Monday, February 14, 2011

California here I come

After a crappy day at work, one that I was able to leave behind and not bitch about to my husband, I still question the appropriateness of me being in HR.  I nearly vomited at what I had to do today.  You shouldn't feel that way if you're not saving lives and working with bodily fluids.  I don't belong here.  I made a poor decision to give up my PhD yet, and thankfully was saved from the brink by keeping one class.  But HR is not for me.  I don't know what is, that's the problem.  I wish I would have studied something "real" - like engineering, or nursing, or hell, I don't even know what a "real" profession is.  Mine feels so made up, made up by a litigious society that is eager to earn money the easy way.  I don't feel like I'm making a difference.  And I don't like it.  

Tonight, as most nights, I was so happy to come home, take off my shoes (4-inch black spike heels, now that the ice is temporarily gone - safety first, as we believe at work), and lose myself in my kitchen.  And lose myself I did.  The doorbell rang as I was tasting my dressing (bread dressing to go with roasted herb pork loin, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn - a carboholic dinner that will surely make the scale rise by 2 pounds in the morning) and watching Sex & the City (not nearly as good on cable, but still better than vulgar cartoons).  It was a friend bringing us wine, I didn't hear the doorbell, I didn't hear my husband sidle up to me, until he was two inches from me.  I am so eager to lose the sliminess of my day in HR that I blocked out everything but my cooking and wine.  Tomorrow we leave for California, well, two days away, but a couple stops on the way.  I'm ready to get out again.  I itch for travel, new experiences, new restaurants (even though tomorrow we will likely stay at our favorite Little America, which really is like Four Seasons at half the price) and eat at Squatters, which is delicious, but I do crave new restaurants.  But alas, I reserved Bouchon in Vegas for Wednesday night.  I've been dying to dine at a Thomas Keller restaurant, and had to give up reservations in Napa (also for Bouchon) because of timing and travel.  I don't know what to do with myself.  School isn't the answer, work isn't the answer - why are all my questions in life solved with cooking and wine?  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm Still Standing ...

I'm not completely withdrawn from my PhD work.  At my advisor's offer, I stayed in her class.  Dropped the two research classes and stayed with the one that would most benefit my in my career.  I've been so busy bitching about my job that I didn't realize how truly good I have it.  My days are busy, fighting fires, preventing fires, having hilariously funny but somehow productive meetings with the awesome people I work with, and at the end of the day, I look up, it's 4:00, time to go home (yes, I get up at an ungawdly hour, but I'm home by 4:30, how great is that?).  So I'm staying in one innocuous class, with an amazingly supportive advisor, who encouraged me to take what I wanted, that I had 10 years from the start of my PhD to finish. 

I am usually so goal-driven - do this in 2 years, be here in 5 years, but this has taught me some humility, patience, and gratitude.  Taking one class at a time is a great compromise.  I'm not dropping out, the door is still wide open.  I make a great salary, I do love what I do - for the most part - and I can continue my PhD at a snail's pace, which is so unlike my goal-driven persona.  But it feels great, I have to tell you.  I can still pursue cooking and wine with all my heart, and keep one toe dipped into academia, while keeping my kick ass day job, and loving my life.  My life effing rocks, I don't say that to brag or be facetious, but rather in total gratitude that like Dorothy, everything I'm searching for is in my own backyard (well, except maybe an organic garden and a water feature). 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Aufedersein, Goodbye

I'm giving up the PhD ... and therefore, this blog.  I am relieved.  I should feel like a failure, but I don't.  I played a few hands, and I can't bluff anymore, I got nuthin' ... This isn't my dream.  It only ties me to Wyoming longer than I want to be tied here.  I may return again later, but for now, I'm relieved.  I can drink wine, make dinner, read for PLEASURE again, this is okay.  A PhD won't earn me any more money.  I could make a call tomorrow, move to No Cal and nearly double my salary.  I'm giving myself a year, maybe 18 months, to get my affairs in order, and then I'm going to start the search.  There's a 4-year itch for me with jobs, I stay 4-5 years, then have to move on.  I don't want to move to Philly.  I love the excitement of the east coast, for maybe 72 hours at a time.  I love the laid back, wine-country of the west coast for life. 

This is good.  I put the 14 textbooks to the side of the living room, letting them die a quick, easy death. I cooked my heart out today, I drank far too much, and vowed that along with this decision, I would become the healthy, beautiful soul I know I am.

There are a few people I know will be slightly disappointed, but they will love me anyway.  Nothing lost. 

Is a PhD For Me?

So yesterday I had a down day for work, with only one person showing up for testing and interviewing.  I spent the afternoon by myself, the internet down, avoiding homework, and watching the Cooking Channel, waxing poetic about lovely voluptuous chefs, like Ina Garten and Paula Dean, and drinking too much wine, which contributed to a pre-happy hour happy. 

I listened to about half an hour of this week's quantitative research methods lecture (out of three hours, but having no internet makes it difficult to view things on the internet).  The instructor used a scare tactic by saying that a PhD is not for everyone, and no one would ever fault one for quitting a PhD program.  He went on to say that it's tough, no one is smart enough, just give up and live your life, basically.  But it got me to thinking, while I was listening to him drone on and on about the grim future that PhD life held for me, I looked at jobs and houses in Napa Valley, California.  I found jobs for both my husband and me, and several beautiful, but not jaw-droppingly expensive houses.  Can I really make it here for three more years?  The two and a half years to finish the PhD, and then a year to repay my obligation to my company.  Yikes.  Three more winters ... three more years of snow, wind, no fresh produce, no good restaurants.  If I quit the program now, I won't have to pay tuition for this semester, and I have only 11 months of obligation to my company to repay the Master's and the first few semesters of PhD work.  Am I strong enough to just say ENOUGH and walk away from this education??  Am I strong enough to help train other people around me to get promotions in Philly, while I stay under the same cast of characters who damage my psyche on a weekly basis?  Am I strong enough to bear the depression that living in a rural, isolated town brings to us?  I just don't know. 

It's a good dilemma to have, because it means that I have options.  Smart people do have options.  But they have to be smart about which ones they choose!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Best Things I've Ever Eating (Part 2)

As promised, I'm continuing my walk down culinary memory lane.

Craft- Atlanta - I love Tom Colicchio.  He's brilliant and un-pretentious and his restaurant reflects those sentiments.  This was a family-style restaurant that I shared with about a half dozen colleagues on a work trip.  We shared everything, and I tasted flavors that simply aren't ordinary.  The service was outstanding, the food - sublime.

Seasons 52 - Atlanta - I make it point not to eat at chain restaurants, but this was an exception.  Each restaurant in this company has their own seasonal menu, no one dish is more than 475 calories (which I don't care about anyway - obviously), it was a perfect meal.  I had a cedar-plank salmon that was so tender and flavorful.  The desserts came in small shot glasses, a couple of bites is all I need for dessert.

White Dog - Philadelphia - Organic, slow food at its best.  Salads so fresh, you'd swear they still had roots on them.  I had an olive-oil rosemary citrus-cream cake for dessert that was so savory and unique, it makes me believe in desserts again.

Firefly - Las Vegas - We had Valentine's day dinner there one year.  Every tapas dish we had was so delicious, from meatballs, frites, and sangria, this is the real deal.

Stein Erikson - Glitretind restaurant, Park City, UT - We had an hour session with a sommelier - I guessed nearly 4 out of the 6 wines (some were blends, 2 were surprises), but talking wine for an hour was bliss.  The dinner was divine.  I had a Maine Diver Sea Scallop with a brilliant Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce and wild mushrooms and couscous, then a Hawaiian white fish special, seared perfectly crisp on the outside, tender-flaky on the inside, lobster mashed potatoes (two of my favorite things in life combined!), and parsnip and carrot crisps.  One of my dining partners had a duck with a raspberry foam, which was sublime.  I rarely order dessert, but a pistachio mousse bombe with a dark cherry center and pistachio ice cream were too much to pass up, and that did not disappoint, subtley rich flavors, amazing textures, not too sweet, a perfect balance.  It was a great night with co-workers, full of deep belly laughs and friendship, amongst the white-draped Utah Wasatch mountains.  

Bistro 7, Philadelphia - Sure, several of my faves include Philly restaurants.  Our HQ is in Philly and I get the opportunity to travel there a few times a year, and have the fortune of good friends who choose amazing places for repast.  This was a BYOB, and we bought a modest bottle, despite my insistence of a really good bottle.  I had a French lentil soup, which was really more like just lentils, not as impressed, but then a salmon that was cooked to absolute perfection, meltingly tender without being mushy, in a saffron broth that soaked up the carrot, leak, and pea mixture underneath.  Then a chocolate pot de'creme with a chocolate macaroon.  I left the restaurant stuffed full of goodness. 

Zama, Philadelphia - Same trip, lunch on my own.  Sometimes I like it this way.  I had a spicy tuna roll that was beyond anything I've had before, then a beef short rib with fried potatoes, amazing. 

Okay, so this will be multi-part ... bon appetite, Top Chef is on!

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite made-up holidays ever.  Okay, so Bill Murray played a role in elevating this holiday into something meaningful, but it's a staunch reminder to keep working toward a dream, lest you wake up one day stuck in a monotonous treadmill of sheer drudgery.  I keep telling those around me that I will be severely disappointed in myself if I wake up when I'm 40 and I'm still in the same place.  Our parents did, people at our plants do it, but it's not for me.  There is so much out there for me to experience.  Doing the same thing for my entire career sounds about as exciting as having a daily enema.

Maybe I'm the problem with America.  Who knows.  Who even cares.  I have dreams for greater good, teaching at a university, going to culinary school, teaching culinary school (and teaching people to stop eating fast food and frozen meals masquerading as "diet" food), opening a restaurant, having a catering company, writing, traveling.  All so much more glamorous and meaningful than a life in HR.  I don't begrudge those who want to do that (well, I begrudge those who piss me off while doing that), but I'm meant for something different.  And once again, I'm not doing homework, but writing in this silly blog about all the great things I'm 'gonna' do, instead of actually DOING them.  But in good time.  I finished my paper early this morning with ease.  I think school is easy, it's just the motivation and reinforcement to get it done that trips me up.

On to watch Wyoming lose another basketball game ... Groundhog Day again ... but Top Chef is new tonight, I can't believe a TV show is a highlight of my day, then again, living in the bitter cold, barren, tundra of Wyoming, this happens.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Groundhog Day Eve

Hey, what do you know?  It's almost Groundhog day ... again.  And what do you know, I'm procrastinating on my Quantitative Research Methods homework ... again.  I'm not a procrastinator by nature.  I'm a work first, then play later sort of gal.  But after all this behavior science stuff at work, I can see how I'm clearly not motivated to do work or homework.  I'm motivated by a bottle of Syrah and a good idea for a fabulous dinner.  Tonight, pork with udon noodles, snow peas and onions, with a soy-ginger-garlic-rice vinegar-mirin sauce.  I nailed it.  I scaled back on the soy sauce (salty - but my palate leans - rests - on salty - screw the new FDA requirements - I don't eat processed or fast food, I'm eating soy sauce), and it was perfect.  I am excited to eat it for lunch tomorrow - as much as I despise leftovers, I think this one will translate just fine. 

Went to bed early last night, 8:00 p.m., to mitigate the 4:30 wake up that morning, and slept soundly until a wretched dream shocked me into reality around 2 a.m.  Why do I have wretched, twisted dreams?  I go to bed every night thinking of the beach, I have every room laid out in my beach house, including my playhouse, which is a kitchen below a loft office.  How can I have twisted dreams when I think consciously about such great ones??  I think I blame my job, it's turning me into a twisted soul.  I'm starting to intimidate people, which is good and bad.  But really, mostly bad, because I never set out to intimidate anyone.  Just the nature of the beast we call HR.  

The winter is brutally cold this year, minus many more degrees than I want to admit now, and it's painful.  I don't go outside, other than work, for six months of the year, is this living???  In two weeks we set off for California, every time we go, we are one step closer to finding a way to be there.  But Cali is expensive, we have expensive tastes, but our Green River salaries allow us to express those - a Cali lifestyle would involve a scaling back.  So, the winter tundra, once again, prevails, with the money, over warmth but poverty.  Well, no wonder I have twisted dreams.