September 25, 2013


Last autumn, I tried my hand at growing kale and broccoli. The broccoli succumbed to pests almost immediately, but the kale produced solidly for seven months. This year, I'm rolling the "fall garden" dice once again. I'm keeping it super-simple though, because we're moving in a few weeks, and apparently my odds of success are 50%.

I filled one huge pot with bronzey-pink chrysanthemums, and another with "Imperator 58" carrot seeds (from this highly-recommended, non-GMO seed collection). It should also be noted that I have never successfully grown root vegetables, but I'm hoping I can blame that on our rental's soil. The carrots have already made it further than the broccoli, so I'm hopeful.


Mental note: I just realized this is the first time since before I went to Michigan that I've used my "real" camera instead of my iPhone. I can tell the difference in quality; I need to stop succumbing to the iPhone's convenience so much.

September 23, 2013


Above: Micah bought me these letterpress sorts for my birthday, or Christmas maybe?, forever ago. Proof that he's been the best gift-giver ever for years now. I love the red ink residue on that fancy lowercase italic f.

Yesterday marked our official passageway into Autumn. Equinox! Harvest moon! Sweaters!

(It's also the dead center between my birthday and Micah's birthday, which means I pestered him all day about what restaurant/bar he wants to celebrate at this weekend, and the burden of waiting until an appropriate time to give him his gifts has become unbearably heavy.)

Fall means layering clothes, and ridiculous East Coast foliage, and mums, and pumpkin everything. It's time to stop shaving your legs, start roasting root vegetables and thinking about holiday plans, and dream about late nights in front of the (two!) wood-burning fireplace/s in your new home. I'm sad to see the wild abundance at the farmers market wane, but so excited about nesting in the new place – and creating traditions in it that we can build on for many autumns to come.

(Previously: What Spring Means, and What Summer Means.)

September 18, 2013


Above: some of our meals from the past 30 days.

My first sip of beer was worth waiting 30 days for. It hit my tongue, time stopped, and I could taste everything: layers of honeyed malt, bready hops, and woozy alcoholic fumes. It was so sweet – almost unbearably so. I could barely finish it, and immediately felt tipsy. (I also wondered if that was how sommeliers tasted everything, and was jealous.)

The next morning, I had one of my favorite foods: a toasted everything bagel with plain cream cheese. It took me 30 full minutes to eat. I savored every bite, often with my eyes closed. (...There may have been some moaning.) I was hoping that gluten wouldn't have much of an effect on me, so I could inappropriately enjoy such bagels all the time. But even before we got home, I had pronounced Bread Belly. I felt – and looked – uncomfortably full, like there were rocks in my stomach. And it didn't go away for hours.

My birthday dinner was similarly amazing: Micah and I split a bottle of red wine, started with salads, then split small plates of cheese, cured meats, and ham-wrapped, goat-cheese-stuffed dates. We ignored the crispy crackers on the cheese plate, but jumped on the soft, fresh bread slices that came with the cured meat. He sipped on a cortado and shared my slice of flourless chocolate cake. Then, we had a nightcap at Alley Twenty Six while we talked about my accomplishments from the past year, and my hopes and plans for the next year (a tradition we revisit each birthday and New Year).

Sunday morning, we woke up and went out for donuts and bagels at Monuts Donuts (the line had been too long the day before). At this point, we were both physically uncomfortable, but it was my actual birthday, and this is what I had dreamed about for the last 30 days, so. Everything was delicious because everything was gluten and sugar. We spent the majority of the rest of the day on a palette of blankets and pillows on the living room floor, massaging our food babies and not pooping. We started to talk about how our bodies currently felt, and how much better they felt on the Whole30. We discussed what foods to maybe save for special occasions (gluten, refined sugar, mass quantities of dairy), and what might be okay to reintroduce to our diets (high-quality butter, small amounts of cheese, red wine). We planned out the next few meals, and they were mostly Whole30 compliant, which was somehow now comforting, instead of restrictive.

And that's basically where we're at now. It's still a challenge when grocery shopping – my monkey brain is constantly screaming that nothing is technically off-limits now!!!, so go for it!!! – but we're being intentional about what we bring into our kitchen. I also threw out most of the pantry items that I had stored out of sight during our Whole30, including white and brown sugar, and flour. We're still buying the best meat possible, and I just bought some amazing butter from a local dairy farm that I'm really excited about.

Long story short: we've been changed, physically and mentally. The Whole30 snuck up on us, as I suspect it's designed to do. It challenged us mentally and physically, and we came out stronger and happier for it. I would highly recommend doing it if you'd like to know exactly what food does to your body, if you'd like to press "reset" on your eating habits, or if you'd just like to lose some weight (which is, of course, not the point of Whole30, but a highly probable byproduct of it).

For anyone interested, I would recommend a few different things. First, check out the Whole9 website for an overview of the program, including a comprehensive "can eat / can't eat" list, a timeline of what you can expect to feel over the course of your 30 days, and an active forum for past, present, and future Whole30-ers.

Then, if you're still interested, but maybe want to know a bit more of the science and strategy behind the Whole30 (like why they consider legumes and whole grains "unhealthy"), I'd recommend reading It Starts With Food. (I actually reviewed it here.) Or, if you're interested but maybe need to see what others have actually made and eaten while on the program, I'd recommend scrolling through all the photos with the hashtag #Whole30 on Instagram – it's a great way to get ideas for easy meals, or feel superior about your cooking/photography skills, or simply commiserate with others who are on the same day as you. I also searched for bloggers who had documented their programs – Kathleen, of course, being my favorite. I also leaned heavily on these two recipe indexes for inspiration and guidance before and during my 30 days. And finally, you can check out all of my week-by-week posts here.

I hope this helps anyone who might be curious about the Whole30 program. A few people have asked me about it throughout the course of my 30 days, and I wanted to be a good advocate for it, but didn't always have all the answers, and I wanted to be respectful of others' choices (as in, I didn't want to come across as "preachy"). That being said, let me know if you have any questions! I'll answer if I can, and if I can't, I'll point you to someone who can.

September 16, 2013


Micah spoiled me this year! (Micah spoils me every year.) For my twenty-ninth birthday, he gave me a mounted periodical cicada, two red fox skulls (I've named the slightly larger one Copper; I'm still waiting for the other's name to find me), and a pair of gorgeous walnut-looking mid-century candlesticks (from Ebb & Flow, the new vintage store in Durham).

He said the theme of this year's gifts was "things to put in the new house." I love that he's cool with decorating our home with seemingly creepy things. I also love that he's seemingly continuing last year's unofficial theme of "preserved animal parts."

September 11, 2013


Above: Some of our meals from the last week. My favorite meal was the ribeye steak with roasted prosciutto-wrapped fig salad (top middle): buttery, fatty, sweet-savory luxury. My favorite new food was quail (bottom right)! And my favorite failure was the sweet potato salmon cakes (center): they tasted like neither sweet potato nor salmon, and badly needed some tartar sauce that we didn't have.

Two and a half more days to go! The anticipation of my birthday dinner (and cheese and bread in general) have made these last few days a little harder than usual. It's only difficult when I'm hungry, though – that's when my brain makes this program seem less convenient and manageable than it really is. I've tried to compensate for that by preparing meals that are a little more interesting or luxurious than usual - like the ribeye or quail.

Micah and I are going grocery shopping in the next day or so, and will be restocking some non-compliant food items. I'm almost embarrassed by how excited we are about this. Our 30 days ends at midnight on Friday, and we've even discussed having a glass of wine if we're up then – but I think we might wait until my birthday dinner. We've made reservations at Mateo, a tapas-with-a-Southern-twist place downtown. We chose it because we don't go there often, so it's kind of special, and small plates of food will allow us to try more things and not stuff ourselves as easily. (Kisses to Kathleen for reminding me of how much I love that place – queso frito y huevo, Dios mío!)

I'll have another post next week that wraps up my thoughts on our experience, and advice for those who are considering doing their Whole30. Until then – have another glass of wine, another bite of stanky cheese, another hunk of crusty bread for me.

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

September 9, 2013


Above: OUR SOON-TO-BE HOUSE. I love that it's impossible to take a clear shot of the front, because of all the trees. (Photos from the MLS listing.)

We're under contract!

We fell in immediate, obsessive love with the "something different" house I mentioned two weeks ago. We put an offer on it within 24 hours of touring, and after some quick back-and-forth, a contract was drawn up, and earnest money sealed the deal. We got approved for our mortgage, and the inspection happened late last week. We wanted wait to share our news until we got the inspection report – since there was so much invisible damage in the last house we fell for. But this one is shipshape!, so I finally feel confident enough to talk about it publicly (the house equivalent of getting through the first trimester, I would imagine).

It's 1,400 sq. feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. All the living area is downstairs, and the bedrooms are upstairs (stairs! I never thought I would own a house with stairs, for some reason). There are two wood-burning fireplaces, tall windows, beautiful wood floors, an enclosed patio area (with blackberry bushes!), and a fenced-in backyard that backs up to woods.

We drive by the house a few times a week now – just to make sure it's still there, and to revel in the excitement of it all. Twice now, we've parked our car in front (it's empty), and taken evening walks around the neighborhood. We're also in love with the neighborhood: everyone we've crossed paths with has been super-friendly,  it feels tucked-away and woodsy, but it's still close to all of Durham's good stuff.

I'll get more into our plans for the house in the next few weeks (after we close). I just wanted to share the news that's been making me smile secret, crazed smiles recently! I've been daydreaming about homeownership with Micah since January, and it's finally happening.

We're buying a house!; we're making a home.

September 4, 2013


Above: Some of our meals from the last week. New experiments in the kitchen included: kelp noodles (top middle, the noodliest noodle substitution we've tried so far), bone marrow (middle left, with PORK-BELLY-WRAPPED TENDERLOIN AND BLACKBERRY-BALSAMIC REDUCTION), and romaine "tortillas" for fajitas (bottom middle, with some homemade mayo we mixed with salsa to make some sort of Mexi-cream-sauce). All fun and delicious! Not pictured: the hilarious emergency lunch we had one day when we were out shopping and did not go prepared. After roving around Target like starved aliens on a mysterious food planet, we found, bought, and inhaled two hardboiled eggs, a packet of compliant sliced turkey breast, dried apples, and Larabars.

We're done with Week 3, and three-quarters of the way through our Whole30. Creating these balanced, clean meals is now routine, and we're riding the wave of continued energy, leaner bodies, and deep sleep. We know we can rock this last week, and instead of looking forward to it ending, we're actually a bit apprehensive about what life looks like post-Whole30. How will our bodies react to diary, or gluten, or legumes, or sugar? Will our favorite foods even taste as good as we remembered them? Will we immediately gain all the weight back? What will we do without the rules?! Will we get totally drunk off one glass of wine? (That last one is more of a bemused query than a worry). The day after we finish our Whole30, we're celebrating my birthday with drinks and dinner. But right now I'm totally overwhelmed by trying to plan where to go and what eat. I want to respect the process of reintroduction, but I also want to celebrate. Also, I've been away from all my favorite Durham restaurants and bars for the last month – which old friend do I visit first? It's all food for thought (pun intended) over the next week.

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

September 3, 2013


Feathers have been finding me lately. Sizes and colors and patterns I've never seen before. Makes me want to crack open my favorite woo-woo natural world spirit guide and read up on what the universe might be trying to tell me...