50 First Dates?

I walked in from the biting cold of that Thursday night, and walked down the stairs to the lounge. Thankfully, the stairway was well lit; I was wearing heels and didn’t want to fall on my head because I missed a stair by walking down into a black hole. I went down to where I was supposed to check in only to discover that no one was ready to start the check-in process yet.

“Here I was thinking I was going to be late”, I thought to myself. Really, I had walked in right at the time registration was going to begin.

As I waited around for the event to start, I looked around the small check-in area. The walls are what caught my attention. There was a wallpaper on them with a quote that read “Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” This quote was written all over one of the walls in silver and deep purple.

There were a good 20 of us waiting around to register and check our coats. There was a great display of nervous behavior; shuffling of feet and looking either around without making real eye contact, or the intent studying of one’s shoes.

Finally, after a good 10 minutes of waiting that felt more like 20, we were allowed to check in. I got into the line, checked in, and checked my coat. I casually walked through the doorway that led into the lounge, which was adorned by a purple curtain and valance with gold fringe.

The lounge had gold and purple couches, and there was one alcove to the right with two couches on it with accent pillows. The lighting was low, and there was a raised area to the left with a large couch and a runway that was lit with tea candle lights. It was well-lit for a night that is conducive to romance and dating. This was, after all, a speed dating event.

I exchanged my little card given me at registration for libations. The bar maids were wearing corsets and drawers, and all I could think was that it was too cold for that. Never mind the fact that I had come in a mini dress.

I tipped her, talked to some of the girls at the bar, and recommended my drink to them. Several women had ordered the same drink. We were all instantly giggly and very friendly with one another. A guy had come up to talk to us, which was kind of cool. I like when a guy will just walk up and talk to you… mostly because I’m hopelessly shy and awkward under any circumstances given.

I ended up being seated at a love seat, and shared it with another young woman that I happened to meet at the bar. Two chairs were placed in front of us, and we waited a little bit more. I saw the guys being lined up, and I finally started to feel some nervousness. Up to the event and even when I got there, I wasn’t at all nervous. Once the guys were being guided to their first date, I started thinking “Oh crap…”

The rundown: 50 men, 3 minutes/man, 1 cocktail and a pen & paper to write down all the names of the men I was meeting. The only difference between me and the movie is that I wasn’t dating the same man 50 times.

Let the fun begin.

I’d be lying if I told you I remembered every single guy that I met, but I remembered the 1st one, the 2nd to last one, and a few of them in between.

The very 1st guy was a military man. He talked too much, but I think it was his nerves talking. I dared not interrupt his anxious ranting, but when I did have a question, I spoke. Soon enough, 3 minutes was up. We shook hands, and I was on to the next man. One man complimented my hair, and declared it the most unique style he has seen all night.

I told two guys to their face that I thought they were cute, had to pee somewhere around guy 10, but put on a brave face until we were given a break. One man asked for my phone number but didn’t give me his name (which was shady in retrospect), and one guy came off as a creeper. A couple of them made me laugh even without the buzz from the alcohol.

There was also the guy that was studying to be a sex therapist. Admittedly, that choice in vocation piqued my interest even though I wouldn’t consider him to be much in the looks department.

There were the guys that told me they were tired, nervous, had never done this before, had done this a few times before… and the ones that had unique names that were able to tell me the meaning of their names. The second to last guy was from either Portugal or Lithuania, and had such a name. He was attractive, and had a dreamy voice and accent. We shook hands when he went to move on, and we didn’t want to let go of each other’s hand.

It was this guy that I ended up making a match with. I’m sorry to say that, out of the 50 men I met that night, it was the only match that I made. However, I don’t think that the evening was a waste. It was something fun that I can say I did, it was my first time in a lounge, and I was completely comfortable, which was a miracle. I even found myself joking with most of them, asking if they had bought their resume along. They even played along with me.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Even though it wasn’t directly on Valentine’s Day, I’m totally counting it as what I did. Although I only made one match, the experience was positive overall. I think the drink helped. I think it also helped that the creepers won’t get my information if I don’t check them off as guys I liked.

Cooking Fails

Well, let’s start the year with some cooking fails, shall we?

I know when I usually talk about the things that I cook, I’m usually talking about something delicious that I’ve made in the past, or I’m referring to a particularly delicious  meal. However, let’s just go on with some things that I’ve flubbed up, since that seems to be the theme of my week in cooking. It’s sad, but true. Even the best cooks mess it up sometimes.

Let’s start with the yogurt made with plant-based milk.

I have a yogurt maker that I haven’t used for a while, and I’ve been long toying with the idea of making a yogurt with coconut milk. The idea came to me at Trader Joe’s one day quite some time ago when I saw the cans of coconut milk on display. Well, when I paid a visit to Mom’s Organic Market in Bryn Mawr, I saw that they had yogurt starter culture, which I was unable to find at the natural/organic market closer to my house. I was very excited to see this! After having a morning that was particularly bad, I felt that a food experiment was in order. I grabbed some starter culture, and the requisite amount of milk.

I didn’t attempt to make the yogurt until Tuesday or Wednesday, however. I heated up the milk, waited until it cooled to the right temperature, then put in the starter culture. After I had felt that it adequately dissolved, it was distributed into the glass jars and placed in the yogurt maker overnight.

When I woke up in the morning and checked the yogurt maker, what I discovered was a far cry from the yogurt I expected. What greeted me looked more like the inside of a snow globe. “Maybe it needs more time”, I thought to myself. I set 6 more hours on the yogurt maker, and went to work. I came home, and it still didn’t turn out. I ended up wasting 5 c. of coconut milk and a package of starter culture. I think I know what happened and how to fix it next time, but it was still most disappointing.

Let’s also make mention of the unenjoyable grilled cheese from last night, and the hot chocolate that made me choke this morning. The only bit of encouragement I got was that my whipped cream game has improved.  I made whipped cream for the hot chocolate, and it was much sweeter and more firm compared to the last time I made it. Powdered sugar is much better for whipped cream than the granulated. Just a suggestion.

Although I had a couple of fails, I’m in no way fazed by this. I think my first mistake was trying to do at least 2 of these things while I was tired and incapable of thinking clearly. I think just not having worked with these things was also part of the problem. Whatever the reason, here’s hoping that this will not mean that I’ve lost my touch in any way, and will define my forays in the kitchen for the remainder of the year.

Happy New Year to me.

Faith in Humanity

There are many reasons not to have faith in people these days. Turn on the news (or watch your Facebook feed for long enough), or go to your regular job! We are bombarded with reasons to lose faith in people… to lose faith in the ability and willingness of people to be kind and to do something selfless for a change.

Then you have those days where one act changes how you feel about people altogether. This morning was one such day.

I was taking my daily run to my bus stop (the one I take when I leave the house much later than I should), and got there only a few minutes before the bus was due to pass through. I stood there with sweat down my back, trying to catch my breath. Meanwhile, an older woman was pulling out of the gas station where my bus stop is. I moved out of the way, only to see her roll down her window, and motion for me to come over.

Thinking that maybe she needed directions, I cautiously walked over with that in mind.

What actually ended up happening surprised me.

Rather than ask for directions (as I assumed she was going to), not only did she tell me where she was going, she asked if I would like a ride!

What surprised me even more was that I said yes and got into the car of a total stranger! For some reason, this didn’t seem strange at all until I thought about it. It felt like she was someone that I knew or had always known. The rational part of me thought this was completely crazy… but it felt right to the heart.

What transpired was a healthy conversation about traveling abroad! Though she was much older, she seemed like the kind of older woman that had spunk. I appreciate things like that.

Finally, I arrived at my destination, and I told her my name. She said that her name was Pat. I was actually sad to go; something about me wanted to know more about this woman! She was definitely interesting, but above all, she was kind. It must’ve really touched her heart to see me out in the cold. Being touched like that is something I can relate to.

So this is for Mrs. Pat, and for people that think kindness and connection is a thing of the past. I’m here to argue, especially after today, that it most definitely is not.

The One Man Show For a Mulit-Part Stew

Here’s a story, a grudge match for the ages that went down in cooking school. This is a stew that I had been yearning to make since I first heard of it in French class. When I had the opportunity in my hands-on class to make it, I jumped at it.

The contender: Rachel, a 20-year-old cooking student (at the time).

The reigning champion: Pot-au-feu.

Now for those of you that have never made pot-au-feu, it has MANY parts! There is a roast chicken (or turkey) involved, horseradish root that is cut down, then there are a million different vegetables that are cooked to go into it, AND the actual broth itself.

The class had an odd number of students, so I took on this challenge myself. I desired to make it, so I had at it.

While people were going so smoothly though the different phases of their soups, I was wondering the whole time what I had gotten myself into. It was taking forever for the bird to be done, I had to start on the other vegetables, and I had never cut horseradish root before! It felt like I was drowning in broth and diced vegetables, and the whole time, I was wondering what could be wrong with me. Yet, I still persisted. I wanted to make this.

Meanwhile, people were getting to the presentation portion, and I barely had everything cooked. I was nowhere near ready to plate a thing! My chef looked over, and I felt the pain in my chest. This chef was one of my hardest. “What are you doing? Tell somebody if you need help!” He immediately sent one of the other students to help me finish and plate everything.

I walked sheepishly into the presentation room with someone else carrying my platter. It didn’t look half bad, actually. Everything was laid out on a big platter with the broth in the middle. The breast of the chicken had been sliced, and the rest of the parts were part of the presentation as well. Even though I had worked my butt off, I did a walk of shame into that room because I was the last one in there. I wanted so hard for it to be done right… yet, I felt like I had failed.

Then, the most remarkable words snapped me out of my self-pity.

My chef, who was known to be tough, said in front of the class: “I have to commend Rachel. She picked the hardest of the soups to do, and did it all by herself.” He even made the class clap for me. I don’t remember whether he clapped or not, but he sure did nod his head my way.

I walked a little taller that day, knowing that I had taken on a big challenge and conquered it. Moreover, someone whose opinion I respected at that time, took note of my tenacious move. It didn’t feel that way at the time, but I’ve always been a sucker for a challenge.

After all that, I don’t remember what it tasted like! I can tell you this, though; working for it and being recognized for that effort made it taste like victory.

I Am Grateful

There is something for which I am very grateful when I started thinking about it.

It might seem like something small and perhaps a silly thing to be grateful for… but I think this particular object deserves a shout out. Ladies, I think you especially will be able to relate to this.

I am grateful….

for bobby pins.

Really, I am!

Who knows from whence the bobby pin came? I wonder what someone was thinking that made them invent such a wondrous little tool! Did the person see it before they actually invented it? Was it named after someone named “Bobby”? I also never knew if there was a technical name for bobby pins, or if this is what they will forever be named. I guess I got to thinking about all of this as I was using my bobby pins this evening.

They are good for tons of different things besides hair, but I’m specifically grateful for them when used for their intended purpose.

Even before I stopped using chemicals in my hair, I used bobby pins. I probably may not have used them as much as I did after going natural; however, since I’m more “hands on” with my hair these days, I’ve found them to be so very useful and nifty!

When you want your hair out of your face, when you want your hair to do something specific and it’s just too darn short, or when you want to put together the most ornate of styles, bobby pins come to the rescue every time! I remember just how many bobby pins were in my hair when I went to prom; my stylist used a TON of them! It was worth it though; my hair looked great! Also, the one time I got a false ponytail put in at the hair salon, bobby pins were there once again to hold the hair in its place. It was a long “ribbon” of hair that was continuously wrapped around my own small ponytail, and it was held in place with bobby pins.

In both cases when I took my hair down, a serious handful of bobby pins came out of my hair. I doubt either style would’ve held without them.

So this is a shout out to bobby pins! They’ve averted and diverted hair crisis after hair crisis, kept hair (and bangs that are at that awkward length) out of our faces, and have held together elegant and ornate hair styles. I can assure you that if you look at any good or even stunning hair style, the foundation of how it holds up starts or ends with the bobby pin.

Like I said earlier, I don’t know who it was that thought of the bobby pin. I’m sure it was a smaller version of an already existing hair tool that did the same thing; however, this is smaller, easier to handle, and portable! Best of all, if you put a whole bunch in your hair, they don’t hurt (not unless you put them in the wrong way).

They’re even great for creating curls! They’ll hold rollers in (which is how I used them for years), but a type of curl has been created if you lack rollers, but have bobby pins: that would be the pin curl. This is exactly what I did to my hair tonight.

I used to have rollers, but when I cut all my hair off 4 years ago, I thought I didn’t need them anymore… so I got rid of them. Granted, I didn’t need them at the time; no roller is small enough when your hair is caesar cut length. Fast forward to now, here I am with ample hair, rolled into curls held with bobby pins as I type this post.

I wonder what my hair will be like tomorrow, but for now, I will simply be grateful. Thank God for putting it in someone’s mind to invent the bobby pin.

Any woman that has ever used one is forever in your debt.