Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Which Came First - The Chicken or The Waffles?

My sister and her husband have been making at least one trip West every year of late, and we've developed a little tradition for their annual stop-overs in Los Angeles -- we make a food pilgrimage to Hollywood's holy food temple of down-home tastiness and utter unhealthiness.

Roscoe's is the stuff of Los Angeles legend. Founded in 1976 as an all-night take-out restaurant (the first of its kind in LA) it has evolved into a five location chain that feeds everyone from actors to rappers to ordinary folks like you and me.

Chicken and waffles are the staples, but a whole host of home-cooked sides like baked macaroni and cheese, candied yams and greens will tempt you too. There are salads and other healthier options if you're not inclined to stuff your face, but I had saved my appetite all day so I could go whole hog on the Scoe's #1 -- a quarter fried chicken with two enormous waffles slathered in butter and syrup.

Of course, I'm also a mac & cheese addict, so I had a side of that as well.

I stopped short of licking the last bits of syrup and butter off the plate, but there was not a morsel of food left otherwise. By the time I got home I was so full it felt uncomfortable to sit down. I promptly fell into a food coma the second I hit the bed. I still felt full when I woke up this morning.

I guess it's a good thing my sister won't be back for a while. I need time to digest. LOTS of time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chalk Talk

I was running errands during lunch time today and wandered over to the outdoor mall next my office and into the middle of a beautiful surprise. A sidewalk art exhibition had been held there over the Fathers Day weekend and the sidewalk paintings were still intact!

Every time I see chalk art like this, I think of the scene in Mary Poppins where Mary and her charges frolic for an afternoon inside the fairytale landscapes drawn on the sidewalk by Bert the Pavement Artist.

What a beautiful way to spend part of a Monday afternoon!

Kitchen Adventures: S'mores Indoors

One of the pure joys of summer is melting marshmallows on a stick over a camp fire or grill, then smashing them together with some chocolate and graham crackers to make s'mores. But you don't have to wait for summer, or even need a camp fire or grill, to enjoy this creative take on s'mores from none other than Martha Stewart.

I uncovered this little gem of a recipe during my filing box clean-out this weekend. I figured a two days of hard work and reorganization deserved a little reward, so I there was no time like the present to try this dessert out. And with July 4th weekend around the corner, you can probably use some fresh food ideas for your holiday festivities, right?

Here's all you need to make S'more Quesadillas.
  • 1 small bag mini-marshmallows
  • Chocolate
  • Tortillas

Now Martha says to use burrito sized tortillas, but I thought the medium soft taco size looked better. She also recommends a four ounce bar of semi-sweet chocolate. I decided to try two chocolate options and get the traditional Hershey's Milk Chocolate in addition to some Ghiradelli 60% cocoa morsels. I wanted to see if there was a difference in which would melt better, plus Hershey's is the traditional go-to chocolate for s'mores at every cookout I've attended.

The rest is easy as pie. Heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Put down the first tortilla, spread out your marshmallows and chocolate, then top it immediately with a second tortilla.

Here is the version with the semi-sweet morsels.

Here is the one with the Hershey's bar broken into pieces.

Grill them for a minute on each side, then cut into quarters and enjoy the ooey-gooey goodness!

There was no discernible difference between the melting ability of the different chocolates, so it's really your choice of what you think tastes better. I preferred the semi-sweet morsels. But the best part about this recipe is you could easily do the same thing outdoors on a grill. If your heat source is a camp fire, you're probably better off sticking with the marshmallow on a stick approach.

So now whether you're stuck inside or enjoying the outdoors, s'mores can be yours anytime your heart desires! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love, Loss And Fathers Day

A friend of mine at work lost her father recently. When I found out, the first thing I did was send her an e-mail offering my ear if she needed to talk. After all, no one else understands losing a parent quite like someone who has been through it before.

My Dad hasn't been with us for almost 11 years now, yet I can still remember the day he died as vividly as it was yesterday. Where I was standing in my Burbank, CA apartment when the phone rang. The sound of my sister-in-law's voice when she spoke my name that told me instantly that he was gone without her even saying the words. The call to the airline looking for a "bereavement" fare to get me home. The flood of thoughts about all the things I hoped to accomplish that I couldn't share with him. The loneliness in the thought that he wouldn't be there to walk me down the aisle if I ever got married.

Fathers Day has been hard for me ever since my Dad passed away, which really isn't fair to my brother, my uncles and all my wonderful friends who are such terrific fathers to their own families. I always make a point to send handmade Mothers Day cards to my closest friends, yet I can never seem to muster that same creative energy for the men that are just as important. Although I did write a blog about my brother this time last year of which I'm very proud -- check out "Coach Dad" if you missed it the first time around.

My guilt over not being there when my Dad died is one of the defining things about my character as an adult. While my family has always been so supportive of me living my life as I choose, if I have one regret it is that I wasn't around more in the last years of his life. Especially because my Dad was always one of my biggest cheerleaders. He was a simple man who worked very hard to give me every opportunity he didn't have. I attended a college far more expensive for my family than other choices I had, but he and my mother sacrificed things they wanted so I could get the education I desired. I graduated from college largely debt free, and he was there to see it. And even though fancy words and grand speeches weren't his style, I know he was proud of me.

I also regret I never spent more time getting to know him. Of course, I knew plenty about his life but I never asked he important questions about who HE was.

 What did he grow up wanting to be?  What were his dreams? What kept him up at night?  What would he change about his life if he could -- if he would even change anything? What was his greatest joy in life? What were his hopes for the future?

For those of you lucky enough to still have your father here on this Earth, cherish every moment with your Dad, even if he drives you crazy sometimes. Take nothing for granted. Find out who he is as a person. Never forget to tell him you love him.

And when the time comes and you need someone to talk to about how much you miss him, call me. I get it. And I have Kleenex. Trust me, you'll need it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The "Happy File"

Today I spent almost the entire day cleaning out my filing box. I went in it in the first place to find some of my lease paperwork because of an argument I'm having with my building manager. I found what I was looking for, but I also got frustrated looking at how disorganized the box had become, so I figured I'd pull it out of the bottom of the closet and go through it.

This photo is POST clean-out. It was full when I started.
I'm not the kind of person that hordes things. In fact, I regularly purge my closets and drawers for things I no longer use. But for some reason this box had escaped my attention for a while, and every time I had something new to file, I just sort of shoved it in and figured I'd get around to reorganizing another day. Today, the time had finally come so I dug in, and boy did I find some....well, interesting stuff.

Here are some of the random crazy things I saved for some reason.
  • Reboot discs from a laptop computer that hasn't worked since some time in 2000--and that I no longer have in my possession. Maybe the fact that it was still running Windows 95 was part of the problem.
  • An article on travel tips circa 19993. I think travel has become a little more sophisticated since then and I'm a sophisticated enough traveler not to need the article.
  • A couple of old drivers licenses featuring photos of me with REALLY BAD hair.
  • Maps of random places like Cary, NC. Clearly these are left over from the days before handheld GPS technology.
  • Instructions for assembling the Ikea "Morgondal" bed I bought in 1996. Since I've moved 4 times since I bought it, I think I've got the reassembly down without using the instructions.
  • Tax returns dating back to 1989. That means I have copies of every tax return since I was making enough money to file a tax return.  Just in case you're curious, I was living LARGE in 1989 -- my adjusted gross income was $641. SWEET!
  • An article about having a paper trail ready in preparation for Y2K. Yes, I know that was almost 12 years ago...
 But there is one thing I was glad I saved in that box -- my Happy File.

Back when I got my first "real" job out of college working for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, my first boss gave me some really fantastic advice I've followed to this day. She reminded me that bad days, problems and outright failures are part of work life. The trick she used to get her through those tough times was keeping a file of things that brought back good memories. Whenever she was having a tough day, she would flip through it to remind herself that bad times don't last forever and there are plenty of good times in the midst of the bad.

In fact, one of my happy file items is a photo of Gay and I, hanging out in a tent on the roof of a building overnight as part of a fundraiser we did once. I smiled instantly looking at that picture, which is exactly the point of a Happy File.

So while I did purge a lot of outright junk, I found some great things still worth saving. My next task is getting them converted to a digital format, but that is a project for another day.

For now, I'm sitting down for a visit with my Happy File and remembering happier times.

What is in YOUR Happy File?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Everything Is Better With Bacon

I remember reading once that most of the flavor in food comes from fat, and bacon makes some of the best tasting fat around. That's probably why people are always making foods bacon flavored even if it doesn't seem natural at first glance.

I've heard rumors about chocolate covered bacon at state fairs and such, but it took a visit to Whole Foods for me to run into a real life bacon/chocolate combination.

Yes, it's a dark chocolate bar with little pieces of applewood smoked bacon melted into the chocolate. I bought one, ate it, and can confirm it is a quite tasty combination! And apparently it's a good seller because the fine folks at Vosges Haut Chocolate have an entire LINE of bacon-chocolate delicacies.

These look like great Father's Day gifts to me!

But more importantly, what is the most unusual bacon themed food YOU have ever eaten?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Five Things To Love About Chic Gamine

If you read my earlier post about Marc Broussard's show at the El Rey Theatre, you heard me mention the Canadian group Chic Gamine, one of the opening acts. I was so impressed with their performance I hit up the merch table at the show and bought one of their CD's. After playing it all day at work, I'm more hocked than ever!

I took to the Internet to learn more about my favorite new discovery, so here are five things to love about Chic Gamine -- in addition to their music!

1) The name! "Chic" means stylish (of course) and "gamine" refers to, in the eloquent words of Wikipedia, "a slim, often boyish, wide-eyed young woman who is, or is perceived to be, mischievous, teasing or sexually appealing." These ladies have that vibe down!

2) They won a Juno Award (Canada's version of the Grammys) in 2009 for Best Roots & Traditional Album of the Year: Group. They were also nominated for a Juno again in 2011 and performed at the awards even though they didn't win.

3) Each of the members of the band wrote at least one song on their 2008 self-titled album, so they're all equally talented.

4) They write and perform songs in English AND French. C'est magnifique, no?

5) Marc Broussard discovered them at Strawberry Fest in Yosemite, CA and promptly asked them to join his West Coast tour.

Here's a quick video to get you ready to jump on the Chic Gamine bandwagon! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Marc Broussard at the El Rey Theatre

The story of how I discovered Marc Broussard is a lesson in giving something a try even if you doubt it initially. Like actually listening to the music in a free compilation CD that comes attached to the spine of a fashion magazine.

Back in the days before social networking and the Internet ruled the world, Vanity Fair would insert a free CD in the pages of its annual music issue. Now those were days before musicians willingly gave tracks away for free, so you frequently assumed that the music on those CD's was free for a reason (like it wasn't very good). But against my better judgement I popped the CD into the car radio one week during a mind numbing commute and started listening. That's the first time I heard "Home."

Something about that soulful shuffle grabbed me and pulled me in. When I got to the office, I quickly popped out the disc to check the name of the artist -- Marc Broussard. I filed the information away in my brain with every intention of looking online for more of his music. Then I got busy at work and forgot about it.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I was on a business trip watching VH-1 and getting ready for work in the morning when heard the first strains of "Home." I turned to watch the video and got the shock of my life. When I first heard "Home" if you had asked what I thought Marc looked like just based on his voice, I would have said a heavy set black man in his late 40's. So imagine my surprise to see a dirty blonde, green eyed guy in his 20's singing good old fashioned soul music with a driving beat.

Then I was intrigued, picked up his first album Carenco at Tower Records, and heard that voice work magic on some pop music too. I've bought every album Marc Broussard has released since, but I've never seen him live until now.

Marc pulled a super classy move and came out to introduce the first act. Chic Gamine is a quartet based out of Winnipeg, Canada singing four party harmony with little else backing them but drums and a keyboard. Each of the ladies sings lead on different songs, and they sing in English AND French. They were unlike anything I've heard recently and are on my second look list starting NOW.

Next up was Matt Hires. He was one of the artists on the Mayercraft Carrier 2, and he's had a couple of minor hits. For the most part, he makes pleasant, unremarkable pop guitar music -- kind of a John Mayer lite without the guitar mojo. I felt a little sorry for him following Chic Gamine because they were so amazing his set felt like a bit of a letdown. Or you could call it musical palette cleanser before the main course.

One danger in knowing an artist's music too well is having lofty expectations when you see them live for the first time.  This show a little frustrating for that reason. It was the first show of Marc's current West Coast tour and his new record was officially released the same day, so he had a few things on his mind. Technically, there were numerous problems with his guitar pedals and cables, which he even commented on as "first show issues."  I wasn't impressed with the sound mix, and I don't think it was the club set-up. At points there was way too much bass, or the vocals were buried behind rest of the band.

But for all the lows, there were more than enough highs to make up for it. Marc shone most brightly on uptempo rockers like "Only Everything" and "Lucky" where he ditched his guitar and focused on singing and acting every bit the experienced front man. On most of the songs from Carencro, the crowd sang along happily.  In the middle of the show, Marc did a solo acoustic section highlighted by the lovely ballad "Evangeline Rose" and enjoyed himself so much he waved the band off and did several more songs alone. Throughout the set, Chic Gamine carried back-up vocal duties beautifully.

On the whole, it was still a great show. Marc is a charismatic and passionate performer and he gave the crowd their moneys worth during his 2 hour set. I'd buy a ticket and see him again tomorrow if I could. Here is the set list, along with the album names for each song. Marc's music is definitely worth a listen if you're not already familiar.

"Rocksteady" - Carencro
"Save Me" - Carencro
"The Beauty of Who You Are" - Carencro
"Bleeding Heart" - Marc Broussard (2011)
"Only Everything"- Marc Broussard (2011)
"Lucky"- Marc Broussard (2011)
"Come Around" - Carencro
"Could You Believe - Marc Broussard- EP
"Yes Man" - Marc Broussard (2011)
"Let It All Out" - Marc Broussard (2011)
"Evangeline Rose" - Keep Coming Back
"Come In From the Cold" - Keep Coming Back
"Let Me Leave" - Carencro
"The Wanderer" - Carencro
"Let Me Do It Over" - Marc Broussard (2011)
"Home"- Carencro
"Hard Knocks" - Keep Coming Back
"Eye on the Prize" - Marc Broussard (2011)
"I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know - SOS

To learn more about Marc Broussard, including dates for his current tour, click here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kitchen Adventures: Saucy Problems

One of the great joys of cooking is receiving a yummy recipe from a friend. Many times, it's a dish that is tied to an event you shared together, and every time you make it you feel some of the joy of that occasion all over again.

Unless you make it wrong.

My dear friend Michelle gave me a lovely gift when I moved into my current apartment. She put together a book with a number of her tried and true recipes since I was hoping to cook more in a kitchen I wasn't sharing with two other people.

One I'm glad she included was her Asparagus, Shrimp and Penne Pasta in Saffron Sauce. She first made it for me back when she was living in North Carolina. We were enjoying a rare girls weekend alone and it was a fabulous time. So I was really excited to take a stab at it myself.

Here are the ingredients:

2/3 cup white wine
1/4 tsp tightly packed saffron
2 lbs asparagus
1 lb shrimp
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 lb penne pasta
1 1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup chicken stock

And here are the steps:

1) Combine wine and saffron in small bowl and steep for at least 20 minutes. Then pour yourself a glass of wine for the rest of the process.
2) Trim asparagus, cook for 3 minutes then transfer to an ice bath.
3) Cook shrimp in olive oil with shallots until bright pink. Move shrimp to a bowl, leaving juices in pan.

4) Start penne pasta cooking.
5) Add saffron and wine mixture to shrimp skillet juices and boil until almost all liquid is gone. Then add cream and chicken stock and simmer over medium heat until mixture reduces by half (about 7 minutes).
6) Stir in asparagus and shrimp and simmer 2 more minutes.
7) Add salt and pepper to taste. Add sauce, shrimp and asparagus to pasta, stir and garnish with minced chives or Parmesan cheese (or both if you're me).

Now let's talk about what really happened.

Everything was great until I got to the sauce stage. I managed to get most of the liquid cooked out of the shrimp and shallot juice, but when I added the cream and chicken stock things went south. It cooked...and cooked...and cooked. It took close to 15 minutes to get it reduced by a third, and I was so hungry by that point I gave up, poured in the shrimp and asparagus and followed the rest of the directions.

It still tasted yummy, but the sauce wasn't the nice creamy consistency I remember it being when Michelle made it. So while I ate, I scratched my head and tried to figure out where I went wrong. I narrowed it down to a few possibilities.

1) I didn't cook enough of the liquid out of the shrimp juice.
2) I didn't use heavy enough cream. I bought whipping cream, but maybe I needed the HEAVY whipping cream.
3) I measured something wrong owing to my wine consumption during cooking.

Can anyone help me out here? I'd really love this recipe to work correctly so I can feed y'all the next time you come over.

And I promise not to drink all the wine next time...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Edwin McCain at The Canyon Club

Ever since his massive hit "I'll Be" came on the scene in 1998, I've been a huge Edwin McCain fan. Born in South Carolina, he's a talented singer and songwriter who has been traveling the world for 20 years, banging out a solid career writing huge hits, touring with major acts and even playing small clubs solo while having a ball the whole time. He's one of the few artists whose record I'll buy without having heard a note and know it will be money well spent.

The last time I saw him live was at The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. He was barefoot, relaxed and told some hilarious road trip stories of chance meetings with random strangers that inspired songs in the most unusual ways. This time, it was a different venue but the same old Edwin, every bit as relaxed and entertaining as ever.

His on-stage banter this time ran the gamut from hilarious when sharing a conversations with his wife - "Tour bus funny is NOT dinner party funny" -- to poignant when talking about his mother being diagnosed with cancer -- "Last May sucked..." But in true Edwin McCain form, even the bad news became content for a heartbreaking and beautiful song, delivered in that trademark soulful voice.

If you're interested in checking out some great music, here is a selection of some of my favorite songs from his Canyon Club set list. Just make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy, because you'll need it.

"Walk With You" - Single only (2008)
"I'll Be" - Misguided Roses (1997)
"Shooting Stars" - Scream And Whisper (2004)
"White Crosses" - Scream And Whisper (2004)
"I Could Not Ask For More" - Messenger (1999)

The night also had an unexpected bonus -- a short set by John Mayer's touring guitarist/singer David Ryan Harris!

I haven't seen David solo since my last John Mayer cruise, where he did a fantastic club set. You haven't lived until you've heard his great original/mash-up tune "Pretty Girl." If you're ever in the Los Angeles area, David is a regular at Hotel Cafe, so check his Facebook page for dates and get out to see the man. You can thank me later.

Thanks to Edwin and David for a great night of music!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Soothing Music

I was having a really great day when an unexpected bomb dropped on me and blew the last few hours to pieces. I won't get into the details about the bomb in question now because that is a topic for a whole other blog post. A LONG blog post.

Everyone responds to stress in a different way. I like the neatness and order of my apartment too much to throw things. I don't get a sudden urge to jump on the elliptical trainer or start sprinting down the street for a run to take out my frustration. I don't have the attention span needed to meditate effectively. So I normally find the closest food containing sugar or chocolate and inhale it to feel better.

I was reaching for my unopened pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia when a friend I was chatting with online suggested I put on some soothing music instead. Now I have playlists for lots of things already created in iTunes, but relaxation was not one of those. So I pulled up the first album from my collection I knew would be guaranteed to mellow me out and put me in a good mood.

There is just something about Carole and James. Classic songs in acoustic style make everything better. These two are smiling because they know how good it is. I'm glad they do what they do, because within seconds of "You've Got A Friend" staring to play, my attitude changed completely.

But I didn't stop there, and I found some other great albums in my collection for my newly created "Soothing Music" playlist. Here are some of my other favorites:
  • Diana Krall - "The Girl In The Other Room"
  • Carole King - "Tapestry"
  • Breathe - "Peace of Mind"
  • George Winston - "Winter Into Spring," "Autumn," "Forest," and "Summer"
  • The Swell Season - "Strict Joy"
  • "Once (Music From The Motion Picture)"
  • Elton John - "Live In Australia" and "Love Songs"
What music takes you to your peaceful, happy place?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kitchen Adventures: Look Ma, No Recipe!

I'm working to get more vegetables into my diet, and during an open call for recipes on my social media networks, my good friend Tanya reminded me about stir frying.

Shortly after I graduated from college, I actually bought a real wok. One that you had to season properly and cook with on correct heat settings, etc. So I was pretty much a failure in my early stir fry attempts, and the wok found the trash can once I managed to ruin it.

The other issue I had learning to stir fry was my lack of a basic understanding of the sizes you needed to chop food into so it got cooked through but not too done. And the order to cook hings in, like cooking heavier veggies like broccoli first because they take more time to get done than snow peas. I realize now it's not hard, but when you're in your 20's, busy trying to be professional party girl and meet as many boys as possible, the logic portion of your brain doesn't engage long when it comes to boring subjects like cooking.

But when I went to the market yesterday, it was beautiful sunny weather and the produce at the store was looking good, so I threw caution to the wind, picked some stuff that looked pretty and headed home determined to make a success out of stir frying -- even without a recipe as a guide. 

As much as I love veggies, I hate the time it takes to prep them (probably why I haven't made much stir fry lately...okay EVER). But with the help of a nice glass of wine and a phone call to distract me while I was chopping, I hacked up enough veg for what should be one week of dinners.

Last night my veggie selection was carrots, red and green peppers, yellow squash and broccoli prepared in teriyaki sauce with some noodles added since I didn't have any protein included.

Rice noodles were a new experiment for me as well. You have to boil them for about 8 minutes before using them in your dish, which turned out to be the perfect amount of time to get the veggies to cook.

I have to admit, it was pretty damn good and I was proud of myself. I probably made enough for two people, so I need to work on my portions a bit. All in all, I give it a big thumbs up!

Now I'll probably be stir frying until I'm sick an tired of veggies. But I think that's a good problem to have.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reorganizing Creatively

I used to scrapbook -- a lot. Ever since I moved, I don't do it much any more. That was two years ago. I've realized lately that I miss that part of my creative life, so I started thinking about why I've abandoned it for so long.

Nothing like seeing fun stuff in your favorite scrapbook store to get the creativity going.

A big part of the issue is space. Granted, in the entire time I've been scrapping I've never had a dedicated space just for my projects. I've always worked on counter tops, the floor, empty tables in corners of rooms and such. But downsizing to a studio apartment -- the smallest space I've ever inhabited -- took finding room to work to a whole new level. Since I don't have space to store all my supplies within easy reach, everything got packed into a closet. That meant pulling out a slew of bags, boxes and containers every time I wanted to work on something -- and putting it all back.

So I started thinking about how to address my space issues and came up with the idea of a rolling cart that would hold the stuff I need on every project -- stamps, ink, embellishments, cutters, punches, stencils, adhesives, etc.  If I could just get those supplies easier to access and put away, I could get my creative mojo back.

I decided this would help solve the problem.

I can roll it up next to the dining room table when I'm working on something, then roll it right back. Much easier than pulling all of this stuff out of the closet to find what I need.

The next piece of the challenge was getting as much of this pile as possible into the new rolling storage. It's still a work in progress even after spending a whole day working through this pile. The bad news is it won't all fit right now. The good news is the stuff that doesn't fit is consumable and will get used as I'm working through my growing list of projects. I think I'm off to the right start.

As an added bonus, going through all of those containers helped me remember how many cool tools I had I'd forgotten about, so I have a new crop of ideas in my head about what to make!

Now to reorganize all my photos so I have something to scrap...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Looking Back On My Life in CAT Mode

A wise friend once told me never to make a decision when you're hungry, tired or stressed. That explains why I never wrote very much during my work duty in Tennessee, because I was one or all of those three things at various moments. Actually, I should correct that. I wrote quite a bit. I just never published any of my posts.

The writing I did on the road was very in the moment, full of the emotions and daily frustrations of doing a tough job under difficult circumstances. It was cathartic to get those emotions out and not carry them from one day to the next. Expelling that emotion, along with the demands of my every day life during those weeks in Tennessee, left me mentally and physically exhausted. For a large portion of my stay, as one day led to another just like it, I felt like the Dunkin' Donuts guy....

Looking back now on what I wrote during that time, I realize I spent a lot of time thinking in very selfish terms about how I was feeling instead of focusing on the positives of the experience. I got nothing but incredible support from my co-workers. We had lots of laughs in spite of the stress we were all under.  And while there were a few challenging people, our customers were amazing and so grateful we came to help. I'll never forget the woman who stepped out of her car when I greeter her, looked me square in the eyes when she handed me her keys and said "Thank you for being here."

I learned a few practical life lessons too.
  • Hail can really mess up a car. This used to be a convertible top. Ouch.
  • Working in close quarters actually brings out the best in people. When you're sharing power cords, cameras, printers and everything else, you learn pretty quickly to get along or it's going to be a VERY long day. We all pretty much took the attitude that the sooner everyone jumped on a task, the sooner we all got to leave. Teamwork is a beautiful thing.
  • Looking at a laptop that doesn't reflect local time is a double edged sword. In the morning, you feel like you're up even earlier than you need to be, but later in the day you start thinking you have plenty of time ahead of you until you discover you're exhausted because it's really 3 hours later. I need to learn how to change my laptop settings.
  • Everything takes twice as long when it rains, but cool weather is better than hot when you're on your feet for 11-12 hours a day.
  • Improvised body shop environments can be lots of fun paired with an iPhone and an Instagram app. When I was at my wits end and needed a break, I'd slip away for a few minutes and find something to photograph. I took a lot of pictures.

Most of all, I'm glad I listened to my friend and held off on hitting the publish button before the time was right.  Looking back, life in CAT mode wasn't so bad after all....