Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Congrats, Dr. Gwyn!

Graduations are bittersweet. Moving onto new places to test out the knowledge and skills one acquired in school is exciting, but leaving the places and people who shared all those memories and experiences behind is sad. Of course we all try to keep in touch, but the reality is that those days from school will be forever gone and being a phone call away comes to a closure with graduation.

Yesterday, my dear friend, Gwyn, defended her dissertation and finished all her requirements for graduating with a Ph. D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gwyn and I became close friends when we met in 1999 as fellow graduate students. We have had many nights of fun and goofiness, and she was a fellow ninja in the notorious Halloween festivities in 2000. She was also the only other girl in our entourage when a bunch of us headed to Japan in 2001. Gwyn and I have visited each other frequently, especially after the Mogurin moved back to NC. Gwyn will now be moving out of Chapel Hill and heading to Washington D.C. to start her post-doc this summer. Our days of cruising around Chapel Hill together is coming to an end, and as happy as I am for her new life, I am a little bit sad that changes are inevitable.

Gwyn's dissertation defense was the reason for my brief visit to NC this week, and she excelled in presenting a clear, interesting story behind her work from these past several years. She did a great job generating an exciting discussion among the members on her thesis committee, and she was rewarded with a much deserved degree on the spot. To celebrate, the Mogurin and I joined her family, including Fiance Nic, and another friend, Jana, for dinner at one of our favorite restaurant, Panzanella, in Carrboro, NC.

Panzanella is one of the few spots in the area to have very nice outdoor seating. Despite the glorious, if not humid, summer evenings in NC, there are few restaurants with outdoor seating in Chapel Hill and its neighboring town, Carrboro. Panzanella is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal outside, especially at this time of the year before the summer heat and himidity really kicks in. The other neat thing about Panzanella is that it is a co-op owned and operated restaurant; the same co-op that runs the environmentally and socially conscious Weaver Street Market owns Panzanella, providing hormone and antibiotic free meats and local produce for their Italian-inspired menu. The Mogurin and I are big fans of Weaver Street Market, and as a co-op member, I worked in the pastry bakery there for a few years while I was in graduate school. Making the desserts that were served at Panzanella during my time with the Weaver Street Market bakery is a great source of pride for me when I look back at my accomplishments in NC, rivaling some of the work I did in science!

The four of us have had many wonderful meals at Panzanella, and last night was no exception. From appetizers to main courses, we enjoyed our meal and the company very much. I had a lovely skirt steak with a corn and potato hash. My steak was done just right with enough tenderness and juiciness without being bloody. Nic was less fortunate and had an unusually rare portion, but smiled and moved on, as Nic is so very good at doing.

The Mogurin and the Dad had pork chops; they sat at my end of the table along with Garrett - hence, the pictures! The sweet scent of the pork marinade permeated the air, and the rainbow chards looked very pretty, adding a nice dash of color to the plate. Both the Dad and the Mogurin cleaned their plates quickly!

The Mom and Garrett enjoyed the Vegetarian Strussel you see here. Eleven-year old Garrett sat next to me and was a perfect gentleman during the entire meal. Even more impressive was his performance at his big sister's defense – which I suspect was a total bore for him... But he sat there patiently, admiring his sister as she gave her seminar!

We then went over to a jazz club where Gwyn's thesis advisor organized a lovely get-together over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. He even played the piano for us! And best of all, Gwyn was smiling all night long!

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