Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Joneses...

Our gift to you: the "Red Caramel Apple." Our new favorite holiday cocktail.

1.5 parts brandy
.5 parts 99 Apples
Top with cranberry juice

And with that... back to celebrating.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Santa at the Pizza Party

This morning:

JULIET: "Mommy, can I have [some thing that she said she wanted]?"

ME: "Maybe you can ask for that for Christmas."

JULIET: "From Santa Claus!"

ME: "Yup."

JULIET: "At the pizza party!"

ME: "Yup. What?"

JULIET: "We can go see Santa Claus at the pizza party. Remember?"

Oh, yeah ....

Last year Lamppost Pizza in Davis had Santa Claus available, onsite, occasionally working in the office and probably tossing a pizza here and there. You got a $25 gift card if you came in for pizza with Santa. So we took Juliet and tiny baby Desmond.

Apparently we're never going to have a proper Santa outing, and we are now going to have to go to Lamppost Pizza in Davis every Christmas.

She was straight up scared of the Santa last year by the way.

But I think this year will be better.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In which I do a lot of sort of angry bitching

I know I took an oath of Facebook silence a few days ago, but since I'm actually writing this on Blogger, it doesn't really count.

Actually, I shouldn't be dicking around online at all this close to the bar, but really, it's late on Saturday night, and I've been studying since 9am, and I think it's time to use the other part of my brain for ten minutes.

Sigh. I finally came to terms with the very real possibility that I'm going to be taking this thing again in February. For the first time, I allowed myself to contemplate what failure is going to be like. No, I don't like it. But it won't be the end of the world. Despite the fact that I will have one more child on top of the three already in my brood (one which will be much more needy and less forgiving than the three already around), now I know how to study for this thing. And the truth of the matter is, it takes a lot more time than I have, full-time study schedule notwithstanding.

When you have BarBri until 1pm, and kid duty starting at 5pm, you have exactly the hours between 1pm and 4pm to do everything that your law school contemporaries have from 1pm to midnight to do, except with three more kids and a house where the dishes and the laundry jump out at night and crap all over your floors. Weekends where leaving your poor bemused husband and kids for hours and hours at a time to go sit in a library is psychological torture. Misguided plans to refurbish your husband's antique barbecue for Father's Day because you have no money and he explicitly told you not to spend anything on him, so instead of going to Cost Plus and buying him some fancy deck furniture you spent an entire week of said afternoons sanding, painting, and driving all over creation looking for red high-heat paint (which they apparently don't sell anywhere in Sacramento or Yolo County, FYI).

That, and also because you have no money, you were on the phone with Victim Witness trying to get compensation for the thousands of dollars you spent on mental health counseling for your kids four years ago when crazy shit* happened to them, but you never had time to finalize all the issues with the insurance company, all so that you could scrounge up the $600 for the hotel room during the bar exam. Oh, and maybe a new pair of maternity shorts, since NOTHING FITS AND IT'S EIGHT HUNDRED DEGREES OUTSIDE. And in the meantime it seems like every member of your immediate and extended family is either pissed at you because you're, uh, studying, or is peeing her pants every ten minutes because, again, you're a bad mother who doesn't potty train her children.

Yeah. So, there's that. I think that coming to grips with my own very definite realization of possible failure has actually allowed me to maintain some sense of sanity in these final days. If I fail, I take it again next time and I pass, because instead of spending all my time distilling all this crazy California law into detailed yet condensed attack sheets, I'll be doing the practice exams like they've been exhorting me to all along. Hey, BarBri guy, I did what you said - I said "screw it" to worrying about memorizing the law early on and did those graded essays like you told me to, and your incomprehensible BarBri practice exam graders FAILED all of my essays. So don't tell me that I shouldn't have spent the time working on learning the law.

If I do fail, at the end of the day, it wasn't because I was lazy, or stupid. It was because I tried too hard to do everything. I tried to maintain my unreasonably high expectations of my abilities while I should have put everything more or less on hold for this exam, no second thoughts, no glances backwards.

It's just so hard. I guess that's really it.

Back to studying.

* Said crazy sh*t is probably worth a post of its own someday, maybe in like 200 years when I get the time and energy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Letter to Juliet

Dear Juliet:

This began as a letter of preemptive apology, and seemed to end as a kind of manifesto for our lives. It is more for me right now than for you, but someday I hope you can read it and that you will understand.

I'm sorry, Juliet, that I'm not out with you and Dad and your brothers on the lake today. I'm sitting in our totally unkempt home, trying to study for the hardest bar exam in the United States which is in less than three weeks. I'm trying to ignore your little brother, who at 26 weeks gestation appears hell-bent on getting out of my uterus any way possible. Fortunately, he hasn't convinced my body that it's time yet. He's just doing a lot of punching and kicking. I blame it on the caffeine, but that's a whole other apology letter I have to write.

I'm sorry for leaving you three, four, sometimes five nights a week for the past four years to go to night school. Those days were just awful. I would get home at 3:05 just in time for your big brothers to get home from school, and in the two hours I was home in the afternoons I would try desperately to do my reading for the evening so as to never be caught in the middle of class unprepared ever again. (That happened when I was pregnant with you my first year. The professor made me cry in the middle of class. Not my shining moment.)

Most afternoons I would be helping your brothers with their homework, cleaning the kitchen and trying to cobble together some semblance of dinner so your poor dad wouldn't have to do it with three kids running around the house. I would leave the house to go pick you up at 5, just so I could have half an hour to see you that day before I went off to class. Sometimes, I didn't even get that half hour.

When I stumbled back through the door at 10pm after class, I would try to hang out with Dad, make some coherent conversation, finish laundry, and then I'd come in and kiss you goodnight. Later in the wee hours of the morning you would wander into our room and crawl into bed with us. I confess that I stopped putting you back in your own bed after a while, just because it felt so good to cuddle with you, and I missed you. You're not your normal stubborn, ornery self when you're sleeping.

As difficult as these past four years, and these next three weeks have been/are going to be for us, I know the future is going to be difficult too. There are going to be nights when I will have to work late. There will be more weekend boating trips lost to the office. There will be the long days where you will may have to sit in some unfriendly day care center, surrounded by weird kids and impassive underpaid teachers who don't really give a crap about you, and maybe you still won't be bothered by it. Maybe you never will. Or maybe you'll feel lonely and frustrated because there's so much you wish you could be doing, and you can't do it because you weren't able to have the opportunity. I hope not.

I can't tell what the future will bring. Maybe we'll be rich enough to afford the best day care, babysitters and camps and extracurricular activities. Maybe my job will be flexible enough that I will be able to get off work early sometimes to see you. Maybe not. But I want you to know why I am spending so much time away from you, trying to pursue this goal of becoming a lawyer.

Why a lawyer, anyway? The answer: No real big reason. It could have been anything: restaurant owner, business executive, the Peace Corps, running a theatre company. What I found was that I wasn't happy sitting at a job with four walls. I needed to be doing something where the horizon went as far as the eye could see; where possibilities were limitless, and where with enough hard work I could do and be anything. I need to be somewhere where I can, eventually, develop and exhibit leadership skills. Where I can make some kind of difference in the lives of people, and the world in general. A legal office just happened to be my first real job (as a secretary) out of college. And I looked around and saw all the opportunities I just described, plus a real intellectual challenge. And I thought, I want to do this.

Now I have dreams of becoming a sharp, talented professional; someone regarded as the best in their field; a respected leader who can guide a group or an organization to do great things. I dream of putting all that power behind a cause that can help everyone regardless of income level or race or gender. I don't know what all the details are yet, but I feel like I've built a foundation that will let me get there.

I'm excited about my dream. But I know that it's incompatible with certain things. I can't do it and be a stay at home mom for you. I can't do it and not sacrifice the occasional weekend/evening with you. I can't do it and have a slow, quiet job where I simply show up and sit behind four walls five days a week, even if it means I get home at the same time every day for you. I must make certain sacrifices.

What I can promise you is that those sacrifices will never subsume the thing in the world that is the most important to me: my family. I will not miss the important events. I will do everything in my power to be home by dinnertime. And when I am home, I will be there 100%; no blackberries or laptops allowed.

I will tell you that I struggle inside every day with my decisions. I would not be truthful if I said that it was easy. We are not so long out of thousands of years of male-dominated society that the biological instincts I have do not rage inside of me. But I am doing my best to deal with them and trying to formulate a family and career that are compatible. I look at Michelle Obama, or Sandra Day O'Connor, or Hilary Clinton or other female business leaders as my inspiration, and I think, I can do this.

And what I hope, beyond hope, is that during those hours that I am there for you, that what you will see is inspiration. I hope you will see what you want for yourself. Even if what you want is totally different - even if you want to be a SAHM yourself someday. What I want is for you to see what it is like to devote all of your energy to something, to be committed 100%, and to be a successful woman, whatever your definition of success may be. Even if it meant I had to be away from you sometimes, I hope you can take from that struggle the lessons of independence and perserverence and rise above those feelings of loneliness and resentment that I know you will sometimes have.

And out of all of this, I want you to have the self-confidence to say: I can do that. And not to worry about what you look like, or whether you're smart or funny or talented enough. You are beautiful, and I can already tell that you are going to make me very proud. You are going to do great things, Juliet, and I hope that in the near future we will be doing them together.

That's all for now. Back to studying.



Thursday, July 09, 2009

Solving the mystery of Grandma's Chili Powder (aka Grandma's Spanish Pepper)

UPDATE: Grandma's discontinued production 6 months ago. Here is the email I got from the company.

Regina, We appreciate your loyal patronage of Grandma's chili powder over the years. However, due to slow sales that product was discontinued about 6 months ago, and we have no plans to bring it back at this time. Our Williams Original Chili seasoning is the closest we make to the Grandma's brand. It is available on our website at: am sorry, but none of our formulas are made public. However, I found a chili powder recipe on the internet that has the same basic ingredients as Grandma's. for your support of Williams products, and please let me know if you have any further questions. Regards,Debbie NewcomerConsumer Correspondence RepresentativeWilliams Foods CompanyC.H. Guenther & Son, Inc.1-800-255-6736 ext 2719


At long last, I figured out what happened to Grandma's Spanish Pepper and where I can get some.

I'm sharing this with the world, since there seem to be a handful of people out there that care as much as I do about this elusive spice.

Some background:

My family (which came to Sacramento, CA from Portugal and the Azores about 75 years ago) cooks extensively with Grandma's Spanish Pepper. It's in all these old recipes my grandmother was famous for, all the recipes my Dad inherited from her, and consequently is in nearly every ethnic Portuguese dish (and some non-Portuguese dishes) I make.

When Safeway stopped carrying it, I googled around for it but couldn't find mention of it anywhere. The only sites I found were the occasional posting on a random message board: "Does anyone know what happened to Grandma's Spanish Pepper??"

Google Books found an entry about Grandma's Spanish Pepper in the 1905 "Official Catalogue to the Lewis and Clark Expedition." Check it out. Crazy!

Finally, Safeway stopped carrying it. A call to their customer service department netted me a bitchy CS rep who wouldn't give me any information on the manufacturer. Panic set in. Finally I came across, of all places, the Lenexa Lion's Club website where someone posted a message saying that they, too, were having trouble finding it but had heard that it was now owned by Williams Foods.

I checked the Williams Foods website: no Grandma's chili powder. But I remembered the name "Lenexa, KS" from the back of the bottle. I sent them an email. Here was their response:

Thanks for your email and interest in Grandma's chili powder. That product is not widely distributed, but has been found at Food 4 Less, and Lucky Stores in northern California. It has also been found at Liras Market in Rio Vista, CA and Murphy's Market in Eureka, CA. You can also purchase it direct from us by the case. Direct orders require a check or money order be mailed to us. Once we receive your check, the product would be shipped to you. I have attached our price list and order form. Instructions for direct orders are at the bottom of the first page.

Thanks for your support of Williams products, and please let me know if you have any further questions.

Sure enough, I checked the price list, and BOTH incarnations of Grandma's were on there - both the regular, and Zesty Chili Seasoning varieties. A case of 12 for a mere $28. If you need the price list, let me know and I'll email it to you.

When I finally get my hands on another bottle I'll post pictures, too, since there are no pictures of this spice on the Internet, anywhere. I feel like, if something's not on the Internet, there's a problem. I've made it my official goal to remedy this problem, in the name of my grandmother and every other person who relies on this unique spice.

Okay. Back to studying for the bar exam.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Calm before the storm

It's been a stressful week, and as the bar exam gets closer I have no time to write, and no brain capacity to write anything worth reading. I'm in the home office trying to have a cheap and relatively comfortable study session (sitting at Starbucks for eight hours tends to cost a lot in coffee; the AC is always blasting there, or the library is smelly and loud, or whatever, and at home I can kick back with bare feet and blast the classical station and scrounge around at home for food). Of course, despite the creature comforts of home, I hear Juliet wailing in the bedroom right above me, stubbornly refusing to nap, and my heart just wants to go lay down next to her and cuddle up and just fast forward 4 weeks from today when Jim and I are hopefully on the coast somewhere hiking and drinking a glass of wine and watching the sunset.

I took the last two days off and on Friday we ended up going on a day trip to Pt. Reyes, which was just gorgeous. It's right next to Bolinas so it felt like familiar territory. We picnicked on Heart's Desire beach on Tomales Bay, where the sun was warm and inviting, dozens of tiny children and their families were out; the smell of hot dogs grilling, Juliet splashing in the calm, relatively warm water; it was heaven. Then we drove out to the lighthouse, and spent some time on Drake's Beach, where the weather went foggy, waves crashed and the boys gleefully did some boogie boarding and Juliet shrieked in delight at the playful surf. Perfect day.

We did Fourth of July in classic Davis style, as we do every year - nowhere to be, no one to be beholden to for plans or timetables, so it was wonderfully mellow and fun as usual. Bike races in the morning, moseying around downtown, burgers for lunch, hanging out with Juliet and her little friend at home while Jim (finally) finished the fence in the backyard; then packing everyone up, bucket of fried chicken and off to Community Park for the annual Fourth of July event, with music and taiko drumming and eating and drinking and the boys running around with their friends and then finally all of us squeezing onto our blanket and cuddling up for the huge fireworks show. Juliet was enthralled as always, and there we all were as a family together all huddling up under the brilliant sky. The Fourth may well be my favorite holiday of all time.

It was a wonderful two days, and I'm glad I took them off, even though I am now disbelieving how close I am to this heinous exam and wondering how I'm ever going to do it. The good news is, I'm a lot less dumbfounded about Community Property at the moment than I've ever been, so we'll just take it from there and see how it goes.

It's only in the darkest times in my life that my stubbornly agnostic self finds it necessary to pray -- an unnecessary and illogical activity if there ever was one, and I'm doing it now: dear God, please let me pass this exam.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One of those days

I'm having one of those days that I haven't had in a long time, where I find myself walking around on the verge of tears. Juliet's on my mind - I just feel like I should be spending the day with her, hanging out, talking, playing at the park, doing mommy things other than trying to get her to fold laundry/wash dishes/cook dinner/clean house/maintain the garden with me, which seems like it takes up most of the three hours a day that we get to spend together in the evenings.

And I feel guilty that B&C are at city day camp, even though they get to do fun stuff (and it's City of Davis, after all), I wish we had the money to send them to Walker Creek or one of those super awesome sleep away camps where they get to hike and canoe and do stuff with well-paid, nurturing camp counselors. I wish when they got home in the evening they got to spend time with the both of us being relaxed, instead of J always having to work late or one or both of us being stressed out of our minds over money and the bar exam. I wish we could take more walks and drives and outings as a family without worrying about how much it's going to cost, or whether Juliet's going to have a meltdown at a restaurant because she's been such a pain lately, probably because we're never around and when we are, we're super stressed.

And I honestly have no idea how I'm ever going to retain this information, despite my best attempts to keep up with the multiple choice practice and the essay practice and reviewing flash cards. I have always managed to keep my head in the game when it came down to it, and to think positively about everything, but I'm actually having trouble seeing myself sitting down in six weeks and getting this done. I may have the hours of 9am - 5pm to study, but somehow everything else (aforementioned cleaning/cooking/laundry/grocery shopping/child rearing etc) has to get done and most nights I have to do it without help. By the time I settle in for studying round 2 at 9pm, if I haven't crashed out with Juliet, I'm totally exhausted.

So to sum up, stress, lack of sleep, total lack of exercise, and I guess being pregnant has all contributed to make me feel very weepy this morning, about all these things, but mostly just missing my little girl. But I have to turn in an Evidence essay for grading in two hours, so I'd better get over it. I think writing helps. It's always good to hear from everyone who reads (so far apparently only facebook cares about the existence of my rants) who has words of encouragement. I don't usually go looking for it, but maybe just for these next six weeks while I try to avoid having a major breakdown.