Saturday, September 27, 2014

The boniness of my family

I know everyone has stories about their family.  About craziness and issues with alcohol and bad behavior.

My family is certainly rampant with it.  My mother's maternal aunt was kooky crazy, you know, nuts but in an amusing and endearing way.  I've talked about Auntie Melba before.  I can remember sitting in our living room at some big, family gathering watching her smoke and ash into her cupped hand.  She drank some.  She really liked men and men liked her.  She'd been divorced from her husband for ages but I didn't know until I was somewhat older since he was around all the time.  She could grow any plant she wanted, including pot that her postman would pick over the fence.  She cross pollinated tomatoes by hand and when you drove her home she'd run in the house and bring out gifts of random stuff.

But, she was harmless and we all loved her. 

My mom's brother's kids were raised in an upper middle class home. They had horses, got cars for their birthdays and pretty much got whatever they wanted.  You'd think they'd be set up for a charmed life.

But, my cousin Tina, who is 7 years older than me, is crazy.  Like, certifiable crazy.  She's been off the radar for quite a long time.  She was living in Hawaii until her husband died suddenly about 5 years ago.  They were divorced and custody of her son was awarded to his father's family.  They were able to take him out of the state, to California, within a week.  This was very telling about Tina's ability to parent.

She had come back to California at some point and was talking to her father.  They'd had a breakdown in their relationship when Tina got involved with a therapist who'd convinced her she'd been molested by our grandfather.  As I've said in the past, I don't want to say it's not true.  But, it didn't happen to my mom or me or any of the other female grandkids.  The chances of it happening to her are very, very small. 

She had been diagnosed as schizophrenic at some point and doesn't medicate.  And, apparently, there were a lot of drugs involved in her life.  So, she was self medicating.

My uncle had gotten her a phone with unlimited talk and text so they could communicate. She drifted up to Washington state.  One day, my uncle tried to call her and got a man who said Tina had sold him the phone.

Anyway, my parents had just arrived home from a trip to Colorado when my mom got a call from her brother saying that he went out to get the paper that morning and found his daughter sleeping on the porch. 

From what can be pieced together, she had been on-the-street homeless somewhere in the recent past, eating at the Salvation Army.  She's now getting a small monthly check from her maternal grandmother's estate that she's been living on. But, that's going to run out soon.

She took the train down from Washington and ended up, literally, on her father's doorstep. 

She took a shower and did laundry.  Things dissolved at some point when her dad asked her about her plans and she went off on some yelling tangent about working on patents for an idea she had with her other grandfather. 

He gave her some money, booked her a hotel room and she's there now.  How long she'll be there is any one's guess. 

As a parent, I can't even begin to think about what that must be like.  She's insane, but not a danger to herself or others.  (My mom tells me in California, even that's not a reason for non-voluntary committal.  I guess the process has gotten quite complicated.)  She's not totally in control and probably using.  What do you do?  Let her stay?  She's going to be 50  in a few months.  Letting her stay would cause a huge amount of drama, stress and frustration.  I know he loves her, but what do you do?

She can't be helped or that would have happened a while ago. I don't know what kind of conversation happened, if she was offered help and turned it down or if it was even brought up.  She was close to home before, talking with her dad and took off.   What do you do? 

Honestly, that's what I keep coming back to.  What do you do?  She's an adult, but I know he's never stopped worrying.  My uncle has said he can't think about it or he'll go through his days on the edge of freaking out about what's happening to his daughter. 

I can remember being so jealous of Tina's water bed and her MG and her horses and the way they lived.  In a house with a view of the valley in east Orange County, surrounded by what appeared to be mansions to me.  She had tons of friends and seemed to be the most beautiful, tanned, well dressed person ever.  When I was allowed to go out with her and her friends, even just to walk up and down the hill where they lived, was a thrill. 

I'm not jealous now.  Now, me, little Mandy who thought she was this incredible creature, is worried.  I haven't seen her since I was pregnant with Zoe.  (I happened to be in town for my baby showers, tossed by my mom and my friend Stephanie, when our great-grandmother died.  She flew in from Maui for the service.)  She was still Tina.  Tanned, pretty.  She seemed in control of herself and we had a little conversation.  I remember she called me when I was pregnant to say congrats and tell me that lots of fish, the omega-3s, were good for the baby. 

Where will she go?  Who knows. Will she go try to see her son?  He's an adult now.  I can't imagine how he'd respond to her just showing up.

God, what a mess.  All I can do is worry. 

Amanda's household tip of the day:  You can make your own furniture polish from 1/4 cup of white vinegar and1/4 teaspoon of olive oil.  I like to add a strip of orange zest, letting it set for a day and then removing it.  Keep it in a spray bottle.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The haunted storage room at work. Well, not really

On Tuesday, I went into the dry storage room to get something and just as I walked in I heard this voice.

 It was whispery, thin, slow and, frankly, ghostly saying 'hhheeeeellllpppp'.

I froze in place and listened while thinking "What the hell was that?"

Then I heard it again "hhhhhheeeeeeeeellllp".

Maria, one of the cashiers walked in and I put my finger to my lips going 'Shhhhh!', like a crazy person.


"Did you hear that?"  I asked her.

"Yeah.  I did.  What is that?"

I stood there for another second, wondering if one of the maintenance guys was yelling it down one of the air vents. 


What the hell? 

We both started to walk around trying to track it down. 

Finally, we found one of our co-worker's phones on the shelf behind some dried beans.

It was his ringtone. 

"hhhhheeeeellllpp" in a whispery, thin, ghosty voice is his ringtone.

Scared the shit out of me for about 45 seconds. 

I made the mistake of telling him this and now whenever he's behind me at work he says "hhhheeelllllpppp".

Amanda's household hint of the day:  If you have a pan with baked on gunk all over it, put a sheet of fabric softener in it with water overnight.  Should soften it up.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This made me feel better about something that happed earlier this year

We had to give one of our dogs away earlier this year.  You can read about the situation here.

Occasionally, I go to the website of the rescue group we surrendered him to, just to see if he'd found a new home.

For three months, he was still listed as 'available'.  However, the photos showed him in a home, which meant he was being fostered in a house with a family instead of in the shelter kennel.  The description of him stated that he was good with kids, but not so good with cats or other dogs.  They said he loved cuddles and tummy rubs, he knew how to sit and shake. 

Really, he was a pretty good dog on his own and we loved him to bits.  But, his aggressive behavior made it the right choice for us to help him find another home where he'd be happier.

Zoe was heartbroken when Gibson had to leave our home.  She cried at school the day I surrendered him.  She was in her orchestra class when she started to cry.  I emailed her teacher to let him know the situation at home.  He replied that he had been planning to get in touch with me about it.  I told him I was very grateful that he was looking out for my daughter, an extra pair of eyes to let me know if there was anything going on I may not know about.

Today, I decided to check and see if Gibson had found a home.  I did a search for available dogs.

He wasn't there.

This meant he'd been adopted!  The relief I felt was extraordinary. 

It was the right thing for us to do.  But I'm so, so glad he's found a new home where he is hopefully the only dog to be fussed over.

Amanda's household tip of the day:  You can make your own fabric refreshing spray by mixing water in a spray bottle with 2 tablespoons of fabric softener and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.  You'll want to shake this up before you use it. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

And here's how it all went

As I told all twelve of you who read this, I was anticipating cooking this week.  And cook I did.  I didn't cook anything particularly complicated, but it was Korean and it was the first time I'd be executing for the woman I'm assisting.

I'm a little unclear about what to call my position.  I've been calling myself a prep cook or a prep chef.  (Prep chef sounds slightly more impressive, so I tend to use that title. )  I clock in and then do what Miss P tells me to do. 

She's Korean, only a few years older than me and moved to Chicago from Korea when she was 22.  She's been cooking Korean for ages.  She's been with our company for 3 years, since her family moved to Austin.  She's told me she goes between work and home, so she hasn't seen much of the city.  But, her daughter is 22 and, being young, goes out on the town.  We have these conversations in broken English, but we communicate alright. 

Anyway, she and I get along fine because she tells me what to do and I do it.  She also has a tendency to mother me, telling me not to pick up heavy things. 

Generally, I stir things, cut things, set up service and whatever else she needs me to help out with.

Then came Thursday, and she needed me to cook.  One the menu were seafood patties.  These are a pancake, like a potato pancake, including a variety of minced seafoods.  Octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams and squid are mixed with Korean pancake mix and eggs.  Then they are fried on a big, flattop (the huge, flat, heated metal surface used to cook many eggs, pancakes, breaded fish or whatever at a time)  until they are crispy on the outside and cooked through.

She made the batter, showed me how to make the patties and then left me to it.  I've found myself very much wanting to show what I could do.  As I said before, I can cook.  I just needed the chance to show my stuff.  No, this wasn't a two day process sauce, but I could do this. 

Once we'd done the initial batch, I had to run to the bathroom. I think my bowel evacuated themselves out of fear of messing it all up.  Sorry, TMI.  Onwards!

So, I plop out thirty of these jobbies. By the time I'm done plopping down the last one, the first one is ready to flip.  I flip them, press them flat and then go back to the first one to give them a last flip to make sure the excess I squished out in pressing them flat is cooked.  They're all removed and placed on a big sheet pan lined with parchment to drain. 

Miss P came out to check on me, gave my cakes approval and I continued on.  As I'm working through my 4th batch of 30 my manager, the man who hired me comes out.

"Hey, Amanda."  he says.

"Heya."  says I.

"Just need to let you know.  You obviously bring a lot of talent to the table..."

(I'm going to interject here that I honestly thought he was giving me a positive before giving me a negative.)

"Miss P was hesitant about you taking the morning shift while Mr. J is on vacation because she had this stuff that needed to be cooked in the morning.  But, you are really proving yourself right now.  She's already come and talked to me about how well you're doing.  You're rocking this like the rock star ya are." 

I said, with great relief, "Thank you.  I really like working for her and I didn't want to let her down."

"Well, you haven't.  Good job."

And wasn't I just the happiest scallop?  As I cooked my patties I sang "Le Poisson" from The Little Mermaid.  I got them all done and went on to my next task.  

Whoo hoo!  Go me!

Yesterday, I made a rolled omelet, Korean style.  It's only eggs, salt and thinly sliced green onion spread very thin and then rolled.  We slice them and serve them as a side dish. 

When I went to culinary school, one of the my goals was to learn to make a proper French omelet.  These are cooked inside of 90 seconds, have NO color and NO texture.  The surface should be perfectly smooth, like baby skin.  I never did get the hang of it.  Mine always had a rougher texture then they should.

But, I got these omelets the right, light brown color and cooked through without being over done.

That afternoon, Miss P perked up about teaching me Korean food.  She leaned over while she and I were mixing beef with marinade and told me she was going to try and teach me Korean food. 

Next week, I go back to my normal schedule but we'll see if my duties change.

Meanwhile, I have to work on putting laundry away.  Again. Some more.

We'll see if anything interesting happens in the next few days.

Amanda's household tip of the day:  Use newspapers dipped in water to clean glass.  Use a dry newspaper sheet to dry.  Easy and cheap.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This could be interesting

My new job is going well.  This week coming up is going to be interesting.

I'm part of the team that creates the Korean lunch meal.  The woman who is the head chef is Korean.  The man who assists her with the cooking is Korean.  The woman who cooks the evening meal is Korean.  The man in his 80s that comes in to help with the dinner service is Korean.

I'm not Korean.

The man in his 80s is taking the week off this week.  I can't work from 12:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  The Husband doesn't get home until 9 p.m. and my kids can't be on their own from after school until 9.

So, I'm going to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the man who usually helps with the cooking of the lunch meal is going to work 12:30 to 8:30.

This means I will be actually cooking.  I'm excited and worried all at the same time.

It's not like I can't cook.  I can cook like a mofo.  Some of you have been lucky enough to eat food I've cooked.

I've been to culinary school.  I've been instructed in the French techniques.  I was either 1st or 2nd in my class, it was between me and Karla and I don't know who finished on top.  We were the only females in our class too!  HA!

Our instructor had the reputation around campus as a bad-ass.  That's because she is a bad-ass.  She wrote all her own tests.  We had kitchen math on every test and quiz.  We were not allowed open book exams.  We had to have it in our heads.  She has high standards.

When we had our practical exams, like a lab exam where we demonstrated we could execute what we had learned, we had to turn in a timeline of what we were going to be doing first to last.  The time we were allowed for our practical exams was always less than the other classes and we always had more to complete.

Honestly, my class regularly congratulated ourselves that we were getting a better education than the other classes.    While we were doing out internships, we all shared that our instructor was in the back of our heads, giving us the guidelines she gave us in class.

This week, I'm going to be going back to the solid advice my instructor gave me during my time in culinary school.

1)  Mise! Mise! Mise!  (pronounced MEEZ)  This is short for mise en place, or everything in place. Get everything ready before you begin your task.  Don't waste your time and energy running around for the stuff you need.

2)  Don't stand there and watch your food cook.  There are some things that need babysitting, like risotto and omelets.  But most things can be left to it's own device while you do something else.  Don't wander too far away, but you can do more than one thing at a time.

3) Start with whatever will take the longest amount of time.

4) Listen to your food.  It will tell you when it's ready to move, be stirred or whatever else it needs.

This week is going to be a challenge for me.  I read an article a few weeks ago stating that standing in Superman position for 2 minutes can lift your self-esteem and energy level.  I may try that.

I really don't want to let down the woman I work for.  I like her a great deal and

This job is going great.  I love being in a kitchen.  The hours are good and I have my weekends off to do fun stuff.  Working over so much steam has cleared out my pores and my skin is looking very good.

What I want to do this week, is prove myself and my abilities to everyone.  I want to show that I CAN cook. I'm like Yan!  I can cook!

I'll keep y'all posted.

Amanda's household tip of the day:  Vinegar and baking soda down the drains monthly, followed by a kettle of boiling water, can keep them from becoming clogged.

Friday, September 12, 2014

You know those parenting moments when you think "This is harder than I thought it was going to be." ?

I had one of those difficult parenting moments yesterday.  Zoe, my 13 year old daughter, came home from middle school and told me they had a moment of silence in remembrance of those who died on September 11th, 2001. 

Then she asked me for an explanation. 

Explain it?  Explain it?  How the hell do I do that?

I settled for telling her the facts.   As she asked me questions, I looked things up as I needed to.  We found the definition of 'terrorist' and 'terrorism'.    I had to tell her that it wasn't the pilots who flew the planes into the buildings, it was the crazy people who took over the plane.  I had to tell her that the pilots were killed.  I told her about United flight 93.  We looked at pictures of the Pentagon and read about what happens there.

Youtube had many recordings of the news coverage.  We spent about 20 minutes watching videos from the Today Show, starting with the light stuff they were featuring that Tuesday morning.  A woman promoting her new television show.  An interview with a man who wrote a book about Howard Hughes. 

I'm very happy that Zoe didn't ask me 'Why?' because I just wouldn't have any answer other than "Because they were crazy.".

She told me that her science teacher told them about being at a daycare in the New York City area.  The teacher said there were children that wouldn't be picked up by their parents, as both parents worked in the World Trade Center. 

It was one of those conversations I didn't enjoy having with her.  I'd have much preferred she learned all this stuff in school at some point. 

But, she asked me.  And I told her. 

Amanda's beauty tip of the day:  You don't have to wash your hair every day.  If you only need to shampoo a couple of times a week, go for it.