North Carolina: Sightseeing in Topsail, Wilmington, and Durham!

It’s been three days since I got back to California. While I definitely missed the San Francisco fog while I was in North Carolina, now I’m missing being able to walk across the street and onto the beach.

It was my first time in the south, and my first time getting to dip my toes into the Atlantic. I’d never heard of Topsail before this trip, and if you haven’t, either, just know that it’s like every cute little east coast beach town you’ve seen in the movies.

I went with family to go visit more family, so most of our time was spent visiting, but we did see a few places that blew my mind in a variety of ways.

The first was The Copper Penny in Wilmington. Now, I wasn’t expecting much, since my North Carolinian relatives called it “pub food,” but then they mentioned that they just wrapped filming part of an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives there a short while ago and I started to get excited.

Y’all.

It was so good. We ended up getting an order of their handmade spring rolls and chose the “get both” option, so we got 4 southwest black bean rolls and 4 cheesesteak rolls. I thought I’d died and gone straight to heaven. I only got to have one of each, and both of them were so amazing I would honestly go back to North Carolina just to pick up a few orders of The Copper Penny’s spring rolls. The egg roll wrapper was crispy and perfectly fried without being greasy, and the insides of both kinds of roll had this amazing creamy texture.

I also ended up getting a spring mix salad because I was hungry but not starving and needed some greens, and it did not disappoint. I don’t tend to order salad in restaurants because I find it tedious to eat, and if I’m paying for food, I usually want there to be a little more protein in it. But that didn’t matter, mostly because the candied pecans absolutely stole the show. I don’t know how to describe them, but they were so crispy and delicious and filling that I actually felt completely satisfied by the time I ate my last bite of salad. The raspberry vinaigrette definitely helped tie it all together.

What I’m saying is, is that if The Copper Penny can make a salad that makes me swoon, you need to go. Wilmington is a fun town with tons of beautiful historic buildings and I’d love to explore it more, but if I ever get a chance to go back to NC, I’m hitting up The Copper Penny first thing.

On our last day on Topsail (pronounced Top-sull by locals, which is weird, but whatever), we drove to this donut shop that every single one of our family members and friends who live anywhere near Topsail wouldn’t stop talking about. Now I know why.

It’s called The Fractured Prune and they do donuts differently than anywhere else I’ve ever been. They make each donut to order and fry it right as you ask, so when you bite into your donut moments later, it’s still the warmest, freshest donut you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking a bite of. I’m a big fan of maple bacon donuts, so that’s what I got. It ended up being the best cake donut I’ve ever had, with maple glaze and cinnamon sugar topped with crispy bacon bits. I could’ve eaten a whole dozen of those alone. Everybody else raved about theirs, too, and we got a pretty wide variety of flavors. The experience of eating a fresh, warm, deep-fried cake donut is stellar, and if you’re near any of their other locations in other parts of the US, please take advantage of that fact. For me.

Our last major stop before our trip was Duke University, specifically the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. I’ve been to quite a few botanical gardens and arboretums, but I was still absolutely blown away by these ones. I really enjoyed the historic gardens area (the ponds are so pretty! So many cool trees! The really cool and slightly ominous Patrick Dougherty art installation!) and the tulip gardens were absolutely stunning.

It was a short trip, so I know there’s still a ton left that I want to explore in North Carolina, but I’m so glad I got to see what I did!

Where are your favorite spots in North Carolina? Also, what is Waffle House like?? I couldn’t convince my family to stop at one and I’m still a little bummed.

Advertisements

March Update

I finally feel like I’m out of the weeds and able to breathe more easily. Literally.

Back in September, I started complaining about just generally feeling gross. At first I thought it was just my generally terrible immune system, which likes to fall apart for about 6 months out of the year, leaving me with bronchitis that lasts for months and a constant feeling of malaise. From September through February, I had three or four low-grade fevers and could not stop coughing. Strangely, it didn’t seem like the bronchitis I usually get after a cold. It was mostly due to a constant tickle in my throat that never seemed to go away. It started getting hard to eat certain things because I felt like they’d just end up getting stuck in my throat the way popcorn kernels do.

I went to urgent care twice in about five weeks, and they were scratching their heads over what it might be. I took one strep culture, two rapid strep tests, one test for mono, and was prescribed antibiotics. Nothing helped. In between both those visits, I noticed my tonsils looking almost impossibly swollen, which explained the “something in my throat” feeling. I went to my usual doctor after about three months when it still wasn’t going away, hoping she might at least be able to confirm whether or not it was viral (which still felt weird, since I should’ve gotten over a virus much more quickly). She said my tonsils were really swollen and recommended I see an ENT, because she couldn’t confirm exactly what was wrong.

I finally got to the ENT, feeling exhausted by the whole thing and like a weenie for not being able to fight some basic infection. But I was a little heartened when he told me that my tonsils looked really, really swollen and he recommended I get them taken out, as the infection seemed unlikely to clear up since it just kept recurring month after month.

That led up to me getting my tonsils taken out last month, and I’m now starting week 4 of recovery. The first week after the surgery was pretty awful. It hurt less than I thought it would but also much more than I thought it would, if that makes sense. Drinking water hurt. Eating ice cream hurt. Accidentally eating something spicy was super painful, 0/10 do not recommend.

Luckily, everything is basically normal now except for the fact that sneezing hurts way more than you’d think it would. I can finally sleep properly because I’m not snoring anymore, and can eat like a regular human being again for the first time in almost half a year. You wouldn’t think I’d be super excited to have salad, but here we are!

I’ve been celebrating being tonsil-free for a couple weeks now, but my partner and I  culminated those celebrations this weekend with a few days full of frozen margaritas. (We… may or may not have finished an entire bottle of tequila this weekend.) I’m still trying to perfect my recipe, but I think my favorite of all the different combinations I put together was a strawberry-guava margarita that was absolutely stellar. I’ll have to take pictures next time I make them. There wasn’t much time to take photos this time around because they came out so delicious they honestly didn’t stay in the glass all that long.

After a weekend of enjoying margaritas and being cozy at home, I finally feel a little more ready to attempt to conquer the world again. Expect to hear a whole lot more from me in the coming weeks.

I made sushi!

And it didn’t turn out half bad!

I used Alton Brown’s sushi rice recipe (x). As I made it, I was really worried it was going to be way too salty and wouldn’t have enough vinegar flavor. I was kind of right – by itself the rice tasted way too salty – but once it had cooled and I had put it into rolls and combined it with all the other ingredients, it didn’t taste bad at all. I definitely still want to tweak the recipe and figure how to get it exactly the way I prefer my sushi rice, but this recipe is a great base.

I ended up putting thinly sliced cucumbers and carrots, imitation crab, and canned tuna into the rolls and they turned out really wonderful considering how quickly I was able to put them together. Honestly, slicing the veggies probably took the longest. (I’m really bad at uniformly slicing anything.) The actual process of rolling everything together was surprisingly easy. I’m planning on making more this week and definitely want to take photos and share the process. I had always been really daunted by the idea of making sushi rolls and I want to show that it’s a lot easier than you’d think.

But for now I need to try and study for my last two sit-down finals and try not to panic. (I just keep telling myself I’m gonna be okay. I have my cap and gown and honors cord already. Even if I do miserably I’m gonna walk across that stage and have my degree. It’s all okay.)