Three random facts about me!

  1. Living on the hippie side of town is wearing off on me – oh, who am I kidding, I love that my side of town is zoned for keeping chickens (you have no idea how much I long to actually do it!). But you know how I know? I took my trash out today (and was not ambushed by squirrels this time) and, when I saw a plastic Ocean Spray juice bottle in one of the bags already in the dumpster, I actually contemplated digging it out so I could recycle it. I mean, of course, I recycle my own trash, but I haven’t crossed the line yet into recycling for others. I think I’m getting pretty close to it, though – I felt really bad about not actually climbing in there to get it…
  2. Okay, you all know that I’m scared of spiders. But you know how potatoes, left to their own devices, start to grow their eyes out? I’m scared of them. The eyes, I mean. They’re all sort of spongy and stalky and unsettling and ominous. They grow in the dark, people! That’s not right! Like my sink (which I have learned to love dearly despite its homicidal tendencies), I kind of worry that they might murder me in my sleep. And that’s why I currently have TEN baked potatoes cooling in the kitchen so that I can make something out of them tomorrow. I just can’t deal with all the staring that goes on otherwise!
  3. I am learning Russian. Know how I’m learning Russian? By watching Russian  Sherlock Holmes and the original Hotson (so hot he doesn’t even need subtitles, but he comes equipped with them anyway)!

    So, needless to say, it’s going pretty slowly, but I have literally no way of expressing how awesome they are.

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” Or, what the what, Baring-Gould?!

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” was first published in April of 1892 and takes place Friday, October 8, 1886. Now, I’m waiting for post-Holmes to work my way through all of Baring-Gould’s little essays that are sprinkled throughout his edition. They’re often relevant to the story they accompany, but they often reference other, subsequent stories, so I don’t want to get into them until I’m was sure I wouldn’t be giving anything away (and also, Josephine’s curled up on my lap at the moment, making it very difficult to see my book and to type), but he’s sort of forced my hand with his controversial dating techniques here. So I have to mention…something here.

Baring-Gould dates this story as taking place in 1886 because he assumes that Watson’s mention of it being a few weeks before his own marriage is referring to the marriage he celebrated circa November 1, 1886–two-and-a-half years before his marriage, circa May 1, 1889, to Mary Morstan’ (BG, 281).

…I know, right?!

And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. For now. Like I said, I’ll come back to this once we’re doing with the stories, so for now, just mull that bit of wackiness over.

But that aside, once again I’m afraid the Holmesians have left us pretty high and dry as far as interesting discussion goes. I’ve looked ahead to when we might get back to the juicy details of Holmesiana…and it looks like it might be a little while. We’re very close to finishing The Adventures of… and once we get into The Memoirs of…, I’m thinking “The Yellow Face” and “The Musgrave Ritual” will probably have lots of things to discuss and then, of course, what I’m REALLY looking forward to…”The Final Problem.” And I’m basically chomping at the bit to get to “The Empty House.” SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT THAT I DON’T WANT TO GIVE AWAY JUST IN CASE! But there will be MUCH to discuss. I’M SURE OF IT.

But until then, one thing I thought was intriguing is the suggestion that Holmes is no ‘gentleman’ (NA, 298). When Lord Robert arrives, Holmes bows to him, calling him Lord St. Simon. Leslie suggests that his ‘undue deference to Lord Robert and his misuse of aristocratic titles have been cited by several scholars as “evidence” that Holmes may have lied about his country squire forbears (mentioned in “The Greek Interpreter”) […]. His subsequent subtle belittling of Lord Robert is characteristic of Holmes’ reverse snobbery about wealth and position’ (NA, 298). So the Holmesians run the gambit from Holmes being of, I don’t know, low birth? all the way to Holmes having royalty in his blood (I think it’s mentioned in…the one with the fourth cleverest man in London…“The Red-Headed League”. That’s the one.). Nice.

But if, as this subsequent belittling of Lord Robert suggests, Holmes doesn’t care about, and in fact disdains, ideas of status and titles, why would he lie about his ancestry? Did he figure that was the only way he could He seems to have such disregard for societal things like that – and it certainly doesn’t support his supposed Bohemian way of thinking, but I guess at a certain point you just have to be pragmatic about it.

I would be remiss in not taking a moment to discuss the dinner Holmes orders for his big confrontation. Leslie chooses to focus on a discussion of the mysterious pate de foie gras pie while Baring-Gould takes on the pheasant, but to discuss it appropriately, I’ll start with Leslie. In their undoubtedly awesome book Dining with Sherlock Holmes, Sonenschmidt and Rosenblatt ‘take gentle issue with the name of this dish [the pate de foie gras pie], [saying] “Much as we would like to vouch for Watson’s accuracy in this matter, the painful truth is that in culinary terms, one does not speak of pate de foie gras ‘pie'” They go on to explain that a pate, according to its original French definition, consists of meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit encased in pastry–that is, a pie. It is only recently that pate has come to mean the meat or fish variety alone’ (NA, 309). Sonnenschmidt and Rosenblatt conclude that ‘the diligent Watson added the word “pie” to clarify a term that was starting to become ambiguous [as “pate” was beginning to describe a meat or fish pie and “pie” was beginning to describe, well, a pie – basically, if I’m understanding correctly, Watson’s being redundant, basically calling it a pie of foie gras pie, right?]. The authors further note that they found two American cookbooks of the Victorian era that listed pate de foie gras as a pie filling, leading them to conclude that Watson was familiar with American cookbooks and had spent time in the United States’ (NA, 309). Whether they mean to imply that Watson was, you know, a fry cook or a Cookie on a wagon train or something, I’m not sure – but I’m on board the idea!

According to Baring-Gould [I lied, he does talk about the fowl, too.], Marie F. Rodell and Morris Rosenblum got into a flamewar about the whole pate de foie gras pie debacle. She questions it and Rosenblum replies by saying that ‘it is time to call a halt to the constant practice of imputing a faulty memory to Watson, especially when additional research can clear his memory! (BG, 295). Morris then goes on to list many, many previous uses of the term 1) as a leading product of Strasbourg, 2) in The Oxford English Dictionary, 3) in Thackeray’s Yellowplush Papers, and 4) from H.S. Leigh’s Carols of Cockayne (BG, 295). So basically, Marie…PWNED!

So. The pheasant. According to Fletcher Pratt, Holmes chose to serve both woodcock and the pheasant for political reasons, ‘subtly flattering his guests that although they were Americans, they would know enough about the haute cuisine to be able to express an intelligent choice between the cold woodcock and the cold pheasant; that they would savor the fine distinction between the two and perhaps take a slice of each’ (BG, 294). Pratt goes on to discuss the fact that there are only two possible recipes that could have been used for the fowl, both of which involve aspic – which is basically meat Jell-o. Horrifying, no?! In one of the recipes, the bird ‘appears in aspic in the center of a block of ice–which was impossible because the supper had to wait from 5:00 until after 9:00 [And sounds very difficult to eat – do you have to chip the bird out of the ice? How does the aspic hold up under such treatment?]‘ (BG, 294). The other recipe involves pate which, he points out, would have been a lot of pie on the table and so he concludes that the pheasant was in anspic, sliced and decorated with truffles coated with a sauce and served on a low bed of semolina. The woodcock would be gently poachd, their skins removed, and the birds themselves coated with chaud froid sauce and aspic [The Victorians really loved their meaty gelatin, didn’t they?], surrounded by cockscombs and mushrooms’ (BG, 294). It doesn’t sound very tasty to me, but I am weirdly fascinated by what Holmes and Watson would have been having for dinner!

During Hatty’s telling of her side of the story, Leslie chides Holmes and Watson for not thinking ‘to censure Lord Robert for his abominable treatment of poor Flora Millar’ and points out that ‘Holmes himself is no slave to chivalry, as evidenced by his similarly casual use and subsequent dropping of the maid Agatha in “Charles Augustus Milverton” (NA, 303). This may be an instance of confusing canon with fandom, but did Holmes assure Watson that she was using him to make her beau jealous? Okay, now I’m going to be really embarrassed if I’ve got that wrong (this started to happen with Harry Potter, too). I’m going to skip ahead and check. Hold on a second… AHA!

‘You’ll be interested to hear that I’m engaged […] To Milverton’s housemaid.’

‘Good heavens, Holmes!’

‘I wanted information, Watson.’

‘Surely you have gone to far?’ [Good old chivalrous Watson. Scourge of three continents, indeed, old boy!]

‘It was a most necessary step. […]’

‘But the girl, Holmes?’

He shrugged his shoulders. ‘You can’t help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as best you can when such a stake is on the table. [What a cad, right? But wait!] However, I rejoice to say that I have a hated rival, who will certainly cut me out the instant my back is turned.’ (CM 575-576)

So, yes, perhaps, especially given his already low opinion of Lord Robert, Holmes (but certainly Watson) should have mentioned something here. But I feel that Leslie is unfairly calling him ‘no slave to chivalry.’ Plus, he was totally going to pull a BAMF on what’s-his-name, you know, what’s-her-name’s stepfather who posed as her fiancee to keep her from ever marrying so that he and his wife could keep her money in “A Case of Identity” and horsewhip him since she had no one else to do it for her. I’d say that’s pretty chivalrous.

After the case has been solved and Holmes and Watson are left alone together, Holmes instructs him to ‘Draw your chair up, and hand me my violin, for the only problem we have still to solve is how to while away these bleak autumnal evenings’ (NA, 318). As this is just weeks before Watson is to be married, there is probably an unspoken gloominess, particularly on Holmes’ part, I imagine, that this is one of the last few times the evening will be whiled away in this manner. Leslie says that ‘It is perhaps telling that the two men, despite their intimate acquaintance, felt little need to discuss Watson’s impending marriage and necessary departure from 221B Baker Street. June Thomson […] notes that Holmes and Watson shared an “essentially male friendship” in which personal matters were not generally shared (if such conversation did take place, she concedes, it was never recorded). Thomson continues, “Both men must have realized it [Watson’s leaving] was inevitable but preferred not to speak of it, let alone openly express their feelings about such a parting or the immense changes it would bring to both their lives’ (NA, 318). [Awww, poor repressed Victorian men!]

My miscellaneous thoughts! [Let me show you them.]

  • Lord Robert begins his meeting with Holmes by saying, “A most painful matter to me, as you can most readily imagine, Mr. Holmes. I have been cut to the quick. I understand that you have already managed several delicate cases of this sort, sir, though I presume that they were hardly from the same class of society.””No, I am descending.” [Oh, SNAP!]
  • When noting the contents of Frank’s hotel bill (Room = $2.00, breakfast and lunch = $0.62 each, a cocktail = $0.25, and a glass of sherry = $0.62), Baring-Gould notes that ‘we are later told that the bill was rendered by “one of the most expensive hotels” in London. Ebeu fugaces! [The hell, Baring-Gould?! Oh. It’s a Horace quote – ‘Alas! The fleeting years glide on.’ Thanks, Edward!]
  • Hatty says that her father, objecting to her relationship with Frank, took her to ‘Frisco. Which Leslie (and Eddie Izzard) points out is a ‘name guaranteed to boil the blood of any current resident of the City’ (NA, 311). [Why DOES ‘Frisco bother them so much? I’ve always wondered that. Can anyone explain?]
  • Baring-Gould notes that ‘Conan Doyle’s own opinion of “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” was a low one. In a letter to a friend, he put the story “about the bottom of the list” (BG, 300). [He doesn’t explain why and I wonder what his reasons were. It’s not as forgettable as “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” nor as easy a mystery as “A Case of Identity”…]

Hmm, every time I say that there’s not much to talk about, I seem to be able to dredge up enough things to write a massive post after all… Anyway, up next week is “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” where we’ll meet another one-legged man and discover Holmes’ bank account balance. I’m sure you won’t want to miss it!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

And this week, we have a special guest source! CM = The Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes with a preface by Christopher Morley. Of the hideous dressing-gown-inspired tie! Wow, I was self-referential this week…

CHECK IT OUT!

I MADE A SOUFFLE!

SAY WHAT?!

A SOUFFLE!

It took me two hours and two loads through the dishwasher and left me with not one but TWO of these – I have no idea how well souffles keep, but I’m not expecting that the answer would be ‘well.’ So basically I have two, flat (especially the other one – it was not as…aesthetically pleasing as this one is), dense egg dishes that I have to eat on my own now.

Oh! I forgot the details – it’s a Leek and Gruyere souffle. It really is very yummy – but I’ll definitely halve the recipe next time.

And the other thing that I learned is that scotch tape is really not meant to go in the oven. Seriously. Don’t do it. D:

I know, I know! I’m a great, big hypocrite…

So I know I just posted about how I wanted to get in better shape (well, any shape at all, really) and here I am posting about Lemon Sticky Buns – of which I’ve already eaten two – BUT IT’S NOT MY FAULT! I’LL EXPLAIN LATER!

But they’re really good.

Like…really.

It's yellow in my kitchen again...

The only weird thing that’s happened is that there’s a lot of sugar in the filling and it seems to have oozed out everywhere – literally EVERYWHERE – while they were baking and, as they cool now, are cementing themselves to the pan. Which is why I ate two – I don’t know if I’ll be able to get any more of them out of the pan!

...but not in my living room!

They’re super yummy…provided you can pry them away from one another, that is. But it’s definitely worth the effort!

Just compulsively posting now!

I may or may not have been mainlining Craig Ferguson episodes (SO MUCH LOVE) – if you ever come across his Peabody-Award-winning episode with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, WATCH IT.

My life’s goal is now to have an awkward pause with him.

Craig Ferguson, I mean, not Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

I’m trying to mend my ways!

As I think you all know, I…am a couch potato. Like professional-grade couch potato. I like my TV and I like my computer and I like my tiny couch. But because I’m getting older and I feel like I’m starting to carry a bit of extra weight that I really shouldn’t be, I’ve been harboring immoral thoughts.

Thoughts about being a runner.

Not like a marathon-grade runner, but someone who doesn’t look like she’s going to die when she climbs the stairs and could potentially outrun a murderer. But since I’m not at the murderer-outrunning stage yet, I don’t really want to  go running outside (there’s always some lone girl running at dusk out by the cemetery that’s sort of nearby and I really don’t want to be that girl) – and the fact that I would actually be seen by people because of the whole looking-like-I’m-going-to-die thing. I mean, I wouldn’t get anywhere for people pulling over to see if I need help. Plus in my neighborhood, there are a lot of runners – I live in the hippie part of town – who all effortlessly look like gazelles. That’s a lot to measure up to!

So I have this now:

No, I didn’t even get off my couch to take that picture. But I have a plan! We’ll see how long it lasts – I’m hoping that making myself accountable to you all will help me stay motivated – but I can see this idea having one of…four outcomes:

  1. I die a horrible death either due to my out-of-shapeness or by some sort of tragic accident (I can totally see myself taking a giant faceplant or sliding off the back in a graceless heap).
  2. My downstairs neighbors complain about the noise of the treadmill.
  3. I lose interest. Frankly, based on my track record, this is the most likely, but I’m really going to try! Because I really don’t want to have a heart attack and die before I’m 30. Which is worryingly soon.
  4. I eventually join the herd of gazelles.

In which my kitchen is very yellow for some reason…

So, if you remember, the other day, I mentioned that I was watching Julia Child make tripe. And that I was somewhat horrified by it. Well. Today I made….

FALSE TRIPE!

I added, let’s see, quite a lot, really! To the tomato sauce, I used crushed red pepper flakes instead of cayenne pepper and added a clove of minced garlic (and some chopped basil once it was all done).

But, like I also said earlier, my kitchen seems to be quite yellow tonight – I have no idea why – so this doesn’t look very appetizing, I’m afraid. But click the link to the original recipe where there are much prettier photos that will entice you to make this dish!

Because it’s very yummy and you should make it!

Jfoewoajnkdajsoifejawl!!!!!!1111!1!

As usual, I’m a couple months behind the musical times so if you’ve already heard Mumford and Sons, OMG, aren’t they great? but also, Why didn’t you tell me about them?! More in a moment, but I really can contain myself no longer. WATCH THIS!

AMAZING, RIGHT?! I mean, this really pushes all the right buttons for me:

  1. Banjo? Check.
  2. Upright bass? Check.
  3. Jangly piano? Check.
  4. OMGBOOKSHOP? Hell, yes, check!
  5. Super talented, scruffy, musical-type, British dudes? CHECK!

The only bad part about being so far behind is that tickets are already sold out to all the venues around here they’re coming to. Boo! 😦 Seriously, Jillian, they’re coming to where you are and I was THIS close to just buying tickets and working out the logistics of convincing you to a) let me crash on your floor and b) come with me to the concert, but, alas, they’re all gone already.

So I will have to content myself to listening to their album over and over and over. And over (Seriously, I listened to that song up there for the first five hours of the day today.).

And over.

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” Or, Holmes must be bored out of his mind!

“The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” was published in March 1892 and takes place Saturday, September 7 to Sunday, September 8, 1889. Even Baring-Gould’s attempts to date the case seem half-hearted, relying only on the time of the sunrise and the fact that no one in Victorian England worked on a Sunday. There are no weather reports at all! Speaking of weather reports, know what else has been missing lately? That’s right! Moriarty! Still out kicking puppies and knocking over sand castles, I guess. Biding his time.

Aside from that, the Holmesians don’t have much to say. And I can’t really blame them – this is, I think, the first short story in which Not Much Happens. Okay, to be fair, we do get a bit of a sensational thrill, I’m sure, from Hatherley’s grisly tale, but honestly, I’m not sure why Holmes took the “case” unless he was at the very end of his rope or just trying to humor Watson. There’s no mystery here – Hatherley himself realizes what’s going on eventually. The only thing Holmes works out is the misleading length of the late-night carriage ride, but other than that, it’s really not clear why he didn’t just go straight to Scotland Yard!

But there are a couple things. Baring-Gould says that, although there is no Eyford in Berkshire, there is an Eyford in Gloucestershire (though not on the railway) (BG, 213). However, it would seem that even this Eyford has somehow gone missing between 1967 and 2005 because on page 272 of NA, Leslie says ‘there is no Eyford in Berkshire or anywhere else in England, for that matter. Joseph H. Gillies identifies the town as “Twyford” near the borders of Oxfordshire.’ Now this is an interesting case that I think would do Holmes good to pick up – The Adventure of the Missing Town! (I’ll feel really bad if something horribly tragic happened to wipe Eyford off the map since Baring-Gould wrote his book, but I assume Leslie would have mentioned something like that…)

If I want to get something published in a Sherlockian journal, I have got to get my close-reading chops back into shape. How do they catch some of these things?! When Watson first tends to Hatherley (and the Sherlockians are very hard on his doctoring skills, saying that rather than basically giving him a brandy and a bandaid, Watson should instead of stitched up the wound and prescribed a painkiller), Hatherley is noted as placing his hat on Watson’s books (BG, 210). But how did he come to have his hat when he states that he left it downstairs once the Colonel assured him that they would be walking out of doors to see the machine? Seeing as shops would not have been open as early as he was out and about, Bliss Austin writes that ‘one can only conclude that Elise must have recovered it for him; though why she was so solicitous over a cap when his wound was left unattended is not easy to understand’ (BG, 217).

Frankly, I think he must have gone home to change, given the state his clothes would have been in after the night’s adventures (something else the Sherlockians comment on as Watson describes Hatherley as being quietly dressed not covered in mud and soaked in blood), and simply grabbed a different hat. Surely men had more than one hat? I mean, even though his business was doing dismally, he’d said he’d come into some money inherited from his father. So I bet he could afford an extra hat just for such occasions as having one’s thumb lopped off in the middle of the night. Though I guess that’s quite a detour to take when, again, one’s thumb has just been lopped off. So, I don’t know! Maybe Elise laundered his suit for him…somehow.

There is also much discussion about how dangling from a windowsill can put you in the correct position for having your thumb lopped off as well as about which thumb (right or left?) was lost. The argument is strong for the left thumb. Assuming that Hatherley is righthanded (which is statistically likely), the fact that he was able to tie a tourniquet and eat a hearty breakfast points to his dominant hand remaining intact (BG, 221). Also, good old Bliss Austin writes that he was ‘also discussed this matter with a noted experimental psychologist whose interest I have succeeded in arousing to the extent of undertaking some tests. His preliminary results, admittedly tentative, indicate that: “a person in the state defined as stark madness, wielding a cleaver in his own right hand again the hands of an opponent placed opposite him on a window sill, will, approximately 99.44 times out of one hundred, attack the hand opposite his right, that is, the opponent’s left hand”‘ (BG, 221). Very interesting, but I have to say that I would be hard pressed to take part in whatever sorts of experiments he used to prove that. And I have to say that for someone in a state defined as stark madness, it seems like the Colonel gave up pretty easily on murdering Hatherley…

In order for the logistics of dangling out a window to coincide with having your thumb chopped off…no, sorry, I’m too bored just typing that much! Here, Paget worked very hard to get it to work (and he obviously subscribes to the left-hand theory, as well):

My miscellaneous thought! [Let me show it to you!]

  • Leslie has a very weird note concerning the size of the small room inside the machine that Colonel Stark leads Hatherley to for his inspection of the machine. When relaying his story to Holmes and Watson, Hatherley says that the three of them (the Colonel, Ferguson, and himself) could hardly get in at one time (NA, 279). Leslie reports that ‘based on his own experiments, W.T. Rabe concludes that the room was probably no larger than two-and-a-half feet square. Without explaining these experiments, Rabe further concludes that Hatherley was 3.5 feet tall, calling into question Rabe’s originall researches (NA, 279). [Say what now?!]

And I’m afraid that’s it! Tune in next week when I’ll be discussing “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor.” Hopefully Holmes, Watson, and the Sherlockians will be back in top form then!

*Most of my notes, I think, come from the New Annotated simply because I find its format easier to work through and it is, therefore, the version that I’m reading first (I’m only reading the notes in the Baring-Gould). Much of the information is doubled up, but there is some that is unique to either volume, so if you see NA, that’s the Baring-Gould edition and BG is the New Annotated. No, I’m totally kidding – it’s the other way (the logical way) round.

Oh, Julia!

I didn’t say anything when she hacked up fish heads or when she set the boiled lobster down right next to the live one (She had one that she called Bertha Behemoth that was a 20-pound lobster! It seriously looked like something from the age of the dinosaurs – it was HUGE! If I’d known 20-pound lobsters existed [and she said there are stories from the 1700s of 40-POUND LOBSTERS – can you even imagine?!], this dream would have been a LOT more disturbing.) or when she kept rubbing the chickens and not washing her hands or when she made sausages, but I can no longer stay silent.

She’s making tripe.

She has the entire stomach (all four of them!) with her on the counter and it’s sort of sloshing around and making horrible, slimy, squishy noises! I mean, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I guess, because it’s good learning-wise (not that I’m ever going to make tripe, but still…) but it’s just…SO…HORRIFYING. (She keeps calling it her ‘bathing cap’ which it does look like, but, and this is another reason why I love her, every time she says it, I get the feeling that she’s trying very hard to not actually going to plop the thing on her head – not that I think she would actually do it, but I think her sense of humor would think the idea of doing it was funny.) And apparently, tripe is the regional dish of Normandy and she’s showing us a postcard from Caen:

WHY IS IT SERVED WITH A HOOF?!?!?!?!?! DO NOT WANT! D: OMG, SHE HAS A BEEF FOOT IN HER KITCHEN TO SERVE WITH IT! AND A PIG’S FOOT!

Can you actually even buy tripe anymore?

To keep that from scarring you for life, do keep scrolling – the hypercute cupcakes in the next post should do the trick.

I spy with my little eye…

A pretty pink cupcake! Shall we have a bit of a closer look?

HOW CUTE IS THAT?! When I saw the original recipe for these over on Love and Olive Oil, I thought ‘Must. Make These.’ Oh, by the way, they’re Cherry-Filled Almond Cupcakes. And besides being unbearably adorable, they’re also unforgivably delicious!

I often have issues with almond-based cake items, but these are amazing. I did sift the almond meal this time which I don’t think I’ve ever done, so maybe that helped to keep the texture more refined and it calls for coconut milk which I think may help keep it extra moist, too.

They aren’t actually difficult to make, but there are lots of steps and I ended up spreading this out over three days – I made the cherry filling on Friday, the cupcakes yesterday, and did the cherries and assembly today. The recipe calls for marzipan, which I couldn’t find in the market – but they had almond paste and although, according to the intarwebz, almond paste needs to be kneaded with lots of powdered sugar to become marzipan (despite the fact that recipes for marzipan seem to be very complicated and involve sugar syrup and candy thermometers), after I got it out of the can, the consistency and flavor of it seemed acceptable to me, so I just used it as is. As an aside, that may be the longest sentence I’ve ever constructed. Just thought I’d point that out.

That picture makes it look more complicated than it really was. Don’t let it intimidate you – make these cupcakes!

p.s. – Oh, and the teacup cupcake silicone baking molds! I discovered them here where they seem to be sold out and managed to track them down at Amazon. How cute are they?!

Supernatural romance? Horror…romance? Gothic?

Soulless by Gail Carriger

As you can see, I’m not sure what category this falls into. There are elements of all sorts of things at work here – horror (there are vampires and ghosts and werewolves all in a steampunky Victorian England complete with dirigibles [because no self-respecting steampunk setting would leave out the airships]), thriller (rogue vampires are turning up and vampires and werewolves are disappearing – but to what end?), and romance (sparks fly between Alexia and Lord Maccon [though he really had to work hard to win me over – I much prefer Professor Lupin Lyall, his Beta (and I also have to admit that I was a little disappointed when this didn’t mean what I automatically assumed it did)]).

But whatever it is, I did like it. Quite a bit. It was slow going at first, but that may have been because Carriger had lots of setting to, well, set up and characters to introduce (in addition to Alexia, Lord Maccon, and Professor Lyall, there are lots of fun secondary characters, my favorites being Lord Akeldema, Floote the butler, and Alexia’s friend Ivy who has terrible taste in hats) and all of that sort of felt like it bogged down the plot a bit. But the setting is interesting and the characters are likable. I did get a little distracted by the occasional lurches in point of view – most of the book is obviously told through Alexia, but every once in a while – and just for, like, a sentence here and there – we suddenly jump into someone else’s head (also along those lines, depending on whose head we’re in, the names alternate from using first names [e.g., Alexia or Ivy] to last names and titles [e.g., Miss Tarabotti or Miss…well, whatever Ivy’s last name is. Yes, I’m that lazy.]) which got a little bit confusing.

I’m pretty much hooked. There are touches of wry humor and a few subtle winks to the reader, too. I’m very interested to see what’s ahead for these characters (Changeless is out now and Blameless follows in September).

My rating: B+

What did I do on my day off today?

Things I did not do:

  1. Alas, I did not sleep in today. Curse you, frighteningly reliable Circadian rhythms!
  2. Read Sherlock Holmes. Why do I always leave him until the last minute?

Things I did do today:

  1. Did laundry.
  2. Made much progress through Soulless.
  3. Watched episodes of Julia Child’s The French Chef. More on this later, but how did I not remember how awesome she was?!
  4. Watched the second half of Shrek the Third followed by the first half.
  5. Discovered that, although, technically almond paste is not the same as marzipan, I think it will do the trick just fine.
  6. Made a yummy dinner!

And what did I make for dinner? Well, first and easiest, there was Italian potato salad (obviously, without the pancetta, of course). Which, OMG, is super, super, super, DUPER yummy. I had to wait longer than I anticipated for my puff pastry to thaw for the main dish which pushed my schedule back a bit, so waiting the hour for the main to bake was killer. Fortunately, I could pick away at the potato salad waiting for me on the counter.

YUM!

The main was only troublesome due to the fact that I forgot to put the puff pastry out to defrost. I got really sleepy around 4:00 (seeing as I woke up at 6:30am, I think I can be forgiven for it) and it completely slipped my mind. But after that, the Torta Pasqualina was pretty easy, actually.

I think next time I’ll trim the edges a bit before I fold them all over – the top crust ended up being so thick that it’s just ever so slightly on the underdone side. It won’t stop me from eating it – and I think I’m going to try freezing it (I’m a little unsure how the ricotta will hold up, but people freeze lasagna all the time and this is the same thing – ricotta mixed with eggs – so I think it should hold up all right) because it will actually take me forever to finish it. The recipe says it serves six, but I ate a sixth-sized slice of it this evening (well, almost – I just couldn’t finish those last two bites!) and I am STUFFED. I think feeding 8 is perhaps a more accurate estimate (though if I hadn’t had it accompanied by the potato salad, I might have been able to manage it).

So all in all, a pretty good day.