Friday, February 28, 2014

Me gusta café, me gusta té, pero Maria, pero Maria, pero Maria, me gusta más



Let me pour you a cup of coffee songs; one and two, to have with the coffee cake.

Dear Mornings,

Here is something to accompany coffee, and morning; but it isn't necessary to have coffee cake in the morning, or even with coffee.  Coffee cake is for anytime, anywhere.  I will give a recipe adapted from a nice book by Melissa Gray, entitled All Cakes Considered.  Ms. Gray is a producer for NPR's program All Things Considered.  Ms. Gray tells her baking readers this cake is a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten.  Many of you will know the tear-jerking tragic film of the same name- I understand that Ina Garten took on the name when she bought a shop that sold foodstuffs called The Barefoot Contessa.  I can only recommend the movie if you feel like a star-crossed lovers' tale, but Ina Garten's recipes are excellent no matter your mood.

I have made a few changes from the recipe as given in my book-  Principally, an increase in the quantity of streusel.  But you know, you could increase it even more, because there is little finer than these crumbly shortbread bits.  If you keep on increasing, and at the same time, decreasing the coffee cake batter to nil;  add almonds, part of an egg, and you will soon have a torta sbrisolona; an Italian oversized cookie type cake, which has its origins in the middle ages.  Here is a very authentic ricetta, and here is one in English. 

Or, you may invent it yourself, like my son did, and give it your own name;  My son calls his Streusel Cake:  Press half of it down into a pan, and sprinkle the rest on top.  Streusel, Ms. Gray reports,
means "something scattered or sprinkled" in German.

Oh, and once you have the cake baking, why not begin roasting your own coffee?  My husband has been roasting it himself for a decade!  He roasted the first beans in a cast iron pan, on our stovetop:  Now he uses a camp stove and a use-blackened popcorn pan.  It smells good roasting, too.  Try it yourself, by following the steps outlined at Sweet Maria's, suppliers of all home roasting and brewing needs, including their impeccably sourced beans.

The Barefoot Contessa's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups sour cream, or yogurt or even heavy cream

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour a ten inch tube pan.

 Make the streusel:  combine in a bowl until large clumps form:

1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 tsps. cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter

Add, if desired:
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Begin the cake batter:  Cream the butter and sugar together until light.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add sour cream and vanilla.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in a separate bowl, then combine them with the first 5 ingredients.

Put about half the batter into the tube pan, then sprinkle half of the streusel over it- top it with the rest of the batter.  Shove it around with a spatula until it is pretty level, and sprinkle the rest of the streusel over it. 

Bake it for around 50 to 60 minutes.  Check, though, with a skewer to see that it is fully baked in the center.

Let it cool for half an hour or more, and then, if you like, let it cool a little more and apply a simple glaze of powdered sugar and maple syrup.  Use 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tbs. of maple syrup.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How many Tons?

Dear Ones,
I missed you terribly last night-  25 violins!!  Yes, and 10 violas, and was it 8, or 9 cellos?  Four bassoons!  You know how beautiful bassoons and cellos are (just to say the words!   Bassoon.  Cello.), and these played a samba inspired "spectacular" of South American composed pieces.  I know you were busy elsewhere, so I send you an electronic shadow to give some sense of the shimmering reverberations of the Bahia Youth Orchestra performance. 
I began this missive with another delightful Brazillian band; Funk Como le Gusta.  Yes, it is just how you like it, and I hope you will explore more of their music.
Escreva novamente em breve.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Non-Optimists, Please Lead.


Dear All,

Ever marvel at serendipity?  At a plate full of coincidence?  Of relevant lessons that come just in time?  At a short, sharp, confirmation shoved into your side?  I think it might be kismet.  But, I am not going to check that right now, in our large red faux-Morocco bound Webster's, or our dusty and frail ten volume Oxford.

I am not reading the definition of kismet right now, because I am in a big hurry.  In a hurry to serve you up another letter from Letters of Note. 

I am in a hurry, because I am reading four books that suggest to me some questions that this letter pertains to intimately.  It may be that you are reading the same four books, or perhaps any four books, so I wanted to you to have this letter.  Now.


The Four Books of the Apocalypse:

Raccoons are the Brightest People;  Sterling North.
Epitaph for a Peach;  David Mas Masumoto.
The Yearling;  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
A Short History of Nearly Everything;  Bill Bryson.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tipi Rings

Dear Photo Safarians,

Here is something wonderful:  Tipi rings.  I never even knew of them!  I found them in a photograph by Peter De Lory. 

You can see more of Mr. De Lory's photographs of Tipi rings, by visiting the website of the Lisa Harris Gallery. 
Then, to see some more images from this interesting eye, visit Peter De Lory's website.  You'll see this montage of his road photographs.  Doesn't it make you want to head out on the highway, and  take some photos of the open road yourself?  Maybe you will want to stay some place interesting, odd, even.  Here is a site to find an unusual night's stay.

When you get back, join me in making some stone circles in the yard.  I will be putting them in the very best places:  A spot to hear bees, a place to watch leaves change, a tree to watch cars come up the drive, a bench for feeling the sun, and a spot to see the birds in high branches.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Do it for Love

I send you this valentine:  a piece of music by Gavin Bryars.  I hope you will visit his site often;  there is a lot to love there.

with love.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Falling short of the Mark

Dear Readers,

It is the one-year anniversary of The Way of The Dodo, and so my thoughts turn to you.  Writing to you here has been a great pleasure, and I have but one regret.  I think I shall name this regret "True Feeling."  I name it thus, because I see, peripherally, the big gap, the missing chunk in the proscenium; and this absence is as in describing the sea, to a person raised inland of anything but a small lake:  How can one taste the salt?  Feel the grit of foam-floated sand?  Or smell the myriad creatures and plants decaying on the air?  One cannot.  One cannot describe it but in smallest part, and one cannot imagine it but in smallest shade.

And yet, you know that you must go to the sea yourself.  Here, then, is the ineffable, with its lack of True Feeling, once more, for your pleasure:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sailors, Take Warning!

Dear Bird-Voyeurs and Folks at Sea,

A section, of that well-known poem, the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, to celebrate the Albatross Nest Camera.  I hope that you will read the whole glorious thing, loudly and with gusto, right here. 

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'
May all your albatross hatch, or soar in poetry,
and your neck unburdened be!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Flowing River of Time

Dear Women of Distinction,

You may find yourself, one day, in the unexpected and downright shocking position of 'having aged.'  Discomfited by this realization, you may look to others for help in weathering the storm of time.  You may look to women who appear to be aging elegantly, like Catherine Deneuve, and say to yourself, "aha!  I need better lighting, and a coterie of stylists."

And there is something else you can do, you can skip the studio lights and the stylists, and adopt a little bit of style.  The library is a great place to acquire a little bit of style.  The have books on antiques, painting, history, fashion, music, and great literature.  If that isn't enough, they have the charming stop motion animation Wind in the Willows video recordings made by Cosgrove Hall Films that you watched in the previous link.

 Here is a book filled with style to inspire you.  If your library doesn't have it, why not buy it, and then give it to your library?  In a few years, after the book circulates a bit, your whole community will be overflowing with style.  You can look around at your stylish, cultivated, charming, and/or well-dressed friends and neighbors and know that you helped to shape this utopia!  Brava!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Howdy All,

I especially want to encourage any clothes horses to tour around the links I have for today.  The phrase has two meanings.  It is either a folding frame to dry laundry on, or a person who can't get enough clothes- a person just a leetle bit obsessed with clothes and fashion.  We are very lucky at the Dodo, because we have one of each.  Well, what are we waiting for?  Clothes that are in every way worthy of a clothes horse!


I know, isn't it the most wonderful expression of fabric freedom you have ever seen?  These fabulous clothes are designed by Krista Larson, and sewn in the U. S.  See more of them at her online shop, Blue Polly Boutique.

Let's have one more Krista Larson ensemble:

These pieces are so modern in their sensibilities.  I adore them.  Let Krista Larson guide you in combining your clothes in new and exciting ways! 

Next, another fine U. S. made clothier, Alabama Chanin:

See all about Ms. Chanin, at Alabama Chanin.  Be inspired by her hand sewing and detailing.  I have a wool jersey top I am sewing ever so slowly together by hand, with silk embroidery floss, and it all started by poring over her clothes' lovely finishes and embellishments.

Lastly, for your dressing bliss and enjoyment, Treehouse28.  Find these affordable knit pieces at Alix's shop on Etsy, right here.

Alix  will sew them to your very own dimensions, and she gets it all done in a twinkling!  I have some pants and a sleeveless top.  The clothes horse (in the laundry-drying sense) and I wear them all the time.

You might, though, wonder just what to do about foundations, because, as you read everywhere, the right undergarments are the key to looking good.  Have a look at these beauties, at Marlies Dekkers.  Oh, and don't forget shoes!  Imagine your feet in gorgeous Chie Mihara shoes!

Worrying about being a tall poppy?  One bit of musical advice and encouragement, then, to ease you into more daring and expressive dressing:   Banana Xylophone.