5 Firsts

While this month has not only brought my new employment, which I still have yet to delve deeper into on this blog (but will soon), I have also had the pleasure to experience other events that have made this month absolutely fly by.

1) Pace a friend during a marathon

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Oh, dreaded mile 19, looming in the distance for the Rock N’ Roll Marathoners lumbering up another hill in the 26.2 grueling journey. In my own marathon experience, this is the exact spot I hit my wall. Poor Aaron, trying to take a photo while his tyrant partner growled, snarled, and demanded immediate hydration relief.

Taking on her second marathon, my friend Jessica mentioned that it would be nice to see a familiar face at this mile marker, to which I readily agreed to not only be there but would love to join her for the last leg. While the morning started out beautiful in downtown Raleigh, the rising sun cast an intense heat down, and many runners I watched looked worn out. As she bounded up the hill, Jessica looked amazingly agile and graceful for being 19 miles in and off we went, winding our back back to the finish line.

Alas, her wall turned out to be mile 21 in this race. But, with grit, determination, some bad jokes, and attempts to keep her mind off running, I ran with her until the Finish line was in view, making my way off the course (which confused onlookers – is that woman quitting NOW?!) and then running back to my car, to wrap up an (almost) half-marathon mileage day for me. I loved being a partner runner – the freedom of knowing you don’t have to do the whole race, and you get to celebrate and cheer on the accomplishments of others, almost from the driver’s seat.

2) Sampling my first vegan doughnut

Funny side note about this accomplishment: it actually took two attempts to be successful in acquiring said doughnut. The first time involved Aaron and I taking the “Bean to Biscuit” trail, getting our coffee and meandering to Rise Biscuits and Donuts for the infamous vegan doughnut (or donut – however you feel most comfortable spelling out this breakfast treat). Sadly, by the time we made it through the glass doors, they had sold out of all vegan doughnuts (minor pout session did occur).

Take two:

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Now, I’ve never been a person who craves doughnuts. Similar to cotton candy, I’ve often found the non-cake varieties to be less than satisfying. That being said, this lemon cake doughnut rocked. Dense, moist, with a light lemon flavor, slightly crunchy exterior and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. This was a great way to start last Thursday. Each day the vegan doughnut is a different offering, so one best believes, as Arnold says, I will be back.

3) Witnessed cats treating each other with kindness.

IMAG1665Perhaps a slight exaggeration that it is a first time, but mutual cleaning between these two critters had been a rare sighting. During virus overload earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see this sweet sight, which warms a momma’s heart.

4) Cook with miso paste.

Where have you been all my life, sweet and wonderful paste?

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Surprise, surprise, another Oh She Glows cookbook recipe. Not only was this a ridiculously tasty meal, but I honestly did feel more energized after eating it. The combination of raw and cooked vegetables along with the incredible orange-miso dressing put this dish as a must in the meal rotation.

5) New bottle shop brings sweet surprisesIMG_20140411_181948The owner’s of Sam’s Quick Shop (aka beer mecca) opened a second store just 6 minutes from our current home: Sam’s Bottle Shop. On opening night, Aaron ventured out and brought home a thoughtful present, as we had attempted to plan a western NC getaway for my birthday weekend. Alas, nothing seemed to fit in the budget or schedule, so he brought western NC to me with the Bug Eyed Stout from Frog Level Brewing. It was only my second beer from the Waynesville microbrewery, and I thought it was a decent stout. Regardless, the gesture made my month.

Six more days of April left to enjoy, and we will certainly end this month on a bang. No more races until mid-May, which leaves additional weekend play time. This Saturday is the Pit’s annual NC Cuegrass Festival. While I won’t be partaking in the ‘cue portion, I will lap up the bluegrass like no one’s business.

What happened?

Is history repeating itself once again? I have felt so disconnected from the blogosphere, as both a faithful reader (with attempts at pseudo-engager) and dedicated writer, exploring the various aspects of my life that continue to bring adventure, satisfaction, and challenge. Over the last two weeks, I have been struck by various post topics in the shower, in the car, and while at work, but none have actually manifested themselves into the “pages” of online print.

After spending this weekend in a prone position due to the onslaught of germs, I have tried to catch-up on what I have missed, mostly for the love of reading other people’s words. I certainly appreciate the content as well (because what would be the point of reading otherwise?) but I take such pleasure in how other people express themselves.

Overall, one of my current challenges is computer burnout. After spending my entire day in front of a screen, I am coming home to total avoidance. Unfortunately, I have been slipping back into the bad habit of bringing my phone with me to the couch (a habit acknowledged this weekend with Aaron and now that is in the open, can be improved upon again). But, I still have little desire to crack open my laptop.

How do you all find balance in sitting in front of the screen to read, write, work, play, and stay connected? Advice wanted!

A semi-(cook)book review: Glowing from the Inside Out via Oh She Glows

When I first stumbled upon Angela Liddon’s blog last summer, I was initially stunned by her photographs of food, nature, and even common kitchen utensils, all elevated to items of worship. Then, I reached the next stage of the OSG nirvana: actually COOKING the multitude of recipes she had tested, tried and true. I consider the Oh She Glows blog my gateway into vegan cooking, and, the opened the door into a entirely new perspective on good.

Clearly, it would have seemed ludicrous NOT to order her cookbook: “The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out.” Wait, can you still see this? Or am I glowing too much? Because I have inhaled the recipes tried thus far from this must-have guide to cooking vegan like a pro.

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The Green Monster, while not a new recipe of hers, has become my new morning go-to breakfast. I love the dash of cinnamon (mine becomes more of a good teaspoon). Check out the new glassware obtained over the weekend in celebration of Deep River Brewing’s one-year anniversary shindig (after drinking lots of North Carolina beer this weekend, this smoothie tasted extra good on Monday morning).

As part of my lunch series for this week, I tried her Protein Power Goddess Bowl: chocked full of lentils, quinoa (recipe calls for wheatberries but surprise, surprise, Kroger doesn’t sell them), red onion, bell pepper, tomato, and this UH-MAZING lemon tahini goodness dressing:

IMAG1643Hello giant spoon – shovel away!

Feeling like some spice in your life? Then her Quick & Easy Chana Masala will satisfy you beyond measure.

IMAG1620 Serrano, take me home.

Between the toasted cumin seeds, fresh ginger, garlic, garam masala and additional spices fusing with the chickpeas and diced tomatoes over hot basmati rice (which I had not had in WAY too long), this is a must add to your weekly rotation. While we normally try to avoid eating any “white” rice, it would be a disservice to this dish (in my humble opinion, of course!) to have it over anything BUT basmati – authenticity is key!

Thanks to a friend’s push via social media, I was inspired to take another stab at homemade hummus, and Angela’s cookbook offered her classic hummus. She touts using homecooked chickpeas as the ultimate base. While my bag was a bit too low to make for this batch, I opted for canned but DID pop each chickpea out of its skin (while watching “The Simpsons” on Sunday – definitely made the task a bit more pleasurable).

IMAG1640Take that, chickpea skins!

IMAG1642The result!

Now, it is VERY creamy, as she noted, and it does have a different texture than other homemade hummus recipes I’ve tried sans removing the skins.  It has thickened up greatly in the fridge over the last 48 hours, so I’m learning how to thin it out a bit (although it spreads sooooo nicely on our wraps).

Finally, for now, I was in need of more detox last week (what does that say about our weekend adventures as of late??), so I made her Eat Your Greens Detox Soup.

IMAG1622Let’s call this a little spring cleaning.

To put it eloquently: I freaking loved this soup. Tons of veggies (onion, carrots, kale, mushrooms, broccoli) and some seriously enticing spice combinations of fresh ginger, tumeric, cumin, cinnamon and some black pepper. Honestly, I DID feel better both while and after eating it.

So, more to come from this fantastic resource. If you are still on the fence because you don’t want to add another cookbook to your shelf, don’t listen to yourself: get it. You won’t regret it.

 

And then I became a commuter.

Outside of the extenuating circumstances of required travel, I have been dubbed “lucky” by others for the reason that I have essentially avoided a work commute since joining the world of employment. In fact, the longest round-trip I have undertaken up until this past week was a park-and-ride situation back in Phoenix (circa 2004). The drive itself was only about 15 – 20 minutes each way, and then I had the luxury of cracking open a book and allowing myself the next 30 minutes, each way, to get lost in the pages while someone else ensured I arrived safely to be destination. If that’s not a slice of heaven, I don’t know what is.

Now, I am one of the masses, letting time to slip away while confined to my steel cage (with the “check engine” light still illuminated 14 months later), oblivious to the victories and tragedies of those in nearby lanes. Flipping back and forth between “Team of Rivals” (On disc 24 of 36 – in the midst of the Civil War!) and NPR,  I keep focused on my surroundings because driving in the Triangle is auto dodgeball. Of course, I consider myself an excellent driver. Does everyone say that? Perhaps, but I do know that my intuition (thank you ENFJ preferences) and assertive nature allow me to avoid the mistakes of (most) everyone else behind the wheel.

It does make one’s jaw drop to witness the sheer lack of awareness visible on our roads these days. When did the actual act of driving become our second or third priority? Checking texts and email, making calls, applying lipstick, eating breakfast, putting on pants – it’s like our vehicles have become our second offices, bedrooms, and even bathrooms – and we’re okay with this? We shouldn’t be, especially when staying in one’s lane seems more like a suggestion than an actual safety precaution.

traffic blogAhhhhh…life on the open road…of three feet in front of you.

One of the benefits of this longer commute has been the “me time.” One of the reasons I sought new employment was to be in an office setting to foster collaboration, better communication, and more functional relationships. But, I have forgotten how distracting it can be – I know, obvious statement, right? But when you have been in your own nook for two years, silence was my go-to partner, and frankly, she’s great for knocking out thoughtful responses and conjuring up the right words to add to a strategic plan.  Now, she sits in my passenger seat to and from Raleigh (although she is often muted by All Things Considered).

The time of “decompression” is splendid – even on the morning of my second day where an accident on the Interstate added an additional 45 minutes to the journey. On that day, I felt a strong sense of camaraderie among my fellow commuters. Alas, we were all in the same position: needing to be somewhere, likely 20 minutes ago, and with zero control on changing our situation. The strange sense of kinship during that stop and go period took me by surprise, but I want to relish more moments like that. Frankly, it’s too easy to continue to always identify what makes them different…or bad drivers.

First week of commuting in the books. First week on the new job: exciting, exhausting. Moving into the world of environmental and political advocacy is one – similar to previously working in organ donation – that never crossed my mind as a potential career path. Fortunately, it has, and I embrace what my role in it evolves into over time.

Hello, pizza night.

Friday nights in America. Back in the day, we had the telephone number of the local pizza delivery restaurant memorized (these days, I’m sure there’s an app for that. Or, why call? Just order online!) I have fond memories of the Pizza Hut specialty: the Bigfoot (almost 2′ of pizza goodness). Do you recall this brilliant innovation of food gluttony at its best?

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Toppings? Not really. Well, just extra-extra-extra cheese. I KID YOU NOT. We did order multiple layers of ooey, gooey cheese. Square pizza + 5lb of cheese per slice = one happy kid.

Since the 90s, pizza night has changed quite dramatically in our lives. Last week, we indulged in a pizza night, which had been hiding from our kitchen for months. Now, I’ve done homemade dough, and I will note that I enjoy Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix for a nice chewy texture.

But, when one is not in the mood to make crust, my best bet? Trader Joe’s. The chilled pizza dough (which now comes in THREE flavors: white, wheat, and now a fancy herb blend). But, this would be our first homemade pizza sans cheese. Granted, I still don’t miss cheese. Yet, I wondered: how would I feel about not seeing (or smelling) the bubbling, browning topping, giving me the signal that “the pizza is done!”?

Pizza #1: Trader Joe’s marinara sauce base with roasted butternut squash, spinach, and yellow squash (it was a 100% TJ’s pizza).

IMAG1615Colorful!

Pizza #2: Stubbs BBQ sauce, “real” chicken, portabella mushrooms. sauteed onions/garlic, sauteed Brussel sprouts

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The After:

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The second photo should reveal that we dug into the pizza ASAP. Personally, I enjoyed the spinach ‘za much more than the second, mainly due to my lack of love toward the fake chicken. The texture was just…too soft. If using again on pizza or other dish, I would grill it first to give it a nice crispy, slightly charred flavor.

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This dish also marked the official end to my career with Donate Life North Carolina and the world of organ, eye and tissue donation. I have ventured into the world of environmental advocacy – more, for sure, to come from this transition!

What are your “must have” toppings on your pizzas? Anything off the wall that you would recommend?