Not Feeling Forty

It happened. I turned 40. I don’t know how; I certainly don’t feel 40! There are many days still when I wonder how it is that I’m the adult around here. Now, if you must turn 40, it’s best to do it in the company of some of the best people you know. Which is, luckily, and 100% thanks to my best friend Jessie, what I did.

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Though there are a couple of people missing, I was surprised by all the people I love most. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

Now that my birthday has come and gone, we are well and truly on our way to fall. Hooray!!! The light quality has already changed quite a bit – though the temperature is still disappointingly hot – and the fall flowers and colors are starting to show.

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These flowers started popping up in late August and are now exploding everywhere, especially along the stream.

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There are persimmons on the tree again. It would be nice if we could harvest them before the squirrels eat them all. Not that I am super crazy about persimmons…..but still!

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While I was out and about looking at the persimmons and admiring the flowers, I decided to check closer to the stream, and ran into this guy:

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I noticed him and froze. He noticed me and froze. I remained perfectly still, and he continued on rooting around in the grass for whatever it was he was on the lookout for. After a few moments he began waddling off on his merry way, and I was happy to watch him disappear off into the distance. I wasn’t out to get skunked, for sure! I’ve warned the kids to be more aware outside now; this happened right in the middle of the day!

He WAS pretty cute, I have to admit. And, as long as he steers clear of the chickens, he’s welcome to hang out on the periphery of the farm. Any closer and the dogs would be happy to make his acquaintance.

The End Of August

This is it, folks. The last day of August. Summer is coming fast to a close. Tomorrow is the start of my most favorite time of year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  The kids are enjoying their last full week off before school starts. The animals certainly look ready for cooler weather, hiding out in the shade all day being lethargic.  Even inside,the cats have been favoring darker, cooler spots under beds during the day.

Unfortunately my battery charger for my camera has died, so the pictures in this post are all from my phone.

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Little Poppet, who is almost a year old now and still impossibly tiny.

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I started working on my sweater again for the first time in a few months. I realized that Rhinebeck is not actually that far away now, so I’d better get it done!

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A portion of the garden’s output this year. I may have been robbed of my tomatoes (stupid deer), but boy my pumpkins have come through!

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Asters and mums!!!!

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There’s still plenty of goldenrod all around as well.

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Flapjack and Charlie have become something of an item. He follows Charlie wherever he goes, and Charlie shares his food with him. Normally, Charlie will snap at anyone who gets in on his food (the chickens, the goats, the dogs, Churchill), but for some reason he doesn’t mind Flapjack. Must be love!

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While Flapjack is following Charlie, Charlie is generally following me. He loves having his ears scratched!

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Of course, I think he also is always hoping I’ll have a treat for him.

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Morning glories! You know what that means………my birthday is just around the corner!

Sun – Drenched Solstice

Happy (officially) summer!

We celebrated with fresh-picked peaches, berries, our first pesto of the year, and s’mores.

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Aren’t they just little globes of sunshine?

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Speaking of sunshine…..my sunflowers are starting to bloom!

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The berries are really starting to come in now. I’ve been putting at least as many directly into my mouth as into the basket as I pick them!

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Maddie brought Twyla along to pick peaches; she had a blast meeting new people and smelling new smells. The poor little thing completely passed out from all the excitement in the car and slept for a few good hours afterwards!

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Peach slushies are a must!

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We brought home 25 pounds of peaches, and I went to work to preserve those that weren’t going to be eaten right away.  I couldn’t wait to put up a batch of this peach salsa from Marisa McClellan’s  Food In Jars, which is among my favorite cookbooks ever. While cooking, it made the house smell heavenly!

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Post-dinner wine for me, s’mores for the kids.

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We stayed out and played Mad Libs while waiting for the full moon to rise. The temperature was perfect and for once it wasn’t too buggy. I can’t think of a better way to have spent the longest day of the year!

Lighting the Solstice

I have to admit: I kind of love the winter solstice. Not because it’s the shortest day, or even because it means the days will begin to grow longer. I love it because I see so many of my friends rejoicing it. So many of us lighting candles and trying themselves to be a light in the dark. It’s also a day that’s been recognized and celebrated for a millennia; it’s kind of profound to feel that sort of connection with so many of those that have come before us.

We missed the summer solstice at Stonehenge by a matter of weeks, and though it’s become a bit of a carnival atmosphere, it’s something I truly wish to do one year.

Last night we lit all of our candles, turned the tree lights on, and ate cookies to celebrate. Now that I think of it, I should have had some bourbon and egg nog. (Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon and Homestead Creamery natural eggnog is a killer combo!)

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All of my favorite things at this time of year are those that sparkle and glow.

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Now THESE. These you have to make. Meringue cookies that melt in your mouth and are dead easy to make.  I made the espresso ones and cocoa ones (I added red food color because I was planning on adding peppermint with the cocoa and then forgot. Tonight I’ll make another batch and won’t forget – though I’ll make them green).

The recipe is simple and straightforward. Last year I just used a spoon and plopped small rounds onto baking sheets. This year I used a pastry bag and star tip. I do like to make them a bit small so they are bite-sized.

There’s just a few days left until Christmas. I haven’t quite finished my baking, but I got all of my boxes that I am sending out packed today (they’ll likely be late, but……better than never, right?).

Baking Christmas

Every year I draw up an ambitious list of cookies I plan to bake, and every year I begin to falter a few days before the holiday, having worn myself out in the process of producing so many goodies.

This year I have an ace up my sleeve: Neve.

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She’s been a great help with prep work and with getting everything into and out of the oven and onto cooling racks.  She’s also made up several batches of Peanut Butter Blossoms on her own.

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As always, we also made a large batch of Hamantaschen.

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Once again I also attempted Springerle. In the past, these cookies have consistently defeated me. This year I tried a new recipe, using King Arthur Flour’s Speculaas dough. There was a lot of chilling, rolling, chilling, molding, chilling, chilling, and more chilling. The results? Not too terrible. Not perfect, though, and I had a hard time with them. Still, I consider it progress!

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We have many, many more to go, but the doughs for our butter cookies and gingerbread cookies are already chilling and ready to be cut and baked.  I am going to try and get the Meringue cookies whipped up tonight to set in the oven overnight.

I also felt overly ambitious (or stressed?) and decided to make the gingerbread for our gingerbread houses this year. I used the recipe from the America’s Test kitchen cookbook and simply measured out shapes for the houses by hand. Neve wasn’t thrilled with how thick it was (and not perfectly straight-edged), but Oona was ecstatic that she had a house she could actually eat this year.

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Emily and I have been stuffing ourselves with all the extra gumdrops. I am going to need a major sugar-detox after this Christmas!

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Tomorrow I’ll work on getting the cookies ready for the kids to decorate, as well as trying some new recipes. That is, if I have the time. Paul is taking them out to see the new Star Wars movie so I can wrap gifts (and drink gluhwein, of course). For a few glorious hours I’ll have a Christmasy house all the myself (and the kitties).

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Getting Festive Up In Here

Happy Hanukkah!

We like to celebrate with food every opportunity we can.  So even though we are not Jewish, this time of year there are plenty of latkes and blintzes to be had. If I had other culturally Jewish food in my repertoire, there’d be that as well (I mean, aside from all the cookies and breads and cakes, natch).

Tonight was our blintz night.  We LOVE blintzes. One of the kids usually asks for them for their birthday as well.  Honestly, though there’s a lot of steps, they’re super easy. I whip up some crepes, and fill them with a cream cheese/ricotta/powdered sugar/vanilla mixture, roll them up burrito-style and pan-fry them until they’re browned and hot.

Then I top them with some pre-fab blueberry pie filling and whipped cream. Done! Happy family.

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Then we eat them by candlelight. It’s really the only way to properly enjoy them.😉

The weather has been working against our holiday spirit – it’s been so warm that we have been sweating while trying to do our schoolwork. In the evening, once it has cooled down again, we’ve been trying to keep the holiday ambience going as much as we can.

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The kitties enjoy it as well; if by “it” we mean chewing on the branches and swatting the candy canes off the tree.

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“Who, us???”

We have had morning frosts, which is a reassuring sign that it really IS winter, even if it doesn’t feel so much like it.

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It would be nice if the cooler weather would hang out long enough for us to wear our nice winter sweaters, though. It’s hard to stay motivated to knit with wool right now and create even more sweaters that will sit unhappy and unused all through the festive season each year.  Not that my Chimney Fire sweater is growing that fast or anything.

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During the week it’s usually evening before I have a chance to pick it up, and I’m pretty tired by then. As for the weekends, well…it IS gluhwein season, and you know wine and cablework don’t mix.

This weekend we’ll be hitting the holiday baking pretty hard; I’m feeling the usual ambition for lots of cookie variety and quantity. Now to figure out how to distill some of Oona’s energy for myself!

 

 

Pumpkin Day, and Spinning Love

After I bought a bag of wonderful fall-colored roving at Rhinebeck, I could not stop thinking about how I needed to spin it!

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Though I am still very new at spinning, one of the things I learned is that it makes it easier to keep practicing when you are spinning with fiber that you love. So, caution (and thoughts of saving it for when I am an expert) aside, I jumped in and spun that baby up into three spindles.

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Once I had three spindles of single-strand I couldn’t wait to see how it would look all plied together.

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Boy, it did NOT disappoint! I am so in love with this yarn I have made!  It isn’t a very large amount, but definitely enough for a nice autumn-y cowl. Now I can’t wait to get my wheel going again!

In the meantime, Halloween is very nearly upon us, and the kids kept reminding me of the many things that needed to be done, like pumpkin carving.

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This year I let Oona do all her own tracing and cutting. The only help I gave was removing the pieces, since it was a bit fiddly for her.

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They made such a glorious mess.

You know who wasn’t complaining about that, though? The pigs! Pumpkin day means it’s time for their annual treat of pumpkin guts.

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They loooooove pumpkins. In a few days (before total rotting can set in), they will be given the Jack o’lanterns as well. But for now, we are enjoying our day of handiwork!

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Emily’s Raven, and my “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme.

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Oona’s pumpkin

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Neve’s pumpkin.

Now that Pumpkin day is accomplished, there is only really Trick or Treating left. Tonight we’ll watch Hocus Pocus and bask in the last remaining glorious bit of October before it is done.