August 24, 2011

Enchanted Forest

How was your commute home? On my way from work I often cut through a woodsy park, full of overgrown trees and ancient-looking ferns. Last week the commute home held a few surprises.  Remember Vilja? The only person in the park was a soprano belting out arias in the desolate gazebo.  Just a few steps later, a deer frozen in the green clearing, perhaps appreciating the singing.  Alas, no magic on the way home today.  Only pre-teens on bikes and dog-walkers. 

Here are a couple paintings that (partially) capture the feeling of enchantment.

Henri Rousseau, Tropical Forest with Monkeys, 1910
National Gallery of Art, John Hay Whitney Collection

Beech Forest by Gustav Klimt Vienna 1902
Gustav Klimt, Beech Forest, 1902
Finding a decent photo of the painting proved to be tricky - as I refuse to include image of a poster of the same painting.  I finally clipped this from web version of Klimt book by Gilles Neret.

August 17, 2011

What's On My Nightstand: Part 1

I have recently featured two nightstands or rather books stacked on top of them. It is perhaps time to share with the world the stacks, or piles if you will, by my bedside. 

I confess.  I tidied the overflowing piles of just-read, currenly-reading, and meaning-to-read books, shelving a handful.  Of course there are endless stacks of magazines and a few gems:

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett

1. The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett

I picked up this book because it is by Alan Bennett (who also wrote The Uncommon Reader) and because of its diminutive size no larger than a postcard. To sum up the premise: an affluent middle-aged couple returns from the opera to find their home robbed clean of everything down to the toilet paper roll.  

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell Corfu

2. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

I bought this book before leaving for Greece and finished it on the plane back, it just has not found a home on the book shelf yet. The author and his eccentric family leave the foggy England for sunny Corfu. Throw in a cast of local characters and a few unusual pets and the transatlantic flight does not seem quite so grueling any more.

3. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

The Grand Sophy, or I suspect any book by Georgette Heyer, certainly is not life-changing,  but it is delicious.  This turned out to be a perfect summer page-turner.  It has all the best of cheesy chick-lit but well researched historical backdrop and decent writing elevate it to respectable status.

Possession by A.S. Byatt
4. Possession by A.S. Byatt

In contrast to The Grand Sophy, Possession is the literary equivalent of a graduate course chock full of Victorian poetry, Breton legends, and obsessive academics. This book deserves a Klatch post of its own!

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

5. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
A parody at its best with yet another colorful cast of characters (what is it with the British?). There is preaching head of household Amos Starkadder, his sons Reuben and playboy Seth. Granny Ada Doom ever leaves her room and goes on about having seen “something nasty in the woodshed.” Why isn’t this on the required reading list at schools?

More about the rest of the books on the table next time!

August 14, 2011

Going to the country...

And, yes, we ate a LOT of peaches. On the same trip to Ohio we made a habit of picking up produce at Aufdenkampe Family Farm. This farm actually overlooks the farm, talk about going to the source. Without minding such silliness as organic production we just filled up our bags full of fresh corn, green tomatoes, and amazing, unbelievable, juicy, scrumptious peaches (the peaches were good!).

Here are a few photos:

farm stand onions
Onions as l'object de art? Why not.

farm stand cucumbers, squash, green tomatoes
You can see the corn field just just behind the cucumbers and zinnias.

fresh corn from the farm
Freshly picked corn on the cob!

Aufdenkampe Family Farm
Aufdenkame Family Farm is an old-school operation, in the best possible way, but with modern day digital strategy.

beautiful sunflowers
Herbs, sunflowers, cucumbers, the bounty takes your breath away.

August 9, 2011

How to Boil an Egg

Speaking of cooking by the seat of your pants, lets talk eggs. Eggs are perfect. Fried, scrambled, poached, over-easy. For breakfast, lunch, power snack or brinner. Hard boiling eggs gets the rep for being easy, but is it? Every chef seems to have their formula. Martha – bring to boil and leave for 12 minutes. The Egg people suggest bringing water nearly to a boil and letting eggs stand covered for 15 minutes. Mark Bittman will have us believe that nothing beats a nine minute boil followed by cold bath

I have not done a scientific A/B split to test 9 minute boil against 12 minutes covered, but with dozens of eggs ‘under my belt,’ here is my trusty formula owning to now forgotten online source:


Eggs go into a pot of cold water, no salt necessary (I read somewhere that salt does not prevent cracking but turns yolk gray). Bring the pot to a boil, lower the temperature just a little and let the eggs boil for 3 minutes. Turn off the stove, cover the pot and let stand for 11 more minutes. Then, drain and pour cold water over the eggs (adding ice to the pot makes it easier to peel the eggs). That about does it.

August 3, 2011

Country store

On a recent family visit to Ohio we made a customary stop at the Apple Hill dry goods store.  The store is well stocked and well priced, certianly below the prices of bulk section at Whole Foods.  Yet the shop has such old-fashioned simplicity about it that it takes your breath away - I am sure Chef Matt would have a field day. Pumpkin butter, grains, crunchy dried peas, my pantry is stocked full, thanks Apple Hill. 

Honey Jars Country Store
Jars of local Ohio honey (next to shelf of jellies with strawberry-rhubarb and pumpkin butter).

country store spices
Sacks of flour in stacked crates: whole wheat, rye, buckwheat.

The spice selection is impressive and surprising.  Looking for cinnamon? Of course, sticks and ground.  For something more exotic try coriander. I stocked up on dried tarragon.

Apple Hill Bulk Foods
Apple Hill Miller Bulk Foods - yes, places like that still exist.  In the fall they turn the yard into a pumpkin patch with bunnies and baby goats!

old fashioned candy
The old fashioned candy sticks display takes your breath away, it's like stepping back in time!


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