Pumpkin Patch Memories

Hubby’s headless horseman.

Posting about pumpkin carving with pre-schoolers led me down a crunchy leaves lane of nostalgia. Decorating our house and preparing costumes weren’t our only Autumn traditions. Cherished were our drives to Ort Farms in Long Valley, NJ where we’d take a hay ride to the pumpkin patch, pick as many pumpkins as we could carry, and load up on apple cider, doughnuts, and honey sticks. After saying hi to the farm animals, we’d head home. Every year, Hubby got increasingly skilled at carving pumpkins. (Check out his haunted house below.)  

Hon, what Fall traditions does your family share?

Easy Kids Activity: Pumpkin Carving

Lucy and I at Wyoming Presbyterian Church’s Pumpkin Patch.

It may seem obvious to say pumpkin carving is an easy and fun kids activity, but if you teach preschool (ahem, my wonderful new job), you might think pumpkins, knives, and carving don’t mix with ten super wiggly, touch-everything, curious two year-olds! What does work? Carving open a pumpkin and letting them feel and scoop out what’s inside.

Eight children reached right in, touching and exploring. (“Mushy, gushy!”) The textures were new to them–which showed on their faces–but they dug out the wet, stringy pulp and seeds anyway. Fun!

Two kids wanted nothing to do with this strange mess and backed away from the pumpkin. Funny!

Later in the week, my co-teacher managed to make use of time when the kids were sitting still. She carved shapes into a face. What a great way to learn!

At home, we carved pumpkins, also. It was a first for my daughter’s boyfriend from California. Hands on all around!

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Holiday time is baking time, and my Pumpkin Muffins are done! The recipe below is the same one I’ve shared for Pumpkin Bread. These muffins are great for breakfast, snacking or dessert. No condiments necessary!

Happy baking, hon!

PUMPKIN MUFFINS (or BREAD)

Yield:  About 24 muffins or 2 loaves.

2 1/2 cups sugar (I used about 2 cups.)

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 1/2 cups flour (I used a combination of whole wheat and unbleached flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2/3 cup water

optional- 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat first 11 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until well blended.  Add 2/3 cup water and beat until blended.  Stir in the nuts if using and then spoon into baking cups.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes for regular sized muffins, or 30 to 35 minutes for mini muffins.  Test centers with toothpicks and when they come out clean, they’re done.  Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Muffins may be well wrapped and kept frozen up to three months.

Tarantula Territory

Warning signs.

Quick Quiz

A sign says, “Please yield for tarantulas on the road.” What do you do?

a) Hightail it out of there and head to civilization or a mini mall?

b) Hike in moon boots or platform shoes?

c) Get super excited and keep your eyes peeled for large creepy-crawlies?

Hon, if you chose C, we’ll be very good friends! Two weeks ago, before a hike in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, I asked a park ranger why tarantulas might be on the road. He said it’s mating season. Cool!

Did “Caution!! Watch for Snakes” catch your eye? Even though two exclamation marks follow “caution,” snakes took a backseat to the hopeful main event–spotting a tarantula. Unfortunately, my childhood friend Cindy and I didn’t spot any. Years before in New Mexico, I did.

While driving 60 mph along a flat highway on the Turquoise Trail, I screamed, “Stop the car!” Hubby wanted to know why, but I didn’t have time to explain.

A tarantula was crossing the highway and I needed to see it up close! It was bigger than my hand!

I tried to record the big, hairy, brown spider, so I grabbed the only thing I could think of–a pencil. I placed (umm, threw) it on the ground next to the enormous arachnid and snapped a picture. I know I’m talking to “seasoned” (read: older) picture takers when I say my camera took film. It wasn’t until I got the film developed that I realized the photo was blurry. Oh well! I’ll always remember that tarantula, who somehow knew he had enough time between cars to cross the highway. Cool!

Fog hanging over the Sandia Mountains.

Chuya cactus.

Selfie of Cindy and me.

Autumn Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble
Autumn Apple Crumble.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means shopping, cooking and cleaning in preparation for Family and Feast.  I have menus to plan, furniture to move and mattresses to blow up.  My house will be crowded, but it’ll be filled with love, laughter and lots of food.

This easy Apple Crumble recipe was mentioned in my post “Fall Fete (Dessert and Decor).”  I tried it out on Teen Daughter’s friends and parents and it was a hit!  Thanks to the blog, Mama’s Gotta Bake, I have another way to sweeten up and serve autumn apples.

Happy baking, hon!

Apple Crumble Ingredients
Apple Crumble ingredients.

Prepping Apple Mixture.
Prepping the apple mixture.

Ready to go in the oven/
Ready to bake.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Crumble ready to eat.  "I'll serve the Crumble and you dish out the ice cream!"
Apple Crumble fresh out of the oven. “I’ll serve the Crumble and you dish out the ice cream!”

Autumn Apple Crumble

Ingredients:

7 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4″ slices (I used a variety of apples)

2 teaspoons lemon juice (plus 1 Tablespoon to be used before baking)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Topping Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped small (optional, I didn’t use them in my recipe)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

pinch of salt

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and stir 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice into it.  As you are slicing apples, put them into the bowl of lemon water so they don’t brown.  When all the apples are sliced, drain them and put into another bowl.

3.  Toss the apples in the 2 teaspoons lemon juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until they are coated.  Place apple mixture into a baking dish (About 2 quart-sized dish).  Set aside.

4.  In a large bowl, mix the Topping.  Toss the oats, walnuts (optional), pinch of salt, brown sugar and flour until all are incorporated.  Then, work in the butter by pinching it with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

5.  Sprinkle Topping mixture over the apple mixture and bake for about 40 -50 minutes, until the apples are tender when pierced with a sharp knife.

6.  Best when eaten warm from the oven with a scoop of–what else?–vanilla ice cream!

Serves 8

 

Fall Fete (Dessert and Decor)


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I recently hosted a Fall Fete, or festive celebration.

Hon, you know how much I love a theme.  And baking.  Combining my favorite season with decor and dessert energized me more than usual.  The morning after the Get Together, we drove through the stunning Lehigh Valley to visit one of our college daughters.  I guess I was still buzzing from the night before because, when I ordered coffee with lunch, the Barista said, “Decaf for you?”

Flowers, pumpkins and pumpkin trees.
Flowers, pumpkins and pumpkin trees.

Look what I found at Trader Joe’s.  I’d never heard of pumpkin trees before, but apparently that’s what those branches with real, mini pumpkins growing on them are called.

Window display.
Window display.  I love to merchandise!

I love merchandising!
I collect decor for every season and am a big fan of using what I  have and embellishing it.

Snoopy-dressed-as-a-pumpkin and youngest daughter's ceramic bunnies welcome friends.
Snoopy-Dressed-as-a-Pumpkin and Youngest Daughter’s ceramic bunnies welcome friends.

It must be the children's writer in me that sees this porcupine candle as a character!
It must be the children’s writer in me that sees this porcupine candle as a character!

Cupcakes, candy and a Haunted House.
Cupcakes, candy and a Haunted House Kit.

I couldn’t resist this Haunted House Kit from Williams-Sonoma.  Orange icing inspired the Decorate-Your-Own-Cupcake Station.  The flavor of the icing is

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…candy corn!  And the Hershey Kisses aren’t chocolate, they’re pumpkin spice!  So much yumminess!

Dried Fruit, Pumpkin Mini Muffins, Rice Krispie Treats and Crudites.
Dried Fruit, Pumpkin Mini Muffins, Rice Krispie Treats and Crudites.

Apple Crumble
Apple Crumble.

You can bet I tried a little of everything!

Menu:

Pumpkin Muffins

Apple Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream

Rice Krispie Treats (made with M & M’s and candy corn)

Crudites

Dried Fruit

Chips-n-Salsa

Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins 

Drinks:

Hot Apple Cider

Hot Chocolate

Coffee and Tea

Wine

A candy bat is caught in a giant spider's web.
A candy bat is caught in a giant spider’s web.

The candy corn fence is adorable.
The candy corn fence is adorable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe next year, we should have a Kids-Versus-Grown-ups Haunted House contest!
Assembling the Haunted House looked like fun.  Maybe next year, we should have a Kids-Versus-Grown-ups Haunted House contest!

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe:  click here

Apple Crumble Recipe:  post under construction (source, Mama’s Gotta Bake)

Autumn Haikus

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My triplets plus one pumpkin picking.
My triplets and Plus One pumpkin picking, ages 10 and 3.

Colorful and crunchy leaves make me nostalgic for the time when my children were little. If you read my recent post, 19 On the 19th (Happy Birthday To My Triplets), then you know I’ve been strolling down memory lane since September.  Every year, we would

drive to the a country farm,

ride in a wagon,

pick pumpkins,

decorate our house,

carve pumpkins,

jump in leaf piles

and, of course, go trick-or-treating.

Topping off the holiday season was the best entertainment around, the elementary school Halloween show. Soon after Thanksgiving arrived and we feasted with extended family at our home.  Heaven!

I recently came across my big kids’ third grade Autumn Haikus.  I couldn’t wait to share them with you, along with a photo of each kid, all grown up now.

Autumn Haikus H

"Baby A"
“Baby A” and me.

Autumn Haikus T

'Baby B"
‘Baby B” and Hubby.

Autumn Haiku M

Tween Daughter, Me, "Baby C"
Tween Daughter, Me, “Baby C”

Do you and your family have favorite Fall traditions?  Hon, I’d love to hear them.

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DIY Fall Wreath

Inspiration Wreath
Inspiration Wreath at Michael’s.

A new session of After School Enrichment started and I’m so excited to be teaching two classes.  One is called Creative Minds for 3rd to 5th graders.  Last week, we made Fall wreaths inspired by one hanging at my local Michael’s.

Here’s what you need and how to make your own.

wreath supplies
wreath supplies

Supply list:

Foam wreath form, whatever size you want

Burlap, we measured 6 feet of burlap for each form

Coiled Wire, used to secure floral spray before gluing

Wire Cutters, we used two sizes, one to trim the floral sprays and one to trim the coiled wire

Hot Glue Gun

Floral Decorations, we used colored beads, leaves and floral sprays (leaves with fruit and berries)

Ribbon

Twine, knotted and looped for hanging

Steps:

1.  Unroll burlap and guesstimate how much you will need to cover your wreath form.

2.  Wrap burlap around wreath form, tucking ends in on what will be the back of your wreath, hot glue ends.

3.  The floral sprays had long stems so I cut the ends off with a large wire cutter.

4.  Use coiled wire to secure floral spray to burlap covered wreath form.  We used a fairly long piece of coiled wire, wrapping it around spray stem in a criss-cross fashion and twisting in back of wreath.

5.  Hot glue floral spray to wreath:  We glued the spot where the coiled wired secured the floral spray and also under the leaves so they would lay flat.

5.  Hot glue colored beads and individual leaves.

6.  Tie ribbon and glue if needed.

7.  Find the top of the wreath and create a hanging loop with twine.

Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.

Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!

Pretty!
Pretty!

Seasonal!
Seasonal!

Love it!
Creative!