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Rosemary’s memories of SF

I was in SF 1968–1975. This was when CA was the Golden State. I always lived around Union Street. The last address was on the corner of Buchanan and Green. It was an old 4-plex. I loved that place. By now it’s probably torn down and something else is built in its place. It was on the corner. My bedroom was huge and looked over Buchanan. There was a Chinese laundry across the street on Green. Gees I can’t remember how those streets went. One of them was parallel to Union St. Anyway, I took my laundry to the Chinese laundry every week. They washed and folded it for me.

Union St was a happening street when I was there. Weekends we would go out to Tiberon to… Gees! I think it was called Sam’s? We would sit on the dock and have brunch. I always had a Ramos Fizz. I don’t know if anyone drinks them anymore.

A text from my relative and dear friend Rosemary sharing some of her memories of living in San Francisco. Looks like Sam’s is still open, we’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll channel her by making myself a Ramos Gin Fizz at home. Have to wear red lipstick for the full effect.

I struggle with dairy so might try it with either coconut cream or a lactose-free “cream”. The goal is to create a ton of foam and a super creamy consistency. Shaking techniques seem to vary, so have a look online to see what you prefer.

Ramos Gin Fizz recipe

Makes 1 drink

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 oz gin, 3 to 4 drops orange flower water, 1 large egg white, ½ oz cream, ½ oz fresh lemon juice, ½ oz fresh lime juice, and ½ oz simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about a minute, then add a lot of fresh ice and shake for at least another 30 seconds. Strain the drink in to a Collins glass. Pour 1–2 oz seltzer (soda water) down the inner edge of the shaker to loosen the froth, then pour the soda water and froth on to the drink. Garnish with a quarter of an orange wheel and mint if you’ve got it, then serve.

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The CD-ROM tree

Remember those free trial CD-ROMs you’d get in the mail or with a magazine? It started with AOL Online and then tons of other software providers caught on. Instead of tossing them away, my mom collected them. Around Christmas time, she’d drill holes in the top and hang them outside on the bare tree near the mailbox. I’m sure I gave her a hard time about it as a teen, but they made me smile when I got back home from school each day.

At the end of the holidays, she’d get rid of the discs that were too banged up and would keep the ornaments that still had their rainbow surface for the next season. The tree got fuller every year until the mid-2000s when they stopped arriving. Eventually the lacquer and aluminum flaked away from the remaining discs, and then the CD-ROM tree was no more.

The Internet Archive has an AOL CD-ROM collection online for anyone that wants to browse this slice of tech history.

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“It’s a magical kind of sadness, saying goodbye. A bit like preparing to travel again, but no longer together.”

Read Joe Hammond’s final article in the Guardian

Author Joe Hammond passed away recently at age 50 from motor neurone disease. He covers so much loss in his final article, particularly the loss of the future with his two young boys and wife.

Other losses are simpler and more incremental. Sometimes they are nothing more than adaptation and sometimes, like the loss of my voice, they are devastating. I lost my swallow very quickly. There was a three-week period when Gill made sure I had lots of really nice soups, and that was it. Food was a thing of the past. I’ve never got over that loss.

My grandpa on my dad’s side lost the ability to swallow years before he passed. When it started getting bad he could still have ice cream every once in a while, his favorite thing, and then no more. I find it almost impossible to imagine how hard that must have been, particularly for someone as social as him. He probably managed to stick around as long as he did because of my grandma. She was his college sweetheart, his always.

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Kołaczki recipe

This is my mom’s kołaczki [kɔˈwat͡ʂki] recipe, from her mom. I would guess that my grandma found it in the Chicago Tribune at some point. It was my absolute favourite as a kid, and my mom’s. The cookies are super light and the perfect size.


Makes about a dozen cookies if rolled to ¼” (6 mm) thick, closer to two dozen if rolled ⅛” (4 mm) thick

Let ½ c (110 g) butter and a smidge less than 3 oz (⅔ c, 80 g) cream cheese* sit at room temperature until semi-soft, then beat them together in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter. Blend in 1 c (130 g) flour until just combined. Lay out some parchment paper, drop the dough in the middle, and then press it in to a rough rectangle. Wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least an hour. If you can, stick your rolling pin in the fridge as well.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay some parchment paper out on a surface and then generously dust it with powdered sugar to prevent the dough from sticking. Remove your dough and rolling pin from the fridge. Working quickly to prevent the dough from getting too warm and sticky, roll out the dough to ⅛–¼” (4–6 mm) thick. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough if it seems to stick to the pin.

Once it is rolled out, cut out the dough with a 2″ (50 mm) diameter circle cookie cutter or cut in to 2″ (50 mm) squares and place the shapes on to the lined baking sheet. The cookies can be spaced relatively close, they rise a bit and spread only very slightly. Dab a small amount of apricot preserve on the centre of each cookie. If using the square cookie technique, fold two opposite corners in so that they slightly overlap over the preserve.

Bake at 350F (175C) for 10–12 minutes until very lightly browned. While warm, sift powdered sugar over the cookies and then let them cool on a rack.


* I have lactose issues so I tried making this with vegan cream cheese. It worked really well! The vegan cream cheese was a little less sweet than I would want for this recipe, so I replaced a tablespoon (10 g) of flour with powdered sugar. It also seems to be a bit softer than regular cream cheese, so next time I would probably add 1–3 more tablespoons of flour.

If you double or triple this recipe, separate the dough in to thirds before you refrigerate it. You can then roll it out in stages to prevent the dough from getting too warm.

Apparently you could put all sorts of fillings in this. Apricot preserve is what we always had when I was little, but this time I ended up using the gooseberry and blackcurrant jams we had on hand. More traditional fillings are poppy seed (masa makowa) and plum butter (powidla sliwkowe). The website In Ania’s Kitchen has some good recipes for these fillings.

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uninvited odours

My grandma on my dad’s side was a great cook and known throughout the family for her dislike of garlic. I think she was convinced that it would “come out of the pores”, that you could smell it on her if she ate it. We all thought this was preposterous. WELL. Now suddenly I’m noticing it… I think her garlic affliction has caught up with me. Was she trying to warn us about a simple fact of life for some 30+ year olds? Were we all wrong? Not enthused.

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Mom’s dry-transfer lettering sheets

Sheet of white dry-transfer type in 36pt Futura Bold

How to use instant lettering

  1. Remove blue backing paper and position sheet on working surface. Shade lightly over the letter with a ballpoint pen.
  2. Gently peel away sheet – the letter is now transferred. Repeat until your lettering is complete.
  3. Re-burnish through backing paper over copy for firmer adhesion.

Finally sat down to take pics of Mom’s old dry-transfer lettering.

See more

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Nan-nan’s cupcakes

Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.

I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.


Cup Cakes

From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.

Additional notes

Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.

The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.

She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.

The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.