Category Archives: Working Girl

Horses and Hallucination

This really happened. And the part where the hallucination hit me, I remember like it happened five minutes ago.

I was a farm kid of a sort, and those of you who have been reading here awhile may remember some of my fond and less than fond memories of those days (the rest of you can catch up here.) My dad was a veterinarian and we always had a lot of animals around: dogs and cats, the occasional steer, pigs of course (previous post,) lambs, a burro and some peacocks  come to mind. But among our not-for-profit animals, the horses were the stars. I loved our horses. The numbers varied, I remember we had up to five at one time, but Sandpiper and Friday were constants.

A Buckskin, like Sandpiper

An Appaloosa, like Friday

They were a comforting presence as they grazed or dozed in the pasture. There were rare sudden moments when one would jerk his head and kick up his heels and they’d all go stampeding around as if they’d whiffed a pack of wolves approaching, and other times when one or more rolled on the ground, hooves waving joyfully in the air. Fifteen seconds later, playtime would be over and they’d return to trimming the grass to its roots. I loved to talk to them and stroke their silky necks and the bristly hair sprouting from their velvet muzzles. A calm, inquisitive horse, or a horse who knows you well will commune with you if you put your head near theirs. If your faces are close enough, the horse will gently exhale through its nose. The horse is talking to you,greeting you, saying this is who I am in their foreign language. It is polite to return the breath. The exchange is not wet or messy. I would rank it among the most calming yet stimulating experiences I have had in life. A moment of zen. That being said, one time Sandpiper turned his head when I was riding him and blew his cavernous nose on my favorite purple sneaker. I admire horses, but I don’t hold with over-romanticizing them.

Also, I didn’t love riding the horses. My older and younger sisters were both better and more avid riders than I, in fact my older sister won prizes for barrel racing in rodeos. As far as I was concerned, the risks of uncontrollable sprints back to the stable and infrequent falls were a little much for me, unless there really was nothing else to do or I had a horse crazy friend over. But we all took turns caring for them. We filled their trough with water, sometimes flooding a big patch of the back pasture in our forgetfulness. We moved them from the back pasture to the front pasture and back again as needed. The horses were savvy enough to know that if they played hard to get, ignoring us and munching grass instead of coming to the gate, that we would put some delicious grain into a pail to sweeten the deal. They’d get their treat, and we would snap a lead onto Friday’s halter. Our small herd proceeded quietly, hooves crunching into gravel, one small human escorting two or more great beasts.  My father fenced the pastures with electrical wire. As far as I know, the horses rarely made any move to escape the enclosures, but the shock of touching the wire kept them from leaning against the fence, which would easily have knocked it down. The electrical charge, which we all felt multiple times either through mistake or dare, felt like the sharp smack of a stick, followed by a fading, numbing tingle. It was aversive enough to make kids and horses wary, but not enough to harm. The front pasture was enclosed with a single electrified wire about four feet off the ground. The back pasture was encircled with five strands of wire, the middle one electrified.

On one particular gray and rainy day in my early teens, it was my turn to move the horses from the back to the front pasture. The rain had stopped, but a heavy wetness lingered in the air and dripped from the eaves of the sheds and barn. The horses saw the pail in my hand and moseyed up to meet me. The gate, made of several solid iron rods each less than an inch thick, hung heavily on its hinges. The latch was simply a chain welded to the gate which we threaded through a loop screwed into the wooden fence post and then slipped into a notch on the gate. To get the chain out of the notch, we had to lift up on the gate to get some slack, which I did that day. The horses waited patiently as I set the pail of grain aside, away from the puddle of water in which I stood. I reached between the horizontal bars and grabbed the second bar down, leaning in a bit to lift…and gently, unwittingly, brushed my forehead against the electric wire. I don’t know if it was the puddle around my feet, or if it was that the fence was starting to short out making the exact amount of electric current a little unpredictable, but I do know that for a few seconds the world as I commonly perceived it disappeared and I could see nothing but one singular image: an x-ray of my skull, ghostly white on a field of black. I knew it was my own skull because I could see my braces glowing in sharp contrast on my teeth. Then the image vanished, depositing me back in the world and I realized I could TASTE my braces, which were unusually warm and metallic in my mouth. I was still standing, still holding the gate, but no longer in contact with the wire. I let the gate rest back on its chain and hinges and walked away, leaving the pail and two puzzled horses behind.

I don’t remember ever walking away from a chore without permission any other time, but the horses were fine where they were, and having just had a mind blowing and potentially dangerous experience, I felt justified. Perception and the human mind has fascinated me ever since, and this may be why I ended up majoring in Psychology. So I thank the horses and the electric current for giving me something to think about, and God for letting me survive the day so I could do so. And I thank you for reading.

Hallucination or horse stories, anyone?

Working Girl: Bright Lights, Big City

Starting on Tuesday last week I began the new job, still aching from moving uncounted bins to the dumpster and a vanload of heavy cartons of potentially useful but ultimately elusive stuff from the previous job to the new office in downtown Minneapolis. I don’t know how many times this week I have said, “Where in the world is…?” or how many circles I have walked checking those cartons looking for a device, a file, a cable or a tape dispenser. After four days of trying to get one computer talk to another, or talk to one of two printers for more than thirty minutes, my hottest fantasy was a day without someone saying, “Why isn’t this working?” Everything I accomplished unraveled by the following day. Oh, I got a picture hung, I was instrumental in getting two light bulbs changed, and my boss’ office no longer looked like a storage room by the end of the week. But there was still the electronic communications issue which slowed everything down, and while I love a creative challenge,  this is not my area of expertise. Following a *headdesk* moment  I groaned, “It would sure be nice if we had an IT person,” and Patrick, the new guy, laughed and said, “We do; it’s you.”

It all moved at a frenetic pace: everyone working their own variety of magic with a lot of keystrokes, edits, meetings, searches, and phone calls. Finally on Friday, at four p.m., when a lot of people in the city might expect to be heading home or going out, we gathered for a meeting about some time sheet and invoicing software, which thankfully evolved into a conversation about the strangest jobs we’d worked (you know I said the rat lab, right?) our favorite movies, dream vacation destinations and the kinds of topics that turn colleagues into friends. The white wine my boss brought to celebrate the end of week one smoothed the day’s jagged edges and even though I came away with more to-do items on my list, I was happier than I’d been going in.

As I finally left for the day, clouds cast the sky in indigo and the streets were quieter than I’d seen them all week. The cars that had packed the parking ramp when I’d entered that morning had dwindled to a scattered few. I had to exit via the open top level, where I was greeted with a view into Target Field, where the Twins were playing beneath lights as bright as the sun. The Target dog, sketched enormously in red and white neon, grinned from the wall of the Target Center, and the looming buildings either glowed in light or glowered in shadow. It was beautiful. I wanted so badly to take a picture, but there was an issue with having to climb on things to get a good angle and on the top of a seven-story building, that just wasn’t something I wanted to do.

I wish I could tell you that the IT issues have now been worked out. They have been worked, strenuously, but they remain in ever new configurations. I HAVE been able to make a few creative contributions and been assigned some writing which is awesome. I have figured out the bus schedule…mostly. I love my walks between the bus stop and work, and to get lunches or supplies. It isn’t perfect. There are random gusts of what smells like raw sewage here and there. There are blocks that feel marginally less safe than others, but I am figuring this out quickly. The commute isn’t stressful, but it does make my day long. The thing is, I like it here. I am glad I have been given this opportunity.

So this is here and now. Thank you for visiting, for your patience in waiting while I pulled myself together to share this, and for your indulgence as I rattle on.

You’re Going To Make It After All

I have been MIA for awhile. Recently all my blogging has been blocked by some big news on which I was sworn to secrecy. Do you remember back in February when I took a big leap and got a small job with McFarland Cahill Communications in a field I knew nothing about: PR, particularly media relations? I got to run the Kitchen Stage at the Minneapolis Home & Garden show where I met many local celebrities and chefs. I got to send pitches to Ellen DeGeneres, Playboy, Oprah and the Today Show by express mail, often at full speed at the very last minute. I helped create press kits designed to entice media outlets to take an interest in our clients. I visited our metro television stations and newspaper and magazine headquarters. I got to go to events like concerts and parties where I mingled with (or stood near) colorful and interesting people. This job was 90% magic (I also took out garbage, helped with invoicing, picked up groceries and supplies and did quite a bit of filing.) My employers welcomed me with warmth, humor and some borderline painful growth stretching opportunities. During my time there I have been surrounded by educated women with a lot of knowledge that has nothing to do with anything I know, and it has been bewildering and exhilarating.

A a short while ago my bosses called me in and told me that McFarland and Cahill were going their separate ways. They wanted me to start gathering the information we needed to work toward that end: inventory, lease agreements, subscriptions, etc. Until they had their own ducks in a row, the news had to be a secret, even from the other staff. Which sucked. Because misery loves company and I was ALONE, both figuratively and literally, as some or all of the others were out of the office on vacation or working offsite at that time. I was stunned, because I had counted on staying and growing so much more. When I took the job, I had thought it would be something to get me out of the house, brush a few cobwebs off my brain and maybe give me some writing opportunities and ideas, but I got so much more. I was deeply bummed that not only was it ending, it was ending so soon. With everyone out of the office and me doing paperwork and listing assets, I felt morose, like I was preparing grandma’s estate for the sale.

Cahill took a position as Executive Director for Smile Network International, an organization we had represented in the past and a cause for which she is truly passionate. McFarland prepared to move her PR skills into Minneapolis with McFarland Communications, continuing with several of her existing clients and some new ones. Eventually the rest of the staff were let in on the news, and they began making their plans. Amazing opportunities arose for them because they all have great experience and skills, while I, petty child, moved into the WTH stage of grieving. I was jealous that they were all moving on so quickly and I was moving…where? I couldn’t get excited about looking  more traditional admin experience. Recently, McFarland and I had a conversation. She said she likes my energy and skills, and despite my lack of industry-specific knowledge wanted to continue to work with me, if I was willing to take on the task of helping get their systems in order and dealing with a really fluid job description working for unknown numbers of hours at least part of the time in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Oh…boy. This was a stretch for both my skills and my tolerance for city travel at a time when I was still a little emotionally saggy from the break-up, but if there is one thing I have learned watching these people, it is that you have to be nimble and leap for opportunity when it presents itself.  I can be nimble. I can leap.

So, for the month of August, I will be archiving and packing and cancelling and throwing out, bringing to close a short but remarkable chapter. Then in September I will turn the page and begin making the 30 mile commute into Minneapolis, which I have been assured I will grow to hate. I am not thinking about that right now, however. When I was in my high school and college years, I always imagined I would end up working in the city, but until now I have never taken a job closer than a second-ring suburb. There is energy there, and untasted flavors that will help me mature as a person and a writer. My anticipation of this new experience downtown is successfully elbowing back any apprehensions. If Mary Richards can do it, so can I.

Three Random Things

My work adventure this past week became a family affair. Our newest client had a big event which will occur in Brooklyn, NY on Tuesday and they needed 850 drawstring backpacks to be stuffed with a summer skills workbook, ruler and pencil. These backpacks had to be counted and sorted by grade level (as the workbooks varied,) and there were two sets of thirty backpacks that needed slightly different contents. Nearly everything needed to assemble the backpacks arrived on Friday. I did the setting up and called in my teenage boys to do most of the stuffing, which took them four and a half hours (with my support.) Then, because we finished too late to ship that night, they and Mr. Wortabulous took an hour of their Saturday morning to help me get nineteen boxes to the post office. Seventeen of those boxes weighed between 50-55 pounds each. The other two were a little lighter. We express shipped them all to arrive in Brooklyn on Monday. This impresses me so much. 900 pounds of stuff leaves a Minnesota post office on noon on Saturday and arrives intact at a Brooklyn school on Monday. Hopefully. Really, really hoping. Trying to let go.

Friday’s staging for the Great Backpack Stuff-a-palooza.

In honor of Father’s Day I would like to thank Mr. Wordtabulous for being a great dad and husband. He discovered a small rabbit lurking in our strawberry bed today and called out our older son (who loves animals devotedly and had told us he had seen a bunny in the yard earlier; since he rarely speaks in sentences, at least to us, this was notable.) Older son came out and the two of them captured the rabbit. Before the little fuzzball managed to scramble away, there was a bit of bonding going on in the garden.

 

 

 

 

Finally, I was in the car listening to Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday when I heard that Ray Bradbury died. I read my favorite of his, Something Wicked This Way Comes, for the third time recently so in honor of the man I read my friend Kelly’s fave, The Illustrated Man. In the introduction, Bradbury writes: What I am trying to say is that the creative process is much like the old-fashioned way of taking photos with a huge camera and you horsing around under a black  cloth seeking pictures in the dark. The subjects might not have stood still. There might have been too much light. Or not enough. One can only fumble, but fumble quickly, hoping for a developed snap…My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 a.m. So as not to be dead. Here’s to you Ray Bradbury, and your legacy which will endure.

Working Girl: The Wisest Teachers I Ever Worked With

The job I held the longest in college was working for a company that  taught living and employment skills to developmentally disabled adults. I worked overnight and weekend shifts in the supervised living apartments for fifteen months. Clients who lived there were termed “high functioning”: people who had the potential of someday living independently. I believe there were seven two-bedroom apartments in addition to the office and a laundry room. It was a great job, involving a lot of hours, not bad pay, and very interesting clients and staff to work with. I was toying with a major in Psychology at the time, and this seemed a decent way to get some firsthand knowledge of the interesting and sometimes tragic things that can cause problems in the human brain, and how those problems manifest.

One of my first duties on a weekend shift was to take some clients to the grocery store with another staff person. My task was to help them make sure they got everything on their list, and that they paid for it as budgeted. Some clients had written lists, others had pictures. The other staff person took three people, and I took three and since it was pretty tightly organized, it went smoothly. We got the looks, though. In the aisles, as shoppers were picking out their Dinty Moore stew and their macaroni and cheese, they watched us doing the same thing, a college girl and three middle-aged people with obvious disabilities, moving as a closely knit unit through the store. A woman in her forties stopped me and said, “I just think it is wonderful what you are doing; I know I couldn’t do it.”  “Uh, thanks,” I stammered. What I was doing wasn’t that difficult, actually, although three grocery lists were a little more than I was used to managing, but I understood what she was saying. And it bothered me. I felt she was making a bigger deal of it than it was, to justify why she preferred not to deal with people who are different. We were just folks getting groceries, for Pete’s sake. We weren’t leaking contagion, or howling epithets at passersby, we were just checking to see if our cash on hand would allow us to spring for a can of spaghetti WITH meatballs. And feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at the checkout, when all the purchases were successfully paid for with the money in the envelopes, and all the prized food was ready to go back to the apartment. Mission accomplished.

But back at the ranch, as I was fond of saying, my inexperience created a difficulty. Karen (not her real name, no real names here today) a woman with Down’s Syndrome and on a diet to avoid additional weight gain, had unpacked her food and put away her pudding cups in the cupboard. My understanding was that she had to keep her pudding cups in the office, because of her tendency toward pudding frenzy (a phenomena I am personally familiar with.) My insistence on taking the pudding with me to the office had her in furious tears, and I felt awful. They were hers, she insisted, and she could TOO keep them! But rules are rules and I was the authority and she sorrowfully watched me confiscate the beloved snack. I felt like a monster, but wanted to help her keep to her program. When I got the office, Bill, the program manager, informed me that Karen had just moved to a new level of her program and COULD have the pudding cups in her kitchen as a reward for keeping her weight down and showing self-discipline. A fact that she was well aware of. “Oh, good Lord, I have to go apologize,” I said, turning around immediately. The joy in Karen’s eyes when I handed her the pudding with a sincere apology had a lot less to do with the fact she’d gotten her food back than it did with the relief we both felt that I was no longer a jack-booted thug, but a friendly helper and all was right with the world! We celebrated our reconciliation with a good laugh. “You’re all right!” Karen exclaimed happily, telling her roommate Sheryl, who had cerebral palsy, “I like her!” Karen pretty much liked everybody, but I have rarely felt so happy to get a thumbs up. Sheryl laughed with us, just glowing with happiness that everyone was getting along, her wiry arms clapping her hands together with difficulty, forcing each word through uncooperatively locked muscles in her throat and jaw.

The night shift was full of silence. The hours were something like 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and in that time the lone staffperson was expected to stay awake, do some quiet cleaning, medication counting and set-up, and regular rounds to make sure all was well. Some of our residents had seizure disorders of one kind or another, and one in particular, Mark, had to be monitored. Mark was a strapping man, who had a relatively minor cognitive delay and some speech difficulty. He had a job, and didn’t really have any need for programs to help him learn independent living skills. He would probably have had an apartment  and a car, or better yet, a motorcycle, which he would have loved, except for a catastrophic case of epilepsy. When he was having a a grand mal seizure, which he did at least once a week, his whole body went rigid and spasmed as if he was being electrocuted. As a witness, I felt helpless, and as the person seizing, Mark felt even worse. After an episode he almost always glared at anyone standing by and staggered off to the bathroom in humiliation, having to change his clothes after losing control of his bladder and nearly everything else. He hated the seizures. Every night, after he fell asleep, when we checked in on him on rounds, we had to move the radio he listened to away from the side of his bed, so he wouldn’t land on it if he fell out of bed. One night I happened to hear him thumping against the wall in seizure mode, and ran into his room to watch in horror as his body, stiff as a board, heaved up onto his right side and he tipped over, off the twin bed, landing flat on his face on the floor, catching his broad shoulder on the radio, which I had left two inches too close. The next day an angry purple bruise in the shape of a right angle commemorated the incident. He held no hard feelings, he said, but as always, he didn’t want to talk about it.

Mark’s roommate for part of the time I worked there was Philip. Philip had lived a long, relatively normal life, but was succumbing to a form of dementia that was eroding his ability to reliably take care of himself. He was a small, sweet man, fond of talking to himself as though he were making commentary to a beloved, quiet spouse always nearby. He referred to a lot of things as she: “Yep, she’s a nice day out there,” or “Yep, she’s a red car, there on the road.” One Saturday I was in their apartment, performing a routine annual maintenance task: pulling the electric range out from the wall and cleaning behind it. In order to do this, I had to remove the drawer underneath the oven, lie on the kitchen floor in the narrow galley kitchen, and unplug the appliance so it could be moved. Philip was in the living room while I worked. I grasped the thick plug and tried to pull it from the outlet, but it was really tight and only pulled out a hair, so I wiggled as close as I could and tried to get a better grip. As I pulled, my finger slipped and touched the prong. 220 volts of electricity coursed through my body, and I don’t remember a thing about it. When I came to, the oven plug was lying on the floor next to the outlet. I was still on the kitchen floor, but my back was now pressed against the refrigerator across the galley from where I had been. I could hear Philip in the next room saying, “Yep, she’s a yellin’ in there,” so I guess I must have given out a squawk of some kind. I slowly got to my feet and staggered off to the office, exhausted and headachey, but glad I didn’t have to change my pants. I decided to leave the rest of the oven work for the next shift.

Sarah had a particularly sad situation. She had lived a fully independent life, until she had accidentally fallen asleep in a running car, or at least that was the official story. Carbon monoxide poisoning had destroyed her short term memory. She read books, and did crossword puzzles and was very productive at the Work Skills Center, where she and other clients worked simple jobs under supervision and earned small paychecks. Sarah couldn’t remember what day it was, or if she had gone to the park that day or had dinner yet. It made her nervous. She kept a calendar and checked off daily events so she could keep track of her life, but it wasn’t enough. “Well, isn’t that a stupid thing!” she said often, perhaps fifteen-twenty times a day, either with a look of amused “Am I right?” in regards to the hat and mittens that turned up in the office where she left them instead of in her closet where she expected; or in anxiety because feeling lost all the time was getting her down, and there was no soup in the cupboard and soup was what was on her menu, and it was ALL stupid, the menu, the missing soup, and the uncertainty of whether the soup was missing because perhaps she ate it an hour before and forgot to check it off; or in full-on tears, defeated yet again by the checkbook register she was re-learning to use. Every day she practiced the same steps, trying to do the task without relying on written instructions. If she could, it meant the repetition was helping her shift the skill into her long-term memory. Some days it seemed that the only thing she remembered about the task was the incessant frustration. She remembered some things about her previous life, I was told, but she never talked about it. She smiled often and kept going, but I thought her life must be a form of hell.

We kept track of the clients’ money, medications, and progress towards their goals. We took them shopping and on recreational outings to the movies, or the pool. They checked in with us in the office if they wanted to go for a walk, or visit a friend in one of the other facilities in town, or most exciting, go out with a friend or family member who came to spend some time with them. We tried to keep them safe. One Sunday afternoon a couple of the women came into the office with a young man. “This is my friend, Joe,” one of the women told me, smiling. “He came to visit. We are going to get ice cream, okay?” This was unusual. Most visits, which were sadly rare, were set in advance. “How do you know each other?” I asked. “He is from my home town,” she answered. “Sorry, I didn’t know I needed to call ahead,” the guy said. The other woman with them over-enthusiastically affirmed they were old friends, but I couldn’t tell if her dramatic assurances were anything more than her usual over-the-top exuberance.  I couldn’t tell if the twist in my gut was a red flag or just nervousness from an unexpected change to the schedule. The young man was a little skeezy, but no worse than some of my own friends. It seemed cruel to deny the outing just because it wasn’t pre-arranged. I let her go. Of course, the guy turned out to be a perv she had met just that day and he had sex with her. She came home with ice cream and the intrigue of having gone on a “date;” she had been exploited, but was otherwise relatively unharmed. I was sick with regret. I got very, very drunk with the result that I do not drink whiskey to this day. The perv was prosecuted and I testified at the grand jury trial. I missed a hiking trip on Spring Break my junior year because the full jury trial was scheduled for then, but at the last minute the perv plead guilty and I didn’t have to testify after all.

That was a tough one. I still have a hard time letting go of the guilt, and it colored the rest of my experience there. I was also worn down to the bone from staying up all throughout the overnight shifts and attending classes during the day, and trying to get my studying done and sleep in between. There were some great memories though, like the Thanksgiving I spent with the residents who didn’t have anywhere to go, where we cooked the whole feast and I actually remembered how my mom made turkey gravy and it turned out. Everyone was so happy about it. Everyone there was usually pretty happy, and it changed the way I saw life. You could argue that they were happy because they didn’t have the capacity to grasp everything wrong with their life and their world. I had a psychology professor who once compared mentally handicapped people to animals. I confronted him after class and burst into tears (because confrontation rattles me,) to both our embarrassment. I’d argue that most of us lack the sense to let go of the BS that makes life so grim, so that we can embrace the minor wins in life that make it rewarding beyond all measure. Soup in the cupboard? Amazing! A friendly word from someone? A miracle! The utter BS that trips us up? It happens; move on, pal and open up for that next amazing, miraculous moment. Anybody can see that this is a good approach, but it takes a person with a special kind of wisdom to live it.

Related Post: Working Girl: The Summer of No Sleep

Related Post: Working Girl: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home & Garden Show Wrap Up

Okay, all you fabulous Minneapolis Home & Garden Show fans (and especially you wordtabulous followers, God love you all!) we have photos and most of the recipes up.

For photos, check the McFarland Cahill Communications facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/McFarland-Cahill-Communications. I took some of the photos, but obviously not the ones I am IN, and there are a couple of those, which is very exciting.

For recipes, check the Minnepolis Home and Garden Show website: http://www.homeandgardenshow.com/MHGS/AtTheShow/96.aspx which will take you to the celebrity guests page. Scroll down to get to the Kitchen Stage celebrities. As of the time of this post, the Roasted Corn and Orzo salad presented by Belinda and Bobby is not on their website and I am so sorry for that. I would be sorrier if this website wasn’t getting so many hits from people searching Google desperately for the recipe. Big numbers on Wortabulous! Thank you salad-loving, google-searching KARE 11 fans! I am sure they will have that recipe up shortly. There are a few other recipes missing, but most of them are there and are FANTASTIC.

The Show was a lot of fun, and I can’t tell you how great it was sharing the experience with you. The clean up is done, the thank-you notes are in the mail, the notes are getting archived for next year and this is a wrap. Thanks for visiting, and be sure to check back. My life isn’t all celebrities and fancy food, but new adventures await, and I would love to have you along!

Home & Garden Show: The Longest Day

The fourth day of the Home & Garden Show dawned with appalling promptness. I’d woken twice in the night thinking of things done and not done, that maybe caused problems for others or potentially myself. I was sure I’d left four packages of frozen strawberries out by accident, so I stopped at the store yet again to replace them on my way to the Show. After five miles, I realized with horror that I’d forgotten to buy a cup of coffee. The Dunn Bros. in the convention center is, I believe, as far from the Kitchen Stage as it is possible to get, and there is never time. I sucked it up.

Our first guest on the stage was Chef Todd. He arrived early with a group of at least six assistants and Miss Chiquita, who wore a blue dress with ruffly skirt and a fruit basket hat. She was the spitting image of the banana icon. I gave the friendly chef a quick kitchen orientation, offered whatever help he needed and got out of the way. Not all the assistants had immediate jobs to do, so one offered to get coffee for us. I raised my hand, not believing my luck. With too many bodies onstage, I set about prepping the ingredients for the next few demos, and figure out the brand new Kitchen Aid food processor loaned to us by Macy’s that I had just washed. It was super fancy.Chef Todd happened to come offstage as I was puzzling over how to lock the bowl on the base and the lid on the bowl. He offered to look at it and had it together in seconds. Unfortunately, when his demo started, everything was ready but the microphone, so Chef Todd muscled it through without electronic assistance for about twenty stress-filled minutes until Aaron arrived and set everything right. Chef Todd made a seared pork shoulder on greens that was delicious. I had to return backstage, so I missed whatever he made that involved a thick chocolate sauce and bananas, but the remnants looked decadent.

Before Chef Todd was done, Pat Evans from KARE 11 arrived and was as nice as can be. We chatted a bit until it was time for me to rush as many of the dirty pans through the sudsy water as possible and shunt the rest offstage until the next cleaning opportunity. Diana Pierce arrived to join Pat for their demonstration of Baked Brie with Apricot Jam and Almonds, and Hummus (two different food demos, they were not served together.) The audience was delighted, as they usually are with our local TV celebrities and I got my few minutes onstage, helping locate extraneous items and releasing the lid on the food processor, which closed really tightly.

Chef Joan Ida returned for the next demo with a new assistant, representing the restaurant Scusi this time. I was sent away for a break at this time, with Bruce and Dan taking over for the next three presentations: Joan, Marjorie Johnson (author of Blue Ribbon Baking) and Todd Walker, with Chef Jordan. I got to wander the show with Mr. Wordtabulous for a few hours. I could barely stand to be away, although the gardens and the Idea House were beautiful and there was a dizzying array of things being promoted, demonstrated and sold all around. When my feet started to ache, we made our way back to the stage, where Marjorie Johnson was presenting her Ginger Snap cookies. Marjorie is famous for her baking, but beloved for her personality. At ninety years old and no taller than five feet, she entertains her audience with a running commentary as she dazzles in her red skirt suit and shiny red pumps. Maggie said she had trouble keeping up with Marjorie as they were having a look around the show prior to her appearance.

Todd Walker, with Fox 9 news, claimed he wasn’t a cook but did some humorous color commentary and assisted Chef Jordan Hamilton from Heidi’s. Chef Hamilton demonstrated a homemade Bison Jerky and made Kale & Adzuki beans and Toasted Millet Cakes. I missed the samples because by then, I was getting reoriented backstage. The thing about being four days into the event was that my memory was getting blurry and I was finding myself searching every cupboard for the item I needed and constantly having to refer to my notes to remember who was on next. It is kind of like my computer running on a full hard drive. I needed to defrag, but there was no opportunity.

Chef Todd was back up for round two and I did have a little time to consolidate and organize, and while he was on I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Sarah Master from the restaurant Porter & Frye at Hotel Ivy. She was a little apprehensive about her first time doing a Kitchen Stage demo and seemed to appreciate my offer to mike up and assist her. Once we got Chef Todd’s stage cleared, (he took a moment to admire Sarah’s cowhide kitchen clogs) we and one other person from the restaurant (possibly the restaurant manager? I didn’t get her details) presented her Fried Oysters with oven roasted Asparagus, Hollandaise and Prosciutto. Sarah got her friend busy whisking the egg yolks over a steaming pot of clarified butter while she demonstrated how to shuck an oyster, and the finer points of breading an oyster (shake off excess flour so it doesn’t get gummy, add a dusting of corn meal before frying, preferably in an electric fryer.) When her friend’s arm grew numb, I took over. As Sarah pointed out, restaurant cooking isn’t for wimps. Our samples with oysters were snapped up and then we served asparagus with sauce and prosciutto until that was gone. I asked Sarah to tell us about her non-cooking activities, and she told us that she plays goalie for a Turkish women’s hockey team, travelling globally for six weeks a year. Stunning.

The Porter & Frye hour was followed by Eileen McHale, who has partnered with Dole to demonstrate her Yonanas machine, which processes frozen fruit and other ingredients to a soft-serve consistency, making a sweet delicious and healthy treat. So healthy, it was recommended last year as one of Dr. Oz’s top gifts. The audience was voracious, and even though Eileen had six machines going, one after the other to produce different varieties of desserts, I could barely get the samples out fast enough. Happily, Eileen had a group of friends helping so clean up went fast, and we were ready in no time for the next presentation.

Stephanie March from Mpls St.Paul Magazine arrived first, and soon Stephanie Hansen from my Talk 107 appeared. I was delighted to be able to find just about everything they needed, except we found that all our large bowls were being used to store food for Sunday in the refrigerator. (Note to self: next year use large ziploc bags for storage! Save room, and keep bowls available!) I enjoyed their presentation of Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto and Chicken (am I the only one who didn’t know Gnocchi were made with potatoes?) These women are so smart and confident and had the kind of camaraderie onstage that was more about long friendship than show biz. They offered lots of insights into their philosophy of eating, cooking and feeding kids, as well as the recipe that was a fantastically rustic comfort food.

Next, Eileen from Dole reprised her Yonanas performance and, possibly because I knew it was the last demo of the day, or possibly because my feet were enraged that they had been stood upon all day long, I really started to drag. After several rounds through the audience with trays, I grabbed the next trays of samples, turned and looked at the audience and said, “I have one tray of Peanut Butter Cup, and one tray of Tiramisu (non-alcoholic.) Is there any way I could persuade you folks to come up here for a sample?” “Well, there’s an idea!” Eileen encouraged us, and I will give the audience credit, the walk up to the stage didn’t discourage them in the slightest. They loved the samples and most of them seemed surprised to hear that the Yonanas machine was only $49.99, and available at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and disappointed to hear that it wasn’t for sale at the show. So I think Eileen will do pretty well.

The last two demonstrations of the day were cancelled, to the disappointment of the audience, and final clean up took awhile, but felt pretty good because I did it in my sock feet. It had been a twelve and a half hour day, but I didn’t rush because I had been told that two of my colleagues were taking over the Stage Sunday, and I was getting the day off. It was a bittersweet moment. I had told quite a few people, including all of you, that I’d be there all week and I am such a child that I hate missing anything, but I was also so pooped I was afraid I might doze off at a stoplight on the way home. The idea of fully relaxing was delightful, while the thought of relinquishing my responsibility troubled me. That is always a good sign that for me, it is time to let go. I left the Kitchen Stage in the good hands of Maggie and Amanda, and departed with thrilling memories and the hope that maybe next year, with my list of “Things We Have Learned” I might get another chance to do it again. Recipes and pictures will be online soon, and I will be providing links. Thanks for reading!

Related Posts: And the Food Rolls On: Home & Garden Show Day 3

Related Posts: Home & Garden Show Day 2

 

And the Food Rolls On: Home & Garden Show, Day 3

Well, the chocolate cremeaux hit the fan today, people, and I was in the thick of it. And things had been going so well.

We started out with normal setup and a SPECTACULAR food delivery before our chefs arrived. To explain, Maggie and I ordered food for our local celebrity chefs based on the recipes they gave us. It involved careful reading and much anxious consideration of what would be needed, what could go wrong. You don’t want to be onstage and find out, for instance, that someone meant sour cream instead of cream, or wanted 2 lbs of powdered sugar instead of  1/2 cup  of powdered sugar. So we are very careful about what we order. But, in addition to our celebrity chefs (local TV, radio and print media personalities) our stage also features restaurant chefs who bring their own ingredients (because they are promoting their own business,) and nationallly known chefs brought in by the Home & Garden Show and Cub Foods. We (McFarland Cahill Communications) ordered Yigit’s ingredients, but the Cub Foods chefs ordered their own ingredients which arrived today. SO MUCH FOOD!!!  I was scared by the size of the cuts of meat and the sheer volume of cream and garlic paste, not to mention the sesame oil and soy sauce. And then, there was the issue of food storage. I had to totally rearrange my refrigerator to accommodate the meat and cream and as much of the lettuces as I could. Then it was time for our first guest chef to arrive. And she didn’t. Poor Elizabeth Ries from KSTP TV had trouble clearing security and finding parking. I would love to be a fly on the wall because everyone seems to be having security issues but I can’t figure out where and with whom. I had to race (consider this a jog or a trot) to Bay E to let Elizabeth in a back door.

Elizabeth is both beautiful and nice, and was making dips for the audience who had assembled to offer their reverence. I partnered up with her onstage. One of the dips was a Taco Dip recipe that one of her viewers had given her and one was a Spinach Artichoke Dip that was a specialty of her own. I realized just before she arrived that her ingredient list called for 1/2 cup of cream, but the directions specified sour cream. No sour cream in the fridge. We made do by adding a little cream to the cream cheese to loosen it up and it pretty much worked. Unfortunately, in the strain of her rushed arrival, neither of us was thinking clearly and we overlooked the need to do the baked dip first so it would be ready when the cold dip was finished. We ran out of time. About halfway through I was admiring her super cute knit dress over leggings and realized with horror that, once again, I had forgotten to offer the guest an apron. Also, I didn’t offer her water until she was done, so she basically talked for an hour with a dry throat. Was she crabby? No. She couldn’t have been sweeter or more gracious. But our next chef, who arrived early, found a crazed and loopy support person (that would be me) and a stage not ready for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to finish her presentation on her own and with the support staff that KSTP sent, and I was able to start the cleanup and prep process for our next demo. I missed the dips but I heard they were amazing, especially the half-baked Spinach Artichoke.

Our next guest was WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro and his beloved mom, Rosalie, also known as Mama V. They didn’t need me onstage as they are a team unto themselves which was great because THEN!!! A guy shows up with a new refrigerator load of lettuces and fruits. “These lettuces will be ruined if you can’t refrigerate them in the next few minutes,” he told me, as I was trying to set up for Frank and Mama V. “Okay,” I replied. “If we need to put the lettuces in, I am going to have to take out the meat.”

“You can’t take out the meat,” he said.

“All right. Well, if I can’t take out the meat, then I will have to take out the cream.”

“You can’t take out the cream,” he said.

“Well, then you see my problem,” I said. I couldn’t make the refrigerator bigger for him, no matter how much he wanted me to. Maggie and Ashley resolved the issue by helping him reach the woman who could open the doors of the convention center kitchen, but he wasn’t satisfied. What got back to us was his complaints that we allowed his perishable produce to rot on the floor for three hours when what happened was that everything was taken to refrigeration exactly at the moment that he raced off to his next important appointment, within an hour of his arrival. I even allowed him into my carefully arranged refrigerator, which he totally repacked, leaving me clueless and grasping for the eight remaining presentations. I believe he expected thanks for handling the situation, so, thanks, buddy. He was also indignant that we didn’t have unlimited enormous frying pans, although I invited him to go with me to the Royal Prestige cookware vendor, who was providing all our pans, and who pledged to give us what he could, within his capacity. Not good enough. He couldn’t believe we didn’t have two panini presses on hand. “We were promised a fully stocked gourmet kitchen!” he complained. “Macy’s gave us all the appliances we asked for, that we were informed we would need,” I told him. “Fine. Go buy two,” he told his associate, whose sigh expressed that he had twelve other things he needed to do before buying small appliances, but fine, okay, whatever.

Meanwhile, there was a ton of weirdness onstage with the microphones. There was feedback and screeching and Aaron, who is normally right there whenever we need him was taking care of issues on the other side of the convention center. Later, when he got back, we found that Frank’s microphone had slipped down the front of his shirt into his pants, causing feedback issues. It must be that Caveman Diet that Frank has had so much success with, causing extra looseness in his clothing. Seriously, he looks great! So, that funness behind us, I hear Mama V say, “Well, I don’t see the regular sugar.” Shit!!!! I realized I hadn’t set out the staples, only the special ingredients, because of the interruptions. Friends, at this point I took off at a sprint between the stage and the audience, booking it to the ingredient area at stage right. As I ran, Frank announced, “Ladies and gentlemen! This is Lynnette, our Kitchen Stage assistant!” Could I have run around the back? Probably. It didn’t occur to me. The full audience applauded and I smiled and waved, disappearing and then emerging with the sugar, followed by the flour, and later the salt, and still later additional bowls. Oh, and the powdered sugar? I had set out 1/2 cup and Mama V needed 2 lbs. I gave her the bag and prayed there would be enough left for the 2:00 chef. Frank was covered with flour and cocoa powder when they finished the presentation of gorgeous Iced Fudge Nut Brownies because I didn’t offer either of them an apron. Yes. I was a total moron, and did Frank and Rosalie tsk and shake their heads? No. They shook my hand and thanked me for all my help so graciously I wanted to cry. Meanwhile, Lee Dean, who writes for the Taste section of the Star Tribune had arrived, with all the supplies, ingredients and utensils needed for her demonstration of Strawberry Tartlets.

Lee Dean was an unknown quantity to me, and unfortunately, I was unable to conceal that from her. I used to read the taste section of the Star Tribune all the time but we haven’t taken the newspaper for years. I long for the days when I could sit and savor even the weekly paper, but it doesn’t happen. I was stressed and distracted from the earlier debacles, but Lee Dean was so smart and friendly, even as I was falling all over myself trying to help her feel as comfortable as I had wanted to make my earlier guests, and only FOUR people showed up to hear her wonderful presentation, although enough people showed up at sample time to eat her entire prepared cache of tartlets. Which were AWESOME. She has had a cookbook published, too, and the one comment I heard on that? “Not enough pictures, hahaha.” Vultures. Hey, all you foodies out there. Buy her cookbook, because from her demonstration, she is AMAZING FOOD SMART. I am totally getting it. We can share what we love about it. Let me know, we can start a facebook fan club or something. She was a trooper.

Lee finished up and I was completing the cleanup when Rena Sarigianopoulos from KARE 11 arrived. She is the package, people. She invited me to mike up and join her onstage, (I believe she is a risk-taker,) and I had so much fun with her. A ton of people gathered to see her, and a little girl strolling by with her parents squealed, “Rena!!!” upon seeing her–I am not kidding, so cute! And she is adorable and approachable and made Buckeyes, and when she was done, she helped me do dishes and we talked about her involvement with a charity for Rheumatoid Arthritis and coincidentally I had, just the day before, sponsored my neighbor Cameron for her walk for that charity (Go Cameron!) And the Buckeyes were peanut butter deliciousness wrapped in a loving chocolate hug.

Then I had an hour break and I was able to go to the bathroom for the first time in three days. Almost. How is it that I don’t notice I need to pee or eat or drink when I am working? Am I broken? I don’t know.

Then, my new best friend, Dave Dahl, meteorologist from KSTP showed up. I fell in love with Dave the day before when I met him and he expressed concern about getting in through the convention center’s back door because of the rumoured security issues. I gave him my cell # so he could call me if he had trouble, and he had problems saving it. He must have said, “I am an idiot,” seven times, which clearly he is not and so now I love him. He is just as charming in person as you’d suspect, and taller than I expected. Anyway, he showed up with no security problems, and asked me to join him onstage, and as you now know, I am a modest but willing sidekick (meaning I didn’t actually leap across the stage yelling “Yay!!”, but acquiesced with composure.) We started making his “Buffalo Chicken (or Shrimp) Flatbread” when my phone went off. Maggie wanted me to go halfway across the convention center to let in our guest scheduled for the next hour, who reportedly was having trouble getting through security. Could I bring a ticket or a pass or something to back entrance C West? Folks, I had no tickets or passes. I shut off my mike, abandoned Dave, grabbed a list of scheduled guests and raced (this was a full-on sprint through the crowds, in my Cub emblazoned apron and 2 1/2 inch heeled clogs) to the security desk at C West. No guest in sight. I left the list and sprinted back to the stage, to the confusion of several exhibitors and visitors. I reappeared back onstage, and evidently was unable to hide my labored breathing or beet-red face, as the audience was much amused. Dave, I and his KSTP support staff finished the demo, with few other difficulties, and again, Dave was super kind and gracious. But Dave! Wear a helmet when you ride your Harley! We love you and want you to live a long and healthy life! And you make me feel like a wimp, wearing a helmet on my bicycle! Also, I loved the fiery sauce and creamy melted blue cheese that enveloped the chicken and celery on the flatbread. And the shrimp option for Lent? Genius.

The 6:00 chefs from The Lowry restaurant showed up before the 5:00 celebrity chefs, Beth Dooley and Bill Coy, who are food and wine writers for Mpls St. Paul magazine, but everyone got there, including Bruce and Dan, the duo who take over when it is time for me to go. Also, at that time, Eileen from Dole showed up and I had three things going on. I was debriefing with one of my bosses, Maureen; I needed to get a plate for the Lowry chefs, who had forgotten one for their demo; and I needed to see about getting shelves installed in our freezer for Eileen/Dole. This involved some more running around so I missed the Beth and Bill demo of Cheese and Chocolate Fondues, but when I returned to the stage, Bill was just finishing offering samples of two wines I can’t remember, a red and a white. I may have walked away from someone in mid-sentence to go get a sample. I don’t remember anything but thinking, “That. Want some.” And even though I hadn’t done anything more than help procure a few ingredients, Beth and Bill treated me as if I had been some huge supportive presence during their presentation. They were (I don’t think it was an act) excited to hear about Mr. Wordtabulous’ and my upcoming trip to wine country and San Francisco. Bill gave me his card so we could correspond about destinations. I want to hang out with them, although I am clearly too immature to do so. They would never run, waving, in front of an audience in a near panic, grinning manically. I am pretty sure.

As I left, Joan, the executive chef from The Lowry, was preparing to begin her demonstration of steak and oysters. Bruce and Dan, having set the stage, leisurely took their spots in the audience, prepared to relax and eat amazing food before the next demonstration by Mollie and Missy, from The Vikings Cheerleaders, which would be followed by another presentation from Beth Dooley, this time with Hilary, a Naked Grape Winemaker. I kind of love Bruce and Dan, but I can’t help wondering if they are possibly getting something over on me with this deal. I did tell them that in return for my taking the whole of Saturday evening I expected them to donate to my Tour de Cure ride, and they agreed, albeit with confusion. I have that effect on people.

Lordy, this is a long post. It was a long day. If you hung in there with me to the end, I love you! Tomorrow is a long one. I won’t get home until 11:00 or so. I know it will be an almost unbearable hardship, but you may have to wait to see how it goes until I have time to report back on Sunday. I am sorry. I, myself, am curious about what tomorrow will bring. How in the world will Chef Todd use his enormous cuts of meat and his perishable lettuces? How will Eileen from Chiquita manage with her frozen and fresh fruits? Will anyone come to yell at me to no avail? These questions and more will be answered…but not today.

You have two days left to come find me at the 2012 Minneapolis Home & Garden kitchen stage! Mention Wordtabulous and I will ditch my celebrity chef and give you a hug!

Related Post: Home & Garden Kitchen Stage, Day Two

Related Post: Working Girl, Fast Forward

Home & Garden Kitchen Stage, Day 2

I dragged my sleepy rear end out of bed this morning and rolled on back to the Minneapolis Convention Center (with one quick stop at Village Market for the angel food cake loaves Cub didn’t carry and the item my brain collapsed on last night: bean dip. I woke up at 2 a.m. thinking ohhh, BEAN DIP. I know exactly where that is. Duh.) Leah McLean, KSTP anchor, was first up to share her Fiesta Chicken. When she wasn’t there at her presentation time, I started to get worried. The audience was full, because the weather was fine and it was Senior Citizen Day. Generally speaking, seniors enjoy the slower pace of the weekday crowds and the first one hundred get gift bags. Also, they LOVE our local news personalities (as do we all.) So when Leah wasn’t there right away, but the chairs were full, I was a little concerned there might be a geriatric riot. What would THAT look like, I wondered. Fortunately, Leah showed up, only a bit flustered over some parking hassles that had delayed her. The audience glowed with delight, and Leah went to work like the pro she is, needing minimal assistance. She shared the news that she is pregnant (congratulations, Leah!) and told stories about work and family while cooking up a pasta dish with chicken, bell pepper and onion in a white sauce. I helped serve until it was all gone, and so I can’t tell you how it tasted, but it smelled deliciously of cumin, garlic and a hint of cayenne.

I began a frantic clean up that wasn’t quite done when the next presenters, Bobby Jensen and Belinda Jensen of KARE 11 showed up. Fortunately I had most of the set up organized and the counter cleared off, so the unwashed dishes remained hidden in the sink (thank heavens there were no cameras trained on that spot, as there are on the cooktop and prep counter.) Belinda, a meteorologist, also does gardening segments with Bobby, and although they have the same last name, they are not related in any way. They bantered like brother and sister to the delight of the crowd, who had questions about them and about gardening. For a cooking demo, there were a lot of questions about parasitic infection. I got to come to the rescue when from backstage I heard Belinda say, “You didn’t just cut yourself, did you?” In seconds I was onstage, band-aids in hand, patching up Bobby’s finger. Their roasted corn and orzo salad with tomatoes, feta and arugula looked wonderful, but once again the crowd beat me to it.

Another clean up, and then Yigit Pura was back, this time with Panna Cotta topped with a grapefruit juice and Campari gelee and grapefruit supremes. The panna cotta was a creamy base flavored with vanilla bean and citrus zest and thickened with gelatin sheets, which I must try because they look like a lot of fun. The next layer was citrus juices and Campari thickened with more gelatin leaves dissolved in a simple syrup, which was added after the base had gelled. We had done these steps the day before, so Yigit’s presentation was about the nature and, in the case of the vanilla bean, the history of the various ingredients, followed by a demo of making grapefruit supremes, which is what it is called when you peel the fruit with a knife and slice the segments out of their membranes, resulting in glistening, gorgeous crescents. Yigit popped a few of these on top, and I finally got to taste one. This was grown-up deliciousness of sweet and tart and creamy and juicy; kids, go eat your pudding cups.

Chef Carl Littlejohn from Redrossa followed, assisted by Ryan. Redrossa is an Italian place in Bloomington, near the Mall of America.  Since I wasn’t needed and had some prep work backstage, I missed most of his presentation, but the air was filled with the staggeringly heady scent of basil, and I made it out front in time to help distribute his samples of bruschetta over fresh mozzarella on toasted ciabatta slices, and drizzed with a balsamic reduction. So yummy, and Carl had enough for me to snag a couple extra for my healthy lunch. I missed out on his chocolate cake layered with a creamy chocolate filling and topped with what looked like ganache. So it looked worthy of its reputation as a favored dish at Redrossa. I will most certainly need to try it when we go there. Carl and Ryan did almost all of their own clean up (thank you, guys!) so I only had to do a few dishes left over from Yigit’s presentation as I enjoyed my bruschetta.

Our next presenter was Chef Colin Murray, whose day job is at the restaurant Seven, but who at night turns his passion for food in a different direction: dog treats. He owns Barkley’s Bistro, where healthy and balanced dog treats are created. He used vegetable stock, steamed green beans, parsnips, sweet potato, golden flax seed and oats (I might be missing a few things here) to make a thick dough which is then baked. He invited the audience to try them and I did. I decided f you brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt, it would make a decent cracker. Colin’s love for animals and enthusiasm for nutrition was evident in his presentation, and he was another one great for taking over his own clean up. He’ll be presenting again on Sunday, and has a booth at the Show, if any of you out there make it.

My last assignment for the day, before turning the stage over to Bruce and Dan (seriously guys? it takes TWO of you to do the same job I did ALL DAY LONG?) was to assist Natalie Davis, aka Miss Minnesota, with her Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Smoothie. Natalie is a knockout, unsurprisingly, and she was in full-on regalia with tiara, cocktail dress and sash, and what I like to call Hollywood shoes, but she is also a standout student, slated to graduate from St. Olaf in a few months with a degree in Chemistry. For her presentation, I put on a microphone so I could give her a hand while she prepared the smoothie and we could talk and better explore some of the things she wanted to share with the audience, like the Miss America scholarship program, her platform of autism awareness (she’ll be at the Steps of Hope fund and awareness raising walk at Ridgedale Center on Sunday morning,) and physical fitness.  Towards the end, as we were all snacking on smoothies that smelled and tasted a lot like a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup with a thin slice of banana on top, I got her attention by telling her that I had a serious question I needed to ask. She sounded just a bit apprehensive, but pageant veterans know a lot about facing the difficult interview questions so she was game. “Just where do stand on the issue of banana ripeness?” I asked. A pause, and then she laughed and surprised me by saying, “I have always wanted someone to ask me that question!” It turns out that on what she calls the green to brown spectrum of banana ripeness, she prefers them slightly less than fully golden, but before any brown appears. She asked where I stood and I replied that I enjoy a more ripened banana, say about 60% of the way on the journey from green to brown. She announced we would be perfect roommates because we would never argue about the bananas to which I countered, “Unless you ate them all before they got to 60%, because then there would be trouble.” She was great fun to work with and I think she had a good time, too.

So I was in a pretty good mood at the end of the day. I got a final hug from Yigit. I finally got to walk around the show for a few minutes and enjoy the beautiful gardens and water features. I met Dave Dahl, who will be one of my chefs tomorrow, and I got a smile and a wave from Bobby Jensen, who was still wearing his band-aid. I got a wave from a few familiar faces from the Kitchen Stage audience, too. I picked up my one grocery store item and arrived at home just a few minutes before the Bobby and Belinda footage from the Kitchen Stage was aired on KARE 11 news, and there I was in the background, doing something intently, for .5 seconds. Yep, I am feeling like pretty hot s*%t right now, and will probably continue to do so until I see the pictures Maggie took of me and Miss Minnesota standing together, because the comparison will not be flattering. I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts. So please, come out and join in the fun, and don’t forget to say hi when you do. I’ll be at the show 9am-5pm on Friday, 9am-10pm on Saturday, and 9am-5pm on Sunday.

Related Posts: Working Girl: Fast Forward

 

Working Girl: Fast Forward

Hi, my beloved blog friends! I miss you. I am tired. This is out of order for the Working Girls series, and I apologize, but there is an issue of timeliness. As you may have gathered from an earlier post, I am a working girl again and it has been a very long day. I love my new job!!! It is a beautiful combination of organization, randomness, creativity and problem solving. There are moments of amazing. Last week I addressed packages that went to Anderson Cooper, Rachael Ray, and Ellen DeGeneres. And Ellen DeGeneres called back. Well,  her producer did, wanting more information on the client of the marketing agency I now work for. I may give more details in future posts, if I get the sense you are interested, but there is a real thrill in addressing packages to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, among others. There is also the boring but soothing mundanity of repetitive express address label filling out, and the approximate one minute per package processing time at the Post Office (LOVE those people, BTW.) When you have 30 packages, that results in thirty minutes of life you spend with the very pleasant people at the USPS, which you will never spend with your children or collecting your thoughts. On the other hand: 30 Rockefeller Plaza and Ellen DeGeneres.

My agency also represents the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show, which is one of the biggest events of its kind in the nation. It runs today through Sunday, March 4th. We have over 700 exhibitors and some really kickass displays from what I’ve seen. I, as Admin Extraordinaire, am assigned to stage manage the Kitchen Stage. I spent most of this weather plagued morning setting up the full kitchen set with supplies for our chefs: restauranteurs and local TV, print and radio celebrity chefs. My colleagues Maggie and Ashley (REAL marketing associates with media spots to tend to later in the day,) carted in paper products, small appliances, pans, bakeware and utensils for all the chefs to use, and ingredients for our non-restauranteur, local celebrity volunteers to use.

We have one national Celebrity Chef in the lineup: Yigit Pura, winner of BRAVO’S Top Chef: Just Desserts. He could be my much younger brother; he is ADD, dark-haired and dark-eyed, a little naughty and knows his way around chocolate. He was my first chef of the day and because of the major ice and sleet storm last night, it was a slow start. But Yigit (pronounced Yeet) could not have been more charming. I introduced him (poorly) to the meager crowd. We made truffles together and he made this amazing Chocolate Cremeaux, which we served, drizzled with a floral lemon olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon flake salt, alongside a truffle. Heaven. He also helped me clean up, which was awesome because, chocolate? A huge freaking mess. My next chef was Sam (female) from Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in Minneapolis. She made Red Chicken Curry and I was inspired. I am so making this. It was sweet and hot, and rich and delicious. It made me happy. She needed nothing from me but a little help serving up samples but I flatter myself that I was a notable audience question asker. After that came Vincent, chef of Vincent a Restaurant, also in Minneapolis. He is French, not terribly outgoing, but knowledgeable and super easy to work with. He made Scallops with Orange Sauce that made me sigh with pleasure. I announced him, got him a bowl and strainer for his demonstration, and helped him plate his wonderful samples. Keep in mind that these chefs are coming every hour, with 45 minutes of demonstration and 15 minutes of transition: one demo getting cleaned up and one getting prepped. There is a lot of furious dishwashing and countertop cleaning as well as new chef stage orientation going on in those fifteen minutes, but people have been fabulous so far. After Vincent, we had Beth Ingles, from Ellsworth Creamery in Wisconsin, accompanied by Des (Dez?) from KS95 radio, showing decadent uses of the Creamery’s butter, cheese and gift products. Beth served a variety of cheese curds (plain, cajun, ranch, etc.) and made Cheesy Rice Lasagna and Bacon Wrapped Cheese Curds. She needed no help from me except a little bit of plating for samples, and there was a lot going on backstage at the time, so I missed the bacon wrapped cheese curds, and if I had been more energetic at that point, I would have worked up some serious disappointment. I had arrived at 9am, after shopping for dishwashing supplies and an hour commute because of the crappy roads. I worked or suppported chefs (except for one bathroom stop and a coffee purchase) the entire time until 6pm, when I left for the grocery store, turning the stage over to my new friends Bruce and Dan.

There were five new recipes I had to shop for, that had come in late. I was elated, though tired, on the drive home. Once I got to the grocery store I was less elated. Three of the recipes needed avocados and three needed limes. Two needed mangoes. Two needed things the mega-store, Cub, didn’t carry. Several things were a little vague. I found nothing that matched the description 10 1/2 oz can bean dip. I got a 14 oz can of refried beans. I questioned the literal need of one recipe for 1 1/2 pounds of blueberries, mixed with other berries. I bought two 8 oz. containers of blueberries, some raspberries and strawberries and called it good. I had difficulty making quick decisions, so it all seemed very slow-motion and cumbersome. I wanted to do well, but there were some problematic calls. Dylan, who works a second job at Cub Foods, was a lifeline in the produce battle. I told him, inappropriately, that I wanted to take him home. I meant more as an adopted son, but I am not sure it played that way. I didn’t leave the store until 8pm. Just as I was checking out, Mr. Wordtabulous called. Where ARE you? I am on my way, my beloved, I told him. Well, not in so many words. But day one of the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show was done, and I was as ready as I was going to be for day two. Bring it, I say.

For those of you salivating at home, recipes will be available next week on the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show website, so be sure to check back. Let me know if you care to hear more. I am sure that more stories will be forthcoming over the next few days, and I will share them if you want! So let me know, and in the meantime, don’t work too hard!

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