New England Feed

A Day for Apples!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, it's Johnny Appleseed Day - the day the American legend died, not to be confused with his birthday which takes place in September. September may seem the more fitting month to celebrate apples - it being harvest time and all - but it's always a great time to enjoy an apple! And though I do enjoy a fresh apple now and then, there's something about cooked apples that really appeals to me ...

Baked apples

They go so well with those homey scents and flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove ... 

I know people can be quite partial to one variety or another, and I have always been fond of McIntosh apples since they were the kind my grandmother cooked with the most. (Her "pink" applesauce was the best!) I think of them as a traditional New England apple, but it is my understanding they originated in eastern Canada. There are several varieties that have been bred from the original Mac - the Macoun, the Spartan, Cortland and Paula Red to name a few ...

So of course, now I'm wondering: Is there an apple you like best of all?

Here's a recipe for the apples seen above, a delicious baked version filled with dried fruit and honey. Wouldn't these make a cozy, nourishing breakfast on a cold March morning? And if you're looking for some more appley ideas, here's a link to a post I did on Johnny Appleseed Day last year.

In the interest of keeping it simple with little ones - why not head to the library to pick up a book or two on apples (there are bound to be lots!) and perhaps stop at the market to buy a few apples? (See how many varieties there are!) Or if the weather is cooperating, visit your local orchard and see how the apple trees are faring. Are they showing signs of life yet?

By the way, this is one of my favorite apple books, a lovely Swedish story:

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Our Apple Tree

Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet imaginative story. It nicely describes the different seasons in an apple tree's life.

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So there's a few thoughts for this Tuesday, my friends ... but wherever your day takes you, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


A Sparkling Sunday

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Fresh snow + bright sun = magic!

Oh, the sun rising this morning was a sight to see! The whole neighborhood looked so pretty as the sun rose, its light making all that white sparkle. Lovely. :)

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Life is getting back to normal here ... if it's one thing New England is good at, it's storm cleanup! Storms don't slow us down for too long - much to the schoolkids dismay. ;) So the boys are off to a birthday party, and I have that roast in my crockpot ... I'll serve it tonight with red potatoes, asparagus and some freshly baked bread. It's a quiet Sunday here and we're surrounded by snow - a good day for a nap - but I left that to the cats ...

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:)

Tonight on the "telly," we'll be watching Once Upon a Time with the older boys, and then Downton Abbey at nine. Or at least half of it ... I understand it's a 2-hour episode tonight? That might be stretching it for me, but one way or another I'll have my "Masterpiece Monday" post up tomorrow morning and I'll chime in with my thoughts just as soon as I can.

Have a great night, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

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Masterpiece Monday: Call the Midwife (ep. 5)

Good Monday Tuesday morning, my friends! Time to discuss our favorite little show ...

Call the midwife

But first, a quick note ...

Thank you for all your prayers for our safety during Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, New England was was spared the worst of it, and this morning it seems the storm has passed. As I type, it's still dark here, but we have power and the skies seem to be clearing a bit - in fact, we can see the Full Hunter's Moon through the western windows. We never did lose power but oh, how that wind wailed last night! And we got lots of heavy rain, but no flooding in our parts. So we were very, very lucky ...

By contrast, other regions did not fare as well. New York and New Jersey in particular, bore the brunt of the "Frankenstorm's" wrath. The images and stories shared on the news are so shocking and frightening! This morning I'm thinking of all those dealing with Sandy's destruction, and saying prayers for their safe and speedy recovery.

(If you were in Sandy's path, please check in if you have a moment - let us know you're ok.)

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Ok, on to this morning's discussion ...

So, what did you all think of this week's episode? As usual we had some pretty sad, heavy storylines, interspersed with lighter more humorous moments.

The Peggy and Frank story - well, I will admit, I had a hard time getting past the fact that they were brother and sister. I don't know, that was just so disturbing. Everything else about that storyline was quite poignant and ultimately, very sad. I'm curious - who was Tip to them? Was he just a young lad who worked with Frank at the stand? Or was he a relation?

Jenny's rejection of Jimmy broke my heart ... I was so rooting for him! But you could tell all along her heart was just not in it. And maybe not just because of this lost love, but because of her work and strong need to commit to it. Bill wondered if Jenny may actually become a nun by the end of the tale ...

And the mysterious Gerald placed a beseeching phone call. Wow, so he's still out there and pining for Jenny. Do you think he is/was married? Is that why they could not be together? He certainly sounded older ...

The pig story was cute but I'll admit, I was honestly pulling out my hair when Chummy nearly ruined her planned visit with the Constable's mum. I was literally yelling at the tv, "Take the dress off! Just change first!" Ay-yi-yi ... maybe it's the hormones, but I was sooo aggravated by that scene, lol! Thankfully, her beau is a good man indeed, and was not only able to accept the situation but he pitched in to help out. They are SO well suited for each other, and I just love that he's so smitten. Chummy is just a doll, I love her. :)

Not too many babies this time, save for the fisherwoman's. Poor Trixie (who I don't really care much for) having to deal with the awful smell as she tended to the delivery ... I found myself holding my nose during the scene and trying desperately not too think too much about all that drying fish. Ick.

Previews for next week - a trial, a visit from Chummy's mum and a whole lot more drama. Can't wait to see what happens next!

Now, for some thoughts on Once Upon a Time ...

I must confess I fell asleep before the end of the show so I had to have the boys fill me in. And I also must admit, I was a bit disappointed in Dr. Whale's big reveal. We were so excited to find out who he was - perhaps the whale who swallowed Pinnochio? Or maybe Peter Pan? But Victor Frankenstein? Was not expecting that. Maybe because he's not a fairy tale character, but I guess they're expanding their horizons.

And wow, Cora's a really bad seed, isn't she? I wonder if they're slowly changing Regina - redeeming her even - so that she can ultimately save Storybrooke from her evil mother?

The storyline with Captain Hook is intriguing ... so now Emma and Snow are going to help him find this compass so he can buy his life back from Cora? And next week we encounter a giant in the form of the wonderful Jorge Garcia - aka Hurley from Lost? Cool. :)

And from what I've read ... and don't read the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled ... next week we learn the identity of Henry's father. It also so happens that unidentified man from the first episode will be making another appearance next week. So, hmmm ...

Well, that's all I have time for right now ... the day has gotten light enough to see and at first glance I see a lot of leaves, puddles and small branches out there. Nothing too bad at all. Feeling very grateful this morning that we weathered the storm fairly easily, especially in light of what so many others are going through ...

 I think we'll all be glued to our news devices today for updates on the aftermath and who needs our help. In the meantime, we can offer them our prayers.

Have a good Tuesday, my friends ... take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I'll see you here again very soon.



Friday Family Photos

(Presented to you not on Friday, but Saturday, which is par for the course these days.)

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Here's Crackerjack with his Mime Troupe at a performance in Salem earlier this month. This was a very funny piece called, "The Musem." :)

Cheerleading

Came across this the other day. This was taken my first year in cheerleading (pop warner football). I think I was 10. And I promise I was happier than I appear in this picture, lol. I loved cheering. :)

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Fall foliage at its peak - I think it will all be blown away by the "Frankenstorm" this week!

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Two of my favorite guys. :)

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Bookworm's pic from a recent photo class ...

And a few more ...

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He's learning a lot about my camera! :)

Pumpkin lights

Little pumpkin lights lining our walkway.

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And finally, with sincere apologies to New York family and friends ... we pass this funny Halloween decoration a few times a week. I finally had to pull over and get a shot! ;)

I hope you all have a lovely weekend ... and if you're in Sandy's path too, I pray we all keep safe. Batten down and tuck in ... I'll see you here again very soon!


Ever Wonder about Wolves?

Good morning, everyone! Did you know it's National Dog Week?

I myself had no idea, but it very conveniently coincides with our current dogs/foxes/wolves study. :) Another happy happenstance, we were kindly invited on a field trip to Wolf Hollow this week! Long time reader and friend, Melissa R, arranged the visit for her homeschool group and invited the boys and I to attend. I am so glad we were able to make it - it was great to meet Melissa and it was nice to be reacquainted with the wonderful wolves of Wolf Hollow.

This morning, if I may, I'd like to share a few photos from our visit with you ...

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(Bookworm and Crackerjack, standing beside the info board.)

Despite his current interest in wolves, Earlybird declared this field trip, "kinda too scary," lol. So he stayed home with Nana. He's been loving all the pictures, though, and has said he might want to go "next time." Baby steps ... :)

Shown below is the Alpha Male, Weeble.

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Isn't he gorgeous? He is getting on in age, but quite obviously held a position of respect. At the same time he seemed quite gentle, and he was the only one to howl for us.

A few of the wolves were quite feisty ...

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The black male on the right is Grendel, who will most likely be the next Alpha. (All these wolves are "gray wolves" despite the variation in fur color.)

In a confrontation such as this, the wolf with a higher pack position holds his tail higher ...

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Below, on the right, is the Alpha Female, Nina - aka "Mom."

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(You can meet all the Wolf Hollow wolves here.)

In a wolf pack, it is the Alpha Female who bears the puppies. One very interesting (and slightly shocking) thing we learned, was that a female wolf is able to sense the overall pack situation (food availability, etc.) and only birth a managable amount of pups. Apparently her body will reabsorb any extraneous pups. That's kind of incredible! o.O

Another interesting thing we learned was that wolves have evolved to have an inborn fear of humans. As our speaker pointed out, if we happened to be walking in a forest where wolves were living, we would never see them. They would steer clear of us - our smell, our sounds, our very existence.

They really are amazing animals, and they live very much like a family - looking after, and out for, each other ... It's disturbing how misunderstood they've been through the years and continue to be in this day and age. 

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We truly enjoyed our visit to Wolf Hollow, and came away with a renewed sense of respect and responsibility. I look forward to exploring wolves (and their brethren, foxes and dogs) more at home with the boys. If you'd like to learn more about wolves, please check out the Wolf Hollow website.

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you all have a nice Friday ... see you here again very soon!


Travel Journal: My Vermont Weekend

Hello, everyone!

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So for the past three years, my college girlfriends and I have enjoyed an annual "moms weekend away" somewhere in New England. In 2009 we traveled to Newport, RI ... and last year we met up on Cape Elizabeth, ME. Our destination this year was southern Vermont, one of my most favorite places on earth!

 Needless to say, this is a crazy-long post filled with lots and lots of pictures. So if vacation photos are not your thing, please feel free to skip this post and return when I've moved onto my next topic. ;)

So we left last Friday morning and arrived at the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Proctorsville, Vermont around 3 p.m. The day was just glorious - perfectly sunny and warm.

*Arriving at Castle Hill*

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Isn't this building (aka The Castle) beautiful? This was once the home of Governor Allan M. Fletcher (1912-1915). It was the first Vermont residence to have electricity which I thought was quite interesting.

Our first order of business, stretching our legs and ...

*Exploring the Grounds*

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My dear friends, and travel companions, Lynne and Dionne. Lynne is the one who researched and organized the whole weekend, finding us this wonderful spot. She also drove us - up to, around, and home from Vermont again. D. handled navigation and any money matters - figuring expenses and divvying up checks, etc.

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D. and I by the spa sign ... we never indulged in any spa services, but we left feeling refreshed all the same!

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(It was beautiful though! And oh my goodness, it smelled fantastic!)

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(Pretty natural things, inside and out.)

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And next we met up with the rest of our crew and settled into our suite ...

*Our Little Home Away from Home*

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More dear friends of mine: Kathy, Allison and Mo. :)

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The suite was quite spacious - and light-filled as you can see.

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(Yes, those are my magazines on that bed. Lol, I brought about a dozen!)

After cocktails on the deck, admiring the view and catching up, we headed out for ...

*Our "Fancy Dinner" at The Castle*

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Such a beautiful setting ...

I was pretending (just a little) that I was visiting Downton Abbey. ;)

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Dinner was amazing! And after a late night of talking ... and talking ... we finally got to bed sometime around midnight. (Way past my bedtime as most of you know!)

Now unfortunately I just could not program myself to sleep in - no matter how hard I tried - so I was up around 6:30 Saturday morning. But fortunately, I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunrise as I sat on the deck, with my coffee and camera close at hand.

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After coffee and some "pumpkin streusel coffee cake," we piled into the minivan and were off for some ...

*Saturday Adventures*

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With Mt. Okemo looming in the distance, we headed south to Weston and our first stop:

*The Vermont Country Store*

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Where they truly have everything!

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 Homespun tablecloths ...

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... moose hats ...

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... long-forgotten soaps and shampoo ...

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... funny paper masks ...

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... storage supplies ...

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... maple syrup (of course!) ...

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... handcrafted mugs of all kinds ...

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... interesting history ...

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... household items for every imaginable need ...

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... lots of sweet stuff ...

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... and coffee!

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Bags in tow, we took a moment to "re-group" after shopping.

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To be honest, I could have stayed there all day, but it was time for a little refreshment, so we took a drive out to the ...

*Long Trail Brewery*

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(Had to snap the trestle bridge picture for Earlybird!)

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It was another gorgeous day, so we enjoyed our lunch out on the deck ...

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I'm not much of a beer drinker myself, but when in Rome and all ... and actually, this pale ale was quite nice!

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After lunch and a brewery tour, we all bought souvenir t-shirts and sampler packs for our hubbies, who had so generously stayed home to hold down the forts while we were off having fun. 

Next stop:

*Our Requisite Cultural/Historical Experience*

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But since I have sooo many pictures from the wonderful Calvin Coolidge Museum, I will put them all in a separate photo album, otherwise this post will just get ridiculously long. (Not that it's not already!) I'll get that album together later this week.

By evening we had returned to the suite and stayed in for dinner and a movie. It was the perfect quiet evening after a very busy day. Sunday morning we lingered at the suite as long as we could and then headed off to breakfast at ...

*The Hatchery*

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(The apple cinnamon pancakes were fabulous!)

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Do these gals look refreshed or what? I just love these ladies so much!

This is a small sampling of our whole group - several women could not make it this year. We've all been friends since our freshman year in college ... and I won't tell you how long ago that was, lol - but suffice it to say, it's been a while! We're all moms now, and busy with our families and careers, etc. but when we come together like this, it just seems like the years and distance all melts away. I feel blessed to have these ladies in my life and so grateful we're able to do this ...

And speaking of feeling blessed and grateful, it goes without saying - but I'm going to say it anyway - I am SO thankful that Bill encourages me to do this. He is such a trooper about it - taking on all the responsibilities at home for two and a half days. It's a whole lot of work but he makes sure it all goes smoothly and that I don't worry or feel guilty about it. The boys are good about it too - though each time I called home, Earlybird would say, "I miss you Mama and I want you to come home."

Ok, so after breakfast we headed for home ... but there was one more stop to make ... the other Vermont Country Store! (It just so happened to be right on our way ...)

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(And who can resist just a wee bit more Vermont shopping?)

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(I tried on a few of these hats and was very tempted to make a purchase.)

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And then finally, roundabouts 4 p.m., I was truly back home! I brought back some yummy goodies for the family, a pair of new fleece slippers for myself, as well as a lovely new mug ...

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(Every time I use it I'll remember this wonderful weekend away.)

 So it's back to reality now, and I'm trying hard to catch up. But we're already making plans for and looking forwards to next year ...

Our 2013 destination: the great state of Connecticut! 

***

Well, thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to read. I know it was a lot to sift through, but as designated "weekend photographer" I wanted to make sure to catch every moment. Our memories are only so reliable these days!

Have a great Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


Picalilli: Familiar or No?

Hello again, my friends!

Picalilli jars

So in my morning post I described how my mother and I cooked up a batch of Labor Day Picalilli this weekend. I have since spoken with several people about the recipe and it seems that while relatives and local friends know just what I'm talking about, folks from other parts of the country (and world) have never heard of this particular dish ...

Well, this made me curious, of course!

So dear readers, would you do me a favor? Would you tell me if you have ever heard of picalilli before, and if so, how? I'm trying to figure out if picalilli is purely a New England phenomenon - kind of like Indian Pudding and Fluffernutter. :)

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Enjoy the rest of your day ...



National Lighthouse Day!

I had no idea that yesterday was National Lighthouse Day (or that it existed at all), but in its honor I'd like to show you all a picture of Earlybird's bedroom door ...

Lighthouse door

My mum painted it before he was born. :)

And here are lighthouse curtains made by Bill's mom ...

Lighthouse curtains

And even a lighthouse lamp!

Lighthouse lamp

(In case you couldn't tell, Earlybird's bedroom is done in a lighthouse theme!)

Also, here's a link to my Portland trip last September - my friends and I visited several lighthouses that weekend, so naturally there are tons of pictues! And here's a link to the "Open Lighthouse Day" website - lots of great links to explore there! (Fyi: Maine's annual "Open Lighthouse Day" is Saturday, September 15th this year.)

Finally, how about a few "lighthouse book" recommendations?

The Little Red Lighthouse and The Great Gray Bridge

North American Lighthouses Coloring Book

Lighthouses for Kids: History, Science and Lore

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie

The Lighthouse Cat

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Have you ever visited a lighthouse before? They're such an interesting part of our maritime history!

Well, my friends ... have yourselves a wonderful Wednesday, and I'll see you again sometime soon!


A Summer's Day by the Sea

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Not at the shore, exactly, but rather, above it - in the woods that run alongside it. Today we spent some time exploring the rugged beauty of our coastline and learning about quarries and the New England granite industry. I'd like to share some pictures from our day, if I may - we had such a nice time and the weather was so beautiful.

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Crackerjack was signed up for a geology class run by the state DCR (department of conservation and recreation), which is the oldest regional park system in the country. They always offer amazing programs and their rangers are just wonderful. This class, organized by my friend Kristen, was a follow-up to a geology class we took last month with our homeschool group, at yet another state park in the area. The earlier class was set deep in the woods (unraveling the history of the rocks found in our area) while this one took place alongside the sea and above the remains of an old quarry.

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So while CJ and I took the class, Bill (who took the day off from work) and Earlybird explored the park, while Bookworm visited with friends.

More pics ...

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In that last picture, our ranger, Megan, was demonstrating how to split granite. The kids were just enthralled ... you could hear a pin drop as she worked, because everyone was listening for the "crackle" that granite makes when it's stressed. But wouldn't you know it, just before she cracked that block open, my camera battery exhausted itself. (Quite literally - the message on the screen said, "battery exhausted." So unfortunately I didn't get a final picture of the split block!

(But I promise she did spit the block, and the block did crackle just before it gave way ... very exciting stuff, I must say!)

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It was a real treat to have Bill with us today - he drove us in the RV, so we really arrived in style. ;) It made the longish drive (made even longer by that darn summer traffic) a little more comfortable ... and having Dad with us made today's experience all the more fun and memorable - because all five us got to enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking views.

So I hope you all had a nice day, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to share our Monday with you ... have a good night, and take care ... I will see you again sometime soon!



Our Afternoon Farm Stop

While Bookworm was at Art Class yesterday, Crackerjack and Earlybird and I took advantage of the gorgeous spring day, and paid a visit to a long-favorite farm. 

I say "long-favorite," because when Bill and I were first married we lived up in this area and this farm holds many fond memories for me. I would bring a baby Bookworm here once a week (at least!) to visit the animals and have a snack at the bakery.

Their main greenhouse is so lovely ...

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And their bakery has many fresh and tempting selections. (Happily, the apple cider donuts are always in season.)

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(Doesn't Crackerjack look so much older in this picture? It's hard to believe this kid will be 13 in August!)

At EB's request, I gave the boys pennies to throw into the farm wishing well bucket.

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(I love that they still love to do this.)

And just look at all the vibrant dahlias!

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I will definitely be returning to this farm over the next couple of weeks (before Memorial Day anyways, our traditonal planting time). There were so many wonderful annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, etc.

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I was particularly thrilled to find out they will have morning glory plants for sale in a couple of weeks. I will definitely snatch up several of those!

Now, once EB spied the play area, we settled ourselves in at a picnic table, because we knew he'd be a while. And that was fine, because we had at least an hour to kill. EB absolutely LOVES playing in sand (or dirt) with trucks, STILL at 10 years old. (Because he's developmentally delayed, he still enjoys toys, tv shows and activities that appeal to younger children.) But I have to laugh at this picture, because look at the little fella just behind EB, all hands-on -hips and furrowed brow ...

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You see, when EB appoached the wooden play structure there were several younger children already engrossed in play. He wanted to use a couple of the sand trucks (which had been piled up on the caboose) and his "intrusion" was not so warmly received. At least, not at first ... after a few tense moments, EB had won the crowd over.

Because this is my child, when he first walked up to the crowd (my homeschooled autistic child, mind you) ...

"Hi guys! How are you doin'?"

"I'm [Earlybird]! Who are you?"

"What are you playing? Can I help, too?"

"Hey, guys - let's work together!"

And so forth ... :)

("Socialization" is highly overrated, lol.)

Meanwhile, CJ and I sat and chatted at the table for a bit ... I have no idea what I said to him here that prompted that face, lol. 

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I guess he's just reaching that age where he's not all that keen on having his picture taken.

While EB played on, CJ and I checked out the farm animals ...

The goats ...

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The chickens (and turkeys and rooster) ...

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The pigs ...

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And the bunnies - though I didn't get a picture of them, because next thing I knew, EB had had enough of playtime and wanted something from the bakery. So back inside we went ...

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My guys ... how I love spending my days with them.

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EB had a cider donut and CJ picked out a muffin - one for his older brother, too. I myself had a tall, creamy iced coffee ... which SO hit the spot!

Before we left the farm, we weighed and purchased our rhubarb, which I used to make last night's souffle. I LOVE the experience of buying food from a farm and then serving it that night at our table. We are really enjoying our farm "studies" this year. 

***

Well, my friends ... it was a much quieter day for us today. Not so much in-and-out ... and as much as I love truckin' about with my boys, I do relish those days when we can just get our stuff done here (theirs, mine) with few interruptions. I myself got a lot of housework done, in anticipation of a busy weekend. I loathe wasting weekends on housework, so whenever possible Friday is a big "catch up" cleaning day for me.

I squeezed in some fun though - I worked on my newsletter and my clippings journal. Catching up with my creative side is a priority, too ... whenever I can manage it!

And as I finish this post, the day's wrapping up, and it's practically the weekend! So I'm going to sign off for now ... but you know I'll be back very soon ...

Have a good night, my friends!

❤ 


Yellow, More Yellow, Purple and Green ...

Hello again, everyone ~ and how has your Monday been?
It's been lovely here - it's a happy feast day, for one thing - and for another, it's just as bright and brisk as only a Spring day can be ...
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I had planned to plant seeds with the boys today, but there was just not time in our day to do it! So instead we took note of "new life" wherever we went, and we very happily found there was much to acknowledge and admire ...
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A host of daffodils growing along a stone wall ...

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So very New England.

And a tiny cache of eggs snuggled in the boughs of a forsythia ...

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(Now - true confesson - I snuck this "pretend" nest into the forsythia just for this photo op ... EB thought I was very sneaky, trying to "trick the birds." Lol.)

But truly, the forsythia is in full bloom right now ... and it's so very early!

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This neat little thing was found behind our fence at the edge of the woods. I think it's a hyacinth that self-seeded here (with the aid of a bird or critter most likely).

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 But what a neat surprise! 

Everything is coming to life it seems ... buds and leaves are sprouting everywhere. Here is one of our lilac bushes:

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So no, we didn't get those seeds planted, but tomorrow should be a quieter day so perhaps we'll work that activity in somewhere.

I also had thought of making a ring cake today (in honor of today's feast), but not only did I not have the time (I sound like a broken record!), we already have a good bit of dessert in the house, and I don't like to overdo. But we did have a big waffle breakfast yesterday (another traditional feast food) so I guess we'll count that. ;) 

Well, tonight's supper is already baking away  - a beef pie from a local farm is in the oven and it smells AMAZING. Beef pie might seem like a rather "wintry" dish, but really, on a blustery day like this - and paired with spring vegetable sides - it feels just right. :)

So I'm going to sign off for just now ... but I'll be popping into the Masterpiece Monday thread a bit later tonight. Looking forward to catching up with you all there ... and here again of course, sometime tomorrow ...



Fun Feast Day Food

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph, which in our house means ... 

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... homemade donuts!

Now, zeppoles are actually the traditional St. Joseph's Day donut, but I have yet to try making them myself. There are many fine bakeries in Boston's North End that make these special treats, and one year I will make the trek in! For the time being though, I will stick with our own humble basic donuts ... quite plain, but still special!

I know I've told you all about these donuts before ... they're really quite yummy, and since they're baked (not fried), they're not so bad for you, really. And you can use your own fresh ingredients - which means nutritious flours, all-natural flavors and organic eggs and butter, etc. Really, I think they're pretty special ... because you see, Earlybird has a sincere love for donuts (cider donuts, especially), but he cannot have commercially prepared donuts. (And yes, we do live in the heart of Dunkin' Donuts Land!) So I improvised and bought this donut pan years ago specifically so we could make our own awesome donuts (like these and these on special holidays).

These donuts are so good all on their own - soft, dense and cakey - they really don't need anything else, but they are fun to frost. EB and I prefer ours plain - but the older boys spread some leftover cream cheese frosting on theirs this morning.

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Who needs Dunkin' Donuts, anyways?

;)

And for supper tonight? Why, "Sloppy Joes," of course! Though I'm sure Good Saint Joseph was not at all a messy man, lol ... I still like to serve these on this day.

**

Well, the weather was absolutely glorious today ... 76 degrees and bright sun! Spring may officially arrive tomorrow, but it truly felt like Summer today! (It actually arrives just after midnight, EST - so we can say, "Happy Spring!" when we awake!)

A few "Spring Heralds" we encountered today:

A Mourning Cloak Butterfly and a Cabbage Butterfly in our front yard.

Many turtles of all sizes sunning themselves on a log in the pond.

Pink azaleas bushes in BLOOM.

... and ...

The street sweepers were out in the neigborhood!

(According to my boys, that's a SURE sign of Spring.)

*

Well, my friends ... I'm going to sign off, as those sloppy joes are not going to make themselves. Ah, but would that they could ...

So please have a good night and I'll see you again soon!


 


Field Trip to the Farm!

Oh, what fun we had today!

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This afternoon we attended a field trip to a local Audubon center. We hadn't been on a field trip in a while, so this was a nice treat for us all. What made it all the nicer ... Bill took the day off to join us, and drive us out to the farm in the RV!

And it was such a glorious day ... nearly 60 degrees and so bright and sunny. As usual, I took TONS of pictures, so I thought you all might like to see them. :)

Here's the entrance to the farm ...

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And my guys heading down the path ...

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First we hit "Bird Hill."

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Where we saw ...

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Crows, ravens, pheasants, hawks (as below) ...

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... barred owls ...

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(We called them, Sarah and Percy and Bill ... anyone know what book that's from? It's a favorite of ours.)

And finally, a great horned owl!

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(I know it's hard to see through the grated fencing, but if you click on the photos they will open up and the birds should be easier to see.)

Next, we headed over to the sheep & goat barn ...

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... where we met two little lambs who were born just today!

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So precious ...

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Inside this barn (all around the farm, actually), there was a lot of interesting info posted, like this lambing chart:

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And this "Sheep to Sweater" display board:

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Though the air was cool, the sun was quite warm. We were very glad we wore boots, because there was lots of mud ...

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... and melting ...

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And much dripping everywhere.

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This is what 'early spring' looks like in New England!

Here are a few more farm animals we met ...

The rooster.

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(Noisy fellow, he.)

The sow.

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(Just two years old, and already a good mama.)

Some goats.

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(These are the sun-loving youngins.)

Next we encountered a chicken on the path.

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Quite free range, and almost friendly.

And here we have the Barn Cat.

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Clearly, striking a pose.

And just look at these guys!

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A flock of wild turkeys taking advantage of well-stocked feeders.

Earlybird was most fascinated by the farm equipment - the tractors, and harvesters and such - but we could just not get him to slow down for a photo! But I'm still going to post this one because it shows how tall Bookworm has gotten recently!

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(If you remember, I'm 5'5." He's over 5'7" now.)

Next ... while Bill, Bookworm and Earlybird stayed with the larger group, Crackerjack and I headed up to the Audubon Shop with our friends ...

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Such a delightful shop - a nature lover's absolute haven!

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Well, I was weak of course, and bought a few things - with my member discount naturally! I bought a solar system place mat for EB, two new field guides (one for butterflies, another for dragonflies) and new nature journals for myself and the boys.

After saying goodbye to our friends, CJ and I headed back out. For a moment, we contemplated venturing down this intriguing path ...

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But in the end, we stayed put and explored this neat solar-powered structure:

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Very cool! 

More solar goodness:

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And one more picture of me and my boys ...

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It really was such a nice day. :)

And here's my "chauffeur," ready to escort his brood home ...

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Once safely home, we set about our evening routines, and then a call came in from my friend, Kim. Kim (of coupon binder fame), was the one to organize this field trip, and she called me from the road to alert me to the rising moon!

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I was so glad she did because I was not even looking outside, so caught up was I in all the "catching up." And what a nice way to end a very nice day ... standing outside in the cool (but not cold) dusk, watching the Full Sap Moon emerge in all its March glory ...

I feel so recharged after this day spent outdoors, in the "country," getting fresh air and reconnecting with friends we have not seen in a while. It makes me want to plan all kinds of fun spring outings ... my "Nature Club" wheels are now turning!

*

Well, I hope you all had a nice Wednesday ... wherever it took you. Thanks so much for stopping by ... have a nice night and I will see you all again soon!


We took Nana to Neverland!

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Our Advent Tree note this morning read:

Today we're taking Nana into Boston to see Peter Pan!

And oh my gosh, was it a wonderful play! 

(Sorry for the blurry pictures - for some reason my old camera just wouldn't cooperate!)

Now, many years ago, my mum took my brother and I to see Peter Pan - back when Sandy Duncan played the principal part. It was 1979, so I was 10 years old, and I still remember that experience ... it was magical. This new "three-sixty" production originated in London, back in 2009, and is currently traveling the world; Boston is hosting the show through New Year's Eve.

Now, unfortunately the weather today was just awful - we had chilly downpours all day. So instead of taking the T in, as we first planned, Bill volunteered to on drive us there and back. EB came along for the inbound journey - and we had a nice ride around downtown Boston admiring the architecture and Christmas decor (as well as the many construction sites and general midday chaos).

The show was held inside a newly constructed tent on City Hall Plaza.

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Inside the tent was a lobby (with snacks and souvenirs) and a circular hallway that ringed the inner theater itself. Here we found a series of interesting posters exploring the history of the Peter Pan tale - its author, origins and many dramatic interpretations through the years.

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We were not allowed to take pictures inside the theater itself, so I have nothing more to show you, but I can say it was a fabulous production and we all enjoyed it very much. My favorite parts of the play?

Bringing 'Tink' back to life with a theater-full of fervent whispers:

"I believe in fairies."

The adherence to original text.

The ramshackle crocodile - what a fantastic roar!

The Neverbird and the Mother song.

The singing scalliwag pirates.

And, this:

"To live would be an awfully big adventure."

 *

Leaving about 4:30 p.m. Bill waiting, van idling, on nearby Tremont Street - here's what we looked back at as we drove away:

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Lovely!

And now we're home safe and sound, with another wonderful memory to tuck away.

I hope you all had a nice Wednesday - is it mid-week already?!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon.

:)


Off to the Tree Farm!

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in New England! It was very mild for this time of year (nearly 70 degrees) and the sky was filled with both wintry clouds and shards of weak sunlight. As Bill had the day off from work, it was a perfect time to go find our Christmas tree!

So right after lunchtime, we all hopped into the van and headed to the farm ...

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There are lots of farms in our area, but this one is just so lovely ... In fact, our very first homeschooling field trip ever happened right here - an apple picking hay ride with our (then) new homeschool support group. :)

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After getting the 'skinny' from the farm hands, we drove out to the field to find our tree ...

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Apple trees in late autumn are so beautiful. So withered and wild looking ...

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Now, here's the thing ... we just couldn't find a tree we liked! They were either too short or too spindly. And we wanted a big tree this year!

So we headed back down to the farm to take a look at the pre-cut trees.

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EB can get a little funny about tree cutting - for some reason it unnerves him! So a few times he retreated to the van to watch something fun on his iPad. 

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But the sights and sounds of the farm proved too much to resist ...

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Cute little Santa workshop.

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Cute little guinea fowl!

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Cute - not so little - boys!

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Feeding the beautiful fallow deer.

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Aren't they gorgeous?

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(They kind of remind me of Archie and Ollie in their coloring, and sweet faces.)

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Though EB was certain this was one of Santa's team. ;)

Once we had a tree picked out (a 7 foot Fraser fir, just cut the day before), we headed inside the farm shop to pay ... and peruse.

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At last it was time to take our tree home!

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But first, Bill secured it to the van ...

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... and then we were off!

Continuing our "farm field trip," we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a few things.

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I could spend gajillions of dollars at this store. It's so fun to shop here!

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We were home by three, with the light fading fast and a cool wind picking up.

Bill and Bookworm brought the tree in ...

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It fits great in the sitting room corner!

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Needless to say, the cats were simply amazed.

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"For me?"

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Checking it out ...

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Ollie's intrigued. Archie's sampling.

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After a quick look around, Ollie - cool, calm and collected - returned to his open window, taking the high road, as usual.

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Archie, meanwhile ... well, he took the low road.

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He simply would not leave the tree alone! He ate some needles, climbed some branches and as you can see above, drunk some of the water. (No additives here - just plain old water.)

(We're hoping once the novelty's worn off, Archie will give it a rest. Lol.)

And now we have our tree, all set up in the sitting froom corner.

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We need to let the branches drop, and then the lights can be strung and the branches can be adorned with all kinds of things.

(Mostly, unbreakable things.)

~****~

Now, I will certainly be posting more on our tree as we go through the week. Hopefully we'll have it all decorated by the weekend!

So I hope you all are having a nice week ... I can hardly believe December 1st is just two days away! Are your Advent calendars ready to go?

Our is not quite ... so I guess I'd best get to work!

Have a great Tuesday, my friends ... I'll be back here again very soon.

:)


What's your favorite autumn dessert?

Earlybird and I are working on "charts and graphs" this week, and I thought it would be fun to do a little poll on such a timely, tasty subject. If you have a moment, would you consider leaving your answer below? :)

And speaking of autumn desserts - today happens to be National Indian Pudding Day - and Indian pudding happens to be one of my favorite autumn desserts! In fact, I made some today, using the recipe found in Autumn from the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch ...

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 It's really a perfect dish for this time of year! So autumnal, spicy and sweet ...

It's an easy recipe and not all that time-consuming. (It bakes for three hours, but the prep is pretty quick.) And it calls for things you most likely already have in your pantry (cornmeal, molasses, maple syrup, ginger and cinnamon). The only thing I had to buy was whole milk since we usually only have lowfat on hand.

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This is how it looked just before I put it in the oven. It may not be the prettiest of desserts, but it sure does taste good ... and MY does the house smell heavenly as it bakes!

Here's how it looked coming out:

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Personally, I think it's best served with vanilla ice cream or maybe a dollop of freshly whipped cream. :)

As a native New Englander, I kind of grew up on Indian pudding - not that we had it all the time, but I remember it on many a family occasion. Here's a little more about the dish from Punchbowl.com:

"Celebrate National Indian Pudding Day! Indian pudding is a delicious custard made with molasses, cornmeal, milk, butter, spices, eggs, and sometimes apples. Once baked, Indian pudding looks like an inedible mush, but after one bite you'll be hooked!

This scrumptious recipe has been around for centuries. Early American colonists did not have the necessary ingredients to make plum pudding, so they created an alternative using cornmeal. Indian pudding is still a popular dessert around New England and other parts of the country. Celebrate your American heritage today and enjoy some Indian pudding on National Indian Pudding Day!"

I also found a recipe online for making Indian Pudding in the crockpot, and I think I'll make that version on Thanksgiving Day. For one thing, it won't take up oven space - on a day when oven space is at a premium! - and for another, the house will smell fantastic as our dinner guests arrive!

And continuing with the "autumn foods" theme, for tonight's Sunday supper, I'm serving "Cranberry Chicken" with salad and long grain/wild rice. I've never tried this dish before and though the ingredients seem kind of ... well, strange ... it got such rave online reviews, I figured I'd give it a go. It makes a whole lot, so I hope it's a hit! 

Well my friends, dinnertime is fast approaching, so I'd best get myself back in the kitchen. I hope you all had a lovely weekend, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you all again very soon!

:)


All Hallow's Eve Fun!

Since the boys were babies, Bill has taken Halloween off from work every year. We spend the day together doing family things, enjoying the last day of October with special food and seasonal fun. We usually go to our favorite farm, and stroll around admiring the fading foliage and withering fields. We pick out a pumpkin to carve back at home ... and we usually have hot cider and donuts for breakfast ...

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After lunch, it's time to make the jack-o-lantern! Crackerjack draws out the design, Bill carves the pumpkin, Bookworm offers pointers - and Earlybird and I busy ourselves with preparing for the evening's party. Most years (though not this one) I roast the pumpkin seeds for an afternoon snack.

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This was a first Halloween for Archie and Ollie.

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(They really paid it no mind.)

Now, Bookworm chose a "spookier" than usual costume this year - a teenage vampire (a la Twilight). We don't usually do anything creepy (Halloween is all about innocent fun in our family), but I acquiesced to his wish to be something a little darker this year.

Here I am putting on his face paint ...

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And here we are, those of us who dressed up ...

My (getting-so-tall!) Bookworm as a "vegetarian" vampire, me as a gypsy (though CJ insisted I wear a dagger so thus became a pirate) and Crackerjack as a "Lonesome Ghost" (from Walt Disney's classic cartoon).

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(This was his own design - and with Nana's help he fashioned a costume out of an old bedsheet, white gloves and a funny black hat.)

The boys enjoyed an afternoon visit with my folks, aka Nana and Papa. They always have special treats on hand for my boys ...

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Unfortunately, Earlybird was not feeling so well, so he pretty much refused to dress up this year. (The original plan was for him to be a "karate kid," wearing one of Bookworm's old uniforms.)

Here he is being comforted by Nana, my poor little fella ...

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(Happily, after a special lunch out at "Wendy's," and a little rest, EB snapped back into action. He still didn't feel like dressing up, but he enjoyed the rest of the day, joining in the holiday fun.)

Before we knew it, the sun was setting and All Hallow's Eve had arrived. And as night fell, the moon hung low in the sky, a shimmering, silvery crescent ...

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Old "Jack" welcomed the many trick-or-treaters who visited our home:

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As did our cheerful balloon pumpkins ...

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And of course we had plenty of candy on hand!

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Now, every year we have two families over to celebrate All Hallow's Eve. These are friends we've known since our children were SO little - before even CJ and EB were born! So while the dads take the gaggle of kids trick-or-treating, the moms and I stay at home to answer the door, drink tea and chat. :) 

And when everyone gets back the party gets rolling! We have all kinds of goodies set out - cheese, crackers, grapes, brownies, cookies, cider and of course, a Halloween cake! 

Then the kids get down to the very important business of candy swapping ...

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Once everyone's loot is sorted and stashed away, it's time to relax. :)

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is playing in the family room, and the Wii is being played down the hall ... and by 9;30 or so, it's a wrap ...

Another Halloween come and gone!

It was - and always is - SUCH a fun night. It's become a cherished tradition to gather with these awesome friends to celebrate and watch the children grow and change each year.

But this morning as I sipped my coffee and admired a beautiful gray and pink sunrise, I breathed a sigh of post-holiday relief. November is finally upon us ...

And do you know, the first thing Crackerjack said (after "Rabbit, Rabbit!") was:

"Mom, only 23 more days till Thanksgiving!"

Lol, and so it goes ...

Have a terrific Tuesday, my friends - and Happy All Saints! - I will see you all again very soon!

:)