Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Secret Garden

When I was but a young buck and a freshman in High School, our family decided to have a Palo Alto Thanksgiving with some extended family.

My first Cross Country season had just barely ended. My sister E has always been a runner herself, so we planned weeks ahead of time to go on a Palo Alto run together. The first night we all arrived in Palo Alto, E and I pulled on our running gear and headed out the door.

Running in Palo Alto is unlike running anywhere else. Most of the year, the air is lush, cool, and smells like eucalyptus. The streets are narrow and tree lined. E and I took haphazard turns down beautiful streets at our own whimsy. Randomly we happened upon a beautiful garden that was open to the public. It was made up of plotted squares with lanes of gravel that ran between them. The garden boasted exotic flowers, bushes, trees, vines, and an enormous vegetable patch. There were bird baths and benches and an enormous white gazebo in the center. That has remained a very fond memory to me—winding through a random garden with my sister at dusk in Palo Alto.

When I moved back ten years later, husband in tow, that garden was in the back of my mind. I didn’t make any efforts to find it though. I think I didn’t want to go looking for it, I honestly hoped I would just hear about it or magically find it. As if I live in a Disney movie or something. Very realistic.

When we first moved here one of the very first things I did was plot a run on Google Maps that would take me from our apartment to the house where my mother was raised (in the older part of Palo Alto). It’s a stunning house with white wood siding and navy shutters with waning moons carved in them and a brick walkway. Every so often I run to the house and back (if I’m feeling ambitious—round trip it’s about 7 miles) and stand outside it. Correction: I stand outside it across the street so I don’t look like I’m a stalker. And then I let the waves of nostalgia wash over me and wish my grandparents were still alive and still lived there. And then I decide that if I ever become a billionaire I’m buying it (from the billionaire who lives there now).

A few weeks ago I was running to the house on a cool, overcast Saturday morning. I was just minding my own beeswax and drinking in the smell of freshly cut lawn when I peaked down a random road perpendicular to the street I was running on. And all of a sudden… there it was.

I found the garden.

I felt like Mary Lennox in that part of “The Secret Garden” when she realizes the key in fact fits in the lock, and the robin led her to the right door.

I immediately called E (got voicemail—and no, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t screen my calls but she is a busy mother of 3.99 children) and left her a wheezy and breathless voicemail that sounded like:


It was completely quiet and deserted, and I wandered through it, snapping pictures with my phone, wandering down every lane, and drinking in the smell. It's the Elizabeth Gamble Garden (I decided I should probably find out the name...) on Waverly and Churchill.

It’s now one of my favorite spots in Palo Alto. I plan on bringing a book here one Saturday and just hanging out on a bench with the squirrels. And I guess Harry can come too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oranges and (f)unemployment

Nothing makes my day quite like a cold, juicy, tart orange.

I needed a really quick energy boost at work today, and there were no 5-hour Energy drinks around (or as Jerry Seinfeld calls them, "meth lab hawaiian punch jello shots"***), and realized I had a plump, pulpy orange sitting patiently in my lunch bag in the fridge.

So I tore into it and ate it in probably less than five minutes (necessary peeling time inclusive).

And then I realized that this is one of the last times I will be doing this, this being chomping an orange in my desk chair, because very very soon, I will be not-so-gainfully-unemployed, or as I like to call it, “(f)unemployed.” Yep, the start-up I have been working for since we moved here about 1.5 years ago is calling it quits.

It’s sad to see everyone go their separate ways, especially when we had such a good thing going here. Gripes about obligations to retrieve food/coffee daily aside, I’m very lucky and happy that I had this job, the people I worked with were a lot of fun, and I learned some important things.

I have an odd mixture of emotions, but mostly I’m just excited to dive into something new. I’m already doing my best to get back into the work force, but I have a secret volcano of happiness erupting in my wee heart at the prospect of not setting an alarm next week.

Sidenote: Dare I say it? I still wish I were in graduate school, with a little more direction/inspiration. Especially since, you know, I live on a campus, surrounded by people with tuition bills and, yes, direction/inspiration. But as Harry says when he’s in a lovingly snarky mood, “Patience, my pet, patience.”

*** I don’t actually drink 5 Hour Energy, though I am regularly irritated by their remarkably mediocre commercials when I’m trying to watch “Parks and Recreation” on Hulu.

PS Today I've been married for 1.5 years. It's been good to me. Probably because Hal has been so good to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whelmed, in degrees of variation.

I was overwhelmed by

About just whelmed by

And sadly underwhelmed by

Overall, great idea and I did stay hooked until the end. And big thank you to G for letting me borrow your copies! But I’m really ready to move on to, say

Other recommendations are always appreciated by my fellow bookworm peeps.

(PS I will say this for "Hunger Games:" The entire time I was watching "True Grit," I KNEW that the lead actress has to play Katniss someday. HAS. TO. She goes in the "overwhelmed" category, somewhere near the top.)

Monday, January 17, 2011


Good evening, and welcome back to the 2011 edition of “Sarrison’s Life: a study in the habits and lifestyles of nerdy people.”

It’s been a long time, internet. So much has happened since we last convened. Christmas came and went and so many fun things happened sandwiched in the middle of it all.

That said it was nice to come back to PA.

I went to a Royal Ball (aka Baby Shower):

Also, 90% of my Christmas pictures are on Facebook, which I still have deactivated (I’m completely over withdrawals), so I snuck on and stole them from my sprightly SIL (thank you Sal, my gal pal).

For Christmas, we had about two weeks to play with, so we drove to both of our parents’ homes, about evenly splitting the time. We figured we’d have about 22 hours of driving time total over the two weeks so we downloaded “Speaker for the Dead” to listen to in the car. The book itself was fine, but I cannot figure out for the life of me why he has the same people narrate his audio books. A few of their reading voices make me want to plug my ears and sing the theme to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” at the top of my voice. I’ve resolved to read whatever Orson Scott Card book I want in the future to spare myself the frustration.

We spent time in Irvine with Cam, my parents, and Jeffedith (I refer to them as one unit). Here is the picture I took during that time—Cam in front of a house that was lit up all fancylike in Balboa a few nights before Christmas. My family likes to take night walks there at Christmas time, usually accompanied by my brother and Dad playing the bag pipes. This time they nixed the pipes and we just meandered.

Then we drove to fabulous Las Veeeeeeeegaaaaaaaaas (sung like the Brandon Flowers song). Here are the snatched Facebook pictures to prove it (E, I'm so sad I don't have pictures from hanging out at your house! Next time!)!

Something extra memorable was getting to see my brother-in-law’s fiancée get baptized. I’m really excited to have her in the fam, not only because she’s really fun to talk to and hang out with, but because she’s creative and inspiring and really soulful. Yep. I’m excited.

**I'm fighting a nasty cold and do not have the mental capacity nor the physical energy required to put these in chronological order, so you're going to experience some time-whiplash. Sucka.

Caroling w/ Reynoldsies.

M and A, top notch snugglers.

Christmas morning. New Christmas clothes have a funny effect on Harry.

Serenade a la SNL by Hal, Joe, Mac, Dan, and Will.

Cindy + A, me looking hazy in the background.


Christmas morning (my first ever not spent at my parent's house. It was delightful in all the particulars!).

Just arrived in Irvine from Palo Alto, exhausted, happy to be watching something Christmas-like with some Eaton brood peeps.

Yoga ball. Those pants I'm wearing? Harry's high school track and field pants. I felt like MC Hammer.

Here we are in Irvine where we got to spend some QT with Annie/Go/R/M/O at the park!

That's it. I'm hungry. Peace.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


We listen to this.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

More adventures with steak

A New Years Resolution of mine is to be more adventurous with our dinner menu. I consider myself an okay cook. I think half of being a good cook is having a tested/approved recipe and fresh ingredients. Actually, I think that's all there really is to it.

I cooked my first steak a little while ago and decided it wasn't all that difficult. Plus, my awesome sister-in-law told me over Christmas break that red meat is one of the few foods that the human body can super-efficiently extract iron from, and I though I don't really seek out recipes that require red meat, I want more iron in my life.

I was flipping through our favorite cookbook of all time and came across Thai-Style Beef Salad. A compromise of all things Sarrison: a salad (something I like), steak (something Harry really likes), and Thai (something we both love).

Plus we tested our nifty new camera to document.

It was actually really perfect! Harry fried up some ramen noodles to go with his (he loves him some carbs) and while it was pretty good, I preferred my salad unadulterated.

If you're interested, here's the recipe:

Thai-Style Beef Salad

(serves 4 as an entree)

1 TB vegetable oil
1.25 pounds flank steak, trimmed of excess fat and patted dry with paper towels
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup juice from two limes
4 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 medium cucumber peeled, seeded, and sliced thin
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
1 TB packed torn fresh mint
1 TB packed torn fresh cilantro
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves washed, torn into pieces (couldn't find any so I used butter lettuce which I thought was pretty tasty)
1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (I JUST REALIZED I FORGOT THIS PART! DANGIT!)

1) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it's smoking. Season steak liberally with salt and pepper, lay it in the pan, and sautee, not moving it until well browned, 4-5 minutes. Turn the steak over with tongs and reduce heat to medium. Continue to cook until steak is browned on the second side, about 5 min. Transfer steak to a plate and let it rest for 10 min.

2) Whisk fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes together in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Remove half of the dressing and set it aside in a larger bowl. Cut the steak across the grain on the diagonal into 1/8" slices, and halve those into roughly 3" lengths. Add steak to the smaller bowl of dressing, toss to coat, and let marinate for 5 min.

3) Remove steak from dressing and discard the marinade. Toss the steak, cucumber, onion, cilantro, and mint with the reserved dressing in the larger bowl. Arrange lettuce on a large serving platter or individual plates. Spoon steak and vegetables over the lettuce and drizzle the salad with any dressing left in the bowl, then sprinkle with peanuts. Serve immediately.