Apple Season is Upon Us!

So summer has come and gone with the speed of sun and light yet again this year. Summer is truly my favorite time of year. I adore the sun and the long days. This year was especially amazing. I spent a week back “home” on Cape Cod as we do every year, but this year my Mom and Gram were too sick to come. I was lucky to find solace and tons of smiles in the happiness of my college roommate and her family who happened to be only a few miles away also for the week. I never had any sisters, but if I did, I would want them to be just like these girls. I truly counted myself lucky to spend this time with this family. They came all the way from FL.  We chased fireflies, went to a brewery in the early morning, played glow tag in the sprinklers of a golf course at night, and hung out at my childhood pond. It was amazing. It was one of those times in your life where everything slows down and becomes ok for just a little while.

Now fall is upon us, I am waiting for the leaves to change and for the smell of a fire in a fireplace off in the distance to waft by as I walk home one night. I am not nearly patient enough though, I had to go apple picking with the kids. It is my favorite fall activity. The kids and I go up to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, MA.  We go there so my Mom can come. While there are hills, there are also flat areas where she can walk easily. And my gosh it is gorgeous. There is a mini corn maze, the best cider donuts ever and chickens, sheep, and goats to feed. All in addition to apple picking.

 

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The best part of picking apples is all the amazing apples that we come home with. I adore apple pie and apple crisp. This year we discovered Fortune apples. I have had some bad luck recently and so Bear and I decided to pick some fortune apples, hoping that it might bring us some good fortune. We ate one immediately. It was delicious!! We picked a ton of them. That night I made apple pie. It came out amazing. I am now a HUGE fan of fortune apples. They were perfectly crisp and just a little sweet. They didn’t break down and get all squishy, but they aren’t hard either. They are just right.

The one thing I hate about making apple based food products is peeling and coring them. I hate that round coring devil with a passion. There have been years where I had bruises on the palms of my hands from it.  Until I found an “Apple peeler/corer” This thing is a-h-h-mazing!!! It gets suctioned onto my counter next to my sink on the first day of fall and doesn’t leave until after Christmas. I think everyone needs one!! It will cut your baking prep time in half!!! Seriously, get one. Thank me later!

peelercorerNow…. go make yourself some pie!

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Oh Hello There!

I have returned! Please keep the applause to a dull roar. I am not even sure where to start to tell you about everything that has gone on! So I shall start with a photo and I will let you dream up the details.

ImageYup, we got married. I still get chills thinking about it 3 months later. I have been working hard for Boss Lady and spending a ton of time focusing on Punk and Bear. 

Bear has played a lot of baseball this summer. He plays on 2 all-star teams. He adores it but it makes it very hard to plan anything because the schedule is very volatile. It seems to always be changing at the last moment for one reason or another. I find this VERY frustrating since I am a scheduler. I may not be organized, but I am scheduled. His team did make several amazing comebacks in order to take 3rd place in the State Championships for the 9 and 10 year old division.

Punk started a new gymnastics academy. They opened a brand new gym and she loved the camp there. She starts work outs in the fall. I think that since she will have more focus on her that it will go better.

Both kids are at Cape Cod Sea Camps right now. Bear is doing overnights and Punk does just the day. It is the same camp I went to as did my mother. It is a haven on earth. One of those places that the world doesn’t seem to touch. Every morning I see the parents walk their kids across the Upper Field, drop them off with the counselors (it is really more like kids running to the counselors and the parents half waving hoping that the kids see them). Then the parent’s walk away dejected. For many years I thought that the parents were missing their kids, today I realized, that is SO not it. It is that we want to stay too, we want to be inside that bubble. Playing games, doing art, someone making sure we do our swimming lessons, that is the kind of summer we all truly want to go back to. Forget the grocery shopping and emails. I want to be back there.

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My Version of a Valentine

As some of you may or may not know, I have gone back to work. A REAL job. I had been looking unofficially for a little while. My previous job with PPS had ended so suddenly because there was not enough work to go around, and I was told to just pack up and leave one day, with no warning, they just didn’t need me any more. Since that happened, I decided that the only way I would give my time and energy to someone other than my family,would be someone or something I truly believed in. In early January an opportunity popped up. A friend of mine had a tiny flower shop up the street and got an amazing chance to move to the Main Street of our town into a prime location. She literally bought the business and moved overnight. While she had never needed an employee before, now she did. She contacted me. I was thrilled. It was a perfect fit.

I started the 2nd week in January. I knew nothing about flowers. But Boss Lady was willing to teach me. I was so ready to learn. I was in an environment with someone who trusted me from the start. She didn’t treat me like an idiot. Boss Lady showed me how to wrap flowers and do pricing schematics. I learned so much my first week. Joking she warned about Valentines Day. Her family comes in and out to help with things. Her husband helps with computer hook ups and her mother helps set ups flowers, her uncle does delivery. They all joked about Valentines Day. I was flat out warned it was intense but nothing could describe it. I was told that it would be long hours. “No problem” I said. I called in the calvary. Aka- Nana. She came down to help with the kids after school for me.

Then Valentines WEEK hit. Oh did I mention the massive snow storm we got the weekend before that delayed all of our roses??? There was a 36+ hour driving ban in MA so the trucks could not get to us. When they finally could drive the snow piles were so high on the corner that they were impossible to see around making driving so dangerous. But Oh My Goodness did Goalie and I have fun!! Punk and Bear were with their Dad that weekend :(

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Oh I’m sorry did you need milk the day before a storm?IMG_2010Kirby Ponders Snow

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Our Neighbor built a cave, note the light.IMG_2089 IMG_2094

We were not even all the way to the ground in these photos!!!

So when Valentines hit I really learned what work was. Let me say before anyone has something mean or snarky to say. I did this 100% of my own choice. At any point I could have cried “uncle” and gone home with no punishment. I chose to stay, I chose to help. I LOVED every moment of it.

I have never been so busy in my life. Every time I went to sit down (which was always a bad idea), or have a bite of lunch/dinner graciously provided by my employer or a member of her family, the phone rang or a customer came in. It was wonderful. I truly expected to see a lot of guys begrudgingly buying roses for their wife because they had to. But I only saw 1 or 2 of those out of thousands. What I did see and hear were men with stories of how much they love their wife/girlfriend and how they wanted to make her happy. Many knew exactly what she liked whether it be roses or not. Some wanted to pick out mixed flowers to show extra effort of doing something themselves. It wasn’t always about them just spending the most amount of money to show her they loved her the most. Some of the sweetest stories came from the guys who didn’t have that much but were trying to be creative in other ways.

So in 4 days I worked 57 hours. I didn’t even come CLOSE to what Boss Lady worked. She was amazing. Their jokes, were true. I have never worked harder. Breaks didn’t exist for any of us. I could have taken one, any of us could, but it would put so much stress on the others. Even going to the bathroom was a risk! lol. But the days sped by. Before I knew it, it was 11pm and I hit the wall. I would be home and collapse into bed and get up at 7am the next day, drop the kids at school and head straight to work for 8:30.  I stripped thorns from roses, wrapped flowers, cleaned buckets, swept floors, took orders, blew up balloons, organized the cooler, and with any luck made some people happy. I truly love my job. Every day I come in to beautiful flowers fresh from the market. Max, Boss Lady’s Pitt-bull hangs out with us in the shop, and our customers are generally the nicest people going. (you always get a few nut jobs no matter where you are… but they make the job interesting!) I can’t wait to do it again next year!!!

So take a moment and think, before you complain about the cost of flowers on Valentines Day. I never knew before this year, how much work went into it. Months of planing, and one seriously intense week of work. Roses don’t just get pulled out of a box and plopped into some water. Every flower was inspected, stripped of the bottom thorns, then cut on the bottom and had packing petals taken off. And that is just the start of the flower’s journey.

I am so lucky to love what I do. I still get to bake, I also get to learn a new craft and have a new creative outlet. I am just so grateful for this opportunity. And now for your viewing pleasure… some of the beautiful things I get to work with on a daily basis!

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Gerbera Daisy
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I love the colors of the roses she brings in.
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Some of our Valentine Colored Roses

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We had 5,000 RED roses for Valentines Day

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Max Stops to smell the flowersIMG_2204

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Max is ready for the doors to open!

Progress

As mothers we watch our children grow and change. We ohh and ahhh over every tiny little change and progression. The loss of teeth are posted of Facebook with gap toothed grin photos as all our friends post about how big our kids are getting. Every birthday comes and goes as a mother silently (or sometimes more loudly) sniffles about the years that have gone by. For me watching the progression of my kids learning their letters, to struggling with letter sounds, to reading, and now chapter books was amazing. I am confounded by it. I took a photo of Punk in her *very messy* room with big headphones on reading a chapter book and realized how much like me she was. And I was proud.

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Rarely do we ever stop to look at our own progression. Today I had that moment. Several years ago, I was sitting on the floor sorting Christmas decorations. Goalie was sitting across the room. I stood up and my knee buckled under me with a horrible smushing noise. Goalie heard it across the room above the noise of the TV. I crumpled to the floor. Several trips to the doctor told me that I would need surgery. But since Goalie lived 2 hours away at the time, Nana was not in a position to help, I had 2 young kids who where not self sufficient at all and I had a job that would not give me the time off, surgery was NOT an option for me at that time. So I lived in a brace for a while. Then for several years I just dealt with the pain. I did as much as I could. I pushed thru. It hurt, but it was my only option. I managed to do Rockin Mad 5 mile… I nearly died, I came in DFL, seriously.. but I was not going to let my knee stop me. Life continued and so would I.

Finally I got the chance to have the surgery I needed. It was called a lateral release. I was warned that when most people have “knee surgery” it is for a meniscus tear and that heals much easier than what I had, so don’t listen to those people when they say recovery is fast. My recovery would be long. I had no idea how long. I started last spring. I had MONTHS of rehab. I still have massive swelling after standing or walking for a long time. I still get very sore. I still have to ice a lot. Worst of all, I can’t wear awesome heels. I miss my 5″ heels like you would not believe. At 5’10″ to start I always felt amazing in a pair of awesome heels.

Recently I have gone back to the gym. I have been walking on the treadmill. I started out at 2.5 speed and 1 incline and no running for 20 min. I would be lucky to hit 150 calories. Then today THIS happened. I saw progression in myself for once…. and I am proud. I am on the couch with ice, but I am proud!

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My Wishes for them

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Since I am divorced, I only get the joy of ringing in the new year with Punk and Bear every other year. Last year we went into Boston for the parade and fireworks with friends for some chilly wholesome fun. I loved it. This year it was just Goalie and I. So adult fun it was… Off to the House of Blues to see the Amazing Royal Crowns and Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the Hometown Throwdown. It was something I started going to way back in High School. In 1997/1998 I saw them at the Worcester Centrum with Bim Skala Bim, Dropkick Murphy’s, Letters To Cleo and the Bosstones. This year the Amazing Royal Crowns were back with the Bosstones. It was a dream The only thing missing was the old venue, dirty, dingy, stale beer smelling basement of the Middle East. But I understand and appreciate WHY the venue was moved. For once, there was no scrounging for tickets. I didn’t have to sit by my computer and pray that I got two, because scalpers would scoop them up and resell them for 10x the value. (and yes, I generally had a team of people doing the same thing. We always got tickets one way or another). But it shouldn’t be that way, and I can appreciate the dedication to the fans, and the band not wanting that to happen, so a much bigger venue was a good answer and the House of Blues did a great job.

One  of my traditional requirements for a Bosstones show, no matter how old I get or how bad my knee is (one year it was REALLY bad), is that I MUST be in the front row. Goalie knows this and respects it. In the last break when everyone runs for the bar, we run for the stage. We get crushed, mushed, smushed, beer spilled all over us. It doesn’t matter, it is all part of the experience to be that close to see Ben Carr dance and Dickey Barrett sing.

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So as I am being slammed around, blissfully happy I realize something, a wish for my children. I wish for them to be this happy, no matter what it may be. Whether it is seeing a band, or a sports team, playing a game or falling in love. I also wish for them to have my support like my mother supported me in music. She was never a fan of ska. But she never questioned it. When I said I was going to a show, no matter what it was, she just said, “Have fun and be safe.” I know she worried. But she pretended to be happy for me. When I came home all excited, I would wake her up to let her know I was home and safe and tell her a quick run down of the night, even though I am sure she just wanted to go back to sleep because I could surely tell her in the morning. But she listened every time, even if she had to work early the next morning. She never complained when I called really late to play her that one song she might know over the phone, even though she couldn’t tell what it was because it was too loud and vibrating so bad.

This year my Mom asked my what I wanted for Christmas. There wasn’t much on my list. I wanted family time. I have to share my time, so I like to make the most of what I have. I like to hear the giggles, the belly laughs. So this year, she got us season passes to a local indoor water park. My wish for us as a family this year, is memories. I am going to work really hard to make sure everyone is happy and we have an epic year.

PS…. have I mentioned that I can finally say that we are getting married THIS YEAR!?!??!

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New Year… New Name!

Oh my Golly, I had a whole post written in my head while on the treadmill at the gym. Apparently when I stop walking, a trap door opens and everything falls out of my head. Who knew? I was thinking about recapping the whole month.. but there is just so much to write about! The plague descended upon my house like you would not believe. We have been sick for 26 days. It has gone from person to person in several different forms. Punk hopefully has the last of it now.

Christmas was amazing. It might be the last year that Bear believes in Santa. This is a little bittersweet for me. I love the wonder in their eyes. I don’t over think it, I just enjoy it.

Wedding plans are moving along. Seems to be a touch of drama at every turn. I spend months looking online for the perfect invitations. I finally found them, but getting them printed on time OY.. I didn’t sleep for 2 days because at first we didn’t think we would get them on time because our designer told us last moment that she was going on vacation. So we got her to do them super fast! BAD IDEA. There were so many mistakes, wrong color, Invited spelled with an extra I, etc. We thought we had proofed it ok and off it went to the printer, and to vacation our designer went (less than 8 hours later). Well, wouldn’t you know we found a number wrong on one of the RSVP’s. So it was a small miracle getting that fixed involving a designer, printer, groomsman and groom. Yay team work! So I think we are good to go. I should have them Jan 2. I can’t wait. I am super excited to get them.

I used to make a huge list of resolutions ever year. It never really worked out for me. I would always disappoint myself. So resolutions aren’t for me. I like to look forward to something each day. When I wake up, I try to find the one good thing that excites me and makes me want to get up and take on the day. Whether it be cooking a new recipe, doing something special with the kids, talking to an old friend or finding a new adventure. It can be big or small. Do you do resolutions? Do you do something else?

Well, it isn’t much… just a bit of a catch up right now. Wedding t-minus 126 days 23 hours!!

 

Thanksgiving, Our Way.

I made it thru this year and I would call Thanksgiving a success. So before I begin… here is the legal disclaimer- I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I’m not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com.

Products received from advertiser are only used for experienced-based reviews on Legalized Frostitution. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of Cathy. This blog was written in support of Campbells and Swanson, assuming I like them.

So, lets talk turkey. This was my best one yet. I managed to defrost the turkey (Past fail #1 overcome), then I managed to take the neck out the the body (past fail #2 over come), but try as I might I could not find the bag of giblets  So I called in Goalie who rooted around violating the turkey a little bit more. We even brought in the high powered flashlight and shined it up his ass. (the turkey’s not Goalie’s) Still no bag of gross was found. (past fail #3… inconclusive). So I went to my my favorite website and found this video on HOW TO PREPARE A TURKEY. Easy, simple.. perfect. I am a big fan of garlic salt so I chose to use that. I chopped 1 onion, threw in a hand full of baby carrots and chopped up some celery. I put a little in the turkeys butt  (I felt we had already violated him enough) and put the rest under the poor guy.  Then I slathered him in melted butter, garlic salt and a dash of pepper. Into the oven he went! Easy yes? Yes.

On to the cornbread stuffing. I followed the recipe here for MOIST AND SAVORY STUFFING. I made the horrific mistake of using cornbread stuffing. Yeah, don’t do that. I really liked using the Swanson Chicken broth to make the stuffing and I would defiantly do that again. Even when I make Stovetop. It was just the texture of the cornbread stuffing that I was not a fan of. It was very mealy and grainy to me. Everyone had some though, and it got eaten without complaint, so I guess it was not that bad.

For the vegetables I mixed some carrots and green beans and I used the QUICK AND FLAVORFUL VEGETABLES recipe, (again from allrecipes.com. What would I do without them?). We were unable to locate the Flavor Boost, but I am super excited to try it. So I used used regular chicken stock on this one. The veggies were really good. Everyone ate some Punk and Bear didn’t complain at all. Even tho there was no butter on anything. So that was nice.

My favorite part was the potatoes. Very easy to make. I peeled them into a recycled shopping bag while we watched the parade and then I boiled the heck out of them. Then I went Ultra Creamy. Potatoes have been a nemesis for me. There was the year they were lumpy, the year they crunched, the year I didn’t have a masher, oh yes and they year I just gave up and made them out of a box. Not even kidding. But this year, they were amazing. I am sure my trusty Kitchen Aid helped but so did Swanson!!!

So back to the turkey, It came out of the oven right on time… looking amazing. I laughed, telling my mother about the fact that we had a special turkey because ours came without the sack of gross stuff. “Did you check both ends?” she asked me. Ummm what? Goalie and I looked at each other, in all my years I didn’t know you had to violate a turkey from both sides. Either way, this was my moistest turkey every. It was literally perfect. Even when we warmed it for leftovers, it was juicy. So I don’t care it I didn’t conquer all my past fails, and I didn’t brine it or cover it in bacon. I made and awesome turkey this year. For that, I am thankful.

Thirty-wha?!?!

I am about to turn 32. Yes I said it.. my REAL age. So far I am not embarrassed about it, not ashamed either. Maybe when I see it with a 4 in the front that will make a difference, but so far, not so much. What did hit me today was thinking about where I was 10 years ago at this point in my life. I had an amazing job, I worked for a company that traded semi conductors and really truly cared about their employees. The CEO was accessible and made a difference in the life of everyone from the sales people, and shipping dept to the secretaries. I was the secretary who had just moved into sales. I was 6 months pregnant and 2 months married. I was a mess. I worked with many young professionals. Men and women who, to this day I look out and wonder where they are, but know that wherever that is, they are successful. I was at the point in my pregnancy where I had just started to keep food down. I was just starting to feel good. No longer did I want to curl up on any given public bathroom floor and sleep after losing the water I was told I had to drink. My belly was starting to show, Bear was starting to kick, I was 21 and scared out of my mind. No one at work had ever had a baby, I was the first of my friends to have one, and with no brothers and no sisters for either my Ex or I this would also be the first Grandchild on both sides. I wasn’t sure if this made me a pioneer or an idiot.

My 22nd birthday was when it really hit. No longer was I hoping for clothes or jewelry, I was hoping for baby clothes and supplies. That was what I genuinely wanted. I was a little sad that I could finally go out to a bar legally and have a drink, but alas, no… not in that state, it would have to wait. I was afraid to even be seen in a bar pregnant. (que Sweet Home Alabama quotes). 

Then I thought about this year… so much has changed. I no longer work for that company, but I dream of being the kind of boss my CEO was. I have had some crazy amazing experiences. I have worked with seals, been to Paris on Thanksgiving Day, divorced, fallen in love 3 more times (Bear, Punk and Goalie), I have loved and lost, I have seen stars from a sailboat, slid down a concrete slide in a mountain and zip-lined thru the rainforest of Costa Rica with no hands. We have made so many happy memories. For my birthday, I don’t want to go to a bar, it isn’t my weekend with the kids, but I asked if I could have them to take out to dinner with us. I can’t imagine them not being there with me to celebrate another awesome year. So while I no longer wish for baby clothes and supplies and I would not turn down diamonds or sapphires,  I suppose what I really want is more amazing memories. 

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Non-Traditional Tradition

Thanksgiving is a week from tomorrow, so all of the commercials have started. You know the ones where all of the brothers and sisters come home to the house where they grew up and hug each other while the kids play quietly on the rug. Then they show dinner coming out of the oven, everything at the same time, cooked perfectly, piping hot and everyone smiling, not a crock pot in sight. I call Bull Shit! This has never happened other than in a Norman Rockwell painting!

 

While searching for that image, I came across this one, I prefer it much more. It is more of a representation of my life. The apartment, the wine, the bacon wrapped turkey… yes.. much more my speed.

 

But such is NOT my life. Why? You ask, I am divorced. So there is no such thing as a traditional dinner for me. Every other year I get my kids for dinner and every opposite year I get them for breakfast. My Mom and Gram come down to visit. This year Gram will not be able to make it, but we will go visit her in the nursing home after the kids head to their Dad’s. So a light breakfast while watching the parade on TV in our PJs while I cook the Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen and we eat it for lunch on a table pulled into the middle of the living room, thanks to limited apartment space. So while we don’t have that beautiful picture of tradition that the commercials show, we have our picture, and that is more beautiful to me than any Norman Rockwell. Traditions are what YOU make them. Not what someone else says they have to be.

Another part of Thanksgiving that I enjoy is the planning of the food. This week, is my heaven. Pouring over recipes for Turkey, Stuffing, Veggies and Pie. What will I make? Will I try something new? How can I get the logistics of my tiny kitchen to work together? This to me is fun. Stick a glass of Riesling in my hand and sit me in front of my favorite website- allrecipes.com and let me have at it!!! I will come up with something delicious for us to eat in our PJs, I promise! So tell me, what is the one thing you are most excited to make for Thanksgiving and where did you get the recipe? (and can I have it?)

Popping in!

Before she got really sick, my Grandmother was one of my big supporters in my cupcake business. She would always find little gadgets for the kitchen and ask me, “Don’t you need this?” or “Won’t this help you?” Sometimes the answer was “Yes that is genius!!” and sometimes I stared at a picture in a catalogue like Ariel staring at a fork wondering what the hell the dinglehopper did. One thing she asked me about was a BabyCakes Cake Pop Maker. At the time I said no thanks because a: I thought it was too expensive and b: I made my cake pops by hand. It was very labor intensive but they were REALLY good. I mixed the frosting and the cake together before dipping it. But it involves freezing, food processors making frosting, baking a cake, hand shaping, dipping and time, tons and tons of time. After a few orders I was looking around my local big box store and I saw that they had the BabyCakes Cake Pop Maker on sale, so I figured I would give it a shot. Darnit, Gram was right! That thing is SO easy!

You start out making your batter. Then you fill the bottle that comes with the maker. After which you squirt batter into the “dents” on the bottom of the maker. I found it works best if you almost fill the bottom of the “dents”. Close the maker, flip it over, leave for 4 min (don’t try to open it, you WILL make a mess, trust me on that one),  after 3-4 min flip back and use the fork tool (included) to remove your pops onto the white cooling trays (also included).

While I was looking for photos to include here, I saw that there was many different styles. I got the pink waffle iron style that flips over. It is REALLY awesome and I truly wish I had gotten it earlier. This is a photo of mine. The only thing I am not a HUGE fan of is the bottle. While it works, I wish there was a way to “burp” it better so that the thick batter would come out easier.

 

I don’t think it needs to be said, but just incase, all opinions are my own. I was not sponsored by or asked by anyone to write this post. Heck they don’t even know I am doing it!!

So while I probably won’t admit to her that she was right, I don’t even know if she would remember suggesting it at this point, I will take Gram some baked treats. One of her favorite things is Pumpkin donut holes from Dunkin Donuts. So last night I made some with the maker and I will bring them over to her since they are out of season at Dunkin. It doesn’t just have to be used for CakePops. I also plan to use it for Thanksgiving to make some Waffle Bites, for the kids to munch on while watching the parade.

 

So Happy Thursday, I am off to shovel the first snow of the season off my doorstep!!! Keep Warm everyone!