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Let Me Tell You About This Trip.

No, not a psychedelic shroomie trip I maybe once had back in college.

I’m talking about this trip:

The one I’ll be taking in approximately one month.

The one where I’m driving, because I like to drive, and Justin will be flying to the endpoint, Philadelphia, because he’s a cheater and doesn’t understand the beauty of the road.  And also because he can’t take that much leave from work.

I’m incredibly excited about this trip for 2 reasons:

One, I will be going somewhere.  That’s right — it doesn’t take much to make me happy in this world, and ‘going somewhere’ usually does the trick.

Two, I will be visiting some of my favorite people on this planet.

Angie, the saucy Aussie, lives in Williamsburg, VA.  We studied rocks and maps together in college, and apparently Geology and GIS have tighter bonding power than whatever JLo used to stick her dress to her boobies at the Oscars last weekend, because even though sometimes whole oceans have separated us (her husband is in the military, too), we still always find a way to come back to our friendship.

Me ‘n Angie.  She’s trying not to look at my peeking areola.

Now.  If you’ve been reading this blog since my quarter-life-crisis days (which, let’s face it, will probably linger on into my midlife), you already know Erin.  If not, she’s the one who quit her job with me so we could move to Costa Rica for 2 months.  All it took was one trip to visit her in Frederic, MD and several cocktails, but eventually she caved.  And although she won’t admit it, I’m pretty sure she knows it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her.  You know, aside from meeting her husband and moving to Annapolis and buying her awesome fixer-upper and going back to school to follow her life dreams.  But whatever.

And finally, there’s Anna and her family, who live in Philadelphia, PA.  What can I say about Anna?  Well.  The first year I visited Justin’s family for Christmas was a little… overwhelming.  My family is very small, not to mention divorced, and with just a handful of cousins, our holidays were pretty low-key even back in the days when we all got together.  So, imagine how I felt when I entered his grandparents’ enormous house filled to the brim with family.  Aunts, uncles, and 23 (or so?) cousins.  And that’s just his dad’s side.

When I met Anna, she took me under her wing.  One of Justin’s aunts through marriage, she knew what it was like to come from outside.  What’s more, we’re very similar in beliefs and personalities.  And while I love visiting that huge family whenever we can, I’ll admit it’s nice to know there’s someone there who understands a little about from where I come — and why, sometimes, I just need more wine.

The thing about large family holidays is that, while you can spend all of this quality time with people, you still might not really know who they are.  Think about it.  If you’ve never seen the place someone calls “home,” do you really know that person?  I loved visiting some of Justin’s other aunts in Colorado one year because we finally were able to see what home was like for them — and they weren’t these bustling, crazy houses full of people, but  normal family homes.  Just them surrounded by the things they love.

This is why I’m looking forward to seeing Anna and her family in their own element — just them, their city, and maybe a couple of Philly Cheesesteaks.

And maybe… maybe


Kids, I have never been to NYC.

Not once.

It’s shameful, I know.

I kept waiting for that publisher or agent to call me out of the blue and invite me up for cocktails and a book deal, but it never happened.


So here I’ve been sitting, less than 12 hours away from this country’s most defining city, just waiting for an invitation.

And guess what?

It just arrived.

So those are the major planned stops so far, but I’m open to visiting some other sights along the way.

Anyone know of something along this route that’s worth the stop?  An amazing restaurant?  The perfect thrift store?  The world’s largest ball of twine?  Do you have or know of a wonderfully designed home that I should photograph for Apartment Therapy?

Hey.  I’ll admit.  While I love a good road trip as much as the next girl, I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to make a little money.

My Kind of Breakfast

I don’t have time to write anything this morning because I’m already terribly late for a work-related breakfast meeting on this holiday morning, and I’m honestly not sure what’s worse — that I’m late for work on a holiday morning, when many other people are still tucked warmly in their beds or sitting comfortably at their own kitchen tables with a cup o’ java and their morning readery, or that I’m actually semi-excited for my greasy diner sausage cheese biscuit, crappy coffee, and glass of orange juice.

Hey. We do this diner work thing every month, and one gets accustomed to certain delicacies.

Anyway, in lieu of an actual post this morning, I’m leaving you with this:


A photo of the best mojito I’ve ever had in my entire life (Thanksgiving-ish, 2011, Miami, FL),

and this:

Me and my apparently giant hands, just trying to enjoy said mojito without the paparazzi getting all up in my bidness.

You know, because I’m famous like that.

I Tasted Carolina. And Then I Ate it All. (Part 2)

Okay.  So where was I on my fantastic Taste Carolina food tour?  I believe we were carrying Alfred’s pecaaaahn pie over to the Carrboro Beverage Company to wash it down with a brewski.  Because nothing goes with sweet pie better than a bitter stout.


Probably not.

(If you missed Part 1, check it out here.)

The Carrboro Beverage Company is owned by Tyler’s Tap Room, which is apparently a very popular tavern in the area.  I’ll have to go back to try it out.

You know, for research.

Unfortunately, I feel a little like this is where the tour started going downhill.  We were becoming full and tired, and then we introduced alcohol into the mix.  The guys working here were very friendly, but they seemed unsure about what they were supposed to serve us, so they just started handing out samples of whatever they had on tap.  There also happened to be a wine representative in the place, so we had more than our fair share of samples, but combine all of that with a slice of fresh pecan pie, and they almost had to roll me out of there.

Carrboro Beverage Company
Carrboro Beverage Company
Carrboro Beverage Company

They rolled me right into the place I’d been most looking forward to on the tour — Acme.

We’d eaten there with Alaina and Dirk once before, and from what I remembered, the food had been spectacular.

Which is why, needless to say, I was more than a little disappointed when they came out with what basically amounted to glorified nachos.

Acme Nachos

Sure they looked pretty, and the taste of the homemade chips dusted with goat cheese and a squeeze of fresh lime was good, like goat cheese, and who doesn’t like goat cheese, but it just… wasn’t what I’d been expecting.  I suddenly felt like the annoying neighbor who’d dropped by unexpectedly, so our hosts rummaged through the fridge and threw together whatever they could find.  And after a morning of service by enthusiastic and prepared artisans who were incredibly proud of their products, this just felt like a letdown.

That said, I’d still recommend them if you’re planning to spend some money.  The food really can be phenomenal, and they have a gorgeous courtyard out back.

The next 2 stops, Miel Bon Bons and Jessee’s served more as an interlude for all of the gastronomical craziness going on.  We sampled tiny macaroons and chocolate confections at the little patisserie with its stunning displays of pastries, candies, and the most beautiful wedding cakes I’ve ever seen (which they wouldn’t let me photograph, but you can see plenty on their website).

Miel Bon Bons

At Jessee’s, we took a rest and sipped refreshing flavored iced teas.

This was the reprieve we needed, apparently, because I felt rejuvenated.  Which was extremely fortunate, because for the next stop, I needed my energy.

Welcome to Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe.

Now we’re back on track.

We were able to meet Vimala herself, who opened this restaurant with the help of the community.  After emerging — alive — from an abusive marriage, family and friends encouraged her to open this cafe, where her motto has always been, “When Vimala cooks, everyone eats!”  She will feed anyone who comes through her door, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.

But her generosity is not a cover for lack of flavor.

This was just… the best.  And my biggest regret is not taking sufficient notes so I could accurately describe to you the deliciousness that we ate.

All I can say is if you like Indian food, or you think you might like to think about liking Indian food, this is a great place to start.

Then finally — finally — we were nearing the finish line.

Our guide stopped us on a corner to talk about the place we were about to enter, the Open Eye Cafe, but I couldn’t concentrate due to the food coma my brain was trying to fight off, so I took photos of bees instead.

Dudes.  I totally felt buzzzzzed.


So we entered the coffee shop, and I’ll be honest — I wish this would have started the tour, since they by far had the lengthiest and most informative presentation.  But after 9 stops and countless indulgences, I wasn’t sure the Open Eye Cafe could… well… keep my eyes open.  Which is a shame, because they took us into the back room, where a more conscious mind would have learned from a true coffee connoisseur how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.  From selecting the best free trade beans from individual farmers around the world, roasting their beans in-house, and adjusting the brewing water temperature to suit the particular bean — they knew it all.  Really.  This place could be more intimidating than a winery, and their super-trained and certified baristas do, in fact, hold tasting competitions with coffee.

It’s that serious.

He brewed a couple of different samples for us to try, and even my husband, who is not a black coffee drinker, had no problems getting this down.

If I learned nothing else, I did learn that coffee-making is an art much more complicated than pouring a glass of wine.

And, if done right, can lead to an exceptional tasting experience.

We drove to Dirk and Alaina’s to see the baby, but there’s a chance I might have wandered out to their porch by myself, stretched out on the couch, and took a nap.

Hey.  Don’t judge.  Eating Carolina is exhausting.

I Tasted Carolina. And Then I Ate It All. (Part 1)

It’s times like these.

Times when it’s cold, and the forecasters predict that later today it will progressively get colder, because there’s this evil thing called a COLD FRONT and it’s headed this direction and some time — some foreboding time later this afternoon — it’s going to actually start feeling a little bit like winter, and even though it’s already mid February, which means I’ve had months to prepare for this, I realize I’m still not prepared and I feel like it would probably be best for everyone if I just stayed snug under my 35″ high covers until April.

That’s right, we’re still sleeping in the guest room, in case you were wondering.

The progress on our bedroom is slow, and not very steady, but I promise you there is progress, even though it occasionally/all-of-the-time gets hindered by wine by the fire and new episodes of Revenge and me spilling baseboard paint on the carpet.

Yes, that happened.

Yes, I will tell you about that little fiasco one day soon, when I’m ready to share some more positive progress.

But anyway.  Not only do I have the overwhelming urge to hibernate this time of year, but I also reminisce.  I reminisce on happy times of yore, like just 4 months ago when it was pleasant and warm and sunshiny — when I could wake up with the bright morning rays, stand outside in all of my barefooted glory, sip my coffee and stretch to greet the world.

Nearly 4 months ago, on the weekend of my 29th birthday, we did something we should probably be doing a lot more frequently.

The concept is simple.  I’ve heard it called “taking a ‘staycation,'” in which the participants are traveling, but not, because they’re staying at home.  But I don’t really like those cutesy terms people come up with to make a concept stick — like “Brangelina” or “frenemy” because they make me feel lazy, so really.  I’ll call it what it was.  It was a day trip.  Something fun we could do without the cost of booking a hotel or packing camping gear or sleeping in the car.

I know.

It sounds like we’re taking all of the fun out of travel.  But hear me out.

See, with my unending itch to explore and discover and be moving all of the time and Justin’s desire to… well… not, we discovered this extremely enjoyable and compatible compromise that earned us at least 2 weeks worth of patting ourselves on the back for how awesome we sometimes are at being married.

We both love trying new foods, so when I heard about gourmet food tours by Taste Carolina, I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday.  We opted for the walking tour of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, which is about an hour and a half from where we live, for $44.98 per person, which earned us over 3 hours and 8 stops at amazing, locally owned eateries.  That’s less than we would’ve spent on a “fancy” night out at our local Red Lobster.

We were pretty psyched.

Now this is where I’m a bad blogger.  Bad.  I actually managed to take many pictures this time, so no worries there, but notes?  None.  I didn’t expect to wait 4 months before blogging about it.  So, sadly, I don’t remember many of the details about what we ate, but I will try my best to explain and then let the pictures speak for themselves.

Our very first stop was one of the best, in my humble little opinion.  I was a little camera-shy at the start, so I didn’t get a photo of the place, but it was called Neal’s Deli.  I was a little disappointed that the tour didn’t take us inside the establishment, but instead we were parked on some benches outside.  My disappointment quickly faded when I bit into one of these:

On the left, we have what I believe to be some type of homemade pastrami with mustard.  The beef was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted — full of pressed spices and divine on the homemade buttermilk biscuit.  The other was some type of egg and cheese, with a buttery, melty consistency that made me want to eat one of these every morning for the rest of my life.  It made me very, very glad that I don’t pass Neal’s on my way to work.

Next, we headed to the renowned Carrboro Farmers’ Market, established in 1996.  It’s held every Wednesday and Saturday morning in the “town commons” (no joke), and it felt like stepping into a type of fairy land filled with fresh produce, vibrant blooms, hand-made crafts, and local meats, cheeses, and an impressive variety of gourmet delicacies.

Carrboro Farmers' Market
Carrboro Farmers' Market
Carrboro Farmers' Market

Our first stop in the market was at the booth of Chapel Hill Creamery, a company I love because I love to say its name.  Go ahead.  Say it out loud.  Sounds like something you might say if you’d lived in pioneer times, like in the game The Oregon Trail. “I’m off to the Chapel Hill Creamery to fetch some cheese before we leave,” you’d say, not knowing that you’re destined to die 3 days later from a broken leg you suffered during a wagon axle accident while fording a river, and you’ll wish you’d just stayed with the happy cows at the creamery, because California is probably overrated anyway.  (It’s not.)

My favorite was their Dairyland Farmer’s Cheese, which was very simple, creamy, and would probably taste delicious melted over some frijoles negros and tucked inside a burrito.

Next, we were treated to a very generous sample from The Pig, a restaurant with a booth at the market serving up fresh grilled pork franks made from local, hormone and antibiotic free piggies.

The Pig Menu
Sam from The Pig

Of course, I tried the Reuben frank because it marries one of my favorite sandwiches (the Reuben) with one of my favorite foods (the Hot Dog) to create this orgasmically inspired offspring:

Reuben Frank

They say you can taste the difference between real meat and the kind you buy discount packaged at the grocery store, and now I’m convinced.  You can.

(Remember this?)

I’m pretty sure if I were going to buy tongue, it would NOT be from my neighborhood Food Lion.

Moving on.

Our last stop at the market was at that of the fantabulous Alfred De La Houssaye’s Sweetwater Pecan Orchard.

If I remember correctly, he started the orchard because he loves pecans and he loves oriental persimmons.  Ignoring the fact that everyone told him he would not be able to successfully grow those things here, he managed to do so and to do so quite successfully.


With pizzaz.

Sweetwater Pecan Orchard

And I love him because he insists that the correct pronunciation of the nut is pecaaahn, with a soft “a” and not the harsh, biting hard A that so many southerners use.

And also because he makes these chocolate pecan chewies, which I couldn’t stop eating.

And also because he gave us each a slice of pie to take to our next stop, the Carrboro Beverage Company.

Carrboro Beverage Company

But this post is getting a little long, methinks, so I’m going to save the second half of the tour for next time.

Oh, but trust me.  It’s worth the wait.

There’s more! Click HERE for Part 2.

Apparently Alcoholism is the Least of My Worries. And Carrie Bradshaw is the Root of All Evil.


I’m just going to say it.

Apparently I can expect a big, fat lump of coal in my stocking this year, because apparently I have not been a good girl.

In fact, not only am I writing this post on stolen property (this is Justin’s computer — mine is still kaput), but I’m also obsessed with sex and swearing.


This is what I’m told.

But the good news is, it’s not my fault.

Really, it all started with my mom’s vagina.

The Scene:  Thanksgiving Day, 2011.  My little sister’s adorable apartment is filled with smells from holidays past.  Her culinary skills unthwarted by working with limited tools and nonexistent lighting, the turkey has been roasted to a goldeny perfection, and it’s literally oozing the butter and garlic she’s been injecting into it for the past 6 hours.

Our table is tiny, but it has all the necessities:  Four plates full of Kelly’s avian delicacy, skin-on smashed potatoes, green bean casserole with fresh green beans, some kind of awesome stuffing I can’t even begin to describe, Mom’s homemade gravy, and my completely out of this world sweet potato casserole.

Except one plate — my brother’s plate — is missing the casserole.

I don’t want to talk about it.

But we also have wine.  It’s good wine, and everything feels okay thus far because Ma had only just arrived, right on time to make her famous gravy using primitive cookware and completely sans tupperware shaker, oh miracle of miracles, and this night in Fort Lauderdale is the first time the 4 of us have been together in as many years.  In fact, it’s the first time the 4 of us have been together unsupervised ever, I’m pretty sure.

I fill Ma’s glass.

So this is a family dinner, it dawns.  The conversation is pleasant.  We jibe and cajole — the things families do when it’s been a while, and the laughter is real.  I look around the table and think about how different we all are,  yet somehow the same.  We siblings have the same sense of humor — it’s crass.  But we make no apologies because life, after all, is too short.  The humor must be genetic because we weren’t together long enough to learn it.  Joel basically grew up alone with my mother, spending time with his father according to whatever arrangements the grown-ups had made, and then eventually my dad comes along, and Joel’s stepmother, and new families are created and he’s kind of stuck there in the middle dealing with that and who knows whatever else teenage boys deal with when the world is at its most confusing.  He escaped when he was 17.

I managed to float through adolescence with nary a scratch.  My father moved us to Nebraska (from Minnesota) when I was in 7th grade.  I was awkward, to be sure — I never went to prom or involved myself fully at school, though my grades were superb.  I flipped burgers when I was 15, then learned about the world of “white-collar” work when I accepted a 30-hour/week position at Best Buy during high school.  Ironically, my co-workers at the one job for which I’ve ever had to submit to a urine test are the co-workers who taught me to smoke from a water bong.  And the rest is a bit of a blur, until I emerged from the haze to attend college in Ohio, near-but-not-too-close to Joel.

Kelly is tough.  Though only 4 1/2 years apart, it might has well have been the world for how little we knew each other.  It seemed we were always pitted against one another — brains (me) versus beauty (her) in an all-out battle of who’s-gonna-make-it-out-of-this-with-an-ounce-of-self-esteem-intact?  I’m pretty sure most women can relate.

We weren’t close.  But then I ditched her for college, and somehow we became close, through the distance.  And then when Dad left but didn’t physically leave, an event that gave our mom a proverbial eye twitch — a twitch that must have somehow sent electrical signals to the place in depths of her brain where all logic exists and shorted a fuse and suddenly everything was emotion — all emotion, all the time (can you really blame her?), Kelly begged me to come home.  So I quit school, told Dad to move out, provided tissues for Ma’s spirals, and tried to convince Kelly that everything would be okay.  That really, whose parents don’t get divorced anymore?  But, at age 16, the damage had been done.

I’m pretty sure none of them remember any of it.  That haze was far more potent than anything I might have smoked in high school.

But we emerged, mostly, and while the stale stench still lingers, we’re all creating lives.  Pretty good ones, at that.

So we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table and I’m thinking about how the lines between blood and upbringing are blurry, for sure, and I realize it’s strange how the lives of 3 siblings could have been so diverse when, after all, we all came from the same vagina.

So I say just that.

Only without all of the background context and qualifiers, so it just comes out as, “Isn’t it weird that we all came from the same vagina?”

Sometimes my thoughts run ahead of my mouth and the actual words can’t keep up, so they paraphrase.

It doesn’t always work out.

For a moment everyone is quiet, of course, because who doesn’t want to take a moment to contemplate a thought like that while eating roasted turkey with cranberry stuffing and mom’s gravy and — “EWWWWWW!”  (From my brother and sister simultaneously.)

Ma just looks at me — that knowing look — and says, “Katie, I know why you’re so obsessed with sex and swearing.”

Really?  This is news to me.  I mean, I like sex, and I have been known to cuss inappropriately from time to time (maybe more in front of Mom because I know it bugs her), but now I’m obsessed?  This is how it works?  You mention your mom’s vagina ONE time at the dinner table, and suddenly you’re a maniac?  And certainly, while I mentioned a certain unmentionable body part, I was definitely not talking about sex.

“And I know it’s my fault,” she continued.

Now I’m intrigued.  Because, while I’d argue ceaselessly about her use of the word “obsessed,” I’m willing to put that on hold to hear this.

“Well.  Remember when I bought those DVD’s?” she asked, her voice losing its laughter and growing somber.  “Those… Sex and the City DVD’s?”

Oh, wow.

“And you asked if you could watch them?  And I let you, even though I hadn’t seen them yet?”


“And then, when I finally watched them, I couldn’t believe I’d let you watch them…”

Is this really happening?

“And now you’re obsessed with sex and swearing and it’s all my fault!”

I’m pretty sure, at that point, that some cranberry stuffing flew out my nose.  We laughed.  But hard.

“Well,” I retorted while taking a sip of my wine, “thank God I became an alcoholic too, so I could deal with all of the trauma!  The trauma that was undoubtedly caused by Sex and the City!”

I mean, duh.  Obviously it’s Carrie Bradshaw’s fault.

In fact, I’m pretty sure this excuse will now work for everything:

Honey, I know we can’t afford those $300 curtains.  But Carrie Bradshaw made me buy them!

What?  I know you wanted to save that nice bottle of Cabernet for our anniversary, but Carrie Bradshaw told me to drink it!”

Okay, I know I’m not supposed to talk about my mom’s vagina during Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s Carrie who tells me to do these things! She’s all up in my head!

And now, should I ever decide to see a shrink again, I’ll know who to blame.

I’m Still Alive. I Think.

*In case you’re wondering, no. I did not reach Miami and just keep on drivin’ — cruising along 1A with its bars and beaches and bars some more, dancing a jig along the twists and turns of this country’s southeastern tip before winding my way to Hwy 1, then following it across actual oceans of water, the highway like a big strand of drool dripping off the goatee of Florida, passing Key Largo and Islamorada and Duck Key and maybe stopping in No Name Key before reaching Key West because, let’s face it, No Name Key is probably more my style.

Not that I would know.

I did not do any of those things, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

I wrote this post last Wednesday. Today is Sunday. I’m posting it today because I finally have some internet access on a computer. Travel, while awesome, isn’t always convenient for blogging. And I do believe this is the longest I’ve neglected the blog in… ever.

Many things have gone down since I wrote this 5 days ago, but we’ll start here:

I drove to Florida yesterday — a trip that, theoretically, should have taken over 12 hours to complete, but instead only took around 11, including the 45-minute pit stop to catch up with an old college buddy off of I-95. It is for this very reason that I cannot bring myself to shun social networking; while the number of Facebook “friends” tallied on one’s wall has little to nothing to do with one’s real life social circles, it really is a fantastic way to touch base with people you would otherwise probably never see again.

Whether that’s good or bad, I’m not quite sure. But at least it’s interesting.

See, while most people don’t mind letting acquaintances slip away, I have this very odd way of wanting to hang on to people — of wondering how they’re doing, of what’s happened in their lives since we last intersected orbits — and Facebook provides that lost connection.

It keeps people neatly tucked inside my radar screen.

You think that makes me a stalker. I think that makes me… curious.

Okay. I have to interrupt myself for a second. I just took a bite of one of the most delicious items I’ve ordered from a menu in a long, long time. My sister has to work today, and my mother and brother don’t arrive until tomorrow, so I’m finding myself inexplicably untethered for the first time in a while.

And what’s a girl to do when she finds herself in a strange city with an entire day to indulge in whatever she chooses?

Head to the apartment pool? Nah… there’s plenty of time for that.

Walk one of the many miles of gorgeous ocean shoreline? I’m pretty sure sand is overrated.

Lie out, relax, and attempt to expose some of this pasty whiteness to the miracle of UV rays? For my skin, I’m afraid, the situation is hopeless until next May.

Plus, I think I may have divulged by now — I’m not your average girl.

So. Instead of celebrating what Florida is best known for — that brilliant, white-hot sunshine — I plopped my ass back in the car and headed 40 minutes north to West Palm Beach in search of a cafe I read about on Urban Spoon.


I had a feeling it would be worth my time.

Casper's on Park on Urbanspoon

And it is.

When I finally arrived at Casper’s on Park after many turn-arounds and indecision about whether I should really drive this far, I no longer cared about what I might be getting myself into. I didn’t care, when I pulled up, that the restaurant was nowhere near the water or any of the more fashionable areas of West Palm. I didn’t care that there wasn’t a single other patron in sight, or that they don’t have wi-fi (the owner/chef, Giuseppe, informed me he hopes to change this soon), or that it was too balmy for my northerner-at-heart self to sit outside on the dog-friendly patio.

Casper, by the way, is the name of the owner’s dog.

I was so hungry by the time I walked in that I asked Giuseppe to bring me the best item on the menu. After debating out loud between the gumbo and the jambalaya, he selected the slightly higher-priced (though not expensive at under $10 for the bowl) pasta jambalaya.

Alex, the co-owner, poured me a glass of sangiovese while I set up shop at a corner table facing the patio. He also brought me this:

Photo taken with iPhone.

And I think that maybe a part of me fell in love.

Some dreamy French music was playing when I arrived, but after multiple issues with skipping CD’s, they switched to something — a sultry almost-techno slow dance something-or-other — that was significantly less palatable, but who the hell cares because here comes my jambalaya.

I originally felt slightly ridiculous as the steaming bowl of bowtie pasta, hot sausage, shrimp, Parmesan cheese, and other New Orleans delicacies was brought to my table on this balmy afternoon, but now I feel like I am probably the most brilliant person anywhere with an 100 mile radius.

Photo taken with iPhone.

Another couple has just arrived and is sitting on the patio with their cocker spaniel. They ordered sandwiches. And while I’m sure he sandwiches are delicious, it’s taking all of my willpower to not run out there and tell them how crazy they are for not ordering Creole from a transplant.


Do I sound like a snob?

I’m pretty sure I can’t help it.

If it’s any consolation, I don’t look like a snob with my nose running from the not-spicy-but-not-not-spicy jambalaya.

It kind of sneaks up on you.

But I finished the bowl.

And now there’s no way I’m squeezing myself into a bathing suit.


If there’s anything I learned about travel, it’s that you should never rule anything out.

But for right now, I’m perfectly content to finish my glass of wine, watch Giuseppe lovingly pet the couple’s dog out on the patio, and wash everything down with the complimentary shot of espresso (looks like it’s been softened with something like cream — thank God) they just placed in front of me, which is exactly the motivation I need in order to plant my butt back in the car and head to Hollywood.

Hollywood Florida, that is.

P.S. It’s not espresso. Giuseppe informed me that it’s chocolate wine. Cocoa di Vino. Which pretty much tastes like a shot of Bailey’s.

And this just became my favorite place ever.

It’s SAD, but true.

It’s happening again.

Every year, when the telltale signs of inevitable changes start appearing outside of my window — the deceptively warm-colored leaves trying their damnedest to pull a hood over my eyes to distract me from the dull winter browns and grays to come — when it seems like everyone else is excited about holiday shopping and knit sweaters and roasting chestnuts (do any of you actually roast chestnuts?), I get SAD.

I do.

Don’t let the beauty of these trees deceive you.  They serve to tell tales of menacing things to come.

In fact, the only thing I really like about this time of year is the smell and taste of mulled cider.  If I could sit in front of an infinitely fueled fireplace with a never-ending cup of mulled cider and the superpower of not needing to pee for 4 months (which would require stepping onto the cold, tile bathroom floors), there is a possibility I could remain content throughout the winter.

But probably not, because there’s only so much perfection one can take before it gets old, you know?

Like an awesome apple pie with vanilla ice cream.  I love it, but could I eat the whole pie in one sitting?

I think not.

So 4 months of this is a little excessive.  If winter lasted a week, maybe we’d have a better relationship.

But it doesn’t, so I get SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Yes, I diagnosed myself.

Yes, I do this a lot.

Yes, I’ve sought professional help.  It didn’t go well.

Normally, I am a morning person.  I willingly get up at 6:45 — maybe 7:00 or 7:30 on the weekends — just to have my coffee, do some morning reading, and maybe write a blog post, all before showering and heading to work.  (When you’re dependent on coffee, like me, you don’t drink it — you have it.  Like it’s a part of you.  Is that wrong?)

However, come the chilly months, I just don’t want to get out of bed.  Like… at all.  And not just because stepping outside of the warm covers means my body temperature will instantly drop 20 degrees, and not just because it’s still dark outside, but simply because I don’t want to face the day.


How SAD is that?

It’s like one of those horrible depression commercials where they talk about it physically hurting (and sometimes it does), except I know what is happening and why it is happening, which, I think, somehow makes it a little less depressing.

Because I know it won’t last forever.

Which is good, but not good enough to make it go away.

So, like last year, I’m taking a bit of a reprieve.

It’s time, once again, for the beautiful people of Miami to squint — not against the ever-present God of the Sun, but against the phenomenon of my blindingly pasty skin, pure and white as the freshly fallen snow.  Well, maybe snow that’s been sitting for a day and has a light coating of freckled sand from the trucks that stop the streets from getting slippery, if we’re going to be honest.

And you know we’re nothing if not honest here.

This year will be different, though.  Interesting.

See, this is going to be a reunion of sorts, which is exceedingly rare for this brokedown family.  My little sister Kelly, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, is not only going to be hosting me for Thanksgiving, but we are also cooking for our mother on her first trip to the Sunshine State since my sister took up residency, and our brother, whom Justin and I recently visited in Cleveland.

The last time the 4 of us were together was about 4 years ago, when we decided to visit Kelly when she was living in Savannah, Georgia.  So apparently, if we want to continue having these little get-togethers, my little sister needs to keep moving.

Joel will be getting a hotel room after the first night, which is why we usually refer to him as the intelligent sibling.  Because with my mom, sister, and myself holed up in a tiny apartment for an extended amount of time, there’s no telling what might happen.

It could be a really interesting study for any burgeoning sociologists out there.



You’re right — it’s best to stay away from a lit fuse.  Which is why we decided Justin should stay behind, as should Ed, my mother’s significant other.  (Really, the reasons were more financial than anything else, and while it’s weird for Justin and me to spend this holiday apart, we figure we’ll make up for it by spending Christmas together.  You know — fires and chestnuts and all that jazz.)

What’s even more exciting is that I’m getting a road trip out of the deal.  Yep, the Tracker and I are headed south for part of the winter, and we couldn’t be happier.

I just wish I had a little more time to do some exploring, but maybe I can still cook something up for the arrival of spring.  Because nothing is better than celebrating the return of warmth, sunshine, and — you guessed it — my sanity.

I’m Pretty Sure My Dog Was the Happiest Dog

So.  Even though I didn’t get to tell you about the most wonderfully delicious hot dog ever on Tuesday because I was distracted with 2 flat tires (no, not Fat Tires — flat tires. big difference.) and ended up turning hot dogs into a philosophical discussion on life, the post still spurred some interesting and impassioned hot dog comments.


I hope you didn’t lose steam, because this is the actual hot dog post.  I kind of love it when you comment, because it validates my existence or something.  And I look forward to reading every single one of them.


I love me a good hot dog.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a rare occasion that you’d ever find one of those pink, plasticy, compressed impersonators that squeak when you bite into them sitting inside of my fridge.  I’ll eat those, yes, but that’s not a proper hot dog.  I’m talking about big, brown, juicy beef franks with real meat grease and manly grill marks.


See what I mean?

The best dog I ever ate purely for the meat taste factor was actually at a Five Guys restaurant.  Yep, a fast food joint.  Once I moved mentally past the oddity of a hot dog split lengthwise down the middle, the thing was gone in 3 bites flat.  It was insanely good, to the point where it probably didn’t need a single topping.


The great thing about hot dogs is that your options are really limitless when it comes to dressing it up.  It just never occurred to me how limitless until my brother took us to Happy Dog in Cleveland.


When he parked outside of the dark, corner bar, I was thinking, Great!  Pre-dinner drinks!

I definitely wasn’t thinking, Great!  Dinner!

Until, that is, I saw the menu.

I’m sorry once again for the blur.  It was pretty dark in there, and all I had was my cell phone camera.

For someone who’s terrified of making decisions, this menu was daunting, to say the least.  The first part was easy — I just had to choose between a veggie dog and a real dog.  Um… do they even know me?  (No, but they probably should.)

I checked the circle for the real dog and moved on.


So many things to try!

What’s Brazilian chimichurri?  And would it taste good with Oaxacan red chile and chocolate mole, topped with Polish ‘cwikla?

And is it socially acceptable to order a hot dog chopped with Korean kim chee, Greek feta cheese, and Marcella’s grape jelly and chile sauce?

Are we allowed to mix ethnicities, or is this a segregated hot dog joint?

Is this going to end up with me mixing a bunch of things I like but they don’t actually taste good together?

What’s more, if I don’t know what these things taste like alone, how am I going to know if they’re good together?!


Then, just when I started to break into a cold sweat, the server told me they had a suggestion menu.

My savior.

Among the suggested options were:

“Childhood Favorite”: ketchup, traditional yellow mustard, chopped onions, Spaghetti O’s, and nacho cheese.

“(no title)”: Bertman’s Original Ballpark mustard, killer steak sauce, bourbon baked beans, habanero pickled red onions, and Frito corn chips.

Justin ended up choosing the “Happy Dog Favorite” with Cajun mayonnaise – Remoulade, bacon spiked southern style beans, smoked Gouda cheese, and a sunny-side-up fried egg.  Or maybe it was the one with chipotle hollandaise, cheddar cheese, Nueske bacon, and a sunny-side-up-fried egg?  I can’t remember.  But it definitely had an egg.  And I’m pretty sure he ordered Gouda.


I ended up getting a bit fancy, choosing a title-less suggested combination of bacon-balsamic marmalade, pineapple-ginger chutney, caramelized onions, and French brie cheese.

And then I died.

And then I came back to life so I could finish the dog and name it “Sweet ‘n Savory a la Bacon with a ‘Stache.”  I’m not sure why.  It just works.

And then I died again.

I still have dreams about it.

My only complaint is that the bun wasn’t fantastic.  In fact, I had to finish the dog with a fork and knife, which is like… hot dog defamation, but what’s a girl to do when her brie is jumping ship?

Happy Dog really should invest in some sturdier buns, or even toast them to ensure they can handle the smorgasbord of deliciousness that gets piled on top, making even happier dogs.

After all, you can’t build a skyscraper on a soggy wetland.  Otherwise you get… I don’t know… The Leaning Tower of Pisa?

On the back of the menu is a simple choice of sides: tater tots or french fries, followed by a not-so-simple choice of dipping sauces and toppings.  I especially enjoyed the saffron aioli and the raspberry crunch mustard.

Just not together.

Pair your custom dog and tots with a Stella Artois (for me) or your beverage of choice, and the result is one happy dog.

Thanks, brother.  You know me so well.

I Go to Weddings for Free Booze and Cake. Oh, and Love.

Despite the fact that everyone around me is popping out bellies and babies like we’ve reached some kind of colossal Lemming-like tipping point of a giant cliff and after the first person stepped off, everyone else just followed right along because they had to — because jumping off of cliffs is the thing to do, didn’tcha know, and somehow I’m stuck standing at the precipice, staring down into the abyss, thinking it looks kind of interesting down there in the clouds and I’ve always enjoyed a free-fall, but do I really want to fall that long at that fast?

So despite the fact that all of that is happening, I’m happy because there are still people in my life who are in the we’re-getting-married-so-let’s-have-a-kick-ass-wedding stage.

That doesn’t mean I’m happy because I’m a girly girl who loves planting my bony butt on a rock-hard pew and crying through an hour-long pomp and circumstance of nuptials.  And it’s certainly not because I’m a girly girl who loves donning a fancy dress, sparkling jewelry, and enough hairspray to fuel a rocket launch to the moon.


It’s because I’m a girly girl who appreciates a fully stocked open bar for an evening, champagne toasts, line dancing with strangers, and a vast assortment of “special occasion” food: from little trays of bacon-wrapped hors d’oeuvres and plates of fruit and cheese, to a buffet or sit-down dinner of various stuffed chicken, pasta, and steak, to a veritable smorgasbord of meal-ending sweets in the form of wedding cake, pastries, and an actual bar full of candy.  Just take a bag and fill it up!  Seriously?  Does it get better than that?

Oh, it does.  Because at this particular wedding, the thoughtful bride — or, probably more accurately the thoughtful bride’s father — provided baskets of flip-flops in the ladies’ restroom for when our footsies got sore after all of that dancing.

And after several champagne toasts, complimentary Cabernet, and a vodka sprite with a twist of lime, wearing those bright-pink flip-flops felt like walking on a cloud.

A cloud.

It mattered not that the flops clashed horribly with my royal blue dress (which is way darker than it looks in the on-line picture).  In fact, I’m pretty sure hot pink and royal blue is the next up-and-coming color trend.

(This is the part where you hate me because I don’t have a single picture of myself in the dress.  Not one.  Though I’ll keep an eye out for any wedding photos that happen to crop up with me in them.)

Anyway.  The whole thing got me thinking about weddings, and how silly it seems to spend all that dough for just one evening to impress people, and how no one really would’ve cared if there weren’t any flip-flops or extra pastries or bacon-wrapped delicacies or free booze, because a bring-your-own-beer barbecue in the back yard would have done just as well to celebrate the joining of two lives among family and friends.

But then.

The groom, whom I’ve known since my freshman year of college, chose his father as his Best Man.  His heartwarming toast was followed by that of the bride’s father — the guy responsible for keeping 200+ people swimming in booze, food, and flip-flops for the evening.

And he said something.

He said, “We all know that every little girl* grows up dreaming about her wedding day — about the dress she’ll wear, what kind of cake she’ll have, and what kind of footwear she’ll provide in the ladies’ restroom.”  (Just kidding.  He didn’t say that last part.)

*I did not grow up dreaming about my wedding day.  I for sure thought I’d elope.  If I even got married at all.

Then he said, “What we don’t know is that every girl’s father dreams of her wedding day, too.  Except it’s more like nightmares.”

[Insert uproarious laughter from the crowd.]

“But then,” he said, “you look out across your friends and family, all smiling and here for your girl.  And you look at her and see how beautiful she is — ”

And that’s where he lost it.

His voice cracked.

The tears came.  Not just from him, but from every. single. woman in the room.

Myself included.

He finished with something about love and how his love for his daughter makes the fact that he’ll be living off of nothing but Ramen noodles for the next 3 years entirely worth it.  (Just kidding.  He didn’t say that last part.)

But I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.

And you know, even though my first choice for a wedding would have included about 8 people barefoot on a beach in Fiji, it doesn’t really matter.  The bride was happy.  The groom was happy.  Their parents were ecstatic.  And when the champagne buzz wears off and they have a mountain of bills and beautiful photographs to show for it, Real Life will start and at least they’ll have started it off exactly the way they wanted.

And, for a rainy day, they’ll have the gift I bought them.

Tucked inside a cooler hand-picked from their registry is a bottle of good champagne and a 6-pack of Natural Light.

On the card,

Three gifts:
One for remembering the past,
One for celebrating the future,
And one for keeping it all cool.

It’s a metaphor.

I think.

Cleveland Rocks. Even When It’s A Blustering Ball of Freezing Wind and Rain.


I’m pretty sure that’s about all the eloquence I can muster this morning.  Lemme try again.


Yep, that’s it.

I kind of feel like I just got home from a whirlwind weekend trip to Cleveland, OH, whose biting winds and rains gusting off Lake Erie tried their damndest to blow me right back to North Carolina the entire time we were there.

Prepared was I not for winter to hit me after a mere 9 hour drive through picturesque North Carolina and West Virginia mountains, and it was probably somewhere along that invisible border between barbecue and banjos that I realized the most obvious item to pack — aside from the dress I planned on wearing to my friend Collin’s wedding — was still tucked safely inside my not-often-opened coat closet all the way back home.

Because it’s a coat.

A coat I forgot to bring.

To Cleveland.

And apparently I’m not the brightest crayon in the box.

Although I’d like to think of myself as more naively optimistic — like, if I think hard enough that it’s going to stay summer forever, it just might happen.

Either that, or we’ll get magical orders from the military to move to Hawaii.


So.  Despite the fact that I had no coat, we didn’t let that stop us from having a fantastic time at the wedding and exploring Cleveland in all its glory.

Especially thanks to this guy:

Remember my brother?

If I’m lucky, I get to see him every few years or so.  And this year, I’m very lucky.

Not only because we got to hang with my brother, but because he humored our need to brave the weather to see a famous movie house, eat the fanciest hot dog I’ve ever eaten, and sample nearly every flavor of martini under the sun.

Those posts are coming, I promise.

But for right now, I need to finish my coffee and stand under a steaming shower for about 45 minutes in order to prepare myself for venturing off to work.  Because I’m pretty sure I have to thaw before I can once again become a functioning member of non-vacationing society.

And that’s a major bummer.

(Not thawing — that will be nice.  But becoming a functioning member of non-vacationing society?  Total buzz kill.)