDING CAKE PRACTICE RUN! I went for the chocolate layer, and had my first ever adventure with Swiss buttercream.

This was how things went down in my car (thank God the place where the shower was is about 10 minutes from my house. On the actual wedding day I’ll use cake boxes, I promise). (Also it was not slanty it is just the angle, I swear. I did a rather nice job leveling it, if I do say so myself.)

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Caroline worked more of her magic and put some greenery and loveliness on top of the cake, and I did some finishing buttercream touches. I was so pleased with how it turned out!

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Also on the menu at the shower was the usual fun afternoon tea things. I love a cucumber sandwich. I love a mini scone. It’s so easy to make me happy.

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Caroline also made Shaylen a magic flower crown that she got to wore. She looks so adorable in this picture! Despite the fact that the shower was outside and it was about 300 degrees!

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Okay so now let’s talk cake:

  • Chocolate cake– Smitten Kitchen.
  • Swiss buttercream– Smitten Kitchen
  • Chocolate ganache filling (!) My cousin the pastry chef talked me through it. I quote: “Ganache is just equal parts chocolate and heavy cream. So I’d guess for a big cake you’d need at least a quart of cream (scald) poured over 2lbs bittersweet chocolate (easiest to do with chips). Stir while hot until there are no chunks at all. Once it cools there’s no getting rid of chunks. Leave at room temp until ready to use. I don’t refrigerate it before assembling because it makes it impossible to spread. If it looks like it separates, just add a little fat to it and whisk…Make sure you don’t pour the choco into the hot milk pan. Could burn and then it’s gross.” Because she’s a fancy lady she scalds her cream on the stovetop but I will confess I microwaved it and nothing bad happened. And holy cow, bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream melted together tastes like HEAVEN.

I ended up making the cake in a HUGE pan (testing the structural integrity of the huge pan for the actual wedding day- it stood up fine but I actually am going to end up making more cakes in smaller pans). Then I traced around small pans to cut the big cake out into two 8-inch layers and two six-inch layers.

The two 8-inch layers went to the party. And the two 6-inch layers went to my friends’ Dan and Bethany’s house because I hadn’t seen them in awhile and they’re great! Their four year old daughter LOVVVED THIS.

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So the ganache, I’m not changing a thing. It’s extraordinary. The swiss buttercream, I’m not changing a thing. It’s wonderfully easy to work with, relatively heat resistant, and DELICIOUS- not too sweet.

The only thing is that the chocolate cake is almost TOO rich?! They’ll have an outdoor wedding in August, already be serving a rich meal, it’s covered in buttercream and chocolate… I may, rather than using the Smitten Kitchen cake recipe, make my cousin’s genoise recipe (similar to this). That way the cake itself is a bit lighter but can soak up some flavored syrup for some exoticism (and I may throw some booze in there 😉 ) and since I”m not stacking it I don’t have to worry about it getting too heavy/soggy- I can just focus on its deliciousness!

Anyway, here’s the interior shot. Not bad, eh?!

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adventures

I like going out and doing things but as you will tell from this post I do like having my little rituals and routines. And also brunch. I like brunch a lot.

Had brunch with Myra and Alex awhile back. I know it was awhile because Myra was still preggers and now their baby is three months old! Gah, when did my friends start getting so old?!

We went to Tandem. I got tasty eggs florentine:

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And the pregnant lady got BY FAR the better option and got big fat gorgeous french toast with some kind of creme anglaise situation on the side and strawberries and rhubarb and whipped cream and syrup and all the nice things.

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A sushi roomie date:

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And a pie roomie date! It was her birthday and we got wonderful desserts. Hanging with my roommate is a biiiiit awkward since she announced she was moving out but mostly it’s good.

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A few more fun outing+ brunch dates:

A trip to the Scrap Exchange to celebrate Earth Day. Guys, if you ever come hang out in Durham you really must visit the Scrap Exchange. It is the coolest, most inspiring place. This video of gleeful children banging on drums made entirely out of repurposed junk is illustrative of the kind of creativity/thriftiness/conservation mindedness that just kind of floats through the air there.

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Emily and I adventured there and then got brunch at Guglhupf. Smoked salmon plate, yes please.

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Then a few weeks later we took a wee hike to the rock quarry at Eno River State Park. I hadn’t been in actual years and was like “Whyyy?!” It is so close by and so magical. There was a woman who’d strapped a hammock between two trees and was reading a novel and I was like HI CAN I HAVE YOUR LIFE PLEASE THAT LOOKS JUST PERFECT.

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And again… followed by brunch! The grits bowl at Foster’s Market.

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Met the whole First Wives Club (<< I feel like I’ve explained why I call us that enough times now) for dinner at Goorsha, a new Ethiopian place in Durham. Unfortunately I am a real snob about Ethiopian food having grown up near DC so I thought the food was just… okay. It’s not the same if the injera isn’t magic.

But, HOW CUTE IS THE STORY BEHIND THEIR NAME?! We did not actually feed each other, but it was still a night filled with warmth and friendship.

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A few weeks later my hot mess of a friend Colton needed to vacate his home for various reasons so he came and stayed with me. Here he is perched on my bed like we are having a teenage girl slumber party. (Don’t worry, mom, he slept on the fold out couch in the living room) (Where Lola the cat enjoyed pouncing on his feet at 4am HAHAHAHAHA)

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I did some cooking for us- here, some homemade pizza (cheese, caramelized onions, fig jam) and salad. Oh and a random hilariously big sausage.

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We did lots of relaxing weekend things like hanging out at Weaver Street market where I got a sudden, irresistible urge to eat strawberry shortcake.

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AND THERE IT WAS THEY HAD IT GOD BLESS AMERICA!

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We also went on a little outing to my old job site, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. We watched ourself a cute little Bill Nye-esque science show.

The gentleman behind us apparently decided that morning, whilst preparing to go to a family-oriented educational center, that it would be a great place to wear his “Save an Anvil, Bang a Blacksmith” shirt. Yiiiikes.

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Another weekend and for some reason I wanted to hang out with Colton again, weird.

We met up in Greensboro, partway between us. First we ate tasty tacos at Crafted.

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I got one fried fish and one seared tuna. Both were REAL TASTY.

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And then we went and saw RBG! Ugh, it was magic. I’m glad this weekend was before Kennedy’s retirement announcement because I’d otherwise have probably spent the whole movie sobbing weakly. But anyway, it was us and a few older ladies in the theater and we all had a blast and had to just cheer sometimes because hot damn Ruth Bader Ginsburg is heckin smart and heckin awesome. Also, she and her husband sound like they had a truly remarkable marriage, especially for that time period.

I continued to feel the magic despite the fact that I was there with Colton.

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And now for something that should have been an adventure… I read about a new all natural super fresh Indian bakery in The Indy. So I decided to take my cute lil sister there (she lives in the area).

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Well, we showed up and got to experience just the most relentless barrage of mansplaining to which I have ever been subject. As my sister pointed out, “We did not ask a single question.” Yet the random dude behind the counter talked at us for a minimum of ten minutes about WE HAVE NO PRESERVATIVES, I MEAN POISON AMIRITE, IN OUR FOOD. YEAH PEOPLE JUST EAT JUNK AND WONDER WHY THEY ARE DYING. And the fact that I was like “Yeah, I think poor diet quality might have been mentioned a time or two when I was getting my master’s in nutrition” did not phase him EVEN A TINY BIT.

UGH. MEN.

So anyway the sweets were delicious and the Indian woman behind the counter who I think was actually responsible for the production of said sweets was kind of low key “He talks so much!” but honestly the irritation I felt was so profound I’m unlikely to go back again.

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Because my mom has had to explain to her boyfriend and her male friend of roughly 40 years what mansplaining is I thought I’d make sure my readers had a credible source to share as needed 🙂

long weekends

I had a few rather crazy weekends home at my mama’s house in Northern Virginia. Crazy pleasant, but crazy in that seemingly every time I go home I seem to be doing roughly 14,000 things in a single weekend.

Fortunately there is always time for snuggles with Sheila. She makes sure of that. When I get up in the morning…

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Working from home…

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Trying to leave the house to go to the gym…

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Also blessedly there was time for reading. My mom loaned me this book after reading it for her book club and I ADORED IT. Ugh it was wonderful. Immediately gave it to my sister and told her to read it too. Told my aunt to read it and she announced she already had and loved it too. Seriously, this book!

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Okay so this first weekend at home (in April) that I’m chronicling I got to see my BESSSSTTTIIIIEEE! For her BABY SHOWER!

Her mom really went all out planning things. I really enjoyed the “It’s a boy!” stickers and put them on everything I could think of. Including the mother-to-be 😀

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We got to take a few minutes to do our Northern Virginia ritual of a visit to the Korean bakery. That was really nice!

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But then we had to zoom home to do our own baking- this SCRUMPTIOUS lemon cake for the baby shower. Some of the fussier aspects of the recipe we skipped but we followed the lemon curd recipe to the tee and it was SO SO AMAZING.

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And then we had leftover egg whites and that of course compelled us to make meringues. Which Lydia’s mom made even more adorable than they already were with the addition of little blue peeps!

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Which also adorned the brownies

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And the savory department, a cheese plate (again, It’s a Boy!)

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Yummy deviled eggs

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And “Name that Baby Food” tastings! Hahahaha. Baby shower games are so weird.

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There was also the cloth diaper activity (Lydia’s mom is real sassy with the description and I LOVE IT)

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And the “blend old pictures of Lydia and Brian to create their baby’s face” game. TERRIFYING!

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Fortunately, baby Simon has safely arrived and is obviously much, much cuter than the creation above. (And doesn’t Lydia look like a freaking angel?!) Again, I am SO JAZZED to watch my bestie become a mom!

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But lest you think the baby shower was the weekend’s only activity, it was, in fact, Greek Easter! So along with bonding with bestie, I was also going to church for approximately 14 hours in one weekend! (<< You think that’s exaggerating but the upper level clergy who showed up at the midnight service meant that, after arriving at 10pm for choir practice, we then weren’t leaving the church til 3am. It was hardcore. And it was not the first service of the week by a LONG SHOT.)

The Easter service is always deeply lovely though.

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The next morning (er, noon) my mom’s boyf did us a real solid and showed up with an absolute FEAST. We were all wiped and delighted not to cook and then he shows up with various delicacies from a Balkan bakery where several of his clients work (he’s an immigration lawyer<< DOING THE LORDS WORK, amirite?!) He said the bakery as well as the sausage factory are staffed by a beautifully multicultural, multireligous group of Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, etc. We could all learn from them. Also, their food is DELICIOUS.

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And then we were off to the Easter feast at my aunt Kathy’s! This was my first plate. It was all SO GOOD.

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I invited my grad school pals in the DC area and was pleased when a lot of them came. That’s Nate, Colton, Sam, Colton’s boyf James, and me. I look a little derpy but oh well it’s a really nice day to remember.

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Then I put in an appearance at my dad’s and even though I’d already eaten All The Food that day, he presented me with this, which I ate immediately:

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More awesome clients! My dad is working as a realtor and one of his clients (in search of warehouse space) is Iranian and went ahead and gave him THE YUMMIEST DATES OF ALL TIME. Man what a delicious day.

Was I done with the festivities? No! No I was not!

Because the day AFTER Greek Easter (the day after the day after my bestie’s baby shower!) was the day we celebrated my mama’s birthday!

I read about Tupelo Honey Cafe in Fannetastic Food (<< fun fact, she and I went to the same nutrition program at UNC) and I thought it’d be fun to take my mom out for a little taste of NC.

I knew we were in good hands when I tasted this killer biscuit.

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I got the breakfast shakshuka which was delicious and HUGE.

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And my mom got an equally magnificent burger.

And then I drove back to NC.

But a few short weeks later, following an an-usual insane Friday at the clinic, I spent another four hours listening to podcasts (current favorites: Small Town Dicks, Slow Burn) and making my way to Northern Virginia for…

My sister’s wedding?!

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No, despite the above cake clearly being a totally legit WEDDING CAKE, and despite the EIGHTY PEOPLE present in my aunt and uncle’s beautiful home it was, in fact, just an engagement party. Good grief!

My aunt and uncle’s house looked beautiful and their garden was RIDICULOUS- growing beautiful flowers is a passion of my uncle’s and it was heavenly out there.

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As for the people at the party… freaking Governor McAuliffe was there! (With our cute neighbor George)

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Eric (my sister’s fiance) was an INTERN in the McAuliffe campaign (he literally spent most of the time driving Terry’s wife Dorothy to events) and yet the governor and his wife showed up to their lil intern’s engagement party! That is really quite classy of them. Terry seemed nice and freakishly social, but honestly I loved talking to Dorothy the most. She’s one of the national chairs of No Kid Hungry and we talked food and public health and all the things I care about ❤

In general it was a sweet night. The mama of the groom (left) and my mama (right) did some real cute toasts together.

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Lots of friends and family showed up to celebrate the happy couple.

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The appetizer portion of the evening was, per the typical standards of my family, ridiculously abundant (love your dress, Betty! << she’s my most faithful blog reader 😀 )

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Also Eric’s brother and his wife have the cutest kiddos of all time.

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Bride, groom:

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Once the appetizers wound down and the non family guests started to trickle out we sat down for dinner (because 70 pounds of appetizers clearly was not enough hahahaha).

My uncle decorated the most AMAZING salmon.

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Dinner was lit. Then there was dessert too!

Along with the (wedding!) cake, I decided the party was a good justification for making this Smitten Kitchen recipe for coconut cream pie I’d been eyeing. It was OUTRAGEOUS. I had to make two of them since I’d been warned my uncle Tim was perfectly capable of taking an entire one down singlehandedly.

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But again, was one big occasion in one weekend enough? No!

Because the next day was in fact Mother’s Day. I had to take out my top caliber mom to celebrate! (<< Malindi and Eric had to depart Sunday morning- they planned to stop in NC to drop her off to go back to her internship Monday morning, and then Eric was going to continue driving to move to Louisiana (?!) to start a new job Tuesday (?!?!?!?) so they would’ve celebrated but they were real busy)

My mom and I came up with a very satisfactory plan to get Ethiopian food. Because I was heckin exhausted following the workweek and the buttload of driving and baking and distinct lack of sleeping, I began with reliably delicious Ethiopian coffee (a cappuccino in this case)

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And we split our usual vegetarian sampler as well as the lamb tibs. Ethiopian food is so so so so good. I was also pleased with myself because literally for the first time ever I did not overeat it to the point of feeling ILL. (Usually I struggle and fail to control myself because it is just. so. good.)

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Here’s the pic of my adorable mom I posted to Instagram. She’s a winner.

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And then I again put in an appearance at my dad’s (which I seriously cannot even remember, I think my sleep deprivation had hit such a level), hit up the Ikea on I-95 South (roommate moving out= need to buy things I’d always counted on her having such as doormats, toilet brushes, etc.), and then drove to NC and basically collapsed.

These visits at home have been wonderful but I think sometime I’ll go see my family and have literally NO PLANS

the latest

Whoo boy! I know! It’s been a minute!

This will be a text heavy post interspersed with pictures as to keep it from being unbearable to the reader.

Here’s my cat being real cute.

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Okay so let’s start with a discussion of work. Work has been MAD CRAY. Last week it was insane enough that I didn’t have time to eat lunch- I was seeing patients at the clinic, then delivering produce bags from Farmer Foodshare (<<< an amazing organization who’s doing great things for some of my patients right now), then meeting a patient at McDonalds (<<< she’s kicking ass exercising three times a week and monitoring her blood sugars beautifully, and actually gently made fun of me for getting a very very large Diet Coke, which was awesome!), then running a diabetes support group, then helping with a fresh produce distribution at the clinic (<<< our clinic has a food pantry run by some medical students and it is actually one of the best things of all time and fills me with joy).

So anyway, once I finally got out of the clinic, I stopped at Costco, conveniently near the clinic, for cheap gas and samples. Thank God for Costco samples. And their employees cheerfulness. And everything about it. It just feels like a safe, giant, cave.

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So, dietitian-ing.

A brief tangent- I am SO OVER having my profession misspelled! Readers, please, please, please. If you ever work with a dietitian in the United States of America, that’s how it’s spelled. Dietitian. There is no letter C.

It is beyond aggravating when everyone I work with, whom I imagine would be irritated if I called them “nurce” or “docdor”, misspells my entire profession. It just feels very symbolic of a larger lack of awareness/appreciation for who dietitians are and what we do.

Slimfast certainly isn’t helping.

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If you were seeing me for medical nutrition therapy in Europe, then by all means, call me a dietitian.

But we are in the United States. It is not aluminium. We are not dieticians. Thank you.

Anyway! Work!

I have somehow gotten involved in all these upper level committees in our new office that deals with all things population health. I decided to volunteer for said committees because, as hinted at above, dietitians tend to be the forgotten red headed stepchildren of the nutrition world. If I didn’t get a seat at the table, I couldn’t count on any of the other folks to advocate for me. That was one reason.

Another reason is because it’s good to lean the heck in. I feel it’s good to be a bit uncomfortable professionally, and to try getting involved in things that don’t necessarily come the most comfortably and naturally for you. So that’s another reason. It’s going reasonably well. Despite the fact that sometimes I feel like I’m building a bike while I’m already riding it.

Direct patient care, seeing my people and giving them information and support and ideas and recipes … that’s still my jam. That’s still the best. People do a lot with very little and I have sincere admiration for them. I’m still doing home visits (my caseload is 20 a month, I typically do more), I’m still keeping in touch with people by phone (which is not my favorite and sometimes my patients unknowingly hear me taking out the garbage or watering my plants while I counsel them), I’m still seeing people in the clinic (and forming relationships with pharmacists, social workers, nurses, etc. has been another real highlight for me).

My constant struggle professionally is balancing my warm softy bleeding heart tendencies with a certain amount of tough love… one of our sassiest behavioral health experts, who I think is great, is known for pointing out, “You shouldn’t be working harder than the patient.” It’s hard because I always want to be the warm, forgiving, patient, understanding person. My patients all have *@#ing difficult lives. If you gave them the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey they’d all have scores off the charts. And I admit, sometimes I grow tired of people no showing and not calling me back and not following through when I put in a lot of effort to help them, and in those times I wish I were better at the tough love. AND YET. I still am the person who some people open up to when they open up to no one else. I arrive for an appointment with someone with a brief and bland medical chart and with some gentle questions I hear of a lengthy mental health history that no one else seems to have caught. I never want to miss out on those moments… but I also want to treat people like adults and hold them responsible for their actions (or lack thereof). A constant work in progress!

Time for another few pictures. Here are a few angles a beautiful, very EVOCATIVE iris that bloomed in my front yard. I MEAN!

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More things that have been big and exciting in my life:

  • My bestie had a baby! I’ll post about her baby shower sometime. Watching her become a mother has been super amazing. Honestly the best part has been she has kept being my best friend. TBH becoming a mother absolutely TERRIFIES me. It is just so all consuming and clearly just by necessity represents the death as the self as one knows it. Seeing Lydia totally rock the birth, breastfeeding, infant care, etc. and yet at the same time still be my beloved best friend who I can text about total nonsense is an enormous relief. And of course seeing her and her husband’s lives get richer and more amazing with their cute little old man baby is a joy.
  • My housing situation is changing! My roommate of five years (gasp! The longest relationship of my life!) is flying the coop to live on her own. I flirted with the idea of doing the same for awhile. Then I took a deeper look at my finances and went… uh… %@#*. And then– because apparently I had somehow earned some good karma or something?!– the sweet lovely girl who’s been living in the other half of the duplex in which I reside also had a roommate leaving and we decided to just live together! She gets to move all of three feet, literally next door, and I get to stay exactly where I am and continue to have a (nice!) person with whom to split rent and utilities and so on. Praise be.
  • I am making a wedding cake! Other people’s weddings are taking over my life (seriously, that will soon be a blog post of its own) and this is by far the funnest aspect of it. My wonderful friends of 8 years or so, Kyle and Shaylen, are tying the knot in August and I volunteered to take my cake baking to the next level and make them some cakey! I’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom from Smitten Kitchen and various internet sources but would welcome any firsthand experience that any readers might share. In the meantime I have literal pounds of flour and sugar stashed in various areas of my kitchen and have done lots of trial runs of various cakes, fillings, and frostings. Pro tip: Italian buttercream is terrific. Another pro tip: you haven’t lived until you’ve had chocolate ganache made with bittersweet chocolate and heavy cream.
  • I am going to South Africa in November! Because I am the LUCKIEST WOMAN ALIVE, I will be joining my sister for about two weeks on a whole new continent, the continent from which my grandfather’s family hailed and in which my father lived for the first eight years of his life. My sister and I will meet new family members, go on safari (!), see Johannesburg and Capetown and wine country (!) and I… just… can’t even. Such a huge huge blessing and adventure.

Okay some more pictures.

First, a meme I found and then my sister sent me too. I cannot even believe how strongly it spoke to me.

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Yes, sharer on the Internet, I too am a ridiculously complicated sleeper.

Instagram is really one of the great joys of my life. Also one of the great procrastination tools, which is less great. But the cat content! The memes! I love it so.

A second thing that was deeply, deeply relatable: I was hanging out with my friend to eat pizza and watch Paranormal Activity (what a great evening) and she showed me this book she’s begun to read. I wasn’t sure about the cover/general 80s aesthetic.

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BUT THEN.

I took a peek at the first chapter, which contains a Recovery Potential Survey that one can use to examine one’s deep seeded psychological issues.

And it had me SHOOK.

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“Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?” “Do you respond with anxiety to authority figures and angry people?” “Do you have an over developed sense of responsibility?” <<< AAAAGH!

Anyway, I will clearly have to borrow the book when my friend is done with it.

A few more life updates:

  • I got a side hustle! Back when I was thinking about doing the living on my own thing, then I got into the whole “Wait why am I paying rent again?!” thing. Let’s be real, landlords are the actual worst, and mine is certainly up there (most recently she printed our lease with both my first and last name misspelled, which is a real accomplishment… I guess it means I am not actually bound by it, huh?!) In addition, I’m an independent working woman making a decent amount of money and with relatively low expenses (let’s be real, I spend most of my discretionary income on food. Like, an alarming amount. Thank God I rarely drink). Why not explore the idea of home buying?! So, I’ve consulted with other people who have done it (including Holly, the clinical pharmacist at the clinic who’s grown to be a great pal and bought her house as an awesome single independent woman and only after that was done met the bloke of her dreams). And I’ve talked to a money gal. And I’ve thought WHY NOT. So, having a little side hustle is really helpful. Basically, I’m creating and curating online content for a textbook company that is designing a U.S. History course. Hilariously, it is essentially the first time I have used my bachelor’s degree in political science. I clunk away on my laptop at coffee shops and get paid pretty well for it. It’s a nice little gig.
  • I have been regularly practicing yoga! I have always been fond of yoga but have been real inconsistent and fully capable of going 6 months between classes. But, my gym has a yoga class, and it’s taught by a legit yoga teacher (not like some places where it’s a bouncy guy who announces he also teaches kickboxing on Tuesday). And I’ve grown very very fond of it as an anchor for my week. Yoga for me is at LEAST 50% about the mental benefits… the physical ones on some days feel like an afterthought. Though with that being said on more than one occasion I have begun a yoga class with a headache and it has been gone by the end. But more than that there’s something about grounding yourself into the earth, even something as simple as mountain pose, just watching yourself and feeling this little world under your skin that you can control and you can treat well and you can honor. It’s nice! Also if you have the occasional body drama I will say that yoga seems to have helped me with that. I look at myself in the mirror and while certainly no one will ever accuse me of being lithe or willowy or any of the stereotypical images of a yogi, it’s nice to look at my legs and shoulders and so on and go… I look sturdy. I look strong. I look confident. It’s a nice thing.
  • I have good blood sugars! I thought I had updated about this but maybe not? You may recall me being a real angst bucket a few years back. Anyway, here is the short story (copied from a post I did in a secret lady-only Facebook group to which I belong): I have had PCOS since senior high of high school (am now 29). When I was diagnosed (after having skipped my period for six months) I was given a perfunctory explanation by my gynecologist about the cysts on my ovaries, put on the birth control pill, and largely ignored. Then when I met others with the syndrome, I learned more about the aspects of the syndrome related to insulin resistance, increased risk for diabetes and other chronic diseases, etc. So I marched in to my provider and got my hemoglobin A1c tested (an indicator of long term blood sugar control). Despite a normal fasting blood glucose and a “lean” presentation of PCOS (my BMI is 23 point something), I was showing early signs of insulin resistance with a hemoglobin A1c of 5.8 (in the lower end of the “prediabetes” range).
    Because I was, ironically, in school becoming a registered dietitian at the time, she said why not, instead of immediately putting you on metformin which can have gnarly GI side effects, instead have you try some diet and lifestyle modification. I agreed.
    I wrote down what I eat and cut wayyy back on dessert (which I had been eating, er, like multiple times per day). At my three month follow up, it had fallen, but only to 5.7 (still in the prediabetic range). I tried again a year later (after adding inositol supplementation- you can read more about that here: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/inositol/) and it was down to 5.6, in the normal range. So the next time I got my A1c tested I was two years out. In the past year I’d continued with the inositol and added strength training by taking a Body Pump class once a week (strength training does amazing things for insulin resistance, FYI). And this spring my hemoglobin A1c was FIVE POINT ONE. That means I dropped from an average blood glucose of 120 to an average blood glucose of 100. I went from prediabetic to totes normal and I didn’t have to take any medicine to do it!
    I want to encourage people who are dealing with various iffy lifestyle things like early stages of diabetes or hypertension or heart disease, lifestyle changes really can make a difference. I also didn’t go keto or anything extreme like that- just worked to cut back on desserts and sweets, remain consistent about exercising 4-5 days per week (with strength training one of those days) and took one packet of Ovasitol supplement per day (and I definitely wasn’t perfect about it).
    And, I want to once again (I’ve shared this before) recommend the PCOS nutrition center for a lot of clear, helpful, evidence-based recommendations about managing PCOS.
  • Finally, I am single as heck. To say I had a breakup would cause the reader to infer that I’d had a relationship, which I really hadn’t (though, hilariously, this dude and I were involved in one way or another for about 9 months). I have to say that while I was sad, as expected, for a bit, I am now quite grateful because for the first time something ended at the right time, instead of following months of resentment and misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Within a few weeks of it ending it felt much further in the past and in general I can be like “I learned some stuff about myself! Mutual respect remains! This is fine!” So that’s good.
    That being said, dude, I could not want less to go back in the pursuit of a dude. I just do. not. have. it. in. me. Putting myself out there in whatever form just requires a kind of optimism that I deeply, deeply lack. I have an amazing, AMAZING group of female friends. I admire them so deeply. They make me laugh, they’re smart, they’re talented, they’re improving the world through the work they do, they’re empathetic, they’ve worked hard on themselves and know their flaws and are constantly working to improve them, they’re caring and care about my thoughts and feelings and life. I adore them!
    And the 2018 single male specimen in my age range… read all of those things… dude, do any of them have them? At best, you have a project. Or a divorcee, because as my roommate and I have now begun to observe, in your late 20s, the single guys are mostly single for a reason, and the few decent dudes who are available were, until quite recently, someone else’s husband. Those are your options. It is bleak.
    But that’s okay! I’m a career woman! I’m contemplating being a homeowner! I’m a good friend! I just feel like maybe reincarnation is a thing and maybe in one of my lives I had a great love. (Maybe in another of my lives I had a kick ass metabolism and could eat whatever I wanted and still be really thin. That could be fun.) It just doesn’t seem in the cards for this lifetime and there are two many other things (see: above) for me to let myself get too glum about one aspect of my life that is rather blank.

Anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed this brain dump. How is everyone else doing?

workweek

Hiya strangers!

Here are some workday eats I’ve been having:

  • Homemade frittata with spinach and onions
  • Cooking Light recipe for buttermilk biscuit (as discussed before, you can’t compare them to real unhealthy biscuits but if you compare them to normal dead they’re pretty good)
  • Homemade cafe au lait

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Homemade lasagna! Made on a gloomy rainy day.

Preboiled whole wheat lasagna noodles, dumped on Trader Joe’s tomato sauce, made “ricotta” from cottage cheese, tofu, egg, parmesan, various dried Italian-ish herbs… probably more but I forget.

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Lots of sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and garlic, then repeated the layers…

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Til it was tall. Then more tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella on top. Then green salad on the side because lasagna and salad is such a classic meal.

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Then I went “Oh dear God what have I done I have an 11 by 15 pan of lasagna and I live alone.”

Fortunately, Colton and his sisters were randomly in town so they came over and I fed them lasagna and we made fun of Colton and all was well.

THIS! WAS A REALLY GOOD SALAD!

Arugula, grapefruit, avocado, walnuts, and homemade dressing made of lots of grapefruit drippings, tiny bit of honey, dijon mustard, bit of olive oil, salt and pepper

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With leftover cottage cheese from making the lasagna. What a spa meal.

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I made this salad from the new Moosewood cookbook that I got for Christmas that involved quinoa, dried apricots, celery, olives, fresh herbs, dressing… pretty good. Ate it for a few days.

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Breakfast for dinner is so reliably great. I think I’d just gone rather hard at the gym so I was starving? Frozen/thawed pancakes (I alternate between Trader Joe’s excellent seasonal pumpkin spice pancake mix and Kodiak cakes protein pancake mix) topped with peanut butter and jelly, and an arugula salad with fried eggs and balsamic reduction on top.

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Bread! I made the New York Times no knead bread, using 50% whole wheat.

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Had it with homemade broccoli cheese soup (livened up a bit with lots of paprika on top) and some strawbs.

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Had it with homemade mussels- OMG THIS RECIPE. The smell in your house. Do it. You will be so happy.

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Then more arugula+fried egg+balsamic reduction, with the homemade bread and avocado smashed on top. My default meals are basically eggs+ something green and avocado toast. And apparently for this meal I combined those things!

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Then of course I continue to go out to eat too much. Thank God I hardly ever go to bars so that at least somewhat helps. This was really lovely curried butternut soup and focaccia from Mad Hatter.

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This was the TREMENDOUSLY delicious “Turkish Eggs” from Monuts. I will quote their menu’s description: “lemon-garlic yogurt, green zhug (parsley and cilantro hot sauce), Aleppo pepper chili oil, two farm eggs, side of za’atar toast.” IF YOU GET A CHANCE, FRIENDS, GET IN ON THIS. Their menu changes a lot so I don’t know how long it’ll be there but fortunately there is always something new and absolutely wonderful on their menu.

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It was Pi Day and Registered Dietitian Day (March 14th!) so I got this fruit tart at Guglhupf. It was large. I felt a bit stuffed and packed full of sugar and saturated fat afterwards. But we have to celebrate these things.

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Another night I got wine and apps with my friend Shaylen. I did not photograph the food because… Shaylen brought Bu. Bu is her and Kyle’s new dog. Bu is a PRECIOUS ANGEL.

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She doesn’t particularly care for sitting around outside patios so she kept wandering into the bushes. At one point Shay went and sat with her in a motherly way I MEAN CAN YOU EVEN WITH THIS PICTURE?!

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More updates soon probably maybe hopefully. Lots of transitions in my life right now! Lots to share.

celebrations

I have had quite a fun series of celebrations over the past few months.

First, it was Chinese New Year! Ish. So I went on a dumpling date with my friend Leesie.

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We initially got to be friends by having the weirdly uncommon thing in common of both having Taiwanese stepmothers and having spent time in Taiwan (Leesie actually lived there and taught English, I just visited for a bit).

Okay, above are veggie dumplings.

Then scallion cakes (YUM)

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Shrimp dumplings

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Soup dumplings (with broth sealed inside, OMGSOGOOD)

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Annnnd a TOWER of cold sesame noodles. We doused these with a sesame seed hot pepper oil that was on the side. Yum!

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Another celebration! One of my best kiddo friends turned four! Her grandma decorated these UH-MAZING cakes for her. She took a cake decorating class when her kiddos were young which is such a deeply cool thing for a parent to do.

Parents may recognize these television characters portrayed on the cakes? I do not.

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A birthday gathering for a bigger human… my friend Shaylen turned 30! We had a lil potluck (her birthday is the day after Valentine’s day… thus the cute plates 😀 )

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As you’ll see above, dips and cheese and carbs were well represented.

Shay made these little sweet potato stacks with craisins and goat cheese and nuts- SO good.

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My contribution was birthday cake (note that is a comical novelty sized huge wine bottle next to it. Use the chair for contextual clues about the size of everything.)

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When I asked Shay what she looked for in a cake she said moist and chocolatey. Which quickly led me to this Smitten Kitchen recipe. Yes, another friend’s birthday, another Smitten Kitchen cake. That blog has never steered me wrong- her recipes are reliably delicious and error proof.

This cake was essentially intense, dense, moist chocolate crumbs barely held together as if by magic. Plus marshmallow frosting. AGH SO GOOD.

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Another thing to celebrate… my dear friend Myra is currently gestating a sweet little girl! We held a baby shower for her and her hus Alex. I offered to take some pictures of them in the ADORABLE Air BnB her friend Whit rented for the party, to remember this time in their lives. Obvi, Myra is a super cute pregnant person!

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Also, renting an Air BnB for a party is a seriously brilliant idea if you have a small home. Whit rented this spot and it had a gorgeous porch, fully equipped kitchen for prepping food, a lovely open living area for the party, two bathrooms, etc. One of the bathrooms had a gorgeous clawfoot tub and I did briefly consider just leaving the party for a bit to take a wonderful bath. I resisted.

Foodstuffs!

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So Whit bought some gorgeous cupcakes from some local artisinal whatsit baker. They were amazing. She also made a bean dip.

And then I went NUTS at the cheese counter at Trader Joe’s (what else is new)

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Aren’t those labels so so cute?! They were a Christmas gift from Santa 🙂

The cheese were all pasteurized so the pregnant lady could eat them and they were accessorized with baguette, gluten free crackers, dried apricots, pistachios, and little date-nut bites.

And then I also made these cookies. Mmmm. We had a lot of gluten free options because Tiff, one of the co-hostesses, can’t do the gluten. As you can see, it’s not a real hardship when options like this are available.

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The party involved a silly game, lots of painfully cute baby gifts… and me briefly yet intensely feeling sorry for myself for being the last single person left on Earth and questioning if I am going to live my life alone. Classic. I got over it.

One last shot of the happy couple. Yay babies!

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They thanked me with this absurdly cute thank you note!

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Another thing to celebrate was a randomly very generous tax refund (?!) It’ll never happen again (I overpaid for Obamacare cause I overestimated what my income would be, I paid off a lot of student loan interest, etc.) but it was nice to have a little extra spending $

First (heavily supplemented by some store credit courtesy of my mom at Nordstrom) I got a new hippiefied duvet cover. LOVE IT.

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I also got a new microwave, which I realized was a super good idea because:

  • I got my old one my junior year of college… in 2008
  • I got it from my dad, who had had it for God knows how long
  • Guaranteed my dad got it at a thrift shop (or, seriously, wouldn’t be surprised if he had gotten it on the side of the road. Graham loves him a bargain)
  • Plus it had started being REALLY loud and had a piece that seemed to be sticking out on the side?!

I also got a new stainless steel skillet because Teflon freaks me out and my old pan was starting to peel.

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And I also spent a bit of a refund to go out for an AMAZEBALLS Italian dinner at, I’m saying it, MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT, Gocciolina.

I arranged to meet that dude I sometimes hang out with after work on a Friday night at around 6:30. I got there a bit early to put in my name and they claimed the wait was an hour to an hour and a half… butttt that we could wait at their lounge next door and have a drink and apps. NO PROBLEM, FAM! (Also it was like a half hour wait, tops)

The lounge had the promised drinks, along with housemade potato chips (swoon) and the goofy pasta sculpture you see in the background there.

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For apps we ordered the chickpeas. They were perfectly textured (clearly made from dried, no canned) and came with a wealth of olives, olive oil, tomatoes… and some melty perfect other things. Seriously, they might’ve been my favorite item of the evening (and this is in spite of the fact that EVERYTHING WAS REAL GOOD).

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We also, I think, actually ordered something else with anchovies… but what they brought us were these anchovy wrapped olives. OH HEY SALT YOU ARE GREAT.

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Washed down my tasty apps with some yummy red wine (a montepulciano blend)

So Gocciolina is really designed so you can eat a meal in the Italian fashion… antipasti, pasta, and entree. We didn’t quite do that but we did do two apps, two entrees, and a pasta.

The bloke got a steak, because he was excited to see a fancy grass fed steak on a menu for $15 (smaller portions= smaller prices! This meal wasn’t *cheap*, but it was freaking incredible for what you paid)

He was very very happy with this.

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And I got the North Carolina grunt (guys why did no one tell me there was a fish called grunt?! So silly! It was a white fish, kinda halibut-esque), which came with a lemon butter caper sauce (MY HEART), and black rice.

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And then we split the spicy seafood pasta which was just… just… incredible. Just SO MUCH FLAVOR condensed into that sauce. And perfectly al dente pasta. Ugh. Incredible.

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We were quite satisfied indeed, so no dessert. The bloke got limoncello (BARF- it’s so funny, I’m a sugar addict but hate sweet drinks). I got a decaf espresso.

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What have y’all been celebrating lately?

the work week

Truthfully, the job has been rather… intensely lately. As in I went to bed at 7:30pm last Monday.

The other dietitian in my organization retired at the end of October, and since then I have been doing two jobs… mine and hers. It’s involved driving all over North Carolina (seriously, there was one Monday my driving exceeded 200 miles… to see three or four patients).

Oh, there’s been a lot of sitting in seemingly endless construction traffic too. Oh joy.

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Thank goodness for my indispensable true crime podcasts to keep me amused on my drives.

Despite my griping, though, the rural counties the other dietitian is supposed to cover have been interesting places to visit. I’ve met interesting people, and I’ve had the delight of witnessing various adorable farm animals, including this guy just hanging out in a front yard:

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But I am very, VERY pleased that they have finally hired a new dietitian. Of course, in the short term I am thoroughly wiping myself out training her… but in the long run, it’ll be worth it. Right? Right?!

Anyway, here are some things I’ve been eating during the work week. Hint: lots of big batches of things.

I was jonesing for enchiladas so I combined a lot of recipes to make a big batch. I started with sauteeing lots of onions and zucchini. Once the absurd amount of water in the zucchini had evaporated and they had begun to brown at least a little, I added some green chiles…

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Plus black beans, spinach (thawed from frozen) and light cream cheese.

Then I made some homemade enchilada sauce and started layering corn tortillas plus sauce in the dish.

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Then my veggie filling..

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Repeated the layers a few times, ending with tortillas ‘n sauce, and put a generous amount of cheese on top.

These were GREAT on day one but honestly got progressively less interesting as the week progressed.

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Another big batch of stuff (I gave some away to my friends who are imminently having a baby, and some more to friends who had their fridge bust and had to throw away a bunch of food)- vegan tikka masala! I mostly followed this recipe. Except I didn’t cook it in the slow cooker, used a 16 oz package of tofu, and used a 28 oz can of tomatoes (<< this was too much, use a 16 oz can).

Y’all could definitely make it as written and enjoy it a *lot*. The spice blend is LEGIT.

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Plus I had some basmati, made in my rice cooker, on the side.

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I made a big batch of biscuits from Cooking Light. If one were to compare them to the butter and/or Crisco packed biscuits that are ubiquitous across my state, one would be disappointed. But if one were to compare them to regular bread, one would be pleased. Take that advice accordingly. Also they do freeze nicely. One can pull them out when one is craving a brunchy meal and have them with eggs and an abundance of Trader Joe’s corn salsa.

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This gorgeous container of homemade Indian food was bequeathed to me by my roommate’s friend’s student’s mom (did you catch that?) It came to me very indirectly but God bless this sweet woman because everything on here was amazing and it lasted me a couple meals.

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Sometimes I go to the gym and I go hard and I get home starving and I eat like a six year old. This was such a day- I had frozen meatless buffalo chick’n nuggets and a quesadilla (made with cheese, the aforementioned corn salsa, and some leftover black beans).

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I was really craving Cuban sandwiches. Since I don’t really eat pork, and Cuban bread is (perhaps unsurprisingly) in short supply in Chapel Hill, NC, I bought the following items:

  • baguette
  • havarti cheese
  • Tofurkey “ham”
  • pickles
  • mustard

And turned them into three tasty sandwiches, smushed between pans and griddled in a bit of oil.

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Served with salad (I still rely on salad kits *so much* because I just do not make salads for myself most of the time).

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So that was some home cooking but honestly I do sometimes get meals on the road.

As I’ve mentioned healthyish places to eat are often in short supply in the rural counties I’ve been covering, so one of the best options was Cracker Barrel 😀 Honestly I love that place.

They have some pretty legit steel cut oatmeal with fruit and nuts, and I got a side of scrambled eggs. Plus tea.

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And then when I’m down in Durham I can go to my beloved Monuts! They switch up their menu seasonally and this dish- The Toastest with the Mostest- has been a recent obsession.

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Three toasties with hummus plus additional toppers; one with cucs and spices; one with (mega garlicky!) kale pesto; one with (most delicious!) pickled beets, avocado, and riccota salata. YUM.

Another day I had a nutrition webinar and I was between appointments so I stopped at a Panera to watch it. It was miserable out and their broccoli cheese soup was seriously everything I desired. Plus a half Mediterranean veggie sandwich, and an apple.

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Finally, sometimes I meet up with frens in the evenins to make the work week more pleasant.

Went with that guy I hang out with sometimes to a pho place and tried this noodle bowl- with tofu and a bazillion vegetables. I did not make that much of a dent in it, heh.

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And one Friday night I went with Shay to Radius Pizzeria and we split my favorite little salad there (with goat cheese, peanuts, craisins, and roasted sweet potatoes, plus champagne vinaigrette) and build your own pizzas (mind had onion jam, wild mushrooms, oven roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, and arugula- YUM!)

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What has everyone else been eating during the work week?