Category: Gourmet in the Field


I counted, recently, due to a conversation with a new friend. I have moved at least once a year since graduating college in the winter of 2012. Tally the relocations up with me:

To Jackson Lake Lodge dorms – 1 (roommate tally 4)

To the First Chair apartments in Vail – 2 (roommate tally 7)

To the Grand Teton Gold and Tennis Club employee communal house – 3 (roommate tally 7)

To Building #2 (happily known as the party building, also the “sign an asbestos warning release” building) at the Tarnes apartments in Avon – 4 (roommate tally 10)

Pulling the typical millennial regression of moving back in with my parents. In my defense, I did pay at least a pro forma rent – 5 (roommate tally 10)

To Building #4 at the Tarnes. This one had washers and dryers on the actual premises! Also, sticky fingered roomies. – 6 (roommate tally 12)

To Apt. B. in Eagle-Vail. Private room, but no kitchen. Give and take. – 7 (roommate tally 12)

To Paradise Road in Park City – 8 (roommate tally 15)

By my count, that’s too many moves, too many strangers, and too many places where customizing the space to myself was never quite possible. Eight moves, five years, it’s no wonder that when I last took the health insurance mandated survey, it politely informed me that I had a stressful lifestyle and should consider moving less. This was back when the moves were part of my contract with the company providing the insurance, so I laughed in a slightly bitter fashion and ignored the advice. But after my last winter in Beaver Creek, I began considering more seriously how to settle.

I started out on this seasonal work road assuming that I would eventually find a place and people to settle down to, but even though I had the most connections and the longest lasting work placement in Avon, the thought of moving there was the opposite of relaxing. Similar to the finally considering the stark numbers that reflect my surprisingly nomadic life, when I was last asked how often I visited family and I said “about three times a year,” my own reply shocked and disappointed me. But the long drive from Colorado never feels practical on a two day weekend and while flying out from Denver takes about half as long, it costs about twice as much.

Still convinced that I wanted to stay with the company I’ve worked for since graduating, I looked into the possibilities of locations closer to Idaho and found employment relatively easily in Park City. It’s a similar little mountain town, with hiking trails out the backdoor and ski runs dotting the landscape. There’s a slightly more settled feel to it, with Salt Lake City only thirty minutes away and I was surprised by how many of my co-workers seem permanently fixed here, versus the transitory feel of the other towns I’ve been through in the past few years. I took a slight drop in responsibilities, which I felt was reasonable, since the restaurant is slightly finer dining than I have line-cooked in before, but I’m nearly seven weeks into the season and reminded that life as a line-cook becomes routine quickly. The chef has been kind enough to rotate me around through the stations, which helps keep the kitchen fresh and lets me see the processes and details of all the dishes on the menu. Four weeks in, however, he hadn’t yet started this program and working gardemanger during the slow summer season on a slow line in a restaurant with a clearly settled management team was making me think hard about settling here. It’s not that I have anything against taking a subordinate position in order to learn new skills and techniques, but four weeks in seemed a little early to be feeling stalled. So I browsed Craigslist and thought of all the new restaurants that were opening up in Idaho.

Then, just a few hours after my father reminded me that I did not sign a contract to stay for the full summer and could always give notice and move if a good opportunity was presenting itself, my former chef called from Colorado to ask my to apply for a sous chef position. Feeling guilty, after all the mentoring he had given me over the past few years, I regretfully told him I wasn’t willing to move back to Colorado. Then, in what felt a bit like twisting the knife, I asked him to give me a recommendation to his acquaintances in Idaho. They had come up before in conversation and he immediately agreed to send me their information. I was slightly shocked to see an email that afternoon sent to both me and his acquaintances that included a letter of recommendation and an introduction. I hadn’t planned on making the contact quite yet, with three months left on my summer lease and only a month of work beneath my belt to support it. Since things seemed to be on a roll, though, I followed up with an inquiry of my own and about a week later found myself filling out an application for a position in McCall, Idaho. Now I’m in discussions regarding housing and cats and dates of availability with chefs and recruiters. I’m still trying to stick the summer out here in Park City, but on the horizon, I can see the opportunity to settle. It’s been a longer migration than I had planned, but it seems to be coming full circle.


Over Baked

I may have over-reacted. It’s just that baking is such incredible fun. And perhaps it isn’t just me who is stretching the limits, it could be a restaurant wide type of thing. Howe’er it came about, I have desserts to put out tomorrow night, and Thursday night, and Saturday night and possibly, as of this afternoon, Sunday. Plus, enough breads to make bread baskets for all the tables that come to Father’s Day Brunch Sunday morning. Plus my shifts are all swing/switch shifts, with Tuesday and Thursday being night shifts, Wednesday being a morning shift, and Friday being as yet unspecified in time and place. Though, come to think of it, there’s probably a dessert involved in my Friday life as well. And none of this is awful and it wouldn’t be even slightly stressful if a few conditions happened to be met that really aren’t. First off, my primary purpose while on shift is not typically dessert. Usually, I do everything else I need to accomplish and then fit dessert into my extra time. Secondly, we’re a month and a half into the season and still washing all of our own dishes. Character building, sure, but also time consuming and not really a skill development option.

Given my druthers, I would maintain my current monopoly on dessert making, but there will have to come a balance between asking me to do all the desserts and more with them than previously, while still outputting all the items I was formerly outputting. Despite what I occasionally claim, I am quite human and not over-fond of working all day every day. My real writing goal for today is to line up recipes and timelines for the week to help with my ability to present a calm front at work. I’m still conflicted about doing this on my off day(s). Completing my work baking is much easier and more relaxing if I hammer out this type of detail in my spare time – but I’m against giving away too much of my time to the company for free. I suppose if I had more demands on my free time I might protest a bit more, but as I currently need things to fill up my free hours, it doesn’t seem overly generous of me to get my ducks in a row on Monday to make the shooting gallery easier on Tuesday.

So it’s on to locating and transcribing recipes for sourdough English muffins, and chocolate babka, and beignets, and cornmeal shortcakes, and so on and so forth. The good news is that Father’s Day is a one-off event and next Sunday shouldn’t add any extra pressures to my schedule. The bad news is that as comfortable as the pace has heretofore been, we only get more hectic from here until the end of August. It’s a good thing I like the adrenaline rush of an over-booked day.

A Brief Guide for Death March Companions

I have stories from this  past stretch of days off. The trouble is, I’m not sure my mother would appreciate them. And since she is approximately 50% of my blog readership, (33% on a busy day),  I have the niggling feeling that I should retain them for my journal and find something else to discuss here. Still, I can at least provide an overview of what the last few days have held. 

The weather in town has been more pleasantly springy over the past week, and I am even sunburnt from yesterday’s expeditions. Sadly, all of the hiking trails that I have tried to locate have been snowed in/over to the point that they were unnavigable. The one trail that was more mud and dirt than snow I came to too late in the day to finish hiking and I reluctantly turned around to avoid being out past dusk. I was also worn down from the earlier expeditioning to blocked off trailheads.  

One would think that with all the mud and snow blocked areas there wouldn’t be very many people out enjoying the great outdoors. But even in the remoter areas that I have come across, there have always been several other people about, also pushing the limits of spring activity in the mountains. Hopefully this is of some comfort to my readers of last week, who managed to avoiding commenting on the content of my writing and instead criticized my traditional group of me, myself, and I.  The sad fact of the matter is that many people do not understand how to properly hike. Now, I realize that our family  substitution of “death march” for “hike” is partially a joke. But too many companions of mine have failed to realize what proper hiking parameters consist of and how to comport themselves on such journeys. For instance, hiking and walking have different boundaries which only occasionally overlap. If the path you are traveling is paved, it does not qualify as a hike. If it is unpaved, but wider than a yard, you are in a grey zone. The path ought to narrow and experience some elevation shifts and unincorporated obstacles, such as trees and rocks. If the trail rating falls below moderate, you should probably refer your activity as a ‘wilderness stroll’, rather than hiking. Naturally, these restrictions may vary somewhat depending on the average age of your party, but considering the scarcity of toddlers in this town, I feel they apply widely to the population.  When hiking, you should always be prepared for occasional water crossings and greet them with the enthusiasm they deserve.  In the spirit of Going on a Bear Hunt, if you “can’t go under it, can’t go over it, gotta go through it.” Photographic proof of the adventure is applauded, but if not participating in an official water break, the photographer ought to be prepared to engage in a certain level of catch-up sprinting. And speaking of running, the occasional daisy chain through the woods is only to be expected.  The trip outward should be conducted with moderate to low levels of volume in order for optimum wildlife spottings, while the trip inward may include such activities as singing in rounds or reciting scenes from plays.   Finally, turing around before reaching the final apex of the trail is not a decision to be undertaken lightly or for such foolish reasons as wanting to catch a movie later in the day, or being unwilling to traverse fallen tree bridges. 

Perhaps my requirements for hiking companions are somewhat stringent, but I have been spoiled with a crew who easily meet all of these expectations and more for most of my hiking history. And while I relax them occasionally and attempt an excurision with a death march novice, they make it difficult for me to carry out my ongoing discussions with the characters in my head. One of my personalities may need to invest in a GPS, though. 

The Interference of Spring Rain

The weather is weighing heavily on my mind. I agreed to be in  Avon for the summer, I am in Avon, therefore it ought to be summer. But it’s still decidedly nippy spring weather 75% of the time. There was one perfectly gorgeous evening last week when I (and the rest of the town’s tiny population) felt the uncontainable urge to head to Nottingham Lake for some sunshine and water proximity. But mainly, there has been windstorm after hailstorm after thunderstorm. The chilly winds are useful for my exercise goals, though, as they improve motivation to move at a brisk pace. Weather, however, is not the only thing putting a crimp in my grandiose plans. Take yesterday’s hiking excursion. I packed myself up and drove over to Vail to investigate the hopefully named Lost Lake trail. There was a lack of cooperation between my phone’s GPS system and the forest service page’s directions, but I was actually fine with this, because I ended up in an area of the Vail foothills where I had hiked and run during my stay there two winters past. When my phone blurted out crazed directions, I knew the location of the nearest trailhead parking lot well enough to ignore it and continue blithely on in the relatively correct direction. After some mental distance calculations and re-evaluation of ‘closed’ signs, I found the dirt road turnoff for forest road #700.  Sadly, the road only continued for about a mile before it was gated off. The trailhead I was aiming for was still about eight miles distant – not far in a vehicle, but further than I was going to travel on foot, one way. On the other hand, the road beyond the gate looked almost like hiking material and I decided to travel onward and see if any other side trails presented themselves. I explored for just over an hour, but when the road became completely snow covered and the darkening sky provided an ominous hush my self-generated noise became insufficient for company. Each swish of my feet was followed by a skittering as the snow I had pushed away slid across the icy crust surrounding me. The sound was time-delayed from my actual footstep, making me repeatedly jump in surprise and suspiciously search the trees on either side of the road. Deciding that continuing would not be enjoyable, I turned to head back downhill. This was when the clouds above began to gently release their loads. I would walk through a minute of minuscule hail, then come into a clear space, then return into mixed hail and sleet. Happily, none of the weather was overly violent and I had a jacket in my bag. Being only a fraction of the height of the trees, I could always hear the rain start to ruffle their needles a few seconds before it reached my head and the additional sounds were welcome after the stifled silence of the snow path.  I had had a pleasant walk, but I didn’t feel that it had quite met my expectations of a hike, so when I spotted a trailhead on the opposite side of the turnout where I had parked, I stopped to pull my beanie out of the car and went to explore. It looked like a perfect hiking trail, narrow, muddy, and rising abruptly through pines. Sadly, it was marked as closed for elk calving season.  Although I had avoided the lower trailhead because I was looking for new places to explore, I decided to fit in one more quick excursion in the wet afternoon. Again, I parked and headed toward the trail only to be stopped short by another elk calving closure. I was somewhat confused, as I had seen people hiking in the area earlier in the afternoon, but perhaps I misunderstood their direction, or am more sign-abiding. Between weather, road closure, and trail closure, I am grateful to have gotten my two hours of hiking in, but at the same time, I do wish there were not so many spring restrictions on my summer goals.

Adult Interaction 

When I signed up for a two year contract the spring after my graduation, I wasn’t looking forward to living away from home  and family and friends. But the contract was broken down into managable segments and I was assured that I could always return home if things went seriously south. Amazingly enough, the two years did pass and I had been new places and had new experiences and learned about my chosen field while slowly advancing within the company. After my summer home, I realized that local restaurants weren’t going to be able to offer me the scope and benefits that the Colorado/Wyoming/Utah company could. And there was a relationship I wanted to explore and enthusiastic recruiters offering me raises and more responsibilites and higher ranking postions. So I came back to Avon last winter. After communication letdowns, management changes, and a typically high level of homesickness, I’m still not certain if signing on for the summer was a case of path of least resistance, or some type of reasoned adult decision making paradigm. I currenty have more things in Colorado than I could take home with a single car trip in my current vehicle – though if I sized my car up slightly I could probably still make it work. The knowledge of being on the edge of moving to Colorado has me paranoid about buying anything more while here, which is not all bad. Paranoia has, I am sure, saved many a person from buyer’s regret. On the other hand, while going from season to season without committing to being here might keep me from panicking over having grown up and moved out, it does seem to hinder developing habits and exploring activities that could make moving here less of a fullblown panic situation.  While I don’t wish to perform personality graft surgery on myself, forcing the occasional social interation has been shown to benefit me in the past. So while my ideal scenario is wearing down a sibling until they surrender and move out to join me in this piney mountain town, my main focus for now is going to have to be adult interaction outside the workplace. I surely hope I can find a way to accompish this goal in non-stressful manner, but right now, things aren’t seeming effortless. 

Things We Don’t Talk About

Really make for very short blog posts. But much of what’s spinning around behind my head these days is related to thoughts and plans I’m not quite prepared to articulate. Still, I’ve spent the afternoon surrounding myself with words and am now feeling the need to spread some of them out on a page. I have actually been journaling with remarkable degree of consistency, for me, which means that I have fewer thoughts to work out through blog writing. I dropped the daily journal habit for the busiest holiday stretch at work (Dec 21st – Jan 3rd) because my brain wasn’t even functioning well for every day projects, much less philosophical nonsense ramblings.

I’ve been very glad, multiple times, that I came back to this job. I like the kitchen and I like my responsibilities and I like my co-workers. There are actually a couple of other girls in the kitchen this year, which is an easy shortcut to making friends to hang out with occasionally. We had pizza at midnight on New Year’s and are planning an ice skating excursion. I just have to remember that I am technically a supervisor at work now and try to moderate how much of my work issues and frustration I share with my co-workers. It’s been a strange, but fun balancing act so far, attempting to manage not-always-cooperative people. Now that the rush of Christmas week is behind me, I can slow down my own projects and focus a little bit more on how well other people are dealing with theirs.

There are several returning workers to the kitchen from last, as well as one or two non-coworkers from last year who are also still willing to talk to me and hang out on occasion. Having people to spend time with makes life so much better. Although I am currently experiencing my first sequential days off since I arrived in Colorado and feeling the deja vu of long stretches of time with no schedule and no one around to distract me. My sisters did send me pictures of their hat modeling shopping trip today, while I rode the bus around in loops attempting to solve The Problem of the Locked Bedroom Door. I appreciate the pictures, but they also have the effect of making me feel like I’m missing out on sister-time. I just have to remember that our conflicting work and school schedules over the summer meant that we didn’t spend every waking moment together even when we did happen to be in the same state.

The bedroom key issue has kept me relatively occupied in a non-amusing fashion during my spare time for the past three days. After my mixing bowl, cheese grater, and water bottle disappeared at some point during the shared housing experience, my mother made dress coat vanishing one day pushed me over the edge of reasonable reaction and I threw all my jackets into my room and locked the door before heading out of the apartment on errands. Sadly, after locking the door, I discovered that the key I was issued upon arrival was non-functional. I called maintenance to get back inside that evening and the next day headed down to the housing office to complain about the issue. Sadly for my plans, the next day was Sunday (what? it’s easy to lose track when your schedule is as convoluted as mine is.) and the office was closed. The next next day, I made it to the office around 4:45 p.m., just as everyone else was getting off of work and bringing their complaints in to the overwhelmed office workers. I managed to address two of my three concerns, was issued another key and went on my way. That key didn’t work, so I traveled down to the housing office once more, spoke with another housing employee, received my third key of the week and continued with my off-day activities. After returning to the apartment for the evening, I was shocked to discover that the third time was not, in fact, the charm. This morning, I was fortunate enough to speak to the same employee as yesterday and he recommend that I bring down my roommate’s (functioning) key so that he could cut a copy from it. Another twenty minute travel loop and I accomplished this errand and now have a fourth key to try when I finally land at the apartment again. If this fails, the office has instructed me to not return. But they aren’t giving up on me, just on the lock and will send a repair person to inspect and judge.

Beyond that, I have spent my off days reading cookbooks and brainstorming dessert and buffet menu ideas, because I truly do enjoy my job. There’s been some running and some scenic walking while on the phone with mother’s in Hawaii, some library browsing, and some light housekeeping. But I’m feeling well rested now and ready to jump back into work with a double shift in the morning.

Rehashed Beans

Are people ever where they think they were going to be? It’s so usual to talk about every point in life like it’s a transition to something else, which, of course, it is. But it’s also the point that was just transitioned to. Time is funky that way, points all arranged on a line, creating a path. A wave and a particle all at once. I came home to Idaho two-and-a-half weeks ago, interviewed the first day I was home and started a new job the second. I had thought my job search was still casual and things moved much more quickly than I was expecting. It makes shopping less stressful to know that there’s money coming in, though. I caught the dreaded cold four days after getting back, probably because I refused to avoid hugging anyone. Now, after being in a snuffle-headed fog for about fifteen days, being tossed headfirst into job training and trying to find my equilibrium with being at home once more, I’m starting to feel a little less like running screaming for the hills.

The new job is convenient, located just ten minutes from my current residence and gives me a very easy, almost normal person schedule. It’s a restaurant, I promise, but I’ve somehow ended up with an 8-3ish Monday through Friday shift. So, yes, the hours are certainly shy of a full forty-hour week and I’m not entirely content with the pay rate. If I’m honest, I think the work will bore me fairly quickly as well. On the other hand, it has low gas costs, seems to pay about on par with the other area jobs I’ve seen posted and I wouldn’t be too broken up about leaving it in the fall, if I decide to return to Colorado. Yep, going back to Colorado is on the table. I guess I’m just reluctant to give up that free ski pass.

Okay, okay, the ski pass isn’t a big factor in my thought process. The pay, work, and other company benefits are factors. I was feeling rather strung out immediately after getting back home, which was rather unexpected. After all, I’m home with no contractual obligations to return to a position in Wyoming or Colorado, although I was offered summer positions in both locations. Wyoming offered a sous-chef job which was the career advancement type position I was looking for, but not quite attractive enough to make me surrender my long-promised, long-awaited summer at home. Colorado offered a regular cook position at the golf course, and I have stress memories involving golfers and the quantity of bacon they consume. Or at least, I pretend I have stress memories about it, because it’s fun to be dramatic on occasion. Actually, I turned it down for mostly the same reasons as turning down Wyoming. I needed time with my people. And now I’m going to take the summer to parse out how many of my post-college thoughts and behaviors have been related to being not-at-home and how many of them are an inner rebellion at things not going according to plan.

Full circle. Recognize the theme? Time and expectations and location. My place and your place and the collision of orbits or the elliptical avoidance of collision, whether it was desired or not. It’s not an original thought, I know. These ideas I’m hashing out with myself are ideas I’ve seen hashed silly here and there and everywhere during my years of reading fictions and non-fictions and the blurred areas in-between.  I don’t expect life to be perfect, ever, really I don’t. It’s full of flawed situations and people and I’m a part of that, even when I try not to be. But I have had moments. Moments when I was sitting outside my own head, looking at the place I was in and feeling overwhelmingly content. And I want to find a way to fit as many of these moments into life as possible. The trouble is remembering the old moments and trying to evaluate the factors that meshed to create the joy. Life is too much of a progression to re-create the old experiments and in an extremely unscientific fashion, I’m testing the different portions of the scenarios to see of any of them manage to trigger more moments.

There’s a peace to being at home that hasn’t come out anywhere else in life, but myself is still elusively unsettled with my current situation. Why do all the resorts of my dream job have to be located so far from home? And going through four seasons of new jobs and meeting fewer hang-out buddies at each new location until the last two weeks of my last rotation is so very utterly and completely unfair. What’s that saying about life and fairness again? So here’s my emotional angst all laid, rather unfunnily on the page. I’m laughing at my utter normalcy, though. I’m unsettled and feeling out my place and deciding on directions for my life and it’s very unoriginal of me, which is rather disappointing. After all, I’m the supreme overlord of an imaginary intergalactic empire, surely these petty worries which plague the other humans should be beyond me.

Perhaps I shall expand my minion recruitment program into Colorado. Perhaps I shall settle more firmly in Idaho. Perhaps I shall see the world on the open horizon and make up my mind to seek out new universes. But first, the summer.

Wondering about my mental soundtrack (I know you were wondering about my mental state, but not even I’m sure of that one) while I was writing this?

The Wanderer got me started, then I triggered memories of Newsboy’s Your Love is Better Than Life. I Choose Grace, by Twila Paris was in the backbrain for a while, and of course, this being a blog about self-discovery and progress, Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten helped me finish it off.

Lost Words

I’ve lost my words. Or at least, I’m stuck on a record loop. Not at home, working lots of hours, not doing a whole lot of interest in my free time that I can ever recall when people inquire about it. And now I want to pause my post and review the differences between enquire and inquire and check to see if I’ve used the right one. It’s amazing the delay tactics the editing backbrain comes up with when it doesn’t want to go to the effort of generating an interesting story. Let’s all take a thirty-minute break and research the etymology of words from Shakespeare’s third play. Or we could remain here and I could keep attempt to focus over the “ooh shiiiiny” impulses the coffee is giving me. The flavor was nice, but the aftershocks are weird today. 

So what’s new and what’s old in Avon, CO? New is the shrunken days countdown. Seventeen days, which breaks down to only twelve days of work, five days off, ten days at my official place of employ and two days helping out at a different, short-staffed restaurant on-mountain. No more doubles, only one more night shift, and I have managed to impress upon the chef that I really, truly, with all of my heart cannot be talked into staying for the summer. He’s moved on to negotiating for next winter. New is the melted body of water in the local park. Is it a lake? Is it a pond? Is it an overgrown puddle? No one seems to be very decided on that point, but it is a pretty body of water that can be walked along and admired in its ruffled spring glory.  New is spring, even though there was hail and snow early on this week,  and there’s a growing sense of coming summer. New is only serving sixty people during a lunch service, an odd feeling of calm at work, a pressure decrease that can be well welcomed. Time to read and lay around in the sun even on days that I worked a shift. I’m not packing yet, at least not much, I’m resisting. One more week and things can be suitcased with more resolution. 

No more grocery shopping for me here, I have a carefully plotted out menu which should use my available groceries to their maximum while not causing me to suffer from malnutrition. Time to scrape the cupboards bare. As long as I can avoid serving myself the dreaded ramen/tuna/mayo bowl that was rumored to occur at the end of dorm living for certain siblings, I’ll consider my provisions to have held out in good standing. 

What’s not new, or in other words, what old recycled news should I include in this post? I still stick to the established paths between work, apartment, library, and coffee shop. Not much explorating occuring, although as the snow melts more and more, I become more tempted to randomly step off to look around inviting corners. Barefoot, of course. That’s not news. I pretend to run and do core exercises every now and then, although I’ve been fairly demotivated lately, without even the excuse of huge work hours or co-workers stress. Everything remains quiet on that front, thankfully.

Not new are the continued frustrations of employee housing. I feel more and more like we share no common ground the more we interact through the season. At least we’re still maintaining a polite veneer in our face-to-face communication. I’ve managed several outside activities this week that kept me out of the apartment, which relieves some of the close proximity, prolonged time difficulties. One Business Finance class, one Leadership Techniques class, and one company awards dinner. I still like classes and quizzes and spreadsheets full of numbers, if you were wondering.  

There are also more needed activities to complete for end-of-lease cleaning. Yesterday I disassembled the oven and electric stove top, scrubbed everything down, degreased and uncharcoaled the hidden compartments and put it back together. Only a few new scrapes on my hands from my enthusiastic scrubbing. It’s somewhat amusing to me, I’ve gotten much better about avoiding cooking burns and scrapes but that progress all goes down the drain as soon as I’m working in the dishpit at work or scrubbing stuff at home. Steel wool goes through fingers very easily, is all I’m saying. But none of it is servious or painful, just something to look down and remember Wednesday by. 

Two years ago, this point in time seemed nearly impossible to reach. Commit to two years among strangers, constantly switching jobs and people, never stopping over at home for more than two months out of the year? I don’t think that was an easily predicted maneuver for homebody-me. But I’ve done it, I made it through. The triumph of completing a task I set out on with trepidation. It wasn’t what I expected it to be and the lessons learned haven’t all been anticipated ones. People at home have changed and I have changed and going back to home now won’t be the same as staying home two years ago would have been. At the same time, though, I’m still just me and a me with more skills and confidence in my career should do just fine settling in at home for a while. 

These Are the Signs of Spring

What are your signs of spring? Are they longer dusks and quicker dawns? New and varied birdsongs announcing returned travelers? Do you see spring in the slow melting of snow and revealing of browned grass slowly turning back to summer’s bouncing greens? Spring comes in the start of soccer, rugby, and baseball. For my mother, spring is heralded by the growth of tiny weeds, an army she must slay before the season helps them become a stronger foe. Babies, everywhere, a typical sign of spring. The lambs and fawns and kits and kittens, the puppies and nestlings and foals and calves, gangly new arrivals. Spring comes in the lack of firewood and in the absence of cold morning noses. Spring re-writes the menu, away go the Brussels sprouts and in come the pea shoots. Away with the nine-grain bread and pencil sketch in the delicate white loaves. Eat the last apples in the bin and replace them with fresh picked asparagus. Spring is the count-down of days away from home, winter fading from view with the vanishing skiers. Signs of spring in bareheaded, barefooted walkers, short-sleeves, short skirts, pale pastels of sweaters. The pinks of Valentine’s yielding to the multihued array of Easter. Rolled down windows as cars flash by, music echoing down the sidewalks. What are your signs of spring? Mountain snowcaps growing fainter and further distant. The refreshed babble of just thawed rivulets. The barest hint of green leaves pushing out of cold tree trunks, the tiny petals of crocus flowers adding color to the dull lawns. The yellow-gold light strands are pulled off the foliage, bit by bit, in the same way they ascended at the beginning edge of winter. Hidden things are revealed. Everyone knows where the dog’s outhouse is, the sun’s lighting making the odor rise and no fresh white blanket to delay the shovel work any longer. There is the debris from autumn’s last wind storm, still needing to be packed away into bags. Deep morning breaths no longer create that odd half-ache, half-sharp joy in your lungs and when you puff out air, it doesn’t shine on the breeze for a moment. What are your signs of spring? Rains falling and milking time renewed, small spots of brightness catching your left eye, then your right. Spring brides and spring births, pale spring sunshine, pale-skinned spring travelers emerging from their winter caves. Mother and brother and sister, my spring people, spring-sprung each of them. Birthdays in the lamb-like ending of March and the flowery first days of April. Spinning out of bed to lay on the risen blades of green and pouncing upward even more quickly with the realization that the wet frost remnants are still icy cold. Mud, glorious mud, splashing, smelling, falling, the happiness of wet dirt and sloppy boot prints. Mint breath and apricot blossoms. What are your signs of spring?

Snapshots of Colorado Events

One of the best things that’s happened in Colorado so far this winter, was my boss calling out to me yesterday as I was clocking out yesterday to ask me if I wanted today off. Additionally, plans changed on how the food truck prep was being handled and two of my doubles disappeared. Since even normal five-day work weeks get me overtime hours, I am quite pleased to have my six-day four doubles switch down to a five-day two doubles week. I tend to feel more symptoms of homesickness on days off, but the extra sleep hours are worth it. And this way, you get a blog, for what it’s worth.

Last week’s blog was going to be a detailed story of how the 9:20 bus ran itself up onto the village curb and got stuck, causing the fifty-percent of bus riders who were heading down to town after achieving intoxication to break out their best ideas. “We’ll all push it off the curb together!” “We’ll lock the driver out and Sam can drive the bus!” “We’ll just hold the back door shut manually while we drive!” Thankfully, they weren’t able to organize enough cooperation to perform either the hijacking or bus-tipping maneuvers and the bus driver summoned another bus to fetch the passengers. Amusing as it was, I half-regretted not taking the chef up on his offer of a ride home, since it elongated my commute by about forty minutes.

And why didn’t you get this story, you ask? Well, because the rough-draft of it is in my other notebook, back at the apartment and because I no longer remember the details very clearly and because on Friday, my last day off and the first day off I’d had in nine days, I cleaned my room and did my laundry and replenished my dwindling cupboards rather than writing blogs or fiction or poetry. At times I like to feign actual adult responsibility levels, but don’t worry, I’m over that for another month or so.

What else of interest happened this past week? I had a day when I ferociously compared myself to Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Shirley and various other literary characters in my head to manage a stressful Saturday where interactions with a co-worker came to a head. Between echoing Anne’s wishes for gracious rejection speeches and Elizabeth’s resignation to Mr. Collin’s proposal speech, I managed to survive long enough to call my mother for soothing advice. That speech was enlivened when she handed the phone off to a friend who assured me that “men are pigs,” and when I returned to work the next morning, the atmosphere seemed to have eased.

Basically, now we hope that the flirtatious co-worker accepts that my rejection of his offer to come ‘spend time together’ on my day off because one day is ‘too long to be without you’, was a complete dismissal of any non-work relationship and doesn’t decide, a la Mr. Collins, that I just need more persuading. So far, no further abruptness has been required on my part, which makes me happier. Saying point blank that you don’t want to spend time with someone still seems very harsh to me, but I am assured that he brought it on himself, by not responding to lesser cues and phrasing his approach the way he did.

More monumentally, I seem to have lost my work shoes on the village bus after a double shift where I had to switch locations and thus was carrying more items than I am accustomed to on my work transits. I feel sorry for whomever had to clean the bus out that particular evening, because my work shoes are not the most pleasing things to smell, especially right after my feet have been in them for an eleven hour shift. Fortunately, I have last winter’s work shoes with me, but unfortunately, the tread on them is too worn down to count on for the last two months of this rotation. At least I have figured out package and shipping addresses and can use the internet to acquire footwear.

I overcooked the cheesecakes at work last week, though co-workers assured me they still tasted good. The texture and appearance were too crumbly to actually use them for the planned dinner. And then I made homemade (professional kitchen made?) graham crackers and toasted seven-minute frosting onto them for Sunday’s brunch and received compliments all around, from the general manager, to the kitchen crew, to the wait staff, to the guests. The valve on the steam kettle under reacted to my adjustments and the carrot soup didn’t get finished before we had to put it away for end of shift, but the chef complimented my buffet menu on the same day. The co-worker who I rebuffed gave me the silent treatment for eight hours, but the general manager told me his days are always better when I work. And back and forth and funny and sad, although in the balance, no matter how much people here tell me I am appreciated or compliment my food, I cannot bring myself to seriously contemplate coming back for another season. The menu-writing is pretty fun, though. Actually, food is pretty fun. I think I have the right job, folks, just in the wrong place. Oddly, the head chef at my current job knows a chef in McCall and told me he would help me make contacts there. Now I am hamster-wheel wondering how close McCall would feel after being so far away for my past four kitchens.

Despite discussing it on multiple occasions, the chef and I still haven’t sat down and gotten started on my CAP responsibilities for this season. Part of my low-levels of concern stem from the fact that it seems like the shortest and easiest set of goals yet, while my plans to not continue on with the company are likely another contributing factor. I have to continue reminding myself that I do want to finish the program in good order, even if I don’t want to embark on a sous-chef career with the resort immediately afterward. Procrastinators of the world unite! Tomorrow!

Now I’m going to further glory in the unexpected freedom of two days off in a row by completing some writing exercises and putting together another haphazard exercise schedule. I did some core and running last week, but ended up so exhausted between work and exercise that I wasn’t happy to go grocery shopping which is plainly a sign that something was wrong. I think I just need to balance my conviction that exercise must happen all the time, with the fact that a fourteen hour day on my feet counts for something. Maybe I’ll search for moderation in other things while I’m at it. So until next week, here’s to mood swings in moderation, running in moderation, loneliness in moderation, and blog updates – in moderation.