Moving on Up…

We have all had our war stories…moving just opens you up to feeling the love or feeling the frustration. A few amusing “Observations” of my “Move” across Gwinnett:

1) I did a massive clean-out to move from Philly to Atlanta 5 years ago. Apparently, I neglected to not honor my previous “non-accumulation clause.” $#%^%
2) I own more accessories than any average person should ever accumulate in one location. Someone should have reminded me my name is NOT Kate Middleton. Sheesh.
3) I am officially discarding/selling the last of my “first apartment/college temporary” Ikea furniture product. Therefore, I should be able to proceed to adulthood. Or feel extremely pathetic I have moved it over 5 times.
Sigh.
4) I wonder if I should be concerned that I have no idea how ALL this stuff fit here in the first place. Good thing for downsizing.
5)Finally, as I pack each box I recognize how many memories were made and how much I appreciate the good times and challenges I faced in this place. Looking forward to moving on up!!!

How do you handle the trials and tribulations of moving, Gwinnett?

Snow Forts, Heineken, and Growing Up – Memories of the Childhood Friend

I am on my way to drinks with a childhood friend down in the big city. Now, besides the fact that I am “escaping” from Gwinnett – yes, indeed, I do cross the County Line on occasion.  But I’m revisiting some childhood…

Damon and I grew up catty-corner to one another in Tulsa. If I leaned out far enough from my front porch and looked across the street at a diagonal, I could see his front porch.  Our mothers were happy to have two children same age and his younger brother and sister were often a part of our daily fun.  We rode our bikes, played in the street (it was just safer in the early 80s to be a wanderlust kid apparently), were in the same homeroom several years and he was my best “guy” friend. I know this NOW, but when you are an 9-year-old, you just assume your friends are always around and always ready for fun.  Our group of neighborhood kids kind of just grew up together.  And despite those depicted TV/movie interpretations,  drama for us was who didn’t invite the other to a birthday party, or who didn’t talk to the other on the playground.  We were pretty high-tech in those days. (and no, we didn’t have cell phones – but we did have some very low-tech walkie-talkies – with baby monitor interference built-in)

Later, a job transfer moved my family “north” to Pittsburgh, PA and life changed. I remember saying good-bye and everyone standing on their front porches or in our driveway – a feat in the middle of August in Oklahoma, but they wished us well.  It kind of was disappointing – thought in my young mind I would lose touch or they would forget me.  A few years into high school, however, both of our orchestras were at competition together in Virginia Beach. Damon & I were able to get together and spent a fun day being “kids” again at Busch Gardens. But we also dealt with some big changes, he was grappling at that time with a life decision and I remember that was the year I started becoming more of the swan and less the ugly duckling.  I look back now and realize both of us were at stages of bullying by other stupid young children because we were different – a little geeky, maybe even classified nerds.  But we survived it – and knew from the other that we were still cool in our small world, and that was what mattered.  Now before you start conjuring up star-crossed romance, let me share and confirm – we were always just friends. But I do know he was a Prince Charming of the FRIEND Kingdom, the one who went to bat for me when I kissed Greg S. in 4th grade and then promptly after when Greg broke my heart the next week, Damon stuck it out with me and patted my arm and told me that there would be other better guys.   He was right.

He was the one who built snow forts, ran through water sprinklers, and explored the wooded lots with me behind our street. We survived elementary school redistricting, Girl/Boy Scouts – he all the way to Eagle Scout, middle school and our first school dance. (Still remember that 7th grade dance more than Senior Prom – irony that we did more group dancing than couple dancing and had FUN). We lost touch every couple of years, but thanks to technology, email, and other techie inventions – we always reconnected. I listened to his adventures & challenges with college, and his decision to face a tech wave early with a computer company – which excelled.  Who knew?  (I was so proud!) He in turn heard about my adventures going into higher education and making a move away from my home in the ‘Burgh, to the City of Brotherly Love. He has heard my stories of heartache, job achievement and growing up & trying to become wiser. I have done the same for him. Always a phone call, email, and now Facebook or Twitter update away.

Here is what I notice – we’re still as real today as we were yesterday.  THAT is FRIENDSHIP.  No amount of required check-ins, status updates, or logging hours of dedicated time set the tone for our friendship.  It’s been about 20 plus years since we saw each other.  We rarely talk on the phone – ironic that we have highly involved “people jobs” but respect we kind of need down time after the workday.  We didn’t graduate together; in fact,  we are more different as individuals than when we met as kids.  But what I love,  it never seems to matter.

In adulthood, I have watched him find his true love & watch with fondness and admiration the two twin boys they now raise grow up. Tonight, he will hear stories about how I have finally found my niche in Georgia, and my own true love and a Cowboy Corgi I adore to bits. And I bet we’ll talk about work, and politics, and life decisions, our families -good and bad, and love…but guaranteed we’ll still just be those two cute kids racing each other down the block into the hot, orangello Oklahoma sunset.

Dear Parents of Children…From the Singleton, Childless Woman

trying to be good

I just finished babysitting your baby today.

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I have salmon stuck on my neck and in the crease under my left breast.

My eardrum is damaged due to high frequency screaming.

I had to hold her while I was peeing because from her perspective it seemed like Satan himself would rape and kill her slowly if I put her down thus I did not get the chance to wipe myself properly…

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…no matter though as I am covered in a thick layer of sweat from pushing the stroller up the hill so a bit more wet between the legs even things out.

I washed my hair this morning but all of a sudden it looks like a stringy bag of shit pile.

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I haven’t had a chance to eat anything except snatching a few cold peas from her snack pack and my head is pounding.

I watched her draw on…

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Locaventure…just outside of Gwinnett and turn by sustainable taste…Part 3

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

A single week’s fruits and vegetables from community-supported agriculture share: peppers, okra, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, garlic, eggplant, squash. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you wrap a series, it is a challenge to have that grand finale…the last act, of sorts. And I sure did try to find something fabulous. Something that could wow even the greenest goddess of Locavore legend. And as many of you saw in earlier posts, I hit the biggest brick wall of writers block.

So I shelved the good of the local food-to-table movement and set out to let the topic come to me. And it did, tenfold. While conducting my annual search of Farmer’s Markets, I extended my search since, as I joke, I have spent some time not just in glorious Gwinnett but at the country house (aka Walton Boy’s & his family’s places) in Walton County. I love having added local places to visit – especially farmers markets and farm stands since we are not in the urban fold of my residence.

While looking at Local Harvest I discovered a nearby farm, new to the area and trade. Wanting to support some new local agribusiness, I began searching the site and learning about their CSA practices and involvement with local agriculture and partnerships.

First, for all of you green to the CSA concept, according to Local Harvest,

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers an amount of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products are included. Interested consumers buy a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Cool, right?

So here are a few take-aways:

1)Always Support Local- and don’t forget your Farmers!
It is a no-brainer. You help support your neighborhood, your local biz, and keep one of our best resources, agriculture, alive and well. It’s a challenge out there. Our friends Amanda & Anthony who own White Tail Farm rely on the business locally in Carnesville AND through the many Farmer’s Market trips they make in Gwinnett and surrounding counties including Suwanee, Norcross, and other local-driven cities. However, times are tough. Every trip you make to the chain grocery store can impact the local farmer – so keep it in your head to try a market/stand first and reap the benefits of fresh Chem/processed free produce and more from the farm. Summer is a super time to try the locavore concept.

2) DIY Local Grown
Okay, so we all don’t have a green thumb. But I say TRY. You do not have to produce a garden out of Southern Living, but you can do small containers, a kitchen herb garden, or a small plot in the yard. Keep it basic or KISS. Even in my small no-yard patio apartment I grew some basil & tomato & oregano to keep me happy in summer with “instant Caprese” ingredients for dinners solo or friends. If you are feeling hopeless & garden green, you have a few resources in Gwinnett to learn or pick up a few tips.

A) Gwinnett Technical College‘s Horticulture program hosts spring and fall annual plant sales – students, faculty and staff sell and showcase their semester successes and your garden acquisitions will support scholarship and program growth at the College. Talk about a local win-win.
B) Georgia Piedmont Land Trust is truly one of the best Gems in Gwinnett. The Land Trust is located in the heart of Gwinnett in Snellville. If you have not visited, you are missing out on one of the coolest green spaces in the County.

(We were) Founded and led the conservation effort in Gwinnett County…a local, non-profit conservation organization, committed to the preservation of open and green space in the Piedmont region of Georgia.

Besides being one of the most unusual places to take the family, they host a plethora of garden treasures including workshops, lectures, and feature special guests (i.e. Master Gardeners) to better understand your own garden, the regional land and how the two co-exist and grow. For instance, one of my personal favorites is the resource and guidance they offer for understanding and planning your local garden, yard , etc. Vital, as you don’t want invasive plants or seedlings, which can inhabit or cause future long-term green space in Georgia. It takes out the guesswork of standing in the aisle figuring out what to grow. In addition, the partnerships they have with local landscaping and garden locals including Master Gardener resources! – makes your garden beautiful & valuable to the green world while benefitting local. Take the kids. Get ’em in the dirt and out of the video games. They are future gardeners of our world, you know.

Chef Sara Dunning shares her wisdom on “farm-to-table” gourmet at gymnopedie

3) Grow Local- Eat Local
You have your garden, you are visiting the farms, now you need a reward. How about a date night out? This brought a huge GEM into my life, a TRUE farm-to-table find located off Pulaski Street in Athens, GA gymnopedie – A farm-to-table experience. Walton Boy and I have known each other just about a year. I thought it would be fun to go out and celebrate. In my searches to find local markets, I saw a picture and write-up of this local chef from New Zealand who ingrained in the local “food-to-table” movement and was practicing it in Athens. I reviewed her site (and the many delicious recipes hosted) and was sold. We’re not practicing vegetarians so I knew Walton Boy was a little skeptical about this vegan/vegetarian place. However, knowing I was on an adventurous kick, he let me lead and plan the way. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (and by private event only some pre-reserved weeknights) I booked us for a Friday night at the 16 seat bistro. Upon arrival, we were a little early, and were instantly greeted by Chef Sara Dunning arms laden with bright vegetables and plates, as she was doing the cooking, serving, and greeting.  Her partner and fellow chef had recently gotten engaged so the restaurant is now working through some easy transition with schedules, as she explained to the table across from us. Two other tables were full, so we grabbed the long table and settled in facing the large chalkboard menu. She brought us cold water and sat down to talk with us about the menu. Four courses included all vegetarian based delicious options either a’ la carte or “tasting menu” – wanting the full experience we agreed on the tasting menu and then had her help as sommelier to choose our wine. The menu changes each month and you end up with delicious choices right off the farm or farmers market. Sustainable, organic, green, local – I knew this was going to be the final piece to my Locavore Series as this was encompassing the elements of a final pièce de résistance. And it was good. Really, really good. We were able to enjoy each course at leisure and converse in the quiet restaurant café. Think being at home with a few friends but a true gourmet feel, not stuffy. Just amazing food. A symphony really. We began with homemade pickled veggies and progressed to mixed salad greens, crisp shaved radishes, tangy vinaigrette and segue into long golden wax beans, and so much more – I know it was vegetarian but it had so much flavor and taste my brain and obviously my mouth were exploding from pure pleasure. Our favorite, and the Chef noted a retained menu item, was the Garden Lasagna. Thinly shaved zucchini ribbons layered with herbs, local tomatoes, basil-pine nut pesto, and cashew ricotta left us scraping the plate. Seriously. Dessert was petit fours (the rhubarb tart had sold out; so, get there early!) and we enjoyed a few of the Chef’s family recipes tweaked to be vegetarian-friendly. Walton Boy kept chatting it up even after we left – for a true “meat & potatoes” connoisseur, as he is, this speaks volumes past the norm.  You need to go and take your friends. And family. And your sweet significant other – trust me, the intimate setting is a great time to have that enjoyable lingering conversation you’ve missed once in a while from the busy confines of life’s marathon. Again, supporting local on so many levels in such a beautiful way. Tell them Gwinnett Girl sent you – she loved when I shared I was a local blogger or that I even thought to mention her. How could I not? This restaurant is unforgettable in that “walk-a-European-street-and-marketplace-to-dine-in-pure-culinary-delight.” Go on, make reservations so you can experience the awesomeness I’m so obviously enamored about with gymnopedie.

Locavore is something not just worth researching, and as I’ve discovered,  is truly a way to keep the backyard food cycle going. We get so enamored with the easy quick grab and go. C’mon,  you know you have that voice in your head that tells you just be “convenient” and hit the big chain and sling whatever in your cart.  This practicing local isn’t hard, if you work it into your life and it becomes a norm. Think about the benefits of shopping at a farmer’s market, or even taking a quick minute to stop at that fruit stand you whiz by going home from work.  You’ll have great food.  You’ll even make some new acquaintances – I love the idea personally talking to the person who can TELL me where my food came from – not a sticker telling me it came from “somewhere in South America.”  Plus, you and your family end up healthier, happier and win über points as a better community focused member. Pure and simple.

Riding Roller Coasters – A Different View on the Life Perspective

The first drop was killer.

That second climb? Clearly intense.

The third free-fall was terrifying & just couldn’t let go…

The fourth round of sudden dips made me want to laugh & throw-up all at the same time.

Yet, those heart-stopping curves made me a bit more brazen.

The ups and downs made me anticipate a little more of the unexpected.

And that loop which turned my world upside down allowed me to finally let the safety bar go.Image

My verdict?

Get back in line & go again. The adventure gets better every single time.