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I hope you are having a nice holiday season! I’ve been busy visiting family and wrapping up a very busy work year but wanted to share a few favorites from the Christmas season to keep the cheer alive, especially as the weather in Boston has turned downright gross! Wishing you all a Happy New Year . . . see you in 2016!

Four Seasons Boston Wandering Boston and taking in the decorations at the Four Seasons

 

Old South Church Boston

Listening to choir practice and feeling thankful at the Old South Church

 Christmas lights

Driving around Milton looking at the beautiful Christmas lights Christmas tree

bubble lights

Loving the old fashioned Christmas decorations on my mom’s Christmas tree

milk and cookies Milk and homemade cookies every night before bed

kerrygold cheese  Incredible food gifts like this package from Kerrygold, makers of the best Irish butter and cheese ever. I received this as part of the Kerrygold blogger network, but we basically don’t buy any other butter ever. It’s the best.

 

family Spending so much time with my niece and nephew! I spent a week at home, which is the longest amount of time I have spent there in many, many years.

 

kitten

Cuteness from my mom’s new rescue kitten, Gabby

 

pomegranate for Champagne

wine Pomegranates and Champagne, what a delicious and festive combo!

 

IMG_1958 Christmas dinner prime rib string bean casserole Christmas dinner favorites, including prime rib with horseradish sauce and the classic string bean casserole. I love it.

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Tags: Christmas, family, holidays, lifestyle, NJ, Travel

Sun Sets on Summer

I have a very, very hard time saying goodbye to my favorite season. When everyone starts talking about boots and sweaters and pumpkin everything in August, I am almost outraged. I don’t want to rush those hot days, lush gardens, and long sunsets, not one bit. Summer for me is rarely a slow time at work; for me it’s often fall that slows down a bit, so I can’t even say I love summer for the pace. I just love everything else about it. As I mentioned in a recent post, this summer has been different. We spent far more time away than we have in the past, and far less time on boats, which was difficult, as boating is a favorite hobby, a place to relax, and a social outlet. Still, I think we did a good job of enjoying the season.

Even before summer officially started, we were eager to take advantage of the beauty of New England when it’s not covered in snow. We had the perfect coastal New England day in May, which set the tone for seeing as many sunsets and eating as many lobster rolls as possible.

Crane Beach Sunset

{Crane Beach sunset}

sunset over the Claddagh, Galway Ireland Despite a rainy forecast, Ireland put on quite the show for us when we visited, allowing us plenty of outdoor time and gorgeous sunsets like the above, over the Claddagh.

sun setting in Hull

We got to spend a lot of time with friends and saw sunsets in Hull during impromptu beach trips where swimming in dresses was the right thing to do on a perfect summer evening.

And there were sunsets over Boston, viewed from boats filled with our favorite people, good bubbly, and great food.

sunset over Boston

Rodney Strong Vineyards This summer also brought for me two separate trips to Sonoma County, where you can guarantee I watched the sun set over vineyards every chance I got.

In addition to sunsets, we took in plenty of other beautiful sights. Following an April visit to Mystic, Connecticut, we decided to visit again, this time meeting my family. Mystic is an ideal spot for family travel, with the aquarium, boat rides, and some fun shops.

 

Saltwater Farm Vineyard We took a quick trip to Saltwater Farm Vineyard to pick up more of their delicious wine and to check on the progress of the vines.

boating in Mystic

And we had a perfect day on the Argia, a beautiful sailing vessel out of Mystic, which the whole family loved. Dark skies at dock gave way to a beautiful Long Island Sound.

boating on Long Island Sound For the adults, it’s complete relaxation; you can even bring your favorite wine or beer along for the trip. Snacks and lemonade are provided, and guests can get in on the sailing, as my niece and nephew did in the photo below.

Argia, Mystic, CT We enjoyed shopping throughout Mystic, especially the kids’ section of Bank Square Books. I loved that these little ones still love books, despite all of the technology in their lives. Shopping for books was a nice, relaxing, and cool break from the hot summer day.

Mystic, CT family travel

 

In addition to travel, obsessing over sunsets, and family, my summer was, as always, focused on all things growing. I truly feel something magical when out in nature, and while my garden wasn’t perfect, it brought me peace and joy daily. Every weekend chance I got, I went to fields of flowers, beaches, or farms, feeling the energy of the earth coming through my feet, soaking up those moments where everything felt so vibrant.

squash blossom

summer in Westport, MA

 

I’m sad to see summer go but grateful that here in New England, local produce and beautiful weather stick around for a couple more months. New work projects, travel to Chicago and Myrtle Beach, and travel planning for a warm winter getaway will also help us get through the summer withdrawal.

Are you excited about the change of seasons or, like me, do you really mourn the loss of summer?

 

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Tags: beach, coastal living, family, favorite things, mystic, outdoors, Sonoma, summer, Travel, travel blogging, wine

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you might be feeling the frenzy of the holiday season starting to creep in. While I try to not let joyous occasions stress me out, I am definitely noticing that the calendar is full through January and I am trying to juggle work and life accordingly.

Since we will be traveling throughout the holiday season, including another Thanksgiving in Ireland, we wanted to take time out to get local family together before the madness sets in.

I love a late afternoon Saturday party. It’s a combination of lunch/dinner, and lighting a fire as the sun sets makes for a warm and convivial atmosphere. When entertaining, I try as much as possible to choose foods that I can prep ahead of time.

our living room

We had a ton of work to get the house ready, so easy-to-prep food was even more important. We bought our house almost a year ago, but after being scammed by a shady plumber, we have had to put off a lot of the things we have wanted to do with the house. It’s still cozy and we love it, but decorating has taken a backseat to important things like heat!

beach decor

Ultimately I would like to have a beachy/nautical house, so I have been incorporating little touches like sand dollars on a window sill, serving platters with crabs and seashells on them, nautical towels, and little lobster bowls.

table setup

lavender You won’t be seeing our house in Town & Country anytime soon,   but it makes us happy!

lobster bowls

Now for the food! I set up the table for the first hour of the party with the following:

Cucumbers topped with herb cream cheese and tomatoes – I think the red and green would be fun for a Christmas party, and it’s nice to have something light on hand when the rest of the meal is so heavy.

A cheese plate – two hard cheeses and one spreadable cheese, crackers, and bread

White Bean Truffle Dip

cucumbers with herb cream cheese

Guests trickled in, and we waited until just about everyone had arrived to put out the main course:

Bacon-Wrapped Sausage with Brown Sugar – I forgot to take a pic, but you can find one in this post. This is the easiest, most decadent party food ever.

Mixed Greens with Butternut Squash, Red Onions, Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and a Cider Vinaigrette – I roasted the butternut squash with cinnamon prior to adding it to the salad, and it was a delicious touch. The dressing was a super easy blend of apple cider, shallots, and olive oil.

butternut squash salad

Guinness Beef Stew – This stew is SO easy. Once the early prep was done, I left it on low all day. The beef was falling apart by the time it was served.

Guinness Beef Stew

Chicken Pot Pie – Another super easy dish that seems daunting, this one started with sweet onions cooked in butter, followed by chopped up chicken thighs, chicken stock, herbs, chopped red potatoes (which I par-cooked prior), and torn spinach. I simmered it on low until about a half an hour before serving, then added a bit of milk, put it in an aluminum tray, topped with store-bought crust, and baked for about 30 minutes. Sadly some of the gravy overflowed onto the crust, but it was still tasty!

Chicken Pot Pie

Pumpkin Pie Dip – addictive. This is a mix of pumpkin pie filling, cream cheese, and sour cream, served with gingersnaps and Nilla cookies. It was so easy and so good! Our guests also brought cake and cupcakes, so I didn’t make the Caramel Apple Dip I planned on.

Pumpkin Pie Dip

And finally, if you know me you may have guessed there was bubbly. We had two options of bubbles, one from Graham Beck and another from Mumm Napa, as well as Brooklyn Brewery beer and some amazing beers our guests brought, including my husband’s cousin’s homebrew which is out of this world.

I used to get so stressed about entertaining, but I feel like I am starting to get in the groove a little more. The cooking is definitely my favorite part; I wouldn’t mind leaving the cleaning to someone else!

Now I am in Thanksgiving-planning mode. Do you know what you are cooking yet this holiday season? If you need any Thanksgiving recipe ideas, check out some posts from the past!

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup (including Cranberry Cheddar Biscuits, Cornbread Sausage Stuffing, and Sriracha Maple Brussels Sprouts, a great Thanksgiving side dish!)

Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad

Thanksgiving wine pairings and recipes

Turkey Soup (for the day after Thanksgiving!)

Pumpkin Spice Brownies

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Tags: entertaining ideas, fall foods, fall recipes, falll cooking, family, Food, lifestyle, Lunch, nautical, recipes, relaxing, Saturday, Thanksgiving menu, Thanksgiving recipes

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