February 26, 2009


I've got a new standing weekly appointment with a friend.

We speak spanish and hang out and try to improve our language skills. Hers, class-room trained, mine, derived from other romance language knowledge, vacations in Spanish speaking countries, teach-yourself spanish books & CDs, pimsleur CDs, and just day-to-day living in California.

Tonight we made dinner and talked about life, work, school, our respective gardening efforts and preparing the dinner. This process taught me the following words (which resulted in much time spent looking words up and delaying dinner):

-el tallo (stem -- as in the part you take off from the harvested arugula)
-la carne de venado (venison -- good to know. 'Specially if you will be serving it to Spanish speaking guests)
-el aceite (oil -- ignore the false cognate to acid/vinegar...)
-el vinagre (vinegar)
-la hoja (leaf, the part you keep from the harvested arugula)
-la cucharada (tablespoonful)
-la cucharadita (teaspoonful)
-mezclar (to blend)
-el chalote (shallot)
-la semilla (seed)
-brotar (to sprout)
-el jardín (garden)

What a great way to spend an evening.

February 22, 2009

The Forecast

I just checked the 10-day forecast -- all 10 icons have raindrops, and only 1 has any sunshine.

Looks like that local 10K or 20K I had as a maybe for next weekend is a definite no.

We need the rain, so I'll do my best to be happy about it and try to avoid the bad moods that overtake me when I don't see the sun for a few days in a row. Good thing I decided to do more yoga and less running this year...

February 18, 2009

Best Risotto In a While


-1 small white onion, diced
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tsp. spiced oil (a wacky Indian concoction of very hot sesame oil, infused with cumin seeds, turmeric, and minced habanero and then stored for future use -- amazing!)
-2 tsp. EVOO
-1 C sushi rice (because I am a heathen and sometimes, when pressed for ingredients in the face of California's rice production for Asia, I opt for the "short-grained, high-starch" description and don't use Arborio or Vialone Nano or Canaroli or one of the other italian varietals traditionally allocated to risotto)
-1 package 4 oz. Cypress Grove Pepper Chevre (carried by our local Safeway)
-1 can stewed diced tomatoes
-1 can + 1/3 box chicken broth
-1 cup (or so) sauvignon blanc
-1/2 meyer lemon from sister's tree

1. Heat the spiced oil and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) in a sautée pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic and onion and cook 'til translucent.

2. Add rice, stir until rice is shiny and starting to be see-through.

3. Add wine. Cook over medium heat 'til the majority of the liquid evaporates.

4. Add 1 cup broth and the tomatoes. Stir and cook.

5. When the liquid has boiled off and absorbed, add 1 cup more broth. Repeat 'til broth is all gone or until the rice is al dente.

6. Mix in the chevre and squeeze lemon juice into the pan 'til cheese is melted and mixed throughout.

7. Remove from heat, allow to set for 5 minutes.

8. Serve immediately with fresh ground black pepper. Enjoy!
Exhausted, but for good reason

Work continues at its break-neck pace as if I didn't need a vacation (and certainly have no right to a leisurely return to work after my weekend away).

Last night, I made it home by 8:10 PM and still had one contract to edit, an amendment to draft, and two binders of diligence to review.

Instead of attacking that, however, I had a quick dinner of leftover soup with E before he headed off to meet a colleague for drinks.

Then, I caught up with R about a paper she had to write on the moral code of the bourgeousie as applied to the poor in the 19th century.

And finally, my sister arrived, so I caught up with her. She's staying the night with us because she's got an interview at Stanford tomorrow for their PA program! She already was admitted to Davis' program, so now, it's just a matter of where she will be doing her PA studies, not if.

I'm so proud of her. It's been a long road from her 3-yr overachieving architecture undergraduate degree, including some time when she did all the pre-requisites necessary to apply to medical school. In particular, I'm proud of her for figuring out what she *really* wanted in life, and going after a solution that provided her access to the life she wants to live as opposed to taking the route that's the most prestigious in the eyes of strangers. Decisions like that are hard and rare. I'm certain she will be very happy with her decision and so proud of her.

Yay Sis!

And now, I must return to my early AM work to make up for my very important procrastination last night.

February 16, 2009

Sonoma Wine and Food Weekend

Because E's sister, her fiance, and the sisters had raved so much about their meal, on December 14, I called Cyrus to see if E & I could get a table for Valentine's dinner. Success! I reserved two free rooms we'd earned in Hyatt points and our plans were set for the long weekend.

Fortuitously, I've been working entirely too much lately. I've taken several conference calls 'til midnight and often have been rising before 5 to start work. So, a long weekend to reconnect with E in wine country was just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, on Friday, the IT department of my law firm saw fit to break email at 5 PM. Sweet! I was off the hook for the entire weekend by 5 PM (except today). Thanks IT!

So, after arriving, instead of finishing work, E and I headed down to the complimentary wine tasting with Simi Winery. Their wines were okay, except they were free, so, of course, like all gifts, they were quite wonderful. The chardonnay was not my style (but they usually aren't -- too buttery). But I had a perfectly pleasant glass of sauvignon blanc, while E enjoyed the cabernet sauvignon. They even served us an appetizer of asian chicken on endive with fried rice noodles. How great is that?

From there, we headed to the hotel bar and ordered two lovely glasses of wine to go with the charcuterie plate (mmm... salamis, cheeses and nuts. What's not to like?) One of the best things about wine country is that even the random hotel bar will have 20 excellent wines by the glass. This bar even had 2.5 ounce pours so you could try more options if you like. My pinot was excellent and E's big red explosion of a wine was exactly what he was looking for.

After lounging a bit, we headed to an early dinner at the restaurant attached to the hotel. It was everything we like a hotel restaurant to be. Close. Good food and service. Unpretentious, but nice enough to have foods that feel like special occasion treats. Not super-expensive.

I devoured my oysters, they were perfectly cleaned and pre-separated from the shell, which meant I had to share. I love the little suckers so much that I'll shuck 'em myself and deal with the sand for the privilege, but E is a bit more picky. We sat and enjoyed our meals (steak for E, salmon over red pepper coulis for me) and slowly caught up over a bottle of delicious local pinot noir. There was still wine left after dinner, so we ordered the cheese plate. Mmmm.... more cheese. Then coffee. Then a lazy night in the hotel bed watching the latest Bond movie. Mmmm... relaxing.

Saturday was more of the same, only bigger.

We finally left the hotel around noon to head out for cheese, nuts, and chocolate paired with delicious wines served by the Williamson family (that would be the first wine club we joined).

From there, we had a lunch of small servings of family recipes of Italian food and a family history tour with wine at Seghesio (that would be the second wine club we joined). If you are going to go to Seghesio, call ahead and reserve the wine and food pairing. We bypassed a tasting room of at least 50 guests in exchange for a one-on-one conversation with the 5th generation family member and daughter of the winemaker (thanks Alison!), as well as some history from Rachel Ann Seghesio, an adorable 70-year-old woman with pictures to show, stories to tell, and a ton of spunk.

We very much enjoyed both of these wine-tasting experiences and we pleased that they were smaller, less thronged, and just generally relaxing, which is something we often fear we will miss while trying to wine-taste with the crowds in Sonoma or Napa.

From there, we did the pure relaxation thing (hot tub, steam room, massage, reading) for a few hours until it was time for the big event.

Cyrus -- it was everything we were told, and more

Our dinner at Cyrus was nothing short of phenomenal. As much as I love Chez TJ, it pales in many ways compared to Cyrus, and if Cyrus is an example of a two-star michelin restaurant, then, I must agree with the recent downgrade of Chez TJ to one star (of course, my experience with two-starred Manresa was much worse than any Chez TJ visit, so perhaps of course the michelin stars don't really mean anything).

The service at Cyrus is dedicated -- you can tell they are *all* very committed to making sure that your evening is amazing. I'm not certain I've ever experienced that level of concern and care about my meal before. Not even at the French Laundry. It is very obvious that Cyrus has something to prove (in a good way) and is trying its very best to get its third michelin star and/or just to become the equal of the Laundry in the eyes of the foodies who come to the region.

The food is excellent, and I can see why E's sister and fiance said it was the best meal of their life. It was definitely one of the best meals I've ever had. In terms of quality and presentation, it is on par with everything we've ever had. In comparison with the French Laundry, the care in ingredient selection, preparation, plating, and balance was quite similar except that there was a stronger asian influence in many of the ingredient selections at Cyrus, whereas French Laundry seemed to stay within more of the traditional continental ingredient list on our visit.

We did the full 8-course tasting menu (which totals 11 courses including all the teasers and palate cleansers), E ate every speck, and I finished everything except the Quince Riesling Soup (below the Verjus Sorbet). When we left we were pleasantly full, but not uncomfortable. The food was rich, but balanced at all times, which is an area where Chez TJ occasionally falters on the side of the overly rich (not that we really mind...).

My favorite course was a line of 4 or 5 gnocchi alternated with carmelized brussels sprouts, parsley root and topped with black truffle pecorino, plated on a rectangular plate with a brilliant green sauce line drawn below. E's favorite was the 3 slices of duck breast fanned over maitake mushrooms laid on top of a small rectangular prism of bamboo-cilantro (I think) rice (it was such a pretty shade of light green) which was plated with ponzu. Every course was amazing, truly.

With a little help from the somellier, we selected a bottle of Anthill Farms 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that worked quite well with all of the courses. The service kept our glasses at what I have to assume is exactly 4 ounces throughout the meal. This had the odd side effect of making it very apparent when I poured the remainder of my wine into E's glass after the cheese course. No one said anything, they just whisked away my empty glass and asked if we would like coffee, which, of course, I did, and they brought it to me to enjoy while E finished the wine.

I think the highest compliment we can give it is this: we would be happy to return to Cyrus in the near future and look forward to the opportunity. In contrast, Michael Mina and the French Laundry are excellent experiences that we are glad we had, but we have no plans to return to them anytime soon, we'd rather search for a new and different experience.

Finally, we had brunch on Sunday with friends at The Girl and The Fig. The ambiance is warm (there is a fire) friendly, polite (despite our late arrival causing them to hold a 6-person table longer than they should have had to), and the food was wonderful -- a little on the heavy side, but that's what brunch is supposed to be, no? Plus, it was what we needed to soak up the wine we went to taste afterward.

In terms of Sunday's tasting -- it was mediocre in terms of wine, but a great way to spend the day with friends.

Jacuzzi winery is gorgeous, but it was thronged with folks for the olive tasting event. They have an olive press and several olive oils available for tasting. On a less crowded day, I suspect I would have enjoyed this one more and probably would have stayed to taste wine.

Next, we hit up Viansa Winery, which, like Jacuzzi is a beautiful setting and building. If it hadn't been raining, we likely would have bought a bottle and sat on the porch sipping it while looking at the hills and vines. But, due to the rain, we had to stay indoors, and due to the holiday weekend, they were quite crowded as well.

Finally, on our way out, we stopped at Roche Winery. Their building is older, the wine tasting room is simply that (very few displays of fancy food products and supplies), and the crowd was much smaller. Also, they had a fireplace with a nice warm fire. In terms of ambiance, this was the winner of the day. Their cabernet was probably the group's favorite wine of the day's tasting, but none of us took any home due to the price point.

February 11, 2009

The Weirdest Thing About Being Able to See

Is how often I think... Oh shit, I need to take my contacts out.

I think it when my eyes are itchy (umm... post surgery?).

I think it when my eyes are tired (umm... post busy day as a lawyer at the computer?).

I think it when I see halos as I drive home (umm... standard side effect of Lasik?).

I think it when I go to chop onions, peppers, or garlic (umm... this is reflex. It only takes once of trying to take out contacts post habanero handling to learn this one, and to learn it good).

I wonder when I will realize I can see because I can see, not because of contacts...

February 9, 2009

The Garden To Come

E & I are committed.

Remember last year's beginning to the garden adventure? It looked something like this (before my co-worker contributed additional plants to the fun and we converted the entire grass strip to raised garden beds)?


Well, brother and his boss showed up this weekend to get rid of half of the RV parking lot on our property (seeing as how we don't have an RV). After hours of jackhammering, they finally called it a day and left a big 'ole dirt area, plus some prime soil to be put into the boxes they'll be building next weekend:


We are so excited for this summer's garden!

February 7, 2009

Flying down the hills

Today, I met up with a co-worker and ran a local trail run up and down a small mountain. We actually ran into another co-worker as well, which was a fun surprise.

The best thing about this particular trail run is that after about 5.5 miles almost entirely uphill (which is extremely challenging and even the hardcore eventually give in and walk a little bit), your reward is that you get to fly down the hills on the way back.

Literally. Fly. Sailing through the forest as fast as you can comfortably go with the help of gravity in the face of the rocks, leaves, sticks and mud.

It's so much fun.

Because it's a relatively small race, after the turn around, for a few miles of downhill, it will be just you, and nothing except perhaps the panting breathing of the runner you are approaching to pass or the runner who is approaching to pass you (which has the feel of a horror movie -- alone, in the forest, with heavy breathing behind you and running).

The last time I'd done this race was about 5 months after my dad's death. I'd cried the entire last 4 miles. I felt so close to him and I knew he was there with me. All the nature. The adrenaline. The speed and thrill and joy of being alive. It was so beautiful and reminded me so much of what he appreciated about life, and I was so raw with his loss, that I just flew down the hills and cried.

Today, I left my coworker behind on the downhills (which was fair since she left me behind on the uphills) and found myself amazed to remember my last run. As I sped my way through the gorgeous trees, I recalled the tears streaming down my face. I recalled the bug that got in my eye and messed up my contact, making me tear even more.

This time, I felt equally close to dad, I knew he was there with me and he was just as thrilled as I was that I had taken the morning to fly down hills in recently rained upon forest. It smelled so clean and fresh. And this time, my eyes had no contacts. No matter where I looked, the world was full of perfectly edged leaves, rocks, sticks, and trees against the bright blue sky.

This is why I run.

February 6, 2009

Modern Eyeball Science is Amazing

Yesterday, I got Lasik. Today, I woke up able to see slightly better than I could with my contacts and my eyes are supposed to get better over the next several months.

I have slight halos around lighted objects in the dark, which is, apparently, most people's big complaint about Lasik. But, I used to have those with my contacts as well, so for me, 17 hours post-surgery, I'm already better than what I used to have.

I was severely nearsighted with a slight astigmatism and very small pupils, which meant I was a candidate for "classic Lasik." I went to a local doctor who everyone at my law firm used. Every single person had excellent results, from the folks who got PRK to the folks who had fear issues with the laser.

Some folks indicated that Dr. Hyver's bedside manner was lacking, but I found it to be just fine. In my pre-op appointment, he took the time to answer all of my questions, including the ones about fighter pilots, space travel, and martial arts. During the procedure, he was extremely clinical and monotone, walking through the procedure and reciting his lines describing all of the sensations to me. I found this very comforting -- my surgery was obviously going exactly according to his plan.

The whole appointment took about an hour and a half and the actual time in the surgery room was maybe 10 minutes (I had an easy set of eyeballs, some people need up to 20 minutes for Premium Wavefront Lasik).

If you decide to get classic Lasik, here's what you can expect:

1. Arrive. Take your name tag, get your prescription confirmed, 1st by a machine, then by an optometrist, then again by a machine.

2. Put on booties for the surgery room.

3. Wait 'til they call you in.

4. Go in, put your hair up in a bonnet (bonnet!), accept the gauze on your ears to catch eye drops.

5. Lay down. They put a billion numbing drops in your eyes.

6. They tape something over the eye they aren't operating on (felt like a little cardboard cup) and slide you over to the doctor.

7. They tape your eyelids back.

8. They put the holder in your eye and ask you to stare at the blinking light.

9. They press down on your eye with the suction holder until it all goes black.

10. You hear a noise that sounds like a little drill or blade. It's the microkeratome the surgeon quickly uses to create the flap in your cornea.

11. They remove the suction holder and ask you to stare back at the light.

12. The surgeon pulls the flap up and ask you to keep looking at the blinking light (which is now very big and fuzzy).

13. The surgeon instructs you to keep looking at the blinking light while the laser is working and turns it on. It makes a loud clicking noise. It is actually very difficult to force your eye to look into the laser and you have to keep checking in to find out that you eye has wandered away (it's almost as if you have a physical response NOT to look into the laser that's burning your eyeball [laugh]). The laser only works when your eye is in position, so the more you can force your eye to focus on the blinking light, the faster the procedure will be over.

14. When the laser was done, I noticed that it smelled like burning hair or burnt bones (from my lab days). During the procedure, I was too concentrated on looking at the laser to notice the smell.

15. The doctor replaces the flap, wiggles it around a little bit ("the light will be wavy") and uses various instruments to absorb liquid and paint it back down into place.

16. They move the cover to the eye that's been finished and they do some additional numbing drops on the eye that's about to go under, and they repeat steps 7 - 15.

My right eye took about 40 seconds under the laser. I left my left eye open under the cover, which you weren't supposed to do, but I forgot until they asked me when I was done. My left eye took about 90 seconds because my left eye was wandering too much and my head was shaking a little bit -- turns out, their instructions to keep your other eye closed were not for me. The doctor stopped the laser after the first few seconds to see why there was so much motion, when I explained that I'd done the last one with my covered eye open, the doctor said, "Oh, fine. Do whatever you did on that one, it was great."

After the procedure, immediately, my vision was better than it was without my glasses. Sure, still blurry, but the edges of things were smaller than they used to be. They instruct you to go home and try to keep your eyes closed for 4 hours. Once I got in the car, my eyes did not want to be opened and I had E escort me down the driveway and to the couch. I kept 'em closed for the first hour, no problem, but, as predicted, they were slightly itchy and dry. I put the sterile eye drops in at the hour mark like I was supposed to do, but after that I found that I needed the wetting drops much more often than the once every hour they'd suggested. I made E go to the store and get me more drops. I probably used 8 single-serving eye drops in the 4 hours after surgery (they sent me home with 4).

I tried to listen to a movie, which worked for about the first hour of the movie. Then I got bored. At about the 2-hour mark, my body didn't care if my eyes were closed or not, and when they were open, I could see pretty well, which was amazing, so it was hard to keep my eyes closed.

Thanks to some folks taking my phone calls, I was able to stay on the couch and keep my eyes closed for most of the remaining time (except when I was putting eye drops in).

At the 4-hour post-surgery mark, my vision was almost as good as it used to be in my contacts at the end of the day (a little blurry, some halos, some dryness).

I went to bed early and woke today, good as new.

Yay modern science!

February 3, 2009

Descriptive Terms I like, but Rarely Hear

-Family Friend (I think this works in almost every language)

-Sangfroid (it sounds like what it means)

-Kick in the pants (It just makes me laugh)

-Fucktard (Linguistically, a slow fuck, not necessarily a bad thing, and yet...)

-Armchair psychologist (what does this even mean?)

February 1, 2009


I took out my contacts for (fingers crossed) the last time after this morning's super-slow 9-mile run (wow! Replacing much of my running with yoga has resulting in some serious speed decreases.)

Now, I'm in nothing but glasses 'til next Thursday when I get my eyeballs lasered.

Apparently, I have very small pupils (and this is a good thing, that makes lasik surgeons celebrate).

Wish me luck!