Published

NOW v4: Big personal news, frustrations about current events, a tiny bit of hope

Updated my Now page, contents below for posterity. This one contains probably the biggest news in my personal life since we moved. 🐣 Fewer emojis in this update because it just feels too casual considering the somber state of things right now.


It’s late February 2021. We’re coming up on a year since we hastily moved out of our flat in London a week+ early to avoid getting stuck in top-tier pandemic 🦠 lockdown without a home.

Personally, these past few months have looked largely the same as every other month since early 2020. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate throughout in that every sticky situation caused by the pandemic or current events has turned out alright. Sometimes this has been down to luck or timing, but more truthfully, it is directly related to the privilege of having very supportive family, friends, and collaborators.

Of course it’s been just more chaos in the wider news. Since my last Now update there was the election in November 🗳, an astronomical spike in Covid cases and deaths tied to winter holiday travel and celebrations, then the Capitol insurrection in January followed by a pared-back, pandemic-appropriate presidential inauguration. There was the very recent terrible freeze in Texas which resulted from a catastrophic combination of extreme weather and exceptional incompetence on the part of state legislators and the Texas Public Utilities Commission. How can we blame wind turbines freezing when people in Arctic territories manage to keep theirs running smoothly? And how did state regulators not see this coming considering the 2011 federal report explicitly recommending winterization efforts? Friends in Austin reported being without power for over 50 hours, indoor temperatures around 48F or below. Many Texans lost their homes or lives, a child in Conroe died of suspected hypothermia in bed next to his three-year-old stepbrother. The US coronavirus death toll just passed half a million. And all of these headlines are from the US alone.

But the vaccine 💉 distribution also started towards the end of last year, and the curve is dropping. Even though there’s some uncertainty surrounding the vaccines’ efficacy, particularly in preventing transmission or against new virus strains, even though there have been problems with efficient distribution, it still gives me a bit of hope. It’s a drop in the bucket when you consider all of the broader problems, but it’s something. Sam’s parents got the jabs a while back, then my grandpa, then my parents. I should be eligible for the vaccine in less than a month according to California’s current schedule.

The reason I’m eligible so soon is that we’re expecting. Some very happy personal news. 🙂

Perhaps it’s an odd time to have a baby, but it’s not like we’ll be disrupting a busy social calendar. They’re due to arrive this summer, possibly right around when we can start seeing people again. At least I really hope.

Navigating self employment and maternity leave has been interesting. I plan to get back to work when I can, I really like what I do and the people I get to work with. And it’s going to be very stressful not earning for a bit! But I’m under no illusions that it will be easy and am planning to take a solid few months completely off. Will probably have to find childcare ASAP, which I hear is a tortuous and expensive undertaking in SF… Talking to friends and collaborators that have been through this has been essential. It’s reinforced my feeling that planning and flexibility are two sides of the same coin. The unknown aspect of it (did you know that only roughly 5% of babies come on their due date?) makes it a little difficult to figure certain things out, but we’ll get there.

Work-wise 👩🏻‍💻 I’m currently focusing on wrapping up big preexisting projects before my maternity leave and fitting in maintenance work to pre-empt requests that otherwise might have arisen while I’m out for a few months.

My bigger projects include: working with Nick Sherman to add some exciting functionality to the super-useful Variable Fonts website; developing a new site for Danish art 🎨 school Det Jyske Kunstakademi designed by Sara De Bondt studio; helping out long-term collaborators Corridor8 with some major website improvements; developing a website designed by John Morgan studio for a major London-based gallery 🖼 including the automated migration of over 4000 entries; developing a new website for Gort Scott Architects designed by Polimekanos. I’m still collaborating with Bec Worth on the WIP 🚧 open-source WordPress theme that powers this website, though that project has been dormant for a bit due to maternity leave prep busy-ness.

I’m still offering free 30-minute open office hours sessions on Wednesday mornings Pacific Time for anyone that has web-related questions, but am now just using email to schedule this. Dropped Calendly for scheduling since it felt like unnecessary admin. My most recent sessions included walking someone through how I worked with the Are.na API on Gemma Copeland’s site and discussing how best to make content adjustments to a personal site for SEO purposes with a lovely former collaborator who is embarking on some exciting new personal projects.

Limited free time at the moment is mostly taken up by mindlessly watching feel-good shows like The Repair Shop and Taskmaster, and by anxiety-driven research. That all needs to change. Some of the research has been dedicated to wrapping my head around the blockchain and NFTs since so many of my colleagues are now jazzed about it despite prior misgivings. But most of the research is made up of learning more about what on earth having a kid is supposed to entail in 2021 and beyond. If anyone has tips on teaching kids about social media safety let me know, I’m already worried.

Besides that, I’m still contributing to the Feminist Open Source Investigations Group. Cooking and baking 🍲 used to be my main pandemic pastimes but that fell seriously by the wayside due to first trimester woes. I did successfully bake my MIL’s top-notch lemon drizzle cake 🍋 recently, which was a big win. Sam and I have been doing a little more walking and exploring outdoors, not enough. And we just started making some furniture based on Rietveld’s crate designs. More on this to come soon. I haven’t kept up with my anti-racism reading recently, nor other reading, so need to revisit the reading list 📚 I set for myself a while back. And I need to make more effort to make IRL friends in the SF Bay Area. I put it on the back burner since lockdown measures combined with being extra-cautious due to pregnancy made seeing people in person seem unfeasible. But that is changing as numbers go down. Have had a lot of luck reaching out to people on Twitter though, every one of those digital encounters has been really nice. Still looking for a new choir 🎵 in the Bay Area, though I’m not expecting to find anything that rivals Musarc in terms of breadth of repertoire and experimentation. We’ll see!

Am I allowed to say that things are maybe, just barely, looking up? 🤞 Don’t hold me to it, time will tell.

Published

Lemon drizzle cake

From Alison Bradley via Bernie Baldwin
Makes one 1lb loaf

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F), and line a 1lb loaf tin1.

In a large bowl, beat together 57 g (¼ c, ½ stick) softened butter2, 70 g (⅜ c + 1 T) granulated sugar, 1 large egg3, 2 T milk, a pinch of salt, and the zest of ½ lemon. Then mix in 85 g (⅔ c) self raising flour4.

Pour in to the loaf tin and bake 50 minutes at 175C (350F). In a small bowl, prepare the drizzle by mixing the juice of ½ lemon and 1½ T icing sugar. Set aside.

When done, remove the tin from oven and place it on a cooling rack. Poke holes from top of cake all the way through with a skewer, then slowly pour over the drizzle so that it soaks through. Leave to cool at least halfway, then remove the cake from the tin.


  1. I can never remember if my loaf tin is 1lb or 2lbs. The rule of thumb I now use is if it seems “normal”, sort of pound-cake-sized, it’s probably a 1lb tin. If it seems hefty, more the sort of thing you’d use to bake a nearly full-sized loaf of bread, it’s probably a 2lb tin. If you only have a 2lb loaf tin, you’ll need to double or even triple the recipe, and it will take around 10–15 minutes longer to bake. If you have two 1lb loaf tins, consider making two cakes and freezing one for later since it freezes well.
  2. The quickest way I know to soften a stick of butter (at least for a standard shape stick in the US) is to microwave it on full power with the paper on for 5 seconds on each side.
  3. Egg sizes aren’t standard across the world, so for better results, you might want to adjust how much egg you use depending on where you live. Wikipedia has a good article on egg sizes, though keep in mind that these measurements include the weight of the shell (around 8% of the egg weight, supposedly). This is a British recipe, so one large egg should be at least 63g and no more than 72g. In the US, this means that you should ideally use one very large / XL egg.
  4. If you don’t have self raising flour, add 2 t baking powder per cup of flour. Be sure to whisk them together beforehand. For the 85 g (⅔ c) flour in this recipe, it’s probably best to add 1 + 1 scant t baking powder.

Published

First Christmas at home

Dried orange ornaments on a Christmas tree

This is the first Christmas we’ve ever spent at home, not at Sam’s parents’ or mine. Both are just too far away, it wasn’t right to travel and the stress would have been unreal.

Because of that, this is the first time we’ve had a tree. We’ve accumulated ornaments over the years but they’re all packed away, so we decorated with an origami star, popcorn garland, red ribbon, and dried orange slices. Cadbury chocolate ornaments were an added bonus when a box arrived from Sam’s folks. We missed family and friends, NYE could not have been more different from last year, but it was a lovely quiet time.

We did a pretty traditional British Christmas dinner with bread sauce and Sam’s mom’s sticky toffee pudding. Also made a big batch of Cumberland sausage meat for pigs in blankets and then sausage rolls in the new year. We used this recipe for the sausage meat, but just used 20% fat minced pork instead of mincing our own. If I do it again, I’ll just buy dry toasted breadcrumbs instead of making our own. It was crazy simple though since we weren’t planning on stuffing sausage skins or anything. Would definitely make it again, though we’re trying to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating in the new year.

Published

Rosemary’s memories of SF

I was in SF 1968–1975. This was when CA was the Golden State. I always lived around Union Street. The last address was on the corner of Buchanan and Green. It was an old 4-plex. I loved that place. By now it’s probably torn down and something else is built in its place. It was on the corner. My bedroom was huge and looked over Buchanan. There was a Chinese laundry across the street on Green. Gees I can’t remember how those streets went. One of them was parallel to Union St. Anyway, I took my laundry to the Chinese laundry every week. They washed and folded it for me.

Union St was a happening street when I was there. Weekends we would go out to Tiberon to… Gees! I think it was called Sam’s? We would sit on the dock and have brunch. I always had a Ramos Fizz. I don’t know if anyone drinks them anymore.

A text from my relative and dear friend Rosemary sharing some of her memories of living in San Francisco. Looks like Sam’s is still open, we’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll channel her by making myself a Ramos Gin Fizz at home. Have to wear red lipstick for the full effect.

I struggle with dairy so might try it with either coconut cream or a lactose-free “cream”. The goal is to create a ton of foam and a super creamy consistency. Shaking techniques seem to vary, so have a look online to see what you prefer.

Ramos Gin Fizz recipe

Makes 1 drink

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 oz gin, 3 to 4 drops orange flower water, 1 large egg white, ½ oz cream, ½ oz fresh lemon juice, ½ oz fresh lime juice, and ½ oz simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about a minute, then add a lot of fresh ice and shake for at least another 30 seconds. Strain the drink in to a Collins glass. Pour 1–2 oz seltzer (soda water) down the inner edge of the shaker to loosen the froth, then pour the soda water and froth on to the drink. Garnish with a quarter of an orange wheel and mint if you’ve got it, then serve.

Published

The CD-ROM tree

Remember those free trial CD-ROMs you’d get in the mail or with a magazine? It started with AOL Online and then tons of other software providers caught on. Instead of tossing them away, my mom collected them. Around Christmas time, she’d drill holes in the top and hang them outside on the bare tree near the mailbox. I’m sure I gave her a hard time about it as a teen, but they made me smile when I got back home from school each day.

At the end of the holidays, she’d get rid of the discs that were too banged up and would keep the ornaments that still had their rainbow surface for the next season. The tree got fuller every year until the mid-2000s when they stopped arriving. Eventually the lacquer and aluminum flaked away from the remaining discs, and then the CD-ROM tree was no more.

The Internet Archive has an AOL CD-ROM collection online for anyone that wants to browse this slice of tech history.

Published

“It’s a magical kind of sadness, saying goodbye. A bit like preparing to travel again, but no longer together.”

Read Joe Hammond’s final article in the Guardian

Author Joe Hammond passed away recently at age 50 from motor neurone disease. He covers so much loss in his final article, particularly the loss of the future with his two young boys and wife.

Other losses are simpler and more incremental. Sometimes they are nothing more than adaptation and sometimes, like the loss of my voice, they are devastating. I lost my swallow very quickly. There was a three-week period when Gill made sure I had lots of really nice soups, and that was it. Food was a thing of the past. I’ve never got over that loss.

My grandpa on my dad’s side lost the ability to swallow years before he passed. When it started getting bad he could still have ice cream every once in a while, his favorite thing, and then no more. I find it almost impossible to imagine how hard that must have been, particularly for someone as social as him. He probably managed to stick around as long as he did because of my grandma. She was his college sweetheart, his always.

Published

Kołaczki recipe

This is my mom’s kołaczki [kɔˈwat͡ʂki] recipe, from her mom. I would guess that my grandma found it in the Chicago Tribune at some point. It was my absolute favourite as a kid, and my mom’s. The cookies are super light and the perfect size.


Makes about a dozen cookies if rolled to ¼” (6 mm) thick, closer to two dozen if rolled ⅛” (4 mm) thick

Let ½ c (110 g) butter and a smidge less than 3 oz (⅔ c, 80 g) cream cheese* sit at room temperature until semi-soft, then beat them together in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter. Blend in 1 c (130 g) flour until just combined. Lay out some parchment paper, drop the dough in the middle, and then press it in to a rough rectangle. Wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least an hour. If you can, stick your rolling pin in the fridge as well.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay some parchment paper out on a surface and then generously dust it with powdered sugar to prevent the dough from sticking. Remove your dough and rolling pin from the fridge. Working quickly to prevent the dough from getting too warm and sticky, roll out the dough to ⅛–¼” (4–6 mm) thick. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough if it seems to stick to the pin.

Once it is rolled out, cut out the dough with a 2″ (50 mm) diameter circle cookie cutter or cut in to 2″ (50 mm) squares and place the shapes on to the lined baking sheet. The cookies can be spaced relatively close, they rise a bit and spread only very slightly. Dab a small amount of apricot preserve on the centre of each cookie. If using the square cookie technique, fold two opposite corners in so that they slightly overlap over the preserve.

Bake at 350F (175C) for 10–12 minutes until very lightly browned. While warm, sift powdered sugar over the cookies and then let them cool on a rack.


* I have lactose issues so I tried making this with vegan cream cheese. It worked really well! The vegan cream cheese was a little less sweet than I would want for this recipe, so I replaced a tablespoon (10 g) of flour with powdered sugar. It also seems to be a bit softer than regular cream cheese, so next time I would probably add 1–3 more tablespoons of flour.

If you double or triple this recipe, separate the dough in to thirds before you refrigerate it. You can then roll it out in stages to prevent the dough from getting too warm.

Apparently you could put all sorts of fillings in this. Apricot preserve is what we always had when I was little, but this time I ended up using the gooseberry and blackcurrant jams we had on hand. More traditional fillings are poppy seed (masa makowa) and plum butter (powidla sliwkowe). The website In Ania’s Kitchen has some good recipes for these fillings.

Published

uninvited odours

My grandma on my dad’s side was a great cook and known throughout the family for her dislike of garlic. I think she was convinced that it would “come out of the pores”, that you could smell it on her if she ate it. We all thought this was preposterous. WELL. Now suddenly I’m noticing it… I think her garlic affliction has caught up with me. Was she trying to warn us about a simple fact of life for some 30+ year olds? Were we all wrong? Not enthused.