The Autumn Leaf Fairy needs more embellishment
I am trying to be in denial about the fact it is already November, this effort is failing miserably, as the pumpkins are out on the nature table, as are a dozen acorn caps. Racoon is visiting Mouse in his cozy pumpkin house, and wispy haired gnomes roam freely across the shelf-scape. The Autumn Leaf Fairy is descending from sky (hanging from the thermostat, we are still in denial and prefer a cozy down comforter to using the heater… I’m sure we will change our minds soon!), and we have a lantern to light our way through the early dark of evening.
I have also been actively seeking out uses for apple butter. I had a batch that didn’t get canned (thanks freak heat wave!) so it has been sitting in a doubled half-gallon ziploc bag in the back of the fridge. My favorite use of apple butter so far has been to use it in an apple butter spice bread. It is moist, well spiced, and makes three good-sized loaves.
Apple Butter Spice Bread
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup apple butter
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup honey
- Preheat oven to 325*F, grease three 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pans
- Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.
- In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, apple butter, milk, and honey.
- Add wet to dry, mixing well to combine.
- Pour batter evenly into greased loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2)
- Bake for 45 min, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (check at 40 min.)
- Cool in pan for 15 min., gently remove from loaf pan and allow to finish cooling on rack.
Sunday we went to the pumpkin patch with the boys, Dana and Rich.
Oliver was very excited to pull the wagon, and Patrick was thrilled to ride along. They each picked a pumpkin, and today we carved them. Oliver was very helpful at scooping out the goop, and had very specific ideas about what he thought the faces should look like.
Oliver insisted on round eyes, and Patrick wanted his to be a kitty-cat, so I added some whiskers.
The pumpkins are now outside, I may, or may not, put candles in them.
Ms. Donna has a wonderful garden full of various fruit trees laden with more apples than she wants. This year, she graciously offered to allow us to “drop by anytime” and “take all the apples you can carry!” The boys and I took her up on that offer — although we turned down the offer of “extra boxes in the garage!” and hauled away three trader joe’s bags full of apples. What kind? Donna’s not totally sure, they’re “some old variety, not red delicious, they’re good for cooking with.”
We are two bags into the process of coring, slicing and doing something with them.
The corer-slicer was worth every last penny. I don’t think I could manage to core and slice so many apples otherwise.
We made crock-pot apple butter, and apple sauce in the dutch oven. The apple sauce turned out pink, and is very tasty! The boys had seconds (and thirds). I’ve canned several pints of sauce, and several half-pints of apple butter.
We’ve got one bag full of apples left, so I’m going to make a batch or two of muffins/quick breads, and then turn the rest into either apple butter or apple sauce, or the kids will partially eat them and leave them around the house. Helpful small children.
After a summer of being ignored as I reminding the children that California is having a drought and we need to leave the water off, I decided to solve the water-misappropriation problems once and for all and replace the faucet with one that has a removable “key” (or you can use a flat-head screwdriver in a pinch).
Gavin installed the first one this afternoon by the back fence where the drip system was hooked up, we tentatively plan to install two more — one in the front, and one more in the back (that one maybe tricky as it has an extra valve or something).
The only downside to this, is that we’ve had to take down the timer for our drip system — it was set to run three early mornings a week for five minutes each time, just enough to keep things alive — but between the recent thunder storm and the regular ill-timed unapproved soakings the ground is soggy.
I’m not too worried about the plants: the dill, parsley and basil are supposed to go to seed/die at the end of the season, the herbs are hearty, the strawberries are a variety of low-water/neglect-tolerant California native, and the roses and crepe myrtle survived for nearly a year under the bank-owned regimen of do-nothing.
The drip controls will be dried out, cleaned up and set aside until spring when everything will be re-attached. We may need to reconfigure a few things to make the angles work, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to keep our wasteful water usage to a minimum.
The fortress of sunflowers is down to two, but that’s OK they’re finally blooming!
The boys are quite excited that the sunflowers are “taller than mommy!” and “booming!”
They’ve got about another month before we remove them (unless the boys take them out first), and tentatively put in a sandbox — hopefully resolving the need to dig.
On Friday, Gavin suggested we go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the weekend, after some discussion, we agreed that a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip might be a bit ambitious, and the crockpot wouldn’t be done until after 3pm, which would put us smack in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic.
Instead we decided to make a day of it, leaving at 7 am, which would’ve put us there by around 10, except we hit traffic (it took nearly an hour to get past the 1-lane section of 101) in Petaluma, we we arrived just after 11 (we also made a stop at Grandma D’s to have a snack and use the bathroom).
Popular exhibits on this trip included the Open Ocean, “scary” moray eels, and red octopus — I wish I’d gotten a photo of it! It was amazing!!
The cephalopod exhibit was very popular with the boys, although the loop of the giant octopus taking out the Golden Gate Bridge terrified Patrick. Squid racing was quite popular as well.
It was an averagely busy Saturday, so after a few hours (and after lunch), we took an hour-long break, and walked along the path for some fresh air, and some space. We headed back to Grandma D’s around 4:30ish, for dinner and the children’s bath time before we headed back home.
It made for a very long day, by the end of it, Patrick was fall-over-exhausted. I was very glad to have a membership pass, as we didn’t see a large portion of the exhibits except to rush past them in hot pursuit of a small child.