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Archive for September, 2011

Yummy

I do realize the number one rule of blogging is don’t write about what you had for lunch. Or dinner. Actually the number one rule is probably don’t write about work, but this is number two. Yet here we go again…

MEXICAN MONDAYS

Giant Tacos (we only had burrito shells)

Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas from this recipe

SALAD TUESDAYS

Greek: romaine, red pepper, red onion, cucumber, tomato (for Mike), black olives, feta, homemade vinaigrette, croutons

Spinach, cucumber, carrot, red onion, mushroom, tomato, bacon, feta, bleu cheese, catalina

PASTA WEDNESDAYS

Pioneer Woman’s spaghetti with artichoke hearts, garlic bread

Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Lasagna Soup

Homemade mac and cheese with steamed broccoli

GRILL FRIDAYS

Steak, zucchini and mashed potatoes

Salmon, bok choy and veggies, rice

Brats (for Mike), burger patties (for Shan) and fries

PIZZA FRIDAYS

For the summer we switched Pizza Fridays to Pizza Thursday (eliminating Casserole Thursdays) and added Grill Fridays. Now we’re back to the original menu.

Pizza muffins

MISC MEALS

Chicken wraps: chicken, lettuce, red onion, almonds, avocado spread, cheddar. Potato salad.

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When I got a tattoo recently (my first!), one of the employees asked for the story.

“I have three sisters, and awhile ago we all decided we’d get the letter Z tattooed on us somewhere. Our last name starts with Z, and that way, no matter what, we’d always have that bond.”

“So… do all your married names start with a Z?* Or was it your maiden name?”

“Actually it’s our maiden name, but three of us kept it when we got married.**”

“Oh yeah? Wow. What did the husbands think of that?” (She asked with obvious disdain.)

“They didn’t care. If they had cared, they wouldn’t have been the kind of men we would have wanted to marry.”

Apparently, keeping your name is radical even in a tattoo shop. Where people are covered in gun tattoos. And drawings of aliens playing guitars and smoking joints.

*I think she saw my ring and concluded I was married.
**One actually hyphenated.

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My Employment Pages

Unfortunately I don’t quite have the diversity of job types that Shan has, but I’ve had some crazy ones.

BEST JOB

Main Street Pub. For 3 years in college, I was a line cook for a bar and restaurant and I loved it. It was hot and sweaty and I often felt underpaid, but it was a blast. I worked with a crazy bunch of guys in that kitchen (slightly less exaggerated than the movie Waiting), and spent way too much time after shifts siting in the bar drinking and cracking up with my coworkers. I managed to work with several friends that I knew from school too, and we were crazy. That job also represents my transition into chef, where I first saw some responsibility in a job, and got to be creative as a cook.

THE BEST JOB RUNNER UP

This is my current job. I’m the head chef for a senior meals program in town, and I love it. It’s my best job in some respects. I have a good balance of responsibility and lack of stress, and for the most part I like the people I work with. The only thing I don’t like is that I have to manage people. And there’s a part of me that wishes I was cooking on a line again, with all that craziness. A very, VERY small part. But I do love knowing that my food is doing good for people that really need it.

THE WORST JOB

My freshman year of college, I worked at the dorm front desk. Essentially, I sold stamps, printer paper, pens, and other random items. I also signed in visitors, monitored people coming in and out, passed along calls to the RAs, and signed out cleaning supplies and vacuums. The worst part though, is that my shift was 1am to 7am. Seriously…overnight. They called it “Night Security.” I fell asleep a couple times and it was awful. I did get to do lots of homework during my shift, but I imagine a lot of it was done poorly. And come on…who needs a freakin’ stamp at 3 in the morning?!? It was horrible.

THE WORST JOB RUNNER UP

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I got a job as a busboy at Damon’s. This now defunct rib restaurant in west Michigan was a huge sports bar on one side, and a restaurant on the other. My job was to clean tables…that’s it. I cleared dishes into a tub, wiped tables, cleaned floors, and did other miscellaneous cleaning. This was the job where I found out about cleaning trash cans. Literally, they made me take every trash can in the restaurant and scrub them with bleach to clean them. Awesome. I made decent money, but I didn’t know anyone, and I was only there for 4 months, so I didn’t really try to make friends. Plus, I lived at home, so I felt like I was back in high school.

EASIEST JOB

My sophomore year of high school, I worked at Mr. Burger (you can’t make this stuff up). Mr. B is a locally owned chain of, surprise, burger joints. I worked after school a few days a week, and all day Saturdays. I started as a busboy/dishwasher, but quickly worked my way up to cook. I had to take orders from the cafeteria-style counter, cook burgers and fries (or breakfasts of Saturdays), ring up orders at the cash register, and do general cleaning. It was easy because Mr. B was SLOW. For some reason, the owner wanted to make sure we were always staffed for the “rush,” which rarely came. So we filled time by playing 20-questions and hangman, telling dirty jokes, and grazing from all the readily available food. If I was there now, I would weigh 300 pounds.

HARDEST JOB

For 2 crazy years, I was a high school English teacher. After college, a friend and I moved to California to be teachers. He was a band director, and I was an English teacher. This phase of my life was amazing, but terrible. I was away from home and making a name for myself in the world of education. I was actually pretty decent at it. But I also worked 12 hours a day, plus several hours most Saturdays, and usually drove to school on Sundays to update grades. I couldn’t escape my job. For those that are successful teachers, you are all amazing. Everyone told me it would get easier, but I couldn’t wait. After 2 years of crushing difficulty, I turned tail and came home. I’m glad I did it, because those two years informed a lot of who I am today, but it was miserable. if you know a teacher, thank them. And don’t EVER talk about what a sweet schedule teachers have, or how easy it must be to only work 8 months a year. It is rough.

STUPIDEST JOB

As part of my culinary degree, I did an internship with the food and beverage department of the local minor-league baseball team. It sounded amazing. I got free room and board and few bucks in my pocket, and I got to stay local to be with Shannon (at the time my budding serious girlfriend). I got to be outside all summer, and be around baseball, which was a big part of my childhood and one of the few connections I have with my Dad. It did not turn out well. I discovered that an f&b intern was actually a glorified workhorse. I had to stock all of the concession stands every day, put away deliveries of 800 to 1500 cases of food, clean and fix restaurant equipment, often in 90-degree enclosed spaces, and work 14-hour days when there were home games. I did take advantage of the free apartment, but found out after I signed up for the room that I had–surprise–a roommate. Seriously? I think it was a great opportunity for someone totally different from me, but for me, it sucked. I quit half-way through the season.

MOST CHALLENGING JOB

Amazingly, I have a job that was more challenging than teaching. It was…substitute teaching. Oh yeah. After moving back home from California, I hadn’t completely given up on teaching yet, and I subbed while also working for TGI Fridays. Subbing is kind of like teaching, only you don’t know the kids and they don’t know you. Remember those images from tv and the movies where the kids are running riot over a flustered substitute teacher? It’s kind of true. This was when I really realized what little punks most teenagers are. Seriously, they are bastards. If you have kids…don’t let them turn into bastard teenagers. Also, lots of teachers are pretty terrible when it comes to leaving plans for subs. I actually had sub plans once that said “teach unit 4.7.” This was in a 7th graded algebra class. After quick calculation, I figured out that I took algebra the same year most of those kids were born, and haven’t really done it since then. Thanks math teacher…thanks a bunch. That was a rough year.

OTHER JOBS WORTH MENTIONING

My other jobs are all variations on the ones listed, but I’ve also had the opportunity to do a few things to fill the time and make some extra money. I can’t help but stay busy.

Scoreboard Operator – When I was teaching, I also worked as the basketball scoreboard operator. This meant that every Tuesday and Friday I went straight from class to the gym and sat in the bleachers for 5 hours. It was actually awesome though. I got to watch the freshmen, JV, and varsity games, and run the scoreboard. I got free concession stand food and got to know the other teachers that I worked with really well. And hello…extra money!

Band Camp – I was a band geek, and I loved it. As a teacher who lived with the band director, I got to stay in that world and make a little extra money to work with the marching band. If I could have done that without being a teacher, I might have stayed. I loved it. I also got to work a local marching band’s camp after I moved back home.

Pit Musician – In college, I got to work as a paid musician in the pit orchestra of a high school musical directed by a friend. We did Oliver, and it was so much fun. I hardly made any money, but it was a blast.

 

Author’s note–Sorry, I’m not as awesome as my wife, and I don’t have any pictures.

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Employment Pages

There’s a big difference between a job and a career. Fortunately Mike and I are both in careers now, but there were many “jobs” along the way. The things we did just to make money to survive. Some of them were fun; many of them sucked. Here’s a look at some of my best and worst. (Mike’s coming soon.)

THE BEST JOB

Yellowstone National Park
As we mentioned, I revisited the park after 10 years earlier this summer. During the summer of 2001 I worked at Canyon Lodge with my sister Andrea. We both worked at the front desk and lived in an employee dorm together. It was a nutso summer for both of us – lots of drinking, carousing, hiking, camping, making out with boys, and even a little working. It wasn’t so much the job I loved, though that wasn’t so bad as far as jobs go, but the entire summer surrounding the job. If I could relive the whole thing, I would. Andrea and I at YNP in 2001:

BEST JOB RUNNER UP

The Powder Horn Golf Course in Sheridan, WY
I went to Sheridan WY for a summer with my then-boyfriend who had an internship at a golf course. I scored a job at the same place as one of those people who loads your clubs onto a cart and cleans them for you when you’re done. This only happens at fancy golf courses, which the Powder Horn was. My other duties included stacking pyramids and setting up bag racks for the range, washing golf carts, repairing golf shoe spikes and other miscellaneous golf-related things. My favorite thing was driving the ball picker at the range. I know those people are mocked in movies a lot, but it was seriously so much fun! This job was great because I got to be outside all day, I got to do physical work that wasn’t exhausting, and I made mad tips! By the end of the summer I was strong, tan and a little bit richer! Here I am with Mr Powder Horn himself:

WORST JOB

Meijer
During my junior year of college I needed a job, and a new superstore was opening nearby. Meijer is a regional establishment, but it’s like WalMart, only classier. Target, only less stylish. I became a cashier and oh how I hated it. Hours at a time, on my feet, standing in the same spot, running groceries and other items over a scanner. I had no say in when I took my breaks or even when I could use the bathroom! I’m not made for this kind of customer service – I may have argued with the customers too much when they were dicks. And one time they asked me to come in for a late night shift, and I agreed because it paid more, and when I got there they let me know that I was there to collect carts from the parking lot. Something that is NOT part of the cashier job description. It was winter and I had not come prepared to be outside all night, and it was a dark empty parking lot at 2:00am (Meijer is 24 hours). I was pissed and quit soon after.

(The one upside to this job was in the summer months I was chosen to work the register in the garden center, so I got to be outside and help with all the watering and pruning and whatnot. It was actually pretty awesome.)

WORST JOB RUNNER UP

Fitness Center, Drake University, IA
My first Federal Work Study job as a freshman in college was at the university’s fitness center. Um hi, I don’t really work out and I hate the smell of sweat. I am never comfortable in a fitness center, even as an employee. And my role was pointless. I was supposed to walk around in circles basically, making sure nobody was breaking any rules and no doors were unlocked that shouldn’t be. I wanted to kill myself out of boredom within the first 8 minutes of each shift. Eventually I quit and worked at the residence hall’s front desk instead. No photos of me with my fitness center whistle, but here’s one of me with some friends at the Drake Relays:

EASIEST JOB

Sunny Jim’s Pizza
When I was 16, my friend and I got a job at the same pizza place, which also served ice cream. We both primarily worked in the ice cream part, and it was so slow that only one person was ever needed over there at a time, so we never worked together. But we used to write long notes on the Guest Receipt slips and leave them for each other. The job was incredibly easy and incredibly boring. But I did have access to all the ice cream I wanted, which is basically my dream. Here’s Erica and I when we were band geeks in high school:

HARDEST JOB

Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall, Drake University, IA
I was a Resident Assistant my sophomore year of college. I really did enjoy most of it, but I was going through an emotional crisis the whole year, so I have some bad memories of this job. I had my own dorm room, which was great, but it was in a freshman res hall, which meant none of my friends were nearby. And I was dealing with depression and low self-esteem that year, so I didn’t fit in with the other RAs, and basically I was really lonely all year. I also had to deal with a lot of drunk and rowdy freshman guys, which I did not love. So I guess because of the emotional struggles, this was my hardest job. If it’s any indication, I dropped out after that year, move to Yellowstone with my sister, took a semester off, moved back to MI and finished college at a different school.

STUPIDEST JOB

Palmer Park Golf Course
The summer between freshman and sophomore years of college, when I was back in MI for a few months, I got a job at a golf course. I worked on the grounds crew, but I guess because I was a girl they never had me mow. I did the flower beds and picked up cigarette butts. I was constantly bored, and I would make extra work for myself to pass the time. Like filling up one watering can, driving it out to a flower bed on the furthest hole, emptying it on some flowers, and driving all the way back to refill it. Instead of filling up multiple cans at once. I also discovered this little hidden path where I’d drive my golf cart and just sit, passing the time. I’m ashamed to say that I never even asked to learn how to use the mowers because I was lame and intimidated back then. Now I’d be all “put me on a fucking lawn mower!” I’m glad I got to be outside, but my goodness what a pointless job.

MOST CHALLENGING JOB

Professional Pharmacy
This was by no means a difficult job, but in comparison to the others, my time as a pharmacy tech probably required the most skill. I had to memorize the crazy generic names of drugs (like Alprazolam for Xanax, and Methylphenidate Hydrochloride for Ritalin) and understand what many of the meds were for. I also counted pills, mixed liquid medicines, restocked shelves and rang up customers. I actually really loved it. It was for a small, privately-owned pharmacy, not something like Walgreens, and it was a pretty great job as far as part-time employment for high schoolers goes. Also I got to wear a cool smock! This isn’t me, nor does it look anything like me, but this is basically what I looked like doing my job:

OTHER JOBS WORTH MENTIONING

Babysitting – I of course did a lot of kid watching when I was younger. I mostly hated it though. I still mostly can’t stand kids I’m not related to.

Residence Hall Front Desk – This is the job I took when I quit at the fitness center. I worked insane hours (like 9pm to midnight, then again from 3 to 6am), but I met all kinds of people and I got to do my homework while getting paid. I did this most of freshman year and then again when I was an RA in the same building.

Loan Office – On top of being an RA and working extra hours at the res hall front desk as a sophomore, I also worked several hours in the University’s loan office. It was a pretty straight forward job that offered some additional income when I was a poor college student.

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The Weirdness of Growing Up

When Shannon and I met, we had lots of conversations about fun vacations we wanted to take, exciting future jobs, the movies and TV shows we both loved, and lots of other things that were exciting to talk about. Lots of things centered on the here-and-now. Lately, the tide has turned.

Yesterday, we had a discussion about scheduling a meeting with our retirement account representative to assess our investment strategy and decide how to maximize our retirement account effectiveness. Not nearly as exciting a conversations as where to take our dream vacation. But, probably more important?

Let’s be clear. I’m not disappointing that we talk about retirement accounts, work schedules, home improvement, and bills more than we used to. I actually kind of love it. I’m a planner at heart, and I’m so glad that Shannon is too. And it’s not like we never talk about the fun stuff anymore. Hell, we even do the fun stuff we talk about. Look at our summer! Europe, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, skydiving, babysitting. We are wild and crazy! But I’m glad we do the boring grown-up stuff too. And I’m excited to talk to a professional about our retirement. If we can save right, I know we could have some great years of talking about and doing the fun stuff when we retire.

Ultimately, it’s about the balance. Having fun is nice, but growing up is also nice. Nice, and weird.

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Our first anniversary was over two months ago. I’ve been waiting to write this post because we totally failed at anniversary-ness, and I was hoping someday we’d catch up with ourselves before I had to tell you how much we sucked at it.

When we got married, we started a tradition that involved a Love Letter Box. Basically we wrote letters to each other prior to the wedding, and we put them in a box that my dad built and nailed shut. We were going to read them on our anniversary, and then write new letters to each other and add them to the box. And repeat, repeat, repeat every year until we die.

Well guess what.

Our anniversary was June 12, today is September 8, and we still have not read those letters. We haven’t written new letters. We haven’t even opened the damn box. I don’t even know where the box is! Wait, not true, I do know where it is. But still, we so suck.

Part of the problem is we’re just not really romantic-y people, but the rest of it is that we’ve been so busy this summer that despite saying many times “let’s do our letters this weekend,” we never did it. We may be rock stars at pre-marital counseling, but we apparently suck at anniversaries.

We did manage to get each other gifts though, although mine ended up being a bit of a disaster. We’re not big on gifts around here, but we thought it would be fun to follow the traditional anniversary gifts list, so this year was paper. Mike bought me a blank journal, and he managed to give it to me on time (foreshadowing for my gift disaster)!

[Imagine a photo of said journal here. I can’t find the pic I took!]

I had this brilliant idea to get Mike something to remind him (us) of our Europe trip, which was, in part, an anniversary celebration even though it took place a month early. So I found birdAve, an etsy seller that made city prints like this one:

I ordered one for all three cities we visited: London, Paris, Lucerne, Venice, Florence, Rome. I got to customize them as much as I wanted — I dictated what landmarks or symbols I wanted on some cities, and I selected bright, bold colors for the backgrounds.

Now I fully admit that I didn’t order these until the day before our anniversary (oopsies!), and I was ok with receiving them a little late. But there was a shipping snafu (not my fault, nor the seller’s) and after weeks of waiting, still no prints. BirdAve was spectacular and sent me another set of prints as soon as I asked him to, and he even included a bonus print of our little town. Cute! Anyway, that’s the disaster, his gift took weeks to arrive. Not a really a disaster I guess. But then when I gave them to Mike, who had eagerly anticipated this gift for weeks, he opened them and goes, “Oh cool. What do I do with them?” What do you do with them? HANG THEM UP! So yeah, that’s what I get for trying to be all romantical.

Anyway, our real gift to each other was our Europe trip in May, so these paper things were just tokens. And we haven’t done our Love Letter Box yet, but who cares? We’ll get to it. As for what we did on our actual anniversary day? We hung out with family at my dad’s house. It took us a minute to realize that we were at the location of our wedding on our anniversary, because we’re at my dad’s all the time, and it didn’t occur to us as anything special at first. But that’s precisely why we got married there, because it’s a place we love to be.

My stepmom snapped this picture of us reading in the sun in the exact spot we exchanged vows a  year earlier:

The day of our wedding was hot and horribly muggy, but the day of our anniversary was quite lovely. It really was a good day. Happy anniversary darlin’!

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