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Monday, November 17, 2014

Homemade Prik Nam Pla (Thai hot sauce)

Thai chilis
A handful of years ago while attending the paralegal program at Cal State University, East Bay campus, my classmate and friend Emily brought me some steamed rice and a sealed container of homemade Prik (Thai chili) Nam Pla (fish sauce).  I LOVE hot sauce and I'd never had anything similar to this; throughout our semesters together, from time to time, she'd surprise me with this Thai treat. Her Thai neighbor made the recipe from memory, but I have found a few online that are all very simple and achieve a similar result.

I loosely followed a recipe I found, changing it slightly to fit my personal taste.

Red onion and garlic
Original recipe:
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
3 cloves garlic
4 Thai chili
3 pieces of lime
3 Tablespoons sugar
Red onion (no amount specified)

I made the recipe as directed but only used almost 2 Tb of sugar (we ran out). The result was a slightly salty hot sauce, that wasn't hot enough for me (I can handle "very spicy") so I added:

Tiparos brand fish sauce - $2

3 more Tb fish sauce
2 cloves garlic
7 Thai chili
Lime juice (I gave the bottle a good squeeze!)
Red onion (chopped very fine)
2 Tb rice vinegar
Sesame oil - just a splash

Rice vinegar, sesame oil, & lime juice
 Prik Nam Pla is generally used as a condiment but is also a good dip.  The hot sauce is still a little bit salty for me. Fish sauce is made from sardine extract so I'm trying to think of something that will help balance the strong salt taste. This is probably why it's so good over rice. Perhaps a little extra parsley in my next batch will help a little. 

I purchased my fish sauce at a local Asian (Korean) market for $2.  The rest of the items I already had. I buy Thai chili peppers at the local produce market, along with my parsley, red onions, and peeled garlic. All of the ingredients are inexpensive and the recipe is fast and simple.

 Don't let the idea of liquid fish in a bottle scare you - my husband said "fish sauce" makes his skin crawl.  It's full of flavor and a staple of most Southeast Asian countries. Fresh, homemade hot sauce is a wonderful and healthy way to spice up your cooking and is especially delicious on fresh vegetables and other side dishes.

Final product - Prik Nam Pla


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mt. Diablo Legal Professional's Association, Contra Costa County


If you are currently working as a legal professional in Contra Costa County, becoming a member of the MDLPA is a very valuable (and fun) way to invest in yourself.  I have been a member of MDLPA for several years and enjoy making friends and hearing speakers at the monthly membership meetings.  These regular meetings are held the second Monday of every month and potential members and guests are welcome to attend. In attendance they often have paralegals, legal secretaries, document solution companies, staffing agencies, and reporting service companies.  It is a wonderful opportunity to network with other legal professionals over dinner.

Emails are sent out between meetings updating us on important changes to local and federal laws, court schedules and other relevant matters. We also receive notices of employment opportunities, and from time to time a member will submit a question in hopes that someone with more experience in that area can help answer it.

We currently have over 50 members. General membership dues are only $50 annually. Student memberships are offered at a discounted rate. The monthly dinner is less than $25 for members and often includes MCLE credits, a big bonus for paralegals like myself who are required to complete several hours a year. Many law firms are happy to pay these fees for their staff - I'm lucky to work for a firm that will pay for any employee to join and attend. Speaker topics vary month to month and our speakers are often local attorneys, judges, court staff, and other legal professionals.

Fundraisers are held throughout the year, as well as interclub events with other local associations.  Crab feeds, dinner and theater nights, horse racing, and bowling are all examples of FUNdraising activities. Some of the funds contribute to our scholarship fund which is awarded annually to a local college student.

MDLPA is one of the 58 associations of Legal Secretaries, Inc. (  LSI Quarterly conferences take place through the year and are hosted by different associations. I attended my first conference in Sacramento this summer. LSI offers the California Certified Legal Secretary (CCLS) examination.  It is a comprehensive exam and you must maintain your certification once you have passed with continuing education. MDLPA offers a study group to help you prepare to take the exam, which is offered twice a year.

The best way to learn more about this association is to attend a meeting. Dinners are held at Buttercup Grill in Walnut Creek and you must RSVP in advance.  More information about dinners, events, speakers, and the association can be found on their webpage.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm So Egg-Cited!

Saturday, July 26, 2014 - A serious egg-craving comes out of nowhere!

So there I am on Saturday night sitting at home with my husband, when all of a sudden we both start craving eggs. We had finished off our cage-free eggs from Costco earlier in the week and Trader Joe's across the street was already closed for the night. So naturally, instead of finding something else for our late-night snack, Casey got in his car and drove a few miles to Safeway. He came home with a loaf of bread and 18 fresh, cage-free eggs.

(Any kind-hearted person should spend the
extra $1-2 & buy cage-free;
or better yet, purchase eggs from your
local farmer's market.)
Our amazing ceramic cookware
My grandmother used to cook me eggs a lot when I was little.  Actually, ever time I go visit my grandparents to this day, she cooks me eggs. One of my favorite ways for her to make my egg breakfast was her "snake eyes". I now get to enjoy cooking eggs for my husband this way - it adds a little fun to your plate. Start by heating butter to coat the bottom of your cooking pan.  Choose a pan big enough for two pieces of bread.  Cut an "X" into each piece of bread.

Place your bread into the pan and carefully break an egg into the middle of each slice of bread.  Cook to your liking and then flip the bread.  Casey likes his eggs over easy so they only cook on each side a minute or so.  I cook mine longer.

After both sides of the toast and eggs have cooked, remove from the pan and serve by themselves or with jelly.

It takes a little imagination now, but as a child, it was easy to see the "snake eyes" on my plate - and it is still a delicious and fun way to cook and serve eggs!

After cooking Casey's eggs I added more butter to the pan and placed two thick onion ring slices on the heated pan.  I used the middle of the onion in order to get the biggest rings.

Two large onion rings for the eggs,
smaller onion rings for snacking

Next, I cracked an egg inside the onion ring. When I went to crack my second egg, I placed one hand accidentally on the hot stove and burned it, causing me to drop the egg on the floor.  I scooped part of it up, but didn't put it inside the second onion circle because of my hurry to toss it into the pan and get some flour for my burn.
(Hint: putting flour on a burn takes the pain away!)
Just as I had done with the bread, I flipped my egg/onion over after a couple of minutes.  This is a great way to cook an egg perfectly sized for a sandwich, but it's also just a tasty, fun way to serve eggs. Especially if you like grilled onion! (I threw in a couple extra pieces of onion for eating because I love it hot and grilled.)  So next time you're cooking eggs, there are a couple of ways to make it more egg-citing!
And if youre NOT an egg-eater (for all my vegan friends),
below is a link to the latest egg-replacement news from a local (San Fran) company
using plants to replace chicken eggs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Music News....What Does The Fox Say?

May 28, 2014
We spent last weekend in Bend, Oregon with our friends Cameron and Ruston. We drove up on Thursday (5/22) and took our time during the drive in order to stop often and explore.  We arrived late that night after 12 hours on the road, but slept great (in Ruston's bed; with Ruston's doggie!) and woke up refreshed and ready for adventure on Friday. There is a lot of beer in Bend, OR.  Needless to say, we consumed a lot of it! We hopped around and stopped at lots of microbreweries, then picked up some beers for the house.  Late into the evening on Friday night, we had music playing on the TV as we all talked and laughed. 
Have you seen the "People Are Awesome" videos? You should.  Because: People. Are. Awesome. We mostly had those playing in the background. Until a couple song requests came up....
Cameron played a song titled "The Big Bad Wolf" by Duck Sauce. I'm going to attach a link to a video but I'd like to first say that this is one of the weirdest things you (and 8 million others) will ever view. Nightmares.
Ruston is known by me for his great music choices.  He provides the soundtrack for all the fun weekends we've spent together: at our home in Concord, the cabin in Lake Tahoe, and now in Oregon!  This weekend he played a song titled "What Does the Fox Say" by Ylvis.  I had actually recently just watched a comic (non-music) video by the same duo about an "Intelevator". It was really funny, so I'm not surprised that their music video is also every bit as funny and entertaining.  What did surprise me, is that with more than 414 million views, it's only #27 on a list of Youtube's most viewed videos.
Note: "Gangnam Style" by Psy is #1 on that list, with almost 2 BILLION views. 
I attempted to attach the music video for "What Does the Fox Say?" below - if that doesn't work, definitely check it out on youtube.  (I'd like to see it move up from position #27!! ) It's a really high-quality video, and I think it's a pretty awesome song! Perhaps you'll agree. Or perhaps you're opinion of my music recommendations will take a big dive.  (Though I'm pretty sure that already happened if you braved "The Big Bad Wolf".)
Since I'm in a generous mood, I'll share one more video. One final video we watched that I came home wanting to hear more of was Lindsey Sterling's "Shadows". It's beautiful violin with a pretty face and energetic dance feet. Amazing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bullying and Trolling: Not Cool

Picture this:

Identify the bully
A group of children play together on a schoolyard at recess.  One child, the "bully" teases another little boy because the child is much smaller than him.  The little boy stutters so he tries to not speak much so that he won't be teased.  The other kids laugh, which reinforces the bully's behavior, and he goes on to tease the child daily to the amusement of others.  The little boy begins to cry and the bully yells "Wh-wh-what's wrong buh-buh-buh-baby?!" The other kids laugh harder and the boy cries more.  It's hard to picture this, but this happens every day.  Children are teased because they are too tall, too skinny, too fat, too poor, too different.

Now, picture this instead:

Cat bullying dog
The same group of children play together at recess.  The bully approaches the small child and begins to taunt him for his speech impediment.  A little girl comes over and puts her arm around the small boy's shoulder and says, "it's okay how you talk.  Let's go play over here."  They walk away and play with the other children.  The bully is left all alone.  The next day the bully approaches the small boy again. "Duh-duh-duh-don't you lu-lu-look stupid today?" Another boy walks over and asks the little boy if he wants to go play on the swings.  The bully is left all alone again.

That's a much happier image, right?!

Which behavior encourages the bully to keep bullying, and what makes him stop?  If the other children ignore the bully, or stand up for the children being bullied, I believe that the bully may begin to stop being mean so that he can play with the other children.  Obviously, sometimes there's more to it than that.  Perhaps verbal abuse at home teaching the child that bullying is okay? Or there's a deeper psychological issue? But sometimes it's just a cry for attention - and they want attention so badly they'll be mean to others to get it. Which is why it's important for parents to teach their children to be proactive.  Encouraging a bully isn't as bad as being a bully, but you can help put a stop to bullying by standing up for others.

Trolling on the Internet

I think a lot of children don't "grow out of" this behavior.  I'd like to believe a person potentially

Kittens bullying dog
could, but then I open up ANY article (on any subject) on the Internet, and likely find someone posting mean comments at the bottom.  Followed by a dozen replies.  Finally the comments turn into this hateful, racist, back and forth slew of replies. The subject of the article is no longer even the topic of comments.  Often they go to attacks on religious or political beliefs.
There are just too many of these Internet bullies "trolling" the Internet to believe that ignoring them will make it stop.  It will never stop, there will always be someone looking to start a fight for no reason. But responding is what they want and every person has control over their response (or lack of response).  They want to get your attention.  Your reply is like the laughter of the other children, egging on the bully, except that s/he is laughing at you.  If you ignore these comments, you'll likely forget about them all together, and go about enjoying your day. Find someone you agree with instead, and compliment them for sharing their thoughts.  Reward the kind-hearted people, not the evil ones. I promise it'll make you feel better inside than fighting with someone else.

Love one another
Cat bullying hamster
Animals bullying people

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Dream (last night: 3/10/14)

I dream almost every night. I think most people do, but I actually remember my dreams.  They are usually very long and very, very real. I can remember having a recurring dream about a dinosaur when I was younger. It was terrifying. It was a giant Pomeranian dinosaur (don't laugh) and I would be walking through my grandparent's home where I grew up, and I'd come to the guest bedroom upstairs and find my mom bloody and not moving, then open the linen closet behind the next door, and see nothing, and then open my grandfather's office door, and there the giant (Pomeranian) dinosaur would be, eating my grandfather.  Then it would chase me and I'd run so fast out of their house, through the cul-de-sac and down the street, that my feet would stop touching the ground, and I'd realize that I couldn't push off anymore, but I was flying instead; and then I'd wake up.  I had this dream enough times that I can remember one night telling myself it was a dream (from inside my dream) and not running and not being afraid, and it stopped coming back.

Since then, my dreams are usually just a scene from the day before, but maybe played out a little differently. I swear I get to live each day twice.  And it's amazing how much I smell and sense and feel when I'm sleeping.  Sometimes I can definitely tell that what I was doing before bed influenced my dream, because it'll appear in my dream.  Last night we watched Dateline detectives not solve the mystery of a serial killer murdering prostitutes in Albuquerque, and I ate some coconut chips and stretched my body before crawling into bed, when the show ended. Perhaps the show upset me a little.  I cried for the man who had videotaped his little girl growing up, and had videos of all her birthdays and being a little girl with her two sisters, and videos of her at 13, when she became pregnant, and then the last videos of her as a drug addict. She was murdered while on the streets and he was so heart broken because he'd tried hardest to raise his girls, and you could see the life draining from the young mother in his videos.  So I cried for him just before bed.

I never write down my dreams but I've thought about it before.  This morning I decided to write, just so that I'd stop tossing and turning next to Casey, since I'm having trouble falling back asleep.  It's 6 a.m., and this is what I dreamed about last night:

I walked into the camp.  That's how it felt, not like a camp with tents and a fire pit and coolers of food and beer, but more like a burning man camp. It seemed like it was a small village with one-room homes and other structures built in a dusty, desert-like setting.  I was on vacation and had arrived at my destination, and even though I didn't know where it was, I was very happy with what was in front of me.  I checked in with a man who gave me a key to my room.  He also gave me a key to a bathroom, and one to the room where the kitchen was.  I walked to my room and opened the door. As I stepped in to darkness I heard the wild cry a moment too late of "don't let the door close!!" A dim light turned on and without having to say anything, the look of the girl told me I was trapped.  This wasn't a vacation, I was a prisoner.

(The girl was actually my friend Diedra, though I only recognized her after I woke up.  In the dream we didn't know each other.  She had a male roommate in the dream, who was just 'there'; I never dream-interacted with him, so he's not mentioned in my dream-story.)

I wasn't afraid of the situation and opened my bags. What I saw next was the only thing that scared me: I'd packed both of my cats, Autumn and Phyllis.  How would they eat and drink? Where was a litter box? What if they escaped? For the next few hours of the night I was just in the room with the cats and the girl. We talked, but I don't remember what we talked about.

Then I tried the room key again - I held Autumn against me and set out for a litter box.  The key worked and I made my way to the bathroom.  A couple with a small child walked up behind me and asked if their child could please come with me to the bathroom since I had a key, (this is going to sound heartless), but I pushed them away because I didn't know what I'd find and I didn't anything to distract me with the cat in my arms.  I entered a small, dusty and dark room with the turn of my key, and there was a litter box with a couple pieces of litter at the bottom, and streams of water spraying into it.  The cat used it and I tried to keep her from getting too wet, but she was soaked as I carried her back to our room.  (Autumn was always such a good cat - when she was little, she'd use a litter box in the backseat of my loud Mustang, with a window slightly down bringing in gusts of wind because the car was so hot. But she'd use it anyhow.)

Next, I went back for Phyllis.  I intended for her to use the litter box, but when she wouldn't we went to the kitchen and found a platter of cheese.  It was labeled "Press Democrat" (which I think is an online news site, but in the dream it was a delicious cheese brand). 

It seemed like a day later I was being released. My body was wrenched with the fear my cats could still escape. I tucked Phyllis away in my bag, and then held Autumn, her body stretched across mine, like a child.  I rubbed her soft face with my face. Her nose pressed into my eyes with her sign of affection; she loved being held this way. We said goodbye to our captor and I gave him the delicious, half-eaten cheese that I had left.  I told Autumn I would take her anywhere she wanted to go, if she could find a way to tell me where.

And then I woke up.

For the first couple of minutes being awake I didn't remember my dream at all. I got up, drank a glass of water, and then the tears started coming.  I remembered how alive Autumn was in my dream, and the way she looked at me, and nuzzled my face.  I crawled back into bed, Phyllis sleeping at Casey's feet, and Casey held me while the tears wet my pillow.  His snoring resumed as my crying subsided.  Our little cat Regan jumped up beside me and I let her little "mews" sing to my heart for a minute. She laid down beside me in what I thought was an effort to comfort me, until I realized it was just better stalking position of Phyllis.  She pounced!!! ...and both cats took off running, their claws breaking skin on Casey's hand.  Since he was half-awake after that, and I'm totally awake, here I am.

It's been a while since I've dreamt of Autumn, and less than a year since we put her down, but I miss her so much when she comes to me in my dreams.  Which is okay.  I know it will never not hurt to think of her, but I think of her with love, and I really did love waking up thinking about her, even if it made me cry a little (lot).  :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Something To Be Thankful For

"Be joyful always,

pray without ceasing,

& in everything give thanks"

I think that it is important to live each day with a thankful heart.  Life is so precious, and I feel thankful for every moment I have.  I am thankful for my loving husband, my caring family, my thoughtful friends, and for all the people who aren't yet in my life. 
I am thankful for the good days and the bad ones. 
Some days it's hard to find reasons to be thankful. If this happens to be one of those days for you, let me make it a little easier:
Please view the proud MOMMY SPIDER covered in babies 
that our friend Jesse Sharp found in his home today.
Windsor, California
Be thankful you don't have her and all her babies as your housemate!!! Unless, of course, you live somewhere that you might see something like this indoors.
That would be absolutely  terrifying.