January 18, 2010

Winter, Food, and Garden

A while back, there were only 2 sunshines in the next 10 days of weather icons. The rest were all pictures involving some amount of raindrops.

Yay, water!

Boo, being stuck indoors and no sunshine (which turns me into a royal grump).

Thankfully, during one weekend of rain, A came to visit for a Sunday run, and she brought foodstuffs to make us an awesome fried apple pancake.


Literally, this is the first true pancake that I'm aware I've ever had. First you make it on the stove in a pan (by frying apples in butter!), and then you add some batter and bake it in the oven like a cake. It puffs up like a souflee and then deflates.

Definitely one of the better novelty winter food experiences I've had in a long time. Thanks A!

And finally, one of the greatest things about living in a super-temperate climate? And getting lots of water from the sky? The winter garden!


Including transplanted Tatsoi from my sister's seedling flat that she left me after she took me to the winter gardening class at Love Apple Farm for my birthday:


And Broccolli! We love it!


And Napa Cabbage & Bok Choy?


And baby tiger cauliflowers (which are now much more reasonably sized and almost ready to eat):


And let us not forget the sad-looking garlic shoots, that will impress us with their scapes this summer:


And then, there are the leeks. I harvested 3 in the rain tonight. In the dark. Getting muddy while digging them out. I love garden leeks.


And finally, you can see that hope springs eternal. Because I have a pot of arugula. I've made myself some delicious salads from it. But from sister's flat of sown seedlings, I had so many to transplant that I couldn't help but try to make it work despite the dead of winter (albeit a Californian one). So wish me luck:


Tonight, for dinner, we're having a brocolli-leek soup. The brocolli florets and the leeks are home grown. The half-and-half, butter, and cheese? that comes from Safeway, except for the fancy cheese. And the marjoram comes from our herb box. But, bonus, it's Friday, and there's little else required for a delicious meal and a full evening of relaxation.

Happy Delicious Winter Veggies to all and Welcome to the Weekend!

January 11, 2010

Red Lentil Salad


MMM... winter comfort food. Enjoy!

-1 package (approx 2 cups) red lentils
-1/2 red onion chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-6 pieces bacon, chopped
-1 12 oz. can stewed tomatoes
-2 T dijon mustard
-2 T pickled horseradish
-1 bunch spinach, washed, stemmed, and divided into 3 beds
-sea salt
-finishing coarse salts (a fancy selection of various colored crystals that were a holiday gift from E's sister and her husband)

1. Place bacon, onions, and garlic in a pan. Cook on medium-high heat until bacon is starting to brown and onions and garlic are see-through.

2. Add lentils, stir.

3. Add tomatoes, stir and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Cover with water (approx 1-2 cups), continue to stir and cook on medium heat.

5. Add sea salt to taste (approx 2 tsp for me), stir, cover and leave on medium heat stirring every 2-3 minutes until water is almost evaporated.

6. Stir in mustard and horseradish. Taste. (If lentils are too hard, add another 1/2 cup water and cover to simmer for 5 mintues.) Once lentils are al dente, Remove from heat, stir, and cover.

7. Arrange spinach as a bed, and plate the lentil salad over the spinach. Dress with fancy salts of choice.

Enjoy Immediately!
Right to Forget?

It appears that France is considering legislation that would require online data to be deleted/removed after a certain amount of time.

Ignoring the pragmatic implementation issues, assuming a government could actually make this law work -- the debate raises several very interesting policy and culture issues.

-How long and how far should information about our former actions follow us?

-If it's true, should anyone be allowed to say it? What if it's their opinion, but it's quite terrible as it concerns you? What if it was true at some point in the past but may not be so anymore?

-Are we, as an Internet culture, moving to being more forgiving of each other's transgressions, because, hey, who doesn't have some unfortunate party pictures available somewhere on the Internet?

-Or, are we, as an Internet culture, moving to a policed information state, where we have a right to control where our reputations are made and modified. Where we get to protect ourselves from the information related to our former transgressions, because, hey, at some point we all should be able to move on, overcome, and forget our past misdeeds.

-And how does this debate take into consideration the reality that most people find horrifically negative facts about a person to be much more interesting (and therefor higher on the search results) than any (and possibly all) counterbalancing healthy, normal, well adjusted facts?

It's questions like these, and more, that have kept me for so long from being completely open with my identity on this blog.

Lately, though, I can't help but feel that the ship has sailed. I feel as if the Internet has evolved to a place where I have 2 binary options -- I can stay fully engaged in the culture and join the transparency, or I can continue to seclude myself and slowly remove myself from and miss out on many of its newer benefits.

It's a doozy.

[UPDATE: And, the same day I wrote this, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg claimed Privacy is no longer a social norm.]

January 9, 2010

A Legal Perspective on Inter-Personal Relationships

Often, when things go wrong between colleagues, friends, or family, one party says to the other, "I'm so sorry, but, I didn't mean it. You know I didn't mean to do it. Right? It was an accident!"

This statement is a plea for forgiveness, and a hope that all will return to normalcy.

In US common civil law, this statement would be a defense against intentional misconduct. But, it would be useless against a claim of gross negligence and negligence.

Gross Negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both.

Negligence, rather, is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care.

In our inter-personal relationships, I fear we are often too binary -- looking for intentional harm or assuming that without intention, the non-harmed party must be innocent.

But if we adopt the US common civil law standard, if we are careless with those we should be caring for, then we are responsible for the harm we cause them by our carelessness.

And, if (for whatever reason) we consciously and voluntarily disregard the need to use reasonable care in our relationships (for example, when the other party has asked us to pay attention to something that hurts them and we choose not to pay attention to it in our treatment of them), then we are grossly negligent, and we are even more culpable for their harm than if we just failed to exercise reasonable care.

If 2009 taught me anything, it was that I needed to stand up for myself when people (professionally, personally, and in the family) were harming me without intention. On accident.

They didn't mean it. They were not bad people. I love them.

But, at the end of the day, even if the other party doesn't mean it, if their actions harm you, they harm you. And, we all have a duty to avoid negligence (and gross negligence) when it comes to care of ourselves.

January 6, 2010

De-Anonymization Warning #2

A while back, I hinted that I may be joining the Freakishly Free Open Kids.

I asked for those who didn't want me to link to them in the event that my meat-space identity might hint at their identity to let me know they'd like to be removed.

But, I think what I'm actually going to do is remove all linked blogs.

I'll re-link you if you request it.

And I'd really like you to request it.

But as of today, in preparation for the potential un-masking, I have no linked blogs. Please help me fix that by asking to be linked.


January 5, 2010

2009: The year in books

Well, here we are again -- 2009 is done and I get the opportunity to review my literary consumption and think about what it says about how I spent my spare time in the year. The total for this year is a meager 20 books, but like prior years, they correctly indicate where many of my spare thoughts were allocated.

1. Savannah: a Gift for Mr. Lincoln by John Jakes -- I read this while on our trip for New Years in Savannah and appreciated the historical perspective while enjoying the scenery about which I was reading.

2. Mr Muo's Traveling Couch by Dai Sijie -- the second book by Dai Sijie I've had the pleasure of reading, thanks to Arvay. Great cultural literary tourism. Highly enjoyable.

3. How to Grow World Record Tomatoes by Charles H. Wilber -- Very educational for the intrepid tomato gardner (me).

4. Heirloom: Notes from an accidental tomato farmer by Tim Stark -- Awesome story by someone who clearly loves tomatoes as much as, if not more than, me. Excellent read if you dream of farming.

5. Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh -- An excellent introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh's philosophy, received as a gift from a friend, and very much enjoyed as a companion to my regular Zen readings.

6. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Important enough for me, personally, to inspire its own post.

7. The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin -- great story of innovation in the valley and the problems encountered by those on the Autism spectrum. And yet... I couldn't make it through more than half the book without leaving it in Atlanta and feeling relief that I wouldn't have to finish it...

8: A trip to the Beach by Melinda Blanchard & Robert Blanchard -- this is the book I replaced #7 with. It was the perfect dream of opening a restaurant on an island that one should read while on vacation. Definitely recommended if you are going to Anguilla or elsewhere in the British West Indies..

9. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. So many thoughts and struggles and philosophies and clever navel gazing fictional tricks. So hard to condense into reviews. A gift from bear that I thoroughly enjoyed.

10. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A gorgeous story of immigration, cultural blending and friction, history, war, outsiders, seafaring people, and more. Poignant, but lovely.

11. Giant Tomatoes by Marvin H. Meisner. The title says it all. I learned quite a bit about the megabloom, pollination, and why perhaps bigger isn't actually better, nor may it be alligned with what I want. So, very educational.

12. Sick Pupply by Carl Hiaasen. Look, it's Carl Hiaasen. It was a dirty, guilty, satisfying pleasure. What?

13. Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg. You've got to read something to compensate for the Sick Puppies of the literary world. So this was my Selection and it served me quite well, actually.

14. Waiting for White Horses by Nathan Jorgenson. This was a book I took from my father's collection. The story of friendship, duck hunting, and aging parents tugged at my heartstrings. It tugged so much that I gave it to brother before I finished the book and long before he asked for it...

15. Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson (http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Pettigrew-Lives-Persephone-Classics/dp/190646202X) -- so fun. One of the more entertaining escapist tales I've read in a while.

16. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows -- I learned more about WWII than I wanted to from this book. But it is a testament to it that I kept reading. Well done Ms. Shaffer -- the characters are stuck in my memory unlike many I encounter in my reading.

17. Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani -- I love grandmothers. A dying grandmother in the benevolent turmoil of the painful honesty of her last thoughts. An interesting structure of vignettes, and a nice read.

18. Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be by Carolyn Elefant -- Knowledgeable take on the industry but full of almost unacceptable grammatical and linguistic errors...

19. The ZooKeeper's Wife by Dianne Ackerman -- I never totally realized, on an analytical level, just how horrid WWII was toward Jewish people. Yes, it's a stupid thing to write. But, this book is the first thing I've ever read that helped me understand that slavery and its aftermath, the most horrid black mark on the US historical context, is NOTHING compared to the mass death and destruction visited upon Jewish people in Poland during WWII. This personally based story of what happened does us all a favor by driving home the point in images and anecdotes where we might fail to understand with mere unrooted words.

20. The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch -- it's a classic. I read as much of it cover to cover as I could over the year. So I'll claim it now, because, in truth, I almost read the whole darn thing. I'm just that into gardening these days. I honestly only skipped the chapters on trees and shrubs, and I even read some interesting-to-me excerpts of those chapters as well.

21. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Simply the best book I read all year. Elegant. Struggling meandering philosophical and linguistic thoughts rooted in the mundane day-to-day class struggles of Paris, told in a gloriously simple first person manner through two cranky intelligent protagonists (with hints of Japanese culture to spice it up)...This book was written to push all my pleasure buttons.

Given the two half books above, I hit 20 books for the year despite the turmoil. Not bad. I think I'll persist in that same goal for the first year of the new decade.

January 3, 2010

I am allergic

To dogs.

To everything with fur, really.

But Dogs are where it hurts me.

Puppies, this trip to my hometown.... Uggh... I must choose between cuddling the cuteness and hives. I hate it.

At my mom's house, her dog is generally well behaved. He leaves me alone. And she cleans vigorously. But still. I get asthmatic. Dog dander and my lungs are not a good combination.

This trip, however, I barely had any issues (particularly after the early AM runs).

I suspect this conversation explains it all:

[Mom, at the doggy groomers]: Please give her a good wash. Everything. The shampoo. The works. My daughter is coming for the holidays, and she is allergic...

[Groomer]: Oh... an allergic family member! I'm so sorry. Perhaps you'd like to opt into our Super Duper Vacuum the Dog's Dander after the Shampoo Treatment?

[Mom]: Oh? Really? You vacuum the dander? I bet my daughter would be happy about that. Please do...

[Mom]: Look at Merlin! He's never looked so clean, so shiny, so well groomed. He's never smelled so good!

[Me]: Happy to help! Seriously, thanks mom. I can already tell the difference.

And there you have it -- you can take your dog to the groomers to have it treated with some sort of dander vacuum to prep for the visit of allergic folks. Who knew?

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

My plan was to drop brother at a party, enjoy a good meal with E, and to sleep my way into 2010.

I accomplished all of these things, and more, except the sleeping through.

First, we arrived to the growing threat of a party at T&H's construction lot and later, their current house. Brother's grin grew bigger with each new guest, and we smiled to leave him to what promised to be a huge party of his friends (many of whom haven't seen him in 6 months) in his honor.

As for the meal, I think BigDon may have intervened. We had reservations, but they were 6 blocks away and I was tired and without a coat. So, we called the nearest Italian restaurant to our hotel and were pleased to learn that they had room for us on no notice (of course, we were a bit early -- "yes, I would love a 6:45 PM reservation, thank you!"). The decor was modern and the smells delicious when we entered, but it was the appropriately decadent menu and the awesome people watching that really made the night of celebration.

Why yes, I would love to start my meal with a light appetizer of burratta and prosciutto di san daniele [Mmmmmm.... salty, fatty, goodness]

Wow -- I had no idea sequins were so popular right now!

I think I will have the hand made gnochi with chanterelles, lobster and truffle oil in a cream sauce

Talk about comfortable in your own skin ... don't look now, but at the table next to the party of men in suits and women in strapless dresses, there is a woman wearing a mu-mu that has a mustache...

And I will have the hand made pappardelle with beef sauce

As you can imagine, between the food's quality, good service, all the views, and the reasonable prices, we were having a lovely night. But then, (and this is where I think BigDon intervened) in walked the V's! We were thrilled for the opportunity to catch up with them before their meal, and then joined them when we were done to enjoy fun conversation about our families, friends, and the impending arrival of their new little one while they finished their dinners. What a coincidence! Of all the restaurants in the entire Sacramento area, even though they live in Folsom, they elected to dine early, downtown, at the restaurant we chose by nothing other than proximity to our hotel.

As promised, I was in bed and asleep long before midnight. I believe I put my book down and kissed E goodnight before 11 PM. So great!

At midnight, the revelry woke me so I could join E at the window and watch the fireworks over the capital building through our window with E's arm around my shoulder.

And then, I promptly returned to sleep to start the New Year this morning rested, relaxed, and with motivation to hit the gym bright and early.

Here's to 2010!