This week we’re celebrating what would be the 100th birthday of Julia Child who was born on August 15, 1912 and died 8 years ago today on August 13, 2004.

Cover of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob SpitzSince it’s been so hot and I’ve had no desire to go outside in the late afternoons, this weekend was the perfect time to read the new biography that was released last week, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz.  It covers her entire life (unlike other books I’ve read that focused on the cookbook years) and I have a new appreciation for how Julia Child managed to reinvent herself and just how much of a pioneer she really was.  A good read.  Notes: The photographs don’t come across well on the Kindle edition (they never do) but the author has most of them on his website.  Also, about 40% of the book is notes, bibliography, and index so it’s not as hefty a read as it appears on first glance.

Other Julia Child books that I’ve enjoyed in the past:

My Life in France by Paul Prud’Homme and Julia Child

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon

The Julia Child portion of Julie & Julia is fun.  If they ever re-release the movie with just the Meryl Streep/Julia Child portion, I’d like it even more.

Our heat wave has yet to break so cooking some of her recipes may or may not happen but we will be devoting our prose (& heat wave relief) to Julia Child this week.


You can make popsicles with Dixie cups and Kool-Aid like we did when we were kids but I’d rather not ingest that stuff anymore.  It’s more fun to play around with ingredients, stick your concoctions in the freezer, and see how they turn out.  In case the other day’s post on popsicle sticks made you crave the frozen treats, here is a “recipe” to make your own.

For 6 – 2.5 ounce Spicy Mango Pops you’ll need:
1 cup plain yogurt (not nonfat)
9 ounces mango chutney (I used the jarred stuff)
3 tablespoons agave nectar

Whiz the three ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze for 4-5 hours.  Unmold and enjoy.spicy mango popsicleWouldn’t you know it, my own popsicle molds came with their own sticks and they aren’t made of wood.  Oh well.  If you’re still feeling uninspired but want popsicles you could just go to the store and buy some but there are many ice pop, frozen treat, popsicle, and paletas cookbooks out there to give you ideas.


The Perseids

Don’t forget to go outside and watch the Perseid meteor shower tomorrow night.  Best viewing will be late Saturday/early Sunday (August 11/August 12) around midnight to 1 a.m.  The moon rises after that but it shouldn’t hinder you much since it’ll be at waning crescent.  Constellation PerseusThey’re called the Perseids because they appear to originate in the constellation Perseus (see the labeled image–click it to make it big enough to actually read–above generated using Stellarium).  You can look all over the northeastern portion of the sky, however.  Expect about 20-30 meteors per hour.  You’ll have better luck if you can find the darkest area possible from which to view; urban light pollution will just make it hard to see anything.

It’ll still be pretty warm around here even at that late/early hour (Saturday’s forecast is for 107° F, Sunday only 106°) so I sure won’t need a sweater.  Even heat waves might have an up side.

Drop us a comment if you see any meteors.  Good luck!

Pick Up Sticks

You’ve done popsicle stick crafts haven’t you?  If not, they’re a fun, if silly, thing to do when you’re stuck indoors on a HOT summer day (did I mention it was hot?).  No resident kids needed.  You’ll need sticks (I recommend buying them at a craft store rather than eating a zillion popsicles) and glue.  And an imagination.  I may have been lacking in the imagination department because all my creations were remarkably boxy (indeed, they were boxes) and log cabin-like.  Like so: popsicle stick boxTake inspiration instead from artisan David Hrobowski who makes furniture with the little sticks.  I really like the chair.  Other pieces may be an acquired taste.

Ah, the memories!  We had an enormous stash of popsicle sticks in our garage when I was a kid.  My grandfather had worked for Vitafreze which made novelty ice cream treats and he got them for us.  It was always great to go over to my grandparents’ house in the summertime, go out to the garage, and open their awesome 1950s refrigerator (that thing ran for 50 years and looked pretty cool) for one of the cups of vanilla ice cream with the attached wooden spoon that he also still got from Vitafreze.  Today’s ice cream cups don’t compete.

My grandparents had a lamp made completely (shade and base) out of popsicle sticks.  That thing was heavy.  Not sure what happened to it.  Like I said: an acquired taste.

Have you ever made anything out of popsicle sticks?  What?

To the Point

The Point Arena Lighthouse makes a great destination if you find yourself midway along California’s north coast.  It’s always cool there, too, so guess where I wish I could be right this very moment.  Admission is only $7.50 for adults and it’s well worth the price which funds the non-profit organization’s maintenance of the lighthouse and grounds.  Here’s some of what you’ll see….Point Arena LighthousePoint Arena Lighthouse with mess at baseThe current lighthouse dates from 1907 (in operation, 1908) as the original was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake.  Our very chatty but knowledgeable docent told us that the stairs in the current lighthouse are the very same ones used in the 1870s original.  Even though the old lighthouse was destroyed by the quake, the iron spiral staircase lent enough stability that the lighthouse keeper (who was in the lighthouse at the time!) was able to get out alive.Lighthouse stairsThey are some seriously twisty stairs and there are 125 of them.  Quite the workout. The last level is a ladder rather than stairs so wear good shoes.  You’re able to walk into the lens room and look out the windows.  Then, one level down (down the ladder again), you can walk outside on the narrow balcony and really get great views, feel the wind on your face, and enjoy.  Bring your camera.

Here’s what you see from the top:

In the Lens RoomFrom the lighthouse balconyThere’s a small museum where you can see the lighthouse’s original lens and a tastefully curated gift shop (I actually wanted to buy a lot of things and that is unusual for me).  You can even do the cheesy but irresistible squish-a-penny schtick.  I did.

The old lighthouse keepers’ quarters are now available for vacation rentals but I don’t know what the rooms are like in person.  Great location, though.

For a historical view, the Library of Congress has a stereograph of the early lighthouse.  They’ve dated it at ca. 1868 but the original lighthouse wasn’t constructed until 1870 so they’re a little off.  Click the image below to enlarge.

Point Arena Light House stereograph from the Library of Congress

See for more information.

Here’s another image from around the same period at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.  This one shows the Keepers’ house better (there were 4 keepers at a time plus their families so up to 30 people lived in that house at once).  Stereographs are awesome.

Have you ever been to a lighthouse?

We’re Having a Heat Wave

The next seven days look to be horridly hot in these parts.  We’re fortunate to not have the humidity that plagues other parts of the country (ours is “a dry heat”) but 100+° F heat for days on end is just plain hot–too hot–and not at all fun.

To distract myself (and, maybe, you?) from the nastiness that is the weather, I’ll be posting for the next week (or longer if this wave extends itself) about fun summery things.  I leave you today with this potential earworm.