Thursday, April 17, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

I don't know if you are familiar with Amish Friendship Bread, but if you aren't now, you soon will be. Someone, somewhere, will come up to you with a recipe, a baggie and if you are lucky, a sample of the finished product.

I would like to begin by saying that "bread" is a misnomer. It's cake - a wonderful, calorie-laden delight! I also don't believe it truly comes from the Amish. When was the last time an Amish woman used instant pudding mix? It will come to you in a harmless looking container or zip-loc baggie, in a form called "starter batter". It's a yeast-based batter, and you will be following directions for a 10-day cycle. The baggie form is a lot of fun. You are required to squish the bag every day. Cool! On day 6 of the 10 day process, you will add ingredients to make an even bigger starter batter. On day ten, you add more ingredients and then put 1 cup of starter into each of 4 gallon-sized ziploc baggies. With the remaining batter, you will make your own cakes. The 4 baggies of starter are doled out to three friends, with one remaining to bake again in 10 days.

The process becomes interesting when you start handing out bags of batter to your friends. Your true friends will not run from you when they see you coming, baggie in hand. They will smile, accept it graciously, and throw it away when you aren't looking! Somewhere along the line, someone must throw this away. As I see it, if the 3 friends you give starter to will pass on their starters to three friends who will do the same, it multiplies exponentially. Eventually, we've got to have more bags than people in the world! All of us knee-deep in batter! Mixing it with oars in non-metallic swimming pools!

Homeland security must have heard about this batter scheme somewhere along the line - I think that is the reason for the 3 ounce liquid limit on airplanes. The TSA is doing their part to keep friendship bread in check. If you want to transport cake batter across state lines, you need to do it the old fashioned way - by automobile.

I made my first cake with starter received from my sister. I baked the cake with white chocolate pudding mix and chocolate chunks, and decided to bring all 4 bags of starter I had with me to work along with the bait... um, cake. Gave them all away within 2 hours time. Anyone unfortunate enough to poke their head around the corner to say how wonderful the cake was walked away with a baggie. No more starter, you say? Wrong! On Saturday, I'm getting another bag of starter from my sister, who kept two bags for herself on the last baking day, and now has 8 to give away. And the cycle goes on...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nice Weekend!

Well, it's Sunday and it's been a very nice weekend. I must say I like the days getting longer! We had several threats of rain yesterday - it got very dark outside and thundered a few times, but just a few drops of rain until it stopped. Wayne took a drive to Belmar NJ to do some scuba diving. He made two dives - said the water temp was about 44 degrees. VERY COLD! He needs to make about 15 more dives to achieve his divemaster certification. Unfortunately, he lost his camera and underwater housing yesterday. Ironically, he said he took the best photos yet with it. He just purchased the camera in January of this year. He's very upset!

I had a good day - watched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy on TV. Loved the movies, loved the music.

The weather was a little cooler today, but still nice. We decided to take a ride this afternoon and run a couple of errands. One of those was a stop at Mid Atlantic Scuba Center to drop off the tank Wayne rented for his dive. Dinner was takeout from Chili's - yum!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just Desserts

I haven't spoken too much on this blog concerning my time working for a "toxic" manager. I went to work for him in 2005. I'd already been working for the company for 12 years, and 4 of those in my current position. He was brand new to the company and they decided to make him the HR department supervisor, with the promise of a promotion to manager once he completed his schooling. The company gave him time off during the week to attend school, paid his tuition and promoted him. I was actually transferred to a different building to work with him, as the other HR managers thought that I was the person most likely to get along with him. They assured me that I would like him - he was funny, very amiable, smart and an overall nice guy. The assistant who would have been assigned to him was a very caustic woman - she rubs everyone the wrong way. (Why she is in HR is beyond me.)

From the time I started working for him, he seemed to pick at every little thing I did. Every letter would be sent back to me, reworded. Every posting had to be changed. Every employee discussion I typed up was not the way he wanted it. I was really puzzled by this, as I'd worked for two other HR managers and no one had a problem with any of my work before. I chalked it up to an inexperienced young man trying to make an impression on his new employers. But things just got worse and worse. He was a passive-agressive type personality and he latched onto my weakness -low self-esteem. My working life got worse and worse as I started to doubt myself at every turn. He asked for reports and when I finished them, would tell me he changed his mind - do it another way.

In the months that followed, he started to treat me rudely, ignored me, did not keep me informed of things going on in our building (things I needed to know). He was secretive, always had his door shut, never told me when he was leaving the building or where he was going. Other department managers would come to me asking me where he was or if he would be in his office that day. I didn't know and had to tell them I didn't know. That only made me look stupid. I spent my days crying at my desk, not knowing what I was doing wrong or why things had taken such a sour turn. When I wasn't crying, I was eating. I gained 50 pounds while working for him. The other HR managers I had worked for stopped by to see me once in a while and asked me how everything was going. I told them it was awful. No one even asked me what was wrong. How could they not see the red swollen eyes or how upset I was? I felt abandoned by the entire department.

I went to his boss. Basically the answer was to stop whining. Different people have different management styles.

Even my friends kept their distance. I would confide to my best friend the way he treated me, and all she could say was that she couldn't see it. He was always nice and friendly to her. Everyone loved him.

By the end of 2005, he had driven me into such a deep depression I found myself consulting a doctor. He put me on medication and once it kicked in, I felt I had something to grasp onto to save me. To anyone who doesn't understand the impact of depression - I felt that I was slipping into a deep dark hole. The sides of the hole were muddy and the more I tried to climb out, the more I slipped deeper until there was almost no light to be seen above. I lost interest in everything around me. My love of crochet even failed me. My family couldn't understand what was wrong with me. I told them things were bad at work, but didn't want to burden everyone with "my failings".

I tried to bid out of the department. The first time he told me I would have to take a huge cut in pay (not true, I've since found out). The second time I asked him if he minded if I put in a bid for another job (a promotion) in another building. He was very agreeable - told me it would be a good job for me. I prepared my resume and sent it with a cover letter. He needed to attach his recommendation to it and forward it to the hiring manager. I waited for over a month for a call for an interview. I asked my friend who also put in for the job (less seniority than me) whether she had heard anything regarding the position. She looked very sad and had to admit she had a second interview scheduled for the job. She said she was afraid to tell me that they skipped over me. I called the hiring manager to ask if I needed to improve my cover letter or work on my resume - just wanted to know the reason they skipped me. She got quiet, and then said she only got one resume - my friend's resume. The devil never turned mine in.

Things have improved over the last year. I was better able to cope with his antics, which included dumping his responsibilities in my lap at every turn. I kept up with them as best I could. I started crocheting again last June and even though I still don't make items at the rate I used to, it's getting better. God bless my sweet husband for sticking with me. I know it's been difficult for him too.

I finally feel vindicated now. It came to light late last year that "Mr. Wonderful" had stolen some money from the company (charity funds destined for breast cancer research, no less). He was fired, they changed all the locks in the building and there was a huge investigation. They believe that he also helped himself to some other company funds, but they are still investigating that one. They are prosecuting. He has in fact been arraigned, and it was brought to light that he had 2 prior convictions for this. He should be doing some time in prison when this is all over.

I may have been the only person to whom he showed his true nature. I am the only one who isn't shocked by these revelations. I just thank God that I was strong enough to seek help when I needed it before he drove me to the breaking point.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Life with 3 Dogs

When Dad passed away a few months ago, we decided to keep his dog Brutus. Brutus had been adopted from a rescue group and we didn't want to send him back to have to find another new home. We were more than happy to make a home for him with us.

Life has been interesting. We already had 2 dogs in the house. One a slightly off-the-beam min pin who is the apple of my eye, and a stubborn but loveable beagle (my husband's favorite, though he actually belongs to my son). Both of them had their own little rivalry going (who would sit on Mom's lap, who got to play with the toy, who was going to eat first, etc).

Now they are having to adapt to another factor in the equation. It's had its exciting moments when we have to remind all three that the two-legged members of the household are the "top dogs". Just an FYI - you do this by rolling them over onto their backs so that they realize you are dominant. But for the most part they are beginning to settle into a pattern of peaceful coexistence.

It sure is nice to come home from a long day at work and be welcomed so heartily back into the family! You can be young or old, fat or thin, unattractive or beautiful, rich or poor, sick or healthy - your dog(s) will always love you no matter what. Makes life a whole lot better.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Long Time, No See!

It's been a while since I updated. I was very busy the last two weeks at work. I had the opportunity to attend an off-site Microsoft Access class through work. It was very informative and I can't wait to adapt some of what I learned to our own uses in our department. The rest of the week was busy playing "catch-up" for the time I was out of the office.

Work is going so much better since my boss "Beelzebub" was canned. I swear I can still smell the sulphur and brimstone when I open the door to "that" office. He was an evil, evil person. I still don't know exactly what he did, but it was pretty bad when they change all the locks on all the doors after you leave! I do know that he stole some money - I've heard him referred to as a thief.

Apparently I was the only one to whom he showed his true nature. He was obnoxious, nasty, lazy, arrogant and more. I was the only person not surprised to hear what a bad boy he'd been.

In a crochet note, I've had more time and inclination to yarn and hook lately, so I started a very cute baby blanket. It's single, double, treble and split-leg treble crochet. I hope it turns out well. I'll update this post with a photo when I get a little farther along on it.

Well, I need to visit the attic to find some yarn for my sister. She's working on a nativity wall hanging.