198

Wanda is 198 days old today.

Humu, Wanda, Wanda’s Grandma, and I went out for breakfast this morning. Wanda sat in her high chair at a restaurant for the first time. Overhead were remote control model airplanes and a running model train set. It was kind of like my dad was there to see it.

197

Wanda is 197 days old today.

shire2

Photo by Humuhumu

Wanda, her Grandma, Humu, and I went to explore Forest Creek, which used to be known as The Shire. Our friend Heather Gregg told us about it. It was supposed to be a housing development themed in a way that brings Tolkien to mind. I’ve read that the Tolkien thing was not intended, at least initially. But clearly it was embraced at some point as one of the two streets in the development is Ring Bearer Court. (The other is South Shire Lane.)

shire1

Photo by Humuhumu

The Shire was never completed because it went bankrupt when Bend’s housing market collapsed. It’s a sad story, so we’ll gloss over it and get to our experience today. I’ll just add that eventually a company purchased the whole development and building is starting again, although without the same wacky awesome commitment to theming.

I wouldn’t make a road trip to Bend just to see Forest Creek (aka The Housing Development Previously Known As “The Shire”). But if you’re in central Oregon already, you could do worse than to kill 20 minutes on a sunny day stopping by South Shire Lane and Ring Bearer Court to see this sadly half-finished but gloriously half-baked vision. Be sure, though, to get out of your car, look at the map they’ve posted, and walk along the path behind the houses among the ponds (stocked with fish), tiny amphitheater (maybe a sock puppet show would be at home there), “secret” doors, and a few other treasures. Sadly, the newer construction there isn’t anywhere nearly as over-the-top as the amazing building (and separate garage) at the end of South Shire Lane. And I don’t have high hopes for the forthcoming townhouses, but who knows? Anyway, totally worth checking out from a “this was a crazy idea, I wish they had succeeded” perspective.

As we were looking at the most thoroughly themed structures, I said to Humu: “Imagine living here and putting a tiki bar in the basement. It’s like your life turns into one big turducken.”

Humu’s take on Forest Creek: “First it was sad, then it was cute, then it was weird.”

196

Wanda is 196 days old today.

Humu, Wanda, and I are having a great time in Bend, Oregon. We’re here so Wanda can spend some time at Grandma’s house. This morning, we walked up Pilot Butte, one of three extinct volcanoes in the continental U.S. that are within a city. (The others are in nearby Portland, Oregon, and surprisingly in Jackson, Mississippi.) We went there because, you know, extinct volcano in city limits. Do I need another reason?

I finished a pair of job descriptions for some one-year positions I’ll hopefully be hiring for soon. Nerds interested in a great work environment and a project with a social conscience, take note.


It turns out my clean, agile, software developer livin’ is helping me stay sane as we move into parenthood. I can see that it would be easy to be let yourself be sucked right into the tumbling, rumbling avalanche of YOU NEED THIS that follows a positive pregnancy test. Every baby website has a hundred (sponsored) products to shove at you. Every baby-stuff-selling store has a list of Must Haves that is a mile long. The baby shower tradition (a rather uniquely American one, I’m learning) is for the mother to be downright smothered in a pile of baby stuff, essential and frivolous. All the recently-minted parents have bushels of baby goods they’re looking to ditch… erm, hand down. And naturally each parent found those one or two lifesaver items that they will insist we need… and there’s curiously little overlap there, so if we listened to all that, we could open our own baby store with all the stuff we’d accumulate.

Most people love this. It is the way of our people. But it just doesn’t sit right for me, I do not like collecting material possessions. (I can see the irony.) My style is more of a do it lean, do it yourself, keep it simple aesthetic. After a couple decades of doing application design and development, I can smell an over-engineered problem pretty easily, and lemme tell you: baby-having stinks of over-engineering to high heaven.

That said, of course there are some things that we really do need. In the approach to software development I use, you start simple at first—stupid simple—and only add in new features in an incremental fashion, when a real need is truly justifiable, and add them in priority order. This is how you make sure that the important stuff gets in there, instead of being sidetracked into adding features that seem important but wind up unused or irrelevant.

So, okay, what does my baby TRULY need? Food, shelter. That’s kinda really it. Food has an easy answer, it’s what my boobs are for. Shelter, well, we’ve got a house. Done. We’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed right there.

Ah, but the boob route may not be so simple. There’s a learning curve there. It may take time for my milk to come in, there could be latching problems, I may find myself incapacitated if delivery goes sideways. I may need to pump breast milk, so I’ll need a pump, and bottles, and nipples. And a way to sterilize the bottles, and warm the bottles. And storage bags for my breast milk. And a drying rack for the bottles. And nursing pads for when my breasts leak. Am I going to need nipple shields? Oh, and nipple cream, because ouch. And a special nursing bra, but which style? This mother insists on one style, but this other mother insists on a different one. Better get both! Oh dear, what if I can’t get the milk going fast enough? I’m going to need formula, just in case. And I was lactose intolerant, so what if my girl is? I should get soy-based formula, too, to be safe. Hm, we’re going to need bibs. And a car adapter for the breast pump. And this paddle game. And this chair. And this magazine. And… and…

If we were building a piece of software, someone would have spat out the words “feature creep” right around the words “I’ll need a pump.” Feature Creep is the bane of every developer’s existence, it’s how interesting ideas and good intentions make a project balloon into something unwieldy and undeliverable. Good developers know to nip it in the bud quickly. If you try to anticipate everything in advance, you will anticipate the wrong things, and you will fail. Instead, you keep yourself flexible (“agile” in programming parlance), and react calmly and realistically as new desires enter the picture, always keeping a weather eye on the large picture. You continually remind yourself to keep it simple, to do just the bare minimum first, and to add in a new idea or a new feature only after considering how much you really need it, and why. Now this approach, I like.

Okay, back now to the boob & house solution. We do know that the hospital will not let us leave unless we have demonstrated that we have a properly installed car seat. I can get behind this, we will likely want to take our baby places. That becomes our highest priority after boob and house. Car seat. So that’s the first thing we purchased (actually, my Mom did. Thank you, Mom!).

The kid is going to want to do some sleeping, and our floor is pretty hard. The guidance for SIDS prevention suggests that the best option is to have the baby sleeping in the same room as you, but not in the same bed. Like security considerations in software development, safety considerations are a constant running question in the background, and are a key quality concern. We keep it simple—stupid simple—but not unconscionably simple. So, some research is done, and a co-sleeper bassinet is selected. A crib, well, a crib can wait. Don’t need it yet.

The Baby Stuff Selection process has been happening for us in this way for the past few months. Question, research, prioritize, occasionally select, and even more rarely, purchase. It’s not just about saving money, it’s as much (more?) about saving space, saving sanity, just living streamlined. What happens when I need formula after all? Well, I go to the 24 hour supermarket that stocks lots of different formulas and is half a mile from our house. It’s not exactly a looming catastrophe.

This isn’t to say that we’re not going to do a full preparation before the baby comes, I know now is the time and it will become harder later. We’ll get the crib sorted before she’s here, but since it’s lower priority, we’ll make sure we take care of higher priority questions first. And thankfully, while purchasing isn’t my style, researching totally is, so I’m having fun reading up on all our options in case we need to make decisions quickly.

I figured out a few weeks ago that I need to keep in mind a lesson learned from our wedding. There, too, I did not buy into the Matrimonial Industrial Complex, instead opting for a simple, homemade affair. I had naysayers, so many naysayers. And I had a wonderful wedding, and wouldn’t change a thing about it. This is scary, uncharted territory for us but I need to be true to myself and do things the way that feels right for me. My instincts have steered me true in the past, and more likely than not, they will again.

And my instinct says I do not need much.

p.s., I do like traditions, and I really like parties, so we are having a little celebration. Check your Facebook event invites for The Trottening 2, and RSVP if’n you can. If you want to be even more traditional, we do have a registry. Please, please, please no pink!

El Draque Falso, a.k.a. The Fake Drake

Most of you know that I spend every Tuesday evening at Smuggler’s Cove, a truly excellent rum-focused, tiki-flavored bar here in San Francisco, owned by my dear and old friend Martin Cate. This tradition of mine predates the existence of Smuggler’s Cove. Before the Cove opened, I was spending every Wednesday at Forbidden Island in Alameda. Before that, it was every Monday at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco. Before that, it was Wednesdays at Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. It all started waaaaaaay back in 2003, when I was spending every Tuesday night at Fu Kun Wu in Seattle.

It’s been an anchor in my week that I can no longer imagine doing without. While the ostensible focus is on cocktails, that’s never really been the point. It’s about knowing that at least once a week, I have something social happening, a chance to see friendly faces, tell tales about the week that’s passed, and oftentimes make new friends. It’s handy that no one needs to make special arrangements if they want to catch up with me, they just have to find a free Tuesday and show up. Before I had this, odds were good that these thin, wimpy days of the week would go to waste, maybe watching television, or playing solitaire. I’ve had a near-decade of non-wasted Tuesdays and Wednesdays, days when beautiful human connections were made, and I feel really good about that.

So, how does a woman whose social life is anchored by cocktails go about being secretly pregnant? I was going to need help. As soon as I peed on a stick and got a double line, I told Rich, then I told my Mom, and then I told my Bartender: Steven Liles.

The menu at Smuggler’s Cove is about 85 drinks deep. Tiki drinks have lots of interesting mixers: citrus and other fruit juices, spiced syrups, the works. I’ve long argued that tiki bars are the best place to go if you don’t drink, as the non-alcoholic drinks are fantastic. However! Week after week of juice-heavy custom drinks were going to raise eyebrows. At Smuggler’s Cove, people pay attention to what you’re drinking, because the menu itself is such a conversation piece.

Steven has been a godsend. He’s been able to make secretly virgin versions of a surprising array of the drinks on the menu. He tweaked the color using cinnamon syrup to bring in the brown color rum would have added. Even drinks served on the stem with a heavy amount of base spirit, he managed to re-concoct for me (A virgin El Draque! That’s just advanced.). Every drink has been delicious, and even week after week after week of virgin drinks, I’m not at all tired of them. He was mindful of any moves that could give our secret away, using particularly delicate slight of hand to minimize potential exposure of my bill, in case anyone noticed the suspiciously low cost of my drinks. He regaled my friends with tales of what a “pro drinker” I am, spacing out all these “heavy alcohol” drinks with the occasional non-alcoholic.

In short: he got really into it.

At times the show was too convincing. One night as I was leaving after having three rounds of drinks with some friends, they offered to walk me to BART… before I could think, I blurted out, “oh, no, I’m driving tonight!” They gave me well-earned, skeptical squints, and I muttered something about how one of the drinks was non-alcoholic, and the others were really pretty low alcohol, and I’d managed to eat a big meal before coming out…

So! I’ve been dying to tell you: Steven Liles is EVEN MORE AMAZING than you knew. (And just think what he’s capable of doing WITH alcohol!)

Nota bene: I will keep going to Smuggler’s Cove on Tuesday nights until it becomes physically impossible… which is looming ever closer. If you’ve been meaning to come out some Tuesday, make it some time in the next few months! I always announce earlier in the day on Twitter & Facebook that I’ll be there (I only miss maybe 5 weeks out of a typical year), if you want to be extra sure you’ll see me. I typically get there around 8pm, and stick around ’til 10 or so.

New Trott, at 11 weeks

After two years of trying, and failing, and trying, and failing, and trying, and failing… we’ve finally stumbled on success. I’m 12 weeks pregnant, and I’m due on January 11, 2013. We are vacillating between stoked, thrilled, scared, cautious… the standard slate of emotions. Ack ack ack… we get to have a kid! (Hopefully!)

While it took us longer than we wanted, our struggle hasn’t been nearly as struggle-y as others with infertility often face. Since our problem remained unexplained, we had very little to work with, but eventually we got there, so now that seems to be behind us. For the curious/interested: I had my polypectomy, and nada, we tried some rounds of Femara, that didn’t do anything, then I had an HSG, next cycle had bupkis, then we were scheduled to do IUI. In preparation for the IUI, I was back on Femara, this time at double the dose. A business trip and a weekend lined up inconveniently with my ovulation, and we couldn’t do IUI that cycle — but it turned out that the old fashioned way (combined with the recent HSG & Femara & reduced stress with a lightened client load?) finally worked for us that cycle.

Symptom-wise, I’ve *almost* gotten off easy. I haven’t puked (knock wood), only have mild and manageable nausea. I’ve been able to eat (boy, have I been able to eat), and I’ve mostly been sleeping fine. Symptoms that have been present, but really only annoying: frequent urination, constipation, bloat, BLOAT, gassiness, mild headaches, occasional pinchy growing cramps, dizziness, shortness of breath. The hard one, the one that has me knocked for a loop, is fatigue. “Fatigue” sounds so gentle, soft and mild, and it’s not. It’s basically been 3 a.m. for me for two months straight now. Worst of all: it’s left me unable to program. I simply need more brainpower than I have right now to do my groovy Making Stuff In the Computer thing. That has me terribly sad, and frightened… I have lots of work to do, and I really, really want to be getting it done NOW. Fingers crossed that I get my mojo back in the next few weeks.

Okay, enough of the bummer stuff… most importantly, baby-wise, everything seems to be cooking perfectly. Haven’t had any scares, not even any spotting, and the baby has been looking great, measuring on track and all that good stuff. The scan at top was done a week ago. The little thing sure was wiggly and active. We couldn’t get a good picture, but seeing it live, it looked fantastic and really healthy… the doctor said it’s as good as she’s seen. My Mom came down from Oregon for the scan, I’m so glad she got to be there and see it in person (this is her first grandkid). We don’t know the sex yet, but probably will in a month or two, almost certainly by mid-August.

Rich has been awesome and supportive and wonderful, but you know that. Every day, I feel awfully glad to have him as the father of my kid. This is going to rock.

Levon & Zevon

After each of us being about 10 years cat-free, we broke down. We got these two sweet little guys last Tuesday, from the SF SPCA (highly recommended). It was our 2nd wedding anniversary last Tuesday, and this seemed like a nice way to mark it.

They’re named Levon (LEE-von, for Levon Helm) and Zevon (ZEE-von, for Warren Zevon); Levon is a girl, Zevon is a boy, and they’re from the same litter. They’re 12 weeks old now, and obviously adorable, leaving our hearts in a constant puddle-y state. Kitten-proofing the house has been a bit of an undertaking, and will require constant vigilance as they get bigger and stronger and able to get into new things. They’ve already given me a few minor heart attacks, but I’m getting used to them behaving like they’re made out of indestructible rubber.

Zevon is the cuddly one (turns out we named them backwards), and likes to smoosh his face into yours. Levon is smaller, and somehow simultaneously more awkward and more capable of jumping and climbing. The only way we can reliably tell them apart is that Levon has about 12 white hairs on her chest.

For those who are allergic to cats: they’re only allowed upstairs, where we have hardwood floors, and not in the tiki bar/guest bedroom downstairs where we do our entertaining. The space downstairs is impossible to cat-proof, so we may not ever let them down there. For the foreseeable future, unless you have a severe allergy, you may be fine at our house. Please try coming over and let us know how it goes!

Speaking of that… we could use some help socializing the little buggers. Send us a note if you’d like to come over and play with them.

The tikis are watching...

The tikis are watching...

Hey, so, remember there was that thing, that new thing, that new thing I was working on, and I didn’t feel ready to talk about it yet? I’m talking about it now.

My big project is this: I’m taking my existing site for tiki mug collectors, Ooga-Mooga, and making it better. It’s getting re-written from the ground up. Still not ready to blab about it completely, as I think it’s best to wait to talk about new ventures until they’re done and real and you can poke them with a stick. But OH CARP it’s already so much fun, and it’s time to get the Ooga-Mooga users excited about what’s coming (and help them brace for the changes).

I’m going to be honest with you, it’s nerve-wracking making this announcement. I’m on pins and needles. I hope folks are able to set aside the very natural (and very understandable) BUT I DON’T LIKE CHANGE reaction. So far, the response has been warm and good and supportive.

Read my announcement in a post on the embarrassingly stale Ooga-Mooga blog: Ooga-Mooga is Ooverdue for an Ooverhaul.
(Seriously—there’s a “Ooga-Mooga on MySpace” link in the sidebar. Ow, my 2005 is showing.)

Pier 9, home of Lab Zero, photo from noehill.com

I’ve not been able to say much about my work for ages now, because all of my work has been under pretty tight non-disclosure agreements. Most of you probably know that I work on Pier 9 on San Francisco’s waterfront, at Lab Zero, and not much more. Lab Zero is a group of consultants: product designers, graphic designers, scrum masters, content shapers, user experience folks, and most of all, software developers. We’re a sort of strike team of professionals who can drop into a company and make a product or project happen. It’s a smart move for lots of different kinds of companies, a sort of turbo-charged ramp to the future, a just-add-water team that can make a concept reality (where “water” = “money”). Much faster than trying to hire a whole new team of people, much safer than distracting an existing team of employees with an untested concept. And dammit, we’re good.

It’s a lot of fun… we have great and diverse clients, and the folks who work here are some of the most intelligent, talented, interesting, well-rounded people I’ve ever worked with. (No small feat; I never thought any place could top working at the Institute for Systems Biology.) I’m proud to say that Lab Zero does good work, and I’m lucky to get to be a part of it.

For the past year, my own work slate has been dominated by one Megaproject with one Megaclient. It’s been fascinating, and has had lots of new and intense challenges, but it’s also been a lot of very focused-in-one-area work and long hours. My strength is as a generalist, and I needed to stretch my legs a little. So a few weeks ago, I made arrangements with Lab Zero to shift off of the Megaproject for a while. When discussing what my next step should be with Lab Zero’s CEO, he said he’d understand if I want to step away for a bit and “have a life”. My instant reaction was to point at the Pier and say “This is my life, I don’t want to be anywhere else.” He high-fived me.

“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers

Consulting work can be rather feast-or-famine, and thankfully it’s been much more of the former than the latter for a while now. I’ve found myself smack dab in the middle of a unique opportunity: I have enough savings in the bank to support myself while I work on my own project for a while. It’s the sort of thing I’ve daydreamed about for years and years. Right this moment, I’m not only able to make it happen, but do it from Pier 9, surrounded by the best danged coworkers I could imagine, with Lab Zero work as a safety net should my bank account start creaking. So for now, and for a squishy amount of the future, I’ve hired myself. I’m making a New Thing. It feels so good. And getting to do it from Pier 9 is… god, just pinch me.

Rich has continued to do what he always does: believe in me, stand by me and root for me. That guy. He’s incredible.

So, I still can’t talk about what I’m working on. I’m under my own NDA now. But hopefully some time in the next few months I’ll have a New Thing I Made to share with you. I can’t wait. In the meantime, the clock is ticking, and I’m a coding, designing, planning, creating fool. And I have a big dopey grin on my face.

#29: Chrysanthemum, with Curried Cauliflowerettes

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#29: Chrysanthemum, with Curried Cauliflowerettes

I do very much love chrysanthemum the flower, and it’s a pretty fabulous word; I would be disappointed if it got used for a lame cocktail. Disaster averted: the Chrysanthemum cocktail is perfectly pleasant. (Further reading: Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp take)

Chrysanthemum

2 parts dry white vermouth (Lillet Blanc, Noilly Prat)

1 part Benedictine

absinthe rinse (Kübler Absinthe)

Rinse cocktail glass with a small amount of absinthe, discard excess. Stir vermouth and Benedictine with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually tasted Benedictine before. Oo-de-lally, that’s some sweet stuff. Tastes sort of like a horehound candy. I tried making the Chrysanthemum cocktail with both dry vermouth (using Noilly Prat), and with Lillet Blanc. I often find that Lillet acts like sandpaper to drinks, smoothing out the rough edges. Here I found it too sweet, and the vermouth did a better job of balancing things out, I think. Even so, it’s a solidly sweet cocktail, but not so much that the sweetness is clobbering the horehoundy, absinthey, orange oily good stuff. Also: my orange peel game could use some work, I think if I did a better job of getting the oils on the surface of the drink, it would have made a more interesting contribution.

Curried Cauliflowerettes

1 med. cauliflower

2 tbsp oil

1 tbsp curry powder

1 med onion, chopped

1 med green pepper, chopped

1 cup water

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 c plain yogurt

(salt to taste)

Cut up cauliflower, set aside. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet, brown curry powder for a minute, then add onion & green pepper and sauté until onions are translucent. Add water, tomato paste, ginger, cayenne and cardamom. (I chose to add a pinch of salt at this point; the recipe doesn’t call for it.) Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in cauliflowerettes and simmer while covered for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in yogurt. Let stand at room temperature for an hour to let the cauliflowerettes absorb the flavors.

“Cauliflowerettes” sounds like a dance squad at a San Joaquin Valley high school. I say this with admiration; I think “cauliflowerettes” is more efficient and adorable than “cauliflower florets,” which is an admirable speck of the English language to begin with. This is very easy to eat, and I’ll happily gobble up this batch… but there has to be a better interpretation of curried cauliflower out there. I opted to skip the scraped-together chutney made out of marmalade, vinegar and raisins… it’s 2012, and thank goodness, we can get actual chutney at the store.

#290: Salty Dog, with Trout Barquettes

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#290: Salty Dog, with Trout Barquettes

A Salty Dog is just a Greyhound with a salted rim, and a Greyhound is just vodka with grapefruit juice. Salty Dogs are my go-to in venues where I have reason to think the juice will be good, but the drinks won’t, which means I order them approximately never. It’s just as well, as this exercise has reminded me that it’s really just a rather dull drink, even with freshly-squeezed juice.

Salty Dog

1-1/2 oz vodka

grapefruit juice

salt

Moisten rim of glass and dip in salt, fill glass with ice, add vodka, fill with grapefruit juice, stir.

Barquettes are a style of French pastry cup, so called because they are shaped like little boats (a barque is a sort of ship). You will note that neither the pastry cups in the recipe card photo nor in my photo are boat shaped. This is because that is a pain in the ass, and no one is going to go out and buy little boat-shaped tins for this when a mini-tart pan works just fine.

Trout Barquettes

canned trout fillets (Trader Joe’s canned trout, looks like a sardine tin)

barquette shells (Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts)

tarragon aspic

black caviar

sour cream

Cut trout fillets to fit in the cups, pat dry with paper towels. Top with semi-jelled tarragon aspic, chill until set. Top with a dollop of sour cream, rim with caviar.

Tarragon Aspic

1 cup clam juice

3/4 cup white wine

2 tbsp tarragon

1 envelope gelatin

Bring clam juice, 1/2 cup of wine and tarragon to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/4 cup of wine to soften, then stir into the clam juice. Remove tarragon leaves and chill.

This tastes about as good as it sounds, which is to say, not particularly. It wasn’t as awful as I’d feared, but it was not a hit with me or anyone else. Rich called it “a face-full of fish” and spit it out. If I were to try to make a tastier variation, I’d use fresh or frozen fish instead of canned, and I’d cut way back on the caviar by just putting a little on top of the sour cream instead of ringing the whole danged thing with the stuff. But let’s just not ever make it again.

#210: Between the Sheets, with Pere Ripiene

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#210: Between the Sheets, with Pere Ripiene

If you like to think that the Universe plops down little signs that one is on the right track, here you go: Between the Sheets. This could not be more in keeping with what I like, and specifically what I like about this recipe card set. My favorite classic cocktail is the Sidecar, and my favorite spirit is rum. Between the Sheets brings those two things together, with an “Oh, Seventies, what are we going to do with you?” name. While the name seems to scream “Hey baby, what’s your sign?,” it actually dates back to at least the ’30s, when the drink appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book. (Further reading: Erik Ellestad’s Savoy Stomp take, Kaiser Penguin’s Between the Sheets recipe comparison)

Between the Sheets
1/2 jigger brandy (Hardy VSOP Cognac)

1/2 jigger light rum (Mount Gay Eclipse Silver)

1/2 jigger Cointreau

1/3 jigger lemon juice

Shake & strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with lemon wedge.

I skipped the garnish, because I am a naughty little minx. In addition to the Mount Gay Eclipse Silver, I tried making this with Banks rum. While Banks is a rum I enjoy, it brought too much funk; I’d stick with a straightforward silver rum. Of course I like it. It’s a Sidecar with a bit of rum. I wasn’t going to not like it.

Pere Ripiene (Cheese-Stuffed Pears)

12 small Seckel pears (Comice)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 c Gorgonzola cheese

1 c crushed walnuts

Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise, remove seedy guts. Blend butter & cheese together until creamy, spoon into pear halves. Place pear halves together, and cover with crushed walnuts.

This was good! Really quick to throw together. I learned that the way to check the ripeness of a pear is to press your thumb into the neck, right against the stem. I wouldn’t know a Seckel pear if it bit me in the rear, so I went with Comice. I ground up the walnuts in a coffee grinder. I liked this quite a bit. Rich doesn’t dig Gorgonzola, and this was not the magical dish that converted him. I liked it enough to save it in Cookooree. While we didn’t agree on the tastiness of the pears, we did both agree that the pairing with the drink was a good one.

The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d'Oeuvre

Here’s a thing that has my attention lately: The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d’Oeuvre, which was published by Random House in 1977, with Michael Dorn (not that one) credited as author. It’s a set of 300+ recipe cards, each one with recipes for a cocktail and a paired hors d’oeuvre, with full-color photographs.

I learned about it from my friend Rochelle, who recently bought a bar & restaurant in our neighborhood, Doctor’s Lounge, with her partner David. They plan to use the cards to decorate the men’s room walls. When she showed it to us over brunch a few weeks ago, I fell in love instantly.

It could not be more of its time; it is the Regal Beagle in a box. It’s a perfect Technicolor snapshot of how things were changing, cocktail-wise, in the ’70s. A great example is the recipe for the Clover Club cocktail: that it’s here at all is a pleasant surprise, and the recipe looks right… but what’s that floating in it? Is that a… no, it couldn’t be. A green cherry. Oh, dear. On the whole, the set seems to fall more frequently on the good side. Naturally the first recipe card I checked was for the Mai Tai, and it is spot on, right down to the credit given to Trader Vic. The paired hors d’oeuvre have all the charm of midcentury appetizers, only they look more edible. Sold! I had to have it, and thanks to eBay I’ve got one of my very own.

The first conversation that I ever had with Rich, beyond “nice to meet you,” was about his Joy of Cooking project. Our first date was a double date with Erik Ellestad and his wife Michele; Rich’s Joy of Cooking project was a major inspiration for Erik’s now-famous Stomping Through the Savoy project. I briefly dabbled with making all of the salads in the Marysville United Methodist Women 1979 Church Cookbook, but mixing lime Jell-O with things like canned corned beef, cream cheese, asparagus and horseradish is just too gross to be sustained for the long haul. Maybe this could be my project?

The Trotts love a system, and here’s mine: I’ve whipped up a little Ruby program, which I’m calling the Select-O-Matic until I come up with something better, that keeps track of which cards I’ve already made and randomly selects one for me to tackle next. If I’m not in the mood for what the Select-O-Matic has suggested, it’ll pick another one until I settle on one I like. If I want to select a card on my own, it’ll keep track of those, too.

This recipe card set needs a better shorthand name, though, because “The 2 in 1 International Recipe Card Collection for Mixed Drinks and Hors d’Oeuvre” is downright terrible. Suggestions?

Hey, loved ones, you look like you would enjoy an update from Trottomatic.

So, we’re working on adding another Trott. Two Trotts is an awful lot of fun, and we figure three would be a kick. And can you imagine what a darling, spazzy, gangly little creature we could create? We can’t either, so we’re gonna make one and see what we get.

Or rather, we hope to make one. We’ve been trying for a bit more than a year, and we’ve been Really Quite Seriously Trying for about 10 months of that. Daily temperature taking, graphs, the whole nine yards. It’s been slow, and obviously… unproductive. We first started working with our lovely primary care physician oh, nearly a year ago. We got bumped up to the infertility big leagues this past spring, and have been working with a really wonderful OB/GYN, whom I adore.

I’ve gotten pretty darned acquainted with my inner equipment. Between my own daily tracking and the slew of diagnostics, the data says I should be an OB’s dream. Periods are like clockwork, always have been. Ovulation is similarly Germanic in its precision, with temperature bumps associated with convenient mittelschmerz and spotting confirmation. Uterine lining is nice and cushy (“luscious!” per my OB). Progesterone levels are totally baby-friendly (“gorgeous!” again says beloved OB). Ovarian follicles are plentiful (ultrasound tech says I “have the ovaries of a woman ten years younger!”). Morphologically speaking, my uterus looks right out of a textbook, a nice uterus-y shape, no signs of endometriosis. Rich also passed his tests swimmingly (BAH DUM BUM!).

This is all well and good, and nice to see and hear, except for that it paints a picture of a woman who really should be pregnant right now, and I’m not. Based on the tweaks, twinges, temperatures and tests, our best guess is that everything is working right up to or around implantation. We’ve definitely had some near misses, including one confirmed pregnancy that didn’t quite stick.

One itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, 7mm possible culprit is an endometrial polyp found smack dab in the middle of my uterus. Studies between small polyps and infertility have been inconclusive, but anecdotally, some people have had luck getting pregnant after having small polyps removed. (Also, my periods have been gradually becoming more painful, and the polyp is a likely contributor.)

So that’s our next step. I’m going in for surgery next Tuesday. If that doesn’t do the trick, next round is fertility drugs.

Infertility is a funny thing. It’s a nearly universal experience, yet pretty underrepresented when we connect with our friends and loved ones through conversation. There are a lot of factors there, I suppose. For me, the experience of having people ask “so, what’s new?” on the same day I had a miscarriage, and my replying “oh, nothing really!” just amplified the surreality of what was going on, in a way that was deeply unpleasant. These were people I loved, some of our dearest friends, and I felt like I was lying to them. And heck! I’d had a miscarriage, but it also meant I had been pregnant! I’d finally had a chance to take the old V8 out for a spin! So the pregnancy didn’t take… it still was a pretty significant First in my life. That’s not worth some discussion? “Oh, nothing really! Nothing is new! Nothing at all!” Fuck that.

So, I tried the silence route, and it’s not for me. Not that I’ll be blabbing about it left, right and center, because that’s snoozeville for folks who find it irrelevant. But with the folks who are really close to me, I’m more likely to talk about it now.

I submitted the song below for NASA’s contest to pick the song that would wake up the astronauts on the final shuttle mission later this year. The public will vote to pick a winner. But NASA didn’t even pick this song as one of the ones that could be voted on, which frankly makes me question everything about the space agency.

The song was written by Anu Kirk and Rich Trott with a line or two (and the whole idea of writing a song for the contest) suggested by Jessica Forys. The song is performed by Palace Family Steak House and features the Final Frontiersmen. Performers on the recording are: Anu Kirk, Rich Trott, JP Lester, Joel Primer, and Ted, Kelly, and Greg from the Final Frontiersmen.

Look what my awesome wife got for me!

The New York Times Cook Book

The word glögg appears in a chapter title—no joke!

This can only mean one thing: I will embark on an attempt to cook every recipe in the book in the order in which they appear.

Stay tunes.

We are thrilled that our friend Jessica will be officiating our wedding!

Today, at City Hall, she was sworn in as a Deputy Marriage Commissioner so that she could legally perform the wedding.

Sorry about not getting her face in the photo.


This past week, our invitations finally started making their way across the country to their new homes.

We made them ourselves. (Technically, Rich’s contribution—very valuable—was to keep me watered & fed, and to not bat an eye when I wanted to be driven all over town to make sad attempts and printing, and then to not bat an eye when I wanted to just buy a printer. He was a champ.) It was a lot of work, and already there are a few things I wish I’d done differently, but overall I’m quite happy with them.

The envelopes and folders are from Paper and More, the typefaces are from Font Bros—I heartily endorse both of these companies, they offer extraordinary products and service at disproportionately affordable prices.

My previous secret shame of glue gun ownership has ballooned into a literal embarrassment of crafting supplies.


Earlier this month, I finally redeemed the very generous gift for my 40th birthday from Humu and her mom: a trip to Hawaii for Humu and me!

The first question everyone asks is “Which islands?” Oahu, Hawaii (“The Big Island”), Maui.

The next question is usually “Where did you stay?” Waikiki, Kailua-Kona, and north of Lahaina (which were the fancy accommodations of the trip–it was a Westin resort).

“Have you ever been before?” Nope.  First time for me.  (Humu lived there as a child for a year and had been there once before as an adult.)

“What did you do?” Too much to answer, but some highlights were:

  • Volcanoes National Park: hiking, driving, pit craters, caldera, lunar-like lava, all of it
  • seeing the sun set over the ocean from the patio at Don The Beachcomber’s in Kailua-Kona
  • watching ridiculously large waves at the beach near Mama’s Fish House on Maui
  • seeing a whale…from the window of the inter-island flight
  • seeing college friends who live on Oahu, seeing a friend who used to live in San Francisco who now lives on Maui, and meeting a childhood friend of Humu’s who now lives on Oahu
  • spending time with Humu somewhere where we (mostly) weren’t thinking about work, what needs to be done with the house, and wedding planning

“Where are the pictures?” Alas, I’m not much of a shutterbug.  The only picture I took was of a display in one of the airports.  It was about macadamia nuts and the display prominently featured a recipe.

“Did you have a good time?” It was amazing!  Thanks, Humu + Schmama!

I officially now know why people choose Pachelbel’s Canon in D for their processional music at their weddings.  It used to puzzle me a little bit, but now I get it.

Picking something else that’s appropriate is daunting.

The music that’s played while people wander in, the music that’s played for the processional, and then the music that’s played as the bride walks down the aisle—it’s the shortest but most important mix tape of your life. Each piece has to be perfect but also has to fit with the other pieces.

Pachelbel works, and everyone knows it, so they go with it.

No disrespect to Johann, but ours will be a Pachelbel-free wedding. Humu has her music picked out. I’m working on selecting mine. And it’s a lot harder than I anticipated.