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This page is my e-newsletter, changing with the seasons (or whenever I get a chance to sit down and write.) Feel free to comment, make suggestions, or send jokes!

Q: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
A: To get to the other slide.

Well, the frost is on the pumpkin and Thanksgiving is long past. Hope you're making clove apples by now (a Laura Ingalls Wilder favorite), or at least an apple pie. (see recipe below)

One of the most rewarding days I had this fall was helping build a new playground at my daughters' school. We had about 300 volunteers on the best day you could imagine - bright blue sky, hardly any wind, sun shining like it forgot it was already October. The PTO had won an award from Kaboom (a playground construction company) and Computer Associates International to finance and build the new playspace -- all we needed was to supply about 150 volunteers, and about $15,000 (a small portion of the actual cost.) Notes were sent home, volunteers solicited, and everyone turned out.

There we were, shoveling a mountain of bark mulch as the playground pieces were uncrated and bolted together. Parents of kids in the school, employees of local businesses, computer folks. The mountain crept into the frame which had been hammered into place, creating a 13" thick spongy base. Then the upright poles were cemented into the holes and the playground began to take form. "You're doing great! We're way ahead of the team [building a playground] in Arizona!" proclaimed a Kaboom employee, after hollering into her cell phone.

We took a break for an incredible lunch: pizza, sandwiches, Thai food; topped off with Ben & Jerry's ice cream - all donated, of course. And then the playground was done, the bark mulch raked into place, the old pea gravel carted away. The children - all 525 of them - came streaming out of the school building. They sat in ordered rows in front of the playground, waiting for the dedication ceremonies, a palpable sense of awe emanating from them as they beheld what had grown there in one day.

It's amazing what we can do together.

Check out Grandma Julie's Apple Pie Recipe. It's a great one. My husband apprenticed to his grandmother to learn her tricks and then taught me, and one or the other of us makes it several times a year. Don't overwork the dough, and make the crust as thin as you can, rolling it onto the rolling pin as you pick it up so it doesn't tear. My kids always make mini-pies from the leftover dough.

Grandma Julie's Apple Pie

2 cups unbleached white flour (all-purpose)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup chilled Crisco (store in the refrigerator)
cup ice water

At least 12 large apples for a 9-inch pie plate, 18 for a 12-inch pie plate. Granny Smith apples make a great pie.
1/3 to of a cup of sugar depending on the size of the pie plate, the sweetness of the apples, and personal taste.
2 to 3 teaspoons of cinnamon (depending on size of pie plate and personal taste)

Combine flour and sugar. Use a pastry cutter to combine the Crisco with the flour. When you have achieved a crumbly texture, add the ice water and continue to work with the pastry cutter until the dough starts to form a ball. Make one large ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The dough is more than enough for a 9-inch pie plate, and if rolled very thin, can even be used with a 12-inch pie plate.

While dough is resting, peel, core, and slice the apples. Make the slices fairly thin. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the apples, sugar, and cinnamon. The apples should be generously covered with sugar and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut dough into two equal sections. Sprinkle flour on the counter, rolling pin, and dough, and roll out the bottom crust. Sprinkle additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place bottom crust in the pie plate. Sprinkle the bottom crust with a generous coat of cinnamon and sugar. Place the apple slices in the pie plate. Distribute evenly, and push down gently. Continue to add apples even though they will be higher than the edge of the pie plate, higher in the middle than at the edges. When the pie bakes, the apples will cook down considerably.

Roll out the top crust, and cover the apples. Trim the excess crust with a knife, and pinch the top and bottom crusts together. Cut off any excess crust, and flute the edge with your fingers. Prick the top crust with a fork about every 1-inch. Dab the top crust with Crisco about every 2 inches. Sprinkle the top crust with a generous pinch of cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 425 for 40 minutes, then at 375 for 15 minutes. Let cool before cutting. Yum.

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