Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Out and About at BlogHer

I had an amazing week in NYC, despite going through nearly an entire box of tissues (thanks, cold that decided to hit me two days before I left the Bay Area!) :)
My coworker Helen and I flew out on Tuesday afternoon to attend an HR summit put on by one of Disqus' investors. We had some really awesome conversations with fellow HR pros, and talked shop about extended leave policies and career development in small companies and the ups and downs of managing culture and morale in changing startup environments...super interesting, engaging discussions (which are basically my soul food). That was a whiz-bang super start to what would prove to be a jam-packed week of awesome!

Rather than trying to write beautiful prose about the incredibly fun things I did while in NYC, I'm going to list them out. Because damn. I packed a lot in. No wonder this is the city that never sleeps. And now, presenting...a lot of photos of things I did while in New York.

Nothing says summer in NYC (to me) like a
late night stroll with a soft serve cone.
And sneaking into the Rockefeller building.
There was dinner at Butter (I'm a big Alex Guarnaschelli fan).
Tuna tartare with shaved radish, cucumber balls, and a
nasturtium sauce.
There was Fun Home, which moved me to tears. There was lunch with Jolie. There was a screening of Ant Man, at which Paul Rudd made a guest appearance (and I nearly swooned).
He was utterly charming and adorable, even from as far
back as I was sitting.
There was a late night standup show in Greenwich Village, featuring some new comics and some great comics (including Jon Rineman, who writes for Fallon and was super funny).
We sat right up front. Fun place to be, but
didn't get teased as much as I thought we
There were multiple keynotes and sessions at BlogHer that gave me crazy inspiration (Soledad O'Brien totally made me cry, surprising no one), including this one featuring a few Girl Scouts. It reinforced my belief in the power of communities for women. I only made it through Brownies, but if I ever have a daughter, I'm signing her up!
I didn't realize how many Girl Scouts and Girl Scout alumns
there are in the US (more than 59 million American women)!
There was an awesome session on being true to yourself when developing your personal brand, featuring my buddy Irvin.
You do you.
Find your niche, identify what makes you who you are,
and run with that.
And then there was Wild Party, a show who's music I've loved since college. Oh, and Sutton Foster played Queenie. So there was that. More tears.
Seated up in the balcony, but the view was just fine :)
There was breakfast with college buddies, and a really interesting session about "when you're 'too much' for your audience" -- my takeaway? You have to be true to yourself and your voice. If an advertiser wants to pull out unless you change your voice, that's a decision you have to make. I sometimes struggle with saying things the way I might think them because I know my audience ranges from friends to family to coworkers...but you know what? You don't have to write everything you think, the way you think it. Endrant.

Anyway, after the midday sessioning, there was Something Rotten (after running around the blocked-off Times Square), featuring a former classmate of mine. And more tears.
And it was a damn good show.
Aleks is a singing, dancing superstar.
And then there was cheesecake. And then there was the closing night party, featuring Boys II Men (who sang the hits and tossed roses into the crowd) and a DJ and Nick Cannon (who I did not stick around for). And my annual McDonald's food fest.
Chowing down with the mom.me ladies, sending Lyz texts.
Because that's what friends do.
There were minions, and I freaked out a little bit, but Helen is a big brave girl.
I just really, really don't like mascots/people in costumes
where I can't see their actual faces.
We left the party around 9:30 or so, because I was like, "My ear hurts. I don't know why. I am a party pooper, I swear something is wrong with my ear." Turns out I had an ear infection. Oops.

And, as is the case most of the time I travel, I didn't wear half of the things I brought with me.
These are all the clothes I DIDN'T wear.
Only two of them are things I purchased
while in NYC.
I am an over-packer.

It was quite a whirlwind of craziness, but craziness of the best sort. I'll write a whole separate blog post about the swag and the vendors and all that madness later :)

Did you do anything awesome while you were in town for BlogHer? Did you get out and see the city, or did you hole up in the A/C of the Hilton?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ye Olde BlogHer15 Recap

BlogHer 2015 has come and gone and once again worked its magic on my heart. There are lots of reasons to look forward to BlogHer conferences: the sessions, the keynotes, the parties, the travel, the brand networking...it's all tons of fun. But the thing that keeps me coming back is the people. This is one sensational community - it's hard to describe the magic of BlogHer.

Something I read in a fellow attendee's recap post really sums up the experience for me: "You meet up with people you know or you sit down next to people you never met before, and you immediately find yourself in a supportive environment. It is immediately collaborative."

I think that's what it's all about. Yes, there are niche communities within the larger group, but no matter what kind of blogger you are, people will talk to you with genuine curiosity and enthusiasm. If you put yourself out there, you will find your people, and you will make connections with people you thought you had nothing in common with. It's such a warm, welcoming group, all with a shared interest in expressing themselves through writing. There's a bit of an air of summer camp about it all. We're all at one big slumber party where the campers want to support and encourage each other.

I'm not a professional blogger. I write only for myself, in my spare time, when I feel inspired to share. But I am a community junkie. I love people, and finding my people, and talking to the people who want to talk about the things I love talking about. Heck, that's why love working at Disqus (my day job is running HR and Operations). But BlogHer is not just for professionals - BlogHer is for anyone. Through BlogHer, I've met other part-time bloggers like me. I've met women who've completely changed the course of their lives through their writing. I've met women who juggle more than I do, who are braver than I am, who are strong and kind and intelligent and creative, and who are building empires -- or who are just carving away precious minutes in their busy lives to devote to something they love. It's a community that is as diverse as it is unified. And I love being a part of it. I always leave feeling inspired, not just to write, but to be a better human.

Yes, there are opportunities to meet interesting brands and load up on swag (is it just me, or was this year's theme "toothpaste"?). And this year, there were more adorably tiny desserts than I could eat (and I can eat dessert!). And since the conference was in NYC, I got to indulge my theatre geekery and see a bunch of shows (and college friends). More on all that later.

For now, I'm kicking back in my seat on my flight home, still a little bit high on all the love I felt over the last few days. It was a joy and a pleasure to meet you. If you're someone I met in a session, in the expo hall, or on the dance floor, please say hi and leave a link to your blog in the comments! I'd love to check out your recap and whatever else you're writing these days!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Preparedness and Posturing

I'm much more aware of what I post on my blog in the months, weeks, days leading up to (and during) BlogHer. I know I'll have new readers, some of whom will stick around and some of whom will take one look and run the other way. I know there will be more eyes on my blog than usual, and I start to worry how it will be viewed - will people notice that I ramped up my publishing schedule a few months before the conference? Should I prep a bunch of stuff to be posted while I'm at the conference, so there's always something new for my new readers to digest? Will they realize this is what happens every year, as I get excited about the conference and become reinvigorated about blogging? Will they care?

Likely not.

BlogHer, for me, is an opportunity to find my community in person. I've written about it before, and I'm sure I will write much more from New York later this week. But for now, I'm going to try to stop thinking about what others will think when I finally get around to posting the four or five things that have been milling around my head...even if I post them all at once, and the day before the conference. Or even if I don't post them until weeks after, once I've uploaded the photos and figured out what I want to say.

Because I'm not a professional blogger, my blog is my own space. It is what I make it, and it changes. And that's ok. And if you're a new reader, starting to keep tabs on the new faces you're about to meet, or have recently met, hi. I don't mind if you don't post regularly either :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Aunt Gussie's Chocolate Cake

This weekend was my husband's birthday, and because he'd already had his favorite cake (we visited his parents the week prior, and his mom made it), I decided to try my hand at an old family recipe from my side. This recipe comes to us by way of a photo-text message from my mom - a recipe card, in my grandma's handwriting. I never knew my Great-Great Aunt Gussie, but it felt special to make this recipe that was hers, that my family has made for generations.
I used butter instead of shortening, because I don't tend to
buy shortening, and my mom said it was ok.
Thanks, ma!
I just realized that I forgot the baking soda. That could explain why the cake didn't rise very much. I just thought that was the style. And DAMN, I had bragged about how I followed the recipe exactly, to the T (I usually improvise)! Le sigh. I did get compliments on how dense, but not too rich, the cake was, so I guess people liked it anyway. Now I have to make it again to do it right!

A little hard to read, but it says 1 pt whipping cream, and 4
heaping tbsp cocoa.
I'd never used whipped cream as frosting before, but it was dang good! I love making whipped cream. Never buy the canned stuff anymore, because it's just too easy and delicious to make it the real way!

The final cake. Got a little sloppier on the
frosting than I'd have liked to (the parchment
paper slipped) but nobody seemed to notice. 
One tiny piece left. Perfect for breakfast cake!

This was a stupendous cake - spicy from the brown sugar, tangy from the buttermilk. The frosting is elegant and light, complementing the cake beautifully. I may make it again this weekend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Presenting: Lazy Pickles

About a week ago, I shared with you my "recipe" for Lazy Pickles. And I know. You've been sitting here waiting anxiously to see if my pickles turned out ok. Well, friends, I'm here to let you know that they did. Photo-journalism-style (aka lazy-blogging-style).

Sunday, June 14. 5:30pm.
Raw as can be. Just jarred.
And yes, the dill is from my garden.
Everything else is from the store.
Thursday, June 18. 6:30pm.
Getting a little picklier.
Thursday, June 18. 10:30pm.
I punched down the kraut.
What does that mean? 
Literally, take off the lid. Stick your fist in the jar.
Smoosh (or "punch" gently) the kraut down. This
forces the liquid out of the cabbage, putting it
underwater and also making it softer? Either way,
it is a very important thing to do.
Because science.
At this point, we went away for the weekend. The spears/romanesco looked and smelled done, so we put them in the fridge to stop the fermentation process. The rest got to chill on the counter for two more days.

Monday, June 23. 6:30pm.
I think they're done. The kraut tastes like kraut.
The pickles are briny as hell!
Check out how cloudy that brine is!
Full of fermentation and good bacteria!

Time to eat! We had a few pickle spears as a pre-dinner snack last night, and they were sour, salty, dilly, briney deliciousness. I used English Cucumbers from Trader Joe's - I think if I'd used *actual* pickling cucumbers, they might not be as soft. But I really don't mind. They're totally delicious, and I kind of like the softness...reminds me of the super old pickles from the Jewish delis I grew up with. Next time, I might use even more dill, and maybe either a firmer cucumber, or just a slightly shorter fermentation period.

And there you have it. 8 days. 5 days for the spears. Super lazy. Super delicious. PICKLES.

Some resources if you want to read more about this fun world: pickling vs fermenting, a little about sour pickles, basically self-fermented foods like kraut and pickles are medicine.

Questions about my methodology? Pickling stories of your own to share? Did eating fermented food save your life? Let's chat in the comments below!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lazy Pickling

I'm a lazy pickler. When I decided to try making my own pickles a year or so ago, I looked up the easiest possible ways, aside from "refrigerator pickles" which are a little too quick for my tastes - I like my pickles old and briney.

I found a recipe that described self-fermentation, which sounded like something I could get behind. And it's brilliant. 

Take an assortment of pickling spices, your items to be pickled, put in a jar, and cover with water. Leave 'em on the counter for about a week, and store in the fridge. They're not shelf stable, but that's ok with me. It's so quick and easy, and I don't need to make more than. Jar of two at a time (which fit easily in the fridge) anyway. 

I also learned how to make sauerkraut, which is so easy it's embarrassing. Shred cabbage. Put in bowl. Add salt. Mush around with fingers until it's soft and wet. Stuff into jars. Leave on counter for about a week, opening the jars to stuff the cabbage back under the water level every few days. Store in fridge when it tastes sauerkrauty enough to you.

I made a few jars today in honor of the copious amount of dill that's already grown in our garden. Summer has begun. 

L-R: plain kraut, caraway kraut, whole pickles (first time!), sliced pickles with romanesco. Day 1.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


On Memorial Day morning, we spent an hour or so thinning the new plants that recently sprouted. This is a pretty typical part of the process when you start from seeds...you plant more seeds than you will think will actually grow, and then a bunch pop up, and then you have to thin them out. Otherwise, the roots don't develop properly, and when you're growing things like radishes or carrots, the thing you're growing doesn't have space to grow to a decent size. SCIENCE! (ahem)

Here's an example of what I mean - the before photos are in the top row; the afters in the bottom. It's a little hard to see. I'm not a great photographer.

Will, thinning the radishes (left).
I thinned the fennel (right).
Will in the garden, thinning our beets.
The carrots (under his right hand) are not quite
ready to be thinned...they're a little too little.

And lest you think that those thinned out bits go to waste...they're totally edible, and totally delicious! We're going to have a radish, fennel and beet sprout (aka "microgreens" - they're not technically sprouts) salad with dinner tonight.