Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Unemployment Woes

Tomorrow is the first day of September.  Around this time last year, my boss and I were horribly heart-broken about the loss of our high school program, and we were trying to figure out how we would change the entire organization to work with what we had left.

Though I was unemployed by October, I kept on going.  It was foolish, idealistic, and wrongly optimistic.  But I don't regret sticking around.  The stress was balanced by an amazing group of interns who kept us on our toes and who kept us laughing.

But now, it's almost been a year.  I'm still unemployed.  If I were being practical, I probably would have really sought out paid employment while I was still "contracted."  I should have really tried to go all out on my side job, but I honestly chickened out on that opportunity.

I know it was extremely frustrating for the boyfriend, who then found himself unemployed in December.  We were both struggling, but I continued to work for practically nothing.  I was frustrated at him because I felt that I was giving my job my all, and he didn't understand the passion I had for the work.

After my job was officially over in June, I still had faith that something would come my way.  I still have faith that something will come my way.  But I have to say that I'm officially frustrated with my situation.

I don't really enjoy living off unemployment.  I can barely make ends meet while trying to enjoy myself.  I don't want to be on unemployment anymore.

I've applied to so many different jobs and so many organizations.  Am I just not qualified?  Am I overqualified?  Is it not the right fit?  I guess if it's not meant to be, then it's not meant to be.  But I haven't even had a single job interview.  Maybe I'm just not good on paper?  I don't know anymore.

I'm sure that my own actions have played a part in this.  I've sought out specific types of jobs in certain organizations, and have barely looked outside of Boston.

Part of my original plan was to keep looking in Boston, but if nothing came up by this time then I would start looking in Los Angeles.  But I'm still not ready to do so.  At this point, the boyfriend has applied to grad school in Boston, and I want to be able to support that.

But I'm still not giving up hope.

The other day, the boyfriend and I were chatting about my frustrations.  He told me how frustrated he had been all year with my actions.  But he also told me that he sees the way kids light up when they see me in the neighborhood.  He said that by not working right now, I am almost denying that joy to other kids.

I really had to think about that.

What he said gave me some renewed hope.  I realized that I was looking for a very specific job, and would turn away others that weren't as interesting.  But I'm trying to up my game and look beyond what I think I might want.  Also, nothing is necessarily permanent.  People change jobs all the time.  But I have to let go of some of my stubbornness and open my eyes a bit more.
Working hard to find work...

Monday, August 30, 2010

CSA Adventures: Making Sushi

This has been our second year participating in the CSA farmshares, and we've received so many delicious veggies and fruits.  Though we've done a lot of stir frying, juicing, and salad making, I'm very proud of two uses of veggies in our household.  Specifically, I'm proud of two uses of our vast supplies of cucumbers.

The first one I'm excited to share is our adventures in making sushi!

I'm going to give the boyfriend credit for the sushi adventure, since he suggested it as a birthday celebration for him and two other Virgos.  Really, it was quite genius.

We ran into a slight obstacle that was easily solved, though we weren't necessarily sure of the success right away.

When you're preparing to make sushi, one of the most important things is to make sure you have good quality fish.  The first place we thought of was Whole Foods, but good quality fish also equals extremely expensive fish.  Luckily, the boyfriend and I have tried making sushi at home before, and we learned that our local Shaw's Market had pretty decent fish for much cheaper.  So, we went for the market fish once again.

There were 5 of us that were going to partake in sushi action, so I figured a pound of salmon and a pound of tuna would be good for us.  Well, it was definitely much more than enough!

Here's a list of all the items that we used to make sushi:
Glutinous Rice - We initially made about 4 cups of the rice, and then made another 6 cups after the first 4 cups were used.  However, we probably should have just made 6 cups of rice from the beginning, and we would have been fine.  At the end of it all, we were thoroughly stuffed and maybe used half of the 6 cups in the second batch.  Tip: The rice gets really sticky, and you want to make sure the rice cools close to room temperature before using it.

Rice Vinegar - Rice vinegar is really the best option for sushi rice.  After the rice is done cooking, you want to scoop it into another bowl, sprinkling rice vinegar on it for taste.  You can also used diluted rice vinegar (with water) to help the nori stay put after rolling a sushi, to wipe a sticky knife with, and to get rice off your fingers.
Marukan Rice Vinegar and Thai Glutinous Rice
Nori (Dried Seaweed Sheets) - I bought about 4 packs of 10 sheets.  We ended up using about one and a half of the packs altogether (including a couple of sheets that were snacked on).  The packs that I got were great mainly because of the tutorials on the back of the package on how to roll sushi and how to make the glutinous rice.

Wasabi - Truth be told, I'm not too keen on so much wasabi.  I don't add it to my soy sauce at all.  I think for me, the wasabi is too overpowering over the rest of the deliciousness.  But, alas, it is a sushi staple.

Soy Sauce - Another obvious sushi staple.

Spicy Mayo - It was super exciting to make some of this from scratch!  I had no idea what the ingredients were, but it's just so deceivingly simple!  Basically, you take some mayonnaise and some Sriracha and mix!  Add however much you would like and to taste. 

Cream Cheese - Apparently, according to the boyfriend who lived in Japan for 6 years, adding cream cheese to sushi is a mainly American creation.  Personally, I seek out any of those sushi rolls with cream cheese.  It's delicious with salmon.

Capers - This is probably never done anywhere!  One of the first rolls I made was with salmon, cream cheese, and capers.  It was like a Jewish sushi roll.  And it was delicious!

Avocado - Avocado is another item that I seek out when in a sushi restaurant.  This is definitely a delicious addition to any roll.

Chives - I don't know if I've ever had chives in a sushi roll, but this was an item that one of our friends brought to the table (pun intended!).  It adds a great flavor to any roll you could make.

Carrots - I think that carrots help to add a crunchy feeling to the sushi.  Again, this ingredient can be added to any sushi roll.

Cucumbers - The boyfriend loves cucumber rolls, simple and a perfect cooling roll for hot weather.
Makisu (Bamboo Rolling Mat) - This object is a very important tool in making sushi, perhaps only second important to really good knives.  The mat just helps to ensure that the sushi is tightly rolled, and it prevents your sticky fingers from continuing to stick to the nori.

Tamago - This is another favorite sushi ingredient.  The boyfriend usually likes saving the tamago rolls for the end, since they're sweet.  Tamago translates to egg in Japanese, and it's basically an omelet.  To make tamago, you mix 4 eggs, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tsp of mirin (we used sweet wine and just added a bit more sugar, which was a great substitute), and 1/2 tsp of soy sauce.  You can cook flat it in a pan, and if you want to flip it to make it cook evenly, then you can slide the omelet onto a plate and use the plate to flip it over to the other side.  At least, this is the strategy I use since I lack fancy flipping skillz.  You can fold the cooked tamago to make a nice thick layer of deliciousness over rice.
Shrimp - How could we not have shrimpy sushi rolls?  I believe some shrimp was added to a tuna roll at one point in the evening.  But shrimp with any of the other veggies is just so good.  Perhaps next time we will take it up a notch and make shrimp tempura to put in our rolls.

Tuna - A nice steak of tuna should be somewhat purple-ish/pink-ish, with a lighter pink in the middle.  Spicy mayo and tuna is really a great roll, so we had several combinations of this.

Salmon - Salmon rolls are tops!  The fish butcher (umm...is that the correct technical term for them?) gave me slightly more than a pound, and we only had to cut off the skin.  Salmon with avocado is a tasty option, and if you add some cream cheese..well, you just can't go wrong.
See food?  Why, yes!
As there were 5 of us, we each took turns making a roll and then cut them into 5 sections.  By the end of the evening, including the fact that we made a bigger batch of rice the second time around, we were stuffed.

Usually, I feel like I could just keep eating sushi forever.  I didn't even count how many rolls I ended up ingesting, but I can tell you that I felt like I was pregnant with sushi on our way home.

Two pounds of fish plus shrimp was definitely much too much for the 5 of us.  Perhaps if we had around 10 people, the amount would have been perfect.  The boyfriend and I ended up packing up the leftover fish and sliced veggies to plan to make sushi again.
Sushi success!
This morning, as we awoke to find that none of us had any food poisoning mishaps, we are proud to say that this session of sushi making was a success.  We definitely would love to do it again.  Interestingly enough, the boyfriend and I are psyched to make more sushi for dinner this evening!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Simple Pleasures Sundays - Napping

There are those little moments that I'd love to capture in film (or digital film), but I know that if I attempt to do so it would just ruin the moment.

Sunday was full of that.

It's another rainy couple of days here in Boston.  I had woken up pretty early on Saturday, so I wanted to nap after picking up our farm share on Sunday.  It really was a perfect afternoon.

I'm so glad I was able to learn a little bit about napping while I was in Greece.

But this particular day, we left our bedroom door open.  Usually when we sleep, we have to close the door because Mencken is still a bit hyper and will wake us up in the middle of the night.  But today, he was such a good kitty. 

He stretched out next to the boyfriend, and Yoni curled up next to me.  It was perhaps the best nap that I'd had in a while.  You could just feel the love and warmth that was emanating from our bed.
Kitty naps
At that moment, I didn't want anything more.

Toesies of the Month - August 2010

My goodness, this pedicure was so overdue.  It's been an extremely broke month, and I've tried to be very good about ridiculous purchases.

But this pedicure was overdue.  The previous polish was getting really dull, my nails were getting so long they were chipping, and I had a show to prepare for.

Since I've come back from Greece, I've been doing a lot of dancing in preparation for a benefit show.  I've done a lot on my feet, and I could feel the exhaustion.  But the show was my priority.

After a while, I took off my dancing shoes and foot undies, and practiced barefoot as that's how we would be performing.  I built up quite a bit of callouses from all that barefoot dancing.

The day before the show arrived and it was time for me to get a pedicure and a manicure.  I decided to get them done before our tech practice at the Cambridgeside Galleria, a mall near the theater.  The salon is called Coco Nail and Spa.  Unfortunately, the decorations were really bare, so there was very few exciting things to look at.  The spa chair were fairly comfortable, but for some reason the massaging rollers got a little to rough in the lower back area.

So, for those of you familiar with the pedicure process, part of it involves a pumice stone (or some other rough bar) exfoliation of the bottom of your foot.  Depending on where the nail technician will scrub, it can tickle a little bit or it can tickle a lot.  I also think being ticklish depends on how wound up you are.

This time, however, the nail technician noticed my calloused feet and brought out the big guns.

A grater.  I needed to get my feet grated.  Hard core, eh?

Now, I unfortunately didn't have enough time to ensure that my manicure and pedicure were sufficiently dry before needing to run to the theater for the tech rehearsal.  So, my nails were not completely perfect for the show, and I didn't get a chance to take a picture of them pre-practice.  But only I really knew that.

Designed by Kha at Coco Nail and Spa, Cambridge, MA
Color:  OPI - Purple with a Purpose
Occasion:  Belly Dance Benefit
August 2010

Color:  OPI - I'm a Princess, You're Not!
I struggled a bit with the name of the nail color for my fingers.  But the color has a really like pinkish-purplish shimmer to it, so I went with it.

I'm not going to be too picky about the scratches as I plan on getting another pedicure before Labor Day Weekend.  I really like the colors, however, and I'm enjoying looking at them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Star Gazing

The first two weeks of August have been all about the stars.

On the weekend of August 6th and 7th, I joined my friends to go on a yearly trip to Vermont endearingly called the "All Night Costume Dance Party."  The event started as a birthday celebration, and has turned into a yearly reunion and summer celebration.

The area where the party happens is called Quarry Hill, right by Rochester, Vermont.  There's no phone reception, and thus no internet on my phone.  It's the one time I really get to go camping.

Now, let me be honest here.  I'm a city girl through and through, and I don't pretend to be anything else.  This one weekend of camping is mainly about having an awesome time out in nature with awesome people.

And while the all-night dancing and blueberry pancakes in the morning is pretty awesome, there's just something about being around a bonfire under a sky full of stars.
Quarry Hill bonfire.
I wish I had a camera that could take a picture of those stars.  Being a city girl, I am used to the city glare being part of the night sky, though I am often to see a couple of stars here and there.  In Los Angeles, I can often spot the constellation of Orion. 

But being in Vermont, the stars and the moon are the main source of light.  I couldn't even begin to name any stars.  It's so beautiful.

To add to the beauty, the Perseid Meteor Showers have been crossing the sky.  To celebrate the boyfriend and two other guy friends' birthdays, we decided to head out to Boston's South Shore area to do some meteor watching.

The Perseid Meteor Showers is a yearly phenomenon that happens around late July to mid August.  In the past, I don't know if we had ever been able to see them, so it was great to make a plan to watch them this year.
Whoever decided on those constellations were tripping out, man...
We ended up finding our way to World's End in Hingham (pronounced "Hing-am," for you non Massachusetts folks), though we were mainly looking for a dark enough area to enjoy the stars.  It was amazingly appropriate to end up there.
World's End
So, the 7 of us set up our picnic blankets and sleeping beds and got settled in for another all-night event.  We snacked on some delicious goodies, and laughed about really random things.  We would  point and "oooh" and "aaah" at all the meteors we would spot.  It was amazing to see so many shooting stars, some back to back from each other.

I honestly don't know if there could have been a better way for the first two weekends of August, considering that this is the last full month of summer.  I feel blessed to have been able to spend so much time in nature with great friends.

Let's hope that the next couple of weekends are just as awesome, even if I don't get to spend more time under the stars.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Living the American Dream

There's been a lot of talk in the news about immigration lately.  From all this business in Arizona to all the attacks on the 14th amendment.

I'm not going to wax poetic about why all of these recent events are just so wrong, but I do want to say that it's a shame that families and especially children are being attacked in all of this.

But I have been thinking a lot about a lot of the reasoning behind families immigrating into the United States.  Specifically, I've thought a lot about the American Dream.

Part of what I understand to be the "American Dream" is that the United States is the "land of opportunity."  Opportunities for jobs, better education, better standard of living.  Who wouldn't want something like that for their children?

Thought I think there's something to be said for finding ways to improve ones situation, I also think there's something to be said for absolute desperation.  There is desperation in abandoning all that you've ever known to go to brave a new world.

Don't get me wrong.  My mom and I moved to Los Angeles from the Philippines when I was 4 years old after being petitioned by my dad who was already living here with his family. We were lucky to already have the family connection, but I'm sure that part of the reason for moving to the U.S. was for that "American Dream."

The "American Dream" never felt so real for me until I was home in Los Angeles after our trip to Greece.

There's been a lot of movement and moving around in our house.  The weekend I was home, my siblings were also home, and my dad came home from working in Fresno.  But on Monday, I got to see how the regular day to day played out.

One of our cousins live with us, and she works the night shift.  My mom wakes up early to head to work, and gets home usually in the afternoon.  My dad is gone during the week, having been placed in Fresno, about 3 hours away.  My brother is living in Irvine, working hard and occasionally coming home on the weekends.  My sister is in San Francisco for school.  And of course, I am 3000 miles away in Boston.

Now, being home in Los Angeles for me is a constant string of questions starting in "When" and ending in "are you moving back home?"

I constantly have that question playing through my mind, especially being unemployed.  Watching my mom and cousin go through the motions of their days was somewhat eye opening.  I have always imagined our house as constantly lively, loud with laughter and smelling of Filipino cooking.  To see that it was more subdued and quiet, and perhaps even lonely, made me realize why I was always asked the same question over and over.

But, I ask, isn't this just part of the "American Dream?"  To have your children grow up, go to college, and find careers?  And isn't part of that experience to have a nice house that is basically empty because you've done your job of rearing your kids to get involved in higher education, have various job opportunities, and raise their standard of living by owning their own empty house one day?

Obviously, no one has to live up to those specific ideals.  But I do feel that it's one of the residual parts of attaining that dream, a part that no one really thinks about.  Interestingly, I do know that it is also portrayed in the media, but they mainly show you the young person's perspective as that is who they're marketing to.

So, here I am, back in Boston, living out that "American Dream."  I wish it was more like those movies, where I get to go home to do my laundry, or I go to visit my crazy family and some hilarious series of events happen which lead to someone finding the love of their life for the movie.

Instead, some of the joys of "being an adult" and being on my own is coupled with some of the loneliness of being away from the family and knowing that some of the family is away from the home.

Do you think new immigrants are aware of that part of the dream?
Living the dream

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Adventure - Back to Athens and Back to Reality

July 14th was the day we left Santorini.  It was actually really quite a sad day for us, as we had both fallen in love with the island.

At some point in our stay, Jenny clued me in to the fact that we had been staying up pretty late, and usually end up back at the hostel at around 3am.  I cannot even begin to tell you how surprised I was! Well, suffice it to say, we had been getting up later than usual.  So, on our last day, we wanted to make sure we were in the ocean for one last time.
Last time in the Santorini ocean
But we only really got to spend about 20 minutes in the water due to us having had another late night that last night with the Albanians from Fusion Bar.  We had to pack, and be really creative about it since we managed to buy a couple of souvenirs for folks back home.

At around 10am, Tony brought these 2 German dudes, Jenny, and I back to the Athinios Port.  And in true Greek fashion, he stopped at a waiting area and said, "Okay! Thank you for staying with us! Goodbye!"

We hopped out of the car, not having a single clue where our ferry was going to be and what to look for.  "Okay. Now you jump."

Friday, August 6, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Adventure - Kalineektha, Santorini

Yay!  We have television and internet again!  And just in time for me to leave for a weekend camping trip!
Alright...so, where was I?  Oh, ya!  Our night times in Santorini.

Traditional and Musical Evenings
The night we were heading back to Perissa from Red Beach, we learned how difficult it is to get back to different parts of the island by bus at night time.  Though we were pretty beat, we were also pretty hungry.

We had decided to check out Porto Castello Restaurant, which had advertised traditional Greek Dancing on Saturday nights.  Luckily, we made it in time for the live music (i.e. one guy on a keyboard and bouzouki) and dancing.

As we walked in, one of the hosts greeted us saying that we just had to go up to the roof deck for the entertainment.  We told him that we were really hungry, and he proceeded to say, "I'm on the menu."  I realized that I managed to walk right into that one.  But we found out that he was actually telling the truth, as he proceeded to sing "Sagapo," a great song I'm familiar with through belly dance.

At some point, the plates came out and the men danced.  That was really fun to watch, and it was neat to see the servers and other patrons participate, though I'm pretty sure the patrons were there mainly to try to call the female tourists up to dance.  At one point, there was a bit of Greek belly dancing music that started playing.  As I watched one of the guys doing some familiar moves, I decided to show that I could do a bit of that as well.  It was a fun evening.
If you wanted to break your very own plate to break,
you buy them for 2 Euros each.

We actually were treated to live music quite often during our nights in Santorini.  Most of the music was very chill and relaxing, and very beach appropriate.  I must say, there's nothing else like being by the beach and listening to live music.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Interwebs Down

Comcast is evil and has a cap on the amount of interwebs you can use in a month. 

Apparently, at some point, the boyfriend and I (but let's be honest...it was probably not me...) went over that cap.  Luckily, the bill was under the boyfriend's name.  So we canceled, and I signed up in my name.

We have no interwebs until Friday, August 6th.


I'm currently at a Starbucks.

See you all on the other side!

The internet is down for just me.

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