a two parter...

First part, Chattanooga... the rest of the recap.
Second part, beef stew... Mmmm.

So, Chattanooga... where did I leave off? Well, Friday afternoon, I met up with our contact from down here and set up the registration desk. Luckily he was all about me not sitting at it for more time then necessary, so I just stayed for an hour or so until he could man the table himself. Then he happily told me to go be a tourist.
Unfortunately our AV guy was stuck setting up until about 9 that night, so I didn't really get to do the tourist thing anyway (besides, gross and rainy out). I ate a solo sushi dinner at 7:30ish... probably the most aggrevating dinner ever. I sat there for 15 minutes before I even got to order a drink, then sat there for 30 minutes waiting for my sushi... only to be told that the delay was because there was no more salmon left. Uh, why is that cause for a delay? To me that is cause for you to get your ass back to my table right away and tell me that I'll need to pick something else... not make me wait 30 minutes, then have to pick something new and wait for that. Ugh.
Then, on top of that, I come back to my room to a call from the front desk about a participant that we had marked as a commuter, but actually needed a room for two nights. Easy to fix, but an unnecessary pain nonetheless.

Saturday is our late morning, so I didn't have to get up too early, which was nice. I registered people for a while, then things got a little hectic as I had to find someone to watch the table for me while I got ready for my webcast duties. A few moments of panic, but everything got hooked up (and in my case, mic'ed up) just fine. There were a few technical glitches at the beginning, not the fault of anyone at our end, but they were straightened out and the rest of the webcast went fine.
We also had a bit of panic when our keynote's flight (that's our second keynote if anyone is keeping track) was cancelled! New flight was booked, but it didn't leave a lot of breathing room. Luckily, dinner went great, our keynote arrived in good time, and the night was a sucess.

Sunday was an earlier day, but shorter. There was also no webcast... so less to worry about on that end. It was also a beautiful day, sunny and warm. Let me tell you how relieve I was when that last session ended and everyone shuffled out to lunch. Hallelujah! I didn't fail! :-)

After lunch I took some time to walk around Chattanooga since my shuttle to the airport didn't leave until 2... that's when I took most of these:

Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?

This grass smelled so so good.

It was spring down there, complete with buds and bees.

In fact, I almost got stung taking this picture!
That little blur on the right is a busy little bee.

But I took another anyway... so pretty.

For some reason, I really liked this fence.
I was trying to be artsy... worked?

More beautiful flowers!

Had to get one with me in it... I'm checking out the flowers.

A little picture I like to call,
The End of the Line.

After that, well it was off to the airport where I hopped a plane from Chattanooga to Charlotte... then had a lovely 3-hour layover, before heading from Charlotte back to Philly. Trav picked me up around 10, and it was home and straight to bed.

So that's Chattanooga in a nutshell for ya.
Not so bad overall. Definitely stressful at points... I was feeling a lot of pressure to do great, but it went well in the end and I think I proved that I could handle myself.

Now! Since I got home late on Sunday, I took off Monday for a bit of sleeping in and lazing about. Really I hardly did anything besides watch TV, pull stuff from my suitcase that needed to come to work with me today, and make a big pot of beef stew. Yum yum.

I LOVE me some beef stew. I mean, sometimes you want something really hardy for dinner, but without the work when you come home. That's why I love my Crockpot... and love this dish. I normally do the prep on a Saturday or Sunday, then cook it on Sunday or Monday (this time I did the prep and cooking on the same day, which is really unusual for me... but I didn't want to do it Sunday night, and I could cook it on high instead of low, thereby dropping the cooking time a bit). The leftovers will last Trav and I for half the week.

We normally only cook this in the fall/winter months... too heavy for the hot hot summers. But by August, I'm craving this and counting down until when it will be cool enough to make it.

Megan's Beef Stew

To a Crockpot/slow cooker add:
1.5-2 lbs stew Beef, cubed (London Broil also works really well)
5-7 good sized Idaho potatoes, washed and cubed
1.5 - 2 cans of beef broth (to just cover solids)
1 jar beef gravy
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (can be sauted first, but we don't bother!)
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, smashed, then finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste
healthy dash of dry mustard
small half palm full of parsley &/or thyme, crushed
1-2 large bay leaf

optional: 1 cup corn, or a cup of fresh or frozen green beans
- healthy sprinkling of chives

Freshly thrown together...

Add all items to pot, stir, and keep in fridge overnight. In morning, give a stir, make sure most solids are covered by the broth, and set crock pot to low. Let cook for at least 9 hours, stirring only once or twice (Trav turns it on when he leaves in the morning, around 7... it's ready when we get home, around 6). Turn up to medium, medium-high 30 minutes before dinner. Serve with buttered rolls and remember to remove the bay leaf!

This is about half-way through cooking, when I opened it up to stir.

We like ours with a lot of potatoes (plus the gravy)... and because of that, don't add any flour to thicken the broth. If you don't want so much potato then first dredge the beef in a little bit of flour.

Finished product... so good.

This is more liquid then normal, because I was finishing a bag of potatoes and had less to work with. I probably should have only used one can of broth, but I used about one and a half. Still so damn good.

I love the way the whole house smells good after cooking this meal. Plus, I love how versatile it is... if you don't have celery, don't worry about it... if you have some other veggie, throw it in instead. Very easy to customize to fit your likes. Enjoy!

As for today. First day back has been fine so far. It's warm out, feeling almost springy here today (although rather gray out and supposed to storm). The boss seems happy with how things went, and that makes me happy. It's a rather lazy day as far as they go, especially compared to lately... but I should get back to work anyway. Not that I'm complaining! Not that I'm not stressing things seem a lot easier.

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~ Meegs