Friday, January 27, 2023

Review: Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs

Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs by Sue Hubbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This classic book about bugs is so much fun! I have to admit that if I had read it ten years ago, it would have been over my head. Now I understand taxonomy and understand how Hubbell organized the book. She took each major order of insects: flies, beetles, true bugs, etc., and detailed the life story of a species or genus. She chose those bugs with which she was familiar in her life.

The chapter on lady beetles detailed how they are captured in the wild for dispersal to gardeners who insist on buying them for their aphid eating abilities, even though there are other insects, like lacewings, which would do a better job. The lady beetle harvest is cutthroat: harvesters steal territories, and lady beetles are mistreated. All for the almighty dollar.

Hubbell is known for her cave cricket "hobby." It was more than a hobby and has inspired many people to raise them. I have seriously considered raising them, but it is more involved than raising lepidoptera, so I have decided against it. 

My favorite chapter, I suppose, was about the spongy moth, Lymantria dispar. The moth that is infamous for defoliating the northeast at various times (and sections of Europe, also) was deliberately imported to Massachusetts for the silk trade. It was known even then, in the 1800s, how devastating the consequences could be if the moth escaped. And it did. The social history after its inevitable escape is fascinating. 

The book is engaging and even humorous. I laughed out loud when Hubbell wrote about a geological age that ended five million years ago "next Tuesday." I wish I had met the lady. Sadly, she passed away in 2018 at the age of 83. As soon as I can, I am going to read her personal and famous memoir, A Country Year: Living the Questions. I will, however, read the Kindle edition to enjoy her language and hear her true voice.

Jody's photo of Lymantria dispar

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Review: How Chefs Holiday

How Chefs Holiday How Chefs Holiday by Dana Cowin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is not a book. It's a wannabe NPR radio program. It is interesting if you follow Food Network chefs. The Carla Hall and Marcus Samuelsson segments were the most enjoyable for me. I'm too much of a New Englander to try new holiday recipes, but they are available as a PDF file with the audiobook.

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Pet Friends Over the Years


Another video from iPhone today and just when I needed it. Dori's littermates are in this video. I've learned how to save these forever because they are better videos than I'll ever make. It's been a very rough two weeks and I am slowly climbing out of the dark hole and regaining my life. So I have made no visits and very few posts. Who knew life at this age, and alone, could be this difficult?


Friday, January 20, 2023

Review: ALOHA Where You Like Go? Driving to Satisfaction in a Honolulu Taxi

ALOHA Where You Like Go? Driving to Satisfaction in a Honolulu Taxi ALOHA Where You Like Go? Driving to Satisfaction in a Honolulu Taxi by Cloudia Charters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an unusual novel that feels like a memoir. It chronicles a young woman's move from Pennsylvania to Hawaii and her growth from anger and despair to hope and love for others. June meets many characters as she transitions from an exotic dancer to a taxi driver to a social worker. I assumed her life bottomed out when she was a dancer and experimented with meth, but I was wrong. When she was a taxi driver, she experienced hopelessness and anger that threatened to consume her life. But she met another woman, older than herself, and wise beyond description. The woman, Aunty Nan, gently taught June how to uncover her true self and be re-born. 

The novel is given to travelers on the plane to Hawaii to acquaint them with the real life on the islands, not the life that tourists only see in hotels and beaches. It is filled with the language of the islands and even has a glossary and introduction to explain the language. The language ended being an important part of the book because it added reality and gave it flavor and depth.

I finished this book during a week of chaos and doubt in my own life. It genuinely helped me re-center and calm down and to put my trust in my choices. I envy Ms. Charters' sense of self and her outlook on life. It's a lovely book that I highly recommend.

Ms Charters blogs at Comfort Spiral
She is also on Twitter as @iCloudia_.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Pane di Como

Pane di Como

I finally have this recipe figured out. I have tried it now and then over the years because I knew I would love it. But the dough was always impossibly slack. I would add more flour, but that always never worked well. Then I would forget about it for a few years, then come back to it, then have the same problems. 

Biga for the como bread on the left

This time, I measured by volume and not by weight. The recipe took an extra full cup of flour, by volume (I did not check the weight at all). Since I added the flour at the beginning, the recipe finally worked. However, even though I used bannetons, the loaf spread too much when baking. That could be because I had the oven too low so the oven spring was not optimal. Also, the bottom crust, see below, was too thick. Next time: I will have a hotter oven and an asbestos sheet pan underneath the Le Creuset and Lodge bread ovens.

Crumb of the como bread

This is the bread of Como, Italy. It is a rustic hearth bread (so I keep reading). No one seems to know if it is the water in Como that makes this bread world famous. For me, it is the crackly crust and the malt that sets it apart. I love the dense crumb. 

Como, Italy at the south end of Lake Como

The recipe is from Carol Field's book The Italian Baker. In fact, it is the first recipe. Her second recipe, Pane di Como Antico, seems to be more popular, though. It is more rustic and has a higher hydration so that there are holes throughout the crumb. That is fine for some occasions but is not my personal favorite type of bread. 

Whenever I begin exploring a region's breads, I attempt to stay with authentic ingredients that are available. Field said to use Morton sea salt and malt syrup. I got the salt (salinity in different salts is important to know) but since I always have diastatic malt powder on hand, I used that (it is a 1:1 substitution). The malt aids leavening and adds sweetness and color. 

The recipe uses a biga: an overnight starter made with a tiny bit of commercial yeast. I am pondering exploring more and different bigas in the future. They're fun. They make the bread-making a two day adventure. 

Morton sea salt and KAF diastatic malt powder

Yesterday, my Andrew alerted me to a Carol Field and Julia Child broadcast on his PBS station in Washington, DC. I'm able to watch it because he shares his PBS passport with me. But I can't share the video here. In the program, Field made grassini and an unnamed loaf of wheat bread. It was delightful to watch. I learned many nuances of mixing and handling dough. Watching Field also reminded me to slow down and remain calm during the entire process. Cherish the experience!

After I perfect this loaf, I will explore Panis Quadratus, a bread also from Italy but very, very ancient. I can't wait!

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Monday, January 09, 2023

Andy's Dandys

Dori and Lucy waiting for Andy's Dandys cookies.

I came across Andy's Dandys dog cookies at my local grocery store. Lucy decided they are the best in the universe and has had one a day since that day long ago. 

The problem is that once in awhile I would run out of cookies. What do you do with a broken hearted, cookie-deprived yellow Lab? Not much, except cry with her.

I found the source of Lucy's cookies here in Vermont and ordered them online. I get two months worth at a time now, plus a bag of mini-cookies for Dori when she visits. Oh, Dori loves them! 

Lucy gets one large Andy's Dandys every night after supper.

The first time I ordered them, though, I didn't allow for shipping time, so I added a note to please send them as soon as possible and that I would pay whatever it took to get them here fast. They got here very fast, but for free! And with a wonderful note. We have had an on-going online relationship since then with photos included and tiny gifts now and then. You see in the note below that they even know about Nelly. Nelly ripped open and stole some dog cookies once, so I had to tell them about the excitement that day as Lucy watched helplessly as her kitty stole her cookies.

A lovely note from the staff at Andy's Dandys.

Andy's Dandys is co-owned by young Andrew Whiteford. Seven Days Vermont wrote an article about him and his inclusive business in 2021 that you can read here. The family is truly inspiring and loving. 

A beautiful Christmas cookie that Andy's Dandys sent Lucy.

All is calm after cookie time.

This is a bag of very small cookies,
Dori's size, that the two dogs get at play time.

I am getting no reimbursement of any kind from this post. I simply think all dog families should know about these cookies and order them. They are expensive, but I only have Lucy and the two cats. They are my priority. 


Sunday, January 08, 2023

Noah Kahan

Bernie Sanders sends out newsletters to us who subscribe and today he told us about Noah Kahan, a Vermont musician who is gaining fame and has performed on TV and in London and Los Angeles. So I thought I'd look him up, and I found this song that reverberates with me. I also have added his album Stick Season to my Apple Music library.
Two months since you got back 
How have you been and are you bored yet?
The weather ain’t been bad 
if you’re into masochistic bullshit
And every photograph 
that’s taken here is from the summer
Some guy won Olympic gold 
eight years ago a distance runner 
And that makes a lot of sense 
this place is such great motivation 
For anyone tryna move 
the fuck away from hibernation 

Well I’m tired of dirt roads 
named after high school friends’ grandfathers 
And motherfuckers here 
still don’t know they caught the Boston bombers
Time moves so damn slow 
I swear I feel my organs failing 
I stopped caring ‘bout a month ago 
since then it’s been smooth sailing

I would leave if only I could find a reason
I’m mean because I grew up in New England 
I got dreams but I can’t make myself believe them
Spend the rest of my life with what could have been
And I will die in the house that I grew up in
I’m homesick
I’m homesick
I’m homesick 


I would leave if only I could find a reason
I’m mean because I grew up in New England 
I got dreams but I can’t make myself believe them
Spend the rest of my life with what could have been
And I will die in the house that I grew up in
I’m homesick
I’m homesick
I’m homesick
I’m homesick 


Saturday, January 07, 2023

Cooking and Pet Friends


It's been the week. I come home from school, feed the cats and dog, eat supper, and just stop moving until bedtime. All the while, classes, lessons and individual students are on my mind. The weather is dreary and depressing. Going back to school after a long break is hard on kids. Hard on me. 

Church is now all virtual for January and February because of heating costs, COVID. influenza, and RSV concerns, and traveling on winter roads. This helps me so much because of my knees and gives me one more day that I don't have to get dressed. My weekly virtual Bible study class suddenly shut down over the holidays and I don't know when, or if, it will start up again. It is out of upstate New York with people from there, Vermont, and snowbirds in Florida. I think I'll ask our minister if she has time to do a virtual Bible study. I miss it.

I'm more hooked up during remote church service than I was in grad school.

During the school break I successfully avoided Christmas and baked bread as much as I could. I even did a tiny bit of cleaning and re-organizing in the house.

iPhone dropped these two videos on me this morning. Again: so many memories. Apple recycles many of the same photos, plus some new ones, and sets them to different music. I welcome them.