Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cookie Cut-outs

These cookies have been waiting to be made for several years now. I found the cookie cutters--a snowflake and an angel--in an alley by our apartment in Ocean Beach. It was a regular custom for people to put good, usable stuff in their alley and other people would find it and take it home. Walking the alleys of OB with Noah in the Baby Bjorn was how I discovered how much of a packrat I am. I also further validated my love of nature. The alleys seemed more semi-wild than the sidewalks. Wooden fences that sagged and bowed under their own weight, darkened with age, covered in one vine or another that managed to find its way to San Diego, where the weather supports growth of almost any plant imaginable. I harvested and tasted my first passion fruit from an OB alley. The flavor of which is something that must be experienced to understand. I also harvested dill, which lasted us until just this year. And observed the insolent, disobedient flock of cherry-headed conures that fly like a cloud of insects, circling and swooping over the rooftops until they find a suitable tree for foraging or preening.

Every year since then, at Christmas time, the cookie cutters make themselves known in my imagination. This year, they finally got put to their intended use. And the results are delightful.

Almost Christmas in Tucson

The weather is presenting us with postcard images of Tucson at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cooking with your computer

The appeal of homemade stuff is so easy for me. If it's cheaper, tastes better, and only requires minimal work and attention from me, I'm bound to give it a try at some point. I had bought the packets of kefir culture over a year ago while in a period of love with the natural foods grocery store, New Life. They carry items that Sunflower, the larger chain of natural foods, does not, and it is relatively close to my house. I only visit them about twice a year, mostly to stock up on bulk herbs and spices.

Two weeks ago I cracked open the box of kefir packets and read the directions. Just cook the milk to sterilize it, cool to room temperature, then add the packet of beasties and wait for them to have a party. Since the ambient temperature has been in the low 60s I wanted to boost the bacteria's growth potential. I tried putting the jar of cultured milk in my old Wipie Warmer, but then realized that the heat coil was in the lid, which was opened to make room for the jar inside. Placing the jar on the underside of the Wipie Warmer lid was too precarious. The laptop computer's small amount of heat generation prooved to be perfect for the job. I just placed the jar near the computer while I burned a DVD and voila! Kefir! As you can see from the picture it also makes a good butter softener.



Winter arrived rather peacefully this year. No dramatic storms or sudden drops in temperature. Just a slow ratchet down of the temperature, which was hardly noticed until suddenly I realized that the concrete outside is ALWAYS cold on my bare feet and the garden hadn't been watered in a couple weeks without any drooping from the radish and collard leaves.

Female/Juvenile Black-throated Sparrow

Winter feels very congested in so many ways. The sky is thick with clouds and buildings are thick with people. The outdoors greet me with a whoosh of cold air every time I open the door. In spite of this, the fall annuals are sprouting between the river rocks and lava rocks that cover the front yards of so many Tucsonans. Tiny green cotyledons, the size of the "8" on your keyboard, burst forth in spite of the loom of frost in our future. Erik says they are next spring's annuals. I guess that means they can survive frost, which seems remarkable to me.

Winter seems the season for birds. I notice them most frequently, as the reptiles are mostly hunkered down, except for some of this season's babies, trying to get one more meal in to make it through the coldest weeks. The insects are all but gone, except for a freak grasshopper, household guests, and occasional miniscule UFOs. Now the bird songs sound sharper and crisper against the cold dry empty air.

Monday, December 8, 2008


My journey into the world of self-publishing, self-glorifying, and self-discovery started on Typepad, which was fun, but costs a small fee per month and does not allow me to have my own picture in the title. I like Blogger's format and it is free!

My original blog over at Typepad was called "Sticks and Scales and Kitty Cat Tails." A playful take on the old "snips and snails and puppy dog tails," which apparently is what "little boys are made of." I removed the "kitty cat tails" part for a couple reasons. One- it made the title too long. Two- although I obssess over the cats, I discovered that it is very difficult for me to write about them, almost as if their mystique is too deep or untenable, remaining just out of my grasp.



Bugs, reptiles, nature, cute pictures of my kids-- all these seem to come a little more easily to me; I will stick to these subjects for now. Perhaps the blog will evolve to include cats now and then, but they definitely will not be a main subject. Nonetheless, welcome to one more person's take on life on this wonderful planet!