Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You Get a Really Epic/Horrible Story To Make Up For My Absence

You know how life keeps kind of chugging along, and things happen and you think, "It'd be really nice if I blogged about this," but then a week passes and then three and you still want to talk about that thing, but then more things happened between then and now and you want to talk about those things too, and then it just gets so overwhelming that you just abandon ship so you don't have to think about it?

I'm really easily overwhelmed. I've been so overwhelmed for weeks and weeks. But I need to get some of these stories written down so I don't forget them.

Stories like how I threw my sister a bridal shower and how we visited a bunch of new places (Virginia Beach! the Biltmore! Williamsburg!) and how I turned 28 and how our families came to visit on several different occasions over the past few months.


(Oh, and only the most terrifically traumatic story.)

But despite my brief note-taking and photo-snapping, enough time has passed since some of those events occurred that I don't really feel like recapping entire trips. So instead, I think I'll just share a story or two from each over the next few posts.

Starting with this one.

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My friend Chelsea and I were driving to book club. It was being hosted up near Roanoke, way up in the mountains (and not really that close to the city at all). We were so, so late because traffic on the main highway had been completely stopped for almost an hour.

So we finally get out of traffic and exit the main highway, and start weaving through the mountains on one of those little two-lane highways. We're coming around a curve and this THING comes running into the street. A black, German-Shepherd-sized thing.

It was a bear.

Now, I had heard that there were bears in this area, but I had never seen a bear in real life before. When I learned that there were bears, I really wanted to see one for myself.

Well, I saw the bear all right.

Right before I ran it over.

I slammed on my brakes, but I wasn't fast enough. It went under one of my truck tires.

Thankfully I saw it get up and run right off the road, limping a bit, in my rearview mirror. Because it's not like you can get out and make sure the bear is okay. It's a freakin' BEAR.

We were horrified. I asked Chelsea if there was any way that I could have possibly seen the bear and avoided hitting it, and she said she didn't think so, that it came out of nowhere. But I still cried when we got to book club after the shock wore off. I hit a baby bear!

Matt says the bear is probably okay. (He once ran over a dog in our neighborhood in Texas, and it lived to continue chasing cars for many years.) I'm hoping he's right.

A month has passed since this happened. My book club has since met again, and it turns out the ladies in that club really love telling people the story of how the vegetarian ran over a bear.

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I don't have a good question. Anything I could ask after that story would just be too gruesome. So I guess, if you have a story to make me feel like a less horrible person? That would be great. Or just any story about something that's happened to you lately. I've missed you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Life List Fail: There Were Cows, But I Wasn't Allowed to Milk Them

"I didn't know learning to be a farm hand was on your list," my friend Chelsea said.

It's not. And it's really silly, but I think it would be pretty cool to get to milk a cow, and so it's on my Life List. I've heard it's not as easy as it looks.

We were at the Virginia Cheese Festival. (How's that for irony.) It was a lot of fun! There were cheese-making demonstrations, and cheese-sampling flights, and three floors worth of vendors with bites of cheese to try. There were some really good cheeses, and some unusual ones (mulberry chevre? habaƱero mango cheddar?). We tried goat cheese, and sheep's milk cheese, and cow's milk cheese (and when I got home and told this to Matt, he said, "Cow's milk cheese is just CHEESE.")

The cheese flight, which was guided and really informative, with cheeses from Caromont Farm.

And I learned a lot. I learned that goat cheese is called "chevre," which is pronounced "shev," and that cheese washed in cider is really delicious. (That's the cheese on the right, above.) I also learned that the rind of brie is actually white mold, and that kind of grossed me out and confused me because I like brie but other moldy cheese varieties are gross. I don't know my life.

Anyway, so we're sipping chardonnay and tasting cheeses and plotting which ones we're going to come back and buy later, when I heard that there were cows outside among the outdoor (non-cheese) vendors. And I said that we had to go see the cows and see if we could milk one! And Chelsea thought that was weird, but agreed that she'd take a picture if I managed to do it.

Cheese tasting selfie. 

So we went out to see the cows, and there were two little brown cows and one bigger black-and-white cow that was lazy and laying down under the tent in this little metal corral.

I love cows! I did get to pet the two brown ones. Chelsea happened to know the woman who owned the farm, and told her I wanted to learn how to milk a cow.

And the woman told me they had this thing that you could "learn" on, but it was basically just a piece of wood painted to look like a cow, with a rubber udder attached under a tank of fluid. Not exactly the same thing. (I did not attempt to milk the fake cow. I'm pretty sure that was meant for children.)

So I didn't get to milk a cow, but it was still an awesome day.

Do you like festivals? Are you a cheese connoisseur? Would you want to milk a cow?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cookbook Challenge: Things That Remind Me Of Childhood

Well, some of these recipes remind me of childhood. Not the alcohol ones, obviously. Thought my parents like to tell me that when I was two, they once found me in the recycling bin trying to get the last drops out of my dad's beer bottles.

No children were harmed during the making of these Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook recipes.


Citrusy Sangria
I've been really pissed off at Kroger lately. Every week I buy produce — and I buy lots of it, because vegetarian — and before the next week's grocery trip has come around, a good amount of the stuff I haven't eaten yet has gone bad. Four days after I bought the navel oranges to make sangria, and one of them was already growing green mold! So that was frustrating. I only used the one good orange in my wine. Which really isn't a big deal in the big scheme of sangria, but dammit Kroger I am tired of throwing money at you only to have to throw my food away after a couple of days. Rawr. Also, the sangria was good, but duh, it's red wine. I never say no to red wine.

Mexican Chicken Salad with Taco-Ranch Dressing
Unlike every other child in America, I grew up hating both cheese and ranch dressing. Since becoming a vegetarian, I have begrudgingly accepted that FINE, cheese is wonderful, but it wasn't until I tried this salad that I thought, "Huh, maybe ranch dressing is okay too." Though admittedly the recipe tells you to make your own ranch dressing, and it didn't have that weird zip to it at the end like store-bought ranch does. (Instead you mix equal parts mayo and buttermilk, and throw in a little lime juice, taco seasoning and onion powder.) I skipped the chicken on my salad and stuck to the dresing and avocado and tortilla strips, but Matt enjoyed the chicken tossed into his.

Strawberry Daiquiris
These were very tasty, and Matt and I agreed that the best part was the lime juice-soaked sugar around the rims. My goodness lime sugar is delicious. (Matt doesn't like it when I put his drinks in martini glasses, so he got the more manly rocks glass. I think I win though, because the martini rim has more room for lime sugar.)

"Hidden Treasure" Bread Pudding
I don't know that I had ever had bread pudding before, but I have been missing out all my life because IT WAS SO GOOD. The "hidden treasure" was that there were chocolate chips on the bottom of the ramekins. DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE MIXED IN WITH SWEET EGG CUSTARD. My goodness.

Artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Butter
Neither of my parents were big on cooking much when I was a kid, but on very rare occasions, my dad would come home from the store with an artichoke. He would cook it up, and melt some butter in the microwave, and then the two of us (and occasionally my sister) would rip those leaves off and dip them in the butter and scrape the meaty bits off with our teeth. My mom thought it was disgusting. I loved those days. That said, this butter tasted better than the microwave-melted kind, but the artichoke itself didn't taste quite as good as I remember my dad's being.

Summer Tomato Stack
If a recipe could be a basic bitch, that's what this one would be. Seriously. I already made this caprese salad-esque "recipe" once this week without even looking at the instructions, and then I followed the instructions and it turned out the exact same, except that the tomatoes were cut in a way that was more difficult to eat and the reduced balsamic was thicker than when I just poured it over my tomatoes from the bottle. (The recipe said to "decoratively drizzle" the balsamic glaze on the plate, and clearly I don't know how to do that. It ended up all over the counter.)

Completed: 88 of 147 recipes

Do you have any fond childhood food memories? What foods did you hate as a kid that you kind of begrudgingly like now? What stories do your parents like to tell about your chldhood?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lighting Bugs and Screaming Bridge

I have no idea if this is a true story or not. It might have just been something my dad made up when we were kids because he was sick of me and Rachel fighting in the backseat when he was driving.

My dad once told us as we were driving over a bridge in Arlington (Texas), that the bridge we were on was called Screaming Bridge. According to him, legend had it that one dark night, while the bridge over the Trinity River was out, a car full of teenage girls speeding down the road plunged over the edge into the river.

(I just looked it up. Turns out Screaming Bridge is a bit of an urban legend/ghost story in Texas. But you never know. My dad made up all sorts of weird stories when we were kids.)

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My grandparents live on a golf course. Right around the time my dad told us about Screaming Bridge, we went to my grandparents' house for some event, and we tried to convince my Paw-Paw to take us for a ride on his golf cart. As dusk was approaching, my Nana told us she'd take us for a ride over the course, which had several bridges over the little fingers of the creek, if I'm remembering it correctly. We told her about Screaming Bridge, and she said there was a Woman Screaming Bridge on the golf course. It was the biggest, narrowest, steepest bridge on the course. Rachel and I screamed as Nana drove over it.

It was dark and creepy under the trees as the sun disappeared, but lightning bugs glowed between them every now and then. I love lightning bugs. They're so pretty to watch. I would never have tried to capture any of them.

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Matt was attending a conference at Virginia Tech the other week. He came home around dusk one evening and told me that on his way home, he'd seen a whole bunch of lightning bugs. I said we should go for a walk to see if we could find some. They glowed neon all over our neighborhood. The warmer it gets, the more I see them flitting in the dark. It's beautiful.


Does your city have any local urban legends? Do you like lightning bugs?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things That Broke My Heart in May

Remember when I showed you some large buckets of dirt and bragged about how green my thumb was going to be this year?

Well, I was doing everything right. I had those suckers in direct sunlight all afternoon, and I watered them before bed every night, and I tracked my little pots' progress in the Sprout It app on my phone so I knew they were doing what they were supposed to. I all but sang lullabies to them.

And the leaves of my sweet carrots and beets got HUGE. (At least in my opinion.)


Some of them were over six inches tall. So when Sprout It told me it was time to harvest them, I didn't question it.

I picked the largest-leaved beet and started to pull it up, and the roots were thin enough that they all snapped. I thought, "That's weird, beets are supposed to have sturdy stalks. Where's the beet head?" And so then I dug all the way down to the bottom of the container looking for the beet. There was no beet. So then I panicked and ripped all of them up and dug through the entire container looking for beets, to no avail.


If I had been in a right frame of mind, I would have left the others to continue growing, but I was like IT'S TIME TO PICK THEM WHERE ARE THE BEETS WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN'T GROW BEETS.

Sprout It also said it was harvest time for the carrots. They only fared slightly better. Don't be fooled by their close-up; they were only about the length of my pinkie finger, if that.


Can I tell you a sad story? (Because this sad story needs a sad-story predecessor.) When our seedlings (that we were growing separately from the carrots and beets) were all sprouted, we waited a tiny bit too long to get them into pots. Matt was convinced they were all going to die (they did) and so I got home one night really late, and it was pouring rain, and I found him out on the balcony trying to pot all these little seedlings by himself.

It was also raining when my beets didn't grow and my carrots weren't ready, and I was digging through the dirt looking for the non-existent bounty. And once I found I had none, I decided to stand out on the balcony in the drizzle for a little while, hoping Matt would get home soon because I was depressed and I wanted to be dramatic for a minute. But it was cold and he didn't get home fast enough, so I just took my sparse carrots and beet leaves inside and washed them. And Matt cooked the greens up as a side dish to go with dinner.

I am really disappointed they didn't grow, but I learned to let things grow longer if they don't seem ready, and to not rip my whole garden up in a panic.

I still have a basil plant, a cherry tomato plant and a hot pepper plant going, so hopefully those will fare better. So far I have one tiny hot pepper and another medium-sized one, and six little tomatoes. And the basil's looking mighty fine. I must try to be patient.

Have you successfully harvested anything so far this year? Do you have any garden fail stories that will make me feel better?