Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

One of our most beloved family traditions every year is our trip to the pumpkin patch and orchard. We have been doing it since I was a little girl, when we would go with my cousin and follow it up with chili for dinner and cake to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. This year, it almost didn’t happen, for obvious reasons. But the kids have been studying pumpkins all week and we needed to find a way we felt comfortable going, if possible.

So we did! Billy, Devin, and Chrissy took a day off of work for our “field trip” this year, we got up early so we could arrive right when it opened, and we chose to go one of our favorite orchards, one that is a favorite because it is just about the pumpkins there. No rigmarole or fair like atmosphere – just an orchard, pumpkins, and for adults, a hard cider tasting room, where they make the cider onsite. We didn’t do any tasting this year but we definitely bought some to go.

We pulled up around the same time almost exactly, and headed off through the grounds, which we had all to ourselves. We kept our masks on, as good practice for the kids, and my mom as well, and maintained our distances although it was just us.

Well, us and this dog. He was with us our whole excursion and didn’t stray too far from my niece’s side. He lives there and decided to hang out with us.

It was an absolutely glorious morning – sunny, warm, a bit crisp. The perfect day for our adventure. We messed about in the orchard, laughed about our dog friend and honorary group member – we are the James Herriot Primary school after all..

Then we headed to the store area to shop for our gourds and pumpkins and all the good things. All the pumpkins were really up there so no picking through the patch for one but that is ok, much easier to lug them the two feet back to the car then all that way. We did have to run in to pay and to pick up our cider, and I also added a jar of honey from their hives to my order.

And the dog’s name turned out to be “Greater”. All Creatures Great and Small, anyone?

Happy Fall everyone!

A Misty Morning at the Orchard

Wyatt and I met my SIL Chrissy and my niece L. at the orchard yesterday, and I am so glad that we went. I was very nervous, it was 8 days post surgery and it would be our first outing too. I am glad I felt brave enough to say yes, because we had fun, despite the slightly damp day.

Chrissy and L. met us at the orchard at 11:30, and Chrissy masked up and headed into the store to grab out bags for picking while I stood between the cars and watched both kids. Then we headed back to the orchard, where they had row after row of apple varieties to choose from. Our little caravan of two headed all the way to the end before turning around and deciding we wanted to head for the honey crisp first. We parked and we put a blanket down as our base and went up and down the rows plucking the apples from the branches. The kids thought it was super fun! When we finished that area, we wandered over to the golden delicious and braeburn section, and added more apples to our bag.

Our bags were filling up and getting heavy, but we were not ready to call it quits yet. We had one more small section we wanted to check out, the winesap apples. I have to be honest, I am not certain what these apples are like but we liked the name. Wyatt was super tired by this point so I stuck him in the back of the Subaru to hang out with while Chrissy and L. explored the field across the way, looking at the pumpkins, looking so autumnal sprawled out in the dew among their vines. L. came bouncing back, filled with excitement and wanting to show me the baby pumpkin that she saw so Chrissy stayed with Wyatt while I followed L. across the little bridge to the pumpkins. And we saw some enormous pumpkins as well as some teeny baby pumpkins. I guess fall has arrived, at least to our part of Michigan! I joked with Chrissy too, that she looked like a character from a Jane Austen novel walking through the fields..

By this point all of our feet were soaking wet and squishy, so it was time to call it a day. I would have loved to have had a picnic among the trees for Chrissy’s birthday (did I mention it was her birthday?) but it was too gross. We loaded the kids up and headed back to the front, making a little stop at the pick your own flowers field, where we realized we had no way to cut a bouquet. I never realized that one day I would be standing in a damp field lamenting that I didn’t have a pocket knife, but there I was. (and I came home and added a pink Opinel to my Christmas list..I will never go without flowers again! Lol)

All in all, we had a great time. I am so glad that we went, despite my anxiety, because I really think being with family, a change of scenery, and the fresh air did Wyatt and I both a world of good. I am so happy that we were able to share in Chrissy’s day! And look at this happy face!

Mini-Post: A Morning in the Country

Every summer, we take a family trip to the orchard to pick peaches (and sometimes blueberries). This year we realized it was a pretty perfect family activity, even with our present circumstances. So, Friday Billy took a vacation day, we packed our lunch and our blanket, and headed out to the country.

When we got there, we found we were not the only ones with this idea, even on a weekday morning. We hadn’t planned on masking up, except for in the store of course, but we put them on for the first part of our adventure due to the amount of families also wandering the orchard. We didn’t need them on long though, after ten minutes everyone else left, and we had the place to ourselves.

We took our time, looking for the peaches we wanted. It was slim pickings due to a late frost that had affected the peach crop but we still had fun. After we picked as many as we thought we could possibly use, we set up our blanket and had a little early lunch. And it was so quiet. So quiet. We are used to always hearing something – cars, people mowing their lawns, sirens, whatever. The sounds of living in the suburbs, you know? But this was so peachful (I meant to type peaceful but peach came out and I rolled with it). The weather was gorgeous, just warm enough. There was a breeze, the sky a brilliant blue, and just the sound of bird song and the rustling of the leaves. I could have stayed there all day! But Wyatt was ready to explore more, so on we explored.

It was a perfectly perfect lovely day. And now we have a ton of peaches, for jam and cobbler and pie!

We had such a great time, such a great time that I think we will organize a larger family trip for later this month with my mom and brother and his family. I am looking forward to it!

Snapshots of Summer..so far

I have a stack of books that my cousin made, that say “Every Summer Has Its Own Story”. Could that be more true for this summer? I think about other weird times in history, trying times and challenging times. Times of war, the year without a summer, pandemics of the past – and now the times that 2020 has brought to us all, globally. Our year has certainly been different, and while I thought summer might bring some relief, we are still fairly locked down.

Despite this, we are trying. We are seeing friends and family, yet more often in person socially distanced rather than just online chats. We can get outside more frequently, and easier, and Wyatt and I try to spend either mornings or evenings outside. The evenings are nicer, because then Billy can be with us.

We’ve enjoyed drinks outside…

… and all sorts of treasures from nature.

Tonight we are being crazy and having an ice cream for dinner picnic outdoors – complete with waffle cone bowls. It’s gonna get messy!

Stay well everyone.

Little Wanderings

It’s been some time since our family wandered around outside. We have been taking neighborhood walks but we haven’t been out in the world in two months. Our favorite places are sort of crowded these days with everyone else attempting to get out of the house too, so we have been avoiding our usual stomping grounds. Then this weekend, we remembered a few places that we thought might be less busy – and our hunches paid off!

So Sunday after a bellyful of chocolate chip pancakes and a virtual chat over tea with my mom, we pulled on our boots and headed out in search of whatever adventures we could find. Our first stop was a centennial farm and nursery. It was too cold for them to have many flowers out so we made plans to go back in warmer weather (hopefully this upcoming weekend!) and wandered about their beautiful grounds. We spotted fiddlehead ferns, a favorite of mine, so many birds including a cardinal that followed us around, and beautiful trees and plants. It was a brisk morning, cool and overcast and it even rained on us a few times, but that was ok. We don’t mind a little rain.

We also used the opportunity to practice mask wearing with Wyatt. We figured it was good to practice somewhere it wasn’t crowded or imperative to wear one for safety reasons – and where better but in the outdoors. We did encounter employees and the people that lived there, but we maintained social distancing and had masks on, so it was sort of a dress rehearsal for the weeks ahead. Wyatt did ok…. his face is so small though that it easily slips down off of his nose, so we need a plan for that. He likes to fiddle with it too, pulling it down – or up too high! He will get the hang of of it.

The grounds were beautiful but not big enough to satisfy our urge to be outside – so we decided to try a place nearby that we got to sometimes. We spent the short drive there crossing our fingers that it was not overcrowded and we were in luck! We had the place almost to ourselves, and there was more than enough trail for everyone.

It was so wonderful, and it was so good for me, for all of us, to be back outside again, and in nature. It is such a part of our family that we were really missing it. We headed home feeling refreshed, like someone had opened the windows to our souls and aired them out. Now that we know we can do this, we will be venturing out again, hopefully soon!

A Pancake Picnic

After our Saturday night indoor campout, it seemed only natural to follow up with a pancake breakfast picnic on Sunday.

We have a system here in our house – Billy makes the pancake batter, and I am the cook. It’s challenging, because the three of us all like our pancakes served differently. Wyatt likes tiny pancakes, like half-dollar or smaller even. I like my pancakes a gentle golden brown, and Billy likes his dark brown, almost bordering on overdone. So, I have my work cut out for me when I cook! Over time Billy has come up with the perfect recipe for our family as well, after much experimentation, and honestly, they are seriously perfect, at least in my opinion. They smell so good while they are cooking even! If you are interested in trying them, I’ve added his recipe! It’s not fancy but it’s good. And keep in mind, we are just home cooks here. Lol.

Billy's Sunday Morning Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 3.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 TB maple syrup (yes right in the batter)
  • 2 TB Vanilla extract
  • 1 TB Almond extract
  • 1.25 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 TB melted butter

Directions: Melt the butter. Sift together the dry ingredients. Form a well in the sifted dry ingredients and pour all liquid into well. Add egg. Whisk together until combined. Drop onto hot griddle or pan – I use a 1/2 c. measuring cup but you do you. When they start bubbling you know it’s time to flip, or make according to your tastes. Like I said Billy likes his much darker brown than I do so I don’t flip his as quickly.

Our little guy certainly enjoys them! He doesn’t even bother with syrup or a fork! Lol.

How do you like your pancakes? Any secrets you have for making them?

Shelter-in-Place Snacktime

So I don’t know about everyone else, but our house is snacking more and eating more junk than we ever have. I don’t know what this is about, if it is just the fact that it is one of the things left to us right now, indulging our sweet tooth, but man, we keep craving things like crazy!

Right before the state went to shelter-in-place, my husband went to the grocery store with instructions to buy whatever he wanted, and to not worry about the budget for like the first time ever. I had previously bought a bunch of stuff, and had been since January honestly. I’ve been nervous about COVID for a while now, and I was adding things to my groceries and stocking away for months, but not fun food, if you know what I mean. So, Billy had carte blanche at the store, and took full advantage, returning with things we needed and that were important, but also with cookies and crackers and Doritos and wine and a pie even.

So we have been enjoying many things, but there are some true favorites that are emerging. Oreos are tops right now in this house. Doritos for me, Fritos for Billy. Chocolate chip cookies have a place too – but the biggest win of all was Wyatt loving cake. I made a box cake, Strawberry flavored with vanilla frosting and sprinkles for Easter (I am not a great baker) and Wyatt wanted it every single night for a week. I am hoping that he actually gains a little weight over this time period (we have to look for positives!). Other things that we have splurged on are Nutty Buddy bars, Rice Krispie treats, and Pop-Tarts. Oh and sugar cereal! Just who are we now? I have a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast every morning and it is so good! Wyatt has been allowed Cocoa Puffs but then I found an organic, better for him version that I subbed in. I think he knows the difference though… For now though, I am not going to worry about it. We are not overdoing it, but it is definitely more than normal!

We’ve also been eating things we normally wouldn’t, is anyone else doing this? We have bagel, egg, and cheese sandwiches at least once a week, sometimes more. We had Kroger brand gluten-free frozen pizza a few times, because that is what was available, and we like to have pizza as a treat once a week. We were pleasantly surprised at how delicious it is! Like, we might actually get it for reals after this is over. For now though, we take what there is and are happy to have it. As my friend says, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. I try not to overburden the grocery pickup staff with big lists of crazy things or too much that is not essential – but I do have a five year old, and we do allow a few items on there. I just try not to make their lives harder than they are. So when we do indulge, we really enjoy and appreciate these fun food items.

How about you? Is there something you are indulging in or craving?

Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

Last week in photos

We had such a busy week last week! Honestly, parts of it were pretty rough. Wyatt had some arm spasm that we had never seen before and that scared us; then later in the week hit his head which further sent me into my own anxiety. Then we had a heavy duty weather storm warning that caused me to worry about my mom, alone in her house 10 miles away. I did not want her to be stranded without power because I knew it would upset her so my husband went and picked her up to have her stay with us, just in case. The weather never actually got bad but we had fun all of us anyway, munching on giant family size nachos, having a dance party, and finding our animal personas. I wrote a bunch of animals on popsicle sticks, and some fun qualities like joyful, curious, strong, etc and then we pulled to see what we were. I was Quick Owl, whatever that means lol, Wyatt is my little Bold Badger, Billy is a Strong Wolf, and my mom is a Fearless Rabbit. It was fun! So aside from my worries, we did have our fun times.

So this old turtle shell. On Tuesday after therapy where we asked Wyatt’s PT about his arm spasm, we took a little hike, and spotted this turtle shell. I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it, and knew I couldn’t leave it there in case someone found it and destroyed it, dishonoring this turtle’s life. So, Wyatt and I took a trip back on Thursday and retrieved it, bringing it here to keep safe. I don’t know what to do with it exactly, but I know it is safe at least.

Then on Thursday night, I actually got out of the woods and mud and dressed up, did my hair, and went somewhere that served adult drinks with my best friends! We reserved these cool igloos at a restaurant near us, and it was so neat to be in them. It would have been prettier had it been snowing, as it should be in Michigan in the winter, but it was raining. Not as pretty, but the gentle rain sounds on the igloo were enjoyable. It was a seriously much needed time with my tribe, we laughed so much our faces hurt, ate so much food, and exchanged our Christmas gifts for each other. I had made everyone hand painted by me ring dishes (made the dish too!), Chrissy made everyone lavender soap that smells amazing, Mary bought everyone the softest plaid blankets, Kelly gifted us all the cutest cat shaped cheese boards, and Jill bought us all wine based on our personalities/likes. Mine is called The Woodlands, so very perfect- and I am drinking a glass right now!

On Friday we celebrated the Full Wolf Moon, with wolf paw cookies, and chili. Lol. Wolves might eat chili right? My hungry wolves did at least. My mom made these delicious butter wolf paw cookies, which we ate the heck out of. Then we had a collective “howl” at 7:30, where my mom went to the window at her house and we went to ours and howled, which Wyatt of course thought was awesome. His favorite song is Howl by the Okee Dokee Brothers, so we followed our howl up with the song version. We calmed things down by turning off the lights and reading picture books in the tent by lantern light. My dad bought us that battery powered lantern and Wyatt loves it.

So although my week had its anxiety ridden moments, it also had some pretty darn good ones.

Planning a garden

We woke up this morning to snow, which was beautiful until I got onto the road to take the kiddo to school. Apparently Michigan has become too complacent this year, with our mild winter, and has forgotten it needs to salt its roads! The drive was one of those steering wheel clutching drives, nervous and slow down the winding road to his school. My brakes locked up, I saw another car hit a stop sign – the driver was ok though thank goodness. These are the parts of winter I don’t like. I love the walks in a gentle snow, I love being inside, huddled against the cold with a book and my family, but I don’t like the idea of driving in it, or any of my loved ones driving in it either. It made what I did on Monday seem even better. I planned my garden.

Well, a rough plan at least. My sister-in-law Chrissy and I got together Monday morning with coffee, and strudel and seed catalogs with our little helper, my niece . And her Care Bear. And we got to talking and planning and the room just seemed warmer and more full of life just discussing what we hope to grow. I had Chrissy’s houseplants behind me, adding to to the ambiance.

We discovered we have both been watching or following The Elliot Homestead on YouTube and Instagram. And while we are planning nothing like they have, although dreams there, we have both been inspired by their gardens. I love the idea of a potager garden! I love the look of an informal garden, with vegetables and herbs and flowers all packed in together, spilling out and spilling over with color and goodness. So when I picked my seeds, I divided my garden into three different distinct areas – our front garden, Wyatt’s little garden, a potager garden, and then special features like a strawberry garden and an arch covered in squash and beans. We decided to order the seeds that we felt essential first, the ones that neither of us could live without, and combine forces growing. We ordered carrots (Tonda di piragi), Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, and Easter Egg radishes that grow in all the pretty shades of spring; we ordered Ice Queen lettuce, arugula, and all sort of peas and peppers and squash. We threw in a few flowers for good measure, dahlias and strawflower and sunflowers. I can see them all growing and reaching for the sun, when it finally returns stronger in the spring and summer, not this weak little half light we have been getting. We have another order ready to go, and that one is more flowers than vegetables – a flower called strawberry fields, some apricot lemon cosmos that my niece picked out, nasturtium and phlox, hummingbird mint and pumpkins and marshmallow flower. I am super excited about something called a Mexican Sour Gherkin, that is going in Wyatt’s garden – they look like teeny tiny watermelons but taste like a lemony cucumber. I can’t wait to get started! Then in a month we have one final order, one that will have strawberries, a lemon tree for Chrissy, a cherry tree for us.

This feels really ambitious for us right now. We haven’t had a real garden in more than 6 years probably, and our backyard has turned feral, so before we do anything we need to get it under control. But what better motivation than a garden, in my opinion, to get us out there again? Last year we loved our front garden, where we grew flowers and salad greens and lettuce and basil, and a tiny pumpkin grew all on its like magic. The amount of insect diversity grew last year in our front yard – funnel spiders and caterpillars and praying mantis and snails; flying insects like bees of all sorts, and butterflies. We had a magical summer out there, and hope that this one will be even bigger and better.

One thing Billy and I love is our front yard apple tree. It builds such a sense of community for us. The neighbor kids love to pick the apples and eat them as they play outside, and while they are not the prettiest all the time since we don’t spray them and they get attacked by squirrels and birds (the apples , not the kids) they taste amazing. My family comes over and picks them to take home, to enjoy in pies or just on their own. We eat them, and we feed the less attractive ones to our snail. We used to feed those to the local deer but then learned that we are not supposed to do that, so I might find another place to donate them too, perhaps a farm animal sanctuary I heard about nearby. This is something else we want to encourage – we are planting our strawberries next to our house, not in our backyard, and we hope that the neighbor kids and Wyatt can just go out there and grab a handful and eat them. I love the idea of growing enough so that we can share, although growing enough for us is also important. It’s been a long time since I canned or made jam, and I hope to do that again this year as well.

So we have a few goals, and we always start with a big picture, and work our way through it slowly, bit by bit, area by area. And planning a garden in winter is one of my favorite things to do.