Monday, June 30, 2008

#71. Take a cooking class with Troy

On Saturday, June 28th, 2008, Troy and I participated in a cooking class at the Chef's Academy. They are a full-time culinary school, but also offer classes to the community on several weekends throughout the summer. The cost for the class was $75 each and our topic for the day was tapas, which are, essentially, spanish appetizers.

Tapas got their start as simply a slice of bread or cracker used to cover a glass of wine or sherry in order to keep flies out of it. Over time, the bars where these drinks were served started to put morsels of food on top of the bread or cracker. Bars were soon competing with one another for patronage based on how good their tapas were. The better the tapas, the more customers they might entice. It is now customary in Spain for at least one tapa to be served when a drink is ordered as a matter of course.

For our cooking experience, there were 19 participants in the class and the chef divided us up by table and together, the 4 tables prepared 4 different dishes. Our table (with 5 participants) was in charge of preparing a seafood, chicken and chorizo sausage paella. It's a good thing we had some many at our table because many hands made for very light work.

The Paella Posse, as we like to be called, consisted of (from left to right): Dana, Mark, JB, myself and Troy. There was quite a bit of cutting that needed to be done. Troy tackled the chicken, which consisted of dicing up 24 chicken thighs. He did a great job! Dana and JB then took on the peeling and deveining of the shrimp while Mark and I started to dice up the vegetables (red peppers, green peppers, onions, green onions and parsley). In no time flat, the prep work was done and Dana was starting to throw everything in the pot to cook. The only thing we didn't do was saute the chicken before adding it into the pot. The only thing it was missing was a but of a crunch that the sauteing might have given it. Apparently it didn't matter since the chef said it was excellent.

The class started at 10:00 with a bit of a lesson on the history and culture of Spain, then we cooked. So, by the time 12:30 rolled around, we were ready to eat and taste a bit of wine (which was also included with the class). The first dish we enjoyed was a tortilla. A tortilla in Spain in almost like an omelet. It was egg and potatoes served with an aiolli, which is a spicy sauce in the mayonaise family. It was simply delicious! The second dish and third dishes were served together. They were 1) a grilled portabello mushroom topped with goat cheese and red pepper and 2) mussels prepared with ham and tomatoes. Troy had never had mussels, but he claimed to like them. I thought they were quite yummy and when there were leftovers of everything else left to take home, there definitely WEREN'T any mussels left on our plate. I had polished them off!

Finally was our paella dish. It was a really great, hearty way to finish. All of the meats, seafood, vegetables and rice were cooked to perfection. The chefs even commented several times that it was really good!

We had a great time and are even considering taking another class in the fall! In addition, I got to count this as one of my new recipes (#3 of 6 - See 101 List item #98).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses

Recently, despite my inability to workout, I've been making headway on my list. I've participated in a cooking class, seen an IMAX movie, continued to put money towards savings and my credit cards and refrained from drinking any soda. By no means do I think my life is a model for living on the edge or being on the path to riches and fame, but I feel pretty good about it. When I feel like I'm in a rut, I try to find some way to stretch myself mentally, emotionally or physically. Most of the time, I feel pretty good about how life is going, in general.

Why is it that all changed when I was recently found by an old high school friend on Facebook? She's apparently "done something" with her life. She is an opera singer and appears to have traveled the world plying her trade. She has her own website and looks like she's doing quite well. Why is it that by reading about all the places she has gone and all of the things she had done, I somehow feel inadequate? I don't like comparing myself to others because they seemingly have different standards than myself. I've never been married, so there must be something wrong with me, right? I've never had children, so I don't feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and opinions on childrearing. I've never travelled outside of the US (except for a cruise to Mexico), so I'm not very worldly. I drive around in a 9-year-old busted up tan sedan and would rather camp in a tent than stay in a luxury resort, so people assume that I'm bad with money.

All of a sudden, my list of goals and achievements, which just last week were great and amazing, seem silly and a waste of time. This summer makes 16 years since I graduated from high school and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Does anyone else ever feel this way?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I need to blog more....or at least be more interesting

Or do I? I currently monitor 5 blogs on a daily basis besides mine and I envy the people who find something to write about every day. I envy their ingenuity and creativity in coming up with new and interesting things to write about.

Oh, don't get me wrong! I think I could come up with things to write about every day, but I'm afraid they wouldn't be that interesting. For instance, I don't think anyone wants to hear that I'm frustrated that for the past week I have gotten stopped by a train nearly every day on the way to work. Most of them last anywhere from 2 - 10 minutes. This is time that I had NOT figured into my commuting schedule. I also don't think people want to hear how frustrated and angry I get when, during those said train delays, about 85% of the people just leave their car running and their foot on the brake. It's wasting fuel. When gas is $4.00 a gallon, I would think people would want to save a little.

Something I probably should share is that Dell sucks! I ordered a computer for my home (I haven't had one there in at least 2 years) on May 9th, thinking that would be PLENTY of time to receive it and be "plugged in" by the time of my surgery on May 23rd. HA! It was supposed to be sent out on May 19th. On May 19th, I received an email stating it was being delayed until May 27th. Ok, I was a bit miffed, but thought I would still have the use of it for the majority of my recovery time at home. Then, on May 27th, another email was sent stating it had been delayed again. Since I DIDN'T HAVE A COMPUTER AT HOME, I didn't receive this email until I ventured to Troy's house on May 29th. By then, they had cancelled the order. When I called customer service to find out why it had been cancelled, I was told that it was because I didn't respond to the email. AHEM! I don't have a computer, so how am I supposed to respond to an E-MAIL!? I also asked why it had been delayed twice and told that it was because there was a delay on the processor that I had ordered. After an hour on the phone with them and swapping the first processor for a different one that was 1) more expensive and 2) supposedly not on backorder, the computer was reordered. Unfortunately, my order was considered a new order, so I had to go to the end of the line and was told it wouldn't be sent out until June 12th. For those of you just tuning in, my leave was to end on June 13th. Argh. Alright. Fine. Send the darn thing!

You can imagine my complete annoyance when I received another email on June 12th (this time they called as well) stating that the order was delayed yet AGAIN! This time it was to be sent out on June 19th. When I called to find out why this was the case, I was told that they had received an unexpectedly large number of orders for this particular model. What?!? It's not my fault you had more orders than you were prepared to fill. Perhaps you should put a disclaimer on your website or maybe not take any more orders until you are not out of the item. It can't really be good for business, can it? If you take 1000 orders and are only able to fill 100 of them, you may have 100 happy customers, but you have 900 people who have no computer and are ticked off. I can guarantee you will hear much more from those who feel their needs haven't been met. At this point, I asked for some monetary compensation for the trouble and delay. Dell responded by stating that there were no additional discounts that they could provide, but that they were terribly sorry for the inconvenience. I hung up feeling powerless to stop "the man".

When the 4th delay email came on June 19th, I had had MORE than enough. I called to inquire what the delay was and was NOW told that it was due to a shortage of batteries for that model. To recap, I have been told that the delays were due to 1) a shortage of the processor, 2) overselling product and 3) shortage of batteries. I can only imagine what the reason for the next delay would be. Rest assured, I did not wait around to find out. I cancelled the order, did some research on the best models to by and picked up one from Best Buy (the SAME day). Dell may be able to undercut the price of their computers, but it's obviously to the detriment of customer service.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Alive and kicking!

Well, I survived! I made it through the surgery with great success! Although, according to the Plastic Surgeon (PS), I'm still swollen, I can tell a BIG difference. Without looking at the pictures, it's almost hard to remember what I looked and felt like before! Granted, I'm still fat, but I feel like I look much thinner already!

My surgery was on Friday, May 23rd and I had to be at the hospital to check in by 6:00 AM. The mix of emotions I was feeling is nearly indescribable. I was scared, tired (from too little sleep the nights before), anxious and very excited to see the results. Mostly I just wanted to make it throught the surgery without any complications. As I get older, my mortality becomes increasingly real to me. I even went so far as to make sure all of my affairs were in order via a will and a sealed envelope containing a list of my assets and liabilities as well as passwords for accessing them. I think that freaked Mom out a bit since she wouldn't even take it to the hospital with us.

Mom and I arrived at the hospital on time and, after being wisked through Admitting, Mom was ushered into a large visitor waiting room equipped with lockers and a long line of vending machines. I was then taken into a presurgery area where I asked to shed my clothes and any of my remaining dignity. They poked and prodded me checking for all of my vitals and questioned me about my health and past procedures as a line of doctors and nurses came by to introduce themselves. As each one told me their name and explained that they would be helping with the procedure, I tried NOT to imagine the way that they would shortly see me with not a stitch of clothing on and with my body fileted open before them. If I had thought about that for a second I wouldn't have been able to look them in the eye.

I was wheeled down to the surgery wing by a very sweet girl who tried to reassure me as my eyes began to well up. I fought back tears of fright and a bit of nausea as I quickly passed under the array of ceiling lights above my gurney. The operating room was a shock of bright lights and frigid temperatures. The last thing I remember before going under was the anesthesiologist asking me if I had any last minute questions. My only thought was that it was probably an inopportune time to tell them that I needed to pee. He assured me that they would take care of that because 6 hours is a long time to hold it. LOL

The next thing I sort of remember is being in the recovery room. There was a cacaphony of beeping and sometimes even yelling from other patients. Several times a nurse would introduce herself and explain they were going to poke or prod me. I would only respond with a grunt and then slip slowly back into a sort of sleep state. I had been in surgery for nearly 6 1/2 hours and the longer you are under anesthesia, the longer it takes to come out of it.

By 6 PM, I was being rolled out of the recovery room and taken to my regular hospital room. I'm not sure who is assigned the task of transporting patients such as myself or what their qualifications are, but I think they need some sensitivity training. I think they must do it so often that the person lying on the gurney is simply a lump. First, they took me to the wrong floor. That wouldn't have been so bad except that the elevator and the floor outside of the elevator didn't quite line up and caused a LOT of jostling upon exiting. I had to experience this excruciating pain TWICE because they couldn't read a piece of paper! They then ran into a wall or desk or something wheeling me down the hallway. It was not my best ride ever.

When I arrived at the room, I was greeted by my mom and the student pastor from church. It was great to see them. After a few snippy words with the nurse for not covering me up appropriately while guests were there, I was able to visit with them for a bit.

I stayed in the hospital until Sunday afternoon and spent much of that time in and out of consciousness because of the morphine I was allowed to administer to myself. I could have given myself 4 doses an hour for about 2 days, but I only used 20 doses over that period. Most of that was because a local anesthetic had been inserted into my breasts to mitigate most of the pain and because I wanted to be able to stay awake for some of the time. Any time I pushed that little morphine button, I was out within 5 minutes. That's great if it's 3:00 AM, but at 3 PM when I want to talk it's not so great.

Mom was really great and stayed by my bedside most of the time. The only exception was on Friday evening when I practically forced her to go get herself a proper dinner. We had packed some fruit and snacks, but I knew she hadn't gotten herself a real lunch and it was now 7 PM. After bodily threats (which I could NOT have carried out) she succombed to the pressure and got herself a salad. I also made her go and get some decent sleep. Troy had offered his house, which was right near the hospital and she had slept on a chair the night before, so I think she was almost relieved when I suggested she go shower and sleep in a real bed for a while on Saturday.

The PS visited me on Saturday and again on Sunday when he sent me home. I was thrilled to be out of bed and to see the light of day again. After a brief stop at the pharmacy to pick up some meds, I went home and crashed on the couch in my living room. I practically lived there for the next week. I would wake up, eat just enough so that I could take my meds, then fall back to sleep. I would only wake up again when it was time to repeat the whole process.

I had three weeks off of work to recover, which was great. I spent much of it napping and watching movies from Netflix. I even read a few books! I'm back to work now on a bit of a modified schedule. I'm afraid of overdoing it, which I'm prone to do, so I'm working 3/4 days for this week.

Overall, I'm absolutely thrilled with the results. The PS says I'm still a bit swollen, which is hard for me to believe. I went from a DDD (I think - I never got properly measured) to a C. Perfection! They took 5 1/2 pounds off total and I don't miss one ounce of it a bit!

If anyone has questions or comments, please feel free to share them with me. I know it's probably a taboo subject, but for anyone who is considering it, I think knowledge is power and I am more than willing to share my experiences.

Also, SOOO many thanks to everyone who called, emailed, sent flowers or visited me at the hospital. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated more than you can imagine.


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