December 27, 2008

My Desires

Things I want:

1. To edit my blog posts so that I publish writing I am proud of as opposed to off the cuff, non-literary, stream-of-semi-consciousness crap.
2. To start a local restaurant selling local treats from our Asian trip. I know it would be a success--it is my short-term back-up plan if my firm lays me off.
3. To speak Spanish fluently. Pimlseur is helping. But not fast enough. All of the Spanish speakers I encounter speak English better than I speak Spanish.
4. To do more pro-bono legal work.
5. To read more good books.
6. To work out more and to be in better shape.
7. To laugh more often and to take life less seriously because it is short and I may as well enjoy it.
8. To cook more good food.
9. To be a better friend and family member -- to be there for folks in the way that they need me, not in the way that I *want* them to need me.
10. To be a better wife.

It would appear that my New Year's Resolution should be to find a way to stretch time, since if I can do that #1-10 would be much more feasible...
Roll on You Bears

Yet another advantage of the slow economy and my lack of work this holiday season: I got to watch the Cal Bowl Game. For the first several quarters, we looked to each other and asked, "who is Emerald?" "What is Emerald?" but then, finally, a commercial explained they were the nuts company. And, well, since my papa subscribed to California Nut and Bean Grower back in the day, it felt like it was my ball game -- in my old town, SF, with my team playing, sponsored by an industry that my family was built upon. I felt very attached to this game.

So, after we enjoyed our delicious steak dinner with the family, paired with one of my new favorite wines, we headed home to enjoy the rest of the game.

The Bears did not disappoint. Both Miami and Berkeley treated us to some great football from some young teams (making young mistakes on both sides, but a ton of heart, which you just can't dispute).

It was a good contest to the end. I was happy to see Nate Longshore go out on a good note. I was more happy to see the young ones like Jahvid Best and Anthony Miller kicking butt.

Plus, we won the bowl game, which is always nice.

Next year should be a fun year to be a Cal football fan.

December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

E's family is *very* social. Every time we visit, there are parties we never expected to attend where we are always the least well dressed. Of course, everyone is so happy we came, and gracious, and welcoming, and it almost makes us want to come back next time better dressed.


The problem, of course, is that it just isn't that important to us and we are only here every 2 years. So, it falls off the list. Similarly, every year, we receive these gorgeous holiday cards from the majority of our friends, and every year, we say, "Oh! How gorgeous! Next year! Next year, we are going to do holiday cards!"

Somehow, it never happens, and the closest to a holiday card that folks get from us is an evite to BBQ season.

We have no excuse. We have all the addresses. We take pictures that would work wonderfully. And yet, for whatever reason, it never makes our top priority list.

Maybe next year...

Tonight, just like when we receive the holiday cards, we accepted the invitation to a Southern Boxing Day party and thought, "we should do that next year." I, for one, was amazed that I had never celebrated Boxing Day. What a brilliant idea! We showed up with food for the hungry to be distributed by affiliated churches *after* the holidays. You know, when they *really* need it.

Say what you will about the South. The folks I have met really do have a charitable spirit that exceeds any I have encountered in my Californian existence. I am impressed.

So,I think this set of holidays in the South will go down as the year I finally made my peace with the South. Until now, I fought it. But now, I love it here. I adopted what I love (which, in fairness, is part of the reason I fell in love with my husband), and I finally had enough courage to be my own person while here, to challenge them to love me for who I am against their grain just as I love them for who they are.

It seems to be working out.

It doesn't hurt that today, Boxing Day, the day after the traditional Southern Christmas, we slept in, which apparently, is what one is supposed to do, according to the experts (we're on it for the future!) and then, we went to lunch with a long lost friend who left the bay area -- who, in fairness, is the one who deserves credit for E's and my introduction.

This afternoon, after the required reunion lunch at Waffle House, after I ate myself silly on scattered, smothered, covered, diced, peppered hash browns, I left the boys to laugh and chat, and, much to each of their surprise did an 8 mile loop in the hills of Atlanta (despite the stories, there are enough sidewalks, and I think it could be just as pedestrian as our hometown), and from there we went to the Boxing Day party, where we ate small bits of food 'til we'd all had entirely too much.

Overall, I'm happy. The weather, coupled with my health, meant I could run 8 miles today on a whim. Tomorrow, no doubt, I'll have work, or something. But for today, it was perfect: sleep in, lunch at waffle house with a long lost friend, a medium long run through the city and cold, boxing day party, and late night at home. I got to speak to my mom, sister, and niece. They delivered messages from my brother, uncles, etc, and I was content.

Happy Boxing Day to all.

December 25, 2008


Regardless of whether this is your holiday (and, for reference, I spent much of the Christmas dinner being told by a practicing Zen Buddhist that I, as a reading but not sitting Zen buddhist, really should join the local sitting group in town, which, of course, is true, but not what one thinks of as traditional Christmas dinner conversation), I hope you had a lovely day.

Daddy, in his hilarious wisdom ("Life's not fair kid, get used to it." and "Never get too good at something you don't like.") always said to celebrate the good things, no matter what.

So, if Christmas isn't your day, celebrate the day off work. Celebrate the general holiday spirit. Just celebrate. Because at the end of the day, I think Daddy's right. Celebration, as often as possible, is a good thing.

And, in that vein, while there are things that suck about the economy, the relative lack of work and pressure over the last few days and today were nice changes that both E and I have been trying to enjoy and even celebrate this holiday. I made it to a local yoga studio for a class (which I haven't done in at least a year) and purchased a 10-day pass, so ideally I'll be going back. Additionally, I've fit in multiple runs, visits to E's extended family, long lunches with family, and just general free time.

I even had to take vacation PTO yesterday because there was no work to do. Had there been work, I would have done it and saved the vacation. But there was none to do. This seemed strange, given my whole 2 years of previous holiday experience as a lawyer. But, as dad instructed, I'll assume it was a blessing and enjoy it.

Today, we started the celebration by sleeping in.

Then, we ate entirely too much breakfast of pannetone french toast (so rich!) and, of course, bacon.

Then, presents. Less than last time, with more time for creativity (E's sister created cards for all of us from, the elf on the front page -- yeah, my gift came with that with my face.) Less presents is good for E and me. That way, our relative lack of commitment to presents looks less lame. We had covered E's family, but then we realized that going around the circle meant that everyone else had gotten each other presents and we hadn't gotten each other anything (our NYE trip, food on vacation, etc. tend to be our gifts to one another).

So, we made a quick run to Target for a Queen sized aerobed Eddie Bauer inflatable bed (so we could sleep together like the married couple we are while staying in E's childhood room with 2 twin beds) and each picked out our favorite teas, some lip gloss for me and some barbeque tools for E.

We wrapped the small gifts yesterday and unwrapped them today while E's parents unwrapped their gifts to each other. Present balance was maintained.

After presents, I fit in a quick 3 mile run, which felt awesome even if it did draw me some strange looks from E's family and later arriving guests.

And then, there was the shower of ridiculously wonderful water pressure due to the super-old house, followed by the dress-up and the huge traditional southern, sit-down, multi-course Christmas meal with 2 other families. It's the same families for Christmas every year and many of them join for Thanksgiving and/or weddings or other events.

We alternate years and holidays, so I'm slowly getting to know and love these folks as I become more intertwined with E's family and culture. They were happy to see E and me, we were happy to see them, and, as one should on a holiday, we all ate well, drank well, and caught up.

In the midst of the socializing, I got to run out of the room when my phone rang to speak with my sister, brother, niece, and arvay. I traded voicemails with my mom and aunt (who promised to deliver hellos and hugs to the extended family). I even traded text messages with bear, a good friend from college.

After the guests left, we changed into comfortable clothes and watched PBS's documentary on Truman. What an amazing, underappreciated man! He made me proud.

All in all, it was a great holiday, and I hope that your day was equally wonderful.

December 24, 2008

The White Tiger

D gave me The White Tiger as a gift because he claimed that after reading the first 3 pages he knew I would love it.

He was right.

This book won this year's Man Booker Prize for fiction, and I can see why. The tale is told as an autobiographical letter, composed in the evenings, from a self-made, self-educated, "half-baked" Indian entrepreneur to the Premier of the People's Republic of China.

Many of the reviews compared it favorably to other Indian literature and noted with pleasure its lack of swirling saris and scents of saffron. They celebrated its setting in the grainy underbelly of the day-to-day India of the lower castes. I could not compare the setting, as I'd never read anything set in India before, but I can say that it is an enthralling and fast read.

Before you know it, you are swept up into the competitive world of Balram, a servant-driver who eventually becomes a successful business owner.

Balram's letter is an exercise in character development. We learn more about Balram, his wants, desires, and disappointments than we do about anything else. However, because his tale is set first in a poor Indian village in the "Darkness," later in a rich suburb of New Dehli, and finally in Bangalore, his story is woven through the binds that his family, his country, his culture, his employer, and his poverty place upon him. In describing these struggles, he paints a fascinating picture of the modern Indian man, and how India "works" through multi-layered competition and corruption.

I highly recommend it.

December 23, 2008

Southern Cultural Observations

On Running

Today, I went for a 6.5 mile run around noon in the more rural parts of Atlanta. Despite perfect running weather (clear, 45F, no wind) a few miles on some major thoroughfares and a loop around the trail at Atlanta Memorial Park, I saw only one other runner.

In my home town under similar conditions, I would have encountered at least a dozen, and likely two dozen, because it is so close to the holidays.

Upon arriving home, I heard my husband explain to someone that I had gone running because I was, "crazy." My friend, S, who also lives in Atlanta and runs regularly, is also "crazy" by local standards.

On Manners

Yesterday, I went to Bliss Spa to buy a gift certificate for my sister-in-law's present. E waited in the car.

As I entered, I explained why I was there and one of the bellmen (it's in the W hotel) opened the door for me and walked me down 1 flight of stairs to open the door to the spa. The woman at the counter, was, predictably, charming, chatty, and slower on the customer service than I am used to (but I didn't mind because I'm on semi-vacation and just being in a spa feels decadently relaxing).

When I left the building, another bellman said, "Good Afternoon, Ma'am." I smiled and replied in kind and briskly walked to the car (because it was cold). When he realized I was headed for the car, he ran ahead of me and opened the passenger car door for me.

Last night at dinner, E pulled out my chair. At home, he always waits to sit until I do, which I adore, but the chair is just an example of how much *more* polite the South is than California.

December 22, 2008

It's Bacon Christmas Again

E and I are back in the South. We arrived to a house that smelled of bacon because E's mom prepped for our arrival by cooking 5 pounds of bacon.

5 Pounds!

This AM, rather than go for a solo run, I joined E's mom and his sister at the gym for a personal training session. I haven't lifted a weight since mid-2006. After an hour of weights and calisthenics selected by a very perky and perfectly fit woman named "Yogi," I remembered why.

Now, all of my muscles feel swollen. Strong, but bulky. Tomorrow, no doubt, I will have trouble moving.

Just the thing to go with the bacon Christmas!

December 18, 2008

Lemon Grass Lay-Off Venison

In keeping with the theme we've been following, I present yet another variation on learning how to cook southeast asian food from books combined with venison from brother. This one, apparently, is a very popular Vietnamese beef recipe.

Grilled Lemongrass beef.

But, you know, modified based on what was in our kitchen. So, it ends up being grilled lemongrass venison in a sauce that only has dried red pepper flakes instead of fresh chiles. It was delicious!

So first, you make a paste. If you are hard-core, you do it with a mortar and pestle and then stir in some additional liquids. I am not hard core -- I put all the paste ingredients (garlic, lemon grass, shallots, chiles) and the liquids (fish sauce, lime juice, water) in the blender to make a paste/soup of a marinade. I followed the instructions and let the marinade sit on the venison for 1 hour, covered. Then I put it on skewers, topped it with sesame seeds and prepped it for 4-6 minutes under the broiler. Here is how it looked pre-broiling:


Now, this brings me to an important point -- the sauce on this meat is pink! I am constantly surprised by the instructions in Hot, Salty, Sour, Sweet. Everything is foreign. I do what they tell me to do and end up with things that have weird colors, smells, textures and tastes. It is such a wonderful exploration. Take this recipe -- things I would do very quickly are given much time. Things I would do leisurely are rushed. Spices I would not combine are mixed.

This book has been an amazing education for me, and, as I start preparing the recipes, I have no doubt I will learn more in the process.

Anyways, the result was a success. E and I enjoyed the pleasure of rolling and eating 6 spring rolls each of soaked tapioca papers, leafy lettuce, arugula and other greens from the garden, and broiled venison according to the recipe in HSSS for grilled lemon grass beef, all dipped in nuoc cham ("vietnamese must-have table sauce" according to HSSS -- I made it with red pepper flakes instead of fresh peppers and it was amazing. It probably made the meal.)

In other news, a good friend of mine was recently laid off from her job (not at a law firm). Many local law firms are doing lay-offs, both stealth and vocal (personally, I think vocal is much better for all involved). We, like most folks in our market had one. I couldn't help but think that if I hadn't been spared I might be embarking upon some food-inspired 5th career.

Crazy. Non?

December 11, 2008

Peruvian-style Venison Noodle Stew

In terms of return on effort, this Stew rocks. Maybe 30 minutes, max, and in return, filling happy deliciousness.

I had marked a Peruvian Beef and Noodle Stew recipe from Food & Wine in November of 2005. Last night, I modified it to work with what we had in the house, namely, Venison shoulder steaks from brother, a package of chinese bird's nest noodles, a full red bell pepper instead of half, and olive oil.

-4 T olive oil
-1 or 1.5 lbs venison, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes. I used shoulder steak.
-1 large yellow onion, diced.
-1 large red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-2 cans beef broth
-1 large russet potato, scrubbed, cut into 1/2 in pieces, skin left on
-1 T ground cumin
-1 t crushed bay leaf (or 1 full bay leaf)
-3 birds' nests

1. In a soup pot, heat 1/2 the olive oil on high heat. Sautee the meat until browned on the outside (2 minutes?) and transfer to a plate.

2. Heat the remaining oil in the pot and sautee the onion, bell pepper and garlic 'til softened (4-5 minutes?).

3. Add the stock, potato, cumin and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, lower to medium heat and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Add the noodles and simmer until al dente, approx 5 minutes or so. They will break apart when done.

5. Add the meat and any juices on the plate to the pot and cook for 1 minute.

6. Discard bay leaf if whole. Serve into bowls and season with salt and pepper to taste.


December 8, 2008

Winter Harvest Comfort Food

Tonight, we feasted on the first to ripen of our broccoli and cauliflower. Have I mentioned how much I love the winter garden?

Broccoli-Cauliflower Cheesy Casserole

First, preheat the oven to 400F.

-cut 1 head broccoli, soak it briefly in vinegar water to get the slugs to escape, then rinse, and chopp into florets, which you rinse again
-1 head cauliflower, treated exactly like the broccoli
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1.5 rounds of bread left over from middle eastern dinner, chopped into crouton size chunks

Layer all of the above ingredients in a 9X13 inch baking dish. Bake at 400F, while you do the next steps:

-melt 2 T butter in a saucepan over medium heat
-add 1/2 C milk, bring to a simmer
-add 1 C cheddar cheese chunks, stir and melt
-add 2-3 T flour, stir briskly, remove from heat, add additional milk and stir briskly if necessary until a nice creamy consistency

Open the oven, pull out the casserole dish, which smells of heavenly roasted garlic and the nutty smell of cooked cauliflower. Pour the cheese sauce over the casserole dish and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool. Serve immediately on 2 plates, topped with black pepper.

Mmmmmm... it's childlike in its flavorful simplicity and deliciousness. Fresh roasted vegetables. Croutons. Cheese sauce. What's not to like?

December 5, 2008

An Education

There is nothing like the fast click-click-click-click of handcuffs behind someone you love. I would try to describe it, but I cannot. I just hurts. I suspect each of us experiences that moment just as severely, but in unique ways.

Supposedly, I have an education in the law.

And yet, I was more or less useless. Perhaps, my last minute plea to the judge got the bail to be decreased. But not enough.

All I know is that after taking 3/4 of a day off work to be at a criminal arraignment for someone I care about -- holy shit -- did I learn quite a bit.

I think I learned more about the reality of law in this country in that 6 hour session than I had in at least the last month of my practice. Perhaps the last 3 or even 6 months. I guess it depends on how important you think contract law is vis-a-vis criminal law.

Sitting there, watching the freedom of various actors be bartered and traded at a breakneck pace -- it seemed that criminal law was much more important.

Sure, most of what I learned wasn't actually law, it was norms: How to plea; How to ask for an offer; How to extend this date or that. But regardless, for me, who never sets foot in a courtroom, it was a world of difference.

Also, I realized how much privilege comes with the bar card. When push came to shove and the person I was there to support did not state their own good points at the bail setting and the Public Defender had not had time to learn them, I ran up, announced myself as a member of the bar and spoke. The judge gave me a nod of approval, as if to say, "good for you for being a supportive advocate." And then, he had me spell my name, repeat my points and referenced them as countervailing considerations in setting bail.

I think I helped, but I shook in my boots. Literally. (I was wearing boots with my suit.)

It was my first appearance in court as a member of the bar, my heart was racing and I have to assume my voice shook too.

I'm excited to return to a life of IP transactions.

November 30, 2008

Sacramento Races Rock

Thanksgiving morning, Sister and I jointly set 10K personal records at the Run to Feed the Hungry. This is why I love races in the Sacramento area -- they are designed first for the folks who are in them and the charities they benefit, so they are the antithesis of the mass-marketed bay area races.

With 28,000 participants this year, this is the largest running event in Sacramento. That's 10,000 more participants than those who tangled into 6 starting waves at the San Francisco Marathon and Half Marathon last August. And yet, the RTFTH managed it perfectly with 2 starts: one for runners, who lined up according to signs announcing approximately pace goals; and a second start, 10 minutes later, for walkers, strollers and baby joggers (which are prohibited from most bay area races).

When I compare Sacramento races to the bay area and the bay area falls short, I am not speaking about the well run bay area trail runs put on by PCTR and Envirosports. Nor am I talking about super-small local races put on to benefit small local charities (yes, these are often not as well-run as they could be, but they are charitable events first and races second, and I can respect that).

When I get worked up about bay area races and their corporate inefficiencies and wastes, I'm talking about the highly publicized destination races, like the Big, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Yes, I love that I live in one of the easiest places in the world to find a local race and run in it. Yes, I know I am spoiled. But, as a spoiled bay area beneficiary, I'm telling you, Sacramento races are, on average, much better run, cheaper, and less annoyingly commercial than their bay area parallels.

For example, this year, despite limiting paid entrants to a number that requires random selection if you don't raise money for team in training, the fastest time didn't win the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Why? Well, if you ask me, it's because my least favorite bay area marathon and half marathon is a product and not a race. Sure, after initially telling her she lost because she didn't register as an elite runner, they eventually named her as something like the "other winner." But she beat the "official winner" by 11 minutes.

I mean, come on! She didn't have an elite bib and she crossed the finish line with the elites. The non-elites started 20 minutes after the elites. It's not rocket science, people! If Nike paid just a little more attention to the race, and a little less attention to the "product" then perhaps they could have capitalized on the good press and feel good story about this 24-year-old school teacher from Brooklyn.

Instead, Nike's initial response was to make it seem it was her fault for not realizing she might win and failing to register as an elite. Here's something to think about, Nike, when the awards are undefined "commemorative memorabilia" designed by Tiffany, the true elites are unlikely to come out and the winning time is probably going to be significantly slower than what an amateur runner thinks of when they think about elite times.

Reebok, however, kicked ass with their response of awarding her the F.U.N. award as the "Winner and Heroine of Non-Elite Runners Everywhere". The N stands for Nike, right?

One of my biggest complaints about these bay area races is that they require you to pre-register and show up in person the day or two before the race and pick up your packet, bib, and chip or RFID at the "expo." If you haven't had the pleasure of this experience, imagine deciding between a hotel stay near the race or an unnecessary drive to the race location. Once you've found a way there, imagine navigating through a county fair, complete with tents, carnies, crowds, and confusion, only instead of beer, games, and mechanically questionable carnival rides, this labrynth of white tents will be filled with advertisements and products and services hawked by loud salesfolks eagerly hoping to separate race participants from their disposable income.

Even my favorite local race, with its 5,000 participants, commits this sin. This year, I avoided all of the tents at the expo, and made a bee-line straight for the registration area. I thought I made it out unmolested until I got home and opened the bag where my t-shirt was placed. In addition to the unnecessary 2-hour round-trip, I was treated to several pounds of paper advertisements they'd crammed into the bag, plus this:


I can't even begin to spew the expletives deserved by these un-regulated, un-tested, non-quality-controlled supplements and wackadoo crap marketed as magical weight-loss, fat-loss, and energy-intensifying cure-alls. (In the interests of avoiding waste, I ate the larabars, rice crackers, melatonin, and the vitamin C).

The RTFTH, in contrast, has the *option* of picking up your packet a day or two before the race at local REI outlets. Perhaps they have marketing crap there too, but I wouldn't know. Because, you can also pick up your bib on the morning of the race. And, [gasp!] they even allow day-of registration if you are willing to forgo an electronically recorded time. What a brilliant trade-off! I was more than happy to pay $40 instead of $35 on the morning of thanksgiving to run this inspirational race without an official time. I still got a bib. I'll still get the T-shirt mailed to me. And, I was able to contribute to and be part of a *huge* race that raised over $700,000 to feed local hungry folks. Bay Area charities could really learn some lessons here -- for every additional day-off registrant, the charity probably cleared at least $30.

If RTFTH can pull off day-of registration and packet pick-up for 28,000 participants, the bay area races have no excuse.

Finally, if my ranting doesn't touch anything you care about but you are a runner looking for another reason to consider doing a race in Sacramento, then consider that it's flat, and when the weather cooperates, it's a ridiculously fast place to run. As of Thursday, my marathon, half marathon, and now 10K PRs are all from races in the Sacramento area.

November 24, 2008

Simple Pleasures

It's almost thanksgiving and I woke up this morning, thankful for:

- the restful bliss of a full night's sleep
- my health, which allows me to enjoy sleep, hunger, taste, running, stretching, and a million other physical pleasures
- that I get to live with and be married to my best friend
- my family and friends
- telephones and the internet which allow me to keep in touch with my family and friends
- food, in all of its forms
- the garden, and the wonder I experience as I watch the plants grow, change, and eventually feed us
- books
- the mind-bending joy of learning something new
- and too many other things to list.

In short, I'm thankful for life.

November 19, 2008

A present

Ray Bradbury's short story about the first tennis shoes of summer has always stuck with me, ever since reading Dandelion Wine in high school.

I just put on brand new running shoes and they feel so wonderful. I can feel why Ray was inspired to write his story. New shoes are the promise of so much possibility in the world. Bouncy. Fresh. New.

Now, I'm off for a gloriously late morning run before showing up devilishly late to work.

What a fabulous way to celebrate my dad's birthday!

November 15, 2008

Book Review: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet

At the recommendation of R's little brother, I put Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet on my wish list. E bought it for me as a gift. I loved it.

Tonight, in a blissfully mellow evening at home, after a light meal, I sat down to finish this awesome book. I laugh at myself, because I've become someone who reads cookbooks for fun and counts them on her "books read" challenge.

But this is an entertaining read all on its own, even without trying any of the recipes. It's almost 350 pages blended between travelogues mainly focused on food, recipes, history lessons, encyclopedic explanations of indigenous ingredients and techniques, and gorgeous photographs.

The common theme is that all of these tidbits are always focused on the peoples bordering the southern portion of the Mekong River.

This collection of 25 years of knowledge and experiences gained through repeated visits by a husband and wife (often accompanied by their two sons) to the Yunan Province of China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam is the most evocative cookbook-esque book I've ever read.

Their descriptions of the peoples, their troubles, the wars, and the slow opening of the region to foreigners helped me feel as if I'd traveled there myself. The pictures and descriptions of preparations made me drool.

I was happy to learn that my belief that "Vietnamese food is my favorite Asian food (other than japanese)" is actually wrong -- many of the things I love about Vietnamese food are common to much of southeast Asia.

As the title hints, the food theme of balancing hot, salty, sweet, and sour flavors all in one dish is shared throughout the region. This flavor combination is one of my favorites, and I look forward to practicing the techniques I read about.

Predictably, I am now inspired to try entirely too many new recipes. I hope the increase in pork in our household over the next year as I try to make several of meals I flagged will convince E that he made the right choice in his gift.
Garden Lebanese CousCous

Our 6 arugula plants had generated an impressive amount of regrowth after the harvest for halloween dinner party salads. So, last night, I trimmed again:


The salad section of the garden looked much neater after their trimming (the arugula is to the left of the spinach and to the right of the lettuce, so you can imagine how crowded things were prior to harvest):


We're home this weekend, so in the interests of making them even neater, I think I'm going to transplant the lettuces in the left row to where the radishes used to be. The brussel sprouts appear to be claiming that section.

Once I had all of the arugula cleaned, I had to come up with a use for it. So, I present last night's healthy and yummy dinner (it wasn't a hit with E, just "okay" he said, but I loved it.)

Garden Lebanese Cous Cous

-approx 1 lb arugula trimmed from the garden, washed and broken into bite size pieces and stripped from the stems where they are too broad.
-1/2 cup of parsley trimmed from the garden, washed
-1/2 cup of basil trimmed from the garden, washed
-1 yellow onion, diced finely
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
-3 cups chicken broth
-1 T butter
-olive oil
-1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
-1 cup Lebanese Cous Cous (much larger than ordinary Cous Cous, the balls are the size of peas, but I'm guessing this recipe would work with ordinary cous cous as well)
-lemon juice to taste

1. Before you prep the vegetables, bring broth and butter to a boil in a pot. Lower to a simmer. Add Cous Cous. Stir. Cover, and allow to cook. Add more broth if it appears to be getting too dry before it's fully cooked (approx 40 minutes). Remove from heat when cooked through, stir, and allow to cool a bit with the lid off.

2. Prep vegetables. You can chop the parsley and basil together, at the same time.

3. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and sautée until the onions are almost translucent.

4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and break them into smaller pieces with the spoon.

5. Raise the pan's heat to high. Add the arugula and lemon juice. Stir quickly, sautéing until wilted and the majority of the liquid boils off. Remove from heat.

6. Add the arugula mixture to the Cous Cous pot. Stir. Add the basil and parsely. Stir again.

7. Serve immediately and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the serving bowls.


November 12, 2008

Gifts from the Mountain Man

Brother came for a quick visit yesterday to pick up some of his tools that he'd left on his last visit. Unannounced 'til 12 hours prior. Unplanned. Appreciated.

He also dropped of 15 pounds of frozen venison. Meat from the wild that he killed, cleaned, and butchered himself:


If you love to cook and have a garden (and are not vegetarian), then having hunting/fishing family members contribute meat to the mix is about the coolest thing ever!

Fresh, natural, environmentally friendly, delicious home-made food doesn't get much better than this.

This delivery was so exciting -- after weeks of misses, he closed out the season by getting not one, but two bucks in the final two weeks. This means he didn't have enough freezer space and we were to be the lucky recipients of some of the overflow.

Used to be, brother took his meat to the professional butcher. But this year, times are tough. So, he butchered the meat himself, with Dad's best friend, a former butcher.

This was the first time since 2004 that I'd received wild game in brown paper bags. Last time, it was Dead Elk Stew from Dad. This time, it was a variety of venison, from Brother, butchered in the same garage as the Dead Elk Stew.

He reminds me more of Dad each time I see him. He looks more like him. His hair is longer and curlier now, more like Dad's. Even his handwriting on the meat looks like Dad's on the long-ago-famed Elk.

Apparently, his next endeavor is to make homemade venison-pork sausage with some of the lower extremity deer muscles that were not proper cuts. He wants to use all of the animal and to experiment with spices, just like me. He identifies movie-stars by saying, "listen to his voice," just like I do. I see so many of my strongest personality traits when I look at him honestly -- my oddities that are strengths, and truly, most of my oddities that are faults as well, albeit expressed differently.

And yet. Seriously. Pretty much everyone agrees that we literally could not be more different. I'm not sure I agree. Regardless, siblings are fascinating (and frustrating) -- but, I could not be more thankful for or in love with mine (Sister too!).

Also, I'm now open to venison recipe suggestions.

November 9, 2008

Winter Garden Update

Well, it's been 7 weeks since we built the winter garden boxes and planted the first transplants and seeds. What have we learned?

1. Swiss Chard grows quickly, and is tasty or bitter depending on your perspective. If it gets an aphid infection that you don't treat soon enough, the leaves will all curl and be useless and you have to cut it down to nubs. I hope some of them come back...

2. The Japanese cucumber plant in the pot is still going strong and producing cukes like crazy. Definitely the most prolific plant of the year:


3. The Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower seem to really like the soil and were doing quite well other than some holes in the leaves we were trying to identify. The peas seem to be flowering and growing well, too:


4. The first set of onion seeds all sprouted, we even had to cull, and the peas seem to be flowering and growing reasonably well. You can see the Chard between the peas on the left, and the onions on the right, trying to make a comeback:


5. The brussel sprouts seem to be growing well, but they too, have the holes in the leaves. In all of the plants with holes, they started as small shot-like holes, and then grew each week:


6. We planted two carrot seeds per indentation, and about half of the indentations sprouted. My gran tells me 50% is great yield. I'm not so impressed...


7. The beets are very sorry looking. We planted 9, 5 sprouted but 2 were destroyed by the squirrels digging nearby for their lost nuts (stupid, forgetful squirrels). To date, 3 are still hanging in there -- 2 red and one yellow:


8. The French radishes were the easiest winter thing to grow from seed. They all sprouted, and produced radishes in 4 short weeks. They just keep getting bigger while we wait to eat the rest:


9. The transplanted greens for salad have been my favorite part of the winter garden. Very few pests. Arugula, I love you! Spinach, and mixed salad pack -- you guys are awesome too. We regularly trim the outer leaves for fresh salads and then the baby leaves in the middle continue to grow outward. The parsely and chives on the far right are nice to have for fresh accents to meals (just like the herb box) Greens fresh from the plant are amazing:


10. So far, 41 of the 42 garlic cloves we planted have sprouted. I'm holding out hope for the last one because it was 40/42 'til this AM when the late-bloomer 41 poked through, so perhaps 42 is just even slower. I can't wait to have 42 heads of gourmet garlic next year! Also, at the far end, we planted more onions and 6 artichoke seeds. Supposedly, artichokes are hard to germinate and take up 3 feet of space per plant. We were shocked to find the 5 of the 6 seeds sprouted despite serious squirrel destruction in this box (they are much more attracted to plain dirt than dirt with plants, so next year we will intersperse the transplants with the seeds more evenly). We surrounded the artichokes with onion seeds, most of which were decimated by the squirrels. So, in a month or so, we'll probably cull 3 of the artichoke plants and try with a third round of onions.


11. Remember the book about the Very Hungry Caterpillar?


12. Yeah, we finally figured out what was causing the tiny holes in our plants. At first, we just saw lots of black dots on the plants that seemed to grow bigger over time, and some of them were darker green. The Big Book didn't have anything to say about the balls, so I'd spray them off with the hose and we made plans to spray the plants with Neem Oil Spray in hopes that it would ward off whatever was the problem:


13. It turns out, the balls are caterpillar poop that grow as the caterpillars (and consequently the holes in the leaves) grow (see the right hand of this leaf for super-small balls, the first sign we saw when we had small holes):


14. For some of the plants, I fear we did not act quickly enough:


15. But finally, we had an afternoon caterpillar genocide:


In our terrible scientific experiments, we learned that they will drown in plain water, but try to climb out. If you add bleach to the water, they don't try to climb out. The neem oil spray also kills them if they are drenched.

16. The moral of the story is that this guy is not the friend of your cabbage, brussel sprout, brocolli, or cauliflower plants:

If you see one or more of these guys, and then you see small holes in your leaves, act quickly. I think next year we'll try to proactively spray with neem oil.

November 7, 2008

E's Birthday

As R pointed out -- it sounds like E is 10.

I explained that I would have some time to chat on the phone this evening because it was E's birthday and I would be making gnocchi from scratch, topped with bolognese, followed by individual baked alaskas.

While I am doing this, the invitees will be playing video games.

After they eat, they will return to the same activity.

You might think I am frustrated with this, but the truth is, I love it. E is a simple man. He thinks my bolognese and gnocchi are acts of God and video games with friends are the highest level of pleasure available. How can you argue with that?

Especially if you are cooking the acts of god?

November 6, 2008

It's a fun time to be an American

Tuesday night, for the first time in a long time, we brought the bunny ears in from the garage and turned on the TV.

As we made dinner (mmm... emmenthaller polenta with sauteed crimini mushrooms, onions, and truffle oil ... DELICIOUS) E and I watched the states light up, and then, earlier than either of us expected, we sat to eat our dinner on the couch, in front of the TV, so we could watch the speeches.

McCain's speech was so gracious. I was proud to have such a wonderful response from the losing candidate for the American presidency. So much is revealed about character when you lose. And typically, I think Americans are known for being absolutionist in their approach, unable to concede and compromise, and very sore losers. McCain set a high standard for us -- one that I hope we can look to. And I was proud.

Obama's speech was nothing short of historic greatness. I found myself crying with joy. It will be fun to have such a great speaker as the figurehead of our country.

November 2, 2008

A Miss as Good as a Mile

Today, I woke early (although not as early as you'd think thanks to the blessing of daylight savings) and drove to my favorite half marathon.

According to my training logs, after all of the speed training since the SF marathon, I was in just as good of shape as the last half marathon PR I set, back in March.

I hoped to beat that PR, even if just by a little tiny bit (although, foolishly, I thought I'd clear it relatively easily because the weather would be so cool).

The weather did appear to be cooperating--after pouring torrential rains all day on Saturday, Sunday was the racing ideal of overcast, cool (although surprisingly warmer than expected) and misting.

So, I parked at a garage near the start, realized I wasn't going to freeze, changed from running tights to shorts in the car, jogged to the start, ditched the mittens I'd purchased from GoodWill to keep my hands warm, and lined up with expectations of a PR.

Ah-hem. Apparently, I haven't been running long enough to realize what a difference a course can make. I should understand this. It is basic. Work equals Force X Distance. In addition to the force necessary to move a mass forward, the force of gravity is against you as you go up. And yet...

At the start, I went out fast, just like I did in March (on the flat course), a nice easy 8:05 mile to start. Then an 8:10 mile. And then, at mile 3, as we started to climb, I realized I had to slow or I would wreck myself. The fourth mile was almost a minute and half below my goal pace. And all of a sudden, I realized how silly I was being. This is my favorite half, but I've never come close to setting a PR on it. It's not my favorite because it's fast -- I like it because it is local, it is beautiful, and *parts* of it are breathtakingly fast (like the downhills on the GG bridge and around the edges of the bridge), but other parts are slow and painfully uphill. This, you see, is because, it is *hilly*.

After I saw the 9:33 read out at mile 4, I doggedly climbed the last hill to the Golden Gate Bridge and passed a guy who said, "You can't ask for more than that" and pointed to the full-arch rainbow over the first span of the bridge.

Indeed. You cannot. This would be the main reason why this is my favorite half marathon -- small, local, well-run, no frills, gorgeous, demanding race.

So, the rest of the race was less about a PR, which I realized I would not make, and more about pushing myself in a way that was intelligent so I would have a good, strong race.

I did.

Even though I finished more than 5 minutes after my low-end goal, and more than 10 minutes after my super-speedy goal. I felt very pleased with the overall effort. I didn't stop to walk except at aid stations. I kept my pacing more even than normal for me (which is still horrifically uneven, I saw 7:10 as my pace on the Garmin at one glance down, while at another point I saw 10:17). Most importantly, I set a *course* PR by more than 1m50, which, thanks to what I learned today, is going to be how I measure these things from now on. In hindsight, setting a goal of more than 12 minutes improvement on this course as my super-speedy goal was ridiculous.

In other news, I'm somewhat relieved to report that I'm no longer considering pushing myself to try to qualify for Boston in March. Until I clear 1:45 on a half marathon I don't even want to try to accomplish that goal. So, oddly, today's slow performance is liberating.

After the race, A let me shower at her place, and then she took me out to brunch and we had a delicious meal while catching up. It was a perfect end to a nice day and I was so thankful that she was available to hang out.

And now I'm home: More sore than I would have expected; Tired; And excited that I get to work on medium length speed and to focus on my half marathon PR for another several months before I even think about whether or not marathon speed sounds like fun.

October 30, 2008


How beautiful is this vegetable? Fractal Beauty. Math. Art. Food. AND IT TASTES GOOD! BETTER THAN YOU HAVE ANY RIGHT TO EXPECT.

In short, the Roasted Winter Vegetables recipe works equally well if you use the following vegetables instead:

- 3 french radishes from the winter garden, chopped into 1 cm rounds
- 8 brussel sprouts, halved
- 3 leeks, cleaned and sliced into 1 cm rounds
- 1 head of romanesco, cleaned and chopped


October 25, 2008

Waking Up

Arvay's self-reflection post put me in an inquisitive frame of mind.

Past BT floated around doing much of whatever felt right at the time and through a great stroke of luck, eventually found herself to current BT's position -- on her 4th career and in a wonderful, loving relationship. It's a great fit for the wacky path she took, but not one that anyone could have planned in advance by looking at past BT.

Future BT is getting many of the benefits of my current life. I regularly sacrifice free time, and take on stress and frustration in the career world for the long-term benefits I hope the amazing training, experience, and financial trade-offs in my current job will provide in the future. When work is crazy, these sacrifices bleed over into my personal life, and many times require E to make sacrifices as well.

In general, I try very hard to force current BT to be balanced. To look at the sacrifices I am making for the current and future intellectual stimulation and financial benefits of my job and to keep them in check against the other sources of pleasure in my life: my relationship with E, exercise, extended family, social life, food, reading, travel, etc.

October has been the slowest month I've had at work since starting as a neophyte lawyer. I've cooked more and spent more quality time with E. I've payed more attention to the garden. I visited my grandmother, saw my sister, and spoken to my mother and brother more. It's been a nice change and it's made me wonder if I could somehow find a way to meet more of my goals at the same time even when work is busy.

Generally, I love my job and feel very lucky to have a career that is intellectually stimulating, requires me to learn new things every day, and allows me to feel useful and helpful. In fact, I think I love it even more when it is crushing and overwhelming than I do when it is less intense. When it is less intense, I have time to think about the other things I also enjoy and could be doing with my time. When it is insane, there is no time to do anything but try to stay afloat.

This morning, as I woke before my alarm to go out for my long run with B, I couldn't help but notice that I didn't wake before my alarm for my runs before work any day this week. Today's activities (long run with a friend, making waffles and eggs and enjoying them with E, chores at home with E, and a friend's wedding) inspired me to wake, relaxed and ready for my day to begin, without any reminder. My day-to-day during the work-week life, however, often finds me in the morning with my alarm ringing, wishing I could just sleep-in, run later, spend less time at the office, and come home earlier.

I've been pretty good at keeping this desire at bay this month, and forcing myself to get up, but Arvay's post reminded me *why* I fight the desire to be lazy. I, too, feel like I owe my future self -- I owe my future self a healthy body, good relationships with people I care about, fun memories, and some semblance of financial stability. In order to give her these things, I have to make efforts to live life today with all of my long term goals in mind.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, Arvay's post was a nice reminder of why I sometimes fall out of balance, and why it's okay. It's because I care about future BT. What a positive way to see it.

October 22, 2008

Pizza Philosophy

Since the economy, and perhaps not so incidentally, work, slowed down, I've been cooking more.

Last week, on Sunday, I made homemade pizza dough and let it rise most of the week, before cooking our first homemade pizza P1000937which we cooked and let cool on the pizza stone for which we registered.

It was delicious.

However, thankfully, there was leftover dough.

So, tonight, I endeavored to make the second homemade pizza.

The Pizza Stone Did Not Agree.

Happily, I stretched the frozen after 6 days of cool-rising in the fridge dough. It looked so happy and civilized, even better than the straight from rising stage version I'd made a week prior.

Sliced grape tomatoes, basil, and sliced wet mozzerella -- you can imagine where this goes...


Our wedding-gifted pizza stone exploded into three parts. I wouldn't have believed it had I not been watching the rise of the dough and browning of the toppings myself -- a 7 minute rise at 550 F doesn't take that long to observe, and I love food, so, yeah, I was camped out in front of the oven window tonight. What? Anyways--it was a phenomenal event. What kind of energy must have been stored to cause the stone to split like this? (Mind you, we didn't move anything before taking this picture -- this is exactly what nature plus an electric oven created!):


And now, I must say, I wholeheartedly endorse the metal circular tins with holes in the bottom for pizza cooking in the oven. I aspire to own one soon!

Also, pre-cooked pizza sauce is better than fresh tomatoes cooked while the dough rises. Enough said.

Happy cooking!

October 15, 2008

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

The Good:

Passing the blowtorch and discovering all the different ways you can brulée a crème for a friend's birthday dessert (some were brown sugar, some were white).


In addition to the burnt cream and brownies from F, we feasted on fresh mixed greens for 6 trimmed from our winter garden and 3 different kinds of macaroni & cheese from scratch. Delicious! (I will post the winning recipe at a later date)

The Bad:

This morning, when I got up for my run at 7 AM, it was too dark to leave so I stayed in bed. Grumpy. Then I couldn't go back to sleep. I hate this time of year. I could never live in Alaska in the winter. Tomorrow, I'll have to fit it in and go late to work. Plus I have a head cold.

The Ugly:

The stock markets.

Also, discovering black aphids attacking our chard:


We'll be spraying or treating soon, we just haven't figured out with what, exactly. E showed me how the few that made it into the kitchen could be killed very effectively with the blowtorch. Somehow I suspect that will not be a good option for controlling them in the garden. All suggestions for how best to handle these little pests are welcome.

October 12, 2008

Two lessons

Don't do long runs in cotton socks.

If you do, you will rip the hell out of your feet and toes. All of a sudden, you will understand why people claim that running ruins their feet. It will not be a pleasant revelation. If you do not already own specialized running socks that you love, I highly recommend investing in some Balegas: No seam; Thin on top for breathing, Padded on the bottom for cushion; Made of material that does not cause chafing.

I had no idea how much my Balegas were contributing to my overall foot comfort (I haven't really ever run a long run without them) until I ran out of clean ones before this weekend's long run and just packed a pair of short cotton athletic socks.


Now, I'm going to order some more. Also, I think I'm going to try a pair of the Injinji toe socks. Now that I realize how much of a difference my Balegas have been making, I figure, what the heck? I'll spend $15 and try the wacky toe-socks that some of the ultra-marathoning folks swear by.

72 hours is a solid maximum full-throttle period

In the last 72 hours, I fit in entirely too much.

I'm not sure I can recall the last time I did 3 nights in a row out on the town. But, we just did it again: Thursday, drinks in our hometown at a local restaurant while visiting friends had a late dinner after their arrival from their California road trip; Friday, a delicious dinner at Delfina followed by drinks 'til midnight with a large group; and Saturday, a shopping trip, a hair appointment, and a wedding. Add in all the associated ordinary life stuff like work, a professional lunch on Friday, running, and a quick 'bout of food poisoning from our dinner on Thursday before the out-of-towners arrived, and well... I'm spent.

Tonight, I could not bring myself to attack the todo list. It will have to wait 'til tomorrow. Sleep is coming very soon.

October 8, 2008

Wednesday Happiness

The third garden box is now fully planted!

After following the soaking (first in a baking soda solution, overnight, then, briefly in a rubbing alcohol bath) and planting instructions, the gourmet garlic that made the cut has been planted in 7 rows of 6 bulbs:


I suspect we will have entirely too much garlic next spring. What a delightful problem to have!

We also planted more onion seeds and some artichoke seeds. It should be interesting to see how the artichoke plants play out.

In other news, tonight's dinner was deliciouis. If you are looking for a healthy, vietnamese-inspired salad dish that is filling enough to call dinner, I recommend this:


Tapioca nooodle cucumber salad

-1 package tapioca noodles (or,if you prefer glass noodles)
-1/2 head garlic, casings removed
-1 bunch cilantro (coriander)
-lime juice
-2 T vietnamese fish sauce
-2 medium cucumbers (or 1 medium ordinary cucumber, plus 2 small/medium cucumbers from the japanese cucumber plant from the garden, minus the bitter stem-side portion) sliced into half-rounds
-2 small "cherry bomb" peppers and 1 jalapeno, minced
-1 shallot, chopped
-1 T turmeric
-1 inch ginger, peeled
-1/4 cup brown sugar

1. pulse cilantro, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, turmeric, brown sugar, and ginger in cuisinart until the cilantro is evenly chopped in small 1/4 inch square-sized pieces.

2. place cucumbers, shallots, and peppers in a bowl, cover with the sauce from #1.

3. boil tapioca noodles 'til done. Rinse in cold water. Chop into bite sized pieces.

4. Mix noodles into the bowl and serve.


October 6, 2008

Gourmet Garlic Overview

There was much celebration in our household tonight! The gourmet garlic finally arrived:


Immediately, we postponed healthy night for a night of tasting and cooking garlic with the appropriate sides (aka beef and wine).

I made baked new york steak from the crazy buy-a-portion-of-a-grass-fed-cow-experiment-that-E-entered on the side of yukon gold potatoes topped with a bordelaise sauce in accordance with some traditional (aka French) recipes. I *never* make French food (too complicated, heavy, and labor-intensive, even though, when I do, it's awesome...), so E was in heaven.

I really should make more French food. Sure, it's heavier, but tonight, we split a 0.8 lb steak, 4 yukon gold potatoes, and a saucepot full of heavy, delicious, buttery (3 Tb), broth-heavy, vegetable filled, flour-thickened and herb-infused wine sauce. After finishing dinner, we are not the *least* bit hungry, and yet, we are not *full* since the food was so rich. Calorically, I suspect it's actually a wash, or possibly even less than what we'd normally put away against what I normally prepare. It's just the volume that is so different.

Anyways, back to the garlic (and, by the way, how much we are both going to smell tomorrow -- JK, how stoked are you that we do not live together anymore?).

In case there was any doubt, E is the best husband 'cause (a) he knew how excited I was about the garlic and IM'd me as soon as it arrived; (b) he indulged me and did a raw tasting of all varietals before dinner; (c) in the course of doing so, he also realized we both would be needing ranitidine long before I would have realized it and brought it to the kitchen before we ate; and (d) after dinner, he engaged in the broiled garlic dessert tasting despite not loving garlic even close to as much as I do.

Yeah. We're gonna smell awesome tomorrow.

Anyways, the final verdict, in order of overall ranking:


1 (tie): California Early (Raw: #1 for E, #4 for BT; Cooked: #2 for E; #1 for BT)
1 (tie): Romanian Red (Raw: #2 for E; #2 for BT; Cooked #4 for E; #2 for BT) (also, given how easy it is to get California Early in California, it may be that if it grows well, Romanian Red will be the de facto winner solely due to its heirloom status and unique caché)

3. Susanville (Raw: #3 for E; #1 for BT; Cooked #3 for E; #3 for BT)
4. German White (Raw: #4 for E; #2 for BT; Cooked #1 for E; #4 for BT)
5. Chesnock Red (Raw: #5 for E; #5 for BT; Cooked #5 for E; #5 for BT)

We agreed to plant all remaining cloves (we only used one clove for each varietal for tonight's experimentation, you know, we merely consumed 2.5 cloves each in addition to the 1.5 cloves included in the bordelaise sauce...) for all varietals, except, we agreed, that we should really just cook the remainder of the Chesnock Red and avoid the effort of recreating it. It's just too mellow for us. The raw comments included E saying, "this isn't garlic at all." Once cooked, I noted that it was "mild, sticky & starchy," while E said, "It tastes like parsnip." The flavors were interesting, certainly. They just weren't what we were looking for in garlic. If we had infinite garden space, perhaps, but as you know, we only have one raised bed left, and there are additional onions and artichokes to plant as well.

October 4, 2008

Yoga For Running

This morning, I decided to try to put together my own yoga for runners sequence. The details of how I came to it are below, but if you are looking for a 45 minute to 1-hour yoga sequence that will be a great cross-training workout on a non-running day to help you get ready for your next run, I recommend trying this (borrows heavily from Ashtanga -- if you need modifications or instructions on how to get into these poses, I recommend David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga "The Practice Manual"):

-5 Surynamaskara (Sun Salutation) A
-5 Suryanmaskara B
-1 Padangusthasana for 5 deep breaths.
-1 Padahastasana for 5 deep breaths.
-2 sets of Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Parivtritta Trikonasana (Reverse Triangle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Parivritta Parsvakonasana (I opt for the opposite elbow to knee twisted prayer version) on each side for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of Garudasana for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets of Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets each of Janu Sirsanasa A, Janu Sirsanasa B, and Janu Sirsana C for 5 deep breaths on each side
-2 sets each of Marichyasana A, Marichyansana B (I do the modification that looks like a half lotus while hugging the upright knee and not leaning), and Marichyasana C
-2 sets of Masyendrasana for 5 deep breaths
-1 Gomukhasana A for 5 deep breaths
-1 Gomukhasana B (aka Cow Face Pose!) for 5 deep breaths
-2 sets of your favorite variation of Kapotasana


Ever since I started running semi-regularly, I've sworn by yoga as the reason why I rarely suffer from the running-related injuries that many of my running friends suffer. Well, in truth, I credit yoga, *AND* the fact that I'm likely to bail on a run if my body sends a strong signal that I should do so.

I like to claim that I average 1 yoga session a week, but, in truth, I am a compulsive stretcher and most days at work, I spend a bit of time in my desk chair typing or on the phone with my legs in full lotus, half lotus, or a modified Bharadvajasana II. In meetings where I am in danger of falling asleep, I do these positions with my legs and sometimes even go so far as to do prayer-behind-the-back and the arms from eagle (Garudasana) (I try to remember to avoid the arm poses when I'm in meetings with clients).

About a year ago, I self-diagnosed with piriformis syndrome that I could generally control with yoga focused on hip openers (such as Bryan Kest's Power Yoga), intelligent training, rest, stretching, watching my weight, etc. If I don't pay attention to my body, however, it will let me know with mild sciatica in my left leg coupled with strong/dull outer hip pain. Thankfully, both symptoms have historically been alleviated with stretching and rest.

Last week, I logged over 37 miles, which meant I was 10 miles over my mileage from the week before. In other words, I seriously broke the "no more than a 10% per week mileage increase rule" and, of course, since I'm working on speed, many of these miles were at medium to hard intensity.

Sure enough, Sunday afternoon, after my long run, while shopping for groceries, I had to stop several times to rub my left leg and stretch due to pains shooting down the back of my left leg, my left outer hip, and, as a bonus, for the first time, my left hip flexor had gotten into the game as well, which caused a weird pain pattern across the front of my left thigh (thanks to the power of the Internet, I now know that the pain traces the Sartorious muscle). Awesome.

So, I took Monday off.

By Tuesday, I felt much better, and it was apparent that the increased mileage and speed training had paid off -- despite taking it *very* easy on the effort, my 4 miler was much faster than I expected. My runs for the rest of the week were great as well and E & I easily fit in Kest power yoga #1 on Thursday night. For the first time in at least 6 months, I found myself ready for the weekend's runs without having logged a single mile during the week (including super-slow recovery miles) that was slower than a 9:50 min/mile pace.

However, last night, I expressed concern that perhaps I should skip today's 6-miler in favor of yoga because my hip was starting to tighten up again. E surprised me by having a very strong opinion that I should definitely do yoga instead of running. (This is an amazing change for the guy who initially had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into our once-a-week-together-at-home yoga practice.)

The speed increases are very seductive, and I really wanted to run today, but I begrudgingly agreed that I should do some yoga instead. A local class would be great, except they were all at inconvenient times given our other plans for the day.

So, I decided to see if I could design my own yoga for runners sequence, which is how I ended up with the sequence posted at the beginning of this post in Italics.

First off, I started looking at's list of recommended yoga poses -- and I decided to incorporate them all. Then, I included a few poses I knew had provided me with hip relief in the past. Then, all I needed to complete the series was a good warm-up, so, I decided to start with the Ashtanga Sun Salutations series. I knew from experience that it is guaranteed to get the muscles nice and warm, and I liked that it would rope in some core body work as well as some arm strength since the rest of this series is so leg-focused.

Overall, it took me about an hour to finish this entire series. However, I was consulting my Practice Manual for modifications and transitions where applicable, so I suspect that with some effort I could get this down to 50 minutes, or maybe even 45 minutes.

I spent the next several hours after this workout very pleased with how relaxed my hips, buttocks, and lower back felt. I'll check in after my long run tomorrow to ensure it did the trick, but today, I feel great. I think I'm going to try to incorporate this sequence into my running schedule more regularly.

[Update: Sunday's long run was the best I've had in a long time. I definitely need to try to do this series more often.]

October 2, 2008


HOUSING: Monday (you know the day the S&P lost almost 9%) we made an offer on a house. They countered the next day, and we found out that a house we really liked sold for way less than it was listed and we were very disappointed that we hadn't been the ones to successfully low-ball the sellers on that one. So, we let the counter-offer expire and we looked at another house on Wednesday. We haven't found anything we're in love with, so we're still in process...

GARDEN: We've finished two boxes of the winter garden, and now I'm just waiting for my shipment to arrive from the Gourmet Garlic Gardens (don't you love the Internet?) to plant the third box (which, in addition to the garlic, will be full of things to over-winter, including artichokes, red onions, and white onions). The winter garden currently looks like this:


TRAVEL: After 5 years of flying Delta back and forth between California and Atlanta, we finally *almost* had enough miles to get free flights for Christmas and New Year's. Round-trip flights were the most expensive they've ever been since we started this regular trek -- it would have cost $1400 for the flights we wanted. So, instead, we bought $220 worth of miles and paid the $37 per person fee and we'll be flying to Atlanta on miles. And, we decided to spend most of the Delta miles savings on our New Year's trip to Savannah, Georgia.

LAWYERING: Work is relatively slow for me for the first time since I started working as a lawyer, really. I'm definitely enjoying it, although, of course, I have a slight fear for the economy and hope that it doesn't stay too slow, too long.

RUNNING: I dropped a recent race because my sister couldn't do it with me. We got last-minute invitations to a wedding on the date of my next race, so I'll be skipping that one too. So, it looks like I've got my favorite half marathon as the only remaining race I'll be doing this year. But, my speed efforts continue to pay off, so I look forward to trying to set a PR at that one before building up distance for 2009's spring marathon(s).

I think that covers it.

September 27, 2008


After a very busy week, E and I went out to dinner last night and I fell asleep before 10 PM. I just woke, after ten and half hours of sleep and I feel rested for the first time in quite a while. (Granted, my fatigue is nothing compared to Lucky_Girl's.)

I'm looking forward to a weekend at home where we do chores around the house, I get to fit in two good runs, and we finish the last winter garden box. We have no social plans and after a week where I went out to lunch on 4 days and we had guests one night, I'm more than excited about the tranquility. I'm glad I saw all of the people I saw this week. I feel very up to date on many of the colleagues I rarely see. But I'm also exhausted. I've always been an introvert who faked extroversion, but I'm finding that as I age, I'm becoming more of an introvert because the extroversion is more exhausting. Perhaps it's because I spend at least half of my typical work day either on the phone talking to people or in meetings talking to people?

One thing I'm really excited about for this weekend (other than finishing the last winter garden box) is putting in some more time with my new book, The California Master Gardener Handbook -- it's a compendium of all the home gardening info that the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources saw fit to print -- all 702 pages of it. Last night I read all of the entries for the winter vegetables we have planted so far, and a little on the few we're going to plant in the last box (Yay Gourmet Garlic, artichokes, and more onions!). I definitely need to read the sections again, but I was happy to find that so far we haven't done anything too terrible.

A couple of weeks ago, I finished my first gardening book: Square Foot Gardening. It's accessible, and since I literally knew nothing about gardening, I learned quite a bit and used the reference sections heavily. But some of the information is in direct contrast with the commonly held wisdom (not to mention the instructions on the seedling inserts and seed packages). And, I suspect the spacing he recommends often is not enough. For example, Tomato plants just need more than just 1 square foot of space. Period. Also, he suggests one-size-fits all watering techniques, which, with our warm summers, I found we needed to completely ignore if we didn't want our plants to die.

However, I think his goal was to make gardening seem easy (which it is if you don't mind the failure inherent in experimentation) to get more people to try it with simple techniques that eliminate complexity and optimization in favor of simplicity and more modest success -- since I wish more people talked about their gardens at lunch instead of television, if this was his purpose, it's a noble goal!

September 24, 2008

The Pace of Life

Where did 2008 go? The days blow by me so fast and it's almost the holidays...

I had my quarterly review yesterday. I did not get fired. I did get the comment that sometimes I am too quick (or, under too much time pressure) and I don't totally think about the words in my contracts before I turn them in for review. That's true. I will be working on that one.

Unlike work, where sometimes I am too quick, when I put on my running shoes, I am not ever "too quick." I am still working on increasing my speed. Yesterday, I decreased my 3-mile speed check time by 47 seconds. This was a huge jump and I was excited. An average speed decrease of 16 seconds per mile!

Only 3 minutes and 12 seconds to go, or only 1 minute 4 seconds decrease in my average time per mile. [grin] Yeah, that's a lot. I have my work cut out for me.

September 21, 2008

Winter Garden

The end of the summer garden is upon us. Yellow pear tomato and the crook neck squash have died. The remaining plants look healthy enough, but there just isn't as much fruit as there used to be.

We are inspired by our success in the okra-from-seeds experiment (just look at how tall the largest one to the right is -- crazy that last may it was a little tiny seed we put in the dirt):


Of course, E noted that the shorter more root-bound okra plants we planted 3 to a pot produce just as much fruit as the larger one, which has the pot to itself, but that when we got to 4 to a pot, production per plant is negatively affected. So, if you are growing okra from seeds in Northern California, it looks like you need an unencumbered radius of 4 inches around each plant for optimal production.

The cucumber is a perfect example of the evolution of the garden. It was a great producer and it's still producing fruit, but you can tell by looking at it that it's on its way out:


What could we possibly do now that the summer vegetables (alas, we only picked 4 tomatoes this weekend!) are on their way out?

Well, what else could we do? Yesterday, we biked over to the nursery and I was inspired by the idea of lots of lettuces and cool-weather vegetables, so we decided to try our hand at a cool-weather garden. But first, we needed a place to put it.

E, do you mind if I dig up all the grass between the second driveway and the walkway?

E grinned bemusedly as I purposefully grabbed brother's pick and said, No. I don't mind at all. Go right ahead.

In case you were wondering, using a pick with a 3 foot handle to dig up grass and turn soil is a ridiculous workout. I suspect that had something to do with E's grin. On Saturday, I cleared maybe 20 square feet. When I was finished, I was ridiculously sore. I had a *blister* and my fingers were swollen. I felt creaky, but good. Today, when I returned to the task, I ripped the blister open (childhood memories from gymnastics came rushing back), and re-used the same muscles from yesterday against their obvious displeasure until I was able to convince E he should finish the last bit (thanks E!).

So, yesterday, after evaluating my efforts and measuring the area with respect to the redwood we had, we moved the herb box to the left of the walkway and this is what it looked like:


Today, we went back to the nursery and acquired several plants to supplement the seeds we got yesterday. E made it *very* clear that winter vegetables from the garden are lame compared to summer's rewards and that he's only helping out as an act of love (thanks E!). The only winter garden plants he's excited about are the beets (planted from seeds) and brussel sprouts (we bought seedlings). The remaining plantings of a lettuce mixed pack (6 plants of various types of leaf lettuce, I can identify butter lettuce, romaine, and the other 4, well, I've definitely had 'em before but I have no idea what they are called); a six-pack of spinach; a six-pack of arugula; and parsely did nothing to impress him. The carrots and radishes (planted from seeds) are equally unexciting to him.

Despite his lack of excitement, he built two boxes for raised beds, and cut and pre-assembled the pieces for a third if/when we decide to dig up the additional grass it would cover.

And so, I present our winter garden:


I am very happy.

September 20, 2008

Rios Broccolli-Cauliflower Bisque

So, a while ago, I mentioned to R that I couldn't get soups into the consistency I wanted them to be. She said I should use the blender, nay, not just any blender, a good blender.

Turns out, daddy got us a *good* bar blender. You know, good enough to crush ice into bar drinks that would make daddy proud. So, I actually had a good blender, I was just foolishly trying to purée soups in the cuisinart.

Ever since that conversation, I've taken her advice and blended some deliciously creamy and perfectly even purées in the blender. E, food consistency obsessive that he is, has considered this a marked improvement in our kitchen's output.

Last week, R visited briefly, and left behind some fancy cream cheese remnants. One, an orange concoction, still sits chilled in our fridge, waiting for its demise. The other, a cream cheese and herb blend, however, made its way into a delicious mid-week bisque (we used the cream cheese in place of cream). In fact, E and I enjoyed it hot the first time and chilled the second time -- it was a hit both times and we were surprised at how filling it was, given its very healthy ingredients. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

-1 head cauliflower, chopped
-2 small bunches broccoli, chopped
-1 yellow onion, diced
-1 box chicken broth
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-clippings from the herb box of fresh lemon thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and sage
-3 T of cream cheese herb blend
-3 T butter
-black pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in a large stew pot over medium heat.
2. Sautee onions and garlic in butter for 2 minutes.
3. Add cauliflower and broccoli and stir, cover with broth move to medium high heat, stir, cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
4. Add minced fresh herbs, stir, and continue to simmer.
5. Check tenderness of vegetables, if they are still hard to break apart with a spoon, add water and continue to simmer until tender.
6. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to a blender and blend on high until pureed. Return to pot and remove remaining vegetables with slotted spoon for their purée cycle.
7. For the last batch of vegetables, add the cream cheese and 1/2 a cup of water, purée until perfectly creamy.
8. Return creamy purée to pot, stir until evenly mixed throughout.

Allow to cool until it is able to be eaten, add black pepper to taste (or even hot sauce) and enjoy!

September 18, 2008

Tomorrow Morning...

I haven't made it out the door once this week for my AM runs. I wake to hit "snooze," "dismiss," or, I just plain don't hear my alarm.

I've rescheduled for the PM, pushed to the next day, and today, I did the one-two punch of rescheduling for the PM this morning and then pushing to tomorrow this evening when I got home with a tight window before sundown and a serious case of the lazy.

Despite what appears to be a lack of commitment, slowly, but surely, I'm actually regaining the speed that I lost over the last 6 months of leisurely distance training. I've dropped 48 seconds from my speed-check 3-mile loop over the last several weeks. I'm getting there.

But, of course, I'm not gaining speed to get there nearly as quickly as I projected.

I never do.

Occasionally, when I speak with my running (or non-running) friends about my life and my running schedules, I hear people refer to me as "disciplined." Let's be clear -- I'm not disciplined, I'm an optimist. If I was disciplined, I wouldn't sleep past my AM runs. I wouldn't reschedule. I wouldn't opt for delicious mexican food and margaritas the night before a long run when the original plan had been vegetables and yoga.

But I do. Because, I'm an optimist -- I set goals that are unreasonable unless you are a machine, and then, in my non-mechanic way, while living a non-mechanic life, I try to sort-of, kind-of, meet them. From this process, I have learned, all it takes is effort, and from the far-away view, you look disciplined.

So, tomorrow AM, I'll be getting up to run a very slow, easy 6 miles before a day of work followed by a healthy meal of vegetables and yoga before bed. Why? Because I completely bailed on today. Today's 6 miler this AM? Didn't even happen, despite last night's early bedtime and super-healthy meal. But tomorrow? Tomorrow is another day. And, I'm an optimist.

Speaking of bailing and being an optimist -- Today, I bailed on this weekend's scheduled race, where I had foolishly set a goal of running a 1:50 half marathon. My recent speed training sessions have convinced me that I'm not yet ready to hit anywhere near that speed. Plus, my sister had a cooking-bathing combo injury (not kidding!) and so I'd be running solo, all for a trip without E. So, I bailed on the race. I'll be doing a short 6 and a medium 14 miles solo this weekend. Slowly. At nothing close to the race pace I'd hoped for. See... not disciplined. But, I have learned that compensatory actions, over the long haul, add up.

As a testament to that, week-by-week, ever since my last marathon, when I acknowledged I needed to put in some more effort to be quick, I've been getting faster. Even if it isn't anywhere near the speed gains that I'd hope for, there are gains, and I appreciate them.

In short, as I call it a night in this evening of laziness and think optimistic thoughts for tomorrow and this weekend, I'd like to point out that every inch is an inch, my friends -- and, the big secret is, most people mistake distance for discipline.

September 14, 2008

I am sad

I felt so much of a kindred connection to the late David Foster Wallace. He, more than any other person I've ever spoken with, read, or met, understood the tension I felt with my demons.

There is darkness in the world. To deny it is an act of intellectual dishonesty. And yet...To fight it can be so, so, tiring. I've met a few who have understood the depth of the demons. Most of them have given up the fight. The kindred spirit I felt in DFW was that he knew his demons at a level that made me feel less alone, but he still fought. And now, he fights no more.

Against my own demons, I do my best to insulate myself from their self-absorbing horror and to live in the moment. To embrace the Zen philosophy which encourages one to avoid any and all value judgments aside from those in the present -- enjoy this food, this breath, this run, this friend, this moment. I suspect DFW never found the calming framework that worked for him. The one that could play the role that Zen, Yoga, meditation, writers who celebrate the beauty of life instead of demons, the wonder of a truly open and vulnerable relationship with a life partner like E and good friends that are too many to name, and the remnants of childhood christianity and various other philisophical and emotional signposts have formed for me. This makes me sad.

When I read DFW, I could not help but recognize and give presence to my demons. He got them. They tormented him and spent time with him and love him, certainly more than they did me. Or, perhaps, he was more in love with them than I was, and he cared for them more -- gave them more space and time. I think he loved his demons of human darkness in accident, addiction, pleasure, unluck, and un-restrained-ego, amongst others. They are powerful. They cause much drama. They move much in the world, in fact, they may actually rule it, and yet most refuse to acknowledge their existence. If you are the type of person that understands this reality and faces it, you are destined to feel lonely. These are the demons that occasionally (once a year or so) attack me, and make me feel very alone.

Never, other than while reading DFW's infinite jest, and staring down at the abyss below Foresthill Bridge after a high school friend committed suicide from it, have I ever felt that anyone understood just how alone I occasionally feel in the face of human darkness. I felt alone that night on the bridge and moved on. I never felt that anyone understood just how alone I occasionally felt against my demons until I read Infinite Jest. He knew how I felt on that bridge. It's an ugly feeling and he wrote about it intellectually, analytically, as I would have if I had more time to spend with the demons (but who would seek that). I'm very thankful that R was there with me that night on the bridge to listen to me talk through my demons even when she didn't share them. I am blessed to have such supportive friends.

And now, in addition to the high school friend I lost. I've lost the companionship of DFW in the world. I am sad.

Again, I beseech you and yours -- if you are down, slow, depressed, feeling that there is no other option, or anything along those lines -- GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT.

That is all.