More at Steak

One of my favorite things about working Masters each year
is a very selfish thing.
Because I am in a kitchen with chefs from all over the nation, working side by side,
I have the chance to watch them do what they do best.
The food we prepare is created almost exclusively from scratch.
All the way down to the zesting of oranges.

The simple mincing of chives
isn’t really simple.
Every year, a new chef demonstrates how to mince without catching the tips of your fingers
with the knife.With fingers tucked out of the way and the large blade rocking against the fingers/knuckles,
the blade is free to move quickly. While I’m not as fast or nimble with a knife, I learn a great deal each year …
skills I bring home and put into practice in my own kitchen.

The greatest lesson I learned this year
was to go with your gut.

I sliced five beef tenderloin one chilly morn.  The meat is put onto platters to be used by patrons to make sandwiches for lunch. It is absolutely delicious.

The next morning, I was given the same job … but couldn’t figure out why the job wasn’t moving as quickly as the day prior.
I asked for help with honing my knife.  It seemed to be much more difficult to get a uniform, consistent cut.
I was a little frustrated, but I continued on my job.
I hated to continue to ask for help … with the knife … with the slicing ….
Then Chef Tom saw my work. He was quite angry with me.
My cuts were almost twice as thick as they should be.
He said things about needing to train or babysit the help.
He commented that I had just created a stack of
three ounce Filet Mignon cuts.
He was very upset with me.
Honestly, I took it to heart.
I was trying to do my best … and balance not being a pest while struggling.
Then he took my knife and tried to repair my work (by cutting each piece in half).
It was impossible.
My knife was very dull.
While I knew I was struggling,
I really didn’t realize that the knife was the crux of problem.
Rather than cutting through the tender meat,
the knife was sawing the loin … unevenly, I might add.

I can’t say that I ever really recovered (emotionally)
from this “mistake” during Masters week.
My friend, Courtney, tried to console me.  Many of the chefs see food a little differently than you or I might. It was a mistake.  They used the meat in some other way and went on. But, I know that a mistake like that was costly. More than that, I let down my “boss.”

I say I’m not a “people pleaser,”
but in certain situations I am extremely people motivated.
I wanted to do an excellent job.
I want to do an excellent job in all that I do.

In fact, the day before, two chefs used the word “perfect” about my work.
The word perfect made me cringe.
I know when I hear that word, there is nowhere to move … but down.

And so, the lesson I learned
is never be so cautious
that you don’t ask for help
over and over again.

I’d rather pester my boss
because my gut tells me that “something is wrong”
(like my knife won’t work properly)
than complete my job
and have my work be poor quality
and the outcome be rendered useless.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Which, of course, made me think of
the spiritual parallel to this lesson of the physical world.
I should always turn back to God,
and His Word
to see if I’m doing things properly.
I should question my actions
when my gut tells me things aren’t going right … or operating smoothly.
And it’s a good thing to keep my eyes on “The Boss.”
I want him to be pleased and praise me
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:21)

Because, sometimes,
especially in the spiritual world,
there is a great deal “more at steak” (pun intended … haha)
than two beef tenderloins.

Little Reminders that He sees me

During the week last week, while we were running back and forth to make sure that the grits and oatmeal crocks were topped off at breakfast, to put out just a little more lobster salad at lunch, or to refresh the plate of freshly baked cookies at snack, I had to travel down the hall between the dining area and the kitchen.

When I had a free moment, I would stop to look at this photograph

I’ve been in Camellia cabin for four years now. This photo has been an encouragement to me since the first time that I saw it.

It is a reminder to me that I have a Father in Heaven who
knows my heart
who took the time to weave together my inner desires and creativities
sees me.
He is looking down upon me.
And He knows the desires of my heart
and He knows things that make me happy …
…. LIKE ….  light and shadow.

This photo could have been on the other end of the building
but it was hung on the wall right beside the door that I walked through
one hundred times
or more
a day.

The sight of this simple framed photograph
with a long shadow across manicured grass
in shades of gray
gave me comfort and encouragement.

Thank you, Lord, for putting Fred Couples on the course
when the sun was going down
and the shadows were long.
Thank you for adding a photographer who could see the beauty
and capture the shot.
Thank you for the person who choose this photograph
out of the hundreds or thousands that he could have chosen
to adorn this wall.
Thank you for hanging it in the hall
right beside the door
that I would enter and exit
hundreds of times during the first full week in April
for four year running.

You bless me, Lord.
You give me gifts, desires and loves
like my love of light and shadow
and then you saturate my world with examples of that desire
that I might be encouraged.

God is good.

Are you watching for His gifts?
For His reminders of His love for you?
That you are not forsaken or forgotten?
That He wants to encourage you as you walk through life?

Masters Tournament Every year

Another Masters Tournament has passed. Another week has been spent “ooohing and ahhhhing” over Pimento Cheese & Egg Salad sandwiches in familiar green cellophane bags. Another winner has earned a Green Jacket.

Every year, I say I really don’t want to go back. But, in December, when the Augusta National letter comes in the mail, I have forgotten most of the tough stuff,
and I begin to get excited about April
and I return.

And most parts of the experience are wonderful. In fact, the most difficult part is the physical taxation. But, I know that I am one tiny part of a tremendous, intricate puzzle that the world watches for one week each April. It is an honor to be a such a grand and elaborate tradition.

My particular niche is in a “cabin” tucked away from the main activity of the course. There are three of these cabins, each entertaining a separate company. Two of the cabins are full and rocking with people who have probably earned tickets through sales.  As many as one hundred and fifty people will walk through their buffet lines at each breakfast, lunch or snack.  I am in a more quiet cabin that is visited by executives of a particular company. The atmosphere is more subdued. They have some guests, but we serve no more than fifty at any given meal.

I don’t know this for certain, but I the things I hear from all the people who I talk to throughout the week lead me to believe that the chefs and servers in food service have the longest hours on the grounds (the severs coming in just an hour or two after the chefs and leaving just a bit before them). 

While I have a meticulous sense of order and want things done right and well, I’m not trained in any area of food preparation or service. I do a good job in making sure that my job as a buffet attendant is at the standard expected, but I still have to ask many a question about terminology and sometimes presentation of food. I am thankful my cabin runs at a more relaxed pace and I expect this may even be the reason that I am in this particular cabin.

But, every year, I say I don’t want to return.  The hours are extremely long and I am not so foolish as to think that I am not expendable.

Everything I do in life, I ask “How am I blessing others? Am I making a difference? Does my presence matter?” In the Camellia cabin, I know I am replaceable. In fact, the only place that I believe that we are not replaceable is within our own families. Neither a father nor a mother can truly be replaced.

But, the main thing that keeps me returning is the people working beside me. There is a small group of us who have been in this particular work area (the three cabins and the kitchen that prepare and cook for us) for the four years that the cabins have been built. These people bring me back. These, and some of the new people who come in each year. I want to be an encouragement. I want to help them. I want to make their burden lighter, as much as my ability allows.  Our hours are long. Head cabin chefs and head kitchen staff clock in close to four each morning. All the other kitchen staff have to be in by five o’clock. We serve food until thirty minutes after play so many of us stay until seven or eight at night. That means, we head home, shower and “power nap” before returning.  We had a special dinner in our cabin on Saturday night, so I left around midnight. I slept from 1:00 until 3:30 and clocked back in at 4:15.  I worked close to twenty hours both Saturday and Sunday.

And my hours pale in comparison to this chef and others.

I work from the Saturday before the tournament to the Sunday night of the last day. It takes me a few days to bounce back from the week. Ibuprofen is my friend and sleep is my weapon for recovery.

This year, my money is set aside to purchase a “big girl” camera.  I even rented out our mother-in-law suite to four students and had a few people stay inside the house as well.

And it was a good year.  Every year seems to get a little bit better. Each year we find new ways to make things run more smoothly. And Monday night, I slept ten hours – close to the number of hours of sleep that I got on Friday, Saturday and Sunday combined.

I don’t even know who won the tournament this year, but I know that my kitchen was spotlessly clean when I left it, I know the menu for each of the cabins, how the food was presented and I know what we might be able to do next year to help things run just a bit more smoothly.

It was a good year. I’m almost recuperated and I am thankful to have spent another year working beside some amazing people who help the Masters Tournament be all the grandeur that it is.

I was Mistaken

Oh, friends.
I was terribly mistaken.
Mornings begin at or before four.
Evenings come to a close between seven and eight.
Even simple photographs
take more time and energy than I can muster,
as sleep is extremely valuable.

So, I will have to wait until Monday morn to return to the blog.
I hope your day is blessed,
your evenings lovely
and your nights peacefully pleasant.



May your weekend be beautiful

Today is Day 1 for me at Augusta National. This is my …. third year, I believe, working The Masters Tournament. I’ll be heading in to polish silver and join in training. We’ll be counting serving trays and stocking kitchens. The head chef in my cabin on hole 10 has probably been in town all week. Months worth of  planning and preparing have gone into the culmination of this week long event. The world will be watching clubs swing and balls roll.

The photo above was taken in front of The Clubhouse.  The drive to my rear leads out to Washington Road. It’s lined with a beautiful canopy of trees.  I guess it would be the equivalent to the doors on a wardrobe as Glory says that Augusta National is like Narnia.  You’d never know from riding by on the main street that such a beautiful place exists on the other side of a tree-lined fence. It truly is a magical place.

And it should be a beautiful week.  We have had at least ten days of rain and cool nights that followed an explosion of blooms.  A good bit of pollen has been released from the trees and flowers. So, azaleas and dogwoods are in absolute full bloom and the week should be fairly warm and dry.

I thought I would share some photos with you each day this week.  In the past, I’ve tried to blog through the week and dwindled down to …. no post at all by the end of the exhausting week. But, a few photos a day? I think I can do that.

So, I begin with the view of the outdoor seating at the main club house right at the final hole.

There is no “ugly” view on the course. Behind the scenes, in the kitchens, on the sidewalks, by the creek … it’s all beautiful.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend wherever you’re spending your time. May the grass be green, the days be warm and the sights be beautiful.

{{{hugs}}}, blessings & peace to you,


Makes Me Happy Monday : More Mushrooms

Having worked at the Masters Tournament in a kitchen with a chef who is currently working on his Masters Degree, I am quick to ask for advice or direction.

A friend gave me a huge container of feta cheese recently.  What in the world does one do with 24 ounces of feta?  I mean, really…. I can only eat so many Greek green salads.  So, I sent James a message on Facebook to ask him what to do with all this cheese. He’s comical.  Here is our conversation:

Karen: Hey! My dh bought a big, honkin’ 24 oz. container of feta.
What can I do with it … other than put it on greek salad? I need suggestions….

James: what is dh?

James - getting ready for a

Now, that was helpful, wasn’t it?  My hip young 20’s college-aged friend doesn’t know text/computer shorthand?  Okay…. gotta work through this to get to the recipe.

Karen: you know… it’s text/computer shorthand…
dd = dear daughter
23yos = 23 year old son
gf = girl friend
dh = dear husband

Did I pass? Now, do you have any suggestions? : )
Asking for help won’t be a weekly event … I just trust your judgment and wondered what YOU would do with extra feta.

I begin to doubt whether I will receive help:

Karen: hey… and if you don’t have any ideas … that’s fine: )

just tell me to find a recipe on line! lol

When I get a response, it is:

James: i would eat it

Great. Chef James reminds me of my own James.  They share the same sense of humor … they make me laugh.

Karen: Thanks, man. I knew I could count on you : )

Then he pulls through!

James: you could saute up some chopped mushroom, garlic, and onions, add some red wine and reduce. add some feta cheese and some chopped parsley. season with salt and pepper to taste. stuff mixture into mushroom caps, and sprinkle parm cheese on top (I mixed in some bread crumbs with the parm cheese) , bake in oven at 375 for  about twenty minutes or until cooked.

Delectable stuffed mushroom caps .... with a gracious amount of FETA

Now, that’s what I was looking for!!  So, yesterday afternoon, we had stuffed mushrooms as an evening appetizer. Delicious, succulent, earthy  mushrooms.  They were fantastic.  And I was reminded again how much I love mushrooms.

Thanks, James.  You’re awesome …. hard to work with, at times <wink>, but still awesome.

Fresh stuffed mushrooms make me happy AND make my kitchen smell delicious!
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Masters : The day after

So, you’ve seen Augusta BEFORE Masters.  The town begins to spruce up as we prepare for the onslaught of celebrities, commoners, foreigners and locals to make their way down Washington Road.  The path to the nursery-turned-golf course is heavy on traffic during the first full week in April.

I had cause to return to Augusta National on Monday morning.  Because many people return to help clean on Monday, I was allowed back on the grounds with the badge from the the tournament.

Just over twelve hours before, the course was filled with competitors and the sidelines filled with spectators, while hundreds of out front and behind the scene workers labored diligently to keep the facade in place.

barren flower boxes ... remnants of the excitement

But at ten o’clock Monday morning, flower boxes were barren and tents disassembled while portable Coca-cola refrigerated coolers were being moved onto trucks and removed from the property.  Picnic tables were barren, gift shops empty and streets clear of golf carts that the day before buzzed to and fro.

Barren Picnicing areaBut, the strangest sight to see was one of a cigarette box, crushed and alone in the middle of the street quite near the club house.   That box would not have been there twenty-four hours earlier. Had that box been dropped the day before, it would have been picked up within minutes by someone on grounds duty.

cigarette box in the street

Because people are looking, do I cover up, spruce up, or clean up only to become lax and lazy when I’m left alone to myself? Surely, it’s true.  I certainly yearn to be clean, but do I put forth the effort that is required to keep myself there year round?

May I ask you a question:  Is there between the times when people are watching, and the times when they are not?

Smoke Anyone?

Speaking of accountability, I had a neat thing happen last week while working at the Masters.

KyleKyle is such a neat guy.  He’s SO polite.  I remember working with him last year.  When another young man might have walked on by, Kyle would stop and pick up something that you may have dropped.  He would open the door for others.  He was quick to  allow a lady to precede him. He was approachable, but still incredibly handsome. He’s easy to talk to… just an all around neat guy.

I was thrilled to have the chance to work with him again this year.  The cabin in which I worked, Camellia cabin, didn’t have guests until Wednesday, so I was able to work in Golden Bell for the first part of the week.  This allowed me the chance to work with Kyle for several days as he was in Golden Bell. It was nice to have this opportunity again.

Tuesday night, we had a special dinner in one of the cabins.  He and I both worked this event.  During the evening, I noticed that he had a box of cigarettes in his pants pocket.  I have to be honest in telling you

I was disappointed to see those cigarettes.

Knowing what we know about cigarettes, I don’t understand why people intentionally expose themselves – and even others – to something so damaging to our bodies. I know, I know, I know that this sounds like a judgmental thought.  It’s not that I looked at Kyle and thought that I didn’t like him any more … rather, I worried about his health and the impression that cigarettes make on many people.  Though I wanted to say something to him, the opportunity didn’t pose itself and I didn’t try to “make” that happen.

Near the end of the week, I was talking with several other workers when Jillian walked up and tried to bum a cigarette for a friend.  I pointed out that Kyle smokes.  I don’t remember the conversation, but I confessed that, yes, I had noticed his cigarettes and noticed that he smoked.

As he walked away, I grabbed the back of his bicep. He spun around on a pivot and I quizzed, “Kyle, I just have to ask, ‘Why do you smoke?’ You are absolutely too handsome, too clever, too  smart and too personable to smoke cigarettes.”  We went on to talk about the health risk associated with smoking and

his response floored me.  Kyle

He replied, “Nobody has ever put it that way before and you’re right. Thank you for saying that. You know what?  I’m going to stop.”  He went on to ask me to keep him accountable.  We’re both on Facebook so he asked me to check up on him, to write on his wall, to e-mail him and stick with it.   His goal is to only smoke one cigarette per day for a week or two and then work his way down from there.  Talk about impressive.  He’s a young man who was called out on something and responded quickly and easily with a positive attitude, asking to be held accountable. What a breath of fresh air; young, handsome, considerate AND teachable.  Who could ask for more?  May I always be so quick to do the same.

May I ask you a question?  Would you help me and call me out if you see an area in my life that needs work?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Floating Pansies

I had every intention of coming home each day last week and posting after I got off work from the tournament, but realized quite quickly that I just wasn’t going to be able to do it.  Oh, I had SO many things spinning through my mind that I wanted to write about … but not enough time and energy to sit down and write.  So, each night when I came in, I would, instead, talk to my sweet teens for a while before retiring. James and I were both working the tournament and Glory was working at Wild Wings.  Some nights, I was actually in bed by the time that Glory got home, so I barely saw her last week.  Joy was often long asleep by the time I arrived, so I missed her, as well. I missed my family so much while I was away.  It’s very hard to be gone for such long periods of time and be away from those that you cherish most.

Somehow or another, I completely missed … forgot … misremembered my Makes Me Happy Monday post this past well as well.  It surprised me that I forgot… Makes Me Happy Mondays are my favorite posts!!

As I began sorting through my photos to prepare a slideshow, there was one photo that made my heart sing.  So, I thought I would share its story.

The week was long.  It takes hundreds of people to run the tournament.  I think Augusta National hires 1,300+ people each year.  To help keep things more simple, each of those people works extra long hours, rather than there being shifts of many employees sharing the same job.  This makes for a tiring week for employees. Some jobs commonly require 10-14 hour days.  One day, I clocked 17.58 hours. That was the night that I got two hours sleep before returning to the grounds.  Thankfully, there were only two days with two hours sleep.  Most days I averaged about five to six.  With very few true “breaks,”  remaining on your feet most of the day and very little sleep, by the end of the week, you find yourself quite tired.  I’ve found that Thursday is the “hump day.”  If I can just get through Thursday, I’ve got it licked.

I worked in one of three private cabins that was built for and services ExxonMobil Corporation executives.  This is my second year in that cabin, working with several people for the second year in a row.

The front of the cabin is plush, posh and polished.  There are hardwood floors in the foyer, flowers on tables, fresh, delicious food from morning ’til night and a shine on anything metal. Even the food is given an extra touch with lots of garnish and dressing up.   While the kitchen is very nice, well equipped and new, it isn’t “decorated.” It is small, efficient and sterile.

Garnished Roast Beast on the carving table

After bringing in a particular dish, I pulled two pretty little pansies out of the garnish.  They were wilted and floppy …. but I could still remember how beautiful they were when first adorning their dish.  I decided to place them into a custard bowl of ice water to see if they could be revived.  As the time ticked by, their delicate petals began to perk back up and seemed to sing. Did you know that pansies are edible?  Yep.  My chef, James, continued to  try tease me by telling me he was going to eat them.  But, I persevered and coaxed him to allow us to look at them for a bit longer….. just because they made me happy.

Thankfully, he obliged.

Two little bowls of happiness - M&M's & pansies

Chris, the Camellia Cabin’s Hospitality Manager, brought in two bags of M&M’s.  Is it possible to look at M&M’s and not be joyful?  They’re so bright, shiny and colorful!  So, I opened the bags and put them out for all to share …tiny round orbs of happiness in bright, cheerful colors!  Fun!

The ovals of joy went quickly … but we left those little flowers in the bowl for two to three full days, before realizing that they had lived full lives and needed to be set aside.   Then what did we do with them?  We ate them!

As I would walk back and forth through that cabin and into the kitchen, I would pass those happy little blossoms floating as if suspended in air.  They gave me energy … they helped me through.  Isn’t it amazing how something so small can make such an impact?

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to find beauty in the little things.

Thank you, James, for not eating my flowers … at least, not right away.

May I ask you a question:  What do you do to get through when hope looks dim, energy is low and you’re wondering how you’ll get through?