Fall Break 2014: Illinois

One of my goals for 2014 was to update the blog weekly. That’s pretty laughable at this point, but I’m gonna really try to do better, okay? Even if it’s just random, not-so-interesting, pic-spam blurbs, I want to post more regularly.

So. Here goes.

Since I currently work in a public high school, I get the same fantastic holidays students and teachers get. October 11-17, I was off for fall break (YAY!), so naturally, I headed north to Illinois to spend some time with my man.

With big Christmas/New Year’s plans on the horizon (Disney World!), money is a bit tight at the moment. So we kept the vacation pretty low-key by limiting ourselves mostly to testing Pinterest recipes, watching the Indiana Jones trilogy, and catching up on Adventure Time.

Allow me to bring you up to speed with these lovely photographs:

Matt is great at baking. He enjoys it, and I enjoy the end result (I enjoy watching him work, too, especially when he's wearing flannel.) ((What?)). Using some apples from the local farmers' market, he whipped up a tasty apple crisp which we topped with a mixture of coconut milk and frozen bananas. 

With the same surplus of locally grown apples, Matt made some incredible homemade cider. OMG. Autumn in a cup. 

For breakfast one morning, we tried these amazing 3-ingredient coconut oil biscuits I found on Pinterest. Holy poop. I made up my own recipe for sausage-flavored-yet-vegetarian Southern-style gravy, and he made some naturally-sweetened strawberry jam. What a power couple. 

He got a little aggressive with the biscuit cutter.

Seriously. You have to try those biscuits. I need to upload an official version of my gravy recipe, too. I just have no idea how much of everything goes in; I just toss stuff in until it looks and smells right. Guess I'll have to make it again. What a bummer.

Oh, and here's some more food shots. You can never get enough of those.

I made eggplant lasagna served alongside a heavenly potato bun from the Mennonite ladies at the farmers' market.

 And Matt roasted these amazing portabella veggie mini-pizzas one evening.

Yeah, pretty much all we did was cook stuff and eat stuff.

Oh! So, you wanna know how I knew this relationship was right? He suggested building a blanket fort in the living room. 

Yep. Popcorn, organic, fair-trade hot cocoa, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Over the week, we watched the full Indiana Jones trilogy as well as... Silent Hill. I haven't recovered from that last one.

Also, we had lots of fun smushing Silly Putty into newspapers and stretching out the photo imprints. Too much fun, probably.

But we didn't just sit around the house being lazy fatties all week. We did go on a mini-adventure to Carbondale, IL, home of a great farmers’ market, the neighborhood co-op, a cute locally-owned bookshop, and the Best. Restaurant. Ever.

Lovely morning at the farmers' market.

The Mennonite booth, where you can find the amazingly soft, melt-in-your-mouth, potato buns! Plus many other baked goodies and farm-fresh eggs.

At the bookshop, Bookworm, this friendly in-store pet kept following us around and begging us to pet him (or her, IDK). He/she/it was cute, so I snapped a creeper pic. 

Now for the good stuff.

Longbranch CafĂ© and Bakery is exactly like the place I have always dreamed of opening. It’s a hip little joint in a renovated building downtown. There’s local artwork on the walls. Lots of vintage decor. A stage in the back for bands. A variety of great coffees and a case full of scrumptious pastries. Best of all, they have a fully vegetarian menu with delicious, fresh, locally-grown, HFCS-free food (even the bottled ketchup on the tables is organic). 

Did I mention it’s delicious? It’s not like a bland kale-and-celery smoothie. Everything I’ve ordered there has been pretty freakin’ amazing. Like this gorgonzola fettuccine.

Or the incredible made-in-house veggie burger.

Or this wonderful turtle latte.

Or this divine warm cinnamon roll...

...which we split, okay? See the two forks?!?!?

Yeah, so, we went there three times in one week. Oops.

All in all, one awesome way to spend fall break. 

Three More Months Later.

So, apparently, I'm just going to randomly post on here about every three months or so.

Life has been so hectic lately. Working nearly fifty hours a week as a school nurse while taking writing-intensive college courses fills up my days, and this is the first quiet moment I've had to write for fun since returning to work for the 2014-2015 school year.

Also, having a boyfriend is a pretty big time commitment as well. (But totally worth it.)

Yeah, that's right. I still haven't scared off that super-smart-insanely-funny-mega-hot-crazy-awesome guy I mentioned last time. We've been dating seriously for over five months now, and it's going wonderfully. I hate that I haven't had a chance to share much of anything about him on here, so I thought I needed to take the time to change that.

Matt is an ornithologist (he studies birds, man!), Though he is from Alabama and his parents still live here, he is currently working in Illinois. Unfortunately, this means he is roughly seven hours away from me, so our time together in-person is rare and precious right now, and we are mostly limited to all-day-every-day texting and frequent 3+ hour phone calls.

Thankfully, however, when he finished his summer field work, he was able to come home for almost two months (August - September). He's back in Illinois now,but for a while there, we got to hang out every weekend like a normal couple! I got pretty spoiled.

I'll give you a little peek into what we've been up to in the past few months:

Woodstock 2014

Matt ran the Woodstock 5K with me this year! If you've been following me for a while, you know how I always make a huge deal out of Woodstock since it was the first race I ever did. From carrying less weight to beating my previous PR, each Woodstock race has been a better experience than the one before. This year completely topped them all because not only did I run the entire course non-stop (for the first time, no walking breaks or water stops!), I had the love of my life running by my side. Well, um, not by my side. He was way ahead of me, actually. But whatever. He was waiting for me at the finish line, so that was pretty amazing. And this was his first race, so I was incredibly proud of him for taking on the challenge.

That's something I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo thankful for. He comes from a similar health background (he, too, is a self-proclaimed former fatty), and we share the same goals for healthy eating and fitness. This is a really huge part of life for both of us, so it was quite an accomplishment to complete a 5K together.

One day this summer, he surprised me with this gorgeous dragonfly shadow box. There was no occasion; he just gave it to me, completely unexpectedly, which took my breath away and brought on a case of the happy tears. He spent the summer catching them and mounting them for me in this lovely frame because of our shared childhood love of catching insects. (Turns out, we both had little nets, kill jars, and display boards full of beetles, mantises, and flies when were kids. Dragonflies were my favorite, and his, too. We talked about this early in our e-Harmony e-mails, and he remembered!) I LOVE how thoughtful this was, how much work he put into it, and how neatly and beautifully he arranged it.

Like me, he also loves perusing antique shops and flea markets. We did a lot of that while he was home, and in one of these fun browsing expeditions, we stumbled upon this gem:

An antique, solid-wood dresser for $50. I needed something this size to put in my office at work to hold my microwave (it had been awkwardly sitting on the carpeted floor), but I didn't want to get some cheap, ugly piece of office equipment I wouldn't use again after I leave this job. We picked this out with plans of Matt sanding it down and re-staining it for use at home in the future, but for now, he moved it into my office. My microwave is off the floor!

Also, buying something from an antique store was #67 on my 101 Things list. Done!

Speaking of lists, Matt also surprised me with the opportunity to mark something off of my bucket list: Drive a classic Corvette

Oh, man. 

This was pretty huge. Matt had just purchased a new vehicle, and on a drive into town one Saturday, he told me he needed to stop by the dealership and take care of one last-minute thing for his new car. I honestly thought that sounded a little odd and suspicious, but I didn't ask questions. When we arrived, a salesman walked out, greeted Matt, and handed him something shiny. Before I knew what was happening, the salesman disappeared and Matt passed the mystery object on to me: a key. "You're about to cross something off your bucket list," he said, leading the way into the car lot. 

To a 1977 Corvette Stingray.  

I freaked out. 

Drive a classic Corvette is on my actual bucket list. It's been my #1 dream car since I was old enough to know what a Corvette was. I mean, I was so into these things that when I was a kid, my dad took me to the Corvette factory in Kentucky. As it turns out, Matt's dream car was also a vintage 'Vette, and we had bonded over that a few weeks prior. I shared my bucket list goal during that conversation, and he was obviously paying attention. When he bought his new vehicle, he saw the Corvette and made arrangements with the salesman. 

Man. What a keeper. 

Yeah, so, I think driving that Corvette was the most fun I've ever had in my life. Sliding into that red vinyl driver's seat was like climbing into a time capsule of sexiness. With the breeze blowing through the rolled-down windows, the growling rumble of the engine in my ears, and this almost tangible power contained in the pedal beneath my foot, I was embarrassingly giddy the entire drive (Also, I was terrified of crashing. I'd never controlled such a powerful or perfect vehicle, so I drove cautiously and never took it above sixty.). Still. I drove a classic Corvette. I drove my dream car with my dream man riding shotgun. A girl can't do much better than that. All I needed was some AC/DC.

There you go. A brief summary of the most exciting adventures we've had as of late. I'm sure there will be more to follow soon.