Autumn Blessings {& My Roses}

Oh, how I have adored these glorious autumn days; mostly blue skies, warm (but not too warm) days, crisp cool nights, and vivid color all around……

The view from our yard to the tennis courts

…. Leaves crunching underfoot, colorful assortment of pumpkins, apple cider from a local orchard, cuddling under a blanket sipping hot tea, pumpkin pies, family reunions, cheering for our local football team, that first pot of spicy chili, making apple butter, glorious sunsets ….. 

Why is an autumn sunset always the prettiest?

…. It always makes my heart sing with joy!

I’m amazed every autumn at the palate of color God paints for our enjoyment, especially this year, our first here in South Carolina!

Seasons are such a wonderful blessing in our lives!
Autumn is a season that makes me happy.

 

I love the color of my normally blue hydrangea shrubs; even they are changing for the fall.

I have loved working in our yard: weeding around rock borders, cleaning up spider webs, mowing, for what I hope is the last time, a preparing my plants for the winter.


AND THEN, Sandy and a major early season cold front paid a visit. 

We were spared any damage as we are just far enough from the coast Sandy let us be, but we have had the high winds of the cold front (and snow just miles north of us!) grab our attention and let us know Old Man Winter is not too far away!

It won’t be too long before the cayenne peppers (they go quite well with those winter pots of chili) completely quit producing……

 

And my roses that have put on quite a show this fall will have lost most all of their petals.

But they were beautiful!

Back in the spring, just after we moved here, my sweet hubby transplanted 34 roses bushes from our home in Alabama!  Of the thirty-four, we only lost three; the rest have been spoiled pampered and looked amazing!  They put on a spectacular show for us this fall.

My David Austin English roses are some of my favorites.  These are the ones that fill my back yard, surround my patio and front porch.  Their fragrance is heavenly and once they mature they grow more like a hedge shrub.

Mine will take a while though to reach that stage as we had to heavily prune them after transplanting.  But their blooms have been most enjoyable!

The surprise of the fall was the blooming of my Queen Elizabeth garden roses.  These were the last ones we moved; waiting almost too late in the season.  They didn’t bloom all summer and showed very little growth, but still survived.  Their blooms were stunning and some of my favorites.

{I checked…. not a petal left this morning!}

Our running roses also loved this fall

My Don Juan running rose bush is over 7 feet tall now!

 

Coral running roses next to our chimney

 

But my pride and joy is this coral beauty here….

This rose bush is over twenty years old!  I received it as a high school graduation gift and it stayed at my parents house until 12 years ago when I moved it to our home in Alabama.  I wanted to leave it behind because I was afraid it would not survive!  Audley decided to moved it anyway, and I am so glad that he did!

What a wonderful surprise to see it bloom so beautifully the last couple of weeks!

While this front has faded out the last of summer, most of autumn and ushered in a taste of winter, it seems the mums and asters are happy with these cooler temps.  Maybe we will have just a few more days of color.

 

And while I love the color on the trees……

 

I love the look of the fallen leaves.

 

And I am ever so thankful that my teenagers still get a kick out of playing in them.
{Don’t tell them that I told you!}

I am also blessed because they can rake them as well!

Tell me my friends, what are you loving this fall?

And, for my friends who are in the Northeast, please know you are in our prayers as Sandy passes your way.  I hope that you guys have been spared with the most minimal of damage.

Myrtle Beach’s Chestnut Hill Restaurant

Over the weekend Audley and I were chauffeurs unofficial chaperones for some of the youth group as they attended a conference in Myrtle Beach.  We could not have asked for a more picture perfect weekend as the company, weather, conference, and even the food was absolutely perfect!
Some of our group
My family on the beach

Audley and I slipped away for a date on Saturday evening while the kids were at a pizza party.  Earlier while he had been out and about he had discovered a sweet little restaurant that is well-known by the locals for having the best fresh seafood in the area.

 

Built into a lake, Chestnut Hill is about a mile off of the Atlantic Ocean and is locally owned and operated by a family whose history of Myrtle Beach restaurants spans 60+ years!  This isn’t one of those fly by night seafood buffets advertised with banners tied to the back of airplanes that fly over the beach.  This is fresh seafood in a beautiful setting that is quite enjoyable.

***I will apologize for the pictures in advance as they are from my phone.

The foyer as you walk inside Chestnut Hill

 

The decor inside the restaurant reminded me of Old Southern charm.  A mix of antiques (like a primitive buffet where tea & water was served from) with elegantly set tables, all with a view of the water and it’s natural habitat of turtles, alligators and snakes.
One of the tables with a waterfront view.
In the dining room

 

We were seated quickly (because we went to supper early), and immediately poured ice cold water with lemon.  Our waitress was super friendly, very knowledgeable of the menu and evening specials, and attentive to the needs of her customers.  She also brought us a basket filled with fresh French bread with Parmesan cheese, yummy cheddar biscuits and corn muffins which my husband declared perfect.
The view over the lake was so peaceful.  As the sun was setting there was a glow over the water and the wildlife was settling down for the night.  Watching the turtles was quite interesting as was watching a sea snake swim around and pop his head up every few minutes to look around like a periscope.
Being on the Atlantic coast, seafood is obviously the speciality of the house, but steaks, chicken and pasta are prepared as well for those who are not a fan of seafood.  When discussing the menu with our waitress, she lead us know that the chef would work with dietary restrictions/ allergies also.
I really dig a place that puts a customer’s needs first.
And since I have special dietary needs, I was very happy to know it wouldn’t be a burden at accommodate those.

Audley ordered Oyster’s Rockerfeller for his starter.  It looked really good and he seemed very happy with it.

I really wanted to try it, but Bearnaise sauce is not really the healthiest of choices, even though it was so difficult to pass up!

 

We had salads as part of our dinner that were topped with a delicious house (honey-lime) dressing.  It wasn’t thick like a ranch dressing or as thin as a vinaigrette, but a perfect cross between the two.
For Audley’s entree he ordered broiled scallops and I choose a seafood platter with broiled flounder, scallops and shrimp.

Audley’s Scallops
 Because broiling usually involves a lot of butter I asked for little to no butter and was very happy that my food wasn’t swimming in fat when it arrived.  Everything was cooked perfectly!  The chef even sent word that my vegetables were sautéed in olive oil instead of butter.
I was one satisfied customer.

 

My own seafood platter of scallops, shrimp and flounder… not floating in butter, just as I ordered it.

We chose to skip dessert (I couldn’t even finish my supper!), but from what I could see around us, there were some fine options to choose; from southern pecan pie to chocolate mousse.

Very, Very tempting indeed.

 

Before we left we enjoyed the view from outside that everyone enjoy’s while dining.  It was so peaceful and pretty.
Don’t you just love moss hanging from the trees?  So southern!

Audley and I really enjoyed our dinner out and I know when we return to Myrtle Beach next summer that Chestnut Hill will definitely be on our agenda.

 

Just {Jammin’}

I love to listen to music when I am in the kitchen.  I tease the kids and tell them I am jammin’ out, which makes them laugh hysterically and they remind me that 80% of the music I listen to is not jammin’ material!
{OK, then!}
Have you heard of Jackie Evancho?
She’s a 12 year old classical music artist who I think has become my favorite companion in the kitchen this last week.  Her beautiful voice has made actual “jamming'” in the kitchen this week so relaxing and enjoyable.
Strawberries have been just beautiful this spring, so when I had an opportunity to purchase fresh berries at a local farm over the weekend, I willingly helped myself!
I put up a few berries for pies & homemade ice cream later in the season, but then I saved some for making strawberry jam.  There is something so wholesome about making your own jams and jellies.  I love to set an open jar on the table at breakfast or supper time for my family to spread on toast or biscuits.  I also like knowing what exactly is going into the mouths of my family.  No artificial flavors, sweeteners or color here!

And aren’t canned goods just so pretty?  It looks like jewels sparkling in the afternoon sun!

Making jam isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.  Getting everything together and prepping your fruit can be time consuming, but honestly what task isn’t time consuming that is worth doing?
 I made two recipes of strawberry jam; a vanilla-laced strawberry jam and balsamic-strawberry jam.  I’m sharing the vanilla-laced jam here since it is the less tedious of the two.

Strawberry Jam w/ Vanilla

8 cups sliced strawberries
juice of half a lemon (abt. 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 pkg. powdered pectin (I prefer Ball)
1 whole vanilla bean, scored down one side

7 cups sugar

Take your strawberries and smash them a little at a time in a large pot on the stove, until all 8 cups are smashed and juicy.   I use a potato masher for this.  Add your vanilla bean, lemon juice and pectin (making sure to stir it until it is well dissolved); then bring to a boil.  Stir constantly to keep from burning on the bottom.  Pour all of your sugar in at once.  Stir until it dissolves, then bring to a roaring boil that you can’t stir down, continuing to stir.

Remove from heat and spoon out the vanilla bean.  Ladle into prepped (sterilized) jars, seal and process in a canner about 15 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Store in a cool, dark space; you don’t want to discolor your jam!

I like my jam spread on a slice a fresh white bread.  How do you like yours?

 

I’m linking up to Foodie Friday this week.  Hope you’ll link over and check out what else is cooking this week!

 

And, I’ll leave you with a taste of Jackie Evancho.  You can let me know what you think!

 

Strawberry Hill, USA

If there is one “philosophy” that I practice as much as I talk about, I would have to say it’s buying local and fresh produce.  Sometimes it is difficult, but as spring progress and summer sets in, there is really no excuse for not supporting local growers as they are more than happy to share their products!

 

With all of the negative media about food I can buy in my local grocery store that contain things like “pink slime”, unnecessary hormones, and even arsenic,  I have become passionate in the last several years of growing much of our food and purchasing from local and reliable sources.  I can’t coupon like some do to save money on my groceries, but I have decided that the health of my family is more important.

Over the weekend Audley and I ventured out to a nearby farm for strawberries.  While my little pots on the patio are producing enough for a light snack, I have seriously craved the sweet flavor of fresh strawberries to garnish a salad, flavor my Visalus shakes, make a scrumptious jam or a fresh strawberry pie.

 

Strawberry Hill USA is a local multi-generation farm owned by the Cooley family located in Chesnee, SC, just twenty minutes from our house.  Here we found fresh strawberries and blueberries in season, and discovered all of the other wonderful fruit they grow as well; May & July peaches, summer blackberries and assorted fresh veggies, apples in the fall, and pumpkins for Halloween.  It’s a haven of fresh goodness that I plan to visit regularly in the coming months.  Nothing is hidden; you can see all of their fields as you drive into the area.  You can tour the farm, ask questions about operations, and take home USA grown produce.

They are proud of their farm and legacy; they definitely should be!

Beautiful Peach Orchards

 

Strawberry Fields

Not only can you tour their farm, they have a great little cafe that features their local grown produce and shed where you can purchase so many wonderful fresh foods.

The produce was beautiful and I loved watching workers pick the food and bring it from the field to the shed for purchase.

 

And the shed?  Oh my, it was filled with such colorful and absolutely fabulous spring fruit!

Let me tell you, Spring fruit has never looked so good!

 

 

If the appearance of the luscious fruit was not enough to tempt you into buying it, tasting it would have had you sold!

Strawberry Hill also carries their own ciders, jams, and honey!  This is a farm that truly uses all of its resources!

It seems canning season has arrived as my week has been spent making jam and putting up berries.  For Foodie Friday this week I’ll share one of our favorite strawberry jam recipes.  I can just sit and eat it straight from the jar.

And, since I had several questions about Vidalia onion jam, I plan to share the recipe on Monday.  I can’t wait to share all of the wonderful ways you can use this unique jam!