Friday, June 12, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

During a brief respite from rain, I ran outside to check out my garden. This has been one very rainy and dreary Spring. I'm behind in my yard work, my plants are struggling to grow and bloom and the mosquitoes and gnats are their glory. A five minute foray into the backyard yields many insect bites and a tick or two. The amount of ticks we are finding on us and our pets is alarming especially that we use Frontline. The only good thing is that everything is green!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meet Miss Binny

Meet Miss Binny! We rescued this sweet bunny three years ago. Someone abandoned her with a disabled woman I was caring for. The woman was going to give Binny to a local animal shelter. My daughter was very upset and insisted we adopt Binny......and so we did :) Life is good for Miss Binny. She is fed lots of fresh veggies and fruits everyday. Her favorites are bananas, radishes, greens and berries. Her least favorite are carrots!! LOL!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

White Layer Cake with Raspberry Jam

Made this scrumptious three layer white cake from scratch for my Mom's birthday last week. I substituted raspberry preserves for the jam. It was delicious and definitely a keeper. Recipe provided below.

White Layer Cake with Raspberry Jam

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar

1 stick unsalted butter,at room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350'. Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, then butter parchment. Spoon a small amount of flour into pans, swirl to coat sides and bottom, then tap out and discard excess flour.

2. Make Cake: Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, egg whites and vanilla in a medium glass measuring cup or bowl.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat utter and sugar until well combined and light. Reduce speed to low and add 1/3 of flour mixture. Add 1/2 of milk mixture, beating constantly and scraping down sidea of bowl as necessary. Beat in another 1/3 of flour, the remaininging milk, beating just untl blwnded. Mix in remaining flour just until blended. Divide batter evenly among pans and smooth tops with a rubber spatula (don't worry if batter looks curdled).

4. Bake cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center of each cake comes out clena. Transfer cakes to wire racks; cool in pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pans, invert cakes onto wire racks and remove parchment. Let cool completely.

5. Make frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in alarge, deep bowl until ight and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in confectioners sugar in 2 batches until smooth and creamy. Beat in vanilla just until combined.

6. Assemble cake: Using a serrated knife, gently slice horizontally across top of each cake layer tomake level. Place 1 cake layer on serving plate. Spread 1/4 cup jam evenly over layer. Add another cake layer and spread with 1/4 cup jam. Top with final cake layer. Frost top and sides of cake.

Chicken Cacciatore

A few years ago I came across Giada's recipe for chicken cacciatore. Never been a fan of chicken and tomato sauce I was skeptical that I would even like this dish. So glad I was wrong! This recipe is super easy and incredibly tasty. Every time I make this dish it is a huge hit. I've been asked many times for the recipe. To make it a bit healthier I use mostly chicken cutlets and add a few pieces of thighs with the bones and skin.
I had my mom over for her birthday dinner last week and decided to make cacciatore. Took a few pics to show how it looks. It came out super yummy :)

Chicken Cacciatore

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis


  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves


Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blue Indigo

My Blue Indigo is just starting to bloom. What's awesome about this plant is that the foliage is very pretty. After blooming it develops these unique pods. Very versatile plant.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Afternoon in the Backyard

1st pic is of a beautiful yellow swallowtail that is enjoying my lilac rhododendron.
2nd pic is of the pond in my backyard.
3rd pic is of the rhododendron again :)
4th pic is of a gorgeous foxglove I picked up at Walmart. Foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers. The Winters are a bit hard on them. Often times they don't come back the next season.
5th pic is another foxglove I bought last year. I was so pleased that it not only came back again but has quite a few flowery stalks. When the stalk is done flowering I trim it and lay it down in the garden in hopes it reseeds itself. My foxgloves usually bloom twice in a season.
6th pic is of the arrowhead plants in my pond. They are beginning to takeover the pond. You can also see lots of lily pads. I cannot wait until they flower. We have waterlilies in white, medium pink and a watermelon color. Hopefully I can get a pic of the frogs sunning on the pads :)
7th and 8th pic is of my water iris. The buds just appeared a few days ago. The flowers are a luscious purple. The dragonflies love this plant!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meadow Rue

Meadow Rue--- isn't that a wonderful name? I love saying it! Meadow Rue is a delightful perennial that I have had in my garden for many years. She is usually one of my first bloomers with her fluffy lilac stamens and tall posture. Super easy to care for --- just wish she bloomed all Summer :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Newest Addiction.....

Last Wednesday I drove out to a farm stand that also sells incredible pies. I bought an Apple Crisp pie for my husband's birthday which we celebrated on Thursday. Tucked in amongst the fruits and veggies were these bags of sweet potato chips. I bought a bag and now I am hooked. Crispy, crunchy crisps of subtle sweetness sans the salt. I can't wait to get more :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Signs of Spring

I was looking out the bathroom window this morning and caught a glimpse of purple loveliness. With camera in hand I ran out to my still sleepy garden to find my crocus in full bloom. Other sweet signs of Spring, the chipper call of the Tufted Titmouse, my goldfish swimming around in full view in my pond, the emergence of my Autumn Joy Sedum and tons and tons of weeds in my garden.

Emily Dickinson - A little Madness in the Spring

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown --
Who ponders this tremendous scene --
This whole Experiment of Green --
As if it were his own!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grief has 1000 Faces

Last night I was reading an article on the funeral of Natasha Richardson in my local online newspaper. The newspaper allowed comments and I being the curious type decided the read what people were saying. To say I was taken back is an understatement. I expected a flood of comments expressing sadness, what I found instead were people "measuring" grief. Comments like (paraphrasing here)...."I found it odd that Liam wore no tie to the funeral", "Why do her sons always seem to be smirking", "I found it weird that Liam waved to the press, not once but twice", "Isn't it weird that Vanessa Redgrave wore white" and "If that was my daughter I would be hysterical and unable to function".
Reading all those judgmental comments got me thinking about some of the rules some of us have regarding grief. We must wear black, we must be crying all the time, smiles are completely out of the questions and men must wear ties, etc.. To do otherwise implies you can't be grieving or grieving hard enough. Who made up these rules? Does a grieving person who smiles, doesn't have a tie on or is wearing white.... have less pain or loves the deceased less than the griever who has followed all those unwritten rules? I don't think so.
There really is no right or wrong way to grieve. Some shut down completely and others put a brave face on and give the appearance of being a trouper. While grieving, it's still possible to smile, laugh, go to work, make dinner and dare I say....enjoy life just a little every now and then? Grief may be the teller at your local bank or the Mom that strolls her baby by your house every morning... it could be your doctor, your neighbor, your hairdresser and it may even be you. Grief has 1000 faces! It doesn't always have to be a face with tears and it doesn't mean they are hurting any less......

Monday, March 2, 2009

Photo Challenge from Jenni

Jenni tagged me for this photo challenge :) I was supposed to pick the 8th picture from the 8th photo folder....but truth be told, I only have 6 folders. I chose the 6th folder and 8th picture. The picture is of my backyard pond. The vegetation is an assortment of luscious round Lily leaves and tall Arrowhead plants. There are two white Lily blooms. The Lilies in my pond are of the hardy variety meaning they come back every Summer. I currently have watermelon pink, white and lilac purple lilies. I love finding frogs and dragonflies lounging around on the lily pads. I can't wait for Summer to come so I can show you how my backyard looks and what kind of creatures visit.

Wintery Pictures

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nor'easter of 2009

Yup, typical scene at the local supermarket whenever there is a snow storm barreling down on us :) People loading up on essential food items.... milk, bread, eggs and then the long list of non-essential, also referred to as "comfort food". Examples of blizzard comfort food are ice cream, cookies, doughnuts, chips, soda, TV dinners and of shopping cart is complete without a few Entenmann's. Entenmann's makes the most incredible baked good items. My favorite is their Crumb Cake, Devil's Food doughnuts and Raspberry Cheese Danish.
Anticipation of a Nor'easter is comparable to the arrival of Santa Claus. There is more fun and excitement in the waiting than the actual event. For the last two days no one has talked about anything but the storm. Then there are the never-ending discussions of who has to go to work, how will they get to work, kids scared to get too excited about the possibility of a snow day from school, and sitting in front of the TV watching the most popular channel in the world, "The Weather Channel". We must name the phenomenon of checking the weather every 5 minutes. We have been doing it all day. You can hear the fear in my daughters voices as they say "Instead of 16" they are now saying 14", like that is really going to make a difference with going to work or school. Time for me to go sit in front of my TV to watch more Weather channel while I eat some homemade brownies :)

I thought you might enjoy these two links from my local paper. Lots of great pics.

Historical Long Island Snow Storms

Preparations for the Nor'easter of 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Back from the Wilderness

Yesterday we went to my Mom's for an early dinner. I always enjoy visiting with Mom. It's nice to spend time with her and she has the most incredible backyard. My Mom sold her house in '98 and bought a really nice condo that is nestled in amongst a wildlife preserve. The woods edge is a mere 25 feet from her sliding glass door. Our visit is usually comprised of sitting at her kitchen table while looking at all the animals that visit her backyard, conversing and eating. The usual suspects that visit are... tons of squirrels, an occasional groundhog, pheasants, lots of songbirds, turkeys, and lots of stray cats that her next door neighbor gets fixed and deer, lots of them!
Yesterday did not disappoint. My Mom told us that a fairly large herd of deer usually show up around 5pm to eat. As we ate our dinner we eagerly awaited the arrival of her dinner guest. Slowly, and one by one.....came the deer. Beautiful camouflaged by the vegetation, one minute you would see them and the next they were gone. My Mom has a small opening by the woods edge where she puts bread, carrots, bird food and whatever leftovers she has. At one point yesterday we counted 11 deer. Many were yearlings who would feed under their Moms chest. I guess they still needed the comfort of knowing that Mom was still close by. What amazed me was how all the animals peacefully co-existed with each other. Cats and squirrels play with each other, the cats are very intrigued by the deer and were always a few feet away from them. Nothing like being refreshed by a day of nature :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beano to the rescue, maybe not!

Has a woman ever divorced her husband due to excessive flatulence? I may just be the first woman to do so. It's a known fact that men produce a lot of gas. When I married my husband I agreed to love, honor and tolerate his gas issues but enough is enough already. Between him and the dog my house smells worse than a cat litter box. I use so many matches to destroy the smell that I should own stock in the Diamond match company (said in her best Groucho Marx voice with cigar hanging out of mouth) When my 23 year old Son...who is a pro himself regarding gas, complains about his Old Man's tooting, you know it must be bad!! We decided to have an intervention and we armed ourselves with a bottle of "gas extermination" called Beano. My husband was very resistant to part with his gas. It really has defined who he is as a person. This is a man who many years ago asked me to make the most fart producing meals so he could win a fart contest at work. After lots of negotiating and threats, he decided he would try Beano. I hand him the bottle and tell him to chew two. He refuses! Says he will wait until he has gas before he takes it. I yell, read the label....."help stop the gas before it starts". Sigh, tomorrow I plan on hiding these tablets in his food. You want to fart like a dog you will get treated like one :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Evil Dippity Do

I don't know what it is about showering and having flashbacks about my youth. Last night's flashback was about Dippity-do. I'll tell you this, these were not happy flashbacks :) Dippity-do nights were nothing short of horrific! Mom would wash our hair. Then out came torture devices...which included Dippity-do and its accomplices...the tooth comb, the dreaded bucket full of curlers, squares of toilet paper and bobby pins. For the purpose of this post, bobby pins will always be referred to as "bobby needles". After our hair was washed, it got combed with the evil tooth comb. Mom would use the pointy end to make parts. That hurt! Next step was Mom applying the green goop (dippity-do) to our hair. As she did this I often fantasized about eating it. It looked so good and reminded me of Jello. Mom would then comb a small amount of hair, hold it together, apply a square or two of toilet paper and start rolling our hair on the curler. Pain would start when she started inching up towards our scalp. I know for sure that my scalp was pulled away from my skull. The final but scariest part was left. With Mom's left hand holding the curler vice-like tight she used her right hand to dig in the bucket to find a Bobby-needle. The screaming voice in my head is begging "please Mom, find a Bobby-needle that still has the rubber nipple attached to both ends". Sometimes, the rubber nipple fell off the Bobby-needle. That is real bad! Using a Bobby-needle with no rubber nipple to secure a curler to one's head is the equivalent to using a nail or needle :) What I described is just ONE curler. Imagine this process 20 more times, rinse, repeat, etc. For what, so I could look like Shirley Temple...which never happened, not even close? Dippity-do nights also meant sleepless nights. How is it possible to sleep when 20 or so plastic tubes attached to your head? Oh, I forgot.......we had bangs which could not get curled. Mom used scotch tape......swear to god and cross my push-up bra, to secure our bangs to our forehead to keep them straight as we slept.....which of course we couldn't because of those damn curlers! I found out that Dippity-do is still manufactured I can assure you that I will not be purchasing it! It is banned from my house! Long live straight hair :))

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific

Last night while showering and adding a generous amount of shampoo that is supposed to leave my hair... soft, shiny and smelling like the rain forest, it got me thinking about a shampoo I used in my youth . Do you remember "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific"? I sure do! I also remember how my hair smelled awesome for hours after washing it. While today's shampoos do a good job of cleaning my hair, they seem to lack the long-lasting fragrance that Gee, Your Hair Smells terrific had.
In an effort to appease my curiosity and recapture my youth, I decided to find out if this shampoo was still being manufactured. I haven't seen this shampoo on the shelves since the death of disco so I had no real hopes of finding it. I was wrong!!!
I found it at a wonderful site called The Vermont Country Store I've ordered from them before and they are awesome. A 12oz bottle for $4.99. Not too shabby! I plan on ordering a few bottles. I can't wait to run down the road, hair flowing behind me.....turning heads and hearing everyone say "Gee, your hair smells terrific". That really does happen after you wash your hair with this magical stuff :)