Three from Hawkins

Treacherous footing on icy terrain with wind and sub-freezing temperatures, but a beautiful day nonetheless. 7.5 miles, 2200 feet elevation gain, high point 8850 feet.

Pacific Crest Trail between Windy Gap and Hawkins
Pacific Crest Trail between Windy Gap and Hawkins.

The hike starts from Islip Saddle and follows the PCT past Little Jimmy Trail Campground, to Windy Gap, and through the burn area of the 2002 Curve Fire. A number of trails converge on Windy Gap, with possibilities for further hiking down towards Crystal Lake. Mount Hawkins is a short ascent from the trail.

View of Mount Baldy from Middle Hawkins
View of Pine Mountain, Dawson Peak, and Mount Baldy from Middle Hawkins

It may be true that we in fact did Middle Hawkins rather than Hawkins proper, after taking a wrong turn along Hawkins ridge, which would mean more mileage but a smidge less vertical gain than the listed stats. Whatever the peak, the summit greeted us with clear views of LA and the Pacific Ocean beyond, as well as the higher mountains to the east.

Sunlight glinting on the Pacific Ocean
Sunlight glinting off the Pacific Ocean

Bavarian Bread Dumplings (Bayrische Semmelknödel)

Posting a recipe on this blog is a first, but this side dish defines my childhood. It’s not always easy growing up in an insular Southern town when you have an impossible last name and are sent to school with liverwurst sandwiches (on Wonder bread). However, my belief in the awesomeness of Bavarian bread dumplings was always unshakable. This is the recipe my mother followed, out of a mustard-colored 1965 edition of The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton.

2015-12-26 08.14.09

Bavarian Bread Dumplings (Bayrische Semmelknödel)

  • Servings: 10-12 dumplings
  • Difficulty: I only bother on holidays
  • Print

  • 10 to 12 slices stale bread, or 8 stale rolls (about the size of Parker House rolls), with crusts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups lukewarm milk
  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • eggs
  • breadcrumbs, if needed

Cut bread or rolls, with crusts, into small pieces, put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Pour lukewarm milk over bread and let soak for about an hour. If there is excess milk in bowl after that time, pour it off. Fry bacon in skillet with chopped onion until bacon is almost crisp and onion in soft and golden. Toss in parsley and marjoram and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add bacon, onion, and herbs to bread mixture. Mix eggs in thoroughly. If dumpling batter is too soft to form, add breadcrumbs, a tablespoon at a time, until batter is firm enough. With wet hands or two wet tablespoons, form a test dumpling. Drop into boiling salted water. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.


  • Cook your test dumpling before you shape the rest of your batter so that you can make adjustments. If the dumpling falls apart, add more basic raw starch or egg yolk. If it is too heavy, add more liquid, cooked ingredients, or egg white.
  • Knead or mix dough thoroughly so that it becomes smooth enough to handle.
  • Do not cook too many dumplings at one time. There must be room for all of them to rise to the surface of the cooking liquid.
  • The batter can be made several hours ahead of time and refrigerated until use.
  • Other herbs may be substituted for the marjoram. The original recipe calls for 1 tbsp parsley, which I found to be too little.

Bavarian bread dumplings pair well with meats and gravy. My mother would serve them as an alternative to stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner.

My father and his mother, Perlacher Str., Munich
My father and his mother, Perlacher Str., Munich
My aunt Marlene, grandmother, and father
My aunt Marlene, grandmother, and father


You haven’t watched Bob’s Burgers? Well now is the time to start. And the place to start is with Tina Belcher, the awkward Belcher child obsessed with horses, butts, erotic friend fiction, who groans when she gets overwhelmed but is the goddamn heart of the family and the show.

From “The Unnatural”

I think my subconscious fears and my budding sexuality are getting all mixed up … So I think I’m being attacked by zombies and I start screaming, ‘Do you want to make out?’ And I make out with it.”

As prompted by a conversation with friends last night, I present you a list of
Recommended Episodes:

“Bad Tina” – Season 2, Episode 8

“The Equestranauts,” Season 4, Episode 17

“The Belchies” – Season 2, Episode 14

“Mother Daughter Laser Razor” – Season 3, Episode 4

“Boyz 4 Now” – Season 3, Episode 21

“Topsy” – Season 3, Episode 16

“Crawl Space” – Season 1, Episode 2

“Food Truckin” – Season 2, Episode 5

“Two For Tina” – Season 3, Episode 17

Did I forget one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

As a longtime Home Movies fan, I’m also delighted that Bob’s Burgers brings together again creator Loren Bouchard and voice actor H. Jon Benjamin, not to mention Walter and Perry reincarnated as Andy and Ollie.

2015 Wrap-up

I’ve been a little distracted this year with the academic job market. The short version is that I have a great job lined up, in a place where I want to live. If you’re in the Bay Area, feel free to start inviting me to all the fun things in 2016.


For fiction, I had one story published in two anthologies! My story “Outliers” appeared in Press Start to Play (video games) and Loosed Upon the World (climate change). Unsurprisingly, given its bibliographic history, the story is about video gamification of global climate modeling. I am, as always, deep in the drafting of a new novel. To put the icing on 2015, a short fiction sale squeaked in a couple of days ago that I’m excited to tell you about.

My travels took me to the Pacific Northwest (Rainforest Writers Village), Texas (Paradise Lost Writing Workshop), and New England, among others. Closer to home, I hiked in the San Gabriel Mountains, and I will gush about CicLAvia at the slightest opportunity. LA has grown on me.

Happy new year to you and yours. May you find peace in your work, and acceptance that defeats are as ephemeral as success.

Books read in 2015

This is always one of my favorite posts of the year. I get to reminisce about stories I loved and put together a pretty gallery of book covers. It’s the best! This year I jumped the gun with a mid-year edition; I was so excited by interstitial, layered cities that I couldn’t help but enthuse over City of Stairs and The City & the City, and no I’m not just thoughtlessly lumping together all non-conventional fantasy as Mievillian (who I never got until The City & the City, which apparently he wrote to satisfy his mother’s more mainstream reading tastes). I also continue to dig the Craft Sequence with the second installation, Two Serpents Rise.

Another noteworthy fantasy novel was Uprooted. Novik absolutely excels at evoking both wonder and comfort in her tales, and creating characters that I want to be best friends with. Uprooted is high fantasy in the vein of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. It’s the story of Agnieszka, a village girl sent to be the servant of the Dragon (not that kind of dragon) for ten years. There’s romance and magic and war and deep dark woods and unshakable female friendships. Really lovely.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, on the other hand, completely gutted me. It’s not speculative at all. I don’t want to say much because things get spoilery, fast. But I sobbed–so much so that I’m looking for recommendations for my next Karen Joy Fowler novel.

On the darker side, I tore through Vicious, a sort of literary super-villain story about two bright university students, best friends, and to-be nemeses, Victor and Eli, who unlock the secret of becoming ExtraOrdinary. And from the first to last page of The Library at Mount Char, I was impressed and intrigued by its weirdness, inventiveness, and dark humor. The novel is about a secret library in which twelve children are raised and instructed in the mysteries of this universe and others by a man they call Father. Each child has their own specialty, or catalogue, and each student is twisted by their studies. Think an American cult version of Hogwarts.

In the world of science fiction: Seveneves. I can’t recommend this book, because it’s authored by Neal Stephenson and is accordingly thick with “techposition” and big ideas and won’t be to everyone’s taste. There was a period in the second third when it was easy for me to put down. I was traveling a lot. The book is huge, taking up a lot of luggage space, unwieldy on planes (don’t even attempt beverage service). But in the end I can’t even fault the slow bits because it was part of the Epic. All you need to know going in is that the moon explodes.

A book I can recommend without reservation is Ancillary Sword. I was hesitant to pick this up, because I was so fond of Ancillary Justice and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. Ann Leckie is so, so good, and Ancillary Sword is a marvelous follow-up to a brilliant debut novel. Which reminds me that I really should begin Ancillary Mercy right this instant. Perhaps I can squeak it in this month and update my 2015 reading list.

I’m terrible at keeping track of my short fiction reading, but I enjoyed everything Sam J. Miller wrote, and Amal El-Mohtar’s “Madeleine” also stuck with me.

What were your favorite reads this year?