Sunday, December 13, 2009

Never a dull moment when babysitting...

Last weekend I was babysitting for some good friends of mine, Tom and Gretchen. Their four-year-old daughter's name is Honora. Tom was at a Christmas party and Gretchen had a car waiting to take her to where Tom was. Not two minutes after I arrive at their house, Gretchen recieves a phone call from her neighbor, Heather. Gretchen is upstairs and all I hear from her end of the conversation is "What?! Oh my gosh! All the windows and doors are locked you think we should all hide upstairs?" And she rushes downstairs to where Honora and I are and she's double-checking the locks and I'm like, "What is going on?" And then she ushers me into the other room so as not to frighten Honora, and tells me that her neighbor just saw four undercover cops rush into the woods right next to Gretchen's house with their rifles drawn! So we look out the front window and there are at least ten police cars and more down the street that we can't even see, and SWAT's there. And I literally drove down that street right before this all went down, so I'm glad I got there when I did. So we're watching out the window and waiting for her neighbor to call and update us, because she's listening to her police scanner and komo 4's website. Gretchen calls the driver to let him know that she doesn't want to leave me with her daughter until she knows exactly what's going on. Not to mention she doesn't really want to leave the house when the police are out there looking for someone!

We wait for about an hour and her neighbor keeps calling us with news. At first she says there's a hostage situation, but she's only speculating because SWAT's there. And apparently Heather was calling everyone in the neighborhood to figure out what everyone knew. So there was also a rumor that the wife at this house was injured somehow and they suspected her husband but he insisted he wasn't home, and that's why they were out searching the woods, because they suspected an intruder. But then they thought the husband was acting suspicious. And then her neighbor says someone's been shot and they caught the guy. By then we can see they're wrapping up, so Gretchen decides to go talk to the police herself before she heads out, just to make sure it's safe and figure out what really happened. So she runs out there and comes back shortly and here's what the SWAT guy had to tell her...someone fell and they weren't sure the situation was contained...what does that even mean?! We weren't sure, but they said it was safe so Gretchen left and that was that.

I babysat for them again last night and got the whole story. In a house just down the street a husband was on the third floor working at his computer, his wife was on the second floor decorating their Christmas tree, and their two boys (one age 8 and the other younger I think) were in the basement playing video games. All of a sudden the boys hear a big crash and popping sounds from upstairs, so they exit the house through the basement and run immediately to their neighbor's house, as they've been instructed to do in situations such as these, and tell their neighbor's that they heard gunshots in their house. The neighbors immediately dial 911. Meanwhile, back in the house the husband also hears the noise and rushes downstairs to find his wife seriously injured and bleeding all over. She had fallen and landed on a bunch of the glass decorations and was cut and bleeding pretty bad. The husband sees their boys at the neighbor's house and decides to leave them while he rushes his wife to the emergency room. While the husband is on his way to the hospital, the police arrive. They search the house only to find the bloody mess they left behind, and immediately jump to the conclusion that the husband has killed his wife and left to hide the body somewhere, hence the search in the woods. The husband heads home to check on his sons and finds his house surrounded by cops and they immediately try to arrest him and question him of course. He manages to explain the situation and all was well. So it was true what the SWAT guy told Gretchen: someone fell and they weren't sure the situation was contained.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Adventures in Cooking!

Wow I started this blog and then got too busy to here I am, finally putting something on here :)

I finished PCA1 (Professional Culinary Arts 1) the first week of November. I did well on my finals...a lot better with my fried eggs this time around! Not the best, but better. It helped that I went out and bought my own egg pan. The ones we have at school are awful. The fourth day of finals was my birthday and so I made little cupcakes for my class and my friend McKenzie made banana muffins. And at the end of class everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me. It was pretty fun! I love my class!

Then we had a four-day weekend and started PCA2. The first day in that class we made spicy barbecue chicken served with mashed potatoes. We worked in teams of two to make the barbecue sauce, and so my partner and I made the recipe that was in our book. But it was awful and I've never made barbecue sauce, so I had no idea where to go from there. Luckily my partner was a little more knowledgeable about barbecue sauce and we ended up with a really yummy sauce! So we fabricated a chicken and marinated our breasts and started our potatoes boiling. We had a lot of time to finish this one plate and so I wanted to take my time and get everything right. But a lot of the class put everything together pretty fast and got it up to chef probably a half hour before me. And I should explain that we are graded out of 10 on our food. In PCA1 most of were used to getting 8.5 or higher, especially at the end. So I was getting really nervous when everyone was coming back from chef with 5's and 6's! The second highest grade on day 1 was an 8 and the only thing that student was lacking in her plate was a garnish! So I'm freaking out and listening to every one's feedback from chef trying to figure out exactly what I can do to make my plate better. So finally I bring my plate to chef and he really liked my mashed potatoes, he loved the flavor of my barbecue sauce and my chicken was cooked properly...I got a 9!!! Everyone hated my that day and I loved it!

So that was the start of PCA2 and we really don't focus so much on the grade anymore. It's still a struggle for some of us. But if you think about it, this is the first time we've cooked most of these things and we can't expect ourselves to be perfect the first time. And if chef gave us a higher grade, we wouldn't really push ourselves as much as we are now. He definitely raised the bar for all of us and we're doing way, way better because of that.

Some new things I've learned in PCA2: how to cook duck, souffles, bread pudding, fish, elephant ears, pot pies, tamales, sausages, Israeli and Moroccan cous cous, fajitas, tortillas, and about fifty other things. Another thing we've been introduced to is an amuse bouche, or a single bite-sized hors d'oeuvre. One day when everyone was cleaning up and a few people were still finishing their plates, chef announces that every once in a while he'll throw something at us and then says in groups of 3 we are to make a dessert amuse bouche and we only have 2o minutes! It was pretty crazy...every one stopped whatever they were doing and rushed to do it. It was fun!

The day before Thanksgiving we put together a family meal during class. We all brought something and sat down during the second half of class to have a Thanksgiving dinner together. It was great, but we still had to do our regular cooking, so chef made us come into class an hour earlier which means I was at school at 5am! Luckily we were done before 10 and I didn't have to work, so I went home and took a nap! I love naps :)

Another thing school has done for me is got me to try a lot of new salmon. People have been telling me all my life how great salmon is and I just have this complete aversion to anything from the sea. And whenever we've made fish I never try it. Well we made salmon en papillote (in paper) and it looked and smelled really yummy. So I tried it and...liked it! My dad pretty much said "I told you so!" And my chef found out that that was my first time eating salmon and I feel like from then on he's always making sure I try everything we make. Which I have! And not just in school, but in general I'm trying a lot of new things. School is really fun and really overwhelming sometimes, because we do so much and most of it is new to me. Monday we have our midterm and two projects due next week, and then the following Monday we start finals. So these next two weeks will be really crazy and then we get two weeks off for Christmas! And when we go back in January we start baking and pastries, which I'm really excited for.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eggs are evil creations!

Today I am starting my third week at Kitchen Academy and have already made quite a few recipes, from stocks and soups to homemade pasta and mayonnaise. Today was egg day and I was also Sous Chef for the day. The Sous Chef is in charge of the kitchen and makes sure the Chef Instructor is set up before class for the demo on whatever we're making that day. The Sous Chef also makes sure the Food and Sanitation Stewards are on task and fulfilling their duties. My lazy Sanitation Steward left before his job was finished. He left a full compost bucket and didn't empty the garbage, so I ended up staying an extra 20 minutes finishing up for him, even though I specifically told him to make sure the buckets were emptied before he left. But mostly today was an easy day to be assigned Sous Chef...there really wasn't all that much to set up. So moving on to what we made. We cooked four types of fried eggs, three types of hard-cooked (not hard-boiled because you're not supposed to boil them; they should be simmered), two omelets, and consomme (which is a kind of soup). Hard-cooked eggs were very simple and omelets turned out to be easier than I thought they would be. But fried eggs....not so easy. I know what you're thinking, how hard is it to fry an egg? Not that hard, BUT try flipping it without a spatula. I had to cook four different fried eggs and I went through about fifteen eggs I think, and I still didn't have it down. Whenever I tried flipping my eggs, the yolk kept separating from the white. I was so frustrated and ready to cry. I was getting a little better there at the end. I tried moving my frying pan away from the stove to do the flip and I was better at it. But then I ran out of time and eggs and had to just give my chef what I had. I ended up whipping up both my omelets in the last six minutes we had and they weren't perfect, but they were okay for a first try. Anyway, fried eggs...they are now on my list of foods I hate to prepare. I'm gonna have to practice this one at home because it's going to be on the final :(

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Very First Blog...

Over the last few years my closest friends and family have spread around the country and even around the world. So I thought I would start a blog to keep them up to date with my life. I used to think my life was so boring and ordinary that I wouldn't have anything to blog about. But throughout this year I have experienced one change after another and life has moved in a completely different direction than I expected at the start of the year.

Some of the changes have been really hard. In January one of my best friends moved to Mississippi, but I'm happy for her because she ended up finding her eternal companion! In June my brother and his girlfriend moved to Iowa (why would anyone choose to move to Iowa??), taking the last of my immediate family out of the state. And at the end of August I had to stop working with the Budelsky's. I had been their nanny for over 3 years. That was probably the hardest one for me. My last day came and, for the most part, it felt like any other day. The only thing that stopped me from crying all night when I went home was a murder mystery dinner party that I had planned for that night before I knew it was my last day of work. Thanks to those who came to my party that night; you really helped to distract me. But when Monday came around, I didn't have another job lined up yet and that's when it really hit me that I wasn't going to see those cute girls every morning. I didn't know what to do with myself...that first Monday was a pretty sad day, but I kept myself busy and told myself that I would have opportunities to see my girls.

In March I decided to move into a house with two of my good friends. We used to stay up way too late talking at either my apartment or theirs, and we casually mentioned that it would be way easier and more fun if we lived together. So we found a house in the same area that we all liked and within about a week we decided we loved it and signed a lease. We moved in April and I was very blessed to find a renter to take over my apartment, since the lease wasn't up until November. I am loving living in a house! Our house is known as The Shire. Also in March, I decided to go back to school. I just started two weeks ago at the Kitchen Academy, studying culinary arts. It's a great program; I love my class and my instructor and everything we're learning!!! I also started a new job about a week after my last job ended. I have classes in the morning and then I nanny in the afternoons.

During the summer I was able to make two different trips to see my family. In June I took a train to Oregon to see my dad and his girlfriend. And during the week of the Fourth of July I flew to Iowa to see my mom, brothers and their families. Both trips were so much fun! I went to Oregon again over Labor Day weekend and made a surprise trip to Iowa. My three-year-old niece Aubrie and my mom did not know I was coming. It's sooo hard to keep that kind of secret. Between me, my brothers, and my sisters, there were several close calls. Finally, the day arrived and we were so sure that she knew I was coming. But when I walked into the house and she saw me, she couldn't believe her eyes...she had no idea and was completely surprised! Between my two Iowa trips, my second niece, Xyrah, was born to my younger brother, Matthew, and his girlfriend, Christina. So I was able to meet Xyrah and held her lots while I was there in September. My sister-in-law, Lisa, is pregnant with her second girl, so I will be making another Iowa trip next spring to meet her!