Fast & Tasty Holiday Turkey: Splay, Smoke or Fry

Fast & Tasty Holiday Turkey: Splay, Smoke or Fry

Last year, our two sons hosted Thanksgiving dinner on alternative coasts. Both prepared their holiday turkey using alternative cooking methods with fantastic results!

Hubby and I drove across the state to youngest son D’s home in Philadelphia. His rowhouse is located in the historic and fashionable Fairmont area of the city. Joining us from Washington D.C., were my husband’s brother and his wife. All of us stayed in the three-story rowhouse, along with our Scottie dog, Whiskey and D’s lab-mix, Bentley. It was a full house, and lots of fun!

Meanwhile, oldest son R was in California celebrating the holiday for the first time with his now fiancé’s family.

Both our sons took charge of the Thanksgiving feast, but each used a more modern method to prepare and cook their big birds. Wanting to use his Traeger grill to smoke a turkey, D and his dad plotted out their plan before we even left Pittsburgh. After brining overnight, they splayed or spatchcock the bird before smoking. Spatchcock is to split open a chicken or game bird before cooking. In contrast, R deep-fried a whole turkey outdoors.

It was the first time anyone in our family had ever splayed, smoked or deep-fried a holiday turkey. Come see how well they both turned out!

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Paso Robles Visit: Wine Tasting & Field of Lights

Paso Robles Visit: Wine Tasting & Field of Lights

The fall is wine harvest season, so I’m returning to Paso Robles, where we spent part of a fabulous 10-day California vacation.

During two previous trips to the state, hubby and I visited Sonoma, Napa and Healdsburg wine regions. When planning and mapping out last year’s driving route, we realized Paso Robles would make an excellent two-day stop between Big Sur and Sequoia : Land of Giants.

Located in northern San Luis Obispo County along California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is an agricultural community with a rich history. Over the last few decade, it has shifted from producing almonds and alfalfa to wine.

Winemakers in the region have cultivated the soil and used the climate to their advantage. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends are a staple of the area. Along windy backroads or around a quaint downtown park, there are 200 wineries!

In addition to its wineries and vineyards, Paso Robles is also known for its olive groves, oak dotted hills, and small town charm. It’s where world-class food and wine meet cowboy chic! Lodging options abound, ranging from historic inns and luxury resort, to rustic vineyard escapes. Pour yourself a glass of wine and visit with me.

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Blaze: Jack O’ Lantern Carved Pumpkin Festival

Blaze: Jack O’ Lantern Carved Pumpkin Festival

Recently, while visiting with family in Hoboken, NJ , we attended an illuminated, carved pumpkin festival. Located in the lower Hudson Valley, near Sleepy Hollow of headless horseman fame, The Great Jack o’ Lantern Blaze is a magical, immersive experience.

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Since 2005, the walk-through experience has drawn more than 2 million visitors. Lighting up the night are thousands of ornately-carved, glowing pumpkins, in elaborate displays and massive light sculptures.

Today, the spooktacular event is held at two different location; both National Historic Landmarks. We visited the site at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, north of NYC. A second site is at Old Bethpage Restoration Village on Long Island.

Featured in the fun fall festival are larger-than-life installations, synchronized lighting, and an original soundtrack of appropriately spooky music. It’s a family-friendly experience for kids of all ages, and is both stroller and handicap accessible.

Join me on a virtual walk through. Think of it as a Halloween card from me to you — boo!

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Spooky Spellbound Halloween Centerpiece & Table

Spooky Spellbound Halloween Centerpiece & Table

I’ve conjured up a Halloween centerpiece replicating a witch’s collection of oddities for casting spells, hexes and curses.

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It’s one of 21 seasonal settings included in this year’s Halloween Tablescape Hop hosted by my blogger friend, Rita of Panoply.

To set the tablescape scene, I’ve styled four theme elements; a spellbound Halloween centerpiece, place settings with holiday tableware, black napkins folded into the shape of a witch’s hat, and the chandelier decorated as an enchanted owl nest.

Most of the Halloween decor pieces — and all of the tableware —came out of attic, basement and kitchen cabinet storage. Additionally, I spent under $16 in total at Michaels and Dollar Tree for a few items to fill in the Halloween centerpiece and embellish the light fixture.

Creating the witch’s vignette was lots of fun, but time consuming! It took awhile (and many trips up and down the stairs) to gather everything together. Then I arranged and rearranged until styling the centerpiece into the finished look I envisioned. Join me for a spell!

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Ireland Trip to Cobh, Blarney & Dingle Peninsula

Ireland Trip to Cobh, Blarney & Dingle Peninsula

Today, I’m taking you on the next three days of our dream Ireland trip. A few weeks ago, I shared the first segment of our Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle.

Ireland-trip-Blarney-Castle-round-tower

Starting outside Dublin, we visited Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, medieval Kilkenny, Viking-established Waterford and it’s crystal factory, and a recreation of the Dunbody potato famine ship.

Next, we headed west, taking a scenic route along the southern Irish coast in County Cork. Our first stop was the seaport town, Cobh, and the Irish Heritage Centre. Later, we ate a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon at Blarney Castle and it’s extensive gardens and grounds. Afterwards, we headed into County Kerry, spending the next two nights in popular Killarney.

My favorite day of the entire 12-day Ireland trip was spent exploring the spectacular Dingle Peninsula. Another reason it was so much fun? Along the way, we stopped for a misty view of the Gap of Dunloe, went shopping for quality Irish-made goods, drank a Bailey’s Coffee at the famous South Pole Inn, and dined at an authentic, family-owned pub for a traditional meal.

Although the scenery and experiences were impossible to truly capture in pictures, I hope you’ll enjoy coming along on this virtual Ireland trip.

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Alfresco Brunch Peacock Table & Napkin Fold

Alfresco Brunch Peacock Table & Napkin Fold

For Labor Day weekend, I planned brunch for two, with a peacock table setting on the covered porch. The “goodbye to summer, hello fall” table is one of 20 included in this year’s Welcome Fall Tablescape Hop.

peacock-table-napkin-fold

I always find this the most challenging to style, since it’s still so darn hot here in Pittsburgh! This year was no exception, as the 89 degree temperatures had me perspiring as I set and photographed the alfresco peacock table.

Because of the heat, I’m especially loath to head to the attic to retrieve fall decor items stored there. It’s also difficult to get in the mood to change up tableware and linens. Usually, I wait until the end of September. From Labor Day through then, I use non-seasonal, everyday and rooster theme dishware and decor.

So rather than acquire something new, I pulled peacock motif dishes from the kitchen cabinets — ones I haven’t shared here before. Although used pretty much year-round, the color palette works particularly well for a fall season setting. I hope you’ll agree! Styling a peacock table also provided the opportunity to use a new napkin fold I’ve been wanting to try.

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Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle

Ireland Vacation: 12 Day Itinerary in Emerald Isle

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus while dear hubby and I enjoyed an Ireland vacation. Due to the pandemic, third time was a charm in terms of scheduling! Although air travel was a nightmare, with cancelled and delayed domestic flights resulting in us missing the first day of our organized Irish tour.

Waterford-Viking-figures

But we sure were lucky in the weather! Not only didn’t it rain, but most of the time we experienced beautiful blue skies with lots of sunshine. It wasn’t until our very last day in Dublin, that we used umbrellas and rain jackets. Our good fortune, however, may have been another consequence of global warming.

Based on a recommendation from dear friends, we booked a guided tour through CIE. Founded in Ireland, the company has 90 years experience and is the largest travel operator in Ireland and Scotland. Several years ago, our friends had taken a different itinerary.

We chose the 10-day Irish Legends tour, which covered a smaller, more concentrated southern half of the island. After the organized trip, we added two more nights in Dublin to explore on our own. Let’s begin with an overview of our Ireland vacation itinerary. Then I’ll share pictures and descriptions from the first three days; visiting National Stud, Kilkenny, Waterford and New Ross. See why Ireland exceeded our already high expectations!

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Philadelphia Rowhouse Urban Rooftop Garden

Philadelphia Rowhouse Urban Rooftop Garden

Today, I’m taking you to urban Philadelphia, to see my youngest son’s back deck and rooftop garden. D purchased the 1920 rowhouse nearly two years ago, during the pandemic.

urban-gardening-rooftop-tomato-plants

Prior to the move, he rented a third-floor, walkup in an 1800’s building that had been converted from a carriage house and stable to condos. During the pandemic, his one-bedroom unit did double duty as an office. And, there was no balcony for fresh air or to grow plants. Feeling confined to the apartment, he went on a search for a home with more living areas, room for a dedicated office, big kitchen, outdoor space, and the ability to have a dog.

However, D also loved the walkable and vibrant Fairmont District neighborhood. So when he finally spotted the listing for a 100-year-old rowhouse — just blocks from the carriage house — he jumped at the opportunity to be a homeowner!

Over the next year, D created a little backyard oasis and rooftop deck on the third floor of the rowhouse. In both areas, he enjoys spending time outdoors, playing with the dog, tending plants, barbequing, and entertaining family and friends. An accomplished cook, D also created an urban rooftop garden where he grows herbs and vegetables to incorporate into fresh, healthy meals.

Just like his big brother, then living a few hours away on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Today is part two of their story that began in, Bountiful NYC Urban Garden: Up on the Roof.

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Bountiful NYC Urban Garden: Up on the Roof

Bountiful NYC Urban Garden: Up on the Roof

Taking you up on the roof to see my son’s’ urban garden on the wraparound terrace of his Manhattan penthouse in New York City.

rooftop-NYC-urban-garden-harvested-beets

I had planned to share this last year, but the summer got away from me! For happy reasons. First, I was training Whiskey, my Energetic & Playful Scottie Puppy. And, instead of sitting inside at the computer editing photos and composing posts, hubby and I were enthusiastically out and about.

We spent late May and early June visiting family and friends in Philadelphia. That included a Memorial Day gathering where we experienced how Using a Smoker Grill Enhances BBQ. Mom came back to Pittsburgh with us for the rest of month. Then, over an extended July 4th holiday visit with our sons , we enjoyed a baseball game, amusement park, dining out, and fireworks.

Come August, we headed to Washington D.C. There we went to an old-fashioned county fair, the Warf Marina, and an ABBA tribute concert at Wolf Trap National Park. Finally on Labor Day, we flew to California, exploring Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite.

Now with a broken finger and after prolonged period of Covid isolation, I’ve found the time to show off my eldest’s vegetable and herb urban garden. Come up on the rooftop for a bird’s eye view!

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