A Lively Weekend

Posted by mrssmythe on January 15, 2019 in Crafting, Critters, Week in Review |

We’ve had a very busy past few days!

The girls danced in our church’s Medieval/Epiphany festival while CPT A and I both helped behind the scenes. I worked as an usher. CPT A did everything from greeting guests and performing first aid to animal wrangling. One of his many tasks was to help get the three camels in the performance through the church’s front doors.

These are the same camels who perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City over the holiday season. It felt a bit like meeting a celebrity!

The entire weekend was fun, exciting…and exhausting. I’m very glad it’s over. Monday, I tackled laundry, dishes, and walked the dogs for the first time in days….all the things that had gone undone while we were off “playing theater.” Performance life is colorful and lively for sure, but I’m a homebody at heart, and it was definitely nice to get back to a more normal routine.

My idea of thrilling is seeing wild turkey tracks in the snow – something I saw with the dogs on one of our walks this past week.

It always surprises me how big they are.

And, while we’re on the topic of turkeys, our turkey has figured out how to get on the barn roof. Can you see her up there near that dead pine bough?

It’s really not that big of a feat for her. She has only to hop on the neighbor’s fence, turn around, and leap another three feet to the roof. I’m told that wild turkeys roost in trees, so this probably feels perfectly normal to her. It’s a little surprising to see, though.

In knitting news, I started a nice, easy project to fill down time during dress rehearsals and odd moments of the festival – something I could knit even in the dark if need be. (And, no, I didn’t knit while I was an usher, though I was tempted!)

It’s a scarf pattern that uses two separate shades of a single yarn – you switch from one to the other every two rows. It’s very easy and you get a wonderful stripe effect. I’m using Lion Brand Amazing yarn, but you could use any yarn, really. If you’re intrigued, you can find the pattern HERE.

And, finally – here’s a shot CPT A got with a phone camera on the last night of the festival. Things had finally quieted down, almost everyone else had left, and he brought us outside to point out how the light came through a particular tree in front of the church – something he had noticed while directing traffic earlier in the evening.

The photo doesn’t do it justice, of course. But, it was very magical at the time – a sort of whorling pattern of tree branches with light at the end; one of those quiet, eerily beautiful things that are so easy to miss if you don’t just happen to see them.

From the dining room table, hoping you, too, will see something quiet, and eerily beautiful in the coming week,

Mrs. Smythe


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Into the New Year

Posted by mrssmythe on January 10, 2019 in Baking, Celebrations, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

“Cozy” is the worm I’d use to describe our New Year’s Eve this year. For us, it was a rainy night with lots of wind – the perfect weather for hunkering down by the fire and watching old movies…which is exactly what we did. After a very busy and full Christmas season, having a night for the family to just sit and relax together felt like an enormous luxury. I highly recommend it.

Here you see Manny pretending he is a lap dog.

That dog loves the fire. The minute we light one, he plunks himself down in front of it, or near enough to catch some of the warmth.

A highlight of our evening was the Black Forest cake I made.

Doesn’t that look impressive? Here’s a secret: it’s from a mix. Can you believe it? It was a German mix that I picked up at Yankee Candle. You can find the mix online, too. It’s the Kathi Black Forest Cake Mix. And, while it’s a step up from the cake mixes you find at the grocery store, it’s still pretty easy to put together. A warning, though – it’s not nearly as sweet. In fact, we ended up adding powdered sugar to the whipping cream that you use to frost the cake. (The mix didn’t call for any sort of sweetener). Also, the maraschino cherries were my idea. You were supposed to use cherries from the canned ones you used in the filling, but the canned cherries we had were flesh-toned and not very pretty on their own, so I went the maraschino route.

And how did it taste? Delicious! I would absolutely make this cake again.

Shortly after New Year’s Day, all of the Christmas decorations came down.

Well, not all of them. I left the twinkle lights up, and the front window boxes are still filled with their greens, the sled remains on the front porch, and all of the candles are still in the windows. Basically, anything that wasn’t too Christmassy got to stay – especially if it kept things feeling cozy. We’re heading into the bleak winter months now, and anything that can help dispel the gloom is most welcome.

Something else that is dispelling the gloom – a new knitting project!

This is the camel yarn that Pepper gave me for Christmas. She knew I’d lost the camel yarn hat I’d knit several years ago and had been lamenting its loss ever since. This yarn is actually 100% camel – and baby camel at that – so it’s very soft and knits up like a cloud.

So far, I’ve finished a hat to replace the one I lost. With the remaining yarn, I plan to make some fingerless gloves. I haven’t quite settled on a pattern, though. I hope to have pictures to show you in about a week.

So – that brings you up to date. I hope your New Year is off to a wonderful start and that you, too, are relishing these cozy, quiet days after the holiday season.

From the dining room table, getting ready to walk the dogs,

Mrs. Smythe

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Post-Holiday Check In

Posted by mrssmythe on December 30, 2018 in Baking, Celebrations, Chickens, Critters, Museums, Shopping, Week in Review |

I had meant to post something earlier, but didn’t manage it. As a result, you’re going to get a hodge-podge of images from the previous few weeks to give you a fair idea of our holiday season. If it all seems a bit wacky and disjointed, well… that’s a bit how the month has felt. But never mind. On with the post!

Since I last wrote, I added seasonal decorations to our window boxes – bits of pine, holly, and some sprigs of a red berry that grows in profusion along the side of the house. Twinkle lights added just the right touch, and, as you can see, we have candles in the windows this year as well!

This is the coziest the our little “cottage” has ever looked, and I have our dear neighbor to the North to thank for it. She’s the one who passed the candles on to us and who also donated the sprigs of holly. (If you’re reading this, Janey, thank you!)

The middle of the month was taken up with The Nutcracker – both rehearsals and performances. Here I am with Ginger, getting ready to head out the door on the first night.

Everyone in the family contributed in some way. CPT A took photos for the studio, Pepper helped backstage and sold Nutcrackers at the souvenir table (she was surprisingly good at that), and I watched some of the younger kids between shows. It made for a very fully weekend.

Ginger would come home, take out her hair (which we’d hair-glued into a bun) and look like this:

Then, she’d have to wash her hair the next morning and start over. She was so glad to cut her hair after the performances were done. First thing after Christmas, we headed to the salon. Now, she’s sporting a very chic pixie cut.

On the Christmas front, we made our shopping deadlines with some strategic planning – hitting stores in between lessons and such. Here, you see Ginger at JoAnns…yes, that really is Ginger. She’d found a mannequin head in one of the aisles and decided to get creative with it. Pepper is in one of the aisles, doubled over with laughter.

One of my favorite places to shop for presents is the gift shop at the Springfield Museums. Pepper and I ducked in one morning and found several nice things. I also enjoyed seeing the Christmas decorations they had up. This planter was especially pretty.

I love the birds and the sparkly deer!

We had more sparkle on Christmas Eve, when the most perfect snowflakes I’ve ever seen fell while we were out dropping off gifts.

Aren’t they something?

And, that evening, our church sparkled as well. Here, you see the midnight candlelight service in progress. (CPT A was in the choir loft when he took this).

We had a very nice Christmas Day, with dinner at a dear friend’s house. Then, the following morning, since we hadn’t done much holiday baking, we made popcorn balls – Ginger’s favorite Christmas treat.

These are so simple to make, and so good, I could sit down and eat every single one. If you’re interested in the recipe, you can find it HERE.

I also tried to get control of the house/laundry/grocery shopping again once the holiday passed. It’s amazing how everything gets away from you when you aren’t paying attention. Mr. Wa never has that problem, though. Here he is without a care in the world, stealing time on one of my favorite Christmas presents – a wool blanket from CPT A .

I think the blanket had been unwrapped for all of two hours before Mr. Wa found it.

The girls still have some time on break, though their activities start up again this coming week. For now, Ginger is spending her free time learning how to tie knots.

She saw CPT A reviewing some of the knots he knows and thought she’d give it a try too.

Meanwhile, I’m busy ironing costumes for a medieval play we’re involved in. Pressing an executioner’s mask was by far the strangest thing I did today.

From the dining room table, thinking I’ll need to start un-deocrating the Christmas tree soon…it’s dry as a bone and shedding something fierce,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Turkey at the Door, More Christmas Decor, and Some Holiday Shopping

Posted by mrssmythe on December 9, 2018 in Celebrations, Chickens, Critters, House, Out & About, Seasons, Shopping, Week in Review |

Are you wondering how the turkey is doing?

The turkey is doing just fine.

The turkey, and even the guinea hen, are now both sleeping in the coop. At night, it’s one big, cozy flock.

Things are pretty chummy during the day, too, though the turkey gets irritated when everyone’s not hanging out together. Do you see her staring into the back door in the photo above? That’s what she does when she discovers we’ve gone back into the house. The turkey wants everybody to be together. All the time. Birds and humans.

And, the Guinea hen? She just goes wherever the turkey goes.

Ginger is currently trying to get the new additions tame enough to eat out of her hand. So far, only the older birds will comply, but Ginger has high hopes.

In other news, this was the week we got most of our holiday decorating done. On my morning dog walks, I scanned the neighbors’ yards for outdoor ideas. We don’t put usually put lights up – CPT A is a bit too busy for that these days – but I thought we might be able to add some holiday cheer in other ways. One popular motif I saw a lot of was the old-fashioned sled. I dug ours out of the shed, threw on some greenery, and we were set.

(The kids might protest this if we get snow, but we usually don’t get much until January, so the decor should be safe.)

Indoors, I got our tree up, added more animals to the mantle, and set candles (the electric kind) in the windows (very New England).

When everything is lit, it’s all very cozy – and, now, all I need is a fire in the fireplace!

We chipped away at some of the holiday shopping this past week, too. Pepper and I spent Saturday afternoon at the Yankee Candle flagship store in South Deerfield, which is Christmassy at any time of year, but particularly so right now.

The animatronic “Candle Mountain Boys” have even added Christmas songs to their repertoire.

The place was packed, though. If you go this week, ditch your cart (or “carriage” if you’re a New Englander). I tried to wheel my way around the store at first, but it’s really so much easier to get around without one. Also – expect a long wait to see Santa – 2 hours when we were there. (We skipped that part).

Here we are at the fudge counter…Pepper’s favorite stop.

Because the fudge was on sale, and because we couldn’t decide on a single flavor, we now have six squares of the stuff at home in our refrigerator. No one needs that much fudge. Truly. But, what can I say? It’s the holidays.

From the hallway at church, waiting for the kids’ Christmas party to finish up, so I can finally go home,

Mrs. Smythe

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Wild Turkeys, Sunrise Knitting, and the Start of Advent

Posted by mrssmythe on December 2, 2018 in Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

We’ve been up with the sun this past week. Not that we weren’t before. We were. But this past week, there’s been more of an urgency about our mornings. We’ve wanted to make sure the new birds are doing well, so, at the first sign of light, CPT A has been popping out of bed, throwing on some shoes and heading out the door.

from left to right, Poppy the guinea hen, Bianca de la Squeegee the turkey, and Henley the hen

So far, so good.

Which is not to say there haven’t been some tense moments…like the day the wild turkeys dropped in.

Our own little turkey fell right into line behind them and would have flown off with the group if her wings hadn’t been clipped. As it was, she made it to the back fence, trailing the guinea hen all the way.

The sparrows are another point of concern – at least as far as the turkey is concerned. She watches them warily.

Meanwhile, the sparrows know that where there are chickens, there will be cracked corn and seeds and other goodies. So, they bide their time, waiting for the flock to return to the barn, then swoop in for the leftovers.

At night, the three hens and the turkey all manage to squeeze into the coop. The older birds aren’t thrilled with the new arrangement, but they seem resigned, and tolerate the new sleeping arrangements. Meanwhile, the guinea hen makes her own sleeping arrangements. One night, she escaped the barn and spent the night in a nearby pine tree.

(That’s CPT A shining a flashlight on her.)

Most nights, though, we find her perching in the barn. She’s always the first one up.

All of this has ensured that we spend much more time outside than is usual. If the birds are out free ranging, we tend to keep an eye on them. There are still plenty of hawks in the neighborhood, and the guinea hen, despite her clipped wings, is also able to hop the fence.

See the hawk on our neighbor’s dormer window?

Usually, I spend the time outside doing yard work. I’ve been raking up the remaining leaves, putting away pots, picking up deadfall.

Sometimes, though, I just sit on the back step and knit.

Here I am, in my bathrobe at about 7:30 in the morning, working on a sock. You can only knit for so long when it’s 26 degrees, but I think it’s very pleasant to be outside first thing in the morning, listening to the birds and watching the chickens, sipping coffee. Often, it’s the best part of my day.

Another nice morning happening – arriving at church on the first day of Advent.

CPT A snapped this photo from the choir loft while everyone else was making holiday crafts in the Fellowship Hall. It was a lovely start to the Christmas season.

I hope your holiday season is shaping up well. I’m actually a bit ahead of the game this year with my Christmas shopping and am hoping that momentum will hold through the rest of the season for things like cookie making, letter writing, and tree trimming. Check in next week, to see how I’m doing. 😉

From the dining room table, leaving you with a recent photo of Ursa and Opal, doing their best impression of Peace on Earth,

Mrs. Smythe

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