Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sometimes you just know. As I took in the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times in a glance, I just knew that the unfocused face in the photo is cousin Cindy, or rather Chief Judge Cynthia Leung of the Las Vegas Municipal Court. The “Column One” article “Starting over, with help,” features the Las Vegas court’s program “Women in Need” which Cindy has overseen.

This “WIN” program suspends the jail sentences of prostitutes while they undergo rehab to help them build a new life. Rather than getting thrown in jail, only to get picked up again and land back in court later, they receive AA support, counseling, housing, and job training to overcome addiction, abuse, lack of education and job skills, and the stigma of their prostitute lives. Makes sense to me. Cindy has told us wild stories of her experiences first as a DA and then as a judge with jurisdiction over “The Strip,” as well as remarkable examples of “graduates” from this incredible program.

Chief Judge Cynthia is following in most honorable footsteps. Her maternal grandfather, Ma Shou-hua, held many illustrious judicial positions in Taiwan, including Chief Justice of the Administrative Court. Bing only has two cousins on the Leung side, but the gene pool talent is beautifully strong there.

Not long after Bing and I were married, Cindy spent a summer week with us. She was in junior high, living in Palm Desert; the week was a change of scenery for her and a chance for us to get to know her a little better. We had a great time, and were impressed even then with Cindy’s intellectual curiosity, her articulateness, sense of humor, and commitment to excellence. Sometimes you just know.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

That law school Saturday morning, I exited the Washington, DC metro bundled up against the early February snow flurries. Other girls and their mothers were arriving at Garfinkel’s annual bridal show by limousine. I was meeting Linda there to share in the fun of a designer salon experience and to provide moral support, as we anticipated being intimidated by the debutante world. As champagne flutes were being passed by wait staff who looked exported from Masterpiece Theatre, Linda whispered to me, “Have you seen the rings on these girls? I’m keeping my left hand in my pocket.”

And such was my one experience looking at wedding dresses with a girlfriend. The morning my mom and I had designated as the Saturday to seriously look for my wedding dress, she called me to say, “Your dad is coming, too.” I had not expected him to have been interested, but I don’t know why I had assumed he wouldn’t have been. It was cute the way he ended up driving the day’s agenda, starting out as was my mother’s wish at the Bullock’s Wilshire salon, then down the street to Saks Fifth Avenue, and finally, much more realistically, at the local salon here in Pasadena. When I emerged in one particular dress, it was my dad who said, “That’s the one.”

My wedding dress drama didn’t kick in until about three weeks before the wedding. Short as I am, I paid extra to have the dress custom hemmed shorter than the size 2 specifications to exactly my height. When I tried on the dress when it arrived, the length was okay, but at least three of me could have fit in it. I was horrified to see the label inside that said, “Size 6.”

Because I had received a custom specification, the salon refused to do anything about the mistake. Their attitude was, “That’s your dress.” The mother of one of my piano students, an excellent seamstress, jumped into action, toiling those three weeks to take the dress apart, recut it to fit me out of the pieces, and then painstakingly resew on all the lace and beading. With her labor of love, the dress ended up fitting me perfectly. The upshot, though, was that instead of a modest size 2 not-quite-a-train, I ended up with a size 6 train of Princess Diana proportions. Nearly 30 years later, this at least makes for a good story.

This afternoon, Akemi, a bridesmaid, will accompany Sarah, the bride-to-be, making the rounds of the bridal salons in town, on Sarah’s hunt for dress ideas. It’s a “Sunrise, Sunset” time – how did these girls grow up to be such beauties, planning weddings, no less? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Linda and I were at Garfinkel’s? Then tonight, they will watch an old Disney video. Thank heavens they haven’t completely grown up quite yet.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My favorite presents from Christmas 2011:

~~ amazing “Star Wars” characters and “woodland animals” produced during the annual cookie decorating party;

~~ late-night “Downton Abbey” marathons (and where, by the way, was Maggie Smith with her explanation of how an estate is entailed when I was trying to master future interests in my 1L real property course?);

~~ shouts of all the Bradford and Ngo kids with Akemi playing “Boogle” and “Pit”;

~~ Barbara’s specialty fudge;

~~ Akemi’s rendition of “What Child is This?” in today’s Sacrament meeting program;

~~ teaching niece Carly how to make cream puffs;

~~ hearing Akemi practice the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, the b-minor Bach partita, and the Mozart “Haffner” symphony;

~~ hot baths and the gym steam room which ease away the achiness.

And to all, a good night!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“A steaming cup of hot chocolate with buttered toast is surely one of the most heart-warming, body-warming, and taste-satisfying combinations known to man.”

With that opening sentence in a column which ran in the 1970s, James Beard had me hooked. He went on to decry the notion of hot chocolate being something “tipped out of a little paper bag into a cup, dissolved with hot water,” which was what I knew, and reminisced of where he had enjoyed real hot chocolate: Swetland’s from his Portland, Oregon hometown; Paris sidewalk cafés; Viennese salons. Beard revealed to me the differences between the French, Spanish, and Mexican approaches to ingredients and preparation. His description of sipping chocolate between bites of crusty rolls or buttery croissants – “an enchanting marriage of flavors” – captured my imagination and elevated my thinking about food.

That clipped-out food section article started my interest in food writing and my recipe collection. I resolved that one day I would do better than packaged hot chocolate mix. I confess that most mornings at work, that’s all it is, but when circumstances permit, I strive for making my own recipe with steamed milk served outdoors accompanied by whole-grain toast, some nice French brie, and a crisp apple.

Last night while shopping for the ingredients to make Akemi’s welcome home dinner, I came upon a cocoa called “chocolate alchemy” with a dash of cayenne pepper and cinnamon. I just tried it, and for someone who doesn’t drink coffee, this version of the Mayan xocolatl delivers a nice morning kick. Maybe I should send some to Mitt Romney.

Akemi’s dinner tonight will feature some recipes I’ve saved to repeat and a couple to try out: braised short ribs, roasted carrots, latkes (we like them and it’s Hanukkah, after all) and homemade applesauce, sautéed swiss chard, garlic and rosemary cloverleaf rolls, molten chocolate mini-cakes with vanilla ice cream. In addition to celebrating Akemi’s successful fall semester, we will celebrate my falling IgM and m-spike numbers.

Come on by for short rib leftovers, or xocolatl anytime. Now off to get ready for Akemi’s homecoming.