beach spontaneity

Steve and I took a pretty darn spontaneous trip together! This is an accomplishment for me. To quote the brilliant Mitch and Cam analogy from Modern Family, it is often the case that he is the gas pedal and I am the breaks.

Except then the analogy breaks down, because Steve is really Phil from Modern Family. Like… gymnastics. Puns.

Anyway. Spontaneity. It means stopping for gas and then noticing the boiled peanuts stand at the gas station (oh, South <3)

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And buying treats! Gosh boiled peanuts are fun. And SALTY!

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Just a hop, skip ‘n a jump later and I was strolling along a sandbar.

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There was Spanish moss EVERWHERE once we strolled downtown. It is so pretty! It’s funny, I lived in Virginia for a long time and I’m only one state down, but there are surprising variations in the flora and fauna

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Here: Spanish moss (by the water), crepe myrtle, a tree my roommate said was called “pinks” (I think.. it’s actually red), bluebirds, three week lead time on spring and summer produce

There: crocuses (which I miss so badly when I’m here!)

We spent a lot of time just strolling around, which was great. When I’m at the beach, all I ever want to eat is seafood. This place looked cute.

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Steve’s beach rule is outdoor seating, so this place had everything our heart desired.

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I often feel disappointed in myself for not liking beer. Beer tasting and local breweries and different varietals… it’s all my kind of thing! I wish I just liked the taste of beer!

Anyway, Steve got this Red Oak. I had a taste and it was good… for beer.

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After drinks came important dinner implements!

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For this bucket of awesome right here!

It contained:

– Alaskan King crab
– local clams, steamed
– local oysters, steamed
– Shrimp
– Cocktail sauce
– Melted garlicky butter

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IT WAS SO GOOD! I think it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had king crab?! Other than the fake stuff in sushi, naturally 🙂 I was amazed at how delicious it was!

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To round out the meal and attempt to get in some vegetables, I got a grilled Caesar salad. It was good, although there was so much seafood my appetite weakened and I ended up giving a LOT of this to Steve.

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That, despite the fact that when we opted to split a seafood platter… Steve also got a burger on the side.

Bless this kid’s appetite. (Okay, okay, I had some of those fries).

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After a post-dinner stroll along the water, admiring Pacey’s restaurant some of the sights (and petting some adorable dogs), our stomachs rallied for a shared Kilwin’s cone. This seems to’ve become our signature: a waffle cone (don’t usually bother paying for a waffle cone but when you’ve smelled Kilwin’s you have no choice but to get it) with one scoop of New Orleans pecan praline and one scoop of salted caramel.

OUTRAGEOUS!

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That evening, we spent the night at our first ever Air B and B! The people were really nice/normal, and had a cute cat, and had Netflix hooked up to the tv where we stayed so we could watch a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It was fun and convenient and cheap and NOT SKETCHY, MALINDI. (My sister loves sending me articles about people inadvertently renting out their houses for orgies on Air B and B)

The next day we went to Dixie Grill, everyone and their mama’s favorite place for brunch.

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I loved the bacon artwork, but it was very hard to photograph.

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Steve went for it and got shrimp and grits with an egg on top and a biscuit on the side. I had just a few tastes, because I was uncharacteristically restrained on the appetite front, but it was great.

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And I had a simple meal; scrambled eggs, grits (that were so, so good) and fruit.

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Then we had to go play in the sand a little more.

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Steve read on the beach. I tend to get really, really bored and need to wander around on the beach (but the wandering around is wonderful). Oh and also, prolonged intense sun exposure (like on the beach) often ends up with me having a headache and feeling sick to my stomach. Which is why I associate staying in beach houses with throwing up. (On the other hand, once I do I feel fine immediately. It’s like the sun gives me food poisoning?)

Speaking of being ill, I actually spent the entire weekend with rough seasonal allergies on top of a really sucky cold. At a certain point in the spring (my theory is that) my immune system just gets so overwhelmed with its overreacting to the pollen around me that it just goes berserk and I come out in rashes along the seams of my clothes. It’s disgusting.

My traveling pharmacy was absolutely absurd. 

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the girl who didn’t cook

I went from Thursday lunch to Monday breakfast without having to cook a single meal. It was amazing but bizarre, and not something I’m itching to repeat anytime soon. I like to cook. I like to cook! Mostly.

Basically, I started running a camp today and had a great big apprehension-a-thon. It seemed inescapable. Spoiler: it was warranted, as today (during my eleven hour workday) I had a series of minor to moderate disasters.

Step by step. One day at a time. (Well, as I told Steve yesterday, one minute at a time sounds less daunting).

Anyway,

Thursday dinner: cheesy fries at a work happy hour. Oops? I didn’t consume a single alcoholic beverage, but I ate like a drunk girl! Then I rounded it out with some ice cream at home. Grade F on the nutrition. But it was at Linda’s, everyone and their mama has told me since my move to NC that I must try the Linda’s cheesy fries. They are quite tasty. Crinkle cut with cheddar, bacon, and green onion with ranch dressing for dipping.

Friday breakfast: tomato, egg and cheese biscuit. Unsweet tea. I didn’t know “unsweet” was a word til I moved to the South. This place has the most delicious iced tea I’ve ever had. I don’t know what they use! I did know I loved biscuits before I moved to the South. But they are even better here! C. Protein, at least. Biscuits are not nutritionally impressive but at least I adore them.

Friday lunch (at 3 pm… it was that kind of day): hummus and veggie wrap. It was hilariously huge. The girl behind the counter strained to contain everything in an already enormous wrap. So I only ate half. And I didn’t eat the wrap. And was still full! (It had tons of veggies and globs of hummus and slatherings of dressings). Solid A meal. Something I’d make myself. I also stopped at CVS for their grapefruit fizzy water, which is my current fizzy water obsession. And a Little Debbie walnut brownie, of which I heroically managed to only eat half. And I bought a homeless guy a Mountain Dew because it was very hot outside.

Friday dinner: AMAZING TAPAS! Steve took me out for a fancy dinner for really no reason whatsoever except to make me happy, because he’s awesome. The work week melted away as we took in a lovely ambience, excellent people watching, and luscious Spanish food. At the amazing Mateo, we ordered:

HUEVO DIABLO
SPANISH deviled egg, chorizo (2)
[The deviled eggs arrived encased in a chorizo shell. I ate the innards but passed off that tub o’ meat to Steve… I’m trying really hard not to eat pig. Too smart and cute.]

GARBANZOS
crispy chickpeas with moorish spices

MEJILLONES
mussels, chorizo, piperade, roasted tomato butter

GAMBAS
shrimp, olive oil, garlic, chili, lemon, parsley
[HOLY GARLIC! I love garlic :D]

We also got an an amazing and gorgeous beet salad that involved a whippy goat cheese and a mint-pea puree and finally a chicken croquetas special that we got for free when they ran out of the special we really wanted, a grilled local corn doodah.

And I got a glass of tempranillo that was probably the best wine I’ve ever tasted. It was also fourteen years old, likely making it the oldest wine I (a devoted Trader Joe’s shopper) have ever tasted! On the other hand Steve said it tasted like “old bitter grapes” so to each their own, eh?

No nutriton grades for this one. Too amazing an experience, and it would be lame and reductionist to quantify it as anything else.

Saturday brunch: First stopped at the farmer’s market where Steve bought me a peppermint-ginger lemonade from my favorite lady. It’s really more like a tea; she doesn’t make it with any sweetener and you really don’t need it, though it’s nice with a bit. After ogling al the market beauty, we got hole in the wall Mexican. Chips and salsa (though Steve tends to dominate that category and I sit back a bit). Scrambled eggs in green chile sauce, rice and beans. Tortillas on the side, so good (because so fried). Side order of guacamole. Cafe con leche that turned out to clearly be steamed whole milk with a bit of Nescafe stirred in that I couldn’t drink much of but found comforting. Nutrition perhaps a C, though I did skip basically all of the white rice. Fun venue for World Cup watching! (Steve’s joke: “What did the dishonest FIFA referee get for Christmas?” “COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!”)

Saturday randomness: After doing some work (Steve was nice enough to help me shop for and haul around random camp materials) we did more World Cup watching, via bar hopping! First to Top o’ the Hill (a Chapel Hill landmark) for drinkies- I had something with gin and lemon and simple syrup and prosecco that was nice but I thought would’ve been transcendent with lavender. Then we went down the street to Old Chicago and I had a Diet Coke and Steve and I split an appetizer that was a grilled cheese and tomato panini cut into little fingers to dip into a so-called “tomato soup” that was more of a creamy tomato sauce. So fun and different to spend a lazy Saturday that way! And it was lots of fun to watch Costa Rica win. And then the defeated Uruguayan player took off his shirt and I said, with absolutely no conscious thought beforehand, never mind any notice of my sweet boyfriend next to me, “OH MY GOD, LOOK AT HIS BODY”. D on nutrition (not an F because the cocktail was small and in a champagne glass and I shared the sandwich. Portion control!)

Saturday dinner: The lake! Friends were camping at Jordan Lake, which I discovered was SO BEAUTIFUL and SO CLOSE! Beautiful pine trees and water- took me back to my inland Northwest roots.Knowing the kind of work week I had coming, I didn’t want to sleep in a tent but wanted to hang out, so we splashed around in the water with our friends’ hilarious kids and then cooked out. One of the guys in the camping contingent made broccoli on the grill that was uh-mazing. Just crisp-tender, and seasoned with garlicky things so that it was almost Chinese food reminiscent. And I ate cheddarwurst, which had been enthusiastically purchased by my favorite Midwesterner And some cherries and grapes and veggie straws. And a LOTTA chips and a fair amount of mini cookies. C-.

Sunday brunch: Egg, cheese, and avocado sandwich on three-seed local whole grain bread. The bread alone bumps this up to a B+. Though the place was giving out banana pudding sample cups!!!! So I had to eat one, thus lowering the nutritional value of the meal 🙂

Sunday dinner: Another cookout, with Steve’s neighbors. Another hot dog. But also awesome salad with strawberries and feta and a chipotle corn kinda potato salad and broccoli slaw. And uh some chips and dip. C+.

And now I’m back to the real world (though fortunately for my sanity this camp life will ultimately only be four weeks of my real world).

If you had the money to eat out every day, would you? Where?

fun things lately

In no particular order:

1. I had the greatest, crunchiest doctor’s appointment of my life last week. Fun fact: the birth center near me also provides primary care! I spent awhile before the appointment joking around with my girlfriends that I’d go in, sit on a beanbag chair, drink tea, and chat about the wisdom of the universe (all with no speculums in sight). While it wasn’t quite that much of a love-in, it was pretty amazing how pleasant it was.

My appointment began in a serene lobby. Per their request, I arrived a bit early to fill out my new patient forms, and was amazed at everything they entailed. Family history, yadda yadda, but also, “How is your living situation?”, and “Are you in a relationship? Do you feel safe in your relationship?” It asked whether and how often I exercised, but also what forms I enjoyed. It was so amazingly comprehensive! Mind-body wellness! After a few minutes, the nurse greeted me, took my vitals, and gave me an envelope with a customer satisfaction survey to send in at the end of my visit. More impressiveness!

Then my doctor came and chatted with me (face to face, interacting with me like another human being, without me having to wear a gown yet while she was in professional clothing) and she spent such a wonderfully lonnnnnnnng time with me! We went over my history, then ended up talking about the graduate program I’m doing next year. She gave me a book recommendation, and noted that a transition to graduate school can be stressful and they offer referrals to lots of different mental health providers. Also, she said my BMI was great, and for that alone I could have hugged her. She talked through some health history stuff and gave me (boys, look away) wonderfully encouraging information about my ability to have a lil baby someday! (Someday. Not now. SOMEDAY.)

At no point did I feel rushed, and at no point did I feel like my doctor was impatient with me and rolling over my words. Actual quotes from doctors I’ve seen in the past: “Why would you want to go off that pill? It works, doesn’t it?”, “I knew you probably didn’t have lupus. I just wanted to make sure you were scared enough to come to your next doctor’s appointments”. Ugh.

I know this blog contains the word “crunchy” in the title, and I want to state explicitly clearly that in NO WAY means I am opposed to Western medicine. People who are opposed to vaccinating children make me SCREAM. If I am dealing with a serious health problem, I will try to follow a healthy diet but I will also sure as hell go to the doctor’s office. However, I find it absolutely GLORIOUS that I can get a comprehensive medical experience (I left with two prescriptions for medication that I’d already been taking but for which I felt I had a new understanding of mechanisms, interactions and side effects) and at the same time be treated with basic human kindness.

Also, I totally (someday, maybe, if I do have kids) want to give birth at a birth center. One because I felt so reassured in the medical expertise of the staff at this center, and secure and happy in the knowledge that I finally had a medical home where people would truly know me as a patient. Two because I get scared of the cascade of interventions that happens at birth and would love to be in an environment that would support it happening without all those frightening shots and things. And three because I think if I were in a hospital I’d wimp out and beg for an epidural 😀

2. I hate most food/healthy living blogs now; they are all sponsored rubbish. Sad.

There are also some I’m starting to feel like I’m harming myself with reading. Either because they are all sooooooo packed with sponsored posts and affiliate links that reading them basically feels like watching the commercial breaks in a TV show without ever getting to the actual episode; or they espouse frighteningly stupid nutrition/health advice in the guise of speaking from a place of wisdom and experience. And people buy it. Because the aforementioned bloggers are thin. Then of course hate-reading has its own world in Get Off My Internets and though I sometimes need to check in to satisfy my snarky side, I can’t and shouldn’t stay long.

Anyway, moving on to positivity, here are a few good blogs that I am enjoying reading.

Eating Chalk is a new obsession of mine (ironically because she did a guest post in a blog that jumped the shark awhiiiiiile ago). Love her blog because she inspires me to be a real RD right now but also because she’s a sugar addict just like me and isn’t all preachy about nutrition.

Too Hottie for That Body is ostensibly a weight loss blog except lately she’s just been talking about how awesome she is just the way she is. And RIGHTFULLY SO! I’ve really enjoyed following this gifted writer’s journey through student teaching.

Vanilla Sugar Blog for my dessert fantasy life.

Choosing Raw not for the raw and vegan recipes, lovely though they look (I just think bread and cheese would get jealous if I cheated on them… so just in case I won’t). However, her weekend reading series and beautiful musings on self acceptance and perfectionism and life decisions and everything are just… wonderful.

Meals and Moves got famous at the same time as all those other big food/lifestyle bloggers but has actually managed to remain a likeable, non-sell-out person. The pictures from her doggy daycare birthday parties are amazing. (She’s posted like two. They were so great they have lingered in my mind). Also, her family seems really cute and relateable, and she’s pregnant right now and is sharing stories in a fun and likeable way (unlike many other I Am The First Person Ever To Be Pregnant bloggers).

3. Finally, a few more fun things on the Internet.

Jimmy Fallon and Billy Joel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU-eAzNp5Hw

I was not a big Billy Joel fan prior to my coworker sharing this. Sadly, I now have to eat my past words. That is awesome.

Dogs Annoying Cats With Their Friendship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAy_QU5WE8

Kills me. I love cats. And dogs. And every animal ever.

35 Times Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak’s Best Friendship Killed You In The Heart: http://www.buzzfeed.com/summeranne/mindy-kaling-and-bj-novak-sitting-in-a-tree

How did I not know this?! I live for possible celebrity romances!

The Overprotected Kid: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/

Fascinating. I wholeheartedly agree with this article’s sentiments.

sisters!

My baby sister finally came to visit me in Carolina! I hope she makes many more trips, preferably soon.

She arrived late on a Friday, and we chowed down on tons of sushi at the reliably delicious (and buy-one-get-one-free) Mount Fuji in Durham and collapsed into bed shortly thereafter.

Saturday included a trip to the farmer’s market and a jaunt around Hillsborough, my cute favorite small town to visit with all the cute quirky home and clothing shopping one could hope for. Also Matthew’s Chocolates, obviously.

Then it was time to partayyyyy. Not only did I have my sister coming, I’d already promised (before her visit was even finalized) a farewell party for my work buddy Andrew. He proclaimed Mexican food to be his favorite, and also admitted a penchant for cheesecake.

Menu was pretty awesome!

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I kept my plans for food realllllllllllly simple, because who wants to be slaving in a kitchen when you could be showing your little sister around town? I ordered taco meat (chicken and beef) from my favorite taqueria and the platters were reasonably priced, more delicious than anything I would’ve made, and effortless. Just picked ‘em up an hour before the party. Also came with salsa, the green tasty and fresh and the red DIABOLICAL!

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Sauteeing plantains in coconut oil was simple and yummy.

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There were muchos chips (with Steve’s super awesome homemade pico de gallo, a batch of which he did sin cilantro because my sister hates it, which I thought was very thoughtful) and I made a big pot of yellow rice using a Goya box (in my defense, I opted for the low sodium version).

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Everyone raved about the guacamole which, I kid you not, I bought at Food Lion. Apparently a lot of things you do not need to bother with making homemade!

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Totally made queso from the Velveeta recipe! Just a pound of processed cheese and a can of rotel. Not sure how I feel about myself…

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Did make homemade cheesecake squares, based on this recipe, enhanced with a touch of lemon zest just for funsies. They were boss. I should’ve chilled them longer, though, as the crust was a little crumbly with just two hours chilling.

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We played a nice game of Celebrity/Fishbowl/Namesies in a Hatsie (depending on how and where you learned it) and I thoroughly enjoyed introducing my sister to most (though sadly not all, so she’ll have to come back again) of my wonderful Carolina friends.

The highlight of this social gathering, as of most lately, has been my friend Alex and Myra’s delight of a new puppy, Lochsie the doxie. Specifically, Lochsie the miniature daschund puppy who’s so tiny and perfect and sweet I can’t even.

Here are many many attempts of taking a picture of her, aided by my beautiful sister:

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(Lochsie gives ALL THE KISSES!)

So all that effort and I didn’t really end up with anything visible. Trust me, she’s cute.

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What followed was a pretty epic night on the town. My subdued, somewhat nervous coworker really comes alive when you put a few drinks in her! The night started with her commanding everyone to do a shot of tequila, and continued in a hilarious manner from then on. Reason #8023058235708235 I’m happy to live where I am is that you can walk to lots of fun places and don’t have to worry about cars and alcohol. On the rare occasion I imbibe- I promise that is not a fact of which I regularly take advantage 🙂

We lived it up at the heavenly garden area at Southern Rail, which is positively fairy-tale-esque with its Christmas lights and oak trees and music and things. [Sidebar, Malindi, Amanda confessed to me at work on Monday that her friend Jon totally wanted to lure you away for a private tour of the lake. SCANDALOUS!]

Anyway, after what felt like thirty seconds after Malindi’s arrival, it was time to see her off. After a quick Sunday brunch I popped my baby sister on the bus. She had better come back soooooooon!

spring happenings

Nice weather means lots ‘n lots of eating al fresco!

Milltown has a lovely courtyard, and good wine specials. I tend to get really excited about white wine in the first weeks of spring and summer.

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Lots of other people had clearly gotten the same idea as Steve and I, since several of the evening’s specials had already sold out.

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But Steve honed in on the roasted beet late, and oh was that a good life decision.

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I pretty much failed at conveying the beauty of this dish.

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Man oh man, every component was perfect and delicious. Beets and goat cheese are among the most delicious of combinations on the planet. And beautiful! The arugula was perfect, as arugula is wont to be, and the spicy savory granola was one of the more creative things I’ve beheld.

Didn’t eat meat during Lent, and as usual turned into a bit of a carnivore in the week after Easter. Burger did not stand a CHANCE! Steve and I did a really smart thing: he got the salad on the side I got the fries and we split ‘em. This is smart because the best way to eat fries is ravenously and quickly while they’re still hot. Then once they cool off they cease to be interesting. So we ate ‘em real quick and then had nice virtuous salad and no one felt deprived of french fried goodness.

The burger was local and enormous and I ate it ALL!

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Then I got some nice organic beef and made some all American meat loaf. I also made the whole wheat cinnamon raisin swirl bread from Smitten Kitchen of which I am so fond, except skipping the swirl. And I bought broccoli slaw and made sort of a bastardized version of the traditional picnic salad with almonds and raisins and yogurt. And then was aghast at myself that in preparing all the ingredients for this all American meal I’d managed to run out of butter for my bread! Fortunately olive oil subbed in.

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I make meatloaf with a ton of veggies and a minimum of binder. Lots and lots of sauteed mushrooms. And Worcestershire. its structural integrity is always lacking, but its flavor is always superb. Hot or cold.

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Then one dimly lit night outside of Weaver Street market my friends and I inadvertently witnessed and even semi-participated in a public proposal! Weaver Street Market is where everyone in Carrboro hangs out. Seriously, sit there for a couple of days and you will have seen absolutely everyone who lives in Carrboro. There are live performances and wine tastings from time to time, and the people watching is the best.

Let me say now that getting engaged in front of other people in a public, ostentatious manner is pretty much my worst nightmare. But whatever, this couple and their gazillions of dressed up friends who arranged the photos and lit the candles and held the signs (signs?! WORST NIGHTMARE!) were very into it.

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(No that guy in the picture is not the groom-to-be. That’s a rando who ended up knocking over a bunch of candles, irritating the groom to be’s sister to no end.)

We filmed (we meaning my friend Alex, since the girls of the group felt that it was way too much pressure to properly film such a momentous occasion). It was cute.

Then we ate ice cream. Steve had made an ice cream run for everyone, not waiting with bated breath to witness the proposal as apparently the rest of us were. This place has PRETZEL CONES! Gah so good.

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In other news, I hadn’t realized all of the various cornmeal and grits and cornbread and hush puppy related acoutrements there were, which means that I wanted to buy regular cornmeal and ended up buying this peculiar pre-leavened, flour containing thing.

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But was naturally intrigued by the thoroughly Southern sounding recipe on the back.

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I decided to hippie-ify it with vegetables and local eggs. Chopped up farmer’s market tomatoes, then a layer of beaten eggs, then a layer of corny stuff based off that recipe. Except without the cheese, which was sort of the crux of that recipe. So really just… cornbread stuff and onions.

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Anyway, it made AWESOME work lunches! Portable and yummy.

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Of course the ullllllltimate farmer’s market bounty lately has been these beauties.

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Is there anything better than a super fresh, perfectly ripe strawberry?!

I decided that for my friends’ Memorial Day cookout, I was going to make something that did a minimum amount of trifling with these wonderful things. I sliced ‘em up and tossed them with a spot of lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar. (Full disclosure: these weren’t alllllll local farmer’s market strawberries because I am a woman of limited means. The grocery store stuff is pretty dang fresh this time of year anyway).

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So I opted to make strawberry shortcake using the “secret family recipe”. Which, hilariously, is the bisquick recipe box plus real whipped cream. My grandma made it, my mom made it, and now I’m taking the same shortcut! I did modernize by getting the “Heart Smart” Bisquick, which, FYI, doesn’t have the partially hydrogenated oil of the original.

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I tripled the Bisquick recipe that’d made four individual shortcake and formed the batter into two long, rectangular, free spirited sort of loaves. Not very tall. Baked ‘em off, then put the first in my pan and topped with my marinated strawberries.

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Then it was whipped cream time! I bought an adorable retro hand mixer (at the dollar store for $10!) and though it took longer and made slightly more dramatic noises than I’d expected, it worked beautifully.

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Noms.

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Incidentally, while all the pre-cookout-cookin’ was happening, Grateful Dead was blasting. That is my spring music. Always.

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And Steve, shirtless because my roomie and I are cheap and don’t mind being warm but our apartment temp is a bit much for Steve, made tons and tons of dumplings. His signature dish.

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Pork and shrimp. With tons of good stuff in them. It takes like three hours, hahahaha. A true labor of love. Everyone raved and raved about them, and I got to eat the ones that busted open in the cooking process 🙂

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A few more random notes:

My best friend is amazing and I want to echo her philosophy. And add an addendum that is pro- crusty loaves of sourdough from a really good bakery, whole grains be damned.

friendship