Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cape Cod, English Coffee Cake & a Cuppa

I'm soooo excited. We're going on a family vacation to Cape Cod. Our first vacation since the hubby and I left Australia (aside from our visits back to the mother land, but they don't count). We picked out the most perfect cottage... Well, it looked OK on the website... Eek, I hope it wasn't photo-shopped within an inch of it's life.
Anyways,  I can't wait to take heaps of pictures (albeit not very well), discover the Cape, not do any house work and eat fantastic food... Unfortunately not shellfish, as I developed a rather nasty allergy to this after the birth of my daughter...
Anyhoo, I obviously have images of sitting out on the deck, taking in the sea air, with a lovely cuppa. With this in mind, I decided to bake a coffee cake to take with me and enjoy with said cuppa. Not the coffee crumb cake that appears in the States, but an English Coffee Cake , topped with lashings of coffee frosting and walnuts... My mouth waters just thinking about it!

I'm not an accomplished cook by any stretch of the imagination, but this always turns out tasty. If you want to give it a whizz then I've popped the recipe on the bottom of this blog.

I substituted the strawberry jam with cherry jam, pecans instead of walnuts and topped with a few coffee beans too!
Wish my handwriting was neater...

I just love these measuring spoons...
This is one cake I won't be sharing with the kiddies, as it has quite a lot of coffee in it and my kids DO NOT need anymore energy... I, on the other hand, will take caffeine in any form and at any given opportunity.

Speaking of which, I had to slice the cake for transportation (need to buy a cake tin), so I figured I may as well have a slice with my evening cuppa...ahhhhhh...

English Coffee Cake

150g sugar (2/3 cup)
150g butter or marg (1.3 stick)
3 eggs
150g self raising flour (2/3 cup)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp instant coffee

For the icing sugar
225g icing sugar (2 cups)
100g butter / marg (1 stick)
1 tbsp hot water
1 ½ tbsp instant coffee

Filling / Decoration
Strawberry jam
Walnut pieces
Dark  chocolate

(I tried to convert to American Measures. It should work out OK... I'll try it this way next time)

1.  Preheat the oven at 160C, 325 F, gas 3.Baseline and grease two equally sized sandwich tins (I usually sprinkle with a little flour too)!
2.  Add the sugar and the butter to a bowl and whisk until very fluffy and a pale cream.
3.  Whisk the eggs in a mug with a fork and then add them gradually to the mixture with 1 tbsp of flour each time. Make sure you don't use all the flour.
4.  Add the rest of the flour and the baking powder to the mixture and fold it in gently with a large metal spoon.
5.  Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and add to the mixture still folding. Once mixed, divide into the sandwich tins and cook for 30 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.
6.  Meanwhile Cream the butter and the icing sugar until light and fluffy. Dissolve the coffee in boiling water, making sure you don't add too much water or the icing will be runny and add it to the butter and icing sugar. Whisk and leave in the fridge until the cake is done.
7.  Once the cakes are done and have been put onto plates spread the icing on the bottom of one of the cakes (leaving around half of the icing for the top) and spread the strawberry jam onto the bottom of the other. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake and decorate with grated dark chocolate and walnuts (I find pecans work just as well too).

Rediscovering Friendship

First of all, I would like to thank everyone that has read this post. I can't believe that I even had comments. Talk about a heart swelling moment!

It's a quick post today, as I had company last night. Not something that happens very often in this girl's life... not while I've been in the States anyhow. I've lived here almost 6 years and during that time, I've been pretty tied up with pregnancy and motherhood, so friends fell to the way side. But boy did I miss them... until you don't have them, you really don't realize what a special relationship a 'good' friend is. Mrs. S came into my life after after a playground meeting and, boy, how great is it to have a special bond with someone that's not 3000 miles away. My hubby jokes that she's my new 'girlfriend' (I think he's jealous, as he's never had to share me, except with the webcam).

Mmm yummy nibbles...
Anyhoo, we had nibbles, wine, good conversation and all topped off with a lovely cuppa at the end of the night... I forgot to mention she's a Brit too, so every meeting has to involve tea. Lots of it... I'm always beaming at the end of the night, pretty much like when I was a teenager and had been on a date... a friend of hers said that relationships for us gals come full circle... We start off being all about friends, then we meet boys and they become our focus, and then, as we settle into married life and kids, it all becomes about those friends again... never a truer word spoken...

I call these pop 'ems I just love anything I can eat on stick... Except corn dogs!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Do List

I'm a girl that believes in lists. It all started with the 'Christmas Wish' list, moved on to 'Best Friends' list, 'Madonna Songs' list and then with the onset of adulthood the oh-hum life lists of 'Shopping', 'Work To Do', 'Kids Christmas Wish' list... You get the picture.

In my kitchen I have this 'To Do' list. It's more like a wish list and it by no way covers what I actually need want to do. I rarely scratch things off it, but let me tell you when a task has finally been accomplished, it is a practical champagne popping moment in my house. The hubby tells me to "Put achievable goals on there." That's why  'Mulch' was added... It was supposed to be 'achievable' and yes I know it's practically August (that's why I half heartily pull the weeds up every day... why didn't I mulch back in May??). There's also 'Paint Back Door'  (the decorators tape has been on there since February), but I will get to all these items (one day)... Meanwhile, I can look at the pretty list on the fab blackboard, with the cute herb pots... and that my dears is why I have the list in the kitchen... so I have a reason for this wall decor... I think it not only looks stylish, but it is practical as well. An organizer and garden all in one! OK I may as well tell you now that it was style over function and I have to move the plants every day to the windowsill to get a their morning sun...

But look it's so functional and oohh pretty herbs too... What more could a gal ask for?? Maybe I should add 'Move Plants to Windowsill' to the list... Now that 'is' something I can achieve!

'Paint Kitchen'  actually refers to my awful kitchen cabinets (I sanded them down in Febuary!!) I'll be revealing more about that project soon...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Carnations - A Guilty Pleasure

In a former life, I finished work on a Friday afternoon, popped to the local flower stall and decorated my home with nature's sweet blossoms. With the onset of motherhood, though, the belt was tightened (to the point of asphixiation) and such luxuries became a thing of the past. And so, I had to make do with blooms from the garden in the summer (mainly hydrangeas) and faux flowers (eek, I'm turning into my mother) at all other times.
When visiting my best friend in the UK, I returned green with envy. Not of her newly built cottage, in a beautiful picturesque village, nor of her perfectly (and expensively) decorated home, or her beautiful dog or gourmet stocked fridge, or anything else that is perfect in her life. I had flower envy. Every room, had beautiful flowers spilling out of vases and pitchers... beautiful white ranunculus in the dining room, freesias in the bedroom, roses in the hallway, tulips in lounge... All stunning! Returning home, I looked at my dusty faux florals, popped them in a plastic bag and banished them to the attic. Could I be any more miserable?
A few weeks later, reading , the lovely Sarah commented that her weekly treat was to buy fresh flowers for her home, and that $8 treat can bring so much joy... The light bulb went on above my head. Of course, she's right. Flowers may be a luxury, but for a few dollars we can spread a little happiness in our homes. As I said, money has been tight since becoming a stay at home mum and so the old pennies don't stretch as far as ranunculus, tulips and roses; but I have rediscovered the beauty of carnations.

Once upon a time, these only conjured up images of naff lapel flowers, dodgy Indian restaurants, and gas station bouquets. But by keeping to all one colour and displaying in simple jars or pitchers, I think they can stand up to any flower. So, when doing the weekly shop, a bunch goes in the trolley, and this cost is balanced out by cutting out a packet of cookies... An all round win-win situation!! Not sure what my bf would say though... What do you think of this unsung bloom? Well worth the money or best kept in the 70's?

A Julie & Julia Moment!

When I first came to the states in 2004 a guy told told me all about blogging and I think I said something along the lines of "Well who would read them?" Obviously I didn't quite get the concept and I didn't 'get it' until almost six years later. That's when I started stumbled across the blog Not because I wanted to decorate my run down, wrong side of the tracks house all beachy. Admittedly, I was jealous of her style, but the thing that hooked me was the fact that she too had moved from the UK (the mother land) and was making sense of enormity of this decision and through this she had decided to blog not only the transition  of her cottage but also that of her life in Australia. 

Once upon a time I brushed the sleep from my eyes, morning cuppa in hand and read the BBC pages or The Times, Facebook, anything that took me home, but now I'm hooked on a complete strangers life thousands of miles away. Through her decorating blog, I have learnt to accept my life here in the states. In fact I will go as far to say, that I now relish each day! I'm appreciating everything around me and seeing things through new eyes. Who da thunk that a blog could do this? But it's true! Even the hubby (never a bigger cynic would you meet) say's "this is a Sarah moment eh?" (Sarah aka Beach Cottage blogger). I see beauty almost every day and always say to myself "I should capture this moment and blog it" and so here I am.

If no one else reads this, it will serve no purpose other than a diary, with pictures!  Anyhoo, I've started it... I now need to work out how to get my pictures up on here. I have a lot to share... I guess I'm only sharing it with the laptop for now, but who knows where this baby is heading!
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