the troll cookbook

About a month ago I was craving apples -- good, local apples harvested in season.  And then, like a bit of wish fulfillment, walking through the farmers market, my eyes landed on a pile of freshly picked Gravensteins.

These first apples of the season put me in mind of a watercolor illustration by Karima Cammell from The Troll Cookbook, which she co-authored with Clint Marsh.

I've been intending to tell you about this book since its publication last February, but now that apple-season is here, it seems the perfect time.

The Troll Cookbook acts as an instruction manual for how to prepare food as trolls do: relying on seasonal produce, guided by appetite, and enjoyment of all five senses.  The recipes are organized by season, interspersed with insight into troll-wisdom, sensibilities and folk-tales.  For example, this information appears under the heading Goblin Fruit: Visiting the Troll Market

All vegetables taste best when they are fresh and grown in soil, ideally with a bit of dirt still clinging to them when they are displayed in the market. What sort of dark magic, thinks the troll, is responsible for hydroponic tomatoes grown in the dead of winter? 

... Moving beyond the produce section, the troll is equally frustrated with much of the rest of the supermarket, with its aisles of packages plastered with photographs of the food inside, or worse, of happy people.  Trolls appreciate truth in advertising.  Not once has a troll torn open a box of cereal and found actual people to eat inside.  It's disappointing.

This quote points, alas, to the one deficit in this book.  Trolls are known for tossing hapless humans into their cookpots, and yet I could not find one recipe for how to cook a human among the collected recipes. This is probably for the best. Personally, I'd much rather have a book filled with instructions for preparing apples, breads & cakes, pickled vegetables, preserved lemons, rose-hip jam and warming winter soups.  How about you? 


summer nostalgia

I wasn't sure what to title this post.  Is it possible to be nostalgic for something which only ended last week?  Is it possible to be nostalgic for a time of year I don't really like? (Nostalgic about fall & winter? Yes. Summer? No.)  Still, when I ran across these photos from the very first day of summer vacation, despite my usual aversion to anything involving hot weather & sunscreen, I felt nostalgic.  How can a person not feel nostalgic about a jingling, jangling carousel circled by a rainbow of horses?  My little son rode three times that day and it was a good way to start summer, indeed.

But last week we said, "Good bye summer.  Hello fall." (Unless you live in the southern hemisphere, in which case you said "Hello spring.")  I've been busy at the farmer's market buying as many apples & quince as I can possibly carry, and I'll be back soon to tell you about it. xo


'tis the season

...for acorns!

Note: The leaves and acorn above are from a variety of oak called California Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia); as you may have noticed, the leaves are not deeply lobed in the way that would identify most varieties of oak leaves.


good morning starshine...

Did you ever wonder what mornings are like in the Bloom household?  Today I'm going to give you a glimpse.


Our school days start with me barging into the bedrooms of my boys -- first the small one, then the larger one -- and flinging open the curtains.  My barging is usually accompanied by a song which has been popular around here for many years:
Good morning dear earth,
Good morning dear sun.
Good morning dear stones,
and the flowers, every one.
Good morning dear beasts,
and the birds in the trees.
Good morning to you,
and good morning to me.

...and if the cat is following me from room to room (which he usually is) I also sing "good morning to kitty's fleas."

For occasional variation I sing THIS SONG, THIS SONG, or my favorite from summers at sleep-away camp:

Good morning to you! Good morning to you!
You look kind of drowsy, in fact you look lousy.
Good morning to you! Good morning to you!
You look kind of sleepy, in fact you look creepy.

However, Tuesday was the first day of school for my boys, and I came up with a whole new way to torment my family.

I'm not sure why, of all possible mornings, I was suddenly inspired to sing this song... but there you go. And why do I seem to know most of the words by heart?  That's another mystery altogether.  ("Gliddy glub gloopy/Nibby nabby noopy/La la la lo lo/Sabba sibby sabba/Nooby abba nabba/Le le lo lo..." Good lord.)

Next week I might sing this song (my favorite part starts at around 2 minutes, 20 seconds). My younger son and the cat like the newly added song in my morning repertoire.  My husband and older son are investing in stock with companies which manufacture earplugs.

And lest you think it's otherwise all bluebirds and sunshine in my house every morning, allow me to disabuse you of that notion.  After the singing, it's all downhill.  Everyone jostles in our our small kitchen (including the cat who is inevitably underfoot, and complains when he's shifted out of the way) to throw together hasty breakfasts and pack lunches.  I get distracted reading the comics section of the newspaper until my husband points out that I should probably get moving, which sends me dashing upstairs to change out of pajamas with reminders flung over my shoulder to please hurry with shoes & socks, and then we're all barreling out the door.

Do you have any favorite morning routines?  Any special or unique ways you like to torment your family? Do tell!



Last week my family and I were in Los Angeles for my mother-in-law's funeral.  Depending on which legal document you consult, she was 97 or 98 or 99 years old when she died, and the mystery of her precise age (and birth date) was finally explained to us by her younger sister.  It turns out that their mother was very superstitious; in Poland, where the family originated, it was thought that acknowledging happy events such as the birth of a child was a way of attracting the evil eye, so exact birth-dates were not accurately recorded and celebrations were eschewed.

No matter her birth-date or exact age, she lived a good, long life, and was lucid and feisty as ever until the end.  A few weeks ago she decided she was ready to go and, within 2 weeks of that decision, she died peacefully.  May her memory be a blessing.

During the week we were in Los Angeles, I took a day to clear out boxes of my belongings from my parents' garage.  There were a lot of books (surprise, surprise), heaps of letters written by friends from my high school years through university, and finally, a box of treasures from my childhood.

This is Rebecca -- the sweetest 8 inch tall companion a child could ask for.  My best friend Pamela also had a little doll made by Madame Alexander named Amy and we were a happy foursome for years.

Rebecca has a collection of pretty outfits...

And a pretty china tea set, of course.

I was so happy to find Rebecca among my old belongings.  She's a reminder to me of why I do what I do, and in her honor (and for your reading pleasure) I've listed my favorite & most beloved books about dolls below:

The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven

Goldie the Dollmaker by M. B.  Goffstein

Hittie, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field

Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Baily

Patty Reed's Doll by Rachel K. Laurgaard

The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll by Edward & Aingelda Ardizzone

The Fairy Doll & Other Tales from The Doll's House by Rumer Goden


tutorial :: a scrappy snake

Last week my little one and I were under the weather; I wasn't feeling ambitious but wanted an easy, relaxing project with which to occupy ourselves.  Scanning through possible supplies, I thought of various paper crafts and clay, and then my felt scrap-bag crossed my mind.  For the past six years, when I've done projects, I've saved any scrap of felt larger than 1"; when working on tiny peg doll projects, even the smallest scraps are useful.  I had seen a few scrappy ornaments like this one, but wanted to do something different... and so our Scrappy Snake was born.

-- Scraps or sheets of felt
-- A tiny amount of stuffing  
-- Scissors, needle and strong thread
-- 2 small buttons or bead for eyes
-- 1 wooden bead

STEP 1 :: Cut your scraps (or sheets) of felt into triangular shaped pieces, approx. 3/4 in. - 1in. long (1 1/2 -2 cm long).  You could make circles or squares instead of triangles, but triangles are faster to cut.  I would suggest cutting far more pieces than you think you could possibly need.

STEP 2 :: Thread your needle with strong thread or embroidery floss, knot a wooden bead on the end and hand it to a nimble-fingered child who is longing for a fun activity...

...and watch as he pushes the needle through the center of each little triangle until the pile grows smaller and smaller and smaller yet...

...until the pile of little felt triangles is reduced to nothing much at all and the Scrappy Snake has grown quite long.

STEP 3 :: While your child is busily occupied stitching triangles, hunt down a couple of small beads or buttons for eyes and cut 2 diamond shapes (with rounded edges) from felt.  The head of our snake is approx. 2 1/4 in. (6 cm) long, but you could make yours any size or shape to suit your preferences.  You might also want to cut out a tongue.  NOTE: an older child could cut and sew the head of the snake him or herself.

STEP 4 :: Sew around the edges of the head, stitching the tongue into place as you go.  Before you complete your way around, add a tiny amount of stuffing inside.  Finish the head by sewing an eye to either side (see photo above).

STEP 5 :: Stitch the head to the felt triangle at the end of the thread and... you're done!