Crazy is the New Sane

I don’t really know how to begin to talk about this week. So let’s start at Monday. I started by trying to think of what happened on Monday. Kept thinking, “No, that was two weeks ago.” But, no, that was actually just 7 days ago. Some of this you know, but I’ll include it merely for completeness. So here we go, are you ready?

Monday:
Mookie disappeared. I had culinary class in the evening. I got home around 10:30.

Tuesday:
It’s Andy’s company bowling night, and it’s my night at home. I tried to get a few chores done, but mostly I just beat myself up over opening the front door for Mookie. I dug out her file, found her microchip info, and confirmed that it was accurate. Andy came home around 10:00.

Wednedsay:
I called all the animal shelters in the area, and was directed to a website that posts pictures of all the stray animals that our county animal shelter takes in. The site updates at least daily, so now I have something to check compulsively at work. Culinary class for me today. We had a midterm. I got an “A”, thank goodness, because I was too upset to study Tuesday, so ‘studying’ was me scanning my textbook for 10 minutes while I made coffee and lunch before work this morning. I got home around 10:30.

Thursday:
Valentine’s Day! Andy and I exchanged cards at 6:00 am before he left for work. I got home at 5:30, let the dog out, and immediately laid down on the couch for a nap. Andy came home, reheated some red beans and rice I’d made on my night at home on Tuesday, woke me up so I could eat. We shared about 30 minutes on the couch together eating before I left for church band practice – I was filling in this week. I got home again around 9:45. This felt really early. So much so that Andy and I decided to crack a bottle of wine and watch Lost on the Tivo.

Friday:
My trainer went nuts on me and decided to work me out for an hour and half Friday afternoon in our company fitness center. This meant that I needed to make up the time at work by staying late. I called Andy to deliver the news around 5:15, and asked if he wanted to just meet me out at a local restaurant after I got off work at 6:30. At 5:16 my (former) manager, called me into his office and told me to shut the door. “I wanted to give you your review before the weekend,” he said. Yes, this is where he delivered the news that I’d had a great year, and that I’d gotten a promotion. This seems to be creating some confusion, so let me be clear. In my division (R&D) a promotion at my skill level really means just a number level up with a salary increase. It signifies that I’m no longer operating at a new hire’s productivity and that I am not only technically more proficient but that I understand the business better. Imagine Andy’s surprise when I delivered the news at dinner. We celebrated, then we came home to a message from my brother Tony asking us to call home. We did, and Tony told us that he is ENGAGED. He and his fianc� Erin are planning a summer wedding this summer. Congrats to Tony and Erin!

Saturday:
We had hail at about 6:00 in the morning. I had a plant test run today, but the plant was in Dallas – so, very convenient for me. I left home at 8:30 am to drive to the plant. I was there until 10:30 pm. Andy worked today too, since I was gone anyway. He went into work for 5-6 hours. I got to bed around midnight.

Sunday:
Up and at ’em at 7 am and off to the church for pre-service rehearsal. Our bassist called in sick, and our leader didn’t get the message until about 10 minutes before the end of rehearsal, at which point he changed half the songs we were going to sing so that we could rope an 18-year-old bass player into filling in at the last minute. Andy and I were at church until about Noon. We have a new head pastor, who spoke at our service that morning, and you know what? I really dig him. :) Needless to say (I think) I crashed after church. Andy and I had a great rest of the day at home. My nerves have been a little threaded lately, so I just got the chance to balance out. This week should have just a little less going on, and I’m looking forward to that.

This Weekend

Highs in the 70s and sunny. It was a gorgeous weekend. It made it all the more frustrating that Mom and Dad couldn’t make it down. Seems like they really could’ve used the fresh air. This weather isn’t supposed to last. The 6 am news is predicting not one, but two, cold fronts to come through this week. Probably won’t mean much more than the highs dipping down into the 50s though.

Friday night Andy and I cooked together in the kitchen after work. I’ve been on a new recipe kick lately. Friday night we tried Baked Chicken Enchiladas from our church cookbook. I’m here to tell you that, historically, the church ladies have all the good recipes. They did not disappoint. Andy stood over the stove frying corn tortillas, and I buzzed around chopping and throwing everything else together. We baked them in a new Le Creuset casserole that Mom and Dad got me for Christmas. The result was phenomenal.

Saturday didn’t bring much excitement. Our Saturdays rarely do anymore. Usually Andy and I are so exhausted after our marathon weeks that Saturday is our day of rest. I think we managed to step outside to rent a video and hit up the grocery store for a few necessities. Sunday we slept in, cleaned a little bit, then headed down to Dallas for Brian and Michelle’s annual Superbowl party. We all had a really good time despite the lack of scoring going on in the actual game. The Dallas Fischers had plenty of things going on yesterday afternoon to keep a non sportsfan’s interest throughout the duration of the game. Not an easy thing to do! 😉

Other points of interest. It was our nephew Gabriel’s second birthday this last Thursday. We just got pictures of the cutie patootie opening his present from us (in his red footie pajamas, no less) this weekend. Adorable. My culinary classes are awesome, and I’m learning a ton, but the hours are killing me. It’s bad enough that the classes run from 6 to 10 pm, but it’s even worse that they RUN OVER. I haven’t walked out of there earlier than 10:30 pm. Some nights it’s 10:45. I’ll do a lot better when I stop scheduling plant test runs for the same day as my classes though. I still haven’t managed to learn my lesson. I’m signed up for another 8-week class after this one wraps in mid-March, so the schedule’s going to stay tight for quite some time. These are times that you remind yourself that anything worth having isn’t easy to attain.

Two and a Half Days Into the Week

Two and a half days into the first week of classes, and I’m starting to think that I’m a big ol’ wimp. In my defense, this probably would have been a bad week even if I hadn’t started cooking school. However, my additional cirricular activities don’t seem to be helping. I put in a long day at work yesterday because I spent Monday at the plant and was planning on being at the plant all day today. Running tests at the plant is the officework equivalent of taking a vacation. You come back the next day to a day’s worth of email and voicemails, lots of meetings to attend, and you have to plan ahead to get things done before you go in the plant again. Not to mention that you come back with a ton of data to analyze and reports to write. So yeah, like a vacation – except completely opposite. You work, creating more work, while your workload piles up. Good times.

So where was I? Ahh yes. Long day at work yesterday. I came home and realized, wow – I have homework to do. I had to read three chapters and cut up my carrots. Now, remember how I was talking about being efficient? Creating the least waste that I possibly can? Okay, turns out that’s pretty hard. Not only did I have to cut up as many perfect 1/4″ and 1/3″ cubes out of each carrot that I possibly could, I had to save all my waste so the chef could check my work. About an hour and many, many profanities later, I had three baggies. Small cubes, medium cubes, and waste. And wouldn’t you know it, the weight of the waste is about equal to the cubes I made. Between vulgarities, I spent my cube-tastic hour mentally listing out all the companies that make machines that wash, peel, and cube hundreds of pounds of carrots in an hour. I predict that this will be a challenge for me. My job is to take the human factor out of food. Make a product that can be made by machines. So I’m going to have to remind myself that I’m taking these courses to better understand the foods that I’m working with, so I can pair the art with the science. Well guess what, folks? I got a D in Art in junior high. This is going to be painful.

Today was another day at the plant. I woke up at 5am, left the house at 6, drove for an hour to the south of Dallas, walked into the plant at 7 am, and found out that the scheduler didn’t communicate to the plant that I was coming. No test run. So instead I sat in an office and caught up on email until the traffic died down so that I could drive alllll the way back north to work again. But good news (kind of). I was rescheduled in the plant tomorrow, so I get to do it all over again. I’m looking forward to class tonight, though. Maybe I’ll graduate from carrots to potatoes?

The Joy of Cooking School – Day One

My husband will be the first to tell you, I am an, um, optimistic time manager. When it comes to making a schedule, I tend to pack too much in – figuring I can get it all done. Yesterday was a prime example. I scheduled a first shift plant run on my first day of cooking class. The hours seemed to work, but in the end, I was up at 5 AM, out the door at 6 AM, on my feet until 4 PM, drove to cooking class, and was there from 6 PM until 10 PM. So it goes without saying that bed felt REALLY REALLY good last night. :)

So cooking school! First off, four hours is a long class period. We had our typical meet and greet, go over the syllabus, review the pre-reading material via power point, and extensive tour of the kitchen. I looked at the clock and we were only an hour and a half in! Our professor, who we are to call “Chef”, had us dicing up carrots, celery, and onion for a stock that we’ll be making on Wednesday. His teaching theory is less ‘explaining theory of cooking techniques’ and more ‘grab a knife and start cutting’. I think we will get along swimmingly.

He sent us all home with two horse carrots (not the carrots you feed horses, but rather, the HUMONGOUS carrots they use in food service) to practice our knife skills. I should take a picture of my frankencarrots next to a normal carrot so you all can see. One carrot will be cut into ‘small dice’, one will be cut into ‘medium dice’ and – get this – I have to save all my scrap (aka the heels, the peel, and the scrap that has to be cut off to make the edges perfectly square) so he can grade my efficiency. Cause after all, as he explained, “Food costs money, and if you throw away food, you’re throwing away money. It’s unavoidable but undesirable in any business, so you need to learn to be efficient.” It’s so very interesting, isn’t it?

Oh oh, and here was my last takeaway from the evening. Chef’s view on expensive knives. He has a couple of the “high end” knives you find in ‘Williams-Sonoma’ (as he said with a half eye-roll) that he received as gifts, but he says that he prefers the no-name knives you can buy at restaurant supply stores for cheap. Like a chef knife for $25. Most of this stems from his line of work. He doesn’t want to take super-expensive knives into a kitchen where people will borrow them, where the knives are banged around and accidentally dropped. Using these knives in a commercial kitchen is unpractical, and so, Chef found that the ‘Toyotas’ work just as well as the ‘Ferraris’. He summed it all up with these words of wisdom: “You don’t need to be a great chef to have expensive knives, and you don’t need expensive knives to be a great chef.” So for those who can’t or don’t want to afford the name brands, you can find equivalent quality for less money and you’ll actually look more like the real deal! :) And I don’t think that the name brands have been shunned. There were a lot of students in that room, myself included, looking sheepish during that discussion, but it doesn’t negate the name brands. They’re great knives, and if you don’t work in a commercial kitchen, then it’s totally up to you whether to spend the money. I think the whole point was to note to the class that good tools aren’t unattainable and that you don’t have to have boatloads of money to break into this field. Just an interesting perspective, so I thought I’d share.

Back to School

Well, that didn’t take long. In November, a mere 18 months after I took my Master’s degree and ran, I walked into the Office of Admissions and Records at the local community college and asked for an application for admission. Yes, I am going back to school. This time, I’m doing it right – I found a place that will let me cook for class credit. Awww yeah. You heard me. Debbie’s getting her chef’s certification.

It’s been coming for awhile. I just needed to gain the wherewithal to give up my free time two days a week. Now I’m ready. Why? Have you ever been teetering so far on the edge of an idea that it only takes the smallest nudge to make you fall forward headfirst? I’ve been chewing on this idea since I started work in Texas. Then, one day back in October, I took my second cooking class at the Central Market in Dallas. I was chit-chatting back and forth with our instructor. We were both trying to figure out aloud why one pizza dough had more trouble rising than another. Knowing what I did for a living, she said, “I really enjoyed my food science class in culinary school. I think it’s fascinating.” So I said, “See, and I think I’d really enjoy taking culinary classes.” Her face lit up, she hit my arm with the back of her hand, and said, “Oh you SHOULD! You would love it!” And it clicked. My brain just said, “Okay, I will then.” Big decision made as a result of a casual exchange.

I start my first class on Monday. I’m going to pick up my textbook, tools, and chef’s uniform tonight. Yeah, they make me wear the uniform, which I originally thought was cool until I saw that you don’t get to wear the chef’s hat until you’ve earned it. I, the lowly student, have to wear a beanie. Yeah, you read that right. A beanie. Thank goodness it bears no resemblance to your stereotypical ’50s rainbow beanie with the propeller on top – although, c’mon, that would be hysterical – but the name is still a little deflating I think. I get to buy more kitchen supplies, which Andy will be thrilled about, and looks like there’s a knife or two to add to the collection. Oh, AND I get to tote my knives around in a roll-up case like some scary hunter. Life is good.

So there you have it. I’m on to the next adventure. I’ll let you know how it goes!