A Visual Introduction to Chef

By kate on September 9th, 2011

At Urbanspoon, we’ve recently started using Chef to manage our production servers. Now that I’m familiar with it, I love its ease of use and flexibility, not to mention the time savings.

When I was first learning Chef, though, I found the learning curve pretty steep because of all the terminology. It was hard to understand how all the components related to each other. I wasn’t able to find anything online that would have helped give me the overview I needed, so I created one myself.

Click image for full diagram.

Filed under: technology | 6 Comments »

Offbeat Divorce Part 2: Advice for separating couples

By kate on May 4th, 2011

This is the second of two posts I originally wrote for Offbeat Bride.

As I said in Offbeat Divorce Part 1, my marriage failed. After a period of struggle, we decided to separate (and have since divorced). The separation process was also fraught and sometimes felt impossible, but I got through. Here are a few things I learned.

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Filed under: about, relationships | Comment now »

Offbeat Divorce Part 1: Advice for struggling couples

By kate on April 27th, 2011

This is the first of two posts I originally wrote for Offbeat Bride.

Hi, my name is Kate and I failed. I had a somewhat offbeat wedding, was married for 8 years, ultimately failed at it, and got divorced. I’m starting this way because it’s not something you hear people say very often. After a marriage falls apart (or serious problems are worked out), it’s swept under the rug, put in the past, and never mentioned. This might make the newly-divorced feel better, but it creates a false impression that most people are happy and have never had these problems. When my marriage was exploding, I felt so alone and so defective in a world full of (apparently) shiny happy people.

In this post, I want to pass on a few of the things I learned while my marriage was struggling, before we decided to separate for good.

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Filed under: about, relationships | 4 Comments »

Tea Gear Advice

By kate on January 8th, 2011

A friend, who has started drinking more tea, asked what kind of teapot to get. I spent a little time on my response, so I thought I’d share. I drink one to two pots of tea every day, so I have a good idea of what works (for me, at least). Here are the items I recommend, if you want to be a serious tea drinker:


You can get something fancy if you like, but you can’t go wrong with the classic English “brown Betty” style (it comes in other colors too). It’s a virtually drip-free spout design, and you can get various sizes. Mine is a 6C size, which fills 3 large mugs.

Brown Betty
Traditional Brown Betty
Green "brown" Betty
Modern version


Don’t screw around with tea balls – get a good, large filter so your tea has room to unfurl. Along with this, I recommend a small dish to put the filter on (to catch drips) if the filter doesn’t come with a base. I have and like both of these filters:

Finium filter
Finium Filter
Chatsford filter
Chatsford Filter


You can drink tea out of any mug, although I recommend a large size so you’re not constantly refilling it. In the nice-to-have department: for Christmas my brother bought me two of these beautiful Bodum glasses, and I LOVE them. They’re insulated, hand-blown, and dishwasher-safe.

Bodum Pavina 15oz glass
Bodum Pavina 15 oz glass

Other Items

You’ll definitely need a tea cozy. It may be challenging to find one that isn’t all kitschy or flowery, but they’re out there. In Seattle, they carry good ones at Teahouse Kuan Yin in Wallingford. I also recommend a wooden trivet for your teapot… it’ll absorb drips and keep it warm longer.

Tea cozy
Tea Cozy
Wooden trivets
Wooden Trivets
Leaf dish
I have a small dish like this to put my filter on
Filed under: consumerism, tea | 1 Comment »

A Visitor’s Guide to Seattle

By kate on September 4th, 2010

My brother Michael got married this month (the wedding was wonderful). I was a bridesmaid, and one of the things he requested of me was a guide to Seattle for the out-of-town visitors. I’ve lived in the Seattle area for about 26 years, so I have a good sense of what I think is most worth showing off to visitors.

The guide turned out pretty well, and several of the guests thanked me for the help. At their suggestion, I’m posting it here so others can use it.


It seems to me that the biggest problem for visitors to any city is that there’s too much information, too many long lists of things to see and do. So the approach I took was to narrow it down and curate a list of my top recommendations in a bunch of categories. Visitors can either focus on categories of interest to them, or choose one interesting destination and use my guide to find other destinations in the same neighborhood.

If you have any feedback on my guide, feel free to leave a comment here.

Filed under: handiwork, seattle, travel | 2 Comments »

How I Broke Into my Honda Civic

By kate on August 6th, 2010

The other day, I ended up at an outlet mall with my keys locked in my car, a 1992 Honda Civic, and needed a cheap way to get back into my car. Here’s the easy method I discovered.


Before I go any further, let me just say please don’t use this method on someone’s car without their permission. In addition, it’s a last-ditch technique, since it can damage your car’s weatherstripping. However, if you’re a Honda Civic owner like me and need to get into your car, feel free to give this a try.

Because I was at an outlet mall, my first thought was that wire hangers would be easy to come by. As I walked around the stores, though, I observed that all their hangers were the plastic kind. I was about to give up on this approach when I walked past a kitchen store. I thought that there MUST be something in a kitchen store I could use, and lo and behold, I was right.

For the low price of $2.49, I was the new owner of four metal barbecue skewers, one of which I used for my own purposes. I used the metal on a trash can to bend the skewer into a hook shape like this:

Hook shape

After a few false starts, here’s the method that worked. I slipped the skewer into the side of the window (either front passenger or driver’s side will work).

Aiming for the lock

I maneuvered the skewer past two weatherstripping barriers, and then the hook was inside the car!

Aiming for the lock

After that, it was fairly easy to use the hook to pull up the door lock. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a video of the whole process, which took a little more than 30 seconds:

Once I was aware of it, I noticed that my Civic appears to have quite a history of this entry method:

Break-in damage

This was a strong reminder to me that I should never leave valuables in my car. If you own a ’90s Civic, the same applies to you!

Filed under: life, luck, technology | 5 Comments »

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