Sunday, January 31, 2010

Well, it was discovered that there are five of us in my concepts and theories class that are not in the skills lab. We all have been having trouble keeping up with the teacher since he is constantly referencing things that the other students have worked on in skills lab. Then he would kind of skim over some things because of that. The other students and I all talked and we realized that we all walked out of the class more confused than when we walked in. This was brought to the attention of Chef Mattern and he talked with the teacher of the class and he is making some changes to how he approaches the class. Friday was much better. I'm sure part of it was that we were doing the chapter on eggs and breakfast foods, but I think part of it was that he didn't reference the skills lab quite so much.

We had our first quiz in that class. I whizzed through it. I think that all the reading and rereading I did really paid off. When we were reviewing right before the quiz, I actually seemed to be more comfortable with the material than some of the students who were in the lab. It was hard work, but I definitely feel that it paid off.

We also had our first quiz in pastry. I am confident in all my answers except one, and even with reviewing, I'm not sure whether my answer was correct. I guess I will see when I get it back on Monday.

I finished my first "research" paper for safety and sanitation. I put research in quotations because even though I did quite a bit of research, I have a hard time labeling a 3 page minimum paper *mine ended up being 6 with the references* a research paper. I suppose that is something in my own head, but research papers to me are much, MUCH longer than 3 pages. Thank you AP classes at Jackson High School. On the same note, we were split into groups for my concepts class and told about another "research" paper we are to do. There are four of us in the group and the paper has to be...wait for it...3-5 pages. Really. I mean, I'm not complaining, I just find it funny that we could each write less than a page for this project.

Balancing home life and schoolwork has been a bit of a challenge. This week I also worked a full day at Doing Dishes which gave Marc another full day of childcare duty. Harmony is doing fine but Layla is missing Mommy quite a bit. I'm sure we will all adjust, but we are just trying to rearrange housework and childcare duties to work for all members of the family. I'm pretty much studying every spare moment I have, which sometimes cuts out my nap time. I also feel like I am having to choose between exercising and schoolwork sometimes. It's all part of an entirely new routine in our family, but in the long run, I think it will pay off.

Pies and Pâte à choux- Day 2

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today we finished up our pecan and lemon meringue pies, as well as our eclairs and profiteroles. My group was having some issues today so some things didn't come out as well as hoped. There are two other women in my group. One is about to graduate next semester and has been cooking in a restaurant setting for 10 years. The other...has not. Both are very nice people and I enjoy having conversation with both of them. Having conversation and cooking are two separate things, though.

I really hate drama. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable and it really can't look good to Chef, either. I, therefore, try to be either the peacemaker, or I walk away and try to avoid the situation all together. I washed pots alot, today. The less experienced woman (Let's call her Chef A), is having trouble measuring things accurately. She also doesn't listen very well when Chef CJ talks, and doesn't take initiative to do much of anything. She just kind of wanders around aimlessly, not even trying very hard to look busy. I, personally, have not had too many issues with her, but I try to be polite with everyone, even if they are driving me crazy. I chose, at the beginning of the day, to mediate the situation by asking her politely to do tasks that would not affect the overall success of the dish, but were still contributing. IE, "Chef A, would you mind melting this butter for me? I'm working on this right now, but we need this butter in the next step." Or, "Would you mind removing the beans from the pie shells, please? We are almost ready to fill them." She didn't mind doing these tasks.

At one point those kinds of things were mostly done, and she decided to go make the churros. I caught Chef B's eye and she just mumbled to let her do it and if she messed it up, we would go back and fix it later. I shrugged and let her go do her thing. The problem was that churro dough is extremely similar to the pate a choux dough and she had to do that three times yesterday before she was successful, and the third try she had Chef CJ walking her through it. Chef B and I continued to work on various items and at one point there was a moment where my project was finished and Chef B asked me to go check on Chef A. She was just pulling her dough off the stovetop and putting it into the mixer. It had huge white chunks of flour in it still and did not look like the correct consistency. Instead of criticizing her, I went to Chef CJ and asked her to come look at OUR dough and see if she thought it looked right. She asked, "What dough?" looked up, saw Chef A with the dough, and said, "Oh. I get it. I'll be right there." She came over and took over with Chef A.

Chef A and Chef B seem to butt heads, however. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but they just can't talk to each other without making each other mad. Chef A can't take criticism *or even helpful comments* from Chef B without getting angry. They just kind of snap at each other. At one point Chef B was making a comment to me about Chef A not listening and Chef A was standing right behind her and overheard. They got into a screaming match. Literally. I walked away to wash dishes.

The day continued in a downward spiral after that. Our lemon for the lemon meringue didn't set up and the crepe batter was not the right consistency and kept cooking like scrambled eggs. Both of those things were a result of mismeasurement by Chef A. The lemon was mixed yesterday before we realized the problem with measurement. Chef CJ took Chef B and I aside and said not to worry, that we weren't graded on final outcome, and that we were switching groups next week so just to hang on. I guess both Chef A and B had gone separately to Chef CJ to complain about the other. Thankfully, I managed to stay out of it, as much as I possible could and told both that I don't like drama and I didn't really want to talk about it. Nicely.

For the most part, the food came out alright, though. A very kind chef from another group had extra crepe batter and let us use it to practice making correct crepes. Once I had correct batter, I was able to turn out my crepes quickly. Chef B had made a yummy cooked pear and strawberry mixture to use as a filling for our crepes and we used some ganache when we went to plate our items. That was another fun part. We are starting to plate our own food and make it look pretty. We get to use pretty much whatever we want to use from the kitchen and those options are extensive. She is giving us more time at the end of class to do this, so we even have time to make some of our own sauces and cooked garnishes.

In the end, we had pecan pie *with added chocolate pieces in the filling*, lemon meringue pie *kind of*, eclairs and profiteroles with a pastry cream filling and chocolate ganache, crepes, baklava, and churros *again, kind of. I didn't photograph these.*






Next week is cakes and icings. I'm most excited about making a chocolate angel food cake!

Pies and Pâte à choux

Pâte à choux is the dough that is used for eclairs, profiteroles, croquembouches, etc. We each got to make our own batch of this dough which we then piped into a pan of eclairs and a pan of profiteroles. I lead with this because while reading the chapter and the recipe for choux, I remembered a time in 8th grade foreign language class. Foreign language class was designed to give us a taste of German, French, and Spanish so we could decide which language we would like to take when we got to high school. We had a food day in class for each country where we would each bring in a food and we would just sit and eat the whole class period. Being the ambitious baker that I am, I decided to make eclairs.

I don't remember the process that I used to make the eclairs that day, but I do know that it was not the correct way. The actual pastry turned out alright...or so I thought. I made them the day before and went to fill them at six in the morning on food day. I believe I was going to fill them with vanilla pudding. They wouldn't hold the filling, they kept cracking, and even when I went to cut them open to just spread filling inside, they wouldn't work. I was in tears. We went to Apples and bought some from the bakery and food day was saved. I never tried to make them again. This is why I was so excited to be making eclairs yesterday. They turned out wonderfully.


Hopefully you aren't offended, but we do like to have a little fun in the class. Thankfully, Chef CJ has the same sense of humor I do and found this photo extremely amusing when I asked if it was allowed to be included in my final notebook.


We also made the dough and the fillings for small pecan and lemon meringue pies. We did not have the time or oven space to bake those off, though. We will be finishing those up today, as well as making crepes, baklava, ganache, the cream filling for the eclairs and profiteroles, and something else that I can't remember at the moment. I will write more after class today and let you know how everything turned out.

Brownies, Blondies, and Apple Tartlets

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Pastry yesterday, we made brownies, blondies, and apple tartlets. You probably could have guessed that from the title of this post. Each group made at least 35 tartlets, a half sheet pan of blondies, and a full sheet pan of brownies. Our group was so awesome that we finished all of the above and cleaned our station before anyone else. We were then asked to make an additional quadruple batch of blondies (2 full sheet pans). We finished with that about the time everyone else finished with their items. I brought home a blondie and a tartlet for Marc and he quite thoroughly enjoyed both.

When I first got to class, Chef CJ recognized me and immediately asked if I understood her email about the Safety and Sanitation class. I told her yes, and thanked her for taking the time to email me the information. While people were filtering into the classroom, Chef CJ handed me a list of things we were going to need for the day, and asked me to take inventory to make sure that we had everything. While I was doing that, the girl that was in my group last week came up and asked what I was doing. I told her and she said, "Wow! You're sous chef for the day? She must really like you." I didn't realize that taking inventory was such a big deal. We were short on several things so I went to the stockroom to procure the additional items needed.

When class started, I was in the same group with the girl from last week as well as a woman who is one quarter away from completing her AA. It was nice to have someone who I could ask questions to, and I could feel confident that she knew the correct answers. At the beginning of last week I thought I could ask the other girl, but quickly realized that she knew little more than I did.

We made the brownies and the blondies first and we made them at the same time. We are thrown right into doing things like we will do in a real kitchen, which means making more than one item at once. I think our team did so well because we communicated very well with each other about what items we each were measuring out, we thought ahead so that our butter was softening while we got out other ingredients, we stayed organized, and we kept our station clear of clutter while we worked. Empty and dirty bowls were whisked away and washed as soon as they were not being used. We didn't have idle chitchat and we stayed focused on our tasks.

Once the blondies and brownies were mostly finished, we were instructed to prepare the frangipane for the apple tartlets. I was in absolute heaven working on the frangipane for the apple tartlets. Frangipane is an almond cream that we piped onto the puff pastry circles before we layered the apples on the very top. I absolutely love the smell of almonds, so I kept breathing deeply all morning. To make the frangipane, we started with a good amount of almond paste. We were instructed to taste this substance. I gladly complied. Not many people enjoyed the taste or texture of it, but I didn't mind it. I'm not saying I would like to eat more than a taste here or there, but I definitely was not turned off by the experience. You may be familiar with almond paste when it is in the form of marzipan, which is one of the most common uses for almond paste.

We then watched a demonstration by Chef CJ for preparing and putting together the tartlets. We cut out circles from sheets of puff pastry, docked them with a fork (this means poking holes in the pastry so that it doesn't puff up too much because it allows steam to escape), piped on frangipane in a zig zag, layered the apples on top, brushed with an egg wash, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I was able to quickly do the math to figure out how many apples we would need peeled and sliced and how many sheet pans we would need prepped for the number of tartlets we were to make. I was a little nervous before school started that my math skills would be a bit dusty, but I have been able to do the calculations quickly and acurately.

I informed my group that I had not had skills class yet and it was decided that I would be the one to prepare the sheet pans and cut out and dock the pastry circles while the other two peeled and sliced the ten apples we needed. Then one girl piped on the frangipane while the other girl followed behind and layered on apples. I followed behind with the egg wash and the girl who piped on the frangipane followed behind with the cinnamon sugar.

Here is a picture of the raw tartlets and then a picture of the tartlets once they were baked off.


All in all it was a great day. I am having so much fun in the class and even with studying. The OCD side of me really enjoys making sure everything is organized. I checked with Chef CJ during a break at one point to make sure that I was doing my notebook correctly before we get too far into the quarter. Apparently, she is a little OCD, as well. She loved that my pastry notebook and binder were color coordinated purple so that I knew that they were both for pastry class. She loved that I have a chart in the front showing what highlighter colors mean what. She loved that I have everything labeled with dates and cross referenced to the index cards that are held together with rings. I'm glad to know I am doing things correctly.

Next week we are going to be making nine items. These items include baklava, crepes, ganache, and churros. I can't wait to get started!

Catching up

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I emailed Chef CJ to let her know that I also had transferred into her Safety and Sanitation class on Mondays from 1-4. I wanted to let her know that I had gone to Chef Costas' class this past Monday and that I had thought he was teaching the later class as well, which was the reason I did not attend the afternoon class once my schedule was changed. I asked her to please send me a copy of the syllabus, if it wasn't too much of an inconvenience, and asked her to let me know what I missed and what homework I needed to have done for Monday the 1st.

They watched Food, Inc. and we are going to be doing a project on it on the 1st in class. Thankfully it is available for immediate viewing on Netflix. This give Marc and I something to do this evening once the Chargers game is over. He has nicely agreed to watch it with me...until he gets bored. I also have some reading to do. Not too bad, overall.

I finished my vocab terms for my Theories class this morning and started on the reading. I am feeling a little overwhelmed with that class. There are so many different small nuances between various stocks and reductions. I think I will be less anxious once I have had a quiz and know just how many details they want you to know. Do I need to know the process of making a stock and that is all? Do I need to know all the specific herbs that go in most stocks? Or do I need to be so detailed that I know the specific herbs that go in each stock, the way to tie the sachets, etc? For the time being I am stressing out because I want to know all the specifics just in case.

I am off to lend support to my husband and the Chargers and then enjoy his support while watching Food, Inc. with me.

Concepts and Theories...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yesterday was my first Concepts and Theories of Culinary Techniques class. I have it from 1-4 on Fridays. If any of you talk to me on any kind of regular basis, you will know that this conflicts with my nap schedule. I usually nap when the kids nap every single day. When I don't, around three o'clock my eyes are falling shut of their own accord. To combat this problem, I used the Starbucks gift card that Marc's brother, Chris, so graciously sent me and got a grande coffee in a venti cup. It kept me awake, but I still kept yawning every five seconds. Thankfully, the teacher was sitting behind me working the power point presentation.

I definitely think this will be my most challenging class. I learn best with the hands on approach, and this class is meant to go along with the Skills Lab that I was switched out of. There is one other student who was switched out as well and we both approached the teacher after class. We asked if we were at a disadvantage since we were not in the Skills Lab. He hesitated before saying that we weren't necessarily at a disadvantage but that we will probably have to study a little harder than everyone else. We will be ahead of the game, however, when we are in the Skills Lab in the future.

The other students already prepared chicken and beef stocks in the Skills Lab earlier in the week. They already have had the hands on experience of the preparing the carrots, celery, and onions in the corrects sizes for the different stocks. They have already had the experience of rinsing the bones or not rinsing the bones as well as roasting the bones for the stocks. They have hands on experience viewing and preparing the various terms for the various items and steps in preparing a stock. I am going to be just straight memorizing these things instead unless I try to make them on my own at home without a Chef present to correct any mistakes.

Memorizing wouldn't be quite so difficult if I had taken French instead of Spanish in High School. I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce most of these terms until I hear the Chefs pronounce them in class. I also have no idea what most of the terms themselves mean. I'm not talking about what they entail, I am talking about literal translation. Marc has downloaded a free Rosetta Stone for French and we are seriously contemplating working on it together. My only hesitation is that my brain, which has been a mommy brain for the last five years, is already being asked an awful lot. I don't want to overload it. I also don't want to take time away from studying the subjects that I am being graded on. We will see what we decide to do.

The class is with Chef Frost. Apparently, his dad's name was literally Jack. This led to some jovial ribbing about being named Jack Frost. He has entertaining mannerisms and he really does try to make the class fun. He started off the class yesterday with a mixer to help us get to know the other students. I discovered a fellow student who is a mechanic and will fix any problem for a case of beer, a girl who's boyfriend owns a tattoo shop, a guy who owned a restaurant that Marc and I have had conversations about down at the beach until it burned down a year and a half ago, and a girl who also has a tattoo on her collarbones that says, "To die would be an awfully big adventure."

Our homework for the week is to define a long list of vocabulary and to read the chapter on soups and sauces. At least now that I have the first class out of the way, I have a heads up on what is going to be discussed each week so I can come to class prepared. I don't know if I have mentioned in a previous post, but my goal seems to fit nicely here. I am going to strive to graduate summa cum laude. I am hoping this is possible. Some credits transferred over and I am not sure if those grades transferred and count towards my GPA. I am hoping that just the credit transferred and not the actual grade. If the grade transferred, I will not be able to graduate summa cum laude. I suppose I should ask someone about that. I have some other things I need to take care of in the office on Tuesday anyways, so I can probably ask then.

Have a good weekend! We do not have class Monday so I may not post again until Tuesday.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today was my first day of pastry arts class. The morning started off at 4:15 AM because at some point in the night Layla got naked and then when she peed, it woke her up. If you know my kids at all, you know that they, like their mommy did for so many years, can't sleep without their blankets. I moved her down to the pack n play in an attempt to get her to go back to sleep, but without her blanket it was a futile effort. She talked and asked for her blanket in between what I assume was dozing off. I tried to go back to sleep on the couch down here since we don't have a baby monitor hooked up all the time in the playroom and I didn't want to go dig for it. I also dozed on and off until my alarm went off at 5:30.

Marc decided last minute to go ahead and take me today since Layla was already awake. That meant rushing around since I was literally about to walk out the door when the decision was made. In all the rush, I forgot my apron. When we were almost to the school, we had a decent sized turn, and I spilled some coffee on the cuff of my brand new chef coat. I tried to breathe, but was about in a panic by the time I made it to the kitchen.

Chef CJ was the only one there when I got in. I introduced myself and told her that I was one of the students who transferred in from the other class. I told her it was my first lab, and I asked her to show my how to tie my neckerchief. She was really nice about it and showed me how to do it correctly. I told her I forgot my apron and she said that this time it wasn't a big deal and loaned me one from the kitchen. She could sense that I was a little anxious, and asked if I was nervous. I told her that I was excited and that I just wanted to make sure I did everything right. She said that was good because it showed that I cared.

We were finishing up a strudel that they had started yesterday. They had made the dough and prepared the filling. Today we made an anglaise sauce, a caramel sauce, and put together and baked the strudel. If you have never made strudel, you have no idea what an undertaking getting the dough prepared for the filling is. You have to be extremely gentle with the dough and begin to flatten and stretch it and eventually you have to get it to cover an entire table without rolling or ripping it. You gently put your hands underneath and let the weight of the dough stretch it out.

They say cooking is one of the most artistic skills because people use all five senses while eating. They don't really talk too much, yet anyways, about the fact that cooking also engages all five senses. You know how you get into bed on a warm day and the sheets feel so nice and cool for the first few seconds? That is what the dough felt like on top of my hands and arms while we were stretching it. You could really smell the dough, as well, and you could see the spots where the dough was thin enough because it was almost transparent.

I also learned today why my attempt at eggnog around Christmas failed miserably. I've tempered eggs before for my black tie mousse cake, but I wasn't sure that the eggs for my eggnog were getting thick enough so I kept stirring it on the heat. Eventually the eggs curdled. Apparently if you let the egg and cream and sugar mixture boil or reach 185 degrees, no matter how slowly you bring it to that temperature, your eggs will curdle. So now I feel like I need to go try to make eggnog again.

It was all around a good day. Chef CJ was helpful, especially when I let her know that today was my first lab and yesterday was my first class ever. She exclaims with a smile, "Oh! Then you really have no idea what the hell is going on then, do you?" I laughed and told her that no, not really. She showed me where things were. It's nice because even when a guy spilled a whole contained of melted butter on the floor, she didn't freak out on him. She just calmly said, "Well, I guess you're on cleanup duty." Then we moved on. I definitely am making a huge effort to make sure I am doing things correctly and taking initiative to help out in any other ways possible. I make sure I am not just standing around and that I am always doing something. This was usually dishes or mopping.

Before I go, I must say, quickly, that washing dishes with that equipment is so easy. I wish it was that way at home! I wouldn't possess a dishwasher, I swear! They have the super high powered hose to get all the gunk off and then the vat of soapy water, the vat of rinse water, and the vat of sanitizer. Even with sticky caramel, it only took 10 seconds to wash the pan. I loved it! I was afraid that I was going to hate that part of the whole experience, but really it isn't so bad after all.

I don't have class again until Friday, so I may not post again until then. If not, have a good rest of your week!

First day of class

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today was my first day. Marc and I got up around 6. We enjoyed our usual morning routine of coffee while Marc watched the news and I played around on the computer for a bit before showering, getting the girls up and ready, and eating breakfast while walking out the door.

I arrived with plenty of time to spare and gave everyone hugs and kisses and walked into the building. I bypassed the long line of students in the lobby who were waiting to receive their schedules and headed to my classroom. There I found that the room we were scheduled to meet in had changed to another location. I found the classroom and settled into my chosen seat- front and center.

One of the things I appreciate most about AI is that they focus so much on professionalism. That being said, the staff is still warm and friendly. Becca walked by at one point and gave me a big smile and a wink. A few minutes later, she came into the classroom and came over and gave me a big hug and asked how my first day was going. I appreciated that she really remembered me and that I wasn't just one of the other faces.

As I stated above, I really am thankful that AI is so focused on professionalism. They demand it from us and they lead by example. Their uniforms are always clean and pressed and they expect the same from us. Their goal is to get us through this journey with as many skills and as much marketability as possible. I love that they talk already about getting jobs. I love that this school is so well known for their quality of students that they turn out. I love that there are a million opportunities to get involved in things. They really have made it where you can get as MUCH out of this experience as you want to.

Another thing that really thrills me is that the teachers have so much passion. Many times in life you see people come out of school with so much fire for their profession: doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. Many times they have such ideas about what they are going to accomplish. Somewhere down the line, though, it seems that many of them lose that spark and they just go about their jobs only feeling that what they are doing is a JOB. These teachers at AI have so much fire and passion in them still. Most are of the older demographic but they still talk about cooking with so much enthusiasm that it makes you sit on the edge of your seat and have your eyes locked on them the entire time they are speaking. Maybe it's just that I am so excited and thrilled myself that they affect me this way. Maybe they are just that good. Either way, I am loving it.

At one point, Chef Mattern came in with the Dean and told us that the skills class I was to take on Wednesday and Thursday was over registered and they needed 8 people to switch to Intro to Pastry. My hand was the first up. As many of you know, pastry is my favorite. I must admit that I had an additional ulterior motive of Layla's birthday coming up and hope that I aquire some wonderful fondant skills before I make her cake, but aside from that, I still would have volunteered.

So now my schedule is as follows:

Monday 7-12 Intro to Pastry
1-4 Sanitation and Safety
Tuesday 7-12 Intro to Pastry
Friday 1-4 Concepts and Theories to Culinary Techniques

I have the same credit hours as before, they are just on three days instead of 4 and I only have two mornings. It still works out well as far as the girls go so I am thrilled with the schedule change.

In the midst of all this, I became known to the Dean and Chef Mattern as more than just a name on a sheet of paper. They were thrilled that I was the first of only three to volunteer to change my schedule and unhappy that more people didn't. I also had to hang around after class to wait for my revised schedule, so I also got a chance to make small talk with the Sanitation and Safety teacher. Connections can only help me at this point and I definitely am getting a great start on that.

Tomorrow is my first pastry class! I am even more excited, if possible, than I was last night.

Tomorrow is the big day

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tomorrow is my first day of school. I have Sanitation and Safety from 8-12 and we already have planned for Marc to take me and pick me up because it is supposed to be the coldest day yet here in Jacksonville. Yes. We are in the middle of a long cold snap here in northern Florida. We have had reports of snow on various sides of the county and the sprinklers have been freezing water on trees. I suppose I should have prefaced all of this by saying that we only have one car, so if one person is using it for something, the other parent walks Harmony and Layla to/from preschool. In normal weather this isn't a problem and is actually enjoyed since it gets us out of the house and exercising. In 20 degree weather, however, not so much. So Marc and the girls will be taking me to my first day of school. Then I will hang around after my class until they make it back to pick me up. This will be at least a half hour wait, since Harmony doesn't get out until noon at the earliest. It will give me a chance to ask the teacher some of the questions that have been floating around in my head about my classes. I will have the same teacher for all classes except for computer, so I can make sure I have what I need for my classes the rest of the week.

I have been reading my "On Cooking" textbook and finished the first chapter today. I then went back through and took notes. I finished up by doing the quiz at the end of the chapter. Marc laughed at me. I know I won't have time to do all of that, possibly, for every chapter but I am bound and determined to give this everything I've got this time around.

12 1/2 hours until I am in the car headed to class. I have the alarm and coffee pot set to go of at 6am. My clothes are ready to go. I have everything ready to head out the door. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve and I'm sure I will have trouble sleeping tonight.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Today was orientation. Marc's buddy, Tom, came over to watch the kids so that he could go with me. Family was encouraged to attend and he, as always, wanted to show his support and come with me. I love this man more every day.

We were talked to by many of the staff at the school and then the chefs came down to speak with us. I was literally on the edge of my seat. We learned some of the expectations that they will have of us, and some of the ways we can get the most out of the experience. After all the speeches, we were released to go get our photo ID's *already done*, create our myaicampus username and password *also already done*, finish any paperwork that needed done *Oh! Already done!*, and pick up our supply kits and parking passes. Marc and I were the first ones out since I had all that other stuff completed already. Can you tell I'm excited to get started? I got my uniforms, my knives, and a massive amount of books which I have already begun to read. Tomorrow we are going out to get the shoes I will need for labs and I will be all set! Monday cannot get here fast enough!!

Then Tom let Marc and I take a lengthy journey home and stop by Outback for a celebratory dinner using the gift card we got from my parents for Christmas. I am so thankful that the girls are big enough to not have to worry so much about leaving them with other people. Let me edit that. I am so thankful that Layla has outgrown her need to literally be attached to me every moment of the day and that she doesn't freak out over new people quite so much. I am also thankful that she sees Tom and Jaime enough that she doesn't mind being left with them. I am thankful, as well, that we have friends willing to watch our kids.

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