September 2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

I’ve never made any attempts to hide or downplay the fact that Autumn is my favorite season and that I enjoy stereotypical “basic” Fall-related activities to the fullest. Apple picking? Pumpkin patches? Leaf peeping? Hay rides and s’mores over bonfires? I’m all about it and I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to admit it.

Needless to say, September through early November is my favorite time of year (after that- Winter, Christmas and coldness tend to take over!) and with this year being my first Fall living in the Pioneer Valley- I’ve been doing my best to make the most of it and indulge in every local Autumnal activity I can.

October is undoubtedly the month/time of year I look forward to the most- but I have to show some love to September, too- especially this past one since it was filled with beauty, travel, good food and time with loved ones!

September started off in true Fall fashion with a visit to the Appleseed County Fair where I got a head start on stocking up on apple cider doughnuts and kettle corn popcorn while browsing local vendors and farm stands. I was so enamored with my time at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston that I returned there a couple of weeks later with my mother and Oliver to partake in our traditional apple and pumpkin picking!

That wasn’t the only tradition I honored in September. My family and I also made our annual pilgrimage to Hampton Beach at the end of the Summer season to shop great deals and chow down on crab cakes, lobster rolls, and savor some fresh squeezed lemonade at their Seafood Festival.

And of course- no early Fall days in New England are complete without a stop at The Big E. I swung by there a couple of weeks ago to grab my favorite fair food (fried Oreos!) and take in the sights and sounds of the best New England restaurants, small businesses and farms had to offer!

And in-between all the travel, taste testing, decorating my place to look like my very own Fall-inspired farmhouse and unpacking my sweaters for the season- I was still able to put together a pretty dreamy Fall playlist, too!

All in all, this past September felt like the perfect way to bid a final farewell to Summer 2019 and usher in the Fall! There’s still a few things on my Autumnal “To-Do” list, of course- but that’s what October is for!

Speaking of- what do I have planned for the coming month ahead? Well, I’d like to photograph the foliage (which usually reaches it’s peak prettiness within the next couple of weeks,) cook up some more Fall-inspired recipes, put together a great Halloween costume and savor all the spookiness that comes with living in Western Massachusetts this time of year! Expect a lot of creepiness and macabre in October! It’s my specialty, after all!

But before I get too ahead of myself- there’s still a few hours of September left to savor- and I’ve got to get some work done at the office.

Enjoy the start of this week, everybody. I’ll be back with a quick, easy and delicious dessert recipe on Wednesday morning!

xx

– Ashley –

Lobster and Lounging…

Good Morning and Happy Wednesday, everyone!

I’m excited that today is not only my work from home day, but also my designated half day- which means I can get things done in the comfort of my pajamas before I mentally check out at noon, get dressed- and go have some fun with what’s left of my afternoon!

Truthfully I’m still sort of in “rest and relaxation mode” from this past weekend’s excursion to New Hampshire with my mom, my cousin, my cousin’s fiancé- and my dog- where we attended the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival for a day. It’s been our tradition for quite a few years now- and I look forward to it every August/September because it’s essentially just a day to eat great food, stroll the boardwalk, play some classic arcade games (and skee-ball!) and snag some pretty terrific bargains and sales as all the seaside shops attempt to get rid of their remaining inventory before they close up for the Fall/Winter months!

And while I’ve typically gone for lobster rolls as my indulgence of choice during the festival- this year I gravitated towards crab cakes and lobster rangoons (absolutely delicious, by the way!) with freshly-squeezed lemonade from various vendors around the food/cooking tents.

I’m pretty sure I could have easily eaten 10x more of everything- but then I wouldn’t be able to fit into the absolutely adorable clothes I bought while I was in town!

Each year I try to pick up a couple of things I can wear during the following Summer or for future trips to hotter climates- but this year I decided to pick up a couple of dresses (and a new purse to give my current Prada one a bit of a break!) that I can easily wear and accessorize throughout the early Fall. the purse itself came with an accessory- a lovely bit of satin cloth and a navy blue tassel that is around the handle.

The first dress is a foxy (literally) frock with buttons and a really cute cartoon fox print all over- and the second is a ruffled, super soft floral dress that I am going to pair with some cowboy-style boots after I go shoe-shopping this weekend. I can’t wait to wear this out on my next night on the town!

And everything I purchased was under $50 total. Not bad, right?

Overall it was a really lovely day and I’m excited to do it all again next year. Being at the beach and watching the waves always relaxes me- no matter what time of year it is.

This particular trip got me thinking about Hurricane Dorian, though- which threatened our weekend forecast for a few days but thankfully didn’t turn into anything more serious- and it got me thinking about the Bahamas.

On Friday, I’ll be taking a quick break from my usual Autumnal Activities to share ways you can help those affected by what was one of the worst hurricanes we’ve seen shown up on a radar in quite some time. I’m eager to help, and i hope you are, too!

But for now- I’ve got to get to work. Enjoy the rest of your “Hump Day,” everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

Seaside Starters: Maryland Crab Cakes

Good Morning and Happy Thursday, everyone!

This coming weekend is shaping up to be a busy (in a good way!) one- including a long overdue dinner with my family to celebrate my older brother and my niece’s upcoming birthdays, working at the station, catching a screening of “It: Chapter 2” with friends- and then Sunday will be fully devoted to sand, surf and scallops at Hampton Beach’s Annual Seafood Festival!

And, of course- the Patriots’ regular season kicks off- so there will be beer and nachos, as well. As is tradition!

Inspired by the Seafood Festival, and still getting acquainted with my new kitchen- I thought I’d whip up one of my own favorite recipes to share with you all- crab cakes! These can be served as an appetizer or, if you’re eating more than one- as an entrée all on their own. Whatever you choose- they’re delicious and very easy to make!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 8 ounces crab meat- drained, shells removed and patted dry.
  • ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided in half
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon McCormick Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (optional)
  • Olive oil (to fry cakes)

READY? HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Drain crab meat, pick out shells and pat dry with paper towels
  2. Add crab meat, bell pepper, tarragon, ½ cup Panko bread crumbs, egg, salt, pepper, mayo, dried mustard and Old Bay seasoning to a medium mixing bowl and mix with a rubber-tipped spatula.
  3. Scoop handfuls of the combined mixture out one at a time and gentle pat/press together to form cakes.
  4. Add ½ cup Panko bread crumbs to a shallow dish. Place each cake in and coat the sides until all of the cakes are covered evenly in bread crumbs.
  5. Heat a heavy sauté pan and add the olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Place cakes in the sauté pan and cook approximately 4 minutes on each side or until they are evenly browned
  6. Remove cakes and place on a plate to allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Drizzle horseradish sauce over the cakes and serve.

I could eat these crab cakes all day every day- that’s how much I love them- and while I’m sure I’ll be eating plenty of variations of these at the Seafood Festival, among many, many other things- I’m a bit biased when it comes to my own! I don’t think they can be topped!

Next week, my blogging schedule returns to normal now that Labor Day is over (Monday, Wednesday and Friday!) I’ll be sure to have more Autumnal Activities to share, a peek into the Fall section of my wardrobe- and a few other surprises!

But until then- enjoy your weekend, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Seafood and Shopping…

Good Morning and Happy Hump Day, everyone!

I’m still recovering from last night’s Interpol show at Orpheum Theater (in a good way- they were phenomenal!) and getting ready to launch into my work day- but I wanted to share some of my favorite steals/finds and photos from my annual trip up to Hampton Beach this past weekend!

Labor Day might be the unofficial end to the Summer, but to me and my family- the *true* way to send off the season and get ready for the Fall is to eat as many lobster rolls, scallops and crab cakes as we can while stocking up on bargains at the Seafood Festival.

This year’s festivities were particularly special since it was the first time we were able to bring Oliver with us! He’s such a wonderful, curious and friendly dog- but crowds and loud noises can sometimes make him anxious- and not everyone in Hampton is as mindful of their pets as I am with mine. On the other hand, I didn’t want to leave him home alone all day- which makes him terribly depressed- so I opted for a somewhat unconventional middle ground.

I bought a dog stroller- and Oliver LOVED it. Not only was he able to see all the action (and eat the occasional French fry I’d sneak him)– but when he got worn out from excitement, he was able to lay down comfortably and sleep peacefully while I wheeled him around from booth to booth. Of course, once we’d left the actual festival- I brought him to the shore so he could run free and enjoy the sand and surf, too!

If you’ve got a smaller/medium sized dog that might need one of these in busy, crowded situations- I highly recommend checking out the selection of carriers on Amazon. Mine was made by VIVO- and it was great quality and super easy to assemble, and even easier to clean, pack up and store for safe keeping when the day was done. There’s plenty of storage space for your pet’s treats, toys, etc. and yes- a cup holder for you, too. I kept my much-needed coffee within reach most of the morning.

Overall, it was such a fantastic day- even though it was a bit chilly along the coast. It was nice spending the morning and afternoon eating great food, watching the ocean, and playing some really old arcade games (that have been around since I was a kid!) along the boardwalk with my mom, my cousin- and Oliver.

Of course, I didn’t just eat amazing food. I did some shopping, as well- and scored some really great deals at some of the shops who were clearing out their merchandise for the season before they shutter their store fronts for the Winter!

While there were plenty of novelty t-shirts, sandals, bikinis and bikini cover-ups on sale- I found a couple of Fall-appropriate pieces that I’ve already started integrating into my wardrobe over the past couple of days!

This grey and white striped, collared sweater was hanging out all by it’s lonesome outside of Dudley’s– and when I tried it on and realized not only how flattering it looked but also how warm it would keep me in the Fall- I had to have it. The end of the season price? $7.50. How could I say no?

Additionally, I spotted this peacock feather printed maxi skirt in the very back of one of the boardwalk shops- where it was marked down to $17. How beautiful are the colors in this skirt? I recently paired this with a pair of brown, knee-high boots and an olive green turtleneck during one of our chillier days- and it looked so lovely.

I had mentioned earlier this week that I’m a big fan of anything with sea life printed on it- so when I saw this sterling silver octopus pendant (marked down to $12)– I knew I had to have it to layer with my other pendants and plain chains.

I really love unexpected and unique designs like this- and I feel the octopus (which is a bit sinister looking, really!) is going to catch some attention if people see it mixed among my other every day necklaces!

I tried a sample of this easy-to-make dip from Moose Creek, and oh my gosh- was it delicious! All you need to do is add a little mayonnaise, a little cream cheese, the dip- and as much lobster meat as you want- and you’ve got a really tasty appetizer to serve at your next get together.

Each packet of dip was $4 and can serve quite a lot of people- so it was well worth the price!

And finally, no trip to Hampton is complete without a stop at Sanborn’s Candies! This year I scored some individually wrapped “chocolate leaves” and a half pound of their soft, decadent and amazing chocolate nut fudge to share with my mom and cousin on the drive back home. It was the sweetest way to end the afternoon!

If you’re ever in New Hampshire at the end of the Summer and have the opportunity to check out the Seafood Festival- I strongly recommend it. Parking and traffic is easiest first thing in the morning- and going on an empty stomach is pretty much mandatory so that you can try a little bit of everything from all the great restaurants and food trucks that come to town to showcase the superstars of their menus.

And be sure to bring cash- since not all of the vendors are equipped to handle debit/credit transactions. It’s thankfully not too common- but it does happen!

I know I’ll be back again next year for it!

But now, I’ve got to get to work and get things done. Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –