Pumped Up Kicks & Lollihop Snacks!

I’ve been feeling like a queen, lately.  It could be the amount of time that I spend in a robe bathrobe or the fact that I set up all my ugly dolls in a row to watch me as I prance about in one of my four tiaras, but it’s probably the delicious foods that I’ve been preparing and then gobbling up in a very un-royal fashion.  For lunch today, I enjoyed the finest Indian food that Trader Joe’s had to offer.

My fancy office plate really ties the meal together

Channa Masala and Biryani Curried Rice from Trader Joe’s, random leftover piece of flatbread fromm Target, and a bed of baby spinach.  Tonight, I recreated a smaller version of the Baked Coconut Shrimp that I mentioned in last week’s Six Pack Sunday and a side of roasted peppers and asparagus.

I already fear peeing later.

Another thing making me feel like royalty?  Well, they’re no glass slippers but…

Zig tech, baby!

My new kicks came in the mail!  I actually currently rock another pair of Zigs that Ryan gave me last year for Christmas, and love them. When I saw them on RueLaLa on sale, I couldn’t resist.  I haven’t decided to start using them regularly yet, but I’m just excited to prance about in them.  They feel a little heavier than my current sneakers, but also more secure, so it seems like the shoe fits!

Also in the mail?  My Lollihop box!  Lollihop is was a monthly box you pay a nominal fee for and, like a Birchbox you can eat,  it’s filled with deluxe samples of healthy snacks! Apparently this month was the last one that they’re going to send out, so you can’t get in on this action… but I figured I’d share my snack haul (none of which I’ve actually tried yet, so I can’t give any deets).

Boxed and ready for consumption.

This adorable box packed with snacks included the following:

While I may not have wanted to buy full sizes of all these products, I can’t wait to make my way (my edible way) through the products I get to try!  I’ll share any of the hits/misses.

What’s a product that you’d love to try, but you’re nervous to spend money on a full-sized package?

I was actually hesitant to try goat cheese and it wasn’t until I got a coupon for a free sample that I realized how tasty it was. Now I actually spend my money on it!

Have you ever tried a savory nutrition bar like the Journey Pizza Marinara bars?

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Six Pack Sunday: Pescatarian Pleasures and Clementine Cuties

Here we are again, Oscar Sunday’s rolling on the TV and I am wearing sweatpants by Schoolhouse and a crew neck sweatshirt that’s about 4 sizes too large for me.  I was going to wear my white cape, but Gwyneth was borrowing it this weekend.  Oh well.

You know what time it is…  Sixpack Sunday!

1. Bacon Snack Packs!

You know what I did today? I spent 4+ hours in Barnes & Noble reading The Girl Who Played With Fire and playing on my Nook.  Ah, to be young and lazy.  As the first available seat was near the children’s section, I nabbed it as fast as I could. There’s a lot going on in that kids section, but this was definitely the craziest spotting:

What in the world is in that BAG?!

If you look closely, you might be able to tell…. that is a snack bag filled with bacon.

Is this what the new moms are carrying around now instead of Cheerios and fruit roll ups?

Noted.

2. Baked Coconut Shrimp

Joy in a dish

Jess from How Sweet Eats always has the best recipes.  Her recipe for Coconut Baked Shrimp was no exception.  We didn’t have time for the salsa, but we whipped up a side of garlicky kale, it was meant to be.  Make it.  Eat it. Be happy. That’s all.

3. Mustachio Bash(io)

Cute, yes?

This Tuesday, I learned that drinking beer would be a LOT tougher with a mustache. I don’t know how all those beardy brewers do it.

Though I think Sierra got the hang of it…

iOlay!

4. Cuties: MADE for Kids?

I’ve been seeing these commercials all over the place. And the end phrase is what gets to me. “Kids LOVE Cuties, ‘cuz Cuties are made for kids.”  Wait. I thought they were a fruit.  They’re MADE for kids? Does anyone else imagine these mad scientists genetically engineering fruits to convince more kids to eat them?

I mean… I guess whatever it takes, but still. [EDIT: I looked up some info on these Cuties, and it seems legit and not some lab-made fruit… but I’ll still be cautiously suspicious for a little while.]

5. A Tender Farewell

Goodbye, my lover... goodbye, my friend.

Yes, the coconut shrimp are great. But on Tuesday (the fattest Tuesday), I celebrated my last meat-eating day pre-Lent with a roast beef sammy at lunch and an unbelievably tasty dish at Tyler’s Taproom.

As described by Tyler’s:

Drunken Pork Belly: Fresh pork belly braised in beer, crisped to perfection then topped with house-made bourbon BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and pickles

Wow! This was outstanding! The pork belly was so tender (hence the tender farewell. HA GET IT?!) and I even enjoyed the pickles and slaw.  I basically licked the plate clean.

As for the pescatarian update, I’ve found that, for the most part, it’s not too tough. But when there are free samples around, or after a few drinks, the temptation goes up. I don’t THINK I’ve slipped yet, though there was one freebie that I wasn’t sure of after I’d tried it. I didn’t go back and check, but it’s a work in progress. I just have to keep reminding myself, and to stay faithful.

6. Boozy Snow Cones?!

Hooray!

Martha Stewart, you brilliant bitch, you strike again. Alcoholic Snow-Cone Syrups? YES! Anyone wanna have a snowcone party this summer? Or spring?

Or Thursday?

Better go do my first costume change of the night (translation: was my face.)

Vanity, Thy Name is Lulu(lemon)

I’m a fairly confident lady.  I have confidence in sunshine.  I have confidence that my adult acne will keep me getting carded well into my late 20s. But I also have confidence that, with the right attitude, you can look any which way and still turn heads whenever you walk into any room. Even at my lowest of lows, I still walked with my head held high, chest out, and rocking the good posture my mother taught me that us tall girls tend to forget when they’re in a crowd of tiny princesses, at least out in public.

We all have our private moments, the times when we don’t feel 100% about ourselves.  We can get down on our looks, and that’s never a good feeling.  Those moments can seem way bigger than the confident ones.  I remember the first time I spotted stretch marks on my stomach, and Ryan consoling me as I cried my eyes out, hating the mirror that revealed my flaws.  I remember the time that my best friend told one of our mutual buddies that I had big eyebrows, not knowing I was within hearing distance.  I still accidentally over-pluck with that memory in mind.

But I also remember the glorious moments that can always block out the bad ones.  I remember the time a fellow called me a blonde paradigm (WHAT a compliment!!) I remember the way Ryan looked at me when I walked out wearing the dress I wore tomy cousin’s wedding. I remember prancing around at the shore, tan and beach blonde, without a care in the world. And now, as vain as it sounds, I have a new memory to add to the list.

That one time that I felt like a fitness GODDESS in my new pants.

Fierce, yeah?

I want to save this on my computer forever. Who’d ever think that I’d be my OWN fitspiration?  Maybe it was just because it was a perfect Saturday morning, without a care in the world, and I was headed to BodyJam for a killer workout.  Maybe it was the delicious pescatarian week I’d had. Probably, it was the new Lululemon “Astro Wunder Under Crops” that my mom picked up for me when we were in DC this weekend.  But I just felt like a million bucks.

The workout class was fantastic, a solid BodyJam with lots of fun tracks and moves not unlike Jagger.

Brought to you by the letter A for AWESOME!

I decided to keep the party going in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods…  My haul was epic.

Boxes and Barramundi!

Walking out of Trader Joe’s with a box kind of makes me feel like a badass.

So many frozen fishies!

Indian Goodies!

I kept my headphones on through all the stores, dancing my way through the aisles, and though my lunch was a basic egg-salad salad with spinach, eggs, carrots, green peppers, I predict my next few meals are going to bright, festive, and fishy.  Just the way I like it.

Ok, I guess if I want to shower, I have to take these crops off…  drats.

Chime in! Let’s get vain… What’s making you feel gorgeous today?  

Lifestyle Changes and Family

The past week has been filled to the brim. Beer events, flights, Portlandia, work, Fat Tuesday, and that pesky sleep thing.  You know, one of those weeks where you sometimes forget to breathe.  The dust is starting to settle, though, and I figure it’s time for a post about something that’s been flitting about in my brain for a while.

It’s been almost 2 years since I made the biggest lifestyle change of my 24 (and a half! I’m officially 6 months from my birthday!) years of my life.  I decided I was going to lose the excess weight from my body, resume the exercise that used to be a central focus of my life, and stop eating crap.  My family couldn’t have been more supportive.  In fact, my mother’s Weight Watchers account was probably my most frequently visited website on a daily basis.  My brothers were huge inspirations to me, as they’d both sculpted their bodies through P90X, regular visits to the weights rooms, and diet changes. Every time I came home, I was greeted with hugs and compliments.  Of COURSE it felt great.  And it fueled my fire, and it made me hungry for more progress.  I don’t believe I ever visited the land of Eating Disorders, but I definitely regulated my food intake more than most people I know.  It just worked for me that way, so I stuck with it.

I’m not sure when it happened, but despite the fact that I’ve maintained my 40-45lb weight loss for the past year and a half, the people closest to me started to have different thoughts.  No longer were the comments your basic “Wow, you look great!” or “You’ve gotten so fit!” but sounded a little more like, “Oh, come on, just eat the pizza!” or “You don’t HAVE to go to the gym every day do you?” “Do you really write EVERYTHING you eat in that little book of yours?”

It may have stemmed from the weekly weigh-ins.

Maybe it was the decision to give up drinking soda this year.

Perhaps it was the choice to go Pescatarian for Lent this year.

Not that tough when you can still eat this.

But they started to worry about me.  Now, I’ll admit, my family is pretty basic when it comes to eating. I don’t think I even have a vegetarian cousin or uncle. The idea of pescatarianism strikes them as outrageous, as a huge difference from the norm.  After researching the lifestyle for a while, and looking back on my own regular eats, it isn’t that much of a stretch for me to attempt pescatarian eating for 40 days.  And I don’t want anyone to worry about me.  I’m still going to work out, but I take rest days.  I’m still going to blog about my food and exercise, but I’ll never post about everything I eat.  And yes, sometimes my methods may seem a little “out there” to the average Joe (or Josephine), but I know how my body works.  I know how my habits work.

My brother brought up a good point when we were talking about all of this, and that point is that you should be able to enjoy something if you really want it.

For me to make a serious life change, I need to go drastic first, and then temper it. When I first started Weight Watchers, I tracked every bite of food and drink that went into my body. And now, I know a more general idea of what eating healthy is about, so I don’t have to know the points value of those Cheez Its I just wolfed.  I won’t drink soda for the next year but, after that, if I want a soda, I’ll have one. And if I don’t, I’ll know it’s because I lost the taste.  I won’t eat beef, poultry, or pork for the next 37 days, but I’ll be with you if you want a steak dinner on Easter.  I like to challenge myself, it helps me learn what I can or cannot do, and what I need or do not need.  Two years ago I learned that  I don’t need an entire frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner.  Now, it’s time to learn something else.

It’s important to have family, friends, romantic partners, etc. to be there and act as the occasional check and balance when you’re starting something new in your life.  But it’s also important that you stick to your goals (your well-researched goals that will not endanger your life).  And if I ever make a decision where I can’t eat pizza, please, someone, slap me.

Totally pescatarian friendly 3-cheese pizza!

Asiago flatbread topped with herbed goat cheese, parmesan, mozzarella, sugar-free sauce, spinach, onions, and Morningstar spicy “sausage”.  Hell to the yeah.

Has your family or friends ever been worried about your health following decisions you’ve made?  How did you get past it?

(SIDENOTE: My family and I have spoken about this at length and they’re not worried anymore, as I explained myself, my decisions, etc to them and let them know I wasn’t just jumping into some trendy fish-eating fad diet!  All is well, don’t want anyone to worry about THAT!)

Portlandia the Tour Does Durham

Before you read any further, if you’re intending to see any of the last two showings of Portlandia: The Tour, STOP READING THIS POST IMMEDIATELY!!

Seriously.

Quit reading, or you’ll regret it.  That’s not a threat. It’s a promise.

Ok, hopefully that worked. If you’re still reading, know you’ve been warned.

Let’s get back to the task at hand…  Portlandia: The Tour came to Durham, NC last night. The moment the tickets for this show went on sale, I bought myself one. I didn’t know if I’d go with anyone, I didn’t know what else I was doing that night, I just knew that I’d be there, and I’d be laughing.

If you’re not aware, Portlandia (click here for some clips on Hulu, they’re worth a minute or two if you enjoy laughter and joy… do you?) is a fantastic television show on IFC which acts as a satirical look at the ridiculous residents of Portland. You know the ones, every town has them. Those too-hip-for-thou hipsters that shop at thrift stores, whose main mode of transportation is bicycling, and whose main food groups are cigarettes and coffee.  At least, that’s how they’re portrayed in Portlandia.

I love this show, and I feel like I’ve seen these “Portlandians” in many of my travels (most of the time in Carrboro, the hip artsy next-door neighbor of Chapel Hill). The best thing about Portlandia, though, is that they don’t mock these folks in a mean-spirited way. And Fred and Carrie both mentioned during the show last night that their inspiration for the characters comes a lot from pieces of their own personality.

portlandia

My fatal mistake before seeing this show, however, was that I’m just too curious for my own good. Unsure of what kind of format the show would be in, how long it would be, or what I could expect, I started searching online for reviews.

IDIOT!

I basically robbed myself of any and all elements of surprise, and kind of set myself up for the worst.  When you read the words of another (for instance, the under-enthused Dan Zak at the Washington Post), you can’t help but have your own expectations tainted with their thoughts.  And so a seed of doubt was planted…

I had a great seat, right in the center of the orchestra seating in the Carolina Theatre.  The venue was fantastic, in my opinion, offering reasonably comfortable seats AND bottles of (affordable!!) craft beer at the concession stand.  I nabbed a Ruthless Rye IPA (Sierra Nevada) and scampered back to my seat before the show started.

So smooth

The show started off with a little dialogue between Fred and Carrie relaying texts that the other had sent to each of them to the audience.  Hands down, the funniest line was from Fred to Carrie: “Your birth was not a birth at all, it was the death of all others.”

Cue raucous laughter.

They, along with their bandmates, played the show’s infamous “The Dream of the ’90s”, and even included a quick jab at Chapel Hill to rile up the crowd (which, ironically, included a TON of UNC students…)  Highlights of the rest of the show?

  • Durham recon discussion with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (a Durham local) and the audience, who piped in about their favorite biscuits, food trucks, coffee shops, restaurants, and record label. There was a great Bojangles vs. Biscuitville vs. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen debate, which Sunrise dominated, and it relayed a lot of authentic Durham love.
  • A reading of the poetry penned by a 7-year old Freddy Armisen “Dracula sucks blood, and so do I.”  You can’t make this stuff up.
  • Fred’s father (also named Fred), a Durham resident, coming out on stage to recreate a photo from when the Armisen family ventured to London in Fred’s youth.
Smattered throughout the show were video clips from upcoming episodes of Portlandia. I found one vignette about an overzealous couple gearing up for a hike particularly hilarious ($5,200 is TOTALLY worth it when buying a handheld GPS…) and Barbara Streisand (thanks to Jay Dav for correcting me, I meant JUST Barbara, former partner of the feminist bookstore) makes a surprise visit to the Feminist bookstore and is quite hilarious.  If you’ve never watched the show, sorry if that doesn’t make sense.
If you have, you’re in for a treat.

Sneaky Phone pics are GREAT for lousy quality!!

The Q&A session at the end allowed for a solid amount of audience interaction, which I think Fred and Carrie do pretty well with.  I liked this part the most because, as it was unscripted and dependent on the questions from the audience, it was impossible to spoil the surprise (hell, I think even Carrie was a little surprised when one audience member requested her actual address in Portland… Creeper.)
I raised my own hand and requested the answers to the three questions that’d been asked to the Durham crowd, re: Portland.  Their answers?
Favorite Coffeeshop: Stumptown
Favorite Foodtruck: Fred couldn’t remember the exact name, but said it was a BBQ truck that did “pure BBQ goodness”  (Maybe Eclectic Eatery?)
Favorite Bar: Aalto Lounge
You know, just in case I head to Portland in the near future.  Other highlights included when Fred was asked if he was romantically in love with Carrie.  His response?

“Cacao to that.”  (Check out the Cacao clip for a better understanding.)

There was an off-key singalong at the end featuring more audience participation (whoda thunk that it’d be so tough to musically add the words “Durham North Carolina” to a tune?) and a few songs by the Zooey Deschanel lookalike in a Canadian tuxedo (denim on denim) who I later learned was Eleanor Friedberger of…. Eleanor Friedberger.  Definitely not hip enough to catch on that she was more than a musician I should’ve heard of by now.  Oh well.

I laughed at times.  At other times, I was thankful that my phone was smart enough to allow me to read Twitter.  Overall, I’m stoked I went, for about $40 (with taxes and Ticketmaster fees included in that price) it was a combination of a stand-up comedian, a mini-film festival, and a concert. I’ll take it. Carrie Brownstein is a fantastic example of a female musician/performer that has her shit together, and can hang with anyone. I think her style of humor throughout the whole show was what I connected to the most. Fred sometimes took it a little too far in any direction, and sometimes felt hokey, but together… that’s where they really shine.

All that being said, I’ll NEVER make the mistake of researching a live variety-show-esque performance like this pre-attendance.  I need more life-spoiler alerts.

Have you ever seen Portlandia?

What area near you is most like Portlandia (read: full of hipsters, hippies, scene kids, granola type folks… you know the ones)?

Six Pack Sunday: Happy Hour and Meaty Power

It’s that kind of weekend.  You know the one, the kind where you spend so much time hanging with your family and pretending that there’s no such thing as the real world that time sort of escapes you. The kind when a Six Pack Sunday turns into a Six Pack Monday. I was in DC for my little sister’s volleyball tournament, and between the screaming and cheering, the eating, the drinking, and the driving around looking for parking, there was little time for the internet.

No worries, though, I’m back in action.

1. We Flying First Class….

G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S

I’m certain that when Fergalicious sang of the Glamorous (the flossy, flossy), this is what she had in mind.  For the first time since I officially achieved “A-List Status” with Southwest, my special boarding pass actually came in handy in the rarely-crowded RDU airport. Thank goodness, as I was running a little late after enjoying a pre-flight Bud Light Platinum.

Making it Platinum is first class too, right?

2. Meat, Meat, the Magical Fruit

Welcome Home, right?

Upon my arrival in Philly on Friday, I was greeted by a sight that anyone from the Philly area would consider magical.  Half a large, meaty cheesesteak complete with fried onions (and a glass of Pinot? Eh, I’m not gonna argue with that).

This was especially important considering my plan for the upcoming 40 day period of Lent.

I’m going pescatarian.  I’m giving up cows, pigs, and chicken as a slightly tougher challenge this Lent. It’s also going to help me embrace fish a little bit more, and require a little more planning than usual.  No worries, this isn’t some sort of permanent life-change, I have no qualms with meat-eating, and I’m not really doing this for serious religious reasons. Until Wednesday, all-you-can-(m)eat buffet.

3. Nocturnum Owl

Hip hip HOORAY!

My baby brother (who is 21 years old, about 6’3″, and made entirely out of muscles) also surprised me with a treat he picked up at the liquor store.  Delirium Nocturnum, from the folks at the un-pronouncable Brouwerij Huyghe.  I was hesitant, considering my less-than-stellar experience with let-down Delirium Tremens.  I had no reason to be nervous, though, with this fantastic brew.

Described by the brewery:

Initially, a very good mouthfeel of alcohol and softness. This is followed by an increasing bitterness, partially from the hop, but also from the roasted malt and chocolate malt. Towards the end a nice balance between bitterness, sour and sweet.

I thought it was extremely drinkable for a 8.5% ABV beer, and tasted a little bit like the sweetness of raisins.  It was smooth, dark, and lightly spiced.  Even my brother, who’s not a huge fan of craft beer and tends to sip on the college favorites of Bud Light, Natty Light, and ____ Light (whatevz) thought this one was delicious, and it was a great way to start our night in DC.

4. Matchbox Chinatown

Smoke and Fire, baby!

After a number of suggestions from friends on Facebook, Julie from Table for Two, and a bit of Yelping around, I convinced my family that we needed to hit up Matchbox for some pizza.

My choice? The Fire & Smoke:

fire roasted red peppers / spanish onions / chipotle pepper / tomato sauce / garlic puree / smoked gouda / fresh basil /(very spicy)

WOW! They were not kidding on the (Very spicy) note.  The smoked gouda cooled the whole pie down a little bit, but I wished that we had some parmesan cheese to help with that.  Even my mom, who loves all things picante, commented that her mouth was on fire.

We also got a pepperoni for my less-adventurous parents. It was also DELICIOUS with tiny, crispy pepperonis and loads of cheese.  Hard to go wrong with a classic.  THANKS to Julie and my friends on Facebook for the rec, loved it!

5. Oyster Happy Hour at the Sea Catch!

Chesapeake Bay and Chef's Creek!

I think that one of the things I like the most about bars NOT in North Carolina is the idea of Happy Hour (fact: Happy “Hours” are illegal in NC, and all drink specials must be offered from open to close). And at the Sea Catch in Georgetown had a great one, including 1/2 off beers, wines (that cost less than $9 a glass regularly), and well drinks AND dollar oysters on the half-shell (Including Chesapeake Bay and Chef’s Creek oysters).  What a DEAL! My mom and I stopped by before some shopping, and noshed on complimentary house made potato chips while waiting for my oysters.  There’s something that feels so luxurious drinking a cocktail and eating oysters at 5pm.  It doesn’t hurt when the bartender makes a quality cocktail.

6. Phone Stack Game

Stack City, chick

Have you heard of the phone stack game?

The premise is simple. To get folks to actually interact at dinner and stop tweeting, texting, etc, everyone stacks their phones in the middle of the table.  The first one to pull their cell phone out to check it has to pay for dinner/lunch/drinks.

Even though my little brother was technically the first to break protocol, my folks didn’t force him to foot the bill for all 9 of us at lunch (4 sibs, 2 parents, 2 significant others).  BUT I really like the idea of the game in theory (and could probably use the reminder to yank myself off the phone.)

Great weekend, and I still have another day left!  Thank goodness for those Presidents and their days.

She Likes Me, She REALLY Likes Me!!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but, most of the time, being a long-distance relationship is tough.  You miss your loved one, you wait anxiously for the next visit, you get confused over word choices in texts or emails, you have flights canceled, you might even be in different time zones.  No matter what the situation, LDRs often follow Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.

A lot can get lost in those 400 miles... Including me!

I’m in the 3rd long distance year of a 4 year relationship, so I kind of feel like I’ve become accustomed to the ups and downs. You never really get used to saying goodbye, but you develop a slightly thicker skin (for me, that means not weeping for an hour and a half before he heads off, maybe limiting it to 20 minutes).

You know what else helps?

Romantic Valentine’s Day packages from someone else.  Especially if that someone knows the way to your heart:

You're reading that correctly, do not adjust your computer.

Bacon, toffee, and brownies (if you’re interested in ordering some, ask the baker!)

Cate from Running Foodie and Cate’s Bites packed me the most gorgeous, decadent Valentine’s Day package I could imagine.  It was part of Christina’s brain child: The Valentine’s Day Blogger Swap! Since my regular Valentine was stuck working in a lab, playing with rats and such all day, Cate thoughtfully sent me some goodies to make the day a lot less lonely.

JACKPOT!

I’ll admit, I snuck her a few hints, but she really took the idea and transformed a blogger swap package into a box of joy and rapture!

Cate included a Yuengling, her favorite beer, as she’s been stockpiling it in Boston, unable to get it unless she’s in PA!!  That already touched my heart (and, soon, my liver!)

She remembered my love of not smelling like a locker room and included coconut bath gel (Wish I’d opened it up before my shower!!)

She ALSO remembered my fondness for crazy flavor combinations, and treated me to these gems:

Worth their weight in gold!

Theo dark chocolate with coconut and Hachez featuring Mango Chili flavors.

Holy shit.

Sorry, literally couldn’t contain that expletive, because that was my exact reaction to seeing these two bars.  The hungry beast inside of me wanted to lash out and wolf the entire box in one gulp, but I practiced self control… in the sense that I ate only one bacon toffee brownie.  I’ll save the other two to share with my beau when I see him this weekend, I wouldn’t want him to get jealous of my new blogging friend, Cate, and all the love I have for her.

No need to be jealous, Ry, I still only have eyes for you.

My stomach, however… that belongs to Cate for a little while.

Food, Sweat, AND Beers! Solid Valentine’s Day.

Oh, it is love.  Love of a day dedicated to love, and love of my friends, family, and studly boyf.  Bust mostly just love.

I apologize if your day was made sadder by my Debbie Downer post yesterday.  If you’re lucky, it really was the Most Depressing Valentine Story you read all day.  If not, you need to stop reading such sad stories on Valentine’s Day, seriously!  I tried to fill my day with productivity at work, listening to romantic songs or scenes from romantic movies, and a solid lady date.  But, really, I just tried to jam pack as much of the good stuff in as possible.  You know the stuff: Food, Sweat, and BEERS!!

Mission: Accomplished.

Food: 

Greenery!

A sublime spinach salad with black beans, avocado, yellow pepper, salsa, and cheese. Perfect lunch.

Homemade tastes much better

I DELIGHTED my office-mates with my white chocolate-covered strawberries that I whipped up on Monday night. The strawberries tasted much juicier than the ones that I recently had from some caterer.  Thus proving, yet again, that when something’s made with love, it’s gonna be dank.

Not'yo Nachos!

Spanky’s in Chapel Hill, the very first Chapel Hill restaurant I ever visited, delivered quality appetizers tonight for my lady-date with Melissa. The nachos were just the first course.  The quesadilla was so delicious that I didn’t even bother snapping a shot before wolfing down my share. What a feast!!

Sweat: 

Tonight’s Zumba class was a class of LOVE!

I got super sweaty, and my Garmin Connect even showered me with hearts my heart rate.  All the songs played featured love (or being sexy and knowing it….)  It was fantastic to get my sweat going.  If that hadn’t gotten my heart pumping, though, I’m sure that the last aspect of the night would’ve…

Beers:

Rose beers!

Not only did we get to enjoy a cask of Rustic Plow Farmhouse Saison from newcomer Haw River Farmhouse Ales, featuring rose hips and hibiscus petals, BUT that little number in the bottom right (by my OTHER hand) was a pint of Foothills‘ infamous Sexual Chocolate.

As described by the brewer:

A cocoa infused Imperial Stout – Opaque black in color with a dark brown head. Big chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee and dark fruit. Smooth dark chocolate backbone with complex notes of coffee, dark toffee and dark fruit.

SRM: 70
IBU: 85
ABV: 9.75%

Translation? Delicious! This beer, like almost all my favorite winter warmers and chocolate beers and stouts and whatever, got better the longer it sat out.  If I ever ask you for chocolate in my life, I probably just mean a glass of this beer, served in a pint glass and let to rest for a little while. There was initially a sharp taste to it, almost like burned hot chocolate, but the longer I let it sit (and focused on my nachos), the more the taste smoothed out to a sweet, creamy chocolate taste.

Get this beer if you can.

All in all, considering my Valentine was over 400 miles away, it was an ideal Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, he thought so too, as I sent him a surprise pizza for his V-Day dinner.  I hope you felt the love as well.  And, if you’re like me, you wore your heart on your sleeve. Or maybe your chest.

to remove the giant black thing from my teeth)”]because I had a GIANT black thing in my teeth)”]Just make believe that I showed up to your door bearing love gifts. I’d be singing, too.  I’d make a GREAT singing telegram.

What was the best food you ate or drink you sipped on during V-day?

The Most Depressing Valentine Story You’ll Read All Day

If you’re still reading this post after that uplifting title, I give you props.  I originally wrote most of this piece last year on tumblr (which is the hottest spot for dumping all your emotions on the internet), but would love to share it again with a little more, as my “readership” has changed drastically in the past year. Also, I am currently hopped up on all the chocolate that I melted and didn’t manage to ooze onto my strawberries, so what better way to spread this sugar high than an emotional post?

That's a fraction of the chocolate and berries that were consumed whilst whipping up my treats.

Ok, time for the feelings.

Once, when I was in fourth grade, I went to a small Quaker school in Delaware, in a class with about 14 other kids. They were all just 9-10 year old students, like myself, just looking for love in this crazy mixed up elementary school of ours (not really… but you get the idea).

It was Valentine’s day, 1996, and being the overzealous, overachieving, and over-emotional girl that I was am, I didn’t skimp on Valentines. I didn’t just mention to mom that I liked Power Rangers and expect her to pick up a few of these:

(click image for source)

Nope. I had a very mature vocabulary and a fantastic grasp of the notion of rhyming, so I decided I needed to go balls deep (though, at 9, I didn’t know that term, I think the concept is timeless.)

I bought real, grown-up sized cards and wrote individual couplets for each of my classmates.

On the scale of one to ten,
you reach the top, again and again!

Or….

Roses are red, the ocean is blue,
I’m lucky to have a friend like you!

You get the idea. No big deal, right, there were only 14 of them? I’m fairly certain they had little lions on the front of the card, and I worked really hard to make sure that my 9 year old handwriting looked its best…  In the morning, I was so excited to hand them out, and I made sure to put one in every other students’ box.

The saddest moment in the history of my personal Valentine’s Days is when I saw several of those cards, cards that I’d painstakingly planned, written out, sealed, and labeled, crumbled in the trashcan. I always complain that I don’t use the word crestfallen enough.  Here’s a primo opportunity to use it: I looked crestfallen.  Looking back, a shot of those cards would’ve made perfect instagram fodder.

Maybe they tossed them because I didn’t tack on some giant piece of candy (it was a fairly wealthy school district, the kind where full-size Kit Kat bars might show up on the mandatory classroom Valentines), or perhaps I just wasn’t very cool with the other kids.  That was actually more likely the case, as I found out later that I never totally fit in there.  Whatever the reason, it broke my tiny little fourth grade heart into a million pieces.

Imagine the dust created from crushing up an entire box of conversation hearts…

(Click image for source)

Well, it’s 15 years later, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.

Luckily my negative emotions towards Valentine’s day have been replaced, instead, with a love of my friends (who are basically family), a love of my main squeeze, Ryan, and a love of my family (a special shout out to my brother, Somers, who turns 23 today!!)

Love that boy

Just keep in mind that the things you do in your life (not even necessarily on Vday, try EVERY day) resonate in people’s minds, no matter how trivial they seem at the time.  We’re not 9 years old anymore, but the human heart never really gets all that tough (in my experience).

Here’s my challenge to you: Try to do something today that someone will remember 15 years from now for how GREAT it made them feel!

And if any skinny little blonde girls stare up at you optimistically, holding out some sort of glitter encrusted construction paper with hope in their eyes and a big, dopey grin on their face, take that Valentine and put it somewhere she can see it.  Trust me, it’ll mean the world to her.

The Science of Wine

After last night’s Six Pack Sunday post, you might start thinking I’m some sort of wine-o. Lucky for you, I barely know the difference between tannin and a tastevin (And the only reason I DO know the difference is because I just Googled “wine terminology“.)  That didn’t make last Thursday’s Science of Wine event at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham any less fun!

I had a blast at September’s Science of Beer event at the same venue and, as we were walking out of the building, I remember the folks mentioning a Science of Wine coming up in February.  Well, I waited patiently and my dreams came to fruition. [Note: I was trying to make some sort of wine/fruit pun there, but it just wasn’t happening. Imagine you just read something hilarious.]

I asked my beer buddy, Melissa, to join me for all the shenanigans of the night.  Sometimes I worry that you who don’t know me might assume that I have no other friends, as Melissa seems to be the only person that comes up regularly in my blog.  I promise, I have more than one friend (if you count my bathrobe as a friend.  Do you? Good, me too.)

Our other friends came to visit in their fancy Chirba Chirba dumpling truck!! Well, who are we to resist their Juicy Buns (especially after realizing that they sponsor one of Durham’s infamous Luchadoras, aptly named Juicy Buns herself!)

Juicy and Delicious!

After a little juicy appetizer, we were ready for the wine.

But really, we were just ready for the main event of the night, one of the biggest reasons we decided to go to the event at all!

Also juicy: Grapes!

The second we heard about the opportunity to squish our own grapes with our toes, we couldn’t resist the chance to live out all our I Love Lucy fantasies.  Though the “barrel” was a little smaller, the experience was just as joyous.

Total rapture

I even took some time from my uncontrollable laughter to pose!

Oh, hey eyes, thanks for un-squinting for a moment!

Melissa squishing those grapes!

I made Melissa go after me so as not to have to squish in anyone’s foot germs but my own (luckily, she had faith in my own feet, and happily obliged my wishes.)  After we got our fill of the fun in a tub, we washed our tootsies and started the night off right with a glass of wine and a side of edu-tainment.

Marsh-MALO!

We discussed the effect that malo-lactic fermentation can have on the mouthfeel of a wine (and why some malic acidic wines give you the mouthfeel of a sharp, tart fruit like an apple while others with more lactic acid taste smoother, like a GIANT marshmallow.)

Trader Joe’s did a cool exhibit where they described the regions that two wines that derived from the same grape came from (such as New Zealand vs. Germany) and guess, by taste, which was which.  Melissa and I decided to make a game of it.

Guess who won that face-off?

#1 stunner!

(it was me.)

Another total treat of the night?

DIY Coaster Creation Station!

Mine's the one on the right (I like turtles.)

This station, along with the DIY Wine Charm station, were great additions to the night.  It was an excellent way to sit back without any wine and just relax with some Modge Podge, scrapbooking scissors, and beads. Bonus? We all got to take home some very nifty crafts.  And I flipping LOVE crafts.

The most exciting aspect of the night (after the grape squishing, of course) was probably from the folks at The Wine Feed. Their exhibit was dangerous enough to require everyone to rock safety goggles (don’t worry, Ol’ Four Eyes here brought her own glasses!) There were sharp knives, swords, and BUBBLY!

En garde!

They showed off their fancy sabers, explained where you need to hit the bottle for maximum poppage, and blasted off a few tops.

Pop bottles!

This was a fantastic party trick that doesn’t actually require a fancy saber to do… I wonder if it works with bottles of Andre (mostly since that might be all I can afford for a practice or two…) The cool part about the sabering of a bottle is, because of the angle you hit it, the glass breaks AWAY from the wine itself, allowing you to pour it into a glass and drink it without lining your throat with shards of glass!

We started to get hungry and ventured over to the Reliable Cheese Company’s table for some wine and cheese pairing (ah, the sweetest pairing of all?!)

Heaven must be missing angels...

Stinky, sharp, creamy, nutty, buttery, sheep’s, goat’s, I couldn’t get enough.  They really put on a solid presentation, and now I must get out to the store…  They even have cheese classes if anyone’s trying to get their PhCheese (bahahaha.)

Our photographer at the end of the night didn’t really understand how to snap a shot of a pair of ladies, but I appreciated the effort of getting our last few moments at the event.

Beer buddies venturing into the world of wine!

We finished the night with the tasty treats served up by newcomer Baguettaboutit and Pie Pushers, always a favorite.

Pesto Chicken don't mind if I do!

Perfect accessory to soak up that vino!

Thanks to all the amazing vendors, vineyards, food trucks, and OF COURSE the museum for putting on another great event.

What do you think your favorite exhibit would’ve been?