Autumn Dinner Under the Stars

I adore creating happy memories for people! It is a passion of mine! My mind is always swirling with fun memories to make with the people I love. Two memory-makers that I've been contemplating for some time are an old-fashioned harvest party and hoedown AND an elegant autumn dinner under the stars. The first one is quite ambitious, and I haven't worked up to it yet. But last Saturday night, we brought the latter one to life!

The general plan was:

-invite some of Colette's friends and some of ours
-cook over an open fire
-self-serve cocktails
-table setting with real dishes, crystal, vintage flatware, tablecloths
-fresh flowers
-lingering conversation around the dinner table and the firepit 

The day of the party arrived and rain was in the forecast for the entire day until 3:00. Yikes! I tried not to stress out about that, but just forged ahead with preparations. And the weather forecasters were right, as it stopped almost exactly at 3:00, which gave us two hours of prep time before the fire needed to be kindled and another hour before guests arrived. Perfect!

We went to work setting up dinner tables and serving tables, stringing lights, bringing chairs out of the house, setting the table, pulling wool blankets out of our collections and draping them over chairs to ward off the chilly night, and dinner prepping with a careful eye on timing everything right.

For the table service, we used tartan napkins in lively shades of autumn mixed with our classic white dishes and vintage restaurantware appetizer plates. (Vintage restaurantware dishes and ironstone are perfect for outdoor events and picnics, because they're practically indestructible.) Looking through my collection of vintage Bakelite flatware, I chose the butterscotch- and golden-colored pieces for this party. Wine glasses, crystal water glasses, glass water bottles, hurricane lanterns and votive candles, pewter napkin rings, and pewter tankards filled with safflowers completed the look.

Everything was in readiness for our guests to arrive! 

The menu was planned to allow for some aspects to be made ahead of time and others to be cooked over an open fire. *virtually all menu items were gluten-free*

- MENU -

Self-Serve Apple Cider Cocktails

Mushroom, Sundried Tomato, and Mozzarella Dip
(cooked over an open fire) with Garlic Toasts

Garlic and Herb Rubbed Pork Loin
(cooked over an open fire)

Salad of Field Greens with Apples, Pomegranate Seeds, 
Pepitas, and Feta - dressed with vinaigrette 

Whole Grain Rice with Dried Cranberries and Parsley

Cornbread with Butter and Raw Honey

Gourmet S'mores

Some day, when I'm more proficient at the open fire cooking, I'll blog with tips and recipes about the whole process. But I'm really just learning myself still. So for now...quick tips on the easiest parts of the menu.

Self-Serve Apple Cider Cocktails - Set out: 8 oz. glasses, ice bucket with scoop, measure, bottle of bourbon, pitcher of freshly-pressed cider, bottles of San Pellegrino, and the following instructions:

- Fill glass with ice
- One part bourbon
- Two parts cider
- Top with San Pellegrino

Gourmet S'mores - We used to make homemade marshmallows in a variety of flavors when we wanted to step up our s'more game. But now we've discovered that, instead, it's much easier to substitute Ghiradelli chocolate squares for plain Hershey chocolate. For this party, we chose caramel-filled milk chocolate squares and bourbon-caramel filled dark chocolate squares. Yum!

I had as much fun creating the evening as enjoying it as it happened!

Fall Additions

Autumn is finally here! But until today, the weather has been dreadfully hot, so it's been difficult to get into the mood of baking and cozying and all delights of the season. But I've been stocking up on a few essentials.

- Monin Salted Caramel syrup to add to coffee and hot chocolate. I love how a pump of this syrup makes hot chocolate all the more velvety.
- Whole nutmeg for grating atop eggnog and whipped cream on pumpkin pie. I found these in an apothecary jar in The Old Country Store, one of the oldest general stores in the country (since 1781).
-Cinnamon sifter for lightly dusting whipped cream on our hot chocolate. I love the cozy flavor blend of chocolate and cinnamon!
-A new nutcracker, as our old one was broken. This lovely one with olive wood handles is from Crate & Barrel.
-Saddle soap for reconditioning our winter boots and shoes and purses. A little TLC keeps them looking great for years.

Lake Time

The weather was glorious, summer is waning, and Colette had the day off work. All that meant that it was a fabulous opportunity to head to a lake for some fun!

Decisions, decisions. Canoe? Double kayak? Single kayak? Paddleboard? In the end, I took a single kayak, because it enabled us to bring along a backpack with a phone for picture taking. Plus, it's super relaxing!

And Colette chose a paddleboard, which she'd done once before and loved.

We headed out to a small, uninhabited island and, like any self-respecting 8-year olds, we claimed it for our own. We clambered out on the rocky shore, tied up the kayak and paddleboard, climbed up a big rock, and did this!

We both agreed that we were fulfilling our childhood dreams!

Cruising with the Coast Guard

Our purpose in going to Maine was to join in a Dependents' Cruise on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter on which Max serves.

We were excited to see our Coastie in action! Love that smile!

After receiving safety instructions and some opening words from the Captain, we were surprised and thrilled that Max was chosen as Sailor of the Quarter and received words of praise from the captain! Proud momma!

We were served a delicious lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, chips, salads, and sodas. Then we headed out to sea! We enjoyed watching sailboats cruising past.

We passed Breakwater Lighthouse. It is a mile out to sea, and last year, as you might recall, we walked out to it. It was fun to see it from the water this time.

We headed out to view Owl's Head Lighthouse and the charming sea cottages peppering the rocky shores nearby.

We were told that most of the crew's concentration while navigating in this area is taken up in avoiding the lobster trap buoys. They are everywhere! Each one is marked with a specific pattern of colors belonging to that particular lobsterman. In the second photo (below) you can see them all bobbing in the water. And those are lobster traps strapped on the back of that boat.

We passed more beautiful sailboats on our way back to the dock.

It is a lengthy and laborious process to tie the boat up to the dock, but it gave us a great glimpse of Max and his shipmates in action!

We finished out our day with a walk to see Owl's Head Lighthouse up close and then dinner all together at our Airbnb.

We love coastal Maine! So beautiful!

Our Charming Maine Airbnb & Breakfast in Maine

Last weekend, we headed to Maine for some family R&R and a chance to see Max in action on his boat. We left early in the morning, resolved to take our sweet time and enjoy the drive up, making numerous stops along the way. Hubby thought it was more like we were "eating our way up the Maine coast", and that actually might be quite true. Our first stop was the Stonewall Kitchen Company Store in York, Maine for lunch.

Then it was a stop in Kennebunkport for cocktails with the Bush family. Just kidding! It was really a stop at Aunt Marie's for freshly squeezed lemonade.

Then we crept through traffic further north and stopped at the fabulous bakery, Treats, in scenic Wiscasett. I called ahead earlier in the week and ordered a half dozen of their decadent brownies for pick-up on our way to our destination. They were out of small boxes, so it looked like we ordered four dozen brownies or something, but really(!) it was only six. Honest!

Then we arrived at our Airbnb in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. And what a charmer it was! I'm going to gush about this place, because there's really no way to overstate how comfortable and well-appointed it was, and how welcoming our hosts were! Click here to read all about it and rent it for yourself!

This photo taken the following day.
Our hosts, Suzie and Neal, built and decorated their Airbnb rental, The Sparrow's Nest, by themselves. It was built from trees felled on the property itself. Their own beautiful home sits on the property as well, although they were very gracious in giving us privacy. 

The ground floor was the dining area and kitchen, master bedroom, and bath.

Picking up on the cue to use a chunky, tall backsplash like this, if I ever design another kitchen in my life. Love, love, love that look!

I've stayed in rentals before that were not well-equipped. That is definitely NOT the case with this one. Everything is at your fingertips...from appetizer plates, to water carafes, to pickle forks, to the the fresh peaches and sourdough bread given for our enjoyment!

The master bedroom and the view from it.

Every room had fresh sweet to my soul! Just the thoughtfulness of it all made us feel welcome!

And even though there is an indoor shower, I opted to use the outdoor shower each morning, because...well...the view!

Coming up the stairs, Colette had the entire top floor to herself. There was a sitting area (not pictured) with it's own soapstone sink, mini fridge, and bar area. And there was her bedroom with a view of the woods. And a charming balcony with chairs overlooks the hydrangeas below.

We were invited to snip herbs from the jumbo urn just outside the front door, if we needed any for cooking. Isn't that sweet? And isn't that a great idea? I'm definitely adopting that one at our house next year, and planting all the herbs in an urn on the deck instead of down in the garden, because really...don't you need them at your fingertips anyway?

After a very restful night in the comfy beds with the cool, Maine breezes whooshing through The Sparrow's Nest, we had breakfast. Having fresh, summery foods was important to me to make for my family on this trip. But who wants to spend vacation cooking? With a little advance preparation, breakfast was super easy.

- Breakfast in Maine -

vanilla Greek yogurt
fresh berries (pre-sliced and packed in a container)
sprinkling of granola (purchase at Whole Foods)
applewood smoked bacon (precooked; reheated 30 secs.)
blueberry muffins (prebaked; recipe here)
orange juice

Headed to Maine for the Weekend

Yes, sirree! We are headed to Maine for the weekend! We have an Airbnb all booked. I've spent the day preparing food for the weekend and cleaning the house for the house/dog sitter. Everything is almost in order!

Super cute notepad came from ElizabethSt on Etsy. Click here to visit their shop!

It's all red, white, and blue and summer sweaters and classics in my suitcase! Temperatures are just supposed to be in the mid-70's, which seems just about perfect to me!

I'll be back next week! Have a great weekend, friends!
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