Friday, October 24, 2014

our cracking whip

Autumn is a pressurized time. Everything has to get done before winter hits. The garden must be put to bed, the yard cleaned up, the basement cleaned out, the barn rearranged, the fencing finished, etc.

Except for us it’s not the threat of winter that makes us jump. It’s the donut party. The donut party is our cracking whip. Our finish-line ribbon. Our mountain peak. After the party, it’s all inside cozy, rest and relaxation from there on out. Our summer is over. Welcome, Winter. Be our guest.

It always gets worse before it gets better. 

Sifted: twenty-four pounds of confectioner's sugar.

(Pre-washing, never fear.)

Potatoes: the (not so) secret to tender donuts.

By now—after roughly ten years of donut madness—the party is no big deal. We know what time to get up in order to make the six batches of donuts and still get to church on time (5:00 am—it’s not that bad). We know when to heat the oil and when to add a second pot to the mix. We know how many paper cups to have on hand (roughly 175). We know how many apples (½ bushel, though I always get a full bushel), and how much cider (8 gallons) and coffee (60 cups worth). We know how much stress we’ll feel beforehand (a steady pressure—manageable but still enough to be draining). We know it’s normal (though not justifiable) to panic roughly one hour before start time because surely this year no one will come. We know not to expect to have meaningful conversations during the party and—as a result of staring at a pot of oil for four hours—to not have any clue how the party was received, so we’ve trained a few understanding friends to give us candid rundowns post-party. In other words, we pretty much have the donut party down to a science.

Chilly weather + open windows = a proofing room!

Thawing. Sort of.

The cut-er-ers.

Awaiting the onslaught. 

My station. 

Still, something always goes wrong. This year, for some reason, the coffee pot made the coffee but didn't keep it hot. The cider didn't thaw in time. The donut scraps refused to roll out thinly and the final donuts were disgusting globs of yuck. Not that this stopped anyone from eating them.

People really chow down on those donuts. The unbridled donut-eating enthusiasm never ceases to amaze and delight me. And best as I could tell, the morning’s sermon on healthy eating—I kid you not—did not appear to deter a single soul.

This same time, years previous: random, the quotidian (10.12.12), breaking news, the first teenager, I couldn't stop, a silly supper, aging, boy in a blue dress, tales of terror and woe, party panic, brown sugar syrup, buttermilk pancakes, apple tart with cider-rosemary glaze, and not what I planned.        

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

field work

Late afternoons, my daughter often heads out for a ride. I follow, my son’s tripod in one hand, my camera bag (i.e. old cosmetic bag thingy that I lifted from my bro’s house) slung over my shoulder. I set up mid-field, facing into the setting sun.

It’s quiet out there. My daughter’s voice floats across the field. She keeps up a constant chatter with Isaac, alternating between heated scoldings and enthusiastic praise.

She’s constantly on the lookout for Isaac Triggers: galloping horses in the adjoining field, groundhog holes, dogs on the loose. (My husband told me that he was watching when a dog wandered into the field. My daughter was immediately off Isaac and standing by his head, holding tight to the reins...or whatever it is that you hold at the head.) She’s completely fearless and deeply cautious. It’s a sound combination.

Once as she came cantering by, she was laughing hysterically. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but when she got to the bottom of the hill, she told me that Isaac was almost galloping.

If you can’t control the situation, laugh. It’s a good motto.

Periodically, Isaac tries to buck her off. This doesn’t frighten her. It just makes her irritated. “He’s being a jerk,” she says.

A couple days ago, I read how to handle bucking horses in Jeanette Walls’ book Half Broke Horses, information which I then shared with my daughter. You’re supposed to yank back on the reins to pull the head up—the horse has to lower his head in order to kick with his back feet—and then whack him on the rump to make him move forward.

“Yep, that’s what I do,” she said.

So okay, then. Guess we got that covered.

At one point, she simply sat on Isaac’s back for an extended time, just looking around. I finally called, “Are you scared?”

“No,” she yelled back. “Just thinking!”

On one of her passes by me, she parked Isaac directly in front of me and launched into a horse story complete with dramatic interpretation. I didn't hear much of what she said; I was having too much fun watching her.

When I head back to the house, my daughter enjoys following me on Isaac. But she doesn't just follow behind—she follows right behind. You know that my-ankles-are-vulnerable-so-kick-your-feet-forward-and-jump panicky feeling you get when you're being followed by a too-fast, too-close shopping cart? Being followed by a horse is worse. Way worse. Especially when that horse that is frothing green at the mouth, breathing heavily, and has a giddy rider.

This same time, years previous: the reading week, a pie party!, moments of silence, classic cheesecake, pumpkin-sausage cream sauce, rhubarb cake, and love, the Tooth Fairy.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

the quotidian (10.20.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Breakfast? Breakfast? Is it time for breakfast?


Fresh cider by the bucketful.

Generous neighbors! 
(And a photobombing cat.)

This photo from the recent Bon Appetit was in stark contrast to 
the typical sleek, pristine kitchens flaunted in foodie mags. 
I could stare at it for hours.

The perks of having grandparents only three miles away.

Birthday chocolates: MINE.

Puttzing along.

The week of rain got to all of us.

But we made it through. 

This same time, years previous: the adjustment, grab and go: help wanted, the quotidian (10.15.12), rich, autumn walk, that thing we do, no special skills, would you come?, how to have a donut party, part III, sweet onion corn bake, apple cake, Italian cream cake, the stash, deprivation, and keeping my hands in the toilet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a list

It’s yet another rainy day, sigh. The skies have pressed down dark and unyielding for days now. Saturday afternoon I caved under the pressure and took to the sofa where I languished away the hours. Each day since has been a battle in which I struggle to think up meaningful activities and then do them in hopes of Making It Through.

They’re calling for sun on Friday. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.


Pre-lunch, we watched the first episode of Cosmos, a TV series that a friend from church loaned to us. It's a well-done series (though I supposed I should withhold judgement until I actually see the whole series). My youngest was actually moved to tears over the mistreatment of Bruno, and all the children got their minds sufficiently blown. Afterwards, when I asked the kids if they wanted boiled potatoes mixed in with their tuna salad and then got mad at them for their rudely-voiced opinions, my older son said, “Mom, in the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?”


We won the lice war. At least, she’s been clear for nearly a week. Once the sun comes out, I'll do one more round of washing of sheets and blankets, yet another head check, and call it good.

It was the weirdest thing, though. She had a pretty fierce case—I’m not even going to tell you how many lice I pulled out of her head and stuck on masking tape because you would be very, very disturbed—but no one else in our family had them. We share hairbrushes, towels, bedding, hats, everything, and yet the rest of us remained perfectly clear. If lice are supposed to be so contagious, what’s up with that?

Also, we still don’t know how she got them. Best we can guess, she contracted them at camp several months ago.


I ate rice for breakfast (and then I ate it again for lunch). It’s just sausage links that I sliced open to make bulk sausage that I then fried up in bacon grease with onions and peppers before adding leftover brown and white rice and some cooked peas. I ate it while standing at the kitchen sink watching my daughter canter Isaac in the upper pasture.

In other food, we finished up the chocolate peanut butter cake leftover from the birthday party at the barn. I have a big bowl of cut up butternuts waiting to go into the oven once the granola finishes baking. This pumpkin pie-that-isn’t is calling my name. But where to find maple cookies for the crust?

Also, the donut party is this weekend. Or it will be, if it ever stops raining.


Ha. You didn’t think we’d make it through a whole blog post without a picture of a horse did you?

Here's the thing. I find it exhilarating to watch my older daughter fly through the field on the back of a horse. The pounding hooves and streaming tail: there’s something both primal and magical about it. Freedom and power and speed...

I don’t know. Whatever it is, it makes me happy.


I finished Still Alice, a book about a woman who gets early onset Alzheimer's. It’s eye-opening and terrifying. What a horrible disease. Now I’m reading Half Broke Horses, the sequel to The Glass Castle.

And we finished up yet another family read aloud: The Giver. Not sure what to start next. Any suggestions?

This same time, years previous: three vignettes: my husband, puzzling it out, and going up.

Monday, October 13, 2014

the quotidian (10.13.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Ruined clothes: after a day of mucking stalls and riding.

At the foot of my deck steps: there really is a horse in my yard.

He has the sweetest personality.

A coat for Charlotte, fashioned after a horse blanket, naturally.

Post-op: she's fixed.

Attempting some black-(purple?)-smithing.

The internet moochers.

He goes upstairs to tuck her in and then everything gets waaaay too quiet.

Birthday party at the neighbors' red barn.

This same time, years previous: roasted red pepper soup, old-fashioned brown sugar cookies, the dogwood wild runner, my answer, why it ain't happening, anticipating the mothballs, and potential.