I don’t know about you, but I find punctuality to be overrated

Remember Andy Rooney, the crusty old guy who did the final segment on the television show 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011? Sometimes I feel like I am turning into him, even  getting old man eyebrows. Thank goodness for scissors!

Andy Rooney
Andrew Aitken “Andy” Rooney, 1919 to 2011.
eyebrows
Old man eyebrows. Great unless you aren’t old or a man!

Not to be confused with Mickey Rooney, the much-married song and dance man of the stage and screen. Although he might have been cranky and opinionated, too.

Mickey Rooney

I’m in an Andy Rooney kind of mood. You know, the “I don’t know about you but such and such really annoys me” kind of mood. Here’s a classic Andy Rooney rant, this one about public “art”.

 

I’m feeling feisty on the subject on punctuality today. I used to be a very punctual person. Really. To the point of always being early for everything. Not too early to the point of seeming crazy. If I was really too early for something, I’d wait outside or in my car until I could walk in just early enough to show I was paying attention to the clock. I got a lot of reading done in my car in those days. Or if it was for a job interview, pep talk time and reminders to breath. The other advantage of being early in the case of something like a job interview, you can squeeze in a trip to the restroom just so you feel that much better before you go in.

bad_interview_questions
The panel interview, nightmare of job-seeking introverts everywhere.

But I’ve decided punctuality is an overrated concept. Maybe I’m finally defeating my OCD tendencies!

I had an employer once who had the supposedly brilliant idea that for employee evaluations he would issue old-fashioned report cards with grades in various categories. I always got an A+ in punctuality. Mostly because I liked to get there before anyone else so I could make the coffee. No one else made it strong enough,so my motives were selfish, but it got me brownie points.

 

 

But the reality is that my good grade in punctuality was meaningless when it came to actually getting the job done. If I had been 10 minutes late every day, like the office manager was, I’d still have gotten my work done. She got C’s in punctuality but A’s in everything else, and everyone loved her. I was a younger, moodier, more anxious me then, and didn’t particularly play well with others, so low marks for me in attitude. I was oddly proud of that, too!

i_heart_my_attitude_problem_poster-rccc875b3457b49c88bb2fd2d1aeafda1_wa3_8byvr_324
Yep, that was me.

Needless to say, the office manager stayed on with bonuses and promotions, and I left by mutual agreement with the boss and went to graduate school (the first time). My philosophy–if life gives you lemons, go back to school and learn how to make the best lemonade ever!

lemons.jpg

I love to watch competition cooking shows, but I always wonder why the insistence on the time clock down to the last second. Would another 5 seconds hurt? If you are eating at a restaurant, wouldn’t you rather have the dish that the chef finished the way s/he wanted rather than the one rushed to beat the clock? It shouldn’t be all about the clock, but all about the food. Within reason, of course.

cooking clock

 

skeleton-sitting-at-a-laid-table-with-a-plate-a-knife-a-spoon-and-CXR9A5
Okay, time is important. I don’t want to be this unfortunate diner either.

When adorable Cydney Sherman on Masterchef Junior dropped her vegan burger on the floor and there were only 60 seconds left on the clock, would it have killed Gordon Ramsay to give her a few extra seconds to wipe her tears and cook another one? (But I am glad there was a vegan challenge, and she didn’t go home as a couple of other junior chefs made bigger mistakes than she did.) Masterchef Junior makes me cry every week!

Cydney-Sherman
Masterchef Junior contestant Cydney Sherman. Please don’t make her cry again, Gordon Ramsay!

In my school program this time around (remind when I finish the Ph.D. to stop going back to school, unless it’s vegan cooking school or sewing school), we submit all of our assignments online. The due dates are listed with whatever is due being due at 11:59 p.m. on the day. Really? If I turn it in at midnight, that not’s good enough? Will my coach turn into a pumpkin while I lose my glass slipper?

1159

 

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Who in her right mind would wear glass slippers, anyway?

Being on time really doesn’t equate to doing a good job. Yes, I understand deadlines are important. Without them I’d never get anything done! And I do still aim for punctuality on things like doctor appointments and show start times. Some places won’t let you in until intermission if you miss the start of the show. Dinner reservations are important to honor; I’d rather give the chef extra time to cook than hold up service from my end!

Seinfeld-Chinese-Restaurant1
I don’t want to be THE annoying customer!

One of my professors this semester has the wonderful approach that assignment due dates are guidelines, not ultimatums. Thank you, Dr. P.! I am a busy person. We are all busy people. Let’s cut each other some slack when it’s not a life and death situation.

I keep a calendar, color coded with my class assignments and due dates. I was taking 4 classes this time around, but one class in particular was totally stressing me out. I had little blue post-its everywhere on my calendar! My old OCD self would have done everything to make it work, but maybe not doing as good a job on things in service to the deadlines. I made a decision that would have been unthinkable to me in the not-so-distant past. I dropped a class 8 weeks into the semester. And it feels so good!

OCD

paper

 

calendar
All of the blue post-its are gone!

I feel much more relaxed and only slightly defeated. That will go away. It’s like not finishing  book you’ve started and aren’t enjoying. There’s a small sense of defeat, but you forget about it. Or not.

austerlitz
Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald. The book I couldn’t finish. Not forgotten, apparently!

And now I have 6 glorious days before my next assignment is due! At 11:59 p.m. on March 12. The clock is ticking.

 

 

 

 

 

My first vegan holiday feast

Funny thing, when I started this blog I was really planning on it being a food and recipe blog. I do sometimes mention food and restaurants, and I wrote one post Eating Vegan in the East Bay early on. But this is the first time I am writing a post about cooking. A sign of how busy my life has become! This year will be the first time I have planned and prepared a completely vegan holiday meal for family and friends. Non-vegan family and friends, at that. It’s going to be an amazing meal (fingers crossed)!

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Sounds good to me.

The menu is planned and the shopping list is made.

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The shopping list isn’t too bad.

I was getting frustrated searching for vegan appetizers: it seems like all any non-vegans can think of for us is hummus. Don’t get me wrong, I love hummus. But it’s become so ubiquitous that it’s not got that special holiday something about it. But then I found The Full Helping blog

The Full Helping

The Full Helping

You know that hot, gooey, bad for you, but delicious artichoke/spinach dip that became popular in the 1980s? There’s a vegan version! And I’m making it.

Vegan artichoke and spinach dip

dip
Comfort food, mmm.

To balance out the gooey, cashew-cheesiness, of course there should be a salad. One thing I miss as a vegan is a good Caesar salad. And I found a recipe for a vegan one on another plant-based food blog, Oh She Glows, by Angela Liddon.

Oh She Glows

oh she glows

I could just eat a whole big bowl of this and be happy.

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Crowd-Pleasing Vegan Caesar Salad

The main event: I wanted to do something special, not a lasagna or a something-over-rice dish. I love to watch food competition television, and on Hell’s Kitchen the contestants are always tripped up by Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington recipe. I was wondering if anyone had ever made a vegan mushroom version, and of course they have. And who knew that Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan?!

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Gordon Ramsay is probably about to drop an f-bomb on one of the poor “cheftestants”.
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This is bad news for my waistline: it’s vegan.

Enter The Vegan Version blog. Yes, a recipe for Mushroom Wellington! And it sounds a lot easier than anything Gordon Ramsay would throw at me (literally throw, I mean).

The Vegan Version

wellington
Holiday plate worthy.

Mushroom Wellington

Gotta have some vegetables on the side, especially at a vegan feast, and after the artichoke dip I didn’t want anything heavy like green bean casserole, but green beans, yes. So it will be a simple green bean sauté with pearl onions and sliced almonds. No recipe required.

green beans

I’m always looking for a reason to get out my Jim Lahey cookbook My Bread. Its the source of the no-knead bread recipe that went viral after Mark Bittman published it in the NY Times a few years ago. Jim Lahey  is the pastry chef at Sullivan Street Bakery (2 locations, 533 W 47th Street and 236 Ninth Avenue, New York) and pizza maker supreme at pizzeria Co. (230 9th Ave., New York), which I have been to once on a pilgrimage a few years ago (pre-vegan days).

bread book

bread

One of the guests is bringing a dessert, but I can’t make a feast without making a dessert, and no meal is complete for me without chocolate anymore, so I figure I’ll make one too. Moosewood Cooks, from the legendary Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY to the rescue!

Moosewood Cooks

I googled “easy vegan chocolate cake” and this is what I got: Moosewood’s Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake.

Moosewood Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

And now, I have to actually go to a store, my least favorite part of the adventure that is cooking. Going to get my groceries home, put on some Christmas music (James Taylor at Christmas and Tuck Andress Hymns, Carols, and Songs About Snow are the 2 most-played at our house), and get cooking!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays!

Love and Peace to All!

 

 

 

 

Returning to School in My 50s, or, Perfecting the Art of Procrastination

Preface: I should be writing an assignment on peer reviewed journals and open access publishing, but this is more fun. I fell asleep doing my school reading on the couch last night, and I hoped I’d wake up full of academic insight but instead I woke up thinking, I’ll do a blog post on going back to school!

For those of you who know me personally, I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak. My television hero for many years was Mr. Monk, played in the best persnickety way by Tony Shaloub.

monk

Towels had to hung a certain way, the bed made just so every morning, laundry folded while it was still warm, never a dish left in the kitchen sink. News flash: between working full time, going to school full time, volunteering at the East Bay SPCA, and having a bathroom full of foster kittens, I don’t have time to be Mr. Monk anymore!

good morning

My favorite appliance used to be the television set in the den; now it’s the coffee machine in the kitchen.

television coffee

I still watch television, but I am choosier about what I watch. Chopped and Ted Allen, I love you, but what else can you put in a mystery box that I haven’t seen already? And Rick Castle, I think I’m done with you and Kate Beckett. When you disappeared for 3 months on the way to your wedding–that was jumping the proverbial shark for me.

Chopped Castle

As Heidi Klum says, one day you’re in, one day you’re out. Heidi, you and Tim Gunn are in. I can’t give up Project Runway. And Gordon Ramsay, you might be as mean as they come, but I am addicted to you. Plus you added Christina Tosi to the MasterChef host crew, and a woman who kicks ass in the pastry kitchen is right up my alley.

Project-Runway-Bridal

The home cooks will need to create an elevated dish using peanut butter and jelly.

I got so involved in getting my study area organized Saturday night that I completely FORGOT that I had a ticket to the Hall and Oates concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. Daryl and John, I have not outgrown you, I just have a very busy life right now. I’ll be there next time!

Hall and Oates The_Greek_Theatre_Berkeley_Sign Greek

I used to take the time to put in my contacts and make sure I looked nice before I left home in the morning. Now, as long as I am wearing clothes and have coffee, who cares?

looking good today

If there were books left piled in the kitchen (rarely), they were about food and cooking. Now there is always a pile of reading, nothing to do with food or cooking either one! And the stack of books by the bed is going to get dusty before I get to them.

cookbooks texts papers bedside

Unheard of just a month ago, there are two loads of laundry that have been waiting days for folding. And my poor refrigerator is going to starve. For a fledgling vegan, I don’t have many fruits or vegetables on hand! But the pets have food, more important.

laundry refrigerator

So, why am I doing this whole school thing at this point in my life? Because it’s the most excited I’ve felt about anything in a long time. I finally found something, Humane Education through Saybrook University, that I am passionate about and maybe it will turn into a way that I can make a little bit of difference in the world. I feel inspired and fulfilled, feelings I don’t really get at work these days but feelings that I think we all deserve to have. And now on to that assignment on open access publishing…