My Take on Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake is a summer dessert staple here in the south. Even more so here in Florida where some of the best strawberries you could ever have are grown in state. Heck, we even have a festival for it. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. However, all this strawberry pride has led to some overly processed sugar bombs that don’t even deserve the shortcake name. I wanted to do away with all that and bring the focus back where it needed to be – on the strawberries.

The base of my dish is a slightly sweet black pepper biscuit. It might seem a bit odd, but the tiny bit of heat you get from the freshly ground pepper goes wonderfully with the sweetness from the cream and the berries. Also, I do acknowledge that there is a bit of sugar in each component of this recipe, but I tried to use it in a way that enhances rather than overpowers. Don’t let the multiple components throw you – the biscuits are the only tricky bit to this recipe; everything else is super simple.

Biscuits (makes 9-12 depending on size)
Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp organic sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees F
  2. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together with a fork.
  3. Pour cream into well in the center of the dry mixture and stir gently with the fork until the mixture begins to come together.
  4. Turn contents of bowl out onto a floured surface and shape into a rough ball.
  5. Fold the ball in half and press out with the heel of your hand. Turn 90 degrees and repeat eight more times.
  6. Pat mixture into large disk approximately 1/2 inch thick
  7. Use a glass with a greased rim to cut out biscuits (do not twist or the edges will seal and prevent biscuit from rising).
  8. Once you’ve cut out all of the biscuits you can, place them on the baking sheet and combine remaining dough and make another round of biscuits. Repeat until dough is gone.
  9. Bake biscuits for 13-15 minutes.
  10. Place on rack to cool completely before using.

Strawberries
Ingredients:

  • 1lb ripe strawberries
  • 1 heaping tbsp organic sugar

Directions:

  1. Slice strawberries
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries and sugar tossing to coat the berries.
  3. Store mixture in refrigerator for 2 hours to allow juices to collect.

Whipped Cream
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsps powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Chill mixing bowl in fridge for 1 hour prior to making the whipped cream.
  2. In chilled bowl, combine sugar and cream and whip on high until soft peaks form.
    *Do not over whip or mixture will begin to turn into butter.

Assemble components and enjoy!

So there you go – simple, special, and perfect for summer.


Ladies I am Loving

One of the best things about social media being so prevalent these days is that it provides an inexpensive platform for artists. People who, in the past, would be stuck trying to utilize local and regional shows can now share their vision with the entire world with a click of a button. Likewise, those of us who are art enthusiasts can find inspiring images with a quick search and a few key phrases. The place where I find most of my inspiration these days is Instagram. While I may not be the best about posting on my own page, I check in multiple times a day to see what the people I follow are doing. One of the things I’ve found myself gravitating towards lately is female artists that support diversity and positivity with just a splash of fantasy (I can’t resist!), and unsurprisingly I’ve found a lot of incredible artists that are out there kicking ass, but today I wanted to share my current top three with you guys.

Lana Jay  – Cats, magic and unshaved legs? These images inspire you to be your best self and to find your own personal brand of beautiful.  

Vicki Sigh – With personifications of desserts, a whole month of mermaids, and a liberal sprinkling of felines, every time I scroll through this feed I put on some body glitter and meet a friend at the patisserie down the road. 

Sibylline Meynet – With the dreamy diffused colors of these pieces, I feel like I am looking at old photographs of a summer trip that I took with friends years ago. I always end up feeling wistful and wanting to make travel plans. 


Incredible, right? What are your favorite Instagram artists?


Because I am a Crazy Cat Lady

If you guys have been around this blog for any amount of time, you know that I talk about cats… a lot. I also frequently mention my own cats and their fluffy escapades. It occurred to me the other day that it has been a few years since I last gave you the breakdown of how many and who is living with us now, so I wanted to give you an update on our fluffy horde. We sadly lost two about a year and a half ago and added a new member last December. I am going to try my best to keep this post to a reasonable length; TBH I could probably do a separate post about each of them, but I feel like that might be taking things a bit far. So without further ado, here are my fur babies:

Octavian aka Bunky, Doodle, Doodsie, and Smeagol
The first feline on the list is the oldest member of our fluffy family, Octavian. He and I have been together since I rescued him when I was 18. I was driving home with my mom, and we were at stop sign when we heard the most pitiful meows coming from a nearby tree. Upon further inspection, we found an adolescent kitty hiding in a tree while a large dog paced below and attempted to pull him off of the branch he was sitting on. We chased the dog off and brought the poor little thing home with us. He spent the whole ride in my arms shaking. When we got him home, we realized that someone had tried to burn him. He was missing whiskers and clumps of fur, and I begged my mom to let me keep him because I knew he would never get adopted in his current state. She said yes, and that was that. He has been with me through college and many of my major life events, and he is my main fluffy man. The last few years have been a bit rough; we found out he is diabetic, and it’s been difficult finding a treatment that works well for him. He also hates Andy, which I feel badly about, but it leaves me with all sorts of funny stories. I love this grumpy old man dearly, and I hope to have him passive aggressively torturing my husband for years to come.

Oliver aka Pollie Ollie, Fluffernugget, Bumbersnoot, Orange, and  PamplemousseWhile he is no longer the youngest, Oliver is without a doubt the baby of the house. While we were going through the process of buying a home, Andy found himself pacing outside a restaurant while on the phone with our realtor, while I was inside settling up our check. As he paced, a fluffy orange kitty (about four months old) with a tiny green collar emerged from the bushes and rubbed against his legs. By the time I made it out of the restaurant, Andy was off the phone, and he had witnessed the kitty trying to follow other patrons into their cars and one into the restaurant. Based on the time of year, we figured it’d been abandoned by a college student who’d gone home for Christmas break (something that unfortunately happens all the time here). We decided to bring him home and take him to the vet the next day to see if he was micro-chipped (he wasn’t), and by that point, we were completely taken with him so we decided to make him part of our family. This little guy came along at the perfect time in our lives. He grew up to be a magnificent orange floof, who is as sweet as he is willful, and he gave us something to baby when we realized we weren’t going to be able to have children of our own. He is our entitled cuddle bug who demands to be in my arms while I read and Andy’s while he games, and he greets each of us at the door for kisses when we get home every day. Plus, he is a clumsy, flopsy mess that provides us with plenty of laughs and the occasional broken glass.

Stanley aka Pickle, Shadow Warrior, Cheeky Monkey, and Stop Scratching the Wall
When I moved out of my college apartment and started working my first post-college job, poor Octavian was home alone more than he’d ever been. Knowing that I was looking for a friend for him, my aunt told me about a Hemmingway cat she’d seen on the local shelter’s website so I drove over to investigate. The cat had been adopted earlier that day, but I decided to look around for a bit. I fell for a feisty little calico kitten and the volunteer put Gracie and I into a play room to see how we’d mesh; when I mentioned that I was worried about how she’d get along with Octavian, they brought in “Socks,” a low key long term resident to see how she’d do. It did not go well; she was awful to poor Socks, and the volunteer and I both agreed that she’d probably be better in a single cat house hold. While Gracie was put away, Socks and I sat on the floor together. I reached over to pet him and he looked at me with the saddest gold eyes and leaned into my hand. Turns out Socks had overstayed his welcome and the no-kill shelter was shipping him down to Tampa kill shelter the next day to be put down (which I didn’t even know could happen). He came home with me, and as strange as it sounds, chose the name Stanley. Well until two years ago when I started calling him a “cheeky little pickle” which was a delightful turn of phrase I’d picked up from a book I was reading. Now he will only come if you call him Pickle. By far this little guy has been the most rewarding cat I’ve have ever had. He loved Andy from the moment they met; after a year, he started walking around with his tail up instead of tucked under. After a year he learned to snuggle; after two he learned to purr. We’ve had him for almost 7 years and last year he started to meow. I actually cried when it happened. Our scaredy cat turned into a cheeky, snuggle demanding little fluff ball that makes kitty muffins to the beat of songs that he likes and loves to watch TV with us in the evenings.

Alonzo aka Zo, Buddah Zo, Merph, Burt Murphy
We’re not entirely sure what Alonzo’s story is; he just showed up in our backyard one day. He was a bit… well… pudgy so we thought that he was actually a pregnant female. We put out food, but we were wary of ending up with a house full of kittens. He stuck around, we realized he was a he, and eventually Andy started calling him Alonzo, and I was spending my weekend mornings sitting out on the back patio with him sipping tea. We were resigned to feeding yet another outdoor cat (we have two feral cats that stop by regularly) but then there came the night he decided it was a good idea to get into it with a raccoon. The raccoon got too close, and he decided it was a good idea to slap it in the face. Immediately I grabbed him up and slammed our back door. The raccoon had no idea what was going on, and as soon as Zo realized he was in my arms inside the house, he became a happy puddle of purr and snuggle. He is the biggest snuggler I’ve ever encountered; I’ve even had friends come over just because they wanted a Zo cuddle fix. He is also obsessed with Octavian. Octavian is his absolute favorite thing ever, and he spends most of the day curled up next to him.

Fiona aka Fee, Feezer-peas, Squawk, and Princess 
Fiona is our newest addition. She was my dad’s cat, and after he passed, I knew I had to keep her. He loved her very much, and I will do my best to take care of her the way she took care of him. It’s been a bit of an adjustment; the boys are all over 7, and she is barely 2. She is loud, demanding, and into everything, but she is very sweet and absolutely adores us. She is right behind Oliver to greet us as soon as we get home, and if you don’t give her kisses and ear scratches, she will stand there and yell until you do. We’ve had to baby proof the house; she likes to shred toilet paper…a lot. We put it in the cabinet under the sink, and she pawed the door open and pulled out. We put it in a metal cylinder under the cabinet, she drug it out, pulled over the container, and worked the roll out. I came home, and there was toilet paper all over the bathroom and she was sitting in the middle of it all and looking quite pleased with herself. I do have to admit, though, it’s been nice having another female in the house.

Did you make it through? I am a bit ridiculous when it comes to my babies, but they’re a big part of my life and love them dearly.


Southern Velvet

Through the grapevine, I recently learned that another tea shop had opened up in Tallahassee. Being a big fan of the beverage, I quickly did some research and, to my delight, discovered that this tea shop was delightfully retro in decor and offered something that made my little tea loving heart go pitter patter, tea flights. This past Sunday, Andy and I waited for a break in the rain and then headed there to procure beverages and tasty treats.

They had me the moment I saw those tiny vanilla cheesecakes with the lacy doilies. The front room, where you order, was nicely cozy, but it was also full of people so I didn’t want to take any photos. The dining area was open and airy, with soft pink walls and funky vintage accents. They also had a kid’s corner which I thought was great; a lot of my friends have kids, and it’s nice to have a place to meet up where they would be able to play and hang out while the grown ups catch up.Since we were visiting in that magical time between breakfast and lunch, we decided to indulge in something savory. I went for the veggie hand pie and Andy opted for the sandwich puffs filled with their vegan chickpea salad and avocado egg salad respectively. Since we did what we always do, which is go half-sies, I can confidently say that it was all delicious and I’d order any of these items again, although he and I both agreed that the chickpea salad was the winner as far as best flavor goes. We also took one of their cinnamon rolls to go, we tried it later that evening, and Andy was over the moon. His biggest complaint about most cinnamon rolls is that there is never enough spice and the roll is just over sweet, but these guys nailed it. Plenty of cinnamon and just a touch of cardamom, and I had one very happy husband. So how was the tea? You know, the thing that inspired our visit in the first place? Since Andy was such a good sport about this excursion, I decided that we should go for the “Chai Flight” since I don’t ever think he’s met a chai he didn’t like. It took a few minutes to put together, which is to be expected because the different blends require different “steeping” times. The tea arrived hot, but safe to drink. We took our time working our way around the delightful vintage inspired “swoosh”, sipping and sharing before deciding on our favorites and divvying up the rest for consumption. We had a wonderful time. Andy and I both love food, and we spend many of our more creative meals sharing and discussing flavor parings, things we’d like to integrate, and things that we are surprised by. This experience was tailor made for people like us. I am very excited about this new addition to Tallahassee. I already have a couple of friends who want to go tea tasting sometime soon, so I’ll be heading back across town in the very near future 🙂


I Don’t Do Camping, but This Seems Like Fun

As the title states, I don’t do camping. I like the great outdoors as much as the next person, provided that I have a way to protect my pasty skin and a way to shower at the end of the day, but camping? Sleeping on the ground, with bugs, in a flimsy tent, peeing in the woods, and going days without showering? Not so much. I was admittedly curious when “glamping” became a thing a few years ago, but most of the options I found still contained the major issues I had with camping so I filed the movement into my “nope” category and got on with my life. Fast forward to a few days ago when I inadvertently stumbled across a post on  Mendocino Grove, a gorgeous “glampground” located conveniently a quarter of a mile from the town of Mendocino. This campground gives you all the perks of being “away from it all” without the irritations of being S.O.L when you forget something.

The tents come in a few different sizes, and all of them have a cute little front porch with chairs made for lounging. No air conditioning, but real beds!The camp ground also offers a light complementary breakfast, and you can use the communal cooking area to make your meals or walk the 1/4 mile into town if you don’t feel like cooking. Each tent has their own designated fire ring, and s’mores supplies are available for purchase. You can also rent a good number of the supplies you’ll need from the campground if you find yourself needing to travel light or are just forgetful.  
Do you see this bathroom?! Sure, sharing it with a bunch of other people wouldn’t be my favorite thing, but it beats the hell out of the woods or a dusky nightmare camp potty any day. They even have fluffy towels!California is a long way away, but if I ever get the chance, I would seriously consider spending a few days here. So much so that I am even looking into glamping options around me to see if I can find something similar to maybe give a try later on this year. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up being a nature girl yet.