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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One thought on “four years!

  1. You are so beautiful Ileana! I’m looking at your beaming smile and gorgeous face at Merritt Pasture. You have such a beautiful smile! Excellent post! Thank you for doing such a miraculous job of documenting our anniversary. Let’s talk a weekend getaway for sometime in February. I love going on trips with you.

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