Monday, September 13, 2010


I have been a macintosh user since the days when we still called them macintoshes.
We had our first mac desktop in 1987, and I've never owned a pc. I love my iPod and my macBook, and I even love the iPhone commercials.

Naturally I have been drooling (in a polite, non-sticky, lady-like way) over the iPad since they came out. Imagine my delight when my 78 year old grandmother handed one to me! She wants me to "learn" how to "work" it and then show her how to check her email. She handed it over in a hand sewn cover. I love her.

I've had it about a week now, and I am prepared to make a formal review.
The iPad is totally lame.

It's fun to touch and manipulate things on the screen, and for me, it's a very intuitive interface. On that front, I'll give it full marks. It looks pretty. Unlike the iPhone, however, you need to be near wi-fi to do anything cool with the iPad. You can't store or open files independently from iTunes (like a paper from school, or a picture file from my aunt). That means that checking my email on the iPad is pretty much useless. I can't read pdfs, or use any webpages that utilize flash. After a few minutes of watching youtube, my wrists got tired from holding the remarkably solid tablet at a proper viewing angle.

It's probably perfect for someone like my Grandma who will use it to respond to family emails, check the weather on her accuweather app, and read headlines from USA today. But is that worth 500$? Not to me.

Warhol seemed to like it, though. And yes, a cat paw will open your apps.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The spoils of a bridal shower

Carmel peanut chocolate apple favor.
My friend Cindy made these for another friend's shower. I am lucky to be invited to such goings-on.

Kick out the Jams

Last night was an epic Friday at the Holt House.

Getting tomatoes didn't work out; the lady who normally has box upon box of them at her stand down the street is taking a few days off. Pffft.
But I was not to be deterred, so I snatched up some pears and strawberries instead, and came home and raided my crisper drawer, and then I made these:

Strawberry jam, Spiced Pear Chutney, and Clementine Pomegranate Syrup.

Pear chutney, sweet, sour and salty. And pretty.

The book turned out to be really helpful, and just plain pleasant to read. I want to try a few more of the recipes, although I think in general Ashley's tolerance for cloves in her jam might be a little higher than mine. I think they kind of make things taste like ham so I left them out.

Specifically, I'm gunning for the fig compote and the cherry marmalade.
Do you have any figs you want to donate to the cause?
Do you like cloves?

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Decor today, muffins tomorrow...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Reading Wrap up

After Labor Day I generally try to squeeze in a few last novels to tide me over until winter break. I can feel scholarly articles and heavy scientific tomes creeping up on me and I'm diving for one last refreshing deluge of fiction. Oh sweet fiction.

With that in mind, I just finished a really moving, beautiful and too-quickly gone novel called Little Bee by Chris Cleave. It's part of the pact of the book that I can't tell you what it's about, except it did make me briefly rethink my plan to head to Africa next summer. I can also tell you it has nothing to do with honeybees, although that IS why I picked it up. I can also tell you it made me laugh out loud, and cry out loud too. In my opinion you cannot ask more of the written word.
So we have about two weeks left before school starts again. Maybe you have less? Make a little time for this one before Autumn is too far upon us. It's worth it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The beneficiary of other people's tomatoes.

I can't have a proper garden here. It's a constant source of frustration for me from about March until November. It's a long story as to why I cannot even grow a tomato in a pot, but the end amounts to our home having no homegrown tomatoes in August. Clearly, that's an unacceptable situation, and luckily several loving gardeners have seen fit to help me get through this tragedy by gifting me with tomatoes from their own gardens.

I'm like a meth addict for tomatoes too, if someone mentions they have one or more than they're apt to use, I'm sniffing around their windowsills dropping hints about how I can take care of that if they'd like.

So far Cindy and Evan's tomatoes have become a Sunday dinner pasta sauce (and wow was is delish). My Grandfather's tomatoes have been turned into about fifty BLTs (Mr. Holt says thanks, his cholesterol levels do not.) and the Whitaker's tomatoes became salsa, and salad with cucumbers and shallots. (OM NOM NOM.)

And now I'm thinking forward to fall, and I think maybe this year I can't get through the colder months without that sunny, bright deep umami taste of real homegrown tomatoes.
So I got a book:

from Ashley English at Small Measure, and tomorrow I'm getting a giant box of overripe, bruised and split tomatoes from a local garden and I'm going to can my guts out. This could be a big mess.

Have you ever canned your own tomatoes?
Do you have any tips for me?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Topic of Topiaries

Recently Mr. Holt, myself and a friend visited the local Topiary Park. It's a reimagining of Seurat's famous pointalism painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte" in shrubbery.

While the topiaries were not fully grown in this summer, I have to admit I was impressed. The tiny leaves and shoots of the shrubs actually does a good job of bringing the softness of the painting to life.

Photo from the Topiary Park website- my wide shot didn't come out this well.

These guys are my favorites. Plants hugging plants.

And the bustle on this one just kills me. A bushy bustle.

And people think there's nothing to see in the midwest!

There were also ducklings, which worries me. It's nigh on migration time around here, and those little guys seem too small to make a trip to Florida for winter.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mr. Holt Enjoys the Apiary

It was a grand afternoon.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


If you've been on the interweb lately you've probably seen an ad that looks something like this:

the stupid Groupon ad is everywhere I'm interested in. And it haunts me because those delicious, perfect, colorful cookies are macarons, my newest culinary love.

My first macaron was in Honolulu, a lilikoi (passionfruit) flavored delight with a cup of strong kona coffee. I had no idea what to expect from it, taste or texture, but it just looked so alluring there between the cupcakes and pound cakes.

Hello. I can see that we are gonna be friends.

I didn't even know what to call that most incredible cookie I had just consumed, and only much later did my friend Laura identify it as a macaron. I know what you're thinking- macaroons are those coconut lump cookies, occasionally made more edible with chocolate. And that's so. But these my dears, are FRENCH macarons (distinguished by the single o, you see?) and are infinitely superior. Laura just spent a year in France and she should know.

The cookie involved is a sort of almond-meringue, crisp on the outside and chwy on the inside, and can apparently be flavored with any ingredient known to man. Then there is a filling, either a creme or a jelly, thinly spread, to hold the two halves together. The French don't need Oreos. They have macarons and they are a very very happy people. Apparently this is the next big thing here in the states, and macarons are becoming more popular than cupcakes. It only took one to convert me.

Seriously, treat your eyes, google image "macaron" and just flip through the gorgeousness of this cookie! I can further suggest this great how-to with pictures of the process from a london foodie, Tamarind and Thyme. I'm extraordinarily jealous of her, so if anyone wants to get me a trip to London and a macaron cooking class for my birthday, that'd be just fine, thanks.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Wild World of Ginger

My mom is one of those remarkable people who can identify a whole host of plants and flowers casually as she floats through her day. I love that about her, and I love other people who know plants as individuals, as if they were second cousins associated with fond memories.

So I LOVED meeting Sarah, the ex-wwoofer, in Hawaii.
Sarah regards some male seals on a coral beach

She's a botanist for the Waimea Botanical Gardens on the North shore of O'ahu and an amazing person to boot. She took us on a personal tour through "her" gardens, and I discovered that ginger is not just for chinese cooking.

Turns out there is a whole genus of plants called Zingiber, which is not just a great word, but also makes an array of beautiful flowers. Orchid-like in appearance, many of them have strong, spicy-sweet scents as well.

The best smelling was the White Ginger. Imagine caramelized sugar with mango and ginger and that's a tiny percent of how good and complex this flower smells!

Torch Ginger: solitary. lovely. Dramatic.

But hands down the best is the beehive ginger.

Is that a flower within a flower?!!

See how I just brought this whole post back around to bees? Clever, no?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Updated reading list

Here's the list of my completed summer reads as of September 1, along with my brief reviews

Not for me, thanks!
Lucy just plain sucked. Don't bother, despite it's intriguing anthropological/horror set up, it's bad science and bad fiction. Ugh.

The Long Ships
The Long Ships was equally not for me. Reminiscent of Ivanhoe, written in a dry voice, and maybe better suited to middle school boys with a taste for Tolkein?

Anthropology Of An American Girl
The Kingdom Of Ohio
Father brown mysteries
I found all three of these to be a little boring. Meh. Disappointed by the promising titles.

Fabulous! Loved them!
Johannes Cabal: The Detective and Johannes Cabal: the necromancer
Steampunk Sherlock Holmes cum Faust. These were both funny and charming light reads.

64$ tomato and 52 Loaves
Although I vastly preferred 52 Loaves, these were perfect beach reading. Food memoirs are just sitting really well with me lately.

Animal vegetable miracle and the Lacuna
Kingsolver is such a luscious writer. I drank in every word of the fictional Lacuna Mexican setting, and was inspired by the non-fiction AVM. But again, this is my summer of the food memoir.

The Book of Lost Things
CHARMING. If you love Grimm's fairy tales, not the sticky gooey Disney kind, but the ones where women lose fingers to robbers and the villain is forced to eat hot coals as punishment, this is a great grown up fairy tale for you.

I've just started the Forgotten Garden and so far it's a win, but what I really want to devour are... some more food memoirs!!
Suggestions welcome, and solicited!!

If wet noses are a good indication...

then the cows are doing well too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stop the Presses!!


the back-to-school display at the grocery store has been replaced with Halloween candy.
The apples at the apiary are ripe.
last night I slept with a big blanket.

I don't want to get anyone prematurely excited, but listen up folks. I think it's finally fall!