Sunday, June 12, 2005

We've moved! 

The cats, the fiddle and I are all moved in at our new place. Come on over to the new home of Music and Cats. (And, if you have linked to this site, please update your link.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Thinking outside (but living inside) the box 

Paul and I sometimes joke that, were we ever to move back to the California Bay Area, we could afford to buy a refrigerator box under a highway. When we're feeling good about the value of our house in Seattle, we think that we could get a nice new box, from a large refrigerator, and that we could manage an overpass in a good neighborhood.

Today I read this article about an Australian architect who has designed a housing system that is made mostly of cardboard (with some plywood "framing"). The houses can be flat-packed, and therefore are easily shipped. It should be great disaster relief housing; plans are in the works to send several of the houses to East Timor later this year.

From the article:
Living in a cardboard box has never looked so good.

Melbourne architect Peter Ryan's clever but simple design for a house made largely from cardboard could prove revolutionary. With applications in temporary housing and particularly in disaster relief, the structures are inexpensive, easily assembled and surprisingly durable.

The concept of a cardboard house sounds almost inconceivable but it works. The basic structure is a series of pods made from plywood - cardboard panelling is used in the roof, walls and floors. The cardboard panels are the same size as a standard cardboard box, and the houses can be as small or as large as required; pods are simply added either up or out.
Read the whole article (without registering at yet another newspaper website).

According to architect Peter Ryan, these houses might be a solution for people who couldn't otherwise afford to buy in Melbourne's hot real estate market... or, I'm thinking, for those of us who might one day want to live in the Bay Area again.

Feline Friday: Watching and waiting 

The McKittens are waiting to see who will show up this weekend for the Carnival of the Cats, which will be here at Music and Cats on Sunday.

Will they hiss at the visitors, or run upstairs and hide under our bed? We'll see...

The Friday Ark is up at Steve's place long before the Carnival comes to town.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Happy birthday, Mr. Wright 

Google has done some wonderful themed variations on their logo. I have to say that this is just about my favorite. I particularly like the hand-rendered quality of the letters, with the consistent slant to the shading that architects learn in school... or did, before computer graphics became the rage.

Frank Lloyd Wright, a remarkably talented and extremely eccentric man, was born 138 years ago today.

The second "o" in "Google" looks like a construction of blocks from the Froebel Gifts, a series of educational materials that were important in Wright's early spatial development. Wright's Guggenheim Museum and Fallingwater are, like the man himself, iconic.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Honey bran muffins with dates and pecans 

Paper Chef is a food blogger's event that takes place the first weekend of each month. The ingredients for this month, Paper Chef #7, were buttermilk, medjool dates, honey, and eggs.

I did not want to make a dessert (I'm trying to cut back), but the theme ingredients suggested baking. Something for breakfast would be good, especially if it was easily portable for weekday breakfasts, which I often eat at work. I'm not particularly fond of the texture of dates, so I wanted a recipe in which the flavor of the dates would be fairly evenly distributed, without any large chunks of too-gooey sweetness. My friend Epicurious had no suggestions for all four ingredients, but the buttermilk-honey-egg combo yielded a winner: Honey Bran Muffins with Figs.

I halved the recipe, and modified it as follows:
  1. I substituted dates for the figs. Because dates are sweeter than figs, and I like bran muffins that aren't extremely sweet, I reduced both the dates and the sugar by 1/3. Chopping the dates finely, and mashing them in the boiling water used to hydrate the bran, helped to distribute their flavor.

  2. The recipe seemed bland (a failing of many bran muffins), so I added a dash of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg to the dry ingredients.

  3. Because I like nuts in bran muffins, I added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.
The result was a light, tender, moist muffin, with a clear (but not overpowering) honey-date sweetness and the crunch of pecans.

A touch of sweet butter and a spoonful of homemade blackberry-apple jam were the perfect complements.

Honey bran muffins with dates and pecans

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
Dash each of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg
1 cups toasted wheat bran (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers, or butter muffin tin. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in small bowl. Combine dates and boiling water in another bowl; mash together, then mix in wheat bran.

Beat butter in yet another bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then honey, then the egg. Beat in half or buttermilk, half of flour mixture; repeat. Stir in bran mixture and pecans. Divide batter among muffin cups.

Bake muffins until they pass the clean toothpick test, about 20 minutes. If you're not going to eat them immediately, place on rack to cool.

On the endangered list 

On Thursday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 2005. Since 1988, the National Trust has published each year a list that spotlights "parts of the country's heritage that are threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy."

This year's list includes:
Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Belleair, Florida.
Historic Catholic Churches of Greater Boston, Massachusetts.
Camp Security, York County, Pennsylvania.
Historic Buildings of Downtown Detroit, Michigan.
Eleutherian College, Madison, Indiana.
Ennis-Brown House, Los Angeles, California.
Finca Vigia: Ernest Hemingway House, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.
The 'Journey Through Hallowed Ground' Corridor, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
King Island, Alaska.
National Landscape Conservation System, Western States.
Daniel Webster Farm, Franklin, New Hampshire.

I was not previously familiar with most of the locations on this list. One of these places, however, I've known about for years.The Ennis-Brown House is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces. Built in 1924, the house is the last of four unusual concrete block houses designed by Wright in the Los Angeles area. In a system known as textile block, identical pre-cast concrete blocks were designed to form an interlocking system, and were stacked dry without mortar joints. The textile block system integrated structure, ornament, and inner and outer walls. The house's striking, somewhat otherwordly, Egyptian-influenced design has made it popular as a set for movies, including a particular favorite of mine (and many architects and urbanists), Blade Runner.

The house has sustained much damage over the years, from improper maintenance, earthquake, mudslides and more. Estimates of stabilization costs run as high as $5 million, and full restoration costs are well over $15 million. Today, the site is unsafe, and is closed to the public. If repairs are not begun very soon, this important house may be lost... and that would be quite sad.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Market morning 

When I left home for the Ballard Farmers' Market this morning, I forgot something important: my camera. The market was awash in the reds of poppies and lilies, strawberries and beets, the greens of sugar snaps, garlic tops and leafy salad mixes, and a whole range of blues, pinks and purples in between. There were so many beautiful photos there for the taking, but not for me today.

My loot from the market arranged itself in unlikely alphabetical clusters:
Asparagus (last of the season)
Beets (with greens)
Chard (yellow-stemmed)
Delphiniums (a sentimental favorite, used with yellow roses in our wedding flowers)

Peonies (blowsy, pink, fragrant)
Rhubarb (whether for compote or crisp, I had to have it)
Sweet peas (sadly, the photo can't convey their heavenly scent)
Tomatoes (green, either for frying or an interesting soup recipe)

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A book meme 

When Bakerina tagged me for this book meme, I wrote most of a response. Then I went to California on business, and spent most of yesterday in the Oakland airport trying - unsuccessfully for quite a while - to get home. As a result of this delay, my responses changed somewhat.

Total number of books I've owned: Around two thousand, I'd guess. My rough estimate of the books in our house at the moment (based on averaging a couple of typical shelves and multiplying by number of shelves) is 1200-1300. While some of these books technically belong to Paul, Washington is a community property state, so I'm including them. I've moved around a lot since college, and have shed books with each move. Of course, I'm always adding books as well. I imagine that I have parted with at least as many books as I now own.

I don't believe that one can have too many books. However, one can definitely have too few bookshelves, and we do.

The last book I bought: Kathy Reich's Monday Mourning, in the Oakland airport yesterday, an hour after learning that my flight had been delayed.

I've been remarkably restrained in my book-buying recently. Prior to yesterday's purchase, I last bought books at a couple of author readings that I attended in mid-April! They were Sight Hound by Pam Houston, Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks, and the Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook. I have not yet read either Sight Hound or Bread Alone; they have taken their places in the queue. (This does not mean that they will be read in the order received; I'm not nearly that systematic when it comes to reading.) You may ask Bakerina what she thinks of the Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook; it went directly to her. (Make that 151 cookbooks in her collection.)

The last book I read: Kathy Reich's Monday Mourning, in the Oakland airport, on the plane from Oakland to Portland, and in the Portland airport. I would have finished in on the flight from Portland to Seattle, except that I had an interesting aisle-mate and a complimentary glass of cabernet. I finished the book within an hour of getting home last night. Reichs' mysteries featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan are easy, engaging reads - perfect for a long day in an airport. I bought that book just after finishing Amanda Hesser's charming cookbook cum love story, Cooking for Mr. Latte, which I had thought would last me all the way home.

Five books that mean a lot to me: There are many more than five books that are important to me. These are the first five that came to mind, in the order in which I read them:
1. Misty of Chincoteague (and Sea Star and King of the Wind and...) all by Marguerite Henry.
2. Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations of Rainer Maria Rilke by John J.L. Mood.
3. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander.
4. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.
5. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

You want to know why these books mean a lot to me? More on that later.

Tag 5 people and have them fill this out on their blogs:
1. my sister Melanie, in case she's reading anything other than picture books these days;
2. my blog daughter Erin, whose taste in music and food I know much better than her taste in books;
3. nina of nina turns 40, who promised not to read the books I've lent her in the bathtub;
4. Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles, who had very interesting responses to the last book meme in which she participated;
5. Isabella of Magnificent Octopus, whose writing about the books she is reading always interests me.

Friday, June 03, 2005

How I spent my Friday 

When my flight home this morning from Oakland to Seattle was delayed, and eventually cancelled, one of my coworkers suggested that I document my day at the airport. If you've spent any time in the Oakland airport, you'll know that paying attention to its details is not what one wants to do. I bought a mystery instead. However, I love taking photos from airplanes, so here are a few of my shots from the flights that I eventually got on.

Flying out of Oakland, five hours later than originally scheduled, past the Golden Gate. Destination: not Seattle, but Portland.

From Portland, a turbo-prop flight to Seattle. Sun overhead plus clouds below equals cool shadow of airplane in a rainbow halo.

Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams poking up through the clouds, with back end of striped propeller assembly.

Feline Friday: A Cat's Story 

Here I sit, minding my own business.


Visit the animals at the Friday Ark.