Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Dining Table Set for Fall

Paul and I went to the farmers market last weekend and splurged on pumpkins and squashes. $70 worth!! The grower even gave us a break on the price. In all, we got two large, basic orange pumpkins, one large dark green squash that kind of looks like a pumpkin, one large dark orange pumpkin called Rouge Vif d'Etampes (or "Cinderella pumpkin"), one white pumpkin and the three on the dining room table below. That's eight total, so maybe $70 isn't so much after all. I do like to support local farmers instead of buying from grocery store chains, and the folks we bought from had a wonderful selection and great quality. We had such fun picking them. I could have come home with even more.

While changing out the dining table display, I also removed the ivory slipcovers from the dining chairs. I like to use the slipcovers in spring and summer to give the room a lighter look. The fabric on the chairs is an oatmeal color, which feels warmer in the fall and winter months.

This light green one is my favorite. Isn't it beautiful? I think it's called an hokkaido squash ... do you know for sure? I've mixed the real pumpkins/squashes and pine cones in with some faux ones. Can you tell which are which?

Everything in the photo below is real ... except for the red pear. For more autumn decorating inspiration, check out my Autumn Pinterest board. And join me at The Charm of Home's "Home Sweet Home Party" for more ideas.

While we're in the dining room, here is our well-stocked bar. May I fix you a drink? My favorite cocktail is a whiskey sour, and below is an excellent recipe for one from the Barefoot Contessa. Check out some of my other favorite drink recipes here, here, here and here.

Whiskey Sour Recipe  (makes 4 cocktails) 

In a jar, combine:
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup simple syrup
  • 3/4 cup whiskey
Shake well and serve over ice.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Easy Chocolate Mousse

What, no photo? More on that in a moment. The following chocolate mousse recipe is touted in Everyday Food as the "easiest dessert ever, a snap to make." I'm sure it would be, if your blender container doesn't leak hot milk all over your counter! It quickly became "not-the-easiest" dessert ever. This little episode makes me want a new blender even more than I did before. The leaking has occurred several times before -- usually on mornings when I'm making a smoothie for breakfast and running late. Even though I'm super careful about putting the blade and base on tightly, I guess I wasn't careful enough. Maybe it's time for a Vitamix??

Mishap aside, this recipe is very simple and quick to make, and the end result is very delicious. Now, about the lack of photos in this post. I'm ashamed to say that I FORGOT to take photographs before Paul and I inhaled the dessert two nights in a row! I even made fresh whipped cream as garnish -- it was so pretty. You can go here to see what it looks like though. There's a video too.

Easy Chocolate Mousse

1-1/4 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt (regular, not coarse)
2/3 cup whole milk
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or you can use peppermint extract)
Heavy cream

1) Put the chocolate chips, sugar and salt in blender container and set aside.

2) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer, then transfer it to the blender container and let stand for 1 minute. Blend on high until smooth, 1 minute. 

3) Add egg whites and almond extract and blend on high until well combined, 1 minute.

4) Divide evenly among four 6-ounce dessert cups. Chill until set, about 6 hours or overnight. Before serving, beat cream with a small amount of sugar until soft peaks form. Top mousse with a dollop of whipped cream and a few slivered almonds (or crushed peppermint candies if using peppermint extract) and serve.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Good Weekend Home Tour

Happy first day of autumn! After a very hot weekend, we had some cool, cloudy days Monday and Tuesday, but today it's back up into the mid-70's, sunny and absolutely gorgeous! I have this week off to enjoy a "staycation." I have so much time I have to take before the end of the year, otherwise I'll lose it. Therefore, I'm taking a week of this month, a week off next month, and more time around the holidays.

Last weekend Paul and I enjoyed my favorite yearly home tour -- the perfect start to my week off.

Sorry, I only captured pictures of two of the homes on this year's home tour. With so many people coming and going, it's impossible to get photos without people in them -- and indoor photography is strictly prohibited. I understand why, but it's a shame because the homes this year were decorated so well. I would have loved to share them with you.

This house was particularly spectacular and was my husband's favorite. A new home, it boasts 4,925 square feet and is Gold LEED certified. Some of the highlights are a floating staircase made of what we think is walnut, a sleeping porch and a gorgeous yard with swimming pool and fire pit (photos below).

This next home is larger than it looks at 3,200 square feet. It is an older, restored home featuring 10-foot ceilings, a staircase made of 200-year-old wormy chestnut, banisters and newel posts from an 1800's farmhouse, and interior beveled glass windows. See the close-up shot of the front porch light fixture below. Isn't it great?

The following houses were not on the tour, but were homes we drove or walked by as we went from house to house on the tour.

I love the color of the house below; it's a nice shade of blue with a reddish door and it has great stonework around the front porch. I also like the arbor and the pitch of the roof over the front porch.

This next cottage is so charming with its arched doorway, stone insets and wood door. I love the stucco and beam detail over the front porch as well. The colors look lovely with the brick.

Another cute home ...

I think the next house is new, built in the style of a 20's bungalow. But I could be wrong. It might be an older home that was renovated. I like the colors, including the dark mullions on the windows.

Not all homes in this neighborhood are small, mind you. I gravitate toward the smaller, more charming bungalows and cottages; they're my favorites. But many of the old homes (and new ones) are huge, like this one.

There's also a lot of renovation going on. The house below is at the end of a very cute street, closer to the commercial area of the neighborhood. I'm glad to see this house being restored. It has a lot of potential. The bungalow below it, which is across the street from this house, is receiving an addition in the back.

After the home tour, Paul and I did some antique hunting, but left empty handed. It has been a while since I've had the urge to go antiquing. I've kind of lost the drive to collect things. Maybe that's because we've run out of places to display and store things. I've been more into paring down lately, getting rid of things we don't use. Nevertheless, it was fun to rummage around a huge antiques mall. Paul made me laugh several times, as he always does, trying on old ladies' hats and cracking jokes about some of the crazy things you see in antiques stores. It was fun.

Then, since we had worked up an appetite, we headed to a vegan restaurant we discovered back in July when I had to pick up Paul at the airport. The food is all vegan, mostly raw and can be made gluten-free (any of the sandwiches can be made with a collard leaf instead of their homemade bread). 

Paul had lasagna made with layers of crisp zucchini "noodles," sun-dried tomato sauce, mushrooms and cashew-basil cheese, served with a beautiful side salad. It was amazing! I enjoyed a living burrito, with sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, onion, tomato, sprouts and cashew sour cream wrapped in a collard leaf. On the side I had the broccoli Waldorf salad with apple, celery, walnuts, raisins, red onion and homemade cashew mayo. Both of our meals were amazing, full of flavor and very filling. I could eat like that every day. 

For dessert, Paul had the turtle cake made with Thai coconut, chocolate and cashews in a chocolate-pecan crust. I had the pudding made with Thai coconut and raw cacao, sweetened with maple syrup and topped with organic berries.

Mmmm, this is giving me a serious chocolate craving. I think I'll head into the kitchen to make a new dessert recipe: chocolate mousse (the non-vegan, not healthy kind). If it's a success, I'll post the recipe.

Monday, September 7, 2015

New Shades for the Dining Room

 You may recall a post I did about window coverings when we renovated our mudroom last spring. I requested several natural fiber shade samples from Smith & Noble, and my husband and I narrowed down the choices to two: Shikoku Black and Lhasa Cocoa. One evening after supper, I was showing my mother-in-law the samples as we sat at the dinner table. It was then that I realized how great the Shikoku Black shades would look in the dining room -- a room that hasn't had any window coverings the entire 17 years we've lived in the house. Rather than spend the money on shades for the mudroom (we'll get some less expensive ones down the road), I changed direction and decided we should invest in some shades for the dining room.

As is typical, I delayed ordering the shades for a few months. Then I received a postcard in the mail from S&N about a "buy two, get one free" special they were offering through August. The timing was perfect. The dining room has three windows, all about the same size (though in an old house, nothing is uniform), so one window covering would be free. 

I assisted my husband in measuring each window (I held the tape measure and carefully recorded each measurement), then went online to place the order. I decided to go with the cordless natural woven flat shades in Shikoku Black. Our custom order arrived sooner than anticipated, which is always a nice surprise, and my husband hung them that very night -- which was an even more wonderful surprise (I think he wanted to get them done before Labor Day weekend so he wouldn't have the task hanging over him). 

They look beautiful -- simple and tailored. I like the cordless feature and they're easy to use. Since this is a room we don't need privacy in, I know I won't be raising and lowering them a bunch. A coworker friend who used to be in marketing at a window coverings company warned me that over time cordless shades can begin to wear down and malfunction if used frequently. I had already placed the order, but I'm not too concerned since these shades will mostly remain at the same height.



Before I go, I wanted to show you a close up of this gorgeous orchid plant I bought at Whole Foods! At $12.99, it was a much better deal than fresh cut flowers. The orchids should last a good while. I bought a different colored flower for the living room. I haven't had luck getting any of my orchids to rebloom, so I end up buying new ones. If anyone has any tips for getting orchids to bloom, please share.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...