On the road again…

I really should be doing writing for work now, but instead I’m goofing off. It’s hard to concentrate on work when an evening of rare free time is available. Being “on the road” for work means there is no home stuff to do in the evenings: no cooking, no cleaning, no animal care chores, etc.

Usually work travel is full of other responsibilities, but this time I’m on my own. No fellow “road-warriors” on this trip, so no need to fill the evenings with social dinners and such. Instead, my evenings are available for work or solitary pursuits like exercise, reading, knitting, or watching TV in my hotel room. Sure, I could get out on the road to explore the local town, but at the end of a long work day I just want to unwind with one or more of the above.

So, again, I should be working since there is so much to do this trip. But instead, I’ve been reading Julia Child’s My Life in France as I unwind in my room or eat a solitary dinner in the hotel grille.

It’s easy for me to relate to someone so obsessed with good eating, and the fact that here in the U.S. one must often learn to cook well in order to eat well. How ironic that I read about her appreciation for canard a la rouennaise while I consuming a chicken and arugula panini that definitely started with frozen, pre-measured ingredients. No comparison, I’m quite sure.

Like so many others, I saw Julie and Julia at the cinema last summer and was bowled over by Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. I’m old enough to know who Julia Child was, yet too young to have really watched any of her cooking shows. And, frankly, French cooking always seemed incredibly cumbersome and time-consuming, not to mention overly rich for my palette.

But she is a wonder in many ways that come across very clearly in this book. She may have focused on cooking — typically considered a domestic, and therefore “female” art in the U.S. — but she was a professional devoted to her business. She put a lot of thought into her work, and wanted very much to share her passion with others.

Julia and her husband also had what seems to be a very non-traditional marriage. Not having to deal with caring for children or forced by her husband to fit the standard American cultural mold for womanhood, their marriage sounds refreshing and real. They loved and supported one another and that is really inspiring.

She only briefly touches on their lack of children not being by choice, but she passes on this quickly as if to say “Well, it wasn’t meant to be; let’s just move on!” I suppose it doesn’t really matter why this was the case, but I’m glad they had a happy life together no matter what troubles they faced.

———

It’s Tuesday night and under normal circumstances I’d be hanging with my friends at Stitch and Bitch tonight. There haven’t been “normal circumstances” for a month now, but this is my last week on the road. For now at least.

There are no indications that I’ll need to travel for work again any time soon, but work life is rarely predictable these days. I would like to do some personal travel again soon, though. Personal travel that would involve spending time with B while kicking back, sleeping in, and spending lots of time in each others arms. That would be the best kind of road trip imaginable.

——–

I got out of the habit of writing in my blog for so long that I’m sure it shows. Like anything, writing must be practiced regularly or the craft suffers. I’m going to make efforts to spend time writing here regularly again so I can get my skills back up to high standards. I’m striving for more clarity and sincerity and less blathering. That’s hard to do. But with enough practice, I’m sure to get there. And so it begins…

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Know yourself

Hey, I’m blogging today! What a treat!

As I sit and wait for the floors to dry (yes, I’m cleaning the house today, and really enjoying it, too!) it seemed a good time to do some writing. I’ve been traveling a *lot* for business lately, and one of the things that I thought I’d find time to do while on the road is a bit of blog writing. But business travel being what it is, I was always either a) working late at the office; b) out to dinner with colleagues, or; c) catching up on email and other work in the hotel room. I was impressed that one evening out of the past month of travel I managed to squeeze in 40 minutes at the hotel gym, but that was the only “me” time I’ve had. Besides sleep, of course. I will *not* give up sleep for anything.

This is one place where the “know yourself” bit comes in. Life is full of compromises, so the best way to make sure you get what you need to feel reasonably happy is to know enough about yourself to figure out where you can comfortably make those compromises.

While I have had to travel for work nearly every week since mid-April, I’ve been able to do it within some boundaries that are important to me, like getting a decent night’s sleep. This means that I’ve had to set myself up for working during the evenings in order to catch an afternoon flight, but at least I don’t have to settle for 5 hours of sleep in order to make a morning meeting. Sometimes schedules for meetings and flights are outside my control, but I make things work as much as possible.

One thing I have to try much too hard to do while traveling is to eat decent food. And this is not a problem of me making poor choices or compromises, but simply not having the choices available. It makes me pretty crabby that it is so hard to find fresh, minimally-processed, non-industrial food while traveling for business. Airports all over the country present “healthier” options these days, but they are only healthy at the surface.

Doing the right thing by picking up a salad? Well, you can be sure that the produce in that salad is factory farm produced to be tasteless and low in nutrition. If you’re OK with eating animal protein, you’re sure to have the option of adding “chicken” that has been pumped full of “flavor enhancers” and such that don’t make much of difference in flavor but are terrible for your body. Then there is the dressing for the salad. I’ve joked that I really should travel with a bottle of olive oil and a lemon simply so I could have a decent topping for salads and food in general.

Commercially available salad dressings are inevitably made with cheap oils. The ones found in packets at airport kiosks and take-out places are generally made with soybean oil, which is the cheapest most foul tasting food-grade oil in existence. Even those marked as “olive oil” vinaigrette inevitably have soybean oil as their base, with a touch of olive oil added since that’s what’s on the label. Occasionally you can find dressings made with canola oil, but those are very rare, and really not much of an improvement.

Sometimes, though, you want to have something besides a salad. Really, eating iceberg lettuce twice a day gets pretty monotonous. One week I found a great dinner option at a sit down place in the Nashville airport: a large baked potato with toppings of your choice. Oh, it was heaven to dig into that puppy-sized (yes, it was *huge*) potato, adding a bit of butter as I wanted. Washed down with a microbrew, it was the best on-the-road meal I’d had that week. Unfortunately, the next week I was in Nashville airport, the restaurant had re-done their menu and the big baked potato was completely gone.

Business travel doesn’t mean eating exclusively in airports, though. Business hotels aren’t much better, offering the same sort of industrial food, at even higher prices. I managed to get a pretty good dinner that one night I also made it to the gym: grilled salmon with sauteed veggies. Most nights, though, dinner choices were things that involved lots of melted cheese, white breads/rice/pasta/french fries, and factory farmed (meaning tasteless) meats and veggies.

To me the really sad thing is that most people seem to be OK with eating this way. I can only assume that this is considered “normal” food, which is why it is available everywhere. I guess I’m a picky food snob, even though I shudder to think this is the case. Why is that we must eat this way? Really, it’s terrible for us and the world around us. Why can’t we just give it up?

I’ve been able to get home for the weekends, at least, but the remedy to all that tasteless food — home cooking — is a challenge when you have just a couple days to do laundry, spend time with friends and loved ones (including the pets, too!), and get some normal chores done. So I’ve been eating out more on the weekends, too. Thank goodness I have access to better food here in my home town, though, since I know where to get it.

Only one more week of travel left for now, and then I can get back to my “boring” life of cooking at home most nights and packing lunches for the office.

I found time to get the summer garden in yesterday, thanks to help from my new co-gardeners and friends Krista and Jeff. We went to the garden center and picked out all the usual starts (peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli) as well as some less traditional favorites like brussels sprouts. We came back to the house and got everything in the ground before dinner time, too. What a difference it makes to have helping hands!

Today I’m cleaning house and enjoying a day of domesticity. I do have one more thing to plant (strawberries), but I’m sure to find time before dark. For now, it’s back to mopping floors and hanging out clothes to dry on a sunny, breezy day.

It’s the simple comforts that make me happy: good food, good company, and clean, comfortable surroundings. That’s what I know about myself for sure.