Friday, December 31, 2021

Rest in peace, Betty

I just learned that "Golden Girl" Betty White has passed away, just days short of her 100th birthday.

What a classy lady. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Lots and lots of random book-themed stuff

Being a book fiend, I'm always attracted to photos of large collections of volumes.

I also enjoy book-themed images, like these benches:

I collect links of book-themed stuff as I come across them.

For example, here's an article entitled "Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind" in which the writer notes, "Research suggests that exposure to large home libraries may have a long-term impact on proficiency in three key areas" – literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life), and information communication technology (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information). [It's worth noting the latter benefit has entirely bypassed me. I still don't know how to text, and I'm not entirely sure what an "app" is.]

The above article continues, "The research team was interested in this question because home library size can be a good indicator of what the study authors term 'book-oriented socialization.' ... More books in the home was linked to higher proficiency in the areas tested by the survey. ... Further research is needed to determine precisely why exposure to books in childhood fosters valuable skills later in life, but the study offers further evidence to suggest that reading has a powerful effect on the mind."

Another short article I stumbled across is entitled "How to Display Your Books Like a More Sophisticated Adult." Personally I didn't find this very helpful, but then I'm usually intrigued by book quantity, not style.

I do confess, however, a weakness for book-themed interior décor books. I have several:

(Of this collection, the center top book – "At Home with Books" by Estelle Ellis – is the best.)

Now here's a fascinating article: "Book of Lost Books Discovered in Danish Archive": "Christopher Columbus may have explored oceans, but his illegitimate son, Hernando Colón, explored the mind. In the 16th century, he amassed somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 books, part of a pie-in-the-sky effort to collect 'all books, in all languages and on all subjects, that can be found both within Christendom and without.' As part of this ambitious endeavor, he commissioned an entire staff of scholars to read the books and write short summaries for a 16-volume, cross-referenced index. Called the Libro de los Epítomes, it served as a primitive sort of search engine. Now, researchers have found one of those lost volumes, a precious key to many books lost to history." Yowza!

Other cool book stuff: How about a vending machine that dispenses a random book for $2.00?

Here's another book vending machine, this one in Romania.

Or what about a train station in Paris with a machine that prints out short stories to read while you wait for a train?

Another version:

How cool is this? How would you like your own personal traveling bookstore?

Then of course, there are photo collections of the world's most beautiful libraries:





Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

There are also extraordinary bookstores, such as this one in Buenos Aires.

And how about a few random items?

Older Daughter enjoys participating in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

I once put up a post about something called Silent Book Clubs, which I still think is a spiffy idea.

One of the more charming trends is that of Little Free Libraries. A woman in Coeur d'Alene built one of these in an old tree stump. I always regret not going by to see it when we lived closer.

I've also written about using books as props, often termed "credibility bookshelves" in the age of remote work and Zoom calls. Shallow as this may seem on the surface, I figure being surrounded by books can only lead to good things.

How about this collection of photographs of early bookmobiles?

And finally, a phenomenon I caught wind of which I think is just the coolest thing: Bookstores you can rent for date nights or even weddings.

Book-themed info is almost as much fun to collect as books!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


I tried something new a couple weeks ago: Making baklava.

Baklava is a rare, seldom-encountered treat because it's so expensive. I have a small piece maybe once every three or four years. Because I've never worked with phyllo dough before, to be honest I was a little intimidated to try making my own. Then I came across a recipe that seemed reasonably easy to follow, and decided to give it a try.


Here's the recipe:


  • 16 oz phyllo dough thawed by package instructions
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 lb walnuts, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnomon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • Melted chocolate chips & chopped walnuts for garnish (optional)


  1. Thaw phyllo dough by package instructions (this is best done overnight in the fridge, then place it on the counter for 1 hr before starting your recipe to bring it to room temp).
  2. Trim phyllo dough to fit your baking dish. [I bought a new but inexpensive 10x14 baking dish from the grocery store that fit the phyllo without trimming it.]
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan.

Start with the honey sauce (which needs time to cool as baklava bakes)

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup honey, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil over med/high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then reduce heat to med/low and boil additional 4 min without stirring. Remove from heat and let syrup cool while preparing baklava.

Preheat Oven to 325˚F

1. Pulse walnuts 10 times in a food process or until coarsely ground/ finely chopped. In a medium bowl, stir together: 4 cups finely chopped walnuts and 1 tsp cinnamon

2. Place 10 phyllo sheets into baking pan one at a time, brushing each sheet with butter once it's in the pan before adding the next (i.e. place phyllo sheet into pan, brush the top with butter, place next phyllo sheet in pan, butter the top, etc. etc.). Keep remaining phyllo covered with a damp towel at all times. Spread about 1/5 of nut mixture (about 3/4 cup) over phyllo dough.

3. Add 5 buttered sheets of phyllo, then another layer of nuts. Repeat x 4. Finish off with 10 layers of buttered phyllo sheets. Brush the very top with butter.

    • Here's the order of the baklava layers:
      10 buttered phyllo sheets, 3/4 cup nut mixture,
      5 buttered phyllo sheets, 3/4 cup nut mixture,
      5 buttered phyllo sheets, 3/4 cup nut mixture,
      5 buttered phyllo sheets, 3/4 cup nut mixture,
      5 buttered phyllo sheets, 3/4 cup nut mixture
      10 buttered phyllo sheets and butter the top.

4. Cut pastry into 1 1/2" wide strips, then cut diagonally to form diamond shapes. Bake at 325˚F for 1 hour and 15 min or until tops are golden brown.

5. Remove from oven and immediately spoon cooled syrup evenly over the hot baklava (you'll hear it sizzle). This will ensure that it stays crisp rather than soggy. Let baklava cool completely, uncovered and at room temp. For best results, let baklava sit 4-6 hours or overnight at room temperature for the syrup to penetrate and soften the layers. Garnish baklava with finely chopped nuts or drizzle with melted chocolate. Store at room temp, covered with a tea towel for 1 to 2 weeks.


Anyway, that's the recipe.

First thing I did was take the phyllo dough out of the freezer and let it come to room temperature.

For the filling, I needed a pound of walnuts...

...chopped fine.

To this I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Next up, the honey sauce.

I put the honey sauce aside, then melted the butter in another pot.

Then it was time to unwrap the sheets of phyllo. As I said, I'd never worked with this dough before, and it was a lot easier than I thought.

I started by buttering the pan.

I followed the order for layering the phyllo sheets listed in the recipe: buttering 10 sheets, then a layer of nuts, then five sheets, etc.

To keep track, I used 10 pennies and put one aside every time I buttered a layer.

Adding a layer of nuts.

I found using a dry brush to spread the nuts helped a lot.

Then it was back to buttering layers of phyllo, layering with nuts, repeat, repeat, repeat. This was undeniably the most tedious portion of making baklava. Next time I do this, I'll sit rather than stand.

At last everything was assembled, and I got ready to cut the tray into the parallelogram shapes the directions indicated.

I quickly learned a knife wasn't nearly as efficient... a pizza cutter. Worked like a charm.

Ta da!

When I finished assembling the baklava, I couldn't bake it right away because I was using the oven for something else. So I covered it with a damp towel for the time being.

Then I baked it. It came out golden-brown.

Immediately, while it was still hot, I ladled the honey sauce over the top. It sizzled in a very satisfactory fashion.

Per the instructions, I let it cool at room temperature overnight before trying it. It was terrific!

Because I'm not the most creative or successful person in the kitchen, I'm always thrilled when something actually turns out right. This is a winner! Definitely something for future desserts.