Tag : about-me
Tag : about-me
What are we going to do with you?
We might just have to forget you and move on.
I think everyone, regardless of creed, background, or political inclination, can agree that 2016 has been quite a year. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to determine.
Every year, as long as I’ve been blogging, I like to end with a look back on the previous twelve months, review big moments and firsts, reflect on my resolutions, and think about the next year.
I was rereading the last two end of year posts (“bye-bye 2015“, and “good year, and good night “), and I saw that in 2014, I wrote about how each year feels shorter than the last. Someone once told me that the years grow shorter as you get older because each year becomes a smaller fraction of your life. For a 10-year old, one year is 10%, but for a 50-year old, it’s only 2%. I commented on how “as I go through my 20s, it feels like someone’s shoving me from behind at a more and more aggressive rate every day,” specifically looking towards the year I would turn 25…
That was this year. I turned 25 this past April, so not only am I halfway through those roaring (meekly squeaking) 20s mentioned above, but I’m also a quarter of a century old.
This year definitely has felt like the shortest and fastest year of my life, and by far the most stressful. Part of me hopes that next year doesn’t go by so fast, but the other part of me knows it will, and can only hope that it’s less hair-loss-and-gray-hair inducing and at least as fulfilling as the last.
And with that, tonight, on the 31st of December, I bid farvel, godnatt, and arrivederci, to 2016, and godmorgen, hallo, and villkommen to 2017. But before we finish our champagne and our adieu’s, let’s look back at what happened this past year.
What Did I Do This Year?
My 2016 Resolution:
Did I do that? Doubtful. It is an established fact by now that I can gracefully carry a large ladder, but I cannot carry a 4-quart food processor.
I kept a note on my phone of all the exercise I did this year and all the exercise I wanted to do, organized by type, frequency, intensity, and month, with graduated increases from month to month. I did less than half. In fact, most of it is rolling over into 2017.
And by “rolling over,” I mean “being forgiven like I hope my student loans will be.”
I did get fit, a little bit. I did establish some habits (I walk a few miles a week), and I discovered some exercises that work for me and some that don’t (bootcamp nearly murdered me 51 weeks ago today, and spin class basically saved my life.)
In a sense, I did make progress, and it’s progress that I want to keep working on through the next year and the rest of my life. I want to keep lifting weights, practicing yoga, walking around my city, and exploring different fitness classes. Of course, I want my body to look better but knowing my eating habits, that’s unlikely to happen no matter what I do at the gym.
More importantly, though, I just want to keep exercising and learning.
I had also resolved to produce more savory recipes for the blog, and again, I made minimal progress. I did end up with a nice focaccia recipe and a recipe for onion soup, so not all is shame and failure. I also cooked a lot more this past year than I have any year before, and I learned heaps of great cooking techniques (I can braise! I can sear! I can make a roux! I can roast a chicken!)
My Resolution(s) for 2017:
I can be pretty obsessive about forming resolutions. Not only do I have a whole philosophy regarding the formation of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve even gone through various iterations of said philosophy. I couldn’t think of anything pertinent for the new year, and chances are I’ll just keep changing habits throughout the rest of my life anyway, so rather than a general resolution or a massive 12-month goal, I think I’ll work on these 3 smaller goals:
Manageable, measurable, and attainable, and to top it all off, low-stress.
Now, let’s all take a collective deep breath, and say “good riddance, and good night” to 2016.
Categories: about me
This is a story about dreams, and realizing them.
And then realizing that they’re not for you, and deciding to turn around and run away as fast as possible.
It starts in the late 90s, when I was in elementary school. Had you asked me at age 10 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said either “a boardwalk portrait painter,” or “a chef.” The first was something I legitimately wanted to be (and anyone who has seen me draw anything since then knows that dream will forever remain unrealized.) The latter was something I pulled out of my ass. I couldn’t tell you now why I thought I wanted to be a chef when I was 10.
Perhaps it was the mushroom hats I wanted.
If you’ve skimmed through the about the klutz page, you’ll already know the story of why I bake now, so we’ll skip over that.
A year ago, had I told you that first small segment of memoir, you would have gasped, “Serendipity! Fate! It was meant to be!” with your hands on your cheeks (put your hands on my cheeks and you may not be using them for much anymore.) Funny how things change in just a few months.
Young me thought that becoming a chef or a pastry chef would be glamorous, and naturally the best thing (getting paid to make sweets? Why not?), but Now Me sees that there’s so much more to it than just really enjoying food, making sweets, and getting paid.
You have to be obsessed with it, and for all of my talk about food and passion, I don’t think I’m passionate in quite the same way a chef should be.
I had my first taste of coffee in middle school, and as soon as I set foot in the coffee shop, I thought, “this is where I want to be. I want to work here.”
I once did a short stint at a coffee shop, but that didn’t last very long.
It had been the job of my dreams, and I couldn’t hold onto it. Cue shame, questioning of my self-worth, and “how will I ever build a career now” tears.
A month later, I landed the next perfect job, and because I know someone from that job will be reading this, I realize now, many months later, that this new job is actually the best one for me. But because this job has been a success, and this is a story about non-success, this story will not be about this job.
I still needed one more job. Two months of applying, networking, interviewing in sketchy parking lots, and once even (seemingly) receiving a job offer, only to have it mysteriously revoked the next afternoon, and nothing to show for it, but exhaustion, fear, and shame.
Then someone suggested that I offer to intern in a restaurant kitchen, as a pastry assistant, for free. First, it would help me see if food service was really my destiny before I committed to spending two arms and legs, and all of my beautiful fingers, on culinary school. Second, I could get my foot in the door, work my way up, and become a real pastry chef, even without culinary school.
So I did. It fell through, understandably, but when that door closed, another one flew wide open:
In March, I was offered a full-time job doing pastry in a restaurant, with a training period to help me master the menu.
I decided after my second shift that this dream would have to end this month, or this season.
I miraculously networked my way into a pastry job at a restaurant, a 5-7 days a week job that entailed prepping three desserts, with garnishes. Cakes, tarts, compotes, even ice cream, all from scratch with local produce. I, with the occasional help of a pastry chef, would go in for one day of prep each week, and five evenings of service. During the week, service was slow and sometimes I couldn’t think of anything productive to do so I would just stare at the wall. Some nights, mostly Fridays and Saturdays, were non-stop, from open until an hour after close, and a shift could be anywhere from five to nine hours.
I couldn’t manage six days a week with the freelance writing and the other job, not to mention the grad school application (I got in! I’m going back to school!), so I elected to show up a few hours before service during the week and do whatever production had yet to be done (spinning ice cream bases, baking off tarts, making order lists for ingredients.)
Some of the desserts I enjoyed making, while some became the bane of my existence (pâte sucrée, never again), and regardless of how I felt about chopping up streusel, reducing compote, or prepping a malted milk vanilla bean ice cream base, I certainly learned a few things.
In the end, and from the beginning, I learned that a stainless steel commercial kitchen was not the kitchen I wanted to be in, and whatever difficulties lay waiting for me in culinary school would have to wait for someone else.
Speaking of difficulty, I once read an article that said, instead of focusing on what jobs we want to do and what we want to be successful at, or what kinds of fun we’d like to experience in our careers, it’s more productive to focus on what we want to suffer, and what difficulties we’re not only willing to face, but also want to face.
I don’t give a damn about whether I can dice a carrot into perfectly-sized cubes.
I don’t want to learn how to julienne a scallion with my eyes closed.
I don’t really need to learn about kitchen sanitation.
And I have no desire to join the army just so I can learn how to make something that’ll literally turn to crap within half an hour.
I had an epiphany when I realized that my one big passion was Food, and I naturally assumed that Making Food would be my calling, and as my calling, also my Career, even if all the Anthony Bourdain bios tried to scare me away from it.
Kitchen Confidential couldn’t convince me that I didn’t want to make pastries for a living, but spending two days on production could.
Before you assume anything: the restaurant staff were some of the greatest, nicest, and most encouraging people I know and I fully realize that for someone who really does want a career in pastry, this is The Ideal Opportunity. Few people get the keys to the oven, no job application, no interview, no resume, for a full-time job and an authentic experience. The restaurant itself is chic and the food delectable, whether it’s the grilled pork belly burgers with local cheese, herbed French fries, or the delicately seared scallops. And not to toot my own horn, but the desserts aren’t half bad.
None of that changes the fact, though, that my personality and the nature of the job get along like water and butter: not at all. I’m not a fast person: it takes me at least a month to prepare one recipe for this blog, and I’m thrilled when I can manage as many as three posts in four weeks.
I’m not a high-energy person: you tell me to run and I just want to lie down and take a nap.
I can’t multitask: I’m still not even sure how a person manages to prepare bases, fillings, and garnishes for three elaborate desserts within one day, when I can barely manage two dozen muffins in the same amount of time.
I hate decoration and frill. I don’t like it when they drizzle a little bit of syrup on my dessert when I go out to eat: it’s not enough for me to eat and I just feel like it’s going to waste being smeared all over the porcelain.
I’m not a perfectionist: I cringe whenever the somewhat less consistent of the pastries were tossed.
I’m not a loud, outspoken person, I don’t like yelling, I don’t like being surrounded by people, and I get overwhelmed in loud places.
It’s not at all that I think I’m above the job. It’s that I think the whole career and industry are better off without me.
It’s like trying to break down a wall with a paring knife, when there’s a wrecking ball right behind you and someone who knows how to use it already sitting in the driver’s seat.
Last year, when I lost the coffee job, I blamed myself, I was ashamed, and I worried that achieving my dreams may be impossible. Now, I still blame myself, but not because I messed up: it’s because I know who I am now, I have some idea of what’s expected in this industry, and I know that those two don’t line up. I’m not ashamed: I’m empowered. I can close this door permanently and say, “Veni. Vidi. Not for Me.” I can confidently say, “Never again, but thank you and best of luck to everyone else.”
Now I don’t worry, because my dreams are becoming more manageable by the day. I still have some. I have fewer now than I used to, of course, but by process of elimination, I can find the one that fits me like a glove, the one in which I’ll thrive the most.
My favorite movie when I was a child was Cinderella (ask my parents all about it.) The Prince had to find the woman who best fit the glass slipper, and one of these days, I’ll find the dream (the glass slipper) that best fits me.
I used to worry that it would be too difficult to get my foot in the door, but now I can close, lock, and walk away from the door*.
Stars are effervescent from afar, but up close, they’re deadly floating balls of gas.
*Of course I still love eating and making and learning about food, and this blog will never not be My Thing. Someday I may get paid to something with food, but it won’t be by working in a commercial kitchen.
Categories: about me
It’s time to say goodnight to twenty-fifteen.
Goodnight, moon…I mean, goodnight, year.
At the end of every year, I like to think back on some of the new things I experienced, big and small, over the past twelve months. Some of them are accomplishments…some are really more like sicknesses or injuries.
what i’ve done this year:
2015 favorite recipes:
I discovered and created a lot of new recipes, and screwed up twice as many. There are some that I’m in the process of revising and testing again right now, but most of them are good. Here the ones I’m the most proud of:
My resolutions for this past year were to write more, take more photos, cook/bake more, and just in general, produce more. Let’s compare:
I wrote 9 in 2014 on this blog, from August to December (five months.) This post marks the 28th post of 2015, nineteen more than the last year (and doing the math to calculate how many I could have written from January 2014 through December 2014, seven more.)
I didn’t actually finish my 2015 creativity journal, but I did make up for it by starting a cooking/baking notebook, a career journal, and two freelance writing jobs (I am finally getting paid to write, y’all. oh my lord.)
National Novel Writing Month:
Like the journals, I failed to finish my second attempt at NaNoWriMo, throwing in the towel at about 37,000 words due to gaining a new job the same month, and coming down with a killer cold on my first day of work. I do resolve to finish both the second novel and the first one I worked on a year ago.
According to my editing software, Adobe Lightroom 3, I took 4,141 photos in 2014, and 10,828 in 2015 (all photos, even duplicates and the ones I never edited or uploaded.) I would say that’s an improvement.
It seems…I also did not meet this goal. Last year, I got through 14 books. This year, I managed 12. To be fair, though, I’ve been reading a book since September (it’s the densest book I have ever read) AND I am currently reading FOUR books simultaneously (because apparently that’s what I do.) Had I dedicated more time to sitting down and reading, I could easily have managed 16. (Coincidentally I also have about 16 magazines sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be read…I’m just terribly far behind on reading in general.) At least now I know what I can manage: 12 – 15 books in one year. It’s not that I’m a slow reader. It’s that (1) I generally like to read non-fiction, and in order to avoid overloading my brain, I tend to read those slowly, and (2) I don’t sit down to read often enough.
While in Japan, I cooked dinner for myself at least twice a week. Since moving home, I’ve managed to make dinner not only for myself, but for my parents, with many left overs, twice a week. I also mastered a fabulous French onion soup AND mulligatawny stew recipe (with some guest appearances from tomato soup and blue cheese soup, and a brief foray into roux with white shrimp sauce.) I’ll take it, considering my 2016 resolution (coming up.)
I have a tendency to create expectations for myself that are too high. This is ironic, given my hate-hate relationship with the entire concept of “expectation.” But it’s also understandable, if you consider that I’m an obsessive planner and can never seem to just sit still in the present moment. Because of this, I’m taking extra effort, with every bit of irony, to make a general, achievable, low-maintenance New Year’s Resolution:
I usually try to be really specific and achieve something small, something different than what you usually hear as common resolutions, but this coming year, I resolve to exercise, get fit, cook more, eat better, and learn about my body. This means using the gym membership that I (my mom) has been paying for since September, going to yoga once a week, focusing on savory recipes more than sweet, continuing my exploration of alternative diet (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, etc.), and reading about how to be…”healthy.”
I hesitate to equate “healthy” with “fit” or with any notion of size. Instead, I resolve to be both healthy and fit, regardless of size or weight. I would like a flat stomach again, but we’ll see what happens.
There you have it, The Last Post of the Year.
See y’all on the other side!
I’ve been home for nearly two weeks but somehow I find I haven’t had much time for real vacation-y things (unless you count trying to cram your way through Duolingo for no reason a vacation-y thing.) However, now that my room is (mostly) unpacked, all of my job reference requests have been sent off, and I’ve finished the first of thousands of resumes, I think I can safely say it’s time for blogging (Tumblr-ing.)
I applied for a credit card for the first time ever on Friday. I was denied, because I currently have no job. I would like to think if I could show them pictures of my (former) students, they would reconsider but I guess it doesn’t matter that you were (not really) off valiantly saving the world when all they see is “unemployed” on your application. No worries. I’ll get a job sooner or later and re-apply. I’ll be going to look for a car (also my first own car ever, though my parents may have to help me pay for it…) within a week or two, to make myself more hire-able. As much as I enjoy walking, I don’t fancy the idea of walking 2 hours each way, from Durham to Chapel Hill, for work.
And I joined a gym.
I worked out at the gym for the first time two days ago and I still can’t walk right because I did four maxed-out sets on the inner thigh machine, the worst idea I’ve had in six years.
My parents are dieting and I’m trying to learn to eat better, which unfortunately means cutting down on carbs. I couldn’t eliminate them entirely. Anyone who tells me what I can and can’t eat can eat five of my fingers curled up into a fist. That being said, I need to shift the balance of my diet from sweets, carbs, and cheese, to whole foods, fruits, vegetables and lean meats, but I’ll cheat sometimes…every day.
Because of all this, I won’t be baking much this month. Instead, I’m focusing on finally really learning to cook. Since getting home, I’ve attempted pesto, arugula pesto, mayonnaise, vegannaise, and peanut butter, all from scratch. I bought a paleo cookbook (that I suspect is not devoutly paleo…) and the house is still in one piece, so I guess that’s good.
I’ll be cooking about twice a week, learning the nitty gritty bits as much as I can, and buying the groceries a few times a month, while still learning how not to burn cakes occasionally.
Expect to see some non-pastry recipes and a travel post in the next week, too!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crawl home because I can’t open my legs,
Categories: about me
I just really want to learn everything. Especially all of the food things. I generally have trouble taking it slow and letting myself go step by step, but I also generally have trouble actually succeeding at learning the things I attempt. I’ve come up with a sizable list of things I would like to work on once I move home, and I won’t promise anyone that I’ll finish a certain number of them by a certain date. If you’ve read my About Me or the book Julie and Julia (or the movie made from the book, trailer here), then you should know how that would turn out. I’ll take my time going through as many as I can, and practicing each recipe many, many times, even posting some stories and recipes on the blog! I’ll keep the list somewhere handy to remind myself and even add onto it as I cross items off of it.
Here we go!
1. how to use a rice cooker (I’ve lived in Japan for 2.5 years and have never learned how)
2. how to use a grill (gotta get back in touch with my ‘Merican heritage)
3. how to make jam
4. Early Grey tea bread
5. French sables
6. madeleines (bought a mini-madeleine pan and still haven’t tried these)
7. mayonnaise (probably going to be the first thing I attempt. American mayonnaise is…blegh. But Japanese mayo, lord help me.)
8. rendang (Indonesian coconut milk marinade for meats)
9. peanut butter (planning on attempting first thing in August), and other nut butters, depending on the price of the nuts
10. sambal (Indonesian chili sauce/relish)
11. white wine and red wine reductions
12. gado-gado (Indonesian peanut sauce)
13. American gravy, sausage gravy
14. fried chicken
15. pulled pork
16. rice bread
17. whole wheat bread
19. jambalaya (my aunt’s from new orleans so I’ll have to pester her, hint hint if you’re reading this)
20. pickles (American and Japanese)
21. how to can/jar foods
22. almond paste, marzipan
23. soy clam chowder (because I’m lactose intolerant)
24. fudge, from scratch
25. roux sauces (Hollandaise, bechamel, etc.)
26. curry from scratch
27. coconut whipped cream
28. coconut milk ice cream
29. how to use a slow cooker
30. slow cooker meat recipes
31. French baguettes
34. gluten-free pizza
36. how to use quinoa
37. how to use chia seeds
If I can learn/practice 2 things a month (adjusting for price of ingredients), then I think I can get most of these in the next year. I’d also like to start keeping track of the prices of things I buy at the grocery store so I can become better at comparing prices and budgeting.
Wish me all of your luck. Every last drop of it.
Good morning! Or evening, or November, depending on where you live.
This is actually the reincarnation of my old blog. I used Google Blogger, which is great if you’re just starting out, but after four years doing the blogging thing, I was ready for the next step: WordPress. The two of them dominate the blogging scene, and WordPress holds reign over the professional and business blogosphere, while Blogger is still a popular choice for individuals.
Also, WordPress is a lot f***in harder to set up than Blogger. I don’t even remember half of what I did to get here, but if it weren’t for Laughing Squid’s amazing hosting and help, I would’ve been an retiree for sure.
I have a tendency towards self-deprecation, hence the title of the blog, and an even stronger tendency towards tripping over my own feet…hence the blog title. I once put sour cream and oats on my face hoping to clear up my acne. Turns out that doesn’t work so well. I once cracked my skull a little walking into the corner of a brick wall because I wasn’t looking. It really didn’t hurt. I once, no…thrice, set off my apartment’s smoke detector making croissants (though in one of those instances, I was actually making Dutch babies.) It’ll be a miracle if I make it to Christmas without setting off the alarm in my current apartment.
And all that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In my first blogging life, the majority of my posts were about mistakes. I had no recipes to show for it, too. But since my first steps, I’ve learned a thing or two, and this blog is the all-growed-up incarnation of my adventures as a Kitchen Klutz. There will be recipes, attached to many an entertaining clumsy story. There will be useful tips based on life experience. And because I can’t seem to let go of my precious D3100 (I call it Bink), there will be photos.
For more information about me specifically, check out the page coincidentally titled “about the klutz” at the top.
Y’all come back now, y’ hear?
Categories: about me