On your marks, get set…



“Nothing tortures you like what could have been…
But I don’t know anything about you anymore.”

-Robyn Hitchcock, “Harry’s Song”

Sometimes things that start as fun end up being agony. They may even start out with a bit of agony, but if you have a bent toward self-torture, as I sometimes do, you stick with these things through the agony just because you feel you have to see it through to ask, “Can this get any worse?” In the midst of the moments of unhappiness punctuating everything, the agony is unfelt. Later, the agony of the moment is suddenly remembered and felt acutely.

I feel a great need for silence and solitude, but some part of me is not content with that. Disturbing this silence willingly, I spontaneously jumped up and traveled away from my quiet refuge to do the very opposite of what my nature dictates. So far, so good. I want to ring in the new year going against the grain.

While I often do feel uncomfortable in large crowds, in noisy surroundings, I imagine that there are times when I take the shortcut – that is, shutting everyone and everything out – and in turn shortchange myself. I imagine I have always been this way – my mother tells me that even as a baby, I liked to be surrounded by people and activity but I did not want to be a part of it. I wanted to observe it, doing my own thing. This has not changed. I look back and also realize that my multitasking, impatient nature has also shortchanged me. I recall activities I did in second grade (when I was 7) that I hurried through as fast as possible because I wanted the sensation of being finished. It was for this reason that a puzzle-building activity I completed was sloppy and my handwriting was the most dismal thing in the world. This continued all through my education, from reading the entire seventh grade social studies text within the first week of school and completing all the assignments that same week, to rushing through my BA degree in 2.5 years instead of 4. From the earliest moments, I felt this need to rush through things, devour more things – and I now think I was, as I still am, running away from something. But what was I running toward?

It is not as though the road I took was “the easy way” – in fact, in many cases, it was much harder than if I had plodded along slowly, at a normal pace.

All these years, I made many decisions and have landed somewhere where I am basically content. At least I was before 2013. I think 2013 has been the worst year I can remember having. After the useless and painful parts of 2013, I can only hope that 2014 will be a better year – for me, and for everyone.

Happy new year!

Social media fanatic?


I don’t consider myself to be a social media fanatic, but when I compare my level of activity to that of everyone else, I guess I am pretty active.

But it was almost comical when my colleague sent me an email asking if I made the top-three list of marketers on LinkedIn (within Sweden) for 2013. He asked whether it’s the baking that elevated me there (did he mean that I post baking-related stuff on LinkedIn or that I bribed people with cake? Haha).

Why I Changed My Mind: Kim Dickens


Every day some random thing pops into my mind – a person, a tv show, a movie, a flavor. And I realize that I have changed my mind about it, one way or the other.

Watching the bittersweet ending of Treme, I was hit again by the revelation that I have gone from hating to loving the performances of Kim Dickens.

I used to hate the actress Kim Dickens to the point that when I knew she was in a movie, it would discourage me from watching it. There was something nagging and annoying about her back in the late 1990s – not sure what exactly she was in that I would have wanted to see (Truth or Consequences, N.M.? Mercury Rising? Hollow Man?). I saw these and other things and was always disappointed to see her on the screen (or her name in the opening credits).

When did this start to change? I remember when she showed up in Deadwood, feeling that sinking disappointment but then slowly coming around to her performance as Joanie Stubbs, whorehouse madame.

Next, when she showed up in Friday Night Lights, I remained skeptical but she won me over in much the same way as her character won over her estranged son, Matt Saracen.

Kim Dickens finally won me over completely as Janette Desautel in the sauntering, ever-underrated drama Treme.

The cherry on top is her performance as yet another escort-service proprietor, Colette, in Sons of Anarchy.

Somehow she has grown into herself to offer an elegant, intelligent screen presence.

Considered, reconsidered – Kim Dickens is proof that some things get much, much better with age.

Mysteries of Foreign Kitchens – Onion focaccia bread, take two


When I travel and stay in the homes of friends, I do enjoy continuing my baking obsession in their kitchens, but navigating foreign kitchens (and by foreign I mean both foreign in the sense that they are in other countries and in the sense that they are unknown to me) is a challenge. Very few people are as well-equipped as I am for baking activities, so baking in strange kitchens is always an adventure in improvisation.

An alleged attempt at onion focaccia bread

An alleged attempt at onion focaccia bread

Once in Berlin I tried to make Anzac biscuits without access to brown sugar or golden syrup (and was making them with someone who was not eating sugar anyway). We went with honey and imitation sugar. He also had a wonky oven and nothing resembling baking sheets.

Most people (especially men) don’t even have mixers, so it’s all about stirring by hand.

Today’s retread of a baking adventure – onion focaccia bread. I made this last week (where the pic comes from) and am trying it again in unfamiliar environs. We’ll see how it goes.

Onion focaccia bread recipe
Bread dough

3 cups bread flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ tablespoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water

Sift all dry ingredients together (try this in a kitchen without a sifter or something similar!). Add the oil and warm water, stir to make a dough. If the dough is a bit too dry, as mine was, add a very small amount of water.

Knead the dough for ten minutes on a lightly floured surface until you have a smooth, stretchy dough. Place the dough in a clean, well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot and let rise until the dough is doubled. (This was a challenge because I’m in a house that has basically one bowl total.)

When dough has doubled (this took about 45 minutes for me), roll it out to a 25cm/10 inch round size and place in an appropriate pan. At home I used a 10-inch cast iron pan. Here there is no such pan so I am just baking it on a flat pan.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the cover, make deep holes in the dough, about 2.5cm/1 inch apart. Cover again and let rise for 20 minutes.

When it has risen, scatter with the onions, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the sea salt (ingredients as listed in the “topping” items below. Not to be confused with “toppins” cast aside at a Pizza Hut and eaten by homeless Vietnam veterans living in cardboard boxes). Sprinkle a small amount of cold water on top to keep a crust from forming. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

1 red onion, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon coarse sea salt