Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Recipe for Blackberry, Apple & Almond Cake...

The end of summer is nigh... The sun streaming through the window has changed from the stark, bright light of high summer (highlighting my cleaning imperfections) to bathing everything it hits in a golden hue. My mind is slowly turning from salads to comfort foods. This year, I feel more than ever that fall is just around the corner. After a mild summer, I'm already seeing the leaves change colour and, in some cases, slowly falling onto my overgrown, raggedy garden.
The produce of fall is gradually making an appearance at the local farmers market too... squashes, blackberries and, today, apples from upstate New York, piled high at the entrance...
Now, I'm on a bit of a baking kick at the moment, and so, I decided to bag me up some apples, pick up a punnet of blackberries, and tootle back home to make my favourite fall cake... Apple, blackberry, and almond cake...

Mmm... What a delicious combination (although I could add almonds to anything and an instant love affair would ensue). And blackberries, are synonymous with autumn... Once upon a time, I would have left my house with an old ice-cream tub, wandered down the lane, and, in no time, filled it with blackberries from the hedgerows... but that that was back in Blighty... Here, in my part of New Jersey, they don't grow with such free abandonment... and so, I have to make do with blackberries sold at the local farmers market... they're still local, but paid for, and I've not had the joy of picking them and popping a few (several) in my mouth along the way!

This recipe was originally taken from one of my old Sainsbury's calendars... I slightly adapted it to include more marzipan (have I mentioned that I love, love, love marzipan)... Seriously, I could just eat the whole packet in one go... no guilt... nothing! It's really easy to make and a nice tea time treat, with a cuppa. Mmmm, the taste of fall...

Anyhoo, I just wanted to share this recipe... just in case you had a glut of blackberries and apples and were looking for recipe ideas.
Take care.

Blackberry, Apple & Almond Cake Recipe

2 small apples (peeled, cored & thinly sliced)
100g blackberries
juice 1/2 lemon
100g marzipan (cut into small cubes)
100g unsalted butter (softened)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp almond extract
150g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
25g of flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 160C / 320F. 
Grease and baseline a 8 inch cake tin.
Put the apples and blackberries in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon juice. Add the cubed marzipan to the fruit mixture and stir through.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the almond extract and beat.
Add the flour and baking powder, combine thoroughly.

Spread half of the prepared cake mixture to the bottom of the cake tin.
Top with 3/4 of fruit mixture.
Layer the remaining cake mixture on top and the rest of the fruit.
Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the cake.

Bake in the oven for around 50 minutes or until the cake mixture is cooked through. (I check by sticking a knife into the centre and making sure it comes out clean).
Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a plate.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I ♥ hearts...

I've always been told that I am a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, but do you know what? Looking around this little old place, not only do I wear my heart on my sleeve, I also manage to shoehorn it into every possible room.

Now, my little heart obsession began quite a while ago, even before the shabby chic era... before it became uber-trendy to stamp a heart onto anything that doesn't move.

So, now here I am in a heart-filled home...

...peeking out of pots, adorning the front of pottery... I even own a heart-shaped triangle! Is it even called a triangle once it's no longer triangle-shaped?? Who knows? But, I have one..

 Anyhoo, where am I going with this post? Ah, yes, hearts... have they become hackneyed? Have we gone a heart too far?

Should I start reigning the hearts in?? It wasn't until I started to take these pictures that I truly realised how many hearts had infiltrated this tiny place (yes, my home is tiny, so it's not as though they are spread out over distance).

The problem is, these little hearts all hold a place in my heart (pardon the pun). They were brought on trips to Seattle, relaxing breaks at the cabin, afternoon teas with my family back in Blighty, and even sewn with my own fair hands...

So, I guess I couldn't lose a single one of them. Each one tells a little story. Personal to me and my family. Possessions can be one-offs or mass-produced, for me it is the story that comes along with them that matters.

Interior designers are always looking for the next big thing, or casting dispersion on someone's home because it's not cohesive, it's or too this or too that.... when, in fact, if a home only sings to those who live in it, that's okay, because it is their home..

We have to remember that our home is a reflection of who we are and, in my case, I am a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

Happy weekend all!

Friday, January 31, 2014


Last week was my birthday. I've entered the final year of my thirties... I always feared coming up to the big 4-0, but I think I've begun to accept that wrinkles will happen, skin will sag, and weight will become ever more difficult to shift... and so, with this new found acceptance, I feel confident. Confident in the person I have finally grown into... or should that read growing into (I guess we never stop growing, or we should try not to). I finally like me, warts and all. It took me 39 years to get to this version of me and it was a pretty ropey journey, with a few older versions that I would like to brush under the rug, but this nudging-40 version knows what she likes and is not afraid to stick her stake in the ground and say 'This is me'.

Anyhoo, I was sat on the couch the other day, enjoying a quick cuppa before picking up the kids... the sunlight was streaming through the blinds and bathing the room in it's rays... and it made me smile. It's been so very cold here lately and these beautiful chinks of light made me remember that spring is just around the corner and every day we are treated to an extra minute of precious daylight... and that, my dears, is something to be happy about!
Take care all.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cape Cod ♥

Hello there.
So, we're back in Cape Cod. It's been a while since we were last here, but nothing has changed... it is still as beautiful as ever. Seriously, I have yet to pass a house that I wouldn't live in and the gardens are certainly something to write home about. This is the place to come to if you want inspiration for a beach cottage. Cape Cod has managed to hold onto that quaint beach look... Apparently, the planning is very strict here, but it looks like the locals don't mind as I saw lots of signs protesting at the proposal to open a Lowes (DIY superstore) here. It did make me wish that the Jersey Shore had adopted the same approach... but I'm not going to get on my soapbox... not today, anyway, as I am on vacation!

We've only been here for a couple of days, so I don't have an abundance of shots to share with you yet, but I'm definitely on a house-stalking mission this week to get some house candy photos.

Love this mermaid, relaxing under the tree!
Unfortunately, the place we're staying in this year no way matches up to the cottage we vacationed in a few years back (you can read about that here)... it's more 'rustic cabin' than 'cape beach house' (that's what happens when you leave the hubby to pick and book the place... note to self: spending weeks to find just the right place, does pay off)... However, it's not all bad... it does have the bonus of being across the road from a beautiful freshwater lake. So, the girls and hubby immediately took advantage of that little perk and took a refreshing dip.

I'm still a little weirded out by swimming in lakes... I think I've watched too many B-movies or the lingering effects of being told that 'a pike will bite your toe off if you swim in a lake'... Either way, I sat by the edge with Lucy the dog and took in the sights.
With an overcast day on Sunday, we took in the sights and visited the Cape Cod Lavender Farm.
It was past the season for seeing the lavender in full bloom, but there was still plenty of pretty sights to take in...

... and my little ladies loved the little fairy garden...
... and even more, they loved adding to it with their own version of a fairy house.
We then trekked through the woods... my eldest complaining about bugs and my youngest reveling in the fact that we could get lost... which we did... but, lucky for us, my ever-sensible six year-old showed us the way... striding purposely in front...
... while I dawdled behind snapping pictures of moss!
Anyhoo, after a perfect day at the beach today, catching hermit crabs, hunting for sand dollars and marveling at sand creations, I had best dash and shower some of this sand off the old legs...

I'll be checking in soon.
Take care all.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dark wood furniture... Love it or hate it?

Last night I sat watching a UK housey show... you know the format, some poor saps (home owners) want to sell up and move on, but just cannot sell their dilapidated (unloved) home... enter presenter to point out the blindingly obvious: get them to spend some cash to improve their property and, low and behold, it now sells... Homeowners thank presenter profusely for pointing out that a dog pee stained carpet and filthy kitchen is not loved by one and all. Even though I find the presenters condescending and shake my head in disbelief at the home owners, I still watch goggle-eyed, as though I were my daughters watching an all new episode of Sofia the First...
Anyhoo, where am I going with this? Oh, yes, last night I watched the telly, as they churned out the same formulae for selling a home. Neutralise, neutralise, neutralise (or is that what the Daleks say... oh no, that was exterminate...)... remove all traces of personality, lose the dark wooden furniture, yada, yada, yada etc. Screech... Rewind... What was that about dark wooden furniture? Lose the dark wooden furniture? Is this a fashion faux pas? Apparently, in some circles (no, make that a lot of circles) it is a big no-no. The equivalent of having mink throws adorning your couch and stuffed white rhino heads on your walls.
Now, I've flirted with blond furniture and beech wood, but I always feel drawn towards the richness of dark wood. You could say I'm drawn to the dark side. In fact, I'd go as far to say I love dark wooden furniture. There, I've said it. I'll join the unhip crowd! Mind you, I can't be on my own, as here in the States dark wood appears in many a home magazine (and I'm not talking the kind of mags that you find at the doctor's office, circa 1980).
Yes - that is a picture frame without a picture in it... I have yet to get one printed out... I said there'd be no foofing...
Across the pond, back in Blighty, it might be a different story though, as I've found that the love affair with lighter wood is still going strong and the much less popular dark wood has been relegated to the homes of OAP's (old aged pensioners) and charity shops. In fact, even my mum (an aforementioned OAP) is in favour of junking all her lovely antique pieces in favour of it's lighter wooden counterpart...

Perhaps I'm just an old fashioned girl, or perhaps I have been Stateside long enough that my tastes have shifted too. Needless to say that friends back home, with their modern, contemporary homes would be running a mile if viewing my home at an open house... either that or calling up some design show for a makeover!
Anyway, before I dash off, I'd like to hear from you. Are you a lover or hater of dark wood? Am I completely missing the mark???
Ta-ta for now!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A happy Sunday...

How to get back to blogging, when away for so long?... Well, there's a conundrum. Do I write a big long post telling you what I've been doing for the past year (no doubt boring the pants of any readers that happen to pass by this little old place) or do I just post some pictures of my day spent in the garden, acting as though I'd never even left? Yes, I like the sound of the latter much more... More my style. So, here I am, shuffling back into the room, head down, hoping no one will notice.

Today, I've been pottering in the garden. Now, our little garden took quite a hammering in the old Super Storm Sandy... So much so, that when we returned back to our little old house, I wondered whether it would ever look green again. With everything caked in a thick brown sludge and looking battered and broken, I could only hope that it would recover and amble on. So, here it is looking lush and green once more, baring but a few battle scars (namely the pear tree which now leans at a forty-five degree angle, but I haven't the heart to remove it)... . Granted, a fair few plants were lost (plants and salt water are not a match made in heaven, apparently), but the old trusty roses came back, and this is their second round of blooms. The arbor was laden with flowers in June... The scent was heavenly, but short lived, as the weather turned sweltering for a week and the poor blooms simply wilted and left a petal carpet on the path...

Surprisingly, many of my annuals self-seeded and frothy alyssum bubbles over rock walls and petunias spill over the path... All manner of colors engulf the old stone owl.

At the front of the house, I lost a lot of plants... I had creeping verbena and lady's mantel softening the hard lines of the path, but they didn't come back, so I made the best of what was left and hope that in time the lavender will creep over the rocks.
The dog sign is an attempt to stop the local cat population from spraying my lavender... This is the second batch planted! Bloomin' cats!! (Just for the record I love my cat... just not the big tom cat that sprays my garden daily... I don't want to offend any moggy lovers on this site... I need all the support I can get!)

Anyways, down the path we go... The side of the house is always a cool spot, so you can usually find a dog or two hanging around... here's Lucy in 'attack' mode... No doubt her pray will be licked to death very soon...
The planting down the side took a hammering during Hurricane Sandy, and I lost all of my ferns, which had once  loved this shady spot... nevertheless, I still like to meander down this path, knowing that the gate opens up to my tranquil garden.
We have a temporary fence in front of the lawn, at the moment... you can just see it in the background (an attempt to keep the dogs off the lawn)... it's definitely not in keeping with the rest of the garden, but needs must and all that... meanwhile, I'll still be on the hunt for a permanent solution.

So, there you go... this is me dipping the proverbial toe back into blogland.. I've decided to post real time pictures... no foofing and faffing around... a warts and all look into my little world...
Oh, and if you were wondering where I am? Here's me, sat on our local beach on Saturday night... even though Super Storm Sandy dealt us a heavy blow last October, I still feel truly blessed to live next to the ocean. When people ask me, 'Is it worth all the drama to live so close to the beach?', my firm answer is 'Absolutely'!
Toodle pip!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A silver lining...

Hello there,
Well, life has been a little hectic around here. In between lots and lots of beach trips, we have had quite a bit of work done on this little old place... With new roofs, paths, doors, and the usual stripping and painting of junk-store finds, I have been one busy lady...
So, why am I posting here today? Well, the other day we had a whole new roof put on (the constant 'patching up' just wasn't cutting it anymore)... it all proved very messy and there were quite a few casualties in my beloved garden... Apparently, plants don't handle roof debris landing on them very well... Anyhoo, as I swept away the debris and cut back the plants (with a tear in my eye), the hubby reminded me that you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs... Looking on the bright side, I trimmed the broken branches of my David Austin 'Grace' rose and popped their drooping stems in a jug of water in hope that they might open, and at least be enjoyed inside... and this is what I awoke to this morning...

Moral of the story: Every cloud as a silver lining.
Stay chipper.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What a lovely Mother's Day...

Hello dearies,
Hope all is fine and dandy with you all. I have spent my Monday catching up from my Mother's Day hurrah. Yes,  Mother's Day does afford a day of rest, but, unfortunately, the chores do pile up while you're being pampered. At one point, I ventured into the kitchen (to top up my glass of vino), only to be greeted by piles of wet clothes (left over from a water fight in the garden), dishes oozing out of the kitchen sink and dishwasher, and a path of toys (both children's and dogs') strewn like a breadcrumb trail through the house.

Not that I'm about to complain, as the hubby did do a spot of ironing for me on Sunday morning. He made a mere dent in the mountain of ironing which smirks at me on a daily basis... But any little bit helps (I think it also helped him appreciate what a god-awful task it is)...

Anyhoo, I figured I would share a little of my special day with you...

Catching up on the latest Country Living

It was spent in my little garden. I'm so proud of this space that my heart swells when I sit in it and appreciate it's beauty. It's ever-evolving and I'm never quite sure what I'm going to end up with... I just plant and leave it up to the gods, letting the blank canvas evolve in front of me...

This year, I am over-run with Evening Primrose. I'm not even sure where they came from. The pale pink doesn't sit naturally next to the orange of the Coreopsis, or the deep pink of the Dianthus (an annual that never died back during our mild winter), but, hey-ho, I just let them all grow with free abandonment... I'm sure there are a lot of more experienced gardeners out there that would 'tsk-tsk' this hodge podge of colours, but I've never been one to conform...

I've finally managed to get the hang of roses, with several David Austins planted around the patio... I'd always envisaged sitting out in the evening with a nice glass of wine and the air heavy with the scent of roses... Hopefully, this year, I'll be doing exactly that... although, I think the air will also have a strong citronella smell to it too (blooming mosquitos). I've also popped in some climbing roses... they're starting to wind themselves around a wrought iron arbor... I'm going to wait until a few more are open before I share that picture with you, though.

Anyhoo, whether it be the fragrant roses which are just beginning to display their beauty, the butterflies and bees flitting between the honeysuckle and foxgloves, or the birds splashing in the bird bath, all of it is a pleasure for the senses.

At one point, a neighbour popped over and congratulated me on the tranquil space I have created...

... and that, my dears, is exactly what I was aiming for. I so rarely end up with what I envisaged, but I think I've finally cracked it in the garden... mind you, there is always room for improvement... And that's the great thing about a garden: it's a piece of art that is forever evolving and, while you can control it to a certain degree, you can never be sure of what you'll end up with!

So, my Mother's Day was spent doing what I love the most... Watching my little girls play fairies in the garden all day long (with no major tantrums), enjoying the peaceful space I have created, and just being thankful... thankful for being alive...

... and being a Mum.

Thank you for popping by. I'll catch up with you next week.
Take care all.
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