Ahh, October, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously, all the months are my favorite months, but October holds a special place in my heart, my birthday notwithstanding. Even though I miss the longer, bright days of spring and summer, I do so love the changing colors, the crisp mornings, and the promise of holidays to come.
We’ve settled into a routine that has served us well so far in the pandemic, doing what a lot of people are doing: going outside and soaking up nature, even if we’re the only 4 people there. Side note: we are never the only ones there. Everyone else has the same bold idea. And Iowa in autumn is just a really great place to get out and explore.
What have you been doing? Getting out? Staying in? Feeling cozy? Feeling discombobulated? All of the above? Any and all, you’ve got a seat at this table. So grab a drink, maybe this Slow Cooker Apple Cider, pull up a chair, and join us. Here’s a behind-the-scenes snapshot of our lives this past colorful month.
WHAT WE’VE BEEN EATING
If there is one good outcome of being at home more, it’s that we’ve revisited favorite family recipes throughout each week. Instead of eating the same old, same old, we’re changing up our dinner game on a weekly basis, meal prepping on Sundays for the workdays to come. Here are a few recipes we’ve rotated through family lunches and dinnertime.
Paleo Egg Roll Bowl. I cannot explain it, but our 7-year-old loves the water chestnuts, coleslaw, and shrimp, doused in fresh ginger, garlic, and coconut aminos. It might even be one of her top 3 favorites. Every time we pull out the coleslaw salad mix, she goes into overdrive. And we have to ration the shrimp so everyone gets a few pieces before she beats us to it!
Gluten-Free Italian Pasta Salad. I love pasta salad, but I don’t love all pasta salads. I’m picky about the dressings and the added herbs and spices. But we played around with this recipe, achieving the right balance of ingredients, and it’s a family-favorite. Like the Paleo Egg Roll Bowl, we have to ration the 7-year-old, who gradually eats the ingredients, one category at a time. If we’re not careful, we head to the fridge to find a salad without salami or black olives. 😂
Lemon Baked Chicken. If Smell-O-Vision were still a thing, I’d be front row seat for this succulent recipe. Tender, juicy chicken baked with lemon, garlic, thyme, and onions? Be still my heart. We make this weekly now, and the flavors and aromas are a calming effect against the unsettled thoughts our minds race through during long pandemic days.
WHERE WE’VE BEEN GOING
Brenton Arboretum blossoms with wispy trees, falling leaves, blooming berries, and natural footpaths. Every time I go there, I feel like I’m in a natural wonderland, exploring what has become a second home.
And then there’s Ledges State Park, my childhood home away from home. The Gram used to take me to Ledges for hikes and picnics. At one point I knew every path on one side of the park. Recently, however, I took K-Hubs and the girls there, and we explored the side we don’t normally trek.
It paid off. Climbing higher than we ever had before, we were as tall as the trees, the people below us small dots as they navigated the waterways and hiking paths. Like Brenton Arboretum it was like being in another world, and we were surrounded by a canopy of trees, falling autumn leaves, and calmly flowing streams.
If you can’t find me, there’s a good chance I’m at one of these two natural wonders.
WHAT WE’RE DOING WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING
Exactly how soon is too soon to start decorating for Christmas? Asking for a family of four who cannot even anymore with 2020. All the rules are out the window, or so it seems. We’re just getting through each day and calling it a win. The 10-year-old said she wanted to hold out on mega decorating until at least after Halloween, even though she’s truthfully ready to jump into massive Griswold-style decorating four minutes ago.
I’m #same. So it’s no wonder that these miniature light-up decorations fell into my cart at Costco and then fell up onto the shelves in my office, where they glow throughout the evening. I am with the 10-year-old, firmly planted in the Thanksmasween season. We aren’t talking about it openly, so, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but we’re gradually pulling out our Christmas decorations and spontaneously planting them throughout our home. 😂
As I think about how much our daily lives have changed since spring, I can’t help but wonder what November will bring, the general election, notwithstanding. Will more Christmas items appear, almost as if out of nowhere and land on a bare spot on a shelf? Most likely. Will we keep up with our nature walks? God willing. And will will enjoy good food and beverage? You bet.
All of this to say, we don’t know what’s in store over the next several months. The pandemic continues to rage and questions about where we go, how we interact, and what is safest not only for us but also for others continue to arise.
There is one thing that remains constant though. If this is our virtual family room, there is more than enough room for you in our virtual home. However your holiday season looks this year, just know we’re thinking about you and wishing you health and happiness.
We’re glad you’re here. ❤️