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!

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