Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Martini Day

The Scene: 4:55pm in a courtroom in 'da hood.

The Judge: "Off the record, five minutes before five o'clock. You all earned your paychecks today, not that you don't work hard every day."

Me: "Today was crazy."

Defense Counsel: "I think we all earned a glass or two of wine in addition to our checks."

The Judge: "Your entitled to your choice Ms. Defense Counsel, but I think today deserves a martini."

Who am I to not follow a judge's order? This past afternoon really does require a martini (or other vodka-based drink) for recovery. I'm typing this with a glass in hand.

Mondays and Wednesdays are always pre-trial days. A typical pre-trial day entails prepping files in the morning and court appearances after lunch until 3:30 or so. Maybe 4pm if it's an unusually busy day. Then it's back to the office for filing, phone calls, e-mails, etc.

Here was today: 17 cases on afternoon calendar in the courtroom, nine of which belong to me. My first case up was a local high profile case. Between the media attention and the need for delicate handling of the victim, I'm always edgy when this case comes up on calendar. We get through that okay, with some tears from both sides but no outbursts.

Then came the case that really took it out of me. It's rare that I completely lose it with opposing counsel. I have a pretty strong reputation for being fair, reasonable and easy to work with. But trying to discuss a case with this one old man PITA left me wanting to kick him. It should have been an easy case; the Probation Dept. had already drafted a pre-plea report. But old man PITA still wanted to dispute every single standard term on there, interrupting me at every possible turn as I tried to talk to the other, more normal defense attorneys on all those other cases. He even tried to argue with me about "making the minor a ward of the court," when the document clearly stated that the proposed plea would NOT make the minor a ward. It was like living a bad thread on The Nest. I didn't know what to do except stop talking to old man PITA and request a conference on the case with the judge. As we waited our turn, old man PITA still took it upon himself to mumble crap into my ear. Fortunately, the judge is a smart man. He quickly figured out what (or who) the problem was and reined in old man PITA. The only problem was that by the time old man PITA was out of my hair, it was already past 3:30 and I still had six cases to call. Oy.

I didn't leave the office until well past 5pm. I know that firm lawyers will have no sympathy for me on this point, but one of the perks of my job is the fact that I generally never have to stay past 5pm. When I stay past five, it's a sign that it's been a bad day.

So now you know why I am already halfway through an elderflower gimlet. I first had this drink at Nopa, but I think I have created a decent at-home approximation:

For one serving, pour 2 parts vodka, 1 part lime juice and 1 part elderflower liqueur over ice into a martini shaker. Shake well, pour into a chilled glass and garnish with lime.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's a GTG!

What is a GTG? It's an afternoon of food, laughter, cute dogs and cool women all getting together to hang out and have a good time. Yesterday, 10Years welcomed the ladies of OC, LA and the IE into her home for a fun-filled time. WeezerMonkey documented the day with many pictures, but left out a photo of one of the best parts of the day: live entertainment by the talented Monkey!

I couldn't figure out what type of food item to bring, so I arrived with a pitcher of sangria instead. I used to refer to it as Cha Cha Cha Sangria, since the recipe was inspired by the featured drink served at Cha Cha Cha. But at the suggestion of Marshmalo, I might refer to it as Memory Inhibiting Sangria in the future.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle dry white wine (I use a sauvignon blanc with fruity notes)
  • 1 bottle red wine (preferably a beaujolais)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • assorted fruits (I always use red grapes and strawberries)
  • 1-2 ounces of brandy (optional)
  1. In a large non-metal bowl, mix the wines together, along with the cup of sugar. Stir for a few minutes.
  2. Slice the orange and lemon into thin slices (1/8 - 1/4 of an inch). Add to the wine and stir.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning, add in your other fruits and the brandy. Stir again, pour into a pitcher and chill until it's time to party!

This sangria goes down so easy you may forget you're drinking alcohol. Plan accordingly. ;-) On the rare occasion you have some leftover, skim out the fruit and store the rest in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Totally Smurfy

Lord knows I don't really need any more cosmetics, but I couldn't help myself. I had to order a couple items from this collection (eyeshadow and lip gloss). I adored The Smurfs as a child. I would wake up early to watch it, despite the fact I am not a morning person at all. A girlfight actually broke out at my 8th birthday party over who got to read a little Smurf booklet that had come with a Smurf t-shirt I had received as a gift. And now that we have the Boomerang network I have recorded an episode here and there. I can't wait until my smurfment arrives!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Time for Change

How can anyone possibly be uninspired today?

It is no surprise to most people who know me that I have been an Obama supporter from the beginning. I still remember the feeling of awe I had after his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention. I recall thinking, "This guy has a great future in politics." I didn't think the future would come so quickly however, that a mere four years later he would be Mr. President.

While today's events undoubtedly mark changes for the nation and the world, part of his inaugural address struck me instantly and has stuck with me on a personal level:

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

This statement sums up how I have been feeling about 2009 so far. I stopped making resolutions a few years ago, but after the mess that 2008 was I knew that I needed to make some changes for my own sake. As much as I tried not to let it affect me, the stress I felt at work last year had physical manifestations. I ate more, slept less and had a bottle of Tylenol on my desk at all times. I started the year by coming down with the flu and closed out the year by developing bronchitis. Most of all I didn't feel like myself. Instead I felt like I was trying to fit a role of what people thought I should be like: unbending, more aggressive, harsher.

It's time for me to pick myself up, dust myself off and remake me. I need to be true to my own character, not what others want me to be. If it means rethinking my career path and how I can accomplish certain goals, then so be it. I will just need to get creative. It's time for me to take better care of myself so that I can be a better person. I want to live in the moments that make a day, rather than going through the motions. The time for change has arrived, in more ways than one.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Coastal Getaway

In what is starting to become a tradition, Eddie and I escaped to the coast for our anniversary getaway. Last year we had a great spa weekend at the Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach. This year we traveled a bit farther, up to the Central Coast. After a later-than-planned start last Friday, we arrived in Cambria just in time for our dinner reservation at Robin's restaurant.

Even though the night was a bit chilly we opted to sit out on the covered patio, with a heat lamp nearby. We started off by sharing the Crispy Vietnamese Lumpia with house-made kimchee and sweet chili sauce. The lumpia was fine, but the real standout was the kimchee. They should bottle some and sell it. We'd buy it.

Eddie had Porcini Pappardelle Pasta with squash fonduta, roasted wild mushrooms, toasted pepitas and crispy sage. I almost ordered this, but chose not to in an effort to avoid carbs. The joke was on us though because the pasta was a spelt or multigrain version. Not exactly Eddie's preference, but I thought it was yummy. The fantastic mushrooms made it up for him.

I had Pork Osso Buco with celery root-potato puree, braised greens, cranberry-port demi glace and crispy parsnip. Everything was delicious, but the braised greens were outstanding. I wish I had the recipe.

For dessert we had mango sorbet and tiramisu. The sorbet was light and obviously used fresh fruit. The tiramisu was good too.

After dinner we checked in to our room at the Moonstone Landing Inn. Our room was spacious and comfortable, with a balcony and fireplace. We also had a fantastic view. This is what I woke up to last Saturday morning:

After a light breakfast provided by the Inn and watching the surfers for a while, we drove to Hearst Castle for a tour. We opted for the Experience Tour, which is recommended for first-time visitors to the Castle. We fit the bill. After arriving at the visitor center we got on to a shuttle bus for the winding 5-mile trip up the hill.

The tour started with admiring the exterior of one of the guesthouses:

Even guests had a marvelous view.

We then moved on to view the Roman pool. The piece on the left was actually imported from Rome. The other columns and statues were custom built to fit the theme. The pool has always had the capability to be heated, which was quite a big deal back in the day.

This is just a sample of one of the rooms in the primary guesthouse.
This is the exterior of the main house. William Hearst's theme for the main house was "Catholic Church" even though he was not Catholic. I think he accomplished his goal.

The fireplace of the main sitting room where guests would mingle over cocktails before dinner. William Hearst had a lot of famous friends including stars of screen and stage, artists, oil barons, writers and even Einstein.

The north end of the sitting room. Really, a point-and-shoot cannot do the Castle justice. The opulence, artwork and attention to detail was astounding. According to our guide, William Hearst made an average of $50,000 a day. That's a lot of money by current standards and a phenomenal amount of money for the 1920s-40s. The Castle truly reflects that.

Despite his wealth, it is said that William Hearst was a down-to-earth man who didn't like pretentiousness. Hence the table setting with plain old ketchup and mustard right on the table in their respective bottles.

Our final stop was the indoor Neptune pool. There are four tours available at the Castle. Each one covers approximately 25% of the property, but every tour ends at the Neptune pool.

The tilework in the pool area features 24K gold.

After a quick lunch at the visitor's center, we drove north on PCH to the elephant seal vista point.

At this time of year females who have just given birth and young seals dominate the population.

There were a few male seals around trying to get their groove on early. Mating season is still a few weeks away.

This pup's mom needed some alone time; she had moved 20-25 feet away. Her pup was determined to catch up though.

Finally! Back with mama.

I think this is the closest that seals get to a dogpile.

We headed back to our hotel and crossed the street over to Moonstone Beach.

Eddie's the adventurer. My feet were (somewhat) firmly on the ground.

The ground was not sandy, but was covered in smooth pebbles instead. There were quite a few people searching through the rocks for additions to their collections. Since it was low tide, we were able to wade fairly far into the water.

After picking up complimentary snacks and drinks from the Inn's lobby we watched the sunset from our balcony.

Going ...

going ......


Saturday night's dinner was at The Sow's Ear. Dinner here was just okay, especially since we had enjoyed Robin's so much the evening before.

There was a lot of pig kitsch around, but this little piggy chef tucked away in the corner was my favorite.

We started with Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms broiled in lemon garlic butter and white wine.

Eddie had Chicken Fried Steak with country sausage gravy.

I had Coffee Crusted Kobe Steak with a port wine glaze and blue cheese. The steak seemed a little underseasoned. I think I should have gone with my initial ordering instinct instead, which was the Lobster Pot Pie. I ended up having several bites of Eddie's dish after abandoning mine.

For dessert Eddie had the Ollalieberry Granita. He said it tasted a little syrupy. I had the Warm Cinnamon Bread Pudding. It was nothing like the great bread puddings I had in NOLA. Boo.

The town of Cambria gets quiet early, especially in an off-season month. After dinner we got the fireplace going in our room and watched What Happens in Vegas, which we had picked up from the Inn's DVD library.

Sunday morning was just as gorgeous as the previous day. I took a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk. How can you distinguish the locals from the visitors? The locals say hello to everyone they encounter along the path. When you live in such a lovely location I guess it's easy to be warm and friendly. As much of a city girl as I am, I could totally live in a low-key beach town. We couldn't go all the way up to the Central Coast without heading to a few wineries in Paso Robles. Well, okay, I couldn't head all the way up there without going to a winery or two. Our first stop was Opolo, which I had thoroughly enjoyed visiting last May.

We were the only visitors on a Sunday morning, but this adorable little ball of fluff generated a lot of conversation between us and the pourer. Layla was thrilled to have a couple new adorers.

Our next stop was Jada, where I neglected to take any photos. What makes the tasting unique at this winery is that they pair a cheese with each pour. I wish they sold some of the cheeses they use for pairing. If anyone knows where I can find a cocoa-dusted goat cheese, shoot me a message.

The final winery we visited was Dover Canyon. Rebel Rose greeted us at the car door and showed us the way to the tasting room. This was the smallest winery we visited, but the staff was extremely friendly. The reggae music in the background gave the tasting room a kickback vibe.

Of course she got a reward for a job well done!

By this point I was pretty boozy, so I handed the keys over to Eddie before we drove to lunch. After a leisurely lunch at McPhee's Grill, it was time to leave the mellow coast behind and start the long haul home.

We already have next year's beach getaway planned. More details in the months ahead, but I seriously can't wait. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Years Ago Today .....

Note: these are a mix of pro and non-pro pics.

(psst ... can you tell why we had our wedding in SF?)