August 30, 2016

Some news items from yesterday

Every morning, I wake up and dump some contents of my brain out onto the internet. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world do the same thing. The internet is constantly growing, filled with the intangible contents of brains such as mine. It's pretty weird when you think about it.

Conde Nast TravelerFree SIM cards for tourists to India

Food & WineChinatown's new food hall

Food & WineSoba lessons here

Food & WineMassive vegetable recall

August 29, 2016

I think I need to stop using background music

...Because the music is always too loud? Maybe it's because I filmed this on my iPhone and the mic isn't super-great (that could be because I have a giant silicone cat case on my phone, I dunno).

I'm in Edinburgh! Just for a few days, though, before heading to points south. It's gorgeous here—I haven't been here since I was a little kid, see:

I'm also working on a series of video desksides (which is a media industry term for one-on-one in-office appointments brand reps make with editors and writers to present new products), and two are rolling out this week. It's a brand new thing and they're definitely a work in progress—man, is my Canon lens fish-eye-y—but I'm super excited to be experimenting, doing videos using resources I have on hand. Some of my favorite things to watch on YouTube are collabs and interviews (even super-serious nutritious ones like the panel discussions on Showstudio), so I'm really excited to play around with the discussion format a little bit, just to see how it goes.

August 26, 2016

Things I made, Friday edition

A medium-busy week overall—one of the most exciting things I did this week won't roll out until next week, so I'll keep you posted on that. Hopefully the videos turn out OK—it was a very experimental idea and they might have wound up skewing a little science-y and podcast-y, but fingers crossed the idea didn't turn out to be too inside-baseball in its execution. In the meantime, here are some things I worked on this week.

Harper's BazaarRed carpet contest finalists announced

Food & WineIndianapolis has a unique voluntary surrender scheme

Food & WineParis goes car-free

Food & WinePrince's home will become a museum

Food & WineSeries 7 of The Great British Bake Off started this week

Food & WineHow DC's politicking is hurting farmers

August 22, 2016

One of my most famous moments, thank you Gawker

In 2008, while I was still a reporter at the New York Post, I was also two years into an unpaid freelance stint as one of the "Fashion Police" peanut gallery bobble heads in the back of Us Weekly. Every couple of weeks, we'd get an email with a bunch of photo attachments of celebs wearing bad outfits—and we'd have to reply to the assigning editor with quippy one-liners, preferably no more than seven words long, describing each picture. They'd wind up picking a few and running them alongside the celeb photos in the back pages of the weekly.

On the first day of fashion week that February, I was backstage at a men's show—it might have been Duckie Brown, but I can't remember now—when I started getting texts and emails on my Blackberry (the blue one with the grey buttons and the scrolling wheel—remember those?) from people I hadn't heard from in years, like friends from college and stuff. All of them were asking: "Are you the writer Kirstie Alley is trying to get fired?" So I started to panic, thinking I'd somehow accidentally slandered Alley and was about to lose my job at the Post. Cell reception was terrible backstage (and this was before 3G, I think, so we were still on like GPRS data speed), so I couldn't Google anything on my handheld. I tried to call some friends at work, but it was 9 a.m. and no one was in yet, so I shot off a few emails and stayed at the Bryant Park tents doing my fashion week reporting—all the while pretty sure that I was about to get canned by my editor over something I didn't remember writing.

When I finally got my friend Raakhee on the phone later that morning—she and I wrote a weekly fashion column together at the paper and had sat next to each other for five years, so each of us always knew what the other was working on—she scrolled through our CMS looking for any mention of Kirstie Alley. Turns out we had never written anything about her. So I was super-confused. It wasn't until later that day, when I got back to my desk and checked Gawker that I saw what Alley and her lawyers were upset about—some random, totally un-funny off-the-cuff thing attributed to me in the back pages of Us Weekly.

In the end, nothing happened, Us Weekly wasn't bothered, and I was just super-pleased that I'd been written up by Gawker. Most. Famous. Moment. As. A. Journalist. Ever. Thank you for the good times, Gawker. I don't know what site I'll go to 15 times a day, out of sheer habit, after today.

Monday morning thoughts and some new things

We're winding down the summer, now. Every year around this time, things get really quiet in the media world—with most of Europe on vacation for at least another week. It's been blistering hot and humid in New York City for the last few weeks, so I decided to escape and booked myself out for a few weeks starting this weekend. All shall be revealed soon. In the meantime, some food stories from the last week:

Food & WineCelebs hit up their favorite chefs

Food & WineIkea's new $169 kitchen

Food & WineDonut walls are a thing now

Food & WineMcDonald's gets into wearables

August 17, 2016

Two weeks and two days into this freelance thing

Two weeks plus back in the world of full-time writing and so far so good, I think? Time to start getting my long-lead pitches in order. I also want to shoot more YouTube videos, so I'm figuring out ways to be more organized in planning them—I'm especially interested in doing fun and random talky videos with some good friends who have very specific/niche interests.

Conde Nast TravelerWhat Americans are REALLY doing with their vacation days

Conde Nast TravelerBurkinis banned in Cannes

Food & WineClick-to-buy cooking shows come to Japan

Food & WineWhy Kendall Jenner is afraid of pancakes

Food & WineThe talking food prank

August 10, 2016

The one question I always ask in job interviews

Over more than a decade of interviewing candidates for editorial jobs, I've almost always asked them this one question. Over the past few months, I started asking myself the same question. Coming to terms with my own answer has really helped shape the decisions I've made about my career.

August 08, 2016

How I get ideas

— Read everything on the internet all day long
— Watch hours of YouTube on my iPad, constantly refreshing my "Recommended" queue
— Drink black coffee, stare at the wall
— Take long showers, talk to myself
— Read Twitter in the bath
— Only watch really bad fictional films like romcoms
— Only watch documentaries (I'm obsessed with the documentaries feed on YouTube)
— Browse my bookshelf and reread the first five pages of a few different books
— Go to Whole Foods at 7 a.m.
— Read interviews with famous writers who have won literary prizes
— Read the Guardian's books section
— Go to Best Buy. There's hardly ever anyone there and nobody bothers you.
— Browse the Colette website
— Check vacation package deals on Travelzoo
— Chew gum
— Go to England, walk around in the countryside and eat large breakfasts for a week
— Order things from Marks & Spencer
— Think about absurd and impossible everyday things and where they came from

August 06, 2016

Some food and travel stories from this week

Rounding out my first week of full-time freelancing, here are some stories I wrote in the food and travel worlds over the past couple of days. New projects TBD! This has been the best week ever.

Conde Nast Traveler — Why Celebs Are Heading to Sardinia This Summer

Conde Nast Traveler — CDC Issues Zika Travel Warning for Miami

Food & Wine — How to Make Unicorn Fuel

Food & Wine — Can You Taste This Song?

Food & Wine — Police Are Pulling People Over to Give Them Free Ice Cream

Food & Wine — Jonah Hill Accidentally Emailed His Food Diary to Drake

August 05, 2016

Sweatpants of the Day: League brand "Chelsea" pants

I have two pairs of League sweatpants, and they are two of my favorites. Sure, both pairs are Dartmouth sweatpants, so I'm emotionally biased based on decoration and collegiate allegiance alone, but objectively they are also just great sweatpants: not too thick, not too thin, soft and fleecy on the inside, and constructed of a cotton-poly blend that never gets too stiff after a wash. Also great: the not-too-tight ankle elastic, and smart details like the lie-flat (not puffy) waistband, a non-contrasting drawstring, and cute sporty branding that looks a little retro. And while I do like the newfangled sweatpants movement that's been on the up-and-up, mostly in SoCal, since around 2004-2005, when I'm home in the northeast, I prefer a more traditionalist sweatpant silhouette. I also find that the more traditional collegiate sweats wash well and last longer than their more expensive California nouveau-sweat cousins—which usually run 200 to 300% higher in price, pill and fade faster, and sometimes come apart at the seams.

These Dartmouth women's "Chelsea D" sweatpants are $48.99 at the Dartmouth Coop

August 03, 2016

Why I quit my full-time job

I was going to make a "Why I Quit My Job" YouTube video, but it was too hard to organize my thoughts on camera. I put on makeup with lipstick and everything and tried to film it four or five times, but it just wasn't coming together in the way I wanted.

Last week, I left my stable, director-level, twice-monthly paycheck digital editorial job at a century-old fashion media company... to go freelance. I resigned July 1st and my last day in the office was last Friday, the 29th. While there are a whole lot of personal reasons I have for leaving, far and away, the most important reason I left was so I could go back to doing the thing I love: being a full-time writer. What's funny is that sometimes, you don't even know you love doing the thing you love doing for work until you stop doing it. It took me six months to realize how much I missed it.

5 reasons I love writing:

1. Writing helps me think and organize my thoughts.
2. Writing helps me solve problems.
3. Writing is the best way I know to communicate clearly.
4. Writing is hard. If it were easy, I don't know if it would be as fun.
5. The kind of writing I do is very project-driven. I like projects that have a clear beginning and ending.

On a more abstract level, I've been thinking a lot over the past few years about what my "dream job" is. People ask you about dream jobs all the time, especially when you get to a certain level and you have meetings with senior execs. The more I thought about what my dream job looked like, the more I remembered a question I always ask job candidates when I interview them for entry and mid-level editorial positions: "What does your ideal workday look like?" I love asking this question because day-to-day stuff is something not a lot of people think about. But the reality of performing well at work— especially in a media office environment that's somehow both ridiculously over-structured and, at the same time, total chaos—is to know exactly what you want/need/should be doing at any given hour of the day. I heard somewhere once that Oprah's days are scheduled in 15-minute increments five months out (or was it five years out, I don't remember). So I've been asking myself that question over and over again—"What does my ideal day look like?—and after thinking about it a lot over months and months, I came up with the freelance daily workflow I wrote about a few days ago. And when I pictured myself in that workflow, I saw myself wearing my favorite sweatpants (I have many favorite sweatpants, actually, more on that later), working at home.

So, over the past few months, when people ask me what my dream job is, I've started to answer, sort of tongue-in-cheek (but mostly truthfully) that my dream job is to type at home wearing sweatpants. And now, here I am.

In the video that will never be made, I also wanted to offer advice to anyone thinking about quitting their full-time job and going freelance. I'm not sure I have any solid/true/real/empirically successful advice three days into this adventure (yet), but here are some things I thought a lot about before leaving my 9-5:

— It takes a long time. Quitting and riding off into the sunset doesn't just happen. I thought about making the move for months–and never mind just making the leap, there's a whole bunch of practical stuff that needs to happen, too. I saved money, I made sure my budget was in check, that I had a safety net just in case, and I also made sure to line up a few regular gigs ahead of time so I wasn't going out blind.

— You're not trying to launch Buzzfeed. I think sometimes, especially working in media, we have this notion that going out on your own means that you're going to have to make a bazillion dollars to stay afloat. Whether you're going freelance or starting a small custom content business, chances are the first few months, you won't need to be supporting a company of, like, 150 staffers. I had to keep reminding myself that I am a company of one. And I'm the only person I need to support. Of course, this changes if you are married, have dependents, or have children.

— Know who you are. Believe in yourself. Throughout your life and career, there are always going to be people you meet along the way—friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, Twitter trolls—who will tell you that you can't do the thing. If you know yourself well, if you've made a plan, if you've thought things through and are realistic in your approach, don't listen to them. You should believe in yourself and don't let anyone ever tell you any differently.

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite books (the first Patrick Melrose book by Edward St. Aubyn) is spoken by Melrose's father, who was a sociopath and pedophile. Still, it's a good line, and I sort of live by it:

"Observe everything. Always think for yourself. Never let other people make important decisions for you."

August 02, 2016

My first 24 hours as a freelancer

I can't even begin to describe how liberating it feels to write again. I was trying to explain how I feel to an editor friend and I think I said: "Writing sentences literally gives me life." For six months I wasn't able to write. Here's what I've been lucky enough to do in the first 24 hours of freelance life. Needless to say, I'm pretty pleased with how things are going so far.

Elle — Style profile on Christina Caradona

Marie Claire — All the stone accessories your heart desires

Food & Wine — Matthew McConaughey takes the reins at Wild Turkey

Food & Wine — The new GMO labeling controversy

Food & Wine — The at-home 3D food printer that could change your life

Food & Wine — Ikea takes on food Instagrammers (good luck meatballs)

Conde Nast Traveler — The CDC issues a travel warning for Miami

Conde Nast Traveler — Horses on planes

Conde Nast Traveler — Australia's on the move. Literally.