Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Just taking a moment to note the change in seasons and wish everyone a Happy Winter Solstice.

I only want
Myself to be
As silent as
A winter tree,

To hear the swirling
Stillness grow,
When all the world
Is full of snow.

~ from "When All the World is Full of Snow" by N.M. Bodecker

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Since we're a little busy around here and I'm sure you are too, I just want to take this opportunity to say Merry Christmas to all of my blogging friends across the globe. Wishing you safe journeys and the best of times with family and friends.

There's more, much more, to Christmas
Than candlelight and cheer;
It's the spirit of sweet friendship
That brightens all year.
It's thoughtfulness and kindness,
It's hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding,
And for goodwill to men!
~ Author Unknown

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Spirit

Just something fun to get you in the mood...

Amazing Grace Techno - Computer Controlled Christmas Lights from Richard Holdman on Vimeo.

If you never did, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good.
~ Dr. Seuss

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After the Rain

Life is like a rainbow.
You need both the sun and the rain to make its colors appear.
~ Author Unknown

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Photo by Pat Brodie

I thought I would share an interesting project I have underway right now.  First, a bit of history.  My parents have a Hachiya persimmon tree and spend quite a bit of time each fall picking and delivering the crop to friends, neighbors, and even a couple markets.  This is a long tradition for my mom, as she helped my grandparents do the same for many years (my parents now live in my grandparents' house, so it is the same tree).

Last year, my mom's friend Janice wanted to try making dried persimmons the traditional Japanese way, so she collected some from my parents.  Japanese dried persimmons are called "hoshigaki" (hoshi = dried, kaki = persimmon, the k changes to g to form one word).  When I got my hands on some of Janice's last year, I was hooked!  They are wonderfully chewy and dense (more so than dried apricots), and the persimmon flavor is intensified and sweetened.  So this year when I heard she was going to be doing it again, I said I wanted to learn how.  There are now a handful of us with hoshigaki "in progress."

Here's the process.  Hachiya persimmons are picked before they're ripe...

Chief Picker (dad). Photo by Janice Cook Knight.

Mom, two other hoshigaki converts Kim and Pat, and our mentor Janice.

The persimmons are peeled, tied by the remaining stems on each end of a string, and hung over a bamboo pole...

Photos by Pat Brodie

After 7-10 days a skin forms.  That's when the massaging begins in order to break down the pulp inside.  This continues every 3-5 days. 

Eventually, the natural sugars come to the surface of the skin and the pulp sets.  We're not there yet...

I have to admit to being spoiled a bit... Janice started the process for me.  She did the peeling, hanging, and initial massaging and then my parents brought my persimmons when they came to visit for Thanksgiving.  (I didn't realize how beautiful they would be in the initial stage, so I was glad to receive photos.)  Mom passed along the massaging technique and they have continued to get regular massages.  If only I were so lucky!  As you can see, they have taken up residence in the shower of our extra bathroom where they can dry in peace.

There is, of course, much more to the history and tradition of hoshigaki.  I've done a bit of poking around.  The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program at UC Davis has posted online a very informative paper called "Hoshigaki: Preserving the Art of Japanese Hand Dried Persimmons" (clicking on the title will open the PDF).  There are a few people in California carrying on the tradition.  Here are some links for those of you who would like to see and know more:

Otow Orchard - scroll down to watch the beautiful slideshow of the process, then click on "What's New" to read the blog and especially to see photos of the orchard in snow (be sure to scroll down)

California Country article about Otow Orchard's hoshigaki

Penryn Orchard Specialties "how to" with photos

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis the Season

Or at least Mother Nature seems to think so...

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration
is being wreathed in smiles.
~ Author Unknown

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ria Harboe Art in Washington

Because I like to buy art and other handmade things for gifts and love reconnecting with long-lost friends, I am posting this information about a showing by artist Ria Harboe in Bellingham, Washington.

Just in case anyone peering in here lives in that area or will be visiting. (And doesn't the restaurant itself sound wonderful?) You can also check out her beautiful paintings and sculpture at her Web site.

I haven't seen Ria in over 20 years, but recently found her online. She worked with me at my family's lodge in the Sierras in the early 1980s and we had some great times together. She is a lovely lady, sweet and quick to laugh, and it's fun to see where her love of art has taken her.

"Life gives us brief moments with another...but sometimes in those brief moments we get memories that last a life time."
~ Unknown