family and easter

We’ll call this post a celebration of my family. In part because my family contributed so many of the pictures!

My mom took this picture. I am honored that she thinks of me when she sees delicious risotto.

1 spring risotto

Isn’t it exquisite?! It’s from Mintwood Place in DC. I want to eat it right now- I really think fresh peas might be some of my favorite things in the whole world.

This next picture was captured when I had already gotten home for Easter, but was upstairs sleeping my face off (I arrived Thursday evening and slept for TWELVE HOURS. School is wiping me out!)

There’s a handsome feral cat living in our neighborhood, and Sheila has a crush on him. (She often hates other cats, but seems intrigued by him. Sometimes they touch noses. He pursues her much more than she pursues him. She’s a coy little thing).

boyfriend

Since I did so much sleeping I tried really hard to contribute to the family’s well being in some way. It’s kind of crazy though- I totally regress when I’m at home being cared for by my mommy! Slack on the dishes and so on. This particular Saturday morning my mom arose at 5 am and volunteered at a soup kitchen (a monthly commitment). And I… slept some more.

Anyway, I made everyone pancakes (from Trader Joe’s exquisite pumpkin pancake mix). Malindi cleverly topped hers with cream cheese, syrup, and pecans for a sort of frosting effect.

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And then Easter happened! Didn’t take a lot of pictures, and it was sort of… a bizarre experience. The choir director at our church (BETTY I KNOW YOU READ THIS SO YOU CAN PASS THIS ON TO JOHN) is literally the BEST HUMAN BEING I KNOW. He’s a lovable statistician who can make a mean math pun. Gets to work on a long trip on public transportation (so he’s kind to the planet too). He wears a cute little fisherman’s hat in the summer to protect his skin from the sun. He has a soft voice and a smiling face that babies all love. In his spare time he volunteers in hospice and at a food distribution center for the poor. And directs the choir for which he gets no pay and a LOT OF MALARKY from the priests.

This particular year they changed both the Good Friday and midnight Easter services with a whopping half hour’s notice. I don’t understand it… does Easter sneak up? Do the priests go, “Huh, I’m not sure if there’s Easter this year” like it’s the equivalent of February 29th? Baffling.

The service was okay, is the point, but I thought some somewhat unChristian thoughts about some of the nonsense that went down.

What followed was  a spotty night’s sleep. This is in part because the choir had music taken away which was replaced with funereal droning in Arabic- which extended the service by a solid hour. So I didn’t get to bed til 3 am, then woke up at 6 for awhile with the sun, then was up for good at 9. Lame.

My Easter basket helped though! We actually had three Easter bunnies in my family (though while my basket was more well rounded, I got my mom and my sister exclusively chocolate products, hahaha. The Easter Bunny actually hooked me up with some cash this year which was extremely, extremely kind of the Easter Bunny).

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Another of the Easter bunnies was clever and sneaky and left Easter merriment hidden in various parts of the house.

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My mom, of course, made her delicious baklava. The smell of it baking (along with the smell of lamb baking, but we didn’t host Easter this year so I didn’t get my fix of that) is really what makes the holiday feel real to me.

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Secrets to the best baklava:

1. Add some almonds to the walnuts for a less bitter flavor
2. Use clarified butter for a cleaner flavor
3. Bake the baklava at a moderate, not too high heat, and cover for the later part of the baking time to prevent overcooking
4. Only use half the syrup so it’s moist but not soggy

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Easter was hosted at my sister’s godparents and it was so lovely! It was a beautiful, beautiful, PERFECT day (in the high 60s, sunny) and everyone was in good spirits. The hosts invited the priest’s family from their church, who only stated for a bit. Even more fun, they also had the lovely family who help tend the grounds who stayed for quite awhile and were SO MUCH FUN! Their kids were so cute, smart, and fun to be around. The seven year old put up with some intense teasing about girlfriends from my sister’s godfather 😀

And of course it helped that we had a REAL LIVE EASTER BUNNY! My cousin Nicholas has a pet rabbit, Thumper, who is just the coolest, chillest bunny ever. Nicholas has worked with kids a lot, so Thumper has been exposed to their noise/sudden movements/etc. and he was just so nonchalant as they chased him around and petted him and picked him up (though the kids were also well behaved and gentle with him). He was happy to just bop around and look for clover. And he’s so sooooooft!

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Pictured above is my mom’s best friend from high school, Suzanne, who was another fun addition to the party. She lives in Perth, Australia but comes visit for a few weeks every year to see her parents. When her parents fuss over her in excess (as she puts it, “They fret!”) she escapes to my mom’s house. And gosh the two of them crack me up- they lounge around in their pajamas drinking (in moderation: disclaimer, my mom is a lightweight so when I say drinking I mean 1 drink) and giggling, basically. I hope to be like that with my best friend from high school in the next few decades!

I was sad to return to school this year. Let’s be real, who wants to leave being cared for and constantly fed in the bosom of their family to instead have to do a billion assignments and group projects and tests in a frighteningly short period of time?

Fortunately, I have many things comforting me. To begin with, NEW LIFE IS BEGINNING ON MY PORCH!

My roommate and I have had a comically dead plant hanging on our deck for quite some time. Alli went to dump out the planter’s contents to replace them with something less dead, but shocker! Five little eggs!

This mama is super dedicated to her kiddos. We think she is either a Carolina wren or a Southern phoebe… so we named her Phoebe! I can’t wait for the eggies to hatch!

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We are trying very hard not to stress her out, or spend too much time out there. Apparently if mama bird feels like the nest is threatened, she will station herself there and literally starve herself to death rather to leave and get food and worry that the eggs/baby chicks won’t survive. I am so glad I’m not a bird, guys.

I’m glad she’s under the eaves and protected from the rain, but I still worry because the wind makes that thing wave around like crazy!

In other important baby bird news, longtime readers will remember that my aunt has neighbors we call Chicken Family. She was chicken sitting and rotating eggs each day under the incubator and look who was born early!

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Being the first person this chick saw (and assumed mama) she got to name him/her (can’t tell yet- too small!). Behold, Henry (or Henrietta if a girl!) He eats crumbled hardboiled egg yolk (which I thought was cannibalism but apparently both yolk and white are food for little chicken embryo while they grow in the shell)

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Henry is a Bantam. Her Ancona brothers and sisters are much bigger, but my aunt notes, “she is fierce like a Scottie” (the kind of little but fierce dog my aunt has!)

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And finally, I must brag about my baby sister. She got one of the coveted internships at Share Our Strength (something for which, I must admit, I was interviewed but not accepted). She’s helping coordinate their Great American Bake Sale.

Isn’t she so adorable?!

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She had a busy weekend in which she celebrated Easter with us on Sunday and then starting in the wee hours of Monday, the Share Our Strength summit and their big fundraiser- Taste of the Nation. (and then went on to take a biochem test and organic chemistry quiz in the next couple of days, like a champ!)

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She sent me delectable pictures

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Yay family!

mood swings

I went through a fairly exhausting couple of weeks prior to going home for Greek Easter. Fun times, and crazy stressful times.

It started when I had my psycho-crazy reaction to Zyrtec. The culminating event was when I went out to eat with one of my bestest pals and didn’t want to eat anything! (On the bright side, she said she had raging PMS and wasn’t feeling much food either).

We both got gorgeous salads… and ate almost none of them! (Took about 5/6ths of each of them home. Our waiter probably thought we were lunatics).

Hers:

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Mine:

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(Arugula, hearts of palm, avocado, parmesan, GREAT vinaigrette).

It was just a crappy few days. During this meal, I recall, along with the depression/anxiety/lunacy I’d been feeling for a few days prior, I also had a raging headache and nausea that caused me to go dry heave in the bathroom for a bit. Then I went home and went to bed at 9 pm. Then I said I was NEVER TAKING ZYRTEC AGAIN.

Fortunately I rallied by a few days later. I had American Good Friday off. I spent a delightful morning at my new favorite place (I confess this picture was taken when I was there a few weeks prior but it was too good not to post).

cat on my back!

I went with my friend from school, who doesn’t have a car. I feel like it’s important for the car owners to take the eco-friendly public transit only folks on adventures in the surrounding countryside! It was a beautiful day and the kitties were pleased.

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Can you even with this cat?! Such confidence in the strength of those branches! (Though, of course, if he fell, being a cat he would land on his feet)

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Then I had a retirement party to attend, woohoo! Heh. So my friend spent several years in a high pressure economist job (like, work on Christmas Day and every weekend stressful) and accumulated enough savings that he decided that not only could he quit his job, but he could chill for awhile without having to immediately find a new job.

Thus, a retirement party.

We were encouraged to wear golfer attire. This was my first attempt, but I decided I just looked like a clown.

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So I wore a cute shirtdress, a visor I got at the dollar store, and tall socks and sneakers, and called it a day. The party was lots of fun- there were really disgusting prune juice cocktails (hahahaha), and we played bingo. The highlight was just sitting on Myra and Alex’s wonderful screened in porch and hearing music drift over from a concert being held nearby.

And then, yet again, I was in biochem study mode for the remainder of the weekend.

I had my usual study group over both Saturday and Sunday. We had an AWESOME breakfast on Saturday because my friend Steph brought eggs from her happy chickens. She hardboiled those, I roasted some asparagus and opened my fancy balsamic reduction, and we had a reallll good breakfast.

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Saturday night I took a break and had a welcome-to-town dinner for my cousin and her husband, who just moved to Chapel Hill (yay!). I introduced them to Myra and Alex, because they are all 1. Lawyers and 2. Obsessed with their dogs.

Despite Lochsie’s cuteness (demonstrated below)…

lochsie the troublemaker

… Lochsie’s manners leave something to be desired and she was rather unwelcoming to poor Mike and Sophia’s dog (who, incidentally, was about four times her size). So Lochsie went off to doggy jail and we had a fun dinner.

Then I went to American Easter with my beloved Andrea and her family, and that was wonderful. But my anxiety about biochem grew throughout our delightful brunch, and I reluctantly said goodbye to the mimosas and lox and went back to biochem.

This round of studying, we had collaborative snacks. I contributed leftover bruschetta (which Sophia brought the night before and was BOSS), roasted almonds, curried red lentil dip with crackers and carrots for dipping, and (in the tupperware with the lid on) leftover strawberry shortcake).

But lest you fear that there was a single cake for dessert (and please note that on this day I’d already had strawberry shortcake for breakfast and amaretto pound cake at Easter lunch), Steph also brought her Easter leftovers: peanut butter M and M eggs (diabolical) and carrot cake. The carrot cake began as an Easter basket cake, but since most of the cake was gone, what was left looked like headphones!

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Once biochem was done (did a lot better than the horror of the carbs test, thank God) I rewarded myself with sushi. Bento box: $12 and you eat it for three meals. Did my usual: four sushi pieces, a small spicy tuna roll, and teriyaki salmon. Comes with salad, miso soup, and rice.

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Leftovers went into a pretty perfect meal: leftover perfectly cooked sushi restaurant rice topped with fried eggs, with roasted asparagus and avocado on the side. Like, all of my favorite things.

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I also made a Madhur Jaffrey vegetarian favorite: chickpeas with tomatoes and parsley. My grandmother always made lentils on Good Friday, so I was pleased to be making an equally comforting vegan bean dish during Holy Week. Ostensibly I should have been eating vegan all the way through Lent, but I find it excessively challenging/restrictive and already tend to feel that I’m not getting enough calcium. I do cut out meat all through Lent (part of the rationale for this, by the way, is that meat is expensive and spending less money on it enables one to donate more money to good causes, or caring for the poor.) Anyway, at least in this meal I felt like I was being legit on the Lent front.

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It’s very simple. I didn’t follow a recipe (though you can find it in her excellent vegetarian cookbook). I just threw olive oil (a good amount) and garlic (also a good amount!) in a pan, added tomatoes (fresh are good, canned work great too, in this case I used canned tomato sauce for a smoother texture), then the chickpeas, then LOTS of parsley. Key was using chickpeas cooked from dry instead of using canned. They are just SO much more delicious, and their texture is delightful.

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And then, in a final treat yo self moment, I went to the gynecologist and rewarded myself with froyo 🙂

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around town

Here is a random sampling of my doings/eatings/learnings of late.

Perfect homemade meal:

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Leftover Ethiopian cabbage and carrots (I made for a dinner with friends) plus over easy fried egg, polenta, and sour cream. We had a family friend who was Romanian. He introduced us to the exquisite combination of polenta, eggs, and sour cream (which I guess is traditionally Romanian, because I’ve seen it at church festivals as well). I forget how much I lovvvvve sour cream. I bought it to make Moosewood’s Russian macaroni and cheese and was delighted to have some of the leftovers in the house.

Perfect school meal:

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I buy food on campus WAY TOO MUCH. This is from Mediterranean deli: pita and two dips (baba ghanoush and deliiiiicious artichoke dip) plus couscous/chickpea/raisin/green onion salad. $5 and delicious.

My Epidemiology TA is the best TA. Everyone is jealous of us because we don’t waste class time reviewing material that’s already been taught (thus enabling us to often get out early) and we get to have class outside sometimes. I’m now dying of allergies- this was in the sweet spot of early Spring when it was warm out but the trees hadn’t gone berserk yet.

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The grand reopening of Honeysuckle Tea House! I LOVE this place! Here’s where they have the fab live music:

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And this is the open air teahouse itself. It’s like Swiss Family Robinson or something!

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They have a garden where they grow herbs that are used to make herbal teas and home and body products they sell in their shop. (Washing your hands at the teahouse is amazing because you use their soap- it smells SO GOOD!)

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If you look at the building from this angle, you can see that it’s built from recycled shipping containers.

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I am mostly not fond of chamomile, but isn’t it pretty?

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The tea house from another angle. It makes you think, “Yeah, I could build that!”

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And looking up at the building as the sun sets. *Sigh*. So pretty. Though it seems to be in the country, it’s actually only a few minutes out from Chapel Hill. It feels so much further away!

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This is the inside. I met up with friends and we sat in here, sipped tea, and listened to music.

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When you order instead of giving you a number they give you a plant. This was mine:IMG_2282 IMG_2283

There was a sassy bluegrass band. Also note, please, the perfect little daffodils on each table!

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There were ots of kids bopping around outside (there’s a little play area behind the stage). There was this neat little firepit, which was nice to have once the sun set.

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In less fun and relaxing news, I’ve reached the point in the year where my planner isn’t doing it anymore and I need to make epic to-do lists in increments of a couple of days. These are not all school assignments (thank God!) but I seriously need to put, “Exercise”, “Go to brunch with your friends” or I would forget to do them.

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I went on a fun medical nutrition therapy study date (no really, though that is a ridiculous sentence). Melissa’s house feels like a magical land in the woods. It is so, so gorgeous.

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And she feeds you when you’re her study date! Brain boosting chocolate…

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… and this epic crockpot creation! When I arrived she was sauteeing a ton of onions with a ton of Indian-style spices (cumin, coriander, and friends). In they went to a crockpot with chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, coconut milk… etc. etc. Don’t know the full details but know it was delish! Especially with the chopped almonds she added on top.

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We made some epic study guides about livers, gall bladders, intestines, and all of the fun bad things that can happen to them. Eesh. This program makes me deeply grateful for my health.

A bit more randomness:

The entire town has subsequently burst into blossom. I stopped at a traffic light and had to capture these lovely blossoms… outside the Bojangles, hahaha.

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I took a long walk (on pretty much the last day I could handle being outside without sneezing my nose off) and came upon this chicken with a death wish bopping around in the street. I chased her back into her yard. I”m not sure if she stayed there.

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