Friday, April 22, 2011

Beef Stroganoff and Daddy Issues

Living an hour away from my family and friends can sometimes be harrowing.  Doug works long and erratic hours. I don't work at all.  So, I spend a lot of time alone, or with the dogs.  If I lived back in NY, I'd be surrounded by a bevy of family and friends.  Instead, simple girlfriend get-togethers require much more planning than ever before - partly due to evolving lives and growing families, still I can't help but believe the added distance is a factor.  Family dinners are reduced to mostly holidays and special occasions. For the most part, I'm not complaining.  Even with it's occasional pitfalls and difficulties, I love my life.  I have a wonderful supportive man who allows me just enough wallowing before lighting a motivational fire under my tush, the time we spend together is filled with love and laughter and when I do get to see my family and friends, it's usually somewhat of a grand event.  

There is just one thing that's been eating at me.  It's been eating at my father too, but not in the way he'd prefer.  It's something he mentions with every new blog post and the physical distance between us is, without a doubt, the culprit. A staunch supporter of my blog, as is the rest of my family, dad loves reading my prose but simply reading the recipes just isn't cutting it.  Culinarily challenged, he is a bit gun shy about attempting my recipes but exhibits no hesitation in reminding me (with great regularity) that "dear old dad" has yet to sample my dishes.  

However, last December, Doug and I had the pleasure of hosting my parents for a simple dinner.  It was a lovely evening and this dish was the star - at least for us carnivores (mom, being pescevegetarian, feasted on a huge salad and some noodles (next time they come for dinner, though, I'm making this)).  Dad raved about dinner then, and can now say that he's tasted (at least one of) my recipes.  So, dad, this one's for you!  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Toaster Oven Chicken Tenders & Cheesy Mashed Potatoes

Sometimes you just need comfort food.  Today was one of those days.  Actually, many days lately have been one of those days. I've been really needing to cloak myself in a big, enveloping comfort food hug.

You see, I lost my job last year.  A job I loved, working for a company I believed in, where I was successful and well respected. You know, a rarity!  I'd only been with the company for a few short months but had already been promoted, was an integral member of the CEO's management team and had forged some really great friendships.  I was, dare I say it, happy.  Wait...what?  She's happy? Cue disaster. Get misery and depression on the phone, we need them on stand-by. And so, on that balmy Monday afternoon in mid-July, when disaster apparently had nothing better to do, it all came tumbling down.  

I suppose, if you're the kind of person who believes in signs, you may have seen this coming.  What began as a sunny morning commute foretold what was to come when no sooner did I set foot out of the car in the office parking lot than the sky took on an ominous shade of gray.  Every trace of blue vanished and clouds rolled in as I walked into the building, down the hall and towards my office. Plunging the key into the lock on my office door, I turned the handle in synchronicity with the first thunderclap.  The skies opened up and rain pelted my office window, hard.  I gazed outside as my computer booted up, too distracted by the cacophony of the storm to notice the prescient text message that had arrived from my closest work friend.  "Whatever happens today, I love you Jour and am glad you are a part of my life.". Concerned, I frantically dialed Jessica's number. Voicemail, damn.  

Moments later she came sweeping into my office with breaking news, a look of despair on her face.  The CEO's daughter, she had information about events that had transpired over the weekend, and behind closed doors, with teary eyes, we talked about the impending death of our beloved corporation.  Long story short, we were forced into a chapter 7 bankruptcy by lenders and private equities firms who saw us as a write off.  The livelihood of close to 100 dedicated employees reduced to little more than black numbers on a white page.  The shades of gray lie in the bewildered glances exchanged.  In the line of former employees sitting on the curb, boxes holding months and years of their professionals lives next to them, wondering how to get home to loved ones who were hours, if not many states away, when our company cars were no longer company property.  In the farewell hugs and the abundance tears.  In the taxed looks on the faces of people who were, simply, a tax write off.

That evening was one of the hardest nights of my life.  I couldn't take phone calls from concerned friends and family because I couldn't stop crying long enough to talk.  I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep.   Hell, I could barely catch my breath. That was 9 months and countless emailed resumes ago.  In this time, I've gotten, if I'm being generous, maybe 10 responses.  Most emails get ignored leading me to believe that the digital age has done little more than give us yet another medium with which to be rude.  Phone calls go unanswered, messages unreturned and the couple of recruiters I've actually spoken with have been kind enough to make the decision for me that either a) the commute was too far or b) the pay was too low.  Head, wall,  I believe you 2 have met.  Bang, bang bang.

I had my first interview since being laid off last week.  If you ask me, if went really well; I'm perfectly qualified, they didn't blink at my salary requirements, the owner and I are both dog lovers (his Jack Russell even spends time in the office). Yet, here it is, a week later and...nothing.  Obviously, there are good days and bad and I know things will eventually change, but I'm just not feeling the love on the job front.  So, you know that feeling of love that comes from having a belly full of homemade comfort food?  The kind that takes you in, wraps you up and makes you feel like a happy, protected 5 year old?  That is what I needed (albeit with slightly fewer calories)! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bean Curd and Bucket Lists

Recently, a fellow blogger got me thinking about bucket lists. We all have one, whether scrawled on the back of an envelope, meticulously enumerated on a "to-do" list or not so indelibly etched with our mental pencils. Mine was the to-do list variety; bulleted points, each carefully printed with an extra fine tip Sharpie (my "this is important" pen).  Sadly, my actual list was lost during one of umpteen moves in as many years.  I don't think it's lost for good, but more likely is packed away with half of my life in a storage unit in NY. I remember never keeping the list readily accessible, preferring instead to hide it away somewhere where I'd only come across it once or twice a year. It was fun to see not only what I'd accomplished and how far I'd come, but as the list got older, the kinds of things I'd aspired to all those years ago. It was always good for a teensy feeling of accomplishment as well as a chuckle or 2 at my younger self. The last time I stumbled upon the list, I was able to cross off a couple of items, one due to accomplishment (get a tattoo - I now have 2) the other due to physical restrictions following a car accident and subsequent injury (go skydiving). I got to thinking how sad it was that I'd had so many opportunities to skydive prior to my accident and never took any of them. The excuses were plentiful albeit, if I'm being honest, lame. Once, I was too busy at work. Another time I couldn't justify spending the money.  Yet another time a friend gave me too little notice.  Looking back, all I can tell myself is: work to live, don't live to work, what good is the money if you can't enjoy it and a little spontaneity never hurt anyone.

These days, I don't often think about my bucket list but my goals have evolved over the years.  Seeing as my first list was created in my early 20's and contained such deep and discerning ideas such as "get a tattoo", "swim with dolphins" and "name a star", I decided to establish (at least the beginnings of) my new 30-something bucket list right here. In no particular order, here goes:

  • Re-master my command of the French language
  • Master another language (Italian)
  • Test my mastery of both languages by returning to France, and visiting my family in Italy
  • Travel more - eat my way across the country and around the world
  • Learn more about wine
  • Go back to school and pursue a career change involving either my first love (science/medicine) or my enduring love (cooking/baking)
  • Do/learn something new every day 
  • Write a cookbook
  • Start a family
  • Commit fully to a healthy lifestyle 
  • Make time for the people who enrich my life
  • Learn to let go of the toxic people who don't
That's a pretty ambitious start, but there's room for one more:
  • Find new and exciting ways to create protein rich, meatless meals like this one