Vol. III: Things that are making me happy this week

Despite how the week ended:

 

Oh, beautiful snow, right? Unlike our friends who are prancing in 23″ of fluffy precipitation in the northeast (which might actually make prancing incredibly difficult, if not impossible), this is mostly ice. The less fun version of winter weather.

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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.

2014: The Year of the Stress Test

ImageIn the last two weeks, I’ve bit off nails, developed a reoccurring canker sore, and permanently frozen my shoulders in an upright and locked position. Hello, stress. It was inevitable that the “s” word should appear, although I wasn’t expecting it so soon. See, everything seemed to be sailing smoothly, swimmingly, insert your favorite water metaphor here. Our wedding plans are nearly complete with deposits placed, outfits selected, and key logistics shared. In my forward thinking at the end of 2013, I thought that event of the new year would be the one to cause the ulcers, the headaches, and the “s” word to rear its ugly head.

Alas, that has proven to be the least stressful.

We will be listing the town home for sale in the next two weeks. Granted, I was a young lass when my childhood home donned a “For Sale” sign, but I recall the stringent requirements of maintaining order and cleanliness for months. At that time, all I had to oversee was the 12′ x 12′ chamber dubbed my room. Now, it’s 1200+ square feet that lingers in some almost ready state. This upcoming weekend will involve final staging efforts (kudos to our designer genius friend Lara!) and continued minimizing/storing/hiding/sweeping/dusting/unearthing. The actual steps to show the home have to remain free from my mind a bit longer as visions of me driving around Durham with two cats howling in the backseat begins to attract the formation of hives.

Speaking of homes, our future abode is not progressing as we had expected due to delays with city permits and poor weather. Originally, our target move-in timeline pegged us at late March or early April. Now, it’s May – when in May? Not a clue. We did a drive by last weekend and sadly saw zero foundations poured. Keeping our fingers crossed good news is coming down the chute…(oooo – good one, Katie).

And then, as life loves to do, other things have cropped up: an initial tax review for 2013 leaves me owing the government more than I could have imagined; a cantankerous gum is prompting an early dentist visit next week; oh, and THE CATS STILL DO NOT LET US SLEEP. I even took Milo to the vet, explaining to her with hands thrown up in the air, that nine months of not sleeping past 4:45am was just not cutting it anymore. Could he have a hyperthyroid? Diabetes? Kidney problems? $250 and a battery of tests later, we find that Milo has slightly elevated cholesterol, but other than that, he is peachy keen. Lovely. Answer? Give him more food. One week later, we’re still waking up at 4:40am.

Finally, there are some other potential changes that may require me to make some tough choices – positive choices, for sure, but ones that stoke the flames of guilt. While still a work in progress, it’s also exciting to have unexpected opportunities that may, or may not, come into fruition.

With all that obnoxiousness out of my system, I can say that I’m fortunate to have such a committed, compassionate partner who allows me to vent but also ensures that I recognize the blessings we have in our lives. Still, this year will not be easy, and it may not always be fun. But darnit, this year will be the best of my life so far, and one cannot ask for any more!

Miss Jane Marple (1995 – 2014)

Miss Jane Marple (1995 - 2014)

After 19 years of gracing our lives with her mews, random batterings with ribbon, and ample lap time, Miss Marple left us Tuesday in one of those inevitable, heartbreaking transitions. My mother and I adopted Miss Marple in 1998 shortly after moving into a new home following my parents divorce. It was one of those “Mom, let’s just go to the Humane Society to look…please?” and a few hours later, I had this tiny, three-year-old short-haired cat curled up and purring on my lap. I ragged my mother for years later, as she was keen on this beautiful white-haired feline, but my heart was already stolen. Miss Marple (known fondly as “Marple,” “Marps,” “Shmarple,” and “Chimichunga”) joined her new brother, Kitsy, and brought out his youthful spirit.

Tuesday was a rough day. I wished that I could be there with my mom; instead, we cried over the phone together, recognizing that we wanted to honor her with the life she deserved to live, not one dragged out with painful, unwelcomed procedures. I believe that she is united with Kitsy, curled up together as they once were many moons ago. She brought me such comfort during one of the darkest periods of my life, and I will forever be grateful for her unyielding love and trust.

Snapshots from the Weekend

IMAG1108This is how Friday night went.

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Saturday: a morning of cleaning frenzy; a early evening trip to Angier/Fuquay-Varina for a friends’ gathering with a stop to White Rabbit Brewing to fulfill a Living Social gift for Aaron first (the only beer we really liked was the Cheshire Cat Pumpkin – the others were pretty meh); party time = Cards Against Humanity, so therefore, no photos. Ever.

 

 

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Oh, Mom, did you get home at midnight and feed me? And then I needed to cry at 4:30am? Hey – you are up! Let’s pose in front of the Christmas tree. (That’s a nice looking tree, no? We’re convinced it is fake, or it is secretly a cactus since we have only had to add water once over the last two weeks).

 

 

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OMG – RIDICULOUS CUTE CAT POSE! (It’s like I can’t help myself. Is there a catogrophy addiction?)

 

 

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Again, since we were up early, time to get the baking train out of the station. First, time to make another crust for the Raw Vegan Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cake that will be part of our Christmas festivities. So, so simple and so, SO yummy! Thank you, dates, for becoming my new favorite kitchen addition.

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Second up: another attempt at the Stress Free Vegan Holiday Gingerbread Cookies that I failed at last week. This time, I had NO spills, no accidents, nada – and the dough was still super dry! So, I improvised and added some additional unsweetened almond milk and molasses. Who doesn’t like a Christmas gingerbread monkey? (I know – I could use some work on my cutting skills – isn’t this when you are supposed to hide said cookies under frosting and decor?)

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Success! They turned out a bit more molasses-y than some may care for, and I did use whole-wheat flour in the recipe, which definitely gave it a different flavor profile (!) I’m working on a third dessert recipe that I started today: these No Bake Cranberry Jam Tarts. I’ll finish putting these together tomorrow.

I saw a great article this morning tweeted by @OneGreenPlanet that I will be drawing from in future responses to my lifestyle choices: 10 Questions Ever Plant-Powered Eater Should Know The Answer To.

Would you respond to these in a different way? Are there questions missing from this list that you’ve been asked?

Dear Molly

I love my cats. I really do. I take a lot of photos of them to share on various social media platforms [insert apology here].

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This is the more recent addition of the two: Sweet Josie. Too bad I’m not holding a Lonerider Sweet Josie in the shot. Josie is the love child: she nests, kneads (and needs), and has one of the most adorable “mews” ever.

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And, this is Milo. I adopted Milo in August 2010, and he is such a Momma’s boy. He purrs loudly, climbs into great spaces, and has some serious hops.

But, this is what I don’t love:

[4:30am] Meow. Meow. MRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW. Brrrrrrrup! Brrrrrrrrrup!

(switch on vacuum cleaner)

[4:45am] Brrrrrrrrp! MEOW! MEOW!

(vacuum cleaner round 2)

[5:05am] Meeeeeeeeeeow. BRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp! *scratch scratch*

OH MY GOODNESS I AM UP YOU CAT THAT JUST GOT FED SEVEN HOURS AGO.

That. Is that part of your life as well? I have read dozens of articles on cat behavior, including the advice of “Dear Molly” from the Wake County SPCA, which is where both Milo and Sweet Josie landed after their lame families gave them the boot.  The first trick we tried came from a friend’s response to our Facebook call for help. When I lived at my apartment, I let the cats roam free (and most doors did not actually close). This included sleeping in my bed at night. When I moved in with Aaron, we made a pact that the bedroom was going to be a cat-free zone. Well, apparently the cats did not get that memo. Our friend suggested putting our vacuum cleaner outside of the closed door, running the cord underneath and plugging it into a power strip. Keeping the vacuum in the “on” position, you then turn on the power strip when the cat begins to scratch/meow.

Brilliant, right?

At first, it worked GREAT. The first night we had to turn the vacuum on 10 times. The next night: five or six. Each night the number decreased, and we thought: this is it! We’ll have this wrapped up in no time and finally be able to sleep in until our alarm.

Just kidding.

I learned I enabled him (because, let’s be real: Milo is the true culprit) when I would get up and open the door either to spray him with compressed air, yell, scream, chase him downstairs. So, then we hid under our pillows. Then put the vacuum back out.

I have tried feeding them later at night. Playing with them more right before bed. Ignoring them upon first waking up. Giving them more lap time at night. Delaying their breakfast until I returned from the Y (which meant Aaron’s night of sleep came to a screeching halt).

What else can one do? Anyone out there know the magic trick?

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I’m guessing it’s not taking artsy photos with your cat. Or is it?