reveling in summer

Summer is extremely my favorite season. Here are some ways I’ve been soaking it up.

I went to a backyard yoga class that my friend’s boss organized as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. Such a great cause, such a beautiful day, such good friends. My friend Leesie took this picture and I love how the filter on her phone makes everyone look like supermodels πŸ˜‰

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I hit up Monuts with Colton and Pranish. I’d eaten a bunch of ice cream or some such nonsense the night before so I was a real tool and got a salad at a donut place. However, let the record state the salad was SO SO GOOD! Asparagus, capers, ricotta salata, peppery greens, soft cooked egg- all the yummy things!

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This picture nicely sums up the interaction between Colton and Pranish.

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More tasty eats (considerably less virtuous)- when my dad was in town helping me car shop, I suggested we all go for some traditional NC bbq. Getting my dad to go anywhere for a nice meal is like pulling teeth, but barbecue is cheap and informal and

We hit up Allen and Son, which is one of the most popular places around here. My dad and my sister Malindi’s boyf both got BBQ pork sandwiches.

Malindi and I opted to split this gargantuan seafood platter.

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It had perrrrrrfectly fried shrimp and flounder, hush puppies, and that big crab cake that was made of imitation crab meat and was nonetheless absolutely delicious.

It came with two sides. We chose potato salad and baked beans. It is ABSURD that this amount of food is meant to feed one person.

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This was REALLY fun: my roommate had a birthday and she and her hilarious friends chose “A Wigged-Summer Night’s Dream” for the theme hahahaha. It was in her friends Jesalyn and Esteban’s dreamy backyard which is full of beehives and lovely flowers and veggies and fairy lights and feral kittens who they feed.

Alli’s friends went all out for the occasion. I like how one gentleman improvised fairy wings from a racquetball racquet case he found at a thrift shop.

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This area was dubbed the “Snuggle Tent” hahahaha.

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The foodstuffs reflected the excellent taste of the birthday girl- fruit a billion kinds of cheese, cucumber sandwiches with very generous smears of cream cheese…

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… and boob cupcakes!Β πŸ˜‚

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Shortly thereafter was my sister’s birthday. I took her out for a day of fun. We got mani-pedis:

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And then had the most increeeeeeeeeeeedible dinner at Gocciolina. Any locals looking for a sweet date spot, this is it. I mean, I was there with my sister and her boyfriend so not so much for me… but the ambiance is lovely and the food is INCREDIBLE.

Eric got a beer, Malindi and I both got prosecco (in VERY generous glasses hahahaha).

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We split this appetizer of shrimp and summer squash bruschetta. The sauce was sweet and tangy and rich and a bit spicy and everything was perfectly cooked and the bread was charred… *swoon*

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For my entree, I got a special of soft shell crab because it is essentially impossible for me to turn down soft shell crab. This was perfectly fried and came with a minty, caper-y cucumber salad that beautifully cut the richness. Such an amazing mix of flavors and textures.

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The birthday girl got another special, hand cut noodles with goat cheese and an ENORMOUS sprinkling of truffles.

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And then the birthday girl got this GOOOOOOORGEOUS chocolate almond tart for dessert. Like the classiest smore you’ve ever seen.

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Another fun weekend activity was going to Living Kitchen with a friend. It’s probably a little too LA to last very long in Chapel Hill, but we had some yummy snax there. This smoothie involved cacao and maca and banana and was pretty dreamy. We also split some bread and almond butter.

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My cousin’s dog Cara revels in summer too. She’s got life figured out.

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SPEAKING OF DOGS. Do you, too, go to a bar and go “Yes well alcohol is fine I guess but I’d really be happier if there were a dog here to pet.”

I give you the best bar experience ever:

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This was not, like, a bar mascot, nor was it anyone’s service dog. Just a random dude was like “yes, I will bring my dog Rowdy along to this fancy bar because this is America”. IT WAS GREAT.

Met friends for drinks at Belltree, a speakeasy that replaced Peccadillo (another speakeasy in the same location, which was frankly speakeasy-er. Like, a real speakeasy should not have a sign on the door, IMO).

The drinks were classy, but the dog was priceless.

Later that weekend, went with some girlfriends on a day trip to the BEEEEEEACH!

We started with picking up a nutritious breakfast at Wake n Bake Donuts. Do Jessie and I look excited at all?!

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Clearly I opted to take a lot of pictures of said donuts. Really wanted to document them for posterity.

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We ended up eating them with a generous sprinkling of sand, hahahahaha. Having your food get gross is just one of the pleasures of the beach.

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We went to Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, which is one of my preferred beaches because it’s less crowded and there’s less of a kerfuffle about parking and things. Also dogs are allowed and we saw some REAL cute puppies.

The water was dreamy. I went for many long walks. I was there with all girlfriends so we were rowdy and talked about girly things and appraised all the possibly single men around us. It was grand.

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Then we ate our weight in seafood.

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workweek meals

My old shrink taught me the phrase “the more you have to do, the more you get done”, and I think there’s something to it. I am really enjoying the creative expression of creating a daily work lunch (and breakfast, for that matter). Some of it is the honeymoon phase of the new job. Some of it is having a more predictable schedule, which is conducive to being more intentional about completing tasks such as cooking. And some of it is that it is glorious summer, and I am surrounded by wonderful produce with which to create tasty noms.

Blackberries from the bushes in my front yard:

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Makes yogurt bowls (check out the nifty fork, knife, spoon ‘n chopsticks kit my auntie put in my Christmas stocking one year!)

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Berries (sometimes black from the yard, sometimes blue from the store), yogurt, Trader Joe’s bran cereal, lots of walnuts (<< we’re having a love affair right now for some reason)

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Tasty lunch/dinner

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I saw the Smitten Kitchen recipe for cornbread panzanella and went oooOoooOoh yeaaaaahhhhh!

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But worry not, I definitely didn’t stress following the recipe perfectly (e.g. I eschewed lettuce) and it still came out delicious.

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I learned that one could make really fantastic crockpot pulled chicken with the following ingredients:

  • boneless skinless chicken thighs (<< I tried it with breast meat and it was considerably less good- get the thighs! The calorie difference is minimal and they’re usually cheaper!)
  • lots of apple cider vinegar
  • molasses and/or brown sugar
  • mustard
  • soy sauce
  • cumin

Cooked in the slow cooker for say two hours.

Shredded for many tasty possibilities; but honestly mostly eaten straight up.

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AWESOME salad, made by throwing together leftovers:

  • cooked farro (so chewy and lovely)
  • chunked baked sweet potato
  • kale
  • goat cheese
  • walnuts (see above re: love affair)
  • apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and maple syrup thrown together in a vinaigrette

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Easy, real cheap dinner:

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  • Pack of ramen (or half pack, depending on the size)- my stepmother got me some stuff that was mostly labeled in Chinese but which had a rather sobering sodium section of the nutrition facts label. But it was yummy!
  • 1/2 or less of the flavor pack that comes with the ramen
  • kale
  • fried egg on top

Cook the kale with the noodles (should be five minutes or less) then put in a minimum of the seasoning pack, perhaps with some extra hot sauce though) and put an over-easy fried egg on top of the whole mixture and break the yolk- it mixes into the broth and is so rich and dreamy.

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With the rich broth it’s nice to have something nice and fresh and crunchy on the side. I took fresh farmers market cucumbers (which I had forgotten until I had them at my friends’ house, are SO MUCH BETTER THAN STORE BOUGHT CUCUMBERS IT IS RIDICULOUS. They are seedier but their taste is incredible) and did a quick pickle with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, a little sesame oil and hot sauce, maybe a dash of something sweet like honey.

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More gorgey produce: I watered my roommate’s tomatoes when she was out of town and she bade me eat any ones that ripened while she was on vacay. This guy did:

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1/2 this big tomato went into a tomato basil salad with olive oil and balsamic; a classic for a reason. Served with fresh summer corn and really good meatballs (from the store: they involved chicken and mozzarella and basil).

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The other bit of the tomato went, with some of its cherry brethren, into a saute pan with a generous amount of olive oil. After they cooked down, I tossed them with whole what gnocchi, fresh basil, and shredded Beemster cheese. You poor things, I wish you could have smelled this.

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Still have done a bit of eating out. Met a friend at a Wednesday evening food truck rodeo. We enjoyed some live music there (it was funny, the guy sounded a bit like Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam- but Eddie Vedder at EVERY SINGLE SONG HE SANG. Eddie Vedder singing Purple Rain. Eddie Vedder singing You Are My Sunshine. So silly!)

We both got tofu bibimbap from the Korean food truck. It was pretty good. And so pretty!

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I tried Cocoa Cinnamon, a really well known and well liked local coffee shop. Though I went to their second, less-cool location.

I got a strawberry ginger shrub (aka fizzy vinegar soda-y thing) and it was SO GOOD. But had all the sugar of a Coca Cola so not a particularly healthy choice. A bit of vitamin C, at least.

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On the activity front, I was doing a lotttt of walking for awhile there. Taking my usual neighborhood rambles. Admiring the gorgey flowers.

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So funky!

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However, I recently opted to take advantage of my Duke employee benefits and join a gym. This was due in part to:

  • It is brutally hot outside in NC
  • I saw Wonder Woman (twice, actually! May reflect on it later) and it made me want to strength train like woah. So I have set a goal of strength training of some kind (yoga, Body Pump, lifting on my own maybe at some point if my confidence grows?) at least once a week.

More eats and maybe some exercise talk to come!

finishing out spring

Let’s go back a few weekends. It was still technically spring, but there were all kinds of warm-weather tasty treats happening.

I went to Raleigh for the day to hang with my sis. She and I met up with her boyf Eric for lunch. He works at the old state Capitol building which is pretty cool (he’s an aide to the governor). We grabbed food at Raleigh Raw.

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A kombucha and this snazzy poke bowl that involved mango, avocado, dragon fruit, raw salmon, and more tastiness:

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When I visit my sister her cat does not have the best etiquette about allowing people privacy in the bathroom.

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Another Friday involved a very fun girls’ night at my friend Sam’s house (her husband, Alex, is a medical resident and has, like, 18 hour overnight shifts at the hospital, yikes). Sam had a tasty spread already going. I brought this tasty tahini banana bread (in lieu of chocolate I swirled in some homemade strawberry compote).

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Later that weekend we had a mini class reunion since one of our grad school group of friends was down from DC, where she now works at the department of health and human services.

Colton was his usual charming self.

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Pranish hosted and talked a bit game about how he would make us sous vide tandoori chicken that would be the best thing we’d ever tasted.

Well, he almost immediately broke his sous vide machine (though in a fatal design flaw, this machine that’s designed to use warm water to cook food has a key component that cannot get wet- like, what?!)

So we had this dinner, finally, at about 9:30.

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Continued to take lots of weekend walks around town.

I have a number of neighborhood cats I visit. Clearly it is shedding season.

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A real highlight of spring, though, took place in this field:

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Can you identify the plants?

They are…

 

Strawberries!

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I went with my friends Dan and Bethany and their sweet lil three year old. It was a perfect day in that it was still just a little bit cool out, so we were comfortable picking the berries, instead of keeling over with heat and physical labor!

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We picked a very immoderate amount of strawberries, so we went back to their house and immediately made (unpictured) strawberry lemonade as well as some freaking spectacular strawberry shortcake.

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keeping weekdays interesting

Obviously with the unemployment stress situation (again, as of my start date, June 5th, those days are behind meΒ πŸ™Œ Β πŸ™Œ Β πŸ™Œ Β ) I had to work hard to add some structure to my weekdays as to not go totally insane. Here are some things I got into!

Culture:

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Back when I worked at the planetarium (to date, the most fun job I’ve ever had!) I worked with the creators of the excellent North Carolina Science Festival. Since then I’ve tried to hit up some of their fun events.

They had telescopes and (adorably geeky) scientists explaining their work. Plus a panoramic view of the buildings of Durham. Plus drinks (though I was DD so I abstained).

Kittens:

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Have I guys told you the AMAZING STORY OF MY FRIEND RESCUING A KITTEN FROM THE HIGHWAY?! Alex was drivin’ along from Chapel Hill to Durham and saw something small darting around in the traffic (!) He daringly pulled his car up onto the median and chased down this precious kitten. The kitten was hissing and trying to run away but was too weak to climb up onto the median sob sob sob! So Alex was able to snatch him up and prevent him getting hit by a car!

The vet estimated his age at four weeks old. He was still very very smol! He should’ve been still with his mommy. But fortunately he was able to eat solid food.
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Another cute thing:

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I was watching my cousin’s baby like once a week and I really miss my time with him! The face above was his reaction to broccoli hahahahahaha. He actually ate some, it was just clearly very challenging to his brain.

Nature:

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Took a lottttttt of walks! Helped keep me sane!

Job interview after job interview after job interview

I tended to reward myself for job interviews (which is a dumb thing to do- you don’t actually get $ for interviewing for a job!) I had this fancy shmancy turmeric chai thingie with mysterious ayurvedic ingredients. I interviewed for a job that required someone with a masters degree for a position that could’ve been done, well, by a motivated high schooler. Oh, these modern times.

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After the interview I was already in downtown Durham so I got myself a dreamy lunch at Toast. Three kinds of crostada (avocado-parmesan/ goat cheese, pepper and honey/ ricotta and beet) and a bowl of potato leek soup. Delicious!

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The meals I made at home were none too exciting but here are a few examples:

tuna melt, brussels sprouts, and veggie chips dunked into horseradish hummus

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Homemade curried carrot soup, chobani flip with apples and granola, homemade bread

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Slow roasted salmon with kale chips

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Now I have less time to cook but I also actually get paid to work 8 hours a day so it’s an excellent trade off!

I know I’ve been slacking on the blog front but I’ve had some fun times and good pics so I’m going to try to actually get some posts going!