Snow over it

From beautiful distraction to the bane of existence, the winter weather of the last two weeks has taken us – literally – by storm.

11000604_10103668719169272_3682778691255327476_nSo pretty. So…much…snow.

The last storm that rolled through Wednesday night was the doozie. Our walk through the neighborhood on Thursday morning was eerie. It had a post-apocalyptic feel [minus zombie sightings]. We also learned (and were quickly grateful) that our section of the neighborhood was on a different power grid as we passed by many dark, quiet homes (minus the two likely Yankee homes that had generators on full blast).

Even better (or worse?): our Internet was out for the entire day Thursday. Work from home? Not so easily. We made the best of it with our neighbors: impromptu sledding down the back hill. Sadly, zero kids were out playing. ZERO! Get off your iPads, generation jelly. Build a snowperson, an ice fort, throw a snowball or two.

11012754_10103668722612372_1992479225457152388_nYes, that is a beer snowman

11001781_10103668715466692_8965242498668517207_nTree struggles.

10998253_10103668722013572_4171058845840179764_oSnowfie!

Outside of throwing off daily routines left and right, this weather has made marathon training even more taxing. Last Sunday was the first of two scheduled 20 mile runs. The last time I ran 20 miles was during the Rock N’ Roll Marathon back in January 2012. I elected to hit the American Tobacco Trail for this endeavor…

only to find it a sheet of ice. Literally – it was a solid block of ice and snow for the vast majority of the trail despite the almost 50F outside. Treading lightly with my NPR friends, I traversed the landscape, knocking the training out of the park with zero falls or injuries:

run2015It will be warmer in March. It will be warmer in March. It will be over in March.

We’re just shy of 30 days out from the Knoxville Marathon, and I’m still feeling great, which is a relief from the battles I faced in 2011. On the schedule for this weekend: 8 mile pace run today with a 15 mile long run tomorrow. I will force myself to run in a hillier section of the Triangle to prepare myself for the rolling landscape of Knoxville. I did give into some treadmill running the previous weekend, and boy – that was rough. I tip my hat to those who can spend quality time on those machines. It could also have been the fact that the Y was blasting the heat, so my own cooling system was unable to perform its own cleansing duty. Suffocating.

But, today is the LAST day of February! Is it time for spring? I sure hope so. Looking forward to getting away to some warmer climate next week. All I have to say to the snow that remains: it’s you, not me. Come back at Christmas, but that’s about it. Thanks.

Runners, how do you train during the winter months?

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.

Planning 101: Foraging Fare While Traveling

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Three weeks done. One more to go. I’m halfway through “Team of Rivals” on CD and have logged more than 2,500 miles on my Corolla (check engine light still shines brightly one year later). I’ve driven by the Nantahala River, over the bridge connecting the Outer Banks to Manteo, through Pisgah National Forest, and near the infamous battleship in Wilmington. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the most daunting task for me this year wasn’t necessarily the hours behind the wheel or ensuring my transmission didn’t give out winding up Highway 276 in extreme fog. I was more concerned about: what am I going to eat? (Perhaps less of a surprise since I love to think about food)

Fortunately, this here thing called the Internet makes lessens any dietary concerns thanks to sites like Yelp and other vegan resources (shout-out to Vegan Carolina!) giving the 101 on places that accommodate the plant-based lifestyle.

The photo above comes from Flaming Amy’s Bowl in Wilmington [note: she does apparently have a Burrito Barn in Wilmington as well!]. Back in Phoenix, we had a similar Mongolian-style “build your own bowl” restaurant called Wok Wok that sadly closed in just a couple of years. I was ecstatic to find this gem in New Hanover County. It offered tons of vegetables, plant-proteins (tofu, black beans), and vegan sauce options. If you go, go hungry: all-you-can-eat deliciousness.

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The following day, I ended up at the Tidal Creek Co-Op to mooch free WiFi in between presentations. Above, please meet my lunch: sweet and sour tofu with roasted vegetables over brown rice and a banging salad. While you are seeing the only three hot bar options, they were: 1) incredibly tasty; and 2) all vegan. I could have eaten my weight in that tofu.

Although I lack photos of several delectable meals, I did spend a great deal of time at Earth Fare cafes in Charlotte and Huntersville. Again, free WiFi drew me in, and the $16 salads I built (alright: slight exaggeration but I’m sure I could build a salad that large quite easily) absolutely satisfied. While the Huntersville one was larger, I do have a to give a thumbs down to its layout (not conducive to organized plate filling from hot/salad bar) and no ingredients list for the items, so I had to be extra mindful of what I grabbed.

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Please ignore that pathetic thumb nail. I found this gem at the Tidal Creek Co-Op and HOLY SMOKES DO I WANT MORE! I shall find a recipe soon. Does someone out there have one to share?

Other saving graces on this trip:

  • Green Safe Cafe in Asheville (I almost refuse to eat anywhere else in the #AVL when visiting – the citrus kale salad bowl is, by far, my go to item).IMG_20140318_115816
  • Cabo Fish Taco in Charlotte: now, I doubt my beer battered tofu tacos were vegan but THEY WERE INCREDIBLE (it was beyond noisy in the restaurant and I was stationed as far away from our server as possible); many other options available for the non-fish eating crowd (apologies for the blur of a photo)IMAG1500Just ONE more overnight left next week (Boone!) and you better believe I already know where I’ll be dining. I’ve also made great use out of my cooler bag by carting my own fare to and fro: lots of veggies and hummus, apples, cuties, bananas, and Lara bars.

Are you as anal retentive in planning where you will eat meals on for work/vacations/a random Thursday night?

Traveling the Back Roads of Carolina

In this final month of my Donate Life career, I will be spending much of my time behind the wheel, traversing North Carolina from one Driver’s License office to the next as part of our annual DMV awards program. This is my third year taking on this cross-state adventure, and it has taught me a great deal, including:

1) Driving is exhausting.

2) Books on CDs = one of the best inventions ever. During this week, I started “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Fascinating thus far (on disc 6 of 36).

3) There are dozens of hidden gems around this state that I would never have heard of until traveling through country roads.

4) Not a hidden gem = getting stuck behind farm equipment.

During the first week, I traveled to Clinton, Wilmington, Elizabeth City, Morehead City, Yanceyville, Carrboro, and Manteo. As much as I despise the time (sitting) in the car, I do so enjoy the 20 – 30 minutes I have with each office, meeting the DMV examiners, celebrating in their offices’ successes, and impressing on them how much they are appreciated. (I DARE you to tell the examiner at the driver’s license office next time how much you appreciate them. Despite what misgivings 99% of people have about DMV offices and staff, they put up with your bad attitude, have to ride in strangers’ cars [some of who crash said cars during road tests] and deal with a slew of logistical challenges that most of us in the general public never know about. They are dedicated public servants who are parents, grandparents, animal lovers, travelers, and more. In simple terms: be kind and stay positive next time you are renewing your license!)

IMAG1423Cheesy veggie bowl of goodness

Before I left, I wanted to ensure there was some good food to eat for both Aaron (and selfishly for me upon returning late). The above bowl was a combination of vegan cheese sauce over some steamed kale, broccoli, cauliflower, all atop some bulgur and black beans with a plop of salsa. Easy. Simple. Delicious. I will say, though, that I’m not sure if I am still yet on the bulgur train. I tried preparing it with boiling water poured over the bulgur instead of stove top, and it definitely did not cook completely (followed prep instructions in Veganomicon).

One of my standbys – Rice and bean casserole – turned into a soup (because someone didn’t bother to measure out how much brown rice she had left…oops.) Guess what?

IMAG1425It was still freaking awesome!

Chalk up that mistake to a positive outcome. Finally, I prepped Red Lentil Dal (Forks Over Knives cookbook) and – sadly – I did overcook my lentils. Blast! I even allowed them to cook for less time than in the recipe, but I know I should have been paying a little closer attention.

1393806231144Lemon zestiness!

Not sure if I’ll make this particular recipe again. Maybe at least once more and avoiding the mush.

Seems to be a good life goal.

Breaking Blog Silence

I had to chuckle this morning when my friend Sheila remarked: “You haven’t blogged in awhile! How am I supposed to know what’s going on in your life?” She certainly meant this in jest, as we had made a point to partake in a morning of yoga and incredible lattes afterward (Cocoa Cinnamon has a blackstrap molasses latte with almond milk that will melt your heart):

Nevertheless, I admit: I’ve been out of the blogging practice this week. Perhaps this is the reason:

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I AM SO OVER THIS WINTER. Do I speak for all non-Western U.S. folks as I type that? From Tuesday at 6:30am until Thursday at 10:00am, I did not venture past the mailboxes – no driving, no sunshine. This likely did not aid my sloth-like state within that 48+ hour period. Reflecting back on this work week, I admit that I did not get dressed outside of workout attire or pajamas AND I did not put on a single speck of make-up until just about 10 minutes ago. And now you see why it’s important for me to schedule outside events during the week.

While I didn’t explore the arctic adventures via transit, I did ensure I filled our bellies with warmth and comfort during that time. Some delicious items on the menu this past week included:

1) Szechwan Tempeh and Green Beans

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2) Jamaican-Style Coconut Rice Bowl (with the remnants of a Foster’s Market salad)

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3) Hot Salsa Pinto Beans and Rice Tacos

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4) Hot Salsa Pinto Bean and Rice Taco Salad

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5) Chickpea Noodle Soup

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All of the recipes this week were from Robin Robertson’s One-Dish Vegan, which I touted in my last post as well. They all earned a huge thumbs up!

I’ll be sharing a post later this weekend on the adventures of last Saturday: the art and style of finding a wedding dress. Stay tuned!

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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