April 29, 2009

Unrelated Bits

I found myself in a meeting today that made me seriously question why I stayed at the firm. As in why I stayed *today* (for the rest of the day) instead of just giving notice and leaving.

Clearly, I'm overdue for the upcoming vacation and am more than a little burnt out.

I mean, come on. I'd at least give 2 weeks notice. No matter what. My career can't take the hit of the notice and walk. So, I'd have to stay 'til the end of the day and for another 13 days to boot. What was I thinking?

In other news:

Warner Music is picking a fight with YouTube about a video of one of Lawrence Lessig's presentations. This should get interesting.

And finally, I stumbled upon a new blog today that is likely to suck up much of my time tonight when I should be working to clear my plate for vacation (you know, instead of blogging...).

April 28, 2009

The Present

One of the more interesting side effects of my Zen Buddhism studies has been learning to focus on the present. It's a common theme in many spiritual/philosophical pursuits, and a difficult one for most of us, I think.

In particular, I sometimes struggle with the inherent conflict between setting goals, planning, and living in the present. In some sense, setting goals and planning is living in the future, letting desire for another time eat up the precious time I have right now. But, in another, more pragmatic sense, planning and goal setting is necessary in order to execute on anything complex.

This weekend, I realized a connection between the two that I had somehow missed despite slowly implementing it thanks to E, my Zen studies, and, learning to expect the unexpected through life's surprises.

The big huge revelation?

Good planning and goal setting, so long as I am not wedded to the plan, allows me to structure my life so that I have a higher likelihood of being able to be present in each moment.

E taught me this concept when we first started traveling together and we alternated days of the trip. I'd pack my days full of local activities that excited me. He'd call his days, "do nothing days" and we'd sleep in, read, and fit in (maybe) one or two activities spontaneously. I was shocked to find that I felt more relaxed and felt more on vacation on E's days then on my own. How had I never taken the time to allocate a day on vacation to do nothing?

Of course, I'm me, so despite rediscovering the beauty of the unplanned day of childhood, I've never stopped planning and goal setting. I've always expected the unexpected with money and over-allocated towards my financial goals to ensure I can execute on them. But, over the years, I have learned to apply this concept to time as well. I've stopped trying to fit so much in and I've started planning on necessary downtime to recover, relax, and to handle the unexpected in order to ensure that the things I really want to do actually have a high likelihood of getting done.

I've started accepting that in my personal life, just like in my professional life, often quantity comes at the expense of quality, so if I'm truly committed to quality, I have to do less.

This weekend, I fit in quite a bit, but not too much -- and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also sent my regrets to two party invitations because I realized there was no way to fit them in as well. This was difficult because I wanted to see folks at both of those parties and it meant I didn't get to spend the weekend with E -- he wanted to attend one of the parties more than he wanted to do gardening with my sister, brother, and neice.

I didn't take his preference personally. We see my family fairly regularly. Many friends of his he hadn't seen in at least a year were going to be at the party. And, well, there really isn't enough time to do everything in life.

Another realization I had this weekend, is that I can be present in the moment in the act of planning and goal setting. Which is a good thing, because I'm in the process of planning some very big changes in my life.

It was a relief to realize that I don't have to live for the future just because I am planning for it. I am trying to enjoy each step along the journey. Sometimes, the step I'm at is thinking, and calmly evaluating what makes the most sense in the search for my goals, and deciding on that plan.

This step is actually very important and a great opportunity for growth. It requires me to be honest with myself about what I *really* want in life and then to make the appropriate decisions to increase the likelihood that I will end up with what I *really* want. It is hard, sometimes, to be honest with myself and to admit that I am childish and want everything even though I know it is not possible. It is difficult to make the decisions about what I want to do and where my values lie because every choice involves a committed rejection, often of things I like and enjoy. Life is full of hard choices and being present while I make some of them is a good thing.

So, yay! I don't feel tension over the conflict anymore. Planning, goal setting, and spontaneity and flexibility are part of the yin and yang of time for me.

April 24, 2009

Today's Feminism

I attended an event today that was targeted to successful women in the area of my legal practice. Many interesting stories were told. Many of them belonged to women from generations prior to mine. You know, when they *really* had to fight -- when women were actually seen as inferior, as opposed to just "more dedicated to their families" or "lazy".

Me, I'm left with the left-over fights of "not-as-committed" which are more complicated and nowhere near as loaded as the "not capable" fights. I know my technical colleagues know I can understand the stuff (they don't doubt I'm good enough, they just wonder whether I have the dedication to deliver...), they all went to school with girls like me, studied with girls like me, and respect girls like me.

Me, if I want to pick any of the remaining fights... I'm confronted with the stupid non-meritocratic battles.

Like the fact that most of America felt okay attacking a young woman in the middle of an apparent breakdown who thought she was ready to be a professional performer because they thought she was *FAT*:

Britney Spears court testify

I mean *REALLY*????

Let's be honest here. Girl looks good. Healthy. Muscular. Not skinny (as in nothing but skin). Not like she's got an eating disorder. Not strung-out on drugs. Reasonably alive. Better than most of us, if we are honest with ourselves.

Sure, she could be a little more perfectly hollywood-camera-toned. But, do we really need to have this conversation? Are we going to let people jump in without submitting photos of themselves in similar attire?

Also, in full disclosure, I uploaded this image to flickr after taking it (shamelessly) from Above the Law, so if that was wrong, please let me know. I will, of course, comply with all take-down requests, etc.

Anyways, I couldn't help but leave today's event with an appreciation for the battles I feel compelled to pick on behalf of my gender versus those that one of the first female judges on the federal bench in my area had to pick.

The times, even if you aren't paying attention, they are a-changing.

It's a good thing.

April 23, 2009

Garden Update

So, the over-winter portions of the garden are going strong.


(Originally, I'd hoped I could rotate this picture. But really -- who cares? Flickr is picky but it's free.) This is what you get: Onions, in many forms, several months past seeding, some bok choy, mustard plants, red lettuce, some tomato seedlings that you can't see, and some dill and cilantro seeds that may or may not sprout.

The bulb onions promise to deliver bulbs if we are patient (I'm somewhat dubious and think that perhaps we should just harvest while they are green).

Garlic, of course, patiently grows, and reaches its 3-feet height and waits for the heat wave to cause the stalks to fall, which will mean we should harvest and start to dry it. We are excited for home-grown garlic. It is so satisfying -- 42 cloves planted, 42 heads in development, what more could you want?

And, then, of course, there is the artichoke. What the hell? We read, "3 foot diameter" and thought, "well... that'll take a bit of space." But hey, no worries, because they don't really produce the first year.

Too bad no one told our gargantuan plant...


Thank goodness, it's merely shading lettuce and green onions we are willing to sacrifice (aka eat earlier than most would) and slightly crowding the garlic (who can fend for themselves).

Also, I'm thrilled to report that every plant we've targeted for the garden has either sprouted, been transplanted, or otherwise grown into this community. So, I was *VERY* thrilled to see that the last garden-planted seeds finally delivered today:

Green Summer Squash, 9 days post seeding into the earth:


As Arvay said, Every seed is a miracle.

And our Garden is an example of close to 100 miracles. I am so excited.

April 21, 2009


I recently finished Eat, Love, Pray.

I haven't identified that much with a literary voice in a very long time. It was a treat to take a journey around the world and through the depths of emotion via words chosen by someone who seeks out so many of my favorite things: food, words, appreciation for the beautiful song of the Italian language, beauty, yoga, spirituality, struggles against internal demons, travel, a desire to be a better person, drawing personal boundaries to protect the self only to watch them crumble when the time is right, wonder at the universe, and a desire for balance.

I adored reading this book.

When I finished the book, I got a call from a friend who had been in a very dark place a while back. He'd stopped returning my calls in the middle of an apparent overdose. At the time, I'd told him to breathe, then I'd asked what he had taken, and where his son was. The list of drugs was long, coupled with alcohol, and his breaths came in uneasy gulps separated by sobs. But he seemed to understand the implications of his actions and had actually called me to ask for help checking into rehab. Suddenly, he needed to be done with his addictions. That day.

Thankfully, his son was at daycare, his wife was on her way back from out-of-town and his mother was on her way over. Both adults had promised to get him into a program that night, which was a good thing, because despite his promises not to ignore me, he did stop taking my calls that day. When he didn't pick up after the 4th attempt, I took a deep breath and asked the universe to protect him, knowing that there was nothing more I could do.

He called after I finished the book to let me know he'd completed his month of rehab and was in a much better place. I was so happy for him and before we finished the call, I reminded him to breathe.

Last night, I had the opportunity to instant message with a friend who is going through a divorce. She misses her ex horribly (he left her), but has gotten to the place where she doesn't want to be with him. So, it sucks. Because she misses him, but knows he is bad for her and thus, the pain is all for naught.

All I could do was tell her that she was doing great (which is true, actually, given everything she's facing, she's fine emotionally, and somehow, professionally, in the midst of all the drama she's accomplishing things she only dreamed of a few years ago). And, of course, when she told me she was crying, I told her to breathe.

I laughed at myself, because "breathe" has become my go-to advice for myself when I get worked up, and I always offer it to friends and family who are facing difficult situations. After my laughter, I recalled that the word "Aspire" comes from the latin word "Aspirare" which means to breathe upon.

And, I think that's right. All great things begin with the breath. First we breathe, then we act. Getting through the darkness requires us to breathe, one breath at a time, until it is light again. Even great big hopes and dreams, they begin with small steps, that are breathed upon, during, and through by the step-takers.

So, breathe. Fix a hope or dream in your mind. Take the time to breathe upon it, calm yourself with it, tend to it a little bit each day, and see what grows.

April 16, 2009

Steamed Artichokes on a Bed of Agretti-Fregola


Our CSA decided we should experiment with Agretti this week.

I must admit. I was not too excited. E is difficult enough when it comes to dark leafy greens. But just dark and green, no leaves? I was fairly certain he would not be happy.

Imagine my surprise when tonight's dinner turned out as well as it did.

If you find yourself with this eclectic collection of ingredients, enjoy!

-2 large artichokes, washed and stems cut off so the bottom is flat (earned by finishing the Artichoke Half Mararthon and the fact that E2 registered and paid but was too sick to participate).
-1 small bunch baby shallots (4 or so, each less than 1/2 inch in diameter at the widest point)
-3 cloves garlic
-1 lb. agretti
-8 oz. Fregola
-2 T dijon mustard
-2 T butter
-1 meyer lemon
-3 T olive oil (or so)
-4-5 strands fresh thyme, leaves removed

1. Dice the white and red portions of the shallots and the garlic cloves. Toss in a pot that has a tight cover available for later use and top with olive oil. Sautée on medium heat.

2. Add artichokes and place on the bottom of the pan, flat (stem-removed side down). Add 2 C water, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Add fregola and thyme to the water. Add water 'til fregola is covered by at least an addition 3/4 inch of water. Stir briefly and return to a simmer. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes on medium-heat.

4. Remove from heat and remove the cover. With kitchen scissors, slice agretti and shallot tops into 1 cm segments over fregola.

5. Remove artichokes from the pot, place in serving bowls, and stir the fregola with the agretti and shallot greens to allow the greens to soften.

6. As the greens steam in the pot with the fregola, microwave the lemon juice, the butter, and the mustard for 2 minutes. Stir.

7. Plate the fregola salad around the artichokes. Pour the lemon-butter-mustard sauce over the artichokes and around them on the salad.

8. Serve immediately with a plate to toss the un-eaten portions of the artichoke leaves (which can be used to scrape up fregola salad as well as sauce).


April 14, 2009

The Garden Grows

Literally. Exponentially. I think we may have planted a wee bit too much for this Summer, but there's no way to know 'til it's too late:


That would be:

32 tomato plants
2 husk tomato plants
4 pepper plants (2 squash peppers, 1 jalapeno, 1 spanish pepper of medium heat)
1 japanese eggplant
1 japanese cucumber
1 american space-saver cucumber
1 bok choy plant
1 mustard plant
2 butter lettuce plants
1 green/red lettuce plant
1 red lettuce plant
42 garlic stalks
1 artichoke plant
20-30 onions/leeks (or so) from the winter planting
100 onions/leeks from the spring planting (still waiting to be thinned)
1 mint plant
3 cilantro seedlings
1 rosemary plant
1 lemon thyme plant
1 greek oregano plant
1 marjoram plant
3 parsley plants
1 italian parsley plant
1 strawberry planter full of delicious strawberries (seriously, they were even better than the CSA strawberries, which were wonderful!)


Plus seeds we are hoping will sprout of:
-English thyme
-acorn squash
-butternut squash
-summer squash
-green summer italian squash (not zucchini, smaller and lighter green, more tender)

Not to mention the basil I haven't transplanted yet...and a few unaccounted for spaces where I'm likely to plant even more seeds.

I think I may have a problem. Thank goodness that E and friends will be setting up the drip irrigation system this weekend. This is really starting to be too much to manage by hand.

Finally, before we say our complete goodbye to the winter garden, we should be thankful for the broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, arugula (!!), chard, cabbage, beets, radishes, and carrots. The last 2 categories were the last to be picked to clear the way for the Summer garden. We were impressed that the carrots dug below the top soil and deep into the clay:


Simple Carrot Dill Bisque

Tonight, we used the roots in the picture above to make a carrot dill soup.

1. Sautee the tops of leeks and any sliced radishes, with garlic and chopped baby carrots from the CSA (along with chopped pieces of our mature carrots) in olive oil;

2. Add salt, pepper, water and simmer until carrots break easily with a spoon. Add milk to taste and puree with a hand blender;

3. When you have the consistency you like, add chopped dill, stir until fragrant and serve immediately.

Wish us luck for a summer full of good harvests and creative recipes!

April 13, 2009

Big Al's Half Marathon

My legs just woke me up -- apparently, they are so tired that they won't let me sleep.

Yesterday, I ran the The Artichoke Half Marathon in beautiful Pescadero, CA.

It was one of the smallest races I've ever run, with maybe 150 participants: no porta-potties, just one stall bathroom before the start, no food snacks, only water at the aid stations, and bibs filled out by hand, in alphabetical order for the pre-registered folks.

Big Al, the organizer, herded us into a pack of shivering spandex and microfibers and yelled the directions at us. Thank goodness there were only three streets to remember because while we were trying to listen, a local resident honked and angrily revved their mini-van through the crowd. After the interruption, Big Al gave us a quick schpiel on diabetes and why we should exercise (preaching to the choir?), and then, basically, he said, "GO!" and we were off.

I haven't been running as much this year as in years past, so my goal was simple: finish in less than 2 hours. This meant I needed to keep a 9:20 mile pace.

E promised to drive out to meet me at the finish line, so I was motivated -- I didn't want to keep him waiting. I started out on the beautiful course with a 9:19 mile, and did a good job of keeping myself below 9:20 for the entire time.

Unfortunately, I crossed the finish line (to E's cheers) at 2:04:50.

How did I miss my time goal? Well, as Big Al laughingly informed E while he waited for me, the course was about a half a mile too long. There was a cone at the *true* half marathon finish, but I, like most, I suspect, completely missed it because I was focused on getting to the *finish*.

The rewards for my efforts were a finisher's medal and a giant artichoke. But, despite what one write-up said, there was no post-run brunch at Duarte's (they were closed for Easter). I suppose that's really too much to ask for -- it's a $25 race.

All-in-all, it was a great run. Foggy and cold at the start and just starting to burn off and warm up at the finish. The first 5 miles were slightly up hill for a total elevation change of 200 feet. Then a nice 1 mile downhill, 3 miles of rolling hills, and an excellent 4 mile slightly downhill finish. The entire thing was on the open roads, none of which were closed to traffic, but the cars were few and far between, and most (unlike the angry mini-van) were slow and fully of waving passengers (it is a very small town).

After the race, E and I split a margherita pizza from Pescadero Country Store, and then we stocked up on extra sour sourdough bread, half-baked bread for the freezer, garlic bread (the dangers of shopping post-long-run) and wine at Pescadero Bakery (aka Norm's Market).

On the drive home, E and I took advantage of the perfect weather to made a quick photo stop at San Gregorio State Beach.

What a perfect Sunday morning!

April 9, 2009

Blessings from the CSA

Wow -- here we are, 4 pick-ups of the CSA delivery, and I'm feeling qualified to write about how the CSA affects our life.


Anyways, assuming you are willing to put up with my overly know-it-all ways, here are some observations:

1. The CSA, as an idea, hit critical mass in our social circle. Without discussing it with several of our friends beforehand, we have found that many of them have signed up. What is that?

2. Experimentation is the key. And a forgiving set of mouths to feed.

3. Enjoy the few successful recipes we've concocted, below.

Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad

How can you argue with roasted beets and goat cheese? You can't, can you?


To make this majestic masterpiece, do the following:

-juice 1 lemon, mix with 2 T honey, 2 T olive oil, and spices of your choosing
-clean, trim and roast beets for 1.5 hours in a 400 F oven. (In hindsight, wrapping the beets in aluminum foil would have prevented stains on the dishes and decreased the cooking time). Note: once they are done being cooked, they have to be peeled. This results in stained hands, fingernails, and, if you are lame and clumsy like me, clothes.
-wash and cut romaine lettuce into bite size pieces
-cut a small onion in salad sized pieces for garnish
-cut 1/2 C of feta into small crumbly pieces
-save 1/4 C of spiced nuts
-arrange romaine, feta, onions, spiced nuts in individual bowls for serving
-remove beets from oven, cut into small pieces, allow to cool briefly, and then place on top of salads
-cover with dressing and serve.


Homemade pretzels are worth the effort

I've never seen this done before, but G did it. I am salivating at the memory and grumpy that I can't have one now. That, my friends, is why you go to long-lost-friends' homes for the weekend, and stay there. Pretzels!!! (FWIW: The boiling of the dough in water with baking soda is wacky, but damn were they good.)


Bacon-Orach Risotto Rocks

Orach, a reddish/purplish green spinach relative, works quite well in risotto, but, more importantly, while it tastes delicious, unlike many other leafy vegetables that would play its taste roll in this production, it contributes a lovely red-purple dye to the risotto:


-1 yellow onion, minced
-1 lb. Orach, cleaned, stems removed
-1 C Vialone Nano rice (not required, but we had it, and it does make the texture absolutely perfect)
-chicken stock/broth
-3 strips bacon, sliced into 1 cm strips
-1 meyer lemon, sliced and juiced
-1/4 cup smoked gouda, chopped

1. Sautée bacon on medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add onions, stir.
3. Add rice, stir until rice is see-through.
4. Add 1 C broth, cook 'til primarily evaporated.
5. Add 1 more C broth, the Orach, cook until evaporated.
6. Add lemon juice & gouda. Cook on medium until perfect consistency. If necessary add water and continue to cook.

Enjoy (the pretty colors and the flavors) with salt and black pepper to taste!

That was always the yuppie dream: an aristocratic life achieved meritocratically.

True dat. For more on this topic, and the current state of the economy, see Time's amazing article titled, The End of Excess: Is Crisis Good For America. Regardless of whether you agree, the thesis is thought-provoking.

For example:

[N]o other nation assimilates immigrants as successfully as the U.S. The sooner we can agree on a coherent national policy to encourage as many as possible of the world's smartest and most ambitious people to become Americans, the better our chances of forestalling national decline. The waves of exotic foreigners who arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries were unsettling, but previous generations got over it, luckily, since those newcomers were instrumental in forging the American Century.

This is thought provoking for what it means for the locals, and for those who came earlier and may be out-competed by more recently-arrived immigrants.

May you live in interesting times.


April 5, 2009

Those that embrace it

Every once in a while, I get a jolt. I see that one of the bloggers I used to read is still at it. Only more-so.

There are those that embrace this medium and bare the souls, their bodies, their identities.

Me, I trust the thin, invisible film composed of a suspension of my boring life and the fact that those who know who I am do not connect this blog to my real life on the internet. Sure, even with that protection, I'm one subpoena away from anyone who didn't know finding out. But for now -- if you google my meat-space name, you don't get this blog and vice-versa.

I take comfort in that, and yet, if these writings were not anonymous, they would be so different.

Perhaps better.

Certainly, my career requires that I could not write much about work. But life... ahhh... life. Maybe I could write a bit in a way that would mean something.

Perhaps, one day. Best to dream, methinks.

Anyways...Dooce, you are an inspiration. I shall order your book to support you.

Thanks, E-Spat for the link to Dooce. Glad to see you are doing so well, and the new book is much appreciated.

April 3, 2009

The Question

E and I just received a wedding invitation to a second cousin's wedding that neither of us had any clue was going to happen.

If you didn't know that the person was dating someone, much less that they had an upcoming wedding, it's kind of a shock to receive an invitation with a couple months notice asking you to fly across the country for a weekend of family, festivities, and fun.

The question -- do we go?

The benefits (obvious): family, fun, memories, party, etc.

The drawbacks: it's close in time to several other trips to see family and friends and events we have planned and may require us to pack events so tightly that we won't enjoy each of them as much as we could if we avoided this one. Also, it's not cheap to fly across the country and stay in a hotel for a weekend. And, of course, there's the time away from work, which is never fun to manage.

Hmmmm... difficult.

April 2, 2009

Green Mashed Potatoes

So, at the urging of our local CSA, we've been experimenting with Bittman's Green Mashed Potatoes recipe.

We long for a day we could make home-made bread crumbs.

We work through the recipe each week with the excess greens the CSA gives us (because, the dirty little secret is -- they deliver what they promise, but if the weather is good, you'll probably end up with more than you bargained for...otherwise it would go to waste).

Last week -- this recipe was okay. We served it for guests, more or less according to the instructions, except with some pre-made bread-crubs, some cheddar cheese on top. It was good. But, still... it was just okay.

Tonight, we used the leftover Red Cabbage Recipe deliciousnous, 2 huge russett potatoes, a bunch of dandelion greens, green garlic, pre-made bread-crumbs, smoked gouda, grated pecorino romano, and finally, (FINALLY!) we found a concoction that won both of our hearts upon first exit from the 450F oven and kept 'em happy through the very last bite of melted and browned cheese, browned bread crumbs, toasted dandelion greens, green garlic, leftover cabbage and bacon and onions (which flavored the whole dish), the riced mashed potatoes, and yes, who could forget, the olive oil, the salt and the pepper.

All-in-all -- a wonderfully well-balanced and delicious meal.