Posts Tagged ‘apples’

apple orchard trees wonder woman bracelet red

I had my first bite of a September apple last week, sampling a crisp Macintosh from the white bag on the kitchen counter. It tasted delicious: tart, juicy, the embodiment of fall in New England. And I was stunned by the wave of sadness that followed it.

Since I moved to Boston, apples have been tangled up with September: crisp sunny days, cool nights, black-eyed Susans and dahlias and late daylilies in the flower beds around town. September is the start of the academic year, and in a city like Boston, that shifts the rhythm in a big way. And every fall, September has meant apple picking.

apple trees blue sky

Apple picking was and is a beloved tradition for my former church. I’d eaten apples all my life, but there are no apple orchards in West Texas, and I wasn’t prepared for the sight of their rambling, gnarled branches heavy with fruit. I fell instantly in love.

Last year, some dear friends who’d moved away came back to visit for a long weekend, and we made sure to plan our apple-picking excursion when they were here. We wandered the orchard and filled our bags to bursting and ate the traditional orchard lunch of hot dogs and apple cider donuts. There were photos and laughter and tired kiddos, and cold, fresh cider. It felt right.

This year, so much has shifted: I’m living across the water in Eastie, spending my Sunday mornings sleeping in or running instead of going to church. I’m navigating the end of the marriage whose story began when I was in college. I am not who I was, and my life is a testament to that fact. But it is still September, and the apples have appeared at the farmers’ markets and grocery stores.

I’ll keep eating them, because the flavor and enjoyment are worth the reminder of all I have lost. Things are different now, but life is still full of sweetness. I’m trying to feel it all, live it all, truly taste both the grief and the joy.


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Harvard yard November light trees fall blue sky

It has been (yet) another stretch of challenge and change here – though the new job is making a little more sense these days. And despite some heartening headlines from last week’s election (more women, more diversity, higher voter turnout), it’s been (another) hellishly hard week or two to be in the world.

That’s how it seems to go these days, isn’t it? Back and forth. But a few small lifesavers are bearing me up. On some days they feel like just enough. Even that, I recognize, is a gift. Here they are:

  • My short rain boots, which are getting me through the fall storms.
  • Related: my newish belted raincoat, lined with a hood.
  • Chatter with my colleagues: music, books, tea, punctuation. (Yes, we are nerds.)
  • Tart, crisp Empire apples from the farmers’ market.
  • The In the Heights soundtrack, especially the first few numbers.
  • Yoga on Tuesday nights, and Gina’s smile.
  • Standing at the kitchen sink washing piles of dishes.
  • The tiny, sparkly We See Stars earrings I bought in the West Village this summer.
  • This song from The Annual, a yearlong music project from St Aldates, my beloved church in Oxford.
  • Morning bike rides across the river after prayers at Mem Church.
  • Related: trips to Darwin’s before prayers, for chai and community.
  • Mums and late roses and black-eyed Susans.
  • The autumn light that turns leaves to stained glass.
  • The feeling when I’m running of finally being warm to my fingertips.
  • Early sunrises out my kitchen window.
  • Related: my vitamin D pills and my happy lamp.

What’s saving your life these days? Please share, if you like.

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apple trees blue sky

Every September, we head to the orchard. And every September, I am enchanted.

After five years in New England, we have established a few beloved traditions. This is one of my favorites.

apple trees branches

I am always amazed by the low, rambling trees: so different from the tidy rows I remember seeing in picture books. (There are no apple orchards in West Texas, where I grew up.)

The reality is messier, though the different varieties are clearly marked. We always head straight for the Empires, plucking them off the branches, crunching as we go.

This year, we had a big crowd: both newbies and veterans. We arrived in a pack, then wandered the rows in loose, straggling groups, picking, laughing, snapping pictures.

adam jer orchard

The guys always have to do a little climbing, and a little horsing around.

Eventually, we all met up at the other side of the farm, for apple cider donuts, chili dogs and more photos.

katie abi orchard

This is our sixth year picking apples together. Abi loves it as much as I do. We have been friends since our freshman year in college, and I am constantly grateful that we get to live this Boston life side by side.

katie evie orchard

Sweet Evie (who belongs to Abi) is too young to pick apples yet, but she happily came along for the ride.

We had such perfect weather this year: blue skies, crisp air, golden sunshine. Of course, I love sharing it all with this guy.

katie jer orchard apple trees

I’ve already made one apple crisp, and snacked on a few apples out of hand. Yum.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

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Apple(s) of my eye.

apple trees orchard

I say this every year, but apple picking is the best.

jer climbing tree orchard

Bright and sunny weather, rambling trees heavy with crisp, delicious fruit, and the chance to wander the rows with the hubs and a few friends.

jer katie apple orchard

We loaded up a bag with juicy Empires, tart Cortlands, sweet Honeycrisp, and delicious little Spartans (a new variety to me).

jer katie cider donuts

We ended our jaunt with apple cider donuts (and bought a few to take home).

apples 002

I’ve already made one apple crisp, and am looking forward to snacking on the fruits (ha) of our labor. One of my favorite New England fall traditions.

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While it’s no secret that I am a tea fanatic (especially as the nights grow colder), I’m drinking a fair amount of mulled apple cider these days. The orchard where we go to pick apples sells it by the gallon, and it’s also in stock at my grocery store.

This isn’t the saccharine, powdered cider mix of my childhood, stirred into mugs of hot water: it is pure, distilled apples, fresh and tart and bold. A cold glass of it tastes like apple juice, only stronger and less sweet. But I like it best after it’s simmered on the stove for a while, with a few cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice berries and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

My friend Abigail often brings cider to church potlucks or friends’ houses in the fall and winter. She likes it best when it’s “really mulled” – the longer the better. It amazes me that while the cider is delicious in its fresh form, the application of heat, spices and time transforms it into something richer, layered and ultimately different.

cafe panis paris mulled wine notre dame

This time of year, I start to miss Oxford pubs, most of which keep a fat-bellied pot of mulled wine simmering on the front counter through November and December, spiced and steaming, with thin orange slices floating in it. I’m not much of a drinker, but I have fond memories of sipping that wine in a few cozy pubs on wet, dark English winter nights. (The photo above is from Paris, where the mulled wine is equally lovely.) I have nothing against red wine by itself, but I like it best with the added notes of cinnamon, cloves and citrus.

So it is with mulling over thoughts. Most of my (good) ideas don’t arrive fully formed: they require some simmering before they reach their final state. Sometimes I have to throw some “spices” into the mix: different angles, fresh questions, a conversation with a friend. Sometimes, as with the cider, I add the extra ingredients and walk away, letting time and my subconscious do their work. Although the ideas often have value in their raw state, they are improved by a little mulling.

As far as I know (and I even consulted the OED), the mulling of cider or wine and the mulling over of thoughts aren’t etymologically related. But the processes, it turns out, are quite similar. And they both produce something sweet at the end.

What are you mulling – cider, wine, ideas – lately?

PS: We did see high winds and rain as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but we never lost power and are safe and dry. I hope all of you who were in the storm’s path are safe, too. And Happy Halloween!

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Every fall, when the apples appear by the bag at the grocery store (or when we go and pick our own), I reach for the same recipe: Ina Garten’s Apple and Pear Crisp. It has all the best attributes of a crisp recipe: fresh, tart fruit; a crumbly topping of butter, oats and brown sugar; dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg; zest and juice from both an orange and a lemon. (It tastes fine with one or the other, but including all four hits of citrus definitely makes a difference.)

apple tree close up fruit orchard

My friend Kara, who pointed me to this recipe, recently posted a photo of it in progress. As I looked at her blue mixing bowl, full of chopped fruit speckled with cinnamon, my mouth watered. And my mind went back to a cozy kitchen outside Fort Worth, Texas, on a frigid February night.

Earlier that day, I had hopped a plane from Abilene, sporting new fleece-lined boots and toting a smart red suitcase, headed to New York for a writing retreat. It was my first trip to New York, my first time flying solo in quite a while, and I was jazzed. But my excitement quickly turned to frustration and then deep disappointment when the “snowpocalypse” on the East Coast grounded all eastbound flights out of DFW. I wasn’t going anywhere that day.

I called Kara, with whom I had shared several college classes and a glorious semester abroad in Oxford, knowing she was living temporarily at her parents’ house after finishing graduate school. Kind soul that she is, she drove to the airport, loaded me and my suitcase into her car, then drove me back to her family’s house. After hugging me, her mom teasingly reminded me of the first night I spent there, when a late-night flat tire after a concert left several of us college girls stranded. Apparently I show up at their house when I am in trouble. But they always welcome me as though I were an expected, even an honored, guest.

It was Kara’s turn to cook dinner, so I went with her to the grocery store and then we donned aprons and got to work. We had shared a kitchen in Oxford, with nearly a dozen other girls, heating oatmeal and pasta and chopping vegetables for stir-fries, baking scones and cookies, drinking countless cups of tea. We also volunteered at our church once a week, cooking meals for a theology course they offered on Tuesday nights, spinning salad and singing hymns and teasing the church’s chef, Jules. It had been several years since all that chopping and cooking, but we fell easily into the rhythm of the kitchen again.

I don’t remember anything else we ate that night, but I remember this: chopping apples and pears on a wooden cutting board, lemon juice soaking into the creases and cuticles of my hands, stinging a little. I remember cinnamon and nutmeg coating the fruit as it glistened in the bottom of a deep baking dish. I remember zesting a lemon and an orange, mixing oats and brown sugar and butter together with my fingers, crumbling it on top of the fruit mixture, sliding the whole thing in the oven.

Later we sat at the long wooden kitchen table with Kara’s parents and her brothers, one of them newly arrived from Africa. I was nearly limp with exhaustion, but I remember smiles and laughter, and conversations about Kara’s new boyfriend in Costa Rica (whom she would later marry) and the newspaper her father runs, and my newlywed life in Abilene. I remember the warm smell of apples, pears and cinnamon, as we dug into our dessert. I felt beloved, embraced, like one of the family.

I haven’t seen Kara in a couple of years, though in a nice bit of irony, she moved back to Abilene right around the time I left for Boston. But every time I peel and chop apples, douse them with lemon juice and cover them crumble topping, I remember that dark, cold night warmed by love and cinnamon and the simple grace of hospitality.

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This weekend, for the third year, we headed to an orchard west of Boston, to participate in one of my favorite New England traditions.

apples orchard close up fall autumn

Apple picking is still a wonder to this West Texas girl. I am in love with the knobbly, rambling trees, whose branches bend and curve every which way, sprouting skyward and hanging low toward the ground, heavy with dusky, ripe fruit.

apple tree branches orchard

The first year, it was sheer novelty and a little overwhelm. The second year, it was sunshine and laughter, and trying to remember which varieties we’d loved the year before. This year, we felt like locals, guiding a group of recent Boston transplants among the rows of Empires and Cortlands and McIntosh.

picking apples orchard fall new england

After we filled our bags to bursting, there were apple cider doughnuts, fresh and warm. Our six-year-old friends smeared their faces with caramel, eating candy apples, and the rest of us munched doughnuts and loaded up on freshly pressed cider and dark, sweet jars of apple butter. We perched on picnic tables, resting our feet and laughing, savoring the crisp air and tart, fresh fruit and the deep joy of being together.

abi katie apple picking

I dug into our haul that evening to make an apple-peach crisp, and I reach into the bag every morning as I leave for work, grabbing an apple for the road. But there are plenty more apples to savor, and I plan to relish every one.

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On a recent, crisply beautiful (if windy) Saturday, J and I headed west (of Boston) to go apple picking with some friends. We went last year and had a blast – and this year was just as much fun. We came home with a bulging bag of apples, half a gallon of fresh apple cider and a couple dozen photos – because I can’t resist taking photos of apple orchards, or of my friends:

As so often happens for me, our experience called to mind something I’d read in a book – in this case, a passage from The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery:

October was a busy month on the hill farms. The apples had to be picked, and this work fell mainly to us children. We stayed home from school to do it. […]

Some of the apples had to be picked very carefully. But with others it did not matter; we boys would climb the trees and shake the apples down until the girls shrieked for mercy. The days were crisp and mellow, with warm sunshine and a tang of frost in the air, mingled with the woodsy odours of the withering grasses. The hens and turkeys prowled about, pecking at windfalls, and Pat [the cat] made mad rushes at them amid the fallen leaves. The world beyond the orchard was in a royal magnificence of colouring, under the vivid blue autumn sky. The big willow by the gate was a splendid golden dome, and the maples that were scattered through the spruce grove waved blood-red banners over the sombre cone-bearers.

Sigh. Doesn’t that sound like perfection?

Our excursion wasn’t quite that magical, but with good friends, laughter around a picnic table, and two long, leisurely strolls through the rows (one before lunch, one after), filling our bags and soaking up the beautiful day and each other’s company, it was pretty close.

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Jan over at Poppytalk is hosting Autumn Colours Week again this year – and she’s starting off with red. It’s my favorite, so I couldn’t resist sharing some happy red bits of autumn with you.

I’ve been hanging out in the Public Garden, wearing my Ishbel shawl:

And admiring one brave red little maple:

I’m still rockin’ my red wellies when it rains:

And savoring every single one of the apples we picked this weekend with friends:

Where are you “seeing red” (in a non-angry way, I hope!) this fall? (P.S.: you can check out the Autumn Colours Week Flickr pool for more photos.)

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I admit I was a little reluctant for fall to come this year.

You see, we had such a long winter last year, and a cold wet spring – so I’ve been savoring every bit of sunshine, every warm day and golden sunset of summer and Indian summer. But fall is undoubtedly here in the Northeast – and I do love it, so I’m now entering into it with gusto.

The season's first apple, and my jaunty red accessories.

Besides, I’ve got quite a few falls to make up for. In my West Texas hometown, “fall” often lasts for about a week between the blistering heat of summer and the whip of winter winds across the plains. I’ve sweated through many a football game in a wool band uniform, wishing it were cooler – and then shivered my way through many a Christmas parade, my flute icy against my lips. So I’m soaking up every moment of crisp autumn air (and trying not to think about the coming winter – surely it can’t be as bad as last year?).

Here’s how I’m falling into fall:

1. Eating apples (and planning to go pick them very soon)
2. Savoring the very last batches of summer produce
3. Making and freezing pesto, while I still can
4. Planning local trips – up to N.H. to see the foliage; a return to New York to see Allison; a day trip out to the Boston Harbor Islands and another to Portland, Maine
5. Making pumpkin scones and pumpkin bread
6. Savoring the last of my summer teas and planning to stock up on fall/wintry ones
7. Eating lunch outside as often as possible (storing up sunshine)
8. Buying new leggings (a steal!)
9. Rediscovering my scarf collection
10. Lining up a little seasonal reading: Anne of Windy Poplars and some new fall releases by beloved authors
11. Urging far-away friends to come savor the New England fall with us
12. Enjoying seasonal flavors: pumpkin, cinnamon, apple cider, caramel, chai

How are you falling into fall this year?

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