Friday, November 30, 2007


When I got home from work last night at 5:30 I immediately started dinner so we could all watch Survivor together at 7:00. The plan: Pork Tenderloin with Fennel & Beans.

First I minced sage from my garden with garlic. Then I stuffed the tenderloins and tied them together and threw them in the oven to roast.

Then I gathered the stuff for the fennel dish and started cutting up the fennel and onions. When the Lord of the Manor got home, he helped brown the veggies. He loves to cook and frequently makes the whole dinner himself.

After browning the veggies he added the beans, broth and oregano from the garden. While things cooked we poured the wine and discussed our day. And just before Survivor started we had this lovely dinner on the table. And this morning Teen2 actually put her name on the leftover fennel and beans. They are definitely a hit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Here I am with my first hairdo. My mom did what every other mother did back then and I didn't have to worry about it so life was good. Who was I trying to impress anyway? My family? They certainly didn't care what my hair looked like. I was sweet, happy and adorable, what more could they want? (snicker, snicker)

Then I had that a 60s pageboy, that typical 70s long straight hair with no bangs, and then that 80s shag thing, and who remembers the 90s (I had little kids then, so just combing my hair every day was a challenge), and now here I am back with the same hairdo I had at 13. I kid you not, I found this photo the other day and WOW, it's almost the same hairdo I have now! Spooky, isn't it?

Anyway, I think it's time for a new cut. Maybe a classic bob?

Uhhhhh.....maybe not.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lazy Blogger

Greetings gentle readers,

Sorry I've been such a lazy blogger lately. Can we blame it on too much turkey? We had a nice Thanksgiving; everything went well. We had three capable men doing the cooking and all the food came to the buffet hot and delicious. And we had plenty of pie for dessert - the apple one made by Teen1.

Having three more days off meant time to devote to the latest remodeling project - Acorn Cottage, also known as the guest house. So I finally finished laying the floor tiles. I only have one little area left to grout and then it's ALL done. The Lord of the Manor got the water heater and copper water pipes installed. So we are making progress slowly.

I guess now we can start thinking about Christmas, but we won't put any decorations up until at least December 1st. And I didn't go anywhere near the Mall last weekend either. I simply refuse to be sucked in by all that crass commercialism.

So that's what we've been doing here Amongst The Oaks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clear the Decks

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Battle Stations! Battle Stations! Clear The Decks! Clear The Decks!

We have 26 people coming to our house for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow. Everyone is bringing something to share so we don't have to cook it all, but it still means LOTS of "deck clearing" is going on now. That's why you saw the laundry room soooo tidy yesterday. There's a frige in there so I think we'll use it for drinks and cold dishes.

The kitchen will also have its counters cleared in preparation for the turkey chefs. (That would be the Lord of the Manor and his brother.) Several dishes will have to be warmed up and cooked there, so I'm removing anything that doesn't absolutely need to be there. Bye bye toaster, cook books, and canisters. See you Friday.

I plan to set one table indoors and another outdoors and serve buffet style in the kitchen. We'll use part of the counter, the table, and another little sideboard in there. It will be easy for the chefs to replenish the platters and the food will stay warmer indoors anyway, so guests will just have to file through the kitchen, then move to the table of their choice. Thank goodness the weather in California is warm enough for outdoor dining.

So that's what I'm thinking about today here Amongst The Oaks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Laundry Room

When we first moved into this house, the laundry room was the first room to be remodeled. We pretty much had to because the water heater was electric, old, inefficient and dying. So we removed the old concrete laundry tub, the funky washer and dryer, and the water heater. Then we built a special closet for the new gas water heater, tiled the floor, built new cabinets and a broom closet, installed under-counter machines like they use in Europe, and installed a kitchen sink with disposer. The laundry room has a door to the driveway and for years that was our main entry door. On the opposite wall from this photo is the broom closet and two shelves with hooks below for back packs, umbrells, clothes, etc.
This room has served us well all these years. When we did the Big Remodel we used it to finish our hair and brush our teeth in the mornings. When we remodeled the kitchen we used it as a kitchen. We had the dishes and microwave in here and did all the washing up here.

It's right next to the dining room so when we have parties we stack the dirty dishes here. And of course we do all the laundry and folding here. That's the washing maching in the middle and the dryer on the far right. I store seldom-used dishes and cleaning supplies in the cabinets above the counter. And sometimes this room is used for flower arranging and arts and crafts.

So here it is, several years after its renovation, still looking pretty good. A little worn here and there, but still quite serviceable. I'd like to paint the walls to match the kitchen color and maybe touch up the white woodwork, but basically I still love it.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Living Amongst The Oaks as we do, acorns are all around us. I pulled these out af a large flower pot where they had been busy doing what acorns do. While we were eating Halloween candy and planning Thanksgiving dinner they were putting down roots; 13" long roots in one case! They do this long before any green shows above. Clever aren't they? It's good life advice really: Put down strong roots before you branch out.

All kinds of acorns come into our life here Amongst The Oaks. Here are some fabric acorns.

And here are some ceramic acorns.

And here are some metal acorns.

And we have even purposefully added acorns in details around the house. There are acorns carved in doors and in the library mantel.

We must really like acorns to have so many in our lives and home. Then again, maybe we're just a bunch of nuts!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Love in the Garden

I had just experienced a long ferry ride, impersonal Customs officials, and a disorienting ride in a rental car on the wrong side of the road. Love was the last thing on my mind; frankly I just wanted a nap, but as often happens when traveling, fate had other ideas!

First it was the gentle whisper of the River Test, then it was the warm caress of the breeze through the trees, and finally the sweet taste of tea and scones on the lawn.......that's when I fell in love with England and all its charms. The gentle landscape, the gracious customs, the ancient architecture, and the public gardens.It was all soooo beautiful and sooo civilised. And then I walked to the Rose Garden and that was when I positively swooned. Here was my dream garden; loads and loads and loads of roses, spire after spire of foxgloves, aged brick walls, graceful white benches...absolutely perfect.

And while I was inspecting every rose and adoring the garden in my way, the Lord of the Manor and Teen2 were enjoying the garden in their way. Yes, they actually succumbed to temptation and took a nap there on the lawn.

I don't regret missing the nap I'd wanted earlier because the beauty and fragrance of the rose garden reinvigorated me as no nap ever could. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Mottisfont Abbey and its cordial introduction to England.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dinner Party

We had one of our Gourmand parties Saturday night
and I was in charge of dessert.

Aren't these pears lovely? First I peeled them,
then I poached them for an hour in spiced red wine.
While that was simmering I made a raspberry Chambord sauce.
Then I chilled the pears while I scrubbed the bathroom, hoovered all around, set the table, shopped for more chargers, and spray painted oak leaves gold in a fit of "Martha Stewart" madness!

Here's Kim's Chicken Marsala in phyllo dough.

And here are the pears in their raspberry sauce lovliness.

I'd never made poached pears before, but they turned out quite nice.
I think I might try them again sometime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Funk

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been in a bit of a funk for a few days. Some days it seems impossible to find the time to blog. Some days it seems impossible to find the inspiration to blog. Some days it seems impossible to find the words to blog. But in the last few days, it has been impossible to find my photos to blog. You see, I let someone mess with my camera. I know, WHY, WHY, WHY did I do that? Well, I never imagined that someone would actually delete all my photos while simply looking at my camera. It isn't an easy thing to do and the camera asks you more than once if you're sure you want to delete all the photos. But anyway it happened. So I stewed about it and thought about it and finally Googled "restore deleted photos" and found a program to recover them. It was only a $40.00 lesson, but a valuable lesson none the less. But I'm having trouble getting back up to speed so please bear with me. I'll get there. And in the mean time let's enjoy these photos of things that make me happy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Today I'm reminded of our visit to Normandy and the American Cemetery there. We arrived late in the day and were overwhelmed by row after row of pristine white crosses. As we wandered lost with our own thoughts, Taps began to play.

Everyone turned and realized the flag was being lowered and the cemetery would be closing soon. We all silently gathered around the flagpole and as American music played the attendants solemnly unhooked and folded the flag. Most of the visitors were Americans; sad, thankful, proud, humbled Americans; weeping silently for the brave young men who fought and died here, yet took this beach against all odds.

I think we all left with a deeper appreciation of America's role in World War II and solemn gratitude to those souls who guaranteed our way of life with the ultimate sacrifice. Today we should all say a heartfelt Thank you to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much, and continue to sacrifice, so that we may live in freedom.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Living Room

Last time we talked about the Big Remodel we had just gotten our permit signed off. The house was basically done. Now it was time for the mouldings, cabinets, paint treatments, and custom touches that would make it ours. This magazine photo was my inspiration for the living room. I felt this decor really looked like a comfortable English sitting room. I loved the red chintz drapes with tassels. I liked the idea of a desk/reading table in the front window. I loved the striped chair and the pretty lamp and the oil paintings.

Here's our version of the magazine. Our table and chairs are a little different. Our shelves have glass doors. The drapes are pretty close. And we have beams and columns. I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out and have found it to be very versatile. We sometimes set up a small dining table in the front window when we have lots of guests. And the Christmas tree goes there in December. And that table changes now and then. Right now it's a Library table I found at an antique store.

Here's an interesting feature of our Living Room. The Lord of the Manor built all these great storage closets along one wall. They have paneled doors and it sort of looks like a paneled wall. But behind them is storage for Christmas ornaments, dishes, table linens and a coat closet. And this is where the secret door ended up. There it is leading to the girls' bedrooms.

Now I need some advice. Does anyone think I should hang pictures on the paneled doors? The rest of the room is colorful and busy, but this side is rather plain with that huge expanse of white. It would reinforce the illusion of a wall, but it would be a bit of a hassle when I wanted to get into the closets. So what do you think? I'd appreciate your input.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Rose Trellis

See this rose? It's supposed to be a climbing rose. It says so right there on the tag. But since it has nothing to climb on it just flops around on the ground. In the proper setting I suppose that would be ok, but not here in this small area. So the Lord of the Manor (by the way, that's what Hubby wants to be called now) decided to make some trellises.

I drew up what I wanted and he ordered the steel. Last weekend we cut all the pieces to size.

And he welded them all together.

And we stuck them in the ground and bolted them to the house. And Voila! a place for the roses to climb. It was almost easier to make the trellises than to sort out the roses. I got stabbed a few times, but I finally got it how I wanted it. Thank you Lord of the Manor.

Monday, November 5, 2007

More Roses

Honestly, here it is November and the roses just keep blooming. I guess I'll have to make another bouquet. This is how I do it. First I gather the roses cutting them off properly so the bush will make another long stem. Then I pick off the leaves and thorns and put them in a bath of cold water. These are Double Delight, Passionate Kisses, and Mt. Hood. I let them soak there while I select a vase and fill it with water. I always put in a couple drops of bleach to keep the water fresh. Then I cut the stems off at the proper length with a razor blade under water. The theory is that if you cut them out in the air, air will get in the cells and block their access to the water. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it seems to help. Then I shake the water out of the petals and plunk them into the vase. Sometimes I add a little leatherleaf fern or some other flower that happens to be blooming, but this bouquet is just roses. I'd like to enjoy them in all their glory before they're gone.