August 30, 2013


I wanted to post these last, random photos from my time in Michigan – because I wanted to be able to look back at them in the dead of winter, when summer doesn't seem like it's ever going to swing back around, and be reminded of all the sand and sunshine and blueberries and waves that are in my future, and that I'm so lucky to have access to each year.

Thus ends the longest run-on sentence ever, and the shortest month-long vacation, ever.

August 28, 2013


Above: Some of our meals from the past week. Our fun luxury weekend meal: steak oscar (top left, with snow crab and béarnaise sauce, all prepared by Micah). Amazing. A close second: eggplant lasagna (top middle). The cashew ricotta really made it. I would eat it while not on a Whole30, and that's really the highest praise I can give food right now.

Somehow, we've reached the halfway point of our Whole30. Two weeks of structured, clean eating down, and two weeks still to go. I'm starting to feel some of the positive effects of the program: waking up is easier, my skin is clearer, and my clothes are looser. My taste buds are more sensitive too, which makes me even more excited about trying cheese / wine / dessert afterwards, and really tasting them.

I'm still feeling a bit isolated – Durham is a food and drink town, so we're cut off from a lot of what I love about it right now. We've found ways around it, though. We've been pouring cranberry kombucha into wine glasses to have with dinner a few times; it has a bit of what we've dubbed "wine tang." We've gone to Cocoa Cinnamon for an after-dinner coffee date, which was enjoyable (and kind of nostalgic: our first date was at a cupcake / coffee shop, and it's the type of place we rarely think to go...). We've started exploring thrift stores in the area, just so we're going to stores that aren't grocery stores once in a while, and so we can be in a store and not have anything be off-limits. Small victories.

But now I'm buoyed by the fact that we've done this for two weeks, so I know we're capable of doing it for two weeks, which is perfect timing, because hey, we've got two more weeks to go! I think the next week will be about staying on top of our prep, remembering to mix things up once in a while so we don't die of boredom, and starting to think about how we want to reintroduce non-compliant foods back into our diets post-Whole30.

UPDATE: You can read a recap of my entire Whole30 experience here

August 26, 2013


Above: Micah, inspecting a MacGyver-ed swing set at a house we toured yesterday. I'm still not over how tall the trees are here.

This weekend was all about new approaches. The Whole30 can do a number to your social life, so we've had to rethink ways to be "out and about" that aren't grocery shopping (or bar-hopping). So... we went to the mall for some leisurely window-shopping. I can't remember the last time I went to the mall without some Thing I had to materialize from the stores at hand, some Mission I had to Accomplish before leaving. This was a whole different game. There was future-house-furniture-daydreaming, people-watching, and Whole30-compliant snacks when the food court started to smell a bit too appetizing. 

Then we came home and tried a new approach to food prep: mass protein grilling. Micah did the heavy lifting, seasoning chicken (salt-and-pepper breasts and BBQ thighs), beef (steaks for dinner, Mexi-flavored flank steak for later), and even some rabbit we scored at the Farmers Market. It's going to make the rest of Week 2 so much more convenient - all we have to do now is reheat and pair with an appropriate vegetable.

On Sunday, we tried a new approach to house-hunting. See, we ended up falling in love with the first house we toured right before I left for Michigan. It was pretty indicative of all the listings we were looking at: older, needed some repairs, but on large (0.5+ acres), beautiful, wooded lots. We put in an offer as I was leaving, and started the process of getting approved for a complicated loan (a 203k, which would let us roll up to about $25,000 of necessary repairs into the mortgage loan), and navigating the bureaucracy of buying a foreclosure.

In short, it was like watching a car accident in slow-motion. Statutes of the loan would conflict with the contract, and no one knew which took precedence, because no one really had a lot of experience with a 203k, so paperwork was a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of dance. At some point, the property's bank stopped accepting eSignatures, and I had no access to a printer at the cabin. I signed a blank sheet of paper a few different ways, wrote out numerals for changing dates, took a picture of it with my phone, and Photoshop-signed paper after paper after paper.

We powered through it all though, excited that the price was low enough that we could afford a 203k, and confident that there would be money left over from big repairs to spend on more frivolous items, like a washer and dryer, or wood floors. Micah was such a champ, fielding emails, making persistent phone calls, researching contractors, and reporting back to me on our progress at the end of each long day. And when we finally hired a contractor to come out to the property to confirm that $25,000 would be enough to make the house livable, he identified at least $35,000 worth of damage without even having access to the crawl space, or working electricity in parts of the house. It was a crushing disappointment; it was a huge, silent relief. We pulled out of the contract, and took a much-needed break from house stuff.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. I'm starting to get the itch again, and starting to look at the same kinds of houses. We drive by a few; some are in iffy neighborhoods, some are just too far away, none of them inspire us to attempt an offer again. One night, I was so frustrated, I looked at every single listing in Durham and our price range. Every new-build and ghetto-mansion. Properties I had only glossed over before, with my "older house in woods that needs love" blinders on. I found a few options, and was almost hesitant to show them to Micah. But he had gone through all that heartbreak too, and was open to something different.

So, yesterday we toured something different. A house that's a whole year younger than I am. It was surreal, and eye-opening, and pretty awesome, actually. Afterwards, I wanted a drink so bad - one of the first times since starting the Whole30 that I've had a craving for alcohol. I wanted to go to our favorite wine bar, split a bottle, and daydream with Micah about how our lives could look in that kind of house. We didn't do that, of course. Not the drinking part. But we are starting to daydream again. And this time, it's for something different.

August 23, 2013


Maybe its because I'm from Oklahoma, but whenever I hear a deep rumble of thunder or see the skies start to turn, instead of making sure I stay somewhere safe and dry, I'm compelled to rush outside and watch.

Watching storms roll in is one of my favorite things to do at the cabin – it might even be tied with watching the sun set, and only narrowly beats out searching for constellations while sitting around around a bonfire.

After Micah and I returned from picking wild blueberries, we decided to reward our hard work with happy hour on the dock. It was overcast and breezy, and we could dip our toes in the water to stay cool. Soon, the wind picked up from the west, and the horizon started to darken. We decided to prolong our happy hour and "watch the show." The water turned brown, then green, then grey-blue. I knew it was going to be good when a freighter parked itself at the mouth of the bay, because it meant the storm was rough enough out on the "big lake" to merit waiting it out. Soon a giant wall cloud had enveloped the beach, and we could see the rain moving toward us across the bay. The wind was still rising, and it was dark enough to need to turn lights on in the cabin. We pulled up the kayaks and beach chairs, and waited as long as we dared before retreating into the cabin, to watch the finale.

August 21, 2013


Above, from top to bottom: Some of our meals from the past week. Our experimental meal from the weekend: Whole30 sushi with cauliflower rice and homemade spicy mayo. Seltzer with muddled ginger, mint, lime, and pineapple. Cinnamon-vanilla roasted figs.

The first week of our Whole30 is done! Day 1 seems like forever ago, yet I know we still have a long way to go. The first few days were a haze of dull headaches, as our bodies unlearned to rely on sugar and grains for quick energy, and learned (or relearned, depending on how you look at it) to tap into slow-burning fats and proteins. On Sunday (day 4, hopefully my worst) I just leaned into it, made a palette on the living room floor, and watched movies all day long, completely eschewing any personal hygiene and social obligation.

My brain still doesn't want to eat breakfast first thing every morning, but I'm starting to see the value in it, and I know my body needs it. I think about cheese all the time (specifically mac and cheese, to no one's surprise). But, to my surprise, I haven't really been missing alcohol very much – at least not yet. I do miss dessert, and it's been a struggle not to Whole30-ify my cravings by making a dessert out of compliant foods. Our social lives now revolve solely around a handful of different grocery stores, the farmers market, and our new favorite butcher: Rose's Meats and Sweets (which I proudly supported on Kickstarter earlier this year!). I'm eating more meat than I have in years, but I feel good about it because it's all very high-quality and humanely-raised.

An unexpected perk of doing the Whole30 with Micah has been bonding with him over its limitations. We verbally daydream about what delicious foods and drinks we'll be having to celebrate the end of the program. We vent about our physical symptoms, and the temporary downsides of all the restrictions. Even though it seems like we're grocery shopping and cooking all the time, we're having a blast in the kitchen experimenting with new foods and new recipes. I already know I couldn't have done this without him.

I'm still so glad I'm doing a Whole30, and I don't consider failure an option at this point. I am in it to WIN IT. I think the physical "withdrawal" symptoms are gone, and now it's just a matter of dealing with the day-in and day-out of my psychological cravings. Bring it, week 2!

UPDATE: You can read a recap of my entire Whole30 experience here.

August 20, 2013


Often, while I was in Michigan, everything around me was so beautiful that I struggled to capture it on my camera / iPhone. So I resorted to a pretty amateur photography tactic: taking pictures of my feet. (So shoegazer!) Though – on some level, it does makes sense; it's the most direct way of visually saying, "I was here. This is where I stood. I was a part of this." I also happen to love my feet – they're covered with pretty tattoos, and they did get me to all of these beautiful places. So I guess there's no reason their fabulous vacation shouldn't be documented as well.

August 15, 2013


Above: Lunch. Arugula salad with prosciutto, grape tomatoes, wild blueberries, avocado, red onion, almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Micah and I are starting a Whole30 today! For 30 days, we're eating only high-quality meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, good fats, seeds, and nuts. Conversely, we won't be having any alcohol, dairy, sugar, grains, or legumes. You can read more about the program as a whole (pun intended!) here.

We're basically just pressing the reset button on our bodies. I want to know what I'm like, and how I function, when I'm only consuming nutrient-dense, high-quality, healthy food. And I want to see how I'll react when I reintroduce different things (dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc.) back into my system, post-Whole30 (which we've timed so it ends the day before my birthday. NOT A COINCIDENCE).

I just want get my shit right, figuratively, and literally. Rockstar poops!

This first week will be about keeping it simple, and getting into the habit of creating compliant meals. Planning and preparation are key in this program, which is great because I love planning and preparing. Virgo power! Over the last week or so, we've slowly rid our fridge, freezer and cupboards of anything we won't be able to have. I've boxed up non-compliant evergreen items (flour, sugar, oats, miscellaneous pantry items) and stored them outside of the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind. We've had fun researching and buying a few new-to-us "substitute" items, like ghee and coconut aminos.

I'm a little wary of any withdrawals I might have to work through. Because off the top of my head, I'd say my three favorite foods are: 1) a toasted everything bagel with plain cream cheese, 2) Kraft macaroni and cheese, and 3) all dessert. I love making pasta and ice cream and fancy cocktails, and I don't think that'll change in 30 days. But, I am hoping to loosen my very real dependency on them.

So, Micah and I are treating this all like a grand adventure experiment. (He treats most things like grand adventures, and that's why I love him.) We're excited to better ourselves, and to expand our culinary repertoires. Over the next few weeks, I'll be updating you on our progress: sharing meals, struggles, and any hallucinatory revelations that may occur.


UPDATE: You can read a recap of my entire Whole30 experience here.

August 14, 2013


Above: a pair of Dolce Vita oxfords that I got at Target a few years ago, and really like. But, I also bought a similar pair with tiny-gold-studded toes (in the background), which I LOVE, and always choose over them. So I donated the "boring" pair.

I packed one small suitcase for my month-long stay in Michigan. It was just the essentials: two bikinis, two deep-V t-shirts, two tank tops, two pairs of jeans, two dresses, a pair of shorts, a pair of pajama pants, a sweater, a denim jacket, a scarf, a pair of flats, and a pair of flip-flops (plus a few pairs of underwear). I loved living so lightly. Everything went with everything else, so I didn't have to think about how to pair things, and I never lacked for something to wear the whole time I was there (I even went to a wedding!, and Michigan's lakefront weather is notoriously mercurial).

When I got back home, part of me wanted to just donate everything that wasn't in that suitcase. I knew that wasn't practical, but I used the spirit of it to look through my wardrobe again, and make another donation to VVA. I was able to find a few pieces that I could part with: items that I just don't LOVE reaching for, or that felt redundant (though I still have a clear over-attachment to deep-Vs), or that required special care (like ironing – ain't nobody got time for that), or that were just part of a wardrobe from another life ("9 - 5 office worker," in this case). As it turned out, I was able to lose a few pieces from each "category." Here's what I'm left with:

3 long-sleeve shirts
2 boatneck 3/4-length shirts 
6 deep-V short-sleeve shirts
3 chambray button-ups
1 silky racerback tank
4 cardigans/wraps
3 sweaters
(22 pieces)

3 pairs pants (1 pair wide-leg, 1 pair cropped skinny, 1 pair skinny corduroys)
3 pairs jeans (1 pair flares, 2 pairs skinny)
1 pair shorts
(7 pieces)

4 short dresses
1 long dress
(5 pieces)

2 winter coats (1 long, 1 short)
1 denim jacket
2 pairs boots (1 pair biker, 1 pair rain)
8 pairs shoes (1 pair heels, 1 pair wedges, 2 pairs oxfords, 3 pairs flats, 1 pair running)
(13 pieces)

2 pairs pajama pants
2 pair comfy shorts
1 pair leggings
4 tank tops 
2 t-shirts (1 Duke, 1 Michigan)
(11 pieces)

...which adds up to a grand total of 58 pieces.

August 13, 2013


Mackinac Island is half tourist trap, and half otherworldy time capsule. It sits in Lake Huron, nestled between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, accessible only by ferry. There are no cars on the island, just bikes and horse-drawn carriages. There's a giant marina, an historic fort, a main strip of candy-colored hotels and charming, old-timey fudge shops – and the rest is mostly state park, with a little bit of insane private real estate to ogle.

I've gone maybe 5-6 times in my life – whenever people come to visit, usually. General trip protocol calls for you to step off the ferry, rent some bikes, and leisurely cycle the 8-mile circumference of the island, stopping for a beach picnic, or a photo op (tiny Mackinac Bridge!), or a covert pee break. When you get back to "town" and return your bikes, you can stroll the main strip and peruse gift shops, buy pounds and pounds of fudge, and try to dodge all the horseshit and people acclimating to their bikes, before hopping on a ferry back to the mainland.

I went twice this summer: once with Kathleen and Jeremy, and once with Micah. Two Tuesdays, exactly a week apart. Micah saw a warm, sunny Mackinac Island, and the Shannons saw a cold, blustery one – though no less beautiful, or crowded. Micah and I stayed a bit later – we could've had dinner there, but opted for cocktails instead. The island clears out in the late afternoon, after all the families leave. The pace of the place slows considerably. We took a later ferry than I ever had before, and discovered that it was one of two daily that took a scenic detour underneath the mighty Mackinac Bridge. It was refreshing to experience something out of general trip protocol, something that brought back a bit of the magic I experienced there as a child. (Plus, Micah has bit of a thing for bridges, so this was just bridge icing on the bridge cake for him.)

August 12, 2013


There's a place a short drive from our cabin that's a bit of a well-kept local secret. It's a few dozen acres of government-owned forest that fell prey to a fire about 30-40 years ago. From a distance, it doesn't even merit a second glance - just large scrubby fields flanked by stately evergreens. But if you get out of your car and bend down, you suddenly realize the whole place is covered with blueberry bushes. Acres and acres and acres of them. 

Apparently the fire leveled the larger trees, which gave the blueberries prime sunshine real estate. And all the charred wood (you can see some in the top picture, on the left!) created some sweet organic matter for them to grow in. Nature, man. 

I went twice in a month; once with my parents, and once with my parents and Micah. Each time we spent about 2.5 hours there, quietly picking and looking up once in awhile to check for bears, or, you know, murderous hillbillies or whatever. It's a pretty zen experience – all you're really focused on is which clump of berries to pick next, and you can't even really focus on that too much, because there's just so many. Micah said it was his favorite part of Michigan, because he was able to get out of his head for while; which, really, isn't that just the whole point of vacation? True removal? I think so. 

Well, that, and gallons upon gallons of wild, organic blueberries. I brought 13 cups back with me (a benefit of being a really light packer!), and every time I look at them I think about how I pay like $5 a pint at Whole Foods for commercially farmed organic blueberries that don't taste half as good. I froze half of them for winter, and have slowly been working my way through the other half, making crumbles, sprinkling them on salads, and just eating them plain by the handful whenever I get a bit nostalgic.