Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas at our little old house...

Hello there, lovelies.
It's been a while since I popped in, hasn't it? But, let me tell you, it has been one busy, busy time for this old girl! What with weddings, birthdays, and trips to Blighty, the time has just slipped away and here I am at the end of the year!

Anyhoo, I'll start by saying that I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! Mine was sprung upon me. Having spent a month back in the mother land, I landed in NJ on December 21st and then had to get this old place ready for the festive season... which was no mean feat!

But, come Christmas Eve, you'd never have known that, only days earlier, there had still been pumpkins knocking around our home! So, for the past few days, I've been putting the brakes on, breathing in the sweet pine smell, munching on mince pies, and enjoying a nice cuppa from my newly acquired robin mug!

Aww, don't I just love robins? I'm always tempted to smuggle a couple back in my bra when returning from Blighty (since the nursing days, there's always more room in there than I'd like, but that's another story)... They're so cute and plump... I'm back to talking Robins here... keep up... and I just  love to hear the cheerful chatter in the garden... although if I ever managed to introduce the much smaller (and cuter) robin to NJ,  it would likely end up in a turf war with it's much bigger American counterpart... and we all know how that ended for our little red squirrels don't we? (no? well, lets just say it didn't go well)...  Taking that into consideration, I guess I should leave meddling with nature well alone...

Anyhoo, I'm whittering on and I'm sure you have plenty to do before the New Year embarks... I know I do, but I just wanted to pop in, say hi and try out the new (soley for blogging) laptop!

Yeah, Santa left me a new one, so that I don't have to wrestle with hubby, children, dog or any other Tom, Dick or Harry when I want to blog!!  So, no excuses!

Ta ta for now!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A life worth living...

So, it's been a while hasn't it?
So long, that I am now sat here all tongue-tied, as though it were my first ever post... My first entry into 'Blogland'... so long, that as I tap out these words, there's a sense of awkwardness... I equate it to when you have every intention of sending 'Thank you' cards, but then life sweeps you up and you're caught in this time period where it's been left so long, you don't know whether to skulk under a rock and forget about sending them altogether, or just to bite the bullet and send them... after all, a late 'thank you' is better than no 'thank you' at all isn't it??

Well, I have that proverbial bullet gritted between my teeth (alas, if I were to do this my poor teeth would crumble under the stress... they can barely manage a Granny Smith these days) and here I am... tapping away to anyone passing by...

But what to say?? Well, I think the very first thing I should do is send a big 'thank you' to all who contacted me... I was here, just hiding.. scared to open the lines of communication... scared to share, when I wasn't in the right frame of mind... and so, instead I licked my wounds quietly in the corner... My blog became something I needed a break from while I sorted a few things out... They're still being sorted, but I don't want to skulk under that rock anymore... I have, once again, reminded myself of all the things in my life that make me smile...

... like a beautiful sun-filled day in my Autumnal garden... Where roses still bloom, bathing their delicate petals in the warm orange glow. Where trees cling onto their leaves as they gently rustle in the cool breeze (a precursor to the harsh winds that will whip through in a few weeks time)... Sat in the garden today, I smiled... a big smile... because I do have a lot to smile about... I just need to remind myself of that from time to time... and, even though I've not been feeling my usual chipper self of late, sometimes you just need to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and live life... every facet it of it... the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Anyhoo, I'll let you get off... I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for popping by, showing you care, and getting me out from under that rock!

Take care.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Little house ♥...

Hello there...First of all, I would like to say a B-I-G 'thank you' for all of your lovely comments. They really did put a smile on my face in an otherwise yucky time. So, I'm back, after quite a rollercoaster week... I'll not go into details (because there are many), but I will tell you that the exit from the cabin was hairy... trees down, crazy flooding... oh, and I picked up food poisoning en route home. Needless to say, I was very ill and not at all prepared for dealing with the damage that Hurricane Irene had left in our little home.

Anyhoo, I'll fast-forward to Friday... power finally restored, basement pumped and hot water back. Life is pretty much as it was pre-storm. We really had it lucky... other inland residents suffered terribly and my heart really does go out to them. Nature, while beautiful, can sometimes be so cruel...

So, here I am again. Appreciating my little home that bit more... loving it's tiny cozy rooms, and so proud that our teeny old creeky house stood up to the storm. We definitely didn't think she had it in her. When the winds are blowing a hooey outside, it creeks and groans and we always joke that it'll be whipped up into the air and dropped on a witch somewhere (the witch role is substituted at times)... but it made it!!! Apparently, she was built well (and I thought the contractor was kidding when he told me it was well-made the other week). So, if you look past the wonky windows, sloping floors, and totally impractical layout, you will see a pretty sturdy and much-loved home.

Okay, I've finshed gushing about how much I love my home (you're lucky... this post could have been about how much I love electricity and all of the modern amenities that come along with it).

So, what am I thinking about at the moment? Fall. Wahoo! Hello, cool nights... goodbye mosquitos! It's September and all the loveliness which comes with Autumn is almost upon us... I have projects up the wazoo to share and, once the kids are back on their school schedule, I'll finally have the time to blog. Life is good! Go on, smile!
Huge hugs!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Awaiting Hurricane Irene...

Okay... sometimes life gets a little scary. As I write this, at the Cabin, I sit and watch Hurricane Irene unfold on the news. Yesterday, the hubby and I returned (briefly) to New Jersey to pick up our cat and secure the house as best we could. As we drove up the Garden State Parkway, we both commented that the scene before us was reminiscent of a disaster movie... the road was bumper to bumper with cars, all evacuating the Jersey Shore. We turned on the local radio station and heard that a mandatory evacuation had been called in our little town... by 9 a.m. Saturday morning, all residents had to leave their homes... This is when the panic set in... even if we wanted to return to our home, we now had to wait until the township gives us the all-clear. Our plan to call the neighbours to check up on our little home also fell to the wayside...

So now, we sit and wait. Pray that the winds leave the huge trees that stand next to our house intact (the irony here, is that we had just contracted a guy last week to cut them back in the upcoming week... I guess nature might help us with that!)... Wait to see whether our roof (already a little leaky) stays on.... wait to see whether the windows which we only had put in 2 weeks ago are still there.... but more importantly, we pray that the water levels they keep talking about are over-exaggerated, and our poor little house stays dry...

I calm my eldest daughters fears, and tell her that her toys will be there when we return.... the hubby calms my fears and tells me it will all be okay... I sense his anxiety, as he nervously paces around.... and pray that he is right...

So, my dears, I try to be upbeat here, but I'm scared... I take comfort that we are all safe here in the Cabin... and everyone tells me that this is what matters... I know this is true... but I do so love my little home...
Take care all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The best soup... ever...

Hello lovelies...
Well, it's coming to the end of summer and, I tell you, I'm looking forward to a bit of routine in my life... I look forward to the kiddies going to bed at a decent time so I can be reunited with my blog once more. As it is, I'm lucky to get a few snatched moments here and there, where I catch up on reading my favourite blogs. I have posts milling around my head, waiting to be tapped out... and then there are those that make it onto the old laptop but are endlessly awaiting pictures... But, hey, you know that this is not a five minute gig, so I'll quit my whinging and let you know what I'm up to...

As I tap this out, I'm getting ready for a Cabin trip. The hubby dictates that we need to go on this trip, as the Cabin is the only place we ever sit down, with nothing to do. Forced relaxation is imposed on me... mind you, I'm planning on taking the old sewing machine up with me, as I have a few projects that are about, oooh, six months overdue... at least I won't be doing endless laundry or cleaning...

Before I head off, though, I decided to do a spot of cooking... good old comfort food... soup, dips, quiche and scones.. The sort of food you can grab after a day spent at the pool, or the food you can tuck into while watching the rain pitter-patter in the woods... (this is a more likely scenario, as it has been raining buckets lately)...

Tomatoes are in abundance at this time of year (and these tomatoes taste of what tomatoes should, instead of the watery nothingness we get off-season)... so, this soup explodes with flavour in your mouth. It's the only soup my girls ask for and actually thank me for making (this is a biggie in this house, as meal times are most definitely a chore for my gals!). Served with a thick slice of bread, dripping with ooey-gooey cheese, meals don't get much better...

And so, this gal is taking herself off into the wilderness... apparently my in-laws spied two bears next to the Cabin only last week... the hubby told me this, all excited... I told him he'll be walking the dog solo!
Take care!

Tomato Soup Recipe

2 1/2 lbs of fresh tomatoes (try and pop in several varieties e.g. plum, vine, cherry)
6 cloves of garlic (peeled)
1 yellow onion (peeled & sliced)
1 red onion (peeled & sliced)
olive oil (approx. 1/4 cup... a few good glugs)
salt & fresh black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 quart (750ml) chicken stock
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 450F
Wash, core  and cut the tomatoes in half.
Spread the tomatoes, onions & garlic cloves in a baking pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, until well covered. Sprinkle with the thyme, add the bay leaves and season with the salt pepper. I like to get my hands in and mix it all together, to ensure everything is covered in the olive oil.
Roast for 30 minutes or until the onions have started to caramelize (this is my favourite part, as the house is filled with the most delicious aroma... bliss...).
Remove the roasting pan and transfer the contents to a large pan. Add the chicken stock and butter. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Wash and dry the basil leaves and then add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in warm bowls, with a sprig of basil for garnish and a lovely piece of ooey-gooey cheese on toast for dipping...

When taste-tested, two out of two children surveyed stated that this was 'The best soup ever!'

Shared with Sarah at A Beach Cottage - Good Life Wednesday... go check out her linky party and leave inspired.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Smell the roses...

Hello there...
Well, I wasn't expecting to leave it so long between chats, but then I wasn't expecting a whole load of building work to be scheduled...  I was expecting the hubby to be gone on a bachelor weekend (weekends start mid-week, you know?), but not in the same week as major works began on this little place...

So, with the two kiddies, no bathroom, no windows, a missing door, and a whole lot of mess, I didn't have time to sit down in front of the old laptop...

Had I poured my heart out to you, it would have been a very sorry tale... there would have been tears, tantrums, cursing at males... wishing I was born as a male in my next life... and so on.... Needless to say I was not a happy camper...

But, this is another week and I now have a (nearly,) finished bathroom, new windows and a new back door. Hurrah! Oh, and as the hubby was very sorry for the scheduling mix up (that's what he called it... I say it was planned all the way), I also have a 'thank you, you're awesome, I'm a ****' David Austin rose planted in the front garden. A visual reminder of what I am able to put up with and how my hubby can sometimes get it sooooo wrong!

Hey, but this is my happy space, so I'm not going to dwell... the ice is melting around this place (just), so here I am to share a little of my life with you lovelies... after all you did nothing wrong to warrant my rant and general stroppiness..

So, I'll share some lovely garden shots with you... alas, not mine, though... as my beloved garden has building debris, weeds galore, and a tired-looking paddling pool in the middle... so, instead, I figured I'd show you the lovely Deep Cut Gardens, right here in Monmouth County.

It was a blistering hot day, but we managed to drag ourselves out and smell the roses... literally!

These gardens really are beautiful and the perfect place for a picnic on a beautiful sunny day...

The little ones loved the 'Hunt the Gnome' game and my heart swelled with pride as they took the time to look at the plants (even correctly naming a few... my little gardeners)!

I left inspired...although the hubby dreads this type of inspiration, as it can only equal bad things for the old wallet... In fact, as I write this post, I'm already drawing up a list of plants to pick up in the end of season sales. It seems a garden is never complete, and if the hubby makes any more 'scheduling errors,' I'll sure have me one nice rose garden!

Take care all.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An English gal's Strawberry Shortcake...

Strawberry shortcake is a big hit in my house... that would be the toy... I think it's a spin-off of a cartoon (aren't all toys these days??)... or, is this one of those toys that became so popular, it made it onto the screen?? Anyhoo, my girls love it, so we have, oohh at last count, at least eight of these lying around this little place. Usually strategically placed, so that I'll stand on them bare-footed and maximum damage is done to my poor dainty feet (perhaps these could be used in warfare??)...

Oh, and did I tell you (for anyone not lucky enough to have any of these beauties in the house), they smell delicious?  Apparently of strawberries...  you know, that kind of strawberry that candy tastes of... the bright red candy that can only come from a zillion E numbers and that is likely to give your kids the ability to climb walls.
Anyways, as I brushed the sleep from my eyes on Sunday morning, I was greeted with my eldest wielding said doll about an inch from my nose, declaring 'Mummy, want to play Strawberry Shortcake? You can be Plum'... my insides shrivelled... another day lost to the joys of Strawberry Shortcake...

Then, I had an even better idea (escape plan)... why not make a Strawberry Shortcake???... as in the dessert (not the doll). The fridge is brimming with strawberries at the moment... I'm a sucker for the BOGOF deals (buy-one-get-one-free), so this gave me the perfect opportunity to use some up and, thus, get the hubby off my back about wasting money and free some much needed space in the fridge.... The cherry on top, though, was that my daughter was super-excited about the prospect of actually eating strawberry shortcake... I then explained that we wouldn't be putting the actual Strawberry Shortcake doll in the cake... it did take a bit of the shine off the idea for her, but the deal was done!

Now, to me, when all's said and done, a Strawberry Shortcake looks a lot like a Victoria Sponge (well mine did, as I only had two of the required three cake tins)... but let's not argue about semantics... I'm in America now, so I'll call it a strawberry shortcake. So, I set about whipping this up... a lot of sugar.... oodles of cream...  fresh strawberries... how bad can this be??? The end result was a ruddy big cake!! It definitely put the weeny Victoria Sponge cake in its shadow... this monster was H-U-G-E!! I hope the kids like eating cake... all summer long... Which leads me to ponder, if Strawberry Shortcake were actually modelled on this sugary dessert, shouldn't she have the proportions of the Jolly Green Giant!!!
So, if you have the local neighbourhood coming over for a sweet bite, you should give this a bash!
Take care all!

 Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 cups of sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
4 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling
Strawberry jam 
2 cups of whipping cream
1/4 cup of vanilla sugar
4 cups of ripe strawberries, stem removed and quartered
2 tablespoons of sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F
Grease and lightly flour 2 x 9 inch cake tins and line the bottom with grease-proof paper. (To make an authentic strawberry shortcake use 3 x cake tins)
In a small bowl combine the flours.
In a large bowl cream the butter until smooth, using an electric mixer on a medium speed.
Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add the flours, alternating with the milk and the vanilla essence. Make sure they are all mixed together, but don't over beat... Just to make sure it's all mixed together, scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and give it one last stir!
Divide the cake batter between the cake tins and pop in the oven for approximately 30 mins or until a cake tester comes out clean, when inserted into the middle.
Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for an hour and then remove, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Toss the strawberries in the 2 tablespoons of sugar and set aside.
Whip the cream up with sugar, using an electric whisk on a medium speed. When the cream mixture forms stiff peaks, stir in the prepared strawberries.
Take one of the cooled cakes and spread with strawberry jam, then spread the cream and strawberry mixture on top of the jam. 
Top with the second cake... it's looking pretty big now, eh?
Lightly dust the top of the cake with confectioners sugar...
Bobs-your-uncle... a ruddy big cake!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The perils of a small house...

I think I've mentioned before, that my house is small. Very, very small. There are certain plus points to this... less to clean, less to heat, and the hubby says it forces us to all get along.  Now, I'm not going to lie... I do idly imagine living in a house with more rooms than I know what to do with. Jeez, I'd be happy to have just one extra bedroom, so the girls don't have to share... but, this is my lot, and so, I have learned to be organized, self controlled, and impartial to what's on the telly!

Every now and then, though, my self-control goes AWOL, takes a little vacation, and I end up purchasing things just because it was a 'too-good-a-deal' to pass up. Any thoughts of where I'm going to put said item evaporate, like the early morning dew on a hot summer's day... and I, my dears, are left with a large (and often) impractical item, with nowhere to put it...

Case in point... my rather large pine dresser... ohhh, how I love this... how it called out to me on craigslist... 'look at my aged patina, and I have an aged key to boot'... 'wouldn't I complete that country kitchen look you covet?'.... 'what? I'm too big? No silly... I'm perfect'... I mean, with a hard sell like that, what was a girl to do? My knees buckled and it came home with me...

As soon, as I positioned it in my doll's house size kitchen, I knew deep down that it was too big, but I pushed this niggling doubt to the far reaches of my mind... then, the hubby came home and gave me a slap round the face to bring me back to my senses (not literally, of course)... He looked at the offending item and declared that it looked like a NBA basketball player in a room filled with 'regular'-sized folk!
He was right... humph! Curse this small house *looking at the sky, clenching fists, and shaking them in a curse-like manner *...

But, what to do? It was here. Paid for, and it gave me storage up the wazoo... so after lots of faffing and titivating, we came to a compromise... the hutch part now resides in our basement (the graveyard for all spontanious, impractical purchases) with the old addage that it will get used one day when we open this place up.  Meanwhile, I still get the benefit of the extra storage from the dresser... so, not a total washout then...

So you ask me, has my lesson been learned?? Have I recognized that there is only so much you can fit into a two bedroom cape? Of course not! Only the other week I picked up a vintage milk crate... a steal... and perfect to store something in... I just need to find somewhere to put it... ahhh, the perils of a small house...
Hope you're all having a great week!

Monday, July 25, 2011

A cool basket...

With all this hot weather, there's only so much indoor time the kids can take. Indoor activities had been exhausted and, although shopping is my favourite past time, the kiddies do not share my enthusiasm... so, what to do?? If only I could combine the joys of air-conditioned shopping with fun kids' activities... wait a minute... doesn't Ikea have a ball room? Light-bulb dazzling above head...  Kids strapped into the car faster than a ice-lolly melting in the mid-day sun, and we're off for a sojourn at Ikea!
Now, I've got to say when it comes to Ikea, I never really go there with a plan ('dangerous shopping,' I hear you say), but as I don't have the finances or room for anything more in this little old place, I go on the Ikea pilgrimage safe in the knowledge that any purchases will fit amply in the yellow bag!

Anyhoo, I popped the eldest in the ball room (thank heavens she's grown those couple of inches... we were shy for quite a few visits) and basked in the loveliness of air conditioning and pared-down Swedish design.
The youngest and I plopped ourselves on the Ektorp couch and both agreed that this would be perfect in our living room. She then critiqued all of the rooms, declaring 'I would live in this room, Mummy'... Bless, my influence is definitely rubbing off on her... We then we hit the marketplace. Definitely the area of Ikea where I lose my senses.
I made it through the kitchen section and that old yellow bag was still empty... bathrooms (nada).... fabric... slightly tempted by a jaunty stripe... bedding... oohhh, rose bedding for the girls... no, no don't impulse shop... Storage... schreeechhh... ahhh... Baskets. My weakness...

...but, where to put yet more baskets... ahhh, yes... above the kitchen cabinets!! That's right, it's wasted space, and I was only reading in a housey mag the other day that, 'the space above kitchen cabinets is often overlooked and should be utilised in a small house'... and if there's one thing my house is, it's small!

So, I promptly put said baskets in the yellow bag (and it held all of them)... except the ones in my hands... oh, and the one in my youngest hands (now being used to hold her Strawberry Shortcake doll)... and the one on top of my eldest's head (she'd rejoined the party and decided that baskets were this years head gear... Lady Gaga, eat your heart out!)..

All in all, this had been a successful trip. My eldest had a blast playing in the ball pit, the youngest had run herself ragged sampling the furniture, and I had come up with yet another storage solution!! The best bit of all, though... all this was achieved cooly!!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering... I don't keep the 'Post' basket up top with the gods... that would be far too impractical!

Take care all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot, hot, hot...

Phew, it's hot in NJ at the mo'!
And, when I say hot, I mean really hot. I told my mum today during our daily chit chat that it reminded me of when I used to go for my annual fortnight (two weeks) holiday to sunnier climes. I'd leave Blighty dressed in English summer garb (jeans, sweaters, rain coat), land in the Med, descend from the plane, and then, I was hit by the heat. Like stepping into an oven. That's how I feel when I leave the comfort of air conditioning. Can I just say a little thank you prayer for air conditioning!!!

Anyhoo, this is definitely not the weather for a delicate English Rose such as myself (cough, cough). And so, I find myself skulking around my dark house. Dark, because this place has way too many windows... think greenhouse... so, the blinds stay closed and I seek solace in the glory of AC (that would be air conditioning and not Atlantic City).

Nevertheless, every now and then, I feel I should be making the most of the sunshine (a Brit gal never takes a sunny day for granted), and I attempt to leave this little old place only to find myself scuttling towards the nearest cool building... and you know what? Shops have awesome air conditioning (... and I didn't think they could be any more inviting).

So, I find myself mooching around supermarkets for far too long, perusing aisles that I never usually bother dragging myself down... and you know what that equals? Stonking food bill. Oh, and a cupboard full of food that I don't know how to cook. Eek, I hope the kids enjoy curried yak!! Just kidding folks they were all out of Yak today!

So the point of this post? Ah yes, to share these flowers with you. Beautiful, aren't they? I think I might have to shoe horn this variety of Hydrangea into my garden somewhere. I love the cone of flowers. I had to double-take when I saw them, as I thought they were lilacs... In July?? That would be just plain silly!
And, what's more... these lovely flowers are home grown here in NJ. I think I'm starting to get the Jersey Pride now.. Well, for some of it's offerings anyway... I don't think I'll ever warm to  Mike 'The Situation' and ilk!!

Have a great weekend all.
Take care.

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