2017 – Day 1 Recap

I had this crazy notion to kick off the new year a little healthier so I prepared all three meals at home today. Sometimes I think the gods are against me on this one. Healthier, maybe. Safer, not so much.

I made a frittata for breakfast, and quickly noticed my mistake using a stainless steel pan instead of the non-stick variety. So I grabbed another pan for transfer (once it was set), hustled it into the oven, set the timer, and moved on to organize the bathroom vanity because that’s the kind of stuff New Year’s Day is for, right?

Within minutes, I smelled something burning and thought to myself, I’m sure glad I transferred that over to another pan because it it smells awful in here already. Imagine if I’d left it to char in that stainless pan. Whew!

Little did I realize, I’d left a tea towel on the hot stove and it caught fire as soon as I left the room. When I sauntered back to the kitchen (secretly praising myself on my early morning accomplishments), I found the “Merry Christmas” towel soaking in the sink, the doors and windows open, and a couple fans blowing around the room.

My husband, sweating and panting from his speedy efforts to dismantle the smoke detectors and douse the flames (before I returned to check the frittata’s progress), paused the tv and casually mentioned, “The towel caught fire” in case I wondered. (He’s so used to me by now, he just shakes his head and hopes for the best most days)

Whoops.

Lunch was pretty uneventful, but dinner was not without injury.

Enamored with my new WonderVeg Spiralizer, I planned to make my own deconstructed eggplant parmesan tonight (future recipe to follow), but I didn’t realize the eggplant was too soft and seedy for the spiralizer to do it’s thing.

After several failed attempts to noodle my eggplant, I switched to the ol’ mandolin slicer. (One of my most feared appliances, and an accident waiting to happen).

Of course, just a couple swipes in, I caught my thumb on the blade. Sigh.

So I quickly ran triage on my thumb, and then finished making the noodles. Luckily, the food wasn’t tainted, and it was only a band-aid level injury when all was said and done (so I’ll live to cook another meal).

Here’s to healthier habits and hopefully surviving 2017 in one piece!

Witness down.

After several weeks of burning the midnight (and weekend) oil to complete a system upgrade, my boss generously gave me a comp day last week.

The timing couldn’t be better since I promised a friend some much-needed moral support as the witness in her final divorce hearing (which, sadly, happened to fall only a few days before Christmas and on her birthday).

Her estranged husband had long since relocated out of state, so she just needed someone to fill in, locally, and sign off as a formality. No problem. I figured it was the least I could do under the circumstances.

I worked downtown years ago, and dropped a friend off for jury duty once, so I had a pretty good idea where we were headed, but we mapped it out anyhow, giving ourselves ample time, just in case.

Just as we rolled up to my previous jury duty drop-off point, the navigation app announced “You’ve reached your destination.” We couldn’t find an address, but the building was labeled “Court House” so we figured we were in the right place. Unfortunately, the usual public parking was now limited to monthly pass holders, only, so we burnt some time casing the place for additional parking before settling on a public lot a few blocks away.

Once parked, we hustled back towards the building (her in high-heeled booties and me in my fashionable, yet flat, leather riding boots), climbed the enormous cement steps leading up the side, and raced into the main entrance only to come to a complete stand-still inside.

We hadn’t accounted for the metal detectors and added security checkpoints installed post 9-11.

So we quickly jumped in line with the other visitors, looking like two sore thumbs sticking out (all dolled up in our fashionable winter ensembles), among the sea of dark hoodies, skull caps, and sneakers surrounding us.

Unlike airport checkpoints, there weren’t any signs instructing us to remove items or anyone really guiding the herd, just one or two guards on the other side of the detectors. Since everyone else casually passed through without much fuss, we followed suit, leaving our purses on the conveyor and waltzing right through the detectors, fully clad, including our accessories.

Except, we set off the detectors. Multiple times.

We discarded item after item (hats, scarves, gloves, jackets, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, belts and boots) stepping in and out of line over and over until we FINALLY passed through “undetected.”

Once we crossed the checkpoint, I approached a security guard to confirm we were heading to the right floor. I glanced up at his seemingly 7 foot overbearing stature and sheepishly uttered, “Excuse me sir, is Courtroom 2 on the second floor?”

He looked down at all 5 foot 2 (and a half) of me and said, “Yes.” but quickly added, “Wait. What are you here for?

I nervously shifted and then flashed my biggest ear-to-ear smile and firmly announced “Divorce Court.”

He belly laughed and rolled his eyes. Then started motioning me back to the front entrance, “Girl, you’re in the WRONG place. You need to gather up your stuff, and don’t even get dressed up again ’cause it’s the same drill over THERE! You gotta go across the street to the OTHER Court House. This is CRIMINAL court! You want to be in FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMILY court.”

FAMILY COURT. Who knew?

Running out of buffer time, we scooped up all our stuff and charged out the front doors like something out of an I Love Lucy episode, putting on just the necessities (coats, gloves, and boots), and cramming everything else inside my gigantic purse… until I felt my feet leave the ground beneath me and heard the gasps of horror behind me.

Witness down.

There I was, flat as a pancake on the brick ledges leading up to the front entrance of the (criminal) Court House, face down, just waiting for someone to chalk outline my terribly aching body.

Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but I was beyond a sore thumb sticking out. I was the main event, the pudgy little red-head splattered across the front entrance for all to see. Cognizant of my friend’s high-heeled booties racing to my rescue, and a woman hollering “Someone call this girl an ambulance. She just fell down. Just fell down all them steps right there.” I peeled myself off the ledges (through the sheer adrenaline rush) and stood up, latching onto my friend’s tiny arm, and galloped off towards the (family) Court House, in a little bit of shock and a whole lotta pain.

Once we made our way there, my friend passed right through the metal detectors, no issues. I followed, tears streaming, dark spots oozing across my knees, and bruises surfacing on my wrists already. However, I triggered the alarm, repeatedly, until the security guard yelled, “Just go really fast. REALLY FAST. You’re going too slow!” So, I held my breath, winced, and darted through the detector. And it worked!!

With minutes to spare, we located the courtroom and met her attorney. She quickly briefed us while I divvied up our accessories, casually sliding her belt across the table, and quietly primping as we signed the paperwork, trying to look more presentable (and less like we were mugged on our way over) before heading to the bench to meet the judge.

Looking more like the one petitioning than witnessing the divorce (with my tear-stained face and runny nose), I held myself together for the hearing. The judge was super kind and truly impressed we arrived on time (if she only knew), and even gave my friend a handful of Hershey Kisses for her birthday!

Afterwards, we dressed my wounds (with Halloween bandaids) and laughed over lunch at how much more memorable (and painful) her divorce was for me than her. I was literally scarred for life (at least my knees were), but our little misadventure helped soften the blow and provided some unexpected comic relief to an otherwise somber day.

So happy birthday to her, and cheers to a new year filled with new beginnings (even those coming from some very painful endings)!

Old Shoes Aren’t Made for Walking!

Not sure why I feel compelled to start every Nickle’s Pickles post with “True story…” but I seriously couldn’t make this stuff up!

So last Thursday morning I’m standing in one of our director’s offices chatting away about something or other when I felt a slight shift under my feet (coupled with a sense that I was, well, getting shorter)! I was a little alarmed, but just kept talking, figuring maybe I’d felt a little bit “off” for wearing a (nearly 20 year old, but still stylish) chunky-heeled pair of sandals that give me more height than I’m used to in my normal flats.

Blah blah blah we droned on when I felt another quick shift, but this time I was positive I just got shorter! I felt like I was standing on foamy Jenga blocks, and one-by-one someone was removing the blocks (ever-so-slowly) beneath my feet!

The director didn’t seem startled or interrupted at all by the strange phenomenon, so I kept him engaged in conversation while I thought to myself, “OMG I’m totally having my own Oda Mae Brown moment, like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost!

From my years of experience in awkward situations, I knew I needed to play it cool and NOT CALL ATTENTION TO MYSELF! So, I waited for a chance to sneak a peek down at my feet, and assess the situation when the director looked away. And, when I did, it was SO MUCH WORSE than I anticipated! In my two-second glance, I observed a pile of shoe “turds and ash” surrounding my feet. My chunky-heeled sandals were (literally) disintegrating as I stood there talking to the director. I realized I had to make an immediate break for it before the entire heel fell apart in his office.

So, I did what I do best. I owned this pickle like a ROCK STAR, smiling and nodding as the conversation lingered on. Keeping his eyes fixed on mine, I casually squatted down and swept the pile of shoe remnants into my arms (like I was collecting seashells by the seashore), and ever-so-slowly backed out of his office, waving goodbye with my free hand.

Then, just as I cleared his office, the remainder of my dangling heel shot off behind me, landing right back onto his office floor. Sigh.

After stumbling forward a bit and nearly losing balance, I quickly composed myself and returned to casually scoop up the large chunk of heel from his office floor, but startled by my return, he turned around when I popped in again and caught my gaze just as I was reaching for what was left of the heel. So I grabbed it, smiled, waved, and left again before he could interrogate me

Then I high-tailed it back to my desk (in slow motion), keeping my eyes forward, and politely greeting all passersby as my shoes continued to break down into a path of little black foamy nuggets stretching from his office to my cubicle. I struggled to stay steady on my feet because that’s tough for me anyhow, let alone when my shoes are crumbling out from underneath me!

FullSizeRenderBy the time I landed in my seat, both shoes were cracked and tattered and one was missing the heel all together while the other one was only mostly gone. Luckily, I had an old pair of snazzy pink and white sneakers (minus the interior soles) at my desk, so I ditched what was left of the sandals and walked around feeling like I had bunched up socks under foot all day, which was far better than the disappearing chunky heel situation for sure.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time this happened to me either. Recently, my mom recalled a couple of other times my older shoes and boots outlasted changing fashion trends, but fell apart (literally) against the hands of time! (Stay tuned to hear more about those ordeals later!)

So if you’re like me, pushing the limits and trying to get just one more wear out of your favorite pair of ancient shoes, check the “expiration date” because those old shoes just aren’t made for walking!

Wine & Pavement: The Perfect Pair (said no one ever)

Working in IT it is not unusual to spend days on end sequestered in a conference room with a project team and/or vendors. Such was the case for me and my team when we spent a week together with vendors in a dingy old room off the beaten path from our normal cubicle farm digs.

We were gathered together for a system health-check which was a little ironic because the last thing one of our team members needed was a health-check to confirm he was clearly in need of medical attention himself. Instead, he was a trooper and ignored his fever-induced hot flashes, scratchy throat, hacking cough, and serious lack of energy in order to “take one for the team” and participate in the assessment.

So, the poor guy forged on, and one by one, my other teammates experienced the same fever, chills, cold, flu and energy suck as our  teammate, patient zero. And I was no exception. Within days, I was delirious with fever and hacking up half a lung.

However, much like him, I felt compelled to (take one for the team and) make good on a promise to deliver a case of wine to my sister over the weekend. She, too, was under the weather (so-to-speak), suffering from a recent foot fusion, home-bound and using a wheelchair to get around. She hadn’t been out in public in forever and was having guests over for a bit of an “Irish wake” in honor of a close in-law who had recently passed away.

So how could I say no to her request when all I had was cold and flu symptoms?

At least I could leave the house!

My husband was out of town, her husband wouldn’t be home much before the shindig, and since I couldn’t attend in my condition, the least I could do was deliver the goods ahead of her guests (and get out of dodge before exposing anyone to my germs).

So, off to Trader Joe’s I went, which was packed with weekend crowds and construction mayhem, but, nonetheless I secured the wine, carted it off to my trunk, and headed straight to her place; aches, pains, chills, and all.

I stopped in for a quick chat with her mother-in-law, offered my condolences, and then retreated to the trunk to snag the case of wine.

As I gripped the case and pulled it forward,  the wine went from weighing about a hundred pounds (in my weakened state) to light as a feather in two seconds flat.

BECAUSE THE ENTIRE BOTTOM OF THE CASE FELL OUT.

Yes, all twelve bottles went from case to pavement in an instant, the sound of shattered glass echoing like a scene from an action movie where someone crashes a speeding car through a glass high-rise building, except my experience didn’t conclude with everyone high-fiving to Hip Hop tunes while the adrenaline rush wore off.

IMG_4512No, there I was flushed with fever and chills, staring down, through the empty barrel of a wine case, at the remnants of a dozen bottles of  (luckily white) wine seeping down the driveway behind my car. My getaway car that could not get away at all now. Sigh.

Wondering what happened to me, my sister wheeled herself up to the doorway and, straining to find me, shouted, “Everything OK out there?”

No. Not so much. Not so much at all.

I headed back in and explained the dilemma, both of us laughing and crying (for slightly different reasons), and then she called a neighbor.

Perfect. Reinforcements!

Good news, the neighbor came straight over with a broom, shovel, and a trash can. The bad news, he was recovering from back surgery and really shouldn’t bend, twist, or lift anything.

Reinforcements yes, but maybe not so perfect.

We did our best to sweep, shovel, and dispose of the shattered glass, all while my sister sat helplessly perched at the doorway from her wheelchair, unable to assess, assist, or control the situation at all. We were all a mess in our own way.

Eventually, I headed for home, failing to deliver on my first attempt as a wine-on-wheels service, but on the upside, my sister called Trader Joe’s (to let them know about the faulty-bottomed case my wine was packed in) and they graciously apologized for the whole debacle and offered a new case in exchange.

Yay to Trader Joe’s for turning our vinegar back into wine!

So I stopped in, to pick up the replacement case (and an extra bottle for myself this time), and was pleasantly surprised to see they included a complementary bouquet of fresh flowers, too, a lovely and much needed pick-me-up after that sour grapes kind of a day I had.

Needless to say, wine and pavement are far from a perfect pair, and I have no aspirations to become a full-time wine-on-wheels delivery service any time soon!

Doctor Poo

Like all other cat lovers, my husband and I are fully entertained by our own cat’s crazy antics and adorable looks. We often find ourselves playing a game of Name That Cat, where we come up with new nicknames based on what the little guy is up to which, sadly, is not much more than sleeping or being nosy in some way.

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One of my all time favorite nicknames is Doctor PooA nickname he first got when he joined us on the sofa for a Doctor Who episode and unknowingly brought along a little “tootsie roll” stuck to his butt-fur.

Cat in the Crap BoxYeah, totally gross, and just part of pet parenting woes, but nonetheless something to laugh at later and certainly deserving of the Doctor Poo name.

Add to the “incident” that the cat has impeccable timing for using the litter box when I am crafting in the same room as the box. Yep, nothing like cat poo to inspire one’s creativity!

So, Doctor Poo stuck (figuratively, not literally) for a while.

And Doctor Poo is constantly stuck on me (literally, not figuratively). He likes to keep one paw on me at all times, no matter how uncomfortable he looks (or how uncomfortable he makes me feel).

At night, he sleeps on his own pillow above my head, but more often than not he manages to stretch himself across both of our pillows, his and mine. I regularly wake up to cat tail in my face, an outstretched paw tangled up in my hair, or his claws gently kneading my face.

Yes, he’s mommy’s little Purrmeister.

But Docotor Poo wasn’t always this lovey. I wasn’t his mommy, and he was more like the Clawmeister back in the day.

It all started when my sister and I were at the mall for some last minute holiday shopping. She stopped into the pet shop, and you guessed it, fell in love with this one fluffy little kitten that she just HAD TO HAVE.

Of course she coaxed me over to meet him and I was totally wooed by his irresistible “take me home” eyes, too. So it didn’t take much for her to swindle me into getting him as her Christmas present that year.

Once home, we quickly realized he was not the same docile little love bug from the pet shop, but rather a rambunctious little maniac that terrorized everything and everyone who came in contact with him!

He was energetic, feisty, and downright terrifying! But, he was adorable, too.

Whenever my mom cat-sat for Doctor Poo, she inevitably ended up hiding out in the bathroom until my sister came home. Doctor Poo loved to sneak up behind her, then nibble (bite) and paw (claw) at her hair (and head). He’d also chase her around the apartment, swatting and hissing at her until he forced her to seek refuge elsewhere away from him.

It wasn’t just mom either.

Sometimes I’d take him to my place while my sister was away for longer periods of time. At night, I was torn between locking him in or out of the room. Outside the room meant he had access to destroy all but the bedroom contents. Inside the room meant I was just a sitting duck in the darkness.

So, I settled on giving him free reign of the house, but slept with my legs secured in a pillow case to prevent him from sneaking under the covers and attacking them.

That didn’t stop him though. I’d doze off and he’d creep up to the top of my wooden canopy bed and pounce on me from above. I’d jolt awake only to catch blurred glimpses of his gigantic cat eyes darting around the room like something out of a bad Scooby Doo episode.

Things further escalated when my sister moved into her first house, too. Doctor Poo would perch at the top of the stairs and wait for innocent passerbys to attempt passage. He was like a little troll guarding his bridge, foiling all attempts to trespass.

Most of his cat-sitters had the same experiences as we did. He started out harmless enough, lured them in for a small dose of affection, and then BAM! Crazy cat unleashed; claws out, asserting his feline authority to rule the roost.

My dad swore Doctor Poo had velcro paws because he would zoom in from nowhere and suddenly be clinging to dad’s pant legs in one fell swoop!

Neighbors and friends were terrified of him, too, and pretty much everyone learned to just drop the food and run.

Then one day, things changed. My sister moved across the country and Doctor Poo couldn’t travel the distance. As a kitten, he had survived losing part of his intestines (when he ingested a spool of ribbon during a bout of separation anxiety), but he was deemed unfit to fly or move so far away.

So, being the good aunt (and pushover) that I am (and the friend or relative least afraid of him) I adopted him.

And like magic, his personality changed! Suddenly, I had this exceptionally loyal and cuddly little shadow, the Purrmeister he is today.

My sister insists he intended to go home with me all along, and just rebelled when he didn’t.

Whatever the case, there was very little scratching, biting or bullying of our guests, and eventually, he really came around to tolerate the rest of the human race, especially with my husband ranking as a not-so-distant second to me (nine years later).

And at eighteen years old, it’s hard to imagine how Doctor Poo ever had a darker side in his youth!

IMG_3425

Does your cat have a darker side? Tell me about some of you cat’s wildest antics or goofy nicknames over the years!

Not a bird. Not a plane. Just a drone.

Friday morning came a little too fast for me this week. Working in IT, I’m used to being jolted out of bed at all hours, but Friday wasn’t due to one of my average nighttime interruptions.

This time I was startled out of bed around 2 AM, awakened by the sound of a whirring engine in the sky.

Alarmed, I popped up and saw something like a small UFO staring back at me from outside of our window, on the SECOND floor!

I squinted trying to make sense of what I was seeing (albeit without glasses or contacts) hovering there, bright red lights and all.

I fumbled my way out of bed (our new bed that feels like it is about 3 feet further from the ground than the platform bed we recently replaced) trying not to break my legs, awkwardly leaping from bed to floor.

As I darted for my phone and stumbled for a better look, I glanced back, and there on the center of the bed, our cat stood wide-eyed and paralyzed, validating that this wasn’t just a bad dream or some figment of my imagination.

Upon closer inspection I quickly realized I was staring smack dab at a personal drone! Holy moly, someone was hovering around my apartment with a friggin’ DRONE at 2 AM!

Still discombobulated, I teetered between dialing 911 and the non-emergency police line, pondering the potential for my 911 call, “I’d like to report a drone outside my bedroom window,” to go viral.

Before I had a chance to finalize my decision, I heard my husband call out from in front of the living room window, “I wondered if that would wake you.”

Seriously? There’s a DRONE hovering outside my bedroom. Yep, it woke me.

Me, “Perhaps we should call the apartment security?”

My husband, geeking out over the drone, points down at the crowd of Apple fan boys (and girls) lining up the block for the iPhone 6s Launch Day.

Well, crud.

For anyone staying anywhere near an Apple Store on Launch Day eve, you should expect people lining up overnight throughout the neighborhood to secure their piece of the next big thing. Apparently, you should also expect drones, too!

Not a bird. Not a plane. Just a drone.

Sigh.

Some harmless guy trying to gain overnight footage of his fellow Apple fanatics camped out around the block for their new iPhone!

So we watched the drone land, (Security grounded it for the evening) and then I retreated back to bed thinking, “Thanks for the adrenaline boost, buddy. I sure hope you didn’t Periscope any footage of this crazy redhead flailing around her room at 2 AM!!”

Nickle Pickle’s Night at the Museum

Ever wonder what it’s really like to wander the deserted halls and dimly lit displays of a museum at night, or secretly wish you were Ben Stiller’s bumbling night watchman character, Larry, from The Night at the Museum movies?

Well, I’ve always had an overactive imagination and a sense of childhood 
wonderment inside of me, so when my husband told me we were camping out at the
American Museum of Natural History in New York for a night, I was wildly excited to participate in this adventure of a lifetime!

Whether you are a history buff, fan of The Night at the Museum movies, or just channeling your inner childhood dream to explore an empty museum at night, The American Museum of Natural History offers occasional Sleepovers for Grown-ups (ages 21 and over), and I had the fantastic fortune to attend one this summer, thanks to surprise tickets from my hubby!

Guests are advised in advance to travel light since the Museum provides food, drinks, entertainment and cots. So when the time came, we rolled up toting just a sleeping bag and pillow, comfortable clothes for sleeping, a few overnight necessities and plenty of imagination!

Upon arrival, there was a brief registration before we were ushered through the gigantic wooden doors leading to The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, our sleeping quarters for the evening and home to the well-known 94 feet long, 21,000-pound fiberglass model of a female blue whale mounted on the ceiling!

Like something out of a reality show, everyone charged the room (as if we were a bunch of five year olds) racing to stake claim to the BEST spot for hunkering down at the end of this long night. As a native New Yorker, sleeping under the big blue whale was a bucket list kind of adventure in itself for my husband. He grew up totally enamored by the big blue whale and could never have expected to one day sleep underneath her majestic presence, let alone well into his adulthood years!!

So I’m not ashamed to admit we busted through that crowd like two crazy kids set free in a candy store, triumphing over our claim to theimage front two prized cots located smack dab under the whale!!

Once we staked our claim, the real fun began! We sipped champagne and listened to the fabulous 12th Night Jazz trio, while acclimating ourselves with the Museum, especially the area surrounding basecamp. A few main hallways near stairs and elevators were fairly lit, but the exhibit halls were dimly lit, and in some cases barely lit at all, creating an eerie feeling of being alone in an empty museum; intrigue lurking around every darkened corner!

We were given time to wander freely throughout the Museum before dinner and provided a post-dinner schedule of events with about three different options per/hour, including live animal displays, special guided tours and movies leading up to a midnight showing in the Hayden Planetarium. Guests could participate in any of the events, or continue exploring alone.

imageBefore dinner, we wandered the lovely outdoor courtyard and spent a little time relaxing by the fountain facing the Planetarium’s exterior, admiring the Manhattan backdrop of buildings that envelope the Museum.

Dinner was served overlooking the Planetarium courtyard and included a gourmet feast of chicken, salmon, asparagus, risotto cakes and salad. There was also a continuous flow of wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages, along with coffee and a variety of desserts. No one left dinner hungry!

We spent the rest of the evening alternating between scheduled activities and wandering the Museum on our own. The Hall of Dinosaurs was one of my favorite exhibits. It was one of the darkest (and spookiest) displays, mostly lit by red security lighting directed at the enormous dinosaur skeletons, casting gigantic images of T. rex and his friends escorting us through the hall. I’m not going to lie, it was AWESOME, and a completely different experience than any daytime passage through the exhibit!

We also took the guided Night at the Museum tour, visiting all the film’s hot spots and exhibits that inspired the creation of the movie’s famous band of misfits, including Dum-dum and Dexter! From a creative perspective, the tour was fascinating. I admire the minds that transformed the exhibits into such unforgettable life-like characters, and, admittedly, became a little caught up in day-dreaming some of the exhibits to life myself. Imagination isn’t just for five year olds, after all!

We also watched a 3D nature movie and later stopped for snacks and drinks at the Lunar Lounge, where black and white silent films played on a continuos loop all night.

The grand finale was a trip to Hayden Planitarium for a live-narrated tour of recent NASA footage of The Space Station, Solar System, tour of the Moon and so on. It was nothing short of AMAZING to be virtually guided through space, and easy to forget we weren’t just on a free-floating journey of our own!

Eventually, we exhausted all our energy and settled in for the night, asleep under the big blue whale; our heads saturated with the tiny potential that just maybe the exhibits might come alive for one night!

Of course nothing really came alive, but it was an unforgettable night nonetheless. One that I’ll treasure forever as the opportunity to unleash my inner child, but with gourmet food and wine on the side!!

If you’re looking for an escape from adulthood or just an evening of adventure, I highly recommend booking your Grown-up Sleepover now! The weekends are limited throughout the year, and only three dates are published at a time. Tickets sell out fast, so don’t delay too long!

Workplace Woes: My Great Cubicle Farm Collision

I work in a large warehouse type building that was converted (mostly) into office space many years ago. There are very few windows and little visibility to the outside world. The overall environment is commonly known in the industry as the Cubicle Farm.

 

Cubicle Farm [kyoo-bi-kuh l] [fahrm]
A vast expanse of contemporary office space outfitted with box-like, synthetic personal work environments comprised of approximately 3.3 sides and lacking doors and ceilings.

Our cubicles stand at 5’5″ and are grouped into team suites, like little neighborhoods of people with similar skills and responsibilities. Within each suite is a set of less-traveled walkways, something like residential streets in a common housing development.

The team suite walkways lead out into main walkways. Main walkways are the super highways of fast-footed people navigating to other team suites, conference rooms and common areas throughout the building.

Back in 2011, my team suite consisted of several small teams of people who had completely unrelated functions. I didn’t spend much time at “home” in my cubicle since I was in a project conference room most of my day. As a result, I didn’t interact much with my neighbors that year.

I did have one stand-out neighbor on the other side of my cubicle wall that was affectionately known within our suite as Hummer. Sharing a wall with him was something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

At about 5’9″ he was a stereotypical IT guy, touting short-sleeved button down plaid shirts, high-water khaki flood pants, white socks, black orthopedic shoes and smudgy oversized metal-framed glasses to round out his stellar IT look.

He frequently wore headphones and would hum freely and LOUDLY throughout the day, thus earning him the nickname, Hummer. Sometimes he even broke into song, bellowing out something that sounded more like off-key church hymns than anything else.

He had a hot temper and was always in a rush, too. Often (and for no apparent reason), he would just slam his fists down on the desk and curse a blue streak in a loud whisper-type yell (like a parent “discretely” reprimanding their child in public), rattling my workstation and scaring the bejeezus out of me!

I knew his whole life story from the multitude of one-way conversations he held from his desk phone. I knew when he was moving, how much his old house sold for and what his new house cost. His step daughter was always in trouble for frequently skipping her college classes. His son was in the high-school band. His wife asked permission for almost everything. And so it went, on and on.

Since I wasn’t around much, Hummer’s crazy antics and poor office etiquette made for little more than good fodder. That is, until the day of our massive collision!

To digress a minute, one of my work responsibilities is to serve as backup to the IT Change Manager. Among other things, this includes leading weekly Change Advisory Board (CAB) meetings with members of the IT Management Staff.

In the CAB conference room, the narrow tables are arranged in a horseshoe shape, with me seated at the center of the head table facing opposite the projection screen (which resides at the open end of the horseshoe). The CAB members then fill in the rest of the horseshoe around me.

I tend to dress up for the CAB meetings since I’m a peon leading the IT Management Staff. Also since, inevitably, my reports don’t load, my laptop won’t connect or the projector is being fussy, I always arrive early to the meetings allowing myself extra time for setup. If I need to crawl around and check connections, there is no pretty way to do it because the area beneath the tables is fully exposed from every angle of the room.

So back to the collision…
One sunny July morning in 2011, I grabbed my laptop and headed towards our suite’s main exit to set up for a CAB meeting that I was scheduled to lead. Barely reaching over 5’2″ tall, I can’t see above the cubicles AT ALL and was completely blindsided when Hummer came barreling at me from the main aisle.

Unfortunately, he didn’t just startle or bump me. Moving full-speed ahead, he totally BULLDOZED me!

After slamming into me (hard), he tried (unsuccessfully) to grab my arm and prevent my fall, but I (successfully) went from vertical to horizontal in one foul swoop like a football player being rushed. Carefully cradling my laptop to my chest (like a football), I fell to the floor, flat on my back.

Even worse, he somehow managed to sandwich his foot between the sole of my (very lovely and expensive) sandal and my foot (which was still under the top of the sandal) as I went down, anchoring the sandal completely flat to the floor.

With no give for the sandal to bend with my foot, it finally split when I hit the floor, cracking in half and sending Hummer staggering across my poor aching foot as he awkwardly stumbled away from me.

Luckily, there were no other witnesses and Hummer was too distracted to catch a glimpse of me when I landed, laptop to my chest and dress all bunched up over me!

Yes, it was every bit as ugly as it sounds.

Winded, bruised, sweaty, disheveled and a little shocked, I quickly managed to get myself up, dust off my black dress, and accept Hummer’s apology before limping over to the conference room (where the CAB members were ever-so-patiently awaiting my tardy arrival).

Quietly wincing to myself and doing my best to discretely wipe away the damp combination of sweat and tears on my face, I connected my laptop (for once without issue) and facilitated the weekly CAB review as if nothing ever happened.

I painfully sat through the entire meeting, presenting from the head table with my half-naked, partially-shoed and bruised foot (which looked like it had bicycle tracks from the tread on Hummer’s orthopedic black shoes) fully exposed under the table.

Afterwards, I cleaned myself up and continued to limp through the rest of my day wearing half of a sandal (and plenty of sore muscles from my fall).

Hummer and I never spoke of the incident again.

And, although we weren’t neighbors for much longer (because I moved on to a different team and suite), to this day I still proceed with extreme caution at all cubicle farm intersections, making a complete stop and looking both ways before crossing, for fear of being rundown by someone else in the neighborhood!

Nickle Pickle Goes Blueberry Picking

This way for blueberries Earlier this month, my husband and I had the awesome opportunity to attend a blueberry picking party at Voytko Farms. The event, Pick. Eat. Repeat. A blueberry picking party, was presented by The Agrarian Collective in collaboration with Edible Cleveland, as part of a series of workshops called Edible Thursdays. Each workshop costs $45 a person, however, my husband was the lucky recipient of two free tickets (that he won at another Edible Cleveland event), and I was the even luckier recipient of his extra ticket!

This was our first Edible Thursday experience, and our first time blueberry picking as well. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, but we were excited nonetheless. We knew there would be blueberry picking, local beer and live bluegrass music; all of which sounded like a perfect summer evening. Turns out, the event was that and so much more!

The FarmUpon arrival, we were greeted by Kelli Hanley Potts of The Agrarian Collective. She had provided a fantastic spread of light appetizers, (sure to excite any fellow foodie), including things like whipped ricotta and mint, pickled onions and radishes, a fresh tomato bruschetta and, my favorite, the blueberry barbecued wings. They were soooo delicious, I had to return for seconds!! Kelli also provided a variety of locally brewed beers, which included Fat Head’s Bumble Berry, another favorite of mine!

BBQ Wings   Radishes and blueberries
We spent the first fifteen minutes or so enjoying the appetizers, mingling with other guests, and arming ourselves with bug spray (thanks to Lisa from Edible Cleveland for thinking ahead)!

Before heading into the fields, berry buckets in hand, Kelli forewarned of poison ivy in the fields, and advised us to be careful to avoid it!

Things took a slightly comical twist at this point since my husband, a city slicker that grew up in New York, has never been exposed to poison ivy. (Any outdoor activities are usually far from harms way for us, since we literally stick to the beaten path). He was a bit taken aback and had to quickly Google images of poison ivy to avoid an ill-fated brush with destiny in the fields.

The fields were a blueberry wonderland that seemed to go on forever, and the bushes were much taller than I expected, reaching heights over five feet tall. They were covered with tons of ripe berries perfectly ready for picking.

Blueberry bushArmed with his poison ivy images, we set out to pick our blueberries. My husband kept a step ahead of me to ensure we weren’t in the poison ivy path of destruction and to keep any stray mosquitos at bay, by swatting defensively at the air. As we passed wooden hives setup near the outer edge of the blueberry patch, he used his 6’2″ body to shield me from any rogue bees (since I’m highly allergic).

Admittedly, we got off to a shaky start in the fields. I could sense some serious regret from my husband (as exhibited by his insect repellent dance, waving and flailing around through the fields). It took a little convincing to assure him he didn’t already contract poison ivy just by stepping foot in the fields. The mere prospect made his skin crawl and itch. (I guess poison ivy to city folk is more horrifying than the heebeejeebees one might encounter in the subways of New York).

Once we were past the poison ivy anxiety and other outdoor woes, we quickly found our berry picking groove and my husband seemed much more excited again. Many of the bushes had untouched low hanging fruit towards the bottom, (I suspect most people pick at eye-level) so, being short myself, I found it pretty easy to just comb through the lower branches, shaking the berries loose above my bucket. My husband staked out the best selections, and I came through to collect the loot. Kelli also made sure to check in on everyone incase we had any questions or needed help.

Our method worked perfectly for us, and within the forty-five minutes in the fields, we snagged two full buckets of blueberries, which later turned out to weigh around seven pounds!

Bucket of blueberries Luckily, the second part of the event included a workshop with some tips and recipes for thinking outside the box on blueberry preparation!

After everyone returned from the fields, we continued to enjoy the appetizers while we had a nice Q & A session with Kelli and, Chuck, the farm’s owner.

Chuck let us in on some interesting facts like, if well taken care of, blueberry bushes can basically last forever. Those at Voytko Farms were likely more than fifty years old! Also, blueberries will continue to ripen throughout the summer, producing multiple opportunities for picking, instead of ripening all at once in a season. Chuck mentioned they have multiple varieties at the farm, including the tall ones, unlike the wild blueberries which are generally shorter and lower to the ground).

Kelli previewed the workshop by giving everyone a rhubarb shrub to sip on.

Shrub with sodaNo, not a shrub as in a bush, but a shrub as in what she described as an early form of soda drinks that farmers often made to keep their thirst quenched in the fields.

It’s basically a one-to-one ratio of fruit to sugar, cooked down to a simple syrup. After forming the simple syrup, strain and add it to a container with equal parts of cider vinegar to syrup, and shake well. Kelli recommended using a raw unfiltered organic vinegar, which is more pricey (although Whole Foods has a nice $3 one!), but smoother tasting, versus the cheaper processed varieties.

The shrub syrup will keep indefinitely when refrigerated. To serve, add a small amount of syrup and top off with soda water, to taste. For a tipsy version, add prosecco, or other sparkling wine (or even a little vodka to the soda water version). The result is a sweet tart soda or cocktail, perfect for summer gatherings!

While enjoying the bluegrass band and local brews, we partnered up at the outdoor kitchen and made a blueberry shrub to take home. It was easy, fun and delicious!! We enjoyed mingling with the others and preparing our shrub with the rest of the guests.

  Shrub cooking setupThe final shrub

Overall, the event was great. It was an educational, interactive, social gathering with some fantastic eats!

After the workshop, I was so inspired to use our blueberries in something other than pancakes, I made more blueberry shrub at home and found that it also doubled as a fabulous salad dressing in its concentrated syrup form!

I tossed some of our blueberries in a fresh caprese salad, and drizzled the shrub for a nice summer twist on this or any salad.

Caprese salad with blueberries and blueberry shrub
For another treat, I kicked up a traditional beer bread recipe with a bottle of Fat Head’s Bumble Berry and folded in about a cup of the fresh blueberries before baking. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

Blueberry Beer Bread I’m looking forward to trying out the blueberry barbecue sauce Kelli served on the wings. I see some slow-cooked blueberry baby back ribs in our future!! (Say that five times fast!)

I highly recommend attending one of the Edible Thursday workshops for anyone looking for something different to do with your family, friends, significant other or even a double-date!

If you have some exceptional or unique blueberry recipe ideas, be sure to leave a comment and share your inspirations, and if you want to see my husband’s perspective (trust me, it’s very different), take a look at his blog post – Adventures of a City Slicker Berry Picker.

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