Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Review and a Recipe-Wild About Shortbread


I heard a review of Wild when it came out, thought, That sounds interesting, and forgot about it. When it was made into a movie, I remembered I wanted to read it. Forgot about it again. Recently, I found it on the library shelf.  No avoiding it now.

Cheryl Strayed had an extreme reaction to her mother's death. She set out on a self-destructive path through multiple sex partners and drug use, destroying her marriage in the process.

Making this trip was her way of trying to reconnect with a younger version of herself to save herself. It's amazing she made it through because despite her preparation she was not ready for the rigors she faced.

She faced physical hardship and some dicey situations. She confronted her internal demons and enjoyed the camaraderie of other hikers.

It made me nostalgic for my backpacking days along the Upper Kern River in California. The Pacific Crest Trail passes close to where I camped. Even when I was in my twenties I don't think I would have attempted something like this. Aching shoulders and sore feet for a week is one thing. Having to wrap your blistered, bleeding feet in duct tape and losing toenails is quite another.

This is a great armchair adventure best undertaken with something tasty (not nasty freeze-dried food) and a cup of tea.


Lemon shortbread




1¼ cups unbleached flour ( I like King Arthur. I think it tastes better.)
¼ cup sugar
dash of salt
1 stick butter
grated rind of 1 lemon ( I always buy organic when I use rind.)
1-2 tsp. of lemon juice as needed.

I used a food processor to mix.

Pulse flour, sugar and salt to combine.

Cut butter into 8 pats and drop into flour mixture.

Pulse until mixture looks like large crumbs.

Add lemon juice 1 tsp. at a time just until mixture stays together when you squeeze a bit.

Scrape dough onto a sheet of wax paper and form dough into a log 1½ inches in diameter.

Slice into rounds ¼ inch thick and place rounds on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at °350. Check after 20 minutes. Edges should be light golden brown.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cederberg Tea House-A South African Flavour




As pleasant as high tea at Queen Mary was, I found myself longing for a casual tea room where you didn't have to make a reservation. An everyday place.

Tea rooms were all the rage for a while. There aren't as many now. I guess their moment has passed.

Hello Google.


I found the Cederberg Tea House on Queen Anne. A South African tea house. Hmm, that could be sort of British.

And it is. They have tea sandwiches and baked-to-order scones and tea in a pot. I ordered the scones. They were delicious, though I would classify them as American biscuits.  I expect scones to have a crunchier crust but keep in mind that would be American scones. I am no expert on English scones.

They also have rooibos and bunny chow. I'll pass on the rooibos, which is a tisane as Poirot would say, and not a tea. But I can't wait to try the bunny chow.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tea rooms


Queen Mary window

Afternoon tea is so delightful. I used to ferret out tea rooms around Seattle. For a time they were all the rage. Whenever we traveled, I'd look up tea rooms to visit. I always wanted the English afternoon high tea. Bring on that food.

Recently, my daughter and I went to the Grand Dame of Seattle tea rooms, Queen Mary Tea Room. When she was little, it was a popular birthday spot. We hadn't been in years.

Sorbet first course






Crumpets, quiche, scone, sausage roll.



Little cups of carrot soup, apricot tea loaf, fruit


The waitress asked if we had any food restrictions and we said no. I wasn't thinking about fruit until I saw the plate. Sure enough, under the apples and berries lay some kiwi. After getting a scratchy tongue and throat the last time I had it, I avoid kiwi.


Cucumber sandwiches, quinoa pastry, salmon mousse on toast, two kinds of cookies.

 It is still impossibly cute. Linen napkins and floral teacups. The food was scrumptious. Through the window, we saw the shifting weather from warm sun to pouring rain. We had a lovely afternoon.



Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review-The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan




I love mysteries set in other times and places, but I feel a bit strange when I see an appealing mystery set in India or South Africa or Botswana see that the author is not from that country or culture. Yes, artists and writers make stuff up, but still. Some of them have a tone of "look how endearingly cute the natives are." When I saw the name on this mystery, I thought "Oh good, written by someone who is Indian." Well, sort of. His cultural background is Indian but he is really a Brit. Suspend disappointment and go.

Inspector Chopra is retiring from the police department. He doesn't want to but he's reached retirement age. Then his dying uncle bequeaths him a baby elephant. This does not make him popular with his wife or the condo board.

In the mean time, he makes a promise to someone to investigate the apparent suicide of their son. He finds inconsistencies but is warned away from the case because it's a suicide and it's his last day. Of course he can't let it go.

I enjoyed the feel of Mumbai and a baby elephant as a detective side-kick is unusual but it works. I look forward to the next one.




Friday, February 19, 2016

Murchies Teas

   

I have loved Murchie's, especially No. 22, since the 90s when we went to Canada at least once a year. Then I went off that flavor. My mother moved here and became frail. 9/11 happened and we didn't go to Canada for several years.

We went in 2013 and I bought a medium size Brown Betty teapot and loose tea. I liked No. 22 again. Great, until I ran out.  Back to generic Trader Joe teabags or English teabags from the British Pantry in Redmond.

I recently found a small glass tea pot that was perfect for just two cups and realized that loose tea tastes so much better. Of course, before I've posted this I broke the glass lid so I am using my Brown Betty for morning tea and you know what? It is just fine for one person.

I still had a tea problem. I priced loose tea at the Queen Mary shop, my goodness the prices! I'd always thought ordering from Canada would be expensive. With the current exchange rate it's much cheaper to buy from them and have it shipped than to buy locally.

I ordered No. 22, Scottish Breakfast, and Canadian Breakfast. It came in two days, really quickly for crossing borders but not surprising if you think geographically because Vancouver is only 3 hours away.

No 11.-Gunpowder, Keemun, Jasmine, Ceylon. Such a combination of flavors. A little smoky, a hint of flower

Scottish Breakfast-Assam, Ceylon, Yunnan

Canadian Breakfast-Ceylon, Keemun with maple flavoring.  The aroma is lovely although it does make me hungry for pancakes and bacon!

 I like No. 22 for breakfast alternating with Scottish Breakfast and Canadian Breakfast for afternoon tea with a lightly sweet something.

I may be ordering all my tea from Murchie's as long as the exchange rate is favorable. The common thread is Keemun and Ceylon. Next time I think I'll order those as single flavors and see what it is I like about them.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cleaning-A Cautionary Tale

I had an accident with a steak knife on Christmas Day. It's a knife with a cover. As I was cleaning it the cover slipped off and the knife sliced my thumb. The emergency room receptionists laughed when I entered with my hand wrapped in bloody paper towels. I was the sixth person to walk in with a hand injury. 

While waiting for the anesthetic to take effect I went looking for the bathroom. I passed the intake nurse. A man was sitting in the chair holding up his hand wrapped in bloody paper towels. Unlucky number seven! 

Two stitches and a booster shot later we were back at the house where the kids had jumped in and completed dinner preparations. I had several large glasses of wine. The rest of Christmas was lovely. Don't look at the photo if you are squeamish.



Between Christmas and New Year's it turned clear and cold, perfect for a walk at Magnuson Park.

Winter Sun

Ice Sheet


Looking across Lake Washington towards Kirkland

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Year in Books: September, October and November in One Post



September's book was Half-Broke Horses, a fictional re-telling of the author's grandmother's life and written as though she is telling it. She was born in 1901 in a soddie (a house dug into the earth with a grass roof). My granddad was born in a soddie in Nebraska in 1898 and I imagine his childhood was just as dramatic.


You may have read about a house like this in the Laura Ingalls Wilder book Little House on the Prairie. This is a more realistic description of what that life would be like.  She takes care of her younger brother and sister because her mother is city girl overwhelmed with ranch life. She also helps her father run the ranch, teaches school and learns to fly. She grows into a no-nonsense, pragmatic woman, unlike her dreamer of a sister who goes off to Hollywood and lands on the casting couch with disastrous results.

This colors her attitude to her own dreamy daughter whom she tries to toughen up but fails spectacularly. Walls' mother marries a feckless man and they make their children's lives hell as Jeanette Walls outlines in her memoir The Glass Castle. You can draw some conclusions about the reach of decisions down through the generations.  I was going to read it because Half-Broke Horses was enjoyable, but I am done with dysfunctional family memoirs for the moment.





October's book was Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. I read this on a 5-hour flight to Washington, D.C. And it is fascinating.  It can also be seen as an example of how parental decisions affect children. After her parents divorce, Piper moves far away and makes some odd friends who are into some very bad things.

After awhile she pulls herself out of it and starts to build a better life, when Wham! someone gives her name up as part of a plea deal. She waits years before going to trial, is convicted and sentenced to 18-months in a minimum security prison.

This is where the real story begins.  This is not the horror story I expected, no shivs in the yard or rapes in the shower. What is it like to carve out some kind of life in within a restricted environment?
How do you enter a whole new world, learn the rules, and create alliances? The women she meets each have their own stories and ways of coping.  Highly recommended.

After all this reality we come to November's book, a lovely, lovely read. The Hollow Land by
Jane Gardam is set in Cumbria, England. It is the story of two boys, Bell and Harry. Harry's family rents a place in the country as a retreat from their London lives. Bell's family owns the house and has lived and farmed in Cumbria for generations.

The boys have adventures, the grown-ups have their grown-up dramatics as vacations come and go. Vivid characters and descriptions of place draw you into another world where history both cradles and influences the present. One of my favorite books this year.