Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Cold Oven Pound Cake" . . . mmmmmm

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, my 87 year old grandmother was reminiscing about how good a "Cold Oven Pound Cake" is, and how she hadn't had a slice from one in a long while. For Christmas, my mother decided to make one for her. I was fascinated by the "cold oven" part and so was my mother. Verdict? Heartily recommended. Honestly, it was hands-down the tasty pound cake I'd ever had, so I thought I'd share the recipe here.


2 sticks butter
1/2 cup shortening (butter flavored Crisco was used)
3 cups granulated sugar
5 (yes five) large eggs
1 cup milk
4 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour (measure first, then sift it)

All ingredients should be at room temp. Grease and flour a large tube pan. Cream together the butter and the shortening, then slowly add sugar while stirring. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each egg is added. Add the vanilla to the milk. Add a little flour and then a little milk alternately until it is all mixed in well.

Pour batter into the large tube pan. Place in a COLD oven and turn to 300 degrees and cook 1 hour. Turn oven to 325 degrees and bake 30 minutes more.

So moist and dense and practically melts in your mouth. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pompeii Exhibit in Charlotte

Last week I realized that the Pompeii Exhibit "A Day in Pompeii" would be leaving Charlotte on January 4th. The exhibit was only in 4 U.S. cities and Charlotte was the last stop. I quickly arranged for an overnight trip to see the exhibit and to have a little Christmas gift of staying in one my favorite hotels, The Dunhill, which is just across the street from the exhibit.

After a Saturday afternoon drive through the misty, gray rainy weather, we arrived at The Dunhill, which incidentally had already picked up tickets for us, and off to the exhibit we went. The docent said no flash photography, so I disabled the flash and took a few pictures. The first part of the exhibit showed a typical day in Pompeii in 79 A.D. The cooking, the jars and jugs, the food, the houses, the worship, the utensils, jewelry, art and gardens. The last part of the exhibit explained the eruption of Vesuvius and how the people of Pompeii tried to escape, and what dying in the ash, gases, pumice, and other volcanic material would've been like. Dark, hot, increasingly hard to breathe. Terrible.

For hundreds and hundreds of years it was all left undisturbed under many feet of ash, rubble and rock, but in the 1700's archeologists began the work to uncover the city again. The most haunting images were the body casts of the people and animals that died. Here's how they were discovered (from the wiki site about Pompeii and Herculaneum):

"Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1860. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realised these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to perfectly recreate the forms of Vesuvius's victims. What resulted were highly accurate and eerie forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life, with the expression of terror often quite clearly visible."

The room in the exhibit where the body casts were shown was dark, with black walls and a red floor. Spotlights showed the plaster body casts, and beautiful somber music played softly in the background. Something I won't soon forget.

Here are few pictures I took of the exhibit:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Triangle D now Trinity Food Mart

The corner store at Trinity Avenue and Washington Street suddenly closed for a few days and re-opened with a new name, Trinity Food Mart and "under new management." I drive by nearly every day on the way downtown and occasionally stop in for an over-priced soda if the mood strikes. The place is open, but the inside is sparsely filled with convenience store items. I assume more stock will be arriving. Gas was more expensive than most, at $1.79 per gallon yesterday. Admittedly I've had to stop at the old Triangle D when my car was running on fumes and I needed the closest gas available--and was glad it was so close to work and home. And honestly, I've always liked the quirky old store, mainly because it's not a generic clone chain mini-mart.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bull Pen Lounge

Some friends and I found ourselves downtown after 6 pm on Sunday, having just seen Milk (yes, it's as good as all the reviews say) at The Carolina. We wanted to grab some coffee and sit a bit and talk about the film before we all went our separate ways for the evening. Blue Coffee was closed and every place else seemed to be too. So we headed over to the Marriott, which is conveniently hooked onto The Carolina Theater upstairs --I always forget about that--to see if the Marriott's "Bull Pen Lounge" was open. It was. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd been there.

The coffee wasn't bad, and we tried some desserts on the menu, and relaxed and dissected the film we just watched. The service at the Bull Pen was fine, although our server was wearing latex gloves, which was odd. We weren't rushed and the place wasn't busy on a Sunday night anyway. Here's what desserts we tried, and they were fairly tasty (but for the completely out-of-season 'fresh' strawberries which tasted faintly of strawberry):


Creme Brulee

Strawberry Shortcake

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Know Your Parking Lots.

I don't get annoyed very often. With that said, this really annoys me: people who don't 'get' how parking lots work.

It seems obvious to me that there are at least 2 categories of parking lots. One kind has angled spaces and is meant for one way traffic only. You don't have to be a genius to see it. At Northgate Mall tonight, there was an example of the one way traffic category:

See? Designed to be one way. The spaces were angled specifically for cars travelling one way. So please don't come barreling down the wrong way, headlights blazing, looking for a space, okay? Because you are going to cause a wreck. And what kind of crazy turn will you have to make in order to get into the space angled away from your car? Just go to the very next row and that row will be for one way in the opposite direction. This is not hard.

Granted, there do exist parking lots designed for two way traffic. The tip off: the spaces are not angled and the row is bit wider to accomodate the two way traffic. An example of this would be the Durham Costco, if you are ever at that parking lot. Or Target.

Here's a drawing yoinked off the net for illustration:

This isn't about whether one kind of parking lot is better than the other, or whether we need less parking lots. But let's at least learn how to work the ones we got first.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Cactus

This time of year when nearly nothing is blooming, my Christmas Cactus explodes with beautiful pink blooms. This one (below) was a gift from a friend a few years ago who came to our house one night for dinner. It's not too terribly hard to care for as outlined here. And it's not really a "cactus" as it doesn't grow in the desert, but rather is a tropical plant that grows in the rainforests of South America. Certainly grows quite well here hot, humid NC as long as it comes inside in the winter.

Christmas Cactus

One bloom

The blooms always looks like some sort of butterfly creature in flight--or maybe an angel if you are in the Christmas spirit when it blooms.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Heave Ho, Ho, Ho.

City holiday decorations going up near Five Points, downtown Durham, yesterday morning:

It appears to be 3 giant snowflakes on some mountains . . . or maybe on Venus of Willendorf?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Durham Performing Arts pictures

I attended the Open House for the Durham Perfoming Arts Center tonight. I managed to be standing right beside the Plensa sculpture when it was lighted. Jaume Plensa himself was there too (pic of him in my photostream below). Our arts center is beautiful--I went inside and sat on every level including the uppermost seat in the place. The seats are extremely comfortable with plenty of leg room, whether you have the expensive seats or are in the upper section. I drank some hot chocolate and managed to nab a cheese cube or two, but it was crowded around the food, natch. I even got a picture or two of the crescent Moon with Jupiter and Venus, which was spectacular once the clouds left town.