05 Aug

Fashion for your ORCA card

This ORCA card needs a sleeve. Photo by Atomic Taco.

This ORCA card needs a sleeve. Photo by Atomic Taco.

I haven’t been posting much lately — been busy working on the Beacon Hill Blog and other stuff, but one thing I have done a bunch of is riding our new Link light rail trains and using my new ORCA card to pay the fare. I was used to a similar card from our trip to England last year, where we used Oyster cards to pay fares for the Tube.

Oyster cards, as it turns out, are exactly the same size and shape as ORCA cards. And as with Oyster, you might find a need for a storage sleeve for your ORCA card. Sure, you can just put it in your wallet with your credit cards, and, depending on the wallet, sometimes you can even tap the card in without removing it. But then there are times when you have to show your ORCA to a fare inspector, or remove it to get it to tap, and it becomes necessary to keep your ORCA in something easily accessible and quick to find in a crowded purse or backpack, while also protecting the card from damage and wear. No one wants to be late for work and then find out that their ORCA won’t work because it’s bent and worn out from being tossed around a purse with your keys and stuff all the time.

In London, where they’ve used Oyster for several years now, Oyster card sleeves are a booming business. When you get your Oyster card, it comes with a plastic folding sleeve. Our Oyster sleeves last September were bright yellow, sponsored by IKEA, with an IKEA logo, and listing the four London-area IKEAs along with instructions of how to get there by transit — convenient! (This seems like a good way for ORCA to generate some advertising cash without selling advertising on the cards themselves: get local business to sponsor the sleeves.) Other businesses have sponsored giveaway Oyster sleeves. I particularly like this one from The Guardian newspaper and this one from skilljuice.com.

Along with the giveaway Oyster cases, however, you can buy tons of stylish or unusual Oyster sleeves from a variety of vendors, or even knit your own. You can get an Oyster case to suit just about any aesthetic or interest, and some even have added functionality — the London Transport Museum, for example, sells an Oyster sleeve with a map of the London Underground Network. The British Library has sleeves with the art of Olga Hirsch, and Tate Modern features the art of Orla Kiely. A search for “oyster card” on Etsy brings up a bunch of handmade, artsy card cases.

Lots of people use their Oyster card sleeves as their wallets, carrying not just their transit card, but also money, ID, and other stuff. (The sleeves generally have two pockets, one for the card and one for anything else you want to carry.)

Since Oyster card holders are the right size for ORCA cards, if you want your ORCA to be kept stylishly in a London Underground map Oyster sleeve, no problem. Perhaps eventually we’ll have some interesting local ORCA sleeves to choose from, but in the meantime, many of the UK sellers do ship them here. If you find an Oyster sleeve that expresses your personality, go for it. Or you can just keep it, along with all of your money and random stuff, in an old plastic card case like this.

28 May

Medical journal advertisements in 1886

(edited March 2013: Google broke my links to some of the images. Sorry if they don’t make sense anymore. Maybe I will fix them at some point. Damn Google.)

While searching for something entirely different on Google Books (which is just about my favorite place on the Web these days), I stumbled on an issue of The Lancet, a British medical journal, from 1886. The advertisements in it, for patent medicines, food, “sanitary appliances” and more, are fascinating. Here are a few:
Text not available
Yes, “liquid meat” would make me want to “barff”, too.

Text not available
Note “Coca.” As in “cocaine.” A “powerful nerve stimulant indeed!

Text not available
Ah, stout. “Particularly suited for invalids, ladies nursing, or anyone requiring a good strengthening beverage.” It’s what the doctor ordered!

06 Jan

Another new project: Resurrected Recipes


While working on the recent attempt to bake the 1930s Gold-N-Sno cake, Kristen and I were talking about how much fun it would be to make a blog of “resurrected recipes” — food that no one makes any more. The stuff that was commonplace for our grandparents, but is no longer in vogue. After all, even in our lifetimes, we’ve seen food preferences change pretty strongly. (When I was a kid, the bread aisle had multiple shelves of white Wonder bread and just a little bit of wheat bread. Now Wonder is gone, and if any of that squishy-style pure white bread remains at all, it’s only a few loaves at a time.)

So here it is: Resurrected Recipes. Both of us will contribute to the blog as we get a chance. Kristen’s computer is currently in the shop, though, so she might not get to post much for a bit.

31 Dec

Make more frosting next time… and there should be a next time

Photo by litlnemo.

Well, I made the cake (with much help from Mina). It tastes amazing. However, as you can see here, it looks kind of goofy. Really goofy. There is a reason for this.

The reason it looks weird is that the recipe we had doesn’t make enough frosting to frost the whole cake! Next time, we’ll double the frosting part.

What we did was to take the custard filling that is supposed to be between the layers, and extend it around the bottom layer. There was plenty of custard to do that, since we only made a two layer cake instead of three. (Between the two of us we only had two 9″ cake pans and two 8″ cake pans. What is up with that?) It looks a little messy to have the custard around the outside like that — it’s wetter than the frosting. But it is heavenly.

Other notes: The batter is good. The cake is very light and has a wonderful orange flavor. (There is a little coconut in the batter but I didn’t really notice it much.) The custard filling is amazing, my favorite part of the cake. It is an orange curd, sort of. I want to put it in jars and then spread it on everything… pastries, bread, cookies…

The frosting is a boiled frosting, which I don’t think I’ve ever had before. It is a little different than the buttercream I’ve made in the past, and you have to work quickly once you start frosting the cake. The frosting here is basically the classic “7-minute Frosting” recipe, with some added citrus flavor.

I am going to edit the recipe post slightly to reflect what we learned while making this. Basically, though, I’d recommend this recipe to anyone who likes citrus, coconut, and cake. It is really wonderful stuff.

28 Dec

The search for the Gold-N-Sno cake

The cake naming contest ad featuring the cake eventually called "Gold-N-Sno."

Yesterday I picked up a book at the library: Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food. I haven’t read too much of it yet, but I did see the ad, pictured here, from 1933, for the Betty Crocker Cake Naming Contest. The contest promised a $5,000 in cash prizes to winners who suggested a name for the cake pictured: “a light, fluffy, orange-flavored cake, three full 9-inch layers, with creamy orange filling and covered with luscious white icing and moist shredded cocoanut (sic). The layer cake itself also contains cocoanut.”

This caught my eye. I love coconut. I love orange cake. I must make this cake. Maybe for New Year’s. According to the book, the winning name for the cake was… Gold-N-Sno. Times must have been more innocent then, because to me, golden snow means the yellow snow you had better not eat. But the cake looks good, so I’ll make it anyway.

Sometimes it seems that every recipe ever written down has found its way onto the Web somewhere, so I figured I’d find the Gold-N-Sno cake — maybe spelled a little differently — with a quick Google search. How wrong I was.

I found a few vintage newspapers with Gold-N-Sno mentions — invariably in ads for bakeries who made this cake. The cake seems to have been relatively well-known. Here are a couple from Oswego, New York, in 1934 and 1939, and one from Sewickley, Pennsylvania in 1940 (please click to see the complete images):

But no recipes. (There is a site, newspaperarchive.com, which charges a hefty sum to look at their archived newspapers. The Gold-N-Sno cake is mentioned pretty frequently in newspapers there from the 1930s, but I cannot tell if the recipe is lurking there without paying them. Most of the examples there did also seem to be ads, though.)

I tried changing the spelling to “Gold-N-Snow”. I found a few more ads, from Cass City, Michigan, 1941 and 1942, and Oswego again in 1934 and 1940 (once again, please click to see the full images):

Still, no recipes. I still thought the recipe must probably be online somewhere, but someone must have changed the name. So I looked more closely at the ad pictured in Finding Betty Crocker. Underneath the picture of the cake, I saw that Betty Crocker ever-so-helpfully labeled every part of the cake, and listed all the ingredients. Thank you, Betty!

With arrows pointing to the various parts of the cake, I read “Cocoanut Icing,” “Oranges” (these are orange pieces arranged decoratively around the base of the cake), “Three Layer Orange Cake,” “Cocoanut in Cake,” and “Creamy Orange Filling.”

The ingredient list “for Cake, Filling and Icing” is: “Shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, orange juice, orange rind, cocoanut, corn starch, lemon juice.”

With all the ingredients, I ought to be able to find the recipe online somewhere, yes? And sure enough, it wasn’t long before I stumbled on the “Prize Orange Coconut Cake.” This recipe is all over the various web recipe collections. It seems to come from a single source, one with quite a few typos. It is unclear what that source may be. The ingredients match the list in the ad exactly, with the exception of corn syrup in the frosting, as does the construction of the cake. I think this is probably the once popular Gold-N-Sno. Here it is, with typos fixed and some editing to make it easier to read (I hope):

(Note: since I posted this, I have actually made the cake. See here for comments. I’ve edited a couple of things in this post, now that I’ve tried the cake.)

Prize Orange Coconut Cake (possibly the 1933 Gold-N-Sno cake)

Total quantities of ingredients you need to have on hand, if I’ve counted correctly (I rounded up a couple of times):

  • 3/4 c shortening
  • 4 3/4 c sugar
  • Rind of two oranges
  • 6 eggs (you’ll be using the yolks and the whites separately, so don’t throw any away)
  • 3 1/2 c cake flour
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Slightly over a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1 c water
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 4 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 tsp corn syrup


From the ingredients you’ve gathered for this recipe, take:

  • 3/4 c shortening (I used Crisco Butter Flavor)
  • 2 c sugar

Cream together, then add:

  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind (preferably organic)
  • 2 egg yolks, well beaten

Blend together,then sift:

  • 3 1/4 c cake flour, sift once (I used Softasilk)
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Add sifted ingredients to first mixture with:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3/4 c water

Beat enough to make batter smooth. Blend in:

  • 1/2 c moist, shredded coconut
  • 4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

Pour into three 9-inch cake pans, greased and floured.
Bake 30 minutes in moderate oven at 350 degrees F.
Cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.
Put the layers together with orange filling (see below) and cover with orange frosting (also below). Sprinkle with 3/4 cup moist shredded coconut.

Orange Filling:

  • 2 level T flour
  • 4 level T cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks, well beaten
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix until smooth in double boiler.
Add, slowly, the following, stirring constantly:

  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c water

Then add:

  • 2 T butter
  • grated rind of 1 orange

Cook over water, stirring occasionally until thick, about 20 minutes. Cool. Spread between layers of cake. (Ours thickened a little more quickly than 20 minutes.) The result is sort of an orange curd; very orangey and good.

Orange Frosting:

(This is a variant on the 7-Minute Frosting boiled frosting recipe that can be found in many sources. You should wait until the cake is ready to frost before you make this, as it must be used immediately after cooking.)
IMPORTANT: When we made this, it did not make enough frosting to cover the whole cake. I recommend doubling this recipe. However, I have not yet tried it with the doubled amount so I can’t be sure the proportions wouldn’t need to be tweaked. So I’m leaving the original amount here for now.

  • 1 tsp light corn syrup
  • 7/8 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 T orange juice

Put in double boiler.
Beat constantly with rotary beater while cooking over boiling water 6-7 minutes.
Remove from heat and add:

  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • sprinkling of salt

Beat thoroughly for about 2 minutes until it’s a spreadable consistency, and then spread on cake immediately.

So. Is this the Gold-N-Sno cake from 1933? Anyone know? I think I will try it soon and see if I like it. I’d like to know if it’s the same cake, and if it’s good at all.

(Added later: Yes. It’s good. I think it is the same cake, too.)

Incidentally, while researching this, I found Kitty Wells’ Orange Coconut Cake, which is somewhat similar and apparently quite tasty.

One other thing — I noticed that a couple of those vintage bakery ads mentioned “malted milk” cakes. If there is any cake that sounds as good to me as orange-coconut, it is chocolate malted milk. Good God, I love chocolate malt flavor. That vintage recipe, at least, is easier to track down, and the results are apparently excellent. I can see I might have to make two cakes for New Year’s Eve.

29 Nov

Richard Elliott, reflector artist, RIP

Reflector art on new light rail line

A few months ago I wrote about the lovely reflector art installed on Martin Luther King Jr Way as part of the light rail project, and was thrilled when the artist himself replied to my post. So I am very sad today to hear that Richard Elliott, the reflector artist, died recently of pancreatic cancer. He mentioned “health issues” in his comment, but I had no idea.

26 Nov

My childhood home is for sale

My childhood home, now for sale

My childhood home, now for sale

Me, Dave, and Kurt, on the front porch of the same house, February 1988

Me, Dave, and Kurt, on the front porch of the same house, February 1988

The house I grew up in, in Lake City, is for sale. My mom sold it a few years ago to a flipper who is asking what seems to me to be an outrageous amount of money for the place. He also tore out all the rose bushes.

It’s a nice little starter home, but it’s tiny. I mean tiny. Not “spacious.” And when they say “formal dining room” on the flyer, I laugh. You see that window next to the breakfast bar? That is the “dining room”, and it was tiny when we lived there, which was before they put the breakfast bar in.

The upstairs is remodeled now, which is an improvement. It was just a little attic cubbyhole room before. I wonder if they’ve done anything about the heat, though. The upstairs room had no heat to it when we lived there. I had a space heater.

13 Nov

Will the City Collegian publish again?

Many years ago I worked for the Seattle Central Community College newspaper, The City Collegian. I’m sad to see that the paper has stopped publishing, but surprised to see that budget cuts and lack of interest aren’t the reason for the shutdown. It does sound as if the paper stepped on someone’s toes.

The administration are being awfully clueless:

“For now, administrators point to other student publications as options for students who want to work as reporters. Seattle Central student government publishes an online newsletter with details of happenings on campus, Mansfield said.

“And last week, that same group of student leaders put out the first edition of a Seattle Central Zine.”

Oooh, a student government newsletter, vetted by the administration. Yeah, that’s exciting journalism.

I hope the Collegian is back operating as an independent (that is, school-sponsored but not school-controlled) entity as soon as possible.

05 Nov

An evening at the Seattle Spelling Bee

In 1979, I won the Seattle city spelling championship. I went on to the regional competition (a huge one — I think there were about 180 spellers in that event that year) and did reasonably well but did not win. So no trip to Nationals for me. And that was my last spelling bee.

Until Monday night. I went to the Seattle Spelling Bee at Jillian’s. It starts out with a written round of forty words. I tied for first place in the written round. The last time I competed in a written spelling bee round was 1979, in the first round of the Seattle championships. I won that one, so, hey! I have a win streak going! At least, in written competition.

The top 12 spellers in the written test move on to the main bee. The first round words were not too bad, words like bathysphere, insuppressible, repercussion. I got the word “apocalypse.” I know the spelling, so it was just a matter of spelling it carefully and not getting lost mid-word.

Round 2, unfortunately, is when I went out. I spelled “louvar” as “luvar” and that was that. (They said it was Italian. “Luvar” seemed more Italian to me. I’ve never seen or heard this word before so all I could do was guess.) The other Round 2 words included idunit, subclavian, pupillometer, glengarry, etc. I could spell most of the other words in the round, darn it.

Round 3 had tougher words: caimatillo, saurophagous, and… hoedown? Wow. One speller got a major gift with that one.

Round 4 was the final round: eisegesis, teetotum, stremmatograph. The guy who spelled eisegesis won.

I finished 6th. Grr. Next time I will do better. And I do think there will be a next time. It was fun! I won a $5 gift certificate to Blue Highway Games by winning one of the mini-games.

29 Oct

Another way to use up extra milk: Dulce de Leche

A few weeks ago I posted about my homemade cheese experiment to use up excess milk. This week I had an unusual amount of extra milk to get rid of — a whole half gallon! Well, Halloween is coming up and so my thoughts turned to sweets… and found the perfect way to use up a lot of milk, simply. Dulce de leche is easy, if not quick, and has only four ingredients: milk, sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of baking soda.

I basically used Alton Brown’s recipe, with a little inspiration from this one as well. I cooked it for about three hours and ended up with this lovely thick sauce. I had it today drizzled over bananas, and in coffee, and on oatmeal.

I think I need to give the rest away or I may regret it. I am not sure I need the sugar overload. But wow, it’s good.

25 Oct

My latest project

For the last few weeks I’ve been working pretty hard (along with Jason) on a new project, and this time it’s not knitting or anything like that. It’s the Beacon Hill Blog. If you’re at all interested in Seattle neighborhood goings-on, check it out.

And if not, here’s a knitting status photo from a few days ago:
In progress: Rogue hoodie

Perhaps I’ll finish the hoodie by November after all.

20 Oct

Homemade soap

Some of my neighbors may have wondered why we were outside on the patio last week mixing a white powder with liquid, then setting it aside with a thermometer to measure its temperature, then periodically coming back outside and saying things like “nope, it’s still 125 degrees! Not ready yet!”

Honestly, we were doing nothing nefarious. We were only making soap. And one of the basic steps involves lye. Roughly, it works like this: you mix the lye with water, then eventually, when all ingredients are the right temperature, you mix it with fats (olive oil and palm oil, with a bit of soy oil, in this case). Then after some stirring, you put it in a mold. The eventual result is what you see in this picture: soap!

The soap pictured here is the soap we made last week. Dark brown is chocolate-orange, light-brown is oatmeal cookie, pink is cherry cola, and the creamy color is unscented, to be used to make hand-milled soap later. The saponification process, when done right, eventually gets rid of the irritating lye. But it takes a while for the soap to cure to the point where it is mild enough. We still need to wait 3-4 more weeks to use this soap. You can handle it just fine at this stage, though, without needing gloves as we did the night we made it.

For the last few years (except last year) a few of us have gotten together to make batches of soap like this, both for Christmas gift giving and for personal use. It’s much nicer than grocery store soap; it’s very mild once it’s cured, and of course, you can use any scent you like. (I like food scents, myself.)

I recommend it; it’s kind of nice to make your own soap. The only thing is, lye has gotten harder to find these days. This time we got it from a soapmaking supplier. I used to buy it at the Red Apple.

15 Oct

1967 Seattle-area transit plan

1967 Seattle Transit Plan map image posted by afiler.

In 1968, Seattle had a chance to vote in a rapid transit system, as seen in the map here. The Forward Thrust package of propositions contained a variety of civic improvement initiatives, many of which passed (one brought us the late and not-so-lamented Kingdome), but the transit system got only 50.8% Yes votes–and required a supermajority of 60% to pass.

In 1970, it was put back in front of the voters, but failed amid “Boeing Bust”-era recession fears. The large amount of federal money ($881 million dollars) secured for the project went instead to Atlanta, where they used it to build the MARTA system.

In retrospect, of course, this was probably one of the stupidest voter decisions ever made in this region. Can you imagine how different Seattle would be today if the routes shown on the map pictured here existed? By now we could have been spending the money to expand it to Everett and Tacoma, and adding more in-city routes; instead, we are creating a minimal line, and the expansions being planned are nowhere near as useful as they ought to be. (No stops between Roosevelt and Northgate? Only one stop between downtown and the U-District? And the University station way down at Husky Stadium instead of near the Ave? We need to build this anyway, but it’s going to be decades before it’s a really good in-city system, at this rate. It’s frustrating.)

Now we have the chance to vote again to build and expand rapid transit here, and as in 1970, people fear a deepening recession. Will people vote yes, or will it fail and kill transit expansion for another 40 years? I may not live long enough to see a decent rail system here.

(Found via comments on Seattle Transit Blog.)

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