December 31, 2009

Less Grumpy, More Celebration

Deals are looking like they will close. Clients will be happy. Clients I have come to know on a personal level will benefit from my efforts. It feels good.

But exhausting.

The Happy New Year is coming.

I am looking forward to helping brother get the opportunity to celebrate with his friends at a big--nay, huge--party that has been a long time coming.

I'm also looking forward to sharing the night with E, and calling it early, like the folks we are.

And finally, I'm looking forward to my last big night of sleep in 2009 (following a social night with friends with stolen visits to the computer to confirm that the deal was, in fact, on track). Thank goodness it looks like I'll actually get to dream good dreams tonight -- that will be a welcome novelty.

December 29, 2009

Some End of the Year Wisdom

I've got too many deals that *must* sign before the end of the year.

YAY! for my clients -- Lame for me.

So, here's some grumpy free advice and ramblings in connection with the end of the year (and you know, the things that may arise from tax planning or trying to sell your company on a tight time fuse, etc.):

1. Your buddy? Your best buddy? The guy that's done that stuff for you without a contract for years on a good faith basis with the random vague invoice? The acquiror doesn't care how tight you are. If he created anything the company owns, you need to get that shit signed up to a contract ASAP. 'Cause guess what, he's not best buddies with the acquiror -- and they aren't stupid.

2. On the topic of invoices? I am not the person you want to over-invoice. I know my life down to 6 minute increments. Don't make me point out that you were 20 minutes late on two days and require me to spend time thinking about how to politely propose edits to your invoice. That takes time from my life. And yours. And we both hate it. Just keep correct time. How hard is it?

3. It's official. I definitely prefer the each person brings one $10 new gift exchange with extended family (pursuant to white elefant rules) over the person-to-person present exchange.

4. Communication of crappy things is really important. Lawyers specialize in it, so we forget how difficult it is for other people. But it is. In fact, it's so difficult that they pay ridiculous rates to have us do it for them. Only, when dealing with families over the holidays, even lawyers are stuck -- we aren't hired mercenaries and it's simultaneously very important and very difficult to convey the crappy things. And yet, we have to. Or nothing ever improves.

December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice

This is a time for change.

Finally, after the last month of waking to pitch black and working in the black for hours on end only to go to work and leave the office while it's black again, will the days finally start to get longer (and continue to do so for the next half year!)

And the holidays with all of their promise, drama, failed resolutions, new resolutions to be made, and their histories full of wounds and joy to visit us through uninvited memories are just around the corner.

Even San Francisco, which prides itself on pragmatic coolness, youth, and a rejection of most things invoking nostalgia has big open celebrations of the season and love and ice and deep green trees and vulgur displays of too much light and other goodness:


Happy Winter Solstice to you!
May your daylight increase,
May your Seasonal Affective Disorder decrease,
And may you welcome the change that life brings to you
'til the days start to shorten again.

December 16, 2009


Brother got a love letter recently. He shared it with me. I immediately sided with the girl:

Brother, you have to call her. At least to say hi. She bared her soul to you. She wrote you a *love letter.*

He responded quickly and effectively, in a manner I am beginning to recognize as a familial way (and perhaps one of the reasons I ended up as an attorney despite my efforts to the contrary):

Ummmmm... You don't get to tell me how to respond. A) I decided to share this with you, so you get to be quiet and say thank you for letting me know about what's going on in your life, not tell me how to deal with it. B) The last woman who wrote me a love letter -- I got a call from her husband after I responded to her. So your "always respond to a woman's love letter" plan has some flaws I happen to know about...


December 15, 2009

Writing Under a Pen Name

This Article about why James Chartrand chose his male pen name despite being a female in the meat world is very informative.



But informative.

Interestingly, back when I was less open with details in my life, most of my readers assumed I was male. This despite the fact that according to the Gender Genie, my posts are all over the place.

After taking a look at its results more than a few times, I tend to think the Gender Genie's results are too closely correlated with topics. Travel and food posts like my last one often end up slightly more "female" than "male," while posts like the one three posts ago mentioning research and statistics come back almost twice as "male" as "female."

As cool as that might be, my gender has not swapped in the time period between these two entries in the meat world...

And yet, as they say, On the Internet, No One Knows You're A Dog.

December 13, 2009

On a roll

Friday was one of the more self-indulgent days I've had in a while. After a morning of working from home, I took the afternoon off to have a long late lunch with T. We met at the ice-skating rink by the sparkling sky-scraping Christmas tree in Union Square. Between that and the tell-tale wreathes in every window at Macy's -- there is no denying it, Christmas is right around the corner.

We sat for two hours at Metropol, eating, sipping wine and chatting. Eventually, we moved the gossip and discussion of changes in the legal industry and what it could mean for our careers, long-term, to the salon, where we relaxed, sipping tea and coffee and watching the world walk by in Union Square from the windows while I got my hair done (if I'm only going to get it done once or twice a year, best to make one of those times before all the photographic preservation of the holidays, that's my motto!).

From there, we did a super-quick dress shopping run to Macy's, which thankfully had tons of reasonably priced dresses in stock (yay for shopping with an expert -- 1 party dress and 1 work dress in less than 1 hour, thanks T!).

And finally, I picked up E, and we checked into our hotel for our date night. After a drink at the hotel bar (complete with traveling singers in tuxes stopping in with an accordian to sing some Holiday Carols) we -- all dressed up, so proud -- took a cab in the rain to one of our all-time favorite restaurants -- Acquerello.

I cannot say enough about this 16-table restaurant. It is, without doubt, the best high-end Italian food I've had in the U.S., both on our last visit 2 1/2 years ago, and this one. Every morsel is phenomenal, and at least half bring back memories I've forgotten of my time spent in Italy (anchovy-stuffed deep-fried olive amuse bouche? Right. Not only can you stuff olives, you can bread them and fry them. Brilliant. How did I forget that?), the service is amazing, and the Italian accents of half the staff just add to the I-swear-I'm-in-another-country feeling of the experience.

Additionally, Acquerello always has a special imported ingredient that tries to steal the show. Last time, it was the burata. This time? WHITE TRUFFLES!!! (Okay, so the cheese cart was absolutely amazing, as well, and I savored every bite. But for me, the truffles won. E probably prefers the soft cow's cheese in walnut leaf he swooned over.)

But the truffles? Did I mention I love truffles? The tagliolini with butter, egg yolks and Parmesan cheese was one of the best dishes I've ever had in my life (not just best pasta dishes, mind you, best dishes ever). I need to learn how to make the butter, egg yolks and parmesan sauce even if I don't have truffles.

And tagliolini? How did I forget about this awesome pasta? I'll leave the making of it to the pros, but I plan to be buying some for simple liquid sauces.

Light pastas. That is one of the things that America makes it easy to forget about Italy. I shall try to remember...

Yes, Acquerello is an expensive restaurant, but it's probably less than most bay area 1-star Michelin restaurants, and, the food is absolutely worth it. Not to mention that it's much cheaper and easier than going to Italy if you'd like to feel as if you traveled.

In true Italian style, E and I slowly enjoyed all of our food and wine 'til after midnight (I didn't fall asleep or even threaten to do so), and then, upon arrival at our hotel, we fell, completely relaxed, into bed.

Saturday, I managed to get up and hit the gym for my first run since the awesome big-sur half marathon experience, and then we came home to enjoy lunch with sister and brother before I knocked out many of the chores that I often don't have time to finish before the end of the weekend (hello, all laundry is DONE!). Today, after an early bedtime, I woke to do 40 minutes of yoga before the day began in earnest.

In short -- a decadent Friday followed by a productive weekend? And I've still got half of Sunday ahead of me? I feel on top of the world.

December 10, 2009

Evening Entertainment at Our House

Brother wanted to talk about medical marijuana and the interplay between state and federal law.

One thing led to another. E, from the South, made his opinion known loud and clear. The war of Northern Aggression and all of that.

I pulled out my pocket constitution.

You heard.

(Granted, I don't keep it in my pocket, but still...)
Today, I'm glad I'm not a morally committed vegetarian

Recent research supports the idea that tomatoes are carnivorous plants.

But thankfully, since I'm a committed omnivore, I'm just amused to learn that my favorite plants are too!

No philosophical quandry here, thank you very much!

But I do like the idea of the line of thought that goes something like this:

I don't eat meat. I don't eat anything that moves because it's wrong. I eat vegetables and fruit because it's right.

But now, research is showing that many flowering plants are actually descended from and/or still able to exist as carnivores.

Which makes them wrong too.

Is it more wrong or less wrong to eat things that do wrong things?

Thank goodness I'm much too busy for that type of inquiry. I can't imagine it's too easy to exit that circle of thought.

December 5, 2009

Butternut, Bacon, Swiss Cheese Soup (with extra Ham!)

Mmmm... this soup is the essence of the approaching winter. Absolutely delicious.

-1 Large butternut squash, sliced in 1 inch rounds, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed
-2 yellow onions, chopped coarsely
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-6-8 cups broth of your choosing (I used half beef broth and half beef boullion)
-2 t ground cumin
-1 t ground coriander
-8 ounces bacon, chopped
-4-8 ounces leftover thanksgiving ham, chopped
-3 T sour cream
-2 T cornstarch
-grated swiss cheese
-black pepper

1. Sautee bacon, onions and garlic 'til onions are clear.
2. Add squash and spices, stir 'til coated.
3. Add broth, boil 15 minutes or so, until squash cubes break easily with a spoon.
4. Stir sour cream, cornstarch and 3 T warm water together.
5. Add ham and sour cream mixture, stir, remove from heat and continue to stir.
6. Serve into deep bowls, top with cheese and black pepper to taste.


December 3, 2009


I had that one of those things today. You know. That late thing?

Where you are introducing someone to someone else? Only someone is running late.

And not just a little bit.

And it reflects so poorly on you with someone else.

Someone else who agreed to meet with someone on your request who looks at you while you wait for someone together.

And everyone there who's waiting tries to pretend that it's all good.

But it's not.

And someone just burnt through a little bit of not just their credibility, but yours.

FYI -- A BIG APOLOGY and any other believable gestures of good will are a good idea, if you are someone in this situation.

Just sayin'

December 1, 2009

Hamtastic Holiday Happiness

One of brother's fears about coming to live with us is that he wouldn't get enough meat. At one point, he accused me of wanting to turn him into a vegan, which is, of course, hilarious. Because while I could probably live without meat, and do cook a fair amount of vegetarian meals, I most certainly could NOT LIVE WITHOUT CHEESE. Not to mention the fact that E would probably leave me if we couldn't eat bacon.

I think brother may have recruited mom to help fight the imagined meat battle. Or, perhaps my mom is just doing the ordinary motherly love-is-food thing. Regardless, after Thanksgiving, mother left us, conservatively, with a ridiculously overstuffed fridge and freezer including 8 lbs. of ham. The second half of the meat is still on the bone!

In case you too have too much holiday ham, or just for your general amusement, I present some of the hamtastic treats we've been enjoying:

1. Everyone's favorite: Thanksgiving part 2. We just served up the leftover potatoes au gratin (but with extra cheese under the broiler), green bean casserole, and, of course, sliced ham. Mmmm... good the second time, too.

2. The pita-chip-ham-slice midnight snack. You heard. Take some pita chips, put 'em around a thick slice of ham. Enjoy! A favorite of brother's.

3. Sauteed ham chunks and onions in defrosted garden tomato sauce over shell pasta. Yummm...

4. Sauteed ham chunks and onions mixed with 2 cups of leftover black bean and corn soup plus a can of black beans, some cumin, cayene, and chili powder. Delicious!

5. Tonight's plan? Risotto. With small ham chunks. And cheese (of course). I think I'll even add a salad for good measure - it's been entirely too long since I've been accused of torturing E (and now brother) with dark leafy greens.

November 26, 2009


One of my clients sent a thank you email naming me and one of my colleagues as some of the things for which he is thankful on this holiday.

That feels good.
Giving Thanks

I am thankful for:

1. My soulmate, E, and having him in my life.
2. My family.
3. My friends.
4. My health.
5. The gorgeous weather of the bay area.
6. Food.
7. The fact that I rarely get sinus infections, so that even though I have a horrid one right now, and I'm spitting blood, I can comfort myself with the knowledge that it's probably been 8 years since I last had one, and hopefully will be 8 more before I have to do this again.
8. The fact that I truly enjoy doing a job that most people hate.
9. The invitation to C&J's house for Thanksgiving dinner so I can relax until the big meal.

November 23, 2009


Having Brother home is good -- he is funny, fun, and a pleasure to be around. My life is different in many ways, but one of them reminds me of a long time ago.

It turns out -- moving Brother around, helping him transition from the bed to the chair, from the chair to the car, etc -- it's a big workout. And, it's a type of workout I haven't had in years: Quick, explosive use of large muscle groups in unison to cause a large change in momentum.

For the last couple of nights, I've gone to bed sore. I've taken the time to stretch in bed before I fell asleep because my muscles were so tight, which is something I rarely felt the need to do as a result of my workout regime for the more than the last 10 years or so.

This morning I woke to a body that reminded me of being a gymnast, diver, or want-to-be martial artist: creaky, sore, swollen lower back muscles, hamstrings, biceps, shoulders, elbows, and chest that define each movement, even sitting at my desk.

I didn't run a single step last week, which is quite a rarity for me. Re-working running into my life is on the todo list, and I'll get to it once we have a schedule and things at home are more regular. But, based on how I feel, even without a dedicated commitment to working out, I think I'm going to be in a different kind of shape, and much stronger, in a very short time.

November 17, 2009

Big Day

Brother comes home to stay with us tomorrow.

I'm very excited. Yes, I'm also scared. Our lives will be very different. But it feels so good to be committed and to know that we are approaching some semblance of normality without hospitals.

The last three months have been very good at teaching me lessons I thought I already understood:

1. You are *never* in control of your life.

2. Even though #1 is true, you have to do your best in the chaos to assume some level of momentum in the direction you think you'd like to go or you won't end up anywhere you want to be. This is often frustrating.

3. People are what they do. Saying you believe in something is easy. Acting in parallel with what you believe is often much more difficult and complicated. This is true of all important things in life: family relationships, non-familial personal relationships, work, taking care of yourself, seeking happiness, and tons of other things I probably haven't had the opportunity to consider. In short, "It's the moment. Stupid." Every moment is a gift. Every moment is finite and you cannot use it to do everything. Every opportunity you have to interact with others is a gift. How you choose to use those gifts is your life. And life is often not easy, but damn is it a gloriously beautiful story.

I am grateful. And Excited! Yay Brother Coming Home!

November 15, 2009

They Do Not Lie

The Big Sur Half Marathon was the most gorgeous race course I have ever run.

By a long shot.

It was well-run, organized, and breathtakingly scenic. From downtown Monterey, under the bridge, through Cannery Row, along the edges of Pacific Grove and out to Pebble Beach and back, we ran on closed roads, primarily along the coast with crashing waves and varied musical performances galore (drum circles, bagpipes, jazz, a grand piano version of "chariots of fire", rock, taiko drummers, and more).

The day started at a cool 42F and we finished to a pleasant mid-50s and it was a gorgeous clear blue. It was cold at the start and E2 and I hugged our coffee cups while walking to our start corral, but after a mile or so of fast feet slapping in unison, we found ourselves pleasantly warm -- enjoying the crisp air and watching the steamy exhales of our fellow runners.

At multiple points along the course, when I wasn't wondering what the hell kind of hare E2 got up her butt with the initial pacing she selected, I turned a corner with a spare thought to view the scenery and think really? really? is this where I get to run today?


It's enough to make me consider the full Big Sur International Marathon, despite its horrific hilly reputation.

And I say this despite the fact that I'm in the worst running shape I've been in for several years.

Today is a perfect example of why I'm a fan of signing up for races. Because, if you are like me, the fact that you paid that entrance fee means you'll find a way to finish no matter what else is going on in your life (unless, of course, you can't, but that's understandable).

If you are lucky, that silly monetary commitment to the event will keep you working out and committed to long runs on the weekends (albeit not enough if you are me this time around) so you may be lucky enough to enjoy a gorgeous day, with beautiful California scenery, running with one of your best friends for 13.1 painful too fast (oh *shit* we aren't in good enough shape for this pace) miles, to be met at the finish line by your soul-mate, and followed up by a leisurely dip in the hot tub and entirely too much authentic Mexican food.

Today was one of those days when I couldn't help but feel that my very existence was a big celebration of life.


November 11, 2009

Lunchtime Conversation

Coworker1: I really want an El Camino.

Coworker2: Of course you do. It's the mullet of cars. Business in the front, party in the back.

November 6, 2009

Wisdom From People Magazine

I refuse to pay for People, but thanks to's policy of giving you up to 3 free trial subscriptions every time you register for a race, I regularly receive it in the mail (sometimes two copies at a time).

Anyways, it's totally my guilty pleasure -- staring at the gorgeous and the well-put-together and reading about their personal lives.

This week, I enjoyed reading all about Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr.'s new baby, Charlotte. They are two of the more down-to-earth stars who've done baby interviews with People. (Trust me. I know. I've been reading every People baby story that's come out for years -- there have been too many to count).

In particular, I liked SMG's comment about her hopes for her daughter's future:

I want her to know that there is no such thing as an entertainment emergency, even though out here, people seem to think we have them every day.

Here! Here!

Entertainment emergencies don't really exist, despite many people's beliefs to the contrary.

And while we're on the topic, legal emergencies are actually pretty few and far between, especially if you're not dealing with criminal matters (or civil matters that are threatening to become criminal).

In fact, emergencies outside of the life-or-death context are difficult to come by.

Problems? Common.

Emergencies? Rare.

Any questions?

[Now if only I could get my law firm to agree...]

November 4, 2009

Never Seen Before

Work is blowing up. If my experience is any indication, the economy should be starting to recover.

Tonight after a ridiculously long day at work when I was staffed on a new emergency fast track deal at 1:30 AM, I came home for a quick dinner before making myself available for additional document review and disclosure, if necessary.

E asked for Sushi. I obliged, because I'm trying to be a good wife (especially when I know I've been slipping on that front lately).

Our local Sushi joint is close. Good. Relatively reasonably priced. And tonight, there was a female sushi chef dressed in a red tunic with wide black color trim behind the sushi boat "U".

It really shocked me.

I don't think I've ever seen a female sushi chef before (but I can't be sure).

Anyone else? Am I just forgetting other encounters I must have had, or is this one of those things that doesn't usually happen?

Regardless, I like this place just a little bit more for bucking what is at a minimum a cultural norm, and may be, for all I know, a sexist prohibition.

E, of course, got no end of enjoyment out of accusing me of being sexist for liking the place more simply because it had a female chef...

November 1, 2009

A day for running

Today was a glorious day for running on both coasts of the US!

First, Meb was the first U.S. Citizen to win the New York Marathon since 1982.

He cried.

Reading about it, I got teary.

In much less intense news, I did my 5th annual participation in my favorite local race. I have let training fall very much by the wayside, lately.

So my goal was simple: Finish in less than 2h30.

I am happy to say that despite a day prior's waking at 5 AM to go to a full day at the hospital followed by a couple of glasses of wine with dinner while enjoying Halloween with good friends, I was able to meet my goal and even surprise myself a little bit with how I was able to attack the hills.

Daylight savings gets much of this credit. We left the halloween festivities "early" at 11:20, but as far as the AM was concerned it was 10:20, so I was asleep in bed before 11. Man, I love fall-back. [Spring-forward? Not so much.]

So, yes. I'm proud that I've kept up this tradition for 5 years. I showed up at the hospital with a medal that I put on brother, because his attitude inspired me. There were a couple of points where I really wanted to walk and I thought, "you can like should because you can, even if it hurts" (I didn't have these thoughts on the steep uphills -- I walked those without regret).

I look forward to keeping up this tradition in years to come. I think the only thing that could make me want to break it is if I managed to get a slot at the NY marathon...

Yay USA. Yay Running. Yay, brother concocting a story that explained that the blue ribbon on the medal meant "First Place" and that he wheeled the whole thing both ways across the golden gate bridge, fog on the way out, clear on the way back...

October 27, 2009

That Poor Door-to-Door Salesman

Apparently, last Sunday, while I was off doing a long run with E2, E had to answer the door when a door-to-door carpet steam-cleaning salesman rang. I am told the exchange went something like this:

Salesman: Hi! Are your parents home?

E: Ummm... no. [Thinks: Wow. Great sales move.] This is my house.

Salesman: [Not to be deterred] Oh. Great. I see you have carpet [points to carpet], and I'm here to offer to steam clean your carpet. Is there a particularly dirty area where I can show you the benefits of our services?

E: Ahh yes, you see the carpet, but do you see that? [points to stack of hardwood boxes]. That's hardwood flooring that will be installed next week. So, we aren't too worried about how dirty the carpet is.

Salesman: ... Well, I could steam clean your couch...

E: I admire your persistence, but, as you can see, our couch is leather.

Salesman: ...

E: Have a nice day...

I know this was probably one of the worst sales calls this guy has ever done. But I just can't stop laughing at the hilarity of how it played out.

October 22, 2009

Material Adverse Change

I spend quite a bit of time listening and helping companies fight over the definition of "Material Adverse Change" or "Material Adverse Effect" that would allow them to get out of a deal they've agreed to do.

Once the definition is agreed upon, and the deal is signed, there's no room left to argue.

It would appear that the CEO of Bank of America did not understand that concept. Or, rather, he refused to listen to his lawyer when his lawyer explained that he could not call the MAC and kill the merger with Merrill Lynch.

When his lawyer explained that the losses of Merrill Lynch were insufficient reason to call the MAC -- he fired his lawyer. He then told the Feds he intended to kill the deal unless he got bailout money for Bank of America.

In my first year of law school, my property professor said something that I think is a very important rule for lawyers to remember:

If someone has to go to jail, it should be the client.

It's hard, when you are a service provider, to provide services your clients don't want. Particularly when they have to power to fire you.

At the time, Bank of America's former counsel was probably very frustrated with the conflict between doing the right thing and keeping his job. But now that there's a federal investigation, I'm guessing he is even more glad that he did the right thing.

October 21, 2009

Sisters Are Cool

My sister and her fiance are staying with us this week so sis can spend some time at the hospital get trained (and then train the family and caregivers if we need additional instruction that we missed) on how to care for bro when he gets out of the spinal cord facility.

We've had a few (very short, because we are both crazy busy) conversations about what is going on in her life right now. She has a ton to deal with and I'm struck by what an awesome person she is and how well she is balancing it all.

Also, I can't help but be amused at the odd parallels in our lives. Three years ago, I was in a very similar situation to her: I was trying to balance the unavoidable stress of planning a wedding, the medical and family stresses associated with caring for our sick father (as opposed to our injured brother), and, like her, I was also doing my best to learn what I needed to know in a demanding education program to pursue my second career. It was a very overwhelming time.

I feel very lucky to be able to discuss and share my feelings, expectations, surprises, and thoughts about what is/was going on in our lives with someone who shares similar experiences as well as many of my values. Also, she makes me laugh and she makes me proud in a special sister-pride way that no one else can make me feel.

Basically, I am very thankful to have my sister in my life.

October 18, 2009

San Luis Obispo Food

This weekend, E and I went to the central coast of California to visit my gran for her 83rd birthday.

We left the fog and clouds on Saturday morning to arrive to perfect blue skies, warm weather, and, of course, given that we were in the heart of farm and wine country, the best food and wine that California has to offer, fresh from the local farms that grow it.

Saturday birthday brunch with Gran in Morro Bay at a long-term local institution (where of course, everyone knew her by name) was delicious. Mmmmm... calamari steak...

For dinner, E and I decided to try a new restaurant, The Gardens of Avila.

The chef has amazing credentials, so we had high hopes, but you never know...

Before we headed into the restaurant, we stopped to enjoy the property and walk and relax in the labrinth and gardens -- so relaxing and tranquil. Our commitment to stop and enjoy nature rewarded us with a gorgeous sunset as we entered the restaurant:



We were, I must admit, a bit under-dressed (shocking). But the hostess paid no heed to my flip-flops, jeans, and tank top or E's 15-yr-old t-shirt. Instead, she graciously seated us without a reservation and the entire establishment proceeded to treat us to wonderful service.

The menu was simple but elegant, and amazingly reasonably priced. Chorizo was an ingredient in more dishes than I ordinarily expect, but I considered that a plus.

The wine-by-the-glass selection was full of great local selections at reasonable prices. We both selected a glass and they were happy to bring it to us to sip while we perused the menu. I selected snapper, with mussels, shrimp, fennel (and of course chorizo). E selected duck breast flanked by duck confit spring rolls.

While we sat in our booth after ordering, multiple bus-boys and servers came to our table to re-fill our water, and everyone treated us very well despite what I sheepishly realized was the apparent disparity between our attire and the majority of the patrons. Sometimes, Silicon Valley makes you forget that most people actually *dress-up* to go to a fancy restaurant. We laughed at our mistake, and enjoyed the fact that they did not seem particularly concerned with our choice in attire (granted the property has mineral springs hot-tubs, and people outside were walking around the property in bath-robes, so that helped with our level of comfort as well).

About half-way through our glasses of wine, our server arrived with a complimentary amuse-bouche from the chef. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he had some spare pork belly and had prepared a marinated pork-belly kimchee-inspired bite for us. It arrived with a fully complimentary glass of Cambria pinot noir for each of us as well. I'm not certain how we were selected for this gift, as I watched the other tables to see if it was the norm and determined that it was not, but we were not complaining.

The only pork dish on the menu that I recalled seeing was Kurobuta pork loin. And, I suppose, if you order pork loin for the kitchen, there could be some spare pork belly in the mix. And, if I were I chef, I'd hate something that decadent to go to waste. But man... the wonderous creation he made with it... it was more than just salvage. It was by far the best pork belly preparation that either E or I had ever had (and trust me, E is a man who has eaten more than his lifetime allocation of pork belly during the time I've known him). Spicy. Tender. Rich, but cut with soy and citrus and ginger and pickled tiny bits -- just delicious. And, the wine was a perfect pairing:


From there, we were prepared to be wowed. As a testament to how well it was prepared, we were actually more hungry *after* the lardy-goodness of the treat than before. And, our excitement was not the least bit overzealous.

My snapper seafood plate was gorgeous, light, with oh-so-fresh tomatoes in the broth, some roasted fennel and chorizo to add contrast, and, well, it was just a beautiful array of flavors and tastes:


E's duck platter was nothing short of perfection. We agreed that it was in contention for the best prepared duck-breast either of us had ever enjoyed (and the spring rolls were excellent too!) and I come from a family that exhausts their duck tags every season:


After our entrees, we were certain we were full.

But then we ordered the cheese plate (because how can you say no to cheese?) and we were amazed yet again:


The far left is a goat, sheep, cow's milk cheese called La Tur. Really? Can you go wrong with a blend of three animals' milks for cheese? I think not.

The hard cheese is a parmigiano reggiano. Simple. Classic. Always great.

The soft cheese on the right of the parmigiano is a triple cream brie. Triple. Cream. Brie.

The big surprise was the blue. We tolerate them. Occasionally, we even like them (particularly if we've had a bit much of the wine). But this one, even without too much wine, was in contention for my favorite cheese on the plate. And E loved it too. To find a blue that is tangy, delicious, rich, complex, clearly a blue, and yet not so stinky as to evoke the locker-room memories -- well, I call that success. To have it be one of the best cheeses on the plate? That's nothing short of a cheese miracle, I tell you.

So, the 4 cheeses were winners. But the side items to dress the cheese were even more amazing.

Look closely -- the one in the middle? Yes, that's a local honeycomb. How cool is that? And delicious!

The left? That's blood orange preserves without sugar. It was perfect with cheese but would be terrible as a simple preserve on its own. I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a preserve that was clearly made with the intention of being served with cheese but would be terrible with anything else--what a pleasure to enjoy the tang and avoid the extra sugar!

And on the right? The preserved local cherries? I could have eaten a pound, no problem.

In short, we had one of the best meals we've had all year, the dining room was *extremely* well run, the service was polite, unpretentious, and attentive, and the total price was so pleasant that we were disappointed we couldn't come back the next night. We agreed -- this is the best bang for the buck meal we'd eaten since dining in rural Italy in 2001.

So, quick, we beseech you, plan a trip to the central coast of California and hit up the Gardens of Avila.

October 13, 2009

The Hot and Cold of It

So, this storm we've got now, is crazy.

On our way back into the house after dinner and movies with bro at the hospital last night, E and I looked up at the orange-grey sky, listened to the hissing and howling wind, and locked eyes before quickly hustling inside. The primal instinct for shelter is strong, even out here in Northern California, where if you live too long, you'll be soft (or so the saying goes).

Last night, our heater did its job. Loudly. Intermittently. But it kept us warm and we felt grateful.

This morning, despite the muffled sounds of the gas flame going on and off and the fan pushing the wonderful hot air through our ducts, I woke before my alarm to the crashing sound of the extremely strong pounding rain. And after examining the alarm clock, I admitted that I should just rise, because the extra 30 minutes trying to go back to sleep would do me no good.

So, I sat in traffic on the freeway in rain that was harder than rain I'd seen in a long time, and in October no less.

E informed me that our laundry-room flooded. He had to climb to the roof and unplug the downspout in the pouring (seriously, like a pitcher) rain. Thankfully, it worked.

Finally, this afternoon, it calmed.

And Northern California, as a whole, is probably better off than it would be had the storm not come. Yes, there were floods, and deaths, and destruction. But water is a source of life, and we were quite low on it up here...

To celebrate, I made salsa verde (because I am a canning maniac...):


Also, in case you were wondering, you can buy 2 lbs of tomatillos at Safeway for $2/lb. Or, you could do what we did this year and grow 0.5 lbs of tomatillos and aunt molly's husk tomatoes including 4 months of work and fertilizer and automatic watering and staking. Yeah... there will be no husk tomatoes in our garden next year. The salsa verde was delicious, but it was 80% purchased tomatillos.

Not to mention, despite the cold outside, the heat of the boiled sauce exploded through the top of our non-air/liquid-tight blender and scalded my left hand. Not a little bit, to be honest. It still hurts an hour later, it's still red, I iced, and I've got it in a towel dipped in cold water but it still feels, now I've got a constant throbbing heat to contrast with the cold of the storm outside...


In short. We are living with many different temperatures these days. Heat of burns and boiling and canning. Cold of rain and the hail I heard hit my office today. Crazy October weather -- sometimes, Indian Summer, and sometimes, this...

Our lives are not our own...

October 11, 2009

Remnants of the Summer Garden

Early this week, I had a cold. So, quite reasonably, brother banned me from visiting. Instead, once I felt better but still had the sniffles, I started to transition the summer garden to the winter garden (while sneezing -- have I mentioned I'm allergic to dust? Yeah... gardening makes perfect sense...).

Due to the end of the tomato plants, we have green tomatoes that didn't quite ripen. We selected 2 pounds of the biggest firmest beauties for deep fried slices sometime this week. So, now, we're just trying to figure out what to do with the rest. We are evaluating between Arvay's Chow-Chow, or our friend S's aunt's pickled green tomatoes, or dilled green tomatoes, but we certainly have enough:


Tonight, after a day at the hospital with bro, I let off some steam (literally) by canning okra pickles, green tomato pickles, cucumber pickles (3 different styles), eggplant pickles, tomato sauce, and just good old-fashioned skinned tomatoes (sorted by color). So far, we are pleased with the results:


And finally, in "oh-happy-day" news, we have lots of sprouts in our flat from the winter gardening class at Love Apple Farm:


Other than that, I must admit, there is very little to report.

October 6, 2009

Indian-inspired Eggplant and Okra

-1/2 lb okra, washed and sliced into 1 cm or thinner rounds
-4 small japanese eggplants, sliced into 1 cm rounds and quartered (or chopped)
-1 white onion, chopped
-2-3 sliced jalapenos
-1 t cumin seeds
-1 T ground turmeric
-1 t ground cumin
-1 t habanero garlic powder (feel free to sub chili powder plus garlic powder, or better yet, a couple cloves of garlic minced and added to be sauteed with the onions, I was just lazy)
-1 t ground coriander
-1 t ground curry powder
-2 T vegetable oil
-1 T dark sesame oil
-2 T slow-roasted tomatoes oil (aka, pre-cooked olive oil with spices of choice and tomato drippings... if not available use olive oil or whatever strikes your fancy)
-3 small tomatoes, chopped (feel free to sub a can of stewed tomatoes, I'm sure it would be fine)
-2 T sea salt

1. Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat and add onions. Sautee briefly and then mix in all dry spices. Cook onions 'til almost translucent and enjoy the aromatic blend.

2. Add okra, sliced jalapenos, and sea salt, stir and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add eggplant. Stir and continue to cook 'til okra is tender and breaks with a spoon. Lower heat to medium/low.

3. Add tomatoes the tomato oil and continue stirring (or, if missing, the can of stewed tomatoes and/or olive oil until the appropriate level of moisture is reached).

4. Stir and continue to cook on medium low until eggplant can be easily pierced in half with a spoon.

5. Turn off and remove from heat. Continue to stir and serve shortly thereafter. Enjoy!
The Big Things

I came home to receive an email where a very close friend let me know that a very close loved one of theirs died today.

So sad. So okay to do whatever it is that humans need to do in the face of such pain.

Similarly, I have several friends who are in the middle of tried-for pregnancies that are going as healthily as could be expected.

So joyous. So understandable why the world is so happy and wonderful for them at this time.

There is life, and there is death. And, in the middle, do we really have any problems? Perhaps the middle is really nothing more than balancing the celebration of life against the fear and hope that we can stave off death, either for ourselves or for our loved ones. But problems? Is this struggle really a problem?

Who knows?

October 4, 2009

Oh, Happy Day of Rest

Sunday is the day that brother gets to rest at the spinal cord rehabilitation facility. He's on a 6-day a week rehab plan. Apparently, they are much more strict than the other two facilities where he's been up until now, and while he's grumpy at their strictness, he's also doing much better.

The day of rest means his friends, family (including his daughter -- yay niece-time!) can come to visit and hang out without him being exhausted from medical treatments and physical therapy. Since he isn't exhausted, unlike most nights when I arrive and have to wake him, he gets to be alert and spend the day hanging out and showing off.

Today, the amount of improvement he displayed since last Sunday is so dramatic that I almost can't believe it -- it's such a large change to have him moved from the Skilled Nursing Facility (basically the ICU) to the rehab floor -- they really work him down there. I was so impressed, that I can't wait to see what next Sunday's show-off skills might be!

Saturday, while brother was in therapy all morning, sister took me to my birthday present: the winter gardening class at Love Apple Farm. It was awesome. I spent the whole morning grinning about the classroom and listening to lectures and demonstrations at the farm while my sister was right there with me. We kept hearing and seeing things that made us happy and looking at each other with huge grins. I took 10 pages of notes, and we each sowed a flat of winter vegetables (which I can't wait to watch germinate!!!). I followed the class with a trip to the nursery with E2 to buy transplants of the winter vegetables I want to plant where it's too late to start 'em from seed. Next weekend, I'll be pulling out more of the garden and putting in the transplants. What a great present!

Also, Cynthia informed me that I should harvest my winter squash now. So I did:


That would be the ridiculous fruits from one butternut squash plant grown from seed that took over our patio and fence, two acorn squash plants grown from seed that never really took off, and two orange kabocha transplants that Cynthia donated to our garden at the Tomato Masters Class that were planted fairly late in the season.

I think we've got enough winter squash to get fairly far into the spring, don't you?

In other news, the summer harvests are truly starting to die down now:


After tonight, assuming the process goes as planned, we will have saved all the tomato seeds we should need for next year (coupled with the new arrivals scheduled to come with Knapp's paste tomato mix pack).

My day of rest?

It started, in truth, with my birthday present on Saturday. After the nursery diversion, we went to E2 & J's where they served us a delicious dinner of pork chops in a mustard-bacon sauce over collard greens:


Then, I took the luxury of going to bed at 10:15 PM (I was proud to make it to the double digits) and I slept all night -- an amazing luxury I hadn't had in at least 10 days, I woke early without a computer or access to my email, and did light easy yoga, drank coffee, went for a walk, and eventually sped up to a gloriously beautiful 8 mile run on the cliffs of Santa Cruz and Capitola with E2, then a late morning shower, a huge brunch at a Santa Cruz institution, and a trip to the hospital to do the day of rest afternoon on the sunny patio with brother, his friends, E, sister, and my neice.

From there, as a bonus, sister and I got to go look at wedding dresses for her in the late afternoon. EVERYTHING looks amazing on her. EVERYTHING! I have no idea how she will choose, but it will be gorgeous.

And now, finally, I'm home. Relaxed. I did the harvest. I took out 1/4 of the plants that need to come out for the winter garden. I'm keeping the transplants alive and the seedlings to germinate moist. I'm hiding from the week of work that is looming ahead.

In short, I had a wonderfully pleasant day of rest that was full of good news and celebration. And I am thankful. If Monday morning's approach could slow, I would not complain.

October 2, 2009

In which we get our kitchen back

We celebrated the return of the kitchen with a night of preparing not only minestrone (see previous post), but also more tomato sauce, and slow roasted tomatoes.


We know we will appreciate the effort when we thaw the sauce or the leftover soup this winter (and we're already enjoying the slow-roasted tomatoes). Plus, we were loathe to let one of the last harvests we'll see this year go to waste:


I've posted several pictures of the *before* of E preparing his mother's slow-roasted tomatoes recipe, because it's so pretty. But, I haven't yet posted pictures of the (almost) final product. It ain't pretty, but damn is it tasty. We're supposed to toss them with pastas, use them as garnish, etc. but often we just eat them as snacks before they can make it into a proper meal:


As for the tomato sauce, my European friend, V, emailed to let me know that the Italians she knows always put a tablespoon of sugar in their sauce. And since our first attempt was too acidic, I thought it might be a good thing to try:


We now have 3 different batches of tomato sauce in the freezer. We shall not want for fresh tomato flavor this winter!
The Pig is a Magical Mythical Animal

Last weekend, we went to a German restaurant with D&K. After a light appetizer of baked brie covered in butter (mmmm....), and a complimentary cup of potato-based chowder followed by a salad, our main courses arrived. In particular, E's order of Schweinehaxen arrived at the table with a deep thud.

As a German acquaintance commented when E spoke of what he had ordered later, "That is quite a piece of meat." E made a valiant effort, but there was much meat and skin left on the bone when he called the battle. So, I promised to take the leftovers and make minestrone.


I hadn't made a proper minestrone since I lived in Italy, actually. And now I can't imagine why I waited so long. It was delicious. It keeps well for leftovers, and I made so much that we were able to freeze half of it for delicious mid-winter thawing!

Spicy Early Fall Minestrone

-1 white onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-4 pieces of bacon, chopped
-1/2 schweinehaxen
-1 can kidney beans
-3 pimiento d'espellette peppers from the garden (which are getting stronger in the late season, and now taste like medium strength jalapenos), sliced into thin rounds
-1 lb small yellow and green summer squash (the tail end of the harvest for the year), washed and chopped into rounds
-1 lb carrots, washed and chopped into rounds
-4 cans chicken broth, 4 cups or more water
-1 lb macaroni noodles
-1 small can tomato paste
-rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil from the garden to taste
-grated hard cheese (optional)

1. Brown bacon
2. Add onions and garlic and cook a few minutes
3. Add broth, beans, schweinehaxen, and herbs and enough water to cover, cook for 10 minutes
4. Add carrots, peppers, and tomato paste cook for 10 minutes, add more water if necessary to keep everything covered
5. Remove the bone and chop the meat and remove the skin/fat before returning the meat chunks to the pot.
6. Add macaroni and more water if necessary, cook 'til noodles are almost done, stirring regularly.
7. Add summer squash, cook for 5 minutes.
8. Remove from heat, serve immediately and top with grated hard cheese (pecorino was fabulous) if you like.


September 27, 2009

Us v. the House

In the last two weeks, we've had the heating element in the oven go out, and the kitchen sink outflow plumbing completely fail (read: no dishwasher, no rinsing of anything, basically, instantaneous kitchen shut-down). Combine this with a moderately busy lawyer schedule, E's start-up, a brother in the hospital, and general life stuff... and well, we've been eating out a bit.

I suspect the house may have harbored some reservations about the modifications we have been discussing. There will be some major changes in the near future. Some of them, like the hardwood floors, were already in the works (in fact, brother was supposed to install the floors the week after the accident...).

But others, like wall removal, doorway widening, and ramps instead of level changes -- I can see why the house was probably a little bit scared and chose to hit us where it could hurt us the most: The Kitchen.

Thankfully, E fixed the oven after diagnosing the heating element problem. The failed element makes a very nice conversation starter.

And then, brother's friend T and his family came to visit brother and stayed with us this weekend (seriously, T&H's 2 children have to be the most well-behaved children I've ever encountered!).

While here, T rebuilt the plumbing for our kitchen sink (primarily from spare parts he just had lying around), explaining along the way exactly how messed-up it had been in the first place. Then, he helped us assess the future construction project.

Finally, while at the hospital visiting brother, T loaned us his truck to go pick up the flooring. In case you were wondering -- it is best not to wear a skirt while borrowing T's truck -- I had to back my back to the seat, grab the oh-shit handle, and hoist myself up with my biceps until my butt hit the seat because to step up to the floorboards would have required my foot to be above my waist...

Anyways, it was a very productive weekend. Several big items with the house were crossed off, and I for one, feel much less overwhelmed now that the kitchen has been fully re-righted. I can only hope that the house agrees.

September 21, 2009

Mas Porno Del Jardin

So... I can't help but wonder what the title above is going to do to my web analytics... (yes, I'm a data nerd.)

Anyways, here are the baked dinner and slow-roasted tomatoes we made in the gas BBQ ('cause the oven is still broken) from last week's harvest (in case you were wondering -- pepperoni, bacon, okra, tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and garlic are a fabulous combination!):


This weekend's harvest was nothing to sneeze at:


So, we decided to make tomato sauce to freeze:


You know, all the tomatoes that will fit, plus garlic, some basil, some olive oil. Boiled down for a while:


And eventually put into containers for the freezer:


Delicious (if a wee bit too acidic, if we are honest -- we will have to bear that in mind and use with carmelized onions, or some other form of sugar to cut it).

In other news, the world's slowest growing plants, the hot peppers, have finally begun to put out a decent harvest (just in time for the cold fall... we shall start earlier next year):


The top one? That's a squash pepper -- it looks like a habanero for a reason. Amazing flavor, but *very* hot. Supposedly we're supposed to leave it 'til it turns red, but even green they have great flavor and almost too much heat, so it's hard to be patient.

The long slightly wrinkled peppers? Yeah, Pimiento D'espelette -- we haven't had the patience to let a single one turn red. They are flavorful, but not very hot at all. More smokey. Complex. I like 'em. E thinks they are useful for fiber.

The jalapenos? Well, if you grow 'em in your garden, they will be hotter than the ones you buy in the store. But effort to reward ratio? It's likely that next year we'll add some other wacky peppers like the squash peppers instead of the jalapenos.

And, I think that's a wrap.

September 20, 2009

Problem Solving

As brother recuperates in the hospital, we've been working on putting together his discharge plan. In doing so, I've found myself in several conversations with mid-level medical professionals who insist that things have to go exactly according to their prescribed plan.

They have no concept of deviation from their plan that would attain the same goals as the plan but would work better for the family.

They are very good at what they do. But they are used to being omnipotent. They control the drugs, the procedures, and the resources that the patients need. When they say no, the patient has no choice. They are not encouraged to think creatively, or to seek alternate solutions, and so their world is composed of many statements that sound like "either you do this, or there is failure."

Except, a family putting together a plan to take care of a quadriplegic may not have the exact resources and situation that their discharge plan considers must be in place. We are very committed to getting his needs met, but we cannot make it work according to their standard model. Getting them to understand this has been extremely frustrating. They consider our "that's not going to work for us" statements as "we want to fail" rather than "how can we find an alternate solution?"

Before going this process, I never appreciated just how creative being a lawyer is. Every day I work, I get to listen to people who can't agree, I try to understand the end goals, the real concerns, and then I get to think and to try to help them find solutions that address each of their needs in a way that everyone can live with.

This problem solving process is very similar to how engineers solve problems. Engineers go back to the basic principles of what they are trying to achieve and then think of the myriad ways they *might* be able to achieve it. I think, prior to this hospital experience, I assumed that the problem solving skills I regularly see deployed in the business world were similar to how medical professionals solved problems as well. It appears, from observation, that doctors still follow a process that is somewhat similar to the one I use every day. But, the majority of the folks you interact with during a typical day at the hospital are not doctors. And many of them are not empowered to seek solutions that have not been pre-approved, so those folks appear to be very uncomfortable brainstorming or exploring alternate options.

In fact, many of them are actually unable to accept that something on their checklist is completely unfeasible. It is fascinating to watch. When the checklist is cut off, so is their ability to do their job. They must seek senior approval for everything, so the process grinds to a halt.

In short, this hospital experience has made me very grateful for the creative aspects of my job.

September 17, 2009

Gigantic Summer Squash Lasagna-esque Casserole

So, after discussing it with R, I found a delicious use for the huge cocozelle squash from the belated harvest (picture in the post below).

-Huge summer squash, washed and sliced into 1/2 cm strips with the skin on until the center is reached (throw out the center of seeds and dry material).
-5 large tomatoes from the garden, washed and chopped
-1 lb white mushrooms, washed and sliced
-1 lb lean ground beef (we used 90% lean)
-5 pieces of bacon, chopped
-1 white onion, chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 C basil
-3 sprigs marjoram
-3 sprigs oregano
-1 T salt
-1 huge brick of mozzarella, sliced
-1/2 C parmigiano, grated

1. Layer the squash slices in the pan, skin side down, creating a full layer
2. Brown bacon, sautee onions and garlic, brown beef
3. Add mushrooms to meat and cook for 2 minutes
4. Add tomatoes and salt and cook down until the meat sauce is a pastey consistency
5. Layer meat sauce over the squash
6. Layer mozarella slices over the meat sauce
7. Chop herbs with parmigiano in the cuisinart and sprinkle over the top of the mozzarella layer
8. Bake at 375/400 for approximately an hour until the cheese layer has melted and browned to golden brown in places.
9. Allow to cool and serve immediately.


September 13, 2009

Belated Harvest

With everything that has been going on in our lives, E and I have not been paying too much attention to the garden.

But, this year, we were much more professional than in years past, so we have an irrigation system (plus it's *raining* right now, weird!).

Turns out, that even as your life is spiraling into its own random course, the garden, if properly planted, fertilized and watered, will continue to grow in your absence.

This morning, I finally had time to harvest after about 3 weeks of neglect (this was the haul minus the bag I packed up for E2, and without any okra, radishes, or cucumbers, all of which are also ripe):


Yes, I will be giving away some serious gift tomatoes at work tomorrow...

This awesome harvest is very unfortunately timed, as the heating element in our oven took the liberty of entertaining us with a very spectacular failure yesterday evening. I wish, in hindsight, that we had taken pictures, but at the time, we were watching the arc travel the filament despite the oven being turned off with E at the ready with a fire extinguisher, so the camera was nowhere near the top of our list. Bummer -- this would have been a good week to return to the slow-roasted tomatoes... And, of course, while I'd scheduled a weekend to can at the G's as they recovered from burning man, somehow that didn't make the cut due to our other obligations (duh!). So, we're stuck with entirely too many tomatoes. I suspect I'll find a way to turn this problem into a blessing. Perhaps I'll have to make and freeze sauce...

Anyways, in case you couldn't tell from the larger picture, one of the hilarious things about the garden is what happens to small-to-medium sized summer squash when left on the vine entirely too long:


Yes. That is my arm for scale.

So, the moral of the story is that a well-tended garden will just keep growing and producing in September even if you completely neglect it. No matter what else is going on in your life, the garden will grow.

I find this very comforting.

September 12, 2009

A Moment-to-Moment Existence

In times of trauma, I'm always surprised that I do not lose my ability to laugh. Instead, my sense of beauty and thrill at the good things is heightened.

Fun, and love, and happiness exist in the midst of sadness, heartbreak, and frustration. Rather than being a betrayal of life and the strength of our connections to others to recognize them, celebrating these momentary flashes of brightness and light in the midst of the darkness is, to me, the best example of the gorgeous complexity of the human existence.

The gift of difficult situations is that they give you an opportunity, if you are willing to take it, to strengthen your ability to enjoy life.
Modern Conveniences

My Brother is now at his second hospital -- in the trauma rehabilitation facility where they are working to get him in good enough shape to go to the spinal cord rehabilitation ward.

They have wireless at this hospital, too.

I must say, while being at the hospital to support loved ones is never easy, it is, actually, a bit easier to manage with access to the Internet.

I'm very thankful to the various powers that manage hospitals for implementing this convenience -- it means I can be more supportive and more physically present than I otherwise would be able to be.

September 10, 2009

An Insightful Perspective

So, for at least ten years now, I've spent some of my waking hours of each day trying to be more buddhist in my approach to life. Which, of course, is hilarious, because much of the *trying* is antithetical to the buddhist approach to life.

But, the nice thing is, over the years, through the effort of trying to be more mindful, accepting, understanding, patient, and fully alive in the moment, I've actually made some progress in these areas. And I am a bit more balanced, relaxed, and mellow.

Within the last year, however, I realized that some of these efforts had caged me in and put me in situations that were not good for me. So, I've been trying to learn how to draw boundaries in a zen-like manner, which is, for me, very, very, difficult. I'm very good at drawing boundaries in a confrontational, non-compassionate way. But compassionate boundaries? Yeah, those are hard to define.

So, I very much appreciated and agreed with Havi's latest post.

In particular, I thought this was a good explanation for the concept I've been working through:

Arriving at the point where someone’s hurtful behavior doesn’t hurt you doesn’t mean that you just let people throw shoes.

You’re totally allowed to stand up for yourself and explain to people why shoe-throwing is not cool. In fact, because you know it doesn’t have anything to do with you, you feel safe and comfortable saying, “Hey, we don’t throw shoes here.”

It’s just that at the same time, you remember that this is about their stuff, that people are allowed to think what they think, and that you don’t have to interact with the ones who are into tossing shoes around.

For a long time, I thought I had to accept the hurtful behavior and work through my issues, because obviously, if I let it hurt me, I needed to continue to work on my stuff. Which is true. But I didn't realize that true acceptance of others for who they are (without judgment or any negative feelings towards them) doesn't necessarily mean that I have to seek them out.

It's a very freeing realization and I look forward to where it leads me in my life.

September 9, 2009

Summer Remnant Bulgur

Last night, I stayed the night with my sister. I composed the leftovers (from her garden's harvests and a BBQ we'd had on Sunday) into dinner and we were both pleased with how delicious it was:

-2 large heirloom tomatoes (from her garden, getting soft, chopped)
-1/8 of the world's largest zucchini (from her garden, also starting to wilt just a wee bit, chopped)
-1/2 lb. BBQ tri-tip, chopped
-2 cubes beef boullion
-2.5 cups bulgur
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 T dijon mustard
-olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a sautee pan and sautee garlic and mustard for 1 minute.
2. Add bulgur and stir until coated.
3. Add tomatoes, stir and boil off a bit of the liquid.
4. Add boullion cubes, zucchini, and 2-3 cups water, bring to a simmer
5. Cook and stir until the water is almost evaporated. Add the tri-tip, stir, turn off heat and cover for 5 minutes.
6. Fluff bulgur and serve immediately.


September 5, 2009

Editing Legal Contracts in Word

I'm chilling in the ICU watching brother sleep peacefully and doing some work (because the hospital has free wireless!).

Currently, I'm spending hours going through a 48 page contract that has 12 versions of edits in track changes. No one wanted to man-up and do the work to accept or reject the trail to create a clean version.

Technically, with our last call and responding document, we all agreed that it was the other side's responsibility to respond to our draft with a clean version.

Instead, their in-house counsel populated the document with oh-so-helpful comments attached to every change, like, "We accept this edit," or "We reject this edit."



Why, if you were in-house counsel, would you not just click accept or reject? Why create a comment and type it in? It was more work for them and now it's more work for me because I have to both accept or reject, AND delete the comments.

My client is not going to like the billable hours total on this project...

August 31, 2009

Don't Dive in Rivers

My brother dived off an 8-foot high pillar two Saturdays ago into the American River. The same bridge he'd been diving off his whole life. He was there with friends and their families -- many children were diving as well. A few times, like those before him (including those from much higher heights), he thought it was fun.

Then, he hit a sand bar with his head.

He broke the spinal process of C2, burst-fractured C6 with retropulsion and fractured C7.

He is currently paralyzed from the chest down and doesn't have fine motor control in his hands.

He recently kicked his first fight with pneumonia, which is likely to be one of many given the lack of enervation in his abdominal muscles (which you may recall, are sore from coughing, when you or I are sick).

He was *very* *very *very* lucky not to drown, and remembers thinking it was all over. But, he was lucky. Several of his friends dived in to fish him out and swim him to the bank when he couldn't move. On-site coast guard and army medic friends directed the log-rolling and neck-stabilization. Another friend stood on the top of his truck to get cell service to call 911. 15 guys who helped climb and pass him up the hill when the life-flight arrived and realized there was no trail to carry the backboard up the hill.

So, if you will excuse my silence, I'm busy dealing with family stuff, work stuff, and balance. You know, life stuff.

But I'll be back when I can.

I have two requests:

1. Please enjoy life when you can. Fully.

2. Please send whatever good thoughts, wishes, prayers, meditations, or whatever else you can spare.

With love and thanks,

August 19, 2009

Losing my Anonymity

So, I'm considering joining the kids.

You know, the open, non-private, freakishly free kids.

And, I'm thinking of creating a non-fake account on facebook, where I admit who I am.

And, I'm thinking of linking to this blog. So, I'm scouring the last 7 years, to make sure I'm okay with this.


Anyways -- it turns out, all I'm really doing in cleaning up my old posts is tagging old posts with labels, because I'm actually okay with everything I've posted in the months I've encountered (so far).

But one of the more interesting things I've encountered is how much my current self agrees with my past self (duh!).

And I'm pleased that my 2003 self correctly predicted that the SCO lawsuit would still be going when I graduated (and 3 years later).

August 17, 2009


If you are looking to read something interesting on information overload -- this May Article from New York Magazine is fascinating:

“You can’t be happy all the time,” Gallagher tells me, “but you can pretty much focus all the time. That’s about as good as it gets.”


Where you allow your attention to go ultimately says more about you as a human being than anything that you put in your mission statement,” he continues. “It’s an indisputable receipt for your existence. And if you allow that to be squandered by other people who are as bored as you are, it’s gonna say a lot about who you are as a person.

Interesting stuff.

August 16, 2009

Summer = Tomatoes

For me, Summer is tomatoes. Tomatoes are summer. And that's pretty much it.

So last week's harvest made me very happy, and confirmed that it was Summer, my favorite season:


And E making his mother's slow-roasted tomatoes made me even more jubilant, and reminded me that it was still Summer, still my favorite season (mmm... if only you could slow roast without the oven in the Summer...):


Gazpacho? Yet more proof of the awesomeness of Summer, and why it's my favorite season:


And Caprese? Is there anything more indicative of Summer? Seriously? Italian anything and tomatoes? That's just the essence of Summer:


And camping, this weekend? Yeah, that's Summer. But even moreso is returning to this harvest:


And, from the harvest, I was inspired to make a Summer soup. The only ingredients not from our garden? Salt, olive oil, and a red bell pepper.

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

First, slice tomatoes into 1 cm steaks, and layer in a baking pan. Then, top with sliced peppers from the garden (Pimiento D'espellette and jalapenos) and garlic from the dried harvest. If you are lucky, some random genetic mutation may have happened in your garlic harvest, and you can just use *one* clove (i.e. not a head of cloves, just one). The largest clove you've ever seen:


After the garlic, add strips of a red bell pepper and sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and bake for 20 minutes at 350:


Turn and mix the tomatoes, and allow to bake for another 20-30 minutes. Puree in a blender. Serve into bowls and top with minced basil. Enjoy!


August 11, 2009

And You Thought You Had Money Problems

The allegations about the final financial shenanigans at now-defunct Heller Ehrman (a local law firm that had been around since the late 1890s) are shocking.

Many of the partners have moved on to other firms since its spectacular unraveling, but if the Bankruptcy Committee gets its way, they may be required to pay back some $106 Million in distributions made to them or on their behalf.

In terms of scale, this is nothing compared to the big banks failing. But, what's amazing to me is that partners, who ostensibly are the owners in control of (and personally liable for) a legal business, could be receiving checks in the high hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions without any insight into the accounting of the money they are receiving.

Apparently, one of the last distributions was put on the books as a "Shareholder Loan" but when the accountants tried to notify the shareholders (partners), they were requested not to do so.

So, basically, there are probably over 100 ex-heller partners who thought they were receiving their profit share, but actually received a "loan."


August 9, 2009

Food and Garden Update

The plants are growing like mad -- every weekend there's work to be done to catch up -- harvesting, pruning, spraying, weeding, pulling up old plants. Our butternut squash is taking over the fence:


We've had two more great harvests since the last one:


(Chrysanthemum greens, a gift plant from Cynthia, are a tasty addition to tomato salads).


(The lame-looking cucumber is just a little dirty on a white spot -- he tasted great. The troubled tiny squash, however, yeah, he went straight to the compost.)

And, from these harvests we've made many delicious meals -- BBQ pizzas are a regular treat (no dishes!), plus tomato salads galore.

Also, C introduced us to the awesomeness that is quark by showing up with lemon quark and garlic quark.

We took the leftovers and made a delicious garlic quark squash risotto:


And here are some sliced Romano Squash to be baked with red onions on top that were marinated in olive oil and herbs:


Eventually, they were joined with baked tomatoes and a mini pizza for each of us topped with harvested goodness:


Have I mentioned how much I love the summer garden?

August 8, 2009

Random Odds and Ends

-Did anyone else notice that it rained one random morning this week? Weird.

-Apparently, El Niño is coming this year.

-E and I were out and about in the East Bay 'til 12:30 PM AM tonight/this morning -- that's got to be pushing it for the year. We stay up late. But we are never up late *away* from home. We're much too violently uncool for *that*.

-I ran intervals on the treadmill at a sub-7-minute-mile pace for the first time in at least a year this week. Woo hoo!

-I get to work quite a bit this weekend. It would appear that I am, in fact, despite the economy's best efforts, an overworked lawyer.

August 4, 2009

Some Beautiful Goals

I haven't trained for a race in a long time. My runs have ranged between 12 - 30 miles per week, and I ran a leisurely, not really trained half in April, but really, the last race I *trained* for was the San Francisco Marathon, over a year ago. [Update: I actually forgot about the Forest of Nicene Marks Half I ran with E2 in June, but I think that makes my point about how seriously I've been training...]

So, to counteract that, I've registered for two local, gorgeous fall races with the hopes of actually getting back into training:

My favorite local fall half marathon (that I haven't missed in well over 4 or 5 years now)


The Big Sur Half -- which has been on my todo list for quite some time.

Here's to hoping that the long term goals will help me find some short term focus (something that has been lacking...)

And, if I'm doing really well, I just may dig deep and find it within myself to register for the Atlanta Marathon (and if not, definitely the half).

July 29, 2009

More Garden Porn

Today, a mere three (3!) days after my last garden post, we're thrilled to brag about our harvest. In fact, we're even proud of everything that is not tomato-related, which is impressive, since we're like 70% tomato-focused. Regardless, this is what I harvested from the non-tomato plants today, and I couldn't help but think...yummm!


Altogether, however, our tomato-based harvest outweighs the rest:


Let's celebrate the squash (the striped green and the yellow), the misshapen red onion (ahhh... the adorable foibles of the un-knowledgeable gardner) and its perfect small red onion companion (planted by a more knowledeable gardner 1-2 seasons later...), the garlic, the okra (seriously, you are missing out if you don't have okra in your life), the eggplant (hell yeah!), the cucumber, and of course, after all of this, we'll get to the tomatoes.

First: Our cherry and small size tomato harvest has begun to reach epic proportions. I dare you to declare otherwise:


Second: Our larger slicing tomato selection has started to become educational:


In order, starting at the top left, we have:

- 2 stiletz tomatoes (why? why did I grow these? I have plenty of sun and heat?); followed by
- 1 brandywine red lantis (so sweet. Smaller than expected, but we may save seeds and grow again, nonetheless).
- 1 thessoloniki waiting for full ripeness. If I can, I'll post photos of the slices.
- Next row: 1 super marzano (paste); 1 marvel stripe (gorgeous when sliced, can't wait), 2 orange russian 117 (oxheart/pear-shaped!!! woo-hoo!); 1 white oxheart.
- Last row: 2 black krim (purple black); 2 black from tula (lighter brown-black); 2 Paul Robeson (full chocolate black)

Finally, I am disturbed by the beauty of red current -- it produces much teensy tiny, impossible to harvest, frustrating fruit. Delicious, but annoying fruit that refuses to ripen on the same schedule and each one is entirely too small to deal with. And yet, how gorgeous is she?


July 26, 2009

Tomato Time is Coming!

We aren't at full production, but we're definitely seeing ripe fruit on at least half of the varieties. Today's harvest was impressive:


It inspired me to make an all-tomato lunch. E and I each had the pleasure of tasting and comparing large slices from several beauties:


In clockwise order, that's White Oxheart, Thessoloniki, Ananas Noir, Kentucky Beefsteak, Brandywine Red Lantis, Green Zebra, and Black Krim. All delicious. E's favorite for taste was Thessoloniki, then Brandywine Red Lantis, then White Oxheart. I couldn't decide between White Oxheart, Ananas Noir, or Black Krim for overall taste, but truly, they are all excellent, it just depends on what you want (more/less acidity, more/less gel sacs, seeds, or meat, more/less sugar).

This year, Cynthia introduced me to the awesomeness that is oxheart tomatoes -- pointed on the end and shaped more like a bell pepper, often with whispy droopy foliage. Thanks to her glowing reviews, we're growing several: White Oxheart, Orange Russian 117, Sweet Horizon, and Japanese Black Trifele.

So far, White Oxheart is the only plant that has ripe fruit:


What a pleasure -- the fruit production is prolific, and they are slightly sweet with medium acid. The best part, though, is that while they are the size of a beefsteak, they have the consistency of a paste tomato (lots of meat, little seeds). In other words, we look forward to roasting these, slicing them for sandwiches (won't make the bread soggy!), and eating 'em easily with a knife and fork all summer -- if there are too many at the end, they'll make great fried green tomatoes and sauces.