Some Comforting Nostalgia

As imagined, my ability to post every weekday for a month has not exactly panned out. However, I do think making it a practice for the first couple of weeks has reestablished the blogging habit. That’s really what I was after. For those curious, my hope moving forward is to write here twice a week. Maybe three on occasion. I realize hope is not a plan, but making a plan feels like a promise I probably can’t keep. So, here’s to things working out the way that I hope they will.

On a grey, rainy, raw October day, much like this one, I took a solo trip to the orchard to get some favorite apple varieties, of which the trees we have planted are not producing yet. The radio reported one terrifying story after another, all without resolution. Lots of blame, no responsibility taken. Finally I switched the channel to one of the French stations, and though they probably told the same horrific stories, I could not understand them, but it did sound like I was in my grandmother’s, great-grandmothers’, or great aunts’ kitchens, which provided some comforting nostalgia.

I don’t need to make apple pie filling this year, and I can probably get away with not making applesauce as well. I do plan to make some apple pie jam, dehydrate apple slices, and tuck plenty away for fresh eating. Apples, pears, and citrus are about it for us when it comes to fresh winter fruit, so I like to go into it knowing we have plenty on hand.

Mid-October through January are the greyest months in Vermont. I know this can be a struggle for a lot of people, but for me it’s a permission slip to take pleasure in all the cozy lighting, homey vignettes, reading the stack of books summer never allowed time for, and resting these bones beside the fire. For me, it’s also when I spend more recreational time outdoors. It’s true that I probably spend more hours outside in summer, but I don’t exactly love most of them. Between the blood sucking insects and too much humidity, it’s not my favorite. I’ll take my walks on a crisp January day – properly dressed of course –  over the bugs and humidity of summer any day. That time of year is emerging now, and it’s never unbearable to be outside from this point forward, until sometime in late May or June. 

I made some favorite autumnal foods over the weekend (chili and pumpkin bars), had a nice impromptu visit with cousins, and generally kept things low-key. My husband’s blue ribbon (really!) family chili recipe can be found in Hearth & Home, and I’ll post my pumpkin bar recipe below. I call it “bars” but truly it is a sheet cake. Which makes it easy to eat like a bar if needed. Perfect for autumn gatherings when few dirty dishes is the goal.

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

These are even better the next day if wrapped carefully, which makes this the perfect make ahead dessert for hosting, or any kind of gathering. 
Freezes beautifully, even frosted! The way I do this is I make the cake, cool, frost, then flash freeze for a couple of hours uncovered. Once frosting is frozen, I take it out and wrap securely, then put back in the freezer. Just remember to take the wrapping off before you thaw, otherwise wrapping will stick to the frosting. 
You can halve this recipe and use a quarter sheet pan for fewer people. Reduce the bake time a bit if you do.
5 from 7 votes



  • 4 eggs
  • 1 - 15 oz canned pumpkin, or 2 scant cups homegrown pureed
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup neutral flavored oil (I use melted lard)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove


  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350º. Whisk eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil (melted lard), and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
  • Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix until smooth.
  • Spread cake batter into an ungreased half sheet pan (jelly roll pan).
  • Bake for 18-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be sure to check starting at the 18 minute mark.
  • Cool completely on baking rack.
  • To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, a cup at a time, beating well after each cup. Beat until all sugar is combined and frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth. Spread evenly over the cake. Enjoy!

28 Responses

  1. Thank you for the pumpkin bar recipe. I think it will be a nice autumn bake for me and my daughters.
    And I am also looking forward to those cold and rainy autumn days, perfect for reading and knitting (and resting)

  2. Thank you for this recipe, especially the tips about flash freezing with the frosting. Great to have on hand when company comes or I take a meal to someone.

  3. Oh, I need to try making these! I bet my kids (and husband!) will love them.

    I’m looking forward to things truly cooling down this week – here in South Carolina, it has been too hot for me. I grew up on Long Island in New York, and I miss the seasons there.

  4. I made the Pumpkin bars tonight and my family absolutely loves them. So good! Thank so much for the recipe!

  5. Heather, you have inspired me to also dust off blogging skills. I’ve told not many people and I am just doing small journal/blog style – so far daily for ummm not long. So thank you!
    I’ve a few ideas where I may take this… but for now I’m just hanging out.
    Love Leanne NZ

    1. This is great news, Leanne! I need to start a “blog roll” again so I can keep up with everyone. A lot of us are starved for the creative connection we had back in the day. Not to mention the brain exercise typing these simple posts can be for us older ladies.

  6. Hello Heather, I wanted to share with you a novel you might enjoy it’s Maria Chapdelaine from Louis Hémon. I know you have French Canadian descendants so I thought it might interest you, it depict French Canadian rural life in the early 19th in the most realistic and beautiful way, i think.
    Maybe another book to add to your stack?
    From a French Canadian friend.

  7. Hi Heather (and other readers!) I just wanted to say how happy I am that you’re blogging again. I’ve read your blog for – 10? 11? years – a really long time, and it has always felt a bit like sitting down with a cup of tea in the middle of a busy day. A break from everything that is so busy all the time, a place to slow down and feel a sort of connection and inspiration to be a bit more conscious and mindful. Thank you for sharing with us!

  8. 5 stars
    Hi Heather,
    Thank you for your warm words, like a cup of tea, they are soothing to the soul.

  9. 5 stars
    Heather, I look so forward to your posts here, as well as at Hearth and Home. You offer such beauty into my daily life. Thank you. The pumpkin bars were a hit with my family, especially my teenage son. His words,”Mom, I am just letting you know that I am going to be eating a lot of the pumpkin bars.”

  10. Thank you for sharing the pumpkin bar recipe! I made it with my kiddo and we loved it! I liked them even better on day 2 like you mentioned. 🙂 I am really happy to be reading your blog again. Your energy is really soothing and it reminds me to slow down myself and savor my days.

  11. I’m going to try making this gluten free by using 1:1 bobs red mill gf flour, but checking here first to see if anyone else has tried and has any tips??

    1. 5 stars
      I just made these tonight using King Arthur 1:1 gf flour and they turned out perfect! My daughter is newly gf, so this is the first baked good I’ve made using the 1:1 flour and was very relieved that there’s no difference in taste. 🙂

    2. 5 stars
      Reporting back that subbing gluten free flour worked beautifully. I served this for our Halloween party – everyone loved it and couldn’t believe it was gf. So easy to make!

  12. 5 stars
    Heather, I made the both the pumpkin bars and your chili recipe tonight (Not planned, but a happy coincidence!) and both were delicious! Thank you for sharing your recipes; everything I’ve ever made of yours (longtime H & H member) has been wonderful.