family and easter

We’ll call this post a celebration of my family. In part because my family contributed so many of the pictures!

My mom took this picture. I am honored that she thinks of me when she sees delicious risotto.

1 spring risotto

Isn’t it exquisite?! It’s from Mintwood Place in DC. I want to eat it right now- I really think fresh peas might be some of my favorite things in the whole world.

This next picture was captured when I had already gotten home for Easter, but was upstairs sleeping my face off (I arrived Thursday evening and slept for TWELVE HOURS. School is wiping me out!)

There’s a handsome feral cat living in our neighborhood, and Sheila has a crush on him. (She often hates other cats, but seems intrigued by him. Sometimes they touch noses. He pursues her much more than she pursues him. She’s a coy little thing).

boyfriend

Since I did so much sleeping I tried really hard to contribute to the family’s well being in some way. It’s kind of crazy though- I totally regress when I’m at home being cared for by my mommy! Slack on the dishes and so on. This particular Saturday morning my mom arose at 5 am and volunteered at a soup kitchen (a monthly commitment). And I… slept some more.

Anyway, I made everyone pancakes (from Trader Joe’s exquisite pumpkin pancake mix). Malindi cleverly topped hers with cream cheese, syrup, and pecans for a sort of frosting effect.

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And then Easter happened! Didn’t take a lot of pictures, and it was sort of… a bizarre experience. The choir director at our church (BETTY I KNOW YOU READ THIS SO YOU CAN PASS THIS ON TO JOHN) is literally the BEST HUMAN BEING I KNOW. He’s a lovable statistician who can make a mean math pun. Gets to work on a long trip on public transportation (so he’s kind to the planet too). He wears a cute little fisherman’s hat in the summer to protect his skin from the sun. He has a soft voice and a smiling face that babies all love. In his spare time he volunteers in hospice and at a food distribution center for the poor. And directs the choir for which he gets no pay and a LOT OF MALARKY from the priests.

This particular year they changed both the Good Friday and midnight Easter services with a whopping half hour’s notice. I don’t understand it… does Easter sneak up? Do the priests go, “Huh, I’m not sure if there’s Easter this year” like it’s the equivalent of February 29th? Baffling.

The service was okay, is the point, but I thought some somewhat unChristian thoughts about some of the nonsense that went down.

What followed was  a spotty night’s sleep. This is in part because the choir had music taken away which was replaced with funereal droning in Arabic- which extended the service by a solid hour. So I didn’t get to bed til 3 am, then woke up at 6 for awhile with the sun, then was up for good at 9. Lame.

My Easter basket helped though! We actually had three Easter bunnies in my family (though while my basket was more well rounded, I got my mom and my sister exclusively chocolate products, hahaha. The Easter Bunny actually hooked me up with some cash this year which was extremely, extremely kind of the Easter Bunny).

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Another of the Easter bunnies was clever and sneaky and left Easter merriment hidden in various parts of the house.

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My mom, of course, made her delicious baklava. The smell of it baking (along with the smell of lamb baking, but we didn’t host Easter this year so I didn’t get my fix of that) is really what makes the holiday feel real to me.

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Secrets to the best baklava:

1. Add some almonds to the walnuts for a less bitter flavor
2. Use clarified butter for a cleaner flavor
3. Bake the baklava at a moderate, not too high heat, and cover for the later part of the baking time to prevent overcooking
4. Only use half the syrup so it’s moist but not soggy

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Easter was hosted at my sister’s godparents and it was so lovely! It was a beautiful, beautiful, PERFECT day (in the high 60s, sunny) and everyone was in good spirits. The hosts invited the priest’s family from their church, who only stated for a bit. Even more fun, they also had the lovely family who help tend the grounds who stayed for quite awhile and were SO MUCH FUN! Their kids were so cute, smart, and fun to be around. The seven year old put up with some intense teasing about girlfriends from my sister’s godfather :D

And of course it helped that we had a REAL LIVE EASTER BUNNY! My cousin Nicholas has a pet rabbit, Thumper, who is just the coolest, chillest bunny ever. Nicholas has worked with kids a lot, so Thumper has been exposed to their noise/sudden movements/etc. and he was just so nonchalant as they chased him around and petted him and picked him up (though the kids were also well behaved and gentle with him). He was happy to just bop around and look for clover. And he’s so sooooooft!

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Pictured above is my mom’s best friend from high school, Suzanne, who was another fun addition to the party. She lives in Perth, Australia but comes visit for a few weeks every year to see her parents. When her parents fuss over her in excess (as she puts it, “They fret!”) she escapes to my mom’s house. And gosh the two of them crack me up- they lounge around in their pajamas drinking (in moderation: disclaimer, my mom is a lightweight so when I say drinking I mean 1 drink) and giggling, basically. I hope to be like that with my best friend from high school in the next few decades!

I was sad to return to school this year. Let’s be real, who wants to leave being cared for and constantly fed in the bosom of their family to instead have to do a billion assignments and group projects and tests in a frighteningly short period of time?

Fortunately, I have many things comforting me. To begin with, NEW LIFE IS BEGINNING ON MY PORCH!

My roommate and I have had a comically dead plant hanging on our deck for quite some time. Alli went to dump out the planter’s contents to replace them with something less dead, but shocker! Five little eggs!

This mama is super dedicated to her kiddos. We think she is either a Carolina wren or a Southern phoebe… so we named her Phoebe! I can’t wait for the eggies to hatch!

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We are trying very hard not to stress her out, or spend too much time out there. Apparently if mama bird feels like the nest is threatened, she will station herself there and literally starve herself to death rather to leave and get food and worry that the eggs/baby chicks won’t survive. I am so glad I’m not a bird, guys.

I’m glad she’s under the eaves and protected from the rain, but I still worry because the wind makes that thing wave around like crazy!

In other important baby bird news, longtime readers will remember that my aunt has neighbors we call Chicken Family. She was chicken sitting and rotating eggs each day under the incubator and look who was born early!

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Being the first person this chick saw (and assumed mama) she got to name him/her (can’t tell yet- too small!). Behold, Henry (or Henrietta if a girl!) He eats crumbled hardboiled egg yolk (which I thought was cannibalism but apparently both yolk and white are food for little chicken embryo while they grow in the shell)

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Henry is a Bantam. Her Ancona brothers and sisters are much bigger, but my aunt notes, “she is fierce like a Scottie” (the kind of little but fierce dog my aunt has!)

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And finally, I must brag about my baby sister. She got one of the coveted internships at Share Our Strength (something for which, I must admit, I was interviewed but not accepted). She’s helping coordinate their Great American Bake Sale.

Isn’t she so adorable?!

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She had a busy weekend in which she celebrated Easter with us on Sunday and then starting in the wee hours of Monday, the Share Our Strength summit and their big fundraiser- Taste of the Nation. (and then went on to take a biochem test and organic chemistry quiz in the next couple of days, like a champ!)

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She sent me delectable pictures

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Yay family!

mood swings

I went through a fairly exhausting couple of weeks prior to going home for Greek Easter. Fun times, and crazy stressful times.

It started when I had my psycho-crazy reaction to Zyrtec. The culminating event was when I went out to eat with one of my bestest pals and didn’t want to eat anything! (On the bright side, she said she had raging PMS and wasn’t feeling much food either).

We both got gorgeous salads… and ate almost none of them! (Took about 5/6ths of each of them home. Our waiter probably thought we were lunatics).

Hers:

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Mine:

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(Arugula, hearts of palm, avocado, parmesan, GREAT vinaigrette).

It was just a crappy few days. During this meal, I recall, along with the depression/anxiety/lunacy I’d been feeling for a few days prior, I also had a raging headache and nausea that caused me to go dry heave in the bathroom for a bit. Then I went home and went to bed at 9 pm. Then I said I was NEVER TAKING ZYRTEC AGAIN.

Fortunately I rallied by a few days later. I had American Good Friday off. I spent a delightful morning at my new favorite place (I confess this picture was taken when I was there a few weeks prior but it was too good not to post).

cat on my back!

I went with my friend from school, who doesn’t have a car. I feel like it’s important for the car owners to take the eco-friendly public transit only folks on adventures in the surrounding countryside! It was a beautiful day and the kitties were pleased.

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Can you even with this cat?! Such confidence in the strength of those branches! (Though, of course, if he fell, being a cat he would land on his feet)

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Then I had a retirement party to attend, woohoo! Heh. So my friend spent several years in a high pressure economist job (like, work on Christmas Day and every weekend stressful) and accumulated enough savings that he decided that not only could he quit his job, but he could chill for awhile without having to immediately find a new job.

Thus, a retirement party.

We were encouraged to wear golfer attire. This was my first attempt, but I decided I just looked like a clown.

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So I wore a cute shirtdress, a visor I got at the dollar store, and tall socks and sneakers, and called it a day. The party was lots of fun- there were really disgusting prune juice cocktails (hahahaha), and we played bingo. The highlight was just sitting on Myra and Alex’s wonderful screened in porch and hearing music drift over from a concert being held nearby.

And then, yet again, I was in biochem study mode for the remainder of the weekend.

I had my usual study group over both Saturday and Sunday. We had an AWESOME breakfast on Saturday because my friend Steph brought eggs from her happy chickens. She hardboiled those, I roasted some asparagus and opened my fancy balsamic reduction, and we had a reallll good breakfast.

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Saturday night I took a break and had a welcome-to-town dinner for my cousin and her husband, who just moved to Chapel Hill (yay!). I introduced them to Myra and Alex, because they are all 1. Lawyers and 2. Obsessed with their dogs.

Despite Lochsie’s cuteness (demonstrated below)…

lochsie the troublemaker

… Lochsie’s manners leave something to be desired and she was rather unwelcoming to poor Mike and Sophia’s dog (who, incidentally, was about four times her size). So Lochsie went off to doggy jail and we had a fun dinner.

Then I went to American Easter with my beloved Andrea and her family, and that was wonderful. But my anxiety about biochem grew throughout our delightful brunch, and I reluctantly said goodbye to the mimosas and lox and went back to biochem.

This round of studying, we had collaborative snacks. I contributed leftover bruschetta (which Sophia brought the night before and was BOSS), roasted almonds, curried red lentil dip with crackers and carrots for dipping, and (in the tupperware with the lid on) leftover strawberry shortcake).

But lest you fear that there was a single cake for dessert (and please note that on this day I’d already had strawberry shortcake for breakfast and amaretto pound cake at Easter lunch), Steph also brought her Easter leftovers: peanut butter M and M eggs (diabolical) and carrot cake. The carrot cake began as an Easter basket cake, but since most of the cake was gone, what was left looked like headphones!

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Once biochem was done (did a lot better than the horror of the carbs test, thank God) I rewarded myself with sushi. Bento box: $12 and you eat it for three meals. Did my usual: four sushi pieces, a small spicy tuna roll, and teriyaki salmon. Comes with salad, miso soup, and rice.

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Leftovers went into a pretty perfect meal: leftover perfectly cooked sushi restaurant rice topped with fried eggs, with roasted asparagus and avocado on the side. Like, all of my favorite things.

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I also made a Madhur Jaffrey vegetarian favorite: chickpeas with tomatoes and parsley. My grandmother always made lentils on Good Friday, so I was pleased to be making an equally comforting vegan bean dish during Holy Week. Ostensibly I should have been eating vegan all the way through Lent, but I find it excessively challenging/restrictive and already tend to feel that I’m not getting enough calcium. I do cut out meat all through Lent (part of the rationale for this, by the way, is that meat is expensive and spending less money on it enables one to donate more money to good causes, or caring for the poor.) Anyway, at least in this meal I felt like I was being legit on the Lent front.

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It’s very simple. I didn’t follow a recipe (though you can find it in her excellent vegetarian cookbook). I just threw olive oil (a good amount) and garlic (also a good amount!) in a pan, added tomatoes (fresh are good, canned work great too, in this case I used canned tomato sauce for a smoother texture), then the chickpeas, then LOTS of parsley. Key was using chickpeas cooked from dry instead of using canned. They are just SO much more delicious, and their texture is delightful.

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And then, in a final treat yo self moment, I went to the gynecologist and rewarded myself with froyo :)

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around town

Here is a random sampling of my doings/eatings/learnings of late.

Perfect homemade meal:

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Leftover Ethiopian cabbage and carrots (I made for a dinner with friends) plus over easy fried egg, polenta, and sour cream. We had a family friend who was Romanian. He introduced us to the exquisite combination of polenta, eggs, and sour cream (which I guess is traditionally Romanian, because I’ve seen it at church festivals as well). I forget how much I lovvvvve sour cream. I bought it to make Moosewood’s Russian macaroni and cheese and was delighted to have some of the leftovers in the house.

Perfect school meal:

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I buy food on campus WAY TOO MUCH. This is from Mediterranean deli: pita and two dips (baba ghanoush and deliiiiicious artichoke dip) plus couscous/chickpea/raisin/green onion salad. $5 and delicious.

My Epidemiology TA is the best TA. Everyone is jealous of us because we don’t waste class time reviewing material that’s already been taught (thus enabling us to often get out early) and we get to have class outside sometimes. I’m now dying of allergies- this was in the sweet spot of early Spring when it was warm out but the trees hadn’t gone berserk yet.

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The grand reopening of Honeysuckle Tea House! I LOVE this place! Here’s where they have the fab live music:

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And this is the open air teahouse itself. It’s like Swiss Family Robinson or something!

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They have a garden where they grow herbs that are used to make herbal teas and home and body products they sell in their shop. (Washing your hands at the teahouse is amazing because you use their soap- it smells SO GOOD!)

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If you look at the building from this angle, you can see that it’s built from recycled shipping containers.

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I am mostly not fond of chamomile, but isn’t it pretty?

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The tea house from another angle. It makes you think, “Yeah, I could build that!”

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And looking up at the building as the sun sets. *Sigh*. So pretty. Though it seems to be in the country, it’s actually only a few minutes out from Chapel Hill. It feels so much further away!

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This is the inside. I met up with friends and we sat in here, sipped tea, and listened to music.

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When you order instead of giving you a number they give you a plant. This was mine:IMG_2282 IMG_2283

There was a sassy bluegrass band. Also note, please, the perfect little daffodils on each table!

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There were ots of kids bopping around outside (there’s a little play area behind the stage). There was this neat little firepit, which was nice to have once the sun set.

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In less fun and relaxing news, I’ve reached the point in the year where my planner isn’t doing it anymore and I need to make epic to-do lists in increments of a couple of days. These are not all school assignments (thank God!) but I seriously need to put, “Exercise”, “Go to brunch with your friends” or I would forget to do them.

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I went on a fun medical nutrition therapy study date (no really, though that is a ridiculous sentence). Melissa’s house feels like a magical land in the woods. It is so, so gorgeous.

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And she feeds you when you’re her study date! Brain boosting chocolate…

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… and this epic crockpot creation! When I arrived she was sauteeing a ton of onions with a ton of Indian-style spices (cumin, coriander, and friends). In they went to a crockpot with chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, coconut milk… etc. etc. Don’t know the full details but know it was delish! Especially with the chopped almonds she added on top.

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We made some epic study guides about livers, gall bladders, intestines, and all of the fun bad things that can happen to them. Eesh. This program makes me deeply grateful for my health.

A bit more randomness:

The entire town has subsequently burst into blossom. I stopped at a traffic light and had to capture these lovely blossoms… outside the Bojangles, hahaha.

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I took a long walk (on pretty much the last day I could handle being outside without sneezing my nose off) and came upon this chicken with a death wish bopping around in the street. I chased her back into her yard. I”m not sure if she stayed there.

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thawing

It’s funny how we set emotional timelines for ourselves, and say, well of COURSE I’ll be there by then. And yes, sometimes it feels like a real victory when we meet those deadlines, and we are there, and we say, I’ve gotten out of that negative place, and now I’ll take on the world and be that perfect person I’ve been intending to be all along. The problem, of course, is when we backslide. Or rather we slide down off the exuberant pile of intentions we’ve built ourselves and say, “Oh shoot, I’m actually still kind of sad about x, y and z.” Our feelings about ourselves change, our feelings about others change, our health changes, the seasons change. We hope that we can learn things.

Anyway, that was all a bit psychobabble. The point is, I feel very much like a work in progress at the moment (and no kidding, I always have been and I always will be). The week I took the pictures in this post I was filled with a sense of real contentment and well being, and the week that I’m blogging about them I’m a little fuzzier about how I’m feeling about life. But hey, that’s okay. The feeling of well being was a blessing, and my feeling now is more self-examining, and I want to be able to dig into that feeling too, and get something out of it.

It’s Spring, and thank heavens for spring. The cold thaws, the nights get lighter, we’re greeted by daffodils and baby bunnies, and we hope that the day to day grind of life gets a little easier. It’s okay for me to bounce around town feeling rosy and optimistic, and yet it’s also okay for me to spend a quiet few minutes watching the sun set, listening to the birdies tell each other good night, and do some reflecting (even of the melancholy sort).

The later part of Spring Break left me feeling springtime optimism and my positivity was bubbling over. This led to a desire to cook and entertain a lot! I invited friends over for Indian food- actually sent out an open invite on facebook to anyone who was in town who felt like eating something I cooked. I made tofu tikka masala, sauteed cabbage and potatoes and carrots with spices (actually an Ethiopian recipe), and basmati rice. And then Myra totally stole my thunder by bringing this beautiful and delicious chickpea bisteeyah.

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Two of my friends were initially excited for the Indian dinner but then opted out when they learned when it would be served at 7:30 pm, a mere half hour before their baby’s bedtime. Determined to see them, and excited to continue feeding all the people I care about, I invited them over for a more child-friendly mealtime (6:00) the next day. That was delightful, because baby Toula is walking like a CHAMP! And she’s just the happiest little bambino, and super chatty.

I decided to make a recipe that my cousin Rachel taught me about: Moosewood’s Russian macaroni and cheese. Its defining features are a TON of sauteed onions (both red and green), caraway seeds, and cottage cheese in addition to the traditional cheddar. It’s really pretty healthy- look at all the vegetables crammed in there!

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My whole family loves this recipe- it’s comfort food with a fun twist. I think this time it wasn’t quite as good as when I’ve made it in the past, probably because I was too committed to health. Low fat cottage cheese is fine (though never buy fat free cottage cheese, please, it tastes like acid and death) but then also using low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheddar just was too virtuous. Next time I’ll rock a little more saturated fat!

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Also at the table was a yummy dip that unfortunately ended up a little barf-colored. I cooked red lentils with whole garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt; then mashed it up with cumin and turmeric. It was good, despite its appearances. The baby loved it! Dan and Bethany were also nice enough to bring bread and smoked salmon. Man, their baby housed that bread. She’s a big fan of the white carbs. Aren’t we all, hahahahaha.

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Okay now by FAR the highlight of my spring break happened on the last day of it. Myra and I headed off on an adventure to… CAT HEAVEN!

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Goathouse Cat Refuge was frankly a little overwhelming. In that it was amazing, and also caused me to lie in bed at night going, “THERE ARE SO MANY SWEET LITTLE KITTIES WITH NO MUMMIES AND DADDIES TO CARE FOR THEM WHAT CAN I DO, OH GODDDDD”.

A totally donation sustained organization, at any given moment there are 350 (!!!) cats at this amazing place. And visitors are allowed from 12-3 every day of the week, and though most of the cats are up for adoption, you can also go if (like me) you aren’t yet ready or able to offer a cat a home but just want to help socialize the animals.

There are a lotttt of cats, but it helps that they have free access to the outdoors (which is pretty amazing, and seems to keep the cats really happy and chill) and are also on multiple levels in the rooms inside, so you never feel overwhelmed by the number of cats (though straight talk: what is overwhelming is the smell).

Some of the kitties are in cages, if for example they’re new and getting used to the other cats, or recovering from medical treatment, or on a special diet. But most get to just wander around. There are, natch, lots of sleeping surfaces.

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This guy, below, was happy to see me. After I took this picture, he calmly decided to climb down from the shelf via my neck. Myra took a series of photos of me keeping the cat balanced on my back and bending down to the ground so he could peacefully disembark. Cats, man. We’re just here to serve them.

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Cat bunk beds! This room (with the series of shelves you see below) had approximately 28 cats in it (Myra counted) but it just never seemed that crowded. They seemed really happy and chill.

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But I thought the really amazing part was the outdoor area. It was a warmish day- low 60s- and both cats and humans were stoked to be spending some time outside.

Lots of things to climb on.

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Lots of things to climb in! I think a human child would enjoy this kind of space just as much as a cat.

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This guy was a boss climber. The roof he’s climbing off of was the quarantine building for new kitties or sick kitties. There is also a kitten cabana (!) There were only a few kittens the day we were there but the staff said the kittens really started coming in in April and May.

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I loved this lady. She was the most confident, friendly cat. And had the most GORGEOUS fluffy tail.

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There was some playtime as well outside, hahaha.

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This kitty had the most beautiful green eyes and just wanted you to pettt himm. On the one hand, you felt like these animals had a wonderful, cat-friendly space and had all of their needs met and seemed really content. On the other hand, some of them clearly just wanted a forever family where they could be loved and cared for by one person :,(

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Outdoors, basically everything was a scratching surface. A lot of the trees looked a little ragged at the bottom!

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How amazing is this climbing structure?! I want one!

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I loved this chubster. He was very affable.

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The white cat was like I HAVE MANY IMPORTANT TASKS TO ACCOMPLISH TODAY I MUST BE OFF.

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This cat was super sweet and kind of had a face like a little fancy purebred cat. There’s something about this vantage point looking into things from above that cats just seem to love.

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Nuzzle nuzle.

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Kitty buddies looking contemplative together.

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The cat was nibbling on the pinecones and then when I went over to take a picture he looked a little embarrassed.

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There are some kitties who have just always been feral. They stay on the outskirts of the outdoor area (which is large, so they definitely can get the solitude they desire, while having their needs for food and water and veterinary care and so on met). They were having a big sunbathing party.

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We petted SO MANY CATS. Seriously, if you have blood pressure concerns, go to this place and do some quality cat petting.

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More scratching.

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Can you even with this little guy’s belly camouflage? So cute!

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Don’t you love when cats stare intently at something like they’re trying to solve an important mystery and then peacefully close their eyes, like “Ah, I see it now. All is well.”?

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This little guy LOVED me! (In general, what’s with cats and toes? What weirdos). At one point he put his paws up on his knees and I started to bend down and it was like he was trying to climb into my arms sob sob sob. Then another kitty came over to say hello and this guy hissed at him, like, “DO NOT RUIN THIS FOR ME BRO”. This is what haunts me when I lie in bed at night, man- little baby kitties with no families.

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(Also, apparently from those billions of goosebumps on my legs, it was really too cold that day to be wearing shorts, eh?)

Emotionally drained but happy after our visit, Myra and I then went to one of Pittsboro’s other lovely offerings, the bakery. These cupcakes were adorable but I guess you have to special order them because they were only plastic models. Sigh.

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Nonetheless, they had a yummy selection, including slightly less adorable regular cupcakes.

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Myra and I both opted for the donuts, which were SO good. Light and yeasty and sweetly frosted. I got one with homemade lemon curd inside and it was SO good- tangy, like I like it!

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Then I went home and my neighbor brought over ridiculously delicious spring rolls made with love by her Thai mother. And I hung out with my girlfriends and we giggled about life.

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Spring Break was done and I felt like the flowers I saw around me, like I was thawing. I felt an overabundance of blessings in my life, despite some of the pain it contains too.

I am blessed, to have a family that contains so much love- my life was so enriched by my cousin’s presence and the years I got to overlap with him.

I made many steps in becoming the person I am in my now-finished relationship. As my roommate wisely pointed out tonight, when you make the decision to love someone, you choose to make them part of your life story, however long your time with them overlaps. They’re always written into your story, and you are the person you are in part because of them.

I chatted with a pro today (I was feeling a little freaked out after my insane- literally, insane- allergy medicine reaction last week) and she mentioned how she could see me benefiting from incorporating more mindfulness into my life. I told her about my resistance to the idea of making my mind completely blank. She said, why not just go for a walk, and for its first ten minutes, turn off everything else in your brain and choose to focus on what’s around you. The breeze, the chipmunks, and so on.

I took these pictures on some of my walks home from class the other week. Daffodils on every lawn, popping up seemingly overnight.

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I despaired during my first spring in North Carolina- where are the crocuses?! I thought we were in the wrong climactic zone. Imagine my deep, deep joy when I saw these guys peeking up out of the dirt. Hello, spring. Hello, renewal. Hello, hope. Hello, change.

Bless you, dear little crocuses!

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biochemlandia

When I have a biochem test it is NO JOKE.

Thank God, we had a snow day just a few days before my last biochem test, which meant that we had a solid day to just devote to biochem. Since I am a benevolent person who wanted to host my classmates whose homes had no power, and since I am a slacker who has to have supervision to avoid watching Netflix all day, I invited over some study buddies!

I am a great hostess who makes her study buddies pancakes. (And I am a food addict who goes to buy buckwheat pancake mix when there is an impending snowstorm). I had mine with peanut butter and honey, and informed my friends it was BYOS (bring your own syrup).

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And then there was lots of studying and lots of snacking. Dude, these kale chips were WEEEEEEIRD! I’ve actually eaten and loved chocolate kale chips before, because I think commercial kale chips are way more delicious than the homemade ones, probably because they have access to a dehydrator, which I do not. The main barrier I have to buying commercially produced kale chips- $$$!- was not an issue, as these were 75% off at Whole Foods. However, I really should’ve suspected why.

You know how I don’t want kale chips to taste? Creamy. They had this weird, unpleasant creamy residue in your mouth, which is something you really don’t want mixing with kale aftertaste. Anyway, most of us hated them but Camille, that lovable weirdo, liked them, so I sent them home with her, hahahaha.

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Camille brought chocolate and almonds, yesss, so I was happy to share with her. Pictured below is also one of my billion cups of tea I drank and made for others that day.

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And then I came along this delightful Krebs cycle mnemonic, which didn’t actually come in that useful on the diabolical test, but was amusing.

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Now apparently I have a lot of pictures of the things I did to distract myself from studying biochem (on which I still spent probably… an average of four hours a day? during this time period) and to reward myself after biochem was done. After I escaped biochemlandia, if you will.

I have a Nutrition Buddy, a second year student who mentors me in the ins and outs and unwritten rules of our department. We got sushi together! So fun! At the strange little sushi place that opened recently. Their rolls are a little expensive but also HUGE. This one had baked salmon on top, and I forget what else. It was quite tasty.

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That same weekend I had a nice romantic dinner with my lady friends, for which I neglected to photograph the food but for which I captured the ambience nicely :)

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And then a BIG highlight- some friends and I went to see Andrea in an OPERA! Yes, my friend is an awesome, talented opera singer.

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The view:

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The performance was amazing. While the orchestra played the beautiful overture, the people on the stage were frozen in poses, the women wearing these beautiful red dresses. It was like a painting, and sort of eerie and beautiful.

And then, as if I didn’t love Andrea enough already, later in the week she introduced me to her sister’s awesome puppy!

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And then a final delicious meal: I had a leisurely dinner with friends at Venable, a restaurant I”ve been wanting to try for a long time. Their house red wine is $5 and is SO SO SO GOOD. Unfortunately it’s only listed on the menu as “Rosso Veronese”, meaning wine from Verona. I’m on the hunt for it. Working to my advantage is that my friend works at Venable (and was actually our server!) so I’m going to interrogate her about it.

Also, totally out of character for me, I ate pig… But GOSH this croque monsieur was so good. It was local and pastured and all the good things one wants in their ham. And delicous. And the cheese and bechamel were glorious. (The ham was also really thick, which was hard to see in this picture, so I had leftovers). However, perhaps an even bigger highlight was the roasted veggies (carrots, parsnips, and rutabega) on the side. The vegetables were perfectly cooked- I tend to just roast mine with no preparation so they get all wrinkly (though they still taste good) but these had been blanched or something in advance so they were wonderfully tender. And perrrfectly seasoned.

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And finally, a fun, simple, indulgent sandwich I made at home: grilled cheese and avocado. Cooked in coconut oil. Yummmm.

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yummy silly fun theme parties

Right now I am, as the kids say, tripping balls on the allergy medicine I just started. Really hoping I feel better soon. [ETA: it’s the next day and I do feel better, probably because I went to bed at 9pm last night and discontinued the crappy meds. However, still feel loopy enough to’ve come up with this post’s silly title.]

In the meantime, here are some nice ramblings about some fun times I had around Valentine’s Day and the following week. With, you guessed it, yummy silly fun theme parties.

I cat sat for my cousin. Hobbes was not a fan of me (or the fact that he had just moved into a new house). He hid inside his little cat hut the whole time I was there, and I sort of feebly tried to reach through the hole and gingerly pet him.

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My classmate is the most perfect human being in the world (you may remember her as the person who got me- who gets everyone in our class, for that matter a birthday cake, and the person who made everyone caramel apples for fall break). She made deliiiiicious almond fudge cups for Valentine’s Day.

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But the best thing awaited me when I got home! I think suspecting that newly-dumped me would be a little blue, my mom and sister sent me a fabulous Valentine’s Day Harry and David gift package!

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I mean REALLY. Their fabulous fabulous juicy sweet perfect spotless pears, two kinds of cheese (gouda and cheddar), pepper jelly, yummy little jam cookies, crackers, chocolate raspberry truffles. Mmm.

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My roommate got us some flowers (she’s started buying flowers for herself now, since we both got sick of coming into the apartment, seeing a bouquet, and turning to the other to say, “So you two have been fighting, huh?”) They looked very pretty with the pears.

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The highlight of Valentine’s Day, though, was celebrating the birth of my favorite puppy- Lochsie! As ever, all my pictures of her are a blur. She is just the craziest little blonde miniature daschund I know (and, er, the only).

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Myra and Alex have custom-made coasters with mixtures of their puppy on them, hahahahahahahaha. This is her in her earlier in her life, before she started to look as daschund-y.

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Lochsie’s best friend Charlie came, along with his humans. Watching them play is pretty great.

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In the food department, Myra and Alex are obsessed with their waffle iron, and I’d emailed Myra a list of things one can make in a waffle iron earlier in the week. So when I arrived at the party, I helped her finish one of the recipes listed- wonuts! With pretty pink frosting.

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There were also veggies (including AWESOME homemade beet chips), and burgers and dogs.

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The decor was very love-themed.

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And in the cocktail department, whoo! They started with chambord…

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… then a dose of cream

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(Unpictured fizzy water), and whipped cream on top

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And a fresh raspberry garnish! And adorable straws! How Pinterest-explosion-worthy is this?!

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Lochsie got many ridiculous presents, including a giant tennis ball, and an automatic tennis ball launcher (the I-Fetch, hahahaha, unpictured). Watching babies and puppies play together is the best.

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The baby is very into spoons and kitchen implements right now. She liked stirring the dog’s water.

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Then, because Lochsie truly is Myra and Alex’s child, she got a PROSCUITTO BIRTHDAY CAKE.

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By this point in the proceedings, Charlie was so tired that we managed to get a hat on him! Adorable.

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Then, as if that wasn’t enough fun, the following Saturday I went to another awesome get together! This time a birthday Bring Your Own Crepe Filling brunch with my classmates. Yay crepes! (Confession: I’m a little intimidated by making crepes, but love eating them!)

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The drink department:

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(Some of the) food department. I brought goat brie and fig jam for crepes :) There were lots of fruity jammy yummy contributions.

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She of the Valentine’s Day fudge cups above made quinoa-chia seed porridge scented with rose water. It was so different and good!

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Here was my plate: a crepe with half dulce de leche and cinnamon apples, and half bananas and nutella. Plus some of the porridge, topped with fresh strawberries and pecans. PLUS, some OUTRAGEOUS french toast casserole.

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Then Steph, our hostess, got to makin’ mimosas!

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She says when she hosts parties she always ends up standing on a chair :)

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I had a mimosa with unsweetened grapefruit juice which was yummy and different. I like my alcoholic beverages tart!

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Then we went to visit the chickens. There’s a chicken bullying situation going on, which is sad yet interesting. She’s getting baby chicks early next month, and we’re going to have a little baby shower for them.

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Then we had some nice birthday cakey for Colton (in that we took a piece of the french toast casserole and stuck a candle in it)

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And then hung out laughing and chatting. Colton’s brother was visiting and he does MAGIC so that was fun. And inspired just absurd amounts of Arrested Development quoting, which in and of itself was funny since only four people at the party (myself included, natch) who had actually seen Arrested Development (the horror!) so we were all rolling on the floor laughing while everyone else sat around awkwardly wishing they were us!

Then we’d digested round 1, and our friends showed up with stupid good homemade waffles. It tasted a lot like someone had stuck pound cake batter in a waffle iron. Soooo buttery and crispy. And then Lesley, our classmate who went to culinary school, made us perfect scrambled eggs, with eggies from the chickens in the backyard! They were wonderful.

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And now, as I recover from the jittery craziness/depression and so on, I’m finding myself craving a nice weekend waffle adventure.

reading the cards

It’s been wonderfully springtimey here and I have things on which to opine.

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Let’s start with reading my Tarot cards!

Let me preface this by saying that I wouldn’t describe myself as *believing* in things like astrology and tarot, but I enjoy them. Foremost, I think that they can be really cool, interesting ways to connect with the people who do the interpreting, and that to me is their main value. And it’s fun! And just to keep the skeptics mad, I’ll note that my mom’s great aunt did astrology throughout her life and did the charts for both my sister and I when we were born (my mom has her letters saved in family photo albums). And she said that I would be a lifelong cat lover (haha!) and be interested in nutrition, and my sister would be sensitive and crave a sense of home, and be a writer. Very very true of both of us! And the reading below is pretty damn interesting too. Which is to say, WHO KNOWS!?

So my friend Andrea has a neat deck of legit Tarot cards, and she described them as a fun hybrid of ancient pagan symbols, signs of the zodiac, and early Christian symbols. This is the Celtic cross, one of the most common formats you lay out to read someone’s cards. When you’re looking to answer questions about someone’s life you both look at which cards appear (and note that I, as the person whose cards were being read, cut the deck) and in which positions of the Celtic cross they appear.

(sorry for the crappy picture, this is just to give you an idea of the layout)

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There are four suits in the Tarot deck (as well as “major arcana”, essentially “face cards” that don’t belong to a suit), and the suits correspond to the elements of the earth. Andrea described this to me a little but I also did a bit more Internet research because I thought this stuff was fun!

Wands, my most commonly recurring suit, corresponds to fire and its qualities- heat, light, destructive yet regenerative, self perpetuating. Also involves creative energy, drive and ambition, passion.

Cups corresponds to water- water is vital to life and nourishing. It can be still or turbulent and destructive. It’s flexible, moving. Water is wrapped up in love, mind, body and spirit, and feelings.

Swords correspond to air- air can both be cleansing (wiping the slate clean) yet the interplay of hot and cold can result in winds that can be devastating. Air can be wet or dry. This suit is wrapped up in concepts of truth, clarity, ideas, justice, and mental strength.

Pentacles (the stars) correspond to the element of Earth- holds water and can sustain fire. stabilizing. growth, beginning stages of something tangible, material abundance, new enterprise, improving wealth

Now, for my specific reading. You can approach a reading with a particular question- I kept it general and asked how my next few months would be.

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The first card laid down is person in question- in this case me! The king of wands has will/determination, is dynamic, confident and high in mental energy (all the good qualities of fire, which corresponds to wands, remember?)

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Overlaid over the first card the challenge/situation at hand- the 2 of wands. The lower numbers in a suit represent the poorer attributes of that suit’s corresponding element. So Andrea read this as the negatives of fire: control, domination over another, a willful vision of things, dissatisfaction. Perhaps there had been an influence in my life, from myself or others, pressuring me to be a certain way.

She also talked about how this and other things about the arrangement of my cards implies that I’ve been guilty of too much navel gazing and being too much in my head, and the way to get out of this is through being a positive fiery force, full of energy and action.

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The recent past- yikes! I’ve kept it no secret on my blog that the recent past has been crazy and stressful and this card calls it pretty perfectly. I don’t really need to explain the tower- it symbolizes sudden and unexpected upheaval.

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I read a number of interpretations for the position on the right. The future/best outcome/present state of things/current resolution or lack thereof. Flux, I’d call it! So the moon symbolizes dreams but also nightmares, hidden things, mystery, confusion. This is funny given I have had a LOT of sleep disturbances lately! And also have been feeling a sense of mystery about the meaning of life/why terrible things happen to good people/etc.

I also just want to note I think this card looks really cool and it’s fun to think about all the attributes of the moon and how they can be human attributes as well. I also want to note that this is the first of many highly female symbols, which is apt since I’ve been all about the female energy lately (girlfriends, mother, sister… even the cat is a girl)

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Above- this position symbolizes my goal, the possible/best outcome of the question, and a more short term outlook. Totally dig this Temperance card- it’s all about harmony, balance, and moderation. I will note that this is the closest thing to my star sign- I’m a Libra!

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Below- this position is all about someone’s foundation, their subconscious realm- underlying feelings and trends. I got this card upside down, which is significant and is called a reversal. A reversal of the 5 of pentacles signifies coming out of a dark period, small gains, turn for the better. Sweet! Andrea and I talked about the interplay of gender, and how this could be a paternal deprivation card, and all the other strong female energy cards I have are in the opposite, nourishing spirit.

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This next position in the Celtic cross had a lot of potential meanings listed! It can mean advice and recommendations from outside influences, or factors affecting the situation (which is a little vague to me). Anyway, this is another super grim looking card! The 10 of swords- ruin, feeling broken, sudden ending, grief, negative outcome. Yes, the outside world has been kind of intense lately.

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Andrea talked about this position being how you’re observed by others, whereas the Internet said it was about external influences too, or the environment. Anyway, another awesome female energy card! This is the queen of pentacles- she’s a Mother Earth type. This card is all about self nurture. It’s cool if this does symbolize my surrounding environment, because as this blog tries to highlight, my neck of the woods is reallll crunchy. Andrea also pointed out that right now the work I do for one of my professors is a study that’s all about supporting mothers and babies, so I think this card is wrapped up in that too.

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For some reason I forgot to take a picture of this card at Andrea’s, but I found it online! This position is all about hopes and fears. The 4 of wands symbolizes initial success, first stage of completion, progression, setting up a new home. I certainly feel as though I’ve been doing this in a figurative, if not literal sense. And of course a new home can symbolize a fresh start but also the loss of the comfortable and familiar.

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The last position is a long term outcome- where the situation is headed, how the issue will be resolved. This card was another inversion, the upside down 7 of cups. If you look at it right side up (Just stand on your head in front of your computer! I’ll wait :D) there are all this gold cups, but if you look inside them they have snakes and other nasty dangerous things. So if this were upside up, this would be about deceit, but since it’s an inversion, it’s about seeing through lies, making up my mind, uncovering ill intentions, and foremost- recovery!

So that’s a bit of kookiness for your Monday!

So last week was my Spring Break. I went home for a few days. We had a memorial service for my cousin- in the Greek tradition, you do a memorial for someone who has died at seven days later, 40 days later, and a year later. My mother points out, aptly, that you’re in a different phase of your feelings at each of those times. Anyway, it was good to all be together.

Also, we all had a meal afterwords at my sister’s godparents’ house, and they got a ridiculous amount of dessert (God bless my family). And we got to take most of them home after my sister was ruled the dessert appointer and everyone else refused these beautiful tarts!

I mean my God, we had three kinds of tarts in our fridge. Ridiculous.

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I spent my remaining time at home cultivating my wellness (including a mental health refresher with my old shrink, yaaaay!) and bonding with my favorite ladies. Long walks with my mom, Zumba with my sister, and morning snuggles with Sheila.

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More soon!