Wednesday, July 23, 2014

... can't you see we've got a good thing here?

What a crazy week couple of weeks! Last Sunday I discovered an old friend had arrived in town from Kansas (after having not seeing him in two years and with zero notice). As things typically go for me, I attempted to be accommodating and spent a good deal of time restructuring the next few days in order to see him. Which was, in hindsight, not a good use of my time.

Before the ghostee-pocolypse began - I went to Greenville for valuable pre-baby time with Lady Faulk looking at adorable owl-covered baby seats and the Cadillac of strollers. There were so many cute things to look at and gross things to learn about (NO, I did not touch her belly. YES, I am still in the choosing to be child-free for the foreseeable rest of my existence. Barring maybe adoption or fostering someday in the distant future).

The ghostee was vaguely interested in some very specific local gossip and I feel he was more using me for my network of friends than actually wanting to interact - but I arranged for a friendly game night at Starbucks with a host of folks and set up a group dinner at Palmetto Smokehouse in his honor. Which was delightful and yummy (drink specials and tasty food) but made my skin crawl from the conversational perspective.

In attempting to deconstruct my many social gaffes of the evening, I kept returning to the fact that people do in fact change. I have, in fact, changed over the past several years. And in said dinner I was able to demonstrate my new non-doormat feature. It was not well received by Kansas. Especially when I refused to take half-assed apologies and verbal abuse in front of a table full of people. Oh well.

The rest of the week was spent travelling for a work conference. It had been eons since I had been on a trip like this, so I was a bundle of nerves. It did not help that my planned mini-plane flight (Cessna, from Athens, via SeaPort) got cancelled super-last-minute and I had to drive a long way to Nashville. So I woke up at the butt-crack of dawn and navigated my way to the Gaylord Opryland Resort. I was not aware that this was a THING, y'all. It is most definitely the most opulent place I have stayed in. I got lost MULTIPLE times. It is like 5 massive midtown Atlanta hotels smashed together. and then they have a freaking botanical garden with a boat ride in the center. There are also a huge number of eateries and pools and a fantastic fitness center ... and a mall next door.

Clearly, I was suffering for my career and the nation's future. SO MUCH SUFFERING.

What do you do on a conference? Absorb sessions and network! It was a little out of my comfort zone, but I got to bond with some gals from my district and meet other folks. The sessions were informative, but not always the most entertaining way to spend an hour. And some were hilarious for all the wrong reasons. And I was rabidly taking notes so I could re-hash and re-present later on. The coffee was meh, the food was scarce (probably due to the fact that our conference was HUGE), and people were not showing their best manners at times.

After-hours dinners and adventures were had, naturally. If you go to Music City, prepare yourself for cowboy boots, blues music and whiskey. B.B. King's Blues Club was just a short ride from the hotel. We made a reservation on OpenTable, but  it took 30min to get a table after we arrived. No matter! We sat at the bar and listened to the AWESOME house band until we were seated at a table. Everyone's food was fantastic, as we were in the sharing mood. I had my first ever fried catfish, some awesome Memphis BBQ wings, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes with caramelized onions, and chips with blue cheese/bacon/truffle oil (yes I AM aware that every blessed thing on that list is most definitely fried). There was some dancing (both blues dancing and alcohol induced bouncy-white-girl-dancing) and Thursday seemed to be a night with the 'older set'.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge was another awesome stop. This bright purple building has a band playing (and a bar slinging dranks) on every level. It was smoky and dive-y and so terribly fun just to exist in. The food was typical pub stuff, so I'd not plan on eating there. But if you want to hear the local talent, this is the place to go! On a trip up and down the stairs, I heard the same song in three different styles by three wicked vocalists.

And then there was the live music and mechanical bull at the Tequila Cowboy. Good times! I'd like to go back and explore the Parthenon and the Hermitage, amongst other things.

Oh, and Night Vale - lovely weather we're having.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

... she's a high-flying flag ...

Various and sundry events had me traveling to more off-the-beaten-path areas this past week, like Mount Airy, NC. This small town, besides being home to some of my extended family members, is best known for being the alleged model of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show and the local sonker festival. It is also quite picturesque.

With all of those wide open spaces there isn't much to do. However, in recent years there has been an upswing in the number of local wineries and breweries in the Yadkin Valley area and North Carolina in general. In fact, my uncle works at Stony Knoll Vineyards. My cousin and I had some time to burn, so we went to Round Peak Vineyards and Skull Camp Brewery. The grounds were beautiful and dog-friendly. The owner's dogs even made the rounds and paid our table a visit.

As you can see, I tried SEVERAL wines and shared a flight of beer with my aunt and cousin. The wines at this particular establishment are mostly blends, and the semi-dry wines were all excellent! My top picks were Anticipation, Matrimonio Parfait, Nebbiolo, Dedication and Temptation. I even had a very good port. And did I mention the view?

It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon, after a long morning of baking zucchini bread and sitting on the front porch with octogenarians. Who kept trying to feed me sonker and pie and fried chicken. The horror!

I also got in a fair bit of reading. I was able to subscribe to Runner's World and the Atlantic at a ridiculously low price via Zulily. I haven't been getting a lot of books in this summer, but I have been reading a lot of articles, magazines, and blogs. The books currently in process are Dune, Lies My Teacher Told Me, Stiffed, and Riverworld.
McLain and I are dog-sitting for Lady Faulk's sweet Indy this weekend. Indy and Yankee are getting along swimmingly, but Indy is very affectionate, hyper, and likes to invade Yankee's 'bubble'. Conclusion? Indy is more like me and Yankee is more like McLain.Which works out.

Aren't they so cute? TOO CUTE!

We had a great holiday long weekend, and my NC family was able to come down for a brief stay. We had some swim time at the Crouse House before meeting up with the Forgie clan for some out of this WORLD fireworks. I have never in my LIFE been so CLOSE to fireworks going off before! I borrowed this photo from a friend who was snapping close by. They seemed close enough to touch! And were close enough to leave a little ash behind.

Other than  my very strong feelings and regrets and thoughts about the recent SCOTUS ruling, a pretty wonderful week for everything but my politics-and-ethics--related blood pressure.
This, on the other hand, made me feel a bit happier!

Monday, June 30, 2014

... on the road again ...

The rest of last week was a bit of a whirlwind! Thursday I was able to visit with some lovely nuclear folks at Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe and Seneca's Jazz on the Alley. If you visit Ye Olde, might I recommend the Strawberry Stack? Think Montecristo, minus the battering and deep frying. The strawberry jam MADE it! The actual jazz was hilarious and at times somewhat painful, but it was nice to see downtown Seneca opened up and made tourist friendly - there are some shops I would like to revisit during the daytime.

On Friday McLain and I took a trip to Helen, GA. It was a nice 2ish hour drive, although we had a late start due to me being neurotic and needing things from the store at 7am, like I do. We went tubing down the river with Cool River Tubing, which was delightful! The river is gentle and slow, with only a few rapidly flowing parts. It would be great for a family with kids - buy a few trips and set the kiddos loose! McLain got a 'push stick', which was helpful as my tube was difficult and determined to get stuck at every opportunity.

We were ravenous after all the extreme effort it took to float to the outpost, so we used some leftover credit to eat at Bodensee. I figured, hey - when in 'alpine' vaguely German mountain towns do as the locals do - and thus, this restaurant was chosen. Just in case you were wondering, Germans do NOT mess around with the butter and cheese. This was a stick-to-your-ribs repast, and not at all low calorie or low fat. McLain got a smoked pork chop with sauerkraut and I got the chicken schnitzel with mushrooms and bacon and cheese. We also split a Camembert cheese appetizer. There was much dairy. It was delightful. Although, as I've been leaving salt out of things I'm cooking lately, it seemed a tad salty. It was probably fine for normal folk.

We also took the new red beast out for a ride. I drove, motivated solely by the fact that no beer would be in the growlers this weekend unless I drove us to the Wall of Beer. McLain knows how to motivate a ornery and reluctant driver. I like driving the truck in theory, but it is still a lot to remember. Shift here, watch the RPMs, blah blah. I can almost listen to the radio instead of being coached the whole drive. As Yankee loves the truck, hopefully I will become more confident and will get him to the lake more often.

Saturday morning was lazy, with a 10 mile run after noon and selling the old metal fence via
Craigslist-Fu. Making some cash back on something you aren't using is pretty great. The evening was devoted to contradance at River Falls Lodge. Contra is a very odd mixture of square-dancing, English country dancing, bluegrass and hippies. It is a BLAST. You are walked through it, the music is surprisingly addictive, and coordination is not required. The band this past weekend, ContraForce, is known for being more techno-ish and they jammed out!

In retrospect, it was the weekend of mountain drives. Pumpkintown is in the middle of nowhere. But it is quite pretty on the way to nowhere.

Cropshare madness ensued, because summer's here and so are the squash. And cucumbers. And tomatoes. And beans. Between the two of us, McLain and I made roasted green beans, froze about two pounds of yellow beans, froze another two pounds of squash, summer veggie tartlets, veggie soup, pesto, and pasta primavera. We still have beets, cucumbers, kohlrabi, tomatoes, zucchini, and green onions to use up. I have been eating cucumbers with lots of hummus for snacks. The zucchini is going to be used in this bread that Katie made while I'm visiting Grandot in the woods.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

... 'cuz I'm lonely and I'm blue, I need you - and your love too ...

McLain and I adopted Yankee a few months ago, and I am totally in love with my sweet beastie. I hate disciplining him, want to snuggle with him at all opportunities, and we are mostly inseparable. Yankee sees me as a 'senior pack member' rather than the alpha - which means I get to spoil him. He only occasionally tries to bend the rules. He's a wuss when it comes to exercise and tries to eat fireflies. I can't convince him to swim. He knows when I feel crappy and nuzzles me. He has the softest ears. He gooses house-guests and loves bath-time. One the rare occasion when he is really bad, he gets sprayed with citronella from his 'jackass collar'. It works out.

However - because my dog is so roguishly handsome (and people apparently have never seen a Dane ... ever) I get a LOT of attention when I take him in public. So much so that people will interrupt private conversations I am having with people to approach me about my dog. Rude. I usually get one or more of the following comments and questions from people that are irritating and ... dare I say it ... foolish.

Such as -

Do you need a saddle for that thing? Oh! You are quite the wit! I've never heard that before!

Have you ever tried to ride it? No, I have not tried to ride my dog. I actually care about his health and ability to ... live.

How much for a ride? I sincerely hope you are talking about my dog. And no. Just no.

What does he eat? What he wants/can get. Babies! I mean, you try fishing something outta his mouth he's gotten hold of! Actually, he eats dog food. He also likes raw veggies. If you leave something in reach (he has a long reach) and unattended, he eats that too. He does, however, let me take things out of his mouth if he has something he shouldn't.

How much does he eat? Must be expensive. Enough. And he is less expensive to feed per month than my geriatric cat. Leaf is an expensive 'free cat'.

Don't trust that cat, it's sketchy as hell.

How much does he weigh? Within 10lbs of me. Don't ask about that number.

Why don't you breed him? Well, he has no testicles. And because we don't want to contribute to puppy mills. And he's not breed-standard. 

Aren't those dogs aggressive?
No more than any other breed. It's in the nurturing. And this guy? Total chicken. Unless you are a couch pillow. This is what happens to unattended couch pillows when my people watch Dr. Who ...

Aren't those dogs stupid? Are your children stupid? Because they are tall and stuff. Or your spouse? Because he/she has big ears and a big grin. No. Danes are not stupid. They are stubborn. Like me.

He must have huge poop. Yes. He does. It may have something to do with the fact that his digestive tract is about the size of a person's, as he is about the size of a person. Excellent thinking, Sherlock.

Why is he wearing a muzzle? It is a halter, not a muzzle. It's to help him not pull me over when he sees chickens, couch pillows, or squirrels. But good on you for noticing and asking BEFORE you started petting him!

What's wrong with his leg?
It's a lick granuloma that is over inflamed scar tissue. We are taking care of it in the vet-recommended fashion. Yep - it's gross. No, it doesn't hurt. 

Does he shed? Yes. Large tumble-furs. Daily.

How did he get so big?  Genetics? Drinking too much Hartwell water? You pick.

I bet the could take my dog in a fight. Me too. That is, if your poorly-socialized creature actually pissed him off, and then I let our dogs bicker. But I don't think we should let that happen. In fact, I'm moving to the other side of the dog park, as your dog seems to not deal with large dogs well ...

Will he hurt my kid? Is your kid a couch pillow, chicken, squirrel, or stuffed hedgehog? Or is your kid causing my dog physical pain? No? Than no. Yankee may try to cuddle your progeny, but evisceration will not occur.

Conclusion - people react to Danes in much the way they react to cats in the following xkcd comic ...


Monday, June 23, 2014

... but she blinded me with science - and failed me in geometry ...

What a week! What a flurry of doing and making and going places and ... lots of napping.

I love summer.

I was able to catch a movie with McLain - Edge of Tomorrow was perfect for a date-night movie (action! explosions! humor!) and while McLain was upset that there was a little cheesy romance stuff, overall it was a good, mindless film to enjoy. On a related note - this article about the loss of truly strong female characters may be more up your alley! A lot of movies are including 'strong women' - and giving them no real function. Also a list of interesting questions, such as "could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?". Seriously, worth the read.

Before beating the heat in the theater, we got a GREAT dinner at The Fox. Although there has been a bit of chatter on the internet about it being a horrible place to eat - both times we went I found it to be quite nice! And I liked the visiting bulldog. I just found out it is closed, and it looks like it is closed permanently. Oh well. The search for the best Anderson date night location continues!

I have also been toying with the idea of driving stick shifts. McLain had me drive Betty White in public, on the road, in Seneca - and I stalled out maybe three times. This was punctuated with waves of ugly words and comments about how stick shifts were practically the same as using the horses and buggies for transportation. And then, just as Betty and I started to get along - McLain traded her for a red two-door Explorer. I have mixed feelings. The shifting will be easier, Yankee LOVES the truck, and now we can haul things ... so we'll see. I will be driving the yet unnamed vehicle exclusively in a week or so.

I was able to go see family in Maggie Valley, briefly. It was a nice drive, and generally very pretty. The highlight of the trip was losing $7.50 in the casino. I was actually able to read an entire book while I was up there!  In case you were wondering, The Fault in our Stars is a nice poolside read and is a great example of realistic teens in teen literature. A nice relaxed day was just what I needed though, because I had signed myself up for a rough time the next day ... the Without Limits Lake Conestee 25k.

This was my longest running distance yet, my first race on trails - ever, and the hottest outdoor run I'd attempted. I was nervous and was struck by just how ... hardcore ... all the other runners were. My event was the only non-ultra thing going on that day. My time was slow, I felt awful, and I had to walk a bit. BUT I did finish. Even if I'm still fighting some soreness. 15.53mi in 3:11 and change - not too bad, but plenty of room to improve.

Everyone knows that the best rehab for sore legs is a massive road-trip to IKEA ... right? I did a lot of dreaming, but only came back with whiskey tumblers, bathmats, dishtowels, and a renewed desire to rip up the carpet in my townhouse.

On the food front - the gravlax turned out wonderfully (and addictive and tasty and I shouldn't make it too often or I will die over eating too much salt) , and McLain and I may have perfected icebox pickles! Which is great as we got 4 more pounds of cucumbers this week ... thankfully I have figured out how to make pesto so I can get rid of all of that basil.

I've been thnking about starting to get a fitness box every month - I really liked getting a Birchbox when I was subscribed. The only thing that could make the idea of a surprise box better is having it full of fitness things! The ones I've liked the idea of most so far are Kona Kase, StrideBox, and RunnerBox. Has anyone used any of these? Any words of advice?

Finally, I will leave you with an odd recipe - I bought a thing of chia and this is surprisingly non-offensive chia pudding. I use plain yogurt and almond milk. Be advised - it is BLAND unless you add fruit, spices, or flavoring. It is tasty though!

Monday, June 16, 2014

... I've got the magic in me, when I hit the flow the girls come snappin' at me ...

This week I have been experimenting with voodoo magic.

Well, not really. But it kinda feels like it! After going to the pool with a good friend I have been doing my best impression of a molting lobster. I am usually the sunscreen queen, but was ... um-mm ... having to much fun to remember to reapply. McLain and I actually had to postpone a planned trip to go drifting downriver for the sake of my poor skin. One of my dear roommates who is into natural remedies (and had a sunburn the week before) recommended lavender oil. I was scorched enough to buy in to the idea, instead of sticking with my usual Solarcaine route. While I must admit I still peeled, the oil (and frequent reapplication) did help with sensitivity and kept my skin mosturized (I used a bath oil to help 'carry' the straight essential oil). I may smell like a yoga studio, but I sleep WONDERFULLY and my skin is really soft (where it isn't peeling). Your mileage may vary.

In the same vein as voodoo magic - do any readers use local honey to treat seasonal allergies? I was able to get a pint of local honey (as in, running distance from my house local) from my CSA and was wondering if anyone had seen any success with this treatment. Bradford pear trees are the bane of my outdoor existance.

Our CSA share this week had -
  • Lettuce - 1 head
  • Broccoli - 1 massive head
  • Cabbage - 2 medium heads
  • Yellow Squash - 2lbs
  • Zucchini - 2lbs
  • Green Beans - .5lb
  • Cucumbers - 4lbs
  • Green Onions -1bunch
  • Dill - .3lbs
  • Tomatoes - 2lbs
  • Kale - 8 leaves

Yes, you read that right. FOUR POUNDS OF CUCUMBERS. And as there are only so many G&T's this girl can muddle cucumbers for ... I called up Grandot. It was time to pickle. We ended up with a plain batch of refrigerator pickles, as well as a dill seed and a mustard seed batch. The pint jar contains radishes I am trying to pickle, because we both hate radishes but both love pickles. I still have a TON of cucumbers left over and will be eating them in salad and with hummus.

McLain has this little crinkle cutter tool that slices the pickles all fancy-like. So our pickles are almost as pretty as the ones at the farmer's market. Go team! What else did we have WAY too much of? Dill, ya'll. And what the heck does one do with that much dill? I got inspired and decided to make some gravlax. Although my sweetie cannot eat fish, I figured I could use up the huge mass of dill with this recipe. Thanks, Pinterest!

Zesting the lemon was hard with only this grater, but I made it work.

 I lined an aluminum pan with saran wrap and layered in the dry salt/sugar mixture and salmon. Then I piled on lots and LOTS of fresh dill.

The gravlax has about 10 hours yet to go, but I am very excited to see how it turned out. I will let you know if it bombs or if it rocks! While I was working on pickles and gravlax, McLain made a lovely rice, cabbage, beef and tomato hotpot in the crock-pot. He also made a great venison and bean mixture that will go great in burritos and with rice. It's great dating a man who knows his way around the kitchen. He's threatening to make sauerkraut with the remaining cabbage, which is fine by me. And to try and use up even more of the veggies and things in the fridge, I altered this Pinterest find!

I changed it up by altering the amount of certian veggies and making a carbonara-esqe sauce. My alterations are below -
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan
  • 3 eggs 
  • 16 oz frozen peas
  • 16 oz canned mushrooms 
  • 1lb whole wheat spaghetti 
  • 2lb (ish) squash
  • Garlic, thyme, pepper and salt to taste
  • 5 1/2 cups water 
 Whisk the milk, Parmesan, and eggs together. Follow the steps listed in the recipe, but when directed to add milk and cheese, gradually add in the egg mixture while stirring. Ta-Da!

In other news - If you are in downtown Greenville, make sure to try Blue Ridge Brewing Company - their brunch is superb and their beer is wonderful. And their fried pickles ... just go and thank me later. I have yet to try something that isn't incredible. And have a Happy Bomb with the in-house stout. You will be glad you did!

And - final note - if you think you're fancy, check out Pretty Little Pursuits and Southern Accents for a chance to win a Tory Burch handbag! I know these two gals from Clemson, and they are much better dressed than I. Hurry on over!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

.. it's not just all physical, I'm the type who won't get oh-so-critical ...

Summer vacation = sleeping in, too much sun, two-a-day workouts, and general laziness for at least the first few days. I have been averaging ten to twelve hours a night and it is fantastic. You may not be able to 'make up' for sleep deprivation, but that doesn't mean I won't try!

Summer also means our crop-share portion starts getting out-of-control huge! This past week we got -
  •  Kale
  • Chard
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Cucumbers
Sometimes it is hard to figure out what to do with all those veggies. The squash are easy to saute, as are the carrots. Beets are roasted. Cucumbers are eaten raw with hummus or used in cocktails. But cabbage and turnips are a bit harder to use up. This past week I pureed the turnips and made a odd facsimile of mashed potatoes - although they were a bit spicier tasting than taters would be. I was very confused with what to do with the cabbages, because I typically hate slaw and all things slaw related. The mayo grosses me out. I decided to make this slaw and LOVED it. I actually ate most of it on my own, and will be making it again if we have another cabbage surplus. I did not make the ribs - but that may have to change! And it was so darn pretty to put together. I left out the cilantro, because cilantro tastes like feet to me.

That's three separate types of basil from my thriving container garden.

I just love how purple cabbage looks on the inside.

The yellow squash was all bumpy this week - love it!

We had leftover garlic scapes (which I love) so I decided to try infusing some vinegar. The only bottle we had on hand was this odd little water flask. I will let you know how it turns out in a week or so.

I've also been rockin' new threads from Fabletics lately, and I've been loving it! This review is unsolicited and unpaid - as all of my opinions are. I signed up on a whim, because I had changed sizes and was running out of lounge-wear and active-wear that fit. I also wear two sets of active-wear a day, meaning that I had to do laundry a LOT if I didn't pick up some more. Fabletics works like other clubs in the JustFab family - you join and have to use your voucher for an outfit by a certain date, or it becomes a certificate for a certain dollar amount on a future purchase. The cost is a little bit higher than you could get if you shopped around, but the quality is great! I also like that all of the outfits are fairly cute and on trend. The outfits I've gotten over the past three months are below -

Glissade - back view. This is the Switch Back tee and the Lima capri. I love the tee and use it as a casual top with a bralette. The capri is great for running and kickboxing.

Failli - front view. The Calama crop is great for hot days, and is now a go-to lazy day staple. The Palisades tee is airy, light and drapey. The Sevan sports bra is pretty, but more of a lounge thing than a sports bra, IMHO. I don't run in these items - mostly run errands. And look adorable.

Coda - front view. I think this one is the winner for function and looks so far - the Norwalk tank is perfect for kickboxing and the Salar legging is comfy for waiting on the mechanics to finish up or walking the dog or kickboxing. I have worn it twice this week! The built in bra is sufficient for 'the girls' which is saying something.

Over the three months I found found the service to be great, the clothing to be good quality, and the selction to be nice. The only downsides to Fabletics that I can report are that
  • Fabletics bras tend to be better for the less-endowed among us. Moving Comfort bras are still my running buddies!
  • Don't dawdle - order early on in the month! I missed out on some pieces because I waited and they don't usually restock.
  • The tags on the items are the long skinny ones that I hate. Ugh.

In other news, I may be signing up for this race in the morning ... it's only 25k, so I can make it. Right?