Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yay! Time off from work! Hooray!

T-2 days and counting!

Every year, I do my best to take the last week of the year as vacation. Someone asked me recently why I think it's the best week to have off. I said, "I don't know, but it is!"

Once upon a time, I worked for a company that closed down that last week. Makes sense as so many people take off anyway. For some reason, this became a tradition of mine. Sometimes I travel during this week. Last year, I went to London. This year, goin' no where but home.

I was away a lot this year. Usual trips to Florida, weekend in NYC, a weekend in the White Mountains, a sailing cruise around the New England coast, and a visit to Prague. I'm quite content to stay home and finally, catch up on the house projects that I've ignored for ...well...years

I know, I say this all the time. I'm going to get rid of the junk, clean up, reorganize. But, I've told everyone that's my plan for this week, so I have some motivation to really get the work done. Yes, I am sure I will get to know my local dumpster very well as I expect to visit it several times a day :-) And various other donation centers as I finally get rid of stuff that has lingered in my home way too long.

Hooray! Yay! Can't believe I'm actually looking forward to cleaning ...I love a clean home but hate being the one who is supposed to make it happen. Sure, I could hire a cleaning service. But wait, that's too embarrassing to do because ... I have TOO MUCH STUFF!  I have to clean before I would allow some stranger to come in and clean! Nutty, eh?

Sorry "stuff", your time has come to go away! I have no desire to become a candidate for that Hoarders show on TV.  I am so looking forward to starting the year with a whole lot less clutter.

The only fear...once I have cleared out the existing stuff, will I, as George Carlin has said, just go out and buy MORE stuff??

Thanks, Dad, for that shopping gene...:-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I am grateful...

As trite as it sounds, looking at someone's troubles can make your own seem trivial or, at least manageable.

A friend of mine is going through a horrible time. And every few days, some new burden is placed on her shoulders. I don't know how she is able to get through each day. And watching what's happening to her is breaking my heart because I feel so inept and lacking in the skills to help her. I don't know the right things to say or do. And just offering my support doesn't seem enough.

Which brings me to the gratitude bit. As much as I might complain, about things in my life, issues at work, or a daily annoyance, I feel enormously grateful for what I do have.

I have a home that I can afford. It's small, it's located in an out of the way place, but it's mine and I can make it comfortable. I am employed. At times, I've hated my job, but today, I'm loving it. I have it, it pays well, and I can be in a much, much worse situation. Seems silly now, watching what my friend is enduring, to complain about perceived slights or frustrations at work.

I have some good people in my life, some of whom I have not appreciated enough lately.  This past weekend was lovely -- a nature walk with one good friend, a wonderful trip to a museum with another. Good conversations, good company. All good. Today, I had lunch with another friend and discovered that my Christmas gift was the perfect one for him. It was so nice to know that I had been able to do something that brought joy to someone else.

Lately, I've been impatient and demanding with some people. Today, I realize I should be grateful and more accepting.  I have many nice things, in general, I have good health. I am financially comfortable enough to be able to afford more than the very basics. I've had wonderful vacations with family and friends. I have more than enough. I am grateful for it, very, very grateful. Today, I want to hold on to everything I have as tight as possible.  I want to hold on to all that's good in my life. Today, I realize how precious everything I have is to me.  And that the issues I have or think I have are nothing compared to how horrible things can become.  I fear that time, so tonight, I'm going to hold on to all that's positive right now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I wasn't where I needed to be...

I often put my cell phone on silent, especially at work. And then, forget to take it out of silent mode. Today, I sincerely regret that I do that and will not do it any more. A friend called me, in great need, and I didn't hear her call. So, I wasn't there when she needed me. 

My friend's husband committed suicide tonight. She called me asking for me to come be with her. I didn't hear the call until 2 hours later. She's OK, she has friends with her now. Her Mom is arriving tomorrow. People who care about her are taking care of her.

But, she called me and I wasn't there. And I wish I could be there. I wasn't any place important when she called. Just another night at the glass studio, which I could have left in a New York minute if I had heard her call.

I wasn't there. I didn't check my phone for messages. I don't get a lot of calls so I got out of the habit of checking the phone for messages. I didn't really think about the fact that terrible things happen, emergencies occur.

I wasn't there when called.

I'll be there in the days ahead. I'll help where I can and back off when asked to. I'll be one of many who will do that for her. I have no doubt that she will have a lot of support from many people who care so much about her.

But tonight, my friend called and I wasn't there.

I hope that never happens again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sometimes I get it right...

Last week,while he was here in the States for a company visit,  my UK friend was told that his employment was being terminated. This is the same friend who had decided to find a new job, anyway, but he expected to leave on his own terms and in his own time. Being told that he was being "terminated" before he had all his ducks in a row, was quite a blow. Having been in similar situations, I knew exactly how he felt and was able to articulate those feelings when talking with him, to show I understood how he felt (he tries very hard to be uber-stoic, so when I saw his sadness, I knew he was taking the situation hard). Did what I could to ease the pain, as any friend would do.

Today, in a IM chat, he told me how much my support meant to him. :-) Considering how logical, rational, and pragmatic his demeanor usually is, the fact that he shared that sentiment with me is a big thing. Oh, I knew he appreciated my support, but it went deeper than I thought.

I don't always get it right when it comes to figuring out what someone else needs at any particular time. I got it right this time and I feel good knowing that I was able to bring the right kind of help to someone who needed it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bad Behavior

Mine, of course. As much as I strive to be a "person without drama," sometimes I lose sight of my goal and allow myself to be caught up in a moment and poof! behavior I regret.

Had a bit of an argument with someone last night while at another person's house. I felt the person I was arguing with was being hostile and somewhat passive aggressive with me. I finally had had enough and pushed back. Of course, I should have spoken to the person outside of the social situation I was in, but I was "in the moment" and spoke my mind. It was a short moment and came at the end of the evening, but still, I'm sure it was an uncomfortable moment for the host of the evening. I've sent her my apologies for my behavior.

The person I argued with has behaved this way before and in the past, I let it go. I don't think I can do that this time.  Last night, it got to the point where I didn't feel I could even talk because this person would make a snide or passive aggressive comment.

Lately, I feel like I'm surrounded by people who seem to be dismissive of me or just plain mean. Makes me wonder -- is it something that I'm doing or am I just (finally) holding people so my standards of behavior regarding what is or is not acceptable?

Must think on that...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Surprise! I'm going to miss you...

Well, not *you*, but a friend of mine.

A friend of mine lives in the UK, but, for the last few years, he has come to the States for 3 weeks every three months or so for his job (he works for a US company).  When he comes, I get to spend a reasonable amount of time visiting with him on the weekends. We usually have lots of fun, I get a nice change to my normal routine, and most times, I end up going places I wouldn't normally go.

And, he's my oyster buddy :-) He introduced me to the joys of raw oysters and when he's here, we have oysters at least once during his visit.

Recently, he's decided it's time to find another job. And I agree. He's very, very smart, driven, and extremely motivated to create great software products. Not something he can do in his current job. He's been dissatisfied with his work for awhile, but giving up the frequent trips to visit his US friends has kept him holding on.  But, to no one's surprise, he's reached his limit and is now ready to find a new job (and he has a few options lined up).  It all makes sense to me and I am happy that he's ready to do something that's more satisfying and more in line with his talents.

A day later after we talked about this, I suddenly realized that I'm going to miss his visits. And, I'm totally surprised. He's a good friend, but we're not especially close. When he's not here, we don't communicate much. And while we have good times together, we don't share close, personal things very often.  So, I'm surprised at how much I suddenly feel a loss. I know that I'll visit him, and I'm sure he'll come for visits as well -- he has a lot of friends here. But, I didn't realize how much his visits had become a part of my general routine. Once every three months, there he was.

Today, I felt oddly happy and sad. Happy that my friend has a bright future ahead of him and is going to go out and reach for it. And yet so sad that this change means I won't have as many fun times with a friend who, apparently, has come to mean more to me than I realized.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Leaves falling like rain...

Driving to work today, a gust of wind brought down a shower of leaves and for a brief moment, the leaves were falling like red and gold rain drops. Like a call from the wild, I suddenly felt like driving to some unknown destination, leaving everything and most everyone behind (there are a couple of dear people that I hope to always carry with me).
There's something about this time of year that makes me think about change. One would think that Spring, with it's new leaves and bright sun, would be the motivation for seeking new adventures. For me, it's autumn. Perhaps it's the change in temperature -- the crisp, cold air that invites movement, if only to keep warm. Or maybe it's the knowledge that the end of the year is coming (albeit a mad-made, arbitrary date) and that there's only a short amount of time left to accomplish those wistfully expressed goals that I made at the beginning of the year.

Whatever it is, today I wish I could just hit the road and drive to somewhere new and different. Instead, I'll be a good girl, place my butt in the chair, and get to work!

(but I it that I want to run away from something or run towards something?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm back...again...

Oh, my few loyal readers, did you think I had disappeared forever?

I'm back. Really, I am. Just took a bit of a break from my random nattering which is likely to be as boring as hell, and yet, according to my blog stats, SOMEONE out there is reading (or maybe it's just googlebot indexing my blog for some odd reason).

I was reading some "tips" about how to stay current as a technical writer. Mostly good advice. The problem is, I don't really want to be a modern day technical writer. I liked being the old fashioned kind. You know...the one that wrote the online help and administrator manuals. I liked putting chunks of content together, group huge, dense tracts of text into nice lists, tables, and diagrams.

Alas, that's not the wave of the future. Sigh. Alas, I find the topic of DITA to be a big, boring, blog of blather. Alright, I admit, it has a lot going for it regarding reuse and efficiency. And, perhaps if I had implemented it where I work today, I would be regarded as innovative (but expensive) and maybe I would have a nice content management system that allows me to use content in product documentation AND the web, instead of the crappy process I have to use today. I sort of regret that I took the inexpensive route. And, not using DITA could be a bit job limiting (yes, I'm sure I'll have to find another job within the next couple of years...more about that in another post).

I'm feeling nostalgic for the good, old days of technical writing. Social media, screen casts, video productions...sounds pretty cool and exciting, eh? And yet, I'm having trouble finding the motivation to be bothered with learning all the new stuff.

Perhaps I'm really ready to retire, eh? Too bad I can't afford to do so.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The garden winds down...

One of the things I did manage to do was keep my community garden plot going. Overall, I'm pleased, although a lot of things did not turn out as well as I had hoped. Leeks, onions, and fennel did not do well. A number of plants didn't survive my haphazard care, especially when it came to watering. And the most recent heat while I was away (see previous post!), devastated my magnificent pumpkin and melon vines.

And yet, I have 5 or 6 sugar pumpkins ripening. Four or so melons -- one that's gianormous and should be ready for harvesting soon. The cosmos and sunflowers were fantastic. The zinnias and marigolds took care of themselves. The herbs went wild (I could feed pesto to the world, I have THAT much basil!). I learned a lot of good lessons to apply to next year so, even though things didn't go as expected, I know that next year will be even better.

During the month of July, the garden just looked glorious. The vines were taking over everything, the flowers were blooming happily. Now, the garden looks like the end of summer. Things are dying back, the leaves aren't as bright. It's the natural order of things so it's OK with me.

At home, the patio garden did OK. My tomatoes were doing very well, but some critter kept eating my huge, ripe tomatoes so I lost a number of them. Still, I managed to get some lovely specimens. The hot peppers are wonderful. I'm hoping to make my own paprika from the Hungarian peppers. Although, they're quite tasty when eaten fresh. I've had a few beans and peas that were quite yummy. I plan to plant more of them next year.

Overall, a good growing season. The recent heatwave wasn't all that good for my plants, but most of them were hardy enough to take hold and keep going.

I never did win the battle with the ants. Every time I come home from the garden, I have new bites to contend with...why I don't use insect repellent before entering the garden, I don't know. Right before I went on vacation, my forearm was hideously swollen from insect bites. Luckily, it healed before I left. But, after visiting the garden a couple of times this week, I'm back to my itchy, lumpy state.

Did you miss me? And a few notes about a sailing ship

OK, so I know I have a immensely small (nice juxtaposition of opposing adjectives, eh?) readership. But, I've noticed that when I do get around to posting something, some one reads it eventually.

So, I'm back :-) Did ya miss me? (that's a rhetorical question, of course).

Not sure where the summer went this year. It's just about mid-August and there's tons of stuff I still haven't done. Didn't take out the kayak once. The bike is still in storage with flat tires. I didn't do any of the home renovations that are desperately needed.

What I DID do:

Go away more than usual. A weekend in New York City, a weekend in the White Mountains. And then there was the sailing vacation.

My dear friend B invited me to join her on a sailing ship cruise around the New England coast. Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cuttyhunk. I've always wanted to take a trip on a sailing ship so, of course, I agreed to go.

What a marvelous trip. Really. It was the first time I went away when I wasn't eager to come home. I could have stayed on that ship for...well, I don't know how long -- maybe forever?

The ship is a beautiful three-masted schooner called the Arabella and she was glorious when under full sail. The routine went like this: Get up in the morning and go up to the deck for coffee and breakfast. By then, we were under way to our next destination. So, we would spend an hour or so sitting on the fore deck, just enjoying the wind and sea. Then down for a shower (the cabin was about as small as could be -- we took turns in there if we weren't sleeping). Then, back to the deck to read, talk, or just sit. The ship was only half full with passengers so there's was always a great place to sit. Then, we'd anchor, have lunch on board, and head off to the day's island to explore, shop, or watch a sunset on the beach. After dinner, it was back to the ship for our nightly session in the hot tub on the aft deck.

One of the best vacations ever. To just sit on the deck, listening to the wind in the sails was sublime. To not have to make any real decisions about what to cook, where to go, what to do...such a relief. To have no real responsibilities...fantabulous.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden wars!

This year, my time is fully occupied with gardening. For the first time, ever, I have a real garden plot in the community garden. I've always wanted a flower garden and this year, I'm working on making that happen.

It's been a good learning experience. Watching what my fellow gardeners are doing, I see some things that I could have done better; things that I can plan for next year.

On the plus side, so far, everything I've planted is thriving. We've been very lucky in that we've had rain once or twice a week, so I haven't had to worry about watering yet.

On the other, other hand, I've had to declare war on a stalwart opponent. Ants. Millions.Of.Ants. They seemed to have swarmed into my garden plot after I had cleared the area. Before I started planting, I tried to dig up the area in the vague hope that they would get mad and move away. No such chance. They've dug in and now swarm all over my garden plot. And, since I come home from the garden with a new set of insect bites, I'm convinced that they're the culprits. Each time I scratch yet another large lump on my arm, my anger rises just a bit more.

And so, I've declared war. I don't really care if the ants aren't causing harm to my plants. I just want them to stop making me scratch! Besides, it's not like I moved into their territory. There was NO evidence of life in my little plot of dirt when I did all the work of clearing it. Nope, the insect horde took advantage of an opportunity, without any invitation. And, if they hadn't started with the biting, I might have let them be. But no more.

My first attempt to rid myself of the six-legged intruders was a mixture of vinegar and water. Research indicates that they don't like vinegar and it screws up their scent trails. But, of course, with all the rain we've had, I'm sure that it's all washed away. I'll try again.

I've planted tansy -- a plant that ants supposedly don't like. When I get back to the garden, I'll check to see if that area is now ant free. If so, I might get more and plant it around the border of my garden plot. And I'll be searching for more lethal approaches. After noticing yet one more insect bite, I have no sympathy for the mobile marauders. None at all. There's plenty of land for both of us ...they have to move or suffer the consequences!

Despite this unpleasant challenge, I did manage to get a nice, little bouquet for the house (after picking off the ants, of course).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Must remember how to say NO

I'm usually quite good about not over committing myself. Able to say no, able to set priorities. Lately though, I seem to have totally forgotten how to order my life in a comfortable way. I feel overwhelmed and over committed.

For the first time ever, I seem to have overbooked my sparse allotment of vacation time. I agreed to go on a trip with a relative this year. But, since we've been trying to plan a trip for two years, I really didn't expect she would come through. But she did. AFTER, I already made plans with someone else. So, that takes almost 2 of the 3 weeks that I get. Add in a few days to visit my parents, and I probably won't be able to take my typical week in December. I love taking the last week in December off and I'm annoyed with myself that I've overbooked my time so much that it's unlikely to happen. And, unless I take some sick time, I'm unlikely to get any time off just to do nothing.

Work is busy and stressful. I come home tired. But, there's going to the glass studio once or twice a week. And now, the stupid community garden which seems like it will never be done. But, I need to get there several times a week to make sure something survives because it's been like late July here with no rain in sight.

And then, there's the writing group that I want to go to once a month, except I'm too tired to think of writing anything except these silly blog entries. And then there's the artist support group that I've started going to..only once a month, but still, it's something on my calendar.

And there are people I want to see, movies to see, and, I desperately need to do some work in the home (many things need replacing and upgrading), and my car needs care, and I haven't done any kayaking at all, which I miss terribly, and, and, and...see what I mean? I'm out of control.

I'm really not a high-energy person. I like to have lots of down time. Time to set some priorities and start saying NO to new activities!!!

Too bad I can't just retire. That would free up so much time!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good news, bad news day

Some days are like roller coasters. Up and down.

After being hounded by the vendor who supplies my documentation development tool (and offered a nice discount), I signed up for a product 1-day roadshow in Boston. My plan was to take the train in to avoid the high cost of parking and the nasty traffic. Here's how the day went:

The Good News: I had no problem getting up extra early so I could catch the 7:00 train.

The Bad News: I happened to be check the MBTA website in the morning and saw an alert that the trains were delayed by over 30 minutes. This meant I'd have to drive in to get to the seminar on time.

The Good News: Traffic sucked but wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I arrived in plenty of time to get a good seat. And it was rainy and cold. I didn't mind not having to hike from the train station to the hotel.

The Bad News: Another attendee did take the train and I found out that there wasn't a delay after all. I could have avoided the nasty ride and paying for parking. Even more bad news, I didn't park at the hotel parking lot and the vendor was offering parking validation (which would have discounted the cost of parking). Why didn't the vendor say something about parking validation before the event?

The Good News: Parking ended up costing me a lot less than I expected. Not sure if I read the rates incorrectly when I parked or some weird, good karma mistake. In any case, it wasn't bad at all. Even more good news: I got home a lot earlier than if I had taken the train (but the traffic still sucked).

The Bad News: I'm rarely out of the office, but the one day I am out, the CTO asks to set up a brainstorming session with me. After looking at the presentation handout, I start to wonder if I made a mistake in attending the seminar.

The Good news: I heard a number of interesting tips that are going to be quite useful. Attending the event wasn't a waste at all. And, I'll get to meet with the CTO later on in the week (which gives me a bit of time to prepare my thoughts).

And that's how my day went. I'm looking forward to a more even-tempered day tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Company lunches=2, Me=0

It's a bit ironic, or just weird karma.

Out of two company-sponsored lunches that I've had in the last week, I haven't been able to eat what I actually ordered.

Bad Lunch Karma event #1: We have a power outage in the morning. While we're waiting for the power to come back, one of the manager proposes that if we contribute non-perishables to a local food bank, the company will buy us lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Cool. So, we all place our orders (I wanted a chicken salad with salsa, beans, etc), get our food donations at the local supermarket and come back to the office to get our lunches. And I'm really hungry. But I open my lunch to discover that it's not salad with chicken but it's pork and it includes guacamole (which I despise -- yes, I know avocado is a magic health food -- but I hate the flavor and the texture. Although, I do like the color :-)) Bleah. I check around and no, no one else has what I ordered. I end up NOT eating lunch because I just don't want to make the trip back to the restaurant and exchange it.

Bad Lunch Karma even #2: We have two new employees and the VP of Engineering organizes a welcome lunch at the local Thai restaurant. I like the Pad Thai at this place and am eagerly looking forward to it. We're a huge group (21+ people) and I'm one of the last people to get my lunch. Which isn't what I ordered. It's a variation of what I ordered, so I figure, how bad could it be. I take the lunch instead of sending it back, because people are already eating, I eat slow to begin with, and I don't want to hold people up as I try to finish up. The Pad Thai variation that I ended up with is horrible. Bleah. I eat as much as I can tolerate. Even then, without me eating all of my lunch, I'm one of the last people to finish. The server was quite nice about it. He knows I didn't get what I ordered and asks me how it was. I tell him, "not so good" but explain that it's not his fault, I know I could have sent it back. He gives me a card with a note about a complimentary lunch. Nice service! Turns out, someone else took my lunch, somehow not realizing that he was not eating what he ordered -- or maybe he did what I did...figured it was too much of a bother to send it back since it took so long to serve our large group. He 'fessed up about it later ...what could I do? I laughed and now it's a bit of a joke.

Seems like bringing my lunch is much safer than trying to get what I want from a company lunch!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Technologically brain dead?

Once upon a time, I took pride in my ability to learn and use new technology. I was quite smug about it, in fact. Lately, I'm feeling brain dead.

Case in point. During a recent trip to the local supermarket, I decided to try out the "scan as you go" equipment. The idea is that you carry a portable scanner and bag with you. As you select your items, you can and drop it into your bag. When you get to the cashier area, you don't have to scan each item, just download the results of your portable scanner and out you go. Only, I had a miserable time managing. First I had to guess how to activate the scanner as there were no instructions (scan your store card, and grab the scanner that lights up). But, that wasn't too bad. But, then came the time when I had to scan my first item. I looked at this device in my hand and stared at the various buttons, wondering which one to press to activate the laser scan. After trying each button, I guess that pressing the big one that made the red laser glow was the one. But, the scanning mechanism didn't work well. I had to try scanning each item multiple times. I assume that I was supposed to press the buttons in some order that worked only when I accidentally pressed things in the right order. Then, at checkout, I had no idea how to finish up the order. There was a sign that said, scan the end of order code. But, what I didn't realize was that it meant I had to use the scanner to read the bar code on the sign! I ended up feeling stupid and flustered. I doubt I'll use it again because it's a lot easier to just scan things at the checkout area. Bleah.

Another case in point: We're using our bug tracking system in a new way to track our activities. Only, half the time, I can't see the sub tasks that are assigned to me. I just moved one task to the Done column (because I'm done with it) and the task vanished. It doesn't show up in the Done column. Again, I ended up feeling stupid and flustered.

And don't get me started with Facebook! I don't use it often, so I'm unfamiliar with the interface to begin with. It keeps changing so every time I look at my main page, I'm baffled. I don't even know what I'm looking at and there are so many options now, I'm not sure which one to choose. Thank Heavens that Twitter is still simple.

Either the world is becoming one big, unusable interface, or I really AM getting old and unable to keep up with new technology. Either way, it's making me cranky.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Peppadew - new favorite food

Last summer, while traipsing through the North End in Boston with a friend, we stumbled upon a wine tasting event at one of the local wine stores. Absolutely amazing in that it was free, and included an spread of food that was to die for. Antipasti, Italian meats, cheeses, breads. My friend called my attention to a red pepper called Peppadew®. "Taste this," she burst out joyously - she had eaten them before.

Now, I tend to be a bit leery of unknown peppers. I despise the taste of Bell peppers, but love the taste of hot peppers (odd, isn't that?). I didn't know about this Peppadew thing...I speared one with a handy toothpick and gingerly took a small bite. HEAVEN! I wanted to eat the whole bowl full (but I was polite and only had a few).

A Peppadew is actually a brand name for a type of piquant pepper from South Africa. According to Wikiopedia, the pepper (which looks a lot like a red, cherry pepper) is processed to reduce the heat and then pickled. You're left with a slightly sweet pepper, with just a hint of heat. It's rated at 1,177 on the Scoville scale--quite mild, actually, less than a typical jalapeno. But, amazing delicious.

I recently found them at a local supermarket where I stopped on my way to a rare Mah Jongg game. Where, oddly enough, someone else brought them as well. It has been months so I had a Peppadew -- in fact, I had forgotten about them. But, now, that we've been reacquainted, I'm thinking about all the ways to include them in my normal meals (add them to scrambled eggs? Mac&Cheese? Salads, of course. Quinoa pilaf?).

On my list of things to do Peppadews and hope I don't eat them all at one sitting!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nothing like good food

Dining to me is more than just shoveling food into my mouth in 15 minutes. I adore fine dining and taking the time to just enjoy the entire experience. Tonight I went out to eat at Ming Tsai's restaurant, Blue Ginger. OhMiGod...what a fantastic meal.

We started out with Ginger Gimlets, a signature cocktail. A perfect drink for the warm weather -- a touch of sweetness, a taste of lime. A perfect way to start out.
Next came the fired calamari with what seemed to be some type of herbed vinegar dipping sauce. Not greasy and the batter was light and crunchy. I had butterfish, one of my friends had the pouisson (tea soaked chicken), and the other had the mushroom and vegetable ragout. Mine was perfectly cooked fish with soba noodle wrapped in seaweed. Fantastic. Dessert was a shared triple chocolate cake with cardamom ice cream.

In addition to the excellent quality of the food, I was quite impressed that the servings were normal size. Enough to satisfy your hunger, but not so much that you had to bring home half your dinner. No plates were overflowing with food. Instead, the portions were a reasonable size. You could clear your plate without feeling like you had eaten like a pig. Really nice.

I so love food....especially when it's extraordinarily well prepared.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Corporate ideas that go splat...

Upper management in high-tech start-up companies often wants to create a "Kool Kulture." Start-ups are supposed to be such nifty, neato places to work that the employees are happy to work all kinds of long hours just to be part of the fun.

So, the executive staff tries to come up with clever ways to "build culture." Of course, culture is something that happens based on how the personalities on the people leading the company as well as the relationships that form over time. When management tries to force the issue, their efforts often fall flat.

Recently, one of the managers where I work decided that a great way to get people to bond was to have everyone share some mortifying or embarrassing moment that happened to them. The idea was well meant -- showing vulnerability towards another can lead to trust between people. But, when the idea was presented at our weekly company meeting, my first reaction was horror. Uh, you want me to get up and have people laugh at me because I did something stupid? Lovely. Just the impression I want my co-workers to have of me. And to leave myself open to being forever teased about the event?

I checked my reaction with a person I trust there as well as a few friends (interestingly enough, all women). Everyone I spoke with validated that my horror at having to endure endless stories of humiliation was reasonable. Nope, I wasn't being overly sensitive (I was teased mercilessly as a child, so I do have some sensitivities in this area).

But, I kept silent. Until the day when I was called on to volunteer to be the next victim at an upcoming meeting. And, somewhat to my surprise, I demurred, politely. But when pressed (I was told that "we'll let you go for now, but you WILL be called on), I made it clear I would not participate in this new venture. And immediately wondered if I had just made a career-limiting move. The only saving grace was that the others who were tagged after me also indicated that they were not interested in playing along.

I'm not sure why I decided not to play the corporate game this time around. Usually, I would go along, feeling that it was necessary to be a "team player." For some reason, I decided that I had to set a boundary and if I didn't want to do something that had nothing to do with my job responsibilities, I just didn't have to. No need to explain my reasons to anyone.

Curiously enough, the manager decided to not continue this practice. Was it me, taking a stand against something that offended me, that led to others taking the same stand? Did other managers feel the same and send that message along? I'll never know for sure, but I do feel good that I decided to set a standard and keep to it. And, I'm thrilled that this nonsense has ended. Ugh. Really, there are so many positive ways to get people to share some personal details about themselves without focusing on humiliation and shame. What leads people to think these things are fun?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A comma made a big difference today

As a technical writer, I am often amused, in a sort of wry, sardonic sort of way, about the wacky, yet intense arguments that arise when a group of us get together. Silly things like where to use bold fonts, the use of dangling participles, splitting infinitives, and the use of commas.

Ah, but today, I am very fond of the comma. I started the process of filing my taxes a couple of weeks ago and didn't finish it because the tax filing software was telling me that I owed the government quite a bit of money. Having had 3 employers and a month of unemployment last year, I kind of figured that my taxes would result in me underpaying. But, I was taken back by how much.

So, I fussed around, trying to figure out what might help bring down my tax payment. I thought that declaring my worthless Nortel stock (delisted completely in 2009...not trading anywhere) would help. But, I didn't realize that the loss there would only help if I had capital gains somewhere else. Which, of course, makes sense, once I thought about it a bit.

But then (drum roll, please!), I realized that the amount shown for my annual income was way off. Yup, I had added an extra comma in the wages and income area! Woo hoo! Making that correction left me with a nice return from the Feds (although I STILL had to pay state tax...why is it that my employers NEVER take out enough state tax????).

What a relief! I'm not getting a huge amount back, but enough to cover what I owe for state taxes and still have a noticeable amount left over. So, here I was, waiting for the last minute because I thought I'd have to pay big $$ and there was a refund waiting for me after all.

What a difference a comma can make!!

Monday, March 29, 2010


Serendipity: the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated (

Pretty much sums up a recent occurrence for me. Over the weekend, I participated in a local benefit event were I, along with other artists/craftspeople, sold our wares to raise money for local women who are going through cancer treatment. First time that I ever dared to sell my glass work to complete strangers. And, I did sell a few pieces, which was quite gratifying.

But as nice as it was to be able to contribute to the cause, the serendipitous event is even more exciting. I was sitting next to a co-worker who was also selling her work and we were chatting about various creative projects. And then it happened...she came up with an idea where the two of us could combine our skills, her's with fabric and mine with glass, and create a potentially lucrative product. Not at all what I had expected to get out of the event, but we're both completely psyched about making this a reality, so we've met, come up with some tasks for each of us and perhaps in a couple of weeks, we'll have our first prototype that we can start showing to people for feedback.

This same person has also requested some beaded bookmarks to be used as a marketing incentive for another project she's working on.

And yet another bit of serendipity...I was at a dinner party and happened to mention that my hobby was making glass beads. The person I was talking with immediately came up with the idea of making beaded wine charms and told me that she would commission a set of 8 if I could put some together (and I can, they're not going to be hard to make). So, I'm also really psyched about doing this little project with an eye to being able to offer this as a product for sale.

I think I've mentioned this before...I always saw my glass hobby as just that...something I did that I liked and was fun. I never believed that I could sell my things, or that there was any business potential to what I was doing.

I'm starting to believe....
Serendipity is a wonderful motivator!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Correct protocol when you're "defriended"?

With the incorporation of social media into our lives, the concept of "friend" does not seem to be what it used to be. Is it my imagination, or has the term "friend" become a synonym for "I had a 5 minute conversation with you"? People add others to their Friend list minutes after they meet them. A comment I read (wish I recalled where I saw it), compared this phenomenon to collecting nice pictures that you show off in a photo album.

It shouldn't surprise me that people are removed from these so-called Friend lists as easily as they're added. After all, it's just names, right?

And yet, there's an odd sense of rejection when you're the one who's "defriended." Maybe because it's a silent yet deliberate act. Instead of letting the person know that there's an issue or a disagreement, you can just erase them from your world. Happened to me recently. Granted, we had drifted apart, our paths rarely crossing -- as time went by, we had less and less in common. And yet, I hadn't expected to be tossed out. And left wondering what triggered the event as our latest interactions had been civil.

So, it's curious. And a bit sad. My first reaction was to contact the person and ask what had led to the decision to not consider me a friend or at least an acquaintance. But then, if the person wants no contact with me, should I not respect that and let it be? Is the removal of my name an indication of indifference? Anger? Dislike? If I run into this person (because we know some of the same people), what do I do? Pretend I don't know that I'm not on the exclusive "Friend" list? Say something? If this person's name comes up in conversation with others, do I say something - let them know that this person has removed me from their life? Or is it best to keep quiet, since the other people are still on the Friend list and there's no need for them to be put in the middle?

And, let's say this person invited you to an event prior to your removal from the list. Am I now uninvited? Should I change my RSVP to "not attending" since I'm obviously not a "friend" anymore? That seems so...well...vaguely vindictive. And silly, because obviously, it won't matter to the other person anyway (remember, they've removed me from their list of people they are about).

It used to be, people would drift out of your life silently but there would be a sense that at any time, there was the possibility of reconnecting. Or, you would have an argument or end-of-relationship conversation. Now, people simply "defriend" you act that seems colder and harsher, simply because it's done in stealth.

Food for thought...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Creativity comes from our inner souls. At the same time, things and people in the external world can help encourage that spirit of creativity. They can, when we lose motivation, or struggle with self-doubt, can move us to reconnect with our inner creative spirits.

If you've been reading, you know I dabble in glass work, what is known as lampworking or beadmaking. I work at a torch, I melt glass, and sometimes create some pretty stuff. But, I'm not a natural artist. I struggle with focusing on the visual, I struggle with precision in design. None of it come easily to me. I learn slowly, I acquire skills with difficulty. My instructor often despairs that I will never find the one thing in this craft that provides me with focus and direction.

And yet, especially lately, I feel that working at the glass studio is some type of salvation. There are days when I want to give up, because every thing I try to create is shaped badly, or turns out ugly, or I just feel incompetent . And then, there are those moments, when I feel that there's something there for me...some creative spark that is slowly evolving.

Some examples...

I was asked by a co-worker to sell my glass work at a local benefit event. It's a small event, in someone's house. And who knows if any one will buy anything from me. And yet, it's been quite a confidence booster. First, that someone who IS an artist (my co-worker is a graphic designer and also does wire sculpture), felt that what I've created is good enough to be a vendor at her benefit. And then, there was a conversation at work where the graphic designer and another person who has purchased some of my beads in the past, were brainstorming things that I could make with my beads. And they asked me to bring in some of the things I plan on selling. They had such good ideas --- and such belief that my work was was quite uplifting.

Another boost to the ego...I recently went to a bead store to buy some supplies so I could make something useful with my beads and when I showed some of my samples to the proprietor, he said I should bring my beads in when his daughter was there, as she was the one who did the purchasing. I was floored...that someone who sees beads all the time thought what bits were worthy of further examination. Well, he may say that to everyone who comes in, but it certainly felt nice to hear someone think that my work was worthy.

In fact, when I told the co-worker who recommended the bead store that I had gone there, her first question was, "did you bring samples of your work?"

I know that what I produce is not anything more than OK and sometimes even better than OK, but still, to have people admire what I do certainly gives me motivation to stretch myself and try to do better. I've never really thought that I could sell what I make, but now, I'm starting to look for ways to create items that are salable. For one thing, the glass work is a *very* expensive hobby and it would be nice to recoup some of the cost. And, well, there's that kick to the ego that one gets when someone else appreciates something you've created.

We'll see where it all goes. Maybe , if I can ever retire, I can have a small business, supplying beaded bookmarks, glass spinning tops, and other beaded items that some people might be interested in buying. What fun that would be...

In the meantime, when I'm feeling like a total goofball, I can think of these small moments of encouragement and inspiration and smile.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just a tad anxious...

Feeling a bit on edge these days. Not the type of sleepless anxiety, mind you. But, still I'm aware of a slight churning in the stomach and a sense of tenseness.

First manager at work. The manager who hired me left after 3 months. For the last 5 months or so, I've had no management whatsoever. Which suits me just fine. But, it certainly didn't suit the people who had to take over the management tasks (it definitely wasn't what they had signed up for). So, after a long search, we have a new VP of Engineering. On the plus side...people I respect are really excited about the new manager AND she's a woman! In a company that heavily male-dominated, it's nice to have a woman in a position of authority. HOWEVER...does she know anything about technical writers? Has she ever managed any of them? I did hear through the grapevine that she's looked at the documentation that I've produced for the product and liked what she saw. So, at least we'll start out on the right foot. On the other hand, my previous experiences with reporting directly to the VP of Engineering as a solo writer has not been very positive. This will be a time of adjustment for me, I think.

Next, I've been invited to sell my glass work at a local benefit event. I was thrilled to be asked -- at the same time, I've never done anything like that and I'm concerned that my stuff will look amateurish next to the other vendors. I'm working on putting some objects together (key chains, book marks, swizzle sticks) that will be salable. It's been tough finding beads that I feel are good enough to sell. And it's costing me a fortune --extra time at the studio, buying objects that are "bead ready" (there are all sorts of things you can buy that allow you to add beads to them). I just put together a couple of swizzle sticks and I kind of like them. I think they might be appealing as you don't see them often. But still, I'd hate sit through the benefit and not have any proceeds to donate to the cause. On the other hand, if this goes well, I might start to seriously consider finding venues where I can sell what I make. The glass work is such an expensive hobby -- having a little income to offset the cost would be welcome.

So, deep breaths for the next few weeks to keep myself calm.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's with the loud, annoying music?

Is it a boy thing? The loud, annoying music that suddenly blares from some guy's sound system, without any consideration regarding who might have to endure it?

My next door neighbor has a new roommate. The new guy seems to think that blasting loud, thumping music on Sunday mornings (between 7 and 8 am, mind you) is just the perfect thing to do on the day I typically try to lounge in bed, happily doing my crossword puzzle. Suddenly, my lovely, quiet morning is shaken by thump, thump, pound, pound, boom, bam. Sheesh. It's not like I can actually hear music. Nope, I just hear the bass speaker from the sound system. Over, and over, and over again. Stupid rap's about as boring as the new age music that used to make me want to run screaming out of the room.

Last week, I was tempted to resort to the amazingly immature behavior of banging on the wall, in the hopes that he would get the hint. Or, turning on my own music, blasting it lower than his.
Instead, I took the high road and just gritted my teeth. Luckily, after about an hour, he shut off the music and I could return to my nice, relaxing morning. I suppose the only benefit is that if the music annoys me enough, I'll haul my ass out of bed and get out and about instead of lazing around.

Today at work, one of the software developers decided that blasting Led Zeppelin was the perfect thing to do, in the middle of the afternoon. Here I am, trying to figure out how to take some complex technical concept and reduce it into a few easy-to-understand sentences, when hard-core metal music comes blaring out of the office next to my cubicle. Geez Louise. The least he could have done was asked me about my musical preferences. If he chose to blast Thunder Road by Bruce Springstein, at least I would have been able to sing along. He's done this before...I can't imagine what he's thinking when he does this.

If the developer was actually somewhat approachable, I might have asked him to put on his headphones, but I wasn't in the mood to get some snarky response (this one developer is usually very snarky if anyone says anything he doesn't like -- it's easier to just avoid conversations with him as much as possible).

I get that kids have no sensitivity towards others, but these latest intrusions are coming from so-called adults ...I hate to buy into that old cliche that boys never grow up, but in this case, I do wish I could put these guys in a corner for a time out. grrr...

Sunday, February 21, 2010 eposide saved from disaster

Last week, while browsing the meat counter of the local food store, I came across a perfect brisket, just like my Mom would use for making pot roast. OK, a little on the small side, but still, exactly the same cut as my Mom would buy.

I loved my Mom's pot roast. She taught me how to make it, I even have the pot we used when I was a child. So, it was impossible to NOT decide to make pot roast. So I splurged, paid a small fortune the small brisket, added carrots and potatoes to the shopping basket, and this weekend, found the time to cook.
Here's how it goes:

1. Trim the excess fat off the brisket, if necessary. Leave some on, but, if your cut of meat was
like mine, there as a rather thick layer of fat that I preferred not to have.
2. Lightly score the meat on both sides and season. I used garlic power, paprika, pepper, and
3. In a dutch oven, brown the meat on both sides in olive oil and remove from the pan.
4. In the same pan, add roughly chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add some minced
garlic and cook for a minute or two, then deglaze the pan. I ended up using rice vinegar, but if
I had red wine, I would have used that. I also threw in some mushrooms, for extra flavor.
5. Add some type of liquid, beef stock, water, wine, something with flavor. I used water mixed
with Better with Buillion mix and a splash of soy sauce (which almost turned the dish into a
disaster - more about that below). And, the secret ingredient...ketchup! The liquid should be
enough to come at least half way up the meat.
6. Add a few sliced carrots, a bay leaf, and bring everything up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
and cover the pot.
7. Cook for about an hour and add sliced potatoes.
8. Cook for another half an hour.
9. Remove the meat and cut it across the grain. Return to the pot and simmer gently for another
half hour.

It almost turned out to be a disaster. The bouillion mix that I was using had a lot more salt than i expected. When I tasted the gravy, I was horrified. Bleah! I added more water to dilute the saltiness and let is simmer for a while, but I figured the meal was doomed.

And yet, I was wrong! Maybe it was adding the potatoes (which some say helps fix over-salted foods) or the extra water. In any case, after letting the pot roast stay in the fridge overnight, I had it for dinner and it was delicious. OK, slightly more salty than I might like, but more than edible. The meat was delightfully tender and full of flavor. The vegetables were cooked perfectly. Yum! I'm looking forward to my leftovers for lunch.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Management coming to my place of business

For most of the time that I've been at my current job, I haven't had a manager. Shortly after I arrived, there were some organizational changes and the manager that hired me decided to leave to pursue off-shoring opportunities (which we eliminated here).

Since then, the management work was divided up among two other senior members of the Engineering and Product Management groups. Lucky for me, they just left me to do my work. No one-on-one meetings, schedules, status reports. Nope, I just got to manage my own time and work.

It's been lovely. Although, I suppose part of what I liked was that I wasn't really accountable to anyone. Not that I didn't do my job -- but I didn't have to explain why I took more time to do something or why I shifted my tasks. I just did what I felt was best for the product.

But now, a new VP of Engineering is on the way. I had no input into the hiring of this person, so I have no idea if the new manager has ever managed technical writers, what this person's expectations are, or even if our personalities are compatible. On the plus side, the CEO asked me to send one of my documentation deliverables to him since she had asked to see some of the documentation. On the other hand, this request came AFTER the job offer was accepted, so, I suppose it wasn't a big enough point of interest to happen during the interview process.

I'm a bit anxious about this change. In my previous jobs at start ups, the managers that I had were, in general, somewhat awful, if they were Engineering managers. If a documentation manager was there, my experience was somewhat better. Most Engineering managers are clueless about the role of technical writers and they either have ridiculous expectations or provide no support at all.

The people who have met the new manager seem very enthusiastic about the new person, so I have to trust that to some extent. I'm assuming, though, that the subject of the technical writing role was not a big topic of discussion (really, you'd think the new manager might want to meet the one and only writer here).

So, I don't know what I'm in for. It would be nice to have someone in authority to help support the need to get documentation reviews built into the process. I have no authority and all I can do is ask...which usually doesn't result in much, as far as a repeatable process. And, I suppose what I'm anxious about is whether I'll live up to the new manager's expectations, whatever they might be. At one point, I had a certain level of ambition about achieving personal goals at work. Now, I'm just happy to do a decent job and keep the stress levels down.

Change at work...I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm a bit worried.

is it time for a 3rd political party?

Centrist Democratic politicians are leaving their hallowed halls. Five, so far, are not seeking re-election. Senator Bayh says the lack of bipartisanship in Congress was a big reason for his desire to get out.

Makes me wonder if all these disenchanted politicians are missing an opportunity to start a true, third party that might actually have a chance of getting seats.

Personally, I'm disgusted with both parties. The constant voting on party lines (really, are all our politicians a bunch of sheep, willing to follow the lead "ram" all of the time?), the party of NO who refuses to participate in any legislature that is led by the other party. The other party who doesn't seem to be much better (but at least they TRY to get some of the people's work done).

In the last state election, I voted against the party of NO (but they won), but I had no great fondness for the candidate I voted for who seemed to think negative smears against her opponent would get people smiling. It didn't.

In the meantime, health care reform languishes in never, never land. Unemployment is too high. (OK, on the plus side, the automotive industry is starting to come back...possibly thanks to all the issues that Toyota and Honda are having...someone's bad luck is someone else's good luck, eh).

I'd love to have another viable party in the mix. The Dems/Repubs constant bickering is annoying and non-productive. I'm not enrolled in a specific party although I do tend to vote Democratic. While I might be attracted to some of the Republican's view of fiscal conservatism, their ties to the religious right make them an untenable choice for me. But every year, the choices seem to get worse and worse. A third party, that actually had a chance of having an impact would put some excitement and energy into the political process, I think. With a group of centrists looking for a place where they can still serve their country, is it not possible for them to unite and perhaps, truely make a difference?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bullies -- boo, hiss.

Lots of articles in the local papers about bullying in schools these days. The triggering event was a a young woman who committed suicide after relentless torment from her classmates. Lots of stories are now coming out about the horrors that children are enduring from their so-called peers (who aren't really peers, they're beneath contempt). In one case, a child was fighting cancer and the kids at school were mean as dirt, even after having counselors explain why this child looked different. One father reported that he hired two "young toughs" to protect his child from his tormentors.

Having experienced this type of thing as a child myself, I can tell you that you never, ever forget the misery of having people gang up on you. Makes you wonder how parents raise their children. In one interview, a former bully admitted that he tormented others because it made him feel better about himself...more powerful, superior. So I wonder, was he not getting unconditional love from his parents? Were they bad role models? What leads children to take enjoyment from causing obvious pain and suffering to those around them?

Or, are children just horrible animals that we have to hope will learn some compassion as they mature? I find that a difficult premise to accept. There's something about our social groups, our social standards, or the way we care for each other that's lacking the kindness, the healthy balance, the compassion that an enlightened society should bestow on all its members.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

When pants get too short...

Weird phenomenon that seems to be happening lately. My pants keep getting too short.

Now, if they were just getting tight, I'd accept the fact that I've been gaining weight (and I have, a bit) and deal with it.

But, it's the LENGTH of the pants that seems to be an issue. All of a sudden. I don't get it. I'm a relatively short person. Although my shoes do tend to have about a 2-inch heel (or more), I'm still short. I don't expect to have to buy pants that are made for taller people. I'm not growing taller!

Lately, though, after a wash or two, the pants are just too short. That is, any new ones that I've purchased. The older ones are maintaining their length. The dryer is old but honestly, could it suddenly be shrinking all my clothes? Mind you, so far, it seems to be just pants that are affected. Shirts seem to be maintaining their size as well.

Could it be the clothing manufacturers doing something with cheaper fabrics to keep costs down? I hate that they've adjusted the sizes so that I feel like I'm buying ridiculously small sizes that I haven't worn since I was very young (yeah, I lost a bit of weight a couple of years ago, but not THAT much to warrant the tiny sizes that fit me now).

Or, maybe the manufacturers are making pants that are shorter and I'm not noticing it? Whatever the case, I feel like I need to buy the long versions of pants, now.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Invisibility and other random musings...

Sometimes, I think I've acquired the ability to become invisible ...I just haven't figured out how to make it work to my benefit. :-)

Tonight I went to a local art museum to see their "Flora in Winter" exhibit. Each room in the museum includes a floral arrangement from a wide variety of floral "artists." A nice sight on a snowy day. Tonight was the opening, so there was supposed to be hors d'oeuvres and other such things. I was hoping to bring a friend of mine to the event but since that didn't work out, I was on my own.

Here's where the invisibility bit comes in. I head over to the main lobby and sure 'nuff, servers are walking around with food and I'm hungry. I was a little disappointed that there were no free beverages (I was low on cash), but the food looked good. Only, the servers kept walking right by me, as if they couldn't see me. I actually trailed one for quite a way before I could grab a single spring roll.

And then there was the woman walking around with roses. She too, walked right by me. Everyone else had flowers to carry, and I had to slyly maneuver myself to be right next to her so I could *ask* for a flower. That's right, she didn't offer it to me, I had to ask. Apparently, the cloak of invisibility was swirling around me tonight. Now, if I could just find a good use for this interesting talent of mine.

But I did enjoy going from room to room, looking for the floral arrangements. Some of which, were really quite clever. I actually ran into someone from my former employer. Sad to say, I couldn't recall his name. There were two men there who had very similar features and people, including me, were always mixing them up. I'm not sure which one I actually saw, but we chatted for a minute, realized we had absolutely nothing to say to each other, and quickly moved on. Weird moment.

It's been just about a year since I was let go from my last job. To do my taxes this year, I'll have to deal with 4 W-2 forms. One from the old job, one from the state for my unemployment payments, one from the contract job that I had for 3 months, and one from my current job. I have 2 of the 3 forms now. Doing taxes will be a pain in the neck. I'm hoping everyone took the correct amount of taxes so I don't have to pay a small fortune in extra taxes.

Final random musing of the night...I've become hooked on a TV show called Fringe. Sort of a thriller, sci-fi, not quite paranormal type of drama. It comes close to scaring the hell out of me, and yet I still watch it. I don't like scary shows, movies, or books. Can't quite figure out what I like abou this show. And yet, it's becoming quite a habit. Go figure.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'll never be a vegetarian

I know that eating lots of veggies and fruits (but more veggies, I think) is one of the best things we can do for our health. I know that limiting consumption of animal products (meat, dairy, and so forth) is a very good thing.

But, most times, I don't really like vegetables as my main course. This weekend, I made a bean and quinoa stew. The beans came from a local Mediterranean market and I did the whole soak them overnight thing. Most of the rest of the veggies came from local farmers (onions, parsnips, and tomatoes frozen from my own harvest last year). I added some carnival squash, various seasonings,, and voila...stew.

And I sit here eating my stew for lunch, I know that if I hadn't added some seasoned, ground beef (yes, from a free range, grass-fed cow, so it's a bit more healthy that store-bought stuff) and a bit of Parmesan cheese, I would have hated the dish.

The recipe doesn't call for much in the way of seasoning, so perhaps I need to work on adding more spices. I did skimp on the salt as I like to keep sodium levels low, but in the end I did have to add salt to overcome the extreme blandness of the dish. I suppose a dash or two of red pepper flakes or tobasco sauce would also help.

Maybe I just need to learn how to season vegetarian dishes to make them seem more attractive to me. Or something. Disappointing...I had high hopes for this dish, as it does look nice.

I think I was born to be a carnivore.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Unneccessary sense of urgency

Sometimes I get into a state of what I call "unnecessary urgency." Not sure where it comes from but if I'm not paying attention, I find myself cramming too many things into a set amount of time. And there's no need for it.

For example, I read an article about a comedy performance that looked like fun. I happened to mention it to a friend of mine who wanted to see it. Despite the fact that the show is running for several weeks and my friend's schedule was quite flexible, I insisted that we go this weekend, which happens to be a busy one for me since I have a two-day class at the glass studio.

There really was no need for that sense "do it now." I could have purchased tickets for next week when there would be no rushing about. Makes me wonder...what am I running from? And why don't I get that sense of urgency when it comes to cleaning the house or getting the dishes out of the sink?

Again, I ask myself -- what am I running from?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Using words to avoid truth in advertising...

In my continuing search for 100% wool sweaters, I wandered onto the REI web site (surely, a place that sells outdoor stuff would have 1 wool sweater...alas, no. The wool quest continues).

I came across this phrase: "regenerated acrylic-polyester."

Regenerated?! Are we talking about clothing for Dr. Who?

I assume they mean, "reused." As in, we took some tossed out old stuff that still had some value and reused it. OK. Recycling is OK with me. I've thrown out torn clothing, wondering if there was some good way to use the non-damaged parts.

And, the description says it's regenerated for optimum warmth. Huh? Reused artificial fibers provide more warmth that the original threads?

Why not just say, reused or recycled? People can be, I suppose. A used BMW is actually a pre-owned vehicle. there's a difference other than an illusion that pre-owned is different than pre-used?

This kind of avoidance behavior annoys me. Is it not possible to be clear about how we refer to things? (BTW -- I think "clarity" will be my word for the year). It's like the way clothing manufacturers have changed sizes to accommodate our vanity when it comes to weight. Although I don't weigh significantly less than I have before, I'm wearing sizes that are smaller than I've ever worn. All because people don't want to admit that they weigh more than the used to weigh. So, rather than just accepting that they have to buy larger sizes, the manufacturers changed the actual sizes. This is especially bizarre for clothing that is based on waist size or length...for example, men's trousers. A friend of mine pointed out that a size 34 no longer reflects an actual measurement. Despite the size of his waist being quite stable, his clothing sizes vary tremendously.

Honesty, folks. It's really not that horrible of a thing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Where have all the wooly things gone? Long time passing...

OK. It's winter time. It's cold. This is my time to wear wool. Nice, substantial wool sweaters. Classic, lined, wool pants. Wool skirts.

Finding 100% wool clothing seems to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. It's as if America has transported all its sheep to another world. I'm finding lots of cashmere. Which I love, even if I do tend to buy the more inexpensive variety of cashmere. But, what I really want is a nice, thick wool sweater. And I can't find one.

It used to be such an easy thing...wool sweaters and winter was just a normal event. This year, a couple of my favorite wool sweaters developed large holes (in the elbows, of course). So, I threw them out and started looking for replacements. I might as well be looking for the complete mummy of Nefertiti. I was in ENGLAND, for crying out loud. They have tons of sheep. Couldn't find a nice, heavy, wool sweater there either.

I was on the web today, searching for wool sweaters. A preliminary search revealed next to nothing. Most everything is made out of acrylic or some other artificial fiber. Bleah.

Where, oh were, did my wool go????? It's a great fiber, renewable, sustainable, no animals are killed in the harvesting of wool. Perhaps the sheep feel a trifle embarrassed after being shorn, but they're not hurt or killed. I used to have a full winter wardrobe full of wooly things. Now, as the old items finally wear out (oh! They made women's clothing so much better in the past), I'm at a loss at how I'll replace them.

Maybe I need to get my own flock of sheep, just so I can have the clothes I want in the winter.