Friday, February 29, 2008

Party Tarts

Please excuse my quick post, but there's a party at The Little Red House and I've got to run. See, I'm taking these tarts and I was a little late getting them started, and well, I've just got to go now! Happy Leap Day from Amongst The Oaks.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ode to a Tree

I think that I shall never see
A sight as welcoming as this tree
Which tells me I am finally home
However near or far I roam.

This tree whose gnarled branches soar
Above our foolish human roar
Once crowned a meadow grassy green
Now only asphalt can be seen.

Yet powerful still this tree remains,
It pulls me back from distant lanes
Patiently like a trusted friend
Guiding my journey to its end.

Whether an hour, a week, a day
From 'neath its leafy boughs I stray,
It's always waiting there for me
Whispering, "Home at last, I see".

~ penned by Laura Amongst The Oaks

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Packages Arrived

The packages have arrived!
Here is what I sent to Travelbug.

And here is what I sent to Jan.

Thanks everyone for helping me celebrate my 100th post
here Amongst The Oaks.

Hugs, Laura

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Camellia blossoms

Here is another early bloomer - Camellia japonica. Some varieties bloom as early as December so they get the stage all to themselves which guarantees attention. As a child I often took them to my teachers. I think that and the roses I brought later in the year pretty much got me my good grades.

Camellias look so clean, fresh and elegant, don't they? At BIL's house Sunday night, SIL had several floating in a pretty glass bowl in the center of the table. A perfectly beautiful way to display them.

Camellias seem to be quite happy here in our heavy clay soil beneath our oaks. All over town I see them blooming in shades of red, coral, pink and white. Are the camellias blooming in your town?

Posted by Laura whilst enjoying the camellias Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tarte aux Myrtilles

I made a Blueberry Tart to take to BIL's house last night and thought I'd share it with you. Well, not exactly share it with you because we ate every last bite of it, but at least you can see how I made it.

First preheat the oven to 300 degrees and collect all the ingredients:

flour, sugar, lemons, eggs, butter, blueberries.

You will also need a tart pan with removable bottom.


Dump the flour and sugar in a bowl.
Cut the butter into pieces and blend it
into the flour with your fingers.

Blend it until it looks like this.

Then crack the egg into it
and blend it with a fork.

When it will hold together
make it into a ball with your

Now pat it into the tart pan.
Try to make it an even 1/4"
thickness all around.

Press it up the sides but
don't worry about keeping
it even.

Trim it off even with the
top of the pan.

Save the leftover dough.
Prick the bottom
all over with a fork. Bake
for 30-40 min.


Melt the butter over low heat.
Add the lemon zest,
lemon juice, and sugar.

Whisk in the eggs and cook over
low heat for approximately 20

When sauce thickens remove
from heat and cool in frige.

Here's the crust, done and cooled.

Remove the ring from the pan.
Put the crust on a pretty plate.
Pour in the lemon butter and
smooth the top.

Heap the blueberries on top.

Dust it with powdered sugar.
The sweet lemony custard is a perfect base for the tart berries.It seems like a lot of work, but it's absolutely heavenly.Try it, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Magnolia Blossoms

Yet another blossom blog for Mary and anyone else who's tired of winter. Even though it's still rainy here, things are starting to bloom.

I ran over to Oxford yesterday to take these photos. They have this deciduous magnolia tree in front of the Conservatory of Music. These gorgeous blossoms shade from white to magenta and hold up quite well to the wind and rain.

They look particularly beautiful and springy against this froth of white blossoms, which I think is a fruitless pear tree.

The huge pink blossoms create quite a display when they appear on the bare branches. The nondescript leaves provide nice summer shade, but it's really the blossoms one plants it for.
Posted by Laura from amongst the magnolia blossoms.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quince Blossoms

I recently read a blog that suggested we all post blossom photos to chase away the winter blahs. I though that was a great idea, so here are some blossoms in my neighborhood. It's quince - a dependable early bloomer. It's like a valentine, isn't it? All bright, pink and cheerful!
Let's get a little closer.

Aren't the blossoms beautiful? They are across the street and I can see them out my bedroom window. I love raising my shades in the morning and seeing this. The contrast of the bright blossoms against the dark ivy is stunning. There is a white one too.

Happy Spring from amongst the quince blossoms.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Almond Blossoms

I was driving through the countryside the other day and happened upon this pretty scene that I wanted to share with you. This is a typical Central California almond orchard. The trees are spaced evenly in level, sandy soil. Cover crops are grown beneath the trees to keep dust down and contribute to soil health. They are irrigated during the summer by flooding the ground beneath the trees. In the fall they shake the whole tree with a giant machine to release the nuts onto a net below. Almonds are a huge crop here.
The almond trees always bloom this time of year. My Mom, who was born in February, said they were blooming for her birthday. And what a nice gift - millions of delicate, pale pink, scented blossoms.
I was stopped waiting for a train, so I pulled over and got out to take some closer shots. The bees were busy helping the farmer. You can see one in the shot below. I like bees and I'm always happy to see them in my garden. And happy to see them here, helping to produce almonds. You go girl.

Happy Spring from Laura here Amongst The Almond Trees.

P.S. I sent out the packages to Jan and Travelbug yesterday. Let me know when you get them, ok?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Surgery Update

The Lord of the Manor had his surgery yesterday and everything went fine. He is resting on his tatty old recliner. Taking his pain meds. Watching the telly. What else can he do?

He is using this cooling device that is pretty clever. It runs chilled water through a sleeve type thing that is velcroed over his shoulder. No drippy ice bags to mess with and it keeps him from wandering around. He went out to look at the eclipse though. I took some photos using the tripod and the timer and everything, but they're still a little blurry. So here we are, waiting for brighter days Amongst The Oaks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Office

Look at this cool thing I made yesterday. It's a wall quote. I'd seen them in shops and wanted to make one, so I googled "wall quotes" and found several sites. I didn't see one exactly like this, but I got some good ideas. Since I'm in the sign business, it was just no trouble at all to whip one out and stick it to the wall in my office.

When I redecorated my office last year, I printed, framed and hung all these photos from my travels, but it never looked quite "done." I'm really happy with it now. Below the quote are photos of Venice, Assisi, Lucca and Roen Cathedral. On the other walls I have photos of Pisa, Siena, Lacock, and Paris. I really enjoy this inspiration at work. It helps me to remember why I'm working in the first place.

I also have this memory board that I made. I put all kinds of interesting cards, photos, and brochures on it. Can you see Siena in the upper right? Then going anticlockwise, there's the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Berkeley, Paris, Rome again, Vernazza, and Stonehenge.

Although I've never bought one, I just love memory boards and have several. I've made all mine. It's really easy. And you can make it exactly how you want it: size, color, details, etc. This one is rather masculine; beige linen, black grosgrain ribbon and plain black buttons. (Hey, I should do a tutorial on that. Reminder to self: memory board tutorial.)

So here I am at work, dreaming of traveling while I should be working.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Revealing Day Out

We had a day out yesterday. We went to Sacramento to see the Bodies Revealed exhibit. Several "plasticized" human bodies and organs were shown. The bodies weren't in cases and you could get up really close to them. It was very interesting, but a little creepy. I think exhibits like this tend to make one think about one's own mortality, consequently, all the visitors were subdued, quiet and respectful. We spent over two hours looking and reading everything. Little Leonardo, Teen2, wished she had brought a sketch pad. I highly recommend a visit. You can read more about it here.

Monday, February 18, 2008


It was 72degrees here yesterday. I was so inspired that I washed the kitchen windows. Look at that beautiful blue sky.

Nature is waking up. Green shoots are appearing and little creatures are stirring from their winter slumbers. I had the doors open and look at all the little mice that came in. They've made themselves quite at home on the mantel.

These two appear to be courting.

And this little group is so happy they're dancing.

These must be the parents; respectable and proper.

These children look like they are ready for Easter.

And look, this one has a new baby.

It looks like everyone is excited and busy except this little guy. Still sleeping in a pea pod. Not quite ready for spring. Which little mouse are you?