Thursday, March 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Prom Edition

I did my fair share of dating in high school but I only had one full-fledged boyfriend. We dated for three months during our junior year, then I broke up with him. I can't remember why. We got back together in our senior year and dated from November to the beginning of February. He blindsided me when he broke up with me on a day that came to be known as Black Sunday.

Melodramatic? Me? In high school? Nawwww...

A couple of months later, I was walking after school with my friend Mike. We were walking to his house so he could give me a ride home. It was a pretty, sunny late-spring day. The sun felt warm on my hair but the air was still cool. As we were walking along, Mike said, "Hey, you're not dating anyone. I'm not dating anyone. Want to go to prom together?" I had absolutely no romantic interest in Mike but he was a fun, great guy and we had spent all of our high school years together - classes, choir, theater productions, the same tight-knit group of friends. Going to prom with Mike seemed like the perfect way to end a great four years. I told Mike I would love to go to prom with him.

We ended up double-dating to prom with my sister and a guy she did NOT want to go with. The guys wore matching "silver" tuxes. I wore a lavender full-length gown from JC Penney and my sister wore a dress that she and our mom made from fabric Mom had purchased in Europe in the 1960s. The four of us had dinner at THE restaurant for prom dates, danced ourselves silly at the prom, then went to the school-sanctioned post-prom party at the bowling alley. Mike got so drunk that he threw up, which irritated the hell out of me, but I had a great time.

 Even now, over 30 years later, that sweet moment when Mike asked me to the prom makes me smile and gets me a bit choked up. Mike and I have lost touch over the years but he will always have a little spot in my heart.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Little kindnesses

Holy cats, it’s been a long time! I really should be studying for my Catering exam tomorrow (would anyone have predicted that Catering would be this semester’s Econ? Nope, didn’t think so.) but Boston got me thinking. Well, several lovely reactions to Boston got me thinking.

Jen said, “Rather than lamenting the evil that happens every minute in every part of the world, remind yourself that humans are intrinsically good.”

Patton Oswalt said, “So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.'"

I think it’s mostly about the little things. I can’t change the world but I can make an impact on my little piece of it.

Like this:

A couple of days ago, on an almost-whim, I stopped at a Walgreen’s to see what they have in the way of makeup mirrors. (The frame/stand of mine broke a few weeks ago and I am finding it exceedingly difficult to find an acceptable replacement.) Walking through the store, I noticed a small boy with dark hair walking in one direction around a corner and down an aisle and a young woman with dark hair walking in a different direction, then around a corner and down a different aisle. She was clearly looking for someone and he looked lost.

I said to him, “Are you looking for your mom?” He just looked at me with great big eyes. The woman, whom I assumed to be his mom, started back toward where we were standing and I called out to her, “He’s over here.” She hurried over, saw him, gave me a harried, relieved “thank you” then scolded him for not staying with her and they walked away together.

It was nothing. It was, oh, maybe 30 seconds of my life. But I reunited a boy and his worried (or maybe just frustrated) mom faster than they would have found each other without me. It felt good to help them.

It was a tiny, little thing. I didn’t do it for me but it made me feel good for the rest of the day. Well, clearly it still makes me feel good since I’m writing about it two days later. More importantly, I made a tiny little impact on that mother and son.

Maybe you think this is a silly thing to write about, especially after the bombings in Boston. Maybe it is a silly thing to be proud of. But it’s these little things I know I can do so I will keep on doing them.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s my way of fighting back.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Balancing Act

My days are suddenly full. Since I started back to college last January until a few weeks ago, my only responsibilities were school and singing with the church choir (and the occasional solo). During the summer and early fall, I helped a friend plan a charity walk but that didn’t take much of my time. My life’s scale was fairly level.

A few weeks ago, I agreed to go back to work, part-time and temporarily, at my old job to help them through their busy time. This semester is charging toward finals week and I am starting to feel the pressure of class projects that are due at the end of November. (I am finding there are not a lot of big tests in my major; instead, we have projects. Makes sense, given the creative nature of hospitality and event planning, but I’d rather take a test. Call me lazy.) In addition to my regularly-scheduled obligations and the increased volume of school work, there are a number of other unanticipated items I need to fit in. I am at the point where if it isn't on my calendar, it won't get done because there are so many things demanding my attention that I am likely to forget anything that isn't written down. I am even scheduling time for laundry and housecleaning. (Laundry gets done, at least well enough to keep me decent in public, but housekeeping is hit or miss. Mostly miss.)

It feels like 17 new things get added to my To Do stack every day. I feel out of balance and possessive of my free time. I need to fulfill my responsibilities and I want to socialize with my friends, but I know that if I don’t have some down time, too, I will go a little bonkers.

With that in mind, I am instituting Solitary Saturday. From the time I get home this Friday evening until I go to church on Sunday morning, I will not leave the house. I will sleep in, and maybe even lollygag in bed once I do wake up. I will probably answer the phone if Caller ID announces a select few loved ones but anybody else is definitely SOL. (Hear that, politicians?) I will be productive because I have to be, but it will focus on housework rather than homework. Solitary Saturday will also include plenty of “wasted” time. I mean, c’mon, my DVR, my Pinterest (aka Internet crack) account, and Pogo need love, too.

Oooh, I just realized that I even get an extra hour Saturday night! Whether I will spend that hour awake or asleep it yet to be determined.

Intentionally moving to the other side of the scale for 24 hours will rejuvenate me. Heck, just knowing Solitary Saturday is coming centers me. I am an extrovert and definitely a social person but I need time away from the world, too, and Solitary Saturday is the counterweight to all of my busy-ness.

What do you do when life gets unbalanced? Do you take time for yourself or do you find it hard to do?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caramelized Onions, a Run-on Blog Post

I’ve been busy in the kitchen lately. (Truth be told, I've been just plain busy since the fall semester started 5 weeks ago.) I’m not going to say I’ve been cooking a lot, although I have done a lot more cooking and baking in the last few weeks than I have done for a long, long time. Along with the actual cooking/baking, I have been a smoothie-making fool, which has led to a lot of experimentation with flavors and also with freezing fruit.

I discovered that freezing bananas in their skins doesn’t work well, at least not for me. If I tried to use them frozen, I had to cut the skins off with a sharp knife. If I thawed the bananas to use them, I was completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – grossed out by the slimy, watery mess that slid out of the blackened skins. Guh-ross.

I also discovered that store-bought frozen peaches taste like canned peaches (yuck) but fresh peaches, peeled and cut into chunks, freeze beautifully (name that movie) and make a really, really good smoothie. To which end I bought 8 pounds of peaches the other day. Yes, I do live alone, why do you ask?

I could go on. But the objective today is to crow about the caramelized onions I made on Sunday. When I tasted the finished product, I said, “Oh, mama, these are good!” Out loud. Alone in my apartment. Yeah, they are that good.

This is not quick, but it is easy. I spent about two hours, start to finish, but once the onions are in the pot, I had many 5-10 minute intervals to fill. In addition to achieving amazing onions, my kitchen is super clean!
The finished product.
Next time I will take before and after pictures.

Here’s the method/recipe:

Caramelized Onions

6 large sweet yellow onions
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
2 t. salt

Yield: 2-3 cups of yummmmm

Cut tops and root ends off of onions and peel. Slice onions lengthwise1 into small (1/4-1/2” wide) slices.

Heat oil and butter in large heavy dutch oven2 on medium until butter melts. Add onions to pot and stir to coat onions with oil/butter3. The onions will probably fill the pot to the top.

Cook on medium, stirring gently every 5 minutes, for 15-20 minutes. The onions will reduce in volume very quickly. When onions are translucent, sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over the onions; stir, then repeat with second teaspoon of salt and stir.

Continue to cook over medium or medium low4, stirring every 5-10 minutes until all of the liquid is evaporated. This may take an hour or a bit more. Use spoon/spatula5 to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot when stirring.

When the liquid is almost gone, reduce the heat. Continue to cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until onions reach the desired level of golden-brown deliciousness. It is important to watch the onions and stir frequently as you reach the end.

You can add a splash of wine or balsamic vinegar near the very end to add a bit of flavor and deglaze the pot. I’m sure I will try wine sometime because I love using wine in cooking but you may have deduced by now that I like these ridiculously delicious sweeties straight up.
1 I have no idea why cutting the onions length-wise is important, but every single recipe/video/guide I saw online (much research went into the production of these onions) specifically said to cut length-wise. Maybe next time I’ll cut them cross-wise. Yeah, that’s right, I get crazy like that.

2 I used my fabulous ceramic-coated cast iron dutch oven. Directions I read online said to use a large, heavy skillet with a large surface area. That would probably reduce the cooking time because the liquid would evaporate faster, but I love the results I got with the dutch oven and the ceramic coating is almost non-stick.

3 I added the onions in stages so stirring was easier.

4 You want more than a calm simmer, less than a full-on boil.

5 I used a wooden spatula for the whole process – it worked great.

The whole reason I spent two hours of my Sunday cooking onions is because I wanted to include them in my idea for breakfast pizza. I’ve been on a homemade pizza kick lately, sparked by this pizza crust recipe, so I've been googling and Pinterest searching all things pizza and somewhere along the line I came across recipes for breakfast pizza. Which compelled me to seek out interesting toppings, which led me to the caramelized onions.

After the onions were perfectly cooked, I baked them in a pizza topped with:

“sauce” made of cream cheese mixed with Rotel
caramelized onions (I probably don’t have to tell you that it was very, very hard to go easy on the onions)
cooked mild sausage
a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese
one egg

Ignore the odd shape of my pizza. Ignore the off-center placement of the egg. This pizza was tasty! many places can I use caramelized onions??

What’s the tastiest dish you have created lately?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A cautionary tale

Once upon a time, there was a girl. A girl who, while occasionally given to fits of economic impulsivity, generally lived within her means. Her means did not allow for purchase of fripperies like hardcover books, beautiful but impractical shoes, fancy-pants culinary ingredients, or glittery yet oh-so-unnecessary jewels. Most of the time, this girl was content…well, maybe not content, but tolerant…with her financial station.

One day she whiled away a quiet afternoon by perusing the pretty things offered for sale by the fanciful but dangerous dragon known as The Internet. She had spent many, many, many, many, many hours thus engaged before but had not been tempted by the dragon’s wares. This day, however, was different.

This day, she stumbled upon the most beautiful adornment she had ever seen. A ring. Possibly the most perfect ring ever created. A ring, she believed, created just for her.

A large, deep purple, rectangular amethyst sat above a wide band of silver. The stone was secured to the band by heavy yet delicate swirls of silver at each corner. The design was simple and whimsical, delicate and strong…like the girl. The dragon’s price was dear, but not so dear that it was beyond possibility, if she played her cards right and did not order delivery pizza too often.

She desired the ring. The desire sprouted deep in her heart and grew like Jack’s beanstalk until it leapt out of her mouth. “I will have this ring!” she declared.

Being a mostly-responsible girl, she put the ring at the very top of her wish list. And she wished. She wished for a fairy godmother to drop the ring into her lap. She wished for a handsome prince to place the ring on her finger. (Sometimes she just wished for the handsome, or even not-so-handsome, prince, but that is a different story.) She wished for a windfall. She wished for a magically low power bill that would leave just enough coins in her pocket to pay for the ring. (She did not, however, stash a leftover coin or two away on the rare occasions that she had a coin or two left over. Mostly-responsible, yes. Hugely gifted with foresight and a desire to save, not so much.)

Alas, her wishes did not come true. As the months passed, the girl occasionally tiptoed (tip-fingered? finger-tipped?) back to the site of her beloved ring, creeping quietly so as not to wake the dragon, and sighed as she gazed on the ring’s beauty. “Someday,” she whispered, “someday you will be mine.”

Then the mournful day came when she revisited the site only to find that the ring was gone. Vanished into thin ether(net). She searched frantically, googled hither and yon, certain she could find her darling ring hiding among the treasures in some other dragon’s lair. But it was as if the ring never existed.

She mourned.

Months and months and months went by. The girl was enticed by other charming jewels, even other rings, but she never forgot the swirled beauty. Even today, years after discovering the perfect ring – and years after losing it, probably to somebody's foolish stepsister with big feet and a sugar daddy – she searches for it. She knows that she will never find it but she also knows she will never be completely complete without it.

Life goes on and the girl goes with it. Other things make her happy and she has mostly accepted the loss of the ring she never had. But sometimes, when the moon is bright and the need to surf silently among the dragon’s merchandise is strong, she sighs and longs for the ring.

The moral of the story is this: When you find something you love, really, really, REALLY love, you must buy it. Now. It might not be there tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

School Daze

A little over two years ago, I created a goal:

Graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management with an emphasis on Event Planning.

Funny thing is I didn’t really identify that statement as my goal until about five minutes ago. On that October Saturday in 2009, I said to myself, “Self, I want to move to Lincoln, NE. I want to be closer to Himself. I want to enroll at UNL in Event Planning.” And I did that.

OK, so maybe those were my short-term goals at the time. But it just hit me that the long-term goal is graduation. I didn’t really think about graduation – about actually earning the degree – until now!

So, good. I need to find something to remind me of that long-term goal as I work through the next series of short-term goals. Because the short-term goals feel very daunting right now:

Complete first Microeconomics assignment without suffering stress-induced aneurism.
Welcome “insect pets” into my home. (You will probably hear more about this in the near future.)
Pass Microeconomics.
Get ‘A’s in all other classes.

I have completed one week of classes. It was exhilarating. It was stimulating. It was scary!

I love being on campus and I love being in class. I am really looking forward to getting into the meat of these classes and interacting with my fellow students and the instructors.

I am not really looking forward to Microeconomics. It is touted as being the 6th hardest course at UNL. Half the time that scares me to death; the other half of the time I take it as a challenge. I am a very smart girl, I can definitely pass the class. But I want to do better than the 2.51 average earned by previous Microecon students. One week and one lecture in, and currently working on a 5-page, single-spaced assignment, I’m in the scared-to-death zone.

Graduation, graduation, graduation…

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yay, me.

Well, I didn’t really want to come back this way but, as someone dear to me likes to say, it is what it is.

Next Monday is the realization of one dream and the beginning of a long journey. It is the first day of Spring 2012 classes at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. I am enrolled full-time and I am SO excited to take this next step! I have been working toward this goal for over two years and I am proud of myself for sticking with it and doing what I needed to do to make it happen.

But all I can think right now is that I don’t want to do it alone. I know that my friends and family are proud of me and everyone is encouraging me to succeed but here…now…I am alone.

No one to high-five that I made it. No one to put their arms around me and tell me that they know I can do it when I am afraid that I can’t. No one to take a picture of me on the first day of school. No one waiting at the end of the day to hear how things went. No one who will wash the dishes so I can tackle my Econ homework.

Difficult times are hard to face alone but I think the triumphs are even harder. It’s really hard to celebrate alone.