the West Street house

the West Street house

If you click on the photo it should enlarge and there should be a caption. Lotta shoulds…

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies: Could this be cookie heaven?

A variation on Farmgirl Fare: Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

A variation on Farmgirl Fare: Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies

I don’t know about you but for me oatmeal cookies have always been the cookies I WANT to love but just can’t. They are the cookies that are still left on the tray after the TollHouse cookies have been scarfed down at a party. They usually have all the appeal of the bowl of oatmeal your grandkid slid under his bed two days ago. (Don’t ask).

But these oatmeal cookies are a delight! The edges are crisp. The centers soft, chewy and moist. The flavor!!!! Even my grandson preferred these oatmeal coconut cookies over the Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownies that were his other dessert option.

I made some slight changes to FarmGirl Fare’s recipe. I changed the brown sugar to coconut sugar (to lower the glycemic index a bit) and used raw sugar instead of regular granulated sugar.

Did I mention before that these cookies are fabulous tasting?. I look forward to trying some of FamGirl’s other recipes. She has some very helpful advice regarding the making of these cookies which I have eliminated here so, check out her site:

Oatmeal Coconut Cookies – makes about 3 dozen.


1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces) salted organic butter, melted
1 cup organic coconut sugar
1/2 cup organic raw cane sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons organic milk (or more, see note above)
2 large farm fresh eggs
1½ cups organic all-purpose wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups organic rolled oats (sometimes called old-fashioned oats; NOT instant or quick cooking oats)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a heavy duty baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper (when I bake cookies, I just use the same piece of parchment for the entire batch).

Melt the butter and place it in a large mixing bowl.

Using a large rubber spatula, stir in the coconut sugar and raw sugar. Add the vanilla, milk, and eggs and stir until well combined.

In a bowl mix  the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together. Add to the wet ingredients  and stir until blended. Stir in the oats and coconut.

Using a 1½ Tablespoon round scoop, drop the cookies onto the prepared baking sheet (12 cookies per sheet – they spread out while baking).

Bake until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for two to three days or freeze.

Salted Chocolate Nut Crunch Cups

salted choc nut cups

I was just getting out the Baker’s Chocolate to make some of these yummy but not bad for you treats when I remembered I promised my son-in-law the recipe. So, here it is, Bryant. This is based on a recipe found on the internet called Crunch Cups. I will include that recipe at the end. Caveat: This is pretty good but not high end gourmet stuff. But you also don’t have to feel bad about eating it as it has a minor amount of sugar in it. And that sugar has a low glycemic index number.

Salted Chocolate Nut Crunch Cups
Makes 24 minis of 12 full size

Process until not coarse but not fine:  less than 2c whole nuts of choice (pecans, cashews, macadamia, almond) about 225 gr

Stir in (no processing):
1/4c coconut
1/2c coconut oil
¼-c peanut butter or almond butter – raw almond butter is very good
2 squares 75% – 100% chocolate
2 T coconut sugar
pinch of sea salt
Add:10 drops vanilla stevia

Mix: all together in a bowl

Spoon: into paper lined mini-muffin pan*

Sprinkle: lightly with Sea Salt
Cool: in fridge or freezer
20 minutes or until solid.

*If you make them in full sized muffin tins there is no need for the paper liners. Simply insert a table knife down the side and pop them out of the pan.


Halvah by any other name

A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday I discovered it is not a good idea to go to ‘the Sunday Market’ on a Sunday, at the Dashanzi bus stop I heard a voice say, ‘Lady, look’… if you have been in Beijing for a while you know to resist those words with all your will. But then the voice said, ‘Halvah’. Oh,  word i recognize. I turned around. Propped up on his bicycle  was a long piece of plywood with a 36 inch slab of  heaven. It was beautiful. He said, ‘Halvah, try. ‘ I said ‘Woa bu yaow’ (Don’t want it)out of habit as well as principle.   He raised his sharp and alarmingly large butcher knife and sliced off a sliver for me to taste.

halvaCROPI looked at him: middle-brown, hair, narrow face, behind his glasses -light brown, heavy-lidded round
eyes, long nose. I said, ‘Hao’ (okay), though normally, I’m not a halvah fan.
OH MY GOD!!!!!!  this was the most delicious food I have ever tasted – so much
better than chocolate. So I said, ‘Doe shaow chien’ (how much money) he
looked puzzled . Then he said ’20 kwai a kilo’.  Not knowing how much a kilo is I said, ‘Ee guh’ which means ‘one’. He sliced it, he weighed it, he wrapped it up and handed it to me. I said, ‘xia xia ni’.  He looked a bit puzzled again.

As I sat on the 998 bus going home greedily picking off pieces to nibble I pondered what an odd looking Chinese person he was and how strange that this Chinese street vendor should be selling a Middle Eastern treat. I was back at the studio before I occurred to me that the man hadn’t been Chinese (Han, anyway) at all. AND that I hadn’t even occurred to me to speak English to him even though he spoke it to me.

October 23, 2007

The Bus: Beijing

Bus Stops are easily moveable. Just because the 944 stop on this corner today doesn't mean it will be there tomorrow

Bus Stops are easily moveable. Just because the 944 stop is on this corner today doesn’t mean it will be there tomorrow

The bus is so crowded with bodies I wonder how any more can squeeze in but they do and the small attendant with the harsh high thin voice moves through. She always knows who has paid and who has yet to pay. I hold on tight to the high rail as the bus wobbles back into traffic, the driver laying hard on the horn to let others know to make way.
Other vehicles /cars, motor bikes, three wheeled motorized-and non motorized carts, bicycles/ honk in reply.

Whenever a driver (bus, auto, other) pulls into traffic on the narrow road an accidental death is a possibility.
In Beijing traffic you only pay attention to what is ahead of you. Drivers are constantly being cut off and worse. but every body honks or beeps to make their others aware of the ensuing action. The roads are kind of noisy.

As the bus travels west, or maybe it’s east, we pass miles of
garrishly colored, shabby shops wth laundry hung out on the fences that surround them, and women in doorways squat to scrape vegetables for lunch.

Fairly often in the long line of shops you will see an ornate metal gate thats wide enough for 3 or 4 cars to pass through. Inside, around a parking lot you see more small shops of the same type as on the road.

The road is two lane blacktop, more or less. we cross a small canal, then a rail road , then a forested area. Beijing is heavily forested.

What’s odd about it is that the trees are of the same age and type,and  planted in rows. they all appear to be 30-40 years old. I have read that, during The Great Leap Forward, all the trees were cut down to fuel the furnaces to melt ore (and household pots and pans) for steel. So these are about the right age to have been planted after that disastrous time.beijing forest

September 2007

Spanish supermercado: three coming – three going

6205163-Great_Ham_and_Meat_Selection_at_El_Corte_Ingles_SevillaThe first time you step into a supermercado in Spain you may be surprised by it’s seeming lack of ‘super’. But all is relative. Compared with ‘un autoservicio’ (a closet sized convenience store),  and ‘una frutería’ (a tiny greengrocer which may offer a few, well, very few, comestibles), a supermercado is a paradise of abundance. It will have a wide variety of products on offer just not as wide a variety as you may be used to. Here are a six tips for shopping in a supermercado:


  1. In a grand supermercado, such as El Corte Ingles you will drop off your packages and backpack at the guardaropa (coat check) the attendant will give you a number in return. Pay attention to what pocket you put that number in!
  2. Make sure you have some 1 euro coins In supermercados like Carrefore and Mercadona make use of the available lockers to store your, packages, backpack, carrito (granny cart), etc. You will need a coin for that. Pay attention to what pocket you put the key in!
  3. You will also need a coin as a deposit on a shopping cart. You will get the coin back when you return the cart.


  1. While you are in line watch what people in front of you are doing. When they get to the cashier, do the costumers put the money or card on the tray? If they do that then you do that, too. Also pick up the change or card from the tray.
  2. For the time being, single use plastic shopping bags have not been banned. But you will be charged for them and you may be asked how many you want.
  3. You are expected to bag your own groceries. Do you remember the best way to pack a grocery bag? Watch the baggers at home if you don’t remember.

AND remember to pick up your packages, carrito, and backpack at the coat check or out of the locker. I don’t know how many times I have been so distracted by the novelty of the experience that I did not pay attention to where I put the coat check number or the key to the locker. A couple of times I completely forgot I had left anything behind until I was back out on the street.

Semana Santa: Holy Week in Seville, Spain

My favorite time to be in Seville is Semana Santa. Every year at this time I grow nostalgic for late March 2005. I loved being part of the crazy crowds holding their collective breath as the palio dips down to clear the arch of main door of the church. The quick  gasp of terror as it appears to fall only to be caught and pushed back up level.

Looking for my photos from the 2005 Semana Santa I came across this article written by my son, Jonah Bailey. Jonah lived in Seville Spain for 15 years before relocating with his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2011. Thank you, Jonah Bailey, for allowing me to share:



Semana Santa – “Holy Week” – is the period preceding and including Easter. Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, Sevilla turns into a city “held hostage” by ritual. Although these rituals are centered on the death, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the worship of the Virgin Mary, it would be hard to say that the fervor and devotion shown during this week has much to do with Roman Catholicism or even God. It is a week of tradition; a time where being “Sevillano” means something special and social life is lived between processions in the bars and cafés of the city.


This is where Semana Santa starts for most people. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, all the chapels, temples, basilicas and churches from which holy week processions will leave are open for people to visit the religious icons and images that will be carried through the streets of the city.



Crowds are a guaranteed during Semana Santa. The overall population of the city swells exponentially, all the hotels are full and there are too many cars… But people are in the street and a good time is to be had by all. Forget what you wanted to do in the centre of town this week. You’ll be stopped at every turn by the famous “bulla” (sudden apparition of thousands of bodies to see a procession) and you’ll be endlessly frustrated by the amount of time it takes you to get to where you want to go. Just enjoy the week’s festivities and don’t make a lot of plans to get things done.



I know they look like members of some strange order of the KKK, but I assure you they aren’t. They are “Nazarenos”, members of “Hermandades” that organize these processions during Semana Santa. Their garb pre-dates the KKK by a quite a few centuries. It takes time to get over the weird feeling you get when you see them. There are between 300 and 3000 Nazarenos in each procession. They usually hold very tall candles called “sirios”. Their livery varies in color depending on the hermandad.



After a bunch of Nazarenos, the Cristo comes out. Every procession has these big float like platforms called “pasos” Most processions have two pasos: a Cristo and a Virgen. The Cristo can be a depiction of the crucified Christ or a scene from one of the Stations of the Cross. The Virgen is a depiction of one of the many apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The pasos are carried by 18-30 men called “Costaleros”. They carry the pasos on their backs and are located underneath.



The Cristo is usually followed by “Penitentes”. Penitentes carry crosses during the procession in penance for some sin or to fulfill a promise made to God. Some carry more than one cross. I saw a guy carrying 6 crosses strapped together this year. He must have felt really guilty about something or be really thankful for something.



After Penitentes and more Nazarenos comes the “Palió”,  the paso that carries the image of the Virgin Mary.



This is a particularly famous image called “La Virgen de la Macarena”. Her Basilica is pretty close to our house, so we run into her every year. Her procession comes out in the wee hours of Thursday night/Friday morning and lasts over 13 hours. Devotion to her is unparalleled. I’ve talked with people that don’t believe in God, but they believe in the Macarena!


The Macarena has her own legion of Roman soldiers. They precede the Virgen with wailing trumpets and pounding drums. These guys are the party animals of Semana Santa. They are usually a hundred strong at the beginning of the procession, but very few actually finish it the following day. Most get lost in the cafés and bars of the city living it up with friends. One big party!



Maundy Thursday is a day of morning in Spain because of the crucifixion of Christ. All the women dress in black and most wear a large comb in their hair on which they drape a huge black lace veil. Men wear black too, usually three-piece suits.



Semana Santa involvement is something that is passed down from generation to generation. No belief is really necessary. We have friends that have converted to Buddhism, but continue to be in two processions in the city. They have already passed this tradition on to their children.

kids with candy

It’s gotta be great. You get to dress up, be the centre of the attention, stay up late, no school, loads of candy and good food to be had every day. Who wouldn’t want to be a kid during Semana Santa in Sevilla? I wonder what our family traditions will be when our little one gets to be this age?  (2005)

(It is now 2013 and Jonah and Heather have not one but two little ones.)


Jonah Bailey: As a student of European history, a practitioner of design thinking and an intense interest in the way things work, I bring an unusual perspective to any project. I blend a taste and skill associated with aesthetic classicism with the latest front end development techniques available and mix them with a passion for solving complex problems in the best ways.

Shopping in the south of Spain

In one of my day jobs, I am a college art gallery director. As a director, I have to hire students to guard the artwork so the gallery can be open. One of the first things I say to them in the interview is:

 “We have hours of business posted on the window. Consequently the gallery must be open during those hours. Whether hundreds of people come in or no one comes in we must be open when we say we are.”

That’s a good solid business policy here in the U.S. It is expected here.

However, if one were to take that attitude to Andalusia, one would end up a very grumpy traveler, indeed. After all, one does not wish to be the angry American with steam boiling out his ears bellowing: “Why can’t I find a #@!$% pastrami sandwich anywhere in this %$#@! country!!!!”

Now, I know one reason you travel is to experience new foods and new ways of being in the world and you would never behave like that. But to make your time in southern Spain more delightful, perhaps you would accept a few words of advice:

First, watch how others behave and then mimic them. For example, those women there in the dress shop: do they politely form a queue at the register? Or, is everyone out for herself, squeezing through to be the next person helped? Do not be alarmed or offended by this behavior — just do as the Spaniards do. It can be exhilarating!

In the tienda (shop) do the vendor and the customer greet each other and have a brief chat before business is taken care of? Or, does the vender ignore the customer until directly confronted.? Also, does the customer just make a purchase and leave with minimal interaction? (hint: It’s probably a good idea to say hello to the vendor.)

Second and most important: be flexible and be prepared.

Do not assume that just because the tienda you’re standing in front of is open right now (while you are not in the mood to shop) that it will be open 30 minutes later when you finally are ready.

Prepare your list before you leave the house, carry it with you, and if the shop is open make your purchase.

These days, siesta is observed with less frequency, even in the south. However, the shop owner just might decide a siesta is needed on the day you need some strawberries at 3 pm. So, shop from 9 am until 2 pm; or 4 pm to 7 pm — just in case.

Though more and more markets and department stores remain open on Saturday and Sunday, most small independent fruterias (produce shops) and carnicerias (butcher shops) will close at 2 pm on Saturday, and not reopen until Monday morning.

Insider Information

There are things that everyone living in Andalusia just knows, and so they are not mentioned.

Spain is a very Catholic country. You may not see many people at Sunday Mass but the holy days and Holy Week are a part of Spain’s cultural heritage.  And, as such, they are honored.

Just as in Italy, there are many, many holy days in Spain that result in shops being inconveniently closed the afternoon you need some oregano for that very special dish you are making for dinner.

In the grocery windows, holy days are not necessarily posted in an official looking way. If you see a handwritten note on the window (even if you can’t read what it says) that includes a date  (in day, month, year order) you can probably assume the tienda is closed on that date. During Semana Santa you are expected to know that shops will only be open mornings.

Shopping in Andalusia is great fun. There will be times that you will be confounded by the seeming arbitrary closure of businesses. There will be times when you will be unable to find a can of tomatoes for your stew because all the stores are closed. Save the stew for tomorrow or the next day and do as the Spanish do – go out with friends for tapás and a cerveza.


Tapas with Heather and Jonah Bailey, Sevilla, 2005


Walking in the sun

This is a reminder that while we are in Italy we will spend a WHOLE LOT OF TIME walking in the sun.


So, if you haven’t already begun your ‘getting in shape for Italy’ regimen start this weekend. Personally, I have been exercising to Gilad’s Body Sculpt on fittv. I am not enjoying it at all. But I want to be able to put my own suitcase in the overhead compartment on the plane and I want to be able to keep up with the tour guide on the walking tours. By the way, this is the perfect time of year to walk in the evening…

In the sun:

I choose my sun screen by smell: does it remind me of summers in Indiana (Coppertone, sweat, chlorine) or does it smell like coconut (mmmm, coconut cream pie). Needless to say, my skin is sun damaged.

Please share what sunscreen you plan on taking with you (and maybe why that brand) so I can make an informed decision on what sunscreen to take with me.

Here’s the scoop on getting around the ‘contact the booking agency’ rule

United has our flights from LAX to London Heathrow and returning from Dulles to LAX. The other flights are operated by Lufthansa.

To request special seating or special meals on United call:

Reservations 800/864-8331

Give them the reservation number, the flight number, your full name as listed on your itinerary. (Please note you may have a different reservation number on the return flight. I don’t think this matters.)

VERY important information after the extra legroom bit. Keep reading.

If you require extra leg room you want Economy Plus. That will cost you $109. I don’t know if that covers both flights or just one. Ask.

The other flights on our trip are with Lufthansa.  Any special meals or seating must go through them.

WHILE YOU ARE ON THE PHONE WITH UNITED tell them you want to request special seating/meal/whatever from Lufthansa.

They should give you a different  reservation number for the Lufthansa portion of your trip.

Lufthansa’s phone number is: 800-645-3880.

Lufthansa was able to change my seat and my meal for the Frankfurt to Dulles flight. They can do nothing for the european leg of the journey. But those flights are short anyway.

GOOD LUCK with your special requests!