Monday, October 6, 2014

autumn goodness ~ dinners, friends, decor, and trees

Hello, friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I know some of you living
in southern California are still experiencing hot temperatures. I sure wish I could
usher some of our cool - okay, and downright cold a couple of nights this week -
air your way. It's now mainly in the 50's during the day with maybe a 60+ degree day
here and there. We're pulling up the down comforter at night and Zippo has started his
cold weather routine of sleeping under the covers all nestled between us for warmth.

This past Friday night, I traveled into Chicago to attend a friend's annual fall dinner
party. I didn't want to get stuck in rush hour traffic going down there, so I left early and
hung out in a little neighborhood by my friend's house. I took a nice walk and stopped 
in a couple of shops. My first stop was Gene's Sausage Shop. I didn't buy anything, but
it was fun to look around. It's two floors filled with a butcher shop, deli, bakery, and lots
of European gourmet specialty products.

They had a pretty impressive wine section, too.

I ended up spending the most time at The Book Cellar - a great little independent
book store where I explored some pretty cool cookbooks.

And then ~ an awesome fall candlelight dinner with seven amazing ladies.
The soup that my friend made was out of this world. It warmed me from my
heart to my toes. It tasted like a rich (but it's not - no cream! In fact, it's vegan
if you choose not to top with goat cheese) bowl of creamy, earthy veggies. I can't 
wait to make it at home. 

My friend shared the recipe with me and I am sharing with you:
Winter Vegetable Soup
Recipe created by Lulu Powers--Madonna’s caterer)
For 6 servings

3 T olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup peeled, cored and coarsely chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped turnip
1 cup peeled and chopped butternut squash (seeds discarded)
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato
** I also add 1 cup golden beets, peeled and chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup maple syrup (I use half of that)
cayenne pepper (I use 1/4 teaspoon)

 optional: 1 small baguette, 3 oz. goat cheese
optional: ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped and sprinkled on top of soup

 Heat oil in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent.
 Add apple, turnips, squash, carrot, beet, sweet potato and sauté 5-10 minutes. Add 
stock, bring to boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add syrup and
 cayenne peepper. Cool slightly. Puree with handheld mixer or blender.

If desired, toast slices of baguette and spread with goat cheese to float on soup.

I really do have the most awesome and talented friends. I've been adding touches
of fall decor around my house and when some of those things are handmade, they
add so much more to a home, don't they? This beautiful tea towel was made by Penny

She also gifted me with three autumn pillowcases. One was supposed to be for Tim, 
but I forgot to send it back to school with him while he was home this weekend. Oops!
As you can see, my master bedroom is done in light blue (and that is definitely going to
change in the near future - it's the next room to work on), so fall colors don't really "go"
in this room, but that's OK. I think the colors add a little warmth and "oomph" to the 
pale decor and besides, anything made by a friend deserves a very special place in
my home whether it matches or not!

I found some old Halloween lights when I was digging through my box of fall
decor, so hung those up around the fireplace...and I also added a very special
little something on my ladder bookcase. Do you see it? 

It's the cutest fall banner made by none other than Judy from 20 North Ora!

Talented and crafty Judy also makes burlap runners like this pretty bird themed one 
on my buffet. She also makes a lot of different pillows. Check out her etsy shop here.

Moving on to the kitchen...the shelves now carry a couple of cute ghosts and a
long ago thrifted autumn covered dish...

and the china cabinet got a makeover with owls and other assorted fall
goodies. The only thing "new" in this cabinet are the two little blue bird
salt and pepper shakers on the bottom shelf.

Aren't they darling? My mom was at my house one day last week and we went
to the new vintage shop in my town. This was all I bought ($4). Funds are tight and
I'm trying not to bring so much stuff into my house anymore. But these spoke to me.
Or chirped or tweeted or something like that.

Outdoor beauty...the maple tree across the street changes every single day.
I've been trying to remember to take a photo of it every day to document its progress.
From looking back at last year's photos, this tree should be at the height of its color
peek by mid-October. It turns a brilliant red, but it only lasts a few days. Next thing
you know, all the leaves are on the ground. So I'm savoring its beauty for a short while.
This is how it looks today.

And taking a walk around my neighborhood, this is a tree by a charming little house
on the next block. Not sure what kind of tree this is though. Oh - and this house is for
sale. Anyone want to move to northern Illinois and be my neighbor?

A few doors down from the house for sale - this mighty, brilliant oak.

As always, thank you for your visit and your lovely comments. They are always
appreciated and I reply on this blog to every one of them. 


  1. Melanie, I am from Columbia, SC. I came across your Blog about 2 years ago & it is my favorite! I so look forward to your posts. Susan

    1. Wow! That is so sweet of you to say, Susan. I am awed and humbled.

  2. Hello Melanie, I always enjoy your posts, good words and beautiful photos. I especially like the photo of the pumpkin lined staircase.
    We had one cool and now it is warm again, not hot though. I took 2 of my grands to the park from 3-4 this afternoon and the temp was just right. I hope you have some pleasant fall days before winter sets in.

    1. I'm glad you enjoy my posts, Rhonda - thank you! These are some beautiful days to take little ones to the park - enjoy!

  3. Still pretty hot here. We've had a few cool nights. But it's about 90-100 during the day. I want fall! Glad you got to enjoy special time with your friends.

    1. Didn't realize it was still so hot in your area, Brenda. Is OK usually like that in October?

  4. I came over from A La Carte's good friend Linda here in Georgia....that store you went to looks amazing and the cook book store..I would be in heaven...I have a good friend who lives in Chicago....where might this shop be...she would love it...
    Sue in Atlanta

    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Sue. If you click on the hyperlink in my post for The Book Cellar, it takes you to the web site. The store is located at 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. I'll privately email you in case you don't see this reply.

  5. The shop that you visited looks like a wonderful place! How lovely to hang out there for a while. The soup sounds delicious too, I imagine that the maple syrup really gives it a lovely flavour. All of your autumn touches in your decorating are so lovely, I really like how you change things around from season to season and place to place in your home! I hope that you get some nice new neighbours in the house that is for sale, they should certainly enjoy all the wonderful colour in the trees! xx

    1. Thank you for your sweet compliments, Amy. Much appreciated. That little house that's for sale also has the most beautiful yard and gardens. I found the house for sale online and the inside is very outdated though. Someone will have to do a lot of work.

  6. Your annual autumn dinner party with good friends sounds divine! You always visit the most amazing places, and that specialty foods/sausage market looks very interesting; I could spend hours there!

    Such sweet and charming fall features around your home, Melanie, and the ones outside are no exception - those trees are brilliant!!

    Have a wonderful week!


    1. I think I'm just fortunate to live in an area that's accessible to so many things. We have the city of Chicago which is only 50 miles you probably know, so much diversity and culture and restaurants, theater, museums, Lake Michigan, etc. And then at the opposite end of the spectrum, we have so many small, quaint, charming towns and countryside here, too.

  7. I think your home should be in Better Homes and Gardens!

    1. Aww, you're biased, Mom. Thanks, anyway. xoxo

  8. It's all looking very fallish around there. I really like your decorations, especially the tea towel. It's very pretty. I'm glad you had a nice trip to Chicago, I really hope to visit there someday myself. I've been through the airports many times but never actually did anything in the city. Someday. Hope you're having a good week, Melanie.

    1. If you ever come back to Chicago, I would love to meet up with you!

  9. I love the pumpkins going up and down that staircase. My aunt and uncle used to live in Arlington Heights and they used to visit that shop. The tea towel on your stove from your friend Penny is wonderful, and Judy does such great work w/ her banners and runners, along with everything else she makes. Such talented people. We went for a long drive out in the country today to see the color. It has a couple of weeks to go even up here near Madison. I enjoy your blog!

    1. Small world...I'm close to Arlington Heights. I've seen your name on other blogs; thanks for stopping by mine. I hope to get to know you better!

  10. So much beauty where you are. You are so right about the temps here in SoCal. And that soup and your dinner with friends sounds amazing.

    1. I'll be very jealous of your temps in SoCal soon enough, believe me. ;-)

  11. Those trees are spectacular in all of their fall glory!! What a wonderful time in Chicago...and the menu sounded so the idea of an annual fall dinner tradition! When we lived in Wheaton...many moon was always so fun to go into Chicago...a great city!
    Your home looks so warm and cozy...and I think blue is somewhat of a neutral so anything goes with it.
    Mary Alice

    1. Did I know that you one time lived in Wheaton? I don't remember. Wheaton is a beautiful town. I do love shades of blue, but the shade of blue in our bedroom is too strong for our tastes.

  12. Your trees are looking much more fallish than ours are here. I think blue goes very well with browns for a fall look. Sounds like you had a great time in Chicago,,,,tried to remember the last time I was there...been a very long least 3 years. I'm loving the cooler cozy at night with the fireplace on. The soup sound so good so thanks for sharing!!!!

    1. I don't get into the City too often either. Isn't it funny how when you live close to a particular place, you don't seem to get there as often as you'd like or wish? Haven't had a fire in our fireplace yet this season...perhaps by the end of the month.

  13. Your house is looking so festive for fall, Melanie! I'm in love with your cute little s & p birdies! There's a similar set at a local shop that I pick up every time I visit and they're inexpensive, so next time I visit, I'm going to buy them.....if they're not gone!

    How lucky you are to have a beautiful vibrant tree to view out your windows! It looks like the colors are almost at their peak in your area, which is my favorite time to get out and enjoy long walks. You've got a charming neighborhood.


    1. If you pick up something over and over again and keep eyeballing it, it is definitely meant to be yours! I hope your treasure is still at the shop. Only small parts of my neighborhood are charming...there's some really yucky parts to it as well...abandoned houses that are falling apart and a muck-filled stagnant creek.

  14. That soup and the wonderful table setting look just wonderful.

    I like the orange in your blue bedroom...reminds me of a brilliant orange tree set against a blue sky in autumn...the colors look great together at this time of year :)

  15. I would love to go to that deli and bookstore...what neighborhood were you in? The soups sounds delicious and how neat to meet up in the fall to break some bread together!

    I love your fall touches...your bedroom looks pretty. The blue and brown are pretty cute together...maybe you could find a small toss pillow with both colors to tie it together.

    I would buy that cute little house for the picket fence alone!! That has always been a little dream of mine.

    Thanks for stopping. Typing is actually good as I'm supposed to move my fingers. And I am SO bored!!

    I hope all is good with us. I told Al that sometimes I push myself to speak my mind and then I feel terrible. He said that happens to him, too, so maybe we are all fumbling around, trying to say and do the right thing! Sending a hug to you.

    Jane xx

    1. I was in Lincoln Square. Are you familiar with that area? That is a great idea to find a small toss pillow to tie the light blues in with the fall colors...I will keep my eyes peeled! All is well, Jane. Peace and blessings.

  16. So glad you liked your little easy to be kind to sweet and dear friends like yourself.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a kind comment - I read and appreciate each one!