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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. With the start of a chill in the air, the abundance of college football and the beauty of colorful fall foliage, this time of the year always signals the beginning of gatherings among family and friends. Whatever the occasion, whether it’s tailgating at a football game or reuniting with family at Thanksgiving, from October through the end of the year it’s is all about getting together with the people you love.

It’s no surprise then that the things I am currently obsessed with revolve around fall flavors, spending time with family and friends, and creating memories as a family. To me, this time of the year should smell like pumpkin pie and always come with at least 10 people filling a room with the sounds of laughter and fun.

This November, these are a few of my favorite things.

FOOD:  

Anything Pumpkin Spice: Who doesn’t equate pumpkin spice with fall? I must confess, I will use pumpkin spice year round, but the advent of fall gives one free reign to go crazy with pumpkin spice……within reason. I’m not a fan of the current everything under the sun must be pumpkin spice movement. But if it fits, I’ll take an extra sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger any day.

White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Caramel Popcorn

White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Caramel Popcorn

So what am I making with pumpkin spice? Right now my family is obsessed with White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Caramel Popcorn. Perfect to have on hand as a snack, to serve at a party, or to package and give as a gift, this snack is not your typical caramel popcorn. Take a big whiff of it and it screams pumpkin pie and fall, with the creamy richness of a white chocolate drizzle. Put a big bowl of this out at a party and watch a crowd gather around. Better yet, make an extra batch and bring to a friend’s house to spread the pumpkin spice joy. Just make sure to save a little for yourself to enjoy on your own. Check out the recipe here.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

It’s also not fall without a few slices of Pumpkin Bread. Add some chocolate chips and it can double as a dessert everyone will enjoy. I especially like to make pumpkin bread in decorative mini-bundt pans and add just the slightest drizzle of pumpkin spice cinnamon glaze. Serve it a little warm and watch it disappear.

Mini Pumpkin Spice Glazed Pumpkin Bundt Cakes

Mini Pumpkin Spice Glazed Pumpkin Bundt Cakes

Next up – Pumpkin Spiced Roasted Pork Loin and Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake. Check back for these recipes over the next few weeks, as well as others, as I let my inner pumpkin spice fanatic run wild.

DIY At Home Coffee Bar: I love coffee. I love the way it smells, both before it is ground, after, and once it’s brewed. I love to drink coffee, generally as black and as strong as possible. This is probably due to the years I spent living in France. Here, coffee was as black as night, to-go cups were unheard of and street side cafes were filled with people watching the world pass by while sipping an espresso or cafe au lait.

Unfortunately not many people I know here in the United States share my passion for strong bold coffee, creating quite the dilemma at the holidays when people are at my house. Brew coffee strong for my taste and people are turned off. On the flip side, I simply cannot seem to figure out how to brew anything palatable but strong coffee.

Which is why I am currently obsessed with the Ninja Coffee Bar® System. I recently came across this ingenuous appliance at a Type-A Parent conference and I was hooked as soon as I could smell the coffee aroma wafting from the room. This appliance truly is the ninja appliance of all coffee brewing systems, and I am fairly confident it can solve all my coffee entertaining woes.

Ninja Coffee Bar System

Ninja Coffee Bar System

Why? This system not only brews six different brew sizes, but it has different brew styles to allow you to customize the level of richness of your coffee. Not only could I brew a strong cup of coffee for me, but a regular pot of coffee for guests. Want to add a little froth to that coffee? No problem, this appliance has both a cold and hot frother. So basically for all my holiday gatherings, and pretty much throughout the year, I can have my very own coffee shop right here in my house. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

I’ve become so obsessed with the Ninja Coffee Bar® System that I began researching how to make my own DIY At Home Coffee Bar. Yes, I am that obsessed. I would love something like this coffee bar from HGTV.

Home Coffee Bar Design Ideas Photos Hgtv - Home Design Inspiration

Home Coffee Bar Design Ideas Photos HGTV – Home Design Inspiration

An appliance like the Ninja Coffee Bar® System needs a space all its own and something like the above picture would be the perfect focal point of my kitchen. Plus I have a fairly large collection of coffee mugs (mostly from Walt Disney World Resort) that needs a place to call home.

Once I conceived the idea to create my very own At Home Coffee Bar, I cleared a space in my kitchen and started working on ideas. Check out my DIY At Home Coffee Bar Pinterest Board and follow along as I build my very own At Home Coffee Bar this holiday season.

FAMILY TRAVEL:

Taking Time to Explore: This time of the year often means travel to visit family and friends. I have always loved to travel, but now that I have kids travel takes on a whole new meaning. It’s a chance to explore, learn, experience new things, and most importantly, create lasting memories. This past year we have been very fortunate to take many trips as a family, including a stop over in Atlanta, Georgia on our way to Walt Disney World Resort; our annual family beach vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina; and recently a trip to see family in Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Along the way we’ve made time to explore, visiting well known attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, or lesser known local favorites, like The Scoop ice cream shop on Main Street in Zionsville, Indiana. We even took a little time to visit a piece of Disney while on Hilton Head Island.

Exploring local favorites, often off the beaten path, is our family’s current obsession. The most recent favorite? A visit to Sprecher Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This charming local micro-brewery has been making craft beers, root beer and sodas since 1985. Daily tours of its facilities give a glimpse into the micro-brewing process and end with free tastings in its indoor biergarten, where kids can taste a variety of sodas and adults can try many of its craft beers. Ever tried strawberry or pineapple soda? Here you can.

Spreacher's Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Sprecher Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Next up, a last minute trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota over the Thanksgiving holidays to visit my husband’s 98-year-old grandmother. While this trip is all about family, we’re looking forward to checking out a few local activities, such as the local vendors at Holidazzle in downtown Minneapolis or Holidays Lights in the Park over in St. Paul.

Family Travel Journals: Growing up my parents took myself and my four sisters all over the United States. We traveled out west for three and a half weeks, and up north into Canada. I have such fond memories of these trips and I want my children to have the same experience. And I want them to remember them. Yes, I realize technology is a lot different now and most of it will be recorded on my kids IPhones through selfies or some other social media channel. But what I really would like to do is start a tradition of a Family Travel Journal. Either something recorded while we are travelling, or when we get home. I would love for everyone to record their favorite experience or memory from each trip, and then be able to look back on that 5 or 10 years later.

There are so many ways to create your own travel journal. Check out some ideas here on my DIY Family Jounral Pinterest Board. One of the best tips I have seen so far? Print photos while you are on the road and add them to your journal in real time. I am particularly obsessed with the HP Sprocket, a pocket photo printer that allows you to print photos directly from your Smartphone or Tablet. To me this is revoluntionary in the world of creating on-the-road family travel journals.

HP Sprocket Photo Printer

HP Sprocket Photo Printer

BOURBON:

Bourbon Cocktails: Despite growing up in Bourbon Country, I have not always appreciated the taste of bourbon. My dad is a life long bourbon aficionado and my husband has long been on the bourbon drinking train, but just recently have I started to explore the various bourbons available right here in my own backyard.

I am not a strong bourbon drinker – I like the lower proof bourbons in the 80-90 proof range that are smoother and easier to drink. Even better, I have become obsessed with bourbon cocktails. I can drink a bourbon on the rocks or with a splash of water, but dress it up in a nice cocktail with other ingredients and a bourbon cocktail easily can be enjoyed by almost anyone.

I recently had a cocktail at Walt Disney World Resort called the Smoked Turkey – a mix of bourbon, grenadine, and lemonade, with hint of smoke that brought the cocktail up to the next level. While it was sweet from the grenadine and lemonade, the smokiness created such a layer of complexity that I returned home determined to create a similar smoky bourbon cocktail.

Smoked Maple Apple Bourbon

Smoked Mapple Bourbon Cocktail

And with that the Smoked Mapple Bourbon Cocktail was born. Filled with the flavors of fall from the tart apple and cinnamon, with added layers of smoky maple and bourbon, this is the perfect fall cocktail to enjoy with a fire in the fireplace and friends and family gathered around. We’ll be drinking it this Thanksgiving. Get the recipe here.

I’m already starting to think of the perfect holiday bourbon cocktail. Stay tuned for a new recipe in the coming weeks.

DIY Bourbon Bar: Over the past few months my husband and I have amassed quite a collection of bourbons. I love to try bourbons from small producers here in Kentucky, as well as learn about the history of some bourbons that have been around for decades. Just like wine, depending on the aging time and how these bourbons are barreled, they all have their own distinct taste.

And all these bottles need their own space. I recently came across this article in the October edition of Martha Stewart Living and I have been obsessed with creating my very own Bourbon Bar ever since. Recycling of an old armoire or using a second hand bookcase is ingenuous, and allows you to customize a bar to your particular tastes.

DIY Bar from Martha Stewart Living

DIY Bar from Martha Stewart Living

Best of all, this DIY Bourbon Bar would give us the space to highlight all the wonderful bourbon Kentucky has to offer. I can’t wait to get started on this project and have it be a focal point of my holiday entertaining.

Happy November and I hope you are spending it with family and friends enjoying all the colors and flavors of fall!


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