Recap: Denver, the Driest Place on Earth

Perhaps a slight exaggerations, but after leaving the humidity, I felt upon deplaning as if a vacuum had sucked all the moisture from every single pole. Granted, I know what it feels like to exist in a dry climate (hello first 20+ years of life), but as I was also still a bit on the mend from virus 2014, it hit me like a wall.

But, let’s talk Denver. My first time in Colorado, and I was pumped! I traveled with our team for our organization’s national conference. It was great timing since I had just over a month under my belt, so I didn’t have the same sense of feeling overwhelmed (outside of the reality that I knew no one outside of our staff). But, I was pumped to learn more about what other state leagues are doing to engage and mobilize environmental advocates and glean what our national partners are conducting on a large-scale. Overall: inspiring work but a lot more of it needs to happen.

During the playtime of Denver, my top priority involved beer. Thanks to knowledgeable friends and patrons, I had a robust list of places to visit. Many would be saved for a future visit both time and distance were challenges, not to mention that I was missing my partner-in-crime and wanted to experience those adventures with him.

Our first stop: foraging. We ended up at Ace just about a mile outside of our hotel, which boasted Asian-inspired cuisine with the allure of ping-pong tables. Several of them.

10256806_10102800789896492_1649004168312971096_nOur group split the intriguing crispy brussel sprouts, which I paired a Left Hand Weak Sauce (coffee Porter). Both the appetizer and beer were outstanding.

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Not so weak sauce for me.

10173815_10102800790754772_3137260249010518129_nSpicy goodness!

I went with the kale salad for my entree and topped it off with tofu. It was very good, especially after I topped it with the crisp chili oil available on the table – gave it some nice crunch and a little more heat:

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After filling our bellies, it was off to check-in, take a mini walking tour of downtown, and then prep for that evening’s reception. As the evening wound down, we realized we had not eaten dinner (one thing I quickly learned in Denver: dinner does not happen until after 9pm, which is typically my bedtime). We were mostly full from lunch, but needed a little something something (and time for another beer). We wandered over to Freshcraft for some pretzel bites, loads of house made mustard, the Antioxidant Mix salad, and – of course – a beer (the Trinity Seven Day Sour Gueze):

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Fast-forward to Friday night, I must share this with you:

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That is one big pizza. Again, after realizing at 9:30pm that dinner had not been add, I jumped on Yelp and found Marquis Pizza, which offers the “Sticks & Weeds” veggie pizza with vegan cheese as an option. It was right off a club where live music was pounding, and outside on the sidewalk, it was quite…grassy? Definitely potential for a contact high, if you catch my drift. Regardless, my friend Erik and I split this monster (his side was the non-vegan cheese), and I will be honest: I crushed two enormous slices while sitting outside, and then downed a third back at the hotel room, only to be filled with regret 5 minutes later. Regret only because I thought my stomach would explode because – dang – that was a freaking delicious pizza. I’m still not 100% on the vegan cheese bandwagon, but whatever brand this place used melted nicely. And the crust – which I argue is the most important aspect of this dish – was chewy, crunchy, and yeasty.

There was some other vegan/vegetarian joints on my hit list, but there was only so much time, so I’ll look forward to checking out more when we plan our return trip in May 2015. Until then, here’s to you, Mile High City, for some amazing views, great brews, and fascinating people.

10312671_10102800787346602_1525128801307798639_nPianos available to play in the street

10341424_10102800787142012_1490878289886819261_nA must-stop for all craft beer fans

1604864_10102800789467352_995676266768890141_nSome views from our reception patio

10300005_10102800789746792_5115627565665205073_nFun street art

10311197_10102808564740642_7507293340636683015_nNext time I’ll get to see a game

10246737_10102808562759612_2167804982916361751_nBeautiful trails along downtown creeks – this one had rapids!

10320348_10102808563448232_7017365066583510511_nNC representing!

10329161_10102808564186752_695698588065842274_nEnjoyed Sunday morning oatmeal & coffee at The Market at Larimer Square

10341766_10102808564855412_6034401543282922361_nLast stop before airport: more beer

10294349_10102808565299522_7109311219900716220_nSour paddle

As always, it’s great to get away, but it’s equally as wonderful to return home. Fortunately, I came back healthier than I left (at least germ wise – the food and beer took a bit of a toll). This helped me achieve one of my goals for this year: to visit a new state! I look forward to getting to spend time in the outdoors doing more than just walking to the next bar.

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.

13 Memories of 2013

Oh yes: it is that time of the year. The time when lists upon lists emerge from the woodwork, from the top 10 songs of 2013 to the top 10 memes of the year to the top 10 list of top 10 lists.

I’m going to continue that tradition with three lists before the New Year.

The first list is the more thoughtful, reflective review of the past 12 months: the top 13 memories of 2013 (let’s just hope that I don’t see 2099 because that list would be ridiculous.)

In no particular order, the Pursuit of Paulson is proud to announce the finalists of what memories stuck out the most (and what I could recall thanks to my profileration of social media):

13 Memories of 2013

1) Getting engaged
(October 25, 2013 – Biltmore Estates, Asheville – surprise!!)

1393894_10101773345887515_307372616_nThe “Oh hai – look at this ring” photo

PostEngagementThe first photo post-engagement. This is a KEEPER (both the photo and the man!)

2) Graduating with a Master of Public Administration degree (Tar! Heels!)

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3) Transition into plant-based diet, more natural lifestyle

Goodbye dairy, eggs, meat…goodbye antibacterial sprays…goodbye Crest toothpaste. A slow but steady transition since June and will continue into 2014!

4) Surprise birthday party

That sneaky Aaron! We went to Saxapahaw when my friend Laura came to town to see The Old Ceremony at the Haw River Ballroom and grab a bite beforehand at The Eddy Pub:

485434_10101903551010412_1164865437_nWe happened to run into our friends, Ben and Dawnya, at the bar and they offered us a sneak peak of the digs for the soon-to-open Haw River Ales. As we were looking around the space and Dawnya explained the vision to me, a random dog trotted into the room. Following said dog were friends of ours. I was quite perplexed – why did our friends just come out of the shadows? Then, it hit me:

425211_10101903912281422_491576194_nRealism captured – “No way! NO WAY!!”

Great friends. Great partner. Great beer. So, so blessed!

5) O.A.R. concert in Raleigh

By far, the best O.A.R. show I had experienced (now, granted my number pales in comparison to Aaron’s.) Similar to 2012, we were up front on the rail. But, the energy this year was beyond comprehension. The guys simply melted all of our faces off, even on a Sunday night.

6) Cards Against Humanity

This ridiculous, sometimes inflammatory (sometimes? well, most of the time) game appeared at many social events this past year, making me realize that we are all terrible, terrible people. And then we laugh.

7) Chicago-Michigan road trip

Our annual adventure featured so many new sights, tastes, and sounds and some familiar ones as well: from checking off more breweries (Perrin Brewing, Right Brain, Short’s Brewing, Harmony Brewing, Three Floyd’s) to famous beer bars (Hop Cat, The Mitten Bar), to nature galore (Pictured Rocks State Park, Meijer Gardens) to a Taste of Chicago to meeting new people to learning Hand & Foot (great card game!) to visiting Mount Pleasant (Fire Up Chips!) – it was all amazing.

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8) Wicked Weed

How did a brewery make this list? BECAUSE IT IS AWESOME. Seriously, Wicked Weed just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its entrance into North Carolina’s beer scene has been nothing less than explosive. Besides have over two dozen of their OWN beers on draft at the brewery, Wicked Weed is not afraid to take on adventurous styles, open fermentation processes, and challenging our palates. While not every beer is incredible (as would seem nearly impossible), Wicked Weed overwhelmingly produces delicious craft brew.

9) YMCA

From the physically-demanding classes (Bootcamp2, Cardio Intervals, Cycle) to those demanding in a different way (Yoga, PiYo), the Durham YMCA branches have helped me reach a new level of fitness this year. But, it’s been more than just 6am classes. There is such a strong sense of community, kinship and support from other members. I have had the immense pleasure of developing so many new relationships with such inspirational people.

10) Half-Marathon PR

So, that was pretty exciting. 1:44:12 in the 2013 Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon. Big kudos to the 1:45 pacers that I kept up with for the vast majority of the run. They were even kind enough to allow a Tar Heel to run amongst the Wolfpack (and the race was the day after UNC defeated NC State in football…which wasn’t saying much this year, kids.)

11) Young Nonprofit Professional Network (YNPN)

I joined the YNPN – Triangle Chapter Board of Directors for 2013. YNPN is “a movement activating emerging leaders to advance a diverse and powerful social sector.” Essentially, there are chapters across the country designed to bring together nonprofit professionals for collaboration, skill development, networking, and more. I had attended socials during 2012 and quickly realized what an amazing resource this is for those in the nonprofit sector. In May, I represented North Carolina at the national YNPN conference in Phoenix (guess why I went…?) The conference was one of the best I have ever attended. I left with a vast amount of knowledge, a reinvigorated sense of self, and a host of business cards from all the do-gooders I had the pleasure to meet. If you are in the nonprofit sector, I would highly encourage connecting to one of the chapters closest to you! (And, if you are in the Triangle, you better join us!!)

12) Attending a practice round at the Master’s

Augusta. The pinnacle of golf perfection. Hint: it lived up to its reputation. The immaculate grounds made you feel like you were in a different world (especially since outside of those gates was a not-so-glamorous look at low-socioeconomic America). The $2 pimento cheese sandwich was pretty baller. But, the best part was how relaxed the atmosphere was during the Par 3 competition. I had the opportunity to see those golfers I had watched on TV for years just a few feet away.

901578_10101383735669515_2090858712_oI love this photo because it looks like we were pasted in via PhotoShop. I promise we were not.

13) Beach living: visiting the Outer Banks

Somehow, despite living in NC for more than 5 years, I had not been to the OuterBanks. So, in honor of my birthday and graduation, Aaron kindly whisked me away for a long weekend at OBX. We toured the Wright Brothers Memorial, did some dune jumping at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, drove up to Duck and Corolla, visited the Outer Banks Brewing Station and Weeping Radish, connected with our friends to celebrate, and did some serious relaxation in our Tommy Bahama chairs.

1053323_10200658843126008_1416035097_oCelebrations at the Outer Banks Brewing Station467763_10101463083031765_888127377_o

Wee!

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Christmas 2013: To Peace on Earth, Quality Time with Loved Ones, and Delicious Fare

Alas, my goal to blog daily until the end of the year fell short. NEWS FLASH: I am not perfect. But, I’m picking up the typing wand again this morning to share the joys of the Christmas season here in Durham via time with family (even through Google Hangout), delicious recipes, and tasty libations.

IMAG1144Nothing like kicking off Christmas morning at 3:30am, Milo. For that, you must wear the sticker.

Growing up, we actually opened presents on Christmas Eve after church. I have found this piece of family history to stun people, especially those from the South. On Christmas Day, we opened our stockings (or socks) and then I would open presents from Santa (insert only child spoiled reference). As I got older and had to navigate the multiple Christmas celebrations, opening presents on Christmas Day became more common place. Aaron’s family tradition was also Christmas Day, so we’ve made that part of ours moving forward.

Some fun things Santa brought to me under the tree:

  • University of Arizona t-shirt, car magnets, towel (Bear Down!)
  • Dehydrator (Eager to try!)
  • Socks (lots of awesome athletic socks, including neon colors)
  • Crate and Barrel Six Pack Plates
  • Vegan cookbook
  • New clothes from cAbi
  • Mango slicer
  • Ice scraper (!!)
  • Collapsible measuring cups
  • Tickets to see Brett Dennen at the Carolina Theatre

and other super generous items from family, friends, and Santa.

Post-wrapping paper explosion, it was time to eat into grub. Because we had so much of this incredible vegetarian chili leftover, I opted to delay making the Glazed Apple Walnut Loaf for a few days.

Super delicious and heaty Quinoa Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

Roasted brussel sprouts = can one go wrong with this dish EVER?IMAG1145

Mashed sweet ‘tatersIMAG1146

Holiday Salad with Apple Cider Cinnamon Vinaigrette via Eat Spin Run = AMAZING (this is on meal repeat)

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Christmas Plate 2013

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Wow – isn’t that just a beautiful sight!

Other treats for the holidays including opening our 2012 Fruitcake from Fullsteam Brewery. Wow: it was smooth, still quite a lot of bourbon-flavor but not so overwhelming as it had been on draft.

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I couldn’t open the 2013 Christmas Ale from Anchor Brewing until the actual date either:

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It wasn’t quite as good, in my opinion, as previous years. Not enough spice and body for me, but still enjoyable.

After food and taking a midday walk, another family tradition of mine has always been to see a movie on Christmas Day. Aaron has helped maintain the tradition for our two North Carolina Christmas celebrations, as we ventured to see American Hustle. I highly recommend it – between fantastic writing, stellar acting performances from Christian Bale/Jennifer Lawrence/Bradley Cooper/Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner/Louis C.K., thoughtful cinematography, and delectable fashion, it’s a winner. Great plot twists as well: I found myself vacillating on how I felt about each character, and where I finished is not where I expected. Enjoy!

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?

Mid-week Top 3 Hit List

Beneath sagging eyelids (yes, it is after 8pm), I want to share three highlights from the week thus far:

1) This recipe:Slow Cooker Spicy Pinto Chili with Corn and Kale. Now, I did not have the guajillo chilies in my dish, and I thought it was spicy enough for my wussy palate. We squeezed in a bit of lime and added some crushed tortilla chips – c’est bon!

2) Tasting our wedding menu. Raise your hand if you have eaten a cauliflower steak before? This girl now has, and it was tremendous. Aaron took care of the chicken tasting for us (thumbs up!) No surprise: lots of delicious veggies available on our buffet table. Sauteed spinach/red onion/baby carrots, arugula and beet salad, rosemary red potatoes, and vegetarian spring rolls (with this unreal peanut sauce. My response to what I thought about it: “I could bathe in this.”

3) Impromptu date night tonight: well, a post-work beer and some spicy chips of Thai delight. Aaron and I hit up Mattie B’s Public House to check out the Lagunitas tap takeover. We split a Hairy Eye Ball and a Sucks (which, if you have not had, does not suck!) We split an order of the Thai Tumble homemade sweet potato chips – delightful!

Writing daily takes a level of discipline I am still seeking. So far, so good. 12 days left…wait a minute…

The First Vegan Thanksgiving and Desert Adventures

This is proving to be a more difficult time of year to maintain a sense of regularity in the writing sphere. I did make a conscious decision NOT to bring a computer with me during our trip out to Phoenix for Thanksgiving, which was great since my carry-on was full of sweet potatoes our flights out. You can’t get the beautiful, orange sweet potatoes of the South out in AZ.

Despite a fairly packed schedule, our six day hiatus in the Valley of the Sun was fantastic. We hiked four days, taking on Shaw Butte twice, Inspiration Point out in the McDowell Mountains, and the Phoenix Preserve. Here’s a shot from pre-Inspiration Point (YES – look at those shorts! It was 75 degrees that day.)Image

View from the top:

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Are you inspired?

Of course, we had to visit at least one brewery on the trip. This time we checked out North Mountain Brewery, which is just a few miles from where I grew up. The back patio proved to be a bit too loud and the sun had already cooked us enough on the hike, so we enjoyed the beautiful interior – high ceilings with exposed beams, large tables and a expansive space. To get the most bang for the buck, I opted for the flight, which included their blonde, C.R.E.E.M. ale, British Mild, Irish dry stout, porter, tripel, and hefeweizen. Big BIG thumbs up for the porter and C.R.E.E.M. ale. The tripel was a boozy one (Aaron graciously helped me drink that sample).

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As typical in our Thanksgiving adventures, we had not one but TWO Thanksgiving meals, which created opportunities for both sides of my family to experience the glory that is vegan Thanksgiving. Alright, perhaps it is not a glorious as one could imagine, but I’ll share this: I actually felt good after eating this year. None of that bloat, stuffed, sleepiness that we so often associate with the traditional festivities. Some people seemed to feel sad that I was electing not to eat the turkey – and there was even question of whether I would not shun meat since it was a holiday. I don’t quite follow the same logic.

Per the tasting held a month ago with some girlfriends, I did make the Festive Chickpea Tart, which was a big hit:

ImageWe also had: roasted brussel sprouts, carrots and broccoli; beet salad, baked North Carolina sweet potatoes, and vodka cranberry sauce (yes, you read that correctly – delicious!). Of course, we also had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, rolls, and macaroni & cheese. I did have a bit of sadness of not eating the deviled eggs. When I was a little girl, I helped my Aunt Bette make our traditional dish for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. As my cousin Emma grew older, I took the role of teacher and made the special eggs with her. This year, Emma took the reins as I supervised; at least the crowd thought the eggs were a big thumbs up!

ImagePutting the “devil” final touches on the eggs

Our second Thanksgiving meal was Friday with my dad and Uncle Phil. Bless my Uncle Phil’s kind heart! He was so conscientious of what foods he prepared adhered to non-meat and dairy standards. It was another incredibly delicious meal full of bean salad, wild rice, more sweet potatoes, sauteed asparagus, and salad.

Then, it was back to reality on Wednesday morning: boot camp, board meeting, grocery shopping. Oh, and it’s Christmas soon? Next post will highlight our initial Christmas adventures and what’s cooking thus far in December.