life after all those dang tests

Now I’m interning away at the beach, but let’s not forget all the craziness that preceded that big life change.

After taking my Big Huge Deal comprehensive exam on the 23rd of April, I had a whole week (#sarcasm) to prepare to take yet more exams, in the form of my finals. Lovely.

Despite the continued demand on my brain and body, I took the Sunday after comps off (after some frenzied celebrating on Saturday night) as a treat yo’ self kind of a day. First I got a massage. Then I got a bibimbap bowl mmmmmm.

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Then I went to a Game of Thrones premiere party! GAH GAME OF THRONES IS BACK. Thus far I’ve managed to see the first two episodes (through both legitimate and illegitimate means) but I don’t know how I’m going to make the rest of the season work. My cousin Nicole had an HBO password that literally our entire extended family was using and when she got rid of HBO it was… cataclysmic.

Anyway this was a very fun party. I know so may people with projectors! It’s very hipster to throw out your TV and buy a projector.

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My sweet family also looked after me. My sweet sister brought me an adorable care package of brownie brittle, cookie dough oatmeal, candy, and various other delicious treats.

My cousin had us over to dinner where we admired her sweet animals.

Cara:

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Hobbes:

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My cousin Sophia is SO CUTE and pregnant right now! Little nugget is already 2 pounds floating around in her belly! She cooked us a tasty tofu stir fry for dinner and then there was EPIC DESSERT from Sugarland, courtesy of her husband Mike. There’s nothing like a celebratory cupcake or six. I got the most fancifully decorated one.

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I of course did have to get back into studying mode for the week. It was not easy to motivate myself, let me tell you. Thank God I have Steph, my reliable study buddy with whom I take reliably pleasant study walks.

The UNC arboretum is such a gem. I swear they’ve finagled it so there’s always something blooming. I like the purple pom pom guys they have going on right now!

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I survived my two on-paper finals (food science and biochem) and did well, for the most part, and then it was time to hit the road to Virginia!

I took a picture of this remarkable license plate for my sister. (She loves ham). (I was stopped at a red light).

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I went home to celebrate Greek (F)Easter with my wonderful extended family. It is a tribute to what entertaining conversationalists they are that I have almost no photos. However, I did have to capture this truly bizarre moment in which my sister brought her cat on his Star Wars harness through the festivities. She is odd. The cat is odd. This picture is odd and quite amusing.

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My Aunt Kathy hosted this year and GODDDDDD everything was so good. I was pleasantly overstimulated when I approached the buffet table so I literally just tried every single thing there. On theplate from the top, going around the outer rim: green beans with onions and tomatoes, carrot salad, garlicky Spanish-style shrimp, more green beans with shallots, a nice kale/cranberry salad, orzo, kolokithopita (Greek squash pie- it’s a little bit of a misnomer, since the squash in it plays about as much of a supporting role as zucchini does in zucchini bread- it’s basically a vehicle for eggs and butter and sugar mmm), spanikopita, couscous salad. In the center we have lamb topped with such lovely rich tzaziki (yesss whole milk), a cracker with an amazing cheese, and BEETS!

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Not pictured is dessert. Know that I ate lots of it! Truthfully my life was a sugar binge in the days surrounding finals. I just can’t summon up the energy to feel guilty about it.

Anyway, the Easter celebration was full of wonderful family and Kathy and Tom’s always cool and entertaining friends. It was so nice spending a few days in a whole different world from my NC life. Getting out of the academic pressure cooker!

I had planned to stay in Virginia through Wednesday, completely forgetting that my mother, IMMEDIATELY after our Easter celebration (from which she emerged very sleep-deprived, since the Orthodox Easter service is at midnight and we weren’t home til 3am), was embarking on a business trip to Seattle early Monday morning.

So not so much quality time with my mom (though she did send me excellent photos from the conference: she was there with a bunch of eye doctors!)

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However, even without my dear mother’s company, I decided to stay in VA for a few more days as I had planned. It let me spend more time with family, it gave me a quiet place to finish my last final (a take home for nutritional epidemiology. Eeeeegh we just won’t talk about that). I did my paperwork responsibly, and when I couldn’t bear doing that anymore, I got to love on this crazy ginger cat:

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It’s weird that I love her so much- one morning, she woke me up by gently digging her claw into my upper lip. It was really something.

But love her I do.

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Ahh, then I had a fancy shmancy Frenchy lunchy!

My sweet aunt and uncle (really they’re my mom’s cousins once removed or… something. Family!) took me out for a wonnnnnnnderful lunch  to celebrate the end of my classes. We dined at at the spectacular L’Auberge Chez Francois.

Joanne and Roger had wanted to eat outside but the weather was not cooperating. However, the inside of the restaurant looked like a magical fairy tale. Like, and I mean this in the most serious way, the delightful French village in which Beauty and the Beast took place. Like it was in danger of being made of gingerbread. Like we were going to have lunch there and emerge in the Alps for a yodel. Beautiful!

And the service was just totally perfect- perfectly attentive without being hovering. I am seriously in awe of people who are professionals in the restaurant biz- I seriously lack those social skills!

Because this was a classy affair, there was an amuse bouche! And it was lentil soup, which I already love in non fancy form. In fancy form (this was a wee little cup you were meant to drink) it was sublime. So creamy and… meaty?! I thought there were mushrooms in it, but we asked the server and she said no. “Lentils, and heavy cream…” LOL yes heavy cream well there you go. Of course it was delicious.

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Joanne and Roger are food pushers in the loveliest possible way and enthusiastically encouraged me to get an appetizer. I didn’t have but so much appetite (see: Easter and general merriment in the preceding days) but Joanne said she’d split something with me. I had forgotten that this NOTORIOUSLY means she’ll have one bite hahahahaha. It was no hardship for me to eat the majority of this nummy mushroom crepe.

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There were fancy and flavorful wild mushrooms in a buttery sauce on the side, but also mushroom filling. I believe it was mushroom duxelles- basically, the mushrooms tasted as though they’d been cooked slowly for a long time until all of the mushroom flavor got intensified like a thousand fold and the texture was like pate. So so so good! I love mushrooms.

And then for our mains Joanne and I both got the lobster salad. It was fresh and delicious with these perfect little fruit segments. It had a vanilla vinaigrette, which is quite different, eh? Joanne thought it was a bit odd but I kinda dug it.

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My group had made souffle in food science lab, so it was such a treat to try the real deal at a proper French restaurant! I did the damn thing and went for chocolate 🙂

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They brought it out hot and puffed out of the oven and then poured warm bittersweet chocolate sauce on top, *swoon*. It was seriously amazing how there were multiple zones of taste, temperature and texture in this- the outside edges were chewy, lightly browned and lightly crisped like a meringue. Moving inward the texture got lighter and gooier. In the center, where the bittersweet chocolate sauce pooled, it was dense and intensely flavorful. Yes please!

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Roger also got a souffle, a raspberry one with sauce that was the color of jewels. So beautiful! Joanne got this hazelnut cake and insisted I take a picture of hers too. So pretty!

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It was SUCH a delicious meal. I feel like sometimes when I catch up with family it’s kind of a mob scene and everyone’s talking at once and I leave feeling like I didn’t have substantive conversations with some of the people I’d meant to. So having a slow leisurely lunch was really nice!

Gosh, I am so blessed to have my family cheering me on. It makes me so sad to hear about all the stress and sadness that some people associate with their families. I mean of course my family is not perfect and neither is anyone else’s, but I am heartsick at the thought of people for whom going home for holidays is something to dread. I know it’s a super common thing to experience, and I so admire people (close friends of mine included) who’ve built their own non-biological families as adults. I’m lucky to have both sets. I have to say, the older I get the more I appreciate that unconditional love stuff. It’s hard to come by in this world.

On that note, more cat pictures, hahaha.

I spent my last few days at home doing (still more) school stuff- wrapping things up for the class I TA’d. With Sheila’s advice and support, of course. I put this picture of her sitting on my lap while I worked on the final exam review into the slideshow of the final exam review. #Meta.

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Then I hit the road back to NC and got the first years in shipshape for their biochem exam. The spring semester was at last done, and I had a few days to wind things down in Chapel Hill before leaving for my summer beach destination!

Some of my girlfriends from the program and I got together for an evening we’d been sort of intending to have for well over six months. Sam, Carolina and I had had “South Africa Movie Night” a few months back. Sam did Peace Corps in South Africa, I’m 1/4 South African and woefully uninformed on that part of my heritage, and Carolina is a lover of all cultures- girl is reading Harry Potter in French, for fun- her third language, NBD. It had been great watching Long Walk to Freedom and talking history while we had snacks.

Anyway, this follow up night we didn’t get around to expanding our South African cultural knowledge in any sphere outside alcohol, but we did enjoy this liqueur from my dad’s family’s homeland!

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We also threw together a collaborative meal with a few more friends. In this endeavor we were supervised by Leo the cat.

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Everyone cleaned out their fridges/pantries and brought what they had. These pakoras came from a local Indian grocery store- you could heat them in a frying pan or, lazily, as we chose to do, in the microwave. It was fun watching them- they started totally flat, then had little tumors pop up on one edge, then gradually puffed up into the traditional pakora shape.

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I threw together things in my fridge/pantry that needed using: ginger (a bit), almond milk (a lot), carrots, and red lentils. Soup!

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There were also canned sardines bulked up with fresh tomatoes, onion, and garlic (dietitians-to-be love them some sardines)…

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…and a quiche that involved chicken sausage, onions, shredded carrots, and cheese. I never would’ve thought to put carrots in quiche and it was flippin’ delicious.

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All together. We also popped a mini bottle of champagne, which was adorbs.

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Then icing on the cake… well, chips on the cookies… Sam made Snickerdoodles! And Helena decorated them with chocolate chips.

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And Lesley made fudge! Good grief this was a lot of fudge.

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After that fun evening, I also spent three nights in a row watching Harry Potter movies with Colton- I finally saw 6 and 7 (parts 1 and 2). They were okay. The books are better. No surprise there. It was fun getting in lots of sarcasm with Colton. What will I do spending a whole summer without my work wife?! We sass each other non stop and it makes me so happy.

Also, on our last night, pre-Harry Potter screening, a few of us went to get grub al fresco and we discovered a new taco truck that was muy delicioso!

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I got one with lamb barbacoa and one with chicken and avocado. So fresh! They do homemade tortillas on the weekend, yes please.

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Here are some crazy kids from my program. From left, Erin, Colton (blocked, hahaha sucka), me, and Sam.

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Still burnt out on exams. Still a little dazed and confused. But ready for summer? Ready for new places? Ready for internship adventures? Ready for actually being real grown ups and going out and saving the world one nutritious meal at a time?

Stay tuned!

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2 thoughts on “life after all those dang tests

  1. I’ve got you covered for Game of Thrones. 8 years living overseas, you learn all the good sites. This one is awesome (http://thewatchseries.to/serie/game_of_thrones). The episodes are all up by the time I get off work Monday (Korea time… so about 4a EST Sunday going into Monday). Don’t click the “Free HD” link. It won’t work. I recommend “gorilla vid”.
    Some coworkers and I do GoT Mondays after work. Such an insane show and this season is starting off crazy. You’ve gotta watch episode 3!

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