Thanksgiving etc.

The week of Thanksgiving got off to a VERRRRRRRY promising and delicious start for me!

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My mom is the best. Mind you, she was coming for Thanksgiving. This wasn’t a “sorry I won’t see you for the holiday” package. It was I guess a “Thanks for hosting” package!

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Yes, that’s right! I hosted for the first time! We ended up with 11 people (?!?!?!?! Not the original head count, FOR SURE).

People brought a lot, I made a lot:

Shaved brussels sprouts salad with apples and walnuts. A nice refreshing counterpoint to the richer food. And vegan! Though there weren’t any vegans present hahaha. Note that I subbed peanuts for the walnuts (guest had an allergy) and I only used 1/2 a red onion (which is… uh… MORE than enough I would venture for any but the most passionate onion lover). Also subbed a honeycrisp apple because I couldn’t buy individual Granny Smiths for some reason?!

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Spicy squash salad with lentils and goat cheese. Reliably great, and one of those perfect dishes you can make ahead and serve at room temperature. Also, when I got bored with the leftovers, I roasted them and then it was like a new, equally great dish!

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Green bean casserole (made mostly following the directions on the Trader Joe’s condensed mushroom soup box, hahaha), artichoke parmesan sourdough stuffing (should’ve used a bigger pan, was mushy, alas), and gravy (improvised from drippings, broth, flour, and butter).

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Turkey, plus another shot of the green bean casserole.

I overcooked the turkey and it was entirely my, and not the recipe’s, fault. I don’t want to talk about it. Moving on.

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One of Malindi’s pals brought this adorable butternut bleu cheese crostini!

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My plate! Also included mashed potatoes (which I threw together and kept warm in my slow cooker), my friend’s unrealllll pasta salad (it involves goat cheese and broccoli and sweet potato and craisins and those ingredients don’t seem to add up but OH they do), and Colton’s BOMB roasted garlic quiche (that dark brown chestnut-y looking thing on the lower left-center is a clove of garlic that’s been mystified in all kinds of magical ways). Oh and there’s cranberry fig compote somehow buried in there that my mom made that was also REAL good.

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Malindi and her crew (two classmates plus a roommate- my mom really raised her kids to take in people who don’t have anywhere to go for holidays and I like to think we’ve done her proud!)

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Me and my crew (Colton is getting weirder as each day passes so his latest thing is posing with his hand on the bellies of his female friends. No, I am not with child. No, Colton is not, dear God, my baby daddy).

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Lest we forget, the all-important wine and dessert table:

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I got cranberry champagne (!) at Trader Joe’s that was yummy and there were also various red and white wines. Someone brought beer too I think? For desserts, I made a nice lemony yogurt cake and this UH-MAZING chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Going to go ahead and put bourbon in everything now, just to be safe. Plus my sister made UH-MAZING pumpkin squares with a gingerbread-y crust about which she’s been irritatingly coy when I ask her any questions about the recipe. I assume she put crack in it and that’s why it’s so good.

So once the holiday was done we entered the all important leftovers phase.

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I spent a lot of fun times with my mom (who stayed with me Thursday and Friday nights and then switched back to a hotel when my rooommate returned to town). Mind you, she was sick, as was my sister’s boyf Eric, as I grew to be (thanks a lot, Mom!) so the pace was rather slow.

We geeked out at the planetarium where I used to work, and hung at my favorite coffee shop, and played with the cat, and did other low key chilling.

One day mom, Malindi, Eric and I met up at Monuts. I got their reliably excellent avocado toast and scrambled eggs.

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And then as a table we split various amazing desserts, most notably this DELICIOUS pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. Sigh.

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Final leftovers: a pot of turkey tortilla soup. Sauteed some onion in olive oil, then added a can of rotel, then immersion blended that with lots of cumin. Then added broth and turkey. That was pretty much it I think?

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As usual, tortilla soup was 75% about the toppings.

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It was a lovely holiday. I don’t know if I have any particularly profound lessons I learned about hosting Thanksgiving, but I 100% know that I could not have done it alone. Let people bring food! Call your mother freaking out and asking her to bring two card tables and three tablecloths and as many folding chairs as she can fit in the hatchback!

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cookin, plus an actual recipe!

I think sometimes my blog can turn into an insufferable little account of “OMG GUYZ LOOK HOW MUCH FUN I HAD THIS WEEKEND!” and it’s really better when I blog about food and cooking and inspiration and so on. One to be less insufferable (would that be called “sufferable”?) and one to serve as a record of yummy things I’ve cooked so I’ll remember to cook them again!

Mind you, this is stuff I was cooking weeks to months ago… so it is not the most seasonally applicable for now. But take heart! A recipe awaits you at the end that will be in season for several months now.

Sausage and potatoes. A classic. Also sauteeing sausage with peppers and onions is just a good idea.

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I can eat a meal like this a couple times in a row.

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Ugh, Trader Joe’s had this for an infuriatingly short window but let the record state- TRADER JOE’S JICAMA AND MANGO SLAW IS SO GOOD! I can’t wait for it to come into season again next year! The shredded jicama and mango are boss and then there’s a spicy vinaigrette and drool drool drool!

I had it with black beans, seasoned (my friend taught me this- she has reflux and is limited in seasonings she can use but this is delicious!) with oregano, cumin and olive oil.

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This was meant to be a cheesy creamy lovely use-up-the-last-of-the-summer-tomatoes gratin but it was just okay. The basil in there was yummy though. It was just kind of… gloppy. I love the cookbook How To Cook Everything Vegetarian but sometimes when it has one master recipe (“How to make gratin”) and then there’s a list of a gazillion kinds of that recipe (“Kale gratin, potato gratin, eggplant gratin” etc. etc.) some of the items further on the list maybe have not been tested as scrupulously. This was just real… wet.

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The award for most random assortment of leftovers goes to…

Smoked deli turkey, pumpkin pancakes, leftover greens and yellow split peas, and leftover eggplant salad.

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How to make delicious eggplants: cut a slit in them and throw them in the oven as hot as you can make it (or even better, on the grill) and just let them soft and silky and falling apart. This particular time I seasoned them with hot peppers, sesame oil, green onion, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. But they’re good Mediterranean style too with lemon and olive oil.

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Since I often just don’t feel like eating salad, particularly BORING salads like the ones I make, I often avail myself of salad kits which are a bit of a ripoff but still more cost effective than going out to eat.

Trader Joe’s makes a Southwest-y one with tortilla strips and pepitas and cheese and a spicy avocado vinaigrette that is pretty darn tasty.

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Looking to liven up spaghetti squash? Do a variation on a taco bowl! Spaghetti squash seasoned with cumin and oil on the bottom, then topped with sauteed tempeh (or anything else, obvi- ground beef or turkey or whatever) seasoned with all your favorite taco seasonings (I used chipotle chili powder and cumin and garlic powder if I recall correctly) then topped with favorite taco toppings like cheese n green onion n sauteed peppers n onions. Also put some plain greek yogurt on the side. I think I made a batch with avocado too, which was obviously excellent.

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Ugh, how adorable are these cranberry beans from the farmers market?!

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They lost their pretty pattern when they were cooked up but they were SO GOOD.

OH. MY. GOD.

I think fresh beans (and peas, too) are among my favorite things in this world. I boiled them just til they were tender in salted water, then tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and sage. This mega bowl lasted me about two meals… one dinner, and one breakfast the next day cause I couldn’t wait.

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I had leftover beer from my birthday party and I don’t like it… but I use it to make beer bread!

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Sometimes I get a hankering for sesame noodles. These were just okay… I should’ve asked my mom to share her recipe (an old Moosewood one) cause it’s really good.

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And now, speaking of good recipes, behold! Butternut miso soup.

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Back in the day, I used a recipe from recipezaar (which I think is now recipes.com?) but over the years I’ve simplified it based on what I have on hand.
The most important elements of this soup are orange squash, apple, and miso. If you include them, it’s basically guaranteed to be good.

Miso Butternut Apple Soup
1 large butternut squash
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 medium sweet onion (or regular), chopped
1 large apple, chopped
3 cloves garlic
(this would be a good place to add fresh ginger but I didn’t have any, so I added a little ground ginger at the end)
maybe 4 cups vegetable broth?
maybe 1 1/2 cups milk?
2 or 3 tablespoons miso
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the squash. Toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven until golden and cooked through.

When the squash is nearly done, in more olive oil, sautee the onion, apple, ginger (if using) and garlic until the onion is translucent.

Then add the squash and vegetable broth to the pot and cook for ten minutes or so, to let the flavors meld. Then add the milk and miso and use an immersion blender to blend (or let it cool a bit and puree it in batches in a regular blender). Season to taste with salt and pepper (and ground ginger, if you have some of that).

 

October

The week leading up to my birthday, I was sick and gross. My way of trying to deal with that was having a lot of green smoothies.

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Then the night before my birthday I realized that I was going to continue to be sick on my birthday and wasn’t going to do any cooking (Trader Joe’s frozen snacks saved the day at my party). So I got myself some tasty vittles from the taco truck. A pupusa, a sope, and a horchata. Delish! The cat was interested too ๐Ÿ˜€

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Random pics from the following days…

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Hazelnut biscotti and cafe au lait at Johnnys, reliably great…

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Avocado toast and eggs with sprouts at Fosters… just okay. Fosters is famous and I will not judge them by that meal. I should’ve gotten something more classic my first time there (I had an awkward time gap between clients at work and just grabbed lunch near me).

Also with an awkward-length break, I went to Parker and Otis. I got myself a fairly normal sandwich but I drooled over the beauty and descriptions of these Halloween-themed chocolates.

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The sky looked pretty in the gym parking lot one day. I took a pic.

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I had a scary movie night with some girlfriends.

We had yummy pizza (and I was a total dietitian and brought a side salad)

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Another night my friend had a campfire hangout at her place. We were celebrating her excellent and much-loved backyard before she moved (I have so many homeowner friends now! Crazy!)

For that get together, I threw together birthday party leftovers to make this trifle-ish dessert. Layers of crumbled Halloween Joe-Joes, chocolate pudding made with leftover milk from White Russians, and whipped cream. Tasty!

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The campfire was dreamy but most of the people there knew each other from running together. They all do marathons and stuff. I have nothing to relate to them with hahaha.

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So I focused on warming my footsies. My lazy, lazy footsies.

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My sweet friend Lesli had her annual pumpkin carving party.

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Boo the Halloween cat supervised everybody.

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My pumpkin had naturally spooky eyes so I designed a face around that. I was going for a cat but it got a little rodent-y, IMO.

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I had it on my front stoop for a whopping two days before the freaking deer knocked it down and ate a chunk out of its face. Oh well.

SPOOOOOKY OOOOOOOH!

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John and Emily and their pumpkins.

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Lesli and her witch making brew and Garrett and his alien

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Alex and Sam and their potion!

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Snacks were REAL good at the pumpkin carving party. Apple cider sangria…

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… Chili and cornbread muffins…

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SO GOOD pasta salad- Lesli later brought it to Thanskgiving

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Now please enjoy this amusingly Halloween-decorated lawn I stumbled upon in Carrboro.

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A little more Halloween goodness:

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I threw together an EXTREMELY low-effort, last-minute Halloween ensemble to go to a Halloween party over the weekend at the Michael Myers house- basically, a random dude has built an exact replica of the house from Halloween in the middle of North Carolina. And, understandably, hosts a big Halloween bash there every year that involves house tours, beaming horror movies onto a projector (we enjoyed the truly terrible My Bloody Valentine), dressing up, etc.

Here’s a closeup of my makeup, which was fun to do. Props to my sister for the black lip gloss.

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On Halloween itself I visited one of my new favorite places- Brewery Bhavana. It is a brewery, dim sum restaurant (!), book store, and flower shop (!!!)

It wears quite a few hats. I can attest that it EXCELS at the dim sum so even if the other ventures were not successful I’d be happy indeed.

Behold, one of the best things I have ever tasted:

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Scallion pancakes with bone marrow and oxtail jam. Swoon. I am not that into meat, but yknow, I was there with a boy, and then I tasted this and it made me want to cry it was so good.

We also had (unpictured) crab dumplings, a turnip cake…

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And lil moon cakes filled with something barbecuey as I recall.

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Plus unpictured cocktails ๐Ÿ˜€ The last day of October was also the yummiest day!

life lately

The beginning of this post is word heavy. The end of this post is both word and picture heavy. Prepare yourself!

Thing #1: I have become addicted to Body Pump.

Cons: I sound like a tool saying that.

Pros: everything else. Guys, it’s been so good for me. For your bones, for your metabolism, for everything- especially if you are a woman, you really ought to be psyching yourself into strength training. Body Pump (a class taught at many many gyms all over the country, if you’re not familiar with it- a full body strength training circuit with low weights but lots of reps, set to music, led by an enthusiastic instructor who gives you tips on proper form) makes it bearable for me.

I cannot handle: wandering uncertainly through a weight room, speculating which machines might be appropriate for strengthening which muscles, totally inventing how many reps at what weight, listening to gross grunting coming from sweaty and stinky men around me.

I can handle: someone telling me when to go up on my weights and when to go down, proper form, doing countdowns of how many reps I have left, whie Uptown Funk is playing.

I’ve been doing it about once a week for about four months and I’m really happy with the results- subtle toning in my arms, shoulders, and abs; and my legs, which were already fairly muscular, are really impressive now. And wowza do I have junk in the trunk. My booty is high and tight and I’m into it!

Thing #2: I have grown very fond of the My Favorite Murder podcast

Cons: It’s messing with my capacity to trust humanity

Pros: It is THE BEST commute entertainment

So if you’re in the know you probably know true crime is having A Moment right now. I have an aunt who’s a producer for Investigation Discovery and she says like their entiiiiire audience is women. And weirdly, their viewership spikes at like 2-3 am. Apparently the modern American working woman is waking up in the middle of the night and going, “You know what will help me relax? Watching a TV show about murder”

When I started my job, I had just gotten a new car and had a free three-month trial of satellite radio, which is really pretty much as great as everyone says it was- more variety (though they still play a lot of songs too often for my taste) and NO COMMERCIALS! After that I attempted to go back to listening to regular radio and it was just terrible. (Also, for obvious reasons, listening to the news on NPR makes me want to kill myself. I’m really proud if I make it through about 30 seconds of news and then they start the word “Presi-” and I get a hand spasm and have to change the station real quick)

However, I spend a really unreasonable amount of time in my car for work, driving around doing home visits with my clients. I was going to go insane without something to entertain me. So, I was on the hunt for a podcast to listen to on my way to work/ on my way around town for home visits. I was reading the always excellent submissions to Jezebel’s true scary stories contest and noticed a lot of people speaking positively about My Favorite Murder. And so I gave it a listen and thus an obsession was born!

It’s a show about true crimes (specifically, murders; with the occasional near-misses/terrifying but ultimately empowering tales of survival to keep morale up). And it’s hosted by two very funny comedians. If it sounds like something you’d like, you probably would. If it sounds like something you’d hate, you probably would. Go with your gut on that one.

The show is also a treasure trove of recommendations for various true crime books and TV shows. That’s how I’ve gotten into Mindhunter on Netflix (pretty good- the best part is the actor who plays Ed Kemper, the coed killer, who’s freaking incredible), the book Devil in the White City, the book Lost Girls (which I’m reading now).

Thing #3: I started doing the online dating thing this year. As you will guess, this will be the lengthiest part of this post, heh. I joined in late June and have finally reached a place where I can put my thoughts together.

Pros: If you’re a 20something (ugh, barely guys, I turn 30 on my next birthday and may have to evaluate them) and are looking to meet somebody, I think Bumble is the way to go.

I went on OKCupid for like ten minutes a year or two ago and did not like the experience. You can put in all your stuff about age ranges you want, your interests, etc. and you still get messages from 60 year old (!) ex cons (!!) who thank God live 100 miles away. No thanks.

In Bumble, you may only converse with folks in whom you have expressed interest (via swiping right) and who have expressed interest in you. I like both aspects of that- I also really hate rejection and it seems less painful if you know someone has found you at least vaguely appealing before you message them. Because that’s Bumble’s real claim to fame- it’s the feminist dating app! The woman must make the first move to message the bloke you meet! (Note: I don’t know how this works for the same-sex folks)

Bumble also limits how long your profile is- you don’t do some lengthy personality analysis. I kind of like that too- one must choose one’s words wisely and decide what’s important to emphasize. And still an amazing number of dudes don’t say a single word in their profile- no thanks bro!- so they’re easy to screen out hahaha. I think having a wee profile is helpful, but honestly the conversation you have and then, hopefully sooner rather than later, the in-person chemistry and good vibes and so on are just so much more important.

Cons: Online dating doesn’t solve anything in particular. Dating is still often maddening!

You cook a delicious meal for someone (homemade brinner: eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise with lovely wild salmon instead of Canadian bacon pus lovely farmers market tomatoes; and homemade hash browns on the side):

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Then they cook a delicious meal for you (homemade egg rolls and sesame noodles):

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And then not at all after that they disappear for three weeks and you have one last, unsatisfying, conversation over pizza before they ghost you for good.

Admittedly the pizza was great. Glad to finally try Pompieri Pizza. My lil piza had mushrooms and enough garlic to slay a vampire:

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They give you scissors to cut your pizza, fun!

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His was a white pizza with incredible goat cheese that was real real good drizzled in spicy oil.

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Cons: A con of online dating is a con of all dating/life…

I sort of wish that there was some magical light that went on when you are the happiest you will ever be with someone else so you know that this is it, that you’d better soak it up, because things will just go downhill after this. In most dudes I’ve hung out with, I can point to that moment in retrospect, but I find myself wishing I knew it at the time.

But let’s say that light did exist. If you knew it at the time, would it suck all the joy out of that moment? Let’s be real, hope and possibility and excitement at the beginning of a maybe-relationship is a great feeling. Maybe this dude will really get you! Maybe he has no flaws!

Or, if that light went on, would it send you on a feverish quest to beat fate, and obsessively act to bring back the fun/joy/excitement you once felt with and for a person? Or is that what you do anyway when a relationship is going downhill?

This is Deep Thoughts With Ileana, heh.

Anyway.

So yeah things tanked with that dude, which is maybe okay. He was 6’3″, frighteningly attractive, and made me go all stupid and jumbly-worded. He also was a bit wounded and hung up on his ex and that is catnip for my codependent tendencies, which is no good.

Pros: You get to meet people’s cute pets!

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The dude mentioned previously had an adorable boxer dog with a really great overbite.

This other dude, A, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times and have spent quite a few months with, but with whom things now seem to be tanking, has the sweet little kitty pictured above. Her name rhymes with my cat’s name, too- fun lil coincidence, no?!

Pros: Trying new things on dates can be fun.

A and I went to Crossties Barbecue, a place I’ve been meaning to try. And when you get two meals you can share the more horrifically unhealthy menu options, like deep fried deviled eggs:

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A is very into music, and is actually cool about knowing bands and things, so I got to hit up some shows with him. I went to Red Hat Amphitheater with him, which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Raleigh and is REALLY cool and pretty.

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Especially lovely at sunset! We saw Gov’t Mule. The band was good but I had to wash my hair when I got home cause it reeked of all the pot smoke in the air lololol.

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Another show:

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The lawn of the NC Museum of Art is a super cool setting. And I liked both Waxahatchee and Superchunk a LOT.

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Another date. Bull City Ciderworks has all right cider:

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But honestly the best part of it is that people bring their pets there- I met this precious angel Baxter-

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and that they have games there- I am the queen of Bananagrams.

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There was a little early-in-a-relationship drama in there.

But then it got better and then it got really very good indeed. A went on a business trip to Switzerland and brought me this RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING box of chocolates:

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And we had what was maybe that “This is the happiest you’ll be together light” moment:ย a perfect Saturday that involved wandering the Carrboro farmer’s market and then eating some of the yumminess from there…

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Followed by an unpictured hike with some of my friends and some of their cute dogs…

And then delicious food at the Wooden Nickel! He wanted wings, which I never think to get. But man these were solid:

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And then we got glorious burgers! Him with garlic fries, me with tater tots. Omnomnomnomnom.

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It seems like the later end of this list seems like all pros of online dating and like ooh girl soulmate territory!

Except here’s the thing.

Con: DATING IN 2017 IS RUBBISH. Maybe dating has always been rubbish- I can only speak from my own experience. Until 2017 I met the (few) people I dated in organic circumstances, mostly at work actually. 2017 is the year I embarked on seeking out strangers with whom to make a connection.

2017 dating, especially when one opens oneself up to the Internet, offers abundance. There are lots of people. Some of them are even attractive. One can include the word “feminism” in one’s online dating profile and still get interested dudes.

However, one can still find oneself seeing someone for months at a time and not yet have anything resembling exclusivity. There’s no preexisting foundation of friendship, there are not necessarily any overlapping people in your life, you may have no common interests whatsoever and it becomes really apparent that the only thing that brought you together is the mutual desire to have someone to date, which as it turns out may not be enough.

One can find oneself saying, “I think one of my needs in a relationship is that the other person actually cares about me.” This is the kind of curve we’re grading on, man!

So we will see. This was a mind dump of a post and will not end with any particularly impressive conclusions. But I’m curious to hear (is this thing on? Anyone reading?) if anyone else has thoughts to share.

welcome fall

I understand using the word blessed is now a cliche and an overused hashtag and so on. But, goodness gracious, my life has been so good recently. It’s unnerving. I feel the need to be more or less constantly knocking on wood and looking obsessively as I cross the street. I’m sometimes find myself feeling nervous and on edge about how many good things are in my life right now.

And first and foremost those good things are good people. As you saw from my birthday post and summer adventures, I have a truly excellent group of friends. Supportive and funny and interesting and smart and creative and available! They invite me to things! Respond to texts! Commiserate with boy drama! Bring tasty hostess gifts! I also have a town that feels like a friend in and of itself and always has good people watching on offer.

I don’t know what to do except try to pay forward some of the bounty that I have. I hope that nothing I write ever comes across as insufferable or braggy. I promise that I’ve had periods of true misery and loneliness in my life, and honestly I feel like things are TOO good right now and they must be coming back again at some point. But anyway, for now, all I can do is enjoy the good stuff and try to pay forward the kindness I’ve received.

So. Enjoy I will.

Bless her, my friend had a birthday dinner at Gonza Tacos y Tequila.

Ninety percent of the time I get envy over other people’s plates, but on this glorious evening I definitely picked the yummiest thing at the table:

El Platano: whole ripe plantain/ steak/ chile de arbol/ paisa beans/ cilantro/ cheese

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SO SO YUMMY! I love plantains. I rarely order steak, period, and I really try to be choosy about the provenance of meat when I eat it… buttt whatever. Maybe I had my period or something and needed the iron.

Then later in the evening we went to the always-lovely rooftop bar at The Durham and I got this bewitching drink (after I tried a sip of my friend’s first) that involved gin and citrus. I just looked at the menu and I want to say it was the Hanky Panky (brilliant name) but can’t say for sure.

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Another day I had a webinar and opted to work at Guglhupf (they don’t want you bringing in a laptop and hunkering down during their peak hours, but it was afternoon so it was okay). I got a the most LOVELY, FEMALE cappuccinoย ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜‚

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I MEAN. Doesn’t it remind you of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting?!

The following weekend I spent a weekend in Greensboro with my work wife Colton (<< we were TA’s together. We also have sometimes referred to each other as biochem boos. Also some more hateful nicknames. He’s the closest thing I have to a brother but we snipe like real siblings too)

We started at Smith Street Diner, which has a pretty remarkable brunch, and for reeeeeaaaal cheap.

We split the below plates:

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That biscuit is about the size of a grapefruit (!!!) We ate well, and abundantly.

We next planned to go toย The International Civil Rights Center & Museumย but as we approached we noticed an array of people bedecked in increasingly fabulous and colorful outfits. We realized we’d stumbled on Greensboro Pride!

This dog was best dressed, no question.

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We strolled around and people watched for a bit, which was obvi very fun.

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Then we did take a tour of the civil rights museum, which I HIGHLY recommend. Rather than going through on your own you have a facilitator take you through each exhibit. It’s incredibly well done! And Greensboro was the site of one of the first sit ins of the civil rights movement at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s, and the museum is at the site of the old Woolworth’s building and has that exact lunch counter preserved.

It was definitely sobering seeing some of the displays about the resurgence of the KKK as activists were trying to effect change. Dark times. And as Charlottesville and other events have reminded us, not nearly far enough in the past or nearly well enough dealt with. The museum left me wanting to do more and I’m still a little uncertain of the next best action to take.

Another weekend I stayed closer to home and went to a local arts festival in Durham.

The highlight was definitely seeing some fabulous aerialists from the local ballet company perform. They were SO STRONG!
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I also really enjoyed these neat ornaments/keychains/whatever made out of old beer and soda cans.

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Once I thought I was having a perfectly normal evening stroll and then some CRAZINESS WENT DOWN!

I was walking along a sidewalk in the late afternoon/early dusk near a thicket of trees. I saw a lady cross the street and she came up to me and said, “Excuse me, do you hear meowing?” Well OBVIOUSLY I listened attentively after a question like that and yes, indeed, meowing. She said, “I was afraid of that. There’s a cat that’s been trapped in a tree here since Monday” (!!!!!)
So there in this thick area of trees was this poor little black and white cat meowing up a storm. The lady told me that the previous day she and another neighbor tried to rescue the cat but when the man who was helping her went up on the ladder the cat was scared and ran away from him.
Well, it was time for another attempt. The woman’s husband brought over a ladder and I made the ascent, got up near the cat, who looked very hopeful indeed… and the ladder, not locked properly, went thudding under me. Yikes. I climbed down.
We secured the ladder at the bottom, got it locked and loaded, and I tried again. I was balanced on the top rung (my mom had a heart attack when I called her and mentioned this particular detail) and reaching out for the cat. It was sweet and nuzzly with me but still clinging furiously to the branches. Finally I managed to tuck it under my arm, football-style. The descent was still a bit hairy (the cat kept trying to grab the rungs of the ladder) but we made it! And then the sweet couple gave the cat some food and water, which it consumed VORACIOUSLY.

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The man who’d tried to save the cat the previous day then came by with his son to make another attempt and they were both thrilled that the cat had been rescued. I pointed out that people really are good at heart- look at all these people caring about this sweet little creature.
I did some brief recon for a lost cat sign at the neighboring complex but I didn’t see one. The couple who lived across the street were already feeding and neutering/spaying a colony of feral cats (<< have we figured out that these are really good human beings?!) and were happy to take in the cat for the evening, give it a safe place to sleep, etc. We had no problem relocating the cat to their back porch- it’s a total love bug and happy to be snuggled and carried.ย 

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That took quite a bit of time and the sun had set. The couple tried to make me let them give me a ride home but they were… yknow, still total strangers?! (I never know what to do in those situations?!) Anyway I was quite close to my buddy’s apartment (and he’s also a cat rescuer) so I made him let me wash the poison ivy off my legs in his bathroom and then give me a ride home.

By that point I was starving and rewarded myself with an in-cred-i-ble burger from Al’s. I only ordered the burger, but in a dose of instant karma (?!) they gave me free fries!

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And the story had a happy ending- the couple responsibly canvased the neighborhood but no one came forward and claimed the cat. But, they found some sweet retirees and their granddaughter who lives with them who were excited to take in the little cat man (he turned out to be a boy). Hurray for happy endings for animals!

After that lively week I had a fun fall weekend. My sister Malindi and her boyf Eric have begun hosting tailgates for UNC home games. I did not know about tailgates, as I notoriously care not one whit about sports. However, tailgating is great! You sit in the nice shady tent and you listen to music and dance and hang with your friends and eat and drink and people watch. And then, in my case, don’t bother going to the actual sports event but just go home!

Here I am dancing quite derpily with my cute sister.

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My friend Kyle (have I formally blog introduced him? He and I did Americorps together in 2010-2011 and then I helped convince him and his now-fiancee Shaylen to move to NC! He now goes to UNC law school):

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That inflatable sofa is really something, huh?ย ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Eric always goes ALL OUT on the food for the tailgates. This taco themed one was REAL GOOD. One Korean style (!) with marinated bbq beef, kimchi, and red cabbage slaw; one traditional with beef, sauteed peppers, queso, and crema. YUM!

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Another evening, my friends (who are having their next baby literally ANY MINUTE at the time I”m writing this) had a party, probably to celebrate the last time they’re going to be well rested for at least the next year.

They had lots of cute small humans running around making smores.

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I mean big humans like smores as well.

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My friends’ little girl, T, was lying on the grass, dreamily waving around a glowstick and looking at the stars. She asked me to come over and look at the stars with her (MY HEART) and it was so sweet. I’m going to watch her whenever her mama goes into labor and I’m quite excited- she’s a cutie pie.

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The following day was the Carrboro Music Festival, an event I look forward to every year.

Didn’t get a good picture but my favorite act was Blue Cactus (I know both of them and they’re cool and nice and interesting people along with being ridiculously good musicians). If you like sad country, check them out!

During the next act, I did get a shot of these dope kids with their gold balloons dancing around.

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So I ended up hitting the festival with this bloke I’ve been seeing, who we’ll call A for the time being. It always ends up being a rather physically intense day because it’s hot and you walk around a lot to all the different venues and you do mad dancing and it’s very noisy and crowded and you maybe have some alcohol (I only had one drink but the same cannot be said for Aย ๐Ÿ˜‚) and at a certain point I knew I needed to eat something, and that was either going to make me feel much better or I was going to get violently ill and there really was going to be no in between.

Well, it ended up that I felt much better, and that was definitely not guaranteed with the nutritional caliber of the food we ended up choosingย ๐Ÿ˜‚

Calamari, disco fries, and artichoke dip. Living on the edge!

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Another weekend, I hit up a FABULOUS consignment sale with my friend Emily. The sale was in an old out-of-business Macy’s in Cary, so it was kind of a trek to get there, but I CLEANED UP. Lots of higher quality brands (I got J Crew and Theory stuff) and everything was in like-new shape. And the average price was like $5. I felt like I’d died and gone to bargain heaven.

Then I had worn myself out shopping so I made Emily go with me to La Farm. I got this overpriced avocado toast- next time I won’t bother trying to be healthy and get something French-er. That place is amazing though- both times I’ve been there’s been a formidable line but the whole time you are waiting there are BREAD AND PASTRY SAMPLES!ย ๐Ÿ˜

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And later that day, I went and visited my cousin and her baby.

Important update, blog readers: he’s still the damn cutest.

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That was quite a lot. More fall updates to come!

summer adventures part 3- the end

I was at a place where there was a 91% eclipse but as a local weatherman pointed out that’s like taking a kid 91% of the way to Disney World.

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I did have an in for some eclipse glasses (having worked at a planetarium is useful sometimes!) so this was my view:
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I soaked up the last of the summer sunshine… but I needn’t have been in any particular rush because as I write this post in late October the warmth is still going strong.

It makes me so, so happy to sit outside Johnnys and people watch with a nice iced coffee.

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It makes me so, so happy to meet my sister for a cappuccino and muffin at Caffe Driade. I’m mostly working from home these days (long, boring story involving parking drama) and sometimes it’s nice to have flexibility to take an afternoon tea break and then do some later at night charting etc. once the beautiful sunny day isn’t tempting me anymore.

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A cool sunset I saw on a walk. A little pre-Halloween spookiness!

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When the rain did show up, I dealt with it quite nicely by meeting some friends for drinks and having some warm and lovely FONDUE! Gah this was great. At B Side.

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Here is a ray of PURE sunshine called MY COUSIN’S BABY CHASE! WHO IS NOW 1 YEAR OLD! AND WALKING AND RUNNING AROUND LIKE A LITTLE BOSS!

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Here is an enchanting photo of him sneezing on his grandfather’s face

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His mom and dad were real excited about the smash cake and Chase was all “…?”
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Ultimately, he enchanted his dietitian auntie Ileana by being all, “Guys, I’m just more comfortable and accustomed to my veggies”. Sweet lil angel.

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That face!ย ๐Ÿ˜‚

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From one birthday cake to another… Lesli, one of my girls from the First Wives Club, had a little birthday cookout on Labor Day weekend and I decided that it’d been a minute since I made a proper break and the birthday party of one of my loveliest friends was a good occasion to remedy that.

I gave her a choice of a few options from Smitten Kitchen and told her to pick her top two, and I’d surprise her with one of them. That ended up being this tiramisu cake.

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Our group of friends reeeeeeally likes to eat so it was just generally a feast.

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My plate:

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Cake interior:

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Adorable birthday girl:

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And with that we have passed Labor Day weekend in the chronology of my life and, if I manage to keep some momentum going, I may end up chronicling my memories during the actual season that they happened! (No sacred oaths or anything, though, I’m easily distracted) (But hopefully more blogs to come soon!)

29

I’m not 100% chronologically caught up from my summer backlog but must recount my birthday chronicles before the memories fade!

This was my birthday theme:

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Shoutout to my friend Shaylen, who was in Nigeria (!) for work the day of my birthday party but sent an I Love The 90s photobooth kit that was an absolute hit. As you can see, Lola absolutely loves it when my house is filled with noise and people.

Okay so I turned 29. My instinct around birthday seasons is to crawl behind a rock and pretend it isn’t happening because I don’t love being the center of attention and particularly the kind of attention is like “Congratulations! You’re aging in a society that treats women as worthless when they are no longer perceived as young and sexy!” (<< I have some issues)

However, I’m glad I powered through and had a silly 90s theme party because it was great fun. My friends really connected with the theme and it inspired some real creativity.

The day (October 7th) began with the arrival of some fab cards from my auntie and mama, which I put on display at the fiesta.

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I can’t really come up with a particular narrative of the party so I’ll just share some favorite moments/components of the day:

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Pictured above are BEAUTIFUL flowers from my roomie, an OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS cake made by my sister (she used the Cake Boss recipe with funfetti icing= perfect), and various party tidbits.

I kept food for the party really simple cause I’d been sick all week leading up to my birthday (funnn!) so Trader Joe’s did most of the work. Seeking out snacky foods that made me feel nostalgic for my 90s childhood I provided:

  • pigs in a blanket (TJs makes a classy kind with puff pastry)
  • chicken taquitos
  • mini samosas (for the vegetarians)
  • mini Ritz crackers (but organic so therefore healthy hahaha)
  • baked goat cheese and honey with pumpkin cranberry crisps (okay this is not nostalgic, it was just really really good)
  • kettle corn
  • dark chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Halloween Joe Joes (slightly less chemical version of Oreos)
  • fruit snack variety pack from the dollar store (gushers, fruit roll ups, and fruit by the foot)

Then other people brought stuff, including Malindi’s awesome cake, cupcakes from Roxanne and Karim, and REALLY REALLY GOOD pumpkin cheese and crackers from Aaron (the pumpkin cheese tasted like pumpkin spice cannoli filling- it was STUPID good).

Also there was lots of alcohol- I made a beer variety pack by grabbing random cans of beer off the Trader Joes shelf (lololol) and had some bottles of wine and people brought stuff. In a nod to The Big Lebowski (classic 90s film), I got all the fixings for white russians and made Kyle make them for us.

Costumes were STRONGLY encouraged. Here are some ways people interpreted it: my roommate Alli as Gwen Stefani/ me as Baby Spice/ Colton with some generic flannel.

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Flannel was REALLY well represented.

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The First Wives Club went all out with DIY costumes: Lesli raided the thrift store and made an AWESOME Blossom, and Emily brought ET. (I have explained why we call ourselves the First Wives Club, yes? We dated boys and they were buddies and we met each other through them. All the relationships have subsequently ended, but we are still the best of girlfriends)

blossom and et

Alex and Sam were Moulder and Scully, college hipster version

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Then Kyle (Shaylen’s fiance and her stateside representative at the party, lolol) arrived with the 90s props and people got into it…

moulder scully et and blossom

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(my sister the little Mermaid is so cute I can’t stand it)

… but that’s not all that Kyle brought!

Unfortunately there are no pictures but Kyle:

  • found Space Jam fabric at a thrift shop and used it to fashion a cape
  • brought a VHS player and copies of The Care Bears and The Rescuers Down Under and other 90s classics
  • brought a PROJECTOR and managed to CLEAR THE ARTWORK OFF AN ENTIRE WALL OF MY HOME and beam 90s music onto my kitchen wall. Kyle is frighteningly committed to theme parties

There was all kinds of innocent merriment throughout the evening- games of Twister-
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-fooling around with childhood toys I got at the dollar store like wall slappers, magnetic drawing boards, silly putty, etc.- but I will just remind you that the highlight of any 90s party should be excellent 90s music. And this party was no exception. And so I leave you with this picture

dancing

If you’re on Spotify, my 90s dancing playlist can be found here.