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Chill Amy

November 25, 2009

Let’s talk about how I briefly contemplated just taking off and moving to Bangkok as a Plan B with no real *plan* of what I would do once I was *there.*
AMY. For Christ’s sake. YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY TO IMPLEMENT CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE.
Sit down and chill the fuck out. Wait out this foreign service thing. Save up vacation days. If you don’t end up going into the foreign service, take some time to you know, travel. Abroad. Get it out of your system.
STOP COMING UP WITH HALF-BAKED PLANS THAT INVOLVE AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD.
Chill.

A Consumer’s Promise

November 20, 2009

Hello. My name is Amy and I am a compulsive shopper.
One of my roommates commented last night as I was opening the stack of packages that had arrived in the past 48 hours, that I order more things online than anyone else he knows. Now, in my defense, two of the four packages were Christmas gifts for other people and one of the remaining two is being returned. However, the fact that I am getting defensive about it means that this is really an issue.

Here are some of my problems:
– I have amazon prime and an amazon credit card. I also live in a city where getting to Target involves a ten minute walk and a metro ride that includes a transfer (because very little in the sphere of DC is actually convenient to the Green/Yellow Line where Target is located). I’m lazy. I’ve bought things like toilet paper and condoms on amazon before. And with their 4-for-3 deal, I get a lot of my kitchen/cooking supplies there because I usually end up getting a pan or something for free. This of course, also means that I end up buying 4 things when I really only needed one. (Needed being relevant, but if I want to make that soufflé recipe I “needed” ramekins.)
– I’m bored a good 60% of the time at my office and thus have the luxury of time in front of a computer.
– I can afford it, or at least do not usually feel a great deal of financial pressure other than the vague awareness that I don’t need this much stuff and should be saving more for things that are more important to me (read: travel).

Things I’m Not Doing Wrong:
– 30% of my paycheck automatically goes into savings every month. I mean, granted, 40% of that monthly total is automatically deducted by Uncle Sam and Sallie Mae (wooo student loans), but that’s still a chunk of change every month that I’m not spending.
– I’ve stopped buying books (except for cookbooks). Mostly because there simply isn’t any room for them on my bookshelves and there isn’t any room for more bookshelves.
– By the end of this month I will have re-reached my three month survival goal in my emergency savings. (I had made that goal back in August, but almost immediately afterward I moved, met my medical insurance deductible, and went on vacation. Within a three week period.)

Conclusion:
I spend more money than I should and I don’t need as much shit as I have.

I’ve always kept a log of how much I’m spending just so I’m aware of it. But now I’ve set up my log for the month of December a little differently.
I am taxing myself 25% on all “stuff” that I purchase in the month of December. So, for every $1 I spend on “stuff,” I will earmark $0.25 to an as-of-yet-to-be-determined charity. (So, a $50 splurge at Victoria’s Secret = $12.50 towards a charity)

What Does Not Count as “Stuff”

  • groceries
  • eating out
  • Christmas presents (this is a moot point, I’m just about done w my xmas shopping)
  • travel expenses (e.g., metro, zipcar)
  • classes or educational expenses
  • medical expenses (e.g., doctor visits)
  • necessities that will be consumed during that month (e.g. toilet paper, tissues, soap)

What Does Count as “Stuff”

  • Most stuff on Target runs
  • kitchen supplies
  • books
  • clothes, shoes, etc.
  • yarn & knitting supplies
  • sex toys
  • Basically, anything that is going to sit in my room, closet, under my bed, whathaveyou – anything not covered in the “Does Not Count.”

I’m hoping that this will a.) help me earmark money for a charity this holiday season b.) help me not consume as much as I do.
But I also know that I’m going to buy some things (like socks, gods do I need socks, where do they manage to run off to?), so “a” will actually be accomplished while hopefully simultaneously hindering my spending.

Why am I telling you all this? Because if I tell people publicly, I will actually follow through on it because I will be held by the obligation of my friends looking at my disapprovingly.

Thoughts? Any suggestions for a charity (or charities)? Maybe a local one?

Narratives, Family & Soufflés

November 18, 2009

I got a few comments from random people on the internet on not worrying regarding my FSOT scores. Also, some encouraging words – so, thank you.

I submitted my personal narratives yesterday morning. I had spent all of the evening before revising each essay. The strength in my writing comes from the revisions. I know this, to not have revised them would have been foolish. Which does not quite explain why I did the bulk of my work the night before it was due, but in my defense I was actively mulling it over for most of that.
I’ve become rather attached to the idea of being a foreign service officer – the further into the process I get the more I want it – which is not actually helping the indifference I was trying to put on in order to not face crushing defeat. You know, set the bar low and you won’t be disappointed. Yet remain cautiously optimistic. I won’t know until January if I’m invited to take the Oral Assessment. Sheesh. Until then, there’s nothing I can do about actively moving towards my future except start re-learning French. Because both Plan A and Plan B require it and I might as well acquire a useful skill in purgatory. That’s right, purgatory. Anyone that knows me will agree that I’m absolutely awful at not being able to move forward. I hate treading water in life.

In a related yet different note, my father sent me a letter that arrived last night. Basically, he said “how proud I am of you for what you have done and are doing with your life.” He went on to say that it was a relief to my mother and me that I was capable of functioning independently as an adult.
This is coming from the same man who once informed fifteen year old me that he did not want me in his family any more. The same man who told eighteen year old me that he felt like a failure as a parent because I wasn’t Catholic.
Who is this man and what has he done with my father? I mean, I’ll accept it for what it is, but I’m still kind of wary. What has changed? I’m still the same person. I’m still not Catholic. I’ve always been responsible and well put together. Is it because I’m going for a government job? Because I’m dating men? Is it because he has some peers who have kids my age that are still living at home? I don’t know. It makes me sad that this letter took me so off-guard, that it makes part of me wary.
That doesn’t stop me from sticking the letter on my tack board above my desk in my bedroom.

The other news in my life all contains baking. This is not terribly surprising. I have been socializing, but my socializing has become Come over and I will bake for you, killing the compulsive-baking needs and the extroverted needs with one stone.
What I’ve Baked Recently
A Fruit Trifle* The pound cake I made from Greenspan’s Baking book (Rum Drenched Vanilla Cakes without the Rum Syrup), p. 226. The custard and fruit mixture I got from The Big Book of Breakfast, p. 329.
Tiramisu Cake from Greenspan, p. 266 (and then I remembered that I don’t actually like tiramisu. The cake is a good one though.)
Spinach & Bacon Soufflé
Parmesan & Gruyère Soufflé
Vanilla Bean Soufflé
Chocolate Soufflé

All the Soufflé recipes are from the hand out given during my Soufflé 101 course at L’Academie de Cuisine last night. Regarding soufflés, they are not nearly as complicated as they seem and dear goddess I have eaten so many of them at this point that if I eat another soufflé I might vomit. Which is too bad because I plan on making Tomato Basil Soufflé this Saturday.
I want to tinker with the basic Chocolate Soufflé recipe – add a few ingredients and such – and if it comes out a success, I’ll post the modified recipe.
Just for the record? Soufflés ALWAYS fall. That’s what they do. When they’re all pretty and puffy they’re too hot to eat. A fallen soufflé does not mean failure. They should still be served straight out of the oven, though. In that “look-don’t-touch” way. Then your guests can ooo and ahh at your cooking skillz (or, more specifically, your ability to beat egg whites until they beg for mercy), watch the little buggers deflate, then consume the airy, eggy goodness.

*I actually took pictures of this one but I haven’t uploaded them yet.

Life! and Baking! (what else is there?)

November 6, 2009

I requested the score breakdown of my FSOTs (did I mention I passed? I did. I don’t think I wrote an entry on it though) and part of me is glad that I did and the other part kind of wishes I hadn’t.
The part that is glad I did is because I passed by a pretty narrow margin (you need 154 total and I have 160.9 total) and it kind of makes me take the whole thing a little more seriously: I am not going to coast by on this one. The part that wishes I hadn’t is the part that was super confident that I could do this. I’m a big believer in confidence getting you through things. If you are confident that this is something you have in the bag, that confidence is going to work you through the stress and the nerves and the whole process in general. And now, I’m researching all these people who are better qualified than I am (e.g. they speak Chinese) who did not pass the FSOT process the first time around. The confidence is still there – in the form of I am completely confident that whatever I end up doing, once I commit myself to it, I will be fully capable of doing it well.
But I mean, shit. Like I want this, I think it would be awesome, I think I would enjoy my life as a Foreign Service Officer but it hasn’t been my life ambition. I want this career because I think it would be dynamic and meaningful. I would be directly effecting people’s lives in the consular track and yet I wouldn’t be doing the same damn thing in the same damn place – it appeals to my need to move around and my tendency to get restless every few years. The thought of doing this whole process over again is frustratingly tedious.

I’ve been tweaking the Plan B and Plan C (and rotating back and forth which is B and which is C), making sure I have all the research and ducks in a row for career alternatives if this falls through. But I’ve also started thinking about continuing to pursue the FSO track regardless – maybe going to graduate school, spending the next year lining things up to make this actually happen if it doesn’t happen this round. The thought that I might have committed to this is scary. It’s one thing to sign up for the FSOT on a sort of whim and start the process because I don’t have any better ideas and I think I’d love the career. It’s another thing to actually want it. Now that I actually want it, and want it badly enough to consider starting the process all over again if I fail, now that I’ve actually committed to it, it will be all the worse if I get knocked back to square one at any step along the way.

I had dinner and went to the Midori class (through Whole DC) with J last night. He was amused because he got the impression that it was a pretty tame class for kink standards and that I was definitely easing him in. Which is true. We had fun though, all covered in scarves like a deranged “kinky” Christmas present.
I was telling J about my Plan B and Plan C and he pointed out that he’s dated me for two months now and I’ve gone through how many possible career tracks? I haven’t really gone through them and we started dating right after I signed up for the FSOT, so it’s not as bad as all that, but yea. Part of it is that I want a dynamic life. I fully intend to be that person who has had so many career changes and life changes that my resume will look as ADD as I am (which is not, actually, technically ADD, but whatever). I’ve wanted to be a professor/academic, a lawyer, a sex therapist, a foreign service officer, an event planner, and a pastry chef. I’ve laid the groundwork for lots of those – took the GRE, am working in a law firm, took some practice LSATs, took the FSOT, made connections with other event planners, researched culinary schools, spoken with current students…
Eventually something will fall into place, I’m sure of it.

Life just kind of works that way.

Things baked recently:

  • Black bottom cupcakes with orange food dye in the cream cheese filling (for Halloween, recipe from smittenkitchen.com)
  • cauliflower and pancetta puffed crepes (from Savory Baking by Mary Cech)
  • Apple-Apple Bread Pudding (from Greenspan’s Baking)
  • Peanut butter Crisscrosses (also from Greenspan)

My favorite was by far the Apple-Apple Bread Pudding. Oh gods do I love bread pudding and this was so tasty I was kind of surprised I made it. The puffed crepes were also wicked tasty, combined with mild surprise that I actually managed to cook a dinner that tasty but they look bloody forever. That cookbook, Savory Baking? I got it through Amazon’s vine program and it might be my new favorite cookbook (not to be beaten out by Greenspan’s work). I don’t care how complicated and time consuming it is, I want to bake everything in it. That’s right. BAKE. Because simple things like a decent pasta dish and sauted veggies are beyond me but a three hour long dinner involving egg yolks and egg whites and mixing things just so is totally doable.

Recent Book Reviews:
Savory Baking by Mary Cech
All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray

Carb Overload

October 18, 2009

Yesterday I went out to my parent’s house in the ‘burbs. My father taught me how to make the bread that his Aunt taught him how to make (using loaf pans that date back to the 1930s and are very well seasoned to say the least). He’s not a very good teacher, but I think I picked up enough where at the very least my future attempts to make “Pain de Manage” (my family’s French-Canadian and my father could not quite translate “Manage” when I was like – bread of what? – and google translate is not helpful) won’t be a complete disaster. I don’t know if I have enough pent up aggression to truly knead bread like I should, but we’ll see.
I also went to Wegmans, which is like Mecca for those of us who bake and live in the city. I bought some 20 lbs of flour (99 cents for 5 lbs – one 5lb would easily be $3.50+ at any of the stores I frequent here in DC) and an excessive amount of brown sugar, regular sugar, and confectioner’s sugar. Basically, I now have a very well stocked pantry. And by pantry I mean the kitchen cart that is in my bedroom that also doubles as my dresser. Multi-purpose furniture, it’s a feature of city living.

Last night, I slept for eleven hours. Now, y’all that know me know that I usually get some five hours of sleep and that more than seven is extremely unusual for me. I can thank the allergy medicine that I took for that marathon sleep session. I can also probably thank it for the dream I had about being a vampire during the second Noah’s flood to that as well, but I usually have weird dreams (that have only gotten worse since I got on the NuvaRing), so that might not be a chemical’s fault. (Though actually, the weirdest part of that dream was not the flood or the vampires, it was the having sex with an ex girlfriend. I mean. Really.)

And if you thought spending the day baking bread was baking-intensive, today was more so. I made lemon bars, mostly for my office manager who was with me during my marathon working this past week (where I worked 32 hours out of a 38 hour period – small law firm, filing due Friday). So the lemon bars are a sort of Monday pick me up. I make these bars rather well, if I do say so myself. They’re not terribly difficult – the main ingredients being butter, sugar, eggs, and lemon juice. But they are just the right amount of lemon and just the right amount of crunch.

Shortly after that, my friend Brittany came over and we baked. Well, we started it off with some my family’s home made bread, fried and spread with nutella. We then proceeded to make the Double Apple Bundt cake on p.184 of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking and Pumpkin Lasanga (courtesy of Brittany’s brain – she didn’t follow a recipe for this one). The pumpkin lasagna was tasty and nicely spiced and I like the vague sweetness of that better than your traditional lasagna. The Double Apple Bundt Cake tastes like fall. It’s moist with a good texture and with a lot of subtle notes to it, like all of Greenspan’s recipes that I have tried. It’d make a good coffee cake – we had ours with Blue Moon’s Harvest Ale (more carbs) – but it is warm and spicy and a perfect fall recipe.

So that was my lazy Sunday. I love days like this. I mean, I love being busy – I looked at my calendar recently and realized I have all of two days free between now and the end of the month – but I love when my “busy”/”plans” are hanging out with a friend, drinking beer, and baking.

That being said, I am entering a carb coma. I’m going to roll myself into bed and read a book for awhile.

Grumpy Morning Monster!

October 15, 2009
tags: , ,

It’s been well established that I’m a morning person. I wake up at 6:30 am even when I don’t need to pretty regularly and I haven’t slept past 9am since college. It actually throws off my entire day if I sleep past 8am so I usually just don’t try.
I wake up and I am cheerful. Like, if I am sharing a bed with someone I have to consciously reign it in because most people cannot handle my level of happiness in the morning. Some lovers to the point of turning down morning blow jobs.
Do you hear that? People have turned down enthusiastic morning wake up calls. I mean, yea, it was like, 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday but that is not the principle of the matter. I am wide awake, cheerful and sexual and I want nothing more at 6:30 in the morning than to please my lover until they wake up the neighbors with their fun noises and they’d rather sleep an extra two hours. Or three. I have a hard time comprehending that, but I can restrain myself, I swear.

So yes. The fact that I am a morning person is well established. But this week, as fall has finally settled into Washington D.C. and it has been mostly rainy or almost rainy, I have been nothing but grumpy in the morning. I wake up and it is barely light out and I groggily drag my ass through my morning routine, debating whether or not the hour at the gym is really worth dealing with this clearly uncheerful morning. It has been colder than a witch’s tit in my room lately – we finally turned the heat on in the house, but with my wonderful windows and the door to the sunroom it gets drafty. When I crawl into bed it takes a good forty minutes for me to stop shivering under my down comforter and wool blanket. I’m even wearing flannel pjs and a sweater to bed (and let me tell you, I don’t usually wear my pjs for any reason other than to comfort my roommates when I’m wandering around the house).
So in the morning, my bed is the absolute warmest thing in my room and the sun is not up and it’s rainy and dreary and this has done loads of damage to my over all mood lately (other contributing factors: my period, overtime at the office, and prolonged, unintentional, celibacy).

So yes. I miss being cheerful in the morning. I miss feeling that the world smells so wonderful and that I could achieve anything I set my mind to it and that nothing could be better than being alive right now. Because for real, I feel that way every morning in the hours before 10 am. Usually. But not lately.
I miss the morning sun.

What I Want to be When I Grow Up

October 14, 2009
tags: ,

Foreign Service Officer (Consular tract)
Why I’d be good at this: Analytical and people-oriented. The “international studies” field is an interdisciplinary one that covers many of the things I’m interested in intellectually – history, culture, diplomacy. I had fun taking the test for it.
Why I want to do this: The State Department would give me a chance to use my leadership skills while still allowing me the direction of an established career. The adventure of meeting new people and experiencing new things.
Why I don’t want to do this: The people in my life right now are really important to me. I want a family. I want to own a house. I want enough stability to be able to do that and spending the next decade or so flitting around the globe in a manner out of my control possibly closes the door on that.

Event Planner
Why I’d be good at this: I’m very organized, an effective planner, and good at networking. I really enjoy researching and get a kick out of etiquette and culture. I love being behind the scenes and am generally calm during times of high stress. I love doing something that I know will make someone (or multiple someones) happy and if I’m doing my job right, I’d be doing that a lot.
Why I want to do this: Offers the adventure of meeting new people and traveling while still allows me to be use DC as my home base. Utilizes my organization and planning skills in a proactive, creative way. I have a background in art, composition, and graphic design – while I’m not an artist, those are all skills that I miss using and would use in this field. Would possible be in the form of a small business owner (eventually) and that’s something else I’ve always thought that I’d be good at.
Why I don’t want to do this: I’d have to be “on” all the time (on = putting my best face forward all the time). Dealing with people who have impossible visions for events (e.g., “I want to have a fairy tale wedding at this venue for $15,000 or less.” “But the venue costs $10,000.” “Make it happen.” “…”)

Lawyer
Why I’d be good at this: I have an analytical mind, I love research and I’ve got more than solid writing skills. I think like a lawyer in a lot of ways. I enjoy working on briefs.
Why I want to do this: The career is very flexible and usually has a solid financial result.
Why I don’t want to do this: Dealing with lawyers for the rest of my life. Going to law school.

Any thoughts on the above?

(Is it cocky of me to feel like I would be good at anything I set my mind to? That really, it’s just a matter of figuring out what I want to set my mind to?)

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