September 17, 2014

Hearty Beef Stew

This past weekend, I made my second batch of beef stew of the season per request of my oldest daughter, Kate. So I sent David to the store for the ingredients and I got out the crock pot. This is not the type of recipe you can just whip up. Well, it is, but it takes 8-10 hours to actually cook in the crock pot. The photo you see is the stew just about done. Once you add some flour, it thickens up in the last 20 minutes of cooking. This is real comfort food. Serve with mashed potatoes and some delicious crusty bread.

Hearty Beef Stew
  • 2 pounds of stewing beef (I used a combination of stewing beef and beef tips)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I use Vidalia and chop it in small pieces. The choice is yours.)
  • 4 carrots peeled and chopped (I often use ready-to-eat baby carrots and cut them into quarter inch rounds.)
  • 5 large russet potatoes peeled (or not) and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 28 oz. can of whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning or Oregano
  • 3 cups beef broth, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and then brown the meat in batches. Set aside.
2. Pour the can of tomatoes into a crock pot and mash them with the back of a large spoon or fork to break them up.
3. Add onions, carrots, and potatoes.
4. Sprinkle Italian seasoning or Oregano over the vegetables and then add the beef and all drippings from the skillet.
5. Pour 2 1/2 cups of beef broth over the beef and vegetables. Stir it all together.
6. Add bay leaves

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, add salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and the remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth until smooth. Stir into stew. Replace the cover and cook until thickened. Remove bay leaves before serving.

I used certified organic products, including the beef broth. Use low-sodium if available.

September 16, 2014

Fall Nesting

As I was unpacking my fall decorations, it struck me just how many times I'll take the same items and reinvent them again and again. Books are a decorators best friend, so there's always a pile of those lying around. I have several baskets of every shape and size, dishes, vases, and vessels of every kind to hold just about anything. To add a bit of fall to your home d├ęcor, simply gather a variety of organic materialsboth faux and realand have fun playing.
I stacked a few books, topped them with a square dish and then added a couple of faux over-sized acorns. My copper-handled tureen holds everything from flowers to Christmas ornaments. This year I decided to line it with faux laurel leaves and then fill it with real hazelnuts. You could use Spanish moss, dried maple leaves...just about anything. And a bag full of hazelnuts is just a grocery store run away.
I hang this 3' long basket on an interior door, but I brought it outside because it photographed better. This basket is filled with tulips in the spring, pine boughs in the winter. For fall, I've collected a good amount of berry branches, twigs, and grasses to mix together. The key is to pay attention to color, texture, depth, and height. The majority of materials should be gathered at the mouth of the basket. Mix the colors and textures to balance the arrangement. Anything free-flowing, like branches, should reach for the sky. Tuck and twist until you get the look you want.

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Fall Mood Board
Fall Home
DIY Fall (Door) Decoration
Black and Brown

Photos: personal

September 15, 2014

Fall Mood Board

Fall is well on its way. Here's a little inspiration to get you thinking about everything fall... the colors, the clothing, the decorating, and preparing for the holidays. It's all just around the corner, and this is the week that starts it all.

Images: Top left - David Fuller. Bottom right - Gary Grossman

September 12, 2014

What a Weekend in the Country Looks Like

This is what I/we did last weekend...a little writing out on the porch, fixing the driveway culvert, and adding additional drainage to the driveway. New England weather is brutal so we're always dealing with one fix or another. This year we're actually trying to get ahead of it for once.

So what's on the agenda this weekend? Kate is coming home, so I expect to be doing laundry, cooking her a batch of Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Muffins, then helping Amanda get ready for her homecoming dance, and maybe stacking some wood. I don't know about where you are, but the temperature is really starting to dip here. A nice cozy fire sounds good to me.

While you're enjoying your weekend, take a peek at some of the things that caught my eye this week.

7 things you didn't know about Seinfeld.

Did you know your state has a super food? Mine is pumpkin.

Fall nail polish trends. I just purchased Essie's Wicked.

What do you think about the color khaki?

Land's End Pink Thread Project.

Thinking of Halloween already? Me too. This site has the best ideas.

Have a great weekend. xo

September 11, 2014

Chatham Orpheum Theater

My family loves the movies, whether we watch them at home or take a drive to the large stadium theater 40 minutes away. However, we're fortunate enough to have two (I'll call them boutique) theaters in both our home towns, one here in Peterborough and one on the Cape. The Chatham Orpheum Theater was under construction last summer, so when we took the drive into town this past July, we were thrilled to see that it had opened. We bought our tickets for Jaws right on the spot, knowing they'd be sold out if we didn't (which they did).

As you walk in, you see this amazing mural of Hollywood stars. "The After Party", by artist Hans de Castellane, is just amazing. You can dine in the theater courtesy of Vers Restaurant, or simply much on popcorn and candy. The seating is extra wide and very comfortable, and the sound system rivals any larger venue. They show first run movies, art films, and classics. They'll even email you "rainy day showings" for kids when the beach is not an option. Of course, Chatham is a beach town, but I can imagine taking in movies all winter long in this cozy space.

We happened to go on the night of the big storm. A tropical storm had been forecast all day, but didn't arrive until all seven of us were in the theater clapping and cheering and yelling, "We're gonna need a bigger boat." with the rest of the crowd. So the party continued as we cautiously made our way back while the wind howled and the rain pounded the pavement.

David and I went back on date night to see Chef. After dinner at the Squire, we just made the 8:00 show and literally got the last two seats in the theater. We had a really fun night.

Do you think a 3-1/2 hour car ride is too much to go see a movie?

Photos: personal

September 10, 2014

Framingham Food Truck Festival

It seems as though New England has gotten on the food truck bandwagon. On September 20th, you'll be able to sample everything from gourmet hotdogs, to seafood, to Vietnamese and French cuisine, and everything in between. Gourmet food trucks have made their way across the country and can now be found in smaller city locales as well. When you've finished sampling the goodies in Framingham, loosen your belt and come on up to Portsmouth, NH and enjoy another festival at the Redhook Brewery on October 5th. (Food Truck Festivals of New England.)

Bon Me, based in Cambridge, MA, will be on hand with their fresh and tasty Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with pickled carrots and daikon, house made pork pate, house made spicy mayo, cucumbers, red onion, and cilantro. Plouf Plouf Gastronomie is run by Paris native, Mario Molliere, and serves his quintessentially French foods to Brown students and other Rhode Islanders when not behind the wheel. His menu boasts items like escargots served on puff pastry in Pernod-infused sauce; housemade duck confit; steak frites; and a French classic with an American twist: grilled organic duck burger topped with applewood smoked bacon and wild mushrooms.

Bon appetit!

September 9, 2014

Treehouse Living

I love houses in any shape or form. But I especially love unique, small houses like gatehouses, playhouses, and tree houses. I think my love of these types of houses started when my Dad built my sister and me our own play house. The love affair continued when I climbed into the Swiss Family Robinson tree house in Disney World for the first time. I finally got to build my own little house a couple of years back when David and I built our shed. Now we're thinking barn...

However, this tree house is really lived in, save a few modern amenities like a washer and dryer, shower, and stove! That's why they invented the grill, wash tubs and wash boards, clothes lines, and sun showers after all. Could you do it? Hmmm.

I absolutely adore the flagstone path and lantern-topped logs. Every space has been used to its full potential which is another lesson in living in small spaces. It may be a tree house, but there are a lot of great design ideas that you could incorporate in your own home.

Read more about tree house living here.

You may also enjoy Small Spaces.

Photos: Country Living magazine

September 8, 2014

DIY Fall (Door) Decoration

While I was out in the yard this past weekend mowing and weeding, I came across several large bushes that contained these pinkish red berries. I have no idea what this is, but I decided the shape of the leaf and the color of the berries would make a nice front door swag. I grabbed my clippers and my ball of twine and started to construct a layered door swaglong and narrow towards the bottom, wider and denser towards the top. I just clipped and gathered. Knowing I had to go get my clear door hanger from the basement, I quickly stuck my swag in my iron flower box. Then I looked at it and liked what I saw. It's a bit unconventional as I usually have pots of flowers sitting in there, but I've decided it's staying put. I will gather up more branches to make one for the front door later today.

I honestly don't have any idea if this is going to dry well or simply shrivel up and die. (I'll certainly let you know.) That's the beauty of using what you find outdoors and enjoying it, even if it's just for a little while.

Photos: personal
Tags: gardening, DIY

September 5, 2014


Preparing for college, visiting college campuses, making decisions about the rest. of. your. life. is a daunting task. This is my third go-around and the experience has been different each time. When it was time for my son to decide which college to go to, he simply chose one and went. Kate, my oldest daughter, applied to 9 schools in a panic thinking she wouldn't get into any, never mind her first choice. (She got into every single one.) Amanda, my youngest, is somewhere in between. She's applying for early admission, something the other two didn't do. She narrowed down schools long before her siblings did and they're all in the same state. Three children, three very different experiences. College visits are on hold for now, although we may end up re-visiting schools just so she's sure.

With that task (sort of) behind me, I can start to focus on a few house items that need attending to and business as usual.'s Friday, which means a little leisure time. Tomorrow we're headed to the Otter Limits Olympic Triathlon. Amanda is biking 25 miles for Team Orr, hopefully not in the rain. And since David and I have been running tractors and bulldozers, shoveling dirt and stone, and building mini rock walls, I'm not sure we're doing much of anything as my muscles are still recovering.

On that note, here are a few links you may find interesting to read this weekend.

You don't need a lot of space. Check out these small living room decorating ideas.

I'm reading this book. You'd be surprised.

I was saddened to hear this and happy when I found out it wasn't true!

I'm obsessed with this bag.

This month I'm cooking with apples. Next month, pumpkin.

My kitchen re-do will (possibly, most likely) include a farmhouse sink.


Photo: Brown University campus
Tags: fun links, happy weekend

September 4, 2014

Fixer Upper

If you haven't seen this HGTV show, you must. Chip and Joanna Gaines can see real possibility when most people would see a do-not-disturb sign. Open-concept living is hardly new, but seeing how a "before" space turns into an "after" by just tearing down a wall and opening up the space really makes a difference.

When we built our home, I opted for less rooms and more space. The kitchen flows into the dining room which flows into the living room...I can see from point A to point B, people can interact with me while I'm cooking, I can enjoy the dining room fireplace, and I can see the outdoors everywhere I turn because we opted for larger windows and doors, and lots of them. (I don't have the Texas climate to save on heat, so we use a wood-burning stove to save on oil.)

Right now, David and I are concentrating on the outdoors. Our road was just paved, so it prompted us to make a few minor changes to our landscape and driveway while we had the use of a tractor and bulldozer. However, we are making plans for a future renovation (a farmhouse sink and painted cabinets) that I hope happens sooner than later.

In the meantime, be inspired by the before and after shots on the Magnolia Homes website and tune in to see re-runs.

Tags: be inspired

September 3, 2014


This past summer, I discovered Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). I had heard about it before, but I was hesitant to try it. I already had my many sources of protein in my diet and I wasn't eating many grains (cutting back on gluten). However, I am a fan of finding recipes that I can use again and again and ingredients that can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Enter quinoa. This not-so-new super-food is technically a seed but prepared like a grain, it's packed with protein, iron, and magnesium. It's considered gluten-free in its raw state, but I'm told you should be cautious if you have a sever gluten allergy.

I bought some prepared quinoa at Whole Foods and ate it with spicy chicken breasts. It has a nutty flavor, but it's a bit bland all by itself. My nephew prepares in with chicken, vegetables, and a little heat and eats it every day for lunch. I think it would work well with my Orange Chicken Stir Fry recipe. Prepare the quinoa with chicken broth and place the stir fry over it like rice. I'll try it and let you know. For now, I'm just mixing it in with various left-overs and baking some Apple Cinnamon Muffins

How to Cook Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
1.25 cups cooking liquid (water, chicken, vegetable or beef broth)
Add one part quinoa to one and a quarter parts liquid. As always, choose the liquid that best suits the dish you are making. Depending on the ad ins you are using, you may or may not use a bit more liquid. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to low. Cover and cook for between 30 and 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit covered for an additional five minutes. Fluff and add to your favorite dishes.

Apple Cinnamon (Quinoa) Muffins
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup quick oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup chopped apples (I used macintosh, but any type should work nicely)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add your cooked quinoa and quick oats. In a separate smaller mixing bowl, combine your cinnamon, nutmeg and sugars and then add the spice mixture to the quinoa and oats. Then add the maple syrup, apples and eggs and mix until just combined.
3. Spray your muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Make sure to spray the top of the pan as well. The mixture will overflow out of the cup a little bit, so you don't want the tops to stick.
4. Fill each muffin slot a little more than half and bake for about 20 minutes. Serve warm.


Tags: quinoa, apple cinnamon quinoa bites

September 2, 2014

10 Things to do in September

I can't believe it's September already. I've always considered September to be the start of a new year. I guess it's because summer always seemed like the end of something special and once school started, it was time to begin fresh. My girls are now both in school. We dropped Kate off yesterday and she starts classes on Wednesday. College move-in day in Boston is always crazy busy, but the energy is just electric! May your September be filled with new beginnings.

1. Attend a country fair. A throw-back to another era, country fairs still exist. 4-H clubs show off their animals, candy apples and fried dough are a must, and of course you can't leave without going on some rides. David and Amanda went on this contraption while Kate and I (happily) watched from below.

2. Go apple picking. This is something we have done as a family every September for 24 years! We head back to the same apple orchard in Massachusetts, eat a picnic lunch on the town square lawn, and go home with enough apples to munch and bake with for a good month.

3. Enjoy some comfort food. I have already made a batch of beef stew, baked an apple pie, and today I'm baking a chocolate cake for Amanda's 17th birthday! Soon enough, I'll be baking peanut butter cookies for our apple picking picnic, a pot of chili for Sunday football watching, and a roasted chicken thrown in for good measure. Yum!

4. Makeover your garden. I just replanted my porch urns with two large burgundy-red mums. The plants that are partially dead have been cut down, and I'm getting ready to prune some bushes. Once flowers and plants have passed, it's a good idea to get ready for next season and cut back any over-growth as well as freshen up beds. This mini make-over will now allow me to transition into fall and make room for pumpkins and cornstalks in October.

5. Go crazy for magazines. I haven't subscribed to many magazines in a while now. Unfortunately, with all of the new technology, I can pretty much get my fix on a variety of subjects without having to purchase any. However...fall is the exception. Vogue, September issuea must. Fashion and decorating magazines galore fill my cart. I just love the fall!

6. Spruce up inside. Spring cleaning is certainly something I do every year, but I also clean and organize in the fall as well. I get my home ready for winter by packing away summer items first. The flip flops are still out, but the straw bag is not. I will concentrate this week on transitioning my interior by swapping out accessories and warming up the color palette with pillows and blankets. I got to play decorator yesterday when I helped Kate with her dorm room. Her bedding was given a fall makeover this year. We added two leopard pillows, deep plum-colored pillows, and topped her comforter with a cream and coffee-colored spread. By the time we were done the room was too dark to photograph well, so you'll have to wait to see.

7. Plan for the holidays. Yes, I'm already making lists for gift-giving. The girls have mentioned a few things that they want, and I can tell you from past experience; if you don't buy it now, it won't be there later. I find that even if something costs a little extra, I'd rather get them something they truly want than run around in December trying to piecemeal together a few acceptable gifts. I keep a list and take photos of anything I come across. Sometimes I'll buy it on the spot (when they're out of my sight) or I'll simply go back or order it online. Once this practice becomes the norm, you can then concentrate on what the holidays are really aboutfamily.

8. Enjoy the outdoors. Just because we start to focus inward as the temperatures drop, doesn't mean you can't enjoy fresh air and sunshine, even if it's only for a short time. Bike rides, picnics in the park or your backyard, a campfire, nature's still all there just waiting for you. So grab those sweaters and jackets, pull on some boots, and enjoy the changing scenery along with the changing temperatures.

9. Start something new. Since I think September is the month of new beginnings, why don't you take that to heart and jump in with two feet. Attend a classart, yoga. Start a journal. Make somethinga wreath for the front door, salvage an old piece of furniture and use it in your home. Consider starting a new hobby that you do at least once a month. Think bigger and consider starting a new career (maybe on the side). Do what you love and the money will follow. My husband put himself though college working construction. Between our house and other mini projects, we've actually talked about re-vamping houses in our next stage of life. The wheels are definitely turning.

10. Embrace family. Although I do see a lot of my extended family during the summer months, visits start to dwindle once we're all back to our school-year schedules. But, I've decided that I'm going to use those night-time hours to get things done around here and save the weekends for more family time. I'm definitely heading into Boston more to see Kate and it's a great meet-up destination to see other family members as well. Trips to a couple of museums are already in the works. If you live a good distance from your family like I do, maybe there is a destination spot where you all can meet up for lunch, dinner, or a bit of sight-seeing and catching up.

Photo: Hopkinton, NH
Tags: food & recipes, tradition, 10 things, be inspired

August 29, 2014

Happy Friday

End of summer fun. David, Amanda, and her friend Nick took our jumping off the Jaws bridge on Martha's Vineyard to the next level. This bridge happens to be an abandoned train bridge situated between a pond and a lake. The views were beautiful, and up until this past week, they were all ready to do it againuntil they learned that someone had gotten bit by a water snake. That's good enough for me. I'll stick to salt seems safer!

What end of summer plans do you have?

Here are some links I've read this past week that might interest you.

Fall hair trends - there's something for everyone. I rocked the (wavy) lob through high school.

Did you know that if you shop on Amazon, you can support a cause through their Smile program?

I can't believe I missed National Dog Day! Kate found this video that made me laugh.

8 things I've learned about marriage. After 22 years... I can tell you this is still a great list.

Next week I start to decorate my home for fall and turn this blog into a total fall fest. Until then, get a jumpstart on how Joanna's decorating for fall over on Magnolia Home's blog.

15 grilling recipes for your Labor Day cookout.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend!

Tags: happy weekend, fun links

August 28, 2014

Visiting Aquinnah

The Aquinnah cliffs are known for their natural beauty. Formerly known as Gay Head, the town of Aquinnah was one of the first whaling sites settled by English colonists in 1669 and first inhabited by the Wampanoag, a Native American people related to the larger Algonquin Nation of Southern New England.

The brightly-colored clay cliffs, carved out by glaciers millions of years ago, have been photographed and painted for hundreds of years by people and artists all over the world. The cliffs are ecologically protected, so pay attention to signs. You can take a hike on the upper trails to the top of the cliffs to catch a glimpse of Gay Head Light and nearby Elizabeth Islands. You can also enjoy the gorgeous beach belowin the buff if you'd like. Moshup Beach is one of the few nude beaches left in the US. However, clothing is optional, so you can visit, as I did, and not see a single person enjoying the soft white sand and turquoise waters without a suit. (I was told that the beach is no longer considered an official nude beach, but nudists still visit.)

The spectacular view I had was at the top of another rise near the shops. I think you'd agree that the colors and light are simply breathtaking. Imagine actually seeing it in person.

Have you been? If not, you need to add Aquinnah to your list of places to visit.

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New England Clambake
New England Clambake (How to)

Photo: Aquinnah, MA
Tags: Travel, New England, Martha's Vineyard

August 27, 2014

Corn on the Cob

I had my first taste of local corn a few weeks back. Is there anything better? If your Labor Day plans include hosting a BBQ, take your corn up a notch with these yummy toppings.

BBQ - Sprinkle hot, buttered corn with Old Bay seasoning or your favorite BBQ rub.

Peppery-Basil - Soften butter and add chopped fresh basil and black pepper to taste.

Shrimp Salt - Sprinkle hot, buttered corn with this homemade shrimp salt recipe.

Rinse shrimp shells, legs and all, and dry them with a paper towel. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and very brittle, about 15 minutes. Grind shells in a spice grinder until fine, then add an equal amount of salt and grind again to combine. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Pesto - Purchase ready-made or try this recipe.

Classic - Simply buttered for the purist.

Other toppings to consider... red pepper flakes, lemon thyme, garlic powder, or onion salt.

Photo: Delish