Monday, October 6, 2014

A is for Apple, P is for Pumpkin

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree” 
~ Emily Bronte
It's all about the journey, right?

I hope when all my children are grown - or when I am gone from Earth - they look back with fondness and laughter at all the hair-brained ideas sprinkled among the homework, sporting events, laundry, housecleaning and serious discussions.  I'd hate to think all this creativity and craziness didn't supply them with stories to tell on me when I'm gone.

Often the conversation looks like this, "Hey! I saw where there's a great *insert activity* in *insert location*, and I think we should go/try/explore/plan it!" And, sometimes, I might get a little carried away. For example: this weekend sort of snowballed on me. It's like I smelled fall in the air, and I just sort of lost it. I forgot that there are only 48 hours in a weekend - so I just kept adding things to the calendar.

Here's the result:

It all started when I ordered 38 pounds of apples from Bountiful Baskets simply because they were so cheap. (If you don't know about Bountiful Baskets, use your google skills. It's pretty darn cool.) Thankfully, I have an awesome bestie who jumps right on the "Charee's Idea" wagon as quickly as my family. So, when I mentioned the apples, she suggested canning apple butter. That fit right in with my plan to can apple pie filling! Ta da! A fun activity was born!

After procuring an apple peeler/corer/slicer from another friend who readily joins in on my crazy ideas, Randi and I were ready to go! We listed out our ingredients and prepared ourselves.

All was fine until I realized there's this special "Clearjel" thickener required for canning apple pie filling. Having to order it online, meant we had to cross if off our to do list until next week. *sigh* BUT we did make the apple butter after using our handy gadget to peel about 10 pounds of apples.

The cooking took the longest. We started them at 6:30 am and finished canning the final product at about 9:30 pm. And I bet you are wondering what we did during all the time, right?

Well, while planning the apple cooking activity,  I also planned a little get together for Saturday. And since we had ALL those hours on hand just waiting to be filled....not to mention a family just waiting to hear what could be done on a Saturday afternoon... it all worked our perfectly.

This is just a sampling of the crowd to give you an idea.
So after perusing Pinterest in a moment of boredom and seeing ALL the great ideas for decorating pumpkins, I decided the girls should have a Bring Your Own Pumpkin Party. It just seemed like a fun thing to do... and I thought I'd get to see all those Pinterest projects come to life!

After mentioning it to Sadie's lunch table and getting a resounding "yes", I quickly designed an invitation. The time kept changing because of other "mandatory" activities popping up along the way. Sadie had a cross country meet. Gracey had a volleyball clinic. Kerry had a wedding and a funeral for the shop. (I'm a florist's wife. There's always something.)

Once a time was set, Pinterest pics printed off, paint bought and caramel apples made, we were ready to go! This turned out to be a lot of fun for the girl and their friends (even the lone boy who attended) - but I was surprised that so many of them chose good ol' pumpkin carving over all the other ideas. So much for all those ideas I found. They pumpkins turned out SO cute though. And the carving led us into another activity. (More on that later.)

The THIRD activity wasn't even my idea. I can't take credit. But it  fit in perfectly with everything else we'd done. One of my 88-ers sent a text on Tuesday about an Apple Butter Festival. She wanted a group of us to go on Sunday and check it out. After a little juggling, some cajoling and a plan, we were good to go! By 10 am, we'd loaded up and were headed to the big Apple Orchard in Idalou, Texas.

This one was.....interesting. Don't get me wrong. I'm not sorry that we went because we had a lot of fun. But the Smiths LOVE festivals. We've been to quite a few. So our expectations might have been a bit high. I mean - I had thoughts of an apple cook off, fresh apple butter and trees weighted down with giant apples.

If I had to rate it on the festival scale, it would be pretty low. I mean, it was the APPLE BUTTER Festival, and the only apple butter we found was clearly not freshly made or probably even locally made. We took an awesome group picture, perused the yummy baked goods, checked out some homemade caramel, bought some honey and glanced at the 3 or 4 booths set up selling stuff. No cook off. No fresh apple butter. *sigh*
A darn fine looking group, right?
We decided to head to the orchard to pick some apples. (You'd think my remaining 28 pounds at home would be enough. Not so much.) We were there on the 2nd day of the festival, so the apple trees weren't as full as I bet they were on Saturday. After crawling through a LOT of spider webs, walking up and down many rows and being eaten alive by mosquitoes and sweating a LOT, these summed it up:
An apple tree. A naked apple tree.
My lil' apple picker.

Me: I never dreamed there would be so many mosquitoes!

Sadie: I never dreamed there wouldn't be any apples!

Gracey: Oh sweet shade!! Now where is the fan?!?
Despite the relatively empty trees, we did actually find some apples. It was a labor of love, but we found some. In fact, we even found some pumpkins too! So, armed with our honey, apples, pumpkins and friends, we all raced to the cars and headed to town to find something to eat. THAT was the best part of the day. Fun, fellowship, friends - and food. I'm so thankful we got together - even for a dinky festival that really didn't feel like one!

When we got home, there were cups and cups of pumpkin seeds awaiting my attention. Thanks to all of that carving on Saturday,  After a quick google search for how to roast pumpkin seeds, I got those done and wrapped up the weekend o' fall activity!

Whew. I love it when plans all come together, but I think next time I'll try to spread them out a little so I can take a nap!

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