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September 30, 2015

New Maple Trees | October Glory Maple Trees

This spring, as our home construction was nearing completion, I shared our plan for the landscaping and garden.  We've really enjoyed every step and have done everything ourselves (to this point) for plantings and design.  Here is a post about the design, inspiration and layout I shared in the spring.

You can see that the backyard is fairly open.  While it does feel lush because of the flowering vines and overgrowth on the back fence, we really need some shade on our patio and the back of the house to help with efficiency.

Our plan has been to do things step by step, and to add more each year.  We've accomplished the hydrangea hedge on the left, the peonies on the right, replaced the back fence, planted the cherry tree, the rose garden to the left of the porch, and the hydrangea under the elm tree.  We also added a stepping stone path from the front yard on the left (photos at the end of this house post, here).

The next step for our grand plan was to add the two maple trees in the back yard to help add some shade and some relief to our too open backyard.  We've enjoyed the wide open grass area for running and playing, but know that adding trees will add to the cozy factor of the yard and much needed shade.

We've had a love affair with Maple Trees for a while.  We spent many days admiring them when we lived in New England - on our walks in Concord, Ma., driving to Deerfield, Ma., and (our favorite) trips to Vermont.

Here are some of my favorite New England Fall Folidage posts from the past :

Concord Mass Fall Foliage
Deerfield Mass Village & Homes Tour
Vermont (Lots of posts)
Nantucket Fall Trip
Bedford Post Inn, New York

The decision of what kind of Maple Tree was next.  Because we don't live in Vermont, we wanted to make sure we picked a variety that would thrive here.  Factors I considered :

- Color
- Fast Growing (we desperately need shade!)
- Shape : Oval, but wide spreading.

We considered Celebration Maple, Autumn Blaze & October Glory, as these three had the largest selection available in our area.  For local shoppers, we purchased ours at Suburban Lawn & Garden.

While shopping, I found myself leaning toward the October Glory because it seemed the fullest and healthiest looking.  It sealed the deal when we had a great costumer assistant tell us that he grew up with an October Glory in his backyard.  He says he still remembers how it created the most amazing, warm light in his childhood kitchen in the afternoon.  Sold.

Here is what I learned about October Glories :

"Quality shade trees can take a bit longer to mature than other fast-growing trees, but the October Glory Maple is an exception. This special selection of the native red maple will grow at least three feet a year, so rapidly turns from a young tree into a mature tree in a short time. -

"This Red Maple (Acer rubrum October Glory) is known for its rapid growth and enduring fall color. In fact, its “October Glory” display of orange-red leaves lasts far longer than many other Maples. 
For several weeks you will be treated to one of the most vibrant displays of any tree in your neighborhood. It would look spectacular in your yard as a central focus, or equally at home near other plantings due to its narrow, upward growth.
October Glory is one of the most popular Maples for many reasons.  Tiny spots of fiery red flower clusters appear on the bare branches in the spring while the rest of your yard is still muted in browns and greys. 
The birds will flock to the small, elongated red fruits that accompany the flowers.  Glossy green leaves will appear next, some slightly tinted with a reddish hue.  As summer progresses, your Maple will grow 2 feet or more, achieving an oval-rounded form for optimal shade." -

We planned to purchase substantial size trees to help with shading the back of our house sooner rather than later.  Were were advised to not buy a tree any larger than a 3" diameter - meaning the trunk is 3" in diameter.  This means the tree is about 12-14 years old.  Maple trees grow 2ft taller each year.  Our trees are about 20 ft tall and will grow almost 2 ft every year.   Here they are as they arrived.

We really debated on planting the trees our selves, but decided that we better leave such large trees to a professional.  The delivery fee was about half of the planting fee, so even if we had them deliver it, the savings of digging, removing the dirt, staking and mulching the trees were minimal.  It took them about two hours to complete the job.  I'm pretty sure it would've taken Mike and me an entire weekend and a rented truck.

This is the view from our bathroom upstairs.  They were much bigger trees than I remembered.  I was afraid that when they showed up and where planted that they would seem smaller.

Out of the kitchen window.

I can't wait to watch them change color in the next couple of weeks!

They really make the yard feel cozier and more lush.  Now, I'm off to water them - again : )

September 28, 2015

Weekly Menu Plan | Roasted Pork with Braised Cabbage & Goat Cheese, Chicken Carbonara | Kale Harvest Salad | Braised Beef Chili

Every year about this time I start getting organized about weekly meal planning.  It must be because I love fall food so much, that I want to make sure I get everything in : )  This week the forecast is really and truly Fallish.  Today is our last warm day, then 70's and 60's for the next two weeks with really cool nights.

It feels like our entire home is on the brink of fall.  I've schedule the old chimney to be swept and cleaned this week in anticipation of wood fires, we're getting two maple trees planted in our backyard (right now!), there is a Harvest candle burning on my desk and I'm sipping on a Pumpkin Spice Latte that I made myself (more to come on that later this week!).

As Mike and I were sitting on the back porch last night (looking for the Super Moon!), we were talking about how good it feels for it to finally be on the brim of Autumn.  There are so many weekends coming up filled with favorite traditions - that will all feel new for Emma.  It makes me warm in fuzzy all over just thinking about it.

On our kitchen table is a basket of apples we picked from the little orchard on my parents' farm.  It is an "unkept" orchard (we like to call it "organic"!) and produces wonderful oddly shaped, un-perfect real apples.  I've been using them all week in recipes like homemade applesauce.

We don't have any pumpkins or gourds yet - that will come after this weekend's trip to my cousin's farm in Lexington (Missouri).  Here is a link to our visit there last year.  Here is a link to their facebook page with visitor info - Fahrmeier Farms.

Here is what else will be on our table this week... if all goes as planned :

Pork Tenderloin, Braised Cabbage with Goat Cheese, Bacon Green Beans

This is that homemade applesauce!

Chicken Carbonara with Roasted Chicken

Of course, I have to have a pasta dish.  I will use roasted chicken in this and make extra for the next night.

Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds & Cranberries

I've been making this lately with Red & Green Leaf Lettuce instead of Kale.  Um, also instead of the apple cider vinegar I've been using balsamic.  You get the idea.

Braised Beef Chili

I like to make chili on Thursdays because I love to have it in the fridge for the weekend.  It is so easy to reheat for lunch (hello, chili dog! yes, I'm serious) or easy dinner.

Spice Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I have to have something sweet and fall-ish to splurge on.  I love these cupcakes with cream cheese frosting with cider with Emma after school.

And right now, as I type, this is happening at our house - two new Maple trees going in in our back yard!  We picked them out a couple of weeks ago and I'm excited to see that they haven't turned yet.  I'm looking forward to watching them over the next couple of weeks out of my kitchen window.  I'll post later this week about how we picked the specific variety and what size.  There was a lot more research and information involved than I had thought, so I'll share what I learned.

Happy Week : )

September 10, 2015

Apples & Acorns | Fall Baking Favorite Recipes & Essentials

Before the pumpkins and before the mums, apple season is the official start of fall - for us, anyway.  I'm getting geared up for a weekend of fall baking and while I was browsing through my past favorites, I thought I'd share my little roundup with you.

This weekend is the first weekend that Apple Cider donuts are available at our favorite country cider stand. If you don't have a local spot, you can indulge at home and make them yourself.  This baked version is a lot less messy than frying and will fill your kitchen with the aroma of baked apples and cinnamon... instead of grease.

Baked Cider Donuts

Is there anything better than an old fashioned apple pie?  I think this is actually what we'll be making on Sunday for dinner.  I mean dessert after dinner.  Promise.

Spiced Old Fashioned Apple Pie

Share your apple bounty with friends with this very easy gift.  Just make a big batch of Salted Caramel (recipe below) and pile in an Apple Basket with apples. 
Everything I used :

Making homemade caramel sauce might sound difficult.  It's not... it takes minutes.  If you can boil water (and sugar) then you can make it.  It is even easier than unwrapping all of those caramels to melt - and so much better!  It is really is so delicious.

 Especially when it is warm, right off of the spoon.

There is something about the sea salt that adds so much flavor and the vanilla that brings out a warm sweet aroma. 

Salted Caramel Recipe

Speaking of Caramel...

This is the most perfect desert to serve at a fall dinner party.  Imagine this warm, moist (almost custard-like) cake drizzled with hot caramel and topped with vanilla bean whipped cream on a cool evening.  Ugh.  Daydreams like that make me want to host a dinner party immediately.  

This collection of copper cookie cutters was released last fall.  This year, I brought back the two most popular (and my personal favorites)- the Pumpkin & the Acorn.  
I just love how easy these are to decorate.  I've changed up my icing routine from royal icing to butter icing and haven't turned back.  So much more into taste than look lately, right : )

Acorn Cookie Cutter
Acorns are one of my favorite motifs of fall.  The Acorn Tags and Folded Cards go from fall into the holidays, too.  I remember Martha Stewart decorating her kitchen Christmas tree with gingerbread acorn cookies with some gold ribbon.

What is more Fall than cream cheese frosting topped spice cupcakes?  I used the gold striped cupcake papers to give these a little flare.  It makes them look more special and would be great for a party.

Spice Cupcake Recipe

If we aren't having Apple Cider Donuts (or pancakes...), we are likely having scones.  Here are some of our Fall-ish favorites :

Apple Cinnamon Scones 
Cranberry Orange Scones are always on our list.  I use fresh cranberries now that they are in season - my favorite.
What a treat these are!

Cinnamon Maple & Pecan Scones
Apple Cranberry Crisp

This is my all time favorite dessert.  The mix of orange zest, cinnamon and cranberries is unbelievable.

Apple Country Cake
Of course this recipe kicked off the fall season on the blog a couple of weeks ago.  The Creamware Tart Pan is back in stock, again!

Individual Salted Caramel Pies

What's better than your very own pie?  Here is a shot of my baking drawer, stocked with the newest (smaller) size of tart pan.

For the packaging we used :
Disposable Tart Pan, $6 for 10 
Jute Twine, $5
Edgartown Sand Tag, $8 for 10
Large Cello Bag
Multi Stripe Linen Tea Towel, $30 for 2

I hope everyone found something to make their list this weekend - enjoy the beginning of fall baking : )


September 09, 2015

Cocktail Party Menu | Beef Tenderloin, Lobster Rolls, Tomatoes, Blue Cheese Potatoes & Mini Milkshakes

As promised, today I'm sharing the behind the scenes set-up, shopping and cooking schedule for the engagement party we hosted last week for my Brother and Claire.  I love hosting parties, but it does take a lot of organization and planning.  I'll walk you through the menu, setup process and give you my checklists and shopping lists in case get inspired to host a similar party.  

You can download all of the checklists, shopping list and worksheets, here : Party Planning Worksheets

Our party was for 50 people 7-10pm.  We wanted heavy hors d'oeuvres that still felt fresh and summery on a hot, hot day, but also special.  We have a family joke that my brother always has had a knack for ordering the most expensive thing on any menu (and has since he was 5!), so this Steak and Lobster was our nod to his favorites!   And his Bride, Claire, is definitely as champagne girl, so we made sure we had plenty of that, too.   Even with our special (and a bit luxurious) menu, we tried to keep it casual and fun for our young crowd... including the late-night "Boozy Milkshakes" (Tumbleweeds) we served at the end of the night. 

 Here was our menu : 

Beef Tenderloin with Soft Rolls & Horseradish (instructions coming soon)
Creamy Shrimp Dip with Crackers and Asparagus  (my Granny's - will share soon)
Cheese Board with Berries
Spiced Cashews  (Barefoot Contessa)
Mini Tumbleweed Milkshakes (so good, coming soon!)
White Wine

 Here is our shopping list - you can download, here.

I will post my step-by-steps of the Beef Tenderloin later this week.  It was yummy - and the first to go.  I cooked it the day before and refrigerated it overnight, making it very easy to slice thinly.

Mini Lobster Rolls on butter toasted buns.

Tomato Mozzarella Platter served with Garlic Toasts.  Easy and Summery.  My Mom brought all of the tomatoes from her garden, which also made it budget friendly.

I always feel like you need a little green on the table.  This crunchy asparagus was great for dipping in the creamy shrimp dip.

We ran out of room on the food table, so I put the cheese board on the island, which worked great for everyone to munch on.  I also had bowls of the spiced cashews around, but forgot to take a picture.

And Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Celebration Candles... not just for birthdays!

Here is the Set-up Checklist.  I find it helpful to sit down and think of everything we'll need at once, when I can concentrate... instead of last minute when I'm running around.

Here is the table laid out with platters a couple of days before.  This really helps make final decisions on what food and how much.

I always like to add some height, like with the Marble Cake Stands.

We had a rental company bring tables and chairs for the patio.

We moved our picnic table into the grass and put candles down the center - was a great gathering spot later in the night by the firepit.  Not surprisingly this is where most of Josh's college friends ended up - casual and fun.

We did three 48" rounds with 6 chairs each.

Love these new giant cedar planters with mums.  Email me if you are interested - thinking of adding them to the shop!

A few weeks ago my lavender died out, so I replaced it with some boxwoods that I can replant later.  I actually love the structure of a shrub in a pot - I may keep it.  Mike in the background prepping the firepit.

My biggest helper wondering where all of his balls and yard toys have gone.

The kitchen running at full steam.  And yes, that is my favorite indulgence - a mini coke in a glass bottle.

Tying up the beef to help it cook evenly.

Steaming potatoes for the canapes.

Chopping up lobster for rolls.

Beef is cooked, now will rest, then be wrapped and put in the refrigerator overnight.

Potatoes are steamed, sliced and topped with blue cheese and bacon.  Yum!

Here is a blank template for you to customize for your own parties, download, here.

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