22 January 2011

Chinese Sacred Lily

The daffodils started blooming this week. Just one bunch so far and not many blooms yet, but I'll take what I can get. This little beauty is the Chinese Sacred Lily (Narcissus tazetta var orientalis 'Chinese Sacred Lily'). These are great daffodils for the Gulf Coast. While we don't have the variety of daffodils available to us as those in the colder climates, we do have many that do well. One of my favorites is one that will be blooming in a little more than a month or so - Ice Follies - all the pictures I saw of it prior to purchase did not do it justice. Another daffodil that's up already N. Pseudonarcissus.  It comes up in the fall and the leaves look like thin grass, but won't bloom until late February. I use rocks marked with paint pens to locate the daffodil sites, since I grow them in big(ish) clumps, and I put the rock at the lower left so I know where to look for the name, since I forget from year to year, and so I know not to dig up the bulbs while planting other things. 

Chinese Sacred Lily - 13 W-Y
Nov - Jan; 12" high
Very early, robust plants, average five florets per stem. 

Dose of Cute

Poitou Donkey - I want want want!
I read a blog called Farmgirl Fare. I'm not sure where I found it, but it fits in with my wishful thinking that one day I'll have a small farm with two donkeys (at a minimum), some chickens, several dogs (of course!) and a random outdoor cat or two - oh, and a flower garden and several veg beds.
Regularly Susan posts her "Dose of Cute" pictures and I find them so wonderful and feel like I might eventually make it to my ideal farm by just seeing what happens at her (rather large) farm. I started to wonder - do our two dingbats do cute things? 

German Shepherd Dog
Well, of course they do, it's just catching them doing it is what is so difficult, so I'm going to try to get Dog 1 (GSD) and Dog 2 (Siberian Husky) to get used to the camera - ie. not stare at me dumbly when I turn it on (beep beep) - and take a few shots to see what I come up with. They are both grown dogs, but sometimes they act like puppies, and sometimes like children and sometimes like spoiled children and sometimes like spoiled puppy children (we are not their parents -- nope, no way - no how - they are pups not kids).
Siberian Husky
Should be fun and hopefully will be some good shots of them both. Susan's recipes are also great, but I really go to see dogs and donkeys. You should really check out Farmgirl Fare.

I don't like ice cream, but ... Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Comparison

I'm not a huge fan of ice cream. Lots of brands have too much weird stuff in them, and that's probably some of the "good" stuff - scary but true. I like to keep things simple, so my limited list of cold treats tends to looks something like this ... lime sherbet, chocolate ice cream, butter pecan ice cream, and dulce de leche ice cream. Simple girl = Simple tastes. So my thoughts on the following comparison is based on simple ingredients which hopefully lead to a rich, indulgent, creamy ice cream. I really don't think that's too much to ask. I include nutritional info, not because I care, but it is interesting to compare the two and note if that does make any difference - especially calories from fat because to me fat equals flavor. I'd love to be all Alton Brown-like and understand why that is, but I don't care that much - I just enjoy it.

Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 1/2 Cup (106g)
Calories: 290
Calories from Fat: 150

Ingredients: Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Caramel Swirl (Sweetened Condensed Milk [Sugar, Milk, Water], Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, Coconut Oil, Pectin, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor), Sweetened Condensed Milk (Sugar, Milk, Water), Egg Yolks, Corn Syrup, Baking Soda, Salt, Natural Flavor.

Ben & Jerry's Dulce Delish
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1/2 Cup (105g)
Calories: 240
Calories from Fat: 110

Ingredients: Cream, Skim Milk, Water, Liquid Sugar (Sugar, Water), Milk, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Butter (Cream, Salt), Milk Fat, Caramelized Sugar Syrup, Pectin, Guar Gum, Sodium Bicarbonate, Vanilla Extract, Soy Lecthin, Carrageenan, Salt, Lactase.

Comments: Why is it that I feel I have to look up so many of these ingredients to figure out what the hell they are? 
Okay - here are initial impressions - I liked the Haagen Dazs ice cream part, but liked the Ben & Jerry's Dulce de Leche swirl best.  That said, the more I tried both of these over several days, the more I was won over by Ben & Jerry's Dulce Delish. I have to say at first I thought the B&J's Dulce Delish was too over powering in the ice cream department, though it was always my front runner in the swirl department - rich, decadent and wonderful - would love to just eat that with a spoon. But over time, I realized that the ice cream and dulce de leche swirl had to be in balance. Haagen Dazs just lacked enough force in either area to make it work and lacked too much DeL swirl - although this was my favorite until I tried the B&J Dulce Delish. My question is what are the ingredients that I've not heard of have to do w/the fact that I like ice cream so much? And what does the fat have to do with it... someone needs to explain it to me. 

Downton Abbey Episode II (The Secrets Edition)

Edith, Mary, Sybil - The Grantham Girls
Summary: As Matthew and Isobel, the newly-arrived Crawleys settle into life in the village, Isobel offers her experience with modern medical techniques at the hospital, to the considerable consternation of Violet. Both Matthew and Mary bristle at the prospect of being matched to one another; still, Matthew indulges Mary's clever barbs even as a suitor in the form of Evelyn Napier is invited for a foxhunt, accompanied by the handsome attaché at the Turkish Embassy, Kemal Pamuk.
Downstairs, secrets reflect the ambitions, shames and desperate hopes of the servants, as housemaid Gwen tries to hide the contents of a heavy box set atop the wardrobe in her room; Carson abandons his customary dignity as he skittishly raids the pantry; and Bates refuses to share the source of his debilitating pain to his co-workers. Their concern and camaraderie markedly contrast the festering discontent of Thomas and O'Brien.
A sinister stranger barges into the house, demanding to speak to Lord Grantham, and an attractive stranger captivates Mary before setting into motion a chain of events that put the fate of Downton Abbey on even less stable ground. PBS: Masterpiece Classics

Comments (including plenty of spoilers):
I have to watch the episodes two times at least, once to enjoy and a second time to make notes and think through the underlying currents in the episode. Considering that this is removed from me in both time and location, it's difficult not to force 21st century sensibilities on the story -- I have the same trouble with Miss Austen's writings - there are things I just want to scream at the characters -- like, Why don't you really talk to each other?
Violet, Dowager Countess Grantham & Mrs. Isobel Crawley
Themes that are becoming notable for me: (1) Mrs. Crawley and Violet are in a state of constant competition that places Violet in the past. Mrs. Crawley isn't the next generation, but her being from a middle class existence seems to have propelled her more into the future of society than say Cora, or even Mary. I expect Mrs. Crawley would relate well to Lady Sybil, the youngest daughter of the Granthams. (2) The servants and the family are more intertwined than I ever imagined, but it's so awkward at times. (3) Servants are like their own family of sorts -- in all the good and bad ways. They have times of fun and struggle. (4) Being on the marriage market must have been terrible. Either you have a history/title and no money or money and no history/title. What is the chance of marrying for love and friendship? Even the Granthams didn't marry for love, but came, luckily, to love each other. I would hate that situation. 

When is being a secretary considered a glamourous thing? Apparently in 1913. Mrs. Crawley takes her place in the series by becoming involved in the hospital and "assisting" Dr. Clarkson. She asks him to "Please, let me be useful." Her treatments are not appreciated, esp by Violet who is President of the hospital. In a sort of ironic twist, Mrs. Crawley helps to save a man dying from dropsy (edema) earning her the respect of Dr. Clarkson and a place as chairwoman of the hospital board. Lord Grantham quips, "She (Violet) may be president, but I am the patron." I do like him so.
O'Brien makes the mistake of making snide remarks about Mr. Crawley within earshot of Lady Grantham - I'm glad to see Lady Grantham (Cora) has a backbone and doesn't put up with O'Brien, but she also seems fair and friendly to the staff. 
Gwen - future secretary
Gwen's revelation that she wants to be a secretary leaves the other staff, excepting Mr. Bates (lovely) and Anna, offended. Again my 21st century brain takes a while for me to make sense of this, but it is reasonable - she's insulting them and their way of life in a way - though she does not mean it. She's our-up-and-coming 20th century girl. Not afraid to study, work hard, and try to make something better of herself -- and doing it FOR herself -- that motivation is important to the character. 
Mary spars with Matthew Crawley and just when she starts to ignore him for others, he seems interested, much to Edith's dismay. Edith is just conniving, while Mary is a stuck up prig. Matthew begins to show more interest in Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham notes, "You don't love it - you see a million bricks that may crumble... I see my life's work." Just as Matthew doesn't yet understand Downton Abbey, he also doesn't understand the importance of the servants and thinks he should let his valet (Mr. Molesley) go because he can dress himself. Lord Grantham questions him - when he inherits Downton how many servants is he going to put out of work for no reason. "We all have parts to play Matthew, and we all must be allowed to play them." Matthew, I think, is beginning to see the light about what his future may be. 
Cheerful Charlies
Carson's position is precarious as his past comes back to haunt him. He was in the theatre - really, that's it? -- I thought he had killed someone the way he reacted. Once again, Lord Grantham is such a real character as illustrated by his comments here:
To Mr. Grieg the blackmailer who is making Mr. Carson miserable, "My dear Mr. Grieg, I will give you 20 pounds and you will leave Downton immediately." Mr. Grieg replies, "Just because you are a lord you think you can do what you like with me." "I think it because it is true." So. There.
To Mr. Carson, "We all have chapters we'd rather keep unpublished. To be honest, Carson, I'm rather impressed, did you really sing and dance and everything in front of an audience?"
"I did," replied Carson. "Do you ever miss it?" "Not in the least my lord." 
Evelyn Napier
The Granthams (Robert, Cora and Violet) are all interested in Mary's marriage plans since one by one they seem to fall through. Up next on the dance card is Lord Braxton's charming son, Evelyn Napier, and his friend Mr. Pamuk. They meet by arrangment at a foxhunt hosted by the Granthams and it's obvious Mary is interested in Mr. Pamuk, the son of a Sultan's minister who is in England for a conference about the future of Albania. 
Edith continues to try and get her little claws into Matthew, but he's not taken in and seems to understand what position he's in - not a good one even if he is inheriting Downton Abbey. 
Mr. Pamuk
Mary makes a HUGE misstep with Mr. Pamuk and her reputation, once he's found dead in her room, should be at an end. Mary plays the family card with her mother - she so knows how to use that little ploy.  So has Mary learned her lesson? That remains to be seen. And what and which servants know what? O'Brien and Thomas will make the most of anything they can get -- hateful creatures. 
Lady Sybil
Lady Sybil begins to get a character in this episode and she is certainly a 20th century woman. She assists Gwen with a job and offers to provide a reference. She's young, but seems level headed and not as selfish as Mary or coniving as Edith. 
Violet is the queen of one liners -- the only one who comes close to her is the character of Mrs. Patmore's quips to Daisy. Regarding Mr. Pamuk's untimely death, Violet says, "No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else's house." She's hysterical.
Mrs. Hughes
It's nice to see Mrs. Hughes' relationship with Mr. Bates. She's such a kind sensible woman. You hear stories about nightmare housekeepers, but Mrs. Hughes is just wonderful - I could work for her. 
Mr. Branson
A new character is introduced - Mr. Branson the new chauffer. He's Irish and seems friendly and educated. We'll see what he brings to the mix. 
The episode ends with Cora and Violet in yet another discussion about the entail and how to break it. Cora says, "I'd hate to go behind Robert's back," but she doesn't look like she means it. I, personally, don't think Mary deserves even that much consideration - spoiled thing. 

21 January 2011

Sour Cream Pound Cake

SCP Ingredients 
Sour Cream Pound Cake
(adapted from recipe submitted (I think to Southern Living) by Mrs. M. Dykes Barber, Birmingham, AL)*
3/4 c butter, softened
2 1/4 c sugar
4 eggs
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/8 t baking soda
3/4 c sour cream
1 t vanilla extract
powdered sugar

Cream butter, gradually add sugar, beating well at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine flour and baking soda and add to creamed butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. mix just until blended after each addition. Stir in flavorings.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 10" budnt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 65 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; remove from pan, cool  completely on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Note: Cake may be made in a greased/floured 2 1/2 quart (10 cups) Turk's head or Kuegelhopf pan for 1 1/2 hours. 

Comments: Why do we begin and end with flour? I understand alternating wet and dry ingredients, but does it really matter which we start with?
My new Nordicware pan is just amazing. I love the William-Sonoma Goldtouch nonstick baking pans. This Bundt pan is just amazing. I can't wait to get more William-Sonoma Goldtouch baking pans. They work so well - which is a great relief when you have a elaborate shape to the Bundt pan (and there is no endorsement involved here).
Music to Bake by: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes - Jimmy Buffet
* I'm doing my best to give credit where credit is due and it is due here because this pound cake is incredible and given my track record, foolproof. I have this idea that Mrs. M. Dykes Barber is still alive and making cakes, but if that's not the case, then her daughters are... at least I hope so. 

20 January 2011

Weyer Works Wooden Spoons

 My Weyer Works Collection
Every year at the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival, there is a "heritage" section of arts and crafts that runs along Historic Pensacola Village. There is a blacksmith, some local guy grinds corn into cornmeal, grits, and makes kettle corn, women sell jellies, you know - historic stuff.
But my favorite person is someone I've purchased from since we moved here in 2003. Mr. Weyer - the woodworker extraordinaire.
I've been buying spoons (mostly) from Mr. Weyer every year now - usually more than one and these are true treasures of my kitchen. Mr. Weyer showed me how to fix the spoon the Boy put in the dishwasher. A couple are stained from canning, but I wouldn't trade them. I'll be back for more in November.

Year - purchases
2003 - 2
2004 - Hurricane Ivan - no festival
2005 - 2
2006 - 2
2007 - 1
2008 - 2
2009 - 2
2010 - 1

From brochure provided at purchase:
Weyer Works
Quality Hand Cared Woodenware for 34 Years
Each item in our line is hand carved using traditional hand tools, including the drawknife, spoke shave, mallet, and gouge. Turned items are made on a wood lathe. most of the wood is native Iowa hardwood, and is air dried for at least seven years.
Care: Pieces are finished with several coats of mineral oil. Bowls are finished with a (sic) mineral oil and beeswax. Hand washing is recommended. Reapply mineral oil as need to maintain the luster of the finish.

You can see the couple from Weyer Works on their blog -- check out their visit to Pensacola -- can't blame them. I'm betting Iowa in November isn't much fun.

19 January 2011

Pensacola Bay Brewery

Pensacola Bay Brewery

The Gulf Coast Beer-Loving Community has something new to celebrate - The Pensacola Bay Brewery. The PBB is located on the corner of Adams and Zaragoza Streets just off historic Seville Square, just across from Old Christ Church, has been open since before Thanksgiving. They had a quiet opening on the last gallery night of the season for 2010, and the MotH and I stumbled on them that Saturday. 
Old Christ Church
They have received lots of nice press and every time we've been there, it's been busy with customers. What a great thing!
They are in a lovely old brick building, with the Tap Room up front and brewery in the back, which you can see through large glass windows. They offer several different beers at a time. A couple of  weeks ago when we were in they had just (an hour before) released their ESB (Extra Special Bitter) and it was a huge hit with MotH. I'm a huge fan of the Deluna Extra Pale Ale and that's my take home beer of choice.
Bomber waiting to be refilled
Speaking of take home - they have an interesting business model at the PBB. They do not sell beer to be served on site - technically. You receive a sample tasting when you purchase a PBB pint glass - you may also receive a flight of tastings for purchase of a PBB pint glass.
This is what we did first to get an idea of what we did / didn't like. They also sell, as mentioned, take home beer. We typically have a 32 oz. bomber filled each week. These will keep for a week or so as long as you drink them within two or three days of opening. They also sell 1 gallon growlers. Once you have purchased the vessel, the price to fill them is very inexpensive for a craft beer and quite enjoyable in the evenings at home.
From our last conversations with the guys behind the counter at PBB, there are a few bars/restaurants in town that will be carrying their craft beers - I'm very pleased to hear that, because distribution is an important part to having PBB to be successful in our community. Although, based on the numbers of people we see when we visit, the Tap Room isn't doing too shabby either. 
Currently on tap are the following: Pensacola Special ESB, Li'l Napoleon IPA, Deluna Extra Pale Ale, Riptide Amber, Banyon Brown, Maiden Voyage Pale Ale, and Lighthouse Porter. Also, look for the Root Beer and the Cream Soda - lovely!

Contact Details:
p. 850.434.3353
a. 225 E. Zaragoza Street, Pensacola FL 32502
Mon - Thur 11 AM – 8 PM; F-S 11 AM – 10 PM;  Sun - 12 PM – 6 PM
Pensacola Bay from the PB Brewery

18 January 2011


"They are calling it a national disaster."
Framed was aired on Masterpiece earlier this year and is one of the most enjoyable times I've spent in front of the television in a very long time (and no, that's not just because David Tennant introduces it). 
I had no idea of the premise of this story, but watched it because art from the National Gallery (London) was involved. I've been to the National Gallery many times and can just spend hours there. 
Synopsis (some minor spoiler points included): London's National Gallery houses some of the world's finest masterpieces, and its curator, Quentin Lester, wants nothing more than to live among them, distraction-free, in a pure and simple life of the mind. When the Gallery's Victorian-era plumbing fails and floods the museum, its paintings are brought to safety in an abandoned slate mine in Manod, North Wales — the very mine to which the collection was evacuated to during World War II. Quentin accompanies his beloved Raphaels, Titians, and Velasquez to safety, relishing a chance to tend to them in isolation.
That isolation, in the grey mist and dramatic slopes of Manod, brings with it sheep; a vaguely frightening butcher; a charming and spirited, if slightly nosey, local schoolteacher, Angharad; and a 10-year-old boy, Dylan Hughes, with whom Quentin develops an unlikely friendship. For Dylan, whose father has just left the family in the face of devastating financial woes, the privileged outsider and his convoy of trucks from London represent a chance to save the Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel garage, his family's business. For Quentin, who mistakes the boy for an art connoisseur when a chicken-wrangling incident goes awry, Dylan presents an opportunity for the human connection that this urbane aesthete craves.
The masterpieces, stored in yellow crates — to the consternation of the ever-challenging teacher Angharad — inspire not intellectual contemplation but action of all sorts throughout the sleepy village. When, out of desperation, Dylan and Minnie, his aspiring criminal mastermind little sister, perpetrate the art heist of the century, it's the renowned curator who gets a lesson in art appreciation and the power of art to transform lives.

Trevor Eve as Quentin Lester
Comments: The initial scene is so descriptive of the character of Quentin Lester (Trevor Eve). He's walking in London and about to step on a very elaborate three dimensional chalk drawing on the sidewalk. He doesn't see the art in the chalk drawing that he's about to step on (and in), oblivious to the image and he doesn't get the joke either - someone definitely needs to lighten up. And further illustrations of Lester's character are presented when he has to tour "middle" school students around. He's informed by his skinny macchiato decaf providing assistant that the students are studying the Middle Ages and would like to see "anything with knights or dragons, failing that, death, failing that, sex." Lester droans on the the kids who text on their phones and basically ignore him. In describing St. Jerome, Lester notes "just the life of the monk .... pure, simple..." It's pretty obvious what he wants, and sadly, what kind of world he'd like to inhabit.
I really enjoyed the history of the National Gallery during World War II. The concept that the government would bring a picture out of hiding for a month -- and it's the only picture in the place - and people would line up to see it - during the period of time when
Germany was bombing them into the ground. You have to give it to the Brits for that one!
So as mentioned above, due to a water leak, the paintings are moved to a slate cave in Wales - it's so depressing, (but I still continue my efforts to learn Welsh - it's a lovely language - I just wish I had someone to practice with).

Eve Myles as Angharad Stannard
Framed is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. It is sly humor and the vast majority of the time, Lester is the butt of the joke and just as likely is the fact that he might not realize it at the moment. That's not to say that he's stupid - he is not. He's just isolated himself so much, it's almost like he doesn't know how to react or relate to people -- paintings yes, people, um, no, not so much.
Angharad Stannard (Eve Myles) is the charming school teacher of the village below the slate mine, Manod. She is charming, curious and certainly not in the least afraid to speak her mind. I like her, and best of all her students like her too and she stands up for them. In one of her "conversations," if you can call it that, between Lester and Angharad takes place after she brought all the children to the mine to see the paintings and Lester won't take them out of their boxes. "Art is for looking at, not for keeping in boxes," she says. Lester replies, "Art is for people who appreciate it." Not exactly the way to make friends - and he doesn't even seem to realize he's a snob.

Samuel Davies as Dylan Hughes
While Dylan Hughes (Samuel Davies) is the boy that Lester believes is interested in "great" art, it's his sister Minnie (Mari Ann Bull) that I find so much fun. She's a red-headed spit fire who figures she might as well case the joint while in the cave - never know when that might come in handy. She's great. Dylan and Minnie's mom is the woman that holds the family together when the husband/father can't seem to function. I swear men wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell w/out a women to sort things out for them.

Mari Ann Bull as Minnie Hughes
This is everything a movie should be - funny, interesting, characters that you believe and who seem to exist in the world (we all know someone like Lester), and the transformation of a character into someone who, in the end, you will like. 
There are a few more days to watch online, but I'm hoping PBS will show this again. Worth setting up the TiVo for....