November 2011December 2011 January 2012

12/31 - Cookie Tree - Much Belated

We had a really hectic December, what with Christmas, a trip to San Francisco, Christmas and even more Christmas. We couldn't have done it without a little help from our friends, particularly in the decorating of our cookie tree. This year as always, we bake the gingerbread cookies, set up the tree and break open a few bottles of champagne, and our friends, like Santa's elves, magically decorate our cookie tree.

We know this is awfully late, but here are a few pictures of some of the great cookies. Yes, we did manage to hang those hard to dry cookies. That glitter icing gel looks great, but stays runny for hours, not that we let that stop us.

The cookie factory

Some cookies, in situ

Some cookies, in situ

Some cookies, in situ

Some cookies, in situ

Cookies and candles

The tree in action

Keywords: christmas

12/24 - San Francisco, Monterey and Big Sur

We've just returned from an adventure in San Francisco, Monterey and Big Sur. We got to see the city at its Christmas best and explore the natural wonders of the Pacific coast where the mountains go down to the sea. We also spent some time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is almost our home away from home, except that the feeding time food is for the birds.

For more on our trip:

San Francisco

Monterey and Big Sur

The Filbert Street steps

A San Francisco view

The Golden Gate Bridge

One of the new trails along the Pacific

Union Square at Christmas

Andrew Molera State Park

Another view from Andrew Molera

A ctenaphore at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

A sea dragon - we can watch these all day

Garrapatta State Park - Look for the Invasive Plants sign

Point Lobos State Reserve

Keywords: christmas, san francisco, trails

12/12 - It's Kind of Magical

It's kind of magical up along the Lake Angeles Trail lately. The snow's not very deep, but it really adds something seasonal to the scenery.

Keywords: lake angeles

12/11 - Christmas 2011 - Some Production Stills

The big Hollywood studios do this all the time. They always have a few photographers wandering the set to provide pictures for publicity purposes or for the DVD or BluRay extras. So, here are a few Kaleberg Studios production stills showing you what happens behind the scenes in the making of Christmas 2011.

Early on, the gaffers have set up the basic table wiring. This structures the entire spread.

We lay out of few set pieces - half and half cookies and the fruitcake - while horticultural takes a whack at those shrubs out front for wire hiding foliage.

As production moves along, we block out the table into the major Christmas food groups: desserts, savories and egg nog

Here's a shot of a lighting test with Godzilla in full welcoming glow

Another lighting test of the big tree and mantle drape

This looks simple, but it's actually a working model of a Jovian moon with an icy core, an outer snowy layer, space defense towers and a number of indigenous life forms.

Here's a final cosmetic check on the cassoulet.

Keywords: christmas, kale

12/10 - Cassoulet in Progress

Cassoulet is not one of those dishes you can just throw together from stuff you have lying around the house. It takes a bit of planning and preparation. We made our duck confit last month, and it's been ripening in its jar. We ordered our pig skin and sausages from The Swinery a while back and had everything shipped for our party week.

Then, our cassoulet took over our kitchen. We brought out our stained, wrinkled cookbook and double checked the post it note warning us "Do not TRIPLE this recipe." Some years back we had tripled the recipe and had so much cassoulet we couldn't store it in the refrigerator and had to put an overflow pot of it out in the car. Luckily it was a cold New England night.

As you can see in the photos, making a cassoulet is quite a process, but then again, cassoulet is quite a dish.

The pig skin underbelly

The ragout in progress

Every pot in the house

Andouille in the mesoderm


Keywords: christmas, food

12/07 - Half and Half Cookies

Half and half cookies are probably a New York City thing. They definitely don't show up at bakeries on the west coast. They bring back a lot of childhood memories of dealing with deep philosophical problems, like whether to eat the dark side or the light side first, or whether it make more sense to alternate. Now, they're a Christmas thing.

We offer our recipe, based on the Gourmet, December 2005 one. We've made a minor change to the icing. It actually tastes a lot better if you use bar sugar (extra finely ground sugar) rather than confectioner's powdered sugar. The later contains a fair bit of corn starch, and it throws the flavor off. We've also been putting a fair bit of orange peel in with the white icing which gives it a rich orange flavor which really constrasts with the chocolate. (We're not purists.)

Half and half cookies

Keywords: christmas, recipe

12/06 - A Sure Sign of Christmas

There's one sure sign of Christmas in Port Angeles, the annual Christmas firetruck. We wait for it every year.

Here comes Christmas.

It's brilliant and sparkly and glowing (and a bit blurry).

There goes a great metaphor.

Keywords: christmas, port angeles

12/04 - Christmas - Work in Progress

Christmas is underway Chez Kaleberg. Since we like to get the biggest tree we can, we hit the tree stands early. This means that the Christmas transformation is already underway. Here are some construction shots to give you an idea of this year's undertaking.

We've already made the cookies. We'll be decorating the gingerbread cookies for the small tree later today, but we already have a big pile of almond spritz cookies, and we've started putting them on the tree. These are strictly decorative. You can eat them, and they aren't awful, but they are a bit bland and not to everyone's taste. (How's that for being diplomatic?)

We also have the starwich cookies. We used to put these on the cookie tree, but then we'd snatch them off and eat them. They are now strictly for eating. They're basically almond shortbread cookies with raspberry jam and, if anything, they taste better than they look.

We'll post more pictures as the house gets decorated.

The big tree and boxes of ornaments

Starwich cookies - not long for this world

Almond spritz cookies - purely decorative

Some tree top detail with Pierrot presiding

The cookie tree in the early stages

Keywords: christmas, kale

November 2011December 2011 January 2012