Christmas 2010 Recap

This is only the second year for as far back as I can remember that I haven’t woke up on Christmas morning at my mom’s house. The first time was two years ago and it happened on accident. During a grad school break, I decided to fly East and visit with my family for a week before Christmas. But that was the year that Portland and Seattle got SO MUCH snow. When I went to check for my flight home on December 22nd, the desk attendant told me that there were no available flights until December 26th. So my mom and little sisters were bummed, but at least I was with family and not stranded at the airport. And they knew I would be home eventually, even if it was a little later than planned.

This year, though, we all knew I wouldn’t be there. And that I probably wouldn’t be able to visit for some time. I mailed my gifts home to my sisters and niece. And my mom mailed my stocking plus gifts to me. We made it work. It was different for me, and probably different for them too, but I think we all had a lovely Christmas.

Christmas celebrations started on Christmas Eve for us. Derek, Aunty Sharon, Uncle Bryan and I bundled into the car and drove to South Windsor where my grandparents live. We made a quick stop at the nursing home where my great grandmother lives to bring her some of the cookies I baked and wish her a Merry Christmas. Grammy and her roommate both have a wicked sweet tooth so they happily took in the cookies and they seemed to be in good spirits.

finished cookie tray- I made 12 kinds!

We had a little extra time so Aunty Sharon and I picked up a few items at Dress Barn (I needed new clothes for my new job :)) and then we headed to my grandparents house. Grandma had 19 people over (all family- cousins, Aunts, Uncles, etc.). As I’ve come to expect from the women in my family, there was way too much food. Like 18 different types of appetizers or something crazy like that. But, surprisingly, much of was eaten. There was gift exchange; I enjoyed watching the little kids open their presents. I received a few nice things, including a nifty kitchen appliance that has different plates to cook a variety of food (will come in handy once I get my own apartment). I love being around my family, especially when we have big get-togethers, so I thought Christmas Eve was perfect.

After a few hours at my grandparent’s house, we came back to Woodstock and Uncle B’s kids (Jackie and Jon) and their significant others came too. We drank Gluhwein and ate more food and played games. It was fun, but I was tired. We ended up staying up past midnight and at that point Aunty S decided she couldn’t wait any longer for Derek and I to open our stockings. She did an awesome job with both of our gifts (we got Dexter seasons 3 and 4!) and after many thank-you’s we all finally went to bed.

On Christmas Day we went to Uncle B’s brother’s house. There was more food and more wine and more game playing. I really enjoying meeting and talking with Uncle’s nephew and his wife. They are a few years older and both went to school in Boston so they had some good advice for me as I start looking for places to live near my work. We left around 7, but we were all so tired it felt like 11.

And yesterday my Aunt’s good friend and co-worker came over with her fiance and dog (who is Reny’s best friend) and we ate more food while watching the Patriots game. There was seriously too much food- my Aunt loves hosting so sometimes she gets a little out of control when planning the menu. But it was a good time. The blizzard started around noon, so I watched the snow fall. I wasn’t too concerned about getting to work because I know that they take better care of the roads on the East Coast than Seattle, but I was a little relieved when my boss emailed me and asked me to wait until Tuesday to start. I was mostly worried about under-estimating the amount of time it would take to get there and ending up late for my first day.

Derek and I played Whoville-opoly (the grinch version of Monopoly) and I lost twice. I’m never playing that game with him again. We settled in with some Dexter episodes and had a low-key evening, which we’ll probably do again tonight.

The long Christmas weekend was everything I needed, minus my family back West. I had a wonderful time with my extended family but I’m hoping that I have the option of being in Washington for Christmas next year.

Know that you’re all loved and missed,

A

 

That One Time I Got a Job

I asked for snow and the weather obliged: the East Coast got a blizzard last night that put Massachusetts in a state of emergency, shut down businesses (my new office included) and made travel tricky. I should be on my way to my first day of work right now, but instead I’ll make the trek tomorrow. It doesn’t bother me so much. I don’t mind having an extra day to play in the snow with Derek. And a three day work-week is not a bad way to ease into full-time work. Plus, after an emotional mid-week and a busy weekend, a day of quiet and relaxation sounds great.

So yeah, last week was intense (but in a good-for-me kind of way). I was all over the place emotionally, thinking about the potential job opportunity. None of the other interviews I’ve had on the East resulted in a second interview so I felt like I was thisclose to getting a job. I had my first interview with the company on Thursday, December 16th. I thought it went well, but I didn’t try to read too much into it because I thought some of my other interviews went well and I never heard from them again. So when they contacted me on the following Monday (a week ago from today), I was really excited but also nervous and kind of terrified. The President of the company asked me to bring in my ideas (as many and as far reaching as possible- his words exactly) on how the company could secure more accounts.Umm… okay… so do you want 5 ideas or 5 pages of ideas? His prompt was a little vague and a little open-ended. And I had no idea how many other candidates were also invited back for a second interview, so I didn’t know what my competition looked like. I just knew I had to be the best.

I spent most of the day Tuesday and all of the day Wednesday reading about the industry, researching marketing opportunities, willing myself to be creative and oscillating between “I’m definitely going to get this job” and “I don’t have any good ideas, why would they hire me?”. To be honest, I was mostly negative. I thought for sure that anything I brought to the table would be shot down or scrutinized in a way that I wouldn’t be able to defend it. Wednesday night Derek and I practiced how I would start my presentation. For over an hour we tried to prioritize my ideas and nail down the phrasing I would use. And then I hit a wall. I didn’t want to think about it anymore, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to watch a movie and go to bed. I figured I’d done the most research I could and came up with as many ideas as I could. If they weren’t happy or I wasn’t the best, then the job wasn’t for me. Going over how I want to talk about Facebook participation wasn’t going to change anything.

Thursday morning came and I was still really emotional. Derek came with because he wanted to do some shopping at a nearby mall after my interview and I almost cried when he wanted to change my pre-interview ritual. I usually arrive at my interviews early (like 30 minutes to an hour early) and after I find the office, I sit in my car trying to relax. Sometimes I read a book, sometimes I talk on the phone, but I stay in my car in the nearest parking lot for fear that if I ventured off into the city something would happen and I’d be late for my interview. When Derek suggested we sit at a Starbucks about 4 blocks away for most of the 30 extra minutes, I about had a meltdown. My anxiety level was through the roof and, thankfully, he accommodated me even if he thought I was nutso.

I walked into the office a few minutes before I was scheduled to interview. The receptionist had me wait for the interviewers in the conference room. First I shared my suggestions on how they could improve their advertisements (they gave me about 6 previous ads to look through). Then the President came in and I started my presentation of ideas. He interrupted occasionally with questions and such, but I had intelligent responses. As the interview came to close, I realized that I had been talking with them for an hour and a half. Apparently the next candidate had been waiting for 30 minutes. But as we finished up the President  asked me “When can you start?” and “If I called you this afternoon and offered you the position, would you say ‘yes’?” and “Would you get off the phone with me and get really excited?” I took these all to be really good signs. He ended with “I think you’re terrific. But you’ve got to scram- we have another candidate waiting to speak with us and we’ve gone into her interview time. But going over is a good thing because if I didn’t like you I wouldn’t have spent an hour and half discussing your ideas.”

I was elated when I met Derek at the car. I was 85% sure that job was mine. The other girl had only 30 minutes to impress them more than I just did. We went to the mall (not a place I usually want to be two days before Christmas, but excitement put me in a daze) and I was confident and happy with myself. I was going to wait until I heard from the President later in the day before I called to tell my Aunt what happened, but she was texting Derek with anticipation so I called and told her I thought I did great and that I should hear back sometime that afternoon.

We shopped quickly and got back on the road toward home. As the hours went on, my confidence faded and I was starting to wonder if the other candidate had done really well. Maybe I didn’t get the job. And then, when we were about 15 minutes from my Aunt’s house my phone rang. And it was the company President. I tried not to sound nervous when I answered, but I probably did. But without too much delay, he said it was a unanimous decision- they would love to have me join the iPROMOTEu team. And of course I said YES! He went over the salary and benefits and said he thought it would be best if I started right away (so that I could get the new-hire stuff over with and be ready to really get to work after the New Year). I said YES! When I got off the phone, I bear hugged Derek with a squeal. And by that point we were just minutes away from home so didn’t call my Aunt. Or anyone else. I just kept distracting Derek with bursts of excitement while he drove.

My Aunt was waiting by the door when we pulled up. We bought a bottle of champagne several weeks ago with the plan that we would open it when I got a job. She had put it in the fridge when I talked to her after the interview, so when I broke the news, she popped the cork and we toasted.

My Grandpa called a little later to see how I did and I although I had planned to wait until the next day when the whole family would be together for Christmas Eve, I ended up telling him right then. Then I called Rebecca and my mom and told them about the good news. My Aunt and Uncle took us out for Mexican food to celebrate and afterward, Derek and I did a little power-shopping so I could find a first day of work outfit.

When we finally got home and crawled into bed, I fell right to sleep. I hadn’t sleep well the two nights before because I was so nervous but now I HAD A JOB so I could sleep soundly.

And that’s how it happened. I’m eager to start work tomorrow (or whenever the weather permits) and get to know my new coworkers and settle into my first career job. I’ll post the highlights later this week.

Thank you all for being supportive. Your encouraging words helped immensely on the bad days and I’m so happy to be share this great news with everyone. I hope Santa brought you all the happiness you deserve.

Love,

A

Merry Christmas to Me!

I got the best Christmas present I could imagine today: a job!!! Yup, I’m no longer unemployed. And the offer came just in time for me to take advantage of the after-Christmas sales to supplement my wardrobe and start buying the things I’ll need (or want) when I get my own apartment.

The scoop:

I’m the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for iPROMOTEu, a company that offers administrative support to distributors of promotional products. So it’s a very niche market- but that’s ok. I’m essentially in charge of all the marketing efforts. And since I’m the only staff member in the marketing department, it makes me the head of the department by default.

It’s pretty much in Framingham, MA which is 20 miles west of Boston. So that means something like an hour and half commute from my Aunt’s house until I decide where I want to live. It’s a salaried position and comes with all the benefits I could expect. And I start on Monday!!

Some of the things I’ll do in this role:

-write/edit all their copy: newsletters, brochures, press releases, articles for print publication, etc.

-create and manage social media usage

-maintain their company website

-collaborate on advertising campaigns

And a bunch of other stuff that I think is cool. So I’m beyond excited. And so so relieved that I scored a job before running out of money and turning into a beggar.The only negative side is that this means I won’t be coming back to Washington to visit in January. But I’m sure you all understand.

Here’s to the start of a happy, happy Christmas weekend! Love to everyone!

My Thoughts On Snow

There has been talk by the local weather people that Connecticut could get some serious snow in the next week. I think the biggest storm is too far out to sea to affect us, so the greatest concern is gone. But there are a few more chances we’ll be under a blanket of white for Christmas.

And while I realize that snow can be a little annoying- messing up travel plans, requiring manual labor to shovel or blow it, etc.- I can’t help but get excited every time it’s predicted. Maybe I’m still a kid. Or maybe it’s because snow was a rarity in my Pacific Northwest childhood. Whatever the reason, I love snow just as much now as I did in elementary school when it meant no school and, instead, we could play outside all day. I think it’s beautiful and serene. I love how my corner of the world looks and feels so much quieter and slower when covered in snow. And it’s fun to play in. I still like sledding and snow angels but now I also love skiing. To me, snow makes winter seem real and present.

I don’t need to have snow all the time. I think that would ruin its special quality. But I do hope that Connecticut sees a few snowfalls this winter. As long as a storm doesn’t keep Derek from coming to see me tomorrow, I say “Let it snow!!”

Dec. 21st Update: Fish, fish I got my wish! It started snowing last night and the flurries are still floating in the air. And Derek came down a day early so no matter how much it snows, it won’t keep him from me.

I’ve Missed You Tillamook

I got a care package from my mom yesterday. Inside I found wrapped presents and my childhood stocking to put them in, some chocolates, school photos of my gorgeous little sisters and some money to help out while I continue looking for a job. But I was most excited about the bricks of Tillamook cheese she sent! Before moving I just assumed that Tillamook was a big enough, good enough company that you could buy it nationwide. I was wrong. And oh how I’ve missed it.

I think I’m adjusting fairly well to a new side of the country- at least to the big things. I’m learning the new roads and complicated freeway systems. I’m holding up to the colder winter temps. I’m familiarizing myself with new laws like winter street-parking bans and the fact that you can’t buy wine with your groceries. But there are some little things I miss dearly. Things I didn’t give much thought to when I considered moving. Or I knew it would be hard to come by them on the East Coast but I didn’t know how much that would bother me. Things like:

-Pike/Ninkasi/Pyramid/Elysian microbrews (Mostly they just have Sam Adams on tap. It does not compare.)

-Having a Starbucks closer than a 45 minute drive (Although it’s probably best for my budget that the expensive coffee drinks are a little further out of reach.)

-Safeway and QFC (We have Stop-and-Shop and Price Chopper and I don’t love either.)

-Rain (Yeah, I actually miss it. It has only rained significantly twice since I’ve been here. I feel like something is wrong.)

-Movie Theaters (Like Starbucks, the closest ones are about 45 minutes away. I guess people don’t watch movies in Connecticut?)

-Jimmy John’s (I looked online before moving and learned that there were no stores nearby my Aunt’s or by Derek’s. I almost considered staying in Seattle just for the sandwiches.)

So, when I visit home I plan to double-fist a Kilt Lifter and a non-fat vanilla latte to wash down my veggie sandwich while walking in the rain to Safeway to buy groceries (and wine) for dinner after taking in a movie. I will over indulge in all the things I  miss about Washington. For now, I will savor the deliciousness that is Tillamook cheese.

Thank you Mom. You’re the best!

What’s Cooking: Stuffed Peppers

Last week while visiting Derek in New Hampshire, I made us vegetarian stuffed peppers. I don’t remember ever having stuffed peppers before so the experience was new to me. The recipe I chose cooked in a crock-pot so I borrowed one from my Aunt and hauled it up to Derek’s apartment specifically for this recipe. I guess the peppers weren’t quite soft enough (we were hungry so we took them out at the earliest part of the cooking range) but the filling was pretty yummy. And they smelled great while cooking.

The thing with this recipe, though, is that it’s not a fast meal. Cook time is several hours so plan accordingly if you want to give them a try.

My proportions will make four peppers. I thought that would mean four servings but they were so big I could only eat half so we ended up with a lot leftover.

Shopping List

4 large green peppers
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2  small sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained (or black beans) (or both)
1/2 cup cubed Monterey Jack cheese
4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup water
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

I started by cooking the rice in a rice cooker. While that was doing it’s thing, I chopped the tomatoes and onion, thawed and measured the corn and measured out the beans. I stirred this stuff together in a big bowl and set aside until the rice was done. I made a separate bowl with the cheese, basil, garlic, salt and pepper and also set that aside. Lastly, I cut the top off the peppers and de-seeded them so they would be ready for filling.

When the rice was finished, combine it with the veggies and seasonings. Prepare the crock pot by pouring some of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom and adding a little water. Then fill each pepper and set in the pot. Top with more sauce and then add a little Parmesan.

Cook on low for 3-4 hours (we pulled ours out at about 3 hours and 15 minutes and they probably would have been better if we waited another 30 minutes). You’ll end up with something like this:

I’d say my 1st attempt with stuffed peppers was a success, even though they should have cooked a little longer. Derek and I both enjoyed them and it’s an easy mistake to correct next time. Enjoy!

Weekend Baking

The weather yesterday was awful- so much rain and heavy wind (enough that it knocked our power out for a minute). There was no point in being outside on such a nasty day, so I spent much of the day in kitchen baking. Between yesterday and Saturday this is what I finished:

Shortbread

Pecan Tassies

 

Gumdrop Squares

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Now that I’m posting the pictures, it doesn’t seem like a lot. But it sure felt like a lot of work. I also made the dough for Russian Teacakes (little balls covered in powdered sugar) yesterday so I’ll finish those today. And I’m thinking about making Nanaimo Bars too. I’ve never made them before so I’m not sure how they will turn out.

And as I promised, here is a picture our decorated Christmas tree. I thought it was cute when Uncle B and I picked it in the field, but it’s even better in the house. Perfect! (Sorry for the picture quality, it’s my cell phone camera)

My plan for the rest of the week is more of the same: Workout-Bake-Apply for jobs-Repeat as necessary. My Aunt and Uncle are hosting for the neighborhood Christmas Crawl on Friday so I’m hoping to have most of the cookies made by then so we can share. And she’s in Mexico until Wednesday so it’s rather quiet around the house. And it’s too cold and stormy to go outside anyways.

Until next time,

A

Baby It’s Cold Outside

It’s so much colder here than winter in Washington! I think I want to stay unemployed until April so that I don’t have to leave the house. Well, not really. But it’s THAT cold. I knew it would be colder, but I guess I didn’t realize what that would feel like. I was not prepared.

It’s been awhile since I wrote- partially because I didn’t feel like I had anything to report, partially because I just wasn’t feeling the blog. All that’s irrelevant though because I’m back now.

So we have two weeks until Christmas!! Let me remind you how much I love Christmas- the decorations, the festivities, the baking, the shopping and gift wrapping. And most of all, How the Grinch Stole Christmas– cartoon-style. Best. Christmas. Movie. Ever. Sadly, I haven’t watched it yet this year, but I will. Probably several times in one day.

Aunty Sharon has been doing a fabulous job of indulging my Christmas spirit. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, we stood outside in the below-freezing cold and watched the annual Putnam Light Parade. It was cute. A little more parade-like than the Rainier Round-Up Days I grew up with, but only a little bit more. Many of the floats where just utility trucks from local businesses dressed in lights, but it was fun.

Last weekend we saw A Christmas Carol at the local playhouse. It was well done. Shorter than I expected (about an hour) but festive and entertaining.

This weekend we’ll be decorating the tree Bryan and I picked and cut yesterday (I promise photos next post). And Aunty Sharon and I will start our Christmas baking extravaganza. Every December my mom bakes dozens of cookie varieties to eat and share on Christmas. It has and will probably continue to be one of my favorite Christmas activities. Since living on my own, I’ve scaled it down quite a bit but managed to do some of my own Christmas baking. This year, with my Aunt’s help, we’re going big. My Grandma is hoping to come by next weekend to give us a hand. I think we have 14 flavors on the agenda, which is still a lot fewer than my mom will be making but she has three adorable little helpers and a culinary education so I can’t compete with that.

In other news, I’ve found a way to make a little money. I’ve babysat for couple my Aunt knows through work twice now. I actually really enjoy it. The kids, 3 1/2 and almost 7, are well behaved, smart and fun. It’s definitely not frequent enough to quit my job search but it helped pay for Christmas gifts.

I haven’t forgotten about my What’s Cooking section of the blog. The week after Thanksgiving we went out for dinner. And this week I was in the New Hampshire visiting Derek and had no way to post the photos and recipe for the stuffed peppers I made. So I’m saving it for next week.

Also, I’m considering a short trip home in January. I haven’t committed yet as I’m trying to determine if is financially-responsible or if it will interfere with my job search. My Dad is looking into an option that could ease the financial problem. If that works out, I’d be willing to give up a week of job-hunting without too much guilt because I miss you all so much! I’ll keep you posted whether I’m coming home or not.

So aside from my state of unemployment, all is well in Connecticut. I’m thoroughly enjoying Christmas time. Derek and I are happy and in love. My family continues to be overly generous and a joy to be with. Yep, I’m a pretty content girl.

Hope you’re all having a happy December!

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