Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Paperblog Brief Guide to Food and Book Lovin' London

 The Paperblog Brief Guide to Food and Book Lovin' London
(TPBGTFABLL, for shortsies)

The sky is the limit in London; anyone can find anything to do they are interested in doing.  If you are bored, that is your own problem.  Those are just a few tips for things I enjoyed!  And here is a threat: if you do not have a cream tea while in London (so many options that you can figure this out, but the Library Bar does one if you're feeling like doing some damage to your bank account), I will disown you. Other tips: get an Oyster card.  The Tube is a little confusing if you're not used to public transit, but fabulous.  And final pro tip: turn your card in when you are done!  You'll get the money stored on it back!

The British Library
1.  The British Library (Tube stop: King's Cross/St. Pancreas)

The British Library is just great, you guys.  Not only is it right next to King's Cross station, if you want to go and creep on the Hogwarts stop (good luck, Muggles), not only is it totally free to the public (except for special exhibits) but it is home to more antique books worth a billion dollars than individual pixels in this post worth nothing.  I saw Queen Elizabeth and Queen Elizabeth's handwriting!  I saw the Magna Carta (spoiler alert: there are tens of Magna Cartas; apparently they are as inexpensive as a ladie in ye olde Cheapside - heyoooo), some important codices from like...toga times, AND original Beatles song lyrics.  I also enjoyed a delicious ginger cookie and tea - IN the library.  

I love this bookcase.
There is a very nice cafe (actually, at least two), and bathrooms made weird by the rolls of cloth towels where paper towels would go.   When I visited, there was a special display of the history of the mystery genre (it rhymes) from A-Z.  There are pull out display cases filled with some very rare stamp collections.  They are alarmed, so don't get any ideas! The best part?   There is a giant, gorgeous, back lit central tank of books.  Technically, it is actually a giant multistory bookshelf that houses King George (some Roman numeral goes there)'s book collection.  It is amazing.  I want to stare at it for days.

The only downside?  

There are many treasures housed here - it's very much a researchers library.  Check the website if there is something you want to see.  While the mini-museum has some great stuff, you should not go expecting to see everything.  There's a process to see many of the rare items.  The other problem?  Why does your gift shop have next to nothing with images from the gorgeous book tank?  What a huge revenue loss!  I totally was hoping to get some notecards or postcards or something!

The Library Bar at the Lanesborough Hotel
2.  The Library Bar at the Lanesborough London (Tube stop: Hyde Park Corner)

You know what is delightful?  Many leather-bound books in a library themed bar that smells of rich mahogany.  I'm pretty sure it's where good librarians go when we die.  Guys, this place is POSH.  The waiters are super French, there are doormen, a live jazz pianist, the drinks start at an economical 15 pounds (HA - there's even a James Bond which prices in at like 34 pounds to get you some of that moonshine), and I'm pretty sure there was a Russian oligarch across the room.  Awesomely, the drink menu comes in a faux book binder, and the first page is all library themed cocktails.  I had the library sour, and it was delicious.  Your drink will come with a complimentary tower of snacks, so enjoy both the ambiance, and your sesame sticks - you've attained book nerd nirvana. 
Library bar menu!
If you like books and libraries, splurge on this.  Bring your best manners,  Ms. Post.  Don't embarrass your library travel guru now, y'all (I did enough lowbrow embarrassing for us all by whipping out my camera to take pictures)!  Enjoy the scenery, the scurrying of the French waiters, and most importantly, your very expensive cocktail.  

The only downside?  

Just ask your travel budget. 

3.  Harrods (Tube Stop: Knightsbridge)

Guess what?  I'm about to share a big secret and lay some knowledge on all two of my avid readers.  I'm going to assume you've heard of Harrods, the giant department store of very pricey things, formerly owned by the shady guy whose son died with Princess Diana?  Long story short, I think it is now owned by Qatar.  As in the country.  But I could have been drunk on perfume fumes and the leather smells rolling off the expensive purses clogging up my Pinterest boards , so you can disregard that.  But I digress!  Let's return to the moment where I drop my super secret on you.  You ready?  Brace yourself.  This is big.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Case of the Terribles: When good greeting card ideas go bad

I thought it would be a great idea to see if there were any Where's Waldo/Wally greeting cards to send as thank you notes to all of the wonderful people who have donated to support my participation in the upcoming Where's Wally Run on March 24th (it's not too late to get in on the action!).  I still think it is a great idea - so if you find a great Where's Waldo/Wally greeting card, let me know. 

Because this is what I found:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tidbits: Divergent gets Pamuked!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Travel plans and races fit for book blogging nerds

Exciting news!
In a matter of days, I will be descending upon London.  It's a quaint little English town, or so I'm told.  Maybe you've heard of it? I've actually been before, but am delighted to be heading back! I have big plans to take advantage of the hospitality of Gav & Mrs. GBR of Gav's Book Reviews, to visit the Library Bar, the British Library, a variety of museums and the Borough Market (where I also have big plans to eat everything in sight), to devour as many cream slathered scones as possible, and most importantly, to run in a race with Mr. & Mrs. GBR dressed as Waldo (of Where's Waldo fame - or change that all to Wally if you're British), to raise money for children's literacy.  That's right.  We're running the Where's Wally Fun Run on March 24th.

If they make us wear jeggings...
If you'd like to sponsor us in our ridiculousness to raise 300 pounds (approximately $450) dressed as Waldo (Wally), we'd be eternally grateful.  The fundraising information is available on our team page, where you can sponsor any of us to donate to the whole team.  For my fellow Yanks, my page is here.  We can promise amusing photos (good luck spotting us), sending good karma your way, and high fives the next time we see you.   We think children's literacy is vitally important, and we are so thankful that your donation shows your agreement and support.  It's for the kids, you guys!

In other news, my goal while in London is to do as many literary or culinary things as I can, aside from what I've listed above.  If you have any suggestions, post them in the comments or send them my way (especially if you have any thoughts on the Charles Dickens museum - or anything relating to closed underground Tube stations, pubs with insane names, cheese, things not to miss, or the best fish and chips in London).  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tidbits: Nothing says in the mood like Titanic undergarments

Big news tomorrow about an exciting book nerd reunion, race, and travel plans!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dinner Train Book Club: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is a book I somehow managed to avoid reading all throughout high school, despite the fact that it seems like one of those ubiquitous English class requirements.  In fact, most of the books riding the Dinner Train seem to fall into this category... This, however, may be the first one I actually feel some regret over not having read in a high school classroom, mostly because there is so much going on that I'd like to have an English teacher steering me in the making-sense-of-it-all direction!  I'm not going to do a summary of this title; this review is what it is.  I guarantee there is no shortage of book reviews, reports, or analytical essays on the interwebs you can read up on, probably written by brighter teenage minds than mine. 

I will say this though: Catch-22 took me a while to get into.  It takes a while to accept that things jump around and give the Latin American Magical Realists a run for their confusing money.  But once you suspend all structural expectations, things begin to make sense as you realize the brilliance of this book.  Heartbreaking, funny, and poignant, it gives a sense of the suspension of reality that colors war - because that is the only way to process and survive the horrors of the experience, and depart from normal ethics and morals (for something similar, read Yellow Birds).  It is also hilarious and wry; you can tell that Joseph Heller experienced many of the ludicrous things that befall his characters, like Milo's black market empire, the soap in the sweet potatoes, or the cyclical conversations that start, end, and start again in the same place (I'm looking at you, Colonel Cathcart).  Yossarian is a brilliant, irrascible everyman, but probably my favorite character is the Chaplain.  I just want to give him a hug.  Incidentally, these ludicrous happenstances are what shaped my decision to make the recipe I wound up (finally) making, something I'm being cute and calling Yossarian's Soapy Sweet Potato Bread, but more formally calling Rosemary Sweet Potato Olive Bread with Feta and Artichokes.  So, RSPOBFA? Awful.  

In short, if you are like me and have never read this, I'd say it is well worth your time.  If only to be seen looking really smart with the iconic cover!  I will caution you that there are some vivid descriptions of battle wounds, but it is a World War II novel, not Shel Silverstein's Hug of War.  If you can't figure out what that means...this may not be the book for you.  Enjoy this book with some Italian food, a loaf of RSPOBFA bread, wine, cold beer and sunshine, or your own version of soapy sweet potatoes. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dinner Train: Catch-22 Soapy Sweet Potato Bread (Recipe 11 - Rosemary Sweet Potato Olive Bread with Feta and Artichokes))

Catch-22 Soapy
Sweet Potato Bread
Let's be clear: Catch-22 was the Dinner Train Book Club read in JUNE.

JUNE 2012.

Do you know how long ago that is?  Long enough that I have friends who now have an adorable 8 month old baby that was not yet born when I met Yossarian!  I have a number of legitimate excuses, but from the minute I read about Yossarian delaying the flights by putting soap in the sweet potatoes, I knew I wanted to somehow use that in whatever recipe I came up with. 

AKA Rosemary Sweet Potato Olive
Bread with Feta and Artichokes
I originally had a plan to make a family favorite, a remnant of my own grandfathers Army days in World War 2, S.O.S - the most disgusting looking yet delectable salt-lick you've ever balked at eating.  I thought I'd bribe the Poptart into teaching me this shameful but beloved family recipe, and provide some Sweet Potato Marshmallow Biscuits to serve it over.  WELL.  That was an epic fail.  It turns out that even with a BA of Honors and a Masters, I cannot handle making the simplest of recipes work.  Biscuits?  They were more like firm, yet awfully doughy weird, flat scones.  So I found a recipe for a pretty simple sweet potato bread, and figured I'd just add the marshmallows in that way. And then the Poptart cancelled because he hurt his knee.  Much like a Catch-22, this was turning into a vicious cycle.

Soap=Feta, Sweet Potatoes, Olives,
and Artichokes
So, here we are now.  March, 2013.  Still no recipe, still no clue what to do.  But then I remembered the No-Knead bread fad, and found myself wondering if there was a way to use sweet potato that way? And what if I used some of the other food sources from the book?  It is set in Italy, and though I liked the idea of using a recipe from the War, I thought using one that incorporated some of the other frequently mentioned foods (if I had to read one more page about those damn black market artichokes...) and Mediterranean roots (black olives) would work - and I could even use that to guide my soap choice: feta!  Hence, I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato Rosemary Bread in a bread pot and realized I was finally ready to make it happen.  Though I was kind of worried the heavy ingredients I was adding would weigh it down, I really worried for nothing.   It turned out so well that I think Yossarian would be pleased; it's hearty and ample enough to weigh down an entire air fleet.  More importantly, it's delicious. 

Where it all starts...
A few tips:
I will caution you that this is NOT a quick recipe.  I started with my patee fermentee on a Saturday around 5pm, and finally popped the toasty hot bread out of the oven around 7:30 on a Sunday.  I think you get the picture.  I'm also not someone who has probably baked bread more than, quite literally, a handful of times, so I had a lot of concerns.  I probably underkneaded originally to combine all the ingredients, leading to some clear steaks in the break where it was clearly not evenly mixed. You can probably also up the accessory ingredients by about a 1/4 cup each; the dough is firm enough that I doubt it will weigh it down.  It also makes quite a bit - you can probably bake it in two batches if you prefer two smaller loves instead of one massive one. 

...and what it turns into, 10 hours late
Do plan on it being delicious, and serving it with more cheeses, wine, a salad, soup, etc.  Or just hot out of the oven, with some delicious olive oil to dip it in.  I had some of mine with a serving of Sausage and White Bean Stew.  I now can only move my fingers to type this because my stomach may weigh more than my head.  Be patient, this recipe is time consuming, but will be something you enjoy for days (literally, I have so.much.bread.). 

Add caption

If the Poptart ever reads this, he should be aware that I have a stash of this frozen, awaiting the day when he finally teaches me how to make the hot mess resembling cat vomit that is S.O.S.  I solemnly swear that if I am ever up to no good, and that if this day ever happens, I will post the recipe.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Olive Bread with Feta and Artichokes (Yossarian's Soapy Sweet Potato Bread)
Serves an entire Air Force squad, takes at least 10 hours
Rosemary Sweet Potato Olive Bread with Feta and Artichokes
aka Catch-22 Soapy Sweet Potato Bread

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