Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Can you be happy and stressed?

I was talking to my mom tonight, and she made the statement that I haven't been happy in over a year. I was surprised to hear this. I would consider myself quite happy. I really love (majority of the time) where I am right now. There are still moments that I am amazed that I live in such a beautiful city full of such kind people. So, how could she possibly say that I haven't been happy?!

When I corrected her, she said that I have been stressed for over a year. Well this is incredibly true. I don't think either Mario or I realized how tough the move was going to be. I just falsely assumed we could pick up and move cross country seamlessly. Instead, there's been times when I didn't know how we were going to have our next meal. There have been many sleepless nights trying to decipher a recipe in my head and worrying I would cut my finger off the next day. Currently, I'm attempting to work in a kitchen, wrap up a job, train the new staff, find a new job, figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, hope that I'll receive a paycheck large enough to cover rent with whatever job I find, and plan a trip home. WOW! Even that sentence is overwhelming!!

So, yes... I am most definitely stressed. But funny.... majority of the time, I am most definitely happy. There are times one emotion takes over the other....stress usually wins. But I have found that you don't have to be one or the other. In LA, I was just stressed. I don't think I was truly happy. Sure, I had fun. I had great friends and did great things. But inside, I don't think I was truly happy. There was no time to be happy. I was too busy stressing and working and stressing and working.

It is great to know I can be both- happy and stressed- and still survive. Hopefully one day, I can get rid of the stress and just be happy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Is it ever okay to be selfish?

I am sitting in my living room, pouting like a five year old. I only hope it is okay to feel this way....

See, Mario has a pretty much full time job now. He has worked at the same location since the end of January. He really likes it and they seem to love him. He has made a close friend and things are finally falling into place in his life.

Today, I got out of school, and for the first time in about two months didn't have to run into work. I came home and did whatever I wanted. Well, actually, I worked on my taxes, but you get my drift. After the taxes, I put on Julie & Julia to relax. As I believe I've mentioned before, that movie makes me appreciate Mario more than words can describe. The men are depicted as such strong supporting forces. Neither woman would have accomplished half of their successes without their man's support. This is a HUGE statment coming from me.

So, I'm watching this movie, missing Mario and counting down the minutes until he will be home sharing this moment. He though, decided to go out for drinks with some guys from the office. And I'm sad.

Now, if I stop for a moment I can recognize that he probably would not enjoy the moment as much as I do. And clearly this is just me being selfish. I just look forward to the little time we get together. I look forward to the little moments that we are home together...the times I'm not working and we can laugh or just see each other.

Its fine. I feel better simply letting it out. And don't worry, he won't ever see this. He doesn't read the blog. :) I do promise to post soon on some of the ridiculous stuff I've been up to. Mario even took video of us trying to flambe some lobster. Ha!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Your Work is God-Like..."

I can't stop smiling. Yesterday was one of the best days so far in my culinary journey. I still don't think my feet have touched the ground. My current instructor, Chef Casino, said my food was "God-like" or "Heavenly" or "of the Gods". To be honest, I don't remember the exact line. I was too busy glowing from success. But let me start at the beginning so that you can get a fuller understanding of why this meant so much...

I started Advanced Garde Manger on my birthday. I was so excited to turn 30 and start a new class. Little did I know the day would end with me in hysteric tears. I left class feeling like my skills were not at the level needed to be in this class. How could I have gotten this far with straight A's and still not possess the skills required to take this course?! I spend the entire afternoon in tears actually contemplating retaking a course or dropping out of school completely.

I'm sure if you are reading this, you know me well and know I didn't drop out. Instead, per my mother's encouragement, I became determined to conquer the course. And conquer it I did! I'm actually obsessed with it. I have not felt this inspired since becoming a catering manager at Patina. It is like someone lit a fire within me. All I can think about is the current project- they have even taken over my dreams. I'm going in early and staying late. My life completely revolves around this class.

At the beginning of this week, Chef Casino assigned us a "fun" project. By Thursday, we had to produce a recipe for a savory item that looked like tuna sashimi but wasn't. We also had to design a white feather out of a white food element. On Friday, we had to actually produce both of these items. Holy F!!! This is stuff you only see on tv. Sure, molecular gastronomy is big right now. Sure, it is something important to learn. But as students, don't you think we should receive more than 3 days to put together two challenging items?!

I stared and stared at photos of tuna sashimi hoping for inspiration. At last, it hit me that the meat slightly resembled blood orange juice. (thank God it was the only orange juice we served at Tiara Cafe so I was familiar with it.) When I bounced the idea off Chef he claimed it was the sexiest idea he has heard yet. Score! I'm in! Now how was I going to actually produce this blood orange tuna? Chef sent me home with some blood oranges, agar, & citric acid and told me to figure it out. Mario and I stayed up until midnight testing different chemical percentages and pureeing rice for the feather.

Friday, I woke up with a stomachache, completely nervous about having to produce this mad science experiment. It too me longer than I wanted, but the final product was "of the Gods". It was beautiful, if I do say so myself. And it was one of the only ones that actually looked like tuna sashimi. The Chef asked me for the recipe at least 4 times. (can you hear me jumping up & down as I type this??) I DID IT!!

Here are pictures so you can see the final product. I've also included some of the other projects I/we are working on in class.

Here it is....Blood Orange Tuna Sashimi

just another view
Salmon En Croute

Aging Sausages & Charcuterie

Agar Tomato

Parmesan Marshmellows

Kimchi- its been fermenting for about 2 weeks

Aspic Terrine

Cold Smoked Octopus Terrine

My pride & joy Camembert- I've been nursing these boys since the first day

Cheese Bound Vegetable Terrine- Cynthia's Beauty!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Valentine's Day & Birthday Continued

Last weekend was possibly one of the best weekend I've had in Boston in a LONG time. No, not just because it was Valentine's Day and my birthday. It was more because Mario and I actually got out and enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday after work, we went to a neighborhood to grab a drink and a cute Italian restaurant for dinner. We had been wanting to go to both for awhile and were so glad we did. Like I said, it was just good to get out of the house for a bit.

For Valentine's Day, all Mario wanted was Mickey Mouse pancakes. My mom used to make these for me as a kid and apparently, I've never made them for him. I think they turned out pretty well for our first time.

aren't they cute???

After breakfast, we headed out on one of our biggest adventures yet---- to get me a ring. Yep, folks, I officially have myself an engagement ring. Or rather, I officially have myself an engagement ring that I can wear. Mario proposed with his grandmother's beautiful ring, but unfortunately she has the world's smallest fingers and it doesn't fit. We have plans of designing our own ring using his grandmother's and one of my mom's. But these things take time and money, of which we have neither at this point. So, I asked if I could get an in the meantime/in between time ring. AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!

I hope you can get the gist of it. I've never taken a picture of my hand with a ring on it before.

Mario also spoiled me with a bouquet of chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne. I really am loved.
All in all, it was a great day!!!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Happy Valentine's Day everyone!!!! This has always been one of my favorite holidays. I was raised to recognize this is not a day about having a boyfriend or girlfriend, but rather recognizing the people you love in your life.

When I woke up this morning, I was overwhelmed by the amount of love in my life. I am blessed to have the most amazing friends and family- people that motivate me to be better every day. I would not be where I am today- whether it is in Boston, in culinary school, or simply just be- without these people. So, I thought I would put together a few of my favorite photos from the past few years. There are so many more I would like to recognize, I just don't have any photos online. :( I hope you enjoy the ones I do have.

Thank you: Mom, Jim, Mario, Franky, April, Randel, Nicky, Twin, Not-twin, Julie Jo, K8, Chrystal, Bianca & Jaime, Bernie-mac, Squach, Harmony, Mike, Geri & Alex, Adam, Tootie, Maya, and everyone else!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Anthony Bourdain

In my efforts to figure out what's next, I've been reading chef biographies. After finishing Julia, I started "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain. I like him. At first, when watching his show, No Reservations, I found his crass demeanor offensive. However, after awhile, his blunt honesty grew on me. The more I watched, the more I sensed a soft heart behind the tough exterior. His book is written in the exact same tone. I do not recommend it for the faint of heart or those that do not want to know the truth behind kitchen doors. Those depictions did not bother me. I had seen or heard most of what he wanted to share. Sure, during his punk rocker chef days, he really pushed the limits- snorting coke lines the length of a bar or using whiskey to light the line on fire before each shift.

What did bother me, is the absolute certainty I felt that I do not want to work in a kitchen. I do not want to spend 16 hours on my feet behind a hot stovetop, burning my arms, and slicing off the tips of my fingers. Nothing in that sentence interests me at all. So, what in the *&$# am I doing going to culinary school????

I have to say, I still have no idea. But I do know I love food and all things food related. His culinary adventures through France and Tokyo made me salivate. I want to travel to far away fish markets and know exactly what I'm seeing and what to do with it. I want to know what goes behind a restaurant's famous dish that makes it so incredible. Simply put, I think I want to know and understand food.

Is that enough reason to stop your life for 1.5 years and pay way too much to go back to school? If anyone has any answers to that question, please be sure to enlighten me. For now, I'm back to the library on Monday to find my next literary adventure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

White Christmas

We've made it through our first New England Christmas and are still alive. I realized a funny thing about Christmas this year...when you strip it down, it is just another day. It could be yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It's not about being the 25th of December. Instead, Christmas is about what you do on that day to make it special. Hopefully, your holiday was spent with the ones you love. The presents are just an added bonus.

This year, we decided to stay in Boston for my first Christmas away from my parents. I honestly didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. The week before, I began to dread even the thought of the holiday. We had no tree, no parents, no presents, no lights, no decorations, no money, and no time to really do anything. It was definitely not shaping up to be my favorite holiday of the year.

However, after many tears, I decided to fight back. I went to Trader Joe's to find myself a Charlie Brown tree and instead received a free wreath. Nothing in LA is ever free. I think someone was reminding me of the Boston spirit. As I walked around the store, free gift in hand, I began to find the Christmas spirit. It isn't about receiving, but rather giving this time of year. I realized I had missed the hustle & bustle of Christmas shopping. There is a definite rush of being with the crowds and seeing all of the Christmas decor. I must say I got caught up a bit, bought some champagne & yummy treats, and headed home to hang my wreath.

Christmas day, if you forget about the Christmas part, turned out to be a great day. Had this been any other Saturday, I would even say it was a great day. If I'm allowed to complain, I would say there was just something missing from it all. I think it was being around the family, and yes, opening presents. That sense of unity and love and warmth the day usually holds.

As difficult as it was, I am happy we made the choice to tough it out. We found out what it is like to spend a holiday together, with friends. And in the future, there are some traditions we created this year, that I would like to keep- like the Christmas Eve White Castle burgers and Christmas afternoon nap. And the peace. There wasn't the usual arguing or fighting that comes along with my family holidays. Instead we spent the morning with a great friend eating breakfast and drinking champagne. We went to the Commons to walk in the snow and see the Christmas tree. And we finished the night at a Cuban feast among friends.

Like I said, a really great day. The only thing that made it better was the snowy walk home. We had our first white Christmas.