Dinner with the Duncans

9.10.2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen more homemade meals on my feed and stories in the past few weeks than in my entire blogging lifetime. Like many of us discover at some point, cooking for one is little to no fun. I knew I'd be cooking constantly for a family one day, so I never put pressure on myself to slave away in the kitchen.

So once we got settled in North Carolina, I was excited to put my skills to the test and have been pleasantly surprised to find myself craving time in the kitchen. In an era of so much screen time, crossing off to-dos, crazed errand running and the like, it's really refreshing to work with your hands and create something from scratch.


Let it be known that these creations are by no means my own! For now, I'm trusting the experts as I train. Still, it's hard to come up with a week's menu, so I'm sharing five of my favorites in hopes to inspire yours.

1. Chicken Parmesan Meatballs with zoodles & noodles, served with a kale caesar


I have so much fun following What's Gaby Cooking (maybe more so for her upbeat personality than the food), so it made sense she was my first recipe resource. WD loves chicken parmesan, so I assumed her meatball version of the dish was a safe bet for my first major meal undertaking. I combined zucchini and real noodles to not completely shock his system, and it was a total home run. The kale salad actually was my own concoction - just kale, a store-bought dressing, shaved parmesan and lemon.

2. Rosemary Peach Chicken in a White Wine Pan Sauce, served with lemon garlic roasted green beans


I've followed Half Baked Harvest for a long time too, always admiring her creative twists on classics that never lack a little something extra. With peach season still going strong, leftover mozzarella from Gaby's meatballs and my favorite herb involved, I whipped up this dish of hers the next night, and it was another hit.

3. Green Goddess Farro Cherry Salad with Crispy Lemon Chicken Thighs


I made this farro cherry salad last year, so I decided to give it a another whirl before cherry season slipped away. I paired it with these chicken thighs, which are easily my new favorite discovery. I'm more accustomed to chicken breasts, so I was very impressed with how juicy the thighs were while also making for a perfect portion size.

4. Southern Okie Salad

I never had okra served cold in a salad before dining at Foster's in Durham and was dying to recreate something similar at home. Blogger bestie came through with this scrumptious okra salad.





I subbed in chickpeas for black eyed peas for no other reason than spotting them first at the store. It was a great light din on a Sunday when brunch had gotten the best of our appetites earlier that afternoon.

5. Orange Chicken with brown rice and Asian-roasted broccoli


I had seen this orange chicken from The Defined Dish come across my feed far too many times to not try it myself. William loves Asian food but rarely orders this dish in particular, so I was curious to see his reaction. We both loved it and felt all the better that the ingredients were much more health-conscious than take-out Asian fare.

We've lucked out with almost every dinner recipe to date, but I kept this set especially seasonal to summer since it's about time to bid adieu to the best of berries, corn and okra.

Mexican bowls, udon noodles and beet shrimp scampi to come next! Have a wonderful week, and bon appetit! 

Honeyjune Highlights

8.27.2018

taking in the views of St. Paul de Vence, a village in the French Riviera we visited one evening
If you followed our honeymoon (appropriately dubbed #Honeyjune) at all, you know we were gone for quite some time. We decided to seize the opportunity this unique season provided in our lives between working in Houston and moving to Chapel Hill.

Roscioli came highly recommended from the priest who celebrated our wedding (and lived in Rome!), and it lived up to the hype.

Neither of us had jobs to return to or a place to call home in Houston, so we spent all of three weeks traveling from the coast of Italy to the coast of France. My hope is to dive into lots of details so you can plan your own sabbatical in Southern Europe, but for today, I'll share a highlight from all five destinations.

The amazing (varying!) views on the Amalfi coast.

our hotel is the one with the pool in the left corner!
I'd come across this cliffside scene of Positano on my Instagram countless times, so I was dying to explore more of what the Amalfi coast had to offer. It definitely delivered the most to-die-for views.

it rained during our leisurely lunch, but even the showers were gorgeous to watch as we sipped on rosé under cover

Our favorite excursion was to Ravello; we had lunch by the pool of the Belmond Caruso and the mountain views were nothing short of breathtaking.

this picture doesn't do this place half its justice
The next day, we took a ferry to Capri and had lunch at La Fontellina where the Mediterranean Sea waves make for calming background music as they crash over the rocks just beyond your table.

fresh tuna filet for me & Pasta Fontellina for WD - he won.

Your meal is also served fresh from the sea. We were especially excited to be seated and served after climbing to the top of Capri that morning. Many thanks to Morgan Allen for guiding us here!

when asked if we wanted white or red, WD said white and I replied red. what we didn't realize is that he would bring us out bottles of both.

Our dinner at the top of Positano at La Tagliata involved a drive, but it was well worth it when we got to enjoy our multiple-course dinner overlooking dimly lit Positano and the sea.

The city that exceeded my expectations: Roma!


We got a mixed bag of reviews on Rome: some said it was too dirty or touristy for their taste while others loved the rich history and hustle bustle. We found ourselves in the latter camp.

post-picnic in the Borghese gardens at twilight

I should have known I would feel this way with such an affection for cities like London and Paris. Rome has all of that without the towering skyscrapers, which makes the rooftops magical because your eye can span the whole city from just a few floors up.

we were seeking the best carbonara in town and were guided to Perilli, an old-school establishment that made a huge place like Rome feel homey

The dining is exactly what you're craving from Italy--classic and delicious. Yes, there are tourists, but there are also real people living and working there, which is my favorite kind of people watching.


Men were in their tailored suits racing colorful Vespas into the office, and chicly dressed women grabbed a quick bite in between meetings. We loved it by day and night and hope to be back someday.

The hotel that stood out amongst the rest: Ad Astra.


We truly loved all of our hotels, but Ad Astra in Florence was in a league all its own.


It's technically a bed and breakfast; the family that owns the property leases out the upstairs to the hotel group who has curated a handful of rooms into cool, contemporary suites.

you can see the gardens on a map just a stone's throw away from the popular Bordoni gardens 

The real bonus is sharing the lush gardens (the largest privately owned in Europe) with the homeowners. We got to explore the gorgeous grounds and bumped into the female owner, who was off to a music meeting for her daughter's wedding this September.

the decor in the lobby gives you a feel for the attention to detail throughout the property

As you can imagine, she will get married there, and coming right off ours, it was fun to share in the excitement during our brief exchange.


When selecting Ad Astra, we didn't even factor in its location on the opposite side of the river from the Duomo and major shopping streets.


Being on the "oltrarno" felt secluded in the best way as the entire city of Florence is still very accessible by foot.

The overwhelming out-of-a-movie scenery in Tuscany.

the view from the terrace at our B&B, Valdirose

Tuscany is too good to be true. William drove us to our various activities during our stay here, and I was in awe of how beautiful every square foot of the Italian countryside is.

the grounds of the hotel where we took a fantastic cooking class, Villa Bordoni

While a little research can't hurt, I think you'd be hard pressed to make bad plans in these surroundings.


Our bed and breakfast, Valdirose, was an idyllic basecamp for our three-night stay.


We enjoyed a wonderful vineyard experience at Tenuta Torciano and a really fun cooking class at the beautiful Villa Bordoni. Our stay in Tuscany was by far our most relaxing which was so welcome after planning a wedding.

The unique flavor of each town on the French Riviera.


Of all our trip, we poured the least amount of time into planning France, but it ended up being the perfect exclamation point to our trip.

We stayed in the charming cliffside town of Cagnes-Sur-Mer, and we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to navigate from one coastal town to the next.


It was well worth a visit to each one as they all have a unique flavor and can be explored by foot in half a day.


Saint Paul de Vence was my personal favorite; it's an artist village chocked full of charm and quaint cobblestone alleyways flooded with flowers.


Monaco was like nothing I'd ever seen. The yachts on the harbor complement the fancy cars along the highway, and our night gambling at the casino was a fun departure from our typical dinner date night.


Villefranche-Sur-Mer epitomized the colorful, happy visions I had of the Rivieria.


Nice had a lot more action--we went to the farmers market and spent an afternoon at one of the umbrella beaches with a bigger crowd.


Antibes has the most relaxing, remote beaches, and our sunset dinner overlooking the water was what romantic dinner dreams are made of.


The trip was nothing short of amazing, and we felt so fortunate to have this trip and memories to treasure forever. While our travel bucket list is long, we loved basking in our newlywed bliss in romantic Europe. More deets to come!

More deets to come - ciao for now!

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Gone to Carolina

7.31.2018

working on last minute details of the wedding, honeymoon and cross-country move from home 

I've been waiting for the perfect time to start posting on BOD again. To blame my absence on this anticipation for impeccable timing wouldn't be entirely fair--we've been prettay busy.

checking on the reception build an hour before taking off for a house hunting weekend in NC & a week out from the wedding
I laughed when people would ask me if I was "done" days leading up to the wedding. You're never done! I'm still not done! Not complaining--it's just my lame excuse for an almost six-month sabbatical.

brought my big girl camera to the honeymoon and was reminded how rewarding it is to get behind a non-iPhone lens
This morning, I read a piece from one of my favorites on her indecisive nature starting to seem more like a "curious form of perfectionism." I think a very similar thing is procrastinating my posting, so I'm putting an end to it today.

the outdoor halls of Kenan Flagler Business School at UNC, where William will enroll this fall

When I logged back into Blogger, I saw this post in my Drafts section and figured the update needed to go live since it's a biggie. A quick flashback to 5/9....
Today marks one month out from our wedding day. Needless to say, we cannot wait, but I think I will wait to divulge any more details and instead, share some exciting news for us as newlyweds.
We're moving to North Carolina! This time last year, William started preparing to study and apply for a graduate business degree. From the beginning, we both agreed moving out of Texas would be a good breath of fresh air for us both. When we got engaged, it seemed like the perfect way to start our married lives together. My blog is in large part inspired by my sister, who started her expat blog upon moving overseas with her husband immediately after their wedding. She values that time so much and strongly supported us moving, at the very least, out of state.
We fully intend to return to our Texas roots in two years time, but we're so excited about this next step.
In between getting married and a honeymoon overseas, we are attempting to move, get new jobs, find a home and establish a foundation for life together. Wish us luck! 
having afternoon cocktails (post Garden of the Gods hike) at Hotel Poseidon in Positano on #honeyjune
Well, we're here! Four countries, a flat-tire U-Haul, two strikes on signing a lease, a cross-country wedding, two AirBnbs and a family vacation later, we are in Chapel Hill, only one sleep away from living in our first home.

our shower in May was when we first announced our UNC decision, and I serendipitously wore the signature Carolina blue
This whirlwind has been incredible and most certainly a summer we will never forget. This Sunday, we'll celebrate a year since we got engaged, and it's wild to think about the year-long road that got us from then to now.

said U-Haul with said flat tire *sigh*
I wouldn't change a thing (except maybeee the U-Haul) and can't wait to see what the Chapel Hill chapter brings.

one of my favorite photos as we first entered the fairytale reception, captured by Joe Cogliandro

I stay pretty active on my Instagram and plan to post lots more on the wedding, honeymoon, life in North Carolina and other travels in the weeks to come.

Love to all! Glad to be back.


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