Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Little Rabbit Out on a Limb

Charles Wallace was standing outside again. It was very early on a mid-December morning, the sun was not yet up over the hills, and despite the fact that Charles was wearing a flannel shirt, his Osh Kosh overalls and was covered in fur, there was no getting around the fact that it was a cold and he did not want to be outside.

Thelma had kicked him out. Not for the first time, or even the forth or fifth time, but for the… actually, Thelma had kicked Charles Wallace out of the kitchen so many times since Thanksgiving that Charles Wallace had lost count.

Charles Wallace knocked on the back door. But of course there was no answer. “Pleeeease…” he tried, his teeth chattering. But from inside the kitchen there was no sound but the banging of pots and pans. This, sad to say, had become something of a routine.

To say that Charles Wallace’s tenure as substitute kitchen helper had gotten off to a rocky start would be an understatement. This sweeping the floor – in exchange for Hula Bunny’s muse services -- was turning out to be trickier than it had at first sounded.

For one thing Hula did quite a bit more then sweep the floors each morning before Thelma came down. The oven had to be turned on and set. Then the muffin tins needed to be greased and lined. After that he had to scoop the muffin batter into the tins and then he had to bake them for twenty-five minutes.

In the middle of baking the muffins he had to brew the morning’s round of coffee – pouring each type into large insulated coffee urns. Next, cups had to be taken down to the shuttered café, as well as forks, knives spoons and napkins. Then everything had to be stocked in its appropriate place. It was a lot for Charles Wallace to remember.

None of this was a problem. The problem was that he was a morning person and Chef Thelma most decidedly was not.

Thelma Rabbit stumbled down to the kitchen every morning just around 6AM, grumbly and groggy. Thelma needed to ease into the day. Her paws could do the tasks at hand automatically but her brain needed time to wake up. Charles Wallace, on the other paw, woke up with a dozen thoughts humming through his mind. By the time she walked in Charles Wallace was eager for conversation. And that’s what always got him into trouble.

Making things worse was the fact that, although Charles Wallace was a small rabbit, he wasn’t much for small talk. He liked facts and information. And when he found things out, he liked to share what he knew.

So on his first morning in the kitchen, as Chef Thelma walked in, Charles Wallace called out brightly, “Good morning Chef, did you sleep well?”

“Mmm…” said Thelma as she reached for a mug to make her morning cup of tea.

“By the way, I’ve been reading all about baking soda.”

“Uhuh,” was the only response he got.

“Very interesting stuff. Also known as bicarbonate of soda. Actually the first thing that was used as a baking soda was something called, ‘Pearl Ash’ or ‘potassium carbonate’ and that was extracted from wood ash. Apparently though that stuff could react with the fats in foods forming a kind of soap or soapy taste and of course that didn’t taste very good. So then someone came up with sodium bicarbonate. Of course everyone knows that it too can taste soapy unless it’s counteracted by an acid.”

Thelma half listened to Charles Wallace droning on as she started mixing up her first recipe for the day, Chocolate Whopper cookies. A perennial favorite at the No Foam Café, they were especially in demand during the holiday months. Now, the recipe for Chocolate Whoppers calls for baking powder and not baking soda. But with all the chattering going on from Charles Wallace about baking soda Chef Thelma reached for her box of baking soda rather than her tin of baking powder and it wasn’t until the first tray of cookies were out of the oven that Thelma realized her mistake. When she saw what she had done wrong she was so frustrated that she threw down her baking mitt and started hopping up and down. It was shortly after that that Charles Wallace found himself standing outside for the first time.

“Hey!” he had shouted indignantly. He’d banged on the door, begged to be let inside, promised to be quiet, pressed his face to the kitchen window with his most sincere smile, and finally, when none of that worked, ran around to the front door of Rabbit Run, where a sympathetic Beatrix got out of bed, came down the stairs, and let him back inside.

After that things only went downhill. Although Charles Wallace knew it was a bad idea, sooner or later each morning he would bring up whatever deeply interesting thing was on his mind – say, the marvelous properties of crystallizing sugar – and distract her at a key moment, something would go awry and he would get kicked out.

Then, shivering outside the kitchen, he would count to ten and bang on the door. Sometimes, not always, after a moment or so Thelma would open the door and glower at him. And then he, Charles Wallace would say, “Sorry, sorry, sorry! I promise to be quiet.” And Thelma would let him back in as things had to be done and she couldn’t do it alone and the other rabbits had other responsibilities.

But sometimes she would leave him outside to fend for himself. And after this had gone on for a while, when he’d ran around to the front door and knocked, Beatrix, who had let him in before, just opened her window and peered out in a sleepy haze. When Charles Wallace had pleaded with her to let him in, she’d said, “Charles, if my sister put you outside she must have a good reason!” and then shut her window and pulled the curtains closed.

That had been a week ago and now here he was again, locked out before he was done with the sweeping.

And this morning the kitchen door stayed firmly shut.

“Alright then” he said with a determined note to his voice. Off he raced to the front of Rabbit Run, but this time he didn’t even bother knocking on the door. Under the large oak Charles positioned himself below a low branch and began to hop. All rabbits are good hoppers and despite his husky frame, Charles Wallace could be rather agile. One hop, two hops, and he reached his branch. Quickly he swung his legs to the trunk and “walked” himself up into the tree.

Harry’s room was also at the front of the house on the second floor. Conveniently, a large branch rested right in front of the window. All Charles needed to do was climb the tree, hooch out onto the correct branch and then jump from the branch through the window – which, fortunately, Harry left open at night, even in winter, as he found the night air “invigorating.”

Thump! Charles landed on the floor next to the bed. Harry rolled over. “Good morning, Charles Wallace,” he said in a sleepy voice. “Did Thelma kick you out again?”

“As per her usual” said an unabashed Charles Wallace. And then he exited the bedroom on tiptoe. Quietly he crept down the stairs and into the parlor.

Hula was sitting at the table, cup in hand, dunking one of yesterday’s Rabbit Paws in her hot tea. Beside her were stacks of coffee cups and napkins, forks, knives and spoons. “Kicked you out again, did she?”


“Well, here are your supplies for the café.”

“Gee thanks Hula!” he gathered up his supplies for the No Foam and headed cheerfully towards the door. As he reached it he turned around and said, “See you this afternoon then?

“Absolutely” said Hula, “I’ve been thinking about your case, and I think perhaps today a round of kite flying might be creatively stimulating.”

“Excellent!” said Charles Wallace. And he skipped out the front door and down to the café thinking, “maybe later I should put a small step ladder in the bushes so next time I don’t have to worry about getting up into the tree.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Story of Charles Wallace continues…

Well dear Reader, it’s been a few weeks since I last corresponded with the news of the arrival of Charles Wallace. First though, let me say that I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas. Which brings me to the reason for Charles Wallace’s arrival – the holidays.

While I’m happy to report that I’ve had a lovely season, full of good food and many reasons to be thankful, down at Rabbit Run things have been, shall we say, challenging. Now let me think, where was I?

As you may remember Charles Wallace arrived right in the middle of all the Thanksgiving cooking hullabaloo. And let me tell you, it was quite a sight. All the rabbits were bustling about except of course at that moment, Hula who was now asking Charles Wallace whether he preferred Oolong or Darjeeling, or perhaps he might care for Jasmine?

“Darjeeling please” said Charles Wallace.

Hula brewed up the water and got out two mugs. A yellow one and an aqua one.

“Oh,” said Charles Wallace with a small note of concern in his voice.

“Is something wrong?” asked Hula.

“Ah well,” said Charles Wallace looking sheepishly down at his feet. “That’s an awfully big mug and I am a rather small rabbit who only has so much room … do you have something smaller?”

Well dear friends, at this moment, if you were watching closely, you might have noticed a few whiskers stiffen in the room. Thelma cocked an eyebrow, and Harry pulled on his ear in what you might say was a pensive fashion. Because although Charles Wallace has many fine qualities – as all the rabbits are quick to admit – there are one or two, or possibly three, but certainly not four, things about him that can be, well… somewhat trying.

The first is that, although Charles Wallace is indeed a small fellow who, in his own words, “only has so much room,” the size of that room is open to debate amongst the other rabbits. The truth of the matter is that for such a small rabbit he can consume an astonishing amount of food. As Thelma has often pointed out “that little rabbit can tuck in.”

As a matter of fact on his last visit in the spring when Charles came out to help with the garden tilling, Chef Thelma had to double the recipe for Rabbit Paws in the morning, otherwise there wouldn’t have been enough for both the house and the café as Charles Wallace was having one while he was waiting for his tea, another with his tea and finally he would pocket two in his Osh Kosh overalls for a midmorning snack.

The second thing about Charles Wallace is, well, just take a listen and you’ll probably notice for yourself.

“…do you have anything smaller?” said Charles Wallace. “Perhaps a cup. Porcelain, if you have it, with a saucer. Darjeeling in a porcelain cup and saucer would be so civilized. By the way, would you happen to have any Darjeeling in loose leaf? Of course everyone knows that loose tea leaves are superior to most bagged tea because the leaf isn’t broken.”

“Of course a cup,” said Hula in a serious tone. This was not the first discussion she’d had with Charles Wallace on the merits of porcelain cups over the everyday ceramic mug but it was an easy one to forget. And no, the rabbits had no loose leaf Darjeeling. But Hula was able to find him a cup and a saucer although she was uncertain if it was porcelain.

“Of course a bigger tea leaf retains its natural oils and therefore its flavors, but,” he said brightly as Hula handed him his cup of tea, “I’m sure this is a superior brand of bagged tea.” Charles took a long sip, “Ah lovely,” he proclaimed and then he sighed, “This would be just heaven on Earth with a biscuit.”

Well the rabbits happened to have a few Rabbit Paws left over from breakfast, as Charles Wallace was secretly hoping and Hula quickly handed one to him and much to his delight, put the remainder on a plate. Charles Wallace took a bite and said, “The infamous Rabbit Paw: my tea is a perfect foil for the dryness of the afternoon biscuit."

“Well they were fresh this morning!” snapped a slightly put-upon Thelma.

“And it is my loss they I didn’t arrive sooner Chef,” said Charles Wallace in all earnestness.

Charles Wallace is a very decent, hardworking and in most ways thoughtful little rabbit but he is alas a real know-it-all, or as Beatrix once said in a moment of frustration: “Charles Wallace is a know-it-all who doesn’t know it all!”

And so it was that all the rabbits in the kitchen that morning were just a little tingly-pawed, hoping for a happy visit but just the tiniest bit concerned that the smooth operation and bonhomie of Rabbit Run might be thrown askew by the well-meaning, but occasionally irritating guest.

Hula wisely ushered Charles Wallace out to the front step of Rabbit Run were they sat down to sip their tea and eat their rabbit paws. There in the gentle sunlight of that cool November afternoon they struck their bargain. Charles Wallace would tend to the kitchen floors and Hula Bunny would mentor him in her capacity as a professional muse.

And this dear reader is where we will leave off our story for today. But trust me when I tell you, it is but the beginning of the saga of Charles Wallace’s visit for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Musings on Musing

Dear Readers,

It has come to my attention that my story of the arrival of Charles Wallace left some of you feeling concerned. Many of you felt that Hula rather pounced on the naïve little rabbit and was about to take advantage of him.

Hula, my friends, was deeply wounded.

First and foremost she would like to point out that she takes her responsibilities as a Muse – the Delicate Torch Bearer of Other Creatures’ Hopes and Aspirations – very seriously. She is above all else a professional. Furthermore she would never offer her services to the untalented or the uninspired. “I’m a professional muse, not a magician. I can’t make talent, just inspire it,” she is often quoted as saying.

That said, all the rabbits must earn their keep. As Beatrix is fond of saying, “Corn doesn’t grow on trees – it grows on stalks that comes from seeds, which must be planted. But before they can be planted, the seeds have to be bought.” (Beatrix is not very good at short, pithy, quotable sayings.) The point however, is that most things in life require either work or money and often times both. Rabbit Rule Number 14 states that all the rabbits are expected to “be self supporting through their own contributions.”

At Rabbit Run, the most successful rabbit is Chef Thelma with her daily patisserie, the No Foam Cafe, and her weekend bistro, the Supper Pup. Recognizing this, the rest of the rabbits must support her in her efforts. And these two ventures keep the whole lot of them very busy. Every day there is food to prep, items to bake, dishes to wash and customers to wait on.

Harry also gardens, keeping some of his produce for the house and café. What’s left over he sells in attractive baskets on the counter of the No Foam. And of course he continues to hold on to his dream of someday making a go of it as a professional mini golfer.

Louise makes art. Some of her pieces have sold at the No Foam but she has also become an invaluable help to her sister Thelma in the kitchen, decorating the cakes and cookies and insuring that both the café and the bistro have a certain air of bucolic bunny chic.

After Thelma, Fiver probably makes the most consistent money as a violinist playing in jazz ensembles. Though in a pinch he’s not above playing weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Bunny Hops.

Although Bunnie would rather spend all her time designing a wardrobe that would reflect her sense of fashion sophistication, she also readily contributes to the household economy by repairing the small appliances around the house and in the kitchen.

Beatrix of course keeps the books for both the household and for Chef Thelma.

Of course Hula helps out with all this. She’s come up with some of Chef Thelma’s most successful products. Rabbit Paws: Hula’s idea. Chocolate fruitcake, hers too. Hula was the one who suggested that Louise should create “A Look” in the café, something with little ruffley baskets that Bunnie could put together, to hold the produce that Harry sells in the café.

But oftentimes Hula’s contributions are much harder to put a finger on. So for example the other day Bunnie heard Fiver playing a wondrous new tune on his violin, as sprightly as Vivaldi, but with an jazzy bistro rhythm that feels like Stephane Grappelli.

“That’s beautiful,” said Bunnie, when he was finished. “Did you write that?”

“Yes,” said Fiver. “I was sitting on the porch in the yard, and Hula pointed out the way all the leaves on the tree were shimmering in the wind. I’d never noticed them until she pointed it out, and when I was watching, this melody popped into my head.”

Everyone in Rabbit Run has a similar story of how some offhand remark or observation of Hula’s has inspired them to be their Bunny Best. And so they hold Hula in the very highest respect. But on the other hand, Hula’s particular talent doesn’t pull in a lot of cash. As Beatrix says, “Musing is hard to monetize.” Or, to quote S.J. Perleman, “The Muse is a Tough Buck.”

And so, since being a professional muse doesn’t bring in any specific income, Hula tries to make herself useful in more tangible ways. Thus it is that every morning she is one of the first rabbits up, turning on the oven, checking the rabbit paw orders and prepping the muffin tins and baking sheets.

The life of a muse is a life of undefined direction, a life of Disciplined Whimsy if you will. It’s extremely difficult, however, to discipline your whimsy if you have to throw all your efforts into getting up before the crack of dawn. So it was that Hula struck up this deal with Charles Wallace. She would show Charles what to do in the
kitchen first thing during his stay and in return she, Hula, would inspire him in his creative thinking.

Charles Wallace thought this was an excellent arrangement as he was always ready for the next adventure and he also had always secretly suspected that he was a clever little rabbit and that his mother, Madeleine, whom he lived with, didn’t always appreciate his (as Hula put it) “native talents.”

Next time, we shall resume our story of Charles Wallace’s visit, and the resulting brouhaha.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Arrival of Charles Wallace

It’s always difficult to try and explain the beginning of things. When I talk to people about my friends, the rabbits, it always seems as if I start in the middle and then work my way out to both ends. So I guess it is with this entry, for Charles Wallace has come for a visit and I don’t expect that you know the first thing about him.

Where do I begin to explain Charles Wallace? Well first off I suppose I should tell you that he’s surprisingly small, no taller than Bunnie, which, upon first meeting him takes one back a bit, because with a name like Charles Wallace, I just expected more rabbit. But he’s small and brown and, as Bunnie was quick to point out with a sniff, “very round.”

Which is a bit of an exaggeration because although he’s a bit rounder in the middle then the other rabbits, “It’s not”, in the words of Hula, “as if you can put him on his side and roll him down the hill.” And as Harry is quick to point out about his cousin (because Charles Wallace is indeed Harry’s cousin), “a skinny rabbit is not an attractive rabbit” Also it’s very hard when you’re a small rabbit; a little extra weight is a lot more noticeable.

He arrived on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving towing a big, red wheeled suitcase that was bigger than him. That such a small rabbit should have such a huge suitcase was so curious. All the rabbits were intrigued: what could he possibly have in it? Turns out not that much: four guayabera shirts, two Hawaiian shirts, a few pair of cotton pants, overalls for when he helps Harry out in the garden, pajamas and his toiletries.

When Hula questioned him about the large suitcase Charles Wallace brightened and said, “Ah well, one never does know does one?”

“Know what, Charles?” said Hula.

“Where one will end up. What one might find. You have to leave room for the adventure, the surprises. Plus in a pinch, I can sleep in it.” And he hopped in the suitcase to demonstrate.

“Charles Wallace,” said Hula quite seriously, “that is very creative thinking. Have you ever given much thought to your professional muse needs?”

“Why no,” said Charles. “What does a muse do for one?”

And with that, Hula ushered him into the kitchen to make tea for two and explain the advantages of having a professional muse advising and encouraging his native talents.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Seasons Out of Turn

It was a couple days after Halloween, and Hula, Beatrix and Bunnie went to the drugstore to buy ingredients for Bunnie’s new “Nighttime Fur Revitalizing Formula.” As they were wandering the aisles, it was impossible for Hula not to notice the Christmas decorations that were already out. Her brow furrowed deeply as she surveyed all the blinking lights, Christmas merchandise and piped-in holiday music.

“Oh dear,” she kept saying in a quiet voice as they perused the aisles. “Oh my!” she exclaimed as she went down one particular row full of holiday decorations, Christmas wrap and what-not.

In consternation, Hula trotted back outside and double-checked the weather. Just as she remembered, it was a clear, crisp November day with bright blue skies. The leaves of a nearby maple were just beginning to turn red.

As she rejoined Bunnie and Beatrix in line at the register, Hula could restrain herself no longer: “Well I think it’s just a travesty.”

“What is?” responded Beatrix.

“All the Christmas decorations,” said Hula. “I don’t approve. It isn’t even Thanksgiving!”

“Well, merchants only have a small window of opportunity to sell their holiday wares, “said Beatrix. “Six-eight weeks at the most. And when you think of how much of the health of a retail business depends on holiday shopping, can you really blame them?”

“Well, I don’t approve,” said Hula. “Where’s the joy of each season? Thanksgiving is fall, Christmas is winter. We’re skipping over one perfectly lovely holiday to get the sales of another. As a Professional Muse, I don’t approve.”

Beatrix shifted uncomfortably and nervously tugged at her tutu. “Ah… oh… you don't?’

“Of course not,” declared Hula. “Shilling Christmas in November is just not Muse Worthy!

“Mmmm. Ah. Well,” said Beatrix, self consciously looking down at her toes. “…I see…”

What Beatrix couldn’t bring herself to tell Hula is that the Rabbit Run online store has four new Christmas designs available for your holiday shopping. As always, you can have them printed on shirts, caps, book bags or just about anything else your heart desires (and Stamp La Jolla has tons of rubber stamps with holiday designs for all your card-making needs).

Just don’t tell Hula till December, please. At the moment she’s writing a formal letter of complaint to the drugstore urging Holiday Restraint and Autumnal Recognition.

COMING NEXT: A Visit from Charles Wallace (in which Harry's small cousin comes to Rabbit Run for Thanksgiving)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Business of Easter

Easter is lovely and all, but it’s not the rabbits very most favorite holiday. Actually each rabbit has their own holiday that they prefer and Hula tends to adopt a different holiday every year so as to be a more Sensitive and Diverse Rabbit. And frankly as she puts it, “Life is short. One should never miss an opportunity to celebrate.” This year, for example, she’s embracing Flag Day.

Easter used to be Bunnie’s favorite because every year she made herself a new outfit and there was always tea and rabbit paws and quiche with asparagus and fresh fruit in the early afternoon. All the rabbits would take turns hiding the Easter eggs and whoever found the most was the winner and would get a plastic egg filled with jelly beans. Even if you never won a round of the Easter Egg hunt, all the other winners would share and it was just the best and loveliest of days no matter what.

Granted the whole Easter Bunny stereotype was a little tiresome, but that was easy to overlook on a beautiful spring morning with a new outfit and rabbit paws fresh from the oven.

But then everything changed. It all started one year when Hula rather innocently remarked that what might be nice, what might be fun, would be having an Easter egg hunt open to the to the public. And that’s really all it took to get Beatrix thinking and the next thing you knew, the rabbits were staging the Best Bunny Hunt & Real Rabbit Round Up. Because, as Beatrix said, “Is it such a terrible thing for us to play into an expectations for a little cold hard cash?”

So these days Bunnie no longer makes a new outfit, but recycles one from a previous year because she only wears it for a few hours as the hostess at the gate of BBH&RRRU. Easter is all business now.

For the last few years they’ve staged an egg hunt in a grassy meadow in the hills of up above Rabbit Run. They hand-decorate dozens and dozens of eggs, then rope off a specially designated egg-hunt area and charge admission. On Easter morning, Hula and Harry go door to door, drumming up customers. They knock, and before the sleepy occupant who has finally comes to the door, can manage out one word, Hula says, “Easter Egg hunt run by real rabbits!” Harry thrusts a flyer into a startled hand and the two of them run off.

An egg hunt operated by actual rabbits is more than most people can resist, and they have turn a tidy profit most years. So even with all the work and getting their paws stained by egg dye and dealing with big kids who try to take more eggs than is polite and the little ones who pull on the rabbits ears to see if they’re real, Easter usually works out pretty well.

Except last year. Last year the rabbits had a real row about the eternal hard-boiled eggs vs. plastic eggs issue. Rabbits were taking sides, and that lead to paw-pointing, and before the whole thing was settled the fur really flew. On top of all that, Easter morning was cold and drizzly. Attendance was way down, they barely made any money at all, especially because they had invested in both real eggs AND plastic eggs. So there was another round of paw-pointing as to whose fault the whole thing was. In the end they spent their profits on a night at the movies, but each rabbit had to pay for their own popcorn. It was a real low point.

So this year they’re trying hard to turn things around. But when you have seven rabbits with strong opinions, that can lead to tensions.

This year the big conflict arose when Beatrix suggested that they introduce chocolate eggs into the festivities. “People expect them,” she said. “We could really up our profit if we added them to the line.”

“I’ve seen our budget for food this year and we can’t afford good chocolate,” said Chef Thelma.

“Isn’t there anything we can afford?” wondered Hula. “I do like chocolate.”

“What, that cheap stuff in the bright foil wrappers that they sell at the drugstore?” asked Chef Thelma. “My reputation as a chef is on the line. I couldn’t possibly be associated with that stuff.”

“But you love some of that stuff!” said an exasperated Beatrix. “What about chocolate covered malt in the shape of bird eggs. And what about the spring colored M&M’s? last year put them on cupcakes at the No Foam Cafe from the beginning of March till the end of May. What about that?”

“Ah well” said Thelma reflecting, “the M&M is a confection all onto itself, and the malt balls are my own private indulgence. But with freshly made chocolate eggs, we’re talking about my public image. As a serious chef I simply can’t indorse an inferior product.”

“But chocolate eggs are a seasonal imperative! How can we compete if we don’t give the people what they want.”

“Forget it,” said Thelma. “I’m not serving derivative chocolate drivel to please the masses”

“You’re impossible,” said Beatrix, her fur bristling.

Hula tried to intervene. “What if we made something else out of chocolate, like cookies or cakes? That way we could use good chocolate, but it would go further.”

Beatrix stomped her foot. “Because it’s Easter! People don’t talk about Easter cookies or Easter cakes, they talk about eggs! Easter eggs!”

“I’m not using cheap chocolate,” Thelma reiterated.

“If we use the fancy stuff we won’t make any money,” said Beatrix.

“How come everything has to be about money anyway?” asked Hula.

Beatrix looked like steam was going to come out of her ears. “Because money is what pays for the food and the house and popcorn at the movies! Where have you been all your rabbit life?!”

Hula pondered that a moment, not the least offended by Beatrix’s outburst. “Flying kites, mostly,” she said, and wandered off.

copyright 2008 Denise Beauchamp

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Big Blog Brouhaha

It was a quiet Saturday night and Beatrix was showing Hula, as best she could, the intricacies of the internet. Now Hula is not an ignorant little rabbit, but the world wide web was a mostly new thing to her. The life of a professional muse leaves little time for such diversions.

So there they were, pawing around the web and it was all interesting enough until Beatrix suggested that they Google "Hula Bunny" -- and that's when things took a turn for the curious, for none of the rabbits had any idea as to how popular they had become as rubber stamps.

Of course they remember posing for the drawings and they recall the eagerness of waiting to be discovered. But the life of a rabbit is very busy, there's fresh cocoa to be brewed in the winter, iced tea to be steeped in the summer, kites to fly, gardens to till, crops to be harvested; in the hubbub of daily living, well, they kind of forgot.

They forgot, that is, until Beatrix showed Hula how to Google herself. What followed was an escalating series of shocks and revelations. The rabbits couldn't believe what they saw and read. There they were in dozens of handcrafted greeting cards in situations that startled and surprised them.

The first site that the search linked to was the Stamp LaJolla image gallery -- where many different stampers have posted artwork featuring Hula and the other rabbits. Looking at all the different interpretations of herself, Hula's ears shot up, and she put her paw to her mouth.

"They made my grass skirt pink! Can they make my skirt pink?" inquired a rather startled Hula.

"Well, it is a free market economy," pointed out Beatrix.

Hula looked from the pink skirt on the screen to the lush green skirt she was wearing, and back to the pink one on the screen again, her brow furrowing in consternation. "Maybe there's something wrong with the computer."

"I don't think so," said Beatrix.

Bunnie wander into the office and saw Hula and Beatrix puzzling over the images. "What's going on?" said Bunnie.

"There's something wrong with Beatrix's computer. Somebody made a card out of me except my skirt looks pink," explained Hula.

"There's nothing wrong with my computer," exclaimed Beatrix rather hotly.

Bunnie peered at the gallery of greeting cards featuring the rabbits on the screen. "For heavens sake, they made me lavender," exclaimed Bunnie.

"It's simply artistical license," Beatrix pointed out.

"But I look as if I've been dipped in Easter egg dye!" stated a clearly perturbed Bunnie.
Hula began thwacking the back of the monitor.

"Hey what are you doing?" said an alarmed Beatrix.

"I'm fixing the color. People do this all the time to their TVs. Sometimes it helps"

"There's nothing wrong with my computer!" said an exasperated Beatrix. "Here let's try another weblog."

She clicked the mouse and the next site was Carol Burrage's Mother's Little Helper, with a lovely card featuring Hula doing the hula hoop.

There", said Beatrix, "That's a nice one of you doing the Hula Hoop." Hula and Bunnie examined the screen closely.

"Oh my, you do look good in that one, don't you?" said Bunnie. "Look at how your skirt is flying out behind you. Are you using two Hula Hoops? You look so professional" Hula beamed.

Bunnie continued, "And she writes such nice things. See right here she says, 'I chose this Hula Bunnie because he reminded me of my friend Kristi's son, Bo."

"WHAT!" exclaimed Hula, her ears pointing straight to the ceiling. "That lady thinks I'm a boy!"

What's all the flap going on in here?" said Louise who now poked her head in the office.

"Ooh, come look, we're on the internet!" And this lady thinks Hula's A BOY!" exclaimed Bunnie.

"Really?" said Louise. "Do they mention me in particular. You know, I've been thinking lately that I should start to post some of my art on the web. That's what so many of today's artists are doing. Say Beatrix, could you help me with that?"

"Oh absolutely," said Beatrix. "And might I add that I think that's a very smart business move. A very sound way to broaden you clientele base with very minimal financial ..."

"That lady thinks I'm a boy!" exclaimed Hula, her voice rising an octave. "How could she think I'm a boy? I'm wearing a grass skirt for heaven's sake!"

"Oh, don't take it so personally," said Louise in a very practical fashion. "You are, after all, not wearing a top. And humans have a hard time seeing past their own anatomy,"

"But you're not wearing a top either!" said an exasperated Hula.

"But that's different," said Louise dismissively, "I'm wearing a tutu."

As all this was going on Beatrix was carefully reading the web site. "Actually, everyone," she said, squinting at the computer screen a little closer, "aside from Bunnie, I think this nice lady thinks we're all boys. Including you, Louise."

"But that's ridiculous!" said an incredulous Louise. "I'm wearing a tutu!"

"Well you aren't wearing a top and you know how humans are," said Hula. "Can't see past their own anatomy and all that stuff."

"Harry!" shouted Beatrix.

Now Harry poked his head in too. "What's up B?"

"Take a memo, sir!"

"Right," said Harry grabbing up Beatrix's memo clipboard. (Beatrix has a dozen clipboards - but that's a story for another time.)

"We need to send out an inter-internet memo: any resident of Rabbit Run seen wearing grass skirts, tutus or..."

"Formal gowns," inserted a very earnest Bunnie. Louise and Hula glared at her.

"What," said an exasperated Bunnie. "I don't want people to get the wrong idea about me. It could ruin my image!"

"What image?" they shot back in unison.

"As I was saying!" said Beatrix, in what she hoped was an authoritative way. "Any rabbit wearing any skirt of any kind is absolutely, positively 100% female. Send that out immediately."

"Actually," said Harry thoughtfully, "My uncle Fergus in Scotland wears a kilt, and he's not female."

Beatrix clapped her paw to her forehead in frustration. "Harry!"

Just then Fiver returned home from a gig. "What's going on here?" he said, as he surveyed the little circle of glaring rabbits. "Everyone's fur seems to be on end."

"We're viewing websites that feature us," said Beatrix. "We were just moving on to a different site," she added emphatically.

"Really?" said a curious and excited Fiver. "Can I look too?"

"Of course," said Beatrix. "only please try to stay calm. Everyone's getting much too fur fluffed today."

The next site was called All Inked Up, which featured a lovely Christmas card of Bunnie and a giant candy cane.

"Hey, look!" said Bunnie. "She put bangles on my leggings!"

"They're not half bad," said Hula.

"Take a look at this," said Harry. "She's having a contest. 'Pick your favorite rabbit stamp.' All these people are voting on us."

"Who won?" said Bunnie. "Did I win?"

"They seem to like the one of Hula at the stamp convention," said Beatrix, "but I think we all got a few votes."

"Hey!" said Harry. "Even I got one! Someone likes me shaving!"

"Did I get any votes?" said Fiver. "I don't see any for me."

"Don't feel bad," said Hula sympathetically. "It's only because there are hardly any stamps with you in the first place. You had a gig the day we were posing."

"But I'm very popular!" said Bunnie, a bit conceitedly. "Look! They like Bath Time Bunnie, that's me. And Bunnie's Finest! And...!"

"...Princess Me-No-Wanna," interrupted Louise.

"Princess Me-No-Wanna?!" said Bunnie. "They can't call me that! Can they call me that? We have to make them change that."

"I think it's too late," said Beatrix.

"Princess Me-No-Wanna!" wailed Bunnie. "One wrong career move and I've been typecast! I'm branded forever! People must think I'm a baby!"

Just then Chef Thelma poked her ears in the office and announced that the kitchen would be closing shortly and this was the last call for cocoa.

"Hey, come look," said Louise, "the Dust Bunnies are on the world wide web!"

"We are?" said a startled Thelma. "Where?"

"Here on Beatrix's computer," said Hula. "Don't be startled," she added solemnly, "you're a rather overcooked tan."

"No I'm not" said Thelma approaching the monitor, "I'm Baby Dove Gray."

"It's artistical license," explained Hula, "you can't fix it by hitting the monitor. I already tried that."

"Will you get your paws off my computer!" said a thoroughly put-out Beatrix.

* * *

Later, drinking cocoa, they all agreed that while it was nice to have people pay attention to them, it was also a bit perturbing. "It's good that people notice," said Bunnie, "but," she continued and her voice rose, "sometimes the assumptions that they make can be so, so ... outright and utterly wrong!" and slapped her little paw on the table in gesture of frustration and resentment.

Harry shot a furtive glance a Hula who was sipping her cocoa reflectively. "I don't think Bunnie's going to forget, 'Princess-Me-No-Wanna,' anytime soon," he whispered

"Mmm hmm," she said and then added, "Fame, it isn't all it's cracked up to be,"

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Cocoa Scientist

     It was Fiver who really took cocoa to another level here at Rabbit Run.
     Chef Thelma of course had an excellent basic recipe, but she was not so interested in experimentation.
     But Fiver, who often came home late after a long gig on a chill evening wanted variety, and so out of necessity he began to tinker with Thelma's cocoa recipe.
     (Fiver doesn't drink coffee. "It's a brutish beverage," he says. "Too sharp. Too insistent. Cocoa is warmer. It envelopes you.")
     At first Fiver's choices were pretty straightforward: a bit of cinnamon, and then later some nutmeg. But nutmeg somehow seemed to "violate the spirit of cocoa." That set him thinking. Cocoa was tricky. You couldn't just throw any old spice into it and have it taste good. It wasn't like tea and coffee; one had to be considerate.
     The next thing he tried was a fresh vanilla bean, which he simmered in the milk before adding the cocoa. It was a pleasant concoction, especially when he was steeping the vanilla in the milk. The scent wafted back to Thelma's room, which is behind the kitchen and brought her out to see who in the world was in the kitchen so late at night. She really couldn't imagine a single other rabbit baking and was quite mystified and then astounded to see Fiver pensively stirring the milk with one paw and gesturing in a circular motion with the other in an effort to draw the aroma of the vanilla and milk to his nose.
     "What's going on here," said Thelma in a quiet, but demanding tone. "Cocoa," was all that Fiver said. And then, "would you pass me the cocoa powder and the measuring spoons please?"
     Well, technically the kitchen isn't really Thelma's. Of course the other rabbits are deferential because, as Hula put it once, "You don't want to bite the paw that feeds you." But really it is a communal kitchen and the dinner rush was long over and the vanilla in the simmering milk smelled lovely. So Thelma passed him her pre-made cocoa mixture and the measuring spoons.
    "Cocoa huh?"
     "With vanilla eh? Interesting choice" she mused. "Of course the cocoa could overpower the vanilla you know."
     Fiver shot her a look of consternation.
     "I'm just saying that's all. Don't get your fur ruffled!"
     "As a matter of fact," said Fiver, with great dignity, "I'm reducing the cocoa powder to allow the vanilla to have it's proper say."
     "Interesting, interesting..." said Thelma. "Say are you making any extra? I might like a cup myself."
     Of course there was extra. Rabbit rule #123 clearly states that if you make food, always make extra because you never know who else might be hungry.
     And so that was the formal beginning of Fiver's scientific inquiry into the properties of cocoa. Thelma got him a small journal and showed how she made her own recipe entries in her cooking journal. She even allowed that he could keep it on the shelves with hers, but Fiver was so excited to realize that he had stumbled onto cooking something that actually might be good, that he decided to keep his recipe journal in his violin case. That way when interesting ideas about cocoa come to him, which is often the case when he's in the middle of a gig, he can write them down and try them out once he gets home.
     Fiver uses a coffee grinder to pulverize the spices he uses in his cocoa. "That way the true personality of the spice can emerge," he says. Fresh ground cinnamon, for example, gives cocoa an added delicate sweetness with a hint of spiciness, very subtle but sincere.
     Fiver's also tried ground cardamom, cloves, allspice, and he's even used chilies. They give the cocoa some zip. Not everything he tries works of course. But it's always interesting.
     Lately he's branched out into fresh marshmallows. Thelma suggested it and she taught him how to prepare them. They're simple to make, and they take flavors really well. Plus, both marshmallows and cocoa have the added advantage of being, as Fiver says, "paw friendly" - an important quality for a rabbit who earns his living as a musician. "Nobody every cut his paw on a marshmallow," Fiver has observed on a number of occasions.
     When Fiver is making cocoa, all the other rabbits come quick. As Hula says, "Thelma makes a fine cup. But Fiver is a cocoa scientist. He's always taking things to a new level."
     Even Thelma prefers Fiver's cocoa. When he comes home late and she hears the whir of spices in the grinder, she pads into the kitchen to see what he's up to.
     "You think you'll try a bit of ginger tonight?" she'll ask.
     "Possibly..." says Fiver.
     "Or maybe a little orange zest?"
     "Well just have to wait and see what happens," he says.
     And so they stay up into the wee hours, simmering, tasting, working through the flavors. Thelma thinks that Fiver may be even more then a cocoa scientist. She thinks he might even be a cocoa artist.
     Coming from Chef Thelma, that's saying something.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Rainy Days & Rabbit Paws


      Today was the first rainy day in a long time. All the rabbits were very excited. They love the rain, and even though they like living in Tujunga, they miss the wetter weather of the places where they used to live.
     This morning they got up early and had a round of fresh baked rabbit paws. Rabbit paws are one of Thelma’s specialties. They’re a bit like scones, but made with whole wheat and honey, so they have a light, nutty sweetness. And they’re shaped like paws of course, with a raison where each paw pad would be.
     All the rabbits love them, although they often get the name wrong, which drives Thelma crazy. This morning Bunnie came in and asked “Are the bunny paws ready?”
     “Rabbit paws!” said Thelma, “and yes, they’re fresh and piping hot.”
     Bunnie held out her paws and Thelma handed her a warm treat. Bunnie sighed and said “Ummm, bunny paws, they’re so divine when they’re warm,” and hopped off.
“Those are rabbit paws,” Thelma hollered after her. “I made them up, I ought to know.”
     And then Fiver sauntered in. “Ah, I see the rabbit claws are ready…”
     Thelma hopped up and down, waving a wooden spoon. “Paws! Not claws! Paws! Rabbit paws!"
And so it went.
     After they finished breakfast, the rabbits all put on their rain slickers and went for a walk in the wet. It was a grey, misty, mysterious day. Perfect for thinking thoughts. Hula especially let her mind wander. Hula feels that walking in the quiet of an overcast morning is one of the most opportune times to work on The Muse Manifesto, her encyclopedic compendium of everything that she has learned about the art and craft of being a Working Muse.
        Being a Muse is something Hula is very serious about. That is to say, she does not take it lightly. It takes contemplation, and a touch of mental solitude. Rainy days are perfect for that.
        In fact, it was such a good walk in the rain that the rabbits did it twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon, just after lunch. The second time Hula was less interested in work and more interested in play. Sometimes she likes to scurry up behind the other rabbits and give them a gentle poke in the back of the head, and make a little noise that sounds a bit like “pling!” – a sound that Hula finds musical and charming: “pling!”
        So today Hula gave most of the other rabbits a surprise poke in the back of the head with this little musical sound that she’s fond of. She calls this game “Touched by the Muse.”
        “You’ll have good ideas later,” she told others. “Wait and see.”
        Most of the other rabbits are very tolerant of this game. Except Thelma. If she’s busy in the kitchen, and most especially if it’s a day when everyone is calling the rabbit paws by the wrong name, and then Hula gets the drop on her and goes “pling!” Thelma can be downright cross.
        “Out! Out! Out of my kitchen!” she said this afternoon. And then she pointed with her wooden spoon toward the door.
        Hula took it in stride, grabbing an extra rabbit paw on her way out. “You’ll thank me later,” she said, “when an especially excellent recipe pops into your head. By the way, these are wonderful bunny biscuits.”
        “Rabbit paws!” shouted Thelma, hopping from foot to foot, “Rabbit paws!”

Copyright © 2007 Denise Bauchamp

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Quick Test

This is just an early test.