Grad School Greatest Self Challenge

So I’m doing this thing I’m excited/nervous about.

I’m starting my very first challenge!

For those of you who don’t read food blogs (… most of you) you may not be familiar with the idea of this. Basically, bloggers are constantly challenging themselves to give up sugar/work out every day/ give themselves fifteen compliments a day/ revamp their morning routine, etc. etc. etc. I’ve never been into that.

However, I recently fell in love with the blog Back to her Roots and have been binge reading it. I love this girl. I really love her attitude about health and wellness. She’s good and crunchy too (homegirl grows most of her own food- she walks the walk).

Anyway, she came up with this great Super Summer Challenge and I totally dig it! Moreover, I want to do it! I love the idea of both body and mind goals, I love the idea that it’s about what you DO do, not what you cut out or avoid, I love that you reward yourself for reaching goals.

Why yes, summer is winding down. However, I’m about to enter a new and exciting challenge in my life. I’ll be going to grad school (for public health and nutrition, and I want to be able to be a good example of healthy eating, sane brain, and good activity level in my chosen career).

SO….

When: August 1st through October 31st

Why: See above. Plus, I’ve being doing a few fun new experiments relating to challenging myself that have felt really good. And out of character for me- Steve’s Mr. Goal Setter, I’m Ms. Present Moment (which has been known to be an extreme where it’s like I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW I FEEL TRAPPED but fortunately not very often and increasingly less.) More about that tomorrow.

And now the nitty gritty.

What: my Grad School Greatest Self Challenge (psst- come on board! You can call it a different name!)

Grad School Greatest Self Challenge

I should earn about 110 points per category per day to reach 10,000 points goal by end date. I’m making myself the rule that I can’t earn above 175 in one category for a given day- I have to progress in body and mind!

Ways to Earn Body Points
Take vitamins (10 points)
Put on sunblock in the morning (10 points)
Drink 8 glasses of water in a day (10 points)
Casual exercise (ex 1-2 mile walk) (15 points)
Do 100 crunches or Tiffany Rothe abs workout (15 points)
Track every meal and snack for a day (15 points)
Wash my hair three times a week (15 points)
Medium exercise (ex. 2.5-3.5 mile walk) (15 points)
5 servings of vegetables in a day (2.5 cups) (15 points)
4 servings of fruit in a day (2 cups) (15 points)
Calculate my macros [the percentage of calories I eat from carbohydrate, protein, and fat. NOTE: won’t be calorie counting, just am experimenting. More on this tomorrow.] (15 points)
25 grams protein at every meal for a day (25 points)
Have a no dessert day (25 points)
Formal workout (40 points)
Trying a new workout (50 points)
No going out to eat for a week (500 points)
Run a mile (500 points)

Ways to Earn Mind Points
Water plants and refill hummingbird feeder (10 points)
Give myself a sincere compliment (10 points)
Do dishes (10 points)
Do something nice for Steve (15 points)
Call, send a letter or lengthy email to, or hang out with a friend/family member (15 points)
Write a blog post(15 points)
Get the mail twice a week (15 points)
Clean room (15 points)
In bed with the lights out before 12 (15 points)
Do a monthly budget analysis (15 points)
Spend 1 hour outside of class on school work/preparation [this number will probably increase after class begins] (15 points)
Make hummingbird nectar (15 points)
Journal (15 points)
In bed with the lights out before 11 (25 points)
Take a bubble bath (25 points)
No Internet after dinner (25 points)
Try a new activity (40 points)
Do a craft or creative project (40 points)
No Internet for an entire day (100 points)

Ways to Earn Both Points At Once
Take a walk with a friend (20 points)
Eat all of a day’s meals and snacks without distraction- can’t be in front of a computer, desk, or TV (50 points)

And finally, the priiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiize?

If and when I reach my halfway goal (5,000 points) I get:

A PEDICURE! WAHOOOOOOO!

If and when I reach my full goal, I get:

A MASSAGE! WAHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

out and about

Gosh, guys, have I mentioned that I love having an iPhone? I’m actually remembering and chronicling the fun places I go! I’m sure it’s made me a more insufferable tourist/patron/dining companion, but it’s also been really nice!

One night after a long workday, Steve and I went to 9th street in Durham. Fun fact: I used to go to summer camp at Duke University (a school I am now contractually obligated to hate as a UNC student) and in the evenings they’d let us walk around on 9th Street (in groups of at least 3, with counselors strategically spaced along the street and always stationed outside the tattoo parlor. But still. It was exciting and independent-feeling).

Anyway, now I’m a grownup and can go to 9th street with my BOYFRIEND and drink ALCOHOL 😀

This place an absurd thing where some guy was buying everyone half price drinks. So my vodka-soda-lime and Steve’s gin and tonic came out to a grand total of $5.

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I mean… it was disgusting. I don’t know what kind of vodka they put in my drink but it was really really bad. But we sat on a porch in the sunshine with a bunch of bikers and it was nice so who cares?

Then we went down the street to Paris.

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Meaning Vin Rouge! So cute and special! (Steve and I have been in ongoing negotiations about going out to eat and what’s fun and what’s exhausting. I’ve determined that it doesn’t matter how fancy/potentially stuffy a place is- if we get to eat outside he’s happy)

Yummy bread and tapenade.

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I got a dry Riesling, he got a French beer.

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And crazy me was expecting French size portions so gaped when our food arrived. Steve got this COLOSSAL macaroni and cheese. It had tons of cream and gruyere and fatty pork and was exceedingly delicious.

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However, once he was done with the yummy crusty edge bits, he dug further into the pot to discover its ice cold center. Vin Rouge, previously freezing? Not classy.

Meanwhile, my two small plates were decidedly not. This beet and goat cheese salad was delicious, with one of those perfect French vinaigrettes. The beets were enormous.

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And my mussels were very nice but a few too many of them were still shut for my liking. I do not mess around with questionable shellfish, so I didn’t eat them. It seems like something they should try to check before it goes to my table.

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Anyway, it was lots of fun and felt really special!

A later weekend, we went to the farmer’s market and then I decided I needed to hydrate or I would die. So we went to Looking Glass, the adorable coffee shop near the farmer’s market!

Fun and 3-D paintings.

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Lovely summer sun streaming.

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Board games! This game Over Under is ridiculously fun. It had a board and tokens and a timer and… Steve and I didn’t really bother with any of that. We just had each other guess the answer to the cards, which gave you a statistic and had you guess whether the real number is over or under the number they list.

Some examples:

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I will never look at pigs the same way!

Another fun meal: Steve and I were craving Thai at the exact same time! Score! Off to Bangkok 54 we went.

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It was adorable inside. I love orange. Slight sadness- that listed special of mango sticky rice wasn’t actually being made the night we went! But, in their defense, they were holding out for really good mango. An admirable mission.

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Imagine my delight when I ordered an iced tea and then it was Thai tea with all those wonderful warm spices! So good.

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I got the pad thai, for which I had a serious craving. And promptly gave Steve all the baby corn (baby corn creeps me out). I ended up taking some of this home in a box and then digging into the box… with my fingers… on the car ride on the way home. I think I’d been subliminally saving room for mango sticky rice.

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And finally, my favorite meal, brunch! We went to the beauuuuuuutiful Antonia’s, in Hillsborough. Sat in a cute little table with stools by the window, which was great for people watching.

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Got excellent coffee (Joe Van Gogh, a local roaster) with half and half.

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And for entrees, Steve got the savory crepes. They ended up being in a casserole dish just SMOTHERED in cheesy creamy sauce. A perfect Steve dish. (I will say, that salad on the side was PERFECT! Nice peppery greens and a delicious balsamic vinaigrette. Cut through the richness nicely.)

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As for me, I got eggs Benedict, with the twist of biscuits on the bottom and pork loin instead of Canadian bacon. I promptly gave Steve the pork loin, since I’m not eating pig.

I did juuuuuuust fiiiiiiiine with those unreal hashbrowns and that crazy rich hollandaise.

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the end of something

I just finished summer camp.

Not attending it. I’m 25…

No, rather, I was leading it. With the scrappy little counselors that could, and my counterpart at our partner organization with whom I was basically in a long term relationship (true story: we went out to grab ice cream one day after work and after sitting around for a second, I went, “I can’t think of anything to say, because I already know everything about you”. It was the first summer of this particular camp and we got next to no support from any of the people who were supposed to be helping and I thought I was going to lose my mind at the end of those sometimes 11 hour days.

But I worked with awesome awesome people and I wanted to give them a quality party.

So I made them a lot of pizza.

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(Trader Joe’s pizza crusts- I got three white and one herb-speckled, Trader Joe’s shredded mozz, pepperoni, olives, tomatoes. Made in various permutations. It was good pizza!)

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And we sat by the pool and we drank many margaritas and we laughed and we did superlatives and it was a great night. And now work is winding down and grad school is getting closer eeeee!

Been enjoying the lull. Also still been enjoying the iPhone (a LOT!) as it’s enabled me to actually take pictures of places I’v been to and enjoyed many a time but haven’t ever had it together to bring a camera to.

Por ejemplo, the delicious Fiesta Grill.

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It’s so awesome living somewhere that has Mexican food! DC offers Salvadoran and Bolivian in spades, but if you want Mexican you can basically go to Chili’s. It’s annoying. However, the Triangle has quality Mexican, and EXTRA HIGH QUALITY Mexican at this bossy place.

I’ve tried a few things on the menu, but the be all and end all, in my humble opinion, is the shrimp enchiladas.

They are gargantuan:

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And amazing. Basically the entire inside of the tortillas are coated in cheese- thumbs up. And there’s fleshy and flavorful tomato to cut the richness- thumbs up. And there are BIG FAT PIECES OF JUICY JUICY SHRIMP. And there is TOTALLY BOSSY AND PERFECT ENCHILADA SAUCE.

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I’m always amazed how much of it I can eat. I did give Steve all of my rice and much of my beans, but even he gets full at that place.

Another fun thing I did recently was attend a clothing swap! Poor boys. They don’t get these things. I spent so long trying to explain it to Steve, who was baffled that there was no exchange of money or formal venue.

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I came down with a weird stomach bug last week. Luckily for me, the day I needed to leave work early was the day that Steve was teleworking, so he picked me up and while he data’d away in the living room I was passed out on his bed.

With my loyal companion.

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In other news, pool maintenance: they’re doing it wrong.

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Gross.

Finally, an event I love but have yet to chronicle in the blog: Saturdays in Saxapahaw. Saxapahaw is a (fabulously named) charming little town just a hop skip and a jump from Chapel Hill. In the summer they have an outdoor concert series in this beautiful park. There’s bluegrass, a farmer’s market, food trucks, and gazillion of happy children and families.

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I was feeling all happy and mushy (and had Hipstamatic open already) so I tried really really hard to take a good selfie of me and the boy. It was not that successful.

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(my favorite:)

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Sky. Sky is manageable.

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Knees. Knees are manageable.

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Our friends Dan and Bethany joined us this week. I’ve known Dan since seventh grade! I was friends with his little sister. Now he and his wife and their adorable six-month-old baby daughter are our neighbors! Very fun to see them.

They’d left, and the music had ended, but Steve and I were enjoying the finally cooler evening too much to head home just yet. So we went on the porch of The Eddy, the pub nearby.

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Lemonade for me, strawberry basil beer for him. Views and sunsets for all.

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Final highlight: I finally got my life together and refilled my hummingbird feeder!

Watching them gives me so much joy I can’t even.

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And now I must go outside and mask some wasps angry. NOT FOR YOU. Fun tip: wasps hate plant sprayers.

cookin’ tomatoes

Having fresh tomatoes around (ideally ones you grew) enables you to make almost anything awesome.

Here is a nice picture of tomato sauce bubblin’ away on the stove. The pot in the back is the pot used to poach a tomato. Tomato sauce works best with peeled tomatoes, and the easiest way to peel a tomato is to plop it in boiling water for thirty seconds or so.

Why yes, this was taken during tomato season last summer. Yes that is my mother’s house.

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Here’s the North Carolina incarnation, which is canned 😦 but organic 🙂 I threw some glugs of olive oil in a pan, cooked a few cloves of garlic and some dried Italian seasoning in it, then added a can of organic whole tomatoes, crushed with my hands, and a can of organic diced fire roasted tomatoes.

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This sauce was served for… Gnocchi Gnight! (Sorry. Sorry.)

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On the make your own gnocchi plate night was two kinds of gnocchi from World Market (whole wheat and sweet potato, and porcini and truffle), the homemade tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms (which looked much more voluminous before they were sauteed, obviously), and parmesan.

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Steve and I had over my friend Roxanne and her hunky French boyfriend. Roxanne is Thai, and her mom made us this unbelievably delicious soup. The meals didn’t match but we didn’t care.

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The tomato sauce had its second life in the form of this hippie bastardization of pizza.IMG_0129

Crust: chickpea flour mixed with hot water, spread in the pan

Sauce: normal sauce, the only normal part of this

“Sausage”: tempeh that’d been roasted with garlic powder and soy sauce

Cheese: 2% cabot cheddar

So not pizza at all. But, but, but… really really good!

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And finally, its last incarnation (why make tomato sauce when instead you can make a lot of tomato sauce?), I poached some eggs in the tomato sauce (threw in a few soft cherry tomatoes for a little extra oomph).

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Fab!

Now let’s say you need to clean out your fridge of a variety of vegetables, not just tomatoes. Here is a concoction for you.

Onions, eggplant, okra (sauteed) Chopped tomatoes and peanut butter and hot sauce and soy sauce (mixed in) Stewed til the okra got tender and finished with seasonings of choice.

It’s amazing how good peanut butter is with vegetables!

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Yes, these pictures were also taken last summer. I miss you, Dutch oven.

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Busy bee

I seem to get my best work done on sick days. Today I’ve:

– made a billion maintenance requests to my apartment management company (none for the first time, ahem)

-sent a bunch of work emails, including one about my miracle discovery of a receipt I thought I’d lost forever

-signed up for student health insurance

-signed up for amazon student

– bought all my books for next semester (!!!!)

– canceled an old credit card I haven’t used in 2 years (I just need bigger spending limits at this time in my life, eeurrrgh)

– opened a new savings account at all my coworkers’ favorite credit union, which will do my taxes for free next year

– applied for a job, which I’m feeling good about because it’s with my current job’s partner organization, doing much the same as I’m doing now, except part time and for twice as much an hour

– called yet another bank about a mystery account on my credit report, which turned out to be a non issue.

Now I’m waiting on my car, which is getting an oil change, sitting In a nice cozy tea shop and sipping ginger peach oolong, which is doing nice things for my nausea. Next I’ll call my little sister for a career talk, buy some new hand soap, and drop some stuff at work. Whew!

 

recent musings

When my loved ones are in the air, I always track their flights. Flightaware.com. I always feel like I’m going to die when I’m on a plane, and always half feel like my loved ones are going to die when they’re on a plane. Tracking them makes me feel safer. (Obviously, this picture was taken before the events of last week, wherein I realized tracking my boyfriend’s flight over Ohio was absurd in the light of the rest of the world)

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I don’t have any pets and my apartment is just not conducive to having them any time soon. So, I borrow them from my friends and neighbors. Steve’s roommate has Molly (strawberry blonde) and is fostering Rocket (adorable black haired, so named because he can jump like twice his height).

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Gah, see how Rocket points a little bit with his right foot?! Precious!

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Watching them go for walks together is also a hoot. Quite the odd couple. Oren straps their leashes to his belt in a nerdy look that deeply reminds me of my grandpa.

Yesterday Steve and I were going out to dinner and somehow it resulted in first deciding we were stopping at the library before dinner, then deciding we were taking the dog with us (hint: this was my decision. Steve’s roommate is out of town and poor little doglet is spending a fair amount of time in the crate between visits from doggie sitters. So his literal puppy eyes inspired me to take him out on the town). Then we decided (“we”) that we’d take Rocket for a walk after stopping at my place for my overdue library books. Then we decided (“we”. I’ll stop now. Assume it’s always me making dog-related demnads) that since we were walking by my friend’s apartment building, we should see if he was there with his dogs for a playdate. Then we all played together. Then we went to the dog park. Then I decided I wanted to be a dog. Then after the return from the dog park I fed Steve some emergency pizza slices to fortify him on the way to dinner. I love you Steve. Thanks for indulging in my animal neediness.

Went to a birthday dinner for Steve’s roommate. Not just to see the dogs… but they were there!

Grilled veggies and burgers. Chips and guac. All eaten al fresco.

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Lots of begging ensued.

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Can you even with Rocket’s little beard?!

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Tasty tasty! I love overcooked cauliflower!

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Then there was extremely decadent strawberry shortcake. I volunteered to help when I arrived at the boys’ place for the evening, and was put in charge of this. The cake has a cup and a half of heavy cream in it… just in the cake… not including the whipped stuff. Then the whipped stuff happened.

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So good!

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Some things about stuff.

I received an organic matcha powder sample from Kiss Me Organics (they sent me the sample for free but didn’t compensate me for a post).

It arrived and I admired its vibrancy while, I admit, being a little taken aback at the package’s size versus its price.

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However, then I looked at its perfect ingredient list:

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And then I gaped at the multitude of recipes contained in the complimentary cookbook that’s sent to your email when you make a purchase (I didn’t get this as a reviewer; it was sent automatically through Amazon when I made the purchase.)

Pan fried matcha chicken, anyone? Tuna burger with matcha ginger sauce? Green tea tiramisu? Quite exciting!

I ended up going with a boring but delicious choice. Vaguely inspired by this recipe, but altered based on my ingredients at home.

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Let the record state: when you combine spinach, soy milk, frozen mango, and matcha green tea powder in a blender; after drinking it you will feel as though you can conquer the world. Perfect pick me up! The match flavor is pure, not harsh and tannin-y at all. It’s grassy in the most delicious possible way.

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As for price point, it’s a lot. However, a teaspoon sized serving is more than enough to flavor an entire smoothie, so I’ve been using the stuff for months without making much of a dent in it. Plus, you’re getting organic, super-antioxidant-charged, concentrated doses of awesomeness. If you think of it as more of a supplement than a food, the price suddenly comes into perspective (seriously, can we think of any other organic supplements out there that don’t cost a gazillion dollars? Actually, if we can, tell me!)

The one thing I’d change is the packaging- every time you open the envelope, a little puff of the precious powder dissipates into the air! I don’t know the exact right solution to this problem, since the airtight seal is nice. But I’d encourage the Kiss Me Organics folks to get R+D on it 🙂

Speaking of crunchy purchases, I have become infatuated with many many Trader Joe’s cleaning and beauty products.

It started with the conditioner (right), which made my hair as smooth and silky as the stuff at the salon. And, it’s cheaper.

Then I bought the tea tree oil shampoo, since I am dandruff prone (yuck) and heard from my coworkers that tea tree oil shampoo deters lice (!!! I haven’t had lice since about second grade, just to firmly state that, but I do work with kids enough a little extra reassurance doesn’t hurt). It does indeed make my scalp tingle.

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The jury’s still a little out on this stuff. I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t opted to do my only grocery shopping for the week at Trader Joe’s when I was out of toothpaste. I’m crunchy, but I’m also a fan of fluoride. I like the fennel in it, but it’s also weird not to end a toothbrushing session with that minty fresh feeling.

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Additional recommended crunchy products:

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I just bought the detergent (left) today, and used it to wash my delicate underthings on the gentle cycle. It smells like lavender HEAVEN.

I bought the deodorant (center) on the recommendation of my coworker, when I told her I liked apricot Toms of Maine (my old standby) but that I didn’t feel as confident about my level of pit moisture as I’d like. I picked the “Ocean” scent because it reminds me of Steve’s deodorant, the smell of which I looooooooooove (it’s just musk Speed Stick :D) So far so good!

And the all purpose cleaner I’ve used for a month or two. It does a nice job scrubbing through kitchen grime but isn’t quite hardcore enough for the bathroom. The scent is STRONG- I don’t mind it but it reminds me a bit of Vaporub. I don’t mind that scent in the slightest, but others may.

Now that I’ve given Trader Joe’s some love, I will candidly admit that I HATED this:

I bought it because they were out of guacamole hummus, which I learned upon my return trip they had discontinued. This is because Trader Joe’s discontinues everything I like. I personally. It’s hurtful.

Anyway, it tastes like rancid grossness. Do not buy. In Trader Joe’s’ defense, I brought it back and they gave me an immediate refund, and the lady behind the counter not only assured me that she didn’t like it either, she also offered me a palate cleansing taste of her Avocado’s Number guacamole. Customer service!

Work has been nuts lately and I’m finally done with camp (whoo!) but instrumental in getting me through camp has been this amazingness:

I binge watched seasons 1 and 2 last summer and I’m going at season 3 in a serious way this one. Much like last summer, I’m finding myself deeply distrustful of humanity after watching a lot of episodes of this show, and sort of convinced that people might be out to kill me. I think the B-613 stuff has gotten a little stupid and excessive this season but (SPOILER ALERT) down in my heart I cried like a little baby when James died.

Finally, a picture that Steve took of me last summer that I’ve had sitting around for awhile trying to figure out if it was worth writing a blog post about.

My first thought (this is brutal honesty here) when I saw it was, “Oh my gosh! You’re not fat!”

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So this led to a few thoughts, in no particular order.

1. Every picture that I ever see of myself I immediately label “You look fat” or “Oh my gosh, you don’t look fat!” It is terrible that this is my immediate, self-required assessment. It means that basically the only pictures of myself that I can enjoy looking at without making an obsessive value judgment are when I’m under the age of, say, 11.

2. As I’m sure many women can relate to, in any given day I feel as if my body can go through hundreds of incarnations. There are times I get so caught up in how awful I think I look on a given day (based, of course, mostly on how confident I feel in my job, my friendships, my relationship, etc. and not at all on how I actually look), that then when I actually find myself in front of a mirror I feel a little stunned and go, “Huh. You’re not horrifying looking. People are probably not obsessing over you as much as you think they are.” And of course they’re not. And I’m in a much better mental state than I once was. But still, I sometimes have to reassure myself that “I have the same build as x, so if people seem to be nice and not judging her they probably aren’t judging me either.” Yuck!

3. I feel guilt when I look at how I look in that picture. I go, “Seriously? How do you spend so much time feeling inadequate?! You have a healthy BMI and that picture clearly demonstrates that you have a nicely proportioned body. No cankles [a mean word only used about women but I’m baring my shallowest pieces of my soul here], no weirdly large thighs, no wimpy shoulders [thanks mom!]” Not only that, I’m extraordinarily lucky enough to be in basically perfect health. I’m not a Boston Marathon victim who has lost limbs. I get enough to eat, and have access to healthy food. How can I waste my time thinking about body stuff?!

4. I feel like I immediately have to take myself down a peg when I see that picture. “Yeah, but that was last summer, and you’ve totally gained weight over the past year. You haven’t been consistent about exercise at all. You’re such a sugar crackhead.”

5. Finally, I feel really sad that I can’t just look at the picture and think about a beautiful day by a beautiful waterfall with the person I love. I promise I’ve made progress, I promise my psyche is a prettier place than it’s been before. But, photos are clearly still fraught objects for me. Maybe someday?

celebration days

Spent the fourth of July in Virginia with my faaaaaaaaaaambly.

The neighborhood where my mom grew up (where my aunts still live) has a community-owned lot where they always celebrate the fourth. People get very into dressing up (note the apron!)

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There’s an epic potluck (we’ll talk about those dumplings in a minute)

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And the “local pyromaniac” (as my mother calls him) sets off huge amounts of illegal fireworks later in the evening. Discussion of pyromania led to reminiscing about all the places my mom’s brother has inadvertently set on fire (included are two entire yards and a dock. Apparently he’s inclined to put a bunch of fireworks directly next to each other and send a flame in their general direction).

We spent much of the night in my aunt and uncle’s gorgeous backyard, catching up.

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So Steve made dumplings- his delicious, decadent, time-consuming, effort-consuming, labor of love recipe.

Safeway didn’t have ground pork so he got ground lamb, and combined it with his usual veggies (he also made a shrimp version for my pescetarian aunt)

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Then, just to gild the lily a little more, he cooked some of the dumplings in bacon fat, left over from the morning’s breakfast. Mom dieu.

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We had a feast of that, along with all the usual fourth of July suspects (hot dogs, burgers, potato salad, etc.)

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My aunt made a fabulous watermelon-feta-basil salad that was the highlight of my plate. (Dena, I immediately went home and made this recipe, except with mint just for fun. It is amazing)

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For the dessert department, I rediscovered a recipe I’d made for Thanksgiving years ago- rustic apple galette from Health magazine, of all places.

Apple mixture:

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(tip from my best friend- if you have hard, dried-out brown sugar, microwave it for thirty seconds or so with a hunk of apple. I had a convenient apple core at the ready! Somehow the apple rehydrates it so it becomes soft and crumbly again)

The crust was a little finicky this time, but I can’t in good conscience blame the recipe since I had it pulled up on my iPhone (I love dropping that sentence, I’m so new to smart phones) and was running around the kitchen and helping with dumplings and playing with the cat and not at all attentive to all of the important steps of the recipe, like adding the liquid in tablespoon sized batches rather than just dumping it all in at the same time.

Anyway, after some coaxing it basically came together despite my abuse of it. I used a bit of oat flour (aka just ground up oats) because when I’m not home no one bothers buying whole wheat flour (ha!)

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In went the apples, to which I added a few extra spices including cardamom, coriander, and black papper

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Hot outta the oven:

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In filtered glory!

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Speaking of holidays, I never bothered to post about Easter. That would be a shame, as Sheila worked very hard to make it a special day for my mom and sister.

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Perhaps as atonement for all the shedding. Seriously, this was after one brushing session (I promise, my family vaccuums. It’s just hard to keep up with her.)

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Easter was wonderful as ever. We (my mom, sister, and I) hosted this year (there’s been an ongoing turf war over who hosts Easter- not contributed to by anyone who reads this blog- which is totally absurd) and everyone contributed so much as always. My aunt Kathy brought spanikopita and beets beets beets!

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Malindi made caramelized onion hummus, based on the stuff she’d buy regularly while studying abroad in England (it was AMAZING. I will say that I helped some in the onion process. My family is really impatient. Said my mother “Ugh, you always do it so much better than me. It’s because I try to do it so fast, right? How long should it really take? Ten whole minutes?” Said I: “Uh… more like thirty.”

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Dena and Louie brought gorgeous lilies.

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Fred brought another lamb (one of three… as usual my mom fretted there wasn’t enough) and grilled it, in a manly fashion. (Kathy supervised as the boys plated, as is appropriate).

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I made Moroccan carrot salad as I do every time we host Easter, because one it’s gorgeous, two it’s seasonal and reminds me of the Easter bunny, and three it’s wonderfully flavorful with hints of caraway seed and harissa and of course the fab kalamata olives and feta. You slice the carrots with a mandoline- and this year I managed not to hurt myself!- and cook them via pressure cooker or microwaving (what I did) which actually helps make some of the nutrients in the carrots more bioavailable. People had already made a dent by the time we took this picture. This is a recipe of which there are never, ever leftovers.

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Malindi made deviled eggs, which were fantastic. (Our Costco-sized paprika container made it a little difficult to dust them. I got to taste test one that got too much!) Malindi also demanded that we purchase labneh, which is amazing.

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The appetizer end of the table. There were also marinated mini mozzarella balls from Costco that kind of made your eyes roll back in your head when you ate them. Extremely low calorie, obviously. Taramosalata, too, and Malindi’s awesome hummus. We also got a lot of gluten-free dippers, since we had a few gluten-eschewers joining us, including my mom’s friend from Seattle’s daughter. My mom really enjoys collecting people who are far from home (which is a common thing in DC).

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My mom made Olive stuffed leg of lamb from Emeril which is SO FREAKING GOOD. It involves marinating in full fat yogurt and stuffing with olives and bread crumbs and pine nuts and other awesomeness. I am deeply hungry just looking at this.

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There were also roasted potatoes and orzo with tomatoes, both of which serve as delicious vehicles for lamb drippings. With yogurt on the side.

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Goodies kept appearing, brought by guests- a fun whipped cream and jello (? maybe?) and fruit thing; sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (I am so enthralled by WASP Easter because I’ve always just celebrated Ethnic Easter!); Greek Easter bread.

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Some of what I ate 😀

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I made super decadent and delicious gluten free chocolate cupcakes.

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Annnnd my aunt brought kalidopita, a walnutty spice cake; and my other aunt brought a delicious variety of cookies (she’s gluten free now too! There’s something in the water… or wheat, I guess.)

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Because we have lots of April birthdays in my family, there was also birthday cake! Opting for seasonality, I wanted to make a strawberry cake. A little digging around the Internets produced this Smitten Kitchen recipe for strawberry chiffon cake. I hadn’t given myself a proper cooking/baking challenge in awhile, so away I went. It helped that I had my grandma’s tube pan- not only was it a high quality material, it also made me feel like she was helping me along from the other side 🙂

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My sister took action shots of me assembling the cake in my grubby pre-Easter clothes.

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So beautiful! I let the berries soak for a decent length of time in sugar and lemon juice and they got all juicy and nice.

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Annnnd the completed project. Lovely way to celebrate my mom, and being with my family, and Easter, and spring.

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