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Hot out of the oven…

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This week has been a washout in so many ways… We started our week with a washing machine that was not working… Bummer when you literally have piles and piles of dirty clothes to wash, where they all come from I just don’t know, I think my children hide them away and then they appear and it’s never ending!  Thankfully a very kind friend allowed me to wash Florrie’s things on Monday and then the Sears Blue Crew arrived to save the day first thing Tuesday morning… The problem was damn dog hairs blocking the pipes, I think the children must roll their clothes in the continual shedding dog hairs or maybe it’s because they can never find a laundry basket so then the dog sleeps on their clothes thinking its his dog bed… Either way someone has to go and it’s a tough choice between very messy older children and that damn dog… Ha, ha!

 

The rest of my week has been spent doing laundry, sorting out closets, baking and shopping, sort of in that order!  I finally got to my last pile of dirty clothes yesterday, I have washed and sorted Florence’s closet into order ready for spring as well though… A very kind friend gave me a lot of baby girl clothes which I just stored away as a lot of the sizes were bigger than my tiny newborn Florrie, well now, guess what she has grown into them… So i spent yesterday rewashing, ironing and rehanging them… Wow she has a lot of clothes, especially as I had a little shopping trip to Target on Thursday and got carried away with buying her very cute new clothes too… She is one very lucky little girl!

 

I have also been baking up a storm this week, my menu planning has kind of been sidetracked but we have had baked goods and ice cream… Scrummy homemade chocolate and then coconut ice cream to go with delicious warm spicy apple muffins, oatmeal cookies and chocolate dipped shortbread!  It was driving me mad, I am such a perfectionist, that I could not get the right texture in my muffins… Well after watching a few you tube videos… Voila, perfect appley muffins… Yay I’m very happy!  The same with my shortbread, it has just not been quite right until yesterday, I have been watching Laura in the Kitchen on you tube and she is definitely getting my baking skills back for me… Her shortbread recipe was sooooo good, although Dom the shortbread lover preferred Jamie’s recipe, but I secretly think its because it has sooooo much butter in it!

 

This week was Trep$ week for Mabel, so we have been busy preparing for the marketplace event on Wednesday… For those of you that don’t know, Mabel has been doing an after school club called Trep$, I’m sure it stands for something, but I really don’t know what… So, anyway Trep$ is a young persons introduction into the business world, over the last few weeks she has had to decide on what she wanted to sell, beaded bracelets, find the start up funding (of course borrow from your parents), learn how to make her product and then buy the materials needed… All in all it was a fantastic learning experience for both Mabel and her parents, ending in a very fun evening marketplace selling her very cute bracelets and making $50… Of course she seems to have forgotten she borrowed money from us to buy the materials, but hey, ho, she had so much fun, what’s a few dollars anyway!  Between buying the materials and giving her money to spend on other peoples booths at the marketplace, it was quite an expensive free after school club for me and Paul… Ha, ha!

 

One more thing to mention… Lunch on Thursday with my husband… So GOOD, and so unexpected… Florence slept through our whole lunch in Grato’s, it was such a nice thing to do to brighten your week, we chatted, ate, and drank (no alcohol though… Bummer) with no children interruptions – beef carpaccio to start, pizza and pumpkin ravioli with amoretti cookies all followed by a cappuccino… Perfect February spring like Thursday afternoon!

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Superbowl feast…

Friday, February 3, 2012

 

Wow… This week went past in a blink of an eye, one day it was last Friday and I was doing my weekly menu plan and the next minute, it is a week later and guess what I’m doing exactly the same thing all over again, except this week I have already done some food shopping in Trader Joes yesterday … So the menu has to be worked around the things I have already purchased!

 

Sunday – superbowl feast

 

Jordan – shrimp Tempura

 

Lewis – nachos and dip

 

Dominic – Mozarella sticks

 

Mum and Dad – chili, cheesy hot dog pizza and Wings

 

menu plan

 

Monday – pumpkin chili and rice (left over from Sunday)

 

Tuesday – Chicken and Vegetable Curry Soup

 

Wednesday – from the freezer – stuffed shells and meatballs

 

Thursday – Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry

 

Friday – spaghetti and meatballs (cheat night)

 

Saturday – spinach, mushroom and cheese crust less quiche

 

Sunday – meatloaf

 

I had a fabulous day yesterday, the morning was spent having coffee and breakfast with some friends in chatham, then a very quick trip to Trader Joes and then my afternoon was spent having lunch and a glass of wine with another friend in Madison… All in all Florence and I had a beautiful warm ish February day out… Thank you, you know who you are!

 

The Superbowl final is upon us and although I know very little about American Football, I do know that the Giants are playing on Sunday… So in our house this means there is great excitement and for the first time ever we have planned a superbowl feast of a menu to go with lots of game watching…

Jordan is bringing Tempura Shrimp, Lewis is bringing nachos and dip, we are not sure what Dom is bringing (all changed now, he picked up mozarella sticks in Costco), I am bringing on behalf of me and Paul buffalo wings, chili and a creation of mine that I am going to try a cheesy chili hot dog bread style pizza… Well we will see how this one turns out and report back to you!

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Ps… the photo above is a bracelet I made for my friends daughter… what do you think? do you think they would sell on Etsy?

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Indian Saturday Roast

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This weekend did not go at all to plan exactly… Saturday started the weekend well, we just chilled out cooked and made bracelets!  Mabel is doing an after school club called Trep$, this is a young persons entrepreneur guide to setting up your own business.  On february 8th she will have the opportunity to sell something she has planned to set up her business with… So with this in mind, Mabel had the idea to make and sell charm bracelets, after doing some research we decided charm bracelets would cost too much to make and then sell on, so after googling ‘how to make a beaded bracelet’ I got the idea to mess around with different beads.  I did a quick run over to AC Moore’s and picked up a selection of beads on friday, we then began the process of trying to make the bracelet, it all worked out fine, so we were happy and then the creative juices kicked in, new designs and new beads were needed so on Saturday afternoon Mabel and I headed back to AC Moore and bought more beads, this time she chose color schemes and we headed home to start dinner and make more bracelets… I do have to say it caught the interest of everyone in the house, well maybe not Blu as he never comes off the XBOX, but Paul made some rather good bracelets then Farrel got threading, all in all it worked out very well… We are now in the process of experimenting with a few boys designs… Watch this space!

 

Sunday was the day that did not quite go to plan, we were meant to be snow tubing, but silly me did not realize you could not book your tickets 24 hours in advance, it had to be more than 48 hours, so we did not want to risk getting there and not being able to snow tube… Then an offer for Paul’s team to play on the High School turf field in Madison came in, so of course my soccer/football obsessed husband decided it would be a good idea to go over… So Sunday afternoon went as follows… Quick run around a very busy Costco (we needed salt for the water softener and they are too heavy for me to lift, so I need Paul), then onto Madison High School, where I was going to get out and watch the game but it was too cold, so Mabel, Florrie and I headed to Michaels to hunt for more beads, then back to Madison for Starbucks, Gary’s Liquor store and finally just what you need on a cold January day, an ice cream in Mc Cools… Yay!

 

Well that was our weekend in a nutshell, as they say… Not the most interesting but Saturday was the nicest day we have had in a while, no dramas to deal with just normal chill out time doing, as it turned out a fun crafting afternoon for all the family!  Oh I forgot to mention Paul had a yearning to make coconut ice, a childhood memory, so I got him the ingredients and now we have a bowl of very sickly coconut ice… It does look very pretty though, all pink and white, Blu and Mabel LOVE it, what a surprise!

 

What’s for dinner in your house?

On Saturday night we had Jamie Oliver’s Empire Roast chicken… Wow this was a very delicious cool twist on the traditional Sunday roast… First you rubbed the chicken with a home made Indian paste, I put mine into the slow cooker, but he roasts his in the oven, then after par boiling the potatoes you make an Indian oil for them to be tossed in before roasting them in the oven and then finally the gravy is made as you would normally but you infuse it with cloves, a cinnamon stick and red onion… The result a very different scrummy roast dinner… It was a big hit in our house, we are not normally huge fans of the Sunday roast but Indian Style is definitely the way to go for us!

 

So this is my menu plan for the week… I have managed to reduce our grocery shop this week by $50, this is huge for us, I am hoping to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for 7 days on $50 less than I normally spend and still eat healthily, and more organic, so far so good, but I will let you know how it goes next week… Happy Cooking!

 

lunch -turkey and pasta salad

dinner – sweet potato and Black bean enchiladas with shredded chicken

 

tuesday

lunch –  black bean salad

dinner – chicken and dumplings

 

Wednesday

lunch – brown rice salad

dinner – linguine with spinach, artichokes and red lentil sauce / meatballs

 

thursday

lunch – vegetable soup

dinner – brown rice with chicken and broccoli

 

friday

dinner –  foccacia pizza… cajun chicken

 

saturday

dinner –  italian wedding soup

 

sunday  – super bowl menu!

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Oh to be organized…

Friday, January 27, 2012

I finally got off my huge butt and went for a walk, I have been saying that I would do it for weeks now… yesterday I went down to station park in Sparta and pushed Florrie in her stroller, together we went for a walk, she slept and I snapped a few photos on my iPhone, just to prove I actually did walk, yes there are those non believers in my house!

 

January 2012 has bought a need deep within me to be an organized person, well that and a very unorganized life and house since I got pregnant… The only problem is Florence has decided she does not like being put down, she does not like being out of my sight… She just sobs and sobs and sobs!  Yesterday whilst I was showering i put her into her crib as usual with some toys and the tv on Blues Clues… Well you would have thought I had left her forever, she cried and cried and cried and cried until she almost threw up, yep that much crying and she could see me most of the time too… So this makes it very difficult to get anything done at all in the house… One clingy baby and 6 lazy children, time to get tough, well with the 6 lazy children anyway!

 

what’s for dinner in your house?

Ours was Jamie’s shepherds vs milkmans pie and it was delicious!  I’m not really sure what a milkmans pie is but I’m guessing it has something to do with the cream you add to the ground beef at the end, I personally just added a small amount of the fat free buttermilk, but it was delicious non the less… Definitely one to make again in our house… Everyone wanted seconds!

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I think we need some passports!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Our weekend was all about snow, soccer, passports and friends, in that order!  First thing Saturday morning we woke up to the snow, just as it had been forecast… As we sat in bed we realized that we had forgotten to get gas for our brand new snow blower, ha, ha, so funny, we bought it months ago and we had been waiting for the snow, but now no gas to actually use it!  Fortunately we only had about 5 inches of snow so we could drive over it and get some gas… Yay Paul could finally use his new toy, and yes… He loved it! (sorry I forgot to take photo’s of Paul using his brand new snow blower!)

 

Later in the day the roads were clear and we headed into town for a local soccer tournament for Blu… This was the first time he has gotten to play with friends from school so he was very excited, well as excited as Blu gets about anything!  It was a fun couple of hours, we met some new people and learned all about skiing in PA, so we may head over there next Sunday… Snow tubing, fun!

 

After the tournament we headed to a photographic shop to get passport photos done… Can you believe Blu, Mabel and Farrels passports have all expired, plus we need to get one for Florence… Passports are a nightmare when you live in the country you want them from, but try living 3500 miles away!  Firstly American passport photos are bigger than UK ones and secondly when you call the passport help line they not only charge you $2.50 per minute but when they answer they want your credit card info so they can charge you more money per minute whilst your left on hold!  anyway this photo shop in Sparta was very helpful and could cut the photos to the exact size for a British passport, yay, one part of it done!

 

Sunday we got the rest of the passport information completed online… Btw loving the smart form, but then our printer is a nightmare, or should I say our kids are a nightmare, because they keep on using all the ink, $50 worth of ink gone in less than a month… Anyway this meant we struggled to print off 2, 7 page passport application forms… 90 minutes later we were on our way to Fanwood to friends of ours, as he is Scottish and works with Paul at the bank so he can sign the photos… Yay another part completed!

 

I finally got all parts completed yesterday, a certified check or two from the bank, old passports, UPS store and $30 later they are on their way to the passport office in Washinton DC, hopefully they will arrive this morning at 10.30am, i am tracking them!  My next problem is getting a very kind American friend to come to the post office with me to sign Florences passport info, as that has to be signed in front of the collecting agent… Then hopefully we are good to go!

 

Back to menu planning for the week… Last weeks worked out very well, just one hiccup, pizzas on Sunday as we got home later than planned, but that was fine as it meant I had Sunday nights meal in reserve for yesterday…

 

What was for dinner in your house last night?

Ours was lasagna and a zucchini bake, a recipe idea from a friend that was delicious!

 

This is my menu plan for this week, most of the recipes are from Jamie’s Great Britain cook book, I also thought I would try a lemon and lime sorbet in my new ice cream maker and he has a recipe for Scottish shortbread, I’d like to compare it to my friends authentic Scottish shortbread cookies she makes… They are scrummy, so it will be interesting to see if Jamie’s compare… Happy cooking!

Tuesday – Cajun chicken pizza and fresh tomato soup (page 46)

Wednesday – from the freezer… Chili night!

Thursday – shepherds pie vs milkmans pie (page 238) and arugula and beet salad

Friday – granny smiths pork and rice salad (page 96) roasted apple and squash soup (page 60)

Saturday – empire roast chicken with Bombay roasties and amazing Indian gravy (page 138)

Sunday – get your own… We are going snow tubing!

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Ice Cream Maker…

Saturday, January 21, 2012

This week has been all about the ice cream maker… Ice cream maker I hear you all cry, it’s the middle of winter! Well with my addiction to all things blogging this week I have been interested in watching how a lot of people are making their own ice cream… No additives, no preservatives, healthy fat free, frozen yogurt, there are many possibilities, oh and I forgot frozen cocktails, now who could resist… Sounds good, even in the middle of winter and my children love ice cream any time, any weather!

 

The big question was ‘did I need an ice cream maker?’… Yes, I decided after much deliberation and of course the middle of winter is the perfect time to buy one because they are not in demand you can find somewhere that has a good deal on them, or so I thought anyway!  Well I did get $20 off in Macy’s but that was just an accident as they had not taken the reduced price sticker off so they very kindly honored the lower price… Yay $59.99 instead of $79.99!

 

I’m not sure that I will save a lot of money with making the ice cream myself over buying it when they are on special in the shops, but I do think it will be better for us… I will know each ingredient that goes into it, I can use organic products and also control the fat and sugar, so I think this will be a gadget that I will use a lot, but of course only time will tell, Paul does not agree, he thinks it will be one of those gadgets that just sits in my cupboard untouched for ever, well he does not know me so well, as I do not own one gadget that I do not use 100% whenever I can!

 

I made my first batch of delicious creamy ice cream last night (photo above), I took half the cream and replaced it with fat free organic half and half, I also replaced the whole milk to fat free and used light brown sugar… The result sumptuous creamy chocolate chip ice cream, I really thought I was eating the full cream version it was so good!  I will keep you posted on wether or not this is worth the money and how much I am using it!

 

This was my menu plan for this week:

 

Tuesday – orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe (page 71) adapted to my way

 

Wednesday – from the freezer

 

Thursday – soy ginger chicken (page 59) and quinoa salad

 

Friday – lighter beef chili (page 43) with rice and tortillas

 

Saturday – light chicken Parmesan (page67) noodles and salad

 

Sunday – healthier meat lasagna (page 76) and salad

 

 

 

I started on Tuesday as I managed to use a day from last week due to our unexpected take out night, I have also been using my new Martha Stewart LITE cook book… So far so good, we have had 2 recipes so far out of it and they have both been good, I did add a couple of ingredients to the pasta and sausage recipe, it was a make again in my house though!  I have decided that each week I am going to use one cookbook for recipes, so next week is going to be Jamie Oliver’s Best of British, I am looking forward to challenging myself and making the recipes lite, like the Martha Stewart one this week!

 

 

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‘Living in America…’

Monday, January 16, 2012

I was going to write this blog last Wednesday in honor of living in New Jersey 5 years exactly on that day, but like everything at the moment, things do not run quite as planned!  So I think it is fitting that I write it today on Martin Luther King Day, our first holiday we celebrated over here, well not quite celebrated as panicked through!  Jordan suddenly had terrible tooth ache, we needed a dentist, on a holiday in a new country, using health insurance that was all new to us… What to do… Panic, that’s what!  We found a dentist in Madison, eventually, drove over there, as we were staying in Cedar Knolls, he was fantastic, he then told us he needed an emergency root canal now and told us we had to head over towards Westfield, I can’t quite remember where exactly.  After the root-canal we found a pharmacy and paid $80 for a prescription (no prescription card yet) and then found somewhere for dinner in downtown Westfield … Welcome to the USA!

 

We moved into Madison on a freezing cold February day, I left Paul and the older boys with the removal guys and headed to Florham Park McDonald’s with Blu and Mabel to warm them up, all the doors were open at the house and cold was not a word for how it felt inside!  We loved living on Central Ave, we had wonderful neighbours, great friends, we could walk downtown to everything, life was good!  We quickly learnt how cold the winters were here in New Jersey, we had not seen this much snow ever in our lives… I remember Dom teaching Farrel how to roll a ball of snow to make a snow man, he did not even know and he was 12! We then learnt how beautiful spring is, the weather is perfect, the skies are so blue, summer is hot, hot, hot, sometimes the humidity is unbearable, you can’t even sit outside and appreciate the weather, mosquitos are bad too, you can feel like they are eating you alive, there are so many!  Fall is another perfect season, with the crisp blue skies and the orange leaves from trees it is a perfect picture to be seen.  Also fall brings with it festivals of pumpkins, apple cider, scary Halloween houses, hay rides and corn mazes, it is a great time to visit!

 

Our first two years living in Madison New Jersey were so much fun, meeting new friends, traveling to new places and everything we did was new… Starting the children in their schools, all new and exciting, well not so much excitement for the children, I remember Farrel walking home from the Junior school a couple of times, he was so scared!  Finding a new doctor, dentist oh and the time I chopped my thumb with a huge knife, trying to find the nearest ER, then Blu gnashing his chin as he jumped off the trampoline going back to the hospital… All new and exciting… Not, ha, ha!

 

Our first two summers over here were spent partying in the garden , lots of BBQs, wine and friends, old and new, as we had visitors come stay from England too!  The children settled well into their new lives here, making lots of new friends too!

 

Then we moved to our home in Sparta, it was like our vacation ended.  Suddenly we had responsibilities again, we owned this house, this time, it was time to be a grown up again!  I love Sparta as a town, it has an awesome library, the elementary and Middle schools are fantastic, but there is just something missing over here… It just does not feel the same as Madison did for us, but with the economy the way it is, I keep my fingers and toes crossed that we can sell this house before Blu goes into High School, as this is the time frame we have given ourselves to move… Sparta is a beautiful town but just not for us!

 

When I arrived 5 years ago I just had no idea what living here would bring for me, and in the past 5 years, I have found new and old friends that I have reconnected with through the wonderful invention of Facebook, they have not only been kind and caring, but Supportive and inspiring in so many ways!  I consider myself a very lucky person to have such a wonderful family and so many fabulous friends both here and back at home… It has been a rollacoaster ride here in the USA for us as a family, but im glad ive ridden it!

 

The biggest surprise of living here in New Jersey is my new baby girl, who would of thought on Wednesday, January 11th 2007 when I arrived at Newark International Airport ,with 4 of my sons (Lewis stayed back in England to finish his A levels and Paul was already here) and my little Mabel Daisie, that 5 years later I would be sitting in my bed in Sparta with a beautiful 7 month old baby girl named Florence Elsie… Not me, that is for sure, but it is one surprise that I will always love with all my heart… My little American girl!