It Would Have Been an Honor

by Stacey Jaros

In the ‘90s when I was living in San Francisco, I was stopped on the street, on the bus, at the supermarket. “Are you???” “Do you know who you look like??” Having attention drawn to myself is an uncomfortable position for me. But at the time the attention wasn’t on ME it was on a person splashed across front pages of newspapers and tabloids across the nation. In the burgeoning 24-hour news cycle this particular story was barely given a rest.

I was drawn into the cyclone because of an uncanny physical resemblance to that person in the news.

As a donor conceived person it wasn’t the first time I was uneasy sharing a physical resemblance to another person. When I was approximately 17, a high school senior, a neighbor walked by the house in a Los Angeles suburb where I grew up. I was outside talking with my dad when she walked by and we exchanged pleasantries. That neighbor was a freshman. Though she lived only a few blocks away, we were mostly acquainted through a mutual friend.

My dad interrogated me about this acquaintance. “Who is she?” “Where does she live?” “Who are her parents?” “Does she have older siblings?” I didn’t even know the answers to all his questions. He was far less curious about people I dated at the time. I was stunned. I couldn't figure out what my dad was going on about. This young person, R, was friendly, polite, and by all accounts good-natured. I wrote it off to, *eyeroll* oh dad, teen exasperation with adults.

I think her dad was a doctor though.

I didn't know I was donor conceived until I was 25 years old. My dad, clumsily, told me. "I'm still your dad," he said. On that we both agreed. That never changed, or wavered, or diminished. His interrogation that day back in the mid-‘80s showed me our connection (or lack biologically thereof) was certainly on his mind over the years.

So, in the ‘90s, when people would interrogate me on the street, "You MUST be related to her," I could not argue. I'd just joke back, "Not as far as I know." Or sometimes even, "Not as far as you know."

My (paternal) grandmother, with whom I never discussed the fact that I wasn't related to her by blood, even noted how remarkable the resemblance was between the person drawing notoriety and myself.

At the time the repeated mistaken identity mostly bothered me because of the unwelcome attention I endured. It also bothered me because it caused me to ponder the life choices that led each of us to our current places in life. After my divorce, the death of my brother, and the death of my father, I was still learning who I was and what I was about. Life was challenging but I am deeply grateful I had the opportunity to conduct that exploration beyond public scrutiny.

I also understood that this ’90s doppelganger grew up in Los Angeles, and that her father was a doctor. If you were donor conceived at a clinic adjacent to UCLA, where prospective clients were led to believe many of the donors were pre-med, you might begin to understand the tumult those repeated mistaken identity situations caused me internally.

Researching details for this writing I learned my ‘90s look-alike attended Santa Monica College the same year my brother, Tom, did. Oh how I wish I could ask him if he ever knew her. There are a million things I wish I could ask him. Regardless of whether he and I shared a siblings-worth of DNA he was my brother. I miss him so.

Until the moment I discovered the identity of my donor I was prepared to learn my younger (half) sister had endured the worst our celebrity driven media can churn out.

Today I am sad to say she and I are not related. Her work in the field of anti-bullying activism is noteworthy. I admire the intention with which she approaches this, certainly at first, unbidden public persona. "If I have learned anything since then, it is that you cannot run away from who you are or from how you’ve been shaped by your experiences. Instead, you must integrate your past and pres­ent." Well, if that isn't a lesson for me as I traverse this donor conceived journey.

Left: a 1996 passport photo of me. Right: Monica Lewinsky (Source unknown. I attempted to find a source but this image appears so much on the internet still today I couldn’t find the original.)

Left: a 1996 passport photo of me. Right: Monica Lewinsky (Source unknown. I attempted to find a source but this image appears so much on the internet still today I couldn’t find the original.)

I haven't found a younger half-sister. Yet.

I Am About 85% Sure I Found Our Donor

by Stacey Jaros

Early the morning of September 10, 2018, I sent my half-siblings, M, J, and JL, an email with the subject, "I am about 85% sure I found our donor." In the email I presented my findings from the night before. I forwarded that email to both Julie, and my distant-cousin S, without whose research I would probably still have many unanswered questions.

Both Julie and S checked my work and concluded I had indeed solved the biggest mystery of my life.

The "Golden Obituary" also illuminated the identity of another "Close Match" on Ancestry as the other daughter of my grandmother, my other aunt. In the next AncestryDNA section of relatives listed as "1st Cousins" there were two paternal matches. JL having confirmed neither of those matches as her daughter, both those matches were back to unknowns. Until the Golden Obituary. The identity of both those matches, both first cousins to my half-siblings and me, became apparent. Even the first cousin who uses a pseudonym was apparent from the contents of the obituary.

If I've presented the story clearly enough you can see JL only found out about M, J, and me THREE DAYS before I figured out who our donor is. She went from thinking she was alone as a donor conceived person, to finding three half-siblings, plus a distant cousin in S, to learning the identity of a bunch of close relations, including our donor in three days.

After having cracked the code, I needed to turn my attention to my school project. I attempted to give my full attention to my project and made excellent progress after work that evening. All the while I was keeping an eye on my Ancestry messages, and the emails flying among my siblings and me. Someone found our aunts and cousins on facebook, someone found yearbook photos of our aunt. We found our donor's address. We located our donor. Our donor lived in Southern California, not far from the clinic where we were all conceived.

The next morning on the way to work I was in a car accident. I was rear-ended (front-ended??) by a car accelerating quickly while backing out of a parking space. I didn't have time to back up so I braced myself while honking my horn. The driver never looked back or slowed. I was initially bummed because the car I was driving was the first new car I've ever owned. It was brand new in May 2018. Fortunately, the bumper did its job and it barely shows a scratch.

The driver called 911 and claimed injuries, until the arriving police informed her the accident had been her fault. *sigh*

My shoulder, having braced against the horn, took a lot of the impact. Writing, typing, was excruciating, for months. Many months. I absolutely regret not taking the paramedics recommendation to be seen by a medical professional immediately. All I could think about was my workday, and my school project.

It was A MORNING. I went from one of the most exciting events of my entire life, to a pretty crappy moment very quickly.

While it seems entirely anti-climactic now, I presented my project on time. I was pleased with my presentation, learned a new skill which will serve me well in my profession, and was able to put the class behind me.

Among the emails flying back and forth with my siblings we calendared a date to meet in person.

Class Assignment, Ha!

by Stacey Jaros

Immediately I messaged S and grilled her about the pseudonym/real name. I told her the number of cMs I shared with that match. The only possibilities for a match of that strength are: half sibling; aunt/uncle; niece/nephew; double first cousin; or grandparent/grandchild.

Green Chart.png

This. Was. Huge.

S had corresponded with B. S had reached out to B, explaining as an adopted person she was looking for biological family. S and B communicated for a time. B provided some information. B was able to point to their MCRA (Most Common Recent Ancestor).

Because of another mutual relation to S and me, we discovered the MCRA between us.

With that information, combined with the information S received from B I was able to determine B is my aunt, my donor's sister. I figured that out around midnight, using the AncestryDNA app on my phone, in bed. I thought, 'This seems promising. I'll check my work in the morning on but for now I'm going to go to sleep.' As I was closing my app to attempt to sleep I saw an obituary for B's mother. I was sad to learn B's mother was deceased. Given the relative ages it isn't surprising, nonetheless sad.

If B is my aunt, then her mother, R, is my grandmother. I had no choice but to immediately read my grandmother's obituary. This obituary is what I now call the "Golden Obituary." If you're familiar with genealogical research, you are aware of what a goldmine an obituary can provide. Often not a primary source they must be considered with some skepticism. However, the information they provide, when supported by primary sources, can be revelatory as was the case with this one.

This particular obituary listed the names of each of R's children, two daughters and one son. One son. One. Son. If she only had one son, and she is my paternal grandmother, her one and only son is my donor.

Reader, do you think I was able to ease into a gentle slumber at what was then one o'clock in the morning. I tell you now that would not have been possible.

What Have I Got To Lose?

by Stacey Jaros

One of the effects of my conversation with Julie is that it gave me a 'what have I got to lose' attitude with regard to reaching out to DNA matches. As soon as I settled back into my daily routine after my Labor Day weekend getaway I started reaching out to the unknown matches on Ancestry. As I mentioned on the CutOff Genes podcast one of the "Close Matches" used a pseudonym. Setting that one aside for the time, I searched on social media for the apparent real names. On facebook I found one who I mentioned briefly on the podcast, JL, that I thought might not want to connect. On September 7, 2018, I figured, 'what's the worst that could happen?' and sent her a message on facebook.

Much to my surprise she hadn't seen the message I initially sent her through Ancestry. She was excited to hear from me, and learn about M and J. As I suspected from her similar age, she is another half-sibling from the same donor. I was so excited to introduce M, J, and JL to one another. Even though JL lived outside of California we all planned to meet ASAP.

I had suspected JL's daughter was one of the matches in the "1st Cousin" category on Ancestry. The category includes centimorgans which would be consistent with 1st cousins or niblings (a niece or nephew; a child of a sibling).

Green Chart.png

When I spoke with JL she confirmed her daughter was not one of those matches. That quashed one of my theories and raised more questions. Being wrong is a bummer, but I am more in favor of the truth than easy answers.

The weekend following our long weekend away, September 8, Jeff & I went to San Francisco to meet up with a distant relative of mine whom I met via 23andMe and AncestryDNA. S is an adopted person who was looking for biological family at the time. S had done quite a bit of research and was much more knowledgeable of genealogical research methods.

Though we are distant relatives and didn't know how we were related when we met, we do have some similarities. We are similar in age, both moved to San Francisco around the same time, and have family ties to Chicago (that's where my Dad, who raised me, was born). It was shocking to me when S said I was the first biological relative she'd met. It felt like I was representing an entire gene pool of people I didn't even know. Fortunately S and I, and our partners, enjoyed a lovely afternoon together getting to know one another.

After our meeting S generously shared some of her genealogical research with me. At the time, I was taking an online class related to my career, and really needed to be working on a big project for that. I briefly glanced at S's research materials, which were diagrams of a lot of relations with scattered connections, reminiscent of a detective team's red string methodology searching for a serial killer. I jokingly referred to it as a 'serial kinship chart.'

As I closed the browser window my eyes fell on a name. The name was the pseudonym appearing in my 'Close Matches' on Ancestry. Beside the pseudonym was what appeared to be a real name, B. As mentioned in my CutOff Genes episode, and a previous chapter of my story here, I believed that 'Close Match' individual to be another half-sibling.

Reader, do you think after the window closed I proceeded to work on my class assignment? I tell you now that would not have been possible.

I'm on a Podcast

by Stacey Jaros

With a new fire I began researching DNA matches. Knowing our donor was alive gave me motivation I hadn't previously had.

At the time I really didn't know how to approach the research. Honestly, I still don't have an approach that feels methodical and thorough yet. I sought experienced researchers who were willing to share their procedures.

In May 2018 my husband, Jeff, brought to my attention a new podcast, hosted by someone in our extended social group. One of my favorite aspects of that particular social group is the creativity and passion among them. With that in mind I was excited to start listening. CutOff Genes, hosted by Julie Dixon Jackson, started with a beginner's introduction to DNA research. Julie, a Genetic Genealogist, or "Gen Genie," deftly presents ideas in each episode that enable listeners to enforce the building blocks of their own research.

I cannot say enough about how much I enjoy listening to CutOff Genes each week. The podcast is smartly organized in sections. Each episode includes a wrap-up of recent DNA news, and a story. Early episodes of CutOff Genes include Julie sharing a serialized telling of her own epic odyssey.

Once Julie brought the telling of her own DNA journey up to date, she asked listeners if we had a story to share. Julie resides in the Los Angeles area. On Labor Day weekend of 2018 Jeff & I planned a long weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. I asked Julie if she'd be interested in hearing my story.

Even though listening to my own voice is deeply dis-pleasurable for me, I suggest checking out Episode 25 of CutOff Genes. It brings my story up to date as of early September 2018.

At that point to re-cap, I knew one half-sister, M, and one half-brother, J. We knew our biological father was alive.

Because of the TV show J had filmed, we knew our donor lived in California, he know of J's existence, and hadn't reached out in the nine months since the show aired, until I recorded the podcast.

Soon after Julie recorded our conversation I would learn I had a few assumptions incorrect about my DNA matches on Ancestry. Next time, connecting some dots.

My Brother Is On TV

by Stacey Jaros

A few months after our meet-up in Fresno J happened to call while M was visiting me for the day. We gathered around with the phone on speakerphone and had another lively conversation. J was prepared to tell us why he previously couldn't tell us he knew of the existence of our donor. He had been a guest on a TV show. His silence was because he'd signed an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). That's IT? That's all it was?? I was much relieved to learn it wasn't due to ongoing litigation as I had suspected. I was also struck by how honorable he was for not breaking an agreement he signed. People break NDAs all the time, especially when pertaining to entertainment. I think that shows the integrity he has as a person.

J's sister who he grew up with, motivated by her desire to know their donor, reached out to a TV show known for finding adoptee's parents/children who had been presented for adoption. Because of the way DNA works, having J tested as well would be enormously helpful for his sister's search.

J and his sister had filmed the show many months prior. The producers had J's login to AncestryDNA. Around a week before my results appeared the producers handed back to J his control of his AncestryDNA account. Thankfully they had changed his account settings so any message to his Ancestry account would appear in his linked email inbox. Thank goodness. That's how J received the first message I sent him, when I sent the first three messages to Close Family matches.

The reason J and K were able to finally talk about it was because they'd seen the promo for the TV show. It was going to be aired as the season finale. He wasn't able to say anything further but because the commercial ran he could tell us when to watch. You'd better believe we all set our DVRs.

On December 11, 2017, J's episode of Long Lost Family aired. The show, about reuniting adopted people with birth parents and biological families, tackled the issue of conception via anonymous gamete donation for the first time with J and his sister's episode. I had never watched the show. In fact I had avoided it up until that point. The concept so is so fraught with emotion. I suspected two things about how the show is presented. One, I suspected the reunions would cause me more pain for my own lack of information of my biological paternal side, my sadness in missing my dad who passed in 1996, my sadness for adopted family and friends who would likely never have the closure the show was offering those it profiled. And two, I suspected the slant of the production would be of an emotionally manipulative nature, taking hours of footage of conversations and editing out all but the most heightened emotions of the guests.

One of the devastating outcomes of the results of the DNA test conducted by the show was J and his sister learning they did not share a donor. That part of the story is theirs to tell. J's sister met her donor on that show. The show found J's donor. J's donor was not interested in meeting.

That's how J knew our donor was alive. The donor didn't want to meet J on a TV show. Watching that show was deeply heart-wrenching. I hurt even now writing about it. My brother was rejected by our biological father. Oooh the complicated feelings.

December 11, 2017 Annotated

by Stacey Jaros

[As promised here is the annotated update from this post originally written in December 2017.]

Three years ago, through DNA testing on 23and Me. I found a half-sister, M. She has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. She, and her family, have embraced me, and my husband, in a fullness I never imagined was possible. I always wanted a sister. I went through life not-so-secretly admiring the relationships of sisters around me.

How different would my life, everything in my life, be if I chose to DNA test with Ancestry rather than 23 and Me?

Some time in 2016 I realized the only people I would potentially match with were people who opted in to the same testing service. What if other individuals tested with other testing services? M and I could potentially find other genetic relatives by testing with another service. I had friends who tested with AncestryDNA so I thought I'd see what we might find.

I kept putting it off. I didn't prioritize it in time or cost. Finally I saw an ad for a sale price on some TV show so I ordered a kit at a discount price. I waited another few weeks before testing due to logistics. Finally I received the results and I was very surprised.

There are some of my mom's relatives. They're my 2nd and 3rd cousins. I know them. That didn't happen on 23 and Me. Oh. Huh. That's a first cousin I definitely don't know. I can see which relatives I have in common with that person. Nope, none of my maternal, known, relatives are common matches with her. Boy, Oh, that's THREE new half-siblings. Yup. That was a surprise. I'm not sure what I was expecting to find. Maybe some second cousins. Maybe even one half-sibling. But three was, surprise.

So, it turns out the three new "Close Family" matches were not all half-siblings. I wasn't aware at the time but the amount of DNA shared among relatives can only determine categories. Context is required to definitively narrow down the manner in which individuals who share a particular percentage of DNA are related to one another. This is an important detail I wouldn't learn for several months after seeing my results for the first time.

Immediately I had the same inclination when I found M. I knew reaching out could be a shock to the recipient. Nevertheless I knew if that match disappeared the next time I logged on I would always regret not reaching out.

There are no rules in this sort of thing. I realize finding out from a random stranger that one's parent is not a biological relation can be earth shaking. The only way to know why someone decided to test, and make their results public, is to add a note to one's bio, which it seems people seldom do. It may be selfish because I need to know but I reached out to the half-siblings.

I reached out to each of the "Close Family" matches but since I didn't understand that they may not be half-siblings my notes to some of them might have seemed extremely presumptuous, and likely confusing. It would be many months before I learned I might need to try a different approach.

I sent each of the three half-sibling matches an identical letter, modeled on the letter I sent to M. I've often referred to that as, "the hardest letter I've ever written." My letter to M was the first indication she ever had that her parents used a donor. In some ways I will always hold the guilt for rocking her family's reality so drastically. Over time I have come to see it as a blessing for her broader family. There is a freedom that comes with the end of the need for keeping secrets.

So as to not bury the lede, I will share right up front I have yet to receive any response from two of the half-siblings I reached out to on Ancestry.

As I mentioned, one Close Family match responded to my message right away. He was born a few days after me, also in the Los Angeles area. His parents had used a donor from the same clinic. I have a new half-brother, J.

J shared that he grew up with a sister a few years younger. They had known for a very long time their parents used a donor. Their family all believed the same donor was used for both of them as that was promised to their mom by the clinic. J's sister was very motivated to find their donor. He took the Ancestry DNA test to help her.

J wanted to chat on the phone. We chatted and chatted. If I recall correctly my husband, Jeff , had gone to a movie so I had tons of time to just get to know J, and his lovely wife K. I let him know we have another half-sibling and introduced the two of them to one another. Jeff arrived home in time to say hello before the end of the conversation. What a happy evening!

J, M, & I had a Skype session in August. Jeff & I drove to M's house. Her husband and kids were there and were generous hosts while we chatted with J & K. What a day. It was so wonderful getting to know one another. I remember my face hurting from smiling and giggling. We all agreed we wanted to meet. Soon. We began looking for a convenient location halfway between one another.

A few weeks later I drove to M's house in the early morning. From there M drove us to Fresno to meet J & K. We met at their hotel where they had stayed the night before. They were waiting in the lobby when we arrived. After hugs all around they invited us up to their room. The lobby was cavernous and loud. If we wanted to chat at all it seemed like the thing to do. So, minutes after meeting we went to the hotel room of actual strangers.

J suggested M & I bring photos of ourselves throughout our lives. We thought that was a clever and thoughtful idea. He & M had a couple albums. I just brought a handful of photos from different stages throughout my life. It was amazing getting to know all of them while looking at all these photos. Some of us have more resemblance to one another, or at certain stages more than others. We talked about interests, traits, hobbies. Conversation was lively and full of curiosity for one another, and the families in which we were raised.

We made our way to lunch. The four of us enjoyed easy conversation. It felt like we'd known one another for years. There was much discussion about our AncestryDNA matches. We discussed how each of us were higher or lower in relation to one another, and the other Close Family matches in our list. K pointed out that what one needs to be concerned with when looking at DNA matches is something called a centimorgan (cM). The amount of cMs, a genetic measurement of overlapping DNA segments among related individuals, is an indication of how closely related individuals are. This is the first time I heard the term. It would be some time longer before it became important in my research.

J joked he wasn't allowed to drink during our meal because he had information he couldn't share. He made K promise to limit him to one for fear of sharing some knowledge he knew about our donor situation. During previous chats with M and me J mentioned he knew some things about who our donor was but he couldn't share them with us. He had hoped by the time we managed to meet in person he would be able to tell us more but he still was prevented for doing so. He was extremely apologetic. He felt it was our right to know but he was somehow constrained. We joked about getting another round of drinks so he would be more inclined to share his information but he was so earnest with his concern for us, and his inability to share, we didn't push. After some more conversation, J shared that he knew for a fact that our donor was alive. He couldn't say more but he was certain of that fact. Bombshell.

After lunch we all headed home. I was convinced J was involved in some sort of legal matter which constricted his ability to discuss how he knew our donor was alive. CONVINCED. I couldn't work out what that meant exactly but I had plenty to think about having met a new sibling, his lovely spouse, learning about more niblings. J said he would let us know as soon as possible.

It took some time but I have now connected with one more of the individuals who appeared at that time in my "Close Family" matches.

Upon Reflection

by Stacey Jaros

One of the first things I did in 2016 was write "2017" on a check. A work check. And I mailed it to the client. It's like my subconscious was saying, "you're gonna wanna skip this one." Yes this year was emotionally difficult. Sometimes it felt impossible to catch my breath before the next wave hit. Upon reflection I enjoyed many gifts this year.

My little home and family had a pretty good year. I was hardly ever unwell (really rare for me). We had a fun long weekend with friends and family at the occasion on my high school 30 year reunion. I attended lots of comedy shows and some cool concerts (including U2, and 2 Prince shows). I "discovered" Hamilton. My husband and some friends of ours created an episodic "do-it-yourself" show. Have a look at one of my favorite episodes if you'd like.

I'm not sorry to see 2016 behind me, and I believe 2017 will be challenging, but I'm ready for what's next.

Get Your Own Tots

by Stacey Jaros

Several weeks ago on some weekend day we had the TV on while doing chores. An episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives rolled around. One of the places profiled was Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, FL. Since I'm a fan of Asian fusion (duck tacos, yum! RIP Kung Fu Tacos.) I paid real close attention while I folded laundry.

One of the dishes they highlighted was "Chunk'd Tots." Like many things on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I was a little afraid of just what over-the-top thing "chund'd" might mean. The chef started with a marinade, which seemed innocent enough. The meat was grilled and then set aside. Then he made a sauce which happened really quickly in TV time. I didn't even catch the details of the ingredients but the next element was deep-fried tater tots. Who doesn't love tots?

Then the tots were tossed in the sauce, topped with the meat, and served hot. Before the host took the bite of approval I shouted, "I'm making that."

Thanks to Google I found an actual recipe. The ingredients looked workable, and really delicious. I knew I could substitute bulgogi pre-marinated boneless beef ribs. I figured it wouldn't be that awful to bake the tots like I usually do at home, rather than deep-frying them.

I set about gathering ingredients. I headed to Trader Joe's for the Bool Kogi
After googling "white melting cheese" I chose some asiago and fontina while I was there. I also searched for some gochujang at Trader Joe's but they didn't seem to have any. I moved on to our local, family-owned, supermarket for tots and scallions. While there I looked for gochujang but again was denied. Since making the dish wasn't going to happen for a few days I took my shopping home. The next day I swung by our local Safeway and I was yet again denied gochujang. I was really surprised I was unable to find the condiment. I figured I'd have to order it from Amazon.

At that point the soonest I was going to make the dish was today, Sunday. Since I was headed into San Francisco yesterday I thought I'd swing by a store or two on the way home. Success! The Safeway in my old neighborhood had two varieties of gochujang to choose from.

This morning I set about preparing the cheese sauce. It came together pretty easily. I only wish I'd made a little more, I didn't measure the ingredients carefully. I also measured a little shy on the gochujang because there is some HEAT in it.

Jeff grilled up the Bool Kogi while I baked the tots in the oven. Once cooked I tossed the tots in the sauce. Even though I was being very gentle while tossing the tots a couple fell apart. I think if they'd been fried they may have held together a little better. I found using the most delicate touch  I was able to coat the remainder of the tots without breaking any more.

After dishing up the sauce covered tots, I sprinkled a handful of the cooked beef, then a few scallion slices.

This. Did. Not. Disappoint.

I will definitely make this again, and I'm wondering what else I can put this sauce on.

I've definitely made quick plans to visit a place I discovered on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (Tee Off in San Francisco) but this is the first time I've sought out a recipe this impulsively.

Even with the trouble obtaining all the ingredients I would definitely do this again. You probably should too.

I made myself take a break mid-bowl to take a picture. It wasn't easy. I didn't even bother to make sure it was in focus. I'm not sorry.

I made myself take a break mid-bowl to take a picture. It wasn't easy. I didn't even bother to make sure it was in focus. I'm not sorry.

Now It's Time To Leave The Capsule If You Dare

by Stacey Jaros

Jeff: "Oh no." I heard something disconcerting in his tone of voice. Me: "What?" Jeff: "You're not going to like this news. It's all over Twitter that David Bowie died." Me: "Are you sure? Friday was his birthday. Lots of people were wishing him happy birthday. He has a new video, Lazarus. Maybe people are talking about that?" Jeff: *BBC article* Me: *ears ringing* "Uh oh. I'm actually light-headed." I cannot believe it.

In the 70's I was playing at a friend's house and she showed me her closet door, which had been signed by David Bowie. Her step-dad was some kind of music executive and somehow Bowie visited their Westchester home, and signed that little girl's closet door. She started to explain something like, "He's a singer." I didn't even let her finish. "Oh I know who he is." I recall very clearly my mind swimming with thoughts of the characters of David Bowie, all 'attractive' to me (whatever that meant to my probably eleven-year-old self).

I cannot shake the image of the poster that hung on my wall throughout me teens. It was an image from the Serious Moonlight Tour. I had a pair of red pumps that once I saw the almost identical ones in his "Let's Dance" video I never wanted to take off.

I cannot reconcile the current issue of Rolling Stone, dated Jan. 14 which hasn't even occurred yet, which sits in my "reading room." It contains a glowing review of the just-released Black⭐️ and yet the reality is David Bowie ceases to join us in this plane. Which begs the question, did he ever join us in this plane? Did he merely hover near, and sometimes through, our world? I'd like to think his soul continues to travel in some kind of Space Oddity, spreading glitter and wisdom along its path. His art, in so many forms, is a gift to us.

So rest in peace, Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Jareth, all of you. Thank you for teaching us to be heroes, forever and ever.

My Zooropa Moment

by Stacey Jaros

And I have no compass
And I have no map
And I have no reasons
No reasons to get back

In August I had a surgery from which the recovery time was just over six weeks. For most of those weeks I wasn't thinking too clearly but eventually I began to feel like myself again and it afforded me a lot of time to think about things.

What do you want?

A lot of the time I thought about doing house work, or little projects around the house. Ultimately I didn't do to much about that because I was still pretty weak, and tired easily. Other than cooking a bit, and cleaning up after that, I didn't accomplish much on my wish list.

What do you want?

Once I returned to work the commute was overwhelming. It required 2+ hours each work day, regardless of whether I traveled by public transit or drove. During that time I was definitely weak but I looked fine. My husband suggested I carry a cane to give me courage to ask for a seat but carrying it around when I didn't need it seemed like it might be a hindrance. It was rough at first but as I got stronger it became easier.

What do you want?

Commuting by public transit gives you a lot of time to think. Most of the time I was thinking things like, "What's that smell?" "What's that liquid? Is it liquid?" "Why are we stopped in this tunnel for twenty minutes (when we are supposed to speed right through without stopping)?" There were several hiccups on the BART system during those few weeks and I felt it was eating up my time. I was bitter. After my surgery I became really protective of my time. I built into my schedule a lot of rest time. I declined invitations. BART was erasing my self-care cushion. It was very frustrating but I still had to get to work.

What do you want?

I worked as a Records Administrator for the same law firm for nearly 15 years. It was a great job and I worked with wonderful people. By the nature of the job I was unable to work remotely. For many years I was able to reconcile the time spent on my commute with the benefits of such a great job. Lately I had been thinking I might want something different.

What do you want?

In September U2 kicked off the European leg of their innocence + experience tour. In the city of Torino they added Zooropa to their setlist. The song includes the refrain, "What do you want?" As with many U2 songs there are lots of ways to interpret lyrics but for me, for here, for now, 'what do you want?' commanded my attention. It required an answer.

What do you want?

Years ago, when Jeff & I still lived in the outerlands of San Francisco's west side, a dear, dear, friend approached me about joining with her in her fiduciary business. At the time I couldn't see how it made sense. I didn't have a car and I couldn't see how I would get to her (non-public-transit-adjacent) office in Lafayette. Though genuinely flattered, I declined. It wasn't an easy decision but logistically I didn't see how to make it work.

What do you want?

Recently I asked my friend if that was still an option. She was open to the idea. While it was a transition I hoped might be in the works for a few months, it turns out to be great time for her to bring someone on. Now. How soon can I start?

What do you want?

I gave notice at my job with the law firm. It wasn't easy. However, knowing I gave myself at least twelve new hours a week makes me giddy. Getting home before seven at night is an experience I will definitely enjoy.

What do you want?

At the very least, I should have a little more time to write. I have a bunch of drafts (mostly from stuff I've cooked) waiting for me. Keep an eye on this site. I have a lot to say. While I am excited for new opportunities, beginning a new career is daunting. There are unknown new challenges just around the corner for me.

Uncertainty can be our guiding light.

Since you asked, some thoughts on U2 General Admission.

by Stacey Jaros

[Warning: VERY mild spoilers]

Briefly, prompted by many questions from anxious fellow-fans, here are a few of my reflections regarding lining up for General Admission, GA, spots. For the current U2 tour, the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour.

Some of my favorite U2 experiences have occurred in the GA line. I wouldn't want to discourage that activity. By all means, meet up with your friends, have a BBQ/Picnic, throw around a Frisbee after a long ride. Basically, U2 has gifted fans with the opportunity to queue in a relaxed fashion - no line nazi required. In my opinion, unless you want a very specific spot, it is completely unnecessary to line up at all.

Thursday night I had seats in Vancouver. Showtime was 7:30. I sauntered up to the venue around 6:45. I had plenty of time to use the facilities, get a snack, and make my way to my seat (nearly in the rafters). The show didn't begin until around 8.

Friday night I had GA. My friends and I walked up to the arena around 7. It was more than plenty time to get to the EXACT spot I wanted on the floor. If I had wanted second from rail anywhere along the catwalk that could have been mine as well.

I've never seen anything like the stage set up before. There seems like miles and miles of rail. What looks like a catwalk connecting the "A" stage and "B" stage is also used as a stage by the entire band at certain points during the show. Bono spends a lot of time traversing this area. Some of the most impressive photos of band members have been taken by fans along this section.

The entire band spends some time on the B stage as well. Those on the floor wanting some face time with any number of band members will likely be happy to have some rail at that location.

You may not believe me but I do not believe rail will not be the most coveted spot by the end of this tour. There is a multi-media presentation that occurs in the section above the catwalk. They may look like simple, if impressive in size, screens. Without giving away the trick of it all I will merely say it needs to be experienced to understand what is happening. I do not believe photos can even capture the impact. That area is not entirely visible from the rail. Those on the rail are essentially looking up the front plane of the screens. It's pretty hard to see the impressive visual story presented there.

I heard quite a bit of rumbling from the Red Zone folks when the floor diagrams began circulating. I think the band really had your best interests at heart when designing these special sections. You get lots of un-crowded rail with a fantastic vantage point for the action on, and over, the catwalk.  Red Zone ticket holders may come and go as the please. If one wanted to get a closer spot it would be relatively easy to get within 3-4 people from the catwalk or B stage if you wanted a little closer facetime.

Individual venues may vary, but Friday we went through security check (a pretty cursory bag check), then had our credit cards scanned (we had ticketless entry - painless for me), then received wristbands. According to our tickets we were either "N" or "S" which corresponded to the Northside (Adam) or Southside (The Edge) of the catwalk.

I think it will vary by venue but I'm assuming night 2 in Vancouver, a Friday night, before a (local) three-day-weekend, was really close to capacity. It was really easy to move about. GAers are not necessarily entirely free to move around the entire floor however. Once on the floor you stayed on "your" side. Some people were able to freely move from side to side, some were only allowed pre-show, and some were not at all. I'm sure it varies by venue, capacity, and the proclivities of the security on the floor.

I think the "end zone" seats are the least desirable seats in the house. Only the first few rows get any band face time and the multi-media experience isn't really visible from these vantage points. They have provided screens that show a feed from various cameras throughout the venue, including some cool ones on on band members' wrists, but the multi-media experience is pretty much unavailable to them. However, if you're interested in seeing how some of the sausage is made these are the seats you want. You can't see the face of the screens but you can see INSIDE them. That is a lot cooler than it probably sounds.

I wouldn't want to trade the experience I had on the floor Friday night for anything. Ever. However I believe this show is best experienced from the seats. Luckily my next several shows are seats in 100-teens sections. I cannot wait to see the show from those locations. I truly believe these are going to be the sweet spots for this particular production.

The sound from my upper-tier seats was great but at the second song, Out Of Control, I was reaching for my earplugs. The high end was chimney, and echoey. On the floor, from the first opening notes I needed earplugs. The sound, especially the high-end, was particularly painful. I cannot say whether it was because of my change in location within the venue, or whether Joe O'Herlihy made changes. I can only say this: BRING EARPLUGS. If you use earplugs meant for listening to music (I like Etymotics) it will sound great. In fact Thursday night I heard, and enjoyed, Adam more than ever.

If you still don't have tickets it may not be too late. As the stage is assembled in each venue, and invited guest comp tickets are sorted, they will release the remaining tickets for sale. I learned about the Vancouver "ticket dump" at 4:30 am Thursday morning (on Twitter). I was able to buy my Friday night GA ticket from Ticketmaster Canada from my hotel room. Keep your eyes out, be flexible, be persistent. Please avoid scalpers. Good luck.

Note: there is NO OPENER this tour. There's no telling when the band will take the stage but know it will be U2, unless it's The Dalton Brothers (hey, a girl can hope).

Have a great show everybody.

All That Really Matters Is That We Are All Made From Stars

by Stacey Jaros

"We are made of starstuff." - Carl Sagan
"We are all made of stars." - Moby

"Born for bliss, born for this. Every human life begins with a kiss." - U2

Not so fast, Bono. That may be technically true but sometimes life requires a more circuitous route.

Due to fertility difficulties my biological father is an anonymous donor, a fact about which I was unaware until I was in my mid 20's. My mom and dad were married and raised me together. I never felt anything other than loved, wanted, and fully part of my immediate family.

Learning this secret was truly shocking at first. However, after a short time of reflection I understood my dad was my dad. He was a good, even great, though not perfect, dad. Knowing the truth of my creation changed nothing about that.

One consequence of learning that news is that it made me more compassionate towards other people. Virtually anyone walking down the street could be a relation. I imagine it is a little bit how an adoptive person feels.

Since I learned the truth I have attempted to make it as public as possible. I wanted everyone close to me to be aware because I didn't want to foster secrecy around something that is simply a matter of fact. I bring it up in conversation when it seems appropriate. I never obscure the truth of it.

I understand some people whose biological parents are unknown to them desire to meet them. That desire hasn't developed in me. I had a dad. He passed in 1996, and I miss him terribly, but he was my Dad. I do not see a need to replace him.

There are two things though about which I am curious. I've often wondered what my genetic background is. It would likely be most compelling in the event I was to have children, which is unlikely now at my age. But it could also be important for my future health. I've also wondered what my cultural heritage is.

By legend, both sides of my Mom's family are a mish-mosh of Northern European, and a healthy sprinkling of Native American. It would be great to know how much truth is in those stories.  I watch shows like "Who Do You Think You Are" (a celebrity genealogy television series) and I'm completely rapt with the personal stories the subjects learn about themselves. It makes me a little sad I have no way of knowing half my biological story.

Out of curiosity my Mom, my husband, and I did genetic testing with 23 and Me. Since I do not carry a Y chromosome I knew I wouldn't be able to learn anything about my paternal side. The results were still valuable in learning my Mom's side though.

We all received our full genetic results this week. It was able to identify my mom as such so we acknowledged that relationship on the site, thereby opening up deeper information of our connection. That link also opened up information about my paternal side. Given the Y chromosome limitation, I was not anticipating paternal information. But there it was, my genetic story split in two: that which is from my mom, and that which was given to me by my paternal father.

In addition to identifying my mom, 23 and Me identified hundreds of individuals with whom I share genetic material. Most people it found are rather distant cousins but my mom and I did have fun digging around a bit with the ones that are common to both of us. We found some likely candidates who my be as close as second cousins.

Not only did it identify potential distant relatives, the site identified someone with whom I share a large percentage of genetic information. A person they predict to be a half-sister. I am having trouble processing this new information. It never occurred to me I would find a paternal relation.

The potential match has an anonymous profile, as do I. If she matched me I can only imagine I appeared in her matches as well. I wonder how much of a shock it is to her. I wonder a lot of things, actually.

I am going to contact her in the next few days, as soon as I figure out what to say. My instinct is to make a joke of it, " So, funny story. It turns out we share a father. Probably." But I'm sure I'll come up with something more appropriate eventually.

So, in the spirit of laying it all out on the table, there is my story. So far.

Bastille Day Plus One

by Stacey Jaros

When Jeff & I were getting to know one another, many months before we started dating, we had a routine where after my shift at the restaurant where I worked, I would swing by Jeff's house a few blocks away and we would hang out.

We met through mutual friends. The first time Jeff invited me to his place was to watch old re-runs of the classic TV show, Match Game. He had cable, I did not. The show was re-run nightly on Game Show Network. We loved watching Match Game together and were always delighted when the frequently-run infomercial for a power ballad compilation appeared. Good times.

At the time Jeff was the proud owner of a snazzy laser disc player. It was a dual DVD/laser disc player. There were a few favorite laser discs he hadn't been able to obtain on a new medium. One of the things we enjoyed watching together were classic Looney Tunes cartoons. He really knew how to pitch some woo.

Another thing we enjoyed doing together was playing games on Jeff's desktop computer. In the early days we played mostly simple games. He had Monopoly and Yahtzee games which we sometimes enjoyed. The game we most loved to play together was You Don't Know Jack. YDKJ is essentially a trivia game. I'm a big fan of trivia games and spent many evenings in college at pub quizzes. The really fun hook about YDKJ is the snarky vibe of the game.

YDKJ is set up like a fake show. It opens as if you, the players, are present at the taping of a game show. You can hear stage directions being barked and people skittering in the background to be ready for show time. It sets a really fun mood right away. When it's Go Time there's theme music, applause, well ... you probably know how game shows work. It's like that. When the overly friendly host begins to speak he's snarky and immediately way too into your business, as game show hosts often are. The name of the host when we started playing was Cookie.

If you happen to be playing YDKJ on a Saturday night, as we often were, Cookie will chide you that you don't have anything better to do. YDKJ also makes note of calendar dates. I began visiting Jeff in late Spring. By mid-July we had been playing YDKJ, and just spending lots of time together, pretty regularly. On July 14th, 1999, after my shift waiting tables, I dropped by Jeff's house for some sweet trivia.

When the game began there were sound effects and cheering. I can't remember specifically but I recall the energy was really amped up. Cookie wished us a happy Bastille Day. We were both incredibly tickled. We're American. Neither of us has French heritage. Neither of us speaks French. It seemed so random for the game to include marking what seems to be a minor holiday (insofar as we're not IN France). It just struck us both as very funny.

Not long after that, we started dating. Our time spent together increased but we continued to enjoy doing the things we'd done in our pre-courtship days. We played a lot of YDKJ. Every new version, and I think we had them all, was a new adventure we could enjoy together. We played it on several holidays, which were all mentioned by the game. Eventually July 2000 rolled around. We wondered if the newer version of YDKJ would mention the holiday. We made a date to play and were delighted to discover the game mentioned it again. It amused us so much it became something we looked forward to every year.

With upgrades in new hardware the old games become unplayable. Jeff kept a laptop around with no necessary function other than it could run YDKJ. Over time we cultivated other interests together so we played less but we would get a game in when we could.

Eventually we began marking Bastille Day as an anniversary of sorts. Whether or not we played YDKJ we would always make note of how special that day, and the game, were to us. In 2006 we marked the day by playing the game once again. I was a little sleepy so I ended up falling asleep on the couch.

The next day we enjoyed a sensational Lord of the Rings concert at the San Francisco Symphony. It was an early show and when we exited it was still daylight. It was a spectacularly sunny day. We couldn't have had more fun together. After a full day of sunshine, wine, and beautiful music, we were unwinding at home.

After a few minutes of chatting together, our cat, Marina, hopped on my lap. At that moment Jeff began to ask me to share my life with him and be his wife. (I said Yes.)

Later Jeff let me know he had intended to propose on Bastille Day. He wanted to do it in our home with our cat there. Unfortunately I dozed off before he had his chance. Technically the anniversary of our engagement is the day after Bastille Day.

We don't really celebrate anniversaries other than our wedding anniversary. I don't remember the date of our first date, or when we first kissed. I suspect the reason we remember our engagement is because of our Bastille Day connection. I love that we have a day that makes it easy for us reflect on our early days of getting to know one another.

These days we keep a couple episodes of Match Game on the DVR. Now if you'll excuse me, I going to spend some time with Gene, Brett, Charles, and Richard, with Jeff and Marina by my side.

In Which I Claim Some Freedom For Myself and Make It Out With My Soul Intact

by Stacey Jaros

Confession time: I let my driver's license lapse. A while ago. So long ago I'm too embarrassed to mention it here. I didn't have a car when it was time for renewal and getting to the DMV seemed like an impossible hurdle. Since Jeff and I now have a car, I need to be able to drive (legally) for emergencies, if nothing else. I still love that I can conveniently walk and take public transit. I walked to BART when I was finished atu the DMV.

I look forward to being the Designated Driver when out with Jeff and other friends who've given me that gift while I haven't been driving. I also look forward to sharing the chore on road trips (Jeff & I are over-due for a long weekend getaway). It will also be great to visit Mom at her place, or meet up with her in Pleasanton, which is much easier with our car.

It took three full hours in a crowded DMV but what a relief. For the record, every employee was courteous and as efficient as they could be given their workload. A nearby office is closed for remodeling so this one has an extra load. I'm so happy I did it. Well, I will be until I see my crappy photo.

Lemon Squares - Take One

by Stacey Jaros

As you may know one of my favorite things is going on JoCo Cruise Crazy. I've been very fortunate to enjoy all four so far. While the cruises and entertainment are beyond fun, most of my joy comes from interacting with my co-attendees. We call ourselves Sea Monkeys and some of the best times of my life have been spent among these amazing people.

Some local Sea Monkeys hosted a gathering for Bay Area JoCo cruisers Saturday. It wasn't exactly a pot luck situation but bringing a sweet snack to share seemed like a good idea. There are quite a few dessert options I still haven't tackled in The Red Box but since it's just the beginning of Spring I decided on Lemon Squares.

I prepped all my ingredients and tools on Saturday morning in plenty of time for the squares to cool for transport.

My first step was to prepare my cookie sheet. My cookie sheets are hand-me-downs that I never use bare. I always use my cookie sheets with parchment paper so I'm really not concerned with the condition of the pans. For this dish I covered the sheet with foil and then parchment. I didn't want to have any trouble getting the squares out of the pan so this seemed like my best bet.

My prepped pan is visible in the back of this photo of the ingredients.

My prepped pan is visible in the back of this photo of the ingredients.

I confess I was confused about using a cookie sheet. I thought an 11x13 pan would be a typical pan used for "squares." But since the recipe specifically says "cookie sheet" that's what I did.

The first thing I did was juice the lemons. I did this first for two reasons: (1) I wanted to be sure I had enough lemon juice, and (2) since the recipe says to add the batter to the crust while the crust is warm so I wanted to have the juice ready when the crust came out of oven.

The lemons were small but I thought three might be enough for six tablespoons.

The lemons were small but I thought three might be enough for six tablespoons.

Yup. That'll do.

Yup. That'll do.

I set the oven to preheat then began assemble the crust. The butter had been sitting out for a bit since I began gathering my ingredients. The recipe didn't specify softened butter but I thought it would work out better that way. The recipe didn't specifically suggest to use a pastry cutter but it seemed appropriate. I think it worked well.

Aw, look. I already made a bit of a mess. Typical.

Aw, look. I already made a bit of a mess. Typical.

I can't tell if the crust or the parchment is thinner. That should've been a clue I was in trouble. When I think of lemon squares, or remember Noni's, the crust is thicker than what I have here.

I can't tell if the crust or the parchment is thinner. That should've been a clue I was in trouble. When I think of lemon squares, or remember Noni's, the crust is thicker than what I have here.

It was really easy to press the crust into the cookie sheet but it was pretty thin.

While the crust was in the oven I mixed the filing.





AAAaaaaannnnd then I had to start over because I added two cups of FLOUR instead of sugar. Thankfully I had plenty of eggs for that mistake.

I didn't even want to take the time to wash the bowl to start over. So I pulled out another bowl.

I didn't even want to take the time to wash the bowl to start over. So I pulled out another bowl.

Eggs, beaten until frothy, are beautiful.

Eggs, beaten until frothy, are beautiful.

This time I added sugar. Like I was supposed to.

This time I added sugar. Like I was supposed to.

It was time to pull the crust out of the oven.

Hmm. That crust is pretty thin. Also, look at all those cracks. There's not a lot of integrity to that crust.

Hmm. That crust is pretty thin. Also, look at all those cracks. There's not a lot of integrity to that crust.

The filing seemed pretty boring until I added the lemon juice.

As soon as I added the lemon juice the batter smelled so good.

As soon as I added the lemon juice the batter smelled so good.

The batter poured over the crust. Should I have been concerned how shallow the filling was?

The batter poured over the crust. Should I have been concerned how shallow the filling was?

The batter may have smelled good once I added the lemon juice but when I started to smell the cooking pan it didn't smell so good. There was a weird raw flour smell.

Here's the completely baked product.

Here's the completely baked product.

There is nothing about this pan that looked like "lemon bars."

There is nothing about this pan that looked like "lemon bars."

I went ahead and covered it in powdered sugar as instructed.

I went ahead and covered it in powdered sugar as instructed.

When I peeled the paper away from the lemon it didn't look very bar-like. I initially thought that even though it didn't look very good I could spoon the non-squares into a bowl and add whipped cream. Worse, it didn't smell very good.

I cut off a few squares to try. Uh oh. I could see, as I feared, the lemon filling seeped through the crust.

I cut off a few squares to try. Uh oh. I could see, as I feared, the lemon filling seeped through the crust.

Bless Jeff. He and I both tasted it. It was very unpleasant.

That's no bar. Unfortunately it tasted far worse than it looked.

That's no bar. Unfortunately it tasted far worse than it looked.

My first thought was to brush my teeth to get the taste out of my mouth. It was that bad.

On the one hand I think if I make it in an 11x13 dish the crust will have a little more integrity. On the other hand, I can't understand how 4 Tablespoons of flour would result in an un-cooked flavor and aroma.

I briefly looked at other lemon squares recipes online and The Red Box version is very similar to those. I don't know how different I can expect the filling to behave in a different pan.

Since this experiment was so unsuccessful I'm going to leave off the recipe. I'll include it when I figure out what I did wrong. For now I'll simply share my replica of Noni's card. I love her writing and notes (1 cube of butter, or margarine, is 1/2 cup) and the stains from use. I wonder if she just knew not to use a cookie sheet.

Since this experiment was so unsuccessful I'm going to leave off the recipe. I'll include it when I figure out what I did wrong. For now I'll simply share my replica of Noni's card. I love her writing and notes (1 cube of butter, or margarine, is 1/2 cup) and the stains from use. I wonder if she just knew not to use a cookie sheet.

This Red Box experiment was a fail. Since I didn't have anything homemade I swung by a local wine store for some interesting beverages. It turned out there were plenty of sweets at the party. I was kind of bummed I didn't have lemon squares but I'll try it again another time.

Sometimes You Just Have To Go With It

by Stacey Jaros

I don't do Valentine's day. Approximately 10 years ago my then boyfriend, now husband, Jeff, and I went out to dinner on Valentine's Day. We didn't want to make a big fuss so we chose to make reservations at a favorite neighborhood restaurant.

Unbeknownst to us the only menu available was a prix fixe, three course, menu. Our favorite items from the regular menu were not available. The price for the meal was comparable to what we would have paid for our usual menu items so at least there wasn't sticker shock. We could have walked out but at the last minute we just decided to stay.

Another surprise was that upon arrival the host walked us through the dining room with lovely booths, down a small passage way, and into some kind of auxiliary dining room. One could see how it might be cozy and intimate but on that night it was packed with "two tops" from wall to wall.

We were seated near the center of the room the tables to our left and our right were each within an arm's reach. The room was about half full already. It wasn't overly loud but every conversation was audible in the cozy space.

I do not recall anything about the diners on one side, they must have been quiet. The diners on the other side however are half the reason I don't go out on Valentine's Day any longer. They were a young male-female couple. The guy repeatedly took phone calls (texting wasn't really a thing back then), ignoring his date. The phone calls seemed unimportant and non-urgent, just seemed like chit chat. The woman appeared to not be having the best time but she also didn't seem to be upset. We were seated so close together that the whole vibe was more than distracting.

On our way home that night we both agreed we would rather celebrate the sentiment of Valentine's Day either before or after February 14. That's what we've done ever since. We exchange cards and gifts but neither one of us has regretted the decision to not go out.

The best thing that happened that night is that we discovered the existence of that banquet room. Had we not experienced the overflow dining that Valentine's night we may never have known the room existed. When we looked for a place to have our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding it became the clear that would be a great space. It ended up being the perfect space to set up a mock wedding setting for a quick rehearsal and it was cozy and private for our family and friends.

Mexicali Eggs

by Stacey Jaros

If the Corned Beef and Small and White Bean incident was a failure, and it truly was, the next morning I redeemed myself somewhat with Mexicali Eggs.


I was looking forward to attempting this recipe. The ingredients are things I generally have on hand.

I'd initially thought of making the meal for dinner. It would quickly come together after work and wouldn't require too much cleanup. However, Jeff isn't a big fan of dinner for breakfast (I know! He's otherwise pretty close to perfect so it's ok).


I halved the recipe because 8 eggs is way too much for two people. Well, I halved the recipe plus one. It just seemed like the right thing to do.


The recipe didn't suggest it but I drained the green chilies. I often make eggs with similar ingredients to this recipe. Whenever I use green chilies or salsa I drain it because I really don't like runny eggs.


Another alteration I made to the recipe is that it called for cooking in 2 Tablespoons of butter. I did use a tiny little bit of butter but 2 Tablespoons in a non-stick pan was entirely unnecessary. I don't use non-stick for everything but it sure is great for eggs.

The biggest decision I had to make when interpreting this recipe was flour or corn tortillas. I think either would work but I chose corn for two reasons: (1) I thought it would taste delicious, and (2) if I was supposed to use flour wouldn't the recipe be called "Breakfast Burritos?" Ultimately I think either would work well in this recipe.


The recipe doesn't mention how to warm the tortillas. I warmed them in a hot, dry pan which worked very well. Years ago I rented a place in San Francisco where the most awesome thing was an antique gas stove with a griddle in the middle. The stove wasn't level (the floor was actually the problem) so it was shite for baking (cakes would come out uneven) but the griddle was awesome for warming tortillas.

Jeff's eggs.

Jeff's eggs.

I pulled Jeff's eggs out of the pan first since I like mine well done. After his were assembled I put my tortillas in the pan to warm and continued cooking my eggs.

This was a delicious meal. I liked it so much that I'm likely to enjoy it for dinner the next time Jeff has Beer & Pizza night with a buddy.

Mexicali Eggs

8 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
1/2 Cup onion, chopped
1/4 Cup canned green chilies, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tortillas
Taco sauce

Beat 8 eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper. Scramble with 1/2 Cup chopped onion and 1/4 Cup chopped canned green chilies in 2 Tablespoons of butter. Sprinkle on 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese. Spoon eggs in 4 heated tortillas. Roll up and top with heated taco sauce. [I didn't heat the taco sauce since I only used a drizzle of hot sauce. It was fine without heating.]

Corned Beef and Small White Beans

by Stacey Jaros

Alternate title: I should have known better.

Throughout the months of September and October my friend, Colleen, was living a very overscheduled life. Wondering when she might have a minute to herself she checked her calendar and realized November 2nd was free. She declared Saturday, November 2, Couch Date. Couch Date was a day to celebrate nothing on the schedule other than doing enjoyable things one puts off while getting things done. Once Couch Date was on her schedule, and the only thing on her schedule, she suggested her friends might also enjoy a day for themselves. Many of her friends joined her.

I shared my Couch Date with Jeff. We thought we'd spend some time clearing a few things off the DVR, including the movie "The Kings of Summer" which we missed when it was in theaters. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to tackle another recipe in The Red Box.

Jeff said, "You're going to cook on Couch Date?" I said, "Well, we'll be home all day and we'll have to eat. Besides, I like to cook. Couch Date isn't about doing NOTHING, it's about not filling up a schedule with 'MUST DOs.'"

For some reason I keep laving out one item from my ingredient photos. This time it was ketchup.

For some reason I keep laving out one item from my ingredient photos. This time it was ketchup.

I looked for something that wouldn't take a lot of prep or cleanup and settled on Corned Beef with White Beans. I thought it would be something I could throw in a pan and let it go.

Initially thought about putting it in the slow cooker. I think I remember my Mom making corned beef that way. It is entirely possible Noni made it in the slow cooker too. There was often a pot of beans or greens cooking that way on the counter at Noni and Pop's house. Since the recipe didn't call for any liquid I thought it might dilute the flavor of the other ingredients. I decided on a roasting pan instead.

If you've made corned beef, or beans, you're likely shaking your head. I hadn't made corned beef in decades. I've learned my lesson. Please go easy on me. Sure I could blame the recipe but I should've known better.

When I asked for corned beef at the meat counter the meat was encased in plastic just how I remembered. Since I didn't need 5 pounds the butcher cut the corned beef for me. There were typical spices on the corned beef but it didn't some with a separate spice packet as is common for corned beef. I do not know if waiting two days to cook it contributed to it being dry due to the fact it was no longer sealed in plastic but merely wrapped in butcher wrap.

Rather than the typical Corned Beef and Cabbage, this recipe includes ingredients similar to BBQ sauce. I found that more appealing than Corned Beef and Cabbage which is really not a favorite of mine.

Salad spinners: they're for so much more than salad.

Salad spinners: they're for so much more than salad.

I turned the oven to 325° and set the timer for one hour.

The ingredients are very straightforward, other than butter. Hunks of butter seem a little odd to me. 

The ingredients are very straightforward, other than butter. Hunks of butter seem a little odd to me. 

Here is the pan stirred after one hour. 

Here is the pan stirred after one hour. 

The deepened color on the onions and ketchup were a good sign that things were heading in the right direction. The beans made a lot of noise in the pot as I stirred. I realized they were very dry. It isn't clear in the photo but there were a few inches of liquid in the bottom of the pan. That gave me hope but I was seriously concerned I should have used the slow cooker and added liquid.  Even though it was smelling good I started to worry dinner wasn't going to be delicious. I should've added water, or broth, or water plus additional quantities of the original ingredients so the flavor wouldn't be diluted. Basically, I should have added any liquid instead of doing what I did which was to put it back in the oven for another hour.

After hour two of cooking. 

After hour two of cooking. 

After another hour there was a lot of color on the beans. They weren't any softer. There wasn't a lot of liquid in the bottom of the pan. I scooped out a few beans to taste and set them aside to cool. I caved and added a splash (well, about a cup) of water. I also turned the oven down to about 250°. At that point I was just trying to have something edible. I put the pan back in the oven.

I tasted the beans. On the one hand they had a good flavor. On the other hand they were VERY chewy. The texture was really unpleasant. I casually searched the internet for corned beef recipes. Well, I probably don't need to tell you they all call for adding liquid. Every recipe I found requires liquid.

Of course I didn't search "how to cook beans" because I know beans, dried beans, require a lot of liquid to cook. Of course I know that. I'm not an idiot. Why, why, why I didn't stick with my initial instinct of the slow cooker I just can't say.

Had I used the slow cooker, with the necessary liquid, the cooking time would have been close to 6 hours. That's when I started my project. The meat had cooked in half the time. I turned the oven as low as it would go and made mashed potatoes.

I'm pretty sure a meal of beans doesn't need mashed potatoes but mashed potatoes, especially in Jeff's world, make most things better.

I'm pretty sure a meal of beans doesn't need mashed potatoes but mashed potatoes, especially in Jeff's world, make most things better.

The next night I tried to reconstitute the meal by simmering the beans in beef broth for about an hour then adding the meat to warm through. It really didn't work. The beans were a bit better -  closer to al dente rather than downright chewy, but the meat was still way too dry.

I was thankful the butcher sold me a smaller portion and that I didn't waste the whole portion. At least the mashed potatoes were delicious (& I made lots to freeze some for a future meal).

Corned Beef and Small White Beans

2 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
2 parsley sprigs
1 onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons margarine
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1/3 Cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons vinegar
Small pack white beans
1 corned beef [I've since learned a corned beef is a brisket seasoned with particular spices. It is very likely a brisket is the preferred cut of meat for this recipe.]

Cook a long time. [The ingredients should be covered with water before cooking.]