cocktail competition!

What better way to celebrate a good friend’s birthday party than a cocktail competition?! Action shot (dark rum being added to the ginger beer and lime to make delicious Dark ‘n Stormys) feature my boyfriend. MAKING GIFS IS SO FUN AND EASY! Expect more! (Also, the rest of these pictures are tiny for some reason. Apologies.)

So it was Myra’s birthday and Alex requested that we dress up and surprise Myra at their place with festive, innovative, delicious cocktail creations!

Steve kicked off the night (and initiated the system of labeling our cups with sticky tabs) with Dark and Stormys (or, as he called them to jazz it up since cocktail name was part of the score, Turmientos Oscuros).

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We relaxed with our drinks, and waited for the remaining competitors to arrive. At last Tiff and Tom did, accompanied by (this will be significant later) their slightly under the weather toddler daughter.

As the competition progressed, there was lots of cuddling (THIS WILL BE SIGNIFICANT LATER) of both toddler and puppy.

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Tom, the classy Englishman, went next. First, a festive lining of orange peel. Then, a sugar cube sprinkled with bitters.

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Brandy, then champagne (or Cava).

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Pretty, festive, bubbly. Tom said his parents used to make this for school functions and just go their friends wasted, hahaha. They called it “champagne cocktail”, but since originality of name was key for a good competition score, Tom adapted it to “Secretariat”, because there’s a sugar cube like horsies eat! Adorable.

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I don’t really like the taste of liquor, so this cocktail was quite strong for me. However, it was Steve’s favorite of the night.

I was up next, and Steve secretly recorded a bit of what I was doing.

Background: I polled my classmates to see whether they had any ideas for what to make for the competition. Jaclyn said, “I like making whiskey gingers with homemade ginger syrup!” BOOM. Doing that. Yes.

I was at Everything But Grannie’s Panties, the best thrift/antique store in the world, when I found a beautiful and solid antique juicer, which I bought for Myra as both a birthday present and as a tool for the night’s proceedings. I retrieved an old grapefruit from my fridge, since I love grapefruit juice passionately in cocktails. Got some whiskey. Made homemade ginger syrup simply by boiling together equal parts sugar and water to make simple syrup and infusing it with a peeled and chopped knob of ginger (I mixed the cooked ginger lumps with sugar to make crystallized ginger garnishes!)

So all together went the ginger syrup, whiskey, grapefruit juice, and some fizzy water.

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And, in a moment of brilliance, because it was tan in color (roughly that of their golden-haired daschund) and because it contained Tennessee whiskey (and that is Lochsie the daschund’s birthplace) I named it “The Lochsie” in a moment of shameless pandering! (Totally worked- Myra doesn’t like grapefruit but LOVES that dog. I got the highest score thus far!)

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Then Tiff was up. Tiff and Myra were college roommates and Tiff KNOWS that girl. Myra is a classy lady but has a total weakness for scuppernong wine (this unbelievably sweet beverage one can buy at gas stations in North Carolina!) The drink also involved white grape juice, thyme, an apple garnish… I forget what else. She called it “The Sagittarius”, sign of the Zodiac of the birthday girl. Myra really liked it!

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And finally… oh Alex. Poll: does this look like a cocktail or a potted plant?

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Alex, in a process that seems very y-chromosome influenced, simply decided to mix together everything Myra liked. That meant:

– Lephroaig (fancy fancy Scotch)
– orange blossom teavana tea
– creme de menthe (are you gagging yet?)
– chipotle chili powder (NOW you are gagging)
– fresh mint for garnish

He named it “Queen of the Forest”.

Skepticism.

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Apprehension.

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Excitement?

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Disgust.

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Amusement.

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Alex did NOT win the competition.

In fact, when the votes were tallied (we were graded on appearance, taste, name, creativity, and “pomposity”) it ended up being a TIE between me and Tiff. Alex recommended a sudden death round, but I had just completed my final week of class (and was still dealing with that nagging cold) and it was late and I was falling asleep on the couch.

So Myra, who’d been solely a judge until this point, stepped into fill in for me in the sudden death round.

Alex videotaped the proceedings (which, hint hint, ended up as more of a documentary of the events leading to a disaster that awaited us… read on, friends!)

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Tiff scurried around with impressive focus, and didn’t seem phased by the toddler strapped to her body (the little one ended up resting more peacefully in the carrier than anywhere else).

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Myra, meanwhile, furiously worked the stand mixer, whipping cream despite the fact that the competitors were given a mere five minutes to complete their creation!

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After a generous thirty second bonus granted by the timer (me) both women managed to complete their cocktails, which were pretty indeed.

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Steve was named judge, a role he took very seriously. (Though whether he was reliable isn’t clear- he actually liked Alex’s horrifying cocktail).

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Tiff’s, the Mint Star, was a simple mixture of whiskey and soda with a pretty mint garnish.

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Myra’s, the Steve McCream (hahaha I told her Steve liked puns but then it backfired and Steve called her out for pandering) contained whipped cream, vodka, kahlua, and nutmeg. Despite her dock for the name, she won! (She was, of course, the birthday girl.)

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Now, regarding all the hints earlier…

24 hours after this occasion, guess who found herself white knuckled over the toilet, barfing everything ever? Oh that’s right, me. Oh, that’s right, poor Myra the birthday girl. Oh, that’s right, Tiff, mother of the sick toddler. Oh, that’s right, Tom, father of the sick toddler.

Yes, little Patient Zero gave us all the stomach flu. I used my training in epidemiology (and later, oral rehydration therapy, oy) to deal with this outbreak. Myra contributed what seemed a very good theory, which was that though some of us were not directly attending to the sick baby, we were all cuddling with the puppy, who was constantly giving the little one excited puppy kisses. Toddler as outbreak source, puppy as vector, party guests as victims.

All but one guest, that is.

Someone please explain to me how Alex, the guy in this picture with ALL KINDS OF EXPOSURES happening, is the one person who escaped sickness?!?!?!?!

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Chicagooooo

Anyone who has met Steve in real life will not have a hard time guessing the first thing we did upon arriving to Chicago for Thanksgiving.

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Very excited to’ve diversified my deep dish experience- Steve tends to stick to Geno’s East, and on this trip (on the same day, actually) I’ve tried Lou Malnatti’s and Giordanos. Geno’s is still my favorite, as it is Steve’s.

We were plenty tuckered since we drove (!) and though we stopped partway there to sleep at a hotel, Steve, for reasons best understood by him, decided to drive 12 hours on the first day and 2 on the second. Sure.

I was just really excited to not eat gross road food anymore, and thoroughly enjoyed this salad. Bless you, midwestern portions. This was our “individual” salad, after both Steve and I had each already served ourselves a portion.

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We met our buddy Kyle from our Americorps days! He spent the past two years in Indonesia, and is now living in New Haven where his girlfriend is going to school for public health (holla!) but his family, like Steve’s, is in the Chicago ‘burbs, so it was easy peasy for us to meet up over Thanksgiving. So nice!

We got a half sausage and half mushroom pie. It was tasty, but the crust was a tad too crispy for me.

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We knew Erin, our aggressively friendly Americorps peer, would want us to document this reunion, so we did. Me and the boys 🙂

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So that was Wednesday. That night was deep dish round two and a fun evening relaxing at Steve’s aunt house. Feel very lucky to be so welcomed into Steve’s sweet and funny family.

The next day, Thursday, was of course Thanksgiving! It’s always a little odd spending Thanksgiving with a family that is not your own, particularly since Steve’s mom was hosting 40 guests (!) and working her tail off to get everything ready. It’s a fine balance between being helpful and getting in the way. Anyway, I stuffed some shells (loved all the Italian touches at this Thanksgiving!) and did a few other tasks, but once it got down to the wire I decided freeing up an Ileana-sized space in the kitchen was the kindest thing to do.

Once it was time for the main meal, we began with a super classy appetizer course. That salad in the foreground was AMAZING- arugula, lots of fennel (which I lovvvvve)- and from the restaurant where Steve’s cousin works. There were also pickled vegetables made by Steve’s aunt who with her husband is vegan for health reasons (these were unbelievably delicious and I went back for lots more- the amazing garlicky tomatoes in particular), a jalapeño corn muffin made by Steve’s mom, and a few olives and cheeses and things.

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The day after Thanksgiving was Steve’s dad’s 60th birthday (he and my dad were born four days apart!) and everyone decided to honor the occasion by instead of just going around the room saying what they were thankful for, going around saying what they were thankful for about Steve’s dad!

His dad’s little sister, the only girl with three brothers, had some very amusing ones (“I’m thankful he taught me to swim by holding my head underwater”, etc.)

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I got a fun melange for the main meal… from the green blob, that’s green jello (it involves canned pears, lime jello, and cool whip and is so good), stuffing, a pickled mushroom, mashed potatoes, more delicious pickled vegetables, cranberry sauce, broccoli, roasted squash with hot red pepper flakes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and a stuffed shell.

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I gave Steve’s family some flack for not having an enormous dessert table at the previous Thanksgiving I attended (of course I say this as a sugar addict) but man they more than came through this time!

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Special highlights, at left, a giant pan of tiramisu and at right an old family recipe called “chopped suey cake” made by his middle school aged cousin. It involved walnuts and cream cheese frosting and was of course amazing.

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But wait, the birthday boy needed celebrating too! Along with this ice cream cake with the big 60 on top…

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… there was another cake that came along with a formidable mission, one that became a family affair…

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… Steve’s mom insisted on lighting 60 candles! It took FOREVER and was a hilarious process to observe.IMG_1339

These pictures of Steve and his mom make my heart soft.

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The pictures of the birthday boy beholding his finally completed cake just look as though there’s a fireball in the dining room! Too funny.

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Then, because Steve’s mom is insanely good at planning parties, there was a special edition of Family Feud featuring trivia about the birthday boy! Steve and I made these.

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Steve’s mom’s and dad’s sides of the family squared off to see who knew Steve’s dad the best. My favorite category was “Things that annoy Denny about the Chicago Bears”, hahahaha.

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The night also included a vigorous round of Apples to Apples with Steve’s cousins, many of whom blatantly cheated and got rid of cards they didn’t want 🙂

The next day we went bowling (as I have discussed in the past, Steve’s family is weirdly good at bowling- they have their own balls. They are in leagues. They regularly approach scores of 200. Bizarre.) Naturally, we had to embarrass Steve’s dad by putting “Birthday Boy” up on the TV. I astonished myself by getting a strike first thing and then, in the second game, bowling 110, which is three to four times my previous high score (I, like most people in my family and in general most East Coasters I know, am terrible at bowling).

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That night we headed into Chicago proper, where my bestest pal and her boyfriend now live (her boyfriend Brian, like Steve, is a Chicagoland native).

We went to their favorite places in their (ultra cool) Logan Square neighborhood, including this great pizza place, Reno.

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Virtuously getting our vegetables, we started with a yummy sautéed cauliflower appetizer that involved capers and dill. It also involved bacon, and I, the non vegetarian, was the one to remember to ask for it to be omitted- Lydia and Brian, the vegetarians, totally forgot. Ha! And then Steve was like, “Well, you could just do the bacon on the side…” and he ate a plate of bacon and was pleased.

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Everyone else got a beer, but since I was (and still am) ailing from a cold (no doubt worsened by the windy city’s charming weather) I got a yummy Jo Snow Italian soda- tangerine lavender honey. So fun! I almost never do the mocktail thing (why spend the money when water is free?) but this was nice to my immune system and still felt festive.

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We split two RAD pizzas.

On the bottom:

BUTTERNUT: Butternut squash / gouda / sage brown butter / walnuts

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And on top:

FANCY NANCY- Mozzarella / basil / red sauce / burrata

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Mmm that big fat pile of burrata sure was tasty. I think my favorite was the butternut, though- lovvved that sage in there!

We also went to Small Bar, a great neighborhood bar, and gosh it is just so great to hang out with your best friend (we’ve been best friends since we were 14) and just laugh and laugh and laugh. Such silliness.

So you say to yourself, “Wow, Ileana and Steve have already done so much on this trip! Americorps reunion, family night, Thanksgiving, parent’s 60th birthday, night in the city with friends! I can’t imagine what else they could-”

and then I would interrupt you and say AND THEN THERE WAS THE WEDDING.

Yes, that’s right, Ben, Steve’s childhood babysitter, got married the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the festivities just continued!

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It was a lovely wedding with an adorable pastor. The couple both do improv, and the pastor quoted Steven Colbert in the sermon. It was amazing.

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And then it was party time!

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As seems to be the norm, now, the tables were named after significant places to the couple. We were at Nashville. Loved the floating candle centerpieces.

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What, do you think, did this favor contain?

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Lotto tickets! I tragically won nothing.

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The improvisers brought a dramatic touch to their first dance (this, after they made their entrance to the song “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, so cute!)

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The food was really good! This corn soup was super rich, so I gave a lot of mine to Steve, but I loved the cute little sweet potato crisps on top!

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And the salad was served in a giant parmesan bowl, mm.

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This pomegranate sorbet, as an elegant palate cleanser, was also delicious, and so pretty!

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Unpictured remainder of the evening, but imagine:

– Pistachio-crusted sea bass
– Steve getting the chicken and then having his mom bring over half her uneaten steak to him. At weddings, everyone just knows about Steve and eating and he always gets multiple entrees
– LEMON POPPY SEED WEDDING CAKE! So good and different!
– Lots of exuberant dancing. Particularly fun when they played ‘Shake it Off’
– I randomly ran into Steve’s mom’s college friend on my way back from the bathroom and we ended up talking for like twenty solid minutes about relationships and commitment and human nature. Deep stuff.
– More exuberant dancing, and shoes that I am unaccustomed to wearing that tore open a blister on my toe
– Going to the front desk for a bandaid
– Having the bandaid immediately come off. Returning to the front desk for masking tape to wrap around my foot to secure the bandaid
– More exuberant dancing
– The reception concluding and me, the sedate one being ready to fall asleep in the lobby, and Steve and his clan, the partiers, bounding to the bar downstairs. I rallied.
– Steve’s sister buying all of us shots of Patron at the bar after (whoo!)
– Uber taking us home 🙂

Adventures!

The last day was quite restful. But since our dinner was at the cutest Italian restaurant ever, straight out of Lady and the Tramp, I had to take a picture.

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A simple twelve and a half hour car ride later, and we were back to North Carolina, and it was finals mode for me!

four years!

Yes, the boyfriend and I have officially been together for the equivalent of a presidential term. CRAZY!

Our anniversary was on a Thursday. Though we’d planned to save the celebrating for the weekend, then we both ended up calling each other the day of being like, “But I want to seeee youuu”. So though he’s in Raleigh now and I’m still in CH, we met up halfway in Durham, at Cuban Revolution.

Funny place!

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Got a celebratory glass of South American wine (they didn’t have Cuban, shockingly, hahahaha- but then, maybe that will change soon!)

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We got to watch some propaganda speeches being beamed onto the wall.

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Having my first iPhone has made me way more selfie crazed than I was before, sheesh. Anyway, it seemed nice to commemorate the moment.

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Being hungry people, as usual, we got the bottomless chips and mango salsa. The mango salsa was okay- a little too sweet for me, the sugar addict, surprisingly- but we also got a guacamole which was great and which our waitress was kind enough to also refill for free.

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Steve got the classic Cubano with all the meats (which I remember vividly loving back in the day when I still ate pork… sigh… who quits eating pork right before moving to North Carolina?) but since he’s a colossal weirdo he opted not to get the mustard (one of the ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS of a cubano) since he finds it too horseradishy, and instead got chimichurri. Anyway, he loved it. Sandwiches came with plantain chips!

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I got a grilled cheese sandwich with hot peppers and tomatoes. It was HUGE. I ate about a third of it. Not as exciting as a Cubano, alas.

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We finished out the night with a FREE SALSA LESSON, whoo! The instructor was a little intense (remember Sparky the crazy choreographer from the movie Bring It On? Kinda like that!) so we didn’t stay that long, but it was fun for a bit.

The next day, we decided to venture outside and get some vitamin d, to get our skin used to it in preparation of our weekend getaway. Happy kids.

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We went to the lovely Merritt’s Pasture, which feels like a bit of the countryside in the midst of Chapel Hill. Such a nice treat. We got there just before the sun dipped too low to see well.

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Now, dinner that night. Sigh. I’d planned to cook a romantic dinner with Steve. I had a succulent sounding recipe from Serious Eats picked out to make mussels for the first time at home. Whoo! I’d gone to Whole Paycheck earlier in the day to get the mussels, I had all my ingredients.

So I pull the bag out of the fridge, and…. all of the mussels were open. Not one or two. Like ALL OF THEM! In a vain hope I was somehow confused, I called Whole Foods and asked if somehow I’d bought precooked mussels and they were supposed to be open. And no, of course not, Whole Paycheck just had some sh***y mussels in stock. So then we drove back to Whole Foods at rush hour and by the time we got there I was super depressed by the whole endeavor and also skeeved out by their seafood department, so I just got store credit (I am just remembering as I type this that I have store credit at Whole Foods! Note to self! Will avoid seafood).

Anyway it all ended up being for the best, because once I got over my sulking we went to Mixed, a Korean place I’d been wanting to try. It was really good!

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It’s the whole Chipotle concept; you make your own rice bowl with whatever proteins and toppings you want. I got the wonderfully chewy whole grain blend topped with sauteed shiitakes, squash, spinach, and pickled carrots (omg the best). Cooked in a clay pot (a little extra but well worth it) and topped with a fried egg. Delish!

It was also an extremely affordable meal, particularly because each person got two complimentary sauces. Steve was basically ladling his into his mouth- he loved loved loved it.

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The next morning, we got in the car and grew more and more excited as mountains appeared in the distance, then grew closer and closer.

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Asheville! We lucked out with BEAUTIFUL weather for our anniversary weekend. I embarked on this hike in just a fleece, and ended up removing it and hiking in just my tshirt and jeans as the hike progressed. I thought the look of these trees was really neat.

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We took a hike called John’s Rock Loop, and we spent a lot of it going, “The view has to be close! This feels like the top!”

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Then one more gigantic hill (it is so so hard trying to convey the scale of these things!)  2014-11-08 14.28.57

A little gap through the trees seemed to indicate it was imminent…

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At long last, after we feared we’d never reach the view, it appeared.

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Pretty magnificent, no?!

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Steve celebrates these things by doing handstands.

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We were worried we might miss out on the best of the fall foliage, but that worry was immediately assuaged when we saw this beauty. That edifice across the valley is the John’s Rock in the hike’s name.

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Love the big wide open spaces in Asheville. In general, growing up in the west, I crave experiences like this in the East, which feels overcrowded in comparison. Good to remember that there’s space left in the world.

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There were lots of happy people and dogs joining us. Not naming names, or pointing out where the person may or may not be pictured (and I totally can’t remember anyway) but one person on this mountaintop definitely just pulled out a joint and started smoking it in front of everyone! Oh, Asheville. Land of hippies. (We also walked through a cloud during our descent that had a pretty unmistakeable smell. Lots of folks communing with nature!)

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Anniversary-ers.

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Then we were off to watch the sun set at the best view in town, at the Grove Park Inn. We made it with probably two minutes to spare to watch the sun disappear over the mountains. Such a treat.

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We regrouped at the hotel (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Hotwire, since we stayed at the loudest hotel in the world. But Asheville was wonderful, so who really cares?) I slept off a random migraine, which is good, because we had an incredible anniversary dinner at The Red Stag.

Pictures aren’t going to do it justice. As Steve accurately described it, it was a vampire’s castle. Plush drapery, crazy elk horns and things hanging on the wall, sexy lighting. Such a cool place, and amaaazing food. We shared:

– a salad featuring local apples, cheese and lamb bacon (!)
– seared scallops with kabocha squash on cauliflower puree with the most wonderful rich sauce
– bison ribeye (!!!) for which I got the most luxurious horseradish cream sauce on the side (horseradish is the one food Steve doesn’t like)
– banana pudding

The next day we meandered around downtown Asheville, ducking into stores and stopping at double decker buses for exciting coffee drinks.

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home and back again

Odd few weeks. Got sushi with a girlfriend (this was good, and different, and full of much-needed veggies).

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Then we had what was turning into a great dance party. When I got a call from home, and heard that a relative had passed away. It wasn’t unexpected; he was in hospice care. Nonetheless, it was a bummer.

I won’t always be able to go home for a weekend when I feel like it, but since I’m at a time in my life when I am blessed enough to be able to, I went for it on this particular occasion.

The cat welcomed me by sitting on my lap and making me pet her for a long time. Results as expected.

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She also helped me with my schoolwork (I had a take-home exam about childhood and adolescent nutrition; a health behavior presentation to finish; and an op-ed to write about the school breakfast program). Cats just love laptops.

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Got some time in with my sister at the Korean bakery. We admired their little animal creations.

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And silly cakes.

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And ate in the surprisingly hipster dining area upstairs. I got a sweet potato latte (!)

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By far the highlight of the weekend at home was meeting my friend’s BABY! It was such a blast holding little Owen. Watching him sneeze adorably, telling him stories and making him laugh. The cat was completely flabbergasted by him- we realized she’d never met a baby! My friend Lauren is adjusting to motherhood with such grace- she seems so happy and fulfilled. And relaxed about the whole thing, which seems pretty miraculous. It was such a joy to see her.

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Then back to school. Spent the weekend exploring more of Raleigh with Steve (it’s where he lives now). Am really impressed so far with some of the walking/biking infrastructure I’ve gotten to see. It was a beautiful, albeit somewhat cold day we spent walking around, catching the scenery before the sun set on us.

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Then HUGE treat- we went out to eat at Fiction Kitchen, the restaurant both of us had been most excited to try in Raleigh for quite some time. It’s all vegetarian, and they do a mix of surprisingly authentic vegetarian incarnations of traditional soul food (our friend Myra, a Mississippi native who’s been a vegetarian since age 16 was positively swooning at her chicken and waffles) and innovative new creations. I was impressed with their lack of reliance on beans and tofu and tempeh and things- it was just lots of dishes celebrating the integrity of vegetables.

I got a spectacular grilled Caesar salad with delicious cashew cheese, and a wonderful creamy squash soup.

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We also split an unpictured slice of vegan cheesecake which involved chocolate, peanut butter, and pretzels.

It was so much fun! It’s also a beautiful restaurant with really elegant food and yet the prices are super reasonable, especially when you stop to admire their local sourcing of ingredients. In general, Raleigh is a shockingly affordable city (though it doesn’t excuse the ridiculous amount of meals I’ve eaten out lately- see my thoughts on this at the end of the post).

The next day was Friendsgiving! The absolute, 100% highlight of Friendsgiving was our friend Jeremy’s extremely adorable baby girl. She’s not actually old enough to walk (she still isn’t crawling) but her favorite thing ever is to practice. Her mom and dad think she might go straight to walking and skip crawling. Such a happy little girl.

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She was also enthralled by our friend Andrew’s beer bottle, hahahaha!

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The food was soooooo yummy. Twice baked potatoes, brussels sprouts that were peppy with lots of hot red pepper flakes, sautéed green beans, pineapple casserole (GUYS I TOTALLY MISSED THE MEMO ON PINEAPPLE CASSEROLE! It was canned pineapple bound together with cheddar cheese (?!) in a creamy casserole with a buttery ritz cracker-y topping on top and it was so good!!!), stuffing, kale salad… such a feast! Jeremy also deep fried a turkey, which I didn’t eat but everyone said was incredible.

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For cocktails, Lesli made what we dubbed a ‘Christmas mimosa’- cranberry juice, champagne, and fresh cranberries floating on top. A Pinterest idea that actually worked in real life.

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For further entertainment, our friends Jeff and Laura’s kids led everyone in a somewhat ridiculous game of Telephone. Then we got in an hourlong argument about different regional forms of dialect (pec-khan versus pea-can, sneakers versus tennis shoes, the correct pronunciation of a Bowie knife, etc.)

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Finally we tried Sunday brunch in Raleigh. So many neat old buildings with cool architectural details.

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Steve got a breakfast burrito.

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And because the owners of this establishment are wonderful people, I was permitted to get a soup and half sandwich with my half sandwich being a bagel with lox! Can’t remember the last time I got to had one of these- a super salty everything bagel with cream cheese, snappy cucumbers, and delicious smoked salmon. Plus an apple and squash soup on the side that was delightfully acidic.

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Sidebar- I was looking through old blog posts from back in college round 1, and am disgusted at how much I go out to eat now in comparison to the quantity of home cooking I did back then. It’s healthier, more affordable, and a nice end-of-day ritual to make one’s own food. Plus, hello, I’m a broke grad student! I need to view going out to eat as a treat- rare, and worth thinking about instead of just an occasion where I throw up my hands and don’t feel like using any of the ingredients I have in my apartment. I need to be financially savvy, and as a nutrition student I need to walk the walk of healthy home cooking. This is a prime New Year’s resolution target!

back in the groove

After I was done with all the blissful relaxation of fall break, I was back in the groove of classes.

Something I’ve come to realize is that I value both having friends *in* my program and friends *not* in my program. My peers in my program are great, and we’re amazingly supportive of one another. It’s much less competitive than I’d feared. Nonetheless, however, I’m surrounded by perpetually anxious type A types and it can be a bit contagious.

So I see my other friends and hear about the psycho parents for whom they nanny!

I love Andrea because she has crappy health issues that keep her from being able to eat onions, peppers, tomatoes, or chocolate (agh!) but is still really cheerful and optimistic and cooks delicious things without those ingredients. This is her pasta dish.

Whole wheat pasta and chopped avocado:

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A glug of fancy olive oil…

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And a bunch of lemon zest on top

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Andrea is such a trooper. She’s had a crappy history with reflux and she’s managing it with a lot of grace despite the fact that she cannot eat onions, peppers, tomatoes, or chocolate (!!). This was a delicious delicious meal. (We rounded it out with salad and wine).

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Also, when my fall break was up Steve’s crazy work deadline was up, meaning he could properly move into his new place in Raleigh and we could actually explore the neighborhood!

We ended up at the super cool The Station for dinner.

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When I saw the menu, I knew I had NO CHOICE but to get the roasted beet LT.

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It was extraordinary. While we ate we enjoyed the Halloween ambiance (yes this meal was eaten a good long while ago, when it was warm enough to eat outside- though actually I had coffee outside the day before yesterday and it was pleasant; bless you North Carolina- and when there were still Halloween directions around).

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Then we went inside to enjoy some live music! There was a duo of really talented musicians who played some covers (Johnny Cash!) and some of their own stuff. Whilst enjoying the music I had this GREAT cocktail: muddled cranberries and jalapeno (!) with tequila and lime. The greatest margarita incarnation I’ve had in quite some time.

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The inside was also pretty dang cool looking.

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Problem, however: as we got up to leave, I grabbed my purse and leaned my hand on the counter for a moment… and felt AGONIZING PAIN in my right wrist! Horrified, I looked down and saw something thick and spiky sticking out of it. Loopy with pain, I did the first thing I could think of and ripped it out. I was confused and sore as we walked home, clutching my wrist in the opposite hand to lessen the sharp pain… and as we walked, we saw a black widow spider merrily spinning its web on the side of the sidewalk! Agh! We returned to Steve’s apartment and I started researching black widow bites in a frenzy, convinced spider poison was coursing through my veins. Steve was also horrified on my behalf. He took a minute to look in the jacket I’d been wearing (HIS jacket, which I’d borrowed) and I heard a muffled profanity from the other room, then water running. Steve came back with a terrified look and said, “I don’t know how this happened… there was a bee in the coat”. Yes, ONE WEEK after my previous unnerving encounter with a homicidal/suicidal bee, I’d been attacked yet again by a demon insect that’d been lurking inside Steve’s jacket, a jacket he’d worn all day with no problems!

I spent most of the weekend hopped up on Benadryl, convinced the world was out to get me. My wrist swelled up so I looked like I had a thick pink piece of ham wrapped around my hand and lower arm. Lovely.

Fortunately, to console me, the killer bee containing neighborhood also contains an incredible chocolate shop.

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I particularly dug their historical hot chocolate recipes. The girl at the counter recommended the Italy, 1670 recipe and I thoroughly enjoyed the intense chocolatiness (these are drinking chocolates that don’t contain milk so you get a hardcore dark chocolate wham) and the natural, not fakey, citrus taste. I eagerly await trying every single one of these.

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Saturday night we hit the club, whaa?! Steve wanted to warm his new apartment and blow off steam by checking out the Raleigh nightlife, so we had all our friends down. I am so not a clubber but we had fun- the best part was that we were waiting in line and our friend Laura went up to the front to ask about the wait. She told the bouncer, “I have kids and I just got a babysitter for the night and I really want to dance”, and he let us all in! It was great! Of course I am a special needs clubgoer and realized I’d forgotten my ID, and my youthful charm required that I go back to the car, drive home, drive back to the club, frantically hunt for parking, etc. So I did less dancing than others but Steve was still tickled that I’d come along, since the boy lives to dance. So it was nice.

Our friend Daniel (Steve’s former roommate, with whom he split a one bedroom apartment- DC rents, yo- and one slept in the bedroom and one in the dining room) came down for the weekend, so we took him to the fabulous Gugelhupf for brunch.

Their outdoor dining area is wonderful, but I was REALLY bee averse by this point and there were a few buzzing around. Steve and Daniel were kind enough to sit in the upper atrium with me (which was still really pretty).

I got a mushroom omelet, which came with fruit.

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Steve naturally had been horribly jealous of my awesome beet sandwich earlier int he weekend, so he got Gugelhupf’s rendition. He said it wasn’t as good. I thought it was great. Throw goat cheese on anything and I”ll happily eat it.

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Plus it came with Gugelhupf’s AWESOME German potato salad. It’s really tangy and flavorful and deliciously seasoned.

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And then awesome Daniel bought me a seasonal ZOMBIE COOKIE! Gugelhupf’s bakery is the best.

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So that’s the food business.

As for the school business- I wrote a paper, I got a good grade, and I’m really proud of it. But of course, that doesn’t mean you have to be interested. If and only if you’d like to learn a little more about southern food culture and history from a dietitian’s perspective, take a look!

Continue reading

watch this documentary!

One of my professors, the amazing Amanda Holliday, focuses on older adult nutrition. She showed us this documentary about dysphagia- a condition where one has difficulty swallowing or is completely unable to swallow. It affects older adults, people with injuries, children… It is mind boggling. Check it out.

jumble

I have a gazillion things going on in my head and I have a gazillion pictures clogging up my Macbook Air’s none too spacious hard drive. This post is an attempt to deal with it. More the pictures than the thoughts, since I’m “studying for finals” and actually

1. Replacing my modem, ugh. Of course Time Warner Cable’s stellar customer service necessitates driving 17 miles away to get something essential. And of course it breaks during finals week.
2. Christmas shopping, whee! Because if you have to go to North Durham you might as well go to Everything but Grannie’s Panties, the greatest thrift/antique shop in the world.
3. Dealing with week THREE of the cold that will not go away. It mostly consists of coughing like a seal bark and not being motivated to do anything. Awesome- I’m annoying my roommate and missing morning biostatistics (well truthfully being too sick for biostatistics isn’t that tragic)
4. Being depressed about the events of the world. See previous post.

I miss my family. Here’s some pictures of one time I got to be home, back at the end of summer before I started grad school. All of the pictures are all of Chinese food for some reason…

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Went with my mom and my sister and my sister’s boyfriend to A and J, the best Chinese place ever. Amazing, interesting food for crazy crazy cheap prices. Lots of vegetarian choices (my best friend could still feast there when she was a vegan) and gluten free options too.

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Above from left to right ish we have a spicy cabbage slaw-y salad (not that different from the curtido that comes from pupusas, actually), a dried tofu and mushroom dish, some yummy seaweed salad, a cold creamy tofu dish with scallions and thousand year old egg, shredded tofu with peanuts and cilantro, congee, delicious crispy quick pickled cucumbers.

Later additions included a porky thing for Eric (background) and what I think they called a thousand layer pastry that was like naan and a croissant had a delicious baby.

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And THE BEST sesame noodles. Aggghh, thick creamy sweetish spicyish sauce around perfectly thick and chewy noodles.

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Then if that wasn’t enough fun, this was back in the day when my Chinese relatives (well, step-relatives) were still around town, and my aunt cooked us SUCH a feast!

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I really never accurately describe everything she makes but know there were lots of curries and lots of stir fries, many involving delicious vegetables.

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Highlights included this succulent, tangy curry on perfectly cooked brown rice (I think it was a healthy nod to me, which I so appreciated. This made me yearn for a rice cooker, which I was lucky enough to get from Steve for my birthday!)

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And yummy, chewy trumpet mushrooms.

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And since we’re talking about meals I love, I feel obligated to mention a memorable brunch.

Acme is one of the posher places in Carrboro, but they have “Recession Tuesday” (a dinner special that’s lasted even into the economic recovery that offers $12 entrees on Tuesday) and a brunch that’s pretty doable.

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I’ve recently gotten addicted to The Mindy Project and felt a little unnerved when a character started dating a new woman and after a night of dude-friendly activities (ahem) offered to take her to brunch, or to build her a shelf, or to visit her sister. GUYS I AM SUCH A STEREOTYPICAL GIRL. I love brunch so much. Whatever. I’ll own it.

Acme had delicious coffee, from Carrboro Coffee Roasters, with a cute little jug of cream on the side.

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And OH my entree! Revelation: Eggs Benedict. Minus Canadian Bacon. Plus fried green tomatoes. Yes please!

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Runny egg yolk with crispy and pleasantly astringent green tomato. Heaven.

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On the side, a nice health halo of a salad, and YUMMY potatoes- in a kinda sweet, very smoky chipotle and onion and spice sauce.

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Steve seemed happy, despite the fact that he was a man being subjected to brunch… heh. He got the breakfast hoppin’ john. Rice and bacon and runny eggs are basically Steve’s favorite things. Throw a creamy sauce on top (SO CREAMY) and he was set.

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An amusing sign I saw:

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I did the Franklin Street Halloween thing once, and I’m probably… set. Lots and lots of drunkenness.

Now for something completely different; let’s talk about repurposing leftovers! These are ridiculously old pictures- apologies for featuring suggestions for produce that isn’t at all in season right now.

Amazing soup:

Stale bread, tossed with olive oil and Italian seasoning and toasted
Homemade or high quality store brought stock, chicken or veggie
Fresh peas

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The bread expanded charmingly. This was such nice, fatty comfort food (I recommend using a fattier stock and not stinting on the olive oil when roasting the bread into croutons!)

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This was a meal consisting solely of leftovers.

– Flowers from either my boyf or the roommate’s boyf 🙂
– Thai chicken and rice soup made by my friend’s Thai mother (agh so good)
– tomato salad
– pancakes (see below)
– potato and green bean stuff (see below)

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So the potato and green bean stuff: I think I was sort of craving the comfort of papas huancaina, that nice Peruvian dish with the boiled potatoes and eggs and the creamy sauce that has evaporated milk and yellow pepper and stuff. But I wanted to be virtuous so I added green beans and used kind of a mayo-y, yogurt-y sauce. And it wasn’t that good and so I decided mayo wasn’t much different than oil so I’d roast them. And that worked pretty well, but it was even better when I took some hot dogs that’d been bland on their own (Applegate farms chicken hot dogs- what did I expect, right?!) and did the meat and potatoes thing.

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These are still in season and I was making them a lot at one point.

Very easy, and very paleo:

– 1 sweet potato, baked until tender
– 1 banana
– 1 egg

Smush together, heat up some coconut oil in a pan, and cook into pancakes. Good if you let them cook until they are quite brown, even slightly burnt, on the exterior. The banana caramelizes nicely.

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