Tough Decision Making

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As one who is new to the blogisphere, I decided to keep BlogHer’s list of suggested blog topics this month as a guide in case I needed it.  Today was one of those days.  I find it hard to decide which things to share and in what way to present the thoughts buzzing around my head.  The suggested prompt today was to write about my favorite character.  And I have to say that it stumped me.

I have carried a book in my purse since I was old enough to carry one.  The only exception was when I carried only a wallet while going to college in Providence.  Right now, the book in my purse is The Hobbit.  For years, it was one of the Harry Potter series or Twilight or the Mortal Instruments series.  I have devoured fiction and become immersed in the many worlds that have presented themselves to me.  I have fallen in love, made best friends, and mortal enemies within the covers of my novels.  And yet in all of my books, I have never found myself a favorite character.  There are several that came to mind (the Weasley twins, Hermione, Clary Fray, Jace Wayland) but none that truly seemed to stick.

I have always been terrible at deciding favorites.  I couldn’t any easier tell you my favorite movie, song, or book.  But to decide a favorite character?  Impossible.  My books have been my best friends when I needed them the most and those inside of them have inspired me to keep moving.  And so I have to say that every character is my favorite character.

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The Awkward In-Between

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I have come to a point in my life that is quite difficult to describe.  It originated with the quarter life crisis, but now it has devolved into a seemingly lesser form.  I thought that the hardest part of the last few months would be deciding which direction to take my life in; but now that decision has been made and I realize that in reality, the hardest part of this whole transition is the awkward in-between parts.

I am a college graduate, but I am also applying for college in the fall.  I am out and living on my own with my boyfriend, but other than him there is no one to share it with.  I am an hour from my family and several from my closest friend.  Everyone I went to high school with is still in college, but they will be graduating just as I am reentering the education system.  There is no true group that I can relate to.  My boyfriend is considering entering college in the fall with me, but even that is not a definite.  He has not yet decided which path to take his life down.

I was so ready to start my career, get married, and have a family.  Now it seems that everything has to be put back on hold as I start over from square one.  I don’t know exactly which group I fit in with.  It’s not high school seniors.  It’s not college students.  It’s not college grads.  It’s not working adults.  I am my own entity and I am being forced to forge a completely new path.  Which will be great if everything works out this time around.  But what if it doesn’t?

And thus why I’ve retaken up blogging.  To help cope with the awkward in-between.

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Marching Band

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When I was in high school, I was a huge band geek.  Like HUGE.  I played alto sax and was in color guard during marching band.  I wore a ton of make-up and glitter and did ridiculous things to my hair, all for the sake of our field show.  It ended up looking a lot like this:

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I spent 5 years of my life (I helped the band my 8th grade year as well) dedicated to having zero social life.  There were evening practices every day in class plus two nights a week, parades, football games every Friday, and competitions every Saturday in October.

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Today is my little brother’s last competition ever.  He graduates this year and I will be out of excuses to make myself part of the band.  This thing that I have been centered around for 8 years now is just going to be gone.  Already, when I go back to visit, I don’t recognize any of the faces that are attached to the band uniforms.  It makes me miss the days when I would walk into the band room, know every person and be greeted by a chorus of hellos.

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I didn’t do band in college and I deeply regret it.  Today, I don’t play my instrument because I am so insecure about how much my skills have surely degraded.  My fear of failure keeps me from playing and my lack of playing only continues the downward spiral.  One day, I will play again and I will re-hone my skills.  But for today, I will live through my brother and enjoy what could be my last band competition.

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Today I start the challenge of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo).  I’ve never been a serious blogger before, but I’ve decided to take this opportunity to really dig in and stretch the limits of what I can do and who I’d like to become.  Please feel free to request topics or to ask me questions that you’d like me to answer.  I’m very open and just looking to find my place in the blogging world.  Tomorrow, there will be a real post, but today, I am running out the door to try and make a living for myself.NaBloPoMo badge

Halloween?

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Happy Halloween to everyone!  I keep forgetting what day it is and I’m sure that whatever you’re doing, your plans are better than mine.  What are my plans you ask?  Well my boyfriend and I were supposed to be going to a college party that my best friend is throwing, but instead we will be spending the evening in construction paper masks at his parents’ house.  These are the joys of having practically no income and living in an area where you have no friends within a 50 mile radius.

My boyfriend is going to be a pig and I will be fashioning myself a big bad wolf face and ears.  Most girls my age are wearing lingerie with their animal ears, but not this chick, not this year.  The event is family friendly and therefore no fun.  Not even a drop of alcohol because we are driving.

To brighten my day and allow me to live vicariously through the internet, I’d love to hear what you guys are doing this year for Halloween.  What’s your costume?  What was the best costume you ever had?  The funniest?  Feel free to share!

Quarter Life Crisis

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Everyone knows about the classic midlife crisis: you realize you’re getting old and get freaked out about your status in life.  What I’m not sure gets nearly enough attention is the quarter life crisis: you realize you have no fucking clue what you want to do with your life at exactly the time you’re supposed to have figured it all out.  While the midlife crisis is the most cliché, the quarter life crisis is arguably the most universal, even if it didn’t have a name before now.

I am a 20 year-old college graduate with an AS in Culinary Arts.  I knew from the time I was 12 years old that I wanted to be a chef.  I have known since I was 15 that I wanted to attend Johnson & Wales University.  At 18 I acquired the latter and just before my 20th birthday I loosely acquired the former.  And now just five months later, at 20 years old, I am absolutely positive that I do not ever want to work in a kitchen again.

For as long as I have been able to work a range by myself, I have known exactly how I wanted to spend my life.  There were no doubts, no second guesses, and no consideration for any other field.  I was a rarity in my age group and I was proud of it.  Now as I sit on my couch writing this, I realize just how stupid I was.  If only I had explored other options then, or even attended a university with a wider set of majors, I wouldn’t be gearing up to reapply for another college in the fall.  I wouldn’t be 24 before being able to start any kind of career that I love.  And maybe I wouldn’t be working three part time jobs just to make ends meet.

Thankfully, I got out of the food industry before it made me hate to cook.  I still love to cook and am called upon by most of both my family and my boyfriend’s to cook for every occasion.  I still veg out to Food Network; and I still love the produce isle of Publix.  The difference now, is that I realize that this is a HOBBY and nothing more.  But now I have to face the same anxieties that most have been going through since high school: What the hell do I want to be when I grow up?

As for now, I think the answer is elementary education.  But in a few months or a few years, I may change my mind again.  For the first time in my life, I am terrified of my future because I have no idea what it holds.  I have no idea if I’ll ever find something to make me happy.

And this, my friends, is the quarter life crisis.

Groundhog Day

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Everyone has had that moment with a new puppy where they get to have the full enjoyment of the dog discovering their tail.  This moment is often followed by much laughter and joy as the puppy commences to chase his tail in circles for minutes on end in vain.

The best part about this experience is that it gets to be enjoyed over and over again as the puppy continually forgets the lessons learned the last time he tried to catch the tail.

This experience seems to also be enjoyed by humans, never learning from the mistakes of their past, forever chasing their “tails.” Going in circles perpetually over the same issues.

With election season coming up, it is important to remember our past presidents and major decisions they have made about the important issues.  Many of these issues are cyclical or ever present, yet they always seem to be looked at in the same way, or as if nothing has happened in the past and nothing has changed.  America has simply forgotten.  We have forgotten where we came from and what mistakes have already been made and what policies have been successful.

You would think that someone might see a problem with this, but the American people go along with the idea that serious issues never shift or change and ignore all of the progress of the past.  This needs to stop.  Politicians and voters alike need to start remembering the past and stop ignoring it.

Before 1973, abortions were illegal, but that didn’t stop women from getting them; women went to extremes to end their pregnancies.  They would fall down stairs, hit themselves in the stomach, and hire back door doctors or everyday shmoes posing as doctors, yielding an exacto knife with the precision of a chainsaw.

Over 10,000 women died every year due to illegal abortions and their complications.  Thousands more survived, but suffered horribly. Women would stop at nothing in order to end their unwanted pregnancies.  Women would die.

This election is bringing the American people back to the beginning of this debate.  The republican candidate would end legal abortions and end funding for those that support legal abortions.  As if they have completely forgotten all of the suffering and death that came along with illegal abortions.

Another hot issue right now is that of taxation.  The Republican Party claims that whatever the Democratic Party does is wrong and vice versa.  What everyone seems to be forgetting is that we have had a successful economic plan in the recent past.  Bill Clinton’s plan had our country in a surplus and on the fast path to high growth and recovery.  This plan is very similar to the one that President Obama is currently promoting, yet everyone is outraged by it.

Everyone refuses to believe that the economy and debt did indeed exist before President Bush took office.  They also seem to forget that it was his repealing of Clinton’s plans that caused our country’s spiral downward.  Simple contemplation of the past could shed quite a bit of light onto today’s crisis.

These two things are considered to be deciding factors for most voters and yet they make their decisions blindly and without considering the nation’s past.  They say that if you do not know the past, it is going to repeat itself.  Americans need to pay attention to the past and use it to understand the present and how it affects the future; otherwise, the past will just continue to repeat itself, like a horrible remake of “Groundhog Day.”

Before going to the polls next month, consider what you’re really voting for and where it comes from.  Before you vote, make sure you’re not just a dog chasing its tail: forever confused as to why the same actions get the same results.

Educate yourselves and show the candidates that you’re not as stupid as they think you are.

The Cheesecake Factory

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The Cheesecake Factory is one of those restaurants that I just can’t make up my mind about.  There are many things that I love about it and yet there are also so many things that I would change if I had any control over stuff like that.

One of the things that gets under my skin is the menu.  The restaurant is named the CHEESECAKE factory.  But this is not just a cheesecake factory.  It is a large scale major food production factory.  The menu is a book.  It is literally a book.  With spiral binding and everything.  On this menu the diner will find: Chinese, Mexican, American, and Italian food.  And this is without even including the 40 or so varieties of cheesecake that are offered every night.  It takes at least 5 minutes just to LOOK at the whole menu.  And this isn’t including how long it takes to actually decide on what you’re going to have for dinner.  And if you want an appetizer too?  You will be eating a lot of bread just trying to decide on your food.  Also, in order to have that many varieties of cheesecake it has to come in frozen.  Yes, that 9 dollar piece of cheesecake was made in a large factory and then shipped to the store.  The one thing the whole restaurant is known for isn’t even made there.  My vision of the perfect Cheesecake Factory would include a small American or Italian based menu and no more than 10 cheesecake varieties offered at once, all made in house.

Then there’s the problem of garnish.  The Cheesecake Factory sucks at it.  One example of this is the paper napkins used both in the bread basket and on the calamari plate.

Just look at that.  Tacky.  Theres also another major garnish offense on this plate: nonfunctional garnish (NFG).  That parsley sprig is completely useless.  What’s the first thing the diner does?  They pick that off and put it to the side.  Chopped parsley would add the same splash of green color and it would become part of the dish.  The same happens on my entrée for the night (the Chicken Madeira).

This plate doesn’t need any more color.  The sauce is a lovely reddish brown and the asparagus brings on the green.  Why was this parsley sprig put there? For no reason.  That’s why.  And now look at the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken.

This dish is beautiful and it shows that the cooks at the Cheesecake Factory do indeed understand how to chop parsley instead of using a sprig.  So obviously there’s just a misconnect somewhere.

There are, however, good things to be said about the Cheesecake Factory.  For instance, the service is absolutely wonderful.  The Cheesecake Factory is one of those restaurants that only hires extremely experienced waiters (trust me, I’ve applied and been denied just for lack of experience).  Our waitress knew the menu front and back, even down to how the vegetables were prepared; which is a major feat considering how many items she must know.  She was also able to memorize our order, including special instructions, and get it to our table promptly and correctly even with plenty of other customers to attend to.

And then there’s the bread.  It seems like such a little thing, but you can tell a lot about a restaurant by its bread.  The Cheesecake Factory’s bread is simply delicious.  Of the two varieties that you are given, my favorite is their brown bread.  It has a perfect crust with a soft texture and delicious nutty sweetness.  I order a loaf of it to go every time I visit.

The rest of the food is also delicious.  Every dish: whether appetizer, entrée, or dessert; has been wonderful every time that I have visited and at every location.  I don’t understand it, but somehow, even with over 100 menu items, the Cheesecake factory produces wonderful meals.  I would especially recommend the Avocado Eggrolls, the Calamari, and the Chicken Madeira.  Those are so far my favorite dishes that they make.  The calamari comes with this delicious garlic aioli for dipping.  It’s just wonderful.

All in all, the Cheesecake Factory is a restaurant that I will continue to dine at even with my slight frustrations with the little things.

Hello world!

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Hi there!!  Welcome to Raja’s Basket of Fun, my first ever blog!

This whole idea started as a joke made by my brother.  You see, I’m one of those people who reads entirely too much and knows a ton of random useless facts.  This is combined with the fact that I am currently in school for Culinary Arts, so I also know a ton of really useful to me, but random to everyone else facts.  My education has caused me to see the food world with a completely new set of eyes.  This set of eyes happens to be very critical.  I am also one of those people with absolutely no filter who speaks about whatever is on their mind.

A few months ago, my family was at a restaurant at the beach while on vacation.  I was giving a small speech on something pertaining to the service or food (I can’t really remember what at this point) when my brother burst out with “You know what, you should write a blog.”  I took this lightly at first and laughed it off, but here I am now.

This blog will be primarily about the food industry.  Complaints, rants, information, and suggestions to anyone who will listen.  Mixed in will be opinions on current events, including politics.

I’m aware that in all likelihood, no one will actually read this and even if they do, it won’t go far, but maybe I could make just a little bit of a difference to someone somewhere.  And maybe eventually everywhere.