50 things I love about Fall

So technically fall doesn’t start for 2 more weeks, but I couldn’t wait to post this. It is raining here in the Pacific Northwest (shocker! I know.) We had some awesome thunder and lightning storms today and my mums are already blossoming, so I’m going to go ahead and just pretend it has started already. I can’t wait. After all Fall is my favorite season. Sadly, I never even knew Fall existed, let alone liked it, until I moved to Oregon. I grew up in the Sacramento valley of California. We don’t have fall there. Okay, technically everywhere has an Autumn season, but ours did not have the idilic color changing trees and weeks of cool weather. Fall was identified as those two weeks, between the sweltering triple digits and the rainy season. I am so glad I moved somewhere we have all four seasons. I just love the fall. I love it so much, I decided to write a song about it… Just kidding. I am so not musically talented. I would have if I could have, so instead I made a list of all the things I love about it.

  1. Hunting season- I get to spend time outside with my hubby doing something we both enjoy. I believe it brings us closer every year. (and PS if you are against it, I’m sorry. You are entitled to your opinion, but so am I… and I love it.)
  2. Hiking in the rain- Seriously! It’s not hot and the air is so clean. Plus all the fall colors are beautiful!
  3. hot chocolate
  4. coffee (and all coffee related beverages)
  5. hot apple cider
  6. hot toddies
  7. scarfs
  8. sweaters
  9. boots
  10. wool socks
  11. pea coats
  12. layers
  13. hats
  14. mittens
  15. fall colors
  16. pumpkin patches
  17. corn mazes
  18. carving pumpkins
  19. designing Halloween costumes
  20. Thanksgiving
  21. back to school shopping
  22. back to school schedules- No, really. I am a creature of habit. While the freedom of Summer is fun, I secretly love an organized schedule. It satisfies the type A person in me.
  23. Daylight savings- getting dark earlier means more cuddle time on the couch.
  24. breaking out the quilts for the couch- I love cuddling on the couch with my hubby or my girls under a big warm cozy quilt, next to a blazing fire.
  25. firing up the wood stove- blazing fire, warm quilt, cup of hot beverage- need I say more?
  26. the smell of the rain
  27. the sound of the rain- I actually sleep with my window cracked quite often, so I can hear the rain better. I LOVE the sound of the rain.
  28. thunder & lightning storms
  29. apple picking
  30. apple cider
  31. caramel apple cider
  32. apple sauce
  33. apple pie
  34. canning apples
  35. pumpkin pie
  36. pumpkin doughnuts
  37. pumpkin muffins
  38. pumpkin lattes
  39. chai lattes- they just taste like Christmas to me.
  40. picking pears
  41. canning pears
  42. pear tarts
  43. pear sauce
  44. pears and fancy cheese
  45. cool misty mornings
  46. changing leaves
  47. naked trees
  48. the view of the sun rising through the naked trees
  49. mums
  50.  And the number one thing I love about fall (or number 50 in this case) spending time with family. Fall brings Holidays which means more time spent with family, and that, my friend, makes me a happy girl. . . Especially when I get to cuddle with them under a big quilt, next to a blazing fire, while listening to the rain come down, drinking hot toddies and wearing matching wool socks.  Wink wink. Okay, they don’t have to match, but that just makes it more fun.

Well my dear friends, I hope this fall brings as much fun and love for you as it does for me! Until next time, have a blessed day. Bye bye now!

Mango-Blueberry Freezer Jam

This stuff is magical. Seriously. It has me under a spell. Just look at it. It even sparkles.
Mango Blueberry Freezer Jam
The best part? It was super easy to make. If you hurry, you can probably still grab some mangos at your local grocer, and if you are like me, and picked gallons of blueberries this year, then you should still have a few in your freezer. Get to it girl. You can thank me later.
Mango-Blueberry Freezer Jam
via The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
(I doubled the following recipe with no problem. It made about 8 1/2 c. of jam)
Ingredients:
2 3/4 c super fine sugar
1 c finely chopped mangoes (aprox 2)
3/4 c chopped fresh or frozen blueberries (note: the measurement is after chopping; before chopping it was about 1 1/4 c)
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin
1 1/2 TBSP lemon juice
Directions:
1. Place sugar in oven proof shallow pan and warm in 250 degree F oven (120C) for 15 minutes. This helps sugar dissolve better.
2. Combine mangoes, blueberries, orange rind and warmed sugar in a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add pectin and lemon juice, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
4. Ladle jam into clean jars or plastic containers to within 1/2 in/1 cm of rim. Cover with tight fitting lids. Label jars and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to set up.
5. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or freeze for longer storage.
Makes 3 1/2 cups.
Fabulous Tips:
  • I suggest removing the skin, cutting the fruit off of the mangos and then pulsing in the food processor. It will save a lot of time and energy not chopping by hand.
  • Make sure sugar is completely dissolved before adding pectin and lemon juice to avoid a grainy consistency.
  • Try this jam on ice cream, in yogurt, on pancakes, or in Easy Cheater Hand Pies. It’s pretty much good on anything.

Butterscotch Blondies with Dark Chocolate Chips

Oh my. My, my, my. It’s all I can say after tasting this little experiment. This “blondie” started out a lot like my PMS Cookies. I had a serious hankering for a good chewy chocolate chip cookie, but didn’t have all of the ingredients necessary. Then I remembered a blondie recipe I wanted to try, and again, didn’t have all of the ingredients, so it was up to my creative whim to come up with something new. This is not actually uncommon for me, but what is uncommon is for the results to be successful enough to want to share them with you.  This time, however, I actually impressed myself! Hopefully I can impress you too!

Butterscotch Blondies

1.5 c flour
1 small box cook and serve butterscotch pudding
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 stick of butter (1/2 c) softened
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
~2 c dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heavily grease 8×8 baking dish with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pudding mix, baking powder, salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat together butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Slowly incorporate flour mixture until well combined.
Mix in chocolate chips.
Turn out batter into prepared dish and smooth it out a little. Batter will be very sticky. Don’t worry about making it look pretty, the batter will smooth itself out the rest of the way as it bakes. Bake for 40 min or unit tester comes out moist, but clean.

Blueberry Almond Pancakes

Another successful experiment in pancakes this morning. pancakes are kind of a staple food around here. They are so cheap and easy to make, and you can vary them so many ways; it’s hard for me to get tired of them. This morning’s concoction proved to be especially delicious! They were so moist and chalked full of blueberries that they didn’t even need any additional butter or syrup. Of course if you want to add them, please be my guest! I would suggest real maple syrup or blueberry syrup; just my opinion. Oh! Or add a big dollop of real whipped cream! Yum! I hope you enjoy them as much as my munchkin and I did!

I’ve used the same pancake base for years. It is from the Better Homes & Garden Cookbook. I use their batter and just add my own flare to it.

Dry Ingredients:
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
2 TBLS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3 TBLSP cooking oil
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Additional Ingredients:
~2 c fresh or frozen blueberries
~1/2 c sliced almonds

**Note: If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, you can place 1 TBLSP white vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and fill to the one cup line with regular milk. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before use. For a cup and a half I use 1 1/2 TBLSP vinegar. You won’t taste it I promise.**

Directions:
Combine dry ingredients in med-large mixing bowl.
Combine wet ingredients in separate bowl or 2 c liquid measuring cup.
Poor wet into dry, and stir just until wet through. Batter should be very lumpy.
Set aside and heat large skillet or electric griddle to low-medium heat; about 275 deg F if you are using the griddle.
Very lightly toast almonds, about 30 sec to one minute. They will cook further when added to pancakes. Set aside.
Butter griddle. I just use the stick and run it all over the griddle.
Measure out 1/4-1/3 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Don’t overcrowd the pan.
Next sprinkle batter liberally with blueberries and again with almond slices.
Allow to cook until bubbly and edges appear dry.
Carefully flip and allow to cook through.
Butter the pan or griddle again between batches.
Now eat, eat, eat.

Fabulous Family Fun Friday! Week 2: Indoor Bounce House

A few weeks ago we took Little R to the indoor bounce house in town. It’s a very large room, with several of those blow up “bounce houses,” only way cooler! (yeah, I said “way cooler”) These things are giant, and they have slides and obstacle courses of varying sizes. The tallest slide was about 12 feet tall, and had a climbing wall that you had to scale to get to the top of before sliding down. At first glance I was concerned that most of the obstacles would be too much for our little one, but after about 15-20 min she warmed right up to the bigger ones. Thankfully, they had blow up areas for kids of all ages, so even if she hadn’t warmed up to the bigger ones, she still would have had fun with the smaller ones. The obstacles challenged her gross motor skills, and boosted her self esteem as she overcame each one. This was very exciting and rewarding for Mr F and I to watch. Call me crazy, but I swear she walked just a little bit taller when we left.  Entry to the bounce house was very affordable; kids cost eight dollars, and adults get in free! Totally worth the eight dollars to see her have so much fun and gain so much self esteem in one day. Plus, we had a lot of fun on the slides too!

Here are a few pics to see what kind of obstacles they had. Sorry the images are not very  clear; the lighting wasn’t real great in there.

The “tire” obstacle.

 

The Ball Pit. R with her favorite ball; the green ball.

WEEEEEEEE! The BIG slide!

We had so much fun together, we will definitely be going back again. What kind of fun can you find in your town?

What Martha Isn’t Telling You About Christmas

Christmas starts in July. That’s it! That’s the big secret that Martha and every other Martha Stewert-Like blogger isn’t telling you about Christmas, and all of those beautiful hand made decorations and gifts. I am sharing this little secret with you, because every Christmas the same thing happens to me.

It starts in the Fall with Halloween; I call it Holiday Fever, and I get it bad! I see all of these beautiful hand made decorations and gifts everywhere. They sparkle, and shine — and taunt me. “Make me. Make me! Make Meeeeee!” They call from the magazine rack in the grocery store. “Don’t you want to give me to your friends?” They beckon from my e-mail. “Your house will be the prettiest on the block,… if only you will decorate it just like this.” I hear as I scan my favorite craft blogs every morning. But what they aren’t telling you is, you have to start planning months in advance to achieve these beautifully decorated houses and handmade gift baskets. If you are a procrastinator with high hopes, like myself, then you may have attempted to get all of these things done in previous Decembers, only to have Christmas come and go in a hot, stressful, flash; leaving you feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.

How can you achieve a beautifully decorated home, make heartfelt handmade gifts and still have the time to enjoy your friends, family and true spirit of the season? Easy, start now! There are so many things you can do in the summer to prepare you for the Fall Holiday Season. Here are a few (ok, several) suggestions to get the ball rolling.

1. Start collecting! Start collecting pine cones for decorations (or one of these cute, homemade fire starters) on your next camping excursion. Not only will you save time, but you will save money, buy not having to buy them.

Click picture for link!

2. Spray Paint now! If you have items (like your pine cones) that you want to paint gold or silver (or white, or green, or red…) do it now. Spray paint doesn’t dry well in the wet Fall weather; dry summer heat is ideal for spray painting.

3. Get cooking! (Or canning.) Homemade jams or jellies, and liqueurs are always appreciated. Jams can be made and stored for months in advance, saving you time later. Liqueurs need time to infuse with flavors and taste better with a little age, so they really need to be made ahead of time. In order to save yourself precious “holiday time,” avoid giving “fresh baked” gifts that have to be made the same week they are given. If you like giving fresh baked cookies, consider making the dough ahead of time and freezing it in an airtight container. That way you will always have fresh baked cookies on hand within 15 minutes.

4. Get Sewing! Or Crafting. There are so many handmade gifts that can be sewn or crafted ahead of time. My current favorite blog is EverythingEtsy.com They have…

5. Simplify! Don’t try to design a different homemade gift or basket for every single person on your list. Pick one or two crowd pleasing themes for your baskets, (or sewing pattern, or craft) and stick to it. Here are two of my favorite gift baskets:

  • Coffee for Two Basket: Include 2 coffee cups, homemade irish cream, chocolate or coffee liqueur (made ahead), a tin of your favorite coffee and a bottle of milk or cream. Save your coffee tins and frappuccino bottles over the summer. Remove labels and decorate with your established theme between now and Halloween. Set aside until Christmas, then fill with store bought bulk coffee and milk or cream just before gifting. You can even make Biscotti a month in advance and store in an air tight container, or cheat, and buy it from your bulk store. Oh, and one more tip; wait to buy your baskets until you know what is going in them! This will save you money, and a head ache, when you go to put them together. I speak from experience on this one.
  • Spa Basket: Make skin care items over summer and decorate the jars ahead of time, so all you have to do is put the basket together come gift giving time. Here are a few recipes for DIY Skin care products: Exfoliating Scrub, Bath Salts, Bath Bombs.

6. Pick one theme and stick to it. Whether it be red, green, and blue plaid; blue and white snowflakes; snowmen or nature inspired; pick a theme and stick with it. You will be amazed at how much easier it will be to decorate your home, and your gifts, if you pick one color combination or character and focus on that when purchasing or creating your decorations. Plus, your friends and family will be amazed at how well “put together” everything looks when even your tree decorations and presents match.

5. Start your decorations early. You don’t have to hang them, but most decorations can be made ahead of time and stored unit the fall.

I hope I have motivated you to get started on those Christmas gifts and decorations, or at least got your wheels turning. For more DIY decorating and Gift ideas, see my Pinterest page!

 

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