early summer on the home front

Adventures in house sitting: I believe in synchronicity. Because when my roommate had four (!) out of town guests staying our (small!) apartment, I had a friend leaving town for a graduation who desperately needed someone to chicken sit! By which I mean she told me she was leaving town and I said I WILL CHICKEN SIT FOR YOUR CHICKS. Yes, that’s right, chicks! One of Steph’s chickens, Chip, is at the bottom of the pecking order. Yes, that is a thing. All the other chickens pick on her- she is literally hen-pecked and is missing a bunch of feathers from the back of her neck ūüė¶ I assume as a symptom of her chicken depression, she got broody. Like, “I JUST WANT TO BE A MOTHER SO SOMEONE WILL LOVE ME!” She stayed in the coop and sat on her eggs all day… which didn’t get her anywhere, since, uh, no roosters around. Since Steph has a friend with a rooster, she managed to get some fertilized eggs, and put them under Chip to see what would happen. There was continued chicken bullying which resulted in some of the eggs breaking, sob, but ultimately three little chicks hatched! And Chip is SUPER MOM!

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I had so much fun taking care of them for a few days… which truthfully mostly meant getting on Chip’s nerves. But man it was magical listening to those little peeping chickies! I also took care of the grown up chickens. I was a little nervous about wrangling them back into their coop at the end of the day, but fortunately they have some mealworm snacks that are like chicken crack. When I waved the snack bag around, they were ready to follow me anywhere. My next house sitting adventure was for a less exotic pet: my cousin’s cat, Hobbes. Hobbes was not initially real enthusiastic about having me around and stayed in his little cat hutch a lot (this picture kills me!)

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But he eventually realized that I had hands that were perfectly capable of petting him, and he came around. We are now buds.

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Back at my own home, I decided to hold another clothing swap, for summer, since the winter one had been so popular.

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I always enjoy having a “randomess” section- it’s fun to see what shows up! (I gave the stuffed lobster to my friend’s kid)

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On the snack front, I took my brilliant Southern roommate’s suggestion and made a dip out of just pepper jelly and cream cheese. GAH it was so good! (Mom, thanks for the Valentine’s Day care package- the pepper jelly was delicious!)

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I was excited to have people around to show off my flower magic! You may remember from this post that I had a surprise regeneration of my orchid plant, after a prophetic dream. The flowers are now in bloom!

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And life is continuing on our porch: House Finch Babies, take 2. We’re having a hard time figuring out if this is the same couple as before. The mama seems to sit a little differently, with her tail sticking up (but that may just be the nest configuration is different because it contains all the detritus from the last round of babies). The father adorably perched above the planter to keep an eye on his baby mama.

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And soon we were treated to another round of frantic cheeping followed by adorable snacktime. These birdies are such good parents!

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Got to go out and peek at the nest again. Another round of four babies. Awkward little goofs.

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The heat wave has caused this round of birdies to relocate to a shadier potted plant on the porch next door. This means we can now put up our hummingbird feeder again, hurray!

Also on the nature front, I took a long evening walk (before the heat wave started) and saw four rabbits in one walk! Three are pictured below (the other one it was too dark. But I swear I saw it).

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This one was particularly adorable- shortly after snapping this shot, he started washing his face (see him holding up his paw?) I have never seen a bunny this relaxed around a human! Trusting little guy.

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Further on my walk I wandered into some weeknight live music on the Weaver Street Market lawn. I love all the outdoor living that happens in the South once warm weather arrives.

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Finally, since this used to be a food blog, a few examples of what I’ve been cooking lately.

This is a good example of the randomness I tend to eat on weeknights- it call comes down to me wanting to use stuff up. First I had some almond milk that needed using so I used it to make a batch of extra creamy polenta. Then that was boring so I turned it into giant griddled polenta cakes. This night I heated up part of one of those cakes and topped it with a reduced-fat string cheese and sauteed kale and mushrooms.

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This night I had received BOUNTY: my neighbor has an extremely affordable CSA through her office ($9 for a TON of produce!) and she’s getting more veggies than she can use, so she gave a bunch to me. I used them to make an extremely wholesome stir fry.

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Sauteed garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and yellow squash plus tempeh, olive oil, and a ton of fresh parsley. Hippie food!

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She also gave me some beets! Wanting to mix it up, I cut them super thin (this would have been a LOT easier with a mandoline) and then shmeared them with olive oil and then roasted them until crispy. Note: 375 was too hot an oven and some of them burned. Go for 350, and watch ’em!

This is them after slicing. Weren’t they beeyooootiful?!

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early summer rest and relaxation

Kvetch though I do about my academic commitments (and expect more in future posts about summer class and internship!) I also have been on the receiving end of lots of fun this summer. There have been lots of quality hosting, entertainment, and food from my amigos.

I went to Andrea’s for lunch one day (I’m a student and have random breaks in my day. She’s an opera singer and has a somewhat eclectic schedule consisting of nannying, teaching music lessons, and performing; thus, she is sometimes able to meet up with me for lunch on random Thursday afternoons).

She fed me this SPECTACULAR fancy toast inspired by a place in Durham.

– toasted bread
– mashed avocado
– radishes marinated in buttermilk

yesssss.

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Then, when my spring finals had concluded but my summer class had not yet begun, I had a visit from my beloved aunt Jeanie and uncle Tim! (With a cameo from various cousins). I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was too busy soaking up the quality time with them.

I did, however, get a shot of the river walk in Hillsborough, which is gorgeous.

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And a super scrumptious dinner at Milltown:

– BOSS corn chowder with chili oil on top
– salad with lambic vinaigrette, sunflower seeds, and craisins
– baguette

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Their time here was way too short but we had fun. Hopefully they’ll come again soon, along with more family members who hopefully read this blog and see how fun it is here ūüėÄ

Another fun thing my friends hosted-their bambino’s second birthday party! They had just gone strawberry picking and made dee-licious strawberry cupcakes with strawberry icing for little A’s birthday bash.

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This was my first time seeing Tiff and Tom’s¬†new house and it is SO LOVELY! I want to say it was built in the 1920s? You walk up the front path through this lovely flowery garden and then the house is full of pretty¬†arches and windows and brightness. Durham has all these charming hidden neighborhoods I’m just beginning to explore.

The party was a birthday brunch, a brilliant idea. Brunch is the best meal.

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Homemade waffles. THE WHOLE HOUSE SMELLED LIKE WAFFLES!

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I now have way too many friends with babies.¬†But it is fun setting up friends and their babies. Dan and Bethany ended up bonding with Tiff and Tom through me, and they were also at this party. It was super cute watching Bethany feed waffles to little T, who was just SO excited about the party she didn’t feel like sitting down for that long. (Gah look at the baby jellies shoes!)

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Another fun occasion for which I was hosted was dinner at Myra and Alex’s. They, too, rock a waffle iron. For this particular meal, they used it to grill fresh apricots (first of the season!) which they put on a green salad (and added unpictured goat cheese and olive oil and balsamic vinegar)

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Plus cauliflower steaks and grape compote. Totally delicious, crazy healthy. There was almost too much fiber in this meal, even for me!

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It was a good thing I brought wine, because for the movie we watched after dinner, alcohol was mandatory…

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Recognize it? AGH!

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It was comically terrible. TERRIBLE. The dialogue was just absurd. And I was a fan of the leading man when he was on Once Upon a Time and¬†was actually allowed to rock his Scottish accent and have hair on his body… but man, he was particularly awful and robotic in this movie.

And yes, it was awkward being the third wheel sitting next to a couple watching a movie that was, uh, on the erotic side. Fortunately, their daschund came and spooned with me for awhile.

MOVING ON!

On Memorial Day weekend, Alli and I took a spontaneous Single Girls trip to the beach! Gosh, it was so fun. In the DC area, planning on going to the beach for Memorial Day weekend is tantamount to planning to sit in at least two hours of stop and go traffic at some point in each leg of the journey (extending a supposedly four hour trip to at least six). Not so in this wonderful state of North Carolina.

As Alli and I motored along, we¬†psychoanalyzed boys,¬†sang along with the Beatles and listened to an entire episode of Prairie Home Companion which included a lovely performance from the Navy Band that reminded us what the holiday was all about (Mom, it took me right back to childhood listening to the performances on the Capitol lawn¬†for Memorial Day). Instead of hours and hours of traffic, we had just a mile of it, when we were literally a mile from the beach. And it turned out there was a drawbridge up (!) so the traffic wouldn’t have even existed had it not been for that. Reasonable! Plus Alli knew a secret (free!) parking lot a few blocks from the beach so we were quickly out of traffic and headed for the ocean!

Yes, the beach was crowded, because duh, it was Memorial Day weekend. But it was sooooo wonderful being by the ocean! Lots of cute families playing together.

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There were just a few minuses to the day… the¬†waves were pretty vigorous, and thus the ocean claimed my sunglasses and narrowly missed claiming my swimsuit bottom (thank God, eh?!) And the girls camped out on towels near us spent a depressing amount of time taking pictures with their selfie stick… but it really made me grateful that social media wasn’t the monster it was when I was in college and high school, and that I actually got to enjoy my time with my friends.

Alli and I did take a total of two selfies, and that was just to document our awesome floppy hats!

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I attribute the fact that I didn’t get violently sick¬†to my stomach (as I have done when by the seaside every trip prior to this- weird, eh?!) to the hat’s ability to shield me from too much direct sun. And also bringing a giant water bottle and forcing down the fluids even when I wasn’t thirsty. Success!

It was an awesome day, and good to remember that you don’t need dudes to take you to the beach- girlfriends are the best! I took a long long walk on the beach all by myself and felt good about where I was in life.

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The day concluded with a cookout at my cousin’s. Love this: I went from about age 2 to about age 24 without seeing my cousin Elisabeth, because she lived in Wilmington. Now, however, she is in my life and¬†she is the best! As Alli and I ran out the door in the morning, I sent Elisabeth¬†a totally last minute text asking if she wanted to get ice cream or something since we would be in her area. She responded by saying that she and her husband and their adorable five year old daughter were having a cookout for their friends and their adorable five year old daughters, and that we should come along.

So after a lovely day at the beach we spent a lovely evening eating heavenly pulled pork, deviled eggs, cucumber salad, and other goodies; playing with Elisabeth and Carl’s super sweet beagle; bonding with my family and their sweet friends; and soaking up the lovely evening in their leafy, shaded, heavenly backyard. Elisabeth has an MPH so she also is a wonderful career mentor for me!

I ended the day back at home after another peaceful drive, tucking myself in with a smile on my face, my entire body coated in aloe vera (oh yeah, I burned my shoulders off). Life is good.

the sister visits!

I finished my last day of summer class (well, the *classroom* part of summer class- now I’m on the *internship* part of summer class which I may post about a bit in the future). I wound down for a few hours at home… and then was off to the train station to pick up my sister! Yay! Don’t know if I’ve officially announced this on the blog, but she is officially moving down to join me in NC this summer! I’ve already gotten a cousin and a sibling to move down… Mom, you’re next.

My first night with Malindi I was kind of dazed and groggy, so we stopped briefly at a cookout with my classmates and then vegged out in front of Inside Amy Schumer with takeout sushi. It was fabulous.

The next morning (Saturday), I cursed my consistent schedule which caused me to wake up at 7:30. I did things around the house and worked a bit on my paper that was due. Then I woke up my sister at 10:40 x_x Our first stop was for her to visit one of my classmates, who is seeking a roommate (and I think Malindi is going to live with her, yay!) Then we were off to brunch!

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We met my cousin Sophia at Lucha Tigre. I’d heard from my classmate that not only was Lucha Tigre not insanely mobbed like other Chapel Hill brunch places, they also had an additional asset called bottomless mimosas! Actually none of us ended up ordering them (I was driving, I don’t know anyone else’s problem…) but the food we got was exquisite.

We sat outside (Sophia is morally opposed to sitting inside anywhere one can sit outside. Pretty reasonable). We split unpictured spring rolls as an appetizer, which were SO GOOD. Not greasy at all, and the filling was super flavorful (it included taro, among other things).

I ordered the Mollets: Open-faced sandwich with melted cheese, black beans and pico de gallo with a fried egg on top and guacamole on the side. It was quite yummy, and reasonably priced.

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I will say, though, that shortly after we ordered, the people at the table next to us both got the chicken and waffles and we all sort of ogled at them and wanted to change our orders. That dish consists of a green tea waffle with Korean fried chicken on top with a spicy glaze. Next time, for sure!

We did a little strolling¬†around town, and a bit of shopping. I attempted to coordinate a meetup at Saturday in Saxapahaw but everyone ended up bailing at the last minute. At which point Malindi went, “Oh good, I didn’t want to go”. Apparently she felt unable to tell me that until then, hahahaha.

So we had our picnic dinner inside. Malindi posed with it. She is adorable.

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I could eat in this nibbley fashion every day. We had baby carrots, spinach and artichoke dip, fresh cherries, Parrano cheese, and freshly baked bread. And for the vegetable component:

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My neighbor is getting a CSA through her office and has, she claims, far too much produce for any one household to eat. So I have been reaping the bounty! This is a riff on a Cooking Light recipe, but I didn’t bother measuring anything. This bowl contained:

– fresh squash and zucchini, made into noodles using a simple veggie peeler (you just use the outer layers- you toss out the inner seed-y layer)
– shaved parmesan
– chiffonaded fresh basil
– olive oil
– lemon juice
– salt and pepper

That’s it! It’s so good, and quite healthy.

After our indoor picnic, Malindi and I stayed in yet again and watched Remember the Titans. Wild women, we are.

The next day was of course the highlight of the weekend… we went and saw the kitties again! Goat House Cat Refuge is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places in the world. It’s particularly incredible this time of year because of course it is kitten season! You go into a little building called, I’m not kidding, the Kitten Cabana and there are just KITTENS EVERYWHERE WHO WANT YOU TO PLAY WITH THEM. I was too overstimulated to think of getting out my camera but my sister had hers.

Here I am petting the tiniest little fluffball. This kitten couldn’t have weighed more than a pound and kept going MEW MEW MEW pet me pet me pet me!

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This one as like WHY ARE YOU TAKING A PICTURE OF ME? WHY AREN’T YOU PETTING ME?! Agh the cuteness.

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Malindi had this cute baby ginger climb on her lap. The little kitten ended up taking a nap, aww.

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This was when my sister was going, “Agh! There are three kittens and I only have two hands!” (Note that we are both slightly glistening in these pictures because it was ninety degrees outside).

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So that was awesome. We could not stay that long because we had a donut date! I am slightly reluctant to admit this as¬†it seems a betrayal of all my nutrition student peers. The fact is… everyone in my program loves donuts, and they have all been obsessively talking about Monuts Donuts for months. So I decided since it was around the corner from where my sister’s bus stopped, I should send her off with delicious donuts. Of course, when I started mentioning this to friends, they were all eager to join us.

My sister and I split this plate:

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From the right going clockwise, that’s a chocolate-mint yeast donut, a maple glazed donut, and (winner winner) a banana cardamom (!) cake donut. They were all SO GOOD! Super rich without being greasy. Perfectly balanced sweetness. Flavorful dough without a hint of dryness. Agh agh agh.

Incredible things about Monuts Donuts:
– Well, see above, first of all.

– It is on 9th street in Durham which is an area notoriously difficult for parking BUT THEY HAVE THEIR OWN LOT. And the inside is really really cute.

– My friend Andrea (because she is PRETTY) went to get a cup of coffee and another donut that I split with her and the store was about to close, so they gave her a big bag of free donuts. So that.

– My friend Alex got a sandwich which I am SO saving room for next time I go (which, uh, will hopefully not be very soon, because¬†I think I’d weigh 400 pounds if I went to this place too often).
This wondrous creation contained: focaccia, avocado, lemon, aioli, seven minute egg, bacon, radish, bibb lettuce, parsley-chili pesto, sea salt. I mean really?!

Way too soon, we left donutland and I put my sister back on the bus. BUT! She will return in no time. Tell me, readers: doesn’t this post make you want to move here too?