Hilltop Diary, May 17, 2023

I hope (below) you enjoy hearing “Raffaella’s Dream Dance with the Prince,” a new piece for my ballet.


But first, we saw a new fox at Hilltop! It’s beautiful, a rather large red fox with a bushy tail, much like the one in this photo but bigger. It’s been several years since we used to have a pair of small, very red foxes that sometimes traveled together across our property. Not yet sure if this one has any companions or just got lost. Lots of chipmunks have put in an appearance at the Hilltop, too. That’s a nice meal for a fox.

On May 5-8, we found our way down to the bayou north of Lafayette, Louisiana to present at a three-day conference on “Altar, Culture, and Trade.” I gave one of the talks on culture (music, of course), and then Crystal sang some classic Broadway songs with recorded backups. We were on the schedule late in the afternoon after a lot of other talks, so I purposely made mine lighter and at times funny and (fortunately) got them laughing with crazy stories from my life in music. Then Crystal wowed them with truly beautiful singing and acting each song in character. I sold lots of books and CD’s at my book table. Attendees were there from as far away as New Jersey and Idaho.

In the “Trade” part, we learned more about the advantages of buying local, including buying local grass-fed meats and home-grown heirloom vegetables, which we have always wanted to do and will be exploring. Speaking of food, our meals there were really special, because some local Cajun cooks made us the most homemade versions of that cuisine I had ever tasted. Upon our return, things were in order: both cats were fine (I always worry) and gave us lots of love. Oliver the cat keeps improving to a full, healthy weight, and some of my young tomatoes, though still green, are getting bigger. Roses are in bloom.

I’m looking forward to just settling down and composing till my next speaking engagement, September 22-24 in Washington D.C.  Since last writing here, I have made a start on here is a new adagio for the ballet. Here is an excerpt of it (first 4:18 minutes), UPDATE: Below is the entire, finished movement, called “Raffaella’s Dream Dance with the Prince,” because it is in a floating, dreamy style, during a scene in which Raffaella dances in a dream state with the Prince. He is not really there, or is he? The audience can see him dancing with her but knows he is only in her imagination. It grows into a big, romantic ballroom scene.


I finally got to make those lamb shanks last weekend that I wrote about here on March 8, and our very appreciative guests brought a delicious homemade blueberry ice cream and a special brownie recipe. Here are photos of how the lamb shank recipe went along. Some orange zest and juice in the braising pot were very effective in removing any “gamy” taste from the lamb. You could do this recipe with veal shanks, called osso buco.

Lamb Shank Panel 1


Lamb Shank Panel 2

Making polenta from scratch for my first time required a practice run a few days earlier, which came out too salty, too garlicy, and too runny, but my second attempt, for company, came out perfect. I watched several YouTube instructional videos on it, as I do on many of my new attempts now. Usually I get a few unique tips from each video and combine all the best ones into my own version. Polenta is something I want to make again! It’s fluffy, creamy, pillowy, pretty easy to make, and a nice alternative to mashed potatoes.

Last weekend, while I was dealing with the above culinary delights, Crystal went forth northeast of town to Tennessee strawberry country and picked a handsome basket of strawberries from the fields, as she does most years. I had, the day before, purchased for her a bunch of lovely fresh rhubarb, now in season, so that she could do her magic and create her famous strawberry and rhubarb pies – none of her famed jam this year, though, because we still have enough of those jars left from last year. I refuse to eat any other kind. Give me some great bread, butter, a jar of that jam, and a jar of Marmite, and I’m happy.

Strawberry Panel

I recently learned that “fortnight” comes from a contraction of “fourteen nights,” or two weeks. Have a great fortnight till next time!

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