Early this week the weather in my corner of the world changed and it finally feels like Autumn.
The change in weather has been like a breath of fresh air. Gone are the stuffy, humid, 100°F plus days. The kids aren’t getting sweaty in the back seat of the car. The house isn’t unbearably hot if the air conditioner is not on. I can bake something in the oven and not regret the extra heat.
Autumn has always been my favorite season, for a multitude of reasons.
The changes in the foliage and the colors of Fall are so beautiful.
Cooler days and nights
It is usually the only time of year that I don’t sweat to death. I hate feeling hot: when the weather is hot in most situations there are only so many clothes that one can take off, but in cooler temperatures, one can always use a sweater or pair of slippers.
Perfect alone time
Now it is usually only the stuff of fantasies with two little ones running about, but there is nothing better than spending an afternoon curled up with a good book, a toasty blanket, and a cup of hot tea, cocoa, or coffee.
See my homemade cocoa recipe, below.
Amazing sleeping weather
I love sleeping in a cool room at night. Waking up to a little chill in the air and snuggling into the blankets or with my husband is my favorite way to sleep.
Need I say more? I love gourds of all shapes and sizes but pumpkins top my list. I love decorating with them. I love carving them into jack-o-lanterns. I love baking with pumpkin- pumpkin bread, pumpkin rolls, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin spice cake- there are so many possibilities. I even love the little mallow creme candy pumpkins that you can only find this time of year. Just don’t try to give me pumpkin spice coffee, yuck! Sorry, Starbucks.
Halloween has long been my favorite holiday. I have always loved to create my own costumes, even as an adult.
As a kid, I loved to trick-or-treat with my best friends or my sister and cousin. The town I grew up in had a tradition of trick-or-treating two nights in a row, so we would go out the night before Halloween and on Halloween. In later years we got into a little mischief, soaping the school windows, TP-ing houses, or giving younger kids a Halloween scare.
My favorite Halloween was the year that my sister, cousin, and I had fun scaring trick-or-treaters that came to my house. We made a coffin out of cardboard and painted it black, placing it on the front porch. I made a scarecrow out of my dad’s clothes and a paper mache head, which sat on a bench on the porch.
As the kids came up the sidewalk my sister wore a mask and jumped out from behind the large cedar trees. My cousin dressed as a vampire and lay in wait in the coffin, so when the kids stepped on the porch he would pop up and startle them. Then, dressed as another slouchy scarecrow on the bench I jumped up and yelled, “Don’t steal my candy!” It was so much fun.
I hated to rake leaves in the yard as a kid and I have always thought it a futile effort because the trees keep losing leaves and more blow into the yard all the time, so you can probably guess that I do not rake my own yard. Here in Kansas, they are just going to be blown away anyway. My father-in-law always rakes his yard a couple of times though.
The last two years he has done this has been immense fun for my daughter and niece, as you can see in the photo below. Wonder Woman and Queen Elsa had a blast playing in the leaves at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
An afternoon walk is always lovely. We live along two picturesque lanes lined with one-hundred-year-old cottonwood trees and their autumn colors are beautiful. It is also my favorite time of year to spend an hour or two in the park.
Lots of things seem to be even scarier in the Fall. I don’t know if it is the fact that they days are shorter, there’s less opportunity to spend outside in temperate weather, or if I just freak myself out.
The days leading up to up to Halloween are perfect for watching scary movies. The House of the Devil, The VVitch, The Exorcist, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, It – need I say more? I don’t really care for gory movies. I love the ones that get in to your head and stay there for a while.
I remember once my husband and I were watching a scary movie. He likes to try to scare me so he had the lights off. I told him that I needed a bathroom break and I left the living room to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. As I walked into the dark kitchen my eye was drawn to the left towards my bedroom and I saw someone who almost literally made me pee my pants. Of course, it was my own reflection in the door mirror and my husband has never let me live it down since.
The pumpkin patch
Fall always brings an obligatory trip to the pumpkin patch so that we can pick out our own incredibly over-priced pumpkin from the field.
Thinking of Autumn always makes me reminisce about growing up in my small town. On a Fall weekend, there was always the smell of simmering chili on the stove. The house windows were open, letting the crisp air move throughout the house and my parents’ music float out into the neighborhood.
When I was younger my family would make a large batch of homemade hot cocoa mix. Each evening we would settle in the living room and watch TV and have a mug of warm cocoa. I recently found the original recipe hiding in one of the cookbooks my mother had given me.
This recipe was given to my mom by a family friend, so I don’t know where it originated. Be prepared, it makes a lot! I’m sure you could change up some of the ingredients to suit your tastes or dietary needs.
Hot Cocoa Recipe
3 large boxes of chocolate fudge instant pudding
1 large and 1 small box of chocolate milk mix (such as Ovaltine or Nesquick)
1 jar dry low-fat coffee creamer
1/3 bag of powdered sugar
20 qt box of non-fat dry milk
Mix all dry ingredients well. Store in an air-tight container in a cool dry place.
It can be separated into jars to give as gifts. We would store our coca mix in a large popcorn tin (the kind that comes with plain, cheddar, and caramel popcorn in them).
To make cocoa, mix a mug full of hot water with a couple of spoonfuls of cocoa mix (to your own taste). Enjoy!