Monday, October 31, 2011

Mystery Monday - Elizabeth Daly

My last Mystery Monday post was about Josephine Tey - a writer who never really kept to a particular formula for her mystery novels.  That "unexpectedness" is a quality I love about her books. (Did I mention how much I love The Daughter of Time? I think I did - but I'll mention it again here.)

However, sometimes a good formula is exactly what you are looking for.

When we travel we often stop at the ubiquitous Cracker Barrel restaurants, because we want to stop somewhere and get a bite to eat where we can expect pretty good food, decent service, and reasonable prices.  Family travel can be stressful enough, so having a familiar place to go where it is not likely to encounter unpleasant surprises is a blessing.  Well, I guess the mystery novels by Elizabeth Daly are  the "Cracker Barrels" of my collection.  When you read a book by Daly, you know pretty much what you are getting, which is an excellent mystery with an engaging main character.

First, a little background.  Elizabeth Daly was an American woman who did not begin her novel writing career until she was in her sixties. (I'm so impressed with this - it's never too late!)  In her early career she was a tutor in French and English at Bryn Mawr College. I think she was 62 when her first mystery novel was published in 1940.  She eventually wrote 16 mystery novels centered around her detective, Henry Gamadge.

Gamadge is not actually a detective at all. He is an authority on rare books and manuscripts, although he does have an interest in criminology.  I don't think he ever takes a case for pay. Usually he investigates a problem simply in order to help the people involved.

This brings us to the "formula" I spoke of earlier.  Daly's books are usually set in New York City, or those spots in New England where the City folk would have a summer place, like Connecticut or Maine.  Gamadge is a quiet man who spends his time authenticating manuscripts in his home in the City, until someone comes to him with a problem. Usually, this problem concerns a family secret that the members of the family are anxious to keep secret, but the problem that has arisen threatens to bring shame and/or unwanted publicity or cost the family what is left of their fortune, etc. Sometimes these problems seem to involve elements of the supernatural.  Gamadge is engaged to help them solve this problem discreetly. He takes the case and, of course, murder ensues.  This pattern is followed, with variations, in almost all of the books. Even in those books where this pattern is not followed exactly, the stories are always about families having to deal with unusual situations.

Now, I wouldn't want to leave the impression that if you've read one Gamadge mystery, you've read them all. Even though the books do follow a basic formula, each of the stories is very intelligently written, the problems are unique, and there is usually a surprising twist just when you think you have it all figured out. I think they are quite fun reading.

I also like Henry Gamadge. I read somewhere that Gamadge has been called the American Lord Peter Wimsey. Well, I wouldn't go that far.  Lord Peter he is not.  However, what I like about Gamadge is his "goodness" - he is a very kind, decent, rather self-effacing, fellow.

I also enjoy Daly's books because of their - how shall I put this?-  non-vulgar quality.  I understand that humans are sinful, sin is a fact of human existence, and that mystery novels deal with the darker side of humanity - murder, lust, greed, adultery, etc.  However, I do not care to read those books that sort of wallow in the muckiness of human behavior. (This explains why my favorite books were all written in the earlier parts of the last century.)  Elizabeth Daly never wallows.

I've read almost all of the Henry Gamadge books, except Deadly Nightshade. I can't find a copy of that for less than $40 and I'm not going to pay that much for a mystery novel, no matter how good it is! All of her other books can be found pretty cheaply at or Amazon.  I won't list all of her books here but I will mention a few that I really enjoyed.

The Murders in Volume II

Evidence of Things Seen

Arrow Pointing Nowhere

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real...Family Reunion!

We had a family reunion over the weekend with my extended family on my mother's side. Almost all of my cousins made it, along with their spouses and children and grandchildren. Several of the cousins and their families couldn't make it this time, so we had a smaller group than usual, but we still had a great time.  I thought the event was worth documenting with a {pretty, happy, funny, real} post.


The pretty young girl in this photo is my maternal grandmother, who was about eighteen at the time. It was taken around 1934. It's a 5 generation picture: my grandmother, whom we called "Mimmie," her first-born son, her father (Poppa - holding the baby), Poppa's mother, and her father, who would be my great-great-great grandfather. (Is that clear as mud?)

I had never seen this photo before, but at the reunion my uncle, who was the baby in the picture, gave each of us a copy of it.  I LOVE it! I had never seen my grandmother looking quite so young as she does in this picture.

My sister (in the blue top) and me with most of our first cousins.
Two of the cousins were missing. 
I love seeing these people! Getting together with them makes me very happy.


My cousin Karen, being funny with her dad.

Here's my dear Uncle Roy, the baby in the top picture, now the patriarch of the family. The four people on the left side of the picture are his children. 


My sister, me, and our menfolk.
is the love we grew up with, from our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the love we share with our children now!

round button chicken

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mystery Monday- Tey for Two

I've been reading all my life, or at least since I was five. The first book I read on my own was I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, by Dr. Seuss.  I can remember deciphering the first sentence on the first page, the rest of the text still just mysterious letters on the page.  I have had a book in my hands almost every day ever since.  I love the literature of the past; Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, and my very favorite, Dostoevsky.  I love the stories of Flannery O'Connor.  I've got Sir Walter Scott on my Kindle, along with St. Athanasius, and G.K. Chesterton.  But what I really, really, love to read are mysteries, particularly British mysteries written between, say, 1920 and 1950, or thereabout.  "Vintage" mysteries, from the Golden Age of mystery writing and a bit beyond. (Technically, I believe the Golden Age of mystery novels starts at around 1913 and ends around 1945, at the end of WWII.)  I do enjoy some American mystery writers from the same time period, but my favorites are British.

I've decided to use my blog to highlight some of my favorite mystery writers, especially those who may be lesser known. In fact, I'm not going to talk about the Grande Dame of mystery fiction, Agatha Christie, at all, except to say that her books were what I started with way back when I was around thirteen years old.

I just finished reading two books (The Man in the Queue, and A Shilling for Candles) by the Scottish writer Elizabeth MacKintosh, who wrote under the names of Gordon Daviot and Josephine Tey.  I believe that most of her novels are now published under the name of Josephine Tey.  I think she considered herself a playwright who occasionally wrote novels, although today her books are probably better known than her plays. She loved history and at least two of her books are based on historical events.  She had an idea that the notorious King Richard III, who through the ages has been known as the wicked king who had his own nephews murdered in the Tower of London, was actually innocent of that crime.  She wrote a play about him, Richard of Bordeaux, and one of her mystery novels, one of my favorites, The Daughter of Time,  is a defense of the much maligned Richard.

She only wrote eight mystery novels, starting in 1929 with The Man in the Queue and ending shortly before her death in 1952 with The Singing Sands. I've read six, so far, and each one has been very enjoyable and unique.  I'll list all of her books here, since there are so few of them:

The Man in the Queue
A Shilling for Candles
Miss Pym Disposes
The Franchise Affair - a favorite of mine
Brat Farrar
To Love and Be Wise  
The Daughter of Time - highly recommended!
The Singing Sands

I have found some of her books at the library, but because I have this sick need to own all these old books, I am not satisfied with checking books out at the library. Any time I have the opportunity to visit used book shops, antique stores or "junk-tique" stores I always check for books by my favorite authors.  The large 3-in 1 book in the picture above was found on a trip to the Smokies. I don't know how that book ended up in an antique mall in Wears Valley, TN, but that's where I found it. I think I paid about $2.00 for it. I found the other two on the AbeBooks website.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

3 Days of Yogurt: Day Three - The Final Product

When we last left my new batch of yogurt, it was sitting in the refrigerator chilling out.  I put it in about 6:30 yesterday morning to give it a chance to thicken a little bit before I started the final stage of the process.

Later in the morning, around 9-ish, I did the following:

I took the bowl out of the fridge, got my colander, and the crock from my slow cooker.  I use the crock from my cooker for this step because I don't have a bowl that is deep enough to keep the liquid that drips from the yogurt away from the bottom of the colander.  It's a little wonky, the colander doesn't exactly fit in it well, but it works for me.

It's not a great fit, as you can see.
I set the colander in the crock, as shown.  Then I got my flour sack towels and spread them out inside the colander, as shown.

I used two towels, but I think just one would work.
Next, I poured the yogurt from the bowl into the colander.

I have taken the corners of the towels and made a little bag.
You can't see it, but there is already whey dripping out into the crock.
The whey, which is the liquid from the yogurt, is dripping through the cloth and the colander, into the crock.
I covered the yogurt lightly with the corners of the towels and put the whole thing back into the fridge. This whole process took me about 5 minutes. Probably not that long.

Another picture of my unusually empty fridge!

Then I left it alone, again, for several hours.  I went to the grocery store, I ran errands, I ate lunch, etc., etc. I don't usually leave it for as long as I did yesterday, but I had stuff to do.  Most of the time I think I leave it to drain about 2-3 hours.  The longer you leave it, of course, the thicker it gets.

I got back to my yogurt again around 1:30. I took it out of the fridge and put it into the clean container I had ready.

I picked it up this way and sort of twisted the towels and squeezed it to get  even more liquid out.

At this point it was so thick that I just sort of rolled the yogurt off the towel and into the bowl.  I used a spoon to get the little globs off the sides.  This part can get a little messy.

Ta-Da!  Very thick, creamy yogurt!

The liquid whey that is left over can be saved and used in baking.  According to my Nourishing Traditions book the whey can be used to make sauerkraut.  I haven't done that, but I'd like to try it soon. Here's a picture of the whey I had left.

And, finally, here's what I had for a treat after all my work was done!

My homemade, full-fat, Greek-style yogurt with some frozen blueberries on top!
Making yogurt does take a while, but I have found that I can work it in to my routine very easily. Pour milk into crock pot - do other stuff- unplug crock pot- do other stuff- put towel over crock pot- go to bed, etc. As long as I remember that I'm making yogurt, there's no problem.

I love making my own yogurt! I hope these posts will inspire you to try it yourself. Like my favorite Auntie Leila says, "If I can do it so can you."

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

3 Days of Yogurt: Day Two - How I Make It

Yesterday afternoon I started my newest batch of yogurt.  Here's how I did it.

I started about 2:25
I got my trusty slow cooker and half a gallon of milk:

The slow cooker is set on "low" and plugged in.

The milk is poured in to the cooker,
I DO put the lid on the slow cooker. I just forgot to before I took the picture!
and left alone for 2 and 1/2 hours.
Ok, 2 and 1/2 hours, give or take a few minutes. It's not rocket science.
Then the slow cooker is un-plugged and left alone, again, for another 3 hours.
The lonely slow cooker, left alone again.

At about 8 pm I get my yogurt starter, my large bowl, and a measuring cup, and scoop out about 2 cups of the warm milk.

I pour the milk into the bowl, then get my 1/2 cup of yogurt and stir it into the milk. I use a fork to make sure the yogurt is completely dissolved into the milk.

I make sure to put the lid back on the slow cooker  during this step.
Save the heat!

1/2 cup of yogurt 
Whisking away.

I pour the contents of the bowl back into the slow cooker and stir it to make sure it is mixed in well, then put the lid back on the cooker.
Then I cover the entire cooker with the large towel.

I then leave it alone, again, all night.  It needs to incubate about 8 - 12 hours. I've never let it go longer than 12 hours. "They" (whoever they are) say that it will get too tart if it sits longer than 12 hours. I don't know. I usually let it sit between 10-11 hours.

When I get up in the morning, about 6:30 (so about 10 and 1/2 hours -if I'm counting right) I uncover the cooker and see what I've got.
LOOK! It's a miracle! Yogurt!
Now, this yogurt is pretty liquid-y and you know I'm going for thick, Greek style, so I have a few more steps to take.  This is edible yogurt, though, about the consistency of commercially prepared non-fat yogurt.
I pour this yogurt into my large bowl and put it into the fridge to thicken for a couple of hours.
I cover this with plastic wrap before putting into the fridge.

Look how empty my fridge is!  I've got to go to the grocery store.
That is the basic process for making yogurt.  If I wanted to, I could be finished right here. I'd probably put the yogurt into several smaller containers.  It would be thicker after about 2 to 4 hours in the fridge.

Tomorrow's post will show what I do to make it much thicker and creamier.

Any questions? Comments? Frustrations? Anxieties?

Memory Eternal, Irene

Today it has been a year since my dear Mother passed away.

My beautiful mother, lovely sister, and me, the short one.
Mother's Day, 1994

I miss her.

Monday, October 3, 2011

3 Days of Yogurt: Day One- What I Use

OK, let me start this off with a list of what I use to make the yogurt.

1. Crock Pot/Slow Cooker
I just noticed, after thirteen years, that what I'm using is actually a Proctor/Silex "Slow Cooker." Whatever.
I don't know what size it is. Maybe 4 quarts? I think I got this thing the year my son was born, 1998.
The knob on the front got broken somehow. 

2. Milk. 1/2 Gallon of Whole Milk. I have used milk from a local dairy, which is delicious, but pricey.  Most of the time I just use the Great Value milk I get at Wal-Mart.  Please use WHOLE milk. I am convinced that the fat in the milk is where the nutrition is, in those essential fatty acids.
Just regular ol' Wal-Mart milk.
One thing about the milk: it should not be "ultra-pasteurized."  I don't think the yogurt culture will grow in ultra-pasteurized milk. Now, I don't know that for sure, since I've never tried using milk that was ultra-pasteurized to make yogurt. I think I read that in the You Can Make Yogurt in Your CrockPot post.

3. Yogurt for starter.
 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.  Really plain. Just cultured milk. No added pectin or anything else. 
Nothing but cultured milk - no added pectin, etc.
The only plain yogurt I can find without added pectin or added anything else is this organic Stoneyfield Farm brand of non-fat yogurt. I'm sure any other brand would do, as long as it doesn't have added pectin.

4. Big Blue Beach Blanket

Any large towel will do for covering the crockpot during the incubation period.

5. Large bowl.

6. Large Colander

It's not pretty, but it works!
6. Flour sack towels

If you are going to make the thick Greek style yogurt, you will need something to strain the liquid from the yogurt.  The first time I made it, I used paper towels. They work, if that's all you have.  Cheesecloth is what is recommended. I had a hard time finding cheesecloth. Then when I found it, I tried to wash it and I ended up with what looked like the remains of The Mummy in my washing machine.

 I picked up these plain, white, flour sack towels (at Wal-Mart, of course) and I think they work very well.  These towels are not used for anything else but making yogurt.

7. A container for the final product.
What's left of my last batch of yogurt.
I use plastic containers with lids. 

I am always so excited when I make a new batch of yogurt in my own little kitchen. It's like a miracle every time!
Tomorrow: How I Make It
Wednesday: The Final Product

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A New Series

My very ambitious Sister, Heathalee, has taken the plunge into the 31 Days of Change series. She, along with about 600 others, will be spending the thirty-one days of this month blogging about one particular topic.  My sister is writing about  Worship.

OK - I'm so not there yet with the 31 days of blogging every day.

I am also so not there yet with trying to blog about anything really deep and meaningful, like worship!   Ack! That would scare me to death!  I'm definitely splashing about in the shallow end of the blog pool.

 However, over here in the shallow end of the pool I am going to do my own little series for the next few days about one particular topic.  I'm going to call it:

3 Days of Yogurt

(Just for you, Matushka Anna!)

The whole process of how I make my own yogurt, step by step, and in detail, so you can, too.

 It starts tomorrow!