Thankful for Thanksgiving (and Weeknight Roast Chicken)

I love Thanksgiving. There is nothing better about a holiday that is centered around food. Of course, I grew up in a family where one meal was spent carefully plotting the next, so maybe it’s just me, but I think Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.

It helps that we have never traveled for it. EVER. We spend it at home, avoiding the stressful are we going to make our flight or is our connection canceled because of snow and if so, how and when are we getting home because every American has the same 4 day window for flights. (And the thousands of dollars that it costs due to holiday airfare gouging). It’s just always been so difficult, and not just financially. When you’re in academics, like at least one of us has been for the past 10 years, school  takes that same 4 day break and then it’s back to a very hectic last-dasy of grading the last assignments and writing the final lectures when you’re completely out of fuel before finals, so it’s not such a relaxing time off anyway. As a result, we’ve always tried to keep it low key. It helps that we’ve lived in Arizona that whole time, where even when it’s been cold it’s still been lovely enough to spend a good chunk of time out on a long walk. But more importantly, we both love to cook, and over the years we’ve had friends and family join us for the showcase showdown that is the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the cranberries, the homemade rolls, the apple pie…

Sorry. I’m in a food coma now.

Last year we scaled back our efforts a bit. We had a 4 month old, and were just utterly behind on housework (and sleep) so before we could even think about cooking anything we had to clean up our place. Luckily my parents were here, and that was a huge help. We alternated with my parents: some taking on the task of soothing or feeding Baby while others took over mopping the kitchen and cooking, then we would trade. And the meal was lovely all the same.

This year we’re not having anyone over, which is something we are both really looking forward to. Finally – some time off for both of us to just sit around in our sweatpants and watch some football and go for walks and eventually eat an amazing meal. So back to that meal. What to serve? We’ve always done a turkey. Some years it’s roasted, some years it’s brined, some years it’s smoked, but it’s always been there. And we do love turkey. But is it necessary this year? In keeping with our hopes of being as lazy as possible that day and just enjoying spending the weekend with Baby (who is now a toddler), maybe we should consider a roast chicken. Because that is at least as delicious as turkey in my book. And a whole lot less of a time investment. Last weekend, I happened to catch an America’s Test Kitchen episode in which they did a “Weeknight Roast Chicken” that was both simple as ALL GET OUT and amazingly succulent. Basically they browned the chicken in a skillet, then transferred the skillet to a preheated over…and then turned the oven OFF. That’s it, folks. So that might be my route. I’m definitely going to do that recipe, just not sure yet if we’ll do that one for Thanksgiving.

Turns out I’m not the only one thinking this way. This week’s Culinate just arrived in my inbox, saying: “It’s turkey-roasting season, and many of us are looking forward to feasting on our yearly Thanksgiving bird. But my colleague and friend Carrie Floyd may not be among the turkey-eaters this year; instead, she might replace her turkey with a roasted chicken — Roast Chicken with Mustard Butter to be exact. Carrie found the recipe in A Bird in the Oven and Then Some, Mindy Fox’s book about roasted chicken — and it was a big hit. The recipe worked well, as a recipe should, and her family loved it and begged her to make it again — for the upcoming holiday.”

Scuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

Today I went to a workshop for work, and at the beginning we received an agenda that gave a run down of the day – the morning sessions lasted until noon with one break, and then after an hour for lunch, the afternoon’s sessions would last til 5:00. By the last morning session, I found it really hard to focus. I was sleepy, hungry, distracted by the woman Facebooking in front of me, and tuning out all the really dry material. I began counting down the minutes until lunch. And boy, did those minutes pass slowly. By 11:58, I was ready to bolt for lunch, but the presentation went over. At the end of it, at 12:17, they asked for any questions from the audience, and I thought “Please, no questions, no questions, no questions…” I just wanted some caffeine and lunch. And I had to figure out somewhere to pump and fit that in some where in the lunch break, without being rude or strangely abrupt to whoever I would end up sitting and networking with. So I was praying nobody asked questions that required us all to sit there politely and behave.

Once lunch ended, the afternoon sessions began, and the first presentation went by pretty fast, so I was surprised that break time was upon us so soon again after lunch. But then they just dove right into the next topic and presentation with no mention of the scheduled afternoon break. I thought I must’ve been mistaken about the timing of the afternoon break, so I checked the agenda again, and looked at my phone, and sure enough, we were supposed to have had a break 20 minutes ago. I glanced around, no one else seemed antsy, so I figured, Sweet! We’ll get out of here 30 minutes early! I can get home earlier, spend at least 10 minutes with baby before she taps out, and not have to pump in the resort’s bathroom stall again.

But that second afternoon session was extremely boring, and just kept getting more and more off-track with anecdotes and, since they’d taken away the coffee after lunch, I found it harder and harder to stay awake, focus, and listen to anything with any interest. I looked at my email, popped onto IM, did some web surfing, and still, only 10 more minutes had passed. That session had slowed to a crawl. I must not have been the only one totally distracted and disinterested because the next thing I hear is “You guys look zonked. We were supposed to have a break earlier, but let’s take it now and regroup. So, how about we take a break, regroup in 30, and then we’ll go til 5:30, ok?”

No.

No, no, no, no, no. Ever since I read that agenda this morning and saw that we’d be wrapping up no later than 5:00, I had been anxiously awaiting 5:00. So, no. I am NOT staying til 5:30. I am tired, the coffee surreptitiously disappeared right after lunch, there’s no more caffeine around here, and staying til 5:00 is going to take every ounce of patience and focus that I brought for the day. Or, if you would rather hear the unfiltered response from my brain, “Do you really expect us to sit here an extra half hour today? Let’s just plow on through and get out of here early as planned. That agenda? It’s more like a contract, and you will NOT fuck with my expectation of getting out of here at 5:00. My boobs are going to explode, I’m sleepy as shit and there’s no Diet Coke, no coffee, and my phone can only entertain me so much longer before I run out of here screaming, so no. No, no, no, no, no. NO!”

Monday’s Off to a Good Start

As is often the case, I had no time for a shower this morning, but I ran the shower anyway to get my hair wet & steam my pants (because I had no time to iron either). And when I turned on the shower, I thought that there was a strange funk to the water. But whatever. Continued to get ready. Came out of the bathroom to grab coffee and get the baby ready and I thought, Actually the whole house has some strange funk to it.

Me to My Better Half: “Do you smell something?”

My Better Half: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure???”

My Better Half: “Yeah. What am I supposed to be smelling?”

Me: “Almost a moldy smell mixed with poo.”

My Better Half: “Definitely not.”

We get loaded in the truck, drop the baby off at daycare, stop for gas. While My Better Half is pumping gas, I still smell it. I roll down the window: “Does the whole city smell??”

My Better Half: “uh, no.” [eyes rolling]

I roll up the window. I smell my shoes – did I step in poo? No. No poo. I smell my sweater – did I get some nasty diaper action on my sleeve? No. Nothing. I smell my pants.

DEAR GOD. It’s MY PANTS. Since we are too far away from home to turn around, I just febreze myself before I get out of the truck. That should be fine, right?

Soon to Be Formerly Unemployed

Remember that interview last week? I got an offer!

I am so f*cking excited! I didn’t just get a job, I got a job in something I’d like to be doing (besides writing, that is). It’s a career path that I think I could stick with long term.

If given the chance.

After saying, “Yes! I accept the offer!” and working out the details of starting on Monday morning, he asked if I had any questions. I said something like, “One teency tiny little one.  Um. What is the maternity leave policy?”

<crickets>

The HR representative was literally speechless for a minute before responding. While he gathered his thoughts, I explained that my bi-weekly (soon to be weekly) doctor’s checkups would require me to miss some work from time to time until I give birth, at which point I will need to have some kind of maternity leave.

He told me that as far as being absent during training and needing leave eventually, “That’s something you’ll have to work out with your trainer and, after 6 weeks of training, then your manager. It’s up to your manager on how to handle any of that.” Since I don’t qualify for FMLA leave, any leave I can get has to be personally arranged with my supervisor, and then that agreement is provided to HR – HR stays out of that discussion since it’s not FMLA leave. (Another aside: my friends are also aghast that I’m not guaranteed ANY maternity leave. At all. FMLA isn’t universal. It’s not. You have to have worked for your employer for the 12 months prior to your time off, and have worked a minimum number of hours within those 12 months. And that’s if you work for an employer that offers FMLA, because not everyone has to. News flash: Employers can do whatever they want in terms of giving time off for a baby.)

So I won’t know until 7 weeks from now if I can negotiate any time off for maternity leave. And no time off would obviously be a deal-breaker. I don’t mean to be an A-hole and take a job only to ditch it in 3 months if it turns out I can’t get any leave, but the reality is I need work, I need a paycheck, and I want this job. So I’ll do it for at least the next 6 weeks, even if I have to quit in order to get a maternity leave. So I start my new job on Monday!

FAQ

1. What’s wrong with you?

Lots. Mostly, I’m an anxious person. I worry that I worry too much. Next question?

2. What’s the story behind the title “Funky-Ass Monkey”?

Good question. I barely remember, it seems like forever ago. Aka 2006. Here’s my best explanation: the URL was available. But seriously – I used to call drivers who tailgate “ass monkeys” and My Better Half™ wisely suggested that I add “Funky” to my favorite of my many foul-mouthed sayings, rather than just title my blog “ass monkey.” Good call. That’s why I keep him around.

3. What’s with the use of “we,” “our,” etc.? Are you a multiple personality? 

No. I have My Better Half™. He is an awesomely supportive partner, but this blog is not about him. It’s about my experiences, told from my point of view. If he wanted to share his life, he’d get his own site.

4. When you say “Phoenix,” you mean….

I use Phoenix to refer to the giant megalopolitan area in which I live. There are many cities that comprise this metropolitan area, and I don’t live in Phoenix – I live in Tempe. But it’s just a lot easier to say Phoenix. I don’t find it worth the effort to explain the subtle differences between one crap town and another in this gigantic sprawlopolis of sameness.

5. And you live there because?

My Better Half™ is in graduate school here. We’re out of here as soon as that’s done, should fate allow.

6. So you’d rather be in….?

I’d rather live closer to family and friends. I’d rather live in a small rural town that allows access to the outdoors. We prefer to be able to walk our dogs for miles on end hiking through forests and mountains, bike to where we need to go,  enjoy four distinct seasons, and just basically enjoy a higher quality of life. 

7. What do you do?

I work in museums and archives, doing behind-the-scenes stuff. It sounds cooler than it is, trust me. I end up doing a lot of boring stuff – technical writing, database administration and configuration, data entry, and arguing with blue-haired old bats who often do more harm than good. After getting laid off by the last museum where I worked, I worked for yet another poorly managed (though not underfunded) nonprofit before cutting my losses, calling my museum career’s time of death, and heading for academia until I can make a living at napping this writing thing. 

Best decision. Ever.

8. And in your spare time?

What is this “spare time” to which you refer? While I firmly believe in working to live (rather than living to work), working in non-profits means that I spend a lot more time than the average person working b/c nonprofits generally can’t afford adequate staffing to accomplish all that needs to be done. But in my spare time, I love to nap with my baby or just generally hang out with her, escape the urban environs and hike with my dogs at higher elevation forests where it’s 20-30 degrees cooler, cook and bake, garden, read, analyze reality tv, and do nature/landscape photography. Mostly I love to read and write, which is how this blog got started.

9. Where’d you get your awesome-ass logo? 

My friend, the totally awesome Chris Piascik made it for me, that’s where. 

10. Which superhero would you rather be? Superman or Batman?

Batman, duh! Mostly because he comes with a sidekick, but also because he makes his own destiny as a mere mortal, it’s not just a product of some supernatural power.

11. What would your hip hop name be?

G Wiz.

 

That’s all the time we’ve got folks, cause this list? It goes to 11.