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!