What to eat when it’s too hot to move?

Okay. It’s still super-hot here and I’m DETERMINED not to turn on my air conditioning until I absolutely have to and my fan just broke. Boo! What all of this means is that I’m not feeling super-psyched about turning on the oven every time I want something to eat. And THAT means that I’m going to be eating a lot of sandwiches for a while now.

Starting with Ezra Poundcake‘s Creamy-Crunchy Radish Sandwiches with Capers, Black Olives, and Arugula.

In which I make a newbie mistake!

I can’t even remember the last time I burned something in the oven. But I very nearly burned these Chocolate Sour Cream cupcakes. When I checked on them after the allotted 20 minutes, they were still sunken and batter-y. So I figured in another 5 minutes, they would be puffed and batter-y and then in 5 more minutes, they’d be puffed and done.

I knew I should check on them in 5 minutes, but it’s still super-hot here and checking on them in 10 minutes would save me from an extra blast of oven air and I was sure they wouldn’t be done by then, so I went back in 10 minutes only to find that they were sunken and crispy around the edges!

I don’t know why they fell like that – or, to be more accurate, they just never rose in the first place. But I didn’t want to just throw them away, so I let them cool and frosted one of them with leftover mascarpone and whipped cream frosting from the Blackest Forest Cake I made a couple of weeks ago. And they’re actually quite good!

Despite being a bit crispy around the edges.

YA Fiction: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

I hate myself for liking this book. It won’t make you feel quite as dirty as the Twilight saga (I liked the first one, but by the end of the second, I just wanted to knock some sense into Bella and tell Jacob and Edward that they’d be better off with each other), but it is problematic.

And yet I want to read the second one – what’s wrong with me?!

Mostly, I feel like this is a book I would have written in high school; in fact, I’m sure I started writing a book very much like this when I was in high school. The heroine is Mary Sued up to the teeth – gorgeous, super powerful, amazing harp player, amazing singer; the two guy friends are gorgeous, super powerful, and amazingly talented musically; and there are faeries and Celtic  mythology everywhere!

Also:

  • The love triangle doesn’t quite work – Luke figures much more prominently in the story than James does, so we don’t really get to know James very well or see him interact much with Deirdre. In fact, he confesses his love to her via text message and then they basically don’t share a scene for the rest of the book.
  • The pacing is a bit off, too – everything builds very slowly up until the last fifth of the book and most everything suddenly gets resolved. A few plotlines are left unfinished, but I assume they’ll be addressed in the second book in the series.
  • I don’t really like Deirdre that much. She’s a bit too mopey and ‘Why me?’ and makes a few really stupid decisions. In fact, I had to put the book down before the last 75 pages and walk away for a week or two (to read Kathy Griffin’s book) before I could manage to go back to it.

And yet. I’m totally going to read the next one. Seriously, what’s wrong with me?!

My rating: C

Nonfiction: Memoir

Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin

I know she can be a little divisive – when my mom unwrapped this present at Christmas, my grandmother exclaimed ‘Oh, I can’t stand her!’ – but I (and my mom, obviously) really like Kathy Griffin. So I was intrigued by her memoir. From watching her specials (I’ve never really seen much of My Life on the D-List) and based on her stand-up, which is mostly gossip based), I assumed she would be a fairly superficial person and wasn’t sure she’d have much to say, but I was sure it would be entertaining at least.

Boy, was I proved wrong!

She comes across as a very mature, smart, and, yes, thoughtful person. Like Craig Ferguson, she strikes me as somebody who puts a lot of thought into the decisions she makes. And, man, is she hard working! Talk about paying your dues. No matter if you like her or not, if you read her memoir, you wouldn’t be able to deny that she has worked hard to get where she is and deserves all of her success (such as it is).

And she really seems to honestly enjoy what she does – she’d have to, considering how many setbacks and opposition she’s met along the way – and she knows how lucky she is to get to do something she loves so much.

I think she has a little bit of trouble connecting with the reader and I can’t really put my finger on why I feel that way. She’s very open about her family and her struggles trying to make it in LA and her frustration as everybody but her seemed to be succeeding, but sometimes it still sort of feels like she’s performing a bit. But it wasn’t until she was finished talking about her marriage that I felt like her writing had become more personal.

My rating: B+

p.s. – I’ll admit I was thrown by the chapter on her relationship with Steve Wozniak – I still am not sure what was going on there – but everything else I thoroughly enjoyed.

“The Cardboard Box” Or, Watson. BAMFs don’t complain about the weather when it’s ONLY 81 DEGREES!

Honestly, Watson, pull yourself together, man! Baring-Gould assures me that it was only 81 degrees on this supposedly blazing hot day. Know what temperature it is here, Watson? It’s 93 degrees! Yeah. And you know what I did? I baked a cake. AND ran for twenty minutes on my treadmill. Because I’m hardcore like that.

Don’t worry, I still love you, Watson.

Rant about Watson’s claims of manliness aside, “The Cardboard Box” was published in January of 1893 and, according to Baring-Gould and his trusty weather reports, takes place Saturday, August 31 to Monday, September 2, 1889.

Baring-Gould points out that it being 1889 means, of course, that Watson is married to the homewrecker lovely Miss Morstan. What, then, is he doing contemplating interior design at Baker Street? According to Baring-Gould, ‘Mary Morstan Watson had not yet completely recovered from [the events of The Sign of the Four]. In such a heat wave [Eighty-one degrees is NOT a heat wave, Baring-Gould. Stop humoring Watson.] as London was experiencing, Watson undoubtedly hoped that they might feel the metropolis together. When finances made this impossible, he gallantly gave up his own holiday and sent Mary off alone. To ease his loneliness [Aw, that’s quite sweet, Baring-Gould, you’re forgiven for the heat wave comment.], he moved for about a fortnight into Baker Street, bringing a few books and pictures with him’ (BG, 194). But it strikes me funny that Watson’s fine with sending his wife off to the countryside for two weeks, though he is unable to spend the same amount of time away from his portrait of Henry Ward Beecher. Maybe he brings it back and forth with him and that’s why there was the perfect blank spot on the wall for it – Holmes knows that whenever Watson comes to stay, so to must his Henry Ward Beecher portrait and plans accordingly for it.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room. No, the other elephant in the room. ‘In “The Dancing Men,” generally dated in 1898, Holmes reminds Watson, “Your cheque-book is locked in my drawer.”‘ leading Leslie to point out that there may be ‘a causal connection between Watson’s depletion of funds and Holmes’ later control’ (NA, 424). Surely the reason Watson’s finances didn’t allow him to escape to the country is undoubtedly because, thanks to “Silver Blaze,” his gambling problem was back in full swing.

This time around it’s Leslie who points out something very interesting which Baring-Gould fails to mention at all. It seems that when it came time to publish the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes in London, “The Cardboard Box” was left out as ACD deemed it unsuitable for young readers. However, the first American edition included it, though a revised edition omitting it was soon after published and the ones that include it are apparently very rare – I know what I want for Christmas! But it gets weirder – the whole passage that includes Holmes’ mindreading trick was cut from “The Cardboard Box” and inserted into “The Resident Patient.” And the Holmesians do not disappoint with their theories as to why this was done! H.W. Bell guessed that this scene ‘so perfectly illustrated Holmes deductive talents that Watson was loath to eliminate it altogether; thus he simply transferred it to another vehicle’ (NA, 427). For reasons I won’t get into here due to spoilers, Bell concludes that ‘the passage…threw too bright a light on Holmes’ genius to be allowed to slumber in the files of a periodical’ (NA, 427). Trevor Hall, however, ‘claims that Doyle, distressed at this scene’s debunking of a supposed mystical practice [Yes, how far are we from the whole Doyle-gets-duped-by-fake-fairy-photographs debacle?] as little more than a parlour trick, asked Watson to eliminate the entire story as a result’ (NA, 427).

No Holmesian discussion be without the requisite completely crazy theory and James C. Iraldi obligingly brings the cray-cray. He notes that Paganini – the topic of Holmes and Watson’s cozy lunch – sat for a portrait by Horace Vernet who is, of course, Holmes’ great uncle. He goes on to say that Paganini ‘moved in the highest circles, was invited everywhere, met everyone worth meeting–including Horace Vernet, the famous artist, for whom he sat for a portrait. Would it be so inconceivable as to imagine that, in the course of those sittings, Paganini met–and loved–Vernet’s sister–the same lady who was destined to become the grandmother of Sherlock Holmes?’ (BG, 201). Wait, what?! So now Holmes’ grandfather is Paganini? Those crazy Holmesians…

Speaking of Paganini and Holmes and Watson’s lunchtime conversation, I do believe this is where we find out where Holmes got his Stradivarius! And the lovely Baring-Gould once again does the math for us. Know what Holmes paid for his priceless Stradivarius? The equivalent of $13.75. I know, right?! I don’t know if that’s Victorian dollars or Baring-Gould era dollars, but still! Well spotted, Holmes.

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


  • [I see here that Watson has taken to the time-honored tradition of sitting very still while completely dressed, collar and all, to beat the ‘heat.’ I do very much the same, though I do adopt a somewhat less formal dress code…]

  • [Why does Holmes appear to be wearing a boater?]
  • Holmes scribbled a few words upon the back of one of his visiting cards and threw it over to Lestrade. ‘That is the name,’ he said. ‘You cannot effect an arrest until to-morrow night at the earliest. I should prefer that you do not mention my name at all in connection with the case, as I choose to be only associated with those crimes which present some difficulty in their solution. Come on, Watson.’ (NA, 436) [Oh, Holmes, back to your favorite pasttime of Lestrade-insulting. ILU!]
  • In Lestrade’s letter to Holmes containing Browner’s confession: ‘He is a big, powerful chap, clean-shaven, and very swarthy–something like Aldridge, who helped us in the bogus laundry affair.’ (NA, 441) [Forget the giant rat of Sumatra, I want to hear about the Affair of the Bogus Laundry!]

Up next is the infamous “Yellow Face” – stop by next week if you want to see if Holmes ever makes a mistake.

*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.

Film at 11:00 (Tasty, tasty film…)

The other day at lunch, Liz mentioned that when she eats strawberries, all she can think of the leftover strawberry tops is that they look like little strawberry scalps. It’s so gruesome, but it’s so true, don’t you think?

Oh, the humanity! But what did I make to accompany them? A yummy, yummy vanilla bean and bourbon Bundt cake.

Except that I have no dignity when it comes to my alcohol consumption which means that, although I couldn’t justify buying a bottle of bourbon that I would never drink, I could justify buying a bottle of Southern Comfort. So I made vanilla bean Southern Comfort Bundt cake instead. And I think it’s just as good (if not quite as classy).

Yes, I’m going to make you watch commercials.

But they’re good commercials. And, oddly enough, they’re all Nike. This is their advert for the World Cup (well, not FOR it…more like taking advantage of it, but it’s awesome):

And these next two are my favorite adverts ever. Seriously, I could watch them over and over – they really don’t feel like commercials. They came out the year I was in Aberdeen and one of them would play over most of the movies we went to see, so I’m extra fond of them for that, too.