Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fun Guy

Here's a Fun Guy I saw over at Spot's blog.

Leftover turkey

I hope every one's Thanksgiving was festive. Here's all that's left of our turkeys. We've enjoyed leftover turkey, dressing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pie, but it's finally all gone. So today we had chili for lunch. What a yummy cold weather meal that is. The actual day was wild as usual. I think we had about 26 people, I'm not really sure. Seems like some we invited didn't show up, and others we didn't invite did show up, so it's really hard to figure. And every time I tried to count, I got interrupted, so who knows. And more teenagers showed up after dinner; I remember seeing 7 or 8 of them up in the loft of the cottage eating pie. All in all, I consider it a successful holiday if the food is reasonably hot by the time I get mine and there are enough chairs for everyone to sit down.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Winter Flower Baskets

I like to have baskets of flowers hanging on the front of the house all year round. I usually just use the cheap plastic thing the flowers come in, which usually breaks, but recently I found these metal baskets at the local home improvement store.

They are suspended by chains which shouldn't break. Yippee! So I filled them with soil and put in some red cyclamen and white pansies. They should be perfect now and later for Christmas too. Heck, knowing me they will probably be up there until Valentines Day! And I'll just pretend like I planned it that way.

So here are the finished baskets hanging on the house. I like the way they add a bit of color to the winter garden here Amongst The Oaks. And they match the red cyclamen already in the urns by the front door.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Preparations

Yesterday 3:00 pm
Today 6:30 am

Today 7:30 am
Today 8:00 am
Today 9:00 am
Today 10:30 am
No time to write more. Happy Thanksgiving to you all from Amongst The Oaks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fall Color

Here in California's Central Valley we don't naturally get a lot of fall color, but gardeners have planted non-native trees to make up for that. One of the most stunning trees this time of year is the Chinese Pistach. The leaves vary from yellow to deep red and the trees have red berries even after the leaves fall. Our city has planted lots of these as street trees, so we are enjoyed their color all over town.

Another favorite is the Liquidamber. They look like columns of fire against the other trees.

Their pointed leaves are often collected by children, carried home, and incorporated into seasonal decorations. On a recent morning walk with Teen1 we did just that.

One of my favorites is the ancient Ginkgo. There is a beautiful specimen three doors down. It drops a delicate coating of yellow leaves all over their roof and lawn. Unlike the other fall trees, the Ginkgo only goes to yellow, never orange or red.

Several older neighborhoods have streets lined with the Modesto Ash which turns a beautiful yellow too. These near the college are just beginnning to turn. Wouldn't this be a boring street without all these trees? Not only do they provide cooling shade in the summer, but they give this brilliant show before dropping their leaves.
Thank you beautiful trees for all the comforts you provide. That's it from here Amongst The drab brownish green Oaks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Since we will be roasting turkey breasts which won't make much pan drippings and there will be a mob in the kitchen, I decided to make the gravy ahead of time. (We always make the real deal.) So I bought some turkey wings and tails, seasoned them well, and roasted them in the oven for 4 hours. Those fatty tails made about 3/4 cup of grease and lots of brown stuff in the bottom of the pan - perfect! After they cooled I removed them to a pot of cold water with two whole carrots, two celery ribs, and a bunch of fresh sage. I simmered that for about two hours and saved the greasy roasting pan for the next step.
Tonight when I got home from work I heated up the brown greasy stuff, added 3/4 cup flour, stirred it around for a while to brown the flour and incorporate the brown stuff. Then I poured in the strained broth and boiled it for five minutes, adjusted the seasoning, and Voila! gravy. I was pretty happy about getting it all done ahead of time, but when the Lord of the Manor came home, he looked at it and said, "That's not nearly enough", so guess where I'm headed after work tonight?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Catching Up

I bet you thought I'd fallen right off the edge of the world, didn't you? I haven't, but I've just been soooo busy lately, I haven't even had time to think about blogging. Heck, I almost forgot how to sign in! We've been busy at work, busy at home, and busy with Band Reviews and there's so much to tell you about.

We have done a few fun things. We went on the annual AAUW Home Tour. It's always fun to see people's home and how they decorate. And frankly, I'm tired of the same old, same old Mediterranean/Italian look that is so prevalent in California; tan stucco, tile roof, wrought iron, arched doors, museum kitchen, over-scale furniture, that whole staged look. Three of the four homes were just like that. Ah, but the last house, built in the 1920s, was my favorite. It had original divided light windows and french doors, beautiful built-in cabinets and mouldings, and wonderful flowery drapes and wallpapers. Classic style and so comfortable looking. I could have moved right in and been happy.

I helped at an out-of-town band review three weeks ago. We rumbled to a nearby town on the old yellow buses, french braided hair inside the bus because of the rain, walked the parade route carrying backup equipment, helped put it all away, watched the awards ceremony in the rain, then rumbled home again. And we did it all again this past Saturday, but it was Championships so that means it was the last one! There were some tears as the seniors realized they'd never march together again. But hey, guess what starts in January? Winter Guard. At least the percussion and guard will perform together in the second half of the school year.

And now about our Band Review. About three weeks before it, the Lord of the Manor and I went to a meeting to get up to speed regarding the signs, which we always make and install. It was quickly obvious that they desperately needed help with the food committees. As in they had no chairman. So guess who volunteered? Needless to say we were immersed in that project for days; planning, shopping, transporting, setting up, prepping, cooking, cleaning up, and putting it all away again. And we still did all the signs too. We left our house at 4:45am on the day of the Band Review and put up the signs first. Then we started our kitchen duties; the Lord of the Manor ran the industrial BBQ and I supervised the kitchen. That lasted for hours, then after everyone left at 10pm, we cleaned up and didn't get home until after 11:00pm. Then the next morning we went back and took down signs. I am SO glad Teen1 is a senior.

Then there was an anniversary celebration for the in-laws two weeks ago, the Lord of the Manor's birthday last week, more work on the studio/cottage, and all the usual yardwork, housework, laundry and groceries. And my poor old Dad had a burglary last week and they took all his cameras, a gun, some cash and credit cards, and *here's the worst* all my Mom's jewelry. I've been trying to help him figure out what she had and offering moral support, but we'll never replace it and he seems so depressed.
So the bottom line is that Thanksgiving is only three days away, we've invited twenty people, and this is the sum total of my preparedness:

One tiny little pumpkin plopped on the buffet. How pathetic. Looks like I'd better get busy, doesn't it? Actually, everyone brings something and we only do the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy. So I should easily find some time to decorate a bit and set the tables. And Thursday when we all gather together we will have lots to be thankful for; snug homes, jobs, plenty of food, and each other.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008