Nov 30 2012

Big Girl

thora, almost five months

Thora, a week shy of five months. She had a vet check today and weighed in at 55 pounds. Some people mistake her for a full-grown hound dog, but most can tell that she’s still just a puppy (and are able to conclude that she’s gonna be huge)!

We’ve started taking her to the dog park, where she behaves very nicely with the other dogs. She’s also fully house-trained, and she’s growing less “mouthy,” though she’s still teething and the inanimate world is pretty much her chew toy at this stage. We need to work on: the “down” command (she jumps up on people, especially on a first meeting), leash-training (she has a tendency to pull, which is not tolerable in a full-grown mastiff), and most especially her behavior towards my chickens, which is not exactly that of a loving big sister.

To us, though, she is unfailingly sweet. She has a big dog bed in my office, but it’s not quite close enough to my desk, so she dragged a blanket over on the floor right next to my feet so that she can curl up next to me in comfort. She asks for so little, really—just fresh water, kibble, a daily walk, and the company of her family. And in return she offers boundless love, loyalty, and vigilance. It’s a pretty excellent bargain.

Nov 30 2012

Additional Buying Options for The Millennial Sword

For those of you who avoid Amazon, I’m pleased to announce that you can now buy the paperback version of The Millennial Sword through IndieBound or Barnes & Noble online. Also, while your local bookstore is unlikely to have it on their shelves, they’ll be able to order it for you if you ask. (In the Bay Area, you can find it on the shelves at Laurel Book Store and hopefully other independent retailers soon.)

The e-book version is going to remain Amazon-exclusive for another couple of months, but will be up on other e-bookstores early in the new year. At that time, it’s likely that I’ll raise the price by a dollar (to $3.99, which seems more consistent with the current e-book landscape)…so, um, stock up now?

Nov 28 2012


Everybody who lives in the Bay Area needs to know about this right now: you can finally, finally, finally get a proper bagel, at Beauty’s Bagel Shop on Telegraph.

I really can’t overstate how monumental this is. When we first visited Beauty’s I teared up eating a bagel.

You see, the bagels around here are shit. They’re soft, breadlike substances—buns with a hole punched in the middle. This is a known fact, and everybody in the Bay Area is heartily sick of hearing East Coast transplants complaining about the bagels. When I first moved here twelve years ago and didn’t know that it was such a cliché, I remember telling my boss that I’d had a string of really rotten bagels and did he know where I could find a decent one? He looked at me scornfully and said, “You’re in California now. Eat croissants.”

But it took me a long time to give up on bagels. I just didn’t believe that in a city with such fantastic food it could really be impossible to find a passable bagel. I stood in line for hours at all the little delis around town. Some San Franciscans swear by Katz Bagels, some by House of Bagels: these bagels, like all the others, are a cruel mockery of the form. Some people said it had to do with the water.

And maybe my twelve years of privation can explain why I nearly wept when Beauty’s served me a bagel. A lovely, dense, chewy bagel. It’s been so long. Bagels, precious bagels, never leave me again.

Nov 27 2012


Robin: “Do you love me? Or not love me?”
Davy: “Love you!”

Nov 23 2012

Day After Thanksgiving

When I was a kid Hallowe’en was my favorite holiday, but now that I’m grown up Thanksgiving seems perfect. The food is fantastic and the company even more so—we are very grateful that we were able to share the day with Nonna and Pappy and a couple dear friends, and the rest of our far-flung family and friends are close in our hearts on this holiday too. A day for celebrating the bounty of the land with loved ones…what could be better?

Maybe there’s one thing better: the day after Thanksgiving. A day for just sitting around in our bathrobes grazing on all the leftovers. That’s pretty great too.

Our Thanksgiving menu this year:

slices of Pink Lady apples and Point Reyes “Toma” farmstead cheese
slices of prosciutto and fuyu persimmons drizzled with balsamic vinegar
smoked almonds
rum-glazed pecans

murderous mashed potatoes (seriously, the mashed potatoes will kill you—I make them exactly twice a year, and they are fantastic, because the Cook’s Illustrated recipe involves a stick of butter and three cups of heavy cream. I always warn everybody beforehand so those with any cholesterol issues know to take them very sparingly.)
pan seared brussels sprouts with bacon
pear-ginger cranberry sauce
BN Ranch heritage, pasture-raised turkey
and in place of stuffing, Judy Rodgers’ bread salad. (My friend Matt, who is gluten-intolerant, usually comes for Thanksgiving, so most of the menu is gluten-free…this is my single “asterisk.”)

sweet potato pie (I use Leah Chase’s recipe, substituting gluten-free flour for the crust.)
flourless chocolate cake

So as you can see, the leftovers are plentiful and delicious.

My philosophy on inviting guests with dietary restrictions is this: I feel pretty okay about gesturing expansively to a table groaning with food and saying “You can eat everything but the strudel,” or whatever. So when putting together a meal I usually allow myself a single “asterisk.” It’s a lot nicer than leading a guest to the same table and saying “This is all poisonous to you, but I made you a special bowl of pilaf.” Matt insists that he’s perfectly happy as long as there’s something he can eat, but I think it’s plain mean to invite a guest if it’s only to make them watch other people eating delicious foods they cannot have.

I joke that when I die I’d like my memorial plaque to read simply: “She ate well.” Thanksgiving is probably the day that we eat best of all, but the day after Thanksgiving features all of the food and none of the work. Best holiday ever? It might be.

Nov 21 2012

Every Girl Crazy Bout a Sharp Dressed Man


Nov 19 2012

The Big Booger Bubble Goes Live

You guys, I am super excited to announce that The Big Booger Bubble is now a real book!

Unfortunately the Amazon page hasn’t auto-generated a “Look inside!” previewer thingummy—I’m working on getting that up. But in the meantime, let me show you some of Ingrid Steblea‘s fantastic illustrations (clicking the image will take you to my Flickr account, where you can see larger versions of the pages):

booger pages 1-2

booger pages 3-4

booger pages 5-6

booger pages 7-8

booger pages 9-10

booger pages 11-12

booger pages 13-14

booger pages 15-16

booger pages 17-18

And the story continues from there!

I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that when I’m dead and gone, The Big Booger Bubble will be my legacy. I might write ten more novels, I might put my heart and soul on every page, but still: “Oh, Shannon Phillips,” they’ll say. “Didn’t she write something about boogers?” It’s my bequest to the literary tradition. You’re welcome, future generations. You’re welcome.

Nov 13 2012

Book Reviews: Sleight of Hand, World War Z

These reviews are cross-posted from my Goodreads account.

Peter S. Beagle at his best is a master conjurer, but I don’t think any of the stories here really show Beagle working at the top of his craft. “Sleight of Hand” is a good title for the collection: these tricks of the imagination are fairly slight, but good fun nonetheless—a pleasant and diverting way to spend a few hours.

It seems weird to call a book about the zombie apocalypse a “light, fun” read, but that’s ultimately what this is. I picked it up expecting something similar to Stephen King’s The Stand, a book that’s stuck with me even though it has one of the single hackiest endings I’ve ever read. But there’s not nearly as much meat to World War Z. It’s a series of vignettes, each well done, but short enough that you don’t end up really getting attached to any particular characters. My favorite bit involved the story of a downed Air Force pilot making her way through a zombie-infested swamp, guided by the remote voice of a ham radio operator who seems to be keeping some secrets.

Nov 4 2012

Car One


This is Car One—the very first streetcar operated by a municipal transit authority in America. It’s exactly a hundred years old. (There were streetcars in America before 1912, but they were owned and operated by private transit companies: San Francisco’s MUNI system was the first to put public streetcars in operation.)

MUNI celebrated its centennial today, and to mark the occasion they brought out Car One. We got to ride it down Market Street:


It’s beautiful inside, with lots of wood, shiny brass fittings, and rattan seats. It was gorgeously restored several years ago, and is now generally reserved for mayors to ride in during city parades. It was pretty awesome.

Also awesome: Robin got to hang out with a real life conductor, who even let him try on the hat:



This has been a banner week for Robin’s career aspirations: last weekend we went up to visit Nonna and Pappy in Carson City, and they took him to hang out with some firemen in the local firehouse. He even got to ride in the fire truck, which thoroughly blew his mind. Ever since then I’ve been hearing an awful lot about how he’s a grown up boy who can be anything he wants to be, and what he wants to be is a fireman, because firemen save people, and even more importantly they ride in the fire trucks.

Davy, on the other hand, was intimidated both by the fire truck and by the conductor in his uniform, and hid his face in Sam’s shoulder when the hat was offered. But he liked the streetcar ride just the same!