Monday, December 15, 2014

Naomi's Cooke Recipes from Tauno

Here are the ingredients for the cookies at Mrs. Benson's Coffeehouse. I will write up the instructions very shortly. They follow basic cookie construction for each. Don't over mix cookie dough. Unless noted, they all bake at 350 F.

Sugar Cookie with Icing and Large Sprinkles

"Sprinkles Because Your Eyes Twinkle!"
A friend of mine gave me this recipe. She couldn't remember where she found it. This is the best sugar cookie recipe I've ever had in taste, texture and longevity. They don't get dry and nasty for as long as they've lasted. Some have stayed bagged for ten days. They taste better rolled out and cooked in a gas oven, rather than rolled in wax paper, sliced and baked in a toaster oven.

3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp salt

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coconut Lime Macaroons

"Coconut Shreds For My Curly Head."

3 large egg whites, beat till frothy, not much.
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons finely cut lime peel, or lime zest from a small grater

14 ounces sweetened coconut flakes

Mrs. Benson's Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've played around with chocolate chip cookie recipes so that they stay chewy even after a few days. They puff up like soft drop cookies and when removed from the oven, shrinks to a strong, chewy texture.

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 cups chocolate chips

Spicy Oatmeal Cookies

"Infused with Naomi Spice!"

After some trial and error, I've made this recipe chewy and yummy. This not a thick, cakey oatmeal cookie. Cookies shouldn't be cakey. 

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar

2 eggs
¼ cup molasses
2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins

Shortbread Cookies

"Dipped In Sweetness Just Like You!"

This is from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I dipped them in chocolate with orange extract.

Cook at 325 degrees.

1 1/4 cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter

Settings for the Naomi Series

Deciding on the locations of a novel has been one of the funner parts of writing. Images on Google maps make the process more detailed, too.

Where do the Zemers live?

Turtle Bay, Manhattan, a neighborhood on the east side of Midtown Manhattan. It sports the United Nations headquarters and the Chrysler building. I've placed the Zemer town house on the lower 50s streets and in the block between Third and First Avenue.

New York Photo Sphere on Google.
I can imagine Naomi trouncing down the sidewalks from the subway station, singing her songs and dreaming about Tauno.

Where do Tauno and Asta live?

Bethesda, Maryland, close to Potomac where the Taylors live and across the river from the CIA Langley headquarters. Miracles happen in Bethesda. ;-)

This isn't quite how I envisioned Asta's house, but it hints at the picture. Asta's neighborhood has more distance between yards. I visited Maryland and drove around Bethesda and was dismayed at the lack of front porches. When I saw one, I hooted a hurray. Yes! Asta can have a front porch. Only a few houses don't have a second floor. I emailed a house inspector to make sure there were some houses built without a basement. All these details are important to activities that happen in the house. Phew. What I didn't realize until I toured Maryland, is that brick is prevalent. I can live with changing Asta's sideboards to brick. But painted or natural? I'll have to think on that. :)

Bethesda Photo Sphere from Google
If I put up the location for book 2, it'll spoil the plot of book 1, so ...
stay tuned.


If you've never heard of Estonia, here are a few fun facts.

Where in the world is it?
Estonia is under Finland, to the west of Russia, sharing a border, and three countries east of Germany.

The country flower, voted for in the late 1960s, is the blue cornflower. The blue of the Estonian flag is the cornflower blue. The blue cornflower grows wild in the Estonian soil, along with the grain used for making the Estonian brown bread.

Imagine this fragrant bread, warm and steamy, and robust with rye. Pull off a handful, slather it in herb butter made with chives, dill and parsley, and eat.

Brown bread made by the First Lady of Estonian, Evelin Ilves.

Two other important dishes in Estonian cuisine is a meat aspic called Sült,

and blood sausage made from animal blood and barley, called verivorstid.

Moving on from the food, Estonia is covered in forests and bogs. Watch this video of an Estonian rock band, filmed in the scenic lands. Ewert and the Two Dragons, "Good Man Down."

Estonia loves music. Their resistance to Soviet rule grew through their music, as in the other Baltic States: Latvia and Lithuania. They have massive national song festivals. This is my favorite song. Ilus Maa. Their music really moves me.

The Estonians have a tradition of knitting that is so advanced and intricate. An expert knitter could make a large scarf delicate enough to flow through a wedding ring. Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. (She read my book! And helped with some knitting sentences.)

Estonia has islands and castles. I had bought books on castles for my boys through Scholastic and never realized one was on the old Livonian castles, now in Latvia and Estonia.

For modern news, Estonia is a little country advancing in the world of technology. They even have eResidency.

That's a quick introduction to Estonia. It's history and traditions are woven through my historical fiction series. Sign-up to get news of publication. 

Soviet Cruise Ship

My friend Kristine Gray went on a tour to Europe in 1984 that included a tour of the Baltics and the Soviet Union. She was so smart!

She has always loved history, but how could she have known that I needed the information from her high school era trip for a historical fiction series written thirty years later?

She's doubly smart to have taken pictures and loaded them into a scrapbook. She let me hold onto her book for two years, too. We went out for a three-hour dinner and I recorded her travel log on my phone.

Soviet Cruise Ship, Mikhail Kalinin

I had to show this picture to an Estonian friend who didn't believe me that such a thing existed. See the hammer and sickle? Yes. It is a Soviet cruise ship, devoid of all decoration. This picture captures the name of the ship. It has a wiki page.  Kristine said the accommodations were basic and utilitarian. Beds were made with rough sheets.
The library on board was stocked full of propaganda books about Afghanistan and the joyous Soviet life.

The Baltic Shipping Company.

You were only chosen to work on the ships if you had strong family ties to people who lived under Soviet rule. At port, a worker could only disembark with two other crew members. Defectors must be kept away from opportunity and temptation. The buddy system was a mandatory precaution.

Russian chocolate from the ship gift shop.

stamped bags from the ship gift shop

Kristine snuck some pictures before having to put the camera away. If you bring a camera into the customs area, it could be opened, exposing all the film. I guess the cameras had to be empty. There are areas forbidden to take pictures. Near tourist sites are okay, so you would have to use all your film to be safe.

The port building. Lenin is the first to welcome visitors.

Propaganda everywhere. Look at the happy, happy people pictured.

Only the old, who remembered religion, were in the Russian Orthodox church. The The Communist ideal outlawed religious practices, fearing it would unite people against the regime, and fearing that religion would be a source of power over the Soviet government.

Leningrad memorial in Victory Square.

I don't remember if this is a postcard. There is an underground memorial for all the people who survived the Nazi occupation and isolation for over two years. Roughly a million people died from starvation or bombings.

Above is a receipt for amber beads from Leningrad.

This one is from Tallinn, Estonia. These papers are tissue thin. The darker rectangle on both are from the lid of my scanner.

Kristine Makowski Gray, 1984
Thank you, Kristine, for going on your cruise when you were a teen. Here she is posing with the cliffs of Dover behind her.

Soviet Estonia Rations

Anu Ernits Neipp
The first time I met Anu, she brought over papers and articles that her mother had saved from the last years of Soviet ruled Estonia.

The papers seem so primitive from today's perspective, and were primitive for first world countries even in the late 1980s.

The food coupons look like simple photocopies that were inked over with a green marker.

Even in 1983, I could finagle the Xerox machines of that time to copy a few shades light to eliminate the green and then copy the copy on dark to get the printing right, then get my own green marker and swipe away. Can you imagine if that was your official job for the Communist party? To be the paper colorer on all those vouchers issued to millions of people?

The lines look like they were originally pen and ruler. The letters looked to be from a typewriter, but were probably set up on a printing machine because of the miniature font in the middle.

After the first printing of the paper, I wonder if they were loaded again to get the red numbers. Can you imagine changing a number with each paper? And doing that all day?

I don't understand the number system, from bottom up, except that maybe it was easier to cut the coupons in order that way.

Does anyone know if the A and B vouchers denoted different values or different supplies?

Anu said something about, if the stores didn't have what the vouchers allowed you to have, you still didn't get it.
I think there were rules on how much you can buy at one time when the stores had the items.

So, some vouchers went unused.

After giving birth, mother's were given vouchers to allow them to pick up rectangular cloths to be used for diapers.

This is the back of the voucher. If you had received any supplies prior, you couldn't get more.
Any thing other than what the government gave you, you had to sew yourself. There must have been rules on fabric, too.

I attempted to translate the words. (Printed in green.)
I wonder why there were three kinds of diapers given? Gauze, cotton and flannel. Maybe the translation is off and the flannel and linen are used for burp cloths or bathing. You're only allowed 2 of the flannel and linen. At least a baby started with 40 diapers. If those are the same 40 rationed until they were potty-trained, I'm sure potty-training started much earlier than now.

Back of baby supply voucher.
It looks as though she carried this in a purse, folded up, for a long time.

I wonder how many counterfeit vouchers were made.
This system relied on the people's honesty. Punishments were severe enough that the system stayed in control.
No one would feel like a whole person under this system.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

List of Songs and Arias in the Naomi Series

Here is a list of songs from the first book.
I've put them in groups according to scenes. I've noted my favorite performers on the ones that aren't obvious.
A separate list for the opera arias are at the bottom.
I hope that you can relate to some of these songs and that they bring back happy memories.

You Are My Sunshine
Jimmie Davis, Charles Mitchell
Bachianas Brasileira
Heitor Villa-Lobos

I Didn't Know What Time It Was
Margaret Whiting
Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart

Nanatsu no ko (The crow's babies.)
Noguchi Ujo
Aka Tombo - Red Dragonfly
Kosaku Yamad
Donguri korokoro - Acorn rolling
I'm Beginning To See the Light
Vera Lynn
Duke Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges, Harry James
I Never Knew
Peggy Lee
Ted Fiorito, Gus Kahn
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
June Christy
Sholom Secunda
Midnight Sun
Ella Fitzgerald
Lionel Hampton, Sonny Burke, Johnny Mercer
Cheek to Cheek
Jane Monheit
Irving Berlin
All the Things You Are
Sarah Vaughan
Oscar Hammerstein II, Jerome Kern
Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart
Dinah Shore
James Hanley
Embraceable You
Ella Fitzgerald
George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin
Come Rain or Come Shine
Ella Fitzgerald
Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen
In a Sentimental Mood
Ella Fitzgerald
Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Manny Kurtz
Mr. Wonderful
Vera Lynn
Jerry Bock, George Weiss, Larry Holofcener
Jane Morgan
Fermo Marchetti, Dick Manning
I Double Dare You
Audra McDonald
Jimmy Eaton, Terry Shand
Wonderful One
Anne Shelton
Paul Whiteman, Ferde Grofe, Theodora Morse
All Creatures of Our God and King
St. Francis of Assisi, Ralph Vaughn Williams
You're The One That I Want
John Farrar
Summer Nights
Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey
Hopelessly Devoted To You
John Farrar
Side by Side
Harry Woods, Gus Kahn
Les Angelus
Louis Vierne
Working My Way Back To You
Sandy Linzer, Denny Randell
White Christmas
Bing Crosby
Irving Berlin
Love Me Tender
Aura Lee by George Poulton. New words by Vera Matson, Elvis Presley
Can't Help Falling in Love
Plaisir d'amore by Jean-Paul Martini. New words by George Weiss, Luigi Creatore
Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear
Bernie Lowe
I Want You I Need You I Love You
Maurice Mysels, Ira Kosloff
An Old Love Story
Edward MacDowell
A Haunted House
Edward MacDowell
Crazy On You
Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson
Magic Man
Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson
What About Love
Sheron Alton, Brian Allen, Jim Vallance
Follow You, Follow Me
Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford

Operas and Other Classical Works Mentioned in Order from Books 1 - 5.

Who is There To Love Me?
by Samuel Barber,
from A Hand of Bridge

Vedrai, carino
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from Don Giovanni

Atchevo eta prezdhe nie znala by Peter Tchaikovsky
from Iolanta

Leise, Leise
by Carl M. von Weber
from Der Freischutz

The Laughing Song -
(C'est l'histoire amoureuse)
by Daniel Francois Esprit Auber from Manon Lescaut

Donizetti's opera
Lucia di Lammermoor

by Antonin Dvorak
from Rusalka

Vilja's song
by Franz Lehar
from The Merry Widow

Giaochino Rossini's opera L'Italiana in Algeri

by Ludwig Beethoven
from Fidelio

Art is Calling for Me
by Victor Herbert
from The Enchantress

Gustav Mahler's
Resurrection Symphony

Leos Janacek's opera

Christoph W Gluck's opera
Orfee et Eurydice

Bel Nume che Adoro
by Domenico Cimarosa
from Pigmalione

Hear Ye, Israel
by Felix Mendelssohn
from Israel in Egypt

Stravinsky's opera
Le Rossignol

Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera
L'etoile du Nord

Giuseppe Verdi's

Umberto Giordano's
Andrea Chenier

Janacek's opera
From The House of the Dead

Die Walkure

Bruce Adolphe's
Mikhoels the Wise


Aida  and Don Carlo

Hanakotoba - The Japanese Language of Flowers

Lovell's Nursery in Medfield, MA.
Two years after I wrote my first novel, I was doing another editing run and came across a scene where Tauno brings flowers to Naomi's mother. I had written bouquet of flowers. I hadn't caught that before, but I asked, what kind of bouquet? Of course Tauno is the kind of guy that has to research what would make the most perfect gift.

I remember when I was young, my mother gossiping with her other Japanese lady friends about an American lady who had given yellow roses to a Japanese lady. They had to overlook the fact that this foreign lady wouldn't have known that was an insult. Yellow roses signify jealousy and ill-will.

Naomi's mother is from Japan, so Tauno and I would have to be clever about what to give her. In the spirit of cleverness, I thought to make that another quiz for Naomi and the ready. If Tauno brought a pot of mums, not even budding, Naomi would worry about what color he had chosen. Some colors would be bad omens, while others would be terribly embarrassing.

Tauno gives the pot of mums to Naomi's mother on Naomi's birthday, the end of June. Mums bloom in the fall. This gave me three months or so of teasing time.

When I began researching hanakotoba, I noticed discrepancies between different websites. Oh, no. What to do? I enlisted a Japanese friend who could read a Japanese website and went with that information.

This is what I gathered for mum colors, symbolism and the meaning as a gift.

White - Truth, honesty, yearn, grief, pure soul, lamentation.
White mums should never be given to someone who is ill. White mums are used at funerals and at graves, and is a bad omen for the sick, especially a potted plant that would "root" a disease.

Yellow - symbol of nobility, deep respect.
To give a yellow mum means: refusal of love, neglected love, unrequited love, slighted love, little love, frustration, torn love. (Wow, I'd hate to get a yellow mum.)

Purple or Violet - health, well-being, victory of love, love.
(One website misspelled violet as violent. Imagine getting one of those mums.)

Red - True love, passionate love.

Pink - First blush of love.

Peach - Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gyoza - Potstickers

Want to know how to make potstickers? AKA Gyoza. Naomi, the main character in my story, makes this for her boyfriend, Tauno, and his mom, Asta.

This is how my mom and my aunt taught me how to make gyoza.

Filling ingredients: cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, eggs.

I like ground pork. Get lean ground pork if you can find it. I got this from Marukai, a Japanese food market. This is .7 lbs.

Optional step if you don't want soupy filling is to put 1/4 cabbage in the food processor with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and then let it drain in a colander. I help it along after a few minutes by squeezing it down with a rubber spatula.

Food process the carrots, garlic cloves, peeled ginger and put in meat bowl.

Stir in the cabbage until everything is combined. Add one or two eggs, depending on how much filling you have so it sticks together while you spoon it onto the wrapper and so the vegetables stay together better after it's cooked.

Open your package of wrappers and pull one apart. Dip your finger in a little bowl of water.

Wet all around the edges. For the picture, I have the wrapper on a plate, but usually I hold it in my other hand.

Spoon filling in. Start small until you know the right amount. The gyoza are hard to fold if you put in too much filling.

Use all your fingers to hold the wrapper and filling like a taco. Pinch the end closed.

Push the wrapper on the thumb side over to the pinched end and squeeze again. Make sure the rest of the wrapper isn't touching.

Your fingers are ready for the next fold.

Keep doing folds on the front half of the wrapper.

Pinch in your last fold.

One lonely folded, uncooked gyoza with 7 folds. Auntie said 7 looks best and 5 is acceptable.

I fry 15 at a time in a 4 quart pot. I use vegetable (soybean) oil. Make sure your oil is hot before you start frying. You can check to see if the temperature is ready by putting the tip of a bamboo chopstick in the oil and if it bubbles, then the oil is right. If you don't know how to fry, read up on frying tips. I stir the gyoza around with the big bamboo chopsticks. The packages of wrappers come in 60, so if you fry 15 at a time you'll do 4 batches. Estimate 10 gyoza per person when planning for a meal.

All fried up. Crunchy and yummy! I wish you were over at my house. I place them on paper towels to drain.

These are the ingredients I put in the dipping sauce. The package is a sample of the wrappers. Sauce: soy sauce, roasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili oil and either squeeze of lemon or citron juice.