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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

Welcome to the first annual Cider Donut Palooza! A few friends of mine got together and we hit up 10 local orchards for a battle of the cider donuts. Which one came out on top? You’ll just have to keep reading!

Who were the contenders? Honey Pot Hill Orchards, Berlin Orchards, Davidian Farm (not an orchard), Tougas Farm, Derby Ridge (not an orchard), Carver Hill, Bolton Orchards, Bolton Spring Farm, Carlson Orchards and Idylwilde Farms.

First stop on our list was Tougas Family Farm, located in Northborough. This is one of my top choices for picking fruit – we went countless times this summer. They have cherries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, apples and pumpkins. Not crowded if you go early on the weekdays. They have a tons of fruit and a huge playground for the kids to run around in afterwards. They have barn animals and a goat bridge. The farm store offers lunch and goods to take home, such as donuts, pies, cider and more. The have large indoor restrooms and portable restrooms as well. No dogs allowed.

Located just at the bottom of the hill, before you go up to Tougas, is Davidian’s Farm Market. While you can’t pick apples here, they have a really nice assortment of their own fruits and vegetables: corn, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, peppers and more! They have a HUGE bakery section and throw in a deli and you have one stop shopping. Pick up some mums outside or even choose a pumpkin to bring home.

The market is open daily, from 9am – 6:30pm. Also, worth noting, is that they offer a CSA. Their large share is $540 and their small share is $335.

Third stop is Berlin Orchards. They are open Monday – Friday from 10am-5pm. Saturday and Sundays they are open 9am -5pm. They offer WEEKDAY wagon rides from 11am-4pm. There is just a really nice feeling about this place – very family friendly. The farm store offers pre-picked fruit as well as delicious donuts – and the people working there couldn’t be nicer!

Ripening schedule is as follows: Ginger Gold & Paula Red:  Beginning August 28, Macs:  Beginning September 3, Gala, Cortland:  Beginning September 11, Honey Crisp, Golden Supreme:  September 13, Jonagold: Beginning September 25, Macoun:  Beginning September 25, Mutsu & Red Delicious:  Beginning October 2. No dogs allowed.

Fourth Stop is Honey Pot Hill Orchards. I have been going here since I was a kid. My best advice is go on a weekday if you can and if you have to go on the weekend, go early. The parking lot can get a little crazy on the weekend – but note that if you are just heading to the store and NOT picking apples, you can go to the parking lot right next to the store.

Plenty of family fun here. Hayrides 10am-4:30pm on the weekends and 12pm – 4pm on weekdays. There are three mazes for you to choose from: the big green monster maze, the little hedge maze and the tunnel maze. Don’t forget to say hello to the farm animals: the mini ponies, the rabbits, the goats, the chickens and of course the three little pigs! They offer a hard cider tent on the weekends for those that are 21+. Stop into the store for pre picked fruit, caramel apples, pies and more. Sorry, no dogs allowed.

If you aren’t looking, you might drive right past Carver Hill Orchards. It’s a great family run orchard located in Stow. I went mid morning on a Friday and it was very quiet there, like I had lucked out and had the place to myself! Carver Hill offers cherries, apples, peaches, raspberries, blueberries and much more for “pick your own”.

Stop in to their farm store for cider donuts (on the weekends only) or a light bite, think hot dogs and apple crisp. You are welcome to bring your own picnic lunch, tables are on a first come, first serve basis. Sorry, dogs are not allowed.

Just down the street from Carver Hill is Derby Ridge Farm. While this is not an orchard, they offer 30 varieties of their own apples, peaches, pears and plums. They carry local honey, jams, jelly and maple syrup. In the fall, they make their own fudge, cider donuts and other baked goods.

September Hours are Monday and Tuesday 12pm-6pm, Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm.

Located in Harvard, MA, Carlson Orchards offers blueberry, raspberry, peach and nectarine picking as well as pick your own apples. Their farm store sells their hard ciders as well as their sweet ciders, including their premium blend and their varietal blends (100% honeycrisp, 100% gala and 100% Fuji). Pick your own is open from 9am – 4pm daily and the retail store is open 9am – 5pm daily. Sorry, no dogs allowed.

Bolton Spring Farm offers pick your own apples from 9am- 4:30pm daily. Their store bakes hot apple dumplings daily, as well as apple crisp and old fashioned cider spiced donuts. Make sure to grab some of their cinnamon bread while you are there. The store is open from late May until the end of December, selling a variety of native peaches, pears, plums, nectarines and over 25 varieties of apples. Hayrides have been put on hold due to COVID.

Not pictured was Bolton Orchards and Idylwilde Farm, located in Acton. Bolton Orchards offers daily lunch specials, ice cream, fresh produce and locally produced specialty goods. They are open daily 9am – 5pm.

Idylwilde has their own grown beets, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, peas and so much more. They support other local farms and are fully stocked all year round. They’re open Monday 8am – 7pm, closed Tuesday, and open Wednesday – Sunday 8am-7pm.

Big shout out to Alex Schwartz, who made an interactive map of all the places to sample cider donuts in Massachusetts (he is up to 191 locations!!). He inspired us to do this Donut Palooza in the first place!

So where did we think had the best donuts? We chose Davidian’s Farm!

Where are you favorite cider donuts from?

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I first came across the Cookie Monstah truck in 2013 (!!), pre kids, when I was working downtown. These days, they have expanded to brick and mortar locations in Danvers, Swampscott, Burlington and (just recently) Needham. Aaaaannnnnd, their truck is back on the Greenway, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

They have over 20 flavors of cookies and the cookie ice cream sandwich combinations are endless! Above is the “Slim Shady” – vanilla ice cream sandwiched inside two m&m cookies. Order off the menu or make a custom creation of your own. They’ve even expanded to “quakes”, cookies and ice cream blended together to hit the spot this summer!

A favorite in our house is the “Peanut Buttah Blast” – Reese’s cookies with Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream. All the cookies are made from scratch, using the finest ingredients, and the ice cream is from Richardson’s. How can you go wrong?

Back in the height of the pandemic, when people weren’t having parties, our neighbor graciously surprised us with a socially distant baby shower, complete with a visit from the Cookie Monstah truck. Such a fun idea! People can stop by and grab one to go and wave hello, or sit outside (socially distant) and enjoy some ice cream on the front lawn – perfect for all comfort levels.

For more information on the Cookie Monstah truck, click here. Make sure to sign up or their loyalty program too!

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This year it has been hard to “keep it normal” for the kids. For instance, we started this year off in a hybrid model for school, where they only met half the class in person and the other half they only saw on the computer. So between last year and this year, we, as a family, really look to make even the little things, a little bit more special.

When the kids went back to school, I put together these cute little back to school bags for them. We put together modified versions of these for the kids in our neighborhood as well. At least we were going to school in person, even if it was only two days a week! A SUPER small part of me was sad when they went back full time because I actually liked being able to see what they were learning and doing “homework” with the kids.

Hearts and rainbows always seem like a good theme! I went with these cute confetti gift bags from Paper Source and these rainbow “Little Notes’ from E. Frances. Let me tell you how much I love these “Little Notes”. I use them for just about everything: gift tags, lunch box notes – and they come in such cute designs. Check them out here.

I found these beautiful sparkle lollipops from Sweet Caroline Confections. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they come in a variety of delicious flavors.

And finally, I found these cute rainbow heart necklaces at J. Crew. I bought a bunch of them to give out to friends because they are just THAT cute.

These large heart aqua sparkle rainbow lollipops come in flavors like strawberry, cotton candy, marshmallow, passion fruit, mandarin orange, raspberry, peach, green apple, champagne and black cherry. You can find them here.

These are technically birthday cake sprinkle lollipops, but they are super fun! Find them here. They taste just like vanilla frosting!

Halloween was another one of those holidays that felt like it was going to be a let down – I wasn’t going to let my kids go house to house this year, so I wanted to do something extra special for them (that didn’t have to involve tons of candy). In fact, even though they didn’t go out this year, our neighborhood stepped up in a big way – and I think I might dare to even say that this was the kid’s best Halloween yet.

Back to the bags – super cute reusable tote bags from Target. Little Note gift tags from E. Frances with their names on it – and how fun is it that they are printed on both sides (a ghost on one side and ‘boo” on the back). Halloween themed pencils, sticker books, window clings and glasses from the dollar spot at Target. Always a favorite in our house, a surprise ball and party cracker by Meri Meri. I try hard to put books in our gifts to our kids and I actually love giving them to friends on their birthdays. This year one of my new favorite books was Bonaparte Falls Apart. The kids thought it was super cute. Another one we liked this year was Room on a the Broom. My kids were also excited to be able to watch Room on the Broom on Netflix!

As we are coming out on the other side of this pandemic, share with me ways that you tried to keep things normal for your kids.

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Chex Mix is one of my go to road trip staples. I never really thought about making it at home. During the winter and holidays, I went on a big Chex Mix at home kick. My friend brought me her version, made with Crispex, Corn Chex, Utz holiday pretzels and m&m’s. That is how this all got started….

Leah’s recipe calls for:

  • 1c butter
  • 1 1/2c brown sugar
  • 1/2c light corn syrup
  • 1 (14oz) box of Rice Chex
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1c m&ms

In a small saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.

In a brown paper bag, add caramel mixture over cereal and shake. Place in microwave for 2 minutes and shake again. Repeat. Pour mix onto wax paper to cool and add in m&ms.

I like using Corn Chex in mine, rather than the Rice Chex – they are just a little sturdier. My version has Cadbury mini eggs, mini pretzels and honey roasted almond slivers. I picked up these almond slivers at Trader Joes, and they are literally one of my favorite things I’ve found there.

If you want to go ever sweeter than that, Half Baked Harvest has a recipe for these delicious Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chex Mix Bars. Peanut butter plus chocolate and salt, winner, winner chicken dinner. Check out their recipe here.

I do love these sweet options, but can’t help wondering if the mix from the Fire Crackers in my earlier post would take savory Chex Mix up to a whole new level. Check out the recipe here.

Savory crackers aren’t really my thing. At snack time I am more likely to go for the sweet than the salty (or savory), but here we are.

Have you ever tasted something that you just can’t stop eating? Like, I meant to eat one or two but looked down and the whole sleeve of Girl Scouts Cookies were gone…nope, that’s never happened to me before either.

I found this great recipe from How Sweet Eats and have made it at least a dozen times. Every batch comes out better than the last. First you start out with Saltine crackers. But then, you dress them up with butter and brown sugar and all sorts of delicious spices. You end up with these smoky, delicious, buttery crackers that go with just about anything but taste amazing on their own.

These would be a great addition to any cheese plate, a nice garnish in your soup or even crushed up as a Mac and cheese topping. I can’t wait to try making these with the mini saltines!

Check out the recipe on How Sweet Eats here. Try the recipe out and let me know what you think!

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My kids love a good treasure hunt. What they don’t realize is that what takes them 15 minutes to complete, took me a week to plan! I have talked before about how we went from zero screen time before the pandemic to a few shows a day. One of our shows we like to watch is Jake and the Neverland Pirates. It’s a cute show, not super annoying, and it teaches kids about friendship, kindness and problem solving.

On school vacation break, I put together a fun Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme day for them. We ended the day with an epic treasure hunt, but lets look at some other fun stuff I put together.

I picked up these jumbo Jake and the Neverland Pirates coloring books for $1 at Party City. You can find boxes of crayons for $1 at Five Below. Next, I saw these cute treasure chests at Michaels and used a 20% off coupon to buy them. I filled the treasure boxes with gold coins and Hershey’s Nuggets. The treasure boxes were the prize at the end of the treasure hunt!

For the treasure hunt, I printed out old maps and wrote rhyming clues on them. The kids all worked together to solve the riddles and finish the treasure hunt. Afterwards, they decorated their treasure boxes with markers and stickers.

I made these fun hooks out of red solo cups. I made a slit in the top and pushed in the “hook” which I had traced on cardboard and covered with tin foil. In addition, I printed out skull and crossbones and taped them to the end of the cup that you drink out of. I attached a long paper towel roll to the bottom of the solo cup and they used them as telescopes. Finally, we made these “sea globes”.

First step, find an empty bottle of your choice. I used Voss water bottles because I like the shape. Use a funnel to add in some sand to the bottom. You can buy sand on Amazon or any craft store.

We are a strictly no glitter household, but I made this one exception. Second step, we poured gold glitter into the bottle on top of the sand to make it look like “treasure”.

Thirdly, we threw in some sea shells. You can buy them at a craft store or you can use ones that you have found yourself. I picked these up at Lakeshore Learning.

Next, fill the bottle up with water and add in a few drops of food coloring. While some chose a blue or a green, one went with red just because it looked pretty!

Finally, use a hot glue gun to seal the lid onto the bottle so there are no spills. Viola!

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Everyone is doing the TikTok Tortilla and I just had to see for myself: is it was one of the best ideas ever or is it going to be a total bust.

I decided to make a Rachel with mine. A Reuben is made with corned beef and sauerkraut, and a Rachel is made with either turkey or pastrami and coleslaw. I love extra cheese on everything, so that’s what I did here. I whipped up some home made Russian dressing, added on some pineapple coleslaw and of course, pastrami. First, take a knife and cut halfway through the wrap. Next, fold the cheese (on the right of the cut) up to the pastrami. Fold the pastrami to the dressing and coleslaw and then finish it off with a fold to the cheese, all in a counter clockwise motion. Throw it into a skillet for two to three minutes on each side to get it melty on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Verdict? I loved it. First, because it was so simple and easy to make. Second, it’s a great way to use up any leftovers you may have in your fridge. There are endless combinations that you could make! For example, I’m thinking scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon and cheese would be a great choice. Perhaps one with refried black beans, your taco meat of choice, cheese and some yellow rice. What about Nutella, marshmallow fluff, strawberries and bananas?

Have you tried the TikTok tortilla wrap trend? What’s your favorite flavor combinations?

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My favorite way to decoupage is to use this product called Mod Podge. You can pick it up at Michael’s or even Target. It’s like glue, it goes on white and dries clear. I love the glossy but they also sell a matte finish.

One of our favorite things to use is paper mache shapes – you can buy boxes like the one shown above or get letters, there are lots of possibilities. Cover the shape with a generous amount of Mod Podge. We used tissue paper in Valentine’s themed colors for this box. After you have placed all of your paper, cover entire project with Mod Podge. You could use tissue paper like we did, or cut up strips of magazines or wrapping paper….the possibilities are endless. We gave these to friends this year as gifts, along with some paper mache heart ornaments, and they were such a big hit!

Oddly enough, when I think of decoupage, I used to think of those creepy ransom letters you see in the movies or on TV, where they cut out magazine letters and paste them all together. But totally not what decoupage is! While searching for images of decoupage on the internet, I found some pretty cool looking projects people have made.

Side note to this: I was first introduced to Mod Podge when I was a kid at summer camp. We made these cool wreaths. First we covered flat foam wreaths in tape and then we mixed up different colored dried beans with Mod Podge. We piled the beans onto the taped wreath form and let it dry. I gave one to my grandmother and always loved seeing it hanging up in her house every time we went over. I amy try to replicate one with my kids…

To find Mod Podge at Target, click here.

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I have no idea what these are actually called, but we call them pretzel kisses in our house. Sometimes, you just need something to keep your kids occupied with while you do the dishes or get dinner ready, whatever. The most time consuming part about this is little hands unwrapping 40 Hershey Kisses, or however many you decide to make.

We like to use all different kinds of Kisses, and even Hugs too! If you want to get especially tricky, have your kids make them into patterns or sort them into piles according to design. My favorite pretzel kisses are made either with Hugs or the original Hershey Kisses. We tried the sugar cookie Kisses and let me tell you, they weren’t horrible! You can also make these with Rolos, which we also love. Line your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Line up your square pretzels and put your Hugs or Kisses on top. Place in oven at 200 degrees for about 4-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and add an m&m on top of the hug (or Kiss) and squish it down. Place in fridge for 5-10 minutes to let the chocolate set.

There’s something so simple and nostalgic about these, we make them frequently and even add them to our holiday cookie boxes that we give to our friends.

Have you ever made these? If so, what do you call them?

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I feel like you either love candy corn or you hate it. There is no in between… For me, I am totally NOT on team candy corn. But they are fun once in a while to use to make crafts. For these cupcakes, it was more about decorating them than what they tasted like. For these kinds of crafts or baking projects, I just use cake mix from a box and if I’m feeling very lazy, I use store bought frosting – although most times I make my own buttercream frosting, it’s so simple!

Sometimes you want to be present for the activity that you are doing with your kids – and taking shortcuts Is totally ok. They’re never going to remember that you used store bought frosting! My piping skills are not top notch, but you can see that the candy corn and candy eyes cover up most of the frosting, so this cupcake decoration is very forgiving.

Even my youngest likes to get in on the fun, and while they don’t exactly look like turkeys, all the kids had a blast making them!

My brother gave me FOUR bags of candy corn this year. I have no idea why. He was probably regifting them to me. While I could have just dropped them in his mailbox (and we would have passed them back and forth until next Halloween), we decided to make a wreath with them. That way, he would have to take them back! I found these particle board wreaths at the dollar spot at Target and we used Mod Podge to glue the candy corn to the wreath. We used the spray Mod Podge to coat the candy corn and give it a shiny finish. I think they turned out pretty cute!

Are you team candy corn?

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