Happy Little Cottages By The Sea

Cottage Charm, Coastal Calm

December 2008

The Saga of the Traveling Fruitcake. And Eggnog…



I love fruit cakes. Seriously. And most of all, I love my Aunt Marth’s Fruitcake. Every year she makes a fruitcake for my family. She is almost 85 years old and has been making this family recipe for years. Each year my mom doles out just a enough fruit cake to get us thru the entire year. We ate the last 4 pieces that had been wrapped up and frozen on Dec 23rd because we knew Aunt Marth’s cake was waiting. But it wasn’t….. My uncle Kenny had died a few weeks earlier and Aunt Marth was behind with her Christmas cooking and baking. So she didn’t have a chance to mail the fruit cake. OMG. Christmas without her fruitcake???
But we had a plan. Friends of the family’s kids were coming home for Christmas. They lived in Fairmont, WV, Aunt Marth lives in Fairmont , WV…. they could connect. But Aunt Marth doesn’t drive and Aron and Sarah have a small baby….. wait, my cousin Barb could get off work early and connect with Aron and pass the cake. So Aunt Marth bundled up ( she wasn’t going to just let Barb carry it) and they met in the Food Lion Parking lot and the hand off was made. The cake drove over the snowy mountains and through the woods and arrived in Berkeley Springs Christmas Eve. Kathie called and told us the good news. But too late to come get it that night, we’d have to make a Christmas day run…. Drove over the hillside and went to Butch and Kathie’s home. ( Beautiful home!) There was the fruitcake…….. just in time for Christmas dinner…. but no….


You see, there is an added ingredient that Aunt Marth refuses to add, so mom has to add without telling her. Brandy… But you can’t just pour it on and eat it, you have to pour it on, wrap in cheesecloth, let it soak a few days, then eat.. It’s Christmas day. No brandy in the house. No cheesecloth in the house. Nothing is open Christmas day…. so on the drive to Bethany Beach the next day, we stop along the way and pick up the brandy and fruitcake. The next step happens ( documented above) The cake is soaking….. any day now we’ll be enjoying that brandy soaked cake!!!


PS- the cake always arrives in an old cookie tin and each year, mom sends the cookie tin back to Aunt Marth for the new fruitcake. Just another family tradition!
And to go along with it- some egg nog. I also love eggnog! Any recipe will do and here is the motherlode of recipes!!!

How I spent my Christmas Vacation

Where do I start…. into my second full week with my family for the Christmas Holidays…. One of the many benefits of my new career is I’m able to take advantage of the “slow season” time and be with my family and friends for extended periods of time. Here is my recap of my trip so far…
  • Road Trip North to my parents with daughter Katie and the two dogs. Many of you have seen how I travel now that I have a car vs having to deal with the Airlines. I treat my car like it’s my suitcase! Problem is, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and my daughter travels the same way. Those poor dogs barely had enough room in the back seat because the car was so full… Why Katie felt the need to bring her entire basket of dirty laundry was a mystery to me… Lots of fun driving with her, just having time in the car together was great.
  • Christmas Even dinner- our family tradition is for my mother to make her famous fried oysters. She bought a gallon of fresh oysters which we had to bread with cracker crumbs and corn meal and then fry in a combination of Crisco and butter. Katie took over the frying about half way through and surprise of all surprises, actually received the nod of approval from my mother! Dessert was a platter of homemade cookies…. oh- can’t wait for the holidays to be over and there isn’t constant sugar to be consumed in so many forms!! The weather even cooperated to be winter like! Freezing rain which was just gorgeous to look at and we had no where we had to drive, so we could just walk and enjoy without any worry of black ice and driving….
  • Christmas day was GREAT! We started the morning with Mom making her famous Buckwheat pancakes! Then to the presents….We’d made a family commitment to either make all our gifts for each other or keep the total amount spent on each person to $25. We actually did this! My sister sent her annual calendars she makes with pictures from the whole year, she made my mom a scrapbook of our road trips this year, Mom made all of us scarves- each of us! Katie made a combination of knitted items ( she made me fingerless gloves so I could use my blackberry in the cold! How clever was this! We had dinner at Aunt Hetties home- Folkstone. Hettie was a Navy wife who lived all over the country from Key West to Coronado Island, CA. She is an amazing woman who at age 85 made the entire Christmas dinner for 12 of us. I was allowed to make desert and made the Mango Cake ( see the earlier blog with this recipe) I actually made the filling and frosting from the Castaway Coconut Cake- you have to try this cake. Oh my gosh was it good!!!

  • Day after Christmas, we hopped in two cars ( we now had my parents besides Katie and the dogs- fortunately they don’t pack as much stuff as Katie and I!) and we headed to Bethany Beach, DE for the next week.
  • Ahhh…. we’re at the beach. The old beach house opened her arms and said come on in and relax! So we’ve had fires nightly using java logs- not wood- check them out! http://www.java-log.com/ The beach also means going to see movies! We’re trying to see everything, and here’s the order of the pictures we’ve seen and how we like them.

  • Slumdog Millionaire …. Run, don’t walk to see this movie!

  • Australia – a great, great story and glorious scenery!
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Great story and acting. You’ll cry at the end of the love shared between Daisy and Benjamin.
  • Marley and me. You tell me- is the picture above Danny or Marley…. hard to tell isn’t it! Great story and you dog lovers will cry and cry at the end

  • Still have these movies- Frost and Nixon and Doubt to see this week!

  • Yoga!!!!! After 10 days with my family, 2 hours at Yoga class today was the best! Stretching, breathing, not eating cookies…. ahh, it felt great! There is a yoga studio here in Bethany with an amazing teacher. And she is a teacher, not someone who sits in front of the room doing her own practise with no regard for us. If you’re in the area, I urge you to drop in to class! http://www.bethanybeachyoga.org/

New Year’s Eve still to come!

A note from Sam

I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving with friends, some life long, some brand new. Sam, Donna’s dad joined us . Sam is in his 80’s and lives in a Shriner’s Home in Richmond, VA. We loved having him with us and and on this Christmas Eve, I’d like to share his thank you note to all of us to remind us what’s really, really important in life. The picture is of Donna and Sam in front of the beautiful Whalehead Home in Corolla.

“Dear Ladies and Fred:

Food I brought home: There was too much and variety to name all of it.
Tonight is Sunday and I have yet to go through one wing, all the dressing, and I have some kind of square things in the freezer that I’ll have to play by ear as to what they are. Looks like desert to me. Each leg was a lunch by itself. It provided me with a lot of lunches. I have really ate for two weeks now. None wasted.

Donna and I hit rain and some fog all the way back Sunday. We just took
our time. It was on and off not too much serious rain or fog. The fog
was over as we got out of the obx. We were not able to have the view coming across the bridge. However, we did have a good trip down and back
and enjoyed each others company.

Words can not express my thanks to all for reinviting me down this year.
I am indeed a lucky guy to have you all as my friends. I hope I get recycled again next year. I had a good time enjoying every ones company and social. Also, I enjoyed helping out where I could without getting into trouble!!!!!! No competition for a trash mans job!!!! A tremendous week as Donna puts it, no service, schedule, or boss. [I added in the
boss]. However, I did have ask what the meal schedule was though. ha
ha… I have never been in such a relaxing setting as the obx is.
Time moved right along. And of course my buddy Annie who kept me company while walking. A great pet. Also, the pool and facility was great too.

Again, thank you all for the invitation. In particular I enjoyed the social. Without the social/people you have nothing. I enjoyed each and
everyone of your company. Friends & social are very important. And we
did not even have a fight…ha ha… Everything worked out great. Life is good.

I did not have your all e mail addresses so I have arranged through Donna to do a fwd for me. Thanks again to all.

Happy Holidays to all. With love and good times…

Taking the Waters in Berkeley Springs, WV

We’re home with my folks and one of our regular things we do is go to the Berkeley Springs State Park Bath House. Berkeley Springs used to be called the Town of Bath back when George Washington was president. They call themselves the Country’s first Spa because of the healing mineral springs here and George and friends would come and relax and heal with the waters. The fact it’s so close to DC ( 90 minutes) has made this little town home to a number of B&B’s and day spas, all extolling the benefits of the springs! The State Park was built n 1930 and been in use ever since.
For those of you who are spa dogs like me, you’d be laughing like I was during my massage experience . This is not a place of soft lighting, relaxing music, lit candles and soothing voices. A place where they practise the art of making the over worked and over stressed feel better about paying so much to “relax”. This spa is where the women all wear white outfits and the building looks like a 1930’s sanatorium . You almost feel like you’re in the mental facility from “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Yet I love it because it is so basic and that alone is very soothing because you do feel like you’ve stepped back in time! No lush fluffy robe, you’re given a sheet to wrap yourself up in and then led to the massage table. Did I mention it’s 8 degrees outside and because of that, it’s just darn cold inside? No matter, you’re on the table, and the massage starts. Again this really is fun, the massage is not laying of the hands over your heart to feel your chakras, it’s slapping and rubbing and moving you around like your a big ole pile of dough to be kneaded. The room is one big room and you can see and hear the others – who are all tourists mostly from DC, having the same experience. I can almost hear the suppressed giggles because I know we’re all feeling the exact same way…
The funniest is the old fashioned heat cabinet! Do you remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy sat in the heat cabinet to lose weight? The spa has one of these and I’ve actually sat in this! Your head sticks out and you truly feel like you and Ethel are on another crazy adventure! I tried to find a picture of what that looks
I do love this little town and I highly recommend the “spa” experience. They are in the 21st century with their website http://www.berkelyspringssp.com/ and if you’re ever in the area, I please visit!
PS- the icing on the cake for me was when I was finished being kneaded, the little massage lady looks at me when I get up and says ” You’re a tall one ain’t you!” I promise, you won’t get that type of praise at Canyon Ranch!!!
PPS- if anyone can find a picture of Lucy with her head stuck out of the heat cabinet- please email to me! I can’t find it anywhere on the web and I’d love to see!


Coconuts from the Beaches of Miami to the Mountains of West Virginia



I’ve left Miami, headed home to Tybee and had a few friends over for a little holiday dinner and wanted to try a new shrimp recipe. When you live on an island where shrimp live, I always want to cook shrimp! I came across a wonderful blog recently http://www.plumbushcottage.blogspot.com/ and saw this delicious recipe! It’s meant to be a marinade for grilling shrimp, but I took the recipe and stir fried and then poured over popcorn brown rice. The juices soaked up into the rice and it was just incredible! Of course buying shrimp from Lazeretto Creek Seafood right off Capt. Roy’s shrimp boats added to the flavor..


I’ve now left Tybee to be home with my family for Christmas and wanted to make dinner tonight. The Coconut Peach Shrimp was such a hit, I decided to recreate the dinner. With an added bonus- Joanne Tompkins- co owner of Castaway Cottage- makes an incredible Coconut Cake. We’ve been lucky enough to enough the cake a few times and since my mom loves coconut and since it’s way below freezing here, I thought it would be the ideal desert!


Here are the recipes to try for yourself and enjoy. We can’t always be on our little sea island, but we can always make dinners that bring comfort and joy and remind us of the beach!


Peach Coconut Shrimp
Serves 4
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled
  • 3/4 cup peach marmalade ( or you can just use peach preserves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Coconut Rum ( make the extra effort to find coconut rum- Cruzan Rum is ideal!)
  • 1 small vidalia or sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Sea Salt and pepper, to taste
I mixed everything together and let marinade for about an hour in the refrig. Then I poured everything into a very hot frying pan and sauteed until the shrimp turned pink. I poured the entire mixture over the brown cooked rice. I used popcorn rice because it’s so delicious and has a very buttery taste, but any kind would be fine I’m sure.


Castaway Coconut Cake
  • 1 box Duncan Hines Golden Butter Cake Mix ( or you can make your own yellow cake from scratch- but this cake mix is quite good. Be sure you buy the golden butter mix)
  • 2 Cups White Sugar

  • 2 Cups Sour Cream ( or use 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup plain yogurt)

  • 2 packages of coconut

  • 1 1/2 Cups of Cool whip ( or you whip your own heavy cream instead)

Bake the cake according to directions using two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans . Split each cake in half. Combine the sugar, sour cream and coconut. Chill. Set aside 1 cup of the coconut mixture. Spread the remaining coconut mixture in between each of the cake layers and stack. Take the 1 cup coconut mixture and add the cool whip (or the whipped heavy cream.) Frost the top and sides and toss with coconut on top. Chill. Ideally you’re supposed to seal this in an air tight container and serve 3 days later… but we can’t wait that long! You do need to keep the cake refrigerated.

Big, big hit both these recipes!!!!