Sunday, September 21, 2008

The week time stood still

Without electrical power – all that gadgets that we use to pass the time do not function long or at all, eventually the cell phone, iPod, and laptop need to be charged. Its within three hours of week without electricity to some parts of the greater Louisville metropolitan area, and to be frank it 'sucks' to not have power. I can't begin to imagine the losses faced by those who had to flee their homes because of the hurricanes. All that I can do is focus on what happened locally. My parents and I were without electricity – their house and my apartment are in neighboring cities and a mere five minutes apart from car if you are willing to ignore posted speed limits. My aunt's and grandmother's homes both had electricity. The damage to my home would be fixed and paid for by my landlord. My parents lost a few shingles that were easily replaced through the effort of Dad and his neighbors. My grandmother had some branches in her yard – but no actual damage to her house. My aunt and uncle lost some shingles and a patch of siding but nothing that rendered their house structurally unsound. All it took was a short drive to see that we got off lucky.

Large trees are beautiful to look at, they provide us with shade – helping keep our yards and houses cooler than they would be without them. Trees also help produce the oxygen we need to survive. It was sad to see so many trees – some many years older than me ripped out from the soil or to have large branches ripped from their trunks leaving raw alive wood exposed in gaping wounds that no amount of antibacterial ointment can heal. Once you looked past the destruction of the trees you could see the fences, windows, cars, and roofs damaged. You could see the wires ripped from polls entwined with the trees on the ground and in some cases see the polls themselves lying across the roads.

It made me realize how much more fortunate we were than a huge portion of the people who make up our community. We had family with power that could help us save the food in our refrigerators and freezers. We had bank accounts with large enough balances and well managed credit cards that would let us make the extra purchases we would need to. And we had the ability to rely on each other for strength and a love of reading books a hobby that does not require electricity until the sun goes down. Our hot water was provided through natural gas and the delivery of natural gas was not affected by the power outages. Thankfully for everyone – the week was free of rain and the temperature was remarkably cooler making it tolerable without the air conditioning running constantly.

The storms were bad enough that I did not have work on Monday and the majority of local schools were closed for the week. When we reported to work on Tuesday – I was sharing the lack of electricity with most of my work group. We were all thankful to go to work and have electricity. Fire departments and local schools became distribution points for ice, water, hot meals, and showers for those in need. Neighbors worked together to clean up the debris. Electrical company employees worked round the clock and many came from out of the area to help restore power to the 500,000+ without power in Souther Indiana and the Louisville area. When we did get the chance to watch TV or check the news on-line we were confronted with scenes of the devastation in Texas and news of the human made destruction on Wall Street. In all it made for a surreal week.

Power is coming back on around town. Schools are scheduled to re-open on Monday. Many churches did not cancel services this morning – but are meeting without electricity; encouraging congregations to sit in the front of the sanctuary and sing along with the piano instead of the organ. Stores and restaurants spent the week cleaning up, throwing away millions of dollars in stock, and eagerly awaiting shipments so that they could reopen. We will wait for a long time to see how many of the small businesses that were shut down due to the weather are able to survive. The local economy will be impacted throughout the rest of the year and into 2009 – especially as the U.S. economy quakes in lieu of the recent actions of the federal government.

All was not horrible this week – my cousin had a good prenatal check-up, I spoke often with my brother who is stationed in Iraq, I spent an excellent day with my niece, my cat enjoyed staying at my parents while I stayed at my aunts. Cairo enjoys all the furniture at my parents more than she likes any of my furniture – she definitely has good tastes. Cinnamon my parents beloved almost 13 year old golden retriever is recovering from an eye infection and though her increasing age and escalating health problems she remains cheerful. Cinnamon and Cairo are stellar at practicing the art of détente.

So – its now about 2 hours from the one week anniversary of the power going out. I find myself skipping church – with Cairo sleeping on my right and Cinnamon asleep on my feet. Tomorrow is my bonus day off work. Hopefully I will have electricity at home by the end of tomorrow – I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

One of my parents neighbors was generous and gave us a bowl full of backyard tomatoes – the basil in the backyard weathered the storm. This afternoon looks promising with a little electricity to help boil the water – it seems a simple lunch is in order giving us the rest of the afternoon to reflect and appreciate just how lucky our family was this week while at the same time encourage us to do what we can for those still suffering; not just from the storms but those who are struggling spiritually, emotionally, and financially in this country and in the rest of the world.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Damn when did it get to be the middle of June?

I swear just last week it was April - Mom and Dad were on separate vacations - I was dog and house-sitting. Suddenly it is the middle of June and I just spent 2 weeks dog and house-sitting... I am still living out of boxes in my apartment and that bothers me only when I am in my apartment so I am trying to minimize the amount of time I spend in my apartment. It's like I am playing passive aggressive tricks on myself.

I think that is because while I really like my new job and like 99.99% of the people - there is this passive aggressive culture that is stupefying. There have been several days when I just have to laugh about it and other days I think I could cry for the people playing those games. I have progressed enough to call it when I see it and not fall into the escalation game with people playing PA.

Today is Father's Day and I spent the day making Dad type food. Obviously this means that there was no tofu and bib lettuce in the meal. There was however a lot of pork - which I didn't mind fixing for him - especially after he filled up his plate for the second time and looked like he would stab anyone that tried to take his plate before he was finished.

Since today was full of a near sentient creature being eaten - I think my alignment for the day is somewhere waffling between Lawful-Evil and Neutral-Evil. Yesterday was good though - it was a completely veggie day. My mom, Aunt, and I had a retirement luncheon for a teacher friend - the meal was vegetarian but heavy on the dairy. We had quiche with brie and red peppers. Normally I do not like brie - it takes like mold to me. However the huge copious amounts of butter in the crust and quiche itself made the brie delicious.

I learned something interesting yesterday! I hope to put it into action sometime this week. I thought the cooking technique of confit meant to cook/poach something in fat/oil. I stumbled upon a cookbook yesterday from Eric Ripert and Micheal Ruhlman. Just the thought of Eric Ripert has me batting my eyelashes like a schoolgirl so I was intrigued and flipped through the book while a friend was checking out. I had already spent enough money or I would have gotten the cookbook. Confit of lemons is really preserving the lemons in salt. What could be easier? I am not sure anything could be. The most difficult part seems to be sterilizing the jars you are going to store them in. Luckily I grew up in a family that canned green beans, tomatoes, jams, and jellies. I do not find canning the least bit intimidating. So as long as I can procure some meyer lemons this week - I am going to try something suggested by Mr Gorgeous Chef Eric Ripert with the uber-sexy French accent.

Since we are talking about Eric Ripert - I will continue the topic! He was a guest sous chef on the Top Chef finale. I would have rather had any chef by Lisa win. I was thrilled Stephanie won. I was saddened for Richard but I was impressed with him admitting that he had chocked. However he has a newborn at home so he is a definite winner - just on a different front.

I am really really really really really really really missing Mount Pleasant. First - its like a freaking inferno around here. I blocked how much I disliked the heat and humidity. When your hair is soaking wet from just walking out your front door to the car it is time to not leave the house and sit near a a/c vent and just chill out.... or get some Ben and Jerry's and just cope with the heat. Since I am trying hard not to get a huge vat of Ben and Jerry's and suck it down with a spoon almost too big for my mouth I am quickly moving from air-conditioned area to air-conditioned area.

So tomorrow is my A-day, which means it is a regular work day but I don't have to go into work. That makes me giddy with excitement to think about not getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning. I have to get my apartment into better shape tomorrow, since I am excited to say I have a house-guest coming next Saturday. Not the kind of house guest that you make sure the sheets are clean and you shave things you might not always shave... but a great friend is driving from Little Rock to Mount Pleasant next weekend. I am luckily going to get to have her stay in New Albany with me on Saturday.

I am very excited for Angela to be headed up North to defend her dissertation! I know she will do wonderfully. I am also very happy for her and Bill to be on track to return to their beloved Northern California. Yeah!!!!

So enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Best Birthday Ever

Mom’s Birthday Celebration!!!

I believe in big birthday celebrations. I think it is important to gather family & friends together and have a good time. I am however not into extravagant spending or gifting. I want celebrations to be meaningful and fun. I also like there to be some fire… but luckily birthday cakes often provide this. I got to prep for Mom’s birthday by participating in my boss’s birthday at work. For the work celebration I whipped up a vegan black bean and corn salad. I didn’t do anything special to make it vegan – I just know that going into a workplace you never know if people have certain dietary restrictions (medial, religious, or self imposed). I wanted to make something that was tasty and was acceptable for anyone to eat who was up for the adventure. I definitely could have made it hotter with the addition of more peppers and chilies; however I thought the Anaheim and poblano peppers I chose added a nice bite to the dish. Not to mention that any dish with the color contrast provided that this one has is appealing to the eye. There were the black/purple beans, white & yellow roasted corn, green & red peppers/chilies, red onion, fresh cut herbs - There were textural contrasts between cooked beans, roasted corn, and uncooked – though marinated – veggies. In addition it was pleasing to the palate with acid provided by fresh limejuice and a splash of balsamic vinegar, a hint of sweetness from some maple syrup (instead of honey… it was after all vegan), some cayenne for heat, and enough salt to brighten all the other flavors. Needless to say I was thrilled there were leftovers that I got to enjoy for the next week.

So what did I cook for Mom’s birthday? Not a darn thing. Dad and I thought of some really great gifts to give her (pedicure, manicure, 2 dozen roses….) and she was well pleased by our thoughtfulness; then we jumped into the car (once I was off work) and headed out to dinner. We had an enjoyable meal at the North End Café on Frankfort Avenue. The food was spot on, though I was slightly disappointed in the temperature of our berry crumble dessert. This was my third trip to the restaurant and the food has never disappointed. However this trip involved service that was not as stellar as my first two visits. It was not bad enough to keep me from going back; it was just not what I expected based on my previous experience. I have yet to try them for brunch and when I have Delaney next weekend – she and I will definitely be going out to brunch…. Not sure if we will go to Lynns (Delaney’s favorite), or Toast, or North End, or venture to a not yet tried Wild Eggs )

Where was I???? Oh yes talking about Mom’s birthday. My aunt is having people over to her house for Mom’s birthday luncheon with the ‘girls’. Counting myself there will be 8 of us. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to cook. I left cookbooks at my parents with pages marked for my mom to look at. I questioned her endlessly about what she wanted to eat. I eventually wrote up a list of potential dishes and let her choose from them. Then the week of the party was suddenly on us and I have a full-blown allergy attack that renders me grouchy, tired and unable to taste food well. We are charging forward – she has procured the groceries and I have a schedule for preparing the food. I even bought two sets of prep bowls for my mise ! The most difficult item of the week was getting the right cut of chicken (sorry to all my veggie friends but I am going to talk about this because it pissed me off). I could not locate a butcher shop that was willing to butterfly and remove the ribcage and breastbone of the chicken (spatchcock is the technical term for this). I called a couple of shops and the response over the phone to this request was not what I wanted to hear. One butcher claimed it was not something that could be done – at least the other said they were not set up for the health codes that would be required to do this. So instead of getting this done for me – I will be attempting it on my own. I should go buy a new knife just for this!!!!!

Friday prep (2 hours)

Prepare marinade and begin marinating the chicken (fresh herbs, lemons, olive oil, salt & pepper)

Roast garlic

Roast red peppers

Make Hummus

Make the Green Goddess Dip

Make the crust for the chocolate tart

Than get to Bones’ house by 6:30 to play D&D – let the looting begin


Transport everything to my aunt’s house – and try to squeeze in a trip to the 1st farmers market of the season on Bardstown Road.

Finish Chocolate Tart (make filling and bake)

Prep veggies for appetizers

Toast Pecans for Salad

Make Greek Yogurt Sauce for Chicken

Whip Cream for Dessert

Sample sangria and margaritas as my aunt makes them!!!!!!

Prep fingerling potatoes and asparagus for chicken

Make salad dressing

Prep salad

Cook Chicken and Veggies

Assemble food for serving and get in a 2nd shower in time for the party at noon.

Menu (Recipes by chefs in parenthesis)


  • Israeli Hummus
  • Green Goddess Dip – (Ina Garten)
  • Breadsticks
  • Toasted points
  • Haricot Vert
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Radishes
  • Zucchini
  • Summer Squash

Sangria (Joe Castro)

On-the-rocks Margaritas (Joe Castro)



  • Limestone Bibb lettuce
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Crumbled Feta
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Toasted Pecans
  • Cherry Balsamic, Shallot, and Olive Oil Dressing
Greek Chicken (Jamie Oliver)
  • Marinated Chicken
  • Fingerling Potatoes
  • Roasted Asparagus
  • Greek Yogurt Sauce\


Fifteen Chocolate Tart (Jamie Oliver)

Fresh Whipped Cream and Raspberries for decoration

Vietnamese Coffee (Joe Castro)

Enjoy your weekend everyone! I know I will.

April Showers...

First off congratulations to Aaron and Anica!

(I am getting my passport in order in case the trip to Amsterdam comes through)

What the heck happened to March and do I really want that time back?

No I don’t really want that time back – nor am I really upset that it seemed to pass so quickly. It just does not feel like I have been in the Louisville Metro area for almost 4 months. Today it does not feel like it has been 4 months since I saw Mount Pleasant (MtP) and my abundance of wonderful friends and family there (while I am technically not related to anyone in MtP I consider many to be family). Perhaps on Saturday night when a large portion of that family will be together and I won’t be there I will miss them more than I do this Thursday afternoon. I have thus far resisted the urge to call them prior to 6pm on a Saturday or text them during the evening – considering I get easily irritated at those that do. Since moving from an area that was so rich with friends but poor in job opportunities life has taken some interesting turns.

While in MtP my job was a quagmire with no possibility of advancement and no possibility of work satisfaction. I am not sure why I came to just accept that. It was heinous to be in that job day-in and day-out for years, yet I stayed. Not only did I stay, I rarely even looked at other possibilities. Now that I have some perspective I see how doomed the situation was and how entrenched in dysfunctional behavior we all were. While I was often emotionally upset and battered by the passive-aggressive tactics I didn’t have the wherewithal to stop them or even call people out on them. Worse yet at times I could get dragged into the very tactics that stabbed huge holes in my soul and participate in them – only to beat myself up over it later.

So much was ugly and horrific to experience during this time that it is easy to loose sight of some good things. The best thing that ever happened to the clinic was Karen (and her wonderful spouse Mike). If Karen hadn’t been my boss for a short period of time the situation would have been even worse. We both survived the experience and got the hell out of the situation. I valued the working relationship we had and the leadership she provided. Now I am lucky and the three of us can just be friends – life-long friends. I also got to know some wonderful professors, administrators, and office professionals who were a part of the college (and not directly involved in problems at the clinic).

If it had not been for the support of the Elm St Gang and Jenn & Faron to whom I felt free to vent to about the situation I would have gone nuts. If it had not been for the wonderful clinical psychology students (and spouses) that I could lean on for emotional support and friendship I am convinced my despair and depression would only have been worse. (I am going to name some names but in no way is it a complete list: Aaron, Anica, Angela (Bill), Heather (Josh), Michele, Linda, Kevin Y (Kim), Kim, Chrissy, John (Heather), Felix, Erin, Chris (T), Jess, Carrie, Cheryl, Hina, Meagan, Andy, Leslie, Kevin T, Jason (Billie), Laura, Kelly, Saz, David, Raphael (Maggie), Justin, Jannel, Anna, Pam, Jim, Shelley, Katrina, and Nick & Sarah who transcended the division between graduate programs)

Now that I am out of the situation and the job that was killing me, life is much better – even though such a large circle of friends and family on a daily basis does not surround me. There were many days where I had blood pressure in the - you need to check into the hospital range. Since I decided to start looking for a job in the Louisville area (Middle to late October) through quitting my job my blood pressure got progressively better. I have not had a single high blood pressure headache (from a HBP surge) since November 14. Even though life has had its ups’n’downs and twists’n’turns since moving away from MtP – I have not felt like Sisyphus or Prometheus since walking out the door of the HPB for the last time on November 14, 2007.

Life has turned out to be pretty good in the Louisville Metro Area – better than I remember it being. My family has been a tremendous support and cheering section. My circle of friends is ever expanding. Best yet – there are jobs out there where you can be appreciated and rewarded. Jobs that don’t make you want to cry on a daily basis!

I found a job quickly and met some great people. I moved to a second job at the same place and returned to a career-permanent appointment and am enjoying it. I have interviewed for a promotion and am preparing documentation for another promotion in my free time. I don’t dread talking coming to work – I am not even resentful when the alarm goes off at 5:40 a.m. People smile here and mean it! I no longer cringe, spontaneously have a “WTF did I do now” look on my face, or feel my heart race to the precipice of having a panic attack when I have a conversation with my boss. People compliment your work and are appreciative or your help. I am not even looking through rose-colored glasses, I am well aware of existing problems such as difficulty finding quality employees and questionable internal customer service practices.

I even get a three-day weekend every other weekend at my new job. That is a huge morale boost and once things are settled I hope to take full advantage of them and go do fun things that I couldn’t afford while living paycheck to paycheck at a dead-end job. For instance – Mom and I are going to Cleveland soon. Why Cleveland? Well I want to try out Lola and the Velvet Tango Room Bar that Ruhlman recommended on his blog I think Mom is the perfect companion for an indulgent meal and a good drink. (Dad might cringe at the tab too much to fully enjoy it.)

Before going on an adventure to Cleveland…. I am going to go up and visit MtP family and friends. It has been too long since I saw them and enjoyed their company.

In the meantime – I am still trying to locate housing, which fulfills my requirements:

  1. Cairo is permitted – my 10+ yr old spayed and de-clawed cat

  2. Doesn’t appear to be next door to a crack house or meth lab

  3. Is in my price range

  4. Has off the street parking

  5. Has a kitchen with enough counter space to accommodate a decent size cutting board

  6. Doesn’t smell like smoke – from a previous tenant or people living next door/floor

This 3-day weekend looks to be quite busy. My aunt is hosting a birthday luncheon for my mother on Saturday for which I am doing the cooking. (Look for a separate post about the menu and cooking of the food.) I am playing D&D on Friday night. I get to spend Saturday afternoon and evening with my niece making dog biscuits! I have to get the house cleaned up well enough for my grandmother to return home from FL while at the same time packing to go stay at my parents for a week. And get my parents ready for their respective trips – Mom to Florida and Dad to Ireland.

In closing – I have to ask: Who made the decision at Top Chef to let Daniel Boulud wear a leather blazer as guest judge? It was way to shiny – especially at Judges Table. I crack up when they put captions of what he is saying on the screen, when he is easy to understand in contrast to the mumbling and bad speech patterns of the contestants.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where has all the time gone?

It is hard to believe that March is already half over. Have I really been living back in So. IN since early December? Is my grandmother really due home from FL in a month? Crap - I haven't found a new place to live or bought any furniture to replace what I gave away in MtP. The last couple of weeks have been a blur. Mom and Dad have had terrible bouts with bronchitis and my Grandfather's health has taken a turn for the worse, leaving him unable to live in his home. I've been a craptastic friend - not called people in MtP or my local friends. My job is rather social and when I get home - I just have trouble motivating myself to be social enough to talk on the phone. Enough of my bitching!

I started a new job on March 2nd. It has been a fun couple of weeks in the new office. I moved from having 24 employees to having 3 co-workers and a boss. It has been great to move into an office where the people function as a team and not a bunch of junkyard dogs in a pissing for territory contest. Its such a change from the HPB experience that I often wonder how I survived working there. Then I remember the answer - great friends that were caring.

Speaking of great friends - it's Larry's birthday on Sunday. Things were crazy with my parents and my grandfather this week and I never made it to the store to buy a card :(. I'll miss the singing of birthday songs at D&D. Honestly I will miss it - even if it makes every dog in a 10 mile radius howl. I also want to see how the insanity potion runs it course on Jaspia - maybe she can get a hold of the intelligent sword while her character is insane....

So back to this new job.... My computer accounts are not yet fully functional and I have spent a 'bit' of time spinning my wheels. What work I have been doing has been fun and well within the realm of things I like to do. For instance spending a day and a half researching information from local accredited universities and college for our Lunch & Learn and Tuition Assistance programs was lots of fun I was able to bring a perspective to the project that might not otherwise have been represented. I am looking forward to all the computer issues being resolved and further delving into other new projects and assignments. Did I mention how different this environment is than my last job - even if its the same gray colored Steelcase furniture in the office?

Another reason to be happy with life - its warm enough that even in the morning or the cool days its ok to wear Keens or Birkenstocks to work! Oh and no pesky micro-managed dress code that is impacting my hair style and color decisions or making me nervous too much of my left foot tattoo is showing through a pair or shoes.

So whats in store for this weekend.... Mom's cholesterol was higher than she wants it, so I am supposed to stock her house with food that is better than what has been keeping in the pantry and refrigerator. You don't have to tell me twice to do some shopping and cooking - so I am heading over to Creation Garden with plans for things I don't normally give thought to. It should be interesting and hopefully delicious. I also need to get Easter plans lined up - Mom was going to be in FL for the holiday but her plans changed, so I changed my plans to go to MtP. I decided we would have an open house and invite lots of people over.

I also have plans to catch up with friends this weekend. I need to make time to touch base with the people who are so often in my thoughts. In an effort to do so, I remembered to put my phone to charging.

I also need to work some on finding a place to live - Mamaw will be home before I know it. I love her and am very greatful to have had the chance to stay here; however our relationship will suffer if I am still living here past May 1.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Surviving February

What has another week brought? It brought definite good news for my friends Aaron, Anica, Chris, Sarah, and Stacey. Big applause to each of them for landing a clinical psychology internship for next year. I am real proud of all their hard work and wish them each good luck as they embark on this exciting new stage in their effort to complete their Ph.D program. Part of me was selfishly wishing for Aaron to be in Cinci and Anica to be in Indy. I'll just have to use some of my accumulating vacation time to head out to PA and IA to visit during the next year. The last few days in my old job have been twinged with some difficult emotional minutes. I really like these people. I got lucky in the random assignment of employees and ended up with a great bunch. I think it will be nice to not be their supervisor and suggest we meet up after work on a Friday someplace. I'll be moving to a new building next week - I'll probably get randomly searched by security when I leave on Friday taking with me my personal office supplies - because I could not function without hand picked pens and pencils, not to mention the desk caddy to store them in.

Starting next week I am going to try and get up even earlier than my current 5:45 alarm with the intention of hitting the Y before work. Going to the Y after work is just not an option - I have to many other things interfering. I tried the gym a few times before work in MtP and it worked out. I was pretty energized for the whole day and didn't have to suck down a couple of large soy milk lattes from either Java City or *$ to make it through work. One of the few things I miss about working in the HPB is that there was a nice coffee shop a couple of hundred feet from where I was working. While it can be expensive to have a $6+ a day habit for beverages it was often very convenient if you forgot lunch or needed an afternoon pick-me-up. It should be noted that people are not things in regard to what I miss about the HPB....

I am starting to try and find an apartment. My current free ride of house sitting comes to an end in Mid April when my spectacular grandmother returns from her winter escapades in Naples, FL. I hate the idea of moving - mostly out of sheer laziness. This also means I have to get some new furniture since I gave so much away before moving here. I have strong ideas about what sort of furniture I would like but I am also faced with the reality of what I can afford. Both my ideas and pocketbook will come together in my desire to live a less cluttered life. It will take me years to build back up the amount of books and collected paper that I had before moving. As to finding a place - I don't want to live in a huge apartment complex. All the noise and people that produce the noise are very unappealing to me. I need to find a cat friendly apartment even if my cat is not overly friendly. On that note Cairo the beast is looking rather trim these days and I am glad for it. She has also become much more socialble having spent some time under the tutelage of Craig and Cheryl. I am also thankful of that - so are any guest I have over. She has even felt kind enough to let me sleep until 6:30 - 7am on Saturday before she demands breakfast by jumping on and off the bed with enough force to wake me while wailing about being starved.

Did anyone catch 2.26.2008's No Reservations on Romania? It was hilarious! While I had to watch it on Wednesday evening thanks to the technology of DVR it was still so funny that I started to develop a side stitch from laughing so hard; by the end I had raccoon eyes from laughing so hard tears spilled down my face making my mascara bleed. Bourdain had some good snark going for the episode. Kudo's to Bourdain for recently quitting smoking for the health benefits to his young daughter. I wish I had made it to Miami for the Golden Clog awards - by all blog accounts that I could find it was a hilarious and liquor fueled snark-fest complete with Rocco showing up and in good humor presenting an award named after him.

My parents (and me) had people over to their house 3 nights out of the last 6 nights and I baked a lot of treats for work during the same time frame. It was lots of fun to try out new things and taste the results with friends. I have decided that the secret to good chili that is mild enough for my parents to enjoy is beer and tequila. Not to drink along side the chili but to actually put into the chili right after the meat and aromatics are finished caramelizing. Another good tip is to soak cut potatoes in cold water for at least an hour before cooking them - it helps pull some of the starch out of the potatoes. I roasted a pan of cut Yukon golds with garlic & rosemary seasoned olive oil. Having soaked the potatoes none of them turned mushy or stuck to the clay baking dish not to mention that the heavenly scent of olive oil with roasted garlic and rosemary permeated the house and the clothes I was wearing. I was tired enough from cooking on Sunday afternoon that my mom was able to shove me out of the kitchen and take over baking a birthday cake for our friends celebration. She did a damn good job too. While the cake didn't rise as expected the texture was lush and the taste was really good. She also made the German chocolate cake icing. Its fun when someone surprises and impresses you. She did leave the icing of the cake to me - and I was happy to lend a helping hand.

I have made several things lately and their success was dependent on the quality of the cheese I bought to go into the dish. There is something about smoked gouda and smoked mozzarella that elevate the cheese to a different level making them both taste more full bodied and rich. It was well worth it to drive over to Lotsa Pasta on Saturday to buy a good block of Parmesan and some good aged 5 year sharp cheddar. The extra expense of the drive and the cost was worth it in the final product. Then again any dish with roasted red peppers, toasted pecans, and fresh rosemary ought to turn out well just from the heady scents those ingredients add.

I am looking forward to a weekend that is going to be in the mid to upper 50s. There will also be lots of fun with my now 10 year old super niece Delaney. I am anxious to hear how her big slumber party turned out last weekend. As a special treat I'll cart my laptop around so she can go to her favorite site and play her games... somehow I bet she talks me into getting her another Webkinz. - I have to admit that some of the stuffed animals are cute and cuddly. She does get the full retail prices worth of fun from them as she tears through the various games and earns points to decorate the animals houses. Perhaps I can interest her in some macaroni and cheese that doesn't come out of a box with a pouch of powdered cheese this weekend. I should just break down and buy a Wii and provide us all with hours of entertainment. I wonder if 10 is too young to try and learn Cribbage?

Well I am off for at least today - be well and be safe


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thawed Out

Wow is it really Saturday already? The weeks at work are passing very quickly. That is always a good thing, IMO. When the weeks go slow at work it often means I have not had a lot to do or I was very disorganized and spent time spinning my wheels. The last reason work can pass slowly for me - is I am in the midst of an existential crisis and hating my job. That was happening daily towards the end of my tenure at CMU. The people working in my unit have been great. They come with energy and a desire to do work daily.

The downsides to the job have been minimal - there have been some logistical issues with work flow out side of our unit and thus out of my control. I want mountains of work - even if the mountains of work will sit in the unit I'd rather it sit here than some where else. Lots of peeps have been ill with the flu or bronchitis or Louisville Metro Area gunk (nice way to refer to air pollution) and I am feeling germs trying to sink their poisoned razor like talons into me. Thus far I have been winning the melee against getting ill, I significantly improved my Armor Class by getting lots of sleep, getting a flu shot, getting a pneumonia vaccine, taking plenty of B12 and Zinc, and washing my hands so frequently that at times they spontaneously start to bleed - but not in a stigmata call Rome sort of way.

I am looking forward to joining the Training Section of the Bureau in a week. The office is really committed to working as a team. Just hearing that is so refreshing - enough so that if I even think of the job I quit in Michigan I shudder. I am trying to decide what sort of office toys/desk decorations I want to take into my new office. Currently I am not trying to weird everyone out with hanging up posters advertising Order of the Stick or Fear the Boot or for that matter putting a row of plastic monster miniatures along the top of my computer monitor. Nor is there a collage of tattoos I find interesting and variations I am considering for my next tattoo. I have found that once you get a tattoo you spend a lot of time pondering what your next one will be like. I have also thus far refrained from putting up anything that could clue someone into my quasi obsession with Anthony Bourdain the chef traveler star of the Travel Channel's No Reservations. It is rather nice to have a dilemma about what you want to decorate your workspace with. I suddenly have the urge to find all the cat or cat people plastic D&D miniatures possible to put along the top of my computer monitor... many out there know of my "fascination" with such creatures.

What is in store for the weekend? I need to work up some motivation for doing things that I don't like to do... laundry and putting away clean dishes. I have no problem with washing the dishes but for some reason putting them away is just distasteful. And anyone that truly knows me knows that I would rather go out and buy new socks than do laundry. However that little habit leads to owning too many pairs of sock and eventually your mother will yell at you for it - even if she doesn't live with you or do your laundry. The majority of the weekend will be centered around entertaining... either prepping to entertain or actually entertaining. My parents are having a dinner party on Saturday and on Monday. I am invited to both of them and am looking forward to them.

As much as I enjoy cooking and baking I am trying to work out a problem that has been occuring. I prefer to do all my prep for everything prior to beginning to bake or cook. This means lots of chopping, grating, grinding, cleaning etc.... To accomodate this I need to invest in a bunch of small pyrex dishes to hold all the chopped ingredients because right now I am going through a huge stack of paper plates each time I cook. I am either holding my instruments wrong, or my posture is bad, or my stance is wrong, or the counter is at the wrong level.... because everytime I cook I am miserable about halfway through the night with piercing pain from my neck to the tips of my fingers in my right arm. Its bad enough to rouse me from sleep and keep me up until it subsides. Being the stubborn bull-headed person that I am... I don't immediately think to go to the doctor to check it out.... since I will be prepping a lot this weekend I am going to try various stretching exercises before and after as well as soaking in a hot tub afterwards (with a nice sipping drink) and applying a topical analgesic before going to bed. Hopefully this will help because I am not going to stop the chopping and dicing.

I am trying to put together menu's for both events - one will be an all-American event complete with gourmet burgers and peanut butter pie, the other will be an attempt at a more Spanish/Mexican influenced menu. For me finding the perfect bites to nosh on before the meal and the perfect dessert are always what takes time planning. The main meal is easy compared to finding the right delicious bites to whet the appetite and the dessert to seal the deal without sending everyone into a coma (before they get home). Not to mention trying to work with a budget... if only there was no limit on spending - the things I could do but life is not like that.... (Evidently I have not yet found a way to be independently wealthy)

Well the weekend is hurriedly approaching - I hope each of you finds the rest and relaxing you need over the weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What is the new job?

Ok sorry I didn't actually explain what my new job will entail. I will be part of the training staff for the entire installation. There are 4k-7k employees (depending on year and # or projects) and I will be on the small staff of trainers. I do love an audience and teaching - so it seems like this will be the perfect match for my interests and my talents.

The job will also give me a 3 day weekend every other weekend. With improving weather I am excited at the prospect of visiting friends up North.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A 2nd new job????

Is it true? Did I actually get a new job, again?

Why yes, as of 3:50 p.m. Friday, February 15, 2008 I was offered the job I so desperately wanted as of seeing it advertised in the middle of December 2007. I start on the 3rd of March. Which means I have two more weeks as a supervisor - if today is any indication these next two weeks are going to be a couple of long weeks.

While my weekend did not turn out like I planned, it was throughly enjoyable. I was lucky enough to help my niece Delaney celebrate her 10th birthday. I have not been around to help celebrate for quite a few years - so it was a special treat to be around for her first double digit birthday.

I have to brag about my mad baking skillz. Miss Delaney wanted a white cake with white icing. Since most of my birthday experience the past seven years has been at birthdays organized by Jody - I was almost knocked off my feet at the idea of a birthday without a chocolate cake. It would never occur to me that someone would want something other than chocolate.

I searched for a white cake recipe and ended up choosing one in The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. I made up a recipe for icing - I am not fond of icing made with lots of butter or shortening. The only problem turned out to be a oven that baked a tad high - but that did not deter from the taste. Though next time I will knock the oven setting down from the indicated 375.

In a Stephanie Plum moment I had leftover birthday cake for dinner. I would like to point out that I did show some restraint and did not have a beer with the cake.

I just read my favorite food author's blog: Michael Ruhlman and got more than one chuckle over his latest post (that was really a link) about his and Tony Bourdain's 2008 Golden Clog awards. It makes me wish I was going to be in Miami this next weekend - then I remember how hot and humid it is in Miami and Louisville will be just fine for the weekend.

I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of a new week. I am already looking forward to the weekend!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

I have staff!

This was week 3 at my new job and I knew that my staff would start this week. The plan was that they would go to my unit between 11-12 on Tuesday. It was quite a surprise on Monday at 1:30 when I was informed that I needed to be at orientation at 2 to 'get' my staff. I had nothing planned for Monday to do with them, so I had to go into improv mode. Luckily they began work at 7 on Monday morning and I only had to 'wing' it for 90 minutes. From the start it looked like I had a pretty good group and my impressions were only confirmed as the week went on.

The week was pretty much a whirlwind after that. I made it through introductions of myself, the unit, our project, my definition of what makes a good supervisor, and 23 performance plans. We had a big meeting to which the union was invited and it too went well. On Thursday they even began getting the ability to log onto the computer system. On Friday we tried to work out all the kinks with logging into the computer system so that we can begin training on our project this coming Monday.

To top off the week, I had a job interview on Friday for a job as a Training Technician. The job would be for the same agency at the same site but in a different branch/location. I thought the interview went well and I am trying not to get my hopes up. If it doesn't pan out - its ok, I have a job that pays well has great benefits and if the first week is any indication I have some great employees in the unit.

On a personal note - I went out twice this week to dinner after work. Mom set up both dinners and attended (with her generous debit card in hand). The first was with a friend of hers, who I now consider my friend, and her friends daughter. I had a wonderful time. Neither B nor I remembered being in youth orchestra together or being on the same soccer team - but our moms assured us that both were true. We ate at the Mayan Cafe in downtown Louisville. The conversation, food, and wine were wonderful and I throughly enjoyed the night. On Wednesday we went out with a friend who taught with mom - before mom retired. That was loads of fun. I miss being with my favorite first grade teacher so this night caught me up and taught me the shenanigans administration pulls in Indiana are no different than are pulled in Michigan. That night we had dinner at the North End Cafe. This place may become my favorite spot in Louisville. We all ate veggie friendly that night - eggplant casserole on a bed of lentils, mushroom lasagna, and veggie enchiladas. We traded around bites of each other's meals - I am not sure which was best.

On Friday I got some devastating news from MtP that made me want to jump in my car and head up. My mom talked me out of that. Even if I were up there I couldn't fix the problem. So I am going to have to be a friend from afar. The whole thing reminds me that your family is a lot more than just your relatives;vI made some great friends in MtP and I consider them to be family. I am very lucky to have such an extended family and I realize that more than ever.

I am looking forward to spending some good time with my niece this evening. I hope everyone finds some time to relax over the weekend. I have every intention of relaxing and energizing myself for a intense week of training.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Superbowl Sunday.....

The last handful of years I have spent Superbowl Sunday on Elm St. in Mount Pleasant. Today I am going to spend it at my parents. I am trying to think of how the parties will be different and how they will be the same. First I put on lipstick this morning before we left for church. I would never put on lipstick to go to visit the Elm St. gang.

On Elm St. my friends and I would gather though only a few would be interested in the game. Admittedly last year when the Colts were playing I was one of those highly interested in the game. I am fairly certain that Dad's friends will be more into the game and that Mom and I will end up in her Bedroom with Cinnamon and something other than football on the TV.

For me the fun part of the game started yesterday. I had the fun task of making chili that could please my parents tastes (I think Mom puts brown sugar in her chili) and not offend my ideas of what chili ought to be. In my world Chili does not have sugar in it and it should have a fair amount of spice with enough heat that you know you are eating chili. I decided to enhance the dish with the addition of a can of beer and a few shots of tequila in addition with adding color and a bit of bitterness with cocoa powder. Both mom and dad gave it their stamp of approval - though neither saw the amount of chili pepper I put in it. Like my good friend Bryce once said, "What my parents (Mom) don't know won't hurt them."

I anticipate that the atmosphere at Elm St. will be more relaxed than it will be here on Woodside Dr. We will also not have a Wii to play with should the game get boring or before and after the game. It will feel more formal here. Here I will worry about putting my drink down,even on a coaster. Here the dog will want attention but won't curl up on your feet if they are cold. There will not be a small invading horde or elementary and middle school aged children moving in a pack from bedrooms upstairs to the food table. I really do miss the fun that a handful of youngsters bring to any event. They have a level of energy to add that can be lost in the 30+ crowd when no children are present. There will be no puzzle to ponder over while discussing what we did on Saturday night as we tried to take over the world - or at least become wealthy in the world Larry set forth for us at D&D. I am pretty sure that today I will be the only one in the house with a tattoo!

All said though this party like any other will have all the elements that are needed to have fun - friends, food, drink, and entertainment. It is what you do with those elements that allow you to have fun - hopefully where ever each of you are you can find a place together and have your fun - whether you are a die-hard football fan, in it for the commercials, or hoping to see a flash of skin in a half-time show mishap.

Enjoy the afternoon and evening!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Good Mexican Food

Something happened in New Albany while I was living in Michigan. The community has been greatly enriched by an increase in the number of Hispanics living in the area. This has led to many small businesses that cater the thriving community. So far the only one I have ventured into is La Rosita Mexican Grill on Market St. in New Albany. Tonight was my third trip there. I am definitely going back for a 4th visit.

The ingredients are fresh and prepared in an open kitchen so that the wonderful sounds and smells of the food being cooked heighten your palate while you wait. The service is attentive and I have always found the servers pleasant and able to explain any of the dishes on the menu.

Plates come to the table without the gummy pureed refried beans and bland rice. The veggies are al dente, with wonderful caramelized onions. The green sauce that I am so fond of has the perfect amount of salt and acid to highlight the tastes of the food beneath it. I am also fond of the dishes with egg in them and am working my way through them - much to my Mother's chagrin. (She feels eggs belong at breakfast.)

There is also a wide variety of vegetarian dishes that have proved to be tasty and not just the meat dishes minus the meat.

Someday I may be brave enough to try out one of the Hispanic grocery stores and attempt to cook something at home - until then I am happy to make the drive to downtown New Albany and enjoy a meal at La Rosita.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Week 1: Survived

It was tough, but I managed to survive week 1 of being once again gainfully employed. Not only did I get up for 4 days in a row at or prior to 6am and spending 8.5 hours at my place of employment..... I even managed to sort through the chaos that is benefits..... health, pharmacy, dental, vision, retirement (401k-esque), life insurance, union membership...... I am relatively sure that after getting all that taken care of I will receive some money when I eventually get paid.... If I get paid! The only thing it seems that I haven't taken care of is getting myself a new checking account - one that isn't located at a bank over 400 miles away. Hopefully the USPS will be kind to me today so that I can get that set up on Monday and then ensure that I will get whatever money is due after all the above mentioned items are paid for since Federal employees have to use direct deposit.

I have to admit that it was nice to go back and see so many people that I haven't seen in so long. I think the only question that surprised me was how many asked if my last name was still the same. What the heck is with that? These people spent 40+ hours a week with me for over 6 years; what about me ever made them think that even if I got married I would change my last name? Did I manage to hide my ultra-feminist streak from them for all those years? I will be the first to admit that I can be difficult to get to know and that I often vigorously protect my privacy. However I didn't think, but I must admit that I don't remember, even I could have kept my opinion on the subject quiet for all that time.

For me the worst thing about being back at work, even though I turned off my alarm clock, is waking up at 6 am on Saturday and not being able to fall back asleep. Though it's still dark out and I haven't yet had coffee, I've managed to clean the house and give the cat a lot of attention - hopefully making up for my being gone so much this week. So far it seems that I have - my former cat induced injuries are healing and have not been joined by any others. She did just wake up though and is giving me the evil eye - perhaps the keyboard is making too much noise as I type this.....

I may have to be ambitious today and actually put the Christmas tree away - if not I may have to be really ambitious and decorate it for either Presidents Day or Valentines Day.

Since it is Saturday - I'm going to have to mention what I am not going to be doing tonight. I am not going to be getting together with my Mount Pleasant family. So far Saturday night has proved to be the hardest evening not to be in Mount Pleasant. I miss the game, we had a real interesting cast of characters developing and we had a world to explore that was well created. What I really miss though are the people. It was often the only time during the week that I saw some of them. Even though I could easily get frustrated when it felt like our game was disintegrating into an evening of chaos and out of character side conversations; I now find myself missing some of that. It makes me look forward to being there in a few weeks; to see and listen to everyone.

Have a great weekend everyone. I am off to spend some QT with my spectacular niece. Last night I got to pick her up after work and she is spending the weekend with my parents. She was working on a story last night. I believe she had written 20 pages by the time I left. She wouldn't let me read any of it while she was working on it - hopefully today she will let me take a peek at it. Being around her tonight will more than make up for not being at my favorite house on Elm St.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Going back down already travelled roads......

How do you revisit places you never thought you would have the opportunity to go back too?

I examined this question today while I was at work; because I am not getting any employees until Feb 6th and I do not yet have a computer log-in that will allow me to figure out what the heck I am supposed to be doing at work. I also worked two New York Times Crossword puzzles from my 1 crossword a week 2008 calendar.

I was trying to figure out what mattered more – my desire to reconnect with old work friends or my desire to not have to not see other people with whom I worked with in the past. I am happy to say that the desire to see old friends won out and in the end I was a winner. Instead of chomping down on another delicious Kashi granola bar at lunch, I took a walk to my old work area. I was delighted to see so many people that I used to enjoy working with. I even gave out a lot of hugs, which some folks know is often hard for me to do.... Not hard like the 'odd' characters on Boston Legal that like to keep their palms on their thighs but nonetheless not always my favorite thing to do.

Several inquired if I wanted to come back and work with them and I was able to give them a very honest and frank answer that left all of my options open. It was really nice to see someone who was from the first group of employees that I took through orientation, training, and was their supervisor. I even managed to schedule some dinner plans. I also found out that one of my favorite people in the world is going to be visiting my old work site in a week or two and I am looking forward to reconnecting with her.

Though it was only my 2nd day at work - I quickly remembered the best thing about working... getting to come home. Now that Cairo is back with me - nothing is more fun than chilling out in the evening with her sitting on my lap purring loud enough that I have to turn the TV up to hear it. Hopefully tomorrow I will venture around the installation on lunch and reconnect with more old friends and I won't even hesitate at the idea.

As a side note....
To answer the polite inquiries about acceptable hair color choices.... Never once in orientation or my subsequent reading of the Labor Management Agreement and Employee Handbook were acceptable hair color choices mentioned. This has led to not one single urge on my part to go out and get my hair dyed day-glo orange or green. Also not mentioned were acceptable locations or amounts of piercings and tattoos.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Job....

After 9 weeks of being unemployed (by choice) I started my new job today. During the night I woke up on 3 separate occasions worried that I either didn't set my alarm properly or had slept through it. Needless to say I was a tad paranoid about being on time. When I finally woke 20 minutes before the alarm it was from a nightmare involving improperly making risotto. Instead of trying to scramble for 20 minutes more of sleep - I wrestled with the cat for more of the blanket for about 15 minutes before giving up and making coffee. ( I am unsure how a 12lb cat can be such a blanket hog. My wrist is bearing the teeth and rear claw scrapes that this blanket battle produced.)

Why on earth was I so worried? Have I ever been late to work? No - I am more likely to be 30-20 minutes early to work than I am to be on time, let alone late. After getting ready and drinking 2 large mugs of coffee I discover that it snowed..... Having just spent the last seven winters in Michigan, I knew that my driving in the snow would be more than adequate. Since I spent the previous ~27 years in Indiana - I remembered that most people who would be out driving at 7am would have less than adequate winter driving skills.

The trip into work was uneventful other than people who sped past me on the Expressway, when all the lanes were drenched in close to an inch of slush. Parking at the federal installation, where I was to be sworn in as an employee and traversing across the pitch black and slush covered parking lot was fun. After passing all the items I carried in through the x-ray machine (including a bottle of water w/ a slice of Meyer lemon), walking through a metal detector, and producing 3 forms of identification I was allowed to proceed to a small room for orientation.

5.5 hours later I was finally sworn in as a federal employee, had an identification badge, and collected a parking permit. Of the 30 people in the training - I happened to pick a seat right across from the only other person who was starting in the same branch and same position as I was. Luckily she was nice to chit chat with and she seemed to appreciate my dry sense of humor. We were sent off to our actual work location (the federal institution in question is over 1 square mile in size) and then promptly told to go to lunch. After wolfing down my Kashi - Honey Toasted 7 Grain granola bar it was time to report back to my job.

I was lucky and met one of the people who will be reporting to me. I remembered her from over ten years ago, having previously worked at this federal installation. She is a federal lifer, completely knowledgeable about who is who, friendly, and interested in doing good work (not to mention prefers to be busy at work). The main activity for the rest of the day was locating garbage baskets - I needed one at my desk, as did the rest of the desks in my unit. Thankfully the two of us managed to rustle up enough garbage baskets and place them under desks, so that when everyone else shows up on Feb. 6th they will have a place to put their trash.

Tomorrow I am going to sort through all the health insurance choices and figure out which one is best for me..... Apparently it will take several days (maybe a week) to get all the computer account information set up so that I can actually log onto the system, let alone learn how to do my job.

So what was the most exciting part of my day? The most exciting thing did not happen at work! I went to my parents house after work to give a report on my day and mooch dinner. (My first pay check won't come until 2/14.) I was spooning some soup into a bowl when Mom dropped a heavy soup/cereal bowl on my head. That damn bowl was heavy and it landed with a thud before falling into the soup and splattering it over the counter. While it was funny it also hurt. In fact it still hurts and there is a bump on the top of my head.

So I am now home and resting from such a strenuous and stressful first day of work. More importantly I am looking forward to heading back into work tomorrow. I sure do hope it is not snowy out in the morning. Oh did I mention that my casual outfit that I spent hours deliberating on last night - was actually a little too dressy for work? Tomorrow I am breaking out the tennis shoes and jeans.

Until the next time.... be well!