The final puzzle party . . . and the food that helped solve it

Unfinished puzzle

Jeffrey bought a puzzle last year. Actually, it’s not a puzzle. It is a giant beautiful beast of confusion and headache parading around in the form of a puzzle. It is Baffler #1000, also known as “The Test,” created by an artist known as Chris Yates.

We started throwing Puzzle Parties at my house after Jeffrey first bought the puzzle, since we knew it would be much more fun to have lots of people attacking the puzzle versus just one or two. (More like one – I wasn’t particularly helpful in the beginning after looking at the giant pile of 1200+ puzzle pieces with no easily discernible pattern staring back at me).

We held a total of five puzzle parties. The above photo is from Puzzle Party #4, where we almost (almost!) finished it. We threw the final Puzzle Party this past Saturday, where we finally finished “The Test” (and celebrated with champagne!) and enjoyed some tasty food along the way.

And so I present: the menu for Puzzle Party #5, THE FINAL!

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On RSS and the “dying” of Really Simple Syndication

I love RSS. I love my Google Reader. I use it religiously. I subscribe to way too many blogs and websites, because I can. I can add all the subscriptions I want, quickly scan my feed to see what piques my interest, and read as much or as little as I want and “mark all as read” as necessary. I visit a lot of sites and discover many new ones as a result.

I star entries frequently (especially recipes that I want to try), and also search my feeds for certain topics and ingredients (which I can do so, easily, because I categorize my feeds). I find this infinitely easier than bookmarking, especially since I’m dealing with a high number of sites and individual entries.

There have been a whole mess of articles lately about how RSS is “dying,” Facebook and Twitter are “killing” RSS, etc. The latest in a long string comes via TechCrunch, and the writers/editors recently got into an “RSS War” on Twitter with Dave Winer, who apparently pioneered the development of RSS.

As Jeffrey pointed out to me, the implementation and use of RSS is simple enough (no pun intended) that it won’t necessarily just go away. And pretty much all publishing software (such as WordPress) will provide feeds automatically, so the option will always be there. So hopefully there’s no need to really fear a dramatic death of RSS, the day when all feed readers just stop existing (like birds falling out of the sky).

What bothers me the most about all this is how this decline in RSS use will affect the design of RSS entries. Website developers have the option to configure RSS so that the content displays a certain way when a new entry pops up in a reader. Sometimes the entire post is displayed, so the user can read all the content at once; and sometimes the post is truncated, so only some of the content is posted and the user has to click through to the site to get the rest of the information.

I have no problem with truncated RSS posts, especially when so many sites rely on page views for a number of reasons. I do have a problem when truncated posts look like crap and fail to give the user anything useful.

I subscribe to some SF Weekly blogs, but this bugs me:

SF Foodie RSS

Just a sentence or two more would provide the user with a more comprehensive idea of what the post is about and encourage a more worthwhile reading experience.

On the contrary, Smitten Kitchen utilizes a really good RSS compromise by displaying a few paragraphs and photos in each entry, before requiring the user to click through to the actual site to see the actual recipe:

Smitten Kitchen RSS

Overall, I just hope that people continue to do the basic development work for RSS, despite the fact that user numbers are down. There’s also reason to believe that RSS will make a comeback, especially if Facebook and Twitter feeds become too saturated. Who knows?

Surgery cake

I think undergoing surgery calls for cake. Don’t you?

Yogurt cake

I hereby declare this as a new rule: you undergo surgery, you get cake.

I’ve had this Simple Yogurt Cake recipe via Pinch My Salt starred in my Google Reader for quite some time, so I decided to go for it. Jeffrey had follow-up surgery on his shoulder/arm today (he broke his arm last March when he was hit by a car whilst riding his bike), so an easy, comforting cake sounded just perfect for the occasion. Also, I’m mildly obsessed with my bundt pan and am always looking for another excuse to bake with it.

The recipe is so easy. I used yellow cake mix instead of white, and vanilla yogurt instead of plain, and I added about a half cup or so of chocolate chips. Tasty.

Yogurt cake

Birthday brunch 2010

Lemon blueberry bundt cake

As a preemptive birthday celebration (my actual birthday is the 18th), I threw myself a birthday brunch this past Saturday. With the invaluable help from my boyfriend and roommates, an amazing feast was put together and thoroughly enjoyed by all. And I do mean thoroughly – my good friend Curt, a bit of an amateur chef, had to go home and take a nap before going to work because he stuffed himself silly. I was quite proud of that.

Here’s the menu from Saturday:

Lemon-blueberry crumb bundt cake: One of the best things I’ve ever made. So so good. My roommate put together real whipping cream (that she whipped herself, no electric beaters involved), which was a perfect accomplice in the indulgent brunch dessert mayhem.

Asparagus frittata: Frittata in a bundt pan made with really good cheese! I neglected to include the melted cheese/scallion topping, but it was great nonetheless.

Caramelized bacon twists: I’ll leave it at that.

Cheese-scallion drop biscuits: I used cheddar instead of blue cheese. I snuck one of these before the guests arrived because the smell was so irresistible.

Make-ahead muffin melts: Easy, popular, and we had leftover filling to enjoy the next day.

“Overnight” cinnamon rolls: It was tough to really tell, but these seemed like the biggest hit of the party. People were practically fighting over the scraps.

Spinach-cheese strata: Wow yum oh my goodness so good.

Maple-olive oil granola: My all-time favorite granola.

Fresh pineapple poached in cinnamon syrup: Oddly, these were the least popular – not because the pineapple wasn’t tasty (because it was), but because people didn’t necessarily know what to do with it, perhaps.

Almost every dish was made the night before, or whipped up quickly in the morning. It took a little bit of planning and a whole lot of dish washing, but it was entirely worth it. We also had Dynamo donuts, fruit salad, various food items and drinks that people brought (thank you!!) and enough mimosas and Bloody Marys to sink a ship, or make a ship happily drunk, or however you want to describe it.

It was a really great party. Thanks again to everyone involved.