Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fare Thee Well

Dear The End,

Tonight, all around the world, one will stand on the threshold between this year and the next, and one will wonder "where has the year gone?  what have I done?  and, who am I?"  These are the questions, because one is never sure, and one always feels a little sorrow in parting.  And so, one thinks of Auld Lang Syne.

To prevent toppling towards melancholia, take two of these, and call me in the morning.


Curly Eyes & Laughing Hair.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

many times, many ways

Dear Christmas Eve,

Here we are, readying to celebrate the end of the year in the double-header of Christmas and New Year's.  I am making pies; mincemeat and pumpkin.  Come by for a slice....

I also enclose a little music, and a recipe, for Almond Paste, which you could use to make Marzipan, or Marchpane.

Christmas calls for Marzipan, or "march bread."  I could find no definitive etymology for the name.   I do have two nice recipes for almond paste:  One, and Two.

The main difference between almond paste and marzipan is the ratio of sugar to almonds.  Marzipan has more sugar, and the sugar also gives it a texture more suitable for rolling it out or making little shaped fruits or pigs. To clarify, take almond paste, knead it with powdered sugar, maybe a little rose or orange water, and you have marzipan.

I made my almond paste by blanching almonds, then pulverizing them in the food processor.  I added honey until it held together, plus a pinch of salt.  It can also be made with egg white and sugar- I have made it that way, too.  Both types are terrific. 

I know, it's a busy time, but if you get some made, hang on to it, resting in the icebox improves it, and there will be a nice cookie recipe using almond paste/marzipan in an upcoming post.

Until then,
Cheerful Holidays!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

To a Winter

Dear Turning Ones,

     I offer today, a fine Robert Burns poem, and two images.  The poem, I imagine, you've read before: as you read on this occasion, I will think of you, on the edge of now, looking both forward and back, while the sun shifts slightly away from the solstice, and harks towards the vernal equinox.




To a Mouse
On turning her up in her nest with a plough.
November, 1785

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!
I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave 'S a sma' request:
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an' wast,
An' weary Winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.
That wee-bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still, thou art blest, compar'd wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

I hope you read it aloud- it is so lovely and musical.  If you'd care to hear another voice reading it, try this.  If you'd like to ken just what some of these Scots words mean, try here.  If you are feeling like a little more Burns, you might join a Burns Club, or sign a guestbook, or begin planning your first Burns Supper.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Dear Curious,

Look what the climate crisis has dragged in:  a 6,000 year old woolen tunic.  It was in Norway,  under the melting ice.  It's beautiful, and its finding is terribly sad.

Here is a hood made of straw- also in Norway.  There are many other charming images from this same artist- see them here.

One more article of clothing for your consideration: a famous blue raincoat.

Until the next curiosity....

(Wait, wait...'anthropocene?')

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Una Chevrolet Suave

Dear Drivers,

Thinking about new wheels?  May I suggest a Blue Chevrolet....

Happy Trails, motorists!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anxious to be Perpetuated

Dear Longing to be Stirred,

My dear, loving reader.  Everyday, they are writing books for you.  Won't you read one I know you'll like?  Not long ago, I read a copy of a book printed in 1902.  Let's pause to let that number resonate.


The book was from the library- can you imagine how many readers had reverently turned each feathery, burnished page?  The corners were worn to near transparent velvet.  The beautiful paper, darkening to ochre at the edges, had a soft laid pattern.  If there were but 4 readers a year, that makes 444 readers.  I joined the other readers, across time.  The privilege was palpable.

The book was written in 1831.  Let's repeat that number, too.


It was set in, and the story began, in 1482.  Shall we?


It is about a building that is celebrating its 850th anniversary. 


Are you ready yet to rush to your library?  To be a part of this astounding and interwoven arc of time?  Let me attempt to further entrance you, by giving you a list of chapters that form a poem all their own:

An impartial glance at the ancient magistracy
The rat-hole
The story of a wheaten cake
A tear for a drop of water
End of the wheaten cake

One more instigation to read this dense stack of 505 pages- a passage from the tome itself:

           "...architecture was the chief recorder of the human race; that during that space
      no thought that went beyond the absolutely fundamental, but was embodied in
      some edifice; that every popular idea, like every religious law, has had its
      monuments; finally, that the human race has never conceived an important
      thought that it has not written in stone.  And why?  Because every thought,
      whether religious or philosophic, is anxious to be perpetuated; because the idea
      which has stirred one generation longs to stir others, and to leave some lasting trace."

Oh, yes, you'll want the author and title:  Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo.  If you feel like over-achieving (and I hope you do!), you might re-read sections of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr (see my post titled: Divertimento),  and another wonderful book on the philosophy of architecture,  The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander.  These three books will make your living spaces double in size, without hanging mirrors, adding rooms, or knocking out walls.

Friday, December 6, 2013

I woke up this Morning, and You were on my Mind

Dear Listener,

I want to be on your mind. Please put me there, and Valerie June, too.

You remain, as ever, on my mind.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Way Back Machine

Dear Sherman, My Boy,

Set the Way Back Machine for 1971 and accompany me to a long time ago.  Happy Birthday!

your sister.