31 March 2009
Crazy baking week--classic shortbread , 14-carat cupcakes w/cream cheese frosting for my dear friend's final days at work, and, a batch of chocolate peanutbutter bars--just because.
The shortbread was a thank you for my agency. I met with them on Friday to pick up some data and a CD for a very involved transcription project that I agreed to bail them out on. Thought it would be a couple of days, but now realize it could take 2+ weeks. Very detailed, financial firm strategic planning meeting--very confidential. The good news is this stuff is interesting to me, so I am enjoying it, although all the computer time is killing my back. And, I get to work at home--in my pajamas, if I want.
Then, bake oatmeal-raisin cookies and shortbread again as a thank you for JA's financial advisor from Merrill Lynch treating me to lunch. Met with JA and her at South Water Kitchen on North Wabash. Very fine lunch in a lovely setting. Her views on the current and recent past market fluctuations and disasters were very interesting. I think I may invest with her...
The financial advisor and the agency people are all encouraging me to go into a corporate gifts business, and I am going to do it. Mailed off a selection to Merrill Lynch--four different styles of packaging.
I choose a name--Merci Beaucoup--and draft a list of 7 or 8 cookies that I love to bake. Then I design some business mailings, cards, and labels online--great stuff. And, I set up an email account with plans for a website.
Things are still shaping up, but I know how to market the fresh-baked goods and I have three corporate client possibilities from the get-go. I am going to do a mailing to the third company to arrive on Easter Monday, as that group has given up sweets for Lent and will be ready to splurge. One of the VPs there said that my cookies were the best he had ever tasted. They begged me to bring more and asked for recipes.
I need to work out pricing, but I know I will handle money through PayPal and ship Priority Mail to get the cookies to the recipients while they are hot from the oven, so to speak. I will work with direct mail and word-of-mouth advertising.
The creative juice are flowing and I am filled with energy.
I am a busy girl, and the agency has promised an interesting 2-week assignment if I can bring this transcription assignment in on-time.
27 March 2009
Yuk! Why is it that, although my insomnia is infrequent, I always lie awake on nights when I need sleep the most? I was exhausted last night--all that baking. I crawled from my bed to the big chair in our library around 2:00am, heard the clock strike 2:30, and then wide awake at 4:00am. Dozed a bit and got up at 5:00am. Boring, I know.
I cut the peanut butter bars and packaged the shortbread. Decided to bake a quiche because we saved a bit of asparagus and some sliced mushrooms when we made risotto the other night. We do have the best quiche recipe--so flexible. Everyone always loves it. Even the non-quiche eaters. Not sure where the quiche is headed--to soccer practice with CA? To Central Illinois with CA? For breakfast this a.m.?
My friend says the bitter co-worker at the not-for-profit has already left the premises. Not going to be in today, so no peanut butter bars for her. I seem to have a surplus. What to do????
Today has shaped up to be an interesting one. I take the 9:00am train and meet with my agency at 10:40am, then over to State Street for a brief shopping foray at Macy's. Oh, how we miss Marshall Fields. I meet my sister in front of the ABC TV sidewalk studio and then we walk around the corner and up a bit to South Water Kitchen, a restaurant at 225 N. Wabash. Never been there and it sounds interesting. JL has a luncheon meeting with her financial advisor and I am just along for the outing. There will be desserts!
Tonight I stay at my niece's on N. Broadway and then an early train home to tackle that 10-1/2 hour tape that needs transcribing. I wonder how long it will take. I have transcribed conference calls many times in the past and should be proficient. A bit rusty, but once I am back on the bicycle...
BASIC QUICHE RECIPE
8 or 9" pie shell, unbaked
2 Eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Milk
1 T. Cornstarch
1-1/2 Cups Cheese, grated.
I use a blend of cheddar and swiss or Jarlsburg, but the cheddar/Monterey Jack blend works well, too.
Fillings: [about 1 - 1-1/4 cups total]
For this one I used some leftover rotissorie chicken w/ fresh asparagus, fresh sliced mushrooms, and diced sweet onions. I gently sauteed the onions, asparagus, and mushrooms just until tender.
Other options are bacon and green onion; broccoli and ham; hamburger and green onion; red and yellow peppers w/onion and goat cheese. Use your imaginations, or your leftovers! If it is good in pasta or on a pizza, it will be good in a quiche.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the middle is no longer jiggly.
26 March 2009
Tomorrow is the BIG layoff at the not-for-profit where I worked for 7 years. About 40% of their staff, including my best friend. Times are very tough in the not-for-profit world as well as the marketplace.
So... I am baking carrot cake cupcakes with loads of cream-cheese icing, shortbread, and peanut-butter cup bars. The cupcakes are in honor of my friend's birthday--tough being let go on the day before your birthday, but she has perspective. The peanut-butter cup bars are for another friend who is very bitter at the demise of her job. She is not at an age where she had ever planned to be interviewing for a new position. And, it has been painful watching the slow-down and constant revamping of an organization determined to change and survive. The cuts are deep.
The shortbread is for my temp agency. They have asked me to stop by to pick up a transcription job that is due Monday. I agreed to bail them out as I have no formalized plans this weekend since I was away from home and out-of-town for more than two weeks. CA is leaving tomorrow afternoon to visit his mom in Central Illinois as his sister is visiting from New Orleans. So, I am free as a bird and figure working all weekend is better than shopping all weekend.
I love being at home. I need about 3 days at home for every day I am away. Dream on... Anyway, when I first interviewed with the agencies I sent a cookie gift as a follow-up and thank you. Big hit! They always remember me, and it is about time to reinforce the connection. Shortbread is always a hit. And, I have the very best recipe from Cuisine magazine back in the early 1980s. YUM!
I was thinking about going into Chicago tomorrow anyway, as my sister is visiting my niece's family including the infamous Sophie! She is a curly-haired minx who is always thinking and has a ready smile for everyone. Her worldview is just too precious. Almost four is one of the best ages.
CA has agreed to deliver the cupcakes and I will head out mid-morning. Maybe to spend the night, but most likely I will drive home late.
Just realized I have never published this recipe, so here goes.
[adapted from Cuisine Magazine, December 1983]
8 oz Butter, lightly salted
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Cups Flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Bring butter to room temperature.
3. Whisk dry ingredients together; add butter.
4. Gently mix all ingredients with your hands until forms a ball.
(If you use a processor, do not over-mix)
5. Knead gently until smooth and soft, never oily.
6. Press dough into an 8" x 8" pan.
I love the Calphalon pan as its sides are very square.
7. Chill for at least one hour.
8. With a fork, press tines into cookie dough 8 or 9 times to vent.
9. Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until edges are golden.
The darker the color, the more caramelized the shortbread tastes.
10. Cool for 10 - 15 minutes and cut into square or rectangles.
11. Press tines of fork once into center of each cookie, on the diagonal.
NOTE: I use a pastry scraper to cut the shortbread as it gives a clean cut.
25 March 2009
Had a brainstorm earlier today for the perfect birthday gift for my hard-to-shop-for friend who is celebrating 66 on April 1st. I ordered the complete set of the Judith Dench and Geoffrey Palmer BBC series As Time Goes By. Yep! 9 seasons; 1920 minutes; 32 hours; 64 episodes of slow moving, nothing much happens, British humor involving very middle-aged lead characters. She will love it because she loves London and everything English. And, she officially retires the day before her birthday, so she should have plenty of time to enjoy her gift. I consider this brilliant. [I bow.] Thank you!
Now I believe that I shall shower and stage my kitchen for a blog-worthy photo-shoot.
24 March 2009
I am home! Drove the 7+ hours yesterday entertained by Sirrus satellite radio--Martha, Cosmo, NPR Now, and the Book Channel. Helps time fly while driving across the 300 miles of Iowa and 130 or so of Illinois.
How very sweet. I am missing the squishy little guy and lovely little angel baby. JA doesn't usually talk on the phone, but today he was persuaded and I sang his favorite marching song.
22 March 2009
When LG was small our son and daughter-in-law would step out onto the terrace of their flat in Bratislava to peek into LG's window--which worked beautifully in the early days of her climbing out of bed and roaming her room. However, one night when they peeked in, LG had her hands to the glass and was peeking back at them...
Anyway, one of my assignments during this two-week visit to Omaha is to make the curtain for LE's window. JE chose the fabric a few days ago and as usual I procrastinate until almost the last minute, but manage to complete the task in just over an hour this evening [after a 5 hour! afternoon nap--for me, not LE or JA]. The end result is smashing, even if I do say so myself. JE chose a very pink fabric--pink on pink--that is not overwhelming because it hangs in the creamy white stairwell.
Beginning to think that LE needs pink panels on all 7 of the windows in her room, so I plan a last minute trip to the fabric store before hitting the Interstate and heading home in the morning. JE has hung creamy white drapes on all windows, but even though they are insulated the light still glows through. An additional girly-girl printed panel will keep out the rays of sunshine and tiny LE can snooze peacefully away, no matter the time of day.
JA and I have bonded. He is a charmer--likes silly songs and marching about. I'll miss the little ones but grandpa is home alone and it is time for me to get back to work. Hopefully, a few lazy days at home before the agency calls.
20 March 2009
Little Lucy is pacing the floor with her daddy when I arrive home a bit after 10:00pm--not crying, but not ready to fall asleep either. She is definitely into the pacifier and content as long as it stays plugged in. After a bit I take over the baby holding and make several attempt to unplug her, but each try receives a definite response of rooting and grunts and small squalls. She likes this little piece of plastic--places both hands squarely over it when I relent and put it back in her tiny, rosebud mouth. Lucy rules! Just after 11:30pm daddy takes her up to bed and after mommy feeds her at midnight, she settles in for a 3 hour tour of baby dreamland.
18 March 2009
Later grandma volunteers to entertain JA outside. He loves to paint! The good news is that we paint with water. After a bit we get the idea to rake... His backyard mainly slopes upward, as do many here in the center of Omaha, but there is a small play area surrounding a massive oak tree. We rake up the last of the fallen leaves and all the sticks that come with oaks. It doesn't take long to fill a huge WalMart lawn and leaf bag. We need to buy more! JA likes the raking part, and especially the lifting of the shovel filled with debris into the big brown bag. Before filling, Grandma turns the bag upside down atop JA to "make sure" it is big enough. Everything is fun when you are almost 2 years.
JA has a DVD about trashy man--a garbage man--so as he continues to strew the aforementioned raked leaves onto the wooden steps so that Grandma has to sweep them clean, I begin calling him trashy man. He giggles with delight.
We break for lunch and wash up. JA has always liked his vegetables, especially broccoli. His mommy tries to figure out what he's saying, but grandma knows immediately he is saying broccoli stew because that is what the bunny eats in his new library book. We exclaim, "Ew-w-w, not for you!" many times before the tray is clean.
Baby LE is quite content, slept in four-hour shifts overnight. Will it last? Her mommy and daddy have been concerned about her jaundice, but the numbers are only slightly more elevated than when she left the hospital and this morning her color seems to be improving. If newborns sleep too much and are hard to rouse, it is an indication that the billirubin is at a dangerous level. She has been poked in the foot for a blood test every day since her birth, but not today.
16 March 2009
JA loves the park, so grandpa and I took him there today, after a brief trip to Target to play with the talking Elmo. The weather has been outstanding and is supposed to continue for the rest of the week. Sunshine and balmy temperatures--hitting 60s and above. The uninitiated would think spring has arrived, but lifelong Midwesterners are more tentative and just appreciative of the current reprieve.
My book supply is dwindling and so far Amazon hasn't delivered a new batch. I will take JA to the local library for story time on Wednesday a.m. and see what I can rustle up there.
LE is learning to call out for attention--just gave a big shout-out that was definitely not a complaint. Every day she gets cuter--her tiny facial features are a bit more distinctive and her dark blue eyes take in a bit more. 4 days old and so, so brand new.
1.Simmer meat in the water with the peppercorns and diced onion for 2 - 2-1/2 hour, or until the beef easily shreds. Cool in cooking liquid. Retain 1/2 - 1 cup of liquid.
2 cloves garlic
1. Crush garlic with salt until it forms a paste.
Use as filling for tacos or quesadillas. Also great as a basis for vegetable beef soup with a Southwestern flare. Add the meat mixture back into the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and add about 2 cups of your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables.
15 March 2009
13 March 2009
I love the characters and you can tell the actors just get tickled with themselves sometimes as the smiles and smirks seem all-too-real. Great acting, at the very least.
And, somehow this is helping my perspective on aging. For whatever reason I have been more aware of the ravages of time lately. Not that I am feeling poorly, just kind of a feeling of "It's all downhill from here..." Grandchildren are the great reward, but both sets live so very far from us and we are not ready/willing/able to consider relocating yet. We have a great life and our travel and family experiences of the past few years just keep getting better.
Thank you God for good health, great friends, and a high-functioning, loving family.
12 March 2009
JA has been sick this week with a nasty head cold and hasn't been sleeping well. Grandma arrived on Sunday, driving the eight hours by herself in order to spend time with the squishy guy and ease the transition for when mommy and daddy head for the hospital. He's such a lucky guy--his Nana and Papa are here this afternoon and giving him lots of attention. Grandpa arrives on Saturday morning. JA's world is changing. He will be sharing the spotlight, but I don't think he'll mind. He's just about the age when other things and people will be important to him and his world is expanding.
The new little girl has a pink and brown room with lots of windows and sunlight. Today JA and I looked out her windows and enjoyed a treehouse view of the backyard. There was a squirrel busily crunching last fall's acorns.
10 March 2009
Click on the link and then scroll down until you see the video Yellow Dress.
updated 2:31 p.m. CT, Fri., June. 25, 2004
PARIS - An Indian steel tycoon reportedly paid $60 million for his daughter’s wedding — a six-day bash for 1,500 guests in France’s most sumptuous settings, including Versailles.
Lakshmi Mittal rented the Tuileries garden in Paris one night and a gallery at Versailles another night to celebrate the marriage of his 23-year-old daughter, Vanisha, to 25-year-old Amit Bhatia, according to Thursday’s edition of Paris Match magazine.
Louis XIV’s lavish chateau apparently was not enough — Mittal also had a makeshift castle built at a park in Saint-Cloud, outside the capital, Paris Match said. The actual wedding took place Tuesday at another chateau, Vaux-le-Vicomte.
09 March 2009
05 March 2009
I started writing an article about the changing job description of the executive assistant. Most of the women I have met in these roles are under-utilized. Their challenges involve travel arrangements and expense reconciliation. Meeting accounting/credit card deadlines are what motivates. There is lots of time for personal phone calls and Internet browsing.
Every one of the financial institutions I have temped in have new college grads in the finance and accounting field to do their Internet research and spreadsheets--the types of projects that have always made my work more interesting. These newbies are expected to work 60 - 80 hour weeks, and in some cases 7 days a week for the 2 or so years they have to prove their stuff.
I am most interested in observing and gathering insights as to the future of the executive assistant role.
After the new grandbaby is born and I am available for a longer-term assignment I am going to negotiate for a better position and pay. With the current economy I may be forced to settle for just working rather than being challenged.