Wednesday, April 28, 2010

3-D Chalk Art

Amtrak finally posted the photos from the Asparagus Festival and here is ours. We had fun hamming it up. You can see other people's photos here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Monday Mosaic - Asparagus Festival

In celebration of our 25th Asparagus Festival I am sharing this mosaic of photos I took there over the weekend. Working from the center, up and clockwise, they are:

Amazing Chalk art by Tracy Lee Stum - you can see more photos here
Asparagus Ice Cream - It was very good, but quite subtle
Stilt Walking Entertainers - always a hit with the kids
California Repercussion Band - a pleasant surprise
Velocity Circus - Wow! these guys are great
Our Flag at City Hall
Tyson the Skateboarding Bulldog - Tyson is so cute and obviously loves skateboarding
Spectators at City Hall
Hundreds of Volunteers Making Deep Fried Asparagus - It couldn't happen without them
Foster Farms "No Plumping" campaign - they even had that old car there
Asparagus Display by the California Asparagus Commission - their site has recipes too
Stockton's Own Rima Barkett, Cookbook Author - we watched her cooking demonstration and then she shared what she'd cooked.
and an Asparagus Festival Shopping Bag

Thanks for joining me here Amongst The Oaks and
Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good Weather for a Festival

Thank goodness the rain stopped and now we can set up the entry gate banners for the Asparagus Festival. Our crew was out there early this morning assembling the frameworks and attaching the banners. I ran by to get a few photos and check if they needed anything else. Sure enough, the Festival needs one more price sign, so I'm going to jump right on that and deliver it at noon.

The weather promises to be perfect for the Festival; 75 to 80 degrees with gentle breezes. So if you need a fun day out, come to Stockton for the 25th Asparagus Festival. It runs three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Asparagus Festival Preparations

It's Asparagus Festival time here in Stockton, California. If you are looking for a FUN festival you'd better come to Stockton this Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Not only do we have the yummiest deep fried asparagus, but we have great entertainment, arts, crafts, and a skateboarding dog! And I'm excited to see that the famous street painter Tracy Lee Stum will be here too. She paints wonderful illusions with chalk right on the sidewalk.
We have been busy, busy, busy at work getting ready for the Festival; making and installing lots of signs and banners. We do this every year. It's always hectic, but I still enjoy it. And during all that hard work, this is the reward I keep thinking about:

If you'd like to see other things we saw at last year's Asparagus Festival, click here. Hope to see you at the Festival!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Outside My Kitchen Window

Happy Spring from here Amongst The Oaks. The Joseph's Coat roses are looking splendid just now. This first flush of blooms will last two weeks and then I'll get a ladder and cut off the spent flowers and we'll get a second bloom and more flowers throughout the summer, but it never looks as wonderful as this first bloom. So I had to share it with you.

That little bed beneath the window has some oregano and chives, but I think I'll plant more herbs there soon. It's so handy to step outside the kitchen for a snip of something. Rosemary grows like a weed, and sage would do well there too. And maybe some parsley, but not basil. We usually plant about 12 basil plants out in the vegetable garden where they get more sun and more water. We do love our pesto.

Thinking of planting and enjoying the roses here Amongst The Oaks.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stuffed Grape Leaves

We are thinking of hosting a Greek dinner in June for our Gourmand Club, so I decided to experiment with a Greek appetizer. I found a recipe for stuffed grape leaves that called for apricots, which sounded good, so Saturday morning I gathered these organic, free range leaves from the field behind our house. I picked only the most perfect ones and boiled them for 5 minutes to make them pliable. You can purchase them in brine at the store, but it made me feel good that I could harvest them for free.

Here's the mixture that goes inside: rice, spinach, apricots, a shallot, lemon juice, salt and pepper. You put a tablespoon of the mixture on the stem, fold up and over, then in from the right and left, and tucking neatly roll them up. The mixture conforms to the roll and they are surprisingly easy to make.

Then you arrange them on extra leaves in a saute pan, drizzle with olive oil and vegetable broth (of which I had none so I used chicken broth which I'm sure wasn't right), cover them with more extra leaves, and simmer them for 30 minutes.

Then you arrange them on a platter and top them with squares of feta cheese. Ta da! And they tasted very good, but here are the changes I'm planning.
  • Use vegetable broth because the chicken added a wrong flavor.
  • Make more, lots more, because they were really good.
  • Serve them with the more traditional yogurt sauce instead of the feta cheese because the cheese splits and falls off when you try to eat one.

All in all this was a successful experiment here Amongst The Oaks. Kalí óreksi!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Boeuf Bourguignon

Since seeing Julie and Julia last summer, we have talked about making Boeuf Bourguignon. So we borrowed MIL's cookbook and decided today was the day since it was blustery and rainy and we couldn't go outside and work in the garden.

The recipe is long and fiddly and dirties up a lot of pans, but it is sooooo good, you don't really care.

Here are the lovely chunks of beef.

Don't they look lovely after they are browned?

Here are the onions being browned. I think they were my favorite part of the stew.

But I do love mushrooms too.

So here is the finished stew; rich and winey and oniony and just delicious.

It made a fine dinner for a rainy Sunday evening here Amongst The Oaks.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Monday Mosaic - After The Rain

After yesterday's rain everything looked so fresh, clean and bright in the morning sun. I like the way the warmth of the sun was making the fence all steamy. I am joining Mary at the Little Red House for Monday Mosaic. Thanks for visiting us here Amongst The Oaks.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Scents of Spring

I just love Spring and some of my favorite things about Spring are the scents. Like these Easter Lilies on the buffet in my dining room. Every time I walk past them I catch a whiff of their delicious scent. Love that.

And my first Double Delight rose opened this morning. Double love that.

And then there are these bright stock flowers with their spicy scent.

And my surprise for the year. I didn't realize Cineraria has such a pleasant scent. I'll be getting more of these.

And of course lilac is still blooming in last weekend's bouquet on the Easter table.

And good old Joseph's Coat covers the south wall of my kitchen. Several blooms are open and it is not only a beautiful sight, but another source of the scents of spring here Amongst The Oaks.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Steam Punk Invasion

We have been invaded by a Steampunk here Amongst The Oaks. I found this gun and these goggles and these gloves in the kitchen the other day.

I happen to know the gun shoots nerf darts so I'm not too worried, but it sure looks real doesn't it?

It looks to me like this Steampunk has seen some rough action over the years. Look at all the scratches and scuffs on the goggles.

This sight and level on the gun are cool.

More evidence of heavy fighting.

But what are these, antennae?

Even the gloves are old and worn. What will I find next, spats?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Tidbits

We had a good Easter with lots of fun and good food. Let's start with the ubiquitous Peeps, now in neon colors too. I heard on the radio the other day that Americans purchase 700 million Peeps a year. I guess most of them get eaten, but some must end up like this. How sad. We ate ours. Of course from the Peep's point of view that is just as sad as microwave jousting.

We also had these salmon dip appetizers. The dip is cream cheese, salmon, onion puree, and a little sour cream whirled in the Cuisinart. It is then piped onto endive leaves and garnished with alfalfa sprouts. Yum.

And I made these watercress sandwiches again. And we had a crudite platter, but I didn't get a photo of that.

And Kim made this cheesy bunny. Cream cheese, onions, and herbs. Isn't he cute?

For the rest of the meal we had the same menu as last year, but different desserts. This year we had carrot cake, angel food cake with strawberries, and layer cake with chocolate frosting.

Because of the rain we had to stay indoors, so after dinner we played games. And shot nerf guns. In the dining room. And I wonder why frosting is found on the walls later? The girls told me the Lord of the Manor did it with a stray shot to the carrot cake! Oy vey! Just a typical day here Amongst The Oaks.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Mosaic - Afternoon Tea

I am joining Mary once again with a Monday Mosaic. This mosaic has images from our recent Tea Party.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Changes, Changes, Changes

Happy Easter from Amongst The Oaks
If there's one thing we can depend on this time of year, it's change. And the weather forecast for our Easter Party isn't letting us down. It has been so nice the last few weeks, but now rain is expected on Sunday, so our party plans have changed.
We were going to barbecue, play croquet, and eat outside like we have done so many Easters in the past, but with rain expected we decided to set up tables in the house.
I set up a table in the living room next to the window with this lovely green cloth, white doilies, pink dishes, and pink napkins.

I also set up this round table in the living room with a pink flowered cloth, white doilies, pink dishes and pink napkins.

Then I set up the dining table for twelve with Johnson Bros. Summer Chintz, a white flowered table cloth, and purple napkins.

Here are the pink dishes with the place cards I made.

I thought I had it all figured out, but then things started changing again. One family called and said they weren't coming so I removed three plates and re-arranged the place cards.
Then another family called and said they weren't coming so I removed an entire table and re-arranged all the dishes and place cards again. I'm sure it will be a lovely day, but I just hope there are no more surprises, because I'm tired of shuffling tables and dishes around here Amongst The Oaks.