Saturday, September 19, 2009

In my dreams, I wear sports bras [and other humorous goings-on]

When is the last time you sat down with your friends or family and played a board game, the whole way through? If you could play any game now, which would it be?

Typically, Pictionary is my go-to game. Everyone is either playing together, or participating with head shakes or foot stomps in-between 'all plays.' No one in my family is an artist (even if they were, there isn't time for much 'art' in five seconds), which makes for many laughs (opposing team) and groans (home-team). I collect the crème de la crème sketches for the 'Hall of Shame' mural, hung magnetically on the cabin's fridge door.

However, the diamond in the rough, is the game of charades. I encourage you to enjoy the video clip below. It comes from my home, to yours.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Announcement: Part-time work found. More tired.

"Good morning, this is Rebecca calling from Dr. ___'s office to confirm ___'s appointment tomorrow, ___day, at _:__(am/pm). See you then. Thanks."

I now work about thirty hours between Monday 8AM and Thursday 1PM for a family friend and local optometrist. I believe the office folk refer to me as the 'front desk girl.' I make the phone call above every day I work. I also answer the phones, greet patients when they enter the office, initiate the processing of insurance claims and help with the general 'flow' of the day.

Blah blah blah. Who cares.

It's not so much about what I do, but rather, what goes on in (and sometimes out) of the office.

All of the employees (optical technicians) are women. I guess that is pretty common in the medical support fields? I worked a front desk job at a VA clinic during a long ago college summer; the support positions were also staffed solely with women.

All of the ladies I work with now, except one [married] twenty-something, are middle-aged mamas. And they've all worked together for over several years, most over fifteen. It's a small office but a healthy practice; it can feel a tad claustrophobic during the rush hours [before and after work/school]. Nothing I'm not used to though, after living-in and eating-out-in NYC.

Everyone is on their feet all day. The ladies like to wear cross trainers to preserve their tootsies. The hot new shoe that everyone is into, is the exposed shox. Guess what? I, too, own a pair of black/hot pink/cool blue exposed shox clown shoes, which I bought in NY almost a year ago, so I guess "styles" these days are translating within one year, instead of three. Yay for us!!

[I used to work near Times Square. One day, before my aerobics class (taught by this guy) at NYSC, I ran into the Foot Locker on 8th Ave. All the seventeen year olds working the floor told me how cool the shoes looked on. I kind-of believed them. What did I know about trainers? Well, I guess everyone in Brooklyn knew a heck of a lot more, because boy, did I get a lot of business on the city tennis courts. Come on, like your ugly sauconies really need comparing. You'll all be happy to know that my tennies have since retired and are now designated for dog-walkin and lawn-mowin. OK?]

There really isn't so much of a thing called 'break' at work, except for lunch. However, the proverbial water-hole [three-inches deep with kringles, donuts, cookies, candies etc] is always booming, regardless of the schedule. Today, for instance, I had to twist and turn between eight bodies anchored in conversation just to get to the doctor's charts for the day. When I'm sitting up-front I can still hear the ladies chit-chatting about about so and so's kid's dance troop and how they are up in arms with their school's cheerleading squad, how last Sunday's sermon failed again, and so on. If the 'private' conversation turns too personal, or to the patients as the subject, I try humming or talking to myself to try and mask the specifics from the folks in the waiting room, who are pretty much welcome to eavesdrop at will.

Everyone is super quirky, which is cool. And everyone tells me how great I'm doing everyday, which is also really sweet. They treat me like a daughter, and boy, would they like to set me up with their sons, except I'm not really close to anyone's age (or a lot of other things). But apparently that isn't too much of an issue for one, who last month paired me up with her 21 year old son for the upcoming Christmas party. Oh boy.

You know, I think it goes without saying: talking about work sometimes makes you feel like yer still at work. And I just got done with a ten and a half hour shift. So...I'll leave you with this: tomorrow I start dressing in uniforms. Scrubs, styled a la theme from Star Trek. Use your imaginations.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Berry Pickin'

'Blackberry, oh blackberry, where art thou be?'
'In troves of plenty, just beyond yonder tree.
Hanging from vines, in threes, fours and fives,
take care not to injure, there be thorns in disguise.'

Last weekend, while Up North, I happened upon a vine of ripe blackberries. I didn't notice the bounty till after it lay at my feet; I had mangled the bush the berries grew from with hedge clippers in an attempt to widen the driveway.

[Our cabin is seated a quarter-mile from the road up a steep and winding self-made path, many times in between visits to the cabin the shouldering bushes and trees grow into the path. My Dad is a realist: 'I own a truck, so I drive it like a truck.' Most other folks that come up to the cabin brake their vehicles to about 1 mph while driving up the way, lest one of the low hanging branches should scrape their car. Leave your sissy car parked in the apron of the driveway, you ain't in the city no more.]

I had been trimming our property loop and the driveway for about thirty minutes, and was just about finished with my work when I made the discovery. It came as a surprise; I hadn't found edible berries on our property in over ten years. When my parents bought the place in the 80s, there were raspberry and blackberry bushes aplenty, but for some reason they now grow fewer and further between. Or maybe we just don't spend as much time up there and fail to realize the harvest.

I plucked the berries off the vine and held them in my hand, the dark purple juice staining my palms, while I forged into the thick brush to scout for more vines. To my delight, I spotted one after another. I ran to the cabin for a container to hold the berries, then ran back to do some serious picking.

Being a week removed from the event and not wanting to sound overzealous, it is difficult for me to recount the spiritual effect this moment produced. To just be within a limitless space of life and beauty is enough to make you stop with awe and appreciation; however, to also find an offering of life [sustenance] by chance, was just too cool for words. The rips, tears and scrapes of the thorns on my clothes and skin went by mostly unnoticed, but next time I go foraging I will wear gloves.

I picked and picked under a mid-day's sun. Total contentment.

I ended up filling a quart-sized container with berries, plus some. I rinsed the berries and then set them aside in a colander to dry. I wasn't quite sure what to do with them just yet. They are not the sweetest berries and they are more seeds than anything else, so I didn't foresee much interest in just snacking on them. A few, sure, but not the whole lot in a couple of days.

I decided to bake, but had no resources to do so at the cabin. A cabin seems like an appropriate place to do some baking, but since my family is rarely there, they don't see a need to keep much around except condiments and a few canned goods for emergencies. We make up for the lack of baking with a fair share of grilling. That said, we do make fudge every winter; my dad's favorite. We throw the pan of batter outside in the snowbank to thicken. And we also bake a cake every year for my mom's birthday. But that is usually of the box variety and only requires oil (or applesauce) and a couple eggs. [Dad takes her out for her annual 'walk' while the appointed baker rushes to bake and frost before they return.]

Back home I found a recipe for a blackberry tart and again rinsed and dried the berries, but this time with paper-towels in my salad spinner (helps prevent bruising). The tart was easy enough but I ended up with a bunch of leftover berries, which I decided to break down (with help from my food-processor and strainer) and cook for a coulis. The straining was really slow and messy, I need to find a better way to do this; any suggestions?

I overbaked the tart a bit (picture below), but it was necessary because I put too many berries in, which added a lot of moisture. I added lemon zest for flavor, which saved the tart in my opinion, but I think in the future I will continue baking with other berries I enjoy more!

The straining and cooking of the leftover 3 cups of berries yielded a small amount of coulis. [In the picture below, I placed the coulis next to a smallish cantaloupe for proportion.] This was pretty excellent, but I think next time I will add a little more sugar [I used the same amount I would with other, sweeter, berries] and perhaps a melon liqueur, which was recommended in a recipe I found.

Thinking of going Up North next weekend to look for the berries that weren't quite ripe enough to pick the last. I'd like to try making a jam. If you have any tips, feel free to comment.