Thursday, November 29, 2012

From back in February 2011, after the Great Blizzard

Since I last posted, I have:
My landlord cleaned this. Thanks!
Walked through an empty city after a blizzard, where many responsible employers allowed us an extra day off:

My street. Before they plowed.

Diversey Harbor. You can see the tow trucks on LSD in the background.

Otherwise known as Lake Shore Drive. On a normal day.
Dug my car out, but at least I wasn't on the street!

My garage. Under the building, but open. Clearly

Good thing I put those wipers up.

The back wheels were hiding... And the trunk too...

Glad I don't pay for 'covered' parking

Took me an hour to clean just around and on my car. 
Bribed my co-workers for doing their job with oatmeal raisin cookies:

 Made my own frozen berries:

Didn't have room in my freezer for a bigger tray. They came apart just fine!

Cooked and cooked:

Tofu. And yogurt. Because didn't measure the garlic chili sauce. Whoops!

The beginnings of Filipino Adobo Chicken

German pancake
 Spent a wonderful afternoon at HomeGoods and TJMaxx on my way home from the gym:
2 9-in cake pans, 3-piece mise en place bowls, orange teapot, turquoisebowl (sticker: "not for food"), marble,8x8 pan, Le Creuset: 10 1/4 rectangle & 9 1/4 square, 2 Bormioli Rocco glass storage jars: LOVE IT

Participated in Restaurant Week. Twice!

Cute bartender. Awesome Cocktails. before Visiting French Vietnam: grilled sesame beef, Chilean sea bass, mango sundae.
Laughing my butt off while drinking half a bottle of wine while trying the $33 prie fixe: actually liked the oysters (baked), ate half the chicken, and amazing ice cream with chocolate-espresso cake .
Will definitely go back here again, for a special occasion, otherwise a little out of my price range!

A New Normal

This year is all about the new:
Taken from the driver's side, on the highway. Thank goodness for mostly empty roads. It's beautiful up there!
I went on a wine weekend to Michigan. Newish: wanting to drink. New: vacation with no family members. Never done that before. How old am I?
Newish: back at the high school level. New: an alternative high school
Newish: unexpectedly on my own again. this one still bruises.
New: Going after what I really want. If not now, then when? This is the time. This includes: standing in line for hours to meet Smitten Kitchen! Unless she's good at faking that nice personality for more than 5 hours at a time (and I was in the middle group at Book Cellar in Chicago), she really is as awesome as she comes off in her blog.

I've been working at the alternative high school in my district now for three months. So far, I have learned:
  • a whole lot more than I ever wanted to know about illegal drugs (omg is ecstasy dangerous. ask me about it. it's fascinating. and sad)
  • lots of new slang
  • high school students make me more art than I ever received at elementary
  • that a closed door doesn't mean anything to persistent teenagers
  • that a locked office door doesn't stop clever, persistent teenagers
  • teenagers use tears as manipulation just as much as my elementary kids
  • no matter how many times teenagers tell you not to treat them like kindergartners, they will continue to act more immature than my former elementary students
  • standing between two screaming students does not actually stop them from shouting at each other
  • it's flattering to be referred to as "the hot psychologist" and have kids estimate your age as anywhere between 18-24, when you're actually 30 turning 31
  • watching teenagers make decisions is fascinating
  • it's easier to be stylish and wear accessories when you're not worried a kid will tear it out off in a fit of rage
  • there is such a thing as "teaming" in schools
  • co-workers are awesome comic relief
  • you have to want to be there every day
  • many of my students are brilliant - and clearly would have benefited from being in a gifted program, which they were most likely never expected to be in because of early behaviors
  • when a student believes you care, they will defend your honor when another student says something rude about you
  • as much as I miss the sweets from my last three years, teenagers are where I belong
  • no matter how bad my day is going, how many students have told me they hate me for  asking them to challenge their pattern of behaviors, there is always another student that chooses to talk to me for help
  • many teenagers love conspiracy theories (or maybe that's just in this particular crowd)
  • that when relationships with students that appear beyond repair, such as when they tell you they hate you, you're terrible at your job, and you should go back to college to learn more, or when they call you the c-word in a language not their own, because blaming you is easier and feels better than accepting responsibility, if you have put in the up-front work of respect and caring, they come back to your office and re-establish rapport.

At least I hope that one comes true for one particular student today whom I had to inform that I talked to their PO. I don't know that I even knew that acronym, or ever really thought about the acronym for police officer before this year. But I definitely do now. Turns out, they're really nice. And really good at their jobs. Thank goodness for them, for caring, for seeing through the BS, and for seeing the whole child.
I hate these ethical quandaries: will reporting to someone that harm is happening to a student damage my relationship with the student? 
More than once when I've had to call DCFS to report abuse, it has damaged my relationship with the student. At the high school level on my internship, because the student felt I had broken their trust despite my explanation, and the year ended before we had enough time to repair the relationship. At the elementary level, it was due to the parent being so furious, that they cut off access to their child. That was really sad - because the family also disappeared after that. I hope they're okay. Most other times, the family has been grateful that I cared or understood that it was my responsibility to do so, and the child has understood, if not appreciative.
Before I spoke to the PO, for whom I did not know yet I would have a release to talk to, I hashed it out with my social worker. I questioned if the student's behavior truly counted as self-harm: attempting to manipulate the system so he would not have to drug test so he could continue abusing marijuana multiple times a day. He kept reporting that he wanted to quit, and drug testing would motivate him to do so, but he said he would try to talk his PO into cancelling that, since the crime (which I did not know what it was) was not drug-related. Having known him now for three months, and seen his skill with words, particularly his skill at never ever letting an issue go until he had his way, I debated if that is considered self-harm.
The PO was awesome. She already had an excellent read on the student, and I really had little to add. The student did not view this conversation that way - he viewed it as a break in the trust relationship. Which I understood, and accepted the natural anger that comes along with that, and the statements that he would never share anything again with me.
What concerned me more, throughout the day, was how vindictive he became as he perseverated. He walked out of my office mad, but not furious. By the time he showed up to my classroom two hours later, he was glaring daggers at me. Another hour later, I had students reporting to me that he was telling them he was going to sue me and get me fired for illegally talking to his PO.
While I know I had a release (as did he, since I told him), and feel what I did was ethically right, I was concerned about potential damage his anger was doing to my relationships with other students, or, since he has the district on speed-dial, that he would draw someone in there, and this would become a much bigger issue than it was. Or, was he going to take the vindictiveness to a whole new level that I hate to even imagine?
I consulted again with my social worker, as he has been through this several times over the last few years, and he was sure the student would come around, given time, but I asked my social worker to speak with him, if only to give him space to vent and feel listened to, and waited by the door at the end of the day, like I always do. I said bye to the student, as I do to every student, and he responded with "bye."

Here's what gives me hope: he put away his papers in class when I asked him to, he toned down the vindictive thoughts after speaking with the social worker, and he responded, without swears or a glare, when I said "bye."

I will miss this kid dropping in my office until he decides to speak with me again. But I also think this was an important lesson: one, when you break a law and you're in school, the system is around you 24/7 and there is no getting away with anything; and two, that while my office is a safe space, it does not mean I am going to condone your behaviors that prevent you from becoming a healthy, successful adult. Caring means making things a little uncomfortable. Or very uncomfortable, as I learned today.

On the other hand, I had a new student to my office today - I've said hello to him, but we've never really spoken before. He was further along the road, had actually crossed the bridge to taking responsibility for his past choices, and was looking to develop a better future. Those are always refreshing conversations.

Do people refer to Oxy-contin as "synthetic heroin" to make it sound more dangerous? Cooler? Kids these days. How the hell did heroin stop being a scary drug? Why is it no longer one that automatically means you have a major problem? I can't believe this is the way I talk now...

I am so glad I am not a kid today -  I really think they have it harder.

But I left school in a rough mood - I take incidents like this far too personally. I have become far too entrenched, working in one building only for the first time in years. On top of that, my congestion is wearing me out, and I can't exercise. Which makes me fear I'm going to go back to the year where I couldn't get rid of it, and I couldn't get better, and I put on weight, and I felt tired all the time, and I missed exercise and running so much. Then on the longer drive home, since I left work a little late, I started thinking, when I couldn't reach any of my social worker or psych friends, I wish I had a boyfriend or husband to share this with. Which led to tears over missing what-might-have-been with M. Even though I actually know the only people who understand are the ones I called. Lonely is lonely though.

Which led to an evening of this after a brief laze on the couch:

Opened the bottle of Michigan wine - all on my own!
Hulu. Wine. Stir-fry from a Paleo book I borrowed from my sister. And (totally non-Paleo, but desperately needed to make me even eat any food) TJ's triple ginger cookies. Seriously addictive.

M would be so proud of my developing love of alcohol. I might even have my own go-to drink, something he'd been trying to get me to have for years. Too bad he didn't stick around to appreciate it.

And the one that told me I'm terrible at my job? She relented after I stuck it out in the conversation to tell me "you're not terrible, really, I was just mad."
And the one who called me the c-word and stalked me out of another classroom to scream at me? He just decorated my office with cut-out snowflakes, which inspired other students to make me ones too. Brings a smile to my face every time I walk in my office door.

Life is good!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Asian Noodle Salad

Oh. So spicy. I need to be more careful with my chili sauce - I think I accidentally put in double the amount. I could have sworn I had garlic-chili sauce, but it's not what the label said, even in the ingredients, so I just minced my own.

My fingers burn. It is winter so my hands are really dry. I didn't really think through using lotion all day before cooking this.

I watched Kings of Pastry while I made this. Those guys are amazing.

I was looking at some design books I had at my parents house and I started daydreaming. Went further to sketching out what I want my apartment to look like. The disorganization and stuff all over the floors and corners is driving me nuts when I come home. So Ikea it was. I really like the Expedia, 4x4. But I drive a red rabbit, so that meant I had to buy two small ones, which I actually like better side-by-side.
oh my goodness my arms hurt trying to carry those from the garage to the front door! When I got up to my floor, I just dragged the boxes. Clearly I need to lift in addition to yoga sculpt on Mondays.

yum. I want more. I think I'll do tofu for the leftovers - although I could bring this cold to school for lunch. mmm.

Now I want cake! darn pastry chefs making everything look so good!

Asian Noodle Salad
adapted from Epicurious Bon Appetit 2009

1 package rice stick noodles (maifun)
4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (2 limes)
3 tablespoons fish sauce 
4 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound peeled deveined cooked medium shrimp
1 cup thinly sliced Japanese cucumbers or Persian cucumbers
1 8-ounce package sugar snap peas, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups) - can find frozen at ethnic groceries
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves

Cook noodles in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Using scissors, cut noodles into thirds. Do this, or you feel like you are choking each bite you take.

Whisk lime juice, fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Place shrimp in medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons dressing; toss to coat. My shrimp was uncooked - I marinated in a little of the sauce and then cooked until pink.

Divide noodles among bowls. Top with cucumber slices and all remaining ingredients. Spoon shrimp with dressing over, and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Rest of February

Since I last posted, I have:
Walked through an empty city after the blizzard
My landlord cleaned this - thank you!

Can you spot the street?

Path along Diversey Harbor

Diversey Harbor. You can see the tow trucks on LSD way back there.

Dug my car out:

Entrance to parking underneath my building.

Good thing I put the wipers up

My back wheels and trunk were hiding...

Took me an hour to dig out - at least it was sunny!

That white car has 3 inches of dust underneath the snow. I have never seen it not there - I wonder if it even works anymore. And who owns it.
 Thanked the second grade team for doing their job:
Made my own frozen berries

Didn't have room in my freezer for a bigger tray. 

Screw IQF - they came apart just fine!

Cooked and cooked:

Beginnings of Filipino Adobo Chicken

German pancake


Tofu. And yogurt. because I didn't measure the garlic chili sauce. Whoops!
Stopped by HomeGoods and TJMaxx on my way home from the gym:
2 9-in cake pans, mise en place bowls, orange teapot, turquoise bowl (tag: "not for food"), marble, 8x8 pan, Le Creuset: 10 1/4 rectangle & 9 1/4 square, 2 Bormioli Rocco glass storage jars: just over $100. Awesome.
Participated in Restaurant Week. Twice!
Cute bartender: awesome cocktails, before visiting French Vietnam: grilled beef tenderloin strips, Chilean sea bass, mango sundae.
Laughing while drinking half a bottle of wine: baked oysters, chicken breast with mole, vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate-espresso cake
Will definitely go back here again, for a special occasion.

What I've learned:
Friends make good food even better.
Three thunderstorms in Februrary is a beautiful sound of an incoming spring.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Internship, First Try

I neither had the time availability nor the interest in completing my internship at a restaurant. Unless it would have been working under a pastry chef. But even that, it wasn't really my interest.
What I was interested in was combining my interests of food and psychology, preferably in a way that helps others. There were two options for this: a non-profit baking company that was aligned with a church to train homeless people how to bake (and job-skills, of course), and a cooking program through CPS. I couldn't do the high school program because, well, I work during the day.
So I talked to the baking company. I'd link, but there's this thing on their website that says you can't link to it without talking to them, and, as you'll see, things didn't really go so well that I would want to link to them.
The purpose of the company was to put a group of homeless people (about 6-8) through courses on sanitation, baking, and job skills, and then they would work in the kitchen, under the guidance of two lead bakers, who had years of experience working in restaurants and hotels. The company is a collaboration between a really talented pastry chef who worked for years in Florida and a church ministry. They sold their baked goods to companies in Chicago - particularly breakfast items that were delivered daily and baked goods for special occasions.
I tried to start my internship early - with the permission of my program. I was trying to bank the bulk of my hours over my winter break, since the company worked only some days in the evenings and weekends. 
I accidentally asked the lead baker if she was one of the students - oops. See, this is where introductions would have been helpful.
We had a set schedule that would have allowed this to work, but then the manager decided they should stop accepting orders during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Which was a business choice, but did not exactly work well for me.
While the bakers and students worked hard, I couldn't quite figure out what the other people did - there was the person who ran the classes, but there were multiple weeks between groups, and I couldn't figure out what else she did. She was really nice to talk to, though.
And then there was the manager - I think she created the recipes, but it appeared that every time I was there, she spent those hours (and sometimes I was there for at least 6 hours) just talking in her office with someone else - I think he was in charge of selling the products and managing customers. I could have missed what else they did, but it appeared that they had more people working there than were needed. Then again, it was the end of December, and they didn't have a ton of clients.
Somehow, their computer program that multiplied the recipes didn't work properly - they wouldn't come out the same as the single batches, which they are supposed to. That isn't good for business.
The snow didn't help. While that storm was nowhere near as bad as the one we had just last week, it was enough that they sent us home early. But I didn't get to leave for awhile since we were on a side street and my car's wheels spun and spun no matter the amount of salt I put around the tires. Luckily, a chef from a catering company down the street, who was much stronger than me, was able to push me out after a few tries. That was not fun!
Then the manager called me in for a photo shoot for the baked goods for their website. I made it through the snow, and she didn't really explain how much shortening I was supposed to put in the ganache to make it hold under the camera lights. So I kept having to put more in. But then it didn't even matter because the photographer couldn't get there due to the snow. Darn it. More hours that did not happen.
Next I had to go back to my actual job. And I started to look at my calendar - when could I call in sick? Did we have any days off? Looking at the number of hours I still had to complete, I just could not figure out how I could make it work without putting my school psychologist career in jeopardy. And I went through this huge debate in my head - why did it even matter if I completed it? I wasn't planning on becoming a chef, so did it matter if I graduated the program? Well, if you know my family, it mattered. We're not big on quitting.
So I hunted down some help at the culinary school - turns out, they don't advertise it, but if you do well in the program, such as be on the honor roll like I was, they'll let you complete the internship in their in-house cafe. I had to meet with the head of program, but she approved me, and I called to set up an appointment with the manager of the non-profit.
I made the appointment. She didn't show, and wouldn't return my calls. I left a message with the minister, who was the only person in that day, and he was really nice. I would have liked to speak to the manager though. It just felt wrong to quit that way, even if they weren't paying me.
Then again, writing this two years later, and you all having read the post about how I ended up quitting that high school job in a not-so-great way either, that this is clearly something I need to grow up about already...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blog Thoughts

So, in theory, I love the idea of a blog. I love to write and think, think and write. And I love opportunities to be creative.

At the same time, I'm a pretty private person. Not if you're my close friend or family, but to everyone else. co-workers know pretty little about my life. I don't want 15 minutes of fame or everyone in the world to have a chance to learn details about my life.

But, that's kind of what a blog is - it's on the internet and open to the world.

Good thing nobody really reads this and I have a day job that I live far away from so I'm gone 14-16 hours a day and don't have time to blog on a regular basis

I have been cooking and love to share. But Blogger is kind of stupidly set up and makes it difficult to upload and move photos within the text. Okay, now I saw they updated editing materials. But, Google, get your act together because there are essential things one should be able to do that I can't (see below).

So, I'm going to try something. First, I'm going to begin posting again. Which means I should probably take more photos of things I cook. And then, I'll share that I do this with people.

I might even share my name.


That would mean people could find me. If anyone were interested.

So, to start, this has been my cooking list for the past few months. I am not allowed to buy a new cookbook unless I keep doing actually cooking from them. I'm finding I'm not interested in some recipes I've collected over the years, but I'm also discovering some gems, and that's great!

Okay. See, blogger, what the hell? I should be able to copy and paste, especially from a google doc, which you. also. own. I figured out how to copy and paste, but seriously, blogger, a little annoying of a process. And, since you have to copy and paste into Edit HTML, all my links for the paste disappeared. Booooo Blogger.

List will come. Once I get over being annoyed at Blogger find the time to do all the links over in my list. And, no, I will  not be using the snow day for that - that is going towards cooking and baking for a team that did their job on time and music and movies.

oh, yeah, and going down to the lake to see the waves and what the snowstorm did. Fun!

Because travel is always worth a half-day's docked pay

Took my second annual trip to San Francisco this year to visit my sister Suzan. Beautiful weather, fun times!
This is what happens her friend Karo is a fabulous pastry chef:
So sad I could not take the rest home with me on the plane!

And her lifelong best friend, Pegs, bought me these:
Also wished I could take these home - so beautiful and smelled amazing!

Taking advantage of warm November weather, we took in the view from a big bridge: We walked among trees.

And found an elf who just did not want to leave.

Then we took a sunset cruise to Sausalito.

A bookstore sucked us in and I bought the fattest copy of War and Peace I could find (and finally finished it in the beginning of January).

And Sunday morning we visited Pegs and watched the Bears game (near) the Marina.
Next year: we hit the vineyards.

Gosh I miss the sun given this is what we are currently living in:
(credit: Chicago Tribune)

(credit: NASA)

P.S. Did you know thunder can come with a snowstorm? I didn't but it's happening right now!

Until next year, SF.