Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Working for the Weekend

Dear No One in Particular,

I've been in a foul mood recently.
I often find myself suffering from a case of the grumblies for no reason other than I want to feel as though the world owes me a living, but that really isn't the case this time. Believe me when I say I wish all my problems were in my head and not out there in the real world, poking at me and pestering me.

I try not to take things for granted -- after all, my health is relatively good, I have a solid job and (for the most part) fantastic coworkers, lovely friends, an even lovelier boyfriend -- but you know how things can just snowball and all of a sudden you find yourself tumbling in a world of white and the only way out is to spit and pray for Beethoven to pop up with a case of brandy?
Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs to register a vehicle in California? Enough to make me want to go back to Hawaii, where their vehicle registration process makes sense and is inexplicably cheaper. And smog inspections? On a car that is less than 3 years old and is made to produce low emissions? Give me a fucking break, California. By the time I'm done paying to have my beloved car re-registered here, I'll have personally taken care of the state budget's deficit.

Honestly, I could go on all day, bitching and moaning about how I am now broker than broke (THANKS A LOT, CALIFORNIA. I wasn't saving that money for rent anyway), but then you'd probably want to strangle me with your bare hands, and really, I wouldn't blame you. Not one bit.

I've been told over and over again that "when God shuts a door, he leaves open a window". Can we just discuss for a moment how utterly impractical this is? Have you ever locked yourself out of a house? I have, and climbing through windows may sound like fun, but breaking and entering is not an adventure worth exploring. I feel like a more apt description would be God put the key to the locked door in a hide-a-key rock and he didn't tell you where it's hidden. And you're in a Japanese rock garden. Start turning stones over; you're bound to find it, so long as you look carefully.

This is my roundabout way of saying "Life kind of sucks right now, but I'm going to focus on the positive and try to make things better, especially since it could suck so much worse". So, let me tell you about my fantastic weekend.

Normally, my weekend could be summed up in a couple short sentences: I slept in late. I watched a movie and read blogs. I may have eaten something delicious. The end.
But this weekend was different! It was adventure-filled and fun! I socialized with real people instead of hiding in my room! I took pictures!

The Boy took me to the Sonoma Mission Inn, which is apparently owned by Fairmont Hotels. Can I just say I had no idea the Fairmont was a chain? Not that it matters.
The hotel spa offers a "good neighbour discount" to those that live within 100 miles of the Mission Inn, allowing them to use the spa facilities for a meagre $25/day.

Knowing I would be in bougie-yuppie territory, I dressed up like Doris Day.

We brought a picnic lunch to share while lounging poolside, but never ate it. Apparently, the hotel's small cafe that serves overpriced salads and smoothies frowns on outside food being consumed in their midst.

Lounge chairs on a balcony overlooking the pool.

I did nom on some of the snacks we brought up here while reading book 3 of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (a.k.a. the True Blood books). This is also where I realized that the girl that best mirrors my mental image of Sookie Stackhouse is, in fact, Kendra from Girls Next Door. I know.

Just about every doorway/arch had some ivy creeping through:

So romantic.

I didn't take any pictures of the hotel's mineral-hot spring pools, mostly because I didn't want to be a creeper skulking around, snapping photos of middle-aged yuppies.
I spent the majority of the day floating around on water noodles, my head tipped back into the water so warm it felt like a bathtub, listening to a string symphony playing underwater.*

Later that night, I got a message from my favourite cousin, Mel**, asking if I wanted to go out. Naturally, I said yes; the last time we went out, a Berkeley hippie asked us if we wanted half of his watermelon. That's not a euphemism: he was sitting in the back of his pickup truck, eating a watermelon and genuinely wanted us to have the other half.

The Boy and I met her at Butter, my new favourite bar in San Francisco. Located in crazy-popular SOMA, Butter is a genius white trash bar. They serve drinks like the Tang-tini and snacks like deep-fried pb&j and Twinkies. You want to go now, right? Unfortunately, the "ironic" nature of Butter means it's insanely popular with the hipster crowd. Apparently, a gaggle of the hip were throwing a moustache party that night. I would ask if anyone knows the significance of a moustache party, but I figure we're all better for not knowing.

Regardless, the unwashed irony of hipness didn't throw off the night. Mel ended up getting me my first ever Jello shot for free, after trying (and failing) to help one of the bartenders. Related: I don't like Jello shots.

I figure this picture is fair game, since we both look like idiots.
(Also, don't try to enlarge it. It won't work. )

The best -- and most blasphemous --conversation of the night centered around us talking about getting fresh ink.
Mel: I'm going to get 'redemptor' tattooed.
Amanda: Oh God, you're serious about that?
Mel: Why the hell wouldn't I be?
Amanda: *shakes head in disbelief*
Mel: I AM THE REDEMPTOR. That makes you John the Baptist!
Amanda: Why, because I'm six months older?
Mel: You should get a John the Baptist tattoo! That way, we match.
Amanda: I'm going to pass on that. Does this mean some bitch is going to have my head cut off?
Mel: *shrugs her shoulders* I'm just saying .... pave the way. 35 is coming up real fast.

Wine and Cheese Parties are something of a tradition with my girlfriends and I. For the past 5 years we've been flung across the country, meeting only when school breaks for summer and winter vacations. Every summer we would have a Wine and Cheese Party every week, weather permitting. Now that we're all back in the Bay Area, it's been oddly difficult to schedule a party, since it's now our job schedules that get in the way. Miraculously, we were all free Saturday evening, so we celebrated by throwing our first party of the summer.

We always hold Wine and Cheese parties at the Berkeley Albany Bulb. Apparently, it's a landfill? I obviously know nothing about the pretty little peninsula that I've been frequenting for years. It's a wonderful place to walk your dog or throw an outdoor picnic; it's quintessentially Berkeley, filled with grafitti and makeshift art.

We always -- ALWAYS -- hike out to what my friend L calls "The Castle". It's a bizarre mishmash house-like structure made of rebar and concrete.
It's difficult to get to, unless you know exactly where it is.

One of the better shots I got of The Castle. Up top are my gorgeous friends, N and L. M is the lovely girl waving from the doorway and ... the back of the Boy. Uh, none of these people know about the blog (Boy excluded), so let's not tell them, kay? Good deal.

Anyway, we always eat on top of The Castle, since the inside is small and usually littered with broken bottles. Every surface is painted in bright, bold graffiti, even the small concrete bench sitting below the sole window.

We sat and talked, eating bread and brie, watching the sun set across the San Francisco Bay.

M: "I like the way the clouds look sun-dappled. Like a palomino.
The sky looks like a dirty horse's hindquarters!"

It was a lovely couple of days, and a wonderful way to end the week.

I hope to have more of them.


*You read that right -- one of the pools plays music underwater!
**Quick warning: while I find Mel's blog HILARIOUS, her writing can -- and probably will -- offend more sensitive readers. Everything's SFW; just don't read it aloud while children are in the room. ***
***I'm pretty sure hers is the only food blog that requires such a disclaimer. (You're totally interested now, aren't you?)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cupcake Dreams and Bugaboo Mornings

Dear No One in Particular,

HI THERE. Remember me? I missed you.

Based on the theme of my last posts, I'm sure no explanation regarding the radio silence here at BFNOIP* is required, but the one word that sums it all up is "chaotic". "Soul-crushing" is another good one, considering the fact that I graduated university only to be thrust into a crippling worldwide recession. If ever there was a time to join the world of adulthood, now would not be it.

I keep hearing two conflicting pieces of advice regarding the economy, and therefore, my future. One is "Now is a terrible time to be looking for a job!" and the other, naturally, "Have no fear: there are tons of jobs out there!"
Oddly enough, I've found that both are true. Yes, there are tons of jobs available -- any cursory glance at craigslist would tell you that -- but what the proponents of #2 are forgetting is that with unemployment rates through the roof, there are also tons of people looking for jobs. Competition is stiff, folks, so if you're securely employed count your blessings. If not, there are tons of jobs out there!

After a really rough couple of weeks spent staring vacantly at craigslist, desperately shooting off resumes, I've finally landed a job. I won't go into specifics for fear of being dooced, so all I can say is that I work for a good company with a fun name and if you have any questions about strollers or anything baby-related, I am here to help.
On the flipside of the paycheck, I have much less free time. I'm hoping against all hope that this doesn't cut into my writing too much, but we'll have to see.

I keep having to tell myself that my current position is simply a job and not a career. It's difficult to see the difference, especially as a new grad having to field oh-so-unique questions like "What are you planning on doing now?" and "Where do you want to work?"** The hard part -- the part that keeps me awake at night and constantly second-guessing myself -- is that I just don't know. I have a degree, but, like most degrees, it doesn't amount to a whole lot. There is no set path in front of me; I have to pull out my machete and start blazing my own trail. The difficult part? Figuring out where to start.
We all want our careers to be something we love doing. No one sets out dreaming about working in a forest of cubicles, just making it through the week. I've spent a lot of time mulling over what makes me happy -- really bone-deep, I-could-do-this-for-a-million-years-and-wake-up-with-a-smile-on-my-face-happy. One of the few passions that fit that criteria is baking. I l-o-v-e baking. As anyone who's looked at my twitter stream knows, I bake a lot. The kitchen is my happy place***. I've named my KitchenAid and have more muffin tins than any one person should be able to own. And lately, I've been dreaming about opening up my own bake shop.

I've been feeling down recently, for various reasons. I decided the best thing to do to fight off the blues would be to use up the giant bag of lemons and the pint of blueberries in the fridge and make some muffins. I love muffins, especially when people say they're healthier than doughnuts in the morning. They're mini-cakes for breakfast, you guys. Anyway, I found this lovely recipe on smittenkitchen and decided to give it a try.

I love lemons.

Lemon rind + sugar = lemon sugar!

Little sapphires

Only I screwed it up. By a lot.
I kept trying to course-correct based on my meager knowledge of baking science (thank you, Alton Brown), but eventually I just tossed the lot into the oven, fingers crossed.

I can't be the only one who thinks these look vaguely nipple-like

Not so much when there's four berries ...
at least, I hope your nipples don't look like this!

And they turned out just fine.
Sure, it could have been a bit more lemony, but they were nice and moist and the blueberry the perfect foil for the citrus-sweet of the cake.

Fresh out of the oven!

Berry ooze

I'm slowly realizing that baking is going to be my career. Dreaming about cupcake flavours or new twists on cannoli fillings -- that's what makes me wake up with a smile on my face. Peddling strollers and eco-friendly diapers to gather enough cash to make The Nifty Bakeshop (working title) happen is simply a cut through the brush.

Glamour shot of one of the mini-muffins

Big, bronze beauty

The muffin version of Rob and Big

So, interwebs, that's what's been going on with me. What about you? What's new in your world? Tell me; I'd love to hear something lovely.


*My God that is a catchy acronym. Say it out loud, and I bet you $1 that someone says "God bless you!" and hands you a tissue. BlofoNOiP, perhaps? No; that sounds vaguely dirty and drug-related.
**My stock answer: "I plan on working for whomever pays me." So far, so good.
***I choose my choice, third-wave feminists!