Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Confused. Always.

I love to bake. I really do. But in this new venture, this baking-for-a-living thing, I'm not happy.

I mean really, what was I thinking? I know the current job isn't ideal. I'm not the type of person who likes to be by myself a lot, and at this job, I'm by myself all day long. But how did I actually think I would make money doing this? Sure, accomplished pastry chefs pull in over a 100 grand a year. But to get there, you have to work the endless low-paying, wake-up-at-2-in-the-morning jobs. And I've never been the type to sacrifice life for career. It just doesn't work that way for me, so this business? I don't think it's going to work.

Now, I don't really have to get into how much of a failure I feel like. Because boy, do I feel like a failure. I had a good (albeit low paying) job, with a flexible-ish schedule and some great coworkers. And I left that to go back to school and "follow my dream." Now I'm in debt and pretty much in the same mindset as I was before school, although with even less money. It's not good.

I miss writing. Last week I had an interview set up at a local magazine. It seemed like a great gig - assistant editor - and the salary was so, so much better than what I'm pulling in now. I was psyched. I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn't help it. I thought, "I'm a good person. I deserve good things. Finally, my luck is changing!" And then the interview was canceled because they "went in a different direction." And I admit, I was crushed.

In looking back over everything, I have to say I wish I stayed as an art education major. I would have made a great teacher, plus I know it would have made me happy. I switched because I was spending my summers working at a newspaper, and I felt it "made more sense." More sense than what, I don't really know. I am not going to get my teaching certification now; I just know I won't. But I wish I didn't change all those years ago. I wish someone said to me, "Hey. What are you doing? You'll make a great teacher! You'll regret this, you know!"

There's no real solution here. There's no real conclusion to this post. I wish I knew what to do or where I was going with all of this, but I suppose it's just venting. I'm confused, just like this post seems to be, just like I always seem to be nowadays.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Freezer Food

I want to stock my freezer.

I've been thinking about this for ages, but the farthest I've gotten is perhaps freezing a few loaves of homemade bread, or, in one ill-fated attempt, freezing homemade pizza dough. I want to have meals frozen and ready-to-serve, but not store-bought, fake-cheese pizzas and the like. I want to freeze things I've made - lasagna and chili and soup and casseroles.

I just can't ever get my act together enough to actually do it.

Well, my friends, that is about to change! I now have two (count 'em - TWO) days off of work a week. That means I have a whole other day to do all of the things I'm too tired to do after workdays. Like stock my freezer. (I'm wild and crazy, obviously.)

So, despite the fact that I've been cooking and baking since I was pint-sized and despite the fact that I went to culinary school, I've been compiling a little research on the stocked-freezer-plan. I turned to a few different food blogs, a Weight Watchers article and Martha (of course) to come up with my plan. And I think I'm set to get started!

Bread - Oh my, do I love homemade bread. I could sit and eat an entire crusty loaf on my own - especially if it's paired with some sharp cheese or garlic dipping oil. Anyway, I of course needed to have some bread in my freezer plan. I'm going to bake four medium loaves of Italian bread and a batch of all-purpose sandwich/burger rolls. I haven't had a lot of luck with freezing dough, so I'm going to freeze these breads after they're baked.

Entrees - The hardest part of planning my freezer food was trying not to go overboard with the calories. I am trying to follow a healthier diet now, after all, so I didn't want to get too carried away. On that note, I am going to make a spinach lasagna, tamale pie with lean turkey meat, and chicken tetrazzini. On the label, along with the name and date, I'm going to add portion size and Points Plus value.

Soup & Chili - You know that bread-love I was talking about? Well, slice me some bread with a bowl of hot soup and I can subsist on this through the entire fall and winter. Well okay... I'd need some chili, too. For the freezer, I'm planning pasta e fagioli, creamy tomato rice soup, white bean chicken chili, and my award-winning vegetarian chili. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...

Cookies - I think it's always nice to have some fresh, hot-from-the-oven cookies if a friend is popping in for a visit. Of course, in busy day-to-day life, this isn't always a practical plan. But know what is? Making the cookie dough ahead of time, scooping it into portions and freezing the cookie dough balls. They can be baked straight from the freezer. So I'm going to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and oatmeal raisin.

Other ideas for my freezer plan include some homemade marinara sauce, frozen meatballs and having a lot of fresh fruit for smoothies and juice. (This is another dream of mine - to be the type of person who makes smoothies and fresh juice. Sigh.) I think some type of pot pie would be great, too. And I wonder if a shepherd's pie would freeze well? Obviously, I am in super comfort food phase. I guess it's because fall is right around the corner.

Mission Stock the Freezer is set to begin this weekend. Before I get started, I just have to make sure my freezer is big enough to store all of these delicious foods!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Snapshot: Adam

Did I feel cool photographing concerts as a journalist? Why yes, I really did.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where I Was

On September 11, 2001, I was a senior in high school.

It was a beautiful day and an entirely normal morning until my calculus class. Since AP English was next door, I was usually one of the first to arrive to calc. Walking into that classroom is a snapshot forever etched into my memory. The radio was on and my teacher was sitting at her desk, tears on her face. Another teacher stood just behind her, his face solemn, his hand on Mrs. Padula's shoulder. I looked from them to the rest of the room, my friend Kier the only other student there.

He told me two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Both buildings were on fire. His eyes were huge; his face was panic-stricken. "All of the people are out, right? They would have gotten everyone out?" He looked at me searchingly. I was confused. I was shocked. I remember shaking my head. "I don't know," I said, uncomprehending. "I don't know."

I remember my classmates simply taking their seats, some chatter and murmuring, but mostly everyone straining to hear the radio. One student tried to pull something up on the television. We tried to connect to the internet, too. The radio was the only thing that worked.

A plane hit the Pentagon in Washington. I thought of my dad; he was in Washington, but in my muddled state of mind I couldn't remember if he was in Washington state or the nation's capitol. He worked for the government. Would he be at the Pentagon? I leapt up and said I had to call home and, being a time before the wide-use of cell phones, I hurried to the main office. There was a short line of students waiting to use the phone, anxious to check on loved ones. (As it turned out, our school was lucky, with no one losing a parent or sibling.)

I called my house, and my Mema picked up immediately. As soon as I said hello, before I said another word, she said, "He's in Washington state." I'm not sure how she knew, but she did. I exhaled. Thank God.

Back in my calculus class all studies were long forgotten. The South Tower collapsed. When a plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania, the radio announcer said it seemed certain we were under a terrorist attack. Before class ended, the North Tower fell. I remember the announcer's voice cracking when he said this; I remember him saying the World Trade Center was gone.

When the bell rang, everyone was slow to move. What do you do? What do you say? I remember feeling like nothing would ever be the same again. And I don't think I ever before, or ever since, felt so utterly helpless, lost and scared.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Little Bit of Philly Magic

I don't get out nearly as much as I should, but on Columbus Day I'm happy to report that I spent some time on South Street with my college-era favorite friends as well as the lovely addition of Sarah Rose. Tanya, Jess and I caught the train into the city and met up with Ryan, Ian and Sarah before walking down to South Street.

It was Ry's idea to check out the Magic Gardens, a truly amazing and wonderful place that I had only peered at from the sidewalk before Monday. The incredible space showcases the work of mosaicist Isaiah Zagar and... I can't really put it into words.


And that's but a small fraction of the space. I can't imagine how long it took Zagar to finish this, and I also wonder what inspired him in the first place. According to the Magic Gardens website, Zagar and his wife have been working to beautify the South Street area since the 1960s. If that's the case, they have certainly contributed an immense amount of beauty with this half-city-block area of mosaic. It took Zagar 14 years to finish the Magic Gardens.

Something I found incredibly cool about this installation was the fact that many of the endless number of glass bottles cemented into place had little notes tucked inside. I don't remember who noticed this message-in-a-bottle phenomenon (I want to say it was either Ryan or Jess), but in any case, we pulled out the first note we found. The original message told he reader how the writer came to be in the Magic Gardens, with cities around the world he or she had lived in. Someone added their own journey to the back, and under that we had Sarah pen her travels, too. She tucked the note back inside the bottle, and from here we discovered most of the bottles had messages buried inside.

Naturally, we all wanted to add our own notes to the collection. Tanya passed around paper, I passed around pens and we all did just that. (Well all of us but Ian.) My note said: "You are beautiful. You are talented. You make a difference." I smile when I think about someone finding it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte is Back!

I have a confession. I am a pumpkin addict.

Once late August rolls around, the itch begins. That cannot-satisfy-my-hunger-for-pumpkin itch. And, oh no, I don’t just mean hunger as in filling up my stomach. Anything pumpkin can help feed the need.

I light pumpkin-scented candles in every room of the house. I pull boxes of pumpkin d├ęcor from the attic, adorning my little rancher with festive, bright orange gourds wherever space allows. I have wooden pumpkin stakes for the front lawn. I have dangly pumpkin earrings I wear with fervor – oh, and a matching necklace, too.

When it comes to pumpkin food, it is impossible to satiate my appetite. But if there is one thing that can help curb the craving, it would be my most favorite coffee drink in the entire universe - the Pumpkin Spice Latte!

I have two favorite Starbucks events. One is the debut of the festive red cups and accompanying holiday cheer every November. The other is the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. My little slice - or cup, if you will - of heaven returned to stores this week, and after a slight debut-day debacle, I fetched my first latte today with John.

See how happy it makes me?

And although he's not a fanatic like I am, it makes John pretty happy, too.

My first latte of the 2011 fall season was perfection, as expected. It just hits the perfect balance of spice-to-pumpkin ratio, and of course caffeine is always an added bonus in my book. (I have no idea what I'm going to do without coffee when I'm pregnant.)

If you haven't gotten your first 2011 Pumpkin Spice Latte yet, I highly recommend you head on over to your local Starbucks and order one. Nothing will get you more ready for beautiful, wonderful fall. Personally, I can't wait for my next Pumpkin Spice!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where Everybody Knows My Name

I miss Ocean City.

This isn't exactly a recent revelation. I've missed Ocean City pretty much ever since I left.

At first, I was loving the prospect of living somewhere where I could go to the grocery store without bumping into a million familiar faces or swinging by the library without an endless stream of small talk. If an ice cream craving struck at 1 in the morning, I liked the idea that I could zip to the Wawa in pajama pants without the fear of running into someone (or a lot of someones) I knew.

It was all very appealing.

Then, I moved away in the summer of 2010, leaving behind all of the familiar built up over more than two decades. I could go to the grocery store and do my shopping in peace. The library didn't come along with a single conversation. And while my 1 in the morning treks to Wawa don't occur nearly as often in my married life, I'm pretty sure I would be safe if I wore pajama pants. Life, I suppose, is more private. More quiet. And, well... I kind of hate it.

I know it will take time before I find my niche in my new locale. At some point, I'll find a few familiar faces in the crowd once in a while. The thing is, my new area is not like Ocean City. In fact, very few places are like Ocean City. That "everybody knows your name" Cheers kind of thing that Ocean City has? I don't think you're going to find that in too many places.

It's hard to move away from everything you've ever known, and this is all the more true when you worked in an industry like newspapers, where it was your job to be in the know. I knew who owned what business and lived in what house. I knew the gossip - good and bad - and I knew the history. I took it for granted then, but now I've come to realize how much I enjoyed being in the know.

Around here, I get lost if I try to take a shortcut to the mall. Back at my old home, I knew all of the shortcuts. I still haven't found a perfect coffee shop in my new hometown. Back in Ocean City? I knew of one - and plenty of close seconds. I had favorite restaurants and favorite walking paths, favorite quiet places to reflect and pretty routes for when I just needed to get out and drive.

It takes time to fall in love with a new hometown. I've already fallen in love with some aspects. I absolutely love my house. There are some great restaurants. I'm a short train ride away from Philadelphia. I'm slowly coming around, but some days are harder than others.

Because, as it turns out, I left my heart in Ocean City. And wherever my life leads me, a part of me will always miss it.