Chocolate – and the pleasures of life

I like chocolate in just about any form… candy bars, white chocolate, hot cocoa, ice cream, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi sweet, cocoa, Nutella, cake, cookies, cocoa nibs… the list is endless!

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It’s really, really easy for me to just keep eating/munching/sipping on chocolate. Admittedly, when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough, like with super rich, amazing hot cocoa.

It helps that chocolate, especially the darker it gets, is actually good for you! I don’t feel as guilty munching on it then.

Which brings me to something I’ve slowly come to realize… even when food is good for you, you don’t need to pig out on it!

This is something I’ve come to realize from reading French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. She points out that you don’t need to have lots of something to enjoy it, and often your treat tastes best in the first few bites.

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What sparked the idea for this blog post was a bag of dark chocolate chips on the table, which I naturally took advantage of by putting some chocolate chips in a little cup and munching on them while I worked on a few things in the kitchen. What’s strange is that, practically from the beginning, I planned on getting a second helping before leaving the room. I was nearly done with my first batch, when I suddenly realized I didn’t really feel like having anymore! Naturally, I wanted more, but I had had enough.

I have fallen into the bad habit of thinking I need more to really be satisfied… and that chocolate, or something else, is the only thing that will satisfy me. As Hannah and I realized recently, and laughed over for about 10 minutes, was that we fall into the habit of saying the extra collection we get of some treat (weather it’s chips, chocolate or fruit) is our treat, and all the rest of the munching didn’t really count!

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Food is a good thing – well, most of the time. And there is nothing wrong with eating! As I have mentioned before, cooking makes me happy… food makes me happy!

But one problem I realize I’ve had is relying on food to make me happy.

I have just as much, if not more sometimes, pleasure in the company of friends and family, or the early blossoms of March, or a nice cup of tea, or finishing Northanger Abbey, or taking a walk, or loving my dog, or listening/playing music. I don’t need food, even chocolate, to make any of those things better than they already are.

What about you? What are some of your favorite simple, awesome pleasures? I’d love to hear about them!

Hope everyone continues to have a great week!

Sarah

 

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Over the last few years the acronym DIY (or Do It Yourself) has been floating around the internet. When I first saw it, I got annoyed at it – kinda dorky word! But then Abigail, Sarah and I realized that it’s no different from what we’ve always done – work with what you have and make up little projects or crafts or food dishes or cleaning supplies or – well the list goes on – and my mind runs blank. 🙂 There are too many things that we’ve done to list them all.

So to celebrate my continuation of creatively finding solutions for little everyday problems, I’m making a blog post about it! And maybe we’ll do more blog posts about our own version of DIY.

Ok, so the problem was we just ran out of dish detergent tabs and kind of need to run the dishwasher – we use a lot of dishes in one day, people! And since I’ve been curious about making my own dish detergent for a while now, I decided to look one up. I found a couple that looked pretty similar. (First one I found was on Tipnut and the second, which is the one I used, was on DIY Natural)

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DIY Dishwasher Detergent

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup Citric Acid
  • 1/2 cut Salt
  • 3-4 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix it all up, making sure to evenly spread the essential oil. I used lavender, but you could use lemon, orange, eucalyptus, tea tree, lemongrass essential oil.

Use about 1 tablespoon per load, or more if desired.

 

 

 

This stuff is sooo white! It’s all powdery and clean smelling – until I added lavender, and then it smelt all pretty!

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An added bonus for me was using up a few things we have in the cabinet. Like this stuff – we found the regular salt in the back of the cabinet – does salt go bad? What little I tasted of it just tasted like regular salt. But since I didn’t want to use it in cooking, this was the perfect thing! 🙂 And I used up the sour salt – or citric acid. Don’t really use sour salt for anything else.

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Then I put it into my handy dandy jar, and there you go! And of course, always use the Collaborator – that’s the word we girls use for a big funnel – don’t ask why!

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Just ran the load with it – looks pretty good to me! Nice and clean!

Has anyone else tried a homemade dishwasher detergent before?

What did you think of the results?

~Hannah~

Photographing Food

I love food. Food makes me happy.

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And occasionally I remember to take pictures of the dishes we make! So I thought I’d share a few of those photos here.

Admittedly, some dishes, like pilafs, are really hard to photograph. And another difficulty I find myself facing is that we usually have our main, photo-worthy meals in the evening when the lighting is… difficult.

The beautiful heart shaped cake to the left was made several years ago for Valentine’s Day. I forget what recipe we used for the cake, but it was delicious.

And something I’ve noticed more recently is that we didn’t serve the cake on a Fiesta Ware plate, which we normally would’ve done… so it was pre-Fiesta Ware days!

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Then there are also times when I happen to have my camera with me – or nearby – and I notice something that would be interesting to photograph…

which was the case with the coffee grounds pictured on the left. It was just too interesting looking for me to resist, especially since my current camera focuses very nicely. In this case I like how it either looks like chocolate or dirt or like what it actually is. Naturally, I took lots of pictures, but I liked the way this one turned out.

img_2364 I believe this was the mince pie we made recently. It was looking so wonderful and yummy in the light that, of course, I had to take pictures of it!

Solid things seem to be the easiest to take pictures of. Like I said before, pilafs or rice pudding, or anything with a squishy, gray-ish color makes it difficult to photograph. The best thing to do with those dishes, if you want to take pictures of them, seems to be to put a nice garnish on top and don’t get too close… allow people to imagine what the gray-ish dish is.

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The most recent food thing I’ve taken pictures of is the hot cocoa to the left… the wonderfully thick, rich, amazing Hot Cocoa.

I was trying to take pictures of it, and for some reason it was pretty unsuccessful. Maybe the lighting was off. However, I did manage to get this nice close-up of the surface, in which you can see the reflection of the orange slice and a little of the room. Yummy!

winter-orange-2A couple years ago I decided to challenge myself to taking pictures of food. It’s an ongoing challenge, since a dish will sometimes strike me, while others don’t work. Tonight’s meal of carrot soup and chicken with couscous was pretty, but I doubt it would be easy to photograph.

So, this year, I think I’m going to challenge myself to something even tougher. And… I’m going to challenge you too.

Find something you find especially difficult to capture, either photograph or paint or whatever the case may be, and try to capture it.

img_3043In my case, I’m going to challenge myself to Photograph my family. For some reason I find it difficult to photograph people, which is sad considering they’re much more important than most (if not all) things I take pictures of.

So, anyway, I challenge you to photograph or paint something you’re unfamiliar with this year. Challenge all the photographers or artists you know. I’ll go ahead and do a blog post on my process and the final results by April (although I should be able to manage it in March)

So there we go! Now the challenge is out, and I’d better get to it 🙂

Hoping everyone has a great finish to their week,

Sarah

 

In with the new!

Wow! we’re a little more than half way through the first month of 2017! I didn’t see that coming.

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I have tons of plans for 2017! I usually have to think about them for a while before getting going on them, and talking about them beforehand really doesn’t help me.

However, I’m going to be daring… and make a sort of resolution.

It’s not an actual resolution, because that makes it sound boring. Anyway…

I’m talking about it here – first of all, because I’d love to share it a little with you – also, hopefully it will help me keep to it if more people know about it.

It’s recently come to my attention that I really enjoy playing music. I always had trouble figuring out how I wanted to play with music, but I miss it, so I really hope to get back into it during 2017.

img_2348I’m sure it’s been mentioned at some point that I play the violin, guitar and piano. I have less experience and knowledge with the piano and guitar, but they’re both very understandable instruments and I love all three of them.

So… I’ll be pulling out the guitar and violin to tune them! I’m especially interested in working on hymns, because I know several pretty well and enjoy them, and we’ll see where I go with that!

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Technically, this might not be the best time to be picking up another, time consuming thing. I can juggle a few things, like Etsy, eating, sleeping and thinking. But not much more.

However, I feel ready to try something new (or old). Plus, music is a wonderful, essential language. So, I am looking forward to this year, and praying that I can incorporate music comfortably into my life.

I’d love to hear what everyone has planned for the new year! Do you have anything that you’ve been wanting to get back to or a new adventure you’re thinking of trying?

Welcome to 2017 everyone! It’s still a new year, and I’m praying it’s a great one for everyone!

Sarah

Monkey Bread and Dinosaurs!

I was reminded this year of how strange life is. You’d think I’d remember that sooner!

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We have lots of wonderful Christmas movies to watch (starting tomorrow evening!) but there just doesn’t seem to be enough Thanksgiving movies!

Someday, I’ll put together a list of good Thanksgiving movies. If anyone has suggestions, please share!

However, I remembered recently the movies we have watched close to Thanksgiving, and definitely not always related to Thanksgiving.

One movie we thought up that seemed a little related to Thanksgiving was You Can’t Take it With You. Somehow, being directed by the same guy that did It’s a Wonderful Life seems fitting for this holiday.

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It’s a very good movie, and probably very good for Thanksgiving, and I’d recommend it to you.

For a seemingly totally-not-Thanksgiving movie, last year we watched Jurassic World the day before Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and having monkey bread to work on was a good excuse for looking away if it got too bloody 🙂

I decided to look up Thanksgiving Movies on Bing – after all, there’s a list for everything – and was reminded that Spider-Man (2002) featured an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner, so maybe we’ll watch that this year 🙂

Putting movies aside, there are various things I remember doing around or on Thanksgiving Day. Several years ago we delivered some monkey break to our friends at nighttime. There’s nothing quite like driving at nighttime when it’s cold outside!

Of course, nothing can beat waking up to the smell of smoking turkey (he tried to quite cold-chicken, but it didn’t work) and for some reason working on the dishes after dinner has become a favorite in recent years. A couple years ago Abigail and Hannah were writing madly and abandoned me to work on all the dishes. It was surprisingly fun! (no, this is not a guilt trip, sisters!) And then, of course, there’s the tradition of trying to clean the bar for extra room.

img_2008Last year we went for a walk after dinner and met at our park. It was extremely cold and Annie (on the left) was really happy. She laid down and we buried her in leaves and we had a panting, happy pile of leaves!

A few things I plan on doing tomorrow is:

walk. I really enjoyed it last year and look forward to it this year.

I will not munch beforehand. I think I’m going to challenge myself not to eat anything, unless I need to test it (which really is necessary!)

I will be happy. Of course, just saying you’re going to be happy, and plastering a smile to your face, doesn’t work, but I will remember to breathe and not worry.

This month has gotten a little out of hand, and really crazy, and it seems like there are a lot of things we have to deal with. But maybe that makes it an even better time for Thanksgiving, when we can remember what we have and that, in the end, everything will be OK.

So, let me wish you an early Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a wonderful day, full of happiness, new traditions or oddities and peace.

Hope you have a great holiday weekend,

Sarah

P.S. please share your interesting stories! I heard about a lady that married on Thanksgiving so she wouldn’t have to cook the big dinner. It didn’t really work. Do you have any of your own stories?

Thankfulness Thursday: Fluffy White Cattails!

I would have published this on Thursday, like it should be… but WordPress was being weird. So – better late then never, right?

A few days ago, in the morning I went walking in the woods. I went with most of my family and my good friend and her mother. We went to see the last of the autumn leaves, but besides seeing some lovely fall colors, we got another little delight – cattail fluff!

And that is what I want to feature for my Thankfulness Thursday! (Or Monday… doesn’t quite sound as good though!)

The picture below shows how we found these simple little delights, on the stock and ready to play with. Little did we realize how fun they were going to be!

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I’m sure, if you’ve ever played with these funny little things, you know how much fun you can have. Pinch one end a little and what looks like half an inch of compact tan colored semi-solidness then suddenly and softly explodes in your hand and becomes a practically weightless white cloud of fuzz!

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Personally, it was rather nice to get away from the political weirdness of the world and the other stresses of life, and I was very thankful to be able to enjoy one of the simple pleasures of life, that of my senses – and my imagination – being tickled by the joys of fluffy cattail clouds.

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Sometimes you don’t need that much to be entertained.

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My good friend, Addie, who had a lot of fun playing with the silly whiteness!

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We all got covered in the fluffiness – it got everywhere!

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They got on Abigail’s new red cape! (Abigail, you need to show the whole outfit later to all of our readers! I can’t wait to see it all together!)

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Also – I can’t help putting more than one thing for my Thankfulness Thursday post – I’m so thankful for my friend! Addie is very dear to my heart, and almost as close to me as my wonderful sisters! All of my sisters – both blood and sister in the Lord – I am very thankful for!

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The wonderful, fun, sweet, lovable, patient and dependable Sarah!

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Abby, the delightful and kind, the generous and wise, the thoughtful and caring! Both such an amazing abundant blessing to me! I love you too!

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So there you go! Take a walk in the woods with family and friends and enjoy the simple things of life! There’s so much to be thankful for in just these things alone!

Hannah

 

Thankfulness Thursday: Change

Yes, it’s November again. I agree, it came way too quickly! But I’m not complaining. November is awesome.

This is the third Thursday from Thanksgiving Day, and it’s time for Thankfulness Thursday! Of course, it’s also the day before a Craft Fair we’re participating in, so this post might be a bit rushed.

img_1992(The pictures featured here are from our latest outing to the Bosque. It was amazing looking!)

Last year I think I did a Thankfulness blog post about the things I was thankful for that had changed or developed in the past year. I think I’ll do that again.

So here goes:

Variety of food. I don’t know why, but it seems like I’ve especially discovered how much variety there is in food. It probably has something to do with our amazing Jerusalem cookbook. I am also learning how to develop my own recipes, and I think I’ve been fairly successful so far.

I’ve made a few sales in my shop!!! I am very happy about this, understandably.

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Processing. Trying to take in stressful situations is always challenging and I doubt there’s any approach that works every time, unfortunately. But I’m slowly learning how to react and work under stress. My Etsy shop is less of a burden and more of a challenge.

On that note: Direction. I think I’m starting to figure out where I’m supposed to be going! For some reason I’ve never been able to find something to settle with, but I think I’m going in the right direction.

Challenge. It’s really easy to get comfortable and stop challenging yourself… at least it is for me. Admittedly, I haven’t actually challenged myself to do something new, but I am preparing to, and that’s a good first step!

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Gelato. We were introduced to an amazing gelato place in the depths of downtown. It was simply wonderful!

So, technically, I really haven’t gotten some things done that I wanted to by now. But Thanksgiving comes at just the right time when you’re regretting what hasn’t changed or gone on in the past year, and just before you can reassess what you want to do in the future.

img_2008I find it very nice to look back on what’s changed in 2016 – I know I’ve forgotten a few things – and be satisfied with what I have.

Also, I have to add, I’m really thankful for what our readers here!

So, I always love to hear what everyone has to say. Please feel free to mention a few things you’re thankful for, that have either occurred in the past year, or that you’re just thankful for in general!

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Month and the rest of the week is great too

Sarah

Cogs & Gears: Craziness!

Sometimes, in the midst of all the insanity, you have to find a moment of rest.

That’s what we’re up to this week, and it’s definitely time!

 

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A few props from a recent item photo shoot. They looked so perfectly Autumnal that they deserved a picture of their own!

 

What with one thing and another, things have been really crazy around here – as evidenced by the fact that we keep forgetting to blog! It’s been something like this:

  • Finally found a way to increase visibility on Etsy – which is wonderful, except that it means spending a lot of time and attention.
  • The holiday shopping season is fast approaching, and there are so many ideas that we want to make and put out there on our Etsy shops!
  • The dryer isn’t drying, which makes laundry days slow. And then –
  • The washer developed homicidal mania (apparently), which makes laundry days impossible!
  • And the oven door won’t close.
  • And I stepped on a thorn! (Ok, that one’s a personal complaint!)
  • November’s coming, which means NaNoWriMo! and also:
  • Craft Fairs!

So – with all of this craziness happening and requiring urgent attention and lots of work – we’ve decided to take a week off from Etsy!

Counter-intuitive? Yes! But it’s a good time to step back and get a bit of perspective on where we’re going, which projects actually require our attention, and where our emphasis should be.

It should be interesting: No Etsy work, or talk, or shop work, is allowed. Instead, Hannah and Sarah and I will work on sewing some personal Autumn and Winter clothes, and focus on planning the novels we’re writing in November.

Sometimes, you need to step away from it all and take a break!

 

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Some of the very fall-like earrings that I have been feverishly listing!

 

(Of course, you can also use the coupon code “Halloween” for %15 off anything in my store, where I also have free shipping on Autumnal items. I’m really pleased with how my Autumn Ephemeral Earring line came out! Please feel free to take an inspiring look!)

And here is a slideshow of our recent excursions, for a bit of distance-recreation:

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-Abigail-

The Animal Kingdom

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I love animals. This might sound typical, but dogs are probably my favorite, but most animals are really fun.

So, I take pictures of animals. It’s really rare to get good photos of them, so I often keep the kind of bad pictures (especially of birds) since I might not get a better opportunity. I thought I’d share a few here.B & W Butterfly Photoshoot 2

I actually started this blog post a couple months ago, but I was reminded of it today when I was editing some photos of ducklings.

The butterfly to the left is at our Botanic Garden, which has a butterfly pavilion. I have several wonderful photos of butterflies thanks to them. Otherwise, the only chance I’d get is with some lilac our neighbor has that attracts Monarch butterflies.

3rd Pic of Porcupine

On the left, a real animal – maybe. There we were, walking along, just about done with our Bosque walk. We turned around the corner and saw a weird looking bush! Then it started moving, and I realized we were staring at a Porcupine, lazily walking across our path, completely – and thankfully – oblivious of our dog!

We’ve seen plenty of interesting animals at the Bosque, including of coyotes.

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Now a tiny animal!

These were our card-making mascots. Ridiculously soft and cuddly…

if they weren’t so tiny.

They were about the size of Annie’s (our dog) eye. Maybe not that small, but it felt like it.

As you can see, her whiskers are about as long as her body!

As I said, I have a lot of pictures of animals, many of them not too good. So I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out what to show you! I’ll include a slideshow now, with pictures that include robins, bunnies and whatever else catches my fancy.

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Someday I think I’ll just settle down somewhere very quietly and take pictures of birds and squirrels. We had a great opportunity to get some pictures of a squirrel, but our cameras weren’t ready.

However, while it is awfully fun to have photos of these wild and interesting animals, it’s also important to enjoy the moment when you’re living it.

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And then, sometimes, you get the opportunity to live in the moment and take pictures to remember it later.

We were standing near a pond when a mother and her ducklings came meandering down, very close to us. Thankfully, I had my camera ready, and got lots of photos of them!

Of course I would have loved to take one home, but at least I have photos of them!

So there we go. I love doing random blog posts, and it’s fun to include some of my photos. Maybe some time we’ll do a blog post about our epic mountain adventures!

So, what’s your favorite animal? Any funny pet stories? (if you have a pet, of course there’s a funny pet story!) I’d love to hear about them!

Hope the rest of your week is great!

Sarah

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

 

OK, this blog post will not be about pumpkin spice anything, sadly. But it is all about Autumn, and there’s nothing more autumnal than pumpkins, pretty golden colors, cooler, crisp air and apple cider.

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I never can tell if Autumn is my favorite season of the year, but it certainly is one of the prettiest. It seems like there’s always something new and amazing to see.

This Autumn and Winter, I look forward to trying new soups and combinations of nuts and dried fruit. Also, hopefully we’ll get to check out some pretty places around here, to see the beautiful colors.

It occurred to me that the three of us, Abigail, Hannah and I have a nice selection of Autumnal things on our shop, and I thought it would be fun to put them together to see how they’d look. When you think of this time of year, one of the first things that come to mind is the colors the leaves change to. And we have a beautiful selection of golden, brown and red.

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If I’m not mistaken, this is Hannah’s latest beautiful hat to arrive on her shop –

her Wool Slouchy Hat, which looks so Autumnal it’s amazing!

This is the sort of hat I like to imagine wearing out in a cool, Fall wood, maybe on a lonely path with no sound but the falling leaves. This sort of hat makes me think: adventure! which is essential at this time of year.

Hannah mentioned she was annoyed she didn’t have more Autumnal things on her shop, but she has several wonderful paintings that seem very Autumnal, including pumpkins and sunflowers.

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Continuing with the idea of the outfit – although I’m not sure it would match – is my Plaid Three Tiered Skirt.

This skirt also seems adventurous to me, though not in the same way. The hat has nice dark tones, while the skirt is an unexpectedly light orange and beige. I also included piping in the side seams, which gives it a slightly more constructed look.

I think this skirt would be great for a day out and about, preferably out and about to see lots of leaves changing colors, squirrels, corn mazes and maybe a trip to Starbucks at the end for – what else – a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

But an Autumnal outfit isn’t complete without………………

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Pumpkins!

Here’s Abigail’s latest introduction to her shop, her Halloween Ephemeral Earrings!

These earrings are absolutely wonderful! Again, I’m not sure it will technically work with the skirt and hat, but you have to admit, the colors look really nice and Autumnal together.

OK, I was hoping to show you all of our items, but that would get too long. So, I’ll just have to include one more photo of Autumn in New Mexico

shades-of-autumnAnd I will include a nice slideshow of some more of our Autumnal items.

You have to keep in mind, however, that this is only a summary of our Autumnal collection.

I think I’m finished, although I will hopefully do something for Thanksgiving. However, both Abigail and Hannah have lots more to see, and lots more coming, so keep an eye on our shops to see what we have this Autumn. In the meantime, here’s a slideshow!

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Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Autumn. We’ll probably have to do a few blog posts to show the Bosque in Autumn or maybe the Sandia mountains in full golden glory.

So…. Pumpkin spice. It seems to be everywhere. Tomorrow we will have Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats, which I am looking forward to. What’s your favorite Pumpkin Spice thing? Please share

Sarah