JoAnne's Family Traditions

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Location: Western, New York, United States

I spend most of my free time gardening, reading garden magazines, photographing the garden or baking (mostly sweets, which list chocolate as the main ingredient). I play the guitar and sing in a contemporary choir of which I have been a member for 26 years.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bluebird couple makes retreat!

Finally after 3 years of struggles, it appears we will witness the growth of the bluebird population. Can't wait!
Three years ago I put a bluebird house up on a tree post. It was up about 5 feet, what is recommended from what I've read. Each year we had bluebirds build their nest but something (raccoons, other birds???) interfered with the process.  This year as usual the bluebirds came, built their nest, laid their eggs and again something got into it. I promptly took the  tree post out, bought a 10 foot pipe, cut off two feet (actually my dad did that for me... Thanks dad), painted it black, added a guard (I'm having a senior moment... What's that guard called? Ah yes, its called a baffle) Then put the house back up. Two days later bluebirds were back, building another nest. They are 7 days into the incubation period.  Another 7 or so and there will be little featherless babies screaming for food.  Now the next hurdle is keeping Indiana (the family kitty) away from the fledglings.

After all the trouble I've had, it makes me wonder why they recommended putting a house up on a tree or wooden post?  No wonder they were endangered.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The New Year 2016 and Bird Activity

In May of 2015 Dave had a list of health issues. He first was having trouble with his right leg/hip joint. He had an x-ray and received a cortisone shot in the hip area which did nothing.  He then had an MRI, however, while he was waiting for the MRI the doctor thought they should get an ultrasound.  They found he had 2 blood clots in his right leg.  The results of the MRI showed a disc fragment causing much of his pain.  He went to physical therapy for several months but the pain continued.  In mid December he was referred to Dr. Maurer who is a neuro surgeon.  He recommended a simple 45-60 minute surgery which he said should relieve much of his pain.  In the mean time, Wed. 12/23 I started having problems of my own with my back, something I've dealt with on and off for years. The Sunday after Christmas I tried to relieve the back pain by using our inversion table.  This was not a good move.  I made an appointment with my chiropractor on Monday.  I saw him two times that week but things just got worse.  I could barely move without pain.  The following week I made an appointment with the same office that Dave went to for his back pain at Strong West.  They took an x-ray,  provided a muscle relaxer, an anti inflammatory and suggested PT which I gladly accepted.  In just one day I felt relief but wondered what would happen when the prescriptions were gone.  Dave had his surgery this past Monday 1/18/16 and is recovering nicely from that.  I am still going to PT and scheduled for an MRI to check out the on-going lower back problems.

Now to get to the point of this post.  We have been forced to take it easy.  So as I sit here at the table,
relaxing, sipping coffee, looking out the window and enjoying watching the bird activity, I snap a few photos. This woodpecker which I believe is a red bellied woodpecker, has been around for days.  I was so excited to see him return on the second day and then day after day. What I have noticed is the seed in the feeder going down, down, down faster than usual and not because the many, many birds are getting their fair share of seeds. So what am I thinking now about this woodpecker beauty???

He seems to fly away as soon as I try to get a pic.

Guarding whats left of his food source.
Here some of the other birds await his departure so they can get a seed or two before his return.

No Blue jays today. I wonder who would dominate, the Blue jay or the woodpecker? :)  Perhaps the woodpecker since I haven't seen a Blue jay all week.

I am doing some sewing while I sit here.  I'm not just lazing around :)!

As I look at the beginning of the new year, I see that we are starting out on a very good note.  We are both fixing the back issues that have plagued us for so long.  What a great way to start the new year, being proactive!!!

Wishing you all a happy and HEALTHY New Year.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sunrise with the Girls

While the hubby's are away we are at play.  Great time with the girls! Had a delicious lobster dinner together on Friday night...yummy.  Then planned on a trip to the beach Saturday morning to watch the sunrise.  Of course it was freezing that morning but we dug out our winter coats, boots, hats, scarves and mittens.  Brewed hot coffee for the road and we were off.  What a great time.  Then breakfast at a nice country restaurant which I'm sorry to say I don't remember the name of.  help me out Carol. We must do such things more often.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Spring Garden 2015

Getting in the swing of things here on the Good Earth.  Working hard to clean up and keep up with all that goes into preparing flower and garden beds for the growing season.  Here are a few pics.

The colors here are disappointing in the picture.  You can't really see the tulips very well but they are beautiful.  This is my favorite place to sit right now.

The Grots I made a few years back keeping watch over the garden.  Unfortunately they're doing a poor job of keeping all the slugs and beetles out.  Yes, already, slugs and beetles.  Guess I need to start that early morning patrol.

The Jane Magnolia just starting to bloom.

Magnolia bloom close up.

Updated the frog pond. :) It is slightly larger.

This feeder has been up for ONE day and already there are ants in there. Ugh!!!

The veggie garden so far.  Have to mulch the bagged leaves and till one more bed.  Things are looking good right now. So glad I put my blue potatoes under cover as when I got up this morning and took my stroll through the gardens there had been some digging in the beds I had prepared and planted seeds in yesterday.  No doubt that blasted raccoon come back to haunt me again this year.  Already knocked over and broke my "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" frog stand. But I will glue him back together.

I've been working just about every day trying to get things in order so later I don't have to be out in the sweltering hot sun in July and August.  There are still so many things to do.  Many one time projects that just never seemed to get done while working full time.  There were never enough hours in the day, nor the energy.  Well, that's it for now.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Precipitation :)

I've been contemplating this for a long time.  Snow and Rain, do you know what they are doing?  They are washing and cleaning the air we breathe.  We have filled our air with so many pollutants that God has found it necessary to bombard us with ridiculous amounts of snow.  Can you imagine breathing in all that nasty pollution?  Snow, it's the only way to acceptance :).

Thank you God for watching over us and saving us from ourselves.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Potato and Buffalo Chicken Casserole

Okay, so Dave shared this recipe on Facebook.  I decided to make it for the superbowl.  It was fantastic!  I can NOT take credit for the picture (or the recipe really) as this is the one that was on Facebook.  I did make a few adjustments to the recipe. It looked just like this except I didn't add green onions which you see in this picture.  You have got to try this.  It is great!!! I served it with Ranch Dressing.  Yummy!

3  boneless chicken breasts, trimmed and cubed (1")
8  medium potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
5 Tbsp. hot sauce

2 cups fiesta blend cheese 
1 pkg precooked bacon
1 cup diced green onion - - - - - didn’t use these

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9X13" baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl mix together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and hot sauce. Add the cubed potatoes and stir to coat. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.  Carefully scoop the potatoes into the prepared baking dish, leaving behind as much of the olive oil/hot sauce mixture as possible. Bake the potatoes for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until cooked through. While the potatoes are cooking, add the cubed chicken to the bowl with the left over olive oil/hot sauce mixture and stir to coat. Once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Top the cooked potatoes with the raw marinated chicken. In a bowl mix together the cheese, bacon and green onion (if using) and top the raw chicken with the cheese mixture. Return the casserole to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the topping is bubbly delicious.
Serve with extra hot sauce and/or ranch dressing.

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

What is sacred?

The other day Dave was checking out an email or facebook post about sacred places.  He asked if I was interested in seeing them.  I say, Yes, of course I am.  So he clicks on the link.  There are temples, cathedrals, bodies of water, mostly buildings.  I began to contemplate: what is sacred as these were not what I thought of as "sacred"?  I guess my thoughts of sacred (being a catholic) were holy places in Israel; Lourdes in France; Ephesus; Our Lady of Guadalupe....

So here I go again broadening my horizon on what and how I think.  I recall when the kids were younger, they were constantly into things they shouldn't have been into.  I remember thinking "nothing is sacred" when some of my favorites were used as play toys.  What is sacred:  not my favorite lipstick or nail polish (why does my son have my nail polish?), not different colored thread, or yarn, not carpet or walls (why is there an art project in multiple crayon colors going on under the buffet on my freshly painted wall?), towels (what is my new plush hand towel doing in the garage), cups, plates, you name it.  And I am not talking just kids, yeah, the hubby got in on this action too.  If you treasured it, they got into it.

As an adult, it seems my view of sacred has become very narrow minded.  New things to contemplate, "what is sacred" to you?


Adding "Life" to your life

At the last Yoga class of the 2014 year our instructor Melissa, mentioned thinking about an intention for the new year.  Rather than just making a New Years resolution, the thought of an "intention" seemed much more real.  So I thought about it during my yoga practice that day and came up with: adding more "Life" to my life.  How do you get more life in your life?  What do you do or add to the ins and outs of your day to spark life or passion in something/anything:

  • enjoy nature
  • watch your seedlings grow
  • try rooting a cutting (or 2) of a favorite plant
  • read a book or your favorite magazine
  • go for a bike ride
  • prepare your favorite dinner dish or dessert ;) (and share with friends)
  • plan an outing with a friend
  • dancing
  • music
  • find quite time
  • sewing/crafting...

I realize it is my own way of thinking and doing that needs tweaking.  So what do YOU do to add "life" to your life?

If you are interested in the challenge of knowing: body, mind and spirit, check out Beyond 2 Yoga in Brockport.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Alpha-Hydroxy mask and lotion made at home

Saw a blurb on Dr. Oz about alpha-hydroxy and aging skin so did a search to gather more information.  Came upon this blog.  Check it out.  I'm hoping to do a girls night or day with a few of these recipes for us to try out. I found there are actually many, many recipes on this topic and plenty of information.

 Here is the recipes I am most interested in:

1.   Treat inflammatory cystic acne breakouts with a natural salicylic acid mask. The most common source of salicylic acid is aspirin, but it can also be found in smaller amounts in aloe and strawberries.

Dissolve 1-3 crushed aspirin in a few drops of lemon juice (a great source of another alpha hydroxy acid, citric acid). Add aloe vera gel and 2-3 mashed strawberries to form a paste. Apply the salicylic acid mask to face for 10-25 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Then rinse well with warm water. You can also use the mask as a spot treatment for breakouts as needed. Alpha hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, can easily be made at home to treat imperfections effectively just like many of the AHA skin products found in stores, but for a fraction of the price.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fun and Games

Setting you up for our little tete-a-tete:

Woke up on Thursday morning and just like any other day thought about what I was going to accomplish that day.  I started out with some exercises as I do every morning but this morning I worked on abs instead of the every day neck exercises.  Then a little yoga stretching and some lifting with 5 lb dumb bells. Went down to get the fire going and the coffee brewing.  My day today would consist of putting away all the Christmas decorations.  As the day went on and the boxes were loaded and brought to the basement my back started to ache.  By midday I struggled to walk.  It was about 2:30 and I realized I had to run errands:  cat food (there was literally none); library (there was a book I wanted to read and I knew Seymour had it); bank (which could have waited but while I was out, why not); Free movie at redbox (I have a list of movies to see from the folks at work); Milk.  As I was driving I realized it was almost time for school to let out and I didn't want to get trapped behind a school bus so I tried to hurry (ha!) through all my stops.  I struggled to lift my legs into and out of the car but managed very slowly.  Everything worked out and I was pulling out of Wegmans at 3:30 so no problems with buses but redbox didn't have any of the movies on my list.  I didn't want to take the time to find another so I didn't get a movie that day.  When I got home all I wanted to do was lay down.  I asked Dave if he had one of those lights that goes around your forehead.  He didn't but he did have a baseball cap with a built in light so I laid on the floor next to the wood stove with the baseball cap, my reading glasses and the book I had just picked up "To Heaven and Back" by Mary C. Neal M.D. a true story about her death and return to life.  Read there for a while but my arms grew tired so had to relocate.  I could not move without pain.  Dave asked if I had taken anything for pain.  I don't usually take anything.  It's not like I enjoy being in pain, I am so used to not taking anything I guess I forget it is an option.  He brought me some acetaminophen and we sat by the fire and read, I, reading my book and he reading postings on facebook, etc.  He made dinner that night.  And then brought me 2 more acetaminophen before bedtime.

I felt only slightly better on Friday so lounged around reading my book and took a break to post my newest recipe: Blueberry Marmalade...yummy!

Saturday morning not much better.  I get up and struggle to start a fire in the wood stove as Dave is still out with his morning swim routine.  I'm hoping a nice hot shower will help me out.  It doesn't.  I get the coffee brewing.  Here he comes in the door with his usual, loudly spoken "Hello" as he cannot see where I am from the doorway.  I say hello so he knows I am in the kitchen.  He sees me struggling to walk and can tell I am in pain.

Dave says:  "look at us we are pathetic, we can barely walk around, my pain is about a 6 or 7."

I have to interrupt him because I don't see a man in pain.  He is walking around pretty much looking care free and I am struggling.

JoAnne:  So I say to him with a straight face and firm voice "your pain is not a 6 or 7, it is probably a 2 or 3 but it is not a 6 or 7. When you started talking about pain level I was thinking mine was a 6 or 7 and then you go and say you are a 6 or 7?   You are showing no signs of being in pain therefore your pain IS NOT a 6 or 7.  It is probably a 2. Totally dismissing his pain :).

Dave says:  What? Who are you to tell me what my pain level is???

JoAnne:  I start laughing! Of course I know how ridiculous my statement is (no matter how true :-))

Dave laughed too.

Yes we are both having back issues.  Mine are only temporary, I hope (but reoccur occasionally and can last up to a week at which time I head to the chiropractor), his seem to be constant.

I noticed a few Christmas things that I missed when packing everything away so I will put those things away today and the rest of the day will be lazy.  Kind of irritating but I'm taking it as God, telling me I need the rest. :)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Blueberry Marmalade Recipe

One jar down . . . I have never been much of a Blueberry fan.  Yes, I like blueberry muffins.  I don't mind blueberry topping on pancakes and on occasion I've enjoyed eating them fresh but they would not be my favorite fruit choice.  However my sister recently came into a few bags of frozen blueberries and asked me if I wanted some.  I said sure.  I thought I was going to get a 16 oz. bag which I would whip up into some nice warm morning muffins.  Turns out it was more like a 32 oz. bag.  So now I'm wondering what I'm going to do with all these blueberries.  I can't turn them all into muffins.  Since I have been in the jelly/marmalade mode, I do some research and find a blueberry marmalade recipe that I think I can handle.  This recipe is a modified version of what I found on Flamingo Musings which was also modified from Preserving the Taste by EdonWaycott.

I have several lemons growing on my lemon bush (which you can see in my previous posting) and just purchased some clementines so I'm good to go.  They say that citrus fruits and blueberries have their own pectin so no need to purchase pectin as with some jams and jellies.  The recipe suggests using a mandolin to slice the lemon and orange.  I recall my Aunt Marge (God rest her soul) giving me a mandolin a few years back which I have never used.  I actually thought of donating it at one time and couldn't remember if I actually did.  So I go in search of the gift from my aunt hoping I still have it.  Yup, right where I remember it being.  Perfect!

Raspberry Jelly has been my favorite for as long as I can remember but this marmalade is running a very close second.  Here are my two favorite fruit toppings.  Raspberry Jelly on the left and Blueberry Marmalade on the right.  This was delicious but truth be told my favorite way to have these toppings is simply on a cracker with peanut butter. Of course you can use these as topping on: toast, pancakes, waffles, bagels, crackers, etc. I do have a Chocolate Raspberry Bars recipe (will post this later) that is to die for which is even better with this seedless jelly.  The only thing missing from this is whipped topping and then maple syrup drizzle!

Blueberry Marmalade

1 large orange or (2 clementines - one sliced, one juiced)
1 large lemon or (1 large lemon plus 1 small lemon juiced)
2 cups water
4 cups blueberries
2 cups sugar
1/8 teas. cinnamon
dash nutmeg


Wash and remove stems from blueberries. I used frozen (not thawed), rinsed them quickly in cold water and checked for stems as I did find some in the bag.

You should use a thin skinned orange or tangerine. Cut the ends from both the orange and lemon.  With a mandolin or by hand, slice the orange and lemon very thinly.  Watch for seeds and remove them.

I like the citrus flavor in this marmalade so i add additional juice of one small lemon and the juice of one clementine.  You don't have to add these additions.  If you add the peel of the extra fruit the flavors may overpower the blueberries.  I also cut the fruit slices in half so that the finished marmalade is not too stringy.

Place the sliced fruit into a large pan with the water.  Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook on high for 10 minutes.  Uncover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Add blueberries, sugar, cinnamon and dash of nutmeg (one shake, no more).  Return the marmalade to a boil, and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

Place a small amount of marmalade on a small dish and put it in the freezer for 5 minutes, check the consistency, if it is not runny remove from heat and jar it.  If it is runny cook for an additional 5 minutes.  The marmalade will thicken as it cools.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars, wipe rims with a damp paper towel, attach lids, rings and process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.  Remove jars and allow to cool.

FYI- I was watching Channel 8 New at Noon today and they mentioned:  1 cup of blueberries a day reduces High Blood Pressure and increases blood vessel elasticity.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying you should eat a cup of blueberry Marmalade every day :)!


Thursday, January 01, 2015


Okay, so I've been away for a long time.  I've always wondered how full-timers do it? Well, it's really quite simple, you have to let things go, prioritize: what you have to accomplish and what you would like to accomplish.  Unfortunately the "have to's" are usually the things that get your attention and the "would like to's" take a back seat.

I began my retirement not a moment too soon, 7/26/14.  My oldest son Matthew, was married on August 9 to a wonderful and very lovely young lady Victoria.  We hosted the rehearsal dinner for this wedding so that meant making sure the gardens were looking decent.   Well, I have to say, they are not usually totally unruly but they are not pristine either. You know there's the trowels, garden shovel, pile of weeds, bucket of whatever, just things that you might leave hanging around because there is so much to do in a garden that you just didn't get to taking care of them all.  I am not good at picking up after myself so that means there are always things left out that should be put away.   I wanted pristine but then, how do you get pristine with someone who is naturally untidy?  So. . . the gardens were okay but I still had all the other issues that crop up with a wedding: dress, hair, the rest of the house, over night guests, the deck and making room for 45 guests, catering service, drinks, mother nature and all the things I've forgotten about.  

The rehearsal dinner went well, lots of conversation, getting to know Vicki's extended family, more than enough food and drink and Mother Nature was very kind to us.

Wedding was great! Here are a few pics.



And now for the task of garter removal!

Okay, we have the tools now what will distract her from her nook 
and favorite glass of vino?

You would think that everything would calm down after the wedding but we still had 3 other weddings to attend during August and September, one being in PA.  

We ended up getting our house sided which took about 10 days.  So we had the issue of choosing siding colors and then new light fixtures.  Now it's not every day that I do this stuff and I'm no good at making decisions.  It was an overwhelming project just to pick out siding and then getting Lowe's to come up with 13 of the same light fixtures.  So there was constant commotion and pounding going on the week after Matt and Vicki's wedding.  Here are some before and after pics.
 Before                                                                        After

I got rid of all the shrubs in the front just in time for spring clean up.  But have not replanted yet.  That will be a spring project...hopefully. I have a few garden gift cards that will help with that. (Thank you Claudia, Kathy, Donna and Mary)

If you are a gardener you know there is always tending to and watering the veggie garden (if you want your produce to thrive), watering all potted plants, and harvesting Raspberries every other day as well as keeping them watered especially during dry spells.  
My nephew's wedding on 8/23 was in the Buffalo area, so fairly local.  My only responsibility was grace so I only needed to get over my fear of public speaking. I had a little practice at Matt's wedding (had a difficult time. . . crying).  but did better at my nephew's wedding.  As I've said to many of my singing friends, give me a song and I'll sing it but don't ask me to talk.

On top of that our oldest daughter Elizabeth ended up relocating for a job opportunity in Schenectady which started the beginning of September.  So off to Albany Thursday, August 28 to find an apartment.  Came back the same day.  Then off to PA the following day, Friday, 8/29 for our 8/30 wedding.   We had a chance to visit the 9/11 - Flight 93 Memorial on Saturday prior to the wedding. It was quite an emotional experience.  Could have spent more time there.  

Returned Monday, 9/1 and made arrangements to rent a U-haul for Tues. but had difficulty getting in touch with the landlord to make arrangements to pick up a key or at least enter the apartment, so we moved the U-haul to Wednesday.  Loaded up on Wednesday night in the rain, headed to Schenectady on Thursday morning 9/4 for a job that started the following Monday, 9/8.  Unloaded the truck and helped empty some boxes to set up living quarters.  I don't remember what we did for dinner, it's all a blur.  Headed home on Friday 9/5 leaving Elizabeth to settle into her new place.  A friend of mine, Mary Ann was planning on going to Albany the following weekend 9/12 - 9/14 and asked if I wanted to tag along.  I felt bad about leaving Elizabeth to unload all those boxes so went back to help out and spend some time with her after her first week at the new job in totally unfamiliar surroundings.  Plus she doesn't know a soul there.  We had dinner and watched a movie before bed on Friday.  Saturday morning, we prepared veggies and a roast in her crockpot and headed out for apple picking.  It started sprinkling as soon as we got there...of course.  We met my friend Mary Ann at the orchard though she got lost.  We just about had all her apples picked when she timely!   I think she planned it that way, yeah, let those suckers pick my apples in the rain. HA! After picking we enjoyed some hot cider, coffee and fresh donuts there then headed back to Elizabeth's to make an apple pie.  Yummy!!! Talked a lot, shared dinner and pie, watched another movie  went to bed with a full tummy.  Headed home on Sunday.  Mary Ann and I stopped at a few garden centers.  I just love looking at all that stuff, plant varieties, garden decorations, fall decorations, etc.  

Now it was time to start baking for the next wedding.  My niece getting married in two weeks 9/27, asked me to bake cookies for her reception.  Well, she did ask in . . . oh, maybe June so it wasn't a surprise but I haven't baked in bulk like that in a long time.  I am slower now.  Think slower, move slower, everything I do now is SLOWER!  So the remainder of September was baking, garden tending and harvesting.  By this time I am sick of green beans, and don't want to see another tomato although the tomato sandwiches were oh sooo good!  But after blanching, peeling the skin, removing the seeds, and preparing for freezing or making stewed tomatoes I'm tired of them.  I ask, what am I doing this for?  I can go buy a can of stewed tomatoes for $.59 or a can of diced tomatoes for $.99 sometimes $.79 if they're on sale...which they are right now at Weggies.  My response from others know what is in your jar when you do it yourself.  There are no preservatives.  I supposed they are correct so I keep on processing in one manner or another.  I have found new things to do with Rhubarb.   So I get into a Rhubarb craze making Rhubarb aid, Rhubarb marmalade, Rhubarb Crisp, Rhubarb Bread, Rhubarb Pie, even grilling rhubarb.  Then I get this idea that I should try Raspberry Rhubarb marmalade, so I do.  It is really good, just like the Rhubarb Marmalade.  I want to make more but the Rhubarb is pretty much depleted.  Thank God!  I'm done with the Rhubarb and must move on. I should mention that I also made Blueberry Marmalade and for all the Rhubarb/Raspberry and Blueberry Marmalades I used my home grown lemons.

Also in September but not sure when as I mentioned earlier much of the summer was a blur, we had another project.  A few years back Dave put in a few grape vines he received from friends.  After a few years they were getting out of hand so he built a grapevine arbor.  Where do you think I'm going with this???  YUP, It is time to harvest grapes.  So we go out, Melissa helps, we harvest 5 flats.  I say " you know, we have to do something with these, maybe we should stop and pick more once we have taken care of what we have just picked."  So we stop.  Dave brings the grapes into the garage hauling them with the lawn tractor cart.  We pick grapes off 2 flats and make juice.  The rest are there for a day or two.  I remind him that we can't just leave them there.  What is the point in harvesting if you don't do anything with them? Plus you are inviting tons of fruit flies.  We took care of the remainder of the flats.  I asked Dave what we were going to do with all these grapes.  He said "make jelly".  WRONG!!!  I am not turning 7 gallons of grape juice into God only knows how many jars of jelly!  So, we froze a few gallons for juice and jelly (which I have yet to make) and took on a new project with the remainder. . . Wine Making :).  By the time it is all said and done we may end up with 2 -2 1/2 gallons of wine.  

We didn't want to waste good grape juice on something that might turn sour so we did a small batch.Here is the contents of our wine cellar.  The small bottle in front is a Grape/Raspberry mix.  Of course it is not in a cellar as we found that during the fermenting process, the juice needs to be in a controlled environment.  I also gave some grapes to my friend Mary Ann who made us a  really delicious Grape Pie.  As it turns out, we went out to harvest more grapes a few days later and they were all gone.  Oh, how disappointing... NOT!!!  Truth be told, I was so glad to be free of more harvesting, (Who says God doesn't hear our prayers :))? Although I was looking forward to giving more grapes to Mary Ann for another pie (unbeknownst to her :-)).  Under the arbor Dave has a picnic table, a bench and chair.  I think the rascal that depleted the remainder of our crop was a raccoon.  We pretty much said: "here, let us help you devour the remainder of our harvest."   Live and Learn!  

So all the weddings are behind us now, grapes and most of the veggie's are harvested and packed away: frozen, canned or consumed.   Raspberries are just about done.  The next move is wrapping up the gardens in preparation for winter and preparing for Fright Night. 

 Here are a few Fright Night pics.  To the left is Skull Face.  He is about 16 feet high.  He looks so much more magnificent hanging on the house but Dave says not any more now that we have the new siding.  So he is up in this oak tree.   Here are a few other pics on the trail. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of Boosville which is pretty cool at night and there were many other interesting and interactive decorations for kids to try out and enjoy.   I usually get help with Fright Night set up, however, my sister, who usually helps out, had to work (can you imagine?).  My friend Mary Ann did come for a few hours, which I was grateful for.  Fright Night turned out great.  But after a few days of set up, now comes the take down.  I don't mind it especially when mother nature cooperates and the weather is so beautiful.  I love that crisp autumn air and listening to all those Halloween props going off now and then due to their motion censors being ignited.  I smile and keep working.   I love that stuff :-)!

Besides Fright Night, October also brings with it, our anniversary and many birthdays. Not to mention moving and storing all those pots that winter over in the basement.  I also had a play date with Danielle and the kids, Gabe and Emma.  We took a walk in the woods, made some cookies which we decorated with Halloween jimmies and then enjoyed them after lunch.  So once again a busy month of baking, shopping, garden wrap-up, whatever.  I had a gift card for Barnes and Noble (Thank you Mike :)) and planned to use it for a deliciously recommended novel however my first read since my retirement (yes I did get to squeeze in some reading time but it was difficult) was "Traveling with Pomegranates" by Sue Monk Kidd given to me by Melissa on my birthday which was in October.  I went to Barnes and Noble to spend my gift card and after looking around decided on something quite different than what I'd planned on.  I came across a book on growing fruit which had a good deal of information I was interested in.  I thought since we are growing: raspberries, grapes, figs, lemons, and oranges maybe I could use some good pointers.  I am also hoping for a second chance at growing limes.  Killed the first lime plant I had. Now with some experience growing citrus plants I'm hoping I can be successful in my second attempt.

Here are a few pic's of my lemon and orange plants.  An aerial view to show more of the lemons.  You can see the lemons are beginning to ripen.  Can't wait!  You can also see flower buds forming for my future harvest (remember if you click on the pictures they will enlarge).  They take about a year to develop and have to be hand pollinated during the winter months.  This process is sometimes successful and sometimes not.  Obviously, bees are the best tools for this job.  I have picked several oranges.  They are small and seeded but the juice  is great squeezed on a salad with a little Italian dressing and the zest is used for baking. 

I just have too many things/pots of things.  I've decided we don't need 3 fig trees.  My cousin has expressed interest in a fig tree so I tell her she can have one of mine.  I feel good about this decision because I am taking steps to clear out excess items.  However, it is mid October and these things have to get moved in soon.  She hasn't come to pick up her fig tree yet and I want to get everything wrapped up for winter so I prune all the fig trees.  And then read about how to propagate them.  You need about a 6-8 inch stem of old wood.  I have 12 so I put them all in rooting hormone and pot them up in the appropriate potting soil, 4 cuttings in each pot.  So now I have 3- 6" pots covered with large clear plastic containers to create a sort of green house effect.  As I am going through the motions of this process, I am screaming to myself, "someone help me!!!"  Why do I feel the need to save these cuttings?  I was so proud that I was getting rid of one large potted tree but I have gained 12 new cuttings and still have the one to be given away.  Now, I realize that these cuttings may not successfully root (and I hope all of them don't) but seriously, what am I going to do with any that are successful?  What can I say?  I love doing this stuff.  I guess I just like to see if I can do it.  I do know that I'd like to try to keep one in a smaller, more manageable pot no larger than 10 inches.  I don't know if a fig tree can grow in such a small pot but heck, it's free right?  So I may as well try it if any of these cuttings take root. Maybe even plant one outside.  The Chicago Fig is hardy to 0.  Perhaps with a little protection it will survive these New York winters.

I think that wraps up what I've been doing the past few months.  People have asked me if I am enjoying my retirement.  My answer... I don't know yet, I don't feel retired.  I do hope things will finally slow down.  We are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for about 10.  A very nice manageable size.  And then we move into the Christmas Season.  And then in March our first grandchild is due :)!!!  Can't wait!

Christmas is past and the New Year has just begun.  I am just now finalizing this post by adding the pictures from the wedding.  Here is our family pic from Christmas, welcoming Emma Joyce.  Be sure to click on it to enlarge so you can see lots of silly faces.  I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and wish you health and happiness in the 
New Year!