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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New Pets, Some Snow, and a Thanksgiving Table

Posted by mrssmythe on November 25, 2018 in Books, Celebrations, Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Old Books, Week in Review |

The Berkshires looked like a Christmas card this past week. CPT A captured some of the beauty while off running errands. Just magical!

Not so magical…this broken snowblower:

This is what comes of mice in the shed. And, it perplexes me, because I want to be a “humane gardener”. I want to make a place for all wild creatures in my yard. I don’t want to trap and kill things. But when the mice chew through wires and build nests in mechanical devices, I begin to reconsider. Thankfully, CPT A will be able to do the repairs himself – we had only to order the parts.

While I’m not thankful for mice, I was thankful for the kind friend who invited us to Thanksgiving dinner this past week.  And what a feast it was!

Delicious! The conversation was great, the turkey was outstanding, and the things that woman can do with side dishes…! Cream sauces, bits of onion, mushrooms, butter, cheese… Let’s just say she makes it very easy to eat one’s vegetables.

Of course, I didn’t go over empty handed. I took a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. I was a bit out of practice, though, so made a trial pie earlier in the week, something I was actually happy to do as it meant several days of pie for breakfast.

(Do you see that cheeky dog eyeing my pie? The nerve!)

Did you know pie for breakfast is a New England custom? I didn’t know that until I read It’s an Old New England Custom, a fun little book published in 1946. There’s an entire chapter devoted to pie for breakfast, in fact.

I did use any of our own pumpkins for the pies, though. The puree I got was decidedly sub-par.

Instead, the remaining pumpkins were demoted to decor status, got soft, then were given over to the forest creatures. So much for this year’s pumpkin crop.

Speaking of creatures, perhaps you’re wondering about the new pets I alluded to in this post’s title. Well, it’s like this. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we loaded into the car and drove to an animal shelter, hoping to adopt some chickens to fill out our shrunken flock (we were down to two birds from the original five). We had called and were told that there were plenty of chickens available. However, when we reached the shelter, we learned that one of the “hens” we’d been eyeing (online) was a rooster, and that all of the remaining birds, save one, were awaiting results from blood tests. They were not, therefore, adoptable yet.

We were very disappointed. We’d set our hearts on bringing home at least two new birds. Maybe three. Possibly four…

What to do?

Start looking in the other cages, of course. (At least that’s what we did.)

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled out of the parking lot with one chicken, one guinea fowl, and one heritage breed turkey.

Ginger said, looking at the little white “take-out” boxes the shelter gave us, that it was just like going to Build-A-Bear…only these animals were alive!

The birds were well-behaved on the ride home – not a peep or a squawk – and, we’ve had only minor “drama” between members of the old flock and the new. All things considered, it’s going extremely well.

I wish I had a better pictures to show you, but poultry are very hard to photograph when moving and almost every photo I took was blurry. Here is one passable shot of the little black hen. (Aren’t her feathers pretty?) Hopefully, next week I’ll have something better to show you.

From the dining room table, with the poultry bedded down for the night and entertaining thoughts of heading that direction myself,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Foray into Decorating, a List for Brides, and Some Completed Knitting

Posted by mrssmythe on November 18, 2018 in Books, Critters, House, Old Books, Seasons |

I took a step toward holiday decorating this past week by bringing up my “Winter Animals” from the basement. They’re festive, but not overtly Christmassy, so I figured I could sneak them in early. This year I added a strand of twinkle lights for extra sparkle. The kitten in the stocking at the right (just below the mantle) is a recent addition. I picked him up at a craft fair Pepper and I attended this past Saturday. It was a lovely event, and I left with a good amount of my Christmas shopping done and the question in my mind, “Why don’t I shop at these local fairs more often?”

Of course, it’s because I haven’t really given it much thought. It’s simply automatic to run to the mall or to a big box store. But maybe I need to rethink my holiday shopping strategy. There’s a completely different feel at these little fairs- they’re so much more personal, and they provide a different class of things for sale, too. Plus, it’s nice to meet the people who are actually making the things you buy. I felt good supporting their creativity and artistry.

And, speaking of “artistry”, let’s talk about cooking. I’ve been going through this lovely vintage volume lately:

I found it in a give-away pile this past summer and have only recently taken the time to go through it.

There’s a fun chapter for brides toward the back.

It includes a list which, once mastered, will set you well on your way to (according to the author) becoming “a proficient wife and hostess.” Here’s the bulk of the list:

Add to it tea, coffee, tomato bisque, and Irish stew, and you’re set.

And, how do I fare with said list?

Well, in almost thirty years of cooking, I have yet to prepare Lamb Chops or a piece of halibut. And, I have not made Irish Stew. Also, I have no experience with giblets. But, otherwise, I think I’m doing pretty well. How about you?

In knitting news, I spent part of Veteran’s Day weekend in an American Legion building knitting socks for CPT A, my favorite veteran.

It was all a coincidence, but I thought it ended up being a very appropriate activity for that particular weekend.

While there, I couldn’t help but notice a WWI/WWII memorial plaque in the hallway. Skimming the list, I noticed that seven of the names came from a single family: six men, one woman. It’s hard to fathom a one family making such an enormous contribution to the nation. Very sobering to think of.

I also finished two other long-running projects – a Shetland Scarf (started last winter)…

and this Tucson Pullover, begun in July.

It’s so nice to have both of these projects done and off the needles. They were well worth the time and effort, but it’s been a welcome change to begin something simpler – namely socks and a Christmas scarf.

I hope you’re staying nice and cozy as the temperatures drop. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of Mr. Wa and Opal “snuggling” together on the couch.

Opal would love for them to do this more often, but Mr. Wa, cat that he is, can only stand so much togetherness.

From the church hallway, writing as I wait for the girls to finish up their Sunday night activities,

Mrs. Smythe




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