Top 10 Highlights from this week (a la #SCTopTen)

Call it the #PaulsonTopTen. This week’s work/life balance was…less balanced. A lot more work and lot less play. One night, I was in bed by 8:10pm, just drained. I’ll get back to my writing ways this weekend, but for now, here are the top 10 key moments from this last week:


1) Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing:


So full of flavor! Brussel sprouts were a bit expensive, so I opted to substitutes cauliflower and broccoli. You can’t go wrong. Simple, delicious, and tastes great for leftovers.

2) Our new coffee maker has changed our mornings for the better. Smooooooth coffee:

Cuisnart3. Achieved longest held plank: 4 minutes. New goal: 5 minute plank.

4. Actually taking a break two days for lunch and reading “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. Extremely inspirational and enlightening.

5. Narrowing down wedding venues to the top three choices. Budgets outlined, catering calls in. This thing is slowly, but surely, coming together.

6. Recognizing that I have not bitten my nails in over three weeks. As a life-long proclaimed nail biter, I have tried, and tried, and tried, to stop. This is the first time, in my entire life, that I have made it this far. Childhood bad habits, be gone!

7. Fullsteam Brewery’s Coffee is for Closers (coffee porter) is on point.

8. Took a PiYo class on Sunday for the first time in two months. It’s hard to believe how the tiniest movements can create such lasting aches in muscles for days to come. Good aches, of course, but feeling a bit cowboy-esque nonetheless.

9. An impromptu date night with Aaron on Wednesday made this week. I had to travel to Raleigh (second time that day) to bring supplies for a conference, and Aaron kindly accompanied me for unloading purposes. Post-work responsibilities, we ventured over to Guasaca (seriously, this place can do no wrong, and so much of the menu is vegan friendly) and then a shopping adventure over at our favorite Bottle Revolution.

10. Spent much of yesterday reflecting, listening, watching the world of President John F. Kennedy. He was a tremendous orator with the gift to inspire, to call people to act, to invoke feelings inside of all us and implored us to remember that we are not one; we are not silos; instead, we are all in this together, as people of a nation and of a planet. Rest in peace, President Kennedy, and thank you for leaving such an impact on our world, 50 years later.

JFK_One Person Can Make A Difference

Now, where was that acorn squash I blabbed about?

After realizing that I failed to include the actual acorn squash recipe that I made during my last post, here it is:


Well, that’s clearly just an acorn squash cut it half. After scouring the Kroger, I was unable to find butternut squash for Black Bean and Butternut Squash Burritos via Oh She Glows. So, a quick substitution gave us: Black Bean and Acorn Squash Burritos. This was, in fact, my first ever acorn squash roasting experiencing.IMAG0965

Hello, beautiful. Threw it in the pan with the onion, garlic, red bell pepper, rice, black beans, spices:


Delicious. I will certainly try this again with butternut squash (I also did not use any vegan cheese, which may be another fun future experiment. I’m still so on the fence about such product).

Of course, I have now pinned 50+ acorn squash recipes in the last week as the winter of roasting continues (roasting vegetables, that is. Let’s be clear.)

Outside of food news, I’m officially on a running regiment break. I did sign up for the Merge Records 25k in March, and I don’t anticipate any longer races prior to then. So, January will be back to training mode, and in the next 1.5 months, I will embrace my already favorite YMCA classes (BootCamp, Cardio Intervals) and add some others (Yoga, PiYo) to the mix to shake it up. I used to practice yoga much more diligently but slipped away from the activity. I will change this today by venturing into my first PiYo class in at least two or three months.

And, with “Wedding Indecision 2013” looming, I’ll need all the mindfulness of yoga one can achieve. Namaste.

Where Have You Been All My Life, Acorn Squash?

One of the most unanticipated but welcomed outcomes of this pursuit of plant-based eating is the discovery of foods I passed by the previous 20+ years of life. This would include the acorn squash. In fact, this includes squash, period. I dabbled a bit in the butternut variety a la Trader Joe’s pre-cubed, but I did not have the slightest inclination of how diverse, flavorful, and delicious these fall vegetables could be when prepared well.

Partly due to Aaron traveling again and partly due to my incessant Pinning of new recipes, I went into overdrive this week on the lunch and dinner menus.

In the two hours of dicing, roasting and blending last night, I made another Oh She Glows recipe: Glazed Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf. I have such respect for Angela, a woman I only know through blog entries and phenomenal photos, but her graceful nature of pairing foods is remarkable. This dish was a candidate for the Paulson-Todd-Wojack Thanksgiving, and after tasting it last night, I could make the same case (although it does take quite some leg work to bring all the moving parts together):


Look at that! Shredded carrots, onions, celery, raisins – the vegan stuffing. IMAG0957

The actual “loafing” of the dish – some may call this a “Dufner” dish. (No? Really?)


I must have been so excited to take the last two – blurry, McBlurrison (hence why I do NOT tout this as a professional photographer’s blog…for many other reasons well.)

While the loaf baked, I prepped meal number two for the week: Cranberry Walnut Chickpea Salad Sandwich from The Simple Veganista (a new find in my blog pursuits). See a trend in main ingredient? This is what happens when you purchase a bag of walnuts from Costco.


You can’t go wrong with this dish. I ended up eating it over a bed of spinach today but will make an excellent sandwich filling. The photo above is pre-dressing, which knocked my socks off.


Looks a bit like hummus? It’s a combination of tahini, white wine vinegar, Agave syrup (maple-flavored), and a little water. OH MY GOODNESS. This is a powerhouse of flavor and just brought the entire dish together. I didn’t actually take a photo of my lunch today (oh, but you took all these?) I was ravenous today after my first double workout Tuesday, part of my winter maintenance plan.

I’ll share more of this week’s culinary adventures later, including the acorn squash that I roasted…which was the title of the post. How misleading of me. For now, I leave you with one of the most satisfying meals: a simple, toasted hummus and veggie sandwich. There is not much better in life than toasted bread:


Recap: City of Oaks Half-Marathon (2013)

This is the second Sunday in a row that I have been awake before 4:30am, and both for a particular reason. Last Sunday, I was up in preparation of the City of Oaks Half-Marathon. I ran the 10k in 2012 and earned a PR. This year, I wanted to take it up one step and add the additional (almost) seven miles.

In the last two weeks, post-engagement, my running training fell by the wayside. I believe I squeezed in just two longer runs, with the longest only reaching six miles. But, I felt strong thanks to Bootcamp and Cardio Intervals via the YMCA. So, I went into last Sunday’s race with no expectation of besting my RunRaleigh time. I also did not have my best friend and motivation at the finish line for this race: Aaron was in Missouri for the Tennessee football game, so this was my first race in some time flying absolutely solo.

It was a beautiful morning for a run: crisp and cool. There was good energy at the starting line – a lot of first time half-marathoners and marathoners. There were several more pacing groups for this race, which ended up being my saving grace since I did not befriend anyone on the course as opposed to my RunRaleigh experience.

Now, I knew this was going to be a hilly course – but it definitely took my breath away near the end (really? Another incline??) I heard through the grapevine that the last few miles of the marathon course were brutal. That definitely does not spark my interest of adding another 13.1 miles for this particular race.

I hoofed the first mile to try and break from the swarm of humanity that engulfed the front part of the race. I found it a little overwhelming at times although it did improve after about mile three or four. Keeping my eyes peeled, I sought out the 1:45 pace group after mile two and did my best to maintain that effort. Compared to RunRaleigh, I wasn’t feeling quite as on as I had, but I did bring Goo with me for this race since I had felt wimpy around mile 9.

Sticking with the pace group. we winded our way through downtown Raleigh and made the journey back to the NC State/Cameron Village area. At about the 11.5 mile, I decided to take it up a notch and pushed out in front of the pace group (also trying to escape after I blurted out “Go Heels” upon discussing of the previous days State/Carolina game. Let’s just say that I was a lone…wolf.)

I smile as I saw the last of the course was downhill, and I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:44:12 – beating my previous best just a few weeks before! Without the pacers, I would not have been able to keep up that effort, so a big shout out to them!

Sadly, no photos for this race, which after viewing the professionals photos taken, no one is missing anything. How do people take good race photos? I always look like I’m one step away from collapsing.

This was my last race for 2013! Looking ahead to 2014, there are a lot of options on the table. Bull City Running announced the new Merge 25k, which is a point-to-point course from Chapel Hill to Merge Records’ downtown Durham location. I think that will be a must try for me.

What races do you have on your radar for the rest of 2013/beginning 2014?


“Of course!”

A lot has happened since my last post. On this path toward full “adulthood,” I’ve stepped on the accelerator more than I could have imagined.

Let’s start with our new relationship status: ENGAGED! It was inevitable (fortunately, as it’s all I had hoped for) yet I was still surprised last Friday, October 25 during our visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville when Aaron asked THE question here:


The (brief version) of the full story: We had this weekend getaway planned for several months – a relaxing three days of Asheville and Brevard, full of a tour at the Biltmore House, several hikes in Brevard, and of course, some of our favorite (and new) beer haunts. We left Durham early Friday morning and arrived at the Biltmore Estate by 10:30am. After touring the house with our audio guides, we had a wonderful lunch out at Cedric’s Pub in Antler Village (made the butternut squash and kale risotto vegan!), a nice walk around the farm, tasted wines from the Biltmore Winery, and wandering the shops, Aaron asked if we could go back to the house for a few more photos. It was true – we had not taken many photos of the house upon our arrival since we were hyper-focused on starting the tour before the crowds expanded. So, we drove around the Estate, parked, and walked up to said balcony. At first, there were other folks near us taking photos. And then, they all disappeared. Before I knew it, Aaron was down on one knee (here is where I blacked out), and when the infamous question tumbled out of his mouth, my response was: “Of course!” Ring

it was perfect. We were able to be together, just the two of us, and blissfully love on one another and the progression of our relationship over the last (almost) three years. Then, once we cried, laughed, and glowed, we were able to share the news with family and friends. And, without a doubt, take our celebration to the most logical of places:BurialBeer

Thank you, Burial Beer, for providing the backdrop for our first toast of our engagement. The rest of the weekend was full of a celebratory air, which made it even more special. We spent the remainder of Friday in Asheville, visiting White Duck Taco (yum!) and Wedge Brewery (the Community Porter was on point). Then, we traveled to our hotel in Brevard, where we awoke Saturday morning (when it was 26 degrees outside – WHAT?!) to hike Looking Glass Rock – a challenging hike but paid off in dividends upon reaching the top:LookingGlassRock2

Post hike, we wandered into downtown Brevard for the town’s Halloween festival, watching a pumpkin roll and grabbing lunch at local restaurant Mayberry’s. Not a surprise, but a trip to Oskar Blues was a definite post-lunch, and the Cinnamon Coffee Porter I started with about blew my socks off:


Post adult bevvies included watching some Tennessee football and napping (the essence of true vacation living) and then another adventure into downtown for our engagement dinner at The Square Root after trying out Brevard Brewing Company (pretty middle of the road).

The final day of the weekend brought an incredible hike in Dupont State Forest involving three waterfalls – Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. (shown below):


To cap off just a beautiful time together, we stopped for lunch at one our favorite Asheville eateries: Green Sage CafeGreenSage

Citrus Kale Bowl for the win.

Whew! So now, it’s wedding, wedding, wedding focus. Pinterest boards are exploding. Aaron and I are thrilled and excited to share our special day with all those who have brought such love, friendship, and support to our lives. More to come in other pursuits, including new home, another half-marathon, and new vegan recipes. For now, cheers!