Saturday, February 28, 2009

MIss Chef Goes to Market

I didn't actually get to post this yesterday afternoon, as I'd planned, because I left the camera in Miss Chef's car that she then drove off to work.

Ah, a rainy Saturday morning in February...what better time to spring out of bed at dawn and head off to the farmers' market?

Okay, well maybe there wasn't a whole lot of springing going on this morning. But I did eventually drag myself out the front door with Miss Chef, canvas bags in hand, to go the the Matthews Farmers Market.

We are very lucky to have two well-organized markets near us, and we have gotten into the habit of visiting both. I prefer the Matthews market, because it is very strict about including only local growers. Everything sold there must be raised within 50 miles of the market. As a result, there are a lot of smaller farms there without any paid staff. So the person selling you your lettuce is the person who planted and harvested it.

The eggs we bought were gathered by the children of the woman who sold them to us. Her husband also writes a short weekly column in the local paper, so we get to hear about their turkeys' escapes, and difficulties with drought and freezing. It makes me feel better when my own veggies are struggling, to know the experts are having trouble too!

Thanks to Miss Chef, who is normally quite shy, we are getting to know some of the farmers personally. At least, she is! We stopped to chat to Michele of Bosky Acres (co-conspirator in the goat-cheese caramel sauce). She said the sauce was very popular and sold out! I shared my story about spreading it on a hot fresh baguette, and she agreed it sounded tasty. She was wearing a large button featuring a photo of one of her does, which is a smart little marketing move. She's in the middle of kidding season; one doe had been due Wednesday and was probably kidding as we spoke.

We also ran into Miss Chef's Chef from the restaurant. He was very sleepy eyed, and when he stepped under a tent and lowered his hood to discuss greens, we saw a lovely crop of bed-head. But he was still alert enough to sneak up behind Miss Chef and "accidentally" bump her into the rain. He's a fun guy, even when he is half-asleep.

At this point, Miss Chef decided she needed her coffee fix, so we stepped into the Community House. They have a small but very nice selection of hot and cold drinks, as well as a lovely collection of "local couture." We have bought ourselves three t-shirts so far, and I've been eyeing a sweatshirt.

People are often surprised to learn that such a small market is open during the winter. In fact, they do cut back to every other week, but there is always a crowd--not always a big one, but the farmers don't seem bored! Today we actually had to get in line a couple of times. On the other hand, I realized after we left that we hadn't bought a single vegetable! Here's what we ended up with: 2 lbs of grass-fed ground beef from Baucom's Best; a dozen hand-gathered eggs from Laughing Owl farm; 2 lbs of mild breakfast sausage from Grateful Growers; and 2 lb. bags of cornmeal and grits from Bost Grist Mill. Which, Miss Chef pointed out, is technically vegetables. Uh huh.

Our second market stop was at Charlotte's Yorkmont Market, a much larger one with several permanent sheds. They're huge and long, and two of them are enclosed, with actual heaters. They're also much more crowded, and include many vendors re-selling industrially grown products. However, the local Slow Foods group has provided the local farmers with small signs to help people like us support them. Several farmers have booths at both places; you'll see the wife at one market and the husband or adult children at the other. We had two things on our list here: dinner rolls from Nova's Bakery, and fresh shitake mushrooms from a sort of strange but charming guy we'd like to get to know better.

On the way home, I told Miss Chef how much I enjoy our market mornings. She was a little surprised, since I always make a big deal about having to get up so early. But we both like supporting our local farmers and buying food that is more nutritious and environmentally friendly. It makes me happy to be with someone who's willing to make it a priority...and to gently jostle me out of bed at dawn on a cold, wet winter's morn.

I snapped this picture as we were leaving the Matthews market...she was indeed asking "What the...?"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Miss Chef Takes a Test

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I decided to try the Newlywed Game with Miss Chef. As with the original game show, we each tried to figure out what the other would answer to these personal questions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn't know Miss Chef as well as I thought! Ah well, it's been less than a decade; I'm sure we'll have lots more time to learn!

For each question, I've written the "correct" answer, that is, what each of us would answer for ourselves. If the other person guessed something different, that follows in parentheses. So, for example, if my favorite soup were broccoli cheddar, but Miss Chef thought I liked chicken noodle, I'd write this:

Flartus: broccoli cheddar (chicken noodle)

If there are no parentheses, we got it right. I feel kinda dumb having to do an example, but with both of our answers represented, I didn't want it to get confusing!

1. She's sitting in front of the TV, what is on the screen?
Flartus: PBS
Miss Chef: My Wife and Kids

2. You're out to eat; what kind of dressing does she get on her salad?
Flartus: ranch (vinaigrette)
Miss Chef: ranch

3. What's one food she doesn't like?
Flartus: seafood
Miss Chef: bleu cheese (seafood)

4. You go out to eat and have a drink. What does she order?
Flartus: red wine
Miss Chef: white wine (Miller Lite...I was thinking of bar food)

5. Where did she go to high school?
Flartus: Chardon HS
Miss Chef: Alabama School of Math & Science

6. What size shoe does she wear?
Flartus: 6 1/2 (7 1/2...sometimes, depends on the shoe)
Miss Chef: 10 (9)

7. If she were to collect anything, what would it be? (We both had trouble answering this for ourselves!)
Flartus: Mystery Science Theater 3000 (books)
Miss Chef: bowls (books)

8. What is her favorite type of sandwich?
Flartus: peanut butter & jelly with a slice of bologna (This is the most personal thing I've ever revealed on this blog...please be gentle.)
Miss Chef: roast beef & asiago from Panera

9. What would she eat every day if she could?
Flartus: chicken (pbjb sammidges)
Miss Chef: salad

10. What is her favorite cereal?
Flartus: Special K (Mini Frosted Wheats)
Miss Chef: Lucky Charms (Cheerios)

11. What would she never wear?
Flartus: bikini (thong...close enough)
Miss Chef: dress ( first guess was "slinky dress")

12. What is her favorite sports team?
Flartus: Cleveland Indians
Miss Chef: Atlanta Braves

13. Who did she vote for?
Flartus: Obama
Miss Chef: Obama

14. Who is her best friend?
Flartus: Miss Chef
Miss Chef: Flartus

15. What is something you do that she wishes you wouldn't do?
Flartus: nag
Miss Chef: crack her knuckles (leave projects unfinished)

16. What is her heritage?
Flartus: Russian, German, French, Irish (Polish...the Russians were there for a coupla generations)
Miss Chef: Hungarian, Italian, German (I missed German)

17. You bake her a cake for his birthday; what kind of cake?
Flartus: Chokkit!
Miss Chef: German chocolate

18. Did she play sports in high school?
Flartus: No, just horseback riding (track...that was middle school)
Miss Chef: volleyball, soccer, swimming, basketball (I missed b'ball)

19. What could she spend hours doing?
Flartus: blogging (watching tv...what?? nah!)
Miss Chef: cooking (reading)

20. What is one unique talent she has?
Flartus: teaching people stuff (hearing everything someone says)
Miss Chef: cooking / seeing both sides of an issue (making sauces)

I only got 10 right, Miss Chef only got 8! Wow...funny thing is, after we'd compared answers, but before I actually tallied the results, I was under the impression that Miss Chef knew me better than I knew her. I wonder why that is? Well, if nothing else, I'm happy to know her favorite cereal! Maybe I can surprise her the next time I go grocery shopping.

Thanks for playing, and as always, feel free to stea...I mean, borrow!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Miss Chef Fries Up Some Flapjacks

Miss Chef and I are finally feeling normal, I guess. I think that is the reason we had such an enjoyable night together on Wednesday. A good thing, too, since she found out her Chef will have a different teaching schedule next quarter, putting Miss Chef back on evening shift all week. So we'll only have one evening together during the week.

But that leaves us another month to appreciate each other's company! We've kinda slipped on the making-dinner-like-big-people habits since we were both sick, and haven't managed to plan or thaw anything for dinner. Or so I thought.

A couple of days ago, Miss Chef had mentioned something about pancakes and bacon, but I assumed it was a flu-related craving for sweet stuff she could actually taste. Both of us found our body chemistry got messed up while we were feeling crummy, and nothing tasted right. So I figured once she wasn't feeling so sick, the pancakes would be a dead issue.

You see, Miss Chef doesn't like breakfast food! Waffles, pancakes, eggs--especially eggs--do not interest her in the least. Bacon? Okay, but she'd rather have it in a BLT.

So I was quite surprised last night when I asked her what she was making there in the kitchen, and she answered "pancakes." I honestly don't remember ever seeing her make pancakes before. That's my area: pancakes, French toast, waffles, even biscuits (not bad for a Yankee, huh? But Miss Chef's the one who taught me). Miss Chef will taste 'em, especially the biscuits, but she's never been interested enough to make them.

So we had pancakes and bacon for dinner. So much for getting some veggies into me! Of course, her pancakes, even though made from the same box of Bisquick I use, fried up fluffier and more savory (I suspect extra butter and/or bacon fat). For someone who doesn't really like pancakes, she sure knows how to fry 'em up!

Of course, the whole house smells of bacon, even now, 24 hours later. Miss Chef thought the smell must be driving the dog mad, so she brought Rosie a piece. I heard her saying "Now, who's the best Mama in the world?" Oh sure, sell out for a piece of bacon...but let's see who you love when you hear the word "walk" tomorrow!

Thanks for the bacon...but I know you have more up there.

After dinner, I had a little couples project in mind! Seems everyone's doing the Newlywed Game quiz--Liz, Alix and the Courteous Chihuahua so far. So I printed out the questionnaire and we filled 'em out and compared notes.

But...that's a story for another day! In other words, it'll probably take me some time to type it all in, so I'll post it tomorrow.

In the meantime, there are some leftover pancakes in the freezer with my name on 'em!

Are YOU a Slave Driver?

Slavery is alive and well in the United States, and you may be benefitting from slave labor.

1. Do you buy tomatoes?

2. Do you buy them in a grocery store?

3. Do you buy them out of season?

If you answered "yes" to two out of three of these questions, there's a very good chance you have eaten tomatoes picked by the hands of a slave. Don't think I'm putting myself on a pedestal here; I'm certainly guilty as well. But now that I have the information, I don't ever want to buy a Florida tomato again.

Ok, if you live in California, this may not apply to you...but then again, it might. Immokalee is a small town less than an hour from Naples, and is the tomato capital of the United States--more than 90% of the fresh tomatoes grown in the United States between December and May are from this part of the state. But as I read in Gourmet magazine's March issue, "The Price of Tomatoes" is unacceptable.

The population of Immokalee is nearly 25,000; per capita income is $8,500 a year. Most of the workers here are Hispanic, many are illegal aliens seeking to make a better wage here than at home. Yes, some are here illegally. But they are still human, and they are treated as less than animals--just so we can have a BLT in February.

As a Christian, I find that indefensible, regardless of immigration law.

"Lucas's 'room' [provided by his bosses was] the back of a box truck...shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so the occupents urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, [the boss] docked his pay by $20 a week. ... Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each."

He had to pay more for a shower than we pay for a pound of tomatoes. How much does your shower cost?

"Taking a day off was not an option. If Lucas became ill or was too exhausted to work, he was kicked in the head, beaten, and locked in the back of the truck. Other members of [the] crew were slashed with knives, tied to posts, and shackled in chains."

For tomatoes. TOMATOES!

Why do these workers not leave, once they realize the conditions? They can't. Their pay is docked for food, lodging, showers and other made-up exaggerated fees, so that at the end of the month they end up owing more money than they've made. The bosses take advantage of their illegal status and ignorance and fear of the law to keep them trapped, working for wages that haven't changed in 30 years.

I encourage you to read the full article at, and examine your own purchasing. Gourmet is not known as a bastion of crazy liberal propaganda; the article is well-researched and factual.

The fact is, you CAN get through the winter without tomatoes. During the summer, plant your own, or visit a farmers' market. (Be aware, though; some vendors buy produce from distant suppliers and re-sell them at local markets. Ask them where their tomatoes were grown. Don't be shy; think of Lucas getting kicked in the head, and compare your own brief discomfort.)

If the plight of faceless illegal aliens doesn't make it seem worthwhile to change your buying habits, check out pictures of the harvest at If nothing else, notice that every single tomato is being picked completely green. Why are you paying $3.49 a pound for unripe, nutritionally blank tomatoes? Have a beet instead, and wait until summer to eat summer foods.

Please think about this, and spread the word.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Premio Dardo

Huh, well, looky what landed here a coupla days ago:

It's another blog award! Again, from Alix; this one is called the Premio Dardo (Spanish for "Dart Award.") According to several sources, including Alix, the award "acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day."

(This description kills me, for its redundancy makes it speak circles, but I found the Spanish version online, and it contains the same I guess I will continue showing my values in transmitting my personal values...or something.)

From what I can read between the lines, its original intent is to show admiration for a blogger's "word darts," i.e., getting one's point across cleanly and pointedly, as well as having a point to get across. And that, I will gladly take an award for!

Of course, nothing for nothing...or something for something; there are always rules and requirements with these things:

STEP 1: Respond and rework. Answer the following questions on my blog, replacing one question that I dislike with a question of my own invention.

STEP 2: Add one more question of my own. (Hmm...there are going to be an awful lot of questions on this thing eventually.)

1) What are you wearing right now?
Jeans, sweatshirt and grampa slippers

2) What is your biggest fear?
Financial insolvency

3) What was your worst subject in school?

4) Who is the last person you hugged?
Miss Chef

5) What websites do you visit when you go online?
My online email, this blog ('cause I can see who's updated theirs in the right margin!) and Facebook

6) What was the last item you bought?
Five boxes of Girl Scout cookies

7) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Everywhere...but I'd start in Paris.

8) If you couldn't have your current job, and money were not an issue, what would be your second choice?
Miss Chef's front of house manager. Or dog trainer, maybe.

9) Has a celebrity's hair cut ever influenced your own hairstyle?
No, but only because my hair refused to do the Farrah flip.

10) What is your most embarrassing moment?
Farting in the library in high school. Does life get any more embarrassing than adolescence?

11) What was the last movie you watched?
Stranger than Fiction--Emma Thompson is BRILLIANT in it!

12) If you had a whole day to yourself with no work, commitments, or interruptions what would you do?
Ha ha ha ha! That's what I've had the past 4 days, and now I'm going crazy! Read, nap, blog.

13) If you were to win the Powerball, what would you do with the money (besides invest it)?
Pay off my & Miss Chef's debts, give some to my parents and our lottery buddy Andrea. Travel, visit family, open Miss Chef's restaurant, and buy a small farmstead.

14) In your opinion, who is the most significant person in history and why?
Whoever figured out agriculture.

15) If you could learn to cook one dish to perfection, what would it be?
Chicken alfredo

STEP 3: Tag eight other bloggers. Now, I have the same problem I always have with this. I don't really read that many blogs, and most of the ones I do came my way through Alix. So I'm going to be naughty, and only award four. So sue me.

1. Liz at Eternal Lizdom
2. Claire at Whispering Acres (formerly Is This Heaven? No, It's Iowa!)
3. TangoBaby at...Tangobaby
4. Freddie at his Facebook page, so you'll just have to believe me. Sorry!

(I would also award it to Joanna at BooneDocksWilcox and Shiloh Prarie Farms at Goats in the Garden, but Alix beat me to it.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Miss Chef Snores on the Couch

We are still sick. The daffodils have finally started to open; ours seem to be the last on the block to join the show. Other than that, I'm afraid the earliest part of spring is proceeding along without me.

I finally managed to drag myself down the block to walk the poor dog. She's been trapped in the house with us for four days now, and I expect her halo to appear at any moment. She did wake Miss Chef from a doze yesterday by enthusiastically licking her bare feet. I heard a surprisingly energetic "Oh my goodness!" from the other room, and had to come running to investigate. I ended up giggling, much to Miss Chef's bemusement, as I don't think I've ever heard her use that exclamation before. "What the...?!" would have been much more in character for her.

I also managed to put on clothes, brush my teeth, and drive--yes drive!--to the store this afternoon. We didn't need much, but we've run through all the bread and juice, and who wants soup without crackers? I was back in the car, ready to head home, when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket.

"Hi Hon," I said, seeing the number was Miss Chef's. She had been fast asleep when I left the house.

"Are you still at the store?"

"I was about to come home. Why?"

"Oh. Well...can you get me a hamburger and some ice cream?"

I find Miss Chef's little cravings endearing; she'd wanted a hamburger last night, but I was in no mood to get it after the sun went down and the temperature dropped into the 20s. Today, although I had already run through my brief spurt of energy, she sounded positively woebegone; how could I say no? So I had to make another couple of stops--fortunately, Five Guys' Burger & Fries are on the way home (how did we get so lucky?). I put in my order, and buzzed down the strip to BiLo, to pick up the ice cream. Lo and behold, Girl Scout cookies, just outside the door! Fortunately, I hadn't sent all my money away from my last paycheck, so I scooped up an embarrassing number of boxes on my way back to get my burger.

By the time I made it through all this, I knew that, in spite of being the healthy one at home, I still wasn't better. I was moving at half speed in a world permanently settled into 5th gear. I was very glad to get home, drop all my bags and rejoin Miss Chef on the couch. Where we proceeded to enjoy the first full meal either one of us had eaten in days. Mmm, hamburgers.

I do take care of my baby, don't I?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Miss Chef Goes to the Doctor

Once again, sickness has befallen our little family, and it somehow seems to be my fault. I suppose because I was the first one to take ill, I must be held responsible for bringing nasty germs into the house. Not that it matters; sick is sick, and we do our best to take care of each other.

It started Sunday afternoon, when too much time outside left me with a cough, which got worse as the evening wore on. Overnight it developed into a fever, so I started popping Tylenol and the decongestant the doctor had prescribed the last time I was sick.

Honestly, I don't get sick this often. I have no idea what's going on this winter.

Anyway, I had Monday off as a holiday, thank God, and regretfully took a sick day Tuesday. Miss Chef, unable to sleep that morning, got up, put on some sweats, and went to WalMart to get me some Vicks chest rub and other sickie necessities. (No more stock left, we've had to resort to canned soup.)

That evening, Miss Chef came home from work and said "I think I've got what you've got." She was feeling droopy and her sinuses were clogging. We got to bed early; she was scheduled on the day shift, and I was determined to at least make it in to work on Wednesday, fever or no. I had already run through half of my sick time for the year.
That morning, as I was ready to leave, I went in to wake Miss Chef, as I do when she works the lunch shift.

"I don't think I can work today." These are astonishing words to hear from her mouth. She was trained in the hard knocks school of kitchen work: the only good reasons for not coming to work are to be in jail or the hospital. Literally. And yes, she's had colleagues in both institutions. So to hear her say, first thing, that she wasn't going to drag her stuffy, sweaty little self into work (thereby infecting who know how many others), left me speechless for a few moments. Not to mention a bit worried.

It turned out she had a fever of 102. I asked her if she wanted me to stay home to take care of her, but she declined. She told me she wanted me to take her to the Urgent Care after work. In the meantime, I made sure she had what she needed--Tylenol, water, her cell phone. When I left, she was trying to get a hold of her Chef--with him teaching a morning class and her out sick, the only option was to close the restaurant for lunch service. Or rather, not open it until dinner.

I muddled unhappily through my day at work, knowing I should be at home, for my own sake, and for my co-workers' sakes, and worried about Miss Chef slipping into a fever-induced delerium. Finally, the blessed hour arrived, and I left as quickly as I could.

Once home, I had to try to calm the most bored dog in the world, as Miss Chef and I changed and headed back out. I prepared for a sit-in: two bottles of water, a book, and refills on my medicine. We had never been to this "doc in the box," as my dad calls them, but I did not expect it to be pleasant.

When we arrived, it was dark and raining, and we had a moment's anxiety when we saw the empty parking lot. But my research was correct; the clinic was still open, and there was only one person in the waiting room. With a sense of relief, I settled into a chair next to Miss Chef, who had about six pages of forms to fill out. "I just keep writing my name over and over," she said. "It's a test, to see how sick you really are," I replied.

Perhaps five minutes later, someone called Miss Chef back into the examination room, and I was left to my own devices. After unsuccessfully looking for a way to change the channel on the enormous flat-screen tv, I focused on my book and my water bottle.

Twenty minutes later, she was back.

"What's going on?" I asked, as she grabbed a Kleenex from the box she'd left with me, and turned back toward the front desk. "I'm done," she replied.


Two weeks earlier, I had gone into my own physician's office as a walk-in, by suggestion of whoever answered the phone when I called seeking an appointment. I got there at 10:30 am, and left at 1:00 in the afternoon. In the meantime, I sat alone in a small, chill room on an uncomfortable chair, with no water available. Rest, fluids and keeping warm? Not part of modern medicine, I guess. By the time I left, I had been subjected to a needle prick and two x-rays, and dismissed with a prescription, without any instructions as to its use or possible side effects. By the time I got home from the pharmacy, I had a fever to add to my other complaints.

Now, let me assure you, my doctor actually holds me in some esteem. Even that day, he wanted to start a conversation about the state of the economy, while I stared at him bleary eyed, wanting only my bed and warm socks. I was frankly amazed that he didn't offer me more information about the drug he prescribed. But I tried not to be too critical; he has recently moved into a new building, and I'm sure the legal and logistical demands on any doctor are beyond my imagination. I wonder how many patients a day he must see, just to keep the lights on?

Still, this is the second time I've experienced better service at a "Doc in the Box" than at my own doctor's office. In Mobile, AL, I actually stopped seeing my primary care physician, because the wait with an appointment was longer than the entire in-and-out-the-door visit at the walk-in clinic.

I'd hate to leave my current doctor, as he is generally attentive, informative, and well-informed about my medical history. Part of the reason I've stuck with him is that--for appointments at least--the wait is very reasonable. But...what's the point of a doctor? To take care of healthy people? To care only for those with chronic, appointment-friendly illnesses? Yes, there is something very wrong with our health-care system, when the care of a simple cold or flu becomes a task beyond the endurance of anyone feeling crummy. Surely, there's got to be a market for housecalls out there, and someone willing to fill it.

Now, I know our health-care system is a vast entity, spreading out into pharmaceutical companies, Wilfred Brimley and free scooter suppliers; well beyond any one person's abilities to repair. Still, I bewail the fall of the family physician, who's joined with souless corporations, in an effort to protect himself from lawsuits and long hours away from his family. I'm sure there have got to be a few souls out there who entered into the medical profession out of a desire to help people, but are they even able to follow their calling? Why, why, has it become so hard to do the simplest things for the sick? Yesterday, I had to pull out three different pieces of plastic to see Miss Chef through the clinic and the drugstore (and that doesn't count her own debit card).

And yet, I still feel lucky. While not always "affordable," we do have health insurance, and I am able to include Miss Chef as a "domestic partner." We have access to any number of physicians, specialists and hospitals. I do have an allowance of sick time. And today Miss Chef dozes on the couch, with antibiotics, Tylenol and decongestant within arm's reach. It could be worse.

And could be so much better.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hostess with the Mostest

Yes, I did get sick yesterday, sicker than I expected. So the following was written under the influence of drugs which make me woozy and distracted. Forge onward, my faithful readers; I will eventually get to the point.

It's all about the clipboard. As hostess at Miss Chef's restaurant for a night, I was in charge of getting guests to the right seat, and the clipboard is the source of all knowledge. There's absolutely no way I could know what was going on without the lists and notes scribbled in the margins.

I was a bit nervous about it, because I had already bussed, and supposedly helped with seating, last Mother's Day. That did not go well; diners were lingering so long that the next wave of reservations had no tables, and as the restaurant is so small, they had to wait on the sidewalk. Having made reservations for a specific time, many were not very understanding of the wait, and I was split between two jobs, so not really equipped to deal with irritated customers.

Valentine's Day, by contrast, was a breeze. We had two bussers, who helped seat guests, so I mostly could stay by the door, clipboard in hand, checking off names and tables. We had three waves of seatings, and in between there was not a whole lot for me to do. I stood at the bar for some of that time, but it's hard for me to be working there and not find some way to help.

I bussed some tables, rolled some silver, filled butter servers. The chef even called me back into the kitchen to spread out mini paper cups while he plopped housemade chocolate truffles into them. At the start of the night, things were a little hectic back there, and I had made a point of staying out of the way. But soon everyone got into a rhythm, and all worked as it should.

I spent most of my time standing at the front door, staring out at the street and waiting for guests to arrive. At first, I felt like the dog, watching the cars go by, head turning this way and that. Guests' arrivals were a welcome distraction, and they arrived in clumps, making time pass more quickly. As night fell, I discovered the windows in front of me reflected the interior of the restaurant. I spent some time watching Miss Chef through the pass, but caught only the briefest glimpses as she leaned forward to check a ticket, or sauce a dish. Still, I felt good being able to watch her do what she loves, and to help in some small way. I wished I could be a fly on the wall of the kitchen, listening to the tickets being called and the staff keeping each other informed of progress.

As the first guests arrived, I found myself surprisingly nervous about greeting them. I still feel like a bit of a guest there myself, having only worked there very occasionally. But the guests were very polite and, I guess, submissive. I realized that I had the appearance of some kind of power, slight as it was, to accept or refuse them. In fact, I did have to refuse a few people who showed up without reservations. "Is there a wait?" one woman asked me during the first seating. I wanted to laugh; we were booked solid until 9:00. One couple said they had no idea restaurants would be taking reservations that night, or they would have made some. I wondered how often they go out to eat.

Eventually, my knees and back started to ache from standing still for so long. I tried some yoga techniques, imagining a string pulling me upright along my spine, and taking full, measured breaths. Though I haven't done yoga for years, I always feel comfort when I think to incorporate bits of it into my daily life.

As I mentioned, Valentine's Day seating went extraordinarily well. One guest, a regular, was unhappy with her table assignment, but the chef's wife came foward to greet them, and took over the smoothing of tempers. Later, when a young couple arrived before their table was ready, that same guest waved at us frantically. Turns out the young man was her grandson, and so they joined her table, which just happened to be a four-top. They stayed there for their own meal, while the couple at their assigned table lingered another twenty minutes over dessert!

Another couple showed up with reservations that had not been marked down. No table for them. He was very gracious, joking about having a word with Chef, but what a disaster that could have been--had they shown up two hours earlier, there would have been nothing I could do. As it was, they had called for reservations at 9:00, when we had several tables open.

These little happy occurences saved me many times throughout the night--the couple who arrived early, but were happy to go for a walk until their table was ready, the guests arriving in order of their tables being cleared and ready. The chef's young daughter was the busser helping me seat guests in the front dining room, and she was always there, ready to help. As I said, once things got rolling, everything worked according to plan.

My favorite time at the restaurant is after service, when the lights go up and the cleaning begins. The staff reviews the evening by sharing stories and explaining details of half-heard conversations heard earlier. The kitchen staff sees who guessed closest to the number of covers served. Miss Chef starts piling Saran-covered plates in the pass for family meal. Then the staff sits at a row of small tables pushed together, stripped of linens, and eats rather ravenously. At least, I did. Miss Chef makes good family meal.

Of course, the kitchen staff are the last to sit down, and that's when things can get interesting. Though he's exhausted, Chef is still full of manic energy and gets worked up telling stories and acting out conversations. It's a fun, casual atmosphere, seen through bleary eyes, and lets everyone get rid of any feelings of irritation or amusement they had to hide during service.

I waited for Miss Chef to finish her meal, and then we headed out the door for home. Every time I work a night there, I feel a little bit closer to the staff, a little bit more of their family. The staff may change from one visit to the next, but there is always a sense of continuity. I am happy and grateful that Miss Chef invites me into this core of her life, and that Chef is so open to my being part of his restaurant family.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, I did get to have one of those chocolate truffles. And yes, it was wonderful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Miss Chef Rides the Train

Miss Chef is a huge Curious George fanatic, so I think I'll play with some CG-inspired headlines. At least until I get bored!

I know you all have been on pins and needles, waiting to see how my hostessing gig went. Well, I'm too tired to tell you, so I'm just gonna post some pictures from our little field trip today, and compose a more complete description tomorrow.

I will tell you that the hostessing gig actually went very well, and all the staff--front and back of house--had a very smooth night. Miss Chef and I didn't get home until after midnight, and slept until about 8:00 this morning. We then spent about two hours actually getting up. It was nice that we were on the same wavelength for once, instead of one of us being ready to go, and the other needing a little quiet time.

We had made plans to get together with some friends for brunch, at a sort-of upscale restaurant in Charlotte's South End (which is, naturally, just south of the downtown area). We took the relatively new commuter train, the Lynx, because we wanted to make a couple of stops.

I was a big fan of the Lynx from its conception, and dragged my parents on it during its inaugural weekend. Since I lived in Paris for a year, commuting by metro, I was excited to see mass transit get some serious backing here. Miss Chef was a bit unsure of it, but after taking it uptown a few times, she's even more into it than I am! Here she is, getting ready to hop on today.

The stations are nicely designed, with motifs reflecting nature and local themes.

I particularly like this cotton-themed station, which happens to be the one right in front of our brunch restaurant today. "Please exit right!"

After brunch, Miss Chef and I headed further up the line to Reids, a local grocery store that has a great wine selection as well as a lot of North Carolina foods.

Between brunch and Reid's I managed to spend all but about $2.00 of what I earned last night! But at least it won't be on my credit card.

After we got home this afternoon, Miss Chef and Rosie accompanied me around the neighborhood, while I delivered the annual meeting minutes for the HOA board. I was very glad that it wasn't typically February-cold, but tonight I find myself with a sore throat and a cough. So I am doctoring myself with herbal tea and hot crispy baguette from Reid's, and watching Miss Chef play with her Playstation 1. Not the exciting life you might expect from the wife of a chef, but I want nothing more right now. Except maybe some hot chocolate...hmmm....

Oh, and I should also mention: goat-cheese caramel sauce on warm baguette is a yummy treat!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Miss Chef Goes to Dinner

Oh, hi there...things have been busy in Flartusland; working overtime, doing Homeowners' Association stuff, celebrating Valentine's day.

Huh? Valentine's day on February 11th? Well, see, when you're married to a chef, you don't get to celebrate holidays like normal human beings. When you all are making plans to celebrate--New Year's, Mother's Day, Easter brunch--Miss Chef is working overtime, prepping for crazy 14-hour days. I, for my part, work on my nomination for sainthood by not expecting a thing out of her for the weeks preceding these events, as well as the entire months of November and December. It's been eight years, but I think I'm finally getting the hang of it.

This year, since Valentine's falls on a Saturday, it will be a shorter, but very intense restaurant holiday. As I posted about a couple of months ago, Miss Chef's schedule has changed so that she actually gets three whole weeknights off! So we were very happy to take advantage of this by doing an early Valentine's dinner Wednesday night. One benefit to celebrating off-kilter as we do: I called at 4 pm that day and got reservations for 7 that night. No problem, no wait, no rush.

We went to a small restaurant called Passion8 which we have been to only once before. They have exactly the same hours and days of service as Miss Chef's restaurant, so until her schedule changed, we knew we couldn't go back. It's only about two years old, and is run by a surprisingly young chef from Italy, and his wife, who is American. It's in a small house in an unusual location that's kind of hard to find. I am impressed they are still open, as I haven't heard much about them, and they're not in an area known for fine dining. It's a testament to the quality of the food, I guess!

So, what did we have? I ordered the chicken--of course. It was roasted, with an amaretto demi-glace (which was absolutely as good as it sounds!), and served with roasted baby brussels sprouts and a mini sweet-potato tart that tasted for all the world like pumpkin pie. I don't like sweet potatoes, and it was almost enough to turn me away from ordering the chicken, but I'm glad I decided to try it!

Miss Chef ordered the stuffed pasta special, which was large raviolis with goat cheese, caramelized onions and some kind of mushroom. It was served in a red sauce that she couldn't remember the details of, but I did see big chunks of cherry tomatoes in it.

I was pleasantly full enough, but the desserts sounded too good to pass up, so we each ordered one and didn't finish either one! I got a chai crème brûlée topped with whipped cream and a sliced strawberry--a fantastic flavor combination. The whipped cream added a necessary lightness to the rich spices of the chai flavoring. Miss Chef went for the 3-layer chocolate cake (keep in mind, this was only about 3" in diameter; not the ginormous AppleRubyFriday's wedge). The bottom layer was a flourless Bailey's chocolate cake, the middle was chocolate ganache, and it was topped with a strawberry chocolate mousse. Miss Chef had two bites and was done. I tried to help, but still had my own dessert in front of me. Oh, the sweet pain of leaving dessert behind.

Of course, we took the chocolate cake home with us. Which reminds me...I wonder if there's any left in the fridge?

As for the actual day, I have plans to sneak a card and a Reese's peanut-butter heart into Miss Chef's car before she leaves for work. She's already been sneaking little Valentines into my lunchbox this week. It's fun, but we've already agreed we don't need gifts or flowers. We both know that what really matters is making time for each other when we can. And that it doesn't have to be by Hallmark's schedule.

Update: Miss Chef came home from work last night and asked me if I'd be interested in being hostess Saturday night. I've bussed tables there before, but never hostessed, so I'm a little nervous about dealing with impatient guests whose tables aren't ready yet! But at least Miss Chef and I can be together on Valentine's day...even if we won't be able to see each other 'til service is over! Come back Sunday or Monday to see how it went...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Of Goats and Gardens

I saw the first flowers of spring today! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so I've scanned a picture I took 25 years ago with my first 110 camera!

Today as Rosie and I took a second path out of our pond area, we happened upon an ornamental apple tree (I think) covered in tiny white blooms. I saw some redbuds last week that were ready to pop, but haven't driven down that road this week, so maybe they were the first flowers. Still, I'm partial to apple trees, so I'm just as happy to have caught this tree in its first day.

Now then...if you've been reading carefully, you'll see our first topic today is goats. Yesterday Miss Chef went on a field trip to a goat farm, and I asked her to take some pictures for me. Bosky Acres sells cheese, lotion and soap at farmers' markets and a few grocery stores around town. We've gotten to know Michelle, the owner, at our truly local market in Matthews. She has been playing around with chocolate-goat cheese truffles, and she and Miss Chef started tossing around ideas for other goat-inspired sweets.

Michelle invited Miss Chef to come out to the farm to play with a caramel recipe, and Miss Chef was more than happy to make the drive! I was just jealous that it was on a weekday, and I had to be at work. Thus my admonition to take the camera.

Unfortunately, the goat pen was down a steep hill from the dairy building where the flavor concocting was done. So my hopes of adorable closeups are dashed. However, she did snap a bird's eye pic of the pen and its denizens.

At the moment, there are 14 goats, but many more are on the way! The does aren't due until next month...Miss Chef told me how many are expecting, but I don't remember. Any goat experts care to take a stab at the breed? Miss Chef wasn't big on details. Oh, and you can see some canine members of the herd at the bottom right. Don't know about that breed either, but they sure seem friendly!

I was pretty impressed by this huge pen; it looks like there's been quite an investment in this little farm. And I think they're doing fairly well; at least they have a fairly wide distribution between the markets, groceries and a couple of restaurants.

Miss Chef spent most of her visit in the dairy building, making things boil. She explained how they made the goat-cheese caramel sauce: essentially, make caramel and add some goat cheese at the end! She said they only added about 4 oz, just enough to "add a little tang." Here's the finished product:

She brought home a sample for me--she's so well-trained!--and I could just taste something a little deeper, earthier, in the back of my mouth. I'm not a big caramel eater, so I'd have to do a side-by-side taste test to really describe the difference. The color is beautiful, though!

Michelle is figuring out the packaging this week, and will have this sauce for sale at the farmers' market as a Valentine's treat this weekend. I can't wait to see how she markets it; Miss Chef told her we'd see her at the Saturday morning market--which means getting up at 6:30 or 7:00. As a non-morning person, I have to admit, it's worth it. I love the farmers' market, and the more often you go, the more fun it is. It doesn't hurt that I go with my own personal chef!

And now a brief update on the garden. For those of you who are daily readers, I wanted to show you those mini raised beds we made from our deconstructed planter box. Miss Chef managed to do this yesterday morning before she left on her field trip.

That's our main bed in the back. She dug in the small "boxes" an inch or two into the ground. I'm already picturing those three little rectangles filled with bushy green spinach, mesclun and...we haven't decided yet. So many choices! You can see Miss Chef also started constructing a trellis for my spring peas. I am determined to grow enough peas to spare! Last year we only got a handful at a time, only enough to mix in with something else. I know when I was a child we managed to even grow enough to freeze some, so I'm hoping that a nice trellis and good timing will improve our yield! We've got some work to do on the trellis, though.

I could go on and on about the daffodils coming up higher and starting to bud, the robins gathering in their huge migratory flocks, and the red maple tree starting to redden up as the sap surely begins to flow. I still love spring! But I've got a dog here who might like some attention, so I'll save all that for some other post. There's lots more spring on the way!

Update: Miss Chef has declared the third box will be filled with beets, glorious beets. She probably said "yummy beets," but I'd rather look at 'em than eat 'em.

Monday, February 9, 2009

99 Things

Yet another idea stolen from someone else's blog! Claire at Is this heaven? No, this is Iowa shared her 99 Things the other day. The idea is to declare whether you've done these things, wish you could, or have no interest in them. There were so many cool ones, and I couldn't help but compare my experiences with hers, so I wanted to do it myself!

The bold ones I've done, the gold ones I want to do, and the plain thanks!

1. Started your own blog.

2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band. (unless you count middle school band...I played clarinet.)

4. Visited Hawaii.

5. Watched a meteor shower.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity. (I can't pay off my credit card, but I still send $24 a month to sponsor a girl in Senegal.)

7. Been to Disneyland/world.

8. Climbed a mountain. (I climbed something in Sweden, but I think it was just a big hill. Oh, and we drove up Pike's Peak in Colorado when I was 6!)

9. Held a praying mantis.

10. Sang a solo.

11. Bungee jumped. (Never gonna happen!)

12. Visited Paris. (I actually lived there for about 10 months.)

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. (I think I'd be nervous.)

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. (Don't have one in mind, but I love my creative side.)

15. Adopted a child. (Just a dog.)

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. (My dad's from NYC, and I've visited numerous times, but have never made it to visit Miss Liberty.)

18. Grown your own vegetables. (Oh yeah...stay tuned for my gardening posts this spring!)

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. (It's a bit anticlimactic...the rest of the Louvre is vastly more interesting.)

20. Slept on an overnight train. (Several times, going from Paris to Barcelona & throughout Spain.)

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked. (Hail, no!)

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. (although I still count them as mental health days)

24. Built a snow fort (Fond memories of actually getting along with my brother for a day!)

25. Held a lamb. (I don't think so, though I got to pet them every year at the county fair.)

26. Gone skinny dipping. (just with my cousin, in our own pool...but still, it felt really cool without a bathing suit.)

27. Run a marathon. (I find running boring, and I hate to sweat!)

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.

29. Seen a total eclipse.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. (Is this just so everyone can say "yes" to at least one item?)

31. Hit a home run. (Although I love to watch baseball, I get scared of the ball headed toward me!)

32. Been on a cruise. (Don't know if I'd like it, but I'm willing to give it a shot!)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (Only once, even though I spent 25 years within a day's drive!)

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (Sort of...visited most of the countries my various ancestors came from.)

35. Seen an Amish community (The county I grew up in had a large Amish population.)

36. Taught yourself a new language. (Technically, this is impossible...realistically, it's incredibly difficult, and why would you want to do something the hard way when the easy way is so fun?)

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied. (I could go out to eat without feeling guilty!)

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing.

40. Seen Michelangelo's David in person.

41. Sung Karaoke.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. (We went to Yellowstone, but I don't think we saw Old Faithful.)

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant. (Sadly, I don't think this would ever occur to me.)

44. Visited Africa. (Just Tangiers, but it counts!)

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance. (Once...concussion from falling off a horse.)

47. Had your portrait painted.

48. Gone deep sea fishing. (I'd rather just go cruising.)

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person (Rome is on my List.)

50. Been to the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Snorkeling...I was an instant convert.)

52. Kissed in the rain.

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theatre (and yes, I ended up in the back seat!)

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business (One day Miss Chef hopes to start a restaurant, and I will be her front of house manager.)

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia (ancestral land!)

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies. (We had to sell spice sets for band...they were horrible!)

62. Gone whale watching

63. Gotten flowers for no reason (Just last week, after a horrible day at work.)

64. Donated blood (...but I'm so afraid of needles!)

65. Gone sky diving. (I used to think I'd do this to cure my fear of heights, but I've changed my mind.)

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (Dachau)

67. Bounced a check (My last rent check in Paris! Oops!)

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (DC is also on my List.)

71. Eaten Caviar (Bleagh!)

72. Pieced a quilt (I do not have the patience for that.)

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job (missed being laid off by a week, though)

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (I reportedly complained it was too hot.)

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car (It's a stupid way to spend your money...believe me, I work in auto finance!)

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper (once with a ferret)

85. Read the entire Bible (Tried when I was 6, never tried again.)

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. (No, just raised them...Dad did the butchering.)

88. Had chickenpox.

89. Saved someone’s life (Not that I know of!)

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous (Alice Waters! ...and David Letterman's mom.)

92. Joined a book club (I would love to talk about the books I read with friends!)

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person (For some reason, this has never interested me.)

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

98. Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee

So what does that tell you about me? That I love to talk about myself? That I've traveled, and I don't like athletic activities.

What does it tell me about myself? That I love to talk about myself! And I've done a lot of cool stuff, and there's a lot more cool stuff left to do!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Out in the Yard

It seems spring is springing here in the Carolinas. I have every expectation it will spring back at least once before settling in for good, but this weekend we enjoyed sunny days in the high 60s, and it seemed everyone was outside! Miss Chef and I both had to work on Saturday, but today was wide open.

Of course, we have a list a mile long of all the things we'd like to, or need to, accomplish before the hot deadly days of summer chase this Yankee back inside. However, I'm learning that I actually enjoy working outside if I let myself do whatever's in front of me, instead of pushing myself to do the hardest thing first. As a result, I'm not sure how much we really accomplished, but we had a lovely day outside.

Here's an indication of how unorganized our day was! That pot on the table contains the blueberry plant I gave Miss Chef for Christmas. It was high time we got it in the dirt. In the background, to the left, you can see the bare patch that is our vegetable garden. And, who's that, back there on the right? Why, that's Miss Chef! I had another great picture of her, but she didn't like it, so she'd only let me post this one:

There she is, carefully handweeding the vegetable garden. On the left, between her foot and her hand, you can see a couple of garlic plants coming up. Neither one of us is exactly sure how to grow garlic, but Miss Chef bought some at the farmers' market last fall and used them like onion sets. It seems to be working! Now we just have to figure out how to tell when they're ready...

While she was working on the garden, I cleaned out a flower bed. Most people do this in the fall, clearing all the dead plants and cutting things back for winter. However, we've been having very mild winters here, and I'm not at all used to that. The dianthus never died back, so I just let it hang out. The mint, on the other hand...I tore out as much as I could find, and replanted a tiny six-inch sprout. I'm quite sure we'll still have plenty this summer.

While I was sweeping the patio back into another bed, I found this fragile little cage:

It's the remains of the seed-head from a poppy. Or is it a balloon flower? How shocking that I can't quite remember! Apparently my memory is very seasonal.

Well, we did get the blueberry planted--after discovering yet another humungous fire-ant mound. My northern friends, you may be wishing for warmer climes, but please, please enjoy your lack of fire ants! We haven't found anything that will get rid of them; the best results we've gotten are when they move into someone else's yard. They're as invasive as Bermuda grass, but they bite! And that's why they're called fire ants--owie, owie, owie!

Anyway, we also tore down an old planter box that was collapsing, and we're going to use the sections to make small raised beds, with a couple of lids to cover them. We'll plant greens in those. I don't have pictures of any of that stuff, because I was busy getting my hands dirty. I do, however, have a picture of the yard superintendant.

That's the remaining planter box behind Rosie; you can see how we're just going to lift each section off the other one and repurpose it onto the ground.

Rosie is so very good; our yard is completely open in the back, and down the driveway, and we can generally leave her off the line to wander around. We can even go inside to get a drink or answer the phone, and trust her to stay put. She loves to just watch the world go by. It's only when a cat or rabbit goes by that we have any issues!

So that concludes our first of many days in the backyard. We chatted with our neighbor over the fence about how hard it is to get motivated to do this kind of thing on your own. Her husband recently started a job requiring him to work weekends, and she's now going through the same frustrations Miss Chef and I have been learning to live with. It's never easy, but it did remind me how lucky we are to have one day off together every week. At least, 'til brunch season...

We ended the day with homemade lasagna and the movie No Reservations. A Miss Chef favorite, of course. They did a lot to make the kitchen realistic; she particularly appreciates the use of the walk-in cooler as a conference/therapy room!

Wow, this really was a wonderful weekend. I'm glad I started this blog; it's a great way to look back and remember the good times!

Hope y'all had wonderful weekends, too!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Don't Divorce Us"

Tangobaby and Liz have both posted this on their blogs, from the Courage Campaign. It is a response to Ken Starr's filing to defend the constitutionality of Prop 8 in California, effectively seeking to force over 18,000 couples to divorce.

I thought it would be a cute little show, but I ended up with tears running down my face. I can just imagine the frustration, after the elation of getting married, to lose that long-sought blessing so quickly.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

If you're interested, there is an online petition at the Courage Campaign website--the Supreme Court hearings start March 5.

I wish Miss Chef and I could get married. When we realized that we were going to stay together for the rest of our lives, Miss Chef declared she did not want a wedding. I thought it was some political or religious issue, but it turns out, she just doesn't want to have a bunch of people staring at her! She's a bit of a wallflower; that's why she likes hiding out in the kitchen, I guess.

Anyway, she has agreed that if we ever gain the right to even a civil union, she will go to the courthouse to be joined with me--but only if we have the minimum number of witnesses! (My parents' presence may be negotiable.) So now, like a 14 year-old, I can once again dream about my wedding day. Unlike my 14 year-old self, though, I am not dreaming of an elaborate white dress and pink flowers, in front of the priest I used to be an acolyte with. A shabby civic office with a perfect stranger is in my dream; maybe a white dress, maybe not. No stretch limo to run for, as all my friends and family toss birdseed in my hair; just a walk across a parking lot to my five year-old car, with our witnesses riding in the back seat. And instead of a grand entrance into a hotel ballroom, a first dance, and tossing a bouquet--maybe a backyard barbeque with a cooler full of beer and some pitchers of sangria. my dream there are butterflies in my stomach, nervous glances with my soon-to-be spouse, probably a fumble with the vows and some giggling. Still..there is the presence of those who love us, the support of those who matter, and the stunning realization that our lives have just changed. There are toasts and jokes and laughter, hugs and tears and life-long memories. We will eat great food and take lots of photos with our friends and family. We might even throw a bouquet. And if we're really lucky, go on a honeymoon...maybe Hawai'i; that would be fantastic.

Someday, someday...believe it or not, I don't usually spend much time thinking about the issue of same-sex marriage, but, when I do, really hurts.

I don't want to turn this blog into a bully pulpit for my politics, but unfortunately, these politics are interfering with my personal life. And that is the subject of this blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Interview

Lovely Liz at Eternal Lizdom has volunteered to interview anyone who wants it. I suppose the very fact of having a blog makes one a bit of an exhibitionist, so I decided to get in on the fun. I was excited to see what burning questions she'd want to ask, and a little nervous about having to reveal something I wasn't ready for. But Liz seems like a gentle soul, so here goes:

1. I love a good tell me the story of how you and Miss Chef met!

You'll have to forgive me for remaining a little vague on some details, but I can certainly give you the gist of the story. I was in a PhD program, and had come to the realization that it wasn't worth going through the dissertation process, only to spend my career doing research I wasn't really interested in. (As a friend is fond of saying: "Gifted...but not necessarily bright!")

Since what I really wanted to do was teach, I did a job search for community colleges and private high schools. I ended up at a magnet school in Alabama, of all places, where Miss Chef was a recent graduate and had returned to work as a Resident Assistant. I was blown away by her down-to-earth common sense, and we got to be great friends. She, on the other hand, had spotted me on my interview visit and was smitten. I, still blissfully convinced I was straight, had no clue how much I was confusing her...until she finally got up the nerve to kiss me. We've been together 8 years now.

2. You shared that Miss Chef hasn't come out to her parents. Are you out to your friends and family? How was that journey for you?

Yes, I am, thank God! I came out to my friends first, because I knew they would be okay with it--although I was a little nervous about some of my closest ones thinking I had been lusting after them in college, they were great! Coming out to my parents was much, much more difficult. I was 30 years old; it was not like they were expecting it. But I felt that they were open-minded enough to accept it at least a little bit, and I hated that I couldn't share the best parts of my life with them.

At first they were very unhappy, angry, frustrated, but kept a lot of that to themselves. It took a long time for them to accept Miss Chef as my significant other, but we've hit a very nice point now. I think that we had to be more honest about our emotions than we tend to be in my family, and it's made our relationship better. I'm not sure they're 100% happy with my "choice" of Miss Chef, but they're not complaining anymore! My brother didn't seem to care; he claimed he wasn't surprised, and he and his wife are very happy to have the kids call Miss Chef "Aunt."

3. Is Rosie your first dog, or do you have a history of dogs and pets behind you?

I grew up in an old farmhouse, with lots and lots of animals! We got our first dog when I was about two--Dad would only allow golden retrievers in the house. Charlie, the current family dog, is our third.

I think my first pet was a frog I fished out the swimming pool with the aid of the dog. I also had a string of cats, parakeets, turtles, hermit crabs, fish, and mice, as well as raising chickens and rabbits for non-pet purposes (if you catch my drift). Plus, my brother had some anoles he'd share with me, and he got into the habit of catching "pet" garter snakes, just to freak out my mom. However, Rosie is my first very-own dog as an adult person. I knew that whenever I finally bought a house, a dog would be part of the package.

On the other hand, I never did get the pony I put on my Christmas list every single year for decades.

4. What's a regular day like in the life of Flartus?

Frankly, boring. Why do you think I spend so much time blogging?? ☺

Weekdays I work a typical 8-5 office job, sitting in front of a computer and making phone calls. When I get home, I take Rosie for a half-hour walk, then I either do household chores, screw around on the internet, or read. This does not apply when Miss Chef is home, in which case most of that screwing around is replaced with dinner & cleanup.

On the weekends, we often hit two farmer's markets on Saturday mornings, and then Miss Chef uses our purchases to make lunch. Then she goes off to work, while I either do house/yardwork, or sit around and read while feeling guilty about neglecting my house/yardwork. However, Saturday and Sunday mornings are supposed to also be volunteer time, so in the future I hope to be able to talk about that! Sundays are the only day Miss Chef and I have the whole day off together, so of course we spend it, romantically, at WalMart or Home Depot, or choring. Unless we sit around reading all day!

5. What on earth does Flartus mean??

I'm so glad you asked! It was the nickname my dad came up with for our second family dog, Amber. (That's her picture up top.) She was kind of an oddball, and Flartus really captured the goofiness of this dog that only cared about chasing her ball, regardless of injury or looking silly. She's the only golden I know who was a picky eater! She came into our lives when I was 16, and I honestly feel that she was my first child; it was the first time I understood what it really meant to love some"one" unconditionally. I will always miss her.

And why did I use that as my name? Well, it's the only one I know that will never be taken on a server, so when I got frustrated trying versions of "My 2 Sense," that's where I went. (By the way, I find it very, very irritating that the owner of that blog name has only made 3 posts since, like, 2004. Jerk.)

Thanks for letting me spill, Liz! And if anyone has any follow-up questions, please ask! You know how I love to blather!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Inspiration & Precipitation

Millard Fuller died yesterday at age 74. I never heard of him, until listening to the news on the way to work this morning. I mourn his passing, however, because he was the founder of Habitat for Humanity.

Now that's a legacy!

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We got another round of light snow here in the Carolinas, and the whole dang city freaked out again. Schools were closed, as were entire streets. Apparently there was enough black ice on the roads to cause accidents. I, however, did my daily commute without any problems, and saw only teeny patches of iciness that were easy to avoid. I was the only person in my department for the first hour of business. In fact, when I got to the office, I was alone for a good 15 minutes, and was beginning to wonder if I'd been left off the phone tree or something.

In fact, I was disappointed with the snow. Two years ago, we woke up one morning to an inch or so of fairly wet stuff. It was shortly after Rosie had moved in with us, and she had obviously never seen snow before. She was a little leery at first, and needed some reassurance that it wasn't going to bite her. Then she suddenly decided snow was wonderful! You can eat it, romp in it, throw it around, and if your human's around, you can even chase it!

Of course, I had to scrape off my car and head to work, so I didn't get to enjoy the entertainment like Miss Chef did. She was working nights, so she got to play a little. And I've been waiting for a decent snowfall ever since.

I thought maybe today's little bit of white might be enough to get the dog worked up, but I'm afraid she may already be jaded. She trotted out with her monkey, and had a fine time rubbing his raggedy little head into the snow, but didn't seem to care otherwise. She was much more interested in what time breakfast was gonna get served, and trotted straight back to the door when her duty was done.

Oh well. I guess they have to grow up sometime...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

Ok, I finally made it to the library, and have started into another book. It's about a guy who works as a grip in the movie industry (clicking on the pic will take you to the book's website). I have several friends from college who have gone on to work in tv and film, so I thought it would be interesting to get an inside look at what all those other hundreds of people are up to whom we never see onscreen.

I'm on page 37, and I like it so far! The author was a key grip, so he knows whereof he speaks...or writes. I think I will be getting that education I was looking for.

I'm also reading this little spoof of the Dangerous Book for Boys (and Girls). It's hard for me to read a lot at one sitting, so I'm just reading a little before I get ready for bed. My favorite chapter name is "Foul Smells Every Dog Should Roll In." I don't think I'll write any kind of review of this--dog lovers/owners will find it amusing, others will find it pointless.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Day in the Life

I've posted a couple of times about my walks with Rosie, so I thought I'd try to take you along with me. This was a nice Sunday afternoon walk, so I took a couple of detours I might not take during the week.

First step, out the door, then Rosie knows to sit politely to be leashed.

Not patiently, but politely.

The daffodils started poking up through the mulch a week or so ago. There is a curiously empty spot in the middle of this bed which does not bode well for our spring color. I also added some tulip bulbs in here last fall; I hope I didn't disturb the slumbering 'dils too much

This is my view as we head down the sidewalk. At least, until an interesting smell pulls Rose off to the side.

First we head to the park...our neighborhood's common area. This is one of three entrances.

And here we are. There are three of these charming little footbridges, which I'm sure I'll be hearing lots about during our HOA board meetings! They require regular maintenance.

This new playground equipment went in last year, with some controversy over the money spent on it. But it gets lots of use, and having people walking around the neighborhood keeps the place alive, and safe. Miss Chef's and my only disappointment is that they didn't buy it from the company her mom works for.

This wooded area backs the pond. There's a cow pasture behind, but the cows were in the barn this afternoon, watching the Super Bowl pregame show and making nacho dip, I guess.

Me and my shadow's shadows. They look so much nobler than we.

Ah, the ducks, panicking along the shoreline instead of just getting in the water. You know how dogs whimper and twitch in their sleep? This is what Rosie is dreaming about. She actually killed the mother of these two, by going after her on her nest back in the woods. I had no idea she was back there, and by the time I got to her, she was probably in shock. The duck, I mean...Rosie was just peachy. Bad dog.

Oooo, new friends! A couple of cuties, too. This is the only beagle I've seen who didn't bark!

These geese are wild, and therefore smarter than the ducks.

On the way out of the park: Was that a cat?!!!???

Grates: one of the very few things which make Rosie nervous.

And our welcoming committe: the Barkersons. These two dogs live directly across the street from us and bark at everything that moves up and down the sidewalk. When we moved in, I dubbed them Joe and Sparky Barky. I have since learned their names are Frisco (the hound) and Cody (the lab). They are no less annoying. Cody's not a barker, but he's the most aloof and unfriendly lab I've ever met.

So that's it! Thanks for coming along. Sorry, you missed the poop pick up, the multiple scent markings and my and Rosie's wrangling over her propensity to grab, um, "snacks" up from goose territory. But I figured you could do without all that.