September 25, 2006

It begins

I started my job today. Weird. Some people that used to work there are gone. Others are new. People have moved offices. But other than that, not much is different.

I have hours at the office, where I am paid to do work. Then, I come home and I don't have to do work. Today, "work" involved filling out a bajillion forms and figuring out how to login to a million different accounts. Someday, work will involve stress and tasks that are too complex to complete in the allocated time. Despite my best efforts, I will probably bring them home and take them with me when I'm "not at work."

But not today. Today was a fresh beginning full of possibility. And it's been a long time since my time was worth money to others and I didn't feel like they were bribing me. Somehow, the rest of my time, which I chose not to sell today (there were no buyers -- first day!) and took home with me tonight was all the more precious. Mine. Gloriously all mine. It was a feeling I haven't felt in years, and most certainly not one I've felt in the last 6 months.

I can't wait to read another book in my spare time.

September 24, 2006

Familiar Territory

Saturday, I wanted dessert.

But, since we haven't been home for 6 weeks, we didn't really have ingredients to make anything in the house. All of the perishables had long since been banished. No cream. No milk. No eggs. It's kind of hard to bake dessert without eggs.

Or so I thought, 'til I had the awesome thought of: RICE PUDDING. I looked up the recipe in my trusty HTBADG and was pleased to find instructions like, "throw in the muscat (much as you would wine in a risotto)". Ah-hah! Rice pudding is like risotto, not baking. You can experiment and estimate and it doesn't go limp and die. Instead it'll turn out fine. So, in celebration of a delicious dessert, cooking in my own kitchen for friends, and improvising with the random bits I found in the pantry, I present:

Rice Pudding From the Kitchen Without Perishables

1 can condensed milk (replaced the 2 1/4 cups whole milk)
1 can coconut milk (replaced the 1 1/4 cups heavy cream)
Slightly more than 1/2 a cup of sugar
Slightly more than 1/2 a cup of sushi rice (didn't have arborio)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (keeps in the fridge, thankfully)
1 - 1.5 cups of sherry (replaced the muscat)
nutmeg and cinnamon (replaced the fresh nutmeg)
1 capful of vanilla (why not?)

Preheat oven to 300F. Melt butter over medium heat in a casserole dish. Toss in rice and coat for a minute or two. Add sherry and cook down. Add condensed milk, coconut milk, bring to a low boil. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Remove from heat. Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Bake for an hour or so. Could probably stand even longer in the oven. Remove from the heat and let cool/set. Serve in bowls with spoons. Mmmmm...

September 23, 2006

Two things I did that were smart

1. I bought the double issue of People entitled "best dressed." I had ample time to whip it out over the last couple of days while sitting in banks and waiting for clerks to verify that all the estate paperwork was in order. Yay adorable clothes. Boo 2.5 hours to close and transfer a bank account.

2. I don't really enjoy shopping, so I tend to do it on-line for immediate needs and once or twice a year for the big closet upkeep. Unbeknownst to me, I decided to use the birthday gift certificate that E's parents sent me for Ann Taylor during their "wardrobing event." Apparently, twice a year AT sends out invitations to certain AT shoppers. When you go in, they bring the clothes to you in your size while you wait in the dressing room. "Do you like this or this?" My girl was very good at figuring out my preferences from my rejections and made a few recommendations I wouldn't have tried that I ended up buying. Plus, if you spend money during the event, you get discounts up to 25% depending on how much you spend. Better service and lower prices? Count in me.

So, I spent less than I normally do on the big shopping trip, only hit one store, and now have a decent wardrobe of winter/fall work clothes (which I needed since I haven't worked in the winter since I externed for the judge during 2L). Woo hoo!

September 20, 2006

Good News, Bad News

Ahhh... my life is pseduo-normal today. I spent the majority of the day sorting through estate crap, writing up and filling out legal documents, researching tax crap and reading, reading, reading. I even made homemade italian dinner from scratch (which was particularly impressive given the bare state of our kitchen cabinets!) But, at the end of the night, I had to admit that something had gone wrong.

After almost 2 years, today, I finally managed to kill my widget (aka the Garmin Forerunner 201). I recall the documentation saying that it was waterproof. Something about 30 and 1. Like 30 meters for 1 hour. Or 1 meter for 30 minutes. Or something. Whatever, I took it in the water whenever I went after a run and it was great -- it even told me how far I swam.

But, it has exposed copper at the junction to the charger. So, really, I should have known better than to take it in the ocean even once. Salt water and corrosion, yeah I recall something about that from my materials science class. Instead, I dunked it in the Pacific and the Atlantic from California to Australia, not to mention from Mexico (3 times) to Hawaii.

Unfortunately, the battery doesn't want to hold a charge that well after this last bit of vacation. D-E-A-D upon arrival. But I charged it like crazy upon return and went for my run this morning. It seemed to work, but then, well, it kind of made this *screaming* noise when I try to turn it off. Apparently, it now screams 'til it's no longer charged.

So, yeah, its time has come. But it was easily the best $120 I spent in the last 2 years -- the return on investment was ridiculous. So I just figured I'd just get a new one.

The good news:

Thanks to my new buddy John Sun, I will be buying an upgrade. Garmin Forerunner 205, here I come. John addressed so many of my concerns -- the form factor (it's more comfortable!); the accuracy (it's an improvement, which is much appreciated, E and I lost the sattelites in the trees on our hike up the sleeping giant and I couldn't say with certainty whether we were near the top or not. This did not go over well since I didn't bring the water and the cloud cover wasn't cooperating for what was later termed, "the death march.") Anyways, back to the 205, the web-interface software with mapping and training capabilities has advanced substantially since I last looked at it. Add USB synching and well, I'm excited. I feel like I may be returning to a life where I have hobbies.

Ahh, the sweetness of tech gadgetry to pursue a hobby (here's to hoping that I may be able to continue in this vein once I am a lawyer).
Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe...

I think I forgot about the breathing part for a while back there. Thankfully, the beauty of Hawaii reminded me that I needed to take some time out.

Sure, I'm back and already overloaded with family issues, estate issues, my soon to be start as a proto-lawyer, my husband's new career, the slow crumbling of the relationships that I haven't had the emotional strength to tend to, a stack of bills a mile high, and more.

But, for a week there, after some false starts, I remembered how to chill. Every morning (except one), I slept until I couldn't anymore. Then I ran along the crashing surf of Kauai and Oahu (a different beach each day!). I'd jump in the ocean to cool off. I'd shower and eat to start the day with my husband.

On the most decadent days, the entire day with the husband meant lazing by the pool, listening to the surf, and at times beckoning adorable waiters to bring me another mojito while reading. I escaped via a spy novel, a delightfully trashy and surprisingly feminist paperback drama, and half of a hilarious childhood memoir (that I can't wait to finish). I also need to finish the classic Flatland, which I started and found entertaining until I acquired "Lipstick Jungle." Somehow, maybe because Candace Bushnell is that entertaining, or maybe it was the help of the mojitos, but regardless of how, I managed to completely forgot about the math book 'til the plane ride home.

I also enjoyed meals with E. I enjoyed time *alone* with E. I enjoyed myself.

While Mexico was great, it was emotionally draining to be doing my Dad's favorite activity with my siblings. It was necessary and fun, but it felt more like a stepping stone in the grieving process than a vacation. Hawaii, on the other hand, actually did relax me.

Good thing, too. I think I might have been approaching the "too wound up" state. The about to implode from the pressure state. I could feel it on the horizon. It was scaring me, keeping me up at night, making me worry and work hard, every moment. The horizon, it turns out, is much prettier when it's just surf.

And now, my friends, I return to the long lists and responsibilities from which I needed escape. But I do so tan, relaxed, and broke. One of the interviewers for OCI told me that no matter what else I did, I should be sure to show up for my first day of work as a lawyer broke and tan. I am happy to say that I will be doing so.

And the take home lesson is: No matter how hard I must pull, let me please remember to breathe, no matter what.

September 11, 2006


Eddie Murphy raw is an excellent sample of the 80's. His act includes pop-culture references of the day. His purple leather suit and black finger gloves... damn.

And of course, the fashion in the audience. Wow. Vintage 1987. Amazing.

Okay, I fell asleep 1/4 of the way through. That's why I have not much to say about the actual content. E told me it was funny but not hilarious.

I was exhausted last night. My sister, brother and I packed and moved my Father's house this weekend. My sister had been living there so we moved her as well. Plus, there were extended-family drama/issues that we needed to discuss. By the end of the weekend, everyone was physically tired, emotionally drained, and pretty sick of one another. But it's a big relief to have it done. In a week or two we won't be sick of one another and we'll be able to hang out without the weight of Dad's stuff hanging over our heads.

Soon, very soon, I will have a pseudo-normal life. I will go to work. I will come home and cook dinner with food that I bought. I will sleep in my own bed. I will have a regular work out schedule.

September 5, 2006


The weight of the world has moved, at least partially, from my shoulders to my stomach and butt. Vacation. You didn't do it right if you don't gain weight. That's what I always say.

A week in playa del carmen was just what the doctor ordered.

We spent two days in an all-inclusive resort in order to stay at the same hotel as sister and brother. Weird, but fun, and glad we experienced it. Instead of the frat party we feared we found a 20- and 30-something Euro-American party. Made lots of friends. The all-you-can eat food and drink were approximately the quality you'd expect -- not so great.

We spent the remaining time in one of 6 condos in a small building in downtown PDC. The star of the vacation was the outdoor shower on the balcony. E probably took 10 showers on the hottest day. I wasn't far behind him in number. We'd get wet, dry off in the heat and stare at the lights of Cozumel over the ocean while listening to the surf.

Deep sea fishing was wonderful. It's powerful: the ocean, the storms, the fish (I caught a barracuda and an darkfin jack), you, and the wind. There's not much space for stress. I can see why it was one of my dad's favorite things to do.

We also spent one day driving around Quintana Roo and Yucatan. Toll roads through the jungle between Cancun and Chichen Itza? $23 US. Open roads back via Tulum -- no tolls, a bit more time, but much more to see including many mayan villages selling their wares. Unfortunately, chichen Itza was closed to the climbers on the day we were there. But, it was probably for the best since it was a billion degrees and 1000% humidity. Had we climbed, we probably would have been the next sacrifices to Quetzalcoatl.

Another day, we took the ferry from PDC to Cozumel. The ferry was much more modern than the last time I took a ferry between Oakland and San Francisco. We expected Cozumel to be horrifically touristy and over-developed. We were surpised to find that the majority of the island is undeveloped and that the downtown is fairly small. We found that PDC was much more bustling and tourist-laden than Cozumel, which was counter to what we'd heard from previous visitors. During our vacation, I spoke to several people who live and work in PDC and apparently it is changing at a very rapid pace. The bartender at one of the bars told me that you wouldn't recognize today's PDC against the one of 5 years ago. The women who did my manicure at the spa told me that she didn't know the population of PDC, but that it was shrinking every year and that soon she wouldn't be able to afford to live in town despite growing up there. What was particularly striking to me was the amount of private, all-inclusive, compound/resort developments. They have guards. You check in. You experience the resort version of Mexico that they provide you with, and you leave. You may not give any money back to the local community if you make all of your purchases at the resort.

Mornings when we had nothing planned, I'd do my favorite thing: run in the sun and then jump in the ocean. E would also do his favorite thing: sleep. Other than that we ate and we were lazy. We took lots of balcony showers. We read. We learned about the hurricane after it decided not to hit us. In short, vacation.

Finally, because I live for food, for those who are interested, I present my favorite meals:

1. The barbacoa shack just outside of Cancun city on the 385(?). E2 had raved about barbacoa for so long that I just pulled the car over. I think sister and E were a little scared by the shack and the lack of menus, but they were polite and waited to pass judgment. We navigated the all verbal menu and ordered barbacoa tacos, nopales and beer. We received a soup that was to die for and two tacos of heaven each. The nopales were raw, so we erred on the side of safety and didn't eat 'em. (FYI: Another surprise was that driving through downtown Cancun, away from the beach resorts, felt much more like Mexico than navigating the ever-expanding euro-american town of downtown PDC)

2. The hole-in-the wall taqueria outside of PDC center that we found with our new-found Belgian food-aid friend. E probably got sick from the Chorizo tacos since the next day he was a little rough, gastrointestinally-speaking. But, he said it was worth it. I had a stuffed potato (beef, chorizo, cheese, fresh cream instead of butter for some reason and chives) and it was heavenly. I swear, Mexican taqueria food is my favorite food in the world. Good thing I live in California.

3. The Italian-run restaurant just outside the front door called "La Siesta." I stopped in for take-out the night after E got sick from everyone's number one restaurant recommendation (La Cueva del Chango -- if you think the Tuna's bad, it probably is). I chatted with the manager and he recommended papas al horno y sopa de verduras. He was friendly and helped me with my spanish while I waited for the food. E was better the next day. As a gesture of thanks, we went back on our last night. The salsa was this wonderfully Italian take on salsa: it tasted like cooked down tomatoes, spiced with oregano, and pureed with habaneros and olive oil. It was amazing on the chips. We chatted with the manager again and ordered pizza and grilled octopus. Yes, it was Mexico. But the Italians just do the best damn food -- so we compromised, I had a "mexican pizza" and E had grilled octopus, which we decided was a local catch even if it was prepared in the Italian style.

4. The gazpacho and margarita lunch we had on La Quinta at 2 PM one lazy afternoon. It was siesta. We were the only ones in the restaurant. We watched the town slowly wake up and come alive. The tourists took to the streets and we listened to the melodious mixture of Italian, French, Spanish, English, German and Northern European languages. Then we went home, took a shower on the balcony, and relaxed some more.

5. The "La Parilla" stereotypically mexican grill dinner with brother and sister. Yes, they cater to tourists. But they also make damn good nopales and beef tacos. Arrachera Monterrey was awesome too. But the local bacon-wrapped shrimp specialty in an orange-colored tangy sauce made at the table with tequila, etc. was the winner. Plus, we had tall beers. It was a fun stereotypically touristic experience.

6. Ignoring that E got sick from the Tuna, La Cueva del Chango was good too. The appetizers were amazing. We were prepared for it to be our favorite meal. Grilled curd cheese in olive oil with oregano and the habanero cream soup both were crowd-pleasers. But the dinner was a bit of a let down after that. Just okay. Except for E, who got sick. Plus, there were many bugs that ate sister and E alive. Overall, just not the awesome experience that everyone promised it to be. But cute, and fun, and if I could do it again, I'd eat nothing but appetizers.