Category Archives: Thoughts

Mind Your Manners

To my mother’s credit, I am probably one of the most well mannered people you’re going to find in this day and age.  I always send thank you notes, even to my parents and siblings. I can tell you which fork to use at a formal dinner party (generally speaking work from the outside in).  I can tell you that it is rude to butter your entire roll (rather you should butter only the piece you are about to consume).  I can properly set a table – bread plate and forks on the left, knife (always with the blade toward the plate), spoon, and drinks on the right.  I am the consummate hostess (Martha Stewart aside), always striving to make my guests feel like they are staying at the Four Seasons.  It is to the point that I have even been referred to as “Emily Post” by certain friends in a half joking manner.  As a matter of fact, I was consulted on etiquette for my own bridal shower.

I must tell you, however, that there are a few draw backs to all of this politeness…

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Oh, Baby

The past three weeks have been a blur.  We have the new puppy, I have been working insane hours (not as in a lot of hours, only about 45 per week, but just really strange and varying times), and I have barely seen my husband.  When one is home, the other is away.  This works out great for the puppy, but not so well for my sanity.

I have found myself swinging back and forth between elation at this new, fuzzy, loving creature in our care and what I can only describe as post-puppy depression.  The puppy’s constant need for attention and love does not pair well with the 3 hours of sleep I have been getting each night.  Add to that the demands of being the only one home when I am here coupled with an I-never-get-to-see-my-husband level of loneliness and it’s a recipe for frustration.  I think I’m losing my mind.

Here’s an example of my recent daily schedule:

1. Fall asleep around midnight or 1 am because I am a night owl and just cannot fall asleep any earlier than that no matter how hard I try.

2. Kick my husband awake at 3 am when the puppy is whining to go out hoping he won’t recall the kicking part and that he’ll think it was the puppy that woke him up.  Promptly fall back asleep as bleary-eyed husband shuffles outside with the dog.

3. Blindly slap at the off button on my alarm clock at 4:57 am.

4.  Stumble to the bathroom, trying not to wake the dog or the husband. Dress in the dark.  Go to try and kiss the husband goodbye, run into post on bed.  Swear loudly waking up both dog and husband.

5. Apologize to now fuming confused husband and whiny puppy as I scramble out the door.

6. Trudge through 8 1/2 hours at work.

7. Drive home.

8. Kiss husband in garage as I arrive and he leaves.

9. Walk inside look at the dog, look at the bed, look at the dog.  Sigh.

10. Feed the dog.

11. Take dog outside.  Praise her lavishly for peeing.  Run inside to get the treat I forgot to bring out.  Return to find the dog eating landscaping bark. Remove bark from dog’s mouth, try to interest her in a tennis ball.  Dog looks at me like I am crazy, jumps up and grabs another piece of bark. Repeat process.  Try to coax dog inside using the treat, chance of success 50%.  If the plan fails, give up and physically carry the dog inside.

12. Sit down, realizing how tired I am.  Dog is immediately by my side with a toy.  Play with dog.

13. Repeat step 11.

14. Come inside and sigh in relief as the dog lays down for a nap.  Try to relax.  Fall asleep.  Wake up in a panic 40 minutes later to realize the dog has peed on the floor.  Sigh.  Repeat step 11 and clean carpeting.

15. Husband gets home, give him a half-hearted kiss, tell him I’m going to bed.  Lay there fruitlessly trying to fall asleep for 2 hours until he and the dog come to bed.  Finally fall asleep around midnight or 1 am.

16. Slap off alarm at 4:57 am.

The one thought that keeps going through my head in the midst of all of this craziness is “how do parents do it?”  I can barely handle a dog and she can be crated when necessary.  What do people do when there is a little person in your life that is even more demanding that a puppy?  I just cannot imagine finding the time and energy for a baby.  And I know there is still plenty of time, it’s not at all that I feel I need to do anything about it now.  I guess I just worry that maybe it’s something that will never feel convenient.  And then again, why should it?  There is nothing at all convenient about changing any part of your routine and having to make allowances for others, but in the end they say it is worth it.  And while I will say that every parent I know somehow makes it work, and eventually manage to return to some level of normalcy, I just really don’t think we’re there yet.  I like my sleep (and the puppy will sleep through the night sooner rather than later) and I like my quiet, orderly life.   For now I think a puppy is about as much as we can and want to handle.


Here Comes the Sun

Things have been excessively busy in our household the past three weeks (hence the less than regular posting). We have had visitors from out of town and I have been working 6 days a week.  To top all that off, I just accepted a new temporary position (with the fervent hope that it turns permanent) and we finally have adoption proceedings in place on a beautiful 8 1/2 week old puppy.

I have not actually cooked anything in 3 weeks (unless you count oatmeal). Come to think of it, I haven’t even gone to the grocery store in the past 10 days (much to my husband’s dismay!).  Needless to say the cupboards are bare.

Things are going to be chaotic for the next several weeks, and there will be a new family member who I don’t think will appreciate my extensive editing process, but we’ll make it work.  I am very happy that things are moving in such a positive direction.  Not to say that it will all be smooth sailing, but at least it seems to be going in the right direction.  I am happy to see the sun peaking out from behind the clouds.  Stay tuned for your regularly scheduled programming, er, blogging.


The Seven Year Itch

Courtesy of http://www.pollsb.com/photos/ o/30135-itch_scratch.jpg

Okay, maybe it hasn’t been seven years, but time is relative.  No, I am not talking about a deep stirring desire to find greener pastures, I love my husband (and we haven’t even been married for seven months yet).  I am talking about hives. Hives that I have been breaking out in randomly for 2 1/2 long years.

It started right around the time we got engaged (coincidence I am sure).  I would wake up in the middle of the night with my feet and hands swollen, red, and itchy.  It was awful.  And, having rarely dealt with even a simple pollen allergy prior to this, it took me months to try taking an antihistamine in response (it just never occurred to me).

The antihistamine “solution” was something I stumbled upon accidentally as I was on a cruise a few months after this all started and was absolutely going to distraction with the itching one night.  My entire back was inflamed.  All I had in my makeup bag was a Claritin so I took it.  And there it was, sweet relief.  I started taking one a day, and for a month I was itch free, but then the hives came back and I was so dejected I dismissed the Claritin as no longer useful and suffered through the bouts.

Now a sensible person is asking themselves at this time, “for God’s sake, why have you not gone to see a doctor yet!?”  And I really don’t have a good answer for that.  I guess I didn’t want to hear that I was allergic to anything.  After all, I am a chef and I can think of nothing more tragic than to find out that there is a food or wine out there that I simply cannot have. Ignorance is bliss as they say.  But, one can also only be uncomfortable for so long.  Eventually I gave in.  Because they would come and go with no pattern I took pictures (which I will spare you the sight of as they are enough to make someone without a tendency toward hives to break out) and booked an appointment with the dermatologist.  They were extremely (read: not) helpful.  “Yep, those are hives.  Go see an allergist.”

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And Your Bird Can Sing

image courtesy of pixdaus.com

I have a headache.  The kind of headache that you get from crying. The crying that comes from disappointment and frustration.

It can be hard to find the silver lining in a dark and cloudy sky.  I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that you will ultimately find yourself where you are suppose to be.  That does not, however, lessen the sting that comes from realizing the path you were walking down has taken a sudden turn.  That the things you could see in the distance you can no longer access.

My temporary promotion is ending.  With it goes what little financial stability we had.  And truly I am not bitter.  I know I did a good job.  I know I impressed the people I needed to impress.  I appreciate the opportunities, and I know my chance for a permanent position will come, but I don’t know when.  All I can do for now is return to my previous position with the dignity and pride that comes from having done my job well.  It is the financial ramifications of this change that are terrifying.  This change takes us from, “okay, we can’t go out to dinner anymore and that 8-year-old car had better hold together” to “if I don’t get a permanent position in the next 6 weeks we will be getting rid of cable and we will not be getting a dog.”

A dog, that’s the other fading dream.  The litter we were waiting on ended up only having 4 puppies, there wasn’t a little girl pup for us.  My heart is broken.  No, it’s not the end of the world and as my husband points out it’s not “our” dog until it comes home with us, but it felt like “our” dog.  I was so excited, and then I was so disappointed.  The breeder gave us the name of another breeder who is expecting a litter and who has us on her list, but she can’t be sure we will get a dog from her either.  These puppies are not due until February 8th and so I will have to wait.  And the worst part of it is that part of me wonders if it’s just not meant to be.  Maybe this is a sign.  Or maybe it’s just a necessary delay.  Perhaps the powers that be are trying to make sure we have enough cushion.  But it’s so hard to feel like things are going to work out when at the moment they seem to be going so far away from where we had wanted to end up.

And so my search for a glimmer of silver in this darkened sky lights on a quote I saw in a Pottery Barn catalog of all places, “keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”  With that in mind I am trying to see beyond my disappointment, my frustration and my panic.  I am trying to be hopeful and realize that a year from now, six months from now, perhaps even six weeks from now, all of the sadness and the tears will seem like wasted energy and there will be a singing bird keeping me uplifted.


A Merry Little Christmas

Christmas wasn’t feeling very much like Christmas this year.  My husband and I have barely seen each other and presents under the tree were few and far between.  Money, as regular readers probably know, has been tight in our house.

Most years I shop with great care and anticipation, picking out something that is just right.  The earrings that I know my sister will love, the shirt that my brother needs, the perfect toy for my ever young-at-heart husband.  I love finding the gift.  I even love the act of gift wrapping, making the presentation as much a part of the offering as the object itself.  I hated the fact that this year I had to deny myself the pleasure.  There were no shopping expeditions to the mall, no moments of losing myself in a boutique store, no ridiculously long lines at the post office (okay, so I was not sad to miss that part of the Christmas experience).  Overall the season was feeling a little hollow.

It was only within the last week that I made the sudden announcement to my husband that I had broken our vow to not do presents this year and had spent $20 on a gift for him as well as $30 to send gifts to my niece and nephew.  I simply couldn’t help myself.  I realize, of course, that giving is not the meaning of the season, but for me it embodies the love, thoughtfulness, and affection I want to share with my loved ones.  The absence of giving was casting a shadow over the season for me. Unfortunately my sudden announcement sent my husband into a last minute gift-finding panic, but in the end he chose the perfect gift; a piece of himself (in the form of his artwork), a gift that no one else could have given to me. And this morning I waited with excitement while my gift to him was unwrapped, watched with pleasure as a smile spread across my husband’s face, and I smiled back.  Perhaps I wasn’t able to buy all the things I would have liked to buy for him and maybe it’s not the best Christmas we will ever have, but in the end it we shared a piece of ourselves and an understanding of one another.  It turned out to be a merry little Christmas after all.

 


It’s a Dog’s Life

"Saffron In The Snow" photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsmjr/98710020/

“A dog’s life” is a phrase meaning a “wretched existence .”*  I beg to differ.

We are in the process of adopting a puppy.  A puppy who will be brought into our home with the same fanfare and preparation that would normally greet an infant of the human persuasion.  We have been looking at baby blankets (because we want to give the dog something soft for its crate that carries out scent), purchased baby gates, researched food (which if you buy organic for yourself and give no thought to what is in your dog’s food I highly recommend you do some reading on the subject), and have purchased toys, collars, and leashes.  We have read “The Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook” which is the canine equivalent to “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  Names have been discussed and debated.  I have scoured Ebay for dog crates, looked at Orvis for dog safety restraints (for the car) as well as portable nylon crates, and have even planned an idyllic summer road trip to visit my grandmother and allow our puppy-to-be the ability to splash around in Lake Michigan.  This is going to be one pampered pooch.

And my pup will not be alone in her lap of luxury, in fact the lengths that my husband and I are willing to go to for our “fluffy ball of love” might be considered down right poverty level by some standards.  According to BusinessWeek, “Americans now spend $41 billion a year on their pets—more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world. That’s double the amount shelled out on pets a decade ago, with annual spending expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company based in Rockville, Md. That puts the yearly cost of buying, feeding, and caring for pets in excess of what Americans spend on the movies ($10.8 billion), playing video games ($11.6 billion), and listening to recorded music ($10.6 billion) combined.”**  If you take the time to do a little online shopping you can easily see how that much money can be spent.  I found dog beds that cost $1300 and marble bowls for $360 (they put my $24 Pottery Barn dog bowls to shame).  If you are in the market for a pet psychologist they can be commissioned for the same hourly cost as a human therapist.  And training, well that’s not as simple and inexpensive as buying a book these days; for the low, low cost of $600 you can have Bark Busters come into your home for about 6 weeks of one-on-one help with your four legged friend.  One only has to see a chihuahua residing in a designer bag on Paris Hilton’s arm to know that there are people in this world with the disposable income and questionable sense required to spend that kind of money.  But then again, who am I to talk?  Who knows what I would do with millions of dollars in the bank.

And so while the sad reality is that not every dog is given the comfort of a loving home, there are more and more dogs and cats that are living a very comfortable existence.  I would say for the majority, living a “dog’s life” is really not a bad way to go.

* Source: wordreference.com, The Collins English Dictionary

** Click  The Pet Economy for the BusinessWeek article in its entirety.


Take it with a Grain of Salt

“My table says they’re allergic to salt.”

I pause, ironically I was in the midst of finishing a steak with Maldon sea salt before it was sent out to a table.

“They’re not allergic to salt,” I reply with a sigh.

“But, they said…”

“I know, I know, they’re ‘allergic.’  I’ll go talk to them.”

Now, before I go touting the virtues of salt, I would like to offer up a couple disclaimers. First of all, I am obviously not a doctor and if you or a loved one has been advised to follow a low sodium diet please follow the physician’s directions. Secondly, I take allergies very seriously and would never do anything to put one of my patrons in harm’s way. Lastly, you’re not allergic to salt. It’s not even physically possible to be allergic to salt. Salt is not produced by your body, but is a mineral absolutely essential to the proper functioning of your cells. Don’t call it an allergy when it’s anything but.

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Home for the Holidays

 

Norman Rockwell's Perfect Holiday Portrait

I was feeling a bit like a voyeur driving through my neighborhood today. I found myself gazing longingly at the driveways full of cars and the windows twinkling with lights.  I found myself thinking about the hustle and bustle of entertaining, the beaujolais, the egg nog, the intoxicating scents and tastes.  I couldn’t help having a momentary twang of regret for my lifestyle.  You see, while everyone else is arriving at their destinations today, I’m on my way to mine – work.  The problem with the hospitality industry is that when everyone else is enjoying their time with family and friends, you’re busy taking care of the ones who don’t want to deal with the preparations and clean up.  I haven’t had a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years Eve off in years.  There is very little ability for most chefs to a vacation at this time of the year.  It’s not something that they tell you when you enter culinary school, it might be a hard way to sell someone on the career choice.  It gives me pause, thinking about the way the industry has to keep on moving despite the lives of the people in it.  What happens if Patrick and I start a family?  I am very rarely home before 11:00 p.m.  What if I never get to read bedtime stories?  What if I never get to spend Thanksgiving with my family?  What if I can’t be there to see my own children’s Christmas morning excitement?  Maybe that ‘s one of the reasons that this industry is so male dominated, but that’s a little sexist.  Surely it’s as hard on the men as it is on the women to give up that time.  After all, don’t most people want the comforts of home and family, especially at this time of year?  Perhaps I’m romanticizing it, I suppose if I was spending the weekend being driven crazy by family it might not seem so ideal.  The grass is always greener, as they say.  But truly I can’t help it, the longing is there every year.  I wish I could be home for the holidays.

 


The Girl Who Wanted Everything

 

The Little Blue Box

I like things, I always have.  I have a penchant for all things Pottery Barn, Ann Taylor, Coach, and a love for a certain little Blue Box.  For the record, I have never had a problem working hard to get what I was after.  I held down between 2 and 3 jobs throughout my undergraduate career (and I was fortunate enough to not have to pay for the tuition or room and board on that degree). I have always felt that I needed to have my own means regardless of my situation in life.   Unfortunately I haven’t always been as smart with my money as I could be.  Truth be told, I am still not as smart as I should be, but I am a few hard knock lessons down the road and I’d like to think that I will eventually figure it out.  If you live within your means is it bad to want things? What about when your means change?  Do you wonder if maybe it was deserved; karma, perhaps? Or is it just life’s unpredictability?

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