Breaking out of a Cooking Rut

I hit a major cooking rut earlier this year. Our favorite go-to recipes suddenly became annoyingly boring and the quality of our usual take-out spots declined. 

Here's how I broke out of my rut, plus tips on how you can too!

 

My first inclination was to scroll through Pinterest but I came away more overwhelmed than inspired. I need something curated, something tested, something healthy and delicious. I needed cookbooks.

So that's what I did, I hit the books! We also subscribed to Blue Apron, but more on that in a later post.

The first two books were from the same author, Megan of Freckled Italian. The cookbooks, The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook and The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook were the perfect introduction to the paleo diet in an accessible way. It was also a great way to break away from our usual diet and it was exciting to try something new. 

Megan's books are great because she takes staple paleo ingredients and provides multiple recipes for each with additional variations. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some of the dishes we made from her book:

Thai Almond Sweet Potato Noodle Bowl (Page 92, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

I love Thai food so this was a must try for me! I was halfway through making this recipe when I realized that I didn't have plain almond butter and I had to choose between Justin's vanilla almond butter (my absolute favorite but too sweet for this dish) or tahini. The tahini worked perfectly as a substitute and the dish was saved!

big-10-paleo-spiralizer-cookbook-megan-flynn-peterson-thai-almond-sweet-potato-noodle-bowl

 

Cincinnati Chili with Zucchini Noodles (Page 39, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

I'm a big fan of bean-less chili, I'm an even bigger fan of it when it smothers a heaping pile of pasta noodles. This paleo version was delicious and I did not miss the wheat noodles like I thought I would.

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Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Noodle Frittata (Page 20, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

I made this frittata during the Fourth of July weekend. We had guests staying with us and it made for a perfect breakfast before a day packed with events. I went rogue with this recipe and threw in some bacon. Hey, it's paleo!

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Beef Stew with Sweet Potato Noodles (Page 90, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

I've recently become a huge fan of chuck roast because you can do so much with it. It makes a great base for one pot meals and by one pot I mean the crock pot. This recipe was super easy and flavorful. 10/10, will make again this winter!

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Sweet Potato Linguini with Mushrooms and Spinach (Page 94, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

This recipe was quick, easy, and flavorful and was a big hit with everyone in the family. My iron is always low so the spinach helps with reaching my daily dietary quota.

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Pasta Primavera (Page 34, The Big 10 Paleo Spiralizer Cookbook)

This recipe is a great way to use up all the vegetables that are about to go bad and makes a great side dish. Highly recommend!

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Fish Stew (Page 87, The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook)

Like Megan, I love a hearty fish stew. Probably because I love fish and anything tomato based. I made this recipe with flounder and my taste buds were extremely happy. Putting this on the list of possible recipes for Christmas dinner.

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Another book that I picked up, at Costco of all places, is called Clean Slate. It was too beautiful to pass up! The first part of the book focuses on educating the reader on good food versus bad food. The recipes are not overly difficult and there's even a detox plan that you can follow. Me being me, I focused heavily on the snack and dessert sections. 

My favorite meal out of the book thus far is the sardines and cream cheese on rye sandwich (page 92), mostly because it's quick and easy to make when I have a busy day and cooking a full lunch is not on the docket that day. It's also a great way to think outside the tuna can and explore the many variations of canned fish (anchovies, salmon, etc.).

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A second favorite is the avocado-yogurt smoothie (page 114). It's savory and sweet and I crave it all the time.

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My fourth favorite cooking book this year has been Martha Stewart's Cooking School. It's a great way to get back to the basics, refresh and reset my skills, and create simply delicious meals.

 

In addition to new books and a Blue Apron subscription, we invested in a few new (inexpensive) tools and a fun pantry items:

 

Tips for breaking out of a cooking rut:

1. Find curated inspiration and, specifically, aim for something that's familiar. For example, Megan's paleo books use familiar ingredients, ones we use in our everyday cooking, but with a different perspective. What's old can be made new. I also enjoy perusing magazines located near the grocery store check out.

2. Learn a new technique or brush up on old ones. I love Martha Stewart's Cooking School book. For example, I know how to make chicken stock but what can I do to make it better? YouTube is a treasure trove of cooking techniques and can lead you down a blackhole of amazing cooking videos, give it a try!

3. Try a new-to-you spice blend. We live near not one but TWO Savory Spice Shops so I'm constantly there scouring the shelves for new-to-me blends and peppering the spice team with questions. It's amazing how a new spice blend can change up your cooking. 

4. Sign up for meal delivery service. This is a great way to enjoy a curated menu, learn new techniques, and try new flavors without spending an arm and a leg going out to eat.

5. Go out to eat. I love trying new dishes and using them as inspiration for cooking at home.

6. Take a cooking class. I've only taken one cooking class (sad, I know) and, to this day, still make the meal that they taught us how to make. I have Chef Alyssa's classes on my wishlist this holiday season. Don't live in the Charlotte are? Check out local chefs who may be offering classes, Whole Foods, or Sur La Table

7. Buy a new tool. A new tool can make a huge difference, whether it's a knife or a new pan, the possibilities are endless!

Are you in a cooking rut? What have you tried to break out of it?

 

*this post contains affiliate links*

Gratitude Journal: 10 Month Update

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My word for 2017 is gratitude and, in addition to living by the word, I kept a journal in which I wrote down at least ten things I was grateful for each day.

I stopped writing down my daily gratitude list in late July after forgetting to bring my journal on a trip and breaking the habit. It's not that I'm no longer grateful or that I no longer practice gratitude, however, I needed an outlet that also allowed me to express the things that upset me.

Those moments of disappointment are areas of growth and I don't want to ignore them.

Another thing I want to include in my daily journaling are my anxiety triggers. Again, something I want to acknowledge (to disarm) and to grow from. 

So, starting tomorrow, I'm dusting off my gratitude journal and adding new sections to it for a better view into my own world and the world around me.

 

Do you journal? And if you do, what do you include in your daily debrief? 

First Day of Preschool

We started our preschool search over a year ago but what we were looking for was practically non existent for kids under the age of two in our area. However, we found the perfect program and it was right under our nose: a church that we have been attending off and on had a partial day/week program for toddlers! The only problem? There were no spots left mid-year and we had to wait for the new school year to start. That was six months ago and we can't believe the time is finally here!

There were two orientations the week prior to school starting, one for the parents and one for the kids. I had a lot of questions at both and may have over done it by completing all of our "homework" like an A+ student who never misses a deadline. In reality, I'm a C+  (B- at best) student who is a perfectionist, hates busy work, and procrastinates till the last minute. 

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The kid orientation went well and I couldn't get Charlotte away from the trains and out of the classroom. She talked about the trains, the tea party, and the "church school" non-stop for the rest of the day. We took it as a good sign that the first day was going to be exciting instead of tear filled.

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And that's exactly what happened. She lead us to her classroom, ran in, and didn't even turn around to say goodbye.

Sassy toddler or sassy teenager?

Sassy toddler or sassy teenager?

Sad parents or happy parents?

Sad parents or happy parents?

I ran all my errands near her school in fear that I was going to get a call at 10am telling me that she's been crying and they could not console her. The call never came and she was content when I picked her up from school in the afternoon.

I think she likes it and we couldn't be happier. We're excited for her to gain new social skills and learn things that are outside of our expertise. I'm excited because I'm gaining working hours and can focus more on my consulting business. My husband is happy because his two girls are happy. A win-win-win for all!

 

That first morning, and the mornings since, have been slightly chaotic. We barely managed to take the "required" first day of school photos before rushing out the door. Charlotte had a mouth full of pancakes the whole time, however, here are a few of our favorites:

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Get the letter board here.

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*This post contains affiliate links. I receive a commission when the links are clicked and/or when items are purchased. These fees help pay for this site.

 

Sunday Funday with Queen City Rides

Q: What do you get when you take two custom eight seater golf carts and about a dozen Charlotte blogger babes?

A: A fun afternoon cruising to local breweries and lots and lots of photo ops!

 

Queen City Rides provides eco-friendly tour services in Charlotte, whether it's a brewery tour or a tour of our beautiful city. You can also find them cruising around town during sporting events, providing free rides. 

Today, Queen City Rides took us on a three hour brewery tour with stops in Plaza Midwood and Southend. We had a great time cruising around town and drinking great local brews.

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Our first stop was Resident Culture Brewing in Plaza Midwood where I ordered the Sweeter the Juice IPA. It's delicious and immediately made it on my favorite IPA's list. 

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We took a ton of photos, some of us petted all the dogs, and everyone enjoyed their first beer of the tour.

From left to right: Lorri (@lorriashly & @prosocialites), Julia (@cltchomp), Naomi (@style_nugget), Kseniya (@birchcollective), Briana (@bribola), Keith (@qc_rides), Shannon (@uptowngirlclt), Kevin (@qc_rides & @fitzgeraldscharlotte), Jessica (@sweet_seoul_in_charlotte), Kristin (@beautifulchaosblog), Melissa (@charlotte_fashion_plate), and Megan (@megandunbarphotography).

From left to right: Lorri (@lorriashly & @prosocialites), Julia (@cltchomp), Naomi (@style_nugget), Kseniya (@birchcollective), Briana (@bribola), Keith (@qc_rides), Shannon (@uptowngirlclt), Kevin (@qc_rides & @fitzgeraldscharlotte), Jessica (@sweet_seoul_in_charlotte), Kristin (@beautifulchaosblog), Melissa (@charlotte_fashion_plate), and Megan (@megandunbarphotography).

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Our second stop was at Sycamore Brewing, another favorite of mine.  I ordered the Apricot Wheat while majority of the group ordered the Sun Grown Michelada, Sycamore's take on the Bloody Mary. Beer cocktails, y'all. Get on it!

sycamore-brewing-south-end-charlotte-nc-apricot-wheat

We also used this stop to fuel up on tacos from Tin Kitchen. I ordered the Chana Masala, Cilnatro-Lime Shrimp, and the Pork Carnita tacos with a side of pickled vegetables. But I'm not going to lie, I had major taco envy when I saw the other ladies eat the Buffalo Cauliflower taco. Spice for life!

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Our third, and last, stop was Lenny Boy Brewing. I haven't been to the new location and was excited to check it out. It's a larger space from their old location and it's lovely! Their kombucha has been a life safer recently and I was excited to try new-to-me flavors on this visit. 

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Lavenderade Kobucha 

Lavenderade Kobucha 

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Thanks again to Keith and Kevin of Queen City Rides for a Sunday Funday!

 

P.S. Shop my look here:

 

 

 

Disclaimer: this tour was provided to me at no cost. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links that provide me with a small commission when the links are clicked and a purchase is made.

 

Three Day Potty Training Boot Camp

At times you will feel deflated but the hope that your child will (eventually) learn to use the toilet will keep you afloat. Good luck!

At times you will feel deflated but the hope that your child will (eventually) learn to use the toilet will keep you afloat. Good luck!

We started our potty training journey a few months ago by introducing the concept of using the toilet to our toddler. A few weeks ago we started reading potty related kid books to her at bed time and learning how to sit on the potty. Then, twelve days ago, we started the three day boot camp, as we so lovingly named it. By day three I was pretty sure we failed and broke the kid in the process. Days four and five were hell on earth and I was ready to give up, take a break, and regroup. Thankfully, we didn't give up or take a break but we did take a moment to regroup, change our strategy, and keep going.

Day 5: The kid refused to wear clothes and insisted on playing outside naked.

Day 5: The kid refused to wear clothes and insisted on playing outside naked.

Today is day thirteen and I feel like we have made amazing progress, but still have a long way to go.

 

Our book of choice for potty training was written by Brandi Brucks, a professional potty trainer. You can purchase it on Amazon* for around $10. It's an easy and quick read, a mix of common sense and a few Jedi mind tricks that are applicable for more than just potty training. 

I also spent some time researching online what we'll need to be prepared for this past weekend and beyond, created bathroom kits, and stocked the fridge with quick meals so we can keep all of our focus on the kid.

The first two days of potty training went as presented in the book but then something happened on day three. May be it's because we haven't left the house all weekend or the fact that we fell ill, but we experienced a regression that continued for three days. After some soul searching we realized two things: 1) she was stuck between a rock and a hard place, she knew she couldn't get her underwear wet but was not yet comfortable with using the toilet and 2) constantly asking her to use the bathroom when she didn't need to go annoyed her. Thankfully, on day six we saw a positive change in her and the ratio of accidents to non-accidents began to improve.

We're still figuring out public restrooms. She knows they exist, has been in them, but has yet to use a public toilet successfully. Any advice in this area is welcomed!

My number one piece of advice? Don't give up (like we almost did). My second piece of advice? Be overly prepared for whatever your kid throws at you... literally. You know your kid better than anybody else, know when to push and when to let up. Remind yourself that your kid has only ever known a diaper and they will do whatever it takes to regain control of this new situation. Trust your gut.

 

Potty Training Bathroom Kit

Potty Training Bathroom Kit

Here's a breakdown of all the books, tools, and other items that we got to prepare for the Three Day Potty Training Boot Camp and beyond. (Affiliate links below.)

Books for the kid

Bathroom Accessories

The book recommends using a potty seat versus a small toilet for two very important reasons: 1) it's an additional thing you have to clean after every use and 2) you'll have to retrain your kid to use the regular toilet. We used the small toilets to get her used to the idea of using something other than her diaper but we put them up on day one of potty training. It's up to you how many step stools you get (we have one for each bathroom), stick to the kind that does not fold. You'll also want a small chair for you to sit on. You'll be spending a considerable time in the bathroom and sitting on the bathroom floor is not always ideal. 

Bathroom "kits"

I put together bathroom kits to have a one stop shop for all the things we'll need: clean underwear, wipes, books, etc. Here's what I included in ours: 

potty-training-bathroom-kit-2

 

 

 

Cleaning Supplies

I'm not going to lie, this is the cleanest our bathroom floor has been since we've moved into this house. We've cleaned up a lot of accidents in the first couple of days and having the supplies on hand in the bathroom has been helpful. 

Out & About

We've been out a couple of times without any incidents but we're still in the early stages. I'm back to carrying a large bag with all of the supplies listed below as well as a change of clothes for both of us! I'm seriously considering embracing the 90's and getting myself a backpack purse.

 

Each child and situation is different. Charlotte and I both fell ill on day three, making our potty training journey more challenging. The author states that it could take up to ten full days for her methods to work and if they don't, more often than not, it's either a behavior issue with the kid or the parents screwed up. 

This experience may break both you and the kid but it's definitely a growth experience for everyone involved.

 

 

 

 

 


*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday Nights in the City: Uptown

There's something magical about Uptown Charlotte coming to life on a summer evening and I was lucky to experience it last Friday. My evening was filled with art, celebration, food, friends, and a moment of deep inward reflection.

My first stop was the Goodbye, Goodyear event. Goodyear Arts utilizes underused buildings to host artist residencies and events. This event was thrown to say goodbye to the current location on College Street. The new location is set to open at Camp North End in the near future.

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Our second stop of the evening was at the grand reveal of Subsecreto, a brainchild of Corri Smith of Black Wednesday and her business partner Caleb Clark of Enemy to Fashion.

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We were asked to keep the event a secret until it began, I think Erin and I did a pretty good job doing so:

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The coffee shop and retail space is brilliantly located in First Ward, a block away from the soon-to-be opened Blue Line extension and across the street from UNC Charlotte's Uptown campus.

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Corri throws great events where no detail is spared and this party was no different. From a blessing of the space by John W. Love Jr., to custom Reyka vodka cocktails, to tarot card readings from Meredith's Lucky Stars, to a room full of Charlotte's movers and shakers.

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I toyed with the idea of getting my first ever tarot reading but had chickened out, at least initially. I wasn't emotionally ready to hear what the cards had to say. But after a heart-to-heart with a dear friend, I went in. I don't know what I was so worried about.

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subsecreto-charlotte-nc-meredith-tarot-card-reading

Meredith made me feel at ease and it was more of a therapy session than anything else. You can learn more about her and her services here.

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We ended our evening with cocktails and tapas at The Cellar at Duckworth's

A magical evening, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Slingshot Coffee Co. Summer Giveaway

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I have a short list of cold brews that I enjoy because I'm just not a fan of cold coffee, period. Not Just Coffee gets my top billing for local cold brew on tap and Slingshot Coffee Co. gets top billing for bottled. 

Recently, I entered and won one of Slingshot's weekly summer giveaway and wanted to share what was in the prize pack since it included some local gems.

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Slingshot Summer Gear (tee & snapback trucker cap) | Slingshot Cold Brew variety pack | Murphy's Naturals (mosquito repellent sticks, mosquito repellent candle, and insect repellent spray) | Big Spoon Bars (apricot pepita and cherry pecan) | Bobble water bottle | Feel Goodz flip flops | A handful of stickers and pins.

 

The package arrived at the best time possible: on day one of us potty training our toddler. We're going to need all the coffee in the world to survive this weekend. And beer. Somebody please send us beer.

 

 

Johnny Fly Co.: 50 Shades of Cool

I've seen Johnny Fly Co. around town for the past couple of years at pop-up markets and have always enjoyed perusing their wares, wood frame sunglasses and leather goods. Now, there's no need to wait for a pop-up market to check out their goods! They have opened their first physical store in NoDa last month and it's 50 shades of cool. Shades...get it?

The store, located at 519 E. 36th Street, is bright and airy with lots of natural elements (including the products!). There's even a Try on Bar so you can find the perfect pair of shades to fit your face and style.

Here are a few snapshots from the grand opening event:

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johnny-fly-co-noda-charlotte-nc-noda-brewing-beer
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Here are a few of my current favorites:

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1. Latitude Stacked Wooden Sunglasses (white tortoise, walnut, smoke polarized) | 2. Apache Stacked Wooden Sunglasses (space, teak wood, G15 polarized) | 3. UFO Stacked Wooden Sunglasses (rose, ebony wood, G15 polarized) | 4. Captain Stacked Wooden Sunglasses (gloss black, ebony wood, smoke polarized)

Johnny-Fly-Co-favorite-leather-bags

5. Leather Studio Camera Bag | 6. Weekend Leather Duffle | 7. Leather Double Utility Sling Bag

 

Have you been to their store yet (physical or web)? And if so, what's your favorite item that they sell?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SummerSHARE 2017: Baby Bundles

While majority of us enjoy a summer break and go on vacations, the needs of our community do not. If anything, the needs of those less fortunate in our community increase.

This is one of the many reasons why I have partnered with Share Charlotte to promote and crowdfund for their SummerSHARE campaign. 

This summer I have chosen Baby Bundles as the recipient of my crowdfunding efforts and I need your help on July 20th to help raise $750. Click here to make a donation.

Why Baby Bundles? 

Of the total births in Mecklenburg County, nearly 50% are to mothers receiving Medicaid benefits, and more than 6,000 children are born in this community every year to mothers living in "high needs" zip codes. There are children born in our area who have nothing to leave the hospital in, not even a onesie. Let that sink in for a moment.

This is where Baby Bundles comes in. 

Think of Baby Bundles as a baby shower from the community that provides the most necessary items to the disadvantaged families. The bundles include baby blankets, burp cloths, bibs, infant hats, infant socks, onesies, outfits, and pajamas. They also include age appropriate books and baby toys to encourage parent-child bonding and cognitive development in the baby's rapidly developing brain. 

The bundles are distributed through community partners, such as the Crisis Assistance Ministries, and select hospital locations in the Charlotte area. The bundles are provided through various organizations that build relationships with the families to help fulfill other needs related to raising a child.

 

Last Thursday, Charlotte and I visited the Baby Bundles warehouse to learn more about the organization and to help put together bundles.

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Charlotte enjoyed "shopping" the baskets of various clothing items to put into the bundles:

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And she also enjoyed taking a little break to watch the Minions and share Goldfish with a new friend:

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Here's one of the bundles that we put together for a family here in Mecklenbug county:

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We had a great time volunteering and learning about the organization. Click here to learn how you can help.

 

I hope you join me in raising funds and awareness for this amazing organization.

 

 

*The money raised by the campaign goes directly to the non-profit, which they receive within 30 days of the campaign's end. Crowdrise takes 2.9% of the money raised + $0.30 per transaction to ensure that the non-profit receives the full donation.

 

How to Gain 10 Pounds in One Day

A sign of a growing city is the number of events happening on any given day. I can still recall days when I couldn't find anything to do in Charlotte. Now? There are so many events happening that it's difficult to choose which ones to go to and which ones to skip. 

Today was one of those days. 

Thankfully, with the help of my lovely date Erin, we were able to narrow down the list for a perfect afternoon.

Our first stop was at Joe's Doughs for their grand re-opening. They tweaked their dough recipe and are adding a coffee bar soon (rumored debut date is sometime in August). 

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I ordered two donuts, maple bacon and cinnamon peach crunch, since my child stole my breakfast sandwich earlier that day and I was a bit hungry...

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Erin ordered a chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles:

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After catching up on each other's lives, we moved on to our next destination: to celebrate the opening of the future location of Not Just Coffee inside TABOR/SOCO Gallery at 421 Providence. 

I've heard a lot about TABOR and SOCO Gallery and I was excited to finally check out the space. TABOR is a modern men's clothing store and SOCO Gallery is a contemporary art space and bookshop. The future Not Just Coffee location is the perfect addition and their new merchandise, made in partnership with Centennial Trading Company, is really cool.

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tabor-charlotte-nc-mens-fashion
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Weird Empire pins are my favorite.

Weird Empire pins are my favorite.

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Can we please take a moment to talk about how cute the new NJC Cold Brew Bike is?! My dream is for one day to see it come through our neighborhood...

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Now back to the coffee. I have an unpopular opinion that may upset some folks: I don't like cold brew or iced coffee. Every time I order it I am disappointed or disgusted by it. 

That changed today.

Today was the first time I enjoyed cold brew. No sugar, no creamer, no other additives necessary. It was flavorful, smooth, and enjoyable.

Hey, Mr. DJ! | Cream Puff Records

Hey, Mr. DJ! | Cream Puff Records

One of my all time favorite food trucks, The Dumpling Lady, was at the celebration. I love nothing more than dumplings drenched in spicy Szechuan sauce on a hot summer day. Today my order consisted of shrimp and chicken dumplings and a bowl of spicy beef noodles. 

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I was a sweaty mess eating my lunch but it was well worth it! Thankfully, there was a bucket full of Lenny Boy beer to help take down the heat a bit.

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Before we knew it it was time to head out to event number three: Mixology with Bob Peters at Earl's Grocery. We learned all about making classic cocktails and even got to try a few.

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We were seated near the baked goods so I may have accidentally ordered a doughnut covered in grapefruit cardamon sugar. Oops.

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But the day of eating was not over yet, oh no! There was ice cream to be had with Corri, one of my most favorite human beings. 

In my opinion, Elizabeth Creamery is a local treasure. Family owned, homemade, and delicious. Need I say more?

I ordered my favorite: a scoop of black cherry in a waffle cone. A sweet ending to a sweet afternoon.

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Before heading back to the 'burbs, I picked up a whole chicken and three sides at Viva Chicken to take down to the pool for dinner. We got rained out but it didn't stop us from enjoying our delicious Peruvian dinner.

 

And that, my friends, is how you gain ten pounds in one day.