Currently Reading: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man


The reading I had mapped out for myself this year was a real cornucopia of genres and topics. Normally, I stick to a lot of classic fiction. But this year's list had, oddly, just one work of fiction and it was semi-autobiographical. But this one, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man appealed to me, because it was said to be an almost first-hand account of someone who lived in the era Downton Abbey is set in, and of course...I'm all over that time period! I thought it would be intriguing reading. I'm almost half-way through, and I found the stories of his young childhood amusing and poignant. But at this point in the book, he's a young man in his early 20's who drifts without career ambitions or philanthrophic pursuits, and I must admit to becoming decidedly irked with him. Time will tell if I end up liking it by the last page.

Anyone else out there read this? What are you reading now?

New Beginnings

After 31 years, my dear, old Singer sewing machine seized up and refused to stitch another stitch. It's been fixed so many times, that it just seemed to be the prudent thing to replace it. I had done my research about a year ago, so I knew just what I wanted...a Janome HD3000 (HD = heavy duty). It arrived yesterday, and today it went into use!


What sold me on this one were the following features:

- It's heavy duty.
- Underneath its plastic outer carriage, it is metal.
- It is said to sew through paper, four layers of denim, silk, and leather!
- It is mechanical, not electronic. (HUGE selling point for me!)
- It has a free-arm and an automatic buttonhole attachment.
- It isn't loaded down with bells and whistles.

I needed a work horse of a machine, and I hope this is what I got. Now...on to sewing those much promised additional costumes for the shop!

Sabbath Rest

Today: Finishing a half marathon to raise money for cancer research and care!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

- Hebrews 12:1

Bomber Hats are Coming Back


Bomber hats are coming back to the shop soon! I have so much to say about these, which I will save for another posting. I'm just waiting for an opportunity to rope my littlest grandson into modeling one for me. And then, when I have some proper photographs, I'm going to tell you all about why I'm passionate for the bomber hats.

Autumn Farm Stands in New England

One of the crowning glories of a New England autumn is the bounty available at its farm stands. The lure of the last of the harvest is nearly impossible for me to resist, partly because I know this is the last of the fresh-from-the-farm food for many months in this colder region of the country, and partly because I know that the hardworking local farmers are hoping for the last of the sales to be good before they enter into their quiet season. Here's a glimpse at the ones we've visited in the last couple of weeks...

We did a u-turn to follow a finely illustrated sign to this farm stand. As I said at the time, anybody who puts that much effort into making a good sign is bound to have a great farm stand. And it was true! More great signage and fabulous produce! I'm sorry I don't know the name of this farm, but if you are in the area of Exeter, NH, and you happen to spot a sign with artfully painted tomatoes, follow it!




Also in Exeter, NH is the very fine nursery, Churchill's Garden Center. They have a lovely selection of outdoor plantings for artful autumn potting and a nice selection of heirloom pumpkins.


In Hampton Falls, NH, we visited Applecrest Farm, the oldest and largest orchard in New Hampshire. Isn't it beautiful? Almost nothing I love better than the beauty of an apple orchard...the God-given industry of the bee blending with the hard work of the farmer to produce the fruit that presses into fruit, mashes into sauce, ferments into vinegar, and warms us as pie. Bliss! We definitely want to go back when their Farm Bistro is open (check their website for hours so you can plan your trip wisely).

  

Just one photo from Alyson's Orchard in Walpole, NH. I'll be returning there before the season is out, so expect more pictures to come. But plums! Plums! Their beauty! Alyson's is one of our favorite orchards to visit, because the people are so friendly and they have a dazzling array of pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn, and apples from which to choose.


Just a nine minute drive from Alyson's brought us to Harlow Farm in Westminster, Vermont. We had never explored here before, and we enjoyed examining all their offerings. They have a little cafe/coffeehouse on the premises, as well as fresh produce, gourmet groceries, landscape plantings, and of course...pumpkins! Bonus points to this place for neatly-lettered and informative signage!


This sign claimed that this apple variety, which I had never heard of, was "worth trying", so we did. Interesting flavor...kind of nutty.


And THIS was situated by the cash register! It's a mushroom harvest in the wild. To give you a size perspective, it is sitting on a dinner plate. We were told that it grows on rotting oak trees. This is 1/4 of the size it was when it was harvested. The clerk picked it up to position it so that I could photograph it from a better angle. When he did...a salamander fell out of it. Oh my! Yes, indeed...harvested in the wild. I stifled the sudden urge to give out a very girly shriek and simply said, "Oh my! There's a....there's a....Oh yes." Eeeek! A bit too wild for me, I think.


And this week, I stumbled upon Wallingford Farm (c. 1804) in Kennebunk, Maine. Sadly, it was closed when I arrived, but I did wander about a bit and take some photos. I'd love to return when it's open sometime soon. It is an historic farm and pumpkin lover's delight!




Autumn Baking and Cooking List


I don't know about you, but I have been more than eager to start in on autumn baking and cooking and to enjoy all those spicy flavors and cozy meals. It seems that I always start out in eagerness, but busyness creeps in and autumn flies away from me, and I never quite cook and bake as much as I intended. And once Christmas time is here, I have zero interest in baking pumpkin anything. This year, in order to help me stay focused, I have compiled a list of the foods and recipes I want to enjoy. Here's how the list is shaping up:

AUTUMN BAKING AND COOKING

- Apple Walnut Zucchini Bread from the fabulous blog The View from Great Island. Click here for the recipe. I want to bake like crazy, but I don't want all those calories. So, I'm spreading the love around and baking for fellowship time after church. Is that acting in love? I can't decide. Anyway, this recipe is moist and delicious and a definite keeper!

- Roasted veggies. I'm just going to toss everything with a bit of olive oil and throw it into the oven. I'm particularly excited to roast carrots and butternut squash.

- Cinnamon Ice Cream. I may buy this. I may make it. But I've definitely been craving it. I'm imagining it over a piping hot square of gingerbread after Sunday dinner.

- Spiced Plum Cordial. I'm going to make my standard cordial recipe (click here) with plums and cinnamon sticks and see how that turns out. I think this will be best in the early autumn before the weather turns too cold.

- Marte Marie Forsberg's meal from the April edition of UK Country Living. Everything about Marte Marie Forsberg says warm and cozy, hearthside and rainy days, candlelight and conviviality. So when I saw this meal featured in the April issue of one of my favorite magazines, it spoke autumn's coziness to me. I've been hanging on to it ever since, waiting to try: Fennel and Potato Soup, Norwegian Pork Belly with Mustard Coleslaw and Brown Gravy, and Roasted Potatoes (whose secret ingredient is: duck fat!). Click here for the recipes.

- Roasted Autumn Fruits. Twice I've seen these featured on someone's Instagram, and they just draw me in...a big casserole dish heaped with the fruits of the late summer/early autumn...raspberries, plums, apples, pears. Add a bit of herbs if desired. Some butter. A sticky drizzle of honey. Pop it all in the oven to roast. Serve alongside a pork tenderloin, or add a generous dollop to a bowl of hearty oatmeal. Doesn't that look and sound deliciously beautiful?

Photo credit to: https://www.daylesford.com/the-autumn-harvest/

- Maple Toffee Popcorn with Salted Peanuts. This recipe appears in the latest issue of Yankee Magazine. A sweet treat for an autumn afternoon. Click here for the recipe.


- Grilled Autumn Foods from The Gardener & the Grill. As I told you before, I'm looking forward to some autumn grilling from this cookbook, including the following: Skewered Chicken Saltimbocca, Smoked and Smashed Sweet Potato Soup, Grilled Turkey Breast with Winter Greens and Warm Cranberry Vinaigrette, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Fig Skewers, Acorn Squash and Apple Rings with Cider Jus, Grilled Pears with Honey-Cinnamon Creme Fraiche.

What autumn foods are you looking forward to?

So It Begins...


So it begins...the accumulation of the pumpkins! Something about all those New England farmstands just beckoning us with their piles of bulbous squash...drawing us in with their proud displays of the season's best. We are powerless to resist. The first official day of autumn is not even here yet, but we already have this beauty, one tall and thin one on the mantle, a heap of small white ones in an ironstone bowl on the kitchen table, and two white ones on the front steps. The day after Thanksgiving, we'll be pitching them out into the woods for the wildlife to feast on, but for now...each one is so irresistible!

Sold Out

Whew! Well that was a bit overwhelming! All five of the boy's costumes listed in the shop last week have sold! Guess what I'll be busy doing next week? Hoping to restock by the end of next week. You can stay tuned here, on my Wonderful Life Farm Facebook page, or on my Instagram stories for news of restocking. 




The County Fair

The grandkids look forward to the county fair each year with all the giddy anticipation one can imagine. I love its wholesome delights...rides, cotton candy, prize homegrown vegetables, 4-H clubs showing off their animals. First priority for them is the rides.

 


Then we watched the acrobats on horseback.



We admired the tidy displays of produce and made the acquaintance of a friendly goat.



Ahh...my favorite time at the fair is when the sun is setting and all the lights are coming on. Isn't it just magical though? So festive!



Autumn Blooms

Golden-rod in bloom near our home...a sure sign that summer is drawing to a close and autumn has come.

When, I wonder, shall I meet her,
As I wander through the woodland,
Meet the pensive maiden Autumn,
With the eyes that look afar?
I would welcome her and greet her,
Gladly turn to her from Summer,
As we leave the garish daylight
For a single pallid star.

She is tranquil, deeply quiet,
With a graceful, even moving;
And a benison of silence
Falls about her where she goes.
Wanton Summer was a-riot
With impassioned song and blossom,
Gay with glory, heartless ever,
With a thorn for every rose.

I shall meet the Autumn maiden--
Here are the signs that she is near me:
On the hills a gauzy azure
From her veil in gliding by;
And her golden-rod is laden--
Yellow plumes of starry masses--
And the white, the purple asters,
For her coming footfall sigh.

- Ruby Archer

Sabbath Rest


Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness.

- Psalm 100:1-2

Currently Reading: The Creative Habit

Well, technically, this is what I just finished reading, Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit - Learn It and Use It for Life. (For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Twyla Tharp, she is one of the world's best choreographers.)


I added this book to my list this year upon the recommendation of someone in social media...can't recall who. They thought the book was fabulous and a must-read for every creative person. I believe what sold me was their assertion that the book probes the question: Are the most successful creative people those that are the most creative, OR are they the creative people who work the hardest? In other words, what is the relationship between creativity and hard work? Intriguing topic, and one I'd never seen addressed before. Into the book I delved.

SO many thoughts. Where do I even begin? 

I guess my first sort of whoa!...step back!...moment in reading this was to realize that this book was written for the creative person who is trying to be successful at what they are doing. Not that any of us set out trying to be a failure at anything. But this is a book truly written for the person striving for success. Trying to be THE best in their field. And I think for a lot of people, myself included, creative expressions are not motivated by a need to succeed. The process is more important...the quality of the work produced regardless of accolades...the greater importance behind it may have more value than any earthly success...all sorts of things motivate people besides "success". So, while the book may be more useful for that person in a highly competitive creative field, it's also thought-provoking for anyone who is creative, because it helps you probe the "why" of what your motivation is.

That led me to really question what my creativity actually is. The obvious answer is that it's my historical costuming for my shop. And then that led me back to my first thought. Am I motivated enough with my shop and the creativity I express there to be a "success" at it, or is there something else in life I view more as my "art"? And if so, what is it? And given that there are only 24 hours in a day, into what should my hard work be poured? All those questions will most likely be elaborated more upon in another blog posting.

Now, Twyla Tharp works in the highly competitive field of dance. I am not faulting her for her intense motivation and drive. I applaud it! It's a field in which you have to be fiercely tough and unrelentingly determined to rise to the top. And she has! Bravo! And along the way, she has learned some invaluable lessons which she shares in the book.

My favorite chapter was the one entitled "ruts and grooves". What's the difference between them? How to recognize you're in a rut. What to do to get out of one. I'm not currently in one, but I've been in them, and they are not fun. A rut, for me, was a feeling akin to trying to paddle a paddleboard through a pond of chocolate pudding...working, but not going anywhere...murky...dull...unmotivating...no refreshing breeze...nothing fresh and new...feeling like your most creative time is behind you...and starting to feel like you may never reach shore. I've been there, so I understood. And her advice is FABULOUS! Here are snippets from my favorite two pages of the book...

"If you find yourself caught in a bigger rut, what you really needs is a new idea, and the way to get it is by giving yourself an aggressive quota for ideas...
Instead of panicking they focus, and with that comes an increased fluency and agility of mind. People are also forced to suspend critical thinking. To meet the quota, they put their internal critic on hold and let everything out. They're no longer choking off good impulses...We get into ruts when we run with the first idea that pops into our head, not the last one."

That chapter is a GEM! It helps you realize the turning point for thinking outside the box. It would help you avoid creative ruts. It is incredibly invigorating about creative thinking in general and gets your mind racing with ideas!

I would recommend this book for anyone who works in a creative field: artists, writers, engineers (yes, they ARE incredibly creative), costumers, illustrators, and more.

A Few of My Favorite Things

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

- Robert Louis Stevenson

I thought it might be time again to spotlight a few of my favorite things. I love knowing about things that others love and feel passionate about. Don't we all? Everyone loves a good recommendation! If you want to read my past posting on a few of my favorite things, click here. And as I've said before, I do not receive any compensation for these recommendations, but have included links, where appropriate, so that you can easily find them, if you are so inclined. Here are my latest 10 favorite things:

1. Red Metal Cooler.  I have just realized that our red, metal cooler is one of my most favorite things I have ever purchased! We take it everywhere! Here it is going out in a canoe with us...


Here you can spot it on the sailboat cruise with us...


It is made of sturdy metal and has that great vintage look. It easily holds lunch for four: sandwiches, a salad or fruit, beverages, and a small dessert. Yes, it's heavy when it's loaded, but we never really carry it very far. And if we do, then two people carry it between themselves...no problem. We ADORE this cooler! It makes a delightfully well-received wedding gift too. I have given it to numerous couples, once even in blue. I like giving gifts with which people will make happy memories! This cooler is a keeper! You can buy the identical one from Amazon (although the price has jumped about $20 since I purchased ours) by clicking here, OR you can buy an identical one in white from Crate & Barrel for a better price by clicking here.

2. Food Network Kitchen's Feta Herb Vinaigrette. I noticed Food Network Kitchen's dressings at our local grocery store for the first time this summer. All four of the varieties they carry are delicious, but the Feta Herb one is my favorite. It's not overpowering in flavor, but packs a nice little zing for your taste buds. Quite possibly, my favorite part of it is that two tablespoons of dressing only contain 70 calories. Win! Check for it at your local store.


3. Handlettering tutorials from The Postman's Knock. If you've ever wanted to learn classic calligraphy, handlettering, or modern calligraphy, then The Postman's Knock is a great source with which to learn. Lindsey Bugbee has a series of video tutorials and print-at-home practice sheets which walk you through the process and provide you with as much practice as your need. I learned some handlettering before we went to Europe, so I could caption some of my journal pages. 


And I've been working on modern calligraphy, but not as diligently as I should to truly get good at it. But the beauty of her method is that you can do it all at home, on your own time, and for a reasonable price. Click here to go to her Learn Calligraphy page.

4. Long Walks. I am passionate about long walks. I love to take them early in the morning or just before dusk. I average between two and six miles, and it's great exercise. But I think what I enjoy most about them is the connection it gives me to nature. There is ever so much to enjoy and ponder and notice about the world around us, and when you're moving at the rate your own feet can take you, you discover it in the best detail. On a recent walk, I noticed: the golden rod is blooming, some of the ferns on the forest floor are starting to die, the sound of song birds, a fuzzy caterpillar, how the wild grapevines are bountiful this year and heavy-laden with fruit, squirrels and chipmunks, that a neighbor's apple trees have not produced many apples this year, the lovely way in which the tendrils of vines climb up a tree trunk, leaves starting to turn to autumn colors, that the moon is a waning gibbous, and so on. All these things I would miss if I never walked. 


5. Crate & Barrel's Marin Canisters. I'll tell you up front that you will have to live near a Crate & Barrel outlet to have any hope of finding these exact canisters, but it's probably the concept that I like the most. I'm a big believer in the textile designer, Williams Morris', adage, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." And, in my view, if the useful can be beautiful, like a fine, high quality scrubbing brush with a wooden handle, then all the better! OR, if the useful is not beautiful, then store it in something that is! I do not drink coffee, and I don't find K-cups attractive in the least. They are plastic, multi-colored, and have a bunch of wording on them. Nothing attractive about them. But they seem to have taken their permanent place upon the scene, so I am resigned to their existence. But I don't have to look at them! So, I was thrilled to discover that our (sort of) local Crate & Barrel outlet still had some canisters from their Marin line of dishware. They look attractive, neutral, and have a heritage-modern vibe happening as they sit on the counter, and they keep all those K-cups contained and out of sight. But really...any pottery-like canister would serve the same purpose.


6. Bleak House London's Red Book. If you are planning a trip to England (and even if you're not!) you really must go over to Bleak House London's website (click here) and subscribe to Annabel's Red Book. Scroll to the bottom of her page and find The Red Book Email and enter your address. It's a monthly newsletter filled with the most useful information about adventuring in England. 

The dramaticĂ‚ white cliffs of the Seven Sisters and the iconic red and white striped lighthouse at Beachy Head make this one of England's most iconic walks.
Photo credit to Bleak House London: here.
I have written you before about how Bleak House London is one of my favorite Instagram accounts, mostly because Annabel's writing is so engaging and her determined spirit is decidedly admirable. That same writing style makes her Red Book captivating as well...detailed notes about where to walk, how to get there, the most delicious and cozy pubs in which to dine, and the off-the-beaten-path insider tips that make the novice traveler feel knowledgeable and well-prepared to set off. I have been printing out all her walking guides and saving them up for our next trip. To read past editions of The Red Book, click here and enjoy with a cup of tea. Highly recommend!

7. Nora Murphy Country House. I adore Nora Murphy's relaxed New England style! From her blog, to her Instagram, to her new Hunt Shop, to her fabulous candles, Nora Murphy serves up daily doses of inspiration and beauty that just can't be beat. If you need a little seasonal design inspiration, or if you want to hone your eye for what elements make good design, Nora Murphy is a great one to follow. She offers occasional recipes. She takes you along on vacations to the Cape and Nantucket. She lives, like all of us in New England, with the rhythm of the seasons, and nobody does it better than Nora! AND her book is coming out this month! I can hardly wait! Click here to visit her homepage.

Picture from when we meet her while touring her home in Connecticut.
8. Sunday Baroque. And I have Nora Murphy to thank for inspiring me, upon her recommendation, to try Sunday Baroque. Now it's part of my Sunday morning routine. I make myself and Hubby omelettes, and as we eat, we listen to Sunday Baroque...hours of lovely baroque music with only a wee bit of commentary about the composers and musicians. It's a lovely, relaxing, and peaceful way to start the day. Click here to go to their site, where you will have to click to listen to the "four most recent hours of Sunday Baroque".

9. Address Labels from Felix Doolittle. I love illustrations with a bit of heart...seasonal, whimsical, maybe touched with humor, sweetly simple, and unrelentingly upbeat. And that's just what I find with Felix Doolittle's art. He makes all kinds of prints and stationery products: canning labels, bookmarks, bookplates, calling cards, note cards, and more. But my favorite are his address labels. I certainly don't use them for boring correspondence...like bills. But for any correspondence of a personal nature, I enjoy using something that is pretty and more of a statement about our family. We used this style for our Christmas cards last year, which seemed entirely appropriate after our Land Rover expedition in England that year...

And we recently included this style with a marine life-themed birthday present to our ocean-loving niece...

Whale Rider - Panoramic Return Address Labels
(Photo credits of both of the above to Felix Doolittle.) Click here to go to his site. And don't forget to check back for his Christmas collection, which comes out in the autumn. So many fabulous Christmas address labels to stick on your Christmas cards!

10. Crate & Barrel's Marin Pasta Low Bowls. Click here. Yes, I am a bit obsessed with Crate & Barrel's Marin line. It's the perfect creamy-white color...not too stark, not too gray, not to yellow. And it gives that look of handthrown pottery without the price tag. I love it's organic shape and the barely darker edging that gives it definition. We adore (see my last post on favorite things) their appetizer plates and use them all the time for appetizers and desserts. And now we've added the pasta low bowls to our collection.


They are the perfect low-profile bowl for entree salads. Currently, we probably use them most for bowls...chicken and rice bowls, or steak/rice-quinoa/grilled veggie bowls...


We just purchased them in June. But what I'm most looking forward to using them for is for autumn and winter dinners with a pile of mashed potatoes and some meat in a puddle of sauce or gravy...all neatly contained, because it's in a low bowl. I looked at the low bowls offered by many companies, but I chose these because they're beautiful AND because they're not overly huge, meaning you are not reduced to filling the bowl with a portion bigger than you should eat, nor is your normal-sized portion looking lost in a bowl too big for itself. These hit that happy medium spot, and I couldn't be more pleased with them.

I hope you found something you'd like to try. I attempt to recommend a variety of things for people who have a wide range of interests and at a variety of price points (from free to moderate). Enjoy!
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