May 28, 2008


When I get depressed, there is nothing I enjoy more than a movie, which is guaranteed to make me cry.

You will note that the previous sentence does not say,

When I get depressed, there is nothing I enjoy more than a movie which is guaranteed to make me cry.

You see, tonight I have learned that all movies make me cry when I'm sad. Previously, I suspected it was something about the dry eyes and the blinking at the screen, and the music. Or maybe it had something to do with planes, since I'm always crying at movies on planes. Or something. But I have realized that I'm just a movie crier. And the cheesier and more clichéed the plots are, the better.

Recent successful entrants in this category include:

-Under the Tuscan Sun
-Sweet Home Alabama
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

And some historical go-to favorites are:

-Playing by Heart
-La Vita è bella

But, tonight, I finally confirmed for myself that it really doesn't matter what the movie is. Tonight, because I was bordering on very sad, I didn't think the House of Sand and Fog was a good idea, so I plopped myself in front of the tube for 2 hours and balled my eyes out to Runaway Bride.

The 5/10 star rating on IMDB is *extremely* generous. It may be one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

And yet, it did the trick. I'm ready for some yoga and bed and then tomorrow will be a lighter, more carefree day.

May 26, 2008

Delta, revisited

Last time we spent memorial day on the delta:

-E2 had the smelly tent, and camped on the grass outside our rented trailer/mobile-home
-Dad drove to join us, and hazed E with entirely too many beers
-E tried to build our newly purchased cheap as shit BBQ, but drunk due to Dad's plying him with beverages, he failed, spectacularly, and fabulously.
-In reality, Dad hazed E 'til he had to be put to bed and then he played poker with us girls (J, E2, sis & me), and felt slightly guilty about E's early bedtime, as if, perhaps it was partly his fault (you think?);
-To cap off the night, J played the famous "5-6-7-8-8" poker hand
-I got too much sun
-Most of the folks got in the freezing water, but not me, not even for the beer-swim.

I had forgotten that it was *very windy* that weekend.

But, this weekend reminded me...that life changes, but not too much, for example, let's just say:

-I am sunburnt (and happy to have relaxed in the sun), again.
-It was windy, again. (The winds hit >25 mph tonight and I chickened out and suggested and cajoled our entire campsite home (with the pre-emptive strike of lucky-girl who'd intelligently pre-called an early departure)).
-Indulgence was the theme of the weekend, again, whether it was alcomohal, meat for the vegetarians, or just sleep. Of course, other than the sleep, the indulgence was toned down the order of magnitude you'd expect for the 5 years between the last visit. Somewhat disappointing, really.
-And finally, E2's new tent is gorgeous, streamlined for the wind, and not the least bit reeking of sour milk. (Prop's to P for that change!)

Overall, a good time was had by all. But I must say, I think I'll head E2's advice -- given the wind, perhaps Delta camping isn't a great idea...

Maybe I'll learn my lesson this time around. Anyone wanna give me odds? Or better yet, suggestions on locations for our next local camping trip?

May 18, 2008

Bountiful Spring Salad

Yeah, I spent the weekend in the city with my mom and sister, bonding and navigating the crowds of bay-to-breakers. We did it faster than the last time, 3 years ago, and I was very proud of my mom, who finished 248th in her age-group, an order of magnitude above where I placed my mine...

Upon arrival at home, I was exhausted.

I should have stopped by the office to pick up some diligence. Its review is due tomorrow by noon. But I just couldn't. I'd worked 5 days for more than 12 hours this week and 6 hours on Saturday. I needed a day off. Tomorrow AM is gonna suck, but them's the breaks. I did sign up with full knowledge...

So, trading today for tomorrow, I came straight home, met E at the garden, and we observed the plants with approval, and then, I fell into a deep-sleeping nap on the couch.

When I woke, I found myself facing a small around the house todo list including a fridge full of wilting vegetables from last weekend's spring bounty from the farmer's market.

After evaluation and some thought, I combined the greener portions of what was in the fridge with the first harvest from our garden -- BASIL! You can cut the tops off and encourage it to grow more fully as soon as it's sprouted several new leaves. What a gorgeous, delicious, non-complex, reproduction focused plant!

So, in celebration of the first spring harvest, I present the *greenest* salad ever made in our kitchen:

Spring Bounty Salad

-1 bunch baby asparagus spears, washed, trimmed of tough ends and wilted spear tops (if any), and chopped into 1 inch pieces.
-2 red potatoes, washed, chopped into 1/4 inch by 1/2 inch pieces.
-1 cup fava beans, shelled.
-sea salt.
-extra virgin olive oil.
-rice vinegar.
-1 bunch parsely.
-1/2 bunch dill.
-tops of 6 basil plants (approx, 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped).
-1 T red pepper flakes.

1. Lightly boil chopped potatoes in salted water 'til tender (approx 15-20 minutes). Drain and top with cold water.
2. Lightly boil fava beans until bright green and floating (5 minutes or less). Remove the white skin and place in cold water.
3. Lightly boil asparagus spears until bright green and floating (5 minutes or less). Remove from water and place in cold water.
4. In a cuisinart, combine parsely, basil, dill, several times around the dish of olive oil, a similar amount (if slightly less) of rice vinegar, and pepper flakes. Pulse, clear the edges with a rubber scraper, and continue to blend until a nice evenly chopped pesto.
5. Combine all cold vegetables and pesto in a dish. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
6. Serve cold, with sourdough baguette pieces to soup up the left-over pesto.


May 17, 2008

Snap, Crackle, Pop!

Last night, around 10:30, we ran outside to the sound of firecrackers.

So had all of our neighbors. They'd beaten us outside and were standing around a huge tree branch from our tree that had partially broken from the trunk about 20 feet in the air and had fallen into the middle of our street.

Sorry, said the adorable neighbor kid. *Smartass*

We hung out with the neighbors in the street for a while, walking around the huge branch and listening to the groans of our tree. We analyzed the situation and agreed that it was likely that our tree would be tagged and removed, just like our next door neighbor's tree of the same variety.

We all commented on how the branch was so big that had E2's car been parked in it's regular spot, it would have been fine. Our neighbors even mentioned the make and color of E2's car, which made me realize how often she must be here. So, we hung out in the hot night air, with the branch still partially attached to the tree arching to touch down in the middle of the street.

One of our neighbors called the city -- apparently there had been a flyer about how our type of tree is often diseased and we should call if things appeared amiss. Seemed like as good of a time as any to call.

Eventually, two cop cars came, and they moved the branch to be parallel to the street, although still attached to the tree (blocking E's car into our driveway).

An hour later, the city sent a huge truck to chainsaw it down with a long-arm chainsaw that brought us back out into the street -- that thing was cool! I can't believe I've never seen one in a horror film.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to take pictures 'til this morning.

So, this is where the tree branch broke from the tree:


And, this is what is left of the fallen branch:


Do we know how to party on a Friday night, or what?

May 14, 2008

The Miracle of Life

Last night, when I arrived home in the dark, E greeted me outside with a flashlight and a huge grin.

He showed me this:


And This:


I realize that these look like buckets of dirt. But if you look very, very closely, you will see sprouts of green which made us very happy.

These would be the okra seedlings that we somehow managed to germinate from seeds. Despite failing to soak them prior to planting (why would you read the directions?) and despite some severe overwatering (read: standing water), we managed to coax several shoots of green to burst forth from the dirt.

Until recently, I was best known for my brown thumb and my ability to kill any and every plant with which I had contact.

I haven't grown anything from seeds since I was a kid (and my parents helped), but E really wanted okra and there were no seedlings. So, we acknowledged that it would probably fail but tried anyways. I'm so proud!

And, like a parent with child pictures, I present pictures of the rest of our garden as well, to show that I love all of my plants.

Tomatoes, 7 days post transplantation:


Herb Box:


Japanese cucumber, 7 days post transplantation:


May 11, 2008

I thought I'd seen it all

I had a bit of a Vegas habit for a while. Instead of flying, I drove out a few times, even, for the privilege of heat and sun and staying in cheap motels and finding the best bargains on food I could while spending my free money gambling at the lower table minimum and good craps odds locations.

Then I grew tired of the place and only went when invited.

My last visit was a long weekend of spending too much money, indulging in too much alcohol, and meeting Kfed (another story).

This past weekend, was almost the exact opposite of the last one, except I stayed in the same hotel and uttered, yet again, If I never have to set foot in another club in my life, that would be just fine with me..

Thus, I dub the past weekend The healthiest weekend I've ever spent in Vegas. No real excess in food, spending, or alcohol. Instead, I caught up with friends, and I went to the gym and hit the treadmill. As a huge shock to my system (I suspect my liver cringes every time I land at MacArran), the total number of drinks I consumed over the entire weekend was in the single digits.

And, finally, after all the jokes, I've now seen The Thunder. Even worse, I sincerely enjoyed it. Those guys work their asses off (literally) to put on a great show. And watching the sincere and heartful joy (and fear of heart palpitations) of the 50+ year old women at our table was the highlight of my weekend. No joke.

Such joy those young Aussies bring to the world.

Such givers!

May 8, 2008

The reality

Work exploded this week.

I've worked past midnight every night this week (past 1 AM for two). Although I've fit in some yoga, I have yet to run a single mile since my return. Every time it's planned, something gets in the way. I'm holding out hope for tomorrow AM (the same hope I had this AM, yesterday AM, the day before that...)

Every single one of my clients or the partners I work for seems to have an emergency and I can't help but feel simultaneously flattered and at the same time as if I'm failing to help them as much or as quickly as they need me.

I feel alternatingly guilty and stressed. Today was an a blizzard of phone calls with clients begging me to do their work while they waited on the line so we could discuss it, right then, right there...

But, I am busy because my clients give me issues to address that are exciting and it's so interesting! I'm learning a ton. I love my job. I just wish there was a way to decouple it from its cyclic nature.

Vacation was fun while it lasted!

May 6, 2008

This year's garden

Well, since last year's single Black Krim seedling brought us much happiness, and supplied about 1/2 of our tomato needs for the months it was bearing ripe fruit, we did the logical thing, and planted 6 tomato plants this year.

So, in order of predicted fruit-bearing, assuming we manage to keep them alive until they bear fruit, you can expect to see tomato recipes featuring:

To go with these, we also planted an expanded herb box containing 6 basil plants, lemon thyme, rosemary, italian oregano, and marjoram.

In honor of our vacation, we're trying our hand at 1 Japanese cucumber plant.

And, in honor of E's southern roots, we planted okra, from seeds (but of course, we don't know what the hell we're doing, so we planted, literally, 10 seed-filled indentations with 1-4 seeds each, and it'll be a miracle if we manage to raise one to a fruit-bearing plant.) After the planting was done, E read the packet to see we were supposed to soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting. We decided post-planting soaking was the best way to remedy this mistake and watered accordingly. So yeah... I'll report back on that one. I'd say that at this point, one fruit-bearing plant would be a success, and none would not, necessarily, be a failure, since we couldn't possibly plant the whole seed packet and the winner might still be in there.

So yeah. It's good to be home. I'm excited about summer harvest.

May 5, 2008

About time

Finally, last night, after a long phone call with R and too much wine, I was able to fall asleep before 1:30 and sleep 'til 7:30 without waking up.

Prior to that, every night since our return, I'd had trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep.

I am shocked that it took me an entire week to get back on some semblance of the correct time schedule after being in Asia.

I have no idea how people travel to Asia on business on a regular basis.

May 1, 2008

Japan Reading and Listening List

We had a fabulous time in Japan. My experience was significantly deepened by several items I can recommend:

1. Pimsleur CDs. It took me almost a year to get through all 30 lessons on my commute to work. I'd repeat the lessons until I could do the majority of the prompted responses from memory. It helped enourmously. I can't wait to start the Spanish Pimsleur CDs (my next language!) and I swear, I will never use another learn by audio language program. Pimsleur is so superior to any other program I've tried.

2. Of course, Books. My favorite past-time.

  • Lonely Planet Japan -- we referred to this for each city we visited. It had all the important stuff -- history, maps, background. A great reference to be supplemented with the Internet, advice from Friends, and books.

  • Pictures from the Water Trade, by John David Morley -- a coworker gave me this book along with a book on how to read and write kanji. The next day he stopped by to apologize that the book may be, at times, a bit racey, and to ensure me that he did not intend to be inappropriate. It's literature! But how sweet is that? Anyways, this book was probably the most purely educational book of all of the books I read. The author is clearly a language lover after my own heart, and pages upon pages were dedicated to analysis of the sounds of the language, the affectation, it's rhythm and cadence and preparatory wrappings, soft endings, noises, and more. When he tired of language, he wrote of the underground -- the "water trade" or modern day bars where women are often available for entertainment (dancing, talking, and, of course, the oldest profession in the world). The difference in cultural perspective on the water trade in Japan was necessary to my understanding of gender roles in Japan. Similarly, he spends much time analyzing his outsider status vis-a-vis his growing command of the language and cultural norms, which is typically the means that the Japanese use to distinguish insiders from outsiders. While the plot is relatively non-existant, the observations and analysis is fascinating, and I highly recommend this book if you'd like to gain a better understanding of Japanese culture.

  • Dave Barry Does Japan -- okay, I must admit. I made a mistake. I thought this was a Bill Bryson book when I bought it. How? Well, as I've told everyone who will listen, I'm *REALLY* bad with names. I just don't think they are important. I record relevant information to me, like *funny,* *articulate,* *travel writer,* and well...I'm lazy too. Anyways, E laughed his ass off when I admitted my mistake because he was surprised when I bought the book. It struck him as a wee bit too culturally insensitive for my usual tastes. But, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought Mr. Barry did an excellent job of reporting on Japanese culture from the American perspective. It was surprisingly well-researched (although, given that he's won a pulitzer, perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising). And it was damn funny, too.

  • Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa, by Karin Muller -- I think this book was the most relevant to my experience. It was the story of an American woman in her mid-30's who moved to Japan for a year to try to report on japanese culture, and did so by living with a traditional Japanese family. Much of her story is her strugge against the Mother of the family, which truly, is a wonderful metaphor for her struggle against/within the culture as a whole. I will be recommending this book to all of my Japanese-American friends who struggle against their mothers (that would be all of them, to my knowledge) because I read about so many of the arguments my friends have described, but they were explained through the eyes of a cultural anthropologist. It made so much more sense.

  • The Teahouse Fire: A Novel, by Ellis Avery -- I picked this one up at SFO before we left. Set in Kyoto during the turn of the 19th century, it told the story of a young Franco-American girl from New York whose mother dies immediately after she is brought to Japan by her uncle, a Catholic Missionary. After a fire, she runs away, feigns ignorance of her origins to escape her horrid uncle and ends up working as a servant to one of the great tea-ceremony families. The cultural and historical details were breathtaking and the story was gripping. It's a great book, even if you won't be going to Kyoto while you are reading it. But if you are... you can visit temples, confectionaries where they make tea sweets, and Pontocho and imagine the world she describes so clearly as if it still exists.

  • Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimote -- This book was a best-seller in Japan in the 1980s and the English version was received abroad equally as well after its translation. The lovely A recommended it (I believe), and I loved it. The main characters' voices were all simultaneously distant and honest, gentle, vulnerable, and yet resolute and obviously strong in a way that I have never encountered in fiction before. The stories were poignant, but simply told narratives describing the craziness of the major losses inherent in life, and the messiness of falling in love. Oh, and, of course, given the title, much of the focus was on food, its preparation and role in our lives, and all of that stuff, which we all know I love.

  • Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Marakumi -- I ordered this book because it landed at the top of several searches I did on Amazon. I had already read his unique and fragmented Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and I enjoyed it. It was a bit of work to get through, which I expected for this one as well, but it was worth it. Imagine my surprise to find Norwegian Wood to be quite the opposite of Hard-Boiled, and instead a simple, one-man story of collegiate life in the 60's in Tokyo and the loves of his life, how they conflicted, innevitable loss, and the decisions he must make in the wake of such loss. I was struck by how much the voice of the main character had so many of the same qualities as the main female character in Kitchen. Only, at this point, after reading so much about Japan, that respectful distance I recognized in their voices made sense. It was respectful. I liked it. And, I liked Toru, the speaker, despite the fact that I may not like some of the actions he took, because he was so open and unapologetic. He did things even he deplored and then examined them while being open with his rationale. How could I not like him, even love him, despite (or perhaps because of) his honest flaws?

  • A Year in Japan, by Kate T. Williamson, I opened this book on the Shinkansen from Nagano back to Tokyo to realize it was an art book. And it wasn't painful, stretching, BT-gets-it-and-loves-it-because-the-tormeneted-artist-beats-you-over-the-emotional-chasm-with-their-ability-to-communicate-in-an-invented-but-understood-language-art. No, it was light, and cheerful, and cute, and understandable sketches from an artist's year of living in Kyoto along with hand-written explanations of the pictures, and lots of detailed drawings of plants. I found the pictures and explanations adorable, the plants reminders of my aspirations of a garden at home upon my return, and the majority of the urban scenes to be excellent reminders of the quirks I experienced in Kyoto and occasionally informative about things I had questioned as I quickly read them on our bullet train out of Kyoto to Nagano. At any other time in my life, had I opened this book, I suspect I would not have been in the correct frame of mind to appreciate its value and I would have skimmed and closed it without a second thought. And yet, somehow, I ordered it, transported it across the oceans, and opened it at the correct time such that I sincerely enjoyed it and couldn't believe my luck and timing. Talk about a blessing!

  • Squeamish about Sushi and other food adventures in Japan, by Betty Reynolds -- Unlike a Year in Japan, which I did not know was an arty-book 'til I opened it, this book I purchased with full knowledge. Pictures of food with Japanese words describing it? Sign me up. I made E sit and read it with me a few times before we left. He humored me. I think I will donate it to Miss E's classroom now.

And now, I'm back home. 6 books that I would be proud to include on my booklist as books I read this year in pursuit of my approximately 20 book challenge. 1 travel book as a resource that I can't claim because I didn't read it cover to cover. 2 arty-books I could claim if desperate. I'll wait 'til the end of the year to see if I need to claim the arty-books to hit 20. For now, I'll content myself with the fact that I'm on book 9 without 'em and it's only 4 months in. And, of course, now that I'm back to work, I'll resume my regularly scheduled program of finishing approximately 1 book per month or so.