Friday, April 19, 2013

Arizona Cajun

Lately our book club has been tending to meet in restaurants that fit in with the themes of the books we're reading.  The book selection for April was A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly, which is set in New Orleans, so we met to discuss it last night at Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen.

It was my turn to pick both the book and the venue.  I selected A Free Man of Color because it's one of my favorite historical novels (although several of the other members were seriously confused by the profusion of French names and the author's narrative style); I picked Baby Kay's because I saw it reviewed on an episode of Check, Please! Arizona, a PBS show where local foodies talk up their favorite restaurants.  In this case all three of the guests who ate there gave it a pretty enthusiastic thumbs up, so I assumed it would be a safe choice.

The Cajun-themed ambiance in the restaurant was casual and friendly, and Wednesday is one of their live music nights, so a seemingly tireless guitar player entertained us with a variety of bluesy numbers.  If the evening temperature had been 5 degrees warmer we would have sat out on the attractive covered terrace.  Each of us ordered a different entree and everyone raved about the food; I had the half po' boy (oyster) and cup of soup (duck and andouille sausage), both of which tasted like the versions I had in New Orleans itself.  For dessert my sister and I split a gigantic hunk of bread pudding with bourbon sauce, which was without a doubt the best bread pudding I've ever eaten.  The portion was so large that the two of us together couldn't finish it.

Baby Kay's also serves an interesting variety of beers, including Blackened Voodoo, a favorite I hadn't previously seen in any Valley bar or restaurant.  I'll definitely go back to Baby Kay's; I can already see myself out on the terrace a month from now washing down the appetizer sampler with a bottle of that Blackened Voodoo beer.

“Somewhere lives a bad Cajun cook, just as somewhere must live one last ivory-billed woodpecker. For me, I don't expect ever to encounter either one.” ~William Least Heat Moon, ‘Blue Highways’

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Photographing the Invisible Cat

When I met my cat Charlie at the Humane Society, he was very friendly and affectionate, which was one of the main reasons I adopted him.  He continues to be very loving with me, rubbing his face against mine to wake me in the morning, sitting on my lap in our screened porch in the evenings, and helping me grade papers on the computer whenever I let him (he's discovered some interesting key combinations that I didn't know my laptop possessed).  I was startled, then, the first time that someone visited the house after I acquired him and he dove under the bed.

Charlie has continued to go into hiding every time another person enters the house.  He prefers his original under-bed cave, but he's also learned how to open the doors of the lower cupboards in the kitchen and the bathroom, so sometimes he'll shoot into one of them.  He's been so elusive, in fact, that my mother (who is very defensive about her memory loss) actually accused me of making up the whole "adopting a cat" story to mess with her head.

In self-defense, I took up my cell phone and snapped a few pictures to send to the doubters.  Here he is, slightly blurry but clearly visible, Charlie the (to other people) Invisible Cat.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Getting Organized in Spite of Ourselves

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a little compulsive about neatness, particularly where my work spaces are concerned. That wasn’t always the case; I was as messy as the average teenager. Once I became a full-time worker bee, however, I realized that being organized meant being able to find the things I needed to do my job quickly and easily, and ever since I’ve had offices neat enough for co-workers to call me “Felix” – and people dying to hire me for my efficient ways.

One of the main reasons my current boss hired me, in fact, was to help her get organized, and we’ve made great strides together so far. However, I’ve tended to organize things in ways that make sense to me, and her brain frequently doesn’t work the same way. I’m supposed to be evaluating CRM (client relationship management) software now, but I’m afraid of not picking the right long-term solution for her. After all, what good will it do her if I set up everything to suit myself and then leave a year down the road?

That’s why this week I lent her my go-to book on organizing theory, How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself by Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roasch. I believe I’m on my fourth copy; I keep giving it to friends who hang onto it forever. The authors’ theory is that organization schemes only succeed when they make sense to the user and work with his or her internal organizational preferences.

What does that mean? Well, for example, some people (like me) are happiest when their desks are clean and all their “stuff” is tucked away out of sight. Others, like a memorable former boss of mine, want everything out where they can see it; I often wondered whether she felt protected by the walls of paper she built around the perimeter of her desk. When that particular boss went out on an extended sick leave I had to manage her desk during her absence; it was clean when she returned and covered in its usual stacks of correspondence by the very next morning. I felt pressured by her mountain of paper; she felt naked without it. Obviously the same paper-processing procedures couldn’t work for both of us.
The authors of How to be Organized… first ask the reader to take a number of tests to identify his or her organization style(s). The remainder of the book suggests the best techniques to use by style; the reader can read only the applicable chapters and skip the rest.

Even if my realtor friend won’t read the entire book, I’m asking her to take the tests so I will know just who I’m dealing with, and where our organizational efforts need to go from here.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” ~A.A. Milne