Friday, August 28, 2009

crushed anyway

Turns out I wasn't passed over for that "ideal" job -- I had an interview today that went spectacularly well. There were four of them and they tag-teamed their questions, but it was completely stress-free. This was stuff I knew inside and out, and I didn't even feel nervous.

There are two problems: the distance, and the pay. It's at least a 30-minute drive away. I drive a 2000 Honda Odyssey, which gets decent gas mileage (20 mpg, usually) for a minivan, but putting 225 miles on that car every week is not a good idea.

The pay is the typical pittance, but even that wouldn't be so bad if the shifts were longer than three hours. So I'd be driving for an hour (round trip) to work for three, and using nearly an entire extra tank of gas every week, not to mention wear and tear on the old (and I do mean old) van. After taxes, it might work out to be a wash, or a very small net positive.

When I discussed all this with DH, he was perfect; he said he didn't think it was worth it, but he wasn't (he said) factoring in what a great job it would be and a terrific place to work and all that. So he didn't scoff, but he did point out that the cash flow situation wouldn't be helped much if at all by this particular job. I could tell he would worry about me doing all that highway driving in the old van every day, too.

The whole point of me getting job is, of course, to help out with the cash flow, what with three kids taking piano lessons, two new cell phones just added to our plan, and our health insurance premiums going up by another $150+ a month.

I saw yet another job a couple of days ago and discussed it with DH, and after supper I sent in my application online. We'll see if anything comes of it. I think that's the worst part of the whole job search process; you throw your resume out there, and all you can do is wait and see if you get a response. I'm not a patient person.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I saw my endocrinologist today, and was looking forward to getting my numbers -- the blood test results that would tell me if my cancer was acting up or, possibly, had finally gone away.

The lab screwed up and did not send it out to USC to Carole Spencer's lab as they were supposed to, so I don't know.

I'll go back into my endo's office if a few weeks and they'll do another draw and this time, they'll send it to USC and I'll find out.

This isn't that big of an issue, really, except I inevitably work myself into kind of a state whenever I'm going to get lab results on my tumor marker. It doesn't matter that nothing has been going on for nearly four years now, I still worry. Maybe after a few more years (and if the tumor marker ever becomes undetectable) I'll relax about it. But today's worry was wasted, and I don't even get to feel relieved now.

I rallied and did some schoolwork when I got home, but it was a tedious and unsettled day anyway. Here's to tomorrow, a day in which no medical issues need be considered.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

another week, another Brontë

Heathcliff, tormented
If you're feeling flush, you can buy a copy with the original Eichenberg engravings for a measly $1,895.

Wuthering Heights, finished today. Grim and tumultuous, and affecting.
(Sorry, reading seven or eight hundred pages of Brontë has influenced my thinking, and my writing.)

In the meantime, looking for a job. I stopped at a school this week to put in an application, and it turned into an interview on the spot: I had what they needed, namely, the DPS fingerprint card and the county food service workers' card. Unfortunately, it was far too many hours (we won't even talk about the meager -- but market-standard -- pay); I can't manage full-time hours with the kids' school schedule, my volunteer commitments, and my own school.

Yes, I'm back in, too. I've registered for the first two classes of the next level of my program; they're both one credit and won't be difficult. I just have to do the work.

I've applied for a couple of other part-time jobs, too, either of which would be ideal, but one particularly. That's all I'll say about that so as not to be too crushed if I am passed over. Any job I apply for these days will likely have hundreds of other applicants; there's only so far a well-written cover letter and a reasonably applicable resume will get you. I'm simultaneously over- and under-qualified for nearly everything out there, except substitute teaching, and that I can't do since I must retrieve my own children from their schools promptly at the end of each day.

Our kids' school and my work situation the past few years was ideal, and I knew it then, just as I knew it over the course of the summer as we decided to leave the old school. I wouldn't do anything differently, but I'm still sorry we had to.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Made it through the first week of school, with piano lessons and work-outs at the Y, plus a support group meeting on Thursday.

I also finished Jane Eyre, slept from 8:30am to 1pm one day, and fretted about the curriculums at the kids' new schools.

I was notified today that I won't get an interview at the junior high, and so am coming to terms with applying to substitute in the various school systems, although there is an infinitesimal but non-zero chance I could get an interview at the elementary school.

Is it so bad that I prefer to do what would be easier?

Monday, August 10, 2009

busy day

It was the first day of school. This required getting the kids up much earlier than ever -- 6:30AM! -- making breakfasts and lunches and getting them out the door. It all went rather well, but I'm not making any assumptions about the future based on this, the first day.

I made them all get out of the car so I could take this picture. They were rather good-natured about it. They indulge me.

While they were at school I went to a late-morning show of Julie & Julia, which I enjoyed but at the same time, I understand Julia Child's attitude towards Julie Powell: she is not a serious cook, and she's not a particularly likable person, either. La Streep was superb and really made the movie, although I did envy the film's food stylist his job -- what a blast it must have been to cook all that stuff!

The rest of the day? School paperwork, cooking (stir fry, mmmmm), piano lessons, and the intriguing prospect of giving cooking lessons(!).

I'm waiting rather impatiently to hear if I will be called for an interview at either school to which I've applied, but realistically I don't hold out much hope; I've been scanning the online job ads for part-time positions, considering what I'm qualified for and what I could actually do during "mother's hours" that's not school-related, and I keep coming back to the sticking point: why would I?

I sent off an application to Kaplan, they're looking for test-prep teachers, and I have some idea what would be involved there, but that's often a weekend commitment. We'll see.

Friday, August 07, 2009

one more day

It's officially the last day of summer vacation: the weekend doesn't count.

We've spent this week lounging, mostly -- other than the baking and birthday activities I've already described, we haven't really done much of anything --

Except school visits to meet teachers, and returning to piano lessons.

After a lovely three years with all three children in the same school, we're back again to two schools, with DS1 in junior high and DD and DS2 at elementary. Both schools are physically enormous compared to their old school, but with the larger size comes more resources and opportunities. I can honestly say I did not get a bad vibe from a single one of the kids' teachers, although there was a PE coach at the jr. high that seemed very tough -- but he's not DS1's teacher this year.

As for me, substitute teaching jobs this year are expected to be in short supply, since many teachers were RIF'ed at the end of the school year in June due to state budget cuts. I made up a new resume and put in applications for paraprofessional positions at the kids' schools. I highlighted all the tests I've passed and the certifications I have, but still I think it will take some luck to get an interview. We shall see. I really just want a part-time job to cover the expense of the aforementioned piano lessons, and perhaps financing an upgrade to HDTV.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I had a wonderful birthday.

The house is quiet now, finally -- inspiring me to goof around with the camera for a birthday self-portrait:
Not much different from last year.
(From this angle, you can't see all my new gray hairs.)

I spent a good part of the day cooking, although I did manage to get us all out to the Y for our circuit class.

Before lunch, I made the lady fingers and brewed the espresso for the tiramisu. I couldn't find my notes from the last time I made it, so I winged it... again.
Somehow, these ingredients combine to produce...

... these lady fingers. Since they're going straight into the tiramisu, I form them with a spoon. It's quick and easy.

The espresso smelled divine, but we resisted the urge to drink it.
My Krups Il Primo, older than my children, still working perfectly.

We had lunch at Rubio's, since they emailed me a free lunch coupon for my birthday. How could I resist a free mahi-mahi burrito? DH joined us and we had a great time.

After lunch (and a few errands), I put together the filling (more separating and beating eggs: the first stage is to make a zabiglione), into which you fold the marscapone. Then you whip the egg whites separately and fold them into the marscapone mixture.

Once that was done (and fussing with the double boiler is such a pain!), assembly was a snap.
Trader Joe's Bittersweet Belgian Chocolate, grated with a small cheese grater, was the perfect accent.

For dinner, we had some quick-sauteed shrimp and then pasta puttanesca. Well, DH and I had the puttanesca; the kids had their usual Ragu.

A fine mess -- the prep for the puttanesca: olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes; recipe from The New Basics Cookbook.

DD arranged the candles.
Yes, it says "4" in pink and "6" in green.

There wasn't much left.

Calls and messages from family and friends really made the day. If all birthdays could be like this -- I did what I wanted to do! -- no one would ever mind having one.

Monday, August 03, 2009

weekend baking q&a

DD, restless, has taken to leafing through The Fannie Farmer Baking Book looking for inspiration. Since we got home from our vacation she returned again and again to the Classic Angel Food Cake with White Mountain Icing "basic master recipe."

Last weekend, I finally yielded.

Q: Is it possible to bake an angel food cake in a bundt pan?
A: Yes. Don't grease the pan.

The cake rose above the top of the pan, but it did not cook over

Q: But how do you hang it?
A: If you can't find a bottle with a narrow enough neck, perch it on a juice glass.
We left the cake to cool overnight.

Q: How do you get it out?
A: With patience, gently working the cake free of the surface of the pan around the edges, and then along the bottom. It doesn't do to grease the pan to make it easier to come out, because the foamy cake needs to grip the sides of the pan to rise.
Yeah, one side did get a little squished.

Q: What do you frost it with?
A: White Mountain icing: sugar syrup brought to the soft-ball stage, beaten into whipped egg whites. Marshmallow fluff, but not as sticky or as sweet -- as delicious as it looks.

If you overheat the sugar, the icing will be rather sticky, as we discovered. No matter, it's still delightful.

Q: How many egg whites total did you say?
A: A dozen and a half. (DD did most of the separating, but making this cake was her idea.)

Q: Do you need any special equipment?
A: Yes. You really should use a tube pan with a removable bottom if you plan to do this often -- the bundt pan was more proof of concept than anything. And you need a candy thermometer to bring the sugar to the correct temperature for the icing. Other than that, the only gadget needed is an electric mixer.

Q: Well?
A: Totally worth the effort. The cake is light and moist, the icing light, smooth, and not too sweet. Miles better than store-bought angel food.

Q: Was it a good learning experience?
A: DD wanted to do it herself, but she has never made anything more complicated than cookies before. Cakes are not necessarily difficult but there are more steps, and the steps are more fussy, what with the sifted dry ingredients, the beaten egg whites, the folding, etc. I don't think she minded being the sous-chef this time, once she saw what was involved. (I don't think 10-year-olds should be drizzling 240-degree sugar syrup into beaten egg whites while simultaneously running an electric mixer, regardless of her wishes.)