Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nantucket Christmas Stroll | First Timer Tips

If you follow me on instagram you very likely saw (30+ posts!!) that I went to the annual Nantucket Christmas Stroll with a couple girlfriends.  The Stroll is held the first weekend of December every year.  I have dreamed of going for the last 5 years and I'm so grateful we finally made it happen. It lived up to every expectation I had, making it the perfect girls trip to kick of the Christmas season!

I will do my best to answer some of the questions you all have had as well as give you a glimpse of how we spent our time and what we would do differently next time.  Here we go...

Where did we stay?
We rented a home in town, pictured left.  Yes, it was big!  We booked a home last summer.  VRBO and Airbnb are your best bets if you want to go this route.  There are lots of amazing hotels in town too, especially if you are traveling as a couple.  We were only there to sleep, with a little morning and evening lounging around so having a house was nice but not essential, it will save you a little money over a hotel though.  You will want a place in walking distance of the shops since you don't want to pay to bring a car over on the ferry and the buses no longer run in winter.  Cabs are also available, of course.

A lot of people asked if I preferred staying in town over staying in Sconset.  You can't really compare the two because staying in Sconset in the summer is a completely difference experience.  If just going for the Stroll, town is the way to go!  See my other Nantucket posts to read all about why we love Sconset so much in the summer.

How did we get to Nantucket from Cincinnati?
Getting to Nantucket isn't easy but it's always worth it.  We chose to fly into Boston on an early flight.  We arrived before 9:00 AM then we rented a car and drove to the Cape.  We parked in the long term ferry parking and took the ferry.  We learned the hard way that ferry tickets on the high speed boat sell out more than a month in advance.  So we took the slow ferry there and fast back.  Some other options that we will explore next time are taking the bus from Logan to Hyannis or booking two flights, one to Boston and then a Cape Air flight to Nantucket.  There are no direct flights from Cincinnati and those with a connection are unreliable and very expensive.  I also think we might come in on a Thursday and leave late Sunday next time.  

What were some fun things to do that are unique to the Stroll?
In typical Nantucket fashion, you have to do a bit of discovery work to find all that the island has to offer.  I found ideas here and here to be really helpful. We took an evening home tour of some gorgeous old homes on Orange Street on Friday when we arrived, which was such a highlight for all of us.  This tour wasn't mentioned on the Stroll Events website and we noticed that many of the people on the tour were local residents.  We pre-purchased tickets online and picked them up at the Whaling Museum when we arrived.  
There was an indoor craft show at the Preservation Institute on Centre Street that was easy to miss unless you knew it was there.  I'm so glad we found it because my favorite artist had a booth and I was able to pick up a couple new pieces for our home.
I did the early morning guided walking tour of the mansions of Cliff and Brant Point. My friends opted to sleep in, so I re-created the walk for them the next day which was even more fun.   
There are so many other unique activities from book signings to wreath making at Bartlett Farm to eating fresh shucked oysters on the warf to special brunches and champagne tastings, that you just have to do a little research and see what floats your boat and know that you can't do it all.
The main attractions are shopping and eating and drinking!  Oh and there is a lot of pomp and circumstance over the arrival of Santa on the boat and everyone gets very festive with their attire, including the dogs.  Think light up necklaces and crazy hats.  

Where to eat?
Here are the places that were recommended to us, some we ate at, others we'll save for next time...
Ventuno, Italian, make reservation far in advance.  No walk-ins.
Straight Warf, no reservations, long wait, seafood
Greydon House, the prettiest restaurant on Nantucket in my opinion, but very pricey.  We made reservations, then found out they switched to a prix fixe menu but at $150 a person, it was more than we wanted to spend for a girls night out. Better for a date night! We did have drinks in the cozy bar though and that was perfect.
Pi Pizzeria, you'll need to take a cab, it's super cozy and delicious for a casual dinner.
Brotherhood of Thieves - pub food, no reservation needed
Queequeg's -  Came highly recommended from a local. Was closed the day we wanted to eat there but sounds really good!
Wicked Island Bakery - worth the walk, go early in the morning.  It's still my favorite bakery on the island.  
The Hub - Their breakfast croissants are amazing! 

^^ The most iconic tree for the Stroll, you'll find it hidden in the water right behind the movie theater! ^^

We lingered in unique stores and chatted with owners and artists, we took evening walks along cobblestone streets among Christmas lights, and we ate most of our meals next to roaring fires in charming old buildings.  I loved the quiet mornings walking through town and on the beach and I loved the happy holiday bustle in the stores during the day. It was such a joy to be able to see Nantucket through my friend's eyes and watch them fall in love with my favorite place!  We brought home wonderful treasures and lots of happy memories.  And we all vowed to make this a new holiday tradition!  I can't wait till next year!!  Thanks for letting me share it all with you!


Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

While the first official day of winter isn't until December 21st, I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving marks the end of autumn.  The Friday after Thanksgiving (today!!) is when I start to decorate our home for Christmas. I already have paperweight bulbs spouting little green shoots on my kitchen window sill and a boxwood wreath on my front door.  But before I start to bring up the basement bins of decorations, I wanted to capture a few photos from our Thanksgiving.

We have much to be thankful for this year, in particular, my Dad, who underwent major open heart surgery about 8 weeks ago.  We are thankful the blockage was discovered before he had a heart attack or stroke and especially thankful for the skilled hands of an incredible surgeon, that we found thanks to the connections and recommendations of a good friend.

Unfortunately, Andrew has a cough this year and my Dad didn't want to risk picking it up, so we had a last minute change and ended up with just a small celebration with our family and my Mum instead. Hopefully everyone can stay healthy for Christmas and we can celebrate as complete family! :)

As always, I'm thankful of all of you that still read this blog.  You encourage and inspire me!  I hope you each had happy and bountiful celebrations with people you love!

Here are a few pictures of our day...

^^Made Martha Stewart's recipe this year.  It was so gorgeous it almost looked like a movie prop.  I had visions of the exploding turkey from the movie Christmas Vacation before I carved it. Haha ^^

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thanksgiving Favorites + New Recipes for Pumpkin Pie and Stuffed Acorn Squash

Thanksgiving is a week away!  For all of you hosting or contributing to dinners this year I wanted to share some new favorites and inspiration from past years to help in your planning and preparation.  I spent last weekend trying out a couple new recipes and attempting to land on a winning pumpkin pie recipe.  Sadly, really excellent pumpkin pie has eluded me thus far in life.  I've tried so many recipes over the years and either it doesn't set properly or the flavor isn't quite right, and I just end up being a bit underwhelmed.  It is Jimmy's all time favorite dessert and the star of Thanksgiving dinner for him (for me it's the stuffing and gravy!).  Last year a girlfriend, who knew of my predicament, was kind enough to bring over a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and everyone basically devoured it in 5 minutes.  It had the best flavor of any I had ever tried.  She was generous enough to share the recipe too!   

Now, full disclosure, the day I set out to make her grandmother's pie recipe my food processor died.  So I had to over process the dough and I couldn't perfectly puree the pumpkin and even with that the pies were still pretty outstanding.  I also gave Ina Garten's recipe a try (maybe I had tried it in the past??) and while I loved the consistency and look of her pie, the taste didn't come close.  So, Grandma Eleanor's Pumpkin Pie is our new favorite!  Life is good!!  Thanksgiving will be complete!!

Grandma Eleanor's Pumpkin Pie - makes 2 pies
2 pie crusts (homemade or store bought, my crust recipe follows)
3 cups pureed pumpkin (homemade is best)
2 cups evaporated milk (this stuff kind of grosses me out a bit.  I might tinker with recipe and try heavy cream and whole milk in the future when I have more time)
2 2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 heaping tablespoons Molasses
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs  

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients. Combine the two. 
In a preheated oven bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 50-55 minutes or until center has risen.

My Favorite All Butter Pie Crust Recipe - makes 2
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), very cold
1 pinch salt
1/2 up ice cold water

Add flour, sugar and salt to a food processor and mix to combine. Then add the cold butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture is crumbly with pea size lumps. Drizzle the ice cold water in slowly as the processor is running - stop when the dough starts to come together in a ball.  You may not use all the water, add more as needed.  Shape dough into a ball and divide in half.  Flatten each into 1 inch disks and cover in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

^^Link to these deconstructed pots of pie I made a few years ago.  The above recipes would work perfectly here too^^

^^Acorn Squash with Grain Stuffing^^

Another new recipe that I tried this weekend is a vegetarian side dish that could do double duty as a fall or winter meal.  It is crazy healthy even if a little time intensive, but really delicious so I will definitely make it again! It's great to make when the weather is dreary outside and you have a weekend day without a whole lot going on.  The actual steps are very simple, just a lot of steps (it's a Martha Recipe after all. haha).  Here is a link to the recipe.  My recipe notes: Roast the acorn squash for 45-50 minutes before stuffing. I also brushed the inside of each with olive oil before adding the seasonings. I think the you could easily sub died cranberries for the topping in place of pomegranate seeds, which I will do next time because not everyone was a fan of the pomegranate.

Links to past Thanksgiving posts here, here, and here.

^^One of my very favorite from a few years back.  I love a "natural runner" and think I'm going this route again this year but with less orange.^^