Saturday, September 29, 2012

a real literary treat

A couple of years ago I read this novel by C. J. Sansom and really liked it. His "man" is Matthew Shardlake, a hunchback lawyer in the employ of Thomas Cromwell. Dissolution is the story of the closing of monasteries in the 16th century. There is a murder of one of Cromwell's emissaries and Shardlake is dispatched to find out what happened. Sansom has written four more Shardlake novels, including Dark Fire which purports to tell the "real" story of the downfall of Cromwell. What has gotten me so excited about these novels is the discovery that the Library of Congress now has them on digital format which means I can lose myself in the excellent prose of the author and the exploits of Mr. Shardlake. I highly recommend these stories for both their historical settings and Sanson's fine story telling skills.

Friday, September 28, 2012

friday at the movies

Ultimately a very satisfying movie with some complicated moral issues we have to grapple with. Good performances by Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer. Initially I was not so sure I would like it or finish it. But I got hooked. If you actually put in a personal appearance at your bank you might be wary. But I recommend it anyway.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

got books?

Look what I found on my morning walk! It's on the front lawn of a house in a neighborhood a few blocks away on our usual route. At first I thought it was an über fancy mailbox. But no! It's a little library filled with books. The idea is you take one, leave one. It's called The Little Free Library. It's not locked up so you can browse the "shelf" any time. This is such a great idea! Gina (walking partner) took one look and decided she had to have one. Our neighborhood will soon have its own Little Free Library and it will be right across the street.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

on the bedside table

A new title on the bedside table:  "The Memory of Running."  Not about running.  Excellent read.

In the September 17th issue of The New Yorker, an excerpt from Salman Rushdie's newest book, "Joseph Anton:  A Memoir."  Also reviewed in today's Arts section of the NY Times.  And an interview on Charlie Rose last night.  Lotta good stuff.  Especially in these perilous, tumultuous times.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

a couple of hours with Alan Rickman

I watched this very good movie yesterday afternoon. I am a big fan of Rickman; if you haven't seen Truly, Madly, Deeply at least three times, what are you waiting for?  Sigourney Weaver plays an  autistic woman whose daughter is killed in a car wreck.  Alan Rickman was the driver.  It's the story of what happens when the two meet.  Only one tissue, and that one barely damp.  I recommend it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

the results are in

Mr. C's slow cooker heat experiment concluded yesterday and has resulted in the following information:  it's the recipe, not the cooker.  He did the high heat test on Thursday, the low heat test yesterday.  The water temperature rose to just where it should be.  So it was the recipe ~ cook chicken on low heat for 10 hours ~ that was at fault.  We should have known.  But at least I am relieved that we don't have to pack the machine up, send it back with a long, detailed explanation, and then wait for another one.  We're going to try another dish and use common sense about the cooking time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

more about the chicken

Well, it's not a pretty story. Mr. C was so looking forward to trying his new slow cooker with a nice, plump whole-body chicken cooked in onions, lemon juice, various spices and some red pepper flakes (above, before plugging in the pot). The recipe called for a cooking time of 10 hours on the Low setting. Cooking a chicken for 10 hours? That should probably have been the first clue that something wasn't quite right. But he pressed ahead anyway. He checked the bird after two hours and thought it looked awfully close to "done" but left it alone. After four hours, ditto. Finally after 5 hrs., 45 minutes, the whole bird had basically collapsed in the roaster. He turned it off and there it sat for 5 hours until it was time for dinner. Let me tell you, this was one ruined chicken. The meat was incredibly dry and mealy, and I'm talking about leg and thigh. Forget the breast. So we decided there might be something amiss with the heat elements.  Or the recipe.

This morning the resident scientist decided to test the heat theory. He put a quart of water in the pot and turned the heat to high. After four hours the temperature measured 205º and the water had started a gentle simmer. Tomorrow he will repeat his experiment using the low temperature to see how hot it gets in four hours. Perhaps it's like any gadget; it's all in the knowing how. We'll see.

So what about all the dried out chicken? Pot pie for dinner with a phyllo topping!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

billy collins and "Names"

Last night on the PBS News Hour Billy Collins, once our Poet Laureate, read this beautiful, heart breaking poem. I pass it on for your reading pleasure.


Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Billy Collins
September 11, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the chef's new toy

One of the resident chef's favorite TV programs is a cooking show on Saturday afternoon. A couple of weeks ago the dish du jour was a fresh brisket cooked in a slow cooker. Nothing would do but Mr. C must have one. So I trolled through the internet and found one priced $50 less than the cooking show stated, ordered it, and it arrived today. He is delighted with his purchase and will inaugurate it tomorrow by preparing a whole chicken with lemon and rosemary. Tomorrow morning we will turn this thing on and let it do it's work all day. This gem is NOT going down to Mexico.

While the chicken is cooking we will be having the carpets cleaned. We have (or are in the process of doing so) moved all the furniture out of the carpeted rooms onto the front terrazzo and the back deck. The fresh, clean carpet will be a nice compliment to my new dining room drapes, delivered and installed today. I bought the fabric in Mexico a couple of years ago, not really sure where I was going to use it. At first I thought in the beach house bedroom but it is too light and transparent. We have a couple of street lights that shine in our bedroom so we need something a bit more substantial. I finally decided that the current drapes are at least 20 years old, shrank when I had them cleaned, and could be retired. These new ones, made out of a light, undyed cotton and lined with muslin, mimic the tile floors.  They look better than I thought they would.

Monday, September 10, 2012

new faces

It's a slow news day so I thought I'd just call attention to some new links I have put up over on the left. For those of you who have not yet figured it out I am an unregenerate lover of all things French. I have always believed that my soul (French) somehow got misdirected to this little American baby (me) about to explode into the world. I keep my eye out for interesting things French and have come across these two blog sites. The first is HiP Paris written by a francophile who splits her time between Paris and the US. The Francofly lives in France and posts wonderful illustrations she does around Paris and other cities. Her name is Jessie Kanelos and she also does sketches for the HiP Paris blog. Her illustration on HiP of the September "rentrée" in Paris is wonderful. See her treatise on finding good American food in Paris; she has discovered where to find a BLT, with this almost edible drawing. 

The third new link is Oh Joy! written by a woman who must be the the world's most dedicated shopper and seeker of all things deliciously indulgent. Another fun read with my morning coffee (after No More Commas Period, of course).

Friday, September 7, 2012

not quite out of the park

First there was Michelle's triple, out of the park. Then there was Bill. Another triple. Biden was predictably Biden, but a good, fire-y speech. What happened next was somewhat of a let down. Or am I the only one who thought that? The speech didn't meet my expectations or the run-up. Not much fire but a lot of gravitas. Perhaps that's what's called for in these times. The convention did, however, cover all the Obama bases; the past (Michelle), the present (Bill) and the future (himself). Now it's up to us leafleters, doorbell ringers, phone banksters. I don't yet feel as fired up as I did four years go, but what does get me going is the thought of the alternative!

NOTE ON THE SIDE: Aren't those Obama daughters gorgeous!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

he's ready

Now, finally, after 12 years of being abroad in the world, he's ready to run. He's older, he's wiser, and he's still the best, most intuitive politician of our age.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

another splendid Helen Mirren

I watched this two-part BBC Masterpiece Theatre production via the Flix® instant watch. Helen Mirren transforms herself from a scruffy has-been folk singer into a sleek, polished would-be art dealer in order to solve the murder of her landlord. Excellent diversion.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I must be showing my age

Every morning in my email box there are ads for "Serious Singles", "Christian Mingle" and "Second Timers". These uplifting messages come along with a dozen or so offers for viagra, both foreign and domestic. Is this what it's coming to? Is this my future?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

greeks bearing gifts

We went up to Sacramento for the Greek Festival. Lots to look at, great music, folk dancing, a splendid lunch of moussaka, spanakopita. dolmathes, tiropita, and a melt-in-your-mouth kourambiede for dessert. We brought home the goodies above: Kalamata olives to take to Mexico since you can't get any kind of black olive, and some delicious olive oil. It was a lovely afternoon spent with friends ~ she's Greek, he's Italian.