Friday, September 22, 2017

Fantastic Fall Happenings

Its no big secret to regular readers that autumn is my favorite season.  I love the subtle downturn in temperatures, though the air isn't quite cold enough to prevent people from still wanting to be outdoors just yet.  That smell in the air of something sharp, crisp, of leaves and chill.  The foliage- don't even get me started.  At least 20% of why I came back from Europe when I did.  Sure, the leaves turn elsewhere around the world of course, but they don't quite catch flame with the same vibrancy as here in New England.  Leaf peppers are onto something (for those who haven't heard that term, these are people who travel from all over the US during fall to revel in and spectate over the changing colors here in New England).  I have yet to encounter anywhere else where the shades are as vivid as they are here.  Guess Ill have to do some more traveling to find such a place ;-), or, just accept that back home is where its at in terms of autumn.

More awesomeness about autumn: the re-emergence of boots, scarves and wool coats (especially cute red ones- my top pick).  A welcoming back of comfort foods- macaroni and cheese, butternut squash soup, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, stuffing, oh man.  Don't even get me started.  Autumn is the perfect time for thick books.  A towering, layered, gripping plot, allowing it to suck you in and keep you hooked, blowing through the pages while (ideally) sitting in a cozy café, cuddling up on your couch in front of a roaring fire, or lounging in a park somewhere as red and orange leaves dance in the air above.

Apple orchards, picnics in the park, haunted hayrides, all fabulous autumn activities.  Learning to make a new recipe.  Camping for a long weekend- still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors but with just enough chill to make cozying up in your sleeping bags at night an especially enticing appeal.  Its that time of year again, with the availability once more of all things pumpkin.  Pumpkin pancakes, cheesecake, donuts, pastas, oh man, this alone thrills me in am embarrassingly big way.  Autumn is also the ideal time for starting up a new TV series.  For fall moods, I am thinking along the lines of Friday Night Lights, The Wire, The Affair, Dexter, or Six Feet Under.  All phenomenal.

Fall is also an outstanding time for wandering.  In Boston, neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, to me, are quintessential fall.  The Commons and gardens beginning to reflect touches of color, making them an inviting place to walk, picnic, read, or grab a worthy opponent and play chess.  And though I don't personally love scary movies, autumn is the one time for making an exception in this arena.  Both in terms of books and movies, if there ever was a time for venturing into creepy territory, this is it.  Stephen Kings "It" just came out, for which I've heard reviews generally tipping towards positive.  As well as apparently Annabelle: Creation, I was told by my movie aficionado friend the other night that this one looks like a promising scare.

With all of that said, here are several New England as well as general autumn activities to fill your time with during this vibrant, romantic, brisk fall season:

Grab some friends, a love or family members and carve pumpkins together.  Turn it into a competition.  Then whip up something delicious for dinner with said pumpkin, in fitting with the theme.

Have a Chopped style dinner (not sure what Chopped is?  Crawl out from under your culinary rock and become enlightened here ;-)) with a friend or romantic partner.  Each of you select 3 ingredients that the other doesn't know of prior.  Set the collective 6 ingredients on the table at the same time.  All six must be used, though anything else in the house is fair game.  Thirty minutes on the clock to create a creative, edible dish.  May the best chef win.

Ive gotten further wind that apparently Parkers Maple Barn is pretty dang good.  Supposedly they have mouthwatering pancakes that taste like pumpkin bread fresh out of the oven.  As well as maple donuts on the offering.  You can pick apples close by at Masons Birchwood Orchard, if you are so inclined.  Then if you feel like continuing onward, Mt. Monadnock is just 45 minutes away.

Acadia National Park.  I don't think much further explanation is needed here.  Just, gorgeous.  On the water.  Hiking.  Breathtaking scenery.  I'm sure, lots of delectable food at the ready close by.

Apparently Craftsbury in Vermont is supposed to be lovely.  Hiking and running trails, biking and yoga, but supposedly canoeing and kayaking are the most enticing options here with the flaming foliage lining and reflecting off the glass smooth lake.  Lodging starts at $75 per night.

Maybe this will be the year I finally do this.  Apparently autumn is the best time to go white water rafting in Maine.  Specifically at The Forks, where the water is warmer and the colors are blazing.  Kennebac River Gorge offers single day trips starting at $75 per person and overnight ones starting at $106.

The Montague Bookmill in Montague , MA.  How cool is this place!?  A huge, sprawling used bookstore in an old mill.  A restaurant and café are housed within as well.  Must.  Visit.

Take a writing class here at Grub Street writing school in Boston.  I've heard great things.  Supposed to be pretty top notch.  Personally itching to use the membership one of my BFFs gave me as his phenomenal, incredibly personal and generous parting gift in my leaving Germany.  Ill think of him the second I finally walk through their doors to attend my first class :-D coming soon!!

Migis Lodge in South Casco, Maine is the ideal option for all you romantics out there.  Loads of fall outdoor activities, from walks in the woods to hikes with leaves swirling about, sailing, canoeing and tennis, and afterwards returning to find the stone hearth in your cabin at the ready for a roaring fire.

Cozy up at home with some comfort food desserts (ideally homemade, just baked with your friend(s), family or love) and watch some scary movies!  Some creepy but quality ones: The Conjuring, Poltergeist, Misery, the Exorcist, the Shining, Silence of the Lambs, and Carrie.  Or, if you aren't a scary movie person, a suspense laden drama like Deja Vu, Seven, Shutter Island or Double Jeopardy are also great choices.

There are LOADS of stunningly gorgeous fall foliage New England drives.  Just google it.  You wont have trouble finding one in any of the several states up here.  The best time of year for going on a long drive, for sure.  Pack along a picnic, a couple great CDs and you're ready to go.

Its nearing the end of that prime time for camping.  However, we are still within the bracket of months within which camping is an awesome activity.  I recommend White Lake State Park up in North Conway.  Set at the base of the White Mountains, surrounded by a crystal clean glacial lake, this makes for the perfect getaway including things like cooking over a fire, potentially going for a swim (depending on how badass you are in braving the dipping temps), board games by firelight, and other romantic or wholesome ventures you can conjure up on your own.

White Lake State Park.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

11 Favorite Things

Hi all,

One of my routine, on rotation posts.  Its that time again for 11 things I'm loving now (which hopefully, you'll love too :-) or may inspire some fun fall activity ideas and/or eats in your own life). 

1.  Fall festivals.  Pumpkin Fest in Keene, NH.  Carnivals and small town fairs.  The air clear and bracing.  Smells of grilling meat, sweet dough and simmering oil lingering, alongside the scent of sweetly burning wood, crisp leaves and mulch.  The quintessential scent of small towns and fall fairs.  Love that.  People bustling, the sounds of laughter and conversation carrying in the air. 

At particular events such as Pumpkin Fest, the quaint downtown streets growing crammed to the brim with people, food stalls and autumnal smells.  Leaves swirling along the curbs, a sense of rowdiness and new beginnings in the air.  Anywhere one looks, they are greeted with sidewalks and streets overflowing with pumpkins.  Boosting all sorts of different facial expressions or spooky scenes depicted in carvings on their fronts.  Glowing warmly with flickering candlelight from within.  Their toothy grins or grimaces evoking spooky or sweet feelings of anticipation for the approaching season.  Keene making it into the Guinness Book of World Records for “most carved and lit pumpkins in one area” for several years in a row- a sight to behold, for sure. 

Absolutely check this out if you haven't done so yet.

2.  Farms. I don't know why but I've grown to love them.  Not so much to just tour or visit randomly but for instance, the idea of going to a romantic dinner in a rustic, candle lit barn.  Events held in barns are also the bomb. I love the touch of antiquated ambiance they hold, the slightly dusty feel, the warm glow the wood seems to exude, the exposed beams and rafters.

Parkers Maple Barn Restaurant looks like a potentially neat place.

A few of these restaurants (minus Top of the Hub) might carry similar ambiance.  Especially the 1761 Old Mill Restaurant.

3.  All things pumpkin.  Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pie, pumpkin donuts, the list goes on and on.  I.  Love.  It.

(The following food photos are my own creations and photographs.  To see a full listing of my recipes, go to Sweet. Raw. Free.)

Lavender pumpkin "mighty good" pancakes.  This one is a hybrid of my childhood favorite fused with a few of my own flourishes.  They're pretty awesome.  You're welcome ;-)

Ready in just 10 minutes.  Healthy and hearty, pumpkin chia homemade oatmeal.  Mix up a big batch and have breakfast at the ready for several days.  Gluten free, dairy free and sugar free.  The perfect autumn breakfast, snack and/or sweet. 

Pumpkin Pie Paleo Pancakes.  These guys are grain free, dairy free, sugar free and taste awesome.  Like eating pumpkin pie without the crust and only clocking in at about 400 calories per stack of four.  One of my absolute favorites. 
To sample this breakfast dream, heres the link. 

Perfect Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars.  So moist, cakey, lightly sweet.  Low in gluten, dairy free and free of refined sugar.  A fabulous party recipe as they're tasty and easy to toss together. 
For the recipe, click here.

Pumpkin cheesecake.  Doesn't get much more New England than this.  And damn is this particular version good, if I say so myself.  Grain/gluten free and very low in sugar (no refined sugar is used, just honey).  Heres the recipe for this easy pumpkin cheesecake.  Upon sampling, it may just become your go-to fall dessert... ;-)

4.  Long fall foliage laden drives and weekends away.

Potentially outstanding weekends away in New England...a few ideas.  Check out this article on Two Drifters Blog.  Not only is their blog fabulous but this entry boosts some pretty great suggestions for romantic getaways.

5.  Dresses.  Love wearing them.  Gotta milk this one for as long as possible before the frigid mouth of winter swallows us up in a glittering blanket of snow ;-)

6.  Parties.  Board game nights.  Girls weekends.  Birthday bashes.  Loving the celebrations and get togethers my mom and I have been hosting lately.  Loaded with laughter, great food and overflowing with fun.  Selecting the menu, the food prep, playing loud music and dancing around the kitchen while getting everything ready, and finally, having a blast with our guests.  All of it, fabulous.

7.  Candles.  Especially those scented with autumnal scents.  Cinnamon, pumpkin, vanilla cookie, apple spice, the best flavors.  Lying in bed, reading, with candles flicking along my window sills and by the bed.  The ultimate.

8.  Dancing.  Ive been doing a fair amount of this lately with my mom and her friends.  Surprised to find myself really loving it.   A great dance locale I highly recommend is the First Friday event at MFA in Boston.  Swanky atmosphere, great drinks and appetizers and a pretty dang good DJ (at least when I was there).  All while the museum is kept open late so one can alternate between wandering the museum and getting down on the dancefloor.

For more info on the event First Fridays at MFA in Boston, click here.

9.  Scary stories.  With autumn knocking on the door, I'm finding myself drawn to slightly darker, gripping, creepier reads.  Needful things by Stephen King (a reread, as I loved this one years ago), Donald Ray Pollack books- shocked to find myself tearing through his stuff, and Coraline by Neil Gaiman nearly next on the list.  I am loving these layered, thought provoking, creepy but totally fun reads at the moment.

Already read this one and was shocked to find it excellent.  Ill be reading his other book, Devil All the Time quite soon.  This guy is pretty interesting too.  Having worked in a factory until something like his 40s and (if I recall correctly) not even completing high school, his books are phenomenal, with rave reviews and for good reason.  His stories are dark, sinister, but extremely well written.  Grabbing hold of you with a firm refusal to let go.

10.  Paleo desserts.  These two are especially awesome.  Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes.  Moist, nearly melt in your mouth, fudgy, lightly sweet, totally tasty.  And Sunflower Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Chewy, super moist, like a PB & chocolate cookie except this one has zero grains, no dairy and almost no sugar.  Whip up a batch of these and snuggle up for a movie as the temperatures turn down.

Get the recipe here for these mouthwatering Paleo chocolate cupcakes.

For a taste of these Sunflower Butter Chocolate Chip Paleo cookies, click here.

11.  Walks in the woods.  With autumn fast approaching and the leaves slowly but surely exploding into their fiery flames of color, I cant think of a better time of year for hiking, walking in the woods, checking out apple orchards, leaf peeping, going somewhere like Acadia National Park (on the bucket list for sure) or the like.  With a symphony of shades as your backdrop, talk about a peaceful, breathtakingly scenic and romantic activity.  Combine it with a pumpkin donut and green tea in hand, you're good to go. 

Some of the prettiest New England spots for leaf peeping :-)

And a few great fall foliage hiking trips.