The Best Laid Plans…..

I have been in charge of planning an Annual Summit for leaders of an organization for the last couple of years.  For the one in April 2015, I’d spent over 6 months working with committees, coordinating with the venue, planning the meals, entertainment, awards presentations, sending invitations and working on the agenda of what was going to be a great 4 day meeting.

And then I didn’t get to go.

Turns out, I needed some surgery.  My husband thought maybe I should try to talk them into scheduling it after the conference, but I figured that if we are taught not to fight with our hairdressers since they will be cutting our hair, the same rule should go double with our surgeons.

I sent carefully labeled packages, detailed check lists and had a few phone conversations coordinating as much as possible, and the conference went off very well.  I haven’t decided if that is a good thing (Yay, it went well) or a bad thing (Boo, I am expendable). I’m taking it as a good thing.

I’m three almost weeks post surgery. Though I’m recovering well, i would not have had much luck with work, so I am glad I have a few more weeks off.

Hello, Gougères, Where Have You Been All My Life?

We got an invitation to a wine dinner in California, but we were not going to be anywhere near California at that time and we didn’t want to pony up the cash to attend. (Side note–is it called an invitation if you are paying to attend?) But the menu looked intriguing and one thing stuck out. They were having Truffled Gougères. I had never heard of them, so I Googled them.

Baked cheesy dough.

How could that be bad?

I was having a party soon, so I pulled up a recipe (Alain Ducasse’s Recipe to be specific) and tried them, since I’m at least astute enough not to make a new recipe for a party without a pre-party trial.

And my taste buds said “Yay”.

Philip tasted them. More Yay!

These were a definite winner. Sort of like a savory cream puff, little hollow cheesy balls that people loved as an appetizer.  Easy to make, tasty, a traditional tidbit with wine, adaptable and wowed the crowd. While we used Gruyere cheese, which I believe is traditional, I have read several recipes that say you can switch flavorful cheeses, so I’m looking at trying it with a blue cheese and with a sharp cheddar. And I haven’t even begun thinking of filling ideas.

So, have you had these, and why didn’t you tell me about them?

New Rule! New Rule!

I used to have one rule that I’ve shared from time to time. That is, no one should spend more than 5 minutes a day looking into a magnifying mirror. Five minutes a day is enough time to put on your make-up, keep the brows plucked, for a man to shave, whatever. Longer than that and you end up spending your time finding flaws. No one needs to spend too much time looking for tiny flaws using a 10X magnifier. No matter your age, you don’t need to dwell on blemishes or wrinkles for too long. We all have enough reason to be self-conscious without finding things too small to see with the naked eye.

This week, I have another life rule.

No one over 50 should ever look at a life expectancy chart.

I looked at one the other day, originally just to research something– then I checked out my age and how many years the chart said people my age have left, on average.

Damn!

Not as many as I’d expected or hoped!

I would have been happier not knowing! But, after my initial horror, I got to thinking. First off, I should get my checkups, as that will help prevent my time left from dwindling too fast. Secondly, I need to get on with the things I want to do but have put off. Thirdly, I need to ignore this and assume that since many of my relatives had very long lives, that I will too—so maybe I’ll go longer than “average.”

But, I will stand by my new addition to things never to do.

Don’t spend too much time looking in magnifying mirrors at any age and don’t look at life expectancy charts after 50.

Some things can’t be unseen!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Start Over

This morning, after being away from the office since December 23, I planned to hit the ground running as I started my work year. I got up this morning at 3:30 AM, to make an airport run with Philip, then go in early to work. We were out of the house by 4:15, so we beat rush hour and were happy that the roads were dry and clear.  It was very cold–about 4 degrees F, but the heater kept us toasty, we had coffee in our go cups and we felt like we were starting the new year in a great way.

I dropped Philip off and headed back toward the office.  Still, not a lot of traffic, I am within sight of my office by 6 AM, and Philip calls to let me know he has boarded and his flight should be leaving on time, when i realize I left my laptop at home.

I had put it next to the door to the garage, but knew last night even as I was putting it there I should have put it in the vehicle.  It was just so cold in the garage I didn’t know if it would hurt the computer.

This is what comes of taking so much time off! My habits are off and I’m out of practice at getting out of the house with everything I need.

It isn’t a tragedy–it isn’t as if I was the person boarding the jet–and I was only a little aggravated as I drove home then back to the office. I arrived about  a quarter til 7–after 2.5 hours ion the road. Somehow, it felt like I should have made it further than 15 miles from home after that much driving.

I still got in early enough to get several tasks marked off my list  before people started arriving, so I did get my head start on the new year, just not as much as I’d hoped.

And I have to remind myself — there is a lot more year to come.

On the Road Again!

I’m on the road again.
We’re drivng this time— 3 states, 5 cities, 2 weeks and countless public restrooms.
I have long joked that apparently my purpose in life is to visit every airport restroom in the USA—which has had its share of yucky moments, but that pales in comparison to the sense of adventure one feels when opening the door of a public restroom in an fast food restaurant, a gas station or rural convenience store.
It is like the final bit from the old game show—What lies behind the door—relief or angst?
I’ve had pleasant surprises—clean as a clean can be restrooms in run down convenience stores in the middle of nowhere or my favorite, sparkling public restrooms that smell of bleach. I’ve had some horror stories, such as one in Mississippi a few years ago that didn’t have a door between the restroom itself and the rest of the store, though most of the stalls had doors.
But I digress. While the cleaning habits of the store or restaurant management plays a large role in how good or horrific a public restroom experience may be it is the people who used the facilities before you who make the biggest difference. To this group of strangers I have a question.

Were You Born In a Barn?

Seriously! On what planet is the way you leave a restroom acceptable?
And if you are not one of these people, you know who you are, and you may join me in my irritation.
I have a short list of rules that I think we should put into place. We could even vote on them, if needed. The problem is, when people fail to follow these rules, it is the next person in line who pays the price.

Rule Number 1–Stop peeing on the seat.
I stopped at a a chain restaurant yesterday and made my “I’ve been in the car drinking coffee for 4 hours” run into the restroom— and it was wonderfully clean when I walked in and it was clean and dry when I left.
An hour later, I made my “better go before I get then car for another 4 hours” stop and went to the same stall. This time it had pee all over the seat. Seriously ladies, unless you can levitate and hit the mark, please stop this squat, aim and miss practice. This was a sparkling clean restroom, it had seat liners in each stall which are useless because someone PEED ON THE SEAT.
If you make a mess of the seat—and by mess I mean any bodily emission of any kind—clean it up before you leave. There is toilet paper right there, wipe up after yourself. Or be defined as nasty.

Rule Number 2— Flush the damn toilet.
Flush toilets are one of the best inventions in the history of the world, so use them. I don’t care if you “let the yellow mellow” at home all that does in public restrooms is mess with the plumbing by ending up with too much toilet paper to flush and eventual clogs. And make sure the toilet flushes before you leave the stall, Self-flushing toilets don’t always self-flush, but there is always a button to do it yourself. If one flush doesn’t do it, do a second, but make sure whatever you left in the toilet is gone before you leave the cubicle. View it as you would camping in a pristine wilderness… leave no evidence of your visit.

If everyone did just these two things, public restrooms would immediately improve on so many levels.

Cry Me a River

I like caramelized onions and onion jams and other savory condiments, but making caramelized onions always seemed like a lot of work for a little payoff. Then I had an “Aha!” moment and Googled “Crock pot Caramelized Onions” and hit the jackpot.There were dozens of pages with more or less the same recipe (if one can call what is involved a recipe). And I’m going to offer you the quick and dirty on a tasty tidbit that is easy to make and goes with many things.

My version requires very little – Onions, of course, a little salt, a little oil (your choice—could be butter could be olive oil, could be Wesson—you decide) and, if you want, a little balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar.

I use as many onions as my crock pot will hold, usually between 3 and 4 lbs. I use about a half teaspoon of salt, but you can adjust for taste(we just don’t use much salt for various reasons). I use a tablespoon or so of oil or butter or a combination. Some recipes call for up to half a cup of oil, but I have not gone with that much—though really, more butter usually doesn’t hurt anything.
Peel the onions, slice them thin (I’ve just used a sharp knife (cried more)  and I’ve used a mandolin (cried less)—you could use a food processor if you prefer) pile them into the crock pot.

Add the salt and oil, toss a little put the lid on and cook all day while you are at work, or all night while you are in bed—10 hours on low works for me, but if you have a fast crock pot, maybe a little less time.

Then, check out your onions. They will be cooked down and yummy. I usually will stir in a little balsamic vinegar (a spoonful you choose the size of spoon ; 0) and maybe a soup spoon full of brown sugar.  I put the lid askew so steam can escape, and cook them down some more. The balsamic and brown sugar add a bit of richness and color. I have not tried adding them at the beginning, but that would probably be fine. I cook them down until I like the color–another hour or so– and there isn’t much liquid left. I drain what liquid there is to use in cooking (Yummy in rice) and store the onions in the fridge in jars. I hear they can be frozen in various serving sizes, but so far we have gone through them fast enough that just the jars work.

We’ve used these on burgers, with fajitas, with chicken, with steaks and on crackers with cream cheese. We’ve put them on sandwiches and beside omelets. I am thinking I’ll add beef stock this fall and make French onion soup to top with croutons and cheese under the broiler. People we’ve served them to have all asked how to make them. I may use them on occasion as a hostess gift!
Philip is a huge fan of these and believes our house should never be without them again. And, as easy as they are, that may turn out to be true.

Hello, Mr. Angry

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes while traveling we run into people who are just clueless about how to act in public. I was riding on a hotel shuttle bus that was dropping four sets of two people at various restaurants at various points in Market Square and along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Philip, me, a couple of women, and two sets of guys, all either tourists or in town on business. Not a lot of cross talk, mostly, we were all waiting for our stops. I was sitting with a couple of guys heading out for steaks. Philip was sitting in front of me with two women going out for Mexican food. It was a random grouping of strangers who happened to be in the same hotel on the same night, and I’d not recognize any of them if I saw them today.
Out of nowhere, one of the guys sitting by me began going on about politics. Specifically, he began to discuss, loudly, his hatred of politicians. And his possibly made-up-as-he-went-along belief that something should be done–like blowing up buildings.
Although it was clear he was a blowhard, who might or might not have been spending some dedicated time at a happy hour before heading out for the evening, everyone’s private conversations stopped and it seemed like we all perked up our ears.
“Keep talking, I’m recording you,” said the man’s buddy.
And the man did keep talking—which clearly was not what his buddy hoped.
“We hear you, too” said a woman in the seat in front of me.
And the man started again.
Then I quoted Arlo Guthrie and said, “And they all moved away from him on the Group W Bench.”
My comment flustered him to the point he paused. And his friend took the opportunity to jump in, “I haven’t thought of that song in years.” The friend began singing lines of “Alice’s Restaurant” until the shuttle got to the steakhouse and he and Mr. Blowhard left the shuttle.
Do I believe this man would ever really blow up a building? No. But none of us wanted to hear him blather on about it, just as no one wants to hear people joking about blowing up a plane while they are waiting in line at the airport. It was an uncomfortable moment that can happen when strangers are thrown together even for a short shuttle ride. But I can say I usually have more comfortable moments with the people I run across in the course of my travels.

Robert Mitchell Jr.

I'm a Writer, Martial Artist, and Mystic. Take a seat in my virtual office.

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