Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Makes an "Expert"?

Miracles were performed last night.

I managed to plan, shop for, prepare, cook, and serve a three-course meal without crying to my father for help.

Now I am not an amazing cook, but my father is. I'm convinced he can cook anything without breaking a sweat. If I had to name the best chef in my life, it would definitely be my father (with no offense to my mother). He is definitely the expert in my life.

my dad has always said that being an expert just means you're one page ahead in the manual than everyone else. I got to have a taste of this last night.

Two friends and I always cook together every Friday. Usually it's just a frozen pizza and popcorn. This week , for Valentine's Day we decided to do something a little more adventurous. We collected used pots and pans from the campus "free store", picked out a menu together, and made a budget for the expensive foodstuffs we would need.

While shopping and preparing, the two friends I always cook with continued to ask me "what do we need to do next?" or "what do you need me to do?" The recipe was right on the counter next to me, and I hardly had any idea what I was doing in the first place, but they asked me instead. And for some reason, I kept answering with the correct answer!

We made a delicious meal of cheese fondue, salsa chicken, and smores (in an oven) for dessert. It was all delicious, and somehow the best food I had ever made. Food just tastes better when you have worked incredibly hard to make it yourself.

It may just be a small miracle, but it meant a lot to me, and even made me feel more independent. I was the expert, and people were asking me the questions. Strange.

If you ever need to feel really strong, go out and cook something you've never made on your own before.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sticker Shock, and the Importance of Savings

Apparently I have a limited ability to do math. That is, to put two and two together to consistently get four. I've been a firefighter for a year, and somehow never realized why steel-toe boots are not recommended. When a firefighter can't outrun a raging fire, they climb into a fire shelter - which looks like a tinfoil burrito - and waits for the fire to pass. During this time, it tends to get a tad toasty in that shelter, and steel-toe boots can do very nasty things to your feet.

Fire season starts in a month. I needed to get new boots now.

I bribed a friend to take me to a discount shoe place in a few days, and I was hoping to spend less than maybe $150, considering their shoes tend to be about 50% off. I was sadly mistaken... sort of.

There were lots of work boots that were at a half-decent price, but only one pair that was rated for Wildland firefighting... and they weren't under $150.

Sticker Shock = achieved.

I made a modest amount of money this past summer working very hard at three jobs. I was tempted several times by designer clothes and fancy jewelry. Somehow, I resisted the urge to splurge and tucked away my money into a savings account. Today I discovered how valuable mild frugality can be. I certainly don't starve myself of the good things in life (I treated myself to a Tiffany's necklace after I had surgery) but I don't buy everything I want. Life is balance. Sure, it would be great to dress only in designer clothes, but being able to afford the safety equipment I need at the drop of a hat not needing to ask for my parent's help is a great ego booster.

Long story short, the boots were more than $250. These boots are virtually indestructible, and basically guaranteed to last until long after I'm dead at a ripe old age. But ouch! My wallet is bleeding, call an accountant, STAT!

My mother was impressed that I didn't use the credit card she gave me, and didn't even ask for permission to use it. I never expected that she would pay for safety equipment that I wanted for a very dangerous job, and just assumed that I would be forking the cash over myself. She had half expected that I would ask. Somehow, I managed to surprise and impress my mother. Who knew?

Maybe this little show of independence and responsibility will encourage them to give me some money.... what do you say, Mom?