life lately

The beginning of this post is word heavy. The end of this post is both word and picture heavy. Prepare yourself!

Thing #1: I have become addicted to Body Pump.

Cons: I sound like a tool saying that.

Pros: everything else. Guys, it’s been so good for me. For your bones, for your metabolism, for everything- especially if you are a woman, you really ought to be psyching yourself into strength training. Body Pump (a class taught at many many gyms all over the country, if you’re not familiar with it- a full body strength training circuit with low weights but lots of reps, set to music, led by an enthusiastic instructor who gives you tips on proper form) makes it bearable for me.

I cannot handle: wandering uncertainly through a weight room, speculating which machines might be appropriate for strengthening which muscles, totally inventing how many reps at what weight, listening to gross grunting coming from sweaty and stinky men around me.

I can handle: someone telling me when to go up on my weights and when to go down, proper form, doing countdowns of how many reps I have left, whie Uptown Funk is playing.

I’ve been doing it about once a week for about four months and I’m really happy with the results- subtle toning in my arms, shoulders, and abs; and my legs, which were already fairly muscular, are really impressive now. And wowza do I have junk in the trunk. My booty is high and tight and I’m into it!

Thing #2: I have grown very fond of the My Favorite Murder podcast

Cons: It’s messing with my capacity to trust humanity

Pros: It is THE BEST commute entertainment

So if you’re in the know you probably know true crime is having A Moment right now. I have an aunt who’s a producer for Investigation Discovery and she says like their entiiiiire audience is women. And weirdly, their viewership spikes at like 2-3 am. Apparently the modern American working woman is waking up in the middle of the night and going, “You know what will help me relax? Watching a TV show about murder”

When I started my job, I had just gotten a new car and had a free three-month trial of satellite radio, which is really pretty much as great as everyone says it was- more variety (though they still play a lot of songs too often for my taste) and NO COMMERCIALS! After that I attempted to go back to listening to regular radio and it was just terrible. (Also, for obvious reasons, listening to the news on NPR makes me want to kill myself. I’m really proud if I make it through about 30 seconds of news and then they start the word “Presi-” and I get a hand spasm and have to change the station real quick)

However, I spend a really unreasonable amount of time in my car for work, driving around doing home visits with my clients. I was going to go insane without something to entertain me. So, I was on the hunt for a podcast to listen to on my way to work/ on my way around town for home visits. I was reading the always excellent submissions to Jezebel’s true scary stories contest and noticed a lot of people speaking positively about My Favorite Murder. And so I gave it a listen and thus an obsession was born!

It’s a show about true crimes (specifically, murders; with the occasional near-misses/terrifying but ultimately empowering tales of survival to keep morale up). And it’s hosted by two very funny comedians. If it sounds like something you’d like, you probably would. If it sounds like something you’d hate, you probably would. Go with your gut on that one.

The show is also a treasure trove of recommendations for various true crime books and TV shows. That’s how I’ve gotten into Mindhunter on Netflix (pretty good- the best part is the actor who plays Ed Kemper, the coed killer, who’s freaking incredible), the book Devil in the White City, the book Lost Girls (which I’m reading now).

Thing #3: I started doing the online dating thing this year. As you will guess, this will be the lengthiest part of this post, heh. I joined in late June and have finally reached a place where I can put my thoughts together.

Pros: If you’re a 20something (ugh, barely guys, I turn 30 on my next birthday and may have to evaluate them) and are looking to meet somebody, I think Bumble is the way to go.

I went on OKCupid for like ten minutes a year or two ago and did not like the experience. You can put in all your stuff about age ranges you want, your interests, etc. and you still get messages from 60 year old (!) ex cons (!!) who thank God live 100 miles away. No thanks.

In Bumble, you may only converse with folks in whom you have expressed interest (via swiping right) and who have expressed interest in you. I like both aspects of that- I also really hate rejection and it seems less painful if you know someone has found you at least vaguely appealing before you message them. Because that’s Bumble’s real claim to fame- it’s the feminist dating app! The woman must make the first move to message the bloke you meet! (Note: I don’t know how this works for the same-sex folks)

Bumble also limits how long your profile is- you don’t do some lengthy personality analysis. I kind of like that too- one must choose one’s words wisely and decide what’s important to emphasize. And still an amazing number of dudes don’t say a single word in their profile- no thanks bro!- so they’re easy to screen out hahaha. I think having a wee profile is helpful, but honestly the conversation you have and then, hopefully sooner rather than later, the in-person chemistry and good vibes and so on are just so much more important.

Cons: Online dating doesn’t solve anything in particular. Dating is still often maddening!

You cook a delicious meal for someone (homemade brinner: eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise with lovely wild salmon instead of Canadian bacon pus lovely farmers market tomatoes; and homemade hash browns on the side):

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Then they cook a delicious meal for you (homemade egg rolls and sesame noodles):

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And then not at all after that they disappear for three weeks and you have one last, unsatisfying, conversation over pizza before they ghost you for good.

Admittedly the pizza was great. Glad to finally try Pompieri Pizza. My lil piza had mushrooms and enough garlic to slay a vampire:

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They give you scissors to cut your pizza, fun!

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His was a white pizza with incredible goat cheese that was real real good drizzled in spicy oil.

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Cons: A con of online dating is a con of all dating/life…

I sort of wish that there was some magical light that went on when you are the happiest you will ever be with someone else so you know that this is it, that you’d better soak it up, because things will just go downhill after this. In most dudes I’ve hung out with, I can point to that moment in retrospect, but I find myself wishing I knew it at the time.

But let’s say that light did exist. If you knew it at the time, would it suck all the joy out of that moment? Let’s be real, hope and possibility and excitement at the beginning of a maybe-relationship is a great feeling. Maybe this dude will really get you! Maybe he has no flaws!

Or, if that light went on, would it send you on a feverish quest to beat fate, and obsessively act to bring back the fun/joy/excitement you once felt with and for a person? Or is that what you do anyway when a relationship is going downhill?

This is Deep Thoughts With Ileana, heh.

Anyway.

So yeah things tanked with that dude, which is maybe okay. He was 6’3″, frighteningly attractive, and made me go all stupid and jumbly-worded. He also was a bit wounded and hung up on his ex and that is catnip for my codependent tendencies, which is no good.

Pros: You get to meet people’s cute pets!

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The dude mentioned previously had an adorable boxer dog with a really great overbite.

This other dude, A, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times and have spent quite a few months with, but with whom things now seem to be tanking, has the sweet little kitty pictured above. Her name rhymes with my cat’s name, too- fun lil coincidence, no?!

Pros: Trying new things on dates can be fun.

A and I went to Crossties Barbecue, a place I’ve been meaning to try. And when you get two meals you can share the more horrifically unhealthy menu options, like deep fried deviled eggs:

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A is very into music, and is actually cool about knowing bands and things, so I got to hit up some shows with him. I went to Red Hat Amphitheater with him, which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Raleigh and is REALLY cool and pretty.

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Especially lovely at sunset! We saw Gov’t Mule. The band was good but I had to wash my hair when I got home cause it reeked of all the pot smoke in the air lololol.

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Another show:

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The lawn of the NC Museum of Art is a super cool setting. And I liked both Waxahatchee and Superchunk a LOT.

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Another date. Bull City Ciderworks has all right cider:

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But honestly the best part of it is that people bring their pets there- I met this precious angel Baxter-

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and that they have games there- I am the queen of Bananagrams.

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There was a little early-in-a-relationship drama in there.

But then it got better and then it got really very good indeed. A went on a business trip to Switzerland and brought me this RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING box of chocolates:

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And we had what was maybe that “This is the happiest you’ll be together light” moment: a perfect Saturday that involved wandering the Carrboro farmer’s market and then eating some of the yumminess from there…

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Followed by an unpictured hike with some of my friends and some of their cute dogs…

And then delicious food at the Wooden Nickel! He wanted wings, which I never think to get. But man these were solid:

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And then we got glorious burgers! Him with garlic fries, me with tater tots. Omnomnomnomnom.

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It seems like the later end of this list seems like all pros of online dating and like ooh girl soulmate territory!

Except here’s the thing.

Con: DATING IN 2017 IS RUBBISH. Maybe dating has always been rubbish- I can only speak from my own experience. Until 2017 I met the (few) people I dated in organic circumstances, mostly at work actually. 2017 is the year I embarked on seeking out strangers with whom to make a connection.

2017 dating, especially when one opens oneself up to the Internet, offers abundance. There are lots of people. Some of them are even attractive. One can include the word “feminism” in one’s online dating profile and still get interested dudes.

However, one can still find oneself seeing someone for months at a time and not yet have anything resembling exclusivity. There’s no preexisting foundation of friendship, there are not necessarily any overlapping people in your life, you may have no common interests whatsoever and it becomes really apparent that the only thing that brought you together is the mutual desire to have someone to date, which as it turns out may not be enough.

One can find oneself saying, “I think one of my needs in a relationship is that the other person actually cares about me.” This is the kind of curve we’re grading on, man!

So we will see. This was a mind dump of a post and will not end with any particularly impressive conclusions. But I’m curious to hear (is this thing on? Anyone reading?) if anyone else has thoughts to share.

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welcome fall

I understand using the word blessed is now a cliche and an overused hashtag and so on. But, goodness gracious, my life has been so good recently. It’s unnerving. I feel the need to be more or less constantly knocking on wood and looking obsessively as I cross the street. I’m sometimes find myself feeling nervous and on edge about how many good things are in my life right now.

And first and foremost those good things are good people. As you saw from my birthday post and summer adventures, I have a truly excellent group of friends. Supportive and funny and interesting and smart and creative and available! They invite me to things! Respond to texts! Commiserate with boy drama! Bring tasty hostess gifts! I also have a town that feels like a friend in and of itself and always has good people watching on offer.

I don’t know what to do except try to pay forward some of the bounty that I have. I hope that nothing I write ever comes across as insufferable or braggy. I promise that I’ve had periods of true misery and loneliness in my life, and honestly I feel like things are TOO good right now and they must be coming back again at some point. But anyway, for now, all I can do is enjoy the good stuff and try to pay forward the kindness I’ve received.

So. Enjoy I will.

Bless her, my friend had a birthday dinner at Gonza Tacos y Tequila.

Ninety percent of the time I get envy over other people’s plates, but on this glorious evening I definitely picked the yummiest thing at the table:

El Platano: whole ripe plantain/ steak/ chile de arbol/ paisa beans/ cilantro/ cheese

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SO SO YUMMY! I love plantains. I rarely order steak, period, and I really try to be choosy about the provenance of meat when I eat it… buttt whatever. Maybe I had my period or something and needed the iron.

Then later in the evening we went to the always-lovely rooftop bar at The Durham and I got this bewitching drink (after I tried a sip of my friend’s first) that involved gin and citrus. I just looked at the menu and I want to say it was the Hanky Panky (brilliant name) but can’t say for sure.

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Another day I had a webinar and opted to work at Guglhupf (they don’t want you bringing in a laptop and hunkering down during their peak hours, but it was afternoon so it was okay). I got a the most LOVELY, FEMALE cappuccino 😘😂

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I MEAN. Doesn’t it remind you of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting?!

The following weekend I spent a weekend in Greensboro with my work wife Colton (<< we were TA’s together. We also have sometimes referred to each other as biochem boos. Also some more hateful nicknames. He’s the closest thing I have to a brother but we snipe like real siblings too)

We started at Smith Street Diner, which has a pretty remarkable brunch, and for reeeeeaaaal cheap.

We split the below plates:

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That biscuit is about the size of a grapefruit (!!!) We ate well, and abundantly.

We next planned to go to The International Civil Rights Center & Museum but as we approached we noticed an array of people bedecked in increasingly fabulous and colorful outfits. We realized we’d stumbled on Greensboro Pride!

This dog was best dressed, no question.

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We strolled around and people watched for a bit, which was obvi very fun.

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Then we did take a tour of the civil rights museum, which I HIGHLY recommend. Rather than going through on your own you have a facilitator take you through each exhibit. It’s incredibly well done! And Greensboro was the site of one of the first sit ins of the civil rights movement at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s, and the museum is at the site of the old Woolworth’s building and has that exact lunch counter preserved.

It was definitely sobering seeing some of the displays about the resurgence of the KKK as activists were trying to effect change. Dark times. And as Charlottesville and other events have reminded us, not nearly far enough in the past or nearly well enough dealt with. The museum left me wanting to do more and I’m still a little uncertain of the next best action to take.

Another weekend I stayed closer to home and went to a local arts festival in Durham.

The highlight was definitely seeing some fabulous aerialists from the local ballet company perform. They were SO STRONG!
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I also really enjoyed these neat ornaments/keychains/whatever made out of old beer and soda cans.

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Once I thought I was having a perfectly normal evening stroll and then some CRAZINESS WENT DOWN!

I was walking along a sidewalk in the late afternoon/early dusk near a thicket of trees. I saw a lady cross the street and she came up to me and said, “Excuse me, do you hear meowing?” Well OBVIOUSLY I listened attentively after a question like that and yes, indeed, meowing. She said, “I was afraid of that. There’s a cat that’s been trapped in a tree here since Monday” (!!!!!)
So there in this thick area of trees was this poor little black and white cat meowing up a storm. The lady told me that the previous day she and another neighbor tried to rescue the cat but when the man who was helping her went up on the ladder the cat was scared and ran away from him.
Well, it was time for another attempt. The woman’s husband brought over a ladder and I made the ascent, got up near the cat, who looked very hopeful indeed… and the ladder, not locked properly, went thudding under me. Yikes. I climbed down.
We secured the ladder at the bottom, got it locked and loaded, and I tried again. I was balanced on the top rung (my mom had a heart attack when I called her and mentioned this particular detail) and reaching out for the cat. It was sweet and nuzzly with me but still clinging furiously to the branches. Finally I managed to tuck it under my arm, football-style. The descent was still a bit hairy (the cat kept trying to grab the rungs of the ladder) but we made it! And then the sweet couple gave the cat some food and water, which it consumed VORACIOUSLY.

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The man who’d tried to save the cat the previous day then came by with his son to make another attempt and they were both thrilled that the cat had been rescued. I pointed out that people really are good at heart- look at all these people caring about this sweet little creature.
I did some brief recon for a lost cat sign at the neighboring complex but I didn’t see one. The couple who lived across the street were already feeding and neutering/spaying a colony of feral cats (<< have we figured out that these are really good human beings?!) and were happy to take in the cat for the evening, give it a safe place to sleep, etc. We had no problem relocating the cat to their back porch- it’s a total love bug and happy to be snuggled and carried. 

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That took quite a bit of time and the sun had set. The couple tried to make me let them give me a ride home but they were… yknow, still total strangers?! (I never know what to do in those situations?!) Anyway I was quite close to my buddy’s apartment (and he’s also a cat rescuer) so I made him let me wash the poison ivy off my legs in his bathroom and then give me a ride home.

By that point I was starving and rewarded myself with an in-cred-i-ble burger from Al’s. I only ordered the burger, but in a dose of instant karma (?!) they gave me free fries!

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And the story had a happy ending- the couple responsibly canvased the neighborhood but no one came forward and claimed the cat. But, they found some sweet retirees and their granddaughter who lives with them who were excited to take in the little cat man (he turned out to be a boy). Hurray for happy endings for animals!

After that lively week I had a fun fall weekend. My sister Malindi and her boyf Eric have begun hosting tailgates for UNC home games. I did not know about tailgates, as I notoriously care not one whit about sports. However, tailgating is great! You sit in the nice shady tent and you listen to music and dance and hang with your friends and eat and drink and people watch. And then, in my case, don’t bother going to the actual sports event but just go home!

Here I am dancing quite derpily with my cute sister.

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My friend Kyle (have I formally blog introduced him? He and I did Americorps together in 2010-2011 and then I helped convince him and his now-fiancee Shaylen to move to NC! He now goes to UNC law school):

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That inflatable sofa is really something, huh? 😂😂😂😂

Eric always goes ALL OUT on the food for the tailgates. This taco themed one was REAL GOOD. One Korean style (!) with marinated bbq beef, kimchi, and red cabbage slaw; one traditional with beef, sauteed peppers, queso, and crema. YUM!

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Another evening, my friends (who are having their next baby literally ANY MINUTE at the time I”m writing this) had a party, probably to celebrate the last time they’re going to be well rested for at least the next year.

They had lots of cute small humans running around making smores.

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I mean big humans like smores as well.

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My friends’ little girl, T, was lying on the grass, dreamily waving around a glowstick and looking at the stars. She asked me to come over and look at the stars with her (MY HEART) and it was so sweet. I’m going to watch her whenever her mama goes into labor and I’m quite excited- she’s a cutie pie.

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The following day was the Carrboro Music Festival, an event I look forward to every year.

Didn’t get a good picture but my favorite act was Blue Cactus (I know both of them and they’re cool and nice and interesting people along with being ridiculously good musicians). If you like sad country, check them out!

During the next act, I did get a shot of these dope kids with their gold balloons dancing around.

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So I ended up hitting the festival with this bloke I’ve been seeing, who we’ll call A for the time being. It always ends up being a rather physically intense day because it’s hot and you walk around a lot to all the different venues and you do mad dancing and it’s very noisy and crowded and you maybe have some alcohol (I only had one drink but the same cannot be said for A 😂) and at a certain point I knew I needed to eat something, and that was either going to make me feel much better or I was going to get violently ill and there really was going to be no in between.

Well, it ended up that I felt much better, and that was definitely not guaranteed with the nutritional caliber of the food we ended up choosing 😂

Calamari, disco fries, and artichoke dip. Living on the edge!

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Another weekend, I hit up a FABULOUS consignment sale with my friend Emily. The sale was in an old out-of-business Macy’s in Cary, so it was kind of a trek to get there, but I CLEANED UP. Lots of higher quality brands (I got J Crew and Theory stuff) and everything was in like-new shape. And the average price was like $5. I felt like I’d died and gone to bargain heaven.

Then I had worn myself out shopping so I made Emily go with me to La Farm. I got this overpriced avocado toast- next time I won’t bother trying to be healthy and get something French-er. That place is amazing though- both times I’ve been there’s been a formidable line but the whole time you are waiting there are BREAD AND PASTRY SAMPLES! 😍

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And later that day, I went and visited my cousin and her baby.

Important update, blog readers: he’s still the damn cutest.

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That was quite a lot. More fall updates to come!

summer adventures part 3- the end

I was at a place where there was a 91% eclipse but as a local weatherman pointed out that’s like taking a kid 91% of the way to Disney World.

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I did have an in for some eclipse glasses (having worked at a planetarium is useful sometimes!) so this was my view:
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I soaked up the last of the summer sunshine… but I needn’t have been in any particular rush because as I write this post in late October the warmth is still going strong.

It makes me so, so happy to sit outside Johnnys and people watch with a nice iced coffee.

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It makes me so, so happy to meet my sister for a cappuccino and muffin at Caffe Driade. I’m mostly working from home these days (long, boring story involving parking drama) and sometimes it’s nice to have flexibility to take an afternoon tea break and then do some later at night charting etc. once the beautiful sunny day isn’t tempting me anymore.

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A cool sunset I saw on a walk. A little pre-Halloween spookiness!

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When the rain did show up, I dealt with it quite nicely by meeting some friends for drinks and having some warm and lovely FONDUE! Gah this was great. At B Side.

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Here is a ray of PURE sunshine called MY COUSIN’S BABY CHASE! WHO IS NOW 1 YEAR OLD! AND WALKING AND RUNNING AROUND LIKE A LITTLE BOSS!

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Here is an enchanting photo of him sneezing on his grandfather’s face

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His mom and dad were real excited about the smash cake and Chase was all “…?”
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Ultimately, he enchanted his dietitian auntie Ileana by being all, “Guys, I’m just more comfortable and accustomed to my veggies”. Sweet lil angel.

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That face! 😂

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From one birthday cake to another… Lesli, one of my girls from the First Wives Club, had a little birthday cookout on Labor Day weekend and I decided that it’d been a minute since I made a proper break and the birthday party of one of my loveliest friends was a good occasion to remedy that.

I gave her a choice of a few options from Smitten Kitchen and told her to pick her top two, and I’d surprise her with one of them. That ended up being this tiramisu cake.

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Our group of friends reeeeeeally likes to eat so it was just generally a feast.

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My plate:

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Cake interior:

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Adorable birthday girl:

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And with that we have passed Labor Day weekend in the chronology of my life and, if I manage to keep some momentum going, I may end up chronicling my memories during the actual season that they happened! (No sacred oaths or anything, though, I’m easily distracted) (But hopefully more blogs to come soon!)

29

I’m not 100% chronologically caught up from my summer backlog but must recount my birthday chronicles before the memories fade!

This was my birthday theme:

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Shoutout to my friend Shaylen, who was in Nigeria (!) for work the day of my birthday party but sent an I Love The 90s photobooth kit that was an absolute hit. As you can see, Lola absolutely loves it when my house is filled with noise and people.

Okay so I turned 29. My instinct around birthday seasons is to crawl behind a rock and pretend it isn’t happening because I don’t love being the center of attention and particularly the kind of attention is like “Congratulations! You’re aging in a society that treats women as worthless when they are no longer perceived as young and sexy!” (<< I have some issues)

However, I’m glad I powered through and had a silly 90s theme party because it was great fun. My friends really connected with the theme and it inspired some real creativity.

The day (October 7th) began with the arrival of some fab cards from my auntie and mama, which I put on display at the fiesta.

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I can’t really come up with a particular narrative of the party so I’ll just share some favorite moments/components of the day:

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Pictured above are BEAUTIFUL flowers from my roomie, an OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS cake made by my sister (she used the Cake Boss recipe with funfetti icing= perfect), and various party tidbits.

I kept food for the party really simple cause I’d been sick all week leading up to my birthday (funnn!) so Trader Joe’s did most of the work. Seeking out snacky foods that made me feel nostalgic for my 90s childhood I provided:

  • pigs in a blanket (TJs makes a classy kind with puff pastry)
  • chicken taquitos
  • mini samosas (for the vegetarians)
  • mini Ritz crackers (but organic so therefore healthy hahaha)
  • baked goat cheese and honey with pumpkin cranberry crisps (okay this is not nostalgic, it was just really really good)
  • kettle corn
  • dark chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Halloween Joe Joes (slightly less chemical version of Oreos)
  • fruit snack variety pack from the dollar store (gushers, fruit roll ups, and fruit by the foot)

Then other people brought stuff, including Malindi’s awesome cake, cupcakes from Roxanne and Karim, and REALLY REALLY GOOD pumpkin cheese and crackers from Aaron (the pumpkin cheese tasted like pumpkin spice cannoli filling- it was STUPID good).

Also there was lots of alcohol- I made a beer variety pack by grabbing random cans of beer off the Trader Joes shelf (lololol) and had some bottles of wine and people brought stuff. In a nod to The Big Lebowski (classic 90s film), I got all the fixings for white russians and made Kyle make them for us.

Costumes were STRONGLY encouraged. Here are some ways people interpreted it: my roommate Alli as Gwen Stefani/ me as Baby Spice/ Colton with some generic flannel.

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Flannel was REALLY well represented.

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The First Wives Club went all out with DIY costumes: Lesli raided the thrift store and made an AWESOME Blossom, and Emily brought ET. (I have explained why we call ourselves the First Wives Club, yes? We dated boys and they were buddies and we met each other through them. All the relationships have subsequently ended, but we are still the best of girlfriends)

blossom and et

Alex and Sam were Moulder and Scully, college hipster version

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Then Kyle (Shaylen’s fiance and her stateside representative at the party, lolol) arrived with the 90s props and people got into it…

moulder scully et and blossom

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(my sister the little Mermaid is so cute I can’t stand it)

… but that’s not all that Kyle brought!

Unfortunately there are no pictures but Kyle:

  • found Space Jam fabric at a thrift shop and used it to fashion a cape
  • brought a VHS player and copies of The Care Bears and The Rescuers Down Under and other 90s classics
  • brought a PROJECTOR and managed to CLEAR THE ARTWORK OFF AN ENTIRE WALL OF MY HOME and beam 90s music onto my kitchen wall. Kyle is frighteningly committed to theme parties

There was all kinds of innocent merriment throughout the evening- games of Twister-
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-fooling around with childhood toys I got at the dollar store like wall slappers, magnetic drawing boards, silly putty, etc.- but I will just remind you that the highlight of any 90s party should be excellent 90s music. And this party was no exception. And so I leave you with this picture

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If you’re on Spotify, my 90s dancing playlist can be found here.

summer cooking

I have a generous coworker with an abundant garden! This is what the table in the staff kitchen often looks like.

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I’ve used that produce and other summer abundance to make various tasty things.

First, a handy work salad:

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Farro, chickpeas, tomatoes, artichoke hearts (canned and drained), basil, olive oil, balsamic. The fresh basil really put it over the top. Fun fact: artichokes are packed full of prebiotics- the little indigestible sugars that healthy gut bacteria love. If you want a happy gut, eat artichokes!

Cornbread panzanella, loosely adapted from this Smitten Kitchen recipe

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As you can see, I did not bother with the lettuce. It just dilutes the bread and tomatoes, which are two of my favorite things. I successfully made the dressing using kefir rather than buttermilk.

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had cousins visiting and we all got together a bunch. One night we ate at my cousin Sophia’s and I brought this extremely excellent pound cake (in lieu of using a bundt pan I split the batter into a 9-inch cake pan and a loaf pan)

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Making things pretty is not really my wheelhouse so I got a consult from roomie who recommended mint and blackberries from the garden.

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My cousins made a yummy dinner of couscous; salmon with a yummy topping that involved hummus, olive oil and curry powder; green salad; and peach and corn salsa (OMG the peach and corn salsa was exceptionally amazing).

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Then my cakey for dessert- Mike and Sophia had cinnamon peach Talenti gelato to accompany it and ohhhhh myyyyy Goddddddddd that was good.

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Pizza. Yes please. Fresh tomatoes (my roommate grew), smoked mozzarella (on special at the local co-op), fresh basil (garden). I made my own pizza crust from a Smitten Kitchen recipe but I’m going to be very candid and say that the whole wheat pizza crust from Harris Teeter is excellent and easier to work with than my homemade stuff and doesn’t require fiddling around with yeast. So.

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My home is poorly cooled so cooking this at 500 degrees nearly killed me but it was delicious.

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So simple but so lovely- scrambled eggs with soy sauce, garlic powder and fresh tomatoes (cooked in a little olive oil before adding the beaten eggs). Plus a perfect fresh peach on the side.

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I had a rather enormous dinner at Crossties and incorporated my leftover (incredible) smoked bbq chicken and mac and cheese into this dinner. I’d just been to the gym and was ravenous. So I also added some yummy farmers market cucs tossed with a bit of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and sriracha; and black beans cooked with cumin, oregano and apple cider vinegar. So yummy!

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Again, leftovers meets fresh: basmati rice from an old Indian meal, some old yellow split peas/caramelized onions/spices I’d tossed in the freezer. Both thawed. Then topped with a fried egg and a mix of chopped cucs and tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic, salt and pepper. Fresh and lovely.

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More of a mixture of fresh and hearty: rice and beans with a bit of pepper jack for extra richness and deliciousness; amazing sweet sungold cherry tomatoes tossed with some minced onion and hot pepper and oil and vinegar; guacamole. I don’t totally remember what the blob on the right is but if I had to guess maybe a mix of greek yogurt and hot sauce?

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I’ve figured out the secret to perfect quiche…

BUY YOUR CRUST. I am just terrible at homemade crust and it makes me discouraged. Plus, as stated previously, my home is poorly cool and my hot and humid kitchen is not conducive to successfully working with pie crust.

So I’ve been buying Trader Joe’s pie crust and filling it with eggs and milk in the proportions stated by Mark Bittman in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian (the first time 6 eggs:2 cups milk but that’s really for a deep dish pan. For a normal pan, I recommend 4 eggs: 1 1/3 cups of milk). And about two cups of whatever filling- i.e. sauteed vegetables and/or cheese.

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And now, lest I’ve convinced you that I’m too healthy, this happened too:

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summer adventures part 2

Look at this glamorous hipster slug that was hanging out on my front stoop!

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Look at these pretty flowers in the arboretum!

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Look at this awesome trio of dips at Tandem! On the left, eggplant and tomato; in the center, green pea and avocado; on the right, herbed yogurt. YUM.

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Just blissful. So rich and creamy.

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We met for drinks but I was dehydrated or summat so I just got a Diet Coke hahaha. I’m in it for the snacks, man.

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Look at this fancy herb-infused iced coffee! Sometimes if I have time I need to kill in Durham between work ending (I work in Durham now) and nightlife beginning, I go hang out at Cocoa Cinnamon.

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Look at these mussels! I guess one week Tandem was just really working for me because I went there again for a Saturday brunch with my sister and her boyf. Why do they put mussels on the appetizer list?! I don’t want to eat three mussels and share them with people! I want to eat ALL THE MUSSELS!

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This summer has been a bit exciting because I have been on some dates (!) because I did the dating app thing (!!!)

Maybe I’ll post about that later. No promises.

But for now I will chronicle some lady dates because I have some very high quality girlfriends.

I met Emily at the Durham farmers market one Saturday and we strolled around admiring puppies and foodstuffs and crafts. Caught up with some other friends there.

Then had an extreeeeeemely decadent breakfast at Rise. This is the huevos rancheros biscuit which has beans, fried egg, pico, avocado… Lordy Lordy.

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Then somehow we ended up at a cake pop shop? I insisted on treating Emily to one since she ended up driving me all over Durham for our lady date.

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I had recently ODd on chocolate so I opted out but next time I am DEFINITELY trying the salty PB cookie dough cake ball I MEAN COME ON.

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The main activity of the day was pedicures. So so fun!

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Another lady date with my sister at my favorite sushi place near my old apartment complex. As usual, I got the bento box with a crunch roll and sashimi. Unfortunately, not as usual, the sashimi was almost totally frozen agh!

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The next week my friend Leesie had a birthday dinner at this new place, bartaco. Tacos were pretty good! And fun company.

But let’s be real, the night really began when everyone else left and Leesie and I extended our lady date and hung around at the bar gossiping a bit longer… annnnnd… we got these churros.

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Ugh, they were perfect. And then dunked in bittersweet chocolate sauce, AGH!

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Here we are trying to look glamorous. Look at Leesie’s smizing!

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So in retrospect this post was a chronicle about going out to eat an offensive amount. I promise I have some posts about cooking to share! Coming soon!

summer adventures part 1

We’re doing it. We’re catching up. I don’t totally want to forget this summer!

I’ll have actual things to share about life developments and so on but for now I just have lovely pictures and brief reminiscences of various events.

Here is where I spent my fourth of July:

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Amazing, right?! So gorgey and idyllic! So cool and refreshing! You can’t really tell in the pic but there is a lovely rope swing off which to jump into the refreshing river! Huzzah!

OH WAIT. Then I saw a snake in the water SWIMMING DIRECTLY IN OUR DIRECTION. It’s a real testament to how sarcastic I am with my friends that Colton thought I was messing with him when I said “Snake. Snake. SNAKE.”

We raised a ruckus and made a lot of noise and the snake semi diverted its path in the water but also seemed to be giving us a sassy look as it headed toward our side of the river bank only slightly downstream of us. I have seen a water moccasin and I don’t think this was one… but it was still horrifying.

I revived myself with some delicious red meat.

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Later that week we had a going away party for Pranish at the cool rooftop bar of The Durham Hotel. That’s been kind of THE hangout spot for summer 2017, according to everyone I know.

Pranish looked real cool with his bottle of Powerade. Trying to preempt a hangover I guess?

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I personally ordered a hard cider that contained carrots (?!) one cause I was curious and two cause it was one of the cheaper things on the menu. It was NEON orange (like, orange soda orange) and way too sweet. But oh well it’s good to experiment.

There was Tomato Day at the Carrboro farmer’s market. That’s always fun! And crazy, and crowded, and humid. But fun.

Tomato day involves a lot of tomato education (lol) and tomato samples. And music, and face painting, and the usual adorable Carrboro nonsense.

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I am not hardcore enough for peppercorn goat milk gelato. I imagine it would taste rather good melted on a steak?

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Moving on: because I am frighteningly cool, I attended a Game of Thrones premiere party. At The Baxter, a bar/arcade.

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Everyone had LOTS of fun cheering for Arya!

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A few days later it was time for a fun family visit- my cousin Sophia (mama of cute squishy baby Chase whom I’ve babysat a lot) had her sisters visiting!

Ashley (youngest, lives in London) and Nicole (oldest, lives in Florida). I talk some smack about youngest siblings and what a mess they are, BUT, Ashley successfully got Sophia to leave the house more than anyone else has basically since the baby was born. So. Go youngest siblings.

I took the girls to Honeysuckle Tea House, which was, duh, gorgeous. Love that place.

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SO may happy butterflies!

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Then we got lunch at Venable, one of my fave spots. I’d gotten a smoothie at the tea house so I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I just got a Caprese salad which was of course sublime.

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Another day, another Caprese- I took my friends Kyle and Shaylen to Fiction Kitchen in Raleigh and we split this gorgeous appetizer:

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That’s burrata (like mozzarella but the center is oozy cream and incredible) along with veg and a really delightful pistachio pesto.

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So Fiction Kitchen is all vegetarian, which I knew longtime vegetarian Shaylen would enjoy. She got their real showstopper, the “chicken” and waffles, which is really really ridiculously good. If you, dear readers, ever go there, get that, at least the first time you go. It is, rightfully, their claim to fam.e

This time around, I got the vegetarian pulled pork which came with a smashed potato cake, plus I opted for a side of black beans. This was still real solid stuff. Secretly I love pulled pork, even though ethically I can’t really get behind eating pig. So this was great.

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Another outing! Embarrassed to admit it took me four years of living in NC before I went to the Durham farmer’s market. It is EXCELLENT and huge and has music and food trucks and a public park nearby for kiddos to play and all kinds of good stuff. The first time I went there was a homemade pickle contest!

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These were my two favorites I tried:

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Overall the selection was excellent although there was one, pineapple kimchi, that tasted like it had come from the depths of Hell 😦

Anyway it was funny that this pickle contest happened on the day I was meeting these friends: Dan, Bethany, and their daughter T… because… Bethany is pregnant! Like, hello, pregnant woman plus literally dozens of kinds of pickles. Amazing.

Also, here is T rocking her dad’s hat and sunglasses. She really is the coolest kid I know. We are basically besties.
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More to come!