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12/18/12 - Christmas at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

One of our favorite places in Seattle is the Conservatory at Volunteer Park. It takes a bit of climbing up Capital HIll to get there, but the display there is always amazing. It's even more amazing around Christmas.

A winter scene in Seattle with the Space Needle in the distance

There are always orchids at the conservatory

But, around Christmas, they do the place up proud.

Christmas trees, poinsettas, and a model train set

More Christmas flora, decora, and wonderful, steamy greenhouse warmth

We dropped by to visit the cactus.

A nautical scene

Another view - so cozy

A plethora of Christmas trees - our kind of place

Winter foliage

There is always something even more amazing at the conservatory, like these flowers growing from the edges of this air plants leaves.

Keywords: christmas, flowers, seattle, winter


12/17/12 - The Gingerbread Display at the Seattle Sheraton

Whenever we get into Seattle around Christmas, we check out the gingerbread display in the lobby of the Sheraton. They always have some amazing constructions, and they always get us into the Christmas spirit.

This is actually the Macy's display which was on our way to the Sheraton.

That's Ariel on the left, Disney's Little Mermaid.

This one, with amazing spun sugar domes, is based on Aladdin.

Beauty and Beast, meeting on the bridge

This castle features tales from the Brothers Grimm.

This confection is based on Lewis Caroll's confection, Alice in Wonderland.

That's the Jabberwock up there.

That's Ursula, Ariel's nemesis, in her cave.

That's Aladdin with the genie.

Keywords: christmas, seattle


12/13/12 - More Christmas Pictures

There is no such thing as too many Christmas pictures Chez Kaleberg.

Our mantle - Yes, this is technically not a Christmas picture, but there is no need to get technical.

The big tree - There wasn't room for the spire on top!

Two kissing lizards

Keywords: christmas, kale


12/12/12 - Cookie Tree Preview

Here are is a first look at this year's cookie tree. Our thanks to all our friends for helping decorate it.

The cookie tree

Keywords: christmas


12/11/12 - Cookie Party

We held our cookie tree decorating party last weekend, and not only did we have more people hard at work decorating cookies than ever before, but we also had more people eating heartily than ever before. Luckily we had lots of saucisson en croute, grilled chicken kabobs on skewers, two bries en croute (with cranberry chutney) and a grilled skirt steak salad with red peppers, purple onion, and celery. There were also lots of gingerbread cookies, many of which were decorated and wound up on our cookie tree.

Art supplies

Fruitcake and champagne glasses

Brie en croute

Chicken kabobs, saucisson en croute, skirt steak salad

Christmas tree in progress

Keywords: christmas


12/03/12 - This Year's Christmas Tree

Every year our search for a Christmas tree presents a challenge. To start, we want a big tree, at least a nine footer. This means trudging through the Christmas tree lots and nurseries, inspecting tree after tree. But then it happens. We find our tree. This year was no exception. We found our tree.

In the tree yard it didn't look like much, but we knew it had promise. It was big, nine and a half feet big, and it took two burly guys to get it to our living room and set it up in its industrial steel stand. It drank nearly a gallon of water in its first 12 hours indoors. That was just the beginning. Then came the lights, an inner ring of LED lights for depth and an outer ring of incandescent lights for the true glow of Christmas.


Love at first sight

Standing

Illuminated

Keywords: christmas


10/25/12 - Lake Angeles Trail Snow

We scoffed at the recently appointed Christmas aisle at our local Rite Aid. They had barely set up for Halloween when the fake little trees, bright red stockings and glistening ornaments started to appear. Then we hiked a bit of the Lake Angeles Trail, and even before the foot bridge we started to feel some Christmas cheer. We really should have waited. We haven't even done Halloween yet, but it was hard to avoid unseasonal thoughts while admiring the light sprinkling of wet snow.

The bridge - We wimped out here. Next time, Yak Trax.

Snow and more snow - Yes, we're exaggerating.

A Christmas mushroom?

More mushrooms in the snow

The boardwalk - This area Christmasses up quickly.

Keywords: christmas, halloween, lake angeles


12/31/11 - 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


12/24/11 - 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


12/11/11 - 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


12/10/11 - 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

Cassoulet!

Keywords: christmas, food


12/07/11 - 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


12/06/11 - 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


12/04/11 - 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


11/07/11 - Frost On Hurricane Hill

This was a hard post to compose. There were so many amazing photographs of the gray skies, majestic mountains and frost covered trees and grasses that we just gave up and chose eleven pictures when we could have chosen dozens. Judging from the webcams and weather reports, the ice seems to have melted on Hurricane Hill, so we are glad we managed to capture our amazing walk in the sky.

The summit

A view down

Frost on the grass

Mountain sky and frosty trees

A field of ice

More mountain sky

Windblown

Grasses and sky

Another view down

Did we mention the sky?

It's almost Christmas.

Keywords: christmas, hurricane hill, weather, winter


10/07/11 - Signs of Christmas

While we were hiking on Hurricane Hill, we couldn't help but notice signs of the season. Yes, there was some autumn color, but when we Kalebergs say "season", we mean "Christmas season". So while the stores are still pushing Halloween candy, stage makeup and costumes, we Kalebergs are already leaping ahead to the real thing. We usually don't jump the gun like this, but there were the signs: the first snow and the brilliant red and green of the season.

Snow by the trail

Snow on the trees

Look, Christmas trees

and more Christmas trees

We've really got to start decorating.

There's the red and green.

Deck the trails.

OK, so this is a bit autumnal.

That might make a nice tree blanket.

Keywords: autumn, christmas, hurricane hill, trails, kale


12/27/10 - Because You Can't Have Enough Closeups of Our Cookie Tree

Here are some more of the great cookies, and a little chair made from a champagne cage, that the elves our friends made for our cookie tree.





Keywords: christmas


12/21/10 - Christmas Party

We held our big people's Christmas party, and the place was magical. Of course, it didn't look so magical with the flash, so we took shakey time exposure shots without a tripod. Magical means blurry in this context. Still, the party was kind of magical.

Our Godzilla Christmas angel was aglow with atomic fire. Our cookie tree aglow with candles, and our guests aglow with choucroute garnie, bourbon sodden fruitcake, brie en croute with cranberry chutney and, of course, our thermonuclear egg nog. It's the same recipe we use for Godzilla's atomic fire.

Yet another magical, i.e. blurry, Kaleberg Christmas.


A blurry shot of the cookie tree

A blurry shot of our party spread

Our Christmas tree lies in wait.

Keywords: christmas, recipe, kale


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