Monday, June 30, 2008

Charmed, I'm Sure

What a glorious Birthday Month! I'm so grateful that Neighbor Teri and I declared June to be our coming-out of sorts. Highlights include, but are not limited to: interviewing for my perfect job, First Friday, meeting Wasabi Boy, gardening with Katrina, the Birthday-Solstice-Birthday Bash, my birthday and finally being offered my perfect job. I feel like a new woman. Any optimism I felt approaching my annual age change has grown exponentially as the days and weeks of June have passed. I can see clearly that my life and all of its components are not falling into place, but being strategically arranged, promising my future will be nothing short of phenomenal.

Onto a seemingly different subject, those of you paying close attention might know that in my eclectic wardrobe of shoes, clothing and jewelry, the only constant in my daily attire is my charm bracelet. I began building it after my trip to Portland last May as a concrete (okay, sterling silver) representation of myself. It has slowly graduated to embody some of the most important parts of my life and I treasure it more than my diamond ring (I'm more of a ruby girl, but that's not the point here. . .) A few days ago I realized that a new charm to celebrate this momentous month was in order. So to BlueMud I went. Among the thousands of charms, I found this gem. I'm so pleased with my struggle to break out of my past and this will stand to remind me just how far I've come -- and yet have a good deal of growth ahead. I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again. . .what a charmed life I lead!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Orient Express

This morning the alarm woke me at 6:30 -- but not for my usual exercise class. Today I had to take Martin to the airport. Have you kicked him out? Did you send him to live with his mother? Did he finally get fed up with your references to Wasabi Boy? Well, no. He's been hired as Assistant Director on a film. LA? NY? Chicago? Try China.

Two weeks ago he came home after work and informed me that this job had suddenly become a distinct possibity. Eighteen hours later, the hire was confirmed and he was arranging for an emergency passport and visa. Right now he's several thousand feet above this earth on his way to Guangzhou -- northeast of Hong Kong. And once he lands, he'll be there for at least six weeks.

So my upcoming week will involve orienting myself to my new perfect job and arranging for a month's worth of childcare and visiting with dear out-of-towners and stealing a few moments with Wasabi Boy. And I can say with no uncertainty that it will all work out exactly as it should.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Family Roots

Each time I visit my parents, they send me home with provisions. Canned green beans, mom's pickle relish and a few sweet potatoes found their way to Kansas City from my last trip. When I was getting the vegetables from their basement, I took the liberty of choosing the largest potato they'd harvested. Weighing in at nearly four pounds, I figured my family of five was far more likely to consume the beast than the two of them.

Fast forward four months and it was still taking space on my pantry shelf, now sprouted and leafy. The time had come to butcher the giant. But what to make? It didn't take long to settle on a simple sweet potato hash. Sauteed onion, garlic, sweet potato, black beans, corn, tomatoes, cumin, smoked paprika. . .more or less. Okay, it was more. By the time it was all said and done,it was heaping out of my 12" skillet.

And I didn't even cook the whole potato -- I trimmed off the shoots and gave them to the kids for a mini-garden. Only knowing how to plant, not what to plant where or when, I can only wonder if there will be a fall harvest of tasty root vegetables. Or if we will even be living here at that time.

At least the kids will have dirt under their nails for the next few days. And if that doesn't say, "summer", I don't know what does.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Employed. Seriously. I'm not kidding this time.

Well, well, well. . .I guess my perseverance/patience/laziness have finally paid off. Today just after lunch, I received a note from my guy at my Not-Your-Average-Cook job. He feared I might have already secured gainful employment, but wanted to let me know that a full-time position had just opened. A real, tangible, we-have-to-have-a-body job. I let out an audible squeal, collected my senses and left a message on his phone. Something to the effect of, "Of course I don't have a job yet, silly!"

I heard back from him about 15 anxious minutes later. Someone had quit (not even the person he was anticipating would be leaving) earlier today and their staff was down to bare bones. He's just got to run a couple of background checks -- one for a history of elderly abuse, the other for violent felonies -- and a drug test (I told him I could come in anytime - that I didn't need to go out and buy a mask - and he said, "well, we are cooks after all. . .") I'll get training rolling on Monday.

I'm nothing shy of intoxicated right now. I know from experience that somewhere below my feet there is a floor, but I'm nowhere near it. Yes, there are major childcare issues to be tackled, but I feel like this is a huge stride toward my independence, my happiness, and ultimately, the rest of my life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Treading Ginger-ly

Delightful. Delicious. DeLovely.

I enjoyed every minute of my birthday. Well, maybe the gasping-for-air while running was a drag. . .and the guy at the karaoke bar whose mom had passed the previous day was a downer -- but other than that, a perfect day.

It all started with a cup of tea and a trip to the gym. Due to a membership card snafu, I was inspired to change my name to be Ginger and the tone was set for the day. Big Sis and I hit the cardio room and then the weights. I'd not been sleeping well, so I was a little off, but it felt great to get in a workout.

After cleaning up and feeding the kiddos, we headed to the new Halfy's for a bit then got Audrey and Big Sis haircuts. Lunch was at India Palace (a birthday favorite with the Diggs crew) and then the kids and I drove south to Mrs. Diggs' pool for a few hours of refreshing fun. [Refreshing for the kids = swimming. Refreshing for the grown-ups = sangria]

After a bit, we hit Chez Diggs for an amazing Blueberry-Peach Crisp she'd made. Never one to turn down a lovely chorus, I enjoyed the vocal stylings of Mrs. Diggs, Quinn & Audrey as they sang that classic we all know and love.

We headed home shortly thereafter, only to find that Big Sis and niece had prepared a Flourless Chocolate Cake, and gifties from Martin & the kids were awaiting me as well. Flight of the Conchords and Ledisi cds and a signed copy of David Sedaris' new book.

With no time to dawdle, Sis & I dolled ourselves up for the big finale of Ginger's Big Day Out -- karaoke. Martin recommended a bar he and his workfolk frequent, The Red Balloon, for its extensive playlist. Concert Katrina tagged along, though far outside of her comfort zone. A smoky dive bar ("What do you expect for 75 cent pool?", Martin argued), Sis & perused the music library for songs. After a holy-cow-I-guess-we-don't-know-this-very-well-after-all duet of Ain't No Mountain High Enough, I sang a fair You've Got a Friend, Sis the soprano performed Cool Change and after much second-hand smoke, my finale, Crazy.

And though my hair and my clothes wreak of tobacco and gin, I can sit with myself a bit longer and gaze back upon my wonderful day and know that the upcoming year will be unlike any other. Feel free to continue to call me Ginger. And perhaps by birthday #39, my header will read Exercise is a Delightful Compliment to Love.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Party Girl: Part Deux

I know you've all been in a tizzy wondering about my knife.

Sis, niece & I walked to to Teri's for additional clean-up duty sometime mid-morning. Headed into the kitchen and began gathering bowls and food and pots and cutting boards. . .but. . .the knife. I must find it. The sink has quite a few dishes stacked in it. . .I think we avoided the dishwasher! I begin looking through and audibly gasp -- my beautiful Shun knife has been soaking overnight! This is bad. Alton would be disappointed. I rescued it and begged its forgiveness.

I gathered the rest of my property from the kitchen, then headed to the garage to retrieve my 17 remaining Guinness (my stout drinkers didn't show) and the fabled chairs. We loaded up the wagon and headed home with the goods. No surprise, we ate taco leftovers for lunch.

And now, for the lesson portion of today's post. I learned:
1. Plan a little earlier in advance for a party. Concrete invitations garner more respect.
2. Without a solid RSVP list, one shouldn't make sangria for 20.
3. Though Velveeta is neither cheese nor food, Ro-Tel Dip is an acceptable once-a-year indulgence.
4. When one enjoys cooking and baking and photographing food for one's blog, one should take a picture of the generous spread one hath prepared for a party.
5. Folks are going to need a place to sit. Have extra chairs at the ready at a nearby location.

I'm feeling fully recovered from the party. All foodstuffs have been neatly tucked away. Dishes washed. Recyclables recycled. And there are still eight days left in Birthday Month. Oh, what a charmed life I lead!

Party Girl

The cat woke me this morning. . .she said something about needing food. I thought everyone ate enough last night at the too-much-food-because-turnout-was-low party, but apparently felines have a more self control than I. Oh, and the party was at Teri's, so she didn't have had the opportunity to overindulge.

After I fed Charlie, I laid back down. The sun streaming through the blinds quietly reminded me that I don't fall back to sleep anytime after 5:30 a.m., so I began my to-do list for today in my head, knowing that additional clean-up would be top priority. And that's when it hit me. Oh, No! My Shun knife. I bet it's in Teri's dishwasher. I'll have to time my rescue mission very carefully so as not to wake her up, yet save the knife before someone runs it through a cycle. It's my favorite. I took it over to make the last bit of prep far more tolerable. (You know how I am about my kitchen stuff.)

The party was delightful. Two days of prep. A ridiculous spread of food. Enough sangria to bathe in (though I don't think I will). Turnout was lower than anticipated, but it was a joy nonetheless. And now there are leftovers. A lot. Really. Are you hungry for tacos? Come on over!

My big sis and her daughter drove across the state to join in the revelry. Teri's younger sister trekked a distance as well. Teri's former roommate, a co-worker and a couple of her match acquaintances -- ok, three, well, four if you count Wasabi Boy, joined in. And we had plenty of kids too.

The weather cooperated, so we spent a good portion of the evening lounging in the driveway. My kids had been awaiting the party for a week solely based on the promise of fire and marshmallows, so that came into play as well. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that some children shouldn't be around both sugar and fire at the same time.

So our First Annual Birthday-Solstice-Birthday Bash has wrapped, more or less. It was a wonderful time. It was good to be a hostess again. I haven't done enough of that since moving to Kansas and really enjoyed it. I'll add that to my list of promises to myself for my next life: more partying -- in the host-sort of way. But for now I'll clean the prep kitchen here at Casa Diggs and retrieve the other half of my goods from her house a bit later this morning. . .I sure hope my knife is okay.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Birthday Month!!!

In May, while Neighbor Teri and I made pizzas here at Casa Diggs one weekend, we realized that we were missing local nightlife and needed to get a new groove. So we declared June to be Birthday Month and boldly stated we would celebrate the onset of our next year of our lives for 30 days. And to kick it off, we would go to our very first First Friday.

As mentioned before, it was magnificent. I had an absolute blast with Teri and Wasabi Boy (oooohhhh, so that's how you met him. . .) I looked out at the energy and excitement of that evening and realized I could like Kansas City. Having trapped myself in the suburbs, I've missed out on enjoying so many things and quite frankly, I'm done with that phase of my life.

So June started off with a bang and I've been flying high since. And today was a very special day of Birthday Month. Teri turned 43 today! We're both gleefully looking toward the our next year, so we're proudly embracing our ages. And even though we're having a Birthday-Solstice-Birthday party on Saturday(with a cake, a fire and a cake), I still had to make a cake to celebrate today. I wanted something small, so I checked in at Allrecipes and found a delightful Wacky Cake. I'd planned on your standard buttercream frosting, but realized I didn't have enough powdered sugar, so found this recipe for icing. Wow. Those two go together pretty well. I'll definitely hang onto those recipes.

So tomorrow will bring more party planning, shopping and baking. I'm giddy for Saturday. I can't wait to share the onset of a new season -- both of the year and of my life -- with my friends. Thirty-eight will be my best year yet!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Calling a Spade a Spade

Yesterday I wouldn't have been able to tell you the difference between a Rhododendron and a Creeping Jenny, but as new experiences seem to be the norm for me these days, today I found myself landscaping Concert Katrina's yard.

Gardening has never been of interest to me. I watch my neighbors plant and prune, trim and tweak, and I only think, "Gee, that's pretty." But awhile back, Kat asked if I'd participate in her yard party and I eagerly agreed to help her with the planting of the batrillion perrenials that she and her landscaper friend, Laura, had carefully chosen. When I arrived at her beautiful little cottage this morning, Laura was at work placing pots about and quickly barked instructions for the removal, division and placement of said plants. I donned my sunscreen, grabbed a shovel and got to work.

Watching Laura visualize the future of each flower, who its neighbor should be and what the combination of color, texture and height was astonishing. What a gift she saw in herself, developed into a passion then translated into a profession. She was visibly moved as she watched her vision transform itself into something tangible and permanent.

As the day wore on, we lost helper Marshall and landscaper Laura, but Katrina and I continued digging and placing, watering and preening (and maybe a couple of mudball fights). I was astonished at the joy I felt each time I spied an earthworm or tangled with a stubborn root and was sad to leave after five hours of hard work.

In the spirit of learning something from each new person and experience I encounter, here's what I'm taking from today's adventure:
1. Don't wear shoes with treads when walking through mud
2. Bend your knees
3. When applying sunscreen, don't forget that part of your back that peeks out between your shirt and your shorts

So now I dig gardening. Not enough to tackle my existing yard, but invite me over, hand me a spade and a Hosta and I'll happily get to work.

I think I could get used to stepping out of my comfort zone.

Writer's Block

Thy name is Martin. . .

Since I realized that he had been reading my blog, it's been very hard to sit down and pour out my feelings. It's not as though I was ever a terribly consistent blogger. Lately however, as subject matter would pop into my head, I've been immediately shooting it down, knowing that some tasty tidbit, some delicious detail should not be shared.

Understand that I kept my dating (or rather weak attempt thereof) under wraps from all of you for two months. There are a multitude of other bloggable events that I didn't pass on, sometimes because I wasn't sure it's suited for my audience (all seven of you) or I simply forgot as time passed by in my whirlwind of a life. But in the week since my discovery, those stories sit in my head, nagging me to let them out. Whether appropriate for human consumption or not, they crowd my brain, reminding me that I installed a new filter and it might just be too strong.

So over the coming weeks, I hope to re-open myself to you. If I wrote from my heart before I knew he was reading, I should do the same now. But if you see this turning into my food diary, be sure to remind me that my juicy morsels should be more than culinary.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ugly Pie

Another success, albeit unattractive, from 101 Cookbooks, was a Heavenly Pie I made on Sunday. And as per usual, I felt compelled to make a substitution. I was out of graham crackers and didn't want to make yet another run to the grocery store, as I missed two turns last time I'd tried to go (can you say distracted?) I have a recipe for the crackers, but wasn't excited about making them, baking them, crushing them and then making the crust. I'm far too impatient for that. So I tweaked the recipe a smidge, made a pressed, rather than rolled crust, and got to work. Made the filling which was ridiculously simple, baked it and then, oh man, it needs to chill completely!
My patience would be tested. But my impatience would win out. . .put 'er in the deep freeze, I say. So while holding a hot pie, I make my way to the garage, open said freezer and realize I must do some rearranging. I carefully set the pie down on some gigantic bag of grain, move a few packages of frozen goods and then place the pie on a rack, only to have a bag of two year old brussels sprouts tumble smack on top of my formerly lovely Heavenly Pie. I only wish I had thought to take the picture of the vegetables covered in chocolate. But those of you who know me have probably already figured out that I licked that package clean.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Panic Button

So the few of you who I know that read this received a email earlier this week that you would now need to sign in to read said blog. Curious? Well, I came home to find my computer off-kilter and Mountain of Laundry was open. I hadn't opened the page in some time, so I knew something was awry. I asked the kids if they had been using my computer and they told me that, in fact, Martin had been logged on. This sent me into a tizzy as I felt rather stalked (had he been checking my history? how much of my blog had he read? what had I written about him?), so I quickly made my blog private, cleared my history and started drinking.

I texted Wasabi Boy and he reminded me that once something is on the internet, it's available to everyone. And that if his ex- was writing about their divorce, he'd certainly read it. A few hours and a few cocktails later, I returned from visiting Neighbor Teri and with no accusation on my part, Martin flat-out asked how I knew. I told him how and he communicated to me that he'd been reading it for months. Feeling a bit of a fool, yet still somehow violated, I went to bed with my guard up and the blog still protected.

The next day he pointed out how I was inconveniencing my friends by making it private. He also expressed his admiration for my writing (flattery certainly helped) and I decided let my guard down and open it back up. I really love writing this (though sporadic at times) and I hope despite knowing that my soon-to-be-ex is blurking, I can still be honest about my escapades, adventures, and of course, recipes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sweet Baby James

I enjoyed another concert with my dear friend Katrina last night. When I realized she was an Alicia Keys fan and offered her the seat beside me at that show, she quickly invited me to be her companion at an upcoming James Taylor concert. I might've mentioned that I've not been much of a live music gal. But that was only because there were usually three little Diggs nipping at my heels. I think after last night, I'm officially a live music fan and will start doing my darndest to enjoy it far more often. Look at little Jennifer growing up!

The was an outdoor show and the day started with an ominous sky threatening to rain on my parade. But as time passed, the weather became more and more promising and by 7:00 pm, we knew there would be no more perfect night to listen to his silkier than a truffle voice

Of course, the evening started at her house where we reprised our pre-concert dress up routine for a good hour, digging through the mish-mash of clothes I'd brought along with hers and her accessories. It was really silly and fun. Then it was time for a photo shoot. See, I told you we were silly!

We arrived just after his first song. A whispering wind, crystal skies and a stunning moon set the backdrop for an amazing concert. His banter with the audience was very organic. He continually acknowledged his band and showcased their talents. He played his classics interspersed with some really fun covers. He appeared to really relish performing live. The evening was yet another blissful experience in my new found charmed life.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Singing in the Rain

I don't even know where to begin.

My intentions have been to blog nearly every night since my last post, but dishes and sleep and not-jobs and boys and fun and cooking and friends have kept me delightfully occupied for the last several days. I know I've forgotten something worth mentioning. It'll come to me eventually. . .

Shall we start with the job? I wish! No word in a few days. I dropped my guy there a line this morning. If I don't hear something promising very soon (I'm talking hours, not days), I'll be back out there pounding the pavement. I have a decent line on another baking job, but I really REALLY want my not-your-average-cook gig.

And on Friday, neighbor Teri and I, along with a Match acquaintance of hers attended First Friday in the Crossroads Arts District. The weather could not have been more perfect. The energy was electric. The art was delightful. The company, phenomenal. I feel like I've been put up in a pumpkin shell until recently. I'm so enjoying my new life. And it's still in chrysalis stage!

I have a new boy interest. He reads this. I wonder how he feels about being called a boy. I giggle thinking about the turn of events that led us to one another. I might have to go into that later. For now, just know I'm having a really, really good time.

And last night I had the joy of again sharing food with my friends. I made a red onion and goat cheese pancake, served with a balsamic syrup. Oh so tasty. Neighbor Teri, her mom Karen, son and another neighbor boy came over. A magnificent storm passed through and we lost power for about ninety minutes. The kids played around with flashlights for awhile, running from room to room looking for messes to make. Karen and I decided it was time for a good old-fashioned sing along, so I pulled out a folk songbook from the piano bench and we began singing nearly anything to which we knew the melody. We harmonized beautifully and had a wonderful time. Then the kids grabbed their bin of instruments and joined us. It was truly magical. I suspect the next time there's even a flicker of the lights, we'll start itchin' for another sing-along.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Under Pressure

Remember when I said I wasn't going to do any more plumbing here at Casa Diggs? Did you really believe me?

Our kitchen faucet has been a royal pain in my arse for over two years. Our pipes have an extraordinary amount of lime build-up and it has flaked its way into the innerworkings of the faucet. So pressure was weak at best and then sometimes it would seem a piece of gunk would lodge itself somewhere it shouldn't and the waterflow would just stop. This made dishwashing unbelievably annoying. But not annoying enough for me to take the risk of the fussing with the pipes in what could turn into a three day event. . .until yesterday.

I don't know that it was remarkably worse than the day before, but it finally got to me. I thought I could certainly wait until I moved out this summer. But I couldn't. So I tinkered a bit last night, hoping to find some obvious simple solution. Nope. So this morning I headed to the hardware store and hesitantly purchased a new cheapo faucet. Then I dawdled around for another hour buying groceries because I didn't want to dive in.

But I did. And there were no additional trips to the hardware store. The hardest part was removing the old faucet. And I got a little wet. But I have real water pressure now! Admittedly, I'm a tad bit embarrassed that I waited so long to improve my quality of life so drastically. More than that, however, I'm glad I didn't wait until another tomorrow to fix it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Employed-ish

So I said I'd get back to you on the job thing, right? Ok. . .this might get a little long. Brace yourselves. Or you could probably fast forward to the end. But there's no real conclusion as of yet. . .because I tend to roll that way.

It cracks me up that I have to tell you back story on even applying for a job. But I do. Because it's that good. . . So. . .a couple of weeks ago, a short while after I'd met most-recent-nice-man from MySpace, he was giving me grief over my screen name Just your average Jennifer. I claimed that I didn't want to raise any expectations and risk disappointing folks. He relented, claiming that I would be his secret exceptional Jennifer (a bit strong, but I'll take it). A day or two later, I was visiting my dear friend Katrina and she was asking about my many ridiculous adventures and stupid boy interests and I told her about him and his frustration with my title. . .and she tore me apart! She, for whatever reason, is a big fan of mine (I must admit, I have a tremendous respect for her as well), and she scolded me to no end about how I was only creating an image within my own mind that I was no more than an average Jennifer. So I came home, toyed with a name change and became Some kind of Jennifer. I still got grief for that from him. So at his bidding, I became Not your average Jennifer. And they both finally left me alone.

So, you're asking, how on earth does this relate to a job search? Well, since I'm not out of words yet. . .last week I was crazy on the hunt for a job. Lotsa calls, lotsa resumes, lotsa applications. And Wednesday was especially disappointing. Heard the term, "hiring freeze" so often, I got chilly. And I mentioned this to him, so Thursday morning, he sent me a note saying he had a feeling Thursday would be better and that he was sending me good job hunt vibes. Just after reading his email, I, for whatever reason, despite it typically being wrought with spam, checked Craigslist. And there, in black and white, was a job listing for Not Your Average Cook. I kid you not. A not-for-profit 16-bed AIDS nursing home that does most of their cooking from scratch. I shot off an email, along with a few photos of my recent culinary adventures (see how handy it is that I was blogging with food pics?). Wrote a nice little note and had a response within the half hour. Come in for a prelim on Friday. Best part is, it was near my Y where I take my very favorite cycling class. So I got my spin on and then went to the interview.

And it was brilliant. We clicked immediately. He's a trained chef, but spent a year in a whole grain bakery. Was a vegetarian for a decade. Favorite cooking show is Good Eats. Wants to build a bakery in the basement. He mentioned that he knew we'd work well together. Said he typically took a long time to make up his mind. . .then said he'd call Tuesday at 3:00. I was pretty sure I had it sewn up.

So about 3:30 today (and I'm about to croak awaiting the call), the phone rings and I calmly answer. And he's hesitating. Has some situation he has to explain. I quietly panic. It seems the person who I was going to be replacing had been a no-call-no-show twice last week. But he suddenly isn't allowed to fire her as per his superiors. He doesn't think she'll last much longer, but there's no room for me today. AARRGGHHHH! Oh wait. . .he's going to try to create a position for me! And will sell it to his boss as a money saving measure as I would be making more from scratch than their current staff can. You know The Universe is taking care of you when your perfect job is created just for you. I'll know more tomorrow around 4:00. And I'll update you after I peel myself off the ceiling. . .or the floor, whatever the case may be.

Postscript: I felt an unusual calm awaiting my phone call today. That would be because there would be no answer today. Seems last night's thunderstorm flooded the basement -- which is where the food storerooms are -- so management were busy dealing with that all day. Barring any remarkable events, I should have further details tomorrow. But don't hold your breath. . .