Monday, August 31, 2009

It's all relative...

Yesterday Gabe and I explored Durham and toward the end of the day we went to one of the most laid back bars in all the land. There was no AC - a real rarity around here - and there were big industrial fans. A few kids played darts, and a couple people were at the bar. NASCAR was on mute, and next to that tv was another playing some Star Trek rip-off movie. There was one young guy tending shop and he seemed to know everyone but us. Gabe and I hung out reading the newspapers and chatting for a long time. When we left the bar I asked him if he wanted to go swimming tonight. Gabe said, don't you think it's a bit cold for swimming? Once we got in the car we saw that it was 84 degrees! And today was definitely grey and genuinely chilly (the first of either since we moved here). I had on pants and a t shirt and I was cold. It was 70!

I am trying to re-do this blog, and am limited by total lack of html. It's very frustrating to know what I want to do and have no idea how to go about it. I suppose I need to get more web savvy. Stay tuned for continual revisions until my never-satisfied self finally gives in to a temporary final version.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Right now it's a bit after 6 p.m. and I am lounging on the porch in a bathing suit, in a rocking chair. Gabriel is beside me reading with a Carolina Brewery IPA in hand. In between us is a bright orange outdoor table I found on sale at World Market for $8. On top of that is a beautiful bright green basil plant found at Trader Joe's for $3. Ookie is lounging on the floor. It's a temporary version of perfection.

Today we went on the food tour (see previous post). Part of the purpose was to meet others and surprisingly it was just us. Our tour guide was a young girl originally from Georgia who was cute and southern and one of the most friendly, outgoing people you could meet. We ended up touring from 11 to 3:30, an hour and a half over the expected time. It was awesome! We had bacon/egg and pastrami/egg on a biscuit to start, at a deli that makes their own pastrami and uses local ingredients. Gabe possibly sold the guy on a solar hot water heater.
On the rest of the tour we had amazingly good chocolate - the shop owner is originally from Hong Kong, studied in Paris and opened up Miel Bon Bons in Carrboro. We had this lavendar chocolate that tasted like eating flowers, in the best way possible. Gabe got a 'South of the Border' chocolate that was SO shockingly spicy. We had cupcakes at Bliss, and anyone that visits me will be subjected to their creations. Then we sampled beer, and learned a bit about North Carolina's emerging brewery scene. Then we went to a couple fancy restaurants. In Acme we met a cook who is one of those people who could talk about food for hours. He schooled me on proper pork braising and told me where all the good Indian and Asian shops are. He then cooked us (just us, the restaurant was closed) some shrimp fried in panko with tomato chutney and eggplant caviar. It was so good. So. Good. He's also in a band, which apparently is very Carrboro.
The next fancy restaurant was Cypress on the Hill, which is brand new. It was just us again, and we had a salad of mixed greens and fennel, with crostini and paprika goat cheese on top. Some green apples, and these sweet onions that someone drove more than 200 miles to specifically get. (They were worth it.) The bar was made of concrete, and the girl behind the bar was cutting flowers bought that morning at the farmer's market and filling them with water from the bartender's nozzle-thing.
Many restaurants get their ingredients at the Carrboro Farmer's Market, which is open year round. If you buy 2 lbs of peppers or tomatoes they fire-roast them for you on site. And we met the lady that coordinates it all. She works on a farm and lives in Carrboro, so she is tan, pretty and has hairy armpits. We met the owner of a farm that just makes cheese and had some wonderful samples, and also learned about cheese making school. Then we spent a lot of time with the pecan guy, who could talk about pecans for hours. He almost did. He sang Gabe Happy Birthday and was really good. His daughter is a singer as well, he told us, and when her 11-year-old little self ran by, he yelled towards her: "Don't go running around hitting old people." He had a Louisiana drawl, but was a graphic designer for a long time in NYC. He wanted to raise his daughter in the South so they ended up here. We learned that this is as far north as pecans grow. We had his pecan pie, and plain pecans. I will never get pecans at Trader Joe's ever again, but only from the odd pecan guy at the market.
We had so much fun, and I love the little town of Carrboro. It reminds me of Haight Ashbury and Somerville, but it definitely has its own character, and is 1/15th the size of either of those places. I found out it is the most densely populated NC town, and perhaps that's why we feel so at home there. Our guide also told us some history and the great places for live music and entertained us the whole way - thank you Mary Charles!
The Triangle area seems to have so many things emerging, the more we learn about it: new downtown areas, new development, new brewery scene, new restaurant scene... hearing about it all left me feeling entrepreneurial. I'm applying for a job that I think I have a good chance of getting. It's almost an hour away, though, and it's 8-5. See any earlier post and you know I'm not a morning person. I told Gabe about this job's hours and he said oh alysa, you're setting yourself up for failure. It's a bit of an exagerration but not far off. So while I have time now, I want to do some creative brainstorming about 'non-job' options. I have a few ideas but am not sure of the feasibility. But something with a flexible schedule, creative, where my ideas and effort get immediately translated into results - that sounds so good right about now. It seems such a great environment for it too. I'm seeing some possibilities...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday

Today is Gabriel's 27th birthday. He is the age I was when I first met him. (I feel like this should lead into a logic puzzle but it doesn't.) I spent the first half of the day nursing a wound, but distracted myself with cooking. I made dry aged ribeye steak, which apparently is a big deal. It was good, but not sure it's worth the splurge a second time. I also roasted green beans, asparagus and red potatoes. I forgot to do anything with the nice bread I bought. But that might be a good excuse for french toast later this weekend. For dessert my sister Kim sent me a recipe for her favorite chocolate cake. I added some coffee and served it with chocolate covered espresso beans. Easily the fluffiest cake I've ever made and very good. I made 12 cupcakes, so this may be a good time to make friends with neighbors. I made icing but it's too sweet. I don't know - I'm not a huge fan of cake so it's hard to know how it all turned out. If I'm going to have chocolate I'd personally prefer a souffle or a molten cake or chocolate croissant or hot chocolate or great piece of candy. Yum, I love chocolate. I also found a good port at Trader Joe's that went with everything great.

I also got Gabe a nice bouquet of flowers, a growler of Carolina IPA and bison jerky for an appetizer :)

Gabe's birthday present happens tomorrow. We're going on a Taste Carolina gourmet food tour of Chapel Hill and Carrboro - so excited! I WILL remember the camera this time. This blog is due for some pictures of our new home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

salt shaker

I know I said nobody cares how I think my fiance is funny. But did I mention how quickwittedly clever he is? Here's an everyday example:

I tried to do him a favor by organizing all his passport-renewing materials into an envelope. When it didn't jump out from the shelf to bite him when he went looking for it, he complained jokingly that I shouldn't go trying to clean up anything (like he really knew where it was before the envelope, anyway). I was at the stove shaking salt into boiling water for pasta and to show my annoyance at his complaining, I shook some onto his exposed belly.

Gabe immediately mock-shouts: "Stop assaulting me!"

Get it? Hilarious! He knows the way into this girl's heart for sure.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

frustrogated; blogstrated

I knew it would happen, and I've come to the point where this blog thing seems silly. Who cares about cat pictures, or how funny I think my fiance is, or how I'm feeling restless? If it's to keep my family updated I can just as well send an email. I'm tired of the top picture. The whole color scheme is too dark. I have no web skills to really re-design something creatively. Other people seem to have great themed blogs that get made into movies. I can't stay on task like that. I lack a good camera to take pictures and post. And now we have amazingly suckily slow internet so it takes 10 minutes to post one picture anyway. And blogs expose: I don't write about anything of great importance because I have skin that bruises easily and a mind that lingers on potential offenses and repercussions. Am I writing just for me, and if so, why not put it all quietly in a journal, and not risk vulnerability? If I'm writing for others the whole thing seems disconcertingly narcissistic.

Maybe I will get a good camera. Maybe I will change the color scheme, or change to a different computer program. Maybe I will be more unapologetically me in my posts. Maybe I'll figure out intended audience. Maybe I'll take on a theme. Maybe we'll upgrade to fast internet. Maybe I'll start an anonymous blog.

But something.

I've also noticed in myself a sudden violent intolerance for a specific type of music I used to enjoy: the guitar-strummed, singer-songwriter song...self-confessional and self-absorbed, with nonsensical lyrics they pretend mean something.' Probably not just a coincidence.

For the first time in print...

Crazy, huh?!

I know, you're probably thinking the same thing I am... how could they have put TWO spaces between Gabriel's first and last names. I just can't get over it.

(Address line blurred by state-of-the-art technology to prevent potential stalkers.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'd like to buy a vow please

I reminded Gabe today that we need to start thinking about vows. To my surprise he came over to me a half hour later and said he found the perfect poem to read during the ceremony. Wow, I thought, for half a second, before I saw that little mischievous glint in eye. Here's what he read me from somewhere on the internet, in a place not hidden and anonymous enough:


I'd like to make a YOU turn
Onto the highway that leads to
You being with me.
And once I get on that highway
I'll never look for an off ramp,
But I will slow down for the construction
Of a lasting relationship.
And I'll pay the tolls.
As long as those tolls aren't you telling me that
You don't love me the way I love you.
You, you, you, you,
I love you, and without you,
My soul would wilt like a flower in winter.
Water me.
Water me or I will die.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Iron Chef: Battle Pork Picnic

A couple days ago I decided to accept the challenge of the 8 lb. pork picnic. I do not have a smoker, and it did not fit in the crock pot. I was in a mood where I had no patience for recipes. This is what I did:

-Seared the pork in a big cast iron skillet. Took it out and put it in a roasting pan.
-In the skillet I sauteed onions, garlic and green apples. Then added apple cider vinegar, dry mustard, hot sauce and spices. And beer, just because. My worry was the pork would dry out, so more liquid the better.
-Poured mixture on top of pork, covered in foil and cooked it on low heat over an interrupted period of two days.
-Once cooked, I sliced the pork, chopped it and threw it in some simmering apple cider vinegar, red pepper and spices.

YUM. SOOOO good. I also made a cole slaw to top off the pulled pork sandwiches, and made homemade baked beans with special organic pretty SF farmer's market beans. It was all pretty darn good.

The next day, yesterday, Gabe came home for lunch and I got ready to make him a sandwich. The pork wasn't in the space I cleared in the fridge for it. Slowly, like in a nightmare, I opened the oven. Nooooo!!! I left it in there overnight, cold, developing all sorts of communicable disease. I had only imagined putting it back in the fridge. 8 lbs. of wonderful cooking. It's sad.

Friday, August 14, 2009

new time zone

It seems I've adjusted to a new time zone since moving to Chapel Hill. Yes, it was a straight shot south, for you map geeks. But steadily since August 1st my bedtime has creeped later and later. With no structure or job, my new bedtime has leveled out at a shocking 6:30 a.m. I wrote before about not being a morning person; however, I truly didn't expect I'd be missing mornings all together. But it's uncomfortable. I'm tired. I've only slept a handful of hours at most a night. I can't seem to sleep in our bed. It's a combination of the blaring Metallica from next door til 3 a.m. (filed noise complaint today), the fact that everytime I crawl into bed Gabe wakes up and is restless for hours (insomnia is contagious), and now I've managed to convince myself that the bed is facing the wrong direction and needs to be moved 180 degrees.

I know part of the problem is anxiety. New place, Gabe's new job, new life. Add that there is a wedding in two months which I haven't planned much for. We need curtains. I filed an extension on my taxes and still haven't done them. I need to renew my passport. I need a working phone. I need to do all the paperwork for NC licensure. We're suddenly contemplating buying a house before the wedding. Do we try to have a baby soon? Do I get a job? I need to start writing. I still have to get a new license and register my car. Should we just sell my car and get a used one to save money? What's going to happen to our national healthcare system?

Sigh. So I'm left wondering if I suck it up and don't sleep one whole night so I can have a more normal bedtime. Or do I just embrace this, and try to be creative/productive at 4 in the morning. Last night I thought it might help to read, since I'd have someone else's story in my head at bedtime, instead of my own. I pulled Augusten Burrough's 'Running with Scissors' from the shelf. I had bought it years ago and just never got around to reading it. I read 250 pages straight. That plan for a lullaby narrative didn't work. I woke up this morning and finished the rest.

If you need a beach read that details dysfunctional families on a grander scale than you've previously imagined, this is the book for you. It's a memoir, which has subsequently been contested by many of the characters in the story. I thought the book was sad, funny, interesting, disgusting, and unbelievably engaging. And then I looked it up on The Google today, and read his mother's blog, interviews with the adoptive siblings, bios, the lawsuit.... it's like Part II. Part III is the movie that was made in 2006.

So I suppose I will get working on that to-do list that has become a mountain in my mind. Also a rigorous grounding program. Yesterday was the worst. My computer screen shattered (I guess I stepped on it?), I got two splinters, a bad stomachache, and I bonked my head - HARD- at least ten, fifteen times all around the house, along with various other minor injuries. At times like this I just don't function well in Earth's gravity. Once I reached down for a paper towel and hit the top of my head sharply on the corner of the counter. You know how there's that half-second pause of numbness, and you just brace yourself for the impact of shooting pain? I waited and bam! holy crap. I reeled to the ground and saw some stars (I didn't know that was literal!). As I was lying on the carpet moaning I opened my eyes and saw Daphne curled up in the corner, tail tucked neatly under her, just staring at me with her wise yellow-green eyes. If Daphne could talk it would be in a snobby accent. And she would shake her head and go 'tsk, tsk': "You really must get a hold of yourself woman."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ode to Ookpik

Ookpik, or Ookie, is our 2 year old cute, fat cat. She is half Siamese, and half Snowshoe and we got her from the shelter when she was 9 months old. She likes water and is afraid of nothing- vacuums, spray bottles, nothing. She is a good snuggler and follows us around everywhere - I step on her at least five times a day. She would eat 8 lbs. of food at once if we let her. Basically she's a dog in a cat body.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

pork picnic.

If you read this title and are confused, you're like me. If you read that and are like, oh yeah, pork picnic, whatev... then enlighten me. If you read that and imagined pigs lounging around eating potato salad and watermelon at a summertime picnic, then you've got a good imagination.

I've been trying out every grocery store in town, and the local farmer's markets. Carrboro farmer's market is amazing. I got a huge bag of basil for $2.00 and made homemade pesto. We got 4 different kinds of tomatoes, and okra, which I've never cooked before. And locally made andouille sausage - Gabriel made an amazing jambalaya. The grocery stores are mostly whole-foods-ish, except they have a beer and wine aisle. (Beer is on sale everywhere, and in Carrboro people drink on the lawn right outside the store and play music.)

To continue my meandering story, yesterday I needed some basics and went to the cheapest food store in town. It was not as well lit, had 70's colors and no chalkboards with colorful designs announcing the local organic special. But there was all this food that was new to me, and you could get every type of pepper in bulk. People actually talked to each other in there, and I talked to a total stranger for 10 minutes (my northeastern blood did not know how to deal with this at all, but i got through it ok). The above-mentioned pork picnic was on sale and I'd never seen it before so I had to get it. It's 8 lbs! It's like a pork picnic baby.

I've purposely not googled or looked it up in a cookbook yet. I like the mystery. I bet if I throw it in the crock pot with some bbq sauce and vinegar it'll be good (pulled pork?). If you have any suggestions let me know !

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Road Trip

Merely days after moving Gabe and I went on a road trip to meet Dad and Denise somewhere between our house and theirs in Myrtle Beach. We ended up in coastal Wilmington, NC. We looked through so many cute little shops:

And had a beer on a roofdeck:

Gabe and I wanted to actually see the ocean since we were so close and we got there just before sunset:

The water was beautiful, green and warm. It reminded me a bit of the Jersey Shore, but cleaner.

It was so peaceful we contemplated staying the night... but we didn't want to leave our poor cats home all disoriented and feeling lonely. This is our parting shot looking back toward the ocean:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Move

Gabe and I loaded up all our possessions in a pick up truck, my car, and a 5x8 trailer. This was last Friday and it was a very hot and humid morning. We were really sticky and sweaty, and one of us must have wished the hot away because there were suddenly downpours around 10 a.m. A downpour that lasted until we left around 4 p.m. Gabe's parents thankfully were there to help us out and we left on our scheduled time, hoping to land in south jersey (the half-way stop-over) at 10. So much traffic, and I got there after midnight, and Gabe around 1:30. The poor cats lived in the basement for the night and were so confused and upset. I felt horrible leaving them down there, mostly because I saw this HUGE spider. I'm not afraid of spiders, not nearly. But this one was about 4-5 inches across, fuzzy, and I could see its eyes. It belonged in a zoo, not in a basement with my cats. It was too big to think about squishing it, and how do you get it back outside? I guiltily left the cats to figure it all out, and I think there were no altercations.

We got up around 7 the next morning and left at 9, promptly hit traffic. I didn't get down here til about 6, and thankfully our apt. complex left the key for us since their office was an hour past closed. We love our apartment! It's bright and carpeted, with a nice balcony and fireplace. It's the smallest place we've been in so far (this makes our fifth abode together in less than three years) but also the most modern and functional and closeted. The night we arrived the village green was playing the movie 'Up', and the next night there was a concert. We're not yet too freaked out by our Pleasantville environs - we're enjoying being near everything.

The first few days I intermittently felt sick, dehydrated, cranky, tired and overheated. I think I've mostly adjusted since today I took no nap (which turns me into a monster for an hour after). The heat is about as bad as it gets (90s and humid) and it's not so bad. Especially with central AC and a pool one minute away. I love the nights when the sun sets and it's in the 80s.

Gabe and I actually haven't visited Chapel Hill proper yet. We've mostly been spotted in local shops like Home Depot, Super Target (there's wine in there!), and Home Goods. Or we've been home scouring cragslist for used washer/dryers (we found maggots in the washer hose - oh my god!!) and bookshelves. This nesting thing takes work.

I've noticed a few things here. One, I like it. Two, people wear a lot of Crocs. Three, it's easier to drive - especially compared to Boston's ever-changing, circuitous roads. Here you take one or two clearly signed, straight roads to get places. Four, there are so many trees. More observations and pictures to follow.

It hasn't sunk in that this is our new home. It's definitely not sunk in that I'm currently unemployed. I'm just waking up and tackling a few things of the lists of things that need getting done, head down. Next week it will be strange when the house is mostly settled and Gabe is off at work. I'm thankful for some time though - I've got some wedding planning to do! I've also got to get my mental health license, and tackle postponed taxes.

Ok, it's time to stop blogging when you're going on about taxes. Could it get less interesting?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

last post meet next-to-last post: how do you do?

FUNNY is how they do. I can't believe my luck but William Shatner did Sarah Palin's speech!! I swear I didn't have insider info and plan my blog accordingly. Here is Shatner's performance on The Tonight Show.

Shatner did a follow up, in which he performed Ms. Palin's tweets. That's here.

We get Internet installed tomorrow so an update on the Chapel Hill move will follow then...


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