I love stories and storytelling, words and rhythms. I get amped about a little alliteration. Lately I dig the mix of words and images. A photo or drawing can complete a sentence, layer depth into a character, set a scene.
Blogging is a form of storytelling.
And bloggers are major contributors to the giant cyber-library made possible by the internet. That’s awesome and sometimes not-so-hotso simultaneously.
Sometimes I wonder what it will be like to read antique blogs. What will all these voices sound like when their slang softens to quaint? Will the stuff in the photos look dusty?
I used to go to libraries and bookstores more often. I’d buy hardcover versions of books I wanted to own, usually by favorite authors. I’d find new-to-me writers by wandering long aisles while reading sideways from spines, waiting for words to resonate.
Nowadays sometimes there isn’t a book to buy. There’s just a story hanging out on a blog like it’s floating by on a raft, sipping cold beer from a plastic party cup.
The way I find stories and buy books has changed radically though I remain a madlover of bookstores and still meander down aisles, looking for kinship.
We have access online to a veritable smorgasbord of voices. And that has changed how we find and share books. Writers and readers aren’t limited to what traditional publishers choose to make available. At this point self-publishing has even managed to brush the lame off its shoulders and become considered legit.
So I was looking forward to the seminar on self-publishing and ebooks at this year’s International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle. The keynote speaker was Jon Fine, director of Author and Publishing relations at Amazon.com. I figured I’d get perspective straight from the source.
Attending this seminar was the most valuable hour and a half that I spent at IFBC. Jon Fine was a compelling speaker. He made some pretty witty jokes. I laughed.
Mostly he focused on useful information. And he was direct with advice which I respect. During Q&A a fellow seminar attendee said that he had two books he’d like to self-publish. One is good and the other is kinda crappy. He asked Mr. Fine which one he should publish first. Mr. Fine’s response was why put your name on something crappy.
Create good content. He was definitely passionate about that point.
So create good content and then you can digitally publish that awesomely good content if you want. There’s a world of information available online about how to self-publish and the details of the process. I’ll post some slides with resources from the seminar at the end of this post. And here’s a link to Amazon’s Author Central home page. Surf onward from there to tons of information.
Vicky McDonald, newly self-published e-book author and blogger, also shared her insight on the process of self-publishing. Her big one was proofread. When you’re a blogger you can always log in and edit. That’s not so easy with a book even when it is published digitally.
Both speakers talked about using freelance copy editors, cover artists, proofreaders and other industry professionals to create a polished product. Their advice: use them. Especially the proofreaders.
Jon Fine also spoke about metadata and how people find books online. The word lover in me is fascinated by metadata.
Think about the words someone might use when searching online for a new book. An author can find an audience by describing their book with words that will resonate with their future fans who are surfing by. I think that’s interesting.
I suppose the stories of how we used to buy books in stores will become the new version of when I was your age I walked to school in waist high snow. Get your old school story ready, son.
Oh…and here’s another aspect about this brave online world: there are all sorts of ever-changing rules about things like disclosure. So please know that my admission fee to IFBC was discounted. In exchange I agreed to write three posts on topics of my choice about the conference, sponsors, food, drink. I figured I could find three things I liked that I wanted to write about from IFBC. No problem.
This seminar was definitely a highlight of the experience for me
Here are some resources in uncropped photos so you can get that sitting-in-a-seminar feeling. Seems like you’d want to know these tips before you compiled your good content in some incompatible way:
And here’s a chunky list of resources available online. Free, surfable knowledge. Bring it.
There’d be snacks, samples, wine tastings and seminars on stuff I’m always trying to get an edge on like SEO. Knowledge: bring it.
The sponsors look cool. I know some of the brands that will be there and I’m about to meet the ones I don’t know. There are gonna be gift bags, son. I like gift bags.
And I qualified for a discounted ticket to IFBC by agreeing to write three posts on a topic of my choice related to the weekend-long foodcentric, wine-fueled frenzy. I can do that and actually I should do that as a writer. I take a long time to produce some of my posts. So I signed up and decided to use the event as a writing challenge for myself. Kinda seemed like a win win win situation with snacks and wine.
I’m in and I’m amped.
I’ll be tweeting about this year’s IFBC in Seattle, city of champions. I’ll post photos on Instagram and write about it here through the weekend because I’m modern like that. It’s going to be a fun experience. And I’ll tell you the rest of this story as it happens. It’s like we’re going handheld or something.
If you see me hanging about the IFBC conference then please oink at me. I’ll oink back or do jazzhands. Your choice.
I’ve been meaning to tell you more about this easygoing, port city on the Puget Sound where I spend some free time: Seattle.
And since one of my favorite people recently visited the Emerald City this seems like a good time to start with the telling. And the showing. Last time my friend visited I named a cookie after her.
This time she picked her fantasy football team. That’s a good thing to do when you’re in the city of Super Bowl champions. Seahawks!
If you visit Seattle then know this: Seahawk fans are Guinness World Record loud. We’re so loud our crowd registered 137.6 decibels during one game. That’s louder than a jet takeoff at 100 meters. This city is louder than eleven…this one goes to eleven plus one: twelve.
The 12 flags, banners and signs you see all over town stand for the 12th man: the fans. There are eleven players on the field and the twelfth man is the collective of the loudest, proudest fans in the NFL. Seaaaahaaaawwwks!
But let’s get back to seeing more of the city. The rest of the photos in this post (and the first photo of shipping cranes) were shot by my cookie-worthy friend, Alison. Here is Seattle through her lens:
Seattle has an awesome aquarium.
We rock curious and cute.
Farmer’s market flowers are lush and super affordable in this sunny-in-the-summer city.
Luscious tomatoes, with and without heirloom pedigrees, are fresh from the farm and vine-ripened.
Tugboats roll through Lake Union. The Space Needle chills.
Seattle is quietly wondrous.
If you wander down Post Alley and slink beneath Pike Place Market you’ll find this sorta beautiful and kinda gross bubblegum wall.
*Please note: woman in super cool chevron poncho. Nice stripey poncho, PNW lady!
The Pacific Northwest does dramatic sky very well. It’s the sort of drama you’re happy to ponder. Though I guess this city also has another sort of drama: the Seattle freeze. But we’ll need some sort of beverage and more time to get into that. Let’s just gaze at cloud drama and think sky-loving thoughts.
Dear Alison…I know you’re a Broncos fan but the Seahawks are gonna beet ya.
Thanks for the photos, Alison. Come back soon. Oink, boss!
It’s gotten hot out, right? Time to cool down with some Cucumber Lemonade.
This version of lemonade is uber cucumbery and slightly lemony. I went heavy on the cucumber because I really like cucumber. If you want the lemon to have more say in the matter then add more lemon juice. Mine happened like this:
A bunch of summery ingredients decided to play Red Rover.
Heavy Sugar, Seltzer and the Lemons shouted out, “Send Cucumber over.”
The Lemon twins were like, “We got this.”
Cucumber took a vegetal charge at the Lemons.
I dig this super cucumbery version of lemonade. My recipe will give you leftover Heavy Sugar so you can experiment with more or less cucumber. Heavy Sugar is nice to have around for summertime drink-making. It’ll keep for a few days in the fridge. Heck you can leave the cucumber out altogether if cucumber doesn’t thrill ya.
Or juice up limes, oranges, berries, herbs. Think mint, basil, rosemary. Make your version of a summer cooler. Adult the whole thing up with vodka if you like. Be generous with ice. Stir well. Swizzle. Imbibe.
Pop a paper umbrella in your Cucumber Lemonade. Make it a vacation.
Even if you’re sweltering in the city you can imagine a beach, a breeze, a view.
Now we have a refreshing reason to get steamy all over again. Happy cucumbery summer!
Description: Super cucumbery and slightly lemoned up ade.A refreshing, bright, icy beverage. Add a paper umbrella for vacation vibe. Heavy Sugar, lemon juice and cucumber juice mixed to taste so you can easily adjust to suit your whim.
Ingredients for Heavy Sugar aka simple syrup:
one cup sugar
one cup water
Ingredients for cucumber lemon juice:
one large cucumber
Additional ingredients and tools for making Cucumber Lemonade:
seltzer or still water
large glasses *I used 12 ounce glasses
blender or food processor
fine sieve to strain cucumber juice
little paper umbrellas
Instructions for making Heavy Sugar (or simple syrup):
In a saucepan boil the water.
Add sugar and reduce to simmer. Stir until sugar dissolves then immediately remove from heat. Approximately 2 minutes.
Pour heavy sugar into a sealable jar and place in fridge to cool thoroughly for about 30-45 minutes.
Instructions for making cucumber lemon juice:
Peel the cucumber and cut it in half.
Cut each of those halves in half…lengthwise.
Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
Puree cucumber in a food processor or blender until liquefied.
Add juice from two freshly squeezed lemons. Blend well.
Press pureed cucumber and lemon juice mixture through a fine sieve.
*Strain again if you want less pulp.
How to mix a Cucumber Lemonade:
Fill a 12 ounce glass about 3/4 full with ice cubes (approx. 1 cup).
Add 1 1/2 ounces (or 3 Tablespoons) of Heavy Sugar.
Add 2 ounces (or 4 Tablespoons) of cucumber-lemon juice.
Fill glass with seltzer or water. Stir well.
This recipe will yield enough cucumber-lemon juice to make four large Cucumber Lemonades. You’ll have leftover Heavy Sugar for your own summer drink experiments. Store the heavy sugar in a sealed container in the fridge. It will keep for approximately 3-4 days.
Summer makes me want every day to be a weekend day. Exposure to sunlight will do that to a PNW person, even to a semi-Seattleite like me.
The days stretch out. Light loiters.
Simple, seasonal meals take over the table. There’s butter: unsalted, melted, real.
These extra, well-lit hours make me wanna wander through neighborhoods, explore new stores. Snuffle at fellow oinkers in urban, rooftop gardens.
Climb a curving stairwell. Eat at the bar.
This is my Safari in Your City season. My seasons have mantras. Makes it easier to focus on those seasonal goals. And I like a little alliteration.
This summer I’m traveling in my own city…one of ‘em anyway. I’ll be tooling around the west coast, drinking in Seattle sun. And snapping plenty of pictures. Many Seattle neighborhoods are changing quickly. It’s interesting to watch the old and the new push up against each other which, at times, benefits both. And at times that push is the start of an inevitable battle over turf.
Safari in Your City will be a recurring feature happening here at the sty. Gather your crew.
We should start off Safari in Your City: Seattle with an aperitif-based beverage. Seattle does happy hour right so this seems like the appropriate thing to do. I suggest a Campari Safari: Campari, gin, fresh lemon juice, tonic, ice. Stir it. Straw it. Safari.
Campari has a satisfyingly bitter, decidedly herbal flavor. It’s distinctive and difficult to pin down. There’s even an ongoing debate over the number of ingredients that make up this aperitif’s well-guarded recipe with guesses ranging from twenty to eighty.
Campari is intriguing, challenging even at first. It gets you to notice its flavor. Campari is the wily chorus girl adding a little extra shimmy to her shake, angling for the spotlight. Campari wakes up the palate, gets it ready and wanting more. Plus it’s a pretty color.
Get ready to oink. And drink up summer.
Drink in Seattle.
Go forth and safari in your city, son.
Citrus-sparked, ginned-up, Campari cocktail. Fizzy with tonic, brightened by fresh lemon juice built on the distinctively herby, satisfyingly bitter aperitif: Campari. Plus it’s a pretty color.
a high ball glass (or a glass of roughly that size. I used a 12 ounce glass)
Line with parchment paper. Trim to top edge but leave enough so that you can lift the baked bar from the pan by lifting the parchment paper. *NOTE: you can bake these bars without the paper step and wrestle them from the pan with a spatula. The first piece will probably get messed up but it’ll work out.
Butter the parchment paper.
Instructions for the blueberry vanilla bean filling:
Put the blueberries in a medium saucepan.
Pour sugar and orange juice over the berries.
Split vanilla bean piece in half. Scrape the beans from each pod half onto the berries, sugar, juice mixture you have going on. *Keep the pod halves to add to Vanilla Sugar if you are so inclined. Here’s a link to my Vanilla Sugar recipe.
Bring berry mixture to a strong simmer over medium heat while stirring occasionally. The berries will begin to release juices. Approx. 2 minutes
Turn heat to low and allow berry mixture to simmer uncovered for 25-30 minutes stirring occasionally. The berries will release juices at first. Then the mixture will slowly simmer off that water and begin to thicken. Most of the berries will have exploded and fallen apart. You want the filling to be syrupy and pourable. It will thicken more as it bakes and set when the baked bars cool.
Instructions for the pistachio crusts:
Pour shelled pistachios into a food processor. Pulse a few times to get them going then process until pistachios are finely chopped.
Add oats and process until finely chopped and well-mixed with pistachios.
Add flour and salt. Pulse to mix well.
Add brown sugar. Pulse to mix well.
Add butter. Pulse until the mixture begins to gather together: about 10-12 times. The dough will be a bit shaggy.
Turn pistachio dough out onto a work surface. Gently work any remaining flour or dry bits into the mixture by folding it lightly and gently gathering it together with your hands. Don’t overwork it. Let it come together into a sloppy ball then stop.
Divide dough into two halves.
Instructions for assembling and baking Blueberry Pistachio Bars:
Using your hands flatten one dough ball a bit then lay it into your prepared pan. Use your fingertips to coax the dough into an even layer covering the bottom of the pan. This is your lower crust.
Pour blueberry vanilla bean filling onto the lower crust. Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread it in an even layer.
Divide the remaining dough ball into two or three pieces. Gently flatten each piece between your hands. Gently place each piece of dough on top the blueberry filling. Don’t worry about gaps that show blueberry beneath. Encourage a few because those gaps, once baked, will become deep blue, oozy berry rivers breaking through a golden crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 46-50 minutes. The top crust should be golden brown and slightly firm to the touch at the edges.
Allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.
Remove from pan by lifting the parchment paper from either side…like a sling full of Blueberry Pistachio Bar.
Peel the parchment paper away from the sides of the bar. Allow to cool a bit more. Approx. 10 minutes of so.
Cut and serve. *Goes well with ice cream or whipped cream or solo.
Store in fridge in airtight container. Will keep for approx. 4-5 days. Best served at room temperature or slightly warm. If you store it in fridge then allow it to come to room temp before serving. Or try heating it in the oven. *Warning: microwaving it will make the crust mushy.
Prep time: 40 minutes for berry filling, crusts and assembly
Baking time: 46 – 50 minutes at 350 degrees
Cooling time: 40 minutes
Servings: 8 bars
recipe by fat pig in the market
The following photo collection is subtitled: Cameo Appearances by Apron Strings. Persistence pays off when you’re trying to get on camera.
Every July when the ninth crept close my mother would say, “I was born in July that’s why I’m a firecracker.”
Maybe she still is. I don’t know. I haven’t seen my mother for over two decades though she is alive.
Sometimes in the early days of July, the days leading up to her birthday, I am wordless.
How do you define what is lost to you when you never really had it to begin with? I have absence, ache, an idea of what we should have had. But really…it’s just an idea that never happened, untenable as a shadow traveling along a cracked plaster wall.
I think of simple things. I remember my mother teaching me how to measure dry ingredients; how to understand and interpret a recipe.
We can’t find each other and likely never will. But I think of her on Mother’s Day. I think of her in July when firecrackers are about to get set off.
I think of my mother in summer when the sun heats my thin skin. I get red at first but never burn. I imagine that’s because we’re partly red (mom said we’re half Cherokee) though my actual blood mix is a recipe I don’t know. Like the measurements in many of mom’s sacred recipes…fiction and truth got mixed.
Mom, I wish so many wishes when I think of you: candles stuck sloppily into cake. They burn, drip, cast shadows on uneven walls. Your silhouette flickers quickly. Then you’re out.
Mom. Bees visit the pink cosmos in my urban, container garden. I don’t have your magical green thumb but I do allright.
I cook. I write about it. I take photos that are occasionally decent. And I think of you when I cook something awesome. I give recipes freely but I think it’s charming and hilarious that you gave out slightly effed-up recipes. You never wanted anyone to do it as well as you did.
Meet me here in flour, butter, salt.
I am always, in some odd way, yours. No-one can take that from us. Not even you.
Firecracker…happy birthday. I send you my heart with no return address. I hope you feel it. I hope you feel love.
Vanilla bean meet sugar. In two weeks these sweet crystals will be smoldering with fragrant, rich vanilla.
This is an uncomplicated and happy union.
I’m a fan of fresh vanilla beans. I’ve said this here before: if you haven’t split open a fresh vanilla bean pod and inhaled that first heady waft of rich vanilla…then maybe put it on your bucket list. This is a simple, rewarding pleasure.
Vanilla Sugar takes about 6 minutes to make. Plus two weeks. You’re supposed to wait till the sugar and the vanilla beans and pods get super into each other and go steady. I can’t say I’ve always waited that long to start adding a little Vanilla Sugar to my morning cortados. That just wouldn’t be true.
Sprinkle it on fresh berries. Festoon some cookie dough with Vanilla Sugar just before baking. Use it to sweeten and vanilla-fy your coffee, tea, whatnot. Add a spoonful to a savory sauce to add sweet balance.
Vanilla Sugar can be stored in an airtight container. I like to give it a shake or open the container up and stir the sugar a bit every once in a while during the two weeks of steeping.
This also gives you an opportunity to snitch a bit for your coffee or berries or something if you’re that sort of person. In which case…you’re the right kind of sinner, sugar taker. And if you need a musical interlude those highlighted words will take you there. Invincible winner.
I’m storing my nyc stash of Vanilla Sugar in a small jar that once held jam homemade by my friend, John. I decided that this, too, is a heavenly jam. And I like seeing his handwriting. I’m sentimental like that sometimes.
Here’s the recipe:
fat pig in the market…oink!
Recipe: Vanilla Sugar
Summary:Sugar mixed with fresh vanilla beans and pods then allowed to acclimate till they go steady makes a fragrant, rich sweetener.
one whole vanilla bean
one cup sugar
Pour the sugar into a small mixing bowl.
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a paring knife
Using the tip of the knife scrape the tiny, black vanilla beans from each pod into the sugar.
Whisk the sugar with a fork or small whisk to get the beans broken apart and mixed into the sugar.
*vanilla beans are sticky and like to clump. I rub the stubborn clumps between my fingers with a little sugar. They will separate as they begin to stick to the sugar crystals.
Throw the scraped pods into the sugar as well.
Store in an airtight container.
The sugar and vanilla should be totally into each other in about two weeks.
Use to sweeten drinks, sauces or sprinkle on cookies or berries.
Breathe that beautiful vanilla aroma in and enjoy!
Preparation time: 6 minutes
Cooking time: o minutes
Waiting time: 2 weeks or as long as you can hold out
I researched the oink out of hotels in Barcelona. I wanted to stay somewhere off the tourist-beaten paths and within walking distance to neighborhoods I planned to wander.
I wanted a nice place but I didn’t want to spend more than $200/night…unless it was so fabulous that somehow it was worth it. And then I’d probably be a lotto winner. I already feel like I won the lottery. I’ve wanted to visit this city, Barcelona, since I was a kid. And I haven’t been a kid for many moons.
I dreamed of having desayuno (that’s breakfast in español…yo) at a local neighborhood cafe, sipping perfect cortados and eating flakey, buttery cruasans (croissants).
I seriously wanted a balcony or, in dreamy optimistic moments, a terrace. Or at least a rocking view. And free Wi-Fi internet connection because Wi-Fi should be free. Unfetter the Wi-Fi, world.
The idea of having a little kitchen to make snacks in and a living area to chill in during siesta hours appealed in that what’s-it-like-to-live-here way. Laundry would be a big bonus because we wouldn’t have to bring so many socks and such. I like to travel light because I like to enjoy getting there. You know?
Also I’m an outfit repeater. If I like an ensemble I’m gonna wearing the samhell out of it. More on that another time along with my amazing how-to-pack-light method which involves lists and charts.
We ended up with all of those details and more at Eric Vökel BCN Suites. Steady yourself. for my unsolicited review. We scored a sleek kitchenette stocked with pots, pans, utensils, glasses, plates and such. Plus there was a dishwasher and basic cleaning supplies.
Laundry! Kinda noisy and sorta slow combo washer/dryer that did a good job. Laundry!
Dining, living, chillaxing area with television and a cool airplane mural on one wall. Free Wi-Fi. Unfettered.
Front terrace. Boom.
Charming view. Boom shakalaka.
And these bricks that I got kinda obsessed with.
I’m still swooning over the pattern they created and peekaboo city views framed in their cut-out circles. I love that these geometric brick beauties made a cool privacy wall on the back terrace.
You can glimpse the mosaic headboard in the simple but ample bedroom through the sliding door. By the way…that’s outdoor space number two: the lounging terrace. And it has four lounge chairs for your best siesta impressions. Boom. Cymbal crash. Jazz hands. And a flirty breeze up your floaty stripey, savvy-traveler dress.
I loved this penthouse one bedroom suite at Eric Vökel BCN Suites. It’s on a quiet side street. The neighborhood has pretty little places to eat, convenient markets, local restaurants and Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia. It’s walking distance to the Eixample, Gràcia and Las Ramblas neighborhoods.
Here are the only things I would change: fluffy towels would be nice. The ones they have are fine but they definitely ain’t fluffy. Comfier bed would rock. The bed was okay. Great headboard. But I was amped when I reentered the dreamworld atop a pillow-topped mattress on my stop through London.
Eric Vökel BCN Suites has a clean, modern decor and sweet city views, laundry (!) and two terraces. Two terraces. Do I need to do more jazz hands to convince you? Because I will.
Oh…and desayuno was covered by these vouchers because of a deal the hotel was offering when I booked. I adored this cafe, La Parra. And it was right around the corner from the hotel.
I want to be sitting at La Parra savoring a cortado or sipping a glass of house-made wine now. Beam me up, Barcelona!
Cleaning service, once every 5 days, is included at the BCN Suites and you can schedule additional cleaning days if desired. I liked that aspect of this hotel because it’s less wasteful. And I don’t mind making my own bed.
Friendly, helpful clerks man the lobby during daytime hours at Eric Vökel BCN Suites so we also had some hotel-esque help if we needed it. They even stopped us one morning to greet us and let us know they were happy to offer directions or make reservations for us. Very cool.
Oink, Eric Vökel. I dig what you do.
*Photos in this post link to the locations where I shot them and to the store where I got my savvy traveler dress. Click on them. Have a cyber-travel moment. Here are the main links one more time in word form: