September 30, 2007

Step Up

This weekend, I ran a 25K with over 2100 feet of elevation change. At 16K, I seriously considered stopping. Stubborn, the "You signed up to do the whole thing" side of me won the fight and I pressed on, crossing into the place where you have to mentally force yourself to do things that your body really doesn't want to do.

It's good practice for life, really.

But, boy am I sore.

And tired.

Regardless, it was a good hurdle to clear. My successful, if slow, completion, confirmed it for me. If I continue to be disciplined, I should be in good enough shape to continue in my plan to complete marathon number 2.

It's official. I am registered to run the oh-so-slightly-downhill California International Marathon.

So, yeah. Expect many posts of long runs. More mileage, more sleep, and, of course, completing the circle, more hunger, which means more food.

And, given that there are only 24 hours in the day, I guess that means I'm gonna have to do less work.

I like it...


September 28, 2007

Survival of the fittest

Sometimes I wonder how certain genetic traits survived in my bloodline 'til now.

For example, I can wear glasses, contacts, and get laser surgery. But my predecessors would have just been blind.

As in too blind to see the Saber Tooth Tiger.

And, of course, I have a ridiculous pain tolerance. Which, I'm certain probably allowed my ancestors to survive many of the injuries they received from stuff they couldn't see.

But, the pain tolerance has drawbacks too. How so? You might ask.

Well, the roof of my mouth is blistered this morning. From the dinner that was too hot to eat. It felt hot in my mouth, but I was very hungry. So, despite E, who I know to be a much better judge of these things saying, "this is too hot to eat," I still shoveled it into my mouth.

Maybe it was my ancestors' uncanny ability to sit close enough to the fire to get burned without realizing it that saved them from the animal attacks and warriors they couldn't see coming.

September 24, 2007

They pull weather

This weekend, E2 and I headed to gorgeous pismo beach for a weekend of relaxation, running, wine tasting, food, and, most importantly for me, visiting my grandma.

First, I'd just like to say that I'm very blessed on the family side of things, and I know it, and I'm very thankful. I had the luck of having healthy progenitors, all in the same state, where I lived, and they all wanted to be a part of my life. I was the oldest grandchild who knew all 4 of her grandparents from birth and I also spent time on a regular basis with two of my great-grandparents, including great grandma Tommy (her last name was Thomas), who with the help of gran feeding her every day, held on 'til the ripe old age of 103 in my early 20's. I still remember asking for time off work to go to her funeral. My boss was so amazed and incredulous at my matter of fact statement of need for emergency family vacation and the reason. It was the first time when I realized that my family's close-knit connection through the generations might not be something everyone else enjoyed. "Your great-grandmother?" "103?" "Really?"

As a child, I was raised to think that vacations meant a visit to each of my grandparents on a regular basis. If not a visit, then an opportunity to meet up with them outside of their hometowns. Occasionally, we might vacation without grandparents, but that was only after we'd spent enough time with them that year that the vacation without them was easy to justify.

These days, as I slowly ease my way into my third decade of life, my grandmother, my father's mother, and the wife to my papa is my sole living grandparent. I know my grandma very well. She's been a major part of my life since my birth. She's a friend that I do my best to call weekly (which, these days, means I speak to her more than the majority of my closest friends) and a root that helps me understand where I come from. She's also a stubborn, hilarious, sharp, but focused (sometimes at the expense of the bigger picture) character of a woman, who, when R met her for the first time, made R say, "Wow. You are so much like your grandma. I now see where so many of your personality qualities that I never saw in either of your parents come from."

I've been very busy with the juggling of the lawyer gig, lately. So much so that I didn't take a proper beach vacation all summer, and I hadn't taken any time to go visit my grandmother since last October. Conveniently, my grandmother lives near one of the most gorgeous beaches in California.

Even more conveniently, E2 was willing to join me for a girls' weekend in Pismo where we fit in lots of grandma time. How great is that? Not only am I blessed on the family spectrum, but I am truly blessed on the friend spectrum. Not a day goes by that I don't feel thankful for my lot in life on the friendship side of things...

So, it was all set. My work week lined up such that I wasn't going to have to work much at all. I even spent most of Friday working from home in prep for my departure.

In fact, the only drawback was the weather., yahoo weather, weatherunderground, all of them, no matter where I looked, they predicted showers on Friday night, well through Saturday morning, and then partly cloudy mild weather for the rest of the weekend. Not exactly the type of weather you hope for to enjoy your one beach vacation weekend of the Summer.

Sure enough, on the drive down, it rained upon us as we inched through stagnant traffic in our fight to get South. After several hours too many, we admitted defeat, and stopped for a delicious dinner at Buona Tavola, a delicious Italian restaurant with true light, flavorful, but healthy Italian options (the soup of the day of puréed roasted bell peppers was delicious), which fueled us for the remaining 40 minutes of the drive so we could check in at 11:30 and fall asleep under the light rain.

Saturday morning, I woke to the Sun streaming through the window. There was some cloud cover, but no one would even begin to suspect it of rain. E2 and I took a quick survey and decided that despite the original plan of a run through the Edna Valley wine country, a run along the beach was just what the doctor ordered.

We were greeted by a rainbow cascading through the clouds into the the ocean over the cliff upon which our hotel was perched. And it only improved from there. We talked and laughed and lazily jogged our way through the 10 miles we needed to complete as we crossed through town, through the the Pismo Beach State Park campground trail, and then further through the Northbeach Campground along the raised planks through the dunes and through the Monarch Butterfly grove. At 10:30, we arrived back at the hotel to a clear blue sky and temperatures around 70F -- it was enough to feel hot and make us happy that we had gotten some sun and started your run before lunch, but it was pleasant, not painful, and beautiful.

Tan, relaxed, and post-shower, E2 and I picked up gran for a post-run brunch at IHOP. That's right. I went to IHOP. I also ate so much that I was almost ill.

Oh, and I enjoyed it so much that I'm blogging about it. Not just gran, for whom I'd eat sand. I'm talking about the food as well. I actually loved my meal at IHOP. The corncakes were shockingly addictive, particularly given that I didn't expect to like them at all... Yeah, I guess when they say that old people know all the good stuff, they aren't lying. 'Cause damn does Gran love her some IHOP.

Anyways, the rest of the weekend was equally fabulous. We visited my uncle and aunt and raved at their overgrown tomato-vine mound. I tried to hide my jealousy. The jealously slowly dissolved as E2 and I spent some quality time at Wolff Vineyards, enjoying the tasting and the view, and then later, at Per Bacco, who, by the way, are my latest pick for undervalued amazing California winery of the year. E2 and I enjoyed a lazy walk on the beach, followed by a glass of wine, an embarrassing moment of not having enough cash and a delicious Cioppino dinner at the Pelican Point. The next day, we took gran to champagne brunch at The Spirit of San Luis. If you haven't sought out a champagne brunch at the airport before you drive home... well, you're missing out.

Anyways, it was a perfect weekend. I got to hear the surf. I cried. I slept hours upon hours. I read. I ate. I drank. I spent tons of quality time with E2, some of which she probably found boring, but was much too polite to let on. And, of course, I made my gran's month.

And there, my friends, lies the title to this post.

Because when Gran asked about our run and I expressed surprise that it was so gorgeous, and in particular that the rainbow was there, she smiled and said, "Well, of course. That's because you had people pulling for you."

I got the chills.

I remembered how Gran spoke with utmost confidence about the weather on the day of my wedding. She promised that Papa would make it a gorgeous day. He was a farmer, after all, she was certain that the first powers that be he'd square up with upon arriving in the after life would be those associated with weather.

Sure enough, my wedding day was the one day of no rain that month.

And sure enough, this weekend, Papa and Daddy pulled weather.

As soon as she said it, I knew. I knew they were glad I'd gone. I knew they knew the sacrifice I'd made, leaving E for the weekend and possibly risking not being able to work on a deal. But it was important, and they approved of my priorities and wanted to encourage me to make more trips by rewarding me with amazing running and relaxation weather.

So, given that it was a running/family combo weekend, I am choosing to adopt my wise, old gran's viewpoint.

As she said, Papa and daddy pulled weather this weekend. They trumped the predicitions so E2 and I could have a great run and know that they appreciated our visit.

Oh, and it rained at home. Just in case I thought the point wasn't strong enough. Had I not gone, I would have been grumpy at the weather.

Now, I can't wait for my gorgeous Christmas break runs in Pismo -- after all, I'm orchestrating the attendance of my side -- that's got to be worth a few degrees of running comfort in Fahrenheit, right?
Odds & Ends

I finally got around to updating my links. If you'd like to be added, drop a line in the comments.

Last night, while playing soccer, I fell and sprained my ring finger. An intelligent person would have removed her rings before sleep. I did not. Instead I woke to see that it was very swollen. Like fatty-fat-fat sausage. I spent about 4 hours this morning icing and compressing my finger to get the swelling to go down to the point where I could get my rings off.

The good news is, I'm working from home today. So, yes, my finger hurts and it hurts to type, but I'm still in my pajamas.

Back to the grind.

September 19, 2007

Summer Pasta Salad (Fava, Tomatoes, Feta)

Yes, Yes, I know I claimed it was Fall, but I love summer. And Monday, I left work in time to visit our local European open air market, which, like a good European market, typically closes before I can get off work. Feeling like I was on vacation due to the early departure from the office, I saw fresh summer produce, and I could not resist.

So, I recommend this salad for a healthy Summer treat. Or early Fall, when you wish it was still Summer, and you need to consume healthy foods to compensate for Summer. The trick, of course, is finding Fava Beans that are worthy of purchase. Also, who knew about the L-Dopa in fava beans? Crazy.

-2 lbs fava beans, shelled.
-1/2 bunch parsely
-3 cloves garlic
-1/2 lemon, juiced
-1 lb assorted cherry tomatoes (4 cups or so?)
-1/2 box of penne
-olive oil
-black pepper
-1 in X 1 in X 2 in of feta

1. Place a pot of water and much salt over high heat. Boil shelled beans for 3-4 minutes, 'til outer skin is white.
2. Drain water and allow beans to cool 'til they are able to be handled.
3. Replace water, add 1 t. salt and bring to a boil. Add penne and stir occasionally during the following steps 'til al dente, then remove and cover with cold water.
4. Peel the skin from the beans (rip the smooth end and squeeze each bean from the growth end out).
3. In a cuisinart, pulse olive oil (3 times around the bowl) and parsely 'til well blended. Add lemon juice, garlic, 1/2 T black pepper (or more to taste) & fava beans and process on high 'til it's a nice bright green paste.
4. Mix green paste with halved tomatoes.
5. Spoon one-half of the penne into two bowls.
6. Top each penne portion with 1/2 of the tomatoes and green sauce.
7. Crumble 1/2 of the feta over the top of each bowl for a colorful presentation of the last bits of summer.


September 17, 2007

Mushroom Farfalline

A mid-September weekend trip to the farmer's market in Northern California is an overwhelming, glorious painting of bright colors, shapes, smells, and tastes (free samples!) that divides the world for me into crates upon crates of food I wish I could but most certainly will not have time to prepare before the harvest is over and the few things that I shall buy and try to use in meals.

Predictably, I bought over 3 pounds of tomatoes, despite a very functional tomato plant (Woo hoo! I didn't kill it! And it's a very flavorful plant, although it's not the black krim I thought I planted, but, after looking at other photos, I must admit, it likely is a black krim of sorts. Regardless, it produces delicious fruit, even if they are a bit prone to cracking.)

But, tonight, in the last un-healthy night of the week before a return to another stretch of recovery from Summer days, I opted for non-tomato comfort food. I left work at 5 PM tonight. Another deal closed before 6 PM. Anxiously, after the silly salad of lunch, I hungrily waited E's arrival home from work 'til 6:55, when I finally called, only to have him inform me that he was 5 minutes away. If only I could have exercised another 5 minutes of restraint... but alas. I could not. I suspect many pieces of history have been changed due to inability to wait for food. Another day...

Upon his arrival, after a brief discussion, we agreed to eat at home, and fast. So, I put the 2 handfuls of tree oyster mushrooms that I couldn't resist at the farmer's market and half a portion of ewephoria (I know, I know, the name simultaneously hurts and pleases me too...) in our kitchen to excellent use.

If, as a child you loved mac-and-cheese, and you are looking for a filling, not overly rich, but rich enough to feel devilish and indulgent pasta dish, I recommend this one.

-1/2 box barilla farfalline (any small but not super-small soup-shape pasta will do, something between macaroni and orzo would be my recommendation)
-1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
-2 T butter
-2 handfuls mushrooms, finely chopped (I suspect more would have been fine, this was pleasantly mushroomy, but had plenty of room for more mushroom flavor)
-1 box beef broth (obviously, veggie broth will work, but will probably be less satisfying)
-1/4 cup chopped cheese for melting (I used ewephoria, but I suspect any good melting cheese would do)
-dried aged cheese for grating (parmigiano reggiano was the choice, but any hard aged cheese that can be easily grated on a ribbon grater will be fine)
-black pepper, at the table
-truffle oil, if you have it, for topping

1. Heat casserole pan. Melt butter on medium heat 'til it starts to foam. Add onions and simmer for a minute or two.
2. Add mushrooms. Cook 'til butter is almost entirely absorbed.
3. Add box of broth, bring to a boil.
4. Add pasta. Boil and stir 'til the pasta is al dente and the broth is almost cooked down to a spoonable sauce (close to 10 minutes for the farfalline despite the box's 6 minute cooking time).
5. Turn off heat, continue to stir as the broth steams away.
6. Add chopped cheese, stir until melted throughout.
7. Spoon into two huge helpings and spoon the few remaining teaspoons of sauce over the top.
8. Top servings with ribbon-grated grated dry-aged cheese. Drizzle with truffle oil. Allow to cool in the serving dishes for 7-10 minutes while cheese melts and the remaining liquid is absorbed and condenses into a sauce.
8. Enjoy with black pepper to taste.

Basically, it's a gourmet mac-and-cheese with some mushrooms and onions to boot. Like I said, comfort food.

September 16, 2007

An almost perfect Saturday

Get up at 7:30. Drink some coffee. Run a slow but steady 14 miles with B. Enjoy the sun, the tour of the local towns, and finish, feeling great.

Shower. The post-long-run shower is truly one of the greatest things in the world. Ahhhh...

Lunch with E at a local diner. Cheeseburger with garlic fries. Tons of diet coke. A glass of white wine.


Wake to go to the grocery store and collect the ingredients for a long, slow, home-cooked meal.

Spend the better part of 4 hours cooking, mainly making acorn squash, sweet dumpling squash, potato gnocchi.

Prep the vegetables by washing and piercing. Bake the vegetables. Peel the vegetables. Rice the vegetables. Kneed the vegetables with flour until they are the right consistency. Roll out the dough into tubes. Roll the tubes into snakes. Cut the snakes into gnocchi. Boil the gnocchi a few at a time (lucky_girl helped with that one).

It's a long, repetitive, labor-intensive process. It's also an awesome opportunity to meditate, daydream, and mentally relax. I found myself free-associating for hours. At one point I cried at the strength of the memory of my dad in the ICU before my wedding.

Then, lucky_girl and hubby arrived to enjoy (and boy did they, I love feeding lucky_girl, she's so verbally appreciative!) the fruits of my labor.

We (me, E, lucky_girl & hubby) sat at the table for hours, enjoying wine, the delicious asparagus salad that she brought (mmm...asparagus, cranberries, and goat cheese), the gnocchi topped in a sauce of home-grown tomatoes (supplemented by some store-bought heirlooms), home-grown basil, sage in browned butter, and, of course, bacon.

For dessert, we had fresh-baked peanut butter cookies with Vin Santo.

Then tea, and a long lazy evening of socializing including the South Park episode of "Smug" and chatting on the couch as I dozed off.

Comfortable. Relaxed. Unhurried. And, you might note, not a single mention of work.

I can't remember the last time I had such a wonderfully lazy home-bound Saturday. Sadly, after checking my calendar, I can confirm that it has been at least 10 months, more than likely much longer. Perhaps I shall try to make it less than 6 months before the next one.

September 12, 2007

Seasons Change

You may think that the equinox decides when Fall truly begins (in which case, we'd be in Summer 'til September 21).

I do not. I think Fall is a feeling in the air. For example, most of my vacations feel like Summer, even if I take them during Winter.

Last weekend, on our long run, A pointed out that leaves were turning. Last night, E and I walked to downtown and needed jackets. This morning, when I woke for my run, it was dark. Also, we are eating healthy freshly-harvested food in the form of soup and practicing restraint against the overindulgence of Summer.

As far as I'm concerned, it is officially Fall. And, that means I can't wait to go to the Farmer's market this weekend to enjoy the harvest. Mmmmm, Mmmm.

Off to run.

September 10, 2007


Tonight, when unloading the dishwasher, E noticed that the silverware partition didn't contain a single fork.

That's right folks, it's summer recovery healthy time. And, when you're short on time, it's hard to come up with healthier food than soup. We did a vegetable stew that we enjoyed for dinner last Thursday and Friday. Tonight we enjoyed potato leek soup.

But Saturday and Sunday were the real crowning achievement thus far. Saturday, as a break from my long day of work, we went to the grocery store and found ourselves in front of the chile selection.

In our exuberance, we probably over did it. Our modified version of E's mom's gazpacho was lightly irritating on the gastric system, if I'm honest. It's delicious, but it's not much more than pureed fiber, some oil, and some chile irritants. If we weren't such hippy-haters, we'd probably refer to this soup as part of our 2-week "cleanse" since we ate it for dinner, lunch, and dinner over the weekend and it did function much like a "cleanse." But that sounds gross, doesn't it? As you know, dieting, I'm against for philosophical and psychological reasons. But referring to a food menu as "cleanse" just sounds so... I don't know, DISGUSTING!!!

So, if you aren't looking for a meal that'll modify the balance of your inner flora and fauna or you don't love the top of the Scoville scale, you should cut back on a few of the chiles. I know we will next time. Regardless, this combination of fresh veggies in a chilled bowl is one of the best ways to enjoy end-of-summer produce and our mistake didn't keep us from enjoying every last spoonful.

Super Spicy Gazpacho

2 yellow chili peppers
3 habaneros
1 green bell pepper
2 peeled cucumbers
4 stalks celery
1 huge heirloom tomato
1 box pomi chopped tomatoes
1 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1 can vegetable broth (half a box)
6 T bread crumbs
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

1. Wash all ingredients.
2. Chop cucumbers and onions on pulse in the cuisinart 'til in evenly diced. Spoon into the bottom of a large bowl.
3. Chop all peppers on pulse 'til small even pieces. Spoon into the bowl.
4. Puree garlic, lemon, olive oil, bread crumbs and celery into a paste. Spoon into the bowl.
5. Chop tomato on pulse 'til slushy, add pomi and pulse a few brief times. Pour into the bowl.
6. Stir in broth and mix until even.

Serve immediately and chilled until it is gone. Makes an excellent side dish to a baguette with some sliced avocado and cheese.

September 8, 2007

Culture Clash

When it comes to food, I was a stereotypical American this summer. You know, just always on board for too much.

In addition to too much work, this summer involved too much bacon (thanks to the bacon of the month club), too much steak (barbeque season will do that), too much wine, and even too much dessert (which should give some perspective because given a choice, I'll take more savory food over dessert almost any day).

I don't mind, really. After all, I am American. And I do enjoy summer celebrations with excessive hedonism just as much as my nearest countrywoman. Our excessive exuberance is one of our more distinctive and wonderful qualities. In fact, I had an awesome Summer.

But, ever since learning to love and relate to food in non-American ways (mainly in France and Italy), I've generally tried to embrace some non-stereotypically American lifestyle and cultural realities with respect to food. (If I am to be fair, I should point out that California, and in particular, the bay area, has evolved quite a bit in the last 20 years, such that California's default approach to food is significantly different than the American farm-and-famine-influenced approach to food under which I was raised.)

For example, I insist on enjoying food, both cooking and eating it (although I really should slow down when I eat). I prefer to make all homemade meals from fresh ingredients and do my best to do so.

Also, I refuse to diet. After years of being surrounded by eating disorders, more than likely having one in my teens, and being raised by a constantly dieting mom, I associate dieting with psychological issues, I don't think it's healthy, sustainable, and, most importantly, it's just not fun, or fun to be around.

I also refuse to flip out about an oscillating scale read-out. After college sports, for a few years, I revolted and refused to step on a scale outside of the doctor's office. Finally, after a particularly nasty 'bout with some stress-related illnesses, I returned to the gym as a way to manage my stress.

With the gym came access to a scale, and since about 25 or so, I've taken the approach of identifying a 10-lb range that I felt was relatively healthy and doing my best to stay in it. Initially, I just weighed myself at the gym once a week or so and if I had popped out of the high side, I'd bear that in mind while making work-out and menu decisions until I popped back under. It usually only took a week or two to get myself back into the range where I felt comfortable. I didn't ever think about what I ate other than, am I getting enough nutrients? And, is this good for me?

Over the last 5-6 years, the 10-pound range that I consider healthy has slowly moved downward. If I don't touch the top 5 pounds in the range and occasionally slip under the bottom for 6 months or so, I'll just reset the range. I attribute this downward evolution to a combination of several things: 1) I started running more regularly first year of law school, which is an activity that pushes bodies towards a lower total mass, 2) I had a ton of muscle from 15-20 years of muscle-intensive sports, and over time, I slowly lost most of it due to non-use, and 3) I have lost chunks of weight due to distress (gastrointestinal illness, stress) at various points over the last half decade, and since, outside of summer, I tend to live a relatively calorically balanced lifestyle, I've just kept the non-water-based portions of those chunks off, while realizing that the pounds associated with those chunks were likely former muscle, which, probably needed to go since it no longer did me any good (but thank goodness I had it to lose in the face of the distress!).

It's the clash of my personal non-American approach to food and body image with this year's American Summer that leads me to my current dilema. Generally, according to my typical pattern, I'll pop outside of my healthy 10-lb range about 3 times a year. After the winter holidays I tend to pop out, but I generally drop back down and oscillate within the middle of the range 'til late spring, at which point I'm generally at a low point just in time for Summer, when I steadily climb my way up to pop out after Labor Day, only to fall back down in fall to what is generally the lowest numbers of the year (mmm...healthy harvest food) in time to prep for the winter holiday ramp-up. But this summer, if I'm honest with myself, I cleared the high-mark in June, after Vancouver, in July, after a couple consecutive weeks of debauchery, and again at the end of August, which just stayed with me through the fabulous weekend of home-made ice cream over Labor day (4 servings of ice cream in four days!!!! Delicious!).

This conflict is simple. Either, due to being in my thirties my healthy 10-lb range has actually moved upward for the first time in at least half a decade. Or, once I return to the healthy 10-lb range that has stuck for the last two years, I should face the fact that a truly American summer is not healthy and I should be a bit more European next year.

Rock and a hard place, I tell you. Both are completely rational, reasonable conclusions. Accepting either one means accepting a reality I won't like.

I think I know the truth. I think, in my heart of hearts, I know that the numbers of my 10-pound range are and my American Summer isn't healthy. At least for my body. But part of me thinks that conscious restraint in favor of a weight range is actually bad. That I should live heartily, vivaciously, and fully when the opportunity presents itself, and if that means being somewhat weight unhealthy one season a year, then good for me, because my mental health is more important. That part of me also asks, "What's the point of having a body if you don't use it to its fullest?"

But, the reality is, if I embrace the American Summer at it's fullest, I'm going to also have to accept that what I'll be doing will be close to dieting in order to return to the middle of the 10-pound range at Summer's end. And, as I said, I refuse to diet.

So, there's a cultural show-down going on within me right now. The American within me craves life at its brightest, knowing it could be extinguished at any point. The European in me wishes for a more even-keel warm light, one that doesn't come with sharp darkness as its price because the fuel is spent before the lamp is refilled.

Perhaps, this is aging. Maybe truly American Summers are only for the young and exuberant and those of us who are more mature should settle into a slower-paced pleasant Euro-American Summer?

Regardless, E and I are in our traditional post-summer 2-week psuedo-lent right now. No alcohol. Healthy home-cooked vegetarian meals. Lots of sleep. Yoga. Running. Biking. I suspect I should wait 'til we return to our ordinary lifestyle before I resolve this cultural conflict.

September 5, 2007

Rookie Mistake

I didn't take a day of vacation between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Ostensibly, that's because E & I are saving up for 2008, which promises to be a big traveling year, for which we are both very, very, excited. But, after crunching the numbers, I now realize that I probably could have afforded a day or two this summer, and I should have taken them.

First year associates who are about to start -- take note! Everyone takes vacation in the Summer in the bay area. If you don't, you'll end up being the catch-all go-to new lawyer scapegoat all summer. This will result in some amazing experience. You will know much more about being a lawyer than you did before you worked straight through the summer. Kids, if you work in big law, and business is booming, then, you should plan to have work to do on at least one day on most weekends. Which means that, if you are me, and you didn't take any vacation, you will have worked for 3 months straight with approximately 12 days off. Total.

This will mean that you will be *fried* by the end of the summer. Just worthless. You will realize that you should do your best to take one day off completely each week, even if it means working harder on the other 6.

Anyways, enough with the first-year-associate-wisdom pez dispenser. Let's talk about vacation.

On Friday night, E and I took a red-eye to a house on a lake in the South with his parents for Labor Day and I took my first day of vacation in quite some time. 4 days without any work (okay, so I sent two emails, but really, other than that, I was completely work-free).

It was everything you would expect: languid, relaxing, hot, humid, light thunderstorm showers in the afternoon, sunset cruises on the pontoon boat with wine and gourmet snacks, yoga on the boathouse, gorgeous running in the greenery, wonderful post-run jumps in the lake, sleeping in, showers, solid football by the Bears and, of course, I read wonderful books.

Books have been sorely missing from my life as of late. I made up for it this weekend by plowing through:

1. For One More Day, a contrived and oh-so-slightly manipulative Mitch Albom brain candy snack in big font with few pages. A guaranteed tear-jerker if you know anything about death, or alcoholism, or complex fathers and sports, or mothers and fighting. Needless to say, I cried. (Thanks Arvay!)

2. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, a tale of two boys undergoing re-education in the 1970s as they come of age under the influences of a beautiful young seamstress and some forbidden western literature. I very much enjoyed this book. I know nothing of this time period in China and in addition to a gorgeous story, I found myself fascinated with the cultural and historical backdrop against which it was told. It was a sad tale, but about a life so different from my own that it was a transporting escape, which is the thing that books I love so often give to me. (Again, thanks Arvay!)

3. A dirty Job, thanks to Sarah, which was *exactly* what the doctor ordered. The only book I'd managed to make my way through as an escape in my minimal spare time of late had been You Suck: A love Story and my second introduction to Christopher Moore's imagination and prose was just as wonderful. I love that half of the jokes are webbed to poke fun of San Francisco as only a local can and only a local could understand.

4. The Average American Male, again thanks to Sarah. It was funny if you can laugh at jokes that point out someone's pain and laugh at it. I thought it was edgy and brilliant, but I did not like the main character. In that way, I guess, it reminded me of Sideways. A good story, but sort of like watching a train wreck. I was happy to be an observer, but I wouldn't want to get any closer and I thanked my lucky stars that my life did not make this story seem like a reality.

And, now that I'm home, I'm still trying to make it through Founders at Work. I like the stories. The anecdotes are educational, inspirational, full of valley history, and very interesting. But. I must admit. It's a bit like work. Which is why, I'm guessing, that though I'd started the book prior to the weekend, (prior to You Suck, if I'm honest) I still haven't finished it.

Anyways, that's the short vacation report. It was not nearly long enough. I guess I'll have to hold on 'til Thanksgiving.