I say to myself, “Self? This is the year that we are going to soak up every ounce of fall we can. We are going apple picking. We are going to take long walks in the woods. We are going to carve pumpkins using the tutorial I pinned on Pinterest and by golly they are going to LOOK like the ones I pinned on Pinterest. We are going to craft the HECK out of our Saturday afternoons. We will eat pumpkin spice EVERYTHING until we are SICK of pumpkin spice everything and have no choice but to embrace the peppermint flavors of Christmas.”
Usually, at about this time I start to daydream about peppermint hot chocolate and peppermint chocolate cheesecake. Then I give my head a little shake and get back on track.
“Self? We are going to rule fall like a BOSS! Plaid blanket scarves and boots? Check … or at least they will be when it gets below 85 degrees. Gallons of apple cider? Check. Hay bales on standby? Yup. An obnoxious amount of cinnamon on the shelves? You bet. Map of South Carolina road trip to view the fall leaves? Pinned.”
And then you know what happens? Life. Life happens. Appointments, play dates, family visits, school fundraisers, work meetings, church commitments, and a myriad of other things that are necessary and required. Inevitably, we get to that point a few weeks after Halloween, when the world has already shifted gears to the holiday season and there I am, standing in the cool air on my front porch wondering how I missed Octoberfest and where all these red and orange leaves came from. We go from rushing between commitments to rushing through Christmas and New Years. Poof! Autumn is toast and feel like I didn’t see any of it.
Well not this year, dang it! I have three fantastic kids and one stellar husband and I am going to take the time to embrace and enjoy some slow moments with them. These years are too precious to let ourselves be wrapped up in everything we HAVE to do instead of that which our family WANTS to do. We need to make some memories that are based on free spirited and spontaneous events. We need to schedule in some time for all of us to goof off and be silly with no time constraint and no hidden agenda. Our family needs to say ‘no’ to a few more of the unnecessarily stressful things and ‘heck yes’ to that which breeds happiness, love, and togetherness between the five of us.
Is this a pipe dream? Quite possibly. But even if my good intentions turn into whines, exhausted complaining, and a handful of missed photo opportunities with my littles, I’m totally up for it. Enjoyment of all things autumnal starts now and below is my activity punch list. Here’s to good intentions!
–> Rake Leaves … and then start a compost pile.
Jump in them, pile them, bury your kids in them – enjoy! But if you are going to gather the leaves and sticks from your yard, you might as well pile them up and start layering in some other yard and kitchen waste. Come spring, you will have a great pile of fertilizer for planting. It is good for the environment, good for your plants, and teaches your kids about sustainability, reducing, and reusing. It is SO much easier than you think! There are plenty of online resources, but you can start here if this is all new to you!
–> Carve Pumpkins … and then toast the seeds for a snack.
Again, I cannot stress enough how easy this is. Plain or flavored, its all good. And good for you! You can find an easy method for making them by clicking here. Just in case you need to find a pumpkin patch, we have that covered!
–> Make Your Own Halloween Costumes … and clean out closets and storage.
Commit to reducing waste and reusing items by making your costumes from scratch. Challenge your family to purchase as little as possible in order to pull it off! While you are digging for usable treasures, set aside that which you don’t want and have a cool weather yard sale or donate to charity.
–> Go Apple Picking … and then make homemade applesauce.
If you have never made applesauce before, fear not! It is ridiculously easy. Half the fun is adding all kinds of goodies to make it all your own! Dip graham crackers in it, stir in nuts and raisins, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice – whatever sounds good to you! Need a recipe to get you started? Here you go! Applesauce not your thing? Here are ten amazing apple recipes your family will love! And just in case you are looking for an orchard to go and pick all those apples (and grab an apple cider doughnut or two), check out our list here.
–> Host An Autumn Themed Potluck Party … and YOU provide the hot cocoa bar.
Can you say ‘party time’? Invite friends and family to bring their favorite fall dish to a potluck and you provide the place, the utensils, and the drinks! A big pot of hot chocolate and an array of treats to mix in or add to the top. Super easy and very low key. Too hot yet for hot cocoa? Eat alfresco and bob for apples. Hint: Split the guest list by first letter of last name and have A-M bring something savory and N-Z bring a dessert!
–> Collect Fall Leaves … and then do some fun family crafts with them.
Pinterest is full of an abundance of ideas from collages to banners. Do a quick search and put those piles of beautiful leaves to good use as some do-it-yourself artwork that you can leave up until Thanksgiving (or try this 27 Days of Thanksgiving craft using construction paper leaves)! Hint: This works with pinecones and acorns too.
–> Go For A Hike In The Woods … and talk about the changes that happen regarding flora and fauna this time of year.
This is just a good idea all the way around. Now that it has finally cooled off here in the Midlands (the temp is 82 right now, but … whateves) it is SO much more enjoyable to be out and about. Hit one of the many state parks in the area and get some exercise while you explore. We love to bring our pocket bird book with us and kids are great at finding animal tracks on the trails. Bringing your iPhone with you? Take advantage of technology and download an app that keeps you informed! The Wilderness Society has an awesome list of ideas that are perfect for kids. Stop by the National Wildlife Federations’s Blog for even more options!
–> Stop By A Farmer’s Market … and do some Christmas shopping!
Many markets operate well into November and here in the South, often year round! The prepared foods, local produce, and craft vendors vary during the different times of year and it is a whole new experience to go in the fall. Bring the kiddos and let them taste new foods, pick out a late harvest squash or two, and pick up some gifts! Local honey, jams, jellies, soaps, towels etc., all make great stocking stuffers for an adult or items to pick up for a Secret Santa or hostess gift. Local artwork is often easy to ship to out of town family who you won’t see for the holidays. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for homemade clothing, bags, toys, and decorations to sneak into a bag when your kids aren’t looking!
–> Make A Giant Batch Of Soup Or Stew … and then share half with a neighbor.
I like this idea better than a batch of cookies, but do what you can! The point is, sharing something as soul soothing and nourishing as homemade soup isn’t just being generous. It is sending a message that the receiving person or family is appreciated and loved. It kicks of this season of giving and thankfulness on the right foot and keeps us focused on what matters. And your house will smell SO GOOD!
–> Find Some Great Autumn Themed Books … and then read them together as a family.
Reading with your kids will always be a good idea. Shake up your regular routine by finding something new and fitting for the season! Libraries and book stores often set out select books with seasonal topics so that is a great place to start. Buy or borrow something you can read again and again this fall. This is an awesome list of options and be sure to try here too!