Happy New Year!

Hi there friends. Yes, it has been months since I have blogged. A few tech difficulties (don’t use Bluehost if you are planning a blog!) and just busy. So, given that it has been so long, today’s post is a look back on 2023, in particular the holiday season and a few notes about 2024. So here goes!

2023 Highlights

Well like every year, there was a mix of good and not so good. The good:

  • This year we were back to traveling. College girl 1 (CG1) was in Florence so CG2 and I visited for a fantastic trip to Italy (read my full post here).
  • Mr SB and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Bermuda.
  • CG2 really flourished second semester which was so fun to see – lots of new friends (and a few visits back home to CT with them)
  • Summer at our shore club was as amazing as always – lots of entertaining, sailing, clamming and beach.
  • Fall brought tailgates at my alma mater (and where CG2 attends) as well as a fun visit to VT to see CG1.

On a the list of not so great – we lost our wonderful cat Harry. Not a day goes by without thinking of him. He had such a personality and was with us since 2011 and brought us so much joy. He was also a Christmas cat as I adopted him as an adult cat from our local shelter just in time for Christmas. I miss you Harry. RIP my little guy.

Holidays 2023

The holidays were very full – exhausting but fun. Through the years I have figured out a system – I call it the holiday waves – waves of organizing and planning to stay sane and enjoy the Christmas season.

  • Wave 1 – this starts in October or possibly sooner when I start thinking about the holiday card. Some years I order our card before Halloween! I also do some organizing in October/early November. Clean out the pantry, take stock of clothing etc. to prepare for thoughtful gift giving and entertaining.
  • Wave 2 – Thanksgiving weekend. We cut down our own tree the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. You can read all about our tailgate party where the sliders and caper mayo take center stage. This is literally my favorite day of the year. We gather with friends for a low stress tailgate party. Getting the tree up early makes the house smell great and get’s the holiday decorating underway. I also order as many gifts as I can online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Wave 3 – now that tree is up and gifts start to come in I love wrapping presents, watching Hallmark Christmas movies and getting into the holiday spirit! This year these afternoons were some of my favorite holiday memories – sometimes you need to slow down and a sappy movie while wrapping gifts for loved ones is perfect!
  • Wave 4 – food. I usually bake starting a couple of weeks before Christmas. Cookies freeze really well and this year was no exception. I made the following: Gingerbread Latte Cookies, Monster M&M Cookies and Hot Cocoa Cookies all from Half Baked Harvest. They all came out great and I was able to send some in care packages to the girls.
  • Wave 5 – getting ready for Christmas guests and dinner. This year we hosted 18 for dinner! I set the table a few days before. I get out platters, silverware, holiday linens about a week or so earlier to see if I need to polish, replace or buy extras. This year I did not buy anything except some new papergoods.
  • Wave 6 – Buy food. With guests at home I have learned to go to Costco early. This year I went Thursday for a Monday Christmas. This was good timing and I escaped the worst of the crowds. Here was our menu:

Saturday Lunch – sausage on the grill (if weather permits this is a great way to avoid dishes – no pans!), Costco Mac N Cheese, Salad, Christmas Cookies for dessert.

Saturday Dinner – I made this broccoli casserole which was quite good although next time I think I would lighten up on the cheese (great idea to have a casserole that is both vegetable and starch for a crowd). Mr SB had smoked some pulled pork. We had salad, cheese and birthday cake. Appetizers included my famous buffalo dip with a charcuterie board.

Sunday Breakfast – Costco croissants, bread, coffee, yogurts, fresh fruit

Sunday Lunch – leftover pork, salad, casserole, cookies.

Christmas Eve we head to my sister’s for a wonderful dinner. Christmas Eve during the day I cook everything for Christmas. This year our menu included:

Christmas Day – Breakfast casserole (a favorite!). I make the ham and cheese hashbrown casserole – everyone loves it. Could not be easier! For lunch I buy sliced ham, cheese and bread – everyone makes their own sandwich as Christmas dinner is underway!

This year’s Christmas dinner menu:

Appetizers: Smoked Whitefish Pate and Crackers, Duck Pate with Truffles, Charcuterie board with assorted cheese and meat. Baked Brie. Note to self – put more appetizers in the living room near the bar.

Christmas salad – greens with citrus champagne vinaigrette, oranges, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese.

Main: Smoked Brisket (Mr. SB’s special recipe) and Glazed Ham.

Mashed Potatoes (Costco – loaded and regular Yukon Gold)

Smoky Sweet Carrots with Yogurt Sauce.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts in the air fryer

Green Beans – steamed lightly and then roasted.

Assorted desserts – cake, cookies.

Everything was delicious and we had such a wonderful holiday.

So here’s to 2024!

The Perfect Summer Weekend

What is your perfect summer weekend? Coming off of this past one I think it was pretty perfect or at least close. Some time ago I had read that to make every day a good one – eat something tasty for breakfast, read something interesting and exercise. I like that list and have actually tried to make that happen on a daily basis. I would also add – find time to connect with a friend or social group and get outside.

It started out on Friday – I was not technically off but decided to take the afternoon. Saturday and Sunday had bluebird skies which was fortunate as it was our club’s annual clambake. So let’s get into what makes a summer weekend perfect around here. Would love to hear from you on your idea of a perfect summer weekend.

The Weather

This summer the weather has been unpredictable to say the least with a lot of rain. I realize much of the country has had oppressive heat and last summer we had zero to little rain. I am not complaining. But for me, the perfect summer weekend is hot but not too hot and sunny as well as dry. This weekend fit the bill. We woke to beautiful weather starting on Friday and it just kept coming through Sunday.

Friday Afternoon + Saturday Morning

When the weekend can start a bit early then why not? CG2 has turned me onto thrifting so we headed to Goodwill. I was seriously doubting this idea but I have found some great stuff on Thred Up lately so figured why not? I really love that we are actually reusing and recyling in the most basic way. I am sold – found a Vineyard Vines shirt for $10 in perfect condition. She picked up Abercrombie sweaters.

Friday dinner I tried a new Thai marinade for chicken from Damn Delcious (it was damn delicious!) and paired it with my Thai curry but only used it for the vegetables. It was delicious and light. The week had been a WEEK so turned in early.

I love going to yoga on Saturday morning. I do some pretty intensive exercise all week – HIIT classes, running, spinning, weights – so come Saturday it is time to stretch and calm my mind. Afterwards I headed to our darling farm store at our local organic farm. I picked up some real summer tomatoes and other super fresh vegetables. Here is the entrance – like living in a postcard around here.

Farm store Connecticut
So lucky to have this organic farm nearby

We headed to our club shortly after lunch.

The Book

Ahhh summer reading. I have read a number of books this summer including Normal People, Sunflower Sisters and The Vanishing Half. I loved the first two – I found the Vanishing Half to be a bit dull although I was moved by the depiction of the transgender boy as it really brought home how important it is to try to understand. His pain was palpable and the laws at the time preventing them from being together was tragic.

While these were well worth it to read – nothing says summer like an Elin Hildebrand book! I scored The Five Star Weekend from my library and got busy Saturday on the beach digging in. I think it is my favorite of hers thus far. Since I adore Nantucket, well I can’t get enough of her descriptions.

It is easy to write her off as a beach read but frankly her character development is fantastic. Coming at her book as a mom with two college kids, well I suppose I fit her demographic perfectly. It is like she writes about me and my friends, people I know – or at least could know but all in Nantucket. I live in a historic, picturesque town with some of the same similarities as Nantucket. One likeness includes our town having some very wealthy people along with a more “normal” middle class – a theme she touches on frequently with her assessment of the “summer people” and the islanders. Highly recommend the book – for the beach or otherwise!

The Food

The original advice to eat something good for breakfast. My weekday breakfast before heading to the gym is a blueberry protein smoothie. On the weekend I prefer something a bit more decadent. I had some farm fresh eggs and my favorite Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins in the freezer. Saturday and Sunday I took one out and microwaved it with some Kerry gold butter. Delicious. Add a cup of good brewed coffee with a bit of hazelnut creamer and I am off to a great start!

Would it be summer without a traditional clambake? We are so lucky that our club puts one on – right on the beach looking out at Long Island Sound. They are old school – collecting the seaweed, building a pit, cooking lobsters, sweet corn, little necks and mussels – topping it all off with blueberry and peach pie. Of course we started out with some rose and mojitos along with a charcuterie board. This is literally my favorite night of summer.

Perfect New England Clambake
Perfect New England Clambake

Nature

Getting outside always lifts my spirits. This weekend’s perfect summer weather made it easy to do. Sunday morning I gardened and replanted some zinnias that I had planted from seed and now are ready to bloom soon. The most gorgeous butterfly landed on one.

Butterfly on pink flower in CT

Sunday night was time for a glass of wine on the deck after we had a great day sailing and beaching it at the club. We are so fortunate to have so much privacy. It is quiet and peaceful. There are so many studies that show being outdoors is key for mood – I lived in NYC for five years – even a stroll in the park is great. Just do it as they say.

Sundays Bread days on the deck

What is your favorite summer weekend? Any good book recommendations? Dishes to share? Would love to hear from you!

May/June Catch Up – Gardening & More

Well it’s been a minute since I have blogged but here I am. I have some good excuses. In May we took an anniversary trip to Bermuda. CG1 came home from Italy and CG2 from college. So with a full house (and full heart), the month was crazy busy (throw in our anniversary, my birthday and Mother’s Day as well as a family wedding and you get the picture!).

End of May brought Memorial Day and our beach and boat club officially opened. It was a gorgeous weekend. Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated in CT since. This weekend looks rainy (after a beautiful, sunny week!).

I am not complaining after a drought last year, but still maybe I’ll complain a tiny bit as we love our club so much and it is weather dependent. Oh well.

I have been spending a lot of time in the garden (a Covid pasttime that stuck). I am growing Zinnias and Nasturtiums from seed, bought a bunch of perennials and of course annuals. So far, everything looks great (fingers crossed I may actually have some lasting flowers). Check out the photo of last year’s Nasturtiums…they were gorgeous!

Two recommendations for fellow gardeners both novice and expert. I love the app Picture This. You can photograph a plant and it will tell you what the plant is and even if it is healthy or not. This saved me at the nursery where I was about to purchase some sick perennials! I find it helpful too as I often am drawn to flowers that frankly won’t grow well in the conditions in our yard.

Second recommendation is the podcast A Way To Garden with Margaret Roach. She is an expert gardener of course as well as a NYTimes columnist and author of several books. Some of the episodes are a bit too in depth for me but most are really helpful and interesting. With these two sources of knowledge, I’ve taken the gardening game up a notch!

So that is a brief summary of what I have been up to – coming weeks are some of my favorites with the 4th of July, annual clambake and more. Sharing a pic of last year’s lobster dinner (and my tablescape).

Check back for some recipes I am trying out and hopefully a review of Grotto Bay and Bermuda. Have a great weekend!

April Wrap Up

Well the weeks fly by and it is almost May. We had an early spring in CT with the trees blooming at least two weeks early. I am not complaining as I love the fresh, bright green of early spring. After having such a great week in Italy, I needed to catch up with my work and also had a trip to LA for work as well. As some good stuff happened in April, I am sharing an April wrap up.

What I have been reading

With a few plane trips in March and April, I was able to read the following:

Lucy Foly’s The Paris Apartment had me guessing to the end. I also re-discovered audio books and the Libby app which is a free app that you connect your library card. You can use it for audio books and ereader (I have a Kindle). This audiobook was brilliant with each character being played by a different actor. After I finished, I quickly consumed Foly’s The Guest List and The Hunting Party. They were all excellent, suspenseful reads (or listens as was my case). In a way they remind me of Agatha Christie – interesting characters, seemingly throw-away details and just when I think I have figured it out…well I have not! I can’t wait for her next book!

I also tackled The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I enjoyed this book even though I found the plot line frustrating – using marriage to deal with various challenges. I won’t say more than that but that was a negative for me.

I am a fan of author, Emily Giffin, but Meant to Be was not a favorite even though it was entertaining enough.

Lastly, I read Want by Lynn Steger Strong on the plane home from Italy. Frankly, I really disliked this book and its characters. It could be relabeled, Millenial Fantasy Meets Reality (and that is all I will say in case you want to read it!). I thought the writing was off too. Probably not a book I would have finished had I not been traveling and this was all I had with me.

New Favorite Blogs

I started this blog because I really enjoy reading what real women have to say! Great to see what Martha Stewart is doing but let’s face it, I don’t have a staff of hundreds. So here are a few favorite along with the links:

Summer Wind. I happened upon this blog as I was looking up reviews on Goyard bags. I found her blog and basically read it for two hours straight. I like that she shares about herself (new trend in blogs is that they tend to get right to recipe or outfit etc.). I also love her style. Classic, but stylish leveraging trends but not a slave to them. She is young but I find that I really enjoy her recommendations even though we are at different life stages (kindred style spirits perhaps!).

Before heading to Italy I realized I really needed an update in European style. As a Francophile I have always paid attention to French girl/woman style so I decided to focus my searches on that and found Leonce Chenal and am I glad I did! I really love this blog and find her spot on when it comes to making recommendations on everything from the best French pharmacy skincare to top footwear brands. She is authentic! Second choice is The French. This is similar to Leonce but the woman is an American living in Paris. Check out both of them if you want a dose of French style!

Around the Kitchen + Garden

So with spring having sprung I turned my attention to growing some annuals inside. I have never done this before but found it frustrating that my zinnias last year did not bloom until July. So, I purchased this grow light and a pack of seeds and guess what they have sprouted! Of course CG2 said that it looks like I am growing Cannabis – apparently these are the same grow lights? I would not know (needless to say!).

Back from Italy I became obsessed with Italian cuisine and had to make home made foccaccia. I used a blend of recipes from Lydia Bastianich and Alison Roman (Alison has a same day recipe). Came out delicious but I would probably cook it a tad less as it was on the hard side the next day.

I’ve also been obsessing a bit over Trader Joe’s hacks. Have you listend to their podcast? It is actually quite fun and they offer a few. This week’s hack is coconut shrimp with their pineapple salsa served in soft tacos…I’ll let you know how it goes.

That’s all for now! Happy almost Friday!

Christmas Tree Reveal (and a catch up!)

Hi there!

Well, the weeks fly by, and it is hard to believe it almost mid-December. Today, it is a holiday catch up (and catch up in general). Let’s talk Christmas trees, holiday decorating and food!

Christmas Tree Tailgate

Are you a faux tree devotee or an all-natural tree lover? Not surprisingly we are all in on the natural tree that we actually cut down at a tree farm. We love the atmosphere of tailgating families, hayrides and an adorable holiday village and stores (all at Maple Row Tree Farm in Easton, CT). We like to support thelocal farm (they replant the trees of course).

We also love to tailgate with friends. Every year we always include some favorite menu items – Mr. SB’s sliders with caper mayo and my ever famous buffalo dip. Mimosas are usually the drink of choice. It may just be my favorite day of the year. It is one of the happiest places I have ever experienced!

I adore the smell of fresh pine and the traditional look of it all. However, when I lived in California, I remember thinking a natural tree would not really be my desired look – the warm weather threw me off. However, in a colonial town in CT, it is perfect.

Years ago, my girls decided they wanted colored lights which I happily obliged. But a few years ago, we all agreed that we wanted an all-white light tree. I love how it coordinates with our family room and it fits the many ornaments we have so much better than multicolored. I usually start with the lights and then wrap gold ribbon around the tree for a garland. Our angel goes on top and then the girls and I decorate with the rest of the ornaments – some are over one hundred years old and passed down from my grandparents! I love to collect ornaments from places we have been.

Wrapped presents for under the Christmas tree

I love to wrap presents (see an entire post about it here). A great tip gathered from my favorite mom blogs is to buy some coordinating wrapping paper. I tend to do gold and white with a few accents of dark green. Too much red does not work in my color scheme. Homegoods has beautiful, thick wrapping paper. It is such high-quality that I usually even reuse it the next year for the larger gifts!

I also collect ribbons and ornaments to decorate the packages. Costco, Christmas Tree Shops and TJ Maxx/Homegoods all have beautiful, wired ribbon.

This year’s house decor will follow previous years for the most part. I did buy a new front door mat – has more of a winter theme then holiday so I think we can leave it out until Spring. I used magnolias on my mantle and layered on some decorative elements just like last year.

I purchased this funny sign and plan to put it on the bar for Christmas day when we host 16 for dinner and cocktails beforehand. I have a Santa too that will go right next to it:)

This year’s Christmas dinner menu

This past weekend we hosted friends for dinner. First, we hiked nearby to work up a good appetite. Then back to our house for appetizers and drinks and then dinner. Mr SB made short ribs braised in red wine I made twice baked potatoes (but left out the bacon in the Pioneer Woman recipe and used light sour cream and less butter), smokey sweet carrots (hope to post that recipe soon) and steamed green beans. Delicious, winter meal! My friend brought a delicious apple crisp. It was a perfect night to enjoy the fire and chat afterwards.

We usually host Christmas dinner, so we have a list of favorites that we usually make. This year is no different – here is what I am planning (as of now) –

Glazed ham

Brisket (smoked on Mr. SB’s big green egg)

Seared mushrooms in sherry cream sauce with dill

Mashed potatoes (thanks to Costco just heat, serve and put in a pretty bowl)

Green beans

Tian with zucchini, tomatoes, onions and goat cheese

Smokey sweet carrots (recipe to come!)

Dessert – still thinking about it. Likely assorted holiday cookies and possibly a chocolate cake.

Well that about sums up what has been going on at the SB house. Hoping your holiday season is going well! What are you planning to make the season festive?

Saying Goodbye Part 2

So we just returned from dropping CG1 off at college. We are officially empty nesters. If you read my last post about saying goodbye, you know that when we get to this stage with an official goodbye, we are really saying goodbye to all of those other stages that we did not know we were saying goodbye to – that last time we picked them up, read a bedtime story, put out the Easter bunny candy and many more. That tiny baby who could not walk or talk, the kindergartener who soon was graduating from fifth grade or that confident high schooler crossing the stage for her diploma.

All of this was in my mind but I also realized that this milestone is reason for celebration too. CG1 and CG2 are in the right places, both ready to thrive and become the adults we have worked so hard to help them be.

Mentally we moms try to get ready. Packing the memory foam mattress topper, an extra set of Twin XL sheets, surprise snacks and maybe a pillow personalized with her zip code. It keeps us all busy and for us, this was so much fun. Both girls and I love to decorate and plan.

The day arrives, the car is packed and loaded to the top of the Thule. Mr. SB and I are ready right? We arrive at college. Lots of helpers to unpack. And, CG2 and I unpack and decorate the room. Her roommate is super nice, and the roommate’s parents are too.

Oh and CG2 is attending my alma mater. It sure has changed. Really hard to get into (am sure I would be rejected now:) but it is the same in so many ways. This makes it both easier and harder as I recall my own struggles as a freshman.

It is time to say goodbye. We hug, and yes, we are misty eyed. Of course we know that texts and Facetimes await us anytime we want but nothing beats being in person.

Mr. SB and I drive off. I see a dad giving his son a hug. It is an emotional day to say the least.

I call it happy/sad or sad/happy depending upon the day. Happy because seeing your children grow and achieve important milestones is one of life’s greatest joys. Sad, because frankly the day-to-day won’t ever be the same. The “What’s for dinner?” or “Mom I need new ballet shoes can we go after school?” days are mostly over.

I know there is also so much to look forward to. In our case, football games, tailgates and parents weekend in a few weeks. October break where both girls should be home.

And, in my empty nester new life, more time to work peacefully without interruption. Time to exercise (after work which I have not done since the girls were born). Time for new hobbies such as gardening, sailing/kayaking/hiking, skiing for two and more. Travels for Mr. SB and I (and not during summer or breaks when everyone else travels and it is expensive and crowded).

As the saying goes, if you have done your parenting job right, then you are out of a job at some point. We may not be quite there…but hopefully we are on track for that promotion. If not, we have not really done our job now have we?

And this was a fun day in spite of the bittersweet feeling. Decorating her college dorm and knowing lots of fun adventures and challenges lay ahead is a memory I won’t forget.

Decorating college dorm room at Boston College Sundays Bread

Saying goodbye

This morning, bright and early, College Girl (who I will now refer to as CG1) left for her junior year and a new apartment in Burlington, VT. I was fine. I really was until I saw high school girl (soon to be referred to as College Girl 2 or CG2 as she is no longer in high school) with tears rolling down her face.

You see, this year, CG2 will be embarking on her own college journey so I think we all realized at the hour of 6:30 a.m. that our little family won’t be the same…at least not on a day-to-day basis. Even G our 80-pound pile of Labrador love felt it trying to squeeze herself into the front seat:)

I am sure no one will notice me here…

The past few weeks have been a flurry of getting both girls ready for college. CG1 has a new apartment so she needs items like pans, cleaning supplies, silverware. CG2 is moving into a typical freshman dorm so the shower caddy, twin XL sheets and comforter, frames for pictures and all kinds of storage were on her list. So off we went to Ikea, Target and the girls even hit a local flea market for one-of-a-kind items. We have been busy, busy, busy.

Time Flies

Some of this is surreal. I mean it was yesterday that Mr. SB and I were looking at CG1 in the delivery room. We said her name, and she turned to look at us. There was no mistake she had heard our voices in utero and knew exactly who she was looking at now in the world. I mean this was yesterday, right?

Or watching the first time she ate real food, skied, rode and then jumped a horse, rolled over for the first time onto her stomach (this last one was with my mom which was so special). All of those school memories too. Getting on the bus for kindergarten (without a glance back), presenting at fifth grade graduation, having her girlfriends for a sleepover in middle and high school, earning National Honors at her high school, calling us from babysitting to tell us she was accepted at her dream college.

CG2 entered the world two years later – sleeping all day and up at night (threw out my strict schedule that I had for CG1 when she was first born). I remember she smiled so much even at a sick visit doctor appointment. The doctor was sure I was an inexperienced mom and she was just fine. How could she be sick with that beaming smile? She had a 102 temperature by the way – I was not inexperienced at all!

Or the day she was chosen for the spelling bee, read her essay on the danger of drugs to the entire fifth grade, starred in the fourth-grade play, went to her first dance, toured colleges in the south with me last summer, shouted with joy at her acceptance to her dream school, right up to walking across the stage for her high-school diploma? Where does the time go? It plays tricks on us for sure.

The Days are Long but the Years are Short

You see what has hit me is as we say goodbye as they embark on this new stage of life away from us (at least for nine months) – we are also saying goodbye to that baby, toddler, kindergartener, awkward middle schooler, confident high-schooler. We never said goodbye to those younger versions. They just disappeared as we unwittingly moved onto the next phase not really realizing that they had left.

Those early years of parenting had some of the longest days…but as they say, those years were also painfully short.

Of course, our kids come back. Of course I have, as of the time of posting this, had a Facetime tour of her new place. Of course, I will be sending a care package this week (complete with my care package chocolate chip cookies). Of course, we have so much to look forward to (including fall college visits to see them). Of course, empty nest hood will mean time for things that we have put to the back burner.

While this is all true, this time, I know the last phase is over and a new, exciting one is about to begin. I will hug them tight, shed a tear, allow myself to process it all. We parents have been so busy getting them ready to leave for college, it is now time to get ready for our next step too.

Summer Menus and Musings

Life Is Meals is one of my favorite books. Penned by James and Kay Salter, this delightful book, given to me by a dear friend years ago, takes you through meals and musings from a year of cooking. It really hit home the summer I read it, as I could not enjoy my own summer menus.

Why? Well, I read it during a rough patch when both my husband and I found ourselves out of work during the Great Recession. I took a consulting job in Chicago that summer to tide us over financially. I commuted every week for three months – leaving my first grader and four-year old at home with my husband who was diligently looking for a new job. Up at 3 a.m. Monday to catch a flight, and back at 11 Friday. Home never felt so good those weekends back in CT. I was thankful for Skype too (but a poor substitute to four- and six-year-old hugs).

All I wanted to do was get back to my normal life and this book, which I read on the plane over a few weeks underscored how important my family’s home cooked meals were to my very soul. I was staying in a chain hotel with a poor excuse for a kitchen. Meals were usually pasta with butter and cheese and maybe a salad – or it was take-out.

The good news was that the assignment was only three months, and I returned appreciating our usual routine and all of the delightful summer menus that usually grace our table. Additionally, I took up my own habit of writing down memorable menus in a blue journal. This summer has been particularly fruitful so today’s post I am sharing our latest summer menu (also to be written down in my trusty blue journal).

Clambake and An Easy Dip

This past weekend included the annual clambake at our beach/boat club. It was steamy hot, and I found the perfect (budget friendly Target:) long sundress (the thought of anything form fitting was not going to work) plus lots of room with the maxi skirt for a good meal! Front view below (side view above). Paired with flip flops and my favorite straw hat…this may be a perfect outfit to enjoy a favorite summer menu.

Waiting for the boat launch…and looking forward to lobster! Maxi dress from Target

If you have not had a traditional clambake, you must try it! A summer menu of fresh lobster, quahogs (or steamer clams), mussels, corn on the cob and small red potatoes is the main. Of course, you must have a healthy dose of good quality, melted butter to dip (or drench). In our case, we enjoyed this perfect meal on the beach. Lobster is really best eaten outside, spread out on a picnic table and preferably with a view of the ocean.

Summer menu drinks and appetizers

Friends mixed up fresh margaritas (deadly). Mr SB decided to pick some fresh mint from our garden and whip up mojitos. Of course, we indulged with chips and freshly made guacamole (a must with margaritas right?). I also was looking for something easy to put with some crudité. Traditional clambakes are usually short on vegetables. Slaw in mayo is not my idea of a good fresh veggie option.

Smitten Kitchen is a favorite blog of mine and Deb’s red pepper white bean dip was perfect. I also loved that similar to my very simple artichoke dip (my go to for winter entertaining), I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. The dip uses a can of white beans, a jar of red peppers, lemon and a dab of cream cheese). I tweaked it a bit by adding some Tuscan seasoning from Saratoga Olive Oil and a healthy dose of chives from the garden. I served it in this cute boat bowl (a Homegoods find:).

White bean and roasted red pepper dip
White bean and red pepper dip with Tuscan seasoning served up in a boat for a cute touch

A well thought out charcuterie board is always welcome too. So easy to assemble and perfect with mixed drinks…good to have something a bit more substantial to snack on! Costco is my go-to store for the meat and cheese. I keep Carrs crackers on hand as well as dried fruit and nuts. You can see my version for the clambake above and another below served with friends on our deck.

Top off the evening around the fire pit with traditional s’mores. Don’t try to improve the s’more recipe as they are perfect in their original form.

Is there a better summer menu? And with this view, and some good friends, summer is sweet.
Sunset over Long Island Sound
Sunset over Long Island Sound

End of year musings

Before I get to a summer update and my recipe for fresh corn salad with lime vinaigrette (my next post) – a spring update is in order! I realize my last post was from our spring break in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. So much happened after that as it was high-school girl’s senior spring.

Senior year is a year of “lasts”, so each event was very bittersweet. Fortunately, I knew it would fly by, and so I made sure to soak in every second. With college girl, that was not an option as senior spring ended March 13, 2020 due to Covid.

First up was senior prom. All, heads up for you newbies – one starts shopping for the dress in February (no that is not a typo). This is far more complex than when I went to the mall with my mom to pick out a dress. Girls log their dresses on Facebook so no one will have the same one. After the stress (and a bit of drama) it all worked out. She and her date looked so great (lavender dress with lots of detail). We were fortunate to go to two beautiful pre prom parties and took dozens of photos. After no real junior prom, the kids so enjoyed themselves (and we did too!)

Up next was the last dance recital. Dance has been a fantastic outlet for high-school gal, and she started at age 3! After staring at her older sister’s dance class, the dance instructor finally let her in to the class! I don’t consider myself a dance mom but let me tell you every recital is like watching them grow in technicolor. I have loved watching her dance and am so glad she stayed with it (even after many other sports were tried). Dance introduces you to music, culture and of course is physically challenging (especially if you dance six days a week as she does!). I will miss the rhythm of the Nutcracker (camp begins in the summer with an intensive) and that spring recital too. Empty nest hood awaits – maybe I should start dancing again?

Next it was senior awards night. This mama was so proud as little miss earned the Civic Leadership award from the Social Studies department plus a service award for her involvement in Save the Children and two scholarships! That same week was the end of year Girl Scout ceremony. Bittersweet for me again, as I have been a leader for nine years and she has been a Girl Scout for 13. She was awarded another scholarship (more on this to come…Girl Scouts is a fantastic opportunity for college applications (in addition to being a great organization in general).

Lastly, before we knew it, she was crossing the stage for her diploma. Again, missing a real graduation in 2020 (and I am not complaining as I know so many lives have been lost to the pandemic so these events took the backseat to all of that sadness), we soaked it all in. Next thing you know it was the fourth of July this past weekend! As this post is rather long I will save my fresh corn salad, tablescape tips for the next post. Glad to be back blogging!

April Catch Up

Hi all…April has been a whirlwind and I have been meaning to blog but am just getting around to it. I have not been cooking much as we have been traveling and really busy with work and end of year planning. So today’s is more of a this and that jumble of what I have been eating, seeing, thinking!

Travel to Indian Rocks Beach Florida

High school girl and I took a trip to Florida for her last high school spring break. We flew into Tampa and stayed in a VRBO in Indian Rocks Beach. Our house (nothing fancy) was a short walk to the beach and within walking distance to lots of restaurants, cafes and more. Weather was great. Would recommend the area for a trip with teens that won’t break the bank. We had some nice meals too. Seafood was delicious at Guppy’s on the Beach and the folks at the Indian Rocks Cafe were so friendly. We enjoyed super fresh sandwiches, smoothies and muffins.

Couple of Good Instant Pot Recipes

While I have not been experimenting much with my own recipes this month, I did find two fool-proof recipes at Creme de La Crumb. Our weather in CT is still on the chilly side and I had stew beef in the freezer ready for a cozy meal. With my French husband that meant one thing – Beef Bourguignon. This recipe was easy and delicious. I added some extra fresh rosemary too. She has a few other Instant Pot recipes that are on my list to try. Will let you know how they go.

Personal Finance Podcasts

I love podcasts as they give me something interesting to do when I am walking my dog. I recently discovered The Financial Feminist which I am enjoying. I really liked the interview with Sallie Krawcheck. I am probably too far along for some of the other episodes but if you are dipping your toe into finance or just want a female perspective this is worth the listen. Of course Jean Chatzky is also interesting and I think there is a time and place for Dave Ramsey too. I would probably disagree with Dave on a number of his non-financial ideas but I think his get out of debt baby step plan is worth following if you find yourself in debt which many Americans are…

On the Bookshelf

With the travel came time to read! I was delighted to read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry If you are a book lover you will enjoy this book about a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who surprisingly ends up raising an orphan girl. My favorite part is his attitude towards books and in particular – short stories. It is also on Nantucket (at least that is my hunch even though it is disguised as Alice Island).

I also finished The Lost Girls of Paris, another excellent read about women spies during WWII. Plenty of intrigue and twists and turns. So happy to have loved both books for my vacation.

Next up…

Now we are countdown to graduation for Miss High School (soon to be College Girl 2). College girl 1 landed an internship and will be home soon. Watch out for the fighting over the car! I am sooo looking forward to summer and getting out on the water. Will be back soon with more recipes and updates! XO, Mimi