The 18 hour test

IMAG566717 hours, 55 minutes into the adventure.

Staring at the fire pit, now without flames licking towards the sky, Aaron turns to me:

“Are we still married?”

17 hours, 56 minutes.

“Yes, we are still married,” I reply.

Our first camping trial together proved a success. We survived a severe thunderstorm that even folks, from the comforts of their four walls and sealed windows, pointed to as wild and dangerous. During Mother Nature’s powerful display, we laid on our backs, gripped both by fear and the realization that there was no where else we could go. Even the three feet to our car felt insurmountable.

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We found the other 17 hours of our camping expedition much more enjoyable (and relaxing). We sat on the banks of Jordan Lake, surveying the boats and birds taking flight; built a fire worthy of s’mores; and mucked on hidden trails, recently turned into swampland.

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Spending such time in nature has a way of washing away the grime that builds up, day in and day out, “living life.” For me, this is living, surrounded in a castle of timbers.

And a New York Times to boot.

And a New York Times to boot.

 

 

 

 

On a cold, rainy day in the South

it’s hard not to miss home. We had a chance to return to the Valley of the Sun in early February. Feels like eons ago already. Knocked off several hikes, see the Frida Kalho exhibit at the Heard Museum, visit two breweries [Four Peaks and Wren House], eat good vegan eats (Loving Hut, Pita Jungle, The Coronado, Picazzo’s] and lots of family and friend time, and a day at the Waste Management Open.

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Composting at the Waste Management Open?! I am all over that.

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In true Millennial fashion, Danny and I are at a brewery, together, on our phones.

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With Mom outside of the Heard Museum. Yes, sleeveless in February — BRING IT!

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Being a ham next to my Dad

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We brought our own lanyards.

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Which one is the out-of-towner?

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Out on the Go John trail in Cave Creek

Dabbing

Saguaro dabs. I dab.

 

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.

“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:

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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:

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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):

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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!