Pete's Journal

In Which a Mall Bench Becomes Productive

DECEMBER 22, 2017 | 9:54 AM

So, last night was interesting. I’d promised to go shopping with a handful of friends. A new ramen shop opened near the mall, and buddy system shopping sounded good to me. Besides being a bit short on CPE credits this year, I am also short on gift ideas. I figured I’d see what my friends bought for their family and maybe just “borrow” their shopping list. I like to think I’m being a resourceful problem-solver. Let’s go with that.

It sounded like a good plan all around. That is, until Stan, overhearing my mall plans, defiantly burped out a CPE certificate printed from Western CPE’s website for a webcast completed by one of my coworkers. I don’t want to say Stan was mocking me, but he did give me the side-eye—as if to say, “What? No certificates for you today?” I realized it would be impossible to face him this morning having achieved nothing more than a bit of holiday shopping with my evening. I lost a little of my shopping bug. I was not giving up on the ramen, however.

So that, my friends, is how I found myself huddled on a bench outside the Orange Julius stand at Danbury Fair Mall last night, laptop balanced precariously in my lap. While my friends cheerily sipped their caramel brûlée lattes and cruised store-to-store crossing names off their shopping lists I huddled, headphones in ears, and made my way through Western CPE’s 2017-2018 Federal Tax Update: Payroll and Self-Employment course. It’s a one-credit course, but you know that’s one more credit than I had, so there. And, gift cards are also an efficient gift idea—and even preferred by some. See? Problem-solver.

Crouched on the bench, swathed in my coat, and cruising through the course, I realized it’s easier to just sit down and get through these credits. Even if it’s at the mall. It’s hard not to be cheered by the holiday decorations and enthusiastic kids sprinting around, high on sugar. And when I got on my own sugar high, thanks to the impulse purchase of an extra-jumbo pineapple mango smoothie, life just seemed better. Call it the holiday spirit, if you will. Stan, you’ve got a print job coming from me, and it’s not a recipe this time.

So, yeah, since I last wrote on Tuesday I’ve had a net gain of one credit. I’ve also consumed 24 cookies (call it stress, or the never-ending temptation of fresh gingerbread), meaning my credit-to-cookie ratio is 4.16% in the past few days. The number doesn’t sound great, but just you watch . . . I’ll do better before I write again. I’m figuring out how to get this done while still managing the rest of my holiday season.

Angel-in-disguise Paul reminded me that it’s possible to knock off a lot of credits in a single course with Western CPE’s single-course, high-credit courses. Apparently, he bagged all the credits he still needed with one course. Interesting idea. So that’s my goal for this afternoon (hey, it is the Friday before Christmas!). Saturday I’ll put on my comfiest sweatpants, get a fire roaring in the fireplace, and nestle in with my laptop to crush some credits. (There will, of course, be cookies. And maybe a monstrous pot of coffee.)

Let’s do this thing.

Reporting, fresh from the Danbury Fair Mall:

Date: December 22, 2017
CPE credits: 24
Cookies consumed in December: 68
Mood: Cautiously optimistic.

Talk soon.


Pete Weighs His Pro and Con List

In Which Pete evaluates his current status, and Stan is causing problems.

December 19, 2017 | 8:54 AM

I’m a bit scattered this morning. Stan has decided, for reasons as yet unknown, to produce the paper jam of all paper jams (thanks, buddy), and I’m trying to figure him out before my 10 AM meeting. I’m trying to make it part of my morning routine to get things out of my head and onto paper, so here’s a brief field report:

Pros:

  • Frank did not win the cookie exchange.
  • Western CPE Deadline Solutions page proving very helpful.
  • Now up to 23 CPE credits (thanks to the bullet point above).
    • (That’s 12 credits in three days—I’m proud, so this deserves two bullet points.)
  • The peppermint mocha creamer has been restocked in the breakroom.

Cons:

  • I did not win the cookie exchange (in truth, not surprised).
  • Stan. Being Stan.
  • 17 more CPE credits to go.
  • Only 13 more days until the New Year (counting today, which is not shaping up to be especially productive).
  • Uncertain how much more caffeine I can consume before heart palpitations.
  • Rate of cookie consumption increasing markedly.

Latest concern is how to balance my budget between CPE credits and holiday shopping. Must admit I’m feeling better about life thanks to that “Ugly Sweater” postcard and its deals. Small victories. I can now buy my CPE credits and that new bandsaw for dad that he’s been eyeing. Maybe pick up that cashmere scarf for my sister, too. Ah, the sweet smell of a win.

Stan? He gets nothing. Especially if he continues on like he is today.

Oh yeah! The cookie exchange. Frank didn’t win, despite entering in some (admittedly tasty) chocolate and pistachio biscotti. The guy tries too hard. It was a good effort until newcomer Annie from IT brought in a batch of classic sugar cookie decorated so finely you could have hung them on the wall and called them art. Light, lemony, and just sweet enough, too. So she won, and it’s created an odd sort-of-truce between Frank and I. Guess you could call it some kind of holiday magic.

Here’s my log as of today:

Date: December 19, 2017
CPE credits: 23
Cookies consumed in December: 42
Mood: Slightly improved. Annoyed at Stan.

Talk soon.


The Great Cookie Debacle

In Which Pete Prioritizes: Cubeworld Holiday Cookie Contest versus CPE

December 15, 2017 | 7:53 AM

Instead of sipping coffee at home, I'm stumbling into the office before 8 AM, a survivor of morning rush hour, desperately seeking caffeine and whatever leftover pastry might be laying around the breakroom. For today, dear colleague, is no ordinary day: it's Cubeworld Holiday Cookie Contest Day. (Ahem: 2016 Champion, at your service.)

Today’s trek into the office was not aided by the events of last night. Distracted by angst over CPE deadlines (at least know I know what credits I need!) I put off baking my beloved Grandma Cari’s recipe for gingerbread snowflake cookies. It’s always been a holiday tradition… mixing the fragrant dough, rolling it out, waiting not-so-patiently as it bakes, then painstakingly decorating each and every cookie in the intricate manner of real snowflakes. They’re works of art, let me tell you. Even Stan beeped his appreciation when I brought some in for lunch one time last year.

So, you see, they were the obvious choice for the cookie exchange.

But in the blind panic of still having 29 CPE credits to go in basically two weeks (proudly knocked out seven during Wednesday’s particularly boring workday— Ethics course checked off!) I didn’t get the cookies made. It’s unbelievable.

Thus, in moment of sheer panic last night, I stopped by the grocery store and bought a roll of refrigerated cookie dough. Sacrilege, I know. Don’t rub it in… Stan’s already beeped sadly once at me today, sounding markedly disappointed before whirring and slowly spitting out my morning reports. Last night, in an eggnog-fueled moment of inspiration, I let the dough sit on the counter for a few hours to age. You know, like a good wine. (Does this raise the risk of food illness? Don’t know, don’t care. I’m past that.) I then sprinkled them judiciously with those little round sprinkles (red, white, and green, of course) and baked them.

I brought them in on Grandma Cari’s favorite old glass plate. At least they look pretty, if nothing else. I really don’t know how to feel about it all — Pete, the office gourmand, brought in slice-and-bake cookies. But hey, they look festive (and don’t taste half bad, actually). Stan won’t even talk this morning; feels I’ve dishonored our cubicle. Luckily no one saw me when I dropped the lowly baked goods off in the break room for judging. I bet Frank brings in something incredible. My reputation as leading office gourmand will go up in flames.

 

GRANDMA CARI'S GINGERBREAD SNOWFLAKES

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

FROSTING:

  • 3-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and water. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with 2-1/2-in. cookie cutters dipped in flour. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients; beat until smooth. Transfer to a plastic bag. Cut a small hole in a corner of the bag; pipe frosting onto cookies. 

Yield: about 5 dozen.


On the CPE front, I’m slowly getting through some work, though I’m still a bit lost how to cobble together my 29 remining credits. Paul, being his normal overly-caffeinated self (seriously, how many cups of coffee does that guy go through in a day?) cheerily recommended I look at Western CPE’s Year-End Solutions page. He said they lay out courses by how many credits required, and that it will make my life easier. I’m going to give it a look—anything to take my mind off the cookie fiasco—and see if I can knock out a few more credits today. It looks like the website’s gotten easier to navigate since I was last on here.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’ve jotted down Grandma Cari’s super-awesome gingerbread snowflake recipe below. Make some and carry on the torch where I could not.

My December tally as of this morning:

Date: December 15, 2017
CPE credits: 11 (some improvement)
Cookies consumed in December: 28. Foresee many more today.
Mood: Overwhelmed. Tired.




Pete Seeks His CPE Requirements

Really, I Don't Even Know Where to Start

December 11, 2017 | 10:14 AM

So it’s now December 11. The 345th day of the year and my number of CPE credits has not magically multiplied. Despite wide-ranging cookie consumption, increased caffeine uptake, and my favorite playlist, I can’t seem to make myself get started

Stan seems unimpressed. I asked him for feedback, a starting place…something. He just whirred listlessly and let out a sarcastic, low-toned beep. Worthless.

So, I think I need 40 hours of CPE for state requirements, and I have to get them by December 31.I think I need 40 hours of CPE for state requirements, and I have to get them by December 31. But the details are pretty nebulous. Do those credits have to be about certain topics? What about my ethics requirements?

Ugh, there goes Frank, strolling by my cubicle and giving me one of those looks. And munching on a cookie, leaving crumbs everywhere. Cube nod. Yeah, thanks for the sprinkles. Rumor is he’s got something new to premiere at the office cookie exchange on Friday, and he’s kind of taunting me with it. I still haven’t decided what recipe I’m going to enter, and that’s another reason I feel like a disaster this morning. Panic has breached my subconscious…too much to do. Why is December always like this?

I need more coffee. Maybe the breakroom will reveal my next step...


December 
11, 2017 | 10:43 AM

Just got back from the break room. It may be that all is not lost. I ran into Accountant Paul at the coffee machine and he reminded me Western CPE lists out CPE requirements, broken down state-by-state and by organizational requirements. Armed with a fresh cup of Dunkin’ Donuts Original Blend fortified with Peppermint Mocha creamer (the little things help), I’ve started to delve into the website. They must have redesigned this thing over the past year or so. I seem to remember it being harder than this to find what I was looking for. Win. (I shared this win with Stan, who merely observed my sudden, brief glee in melancholy silence.)

Looks like I need to do four hours of ethics and eight hours in my subject area of attest. Good to know.

Maybe it’s the peppermint-chocolate-coffee sugar bomb I’m downing at a rate faster than is healthy, but I’m feeling like I may be able to pull this off. But I still need to find courses that will somehow give me 36 more credit hours in the next 20 days. And all that while balancing work, holiday parties, visiting family (not looking forward to that), and shoveling the driveway every time we get snow. Which, incidentally, seems to be quite often lately. Like every single, unforgiving day.

And not forgetting the all-important office cookie exchange. No, make that Office Cookie Exchange. Capitalized. Game on, Frank.


Date:
December 11, 2017

CPE credits: Still 4
Cookies consumed in December: 17
Mood: Moving from angst to panic. But smidgen of hope on horizon.

Signing off from coffee-land.





Tales of Cookies and CPE Credits

December 7, 2017 | 8:54 AM

My name’s Pete, and I’m an industry CPA living in Danbury, Connecticut. My friends call me Procrastinator Pete because, well, I tend to put things off. I enjoy weekend football, cooking, and quality time with my cubicle-mate Stan. Stan is a pretty quiet guy, but when he communicates, you listen. We have good talks, and for the most part he lets me just do my work. You see, he’s the office printer. And photocopier, so he’s got that going for him. Don’t judge.

So, yeah, that’s me. And Stan. I’m a pretty average guy, and I like it that way. Muddle through the workweek, get the work done, and then relax and enjoy the weekends. I’m pretty chill. But when December rolls around, well, that’s a different story. Life gets hectic.

I always look to December with a mix of excitement and dread. Excitement? Snow. Decorations. Holiday music. Cookies. Dread? Family gatherings. Icy roads. Year-end CPE requirements. Also, cookies.

First off, those cookies. A couple years ago, our office cookie exchange turned into a bit of a competition. The winner receives praise for weeks to follow, and the admiration of his or her peers. So naturally, being the gourmand I am, I wanted to win. I knew I would win.

And then Frank won with his Brandied-Fruit Tartlets. I tell you, it’s cheating to bring a boozy cookie to something like this. He was overly proud of the win, and ever since has taken every opportunity to rub it in my face. Each year we compete, and I’ve got the feeling this might be my year. I’m coming for you Frank, so watch out.

The other consternation that December brings is the looming deadline of my annual CPE requirements. Each year I think I’ll get them done before the holidays roll around. Knock out five each month and then magically I’ll be finished. Or maybe take the family to one of those CPE conferences and knock out a family vacation and my credits all in one week.

But it never happens. I get busy, eleven months go by, and then December is ruined by the impending deadlines. I’m so worried about somehow meeting them that it’s hard to enjoy the festivities. And, of course, here I am again in early December with a measly four of my 40 credits to my name. Help.

I’ve followed Western CPE over the years and made friends with a few of their customer service folks. They asked me to share my CPE journey in December, so here we go.

I’ll figure this out somehow, but for the moment, here’s the tally:

Date: December 7, 2017
CPE credits: 4
Cookies consumed in December: 8
Mood: Angst. Lots of angst.

Signing off until next time,