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{the week} I am exceptionally organized; yet, exceptionally unmotivated.

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the week:
The plight of a writer: when inspiration and creativity hit, it’s often at the “wrong time” or far past a deadline (not proud). But you roll with with the motivation when it strikes. I just wish I could have my muse at all times at the ready.

With that, I’m finally proud of an article I wrote. It’s probably been a year that I’ve completed something that didn’t leave a feeling of worthlessness; it’s all too humbling, and I struggle with these emotions endlessly. So, naturally, I hope everyone else likes the piece. But I really need to work on my confidence.

weekend:
Many, many things! Friday night a certain someone is celebrating his birthday at Toonseum and it’s also the opening reception for A Matter of Convenience at Future Tenant. I will probably end the evening with some pink underwear hunting at the champagne bar.

Saturday is my first spinning class. If the bone in my vagina makes it, I’ll be heading to the fundraiser for Colin Albright at OTB, then to the EatPGH Book Party (and likely, a bar crawl of Larryville).

I WILL ALSO BE WATCHING LIVE, STREAMING NORTH CENTRAL REGIONALS! WOOT!

seven things, seven days:
1. {do good} Received my first Love With Food: a monthly subscription box filled with FOOD samples. And the organization gives back.
2. {recovery} Finally hit my milestone 50 push-ups again. It’s been too long, old friend… err, wrist.
3. {sports} We joined a bowling league. Stupid excited. I mostly suck, but sucking is so much fun when you get to play with balls… WAIT A MINUTE!
4. {impatient} Already organized my closet for Fall and put away all the summer things. TIME FOR LAYERING!
5. {OCD} And the Fall comforter set is on the bed already too. Yes, I am THAT person.
6. {shoe envy} These boots from Hunter. MINE.
7. {pride} Good luck to friends and skaters competing in the Thrill of the Spill this weekend!

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{the week} healing and sweating and summer is the best-worst

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{the week} healing and sweating and summer is the best-worst

the week:
This week is provided to you by BILLZ! and work. The latter helps the former, of course, but I’m a little overwhelmed… and then I got hit in the face so hard that I split my lip open. *shakes fist at universe* A non-casted fist, mind you.

Yep, today is Cast Off Dance Off Day! Just in time to “enjoy” 100-degree summer temperatures. Blech.

Doctor’s Rendering of my injury.

Healing went well. Considering the location of the ligament tear, surgery wasn’t suggested (phew!). I might need a steroid injection if I experience any discomfort in the next few weeks and could probably benefit from an exo-cast for derby, but otherwise, prognosis is good.

weekend:
Have a derby tournament, Ruckus in the Rust Belt, in Youngstown all day Saturday. A customer appreciation day of comics-and-meat in Cranberry. Then, some Big Butts or something to see in Butler. Or was that mullets? Regardless, there will be carnival food.

seven things, seven days:
Err, more like fourteen days…
1. My neighborhood hosts a monthly get-together for its female residents — what a wonderful evening to meet some wonderful women! I feel as though I’m part of some special society now or something.
2. Speaking of neighborhood, the North Side got itself a new playground, courtesy of Kaboom! and about 200 volunteers.
3. Took my first excursion on the Gateway Clipper fleet. Such a perfect night to be on the water (and it was a helluva lot cooler than on land).
4. This article from Pop City made me smile, Pittsburgh.
5. Pancakes for lunch! Homemade pancakes for lunch.
6. My new brace (yes, I still have to wear a brace for a while, but at least it’s REMOVABLE!!!) is neutral/beige in color. This makes my internal fashionista very pleased.
7. Our kitchen is finally all white! I am happy with the results. Mostly because I was right. It looks open and bright (even with the brown tiled floor), and I can’t wait for the new counters to be installed some time next week. Hopefully the boyfriend can keep it clean.

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{the week} moving on… with my skates and dancing shoes at the ready.

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{the week} moving on… with my skates and dancing shoes at the ready.

the week:
I returned to derby contact practices with Cast #2 this week. So, SO happy to be back. Being off-skates and on leave really gave me perspective on what kind of derby player I want to be and the motivation and drive to go all-in, kicking ass (and hopefully not gaining any casted forearm penalties). I know I’ve got some work to do, but I feel I’m in a really good place right now.

Stupid injury.

from WTAE.com

weekend:
Furries! Yes, Anthrocon is in town! You’ve probably already noticed some ears-and-tails crawling around downtown as convention-goers started arriving this week. I’m hoping to catch the parade of the furries Saturday afternoon.

Tonight is Bowler Derby fundraiser for SCRD. Unlimited bowling for $15 (plus yer shoes!) from 6-9pm.

Friday is also the Mattress Factory’s wildly popular Urban Garden Party. North siders, park your cars and leave ‘em NOW!

Saturday, tailgating and Pahr game, naturally. We’ll see you in our favorite spot.

Sunday, I’ll be working at my part-time job, so Happy Father’s Day!

seven things, seven days:
1. {fun} Cards Against Humanity. A disturbingly funny card game (spun from Apples to Apples, it seems) that will likely provoke an upcoming game night. Soon.
2. {music} Banjo Night at the Elks Lodge every Wednesday! Super fun. If you want a table, definitely make a reservation.
3. {uninspired} struggling with the creative side of my brain this last week. Which is obviously a bad thing when you’re a writer for a living. Hopefully, this passes soon.
4. {green thumb} We have red and white raspberries, but lost our cantaloupe. I wish that strawberry season would last forever though.
5. {nom} Pittsburgh has a taco truck! More food trucks in Pittsburgh, please!
6. {nebby} My street (and by extension, my courtyard) was the unexpected place for a random news crew to show up this week. No breaking news happening here… but I’ll be keeping my eye on upcoming teasers. And my lovely neighborhood as the backdrop
7. {wants & needs} Desperately need a haircut.

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April FOODZIE: The Earth Day Box

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April FOODZIE: The Earth Day Box

So, this month’s foodzie tasting box was delivered unusually late (WTH, FedEx?). It’s not my favorite, but there are a couple items that I really enjoyed. And most importantly, there are things to share.

In the box:
Parmesan & Rosemary Microwave Popcorn (!!!) from Quinn Popcorn – remember that time when I didn’t have a microwave? Or that I didn’t like popcorn? And that I hated rosemary? Yeahhhh. (note: there are stovetop directions available online, and this snack better suits the boyfriend’s snacking habits)
Gluten-free Sesame Seed Bars from Bumble Bar – I received one each of chocolate crisp and original peanut. I like these. A lot.
Dried Plums from Blossom Bluff Orchards – I’m definitely on a dried fruit kick, particularly for pre-practices and these are, obviously, better than packaged jelly fruit snacks. I’m slowly getting used to the taste of plums.
Classing Gold Sparkling Yerba Mate from Guayaki – This drink is delicious AND refreshing — and a much better-for-you cola replacement. PS: it’s pronounced “yer-bah mah-tay” (NOT yer-bah MATE, rhymes with “date”). Oops.
Styrian Pumpkin Seeds by CB’s Nuts – Cool concept of small-batch, micro-roasted nuts and seeds. But I also do not like pumpkin seeds. Meh. The boyfriend will eat them, however.

We’ve been looking to purchase reusable produce bags (for the few items that we DO have to bag individually at the grocery store), and one from Flip & Tumble was included as a bonus item. Score!

Sign up for Foodzie! Disclaimer: I am not compensated or sponsored in any way for this post or my subscription; I just like to share the independent foodmakers included in each tasting box.

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Ingredients: This is probably all junk. And full of CRAP.

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Ingredients: This is probably all junk. And full of CRAP.

I sincerely believe the cleaner your diet, the better you feel. I’m already an avid label reader because of food allergies (thanks a lot, Trader Joes), but I feel like I already have a leg-up on healthy eating, considering I don’t eat frozen foods and rarely have fast food. Even more recently, the boyfriend and I decided to keep as close to natural as possible. We cook most of our meals from scratch; we’re now also growing our own herbs and vegetables (and some fruit); we make most of our own sauces and dressings; and he’s keeping me out of those tempting “middle aisles” at the grocery store (and that one awesome end aisle just past the frozen that holds a box of all the world’s awesome: BUTTERSCOTCH KRIMPETS).

This has spurred an almost-obsession with label reading of any packaged foods. Because as we’ve learned, I’m not the World’s Best Chef, and sometimes, I have to curb my voracious appetite IMMEDIATELY.

That’s called HANGRY, by the way.

Sadly, some of the foods that I crave or buy impulsively are terrible. Have you ever turned around a bottle of salad dressing and read the label?! Also: I’ll go out on a limb and guess that you’re probably eating one of those pie-flavored, fat free yogurts… IT’S CRAP! But that’s not the worst of what’s out there. Or sadly, what I enjoy. I have an extra tooth (seriously, true story) that craves cereal-and-only-cereal. I thought I was doing OK with honey nut Cheerios, but it is FACT that it’s one of the worst — or shall I say most misleading — cereals on the shelves. Here, I thought I was doing well giving up the multiple food dyes included in every bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Nope: CRAP.

I switched to a “healthy” brand (read: Kashi), but I can seriously polish off one of those small boxes in one sitting. Delicious? Yes. Good for my cereal budget? No. Eating disorder? Possibly.

CRAP? A resounding YES! I told you: essentially, EVERYTHING IN A BOX IS CRAP. Yes, even your Kashi. I’m actually pretty pissed that they duped me too.

So, I have some work to do on curbing my snacking addiction (yes, cereal eating is just snacking. I’ll have two bowls of cereal after having a full dinner… just because). But there were other predators in my pantry: peanut butter, jelly beans (OK, not a regular indulgence, but Easter just recently passed. also, a temporary stand-in for other sugary CRAP), frosting… a box of baking mix for carrot cake Whoopie pies (sounds delicious, right? IT’S NOT!).

Why so evil? CHEMICAL ADDITIVES. ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS… it’s all JUNK.

Here’s the Scary Seven, according to Naturally Savvy:

  • HFCS: High-Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA glucose-fructose in Canada)
  • TRANS-FATS: Anything listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ (includes vegetable shortening)
  • MSG: Monosodium glutamate
  • ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Any artificial flavoring
  • ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Any type of artificial dyes
  • ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Chemical sweeteners including Aspartame, Splenda (sucralose), Ace-K (Acesulfame Potassium), Saccharine, etc.
  • PRESERVATIVES: Polysorbate 60, 65 & 80, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, BHA, BHT, Sulfur Dioxide (sulfites)

And this is where Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer (and their love of junk food) come in. In writing “Unjunk Your Junk Food” they taste-tested a variety of salty-or-sweet snacky goodness — and were upfront and honest about the poor eating habits to which most of us can admit. Because WE ALL SNACK. We ALL have cravings. So, they’re not taking away your candy or potato chips or *gasp* ice cream — they’re helping you make better decisions in regards to your health.

The book is loaded with information, and if you have ADD like me, you’ll probably have a brain spasm over how much good and helpful info is included (a lot of fun history and company tidbits too).

Biggest take-away: there are no shortcuts to healthy eating. Yeah, that peanut butter discovery still shocks me a little bit. Thanks, JIF, but you can keep your corn syrup and strange protein “solids.” And no, natural peanut butter does NOT taste the same, but I know that it’s JUST PEANUTS. And I found how delicious it can be with a little dash of cinnamon. I dare you to go through your cupboard, freezer or pantry and read the labels of your favorite snacks (there’s an awesome tear-out checklist in the book on page 25 that identifies the “worst ingredients.” Pick up a copy at Barnes & Nobles or online at Amazon {Naturally Savvy’s affiliate link}.

Tell me in the comments the worst food products you have in your house (or crave, and purposely do NOT keep in the house).

Join the edible Revolution. Read Naturally Savvy’s four-step manifesto for alternative, healthy snacking options. Also, ‘Like’ Naturally Savvy on Facebook and ‘fan’ them on Twitter for your chance to win great prizes.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Naturally Savvy for review.

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March FOODZIE: the Brooklyn Box

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March FOODZIE: the Brooklyn Box

For this month’s Foodzie box, I had a choice (as I normally do) for which tasting box I wanted to have delivered, and decided on the themed package that showcased snacks, candy and general awesomeness from independent food companies in a location-specific NYC borough — named, appropriately, the Brooklyn Box.

In the Box:
Beer Truffles from Nunu ChocolatesTwo of my favorite dietary must-haves in one treat? SOLD! Also, if I ever make it to NYC, I have to visit their flagship location for chocolate AND BEER (yeah, their draft list is hella awesome).
“The King” Bar from Liddabit Sweets
Bacon Fat Old Bay Peanuts (oh yeah) from Ovenly — yeah, I’m over the bacon thing… but the boyfriend appreciated the inclusion of this bag of seasoned nuts.
Red Onion Rosemary Crackers from Z Crackers — these will be going on our cheese & Charcuterie platter for our “We Bought Some Patio Furniture!” Patio Party.
Organic Dried Mangoes from Peeled Snacks

And my favorite item o’ the box: Farmhand’s Choice Granola from Early Bird Granolatrue story: I am not likely to buy my granola from anywhere else. This mix of organic oats and grains and nuts and olive oil is so fucking delicious. I want it on and with or after everything. I will also continue giving them my money in exchange for good stuff because of THIS:

Disclaimer: I am NOT paid, sponsored or fed by Foodzie. But you really should subscribe to their monthly Tasting Box.

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{the week} Cheers to good friends, good food & good health.

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{the week} Cheers to good friends, good food & good health.

the week: Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar for Pittsburgh Restaurant Week with a group of friends. I strayed off the chef’s tasting menu, and selected my own four courses. And everything was delicious — especially the beef tongue chili and CARROT CAKE BREAD PUDDING. Where did you enjoy a local meal this week?

Speaking of pudding, KEN RICE PUDDING… I haven’t stopped laughing all week.

Also, SNOW! Finger Spidey approves.

weekend: checking out new gastropub and speakeasy, James Street for Friday Happy Hour. So excited about this new addition to the North Side. What’s on your weekend agenda — somewhere new perhaps?

weekly reading wrap-up
FINALLY finishing up “Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef” — my first book pick-up for 2012. Definitely not enough sex, but the book was good. Considering Marco Pierre White was a mentor (of sorts) to both Mario Batali and Gordon Ramsey, I was intrigued.

So, yeah… I’ve already fallen behind in my 52 books goal, but I’ve not given up hope to complete that resolution. But I need to do a MUCH better job of time management. Have anything I should read this year? Welcoming suggestions. Preferably short books.

seven days, seven things:
1. sunday brunch at Meat & Potatoes is THE BEST
2. discovered a new favorite snack, thanks to Foodzie!
3. kept my weekly trainer appointment… two-a-day workouts are TOUGH.
4. drove on a pitch back for the first time. holy. crapmypants.
5. breaking in my new skates. initial feedback: love them!
6. finally replaced my black flats (that were lost in the move). Which means I’ll find the missing pair now, right?
7. woo! My friends mailed me not one, but TWO bottles of Becherovka from the Czech Republic, including the lemon-flavored, which I’ve never had. Na zdraví!

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{nom} FOODZIE!

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{nom} FOODZIE!

In creating my holiday gift guide, I mentioned my obsession with monthly subscription clubs. A lovely blogger-friend told me about San Francisco-based FOODZIE — a gourmet, nom-tastic snack company.

I received my first Tasting Box just before Christmas. Oh, I am pleased.

In the box:
- Bissinger’s Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas
- Clarine’s Chocolate-dipped Almond Florentines
- SunCups (Sunflower Butter Cups in milk, dark and mint chocolates)
- Money on Honey Chocolate Covered Honey Caramels
- 479 Ginger Sesame Caramel Popcorn
- Zeke’s Butterscotch Candy
- POP Nut Butter Crunch Treats

Merry Christmas to me (and my snack tooth). I’m excited for the dose of sweets (even though I have a gigantic tin of holiday cookies in the freezer), but I’m more-so geeked to discover the small companies around the country that Foodzie works with.

Are you a Foodzie subscriber? Do you belong to any monthly subscription clubs?

I was not paid for this endorsement; I am a paying subscriber to Foodzie. Also: small gourmet food businesses — and getting a “mystery” snack box each month — is just awesome.

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{cooking for the boyfriend} redemption island: moussaka

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{cooking for the boyfriend} redemption island: moussaka

Coming back from the disaster known as Eggnog French Toast, I needed to redeem myself in the kitchen. And what better way than with mother-fucking moussaka.

Bend over.

Making moo-sa-KAA is no small feat — you’re guaranteed to be in the kitchen, actively cooking something for nearly 2 hours (and then another hour to wait for the fruits of your labor). I’ve made the Greek casserole only a couple times in my life… but it’s been nearly a decade. This also means that I lost my old cookbook in a flurry of ex-boyfriends, which meant I had to find a new recipe.

Seriously. Take a look at this recipe — the number of ingredients and steps and KITCHEN WORDS I DON’T UNDERSTAND. And prep time: 1 hour and 35 minutes. This, after Christmas shopping and running errands for an entire day. Surprisingly, I found my cooking Chi and went to work (with a glass of wine).

No coffee pots were used in this episode

The boyfriend attempted to intercept my cooking no less than three times. Every incident he got a “GET OUT!” with a smack of my spatula. I used a Greek accent. I think he liked it.

Eggplant. OR ZEBRA?!

But this Simply Recipes… err, recipe was fantastic. The directions don’t leave anything out for a beginner… especially when it comes time to make your first roux. Or temper eggs for the VERYFIRSTTIME. And why don’t I remember doing this the other times I made this dish?

I took a picture of my eggplants brining for you because I couldn't take a picture while making my awesome bechamel.

Probably because I was doing it wrong. Or not. I mean, it always tasted good.

Yeah, I chopped all those onions. The bastards. I also zested and juiced the shit out of that lemon.

Oh, HEY! I think this means I crossed off one of my cooking missives for the new year: Learn how to chop, cut foods. Or something.

Also, I like my moussaka with a layer of potatoes at the bottom. You can argue that is MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE GREEK WAY! But I had it once — ONLY ONCE — like this in a Greek restaurant, and it was my favorite.

Even if my potatoes were being little bitches. Oh, I’M SO SORRY POTATOES FOR LEAVING YOU IN THE COLANDER FOR 18 MINUTES.

Bitches = potatoes

You CAN make moussaka with only eggplants for a much lighter dish, of course. I mean, aside from the entire top layer of egg custard-like bechamel sauce. Also, also: I used beef. Which, I probably wouldn’t do again because of the grease factor (even after baking). Lamb is just so goddamn expensive for something that I could potentially fuck up.

WHICH I DID NOT.

Also, also, also: definitely find the Greek cheese. The bitterness complemented the little bit of citrus that cuts through each bite, and it is delicious. But let me tell you, the absolute best part (besides eating it) is when you are simmering the meat with cinnamon; it is heavenly.

Especially so, when everything comes out of the oven looking like THIS:

Mother Fucking Moussaka

But making such a meal provided me great pride — it was the boyfriend’s first taste of the cultural classic, and he was pleased. You know what, sometimes I DO know what the hell I’m doing. Especially when it comes to comfort food.

Your casserole dish doth runneth over.

Hey, do you like my apron?

Lovely bunch of polka dots.

Super cute, right? Don’t take yourself so seriously in the kitchen, feminist! Check out vintage-inspired kitchen attire from Jessie Steele. Disclaimer: I received an apron via my ad network courtesy of Jessie Steele, like, two years ago.

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the eggnog french toast incident

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the eggnog french toast incident

I can’t tell you how pissed I was when I picked up a container of Dean’s eggnog and read “corn syrup” on the label. I used to make homemade eggnog (and have been advised against because of the potential issues with raw eggs). But I’m sure that simply pasteurizing a product does NOT mean adding CRAP “to make it taste better.” I make my best attempt to purchase grocery items that are as “real” and organic as/when possible. While I realize I cannot prevent this CRAP in everything, I feel that every little bit of concern helps. Yet, I remain hypocritical in my penchant for Honey Nut Cheerios (seriously, one of the worst and MOST sugary cereals on the market… ugh) and Moon Pies (is there anything NOT scientific on this label?).

Ho-hum.

I mean, have you read about the effects of high fructose corn syrup? Well, for one: IT’S MAKING YOU FAT. And the industry has coyly attempted to rename HFCS, corn sugar(s). I mean, we’re all adults here, you know high levels of sugar in your food is bad for you, right? RIGHT(s)?! It’s about balance. Consumer awareness. Sadly, three other containers in the dairy section had the same problem. WTF, Giant Eagle: on labels, you explicitly promote your chocolate milk as NOT having high fructose corn syrup — why not the eggnog?

And what the fuck were we talking about here? Oh yeah, MOTHER FUCKING EGGNOG FRENCH TOAST.
Thankfully, I found that Horizon Organic makes an eggnog. And then I realized that I probably COULD have made my own eggnog in this case, since I would be cooking the battered bread anyways. Gah!

The boyfriend and I both like our French toast to be made with white or Italian bread for some serious eggnog-dippy action, so I used that for our Sunday breakfast of champions.

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of eggnog
1/2 T cinnamon
1/4 T pumpkin pie spice
(optional: rum flavoring)

REAL maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping (I’ve read about an apple-cranberry compote to complement the French toast, which I most definitely will make in the future)

Let’s Make Breakfast
Whisk everything in a bowl; dip bread; place on skillet, cooking each side until golden brown.

BREAKFAST IS SERVED! Else, it should be.

This is the part of the story where you should NOT follow my directions (and why you only get “before” pictures with this post). See, I’m still getting used to this gas stove and asked the boyfriend which pan and heat setting I should use — and I followed his recommendation, but I wanted to cook by myself. My first pair of toast stuck to the pan… which, typical. I intended to start over, but it happened JUST as the boyfriend entered the kitchen to “check in” on me.

THIS IS WHAT I HATE: he attempted to take over breakfast, instead of kindly helping by offering suggestions. He told me to use oil (on what I thought was a non-stick pan), which would have been nice to know beforehand, right? But because my mind was already “FUCK YOU! GET OUT! I CAN DO THIS” (as he grabbed the spatula from my hand), his typical laughter at my expense sent me into an emotional tailspin.

I would have tried again and eventually figured it out (with butter instead of oil… ew). But at that point, I was so indignant at his response — to my doing something nice — he was being completely and totally insensitive.

So, he made breakfast for himself. I grabbed a blueberry cereal bar and went skating. The end.

MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!

Where my alcoholics at: Serve with a little rum in your coffee. Or an entire bottle of rum, in my case.

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{I want!} DIY Cheese Kit: NO CHEESE FOR YOU!

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{I want!} DIY Cheese Kit: NO CHEESE FOR YOU!

SOLD OUT?!

I hope this means that one of you was SUPER, DUPER awesome & already bought a DIY Cheese Kit for me! Or is currently making me cheese from their recently-purchased DIY Cheese Kit.

See UrbanCheesecraft on etsy for more kits (currently sold out for the holidays *whomp*) and cheese-making accessories.

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{first world problems} adventures in small appliances

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{first world problems} adventures in small appliances

Did I tell you about that time I was living a microwave-free lifestyle? Because that is happening. I mean, the living-without-a-microwave thing. Like, RIGHT NOW, right now.

We moved into a house with no small kitchen appliance to zap hot dogs for lunch, melt cheese over nachos and heat up pizza or Asian food IMMEDIATELY WHEN I AM HUNGRY. Also: no incredibly fluffy scrambled eggs. Shut up.

And we’re not buying one.

So far, I’m doing OK, what with AB wanting to use his manhood grill every single day. The boyfriend has pondered the varied ways of eating popcorn without a microwave. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to not be around THAT smell any time soon.

Regardless, that hasn’t stopped the final goal of being The Only Microwave-free Household in America. Besides: Hooray, Jiffy Pop is fun! And bonus: more counter space. Though, what when he is unavailable for my feedings is my biggest concern. I am left to a stove — a GAS-powered appliance, mind you — of which I am irrationally terrified.

How the hell do you heat up Pad Thai in the oven?
Oatmeal… um, can you even make oatmeal on the stove?
WHERE DO I PUT THE PIZZA BITES?!

I’m so screwed…

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{pursuit} of Cooking for the Boyfriend: #3

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{pursuit} of Cooking for the Boyfriend: #3

My first attempt to sweeten up the boyfriend’s stomach was with homemade cinnamon rolls.
The second, was an actual MEAL — fondue, for Valentine’s Day. *brushes shoulder off*

Not to out-do (or out-stress) myself this time, I made a one-bowl meal for the third installment of “cooking for the boyfriend”, aka: my 25 learn-how-to-cook missive or things I’ve never made before.

And there wasn’t nary a cheese involved.

I followed Chez Pim’s “Pad Thai for beginners” recipe, and his direction sincerely made making dinner easier. Although, cooking to taste when you’re NOT really sure how something should taste is not a control freak’s best friend. I like to have measurements… but well, I guess that’s now you cook Thai food. And dammit, I was hungry.

In an attempt to make cooking easier, I write out my steps in numerical order as well as write backward in timed increments when to start preparing things focused on DINNER TIME, so as to NOT forget anything or having to rush. I know, I already said I was OCD.

For a Pad Thai sauce, you need four ingredients, really: tamarind, fish sauce, sugar (I used brown) and chili powder. Thankfully, I knew from a previous trip to the Asian market with the boyfriend that we HAD tamarind (a whole BRICK, actually). However, I have no idea what tamarind actually is, but it smells of something between the likes of black tea & fig newtons.

And obviously looks like diarrhea when soaked, according to directions.

Tamarind Soak

Ew.

Sometime after the water becomes “touchable” (read: won’t burn your fingernails off), you need to work that madness into a “ketchup-like” consistency. Mine never really made it there (too much water, I imagine), and resulted in something more like A-1. Then, you need to pressing out the solid gunk.

Tamarind Ew

I swear if I find a tarantula in this shit, I'm going to be pissed.

After all that annoying bullshit, I was “surprised” to find this in the fridge.

Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Sauce

Perfect Sauce?

But no, come hell or high water full of arachnids, I was not cheating on this recipe. Perfect sauce, be damned! And for what it’s worth, mine tasted COMPLETELY different. Is tomato normally an ingredient in Thai sauce? Is that why there is an “easy” recipe that contains ketchup?

Pondering aside, I didn’t have a lot to prep, aside from the sauce & making sure everything was measured & ready to go when it came time for cooking as once the wok is hot, there is no time for pictures.

Random Pad Thai ingredients

These ingredients were also included. No, not the bananas -- that would be weird.

So, after my sauce was completed, I chopped some chives and ground some peanuts.

Side note: I thought doing that in my coffee grinder would be perfect, but the internet quickly dissuaded those plans. I broke out the Cuisanart and set it to “not peanut butter” function.

The steps in cooking went something like this: (oh, I made tofu Pad Thai, by the way)
Let’s wok!
Heat wok
Smoke myself out of the first level of the loft because I realized that I used olive oil
Wait for wok to cool; try again, this time using peanut oil
Fry tofu to a crisp
Add some of your yummy pre-made sauce
Add noodles (about a cup or two at a time)
Keep continuously stirring until noodles are soft (another side note: I soaked thai noodles according to package directions before this mess all started)
Add an egg to the middle
Toss that salad!
Add bean sprouts and peanuts and more sauce, if needed (or wanted, I suppose)

And… SERVE, topped with chives.

Pad Thai

I made it: Pad Thai!

Or fuck this up. And just add more Thai sauce.

Repeat (quickly) because YOU need to eat too. But hopefully, without (or at least half the amount) all that smoke and the need to open windows in 30-degree weather.

Result: it was really freaking good. I mean, REALLY good, and I got a blow job seal of approval from the boyfriend. Wait a minute… But sadly, like most Asian food, was NOT good the next day. I made WAY too much for two people.

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FAIL

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So, it’s obvious that I totally failed on my NaBloWriMo for this month. *sigh*

But listen here: I am totally OK with it, as I have SUCH good news (ahem, published piece in January). And a couple new clients gained this week (*cough* more to come later). I’ve worked my little patooshie off (is that a word?).

The ultimate goal of writing every day for 30 days was exactly that — to WRITE every. single. day for the month of November. Which I have done… and then some. Deadlines met, articles completed, websites submitted for reviews. Oh, I am so happy at this week’s accomplishments (ever have one of those “rain-it-pours” type of weeks?).

I have some additional potential work coming up as well for which I am crossing fingers, toes and tattoos. *readers wishing me luck, I can just feel it*

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Made to Order

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I’m a sucker for a good burger — even more so if I can have the juiciest, bloodiest medium-rare burger. With cheese, of course. But those perfect hamburger dreams can quickly spoil upon receiving a sandwich that is blackened, char-grilled and cooked so dry that it is unpalatable. I don’t claim to be a cook (for seriously, ask my partner), but at least I know that a rare burger should have a lot more than a bit of pink in it. It should be oozing, dripping delicious juices… ahem.

But is it my place to tell you when my burger is overcooked?

Yes.

This analogy can easily be compared to my work with clients. Sometimes my copy can be, well, over or under-cooked. Perhaps it could require just a bit more sales oompfh, or maybe I went a little overboard on the snark. Every business, industry and individual has its own target audience and its own approach to messaging. But what good is that message if I’m not writing it for its intended purpose and reader?

You hire me because you need SEO consulting or Web content, and you trust that you know what I’m doing (I do). But just the same, it’s more likely that you know your business better than I do. I try to get as much information out of my clients as possible during a first meeting (or email) — and most of that is through listening. I hear your tone, your company history, your goals, your adjectives, and most importantly, your PASSION. And I translate all that into words for your vision and visitors (and little bit for Google). And yes, I’m incredibly good at it (toot, toot). I sit back and enjoy my creation (and wipe the grease off my face from over-imbibing in that deliciously cooked cheeseburger). But for as much information as I gather before the start of a project, sometimes I get the wrong order.

Now don’t get me wrong, a little creativity and an extra piece of cheese rarely makes anyone upset — it could make a great project idea even better. But only the person placing the order can make that determination. I always take accountability for my misinterpretations, and as freelancers — just as that cook — we need to adjust our own ideas to what the customer expects. Client relationships require honest feedback and open communication from both sides, which doesn’t mean you tell me how to do my job… just that you have another preference.

Some times a redo is necessary and sincerely makes all the difference. But if we never tell someone, “this is not what I ordered,” — copy OR burgers — they will never be able to correct the mistake.

I sat and ate that stupid burger in silence — it wasn’t at all what I wanted, and I should have said something (which I beat myself up for afterward, especially after paying the bill). While I may have waited longer than the rest of my table for my meal, it would have made my experience better.

And my stomach a lot happier.

As a client, how do you tell your freelancers that his/her content doesn’t meet your expectations? And as a freelancer, do you include these necessary rewrites as part of your services?

UPDATE: Ha! And randomly, I discover this gem from The Oatmeal today about client relationships.

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