This Thanksgiving, my husband and I went to visit my family at their 90-acre farm in northwest Virginia.  We can always anticipate a lot of fun times to be had at the farm.  I swear, every time we go, there is some new creature to see.

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For example, they have an adorable little calf named Little Darby (my suggestion – in keeping with their theme this year for naming their male calves after cheeses).  His mother abandoned him (bad mama!), so he has been bottle-fed and cared for by the family.  This means Darby is basically like a puppy, gamboling around the stable and head-butting you when you come with his bottle, slobbering milky goo all over you in gratitude (yum), and generally being adorable.  I particularly love his fluffy, teddy bear face.  So much cute.

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This year, for Thanksgiving, I was responsible for the majority of the dessert, so I made pies. So many pies.

My favorite, standby apple pie recipe is from Allrecipes and involves a decadent caramel sauce added to the apples that makes the filling extra gooey and delicious.  You’ll notice that the recipe doesn’t call for any spices, though, which seems a gross oversight.  I toss the apples in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice, and I also add cinnamon and a little bit of cloves and nutmeg to the caramel because I like my pies spicy! I also prefer crumble toppings on my apple pies.  I don’t follow a recipe for crumble toppings.  A stick of butter cut into a handful of flour, some oats, brown sugar, and spices and voila.  Crumble topping magic.

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Pie #2 was a twist on a pumpkin pie from a website called Gonna Want Seconds, and I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know if I would like the results.  It includes molasses in the recipe, which I’ve never seen before.  You can’t go wrong with  molasses, though, can you?  It turns out that molasses added to pumpkin pie is scrumptious.  It almost tastes like gingerbread.  Pumpkin gingerbread custard.  Basically, this is my new go-to for pumpkin pies.  So, so good!

I had some fun with the crust!

I had some fun with the crust!

The third pie is a cranberry custard pie found on The Food Charlatan.  This was also a bit terrifying, and so I made a mini test pie just to be sure it was worthy of serving.

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I mean, all the individual parts tasted good.  Homemade crust (I should mention that I hate making homemade crusts) plus an egg-based vanilla custard plus cranberries = deliciousness, right?  Thankfully, it turned out well, although not as wow as I was hoping.  Of course, I had to make an entire batch of sugared cranberries so I could have a few for a garnish.

 

These are one of my favorite holiday treats. Soaked in syrup and dusted with fine sugar!

These are one of my favorite holiday treats. Soaked in syrup and dusted with fine sugar!

This is where my overzealousness can sometimes be the near death of me.  I don’t know why I do these things to myself.  On the other hand, I think this pie wins first prize for prettiness.

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Between scarfing down Thanksgiving dinner, pie, leftovers, more pie, sugared cranberries, and yet more pie, I have managed to go riding with my sister every day since I’ve been visiting.  I love riding.  It’s like my most cherished childhood hopes and dreams (I was that kid who collected model horses, posters, books, and movies) have finally come true.

Okay, so maybe my faithful(ish) horse companion, Sammy, is a big barrel-bodied paint gelding who gets a bit grumpy when I make him go away from the barn.  I think he might be part cow, actually.  But he’s a sweetheart deep down, and we get along.  I can handle his lazy trot and even his long lope of a canter without my life flashing too thrillingly before my eyes.

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Dad is engaged in a battle of wills with stubborn Sammy who hates his bridle. I call it his “I don’t want to eat my peas” expression. He turns his head away so Dad can’t reach it.

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Little sister tacks up her horse Dakota, the diva horse. He knows he’s pretty.

Look a Sammy's goofy face. (Unlike my more sophisticated expression...)

Look at Sammy’s goofy face. (Unlike my more sophisticated expression…)

All in all, I’m thankful this week for a chance to rest and escape from my busy teaching schedule.  I’m thankful that I got to spend my time with my family and pretend that I have some sort of smidgen of talent on horseback.  I’m thankful for days outside and gentle, balmy autumn weather.  I feel like maybe I’m mostly ready to hit the final weeks of the semester.

But it’s going to be hard to leave this behind.

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