Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Petty things that drive me crazy #3.

Again, I'd like to write about a commercial. Or, rather, a series of TV commercials. I realize that the way advertising is sold on cable means that most ads are run nationally, so sometimes you'll see commercials for things that don't apply to your location, for example, Sonic. Sometimes it amazes me we get Dreyers commercials instead of Edys.

But sometimes you end up with a commercial advertising the place you ARE. Such is the case with the series from the California tourism board, selling vacations to the state by saying, "Find yourself here." They all feature famous Californians--not least of whom is the Governator--speaking about how great the state is. One of them "cleverly" declares that California is full of hard workers, and it ends with Ahhhnold (I've lived here HOW long and I still can't take him seriously?) asking, "When can you start?"

Why it annoys me, I can't quite say. Part of it is that I have to see advertising for the place I already live. Part of it is that they talk about "work" and work is hard to find. Part of it is that I just want to smack everyone in it because they look for fucking fake.

At any rate, it's all petty.


It's my No. 1 vice. Sometimes I think I'd rather give up chocolate than good coffee, and you know I am a chocolate fiend.

Even bad coffee can be enjoyable, but I go out of my way to avoid bad coffee. Starbucks may be ubiquitous but it isn't good; this is fact. I haven't had coffee *at* Peet's, but I have had their beans, and they're good, but I've had better.

Right now my "better" is Barefoot Coffee Roasters. Oh, sure, the cafe itself is a hell of a place to hang out, and the baristas are skilled and knowledgeable and always busting out with wine tasting-esque descriptions of the beans (an ability I totally covet), but the place has "Roasters" in its name for a reason. They don't sell shiny black pellets of evil, they specialize in beans purchased from farms they know and love, roasted to aromatic perfection and intended to be sold that day and brewed within the month.

For awhile I was mail ordering Blue Bottle, but it got too cumbersome (and kind of expensive). Barefoot is still super local, super good, and super convenient. (They even sell it at Whole Foods, but I prefer buying it at the cafe.)

I love that coffee has such complex flavors, that depending on the method of preparation, the grind, the temperature of the water, and the temperature changes as it sits, it can taste completely different, leaving room for error even with a perfectly roasted bean. I like this level of difficulty; it adds a sense of skill to my ritual.

My equipment: a burr grinder, #2 cone, #2 brown paper filters, electric kettle, Brita filter, large mug.
Ingredients: Good goddamn fresh coffee beans.

First I fill my mug to the brim with filtered water and pour it in the kettle. Then I measure out two and a half heaping soup spoons of whole beans and put them in the grinder. The machine is set to grind at level 3, which is fine but still gritty. I turn it on and tap it periodically to ensure all the beans go down through the whirring discs. While it's grinding, I fold the edges of a paper filter and put it in the cone and put that on top of my mug, then plug in the kettle (it won't take long to simmer). After the grinder is done, I have to tap it several more times to get all the powdery beans into their container, then take it out and dump the grounds into my filter cone. I eagerly anticipate the hissing sound of liquid water turning to steam, and when it's bubbling a little but not boiling, I unplug the kettle and inundate the grounds with hot liquid. It takes two to three pours to get all the water through, and it needs to sit for a few minutes before it's at a drinkable temperature.

But when it is, oh man. Intense. The world stops for a minute when I'm drinking a good cup of coffee. Only a minute, though, because the caffeine kicks in and it's back to work for me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Petty things that drive me crazy #2.

There's a commercial for a local lite rock radio station featuring really hideous animations of people dancing around their office to the horrible music that populates that station's playlist. Their tagline is something to the effect of "Make your workday more enjoyable!"

And every time I see it, I think, "Sure, if by 'enjoyable' you mean 'likely to drive me to suicide.'"

Because I'm classy.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Reframing thoughts.

As some of you know, I am seeing a career coach. It's something my mom suggested after reading my last legitimately whiny blog entry and even gave me money to pay for the sessions, since that shit isn't cheap and I'm kind of broke.

You know what, though? It's totally worth it. Not only am I making my resume a kabillion times better, I'm actually figuring out what the hell I did at my last job, what I think I was good at, and how I can put that in words to effectively market myself when I do get interviews. Maybe even actually get the job, which is the whole point, really. I am also learning how to network, which is not a skill innate to me. These things all go together.

Moreover, I am changing myself from a person who just really hated her old job to someone who actually knows how to do stuff. I have more confidence, and with a little prodding, I will be able to competently express it to the ends of hearing those charming little words, "We'd like to offer you a position."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just a little something I made for lunch.

pasta salad
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

It's warm, I'm hungry, I have a ludicrous amount of vegetables at my disposal. What do I do?

I make this pasta salad. I live on the edge.

Dressing (measures approximate):
-1 tsp. olive oil
-1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
-1 tsp. dijon mustard
-1/4 tsp. maple syrup

-3/4 c. dry whole wheat rotini
-3 stalks swiss chard, stalks separated out, chopped into bite size pieces
-1 small head broccoli, separated into small florets
-1/3 c. frozen peas
-1 tsp. dried tarragon
-Greens from 1 large baby onion, sliced thin
-1 red radish, cut into matchsticks
-1 carrot, grated
-Pepper and almond meal, to taste

Cook the pasta in salted water (Trader Joe's brand needs only 5 minutes). Add prepared chard, broccoli, peas, and tarragon about two minutes before the pasta is done cooking. After it's done cooking, drain and run it under cold tap water for a few seconds and drain again.

Add green onion, radish, and carrot to the dressing and mix, then add pasta and vegetables. Mix to coat everything with the dressing, then add pepper and almond meal to taste.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Experiments in cooking documentation #1.

It seems like a common feature of food blogs is the illustrated recipe. Since I am but one girl with a Canon PowerShot POS, this isn't the prettiest attempt, but it seemed worth a shot given the simplicity of the recipe.

If you can call "spaghetti with spinach and garlic" a recipe. Which it isn't, really, so much as an assemblage of edible items I happened to have around when I was hungry for lunch.

First, the ingredients:
-Whole wheat spaghetti
-Olive oil
-Garlic cloves, crushed and chopped, as many as you can handle
-Red pepper flakes
-Baby spinach, loosely chopped
-Freshly grated parmesan
-Almond meal
-Black pepper to taste

Next, the how-you-do:

boiling water, add pasta
Remember to salt your pasta water just before it boils. Cook as much and whatever type of pasta as you feel like eating.

The next part is pretty straightforward, really.
saute garlic and red pepper, saute spinach until it wilts

If your spinach is wilted before your pasta is done cooking, take it off the heat until it's ready.

The next part might seem a little odd, but I swear it's a useful thing to know: adding cooking water from your pasta to whatever sauce/veggies you're serving it with helps it become... saucier. Moister. Better.
add pasta cooking water to spinach

Take the water from the boiling pot after the pasta's been cooking for a few minutes. The starch and salt suspended in the water are what will help your dish come together. The amount you use is variable; I'd set aside about 1/3 cup and use as much as you need.

Now, once your pasta is done, turn the heat back on your spinach and drain the cooked pasta. Next thing you know, you'll be dumping your drained pasta into the pan with your spinach and garlic.

add pasta to spinach saute pan

Now you could add your cheese and mix it all up in the pan, but that just makes the pan harder to clean. That distracts from the "lazy" aspect of this so-called recipe. Instead, you can dump the contents of your saute pan into a bowl and add your pepper, almond meal (adds protein, crunch, flavor--try it!), and cheese.

eat me!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Freshest meal of the day.

almond quinoa muffin
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

I have some standard breakfasts, you know. I'm sure everyone who actually eats breakfast does (and you people who don't kind of weird me out). There's the nonfat plain yogurt with maple syrup and Trader Joe's fat-free blueberry muesli stirred in, there's toasted peanut butter and jam (a post unto itself), applesauce pancakes with any number of fillings...

But some days, you want more. Yogurt sounds cold; oatmeal sounds bland; you had PB&J for dinner last night. Some days, you want a muffin.

Yes, a beautiful muffin, fresh from the oven and striking a perfect balance between healthy and delicious. Store-bought muffins are neither healthy nor fresh, and homemade isn't actually that hard. Why not bake?

Today's recipe, almond quinoa muffins, is from Veganomicon, and it is everything you could want in a muffin. I didn't manipulate the recipe much so I won't plagiarize -- you should buy the cookbook. Really.

My only alteration was to use frozen raspberries instead of the recipe's suggested apricots or currants, because raspberries taste awesome with almonds. (It is a killer pairing in my usual pancakes, too, but again, another post.) They're more healthy than your average bran muffin, lacking in processed sugar altogether, and high in protein from the almonds and the quinoa.

And they're so damn tasty, I've eaten three.

Petty things that drive me crazy #1.

This type of construction: It costs $10 dollars.

I don't understand if it's for emphasis or because people have forgotten that "$" means "dollars," but it's just as stupid as "ATM machine" or "PIN number."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Once more, with bunnies.

bunnies eat better than you do
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

Lilly and Ollie love to (1) cuddle and (2) eat. They do not want to be bothered while eating. They do want to have tasty pieces of fennel bulb or parsley springs fed directly to them. They do want to torture me with their adoreableness.

I (heart) strawberries.

first strawberries of 2008
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

I never buy strawberries anymore -- I wait for the ones from my farm share. And it's always worth the wait.

Come June/July, it'll be even better. Last year we made it to the farm's annual summer solstice party and ate berries straight out of the patch. Sun-warmed, perfectly sweet strawberries, perched atop a hill with a view of other farms and, in the distance, the foggy California coastline -- it's enough to make you believe in a higher power.

How to use up half your CSA veggies without trying.

rainbow slaw
Originally uploaded by emily ca..

I pride myself on my ability to make up halfway decent food using whatever I have around. This is an especially important skill during our CSA season.

I made this rainbow slaw:

-Green tops of one young onion*
-Chantenay carrot, sliced into matchsticks*
-Red radishes, sliced into matchsticks*
-Purple cabbage, shredded*
-Juice from one meyer lemon
-Apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste

Just mix and let sit for a little bit.

The slaw was meant to go with this soup:

-Young onion, everything but the green tops, sliced thinly*
-Green garlic, sliced thinly*
-Spices: dried oregano, ground coriander, cumin, red pepper flakes or spicy ground cayenne
-Can of black beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 c. organic sweet corn
-Some canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
-A little vegetable bouillon and water
-Red kale, stemmed and loosely chopped*
-Broccoli, stems and florets, chopped into bite-size pieces*
-Salt and pepper to taste

This is pretty basic. Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil, add spices and season a bit, add the canned/frozen ingredients and stir, pour in broth, bring to a boil. Check seasoning, then add the kale and broccoli and cook until tender. Then it should be ready to serve with long-grain brown rice or, perhaps, tortilla chips (homemade baked ones would be a nice alternative) and the rainbow slaw on top.

Check for CSA farms near you if you want to improvise your own meals and eat with the seasons.

* indicates something from our share.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I have a computer in my room!

And it's even talking to the internet and not crashing!

It's Kevin's old laptop and it's living on an old slab of particleboard resting on a keyboard stand he's not using. I got it a mouse because I hate using the touch pad. Really, I hate using the laptop keyboard, but it's more awkward to set things up with a separate keyboard and screen and... well, whatever. I have a mouse attached to a laptop that's running Ubuntu.

I can watch my TV and attempt to be productive at the same time. Amazing.

There's this thing I'm doing right now where I'm paying a guy to help me learn how to figure out what I want in life and how to speak and write so as to properly convey that, as well as what else I might do to bring that about in case I currently lack the necessary skills. Thanks to his already helpful input, I am working on revamping my resume, putting together the building blocks of answers to those seemingly innocuous interview questions I currently answer with too much hemming and hawing, and making a list of people I want to talk to -- once I learn how to have conversations the right way, of course.

Another project I've got in mind is to start food blogging a lot more in this space. It will involve photos, especially now that it's easy for me to, say, attach my camera to the computer I'm using without hitting my head on a desk wedged against a wall and surrounded by crap. My bedroom is practically neat and organized! It's easy to find USB on a laptop!

Yet another project is that I think I'll work on a digital media/graphic design for the web certificate, starting this summer. Community colleges are affordable; who knew?

Okay, everyone.

More later, if I can stand the infectious joy that comes with being able to switch my gaze quickly between two screens.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I am not a competitive person. I hate it, in fact. I just want to be good and helpful and work with a team and be useful in any capacity and feel good about myself for doing it. I want to do that in a place that doesn't make me want to shoot myself.

Apparently these jobs, which do exist, are unavailable to me due to the teeming horde of people more qualified than me. I think I don't interview all that well, and basically everything that's happened for me, job-wise, was a stroke of fucking luck. My college job I got without so much as an interview. My last job that ultimately drove me to Prozac? No one else actually made it in for an interview and I was good enough.

How the fuck is someone supposed to get more qualified than the other assholes without actually getting a job that allows you to develop said qualifications? The things that I lack aren't skills I can pick up with a class from the UCSC Extension or anything (well, for the most part). I have the basic stuff down, it's just that someone else always has it down better, plus some. I KNOW I am a good worker. I KNOW I have the capacity to pick stuff up and do a good job. I also know I have a mouth and an inability to sell myself, because god knows just saying, "I can do that!" isn't going to prove anything.

All I know is that eventually I'm going to be so fucking broke that I will have to find it within myself to somehow nab one of these jobs I totally don't want that will get me absolutely zero experience in anything resembling a field I'm interested in, and the cycle of depression will spiral up again and I'll be a super fun person to be around.

I've always been okay with not being the best at things. But it kills me that even though I'm good, I'm clearly never good ENOUGH unless I'm the only one available. I want to prove myself, but it doesn't have to be because I'm the best.

Oh, plus, the paranoid side of me starts thinking that little $cieno imps know I think they're creepy and/or everyone else knows about my former employer and that taints me. Even if it is extremely unlikely, I fear it.

I don't know. Clearly I am "competitive" enough as a candidate to get an interview or two, but if someone else has a superior resume, why the fuck are they bothering to talk to me, to tell me they'll decide "within a few days," but I have to wait a week for the inevitable email of doom (like college applications with the small envelopes, emails from potential employers spell failure). In an interview, you're supposed to dress up, which I can do (kinda), but I think my behavior is in many ways worse than it would normally be because I'm not as comfortable or confident as I get to be in a real working situation. I'm worried they won't like me, and allow myself to be surprised when they don't.

One thing I know I'm overqualified to do is sit on my ass all day. In some ways I'm happier than I've been in a long time, but the lack of productivity, the frustration of my situation, and dwindling bank account are wearing on me.