Saturday, September 7, 2013

Living the Dream (almost)

Hard to believe all that's happened this year!  I've just spent the past few minutes reliving the last 8 months reading prior posts.  I arrived "temporarily" in Los Angeles on January 5th and moved here long-term on June 18th. WOW!

I will be honest, it has not been easy.  I miss my New England "peeps"... the impromptu meals around a table (or at the Stone House bar),  walks with Emmy at Hammonassett Beach, swimming at Chaffinch Island Park, the CitySeed Farmer's Market (where I actually know the vendors), and lately, "seasonality".  There's no Bishop's or Indian Neck  farmstand here to be able to pick up Silver Queen corn or warm, beefsteak tomatoes.  The clouds at sunset indicate that Fall is coming, but it's still 70 degrees when I wake up and only a bit cooler when I lay my head back down in the evening... I continue to adjust.

BUT, what is wonderful, is that I am working, in my field.  Months ago I met a very talented, kind, warm, generous, supportive person who was willing to talk with me about working in SoCal.  He made some good suggestions, offered up connections and was pretty amazing, for not knowing me!  Fast forward four months and I am now employed at Sapphire Laguna, in Laguna Beach, and the kind man is my boss, Chef Azmin Ghahreman.  I can honestly that I have never, in my life, respected a Chef as much as I do him... and it only makes me want to do better.  Chef Azmin has created an incredible team and culture at Sapphire... open, warm, welcoming, supportive.  I enjoy the people I work with and, after a few challenging weeks, feel as if I am starting to get the hang of it. "It" is being an Office Manager - supporting a team of culinary, restaurant and school managers through billing, payroll, ordering, organizing and anything else that needs to happen.  It's ALOT to learn - I am not a patient person (always wanting to get it right) and my brain has had to learn to think a bit differently - but I believe it is exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment.

Located in Orange County, exactly 50 miles from where I live, with a view of the Pacific, it takes me at minimum an hour to travel each way (that's 500 miles a week).  I use the time to decompress, call friends and sing. (haha!) I work 5 days a week, unless there's a need to be there longer and average 10 hours a day.  This makes for a long week, but my body is adjusting and once I get back on firmer financial footing, I'll move closer... all part of the process.

Emmy now has a new pal in dog-walker, Garrett, who takes her out two nights a week for a long walk - providing me some flexibility to stay later at work if needed.

I spend Saturdays getting my ducks in a row, picking up a bit of food (I eat at least one meal a day at the Restaurant), going to the library, etc.  I'm trying to get in the habit of making Sundays, "sun" days at the Beach - and also like to try to see my family, (Dani and Hannah are growing so quickly!)  I've reconnected with LA friends, and have begun to make some new ones.

There are days when I can't believe that I am living here and others when I know I'm probably going to hate an 80-degree Christmas Day.  But life for me is about change and being open to adventure... and this is certainly all that, and  a bag of chips!

I guess you could call it "Living the Dream"... Cheers!

East Coast - Grass Island, Guilford, CT
Crystal Cove, Newport Beach, CA

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Irish Twins Separated after 51 Years

I hugged her goodbye and started to cry.  Don’t know when I will see her again, my light, my love, my heart, my strength, my SISTER.  Rolled my bag to curbside check-in and by the time I turned around she was gone. That’s when I started to sob.  There's no one more important in my life.

We are Irish Twins.  Fourteen months apart.  Always “Kathy & Erin”.   The photos of us when we were little – so cute – always together.  Our parents divorced before either of us turned five.  It was acrimonious at best – plus we were young and didn’t really understand.  We got good at packing suitcases for a weekend visits with one parent or the other.  We tormented each other in high school, liked the same boys, sang in the same choir, marched in the same band… always together.  She is one of the funniest people on the planet.

I went away to school for college, she stayed local.  Our Mom died at age 39 – we were 20-21.  I don’t know how we got through it, but we did – with the support of family, but always, with each other.   I began to travel to other parts of the world - but never for long - always back to her.

Our Father is out of our picture.  It’s been over 20 years.  We made choices as young women we felt were best for us.  Me first – her later.  While packing up 52 years of memorabilia, I found a letter she had written to him in the 90’s -  so straightforward and eloquent.  SO brave and strong.

She says that about me now, as I move my daily life from one coast to the other… 3,000 miles away - far away from dear, dear friends and family and this world we have built, across the country to other family, a different climate, way of living, no job at the moment.  For some reason I can’t explain,  it feels like the right choice – the next chapter, but I don’t feel brave, as I sit here with the crumpled, red, crying face.   For the first time through this six month process I feel the tiniest bit scared, and lonely already – without her –  my other half.

I love you Erin.  Always.  Forever.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Answering a stranger's query

As many of my FB friends know, I temporarily relocated to Southern California earlier this year to work for a short time with a family-member who needed an extra pair of hands for a few months.  Much to my surprise, I’m finding that I like it here (a lot!) and have been doing everything I can since late February to find permanent work in hospitality/catering/event management.

I’ve come close a couple of times - with what I thought was the ideal fit slipping through my hands recently.  One of the things I learned in that particular interview was that there was full team support and it was important to ask for help and draw on the knowledge/experience of others.  So this post is a bit of that...

A stranger (someone I've spoken to and emailed with, but not met) asked me this week what my “ideal” job was – and this was my answer:

I am passionate for catering and event planning.  I love writing menus, pulling ideas together for rental, decor, invitations, entertainment, favors etc. (and I'm really good at it!!)  I like soliciting sponsorships for fundraisers whose missions I am aligned with (homelessness, hunger and services for people in need)  I've worked on galas for 1300, 14-day tennis events where I managed corporate hospitality and a staff of 350, non-profit fundraisers with silent and live auctions,  and street festivals, coordinating food vendors, the health department, signage, etc.

I take great joy in pulling all the pieces together and producing an event that entertains people, enchants, surprises and leaves them wanting more.

For most of my career I've been a mid-sized to large fish in a smallish pond (New Haven, Connecticut is minute compared to LA County).  I'm a bit worried that I'm out of my league out here - but I know that I am more than capable!  I've been a personal assistant, have cooked for friends and private events, worked for FTD, UPS (on a truck!) and the US Census (I'm federally fingerprinted).  I like to write and seem to have a "style".

I want a job with a company that will support me, but also let me flourish.  One that will trust me and can be trusted.  Someday I'd like to teach...

I have almost 30 years in catering/event management/fundraising for non-profits.  I derive great joy from this work, and can’t imagine doing anything else! I have a keen sense of how to deliver premier customer service.  I will do everything in my power to ensure that the client is pleased with the end result.  I’m not afraid of hard work and understand the importance of clear communication and developing relationships with the team and the client.

Some of you would say that I’m well-spoken, can do anything, have a good sense of humor and a knack for creating a warm, welcoming environment.  I describe myself as a people-person, with strong knowledge of food and menu planning who loves to train and excite staff about the work we do.  Multi-tasking is a forte; I’m a good problem-solver and know how to share and delegate responsibilities. I’m operations driven – in other words, I like to know how it’s all going to play out before it does (and can troubleshoot quickly and efficiently when it doesn’t!)
I am a good, kind, generous person who values honesty, integrity and ethics above all else.

My goal is to stay in Greater Los Angeles – particularly between Long Beach and Manhattan Beach. (what’s called the “South Bay”).  Orange County is a possibility if I can wrap my head around a lengthy commute.  I’d go further north (SFO) or south (SAN) is was the absolute perfect thing.  Freelancing is also an option.
So, as I continue to search the web, volunteer for events to create possible contacts and think positively, I ask for your assistance.  Will you share this on your page, helping me reach out to more folks than I can imagine?  I know someone out there is looking to add me to their successful business!

SIDE NOTE:  I spent my most recent birthday with family I had never been able to celebrate with before.  In his toast, my Uncle quoted from the day’s horoscope.  It went something like this and I’ve looked at it every day since… “Set attainable work-related goals.  Professional achievements will give you a sense of security that will make your home life better, too.  Your powers of visualization get stronger each time that you use them, and you’ll use them often over the next seven weeks to picture the life you want…”

My seven weeks are up, but I’m still visualizing.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

I ate a donut

I've been here 85 days - 12 weeks - 3 months - an eternity and yet,  not long enough.
Some day sit seems as if I've just arrived - things to still see and experience (thus eating a donut from the Torrance Bakery earlier this week), but missing my peeps a bit.

The whales are gone, helicopter activity seems to have slowed down, a friend's baby second daughter has been born, a family member is learning to walk, cruise ships have come and gone, chemo is now part of another's weekly regimen, I had a birthday, have listened to some great music, eaten some lovely food... the world continues to turn.

The past month has been all about looking for permanent work.  I've decided that I want to try to stay in SoCal for awhile.  Lots of opportunity (competition too). Interviews with small businesses, food service and party rental corps.  There are a number of irons in the fire - one in particular I am hoping will catch.  I'd be proud to represent this company based on the quality of their product and values.  Fingers crossed.

IF I find full-time employment in the hospitality field, and can earn what's required to manage cost of living in Los Angeles, the next step is figuring out how to move my East Coast life to the West Coast becomes the next big challenge.  Sell, donate, consign, pack, ship - most likely in a very short period of time.  Is it even possible???

Happy Spring! (and stay tuned...)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I hear it before I see it - the whup whup whup of the blade as the helicopter approaches the neighborhood - spotlight shining on rooftops and alleys, searching. It circles a couple of times, often accompanied on the ground by squad cars, who have cordoned off a block or three - then disappears into the night.  Flashing lights dim and then, the streets are business as usual.  Just one of the adjustments to my new, temporary home in San Pedro, California.

Don't get me wrong.  I feel perfectly safe  - five floors up with a view of the action from my terrace; as well as on the ground, where almost everyone I've encountered has been kind and nice - including the SPPD foot patrol.  It's all good and I'm really happy to be here.

It's been a fairly easy adjustment - literally welcomed by ALL of my West Coast family within five minutes of arriving in the Western Veterinary Group parking lot.  Checked Emmy into the kennel for the night and headed off for a quick bite at the Hot 'n Tot. So good to see everyone, and to meet our "newest", six month old Hannah.

After a quick salad (which I was craving after days on the road), my Uncle helped lug some boxes into my new digs - a fairly new, industrial-style studio loft with concrete floors, granite counters, floor-to-ceiling windows and a view of the harbor.  Southern exposure, a spacious terrace and fabulous "California" closet complete what feels like the perfect Pedro pied-a-terre.  Left to settle in... I unpacked a bit, make the bed and try to sleep. Hard without Emmy by my side.

Day one - what has become a weekend tradition - breakfast with Uncle Norm at a hidden jewel... each local, small,  and great food.  Haven't been disappointed yet!  A quick tour of the 'hood, introduction to main streets, landmarks and a bit of history to help understand where I've landed.  Grabbed the pup and had another quick tour of where I'd be working.  Spent the rest of the day shopping and cooking for the week.

The last five weeks seem to have flown by - and have been so fun!  Finding my way around was a challenge for the first ten days - not wanting to always depend on the GPS, I tried, unsuccessfully at times, to find my own way.  But learn I have, and now only get lost when I want to.  (I did hit a wall at the end of week five and have been told by a number of friends who have relocated, that this is normal...) 

Work days are spent trying to support the staff of Western Vet Group in any little way I can - not a huge contribution, but interesting to me, this business of a multi-doctor (5+) practice, with a support staff of techs and front-of-house client managers who take great pride in what they do and how they serve their community, through providing extraordinary animal care to all sorts of pups, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes and more!

Days off provide me with the gift of time to discover the area around me, get to know family I never see, catch up with West Coast friends in their time zone, investigate places to walk leash-free with Emmy, and delve a bit into the area's art and food scene. (more on the latter in the next installment)  I've seen dolphins frolicking in the surf, cruise ships from around the world, caught my first glimpse of the "HOLLYWOOD" sign, continue to cook a bit, watched a movie crew set up for filming in the street below,  and do my best to reach out to dear, life-long friends back East (and around the world) on a daily basis via FaceBook, email and FaceTime.

As I sit on the terrace, watching the sun slip into the western sky on the eve of my 52nd birthday, I am grateful for these opportunities - to travel a bit, spend time with family, learn about something new, and ponder the possibilities for the future...  cheers!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

With or without a Clay Bean Pot

I have recently been reminded how much I love beans… not the steamed green kind, or soupy sweet baked variety – but a good ol’ wholesome, creamy, garlicky, cumin-y pot of Mexican beans.  Whenever I make them I think of friends @Betsy McNair and @Sonia Banuelos de Sigenza, who I’m quite certain are the queens of beans – theirs simmering in a traditional clay bean pot.

I ordered some with breakfast in Williams, AZ at the Pine Country restaurant a few days ago.  Seemed the right accompaniment with scrambled chorizo and eggs – they came with a hot, flour tortilla and an ounce of fresh salsa – had forgotten how good that they could be!

First breakfast in my new neighborhood was a trip to the Omelet and Waffle Shop with my uncle, Norm.  He feasted on fab waffles and griddled spicy Italian sausage, while I had my “usual” – corned beef hash (by which most breakfast place benchmarks are set – and an homage to friend @Rob Gale), scrambled eggs with cheddar and a side of beans… since I could.  Soooo tasty!

Laying in supplies for the coming week left me meal planning as I shopped. I wanted to cook things that were healthy, easily reheated and comforting.  A roasted chicken was a must – and why not add a pot o’ beans to the mix?!  Pink Pintos, boiled and soaked for an hour or so to tenderize, then drained; sautéed a bit of onion, garlic & carrot, added the beans back in along with more water to cook fully.  Halfway through I added some cumin and a bit of sea salt and pepper. (waiting until the beans are mostly cooked before adding the salt ensures that they won’t harden or end up tough).  I let them simmer for a while longer until creamy.  This is a vegetarian version – but adding some kind of pork would up the flavor quotient…

This morning’s breakfast featured the beans, sans eggs (but with chicken!), topped with queso fresco, fresh salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro.  PERFECTION! 

Stopped at two bowls, but it wasn't easy.  These beans will reappear during the week in a tortilla with cheddar for lunch, as a side dish with dinner or even a midday snack as I learn a new skill and need some brain food to keep going.  Flexible, cheap and easy.

So, whether you’re in southern California; Puebla, MX; Santa Cruz in the Bay area or New England, make a pot of beans. Ideal for a wet, cold, snowy day – even without the clay pot!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Almost there!

My last two stops - Santa Fe, NM and Flagstaff, AZ were exactly what I had hoped.  From Amarillo, straight (and I mean straight/flat) across West Texas, to the land of mesas, gulches, arroyos, Tejano, nopales and jackalopes - Santa Fe, (which I hadn't visited in over 10 year).  A soak at one of my most favorite spas, Ten Thousand Waves and dinner at Pasqual's. The former, a hot tub under the stars in bitter cold and an altitude of 7,000+ feet - heaven; the latter, sharing a community table with interesting dining companions from Denver, New Orleans, Sarasota and Oklahoma City. Incredibly enjoyable - and a bit raucous.

A quick stop at Baja Taco for a breakfast burrito the next morning, shared with friends in the know via text (and a tradition,  in my opinion, that can only be beat by the ones eaten at sunrise at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque), a zip with Emmy around the Plaza and then in the car to Flagstaff.

Quite the drive, that. Twelve to fifteen miles between exits, freight trains with containers stacked two-high, 60-70 cars long winding their way west; the opportunity to "save 50% on meteorites" and crossing the Colorado River.  Best sighting?  An American Bald Eagle - sitting at the top of a tree as I drove by!  Incredible to be as close as I was...

Had a great visit with Alison Mitkowski,  Ethan and their five-year-old son, Grant (along with Bo, a yellow lab who loved Emmy so much he practically licked  her fur off,  and a ginger kitty - who spent alot of time at the top of the draped and whose name seems to change daily.)  Nice to be welcomed into a home of friends after many nights in a hotel, around strangers. Alison and Ethan relocated from the East Coast almost four years ago. They had visited often and  realized it was where they were happiest.  Fast forward to consulting work for A and a position with the Sherrif's department for E.  I learned alot about their take on area and culture during our conversation.  Thanks for the hospitality!

Day Seven - anxious to arrive, and grateful to have had the opportunity of the past week to travel as I did.  After a quick stop in the historic town of Williams and a tasty breakfast at the Pine Country Restaurant, I was ready to hit the road, once last time, finally leaving bitter cold (and many inches of snow in AZ) for the warmer climes of California.

Down, down, down - towards sea level again!  Fleeced peeled off and windows open we headed southwest to our final destination, the South Bay area of Los Angeles.