Thursday, April 28, 2016

What I've learned about careers from the Wizard of Oz

In the movie the Wizard of Oz, Glinda advised Dorothy to start at the beginning, and follow the yellow brick road to reach her goal. When Dorothy hesitated from uncertainty, Glinda again urged her to follow the yellow brick road.

I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the career paths of many individuals along my journey to this point, and what I’ve learned is:

•  the path each person’s yellow brick road takes on can look quite different.

•  you may not always know what your next step may be, or when or how your next opportunity will show itself.

•  to be patient and enjoy each leg of the journey, taking the time and opportunity to learn the lessons that are presented along the way.

While some may look back over their careers at some point, and see a pretty clear and traditional path, others may encounter detours, opportunities, and career changes that make the road behind them winding.

When we’re unsure of what our next step might be, or of how to continue to grow, we need the Glinda’s in our lives, our families, our friends, our our mentors we meet along the way, to learn from, and to guide us. These are the people who believe in our potential — the ones who push us to keep moving forward, to continue putting one foot in front of the other in order to forge our own path.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t know, what I don’t know yet, and that will perpetually be the case. And while I may not know exactly where my yellow brick road will lead me, I’m eager to learn new things, to grow professionally and personally, to meet new people, and to do it all, as Dorothy did, in great shoes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Monthly Reminder


This post deviates from my typical food-focused entries, but has everything to do with me relishing life — my life.
I am reminded monthly of the failure of my body. It's failed to perform the function that the standard-issue female chromosomes allow most women to experience at some point, if they so choose.
I've never dreamed of being a mother. I didn't fantasize about being a mom as a child or play "house" where I babied my pretend children or dolls. I played with Legos and built things. I colored and made art. I played "grown ups" with Barbie dolls and cared about their fashion, not their imaginary well-being or feelings. I babysat for a couple of years on and off, and I was naturally not great at it. I lacked the patience for dealing with a human being who couldn't effectively communicate with me or didn't do as requested — being an only child didn't equip me with these skills, mainly patience.
When I was asked if I wanted to be a mom some day, my response was, "Well if I have kids, I'd prefer to have twins. One boy and one girl; get it over with in one shot." Get it over with. As though even at a young age my perception was that having children was an obligation, something to check off my to-do list, along with every other girl.
As I transitioned from my teens into my twenties, my friends began having children — I was around kids more often. Honestly, they terrified me. I was the person handing a baby back to its parent like it was a bomb ready to explode if there was the slightest hint of unhappy behavior. They were only fun when they were clean and happy. Poop-free and drool-free. Seeing their stressed, sleep-deprived, broke(n) and frazzled parent(s) only confirmed what I already suspected, I don't want this lifestyle.
I met "the one," David, during that same time period. I was clear that I didn't want children. He was okay with that, in fact, he felt the same way. We all but shook on it. Then came Charlie, David's brother and his wife's third child. Charles Dalton Hough was born on March 10, 2007. I was 30. I held him within a few hours of him being born. My heart and ovaries melted. That experience kicked off something in those aforementioned chromosomes that I never anticipated. “I want one," I told David. "Let's get a puppy," said David.
That's how we ended up with a Great Dane, Marmalade. Adding her to our family was a great decision and she was a perfect baby pacifier, for a while. That annoying "I want one" feeling was still tugging at the edges of my heart and that biological whatever it is that makes some women go baby crazy. He was getting soft too though, at some point we were buying a baby gift for a friend or family member and came across a vintage Winnie the Pooh baby wrap that touched us both. We bought it, just in case we might need it, some day.
May 2009, I was staying at a local resort with family visiting from South Carolina, girls weekend! I realized the first night that I had forgotten my birth control at home. I called my husband to see if he could drop it by and we decided to worry about it later. Worry about it later meant we were going to sit down and have a discussion about whether or not we wanted to be parents — it would mean adjusting our long-term plans and moving to a bigger house.
Early June 2009, we met with a realtor, we looked at houses the following Saturday and had a signed and accepted offer by Tuesday — exactly a week after we met with the realtor to discuss "possibly looking at houses sometime that summer." We were doing this. We put our townhouse on the market during a time when the market was through the floor and houses weren't selling. It went on the market on a Friday and was sold by the first person that looked at it early the next week, for the full asking price. It was a strange sequence of events that were only successful due to a few key people and our specific circumstances. It was nearly effortless, and we felt it must be meant-to-be, whatever that means. It assured us that we were on the right track.
My mom sent us the first baby toy and book a few short months after we moved into the new house, both Dr. Seuss. I incessantly talked about nursery designs — David teased me that it was the only reason I wanted to have a baby. We both hoped for a girl and quickly settled on a name, Violet. Our stash of adorable baby clothes grew to include onesies adorned with ASU Sun Devils, Tigger and Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas." The Pooh wrap is still in there too. One year, two years, three years — we've now been in this house five years. We’ve been to doctors and specialists, we’ve been poked and prodded and decided in vitro fertilization and adoption weren't right for us. We had no idea we would be this couple. How did we get here? I never wanted a baby in the first place and now seeing a pair of baby shoes in a store messes me up — David too. Being this couple sucks.
We've individually mourned the loss of the child we will never be able to have. Together, it's the only thing we've never really discussed. It is what it is, right? The reality sucks so what's there to talk about? We're mourning a lifestyle we once opted out of. How did we get here? Can I turn these nagging emotions off?
Every month I'm hit with piercing pain and blinding headaches that remind me that my body is a failure. Once a month, I have a misguided glimmer of hope that things could change in an instant. It happens. It could happen. I'm armed with enough information about my body to know it most likely won't happen to me. I feel betrayed by my own body — embarrassed it can't perform its most primal function and purpose.
There was a time when people would ask "and when are you having children," and I would politely smile and say "we're not sure if we're going to do that." People were always confused by that response, reacting as though they were questioning whether or not we were allowed to make such a decision — trying to process that it was a decision we were making, intentionally.
Now when people ask, I feel compelled to tell them we want a child, but it's not happening, as if validating our intent to be normal. Something I've never cared about before. The pity in their eyes and on their faces — it makes me wish people just wouldn't ask. Yes, we're broken. We don't operate as expected but in some ways, in many ways, it's what makes us unique — as individuals and a couple. And I cherish that. I love my life, my husband, my home, my family and friends, and my job. I get to be an aunt and friend to a handful amazing little human beings through in-laws and close friends. I feel extremely fortunate.
It's taken some adjustment to get back to the mindset that we are destined to be DINKS (double-income, no kids). I've poured myself into my work, picked up a few new hobbies, we've traveled, remodeled our kitchen, we got a cat (a.k.a. pacifier #2), I ditched the kid friendly mom car and found something that's more fun to drive, and we're getting a new backyard, and it includes a pool. There's a freedom in both time and money that comes with being childless. It's bittersweet.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Simple Grilled Asparagus

In my opinion, grilled is the way to go with asparagus and it doesn't get much easier than this. We forgo proper manners in our house and eat our asparagus with our hands, french fry style.

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt 
  • pepper

Tips:

When buying asparagus, choose smaller stalks. The more thin the individual stalks are, the more tender they'll be. Thick stalks tend to be woody in texture.

Preparation

  1. Wash and trim the asparagus. You can either cut the ends off in one fell swoop with a knife or snap them one by one. The individual stalks will naturally snap at the end where the stems become tough.
  2. Heat a large pan or griddle over medium-high heat.
  3. Place the trimmed asparagus on a cookie sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper then toss to coat thoroughly.
  4. Grill until the skin beings to char and blister -- I find that using tongs is the easiest tool to use to keep the stalks moving on the pan.

Did you know?

Why Your Pee Smells Funny After Eating Asparagus

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Scream, You Scream

Final product and portion size for an average person
(not my husband).

I'll take salty over sweet any day but once in a blue moon I really want ice cream. It's typically something I crave when I should be drinking more water. I always feel guilty though, high fat, high sugar, means higher numbers on the scale. We've been following a whole foods diet lately and cutting out sugar and dairy, which I'm learning that I may be allergic to after all. This means ice cream is not only a no no but practically a never going to happen again. So what to do? Why get creative of course!

This "ice cream" has neither dairy or sugar in it but it certainly satisfies the real ice cream cravings in our house. Even my ice cream obsessed husband (his dad used to lock it up in a freezer and keep it from him and his brother, but that's another story) says that he would choose this over the real deal because this version is sans guilt.

Non-dairy Almost Ice Cream

A rich, creamy, flavorful non-dairy ice cream. This recipe serves 2, 4 or one ice cream obsessed husband.

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas which are no longer green tipped
  • 2 generous tablespoons of nut butter of your choice
  • 1/2c coconut milk
  • 1.5t vanilla
  • 4-5 coconut date rolls
  • ice

Preparation

  1. add all ingredients to the blender
  2. blend (we love our Blendtec for this)
  3. serve
  4. that's it!

Tips:

We learned that the date rolls worked better than dates as the dates didn't break down as well in the blender.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mentally Muscling Through Mussels


I live in the Sonoran Desert (a somewhat fancier way to say I live in Arizona) and no matter what George Strait says, there are no ocean front properties here. This means that my East Coast born and raised mother never included seafood on our grocery list except the occasional package of frozen fish sticks for me as a child. I can't say that I blame her, she grew up with access to great local seafood and before the days of flying in fresh seafood daily, who knows when anything in our local grocery store had last touched ocean water. Then there was my first fish tank at age nine or ten -- every time I looked at my once loved fish sticks, I pictured my new pet angel and kissing fish staring right back at me. That was the end of that. Even worse, the only canned tuna that came into our house was for the cats. I honestly thought it was cat food for most of my life.

As a result, I am somewhat seafood phobic. I've had a lot I've liked over the years and a lot that confirmed what I don't like about seafood as well. I have moments of bravery in the grocery store at times and will bring home some sort of fish or shellfish but it sometimes makes it to the trash can before a pan as I semi-avoid the neatly wrapped package in my fridge. I've made several successful fish and shellfish dishes over the years but it never seems to help me to overcome my mental block for the next attempt.

We went to Costco yesterday, for their seafood event, hoping to find and try some king crab legs but they were all sold out. What they did have though, were a few gorgeous bags of mussels. I had been told that Costco carries great mussels so we decided to go for it. There are two restaurants where we always get mussels, House of Tricks which has an amazing charred tomato and cilantro vinaigrette sauce and Caffe Boa whose white wine, butter and garlic mussels (although sadly no longer on the menu) never fail. We're currently trying to follow a whole foods for 30 days eating plan so wine is off the list. As a result, I endeavored to make my own charred tomato based sauce. We do all know that mussels are all about the sauce, right?

Chorizo Curry Mussels

Fresh mussels steamed in an Indian inspired charred tomato, onion, red pepper, garlic cream sauce.

Ingredients

for the mussels

  • 2-3 pounds fresh mussels, in their shell
  • a large bowl or sink full of cold water
  • a kitchen towel


 for the sauce

  • 4 large tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6-10 garlic cloves, depending on your garlic tolerance or preference
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and quartered
  • chives or scallions (green onions) for garnish
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2oz chorizo 
  • 1.5t garam masala
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4tsp ground coriander (cilantro seeds)
  • 3/4tsp cumin
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 1C chicken broth
  • 1C coconut milk, half and half or heavy cream (your choice)
  • 2tbsp clarified butter or ghee (not necessary if you're using heavy cream)

Tip:

allrecipes.com has a great article on cleaning and preparing fresh mussels. 

Preparation

Cleaning the Mussels

  1. place mussels directly into a sink or large bowl filled with cold water
  2. soak for 20 minutes -- you'll be surprised about the amount of sand they'll release
  3. pick through the mussels and discard any with broken shells or that are open to ensure you're the freshest mussels possible -- you may end up losing 1/4-1/3 of what you brought home so plan for this when buying
  4. as you sort through the mussels, wipe them down with a clean kitchen towel and use the towel to rip the beards off -- be sure to rip down to the hinge of the shell -- this is said to not kill the mussel
  5. keep the mussels in cold water until you're ready to drain and cook them

The Sauce

  1. place the tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, garlic and jalapeno on a baking sheet lightly coated with the olive oil
  2. lightly pour more olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. place in an oven, on the top shelf on broil for about 10-15 minutes -- keep an eye on them, as soon as everything starts to get toasted and begin to blacken, they're really to come out
    roasted vegetables after shot
  4. place the roasted veggies and any juice that may be on the baking sheet in a blender or food processor and puree.
  5. heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1T of extra virgin olive oil
  6. add chorizo and cook until cooked through and browned
  7. add the roasted vegetable puree and chicken broth to the pan, be careful as the liquid may start popping quickly, cover and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring often
  8. add the garam masala, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika and stir until well combined
  9. simmer for five more minutes, covered
  10. stir in cream of your choice, add ghee if you're using coconut milk, stir well to combine
    final sauce shot
  11. drain mussels and place in pan, it's okay to crowd the pan but do not stack them as the weight may cause the mussels on the bottom to not open
    mussels after just being placed in the pan
  12. cover the pan and check the mussels at 4 minutes, 6 minutes and 8 minutes as necessary -- most of the mussels should be open
    open mussels in sauce after cooking

To Serve

  1. use a slotted spoon to strain out the mussels into serving bowls, discarding any mussels that did not open
  2. use a ladle to pour the sauce over the mussels
  3. garnish with sliced chives or scallions
  4. be sure to provide an empty bowl at the table to discard the shells

What I'd Change Next Time:

  • I used Mexican ground chorizo this time because it's what we could find easily without any added sugar or preservatives but I would recommend Spanish chorizo links to add texture to this dish