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Trader Joe’s, I love you

In a necessary shift in mood from my last post (I’m sorry guys!! Didn’t mean to make people tear up during their work day…), I’m going to talk about my true love. His name is Joe.

A trip to Trader Joe’s used to be a rare occurrence for me and I would have to plan my bi-weekly trip to that side of town, which usually ended up in me over-spending and buying all of the unnecessary things just to have since I wasn’t sure when I would be back (even though I knew I would be back soon.) Now, I work 5 minutes from it (and it’s easy to pop in for a few ingredients to make dinner or for chocolate covered edamame in the middle of the day for no reason at all) so I thought I would share some of my favorite things that I currently love.

1. cauliflower rice // just discovered this last night after seeing it all over instagram. especially popular with people doing whole30 (more on that later) so I finally picked it up and used it in place of brown rice or quinoa in stuffed peppers that I made for dinner. Such a good substitute and I will definitely be picking up more bags of this.

2. no salt, crunchy almond butter // my life would be nothing without this jar of almond butter. (and whole30 approved!)

3. frozen edamame // easy to steam or just re-heat in about 5 minutes. I can shamelessly eat an entire bag in one sitting.

4. dark chocolate edamame // sounds really weird, tastes really great. Plus it has dark chocolate AND edamame, so it’s a health food… or something.

5.  cookie butter cheesecake bites // I can’t really say TOO much about these little squares of heaven because I’ve only had a couple in my life but I will stare at a box of them every time I go in and I’ve convinced myself that I currently want to comfortably wear a bikini rather than indulge in an entire box of them. But… you. You should go buy them immediately.

6. plantain chips // for $1.99 a bag and a lifesaver on whole30, I would eat these little chips over real plantains any day.

7. coconut oil spray // I discovered coconut oil a couple of years ago and after a couple of expensive jars, trader joe’s started carrying a less-expensive version, and then later came out with this spray and I will never buy a can of Pam again. I use it on everything when I’m cooking, whether in my pans or just to spray on veggies for sauteing because sometimes I’m too lazy to scoop oil out of the jar.

8. everyday seasoning // I own about 5 jars of spices because I know nothing about cooking, but I use this for almost everything.

This list can change with the seasons (helloooo, pumpkin cream cheese!) and I could go on forever, but I’m hungry and sometimes I just can’t talk about food anymore. Aside from the fact that I never saw a single peony at my store this spring, what am I missing out on from Trader Joe’s?

Father’s day

I dread Father’s Day. I dread it in that “selfish and I don’t want to see posts on social media outlets about why your dad is the best” way. I dread it because almost everyone I know who’s my age gets to spend time with or talk to their dads on father’s day and I haven’t talked to mine in 12 years.

12 years! It’s crazy to think that so much time has passed. In these 12 years, it’s gotten easier to manage my feelings, but it hasn’t gotten easier to spend this day, and so many other days, without him.

I very rarely talk to my family about my dad, and not too many people even know the story behind it. I’m a very private person when it comes to this, which I’m sure some people would say is weird considering how much I can talk about almost everything else in the world. With father’s day coming up this weekend, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about him and decided it would be a good time to share.

My dad passed away when I was 16 and in the 10th grade. I remember him being really sick for about two years, starting around the summer before I went into high school when he had a stroke as he went to leave for work. From there, he had several heart complications, and I spent the next two years or so trying to be the best caretaker that I could be.

Growing up, I was the weird little daddy’s girl who always asked dad to marry me. (What is this about? I read somewhere recently that it’s fairly common amongst young girls, but still strange to me.) I wouldn’t say my childhood was necessarily a walk in the park, but I was always quick to choose dad’s side, and in my eyes, he could do no wrong.

When he got sick, I watched him have his good days, and I was there for him on his bad days. I was there to help push him in his wheelchair when he didn’t have the energy to walk on his own. I was there to help him take insulin shots when he couldn’t do it himself. I was there to run to the gas station when he needed orange gatorade or minute maid lemonade. I was there to sit on the swing with him after school and listen about his day spent at doctor’s appointments or at home with his two pups. More importantly though, he was there for me, even when he probably felt like he couldn’t be. He drove 20 minutes to school every afternoon to pick me up just because I didn’t want to ride the bus, even when he lost vision in one eye or had a long day at the hospital. He was there for me when I came home crying because I was in a new school and felt like nobody liked me. He was there when I was an angst-filled teenager who didn’t want anyone to be there for me. He laid in his hospital bed many nights and held my hand and told me that he would always be there for me, even when he wasn’t here anymore.

A couple of weeks before he passed away, he called me into his room and told me that he knew he wouldn’t be here much longer. He apologized for leaving me so early, but I didn’t believe him for a second because in my eyes, he had energy and so much love left to give. Of all the times that I wish I was right, I wish I was right about that. On May 14, 2003, my dad passed away in his sleep, exactly the way he wanted. We argued about something silly the night before, and I woke up around 2am to the white noise from the tv in the living room, but I didn’t go out there to talk to him. It will be my biggest regret for the rest of my life. A few hours later, I would be calling 911.

He was there for me at his funeral, when I literally pinched myself to see if the hell that I was going through was real. I couldn’t stop crying, and I finally asked “dad, if you’re still there, please help me stop crying.” It wasn’t until then that I was finally able to say goodbye.

I learned my bravery from my dad. He always encouraged me to chase after my dreams. “Whats the worst that could happen, someone take away your birthday?” was his motto. He is the reason I am the person I am today. He taught me bravery, compassion, and love, even if I probably also get my temper from him.

For the last 12 years, I’ve spent father’s day completely alone, whether at home, trying to avoid the masses, or at the beach, because being by the water reminds me of him, because I’m a navy brat, after all. This year, I get to spend it with someone who understands my heartache just as much, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Sundays are for:

 waking up early (or sleeping in, depending on your Saturday)
brunch. always brunch
being outside

I woke up at 7am this morning, mostly excited because I decided last night that I would go buy a fitbit at Target when they opened. It was practically Christmas morning over here. Even though I already have a nike fuel band, I haven’t used it in a couple of years and aside from counting my steps, I struggle with using it because it tracks your activity through “fuel points” which are essentially made up from some algorithm that I just don’t understand. So hello, new fitbit. I basically just constantly need to have some sort of competition to succeed, so I’m hoping this competition with myself and trying to reach my goal everyday will get me up and moving a little more. (Its not even 11am and I’m over 20% to goal already!)

Sundays have quickly become my favorite day of the week because I know that I will start my day with brunch, and end it with some amazing meal made by Michael’s mom. Sunday dinners with mom was his tradition that I’ve somehow been lucky enough to get invited to and I’ve never eaten more delicious meals in my life. I’m still dreaming about last Sunday’s dinner (shrimp scampi) so I’m excited for this week’s meal (and already dreading next Sunday when I’m on my own and dinner could very well be cereal.)

And today is extra special because we’re finally trying the Roosevelt for brunch this morning and then taking a trip out to my brother’s house to visit my niece, who I haven’t seen since her birthday, and who Michael has never met!

a very happy Sunday indeed, even if it is 100 degrees outside.

Date night

My boyfriend and I have been going out to lunch and dinner together for a while now (one of the perks of working together means we get to have lunch together anytime I want) and last week, I couldn’t really figure out where our actual “first date” was since we go so many places together. Even though I’m lucky enough to share practically every meal with him, sometimes just labeling a night as “date night” makes it that much more exciting. Doing this on a Wednesday in the middle of a rough week makes it that much better and gave me something to look forward to after a long day at work.

Metzger but I was sick and realized that I didn’t belong in a cute restaurant when I looked and felt miserable. As it turns out, they have a $50 date night special on Wednesdays that includes a bottle of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and a dessert. I’ve never been to a German restaurant before so this was my first time trying schnitzel! I’m not a very good foodie (except for the fact that I like to eat) so the best I could describe it would be as a really big wendy’s chicken nugget. Which is delicious. Michael was sneaky and ate most of the dark chocolate cremeux (errr, fancy way of saying chocolate mousse, I think) so I tried to be sneaky and drink most of the wine.  Fair trade.

Whether its eating out or having dinner at home, sitting at a table and having a conversation over dinner instead of watching tv is one thing that I love. Even when I was single and lived in a apartment alone, I would always eat my dinner for one at my giant table for four. There is something about eating at a table that reminds me of having a family and talking about our days together. Because our apartments are too small for a dinner table, I always look forward to the nights out where I can sit across from Michael and talk forever about anything and everything. Its the little things, guys.

Learning to love cooking

I’m not a great cook by any means, but lately I love being in the kitchen more than I ever have. I think it has something (everything) to do with having someone else to cook for who (I think) appreciates it a little more than Olive appreciates me pouring food in her bowl.

I firmly believe that brunch is the most important meal ever – and my favorite – but I’ve also been trying to give dinner the attention it deserves when I need to make more than a bowl of cereal to qualify as “dinner.” I’m not great at creating my own recipes since I’m (mostly) a terrible cook but I can read a recipe like its my job and I think its worked out pretty well the last couple of months.

I’m hoping I will branch out and try new recipes and if I find or create anything good, I will have to post them here to save for future reference. The last time I had a blog, I wrote down a white chicken chili soup that I can no longer recreate just because I didn’t save the blog post, so clearly I need to save things here, even if its just for myself to come back to later.

Hasselback potatoes because Chrissy Teigen said so.
Philly cheese steak pizza – inspired by my late night love for Domino’s
The pasta from chicken parm made the heart on my plate and I just couldn’t not take a picture…

Because I am really corny and have a story for everything, I could’ve probably saved all of these pictures of some of our recent dinners and make posts about all of them and go on and on about the story behind them all, but I’ll spare you on a couple of my favorites from the last few weeks.

Wine and cheesin’

I’m not much of a wine drinker in that I know anything about wines or how to pronounce any of them, but I will gladly do a wine tasting or drink an entire bottle of whatever white or pink wine you put in front of me. A friend of ours was celebrating her 30th birthday so Saturday was spent in Charlottesville on (my first!) winery tour – charter bus and all – and we lucked out with perfect weather after a long and rainy week. I’m not big on the summer heat but I love walking around barefoot, drinking wine, and being outside so this was perfect.

Our first stop was Veritas which was beautiful and I wanted to steal the bucket of peonies that were set out for a wedding later in the day. We weren’t here very long after our tasting (which I thought was delicious) so I definitely want to go back soon. Our second and last stop of the day was King Family Vineyards, where we met Sunshine the polo-playing horse and set up a picnic, complete with Chick-fil-a nuggets and wine. We went with a giant group, including a ton of coworkers, and it was a lot of fun but the day went by so fast. In my head, it would be fun to plan a day in Charlottesville to go hiking and finish up at a winery, but I know that hiking leaves me sweaty and tired so its probably not ideal and I guess I’ll have to convince someone (hi, boyfriend!) to take a couple trips back to Charlottesville in the near future.

The complete opposite of yesterday, today has mostly been spent on the couch and its slow days like this that make me happy that I have someone to lay around doing nothing with (until basketball starts at 8 tonight! Woo hoo! Go Warriors :))