A Blessing of Unicorns

Some people collect stamps. Coins. Elephants. Beanie Babies.

I collect the names of groups of creatures. Odd, yes. Useful, no. Entertaining, often.

There are the typical, well-known ones: a Pod of Whales, a Gaggle of Geese, a Pride of Lions.

Some are especially fitting: a Crash of Rhinos, a Prickle of Porcupines, and a Smack of Jellyfish.

Beware the Murder of Crows, Mobs of Kangaroos, and the Shrewdness of Apes. And don’t rain on the Elephants’ Parade.

Feel free to join the Convocation of Eagles, the Congress of Ravens, or the Parliament of Owls. Appropriately, Larks form Exultations, Hummingbirds Charm, and Jays Scold.

There are Musters of Peafowl, Coteries of Prairie Dogs, and Romps of Otters. Sharks swim in Shivers, and Gnats form Clouds;  Clowders of Cats, Sleuths of Bears, Cetes of Badgers.  Ferrets have Businesses but Martens get Richness.

My all time favorite is a Blessing of Unicorns. The verdict is out on Dragons, but I’m partial to “Doom.”

Any you care to add?

C.S. Doemner


Life Imitates Art

Remember when restaurants used to boast that their food was “Just like Home-made”?   It seems a tide has turned, and now home cooks are boasting that their food is “Just as good as the Restaurants.”

You can find recipes for Panda Express’ Orange Chicken and Mrs. Field’s Cookies.

I noticed myself falling into this trend when our friends brought over pretty, swirled, butter cookies with sprinkles. I had only seen them sold at Vons and similar stores, and so, exclaimed, “These taste store-bought! …and I mean that in the nicest way!”

A few days ago, we bought hoagie rolls and my husband made sandwiches with two kinds of deli meat, two kinds of cheese, and enough veggies to satisfy a whole colony of rabbits. My son gave  his approbation by saying, “This tastes like Subway!”

I suppose it’s a product of a culture that turned fast food from a luxury into a necessity. And, with increased competition in the prepared food industry, there really are some yummy things available out there that require a large number of fresh ingredients to duplicate. Not to mention, fewer people have the time or desire to cultivate the skill necessary to create gourmet foods at home.

Tonight I’m making enchilada casserole. I’m cheating by opening a can of enchilada sauce.

C.S. Doemner

Pick Your Own

As a kid, I went strawberry-picking for a field trip. I remember standing in the hot fields, looking over at neighboring farms, seeing the manual laborers, and thinking: “They’re getting paid. We’re paying to do this. How does this make sense?”

And yet, now, I have a nostalgic desire to crouch amid crops with a hot sun on my shoulders and pick my own food. More importantly, I want to take my son to do it, too, so he can think to himself, “This is insane. We could buy these same berries in an air conditioned grocery store for half the money and none of the labor.” And maybe one day he’ll have a similar desire to take his kids out.

Turns out there’s a website with a list of farms in Southern California in case you too want to pay someone to work in their fields:





Meal Plan

In case you need some ideas…    Sample Meal Plan

Found this recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs: 101 Cookbooks. If it’s anywhere near as hot where you are as it is here, anything edible that does not require an oven is on the menu.

No Bake Chocolate Cake

butter, to grease pan
8 ounces / 225 g 70% chocolate, well chopped
8 ounces / 225 g heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)
2 teaspoons finely ground espresso (optional)
1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
cocoa powder, to serve

Lightly butter a 6-inch / 15cm springform pan or equivalent – I typically use little loaf pans which are less common, but many small pans will work here (see main entry). Line with parchment paper and set aside.

Barely melt the chocolate in a double boiler over gentle heat.

In a separate medium pan heat the cream over gentle heat. Stir in the allspice and the espresso, if using. When the cream is very warm / hot to the touch, remove from heat and stir in the salt.

Pour the chocolate into the cream, and very slowly and steadily stir until everything comes together smoothly. Make sure the components aren’t at all separate. Pour into the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled throughout, a few hours, or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from the pan, let set at room temperature for ten minutes or so, dust with a bit of cocoa powder, and slice. Alternately, you can slice and serve from the pan.

Serves 12.

Prep time: 10 min

[Edited by me for the sake of drawing attention to the coolest parts]

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

A few weeks ago, my mom bought me the BEST summer-pregnancy gift EVER — an ice shaver/snow cone maker.  At first we stuck with the store bought flavorings that came with it (tangerine, blue berry) but we’ve always liked the vanilla raspados that our local Hispanic shop sells, and so we decided to make our own. The recipes we found online called for a vanilla-flavored simple syrup, but our local shop offers a creamy version and so we decided to try something different. What we created is remarkably simple and delicious!

1 can sweetened condensed milk (diluted with water by about 50%)

Tbsp (give or take) of imitation vanilla or vanilla extract

Combine and pour over shaved ice. A little goes a long way! Try a couple spoonfuls per glass of ice.