Next we glued the party horns onto the back of the hearts. We first tried school glue, but I wasn’t satisfied with how well the horns stayed on with that type of glue. I ended up re-gluing all of them with a hot glue gun.
We love our community supported agriculture farm share with Laughing Stock Farm in Freeport, Maine. We missed it while we were in England, so we were delighted to rejoin again when we returned home in August. We’re trying out the winter share for the first time this year and we are looking forward to eating locally grown produce all four seasons.
The fact that I can now say that I enjoy a food like turnips is one of the reasons I enjoy having a farm share. Paul and I had always thought that we didn’t like turnips. Who knows where this idea came from – perhaps from too many bad New England boiled dinners as children that tasted only like over-cooked turnip? Anyway, having lovely local turnips to try as part of our weekly share encouraged us to give them a try. And we liked them!
At farm share pick-up one afternoon, another member was talking about how she was enjoying making pickled turnips from the beautiful purple-top turnips. Given my love of making pickles, this definitely caught my interest! After a little internet research, I developed a pickled turnip recipe that I think is pretty tasty. And simple – it only requires turnips, a beet, garlic, salt, vinegar, and water. The recipe is here if you are interested.
The first step is to prepare the veggies. Peel the turnips and beets and chop them into sticks.
Peel the garlic and then smash it gently – just enough to release the juices but not break it into tiny bits.
Prepare the brine by mixing water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Combine the turnips, beets, and garlic and put the mixture into a quart size jar. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables. Cool and refrigerate.
After a week or so, the beet completely colors the turnips. You can’t distinguish turnip from beet!
We all think they are pretty yummy.
Let me know if you try making these. I’d love to hear how you like them! The recipe is here.
As with many families, Halloween is a much anticipated time for our boys. This year we really celebrated the pumpkin. My mother (a.k.a. Memere) always grows pumpkins to share, and she outdid herself this year by producing gigantic ones. Paul typically is in charge of pumpkin carving at our house (yay!), so he and the guys got down to business right before Halloween.
We were all impressed with the results of the carving efforts. Check out the extra decorations on Sam’s jack 0 lantern! We all thought that his was the scariest.
We always save the seeds from our jack o lanterns to make toasted pumpkins seeds. After separating the seeds from the “guts” and washing them well, they were ready for the toasting process. The big pumpkins yielded equally large seeds which was fun. The first step was to parboil them in salted water. After boiling for about 10 minutes, the seeds were drained, dried, placed on a baking sheet, and baked in the oven. I stirred them every few minutes during toasting to ensure even browning. After 35 mintutes or so (I think these big seeds took a longer time than smaller ones to cook), they were golden brown and ready to take out of the oven.
The seeds were perfectly crispy, salty, and toasty. The recipe/method for the seeds can be found here if you are interested.
Just to liven things up a little, I decided to try my hand a candying some of the pumpkins seeds. It seems like this should be harder than it really is, and I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this every year. It only requires two ingredients: toasted pumpkin seeds and sugar!
When they were super hot and starting to get a bit more toasted, I poured in the sugar. Working quickly, I mixed the sugar with the seeds as it started to melt and caramelize. When the sugar was golden brown and completely coating the seeds, I dumped them onto a cookie sheet.
After cooling down, I was able to break up any big clumps of seeds. I love the combination of salty and sweet and these really hit the mark. The rest of the family agreed, too! You can find the recipe here if you are interested.
Our fourth and final iteration of the pumpkin theme was provided by Tommy. His choice for a Halloween costume this year was a pumpkin! I’m thinking that this may be the last year of “cute” costumes for Tommy, so I didn’t hold back on the cuteness factor when putting together this costume. The best sewing pattern I could find only came in toddler sizes, but I was easily able to adapt it to fit Tom.
Sam’s costume changed many times before he finally settled on what he was going to be. For a long time he was going to be “Sam I Am” from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, but while shopping one day we found a firefighter costume that we both fell in love with. So, for a while he was going to be a firefighter. Then, I made the mistake of taking out the box of dress-up clothes that also contains old Halloween costumes. Once he saw last year’s costume he was determined that he would once again be a furry, red, scary, monster. And so he was.
This year’s Halloween was a beautiful evening for trick or treating. The boys all looked great and had a good time. Sam was adorable. I think he ran the whole night! He was determined to keep up with his brothers and very dedicated to the task of gathering candy.
All in all it was a successful Halloween and celebration of the pumpkin!
Every year we all look forward to going apple picking at a local orchard. This fall we tried Terison’s Orchard in Cumberland, Maine. Apparently they use pesticide sprays minimally, and that sounded good to us!
Aside simply eating them, applesauce was top on the list of uses for our harvest. This year I decided to spice things up a little bit and try making a roasted applesauce. As always, I was ably assisted by my sous chefs.
At this point, I could have processed the apples in a food mill to separate the skin from the apples. Because I’m a lazy cook and I liked the idea of keeping the skins, our apples went directly from the roasting pan to the cooking pot (being careful to save all the juices and syrup created in the oven). I just took the immersion blender and whirred up the apples skin and all. The resulting sauce was amazingly think and a gorgeous color. I added apple cider to thin it to our desired consistency (4 cups or so). The final addition was 1/2 cup of lemon juice. I decided to can mine in mason jars, but you certainly could freeze it as well.
Paul thinks the applesauce is too thick. I suspect the inclusion of the skins has a lot to do with this. Maybe next time I’ll try removing the skin, but I kind of like the extra thickness and texture the skins provide, so I’m not sure.
Click here for the recipe for Roasted Applesauce.
This is (probably) my last post about our England adventure. It was a fantastic year to be there with first the Queen’s Jubilee celebration and then the Olympics. We were absolutely delighted to be a part of the Olympic excitement. For a long time it seemed that there really wasn’t much happening regarding the Olympics (no hype, no preparations), but as the date of the Olympics grew closer there were signs of Olympic fever everywhere. It was a huge thrill to see the Olympic rings go up on nearby Box Hill (host to multiple laps of the cycling road race) and watch our little town get decked out for the race.
A new bicycle sculpture went up in a roundabout on the road from Dorking to Box Hill, and our own “Dorking Cockeral” sported a huge Olympic Gold medal. On July 20, the Olympic Torch Relay passed through Dorking. This was also Joe and Tom’s last day of school in England, so spirits were high as we walked into town to see the torch.
We watched the Opening Ceremony from the comfort of our couch and then got up the next day to head into Dorking to watch the men’s cycling road race as they passed through town on their way to Box Hill and beyond.
We found a straight stretch of the road a bit outside of Dorking center to watch the race. Lots of fans were lining the road and it was a fun, friendly, and festive atmosphere.
It was quite an experience to watch the race live on the huge TV screens while simultaneously being able to look behind us at Box Hill and know the athletes were right there racing!
The women’s cycle race was the next day, and sadly the weather was not on their side. This time we decided to watch the race from right in downtown Dorking, drizzle and all.
We initially had thought that the only Olympic event we would see in person would be the cycling races in Dorking, but when we learned that there were still lots of soccer tickets left we decided to look into seeing a match. Paul found us tickets to a game up north in Newcastle Upon Tyne that we could attend as part of our Yorkshire vacation week. When we bought the tickets, we didn’t know which teams would be playing. We knew there was a chance it could be Team USA or Team GB (or maybe both!), but it would all depend on how the games leading up to our match turned out. We were very fortunate that the teams for our match ended up being USA vs New Zealand.
None of us know a whole lot about football/soccer, but the game was exciting and fast moving nonetheless. It probably helped that the US team dominated the game! There were a lot of other Americans in the stadium cheering along with us which was kind of fun.
We watched the rest of the Olympics on TV every night, and seeing the coverage from a British rather than US perspective was definitely an interesting change. It was an incredible highlight of our time in England to have been able to experience the Olympics in person!
Our next day in Yorkshire was spent in the town of York. We drove to a park and ride lot and took a shuttle bus into the city, much to the delight of Tommy. He was absolutely thrilled with the big articulated bus!
Our first stop was the National Railway Museum (reportedly the largest railroad museum in the world). The railroad buffs of our group loved this place. It’s huge and full of railroad engines, cars, and railway memorabilia. I was impressed with how many trains looked like ones from Thomas the Tank Engine – that’s about the extent of my railroad knowledge!
We attended a show at the museum on the science of how trains move. This was fun and interactive, and Joey was even chosen as a volunteer. We all had a laugh as the presenters joked that Joey and the other children “broke science” as they participated in the demonstration.
From the moment he heard about The Forbidden Corner – billed as “The Strangest Place in the World” – Joey was determined that we would go there. This place defies description. It’s an elaborate garden fantasy world that is part maze and part treasure hunt. I didn’t take many pictures here. We were too busy exploring!
Our next stop was a walk at Aysgarth Falls. Because of all the rain we had received the falls were raging and the water was a dark tea color.
Top on Paul’s must-see list for Yorkshire was to visit some of the local breweries (and sample the local beer). We took a tour and had lunch at The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. Then we popped across town to see Theakston Brewery where we bought some beer at the shop.
After visiting the breweries we were ready to get back out and explore the Yorkshire countryside. Our next stop was a visit to Brimham Rocks. We were all amazed by the fantastic rock formations.
We spent our last day in Yorkshire relaxing at Newby Hall. This was another one of the ubiquitous English stately manor homes that have been preserved for the public to enjoy. This one happens to be privately owned, but many are operated by the National Trust. We enjoyed exploring the gardens and the children loved the playgrounds and kids’ activities.
Yorkshire was a relaxing and beautiful way to end our time in England. When we returned to Dorking we had a few days to finish packing, wrap up loose ends at work, and enjoy our favorite local haunts one last time. It was an amazing year. England will hold a special place in our hearts forever.
We’ve been back in the States for over a month now, but I still have a few more things to share about our England adventure. For our “last hurrah” trip, we spent a week in the Yorkshire Dales. We did a good bit of sight-seeing, but we also slowed down our pace and made sure we relaxed as well.
We spent our first night in Leeds where we visited the Royal Armouries: Britain’s museum of arms and armor. Some of us found this place very interesting (i.e. all those family members with a Y chromosome).
From Leeds we drove up to Newcastle upon Tyne because we had tickets to see an Olympic football match – more on that in another post! After the game, we headed to the little village of Sowerby in North Yorkshire. We rented a lovely cottage for the week (Wheelhouse Cottage) that was perfect for our family. There were farm fresh eggs, flowers, and wine waiting for us upon arrival!
We got an early start the next morning and went into the nearby town of Thirsk whose claim to fame is that it is the home of the veterinarian who wrote the James Herriot stories. Joey and Paul had been reading the books, and we were all keen to take in The World of James Herriot. It was very interesting to visit the actual home of the author (which was preserved exactly as it was when the family lived there), see some sets from the TV series, and learn a bit more about the history of the author, books, and TV show.
From the World of James Herriot, we drove to see Fountains Abbey – the amazingly beautiful and dramatic ruins of an ancient abbey (founded in 1132!).
Yorkshire is beautiful. We were in awe of some of the gorgeous countryside we witnessed as we explored the county. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were incredibly fortunate to have fantastic weather for our trip!
July was our last full month in England. We spent the month continuing to explore as much as possible and also marking some momentous milestones, all while battling the unpredictable UK weather.
Instead of a birthday party, we planned a day of adventure in London where we visited sights that Tommy wanted to see. Our first stop was to see the Monument that was erected to commemorate the 1666 fire of London. Tommy had read about this in one of his books and was keen to climb to the top.
The headliner stop on this London trip was touring the HMS Belfast which is anchored in the Thames near Tower Bridge. Tommy had spotted this on our first London adventure and had been wanting to go on it ever since.
After spending a long time on the Belfast, we were all pretty wiped out. We walked across London Bridge to Borough Market for a snack and then headed back to Dorking. Tommy reported that his birthday trip was, “Fun, fun, fun!”
At the beginning of the month, we took a day trip to nearby Guildford where we visited Dapdune Warf. We learned about the history of the canal and river navigations in the area and took a scenic boat ride.
The boys had a day off from school on a Friday for teacher training, so we took advantage of the opportunity to do a long weekend trip. We decided to leave the country and journey to…Wales!
We stopped first at the Big Pit Mining Museum. It was moving to learn of the difficult lives of the coal miners and their families (especially the child laborers) who worked so hard to fuel the UK’s industrial revolution.
From the Big Pit we headed to the Brecon Mountain Railway where we took a ride on a narrow gauge steam train. The scenery was beautiful and we were lucky to have a whole train coach to ourselves. While talking with one of the men working in the railway’s repair shop, we learned that their caboose is a replica of the one found on Maine’s Sandy River Railroad!
We spent our next day in Wales at St. Fagan’s National History Museum. This is a huge open air museum of restored buildings that showcases the history of Welsh culture and architecture.
The other big milestone that we achieved this month was the completion of the boys’ school year. Joe and Tom received stellar report cards showing that they are both excellent scholars as well as positive citizens at school. We are so proud of how well they adjusted to the big change and embraced the adventure of going to school in another country.
I know I’ve complained before about the weather here, but it’s been a rough spring and summer even by England standards. Wet and cold and unpredictable. Sun one minute, hail the next. I will NOT miss the English weather when we get back to Maine!
By the end of July, the weather seemed to have turned the corner (although I wasn’t holding my breath). One gorgeous Sunday afternoon we went to the Gomshall Mill where we sat outside in their garden, ate lunch (and some of us also had a beer), and the children enjoyed the play area. On the way home, we stopped at the village of Abinger Hammer and watched a bit of a cricket game. The cricket pitch is right next to the River Tillingbourne and families bring their children there to play in the water and catch fish and crabs with nets. The boys loved this.
The “only” other big thing to happen in July was the start of the 2012 Olympics! I’ll will write all about our Olympic adventures in another post, so stay tuned.
June 2012 turned out to be a month of ups and downs. While we had a good bit of fun, we also experienced some sadness due to the death of my grandfather, a.k.a. Pips. It was a peaceful passing as he was surrounded by his family and lots of love, but it was still sad to say goodbye. We were able to return to Maine (briefly) to attend the funeral, and we were happy to be with family. He was an incredible person. I am glad my children were able to know their great-grandfather.
In England, the month of June started with a party. The country was in a festive mood as the Queen celebrated 60 years on the throne, and there were patriotic decorations and Diamond Jubilee parties everywhere. One traditional event in which we were thrilled to be able to participate was our neighborhood’s Street Party.
Although our decorating supplies were limited, but we did our best to make our family’s table look festive. I couldn’t help but add some American Flags – we love the queen too! I made an eggless version of a traditional dish called Coronation Chicken that was served at the Queen’s coronation. We got to try the famous Pimm’s cocktail which was strangely both savory and sweet, yet deliciously refreshing.
Our first day trip of the month was to visit the stately home and castle ruins at Scotney Castle.
We enjoyed exploring the beautiful house and gardens at Scotney Castle as we discovered a new and exciting hobby for our family: geocaching. Several of the National Trust properties have geocaches and GPS units that guests can use to try out geocaching.
Now we are hooked on geocaching! We hunted for caches whenever possible on our adventures during the rest of the month.
When we visited Leeds Castle during the winter, we learned that in the warmer months they host jousting tournaments. Well, of course there was no way we were going to miss that! June was the month for the big event.
As our time in England grows short, we have realized that we have spent far too little time in pubs! I suppose the fact that we always have three little boys in tow is largely the reason for that, but this month we did our best to try to rectify our deficit in pub-going. Our first stop was the little village of Shere. Because it is terribly quaint and quintessentially “English” it has been featured in a number of movies. We had lunch at the White Horse (seen in the movie The Holiday) and took a stroll in and around the town.
We also found what is currently our favorite pub: The Gomshall Mill. The place is full of history and ambiance with cozy corners and bits of its old mill history preserved for guests to see.
Now, don’t be thinking that we have been spending all our free time drinking and eating! The whole family also has been doing a good bit of running. Paul and I get out solo whenever we can, and the boys have also been running with us as well. In fact, I ran a 10k in the trails at nearby Polesden Lacey. It was fun but also ridiculously muddy and slippery.
We were thrilled to start the month with a visit from my brother and sister-in-law. It was so much fun to have them staying with us and they seemed to enjoy exploring the sights of Surrey. Although the trip was marred a bit by illnesses, I hope they still had a good time overall. We certainly loved having them here.
When we visited Hampton Court in the winter, we all felt like we wanted to go back when the weather was better in order to enjoy the gardens. We found a lovely May weekend day to return and explore the grounds.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, we visited the dramatic chalk cliffs on the southeast coast of England at Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters. It was an absolutely perfect weather day to visit such a stunning place.
Our walk took us along the cliffs and then through pasture land to bring us back to our car at the Visitor’s Center. True to form for our adventures, Paul composed a rockin’ tune for the boys as we journeyed along:
Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters
Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters
Fighting for justice for all the sheep.
Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters
Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters
Searching for lunch at the Tiger Inn
It was funny at the time. Not so funny when we had to listen to it at top volume in the car for weeks after the trip!
After leaving the cliffs, we drove into the little village of East Dean where we had a pleasant lunch at the Tiger Inn. The pub was packed when we arrived, but as we waited for our meals a table opened up on the outside patio area. It was a fantastic Mother’s Day!
As I mentioned in the April recap post, we decided to celebrate Joey’s birthday with a trip to The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Brothers studio outside of London. We were all so impressed with this place. It was very well done and definitely worth the visit. We all enjoyed seeing some of the actual sets used in the films and learning more about how the movies were made.
One Sunday we visited Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill. We were impressed with how understated the house was. For a man of such importance, the house wasn’t nearly as grand as it could possibly have been.
We spent the last weekend of May in the town of Bath. Actually, stayed just outside of Bath at a lovely B&B in Bradford-On-Avon (The Widbrook Grange Hotel). We splurged a bit and booked their two-room family suite. The boys enjoyed having their own space and loved the indoor swimming pool. Mom and dad also appreciated the fact that the boys had their own room because it meant we could order room service for dinner after they were asleep!
In our two days in Bath, we visited the historic Roman Baths, saw Bath Abbey, enjoyed the beautiful architecture (especially the Royal Crescent and the Circus), toured briefly through the Fashion Museum, and checked out the excellent local playground (of course!).