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Xavier's Monster Picture_costume design
Until about a month and a half ago, Xavier was dead set on dressing up as Optimus Prime for Halloween and Quinn was all set to be a fellow Rescue Bots Transformer, Boulder. They had both decided that Ada would be Bumblebee (the Transformer, not the insect, of course).

But after a quick read through some of their favorite Halloween books that had just come out of storage and a line in the sand drawn by yours truly that this was the time to make the final choice on costumes (as I would be the one purchasing them or making them), Xavier pronounced that he had changed his mind and now wanted to be a monster. Quinn, ever ready to be “on Xavier’s team,” announced that he, too, would be a monster, and his description of his ideal costume mirrored Xavier’s exactly (Xavier would be green with yellow spikes, Quinn would be yellow with green spikes, and so on). Soon thereafter, Xavier’s vague description became very specific as he sketched out his design. Granted, I had requested such an illustration so I could have a sense of just what he was picturing when he said “monster,” but I had no idea he would become so attached to his vision.

At this point, I could have easily snatched up some ready made costumes, managing expectations that sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want. I could have looked for a green sweat suit, sewed on some yellow spikes, and called it a day. I can’t quite explain why my instinct was instead to make a trip to the fabric store to pick out a pattern to work from, scour the aisles for the perfect shades of green and yellow fabric, and plot out my plan. Perhaps it was the weeks that stretched between that day and Halloween and the many nights that remained to do a little here and a little there until the costumes were done.

Instead, I found myself knee deep in yellow and green fleece just hours before our scheduled photo session (because if I was going to spend all of this energy on the costumes, you better believe I was going to collect photographic proof before the kids dragged those precious little tails around in the mud). My mother had totally bailed me out by finding an adorable blue monster costume for Ada at a consignment sale, realizing long before I did that two handmade costumes was tricky enough; there was no way I could make three. I finished the boys’ costumes just in the nick of time and was literally sewing little yellow spikes onto the feet of Ada’s costume to make them all look like a coordinated set in the car ride over to the photo shoot.

I am quite happy with the results, as are the boys, and Ada has surprised us all by keeping her costume on for hours at a time, happily plodding around with her long tail and hood.

Xavier rewarded me with his awe that I was able to match his sketch so closely (“How did you even DO that, Mommy?” he asked) and with a ridiculous Mommy-son photo shoot during which he practiced his best monster poses until I finally had to tell him it was time to come inside. That kid really knows how to lay it on. Honestly, I appreciate every kind word as the undertaking was much larger than I imagined. But I am absolutely thrilled with the results.

I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Xavier’s costume. I’ll share some photos of Quinn and Ada in a future post.

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Quinn in Tree

{A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama.}

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Xav Fun Run 2_edited-1
{A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama.}

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Ada Touching Water
{A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama.}

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Ada Walking Down Sidewalk
{A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama.}

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Oh boy, do I have a yummy fall recipe for you.

Every year, we use the bushel or so of apples we pick on our annual apple picking trip to make and can apple sauce and apple butter. And I have a bit of a tendency to…well…hoard those jars of apple goodness. I am ever afraid that we’ll fly through our supply of apple sauce and apple butter by the end of December and have to wait until September hits once again to enjoy the fresh yumminess of a homemade jar of apple goods.

I made an interesting discovery this year. Hiding in the back of our cupboard was an extra jar of applesauce from last year and a couple of jars of our yummy apple butter. Oops. Perhaps I was a little overzealous in tucking away those jars. This year, I’m trying to strike a nice balance between canning some goodies to enjoy over the course of the year (and share with friends) and enjoying the fruits of our labor (quite literally) right now.

So far, aside from crunching on the fresh apples in snacks and lunches, we’ve had some simple but delicious baked apples and, inspired by my goal of mastering the art of packed lunches and snacks now that I have one in three-day preschool and another in kindergarten, I decided to give some handmade fruit roll-ups a try. I started with a recipe I’ve used before–my adaptation of a basic recipe for fruit “leather” (a name I just can’t bring my vegan self to adopt) that I found in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. I added in some cinnamon and just a bit of nutmeg, which you could leave out if you’re looking for that pure apple taste, but I think the spices add a bit of the taste and fragrance of a good apple butter or mulled cider recipe. These are perfect for packed lunches and snacks or to bring along to your local fall festival.

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Apple Spice Roll-Ups

(inspired by and adapted from the fruit “leather” recipe in Pam Corbin’s The River Cottage Preserves Handbook)

Yields: about 8 roll ups

2 pounds, 4 ounces apples
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 – 1/2 cup water or apple cider
7 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 170 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

If you have a food mill with a fine mesh screen or Squeezo style food strainer, wash apples and chop them into even 1 inch chunks without peeling or coring. If you do not, wash, peel, and core the apples before chopping them into 1 inch pieces.

Place the apples in a pan and add the lemon juice and a bit of the water or cider. Cover, bring to medium heat, and simmer until the apples are soft (about 20 minutes), adding water or apple cider as needed to prevent burning.

If you are using a food mill or Squeezo strainer, when they are soft, process the apples through the mill or strainer into a bowl. If you have peeled and cored your apples, use a food processor to puree them. Add the agave nectar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir well.

Pour half of the puree onto each lined cookie sheet (If you have time, you might let the mixture cool for a few minutes first. The hot puree sometimes has a tendency to warp the paper a bit when poured on at a very high temperature, which might make for some gaps in your roll ups but won’t affect the taste one bit. I didn’t bother to let it cool for too long this time and it worked just fine.) Carefully spread the puree on each sheet with the back of a spoon or a spatula until it is a thin even, layer.

Place the cookie sheets in the preheated oven and cook for eight hours. No, that is not a typo. The idea here is that you are not really cooking the puree so much as you are slowing drying it, letting the moisture evaporate so that you are left with a roll-up that holds together, but is still pliant and chewy. If your oven temp does not get down to 170 (or will go down to a lower temp), you’ll need to adjust the cooking time. I wouldn’t attempt a cooking temperature above 200 degrees F.

When the roll up is still pliant, but will pull away from the paper like a sticker without any goopy spots, take it out of the oven. It will cool quickly. Carefully peel each entire roll up sheet off of the parchment paper.

If you will be eating the roll ups bit by bit from home, you can roll each large sheet up and store it in an airtight container.

If you would like to be able to pack the roll ups individually in lunches and snacks, place each large roll up on a new sheet of wax paper that is slightly larger than the roll up. Using kitchen scissors, cut the roll up and the wax paper into strips (or score with a sharp knife then pull apart), place each fruit strip on top of each piece of wax paper, and roll the fruit strip inside the wax paper, fastening the end with a piece of tape or (for kids big and small) a fun sticker. (You can either cut the wax paper and roll up together so that they are even along the edges–a good option if the roll up is going into another container for lunch or snack–or cut a slightly larger width of wax paper and fold over the sides before rolling to allow for less drying if the roll up will be on its own.) Store the individually wrapped roll ups in an airtight container or zip top bag until packing into each lunch or snack.

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{A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama.}