Thursday, February 28, 2013


Look at what I made! Baked mini donuts!
I've had this stupid mini donut pan for years, in anticipation of my much-delayed Wonderland party (as in, Alice in). To complement it, I also have a cake pan that looks like a giant cupcake, as well as several plastic flamingos still in their boxes in the pantry. This party will happen soon, I promise.

I finally put this pan to use tonight, as a result of a post on one of my guilty pleasure blogs. Don't worry, that link is safe for work, it's just a site that features a lot of pink frilly things. The recipe is actually here, and I followed it in a very vague way. In a very I-don't-have-any-of-the-ingredients way. I winged it, and I winged it hard.

The first substitute was for the baking soda, which I currently only have in the form of an ancient box, open and full of stale smells, in the back of my fridge. A quick internet search told me I could use baking powder if I tripled the amount, and lo and behold, it worked. One day the Internet is going to lie to me and I'm going to feel so so used.

Second substitute was for the brown sugar. No brown sugar in this house. So I took regular hippie sugar (not super white, but more white than brown) and mixed in some molasses. Boom.

The final substitue was for the vanilla, which I can't believe I'm out of since vanilla is one of my single favorite substances. Instead I went with almond extract. The end product? Lovely light moist molasses-and-almondy teensy donuts. I was going to have them for breakfast tomorrow, but they may not survive that long.
Nota bene: I'm listening to the BBC while puttering around the kitchen, and they're reporting about today, Thursday, as the past. On Thursday the Pope left the papacy...On Thursday Kenyans prepared to go to the polls in the wake of widespread violence during the last election cycle...On Thursday Dennis Rodman met with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. (Yes, all those things actually happened. And yes, Dennis Rodman is apparently still a thing.) Anyway, it feels like I'm in a British time machine, and like the moment I am living already happened. MAYBE THESE DONUTS ARE A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION.

If so, my imagination is having a very good Thursday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Today was exciting! A project that's been in the works for a while - a Google Hangout with Toni Morrison - not only went smoothly, but she answered a question I had submitted. SHE KNOWS MY NAME. Well, she heard it, anyway.

I helped organize the event, along with Toni Morrison's publisher, others on the Books team, and the Black Googler Network. It was a capstone event for Google's Black History Month activities, and I'm so very glad it came together. The event happened in New York, so I didn't get to be there, but I loved being part of the planning. Toni did an internal event for Googlers then sat down for the Hangout, where she answered questions from fans live and also took questions posted on Google+. I submitted mine there with the aim of getting others to post questions as well. I didn't expect my question would actually be read aloud.

I was giving a training during the live event, alas, but I watched the recording (you can see it on YouTube here, and I'm embedding it below), and dang, is that woman amazing. I'm a longtime Toni Morisson fan, and while I don't follow her as closely as I did in high school - when I completed a year-long project on her works, wrote her letters, and kept an eye out for her in Princeton like a lazy stalker - she has a very special place in my literary heart, which also happens to be my real actual heart.

If you're looking for my question, it comes at about the 15 minute mark. I asked what she would cite as the major theme or themes in her work. It took her a little while to come up with the answer - and high school me would have loved to jump in with all the themes that I pulled out and obsessed over - but she did answer, and mentioned Dostoevsky, and made me very happy. 
The author seemed really happy with the event at the time, and I heard from her publisher afterward that Toni absolutely loved it. Yay for technology, yay for a job that lets me do these kinds of things, and yay for Toni Morrison!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Vive la France

Today's happy thoughts are brought to you by my photos from France, where everything was beautiful and coated in wine and cheese.

The day I landed, two weeks ago now, Ms. Hartz generously picked me up at the Geneva airport and whisked me back to Annecy for a breakfast of crepes with Beth and Goof. We then strolled the Tuesday market for some delicious things for the dinner we planned to cook that night. Primarily cheese.
Hartzy drove us to the top of the mountains that ring Annecy, where we snowshoed our way through a winter wonderland.
Back in town we hit a wine bar for some vin and a snack, then picked up a few things at the Monoprix. Let me tell you something about French grocery stores: they are a yogurt goldmine. Aisles upon aisles of yogurt, and they don't skimp on the packaged pudding either. I got giddy and bought over a dozen lovely pudding cups that put Jello's to SHAME. As an aside, Annecy is drop dead gorgeous.
We made dinner at Hartzy's apartment - a lovely traditional tartiflette, basically potatoes and bacon with melted cheese. I also roasted cabbage, because I have a problem. We did blind tastings of the wines we had picked out at the Monoprix, scoring each one on a spreadsheet because we are nerds. A Bordeaux won. Actually, we won, because then we got to eat all the puddings.
Our first ski adventure was the next day at Les Houches, a mountain that is pronounced completely differently than I would have expected (laze hoosh). French, I give up on you. I spent most of the day being absolutely terrified at how fast I was going, except for on a few kiddie slopes that proved a delight. We ate lunch in a restaurant on the side of the mountain, warming up our snow-frozen bodies with the ever-present vin chaud (hot wine). Given how much glog I have made and ingested over the past few months, I took to vin chaud like a fish to water, or an alcoholic fish to vodka.

For dinner, back in Annecy, we ate all the meats.
The next day Hartz and I went for a run along Lake Annecy, which has a waterslide for summer fun. Given my passionate love of waterslides, I now know I'll be back to visit in the summer.
Beth, Goof and I hopped a bus to Lyon for the afternoon, determined to have dinner at a bouchon, which is apparently a special Lyon restaurant thing that, like a leprechaun in Ireland, is also very hard to track down. Luckily Lyon is absolutely charming, and wandering its streets was no chore at all. It's like a small Paris, but one where everyone is 20 and is discussing what I assume to be esoteric philosophy while drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. My kind of town. Dinner was a stunning steak tartare, which may be my favorite food. I don't know if that makes me highbrow or a caveman. I was apparently too busy being charmed in Lyon to take any pictures. Here's a Google image search in case you're just dying to know what it looks like.

The next day we headed to the Italian side of Mont Blanc for a day of skiing at Courmayeur. Gorgeous gorgeous. And Italian, oh Italian! I can understand Italian! I can almost communicate in Italian! After a few days of humiliating myself with my 10 poorly-pronounced words of French, Italian was a delight. As Hartz proved when we were in Rome last year, you can basically just speak Spanish with a slightly offensive Italian accent and get your point across. Also, we drank beer on the side of a mountain. There was pizza. I was so happy.
There were also some very scary runs at the top of the mountain, which I not only survived but REVELED in. The others did some off piste work, but I stayed firmly on the groomed runs and came upon a bunch of Scots in costume. After calling it a day, we had a wonderful dinner in the town of Courmayeur, where I once again ordered steak tartare. Because I have a cabbage-level addiction to it, apparently.
We spent the night back in France, in Chamonix (I should note that pretty much every time we got in Hartz's car I fell asleep on Beth's lap in the backseat - thanks Bethy!), and in the morning I drove the three crazies to the base of the Aguille, which would whisk them to the top of Mont Blanc for a death-defying off piste descent to the bottom. Then I went back to the hotel, took a long shower, and ate an almond croissant in bed. Score one for lazy!
Later that morning I also ventured up the Aguille, and found myself deposited 15,000 feet atop Mont Blanc, almost at the summit. I was wearing a normal outfit that would be sufficiently warm in town, but was not nearly up to the challenge of the alpine environment. I actually thought I might die, panting from the altitude and cold, surrounded by tourists in all their layers of down, clutching my camera and asking for a vin chaud. Spoiler alert: I didn't die, but I also did not feel my feet for several hours, and I did simultaneously buy all the hot beverages the cafe (a cafe! at 15,000 feet!) had to offer. The view was stunning.
Back in town I treated myself to a nice lunch (onion soup, no steak tartare quite yet), then met up with the crazies when they skied back to civilization. They managed to avoid all possible crevasses, ledges, rocks, trees and avalanches. Phew. They had also built up a big appetite, which I developed in sympathy because I'm a good friend, and so we headed back to Annecy for a nice raclette dinner.

Raclette, my friends, is insane. First you walk into the restaurant and blink in the slightly smoky acrid light. Are your eyes burning because of...cheese? Yes, yes they are. You order, and a half wheel of cheese is rolled up to your table and strapped to a device that melts the top layer steadily, enabling you to tip the wheel and scrape off the melty bits whenever you'd like. It's like the most complicated fondue in the world. You pile the cheesemelt on top of creamy little potatoes and unidentifiable meat products, and then you feel absolutely horrified by your own appetite. Horrified because you ate little but cheese as a meal, and horrified that you only got about two inches into the giant wheel of cheese. Behold: our glory and our shame.
I should note, though, that I also ordered steak tartare. For consistency's sake.

Our last day in Annecy I went for another run, because the others had engaged in extreme death-defying activity the previous day while I had gorged myself and nearly lost my toes while doing so. It was as good as the first run - fresh, clear, beautiful.
We hit the Sunday market for lunchables, and assembled a glorious lunch, complete, of course, with vin chaud.
Hartzy gave us an auto tour of the area around Annecy, including a chateau that was locked up and guarded by the world's biggest shaggy dog. He had clearly been bred to bound through snowdrifts with a beer barrel tied around his neck containing important news from the next chateau over.
We got ourselves chocolate chaud at a mountaintop restaurant that was wallpapered in plaid flannel, which was a very fine thing. We also admired the ramps that in the summer are used by paragliders to hurl themselves into the abyss, which is apparently big business in Annecy. Again: I will be returning in the summertime. In other news, Hartz, in addition to being a stellar host, is a really good photobomber.
Our last France hurrah was a shmancy meal at the only restaurant in town that served dishes based on things other than potatoes and cheese. Foie gras happened. Hartz and I made the questionable decision to flop down for snow angels in our fancyclothes outside, but it was a great photo op, so who cares if we were flashing our lady business at occasional passers by.
At 3 a.m. I was awakened by a thunderclap of nausea, the likes of which I have not felt since the first time I got shnozzled on sake and thought I had somehow been concussed. Fever, aches, all the good stuff. The flu! In the morning, with the help of the others and some homeless dudes from the food kitchen across the street from Hartz's, I dragged my pathetic self through the snow to the car. And then through the airport. And onto the plane. Where, blissfully, I had my own goddamn row and slept pretty much the whole way home.

And that was my week in the Haute-Savoie! I'll tell you what, me and France, we're friends.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cough cough, hack hack

Today I am clawing myself out of the deep dark hole that the flu unceremoniously chucked me into before I left France on Monday. I flew back shivering, feverish, and blessedly prone to sleeping for most of the day. Today, 5 days later, I am wearing real people clothes for the first time since then. Nay, not just real people clothes; I am wearing a white blazer. Take that, germs.

Basically I was forced to get dressed because both of my bathrobes were too gross to wear anymore.

Now that I'm on the road to recovery, I've got some odds and ends that came in over the last few weeks.

1. Our activist friends had some victories lately; Lindsey was named acting head of RAN, and a Greenpeace campaign was cited by the New York Times as "activism at its best". Score one for all the trees.

2. A new coworker revealed that her daughter is The Tiny Art Director, and her husband is the much-bossed-about artist. I am star struck.

3. Our friends sent out their save the date video, which was subsequently used by the Wall Street Journal in this video piece. Since Simone and Haley make wedding videos for a living (their company is, this was some unbelievable PR. Also, their wedding is going to kick ass.

4. I came across a site called Messy Nessy that has some cute articles, including a piece on the Madonna Inn. God love the Madonna Inn - it's the most wonderful hideous place in the world. I have a special place in my heart for the Harvard Square room, a two story monstrosity where we celebrated a friend's birthday last year.
5. Rebecca Solnit sucks. Ok, she doesn't actually, I have really enjoyed some of her writing (she nailed the whole mansplaining thing), but this article on the evils of the Google shuttle is way off base. "Sometimes the Google Bus just seems like one face of Janus-headed capitalism; it contains the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves." Yes, excellent point. Much better that I spend an extra two hours a day attempting to take Caltrain or, better yet, drive myself. I'm not saying that the tech industry isn't affecting San Francisco in negative ways - it is, quickly and severely. But the kids riding the buses don't necessarily make more than most people in San Francisco do; we're the wage slaves. And we need love too.

6. Every once in a while I get a real pang of missing India. This video did not help. It also made me hungry.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I recommend checking out this music video. Well, after about the first minute, which is a little boring and basically just shows the artist explaining she doesn't read reviews of her music. There, you've got the gist. The rest of the video is notable in that a) it features our friend Lyra and her son Caelan, and b) Caelan is absolutely fantastic in it. It's really delightful. So, be delighted. NPR says you should be!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Supah bowl

Well, the Niners lost. Big bummer. On the plus side, I'm at the airport waiting for a flight to Geneva, from whence I will be picked up by Ms. Hartz and whisked to Annecy, a lakeside town in the French Alps. So I've got that going for me.

This year we made every effort not to repeat last year's very fun but very crowded Super Bowl bonanza. We still wound up with a full living room, but everyone had somewhere to sit and could see the tv. Improvement. Knowing that Mike would be making queso, I took the opportunity to make two other kinds of cheese products.

The first was fromage fort, per this Smitten Kitchen recipe, served on toasts. I used a mix of camembert, manchego, and a hard orange cheese with a parmesan-like texture and a name too French to remember. Since we had a keg of homebrew IPA on hand, I used that in place of the wine called for in the recipe, and it turned out very well.

The second cheese spread was obazda, a German beer cheese, which I served with homemade pretzels. This was my first attempt at pretzels, and they were so beautiful it brought a tear to my eye.

They're simple to make (I used the baking soda approach laid out in this recipe rather than the lye - anything that requires gloves and goggles does not seem right for eating). For the obazda, which I've also seen spelled obaster and obazta, I cobbled together a few recipes from across the intertubes, namely this, this and this. I flatter myself to think that we made everyone feel very fat.

Next missive will be from France; woohoo!

Friday, February 1, 2013


I'm currently on a much-delayed flight home to San Francisco from New York, going on hour 8 of tapping away at my computer in an uncomfortably warm airplane seat, very ready to be home and in the warm embrace of my couch, my cats, and my boyfriend.

But first! I had a wonderful time in New York. In the busyness the precedes and accompanies travel, however, I forgot to go through my photos from our trip to Portland over MLK weekend. Portland, the stuff of legend, land of beer, hippie nirvana.

So how did it stack up to the hype? It was pretty great. The dream of the 90s is, in fact, alive in Portland. There were dreds, and Doc Martens, and all things organic, even vegan. But there were also slick shops and bars, fancy food, and, of course, all of the beer.

We stayed at the Ace Hotel, which has perfect light in its lobby all the time.
We went for a frosty run around the city on our first morning, along the river, then I ate pierogies with chili sauce from a food truck as a drinking-prep snack. We wandered to Powell's while we waited for our friends to get in from Eugene, and it was the book nirvana I had always imagined. As someone who works in the book industry, I've spent some time worrying about how you replicate the serendipity of the physical bookstore experience online. And I'll tell you what, Powell's has designed serendipity DOWN. Their shelves were gorgeously curated, impossible to resist. Bravo. I didn't take any photos, but I did snap this picture of wind turbines on a building right across the way from Powell's for my mom, who has a crush on turbines.
Our friends are, lucky us, beer nerds as well (they were the creators of this map, after all), and they first took us to Tugboat Brewery downtown, notable less for its beers (though they were solid) as for being exactly what a bar should be: homey, warm, designed for sitting and talking and sipping your brew. After Tugboat was Bridgeport Brewing, with a big slick brick warehouse space, and then we crossed the river to Widmer, where I gained mucho respect for a brewery that I thought just churned out masses of ok hefeweizen. Which they do. But they also make a killer black IPA.