wise words

We’ve had some snow in North Carolina, which I obviously caused by saying we seemed to’ve skipped winter all together. My roommate and I stayed in watching the snow fall drinking wine and doing a puzzle (puzzles! Puzzles!) and got into a conversation about the profundity of Alanis Morisette’s lyrics, particularly this one.

I’m in a biochem haze and won’t be able to post til it’s lifted, but in the meantime, enjoy. This describes me really well right now.

how to be okay

Wouldn’t it be great if a binder showed up at your doorstep the day you turned 18, telling you how to be an adult? It’s hard to even talk about the challenges of adulthood (in a blog, no less) without sounding like a colossal, first world jerk (and seriously, if people start tagging my blog posts at whitewhine.com, I get it). But… it’s hard. Being an adult is hard. Grieving is hard. Breakups are hard (especially today, as Steve and I finally had a We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together moment yesterday)(Yes, I did just quote Taylor Swift in what was meant to be a poignant line)(And it’s sadder still that the thing that finally made that fact of the final conversation feel real is that both of us just changed our facebook profile pictures to effectively erase the other person from their life and public reputation).

Oooh, I just typed a paragraph airing dirty laundry and then decided it wouldn’t make me look better, and since my ego is a bit fragile at the moment, I’ll continue to pretend to be mature, because I want you, dear readers, to like me.

Animals are very good for comfort during trying times. I go visit these cats, who I cleverly call Cat Friends, and then come and greet me and roll around on my purse so it smells like them and demand that I pet them both at the same time. Sometimes the one on the right chews on my toes.

IMG_1930

Exciting in mastery of simple tasks can also be therapeutic. Whether it’s a gross task…

IMG_1965

.. or a cooking task.

I ask you, have you ever seen a more perfect omelet?

IMG_1935

Avocado. Always.

IMG_1936

My roommate has always been awesome (we are the greatest of Craigslist success stories), but she has really been extra amazing during the relationship strife (and she’s had some stress of her own, so hopefully I’ve been able to reciprocate a bit on the support front).

We went on a sushi date together, which was fun.

Free miso soup!

IMG_1938

And since the rolls were oddly expensive and the bento boxes were oddly cheap, I did cost-benefit analysis and ate this over the course of a couple meals.

IMG_1941

Nothing revelatory but quite tasty: salad with ginger dressing, a spicy tuna roll, lovely sticky white rice, a variety of nigiri, and teriyaki salmon.

Had the leftover rice, for example, in this cute little plate. Avocado (just always avocado. It’s either on my plate or I wish it was) and veggie chili (soy chorizo, onions, tomatoes, red lentils, spices, crock-potted).

IMG_1966

Making little beautifying touches around the house can also be good to cultivate comfort. I got a really beautiful lamp (you can’t really see in this picture, but the shade has a papyrus-y effect) and it was like $5 at the PTA thrift shop.

IMG_1943

My aunt got me this wonderful Charley Harper calendar for my birthday. There are already wonderful whimsical pictures, and then there are stickers based on the pictures that you can use to decorate special dates. For example, January 29th had an owl to conjure up wisdom for my roommate Alli’s first test (she’s taking grad school prerequisites!) The stickers seem to have good juju, since I put up a flying birdie one on the day Alli had a flight and was worried she’d be delayed at the airport due to snow, and the flight went through without a hitch.

IMG_1961

We all know the importance of time with female friends during times of difficulty. I invited over my true blue friends I’ve made in the past year and a half in NC, and my new friends from my program (who I really value, especially when we get to spend meaningful time together outside of class and we’re reminded that along with valuing one another since we suffer together through biochem, we also value one another because our program is full of smart, interesting, compassionate, fun people). And… we had a CLOTHING SWAP!

Hurray hurray hurray clothing swaps! (Pictured is a tiny proportion of the clothes! I also had an area called “randomness”, that had an old printer, an ice scraper, phone cases, shampoo, and more)

IMG_1953 IMG_1955

This was my first time hosting a clothing swap in awhile (though I’ve attended some, and learned a lot from the hostesses!) The key is definitely setting up an organizational system in advance. We had like 13 participants, all of whom brought an impressive quantity of clothing- the pictures above were taken early in the day and were only the contributions of about three people (!!!) I put up signs in general categories (Dresses, Skirts, Tshirts, Fancy shirts, etc.) and had either pieces of furniture to hold clothing or big sheets/towels spread out on the floor (having an open floor plan is almost a disadvantage in this particular situation, because it’s hard to have clearly marked zones).

I know other folks have systems at their clothing swaps of who gets to go first, but I’ve always just done it as a free for all, and everyone was just so civilized that there were no big fights over clothing. Having the bedrooms to serve as fitting rooms was helpful, so not only could everyone try outfits on, they could then come out and model them to a room of friendly, encouraging women. I think each person got at least one thing that she really liked, which was awesome!

Of course, civility is always enhanced with delicious snacks, too! I kept it super simple.

IMG_1957

(Tangent: how beautiful is that fresh flower garland?! I swear to God, I was at the farmer’s market that morning, and this girl just draped it around my neck. She said according to the lunar calendar she used [I think she and my favorite vendor buddy are… Hare Krishnas, maybe?] it was the first day of spring. The garland is BEAUTIFUL and it’s now dried and still lovely]

Anyway, the food I got was Trader Joe’s. Tortilla chips and salsa verde, carrots and horseradish hummus (yum!) and ginger snaps. I knew people would bring food- the wine and dessert departments were particularly well represented. Bethany brought Samoas (!) which were eaten so quickly I got neither a picture nor a taste (though given how I behave myself around Samoas, that was probably for the best). Myra brought these ADORABLE little tarts- she had gotten little dark chocolate shells as a gift, and filled them with just homemade whipped cream and raspberries. So cute and special and simple!

IMG_1962

I had Soda Stream fizzy water, cider, and wine, and people brought several more bottles of reds and whites.

IMG_1959

I actually didn’t pick out any clothing until everyone had left, since I was trying to circulate and introduce everybody (and, since this was a week post breakup, get the concentrated wisdom of a dozen women on matters of the heart). In spite of this, I ended up with five new pairs of pants that fit me perfectly! All the more baffling because I can’t really think of a single guest who’d cause me to say, “Yeah, that’s my size”. The best part was that though everyone got something they liked, there were a lot of leftover clothes, and I had a plan for them! My classmate is going on a Spring Break mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and we had genuinely nice, well cared for clothes to donate to the kiddos in the orphanage she is visiting.

It’s funny, I was chatting about this with my best friend Lydia, with whom I’d host clothing swaps in high school, and she said, “Ha, remember how we’d always have old gross bras?” and it’s really true- there’s nothing that makes you feel like an adult like having a clothing swap and realizing everyone (myself included!) now has her life together enough to realize she can throw out the old bras before the clothing swap; no one wants them. Given the tone in which this blog post began, I want to believe that symbolizes something.

gadgets and gizmos aplenty

This was not the fettucine alfredo facsimile it purported to be (nor did I really expect to be, because in what universe does cauliflower taste like Parmesan and heavy cream?)

It was, however, quite delicious.

IMG_1815

From Oh She Glows, Cauli-Power Fettucine “Alfredo”. Highly recommend (though, holy garlic! But for me, that is a huge, huge compliment to a recipe.)

And I made it using my Chrstmas immersion blender! The first of a few new gadgets I’ll be highlighting in this post.

IMG_1799

This one does blending and also has a mini food processor attachment- it’s good stuff. Definitely didn’t make the sauce as perfectly creamy as a Vitamix would, as the recipe calls for, but a Vitamix costs as much as my rent, so… this is plenty smooth enough for me!

IMG_1813

My ratio of sauce to pasta was a little less than what the recipe called for, since I was only making it for one person (though I did eat it for several days) and because I thought the pasta looked a bit drowned in sauce in the recipe photos.

IMG_1816

And then I used the rest of the head of cauliflower to make veggie “buffalo wings” and they were magnificent. They are housed in my cute and functional new glass tupperwares I got with an Amazon gift card. Because I am 90 years old, and now use gift cards for tupperware.

IMG_1809

I’m also loving the timer my dad got me. I didn’t think it was something I really needed, since I have built in timers on my microwaves (yes, I have two… only one works, and it’s not the brand new one my sketchy apartment management just installed… anyway). However, unlike a microwave, this lets out a single, pleasant buzz instead of an unending barrage of beeps, and since my dishes tend to always be done cooking while I’m in the bathroom/in the middle of carrying something heavy/otherwise occupied, I appreciate that. I also like that it’s mobile so I can carry it around to other areas of my apartment and do other things while I wait for stuff to finish cooking (can we tell I’m a big multitasker?) Oh and finally it’s incredibly cute and my favorite color green.

IMG_1802

This was actually a birthday present, but I’ve really started using it in earnest now that it’s winter and cold. (Yes, I know, saying it’s cold when I live in North Carolina is a dick move. But living in North Carolina has turned me into a wimp and I will freely state that as I type this post, as I now spend all of my time at home, I am wearing a blanket wrapped around the lower half of my body).

It’s a rice cooker, slow cooker, and steamer. I have used it for the first two functions so far.

IMG_1795

I like it a lot for making whole grains, which can be dry and gross on the stovetop (or at least when I make them, since I haven’t learned the necessary secrets of making awesome whole grains on the stove.)

IMG_1796

I used the farro I made above, and mixed it with some roasted butternut squash. Yet another new toy to highlight: my clever new cutting board! Just squeezing the handle bends it so you can easily transport chopped food from the board to its ultimate destination. I have a slightly odd kitchen layout so it’s basically impossible to chop any large quantity of food next to my stove, so this is so nice for ensuring I don’t spill things everywhere when transferring chopped veggies from board to pot.

IMG_1801

That roasted squash ended up going into a recipe inspired by a recent Women’s Health magazine:

– Cooked farro or other whole grain
– Roasted butternut squash cooked with olive oil and herbs (they suggested sage, I used Italian seasoning)
– Dried fruit (they said cherries, I used craisins)
– Lettucey thing (they said radicchio, I used cooked Romaine)
– Nuts (they said almonds, I used walnuts)
– Dressing (they said oil and sherry vinegar, I used oil and white balsamic)

TIMG_1842

This lasted me a few delicious days as leftovers- again, transported in my clever tupperware.

IMG_1890

Also, got a Soda Stream. Have made a lot of cranberry fizzy water- just plain unsweetened cranberry juice with soda stream fizzy water. A little lime or lemon is awfully nice in there as well. (My cousin Rachel taught me about this).

IMG_1817

Finally, in this picture I am lazily reading (an AMAZING memoir that I highly recommend) in bed, eating chocolate. But I am also tracking my fitness! (I.e. none at the particular moment photographed).

IMG_1658

I asked for and received a MisFit flash for Christmas and I really like it! I am also quite addicted to tracking my sleep- what’s funny is that regardless of how much I sleep at night (and note that this is while I was still on winter break, so I don’t get a lotta ten hour nights now!), the amount of “restful sleep” stays the same. See?

IMG_1895IMG_1894IMG_1754

As for tracking fitness:

– It gives you “points” so you may do slightly less than 10,000 steps and it will still give you your 1000 “points”- like if you run or do faster paced cardio- and do its little happy blinking sign that it does when you’ve hit your target. This actually annoys my neurotic side, and I will sometimes pace around my apartment until I hit 10K steps. Because otherwise I’d be… cheating. Or something.
– I have Map My Fitness’d a route in the park at home and know it is basically three miles on the DOT, but the Misfit said I’d walked 2.4. Based on that example, it underreports walking distance by about 20%. But I’d rather it underreport than overreport
– It tracks steps pretty accurately even when your hands are jammed in your pockets, which is useful for someone who’s always cold (me. I am always cold.)
– I am fond of kickboxing and it is confused by it. Fair enough. It’s only tracking one arm’s punches.
– I am fond of hula hooping and it gives me tons of points for it! Hahaha.
– It is clever about tracking sleep and will track two separate segments if, say, you sleep from 11 to 1:30 and then YOUR HORRIBLE NEIGHBOR’S CAR ALARM GOES OFF FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW (called the cops, and it made no difference- I don’t know what finally got the freaking thing off). Clever Misfit tracked both chunks of sleep (unsatisfying chunks, I note.)
– It, I think, gives you the best bang for your buck of the fitness trackers of which I have read reviews. At the beginning of the year, the Misfit Flash was actually on sale on Amazon for a whopping $25, whereas for a Fitbit (and the basic version doesn’t track your sleep) you’re dropping over $100. You can wear it for swimming laps (I don’t; but it’s an option). You can wear it as a lapel clip or as a watch (I know wearing it the way I do isn’t going to be accurate for something like biking, but I also know that I’m much less likely to lose it if it is more or less permanently attached to my wrist- I know a lotttt of people who’ve lost the Fitbits they had clipped to their jeans)

yummy food, pretty walks

Before January went insane, I was doing a lot of cooking. Not a New Year’s resolution per se (I really don’t do it), just for health and money and self-care reasons. So here’s food (and a few activities) I enjoyed earlier in January.

Here’s something nice I cooked: savory butternut bread pudding (Trader Joe’s whole wheat tuscan pane, eggs, Swiss cheese, milk, Italian herbs, roasted butternut squash). Carbs! Carbs upon carbs! I had this for dinner with a friend with a lovely, buttery chardonnay.

IMG_1744

Poor woman’s belgian endive: cook Romaine like you’d cook kale chips (separate and wash the leaves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and salt, bake in a hot- like, 450- oven. Note that this process is faster than for kale chips, so watch keep an eye on them).

IMG_1756

The edges get all golden and crispy, and the thicker parts of the leaves stay moist and have that pleasant buttery bitterness of braised endive. But romaine is substantially cheaper than endive!

IMG_1758

This recipe I got from Women’s Health magazine, of all places. Sriracha roasted chickpeas! Drain and dry a can of chickpeas, mix with olive oil and Sriracha, and roast in a super hot oven- flipping around some- until crispy and golden and heavenly.

IMG_1761

Soooooo decadent and delicious: Akmak crackers (lovvvve- short, whole grain ingredient list), topped with tzaziki (greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper, chopped cucumber) and smoked salmon.

IMG_1868

Once things started to go crazy in my life and family, I focused more on getting my nutrients as efficiently as possible, and spending the rest of the time on comfort food. This juice was… not very good. I am not a juice person.

IMG_1904 IMG_1905

We’ve had a lot of exquisite weather (barring a few actually cold days, North Carolina seems to have more or less skipped winter). I did a lot of wandering around listening to Serial (late to the game, I know). I found a magic little secret pond that I hadn’t know it existed despite it being not terribly far from where I live. That’s a wonderful feeling, eh?

IMG_1915

Spooky old well, too.

IMG_1912

I’m still not 100% sure if I was trespassing at this point, but when I saw the swing in the gazebo, I went for it. This was in that weird time when my cousin was in the hospital and we were hearing all kinds of varying news (it was 12 days, I’m sure unbelievably exhausting ones for my aunt and uncle). It felt good, looking at something beautiful and trying to send a picture of it to Chris.

IMG_1918

Then on MLK day, Steve and I took a “Let’s clear the air” hike. It’s always good to have the intense conversations while getting fresh air and exercise. It was a beautiful day at Eno River State Park.

IMG_1920 IMG_1921

I’ve also taken to have 8am weekend study dates with my classmate. (Clearly someone isn’t staying out and partying to the wee hours, eh? I’m so old). In the early morning hours, we are shockingly efficient, and the coffee shops are less of a zoo than they are later in the day on the weekend (though Open Eye is always a zoo, and the baristas are mean, and I’m not totally sure why we still go there).

My study buddy, Steph, has chickens (and is getting more chicks next month! So excited!) so when you study with her you also get to take home DELICIOUS eggs. She can name which chicken laid each one! (My favorite of her chickens is Bowie, who is black and white with a crazy mop of feathers on top of her head).

IMG_1908

They had the most beautiful deep yellowy orange yolks!

IMG_1925

I made a sauce in which to poach the eggs: I sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil, then added Indian-ish spices (garam masala, cumin), then added tomato sauce and thawed frozen spinach. Poached the eggs in that. Heaven!

hm…

I feel like I want to jump back into normal blogging… this will sound super arrogant, but I know this blog gives some people some happiness, and I know some of the people who read it look at it as a fun little distraction from the dramas of the day. Like my mom, when she was recuperating from a broken pelvis in a New Zealand hospital after having been airlifted from Antarctica (…), said what kept her amused, besides HBO, and Skype, was reading my blog each day.

On the other hand, there is so much death and pain around, and it’s hard to just make my blog this fun little spot for talking about food when, in the latest sad turn of events, I’m on this campus that has been reeled by a horrible, hate-driven triple murder. (New readers, I’m in the school of public health at UNC Chapel Hill).

I attended the vigil last night on campus, and it was beautiful… hundreds of students, holding candles, listening to the Muslim call to prayer and words of condolence from all the college chancellors in the area. It felt good to be involved in my community. On the other hand, I felt a little overwhelmed- my life has just been a stream of death and sadness lately. Not to be self pitying- it’s also been a stream of people I love being really good to me. Still, it’s a really unsafe world, and getting through each day really means choosing to ignore the risks and hope the odds are in your favor.

So, this is a post where I try to contribute some solemnity to the events in my family, and on my campus. And maybe after this I’ll try to be a little happy place where I and the people I love can tune it all out for a bit.

life update

I’ve been spending the past 2 1/2 weeks or so since last I posted trying to come up with something profound to say about my life’s most recent events, and falling short. And then I got a text from my friend saying she’d been catching up on my blog and loved reading about the smorgasboard Steve and I made, and was thinking about my cousin, and I thought, “Eesh, better update the blog.”

First, because life is awful and arbitrary, my cousin Chris did not make it, and I’ll be traveling home tomorrow night to attend his funeral. To hear from doctors daily and get scary news, okay news, scary news, okay news, very very scary news, really encouraging news… it was exhausting, and also resulted in all of us feeling a lot of hope, because, well, what else do you do? So then to have this THUD, this gut punch of awful final news, was just horrific The only meaning come out of the whole thing was that his heart and lungs went off to make other families weep with joy while ours was left weeping in mourning and well… I don’t know how it means anything. Anyway, I’m going to stop cramming at Biochem, and bingeing on Netflix, and drive home and come to terms with the real thing that has happened. I wouldn’t miss being with my family at this time for anything, but I also know it will hurt. A lot.

In news that really sort of pales in comparison in the grand scheme of things, Steve and I have broken up. We’re fine, we had dinner together tonight and are in a peaceful sort of place right now. We’re both building ourselves up as individuals and feeling real gratitude for our friends. But uh… man, January was a bitch.

I’ve still been taking random pictures of life things… not sure when I’ll feel like documenting my life on this blog. It’ll probably be awhile.

Chris

I’m feeling like a jerk that I want to write a thoughtful post about my cousin Chris and this is the only picture I have of him. (The cousin pictured giving him an unconventional back rub is now 15, so it’s also outdated). Still, it makes me smile, and Chris makes me smile, so maybe it’s apt.

Chris and Kayla

In yet another demonstration that life is unpredictable, and that bad things happen to good people, last week Chris fell from his truck getting ready to go out and de-ice the streets and sustained a head injury. Two brain bleeds, unpredictable and dangerous swelling inside his skull. Ugh.

Obviously hearing the words “traumatic brain injury” is like a punch to the stomach. Still, we all feel like he’s in there. Part of the reason the swelling in his skull seems to be so bad is that he’s fighting the medication. When his dad went into his room and said, “Keep fighting”, it was followed by a spike in the intracranial pressure. On the other hand, when one of the extra sweet nurses was in the room, the pressure lowered a bit. When Chris’s coworker found him after the fall, Chris nodded and responded with a hand squeeze when the coworker asked, “Can you hear me?”

I want to believe it’s okay, because what else can I do? He’s a great, great, great man. Kind and goofy and responsible and thoughtful. Being in a school of public health with medical professionals I can talk to has been a godsend. Everyone keeps saying that when he’s woken up (whenever that may be, things have been unpredictable) how he is upon waking won’t be who he is after some time and physical therapy. As my professor said, the body knows how to reabsorb blood from the brain, it just takes time.

In the meantime, I’m trying to feel connected to my family from far away, and debating whether to go up (right now no one except his immediate family can talk to Chris- that and a few other sources of emotional drama this week are making it hard for me to feel capable of making the drive right now). I’m also soaking up my phone conversations with my mom and sister (multiple times a day) and the many shows of support from everyone- distant family, old friends, church friends, teachers, classmates. People who would run into Chris at the hardware store have started coming to visit him at the hospital- that’s how much love this good person has inspired.

I also had this moment in the study room at school, just a few minutes after I had discovered what happened to Chris. There, in this study room I’d happened to pick, next to the seat where I happened to be, indoors, in January, was this ladybug, a powerful good luck omen. I want to believe this means something.

IMG_1893

Sending your thoughts and prayers Chris’s way would be appreciated!