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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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On Friday we had our second snow of the season (the first being a dusting the weekend after Halloween), but it now being mid-November, this one is the true harbinger of winter.

We’ve shifted our clocks back, I’ve pulled out my sweaters, and generally speaking, the first snow comes right around Thanksgiving, so it’s all in good timing. We’re acclimating LMC to snowpants and boots and mittens (which are tiny and adorable), and planning on more indoor time.

My most recent take on the Geranium dress, made out of some lightweight shot cotton, is mostly inappropriate for the weather, but I bought the fabric back on vacation and cut it out months ago and we can always layer, right? In any case, I cut it long in the hopes that it’ll still fit come warmer days, which are now very far away for Maine. I’ve got a second dress cut out in the same fabric for her still-nudist doll, which I hope to have done by Christmas.  Because there’s nothing like November to kick-start a slightly dormant crafting bug.

Do you have any Christmas crafting plans in the works?

Picking Raspberries

Down the Path

Picking Raspberries

Picking Raspberries

Picking Raspberries

Snell Family Farm

Picking Raspberries

Checking for More

Tasting the Bounty

Picking Raspberries

Raspberry Pie

Raspberry Pie

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Raspberry Pie and Ice Cream

Eating Pie

What can I say? I love pick your own (PYO) farm adventures!

Last week at the farmer’s market we discovered that Snell Family Farm did PYO raspberries (they do apples too). So on a sunny Saturday morning Mr. Cleaver, LMC and I loaded up the wagon (no pets allowed, unfortunately) and took the short drive out to Buxton/Bar Mills.

We had a fabulous picking experience. The raspberry fields are orderly and the picking rows are wide, so you don’t have to worry about backing into thorns/stepping on fruit. There were plenty of ripe berries on the bushes, mostly down low, which meant that LMC could pick berries on her own (though she doesn’t quite get the concept of ripe/not ripe yet).

I highly recommend bringing a picking assistant- twice the picking, half the fruit! I’m pretty sure LMC ate at least 1/2 pint of raspberries while we were picking, but as the kind cashier said, “I didn’t weight her when she came in, I’m not weighing her on the way out.” (We gave them some extra cash anyhow).  We were also able to pick up some carrots and green beans from the farm stand and they have huge greenhouses full of flowers. So if you’re in the mood for picking fruit, I’d highly recommend our Snell experience.

Also, can I say that Mr. Cleaver did an awesome job as field-trip photographer? With the exception of the pie close-ups, he took all of these. And he says he doesn’t know how to use my camera- ha!

We ended up with two full quarts of berries, half of which we’re in the process of eating fresh and the other half made their way into a raspberry pie. While LMC has assisted in the baking portion before, this was her first slice of pie, of which she left no crumb uneaten, so I think I’m safe to say she liked it.

LMC-Approved Raspberry Pie

Preheat oven to 375 °F

Crust

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for rolling surface/rolling pin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup very cold water
  • Small amount of milk
  • Small amount of sugar

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

Add up to 1/4 cup of very cold water a few Tablespoons at a time, until dough holds together.  Form into two equal-sized balls of dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator (at least while you make the filling, preferably at least an hour). Flour working surface and roll out crusts, using half the dough for each. Makes one top and one bottom crust for a 9″ pie tin.

Filling

  • 4 cups fresh (or thawed frozen) raspberries
  • 3 Tbl cornstarch
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup of sugar (to taste, based on the sweetness of your fruit)

Mix filling ingredients together, trying not to smush the berries too much.

Place lower crust into a 9-inch pie pan and pour in filling. Use a small amount of milk or water around the edge of the lower crust to help seal.  Cut vents in top crust and place over filling, cut off overhanging crust (save them for cinnaminninies!) and crimp the edges to the lower crust to seal.  Brush top crust with milk and sprinkle with a light dusting of cane sugar.

Place in center of oven and bake for approximately 55 minutes, or until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown. If needed, cover the edges of the crust with tinfoil during the final stages of baking to prevent scorching.

Cool on the windowsill of your choice (nothing burns like hot fruit!) and enjoy with ice cream.

 

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

The Mainah Tee

I was recently introduced to the term Wahlheimat, a German word, like so many German words, that crams a lot of meaning into a few letters. In this case,  Wahlheimat means home of choice, which is a perfect way to describe my relationship with Maine.

All told, I’ve now lived in the state for about seven years total, but even when I’ve lived here for another 50 years, I’ll still be considered “From Away,” the title of Mainer forever out of my reach.

Fortunately, my From Away status doesn’t taint Little Miss Cleaver’s true-blue Mainah credentials (though if you talk to people Down East, living in the Greater Portland Area may).

So it only seemed fitting to make her a blue Maine tee, featuring our state mammal (the moose) and our most quintessential, but unofficial state phrase – ayuh, which dialect blog names America’s oddest yes

It’s made out of more of the sun-protective jersey from Rockywoods and of the tees I’ve made to date, this one is by far the best sewn.

I pulled out the (rather slim) manual for the Pfaff Select 3.0 and got more into the weeds on its stretch-stitch capabilities. By using a combination of the straight stretch stitch, the “closed overlock,” and a double needle, I got what is a professional-looking and sturdy final product.

I don’t know how prevalent these stitches are on non-Pfaff machines, but if there’s any interest, I’d be happy to pull together a tutorial.  Let me know!

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In my book, a girl’s first baseball game is a big deal. Going to a SeaDogs games was another of those moments I dreamed about sharing with LMC as soon as I knew she was coming. Even so, it caught me a bit by surprise that I got a little teary-eyed when we walked out of the concourse into the sun-lit fields of Hadlock Stadium.

Any attempts to actually watch the game are mostly moot at this point, and if you asked LMC what her favorite part of the experience was, and she could speak in sentences, I’m pretty sure she’d say the french fries. But it’s harder to find something more summery and American and wonderful than a minor league ballpark on a July day, particularly when your team is up by four runs.

The only thing that could perhaps be more perfectly summery is a field of sun-ripe strawberries. I’ve already noted LMC’s love of berries here before, but it’s something else to be in a whole field of them. We made it to the last picking day of the summer at Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and while the berries on the ground were no longer numerous, they were still delicious, and fortunately the farm stand was still well stocked, since the berries we picked seemed to mysteriously disappear…

Gyros

Faux Dome - Christ Pantocrator

Dolmades

Trying Spanakopita

Trying Spanakopita

Saints Icons

Baptism of Christ Icon
Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

Dancing & Loukoumades

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One of the tastiest days on the Cleaver family calendar is the day we visit the Greek Food Festival. Hosted annually by the Holy Trinity Church in Portland on the last full week of June, we start anticipating our visit as soon as the weather gets warm.

It’s not that you can’t get good Greek food in the area other times of the year, it’s  just that there’s something about the food that you get at the Festival that makes it extra delicious. We eat light in the morning so we have plenty of room to stuff ourselves with dolmades (lamb and rice-stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, gyros, and loukoumades. And oh the loukoumades – the Greek equivalent of a light crispy doughnut hole, made fresh and served in a honey-nut syrup.

Despite being rather full, I gave Mr. Cleaver some serious stink-eye when he suggested only getting one serving of loukoumades this year.  It only comes once a year! Even LMC, who for the most part was too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to the food, loved the loukoumades. She ate her little snack and danced her little toddler dance to the Greek music playing on the loudspeakers. Happily swaying back and forth with the taste of honey on her lips. We usually go in the mid-afternoon on a weekday to avoid the crowds and lines, but it would be fun to go see the live music and dancing one of these years.

We did however take the opportunity to get a  private tour of the church from Father Sarantides himself. If you ever get a chance to see the inside, I’d highly recommend it. Holy Trinity features a number of stunning small and large scale icons throughout the sanctuary.  All we had to do was ask one of the volunteers and they set it up. They’re truly beautiful.

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Strawberries & Daisy Chains

Ripe Strawberry on the Vine

Sunny Day Shorts

Sunny Day Shorts

Irises

Sunny Day Shorts

Oh sweet summer, you are officially here and I waffle between trying to cram three days of activity into one weekend day and being completely lazy and just soaking it all in. Being lazy should win an awful lot more than it actually does.

I am amazed at how rapidly a garden can grow once you get your plants in. Some of my leaf lettuce is almost ready to start picking, I’ll likely be making some fresh basil pesto soon, and we’ve sampled the first sweet, sweet strawberries warm off the vine. This little girl of mine loves fruit. Any kind, all the time. So it was such a joy to see her eat that first strawberry and point at the plants looking for more and the heartbreak of having to wait another day for some more to be ripe. As these plants are young and small, I’ll be surprised if we get even two dozen berries off of them this year, but each one is worth it, so long as we can beat the critters to them.

Early last week, we had a visitor to the garden beds. My guess is either a woodchuck, which we’ve spotted in the neighborhood, or a skunk that our neighbors saw. Either way it gnawed the leaves off of three of my six broccoli plants. So it was off to the home improvement store and some quick installation of fencing. I’m using that green plastic hex mesh (chicken wire) and thus far we’ve had no additional midnight-snackers.  One of the broccolis seems to be recovering nicely, but I’ll likely have to swap out the other two. Live and learn.

In my efforts to supply LMC with some appropriate play clothes I sewed two pairs of the new Oliver + S freebie pattern, the Sunny Day Shorts. One in some Birch Fabrics Jay-Cyn fishy print I had in my stash and a second pair in some blue twill leftover from my Beignet skirt. I didn’t do anything fancy other than add top-stitching to both pairs. It’s a freebie pattern, so there’s not a lot to it and the drafting is a teensy bit off (one side of the legs seem to have a sharp point where you turn the hem, the other side is more of a curve, so it doesn’t exactly line up). Also, the rise isn’t quite long enough to cover the whole diapered bum, but for nice looking shorts that whip up quickly? They get the job done. Next up, I’ve got another t-shirt cut out and ready to go, after which I’ll probably take another selfish sewing break to try a go at making my first swimsuit. Because we just got LMC a kiddie pool and I’m gonna need something fabulous for splashing around in that! 😉