The Town Crier: sharing the joy of the holiday pickle


Its December 4th…do you know where your pickle is? Surely you hang a holiday pickle on your tree, for your little ones to find on Christmas morning. If not, you’re missing one of the great German holiday traditions – and a Town Crier favorite.

We’ve been hiding the pickle in our holiday fir since my daughter was 5 or 6. She’s 19 now, and she still competes with her brother to see who can get to the ornament first. Never mind that the tree nearly collapses in the kerfuffle, there’s a prize in it for the victor.

Perhaps to avoid the ruckus this year, I’ll create a theme tree of nothing but pickles. A tart little offering, to be sure, but at least the tree will survive through the holidays.

E-mail bag: Speaking of pickles…what’s in a name? In reader Maggie Dill’s case, it’s a chance to pucker up and have a little fun with her e-mail address, which is Maggie’s moniker caught my attention when she asked me to promote an Oakland non-profit called Winning Situation started by three local women. They act like a Fairy Godmother to local charities, finding donations to match the non-profits’ needs. This week, Winning Situation is collecting coats, sweatshirts, bedding and towels at the Lakeshore Farmer’s Market from 8am-2pm on Dec. 5 and the Montclair Village Farmers Market from 9am-1pm on December 6th. Please clean out your closets and donate if you can.

And speaking of giving…the 7th grade Corpus Christi Girl Scout troop is collecting gently used books and toys for kids at the Elizabeth House (a women’s and children’s transitional home in Oakland). Drop-off points through Dec. 13 include Nellie’s Java House and A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair and Calm, A Salon on Piedmont Avenue.

Honoring history: By many accounts, he was a scoundrel and a fraud. But Joaquin Miller was one of Oakland’s most colorful characters – a poet and one of our early environmentalists. He planted flowers and trees with fervor near his beloved home in the Oakland hills. The grounds near his “abbey” were a botanical delight, and I’m certain he’d be pleased to see how volunteers are restoring his property today. He might especially be tickled by the efforts of a boy scout named Alistair Song-White, whose Eagle project is to restore the dry creek bed next to the abbey. To do this, Alistair’s volunteers have to pull huge rocks from the bed, resurface it and bring in native plants. “The stream will add to the peacefulness of the abbey,” says reader and scout mom Mary Orfali. “It will add a certain feeling of calmness and beauty to the area.” A more perfect Eagle scout project – I can’t imagine.

Around town: Yogofina is moving into the village, in the site of the old Montclair Wine and Spirits. As I mentioned last month, this is one of those fancy pay-by-the-ounce frozen yogurt shops that offers fat free treats – and a way to load em’ up with calories. I, myself, have been known to take a perfectly yummy zero-fat yogurt and bury it in a blizzard of Snow Tops and peanut butter cups. It’s just so…decadent.

Fungus alert: Winter is mushroom season, and local doctor Jim Miller warns there are deadly Death Cap mushrooms all over our East Bay parks. It’s important to mention, as there has already been one death and one serious illness from Death Cap consumption in Northern California this season. Which schrooms are edible? How do you cook them? The best place to find out is the 40th annual Fungus Fair at the Lawrence Livermore Hall of Science December 5 and 6.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418, by email at or on the web at


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