Welcome Back, Old Friend

Over the last few months, I’ve been getting to know myself again.  It really has been like getting reacquainted with an old, dear friend.  It sort of feels like a cliche to say that, but it’s the honest truth.  I’ve missed me.  I’d forgotten myself and am happy for the opportunity to find my way back to my mental home.

I found out when I’ll be possibly serving on a jury!  Right after I posted on Sunday, I checked the Fairfield County Municipal Court site again, and they had the dates up!  All that worrying for nothing!  I’m adding that to my goals list for the year – stop the unnecessary worrying.  It looks like I’ll need to call in every other Wednesday after 4:30 to find out if I need to report the next day.  It’s not too bad, and I probably won’t end up having to serve, though I’d love to!  I consider jury duty tantamount to giving blood and voting; it’s my civic duty, and I’m proud for the chance to serve my community even in this small way.

Speaking of giving blood, some of you know of my struggles to successfully give blood.  I have tried to give blood twice and failed both times.  Both times I nearly passed out.  My theory is that my near-fainting has to do with my fear of needles, but I’m going to try it again.  I feel pretty confident about my chances this time around.  My Life Coach Kathleen has helped me with a technique that seems to have started to assuage those fears.  Six months ago, I couldn’t even see a needle on the television without feeling squeamish and oddly nervous.  Now, I can see a needle and not have any change in my response.  My blood type is O positive, which is the universal type; it’s what they give to premature babies when they need blood.  It feels like the right thing to do, so I’m going to try again.  If I fail again, I’ll work on it some more and try again!  I’m going to get over this fear.  I’m determined to.

In other news, I’ve decided that I’m going to make a trip to Chicago in May.  Every year, the National Restaurant Association has a food show in Chicago, and every year, some Hocking teachers and students from the culinary/hospitality schools attend.  It will be about $450 for the trip, which includes spending money, so the fee is only about $350, which isn’t too bad for 4 nights in Chicago.  I know at least one other person that I’m friendly with who is going, but being on a trip with virtual strangers does not bother me.  You all know me – I can talk to just about anyone!  And, you also know that I love food like a fat girl!  Plus, it’s a school-related field trip, which is an added bonus on top of the fun that it sound like it will be.

That’s all that’s going on in my world right now.  I think it might be a mellow couple of weeks ahead, which will be nice!

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Sunday Updates – January 23

Goodness, January is almost over!  I really cannot believe how quickly the time is just flying by!  In no time at all, my winter quarter will be over, and the spring quarter will be starting.  It’s true what they say, though, time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Yesterday was a busy day.  I had class in the morning, then I told one of my chefs that I’d work at an event here in Lancaster.  The event was at Lancaster High School (I went to Fisher, but we had stuff there all the time), and it was the annual Chamber of Commerce awards dinner.  If you’ve been to one of those types of events, you’ve been to them all.  They are pretty much all the same.  The same kind of people are there (if not the exact same people in a town like Lancaster!); the same kind of man gets up and gives a speech with the same stale, unfunny jokes; the same kind of band is there; they have pretty much the same food every time.  It was fun, though.  I helped to put food on plates, which was something I haven’t done in a really long time, so it was good experience.  Lots of joking and standing around, but once things started going, then went fast, mostly because of time constraints for when things had to be on and off the tables.

Saturday morning’s class was okay but not great, honestly.  We made yellow butter cakes and devil’s food cakes.  The yellow came out just fine.  They were pretty even all around and looked pretty good.  The devil’s food not so much.  Before I even took them out of the oven, they had sunk in the middle.  I’ve seen it happen shortly after cakes come out of the oven, but never while they’re in the oven.  Chef Weber and Chef Touria thought it was because of the miscalibrated ovens in the kitchen that we’re in.  Whatever the cause, my group has cakes with a huge divot in the center, sort of like the cakes were attempting to become bundt cakes but without the assistance of a pan.

We had a snow day on Friday, which was kind of nice.  I got caught up on a little of my reading for school.  I also took a nap because I felt like I might be starting to catch a cold.  I usually have some minor sinus issues on any given day, but they were greatly increased on Friday.  I was blowing my nose constantly, which is unusual for me, so I took a Sudafed and a nap.  It must have worked because I haven’t caught a cold yet!

Nothing too exciting is going on with me outside of school, really, but I had a new experience at the beginning of this month.  I got a letter from the county courts summoning me for jury duty.  I’m supposed to call in on designated days to see if I’ll serve, with the potential to sit on a jury at any time from February 1 through March 31.  That will be interesting with school, but I’ve already told Chef Henry and Chef Thompson that dates will be forthcoming, so it should be a problem.  I am getting a little antsy to have the dates, though.  The letter I got indicated that I’d get something else in the mail with my assigned dates, but I haven’t seen it yet.  The term starts in a week and a half, and I’d like to know when I’ve got the potential to be called.  I know it’s a small town/county, so I can’t expect efficiency or consideration for peoples’ schedules, really, but come on Fairfield County!  I have stuff going on beyond jury duty!  I need to know when I might have to serve!  I’m sure it will be on its way soon.  I’m just getting nervous about it unnecessarily.  I’d like to quit this habit of mine, but it’s a hard one to break after so long living as a worry-wart.  I guess I need more practice at being mellow!

Have a great week, everyone!

Busy Little Bee

I feel like I’ve had very little time for anything besides school.  It’s been pretty tiring, but I’m starting to really enjoy myself again.  I’m slipping back into the groove of being in classes.

I know I’ve written about this before, but I am honestly shocked by how much attention I get.  Almost all my classmates know my name, and they all generally seem to like me and want to be around me.  Maybe this has always been the case but wasn’t as clear to me in the past?  Maybe through this life change, I’ve started to allow myself to actually take note of how I’m viewed by others?  Whatever the case is, I kind of like it.  I hope it keeps up.  It’s fun to be popular.

This week has been pretty uneventful.  I worked in the production kitchen on Tuesday afternoon and had my baking lab meeting that evening.  Wednesday was my day to work in my uncle’s office, and I made dinner last night.  It was pretty simple – just some rice, miso soup, and egg rolls.  Though I made the rice and soup myself, the egg rolls came out of a box in the freezer.  When I was in Louisville last September, I picked up a package of miso paste from this restaurant supply store down there.  I’ve made miso soup twice now, and it’s actually become a frequent request.  My mom asks me to make it for her at least once a month, if not more.  It’s super easy, and it’s the perfect soup for cold nights since it’s so brothy and fragrant.  I haven’t been putting in the tofu because I always make it on a whim, but maybe the next time I’ll have my act together enough to put tofu on the shopping list.  I’ll make that and some buckwheat noodles and maybe some salmon.  Yummy!

Today, I worked in the production kitchen all morning again then I went on to my yeast dough class.  I worked in the dish area for a couple of hours, then Jay (the head baker) asked me to make a sugar-free apple pie.  I had to leave before it was done, but it was almost there when I left, and it looked good when I peaked in at it.  In yeast dough class, we made white pan bread, hard rolls, and cuban rolls.  Chef Thompson surprised us by having a brisket for us to eat with our rolls.  Jeff (one of my classmates) put some of the jus from the pan and some black pepper in with the shredded meat.  It was awesome.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had meat that perfect.  I had mine on a cuban roll with some dijon mustard and some of the jus.  It really hit the spot!

We are experiencing a good amount of snowfall this evening, so I don’t know if I’ll have my classical pastries class tomorrow morning.  I’m guessing I will, but it sure would be nice not to have to go down there in the snow and icky road conditions.  The roads were just clearing from the last snow we got!  I’ll just leave here 30 minutes early in the morning to be on the safe side.  That’s what I did last time, and it worked out perfectly.  I’m only scheduled to work in the production kitchen until 5 tomorrow, which is earlier than last Friday, so I can probably suck it up!  More on Sunday!

Sunday Updates – Monday Edition

I had every intention of sitting down at the computer and typing out a long update post yesterday, but I lay about like a sloth instead, enjoying one of the two days off I have this week.  Every time I passed by the computer, I thought to myself, “Oh, I ought to sit down and post something on Cakeland.”  Then, I’d sigh and go back to watching whatever mindless thing struck my fancy on the television, embracing the exhaustion and desire for laziness I felt all day.  It was a battle between the nice, comfortable couch and a straight-backed wooden chair.  Obviously, the couch won!  So, here it is Monday.  Better late than never!  This is probably going to be really long since I haven’t posted in a week.  The quick-and-dirty summary is the next paragraph for all of you tl;dr folks.

My week last week was actually pretty grueling, especially compared to last semester (heck, even compared to last week!).  So, let’s see.  Monday, I had an 8 AM class, followed by my appointment with Kathleen (my therapist/life coach).  Tuesday, I didn’t have class until 5:30, but I ran errands most of the day.  Wednesday, I worked in my uncle’s office then ran up to Columbus to pick up Alexis to bring her back down here to ride with me down to Hocking on Thursday.  Thursday, I worked in the production kitchen at the Inn from 8 AM until about noon, then had class from 1 until 5:30, then it was back up to Columbus to drop Alexis off at her boyfriend’s house.  Friday, an 8 AM class followed by work in the production kitchen until 8 PM.  Saturday, a 9 AM class followed by work in the production kitchen until 6 PM.  Then, Sunday, lay about like a slug.  Honestly, if I hadn’t committed to going up to Columbus to pick up and drop off Alexis, I might have gotten out of the week with a little less exhaustion than I was feeling by Friday evening.

All day Tuesday it snowed.  I think we got about 4 inches, and I was out in it almost the entire time it was coming down the hardest.  I know, dumb, right?  But, I had to go down to my uncle’s office and get keys from Bonnie, and I had a bunch of other errands I needed to run.  It wasn’t anything major, just Target and Office Max, but it took a while since the snow was getting pretty thick.  Tuesday evening we had our baking lab meeting, and I found out which days I would be working in the production kitchen this week.  I also got the syllabus for the class and the packet of recipes we’ll be using.  Chef Henry is pretty laid back and decent about making sure we have a schedule that works for us, which is nice.

Wednesday, I worked for my uncle all day.  I did a lot of the online training classes.  I think I got through another 10 of them, which I was pretty happy about.  I was there by myself for the first hour and a half or so.  I just had to make sure to answer the phone.  It was pretty easy, especially since there was no one else there, and all I could do was take down a message.  I almost got into a little tiff with Bonnie, mostly because she isn’t always logical with what she tells me I need to be doing and how to do it.  Things that seem sensible and reasonable to me do not to her.  That evening, I ran up to Columbus to pick Alexis up at Eastland mall.  I hadn’t been to Eastland since my sophomore year in high school.  I don’t really remember why we went, but I remember being with the cross country team, and it was around homecoming because Kristen had just been made homecoming queen.  I know we went out to dinner and looked in the mall for dresses for homecoming, but I’m not sure why we went all the way up there in the first place.  It’s not a far drive, but it was dark and still a little snowy, so I made sure to be extra cautious.

Thursday morning, Alexis and I drove down to Nelsonville, where I dropped her off at her dorm then continued on to the Inn for my first day working in the production kitchen.  My friends Kayla and Elise were there to work with me, which was nice.  Apparently, I had been the only one scheduled for that morning, so they decided to come in early to help me out.  We made rolls (two trays from the freezer as well as a batch of the dough) and coconut macaroons.  The coconut macaroons were different than the ones I usually make.  For one thing, they weren’t as heavy on the coconut.  They were more like French macaroons that are made with meringue, but with a little coconut in them.  It was a little strange since I’m used to a coconut-heavy macaroon.  They turned out beautifully.  After work in the production kitchen, I headed to my 1 o’clock class, Yeast Dough.  We made 100 percent whole wheat bread and French bread.  The French bread we formed into baguettes, and the wheat bread we formed into boules.  We ran over a little bit which was met with a good amount of displeasure by Chef Touria, who has a class in that kitchen at 5:30 PM (it’s actually her kitchen, so it wasn’t very surprising that she was angry about our continued presence).  Chef Thompson is a fan of sitting about and chatting for long periods of time, which is why we ran over so much.  That, and the proof box ran out of water, so our second proofing of our formed bread didn’t occur as quickly as it should.

Friday, I had Pastries and Desserts.  We made bavarians and a strawberry coulis.  The class is packed, which means we’re almost all working 4 to a table, which makes things difficult when you’re trying to move around and get your ingredients.  We used some little butane stoves because there aren’t enough burners on the main stove.  I was using one, and it kind of exploded on me.  I had just changed the canister, and I made sure it was in right, but when I tried to start it, it just made a weird noise, so I shut if off, double-checked that it was in correctly and tried again, which is when the small explosion happened.  I wasn’t hurt at all (not even a singed hair), but it was rather alarming, so I was kind of shaky for a few minutes afterward.  After Pastries and Desserts, I worked in the production kitchen again.  I was scheduled to leave there at 7 PM, but a few things happened to keep me there an extra hour.  First, they ran out of rolls at about 6:30, so I started proofing those and stuck around to make sure that they were baked and ready to go for the servers.  Second, they ran out of salads, so Gabby, the dishwasher, was helping make up salads and asked me to help her out by chopping up more veggies.  I chopped lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.  Third (and last), they ran out of cut-up potatoes for french fries and baked potatoes, so they asked me to cut them more french fries and put more whole potatoes in the oven to bake.  The most fun was cutting up the french fries because they have one of those things that is attached to the counter and just cuts them into perfect french fries by pulling a lever.  By the time I got home, I was beat, but it was a lot of fun.

My Saturday was pretty good.  I had Cake Production at 9, and we made two kinds of pound cake – lemon-lime and chocolate.  I can’t decide which I like better of the two.  They’re so unlike each other that it’s hard to say.  I think if I were offered both, I’d probably pick the lemon-lime over the chocolate, only because I’m not all that big into chocolate.  I much prefer fruit-based desserts.  While I was in class, Chef Weber asked me if I wanted to work for him this coming Saturday at an event here in Lancaster.  I told him I’d have to check with Chef Henry but that I’d love to.  I am going to make a little bit of money to do nothing more complicated than check the plates before handing them to a server.  Should be a snap!  Saturday afternoon, I worked in the production kitchen again, but there wasn’t much to do.  I ended up spending most of my time piping whipped butter into little plastic cups.  It was pretty uneventful.  I did a lot of pretty thorough cleaning, and I baked off a couple trays of rolls.  Nothing too exciting.  I got home, changed into sweatpants and did next to nothing until I went to bed.

I was a little surprised at how physically-demanding my schedule is.  I had forgotten what it’s like to work in a manual industry like this.  I have worked in grocery stores and restaurants, but that was more than 7 years ago now.  I have been questioning my physical stamina, but I know that once I get used to the routine, I’ll be fine.  It was hard getting back into the routine of waking up at 5 AM every morning at the start of last quarter, but I got used to it.  It’s just a matter of time until I get used to this schedule.  Then, it will be no big deal!

From the Great Beyond

I had my first real Classical Pastries class yesterday.  We made a Gateau St-Honore, or in English Cake of St. Honore, but the French is more fun to say!  It’s starts with a disk of puff pastry with pate a choux piped on top, which is baked, along with profiteroles, or tiny cream puffs.  The cream puffs end up on the finished cake, glued on with caramel, but they get baked alongside.  After the cream puffs are glued on, we put down some pastry cream followed by Chantilly cream.  It’s very pretty.   I took a picture, but I can’t find the cord that connects my camera to my computer so that I can post it.  I’ve been looking for it for months, and I think at this point I’m going to have to buy a new cord for the darn thing.

It’s so frustrating living out of boxes, especially when I can’t find the little things I just know I packed.  I have been feeling better about it lately, though.  Instead of being enraged, I’m just mildly annoyed, which is a huge improvement.  One of my goals for this year is to leave things that belong in the past in the past.  Living out of boxes is something that I’m dealing with because of an event in the past, so I’m trying to keep that in mind whenever I get frustrated that I can’t find something in my many boxes.  And, I’m also reminding myself that I can just buy another one if I can’t find something, especially if it’s something small like a camera cord or pencil leads!

This evening I have another meeting for Baking Lab, but I don’t have anything scheduled until then.  However, I need to go find a toolbox of some kind for all of the baking tools that I’m going to need to start transporting to and from class.  It’s a little strange to think of them as tools like the kind you’d usually put in a toolbox, but I suppose they are.  They are the tools of the craft, much like hammers, screwdrivers, and measuring tapes are tools for carpenters and builders.  And, some of them actually do come from the wood shop, like microplanes.  I’d like to try to get one in pink, but I don’t think I’ll be able to find it.

This quarter is a little different than last quarter because I don’t get to ride down to Nelsonville with my cousin.  It was nice to have someone to chat with on the ride down once a week, and it was good to have something to do other than read or study in the library.  Our schedules don’t overlap really at all this quarter, which is a bit of a bummer.  It works out okay, though because I’ll probably end up doing hours in the Inn’s kitchen before and after classes some days, so I’d have to drive myself those days anyway.

To tell the truth, I’m a little nervous about this quarter.  I am unsure of my ability to keep up my A’s since so much depends on the practical stuff.  I’m going to try not to worry about it and just have fun, though!

Sunday Updates – January 9

So, here we are again!  It’s Sunday, the start of a new week.  Nothing super-exciting happened for the remainder of the last one, but here are the highlights.

Thursday, I had my Yeast Dough class.  The chef for that class is Chef Thompson.  This is my first class with him so far, and he seems pretty cool.  I think he subscribes to the same philosophy as the other chefs in the culinary school:  do what you’re supposed to do, and you’ll do just fine.  He’s pretty entertaining, really.  He likes to joke around, which is good for me.  We actually baked on Thursday afternoon, which was a bit of a surprise.  Luckily for me, I had my uniform in the car with me, so I could get changed pretty quickly.  We made soft rolls.  Next week, we’re making French bread.

Friday, I had Pastries and Desserts, which is with Chef Touria.  She apologized to all of us for missing Monday morning’s class, and told us what we’re supposed to be doing tomorrow.  We apparently have a paper due on Gateau St. Honore tomorrow morning, which I have yet to start.  I’m not too concerned about it, honestly.  It doesn’t have to be very long, so it should be pretty quick and easy.  We’re actually making a Gateau St. Honore in Classical Pastries tomorrow, so I can’t blow off doing the paper.  In Pastries and Desserts, we’re making Bavarians.

Yesterday, I had Cake Production with Chef Weber.  I had him last quarter, and I like him a lot.  He’s a pretty positive, light-hearted guy, so I don’t have to worry about my silliness being frowned-up on the kitchen.  We’re making two different kinds of pound cake next week, and I’m pretty excited about it.  I’m also a little apprehensive, though, because the last time I tried to make a pound cake, it wasn’t very successful.  I’m hoping there’s some trick or something that he’ll show us next week.

This quarter, it seems like I’ll be making and doing a lot of things that I’ve not done before, which will be a bit of a shift from last quarter.  We did make some breads and new things, but much of what we did I have made dozens, if not hundreds, of times in the past.  I’m pretty excited to try all the new things we’ll be doing!

On another note, I have volunteered to coordinate my sister’s baby shower.  One of our aunts volunteered her house in Toledo, and I have loosely planned a menu.  I’ll be using my Caribbean food idea, so I’ll be making a jerked chicken thing and my banana cupcakes with the coconut buttercream.  I also thought I’d make like cole slaw (totally not traditional, but who cares) and cut up some veggies and things.  I’m not sure what else to have, but I’m sure I’ll think of something between now and then.  I thought that I’d use the soft rolls that I made in class (I’ll make a new batch, of course) for the jerked chicken sandwiches.  They’re a little sweet and very soft, so I think they’ll pair nicely with the spicy chicken.

Nothing else new to report, really.  The first week of classes is pretty boring.  Next week should be much more interesting!

The Big Wednesday Post

So, it’s Wednesday.  This post may not be as big as the title promises, but I’ll give it a shot.  Lots of stuff happened this week, and I’m feeling pretty darn good.

Classes started on Monday.  I got to see a bunch of my school friends, particularly my very best school friend, Alexis.  My morning class was Classical Pastries, taught by Chef Touria, whom I like a lot.  However, she never showed up.  We were all standing in the hallway for about 40 minutes before Chef Steadman decided to hand out the syllabus and have us sign a paper saying we were there.  Toward the end of the class meeting, he mentioned that the Cake Production class that evening was over-full, so they had to open up a Saturday section.  He said that if anyone wanted to switch it would be great, and it would make his life easier because then he wouldn’t have to forcibly move anyone.  I leapt at the chance because my Monday was looking to be hellishly long — 8 AM to 10:30 PM.  I’m not a fan of night driving, and I know I would have been exhausted by the end of that day, which would have made the drive home dangerous for everyone on the road, especially me.

I also had an appointment with my therapist on Monday afternoon.  It seems that my appointment didn’t make it into the computer, so she had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for herself shortly after when our appointment should have started.  No worries, she said she would be happy to sit down and talk to me for a little while.  I pored out everything — my meeting with the lawyer and being stood up by an old friend for dinner all in one day; my over-reaction to my brother Joe’s usual jerky behavior; my feeling like the universe wanted to knock me down a peg because of my confidence at being able to handle my first Christmas alone without any problems or out-of-control emotions.  It felt good to talk about all of it.

Monday morning, I sent an apologetic text message to my siblings telling them that I was sorry for being so crazy over the holiday but that I was glad to have seen them all.  They all responded better than I expected.  It was good to know that they didn’t hold my moodiness at Christmas against me.  After the dust of the holidays settled, I realized I’d been a big jerk for no reason other than my life feels really hard right now.  I felt like a total heel.  I try very hard not to let my emotions run away with me, but I’ve not done a very good job of that lately.  Even my posts here have seemed less than chipper, and I hate that I’ve let my angry, hurt, sad feelings get the better of me like that.  That’s why I’ve set a goal of more positivity this year.  It will do me good, and I think it will make me a more tolerable human being.

All-in-all, Monday was a good day.

Yesterday was pretty hum-drum to start, but it turned out to be a not so bad day.  My parents bought a new TV over the weekend, which meant upgrading their cable to accommodate the better picture quality of the new set, so I was asked to stay in the house until after the cable man came.  He arrived a little after 1, on the early side of the 1 – 3 time slot they gave us, which was nice in and of itself.  He was a pretty nice guy, and it didn’t take him very long to set things up.  After he left, I got a phone call from my uncle (the one that offered me a job), and he asked me if I wanted to work for him today!  So, I finally have the job!!  It took about a month and a half, but I’m finally working.  It’s a huge relief, honestly.  I was really stressing hard about where I was going to come up with money to pay my bills and the lawyer.  I can breath quite a bit easier now that I know I’ll have a paycheck coming in again!

Tuesday evening I went to my first meeting for Baking Lab, which is a class where we are required to meet once a week, then we work in the Hocking Inn for 14 hours every week.  I’m pretty nervous about this, but the chef who is running it (Chef Henry) is very nice.  It’s his first quarter running Baking Lab, so I think he was just as nervous as the rest of us, if not more.  It made me feel a heck of a lot better.  Then, I got to spend a little more time with my friend Alexis, which is always good!

Today was my first day working for my uncle.  Bonnie, the woman that works for him is very nice.  She had me stuff some envelopes, and I did some of the online training classes today.  The envelope-stuffing was pretty easy, but I ended up with some paper cuts on my fingertips.  The training was a little boring, but I think I got 5 done, total.  I probably could have done more, but Bonnie was in a very chatty mood today.  It’s going to be pretty simple stuff, but it will take a long time to learn everything.  I’m completely new to the world of financial planning.  I won’t be doing any of the actual planning or buying or anything like that, but it’s a different set of jargon I’ll have to learn, along with a new skill-set and new computer programs.  It’s largely customer service, though, which is kind of the same everywhere.

On deck for the rest of the week are:  Yeast Dough Production tomorrow, followed by Pastries and Desserts on Friday, then Cake Production on Saturday.  Fun fun fun!

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