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It’s no secret that I love Autumn in Maine. Fall has always been my favorite time of year and New England has the best Autumns of them all. And this year I get to share it all with Little Miss Cleaver – which makes it even better.

This year we crammed both of the Cleaver Family fall favorite field trips into one gloriously busy week: the Fair (Cumberland County) and apple picking (Ricker Hill). Miss Cleaver was wide-eyed at all the new things to look at (but not allowed to put in her mouth) and Mr. Cleaver and I loved watching her take it all in. Steinbeck was just happy to be there.

For years now, Mr. Cleaver and I talked about how some day we would take our future children on these annual adventures with us and what a thrill it is to be actually doing it now. We met in the fall and married in the fall (6 years this Sunday!), and the return of the season each year serves as a reminder of how this little family, my greatest joy, made its start. Small wonder that Autumn’s my favorite time of year.

PS: Miss Cleaver just turned 6 months old (how time flies!) and mastered sitting the day we went apple picking.
Pumpkin Photostrip

Or should I say, almost mastered?

PPS: Thanks to those of you who voted for the Pride’s Corner Drive-In. Unfortunately they didn’t win a new projector, but another Maine Drive-In (in Saco) did!

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Oh hey there blog. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you. It’s just been a long quiet summer. I watched a lot of dvds (The Poseidon Adventure really holds up by the way and my love for the X-Men cartoon survives unabated), but for the past month or so, I didn’t really do much of anything I’d call “blog-worthy.” But fall is quickly approaching here in Maine and the Cleaver household is getting back into the swing of things.

First stop? Ricker Hill for our annual apple picking adventure.

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On our 4th year out, my love for this place is still strong, as the doughnuts are still delicious, the views wonderful, and the apple selection top-notch.  We picked a half-bushel and a peck of MacIntoshes, McIntoshes, Cortlands, and my personal favorites, Jonagolds. I see a pie-making afternoon in my near future.

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The weather was sunny and crisp, just like an apple-picking day should be.

Steinbeck was super-helpful.

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We came home happy, tired, and full.  Though I might have been a bit more tired than usual, but that’s only because gestating a tiny human being is hard work……

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Yep – the Cleaver’s are expecting!

While I couldn’t come up with any cutesy blog announcement photo theme (they are seriously not kidding about that 1st trimester fatigue), both the Mr. and I are super excited. I’m about 12.5 weeks along and am due in late March. So expect many photos of tiny baby sweaters soon. I imagine it’s going to be a busy fall!

So far the votes from the last post are 60% for both  of us and 40% for me (sorry Mr. Cleaver & puppies), so in honor of your vote, here we are together:

Lil' one

But who took the photo, you ask?

Why this lovely lady, who accompanied us on our annual apple-picking adventure.

Beneath the apple tree

As other Maine bloggers have mentioned, the apples are super early this year. Since my favorite apple type (Jonagold) ripens a bit later than the first apples, we waited until mid-September, still several weeks earlier than usual, to take our annual trip to Ricker Hill.

The day was warmer than we imagined (hence the short sleeves), but it was a lovely day for apple picking (or slinging).

Beautiful Day - for slinging rotten apples!

Lazy Day

This trip is nothing is not full of traditions, so as per usual there were many dozens of mini apple cider doughtnuts,

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plenty of tasty apples to pick,

PIcking Apples

Cherry Apples

(these look like cherries and taste like apples!)

a trip into the depths of the corn maze (dry enough to traverse the whole thing this year) —

Children of the Corn

including making it out alive (!!),

Made it out Alive

a race over the obstacle course,

Obstacle Course

Winner!

and cute farm animals.

Little Jersey

And I get to look forward to days filled with apple pies, crisps, muffins and sauce!

Half full

With four apple picking adventures under our belt, I present the Cleaver’s Guide to a Successful Apple Harvest Trip:

1. Pick a beautiful fall day
Fall Color

2. Get apple cider doughnuts first. It’s no good picking on an empty stomach.
Apple Cider Doughnuts

3. Eye your prey
Our Prey

4. Don’t be afraid to use tools to get the best fruits.
Up High

Up High

Down Low

5. Pick the Most Photogenic Wagon to Haul your Harvest
Hauling the Harvest

6. Don’t be so focused on the apples that you miss out on other marvels.
Grasshopper

Pitch of the Patch

7. Waste Not, Want Not. Rotten apples explode fabulously when flung from a slingshot.

Apple Slingshot

Letting it Fly

8. You’re never too old for a petting zoo.
Kidding around

Happy Sheep

Conversing with a Cow

Any More Hay?

9. And never too big to stop being silly.
So Tall!

10. Pick up more apple cider doughnuts on the way out. It’s only once a year!
Worth the Drive

Ricker Hill

I am not alone in my love of fall in the blogsphere. It seems ever blog I read in is love with the colors, flavors, textures, and crispness of fall. 

I love fall for all the usual suspects: apple cider, the sense of renewal, school supplies, the scent of the air. I also have a bonus reason to love fall: it’s when I both met and two years later married Mr. Cleaver. So the fall is very special to us both.

Ricker Hill

So this past Saturday we engaged in some traditional fall activity and went on our third annual apple-picking trip. We really liked the orchard we had been going to in Illinois, so the standards were high for our first Maine venture. It had so have a few things: 1 – a wide variety of apples, 2 – pumpkins, and 3- (most importantly) apple cider doughnuts. Seriously, I live for my once-a-year shot to eat apple cider doughtnuts hot out of the fryer. I keep thinking about trying to make them on my own, but I think it might take something away from the experience. That said, and I’m not promising anything (having still not posted an actual S’more pie recipe), don’t be surprised if apple cider doughnuts appear on this blog in the next month or so.

Apples!

Ricker Hill Orchards was a hit on all three points. Crisp juicy apples (organic and non), delicious hot doughnuts (weekends only), cheery pumpkins, and amazing views. Not to mention the fantastic play area.

Find the apple

Oh, and this is pure genius, they had giant slingshots for the rotten apples. See if you can spot Mr. Cleaver’s apple in the photo above. The boy below’s name is David (I didn’t catch the irony until I was captioning the picture) and he asked me to take a picture of him, so I was happy to oblige. 

David slings an apple

We got lost in the corn maze, but did solve it on our second try.

Corn Maze

But Mr.Cleaver holds a grudge, so after we got out, he decided to mow it down.

All in a Day's Work

(Totally kidding on that)

We also both gave a go at the obstacle course. Look at the following images while humming the theme to “Rocky” in your head, it makes it better.

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Who do you think won? 

Queen of the Hill

Not that I’m a biased judge or anything. 🙂

Oh and we did pick a bunch of apples too.

Pie and Ice Cream

 

Saturday night was the second annual “Evening with William Shatner” with Ms. Kasey. This was a tradition started after a trip to Kuiper’s Family Farm last year, enacted when my apartment had one arm chair to sit in. The William Shatner reference was coined by Kasey due to the extreme girth of our two pies.

Apple Crisp

After another trip to the apple picking farm, we convened to make some more pies, this year trimming down the size of the pies and using the extra apples to make an apple crisp .

Pie making is something that means a lot to me. Not only do I love a good fruit-filled pie, but I learned how to make a pie from father. I felt very grown up when I finally got the pie tutorial and the knowledge and experience my father shared with me is priceless, especially now that he’s gone. And though I have yet to figure out how he got the crust to work with only six tablespoons of water, I try to do his gift justice not only by making pies of my own, but by sharing his lesson with any one willing to learn.

And without further ado….

My Dad’s Crust Recipe
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening

Mix together flour and salt then “cut in” shortening with a pastry cutter or knives.

Add 6-10 Tbsps of cold water, until dough holds together. Flour working surface and roll out crusts, using half the dough for each. Makes 1 top and one bottom crust for a 9″ pie tin.

The recipe for the filling comes from Myles, a stage manager and excellent baker in Portland, Maine.

Apples and Peels

Myles’ Spicy Apple Pie

2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
6-7 Cups peeled and sliced apples (6-7 apples per pie)
3/4 to 1 Cup Sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp. Flour
1/8 tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare the pastry for two 9″ pie crusts.

Combine 2 Tbsp sugar and the spices in a small bowl.

Brush the bottom pastry with milk or water and sprinkle with 1/2 of the sugar, spice and everything nice mixture.

Combine 3/4 Cup of sugar with flour and salt and mix lightly through the apples.

Heap up the apples in the pie pan.

Dot the top of the apples with the butter.

Cover with top crust and cut slits for the steam to escape.

Kasey and her identity-confused pie

Seal the sides of the pie crust with a fork’s prongs. Brush with milk or water and sprinkle remaining sugar/ spice mixture over the top of the pie.

Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil wrap.

Bake 50-60 minutes or until crust is lightly brown.

Remove the foil 15 minutes before you take the pie out of the oven.

A word of warning! This pie could potentially make a mess in your oven if you do not take precautions. Because there are soooo many apples in it, that while cooking, it has the tendancy to leak, no matter how hard you try to seal the sides of the pie. So,sit the pie inside a larger pan with a lip for cooking so that if any juices escape you only have the pan to clean and not your oven. Also, you can line the second pie plate with foil so you only have to throw that out, instead of scrubbing your larger pan.

Get your husband to make you some homemade vanilla ice cream and serve warm.

Forget about the dishes until at least two servings of pie.