Three more years later…

December 31st, 2017

(So much has happened since my previous post. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’re caught up: I work at Parallax Press, a Buddhist publisher founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, Dessa only has one eye, I still live in San Francisco and bake bread. Read on for 2017 year-end reflections, you’ll see…)


2017 has pretty much been a trash year, but some things went well. I am glad most of us survived. I lost my father and my beloved Janie Sparkles (in January and February, respectively). There’s an unstable tyrant in White House. Every day it feels like the world is ending. My depression reared its head (once again), but I’m muddling through.

However, plenty did go well this year. I stuck to a daily writing practice for the first time ever. (, or just use a journal Julia Cameron style!). It was a slog at times, but I also found refuge in taking 15–20 minutes a day to air out my head. I developed a habit of (mostly) doing my writing in the morning. I was able to see a personal benefit in how I felt, not an external badge to wear, bragging about what I’ve done.

I also gave myself the more relaxed “goal” of posting to at least once a month. It’s not writing per se, but a small side Tumblr to collect links about bread, gluten news, and anything tasty morsels that caught my eye. So, although there is no blog proof, 2017 was a year of writing success.

In a similar once-a-month, doable achievement, I scampered a smidge. And, yes, some months were just a single run (like this one). I chose not to Big Sur Marathon again because my training completely fell apart in February. Why do something that you aren’t ready to do? Why do something that feels like a burden? Right now, I don’t love long runs. A training program weighs on me and becomes an albatross around my neck. Who wants to live in constant self-disappointment?

Another first, I completed a daily Instagram challenge. Maybe I’ll be glad I have a document of these past 365 days, but it doesn’t feel that special. I’m not more creative or more observant or a better iphonographer. Perhaps I’m more critical of the medium, as in, more negative. A key to my “success” was not talking about it. No hashtag, no declaration. In the past I’ve started gangbusters and fizzled out. Then I feel bad about myself. (Which seems to be a key feature of spending too much time on social media.) This year taught me I don’t want to do it again next year. So, that’s two wins in one!

More important than social media, I telephone my mom almost daily.

Thanks to a daily commute across the Bay Bridge, I’ve returned to reading audiobooks. Previously I’ve beat myself up for not reading enough. I’m proud to say I’ve listened to some 30+ novels, memoirs, and non-fiction titles. Plus, a handful of physical books. (Libraries are pretty great places—they give you books… for free!)

There were trips to Dollywood, to NYC, to Kentucky, to Mississippi, to Iceland. There were loaves of bread and lemon-blueberry cakes and cardamom buns. Two sweaters and a pair of socks are teetering on the edge of completion. This was the year that I picked up the ukulele. (Thanks, Dad.) I’m ending the year with a smattering of yoga classes, a coterie of succulents, and loads of laundry.

Despite it all, thanks, 2017. I’ve got higher hopes for you, 2018.

I’ve have dusted off Twelve12s for a gentle go in 2018. I don’t recall whether or not I had a word for 2017, but I have a word for the coming year. There’s a story behind it that I may write about at a later time. My word?

Impetus /?imp?d?s/

  1. the force or energy with which a body moves.
  2. a driving force
  3. stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity

Illustration by Marc Johns

Half a year later…

January 2nd, 2015

…and it’s a new year.

This blog has been coasting on those mochi cake fumes since July. In the interim, much has changed. I left my job at Chronicle Books in September to join a small design firm. Dessa, our younger French bulldog, had two ruptured disc and required spinal surgery (not to worry—she’s walking again). Despite the big events, there’s been plenty of the same: bread was baked, stitches were knitted, food was cooked and consumed, miles were run.

First bread of 2015
Now, 2015 is underway.

I did a little thinking about resolving in the last days of December. The usual suspects popped up, such as writing here more, running, doing pull-ups, reading, knitting, sewing, caramelling, sending letters, being more social, returning to drawing, meditating and such. Nothing much to write about, nor have I shaped the specifics of resolutions into tangible goals yet. Who wants to read another’s resolutions? I’m boring myself as I type.

What’s interesting this year versus recent years is where my head’s at. My resolutions-to-be aren’t about reaching or striving or escaping who I am today. I’m pretty happy right now. (It feels great to say that. I wouldn’t have described myself that way a couple of years ago.) In the past, I’ve used goals as a means to wish myself into someone else and/or beat myself up for how I’ve used my time in the previous year. Sure, I’ll still be ambitious and want to impress myself, but it’s not coming from a place of yearning for something different. Does that make sense?

People talk about having a word for the year. A motto or a theme to carry with them as time marches forward. I don’t recall choosing a word in years past (if I did, it clearly wasn’t that successful in permeating the subsequent 365 days). My friend Jen chose the word “space.” Kim Werker is embracing the term “enough.”

The word that’s resonating for me is “process.”

I’m mostly outcome-focused. If there’s an end to be reached, my eye’s on it. I can fantasize about the future, skipping the right now. Despite my years as an endurance athlete, I was more often than not driven by the upcoming race, not living in the present enjoying the training. In fact, I may have taken the wrong lesson from ultramarathons and Ironmans. Knowing that you can suffer through or put up with any discomfort doesn’t result in a more fully enjoyed life. (Some other time I’ll reflect on this past year of not drinking.)

For 2015, I want to invite more process into my life. Less bragging rights about a moment’s accomplishment. More cultivation of relishing each and every second. As cliché as it sounds, it’s about the journey, not the destination. When look at how I’d like to spend this coming year, it’s not going to be about things crossed off a list. It will be focused on the habits and small steps taken along the way.

The do-ing, not the done-ing. Onward.

Note: The loaves above are from the last dough I mixed in 2014. Once divided and shaped, they chilled in the fridge overnight and were baked as the first bread of 2015. Without realizing it, bread baking has become a personal practice. It’s something I enjoy time and time again. There is no one loaf to achieve, just these loaves, then the next ones. It’s the embodiment of “process” and wildly fulfilling.

Let them eat mochi cake

July 2nd, 2014

Goodness knows, I’m not a sweet-tooth kind of guy. On the rare occasion that I do bake on the other side of the spectrum, it’s a sure bet that it’s for a pretty darn special reason. Today was one such reason.

mocho coconut cake

The ever-fabulous Guinevere de la Mare is leaving Chronicle Books. You may know her as Zenguin on Twitter or Instagram. I’m going to miss this intelligent lady something fierce.

When discussing treats for her farewell luau (obviously, as she was born and raised in Hawaii) , Irene mentioned coconut mochi cake. I’ve never tasted one, but I do enjoy the texture of glutenous sweet rice flour. I had a gut feeling (get it?) that this wasn’t going to be your average cake, so I thought I’d give it a whirl, even if it was to cook with mochi for the first time. For those following along, I should mention, this experiment was to be my second-ever cake.

mochi cake from above

Well, lightning does strike twice, or I’ve got some crazy beginner’s luck. As you can see, it didn’t come out too shabby. The outside was golden and slightly crisp, but the insides had a slightly moist mochi jiggle. Since people are have asked, the recipe is below.

Mochi and Coconut Cake
an amalgamation inspired by and and a recipe from Irene’s friend

Makes: 1 large bundt cake

1 stick butter, melted and cooled (but still liquid)
1 16 oz. Mochiko (sweet rice flour), sold in boxes or in bulk section, approx. 3 cups
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, beaten
(or 4 if you prefer a more dense cake)
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (can substitute another can of coconut milk)
1/2 cup water
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk (unsweetened and NOT reduced fat)
2 tsp. vanilla


  1. Arrange oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan with butter. Grease it well, if you want it to come out unblemished.
  2. Whisk together mochiko, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together coconut milk, evaporated milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla in another bowl.
  4. Add coconut mixture to flour mixture, whisking until batter is combined. No lumps.
  5. Pour batter into a greased Bundt pan (or a 13 x 9 baking pan). If necessary, smooth top, and bake until top is golden and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 1/2 hours. Give it a check after an hour with a cake tester, a toothpick or (for you knitters out there) a 2.0mm Signature Needlearts double-pointed needle. It’s done when it pulls out clean.
  6. Cool cake completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. (I did this one overnight in pan, and it came out beautifully.) /li>
  7. Once it’s cooled completely, enjoy.
mochi coconut cake

Updated July 5, 2014: Thanks to Emily for pointing this out. The original version of this recipe didn’t include the evaporated milk in step 3. It’s whisked together with the other wet ingredients. The recipe has been corrected.
Mochi keeps, covered and chilled, for three days, but this cake didn’t last twenty minutes. For certain gluten-sensitive people, this recipe contains no wheat—that’s why my sister is baking one this weekend. You can riff off this in all kinds of ways. In my research I’ve come across recommendations to add toasted coconut pieces, coconut extract or orange zest. My next one will be flavored with matcha green tea.

Tomorrow is Lady Guinevere’s last day here in the office. I’m grateful her parting resulted in this new treat in my baking quiver. But, sadly, I’ll miss you bunches. This place was lucky to have you for as long as it did, G.

Aloha and a hui hou.

Conchita Wurst

May 11th, 2014

Congratulations to Conchita Wurst from Austria, winner of Eurovision 2014. She’s a reminder to be happy, knit more and don’t let not having a beard hold you back.

Josey Builds a Bakery

March 18th, 2014

If you follow me elsewhere, you’ll know I’ve been baking bread. A lot of bread. But not as much as this guy, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

Enjoy this mini-doc about superfly-rye-guy Josey Baker and the opening of The Mill.

Josey Builds a Bakery! from Najeeb Tarazi.

2013 / 14 min / HD / Stereo

In 2012, Josey Baker went from biking, baking, bread deliveryman to brick and mortar neighborhood fixture. This was his journey.

Directed by Najeeb Tarazi
Cinematography by Clare Major
Original Music by William Ryan Fritch

Happy, by Maggie Estep

February 13th, 2014

Like Laurie Anderson’s Home of the Brave did for me during the 80s (as seen on HBO), Maggie’s work also opened my eyes onto a world beyond my suburban, son-of-a-preacher-man home that I knew I wanted to join one day. Urban, independent, absurd, progressive, radical (if standing up for yourself was radical). I wanted to be that brave.

She was the antithesis to piggish Andrew Dice Clay and (in my mind) a soul sister to early Janene Garofalo and an indication for what Henry Rollins was becoming. She was also a stepping stone for me into the world of progressive politics and an open invitation to reject that which was being slopped on us all in the lunch line of modern pop culture. Ironic that MTV is the source that served her up to me.

Upon hearing of her death yesterday, I realized I had forgotten how much she meant to me and how deeply her words landed in me.

Hey Baby — her piece I remember from medium rotation on cable television, spoken word over droning rockish music. Fun fact: this was also skewered on Beavis and Butthead.

I Am an Emotional Idiot — no description required.

Her work was funny. The truth and smarts held within made it even funnier and more poignant.


“Glacier” by John Grant

January 15th, 2014

My favorite song, from my favorite album of 2013 (which happens to have been recorded in my favorite place, Iceland), by one of my favorite artists, John Grant.

I, too, wish I had heard a song like this as I grew up. A glimpse of history and a testament to how far things have progressed. While there’s a great distance still to travel, I never expected we would come so far during my lifetime.

(Video premiered today in The Guardian.)

Making, not baking

January 13th, 2014

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
—Annie Dillard, found via Brain Pickings

More than one coworker stopped me after I started using the #yearofmaking hashtag on my Instagram. This was after I had posted that weekend’s baking, like the picture above.

“You’re baking bread every day this year?” they demanded.

No. No, I’m not going to be baking on a daily basis (although imagine how much I could learn in a year!). Making for me will extend beyond the kitchen. I count knitting, writing, drawing, cooking, assembling, building, and pretty much anything that I do with my hands to create something that was not previously in existence. And, it won’t have to be final, finished objects. A single stitch, sketch or step towards something greater will suffice.

I first saw the hashtag #yearofmaking on my friend Sonya’s Instagram. I had just read about it in Kim Werker’s newsletter. The idea originated from Miriam Felton and her 2013 project of doing the same. Like her, I, too, have had multiple failures at various 365-day projects. #yearofmaking sounds like something that I could really get behind.

The goal of pursing this type of project is less about being more productive, and more about setting a daily intention to invite more creation into my life. Heck, it’s more than intention, it’s an active pursuit. And, I’m totally OK with missing days. It may happen, and that’s fine. Posting a single photo each day is about making more moments that make up me.

How are you finding ways to be more you every day in 2014?

A trio to start 2014

January 2nd, 2014

Rye porridge with toasted walnuts (center and back left) and sesame wheat (right) were baked first thing on New Year’s Day morning.

They were mixed, developed and shaped on December 31st, along with the three seedy rye loaves (under the one loaf on the left). The continuity of one year coming out of the work put in during the former works for life as well as bread. But why wait for 365 days to pass to improve? My bread is only as good as my next bake—day after day, mixing, developing, shaping, resting, rising and creating.

My friend Sadie tweeted this yesterday:

Pretty good advice to carry every day, both in the kitchen and the world at large.

Happy baking, friends!

‘Tis the season

December 13th, 2013

This little girl wins Christmas. Merry, happy h-x-kw to you and yours.

(originally seen on HuffPo.)