The week the boys’ school held their annual Bunny Hunt (note: no actual bunnies are harmed!) and we got some cute pictures from one of the other parents:
Davy needs a haircut, I think!
I updated my last post—Sol has had a very welcome uptick in weight in the past few days. We have another weigh-in next week and are hoping to see more of a normal growth curve. He’s spending more time awake and alert—even beginning to smile—but I snapped this pic while he was napping. (He’s got a bit of a skin rash, but that’s very normal for new babies.)
So I’ve lived in Oakland for three years now and somehow just this week managed to visit Children’s Fairyland? Built in 1950, Children’s Fairyland was the first “themed” amusement park in the U.S., the first designed specifically for children, and one of the direct inspirations for Disneyland. According to Wikipedia, it also features “the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States.”
It’s a delightful little park. Its vintage character has been faithfully preserved, and its small scale combined with a slightly shabby veneer and the vague weirdness of last-century design makes the whole place immensely charming. Mostly it consists of stationary playsets built to various fairy-tale themes: favorites on our trip included Alice’s rabbit hole, Captain Hook’s pirate ship, and the “fairy music farm.”
The music farm I thought was particularly wonderful. It’s this echoey tunnel built around a pretty courtyard and fitted with various kinds of instruments—percussion, string, wind—that the kids can play with. All the noise echoes together and creates a really interesting soundscape. I thought it was great design.
Another big hit was the “Jolly Trolly”:
We bought a year-long family pass so we’ll definitely be back. This place is a treasure!
This year we used vegetable dyes to make our Easter Eggs. Some of the recipes worked better than others: the red cabbage, turmeric, and yellow onions made beautifully colored eggs. The red onions and beets, on the other hand, resulted in muddy brown eggs. Most importantly, though, mixing up the vegetable dyes was fun. The boys both really got into the whole process of chopping, boiling, stirring, and straining to cook up the dyes. We’ll probably do it again next year.
This morning we had our hunt, which was successful: a full dozen eggs were stalked and laid low by our intrepid hunters.
And several of the eggs were promptly skinned, gutted, and made into sandwiches. We believe in eating what we hunt!
Nanita and Marqueño are on hand again for a few days, to visit with the baby, so they’ll join us tonight for our Easter dinner. I always make “agnello all’araba” (Arabian lamb) from The Silver Spoon Cookbook. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but very delicious. This is a version I’ve adapted slightly to reflect the “salt as you go” philosophy that I’ve picked up from reading Judy Rodgers. (I also switched from kosher salt to sea salt at her recommendation, and I think it makes everything taste better.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season two and a half pounds of boneless lamb cubes liberally with salt, and slice up three onions thinly.
In a small pot, heat up one cup of stock—any kind, or even just water in a pinch. When it’s hot, take a hefty pinch of saffron threads (if your saffron comes in half-gram envelopes, use the whole envelope) and crush them up using a mortar and pestle, or just your fingers. Stir the bruised saffron into the hot water or stock along with two tablespoons of honey and a pinch each of ground cumin, ground ginger, and salt. Keep it warm over low heat.
Meanwhile, put a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add four tablespoons of olive oil and, when, hot, the onions. Sprinkle them with salt and saute until soft, then move the onions to a roasting pan. Return the now-empty skillet to high heat and brown the lamb cubes, in batches if necessary to ensure that they get a nice crust. Add the browned lamb to the roasting pan. Pour your seasoned water or stock over the meat, cover with aluminum foil, and roast in the oven for an hour.
While the lamb roasts, blanch 3/4 cup pitted, brine-cured green olives in boiling water for five minutes, then drain. Toast 3/4 cup slivered almonds in a small pot or skillet over high heat, removing them from the stovetop as soon as they’re fragrant and beginning to brown.
When the meat has cooked for 50 minutes, take the roasting pan out of the oven, add in the olives and almonds, give everything a good stir, and put it back in the oven for the final ten minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle the meat with fresh chopped cilantro and a generous amount of fresh-ground pepper. (Also, taste a little bit to see if it needs more salt, but it probably won’t.) The Silver Spoon Cookbook notes: “As a side dish, we suggest fresh fava beans boiled in water for 15 minutes, then tossed with butter.”
We’re just back from a visit with Pappy and Nonna in Carson City—Robin and Thora had so much fun in the snow. (Davy, not so much. He took one step and immediately fell down on a slippery patch, and after that insisted on being carried over the treacherous white stuff. California boy!)
And I saw a tree full of quail, which was thrilling. Quail, with their funny bobbing head-tufts and their plump little bodies, are the most adorable birds ever—especially if you spot a momma with her little ones all trailing after. Sam, native son of the West, is thoroughly blasé about them and can’t understand why I get so excited every time. “They’re just like pigeons,” he says. “All over the place.” (They are not just like pigeons, they are wonderful and I will never get over them.)
I hope all of you have a new year filled with warmth, love, and joy!
The boys are off to a Christmas party at school—last day of school before the two-week winter break! I am mailing out fruitcakes and other packages today; they might be a little late for Christmas (and are hopelessly late for Hanukkah!) I’m sorry for our disorganization this year. Our far-flung family and friends are all in our thoughts this Solstice day.