Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Favorite Little Town

It was so hot at the Wine Art and Music Summer Social last night that you could have fried the proverbial egg on the sidewalk. Christie and I set up our table on the east side of the street which had canvas shades that were dropped down to give us some reprieve from the blistering heat but ,as you can see in the above photo, they only shaded the table and not our legs and feet. I now have a sunburned pedicure after three hours of trying to hide my feet from the late afternoon sun as it moved around and down the west side of the foothills. There was a breeze once in a while but most of the time it was hot and still. We drank LOTS OF WATER.
Both of us sold some of our gourds which was a pleasant change from other fairs and festivals where we worked at it all day and sold nothing. We saw people we knew and enjoyed talking to others about gourds. Lots of folks were interested and thought we made beautiful art from what one lady called a "hard pumpkin". I had to laugh...not at her of course.
Even with the heat we had a good time. With all the music floating in the air, people laughing and wine flowing ...everyone enjoyed themselves. It's nice to see folks relaxing, talking, and enjoying a summer evening together.

This is the Imperial Hotel. This is where you bought your glass for the wine tasting and got a map to direct you to all the vendors and wine tables.
I love these old historic buildings. In this area most of the old buildings have been restored instead of torn down. Fires did destroy many buildings and, sometimes, whole towns around here back when there were no fire departments and little water. Stone and rock became the building method of choice because it didn't burn. It's a wonderful thing to see these beautiful old stores, hotels, and houses taken care of , used for new businesses and being lived in.

 This old wall is a foundation for an old hotel. It reads Amador Hotel circa 1855. Someone has tried to remove the E and L on the end of Hotel...possibly as a protest to the hot summers we get up here. It was probably some unhappy tourist who didn't realize how amazing the heat is here in the summer. Or maybe it was some local teenager who didn't have anything better to do. There's not a lot going on in this little town for teenagers unless your into 4H, gold prospecting or rattlesnake hunting.

Only two miles from Sutter Creek on Highway 49, Amador City is the state's smallest incorporated city by area.
It was incorporated into a city around 1915. Historically, it's located in a rich gold bearing area of the Motherlode of California. In 1848-1849 an unknown creek was prospected by a wealthy rancher named Jose Maria Amador. There were no known settlements until 1851 but the California Gold Rush changed the landscape of California forever and towns began to appear everywhere.A post office was established at Amador City in 1863.
Amador's most famous and productive mine, the Keystone, produced about $24 million in gold during 1853-1942. These prices would be higher using today's gold values....a lot higher. Gold was around $20. an ounce back then and today averages $1200. an ounce. Wow!....Yea!! If those miners had only known what was going to happen to the price of gold 150 years later I'm sure they would have saved some for their grandchildren. Life was hard though and the work was backbreaking. Most of them died trying. Prices for everything were obscenely expensive and most of the miners were taken advantage of by local suppliers. It was called "mining the miners".
Women played a big roll in this depending on their skills. They started restaurants, laundries, boarding houses, bath houses and brothels. Never let it be said that women didn't have the moxie to stand on their own two feet in the history of the western movement. They did what they had to do and some succeeded rather well.

Well, enough of the history lesson. We had a nice evening in spite of the hot weather. We made a little money and had a good time. It was what The Bean, my five year old grandson, would call a "handsome" evening.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pyromaniacs Down on the Farm

Every year, in the summer, our gourd group is invited to have one of their meetings at Sylvia's Farm. We have a workshop and a potluck lunch and a whole lot of fun. We have a short business meeting on the porch and drool over Sylvia's house with all the antiques, wall to ceiling bookcases and the beautiful built in buffet filled with gourd art and old dishes.
Her garden is always so lovely and the weather perfect. It has never been too hot to be outside whether we're having a meeting, eating or working on the gourds. So far we have been lucky. Sacramento valley can be extremely hot in the summer. Yesterday was perfect.

We all shared our skills with a propane torch, a smaller (creme brulee) torch, and a heat gun. Some of us had learned this technique a couple of years ago and either showed others how to do it or perfected our own skills. We all had a good time lighting the gourds on fire, burning them and putting the burning embers out with our spray bottles of water. Later the gourds will be stained, embellish, and turned into a piece of art. The burning is a great effect and makes the gourd look very old. Usually this is done on a gourd that is broken or one that a critter got to when it was drying...and if a rat didn't help make the holes, you can make them yourself.
At our next meeting, I will take some pictures of the finished gourd art and post them on the blog.You'll be surprised how these burnt gourds transform into beautiful vases, bowls and containers of all kinds...even jewelry.  We had so much fun with the torches, but were very careful not to get anywhere near the dry grass around the farm. This project could turn into a disaster if you weren't careful. Sylvia and her husband have a perfect covered, concrete area in front of their workshop, with metal tables and running water. It's always a great place for us to "play with fire".

Then we ate...
Everyone brought the most delicious food and we feasted like kings and queens. I brought a dessert with...what else... ZUCCHINI. It was a lemon zucchini cake with pecans and a cream cheese, lemon zest frosting. Everyone like it and I used up two more of my prolific zucchini.
I love going down into the valley to Sylvia's place. It's so nice to know that ,not far from the booming metropolis of Sacramento, there is still a small farming community with people who grow their own food, raise animals, and have dogs that greet you like you're the most wonderful person they know. She and her husband have lived there for 35 years... raised their kids there and have no intention of moving and selling their farm. It's a place with too many memories to sell for a profit.... Two much love in the walls.
Thanks Sylvia. Again, we didn't burn down the barn and , again, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Tonight is the Amador City Wine, Art and Music Summer Social.I love this venue. It's only from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. and very low keyed. (Could be all the wine.) Everyone seems to have a great time and if we sell something...all the better. Christie (a fellow gourd artist) and I will have a table set up with some of our gourds. If you're anywhere close to us , come by and visit.
This is an event sponsored by the Goldpan Merchants Assoc. and the Amador Whitney Museum. Wine tasting is $15. which includes a commemorative Amador City glass to take home and entitles guests to taste all the participating wineries. There's live music and lots of local artists. Should be a nice evening.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"Sumptuous Oblivion"

Are you ready? I'M HERE TO SAVE THE DAY!! ( That was fun!) I feel like Wonder Woman... or someone.
Has the hot weather and a few zucchini seeds blossomed into a prolific plant that is growing more zucchini than you know what to do with? Are you known as the "giver of zucchini" by all your friends and family? Do they close the shutters and lock the door when they see you coming? Well, I have a better way to give this vegetable away. YOU DISGUISE IT!
Some times you have to trick people into thinking that they are receiving a gift when dispensing excess veggies from the garden to wary friends. So.... may I introduce the very beautiful and delicious
~Sophie Zucchini Bread~.
This recipe is from allrecipes.com and it is the best that I have found . It's very simple, uses three whole cups of shredded Zucchini and is absolutely wonderful. As Laura Stotko says, who submitted this recipe to All Recipes, (The bread is...) "Extra dense with zucchini, this loaf has the classic combination of cinnamon and nuts to tempt you into a sumptuous oblivion." I agree.
Let's get started....
3 cups all-purpose flour              
2cups white sugar
1teaspoon salt                             
1teaspoon baking soda                  
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon         
1/4 teaspoon baking powder          
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) I ran out of walnuts and used some pecans instead.                                           


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.)
2. Sift together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon and baking powder.
3. Beat eggs. Add and mix well: sugar, vanilla, and oil. Add shredded zucchini to egg mixture. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Stir in nuts if desired.
Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.( I use Pam non-stick spray that is called BAKING. It has wheat flour in the oil. Nothing sticks and I don't have to grease and flour the pans.)
4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan, on rack, for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan and completely cool.

I had two different pans and they cooked differently. The black one on the left cooked faster and at 50 mins was overdone. I may not have had as much batter in it.  The pan on the right was done perfectly at 50 mins. When I bake this bread again I will set the time for 40 minutes and check both of them. It would probably be better to have exactly the same pans and try to distribute the batter as evenly as possible. Know your oven. Some ovens cook differently and some pans heat differently. 
This bread was so delicious. When Sis came last weekend we finished off almost all of it. It's even better the day after you bake it and thick slices toasted with butter spread over it is almost a religious experience. Wrap one of these babies up in some foil or plastic wrap, tie it with a lovely ribbon and take it to your neighbors. You may have to call it something besides Zucchini bread until they taste it. Maybe "Sumptuous Oblivion" or "Bodacious Bread". Make up something that really tickles your tastebuds. Remember that you're making zucchini irresistible. It's a righteous pursuit. Then, when they come over to your house for the recipe you can tell them they need ZUCCHINI to make the bread. That's good for at least 3 medium sized zuks. The neighborhood attitude will change and you can start a Zucchini Stand in front of your home.
Try the bread. You'll love it. Make lots of it and freeze it for next winter.
Next time we will use more grated Zucchini in a Cornbread Casserole. I'm on a mission here.... This vegetable will not be composted.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Friend's visit and the Saga of the Baby Birds

I waved goodbye to my friend "C" this morning as she drove down the road. She left earlier because the day is going to be very hot and the valley even hotter. She wanted to drive home, pick up her cat, Max, and settle into her home by the lake before the heat of the afternoon finds it's footing.Summer has arrived.
She drove up on Saturday from Sacramento. We had such a nice visit. Mostly stayed around the farm, but we did go out to dinner Saturday night at Teresa's, our local Italian restaurant. Was it good!!
"C" had a knee replacement about 5 mos. ago and is doing really well. As hard as it was to go through, it will be worth it in the long run. She did all the exercises and physical therapy that she was suppose to and it has paid off. She is walking without pain and has, for all purposes, a new knee.

While "C" was here I had a meltdown over these baby birds. It appeared that they had been abandoned by the parents. As I told you in another post, these House Finches had built a nest in a container right next to the front door and that door, being our only access to the front yard, was causing the little family of Linnets a lot of stress. Well Friday afternoon the babies were looking dehydrated and very sad.  Two of them looked dead. The parents were no where to be seen. The Internet said that I should watch the nest and the parents should come every 30 mins or so. There were a "no show" that afternoon and on Saturday morning they were no where to be seen. The babies were looking really bad. So when "C" got here I was beside myself with worry and not sure what to do. She and I decided to move the whole container with the fake greenery, the nest and the birds in it over to the other end of the porch.

You can see the tin with the babies and nest hanging on the last porch post in the photo above. Carl was so curious about the birds and even though they were not making any noise, he kept watching them.
I made some white bread soaked in warm milk and using some tweezers, got the babies to eat some of the wet bread. Three of them started opening their mouths and taking the food. The other two were underneath and didn't seem to respond at all. We moved the Hummingbird feeder away from the babies and decided that we would watch out of the living room window for a while and see what might happen. It was almost 24 hours since I had seen the parents.
Within 20 minutes or so, guess who arrived? Yep! Mom and Dad. First Dad arrived and flew over to the front door. He was having a fit and I was beginning to think that I had made a big mistake. But, Mom flew right to the nest and started feeding the babies. I was so relieved that I almost cried.  I know that they had not been there all morning or the afternoon before and those babies were dying for some food. I don't know where the parents went or why. I only know that I was sure they were gone forever. Maybe they were tired of the commotion at the door. Maybe they were afraid of the other nest of sparrows in the eaves near them. Maybe the Hummers where bothering them. We have a little Hummer we call the "crazy one" who chased the other Hummers away from the feeder and zooms around the yard like a dive bomber. He kept flying around the nest and acting like he was going to attack the babies. I was ready to get the fly swatter.
I will never know what the problem was, but those two Finches didn't show up for about 24 hours and those babies almost died. Thanks to my friend's encouragement and help with moving the nest, the babies are doing well.
I will still put a chair and pad underneath the nest just in case one of them falls out. They are so small but they are packed in there like sardines. I could just see one of them trying to spread it's wings and flipping itself right out of the nest. I don't know why I'm being so paranoid about all of this. Nature has it's moments that are hard to watch and understand. I live with this. I shouldn't be so sensitive but these babies are so needy..., and sweet.
Look at these little guys. They are getting cuter and bigger by the minute. They look at me like they know that we helped them. I love to think they do anyway. All five are doing well. Maybe Mom and Dad took a short vacation for the day on Friday but that's not going to cut it around here. They need to finish what they started. They can have their fun after the kids are grown and gone, like the rest of us.

The other big news is that my wonderful, computer literate friend "C" sat down and showed me how to transfer more that three photos  to my blog on one post. I have never known how to do this. That's why you never saw more than 3 photos on any one blog post before today. That's why you saw so many collage photos. Picassa would not let me post more that 3 photos from their site. Well, you live and learn. I made the forth photo extra large just to celebrate. Now I can have some fun...
Thanks "C". You've brought me one step closer to knowing what I'm doing here. You're a sweetie. Come up again soon.