Friday, January 11, 2019

Kitchen sink cookies, slightly modified


The "kitchen sink" aspect, prepped
Most Fridays I help other people make books, but today I stayed home and made cookies, obliquely inspired by Scraps, Peels, and Stems. That book includes a recipe for kitchen sink muffins which I've not tried yet. I bake scones, cookies, pies, and the occasional cake but very rarely do I make muffins. I'm not sure why that is, especially since Jill's recipe looks pretty darned delicious. But when I stumbled across this recipe for kitchen sink cookies in the New York Times and saw that it called for a mix of sweet and salty things, whatever you happen to have on hand, I was pretty much sold immediately. You see, I've been troubled by a couple of candy canes that have been sitting on the coffee table since Christmas.

A digression. There are some fixed points in my belief system and one of them is that a Christmas stocking must contain a banana, a tangerine, some chocolate coins, and a candy cane. The tangerine and coins are generally consumed without much delay, and making banana bread the week after Christmas is pretty much automatic around here. But those candy canes? They sit around for months, eventually melting messily onto a pile of linens if I've been so foolish as to shift them to a drawer without thinking. So although the recipe called for homemade toffee, I quickly realized that I could probably use candy cane instead. Not only that, it looked to be a way to use some of the heap of broken tortilla chips that I've insisted I'll find a way to use.

Some means of production (yes, the hammer was part of the process)
 I modified the recipe slightly (and occasionally accidentally). More than one person suggested that there were too many bits and pieces in the recipe so I reduced the "kitchen sink" content by about a third (I might not do that another time . . . ) I don't have the patience to wait for dough to chill in a refrigerator and so many of the cookies I make are of the "roll-in-a-ball-and-squash" school that I opted to go with that familiar approach. I baked for more like 10 - 15 minutes at 350ish rather than the 20 minutes at 325 that the recipe suggested. And the dough was pretty stiff so I inadvertently increased the amount of vanilla a bit and also added a splash of milk.

One commenter on the original recipe said she freezes the pre-formed cookies to save to bake later; that seemed a fine plan to me so I set some aside for later. My cookies turn out a lot smaller, more plentiful, and tidier than those in the original recipe; I'm okay with that.

The kitchen sink has never looked so delicious!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Books of 2018



It seems I didn't post at all in December, but just look at how promptly I put something up in January! It is, of course, just the annual list of books read in 2018, and I don't know how much I'm going to analyze or draw conclusions about my reading habits here. I will say that it looks like I read 63 books (not including those read at work so this list does not include Walking to the End of the World, Arctic Solitaire, Campfire Stories, Scraps, Peels, and Stems, Wildfire, The Sharp End of Life, Birds of the West, The Salmon Way, and a handful of others whose titles I have simply forgotten that being the nature of my mind).

But I can see that I read some children's books and did a fair bit of re-reading over the last year. The Trollope titles stand out as books I actually remember, to some extent, while some of these I honestly have forgotten almost entirely. A few were truly abysmal, but I think that overall it was a pretty good year for books. That statement surprises me as I recall being disappointed by a lot of what I read. I look at the list and find myself thinking, "Oh that one. It was good," or at least "it had some good elements."

Once again, summer book bingo was good for getting me to read more -- and more varied -- books than is my natural inclination. I see The Goat and smile to remember the absurd children's story about a goat that lives on a NY high rise. I see Ship Wrecker and smile fondly remembering the teenager who suggested it to me. I see Theory of Shadows and click on the link to see what the hell that book was . . . oh, it's the chess one. Huh.

I think the first book of 2019 will likely be a return to a book I set aside at the start of Book Bingo: Our Uninvited Guests.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Black Swan Green
Stealing Home
The Three Clerks
The Tale of Despereaux
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Dr. Wortle's School
Rising Abruptly
French Exit
A House in the Country

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes
Guard Your Daughters
The Ivankiad
Ayala's Angel
The Indifferent Stars Above
London War Notes
Middlemarch
The Feast
Lucy Carmichael
Alias Grace

Early Riser
The City is More Than Human
Lawn Boy
The Goat
Down and Out in Paris and London
The Fire Next Time
Persepolis
Of Mice and Men
The Two Mrs Abbotts
In A Lonely Place

Silent Spring 

Diary of a Provincial Lady
Death at the Chateau Bremont
Notes of a Crocodile
Wolf Hollow
Warlight
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

No Matter the Wreckage
Jane Eyre
Ship Breaker

Ecstasy
High Rising
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
The Only Story
A Fairly Good Time

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep
The Essex Serpent
The Genius of Birds
Theory of Shadows
33 Days

The Secret of Nightingale Wood
A Long Way From Home
The Juniper Tree
Lincoln in the Bardo
Minka and Curdy
Rumour of Heaven
The Mitford Murders
The Duke's Children
Woodpecker
Katalin Street

Visitation
On Trails
A General Theory of Oblivion

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Drowning, not waving, but really I'm fine

So it's been six weeks or more since I posted here, in large part because I found that most of the hits I was getting were coming from "girls-girls-girls" sorts of portals and that was just gross and icky and disquieting. Should that happen again and any such visitors be reading this, just stop. Go away. Look at yourselves in the mirror and just, well, be better people.

It's not like there's any reason for any rational person to want to read my meanderings anyway. I thought I'd just stop posting entirely, but it is a handy place to keep track of my reading and to post the occasional recipe or other bit of nonsense that I, personally, might want to find again so, for the time being I'm going to continue here.

This evening I make the extra effort of actually writing something because I feel compelled to record just how little I thought of A House in the Country which seems to be a favorite of every other person on the internet who posts about Persephone Books they have read. I found it dull, unrealistic, preachy, and smug. It may not make my top ten worst books of all time, but it certainly has a shot at the top one hundred.

 Which was disappointing as the other shot-in-the-dark Persephone on my last order, Guard Your Daughters, was truly terrific. Unexpected and fun and clever and amusing and somewhat insightful without making a fuss about itself. It was good enough to offset the disappointment of the Jocelyn Playfair nonsense. I imagine that's what keeps me ordering from Persephone. That, and the fact that their most recent Biannual (No. 24) includes an extensive article about cooking with a haybox.

 Should I wonder in the future, yes, I am deliberately not posting about the world at large.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Oregon minibreak, largely in photos

It's the end of a week off from work, and I'm likely coming down with a cold (hello autumn!) so I'm mostly posting photos here.

A week ago we set off for a few days on the Oregon coast. We traveled by way of Astoria so we could visit the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe which has become one of my favorite destinations. (Truly, I have said to Scott, "It's only a little more than three hours away; let's get a car and go to the Blue Scorcher! Maybe they'll have raisin bread." Thus far, he has resisted, though he loves the breakfast of wonder. It's just a matter of time.) This trip, Astoria upped its efforts to entice us to move there:

Jasper of Mary's Milk Monsters at the Astoria Farmers Market
Not only were there several soap vendors at the Astoria Farmers Market, one of them had a goat with her! Mary started raising goats about eight years ago, as part of a 4H project. Now she has a herd of about a dozen goats and her own little soap company. And, as we returned to the car, there was this:
Just a few deer out for their Sunday constitutional in Astoria
Eventually, we reached Newport where the wildlife was more sea- and beach-based:
One of about two dozen sea lions living La Vida Lion on Newport's Bay side
Never have I seen so much whale activity in the wild! Gray whales galore (providing little in the way of photos but much in-person excitement).
It was a good time for pelican sightings.
As well as my beloved peeps
And this somewhat pugnacious whimbrel
We stayed in the Melville room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Shelley, the resident cat, agreed to keep us company one evening:
Perhaps she found our company less than riveting
I never even try to resist signage:

Tempting, but we stuck to the 101 route and thus ended up back in Seattle.
Self-captioning
Our route involves some ferry travel, and the WSDOT doesn't assume parents are too bright.
The weather was pretty uniformly gorgeous and Poseidon was, as always, a charming host.
Reflecty sands
Does this ocean make me look taller?
Mandatory sunset shot
Public art, Newport Edition
Of course, Washington State is pretty nice too.









Sunday, September 16, 2018

Black Klansman and Lucy Carmichael

Scott and I went to see Black Klansman last night. It was more wrenching than either of us expected. Some years back I read Hari Kunzru's White Tears without being familiar with the expression and was underwhelmed by that book. But it led to my knowing the term and, I've just realized on looking it up again, misunderstanding it. Because my tears aren't that I don't believe in racial injustice; it's that I don't seem capable of doing anything about it except crying. In my mind "white tears" has come to be shorthand for liberals like me who feel bad but do nothing. There is, undoubtedly an expression for that; perhaps someone can share it with me here. But more, I wish someone would give me some concrete actions that I can take that will make things better. Because this current world is just wrong.

 But I've digressed. No, having been shaken by the movie (or, more precisely, by the footage from Charlottesville that ends the film which, by great effort, I had managed to avoid seeing (see also, white privilege)) I came home to distract myself by reading Lucy Carmichael by Margaret Kennedy, a book published in 1951. To my dismay, it was suddenly too topical, with a quote from, I think, William Wordsworth:

By superior energy, by more strict
Affiance in each other, firmer faith
In their unhallowed principles, the Bad
Have fairly earned a victory o'er the weak,
The vacillating, inconsistent Good.

Because that's us, the weak, vacillating, inconsistent Good (or, if not "good" then at least less vile than what seems to be winning these days).

And seeming relevant, at least at 1:00 a.m. and  with an echo of "when they go low," Lucy quotes Ephesians IV:

That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every word of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking truth in love, may grow up into him as all things, which is the head, even Christ.

I'm like Kirk in "Arena," surrounded by potassium nitrate, diamonds, and bamboo; if I were just bright enough to figure out how to use what I've been given, I could maybe do something. Being more like McCoy than Kirk (or Spock), I'm stumped. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Snapshots of late summer chez Aurora



One of the fresher sunflowers in the front forty
It's remarkable to me how time-consuming it is to post a handful of photos taken with the iPad. There *must* be a quick and  easy way to transfer images to blogger but, alas, I have yet to figure out what that might be. Is there some sort of power struggle between Google and Apple of which I am unaware? Very likely there is.

But the blahdeblahblah faithful need not be aware of any of that. No, for the reader these photos just appeared instantly, with the sun still warm upon them.

Every day is Earth Day chez Aurora (or we just have a lot of laundry).

The grape harvest will be smaller this year: jamly or pie? That is the question.
On the other hand, it's a good year for the fall crocuses. (Note also more depleted head of a sunflower, removed from the front forty to discourage squirrels from developing more of an interest in the crops.)
Morning glory and green bean tangle in the front forty
Toujours Mme Gradka

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I woke up this morning and said thank you.


22 of the 24: Two library books (Ship Breaker and The Goat) are back on the shelves of Seattle Public Library
 So that's me done with the 2018 edition of the SAL / SPL book bingo (‪#‎bookbingonw2018‬). I've blacked out with all of five days to spare. I confess I felt such a feeling of lightness this evening. Possibly that was the result of getting a decent night's sleep last night, but equally it could be knowing that I can pick up my next book without worrying about what square it might fill.

 My final book was one I'd bought at the author's reading at University Book Store nearly two years ago: The City Is More Than Human, by Frederick L. Brown. The subtitle, "An Animal History of Seattle" sums up the book nicely. It was an informative read, and quicker than I anticipated.

In addition to my goal of reading as many books as possible without getting a bingo (I think that number was nineteen), I wanted to make as many as I could books we'd bought on this year's bookstore day. It looks like eleven met that requirement, coming from Queen Anne Book Company, Magnolia's Bookstore, Secret Garden Bookshop, Open Books, Phinney Books, the Ravenna Third Place, Ada's Technical Books, and probably University Book Store and Elliott Bay Book Company. I also made a visit to EBBC a few weeks ago to fill several remaining squares, while six squares were (mercifully) filled by books I already owned. And there were the two books checked out from Seattle Public Library. I feel I've done my bit--and then some--to support the local book providers (while also going as far afield as London for one of the Persephone Books' titles). You'd think, wouldn't you, that I'd win one of the prizes? I am not so much holding my breath for that, and instead toast the successful end of the summer reading challenge with cocktails, pistachios, and a new book:



*The subject line is the first line of the poem "Grace" from No Matter the Wreckage: Poems by Sarah Kay