Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and.....Snow?

Tomorrow night is Halloween and things couldn't be more spooky around here.  This is what it looked like outside my window yesterday...



Autumn sun beaming down over beautiful red tones....



and crisp fallen leaves on the grass.... 

Well, this is what it all looked like this morning....



We had snow! Crazy, right?



It was just a dusting and not nearly as much as other parts of the state (which got up to over foot!) but snow is snow! Beautiful snow.  And oh how I love a good storm.  The season has begun.

I can never remember having snow before Halloween, so this is definitely unusual.  The weather has all of a sudden turned from cool to COLD.  Heat is on, candles are flickering, and I'm wearing two pairs of socks.  I'm in a state of cozy-heaven.   I just heated some cider on the stove (with a splash of OJ, a cinnamon stick, and a dash of nutmeg) and I'm settling in for the night.  The snow stopped, but the wind is still howling against the house.  My house is a trooper through.  She can stand it.  I'm just hoping not to lose power.  It's too cold to not have a fireplace. 

Unfortunately my little one has come down with a bad cold.  He's snuggled on the couch, wrapped in a green fleece blanket like a cocoon.  I promised him if he kept warm and got a good night sleep he could still trick or treat tomorrow night.  I'm hoping he feels better in the morning. 

I'm just going to sit and wait for the germs to hit me, which as I know, they eventually will.  They always find me : - )



Yesterday we carved our pumpkin.  Do you like him?  He's nothing fancy, but that's the way we like it.  A good old fashion Jack-O-Lantern on the front steps reminds me of all the pumpkins I carved with my Dad when I was little.  Actually, he helped us with this one.  I guess some traditions never die.  Here he is drawing the face....



We always carved our pumpkins on Halloween night just before trick or treating.  While we were gone my mother would roast the seeds. 



They are so good.  I rinse them off well, then lay them flat on a cookie sheet with a towel to dry overnight.  The next day coat with olive oil, salt & pepper, and a little garlic powder.  Roast at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they turn brown.  Give them a little turn half way through so both sides get crispy. YUM!!!!! 



They are like potato chips.  Once you start, you can't stop!



This past week my son had his first party Halloween party in pre-school!  He was so excited to wear his costume to school.  Did I mention he changed his mind again? He's now decided to be Woody AND Buzz by wearing bits and pieces of each costume.  He's also named himself "Woody-Buzz".  He seemed to get a real kick out of this, and I had to admit it was creative.  So off he went, in a Buzz Lightyear spacesuit, with a Cowboy hat and boots on, looking as adorable as can be.  When you are four you can do anything, and I'm so happy he's four. 

For the party I made chocolate Halloween pops.  I'm a huge lover of chocolate pops.  Mostly because they are so easy to make and kids just love them.  I have candy molds for almost any occasion you can think of, as it was quite an obsession to me a few years back. 

All you do is melt the chocolate (I defrost in the microwave for 30 sec intervals until melted)



And pour into the molds. 



Tap on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles and add the sticks.   Put the mold in the freezer for five minutes and viola....


I was feeling festive so I decided to pull out my Sizzex machine and make some labels. 




This machine is a die cut machine used for scapbooking and just about anything else you can imagine.  Once I started using it I wondered why I don't use it more. 



Just line up the die cut you want to use with card stock.  Load into the machine and Press.....



Out pop perfectly uniform little tags.  Love this machine!



It's beginning to look alot like Santa's workshop in here...



Each pop got a leaf, ribbon, and a name tag.



I think they came out pretty darn cute.  Of course to a pre-schooler all that matters is the chocolate, and that was kid-approved as well!  Wink, wink....

Before I sign off today I have to share with you something exciting that happened to me a few weeks ago.  I won my first giveaway!!!!!  The absolute BEST part about having this blog is all of the wonderful, creative, and inspiring people that I have met and had the opportunity to get to know.  Kristin at http://apageofinspiration.blogspot.com is one of those people.  One night while "surfing" I stumbled upon her blog and I'm so glad I did.  She is a photographer from Norway who loves to travel.  You will fall in love with her pictures of London, Paris, and Italy!  She's also a mom who loves to spend time with her family, try new recipes, and enjoy the beauty of every day life.  Every post leaves me feeling happy that I know her.  A few days ago I received my package all the way from Norway.  Kristin sent me these adorable little hedgehogs, along with some fall napkins, and an Autumn leaf candy mold. Check them out...



I just love these little guys.  They have traveled a long way to be with me and I will display them proudly!


For this candy mold I have a great idea. This week I'm going to make honey butter.  All you do is cream together 1 stick of butter (or margarine) with two tablespoons of honey.  Fill the molds and chill.  Each little pat will be perfect with muffins, warm pumpkin bread, or your morning toast.  A little extra sweetness to start the day : - )

Thank you SO much Kristin!

For Kristin's upcoming birthday her husband is taking her to London and I can't wait to hear all about it!  I've already told her that's my dream trip, so I'm looking forward to seeing all her pictures.
Someday, I tell myself...someday.... 



Well, that's all for now.  Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone! Did you all watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, yet?  If not, there is still time.  Don't miss it!

Be back soon ~  xo

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Leaf Peeping & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


Hello Everyone and happy Fall!  I hope you all are feeling festive and enjoying the season.  As you know, it passes too quickly.  This week has been a perfect week.  The weather is cool and the leaves are falling.  As I type this post I am in my dark blue, moon and stars jammies with a fleece blanket wrapped around my legs.  It's cold in here but we haven't turned the heat on yet.  It's nice to be chilly and bundle up.  The cold air feels good in my lungs and we are sleeping like babies.  It's dark when I get up in the morning and I can't wait to jump into a hot shower to warm my bones.  If you can believe it, I actually heard "snow flurries" in the weather forecast for this week.  I'm not sure if they were pulling our legs or not, but we might be turning the heat on sooner than later after all. We'll see....



We just returned from a lovely 3 day road trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  My little family of three had the opportunity to stay in a beautiful condo right at the foot of Loon Mountain.  We went prepared.  I packed the car with thermoses of hot coffee, crackers & cheese, pumpkin bread, and of course - my camera.  I like to try to fashion ourselves as a version of Susan Branch and Joe Hall.  If you know Susan and have read her blog you would understand why : ) Unfortunately, we are more like Lucy and Desi in The Long, Long Trailer - with things being tossed around the car, food spilling, seat kicking, and the need for radio control.  But I digress...

The two and a half hour ride was absolutely beautiful.  The trees along the highway have all turned colors.  Why does this never get old?  It's so pretty to look at and be surrounded by.  The mountains are majestic and we couldn't stop talking about how clean and clear the air is. 

video

This is a little video I took on the way home.  As you can see it was overcast that day, but it didn't take away for the beautiful foliage along the highway.  Gorgeous! It rained off and on that day.  It was cold and damp and only made my coffee taste better.  Sitting in the front seat with a blanket on my lap I watched the world go by.  As my son napped, Hubbie and I talked for miles.  We love road trips. 



We didn't really have much of an agenda besides leaf peeping. I can safely say we achieved our goal, along with a little shopping, swimming in the indoor pool (my son's favorite part), and R&R.  Sometimes it's also nice to get away for a few days just so you can appreciate coming home.  And that's what happened. 


By the time we got home we were greeted with fallen leaves!  I love the sound of them crunching under my feet.  Although I know they won't be there for long they are still pretty to look at.  The crunchier the better~

After seeing all the glorious farm stands along the road in New Hampshire overflowing with vegetables I was anxious to get back to my kitchen and cook up some comfort food.  I knew I was in the mood for soup and when I went food shopping the squash was calling me. So last night I made the easiest roasted butternut squash soup in the world.  It takes no time at all and is SO healthy for you.  There is no heavy cream in this soup, it's just squash, chicken stock, and seasonings.  Trust me - you will Love it.  All you need is:

1 medium butternut squash
2-3 cups chicken stock
seasonings (salt & pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg)
olive oil

To roast the squash, cut in half lengh-wise and scoop out the seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.



Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and place the squash halves face down.
Drizzle with a bit more olive oil.




Cover with foil.  Place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 1 hr.  {This is a perfect excuse to have your oven on on a cool day.  Warm kitchen = happy family} 



Once cool enough to handle turn squash halves over.  Scoop the flesh into a food processor and puree for 10-20 seconds.




Add 2 cups of chicken stock, and your seasonings.  I use S&P, a dash of garlic powder, and a heavy dash of nutmeg. 




Puree and taste. Add more chicken stock as needed to get your desired consistency.  I like my squash soup thick (like a chowder) so two cups works for me.  Also, add more seasonings if you so desire. 



Transfer to a sauce pot and heat thoroughly before serving.  Sever with a dollop of sour cream, croutons, or a spring of basil in the middle.  A few Ritz crackers on the side never hurt anyone either : - )
It's your soup, so whatever YOU like is best. 

I poured mine as is, in my favorite blue and white mug and took my pretty little self to bed. 




I propped myself up with pillows and caught up on three days worth of TV shows that I missed.  Trust me, if you miss a week of reality TV you will be completely lost.  Sad but true.  A topic for another day...wink, wink...




With Halloween only a week away  we have a very busy week ahead.  After three trips to the party store, my son has finally decided on a costume - Woody from Toy Story.  He was Woody last year as well, but you can't reason with a four year old when it comes to Halloween.  For him, it's all about the hat, and Woody has cool hat.  I'm making chocolate pops for his Halloween party at school on Thursday and he has his first Halloween "dance" on Friday night.  So cute! 




This weekend we are also having our first ever Yard Sale, so here's hoping for a sunny day on Saturday!  My mom is coming with carloads of stuff and we are going to put on a spread like you wouldn't believe.  I've always loved going to yard sales (trash to treasure factor).  Let's hope having one is just as fun.  I'll keep you posted.

Hope you all have a wonderful week.  Thank you so much for reading.  I'll be back soon xo


PS like my Mom's Halloween flag?   I love it!

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's Friday Night...


Have you hugged your kitty today?

It's been a few years since I've had a kitty in my life.  I miss it.  I'm about to curl up in bed with a cup of hot cider and a new book. I'm wishing I had a kitty to keep me company and sleep on my feet. 

There is nothing like falling  asleep to the sound of purring and waking up to a tiny wet nose on your cheek.  I have kitty love.  In a big way. 

Note to self: Must talk to Hubbie about his "allergy".  I'm starting to have withdrawals. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple Swirl Cake



Our pumpkin has arrived!  Every night my son asks me if this is THE night we can carve out the face.  We still have another week to go I say, but rest assured, he'll keep asking.  Meanwhile, Mr. Pumpkin is sitting happily among the mums on the front steps. 

If you think he looks shiny it's because as soon as we got him I sprayed him with hairspray!  The reason I did this was not to make him look beautiful, but instead as a squirrel repellent.  Every year the squirrels in my yard have an early Thanksgiving feast with my pumpkin.  This year I decided to trick them.  Any girl that wears hairspray knows that it doesn't taste very good if you get it in your mouth, and apparently the squirrels don't care for it either!  My pumpkin has not been touched in weeks!  Ha!


The colors of fall are in full bloom in my yard.  What a joy it is to finally see the hues of rust, gold, and purple that we have waited all year for.  The trees are only beginning, but the plants are peak. 

Funny thing is my rose bush has decided to bloom one last time as well.  I have never had roses this far into October before.  I'm certainly not complaining though.  Roses go with every season, don't you think?



Since I'm still chipping away at my apple supply I did more baking this weekend.  As promised I wanted to share with you my recipie for Apple Swirl Cake.  This cake is a perfect dessert, but can also be served for breakfast.   Great for brunches too!

Here's what you need to make it:


2 cups chopped apples
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix apples, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl.  Set aside.


In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. 


Beat in eggs, orange juice, and vanilla.


In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. 


Add to creamed mixture a little at a time.  Beat until smooth.


**This batter is what Yankee Candle scents are made of**


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 1/3 batter into a greased bunt pan.  Add 1/2 of the apple mixture on top of the batter.



Add another 1/3 of the batter, then the rest of the apples.  End with the remainder of the batter on top.



Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 



Cool for at least 10-15 minutes in the pan before "doing the flip"....

Viola!

I served mine for dessert on Sunday night and then brought the rest to my parents house on Monday morning to have with coffee. 

 



It's always a good thing when I come bearing goodies.  Especially on a crisp fall morning.  We took our apple cake and mugs of freshly brewed coffee and sat out on the back porch for breakfast. 



My Dad just recently finished building this porch - to replace an old porch.  Dad's great that way.  When something gets old and weary, he tears it down and rebuilds it - bigger and better.  There isn't a room in the whole house that hasn't been completely reconstructed at one time or another.  He'll get an idea in his head and boom - out comes the sledgehammer. For about 3 years during my early twenties I felt like I was on a never ending episode of Extreme Home Makeover.

Luckily, my Dad is a professional and everything always comes out looking amazing.  We like to tease him, but really, his work is impressive.  Even when he tore every wall down on the first floor of the house to create "an open floor plan", there was never a doubt it would be perfect.  Which it was.

The new porch has a roof, lights, a ceiling fan, and a mini fridge (for his wine : ).  Since we have overhead covering now we are protected from the elements, but can still enjoy being outside.  During Hurricane Irene we actually sat on the porch and watched the trees dance in the wind.  It was truly amazing. 


But the best part about being on the back porch is not the mini fridge, it's the view. The backyard is woods that lead down into a river.  We see ducks and swans, fish jumping in the water, and lots of birds!  Occasionally a boat or kayak will sail by.  It's quiet and tranquil with only the sounds of wind chimes and birds chirping to distract you from your daydream.  A little slice of heaven in their own backyard.  Good work, Dad!

Pretty soon the leaves will start to change color and it will feel as though you are looking at a Thomas Kinkade painting through the sliding glass doors.  I'm sure at that point I will decide that "this is my favorite season" on the porch. 


That is until all the tree branches are covered with the first fallen white snow and the river is glistening with frost.  It will look like a sparkly winter wonderland.  It does every year.  And it never gets old. 

So while my Dad is busy tearing down walls and rebuilding porches I must show you what my mom has been up to recently: 


What you see here are squares of fabric sewn together that will someday be a darling vintage style apron for ME!  I couldn't even tell you which pattern I like best, because I love them all so much.


It all started one day when I mentioned to my mom that I saw an apron online that I loved and wanted to purchase.  She took one look at it and said her famous 4 word line - "I can make that".  After a day or two of research she found a pattern online at www.modabakeshop.com that was very similar to the one that I was going to purchase.  We sorted through her stash of fabrics and it just so happened that she had an assortment of the vintage floral styles that I had wanted. 

My new apron will have four rows of ruffles and will probably be too cute to cook in, but of course I will anyway.  I'll keep you posted on the progress, but I just had to give you a sneak peek!



If you are interested in the pattern for this apron, just visit the website above.  It's called the sun kissed apron and can be done in any color/design combo that you want.  I also mentioned to my mom earlier today at how cute this design would be as a table runner.  I'm thinking matchy-matchy.  No stopping us now!

I am so blessed to have been born from two naturally talented and creative people.  I can only hope that I may have inherited at least a tiny bit of whatever it is that gives them both the magic touch.  If the answer is no, well - at least I might have fooled them with this apple cake.... 



Because it really was good.  Really Good.  : )


Moving on....  Here's a thought...

Have you ever wondered what makes Williams-Sonoma smell so yummy?  Is it just me, or are you literally floating through that store on a constant search to find what it IS that is making you feel so warm and cozy? 

The answer is this -


After you peel your apples for the apple cake, put all the skins and core in a small sauce pot.  Add a cinnamon stick (or two) and cover with hot water.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Add a dash of nutmeg and a few whole cloves and ENJOY!



This little concoction will make your home smell heavenly.  Just keep an eye on the water.  Once it gets low, add a bit more from the kettle. 

If you follow your nose around Williams-Sonoma long enough, I guarantee this is what you will find.  They use the windows to get you in, and the simmering apples to make you stay.  Gosh, I love that store!


I was passing by there today and this window called me by name.  This is the 2-die-4 oven on my wish list! Can't you see me in my soon-to-be ruffly apron, pulling the Thanksgiving turkey out of this oven?  We are meant to be together.  Although I'm sure the hubbie would disagree : (  

I simply cannot walk by this store without going inside, even if it's just to window shop.  I'm always inspired and walk out the door busting with new ideas. 
   

Today I found myself with a small window of time to do some window shopping.  Strolling along I passed WS on my way to Barns & Noble - which by the way - is my second favorite store.  Me + a pumpkin spice latte + the travel section = perfection. 

After checking out Teresa Giudice's Skinny Italian cookbook (out of sheer curiosity!) I browsed the magazines and look what I found:


I know it's early for the Christmas edition, but I couldn't help myself.  It came with this extra section that I could not resist:


It's choc full of English traditions, recipes, and decorating ideas. Some starry night I will make myself a hot cocoa and curl up in bed with these magazines.  I'll hold out as long as I can, but I can't make any promises. I'm not very good in the will power department.  However, I did vow to try to not rush from season to season.  I guess Khols didn't make that vow, because this weekend the Christmas trees went up.  And I peeked! 

Thank you all so much for reading.  Have a great week.  Now everyone go outside with a can of Tresemme and spray your pumpkins.  It really works!

xo