Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hello December!

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This morning I woke up to find just a sprinkle of snow dusting the ground. We did get snow in late November but then it quickly all went away again. It's been a busy couple of weeks and I've been taking each day as it comes and trying to remember to take each day for what it is, and nothing more. And just be grateful for it.

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It was cold today, but the sun was shining. So far our weather has been very reminiscent of the year Braveheart (Lambie) our blind ram was born. On the 5th he'll be eight years old! I can hardly believe it. That winter we had no snow until the end of January and even then, only a tiny bit. The ground was bare all of December and I remember taking Lambie outside on Christmas day to visit the "animals" at the barn which freaked him out since all he knew was the house, his play pen, and dogs.

After chores, me and the small boys went for a walk to take advantage of the nice day...

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We walked through the thick bush a bit as I was hoping to stumble upon some deer antlers. But I had overdressed and it was hard to walk with my heavy coveralls on, so we worked our way back out to the trail where the walking was a lot easier.

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Rollie was not thrilled as you can see, when I asked him to sit for a photo. He loves running so it's hard to get a picture of him outside that's not a blur. What a look I got!

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In the maples I decided to sit down and take a break and just enjoy the crisp air and sunshine.

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It was perfect... except I could barely get up because of my layers. I was dressed for snow even though we don't have any. But Norman enjoyed using me as a comfortable bed for a while anyway.

This weather is perfect for walking, cold but sunny and with the ground nice and firm...

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The boys LOVE their walks.

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Last week we walked in an area I had not been to in a long time. Last summer the dam went out so it was interesting to see the new much bigger dam that the beavers have built quite a way back from the dam that got busted.

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That red grass Rollie is running in used to all be under water and part of the pond, and the dam was where that black spot is behind Rollie, one part of the dam on the right side remains, the rest of it got pushed out. It took out a lot of trees as the water rushed down the creek. We are not sure what caused it to go since it happened in August when we were in Texas.

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I haven't walked along the creek in ages and I wasn't planning a big walk, but we ended up walking for a few hours. It was a BIG walk and it was rough on my body but it felt so good to be out in my forest, hiking, and it's really the only time I feel completely content and peaceful.

My mind rarely shuts up, but in the forest I naturally meditate without even trying. The only thing I focus on with my eyes and mind is the world around me.

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That day there was a thin layer of ice over the pond and I had to keep yelling at Rollie to stay off it since he didn't know better. He wanted to get out there and run so bad.

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It's hard to believe a week ago it looked like this...

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We didn't have a ton of snow and it was nice walking snow, fluffy but firm enough it was great for getting around in.

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The goats were not thrilled about it however...

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Even though the weather was still beautiful they didn't really see any reason to be outside.

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Bedtime is always a favorite time of day but especially this time of year!

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Mostly I think it's got to do with the treats though...

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I thought for sure the snow would be here to stay, but it left almost as quickly as it came.

After we came home from our walk today, I put some beef and barley stew on and made a batch of cookies for the guys. They spent the afternoon out hauling in rounds of wood they had cut from the forest to the wood yard. I make cookies for them pretty much every day they work outside. I wish I could be helping with wood, I tried to talk Kevin into cutting smaller rounds so I could lift them but we both know that's not a good idea for me to be doing yet. Well it's not just a bad idea, I can't physically do it. But a girl can dream. Someday I'll be back at it.

I have been knitting up a storm still and have knit several scarves, some for gifts, some I'm hoping to sell...

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But I needed a break from that and I wanted to accomplish something new today, so I took the plunge and pulled out all my tools and made a batch of soap. I have had everything I needed for a while now, and I've been freezing goats milk and keeping it aside for soap making. I haven't been able to tackle it because my health has been so unreliable I was worried that I'd start a process I couldn't stop and not be able to continue because of pain or fatigue. Well today I went through all my basic notes (I've researched a ton, but sometimes you need to not over load yourself with information and just get to the facts.) I've made lots of lotions, bars, candles, etc, the only thing I haven't done is work with lye. 

The weather was great so I did the lye work outside with my frozen goats milk ice cubes and everything went fine. I had all my protective gear on, I had no splashes, no spills, the lye did not jump up out of the pot and grab a hold of my throat or burn the house down.

So at that point I already felt accomplished.

It's funny how lye is so terrifying to us now when how many homesteading women used it every single day without any protective gear at all? The main thing with using lye is just common sense, protect your skin, and eyes, but also, just don't be stupid. It's that simple really. 

I used coconut, olive, and pumpkin seed oil in my soap and added some honey and oatmeal. I wanted to keep it basic as I figure out what the heck I'm doing. But learning is in doing, not just reading or thinking about it.

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I started teaching myself to knit years ago. And just in the past two years did I really start properly understanding the foundations of why you do things in knitting, how the patterns are formed, and how to build things. I figured this out not because of all the books I've read or videos I've watched (which of course were the foundations and very useful) but I learned this from just doing it. You actually start to understand the process better, why you are doing certain things and what those certain steps will lead to. 

After blending my soap with a hand blender, I put it in some milk cartons I had saved for this purpose and set it aside. I wasn't going for looks with this batch, I just want it to work. In 24 hours if it sets up as it's supposed to, I can take it out of the mold, slice it, and then let it cure. We'll see what happens. Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn't. But the point is, I did it

Finally I felt that sense of accomplishment that I have not felt in so long. Sure I cook A LOT almost everyday. I've been finishing knitting projects like a crazy person. But today I felt like I actually really accomplished something, and that made me feel great. I know I'll rest well tonight and I can't wait to hopefully cut the bars of soap tomorrow so I can let them cure!

I'm amazed December is already here, it seems like it arrived so quickly. But I'm grateful for it, and despite things I'm still dealing with, I'm a lot happier and stronger this December, and I can see how far I've come. I am also looking forward to how far I can go - and that is something I hadn't been doing for a couple of Decembers now.

This year, I welcome December with an open heart, a ton of knit clothing, and maybe some good moisturizing soap!  

Friday, November 14, 2014

November comes...

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And November goes, with the last red berries, and the first white snows.

With night coming early, and dawn coming late, and ice in the bucket, and frost by the gate. - Clyde Watson.

November has always been one of my favorite months. I love this "in between" time. I enjoy the crisp mornings, the frost, and first fluffy snowflakes that fall from the sky. Usually November is a great month to work outside here. The odd year like last year we got quite a bit of snow very early but usually November doesn't bring us very much of it, it gives us a nice firm ground, gets too cold for the ticks, and is cool enough for hard work like cutting wood. We don't bring our wood in around here in the summer or even September like a lot of people do. The forest is covered with ticks, and tons of flying bugs at that time still, and it's also way too hot. October and November are the best months for heavy outdoor work, and although it gets cold, I always love how moody November is.  She's temper mental and maybe reminds me of myself.

Things on the farm have been busy but going well. I have started back to doing part of my chores after a year. This past year feels like such a daze to me. Of course I still need Jim to lift water bucks for me and clean pens, I cannot do that kind of physical work without inflicting a lot of pain on myself, but I am feeding, I am getting a bit more routine and a little bit stronger. But it's slow going. I'm very tired and it's easy for me to loose focus or become forgetful. My Doctor reminded me the other day that on top of everything else, my surgical fatigue alone is going to last quite a while. I know that, and I'm doing my best to pace myself and just be grateful for any and all improvements. If I'm being honest sometimes I feel a little traumatized by the past year and my last two surgeries. I am so grateful for them and the fact my pain is so greatly improved or gone - but I'm just plain worn out still is all. But I know that will come to pass. I found a good Doctor in New York State to take care of my more basic health needs and management too, which makes me feel so much better. I do not need to worry about returning to my Doctor here who has told me repeatedly to "pretend this isn't happening to me." I don't have to fight so hard anymore to get help, and I'm trying to learn that, and move forward from it.

I had a general check up and physical with my new Doctor this past week and my heart rate was through the roof as was my blood pressure. It always is at appointments, and although this was a general check up and nothing stressful, my anxiety was ridiculous. But he listened to me, helped me, and there was no problem. I have to learn that hopefully all those bad Doctors who do not listen and did not care are behind me now. I can finally turn the page on that chapter of my life and move forward knowing it will be OK.

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I cannot even express how good it feels to have even a little bit of myself back. Max is awfully glad too.

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The animals have been adjusting OK to the cooler temperatures. They have put on nice winter coats and no one is lacking for food. Of course it hasn't snowed yet either. I'm sure won't appreciate the first morning they come out to find snow on the ground.

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Lavender has never seen snow so it will be interesting to see her reaction. She is growing like a weed!

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Puffin is keeping adorable and... round. It's a shape.

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Got cookies?

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Buckwheat is keeping nice and stinky! The bucks rut has slowed down but both boys are still in it. I look forward to having his nice silky white beard back when it's over!

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I'm amazed at how many nights so far we have not needed a fire. We were heating much earlier last winter, not that I am complaining.

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Our current wood stove is aging but holding up well enough, it's always taken good care of us. But Kevin managed to get a great deal on a bigger wood stove, a Napoleon, which are great stoves. It also has an ash box which is nice, it might help cut down on some of the ash in the house. I'm not sure if we'll install it this winter or not, but it's here now and if our old one gives up, we have a backup.

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The dogs love walking this time of year and don't mind wearing their coats, unless it's this one. Rollie hates the hood on this coat but I think he looks adorable! And the dirty looks he gives me just makes me find it ever funnier.

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It's always hard to adjust to it getting dark so early though. The animals go in the barn at 4:30 right now and it's completely dark by 5 and that's changing every day.

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Last night on the way home from the feed store we had our first real snow, it was just a dusting but it's the first time we've actually had anything stick to the ground. No matter how much I will complain about the snow and cold every year, I love it when it snows, especially the first ones... I can't help but feel the same excitement I did as a little girl when those big fluffy flakes fall down from the sky. There is something a little bit magical about it, even if later in the season it will make life harder, sometimes it's worth it for the way it makes you feel even if it's only for a few magical moments.

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The boys have the same love/hate relationship with it. Fun to play in, but kinda cold!

They will not wear boots, no matter how I try to convince them, they get annoyed enough at wearing a coat. You'd think they'd appreciate a nice coat/ pair of boots more, but the Wawas like to pretend (for a very short period of time) that they are big tough dogs... then they just ask me to pick them up.

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Since I still need a lot of down time but am too hyper to relax like a normal person, I've been doing a lot of knitting. I have a bunch of finger less gloves/arm warmers for sale if anyone is interested... They are great for Christmas gifts/stocking stuffers. I have the longer style which are also arm warmers and the shorter style which have a stretchy top/bottom and go just above the wrist. I take Paypal and they are $10 each with $3 shipping in the U.S. and in Canada, just email me for rates. I've been trying to get my Etsy shop up and running in between other chores too, so hopefully soon.

Today I am working inside while the dogs sleep by the wood stove. The guys are out cutting wood and taking advantage of a decent day.

I hope everyone has a warm and beautiful weekend! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

One of many Miracles

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Today, one of my oldest rabbits and friends, Miracle passed on. She was such a gentle soul, and I'm grateful I was able to offer her my love and care. She came to us in early 2008 when I took in 23 rabbits from a large rescue of about 300 rabbits the SPCA did... someone running a breeding farm had abandoned all the rabbits and they were starving in their cages and a mess. Miracle had a bunch of babies she could not feed because she had no milk from not getting enough food of her own. I bottle fed the babies, and still have two of them here, Peter and Yukon. Miracle was a very sweet girl and even litter trained herself because she did not like being dirty - probably coming from living in such an icky situation. 

She was elderly and it was very peaceful crossing, but still, this was a hard one for me. I will miss her. Jim dug a grave for her today in our cemetery and I stood under an Aspen tree that stands over so many of my dear friends... it was quaking, the leaves blowing gently in the still warm autumn wind, like the many whispered prayers and goodbyes I have said there.

Looking back at pictures of her arrival distracted me for hours. I got completely caught up in the memories of so many animals, many passed, some here still but much older, that I felt both sad, and happy at the same time. Sadness for the many times I've had to say goodbye, but so much happiness for the love and joy that radiates through so many of our pictures, and memories. I can mostly look back with all love now. Time heals and reminds you to focus on the good, and the gifts you received from it that you will always have. But I still can't do that with Sammy. It's going on a year since he left me and my heart is still just as broken as before. Sometimes healing takes a lifetime, but it's important to not overlook the love, and the way it made you feel, and how it helped you grow. 

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I felt stronger today than I have this past week, and I was grateful for that. Yesterday we ran some errands in the city and Kevin had his annual heart tests done (which he passed with flying colors!) Our favorite grocer/friend gave us some pumpkins to bring back to the goats, and also some produce scraps which every one had a bit of, mostly the turkeys. Max was more interested in just getting a belly rub.

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Then we also had a nice walk, the dogs, Jack, and I.

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It's hard to believe but Rollie is now TWO years old! Douglas also turned 5 this week. Seems like yesterday both of them were just tiny babies.

We have been enjoying the strangely warm weather here and trying to keep up with our chores in preparation for winter. I have been slowed down the past few days so I was able to work on some knitting, which the dogs didn't mind...

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But I do need a bigger chair, although I'm not sure it would help.

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I've really been enjoying knitting boot toppers and lots of fingerless gloves... with my faithful assistant.

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We have only needed a fire a few times so far. The Chihuahuas cannot wait until the fire is going all the time, it's their favorite thing no matter how warm it is outside.

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We've also been enjoying the last of the color. This picture of Beatrice is one of my favorites from this year.

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Our deer are starting to come around but many of our friends, deer we know and have named, have not shown up. Last winter was very hard on them. We also have a cougar in the area which doesn't help, and although the population is suffering and it's well known, the Ministry is not adjusting the hunting season again this year, keeping a longer season.

For 10 years I have watched and got to know the patterns of the deer here, and especially the deer we know well and some even by name... and since last December everything has been thrown out the window and is still changed. Patterns are disrupted, many deer are gone. But I have great faith a balance will return. I have to.

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We have had some really amazing weather, sunsets, and colors this month.

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Now that the leaves are almost all gone we can start spotting our Porcupine friends easier too. Yesterday evening coming home from the city around 6:30, we saw two Owls on our road as well which was a real treat.

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Every season has it's wonders, but autumn is full of such bright colorful beauty, and then such quiet, reminding us that a time of rest is coming.

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The guys also managed to get another planting of garlic in a few weeks ago - and we just got some more seed garlic yesterday to put in as Insurance... the first planting sprouted because it has been so warm, so they had to bring over additional straw to cover it up to protect it from the frost and snow that will be coming, possibly starting this coming weekend.

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We've been getting lots of interesting things on our trail cameras lately, and this is one of them. He passes through regularly and we have consistent pictures of this bear, but this one he stopped to look at the camera. He's a really nice looking bear.

I doubt he'll cause any trouble. The real problem is the three juvenile raccoon's living under our porch. They have been here since August when they either lost their mom, or she kicked them out... but they seemed too young to be kicked out. They have been here ever since, and run around together in their little group. I lie in bed in the evening and listen to them outside the bedroom arguing. Several times now I have broken up fights outside the bedroom and on our back porch, they yell at each other, fight, and throw things at each other. It's like having unruly children.

I worry about my chickens, whom are locked up at night, but I still worry. But I haven't come up with a good solution yet. I cannot live trap and separate them from each other, when they have only each other and no mother. So I'm being patient for now and we'll see what happens. I'm really starting to wonder though if some evening the dogs are going to come in from an evening pee with three little raccoon's following behind them, acting like they are just part of the dog pack now and should be allowed to sleep in bed like everyone else.

Around here, I wouldn't be surprised.

This week hopefully we'll get some more wood cut. The ticks have been wild, and I mean wild. You cannot step outside the door without picking up a dozen. Hopefully a little cold weather will slow them down. I have a few craft projects I am hoping to work on as well. Today all the rabbits and all the dogs got their nails trimmed, so I think that's a pretty big accomplishment! I'm trying to adjust to doing only so much in a day so I can be productive but not set myself back. To me it feels ridiculous because before I really got sick and my last two operations I would have done 10 x what I am doing in a day right now, but for now I need to learn a different pace and it's hard. But I'm grateful I'm up, doing things, enjoying my animals, walking, and being productive even if it's just one step at a time.

A big lesson I've needed to learn for a long time is not to rush things or be in a hurry. I think nature is trying to beat it into me. Focus on one thing, enjoy that one thing, and drink it all in. It tastes better that way :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October colors & sniffles

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Well we have been sick! For what seems like forever too. It's been well over a week for me and longer for Kevin. We don't often get flu's and colds since we don't see a lot of people, but one got us this year. Mine went into my sinuses so I had quite a lot of sinus pain for a few days which was not fun. We are still pretty run down and still coughing a lot, but it's trying to break up. It slowed things down considerably around here though and has been beating us up.

Today it is very warm outside, but also very windy so it's raining leaves. But before the winds came and before I got sick, me and the boys were able to enjoy a lot of nice walks.

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They love going on walks no matter when, but this is by far their favorite time of year for it.

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Especially Rollie's.

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Norman likes walking but he's not for running around like Douglas and Rollie. At eight years old, he keeps up well on walks and has bursts of energy but he's not full of it like his younger brothers anymore. He doesn't mind that I need to rest a lot too, he likes the resting part.

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One day we walked all the way to our Porcupine creek, one of my favorite spots on the property, it always has been since I first came here. Several of my animals have been buried here and some of my moms ashes even went into this creek. Its a peaceful spot. It's also a far walk there and back - for me right now. I don't think I've walked there and back in the year since my surgery. I've been there in the ATV but not walked since my stamina is so limited. But I did pretty well this time.

We call it the porcupine creek because they have dens in the rock ledges and piles there. It's a shallow creek, and the dogs are used to it and can easily cross it because of all the rocks... They had been back and forth several times during our recent visit there but for some reason Douglas then blanked out and forgot it was water and he just jumped straight in!

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And when he landed in it, he just froze and stood there in surprise. I couldn't help but laugh at him.

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After a minute he finally figured out standing there wasn't a good idea so he turned around and ran out to shake off, and run around like a crazy dog.

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Rollie thought it was pretty funny as he safely watched from the opposite side of the creek.

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It was a beautiful afternoon and the dogs and I were so happy to be out together in our forest. Nothing makes me feel as centered, calm, and peaceful as a good walk in the forest, and being able to just sit and enjoy it and it's magic.

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I've also spent time with the goaties, who are all doing great and getting nice and wooly as it starts to cool off. My little bottle baby from this spring, Lavender is growing into a real beauty and she's still as sweet as pie.

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And there has been plenty of cuddle time, which Max enjoys.

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We've also had some beautiful sunsets...

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And the colors were great. Rollie and I did some extra walking together, some tougher walking off trail which I managed well. It's going to be a while before I can hike like I used to be able to and endure the heavier physical activity but my body is growing stronger and I'm just so grateful to be able to be up and get around again.

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And of course I've been cooking! We've had lots of soups, stews, and breads...

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And these pumpkin scalloped potatoes which are just about the best thing EVER...

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Yesterday was our Thanksgiving here in Canada and although I was sick, I wanted to make sure we had a proper meal. It's my mother in me, no matter what, we must have a proper meal on holidays. It's worth it to me to put the energy out. I made a maple syrup oatmeal pie and a pumpkin pie.

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And then the rest of the goods to go along with it. My popovers came out on the first try so I was happy with that! :) And of course the dogs offered constant emotional support and clean up assistance throughout the entire preparation of, and eating of, the meal.

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But otherwise we've been doing a lot of this. We are exhausted from this bug. I'm sure mine is taking an extra toll since I'm so recently out of surgery. But we are getting it beat, just slowly.

I hope all my Canadian friends had a Happy Thanksgiving and everyone else a great weekend! Even though we are sick we have been busy getting chores done for winter as much as we can so we don't fall too far behind, there is much to be done in a short amount of time so it's really set us back, but we are working on it. And the weather has been holding well thankfully, but the change is coming quickly.

For this evening it's just leftovers and rest on the menu here.
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