It’s an Honor Just To Be Nominated

Despite my recent vow to remain positive and spare myself the heartache, I did watch the Detroit-based sporting event, and went pretty much the way I thought it would (though I did not expect the epic fourth-quarter collapse).

Even though we Lions fans may be disappointed, to those of us who lived through the 0-fer season and the 2-fer season, a playoff appearance just three years later is nothing short of amazing.

Good job, guys.  Well done.

New Years Day, Observed

I like to try to start the new year off right, because my mama drilled into me that what you do on New Years Day, you’re destined to do for the rest of the year.  Well, if yesterday is any indication, I will be sleeping late all year (even though I was in bed by about 9:30), perpetually having a very bad hair day, and cleaning up after construction workers at work.

So, I figured that if the government, the banks, and the post office can observe New Years Day today, then so can I, and I get a do-over for yesterday.  I actually awoke ahead of my alarm, took a nice, long shower, and somehow managed to style myself up some good hair — even Dianna, the self-proclaimed arbiter of good hair, said so — and put on a little mascara (the fact that we have cutie-pie Russian construction workers roaming about all day has nothing to do with this, I assure you!).  I’m having yesterday’s leftover creamed spinach and pasta for lunch, and yesterday’s leftover Hoppin’ John [made from my super-secret recipe of crumbled, cooked breakfast sausage, chopped onion and green pepper (if you can get the frozen kind, that ups the laziness quotient quite nicely), frozen blackeyed peas, and boxed dirty rice mix -- cook until done] for dinner.  I call it New Years Day, version 2012.2.0

Sadly, though, the construction workers are still slobs.

So I Went Away for a While

It’s a long story that’ll probably come out in bits and pieces over future posts (the important parts, anyway).

Now that my least favorite holiday (NYE) is over, and I’ve had my Hoppin’ John and greens like a good Southern girl and emailed my mother the pictures to prove it (we take our superstitions very seriously ’round these parts), I’m looking ahead. I don’t make resolutions because I know myself well enough to know they won’t last, so rather than trying to lose weight, intending to exercise more, or insisting that this will be the year I consistently remember to do laundry before I run out of underwear (ha!), I intend to just remain positive, supportive, and creative, and some other words that end in “-tive” that I can’t think of right now, and just try to be an all-around mensch, because, really, that’s all I want from the people around me.

[Note to self: the outcome of the Lions-Packers game did not do a lot for my positivity, and some of the words I said were probably not very mensch-like (though they may have been creative!).  It might be advisable to avoid certain Detroit-centric sporting events if I want this thing to last more than a week.  Just sayin'.]

Now I must investigate why the cats have suddenly developed the evening crazies.  Methinks there might be another squirrel in the walls, which means I’ll have to move, because I’m not evicting another squirrel from my kitchen.  Once was enough.

The Lookout
He’s coming for me. I just know it.

¡Prospero año nuevo!

Clicking the “Send” Button

So, in a flight of fancy, I applied for a job at a company that’s opening up in my hometown.  I’ve been contemplating lately a return to the boonies, waxing nostalgic for all things small-towny (less traffic, actually seeing stars at night, being closer to my family, having an entire farm for Ramona to run around on instead of being on a 12-foot lead in the yard, stuff like that), but I hadn’t actually taken any steps in that direction.  And I sure as heck did not announce my plans to my mother, who would have shown up at my doorstep exactly two hours later with a U-Haul and a Shop-Vac, ready to snatch me back from the evil clutches of The City That Stole Her Daughter.  (There are many blessings to being an only child, but the downright clinginess of your parents is not one of them.)

Anyway, I’m still trying to suss out exactly why I did this.  I have secure, stable employment in a job that I don’t hate (whether or not I actually love the job any more is another question), and the arrival of a mature, responsible, and teachable employee means the nightmare of switching between day and night shifts (such has been the last 8 weeks) is just about over.  I’m not accountable to anyone in my personal life, so I can live as I choose (see, wasn’t that a clever way to say that I have no social life?), though I’m coming to realize that zero accountability is maybe not the healthiest situation for my personality (there’s not a lot of incentive to keep the house clean if there’s no one to ever see it).  And I also know what the next couple of years holds for me if I stay — our company’s financial position in an industry hammered by the recession is tenuous at best, so any promotions will be in the form of a new title and expanded responsibility rather than in salary, and having a 24/7 job means that there will be little change in my personal life.

If this pans out, and a move is in the cards for me, I dread the conversation I’ll be having with my employers — working for a small, family-run business means that long term employees (like my 5 years and 3 months) are treated like family, too, and leaving a family is never easy, especially considering that this family took me in when I was running from a remarkably hellish job situation at another hotel.  And my immediate supervisor (whom I’m theoretically supposed to replace if we ever actually expand our empire and she takes over the new hotel which, here in reality-land, will probably never get built) and I are very close friends, which means I will feel incredibly guilty leaving, especially with no other employees able to take my place.  But there never will be a “good” time to leave (though summertime, when we are at our busiest, is a remarkably crappy time to go)?  And, not to sound all child-of-the-80’s-selfish or anything, but don’t I owe it to myself to seek the most advantageous situation for me; to fix whatever in my life is making me unhappy?

It was this kind of waffling that had me staring at the computer screen this morning, after having written a friendly, yet professional and grammatically-correct letter of interest and attaching my resume (sadly unchanged since mid-2007, when I was promoted to my current position).  It’s quite one thing to imagine applying for other jobs, but it’s quite another thing to actually do it (I guess it’s kind of like the difference between fantasies and actual adultery).  Do I click “Send”?  Do I click “Cancel”?

I clicked “Send”.  There’s no calling it back now.

Sunshine on My Shoulders . . .

image

image

I have a sort-of free day (meaning that I worked day shift yesterday and I work night shift tonight), so I’m currently lazing my day away on the front porch in the old Papasan chair my best friend gave me when she moved 900 miles away (*sniffle*).  I have a big, fat Stephen King book I can’t seem to put down (but, then, I never can seem to put down any good book).  It’s breezy, it’s partly cloudy, and it’s not too hot (yet).  The crew renovating the apartments behind my house seem to be done with the really loud demo work.  It’s summer break at the university, so no one’s around to bother me.  I’ll be watching the season finale of Glee once it finishes downloading to my phone.  I’m drinking a homemade lemon shake-up.  The dog is soaking up sunshine, chasing twigs and leaves around the yard, and warning off any errant birds (cardinals, mostly) who have the affrontery to land in her trees and take baths in her gutters.  I’m exchanging a series of gramatically-correct and perfectly-spelled* text messages with the aforementioned best friend, because that’s just the kind of people we are – Geek Pride!  I have mushrooms in the fridge that are going to become garlic butter mushrooms with capers and lemon, and then I will most likely eat them all, because when you live alone, you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to (betcha couldn’t tell I’m an only child, could ya?).

Now, if I could just keep reminding myself that there’s no reason to be terrified of the random bumblebees who occasionally meander into my line of sight, and remember that they respond much better to polite requests to go play somewhere else than they do to shrieks and throwing of books and/or water bottles (betcha couldn’t tell I’m just a leeeeetle afraid of things with stingers, could ya?), it would be divinely perfect.

*I just know I’m going to find some glaring grammar or spelling error in this post in a couple of weeks, because I’m writing this on my phone and I can’t figure out how to turn off the stupid Autocorrect.  (Edit: Apparently, Android’s Autocorrect does not contain the words “capers” or “stingers”.  Yet.)

I Swear, I Will Sell Your Child to Carnies

AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

(Ok, I feel a little better now that I got that out of my system.)

I appears that we’re due for another installment of our “Adventures in Hospitality” series, prompted by today’s events at my hotel.

Traveling with Groups of Children

-or-

Heck, I’ll Give ‘Em to the Carnies if it Gets Them Out of My Lobby

Don’t get me wrong, I do like children.  Most children.  I even like the age that nobody else does — the middle-schooler.  But any veteran of the public school wars will tell you that children are at their best when their parents have taught them basic manners and how to use their indoor voices.

We never get these kids.  Instead, we get the kids whose parents seem to think it’s all right to get them hopped up on Gatorade (or, heaven forbid, Mountain Dew) and turn them loose to roam the building, running sprints on my stairways (which, sadly, seems to do the opposite of tiring them out), knocking on random doors in the middle of the night, trying any number of imaginative ways to get into my business center, fitness center, and pool unaccompanied by an adult, doing the Ickey Shuffle or Riverdancing or dropping bowling balls in their rooms, and holding luggage cart races in my parking lot.  And, when confronted with the misdeeds of their Precious Darlings, the parents, squinting at us through beer goggles or the fog of hangover (depending on the time of day), can nearly always be counted on to take one or more of the following positions: 1) “My child would never do that,” 2) “Isn’t it your JOB to keep the hallways quiet — I mean, that’s what I pay you for,” 3) “Well, it’s stupid that you won’t let him [insert misdeed here] — that’s a dumb policy,” 4) “Well, they’re just kids,” 5) “Other people are too sensitive,” and/or the kicker, 6) “It’s not my fault you don’t have anything for them to do here.”

But they won’t actually do anything about it.

Well, that’s not true.  They’ll fly all over me like brown on rice when I kick their 11 of their monsters out of the computer room, or use my best former-middle-school-teacher-death-ray-stare-and-slightly-raised-voice to advise their future jailbirds that there will be dire consequences if they continue to practice penalty kicks in the vending area, or if I (gasp) require “please” and “thank you” before turning over any item requested at the front desk (seriously, people, do you not have toothbrushes?), because how dare I try to raise their child for them?  The only thing I can do at this point is to explain my position — that it is not my intention to embarrass them (the parents or the kids), and I am truly sorry if I have done so, but I am responsible for ensuring the comfort of all the guests in my hotel, whether or not they are participating in the same event as your group, and when anything occurs to disrupt that comfort, it is my job to identify the source of that disruption and stop it, involving parents and/or coaches if necessary (and, on one memorable occasion, a scare visit by a sympathetic police officer).  As well, unattended children running around a hotel are a huuuuuge safety risk — the days of blithely trusting our neighbors are long gone, and nobody, not even me, knows what type of person is staying in the room next door.  I don’t even want to think of what would happen if little Dakota was snatched up by a pedophile simply because he was unattended and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I also don’t even want to think of what would happen if little Dakota looks me square in the sternum and tells me one more time that I can’t tell him what to do, because there’s always carnies staying at the no-tell down the street, and I’m pretty sure I can convince them that they’re looking for miniature ride operators or weight guessers.  I’m persuasive like that.

So, please, parents of the world, especially sports parents of the world, teach your children well/their hotel manager’s hell/will slowly go by . . .

Signed,

The Woman Behind the Desk with 2 Hours and 14 Minutes to Go

Fun at the Store

Curry Tacos?  I think I’ve got an idea for a show on fusion cuisine!

image

Macho?  Well, at least they got right to the point!

image

Does anyone else find something  . . . um . . . odd . . . about the ear of corn in the middle?

image

During late spring every year, ducks take over our parking lots!

image

In a world gone mad, isn’t it nice to know that Little Golden Books still survive?

image

If I’m spending 15 bucks on a chunk of (frankly, not awesome-looking) meat, someone had better be cooking it for me.  With sides.  And beer.

image

I’m almost tempted to buy it just to keep on the mantel, like my can of spotted dick, but that would mean perpetuating this crime against nature!

image

And I, child of the countryside, grew up believing puffball mushrooms were poisonous!

image

These regal grapes were spotted just one day before The Wedding of the Millennium.  Way to cash in!

To provide some background, I’m afraid of persimmons.  The Homestead has a persimmon tree in the front yard which likes to throw its hard little fruit at us.  All.  Summer.  Long.  They’re not edible (we tried), they dent our cars (seriously), they lay on the ground and rot faster than we can rake them up and get stuck in our shoe treads, they smell like baby poo, and when they’ve decayed sufficiently, the butterflies come and feed on them and weave drunkenly around our yard and get trapped in our cars and try to land on our heads (which is not really as magical as it sounds).  So, to see a persimmon the size of my fist next to a pineapple (which I love) bred to one-third its regular size was more than a little disconcerting.  For perspective, look at the nice, regular-sized bananas in the background.  I emailed this to my mom later that day with the subject line “Mummy, I’m afraid of the fruit . . .”.

Gettin’ Sweaty in the Kitchen

In the book Divine Secrets of the Ha-Ya Sisterhood, Vivi talks about how she can practically taste good sleep, like a perfect BLT (exact wording may vary, as I’m too lazy to pull out the book right now).  I couldn’t agree more.  I’m coming off a four-night stretch of night shifts, which doesn’t sound so bad until you consider that my body is only used to two at a time, and I’m still working other shifts the rest of the time.  I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be asleep or awake, and I have no will for . . . anything.

Anything except cooking, that is.  And not just any kind of cooking, but Cooking Unnecessarily Involved Dishes That Seem Simple And Quick Until I’m Past The Point of No Return And Probably Shouldn’t Have Been Undertaken In A Kitchen Without Air Conditioning.  Best way to waste an afternoon.  Also one of the sweatiest that does not require nakedness.  But, hey, it cleaned out the fridge.

Apparently, good sleep tastes like Pasta Primavera.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera

* 1 6-8 ounce package sliced mushrooms
* 1 Red bell pepper, sliced into strips (it would be good if you used one that was just this side of wrinkly, just like I did)
* 1 Medium-largish onion, halved and sliced medium thin.
* 3 Carrots, peeled and sliced into into strips
* 3 Small zucchini, peeled and sliced into thin strips (or the good parts of 3 medium zucchini that were also just this side of wrinkly)
* 1 Head of garlic, prepared for roasting
* Olive oil
* Salt and pepper
* 1 12 ounce package of spinach fettuccine
* About 1/2 cup of prepared pesto
* About 1/2 cup of half-and-half (cream would have been better, but I didn’t have any)
* Parmesan, the kind you grate yourself.

* Heat the oven to 450.
* In the biggest bowl you own, toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Don’t be stingy!  Divide the veggies between two baking sheets and pop in the oven along with the garlic (since my oven is really small, I just popped the garlic in its little foil packet right on one of the baking sheets).
* Roast until the vegetables are as tender as you’d like – I prefer mine fairly soft but not squishy – and lightly browned around the edges.  30 minutes is a good guideline.  Stir and switch the pans from upper to lower rack every 10 minutes are so.  If the garlic is not done (quite squishy and fragrant), reduce the oven temperature to 350-ish and let it finish cooking while everything else finishes.
* When the vegetables are almost done, start the pasta.  I kept the veggies warm by consolidating them to one dish and using it as a lid for the pasta pot.
* When the pasta is done, fish it out with a pasta server or tongs and add it to the veggies.  (Or drain it, reserving  some cooking water.)  If the baking dish is not deep enough to add the pasta and have room to stir, use the big-ass bowl you used earlier.
* When the garlic is done, carefully remove it from its paper into a small bowl and mash with a fork, adding some of the reserved pasta water to make a runny garlic paste.
* Add the garlic, pesto, and half-and-half, a little more salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan.  Toss together and taste.  If it’s too thick, add a little of the pasta water to thin it out.  Adjust seasonings as needed.
* Enjoy!  Possibly with a bit more parmesan on top.

I recommend making this for more than one person, because it makes a metric ton of yuminess that I suspect won’t save more than a couple of days.  Also, it would benefit from some lemon juice, to break up the richness.

And, as the final dish was not really photogenic, especially not with a camera phone, I instead include a photo of my kitchen supervisor, Erida, without whose expert guidance I’m sure I could not produce a single kitchen success.

image

To My Badass Mother

(My thanks to Uncle Henry for scanning a ton of old photos and putting them on a CD several years ago, because I just realized I don’t have any good digital photos of my mom.  I do, however, have a ton of pictures of the back of her head, or her shoulder, or her left earlobe.  She’s really good at ducking cameras.)

To the marvelous lady who:

  • Taught me to walk properly in high heels (and that only trashy girls walk on their toes while in heels).
  • Tried to teach me to dance (epic fail, by the way).
  • Nearly got into a fistfight defending my honor during a middle school football game.
  • Let me wear the abovepictured dress as a Halloween costume.
  • Gives the world’s greatest back rubs.
  • Escaped a dysfunctional, abusive family, and as a result, never once spanked, slapped, or otherwise corporally punished me.
  • Brought me up to love animals, children, and Frosted Mini Wheats.
  • And a million other things, every day.
Thanks!
Oh, yeah, and thanks for that whole birth thing, too!

Daylight Come and Me Wan’ Go Home

I’ve been working 2-3 night shifts per week for a couple of weeks now, and a profound dearth of qualified applicants means I’ll probably be doing this for some time to come.  I don’t mind the occasional night shift – it gives me time to catch up on my hulu-ing or reading or trying to beat the Super Mario simulator on my phone, and I can usually squeeze in some free or reduced-price laundry.  Besides, I started out at each of my hotels as a night auditor before being promoted – two years at my first, three months at my second, and a little over a year at my current – so its not exactly unfamiliar territory.  But I’m a trifle elderly now, and I’m still working day shifts the rest of the week.  I don’t bounce back and forth quite like I used to.  And it confuses the heck out of the dog.  (Admittedly not a remarkable accomplishment.)

But, hey, I got an obscene phone call right around midnight – brightened my whole evening!

Must sleep now.  I think I’m going to be a bad Kentuckian and miss the Derby for the first time in my memory.  But, who knows? Maybe my subconscious will wake me up anyway!

Edit: I actually did wake up in time to see both the Derby and the end of Justin Verlander’s no-hitter!