Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pause for School; my first day back

Like most normal American kids, after my first day of school my mom would ask me how my day went. Now that my first day of Graduate School has come and gone, I thought I would share those first few reflective moments with you. 

I woke immediately to my alarm, somewhat disoriented, after having a late night and another (enjoyable) European meal experience. Or atleast, that's what our friends call it when we have them over and actually eat dinner at 11pm. We were lucky to have the Regg visit again and although it wasn't how I planned my first night before school, I wouldn't have changed the way it went down. Plus staying up late is what students do, right? (I hope not.)

I was running on a nice schedule this morning, having planned to leave at 7:30am to get to school, park, and walk in plenty of time before my 8am class. Due to first day jitters, I wasn't quite down for my normal breakfast of oatmeal (which typically quelches my voracious morning hunger). Instead I opted for a nice local peach that MW bought me and some Greek yogurt, topped with Kind granola. It was everything I dreamed of. 

So dreamy I instagrammed it.

I had to rush just slightly to make my lunch, which I planned to bring today for my break between classes. But I successfully took MW some coffee and was ready to go at 7:30am. MW even surprised me by getting up and seeing me out the door. It was sweet.

Parking was miserable. 
In fact, almost all the spots of our "lot" (poorly termed for the strip of random street that we've been assigned to park in, since we were unable to get parking passes at the designated time. Why? Oh because we weren't in the system as students at that time.) were taken!!!

I digress. I trudged up the hill to our building, yawning yet satisfied with my time allotment. I found the student lounge and stashed my lunchbox and walked up to class. I stood outside, alone, at about 7:50am. "Surely I can't be the only person here?" I thought to myself as a random staff member unlocked the door for me. Dismissing the concern, I sat and pulled out my notebook and iPad and waited. 

And waited. Then texted my friend to make sure I wasn't in the wrong place. 
Finally people trickled in. 
And then I realized, class starts at 8:30. 
Better early than late, right?

And so from there, my day progressed but in a more positive path. Tuesdays provide me with lectures in "Therapeutic Interactions" and "Physiological Functions of Occupation" (aka neuroanatomy!).  Between the two I have a 2 hour lunch break, which we utilized to eat in the student lounge and meander on campus to locate important places (the gym, the library, etc). We wandered amidst a small crowd gathered around a DJ outside the student center laying some beats. In simplest terms, my small group and I stood out in a very noticeable way. 

You may not know this but WSSU is a Historically Black College/University. 
To most, as we fumbled around trying to locate our position in space, we were the average student. But to some, we were evidently scrutinized in an unpleasant way.
I certainly don't feel unwelcome or unsafe in anyway. But there's a feeling I have walking around campus that I can't shake. In fact, I feel it more when I am with a group of my peers (who are primarily white, educated, females) than I do when I am walking alone.  This is something I anticipate exploring more as time progresses. 

In any case, here are some snippets from my day, including some highlights:
1. Our morning professor is fascinating and I look forward to her lectures. She said something that stuck with me: 
"You are all here because you were born with something inside you that leads you to serve."

2. On my first day of grad school,  I got to touch a human brain. 

3. I did not pack enough snacks. Lesson learned. 

4. When asked what the most important thing about me was I answered in this way:
"I am hungry. For life, for learning, for relationships... and usually for food."
Yeah, I went there. 

5.  I am excited to be back in academia. It is a different culture and I truly feel that it cultivates within me the motivation to better myself. 

6. The iPad  is the best invention of all time for class. It's light and so easy to take notes on (thanks again, Dad, for the keyboard!!). 

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I do promise a Summer part II is coming soon! Unless homework slows me down...

But first, I want to thank everyone who encouraged and supported me during the decision to go back to school. I'm very excited to be starting this next phase! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Synopsis part 1

If I apologize, will you forgive me for my absence?
No? Ok, what about a cookie?
Look. It's not you, it's me. And it's only going to get worse as school starts, y'all. 

Since I haven't posted in OVER A MONTH you can imagine I haven't been sitting around at home eating bon-bons and watching the Olympics. In fact, it's been a crazy, awesome, busy summer. Every time I turn around, MW has a new plan, which has been a thoroughly delightful way to enjoy summer.
What does that mean for you? 
Summer Synopsis!

We went Hiking for Hounds again!

Now we've got the puppy itch...

We made our way to Charlotte to celebrate mom's birthday and went on a Segway tour with mom and dad (my Christmas gift to dad).
The tour took us around Charlotte. Getting used to the segway was awkward, but once you've adjusted it was tons of fun. 

Helmet Hotties!
We had so much fun and I can't wait to do this in another city during our travels. 

We also played cornhole for hours! 
In the end, we tied. Or that's how I feel. 

This food was a win though!

I brought Dewey's cupcakes for the birthday girl. 
Dad's perfect cappuccino matched just right.

Of course, we made it out to a few shows in PA and OH.
Rob made us some stellar grilled cheese

as evidenced by instagram.

I also ate this at a local diner.
I'm not usually one to order french toast, but it was just too good. 

MW had this. 

The venue at Blossom was very natural and soothing. One of my favorite venues!

The Regg getting his Electric Daisy Carnival on. 
(not really- this is still Phish).

a fuzzy group shot

I made a monumental step this summer, partaking in my first ever homemade Garbage Plate.
It only took MW 5 years to get me there.
Now I can't wait to go to P-hots!

Enjoying breakfast on the porch. 
"Porch? What porch?" you say.

Big news is...

After some complications at our old place, we decided to make a change, found a place and moved in all in a matter of a month or two. 
A full post will come soon with pictures! (no, that's not a promise)

In the meantime, we'll continue with the tour de summer

Both mine and MW's moms came to help us move. I have to admit, it was the first time they had met after 5 years of dating. Nope, didn't get a picture. It was hot, we were sweaty, and it took the entire day. I'll wait until next time when we're all dressed cute.

A week later, MW's parents came back for July 4th. They came bearing gifts (a gas grill courtesy of MW's sister&boyfriend pair). And food, too. 
The porch is fabulous for hosting guests!
Our landlord left this awesome teak wood table. I want to sleep on it, I love it so much. 

As a tease, here's a shot in our new kitchen. 
MW had the brilliant idea to make our own breakfast turkey sausage!

Breakfast has become the perfect, complete meal to start our saturdays with. 
I've actually been trying to downgrade to just 1 egg and a half bagel (you know, Balance.) and having a sausage patty is helping that cause. (This was a trial breakfast of the new sausage, so it had to be the full deal). 

MW has gotten pretty good with the grill. 
He made grilled portobellos, which I had never had but LOVED.

Grilled peaches is quickly becoming a favorite dessert.

We scooted out to Raleigh in early July to see Andrew Bird.
It was a rare treat, since he doesn't often come to NC and I'm grateful that MW snagged some tickets. The venue was NC Museum of Art, so we were able to meander through the exhibits before the show.

The amphitheater was quite intimate!

One of my favorites from the museum

I want a skirt with this pattern.

Even a courtyard held some statues and a picturesque lily pond. 
It was so zen, I could have sat all day. 

However, Bull City Burger was calling our names.
When we feel the pull of BCB, we answer readily. 

We were treated to a special IPA!

MW actually got me to try their fried pickles. 
It's been a summer of trying new things, apparently.
I. Hate. Pickles. 
But I liked these!!

This baby was gone quickly, per usual. 

"Ohh yeah."

We skipped back over for the show just in time!
Our seats were so close! Mavis Staples opened for Andrew Bird and her voice was incredible.

It started to rain, so we huddled close. 
MW was a gentleman and ran back to the car for my jacket and umbrella. 

It rained the whole night, but Andrew Bird's magic made me forget any discomfort.
He was phenomenal and I can't wait to see him again (lucky for us, he'll be in NC again in October).
Its the most amazing thing to see him play his violin so artfully. 
I was mesmerized. 

That same week, MW and I made another summer trip out to Asheville to see The Fruit Bats play with Floating Action. It was the first time we've gone to Asheville on a weekday, so we were able to hit up 12 Bones for a BOMB lunch on Friday. 
MW's plate of pulled pork, a mini rack of ribs (pineapple habanero), cornbread, grits, and smoked potato salad. 

My plate with half rack ribs (blueberry chipotle- the house special), grits, cornbread, and cucumber salad. 

'Can I eat yet?'

The flies were crazy. I don't blame them. 
We set out a sacrifice bowl of used bones and the trick totally worked!

One happy MW

I'm also a member of the clean plate club.


The Dry Cup Club is on my to-do list..

"Good Cheap Butt"

The outside is very unassuming, but it's some of the best food I've eaten. I can't express how much I liked the entire plate. Next time, though, I will try the corn pudding. I've heard others rave about how good it is and I am eager to rectify my mistake. 

The weekend was overcast and a bit rainy, so we decided to visit a brewery that was a short drive away. We typically stay in Asheville and walk everywhere, so it was nice to do something a bit different. And the drive out was beautiful. 

We once tried to go to Asheville Coffee Roasters on a previous trip and arrived just minutes too late.
MW made a surprise stop and we were in luck, since they were just roasting a fresh batch!
We each had an iced coffee and were amazed at how flavorful it was. 
Naturally I had to buy some beans. Their signature french roast is called Pitbull on Crack, so we bought a bag of that as well as their house P.N.G. 

 After our coffee break, we made our way to Pisgah Brewery.
They were pretty busy preparing for some festival being held that evening, but we sat to enjoy a few brews.

I had a sampler with their Blueberry Wheat, Summer Ale, IPA, and Nitro Stout. 
I wasn't crazy about any of the beers, but I did enjoy the Coconut porter, that I had a glass of later. 

They had a pretty courtyard area with picnic tables where we soaked up some sun. 

After finishing our beers, we left to return to the city. 
Along the way, MW decided to detour to a local Ashley Furniture. 
Since moving, we've been searching for a coffee table. 

Here's the short version:
We found a table we loved for $400! Luckily, they had a slightly scratched floor model in the clearance room for $200. We agonized for a while, eventually offered to leave the store with it for $150 and we were turned down. 
But guess who changed their mind?
We left with our new coffee table, price tag of $150!
This being our first day in Asheville, it had to sit in the car the remainder of the weekend. But it eventually made it home to its new place of honor. 

Feeling productive and successful, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner and the concert. We ate a Salsas once when visiting with my friend Keef and hadn't been back since, so it was high on the list.
Since it was nice out, we sat outside in their little alleyway. 

We started with jalapeno poppers. They were so good I have to give you the description:
'Salmon and cheese stuffed jalapenos with pineapple chutney & sour cream (cannot be sent back due to spice).'
You may ask if they were that spicy. The answer is Yes. 
Make sure you have plenty of water if you get these. ...Or blackberry mojitos (which I would recommend). 

MW and I were already pretty stuffed from the poppers, so we decided to split an entree. The last time we went, we each got our own and couldn't even dream of finishing our plates. We perused the menu but quickly agreed on getting a Molcejete- a 'hot lava rock bowl filled with yummy goodness.'
This bowl comes piping hot and filled with grilled veggies, cilantro and pozole. We chose the grilled steak option which also comes with mole verde and a goat cheese blend. 

We still didn't even finish this whole bowl! But it was fantastic and I can't wait to go back to Salsas and make it a regular stop on our Asheville trips. 

With bellies full and only a short walk to the venue, what else would we do but...
get dessert?
MW yelped a place nearby called the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It had great reviews, so of course we had to go. 

It was dark and cozy and a line was formed out the door.

 It took a short time to get to the counter, and we didn't want to rush to the show, so we ordered some truffles and a cafe au lait to split and made our walk to the venue as it rained. 

The concert was at the Emerald Lounge, a small brick building with a bar and a stage.
Floating Action, a band from Asheville, opened the night. It was clear after they finished their set that a portion of the crowd had come just for the local favorites. The bar cleared out a bit, but it gave us a little more room to enjoy The Fruit Bats.
We had never seen The Fruit Bats before and we were lucky to also have the benefit of seeing Sarah Versprille of Vetiver singing with the band. Her voice added a nice different feel to seeing them live.

The concert was great. Lucky for me MW snagged a booth on the side wall, which gave me a good vantage point. Afterward, we slunk back to the hotel and slept soundly. 

Saturday morning, we got up and MW motivated me to go on a hike. (I was feeling lazy).
I couldn't have been happier once we got on the road.
The hike was located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so it took about 40 minutes to drive there. 
MW actually found this route on Romantic Asheville, a vacation travel guide to Asheville. If you go, it's a great website to check out.  

The view from the parking lot

On our way up, we encountered groups of people coming down the trail. Most were not dressed in hiking attire. Eventually, we passed a young bride and groom, damp from the rain but happy despite the fact. He was carrying her wedding Toms as she crept barefoot between the little rivulets of water that trickled down the trail, holding her dress above the mud. 

As we reached the summit, we found where they must have said their vows. 
On a clear day, this spot would have looked out for miles on the Blue Ridge. 

Today, it was cloudy but peaceful. 

We sat and enjoyed our boxed lunches from Clingman Cafe

A breeze helped clear some of the clouds briefly, allowing the sun to poke through and caress the mountain tops. 

After some time spent meditating, we decided to make our way back down. 

Along the drive back, we stopped at several outlooks as a storm slowly crept up on us. 

The Prius was a champ on the mountain.

We drove back to the hotel and then walked down to The Wedge.
During the summer, they play movies in the evening. That night they were playing Thunder Road, but we were starving and had dinner plans at Tupelo.

We stopped by Asheville Glass Center to watch a class in progress. 

We wanted to buy everything in the studio. And watching them make a glass object was interesting, but my stomach was growling. 

Tupelo did not disappoint. 

I can't get enough of this tomato soup and grilled cheese. The side of asparagus is a winner. 

We leisurely finished dinner and then I climbed into an empty glass case on the street. 

Then we went back to Chocolate Lounge!
We got truffles

I loved this cute french press.

We also shared a liquid truffle. 
This one was maple, with milk and dark chocolates, butter, and smoked salt). 

I'm so glad we made a return to the Chocolate Lounge. It was a great new discovery of this trip. 

That night we strolled through the city and then clambered into bed with contented sighs. 
Sunday was our last day and, as is our custom, we headed to Sunny Point Cafe before our trip home. 

This was the first time we realized we could walk through the cafe's garden. We took advantage of the sun and meandered through while waiting for our table. 

The garden was so lovely that I eagerly practiced some photography skills

We devoured our breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, and biscuits. 
Since we weren't in a rush to get home, we wandered back down to The Wedge.
We sat on the patio just in time for the sky to open up and unleash its fury. 

not a good stranger photo

decent self-shot

This is one of my favorite memories to date, sitting on the patio of Wedge enjoying an IronRail IPA as the rain pummels down. It was satisfying and intimate and refreshing.