Monday, June 25, 2012

Musical Mondays—Wherever I Go

I know I was probably being overly optimistic to think I would get a call on at least one of the resumes I sent out last week. Still, it was a bit of a let down not to get an email or phone call today. And so the hunt continues.

I need to transition my job responsibilities, but of course, the main person I need to transfer them to is out on vacation for the next 2 weeks. So that'll leave us one week when she's back to cram it all in.

In addition to wrapping up the project I'm currently working on and making the transition as smooth as possible, my boss has asked me to begin and finish another project before I leave. I gotta say, as much as I do not want to burn any bridges, I am not terribly motivated to do that. I will, or at least I will do as much as I can, because that's just who I am, but I'm not excited about it.

In good news, I will continue to work for the company in my eBook production role at a part-time freelancer up to 20 hours/week, and I will pick up some freelance editing assignments from them as well. I know the editing assignment work won't be consistent or steady—it tends to come in bursts—but I can already see there being several weeks where the company will be paying me more as a freelancer than they did as an employee.

I don't understand it either. Granted they won't be paying unemployment insurance or their contribution to my benefits, but still. Anyhow, I'll take on freelance editing at least until I find a full-time position, but I'll keep doing the eBook production for as long as I can balance it with the full-time job.

In garden news, I picked the first tomato from the garden last week and two more today! We'll be wallowing in tomatoes soon.

In not-so-good news, I had been putting off paying the last of my hospital bills from January's surgery. Well, I got the first notice from a collection agency today. I kinda thought they would call at least once before sending it to collections. I'll have to take care of that tomorrow.

In really cool animal news, we've seen some new backyard buddies over the last several days. Toward the end of last week a red fox put in a couple of appearances. I think it may have a den on one of the empty lots next to us, which would explain why the entire neighborhood is plagued by bunnies, except our house. I couldn't get a clear picture of it; it didn't stay out in the open very long.

We haven't been seeing a lot of deer in the yard for a long time now. If we do see them, they're usually across the cul-de-sac from the house. But today, 2 bucks came into the yard. Not once, or twice. No. They made 3 passes at the buffet that is our yard today. I've decided to name them Chuck, and they will be The Two Bucks Chuck.

I was able to get pretty close to them (within about 15 yards) and get some pictures. After their third visit, Scoob went outside and hosed down the shrubbery with deer repellant. Now our house smells like something between elephant piss and really bad BO.

Charming. I don't care how much it cools off, I will not be opening the windows tonight. Not like it's really going to cool off, but you know, if it did.

No zoom; this guy let me slowly walk up on him until I was this close!

I think this is my favorite picture from today

No zoom (again); this is the other buck and he walked up to me until he was this close!

Wonder why this guy's antlers are so uneven. Also, see all the bumps on his ears?
Those are ticks! The backs of the ears on both bucks were covered with them.

One last peek through the trees before wandering off

In honor of The Two Bucks Chuck, I decided to put up some Buckcherry

Wherever I Go
I'd like to find a place to hide
Where no one knows my name
Maybe down by the sea
And become a mystery
Nobody seems to understand
They're just doing what they can
It comes to me when I'm alone
Things that can't be taught
Cannot be bought
Wherever I go, my mind goes with me
The people I know, they know I'm empty
Wherever I go, I know to blend in
But everytime, there's something giving me away
I have a dream every night
That wakes me up in bed
Out of darkness into light
And nothing's ever there
Question faith and my beliefs
If I'm good enough to care
In my eyes, my obsession
Is more than I can bare
Should I be scared?
I'm at war
There's a battle inside me
You would hate it
If you see what I see
I see the future
And the future is ugly
Away! Away!
There's something giving me away
Away! Away!
There's something giving me away

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And the Hunt Begins

I applied for 5 jobs today and it's exhausting already. All the time spent building my resume and cover letters. Getting my profiles set up on LinkedIn and Monster. Combing the job boards and Craigslist. Daily. For multiple keyword searches. Saving job postings and rereading them later. Then tailoring each cover letter to the specific job.

Very thankful that we had dinner out with a friend tonight and I didn't have to plan dinner and cook tonight.

Scoob's early retirement window closes tomorrow and we've been arguing. You see, he has the option to rescind his application until the close of business tomorrow, and he's second guessing himself. The fact that this program is voluntary kind of sucks—it makes it feel like he's laying himself off, but he wouldn't even be considering it if he didn't feel backed into a corner with these lay offs, yet no one can give him any assurances.

His current boss told him he should look into it, which as far as I'm concerned is code for "Buddy, a storm's a brewin' and you better take advantage of this." And his previous boss is telling him she thinks she can get him transferred back to her team. But the previous boss said this yesterday, and he only has until the end of the day Friday to rescind—I'm very doubtful that she can get the requisition order she would need on such short notice. And even if she could, she doesn't have the budget to pay him what he's been making. But then again there's no guarantee he will find another job around here at that salary, either.

Everything just got stressful real fast.

I had asked him a few days ago, before the previous boss reached out to him, what he wanted to do—what did his gut or heart tell him he should do? And he said "Take the early retirement." Then this evening he brings up the option the previous boss has proposed and now he's back to debating all the options. Again.

Folks, this is way worse than deciding which vacuum cleaner to buy. (In case you don't remember, that debate/process took about a year.)

Anyhow, I've been doing my best to help him look at his options from different perspectives. I thought I was helping; turns out all I've done is stress him out and add to his confusion. And because I've been playing devil's advocate with regards to each option, he's convinced I will be unhappy with whatever he does.

All I want is for him to choose the option that will make him most happy (or, as he puts it, least miserable) and commit to it. If he decides to ride it out with his current boss and gets laid off 6 months from now, I don't want him to kick himself for not taking the early retirement. If he switches teams to go back to work for his old boss and gets laid off, or ends up working for a lower salary, I want him to be okay with that. If he takes the early retirement, I don't want him to be constantly undermining himself with "what if."

I just want him to consider his options, make a decision, accept his decision, and move forward. And know that I will stand beside him, support him, and be happy with him. No matter what.

Well, unless he invests in some hair-brained pyramid scam. Then we're going to have words!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strawberry Crostata

What's more rustic than a tart and super easy to make? Crostata!

I ran across this recipe for Strawberry Crostata on the Buns in My Oven blog and just knew I had to try it. I almost always have refrigerated pie crusts on hand for throwing together empanadas and pot pies and the like, and aside from the berries, everything else is pretty much a staple item as well.

So I made this for the first time a couple weeks ago, but I didn't quite fold the crust edge over far enough (do overs!); it looked sloppy but smelled oh so good while it was cooking and cooling, and tasted even better!

As far as desserts go, this one doesn't seem bad, but the second time around I substituted a reduced-fat cream cheese and used some Splenda in the cream cheese mixture, though I stuck with actual sugar for sprinkling on the berries.

So easy! And so Yum! Yum! Yum!

(And yes, I'm blogging at you instead of drafting my cover letters. I know, I know!)

Strawberry Crostata just screams Summer!

Strawberry Crostata

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30–35 minutes

    1½ pounds strawberries
    2 Tbsps sugar, for sprinkling
    8 ounces reduced- or low-fat cream cheese, softened
    2 Tbsps flour
    3 packets of Splenda
    1 Tbsp vanilla
    1 pie crust

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and set aside.

  2. Mix together the cream cheese, flour, Splenda, and vanilla.

  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the pie crust in the center. If using a store bought crust, I like to roll it out just a tad more. (I've come to the conclusion that I own the squeakiest rolling pin on the planet!)

  4. Leaving a one-inch border, spread the cream cheese mixture on the crust, mound the strawberries on top, and fold up the crust edges.

  5. Bake for 20–25 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Divine! (Scoob likes his with a dollop of vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt and blueberries on top!)

Ready to go into the oven.

You'll almost surely end up with a puddle of juice in your pan.
My first try with this recipe was much juicier.

Strawberry (Crostata) fields forever!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Musical Mondays—Future's So Bright

Lots of developments here in the Wayward household. I've been waiting to talk about this until announcements had been made.

Scoob's company is laying off 27,000 people and they re-instituted their early retirement program. The program allows those employes who qualify and think they are at risk for being laid off the option to voluntarily leave the company and receive an extended severance.

Anyhow, Scoob and I talked about it and given how unstable things have been at his company and what seems like constant reorganization lay offs, we decided he should apply for the early retirement. He applied last Tuesday. The application window closes this Friday and we're not sure when they will get back to him letting him know if his application was accepted or not and, if accepted, when his last day will be. If he is accepted, he cannot go back to work for them for at least 24 months.

For now we're working under the assumption that Scoob needs to find a new job.

On Thursday I got a call from my boss. What I thought was going to be our regular weekly check-in turned out to be a call with HR on the line notifying me that I was being let go. There is no ambiguity in my situation—my last day is July 13. I'll get 8 weeks severance.

It was a shock, but overall I am okay with it and now I'm feeling pretty positive about making the necessary transitions at work and finding my next adventure. For me, it sort of feels like the next logical step—we physically left California, sold our home there, and now it's time to let go of the jobs and finish our transition to North Carolina. If that makes sense.

But that doesn't change the fact that now we're both out of work.

So we did not go to the National Hollerin' Contest last weekend as planned. Instead, we stayed close to home, worked on our resumes, updated our LinkedIn profiles, started scouring the job boards, and shopped the malls for interview clothes for me. I didn't have many professional office clothes to begin with and what I did have just doesn't fit right after my surgery.

At a minimum, we know that I will continue to work with my employer, albeit in a part-time freelancing role. At least it will be work and generate some income for a while.

As much as I have enjoyed working in publishing, I have always known book publishing typically does not pay competitive salaries. And since we're worried that any new job Scoob finds will involve a pay cut, I'm going to branch out and see if I can't get hired on somewhere where the pay is better, although I have seen a couple of jobs at at locally-based publishers that I am qualified for—there are actually more publishers in the Raleigh–Durham area than I realized. We'll see. I'll put in applications. We're also getting our contacts at at tech companies to put our resumes in front of people.

I'm confident we will get through this—things may just get very lean for a while.

At any rate, that is where we're at. All good vibes, prayers, and juju are welcome. And in that vein, this week's Musical Monday (on Tuesday) (again)…

The Future's So Bright
I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades,
I gotta wear shades
I've got a job waiting for my graduation
Fifty thou a year -- buys a lot of beer
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
Well I'm heavenly blessed and worldly wise
I'm a peeping-tom techie with x-ray eyes
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doing all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades
I gotta wear shades

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Communication FTW

Me: Hey honey, I'm going to make my mushroom, red pepper, scrambled egg breakfast burrito thing. Do you want some?
Scoob: Yes, please.
Scoob: Except I don't want it the way you make it. I just want scrambled eggs with leftover stew and rice.
Me: Okay. So, in other words you want something completely different from what I'm making, and your answer is really "No, but would you make this for me?"
Scoob: Exactly. Please. *grin*

It's a good thing I love him.

Just for that, I think I will make him go to the National Hollerin' Contest this weekend. Spivey's Corner (pop. 450, give or take) is about 2 hours southeast of here. And if you're wondering what all the hollerin' is about, here's a bit on the lost art of hollerin'.

We'll get to see an area we haven't been in yet, we'll definitely experience some local culture and flavor, and all proceeds go toward supporting the Spivey's Corner Volunteer Fire Department. Our little town will probably feel down right cosmopolitan after a day of hollerin'.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Trip to the North Carolina Zoo

Saturday's trip to the North Carolina Zoo was so much fun! And a lot of walking.

I had my doubts about all the walking. I went to the doctor a couple weeks back because I've been having persistent pain in my left foot. They took x-rays, but couldn't find any fractures and told me to take an anti-inflammatory for it. Unfortunately, it doesn't really help. But I made it through most of the day without needing something for pain.

I am starting to think my feet just don't like walking on the hard surfaces in the house. If I wear slippers during the day at home, I have a lot less pain. But this isn't supposed to be about my feet. This is about our trip to the zoo!

The North Carolina Zoo is located in Asheboro, about 50 miles from where we live. I had read good things about the zoo, but wasn't sure what to expect. Asheboro's a big town (pop. 24,000) for around here, surrounded by lots of itty bitty towns. I told myself I would have fun no matter what, but I didn't set my expectations too high.

But this is really a great zoo! There were a couple of enclosures that seemed a bit small and dated, but by and large, most of the exhibits were awesome! The walking paths are almost always in the shade, which was wonderful since it was 90° when we went. They had a tram system to move people from one end of the park to the other, and lots of little impromptu activities for kiddos, like face painting and some little game with stuffed animals.

Scoob's favorite exhibit was the aviary, mostly due to huge vents blowing air—they made great fans for cooling down. I enjoyed being in the aviary exhibit with the birds and having to listen and watch carefully to find them. My favorite exhibit was the river otters—so freakin' cute!—and the giraffes.

Anyhow, it was a great day!

We started at the Africa entrance.

I loved that I got this elephant face-on.

Putting a trunk to good use.

A pack of pachyderms.

Feeding giraffes is one of my favorite zoo memories from visiting the Oregon Zoo as a kid.

But, one of the giraffes at the NC Zoo is pregnant, so we didn't get to feed them.

A two-headed giraffe! It's a giraffe hydra!

Another face-on shot of Mr. Stripey himself.

We were just about to give up on getting a good look at the rhinos when this guy came strolling down one of the service roads in his pen.

An eastern bongo lounging in the shade.

Baboons. I'll spare you the butt shots.

These little blue-crowned hanging parrots were singing every where in the aviary exhibit.

I have no idea what this is, but it sure is cute!

Several signs warned that this eclectus parrot likes to bite.

Chilean flamingoes.

Hooded pitta.

A lollypop plant.

These two Victoria crowned pigeons looked like mirror images.

A close up.

Another close up, after it landed in a tree above me.

I have no idea what this little orange guy is, but he looked amazing in the sunlight.

This red-capped cardinal was stalking me for a while.

Spiral flag


Playing peek-a-boo with a white-faced whistling duck

A wompoo pigeon.

It was getting hot by the time we got to the lemurs.

Every single exhibit that had water had these massive frogs.

Chimps in profile.

This guy was friendly, but the plexiglass was super smudged..

No one ever told him not to play with his food.

Lazy lions. Looks like a pretty typical day for our cats, too.

Go Away. Seriously. What part of lazy didn't you understand?

Hello there, Mr. Alligator.

Zzzzzzzzz. Yes, I'm really sleeping.
Of course it's safe to step a little closer.


A nice, peaceful spot along Cattail Trail.

Lots of

different kinds of


And butterflies

Dinner time for the river otters.

Why yes, I do like sushi.

An after dinner swim.

They're just so dang cute!

And you can imagine how bummed I am that this shot is blurry.



While everyone else was focused on the bison, I was watching this little guy on the railing.

A burrowing owl in the desert exhibit.

And an ocelot.