a little more birthday

How lucky am I, the weekend after my birthday (and, incidentally, the weekend before my Important Person’s birthday) I went away with the aforementioned Important Person for an amazing beach getaway.

Thank you thank you thank you to my aunt Kathy and uncle Tom for making this sunset and other amazing moments happen…

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My boyf drove at a… sprightly pace as we left the Raleigh/Durham traffic on Friday night and we made it to the Outer Banks just in time to enjoy:

  • Fish tacos at Mama Kwan’s and
  • An amazing and spooky walk on the beach! The waves had been real high for both that day and the previous week, so there was the roaring and crashing of water and these huge white chunks of seafoam flying all over the place in the wind. Meanwhile, the tide was so high we sometimes we had to scramble up to touching the dunes to avoid the water hitting us. And, the moon was almost full. It felt like being on another planet, in the best way possible

The next day, surprise surprise, we immediately had to have another beach walk:

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The weekend was just a series of delights.

Cheese and charcuterie plates on the beach (he’s a meat man, I’m a cheese girl)

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Sunset on Nag’s head pier

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Plus fried oysters (plus unpictured The Best Scallops I’ve Had In Recent Memory at Tortuga’s Lie, plus unpictured drinks and birthday cake at what turned out to be a rather raucous scene at Outer Banks Brewing Company).

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More fun included hanging out at the Wright Brothers Memorial

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Bonding with pirates and having a delicious breakfast (which as you can see from the poster behind me is the princely sum of $3.99) at the Jolly Roger

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And generally soaking up the sun with this guy. My fellow Libra and birthday celebrant.

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We were sad to drive home Sunday afternoon. The purchase of Duck Donuts helped. (He got bacon, she got pumpkin spice. Gender cliches lol)

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We got home, but was my birthday celebrating finally done? NO!

Then my sweet little sister showed up! Ecstastic to spend time with me hahahahahahaha.

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Malindi’s been down south in Louisiana, where her husband has been working as communications direct for John Bel Edwards’ (SUCCESSFUL! PRAISE BE!) reelection campaign.

She was seeing very little of Eric as the election kicked into high gear and decided it’d be a nice time to come for a visit and see my house.

We did that.

We also ate more dessert, SURPRISE.

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And we met up with my cousin for the most innnn-creddddible dinner at a new-to-me restaurant, Postal Fish Company.

Starting with oysters is always a win.

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Every single thing on the menu sounded so, so delicious and it was really really hard to come up with what to order. Finally we opted to just get three entrees and share them all. (Plus unpictured, delicious cornbread).

Blackened Pitt Co. Catfish with stewed Sea Island red peas, andouille, and tomato jam

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Shrimp bologese with ricotta gnocchi and charred scallion creme

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Duo of Black Drum and Spadefish with roasted fall vegetables and Anson Mills farro fennel soubise

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We took a picture of the dessert menu just to show our cousin’s husband, who’s 100% someone who would be tickled to see oysters on a dessert menu. (She also nicely took him home some key lime pie, which is his favorite)

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We split the chocolate chess pie (incredible) with bourbon molasses ice cream (INCREDIBLE)

Malindi took this picture HAHAHAHA

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And thus ends the absurdly lucky amount of celebrating I got to do for turning a very forgettable age. Yay for the people I love they are pretty great ❤

spoiled birthday girl

The weekend before I turned 31, I went up to VA to see my mother.

See her I did, but honestly the individual who was most thrilled to see me was this lady right here:

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She spent most of the long weekend basically in my bed, purring. It was the best. It made me feel horribly guilty for having moved to another state.

My time at home generally consists of quality time with my cat, quality time with my mom, quality time in the bathtub, and quality time with the various delicious ethnic restaurants of Northern Virginia.

To wit, Ethiopian-

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Okay this wasn’t exotic but it was yummy and eaten al fresco- mini crab cakes and brie apple fig jam cranberry pumpkin seed microgreen crostini-

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Peruvian!-

(We went for it and got TRIPLE STARCH- fried yucca, rice and beans, and plantains)

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My mom, in the interests of balance, made us a yummy salad involving greens, farmer’s market tomatoes, cuc, and avocado plus homemade vinaigrette.

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Coffee hour at my mom’s church sometimes ends up being essentially a Middle Eastern mezze platter! This particular week I got a mini spinach pie, mini meat pie, za’atar bread, and pita with hummus, labneh, and baba ghanoush. Heaven.

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I woke up October 7th (my actual 31st birthday, a Monday) rather forlorn that I had to drive back to NC (though pleased I’d planned to take the day off work, and jazzed to stop at IKEA en route).

Much to my delight, I had a birthday GIFT TOWER from my sis to open! She’s a classy lady.

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My first order of business at home was dinner with my gal pals. I at last took my best girlfriends to my favorite restaurant, Gocciolina.

The sweet, sweet server overheard 1. It was my birthday and 2. I love the chickpeas there and brought us them, on the house 🙂

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Additional unpictured but delicious apps included the most light and dreamy meatballs, and my first taste of ‘nduja aka spreadable salami.

For entrees, we split these gorgeous veggies-

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Roasted brussels sprouts (so perfectly caramelized yet not dried out. How?!) plus a daily special of beans ‘n greens.

Emily got the fennel and mushroom ravioli which was so different and honestly haunting in its deliciousness.

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Lesli got the spicy seafood spaghetti, which I’ve had before and is just smashing

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And I did the damn thing, it being my birthday and all, and got the hand cut noodles with the fresh shaved truffles. Classy, classy classy!

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I tend to go so hard on the earlier courses at Gocciolina that I opted for my favorite conclusion to an Italian menu, decaf espresso. They adorably brought me a candle to make a wish with 🙂

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Lesli got the mini cannoli, which come two to an order which means you can try both types they offer, as she did: one regular and one tiramisu flavored (the regular one had too much orange peel IMO; the tiramisu one was delightful)

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And Emily got sweet cream gelato which was amazing, especially with a dollop floating in my espresso, *swoon*

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They spoiled me with gifts, my favorite of which was this one 🙂

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summer summer

More fun summer activities and treats.

Went to brunch and my manfriend did his usual elaborate rearranging of breakfast plates to make this super stacked bacon bedecked creations.

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I think there’s actually part of a pupusa under there too? I was busy stealing his side of hash browns to keep track too much.

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My new FAVORITE place to eat has been Hutchins Garage. Maybe the first pizza place I’ve ever encountered where the crust is so sublime that the bites of plain crust are AS DELICIOUS AS THE BITES WITH CHEESE ON THEM.

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I went with the fella and we were hungry and tired and ate this entire mushroom and caramelized shallot bedecked beauty. Mmm.

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Another fun weekend activity was attending a food truck rodeo with my friend Lesli and her friend Genevieve (it’s funny we all work in health care and I have seen notes from both of them in my patients’ charts!)

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First we split lobster tots (!) from Cousins Maine Lobster truck.

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Then I got a taco assortment. These were on homemade corn tortillas (*swoon*) and were so tasty and inventive.

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Left: fish taco with remoulade and mango salsa
Center: steak taco with cucumber salad and horseradish crema (!)
Right: cauliflower taco with romesco and queso fresco

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Lesli got a jerk chicken plate. We all shared bites and she offered some of hers and I was like “Yeah a bite of plantain is all I need to be happy in this life.”

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Another fun (slash crazy) weekend activity was a special someone’s birthday party. Any guess how old he was turning?😂

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Can you EVEN with my cousin’s kiddo’s third birthday party truck?! Chase is complete obsessed with all thing trucks (and earnestly describes the difference between excavators and combine harvesters and cement mixers and fork lifts and….) so this was quite the creation. We spent a lot of time speculating what made the gravel pile… crushed Twix bars? Butterfingers?

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Honestly it was a miracle it was still intact for the singing of Happy Birthday since EVERY CHILD THERE WANTED TO STICK THEIR FINGERS INTO IT.

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I want you to picture an event where there are DOZENS of people ages three and under, all of whom were given a kazoo upon their arrival to the party. WHOA MAN.

More weekend fun things:

Tailgating (I never go to the actual football games but sitting outside and eating burgers and playing cornhole is fun)

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Leisurely walks outside

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Clothing swaps! Actually I am done hosting them for the foreseeable future since my last one had a whopping total of ONE WHOLE GUEST. But Lola thoroughly enjoyed the setting up process.

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artistry

I was walking in the rose garden by Chapel Hill Community Center and found this wonderland of fairy houses.

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Then a few weekends later I attended Centerfest, an art festival in downtown Durham…

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The whole town looked artistic…

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Including its “statues”

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A bit later I myself was the artist, making the clever choice to participate in our corporate tie dyeing event without putting on gloves. I looked quite exotic for a few days there…

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The tie dyed tshirts were for an event a few days later.

What, pray tell was that event?

Well first of all THERE WAS A NICE UNICORN THERE!

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AND A FIRE TRUCK!

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AND I DREAM OF JEANNIE!

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AND SHE-RA!

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It was the Durham Pride Parade 🙂 Just a blast!

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Picking a favorite float was impossible.

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Lotsa music too. I was so impressed with the endurance of these performers because it was approximately 90 degrees out there.

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Later in the evening there was also a concert downtown for further Pride celebration. I met up with my friends and their two little girls. My friend explained to her five-year-old that rainbows were the symbol of Pride, so she could dress up in a rainbow outfit, and she very earnestly reported that she wanted to make her own piece of art to pin to her shirt.

I present: PRIDE CAT

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Can you even?! She should start a whole merchandise line.

snippets

Somehow I finagled a work meeting where I got to gab with my favorite professor from grad school (in the guise of “consultation”) PLUS we hung out on the beautiful patio at Guglhupf and had coffee and a hot pretzel. YASSSSSSS.

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Another work highlight was a meeting at Duke Integrative medicine, where I looked out the window and saw…

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NICE LITTLE CAT FRIEND!

I immediately updated my mom and sister on our group chat (which honestly is probably 90% animal content).

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When I fail to plan myself a proper lunch on a workday I often utilize Whole Foods’ hot bar. As below (plus a yogurt):

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In other news I got a rather gruesome summer cold. I was so phlegmmy and gross I slept on the living room sofa so I could elevate my head more. And since my temperature regulation was out of whack I did so under my down comforter. Lola approved.

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Lola also VERY MUCH APPROVED when a little lizard (a skink I think?) got into our living room. It involved a LOT of rearranging and tupperwares and things but I rescued him or her.

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The lizard was probably just trying to be an early guest to my housewarming party?

Which was lots of fun! It got postponed (see sickness, above) but I ended up getting most of my fave crew members into my house and it really feels more warm and cozy now that it’s had my people bless it with their presence.

Snax involved:

  • Smitten kitchen’s miso soba noodle salad (SO good) with a variety of veggies on the side
  • Three bean salad
  • Deviled eggs
  • Extensive cheese plate
  • chips and salsa
  • lots of watermelon

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I also had an unpictured dessert table buuuuuuuut…

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I was totally shown up by my friend Shaylen who made WORMS AND DIRT SUNDAES! It’d been a minute since I’d had one of those- so fun! Also a bunch of my friends ended up bringing their kiddos to the party so it was a big hit with them.

Other fun things…

Outdoor concerts

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Very “balanced”, “healthy” dinners with my boyfriend😂

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This meal at Wooden Nickel involved:

  • Shisito peppers appetizer
  • Buffalo wing appetizer (the ones at Wooden Nickel are COLOSSAL and delish)
  • Burger with tater tots
  • Fish tacos

Should I post this picture of myself licking wing sauce off of my fingers on Linkedin, advertising my skills as a nutrition professional?!

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Another day another tater tot adventure…

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Brew for him, kombucha wine spritzer (!) for me, tots, and lobster sliders. Yesss.

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summer cooking

I have always been curious about tomato pie so I made it. Mostly followed this recipe, except i used a premade pie crust as I am scared of/loathe making homemade pie crust, and I also roasted the tomatoes in a low oven for a bit after sliding, and subbed Greek yogurt for half the mayonnaise, both of which were recommended by some commenters. I was very happy with the results so I’d do it again! The fresh herbs were definitely a highlight!

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Speaking of fresh herbs, I made some homemade pesto from leftover farmer’s market basil.

The fella and I had a pizza night and made some very tasty things.

The pie I designed involved pesto, sauteed mushrooms and cheese. The one the boy designed involved All The Things including pepperoni, hot peppers, more sauteed mushrooms, tomato sauce (he blends two different kinds haha), sauteed onions, a couple types of cheese, etc.

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They were both good but the pesto one (because I slathered on an absurdly thick layer of pesto!) was quite special.

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I had a housewarming party and my friend gave me TWO OTTOLENGHI COOKBOOKS! Along with the awesome cookbook stand pictured below. I started with a chilled red pepper soup with sour cream.

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As many say about Ottolenghi recipes, the combination of herbs seems like it should make no sense. Sage, bay leaves, ground cumin, red pepper flakes, basil, and parsley?!

And yet once things start sauteeing it smells quite lovely.

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And the finished product was DUH- LICIOUS. Especially with the sour cream on top- wacky sounding combination but so so good!

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Since I’d bought parsley for that recipe, I made a parsley pesto with the leftovers (based on a Mark Bittman recipe- just parsley, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper).

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Tossed that with shrimp, pasta and asparagus. Quite lovely!

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More yummy summer food… I spent an evening at my cousin’s house, where her father and sister were both visiting from out of town. My cousin’s cat Hobbes, the regal chonk pictured below, cohosted. He particularly liked the nice sport coat my uncle wore and posed by it.

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For dinner we had double starch and I didn’t hate it! Sausages, corn on the cob, and more pasta with more pesto! Yesss!

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More tasty summer corn… I got this stuff at Food Lion and it was EXCELLENT! Who knew?!

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Along with summer corn, I had summer tomatoes and summer basil ❤ And some sauteed marinated tempeh to go along.

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Another meal at my cousin’s! I steamed the asparagus and drizzled them with olive oil and vinegar (would’ve been lemon juice but my cousin only had the stuff in the bottle). Then my uncle intervened and put several large chunks of butter atop haha!

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Meal was rounded out by my uncle’s spaghetti carbonara ❤

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latest tastes

Ah, another heart healthy Southern meal.

lolololol

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This beast of a table was enjoyed with the manfriend on a lovely evening out in Durham. It began at The Pit, pictured above, where the service was iffy but the outdoor view was excellent.

His: burnt ends, fried brussels sprouts with bacon, fried okra with gravy
Hers: fried catfish with greens and more fried okra
Theirs: hush puppies, biscuits

Our destination for the evening was something that caused my heart to pitter patter with delight when I saw it as a coming event on Facebook:

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A TRIBUTE TO AMY WINEHOUSE! My great love! Rest in Peace you poor thing.

The band was Remember Jones, a sassy and tireless lead singer with a kickin falsetto, a fabulous orchestra that involved two saxaphones (!)

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We danced maniacally and had a ball.

Later that same weekend I experienced Eatscut, a sandwich place beloved by the manfriend, for the first time. We split a kimchi reuben (*swoon*) and some curly fries (yesss- note that he always gets things with extra ranch dressing hahahaha) and he had a brew and I had a rosemary lemonade (?!!)

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More fun beverages… we went trampolining one day (!!!) at Defy Gravity, then took a wrong turn on the highway and opted to use the detour as an opportunity to visit the Umstead Hotel and enjoy fancy beverages looking out at the property and pond.

I got this gorgeous thing which was actually non alcoholic and involved hibiscus and fever tree tonic water. That is a candied hibiscus flower (!!) on top.

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One evening we found ourselves without any real dinner inspiration, so we raided Trader Joe’s and made a meal of various nibbles.

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The man is good at plating in a way that I decidedly am not and he assembled this adorable thing:

  • multigrain pita crackers
  • celery
  • pineapple
  • artichoke jalapeno dip
  • buffalo hummus

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The meal was rounded out with Trader Joe’s soup dumplings (pictured above), coconut shrimp (pictured below) and a salad with a side of bread we picked up at Chopped.

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Eating the dumplings was greatly enhanced by the use of my beautiful new chopsticks from my aunt and uncle. They have chopstick rests that are shaped like ducks! So precious! Furthermore the chopsticks rest atop their additional gift of the beautiful placemats!

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More weekends, more fun with bae… we got brunch at Olio e Aceito. There was lots of stealing from one another’s plates… definite highlights were the cheesy jalapeno biscuit and the goat cheese grits oh my wooooooord. Oh and the homemade jam was a delight too!

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A yummy Italian family style restaurant near the boy’s place- Pulcinella. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me when restaurants have bread bowls, especially when the bread is warm…

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And especially especially when you get a sundried tomato infused olive oil dipping sauce for it. Yum yum yum!

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This particular evening we split an unpictured grilled chicken salad (which is a regular order of ours because the chicken is seasoned and grilled really nicely, the salad is topped with a ton of provolone yesss, and the house dressing is crazy delicious) and we shared THESE CHONKY MEATBALLS OH YESSSS.

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So I hope you have figured out by now I have been eating very very well with my boyf.

But I have also been eating well with my lady friends! My dear Love Fern, Andrea (we’ve been friends since we met at summer camp at the age of 14), was visiting briefly. She’s an opera singer in New York City (!) so it’s a treat when she comes back here.

Andrea, her sister Julia and I got dinner together and then hung out and took in the loveliness on the rooftop bar of the Durham Hotel. Cute sisters below:

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I’ve gotten in some good family time, too- my aunt Jeanie came for a visit and we all converged for a dinner at my cousin’s house catered by Jeanie and me. It involved:

  • More pasta with Smitten Kitchen’s naked tomato sauce (<< that recipe is a winner, I’ve been recommending it to people and now my coworker loves it too!)
  • arugula salad with goat cheese (I honestly put on too much goat cheese lolol)
  • lovely fresh bread
  • wine
  • unpictured key lime pie

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Jeanie was staying at my place.. the next morning I cooked us a lovely breakfast of toasties, eggs, and tomatoes…

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… and we watched the Wimbledon men’s final. V NERVE WRACKING!

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Finally, I had a girls’ night at a place I’ve been wanting to try for awhile- Dashi, the fancy ramen place in downtown Durham.

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This was the point where I discovered that I really don’t care for traditional ramen noodles, nor the very very salty fish cake, nor the extremely abundant sort of damp chicken. I savored the soy sauce egg and broth then called it a day. Don’t worry, we went out for ice cream after 😀