Category: musings


Weekend Gourmet: Piedmont (or Misadventures in Beets)

Posted 26 February, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

Piedmont Logo

Piedmont: Durham, North Carolina

Experience Date: Saturday, February 25, 2017

Price: $60 per person, with wine pairings, four courses

Mr. SFR is up in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina for a period of time due to his job, so I flew out this past weekend to go see him. He made reservations at Herons, which I hope to write a future post on because it was fabulous and magical, and Piedmont which… was not. I don’t think I’ve ever written a truly negative restaurant review here – but if nothing else, Piedmont has inspired me to do that.

Before we get to the food, I’ll start with saying the atmosphere wasn’t great – right off the bat. We were seated upstairs and it seems as if the kitchen doesn’t have enough ventilation because looking across the restaurant there seemed to be a low level of haze.

Next let’s talk service. We ordered cocktails almost as soon as we sat down along with a snack of buffalo brussel sprouts. (I’ll get to the flavor in a moment.) The brussel sprouts came – no cocktails. To be fair the waiter did apologize for the delay. We went ahead and put in our order for the tasting menu – no cocktails. We finish the brussel sprouts and finally – cocktails! Literally two minutes later we get the first course of our tasting menu, which we’re not at all prepared to start because… you guessed it, we hadn’t finished our cocktails. Granted, $60 for four courses, plus wine pairings isn’t super expensive – but it’s expensive enough that I expect the kitchen and bar to be able to properly time out cocktails, food, and wine.

Okay. Let’s talk food. Apparently the prix fixe menu changes monthly. February was beets. Again, to be fair, I’m not overly fond of beets, but Mr. SFR threw down the gauntlet and I accepted the challenge. I’ve had many dishes that featured beets, which in the hands of master chefs, were absolutely delicious. But let’s start at the beginning.

Buffalo Brussel Sprouts

Buffalo Brussel Sprouts
Blue Cheese

As I mentioned, we started with buffalo brussel sprouts with blue cheese. These were absolutely delicious. They were roasted and then I assume, tossed in a buffalo wing sauce with some mild blue cheese sprinkled over it. No complaints here.

Bees Knees
Ramos Gin Fizz

The long awaited cocktails came out and they were absolutely delicious. The Bees Knees had just the right amount of honey and the Ramos Gin Fizz was a new concoction for me, I really enjoyed the heavy cream, citrus, and soda. So far, so good, right?

Rockfish, Green Olive, Beet, Sunflower Seeds, Almond Milk

First course. Since there were no preparation notes on the rockfish I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the server just dropped off the dish without explaining it, I had to pull out my phone and look at what we were eating again. Luckily I took a picture of the menu. This wasn’t quite a carpaccio – it wasn’t pounded out thin enough. It was raw, however, and the rockfish was largely tasteless. I tried to mix in the green olives and sunflower seeds for flavor, but I found in those bites the green olives completely overpowered everything. Underwhelming, but not bad.

Beets

Slow-Roasted Beet, Scallion, Trumpet Mushroom

Second course was where Piedmont truly lost me. What you’re looking at is literally just a pile of beets. The sauce underneath was okay, but seriously. It’s just beets. Where the scallion and trumpet mushrooms ran off to – I don’t know. But this dish was nothing short of awful. Presentation wasn’t exactly stellar either.

Lamb Mezzalune, Lindale, Beet-jus, Beet Greens, Pistachio

The third course was the main course, and had it not directly followed the pile of beets, it might have been decent. As it was, I was disillusioned by this point. The mezzalune pasta was a little overcooked and the lamb a bit gamey. I thought that with the earthiness of the beet-jus that maybe a beef or even a duck center might have been a better choice as it wouldn’t have been quite as gamey as the lamb. But, the dish was flavorful and the beet greens actually were surprisingly delicious as well.

Beet Cake, White Chocolate, Vanilla

Fourth course: dessert. Now, before we had even started the adventure, I knew that from previous experience that there was no way a beet cake was going to be any good. My own misadventures in beet cake came through an exceptionally terrible Weight Watchers recipe. Still, before things actually got started in earnest, I thought maybe in the hands of a talented chef – even beet cake could be turned around. Well, in the hands of the Piedmont chefs – it could not be. The cake was dry, those red crumbles to the side? Those are beet cookies – and they were completely inedible. I did take the little vanilla frosting dollops off the top and eat those – it was basically butter cream frosting – hard to go wrong with that.

Overall: This will come as no surprise at this point – don’t do it. The prix fixe menu experience – top to bottom – was terrible. Morbidly, I asked the waiter what the seasonal prix fixe menu for March is: rice. I can’t recommend trying that out. What I can recommend is maybe stopping into Piedmont for a cocktail before moving on to somewhere else in Durham for a nice dinner.

That’s all I got, Reader. Anyone else have any misadventures in beets? Maybe yams?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Getting Motivated

Posted 5 February, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

sunday salon books

Hello, friends. I know it’s been a minute since I showed up here. I want to thank all of you for the kind words you sent in response to my Dear Friend post. It was a difficult post both to write and to decide to keep it live. (I apologize for the insane punctuation in it.) I work in a public job where I deal with many different types of people. Some of which might like to use my mental illness against me. I might also harbor thoughts of running for public office one day. Though honestly, in this current political climate and the more I realize about myself as a person, the more I realize my talents may be better used in a non-profit, like NAMI, Freedom from Religion, or the ACLU, rather than elected position. ANYWAY.

I’m trying to psych myself up to prepare for jury trials next week. I have three cases that may possibly go to trial and currently my preparation has been less than wonderful. There are still plenty of hours between now and Monday morning though.

I finally broke my running streak on Friday. For 38 days I ran at least a mile a day, most days more. I feel like my joints are thanking me for it. I think I might go back out today, I need to stay motivated. The endorphins help me, but unfortunately, they’re just not enough. Registration for the 2018 Disney marathon opens up in nine days, I plan to register.

Finally, the most interesting and relevant part to this blog, my reading has been better and more motivated than it was at the end of 2016. I’m working my way through the Tournament of Books titles at a semi-decent pace. I even have some thoughts in the back of my mind on reviews. I just finished Grief is the Thing With Feathers and absolutely adored it. Katie, my maybe, perhaps guest reviewer/future blog partner is working through the titles too – I’m hoping I can peer pressure her into writing some reviews.

That’s the status of things here in the beautiful state of Georgia, Reader. How are you? Are you motivated? How’s your reading? Exercise? Mood? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Dear Friend

Posted 24 January, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

Edit: I wrote this in the darkness, hit publish, and went to bed. When I woke up three hours later I regretted hitting the publish button – thinking this would be too alarming for friends and family, or that it would come across as attention-seeking, overly dramatic, or just plain ridiculous. Apparently though, those who did have the chance to view this in those three hours didn’t feel that way. I’ve gotten a number of emails that this meant something to some people. If I can shine a light in the dark to anyone, then I need to do that. I owe that to others who face similar demons and might possibly benefit from this.

–April

Dear Friend,

Perhaps you’ve never known anyone who has suffered from mental illness before. Perhaps you were never close with them. We have become close in recent years. All the same, I’m not sure you understand who I am at my worst.

At my worst, I am sad. But I am also more than sad: I am hopeless. This might seem like semantics — meaningless words, I promise you to me, it is more than that. When I say I am hopeless what I mean is that I live every day of my life with a low grade desire to die. Am I suicidal every day of my life? No. Not really. I don’t have a plan. I have no desire to readily accomplish hurting myself. Would I be upset if a truck hit me or lightning struck me? No. This is not a normal sentiment, yet it is what I live with. All day, every day. I’m not living the dream.

At my worst I tear up in my office. By the time I reach the point of tears, especially tears I show you friend, it’s too late. At my worst I tell you how lonely I am, but it feels like whining. Most days I smile and do my job as effectively as I can. I go to court, flatter opposing counsel, charm court staff, return to my office – close the door and cry a little.

These feelings verbalized, terrify most people. I don’t verbalize them very often – even to myself. I understand that they may terrify you as well. Stick with me, please.

I don’t have cancer, I don’t have diabetes. I wish I did. These diseases are understood, accepted, embraced by doctors – by citizens. No one tells a cancer patient to suck it up, get out of bed, and go to work. No one tells the diabetic they should be ashamed for taking insulin.

I’m okay. I’ll continue to be okay. But it’s a struggle for me. It’s the same struggle that millions of others live with every day. I know I’m not alone. And neither are you.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: On a Tuesday

Posted 27 December, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, musings

sunday salon books

Hello dear Readers, all four of you left out there. We’re reaching the end of the year which is always a time for reflection and plans. It’s a time to look back and see what we’ve done poorly and try to figure out how to be better in the coming year. While I can’t say that 2016 as a whole has been terrible for me, the past few months have been trying. This year my reading and blogging have both taken a serious hit. Some of this is because of working more, which is going well for the most part, some of this is because my anxiety and depression have been threatening to overwhelm me the past few months and I’m a little at a loss of what to do about that.

When I say I’m at a loss, I mean I’m at a loss of easy things to do about my depression and anxiety. Ignoring them and hoping they go away hasn’t been overly successful. It’s time to start (re)cultivating healthy habits and figuring out what’s going to work to make me a better person. I see two clear things I can do in front of me. One is a return to mental health self-care instead of ignoring my feelings and hoping they go away. I’m going to have to face some issues that I’ve had pent up for some time and work through them instead of continuing to let them fester. The second is a return to my running. I’m setting a goal to run the Disney marathon in January of 2018. A year is more than enough time to train for a marathon, especially since I’m not setting any time goal for myself. I just want to finish.

I’m hoping that through these two things, more plans and positive changes will make themselves apparent and I can work on strengthening my marriage, being a better mother, and perhaps figuring out what it is I want to do when I grow up and how to get there.

But what was good?

2016 wasn’t a complete wash for me. Good things happened and good things continue to happen. I’ve been at my current job for about eighteen months now, and I have to say my coworkers are fucking phenomenal people. It’s not much of a stretch to say that more or less, most of us are pretty much family to each other, and I’ll tell you ladies and gentleman – that ain’t nothing. Every time I start to feel frustrated or bored with the work, I remember what exceptional and meaningful relationships I’ve forged over the past year and a half. I am ridiculously grateful for that.

Speaking of relationships. 2016 allowed me to go to BEA and meet with some of the truly exceptional men and women that make up this community. While The Socratic Salon has lapsed and the five of us have moved on and gotten busy elsewhere, getting to meet Catherine, Marisa, Shannon (again), and many others was one of the highlights of my year. As always, I can’t not mention the beautiful and talented Monika and Jennifer, our chatting has been sporadic lately, but it’s so good to have friendships you can just pick up where you left off.

Since we’re on the topic of bloggers and blogging I think it’s time for me to make a decision on what to do around here. My reading has been low this year, I hope to address that in another post, and my writing has fallen off as well. I’m not going to set any hard fast rules for what’s going to happen here, but I do think that a certain element of my self care is going to be writing more, sometimes even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t know if that means reviews, or talking about my running (boring, I know), or what – but I have decided to renew the domain and host (largely due to the pep talk I got from Catherine)

Aside: As I was writing this I just found out Carrie Fisher died. Seriously 2016, what the fuck?

Anyway. Life is fleeting and this is all there is. Let’s look forward and decide to be better together. Shall we? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Trauma and Grief

Posted 13 November, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

sunday salon books

I wrote the bulk of this post early Wednesday morning. Since then I’ve been too shell-shocked, upset, and anxious to open it back up to edit it.

 

I sit here staring at my screen completely unbelieving of what has taken place in our country last night.

We’ve been told for years that sunlight is the best antiseptic. This piece of conventional wisdom was shot to hell last night. I thought that when the light was shined on Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynistic bullshit – the country would come together and reject that message. Instead, what we have seen is an embrace of said bullshit by millions of Americans. I understand and accept that many people who voted for Trump did so for economic reasons or because of jobs, or the way they felt about national security. This doesn’t change the fact that what he said, the way he acted, how he treated people wasn’t enough to turn voters away.

I am currently in the bargaining phase of grief this morning. I feel a lot like Republicans probably felt at the polls. ‘He’s awful, terrible, and completely incompetent… but maybe he’ll surround himself with people more competent with himself?’ Maybe he didn’t mean all those things that he said…? and he can’t do anything because surely Congress will block anything absolutely crazy he tries to do. I mean… they’re not actually going to let him build that wall. Are they?

What this election has led me to, I think more than anything else – is anger. I’m angry at the good people who rationalized Trump. I’m more angry at the people who gave a protest vote to Johnson, Stein, or anyone else – because Hillary just wasn’t likable enough. And those emails. I’m angry with the Democrats who just couldn’t get that excited about Hillary, so they stayed home.

A positive symptom of this anger is energy. This is how I hope these feeling play out for me in the coming weeks, months, and years. It’s what I want to encourage everyone else who is as angry, disappointed, surprised, and as frightened as me to do.

Get active.

Everyday Americans are affected an awful lot by local politics. It’s not as sexy as national politics, but it’s where most of us can make real, meaningful change. Go to city council meetings. Investigate local ordinances being passed. Inform yourself. Then inform others. Join a service club like Optimists International or Rotary, get to know your local politicians and what they’re doing – or not doing – for your community. Run for office yourself. Volunteer as a mentor to a kid. Volunteer as an escort for Planned Parenthood. Protest with Black Lives Matter. Do you. Whatever that means – do you. Need ideas? Jezebel has a great list here.

 

I don’t have any words to console you or fix anything. I’ve not been able to read much news since Wednesday morning, though I’m slowly easing back into that. My anxiety, social and otherwise, is off the charts. I went running on Friday and have intentions to go running again on Monday. I’ve never been so grateful that I deactivated my personal Facebook account in my entire life.

Go in peace.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Anxiety

Posted 17 July, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sunday salon books

Time // 6:41 PM EDT

Feeling // Wicked anxious. For no particular reason. I had a meltdown on Twitter today, at the pool. As I was saying, I’ve finally come to the point in my life, where for the most part, I don’t give a fuck what other people think about me. I’m comfortable with the way that I look, the job  that I do, the friends that I keep. Until I go out in public with The Girl. Then I lose. My. Shit. Is she bugging other people too much? Are they judging me for the way that she’s dressed? Am I paying enough attention to her? Too much attention to her? Helicoptering? Neglecting? On. And. On. And. On. My blood pressure rises, my heart starts hammering, and I usually feel frozen in place. It’s a terrible, awful, no good feeling that I don’t know how to shake. Anyway.

Reading //  I just finished up a book that I loved, except for the ending. I hate when an author takes a perfectly content atheist character and makes him/her find god. It’s so… trite. Also still working on Kathleen Glasgow’s upcoming YA(?) novel Girl in Pieces which is raw and powerful and awful in all the best ways. I’m in a reading slump and need to feel excited about something. Suggestions?

That’s all she wrote, Reader. How are you?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Hello July

Posted 3 July, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, memes, musings

sunday salon books

With June gone and July beginning in earnest I’m feeling the pressure of my Goodreads challenge weighing down upon me. I’m fifteen books behind schedule and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to pull out of this nosedive before the end of the year. I guess next year I’ll have to plan for job stress and family things.

I only managed to make it through four books last month and I’m hoping that I’ll do better in July. I’m working on Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines which is a thoughtful speculative fiction title due out on Tuesday. I’m also listening to Cronin’s The City of Mirrors which is the final book in The Passage trilogy.

In meteorological news, it’s so hot. I grew up in the south and have been back in Georgia for about three years now, but I never get over how damn hot it gets. We just got back from the pool. I hate the sun. I hate being tan. I hate burning more than all that. DESPITE all that I’m thinking that this summer I should take up swimming – because it’s aerobic and it keeps me cooler than running does in the 98+ degree heat. Still thinking the thoughts, trying to make a decision.

My best good friend (who also happens to be my trial assistant) came to the pool today with her boyfriend. I think that we’re about to embark on an evening of board games, booze, and fun. She has a DC Comics Deck Building Game that I suspect will be an excellent time as well as a Japanese board game that I haven’t played yet, but I am looking forward to.

Anyway. That’s my weekend thus far, Readers. What about you? Read anything worth reading? Done anything worth doing? 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: Excuses Edition

Posted 26 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sunday salon books

Forgive me internet, for I have sinned and it has been nineteen days since my last blog post. Well, it’s been nineteen days since my last blog post, anyway. I was going to start writing on the regular and … et cetera et cetera.

Let’s start with something relevant to the blog, like what I’ve been reading. I’m probably 100 pages shy of finishing The Fireman and it has been wholly enjoyable. I’m working my way through Before the Fall by Noah Hawley so I can book-club it with my new local-bookish-BFF who also happens to be dating my General Counsel from work. I also just got a magical care package from Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books with Sweetbitter and an upcoming Shirley Jackson biography which was the one book I really wanted but wasn’t able to get my hands on at BEA. (I promise Catherine, that Kindle Paperwhite will be in the mail this week…)

So, what’s been going on? Well, last Sunday Salon (three weeks ago?) I told you I was taking a case to trial that I desperately didn’t want to. It was a win… ish. Eight count accusation, seven acquittals and one conviction on the charge the defense attorney went in telling the jury to convict on. Sentencing pretty much went my way though, so… win? Doesn’t matter, it’s over. While that jury was still out deliberating I had to pick another jury and try another case, it was utterly exhausting.

The Friday of the week of all the jury trials I had to leave after work to go to a intensive week long training starting the next day (SATURDAY) in BEAUUUUTIFUL Forsyth, Georgia where I proceeded to work twelve to sixteen hour days for the next six days. That was the same week that the Pulse shooting happened and that the alligator ate the baby at Disney World and I just couldn’t with the internet.

I came home and Mr. SFR was gone and The Girl was with my mother and really all I could do was collapse into my bed and watch trashy television until last Wednesday. At that point I went back to work and had to bury myself in that… so no blogging.

Which brings us to today… I think it’s time to get reading. What’s new with you, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Sunday Salon: ‘Twas the Day Before Jury Trial

Posted 5 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sunday salon books

Time // 8:54 A.M. EDT

Thinking // About how I have to take a case to trial next week that I really don’t want to. I get that the idea of overworked public defenders is a way sexier news story than overworked prosecutors. (Also, malicious/improper prosecution is way sexier than the thousands of prosecutors that do their jobs properly and within the scope of the law every day.) But let me tell you, my office might represent The State, but it’s made up wholly of people – just people – handling enormous case loads. I can assure you that the vast power of the state is not so vast in backwoods Georgia. Anyway. I really don’t want to take this case to trial next week. Such is life.

Reading // Things. Lots of things. About 60% done with The Fireman – it’s got shades of The Stand in it… I’m liking it a lot but unsure if I’m going to topple over into loving it. Finished a weird little book that I picked up at BEA, I plan to write a review on it after this. Also finished re-reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Now I need to re-read The Twelve so I can pick up the thrilling conclusion in City of Mirrors.

Beginning // To run again. I got my two runs in last week and am aiming for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule from here forward (last Monday was a federal holiday, can’t run on federal holidays). It’s so dang hot and humid here I’m also considering taking up some type of swimming. The neighborhood pool is only about a half mile from the house and it’s big enough to do laps in – I don’t know, we’ll see if that works out.

So, that’s what I’m looking at, Reader. How’s your week? Anything exciting to look forward to?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Posted 30 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

fireman cover

Well, I went to Savannah on Friday with the husband for an impromptu holiday weekend for Memorial Day and some work detox. The problem is that Tropical Storm Bonnie came crashing into the east coast and it was a generally crappy time to be walking around in the outside. I say ‘problem’ but it was really not a problem for me, because it allowed me the weekend in the hotel room with Joe Hill’s newest novel, The Fireman. I finished up In a Dark, Dark Wood and meant to transition into another dead tree novel – but the husband was ready to turn the light off so I picked up my trusty Kindle instead.

The Fireman is a 768 page post apocalyptic chunkster. Naturally this means, I am loving it. I’m about halfway through and finding everything about it amazing.

Like I said, the weather in Savannah was crappy, but it didn’t stop me from eating all the things. I’m debating on whether or not to write a post about that. I need to write a review for In a Dark, Dark Wood – it’s the first BEA book that I’ve read that has been released – so that’s something to do.

I was thinking about joining Bryan in the 99 Days of Summer Blogging – but just in the next few weeks I have some pretty significant time commitments at work through trial week and being sent to GPSTC for training for another week, I’m just not sure that I can write anything worth reading every day for 99 days. I have a desire to revive the blog, but not to just hit the publish button just to publish. If I can get back to three times a week, I’ll feel okay.

So, it’s Monday! What are you reading? Turned into a little Sunday Salon as well. Let’s call it the best of both worlds. What are you reading, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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