Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wicked Blueberry Coffee Cake

When I read Murder on the Rocks, I planned to make this recipe. And today I did. This is quite a bit different from last Thursday's posting of Blueberry-Yogurt Coffee Cake. Sour cream instead of yogurt (though it was an option); flour instead of cinnamon in the topping; and triple the amount of eggs. Is one better than the other? I think they are equally good. I don't think one can go wrong with flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and blueberries, no matter how they are put together. I hadn't jotted it down yet, so for the first time ever, I made a recipe while looking at my Kindle. 

I know a lot of people are using iPads now for cooking, but I don't have one, and probably never will, so this is the closest I'll get: a recipe from a book on the Kindle.

Wicked Blueberry Coffee Cake

1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream or vanilla yogurt
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup brown sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw, as always)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour

I used the KitchenAid mixer until it was time to add the fruit. I gently stirred in the blueberries.

Cream the butter and sugar. 
Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and soda.
Add flour alternately with sour cream.
Fold in blueberries.
Put into greased 9x13 pan.
In a separate bowl, mix sugar, butter, and flour. 
Spread on top of batter.
Bake in preheated 350ºF. oven for 30 minutes.

I didn't have the 1/4 cup butter softened for the topping, so I mixed the sugar and flour, and then cut in the cold butter with two knives.
Seemed to work just fine.

I ate some on the porch in the waning light of evening. Perfect.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Reading

It's been a very busy month around here, so all my reading has been at bedtime, which means Kindle books only. I haven't sat down during the day to read in weeks. Oh, maybe a page here and there, but that's it. I did only one post for Paris in July; and I gave up the idea of reading Edwin Way Teale's Journey into Summer for now.

Summer is always busier than the rest of the year, but it seems that Tom's retirement is opening up time to do more visiting than we usually do. We have seen just about all our friends in July, times of great joy and conversation; a three-hour brunch on the patio of a local restaurant, going to two movies - Hannah Arendt and 20 Feet From Stardom, a play at the local summer stock theatre - Annie Get Your Gun, and family meals. It has been wonderful. There's been some gardening, and Tom has been working on getting wood together for the winter. But not much daytime reading. I guess that will happen after the summer. Around here we don't have too many months of warm weather so we truly take advantage of them.

In July I 'met' a new author named Stuart Palmer. 

43. Murder on the Blackboard - book 3 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1932
Kindle book
finished 7/29/13

42. Murder on Wheels - book 2 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1932
Kindle book
finished 7/24/13

41. The Penguin Pool Murder - book 1 in the Hildegarde Withers series
by Stuart Palmer
mystery, 1931
Kindle book
finished 7/16/13

I first heard of him in a publication I receive called (Give Me That) Old-Time Detection which features mystery writers from the past. If you are interested, email me (click on the About Me tab, and then View My Complete Profile) and I'll tell you how you may subscribe. It is quite singular in the literary world, and is put together and typed up by one man, Arthur Vidro. He has letters from readers, he finds reviews from years ago, and he has full articles about many writers that are almost unknown today. It's a little known gem. When I first inquired about it, Arthur wrote this to me:
     Ever since its autumn 2002 premiere, (GIVE ME THAT) OLD-TIME DETECTION has been published three times a year.  Since issue #10 we have always included at least 32 pages (sometimes more), not counting the cover.
      We are devoted to discussion of older (pre-1970, usually pre-1960) detective-story writers, their careers, their characters, individual novels or stories ... sometimes we include "lost" pieces, such as a story by Anthony Berkeley or an essay by John Dickson Carr ... when I was lucky enough to meet Mathew Prichard (Agatha Christie's grandson), that led to an interview.  We provided several pages of coverage of the 2005 Ellery Queen Centenary Symposium.
      The more famous of our contributors of new material are Marvin Lachman and Jon Breen.  In addition, we have reprinted reviews by Charles Shibuk and essays by Ed Hoch, Susan Oleksiw, Francis Nevins, Tony Medawar/Arthur Robinson, and Douglas Greene.
      It's hard to pigeon-hole us, but we do focus much more on the Golden Age style than on the Hard Boiled style.
After my introduction to Stuart Palmer within its pages, it was a recent post on the At the Scene of the Crime blog which got me to begin reading Palmer in earnest.

There's a terrific piece about Stuart Palmer here

Palmer's sleuth is an amateur who is very smart, fearless, and so much fun. Her name is Hildegarde Withers. She is a 'spinster' who is 39 years old when we first meet her. She teaches third grade in New York City, and lives with a couple roommates in an apartment. In the first book, she actually becomes engaged to Inspector Piper of the NYC police at the end, but by book two they have decided they are happier being great friends, detecting companions, and single. Pretty bold for a writer in the 1930s to feature a woman who is frankly contented to be a 'working woman.' And what a woman she is. I've never read about anyone like her. It is hard for me to understand why Jane Marple became so very well-known while Hildegarde Withers remains a hidden treasure. She is amazing. I've read about the old movie versions starring Edna May Oliver and James Gleason, and since they aren't available on Netflix, I may just buy them. 

Though there is a bit of screwball comedy in the books, they are mostly quite serious, and well thought out mysteries. It is also a treat to read about an amateur sleuth who is respected and supported by the police. The plots are intriguing, the characters terrific, and the writing good. I couldn't ask for more. I've just begun the fourth one. I do so enjoy reading through a series one right after the other. Though I've read that many people don't enjoy this, I find it great fun. 

I really liked The Broken Rules of Ten, a prequel to The First Rule of Ten and The Second Rule of Ten

40. The Broken Rules of Ten - prequel to the Tenzing Norbu series
by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
mystery, 2013
Kindle book
finished 7/13/13

It was really wonderful to read about Tenzing Norbu as a young boy living in the monastery with his father. Ten lives part of the year there, and the other months with his free spirited, alcoholic mother. The poor boy didn't fit into either parent's lifestyle. He learned to depend upon his two friends, who are still important to the older Ten. It was most interesting to see what life in a Buddhist monastery was like - the food, the rituals, the order of life. Hendricks and Lindsay can't write fast enough for me. I love this series. The books have sparked my interest in Buddhism and I've bought two books to help me learn more: The Buddhist Catechism by Henry Steele Olcott, and Taking the Path of Zen by Robert Aitken. I also bought a sweet sounding book called The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie. This is one of the things I love best about reading. When I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I mentioned in my book report a quote from the book which I began to call 'the Guernsey effect' - 
That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
39. Dodsworth in Paris - book 2 in the Dodsworth series
by Tim Egan
children's fiction, 2008
Kindle book
library book
finished 7/13/13

This was a precious little children's book for early readers. Dodsworth has a companion duck who can't help getting into trouble, which makes for delightful reading. One of his adventures is making their money into paper airplanes and flying it off the Eiffel Tower, causing Dodsworth to get a job in the city in which he was supposed to be merely vacationing. I'd like to read the whole series, but will borrow the print versions instead of reading them on my Kindle. This was supposed to be a reading for Paris in July, as was a great movie I saw called Waiting for Fidel, but I just didn't have the solid time to sit down and give either the book or movie the time they deserved. I may write about the movie sometime.

The latest Maisie Dobbs book was great. I thought it one of the best in the series. 

38. Leaving Everything Most Loved - book 10 in the Maisie Dobbs series
by Jacqueline Winspear
mystery, 2012
Kindle book
library book
finished 7/9/13

The title figures into both the case Maisie has taken on, and her own personal life. I skipped book 9, Elegy for Eddie, because I found the story too painful after reading some of it. Things happened in that book to the main, ongoing characters, but I felt that Jacqueline Winspear caught me up so I knew what had occurred. Honestly, this is one of my favorite series ever. I love Maisie, her dad, and Billy. They are drawn with such care that the reader really does know them well by now. In this book, a woman from India has been killed. She had been living in a sort of hotel for servants who had been let go once they moved to England with British families, and were no longer needed. What a horrible thing. We meet the owners of the place who are no saints themselves though they talk as if they are doing the women a great service. The whole thing was very sad to read about, but still the mystery and the story of Maisie's inner thoughts are simply excellent. I love the slow, quiet writing where every single word is important. The stories are always complex and multi-dimensional. I've learned so much over the years of the books. 

This monthly books format is working out well for me, though sometimes I do miss writing longer book reports. I intend to do so for the two challenges I've joined - Sherlock Holmes and the Canadian Book Challenge

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blueberry-Yogurt Coffee Cake

This recipe comes from a cookbook given to me by my friend Les

She knows that I love regional recipes, and this book offers them along with informative sidebars about the Pacific Northwest area, and photographs from older days. Perfect. I turned to it today to find a recipe for our first blueberries of the year.

I've mentioned before that a man down the road grows them, and we buy enough for summer eating, and then winter eating from the freezer. This is one of the best recipes ever! Sweet, buttery, and full of blueberries.

Blueberry-Yogurt Coffeecake

(From the cookbook) 
This coffee cake is a summer favorite at our house which I often make a day in advance. I reheat it covered with foil in a 300º F. oven for 20 minutes. It can be warmed faster in the microwave, but I enjoy smelling the sweet, lingering aroma that drifts out of the oven as it reheats. Don't let its unusually thick batter worry you. It will push the sugar-cinnamon topping up as it bakes, and will sink down when it is removed from the oven. 

This is one of the few coffee cakes that improve with age.

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut up

Coffee Cake
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350º F. and butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. (I used cooking spray)
Using a fork, blend the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. (I used 2 knives) Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and egg. 
Add baking soda, flour, yogurt, and vanilla and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.
Pour the cake batter into the baking dish and sprinkle blueberries over the top.
Gently press them into the batter.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar topping over all.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. If using frozen blueberries, increase baking time to 1 hour.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

One lovely thing about the February landscape is that I can look out and not see one solitary Japanese beetle anywhere on all our acres. And last summer the air was black with them. We did all the usual things to control them, and if we ever sat down to relax, a million more would begin champing their jaws on whatever they missed before.

We felt very bitter, for the Japanese beetle is a newcomer in our valley. I for one feel the Government should make a war on this burden of mankind, allocating taxes and using the Army. One less bomb might be dropped in the ocean.

Gladys Taber
Stillmeadow Seasons 1950


An example of the destruction

Two minutes work last evening - I brushed them off into hot, soapy water.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today's song/Mandela - Abdullah Ibrahim

In honor of Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, 

this beautiful song by Abdullah Ibrahim.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Today's picture(s) by George Henton - The Taksim Square Book Club

In Pictures: The Taksim Square Book Club

George Henton Last Modified: 24 Jun 2013 18:51
Al Jazeera English

Protesters stand silently and read books in central Istanbul, in stark contrast with scenes of violence.

Istanbul, Turkey - After weeks of violent clashes between police and protesters across Turkey a new form of resistance has emerged - the "Standing Man".

Standing silently, and initially alone, Turkish performance artist Erdem Gunduz stood, with his hands in his pockets, facing the Ataturk Cultural Centre in Taksim Square, Istanbul, for eight hours.

With extraordinary speed, Gunduz become the latest symbol of the resistance movement. In days that followed, thousands of people would emulate his solitary act, standing silently, for minutes or hours, in places across Turkey.

The contrast with the images of tear gas clouds and water cannon could not have been greater. Faces obscured by masks and helmets were revealed to show expressions of quiet contemplation.

Violent scenes are still occurring around Turkey, including in Istanbul once again this past weekend, but the Standing Man protests continue unabated.

The following images explore one aspect of the protest in Taksim Square, ongoing since before the communal standing took off. Public reading and informal education has been notable since the earliest days of the protest, but has since merged with the Standing Man to form "The Taksim Square Book Club".

The chosen reading material of many of those who take their stand is reflective, in part, of the thoughtfulness of those who have chosen this motionless protest to express their discontent.

A woman reads the philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus by French author Albert Camus in Taksim Square. The book focuses on the search for meaning in the absence of God.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Leaf Storm centres on a family in limbo following the death of a man passionately hated, yet tied to the family.

Turkish writer Tezer Ozlu's book, Old Garden - Old Love, is a collection of short stories.

Irvin David Yalom's historical novel When Nietzsche Wept is about a prominent physician, Josef Beuer, falling in love with Lou Salome, who was believed to have spurned Friedrich Nietzche's romantic overtures.

A man reads the Turkish book Resurrection Gallipoli 1915, written by Turgut Ozakman on the Battle of Gallipoli, while a woman beside him reads George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

George Orwell's dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four centralises around a police state with total government surveillance. 

A man reads a Japanese novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami - while another woman enjoys Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, a popular choice of the Taksimites.

One woman reads The Speech, which is the text of of a speech delivered by Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at an assembly in 1927 - while another woman (right) reads a biography of Ataturk.

A woman reads The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, a darkly absurdist novel about a travelling salesman who turned into a giant bug.

A man reads The Crisis of the Modern World, a critique of the modern world from the point of view of traditional metaphysics, by French author Rene Guenon.

A man reads Three Days with my Mother, a book about a novelist with writer's block, by Belgian author and director Francois Weyergans.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Romantics Anonymous (Les Émotifs Anonymes)

The 2010 film Romantics Anonymous 

is my first offering for Paris in July.

It is a sweet and lovely little movie about two people, played by Isabelle Carré and Benoît Poelvoorde, who belong together. 

They meet when Angélique interviews for a job at Jean-René's chocolate factory, a small business of only four chocolate makers, 

which is on the edge of bankruptcy. Angélique is hired as a sales representative. When she goes to visit a client, she is told that no one wants the company's chocolate anymore because it is an old-fashioned kind. I can't imagine what that must mean, but it is very clear that the product is not what people want to buy. Angélique comes up with an inventive, and quite hilarious, idea to save the company.

Alongside the business aspect, we have a dear love story between the owner and his new employee. They are both terribly shy. He goes to a counselor and she attends 'romantics anonymous' meetings for people who are very, very timid. 

The joy of the film is watching what we hope will happen, happen. 

I just loved Romantics Anonymous. It is available (at least in the US) on Netflix Instant and DVD. This movie is one of pure delight; a true romantic comedy with a happy ending that is the perfect one for this couple. It makes the viewer feel wonderful about life. I couldn't ask for more.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Our friend's new puppy

Today we drove over the border into Maine with our friend Caryn to pick up her new puppy. She got her older dog Zoe at the same place nine years ago. Zoe has been on the blog once before here. (scroll all the way down)

Zoe and little Tallulah show us why Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the US. They are wonderful. They are cheerful. They love everyone. They have a great sense of playfulness. Really the perfect dog. Oh, and need I mention adorable?!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Quote du jour/Dalai Lama

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama XIV
born July 6, 1935

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tom's 2013 Reads

I thought it would be fun to start listing Tom's 'retirement reads.' He was fine with the idea. You know the old tales of the shoemaker's children going without shoes, and the plumber's house having leaky faucets, well, it can be the same for an English teacher. Tom has been so busy teaching over the years that he hasn't had the time to read as much as he would have liked. So, I am going to keep a yearly tally of the books he reads, beginning now. Maybe he'll even write a book report once in a while. He has one on the blog from years ago - High Cotton. The yearly lists will be in the Book Lists 2006 - Present tab under the blog header picture.

Books Read in 2013 (beginning after retirement in June) - 6

December -1

6. One Summer
America, 1927
by Bill Bryson
nonfiction, 2013
finished 12/20/13

November - 1

5. Outposts
by Simon Winchester
nonfiction, 1985
finished 11/2/13

October - 1

4. The Railway Detective - book 1 in the Detective Inspector Colbeck series
by Edward Marston
mystery, 2004
finished 10/14/13

August - 2

3. The God of the Hive - book 10 in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series
by Laurie R. King
mystery, 2010
library book
finished 8/30/13

2. Lamb
The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's childhood pal
by Christopher Moore
fiction, 2002
borrowed from former colleague
finished 8/13/13

July - 1

1. Francona
The Red Sox Years
by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy
nonfiction, 2013
borrowed from a former colleague
finished 7/3/13

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quote du jour/Gladys Taber

In New England, June ripens into July so easily that it takes a keen eye to notice the change from early summer to full, lavish midseason. The nights are usually still cool enough for a casual fire in the fireplace, but around noon there is a breathless dazzle in the yard and garden, and the afternoon is slow and dreamy.
Gladys Taber
Stillmeadow Seasons 1950