Beautiful autumn

Autumn this year was beautiful and mild and felt like a sort of nicer continuation of summer. We were, of course, back at doing school, but we tried to enjoy the nice weather as much as we could. Here’s a bit of a summary of the last 3 months or so.

One day, I took the girls and their friend, Elijah, to a nearby park and enjoyed my camera for a change. The light was so beautiful filtering through the trees, and the trees! —  so stunning.

A couple of years ago I started hosting some girls from church for a day of cooking and learning new recipes. I hosted it in 2014, and in 2015. This year, we made Indian food. Almost all of my recipes came from my good friend, Anne, who is married to an Indian guy (hi, Henry!) and whose mother-in-law taught her how to cook Indian food. So this is the real deal! It turned out delicious as usual. May the Fall Cooking Day long continue!

Esther celebrated her 7th birthday. How time flies — here she is on her first birthday

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And here, 6 years later. Her birthday celebrations stretched over the good part of a week with several events where there were opportunities for Happy Birthday being sung and goodies eaten.

When the weather turns colder, there’s nothing better than building a fort and eating a special morning tea in it, is there? And nothing gives you quite such cool static hair is a microfleece blanket, does it?

On the day of Esther’s birthday, she and Marica were in a CYT showcase. They had been attending this theater class for a couple of months and both loved it. Esther really surprised me by being confident, clear and loud up on stage — not a hint of being timid! I was super proud of them both.

When we go to the library, Marica usually gets a couple of cookbooks out. She decided she wanted to make a three course meal all by herself, and did a great job! We had Caprese Salad for appetizer, lamb stew with garlic bread for the main, and banana with a berry sauce for dessert. It was all delicious. Now, how to figure out to get her to cook more often…

A few random shots: a tree in front of our neighbor’s house that looks like it is on fire; Laurelin being silly in the boot — there’s something special about playing back there, apparently; Esther’s pretty masterful artwork with chalk pens on the window.

Thanksgiving in my mind sort of marks the end of autumn, and then when Advent starts it is the beginning of winter. Does anyone else think like this, or am I the only weirdo around here?

This year we hosted Uncle Sherwood and Aunt Sharon, along with cousin Jonathan and cousin Esther and her husband, Nate. It was a really nice relaxed weekend of visiting, resting, and eating. A lot. I was so glad we could spend the time with their family and get to know them all a bit better!

Roadtrip ’16: Camping in TN

After our visit to Monticello we started the drive down to Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee where we planned on camping for a couple of nights. We started off in the rain and the rain just got heavier and heavier, and there were predictions for a huge storm to pass over where we were going to camp that night. So on the drive down I’m frantically searching for an Airbnb place or something similar and nothing affordable pops up. I’m texting Lillian and she just takes it in her stride and says we’ll be okay, and all I can think is that I don’t want to set up camp in the rain. Well, Lillian won, because when we got to our campsite it was dry and sunny (the storm was on its way, but not there yet) and I got to cook dinner and the tent got all set up, and we even managed to get all the clean up done and kids in bed before the storm broke loose. Moral of the story: always listen to Lillian. :-)

The campsite was beautiful. Lots of big trees and the most beautiful and calm (and warm!) lake, perfect for swimming. Other than it being really muggy when we first arrived, and then the storm that first night, we had near perfect weather too. I wish we could have stayed there longer. We spent our time taking walks, swimming (lots), playing with fire, collecting firewood, roasting marshmallows, and all those wonderful camping things. We also kept an ear out for local accents — quite a treat to our East Coast ears, heh!

(The kids usually swim in their swimsuits, it’s just that on the first morning when they went to check out the lake with Ben, it was so irresistible that they just had to get in!)

Before we left home, we found some black swallowtail caterpillars on the dill in our veggie garden, so being typical homeschoolers, we decided to bring them inside in a jar and study them. Except that when it came time to leave on our roadtip, we weren’t going to just leave them at home, or give them to friends to look after, so we took them along! The first one hatched while we were camping and everyone was fascinated. They are so beautiful!

Visit to New Zealand, part 2

A couple of days after we arrived, we headed out of town to Mt Hutt in the Southern Alps for a Hoyt reunion. I think it had been the first time in almost 6 years that everyone were together again — Mum & Dad, all 8 siblings, plus spouses and kids — and it was fantastic.

Because it was cold and rainy most of the time (there were about 2 nice warm days, though), a lot more time was spent indoors than was anticipated, so even though it got a little noisy at times, it was nice to get time to talk, play board games and drink copious cups of tea.

Here’s a little photographic sampling of our time together.

The drive there and back was beautiful. Some photos have a bit of window glare, sorry!

 

Inside, we had gift givings (Secret Santa for the kids; white elephant for the adults), games, naps in front of the fireplace, food preparation, a talent show, a programming competition between Ben, Bryan, Berwyn and Ed, ASL classes by Lillian, some really good devotions from Berwyn, and of course it wouldn’t be a Hoyt reunion without some very long theological debates on some minute point!

And all sorts of fun was had outside when the weather was nice: littlies on the playground, team building games, archery, an epic water slide, water balloon fights (and other fun stuff like swimming in the river, and abseiling that I didn’t get photos of).

Christmas photos will be in Part 3, next week!

Apple picking day

On a lovely warm day back in October, the girls and I took a field trip to a farm about an hour’s drive from where we live to go apple and pumpkin picking. The weather was fantastic — it was nice and sunny and not too hot or cold, a real Goldilocks kind of day. We took the drive out, and when we got there figured out which of the many activities on offer we wanted to do. We checked out the farm animals first and fed the donkey and goats a bag of carrots which I thought would last a long time and actually only took about a minute for them to munch!

After a little morning snack we went and did the corn maze. The kids were so excited, and it was good for their map-reading skills too. The older two would probably have been able to do the adult corn maze without too much trouble, but Laurelin needed carrying even through the kiddy one, and I didn’t really want to be carrying her for an hour while getting claustrophobic in a big corn maze!

After the corn maze, we went on a hayride to the orchards to go pick apples.

We got two whole boxes full of apples, and I was glad when someone offered us their little wagon. Then we could load some kids and apples on there and get around a little easier! Marica was pretty keen to pull them and she did a good job… until it got a little hard. :-)

Then it was on to the pumpkin patch where they make it very easy for you to pick your pumpkins — no prickly vines! They’re all just lying there, easy to choose which ones to take home. We got a whole bunch of them with the intention to carve them… right now they’re still sitting in our dining room, slowly going rotten. Oops.

It was a pretty tiring walk back to the main area, but we did eventually make it and had lunch before heading home again. What fun!

And then at home, these beauties

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turned into this kind of beauty.

Now that’s what I call the fruit of one’s labors!

Beautiful autumn

I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. I love all the beautiful colors, the  cooler weather and the fun things the season brings like apples, cinnamon, pumpkin pie and hot chocolate. But… autumn is the start of a long cold spell that only keeps getting worse for about 5 months before it starts getting better!

But let’s focus on the positive instead and let me show off the pretty colors in our neighborhood and some cute pictures of the kids!

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Ben enjoying our rope swing (it’s great for kids AND adults!)

We took a field trip to a pick-your-own farm about an hour’s drive from our home where we had loads of fun (blog post to come), and picked some apples. Some of them turned into yummy apple pie. Can’t really go wrong there!

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One afternoon after church, the light on the porch was just so pretty, and when Laurelin sat down on a pumpkin and started playing with the little pumpkins, I just ran to grab my camera and snapped a few shots. This was before the squirrels started attacking our pumpkins, making them look like the apples my kids start eating and then leave lying around the house: a bunch of bite marks, but no real attempt at finishing what’s been started.

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A summary of summer, part 3

August was filled to the brim with activity. We said goodbye to our Chinese exchange students, and celebrated Ben’s birthday.

We swam a few times in our friend’s nearby pool, but also did a fun day trip out to go swim at a water hole our friend Sarah knows about. We joined Sarah and 3 of her kids and our friends the Wassermans and enjoyed a beautiful day out in nature under the trees. The water was very cold, but it didn’t seem to stop the kids!

One day, I took the three girls to all get their hair cut. It was Laurelin’s first time at a hairdresser, and she did remarkably well and sat surprisingly still. This was serious business! Esther was adamant that she didn’t want a haircut, but she needed a trim, so the hairdresser cut off only a little bit. Marica, however, was sick of having long hair again and had been begging me for months to get a haircut. So off it all came again, much to my dismay… seeing those beautiful blonde curls scattered on the floor! But I have to admit that her new haircut suits her well and looks pretty, so I can’t really complain.

One evening we went and used some vouchers for fast food that the girls earned through the reading program at the library, and ate it in a park across the street. The food was awful (from WhiteCastle), but there was this butterfly that kept landing on Esther, and she loved it!

Summer also saw Laurelin getting potty trained. All I can say is that I’m glad we have hardwood floors! The beginning was slow, but then she got the idea. Poopooth (as she calls them) took a little longer to master. One time she got them *on* the toilet — the toilet seat! (I’ll spare you the photo!) But now, a month or so later, she’s doing really well and going everywhere in undies (mostly without accidents) except to bed at night. :-)

Our friends the Wassermans invited us to spend a weekend with them up in Vermont at their family’s holiday house. In New Zealand we would call this kind of house a bach, but I don’t know what they call it here. Other than awesome. :-) It was wonderful to wake up and look out the window and see the sunlight filtering through all the green. It was quiet and restful and altogether wonderful!

We also had a fun day at the zoo with our friends the Rodriguezes,

and a beach day with our friends the Murphys and my friend Kristen and her kids. I added that last photo simply for those who like to people-watch (it’s a double whammy). New York beaches will just never disappoint when it comes to people watching!

Ben has dreamed of putting up a rope swing in the big tree in our front yard almost since we moved in, and it finally happened in August! Since these photos were taken, he’s put a better seat on it. Let me just say that this swing is even fun for adults!

However, the biggest event in August was probably our roadtrip out to Indiana for cousin Sharon’s wedding. I have quite a lot of photos from that, so I’ll share them in next week’s post.

Black and white trees

I love the way leaf-less trees look so stark in black and white.

These photos were taken in Prospect Park, Brooklyn a couple of years back.

And this one in Lancaster County.

March was heralded in by a snowstorm, and it looked like this in front of our house just a couple of weeks ago:

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Now that it’s mid-March, we’ve had some lovely warmer days, the snow piles have mostly melted and there’s a hopeful feeling in the air, but the trees are still stark and leafless. Not for long, though!

EDIT: I wrote this post earlier this week. Today, on the first official day of spring (and my birthday, no less), we are experiencing another snowstorm. Can you believe that?! Enough with the snow, already! :-)