10.04.2015

Icing on the Cake


Life has a way of ensuring that our plates are always full. I tend to do my best work when all four cylinders are running and it seems that there is never a dull a moment. The past week and a bit I have been in the throes of car research. Such an exercise should be exciting and fun but for me, the experience was anything but. Firstly, I don't part easily with money. Secondly, deciding which cars wet your whistle is a whole other can of worms. What follows is research, pricing, questions, answers, reviews, costs, insurance, payments and negotiating, which is inevitably followed by more negotiating. I did experience one satisfying high. There is something very empowering about standing up and walking out of a dealership when the desired outcome is not achieved. 

I spent 36 hours biting my finger nails awaiting a call and embarking upon yet more due diligence. I told Matthew, if I knew "then" what I know now, I would not have allowed myself any anxiety in the search. Once we reached a number, what followed was quite painless. I even learned my credit score for the first time in my life. The activities associated with buying a car has been a real eye opening experience. The negotiation component was downright fun. I will be very sad to part with my 16 year old car. A new purchase my junior year of high school that was the result of a bet with my father whose mantra goes "if you perform for me, I will perform for you". My task was to pursue three straight semesters of a 3.0 GPA or above and a car would be in my future. My hoopty wagon has seen me through many adventures as well as halcyon road trips. All in all, it has been a terrific car. I hope she makes her next owner as happy and safe as she did me. 

The past eight months of what my brother coins "funemployment" have - in the grand scheme of things - been wunderbar. Sure, I have experienced numerous pangs of stress and moments of high anxiety when the job market was not what I desired but this was to be expected. On my first day taking a break from the corporate world, I prepared a list of what I aimed to achieve during my time off. Idle time makes for devil's play and I am most successful with a routine. Moreover, I saw this time as an opportunity to organize, get stuff done and calibrate my life. Scary yes but it was my reality.

Should you find yourself "funemployed", worry not. Take a deep breath and dive head in. Prepare a plan of attack and take this time to learn, engage and be productive. Polish your resume (more than one if need be), prepare a generic cover letter that can be tweaked and visit the vast expanse of online job platforms to look for opportunities. If something seems interesting, apply. If something looks out of your comfort zone, apply. Interviewing is terrific practice and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by going. Take a look at your finances and establish a realistic budget. Eliminate the unnecessary expenses (manicures, morning lattes, etc.) Exercise, eat well and take care of yourself. Carpe diem. Let everyone and their brother know that you are looking and most importantly, network, network, network. Be relentless in this undertaking! Relationship management is king. Pursue different avenues. I had one channel for the corporate world and another for building my blog brand. This particular avenue opened up a myriad of creative opportunities that I would not have had the chance to explore.

My first undertaking was to get my blog back up and running. You will recall that I took an eight month writing hiatus with my past job. What with the hours, travel and commute, it was challenging finding the time. During my break, I missed writing opportunities and I know I lost followers. I endeavored to write as much as I possibly could, not only to build my brand but to have a writing portfolio on hand. While Beets and Bratwurst focuses on food, I set out to get busy again in the kitchen. I have to say, we have eaten like kings the past eight months. On any given day, I have visited one, two and sometimes three grocery stores as well as farmers markets. I introduced myself to new ways of preparing food as well as formerly foreign ingredients. We bought a spiralizer and I committed myself to incorporating more vegetarian fare into our diets. We have eaten more blended soups, braised vegetables and the likes. 

A pair of nights a week I prepared lovely roasts and other dishes that require long afternoons in the kitchen monitoring an oven. It has been glorious. Stay at home Mom minus the children. All in good time. I learned how to make pho, a whole host of new salad dressings and I became quite besotted with turnips as well as fennel. In addition to cooking, I committed myself to further exploring the Charlotte scene. Bakeries, coffee shops, breweries, cafes, restaurants and watering holes. The Queen City has something to offer for every palette. We did happy hours quite regularly and quickly became enamored of a local spot that serves dollar oysters. We went on picnics, practiced yoga in the park, attended a 311 concert and even met Lisa Loeb. We spent evenings at the movies where dinner was a massive bucket of popcorn. We played golf, acquainted ourselves with the beers of OMB and visited every Vietnamese restaurant in town. We went to a traditional Opern Ball and I was in a fashion show for the Observer that resulted in a spread within the local paper.

I ensured that my large network knew that I was looking and accepted every lunch, dinner, drinks and event invitation that came my way. I had business cards made and gave them out at every opportunity. I recommend the company Moo. Each and every morning, I spent significant time looking for and applying to jobs. Some days I stayed in my pajamas glued to the computer perusing opportunities. I took a bevy of computer classes at the Apple store. I know how to use my computer and iPhone but why not learn the added features of these great tools. My brother introduced me to a bevy of new social media platforms in which I entrenched myself and my blog. I acquainted myself with a host of new prolific news sources. Every day I spent a pair of hours educating myself about everything and then some. Knowledge is power. I bought a book about wine tasting and food chemistry. I am still tackling both but the former has been very instrumental in helping develop my pallet. I bought a Kindle and tore through books at mach speed  I organized closets, desk drawers and donated multiple bags to Good Will. As per social media, it seems that I lived at Luna's Living Kitchen.

I traveled a great deal. My first trip was to Boca Raton in February where I spent a week with my folks and one of our best family friends. We went to Greenville for a weekend. In April, I returned to Florida again to cook with my mother and hit the beach with my father. I realize at this age, how fortunate I am to have this time with my folks. I have become a master house cleaner and can mop floors like a boss. Baseboards are still foreign policy to me but I pretty much became an expert in everything else. It is amazing what tricks and tips one can find online. In April, I took myself off to New York City for a week. I walked, ate like a king and visited with friends every day. It is on this adventure that I took my inaugural trip to Brooklyn and spent an intimate evening with dear friends in Williamsburg. My posse introduced me to Marlow and Sons for champagne as well as Diner, where I enjoyed one of the best medium rare cheeseburgers of my life. I walked 11 miles through Central Park on a brisk Saturday morning with my best friend. On that same evening, I returned to Brooklyn, this time Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to meet a bosom pal's daughter and explore the culinary scene there. Matthew and I spent May Day in Charleston, eating our way across the city as we usually do. For me, highlights included Xiao Bao BiscuitMinero, a sublime dinner at the bar of FIG where we made friends with two folks visiting from the UK and finally, Leon's Oyster Shop, which was by far one of the most ethereal dining experiences I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. 

At the end of May, Matthew and I toasted the start of summer with five days in Pawley's Island. We spent ample time on the beach, visited all our favorite watering holes, binged on RedBox films, grilled steaks that were enjoyed alongside watermelon and prepared my favorite, a low country boil. At the end of May, I returned to NYC to join my folks as well as my Aunt and Uncle from South Africa. I served as tour guide for seven glorious days. We walked bridges, explored Mulberry Street in Little Italy as well as combed the streets of China Town. I took them on lazy walks through the East as well as West Villages. We checked out art galleries in Chelsea, perused Times Square at night and even hit up Broadway one evening. I had the pleasure of sharing in my Dad's birthday. My Mom and I kicked off the day with bagels, lox and cream cheese from Murray's Bagels and that evening we had an intimate meal on lower Lafayette, just the three of us. That very same weekend, we hosted a dinner party and invited three of my best friends and their mates. My father and I walked to the West Village to meet the butcher and my Mom and I spent half of the day going to different grocers. Together we prepared a magnificent meal that was enjoyed al fresco with a view of the Empire State Building.

Since 1981, my family has vacationed on Hilton Head Island for two weeks each June. This past June, I had the free time to join my folks. We spent long days on the beach followed by afternoons on bikes. Every morning, my father busied himself with preparing his famous sandwiches (think meat, cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, fig jam on a toasted, nutty, seed covered rolls), snacks and drinks. Every day, my mother and I visited the grocer together to pluck goods for that evening's dinner. We cooked and grilled and it was a glorious week indeed. Fourth of July weekend was again spent in Pawley's but this time with Matthew's wonderful family. We had a grand time at the beach and by the pool as well as preparing big dinners together in the evening. One of my dearest friends from college was also down there and we had the pleasure of participating in the Pawleys Island Fourth of July parade with them. One weekend, we traveled to Jefferson, NC to seek reprieve from the heat. We explored the area, sat on the porch enjoying the sunset and roasted one of the best chickens we have ever made for dinner that night.

In September, Matthew joined me in New York City. We savored six glorious days of eating, walking and drinking. In this time, we walked 80 miles, saw three famous chefs, learned about Uzbekistan from an Uber driver and experienced the excitement surrounding the U.S. Open. It was a whimsical, romantic trip for us both. We had a dinner party with my sister and her husband as well as two of my best friends and their mates.  I served a bunch of gooey French cheeses with bread from a famous bakery in the West Village and made gourmet chili with a bar of toppings (radishes, green onions, sautéed greens, salty cod rice with Chinese sausage, white rice, Greek yoghurt, cheeses and hot sauces.) We sat out beneath the stars and it was glorious. In addition to exercising my frequent flier mileage and siphoning the last miles in my car, I committed to getting back in shape. I did a 38 day yoga challenge, which was difficult but very rewarding. I made a new group of friends through the community at my yoga studio and was thrilled to become part of this consortium. I also started running again. I have forgotten how much I enjoy banging out a quick three miles. The best part about running is that it's free.

All in all, the past eight months have flown by in a whirlwind. Where does the time go? I made it my business to ensure that I kept inordinately busy, efficiently managed my time and tried to enjoy life. I caught up with friends, met their babies and spent a lot of time in the kitchen and eating. Most importantly, I have taken this time to learn more about myself. Introspection at its finest and I like what I have discovered. My partner-in-crime has been a true partner in more ways than I can find words for. I am pleased to report that my retreat tactic at the car dealership was very fruitful. I signed paperwork on a new whip yesterday and I pick up the new ride tomorrow. Today, October 4, I celebrate my 36th birthday. Tomorrow begins the next adventure. I am starting a new job with a new firm and I am very excited. I am thrilled about what this upcoming year holds as I write the next chapter of my life.











































































5 comments:

  1. So very proud to call you a friend! Loved reading this! Mazel Tov on your new job! I hope Austin Texas will be a destination in your upcoming year!!

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  2. So very proud to call you a friend! Loved reading this! Mazel Tov on your new job! I hope Austin Texas will be a destination in your upcoming year!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spectacular thanks! Austin, here we come xoxo

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