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Showing posts from December, 2011

Year End Garden Projects

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... Although we've accomplished a lot since buying our little house, the garden is far from perfect. In fact, it's a real mess. We've got an apparently infinite supply of invasive onion and arum plants, which I dig up by the trug-full, but never seem to reduce in number. This is supposed to be a vegetable garden, but despite the fact that I've dug through this soil on numerous occasions, the soil keeps producing more bulbs. Plant-wise, there are two chard plants in this bed, a couple of miserably unhappy native penstemons, and the rest is weedy bulbs. In addition to having weed-filled soil, we're surrounded by horrible fencing. What you're seeing in this photograph is Robb's cover-up of a falling-down garage. If I said that the walls of the garage were made of soggy graham crackers, I wouldn't be too far from the truth. The crumbly-looking grey stuff is apparently some kind of decades-old interior-grade particle-board. The white stuff

What's Cookin' ?

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There's plenty to eat at our house. A mockingbird has been guarding our persimmon tree, but that doesn't stop the cheeky squirrels. Our little cat Smog races up the tree after the squirrel, but she ignores him. Who's to say where "brave" ends and "foolish" begins. Those persimmons sure are tasty. Our lemon tree is just starting to ripen. Unlike most fruits, citrus "keeps" on the tree really well. We'll have fruit for months. When we first moved here, Robb built the Little House for the feral cats. He wanted to give them a dry shelter during the winter rains. It is a favorite napping spot, rain or shine. We're harvesting fennel. I've learned my lesson, and am cutting it when it is young and tender. If I wait for my plants to get as big as grocery-store fennel, they are invariably tough and inedible. Robb made an oven-braised fennel and then finished it under the broiler with a bit of deliciously stinky cheese. I&

Springerle Success!

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... Other than one faintly muttered "damn," no swearing occurred while making springerle cookies this year. I used a new recipe , because I located one of the more obscure leavening agents (baker's ammonia, once made from the horns of deer, and found at a local European deli ). I'm not sure why things worked out as well as they did, but the cookies unmolded, and baked beautifully. I only dragged my oven mitt through a couple of them, and that was fine, because it meant that Robb and I got to eat 'em. This first photograph is the finished product -- pillowy and white, just like they should be. Over the years, I've managed to find antique wooden cookie molds. They are little works of art, and if you think about it, they're pretty mind-boggling. The image is hand-carved, which is complicated enough, but here's what amazes me: the carver had to essentially carve the image inside-out. They had to carve deepest, where the image would be the ta

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

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... And All Through the House Not a Creature Was Stirring Not Even a Mouse Best wishes to all of our friends, both our old ones and the ones we haven't met in person yet. May all your holiday dreams come true.

Springerle Cookies for Christmas

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... Every few years, Robb and I get the crazy idea to make springerle cookies. This is always an insane and over-ambitious undertaking. If we don't share photos of our cookies in a few days, you'll know that we weren't very successful. My father grew up in a wealthy household in Hungary, with a staff of domestic servants. There's a story about their cook, that when she was making streudel, everyone stayed out of the way. The process was so difficult, and her swearing was so blistering that nobody wanted to cross her path until the streudel was done. Making springlerle is a lot like that. As for my family fortunes ... all that was lost when the Russians rolled their tanks across Eastern Europe, at the end of World War II. My family was declared "enemies of the state." My father fled across a heavily fortified border. His brother spent years in a Russian prison. My grandparents lived under house arrest. It was a difficult time, to say the least

Winter Foraging -- Pineapple Guava

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... photo from Bay View Elementary School's nutrition program At this time last year, everyone at Berkeley Repertory Theater was in the middle of a huge upheaval . We'd bought a complex of buildings, had given up our leased spaces, and were racing to get moved in during a rare period of "down time." My scene shop didn't just move the contents of the eighteen thousand square foot warehouse. We also moved all of the systems. So, when the air-handling system was moved, and we had no heat, I knit hats for all of my staff. It was a hard and hectic time, but we got through it, and are now settled into our new workplace. At the time of the move, I noticed some unusual fruit-looking objects laying on the sidewalk, outside of our new place. My brain was occupied with the thousand details of the move, and I told myself to stay focused and to keep moving. The following spring, I noticed that the hedge that surrounded our complex was blooming. The flowers were lik

Volley'd and thunder'd

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... Lord Cardigan declares: "The War on String will be fought on all fronts." "The Brigade will advance." Well, okay. Perhaps the historical Lord Cardigan never said that first part, and maybe our back garden isn't exactly like the Valley of Death , but we are nothing if not silly and literary around here. Our two feral cats Sleeves and Cardigan, while originally named for their markings, eventually ended up being referred to as two of the pivotal figures in the battle memorialized in the famous poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade . That's Lord Cardigan , and Field Marshal Sleeves, the Right Honorable Lord Raglan , to you. And no. I don't know anything definitive about the connection between Cardigan, Raglan and the names of sweaters. Knitting lore is notorious for being more romantic than historical. Lord Raglan lost an arm in the Crimean war, and apparently his tailors created clothes that were cut for easy dressing. Lord Ca

Barking up the Wrong Tree

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... Robb and I bought a lovely Christmas tree this weekend. For some reason I'm worried about the safety of our vintage glass ornaments.

Comfort and Joy

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... I continue to try to earn the trust of she shy feral cat we call Sleeves. He really is starved for affection, but if we touch him the wrong way, he panics. He is particularly terrified by being picked up. I've been spending a lot of time, petting him, and then reaching under his body but not actually picking him up. I've got this idea that he'll come to realize that this isn't a threatening gesture, if I do it enough times. Today, somehow, I managed to pick him up, and we enjoyed a nice long snuggle. He sat on my lap and purred and purred, which was utterly delightful. At that moment, there was no wariness or fear, just pure feline bliss.

Dramatic Paws

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... Our little cat Smog is full of energy. He's so very full of energy that all the other cats find him rather annoying. Smog would be happiest playing Chase Me all day long, and everyone else wishes he'd learn to play Leave Me the Hell Alone . Smog is exuberant, but the other cats have Street Smarts. Twice now, Robb has seen Smog go charging up to Linguine, in the hopes that she'll play with him. Linguine lifts her paw in the air. Smog runs full-force into her paw, effectively punching himself in the face. She's no fool, our Linguine.

The Wild Bride

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... Here's a delicious taste of the show that's next up at Berkeley Repertory Theatre , where I work. The show comes to us from Kneehigh Theatre in Cornwall England, but due to the difficulty of shipping theatrical scenery across the Atlantic, our studios built and painted some -- but not all -- of the larger scenic elements. The show looks haunting, creepy and sexy. In other words, I expect to love it.

A Love of Books

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... Click here for the delightful story of a mysterious artist, who has been leaving beautiful paper sculptures as gifts in the libraries of Edinburgh Scotland. I know that many of this blog's readers will appreciate the idea of hiding tiny works of art, for others to find. All of these works are made of books. Tiny paper feathers! Such artisanry! Who can fail to be charmed by a diminutive paper T Rex?