Friday, December 21, 2012


Check out the NYT's selections for the year's best book covers. They're really stunning. I want this one, and I want it bad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Goodbye 2012

There's only a few weeks left in 2012, so it's time for a year-in-review list! Not of albums, or movies, or books, or anything coherent like that. Just of....things.
  • Best worth-it anxiety fest: planning the Russian River getaway.
  • Worst anxiety fest: Little Dude's brush with death via kidney failure. But he's a-ok now, despite turning his nose up at his ridiculously expensive prescription food.
  • Best surprise: Ian's timely tagalong on our trip to Austin.
  • Best health-be-damned decision making: drinking and tanning my way through the summer. I may have gained 10 pounds and given my future self skin cancer, but I had a fantastic time.
  • Best dance party: any of the late night ones in the kitchen that closed out our parties. DECEPTACON 4EVER.
  • Scariest moment: in between the terrifying screams of my neighbor that someone was trying to kill her and when the police arrived. She was fine, thank god, but the police had to deal with a crazed me, berobed, bangs a-flying, gesturing with the giant tub of peanut butter pretzels that I was stress eating while trying to figure out where the murder noises were coming from.
  • Scariest moment for my upstairs neighbors: when the police attempted to knock down their door after I told them that was the source of the screaming. Oops.
  • Most stressful work project: launching Magazines.
  • Most worth-it work project: launching Magazines.
  • Best/weirdest explanation given: That is Ezzie. She has licked all the hair off her butt. She is otherwise healthy, but is an extremely neurotic cat. She takes Prozac and allergy medicine, and now her fur is starting to grow back. Be careful when petting her, as she may give you beard burn.
  • Most disappointing realization: I will never ever be able to afford a house in San Francisco. Like, ever. Ok wait, maybe after the Big One hits and there is nothing but rubble. Someone will construct a rubble house and I will buy it with two strips of cat jerky and a book of matches.
  • Best $25 spent: free-shipping membership to Between family illnesses and happy events that we couldn't attend, free shipping for flowers got us lots and lots of points, and got our loved ones lots of bouquets.
  • Most unexpected nesting instinct: wanting to create Martha Stewart-like tablescapes. As neither a perfectionist nor someone with much of an aesthetic sense, I have no idea why I need to make everything look perfect when I entertain now, especially since everyone just gets drunk and it devolves (evolves?) into chaos.
  • Best party: I've got to go with Kirby Cove. On the rager front, Mike's birthday was pretty great too.
  • Bugs of the year: these spiders that create decoys, or these insects that spoon each other. Tossup.
  • Best source of hometown pride: the Giants. And the Niners. Holy hell, what a year for SF sports! And the rest of the country thinks we're liberal weenies. Pah.
  • Best brew: Rye IPA for Mike's birthday party. Was rounded and rich for a hoppy beer.
  • Most disappointing brew: Flemish Red. Wasn't sour enough for me; will have to go all out next time.
  • Best quickie trips: LA, time 1 and time 2
  • Weirdest body thing: the hair just back from my hairline has gone coarse and kinky (and not in the "Hey baby I want to #*&% your $%@!" kind of way). Is that an aging thing? Why oh why?
  • Favorite thing to do: have people over. Mi casa is su casa, errybody. See you in 2013!
Below is YouTube's year in review. Come on now, you know you want to get a little bit mushy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

This is a true thing.
Huffpo's other "Best Tweets from Women in 2012" are here. Do I wish that it wasn't a thing to have a women's roundup like that? Yes. Are most of the tweets included delightful? Also yes. Go for it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moving portraits

Our friends Haley and Simone have a documentary film company called Moving Portraits that does family interviews, videos for weddings and engagements, etc. Last week they threw a holiday party. Aside from having amazing made-as-you-watched dumplings, they also had a video photo booth that absolutely kicked ass. Below is the highlight reel from the booth, with some cameos by me and Mike.

We are inseparable

This Believer interview with Maurice Sendak is really something. Sendak was really something. 

There's this:
There’s a young artist in this town who’s remarkably gifted, and I’ve been tutoring him on the side. And he had this marvelous girlfriend, and I saw what was happening. And I said, “Look, don’t marry. Happily you can live together without any stench.” And they married and within eight minutes she was pregnant. And now they have a child, and all they do is complain about not having time and having to get a job. Fuck you! Why didn’t you listen to me? We don’t need that baby.
And this:
Publishing is such an outrageously stupid profession. Or has become so...Well, nobody knows what they’re doing. I wonder if that’s always been true. I think being old is very fortunate right now. I want to get out of this as soon as possible. It’s terrible. And the great days in the 1950s and after the war, when publishing children’s books was youthful and fun… it really was. It’s not just looking back and pretending that it was good. It was good. And now it’s just stupid...Because of Rupert Murdoch. His name should be what everything is called now.
And this, on his brother, which is just woah:
He was my savior. He was gentle and wonderful. We wrote stories and I illustrated them on shirt cardboard. And when my relatives—these goofballs—came, he would read the stories and I would hold up the pictures. He wrote a wonderful story called “We Are Inseparable.” About a brother who falls in love with his sister, which my brother did—Freud didn’t know from Brooklyn, he never flew over Brooklyn—and they’re going to get married. My parents didn’t think anything of it. 
I remember that story, and I hated drawing the scene where they had to kiss, because I couldn’t fit their faces together. And then at the end—because in the back of his mind he knew something was wrong—the boy is in an accident, with bandages like a mummy, and lying in a hospital bed, and the parents are blocking the bed because she’s a banshee and is going to come, and she rushes in and pushes them aside and jumps on him, and they both hurl themselves out of the forty-second-floor window of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital screaming, “We are inseparable.” Ha! I had such a good time drawing the bodies falling and smashing. Total wreckage. It was his masterpiece. 

Luck of the draw

A friend from high school, with whom I had endless political debates (he was conservative, I was liberal, he gave me a copy of the Communist Manifesto with some cute pictures of us taped inside for graduation) has made the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Should I feel like a failure yet? Well I don't, because I won a raffle today. So THERE.

Update: Mike's family friend Martha is on there too! Her job is fascinating - she extracts scholars from countries where the regimes are hostile to their scholarship - but I'm wondering exactly how many of these lists there are.

Also, a chick who is in our circle of friends in Austin has an house tour on Apartment Therapy. Warning, it will make you jealous.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Your happy for today

Here are gorgeous macro photos of snowflakes that you should look at until your eyes cross. SNOWFLAKES! We watched the Dark Knight Rises the other night, and I got pangingly homesick as the digitally-altered New York skyline exploded in flames over and over again. We're not going back east this year for Christmas, and since it's not likely to snow in Houston, I'll just have to stare at these photos and stand under the air conditioning vent at work (yes, the AC is still on) to recreate that wintry chill.


This past weekend Mike and I celebrated 7 years together. When I say celebrated, I mean that we just did what we like to do, but more of it. We slept in late. We walked the hills in our neighborhood and enjoyed the views. We saw friends. On Sunday we took a wilderness survival skills class, because who does not get romantic while learning to make fire from sticks and building a debris hut.

And we talked about how when we first started dating we were 22 and 27, living in a falling down house on Lyon Street, battling the mushrooms growing out of the walls and sleeping on a mattress on the floor. It was a really odd and bright time, one that involved late nights and long brunches and early mornings going to shitty jobs. I was learning to cook. Mike was finishing his thesis. We sat on the stoop most nights with our roommate and talked to the neighbors. I borrowed a dress for our first date out - months after we were actually together - and he wore a bolo tie. Then I moved east, and moved back, and we lost grandmas, and changed apartments, and had some good fights, and spent as much time together as humanly possible. And all we can say is more more more.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An everlasting meal

Have you read Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal? Have I recommended it to you? If not, it was an oversight on my part. You really should. In some ways it's overwritten, like a really lovely painfully crafted piece of furniture is overdone, but in the same way it's perfect. It's lovely, and delicious, and inspiring.

And now, of course, this tiny lady (I'm assessing everyone by their size right now, nasty habit I know) has an interview on The Kitchn. It's as good as you'd hope. You know when you just want to be friends with someone rill rill bad? But then you think they might actually drive you nuts in person? But they're perfect anyway, like that aforementioned piece of furniture that makes the rest of the room look bad by comparison? Bingo.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen? When my oldest friend came to New York for the first time with her Italian boyfriend I threw a big dinner party for 28 people, all seated at a long table. We had to sit two to a chair, some of us, and a lot of people had to eat with chopsticks, others got spoons. The meal was cold lamb leg with salsa verde and chicken liver pate on toasts, and then roast chickens and boiled potatoes and braised artichokes and lots of aioli, then cutting boards covered in cheeses and tons of plums and peaches. I loved that meal. 
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen: Oh, I don't know. I think it all works fine. 
8. How would you describe your cooking style? Grammatical. 
10. What are you cooking this week? I'm eating the most wonderful boiled broccoli with chilies I pickled a couple of weeks ago right now. And then tomorrow or later I'm going to roast tiny little eggplants with a lot of herbs and an ungodly amount of olive oil, then store them in that and red wine vinegar. And pretty speckled romano beans. They might be called dragons' tongue beans, actually.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

False Rival

Mike's band, Mist Giant, has a new album out. It's called False Rival, and you can download it here. It's pay-what-you-like, which could mean zero dollars or it could mean you give them some bucks. They wrote, recorded, and largely mixed and mastered the album on their own, because they are awesome. Check it out, tell your friends, and enjoy it - although I am obviously biased, it's a really lovely and well-made piece of music.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A very public Hangout

Comfort zones are, you know, comfortable. They feel good. But - just like when you're a few days into a cold and your bed and blankets have turned into a nasty little nest of tissues and laziness - too much comfort gets uncomfortable. Your sweatpants get ratty, your cat becomes your best friend, your couch conforms to the shape of your butt. Then it's time to do something.

A few months ago I asked to make a few changes at work. One was to shake up the accounts I manage; I now handle some of the big publishers. Another was to ask a woman who coordinates and conducts celebrity and author interviews (a job which gives me pangs of jealousy) if I could help her at all. She was up for it, and so last Friday I moderated a Hangout on Air on Google+ - essentially a live videoconference - with Lee Child. Child is the author of a wildly popular thriller series about a violent yet heroic man named Jack Reacher who will soon be played by Tom Cruise in a major action movie. In preparation for the event I read a few of the Reacher books. And then another. And another. They were totally fun and satisfying in a way that literary fiction, as much as I love it, is just not.

I did not sleep well the night before the event. Even just a whiff of something that may involve failure makes me clammy. POSSIBILITY OF FAILURE = FAILURE IS INEVITABLE. On the day of the Hangout I was too busy to worry much, though I did have a moment of extreme panic when I realized I had forgotten to apply deodorant. Thank god for cardigans and small forearm gestures.

First Child did an internal Google event, then I escorted him to lunch. He is very tall, very nice, and very British. He wore tweed and took cigarette breaks. I once again realized how very young and sloppy we Googlers look. As Child said during the Googlers-only event, "It's rare that I'm the dumbest and best dressed person in the room."

For the Hangout, a few ardent fans (who call themselves Reacher Creatures) had been selected to ask Child questions live in the Hangout. They had been on the line with each other for over an hour by the time Child and I sat down, and acted like they were old friends. They were also beyond thrilled to talk to the man himself.

Here's the video, which I plan never to watch. I have no ability to judge how it went, but I felt really good about it. It was liberating, all the more so for having been nerve-inducing ahead of time. If you feel like obsessively monitoring the comments WHICH I SURE DO (and spotting which ones are from my family members), you can do so on Google+ here and YouTube here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Twas the day 'fore Thanksgiving...

I don't know about you, but I'm getting older, and I don't understand how it's happening so quickly. As a result, there are things that I'm learning I need to do to mark the passage of time. Time is like a cranky cat - you need to squeeze it awkwardly to your chest once in a while, even if it's going to scratch you and slink away anyway.

I'm an extrovert, an interacter, and that is as true for time as it is for people. I want to celebrate holidays, follow sports seasons, and participate in seasonal rituals so that I can orient myself, stay right side up in a place without traditional seasons. So I throw barbecues, go pumpkin picking, and celebrate friends' birthdays (a la my last post) to have markers, big red X's in my mental calendar.

Thanksgiving is a mastodon of memory (trademarking that). Every year I make my grandma's stuffing, the only time that I cook meat in our vegetarian house, and the only time I work myself up to sentimental tears while cooking. It's a bacon-studded bread bomb, and I dream about it starting in July. I can flip through my photos of Thanksgiving over the last seven years and see the same core group of friends together, albeit in different kitchens, with different outfits and different hairstyles, and sometimes different partners. It's comforting, especially when actual family is far away.

Monday, November 19, 2012


On Saturday, Beth, Teppi and I flew down to LA for the day to celebrate dear sweet Beth's birthday. We called it Bethstravaganza, and it involved us waking up in the pre-dawn dark and getting ourselves to SFO hours before I would be normally awake on a weekend. There is nothing like getting up early on a Saturday to make a day feel special, like there's a secret that requires creeping out of bed and sneaking out of the house to uncover.

Normally I include everyone and their mother (sometimes literally) when I plan something, but the complexity of the logistics required and the leap of faith entailed in taking a day trip that involves two flights meant that this ladies' day for ladies was limited. In persons, but not in scope, because we had a Full Day. I brought along a homemade paper flower headband for Beth to wear, and wear it she did - to many compliments from strangers.
When we arrived in LA, we picked up our rental car (a Mustang convertible!) and headed to the Santa Monica farmer's market. It was, by LA standards, a terrible day - mid 60s and occasionally drizzly. By San Francisco standards,  however, it was perfectly lovely, and the rain didn't slow us down a bit. We didn't get to put the top down on the convertible as much as I would have liked (I had imagined a photoshoot of the birthday girl in the car, with the sunny beach as a backdrop), but it was still super fun to drive. And so sleek!

At the farmer's market we picked up a few gorgeous dragonfruits and a protea for Beth, a nod to her wedding bouquet. We strolled Santa Monica, popping into shops, occasionally cooing over tiny trendy baby clothes. Ladies' day for ladies!

Friday, November 16, 2012


We had a crazy and wonderful and busy and exciting and INDULGENT trip to Austin. I had looked forward to it for weeks - I was a bit burnt out, as evidenced by some grouchy posts on here - and I wondered if I was going to turn into a stressy mess instead of enjoying my vacation. But no, my friends - we wrung out maximum enjoyment.

The excitement started two days before we left, when my brother wrote to me from the Hong Kong airport to say that his flight home from Perth to New York had been cancelled because of Hurricane (er, Superstorm?) Sandy, and Cathay Pacific could really only send him to San Francisco. He offered up his services as a catsitter while Mike and I were in Austin with my parents, which was sweet but misguided. Because thanks to a Gchat that lasted most of a day and on into the evening, we not only got him onto our flight to Austin two days later (this is why I hoard my miles), but we realized we could surprise the hell out of our parents AND got him a free VIP pass to the music festival going on while we were there. Like buttah.

So Ian landed in San Francisco the next day without a single shred of knowledge about what timezone his body was in, the day after that we got on the plane to Austin, and a few hours after THAT we had a huge tub of queso and a giant stack of tortillas with us when we showed up at the rental house to surprise our parents with Ian's presence. My mom told us she had guessed he was with us when he suspiciously hadn't called her back after "dropping us at the airport", but my dad sat up in bed and said, "What the hell are you doing here?", which was immensely satisfying.
The first chips and queso are always the best.

We settled into our little rental for the week and ate our way through Austin. Our first two days were picture perfect perfection. We went to Trudy's for brunch that first Friday, and introduced my parents to frozen margaritas (seriously), queso, and mexican martinis. We trolled the craft beer section at Central Market, dipped and sunned at Barton Springs, and had a luxurious early dinner at Uchiko. Divine. They even brought us a free dessert because I had tipped off the restaurant that this was my parents' anniversary dinner (though a few months late). After two of the best desserts I've ever had (the sweet corn sorbet and the fried milk) my parents headed home to crash, and Ian and I caught up with Mike at Fun Fun Fun Fest.
Steak cooking on a hot rock at Uchiko

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I'm back from ten days in Texas, and am therefore experiencing the life shock that comes at the end of any vacation. It turns out I have to wake up early to go to work and can't have my first margarita of the day at 11 a.m. When we left San Francisco it was Halloween and Indian summer hot, and now it's The Holidays and chilly and dark at 5:30.

On the plus side, we're now in the high holy days of butternut squash season. Hallelujah and amen. Sorry for not having pictures on the dishes below, but that's what happens when stuff is super tasty but not very pretty, or when I get drunk while cooking.

Last night for dinner I made some grains - quinoa and teff - then prepared a squash "sauce" to dress therm. First I peeled, de-seeded, diced and roasted a small butternut shipped to me from my parents' garden. It went into a 400 degree oven with some oil and salt, and alongside it I tucked in an entire head of garlic. Post-roasting, I squeezed the garlic out of its casings and threw it in the food processor with some of the boil water from the grains, basil, olive oil and salt. Handful by handful I added the squash and spoonfuls of the grain water until it was a scoopable consistency - not runny but still soft. I piled the sauce on the grains and topped it all with toasted pine nuts. If I had had any feta or parmesan I would have sprinkled on some of that, and a bit of parsley as well. If you have any herb oil (I'm on a kick) you could drizzle that on too.

My annual contribution to Friendsgiving is twice baked butternut squash, a dish that I feel very sure I made up on my own, which I simultaneously acknowledge is not super likely. I halve a large squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and roast the heck out of it. I carefully scoop the flesh into a bowl, making sure to keep the squash skin intact. Into the bowl goes sauteed kale, garlic and onions, as well as other vegetables I think would be tasty (leeks, shaved carrots, chard). I mix in a cup of Greek yogurt and a few handfuls of shaved cheddar as well - if this is going to be my token healthy item on the table, I use reduced fat cheese and nonfat yogurt. I scoop the mixture back into the empty squash halves, top with some more cheese, and throw it back in the oven, ether to reheat (if it was made ahead of time) or to broil the cheese to crispy goodness.

For dessert, I have, in a pinch (read: in Berlin where canned pumpkin apparently doesn't exist, only a nasty pickled variety that you should stop thinking about immediately) made Smitten Kitchen's pumpkin bread pudding with roasted butternut squash that we pureed, spiced and sweetened. It turned out beautifully.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On bandwagoneering

As I write, the Giants are absolutely eating the Tigers' lunch in Game 1 of the World Series. I'm yelling like a maniac at the TV and terrifying my cats. I'm a fair weather fan, I'll admit. But here is my defense.

Mike and I have been going to Giants games all season. Why? I like the guys on the team - they're a bunch of weirdos. I like the fans - there's a great feeling in the stadium, even when we're losing. I love the ballpark - the food and beer are good (especially compared to the Stick), it's easy to get to by public transit, and the view is stunning. All in all, going to Giants games has been one of my best summer of 2012 initiatives (others: buying and shucking my own oysters, outdoor dinner parties, getting my version of a tan without even one disfiguring sunburn).


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Le Diner en Blanc

Last Friday we attended Le Diner a San Francisco, our local version of Le Diner en Blanc, which started in Paris and has spread around the world. The concept is this: many, many people (about 3000 in San Francisco) show up at a spot that is announced day-of by the organizers. Long tables are already set up. The participants bring tablecloths, chairs, table decorations, booze, and, of course, dinner. Everyone wears white. All the table settings are white. Even the napkins, which get waved around periodically throughout the dinner, are white. What's the point? Community, creativity, surprise, etc etc. Really it's just very very pretty, and novel.
Since I've only been back from Germany for a week, I didn't have the time or the energy to get too ambitious in my Le Diner planning. My aim was to keep it simple. With that in mind, I made a one-dish entree that, along with an appetizer of cheeses and a purchased cake for dessert, made for a special but easy meal. I went with a vegetable shepherd's pie, frankensteining together a few different recipes. I cooked black lentils, roasted acorn squash, and simmered carrots and kale with broth and fresh thyme. I layered these in a baking pan, piled mashed potatoes on top, stuck it all under the broiler, and wound up with a dish that was still hot a few hours later at the dinner. I neglected to take a picture of the final product, but here you have the beautiful squash and a weird-looking heap o' lentils.
On Friday evening we parked a bit of a walk from the dinner site and got a workout hauling everything in that warmed us up for the blustery night. The white sky was appropriately in theme, though it did obscure the view of the bridge and the bay from Marina Green. But don't worry! The party had more than enough scenery. There were people in suits, togas, tuxes, wedding dresses, minidresses, even a chicken suit. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Le Creuset me

This is what happens when you go to Costco for some goddamned cat food.
After years of telling myself they're just too expensive, Costco undermined my arguments with an irresistible deal and I went home with these beauties. They're each several pounds of beautiful cast iron goodness, hand forged in what I imagine to be a very picturesque French factory, named and stroked by a grandmotherly figure then packaged with loving care and shipped to my very own Costco.
It is possible I'm over-romanticizing my cookware. But still: so happy. So hefty.

They're also currently selling Smashbox's Photofinish Primer for $26, which is a good price for a product that I first used earlier in the year and now rely on. #yuppielife

Friday, October 19, 2012

Turn it around

My week has gotten much better, thank you for asking (seriously, thanks to those who check in - very sweet of you). First there was the Rainforest Action Network's benefit gala, Revel, at the Academy of Sciences, and yesterday we took advantage of a gorgeous evening to see Hamlet outside at CalShakes. I nodded off a few times (we were up LATE after Revel!), but the modernized production was really well done, and Hamlet kicked ass in his Mad Men-style suit.

But how did I really turn my week around? The Perfect Meal. The one that satisfies the craving of the day, that is as easy to make as you're in the mood for, the one that you can eat while sitting outside with some wine and a magazine and a (rare) warm night. In my case, on Wednesday night, it was a corn tortilla with roasted cabbage (hurrah for leftovers), avocado, hot sauce and a ton of salt. Some people have a sweet tooth, I have a salt tooth, and cabbage and avocado are two foods that can take a serious salting. Shake shake shake.
My delicious dinner is hanging out on a small wooden board that I picked up in Frankfurt last week. A German coworker insisted that these little things are the handiest and prettiest way to prep and serve food, and they are getting heavy rotation in my kitchen. I have a firm and unscientific belief in the goodness of all things made in Germany - I picked up 3, count em three, pairs of stockings while there - and these elegant boards didn't let me down. Wunderbar.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My black cloud

Yesterday I was in an absolutely terrible mood, the kind where I hated everyone and everything. I don't know when or how it started, but by midmorning every email that came to my inbox, every phone call I had to make, every person that talked to me just made me more irritable. "You, sir, are dumb." That is what I wanted to say to everyone; I did my best to convey it in my tone of voice alone.

The upside: I realized how much effort I usually spend ensuring that everyone I interact with is as happy as possible, and how draining that is. Yesterday, instead of doing constant mental calculations on how to best please my boss, my coworkers, and my friends, I gave brief answers, I didn't automatically smile when someone spoke to me, and when something bothered me (a breakdown in a process at work, for example) I spokeup. It was a huge relief to keep the corners of my mouth down when my trainer tried to tell me that doing more situps would feel great. No, no it wouldn't. It didn't, and I didn't even try to smile about it.

Generally it makes me more comfortable, not less, to put others at ease. But I'm glad (ha, glad! oh, the dawn of a new day) to know that if I choose to be terse, the world doesn't fall apart. No one seemed shocked when I was honest instead of perky, and the people I work with didn't seem to suddenly find me less competent. In fact, the it's-not-me-it's-you attitude seems to have had some benefit. When I had my bitchface on yesterday I complained to my boss that I didn't have the support I needed to get a task done (though I'm generally loathe to admit I'm not capable of taking care of everything on my plate). Result: I now have help on some of the more onerous parts of the project.

To make myself feel better last night - or, maybe, to revel in my crankiness - I wore sweatpants and slippers, ate leftovers, drank old white wine, and read on the couch. I didn't wash any dishes, put away my clean clothes, cook anything wonderful, or cheer myself up with some exercise. I wasn't even nice to my cats.

And that, my friends, is how an inexplicably shitty day gets done.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scenes from Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest was fun, exhausting, unhinged and heartwarming. I flew into Munich on a Thursday evening, and by a few minutes into dinner a table of revelers had already bought Cait and I a bottle of champagne. Cait came in from Berlin, Ashley drove from Geneva, Franz visited from Zurich, and my coworkers collected friends from all over the world. Friday and Saturday were packed with beer, singing, new friends, and the occasional drama. Oh, and ROLLERCOASTERS. Bonus. 

And so you're back

I'm home from Germany! Oktoberfest was, predictably, nuts. While I collect myself, you should check out this ridiculous blog, discovered via Smitten Kitchen. What is it like to be a beautiful French/Chinese woman with a Nordic husband, four beautiful children, 14 dogs, and a farmhouse in the south of France? You're about to find out.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homemade Bagels

I'm on the tail end of a cold, one mild enough that I woke up each morning this week thinking I was almost better, but by about 4 p.m. my body was a phlegmy aching whingy pile of lead. As a result we're taking it easy this weekend, which today meant sleeping in late and then doing small projects around the house. Our #1 priority was making bagels, something that's been on my to do list since I found this recipe. They took a bit of time but were not at all difficult to make, and the results, my friends, were glorious.

Here are my lovely little dough balls, ready to be molded into their true shape.
I don't know why I thought that actually making the dough into bagels was going to be difficult, but it wasn't - you just work your finger into the middle of each dough ball while your boyfriend stands next to you giggling.
Each bagel got boiled for a few minutes - we boiled them longer to get a chewier bagel.
We weren't about to do an egg wash (I knew better than to try to get egg near Mike's bagels) so I just dunked a few of the bagels into a sesame seed-garlic salt mixture while they were still wet. The rest we left plain so as to "get to know the true essence of the bagel" (quoth Mike). Here they are just before going into the oven.
Holy hell, they came out of the oven looking like Real Bagels. There may have been clapping in Casa Brecki at this point.
Check out these beauties. (And I'm finally getting the hang of the aperture settings on my camera!)
"This is the best bagel I've ever had," says Mike.
Kids, listen to Mike and make these bagels. Or just come over and ask me to make them while they're still novel. I promise I'll oblige.

Friday, September 28, 2012


There are ships buried under San Francisco! Lots and lots of ships. Apparently during the Gold Rush crews would sail their ships into the bay and then abandon them to head off and try their luck in the Sierras. The ships would just sit there, eventually getting silted in and, over time, buried. The ships had great names like Edwin and Elmira, and Brilliant and Noble.
Speaking of ships, a few weekends ago we got together a group for a sunset sail. I brought sailor and pirate hats for everyone and we took off on the Bay Lady. And a regal vessel she was. She had booze aboard, too - bonus.

We even got to steer!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Epic brunch

This past weekend we hosted a brunch party in honor of a visiting friend. Per usual the company was fantastic, and Beth and I really went overboard on the food this go round.
Laying out the table - note the gorgeous lemon braid
With the boozy french toast  )photo courtesy of Vanessa)
The menu included:
  • my mom's sausage breakfast casserole
  • asparagus and mushroom frittata
  • boozy french toast
  • cinnamon puffs
  • turkey sausage & bacon
  • smoked salmon on toast with creme fraiche and capers
  • watermelon feta salad
  • a braided lemon bread
  • cheddar leek muffins
  • bourbon banana bread
  • strawberries with sweet creme fraiche
  • fancy coffee
  • cold mint tea
  • a jug 'o mimosas with blackberries
The glorious spread

I made cascarones as a surprise. When prepping all the egg dishes I carefully broke the top of each eggshell and drained the egg, then rinsed and dried the shell. On Friday night I filled each shell with fruity pebbles and then glued tissue paper over the hole. Except for one - that one was filled with gold glitter. On Saturday a few friends hid the eggs around the garden and then everyone else searched for them. The game is to collect the eggs then smash them over people's heads. It doesn't hurt, and it's ridiculously satisfying. I haven't giggled like that in a long time. The one who gets hit with the golden cascaron got a trophy (bought at a friend's yardsale, it read "Good For You") and a bottle of whiskey.

Kristen got Beth with the golden cascaron
And it made her hair all kinds of glittery
Beth accepting her trophy 
The party turned into a long lazy afternoon

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The voltage of life

This is a letter from the poet Ted Hughes to his adult son, the son he had with Sylvia Plath. It's really lovely, particularly if you push through the lack of paragraphing to the end. He talks a lot about everyone's inner children, in what seems to me a non-hippie dippy or cheesy way.
Nicholas, don't you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child...It's something people don't discuss, because it's something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet...But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child..they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. 
I'm a very social person, but also one whose feelings get hurt easily. When that happens I try (I'm no saint, I don't always succeed, and of course there are reasons that I was able to be wounded so easily) to think about what it was that made that person snap, or criticize, or ignore. I try to get a sense of the essential part of them that was somehow hurt, but that didn't intend to do hurt. Usually it's also a part of them I like, the part that in better times I'm trying to make laugh. So this rang true to me.

It's also worth following the link through to the full letter to see a photo of Plath looking very happy. That's not how I generally picture her.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Walk & talk

When you have watched the entirety of a television show's run, do you ever feel like you've lost some friends when it's over? That sounds pathetic, I realize, but I really miss the dudes from The West Wing, aka my favorite TV show ever. I have watched all seven seasons through three times. That is a lot of life to have dedicated to a show. BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

And now! Now, the cast has reunited for a campaign video, shilling for a judge in Michigan. The video is maybe a little cheesy, but all the same jokes are still there, and Josh Lyon refers to himself as a" handsome Louis C.K."

Friday, September 21, 2012

July, July

I didn't move to California in July. I moved to California in October, after having left my parents' house in my little Cabrio (now deemed the California Raisin by Leslie) the September after my college graduation, right about when Katrina hit New Orleans. I drove cross county along with increasing gas prices, oblivious to everything that was going on in the world outside of the road and my next motel (no groundfloor rooms please and thank you, I'm a lady travelling alone). I remember a spectacular sunset in my rearview window in West Virginia, how much I felt at home once I crossed into Wyoming, hubcaps nailed to stumps in the Oregon high desert. I sold books in small and big towns, visiting college friends and drinking beer in out of the way places with my father, along for the ride.

I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on October 8, 2005. I spent the next few months driving between San Francisco and Humboldt County, where I stayed with my friend Katie on the farm where she was working. I would listen to the radio in civilization, but somewhere near Mount Shasta the radio would cut out and I would switch to the CDs in my car. Specifically the Decemberists, specifically Castaways and Cutouts, specifically July, July.

As I said, I didn't move to California in July. But my birthday is in July, and this song had the whole Humboldt world in it to me. There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house...I didn't have a house, I had a house where I stayed, one full of spiderwebs and summer squash and a cat who nipped my nose in the night and giant green buds strung up across the room with crystals that picked up the moonlight and glinted (it was Humboldt, after all). I had to get used to hot days with cold nights, to eucalyptus and madrone trees, to early morning farmer's markets, to bartering for chanterelles, to no rain in summer and people who made eye contact on the street. As the song said, it never seemed so strange.

This is the story of the road that goes to my house...
And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains.

Such a satisfying line for me, patting my steering wheel on the California highway, alien landscape all around, no matter how much actual sensical meaning it had.

And we'll remember this when we are old and ancient, though the specifics might be vague....

The specifics aren't vague, actually; they're as much a part of my life now as was my dinner tonight. It's the generalities that escape me now. What was I thinking in that life, where I provided slightly incompetent help on a friend's farm? Where I didn't know what I was doing next? Where I had minimal money and minimal expenses? Where I didn't know that very very soon I would meet Mike, and make a real true life in San Francisco?

It never seemed so strange. And I'm so glad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Everything is incredible

Grab ten minutes today and watch this video about a man who is building a helicopter. Worth it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomato time

In the past few weeks I have brought many dozens of pounds of tomatoes into my home. They have been boiled, baked, roasted, sliced, squeezed, scarfed and buttered (yes, buttered). If you're in the same position, here's what I've been doing with the abundance.

Fresh tomato sauce. A friend and I went in on 50 pounds of San Marzanos and Early Girls. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe to make a wonderful basic fresh sauce that I mostly freeze, then spice up (with hot pepper, basil etc) when I reheat it.
Oven drying. I've been getting the Food52 emails for over a year, but it's only with this recipe that I really took to it, and now I look forward to it each week. This method of oven drying was an easy way to get lovely flavorful tomatoes that will keep for a week or so. We did the roasting while making the sauce (and, of course, drinking red wine), and felt very efficient for it.

Brown butter tomatoes. Another Food52 recipe (if you can call it that), this is going to change your life. It turns tomatoes into dessert. Amazing, rich, brown butter dessert.

Caprese. In addition to the San Marzanos and Early Girls, I also ordered a flat of Purple Cherokees from Mariquita Farm. They're so large and gorgeous and perfectly oddly shaped that I couldn't bring myself to cook them. Instead I sliced them up, layered them with mozzarella and basil, sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, then drizzled on balsamic and olive oil. They were devoured by our Labor Day BBQ masses.

Baked cherry tomatoes with feta. A friend has been bringing over bags of cherry tomatoes from his coworker's garden. They're mostly sungolds, which are my favorite to eat raw, but they're super ripe and get soft quickly. For Labor Day I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe to bake them with olives, parsley, garlic and feta, and I don't know if I've ever made a dish that disappeared so quickly. The feta gets gooey but doesn't melt, the tomatoes are sweet and garlicky (I used more garlic than suggested), and there's not much better that you can smear on a cracker or a baguette. A note on the recipe: she mentions using halloumi, but while I LOVE halloumi (grill it with peaches and drizzle with honey, it's divine), I liked that the feta got crumbly when baked in the oven and would stick with that.

Panzanella. Another way to adoringly prep the Purple Cherokees (or whatever beauties you have on hand). I sliced the tomatoes into wedges, squeezed their juice into a bowl, then mixed the juice with olive oil and vinegar. I tossed that with bite size chunks of a day old baguette and let it sit for a bit, then mixed in the tomato wedges, chopped basil and parsley, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Next time I would marinate the tomatoes too, along with chopped garlic if I wasn't going to be getting too close to anyone for a while. I ate a giant bowl of this for dinner last night and felt very, very happy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer summation

For the rest of the country, summer is now over. For those of us in foggy San Francisco, it's just starting. The days may be getting shorter but the sun will be more frequent, and with any luck we'll have a few of the rare warm nights where the whole city seems to be outside celebrating.

I feel like I slurped this summer up like the dozens and dozens of oysters it provided me. We spent time on the water, floating and paddling and swimming and even rope swinging. We saw friends constantly, made new ones, reconnected with old ones. We nurtured a garden that stalled during the August fog but that I hope to revive now. I attended amazing events solely because they offered free booze, and was never sorry. I threw a party on a beer bus, in a rental house, on a beach, in our backyard. In short, we ate, we drank, we made merry.

And what comes next? So much! A baseball game, big sunset sail with friends, a backyard brunch party, and lots and lots of football. I'm going to Germany for work, per usual, but meeting up with farflung friends at Oktoberfest first. I'm introducing my parents to our amazing Austin community. I'm organizing a group backpacking trip.

I'm going to throw parties. Lots of parties. And I've got a many-tabbed spreadsheet - yes, a spreadsheet - to track them all. Bring it.

Wellesley Russian River reunion

Hog Island oyster shucking

Russian River kayaking

O's river birthday

Sarah's whiskey birthday party

Kirby Cove dinner party

Squid at Sunday Streets

49ers preseason opener

Blithe Spirit at CalShakes

Pool day at the Coppola Winery

Vertigo rooftop screening

Rope swinging at Bass Lake

Party hat making with Oh Happy Day

Kristin's sunny birthday party

Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge

Labor Day BBQ