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Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' ...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How Hitler Ruined Halloween

I have gazed into the bright shining maw of Halloween and lived to tell the tale! BWAH HA HA HA HA! After work I went to view a HUMONGOUS & beautiful collection of Halloween memorabilia. Learned all sorts of stuff about Halloween from a local guy, Mark, a Halloween fiend (a nice one) who collects antique Halloween memorabilia. His house is full from bat-filled rafters to black-widow haunted basement with all things Halloween. His place is to Halloween what the North Pole is to Christmas - if that makes sense. I've seen a lot of collections in my time, but never such carefully collected and well-kept stuff unless I include what I've seen at the Smithsonian.

Mark is a walking encyclopedia of All-Things-Halloween and like it or not, I'm going to tell you what I and his other guests learned at his Halloween open house. No! Sit back down and read - you'll enjoy this. I mean, who else is going to give you the straight facts on how Aldorf Hitler ruined Halloween?

Huh? Well, post WWI, Germany wasn’t allowed industries that manufactured metals – least they re-attempt to blow up the world - again, they had to find ways to keep the Gross National Product from disappearing all together (for my fellow Potter fans, that means $$ had apparated). To solve the problem Hans und Inge made Halloween decorations for the American Market. All sorts of items were made, from all types of materials - but no naughty metals. They made loads of die-cut, embossed paper decorations like the adorable Hoot Owl shown above and nifty little figurines of spooky headed ghouls and pumpkin headed monsters out of composite (whatever that is). The figurines held candy and were often given as party favors.



Das über creepy Kürbiskopf pumpkin-head. Would you eat candy that came out of that thing?

Now here's another cool Halloween factoid. Once upon a time Halloween was an adult holiday. I don't mean take off your clothing adult, I mean Halloween was not seen as solely a day for the kiddies.

German-made Halloween ornamentation was used to decorate the homes of the BIG kids. Because Halloween was for adults the overall look of Halloween décor was creepy! People would decorated their homes with eerie looking witches, pumpkins, bow-backed black cats, call in the neighbors and party down. While the partying was on, kids were home tucked in their bunk-beds where we all know they damn well belonged.

Mark said Halloween was a wonderfully spine chilling event right up to approximately 1933 where the Germans come back into the picture at the start of WWII. Ok, this is where Hitler comes in. Hitler said 'Stop making mit der Halloween crazy stuff already und let's get organized here!' , or something like that. The interesting German decor dried up as Germany began again to manufacture WMD (think Iraq). America had to manufacture its own Halloween stuff and all the fun scary stuff, for the most part, dropped out of the holiday. Halloween transmogrified from an excuse for adults to drink beer and party down into a softer, kinder holiday for children to dress up in semi-cuddly costumes to bob for apples and go trick or treating.

Halloween hasn't been the same in the U.S. since WWII. Mark mourns that unfortunate and perhaps sinister turn of events as the point in time when the interesting, artful, creepy and scary Halloween paraphanalia
took a turn for the cutsie, saccharine and none-too-scary; in short - kind of boring.

I suspect Mark may wear a black arm band on Halloween to commemorate the loss of Halloween's former sinister ambiance at the hands of the Dark Lord, Voldemort Hitler.

And that, my dear little boys and ghouls, is how Hitler ruined Halloween.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rice in Japan


Hurrah! Someone whose hair looks even more attractive than mine.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Big City Birdies


Show and tell! This photo of a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, napping on a window ledge of our 25 story CalEPA building, was emailed around work today. We have had Peregrines in downtown Sacramento for some years now.

Once, I was lucky enough to see a Peregrine diving after pigeons at the Resources Building, which coincidently, houses the California Department of Fish and Game. Another time I saw one in a cool aerial dog-fight with a Red-tailed Hawk by the light rail station. But my best viewing was while I stood at a window on the 19th floor as a Peregrine shot past just below my eye level. Back and forth, back and forth the winged beastie flew was so close I could see the details of light on its steel grey feathers.

We still see falcons downtown but they're not currently roosting on our building. I miss them. They used to catch and eat pigeons, flickers and other birds, sometimes dropping a wing here, a tail there, a blot of feathers and blood - on the lower story roofs. Though I'm certain the birdie bits did not endear the falcons to building management, for me it was a huge treat, like having a National Geographic Special on wildlife happening right before my eyes.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Acorn Day

One Saturday each October is Acorn Day at the State Indian Museum. It's a day is primarily for the kids, but I for one, first visited the museum on Acorn Day many years ago. I had so much fun I ultimately went through training and became a docent at the museum. For Acorn Day we set up tables in the back yard of the museum. The back yard has a sweat lodge, a round house and a traditional Indian house made of cedar planks. We load up the tables with activities; abalone shell, pine nuts, clam shells and dentatum shells for the kids to make necklaces, tule reeds for teaching kids to make Indian style dolls and rubber stamps and beads so kids can make non-traditional bookmarks.

This year I had a table at which I demonstrated a Chumash gambling game. The rules are simple and once the kids get it, they really enjoy it. I explain to them how each opposing player would have a host of friends and family backing them up, egging them on and playing square deer skin drums. Your friends would shout silly derisive stuff at the opposing player, not unlike the lively 'Yo Mama' sort of stuff that might accompany a competitive game of cards. So whenever the kids are throwing down their dice, I shout at them and try to distract them with raspberry noises and such. The kids LOVE it and get all giggly and competitive and by the day's end I'm worn to a frazzle.

Usually along with the Chumash gambling games I do my string figures (cat's cradle). I totally love string figures which help keep my mind - flexible. Unfortunately, right now my mind is as rigid as steel so I decided to skip the string figures for this year. Oh well! My second activity was showing the kids the museum's animal pelts - bobcat, puma, bear, river otter, sea otter (soft!) and mule deer. The kids love that too - they particularly love puting on the buck's head which in the old days would have been used for sneaking up on deer so they could be shot by bow and arrow for supper - to go along with that nice acorn mash you know.


All the above is well and good but the main attaction of Acorn Day is Acorns. There are day long demonstrations on preparing and eating of acorn, California Indian style. Anyone who wants can help to crack acorns and grind them up with stone implements. The dry acorn meal is spread on pine needles over sand in a little sand pit. Then hot water is poured over the ground meal to leach out the bitter tannins. The leached meal is then put with water into a beautiful woven Indian basket. Hot stones are added to the basket, one at a time, and gradually the water heats to a boil in the basket! It's a miracle, I swear it is. The stones are removed and replaced with fresh hot stones until the acorn meal is cooked. Voila! Then it is time to taste the acorn soup.

The process is fun to go through. The final acorn mash is not outrageously flavorful - in fact it is rather bland, but that's ok. Acorns pack plenty of nutrition and you have to imagine the acorn soup or gruel being served up under the pines, along with salmon, skewered on redwood planks and broiled over coals, or heaped alongside some nice freshly roasted venison or rabbit in the manner the Indians might have eaten it hundreds of years ago - or the way local Indians might enjoy it tomorrow night at their Sunday family dinner - yum! Acorns are still a beloved and traditional food for modern California Indian families.

Although nowadays there are pots to cook the acorn meal in, the old fashioned method of heating the acorns with heated rocks is still quite popular. The acorn meal gets all nice and crusty on the rocks and that adds a texture that doesn't happen if you just heat the stuff up in a pot on a stove. Sometimes the old ways remain the best.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hello. My name is Claire - and I like to spin.

Oh Joy! I am in for two more 3-day weekends in a row! Hurrah! Three more days to lie idly around the house, gathering dust on my more stationary surfaces, celebrating the brat couch potato that is me!  I’m going to level with you – I have a secret that I don’t just share with just any old people, but as you bothered to come read my blog I’m going to come clean on this issue; I fancy fiber. Ok, I know you are shocked, and I can understand that. People don’t expect to scratch my surface and find someone suffering from fiberphilia.

I no longer remember how I got into fiber, it started so long ago. I started with wools, not the cheap stuff, but good wool - straight off the sheep - a mixed breed ewe named Misty. I still have a exquisite stores of her extraordinary russet fleece. Misty’s fleece satisfied me for a long time but then I entered my experimental stage. I gave flax a spin; then I dabbled in silk. Then eschewing plant for animals I went in for alpaca, llama and the curlicue hair of the cashmere goat. When that wasn’t enough I had to go for the small, the helpless – yes, I went for angora rabbit hair – plucked straight from the bunny’s tender little body.

*shudders with delight* I am not proud to admit, I even dabbled in the über exotic; giving in to cravings for qiviut (ki-vee-ute) the undercoat of Muskoxen. Oh Joy! I am in for two more 3-day weekends in a row! Hurrah! Three more days to lie idly around the house, gathering dust on my more stationary surfaces, celebrating the brat couch potato that is me!  Yes, soon I was in deep – hidden around my home are boxes and boxes of fiber from every corner of the earth. But you know, a good fetish always comes with paraphanalia and I’ve got my share. I started off simple – becoming adept at the use of the drop spindle.&nbsp Then, hankering for something more complex I got a double-treadle Schacht spinning wheel; there was no turning back.
When spinning my own yarn was not enough I took up weaving. I bought myself a loom; a Schacht baby woof. I was tabby weaving with the best of them. 

Enough of my bragging about my little – peccadilloes. This past weekend, being in full hermit mode and had a hankering to get into the fiber.I went into my vast store and pulled out some lovely white Angora and some wool roving.

The Angora was plucked several years ago from a friend’s bunny that went by the name of Pinky – the bunny that is. The wool roving is lovely, brushed, un-spun sheep’s wool. I no longer remember where I got the roving, but it is soft and highly spin-able, with marvelously long, soft fibers.  I spun for hours, and the end product is two skeins of textured mid-weight yarn; the wool is off-white, and the Angora is bright white; really pretty stuff. I plied the yarns together. The angora wool will give the final product the soft halo of fuzzy hair. But that is later; first there I must decide between finishing this project up with some crochet or knitting. Perhaps I’ll tell you about the joys of those sinful pursuits at a later date. You know - if I'm looking for a cheap thrill. All About the Addiction