Tuesday, September 30, 2008


My friend Tara is hurting now as she deals with the loss of her brother. Please visit her blog and offer some words of comfort or encouragement if you can. Thank you. I know she will appreciate it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kitchen Art

We spend a lot of time here Amongst The Oaks thinking about food, talking about food, shopping for food, planning food, preparing food, eating food, and photographing food. So what could be better than food as art? I picked up these pre-matted frames at Michaels and have filled them with favorite food photos from our travels. This first one has a roasted beet salad at Greystones in St. Helena, a goat cheese salad at Les Saisons de Giverny, and a raddler and pretzels in Munich.

Working top to bottom, left to right: Teen2 after a mussel frenzy in Vernazza, me checking out a product stand in Florence, Teen1 and a handsome Italian waiter in Siena, The Lord of the Manor with lunch in Pisa, my morning cappuccino in Vernazza, and the Lord of the Manor with a margarita in Ensenada.
I just did this one yesterday: the cutest dumplings in Guilin, hot pot in Shanghai, and prawns at a hutong in Beijing.
The only other art I have in my kitchen is this old Lipton tea tin that I used for recipe cards. Speaking of recipes, look at the appetizer the Lord of the Manor made for dinner last night. Another work of art!

It's called Shrimp Piri Piri and he found it in the Oprah magazine. It was scrummy! The recipe is from chef Marcus Samuelsson and his restaurant Merkato 55. Samuelsson has recently published a cookbook called The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa. Oh-oh, looks like we may be buying another book! And more of those picture frames too.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Home Library Party

I learned to love books at an early age. My dad took this photo of me looking at a Child Craft book when I was only about two. Being the third child I was one of the "students" when my oldest sister was the "teacher". I tried to be a good student; memorizing books before I could actually read them. My whole family likes to tell how I could recite The Night Before Christmas when I was about three years old. I distinctly remember the beautiful poems and stories in those Child Craft books and I can still recite several of those too. When my oldest sister had children the Child Craft books moved to her house, then when I had children they came to my house, and now they are at my niece's house. I hope they continue to be passed along to whomever has young children.

I remember as a young child going to the library with my mother (who was also an avid reader). We kids would go to the children's section and each check out a few books. It was like a whole new world in there. Books provided a perfect way to see the world, have an adventure, or learn something new. I preferred books with maps, beautiful illustrations, and adventurous stories.

I should come as no surprise that I have lots of books. But of course, they're not all my books. The Lord of the Manor and both our children also love books. When they were little we read to them every night. I think we enjoyed it as much as they did. We don't read to them at night anymore, but I often find them reading when I call "lights out".

My children love bookstores too, and we often visit them in our travels. In 2003 we happened to be in London on June 21st when the latest Harry Potter book came out. We took the Tube to Waterstones to get our books and our kids spent the next two weeks with their noses stuck in them.

Let's have a look at our library now. You enter through these pocket doors. In the winter we shut the doors and run the little fireplace to keep it warm.

Here is our library. It was one of the first rooms we finished when we remodeled the house in 2001. The Lord of the Manor built all the bookcases and the sea chest that we use as a sofa table. All the furnishings are old; the leather furniture and rug were purchased in 1990, and the wing back chairs in 1975.

Here is the little wet bar just to the right of the door.

Then there is a comfy chair and ottoman in this corner. And some old books from the Lord of the Manor's family. And the stereo equipment and drawers full of CDs, DVDs, and videos.

Past the fireplace on the left are lots of sailing books from the 1980s when we lived aboard a 35' sailboat that we cruised to Mexico. Some of them still smell of mildew. We also keep the sextant and hand bearing compass there.
On the left wall is the window looking out onto the back garden. I put the window mistreatment back up for the winter. It's merely a piece of silk about 20" wide and 12' long with a bead fringe on the ends. I simply drape and wrap it around the pole and decorate it with whatever is handy. Currently my "S P O O K Y" letters and a crow are there.

The last wall has the largest bookcase with over 500 books. No wonder it took soooo long to clean that wall! It holds lots of gardening, art, architecture, adventure, racing, flying, cooking, science, animal, and bird books.

As I sat exhausted from all the cleaning last Sunday evening I started counting the books. After counting 670 in this room, 71 in the living room, 37 in the kitchen, and estimating 50 in each kid's room, I realized that, yes, we do really love books.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've been flitting around just like a butterfly getting ready for the Home Library Party tomorrow. Are you ready? Check out Jeannie's blog for the details.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cleaning the Library

Jeannie the Dreamer is having a Home Library Party on Friday, so over the weekend I worked on preparing my library for the party. It took hours to vacuum every book in my library, wipe all the shelves, dust the knick-knacks, and organize and tidy everything. But I couldn't let Oprah show me up, could I?
Her own library is on the cover of her magazine. In fact, that's what attracted me to it in the first place. Look at that beautiful room. I love the sofa and the dog is darn cute too. I don't think my family could do a white sofa, but look at that fringe! Gorgeous! I think we could handle that on a bookbinding red jacquard sofa.

Fall seems like a good time to snuggle up and read, so if you want to get inspired to create your own library, join me Friday September 26th for the Home Library Party sponsored by Jeannie the Dreamer. And be sure to visit all the other participants too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hidalgo's New Saddle

Teen1 received new seat covers for her car recently so she and the Lord of the Manor installed them over the weekend. They started Saturday afternoon by watching the DVD that came with the kit. Then they took the old seats out and stripped off the old upholstery and ratty horsehair stuffing down to the metal frames. And then they watched the video some more. Then they made a trip to JoAnne's Fabrics for some burlap and foam. They finally got started around 4:30 and got one seat done, but by 4pm Sunday all the seats were done and they look so professional!

They learned about hog rings and horsehair and "massaging" upholstery. They laughed. They scowled. They bled. (Well the Lord of the Manor did.) They bonded. It was a big job, but in the end it was a great daddy/daughter project and a wonderful improvement to the car. Little Hidalgo is looking quite happy here Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dining Room Decor

One of my projects for the weekend was to decorate the Dining Room for Halloween. First I hung an old tapestry on the wall. Then I put one of Grandma's table cloths on the buffet; crooked. Then I found a cheap urn at Target in the discount area, painted it black and stuck a bunch of dead (what else?) oak branches into it. I added black pumpkins, the sad girl bust, a Celtic cross, and candles that bleed. And crows in the branches, but I think we need more crows to be truly creepy.

Some one asked where I got this bust. I think I got it at Michaels last year along with the cross.

I also put a lovely bowl of fruit on the table....

on top of a tablecloth with spiderwebs in the corners.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Halloween Stuff

Happy Day, Happy Day! The Halloween Spirit Store opened today at 10:00am. I was there at 10:20 buying more pots of fire. We had two from previous years and really needed two more to hang on the front of the house, so now we have them.

When I got home I got out my Halloween stuff and spread it out on the dining room table. We have tombstones, spiders, skulls, bats, crows, and pots of fire. And some more stuff I haven't gotten out yet.

Here is a pot of fire. It's basically a black plastic bowl with a little fan, two orange lights, and some silk fabric. When you plug it in the silk flutters in the breeze and looks like real fire.

We got this skull several years ago at Disneyland.

And we also now have candles that bleed.

I can't wait to start decorating for Halloween here Amongst The Oaks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A wise man once told me, "Freddie Fungus met Alice Algae and took a Lichen to her."

As a lover of English cottages, I realize that one desireable feature is lichen. I gives a mellow aged look to roofs and walls. When we remodeled this house, I faux painted some lichen-ish stuff on the window and door mouldings. But now I actually have some real lichen on the lamp out front. And I'm lichen it a lot. You can find more lichens here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teen1's Birthday

Look at the big beautiful smile. It's hard to believe it has been 17 years since this lovely lady came into our lives. But here she is almost all grown up. Driving a car. Flinging her flag. Thinking of college. Snif snif.
She requested carrot cake for her party, so I baked it last night and frosted it this morning. Once when she was in second grade I baked carrot cupcakes and decorated every one of them like this. We took them to school to share with her class. I like that she mentioned that this morning when she saw the cake. I love that girl. Happy Birthday Teen1.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Halloween Silhouettes

I worked on a little Halloween project last night. I saw something like this in a shop and figured this section of my bookcase would be perfect. They had lined the back of their shelf with orange paper, but I figured the red would be close enough.
I made a tissue paper moon and taped it in front of the light. Then I cut silhouettes of creepy stuff out of thin plastic and spray painted them black. You could use thin cardboard too. I also painted some little fence sections from the craft store. I quickly stuck it on the shelf and took this photo. I hope to add a graveyard scene too. And a scary cat. I'll show that when it's done.
I just love Halloween and all the creepy decorations associated with it. Over the years I've collected rats, bats, crows, caldrons, pots of fire, tombstones, spiders, cockroaches, skulls, and pumpkins. I'll show you some of it in the next few weeks.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I thought you'd enjoy this jolly sunflower. Have a happy Friday everyone.

p.s. Becky was right about yesterday's mystery photo. It was a seed pod from a hollyhock. Such a wonderful cottage flower. My niece Karen gave me the seeds.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mystery Photo and an Award

I found this interesting thing in my garden yesterday. I'll bet some of you will instantly shout out what it is. So post a comment with your ideas.

Tara, at Days Missed on a Hammock, has graciously given me this award. Thanks Tara, I love your blog too. I know the rules say to award it to seven blogs, but I'm just lazy, so I'm giving it to Have Paints Will Travel. Her blog is gorgeous and inspirational and makes me jealous to the bone! I soooo want to travel and paint.....Check it out - I think you'll love it too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Remember the praying mantis (above) that I showed you yesterday? Well, she's got a boyfriend! I noticed this thin handsome chap (below) near her last evening and I'm pretty sure it's a male. He was just sitting there staring at her not moving at all.

Teen2 and I watched them for quite a while, hoping to see some action, but nothing happened. I suggested some wine and soft music, but we had to go to "Back to School Night" so we couldn't do that.
I could swear he was saying, "What we need is a little privacy!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Creepy Crawlies

I keep seeing more and more creepy crawlies in my garden. Here is a praying mantis that I found on the roses last evening. I put my camera on macro and got real close.
Everything was ok for a while, then I guess I pushed in just a little too close....
and suddenly it got defensive and crawled up onto my camera. It's really hard to take a good photo when your subject is crawling across the top of your camera! Realizing that I'd molested this bug enough, I put it back on the plant and moved on.

Then I found this tomato horn worm. It's not full grown, only about 1.5" long. I usually find them when they are about 4" long: huge, tomato chomping devils! I simply pick them off and fling them into the field because we're all organic here Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, September 8, 2008


We have a fascinating visitor in our garden just now. I first saw it yesterday morning and quickly ran to get my camera. When I approached it ran to the bottom of a leaf to hide, but then another hapless victim flew into the web and I was instantly forgotten.
I think it's an argiope, but the marks on its back are a little different than I've seen before. Can someone help with the exact identification?

I enjoy watching spiders and usually appreciate their value in the garden, but this victim was a honey bee so I have mixed emotions now. Let's just hope she eats flies and such today, shall we?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cottage Progress

The Lord of the Manor made good progress on the cottage yesterday whilst I merely held the tape measure, swept the dust. polished the sign, installed two light fixtures, and cleaned the windows.

We also went to the High School to watch Teen1's band perform. It's the beginning of their season so all the parents showed up to support, volunteer, and check out the new show. I generally ride on the bus to the out-of-town performances to help with costumes, hair, makeup and chaperoning. It takes a lot of help to make it all happen, but I really enjoy it.

So back to the cottage; here is the kitchen area, all finished and waiting for paint. The sink will be where the black pipe is. The refrigerator will be to the far left with a counter or dresser between the two. Today we hope to put up the wallboard in the bathroom area. We'll soon be covered with dust again here Amongst The Oaks.