Liberty, Justice, & a Cute Table for All

Now I love me some Fourth of Juleeeeeeeee.  The whole ritual just screams summer.  Burgers, beer, corn on the cob, baked beans, (hopefully) sunshine…just some good ole American daytime fun that carries well into the evening and ends with a bang of fireworks.  Sign. Me. Up.

However, anyone who knows me at all also knows that I take serious issue with plastic utensils and paper plates (curiously, Solo cups don’t offend me, unless you’re pouring champagne in them).  My only problem with the Fourth is that it can border on being trashy if you’re not careful.  So let’s make Merica’ proud and do her justice with a classy tablescape.

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The table runner here is actually a scarf that I bought several years ago for less than $20.   But really you could even buy a few yards of navy star fabric at Jo-Ann Fabric and fold it and press it into a runner with an iron.

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 9.28.42 AMLike this gem at 3.99 per yard!  #Nobrainer

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Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures.  I found these wooden starfish for $2 each and decided they’d be the perfect way to incorporate stars since we live at the beach.

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With respect to flowers, less is more.  I picked up these red dahlias at Trader Joe’s for $3.99 and dispersed them in small, simple bud vases.

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But white hydrangeas really do represent the American summer dream and you might even be lucky enough to have some in your backyard or neighborhood.   When I lived in San Francisco there was a gorgeous hydrangea bush in my courtyard filled with lush blooms year-round and I would often sneak down after dark to clip a few for my apartment.

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Keep your eyes open when looking for Fourth of July decor.  Michael’s, Target,  and Jo-Ann Fabric all have diamonds hidden in the rough.  These pillows for example, were buried in the Dollar Spot section at Target (though everything I like there always seem to be in the $3 bin,  which is really just so typical).

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Placed on a chair it’s kind of cute, right?

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NBD.

***Title cred:  Chad Yu & Kellie Reince

 

 

 

 

10-Minute Fig & Goat Cheese Crostini

Fig.  Figment.  Figure.  My sister and I had a lot of fun trying to come up with a title for this blog post.  Some of our finer creations included “A ‘Fig’ment of Your Imagination” or “Even an Idiot Can ‘Fig’ure This Out” and of course my personal favorite, “Gettin’ Figgy With It.”  But in the end, the truth prevailed, and nothing sounded quite as catchy as the name of recipe itself.

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There are two seasons for domestic fresh figs; the first or “breba” season is the first few weeks in June. The second or “new wood” season typically runs from August through October (thank you, Google).

Whenever I start to see figs appearing in the grocery store, I think of warm summer nights and impromptu gatherings. Friends or neighbors popping over for a drink while we effortlessly throw a piece of meat on the grill.  And while we don’t want to make it a big deal, we also know we want the evening to be perfect.  Trust me, this appetizer will set the tone for the entire night, and perhaps even the entire summer.

Stop at the store and pick up figs, goat cheese, a baguette, and a balsamic glaze (Trader Joe’s makes a great one that is excellent for $2.99).

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Preheat your oven to a broil.  We have 3 settings for our broiler and I usually do 2, or medium.  Wash and quarter the figs.

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Thinly slice the baguette.

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Cover each slice with a generous smear of goat cheese.

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Place on a baking sheet lined with foil.

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Cover with fig pieces.

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Drizzle with balsamic glaze and broil for about 3-4 minutes.  WATCH THEM VERY CLOSELY!!!  You do not want to get distracted and leave the kitchen or they will burn.

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Voila!  NBD.

 

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

So here’s the thing: the thought of long stem red roses, baby’s breath, and a decadent, ornate vase literally makes me want to throw up in my mouth.  I would rather be the recipient of a sole, dead dandelion (and at least then, I could make a wish).

I will never forget circa 2006 when my girlfriend and I were living in San Francisco and her then boyfriend sent her a bouquet of red roses from Walmart.com for Valentine’s Day.  Their relationship ended shortly thereafter (obviously).

Since then, I’ve been steering clear of roses altogether, but a few weeks ago I was enjoying coffee in our garden and the scent of our fresh, fragrant roses took me back to a time when I didn’t have such disdain for this innocent, beautiful flower.  After all, it’s not the poor rose’s fault Hallmark exploited it.

So I decided to give them a go, and I’ve since concluded that they are perfectly lovely (and indeed classy) when cut short.

You’ll start with a bouquet from Ralph’s or some other god-awful chain (and hopefully you won’t pay more than $9.99 for a dozen).

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Start by pulling apart the roses and one by one, picking off the leaves and clipping the stem.

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Make sure the bottom of the rose hits the top of the vase.

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Keep going, one by one placing them in the vase.

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Eventually you’ll end up with a pile of leaves and thorns.

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And a beautiful, small bouquet that looks something like this.

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So sweet it kind of makes my heart hurt.

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NBD.

Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat

When we moved into our house in 2009 we gave it a minor facelift, knowing that the ultimate goal would be to add square footage (and whether that means building up or building out, we are just now trying to figure out, almost 7 years later).  We gutted the kitchen, skimmed the walls, put in bamboo floors, and repainted the interior and exterior.  Though my husband and I hated the Boogie Nights retro fireplace, we agreed it was hardly worth the effort to rip it out when a major remodel loomed before us in the not-too-distant future.

So we made do with the space, and honestly, I kind of quit noticing the eyesore (except when I saw it in photos and thought, “WTF is that doing in our house?”).

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Recently, we have been meeting with architects in an effort to get the ball rolling with our project.  Because we live in a small beach community where Design Review is notoriously challenging to work with, we know the remodel could literally take years and it’s important that we find the right person for the job.

So a couple of weeks ago we had an architect come to the house for a  consultation and as we were walking him through our space I said, “Obviously the fireplace will need to go…we HATE IT.”  And he looked at it thoughtfully, tilting his head and suggested, “In the meantime, you might just paint it the color of your ceiling, because then it’s just a different texture.”

I literally cannot believe that we’ve lived here for almost 7 years and neither of us has thought of this!  I work at Houzz for God’s sake, staring at home design photos all day long.

As I shared in my last post, we had no Easter plans to speak of and I figured there was no time like the present to get started with our “little” project.  NBD, right?  We’ll just slap some paint up there and call it day. But like most home improvement projects, this one ended up taking 5 times longer than we anticipated and involved multiple trips to the hardware store.  In other words, it was kind of a big fucking deal…the prepping, the priming, the drying, the caulking, the painting, disassembling the mantle etc.  But I can’t really complain, because let’s be honest, I sipped my rosé and played Candy Crush while my husband worked like a mule well into the evening.

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3 days and 7 paint brushes later, we were both ecstatic with the end result.

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It’s so much lighter and cleaner, don’t you think? ***Don’t mind the painter’s tape we’ve yet to pull up.

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Not a big deal unless you make it one.

The Energizer Bunny

This is the first Easter I can recall in my entire life where I have literally had nothing (huge emphasis here) to do.  The boys are traveling for spring break, our family is far away, and our friends are with their own young children.  I am typically Martha Stewart on crack…cleaning, cooking, assembling Easter baskets, ironing napkins, plucking flowers from the garden, and psychotically photographing every second (at the risk of absolutely missing the moment itself).  But this year…well, this year is different. And as one of my dear friends said, it’s 3/4 amazing and 1/4 terrifying.

Now, I don’t know if we’ve met, but let me state for the record, I am not good at doing nothing.  I twitch at the thought of stillness.  My husband has taken to calling me the Energizer Bunny, which I’m pretty sure is not a compliment.

And yet still the idea of doing nothing sounded good to me…problem being, I could not execute.  So instead I became executive director of a seemingly small home improvement project, thinking it would serve as my NBD blog post, but let’s be honest, it’s turned out to be a BFD-  big fucking deal.  More to come on that.  **STAY TUNED

So while my husband painted (that’s your hint), I whipped us up a quick little brunch.  And it was so beautiful and colorful and healthy and cheerful, I had to share.

Let’s start with our cocktail.  A Greyhound seriously might be the most refreshing drink ever, but you cannot use anything but fresh grapefruit juice.

Start by washing and halving your grapefruits.

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Then juice them (If you don’t have this Aroma juicer, you need to really step up your game).

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You’ll end up with something like this.

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Fill glasses with ice and cover with vodka and a splash or two of St. Germain.

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Fill with grapefruit juice and treat each sip as a blessing.

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Next up:  berries, cottage cheese, and nuts. In my opinion this is the only cottage cheese worth purchasing.

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Wash fresh berries.
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Place in a bowl with cottage cheese and sprinkle with whatever nuts you have on hand (almonds, pistachios, or pecans).

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Now we’re ready for avocado toast.

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Slice the bread and toast.

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Cook the eggs.

 

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Get out your flake salt, pepper flakes, and avocado.

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Spread avocado on the toast and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Cover with egg and voila….

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Happy Easter!

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NBD.

You Can’t Hurry Love…or Can You?

 

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What are you supposed to do when it’s the Thursday before the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend and you realize you should really bring in something festive for your team at work (being that they are the loves of your life when you’re away from your family, not to mention that you spend 40+ hours a week with them and all).  Only hiccup is that you still have to get the kids off the bus, then there’s karate and beach volleyball practice, and lunches to be packed, and homework to oversee, and dinner to be made, and hair that hasn’t been washed since Monday, and nails that are chipping, and ideally you’d sneak a run in at the track (but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen).

And I’m sorry, but I can’t half ass things, so going to the grocery store and buying pre-made cupcakes or sugar cookies is not an option.  That to me is about as depressing to me as an unmade bed.

My solution was actually surprisingly simple and involved just a quick stop at Ralph’s on the way to dropping the boys off at their activities.

I grabbed regular and red velvet Oreos, festive sprinkles, white and milk chocolate morsels and I was on my way.

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I fashioned a double broiler out of a bowl and a pot of boiling water and poured in the white chocolate morsels.  Side note: you cannot melt chocolate on a direct flame or it will burn…been there and done that.

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I learned 2 bags of morsels later that white chocolate does not melt easily because it’s not really chocolate.  However, Google advised that pouring in a tablespoon or two of canola oil or vegetable oil when it’s starting to melt will keep the consistency creamy and smooth.  What did we do before Google?

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The milk chocolate melted much easier and didn’t require as much work as the white chocolate.

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Then I dipped the Oreos half way in the melted chocolates and laid them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper, sprinkling them immediately.

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The color combos feel so festive, don’t they?

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Then I popped the trays in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until the chocolate hardened and they were ready to be dispersed into treat sacks.

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I tied some red and white twine around them and called it a wrap.

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Only problem is we are still finding sprinkles stuck to our bare feet even after several runs of the vacuum, kind of like glitter from gift wrap that won’t go away.  But whatevs, I’m so laid back I hardly notice it.  🙂

NBD.

 

 

 

A Note on Holiday Notes

love holiday cards. LOVE.  But my absolute faves are the ones where someone actually took the time to write a handwritten note.  With all the effort that goes into sending them, it seems such a pity to just toss them in a basket, or worse, the trash.  So instead, I prefer to display them.

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I nailed a piece of white ribbon across the top of our kitchen doors and used hand painted clothespins to hang them.  Paper Source typically has a great selection, but I have no doubt Amazon Prime could have them on your doorstep by the time you finish reading this post.

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Trust me, it only gets cuter as the cards keep rolling in.

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NBD.

Turning Into White Pumpkins at Midnight

 

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This is actually a serious question, but as I type it, I realize it’s one only a very privileged, first world citizen would ever ask:  What the hell are you supposed to do when it’s the day before Thanksgiving and you can’t find the white mini pumpkins you’ve been planning for months to use for your Thanksgiving tablescape?

I literally scoured the corners of Southern California supermarkets (Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Pavilions, Wholefoods, Gelsons, Bristol Farms…shoot me now) before accepting that my mini white pumpkins were not going to be found again until September 2016.  They’d all been replaced by poinsettias and cinnamon pinecones.  Problem #2345 with Americans:  we cannot live in the moment and are always looking ahead to the next holiday before the first has come to pass. But I digress.

Fortunately I still had all my mini orange pumpkins from Halloween, though obviously orange wouldn’t work for my silver, winter white, sage green and grey theme.  Orange is so October and we are only using it as an accent color in November.

So I picked up can of spray paint. And BTW, thank you Ace Hardware for employing the most helpful young man who didn’t snicker when I told him what I intended to do with my purchase (my best guess is there’s a neurotic, perfectionist woman somewhere deep in the corners of his life).  He guided me to an ivory semi gloss paint that turned out to be the perfect choice.

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So I set up camp outside.  Don’t mind our dead grass.  You can thank the California drought for the lovely backdrop of my project.

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I put tape on the stem of each pumpkin to keep it from the spray paint.
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Then I sprayed a nice even coat over the pumpkins and I’m not going to lie, this is deeply satisfying.

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Then I set them to dry over night.

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I pulled the tape off the steam and voila…white pumpkins.

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NBD.

Gratitude: Baked at 350 & Wrapped in a Brown Paper Bag

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 “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it.”

– William Arthur Ward 

This is one of my favorite quotes.  Like ever.  And since I’m seriously dead over this pumpkin bread and Thanksgiving is around the corner, I figured we all might as well bake a few loaves and use them as a means to give thanks.  We all know someone that we could do a better job of appreciating, whether it’s a co-worker, a gardner, a neighbor, or a teacher.  This bread is as simple as it is delicious. It’s an old southern recipe from a dear Savannah debutante, tried and true for generations.   Wrapped in a recycled brown paper bag and tied with twine, it’s a perfect no-fuss way to express gratitude.

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In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together 3 1/2 cups of flour, 3 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon allspice.

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In a large bowl, mix together 1 can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix) 2/3 cup water, 4 eggs, and 1 cup of vegetable oil.

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Mix with a hand mixer until smooth.

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Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet (in batches).

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You will end up with a smooth batter that looks something like this:

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Pour evenly into 2 loaf pans and bake at 350 for an hour and 15 minutes.

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Pull from oven and let cool.  If possible, save for the next day so the spices can settle.

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Wrap bread in aluminum foil and get a brown paper bag from the recycling bin.  You’ll need tape and scissors too.

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Cut the bag and flatten it (writing facing up).

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Place the aluminum wrapped loaf in the center of the paper and wrap it as you would a gift.FullSizeRender (20)

Tie with twine and a few fallen leaves (I had to hike a few miles to find some, but even in sunny So Cal I pulled it off).

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If you’re feeling really grateful, include a bottle of wine or Prosecco.

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NBD.

Willing Fall During Indian Summer

I am SO. OVER. IT.

Seriously California, if I wanted humidity and heat I would have moved to Florida (and at least wouldn’t pay income tax, not to mention I’d be closer to my beloved family).  The fact that we are in the second half of October and I can’t even look at a pair of jeans without sweating actually makes me angry.  Don’t even get me started on the new sweaters and boots sitting in my closet, tags on, snuggled in their boxes, unworn and unnecessary.  I really can’t.  Instead I reach for one of the same three maxi dresses I’ve been wearing all summer; the only ones that don’t actually touch my skin.  No matter how many times I’ve cleaned them, they still have the faint lingering scent of sunscreen, which is really the anthesis of true fall fragrance.

Normally by this time of year my house is covered with gourds and pumpkins and accents of orange and brown.  This year it just feels wrong to put a pumpkin on a table, much less an outdoor stoop, where it will likely rot in the sun long before Halloween.

Last week, out of desperation (and perhaps hope), I bought a scented candle at Bath & Body Works, called Leaves. We’ve taken to lighting it every night when the sun goes down and my husband I both agree that it provides a comforting, albeit pathetic, mental shift that perhaps the seasons are changing after all.

But nothing really says fall like the smell of a pot roast slow-cooking all day. As my husband commented, “It’s like fall air freshener!”  It takes all of 5 minutes of work (and then 8 hours of cooking) and your house will smell amazing, whether it’s 90 degrees or 30 degrees. And arguably the best part is that you don’t have to make your house hotter by turning on an oven.

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You’ll need a 2 to 2.5 pound roast, some red potatoes,  carrots, an onion, thyme, bay leaves, beef broth, salt, pepper, and a little red wine (but only if you have a bottle opened, which we always do).

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Slice an onion into long pieces and divide in two parts.

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Peel the knotty parts off the potatoes and scrub them.

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Put half of onions, potatoes, and pre-peeled and cut baby carrots at the bottom of the slow cooker.   Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.  This will create a “bed” for the meat to rest on.

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Rinse the roast and then lay the cut of meat on top of “bed” of veggies. Cover with the remaining onion, potato, and carrots.  Garnish with a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and maybe some onion and/or garlic powder.

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Add 1-2 cans of beef broth (roast should be about 3/4 covered) and a 1/4 of red wine.

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Cover and simmer on high for about 8 hours, or until tender.

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The roast should easily fall apart with a fork.

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I served with roasted brussel sprouts, but a side isn’t even necessary.  And there you have it:  fall.  No big deal.