Does anybody read these?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Updates of sorts

I feel like I should write something, but I'm a little more guarded than usual lately. I'm still job searching, and sometimes that means a little self-censoring is required. You don't want to offend anyone or say something that makes them believe you can't do whatever it is you would like them to hire you to do. I hate that it's like that, but I get it. It's hard to be tight-lipped when you've literally spent 30-some years of your life writing whenever the spirit hits you. I don't just write as a job; writing to me is a way to stay sane, to convey my thoughts. As I go from conference room to conference room attempting to make a good impression on a person who literally can change my entire future, I've realized two things: 1) I'm a much better written communicator than a talker, and 2) I think I became a journalist because I'm a better interviewer than interviewee.

So, I keep trucking along and hoping that the right position comes along. In the meantime, I've been cooking up a storm (remind me to tell you about my new Instant Pot). I'm going to Florida next week (and taking the Amtrak -- I'm so excited). I'm getting ready to take my advanced certification exam for Adobe InDesign. I studied and took practice tests all day today. I'm fighting with my TV with all the political excitement.

But I miss having colleagues. I had to put a whole bunch of muffins in the freezer because I couldn't eat them all myself. There's a little herd stress on the homefront with everyone home at the same time so much.

It's hard not to get down about yourself. Remember how I quit with the online dating because it's so easy to get down on yourself when people you barely know treat you badly and rush to judgment about you? Well, trying to find a job is a lot like that. Except when a date goes horribly wrong, you may just end up paying for your own meal. Right now, meals are the least of my worries. I have a mortgage and a light bill and a car payment that have to be paid. It's frustrating.

I know I just haven't found the right fit yet. There really haven't been many jobs that I was absolutely devastated to not get. There have been a few times that I wished that I had gotten an interview for a job that sounded great but they didn't even consider me. There have been places that sounded fun to work or people I would've enjoyed being on a team with. But I get it, there's just someone out there they like better. But at some point, something's got to give. Because it's been a long time and I'm running out of money, and it gets scary. And it's hard to not take it personally. People usually like me. It's hard to be the person that people don't like when you're used to people liking you.

I'm not going to be negative though. I'm just not a negative person. I like to see the bright side in things. And someone, somewhere is going to see that I am a seriously talented hard worker who will probably make you zucchini chocolate chip muffins because it's summer, and that's when you make you tasty things with zucchini.

I figured I'd post an update. Really no news is no news these days. You'd think I have more time to post things, but I have a pantry (and just about every other nook and cranny in my house) to clean.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Truth in Lending

I knew the minute that I picked up my piggy bank that I had a problem. Here I was, 449 miles from home, and the money I had in my piggy bank -- the money I had painstakingly kept track of for months -- seemed to have dissipated in the three weeks since I forgot to bring it on my previous trip to Ohio. Once a year, I take the contents of my piggy bank, which is literally every single penny that I have saved over the year, to the credit union for the alma mater and deposit it into my bank account.

But this year, with me being unemployed, the money was not to pad my bank account or buy my drinks during my annual girls' weekend with my college coworkers. This year, the money was my gas money for a trip I hadn't planned to make -- the trip to bury my dearest cousin who was killed in a horrific car accident last week.

So, here I am at the credit union looking at my change. The bank was about half as full as I remembered three weeks ago. Just last week, I'd put in more than six dollars in quarters from cleaning out my purse, and it was clear that there was no way all of those quarters were still there. The quarters that I needed to make the seven-hour journey from Ohio to Tennessee.

I knew exactly how much was supposed to be in my piggy bank. First of all, I had counted it in May when I was supposed to bring it and forgot it. That day it was 46 dollars and some change. As I'd mentioned, I'd added almost eight dollars last week.

The bank told me they would count the money and let me know how much they deposited. I spent the next four hours in the car hoping that they would somehow tell me there was 54 dollars, but I knew they wouldn't. Since my father gave me his loose change jar for my high school graduation, I've obsessively kept track of my loose change, and I have the uncanny ability to eyeball a pile of coins and tell you how much is there. So when I told a friend, "There's no way there's 30 dollars in that change," I knew I'd be right.

Yet I hoped and prayed that I'd be wrong, because being right meant a lot more than not knowing how I was going to get the gas money to get home.

Twenty-two dollars. Thirty-four cents.

By the time the credit union called me with my final total, I was pretty angry, but when I get off the phone I was seething. I'm still seething. I have never, ever been this angry. Truth be told, I've never even been close to being this angry, and some pretty shitty stuff has happened to me in my 40 years on earth.

But, I'm trying to figure out what could be shittier than someone you think is a friend, going into your private room, in a home you own, and raiding your piggy bank. Not just raiding it, but in three weeks taking more than half of its contents. A contents that you had been saving for almost a year. Money that you needed to travel to your cousin's funeral. It's pretty high up on the despicable scale, if that's an actual scale that exists.

It was thirty-three dollars. Pennies, dimes, quarters and half-dollars. But it represents so much more. It represents someone whom I trusted to be in my home not only taking advantage of me, but violating me and making me feel unsafe. For just thirty-three dollars, my friendship was pissed on and damaged beyond repair. There is literally nothing that can be done to fix this that does not involve a U-haul trailer and changing the locks. Nothing.

I think the worst part is that even though I have no job and money is tight, I would probably have lent it if I were asked. There was no reason to steal from me except to be shitty. I am the absolute sweetest person in the world until you give me a reason a not to be. And once I am done with someone, I am done with them. And, for those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you know that if I don't trust someone then there is no place for them in my life. So, that's where we are.

I've made up my mind. It's hard to face the added living expenses, especially since I still don't have a job, but I can't have someone in my house I don't trust. I will not be disrespected, and I will not worry about someone taking my belongings in my own house. Will not.

It sucks to be treated poorly. I am trying not to be too hard on myself for obviously creating an environment where someone thought this was OK. I am trying not to be angry that I didn't get my $46 to the bank a few weeks ago. But I have absolutely no negative feelings about the decision at hand. I'm just done. DONE. Once I am to the point where I don't want to see someone's face or hear their voice, the options are limited, and that's where we are.

At least, while I'm in this place of anger I'm getting words out and making sentences and pretending to be some type of writer. I must need more angst for the words to flow. You would think someone with no job would have more angst. Well, I guess we're about to see with more household expenses.

I just can't imagine throwing a friendship away for thirty-three dollars. Of course, I suspect it's because there really was no friendship in the first place. Or it was a jacked-up version of friendship that I don't subscribe to. But, as I pointed out yesterday, Judas sold out Jesus for a handful of change, so maybe I'm in good company.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Blue Apron, Day 5: Disaster

The first week of Blue Apron went so well. Everything stayed fresh, even towards the tail end of the week. I enjoyed all of the meals. If there were hiccups, they were small.

I think for week two, I let my guard down. I'm actually a bit frightened by the prospect of week three at this point. The first meal was a bit sketchy but what did turn out OK tasted pretty good. And then there was the second meal.

I'm not sure why I decided to cook the chicken before the catfish, but I should not have done that. The week before they had sent me instructions to cook fish first because it might not hold up, but the salmon was fine, so I thought the catfish would be. And it was, but the bread for the sandwiches was completely moldy. I just turned it into catfish fillets with a salad, but it left quite a bit to be desired. I contacted Blue Apron, and they told me I was supposed to refrigerate the bread. Thanks for the heads up before it was covered in purple polka dots.

So, after tossing the moldy bread I tried to cook up the catfish according to the directions. This meal had the least amount of prep time of any Blue Apron meal so far, but it was also a disaster. First, the bread was moldy. Then the catfish breading stuck to the pan so it was just a greasy, barely-breaded fillet. The salad didn't taste horrible, but it was just lettuce and radishes. I liked the dressing I made (mayo, spice blend and lime juice) but I had to put a little of my own mayo in there. The packet that came with it didn't look anything like three tablespoons.

I am sure if the bread had not been moldy that it would've turned out much better. And I've learned my lesson. Next week's delivery comes tomorrow, and I'm going to do the entree with bread -- Korean Bao Sliders -- the first night, and the one with fish -- Seared Salmon and Green Potato Salad -- the second night. This was the week I meant to skip because I'm planning to be out of town for a few days, so I will have to be creative on when I get things cooked. But I'll definitely have to eat the meals for lunch and dinner, so that will help. The chicken with couscous will last for a minute. I'll stick the chicken in the freezer to be on the safe side.

I'm not planning to review all of those meals, but I'll give an update of the whole week once I complete it or if something so spectacular happens that I have to share it just then. After that week, which I had meant to postpone, then I will be taking a break for a while. I just can't justify the expense when I'm jobless. After all, I am about to eat pork chops and mashed potatoes because I need to cook it before it goes bad. That's kind of random lunch food, although not as random as the egg-salad sandwich I had for breakfast to off-set it.

No photos tonight. No one wants to see that.

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Friday, April 15, 2016


Aside from taking way too many pictures of my food and getting in lots of kitchen therapy, my life has not been the happiest time lately. However, by the time you read this I will be sitting in day two of an extremely awesome graphic design class, and I have several more days of training that will make me more competitive in job market. And it's being paid for by a scholarship. I've got a few job leads in the hopper and some more offers of freelance work. While life doesn't look like I thought it would, it doesn't completely suck.

I was thinking about this training. I never would've had the opportunity to take this training if I hadn't lost my job and received a state-assigned career counselor. And this training is what's getting me more freelance work. So, things are looking up. I know when you are sitting in the bottom of a pit, crying and hoping someone will hear you, that it's hard to imagine that this is better. I know this because this has been my life for the past few months. There have been jobs that I've wanted that I didn't get, and sometimes I took that personally (especially the jobs that I knew I could really rock), but for whatever reason that's not where I'm supposed to be.

Life is still not rosy. But I'm getting out of the house and I am staying busy. In addition to the design training, I am finally signed up for those comedy writing and performing classes that I keep meaning to take. I have a few events coming up to sell my jewelry. I have a friend from college having her first child in June. I have two friends from college finally getting married after 17 years. I am turning 40 at our annual alumni weekend. I am going to Detroit for a Tigers' game weekend. If I'm still not working in June, I may go on family vacation with my brother's family once the kids get done with school. So while it absolutely sucks to not be working, I have a lot of things on my calendar that might not get to happen if I had a full-time gig.

I have a little money in the bank (although I'm not excited at the prospect of blowing through it). I have projects to keep me busy and keep my creative juices flowing, and I'm looking for more opportunities there. I actually have plenty to keep me busy. I have health insurance through ObamaCare. I would love to have a great job, and I feel like I am going to find something that will challenge me and utilize my skills and allow me to be in a great collegial and collaborative environment. I am not in a place where I feel desperate to just take whatever at this point, so I feel like something great is coming. If not, well, then I'll figure it out when I get there.

So, life doesn't completely suck. In fact, it could be a lot worse. Yes, I miss having coworkers and going to an office everyday and doing great work, and I'm still a little sad at how that ended. No one wants to feel written off, like they never mattered. No one. I don't care what they say. I miss my grandma. My mood's improving, but I still haven't gotten to the gym. I'm still working too much at Babies R Us. I'm still frustrated with other things.

But I got out of bed, put on clean clothes and killed it in my class today. That's so much progress.

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Let's get physical!

Let's start with a random fact about me. When I was in kindergarten, "Physical" by Olivia Newton John was my favorite song. I had no idea what it meant, obviously, but I thought it had something to do with fitness because the video looked like a Jane Fonda tape...Kind of.

Now, let's fast forward -- ahem -- 30-some years to today. I was walking into my training class with my little lunch pail and notebook (like I was in grade school, if we want to continue our flashback). The office plaza where the learning center is happens to be beautiful. It has a pond with a fountain with a little patio area and picnic tables nearby. Offices have lots of windows to see the view. Lots of glass windows. Windows that act like mirrors in the early morning sun.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

So I happen to glance over into a wall full of windows and see my reflection. I'm short and dumpy and way too fat. It was a very unflattering look. I was not excited to see it.

Now, before you say that we are our own worst critics, bear with me here. This is not necessarily a bad thing. And not in an unhealthy way. 

I'll explain.

I keep wondering if my appearance is causing me to not get jobs. It shouldn't because I am pretty qualified. But it might. Maybe I don't have the look they expect for someone in my field, even when the person hiring me looks like a hot mess. Seriously, I've gone into a few interviews, looked at the person responsible for making the decision and thought: Surely this person won't rule me out for my looks. Surely. But yet, I'm wrong. 

I'm not getting into any fat-shaming, self-hating conversation here. I've worked way too hard to build my self-esteem for that. But I'm also a realist. And it's not like I don't want to improve anyhow. After all, this is Project Old Lady Learns Stuff. So maybe old lady needs to learn how to get to the gym and work out again.

I have to go. Following a relatively set out food plan is not seeing any results without it. (I'm still not buying that 80 percent nutrition, 20 percent fitness equation so many people tout as reality.) I need to do a half marathon anyhow. I want to go do another Disney race. I'd like to do the Detroit half-marathon again. So, it's time. 

Just thought I would share this. Maybe words on a page will make me more accountable. Worst case scenario, I've got a few months of unemployment and I  have plenty to keep me busy. Or I can just take a job while I work on having the look that my career wants me to have. 

Who knows? Maybe it did help me to have someone fat-shaming me at every turn.

Just kidding. That shit got old, and it totally made me stress eat. 

See you at the gym. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blue Apron, Day Four: So hot.

If I had to use one adjective to sum up my latest Blue Apron meal, it'd be hot. First of all, I used way too much chipotle pepper and my lower lip is tingling, and second, I have learned my lesson about cooking anything from Blue Apron on 475. Never again.

All of the ingredients
Tonight's meal was Roasted Chicken and Mixed Mushrooms with Crispy Rosemary-Orange Salad and Chipotle Pan Sauce. I did this one first because I was really worried that the little box of mushrooms wouldn't hold up for several days. As it was, I had a few pieces of greens that just did not look very palatable so I tossed them.

Let's talk about the biggest positive first: The rosemary-orange salad. I had never used collard greens before, but thinly sliced and cooked with orange pieces, orange zest and water in a pan that was used to brown chicken is not the worst idea ever. The "dressing" was the second half of the orange pieces, a drizzle of olive oil, fried rosemary (I know it sounds weird) and a little salt and pepper. It was great.

The chicken, which was just bone-in, skin-on thighs sprinkled with salt and pepper, browned in a pan
I've never roasted
mushrooms before!
and roasted in the oven tasted very good, but one thigh is not enough for dinner. It's not an expensive cut of meat, and if one of your thighs was paltry (like mine), then you might have been hungry at the end of your meal. Especially if your mushrooms were shriveled to oblivion, but we'll get to that in a second. If I hadn't needed a lunch to take to my all-day class tomorrow, I would have eaten the entire two portions for dinner.

The roasted mushrooms. Not roasted. Petrified. I should've learned my lesson about cooking anything from Blue Apron on 475 for the directed amount of time after the sweet potato fiasco, but I let my guard down after two perfect recipes. I actually didn't cook them the entire time. They were still shriveled up pieces of charcoal edible fungi. Disappointing.

This sauce was good, but way too spicy. I was a little nervous about cooking with chipotle peppers, especially after the warnings to cut them last and wash your hands, cutting board and knife immediately after. The recipe did say to taste as
you added the pepper to make sure that you didn't get it too spicy, except chipotle is a slow burn so it didn't taste that spicy as it was cooking. And then I plated it and ate my food, and my lip is finally regaining its feeling.

My plate wasn't that pretty tonight. First of all, those poor mushrooms. Secondly, my drizzle of creme fraiche did not look like I'd hoped. I did use a beautiful Fiesta plate just in case it turned out nice.

I did drink some wine tonight. I didn't match it perfectly to Blue Apron, because I had another local wine to drink. This one was a 2014 Kinzley Reserve from Arrington Vineyards. It's mostly Sauvignon Blanc (with some Symphony grapes thrown in), so I knew it would go well with an orange-sauced chicken. It has nice citrus and tropical fruit undertones. It went really well with spicy, citrus chicken. The wine was another highlight of tonight's meal.

The plate is pretty. The actual plate.
It's Fiesta ware.
Lastly, this recipe took a lot longer than the 35-45 minutes the card promised. It actually took 35 minutes for the prep and over an hour for the whole meal. A good chunk of that was pulling each individual rosemary leaf off the stalks. But rosemary briefly fried in olive oil is delicious and it makes your house smell lovely, especially if someone put in a Christmas Scentsy and your house smells like pine trees in April, but I digress.

This was my first disappointment with Blue Apron, and it was still not horrible. I had never roasted mushrooms before, and I would've loved for them to turn out. I guess I am just getting aggravated that I can't successfully navigate 475 degrees on my oven. Tomorrow night is catfish sandwich day. I am hoping it is as easy as it looks. Also, I totally missed the cancellation deadline today (I think I was messed up being in Central Time Zone, because I thought it was noon and it was really 11 a.m.), so I am getting one more week. I don't know if I will keep blogging about it. I may just post on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter instead of dissecting the whole process. But that will definitely be my last week for a bit.

P,S. Blue Apron had a contest to have someone video you while made tonight's meal. I kind of wish I would since it was such a hot mess, but I don't think that's what they were hoping for.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blue Apron Day 3

Today was probably the most challenging Blue Apron day -- which isn't saying much because Blue Apron makes things really easy -- but it was also the most delicious Blue Apron meal that I've had.

Tonight was Nepalese Chicken Tarkari, and I wasn't sure what to expect because I've never had any type of Nepalese meal before. I knew the spice blend included some curry, but aside from I had no idea what this meal would taste like.

This was the last night of my first Blue Apron week, and everything was still fresh. I was a little
In the beginning...
worried about the produce, but I just didn't have time to get to the meal before this afternoon. The produce was not bad, but it was not as fresh as it was six days ago. I was impressed by that. I also realized a few days ago that there was creme fraiche for this recipe and it was not in my fridge. I am pleased to report that the packaging kept it fresh in the knick-knack bag.

Fresh ginger and garlic!
There were a lot of firsts in this recipe. I never use fresh garlic and fresh ginger because they are a pain in the butt. I am not sure I did the world's best mincing job, but they gave the meal amazing flavor. (I did learn that I probably need to break down and get a nice knife set because I had trouble chopping up my cooked spinach too.) I also cooked rice and had it turn out, which never seems to happen in my world. I like all the little tips that Blue Apron gives me.

Speaking of the rice, it took a lot less time to cook than I thought it would and it just kind of sat there (and got a little bit sticky) while I was cooking the chicken and preparing the sauce. The chicken was a place where I went off recipe for a minute. I used the glass lid to my pan instead of tenting the pan with foil to speed up the cooking time. One of my chicken breasts was really thick and the other one was almost a cutlet. I had to remove the thinner one first and let it sit on the plate while the other finished cooking, and it took longer than planned.

The sauce was easy to make and it was great. I will probably use canned crushed tomatoes more often
So much sauce
in cooking because I really liked the flavor and consistency. The creme fraiche really helped balance out the acidity and the spices.

The smells coming out of my kitchen for this meal were probably my favorite part. Everything smelled so delicious that I was literally salivating waiting to get everything plated. It still took me more than 40 minutes. Tonight's meal came in at 55, but maybe I am just not a speedy cook. I know my kitchen has a horrible layout, and I am sure that doesn't help. This was my last free meal, but I'm going to go ahead and try another week of Blue Apron and then I may take a little break. I don't want to get burned out on it. I am just really looking forward to what I'll be getting in the package tomorrow.

The finished product
Perhaps my only complaint with this meal, which is going to sound silly because of how delicious it was, is that there was a lot of food for this one. When I looked at the recipe card I couldn't figure out how this came in at more than 600 calories. There was so much rice, and I probably had to put about one-third of a cup of the sauce down the disposal (although the sauce is so delicious that you might want extra). I just hated to waste any of it because the whole point of Blue Apron for me is to cut down on waste.

I also didn't do the wine pairing tonight because I was feeling dehydrated and stuck with water. I think if I had paired it, I probably would've gone with a Pinot Grigio because of all the spiciness that was happening.

I can't remember everything I'm getting next week, but I know there is catfish and pork chops. Stay tuned to see what else I have to say about this experiment. Today I was telling my aunts that they should try it. They have been really struggling to get dinner on the table without grandma running their kitchen as only a retired dietary manager could. They asked me a lot of questions about recipes, value, how it is delivered. I suspect at the end of the day they may be too finicky with their food preferences and they worried that they lived too far away for the deliveries, but I would love for them to try it.

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Blue Apron: Day 2

So, I am getting the hang of this Blue Apron thing. I'm getting more familiar with following their recipes, and the meals are getting more delicious. I am really looking forward to next week's recipes because I am not sure if they can top this week.

The beginnings of meatball ragout
My second meal was Meatball Ragout with Swiss Chard. Today's true confessions are that I've never made a ragout before (it's like a stew), and I can't remember a time that I've used chard. I wasn't sure how the chard would hold up for several days, so I decided to cook it before the chicken dish that I'll be making tomorrow.

So. Much. Prep.
This meal required a lot of prep. There were lots of veggies to cut up, meatballs to roll out (although this was the easiest time I've had making meatballs), and lots of cooking. The meat had to be browned, then the potatoes had to get started before you added the other veggies. And then you had to add the browned meat back in
with the chard and some water. It was very labor intensive, and it didn't take 40 minutes. It took 59. I set a timer to see if I could deliver in under 40 minutes like it promised. I didn't even have to find the corkscrew this time. But even with all the prep and cooking, it was still easier to prepare that if I'd done it myself, and it was delicious. This was, however, a meal that I might try to replicate on my own. It's a perfect stew for a cold, rainy day, so it worked out that I made it yesterday.

Meatballs before
Meatballs after

Meatballs during
While I am not still not sure about the value of Blue Apron and I have concerns about all the waste of
these tiny, individual packages, some of the specialized ingredients in this meal were appreciated. Two tablespoons of tomato paste in a packet is perfect. I waste so much tomato paste in my life. You buy a whole can for one or two tablespoons, and then a few weeks later you throw away a half can of moldy tomato paste. And another one of the "knick knacks" in this recipe was a tablespoon of beef demi-glace. Demi-glace is something that eludes me in my culinary adventures. I was glad that I didn't have to attempt to make it on my own. Add in a tablespoon of corn starch and 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, you're adding a lot of convenience if someone likes to cook but doesn't have a very well-stocked pantry.

Cooking the veggies
The meatballs were perfect. I'm not sure I can replicate that spice blend if I decide to make this again later. They were just the right size and cooked perfectly. I loved the tips on that part of the recipe. The chard wasn't hard to work with, and I liked the flavor. All of the veggies worked well with the meat, along with the beefy, tomato-y flavor. And this recipe made a lot of food. I was told when I started that there would be some meals that would probably be more than two servings and this was one of them. I ate it for dinner two nights in a row, and I might have it again for lunch tomorrow. (Or maybe for a snack later tonight, if we're being honest.) But it was filling. I didn't eat a bowl of it and starve later in the evening. It was just so delicious and there's still some in the fridge, and it may just end up in my belly. And it's not bad for you. The only carbs were from veggies and a tablespoon or so of panko bread crumbs, and it came in at 550 calories per serving, assuming you ate half of the pan in one serving.

After adding the chard and meatballs
I am still really enjoying Blue Apron, but even if I had the money right now I would have to take weeks off here and there. The food is good, but I could see it getting to be a bit much. Some nights I still just want to throw a turkey burger on the George Foreman grill. I don't need gourmet meals every night, and this is from someone who likes to cook. For one thing, all of this prep dirties a lot of dishes. So far I've been able to keep everything limited to one cooking pan, but all of the bowls to hold all the various veggies so that you can follow the process can be overwhelming. Thank goodness I have a dishwasher. And, honestly, I am trying to follow the process because I'm reporting on it. If I were just flying by the seat of my pants like usual, I would just throw stuff together to not have so much to clean up.
The finished product

Tomorrow night is something totally different: Nepalese Chicken Tarkari. I have never made any Nepalese food before, and it looks good in the pictures. I am guessing it might be a little spicy.

Stay tuned for a full report.

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