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Our Happy Easter Sunday!

Sunny easter flowers

Alleluia, my friends! Happy Easter! I hope you've all had a lovely start to this beautiful new season. :)

Today I'd like to share some of the pictures from our Easter weekend ... but first, I'd like to remind you all that today's the last day to enter my "Happy 10 Year Blogging" giveaway! I'll be drawing the winning names tomorrow morning! Here is the post with all the details ... :)

Now, onto the celebration pictures!

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The Alleluia has returned! This little plaque (which we made several years ago), gets hidden away on Ash Wednesday - just as the word disappears from our Lenten liturgy - and then makes its triumphant reappearance on Easter Sunday, announcing to us all:

Alleluia! He is Risen!

Easter flower shopping

This was a last minute run for Easter flowers from, where else but Trader Joe's - which has the best cut-flower prices! We entertain often and I always make a note to stop by TJ's for flowers. Today's "haul" included flowering branches, roses, tulips, carnations, and Gerbera daisies. (I also made a note in my gardening planner to grow more cutting flowers this year!)

(Another note: my friend (and longtime reader) Tanya had a great suggestion - that I do a post on family gatherings and entertaining! And I would LOVE to do that! It is certainly something we do often (host family gatherings and fairly large parties) and I really enjoy the whole process. So a post on that subject will be forthcoming!)

Back to this post, though ... a little Good Friday morning activity:

Egg hunt 3

Keeping the younger boys busy with a word puzzle egg hunt. It was meant to be an outdoor event, but since the day was quite rainy we hid the eggs all over the first floor of the house. This was an activity I set up for Earlybird to do with his therapist but Little Bear, naturally, insisted on taking part!

Easter baskets

On Easter eve, the boys' baskets were ready for the eggs ... no natural dyes this year, as much as I'd hoped to try them! Next year for sure ...

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And here we have dining tables set up in the sunroom - we welcomed 20 for dinner!

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A fun veggie basket I made up - Bill helped me with the cabbage dip dish!

Easter mantle

We stashed desserts in the living room before it was time to serve. I love how our grapevine cross blooms with life once Easter Sunday has dawned. :)

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Ok, funny story. So ... I made a lemon cake for my Bookworm (home from BC on Easter break) because he LOVES lemon cake. Only, I was running out of time ... so homemade became "Duncan Hines." And then, the frosting wouldn't cover the whole cake! So I decided to use Peeps ("borrowed" from the boys' baskets) to hide the skimpy frosting job!

And voila, c'est la Peep Cake! ;)

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Tulips - not my favorite flowers, but boy do they "shine" at Easter!

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A favorite Easter decoration, hung between the kitchen and dining room.

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And here we have some (lots of) family photos, starting with Little Bear who, as you can probably tell, was a little shy at first, as his home filled up with people much larger than him! (Note how he's clutching the hem of his shirt ...)

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He needed to spend a little time up on his mama before he was ready to mingle!

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And here we have most of my family, in my kitchen, on Easter Sunday. I can't get much happier than this. :)

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Earlybird did really well, even though large gatherings can be a challenge for his sensitivities. He was really looking forward to Easter Sunday! We allowed him to use the TV in our bedroom throughout the day so when he got a little overwhelmed (by noise, smells, expectations, whatever) he could retreat upstairs for a bit.

Easter 2016 21]

The spiced orange rum punch, served in my grandmother's punch bowl, was a hit - though our initial plan was to serve a really neat rhubarb cocktail. Rhubarb is so seasonal for early spring! Unfortunately our frozen (garden-grown) rhubarb defrosted in a rather sludgey way PLUS I realized I was out of sugar late on Holy Saturday. Eep! So this became our "signature cocktail" for the day. Thank goodness for Pinterest! It was pretty yummy I must say. :)

And now for some family photos ... how I love these people!

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Mum and dad easter 2016

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Easter 2016 1

Little Bear needed a few breaks, too ...

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Trains inside ...

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Trucks outside!

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Thumbs up for a good dinner, Mom!

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Enjoying Easter dinner with three of my four boys. <3

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Through the family room window ... I love how bright the day was, the sunroom is such a joy on days like this!

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Mum and Matt catching up ... my brother had to work on Easter but was able to join us for dinner!

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Little Bear, avidly watching the "volcano" egg my brother gave him for Easter. Have I mentioned how much LB loves volcanos? :)

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Bill working on his Spring Blessings egg ...

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In the tradition of sharing our thankfulness at Thanksgiving (on autumn leaf shapes) I made up manila paper eggs for a similar activity. After dinner we all wrote out what we love best about Spring and then I read them aloud as we savored coffee and dessert. My family is very kind about my crazy little ideas!

And here's the desserts table ...

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That pineapple-upside down cake in the foreground was baked by my Uncle Karl and it was SO delicious. And I can tell you it was equally delicious the next morning with a cup of coffee ...

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Coffee was served in my grandmother's Irish tea cups ...

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A close-up of the pretty paper plates I picked up at Home Goods ... a little bigger than a cocktail size plate so it can hold more than just one dessert!

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A sugar cookie Peep bunny!

Radishes in teapot

I couldn't decide how to use the beautiful radishes I picked up at Whole Foods so I plopped them in a teapot - and I think they looked pretty cute! (They were placed back in the fridge at the end of the day.)

Well my friends, I think that's all I have to share today ... I hope you enjoyed this peek into our Easter and I thank you for taking the time to read through this rather long post! How was your Easter? And how is your March leaving you today ... like a lion or a lamb? Very mild here today (near 70) but then cold weather swoops in - perhaps flurries, I hear? - for the start of what T.S. Eliot called, "the cruelest month." The weather has been quite crazy lately so I guess we'll have to wait and see ...

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


On Meal Plans & Seasonal Eating

Menu planning 1

Hello my friends and Happy Friday! I hope this post finds you well ...

Today I'd like to talk a little about menu planning. I'm wondering when you all do it ... once a month? Once a week? On the fly? And where do you make note of your meal plans ... in a planner? On a white board? On your phone?

I've been posting our dinner menus on my sidebar for a couple of months now, but you may have noticed I fell behind recently. For one thing - well, I got lazy, lol - but also, I'm trying to keep our meals rather simple throughout Lent, so it's kind of the same menus over and over again. That said, tonight our Bookworm comes home for his spring break! #happymotherdance! So I'm putting aside "simple" for savory and satisfying over the next week. I have planned a few of his favorite meals as well as a couple of new recipes I've been waiting to try when he's home.

Friday: spinach-cheese ravioli, tossed salad, artichoke bruschetta

Saturday: takeout from our local pizza place

Sunday: beef & ale stew with cheddar-mustard dumplings, rose-vanilla custard

Monday: American Chop Suey, roasted winter veg, garlic bread

Tuesday: cookout (cheeseburgers), pasta salad, green salad, rhubarb grunt

Wednesday: homemade calzones & pizzas, zucchini tots

Thursday: slow cooker cashew chicken over rice

Friday: lemon-roasted shrimp with asparagus and linguine 

Saturday: beef pot pie from local farm, roasted potatoes & carrots, biscuits, lemon cake

Sunday: leftovers!

**

Now, while we're talking about menus .. a few people have asked me to write about seasonal meal planning and I would love to investigate this further in a future post. (Three of my favorite things - food, seasons and planning!) But since Little Bear's nap is stretching on, I'll share a few thoughts on the topic today ... :)

Eating with the seasons - that is to say, using produce that is at its peak and available locally - is always a goal of ours, because it makes solid economic and environmental sense. But to my mind, it's also the kind of food that truly nourishes both body and soul. And this goes beyond fruits and vegetables - special seasonal meals figure into this, too! But we'll get into that in bit ...

Obviously it's much easier to eat seasonally at certain times of the year than others, especially if you live in colder climates. There are strategies one can employ, of course; with careful planning and preserving and such, there are ways to stick to a seasonal schedule. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I'm always eager to learn and do better!

First up would be understanding what fruits and vegetables are available in your area and when ... and where you can get them! Visiting local farms with year-round markets is a great place to start. You can keep tabs on what's available and strike up conversations with the folks who run the market. They may have a schedule they can share with you so you'll have a rough idea of availability and can make notes on your home calendar. (Even if the farm is closed, check their website - many post seasonal calendars online.) Lots of farms these days also offer shares for the growing season - you pay a subscription for a preferred portion (family, single, etc.) and each week you take home your "share" of the farm's bounty. We've done this several times and it is SUCH a fun experience plus it's great to support local farmers.

Also easy - especially if you're on Pinterest - is to just type in the search term, "seasonal eating" and up will pop many charts and references for you to work with when making your plans. Speaking of, here's a neat graphic I found in one of my old journals - aka old-school "pinning." ;) It's a handy kind of list to keep in the meal planning section of my home keeping binder.

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(Of course it goes without saying - home gardening is a fantastic way to eat seasonally! Eating something you've grown, picked fresh from the garden is perhaps the best form of seasonal eating - in every sense! Not everyone has the space or desire to do so, but I think growing your own food is a wonderful learning experience for old and young alike.)

 In addition to using peak produce, I like to plan meals that are in keeping with the "spirit" of the season. This is easy enough for anyone to do really - just start by asking yourself (and your family): what are meals that appeal to you in each season? Jot things down as they come to you - in a loose seasonal outline. Maybe "applesauce" in autumn, "clambakes" in summer, "strawberry-rhubarb pie" in spring and "pot roast" for a cold winter's day. That kind of thing.

Now, your food lists might not resemble mine at all, because A. we may live in different parts of the world, so our growing seasons are slightly (or perhaps vastly) different, and B. seasonal eating is often tied to memory, preference and emotions, which makes it all quite personal! So there are certain foods and meals that really MAKE a season for me and my family - but they may not appeal as much - or at all - to you and yours.

After you exhaust your memories, take a look around for more inspiration. There's the internet of course, but how about good old-fashioned cookbooks? And I mean that quite literally - I find older books tend to focus more on seasonal foods (fresh and preserved) because they were cheaper and plentiful and people were making things on their own more back then. (Ketchup and jam and bread and the like.) Not to mention grocers of long ago were not as diverse as ours are today. Not to say our food system is better today - it's probably not - but it is more convenient.

So unsurprisingly, I tend to collect cookbooks - old and new - that organize their contents in a seasonal way and/or highlight natural foods at their peak. Here are a few ...

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For fun seasonal menus, my favorite of all time is The Silver Palate Cookbook. There's a bit of nostalgia tied to this particular book - I received it before I was even married, from my high school best friend who knew I was enamored of homekeeping and home cooking. I have read it many times over  - before I had my own kitchen! - simply for the seasonal inspiration. Also, a little story - before I was married I worked as a journalist for a Boston-area newspaper and my kind editors let me try my hand at food writing. Oh, the fun I had with those assignments! Well, I once got to meet the Silver Palate authors, Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso! And they were really fun and lovely ... though I only stood nearby and smiled when they looked my way, lol. Still, that's a fun memory for me. :)

Anyhoo - here's a look at the book's contents to give you an idea:

Menu planning 3

And I know I don't have to tell you that the library is THE place to turn for cookbooks of all kinds. I do love the books I own but of course, they can be expensive! And they take up precious shelf space. I love to search my library system for cookbooks I've made note of at Barnes & Noble or books that are no longer in print ... then I can photocopy recipes I'd like to try someday.

Magazines, too, are a great place to find seasonal recipes - by their very nature they are seasonal, usually on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. And don't forget your local paper's food pages! We no longer get the daily Boston Globe but when we did I was always finding wonderful regional and seasonal recipes in the Wednesday food pages! (The Sunday Globe has a lovely magazine though, with a regular food column.)

Now, I don't want you to think that every meal I prepare is completely in sync with the season! Hardly, lol. What works for us - not that it's perfect but it gets us by - is a repertoire of our usual meals (things we all like that fit our budget) and then I work in seasonal items as I can. Usually as side dishes or baked goods - banana bread in January, strawberry bread in June ... acorn squash in November, asparagus in May. And there is always an occasional "seasonal" meal, and Sunday dinners are a wonderful time to do this. Holidays and liturgical feast days are also perfect opportunities to embrace seasonal foods! 

I store my recipes mostly on Pinterest these days, but the ones I've clipped from a magazine or newspaper I file in seasonal folders, while precious recipe cards written by my mother or grandmother are kept in a very special box. (I'd like to do a separate post about recipe organization in the future.) When I do my weekly menu plan, I like to look at the calendar as well as my Pinterest boards. I have a board called Feeding the Family, as well as one for Seasonal Fruits & Veggies and yet another for Baking. Recently I started boards for each season and I store links for things particular to those two months. So for example, in my March & April board I have seasonal recipes for St. Patrick's Day and Lent.

 (Another time I'd love to address the topic of preserving foods in season to enjoy later. I'd like to do more of it myself and would love to hear about other folks' experiences.)

What I love about seasonal eating is how it reinforces that connection to the natural rhythm of the year: to everything a season ... and all that. :) Fresh peaches don't taste, smell or feel right in January ... but in July? Oh, what heaven! A beef stew on a blustery Sunday makes me so happy it's winter ... and the same thing goes for a tomato sandwich in summer. It's all about nurturing that awareness of where we are in the year. Such a simple way to increase our family's overall comfort and joy! (All while respecting the earth ... and our household budgets!)

There's so much more to say on this subject, but for right now, here is a lovely passage from a book I'm reading this week. It's called A Sense of Seasons, and it was written in 1964 by Jean Hersey of Connecticut.

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"Every month has its satisfactions." YES! And on the previous page not shown, "Each month has its passions and plans, its idle dreams and ruminations, even its colors." 

There are so many blessings in every year - and they are all the more beautiful when savored in season. :)

I'm grateful to my friend Kimberly for recommending these books to me - I am just loving them! (They are much like One Woman's Year which I raved about recently.) Mrs. Hersey writes just as I'd like to someday ... narrating her joy in the seasons and sharing her observations of the world around her. 

 Ok, I will wrap up now, I promise ... I've kept you here so very long today. Clearly this is a fun topic for me to discuss! If you have any questions or something I said needs clarification please let me know. I tend to go on (and on) and then run out of time to tighten things up! And of course, I'd love to hear your thoughts on meal planning - seasonal and otherwise!

Enjoy your weekend, my friends and I will see you here again very soon ...


On Michaelmas Day ...

Confirmation flowers

Happy Wednesday, my friends! I hope the week's treating you well ...

I'd like to share some pictures with you from our Michaelmas (yesterday), starting with the above arrangement of flowers - which are still blooming beautifully, long after purchase! These were the flowers from Crackerjack's Confirmation, 11 days ago - and they've stayed practically perfect ever since! I love how they look, bathed in autumn sunshine ...

The weather was gorgeous yesterday, so I am saving a couple of liturgical crafts for later in the week when the rain will keep us indoors. Plus, yesterday was a particularly busy day for us -  EB's therapy, CJ's classes, a market stop and a toddler who decided not to nap - so I kept things very simple.

Once we were home for the day, I started in on an apple-blackberry crisp (or crumble as I like to call it) ...

Michaelmas crumble

And once I got it in the oven, it was time for a little Michaelmas nature study. Originally I was going to have the boys observe dragonflies, but on this balmy afternoon it was Michaelmas daisies that caught our attention. I had found a neat description of these flowers in one of my favorite field guides ... and I mentioned to the boys that I was pretty sure we had some growing in our yard ... and wouldn't it be neat if there were in fact feast day flowers growing in our yard? :)

Michaelmas daisy page

This is a page from Wildflowers of North America by Pamela Forey ... I've had this for many years and it's my absolute favorite field guide. It's an oversized hardcover book filled with beautiful watercolor illustrations. I've identified many "weeds" and wildflowers with this book!

Now, needless to say, I was 100% sure we had them in our yard, so I knew our "search" would be a success. ;) I've been enamored with Michaelmas daisies for years - even when I knew them only as autumn asters. You can buy pots of bright purple blossoms at the nursery, but I tend to prefer the pale, wild ones that grow along the roadside. They bloom reliably every late September ...  

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 Our trusty pocket field guide came outside with us ... love its laminated pages!

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While Crackerjack took over with Little Bear, Earlybird and I went on the hunt. I try to make it a game, a little contest almost - who can find the (insert whatever it is we're studying that week) in our yard? This kind of "spin" appeals to my boys ...

And as it happened we had not just one, but THREE varieties of asters growing in our yard! 

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Michaelmas 4

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It was a great exercise in identification (are these asters and why?) and observation (how are they different from each other?) ... not to mention mindfulness (be gentle, don't grab!) because boy, do the bees love these flowers!

As we walked around the yard, I made sure to encourage the boys to smell the air, listen to the hum of insects, the call of a crow, and notice the soft light. It was a beautiful afternoon and it felt just like early fall - all golden and fresh. I couldn't help but mention that days like these are numbered ... before long it will be cold and snowy and a backyard stroll will not be as enticing (or practical). Back inside the house it smelled heavenly ... to my mind, just like a fall home should - a blend of warm fruit and spice.

Here's how that crumble came out:

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Honestly this might be the best fruit crisp I've ever made! Bill enjoyed it so much, he called it, "Marry Me Now Crisp," lol. I found it during a quick google search, but it's a keeper for sure.

Next on my feast day agenda, was making a dragon bread ... and I have a few different, very cool, recipes in a few different books for such a bread (complete with stories) ...  but I kept it SUPER simple this year, acknowledging how busy our day was. So this year, we had "Dragon Eyes" with our Michaelmas meal ...

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Aka pesto pinwheels ... just refrigerated crescent roll dough, organized and pressed into rectangles, filled with prepared pesto and chopped roasted peppers, rolled up, sliced and baked till all puffy and crisp. They may or may not look like dragon eyes exactly, but they were very tasty! I think the boys got a kick out of them, anyway ...

Carrots are also a traditional dish on this feast day, so I roasted some along with potatoes and onions and they went in the oven next ...

Micha 

 Final dish - not shown here - was a platter of baked chicken. As I understand it, goose is the traditional Michaelmas meal, but I'm not fan of goose - and who eats goose these days anyway, lol? So I made up some of our favorite dijon-and-cheddar chicken tenderloins. A bit of a mess to put together, but they cook up super quick and all the boys love them.

And that was that for our feast day! I have some other activities planned that I will space throughout the week: an angel lantern, a prayer/verse to copy, a coloring page, a storybook to read together ... pacing ourselves is a good idea, as is spreading all that activity throughout our week. We'll learn more about the hierarchy of angels on Friday's Feast (Guardian Angels) and we'll follow St. Therese's example (her Feast arrives tomorrow), by brainstorming some "little things" we can do for God this month. These will go into our notebooks as well.

This morning's quiet work ...

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 The flower print-out is a photocopy from a fantastic little Dover coloring book, The Language of Flowers. This is the "Michaelmas Daisy," and it will be colored by EB - not today as I planned, but tomorrow - because he didn't want to do it today! Lol. Note, EB's not one for drawing, and coloring is a bit of a chore, but he's loving these new beeswax crayons - they fit his hands well and smell nice, too.)

***

Some of you have asked me about how I include the older kids in our nature studies - and I am working on a post answering that very question - but for today I can tell you, I aimed the activities at Earlybird and Little Bear. Little Bear, just tagged along and smelled flowers and buzzed at bees. Earlybird paid a good deal of attention, and I was happy for that. I have to teach him with experiences more so than books or lectures. And Crackerjack was with us, too, helping with LB as I walked and talked with EB at a more leisurely pace. He had a whole bunch of homework to do so I didn't have him do anything other than be part of the experience - another "teacher" in a way. If my older boys are not actively participating in the assignments, I like to have them* involved in the feel and experience of the day. Perhaps they accompany us outside, or help me make the meal, or add to the conversation at supper ... sometimes though, I'll ask them to learn alongside us ... CJ is doing science at home this year so I have a whole year's worth of nature study prepared for him, too!

*And by them, I mean mostly Crackerjack as Bookworm is, of course, off to college. But don't think I don't involve him as I can when he's home on break! Or remind him via text sometimes, too ... :)

Speaking of liturgical celebrations - here is a lovely article on living the Catholic seasons of the year, written by my dear friend, Mary Ellen. It's full of wonderful information and ideas ... I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did. :)

So that's all I have time for now - because it's taken me all day to wrap this up, and I now have a wiggly toddler tugging on the hem of my shirt, hoping to get a plate of pasta just as quickly as his mother can manage it ... so I'm off for now. But thanks so much for stopping by and I hope to see you here again sometime soon!


Creating Seasonal Themes: Corn Week!

Corn 1
(Plus a bit of book news at the end!)

Happy Wednesday, my friends! Sorry I've been a bit out of touch lately ... we've had a lot going on here at the house these days!

We're gearing up for a new year of home learning, and we're getting Bookworm ready for his move back to BC, and we're starting Earlybird on a new, daily, home-based, fairly intensive, behavioral therapy. All very good things, but all things requiring a lot of time, energy and attention. (And did I mention, energy?) Also, as August winds down, we're trying to squeeze the very last drops of goodness out of this fast-fleeing season ... we'll have warm weather here for several more weeks, but for all intents and purposes, Summer pretty much ends after Labor Day.

So I thought I would share some of my notes for this week with you all! As I have mentioned before, I enjoy shaping my family's year by assigning seasonal themes to each week. This helps me weave in all the little comforts and joys of the season I might otherwise overlook. And though I really get into planning these themes out with all kinds of details, I try not to set my expectations too high. Because real life often runs over my plans, and a particular "theme" might not get explored very much ... so some years we might manage something small (a special recipe, perhaps) while other years we might go all out and really work that theme into our homeschooling and home life! Either way, I think it's always good to have a plan. And to be aware ... I think as seasons pass, the beautiful rhythm of the year truly wraps itself around my family however much attention we pay it. That is my end goal! :)

Anyhoo, this current week is devoted to the very timely topic of CORN. In New England (and I suspect, across much of the country) corn is in its peak season these days. Corn-on-the-cob is just heavenly right now - partaking daily is not out of the question - and cornstalks will factor into our home decorations in the coming weeks ...

But enough gabbing on my part! Here are some of my thoughts:

The Full Green Corn Moon will rise on Saturday, August 29th @ 2:35 p.m., and it's a Supermoon this month! We'll have to be sure to look for it after dark and plan a special farmstand supper - starring corn, of course! - for that night. 

🌽

We'll visit a local corn field ... we drive by it often and always marvel at its size. This time we'll stop the car and get out - observe the field, its sounds and smells. What wildlife is flying overhead or scurrying underfoot? What do we hear? (Is that the corn making that sound?) What can we smell? (Vegetation, earth?) How does the air feel right now? (Hot, humid?) Now, we won't touch these stalks because we don't have permission, but we might visit a local farm and ask to do just that. I'll see what our schedule allows and how much interest has been piqued. Before we go, we'll take pictures of the cornfield from various angles. 

🌽

We'll visit our favorite farmstand and buy plenty of ears of fresh corn. We'll ask where the corn comes from and how many ears they sell each day. We'll buy some to eat and some to use for exploration/activities ...

At home, we'll pile some ears on the table and take out our colored pencils and sketch pad: "Still Life with Corn!"

🌽

We''ll enjoy some nice books from the library all about corn:

Corn book 2

The Life and Times of Corn

Corn book 1

Corn

Corn book 3

Corn is Maize

Corn book 4

The Popcorn Book

Corn book 5

Raccoons and Ripe Corn

(These might be in a basket or set up as a display on a nature shelf.)

🌽

We'll play some pretty lullabies ... and discuss how/why corn was so important to Native Americans

Corn music

Under the Green Corn Moon (Native American Lullabies)

For craft day we'll make a corn husk candle - a small glass votive surrounded by corn husks with a tiny beeswax tealight tucked inside. That will look nice on our table! (We could also try making this or this ...)

Or we could try making a corn husk doll (and research the history behind it) ...

We will pop popcorn for snack ... and we might even make marshmallow popcorn bars for a tasty treat!

We might do a taste test: boiled corn vs. grilled corn. 

On baking day we will make a pan of corn bread, and serve it with honey butter.

🌽

We'll learn a poem called "A Green Cornfield" by Christina Georgina Rossetti. We'll add that poem to our nature journal, along with our pictures/sketches.

 The earth was green, the sky was blue:
I saw and heard one sunny morn
A skylark hang between the two,
A singing speck above the corn;

A stage below, in gay accord,
White butterflies danced on the wing,
And still the singing skylark soared,
And silent sank and soared to sing.

The cornfield stretched a tender green
To right and left beside my walks;
I knew he had a nest unseen
Somewhere among the million stalks.

And as I paused to hear his song
While swift the sunny moments slid,
Perhaps his mate sat listening long,
And listened longer than I did.

🌽 

We'll consider "Kansas Corn Field," a painting by artist John Steuart Curry in 1933:

Corn 2

***

I also have notes for some Indian Corn activities but I'm not sure if I can get it at the nursery yet. Also, those might wait for a later week in the fall. This week is really more about fresh, or green, corn. :)

So there, in a nutshell (or a kernel!) are my simple ideas for celebrating the goodness of corn during this last week of August. Remember - they're all just possibilities! I can't imagine fitting them all in in any one given year.

How do you enjoy corn at this time of year? Perhaps you grow it yourself or have a favorite recipe ... let me know in the comments below! In the meantime, and before I go, I wanted to mention my book briefly, because I've had a few people ask recently about how my progress is going ...

So, I have been working on it this summer - here and there, not as often as I'd like! - but it took me a while to get going because I wasn't entirely sure WHAT I wanted to write about. I have a few subjects I enjoy very much and there are a few topics people ask about more than others ... well, I finally found my focus! And that enabled me to get rolling ...

I am going to do a book about the file crate system - describing how I do it (and why) and the basics of setting a system up for yourself. That will be the first half of the book ... the second half will focus on seasonal learning (and living) ... and how I use my FCS to manage my family's year. So my hope is to have an outline of 52 (weekly) *seasonal* themes to present  along with activities and books and observations. And tips for using the folders to make it all happen! (Or most of it ... some of it ... well, you get the picture!)

Sometimes when I describe this it all sounds so straight forward and simple - these are my two favorite topics, after all! It seems like the two sides of the equation should work well together ... I need the folders to make the plans happen! But it's possible I may need to separate the two topics ... goodness knows I can get wordy!

(Case in point, this post.)

I will most likely be self-publishing so I'll need to do a WHOLE lot of research into that. I have my eye on a neat contraption that will allow me to bind things at home ... and I am looking into permission for using things like scrapbook papers and poems, illustrations, etc. 

Much to do, much to do! But I'm excited ... so I wanted to update you all .. and I will of course keep you all posted. For the time being, if you have a prayer to spare, or good energy to send, I would be grateful ... I'm desperately trying to find the time in my new schedule to just ... get 'er done!

 :)

Thanks so much for stopping by my friends ... enjoy the rest of your Wednesday and I will see you here again very soon!


Thoughtful Thursday: August Gardens

August garden 1

"There is no lack of produce in August gardens, the best of which is saved for the fairs and reunions. Jars of golden mustard pickles and crisp green cucumber slices wait in rows in the cool cellar. String beans and corn relish are counted by the dozens of jars. Jams and jellies in sparkling colors await such special occasions. Herbs are hanging from the rafters in the warm, dry shed, soon to be pulverized for winter's use, but green herbs are plentiful in the garden for fresh salads: lettuce, parsley, tarragon and chives, savory, thyme and chervil. There is no lack of garden stuff for family reunions, no indeed. Even the tomatoes are ripe, the better to flavor a casserole of summer vegetables."

From The New England Butt'ry Shelf Almanac by Mary Mason Campbell (illustrated by Tasha Tudor) - one of my FAVORITE resources for seasonal planning. I have all those pulled out right now, in a lovely stack in my workspace ... :)

Speaking of tomatoes and casseroles of summer vegetables - here's a recipe I pinned this morning and can't wait to try ... sounds delicious! :)

And here's a bit more from the August chapter, if I may share ...

"Summer falters. Mornings taste of autumn; evenings close in earlier, quietly, no longer filled with melodies of garden birds. Only the thrush may still be heard singing, or a robin calling. A cricket chirps at the door-rock and cicadas forecast first frost ("six weeks from the first song of the cicada"). Swallows gather on telephone wires and sweep through the late summer air to gather such feasts as they may. Elderberries and blueberries are dead ripe. Goldenrod lifts its fringed blossoms over the stone walls. Butterflies hover over the hollows and ditches where joe-pye weed blooms in soft purple drifts. In years gone by, to cure fevers tea was made from joe-pye weed and its sister plant, the white boneset. In the woods' damp shady places, Indian pipe rises in its ghostly white and we stoop to examine it in wonder and delight ... "

(Remember when I showed you our Indian Pipe growing by the mailbox?)

:)

Well my friends, I hope you are all having a nice week. It's flying by is it not? Thursday already ... I am taking pictures right this minute (or in just a few) of my daybook's Thursday-Friday page so I can share how I'm using it. Really having fun setting up my lesson planner for the new year, too ... there's so much promise at this time of year!

Thanks for stopping by, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

*image from Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa


Ripe & In Season: Rhubarb Crisp!

Rhubarb crisp 1

Happy Monday, my friends!

Are  you enjoying the fruits (and veggies, herbs, etc.) of the season? So much to look forward to, but right now our rhubarb plant is growing like mad! With our latest harvest I made a nice crisp and thought you all might like the recipe ... 

Rhubarb Crisp - Taste of Home Magazine

When I have rhubarb on hand, I usually make a "grunt," which is very much like a cobbler ... but as the recipe calls for whipped cream in the batter - and I had no cream in my fridge - I decided to try something else. Bill really loves "oat-y" fruit crisps (or "gluks" as his family calls them) and so I went with this one because it was chock-full of oats!

Rhubarb crisp 2

One thing I like especially about this crisp recipe is its versatility - it calls for 3 cups chopped rhubarb and 2 cups chopped strawberries (which we had on hand, thanks to our farm share) OR you can use 2 cups chopped apples in place of the berries. I was thinking if we freeze some of our rhubarb it might be nice to make this later in the year when apples are fresh and plentiful. :)

And OH BOY let me tell you, the house smelled incredible as it baked ...

Rhubarb crisp 3

The filling is nice and jammy and quite sweet - to be honest, I might cut back on the sugar next time I make this. I don't mind my rhubarb a bit tart! But it's definitely a keeper for sure ... it's now pinned to my "Seasonal Fruits and Veggies" board. :)

Summer's bounty is certainly upon us and I can't wait to see what our local farm brings us this year! I'm told our pickup this week will include three kinds of peas - English, Sugar Snap and Snow - so I'll be looking for ways to use them up! (Suggestions, anyone?)

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by - I hope you all had a nice weekend. And thank you again for your continued patience as my blogging rhythm stalls for a bit. I am trying to find time here and there to blog as I can ... for instance, I thought I might post about my summer pocketbook next. I would love to talk "bags" - style and organization - as it's been a while since we'd chatted about that. How 'bout you? Would you care to share with my what your summer purse (tote, satchel) looks like this year? And what's tucked inside?

If so, feel free to email me a picture and your thoughts on summer bags (bysunandcandlelight AT comcast DOT net). I'll have a post up, hopefully, by the week's end.

Enjoy your week, everyone - see you here again very soon!

🌞

 


June Sweetness ...

Strawberry bouquet

(Daisies: innocence ... Strawberries: perfect goodness)

I love to keep a seasonal "bouquet" on my kitchen windowsill ... and this week it's a small gathering of field daisies and wild strawberries, gathered by my younger boys for their mama. I placed the blossoms (and fruit) in a tiny cordial glass and set it just behind my kitchen sink. A nice reminder of June's sweetness - and that of my little men!

Potatoes with thyme

These are some small potatoes from the market, chopped and tossed with olive oil, salt and bits of thyme FROM MY GARDEN! I can't tell you how nice it was to walk outside and grab some fresh herbs for our supper!

Csa 1

And here we have our first CSA pickup ... all this goodness from a Massachusetts farm! We'll get our share each week and this time it was ripe strawberries, mixed greens, fresh eggs and jam. I'm sure I'll be posting more about our shares throughout the Summer!

***

Well my friends, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend - we have Father's Day ahead and the Summer Solstice, too ... and hereabouts there will be a family lunch, some yard work, as well as a MILESTONE birthday to celebrate ...

 

Our oldest is entering his TWENTIES!!!

(Oh, and we might catch that movie about dinosaurs ... you know the one?)

:)

I will see you here again very soon!


It's Apple-Picking Season!

Apple bounty 1

And what a season it is here in New England - with its crisp air and blue skies and colorful leaves - I can't get enough! Pumpkins might be all the rage, but my heart will always belong to the humble little apple - red, green, gold - I love them all.

 Well, last Friday we visited a local orchard - and spent a cool, gray afternoon picking apples (and having fun!) with our homeschool group. I took a crazy amount of photos, so I'd like to share them with you all here today ... but before I get too far, I'd love to know what YOU love about apples. As you can see above we came home with a LOT of apples and though a crisp is a must (there is, in fact, a crisp in the oven as I type) I'm trying to decide what to do with the rest. (The ones that don't get eaten right out of hand, I mean.)

So, do you prefer a crisp or a pie? Applesauce or apple butter?

Dried apples, fresh apples, heirloom, organic ...

Dear Readers, I'm dying to know:

How do you like them apples?

;)

Looking forward to your comments - now, here are my pictures!

Apples 31

Apples 26

Apples 1

Apples 6

Apples 4

Apples 39

(photo by Crackerjack)

Apples 42

Apples 28

Apples 19

Apples 34

Apples 43

Apples 45

 Well my friends, I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that your new week is off to a great start. Monday morning is starting off a bit nippy here - and busy as usual! Thanks so much for stopping by - I'll see you here again very soon!


Pumpkin days are here again ...

Pumpkin on table 1

 I just placed this adorable pumpkin atop our bean pot in the middle of the kitchen table. And with the way the sun was coming in the window - late afternoon, slanting light - I had to grab a picture. I just love pumpkin season!

I snapped some pictures of the pumpkins I spied at local farms this weekend ... thought you might like to see them!

Pumpkins 1

Pumpkin days 1

Pumpkin days 2

Pumpkin days 3

Are you a fan of the pumpkin, my friends? Is there a special way you like to celebrate the season of the golden gourd? Perhaps a favorite pumpkin recipe you return to each year?

I know many people are crazy for those pumpkin latte drinks served at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, etc. I must admit, I like the idea (and smell) of those drinks better than I do the actual flavor. I do love a nice pumpkin scone lightly glazed with cider icing ... and I also love a thick pumpkin bisque served with grilled ham and cheddar sandwiches. A perfect supper on a crisp autumn eve!

Please drop me a note if you have a "pumpkin" thought to share (and the time to share it). I do love to hear from you!

(And before I go, I must tell you ... I was just washing my hands at the kitchen sink - cooking chicken at the moment - and I paused as I usually do to gaze out my window at the back yard. Not only is the light dimmer and lower than it has been, but the air coming in through the screen is SO cool. It definitely feels like fall is near ... and I for one am glad about that!)

Have yourselves a lovely evening ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Garden Gab: Growing Food

Lets grow a garden

Happy Thursday, my friends! It's been a while since I did a Garden Gab post ... but yesterday, as I read to Little Bear, this topic came to mind. The above illustration is a page from a beloved book called Let's Grow a Garden by Gyo Fujikawa. Have I mentioned Gyo Fujikawa books before? Oh, how I love them. The sweetest little children's books, filled with 1970s goodness. I will have to do a post about them soon ...

Anyhoo! Before I get too far off-topic, I thought I'd ask this question of you all:

>> Do you grow any of your family's food? <<

In light of rising food costs (not to mention growing food safety concerns), and of course, Summer itself, I think this is a timely topic. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

My wish list for food I'd like to grow for my family:

rhubarb

asparagus

herbs

garlic

onions

squash (zukes, winter)

tomatoes

strawberries

raspberries

apples

carrots

beets

beans

(The green items are things we are currently growing.)

I'd also like to commit to making more of my own food and not relying on so many pre-packaged and processed foods - but that's another topic for another time!

:)

I hope you all enjoy your day and look forward to hearing from you!


Kitchen Chat, Week One: Seasonal Eating

Good Monday morning, my friends! Welcome to Kitchen Chat!

Baked apples

This will be a weekly discussion post, and our first topic will be "Seasonal Eating." I'll share my thoughts in a few moments, but first, I'd love to hear your take on this topic. How's about a cup of coffee - or perhaps tea? - and let's sit and chat a bit. If you have time, please leave your comments below and let's get the conversation rolling!

What does "seasonal eating" mean to you?

Which foods do you eat only in season, and where do you find them?

Are there foods you preserve in some way, when they're plentiful and cheap?

Are there special foods/dishes you serve your family through the year in celebration of certain holidays or events?

How are the changing seasons reflected in your kitchen - through food and/or decor?

*☕️*

Now, seasonal eating, to me, means ... 

Thanks 23

1. Eating food in its natural season.

2. Celebrating liturgical seasons/annual events with special foods.

3. Setting a seasonal "stage" in my kitchen. 

***

I love feeding my family produce at its peak when it's available locally - apples in autumn, peaches in July, corn in late summer, etc. - and as much as logistically possible, I try to do that. If we want strawberries in March, well ... tough. Lol. Actually, frozen or otherwise preserved would do in a pinch, but nothing beats a June strawberry picked fresh at the farm. It's a summertime joy not to be missed ...

Foods we try to eat only in season: corn, tomatoes, strawberries/raspberries, melon, winter/summer squash, peaches/plums, cranberries.

That said - any of those items, except for the melon, can and should be enjoyed frozen or canned/dried year-round. But still - frozen kernels are a far cry from a fresh ear from the farm! Steamed or grilled and slathered with butter ... perhaps eaten outside? Mmmm - perfection! And canned tomatoes really have nothing on a sliced garden fresh beefsteak ...

I'm not going to deprive my children of corn or tomatoes through the year, but I do want them to get a sense for what grows when, and eating by the seasons is a great way to do that.

So how do we figure out what's in season when? Well, it's easy enough to look up that information online, but asking at your local farm/farmstand is a way to get the most personalized information. As for how to best cook produce at its peak - again, I'd say ask your farmer! There are also wonderful cookbooks devoted to seasonal foods ... one of my favorites is Jamie at Home. It's a British book so the seasons are perhaps slightly off, but it's just lovely all the same. Another book I love for seasonal eating and menu planning is The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I've had it for years (as in, since high school!) and I've always found it very inspiring.

Now, if you live in an area with lots of local farms/stands, well, you're golden when it comes to eating seasonal foods. Or perhaps you grow your own - even better! If you live in a more urbanized area, there are farmer's markets and CSA's to join. For a few summers several years ago we belonged to a local CSA (community supported agriculture) and what a wonderful experience that was! We received such a thorough education in seasonal eating and learning to adapt to the whims of the growing season. In New England for instsance, that means lots and lots of greens to start, before finally - finally - seeing some color. Early rhubarb, onions and strawberries. But you know ...

"Limits are a tonic to the soul."

I think that quote is from Mittenstrings for God by Katrina Kenison (fyi - that's another post series I did a while back ... might be nice to revisit that) and I think it applies nicely to seasonal eating. Yes, we have to limit ourselves if we stick to eating only (or mostly) what's in season, but how wonderful it feels to eat those foods when they're meant to be eaten. We are truly nourishing our souls as well as our bodies.

*☕️*

And then there's a second type of seasonal eating, the kind that has more to do with tying food into our own family experiences ... holidays, feast days, special events and the like. Celebrating a special day on the calendar with food is a simple yet meaningful way to create family memories.

For instance, blackberries at Michaelmas ...

Michaelmas jam 4

 Shortbread on St. Andrew's Day ...

Saint andrew 1

Fresh eggs on the vernal equinox ...

Fresh eggs 1

Green tomato relish (aka picallili) on Labor Day ...

Picalilli jars 

And ... wassail on the winter solstice, shepherd's pie on St. Brigid's Day, pancakes on Mardi Gras, soda bread on St. Patrick's Day, hot cross buns on Good Friday, autumn veg soup on the harvest moon, homemade donuts on Halloween, etc. 

Clearly there are many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate faith, family - life! - and the very seasons themselves with food of all kinds. It's easy enough to weave these things into our daily life - though it's also quite easy to let opportunities slip by. We're all busy and time does fly ... but I find brainstorming broad notes for a season and then planning more specifically for each week very helpful. It's also convenient to have a separate file (or binder) for keeping these particular special recipes at hand.

I love both kinds of seasonal eating! (I love seasons, period, as you can tell.) Eating seasonally in this way - whether we're drawing from nature or the liturgical calendar - creates a rhythm in our family's year and lovely memories our children. And that's the bottom line for me ... it's all for them, after all. :)

*☕️*

Ok, finally - and I know I'm really rambling on here - I want to touch upon a third aspect of seasonal eating ... which is creating a sense of season in our kitchen, the very heart of our home. And this is very easy to do ...

Advent joy bowls

Displaying special dishes we use only at certain times of the year ...

Clementines

Setting a bowl full of seasonal produce on the table ...

Easter 8

Using table linens that represent the colors of the landscape ...

Easter candle

And candles that look (or perhaps smell) just right for the season. 

Other ideas ... seasonal items perched on the windowsill (plants, knicknacks, framed prints, cards), background music, pretty lights and garlands here and there ... making things that smell like the season, too. Warm gingerbread at Christmas, cinnamon and citrus in the dead of winter, fresh roses in the heat of summer ....

I guess it's all about feeding the senses, isn't it?

 *☕️*

Before I go, here's a list of produce in season for March and April. It's for New England, but I think it's pretty general ... though obviously it won't apply to everyone.

March >> humble roots & keepers, a few early spring treats << April

potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnip, apples, pears, cabbages, onions, winter squash, maple syrup, leeks, fiddleheads, asparagus, chives, radishes, dandelions, rhubarb

What am I looking forward to most? Well, I would have to say rhubarb. Rhubarb is so fleeting and it comes at that time of year when we're just dying for spring - and we're so very nearly there! My first rhubarb dish of the  year (most likley a grunt) is always a sweet celebration of spring - in flavor and feel!

***

Ok, I'm done now, lol. Boy that was a long post - I hope it made sense! We must be on our third cup of coffee by now ...

Although I clearly have a lot to say on the subject, I would love to hear your take on seasonal eating (see my questions far, far above at the top of this post) ... but please don't feel you have to follow these questions or write as much as I do - even just a quick note would be welcome!

And I'm not entirely decided on next week's topic, so I'm still open to suggestion. Let me know what you'd like to discuss next!

And, as always, I'll see you here again very soon ...


Advent: Moments of Peace & Joy

And here's my last post in the series, for Advent has come to a close! It's been such fun sharing my "found" moments of peace and joy with you all. Each day I'd wonder where I might look and what I might find ...

Like in my kitchen, where I spend so much of my time ...

Advent joy bowls

Sun shining on mixing bowls ... holiday goodies begin here. I didn't do half the baking I'd hoped to this Advent, but I still enjoyed looking at those bowls every day!

Our stockings, hung by the fire ...

Stockings 2

 A riot of color (and clutter) and a new stocking among them. :)

A found moment of quiet, a cup of hot tea ...

Advent peace mug on stairs

On the stairs, where I sit and listen for Little Bear while he naps. Every mother reading this knows the special joy of naptime. :)

 ❤

A bowl full of Christmas clementines ...

Advent joy clementines

Seasonal foods always make me happy ... because though fleeting, they always return and they never taste as good as they do in their moment.

Speaking of happy ...

Advent joy brothers

 Have I mentioned how much Crackerjack adores his Little Bear?

Our Solstice supper ...

Advent joy cottage pie 

A traditional cottage pie, baked with a "sun" of fresh thyme on top.

My sweet Charlie Brown Christmas tree ...

Charlie brown tree 1

Bill surprised me today ... I was saying how I wished we had some colored lights somewhere  - the white candles and tree lights are lovely and calm, but I do love a little punch of color here and there. Bill hastily strung these lights while I ran an errand this morning ...

And finally, taken but a few moments ago ...

Advent peace holy family

Peace & Joy in one special package!

Blessings to you all on this night of all holy nights ...

**

See you here again very soon ...


Thoughtful Thursday ~ on Summer's Bounty

KG picking peaches 1

"If produce had a holiday, it would be August. All of August. There's just no better time to eat melons, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, and every other fruit and veggie you can pluck from your garden or pick up at a farmer's market ... Enjoy!"

(From Better Homes & Gardens, August 2012)

I was flipping through my BH&G, waiting for the oven timer to ring, when I came across this quote and I thought it quite lovely ... and so true! I was just thinking about our neighborhood farm stand and what might be fresh there this weekend ... I'm itching to make zucchini bread, and perhaps some peach butter.

How do you take advantage of the bountiful produce at this time of year? Do you preserve it in some way or simply enjoy it fresh while you can? Perhaps you do a little of both?

I haven't done much preserving myself, though some years I put up several jars of my grandmother's picalilli. That's a Labor Day family tradition I would very much like to honor this year! 

Anyhoo, while I'm here, two more things to share - a link and a recipe ...

From Simple Pleasures of the Garden by Susannah Seton, a recipe just perfect for this time of year:

Vegetable Gratin

2 1/2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 medium-size green bell pepper, diced

8 smallish summer squashes (such as crookneck, pattypan, ronde de Nice, or zucchini), about 2 lbs. total, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

kernels from 2 ears of corn

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

4 tbsp. fresh basil or thyme, or a combination of both

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup lowfat milk

3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a shallow gratin dish or other baking dish with 1/2 tbsp. of the butter. Place 1 tbsp. butter and the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and green pepper; saute over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add the squash, corn, and salt and pepper; saute another 4 to 5 minutes, until the squash is nearly tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, basil and/or thyme. Stir in the eggs, milk and vegetables.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a crust has formed and a knife inserted into the center comes out nearly clean. Dot with the remaining 1 tbsp. butter, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until the crust has browned slightly and the edges are bubbling and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Serves 6.

Doesn't that sound delicious?!

I will certainly be making this sometime very soon ... I will pick the basil and thyme from my deck and I'll get the rest of the produce at the farmstand down the street. And I'll see what I can find for local milk, eggs, butter and cheese ... I can't wait to try it!

 ☼

Also, here's a follow up to the local-food challenge article I posted about earlier this month:

"Shop-Local Challenge Trickier than I Thought"

{I'm really enjoying reading about her journey!}

Well, my friends, thanks for checking in and leaving your thoughts if you have a chance ... I hope you all have a pleasant night! 

See you here again very soon!


Exploring "B" Foods Week

Bananas for b week

In continuation of a project we started last week, the boys and I are currently exploring "B" fruits and veggies. Our produce choices this week include bananas and blueberries, which are easy to love, as well as beets, which are not quite so ... "child friendly." ;)

Here are a few of my ideas for "B" week:

Bananas

Bananas are so sweet and delicious ... we're big banana fans in this house! So we started by finding out where bananas grow. Can they grow in our part of the world, we wondered? A quick look online and well, the answer was decidely, no. Banana plants need tropical conditions, year-round (not just in the depths of July).

We also found some neat video online that shows how bananas are harvested.

Earlier in the week we went shopping for bananas ... and we observed how some are yellow and some are green, and some are a little of both. We also saw bananas that were nearly brown! We chose some greenish ones so we could watch them ripen at home (and enjoy them fresh) and we also chose some "freckled" bananas with which we could bake something yummy.

We also bought a tub of Stonyfield Farms "BaNilla Yogurt. (We almost always have a tub of this in the fridge!) Saturday morning we'll make smoothies using this yogurt as the base.

And these would be fun to try if we have extra bananas and time!

*

Blueberries for b week

Blueberries

Little blueberries, one of the few fruits native to North America, are a big deal here in New England! And we learned that May begins blueberry season, which lasts through October and peaks in late summer. And that makes sense to me, because I've always connected blueberries with August. My grandparents would come back from Maine with fresh quarts of blueberries and then Gram would make THE best pies and cake. Yum.

I also remember sitting on my grandparents' hillside and picking the bitty bushy berries that grew wild there ... I'd fill a tiny dixie cup ... eat half of them, and then bring some back for my grandmother to "cook." I can remember that hillside so vividly ... the scratchiness of the scrubby undergrowth, the various shades of the berries - some of them so puny and hard. I think finding and eating food in its natural environment - whether you grow it or seek it out - is such a memorable childhood experience. And such a great learning experience, too.

So we "googled" a little, and learned that our neighbor state, Maine, is the top U.S. producer of "lowbush" blueberries, whereas Michigan produces the most "highbush" blueberries. We investigated the difference between high- and low-bush berries and then looked up what we would need to grow blueberries on our own. (According to this book - which is FABULOUS, by the way - we can grow them in pots, so I'm now totally sold on the idea. Not quite the hillside I grew up with, but it will certainly do!)

Back at the market, we searched out a nice pint of blueberries to bring home (we checked to see where the different packages were from). I found this recipe for Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake which we will bake this weekend to serve at Mother's Day Brunch.

I also dug out and read our much beloved (and bedraggled) copy of Blueberries for Sal (making me simply pine for a summer in Maine) and I just requested Blueberry Train from the library. (How perfect for EB?)

*

{Note: I have no picture of beets here, because we have no beets just yet!}

Beets

So I must admit, there's not much love in this household for beets, but I did not let that deter me. My mother LOVES them and I have very fond memories of the beets my grandfather grew in his garden. I never ate them myself (or if I did, I repressed the memory), but he was so proud of them, and they were just huge and earthy and so vibrantly violet. And my grandparents and my mother just relished them. I always wished I did like them because they seemed like such an honorable vegetable to like.

So, my plan for exploring beets is this ...

We will watch one of our Jamie at Home episodes, titled "Carrots and Beets," and see what Jamie has to say about these humble root vegetables. I have his J@H cookbook (which is SO beautiful and makes for excellent reading whether you cook anything from it or not) and I am going to try making the "Roasted Carrots and Beets" one night to accompany our supper. The recipe involves herbs, citrus and balsamic vinegar and honestly it does all sound rather delicious. It will be an experience if nothing else.

But to find beets, I want to get as close to the source as possible, as it is my understanding that beets are at their best when freshly harvested. This is likely true for most fruits and vetegtables, but if you're a beet, you can probably use all the help you can get. The farmer's market would be the ideal place to find them - roundabouts late June or July - but we'll settle for a quality produce store. This weekend we'll visit either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and see what kind of beets they have on hand. Hopefully we'll find beets of a smaller size and varied color, but we shall see what we shall see!

As I said to the boys, Nana loves beets, so there must be something good about them! (I'll let you know how it goes, and if you have a fondness for beets I'd love to know how you prepare them!)

*

Well, my friends, I'm going to sign off ... but thanks so much for stopping by! I also thank you for all the FANTASTIC dinner ideas you've been leaving me under yesterday's post! Lots of great ideas there ... and goodness knows, I can use them! I also thank you all for the kind words and encouragement for my daily domestic notes blog. It's fun for me to do and I'm glad you find it fun, too!

So take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... I'll be back here again very soon!


Fruits & Veggies: Week A

A to z food

As I hinted yesterday, we're embarking on a little fruit & vegetable journey. This project will tie in nicely with the beginning of the farmer's market season, as well as EB's ongoing farm study. It will also motivate me to get my kids eating more fruits and vegetables. (One can hope, anyways.)

So my plan is this: each week going forward we will explore fruits and vegetables in alphabetic order, very loosely following the book, Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. One day each week we'll visit the market and see what we can find, and we'll set up a binder for storing the information we collect and create. As the seasons turn, we'll add to our notes - detailing produce we tried or spied at the farmstand or grew on our own.

So here are the letter "A" foods we chose, with a few ideas for exploration:

• Apples •

We recently visited the local orchard to choose "our" apple tree for the fall. We observed the stage of the tree at this time (just past flowering, now leafing out). We read these books - and requested this one from the library - in order to understand the cycle of the apple tree. We cut an apple in half and looked at its inner structure, counted the seeds ... I may have tried to work in some fractions while we were at it. We looked over all the different kinds of apples available at the market, and I pointed out my favorite kind. And now we have a nice bowl of rosy apples sitting on our counter ... and one morning EB and I will make baked apples for his brothers.

• Apricots •

We bought dried apricots and talked about the difference between fresh fruit and dried, and the reasons why people dry fruit. Also, why was this an important skill to learn generations ago? We sampled the sweet-tart flavor and "leathery" texture of a dried apricot. We looked up when fresh apricots are in season, and found a local orchard that grows apricots. We bought a jar of apricot jam at Trader Joe's, and with it, we will make oatmeal-apricot squares.

• Artichokes •

We looked at whole artichokes at the store (such odd looking things!), and bought a can of artichoke hearts. (Yours truly likes them on her pizza.) We looked at the jars of marinated artichokes we have on our pantry shelf ... and EB decided he wanted no part of artichokes, lol.

• Asparagus •

We found them at the market, and brought a bunch home. EB helped me wash the spears and prepare them for roasting. We ate our asparagus last night with supper. ("We" meaning everyone but the youngest two.)

(Our house food rule: You must try something once - if you don't like it, you don't have to eat it. But you have to at least try it.)

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Well, I hope you enjoyed a look at our Fruit & Veggie study, such as it is so far! I think it will be fun ... it's pretty easy to incorporate these simple activities into our week. Next week we have the "B" fruits and veggies - I'm thinking blueberries, bananas, broccoli and beets. :)

File Folder post (part 2) to come sometime tomorrow - time got away from me today!

I hope you all have a nice night ... see you again very soon.