Come on, don’t hit the back button. I promise that’s the only Vanilla Ice pun that’s going to happen today…probably.
I apologize to all of my readers for the incredibly long absence, but by the time winter went away, I got a job and started working 6 days a week in a hot-ass kitchen, even by kitchen standards. Summer is the super-duper busy season for us, so I’ve been in ‘working my ass off’ mode since Memorial Day. I’ve been in the “mulling it over in my head stage” of resuming the Passion for a month or two now, and with the added motivation of my recent Facebook pact with PerpetualPlotHole it’s time to get on my ass and get a post done. By the way, if you still haven’t checked out her blog, you should. It will brighten your day.
It’s nice to be making pizzas again, and I’ve been learning some pastas and generally improving my kitchen skillset, which has been stunted in a couple of key areas by the nature of the places I’ve worked. I had to have a very awkward conversation with my manager early on about the fact that it’s been ten years since the last time I had to actually prep anything, you know, with a knife, or cook fish on an actual char-grill, or fish at all really. He’s a great big bear of a hippie, and he’s one of the coolest bosses I’ve ever had. We went with another of the guys from work to a Love Canon show in Bristol back in July and had a great time.
I do miss my old job, I’ll be honest. I miss having interactions with the customers who were demographically close-enough to me most of the time that I could easily find common ground. I miss people actually recognizing the reference of my “I am the kwisatz haderach” t-shirt. On the upside, there are hot servers. Many of whom are also pretty rockin’ people separate from their eye-candy value which, bless them for being such good sports about the raucous kitchen harassment all the time. And before you get offended, please try to understand that it’s one of the few perks of being a cook to be able to harass servers, and there exists a very clear element of consent. The first time a person communicates discomfort with it, it stops and it stays stopped, and 99% of the time the touch barrier isn’t broken. We’re all fairly close just from working so damn much together, and there’s a certain level of what we will call respect (comprised at least 15% of desire to maintain employment in many cases) towards one another so it’s all just a way to help everyone stay positive and happy.
And now, I have to go to bed. Because I still live in the land of the doubles.
I am not, by true definition, an insomniac. I do not suffer from extended periods of sleeplessness that are beyond my control, nor do I have a general problem sleeping for healthy duration. I don’t dislike sleep, and I don’t have notably bad dreams. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have pretty awesome dreams. Vin-Diesel-fighting-Predator-in-a-swamp-driving-a-fanboat awesome.
I just have a very complicated relationship with sleep.
It takes forever to fall asleep unless I’m already about to fall asleep where I’m sitting.
As a kid, I would turn on a bathroom light and read until I fell asleep, or listen to music. It got me in trouble when I was young and my parents thought I was just being a stubborn kid. No matter how many times I tried to explain to them that I just wasn’t sleepy yet and was trying to make myself sleepy, I was told to go to bed, and that if I tried I would fall asleep. Not once did this approach yield results. When it was summer and I stayed with my grandparents, I could pretty much stay up until whenever as long as I didn’t wake anybody up. So I watched a lot of late-night TV or laid in bed and listened to, and I’m not kidding here, AM-band late night talk therapy shows (if you’ve seen Frasier you know what I’m talking about) on a little stuffed raccoon with a built-in radio.
In middle school, I would not do my homework during the evening, set my alarm to something ridiculous like 2 or 3:30 AM, do my homework in about a half an hour, and then go back to bed, begrudgingly get up in time for school (which was a good half hour away.) By senior year of high school, I was going to bed around 4 AM and waking up at 6:30 to get to school by 7 so I didn’t have to fuck with traffic. I can take half a nap or whatever if I’m already there, but I fucking hate sitting in avoidable-ass traffic. If I can leave twenty minutes early and just chill out where I’m supposed to be, I avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and/or hassle.
By the summer before I started college, I had adopted a “go to bed when I notice the sun coming up and wake up whenever” routine, which made those 8 AM acting classes that Fall absolute hell. Especially since my teacher was a double PhD. in Dance and Movement. Yoga at 8 AM on two-to-four hours of sleep for two hours three days a week. Let that sink in.
Falling asleep before 3 or 4 AM has been an issue for some time, and I’ve never been a morning person. Even straight out of bed I function better at 6 or 7 PM than I do at 8 AM, regardless of how much sleep I’ve had. I don’t want to see early morning unless I haven’t been to bed yet.
And then sometimes I stay awake just long enough to hit that second wind and, like a hang-glider, I try to see just how long I can glide from updraft to updraft. I feel it important to note that I’m a hobbyist. I don’t take it seriously. I try to avoid staying awake for more than two or three days at a time. I know the kind of cognitive issues that start cropping up around days four and five, and I can do without perceptive lapses and the decrease in fine motor coordination, thanks.
Besides, I really do have some interesting dreams. I don’t really remember them except for random images or moments that stick in my mind, but they’re incredibly elaborate. Like having to drive to a real friend’s fictional house with fictional roommates up a series of fictional roads (with consistent names and geographies) during three or four separate dreams to play a fictional video game that has also stayed consistent. I had to walk up one of the roads in one dream. And not consecutive dreams, either. Places and people and things just crop up from time to time. There’s a massive arcade (easily the size of a two-story warehouse) with a roller coaster that’s cropped up a few times, that place is epic. I’ve done some minor dabbling in lucid dreaming, and I learned at a young age that I can will myself awake during a nightmare. I’ve also learned how to recognize the signs of cross-state cognition, where things that happen in the outside world interject themselves somehow into the dream state. I do still wake up from a dream thinking I’ve got a big stack of money on the dresser sometimes.
It’s almost as disappointing as waking up and realizing you haven’t mastered the art of telekinetic flight (shut up you have your secret dreams and I have mine.)
Coming out of hibernation is a process. Overexposure during the social reintegration period can sometimes prove more harmful than helpful, and the colder it stays the less quickly the mind resolidifies into working order.
It also doesn’t help when there’s not a lot to do outside that doesn’t require feats of Herculean measure. I’ll be honest, I watch a lot of shows and play a lot of the same video games. There’s also a small library of books (three large shelves stacked two deep plus who knows how much more.) It’s safe to say we’re all set as far as entertainment is concerned, but we don’t really watch TV because there’s no way to get a signal around here without a satellite or cable anyway and we use DSL. There’s also just a general lack of basic social interaction day-to-day that, if you’ve lived in a city long enough to get used to having, you start to miss. My nearest friends are easily twenty minutes away. The nearest store is about the same distance. The Post Office only has one person working there about one hour a day five or six days a week.
I cook pretty much everyday. I’ve been on a fried rice kick lately, though I did make a meat sauce a while ago that fed us for about a day. I’m trying to make small steps towards eating healthier, and anything made fresh is better than processed foods. I’m a picky eater; I have a core group of veggies that I use for things, and there’s not a particularly wide variety of good produce up here even if I wanted to branch out.
Hey there, Internet. It’s been a while. You look amazing. Have you lost weight?
I’m doing fine. I know I dropped off the face of the earth for a little while, but I promise that’s perfectly normal. Those of you that know me probably don’t need much explanation, but for those of you that don’t…sooner or later every winter I hibernate for a while, and my anecdotal insistence is that it usually happens around February, and may be attributable to Seasonal Affective Disorder (you may recall I posted this in November.)
I call it hibernation because it’s usually an extended period of time where I feel especially sluggish and tired. Given the opportunity, I’ll sleep a lot. Otherwise I eat and smoke a lot to try and stay awake without my mind rebelling for the sake of sleep. Creative things are harder to manage due to the sort of syrupy consistency my brain takes on when it’s cold, and social environments are ultimately taxing and irksome. Plus it sounds a lot less like a problem and more like an environmental response when you call it hibernation.
I grew up in these mountains. There’s fuck-all to do when it’s cold and dark, unless you hunt or go to church, I suppose. Everything pretty much shuts down at dark as a general principle, and when dark is like 6:00 PM…you basically spend a lot of time coming up with ways to amuse yourself in your own home for as little cost as possible. Though apparently they put a YMCA in the hospital, so if we’re lucky and enough of us can stay motivated to do something about it, we at least might manage to get some exercise somewhere inside.
When I was a kid, we had these places called video stores. And the one chain of video stores in our area had 99 cent rentals on Mondays. This was before the internet had invaded our homes, before Netflix and Redbox and cell phones. And once the power went out, then you had a whole new world of limits. Depending on where in the county you lived, your power could be out for a day or even a week after a big snow. No lights, no running water, Playing cards can be a life-saver three or four days into a snow-in. The same can be said for good books nobody’s had the time to read. Or, you know…sleep. Nothing to do? Fuck it let’s go back to bed.
In other news, I’ve figured out better ways to make potatoes so that the starch doesn’t stick to the pan, which is nice. I’ve also figured out how to turn my computer into a media server accessible by my PS3, which gives me better access to my files without having to drag the external hard drive all over the house.
More to come later, folks. But for now I need to wade through the month of stuff I haven’t checked.
So the last time I left the house was the day we went to Charlotte. It hasn’t been on purpose but…well…the only thing vaguely within walking distance is the post office, and I don’t really feel like walking that mile in the snow on the side of a road with no sidewalks. It hasn’t really been on purpose, but between the snow and the work schedule of the one person in this house with a car, getting out has just not been something that’s managed to happen in a while.
On the upside, I’ve finished watching all five seasons of Leverage and I’m about halfway through my second playthrough on Borderlands 2. Which has more or less amounted to me spoofing a second player to power-level a friend’s character. And since someone was sheltered her whole life, I’m going to have to sit her down and force her to watch The Addams Family (the show, I’ve already made her watch the 1991 movie.) For those of you who haven’t caught up with Leverage yet, you should. It ends beautifully.
The job hunt has been fairly uneventful, which isn’t really surprising for up here in the winter. Jobs are kind of scarce up here at the best of times, and while the winter definitely brings the skiers the slopes are still a good half hour away and were probably staffed in October. I’ve been, admittedly, avoiding one potential employment venue simply because it’s a decent distance away and I would really rather not backtrack to a job I left five years ago, which is a good half an hour in the other direction. I miss walking distance to work. I also, surprisingly enough, miss my old job.
Unemployment has been about as uneventful as the job search. For some reason there is an “active issue” with my claim, and I’m waiting for something to come in the mail, I guess? I may need to pay a visit to the Department of Employment Services (once known as the Employment Security Commission) with some pay stubs and/or my W-2 to try and get any of that figured out. If there’s anything to figure out in the first place. My state is one of those that refused the Federal Unemployment Extension of Benefits money, so I get the feeling that my state is probably not too far from being an even shittier place to be unemployed.
So yeah. If you feel like you’ve been missing out on the exciting life of the Grice, let me put your fears to rest: I’ve been in hibernation mode, cuddled up on the couch watching a retarded amount of TV and movies and slogging through trying to find a job.
And I’m pretty much ready for Spring. Cuz fuck this winter bullshit.
One of the most difficult things about moving from the city back to the middle of nowhere is the astounding amount of nothing to do outside of the house. There’s a lot of nature, which is interesting if you don’t mind the temperatures in the teens.
I mind the temperatures in the teens, for the record.
I’ve always been something of an indoor cat. No really, it’s a surprise I know. What with all the…video games I play. And shows I watch. So cabin fever is kind of a way of life. Only in the winter there’s a certain element of “whether you like it or not” attached.
The trip to Charlotte and back took longer than expected so it turned into spending a night in a motel room before the drive back, which still left everyone a little drained and needing an extra day to recharge. So it’s been especially easy to lose a day or two to watching Tangled and lots of Archer and powering through a couple of levels on Borderlands 2. I’m almost through my first playthrough, which puts me around halfway to original max level. Which will easily take another full playthrough plus some DLC before I even get into either Ultimate Vault Hunter packs. And inevitably I will get sucked into one of the four Bethesda games that call to me from the bookshelf. Plus every major copy of the Assassin’s Creed series is actually in the house so I could go back through all of them. Plus the hundreds of books, the gigabytes of movies and shows…yeah no I think I’m set. And we have card games and candles for when the power goes out.
It’s not a bad place if you don’t mind not being able to get to places without more than a 15-minute drive. One of the first things you learn up here is the importance of stocking reserves of things. Like a spare carton of cigarettes. Even if they’re the cheapest cigarettes you can find. Because two days into a four-day snow-in, any cigarette is a good cigarette.
Today is kind of a big deal. It’ll be my first real trip down the mountain since returning to the High Country (this isn’t the pun I wish it was, it’s just what we call the area around here.)
We’re going down to Charlotte because a certain someone is flying in and we need to go pick her up. I am, needless to say, tres excited about this. It’s been a very interesting couple of months. In all the shuffle of the move and the everything else, there has been a certain undercurrent of Serendipity. And as the dust settles, it seems as though the Universe itself has actually given me an assist. It’s apparently supposed to snow again tonight, so I’m hoping we can make it back up the mountain before that happens.
On an unrelated note, it would appear as though my Unemployment claim has gone through, though admittedly I’m a little curious as to why only three of the four fiscal quarters are shown on my form. I’m also not super keen on 20% of the $88 dollars I receive going into taxes, but whatever. It’s still money, which is better than the no money I’m making right now. The job search is going to be a little rough, but I have 19 weeks of benefits so that’s something, at least.
So I’m probably going to call them when they open in the morning to find out why, exactly, an entire three month chunk of my wages are missing.
Hello again, intrepid readers. It’s been a while since we’ve had an episode of Cook’s Couch. I was going to do one last night, but tonight is actually the better option. Last night I broke down and made some home-fried potatoes while watching Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood, two of my three favorite old-school Disney movies (the third being Alice in Wonderland.)
Tonight is a little more interesting overall, though a bitch of a headache put me under for the first third of the night’s festivities. Tonight’s meal is exceptionally simple. A chicken casserole, more fried potatoes, and creamed corn.
Unlike the other episodes of Cook’s Couch to date, I did not fly solo this time around. And not just because my head was killing me. The headache didn’t reach “need to vomit to survive” until after everything had already been started. Someone else prepped the potatoes and onions, someone else handled the casserole (I have verified their recipe and process for accuracy) and the creamed corn (because I don’t fucking eat that shit.)
The chicken casserole is super easy. You just need:
1 pack Chicken breast (cut it if you want, you don’t have to)
1 or 2 onions (I like Peruvian yellows, they have a sweet taste)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Can Cream of Mushroom soup,
1 Box of stuffing (we used Stove Top turkey stuffing)
Half a stick of butter
Put the chicken in a glass baking dish with the onions and garlic. Cover with the cream of mushroom soup, cut the butter up and put it on top, and then cover it all with the stuffing. Cover with foil and cook at 450 degrees for about a half an hour. Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes or so.
The potatoes are equally simple, though they require more or less constant supervision. There are two ways to prepare this dish: the right way and the Grice way.
The right way requires baking the potatoes first, giving them time to cool, then cutting them up and pan frying them. The Grice ain’t got time for that shit. Cut the potatoes up, along with about two onions. I usually use about 6 or 7, and I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes, but Russet potatoes work just fine.
My way takes longer (they’ll cook for about as long as the casserole is baking) and will require you to keep stirring them more or less constantly. Potato starch will stick to the bottom of your pan, there’s not much help for that, but if you keep them stirring constantly, you can minimize some of this. I recommend that you not use non-stick cookware.
Heat the pot or pan on medium heat, add the garlic and onions first and cook until the onions start to sweat and turn clear. Then add your potatoes and seasoning and cook until the potatoes are soft. Stir frequently. Some starch will stick to the bottom of your pan, but you want to keep stirring the potatoes to keep them from burning and actually sticking.
The seasoning profile is actually more complex than the process or the rest of the recipe. Using what I found around the kitchen:
A few splashes of Worcestershire sauce
A little hot sauce
A few dashes Tony Chachere’s (the cajun seasoning that real cajuns use, brah.)
Season to taste. I like my food to tingle some. I like spicy food, but I prefer heat and pepper flavor to be an accent, not a focal point.
Creamed corn…I don’t eat that shit. The people in the house that DO eat it used frozen creamed corn, a full stick of butter, and some red and black pepper.
Tonight’s entertainment is an impromptu Mel Brooks marathon brought to you (in part) by Netflix.
After watching A Haunted House and finding it funny but not particularly memorable, I laid down (this was about when the headache hit) and turned on Spaceballs. When I don’t feel well, I tend to go for familiar comedy. And when Spaceballs was done, Netflix suggested High Anxiety, which is one of the more esoteric Brooks films that I enjoy. I was hoping the Brooksfest would continue without having to resort to DVDs or the internet, but alas there aren’t many of them up on Instant Watch right now. Thankfully I have a DVD copy of Robin Hood: Men in Tights around here so I can keep the party going, and I swear there’s a copy of Dracula: Dead and Loving It somewhere around here too.
I love Mel Brooks for the same reason that I love Weird Al. I don’t like to provide comparisons in the form of “X is the Y equivalent of Z” but in this case I feel their respective bodies of work are comparable simply because they are independently masters of spoof and parody.
High Anxiety was a little cinematic gem which I became aware of because of my father. This is the same man who rented Monty Python and the Holy Grail for me when I was a kid, and described Clockwork Orange and The Wall in more or less great detail. I can thank my dad for a lot of my film and music knowledge, to be honest. For those of you who have never seen it, High Anxiety is a style parody of Alfred Hitchcock films. A Doctor from Harvard becomes the head of a psychiatric institute and discovers some sinister workings. Hilarity and madness ensue. It also features a blonde Madeline Kahn with long hair, which is not something I’m used to seeing. Madeline Kahn is a favorite of mine from that film generation, and I was sad that she had died before Psych did their hundredth episode (an homage to Clue.)
So sit back, relax, and try not to choke on your food. Because you’re in for a hell of a lot of funny with this one.
It finally occurred to me, though I probably should have done it sooner, to apply for unemployment benefits. North Carolina is kind of a shitty state, so I sort of get the feeling that I’m waiting for a denial of benefits, because I had to quit my job because I had to move, and that doesn’t seem to be something NC views as a valid reason for unemployment benefits sometimes, based on what little digging I’ve done on the internet about it.
But I’m trying to stay positive, because sometimes the world can be a surprising place.
Today also marks the first day of the Bedroom Reclamation Initiative. There is another bedroom here, but it has been annexed as a secondary storage space (the primary storage space is an outbuilding that’s almost as big as the house.)
I don’t mind sleeping on the couch, but I do kind of feel bad for monopolizing the ENTIRE living room all the time. Plus its nice to have a door for privacy, and once it gets warmer, I’m going to be severely disinterested in continuing to wear pajama pants to bed.
It’s time to turn that storage space back into a bedroom.