Our Autumn

We have had an incredibly busy couple of months so this is going to be a bit of a “catch up” blog post that jumps from subject to subject.

My oldest son moved to Rochester, New York, in the middle of August in order to attend college and then the other boys went back to school on 1 September. This was their first time attending in-person school since March 2020. After 18 months of virtual learning and only seeing teachers through screens, they were very much looking forward to a more normal school year. However, not long after they got home on that first day, our community was hit by a tornado. Some neighbourhoods were devastated and community buildings, including the High School, sustained damage. My two High School aged sons, therefore, had to pivot back to a few weeks of virtual school again. As deflating as that setback was, we were very thankful to have not personally endured any lasting damage to our property.

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In October, my in-laws came to visit. Having not seen their grandsons for almost two years, they decided to risk travel and international flights. Their visit inspired us to return to some seasonal family traditions we had skipped last year because of the pandemic. The first of these was apple picking. We went a bit crazy picking a variety of apples. Over a month later and I we are still eating those same apples and I am still baking apple cobblers for dessert. I never thought I would get sick of apples but …

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Our second son turned 16 in early October. What he wanted to do was take his two best friends to Shady Brook Farm to hang out and eat fair food. We all went together and then we set him and his friends loose to do whatever they wanted while we did the visited the Halloween themed barns, found our way around the corn maze, and visited the pumpkin patch. Mr Pict and our youngest son even took a ride in the monster truck hearse.

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My in-laws wanted some time at the shore while they were in the US so they rented a beach property in Lewes, Delaware, for a week. We went down to stay with them for the weekend and properly explore Lewes, having only dipped in there before. We took a wander around the historic town centre. I enjoyed seeing all of the vintage architecture. Even my kids enjoyed seeing a cannonball from the War of 1812 still lodged in the side of the building that now serves as the town’s maritime museum. We took a stroll past the lightship Overfalls and played draughts (checkers) on the waterfront. I also managed to meet up with a friend who moved to Lewes over the Summer.

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My in-laws celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary at the end of their visit with us. We went for an elegant and delicious brunch at the William Penn Inn.

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Finally, in the last weekend of October, we took a flying visit up to Rochester to visit our oldest son. He had attended the open day on his own – the weekend before we went into lockdown in 2020 – and my husband had dropped him off in August so this was actually my first time visiting the RIT campus. Our son took us on a tour of the campus and to his dorm room. He is actually sharing with one of his best friends from High School so that worked out perfectly. He seems very happy and settled there and it was reassuring for me to see with my own eyes how comfortable and confident he is and how successfully he is managing everything.

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It was cold and rainy while we were in Rochester so, in search of something indoors to do, we went to the Strong Play Museum. It was a terrific museum focused on the history of games and my kids would have had an absolute blast there when they were younger. There were lots of interactive exhibits, indoor playgrounds, and even a miniature supermarket. With our kids all being much older than the target demographic, we spent most of our time on the upper floor which was focused on board games and video and computer games. We are a big board gaming family with an extensive collection and Mr Pict and the boys all love computer games so we all found it pretty engaging. It is always amusing and mildly disconcerting to see things from our own childhoods now being curated in museums as vintage and classic items and there were abundant cases of that in this museum.

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It was so lovely to have all six of us together again and the perfect way to round out a very busy couple of months. I am now looking forward to things slowing down and getting quieter for the remainder of the year.

Blueberries and Bluegrass

A couple of weeks ago, I won a set of tickets for Shady Brook Farm’s bluberry festival.  So on Sunday, I went there with my parents and two youngest children to claim use my prize for a fun day in the sun.  We had been to Shady Brook Farm for events twice before, to pick pumpkins at Halloween and to see the Christmas Light Show, so we knew to expect some fun activities for the kids, fairground food and fruit-picking.  We were not disappointed.

My 5 and 7 year olds had lots of fun trampolining on the giant pillows, clambering up and sliding down the inflatable chute and making their way through an inflatable maze and again scooting down a slope.  They also had fun playing on some newly installed wooden play equipment.  My Dad, as indulgent grandparents do, also paid the additional fee for each boy to fill an alien shaped bottle with coloured sand, which they thought was great fun and a cool memento of the day to display in their bedroom.  We also stopped to snack on some funnel cake, which was something my parents had not experienced before.  They thought it was delicious.  It was all devoured while still steaming hot.


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Blueberry picking was something that none of us had ever done before.  My parents and I are veteran pick-your-own fruit gatherers and Fife – where I originally hail from – is an area that grows a lot of soft fruit but, of all the tons of fruit we had ever picked, we had never before picked a blueberry.  Varieties of blueberries can be grown in Scotland and I have known a few people who have grown the shrubs in their gardens but we had never seen them growing on fruit farms so had never had the opportunity to pick them.  So we hopped on the rough wooden charabanc and were towed by tractor to the netted area where the bluberry bushes were growing.  Punnets in hand, we walked the rows plucking ripe berries, purplish and plump, and popping them in our pots.  The little ones were rather good at spotting juicy berries at the bottom of the bushes that had been missed by taller pickers.  I rather liked the mauve hues of the unripe berries.  Punnets filled, we returned to the main area of the farm, paid for the berries and brought them home.  They are currently in a ziploc bag in my freezer waiting to be transformed into a blueberry buckle once we have eaten our way, like Very Hungry Caterpillars, through all of the other dessert options in the house.  I am sure they will be a delicious memento of the day.

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That evening, after a barbecue dinner, we headed out to attend a free concert.  The performance was by a Pennsylvanian Bluegrass troupe by the name of Raven Hill.  My father-in-law is a devotee of bluegrass music so I was more familiar than I perhaps care to be with the music of the Stanley Brothers, Earl Scruggs.  I do love the harmony created by the stringed instruments and especially like the sound of the banjo but must confess that, despite rare exceptions, I find that one tune tends to just meld into another creating a monotonous marathon of music, as pleasing as the instrumentation and vocals might be.  Regardless, the band had presence and played some original compositions as well as old covers and the whole event was fun.  There are more free concerts to come this summer and we will certainly aim to attend a few more.

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