Ché Black

Things I Know at 28

Today is my 28th birthday, and I’m not feeling entirely positive about it. My mind is flooded with questions like, “Am I too old for my room to be this covered in crap?” and  “Am I supposed to know how to make lasagna from scratch?”. I gauge my general life direction against where I think the world expects me to be. It’s stupid, and all of this stress and self-centered contemplation really puts a damper on my attempt to age gracefully. So to keep from having an “older-than-quarter-but-less-than-mid-life” crisis, here are the things that I do know for certain at 28 (Spoiler: This list is not impressive).

Things I Definitely Know at 28

  1. Female Friends Are the MOST Important: If I could marry my girlfriends and have affairs with men on the side, I would. They get me more than anyone. When I’m upset, they ask the questions that get to the root of my feelings. If I’m being irrational, hypocritical, or just fucking crazy, they will tell me. And if I get mad at them for calling me crazy, they forgive me. Being a woman is a very unique experience, and your girlfriends help you embrace your journey. Also, there is nothing as therapeutic as a girl’s night. Whether we’re white girl dancing our way through Beyoncé’s discography or crying into a pizza, I always walk away from hanging with my ladies feeling like I just saw the friendliest, drunkest psychiatrist on the block. They are an intricate part of a happy life, and you should keep them.
  2. I Should Stop Looking At the Neighbors: If you’re 28 and living at home because you want to save money and you like your mom a lot, that’s fine. Even if you have a friend who left home at 24, or that annoying bitch who somehow manages to travel the world on absolutely no income at all – how does she afford this and where the hell is Budapest! It doesn’t matter. You can’t compare yourself to everyone else and it’s incredibly unhealthy to try! I’ve learned it’s important to stay on your own track, and forget everyone else because they’re still figuring it out too.
  3. 28 Is Not Too Old: My fellow 28-ers are not too old for the following things:
    1. Alcohol or getting drunk on the weekends.
    2. Casual dating.
    3. To start working out.
    4. To start new hobbies.
    5. MTV (Girl Code, what up?).
    6. A messy bedroom.
    7. Needing your mom.
    8. Being single.
    9. Living paycheck to paycheck.
    10. Going back to school.
    11. Changing careers.
    12. Crying when your boyfriend gets mad at you.
    13. H&M.
  4. 28 is Too Old: My fellow 28-ers are too old for the following things:
    1. Losing control of yourself every time you drink.
    2. Staying in unhappy relationships.
    3. Staying at a dead-end job because it’s easy.
    4. Doing anything because it’s easier than doing what you want to do.
    5. Complete apathy.
    6. Not knowing how to say you’re sorry.
    7. Thinking your age makes you cute (unless you’re talking to your grandparents).
    8. Not knowing how to get along with your siblings.
    9. Not appreciating your parents.
    10. Forever 21.
  5. Well All Need to Get Off the Phone: The internet and smart phones and quick accessibility to everything are killing our sociability. Put your phone down during dinner, or when talking to people. Make eye contact and maintain in-person contact. Otherwise, we’re all going to have weird, robot children.
  6. This is Only the Beginning: A (mostly) clean and cute apartment, a sister-best-friend, a best-friend-boyfriend, a decent job with great flexibility, good friends, great family… everything is fine! And it’s only the beginning of it all. So I’m enjoying it. Now give me cake!
  7. And lastly, when all else fails, Buzzfeed gets it.

Cabinet Cooks: Tofu!

Okay, let’s clear the air enough for me to admit I’m not a vegan. I had gumbo for lunch today.

After the move this weekend, I didn’t have the time or money to go out and get everything I’d planned on buying. While a vegan diet shouldn’t be expensive (beans and broccoli, right?), I needed to replenish my entire kitchen, and all of the oils and sauces and different treats I wanted to add to that shopping list pushed me way over budget.

Though I have chicken in the fridge and shrimp in my belly, I’m not a complete failure. Mark and I went shopping on Sunday and purchased a lot of vegan friendly foods, including Almond Milk, veggie burgers and tofu. I also have gluten free pasta, an entire fridge filled with veggies, cabinets stocked with legumes and a plan. While I am not totally meatless (Mark has ground buffalo in the freezer that I cannot wait to bite), I am still sticking to a mostly dairy, GMO and gluten free diet, with a little meat sprinkled throughout.

With that said, I attempted my first tofu recipe yesterday. It’s a favorite of mine; a really simple mushroom wine sauce. I usually cook it with chicken, so why not tofu? (Spoiler: Because never tofu).

Ché’s Famous Tofu with Mushroom Wine Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

  1. At least 6 mushrooms, sliced, I used Baby Bella;
  2. One onion half, or less or more, diced;
  3. Garlic, diced, as much as you can handle;
  4. Red wine, 1/2 cup;
  5. 2 pads of butter, or non-dairy butter;
  6. 3 ounces of firm tofu;
  7. Lots of pepper;
  8. A little bit of low sodium salt;
  9. Some type of gluten free flour, or regular flour, if needed.

Step One: Press Your Tofu

I don’t have any pictures of pressing tofu, but I followed these steps. In case you don’t know, tofu is fucking gross. It comes in a package filled with water, which spills all over you. Then you have to press your tofu between two plates, and squeeze all of that soy water out. It takes about 15 minutes for the tofu juices to excrete, so I used that time to prep the rest of the meal and started cooking the sauce.

“Food”

 

Step Two: Make Your Sauce

The sauce is easy. Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat. Then, add the garlic and cook for about a minute, or until fragrant. Then add onions, and sauté until translucent, also about a minute or so depending on the amount. Then, add the wine and the mushrooms at the same time. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes. Add lots of black pepper and a bit of salt. The mushroom flavor will then release into the wine and butter, and it will taste delicious. If you want to thicken it, use your favorite thickener, or just use a teaspoon or so of flour. This is the only part of this recipe that you should replicate.

A bad picture of a good thing.

 

Step Three: Begin to Ruin Your Meal

A serving of tofu is 3 oz., but the package contained 12 oz. So, I stored my tofu in two ways: First I froze a portion of it. This changes the consistency of the tofu but also helps in removing the moisture (soy juice). I stored the second portion in the fridge. To store tofu in the fridge, place it in tupperwear with water and seal it. The shelf life is maybe 3 days. Or really 0 days, because it’s disgusting either way.

I cut my remaining 3 oz. (4 oz. if you’ve been doing the math) into blocks. This is where I begin to screw everything up. These blocks are too thick. Tofu should be cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Poor preparation.

 

Step Four: Finish Ruining Your Meal

Tofu is never technically “uncooked”, so how you prepare it is entirely up to the recipe. Some recipes call for baking, some call for blending, some call for sautéing, etc. None call for throwing the tofu into a bath of hot red wine for 5 minutes.

Don’t do this.

 

Note: In a proper dish, you would spray non-stick oil onto a pan and heat the tofu for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Once cooked, you would place onto a plate, dish the mushrooms and onions on top and then spoon the sauce over as desired.

Step Five: Garnish and Serve!

Once I felt the tofu was adequately soaked, I cut it up into bite sized pieces and flopped the contents of the pan onto a plate. Beautiful! Then, for flair, I threw some parsley on top.

Mmm, flair!

 

I poured myself a glass of Pinot and took a bite. Hmm… it didn’t taste like much. Then I took another bite, and and started gagging. This was disgusting. I can’t adequately describe just how vile this dinner was, because I can’t even comprehend what those tastes were, but just take my word for it. Do not ever prepare tofu like this, or at all.

Step Six: Drink Wine for Dinner

I ate the mushrooms, because they were delicious, before tossing the rest. Because I was still hungry, but also disgusted and unnerved, I had three glasses of wine and went to sleep.

There you have it! Ché’s Famous Tofu with Mushroom Wine Sauce Recipe. Skip the tofu, add more mushrooms, and enjoy.

Things On My Mind Today

1) Should I become a vegan? I mean, I like tofu in my miso soup, and I like turkey sausage, which is a pretty far cry from real sausage, so who’s to say I wouldn’t like tofurkey or whatever the vegan equivalent is? Plus, I can then add in all that lovely gluten-free stuff and I’d probably be model sized in a month. I hate how food animals are treated, and I think 3/4 of the meat at the grocery store is really gross. I see myself as only really having two choices; become vegan or only buy that really expensive beef and chicken they sell at those fancy stores. But even then, I should cut the meat down. I eat meat like a meat monster, and my arteries are probably pretty pissed about it. The real deciding factor will come after I Google “easy vegan recipes for beginners”. If they look good (and easy) enough, maybe I’ll do it for like… a month.

2) Should I go back to school? No, an English major is not going to carry me into the future. Really, I’ve done all I can do with it. I got an English degree, landed an Assistant Editor position, then spent 2 years shimmying my way out of the Editorial side and into the Business side. So while I am still in Editorial, all of my senior management knows I want to leave Editorial eventually…. and this is a $9B company, with lots of business to be had. So, really, I should go back to school and get my MBA and then get really rich and run shit. That’s my decision.

3) I’m really embarrassed. I was lying in bed this morning, unclothed, watching I (Almost) Got Away With It when a man knocked on my bedroom window. The window I scheduled to have replaced tomorrow. He was here today. So I was naked, and he was at my window, and he ran away while I got dressed and let him in. Then, I left my room, and I (Almost) Got Away With It was still playing. It was blasting, so loud, and this Asian man with this really high, effeminate voice was blathering on about his crime, and the entire episode was so ridiculous that I am more embarrassed I have been caught watching my guilty pleasure shitty TV than I am over any other part of that story.

The Fire That Woke Me: Moving On

the fire

 

I learned a lot from my neighbor Joe dying in a house fire last December. Running to my mom’s house through the police barricades and firemen, watching the black smoke pouring from the house attached to hers and from out of her attic, and seeing on the pavement the lifeless body of my neighbor, his bare leg sticking out from beneath the white sheet that covered him, was one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced. I immediately started sobbing this strange, animalistic cry that I’ve never made before and pray I’ll never make again. It was the collection of our fears, all the worst case scenarios, realized in real time.

After he was admitted to the hospital, I spent the weekend chain smoking and drinking, unable to erase the image of him that was seared into my mind. After he died, I couldn’t go to my mom’s house. His burnt home was directly beside hers. His truck was still in his driveway. There were boards against the door I used to watch him walk through and ladders in the garden he once cared about. Metal springs, all that were left of his mattress, sat morbidly twisted in his backyard. I could not be near that place, and I don’t know how my family stood it. His blackened bedroom window faced my sister’s. She still keeps her blinds closed.

I couldn’t stop looking back at that morning; the horrible panicked phone call from my mom, the longest car ride of my life, the feeling of terrified panic that clogs your throat.

Yet it’s been nearly two months, and everyone is okay. His home is being rebuilt, his family has returned to wherever they came from, and his truck is finally gone. Joe won’t ever be forgotten but we moved on. I don’t know how; something was lost to us! A relationship perished in the worst way imaginable. There is unfinished business and zero resolution here!  But we didn’t have a choice. We had to return to work, pay our bills, feed our stomachs, and see our friends. Moving on wasn’t an option, it was required.

This is the first time in my adult life that I think I’ve finally accepted that we really don’t get peace and resolve every day. We are not guaranteed closure, or fairness, or a chance at the last word. In fact, we rarely deserve those things. But what we do get are 24 hours to move on, shake off and do better.

I’m reminded of a salary negotiation that went really terribly and how I spent months smoldering over a pay rate that I couldn’t change. There was nothing left for me to do, yet I lived in that conversation for way too long. I didn’t move on and it was as unhealthy as sitting in Joe’s ashed bedroom would have been. What I should have done, and have done since, is learn from my mistake and then get over it.

The habit of living in the past, of putting new words in our mouths for past arguments, imagining conversations going differently or thinking of relationships preserved, is really toxic. It’s an expensive habit that yields no results and costs you whatever time you actually have. Yes, I wish I could have somehow saved Joe and my mom wishes she noticed the fire before it had raged so hotly… but I couldn’t and she didn’t. That’s all there is too it, and the longer we stayed in that day the worse off we were.

Learning from the past is obviously a requirement for every adult that wishes to be successful, but it is also just as important to get over it. If there is one thing I’ve taken from the day that left me so shaken, it’s this; Life sucks, and then you move on. Take from it what you can, and then leave it where it belongs – behind you. There is no use in clogging up your present with yesterday’s darkness.

Sail on, Joe. You are preserved as a good memory, and the darkness is lost. Rest easy, our friend.

Tax Season

    Tip: Threaten self harm in exchange for money!

Tip: Threaten self harm in exchange for money!

Do your taxes. Do them every year, and do them as quickly as possible. If you’re like everyone I know, you’ll get at least a grand back. If you’re like me however, you won’t get anything back and you’ll be sending similar letters to your accountant as well.

My options are jumping off of a bridge, or under a truck. I haven’t quite decided yet. Have better luck than me and read the Beginner’s Guide to Tax Season, because nothing screams adult like filing your own taxes.

Entry Level Woes: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

work_blues

Eventually everyone finds themselves wanting to look for a new job. Now that the economy is getting back on its feet, 2013 is predicted to be the year of “I Quit”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean hiring managers will pay any attention to you.

According to HR Resource Executive Online, less than half of employers feel new graduates are ready for the workforce. Of course the grads don’t agree, resulting in a severe gap between what entry level wannabe’s think they’re offering versus what employers fear they’ll get. This delusion of office grandeur doesn’t end when you get a job, either. According to anonymous, it takes a long time before fresh faced grads realize they aren’t God’s gift to the workforce. Anonymous writes,

I was confident throughout the interview process, and on my first day didn’t even break a sweat. When I went in to work and found myself setting up computers and taking the minutes during other peoples’ meetings, I thought my employer was under utilizing my enormous skill set. It wasn’t until a month in when I really started to figure out my position that I realized I had no idea what I was doing! 1 million questions and 2 years later, I only now am starting to really feel like I get it. 

My point is this – if new grads are 100% sure they are going to blow their workplace away, only to realize two years later that they were nothing more than empty heads and big egos, how can we be so sure that our confidence on flying the coop is any different?

One way to know if you’re truly ready to move on, whether your entry level or not, is to perform a self-audit. Remaining brutally honest with yourself, and evaluating your true intentions, can save you from making rash decisions or finding yourself on the receiving end of an unemployment check.

The “Am I Ready to Leave My Job?” Checklist

[ ] I’ve Outgrown my Position:

If you’ve outgrown your position, you should find a new one. But, have you truly outgrown your title or are you just frustrated/weary/sad over your current responsibilities? Assess these two options carefully, because frustration over fetching coffee or fixing the printer may leave you thinking your employer doesn’t appreciate you, when in reality you’re simply paying your dues. You don’t become CEO in a few days, or even a few years, and if you aren’t willing to eat a few shit sandwiches, you won’t know how to appreciate the Filet Mignon waiting for you at the top. You’ve only truly outgrown your position if you find you aren’t learning anything (because your employer has taught you all there is to learn… which I already don’t believe), your employer tells you that you’ve outgrown your position (yes, this has happened to me), or if you find yourself naturally taking on more responsibility and work because that of your current title no longer fills up your 40-hour work week. If you are working hard, willing to sacrifice and not just desiring a fatter paycheck, then yes, maybe you have outgrown your position.

[ ] I’ve Worked at my Current Organization for > 1.5 Years:

I often hear employees say that no one should leave a job before their 1 year anniversary. I challenge that no one should even begin looking before their 1.5 year anniversary. Time flies and careers are long. Unless your job had only 1 task, and that task was incredibly easy to master, future employers may find it hard to believe you are really ready to take on new challenges after a single year of employment. Plus, leaving a job after 1 year or less makes you look like a job jumper, and employers from previous generations hate job jumpers. If you’re willing to leave your current employer so quickly, why wouldn’t you do the same to your next organization? Employers want longevity out of their employees, and are more likely to invest in a stable candidate than one that seems to need a new title every 12 months.

[ ] I’ve Been Consistently Unhappy for Months:

If you are working on a really difficult project that requires late nights and weekend shifts, your misery is understandable, but not a reason to leave. Creating traction in your career does often require long hours and more dedication than senior level workers. You are proving yourself, and at times that means being a little rundown. However, if you dread going in everyday and feel miserably during your workweek, your emotions may be a sign that you’ve outgrown your position. Good employees who are underutilized will often become unhappy. If you feel you are idling, and there’s no way to move forward with your current employer, you may be ready to move on.

[ ] I Have New Aspirations:

One of the greatest benefits of being entry level, in my opinion, comes from the opportunity to change your mind. Your first ever post-collegiate title does not have to be your last (and I pray it isn’t), and working in an office environment or particular industry may allow you to realize more of your talents and further your passion. If you find that you would be more satisfied if your career moved vertically, or that a complete 180 is called for, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, and hopefully your current position has added to your skill set in a way that allows you to successfully pursue your new interests. But of course, wait a year and a half, then go.

Dieting, Of Course

I’m sweating profusely right now from my third consecutive cup of coffee,  watching Sister Wives: Secrets Revealed, and trying to figure out what I’m going to do tonight that doesn’t consist of eating or drinking. What do people do on a Friday night when they’re trying to lose weight?

After Hurricane Sandy, my gym closed for two weeks and I took that as a sign to stop working out for two months. Then came Thanksgiving, a trip to Vegas, Christmas and 2 1/2 weeks away from work, and poof!- here I am, squeezing into every pair of jeans I own. Vanity aside, I feel out of shape, so I finally drug myself back to the gym, started counting calories, and became the cliche post-New Year’s woman. That’s fine with me, I’ve already lost a pound, but nothing reveals your personal flaws as sharply as attempting change. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last four days:

#1: I want variety!

1,300 calories a day isn’t an easy transition, and my options are limited, but I’ll never be able to live solely on salad and chicken. I don’t understand women who have these very strict diets and don’t allow themselves pasta, or taco night, or a margarita once in a while. A life without Alfredo sauce is not worth living.

#2: I need a food diary!

The only way to keep myself from overeating is to write down everything I put in my mouth. I have a sophisticated spreadsheet and a food blog. It’s sick, and I’m ashamed at my lack of personal accountability, but if I don’t visually see the calories adding up, I’ll just keep eating crackers and Gouda until my couch collapses from under me.

#3: I’m an addict!

I don’t smoke and I’m not drinking, and I’m not watching 5 Netflix documentaries in a row either. To fill this void I’m drinking coffee, and obsessing over work out plans and pounding water. Maybe my new habits seem healthier, but they are just as unhealthy if I don’t control them. I obsess over things (you should see me on a Reddit binge) and I need to curb it. A little goes a long way, and I’m only just realizing this.

#4: I’m getting old!

After a year of wearing 4-inch heels to work everyday, my feet hurt and my knee is stiff, which isn’t ideal for a wannabe runner. I need to wear much lower heels to work and start taking better care of myself before arthritis and bunions cripple me.

Now please excuse me while I eat something. I think my overly critical self realizations are a sign of starvation induced insecurity.

Entry-Level Woes: Jealousy

jealousy, facebook, entrylevel

Today I received an “Employee of the Month” type award; my second in 4 months. The $80 reward is welcomed, and the recognition even more so. But, while working your butt off and receiving recognition amidst talks of future promotions and raises is encouraging, it’s not always enough to keep from feeling kind of like a loser.

It took speaking with a few close friends to realize that a forward moving career and gradual incline of success is not enough to make anyone immune to jealousy.

This isn’t breaking news, but social media has a lot more to do with your feelings of inadequacy than you may realize. Scrolling through a news feed of acquaintances becoming engaged, getting promoted and overall looking a hell of a lot better than you is bound to drag you down. Even if you don’t want to get married or have children, and even if your “friends” are excelling in careers you would never personally pursue, their level of success seemingly trumping yours sucks. This comes from me scrolling through Facebook looking for Cyber Monday deals, only to come across a picture of an old friend looking absolutely beautiful with her very serious and very rich boyfriend. She makes double than me as it is, and my breath caught in my throat. I have no idea why; I’m very happy and optimistic about my life and current position. But, for some reason in that moment, I felt like I hated her and her boyfriend, and her beautifully blond highlights.

Everyone starts somewhere, and some start better than others. Your current status does not nullify your overall worth as a person. I think if you feel intense jealousy and rage when looking through your social media accounts, be it Instagram or even Twitter (if you still use that mess), you need to get the hell off. Yes, actually unwire for a bit. Go to the gym, or make a really nice dinner, or take a bath. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something.

I’m serious. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn since graduation was how to keep from comparing myself to everyone. Learning how to be content no matter what your current title, salary or life status will only make your days easier, and who isn’t for easy days? The truth is, no matter how great your success, there will always be someone better off than you, so accept that and move on. Plus, when did your job or status or bank account start to make or break you as a person? It’s time to get back to reality.

The Anticipation!

 

Ché’s Guide To: Surprise Birthdays

My S.O, as weirdo women on dating forums would have me refer to him, turned 30 last week. As a longer-term girlfriend and a decent human being, it was my job to make sure he had a great birthday. After the 30th, for most people, the colossal aging parties are over until 50 (40 if you’re high maintenance or dying). Unfortunately for me and other non-rich people, the 30th birthday is a bit of a deciding factor on whether or not you’ll even be there for the 50th, so you need to pay attention and do a good job. To do a good job, you need to get your act together. I learned this lesson after trying to “whip up a quick cake” for his 29th:

Pictured: Me not having my act together.

Funding

The mainest, most stressful part of throwing a surprise party is not being able to afford to throw a surprise party. That’s why it’s very important early on in your life to learn how to coexist with other people. What’s expensive for one may be very reasonable when split between two. So I latched on to one of his friends and nonchalantly asked if he wanted to help me plan the party. Pro Tip: Lure possible party-funders with booze and the promise of bringing your really easy, drunk friends.

After you have a party-funder on your side, immediately discuss what you are willing to spend. If they can match that, you now have what is called a budget. An agreed upon budget is really important, because otherwise you will get screwed out of money, or they’ll spend more than you can, and you subsequently will become the screwer. Both scenarios suck. Once the funder and I decided what we were willing to spend, we used our words to entice other people to party too.

Planning

We invited everyone way before we paid for anything. Maybe you’re supposed to invest in your own ideas before spreading them, but maybe it’s dumb to plan a party no one can come to. I created, shamefully, a private Facebook group to spread the word. I know, Facebook groups are lame as hell, but a 30th birthday without any guests is lamer. It wasn’t until I secured yeses from a good group of people that I got out of bed and actually planned the party. Note: Securing a good group of people means actually speaking to those who are “attending”. Don’t go off of the group alone, or you’ll be alone, forever.

With a few friends helping me with the party, a bunch more wanting to come, and the resolve to get my boyfriend really drunk, we successfully threw the kind of surprise party you would want someone to throw you . Dancing, drinking, gambling, more drinking, too much drinking, a diner, and one quick dance in a cage was all it took to usher in 30 painlessly. Most importantly though, and if there’s a moral to a story about getting people recklessly intoxicated it’s this; he was able to spend the night toasting with a group of really good friends he hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was the best part. As it turns out, it doesn’t take a lot of money to be good at life.

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