Tag Archives: deliciousness

in which I make November Cakes

So I really like books. In case you’re new here.

There are many things I love about books, and many reasons I read as much as I do. I like stories. I like magic. I like imagined things. I like the feeling of being in many places at the same time, simultaneously on the train or in my bedroom but also far away in another state or country or world. I like living many lives through books.

But the real reason I read is because every once in a while, I find a book. A book that does more than just provide a few good hours of being somewhere else. Even more than just a book that makes me hold my breath or turn pages faster. It is the sort of book that takes me over. That makes me feel deeply and profoundly for people and places and things that do not exist. A book that makes me look at the world differently.

When I read books like this, the first thing I do is take several deep breaths and just bask. Then the second thing that usually happens is I feel inspired to create. Great things make me want to create something, and usually that something wants to exist in the same world as whatever book just moved me. I love people who create things based on things they love. This is why I love things like fan art. Fan fiction. Cosplay1.

And, in a new subgenre of fan culture I invented on Friday night, fan cooking.

Recently I have become thoroughly and passionately obsessed with a book called The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It is a rare and exceptional book2. You should go read it3. It was introduced to me by a colleague at the bookstore, who feels just as passionately about this book. It was her initial enthusiasm that made me pick it up, and I was not disappointed.

Now in the book, the main characters eat a lot of something called November Cakes. Though what exactly November Cakes are is never actually explained, the small details of them appear again and again until you don’t even know what it is but oh my gosh you just need one so bad!

For example:

“Finn finds my left hand, opens my fingers, and puts a November cake in my palm. It oozes honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand. It begs to be licked.”

See? How could you not want one of those immediately?

Unfortunately you can’t just go to any bakery and say, “One November Cake, please!” This is not the magical island of Thisby. So my bookstore friend and I decided to try and make them ourselves. On Friday night, we tracked down a recipe created by Stiefvater herself and we endeavored to make November cakes worthy of the Scorpio Races.

They turned out…fine.


Mostly they look like squashed brown cupcakes. Not the sort of food that begs to be licked4.

But we made them. And we ate them. And we had a wonderful time doing so5.

But what struck me most about the evening was that this one little book had inspired the creation of something else. We both feel so passionately about these people and place and food that does not exist that we had to bring this fiction into the realm of our real lives.

And honestly, that’s why I write. With the hope that someday I too will write something that, to quote another book I am obsessed with, “takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words6.”


  1. While I don’t really take part in any of these things, I love scouring the internet for them.
  2. OHMYGOSH it is SO GOOD. Not to over hype, but it is SENSATIONAL and will make you FEEL SO MANY THINGS.
  4. Though we certainly did do a lot of licking of frosting off fingers and plates.
  5. We also lit a towel on fire. But that’s a post script to the story, really.
  6. That’s Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Another good book7.
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in which December comes and goes

Every day for the past month, I have woken up with the same thought: Today will be the day I update my blog.

But that didn’t happen. December is not a great month for blogging. December’s not a great month for doing anything other than eating yourself sick and pulling your hair out over Christmas gifts.

So here’s a super quick recap of some of the things I did in December that did not involve binge eating or stress shopping:

–The MT and I explored Boston together. And let me tell you, you have not explored Boston until you have explored it with the MT.


Seriously, friends. It was a time. We committed treason (see above), skated in a cemetery, wrote on museum walls, went to a Speakeasy, ate food in weird places,  wore strange hats, and were transcendental. Among other activities.


–Flew home and celebrated Christmas with my family in Utah. Which included my mom giving us a knitted sorting hat from Harry Potter. We also got a Darth Vader voice changer mask. Not knitted.


–Blind taste tested 13 sugar cookies on a quest to find the most delicious sugar cookie in the Salt Lake Valley.


Seriously, it was a blind taste test. As in we were blind folded.


The best sugar cookie in Utah, in case you were wondering, can be found at One Smart Cookie.

–Attended a Renaissance-themed murder mystery party dressed as Shakespeare.


The  MT also came along, dressed as an Irish mercenary/Hamlet/Ronan Lynch.


–Ate at my favorite Utah restaurant, Cafe Rio, multiple times with 14, fresh from her Norwegian adventure. No picture. Because I don’t believe in taking pictures of your food.

–On that subject, I ate too much good food.


This is one of many examples. Resisting posting all of them.

–Read some great books out loud with the MT. Then made sweaters based on them, a picture of which was then retweeted by the author of said books. (MY LIFE IS NOT SUPER EXCITING, OKAY!? THESE ARE THE BIG MOMENTS OF MY LIFE!)


–Saw friends.

–Saw my dog.

–Saw my mom holding a bowl for water so my dog would be more comfortable when she drinks.


–Was given a Norwegian Christmas troll to protect me. I think he’s actually meant to cause mischief, but he loves me, and so I have trained him to be my guardian.


His name is Chainsaw.

–Was given some excellent fan art by the MT. Bonus points if you can name either of these characters. 


And I think that was December. I’m gonna be better about blogging from here on out. I made a pact with myself. I said, “Self, you should be better about blogging.” So that’s gonna happen. I’m even gonna go out of my way to do strange things that will result in good stories for the blog.

It’ll happen. Just wait. You’ll see.

Happy 2014.

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in which I feast at Redwall Abbey

Grad students are, by nature, anti-social creatures.

They can most typically be spotted in their natural habitat, the library or a quiet corner of the apartment. They are usually drinking tea, wearing a large cardigan or two, and sporting thick-rimmed glasses. You will know you are approaching the den of a grad student by the stacks of books that mark the way and the tell-tale sound of furious typing. Be careful not to startle them. They startle easy.

However, every once in a while the wild graduate student will venture out into the wide world to engage in social activities, usually with others of their kind. And usually, after engaging in said social activity, they utter the phrase, “We should do this more often.”

They don’t, but it’s worth a try.

At the beginning of the term, Milton and I made a pact to engage in more social activities for the reason above—we always have fun once we get out and do it. It’s the getting and doing that can be a challenge. So in order to fulfill that pact, this past weekend, Milton hosted a dinner party.

The theme: Redwall.

You may remember Redwall from your childhood, or the childhood of your children depending on how old you are. It was Brian Jaques’s fantasy series starring a colorful cast of mice, rats, otters, weasels and other assorted varmints wielding swords and building fortresses and, most notably, eating fantastically delicious feast. Seriously, the descriptions of food are 90% of the reason you read the Redwall books. A sample:

“Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg.”

While I don’t like rose leaves, acorns, or barley pearls, reading that made my mouth water.

So this weekend, we gathered at Milton’s apartment and made a feast to rival that of Redwall Abbey.


Main course. Complete with the very Redwallian iPad in the background.

French onion soup! Cinnamon tea scones1! Sweet potatoes and risotto! Turnip and cabbage mash! Pumpkin bread and meadow cream! And to cap it all, spiced cider and mulled wine.


Dessert! Most important part of any meal.

I ate…so much food. So much delicious food. I’m not sure how these mice aren’t all grossly obese after eating like that every day. It’s a marvel they don’t have to be rolled onto the battlefields.


  1. This was my contribution. I spent at least two hours that morning wrangling them into shape because they did not work as well as The Pioneer Woman promised they would. Mine also did not turn out half as pretty as hers. But since the primary ingredients were butter, sugar, and cream, they tasted just fine.
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in which i am alarmingly social, and eat the pizza served in heaven

I have never considered myself a social person by any stretch of the imagination. Last year, I could count my friends on one hand, and spent most nights on the couch doing homework and watching assorted trashy television programs with my roommates1. I spent almost every Saturday in various bookshops alone. The two weeks before the big move to the windy city, I was basically a book-reading hermit hunkered down in my living room, rarely emerging for anything other than diet coke.

And I anticipated my life to continue like that. I thought Chicago would just be a bigger city for me to be alone in. This summer of solitude would give me a chance to write every day, and I expected to read slathers of books in my first week alone.

But since arriving here, I have not picked up a book, and my half-written novel is exactly where I left it months ago. Because I have been busy. And not just like work busy. Social busy.

Which is weird.

Last night, I went out with an eclectic group of people with only one big thing in common – we were all Mormons. It should be noted that the YSA community here is amazing. They do more stuff together than any other branch I have been in, and it is mostly stuff outside of and unrelated to church that people organize and then send out a blanket invitation to. This particular activity was organized by Iowa and me. We went to Millennium Park2 for their free concerts in the park series, meaning I spent about an hour lying in the grass at the most beautiful outdoor theater I have ever seen, with a full orchestra and choir singing to the city, and people around me drinking wine and eating cheese. It was, in all, rather blissful.

Said blissful concert was followed by my very first taste of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, at the legne3dary Giordano’s Pizzeria. The place was hopping. There were people spilling out of the doors and into the plaza waiting for a table, and since our group was kind of large, we had to wait an hour. Which was fine.

Because the pizza….oh the pizza. It was the kind of pizza that ruins all other pizzas for you. The kind of pizza that makes you never want to brush your teeth again unless it’s with a toothbrush made of that pizza. The kind of pizza that you want to take home to meet your parents, buy a nice little place in the upper east side, and then start a life with.

I cannot emphasize how much I liked this pizza4.

Afterwards, with pizza sitting like rocks in our stomachs5, we ventured out onto the streets of Chicago. As twilight fell, we walked along the river, and then out on to the harbor of the lake, looking out towards the Pier with a fleet of yachts and sailboats speckling the dark water around us.

As we passed a lakeside restaurant where a jazz ensemble was playing, I turned around to behold a skyline dipped in starlight, framed by the river and luminous against the midnight sky. The only words that came to my mind were breathtaking and happiness.

And my uncharacteristically social weekend does not end there, friends. This morning, I saw the city bathed in rosy sunlight and sweating beneath the humidity, as my friend Ms. Bennet and I took a water taxi south6 to Chinatown, where we found an eccentric collection of bookstores, herbalists, and seedy restaurants. We ended up eating some of the best Chinese food I have ever had, with fresh shrimp that set off fireworks of flavor in my mouth, and sesame chicken so delicious it was like Christmas in your mouth. Meat and teriyaki Christmas. We drank honeydew smoothies, talked about books, and I convinced myself I didn’t need another ten dollar scarf.

This city is made of awesome. I am constantly amazed by its complexity, by the layers of people that inhabit it, and the spheres in which they dwell, all at once different and the same. This is a city that moves and lives, with so much to see and do that you could live here your whole life and never do it all7.

Last night, as we walked along the lake, I thought to myself, how lovely it would be to fall in love in this city. To write novels and plays and poetry on park benches in the summer, to drink tea and watch the leaves fall from a café window. To make music on the streets of this city, songs rising above the crashing trains, to paint this city in its every incarnation, and then decorate your walls with renderings of its architecture. How wondrous to pass nights meandering along the harbor and watching sunset bow to moonbeam as night soundlessly falls.

And how lovely it is to be young in this city, to be reckless, and wild. To be able to eat pizza until you can’t move. To stay out later than the stars and fireworks, to race the moon across the sky. To be young and untethered, with a misty future before you, about which nothing is certain except that it is bright.

Chicago, how I love thee. Don’t ever change.

On an unrelated note, at the end of the night, heavy with pizza and happiness, Iowa turned to me and said, “So are you going to write about this on your blog?”

Guys….Iowa reads the blog.


  1. AKA the friends I could count on one hand.
  2. Home of the giant mirrored bean!
  3. Wait for it.
  4. Those of you who followed my blog when I was in England will remember I have a thing for good food. For those of you just joining us, here’s a little fun fact about me: I love food. I write about food a lot. Prepare yourself.
  5. Warm, delicious, pizza flavored rocks
  6. I think it was south. Maybe not, but I’m going to say south because it sounds better than “In a direction that was not towards the lake or my apartment.”
  7. True to form, I am already having tremendous anxiety about doing everything I want to before I go.
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