Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

I made my first Thanksgiving meal that was shared with other people! When I lived in Seattle, I did a complete Thanksgiving dinner but it started to snow that morning and my mom and brother were unable to drive up. I remember that I did okay though.

Yesterday, did the whole shebang again and it came out really well. It was so great to cook again since I haven't had the same zest for cooking lately.

Here's the menu:
Turkey with sage butter lovin'
Crockpot stuffing with sausage, mushrooms, and apples
Roasted acorn squash
Sauteed green beans with shallots
Beer bread from a Trader Joe's mix (mixed in pumpkin beer)
Fresh cranberry sauce
Steamed cauliflower
Deviled eggs & assorted olives
Chive & sour cream mashed potatoes with gravy
Tri-colored jello
Turtle Pumpkin Pie
Brownies with cherries, chocolate chips, and walnuts
Cranberry Walnut muffins

All in all, a good menu. I tried to get more fresh foods in there rather than from a can and heavily processed. It was my first time making cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries and cooking with fresh green beans. I absolutely love being able to make great food. If I had a garden then I know I would be killin' in the kitchen.

Honesty and Idealizing Situations

This is my second time doing the whole unemployed, living with mom and utterly "down" kind of phase. Happened in 2004 after completing Americorps and now, after completing my bachelors degree, I am in the same situation. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) I have a bit bigger dreams that are desperately needing to be made into reality. I am closing in on 30 here and while I don't feel that everyone needs to have accomplished certain things by a certain age, I do feel the internal clock ticking and the yearn to become someone I can be proud of.

One of the reasons that my last relationship would never have worked is because of the lack of enthusiasm for life. I want someone who is positive, inspires me to be amazing, and wants to create a life with me. That doesn't just mean family though, that means adventures, making up stupid traditions AND getting excited about them! My family now does the exact same thing for every holiday: eat at 1pm, awkwardly chat for a bit, watch a movie and some snooze on the couch, eat dessert, do dishes and everyone goes home. I want some real tradition and corniness.

"I'm looking for corny in my life." -Iris, "The Holiday"

Of course, it is ultimately all up to me. I have grand expectations for what I know is possible and have dreams of what could be. You know how someone watches movies and imagines themselves in New York City living the high life? I have opposite but, I am sure, equally romanticized thoughts about the Midwest. Those small towns with cute traditions (ok, this might be some Stars Hollow sneaking in), snow in the winter and being able to cozy up to the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a big dog (or cat). The people are real, genuine, and lack the pessimism that is becoming more commonplace these days. The air is fresh and your closest Target or Old Navy is a good hour away. Things are simpler yet more rewarding.

In order for me to make dramatic changes in my life, I am one of those people that need a reason. My general unhappiness or misery really isn't enough to make a change. If I have a great job or someone special that requires that I make a dramatic change or encourages me to be a better person then that would make me work for it that much more. I think this is common for many people. I can think of friends that work so hard for a better life for their children and I wonder if they would do it for themselves if they were still single. Everyone seems to have such different motivators in life that it is good to recognize what you might need in order to be that person you have always dreamed of.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why Thank You Free Will Astrology

Week of November 19th

Aries (March 21-April 19)
"A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. My wish for you, Aries, is that you will have many such days in the coming weeks. In fact, I hope that you will be blessed over and over again with the hair-raising thrill of having your imagination pricked, causing it to half-blossom, half-explode. To get the most out of the fantastic possibilities, set aside any tendency you might have to be a know-it-all, and instead open up your heart's mind and your mind's heart as wide and deep as they will go.

Monday, November 9, 2009

No Chocolate Allowed

I once thought about giving up chocolate for Lent. Although I am not religious, it is a popular thing for people to "attempt" to give up something for that period of time. Usually it should be something difficult to deal without. After an especially indulgent treat from Pix Patisserie a few months ago, I realized that I have very little self control when it comes to dessert and specifically chocolate items. I have always had a sweet tooth and have developed the habit of having a sweet treat after meals or when that time of the month hits. After having quite the chocolate hangover the next day, I decided that I would give up chocolate until a) I find a job b) end of the year c)my 29th birthday or d)whenever I feel like it.

I told many friends about this and received the same response of "Why?". All I could say now after being off the stuff for over a month is that it is actually kind of nice. Weird, I know. Never thought I could even do it but it has been incredibly easy.

What I have learned?

Less temptation to impulse buy. Imagine you are at the check out counter and craving some candy. Look over to your right and see the "wall" of last minute impulse buying. 90% of the candy there is going to have chocolate in it or around it. I rarely have the craving for skittles, airheads, or starburst so that is never a problem. Now I don't even look at the candy because I know that there is nothing there for me. Same goes for any candy, cookies, ice cream or other treats. I won't reach for the Oreos even if they are on sale that week.

Have to think outside the traditional options when wanting special treats.
I realized that my favorite desserts are actually non-chocolate ones. Apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. Strawberry milkshakes. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yes, these aren't healthier options but in much rarer form than chocolate cake, brownies and chocolate chip cookies are. I indulged in vanilla meringues from Trader Joe's last week and they are very much a satisfying treat.

More awareness of eating said treats and being able to enjoy them more. It's the old adage of eat in moderation. When you can eat everything, sometimes we don't even think about what we are eating or enjoy it. If we can't eat gluten then you are going to be much more aware of what you eat, ingredients and the quality of the product. For example, a friend of mine had mini chocolate donuts at her house. Normally, I would have had two or three without thinking about quality or nutrition or anything. Because they were chocolate, I didn't have a second thought about them. They would have been a instant gratification but nothing more. I have been able to explore beyond my traditional choices and see if there are other flavors I prefer more. I like coffee ice cream and things with honey in them. I like fall flavors like pumpkin, apples, and cinnamon.

Really, it's the little things.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I learned from my last relationship

“If you love somebody and you break-up…where does the love go?- Carrie, SATC
1. I am much more open minded than I thought.
2. I play devil’s advocate to get my opinions heard and help people see the other side of the argument.
3. I know all about rugby now and have a greater respect for it.
4. I taught myself how to cook meat and other unfamiliar things that I used to be afraid of.
5. I don’t need fancy things to be happy. I am simple person with simple pleasures.
6. I do actually need alone time on occasion.
7. I am independent and take pride in the fact that I can handle things on my own. I know how to do things because I figured them out on my own.
8. I know the inner workings of Portland much better. I know the short cuts, the streets with the best thrift stores, various locations of Trader Joe’s, and how to better prepare myself to not get lost. I also carry a map with me in the car now.
9. I am a problem solver and a teacher.
10. A relationship is a partnership. Not dependent. Just supportive. Constant state of growth and learning. HUMOR. Communication. Patience. Luck.

As we move through our lives, we meet people, we leave people, and we miss people. They will always leave an imprint on our souls in some way. Some are not immediately positive but end up shaping you into the person you become. Others are positive and from that you will know you are loved.

How to be Unemployed

Obviously, not a huge struggle these days to be out of work. As the holidays approach, I imagine people will find being unemployed even harder, especially since a lot of stores are not able to hire as many seasonal helpers like they did in the past.

Being that I am in this situation right now, I have found some basics of being unemployed:

1. Look for a job…
…but never get hired. This is not necessarily under your control unless you like interviewing for fun (weirdo) but unless you have a sugar momma/daddy or a tremendous savings, it’s what you have to do. I have the bonus right now of having a small savings so I can search for jobs that will make me the least miserable but I know how lucky I am. Doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly difficult but we have to roll with the punches sometimes.

2. Don’t get down on yourself

Much, much easier said than done but you must be realistic: It’s a tough economy and you are in competition with tens, possibly hundreds, of people for one single job. I have repeatedly been told that employers received overwhelming responses to their job postings. Sometimes, it is several hundred for a job that is nothing more than an hourly wage and no benefits. However, this is not necessarily a reflection on your and your skills but just the times that we are in. We can be thankful to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Especially luck if you have people to support you.

3. Improve yourself & your resume

Weekend classes and seminars can be a tremendous help to not only your resume but also your own self-esteem. For between $50-60 (average), you can take a class in business or computers and then be even more ready to take on a new computer program or to better fulfill a position that you are in search for. If you are changing professions then this can be especially helpful because it shows employers that you are committed to that line of work and your future in it.

4. Figure out things to do by yourself
It’s likely that your friends have jobs during the week so it’s important to look for cheap and free things to shake up your ho-hum week of applying for jobs and stressing. Obviously, you may need to go through a few dollars here or there but I figure it is worth it to keep your sanity. My favorites are going super, super thrift shopping (i.e. super cheap, usually no more than $5 per visit), the $3 movie theaters, crafting with supplies I already have (Christmas IS just around the corner), happy hours (cheaper than McDonald’s), walking in the leaves, taking pictures and people watching (always priceless and really entertaining).

5. Do the things you didn’t have time to do before…
…ya know, like when you actually HAD a job. That list that has never been completed because you were too tired, busy, or had more important things to do? Here is the time! Backup files on your computer, organize important files, clean out your car, defuzz your sweaters, refinish that chair in the garage.
It’s time.

6. Volunteer!
Interest in volunteering has risen greatly in the past year. Best thing to do when you are struggling is to help someone who is worse off than you are. I am planning to volunteer at the Oregon Humane Society and I know that no matter how bad my day is, kitten kisses and wagging tails will help. An added bonus for volunteering is that it can help with your resume! If you enjoy computers then volunteer at a non-profit group like Free Geek. If you want to work with kids then volunteer in the classroom or at an afterschool center.

7. Hidden talents
Things that DON’T go on a resume. Scope out coupons or reuse centers for cheap supplies for knitting, upholstery or household projects. Some stores, community centers, and schools offer free or low cost workshops for learning new skills as well. Take advantage! It can’t hurt to do a little research and to see what is out there.

Everyone’s situation and resources are different but there are things that you can do to make sure that life is enjoyable while we are all going through this rough time. Even if you are employed, these are great tips to shaking up life a bit!