Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ode to a Good Dog

This is a post for my dog Simon. He's the nicest dog I have ever met. Simon has changed a lot in the last 11 months I've been gone. When I left, he was a sweet old dog, who preferred lying around to walking. He got a lot older this year.

me and my dogs, 2006
We got Simon when I was away at school. I don't even remember when it was exactly, maybe 2006? My mother was working at Power 105 radio station, and one of her jobs was the "Pooch Patrol," where callers would contact her about lost and found animals. At the time, we already had sweet Zoe, our deaf, brown Dalmatian, and so when a call came about another Dal, her ears perked up. An older man on route 550 found him, and didn't have the space to keep this rather big dog, so he told Mom the dog would go to the pound sooner rather than later. Our shelter does the best it can, but there are a lot of country dogs out here, which means a lot of unwanted animals, so the animals don't stay for long, especially the older ones. So Mom picked him up and we resolved to hold onto him until his owner inevitably called the station. Clearly no one ever called, and Simple Simon wormed his way into our hearts.

the whole family, with our exchange student Aydar, Christmas '07
I can honestly say I have never met a nicer dog. In the ~6 years we had Simon, I only heard him bark twice; both times were when I had let him back in after doing his yard business, and I hadn't given him his deserved cookie yet. Both "woofs" were gentle sneeze-like reminders that I owed him! Simon would do anything for a pet, and he liked to rest his giant head on your knee when you were sitting down. His drool marks got pretty disgusting, but his big eyes just wanted some love. If you petted him and then stopped, he would put his head back under your hand. I can't tell you how many times I got annoyed with his constant need for attention, only to get drawn back in and scratch his ears (his faaaavorite spot to be scratched).

dad always knows the itchy spots
Simon loved Zoe, too. I think the relationship started out pretty inappropriate for an adopted sibling-dog (Simon wasn't fixed when we got him), and she was forever impatient with her brother. But he was unwavering in his love for Zoe and his desire to be around her. Even in his feeble walking state, if another male dog sniffed Zoe's backside, he went CRAZY. However, if he refused to quit sniffing her head at home, she would go crazy on him! He never minded though, just went back to lie down.

he's happy to be near her, she doesn't really notice
Zoe is the alpha dog at our house and sleeps on the beds; therefore, Simon was never allowed on beds. We almost never had to reinforce this rule, though, because he never could really jump that high. I remember one time, coming home from school and pushing open the door to my room only to see the big black and white dog curled up on my pillows. No idea how he managed to get up there, and all I had to do was make eye contact--he just stood up and hopped down, wagging his tail as he walked past me.

can't resist this face
Simon never moved too easily. He always seemed like an older dog. When I'd come home at night during breaks, I'd creep up the stairs quietly. As I neared the top, the persistent thump thump thump of Simon's tail on the couch as he waited for me to kiss him good night greeted me. If we came home during the day, he would wait at the top of the stairs instead of rushing down with Zoe, turning in excited circles and doggy bows. He liked to cram himself into our wing chairs, to the chagrin of my mother and her slipcovers. And he would lazily scratch at those ears in the evenings, waiting for one of us to notice so we would do it for him. He rarely perked up his ears, but he would follow you from room to room.

I have only 3 shots of him with perky ears out of at least 200
In the end, Simon was almost unrecognizable. He lost a lot of muscle mass, and he walked in a hunched-back position that gave off an air of pain. We would say, Simon's drunk, a light way of mentioning how he listed to one side. He took medication with all his meals (with no complaints, bless him), and he had to wear a diaper at night. Simon had been struggling a lot with his back legs--they would give out on him, and if that happened on a slippery floor, he couldn't stand back up on his own. He had very little control over his bowels, and we knew when it was nearing the end for him. I think he knew, too; he was happiest when we are all just in the kitchen with him, and he cried at night when we would close him in, to contain the inevitable mess in the morning. He seemed tired all the time, and he got scared whenever he fell down the two steps to the porch on his way outside.

sleepy boy on the kitchen floor
A while ago, when we were walking, I started thinking how I'm never going to be able to have another dog. How can I get another pet knowing you always have to say goodbye in 10-15 years? Having a family member that is an animal is such a weird relationship--part mother, part sibling, part friend, and you know in most cases you have to watch them fade away, too. I would say it's too hard, except for what these animals give us. Simon taught me many things, and reminded me of some in just the last week: patience in his slow gait, blind love despite the fact that he always pees on his feet and smells like it too, consistency in making sure he always had his medication, dinner, and got to the door on time.

he loved it outside
Through it all, his sweetness was unwavering. He liked it when I sang along to my computer, and he felt most comfortable when there was a lot of noise going on. I wish I could have explained to him how much I love him, and how much we all miss his big face on our knees.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows what I am trying to say with this post. Simon, my sweet face, I'm going to miss you. Thanks for being an amazing dog.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So, What's Your Job Like?

Let's talk about what I actually do at my job for a second here. After a few days with family (i.e. people who care about me and are interested in my well-being and ask MANY questions), I realized I should probably explain more about my job so that I can prevent repeating myself many times over when I inevitably run into people I haven't seen in a while. So here's some straight talk, no sugar-coating.

I am the only person who works at my coffee shop who is not a student at OU (or who is not the owner). Apparently I am a scheduler's dream, because I have no classes, no kids, no life, and want a lot of hours. Right now I'm working about 30-40 hours a week, and will probably be working more as finals and winter break start happening.

our fancy (and shiny) espresso machine

So here's what I do:
-I run the register and make sure I'm friendly to everyone--regulars, grumpies, people on their phones, people running late, chatterboxes, awesome people, old classmates, people whose names I cannot remember. A lot of times people are super happy when you ask how they are, or double-check all those little idiosyncracies that people have about coffee drinks (room for cream? milk preference? want me to rinse your cup? we also have some sugar-free syrups...etc.). Super happy people = money in my tip jar.
-When it's not too busy (or when it's slammed and we need two sets of hands) I do espresso drinks for practice. That entails getting the right amount/combo of syrups and sauces, steaming/foaming milk, pulling espresso shots, and, my Everest, batching drinks. Tons of little things go into espresso drinks--making sure you aren't foaming the milk too much, making sure the shots aren't pulling too long or too short (aka bitter and nasty), using the right pitcher to avoid cross-contamination, stirring without spilling, delivering without spilling, not burning the crap out of yourself.
-Sometimes I do the cold drinks, which are WAY easy. It's just measuring and combining--seriously no guesswork. Cold drinks are very consistant because we make cold brew espresso that will always steep for 24 hours, and also we use a powder in our frozen drinks that makes them blend very well and taste like delicious, delicious sugar.
-When we are not busy at all, I restock. We have to make sure we are good to go on cups, sleeves, milks, teas, sugars, creamers, brewed coffee, beans, pastries, muffins, sandwiches, bottled drinks, napkins, utensils, bagels, straws, stirrers, syrups, bananas, sauces, lids, change, ice, whipped cream, iced tea, and so on. Also wiping down counters, doing dishes as we go, cleaning the espresso machine, rinsing pitchers/blenders, picking up trash and mugs, and sweeping outside.

You're on your feet all the time. It's definitely hot behind that big machine. People are mostly nice, but sometimes not. You burn yourself a lot, and you spill milk/milky water/syrup allll over the place including yourself.

so sticky, so delicious

It was really hard at first. I never knew what I was doing, and I would make stupid errors just from my ignorance of coffee lingo or the most efficient way of doing things. Like when someone orders a "double-skinny" latte, that's not a double shot, that means skim milk and sugar free syrup. And you should steam your milk first so the espresso doesn't sit around waiting for too long and lose it's crema top. And you should use gloves instead of tongs when you're restocking the scones because they break a lot. And if you are imputing a discount, the machine will take it off of whatever you just put in, not the total order (so if you added an extra shot, that's $0.60, but if you put in a $1 discount, it will just make the extra shot $0, and not take off the other $0.40). However, I've gotten a LOT better. I rarely get corrected anymore on the hot bar, and when I do, usually I have an explanation for why I'm doing what I'm doing (using the same spoon to stir two separate drinks, but both drinks are the same).

Already I have favorite things to do at work (restocking the cup sleeves, making drinks with whipped cream, brushing spilled grounds into the trash, cleaning the steam wands) and least favorites (washing airpots, refilling syrups, restocking pastries, using the hot water thingy on the espresso machine because it sputters and is about 180 degrees). Despite aching feet and early hours, it's a pretty fun job. There are people to talk to, we listen to (mostly) good music, and it's kind of fun. People love coffee, so when you hand them coffee, usually they are very happy, and then they like you because you are providing that joy! The job is not without its pet peeves, and it can be frustrating at times, especially when there is a huge line and everyone seems to be ordering the same type of drink, creating bottlenecks. Overall, I'm very glad I have this job, and I'm learning a lot. One of the best parts, especially after working in the non-profit sector, is that nothing from this job comes home with me, except usually a delicious coffee drink!

pumpkin caramel pecan...starbucks ain't got nothing on me
Like I said, stop in and see me sometime, and don't be afraid to ask for recommendations. I've tasted a LOT of things, and I know what is good and what is less good. Also, I am working on making pretty designs in the foam, but mostly I just fill up the cup too much and then, you know, disaster. So don't expect miracles, people.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Thanksgiving Post; Obviously, it's Late

I wrote a Thanksgiving post the day before Thanksgiving. Wednesday night, after nearly all the family had gone to bed, I was sitting in the kitchen in the semi-dark with sweet Simon. He was nervous, as my parents were staying elsewhere. Both of the dogs have this complex that if they are in a strange place, even if they are surrounded by people they know, they assume they will be abandoned. For example, as I was taking Zoe on a walk, I stopped by the car to find a hat and Zoe just hopped right up into the driver's seat, like, "if you are getting in this car to leave, you better bet I'm getting in first, bucko."

So anyway, I'm in the darkness with Simon, who keeps groaning and looking at me every time I move more than an inch. I just want him to go to sleep, since I got up at 6am and would also prefer to be sleeping at that moment. My phone is dead from tiny cousins trouncing my high scores at Angry Birds, but there is a yellow notepad next to me. And so I wrote this blog post on paper first. And then I couldn't upload it because my phone was picking up Canadian cell towers and I didn't have easy access to my computer. But it was a good post, and I'm well overdue for an update, so here you go. Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

"Thanksgiving Blog Post" (as it says on the top of my notes)

So apparently Thanksgiving is early this year. It's still October, right? Somehow the holidays always sneak up on us, despite the fact that Wal-Mart had Christmas trees in September.

this was on my mother's birthday, September 24
Regardless, the holidays season is here, and we are about to chow down on a lot of food. I'm very excited. I had three Thanksgivings last year in France (well, one was in England), and yet none of them felt quite right. I needed three Thanksgivings worth of food to fill the loneliness of a family holiday in a foreign country. I am an emotional eater. So this year it's a big, old family style Turkey Day. We are all up on Kelleys Island at my aunt's house, and there are 16 of us in total--4 generations, 4 kids, and 4 dogs, which is not math that adds up to 16, but whatever. My family is very spaced out age-wise, and I am the 5th-youngest in attendance this year; the next youngest is 7. Also everyone else who is older than me has kids, so I am like the lost generation at this year's Thanksgiving. I'm spending lots of QT with a variety of people, specifically ones with four legs.

Juuuuussssst kidding. It's really, actually, sincerely quite lovely. Kelleys is one of my favorite places, and it's fun hanging out with the next generation of my family, especially when they randomly declare, "you're pretty."

Of course, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. First and foremost, my health and the health of my loved ones. (And I would like to make a special addendum to the original written post, that I am thankful for those sainted people who take care of our family members as they lose their health, especially the people who do so during the holidays.) I am thankful that I am employed, and that my parents have been there for me in my quarter-life crisis transition. I am thankful to all the ears who have listened to me prattle on about my life for the past year-ish, and for those who have offered me support and advice. I am thankful to everyone who has made me feel good, welcome, and loved when I moved back to Athens, and my friendships here, both old and new. I'm thankful for the ability to feel secure enough in myself to keep searching for what will make me happy. I am thankful that I haven't made any irreversible screw ups. And finally, I am thankful for the friends I love--that I have so many of them, despite their far-flung-ed-ness, that they are they kind of people that I can call family, that they have all impacted my life and made me into the best version of myself (so far!), and, beyond all of that, that they love me back.

I hope you can all surround your self in love today: family, whether it is the kind you are born with, the kind you created, or the kind you chose, and, of course, FOOD.

* * *

There is one demographic that I didn't thank in my hand-written blog post, and I would like to say it now: I am so very thankful for everyone who has ever read this blog. I love that you read it, and I am so humbled and happy every time anyone tells me they have read it!

Also, here are a few photos from the weekend:

the weekend was exhausting for the dogs, who did not nap at ALL, so this is what happens when our little dog gets sleepy

a Thanksgiving afternoon trip to the fishing dock

the Shirley Irene, who did an admirable job on those waves

the western arm of Kelleys Island, as seen from above on my Thanksgiving plane ride

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Many Hats

Well, like I said, things are already getting interesting at my job. Today the health inspector came in, and since we serve food that is not wrapped--bagels, scones, and muffins!--we need to cover our heads. As I was told, we can wear "hats, hairnets, or scarves" to cover the "top and sides" of our hair. I think the point is really, "when your dang long hair inevitably falls out, we don't want it in our stuff, 'kay, thanks, bye." 

And so I searched through my supply of headwear to find some suitable options, since this is pretty much an everyday thing now. I figured out one or two a million options that are perfect hilarious. And I documented them for your enjoyment.

(Also, my blog had a record number of hits in the past 24 hours! 200+! Whaaat.)

You're about to see so many pictures of my face.

1. My first attempt is the classic bandanna tie. Favored by housewives for many years, it's benefits come from it's ease and ability to hide larger-than-normal ears. Works best with a messy updo, aka the only kind I know how to do, really. Cons include catching your hair in the knot, and its tendency to slide off the back of your head at the worst moments. Also, you can't go from wearing said style to NOT wearing it without acquiring terrible bandanna-hair.

2. The close cousin of the classic bandanna tie is next; I call it the Rosie, after the ever-popular feminist and overdone icon, Rosie the Riveter. Ironically (or maybe not-so), this makes me feel like I "can do" this hairstyle with minimum effort and minimum weirdness. People might mistake me for a roller derby contestant, but I'm mostly okay with that. Again, the cons are that I will definitely end up with a lot of short bits of hair from ripping this off after my shift, and it's more than a bit costume-y.

3. I like to call this style the MK&A, which my HS friends should surely be able to recognize. I'm not-so-subtly referring to our "fake" obsession with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. This look alludes to their 1999 straight-to-VHS hit, Passport to Paris. We all rocked the head scarf style that year, and I feel like I'm still 12 most of the time in Athens, so it seems to be an apt choice. I chose the sweet pink bandanna for this one, because pastels were SO in that year. Also, die-hard fans should be able to recognize my attempt at MK's duck smile in the photo on the left. (But Ashley will forever be taller, prettier, blonder, and sluttier.)

4. Our next selection is the most obvious choice: the baseball cap. I have never been a big fan of baseball caps (obviously except the one I'm rocking here, and also in my FB propic, from my favorite bar). I think you can tell how I feel in the larger photo, although I keep laughing when I look at it. If I wear a cap to work, people would have a better day because they would be like, why is this girl so awkward? It's just a cap! In the series of photos, I attempted to make this cap better by adding a ponytail, and practicing asking, "Fries with that?" Oh, I mean, "Do you want room for cream?"

5. Since we are moving into winter, I decided to throw my winter hats into the mix. This fabulous toboggan comes from my summer camp, and while I am not sure it's appropriate to wear to work, I do think it's the perfect style to wear at a coffee house. Because coffee = chilly weather = skiing = cold you follow? Mostly I think my head looks huge. Also the CL is off-center.

6. While we are on the subject of winter hats, I put this guy on. It's never been my favorite hat, although it is warm as sh*t. Like, too hot. The issue comes from the weird fold, which makes me look like underneath I have a Neanderthal brow ridge. Also, sometimes I can't really see, when I wear it. All in all, this is not my favorite hat, still. Man, this is riveting stuff.

7. Next up we have a hat purchased for me by my father when he learned that I had started running in college. The rationale was that I needed a warm, reflective hat for outdoor winter running. Which is exactly what this is. I wore it mostly when I was living in Queens and couldn't afford to replace my earbuds so I bought really cheap ones from Duane Reade that wouldn't stay in my ears. This hat kept them in, baby! But I think we can see the obvious problem with wearing this hat to work. Problems, I mean. Namely, where is his/her hair?

8. Before we get back to the bandannas (oh yeah), I have to revisit the baseball cap. When I showed my attempt at sporting a baseball cap to my mom, she suggested I try it backwards. I am a diplomat in my heart, so I did. I felt like I was in 1997. It compelled me to make the face on the left in complete seriousness. (Note, we went to this conference in Richmond, VA, in 1997, there was this kid who wore a perfectly curled baseball cap, backwards, and he would smooth it over his long-ish hair when donning it. BAM--11-year-old Natalie was absolutely floored. Head over heels in love.)

9. I promised you we would revisit the bandanna, and also we are going to revisit my mother's (excellent) suggestions. She made me this "hat" out of a bandanna. I think it makes me look like a sushi chef, especially with the added effect of the color of this scarf (it's a map of NYC!). The idea is to have something that is easy to take on and off. As you can see by my faces, I'm just not really sure this look is working for me. Maybe if I were filleting fish... 

10. Around this time my self-indulgent fashion shoot was interrupted by a big dalmatian who wanted some attention and then to pee on my slipper. It's fun having a forgetful, mostly blind, mostly deaf, large dog around who can't really control his bladder. Good thing he's cute. And funny--he has hip problems so when he walks, he looks like he's drunk.

11. So what my dog Simon was actually trying to tell me was that I was ridiculous. So I decided to model this visor I took from my friend's boyfriend. I think it's super hipster and the most hilarious thing in the world. My fashion-foward NY roommate Celeste absolutely hates this visor and tried to throw it out several times. A visor is, unfortunately, not an option at the coffee shop because there is nothing on top of the head. This is just for funsies. Also I got a beer, because why not.

12. Now, I'm not really sure if this type of headband is permissible or not--it seems like it would be a grey area. However, I decided I should try everything, which is why you are currently reading this huge list. My main issue with these headbands is that I can't figure out if the ear goes under it or over it. You can see in the photos that I tried both ways--one makes me look like I'm sporting some type of earwarmer; the other makes me look like I have sticky-out ears. The obvious solution is to wear my hair down, which, again, is a grey area. These dang headbands! 

13. You know, I pretty much forgot about my extensive beret collection! Obviously we have many, after 10+ years of French classes, a 9-month working vacation in Paris, and my mother's aesthetics. In these photos I tried to emulate the French, and I think I nailed it in the black beret with the side braid. Doesn't that just scream sexy-but-snotty Parisienne? It's quickly becoming my favorite photo of myself, maybe ever...anyway, both are solid choices, maybe a little overdone, but then again, I'm usually a little overdone. Wait, what?

14. This is my go-to hat for winter, actually. I also have a felt cloche, but the brim is a little low for everyday stuff. So this is it, my cashmere beret. Initially I was reluctant to consider this one, because it is cashmere, and I tend to get coffee everywhere at work. No, really. However, it's my favorite neutral color, it's soft and comfy, and I look so good with this side braid that I started hating on myself in the pic on the right! Also, I think it's the law to have someone wearing a slouchy hat at a coffee house, isn't it? Clichés for everyone!

15. In the end, this is probably the style I will be rocking most often. Even though I kind of feel like a lollipop, and also that my chin is weirdly angular. And my eyes are not symmetrical. I think I've officially looked at too many photos of myself tonight. Hopefully you don't feel the same...yikes.

That was a lot of work. I hope I'm prepared for tomorrow. It's like the hat world is my oyster...or whatever. Feel free to vote for your favorites and/or make fun of me and my awesome facials in the comments or on the facebook. And also, COME VISIT ME AT WORK. Unless it's busy. Then buzz off or put yo' money in the tip jar. PEACE.

Monday, November 12, 2012

She's Employed!

I started this post like 6 times this past week, but it always ended up being the most boring thing I have ever written. So...if at first you don't succeed...

So here is what happened: during my temporary stint at the Athens Historical Society, I had the good fortune of getting happy hour with two old friends, Katie and Charlie. By some magical stroke of luck, Charlie was looking for someone to fill his old position at his mother's coffee shop, and bing bang boom, I was hired! You can find me at Court Street Coffee, where I'm making drinks, stocking scones, spilling milk, and wiping counters like a pro.

I can do fancy stuff!!
While this job really has absolutely zero to do with my field of study/hopes and dreams/life goals, I think it's going to be a great "transition" occupation. I'm getting management experience, which is always a plus, no matter what the scenario. It's pretty easy, there's always something to do, and I get to talk to a lot of people, which, obviously, I enjoy. Finally, I am learning a very handy trade skill, and if I were to move to a large city at some point in the future without any job prospects, making coffee is a good fall-back position. People love them some damn coffee.

So that's what is happening. You should come visit me and I will make you a delicious latte, or recommend a fancy loose-leaf tea, or leave just the right amount of room for cream in your coffee.

Also, there will probably be some hilarious hi-jinx with this job. Something like me making huge mistakes, probably some crazy customers, etc. This blog might actually get interesting again! YAY.

Two other fun things that have happened lately:

1. I had to go to Columbus for training, and that was really cool. I saw how Crimson Cup gets the beans and roasts them, and I learned how to make all the drinks and stuff. During my lunch break I went to Whole Foods, and then randomly ran into La Chatelaine, which is a French/Belgian bakery in Arlington (and other places) and got to have a croque monsieur, onion soup, and coffee. I also bought a baguette and two croissants because I could. It mad me so sad and also sooo happy!

mon déjeuner fabuleux
Also on the way home I almost ran out of gas on 270 and wanted to kill myself. Luckily I got to 33 and exited as soon as I could. Then this train of thought happened:

Hmm just getting gas then getting HOME. I don't need anything but my wallet, so I'll just drop all my keys and stuff in my purse. Oh, but I better lock the door because I have all these groceries and stuff for the shop. *slam*

Yep, locked my keys in my car just outside Columbus. After 7 fruitless calls home, a mall cop unlocked my door with those flat metal thingys and I was on my way. But seriously, felt like a HUGE moron for about 20 minutes. Sad girl in the gas station, that's me.

always a fun sight in rush-hour traffic
2. This is more fun. I went out to my dear friend Chelsea's property a few nights ago for a stump burning bonfire. She and her dad are clearing trees to make an awesome campsite/music venue, but it's in the very early stages. Anyway, it was a clear night and I saw two shooting stars! That's a big deal for me, because I have only seen 3 now. I have little patience for staring up at the sky. One of them was super bright and it curved. Crazy. Also, the fire was lovely and big.

sparks flying