Archive | November, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Files

26 Nov

This year, my husband made many dishes, but these were the best two:

Lalli Family Turkey Stuffing (via Sonya Yencer, including her notes)

My Reader’s Digest on why this is so good: The cornbread and the sausage. Cornmeal gives it a nice non-soggy texture, and who doesn’t like sausage?

Just so you know, this makes a ton. I usually half the recipe at least. I guess use the whole recipe if you REALLY like serious leftovers or are feeding ALOT of people. But, dang, is it good and totally worth the work. I have stuffed the bird and done it separately with good results.
Makes enough to stuff a 24-pound bird plus extra to bake in a casserole 

Adapted from the cookbook “Stuffings” by Carole Lalli. If using homemade cornbread, toast it right before using or it will be a bit mushy.

2 pounds unseasoned bulk sausage meat
12 cup unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
3 inner ribs celery, leaves included, diced
Kernels from 4 ears of corn
4 fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
12 or so cups broken-up day-old corn bread
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup (or less) chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

In large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage meat, stirring to break up, 5-7 minutes. Remove sausage with slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Pour off fat from skillet, but do not clean pan. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, shallot and celery; saute, stirring, 8-10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add corn, sage and thyme leaves and cook 1 minute. Set aside to cool about 10 minutes.

Place bread in large bowl; add ingredients from skillet along with parsley. Carefully combine into rough mixture. Add just enough chicken broth to hold together loosely. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Use as turkey stuffing, or drizzle with half-cup broth and bake in lightly buttered shallow baking dish, loosely covered with foil, for 30 minutes in a pre-heated, 350-degree oven.

Epicurious Sweet and Tart Cranberry Sauce
This recipe is awesome. It’s the orange peel and parsley that make it go beyond your run-of-the-mill cranberry sauce. It’s amazing, really!

Re-heeled: Part 2 of My Shoe Saga

24 Nov

From naromeel's Flickr photostream

Some of you cried right along with me a couple of weeks ago when my dog destroyed several pairs of shoes. I appreciate your sympathies. Truly, this crisis is no laughing matter for a professional woman with any self-respect. I’ve healed and consequently re-heeled myself with some quality kicks and want to share my finds.

My first step was to try on some beautiful gray flannel platforms at Banana Republic. They appear to be only sold in-store…couldn’t find them online. Looked fabulous and appeared to have some semblance of comfort in mind with a padded sole. The platform part of the shoe is a dark veneer and looks great with the flannel. But as soon as I put them on, I noticed the problem. There’s no room in the foot-bed for a normal-sized foot. I’d need to lose at least one toe on each foot to make this work. The shoe tapers into nothingness and gives you zero space to put your pigs.

When I tried to walk around in these, they were in fact beautiful torture devices. I informed the shop-girl that they should go back to the drawing board. (Not sure she appreciated me. Oh well.) Anyone with half a brain would know that putting a three-inch heel and a nonexistent foot-bed together is a recipe for discomfort. When you’re riding that high, you need to have traction — and the only way to do that is to spread out your toes. Without any room to do so, I’d be teetering around like a drunk lady. Not very professional looking, eh?

My next step was to go back to my tried and true L.L. Bean Signature platform heels. I had already purchased two pairs of these — one in tan (ruined by dog…see here) and a second in a dark pink. Love them. But upon their initial release last year, the colors were a bit limited. First, there was no black. Seriously, guys? Also, no navy or other neutrals.

Bean has since solved that problem. They added a beautiful dark brown as well as navy and black — check/check/check on neutrals. Second, they added some nice seasonally appropriate options, such as a deep forest green and a rich burgundy. Love them all? Which to choose? I went with the dark brown as a good choice to round out my collection…the dark pink is not always that practical.

Next, I noticed that they took the wood platform to the next level: A more tapered heel (still 3 inches) but with a tie-up black patent leather in brogue style. Sweet. I’m proud to lovingly embrace those aspects of my heritage that work well — there are many Anglo-influenced fashion options that are workhorses AND fashionable. Wool, of course. And who doesn’t love a brogue?

Let me just say that I am not a woman immediately drawn to a three-inch platform heel. When not at work I am most comfortable in Haflinger or Dansko clogs. Or perhaps boots. Clunky yet comfy. Perfect for walking dogs or exploring the ravine. My daughter tells me I need to be on the show, “What Not to Wear.” Harrumph.

But here’s why I love both of these models from Bean’s Signature collection — and why anyone with five normally shaped toes will feel the same:

  1. Padded sole. Comfort plus height? You got it.
  2. Foot-bed space for the toes. A proper design for the heel height. Traction and no totter? Bingo.
  3. Wooden platform. Fashionable and the wood gives an organic, outdoorsy feel that’s nice for someone like me who’d rather be in nature but spends a lot of time at the office, too. I am literally winched up by trees in these things…all day long.
  4. Nappa leather…soffffttt. Looks good, plus lasts.
  5. Price point. $129. Not as pricey as a designer brand, but packed with all the perks.

Walk on!

Working Motherhood

14 Nov

Today I was chatting with a friend who mentioned an interesting workplace concern:

Mothers who do not pull their own weight due to “kid commitments” — doctor appointments, school drop-offs, parent-teacher conferences and the list goes on.

In all honesty, I have very little patience with this rigmarole.

Walk in the shoes of a working mother or father for just a day. It ain’t pretty.

The juggling act of a parent with a professional position requiring anything beyond 40 hours a week of work is backbreaking. I’m not saying that those without kids don’t work hard. What I am saying is that those with children manage a high-wire act difficult to imagine unless personally experienced.

Spare time is nonexistent. With what little time there is in that grey margin of time just before and after work, the trade-offs are make-or-break:

  • Please a client by going the extra mile one evening by writing another op-ed or go to the ballet recital.
  • Make the boss happy by attending a client reception or be at home for dinner with the family.
  • Delegate to junior associates or do the work myself while my son is going to sleep.
  • Work on the weekend to catch up on the email and “thinking work” that I’m too busy to complete during workdays filled with meetings, or let it go and spend time just being a mom.
  • Have a tough conversation with my boss with the phone on mute while I am transporting my extremely loud and arguing kids to X evening activity, or set the limit that we’ll need to talk about work tomorrow.

Kids remember when we are not present. And so do coworkers, bosses and clients.

Being a parent and a professional are both serious business. Frankly, the only way I’ve found to do both is to do quite a bit of work while my children are sleeping or otherwise occupied on the weekend.

I often have the sense that I’m not paying enough attention to one or the other, but the simple fact is that I devote well beyond “full-time” to each. I know that most parents feel this way, too. Not all workplaces are sympathetic to working parents’ challenges. Children interrupt us at work, just as work interrupts us at home. It goes both ways. With the encroachment of technology and the stressors of the “new economy” — constantly feeling like we have to prove ourselves in order to stay ahead of the next layoff at work — it is often not fun.

For the most part, the policies of my employers have been open-minded to the situation of the working parent. I’ve been lucky in that regard.

What’s surprising is the attitudes of co-workers. Probably the most frustrating thing for me during my 14 years as a working mother has been the judgment of colleagues.

After my son was born, I took off nearly three months to be with him. Some thought this was too much time for someone in a leadership position like mine and let me know how they felt, but I don’t regret it to this day. You cannot get that time back.

Although I started working half-days before I returned, I still was not back at work full-time until my son was 12 weeks old. And when I was back, I took two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch every day. The breaks were to pump breast-milk that my husband could feed him while I was at work, and the half-hour-long lunch was so that I could be with him to feed him in person. I did this every day for about six months. And I worked more than 8 hours each day — usually something like 50-55 hours a week. Both the nursing and the work were priorities, and I did them both.

Because I took the breaks and the lunch on a regular schedule, often they interfered with other meetings that occurred at work. And that got noticed. I felt it. And there were one or two female colleagues without children who seemed resentful. It was stressful. I often felt rushed, running out of meetings to do the pumping or meet my husband in the parking lot with my son, so that we could sit in the car together for 30 minutes or so to nurse.

A few years ago, I was leaving work to attend a Girl Scout outing with my daughter — time that I made up after-hours. The following day, another working mom colleague shared with me that I needed to be careful about taking this time. She was subtly warning me that doing this was not generally acceptable at our workplace. I thanked her for the heads-up and took note. I also took note that people who left early to play golf did not seem to experience the same judgment.

Now that my kids are older, it’s not as stressful, but I often need to leave work right on time, or I arrive 15 minutes after our “official” start time. And I wonder whether it makes a difference or not that I am working well over full-time to make up the difference in the evenings. People can and do make uninformed judgments based upon what they see in the workplace.

The honest truth is that flex-time is over-rated. Because some of the time unfolds outside the regular work day, it’s easy to pass judgment that the time is “less than,” and thus the work itself and the commitment of the working parent are inferior.

I have no easy answer to this dilemma, for myself or for any other working parent. My own choice as a supervisor has been to support high-quality work and the people that do it, whenever and wherever they are able to complete that work.

There’s more to be learned here. I’m sure that I’ll get more clarity on this over time, but for now it’s just hard. It may sound like the easy way out, but I’m glad that I’m now counting down from nine years to the end of my time as a working mother of school-age kids.

Down in the Heel

13 Nov

The dog has ruined my professional shoe collection. Surely these photos say it all.

The tan platforms were particularly painful, therefore the close-up.