In the Bleak Mid-Winter

As I mentioned in a previous post, the new tandoor has enabled me to work middle. The week after finals, both Matt and Jason were able to take the night off for the first time, because I could finally handle breads. That being the one thing I couldn’t do previously, I was always the one who took off after prep, or needed one of the men to tag-team with on middle, while a third person handled saute. It feels good to have evened things out a bit.

Matt exaggerates – it’s not the first time he’s talked me up a bit – and I do not advocate very colorful language by any means, but ok. We were at the Tavern, and Matt was talking to a previous sous, telling him something about how I’d apparently rocked the tandoor during service that night. I objected to that – because the truth is that Matt and I tag-teamed and were switching constantly between all the stations other than saute throughout the night – but Matt’s kind to think so well and have such faith in me. I know he doesn’t mean any harm, and  it is flattering to hear oneself be described as a “f****** bad@$$ in the kitchen” by someone with his resume.

Winter break has been too much fun, and 2013 has begun beautifully. Bullet points are in order, because there are so many highlights worth noting.

  • Mom & Dad’s anniversary and Daddy’s birthday
  • THE HOBBIT
  • Jason’s cherry porter
  • Mantra’s Champagne & Bubbly Dinner
  • Reddit Secret Santa 2012
  • Yena’s birthday
  • road trip to PA
  • Christmas with Unc, Mama, Papa, Ate Annrhee, Ate Mariel, and Tita Nene
  • Les Miserables for Mama’s birthday
  • Annie’s bridal shower and mini-Sycamore reunion
  • Nino’s birthday
  • a night out with Cory and Anthony
  • New Year’s Eve
  • January 1st at Gabe’s house with the Suchoskis and the Dalisays
  • a wine tasting at UC with young adults from St. Max & St. John’s
  • ugly sweater party at Eric’s house!!!
  • bringing somewhere around 30 covers into Mantra in the past two weeks
  • Mommy’s birthday
  • the dismantling of Christmas decor
  • a LOT of time spent with some of my absolute favorite non-family-members-but-might-as-well-be persons in the world, namely Michelle, Nate, and Eric
  • more post-service adventures with Chef, Matt, and some of our more recent additions to the crew

We [kids, but specifically moi] sent Mom and Dad to Metropole for their anniversary. Jared had some menu item recommendations, and I am very happy to say that Mom and Dad loved everything =) I’ll be going with Marybeth tomorrow and keeping my promise to Jared to come in and “eat for real.” Unfortunately, he won’t be there, and I apologized. I hope he forgives me, because it will surely be significantly less awesome without him, and we’ll be the ones to suffer for it… It’s been nice, running into Jared here and there, around Mt. Adams and downtown. I still feel sad when I think of how we never got along this well until after we stopped working together, but I’m really trying to make up for it now.

THE HOBBIT WAS INCREDIBLE. Obviously. I was called off work, and was thus able to attend the midnight premiere with Dad, the boys, the Wurths, the Smiths, and Kit. Kit was a last-minute addition due to Mommy and Nino being under the weather, but it all worked out, and it was nice to catch up with Kit. We hadn’t seen each other in a year… or was it longer? Who knows anymore. I’ve been kicking myself, because it turns out that Kit’s been working here for months, and I hadn’t hung out with him at all. Now he’s back at OSU.

Jason, as promised, brought his cherry porter to work. He had asked Chef, Matt, and myself to taste his it and let him know what we thought was in it. There was apparently some ingredient that he had not thought use previously. I was stumped. All I could come up with was that it was more acidic than I expected it to be. The ingredient in question turned out to be IQF cranberries. Nice =)

I FINALLY got to work a wine dinner, and it kills me that all of our dinners are on Wednesdays. Every single bottle of bubbly was sold, and Chef said he had to order more for guests. I wrote to Scott about it. We did rabbit three ways for the final course, via the tandoor, confit, and sous vide. It’s been a while since I’ve done something like that with Jason, and I’ve missed having him show me how he plates things. I hope this picture does us both justice:

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It was the closest I’d come to losing it with Matt, though. I was shelling fresh garbanzo beans the night before, and Jason and I had had a good laugh about the time that I’d been shelling fava beans at Daveed’s and had gone out into the dining room and sat down at one of the high tops. Well Matt decided to help me – but he also started whining like crazy about how pointless and time-consuming it was. And he wouldn’t let up! even when I told him that if it was such a huge waste of his time, that he was more than welcome to not help me, because frankly, I didn’t mind doing it in the slightest. He wouldn’t let up. I did get sharp with him. And I elected to go straight home after service that night. I think I might have left without helping him write the prep list. I was that ticked off. I suppose it didn’t hurt anyone, though, because Jason had pretty much taken care of everything. Anyway…

My reddit secret santa this year gave me a lovely bunch of chocolates, as well as a pocket-size hardcover of The Hobbit, and a Santa Skittles dispenser.

Yena is 11. I remember being three months away from that age, waiting for the call that would tell me if I had a third brother, or if I finally, finally had a little sister. I was SO excited; Yena was born 18.5″, and my American Girl doll was 18″. It was perfect. I could sew clothes for both of them =) I’m not sure if I ever really got around to the sewing. Haha. I was reminiscing, and I think I got more sleep with Yena as a baby than with any of the other kids. Maybe Nino comes close or ties, but I had so much fun putting Yena down for naps. I took a lot of naps on the couch with my babygirl. I loved playing with her hair as soon as it was long enough to do stuff with. And her clips were always coming out, or she would take them out, and I’d have to redo it. Now she’s constantly playing with her hair, and where I wanted my hair to be straight – well, not specifically straight versus curly, just not frizzy and insane – Yena is constantly leaving her braids in when she sleeps so that it turns out wavier in the morning, like mine. Just in the past week, I came home from work, and she had bangs. I remember having bangs… when we lived in Texas. Not something I felt like repeating. She looks really nice whatever she does with her hair, but I’m still trying to mentally adjust to the bangs on her.

We spent Christmas with Unc. We got there on Yena’s birthday. It had been… exactly five years and three months to the day since we were in PA. Mama, Papa, Ate Annrhee, Ate Mariel, and Tita Nene all joined us the next day. I had such fun taking pictures of the cousins together. We tried to get a video of Ate Annrhee’s reaction to Paco, since the last time that she saw him, he was only 1, and now he’s 16, but she was pretty calm about it. Oh well =) Of course, it was my first Christmas being of age, and with Unc and Ate Annrhee and Ate Mariel all there… well, how could shots not come into play? Uncle made alien brain hemorrhages. Mama called them brain damage. It was great. And Mommy tasted one. Too much fun.

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Don’t I look so apprehensive? And does Unc really look like he’s old enough to be my uncle?

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Of course, they did tequila shots. I passed on that one.

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I had fun with my Ates =) I’ve seen Ate Mariel pretty frequently in the past decade, all things considered, but I haven’t been in the same place with both of them since 1997.

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We ate at Wegmans for Mama’s birthday. Wegmans has undergone some incredible upgrades in the past five years, and they’ve got some pretty crazy close to upscale food options now. I had tuna tataki, and it wasn’t seasoned as well as Jason’s – I had to send him a picture and let him know that it just didn’t compare – but it was pretty darn good, considering the Wegmans I remember, which was already awesome and unlike any supermarket around here. Jungle Jim’s is our gem, of course, but Wegmans had its own highlights. Unc, Ate Annrhee, Ate Mariel, Tita Nene, Mama, Papa, Mom and I also went to watch Les Miserables after dinner. It was worth every single cent, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t yet been. I grew upon Les Miserables; Mom used to sing On My Own to me as a lullaby. People have since joked, upon me sharing that fact, that she was prepping me for how my life has turned out. I’ve laughed… rather helplessly, but I suppose it is terribly funny on some level of silliness or another.

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We’ve been told that in this picture, we look like sisters. I am immensely proud of this picture. Three firstborns, daughters of ’34, ’68, and ’91 respectively.

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I don’t even know when the last time these four were all in the same place.

The Saturday after we got back from PA, I was able to attend Annie’s bridal shower at Michelle’s house, which Michelle and Rashmi had thrown together in 24 hours. So the season begins for us. We’re all crazy excited for Annie. She’s younger than most of us, but she’s a perfectly wonderful young woman, and firmly grounded in her faith, so we’re not worried =) I had to go to work that day as well, but I joined up with Michelle, Eric, Kit, David, Terhi, and Meredith at Kit’s house after work. My hanging-out-and-catching-up-with-Sycamore-people streak began.

Nino is 4. He’s no longer the baby we brought with us to Italy. It’s exciting… and heartwrenching at the same time. He told us where he wanted to go for lunch after Mass, ordered his own food, and picked out his own cake. He blew out his candles, cut it himself – then handed the knife to Ate Yena for some help – picked his piece, and fed himself. It’s incredible, watching him develop. Mom and I were talking about how, in a family with only one or two kids, it’s maybe harder to see how a child is unlike his or her parents. But in a child with five or ten or fifteen kids, of course they’re not all going to be mini-Moms and Dads! and it has been truly august, watching Nino develop into someone who looks kinda like us and has some similarities, but is often strikingly different and unique in his way of doing things, and just being.

Anthony was home for a little bit, and I had promised Cory a drink for his birthday, so the three of us went out that night. We tried the Hofbrauhaus, but didn’t realize that there was a game. It was packed, and the estimated wait was an hour and a half to two hours. Anthony had never eaten there, and Cory had never been there at all. We didn’t stay, but we did walk in at the perfect time, and video taped the chicken dance. I had wanted us to keep our steins as souvenirs, but I guess it will have to wait until August. We will go in August. Anyway, I texted Martha and asked if she had a table open, and so we ended up at Maribelle’s for dinner. It was an excellent plan B, and Martha took great care of us.

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I saved Cory from ordering a veggie burger. He had not noticed the heading. Martha’s recommendations were all exactly what I wanted – the boys had gone with burgers – and I devoured my duck sausage and kale with relish. We finished off our night at Mantra. That was the beginning of my bringing-friends-in streak. Two covers. Check.

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In direct contrast to last New Year’s Eve, service was incredibly smooth and just too easy. So much so, that Chef was out front and Jason was downstairs while Matt and I worked the line, calling Jason up just a couple of times to bail us out. I got to make a ton of naan. I have not burned off all my arm hair, but Mike noted aloud earlier this week that my eyebrows were half-singed off.

I meant to hang out with the crew on New Year’s Eve, but things happened, and I consequently ended up making much better choices. Aka, I went to Michelle’s house and spent my New Year’s Eve with Michelle, Eric, David, Rashmi, and Anand. I did not get home until nearly 6am. We’re all of age except for Rashmi, but none of us were severely inebriated – I had one beer – and we were safe to go to Steak ‘n Shake at 4 in the morning, and then to drive home. It felt really, really good to be with such people.

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I cantored at the noon Mass on New Year’s Day. We had dinner at Gabe’s house that night.

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I’d almost forgotten how much I miss the air of that house, how much I miss the combined laughter of the de Velas, the Suchoskis, and the Dalisays, how much I miss the kids running around, Kuya’s quiet and comfortable presence, Mariel’s gentleness, Gabe’s music. It doesn’t  happen often – and that’s all for the best in the grand scheme of things – but it was refreshing for having been once in a long while.

I was given the 3rd off completely aside from a spice run, so I spent my morning with Nate, Eric, and Michelle. I cannot begin to express how thankful I have been for the amount of time that I have been able to spend with the extended family members that matter most to me, that have been with me the longest and gotten me through the most, that have opposed me most and thus pushed me hardest to better myself, that have loved me best and accepted me so thoroughly. We had brunch at First Watch, then sat around at Nate’s house just chatting until it was time for me to pick up the order for Chef. Michelle and I have known each other for almost fifteen years now. That’s more than half of our lifetimes! I hope I can bring Michelle and Steffy and Marybeth together one day, as they are my dearest sisters. And as for Eric and Nate, how I feel about them is how I feel about Paco and Migi; I am heartened to know that such men exist in this world.

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After the spice run, I headed to UC for a wine tasting that the Young Adults had planned to attend a couple of months back. It was as enjoyable and informative as I could have hoped and expected of Mick & Mack’s, and I ended up purchasing a bottle of Carmenere. I wasn’t alone in that respect =) I’ve missed Katie, Lizzie, and Chris.

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I successfully dragged Chris, Lizzie, and Lizzie’s friend, Sam, out to Mt. Adams afterwards. Three more covers. Five total. Check. Sam was particularly impressed and promised to tell all of his friends about Mantra.

We were so dead at work the next day, that Chef actually gave me the night off. It was Friday. What was this madness?! Well, enter ugly sweater party at Eric’s. It was David’s idea to wear ugly sweaters and take “family pictures” – he might have been slightly inebriated at the time – and it was great fun.

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Of course, we tried to catch pictures of Nate with alcohol in the same frame. We sat around, ate cookies and chocolate, drank beer and hard cider (I brought a growler of Pond Hill straight apple as my contribution) and ginger ale and water, tried to keep the dogs out of the areas we wanted to keep them out of (that was mostly the engineers), browsed youtube and Netflix, watched a bunch of How It Should Have Ended stuff, and then watched Captain America. It was GREAT. God is so good to have given me such friends.

The following night, all of them came to Mantra, along with their parents, and some siblings, to celebrate Terhi’s mom’s birthday. We put them all together in the 40’s, and Rachel took wonderful care of them for me. I’ve never made so many Heath bar naans in one night. Twenty more covers. Twenty-five total. Check.

We had done 59 covers, which was better than we’d done in weeks, and insanely awesome, considering that they hadn’t needed me the night before. Chef, Josh, Matt, Emily, Em’s bf and I headed to the Tavern. Mike was bartending. All things considered, it was a super night. Except for the part where I found out what Red Bull and vodka taste like together, and consequently can never again say that I’ve never tasted an energy drink in my life. That was Mike’s fault. Bad Mike. Bad, bad.

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I cantored again the next day, and we went to Kyoto for Mom’s birthday lunch. SUSHI GALORE. Mother was slightly slap-happy, thus making lunch that much more enjoyable. We also went to an OA scout function, where Paco set the limbo record and jealously guarded his prize – a sixpack of Ale8one. I have never seen Paco in his Lodge Chief mode. It is highly amusing to watch everyone just showering him with respect, coveting his Lodge Chief cup to the point of asking for pictures of it… Highly amusing, and also heartwrenching, in the same sense as with Nino. Paco’s such a man now. It’s beautiful to see… and sometimes hard to accept. He’s so important to everyone. The best part is seeing how much everyone loves him. He makes me so proud, it hurts, it really does.

Back to work on Tuesday.

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This is Matt’s caught-in-the-act face. I caught him with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and cajeta.

How many people does it take to break down Christmas decor? I suppose it depends on a couple of different things… like who put it up. Ahem. Richard is incredible, but his Christmas decor is far too complicated for men without his touch. So the answer is four… one Mike, one Matt, one Cheffy, and one me.

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Don’t even.. don’t ask. Just observe.. and laugh, if it suits you, as it does me.

Thursday morning found me at Nate’s house, enjoying Chelsea and Max’s company, pancakes and coffee and sandwiches and scrabble and DKR.

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I should not have had two cups of almost straight black coffee back to back, but the coffee was so good. It was quite a night at work… I learned my lesson well… I was overemotional, whiny, aggressive, and somewhat violent. Bleargh. I felt compelled to apologize for my behavior to certain persons the following day… Not that we all ended on terrible notes on Thursday – we actually all enjoyed a drink at Yesterdays together after service – but still. I was unnecessarily not myself. I ran into Jutter that night and ended up standing around outside Yesterdays for two hours just chit-chatting about everything MCI and UC Culinology.

Nate, Chelsea, Mr. Galletta and an old friend of his, Sam and his roommate all came to Mantra on Friday night. Six more covers. Thirty-one total. Check.

Friday and Saturday night both found me at the Tavern with the same people. Well, and Knockback. And Gilpin’s. Nothing like debating gun laws. Nothing like steamed sandwiches to make the conversation more coherent.

Chef asked me something… I thought it was funny. Something about why I, with my knowledge-base, would want to spend my nights at bars. I tried to explain… it isn’t about the bars, and I have no intention of ever allowing it to be. I was really glad that Mike was bartending on Saturday;he didn’t diss me for refusing the hard cider he very kindly offered initially, and opting for carbonated colored flavored sugar water. I tried to tell Chef… it’s about the people. I’ve found the job that I want to keep for as long as I possible can, and I treasure the friendships – or potential friendships – of each and every single person that I’ve worked with there thus far.

If they spend their post-service nights at bars, then I’m going to spend it with them. I still don’t know my alcohol limit, and I have no intention of ever trying to find out. I’m never going to stop being the DD. But all that being said… they’re good to me at work, they’re kind, they have my back in all things, they take care of me outside of Mantra, respect my sugar water choices, make sure that I’m ok to drive home, walk me out to my car regardless of where it is and where we’re coming from, and always, always include me; I don’t have to ask. They’re practically as much my family as my Pond Hill family was, and we don’t even have to all live together in one cabin for three months straight. It’s awesome. And Mt. Adams is beautiful. Especially on Saturday nights in January when it’s 70 degrees out.

Chef told Matt I was a good person. He also told Matt that they needed to find me a good guy. I was talking to somebody, but I heard, and called Matt out on their conspiracies afterwards. That same night, the rosary hanging off of my belt loops was noted, and it was proclaimed that the reason I was liked was because, in spite of my having “more reason than anyone to condemn,” I just stood there laughing like a maniac at the antics of my choice of company at that time, namely the three men pictured below.

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So here’s to 2013, three semesters of school left, hopefully two more crazy cool internships, and family, family, family.

Lol.

Love =)

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