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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rooibos Old Fashioned Cocktail

My spouse has been making excellent cocktails for quite some time, but we bought the cookbook Nopi after having excellent cocktails at the restaurant.  This one is quite complex in flavor, and the Rooibos syrup will leave you with plenty for either a party or ongoing evenings.
 The cocktail:
3 1/2 oz.  Bourbon
1/3 oz. Fernet Branca 
2/3 ozrooibos tea syrup (see right)
4 dashes of chocolate bitters
2 shaved strips of orange peel, avoiding the bitter pith, to serve

Rooibos tea syrup:
1 cup caster sugar
10 rooibos teabags
1 whole star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
4 black peppercorns
3 tbsp runny honey

Shake and serve.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fabric That Tells a Story

 I clearly have an obsession with fabric.  No use denying that.  The thing that I cannot resist is artisan fabric.  Wax batiks are something that I always have a good supply of, and when I am in a country where they are made or in a fabric shop that has a nice range of options it is rare that I leave without getting just one more.  I love fabrics that have a woven pattern rather than a printed one, like jacquards and ikats.  These two kinds of fabric make up the majority of the fabric that I have on hand at any given time.  These fabrics are more complicated to make and I see that when I look at them.  It is art.

The kind of fabric that I have a lot less of is fabric that tells a story of some sort.The beauty of a child is that you can really start to work on having a good stash of storytelling prints.  This is a small quilt that I am working on that has wonderful stories in carious sections of the fabric. Something to make a back of a quilt out of, or a garment, or use for a large piece of a quilt. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Making a Receiving Blanket

You will need:
1 yard flannel (top)
1 1/4 yard flannel (for the back and the border)
matching thread
Wash and dry the flannel to pre-shrink it before cutting.
Cut 2 squares of flannel. The larger square will be the back of the blanket and the mitered border. Cut it to measure 40″ x 40″. The smaller square (the top) should measure 30″ x 30″.  This will leave a 4 1/2″ border on all sides.

Find the center of each side and mark it on all four sides on both top and bottom pieces. (I just fold it in half and mark the center with a pin.)  With right sides together, place the small square on top of the large square, (match up centered markings) and pin. (Remember that the smaller square will not reach to the other side (it will seem like it is 10″ too short!) This is how it should be!
Go ahead and pin it to both sides anyway.

When you begin to stitch the seams, start 1/4″ in from the edge. (Use 1/4″ inch seam allowances for the entire project.)

End the stitching 1/4″ from the end also.

You will have 1/4″ inch that is not attached on both ends. These are the “flaps.”

Now stitch the opposite side the same way (make sure they are centered before pinning.) Be sure to leave about an 8 – 10″ opening on one of the sides. This is so that you can turn it right side out later.

Repeat on the opposite side.
This is how it should look after it is all stitched. All four sides are now complete and the stitching at the corners should meet. See photo below:

Receiving Blanket step 10 - themamasgirls
Fold it as shown and use your hands to smooth it out like this.

Mark a 45° angle.
Receiving Blanket step 11 - themamasgirls
Stitch along this line and stop at the arrow (where the other stitching ended.)

and trim it to 1/4″.

Using the opening that you left un-stitched, turn the blanket right-side-out. Make sure all of the corners are nice and pointed.
Receiving Blanket step 12 - themamasgirls
Pin it all the way around the blanket as shown.

Now topstitch with a  zig-zag where the top fabric and the border meet using matching thread. (The zig-zag stitching will also close the opening that you left open to turn it right side out.)

Press with a hot iron to remove any wrinkles. It’s done!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Barbecued Alaska Salmon

This is the most consistently good grilled salmon recipe that we have.  It comes from an age old Susan Hermann Loomis cookbook, and while we venture away from it, we always return to it.  Read the recipe all the way through and make the 3 parts at the same time as there is big overlap in the ingredients.

1 salmon fillet
1/4 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c. minced onion

1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sake
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 minced cloves of garlic

4 Tbs. melted butter
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. white wine
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/3 c. minced onion

Rub salt and garlic into the salmon and sprinkle with minced onion.
Mix marinade ingredients together and pour over salmon.  Refrigerate for up 1-3 hours.
Make the sauce, first melting the butter, then adding the brown sugar, then add remaining ingredients, and salt to taste.
Put the salmon on the grill on a sheet of aluminum foil.  Pour the marinade over it.  Cook for 5 minutes.
Uncover  grill and pour 1/4 c. of sauce over salmon.  Repeat until salmon is done.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Let's Talk About Women

This is it.  Exactly.  An advertisement has a far better sense of what is appropriate to say to a woman and what is not than the sorry excuse that we have for leadership in our country.  This specifically refers to what our president said to French leader Emmanuel Macron's wife.  It is hideous on the surface, but I suspect it is worse than that.  Macron is married to a woman twenty four years his senior whereas our president is married to a woman twenty four years his junior.  How can this be, our president ponders?  It is a mystery.  Then the reason becomes clear to him.  She is an excellent specimen, judged solely on physical grounds.  Of course, many people make choices in this exact manner, but know better than to share those thoughts with others.  And not publicly.  It amounts to workplace harassment, and Reebok just wants to help out those who don't get that.  It is really a public service announcement.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

This is a very unusual movie, which was part of my mission to watch all of the movies that were nominated for an Academy Award.  That aspect was accomplished, and Michael Shannon, who plays the sheriff in the fictionalized part of the film, is exceptional.  He is my second choice in that category, maybe my third, but it was a very strong running this past year.
The story is essentially about triangles, but is one of the tensest movies I have seen in a long time.  One triangle is between Susan (played by Amy Adams), a high end art dealer, her current husband, and her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield.  Another triangle is the main character in the book, the sheriff, and the reader.  Bad things happen, and the movie has a number of threads that are all slowly pulled together in the end.  We know that Edward is badly hurt by his broken marriage to Susan.  We know that Susan has made some terrible choices.  We know that parents screw up their kids.  But this movie makes it all glaringly real.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Carrots with Truffle Oil Vinagrette

I just bought the Nopi cookbook when I was at the restaurant in May, and this is the first thing that I made out of it.

2 1/4 lb.  carrots, spears
tarragon leaves
parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp nigella seeds

Truffle vinaigrette:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp truffle oil
coarse sea salt

Boil water, and blanch the carrots for 2 minutes.  strain and run cold water over them, then dry them out.  Toss with dressing, nigella seeds and herbs to taste.
Add grated Parmesan if you would like.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Walking in the Cotswolds

 My husband and I took literally hundreds of photos during our walking vacation in the Cotswolds that all looked pretty much exactly the same.  Similar rolling hills that are thirty shades of green (thankfully we were never out and out rained on, because you don't get these colors without a lot of water involved).  Gorgeous flowers, lots of sheep, a sprinkling of cows, and medieval villages made out of the same  beautiful stone.  Some had thatched roofing, some had slate.  That was the only discernible difference.  And yet we continued to take pictures because it was so soothing and lovely to be there.
So what was so attractive you might ask?  We come from farm country, after all.  We do not have to traverse an ocean to see ewes corralling their errant offspring, we can do that right here at home.  I loved walking on public trails through people's property day after day, seeing hardly anyone when we were not in a town.  You could easily forget that hardly an inch of land is truly wild on this island, that it is all accessible and the 50,000 miles of public trails are walked each and every year by other souls.  It is a way to see and be in a place that is very peaceful and low key.  Not to mention that the food was fantastic!

Friday, July 14, 2017

No Escape (2015)

There are not a lot of action adventure movies featuring Owen Wilson, so when we saw that he was in this Netflix movie our automatic thought was "comedy".  That was our first mistake.  He plays a guy who has taken a job in an unnamed Southeast Asian country that borders Vietnam.  He brings his family with him and before they even land there is a coup and the country is a mass of heavily armed rioting anarchy.  the rest of the movie is a more or less standard chase movie, except that he is trying to get his kids out alive as well, which adds a layer of difficulty that makes this different, in some ways more annoying and in some ways more heartwarming, depending on what is happening.  Pierce Brosnan plays a role entirely familiar to him as the hard drinking carousing MI-6 agent who helps them navigate an escape route, Lake Bell is no shrinking violet as the wife, and Owen Wilson manages to be likable (as usual) amidst the chaos.  This movie was critically panned, but I definitely enjoyed it as a diversionary way to pass an evening at home.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sous Vide Salmon

Wild caught Alaskan salmon is reaching a peak right now.  We bought some at Costco this past weekend for $11.00/pound.  It doesn't get better than that.  Here is a great way to prepare it that retains the moisture.

2 6-ounce salmon fillets, skinned, and pin bones removed
¼ cup kosher salt
1 quart ice water
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the brine, whisk the kosher salt into the ice water until dissolved. Add the salmon and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to one hour).

Brining is an important step in preparing salmon sous vide. The brine keeps the albumen (white bubbly stuff) from leaching out of the salmon, as well as seasons the fish throughout and provides another defense against overcooking.
Set the Sous Vide  Cooker to 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare, or 135°F (57°C) for medium.
Remove the salmon fillets from the brine and rinse with cold water. Pat dry and place each fillet in a separate vacuum bag or zipper seal bag with two tablespoons of olive oil each, herbs, ground pepper, and slices of lemons.

Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible.
Place the bags in the water and cook for 20 minutes. (If needed, you can leave for an additional 20-30 minutes in the water without any negative effects.)
Remove the bag from the water and carefully remove the salmon. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels and set aside.
In a hot non-stick saute pan, warm one tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the salmon and sear until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about one minute

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Take Pride

I missed the Dykes on Bikes.  I skirted around the parade on Sunday.  But there was no way to be in San Francisco over Pride weekend and overlook that it was going on.  Rainbow colors were everywhere.  At my bed and breakfast in the Mission  we weren't the only straight couple but we were all like minded people.  I am sad that a Pride parade actually seems important, that we cannot just assume in this day and age that civil tights could be taken for granted, but as of November it is very clear that that is not the case, so it was heartwarming to see that there are places where businesses up and down the street wave the pride flag, just as they would the national flag.  That is where I want to be a citizen of.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Shetland (2013-)

Wow, this series is really good.  In the BBC crime drama sense of the word, that is.  It has all the elements of a great series.  The writing is very tight, and the seasons have evolved into one story arch, so that more complicated plots can be presented.  The acting is top notch.  The three characters presented in the poster on the left and many who are not pictured are compelling.  Dennis Henshall is Jimmy Peres, the lead detective in the Shetland Islands.  He is dogged at solving cases, and overall a kind man.  He has recently lost his wife, he is raising a somewhat sassy daughter, he has excellent coworkers, and he has good social support.  The one shocking thing is that there are so many murders in such a small community.  Then again, without the murders you really don't have a murder mystery.  It is a really good series, and can't wait for the next season.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon

This is a Middle Eastern take on chicken.

  • 1 large chicken, cut up
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • scant 1 cup chicken stock or water 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus extra 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tbsp za'atar
  • 4 tsp unsalted butter 
  • 6 tbsp  nuts 
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock, salt, and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced well apart. They should be skin side up. Sprinkle the za'atar over the chicken and onions and put the pan in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is colored and just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they turn golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.

4. Transfer the hot chicken and onions to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle on more za'atar and sumac, if you like.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

American Hardcore (2006)

This look back at the late punk rock scene (meaning that it focuses on the 1980's rather than going back to the 1970's) across America is fascinating and horrifying at the same time.  The film was made 20 years after the events portrayed, so it was almost exclusively men, mostly white men, reflecting back on the music that they performed and enjoyed in their late teens and early 20's.  The event it focused on was the election of Ronald Reagan precipitating or accelerating the punk rock movement.  Young white men were angry and they expressed that anger on stage and in the audience of punk rock shows.  All but one of the bands portrayed were non-musicians playing three discordant notes in apparently random order and shouting out angry lyrics.  One interviewee talked openly about raping (his word) unconscious women and thinking nothing of it.  The violence in general was endemic in the movement.  It escalated as years went on and was probably the death of the music. The documentary is fascinating in that there is no judgement, or even much commentary.  The filmmakers allow their subjects to portray hardcore punk and for the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sherlock on the Spectrum

Sherlock Holmes, as played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is definitely on the spectrum, and the familial aspect of this is well demonstrated by his brother Mycroft.  They depict their childhood as relatively loveless, with rampant competition between them, but the mother has certain aspects of Asperger's Syndrome as well (or maybe it is simply that the parents are self-centered).  I like this for a number of reasons.  One is that it puts the viewer in the shoes of someone whose brain works this way.  Sherlock cannot turn off the barrage of observations that he automatically makes every second of every day.  The other is that while Sherlock is very smart, he is also very troubled and impaired by the way his brain works.  You do not envy him but you are a bit more sympathetic to his plight.  So that is a good thing. Unfortunately,  I did not enjoy Season 4 at all, aside from this aspect.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Gordon's Cup Cocktail

Since getting back from England I have had a renewed appreciation for gin and gin based cocktails.  This is a very good one, with lots of lemon or lime juice and some muddled cucumber.  A great summer drink.

3 slices cucumber, divided (reserve 1 for garnish)
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz Hendrick’s gin
.75 oz fresh lime or lemon juice
Cucumber slice, to garnish
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Muddle together two cucumber slices and syrup in cocktail shaker tin. Add gin, lime juice, and ice, and shake well for 10 seconds. Fine-strain cocktail into a glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with cucumber slice, a pinch of salt, and a twist of pepper

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Night with Janis Joplin

Yes indeed, it is the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, and guess what?  San Francisco is celebrating.  We were there for other reasons, but we decided to partake in some of the merriment.  After all, I spent about 25 years following the Grateful Dead around, literally criss crossing the country to do so.  It was not Haight Ashbury in 1968, but it was pretty great. So spending a couple of hours listening to the music of Janis Joplin and the blues singers who influenced her was very fun.  The lead singer could belt it out, the band was very competent, and while they didn't completely sugar coat her downward spiral, they did not focus on it like the movie The Rose did.  It was mostly about bringing the blues to rock and roll and keeping them there, even after Janis was gone.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nopi, London

 This was our favorite restaurant of our recent trip to England. Which was filled with great restaurants, so that is saying something.  The best part of the experience is that for the most part, you can envision making most of it in your own kitchen.  Pictured at right is a dish that is warm early vegetables that are tossed in a light dressing, something so simple yet so astoundingly delicious.  The vegetables themselves are flavorful and fresh, so you have to have a good source of food in order to pull this off, but after all, I do live in an agriculturally bountiful area.  Then comes making the lemony dressing that balances richness and brightness in equal quantities.  I literally ordered the Nopi cookbook while I was midmeal, hoping that I could recreate some of it on my side of the Atlantic.
I loved this display of food, and before we even saw this, we had eaten two of the four dishes.  That was by chance, but if I had known, I would have tried to pick at least one, because the waiter brings it directly to your table within a minute or two of ordering it.  An appetizer that you really do not have to wait for, and which has been made in large quantity (I love that, because the flavors have meshed).  The other thing that I enjoyed was the plant based emphasis that the whole menu had.  you can definitely get meat here, but if you want to avoid it or minimize it, no problem, about half the menu, maybe more, is open to you.  I would seek this restaurant out, and I would go more than once if I was in London for more than a couple of days.  That good!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Monday, July 3, 2017

Feed Sacks: The Colorful History of a Frugal Fabric by Linzee Kull McCray

I have been a fabric person all my life.  In fact, when I was in a fabric store buying this book, I was unable to keep my attention on the task at hand, which was to buy this book.  The fabric was so distracting.  That said, I really knew very little about the history of printed fabric used to package goods before reading this wonderful book, which is a compendium of feed sacks as a reflection the culture of rural America in the first half of the 20th century.  The circumstances that farmers lived along with the sheer volume of goods that they brought onto large farms was something I knew little about, and I was surprised that a book on fabric would teach me all of that, but it did.  The book has dozens of clippings from newspapers, industry magazines (one hilariously entitled Bagology), advertisements, and clothing patterns (yes, there were patterns with layouts that echoed feed sack sizes), which are fascinating windows into another time.
The fabric associated with feed sacks were unbelievably varied.  The fact that it took about four 100 lb. feed sacks to make a dress, and there were hundreds of patterns makes getting 4 the same kind of a feat.  The book is full of photos throughout, and the last section has hundreds of pictures of different fabrics.  So this is a coffee table book for those amongst us who cannot resist fabric.  Do not miss this!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Take (2016)

This is a chase movie.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The setting is France, the  main characters are American, and the movie is British, so it has some schizophrenia to begin with.  If you are looking for an American chase movie, this is not it.  The story telling isn't what you come for, and the British sensibilities about spying and corruption are decidedly different from the American take on it, so if that is what you come for, you will likely be disappointed.  I, on the other hand, like these all about the same.  It is a quick diversionary movie that did not irritate me in any way (okay, a little too much violence, but that is endemic in this genre).  I would definitely watch it on a plane, for example, but not on a date night.  I like Idris Elba quite a lot, so that goes a long way for me as well.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Trajectory by Richard Russo

I am not a huge fan of the short story, but this collection is really more the length of a novella.  The stories are all centered on University professors, college campuses, and those who write, which is a nice theme.  The crises that occur that form the center of each story are varied, and the solutions fit them nicely too.  I especially liked the story about a professor who has had trouble coping with a learning differences student and is on an Italian vacation with his brother to try to escape the trauma and shame.  He has a complicated relationship with his sibling, who has really done him wrong on a number of levels, but has somehow come out on the short end of the stick of life despite that (or maybe because of it).  In any case, there are some wise observations on life to be found here, and the short format allows for reading in a distracted environment as well.