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 CafĂ© 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.