life lately

I have a post coming up about various weekend adventures I’ve been having (sneak preview: goats!) but first I thought I’d share a bit about everyday life.

Cooking:
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I created something yummier the second time I made cauliflower rice. It was also a clean-out-the-fridge situation. I sauteed the remaining cauliflower rice in some olive oil with some cloves of garlic. Then, in more olive oil, I sauteed some mushrooms. Then I added some baby spinach, chopped up, and let that wilt. Returned the cauliflower rice and added a bunch of parsley and various small quantities of cheese I had in my fridge (dude, when am I not eating cheese?!)

It was pretty good; fresh herbs are great. It was even better the next day with two fried eggs on top

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I wasn’t able to take a picture of this but I made these soy sauce eggs and they were SO delicious. I also halved the recipe for the marinade and it was still enough to cover the eggs (I used a narrow two cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup both to make the marinade and then to soak the eggs, which worked well for submerging things).

Exercising:
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I have been KILLING IT on the exercise. The last time I got fewer than 9,000 steps (yes, the OCD person in me HATES the days I get over 9,000 but less than 10,000 steps) was March 13th. I have been an Active Alice.

I’ve been taking more glorious springtime walks. I’m so into these little blossoms- I think two different types of cherry trees have been doin’ it!

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Blossssssommmmmmmssssss!

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Buying:

It makes me a little sick how much money I spend on food. I mean I hardly ever buy clothes, and I don’t go to bars, and I don’t go to expensive concerts… but still, WHY DO I LIKE GOING OUT TO EAT SO MUCH?! Argh.

I had a sore throat and got this udon noodle soup at my favorite sushi place. The owners are so so sweet and are always happy to see me and have an adorable little boy named Philip who hangs out there.

Getting this was 90% about the delicious broth.

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Another soup-craving day, I got this LEGIT ramen at Whole Foods. They are really trying to be a one stop shop for everything ever. I’m actually really mad at Whole Foods because they didn’t do an April Fools Day prank this year like they did in previous years. My cousin’s actually one of their web developers and I texted her being like “!!!! what happened?!” and she said pranks are the true victims of layoffs. SOBBING.

That was a tangent, this was yummy ramen and really kicked off my craving for soy sauce eggs.

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Then I was on campus for a free film screening and stopped to get this Mediterranean Deli platter that I got ALL THE TIME when I was still in school. Big blob of baba ghanoush, big blob of artichoke parmesan dip, their dreamy homemade pita, and a couscous-chickpea-raisin salad (they overdo it on the raisins so I don’t eat them all).

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Reading:

The Chapel Hill Public Library is a huge part of my self care. Love them. Some recent selections include:

  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Dude. This book. I got it because I felt like cancer as a theme kept popping up in my personal life (ugh), and I’d also explored it some in my professional life (mostly as it related to nutrition and the creepy ways in which cancer cells change your body’s energy-burning machinery to better make copies of themselves). But this book was incredible. He calls it a biography of cancer because, as he explains it, as he was doing this research on the history of our human understanding of cancer and approaches to treating it, he realized that cancer and its various qualities was becoming a character unto itself. I learned a lot of rather shocking things (for example, one kind of leukemia chemotherapy is literally derived from mustard gas. Back in WW1 they noticed that the soldiers who survived mustard gas attacks had dramatically reduced white blood cells forming in their bone marrow and they applied that to leukemia). The book is just really well written, too, jumping back and forth in time to analyze treatment modalities for various types of cancer, how we started learning about chemo and radiation and so on, who were the big figures involved in the battle, how did the big money fights happen. I highly recommend it!
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer- lots of heart, surprisingly.
  • The Color Master, by Aimee Bender. She is one of my FAVORITE writers- her stuff is a bit surreal, which I enjoy. This, her latest short story collection, is my new favorite of hers. The title story in particular is great.
  • The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Attwood. She is one of my favorites but this book didn’t really do it for me. However, I reread The Handmaid’s Tale and am REAL EXCITED about the Hulu miniseries they’re making of it. Trailer here.
  • Generally, mystery/thriller books. Particularly written by Europeans. I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (though was less enthused by the sequels) and it really got me in a Scandinavian thriller frame of mind.  I’ve enjoyed books by Jo Nesbo in this genre. I also love a classic British mystery full of weird people and discussions of the weird British class system. I’ve been reading Kate Atkinson, which has scratched this itch. (I know Life After Life is the really famous one by Kate Atkinson and I got it from the library after a long wait. I couldn’t get into it to save my life. Oops!)
  • Longreads. Every Sunday afternoon I open up a bunch of articles and then gradually read them through the week (I have to space them out cause some of them are reeeeeeaaaallllllly depressing). They consistently link to brilliant, thought-provoking articles from all over the Internet.
  • The New York Times. With the whole war on the media coming from the White House, I decided 2017 was a really good time to pay for my first (online) newspaper subscription. They do some mighty good reporting.

Funning:

International Women’s Day was widely celebrated in this area. I was hanging out at Weaver Street Market waiting to meet a friend and witnessed three awesome generations of women.

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Speaking of chicks (😂 ) I’ve been visiting these little baby guys at the local garden store on an almost daily basis. THE PEEPING!

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When they nap they do the weirdest thing with stretching out their necks. I guess it’s comfortable when you’re a chicken?

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Here’s a bizarre experience I had: my lovely roomie Alli kindly invited me to join her and her crew for some low-key Tuesday night karaoke. I happily accepted the invitation and, seeing a crowd of only five people or so at the bar, signed up to sing the always-classic Tainted Love. Butttttt as the person before me finished his performance, an ENTIRE BUSLOAD OF PEOPLE GOT DROPPED OFF AT THE BAR. As they poured in, the emcee announced “And up next, we have Ileana!”

I mean it’s totally fine because my soul left my body and spent the next four minutes on the ceiling of the bar. No idea what happened.

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Things were quite exciting for awhile there in Chapel Hill because of basketball-ing.

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I honestly wasn’t even going to watch the NCAA championship game but Kyle and Shay, who are new in town, asked me if I knew anywhere cool to watch it. I have an old friend who used to work the door at a bar on Franklin Street, so I hit him up. He no longer works there, but told me that they’d be showing the game at the planetarium for employees and friends and I could probably get in, so I did some more strategic texting with another old planetarium buddy and yes, we were invited! SO, off we went.

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This picture is ridiculous and I LOVE IT. I started to feel insecure about the size of my head because Shaylen’s glow sticks made these adorable hippie headbands for her but would not clasp around my enormous noggin for the life of me.

It ended up being amazing being at the planetarium because when UNC WON HOLLA HOLLA HURRAY, we were right there on Franklin Street and ran out into absolute bedlam.

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We only stayed for a few minutes (we saw the fireworks but not the bonfires, hahaha) but it was nice being caught up in that kind of happiness.

The next day, the sky shone a beautiful Carolina blue. And it was free cone day at Ben and Jerrys! Just such a confluence of happiness in downtown Chapel Hill!

(I opted out of the ice cream. I’m not 18 anymore. I can’t wait in line that long. For the record, it stretched around the next block. This pic shows about a third of it).

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Annoying:

Nobody does pollen like North Carolina, dude.

This is what you see after a rain storm.

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So. much. tree sperm. Ugh. Sneezing and itchy eyes and runny noses abound. I actually think my allergies are slightly better this year (profuse knocking on wood), and along with the Claritin D I take daily (which is good but STUPID expensive and a real pain to buy because with the fears that you’ll use it to make meth you can only buy like 20 pills at a time), I partly attribute the improvement in allergy symptoms to having a cat living in my home for the first time since I moved to NC. Children who grow up with pets in the home are less likely to have allergies. So it’s not that much of a stretch?!

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I’m also annoyed because I got a new kind of flea medicine for my little cat and she seems to really hate how it feels on the back of her neck (she ripped off and destroyed her collar). It also smells bad. I have a literal Smelly Cat.

Watching:

I took those pollen pics by the movie theater where I went for a spontaneous Tuesday morning viewing (with one friend who works irregular hours for a moving company and another friend who works irregular hours as a legal economics consultant) of GET OUT.  My roomie saw it first and recommended it and also pointed out that once you see it you can then read all the think pieces all over the Internet about it. Which is always fun! I did for sure, and was proud of myself for catching some (but DEFINITELY not all) of the symbolism.

I also saw the new live action Beauty and the Beast. I liked it. I always enjoy films and plays that the cast clearly had fun making. Ewan McGregor’s French accent was endearingly horrible. Emma Watson is a cutie. They went a little overboard with the CGI, particularly during Be Our Guest (it was pretty cringey) but overall it was an enjoyable little movie.

Also, I got Hulu Plus for a month because I was so excited for the Handmaid’s Tale and also I had a new email I could use for a free trial 😀 This is the part where I confess I’ve been watching a stupid amount of TV in my periods of funemployment

Shows I’m not embarrassed to watch:

  • Mad Men. I watched the first three or so seasons at one point (my mom and I were going through the DVDs when I still lived at home) but then I caught up with the show and stopped watching for awhile. I tried to start where I left off and was reaaaaaaal lost. So I started again from the beginning, and made it all the way through this time. It’s so so so dark and kind of makes you think dark things about human nature. But it’s so well made and I freaking LIVE for the costumes. Something I miss in the later seasons is the magical world-making Don and Peggy do during ad pitches.
  • Girls. This season is freaking KILLING IT. I’ve gotten somewhat weepy during virtually every episode.
  • The Americans. This is also one I’m behind on, but I am dazzled by the acting in it. And the chemistry between Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys is nothing to sneer at (I mean dude they had a baby in real life).
  • Big Love. Who doesn’t love speculating about the secret lives of polygamist Mormons?! Chloe Sevigny is freakin’ amazing in this.

Shows I’m semi-embarrassed to watch:

  • Inside Amy Schumer. Sometimes it’s brilliant (I really loved The Food Room, the mock Aaron Sorkin show set at a McDonalds) and sometimes it’s stupid. I liked her SO MUCH and then Colton went and ruined it and told me it’s all over the internet that she plagiarizes her jokes. DISLIKE very much if this is true.
  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend. I’m embarrassed by the title but it’s a VERY FEMINIST SHOW. And like Inside Amy Schumer, it’s inconsistent. There are some seriously excellent musical numbers that I consistently enjoy. But the lead character is a fairly cringe worthy narcissist, and while I get that it’s for comedic value and also to prove a point about typical roles for men vs women, it gets a bit much for me.
  • New Girl. I’m not caught up in current seasons (and I hear they’re meh anyway) but I’m working my way through old episodes with my sister and it’s fun. I really love Winston and his love for his cat. Enjoyable silliness.

Shows I’m embarrassed to watch but do anyway:

  • Unreal. Do people know about this show?! It’s on Lifetime of all places but it’s really got moments of brilliance. It’s about a showrunner and her producer (with whom she has sort of a codependent/dysfunctional mothering relationship) for a show that is essentially The Bachelor in disguise. All about the psychological torture inflicted on reality show contestants.

One does not watch podcasts per se, but I also want to give a shoutout to the Jillian Michaels Show. I’ve never been a big Biggest Loser watcher, but I’ve grown to really love this podcast. She gets awesome guest stars (like an endocrinologist who gets into the science of the pros and cons of using birth control pills for various health conditions; a FBI expert who talks about using body language for women to establish dominance in the workplace; a financial expert weighing in on whether to put more money into your student loans or your 401K). I also just enjoy the banter between Jillian and her friends.

I’m literally years behind on it (I started listening to it from the beginning) but want to give a strong recommendation to listen to episode 96, on which Dan Savage guest stars (note that Savage is a sex columnist so it’s fairly R rated). They chat about pornography and Savage talks about the lessons he tried to teach his teenage son. He says that basically the common vile stuff you see in mainstream porn is designed for men who are angry at women. They are getting rejected by women (maybe they lack social skills to make real connections with them), and as a result when they seek out this form of sexual stimulation they’re seeking out something in which women are being punished for rejecting them. Dan Savage says it better than I can repeat here- it’s worth a listen.

Celebrating:

Aside from UNC’s win, I have a personal victory to celebrate.

You may recall this angst filled post when I discovered I had elevated HbA1c- a test of long term blood sugar control indicating that I had insulin resistance (likely caused by my PCOS) and was prediabetic.

Welp, roughly a year and a half later, without medication, just diet, exercise, and inositol supplements, I’m back in the normal range! I dropped my darn blood sugar! As a dietitian, it feels really good to know that nutrition works! It also feels good to carry this with me to my clients- it somehow makes me seem like less of a fraud as an RD, hahaha.

Also, I counseled a friend-of-a-friend (unpaid, just casual and between friends) on nutrition on Friday. She had appreciated a post I’d made in a Facebook group of which we are both members about exercise and diabetes, and asked for some nutrition recommendations. So I did an assessment for her, and we talked through some lifestyle modifications and made a meal plan. And it felt SO GOOD to use these skills I have!

So next plans (while I play more of this eternal waiting game about jobs) are to chat with my cousin, who’s an attorney who works mostly with small businesses, about setting up a little LLC to do some private practice. Even if I just get referrals by word of mouth from friends, it’d be nice to just have a few evenings a month helping people in my community make positive life progress with good nutrition!

What’s new with everyone else?

what i ate

So as I’ve shared I’ve generally been pretty proud of my non-craziness in these rather trying time of unemployment.

BUT.

Healthy eating has fallen by the wayside fur realz. Yes, I realize that is ridiculous, given that this worsened basically once I officially got a masters in nutrition and officially became a registered dietitian.

But who doesn’t eat like rubbish when they have no structure to their life? When they can nosh whenever they want because they often don’t have better things to do? This is worsened by the fact that I’m too broke to justify joining a gym. Yes, one can exercise without a gym, but I think there’s something about the structure of incorporating gym visits into one’s life that makes one more prone to healthy eating as well.

So, last Monday I pledged a reset. I went to Trader Joe’s and didn’t get the peanut butter pretzels, the cocoa almonds, the smoked salmon and caper dip, and all the little tasty snackies that have made up FAR too large a portion of my recent diet. I was set up for success because my pal was out of town the previous weekend and ordered me to collect any eggs her chickens laid which turned out to number a whopping 28 (!!! I gave a dozen of them to my cousin and her hubs and the bebe; and another bunch to Malindi). And finally, I decided to be an old school food blogger, and blog everything I ate for awhile.

As a fairly voyeuristic person, I enjoyed the old-school style food blogs that were just like a daily diary. A peek into someone’s life, via what they ate. And this step was also intended to be good for me, since I am aiming to be more mindful about my food choices. So, please enjoy one week of eats.

Monday

BREAKFAST: None. Slept too late. I’ve kept terrible hours with this lack of structure!

LUNCH: 2/3 of an Amy’s frozen meal. A “Mexican”-ish burrito bowl with crumbled up corn tortillas and beans and things. I realized I was over it and stopped eating it after 2/3 (mindfulness!) and instead rounded out the meal with avocado toast (a slice of whole wheat bread, 1/2 a small avocado, and a generous sprinkling of Trader Joe’s all purpose seasoning)

AFTERNOON SNACKS: a kind bar, a 12 oz soy cafe au lait (coffee with a friend, hurray!), and 1/2 a bag of Trader Joe’s kale chips post-grocery shopping (so so crunchy and cheesy and good; but hard to justify the $ very often)

EXERCISE: a five-mile walk (I use mapmyfitness.com to track walk lengths!)

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The fiddleheads have now emerged and they are vair beautiful to see on my walks.

DINNER: Two eggs poached in tomato sauce and cheesy cauliflower rice

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Wanting to be a bit adventurous in my healthy eating, I bought some cauliflower rice at Trader Joe’s. So hot right now! I sauteed a clove of garlic in a teaspoon or so of olive oil and then threw in about two cups of the rice cauliflower. Cooked til golden (ish?) then added an ounce or so of shredded cheddar. Saved half the “rice” for the next day.

I served the “rice” with eggs in the style of shakshuka or eggs in purgatory or whichever culture you choose to attribute this brilliant idea to. Heated up a little more olive oil and added a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. Then added some organic marinara sauce (just to coat the bottom of the pan). I gently broke in two of my friend’s chickens’ eggs and cooked them in the simmering marinara until the whites were just cooked through. The eggs were DELICIOUS! The cauliflower rice was a bit boring and I don’t totally get the fuss. I saw a food blogger who’d made cauliflower rice Thanksgiving stuffing and I wanted to hug them because I was so sad on their behalf.

PM SNACKS: A billion! Cashews (roasted but unsalted), other 1/2 bag Trader Joe’s kale chips, a pack of Trader Joe’s instant berry flax oatmeal, a spoonful of Peanut Butter and Company honey peanut butter (I got a coupon for a free jar- dietitian perks!)

Tuesday

BREAKFAST: Almond date scone and a low-fat latte at my beloved Guglhupf

I had a job interview (!) and rewarded myself for it going well (not a behavior I necessarily endorse but whatever, small victories) by hitting up Guglhupf.

Imagine my delight when a bloke then bought me a cookie! Like buying a girl a drink except way cooler and non-sketchy! We chatted for a bit, sitting outside. Very pleasant.

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LUNCH: leftover cauliflower rice, last 1/3 of that Amy’s frozen Mexican casserole meal from the previous day. Add, unpictured, 1/2 a bag of Trader Joe’s kale chips and an oatmeal pack

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EXERCISE: 4.3 miles of walking to various locales

DINNER: I had my sister over and made whole wheat pasta with artichoke walnut parsley lemon sauce, plus shrimp scampi.

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Here is the pasta recipe. It’s incredible. I made it once with the toasted breadcrumbs and it was (obviously) awesome but I can vouch that it is still really good without bothering with them (I already had a lotttt of pans going so I needed a break).

For the shrimp scampi I just sauteed a clove of garlic in some olive oil, threw in some thawed frozen shrimp to cook really quickly, and finished it with lemon juice and lots of chopped parsley.

PM SNACK: 1/3 of that large and delicious Linzer cookie from the dude (my sister ate the rest, at my request!), the other 1/2 bag of those Trader Joe’s kale chips, and a few spoonfuls of that honey peanut butter

Wednesday

BRUNCH: Two fried eggs from my friend’s chickens, avocado toast with Trader Joe’s all purpose seasoning

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Flowy egg yolk. It’s hard to even describe how incredible the eggs from my friend’s hens are. The yolk is like rich flavorful incredible cream. I just fill myself with vitality when I eat this.

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AFTERNOON SNACK: most of a bag of kettle corn (!) and a 12 oz soy cafe au lait

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I cannot endorse this Pop Secret Sweet ‘n Crunchy kettle corn because it’s much more in the fatty sugary dessert category than the wholesome whole grain snack category. But my damn sister turned me on to it and it is highly delicious. I had a much-needed wake up call when I actually looked at the nutrition information on it. I’d gotten into the habit of eating most of a whole bag, because I live alone and leftover popcorn is not a thing. I need to just not buy this any more, or only make it when I’m entertaining guests!

EXERCISE: 6.1 mile walk

Look at this freaking Japanese maple just looking gorgeous.

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DINNER: leftover pasta from the previous night (probably a cup or so of pasta, plus sauce), a Yoplait, and two wasa crackers with Chobani dip (<< I like this savory Chobani dip a lot but find it overpriced most of the time. But Food Lion was getting rid of it- probably low demand!- so it was on an excellent sale)

EVENING SNACK: three or four more Wasa crackers with that same Chobani dip, some raw walnuts, and a sugar free pudding (not something I think is the healthiest in the world but I was jonesing for something sweet)

Thursday

BREAKFAST: Odwalla protein shake

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This is SO packed full of sugar and I generally don’t go for soy protein isolate. Probably won’t get this again. But it’s sometimes just necessary to have a convenience option.

I was running out the door to arrive to my cousin’s house by 8am to watch this heavenly little creature.

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He is getting SO BIG! And having solids now- introducing him has been so fun! That being said, he had some issues that required giving him prunes, and the prunes were FRIGHTENINGLY effective, and the fallout from that was… devastating, honestly. Good grief, kid. Anyway, that’s his second outfit of the day. But he is ridiculously cute.

LUNCH: the last ~3/4 c leftover pasta with artichoke sauce, and ~3 oz leftover shrimp scampi (yes I know it’s gross to have leftover seafood but whatever). That was rounded out with avocado toast (you’ve seen it many times now!), and a bunch of walnuts.

AFTERNOON SNACK: more of that honey peanut butter, a sugar free pudding

EXERCISE: a 5.1 mile walk. Please admire this majestic tree.

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DINNER: 1/2 of this Trader Joe’s kale, butternut squash, and parmesan pizza (pictured below). Plus an unpictured salad from a Trader Joe’s mix which contained: spinach, craisins, bleu cheese, candied pecans, and raspberry dressing

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PM SNACK: a sugar free pudding, one of my roommate’s coconut chews (like a miniature hippie mounds bar), and a Kind bar

^^ These snacks were eaten while enjoying Amy Schumer’s new special on Netflix. Anyone under 35 will find it HILARIOUS. Mom, you would hate it and find it offensive.

Friday:

BRUNCH: a whole wheat English muffin with 1/2 a small avocado and a small pear

AFTERNOON SNACK: walnuts, and a chocolate walnut scone and iced coffee with soy milk when I met my girlfriend at Johnnys for some late afternoon gabbing

EXERCISE: An hour and a half of Zumba! I was so excited to spot this sign in town- I can justify $ on a drop in class if it’s just three dollars! We ended up having a small class because (obviously I was oblivious to this) UNC was playing a basketballs.

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After Zumba I felt kind of weird (my body is unaccustomed to exercise that late at night). I knew I was hungry, so I hit up the taco truck.

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DINNER: I ended up eating 3/4 of a large pupusa (left) with double curtido (a tangy cabbage slaw that’s delicious and I always want more); and a sope (right) which is a corn tortilla topped with rice, beans, lettuce, tomato, queso fresco

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It wasn’t exactly like I just sat down and ate those, though. It was more like I ate half the sope, then my sister and her boyf came to hang while I stared at the food and felt lightheaded and nauseated. Then I politely asked them to leave since I sort of felt like I was going to die. Then I lied in bed for several hours, but didn’t actually sleep. Then I realized I was starving and ate the rest (the other half of the sope and 3/4 of the pupusa)

Saturday

BREAKFAST: this incredible kefir

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I got this at the farmer’s market. GOSH it is incredible. I still felt vaguely hungover, despite not having had a drop of alcohol, and I really think the ginger and probiotics in this were good for me.

LUNCH: two packs of Special K pastry crisps (told you, my stomach was still unhappy). Again, not something I recommend, but it is true that sometimes simple carbohydrates are tolerated by a stomach that’s otherwise just not feeling it. Plus they were on sale.

AFTERNOON SNACK: the last 1/4 of the previous night’s pupusa with the remaining curtido, a small pear, and a slice of that kale pizza

EXERCISE: several walks, totaling 4.3 miles. Plus I babysat in the afternoon and played outside with the kiddos, which was a lot of fun!

DINNER: the last three pieces of the kale pizza, a smoothie with 1 banana, a few handfuls of spinach, ~1 cup almond milk, and 2/3 of a scoop of protein powder

PM SNACK: Tonight Dough ice cream. YEAH COME AT ME. It’s really good. I am capable of eating ice cream in moderation, unlike many other desserts (maybe because Ben and Jerrys is so expensive?) so it’s one of the few desserts I allow in my house from time to time. Plus out of sight out of mind, right?

Sunday

BREAKFAST: Nada. Slept late- was grateful to get a good night’s sleep after my post-Zumba poor Friday sleeping

LUNCH: Lobster tots (!) Tater tots, lobster chunks, pico, crema

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There was a food truck rodeo (magical phrase, right?!) by campus and the most popular truck by far was Cousins Maine Lobster which was apparently on Shark Tank or summat.

My friends are the woooooorst and told me they’d meet me there at noon. I arrived at ten til noon and snagged a good spot in the lobster line. My ridiculously late friends showed up in two sets at 12:45 and 12:53, respectively. I got the tots to share but since everyone was late I then spent quite awhile just roaming around looking forlorn holding lobster.

I didn’t eat that lobster roll- I got it for Kyle and Shaylen because I was sweet and kind enough to take their lobster truck order by text. Truthfully, it’s now a little awkward because it was hella expensive but they maybe kind of forgot to pay me back? Whatever.

The food truck rodeo was magical because for some reason there were a bunch of service dogs in training.

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(in no way, at any point, was “Do Not Pet” enforced)

EXERCISE: walking from home to the aforementioned food truck rodeo, then strolling around the arboretum with my franz, then walking back home. 5.3 miles or so.

Colton was in town and it was semi-nice to catch up. He wanted to take an engagement picture at the arboretum. This picture is so so classic us.

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AFTERNOON SNACK: We stopped at Yogurt Pump, a Chapel Hill institution, and I got a cone of cookie butter froyo (!!!!). Also got an iced coffee.

Then LATER AFTERNOON SNACK: my friend Steph and I had an awesome date night of drinks followed by Beauty and the Beast! We hit up B Side and I got a cocktail involving gin and lime and grapefruit that got me real stupid. We also split their Caprese special, which was fried green tomatoes (!!!!!) and fresh mozzarella

I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast a lot. I mean duh.

DINNER/EVENING SNACK: a serving of Trader Joe’s frozen sweet potato fries with some Chobani dip, two special K pastry crisps

Reflections on a week of eating:

  • I am a snack monster. But I already knew that. Trying to make healthier snack choices (pears, moderate servings of plain unsalted nuts) rather than unhealthier snack choices (like all the crap I’d been eating- peanut butter pretzels, imitation crab dip, fake fiber enriched things that jack up my stomach anyway, sugar-coated nuts that I just inhale, etc.)
  • I freaking love avocado. This is inherited from my mother.
  • I still eat out too much. It’s one of my favorite ways to socialize with friends, but I am too broke to justify it this much (though some of my friends were nice enough to treat me to some of the outings mentioned in this post, because my friends are really good human beings and some of them have real grown up jobs, unlike myself). Anyway, I genuinely enjoy preparing meals for friends at home and I need to get better about doing that.
  • You can’t fault my activity level. But it would probably behoove me to add some more strength training.
  • I definitely could not eat this much food and maintain my weight if I did NOT have that activity level. Whenever I get a full time job (dear God let it be soon) I’m going to have to watch the calories.
  • I would probably be less nosh-y if I ate more protein. I’m certainly not deficient in it, but I also probably get too many of my calories from carbs and (really) fat. That being said, the Mediterranean diet is highly validated for chronic disease prevention, and it’s fairly high in (healthy, monounsaturated) fat and carbs and low in meat.

we all need a tribe

I recently attended a talent show birthday party. It was EXCELLENT.

First of all, Shel Silverstein was there.

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Well fine, someone in a mascara beard reciting Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and playing the guitar, but it was still amazing.

This was the second annual year of Impressa the Chessa- a talent show birthday party celebrating Chessa, a roommate’s-friend-turned-my-friend. Chessa is a musician and is friends with many other talented musicians, so there was a lot of that. Beautiful songs and instrumentals.

But, there was also a lot of total ridiculousness.

For example, a home movie of three-year-old Nicole doing a dance to the opening number from Gypsy.

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(Why yes, there is a beer prominently displayed in the foreground of that picture. Talent shows should always have supportive audiences, and my goodness, the audience really validated the performers thanks to all the alcohol consumed. I actually didn’t drink anything- was driving home- and still found the crowd to be the perfect mix of rowdy, easily amazed, and joyful)

There was also a sushi rolling competition (all the talents had a three-minute limit so these guys were under the gun, which was pretty hilarious)

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Also:

  • Two people who memorized the words to the Free Willy song (and one of them literally taught herself to play the keyboard just to play the chords to that song) and then displayed a lite brite Orca as their grand finale
  • A couple: he is an electronic producer and made a mix that sampled the sounds of crickets and cicadas from their backyard; she has trained as an Irish dancer and created this fascinating mixture of Irish dance, hip hop dance, and being a cricket
  • A science show, featuring liquid nitrogen!
  • A juggler who was good but not perfect (made a few perfectly understandable flubs) and then everyone was like WHOO BOY when he started juggling a machete in the rotation
  • A demonstration of a homemade geography game
  • A folk song performance with mandatory audience participation that involved me wearing a sign around my neck that said “Baby Fox #10”

My talent was this stellar red wine chocolate cake from Smitten Kitchen. I ended up pooling talents with a girl named Steph. Though she is an awesome musician and her new album came out, for some reason she elected to do fire starting (!) with a flint (!) for her talent, which was also awesome. So she lit the fire and then we used it to light the candle and placed it upon the cake. That cake is EXCELLENT, and handy if you are a lightweight like I am and tend to have half-empty bottles of wine floating around the house.

I also, when revealing the cake, quoted Julia Child, who said “A party without cake is just a meeting.”

The grand finale was… multidisciplinary performance art. There was a recording of these talented young women playing the recorder and singing a song about jellyfish. There was Enya, and Destiny’s Child. There was paper mache. It was EPIC.

jellies!

As you might have inferred by now, I had a LOT of fun.

And, earlier in the day, I was contemplating not going. I think sometimes we get so caught up in our own hype. Yes, some people get too caught up in their own positive hype (the Kanyes of the world). But some of us (maybe particularly women? Or particularly introverts?) tell a story to ourselves and the world, a story like, “Agh, I’m so socially awkward”, and then we start to buy it. And we go, “Ugh, I can’t imagine going to a party mostly consisting of my roommate’s friends and show up on my own and make small talk and get tongue-tied” and then we miss out on experiences rather than risk that.

Fellow introverts, I am a party survivor and can confirm it was fun. I ended up running into a friend who I hadn’t seen since my planetarium days, who was so nice to see! I had a long chat with one of Alli’s friends- with whom I’ve always had great conversations and who I’ve tended to forget about!- about her cool new social work job. I even welcomed an uncomfortable person who was new in town and tried to make him feel welcome!

Also, not to brag or anything, but I was having a pretty incredible hair day. I had some Forever 21 store credit and got this coconut oil sea salt spray stuff and I’m still learning how to best utilize it but I had really hot beachy waves this particular evening.

Now, further discussion about being alone:

I have been alone a LOT recently. And I have had a LOT of time to fill recently. I have no interest in ranting about my job search. Ew. But I have been contemplating the state of my mental health in this phase of life, and I have to say… I’m proud of myself! In past liminal phases of my life, I’ve been, well… cuckoo. Depressed. Angry. Tense. Melodramatic. Binge eating-y <- need an adjective for that. And right now I’m not.

The weather, as previously stated, has been gorgeous, so I’ve made many a visit to the beautiful parks and gardens and so on in my vicinity.

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But honestly, the main thing pulling me through is HAVING A TRIBE!

I think of past phases in my life as being characterized by profound loneliness. I think it really kicked off in college, when for whatever reason I didn’t make the kinds of connections that so many other people do. Maybe it was the fact that I was in overflow student housing away from campus my freshman year and I didn’t get to do that initial bonding? Maybe it was the character of my rather dispersed urban school? Maybe it was the ascendency of the smart phone which meant that everyone was too busy making plans with people virtually to spontaneously interact with the real life breathing humans in their immediate vicinity? I remember feeling like something was horribly wrong with me. I was reading through an old journal and found an entry from right after I went and visited bestie (shoutout to Lydia) in Western Massachusetts. It said “Oh my God, I’m likeable! I am capable of interacting with other people! It’s my school! It’s not me!” But back in Boston, I spent a lot of lonely days wandering around the town, earbuds in, feeling like an outsider looking at all the people who were doing life properly. Incidentally, this was probably a contributing factor for the horrifically unhealthy eating habits I developed around that time. Calorie counting and meal planning and calorie-burning activities helped fill my empty, empty hours and were probably also an attempt at punishing myself. To be clear, I was headed for a showdown with my relationship with food before college- again, from reading old diary entries, I’m taken right back to an age where I was so filled with dissatisfaction with my body and disappointment and anger with myself for not making it beautiful like it ought to be. But, if that dissatisfaction (and genetics, and American culture, and blah blah blah) loaded the gun, the lonely college years may’ve pulled the trigger.

I felt like I got the college experience I wish I’d had in the first year after I graduated, when I did an Americorps year. I made really strong connections (some of which still persist today!) and had a built in group (including a boyfriend). Our time with kiddos was stressful and we really relied on each other for support. There were weekly potlucks!

But, when that year was done, I went to a rather stressful job at a food bank. Then I had a really disorganized time when I was a part-time student taking prerequisites for graduate school and cobbling together random and inconsistent income sources. The Americorps group had spread out all over the country. I still had the boyfriend, but our relationship was having growing pains.

And mentally (and physically), I was a MESS.

I just wrote and deleted and rewrote and redeleted various bits about how I was a mess, but there’s but so much I want to/should share on this public blog.

Let me just say this: the thing that pulled me out of that mental mess was getting help, outside of myself white-knuckling it (<- not an approach I recommend). The way that help happened was through my TRIBE. My sister, because she is a really good person and also because I was fairly horrible to be around because of all my issues, said, “Yes hello here is the number for a shrink. She is accepting new patients and expecting your call. Go see her; she will help you.” I don’t think I had the wherewithal or motivation to do that research myself and will be forever grateful to my sister for making that connection for me.

I learned a LOT the year-ish I was in therapy, and trying to summarize it would be silly. But the nice thing about therapy, which I do want to state, is that you carry it around with you after it has ended. You have a new language and a new way of expressing things (and it’s hilarious, you can immediately recognize that someone else has been in therapy by the way they speak. Listen to Jillian Michaels’ podcast, for example!) And, there are some lessons that you learn that seem particularly relevant at certain points in time. And right now, the thing keep saying to myself is, “You are not alone and don’t have to do everything alone. It’s important to utilize a support system.” Thank God!

So, I’ve been calling my mom. I’ve been babysitting my cousin’s little baby nugget on a weekly basis. I’ve been trying to connect with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, from past jobs and neighborhoods. I helped a friend move and appreciated the combination of socialization and strength training. I’m cultivating newer friendships. I’m sending spontaneous texts for folks to come join me to sit outside on a warm night. I’m exploring the idea of phone dates, even though it’s not my usual style (and I had a great chat with a graduate school friend who’s rocking life in DC!) I shadowed an RD at UNC’s eating disorders center to get a look at another specialty- making a connection and building skills/knowledge. I’m doing long, silly text conversations with my aunt. I’ve been scheduling roommate dates. I’ve been saying yes to more social opportunities. Also, I asked my hot exterminator to have a margarita with me in the backyard when I was his last client of the day 😉

Many things, not just friendship, have made this gap in my life more doable. For example, I don’t want to discount the antidepressant I take every morning! I was someone who benefited enormously from therapy and also reached a point where my neurotransmitters were preventing me from making progress and a small dose of medication was the right choice for me, and I’m grateful to have it and will evangelize about Zoloft to anyone who’s interested.

Also, I’m very grateful to the local public library for having a wonderful selection- right now I’m reading The Emperor of All Maladies. I have a cat who’s stoked to see me when I come home which is really astonishingly good for my mental health. I live in a state with a temperate climate, allowing me to get outside and get my endorphins on most days, without having to spend money on a gym or some such thing. I have my cousin’s HBO password 🙂

But, a tribe. A tribe is great. If you feel very very wrapped up your own mind and like you can’t escape a cycle of your own destructive thoughts (<- this is called rumination and I learned all about it in therapy!), just try calling someone. Or texting someone. Or emailing someone. Or chatting with someone at the grocery store. You don’t have to spew about your mental anguish, you just have to connect with someone.

I promise, that for me, though it started with just texting someone a “How are you?”, that helped. Talking about a funny cat video. Quoting a stupid movie. Analyzing red carpet looks. Stupid little conversations really can break a cycle. When I connected with someone, it made the nasty thoughts in my head less huge. And then I was more capable of having the really deep intense conversations because I had built connections.

Since that’s apparently the topic of the day, some other resources, that I’ve found helpful for mental health:

  • Book: Drinking, A Love Story. I bought this trying to understand a family member with a history of alcoholism. But then I read it and, go figure, it made me understand myself more. If you are someone who hates being home alone with your own thoughts, this is a good one, whatever your poison may be, alcohol or otherwise. Also, every time I reread it, it makes me think of a new person and helps me build some understanding for them. I think the whole literature of addiction is useful even if you are not an addict. First of all, you probably know someone who is (it’s real common!) And, the kinds of skills people use in recovery (giving proper apologies, learning coping skills, SUPPORT SYSTEMS!) are useful to allllll of us.
  • Book: Life Without Ed. Shadowing with an eating disorder dietitian made me want to reread this. My state of mind was very different this time reading it than the first time I did. I.e., the first time I read it my therapist had recommended it to use to attack my own disordered eating habits. The second time I read it, last week, it was from a place of being recovered (an amazing miracle I was never totally sure was possible til it actually happened). The purpose this time was to access a perspective of potential patients.
    This book is a memoir and workbook from a woman who’s recovered from anorexia. Some people may find her (and her therapist’s) approach to disordered eating helpful: she externalized her eating disorder as a separate person (named Ed, short for Eating Disorder; thus, the title of the book). She talks about analyzing the criticisms and suggestions from “Ed” (like “you’re the fattest person in this room!” “skip a meal!” “binge eat and you’ll feel better!”, etc.) and learning to disagree with and disobey those thoughts. That approach didn’t resonate with me when I was struggling with eating, but maybe it would resonate with some of yall?
    Aside from “Ed”, something I like about this book is that it discusses behaviors that don’t necessarily have to do with eating but still indicate disordered thoughts related to food and body image (something I feel a lot of people likely have, even if they don’t have a formally diagnosed eating disorder).
    For example, she has an anecdote about being a completely different person in the mirror from one day to the next. Linked to this, she talks about the value of (at least temporarily) ceding certain powers away from yourself to give yourself a chance to recover. She quit weighing herself and gave her doctor and medical professionals the power to decide whether her weight was appropriate, whether she needed to gain or lose, and whether her weight was healthy. She knew she couldn’t trust herself or her perception of the mirror to decide whether or not she was at an appropriate weight.
    My question, for you to think to yourself- are there any behaviors or viewpoints you think would be better outsourced to someone you trust and/or love instead of yourself right now? Can you take a break from being preoccupied by your appearance and just let someone you love assure you that it’s fine and you can take a break from the mirror? Can you take a break from deciding what to eat and make an appointment with a registered dietitian to get a meal plan from him/her?  Use your tribe!
  • Book: The Gift of Fear. I am soooooo not a fan of self help books but this book really isn’t. Unless by “self help” you mean “something that actually gives you skills and confidence in your own abilities”, rather than the usual dumb lists of platitudes. The whole thesis of this book is that our subconscious mind has years of evolution that have contributed to its savvy about people and situations and whether they are safe or unsafe. Or, if you don’t like the idea of evolutionary psychology, that our “gut instincts” and “gut reactions” are actually smart. I feel like particularly as women we are told to override our instincts in order to “be nice” and this book really combats that. It’s hard to really describe, but you can get an intro to the author in this interview from Lenny. I particularly recommend this book for women.
  • Website: You can find a therapist/counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist at Psychology Today. My old shrink recommended this as a resource [note that I and everyone in my family says “shrink”. Not at all using it to demean the profession- honestly, in part I find it helpful to lump together all the previously mentioned professions under the heading “shrink”. FYI, the person I saw was an LPC!]. There are all kinds of mental health experts listed here, and you can read descriptions about their counseling styles/specialties. Something I’ve found helpful is looking up who’s in-network in your insurance and then cross referencing those names with Psychology Today. Just please, please don’t be discouraged if you get bad vibes your first appointment with someone. It’s okay to hop around til you find someone you better click with! That being said, it’s helpful getting some preliminary details from this site since obviously if you need therapy you want to connect with someone good for you ASAP.
  • For students: dude, take advantage of student health! Your appointments there are probably free- get a physical! If you are experiencing mental health struggles, get counseling! If you’re having issues with food, see an RD! These resources are usually available at larger schools and usually free to students. Get them while you can!

Hope you have all enjoyed these deep thoughts 🙂 If anyone is in need of a tribe member, shoot me an email at leleinthesky@gmail.com ! I don’t have a job right now! I can converse with you!

life lately

After I passed the RD exam I felt a little bit sorry for myself to be single and have no one special who cared that much about it.

So the next day, after a job interview (ultimately unsuccessful, alas) in Durham, I bribed Colton to have brunch with me to celebrate. As in, I was like “Please have brunch with me so I feel special. I’ll pay.”

He was ecstatic.

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A fancier, funner celebration- with the seester! Malindi was kind enough to treat me to celebratory afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn!

I loved my polka dotted teacup so much.

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It was the perfect occasion! Pretty place to sit, lovely service (kind and relaxed and attentive without being hover-y) and yummy food!

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In the savory department, we got cucumber sandwiches, tiny little pimiento cheese biscuits, and little roast beef and asparagus toasties (I think? This was a few weeks ago so my memory is not perfect, hahaha).

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In the sweet department, mini red velvet cupcakes, mini key lime pies, and pistachio macarons

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Not pictured: chocolate covered strawberries on the top tier 😍

And of course there was the tea itself. I got a coconutty rooibos which was SO good!

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And the absolute highlight- these uhhhhhhmaaaaaaaazing miniature scones. Oh my goodness they were warm and light and crumbly and tender and delightful. They came in two lavors: plain, and cranberry-almond.

And we got homemade lemon curd, devonshire cream, and apricot jam on the side.

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I could have eaten 10,000 of these.

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It was suuuuuuch a treat! We were actually meant to go to tea for a birthday celebration for me (in October… but then there was a hurricane and various other dramas). But it felt more special celebrating my professional success than the day I just happened to be born 😀

Speaking of being born, here’s some pics of my favorite baby. He started eating solids LIKE A LITTLE BOSS!

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Hello yes I love bouncing too.

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Something not so fun- we had a rather dramatic water outage in Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Something happened with water being overfluoridated (?!) and also a water main break and it resulted in this situation:

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Driving to Durham to pick up a water stash because it was all quickly snapped up in CH.

It was rather unfortunate timing since I’d invited several friends over for dinner the night the water shortage began. Thank God I’d prepped a lot of the food in advance so that was less of an issue… but the bathroom situation was frustrating since we literally couldn’t flush the toilets and had to just dump in buckets of water… and then wash our hands with water bottles! Anyway, it was an adventure.

As usual, was too busy having fun with friends to take any pictures of the actual gathering (an impromptu celebration, once again, for me passing the RD exam. I have a lot of friends in the general health care field- an MD, an NP, a girl in social work school etc.- and they all understand the joys of licensing exams).

But the theme was breakfast for dinner and I made:

  • fruit salad
  • coconut blueberry baked oatmeal
  • this strata with bread, eggs (from my friend Steph’s chickens), brie, and roasted veggies

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There was also, of course, lots of wine.

Having wine corks around created a party for Lola Belle.

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By the next day I was kind of over not being able to flush a toilet so I went and hung out with the boys (Colton and Pranish) in Durham. We all ended up getting more brunch (hurray!) with another friend in Cary at the incredible La Farm. I got scrambled eggs with avocado and goat cheese and a cafe au lait. Here is Colton doing… something.

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A few days later, I had yet another celebratory dinner with my friends Dan and Bethany and their adorable little T, whose hand is in this picture- can you see it? She’s three now and HILARIOUS. Definitely a threenager prone to fits of sudden rage, but also articulate and hilarious.

It was gorgeous out so they grilled.

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Once Colton passed the RD exam, a theme having been established, we got brunch again. This time at Rise, where I got a King Cake donut. Excellent!

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As for the rest of the time, I’ve been maniacally applying for jobs and, for sanity, taking gazillions of long walks. Thank goodness for this good weather! Well, it’s a sign that our planet is horribly ill, so actually no. But the warmth has meant that I have a virtually limitless source of exercise for free, which is very very good for both my mental health and (frighteningly limited) budget.

I’ve been going to the UNC arboretum on basically a daily basis. The gardeners there are amazing- as one thing fades, another thing starts to bloom. Right now we’re having the ascent of the azaleas as we say goodbye to the magnolias.

The magnolias were amazing though!

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So many different varieties!

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What is the name of this flower, please? It is so sweet!

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Many many colors

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How is everyone’s life lately?

sadder days

So I had a bit of radio silence, obviously.

I spent several days trying to articulately put together a post about the death of someone without whom the world is a much darker place. But I didn’t get very far.

Suffice it to say that I’ve lost family, not related-by-blood family but related-by-godparenting and love and all the real family stuff family. Shortly after my parents’ divorce my mom, sister and I started attending a new church and met Susan and Joe and the rest was history- they’re the best people ever. They looked after Malindi and me (ages 5 and 8, respectively) while my mom sang in the church choir and ended up being invaluable friends to our whole family. We must have been practice children for them, because they now have two beautiful daughters. We got to watch them bring the girls home (they were adopted from India)  but then had to love their family from afar because their family up and moved to Saint Louis in 2005. My mom and Susan continue to have phone calls that are infrequent but legendary because they often top two hours in length. We got to see Joe in person when he made an occasional business trip to the DC area. We admired their oldest daughter’s Etsy store and bought some of her fabulous merch.

And then, because there is no justice in this world, Joe got a brain tumor that ended his life way, way too soon. All I can really say is that Joe was very, very kind. And gentle spirited. And funny. And dedicated. And took care of everybody. And was a walking embodiment of what a good Christian, a true Christian, is. And all the horrible human beings walking around in perfect health make me so so angry sometimes. But of course that is not kind.

Anyway, a silver lining to my current (seemingly terminal) state of unemployment is though I am broke as a joke the resource I do have available is time. Time I can use to be there for others.

So, I drove to Saint Louis to attend the funeral (my mom was there too for this part and I got- more silver lining- unexpected time with her). And then I stayed a few days extra to spend some time with the girls (now aged 14 and 16).

Obviously pictures were largely not appropriate, BUT I loved their cat, who was clearly just incensed at how many people had invaded her house. When I was sleeping on their fold out sofa, she came in and just stared at me with this hilarious expression on her face.

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My mom and I took one of the girls to the (remarkable) Saint Louis Zoo. I was reminded not for the first time that I am not even remotely spatially oriented, and it took us five-ever but we managed to find these penguins hidden in the back of the zoo. Worth it. I love penguins so stinkin’ much.

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And we also got manicures with teenage girl enthusiasm.

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Driving from NC to MO was quite the undertaking, and I’m proud of myself for being a capable 21st century woman and pulling it off. I thought I was so savvy checking both the NC and MO weather, but neglected to consider that I’d be driving through West Virginia mountains en route. Driving through the snow was quite intense, but honestly the gnarliest part was how disgustingly filthy my car got from snowfall and the nasty de-icing stuff they have on the road.

On the return trip, my sanity was tested when I was on what was supposed to be the last hour of my trek, near Winston Salem, NC, and for God knows what reason these four cop cars pulled out unexpectedly, lights on, and blocked every single lane, forcing us to drive behind them, no exaggeration, at five miles an hour. I guess it was meant to prepare us for construction and ultimately the highway’s narrowing to a single lane. But why we had to do this for 20 minutes before reaching the construction area I don’t know. Also, when it was first happening my first thought was that there was some kind of motorcade (I actually checked the POTUS twitter feed) and my second thought was that this was a punishment, a la Bridgegate, for one of the most liberal regions of North Carolina. Because in these dark times I am much more of a conspiracy theorist than I used to be. (We’d already had a suspicious water outage, JUST SAYIN).

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I returned from Saint Louis sick. Not really a surprise- one of the girls was sick (poor thing had been spending tons of time at the hospital with her dad, hadn’t been sleeping, had obviously been incredibly stressed) and traveling always does a number on your body.

The cat was so so precious and took good care of me. I was coughing lots and my whole chest was inflamed and having a sweet warm fluffy thing on it was amazing.

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My eating is APPALLING when I’m sick. All carbs all the time. Though actually there’s some evidence this may be adaptive when you have a virus (but not a bacterial infection!) But anyway my diet consisted of a lot of crackers and chips.

This popsicle (local company) was super great.

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And the first “meal” (<< loosely defined) I actually “cooked” was:

  • a Thai Kitchen soup packet
  • threw in some kale because then it’s healthy yeah sure
  • fried egg on top
  • hot sauce

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I spent too much money on fluids because my throat got unbearably dry if I went about 30 minutes without drinking something.

This is freaking delicious:

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Less-exciting iced tea. I finally got out for a walk and then had to stop for a few minutes to sit and get my air back at a coffee shop.

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And then once I was well I celebrated by making chili. Let’s be real, the best thing about making chili is the toppings. Cheddar, avocado, Greek yogurt (sour cream is more delicious but Greek yogurt is more versatile).

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And to apologize to my body for the days and days of chips and little else, I made a few green smoothies.

  • fruit: sometimes banana, sometimes clementine, sometimes both
  • milk
  • protein powder (I have chai spice flavored, mm)
  • kale

I have learned that an immersion blender does an astonishingly good job. You are volume limited, but I still find it waaaaaay better than the cheapo blenders I have traditionally owned. And more versatile, and so easy to use for soups and things.

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recent cooking- when winter acts like spring

A trip to the arboretum, whilst listening to review recordings for the RD exam.

You would never guess it was supposed to be winter, right?!

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All these blossoms are beautiful, but make me scared, one because there might be another frost and they’ll die and that’ll be sad, and two because eventually they will be everywhere and there will be pollen and North Carolina will again try to murder me via allergies.

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How I eat during fake winter with warm weather:

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A lovely breakfast- Trader Joe’s multigrain waffles with a chopped up pear and lite syrup on top.

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An egg delivery from my friend Steph! As you can see, her chickens are Nasty Women- yes, that is chicken sh** all over the eggs.

But no worries, once you wash them, they are delicious. Lola agrees.

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A common misperception is that eggs are fresh and high quality if they have bright orange yolks. While bright orange yolks can be from chickens out free ranging and eating a wide variety of nutritious eats, they can also be artificially made in feedlot chickens by giving them food with pigments in them, like marigolds.

To really tell if an egg is super fresh and high quality, look at how the yolk stays centered and upright in the white.

Like this exhibit- amazing, right?! A yolk mountain!

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A summery brunch (brunch, meaning once again I didn’t get my life together enough to eat breakfast, so this was an extra-big lunch that included components of both meals): tomato soup, roasted carrots and apples (I roasted them with some leftover hard cider poured on top- THAT was a tasty choice!), and a piece of toast topped with a fried egg and some smoked mozzarella.

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A less gigantic lunch: tomato soup with some leftover roasted potatoes mixed in, and a piece of avocado toast.

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THIS! THIS WAS GREAT!

So initially when my best friend convinced me to go to Sweetgreen in DC, I scoffed. I found it offensive to pay that kind of $$$ for salads.

Buttt, guuuyyys, Sweetgreen is so so delicious. And if like I do you like your salads with a gazillion toppings, it’s not all that cost-effective to make them at home, particularly if you live alone, because you have to buy big quantities of those toppings, the excess of which can end up going bad and being wasted. Wasted along with your money!

So I’m on board with getting Sweetgreen every once in awhile when I’m up visiting the fam. The last time I got in on that, I had a nice autumnal salad that, for once, seemed fairly easy to make at home because a lot of its ingredients were staples.

So once I was back in NC, I sought to recreate it! Here’s the mise en place.

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Toppings are: fresh basil (I’d already bought for some other recipes), fancy white cheddar (since I was only buying ~3 oz to make two batches of this salad, I went for it and got a local crumbly crystally raw milk cheddar that was freaking incredible), pecans, apples, and pears.

Plus a homemade balsamic vinaigrette made with dijon, maple syrup, balsamic (obvi), and olive oil, emulsified with my immersion blender.

At Sweetgreen they put this on top of  mix of kale and spring greens, but I just used kale. It’s much more of a staple for me because it is much slower to go bad.

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I think using a big mixing bowl for salad and using tongs to toss it makes it SO much more delicious. It evenly distributes the ingredients, makes sure everything is coated in the yummy dressing, etc. A little more work/dishes but a much bigger payoff.

Also, it’s always a good day to use my adorable pink pig tongs (thanks Malindi!)

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HIGHLY recommend this salad. Super delicious.

Another free-spirited meal.

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Shredded carrots with more of that balsamic vinaigrette, topped with poached eggs (a Mark Bittman suggestion that’s so much more than the sum of its parts).

Plus, less healthily, bread and pimiento cheese 😍😍😍

I made another batch of the carrot/poached egg mixture, and served it with some leftover eggplant cutlets (bought frozen at Trader Joe’s- delicious!)

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Despite the fact that I have literally never fed Lola from the table she is ALL OVER human food. Little punk.

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The eggplant cutlets were left over from THIS amazing creation:

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  • Eggplant cutlets, baked per package directions
  • Tomato sauce mixed with crumbled sauteed tempeh
  • fresh basil (more utilization of leftovers!)
  • Sprinkling of parmesan (without this, the recipe would be vegan, and still delicious. But of course with cheese it was even more delicious!)

Finally, I was quite inspired by this post in Cup of Jo and noted that quite a few readers gave a shoutout to this recipe for pasta with Greek yogurt and caramelized onions. So I made it (halved the recipe but otherwise pretty much followed it exactly), and enjoyed it for dinner with my sister. It was indeed delicious.

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So now that I’ve done all this sharing about my meals, what has everyone else been making lately?

recent cooking- when winter acts like winter

We had a North Carolina “blizzard” in January. The weather blokes forecasted all kinds of gloom and doom and 9-12 inches of snow and of course this is what we ended up with.

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Which was fine with me. It was pretty. And we didn’t lose power. I actually came to some pretty powerful self-realizations about my need for control because I get SO ANXIOUS about power outages! Like, what is the worst thing that will happen? You feel cold and have to throw food away. It’s hardly the end of the world. Yet it triggers powerful, even physical, anxiety symptoms. Something for me to think on further!

But power stayed. And we spent cozy days mostly in the house, staying warm.

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Plus occasional outings on foot so as to prevent cabin fever.

I admired the many species of nightly visitors to my front yard.

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This is as good a time as many to mention that my roommate received one of the funniest holiday cards I have ever beheld.

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As for the food- as promised, I have been doing more cooking at home and it’s been very good for me. It’s amazing how quick that mental reset happens if you just dedicate a few days to committed home cooking- your brain goes from “Where am I going to buy dinner?” to “What will I make for dinner?”

Which is a relief. Behavior change seems daunting as one contemplates it, but then doable once it’s begun.

Breakfasts:

Nothin’ wrong with oatmeal! This one with apples, almond milk, and pepitas on top.

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This one with banana, milk, and PB2 mixed in (I don’t think I’ll buy PB2 again. Not as fun as I thought it’d be)

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Truthfully I am not always the most reliable about breakfast. One day I went out and ran errands (actually maybe this was a babysitting day too? My post-graduation schedule has been so odd) and then I wanted to stop at the library because it was geographically convenient but I hadn’t eaten or had caffeine so I was a little woozy.

AND THEN THERE WAS A POP-UP COFFEE STAND AT THE LIBRARY.

Coffee. Plus free book rentals. The mother ship calling me home.

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Some typical lunches and dinners:

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English muffin with 1/2 an avocado mashed on top and (new favorite) Trader Joe’s all purpose seasoning. Plus a bowl of carrot/cashew/chickpea soup.

These way-too-expensive but way-too-good chips rounded out the meal.

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This meal was also Trader Joes’ fault.

I thought to myself, “It’s Thursday and the storm isn’t supposed to start til Friday night! I’ll go to Trader Joe’s after the dinner time rush and stock up! How crazy could it be!”

Well, I guess the teeming hordes had already passed through but the shelves had a rather Soviet Russia look to them. Everyone had already frantically gathered the ingredients for their all-important milk sandwiches.

HOWEVER. They still had samples. Samples of macaroni and cheese and hot dogs aaaagh!

Then I made my own and I added kale. So it was nutritious right. Right? Right. *wince* *salivate too though*

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This was not a combination I regularly received as a child but dang it made me feel safe and comforted nonetheless.

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Kiwi afterwords.

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Let’s be real, in the winter we want hot carbs. That is just life.

This night I had the oven on so I went all-out.

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Oven fries with olive oil and more TJ’s all purpose seasoning aaaand… cornbread in a cast iron pan ❤ I used this Cooking Light recipe and, per the advice of recipe commenters, added a few tablespoons of maple syrup to the mix to add a bit more moisture and sweetness.

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Grilled cheese and tomato soup for another meal. Classic for a reason!

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Have we gathered yet that this is a real carb parade?

Another day I legit ate stuffing for dinner. I semi-recreated a recipe I’d made for Thanksgiving that included roasted artichokes and parmesan. Added some extra veggies (lots of mushrooms, and carrots). Still pretty carb-y!

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This one below is definitely not the most appetizing looking thing I’ve ever made but it was pretty good:

  • First I made sauteed brussels sprouts (used frozen). But they were kind of mushy and I wasn’t wild about the seasoning mix I’d used.
  • Then I thought ooh! I’ll make brussels sprout tots! So I whirred them up with some potato/garlic/seasoning/kind of forget what else. But it still wasn’t so good.
  • So then I thought ooh! I’ll make tater tot nachos! So I topped the tots with Trader Joe’s veggie chili, sauteed mushrooms, reduced-fat shredded cheese, hot sauce, and plain greek yogurt. At that point it was pretty tasty. But that’s basically cause the original taste of the brussels sprouts was lost, hahaha.

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I’m a big fan of the TJ’s veggie chili.

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The day I made the recipe with avocado it was even better. Obviously.

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As for the treat department:

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Camille brought some of these yuuuummy ciders from her hometown when she was staying with me over graduation weekend. This one is made to be champagne-y (no idea how that works in the brewing process?) and is delicious.

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Claire brought me this cardamom chocolate bar from India.

Description on the back of it is freaking PRICELESS.

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Evening snack: I’ve been hanging out a lot with The Boys (Colton and Pranish). They give me a lot of sh** because, like so many men before them, they find me hysterically funny when I’m annoyed/offended. But occasionally they take their antics a bit far and I get genuinely mad at them. And then, like so many boys before them, one of them will go “Oh God, I’m sorry, can I cook you something?” Thus these scrambled eggs and this comically huge piece of buttered bread, made by Pranish. A tasty evening snack mid-Star Wars movie (Colton and I have watched the whole Original Trilogy plus The Force Awakens). I ate all the eggs but admitted defeat about a third of the way into the bread, and fed the rest of it to Colton.

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When I was home for the march, I ate lots of yummy meals and, as usual, regressed in many ways.

Here is some mashed squash to which I added (again!) Trader Joe’s all purpose seasoning, plus some cheddar. And for protein, Trader Joe’s frozen chicken-less nuggets, with honey mustard for dipping.

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This was a small meal, and my mom’s house always has tasty treats, so rest assured that I then got my snack on.

Granola bars bought in bulk from Costco.

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Choco caramel biscuits
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Etc.

On Inauguration Day I knew I wanted to spend time with good people and wholeheartedly avoid the TV.

Meanwhile, my friends were converging on DC. Claire and I were up for the march, Nate is living there and interning for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (yay Nate!), and Colton rode up with me to see his bae, James.

So, I said, “Let’s all get Korean bbq in my wonderful hometown!”

So we did, at Il Mee, where the carnivores can get all the bulgogi their heart desires:

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And those of us with a more pescetarian bent can get all the sushi our heart desires.

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The crew:

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So those are some recent eats for cold and gloomy days. But North Carolina gave us about two days of real winter and now it’s in the 60s-70s. So more to come about eating inspiration for when the weather is warm (with the EPA on the chopping block and more climate change to come, probably more relevant! 😁)