The Week in Review

Posted by Rachel Smythe on September 25, 2016 in Crafting, iPhone photography, Out & About, Photography, Seasons, Travel, Week in Review |

The weather was beautiful this past week. To take advantage of it, we spent as much time as possible outside.

On Wednesday, we hit Forest Park in Springfield – a perfect place to practice with the Prisma App.


Even ho-hum photos of tree roots can come alive with the right setting.


Here’s a photo without the App, though. It will give you an idea of our rate of leaf change so far.


Not much, but with temperatures cooling quickly, it won’t be long now.

Thursday, we headed to Maine.


The beach (Harbor Beach in York) was beautiful and delightfully uncrowded. The girls spent their time hunting for shells, playing on the rocks, and, in Ginger’s case, braving the very cold water. (We all waded, but Ginger was the only one to really get wet).


(More Prisma)

A bit of the beach made it home with us in the form of shells, etc., which is something I know (from experience) not to do, because, by the next day, everything smells pretty foul. But it’s hard to resist when things are fresh out of the water and sparkling in the sunlight.

This shell, with its barnacles and other bits, reminds me of a heart. (Is that gross?)


And today – with the weather still glorious – the girls participated in the “Will Bike 4 Food” fun ride – an event organized to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Here you see Pepper heading out from the start point.


Both girls completed the ten-mile course – the farthest either of them has ridden to date. CPT A and I worked as course volunteers, driving back and forth on the route, encouraging stragglers, and pointing people in the right direction. We all had a lot of fun.

And, finally, in the crafting department, I do not have a baby blanket to show you as I had hoped). What I do have a pair of socks.


These were knit for Ginger. I started them in May, abandoned them when the hot weather hit, and then reached for them again this last week when temperatures cooled and wool seemed more appealing. I was a little concerned that the stripes didn’t match up at the toes, but the first thing Ginger said when she put them on was, “Oh good. The stripes don’t match.” So, I see it was all for the best.

These were knit with Patons sock yarn using Patons’ “The Basic Sock” pattern. So far, this is my favorite pattern and my favorite brand of yarn for sock-making.

I hope your weather has been as nice as ours this past week and that you’re enjoying fall as much as we are here in Massachusetts.

From the living room sofa, already at work on another pair of socks,

Mrs. Smythe

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Cooking with Pepper

Posted by Rachel Smythe on September 20, 2016 in Cooking, Homeschool, iPhone photography |

Pepper is taking a cooking course this semester – The Everyday Gourmet, offered through The Great Courses. She just completed lesson three, which means she’s spent the past two weeks studying two things – kitchen equipment and cutting techniques. Her first “assignment” was to make a vegetable bean soup. That was last week. This week, she made Ratatouille – that vegetable casserole made famous by the cooking rat. Pepper said the entire time she was prepping the vegetables, she was thinking about that movie and wondering where her little rat helper was.

She certainly could have used one. Both weeks, she’s spent a lot of time chopping vegetables. Which makes sense – that’s what the lessons have been about. But, for someone who isn’t a vegetable fan and who hasn’t done a lot of work with kitchen knives, I’m sure it’s been a bit tedious.


She’s kept her sense of humor, though. She thought that these peppers looked like Greek drama masks.


I can see it.

So here is the ratatouille just before Pepper put a lid on it to simmer.


Colorful, joyful, “a celebration of the bounty of the summer garden” (which is what the chef who teaches Pepper’s course called the dish).


And, here is the same photo with the Prisma App.


(You knew I was going to squeeze that in somehow, right?)

And, here is the ratatouille on a plate, served with French bread and a fried egg – the way the chef suggested we present it.


The verdict? Weeellllll….maybe I’m not the one to ask. I really liked it, but then I like vegetables. I think I could develop a taste for this dish if I had it more often. The rest of the family, though, wasn’t sold on the whole “vegetable stew” thing. They were game to give it a try and said that it tasted decent for what it was (stewed vegetables), but then they spent the rest of the meal filling up on eggs and bread.

Pepper is looking forward to next week, when she will leave vegetable chopping behind and learn something about cooking chicken.

In the meantime, I’ll be eating ratatouille for lunch for the rest of the week.

From the dining room table, still not sure what to think about eggplant,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Week in Review

Posted by Rachel Smythe on September 18, 2016 in Baking, Critters, Garden, Photography, Seasons, Week in Review |


Leaf Report: We’re starting to see patches of fall color here. Many of the trees have smudges of red  and orange, but, overall, the bulk of the scenery remains a stalwart green.


With school in session again, there are lots of books laying around house. I’m just as apt to leave mine around as the girls. Here Shadow shows you her opinion of my current reading material (Villette by Charlotte Bronte).


(Actually, she’s sleeping. I’m not sure why she sleeps like that, but it’s a common occurrence.)

CPT A and I observed our 23rd wedding anniversary this past week. To celebrate, we took the family to our favorite Mexican restaurant for lunch. You know your child is growing up when she takes the crayons the waitress hands her and produces something that looks like this on the back of her kids’ menu.


(This might be a good argument for her to start ordering from the adult menu).

Apple pie is another great way to celebrate anniversaries – or anything else. Here’s one Pepper and I put together on Saturday.


And then, of course, we had to photograph it with the Prisma App.


Have I mentioned that I love that App?

Pepper loves it too and has been taking photos from the passenger seat when we’re out driving. This lovely home looks great on its own, but I think this painterly rendering makes it look even better.


And, finally, our garden is heavy with zinnias at the moment. They’re my favorite flower, so I’m thrilled. These wine colored ones are my favorites, I think.


I had planned to show you a finished craft project, too, but I’m still in the midst of a baby blanket that is taking much longer than I had expected it too. Here’s hoping I can make some significant progress on it in the coming week.

From the dining room table, watching CPT A finish the last of that apple pie,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Prisma App

Posted by Rachel Smythe on September 13, 2016 in Art, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, iPhone photography, Photography |

I’d like to revisit a topic I introduced in the last post – namely, the Prisma App. If you enjoy tinkering with photos on your phone, this is definitely something to look into. It can take any so-so photo and give it a wonderful, artistic look – so artistic, in fact, that I’m tempted to print some of these out and frame them or use them for making note cards. Let me show you what I mean.

Here is a photo taken by Ginger yesterday.


Mr. Wa on the sofa. Nothing terribly exciting about that.

But then Ginger started applying Prisma’s different settings, and this is what she got. (I’ve labelled each photo with the name of the setting she used).











Fun stuff! I’d love to show you some of the photos I’ve come up with, too, but I don’t have any. I haven’t gotten the chance. The girls have been using this non-stop ever since they discovered it on my phone. If, like them, you’re intrigued, you can read more about the App HERE. It’s currently free.

From the dining room table, thinking the “Gothic” setting is my favorite,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Week in Review

Posted by Rachel Smythe on September 10, 2016 in Chickens, Critters, Garden, iPhone photography, Photography, Seasons, Week in Review |


We’re starting to see signs of Fall in Western Massachusetts, despite it being nearly 90 degrees here today and muggy as anything.

Further evidence of the impending seasonal shift – acorns,


and the arrival of pumpkins at the garden centers.


I bought these at Sixteen Acres Garden Center today, where they had mini pumpkins 3/$2 and mini white pumpkins for a dollar apiece. They’re hard to resist.

Elsewhere in the garden…dahlias!


These were given to me by a neighbor, and I planted them several months ago, not knowing what colors they’d be. By happy coincidence, they match the chicken coop perfectly!

Eowyn approves.


Also, the sedums are in bloom.


In other news, Ginger got a haircut.


She’s been wanting to go short for months. Once I was sure she’d made up her mind, I went ahead and booked an appointment. Now I wish I’d done it sooner. This would have been a great cut for summer, and Ginger is thrilled with the result. I’m rather partial to the cut, myself. It makes me think of the movies Sabrina and Roman Holiday.

And, finally, in the category of entertainment, Pepper discovered the Prisma App CPT A downloaded onto my phone the other day. You take a photo, select an artistic style, and PRESTO! the App transforms your image. The girls have had a great time exploring the different options. Here are two of my favorites so far:

img_0911 img_0913

Good stuff. It’s amazing what you can do these days with the click of a button.

From the dining room table, hoping your week has been every bit as entertaining,

Mrs. Smythe

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