a dream within a dream

It’s as though the morale is so down in our current office that they decided to fly out one of our team managers to host a happy hour for us tonight at a fancy cocktail bar half a block away from our office in the Flatiron. We already had a happy hour to increase team camaraderie last Thursday, but we had to have yet another one today. It’s not that I am complaining about it; it’s more that although I do like nice, well made cocktails that I don’t have to pay for, I think the problems are deeper than what can be solved by getting tipsy with my colleagues.

I originally thought I’d only stay for a drink or two, but I ended up staying out until nearly midnight, which I definitely did not plan at all on doing. Two venues, four drinks, six hours later, it was as though everything just felt like a big blur. But I was extremely cognizant of everything around me. I could feel myself enunciating every syllable clearly to detract from the fact that the alcohol was seeping into my blood and affecting my head. Is this period just a phase, a big haze that will eventually end and morph into something else? I kind of feel like I am floating and things aren’t quite real right now, and I’m not sure why. That then reminded me of this poem I enjoyed by Edgar Allan Poe when I was 13, studying his poetry and short stories. It’s when we ask ourselves what is real vs. what is not, yet we think everything we are experiencing is real. The poem goes something like this:

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Calling home

I didn’t call home at all last week. It wasn’t really a conscious decision; it was more that work felt very stressful and dramatic given all the changes that had happened in the last two weeks that at the end of each day, I felt very little energy to talk to anyone on the phone. And talking to my parents would not be an upside to the day given all the inane questions they typically ask. I’d also worry that my mom would sense my tense tone and think something was wrong, and the last thing I really need is for her to worry even more about me than she already does.

So tonight, I called home, and when my dad answered the phone, he didn’t even say hello in response to me; he simply handed the phone to my mom. My mom said he was in the middle of something and was busy; too busy to say hi to his own daughter?

That kind of thing is just ridiculous. How difficult is it to greet your child over the phone? Does that sort of thing need to be taught?

Chicken tenders

My mom never enjoyed cooking; she has always done it out of necessity because she married a man who didn’t cook and pretty much expected his wife to cook for him. So she  learned a bunch of basics from her mother-in-law, her sister-in-law, and ran with it. One of the things that was always on rotation growing up was chicken tenders. She used herbed shake’n’bake type bread crumbs, coated flattened chicken pieces in egg, then dipped them in the breadcrumb mixture, and pan-fried them in a little oil. They were always one of my favorite things that she made, and I always looked forward to eating them.

Now that I’m an adult and am experimental with cooking, I made my own version with herbs, garlic powder, homemade panic breadcrumbs, and grated parmigiano reggiano. I baked them and was pretty impressed; they’re like the adult and more sophisticated version of the chicken tenders my mom made. I think she’d be pretty satisfied with these if she were in New York.

Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie

The mood today is like this song:

The Atlantic was born today and I’ll tell you how…
The clouds above opened up and let it out.

I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere
When the water filled every hole.
And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
Making islands where no island should go.
Oh no.

Those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.
I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat.
The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more.
The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
It seems farther than ever before
Oh no.

I need you so much closer [x8]

I need you so much closer [x4]
So come on, come on [x4]

Dinner in Forest Hills

Tonight, our building’s handyman, who is now one of our friends, invited us over to his place for dinner with his wife and his big (and very diverse) friend crew. We met the week we moved into our building last July, and it was like “like” at first meeting. We immediately bonded over cooking and food, and we won him over by giving him a taste of some whisky we had. He loves bacon and applying sous vide to anything; his wife bakes obsessively and has even catered sweets for one of her good friend’s baby showers. Occasionally when I am planning to cook something and I run into him in the building, I describe what I am cooking, and he will stop by and have a taste or two. “If you make it, I will put it in my mouth,” he always says. There are few things more satisfying than hearing that someone has so much faith in my cooking ability that he will literally eat anything I put out.

It was his turn to impress us tonight: he made pernil (slow cooked pork shoulder), baked mac and cheese made with smoked gouda, dubliner, and gruyere cheeses, and sous vide fried chicken drumsticks. His wife made a lemon tart, a three-flavored cheesecake, and all the appetizers, including deviled eggs that were made with pickled beet dyed egg whites. The sous vide drum sticks definitely won me over, and now an iteration of that is on my list of things to make with my own sous vide precision cooker. What was even more exciting was that a bunch of his friends also love to cook, and so we had a very interesting and intense session of cooking technique discussion while watch

Happy hour and karaoke night

One of my colleagues I’m friends with was in town this week for work, so we organized a small get-together for dinner and karaoke after our scheduled happy hour with our cofounder, who was also in town. I think after a lot of the announced changes this week, we were really due for some fun and relaxation outside of the office, so this night’s outing could not have been better planned coincidentally. We went out, talked about senseless but funny topics, and sang about three hours of karaoke until our vocal chords were cranky and strained. It felt really good to let a bit loose and to just not focus on all the serious and annoying things that have been going on.

I have a subgroup of colleagues I can actually call friends, people I somewhat trust and can feel like I can be myself around. Tonight was kind of evidence of that – no judgments. We’re all in this together, and we’re supportive of each other. It’s a good place to be even in difficult times.

Announcements

Communication is always key in any relationship. It occurs in multiple forms that continue to evolve as technology evolves. There’s the in-person communication, which, to most normal, rational people, should be considered the best and highest form of communication. There’s video and/or phone communication. There’s e-mail, which most people universally agree, sucks as a main form of communication. There’s also text, electronic chat, Snapchat, Facebook messenger chat, etc.

So when it comes to things like big team announcements, like who a new leader may be, wouldn’t it make the most sense to make it the most personal and to announce that in a live team meeting rather than in an impersonal email?

E-mail is seriously the worst. So much for respect.

Dog like

My colleague and I were having a conversation about stress management and how people in general take life too seriously and do not enjoy the moment. We both love dogs and think they’re one of the best stress relievers, one of the easiest ways to put smiles on our faces in the office (when we are lucky enough to have a four-legged visitor, that is). I told him about the time I went with a fellow colleague to an animal shelter because she was considering adopting a dog, and there, I fell in love with the most adorable white terrier mix fluffy dog. It was love at first sight. His fluffy fur, his big smiley face, his tongue hanging out, his speedy wagging tail, his energy. He was so enthusiastic and eager to see and play with us… but both of his back legs were out due to an abusive situation he was rescued from. He didn’t seem to mind, though; he continued running around like a happy dog and as though he had no care in the world. His two back legs were dragging, but it was as though they didn’t exist to him. He just wanted to play and be loved. When he goes on walks, he actually has a “wheel chair” for his two back legs so that they don’t drag. In a few days, he would get picked up by his new owner, who had experience caring for handicapped dogs.

So then we said, what would it be like if we could be more dog like, if we could just live and enjoy and stop stressing as much as we do? We’d have less trouble sleeping and concentrating. The past would truly be in the past. We’d focus on what’s right there in front of us instead of worrying over the future and what’s going to happen in a week or a year. Dogs just don’t care what their disabilities are; they barely know they’re disabled (right?). They live and enjoy the moment, then pass out and sleep.

“Be more dog,” my colleague said. “Maybe tomorrow will be more dog like?”

It’s rarely that simple, but at least we can strive to be more in the moment for just a few seconds extra every day… is it possible?

Another departure

And like it wasn’t already enough for our office to deal with, another sales person who I get along with well, the only female account executive in the New York City office, announces today that she’s resigning. What fun.

“It’s going to get worse before it will get better,” my colleague friend says to me to reassure me. “I think she’s the last shoe to drop for now.”Let all the flies drop and then we can celebrate. All the volatility, all the changes, all the angst… we’ll be okay eventually, right?

I blasted sad love songs the rest of the day. And continued listening to them when I got home. I’m way too invested in this place.. that is why this is all getting to me and making me sad. When did I suddenly become so obsessed with this company and my work?? Why do I care so much?

 

Sous vide steak

Chris’s brother got us a sous vide precision cooker as a belated wedding gift the summer after our wedding, and because our apartment was small and had no outlet near the stove, Chris forbade me from using the precision cooker until we moved into a new apartment. Well, lo and behold, we did move into a new apartment last summer, but I felt intimidated by the precision cooker even after reading extensively about how to use it, and finally sucked it up and used it today.

I bought Australian grass-fed ribeye steaks on sale at Whole Foods last week in anticipation of this experiment given that most of the people I know who have tried sous vide have said that the first time always has to be steak for the most impressive results. Some people do fish, others do eggs, but a big hunk of steak is always the most dramatic.

After an hour and a half in the sous vide bath at 129 degrees F, I think it is safe to say that these steaks were pretty much perfect. After a quick sear on my cast iron and getting smeared in butter, they were pretty much perfect. The sear isn’t as apparent as it is if you just cooked it on a pan, but the inside was exactly the right texture. And since they were Australian steaks, the meat was a bit more chewy than the American cuts of steak that are grain fed and finished.

I rarely cook steak at home, but now I know that when I do, I’ll always use this sous vide precision cooker. It was much easier than I thought it would be, and the time spent waiting for it was completely worth it. The actual “work” that’s put into it is actually quite minimal since you can pretty much set it and forget it until it’s done. That’s definitely cooking that a lot of people can get behind.