Well That Was Unexpected

For those who didn't hear, I was in a car accident on Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

I was coming home on my normal commute, taking toll roads this time because traffic was crazy and avoiding tolls would have taken an extra half hour. I picked up dinner for Jameson and I on the way.

As my exit came up I got over to the right and slowed down as I could see the line of cars taking the ramp was backed up onto the highway. This was not unusual during rush hour, plus the rightmost lane was right after a toll station so traffic was typically forced to slow down at this spot. I got in line to exit, coming to a stop.

I happened to glance in the rearview and saw the chrome grill of a truck coming at me way, way too fast.

In retrospect, I think I had about two seconds to react. A part of my brain was screaming, "HIT THE GAS!" and another part whispered, "It's too late." If I could have done anything it doesn't matter now because I hesitated for one second, and that was too long.

The impact was insane. I didn't hear any squealing brakes beforehand, just a horrible silence before this incredibly loud boom. My mouth was open but I don't know if I was screaming. My eyes were open too, because I saw the airbag deploy in front of me and the side airbags come down in my peripheral vision. Everything was chaos.

After what seemed like forever everything stopped. My ears were ringing and I couldn't hear anything for a few moments as I looked around in shock. I registered that the back windshield was shattered, then I slowly felt myself all over to try and tell if I was hurt. Finding that I could move my arms and neck, and there was no blood, I frantically searched for my phone. It had ended up under the gas pedal so it was lucky I wasn't hurt because I had to contort myself to get it.

I immediately called Jameson to tell him what happened. He calmed me down and told me to call 911 and then my insurance, and let me know he would be there right after the police and ambulance showed up. I tried to get out of the car and eventually succeeded after kicking my passenger door open. I immediately called 911 while taking stock of the other vehicles involved to see who might be injured. Fortunately it looked like everyone was shaken but ok, so the dispatcher sent highway patrol.

The truck that hit me had four kids in it, one of whom was the driver. I'm talking kids, like I'm guessing the driver hadn't been on the road for a year yet. I asked if they were ok, and when the answer was yes I asked for insurance information, which they did not have. The other two vehicles involved were a Jeep that had been in front of me, and a silver Honda that had been in front of him. Both had minor vehicle damage and seemed completely fine. My car, on the other hand, was totaled.

The truck that hit me. A GMC Sierra with a lifted body and chrome grill.

There's no point describing all that happened after that. We waited, exchanged information, got tow trucks. The dad of the driver of the red truck was the only one cited as they had clearly caused the accident. I grabbed as much stuff out of my car as possible, leaving useless things like old paperwork and tissue boxes and things I couldn't reach because they were smashed into the trunk or riddled with glass. Eventually everyone left, and the highway patrol officer gave me a lift to the nearest public parking lot right off the exit so Jameson could safely come get me.

I was really shaken up and upset, of course, but shockingly unharmed. My arms got it the worst, I could barely close my hands and from the elbows down I was stiff and lacking sensation. Since I remember seeing the airbag go off right in front of my face without hitting it I think I must have braced incredibly hard against the steering wheel. A few days later I felt a little sore at the base of my skull, near my tailbone, and on my right side near my ribs. But otherwise I really sustained very little damage. As I'm typing this more than a week later my arms are 90% back to normal, just some painful twinges in my right arm when I try to lift something and forget that it's still healing.

During all this I was very, very grateful that Jameson was there. It was good to have someone to look out for me and make sure I was ok. Although the night of the accident I felt really bad for him because both of us were worried about injuries we couldn't see, like internal bleeding or concussions, so we both barely slept at all. At one point I woke up and his face was right next to mine, like he was staying as close as possible to make sure I was still breathing. Sweet, but I hate to make him worry!!!

Anyway, after all that I was able to go home for Thanksgiving. It felt like a miracle. And it was also extremely tiring...less than 48 hours after a horrible car accident, getting on a plane and then driving two hours to get home at 2am. I was pretty well wrecked. But it was amazing, because for once almost my entire family was present. That almost never happens any more. I got to catch up so much (still not enough!) and we all took tons of photos that I can't WAIT to see. I'm so, so grateful that I could see everyone after such a horrible experience. It really helped me to feel better, and to feel loved.

When I came back from Thanksgiving there was a lot of work to do. In a weird twist of fate, weeks before this accident I had randomly called out from work for December 5th through 8th to try and use some PTO. This allowed me four full days to look for a new car. VERY grateful to whatever gods or fates made that happen!

My poor car was declared a total loss by my insurance, and I was given a rental car through the 8th.
I did a whole bunch of research, then drove around to five different dealerships looking at and test driving used cars.
I had forgotten how awful buying a car can be especially as a solo woman. Ugh.
At one dealership they wasted nearly an hour of my time trying to push me into buying a new car because they had nothing in their lot for me. Another dealership had sold the cars I was interested in days ago and had never taken them off the site.
One dealership was especially disappointing as they had a huge selection of Corollas, but every single one had an accident on the CARFAX.

Exhausted and annoyed, I made a final stop at a Chrysler dealership that had two lonely used Corollas sitting in their lot. The newer model had very low mileage and an unusually low price, so of course it had two major accidents on the CARFAX. The slightly older model turned out to be the best used car I'd looked at all day. The interior was clean; every other Corolla I'd tried had stains or cigarette burns or reeked of smoke/weed/dog. It started on the first try, unlike one 2018 from another dealership that took the salesperson three tries to start. It handled nicely and no indicator lights came on. It felt comfortable, and clean, and good. It felt right.

I took it.

The CARFAX had no accidents. It was once a fleet car, just like my first Corolla. To me, a good sign.
So far I'm very happy with it...the only flaw I've found is that there's a random soft knocking coming from somewhere. It doesn't seem to be mechanical, just sounds like something dangling or loose somewhere, so I will wait until my first oil change to address it. But really, to me it is a very nice car.

Some would criticize that I'm sticking with the same brand and model of car, and that it's a bland boring Corolla.
Those people are welcome to send me several thousand more dollars so I can get something more fun. Please do!
Consider that my first Corolla lasted ten years and was well on its way to breaking the 200k mark when it's life came to a premature end. And consider that it may very well have not only saved my life, but prevented me from getting any serious injuries in a very serious car accident.

So yes, damn right I'm going to get another Corolla. I'm open to Hondas and Mazdas too, but they are consistently out of my price range :P

A lot happened this past week. I'm just grateful to get through the bad parts, and to have people in my life who are there when things like this happen. I realize that not everyone is so lucky, and I may not always be either.

Christmas Shopping Begins

Not a lot to report again this week, except that I decided to take care of as much Christmas shopping as possible before Thanksgiving.

It's really rare for me to get my act together with gift-buying this early.
Then again, it's easier to do it because I'm not in a different city every week having valuable gifts forwarded through eight mailrooms to hopefully end up wherever I am on any given day.
The little joys of stationary life.

But seriously, I'm really glad to be able to do this. I feel like it's been ages since I've been able to actually assemble gifts for people, like thoughtfully and completely. I even sent advent calendars to all of my siblings this week, just for fun and nostalgia. And I hope they'll enjoy their presents too!

Jameson had his usual work, but also did a special event for Disney that sounded really amazing! I can't share any details because it was a private event for a family, but it looked like a lot of fun and I'm glad he got to do it. He even had to wear a tux! Oooooooh I love a man in a suit, let me tell you! I begged him to let me see him in it after his performance. WOOOOOO!!!

He's taken ladies ;)

Anyway, nothing spectacular happened this week for me, just work as usual and starting to think about Thanksgiving. Next week already! Good grief!

On Thursday I did as many in-person actual-physical Christmas shopping errands as I could. I sent off the advent calendars, rerouted a lost package, visited the Florida Mall for two gifts, Premium Outlets for some stocking stuffers, and Disney Springs for a little something for Elliotte. Back home I unpacked and ate lunch, hit the gym, returned a library book and got a new one, and picked up some groceries. I vacuumed and dusted and cleaned the bathrooms, then finally flopped down to enjoy a little Me Time before Jameson got home.

On Friday we had someone come in to give us an estimate for new blinds for the house! Jameson picked out some honeycomb blinds that will look really nice and hopefully block out enough light to help us sleep better and reduce glare on the TV. After that we went to the gym (even though we are both sore!) and had lunch.

After that I hit my big project for the week: cleaning the pool enclosure screens!
The screens collect pollen, mildew, dead bugs, etc over time. I've been wanting to clean them since first moving in, but didn't have the right equipment. Finally I've gathered all the brushes and stuff I need, so it was time to hit it. It took I think an hour and a half, but I think next time it'll be quicker because I'll know what I'm doing. It was very satisfying to watch all the green slime wash away. Can you see a difference?

After that I was pretty awfully tired, so took a little break before starting on dinner. This week I chose a "Sloppy Jose's" recipe from Dude Diet with a side of oven-roasted green beans in a red wine mustard glaze. I didn't take pictures because I was just too tired and just wanted to cook and eat. it's sloppy joe's, you've seen 'em before. The only difference with these was a bit of a Mexican bent to the seasonings and the inclusion of pinto beans, hence "Sloppy Jose's" instead of "Joe's".

Anyway, they turned out pretty good. We ate and I cleaned up while Jameson relaxed before his gig.
He's just left and I'm here typing this up and getting ready for the start of my work week tomorrow.
I can't believe Thanksgiving is so soon. I hope I remember everything I need for it!!

Note, I will probably not post next week due to the holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! There's a lot to be thankful for.

Jameson's Birfday :)

Week got off to a good start.

On Saturday I was able to swing by se7enbites to get Jameson and I some treats! It's been a while since we've hit their bakery now that we live farther away. I got us each a "ding dong", a "Charlie Brown" for him (chocolate cookie with peanut butter filling) and an Earl Grey scone for me. I was surprised at how much I could taste the tea in my scone!

I had a nice gym morning on Sunday before work. I incorporated the suggestions my one-on-one coach gave (less cardio, more weights) and enjoyed a protein shake. After work we had a chill night at home. Jameson has a lot of gigs this week and is recovering from his own body being a d*ckhead so it was good to just chill out.

Monday through Wednesday were pretty standard stuff, I worked and came home and spent time with Jameson, doing a few little chores here and there.

Thursday was Jameson's birthday!! He didn't really feel like celebrating, but I was hoping to make the day a little special for him, so got him some gifts! Two books that had been on his wishlist, and a customized birthday card featuring him drawn into the cast of The Office! He seemed to really like them :) His parents also facetimed to say hello and watch him open his gift from them, a set of outdoor string lights! We put them up over the pool. They're solar-powered so they're a bit dim currently, it will take a little while before we see them fully lit. Can't wait!

And yes, we do need two more strings haha. We've ordered them and they're on the way!
In the evening we went to see Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. Before going we watched The Shining (embarrassed to say I've never seen it before!) and that turned out to be a good idea because there were tons of references. We both enjoyed the movie a lot!

Friday, Jameson had rehearsal for a special Disney event in the afternoon and evening. I went to the gym and visited Lowe's for some pool deck cleaning equipment, including an outdoor hose and nozzle. I'd wanted to get a push broom and soft bristle brush for cleaning the screen enclosure, but Lowe's had a surprisingly poor selection so I'll have to wait until Saturday when I'm near a Home Depot to get what I need.

So instead of scrubbing the pool area, I decided to do a little cooking for the week. Nothing fancy, just food to have in the fridge since we're both leading busy lives. I boiled some eggs and separated a pomegranate, then made what I call "Jameson's Epic Chicken Salad". It's chicken breast, pasta, mayo, mustard, celery, edamame, and spices. Makes a great meal during the week when we don't have time to cook.

After a little hesitation I also decided to try making chicken piccata using Alton Brown's Everyday Cook cookbook (one of the books I got Jameson for his birthday.) Hesitant because despite being a fairly straightforward recipe, the actual cooking instructions were very precise and a little intimidating. But it turned out all right :)

I dredged each chicken thigh in flour and pounded them flat, then flash-fried them with oil and butter. Then the mushrooms and capers went into the pan for a bit. Then the chicken came back into the pan with some white wine and broth, simmered low for about 10 minutes. I think it turned out very flavorful, although personally I like when my chicken piccata has a little crisp to it and simmering it detracted from that. Still though! Yum!

After that it was finally time to chill out for a bit. I watched some random cartoons online, ran the dishwasher, and packed my lunch for tomorrow.

This week Jameson will be busy most nights with this Disney event, so I'll probably be chilling and doing chores at night.
You know, sometimes I am still sad that I'm not getting to "be a musician". But I also have to admit that having some time to figure out my next steps while learning to be a little more domestic is actually really nice. I'm enjoying it now, because come 2020 there will be a lot of change in store.

Getting Old Sucks

The first week of November.

Nothing to report.

Jameson was feeling under the weather this week. There seems to be not a whole lot I can do for him, so I just try to be here and be helpful around the house. He has a medical condition that every once in a while rears its head. When that happens I want to be here and be as supportive as I can.

On a positive note, one thing we are looking forward to is going to see Sara Bareilles at the end of the month. She is so awesome.
We've also got tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in December.
I love going to concerts with Jameson, so I'm really looking forward to both of these!

I recently found out that I've got some serious Paid Time Off (PTO) accrued at work, almost a week's worth!
But the question is what to do with it. It needs to be used up before the end of the year as it can't be paid out and won't roll over.
Jameson's schedule looks pretty inflexible, so I'm not sure we'd be able to plan a trip over the holidays.
The only thing I've found to do with it so far is maybe take December 8th off. It's a Sunday and there's the Orlando Farmers Market plus the Winter Park Christkindl! It would be a nice day for me to follow the little hippie voice my mother installed in me as a child. She always loved farmers markets and thrift stores and handmade crafts. While on tour I felt I had a serious knack for finding these things in just about any city. I called it my "hippie sense".

Anyway, this week went by as weeks do. Jameson has some gigs coming up this month and has started rehearsing for them now.
I am just kind of holding down the fort, trying to enjoy the last of 2019 because in 2020 there are a lot of changes in store for me.

Let's skip right to my days off.
On Thursday Jameson had a morning rehearsal, so I had a quiet breakfast before going to the gym.
After coming home and getting cleaned up I hit the grocery for some ingredients to make tuna melts today and breakfast Friday. I ate lunch and spent several hours doing household chores.

The tuna melt recipe was from Dude Diet again, it's a really good recipe book so you're going to see a lot of that here.
Mayo was replaced by avocado, and chopped turkey bacon was included for texture and flavor.
I mixed those plus dijon mustard, chopped sweet pickles, shallots, lemon juice, and spices in a bowl with the tuna, then spooned it onto six whole wheat English muffin halves. I topped each melt with a slice of tomato and some grated cheddar. Into the broiler for about 10 minutes (the recipe said 3 but I like my cheese a little browned on top) and they were done! It's not the most beautiful meal but it was very tasty.

Thursday evening was spent just taking it easy, Jameson finishing up God of War and me finishing up Eye of the World.

On Friday we made the pancakes!
These are oat-based, so they're more dense and textured than the fluffy buttermilk pancakes you'd get at a restaurant.
Another Dude Diet recipe, so again the whole point is to provide a healthy alternative to foods we crave.
The batter was made from ground oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, almond milk, an egg, some maple syrup, and some lemon zest. Whisked it together and got it going on the stove.

We had them topped with the blueberry preserves we bought from Lake Catherine Blueberry farm, as well as fresh blueberries and whipped cream. They were pretty dang good!

I made some extra and am looking forward to having them as leftovers.

After that I cleaned up and did some more chores, scrubbing the shower and swiffering the tile portions of the floor. I also went to the gym for a bit.
Because Jameson is not already in enough pain today his body decided to throw out his back, so he spent the day trying to lie still and having online meetings with some of his students. After the gym I joined him, watching tv and reading my book. Resting is great and I love it.

At night Jameson had a gig. I was worried about him moving his gear with his back and all, but he felt he should still go. Blargh. I packed my lunch and enjoyed a little solo tv time with a glass of wine.

Tomorrow is Saturday and the start of another work week for me.
I'm glad to start it off with a clean house and a full fridge.

Halloween 2019

Did you have a good Halloween?

My week was normal, just work and the usual stuff.
At work I am getting more comfortable with the added role of coaching. It breaks up my day and allows for some interaction with other humans. Plus theoretically I'm helping someone to be better at the job. Kinda neat.

By the time Halloween rolled around, we had four pumpkins. Sheesh! We each had a big one for carving, then I got a little white one to be Jack Skellington's face (Jameson's mom got us that decoration), and then we added a small orange pumpkin to be the "test pumpkin" for the types of carving we want to do!

Before all of that though, in the morning I had my first one-on-one consultation at the gym.
It was pretty much just taking my measurements and finding out what my goals are in working out.
I made the mistake of wearing an oversized t-shirt, and when the associate took my measurements she didn't even touch my waist, just the shirt. So now I have a recorded waist size of 36 (actual is 26. Sigh.)

But whatever. I'm not here for the numbers. I did a light elliptical workout and went back home to get started on the pumpkins!

First Jameson put on The Nightmare Before Christmas. Priorities! Then we got to work gutting and carving the pumpkins. We set the seeds aside for later roasting.

When the pumpkins were ready we began carving. When our Halloween movies ended we'd put on another one, The Great Pumpkin or Simpsons Halloween and whatnot. Jameson finished before me, having used a stencil. His turned out pretty creepy-looking!

Mine took more time, as usual because I chose to do something complicated and ridiculous haha.
I wanted to make my pumpkin look like it had boils or zits. So I shaved the skin off of its lumps and thinned them out from behind so light could shine through.

I had planned to also drizzle yellow and white wax over the lumps to give an oozing appearance, but spent too much time shaving lumps and ran out of time. The white pumpkin made a great Jack Skellington head.

Jameson's gym consultation was at 4:30, and while he was there I cleaned up our mess, ordered dinner, and went out to get more votive lights and some pumpkin beer. Not a single store had Pumpkinhead or Basic B*tch left in stock, so this took longer than expected, but finally I found "a" pumpkin beer and brought it home.

Back at home Jameson got a shower, I hurriedly set out some candy for trick-or-treaters, and we ate our pizza like ravenous wolves.
When it got dark we dropped LED candles into our pumpkins and took them outside. I was pleasantly surprised by how gross the boils on my pumpkin looked :)

As we waited for trick-or-treaters we watched The Haunting of Hill House. Oh my gosh, this show is so good. Scary and dark on a deeply emotional level that many people can relate to. You should watch it.

We only got two trick-or-treaters the whole night! Argh, now we have WAY too much candy! What a tragedy :P

I also roasted up our pumpkin seeds with some salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, and olive oil. Our seeds were rather large so I boiled them first to help break down the shells. They turned out really good, and we snacked on them as we watched our show.

Overall it was a pretty successful Halloween! With all this candy it's good that we've got a gym membership, haha.
We were hoping for more trick-or-treaters, but we live in sort of a vacation home area so it's not surprising that we got so few.
Well, now we know for next year!

Our Friday was spent mostly chilling out, we both needed it. We went to the gym in the morning and the grocery in the afternoon, then both of us had a nap. Around dinnertime I started making zucchini fries and Reubens using recipes from The Dude Diet: Dinnertime sent to us recently by Jameson's mom. Jameson has a salt intolerance and has to watch his sodium intake, and Reubens are one food that he misses. We were hoping this recipe would be a good replacement (and I think it was!)

This Reuben involved ground turkey seasoned with dill and kraut mixed in with the patty meat to give it a "corned" flavor. Then you top it with Swiss, more kraut and homemade Russian dressing on rye bread, and press it in the pan using a heavy skillet. The zucchini fries were breaded in panko and cornmeal, then roasted in the oven. Turned out really good! We're excited to make more recipes from this book.

Jameson has some free time this week, I'm going to enjoy seeing him every night for once!
I don't have a lot lined up this month, just a trip to PA for Thanksgiving.
Just waiting for the temperature to get below 80 at this point...

Spooky Prep

Another week!

I started a new role at work this week. Coaching new hires as they complete training. It's a little weird because I feel like I was just in training like yesterday! And I'm not sure how much wisdom I've got to impart, ya know? But I'm just trying to emulate the good coaching I received during training. Giving positive feedback, answering questions, etc. Hopefully I can help someone to start this job on the right foot.

Jameson wound up his Week Of Endless Gigs with a performance at Boxi Park, a newish location that isn't all that far from our house. Since it was a family event it was earlier in the evening and I was able to attend! We had some good food, and the band sounded great!

Nothing especially thrilling happened for the rest of the week, except we both took advantage of our new gym membership. It's definitely a step up from Planet Fitness; I didn't think a fancier gym (higher price) would make a difference, but it really does. I can look forward to equipment that actually works, and a space that is clean, and some one-on-one coaching. It's really very nice, and I'm glad Jameson brought me on board :) On top of that we've both tried the Swiig smoothies sold at the gym, and they're pretty darned good!

Lately all I seem to post about is food. Well, I have no gigs to practice for, and I have a while before I start school or take on anything new, so hopefully it's a good use of time to cook. Why am I getting defensive about this, omg.

Thursday Jameson had to work at the office, so I did my usual cook-and-clean. Around lunchtime I went to the gym, then hit Target to finally stock up on some Halloween candy! I tried to get good stuff, assuming we have trick-or-treaters (and if we don't then we'll have awesome candy haha)
The food I cooked for dinner wasn't worth photographing, it was just a preseasoned pork roast from Trader Joe's with some mashed potatoes and peas :P
After dinner we watched a few episodes of The Haunting of Hill House and enjoyed a quiet evening together.

On Friday we made plans to go to a haunted maze and forest area at Lake Catherine Blueberries, a local farm.
But before that, I had cooking to do!

For dinner I made red curry coconut chicken meatballs, recipe from Half-Baked Harvest. It's supposed to be a quick 30-minute meal, but it always takes me forever to prep :/ One of the reasons I used to hate cooking is because I was forever getting yelled at for being so slow. Well, I don't have knife skills, so if I want even cuts I have to go slowly. Thankfully Jameson could care less about my prep skills so I don't have to worry about that any more.

Anyway, I chopped peppers, shallots, garlic, and cilantro, then measured out coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, and red curry.
I made the meatballs by hand and cooked them in the oven while the veggies simmered on the stove, then brought them together over white basmati rice with a mango jalapeno lime chutney. It's a really good recipe and I enjoyed making it :)

But the showstopper this week was dessert! I decided to try an apple crumble (or crisp, if you like.)
Originally I had wanted to make it in the cast iron skillet, but the recipe I wanted wouldn't fit. Maybe next time!
I used Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples, peeling about 2/3's of them and leaving the others with their skins on.

I soaked the sliced apples overnight in bourbon, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. In the morning they were looking pretty dang good!!

I covered them with the crumble, which was flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar, salt, and butter. After an hour in the oven the house was smelling fantastic indeed.

We decided to put off dessert until after the haunted maze as it was getting close to that time.
We drove out to the farm, which like many farms was in the middle of nowhere. More creepy that way ;)

First we visited the pumpkin patch to find carving pumpkins for Halloween! There were many beautiful pumpkins to choose from.

Jameson found one of the most perfect pumpkins ever, with a smooth face and excellent shape for carving.
I found...well...let's just say I turned a corner, saw it sitting there, and it was love at first sight!!
I knew it was the right pumpkin because as soon as I picked it up the vendor exclaimed, "Wow, that's one ugly pumpkin!" and a random kid walking by said "Eew, look at it!" Yep. This is the one.

We happily loaded our finds into the car, then went to the country shop to look around. We found honey and blueberry jam both made right at the farm, and blueberry lemonade! Awesome!

After loading THOSE in the car, we did our first maze, a scavenger hunt in a hemp field!

It started off pretty easy, but as dusk fell it became harder and harder to see and more and more creepy!
At one point we almost gave up because it started to rain. But determined, we forged onward and found the last two items! Yay!!
We took our completed punchcards back to the country store and received a free blueberry lemonade! Yay!

Around back there was a bar. Jameson got a bloody Mary and I just had them dump a shot into my lemonade. We sipped our drinks and enjoyed the fresh air and some nice live music.

Soon it was time for the haunted maze. We took a hayride out to the maze, where we were accosted by clowns, chainsaw-weilding freaks, and Children of the Corn! This maze was staffed mostly by children...Jameson's friend told us that they start out as scarers, then get to move up to other roles as they grow older. Really cool! We had a few surprises and scares and had a great time!

My favorite part was when one ghoul whispered in my ear, "Will you be my friend? Be my best friend. That means you die first." NICE LINE!!!

After that, we did the haunted forest! That was REALLY cool. It had rained so it was kinda muddy, but tarps had been put down so we could still get through the maze. At one point we almost got separated because two creatures locked us in a cage with a dirty mattress, then one chased Jameson out while the other locked me in! Yeek!

The woods were just naturally creepy at night, and a lot of the effects used were really good. It was a lot of fun! It's been a while since we've gotten to do a good haunted "house" experience!

We drove home through the creepy burbs, and waiting for us on the counter was the apple crumble and some vanilla ice cream. Oh my goodness, after an evening of fall scares, it was SO GOOD.

Now it's Saturday and I'm getting ready to go to work. Halloween is coming...I hope we are ready!

Parbaking and Parboiling and Parthinking

My big excitement this week was getting to have dinner one night at The Stubborn Mule with Matt, a former Ringling clown and current Imagineer. It was good to catch up over some delicious fish sammys!

The other cool thing was going to see Encore's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee!
Jameson is playing in the pit, which was totally visible from the audience so I enjoyed watching the musicians play and watching their reactions to the comedy onstage. I've never seen Spelling Bee before and was surprised at how hilarious it is! And lots of opportunities for improvisation. It's a very cool show and I had a great time, especially with Jameson doing his magic in the pit :)

At work, I got my 6-month review. Wow, I've worked somewhere for six months!
I got a little raise, and some nice feedback from my supervisor, plus a printout of my average accuracy, speed, and monitored scores throughout my time at CapTel. I'm doing pretty good, which is great. One thing I like about this job is that feedback is 100% based on and scored by your work. There's no confusion over what's expected, or what determines your value as an employee. It's really black and white here. And I really like that. I need it. Because a lot of other areas of my life are not so cut-and-dry. It's nice to have one place that is.

Anyway, so then we got to Thursday and Friday which are my glorious days off. I've finished my online course, and now begins the process of deciding, once again, if the field I'm looking into is the right one for me. I've got to pick something. It's just stressful when you've got to ask yourself, "Will I like this? Is this the right path?"

The fact that I have not had to ask "Will I like this" about my career choice before makes me a very lucky person.
There are many people who never find a job that they like, much less a dream job.
So I'm trying to stay objective, and patient, and remember that even if I pick the wrong thing oh God what if I pick the wrong thing and get trapped in some job I hate and have no other choice and--

Hahaha. Yeah...it's not easy to think positive!

But the fact remains I've got to do something, I've got to evolve. I can still play music. Maybe I can learn to enjoy it again like I used to. But in the meantime I've got to be flexible, and take risks, and try my best. And stay positive.

One hugely positive thing is that I'm with Jameson. He's incredibly supportive. He's dealt with all of my midlife crisis crap, even while struggling with his own demons. He's probably the only reason I'll be able to do this (whatever "this" ends up being). And I don't know how to repay something as big as that.

Um. Anyway.

I was feeling somewhat lazy this time around, so I only cleaned the shower and vacuumed. I didn't feel like cooking as much, and since we had capers and cream cheese left over from previous recipes I thought it'd be nice to grab some sesame bagels, lox, cucumbers and tomatoes and make lox sandwiches! It's been a while since I had one and it was very good.

On Friday we had a relaxing morning, and then Jameson decided it was time to get a new gym membership. I agreed. We've both been making our excuses about it...for me, I keep telling myself I'll start after Thanksgiving when I've got my bike from my parent's house, or I should wait until next year so my cancellation fee will be less with Planet Fitness. I don't know what Jameson's excuses were, but we both decided to stop making 'em! The new gym is close to the house and has a lot of nice amenities. I'm especially excited about the free one-on-one consultations you can get before you start. I'm hoping some insight from a professional will make a difference in how I exercise.

Satisfied with our new membership, we went back home, had lunch, and relaxed a bit.
Oh and I beat Castlevania! WHOOOOOOOT

Later on I decided to try out the pizza stone we've recently obtained to make a basic margherita pizza!
Stretching the dough was easy. I parbaked it a little so it wouldn't be soggy, then let it cook for about ten minutes.
The crust ended up crunchy, I suspect because
A) The oven wasn't hot enough,
B) I overworked the dough, and
C) The dough had been sitting in the fridge for two days and may have dried out.
Still, it was perfectly edible and a good first attempt.

What's a pizza without wings? I also made Alton Brown's recipe for oven-baked buffalo wings.
They turned out pretty good, although not crispy (his recipe calls for you to parboil them to render the fat and make them crispier, it didn't seem to work). I think next time I will try broiling them for the second half of cooking. I'll also get a different buffalo sauce recipe, because this one was basically butter with a little hot sauce and it was too much grease and not enough flavor for me personally. But again, a solid first attempt and definitely good enough to eat!

I feel like I'm learning a lot of new cooking techniques (new to me anyway) and it's kind of exciting to think that I could make pizza, and use what I learn there to make stromboli later! Or these wings, and use that to make my own jerky! I used to hate cooking and now that it's a no-pressure situation, it's becoming a lot more fun!

Now it's nighttime and Jameson is at a gig. It's raining hard, there's a tropical system moving through.
Next week it looks like Jameson will have some more free time. We're hoping to squeeze in some Halloween activities!

October Contemplation

I had my last two Evita shows, and they were fun.

Although there was some awkwardness with the contracting for this show, I'm very glad I ended up doing it because I got to meet some really great human beings. Josh, who had to step up to the plate at the last minute to music direct AND play keys, was amazing all around. Sam was, well, a trumpet player, so that says everything doesn't it? ;P Ciara is the goofy friend I didn't know I needed. And the rest of you...well what can I say. Y'all crazy. And I love it :)

So that was that, and Clayton (the actual trombonist for this show) paid me my bread, and all was well with the world.
Who knows when I'll get to perform again. Christmas? 2020? We'll see.

Jameson is working hard. He doesn't have a single night off this week. He does get to sleep in, but his evenings are not his own.
Lately he's been thinking over a lot of things, which I think everyone has to do at some point, but I can't help but worry that he's OK.
Everyone's battles are their own and I don't want to get pushy or interfere, so I'm just trying to be here for whatever life brings him and whatever decisions he makes. Lord knows he's already done this for me over the past two years.

Anyway, the weather this week was surprisingly fall-like. It was rainy and a little windy, and while it was still over 80 degrees it was at least cooler than it's been all summer. Wednesday was the 18-year anniversary of my mom's death, so I found the weather comforting and appropriate. Sometimes her anniversary passes and I feel the same as I always do. Other times I really "feel it". I don't get to choose when I feel sad or not, it just happens. This time I felt it...but it's good to have those feelings, and it's good to remember.

To help mitigate those feelings, I took a trip to an asian grocery and bought some ingredients to make simmered kabocha.
I had been worried about being able to find a kabocha pumpkin, but they were immediately apparent in the produce aisle, a big mound of them stacked next to the turnips and sweet potatoes and such. Screaming "pick me, pick me!"

My asian cooking experience is essentially stir fry, and as someone with actual asian blood I'm starting to think that's kinda pitiful.
Thinking about my mom this week, I wanted to try making a traditional Japanese dish in a traditional Japanese way.
Even if it's just a side dish. Even if it's just basically boiling a pumpkin.

And even though my Obaa-chan despised pumpkins. I can hear her soul rising up to tisk and curse and be horrified :P

I found this site that's entirely traditional Japanese cooking for beginners, called Just One Cookbook, and used their recipe for simmered kabocha.

Following the recipe, I used bonito flakes to make a broth and then chopped the kabocha and lined the bottom of a pot with the pieces. I mixed sake, sugar, salt, and soy sauce together and it all went in the pot with the pumpkin. I then made a sort of DIY "drop lid" since I hadn't been able to find one at the asian grocery. Drop lids are supposed to help temperature distribute evenly and reduce large bubbles from boiling.

As you can see, the pumpkin looked pretty lovely when it was finished. Unfortunately I do think I overcooked it, because the texture was somewhat crumbly. Still, the flavor is interesting and I won't throw it out. Pumpkin is pretty good for you! And it was fun cooking something in the nimono style. I learned something new :)

If you clicked on the nimono recipe link above, you might have noticed that it only calls for half a kabocha pumpkin. What to do with the other half?

While working for Princess Cruises at the beginning of the year, there was one night in the crew mess where roasted pumpkin was served. It was so delicious, I immediately noted it down as something to try making at home! And lo and behold, when I look back on that pumpkin's appearance, I realize that it was definitely a roasted kabocha!

So I took the other half of the kabocha, this time slicing it thin and laying it out on a sheet pan.

Having never done this before, I wasn't sure of the seasoning so did one quarter pumpkin sweet with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, and the other savory with salt and pepper. They went in the oven just like you'd roast vegetables or french fries or whatever. Now these, I liked! Jameson enjoyed them as well. he preferred the sweet seasoning, I liked the savory. They had a texture more like sweet potato fries.

This was a fun little experiment and didn't take a lot of time or effort on my part. The pumpkin was only a dollar, and I had almost all of the seasonings and equipment at home. The only thing I needed to buy extra was the sake (and I ain't complaining!)
Sidenote: The plate that I put the pumpkin on belonged to my Obaachan. Love you Grandma :)

In addition to the pumpkin adventure, I made two pretty simple meals this week.
The first was salmon with a teriyaki glaze. I let it marinate in the glaze and cooked it in the sous vide for about 30 minutes. The rice was precooked, the salad took two seconds to throw together. Easy peasy.

The second was a Harvest Chicken Skillet recipe from Well Plated. This one was prep-heavy, but after everything was chopped you pretty much just threw it in the skillet and waited. I chose this recipe because it had a lot of interesting ingredients--chicken, bacon, brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and Granny Smith apples--and each serving is under 500 calories!

Plus, let's be real. I'm jonesing for fall real bad. Maybe if I do enough fall junk it'll BE fall. Yeah?


Anyway. Harvest chicken skillet. You chop all the ingredients. You cook the chicken with salt and pepper. You render some bacon fat and use that to cook the veggies. Add the apples and spices last, then throw the meat back in to integrate. Jameson described it as a "Thanksgiving skillet" and I think he's not wrong.

After dinner Jameson had to get to his gig. Busy man. I feel bad that I'm not working just as much. But that's why we're a team. I do other things that he doesn't have time for. And eventually, I'll be working more too. Guaranteed!!

Tomorrow is Saturday. I've got work, and Jameson will have another gig at night. After work I get to grab dinner with a circus friend...and at a place where another circus friend works as a chef!! Pretty excited about that!

And Then There Was Cooking

I've really got nothing to report this week overall.

I played two more Evita shows, they went well.
Jameson has been working through some things, so it's been a little quiet on his end. But sometimes we all need a little time to work ourselves through...look at our internal maps, and try to find the thin little thread of happiness that tends to get lost in the dark.

Buuut anyway, he will be very busy next week, so it's good that he's got a little down time now.
Personally, I was thrilled to once again have Thursday and Friday off.
I've never had the inclination to cook, but I gotta admit that's changed a bit. I'm excited to try making things that Jameson will enjoy eating!

This week's big excitement in cooking: Cacio e Pepe and sous vide cheesecake, both recipes from Alton Brown's Good Eats!

I made slow-roasted herb chicken breasts to go with the pasta, and a caprese salad.
The pasta was actually more complicated than it looked, and I made some mistakes that kind of resulted in an overpeppered, broken sauce. But hey, I tried and it was certainly edible! I think next time I will spend more time stirring the sauce as directed, and use less pepper.

The cheesecakes were the star of the show. Cream cheese and sugar whipped in a mixer, then you add some sour cream, eggs, and lemon juice/zest. Fill some 4oz canning jars with the results and immerse in the sous vide for 45 minutes. While that was happening I crushed some graham crackers, sugar, salt and butter, dumped it onto a sheet pan, and cooked it in the oven for 20 minutes to make a crumble to go on top. I was amazed at how well they turned out! Incredibly light and silky smooth. The "crust" crumble was wonderful. Next time I'd like to try making a key lime version!

After dinner we watched The Haunting of Hill House, the first two episodes. It's getting to be spooky season y'all!

On Friday I continued my cooking streak with buttermilk biscuits. The last time I made them with Jameson's mom, so I was a little nervous about going it alone. But they turned out fine! Remembering a sandwich I'd had while on tour with the circus, I layered my biscuit with ham, brie, and apple cider jam. It was AWESOME.

After that was done I worked on my online class and enjoyed a little chill out time while Jameson had student meetings and played some video games. Later on he went to a friend's house to help her move some things, and then they went to Haunted Horror Nights at Universal. While he was out I washed our sheets, cooked some chicken, did my laundry, and vacuumed. When all that was done, I finally felt it was time to crash. I poured myself a drink and watched the first episode of the new Dark Crystal series, then played a few rounds of Castlevania. I'm so close to beating that game! But it's so hard!! Argh!!

It was a nice week, clearly I kept myself busy. Next week Jameson starts a bunch of rehearsals and gigs, so I'm glad there's at least some leftovers in the fridge for both of us to dip into as we go about life. Today (Saturday) I have my last two shows with Orlando Shakes. I'm grateful that I got to perform on this show, but if I'm being honest, there was some weirdness during the hiring process that both Jameson and I were questioning (he was supposed to play it as well but, weirdness. I'll explain after I talk to someone at the theater about it.) Anyway, it's a good show with good people and I'm looking forward to two more shows with them :)

Next week I've just got work and extra work to make up for the time I had to take off for the shows this weekend. I still expect to have Thursday and Friday free again, so maybe I'll come up with something else exciting to cook!

Little Things

Let's see, Sunday I worked and then played the Orlando Shakes fundraising gala.
It was fun and interesting...lots of money in that room. Which was great, because you know, fundraising.
Anyway, it was a very fancy affair and I felt underdressed even though I wore a suit jacket. No matter, I still made sure to get some fancy hors d'oeuvres!

I would have also liked to have played better, but sightreading a piano/vocal chart has never been my strong suit.

Anyway, on Monday I went to work and after work hit the library. I'm still speeding through the Wings of Fire series and am actually kinda sad to realize I'm beginning the last arc of it. Soon it'll be time to find another series to follow...

They didn't have the next book in the Wings of Fire series, so I tried Endling by Katherine Applegate instead. She's better known for the Animorphs series and a big long list of teen romance novels. I swear I'll go back to grown-up books eventually y'all.

Tuesday and Wednesday, not a lot to report. I worked, I ran errands, I came home. I'm about halfway through my online course and it's going pretty well so far. Jameson has had a few days to rest up from his mom's visit and all the work he's been putting in lately, but come October he gets pretty busy again with gigs and such. He's got a lot on his mind lately. I mean, it's been a crazy year.

Thursday was finally, finally, a real whole day off. Woohoo!
But there's so much to do! I wanted to at least get caught up on the cleaning, and cook some nice food for Jameson and I. There are so many recipes I want to try. And I've definitely got Fall on the brain...I'm already thinking about carving pumpkins, and roasting seeds, and whether or not trick-or-treaters will come to our house. I think Fall in this house would be amazing :) We'll see!

But for today, just getting caught up is enough. I vacuumed and dusted and cleaned the bathrooms. I worked on my online course, and revisited the library because they got the book I wanted (that was quick!). I drove aaaaalll the way out to Trader Joe's for their Cabernet Pot Roast, which I've made for us many times before but wanted to try in the sous vide to see if it would make it more digestible (it's a poor cut of meat, a benefit of sous vide is it can tenderize cheaper cuts.) Sadly I didn't have enough time to try sous vide after all of the running around, so ended up just cooking it in the oven as usual and roasting some asparagus to go on the side. It was "just ok". I need more practice!

After Jameson and I ate, we just chilled. How nice it is to do nothing, to just relax and enjoy relaxing.

Friday was much the same. I spent time on my online class, Jameson played Red Dead Redemption and took a nap. We hung a new piece of art in the guest bedroom. In the evening I thought I'd try making something new for dinner: shrimp po'boys! They're very simple to make, I mean it's just marinated shrimp on a roll haha. But they were very good, and I'll definitely be bookmarking this recipe!

There are a few small changes I would make next time, such as marinate the shrimp before sticking them on skewers to ensure full coverage, adding some dry spices during or after grilling, and using a bread that's less hard than baguette. But still, very enjoyable.

Today is Saturday, and I'm not at work. It's weird. That's because I took the day off to do two Evita shows for Orlando Shakes.
I'll have to make up my work hours in order to stay full time, so I've got longer days this week. Oh well..at least I like my job!