Falling in Love with Fall

pumpkins

I have long said, “If it could be 80 degrees and sunny year round, I would be a happy camper.”  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the summer months and detested the cold, bitter winter.  However, now that I’m older, I’m finally starting to appreciate Fall.  I used to sulk for the first day in September or October where I’d have to grab a jacket before heading outside.  But when the temperature dropped a few weeks ago, quite a bit earlier than it has the past couple years in Atlanta, I was ready.  There are far too many great things that come with the changing of the season…

Leaves changing colors.  Pumpkin everything.  The red cups at Starbucks are back!  Warm cardigans and cable-knit sweaters.  Halloween.  Apple cider.  Thanksgiving.  Deep fried turkey.  The sound leaves make crunching under my shoes during my early morning runs.  Hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.  Carving pumpkins.  Early Christmas shopping.  Holiday office parties.  Fall baking.  Holiday displays in all the stores.  Decorating our home for Fall.  Fuzzy slippers.  Curling up by the fireplace with a good book.  The list goes on.

fallrunning

Fall is my favorite season for running. All the changing leaves are so beautiful!

This past week was Halloween, and I was so excited to finally be able to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.  It was just something we just didn’t get to do living in an apartment complex.  Also, you know you’re becoming a real adult when you balk at the price of candy.  I literally stood in the aisle at Kroger for a good ten minutes, wondering how in the world I was spending over $20 on two bags of candy that little fairies, ghosts and goblins would gobble up in seconds.  Thankfully we didn’t run out, and I would stand to argue that I actually had more fun than the trick-or-treaters, “oohing” and “aahing” at all the cute costumes and waving at all the families from our front porch rocking chairs.  It’s definitely a tradition I’m excited to continue for years to come.

pumpkin cookies

Iced pumpkin sugar cookies, just one of our many traditions this time of year.

Not a surprise that another one of my favorite things about Fall is baking.  There’s just something incredibly comforting about the flavors of Fall–pumpkin, cranberry, and spices like nutmeg and ginger.  I also have a lot of childhood memories of days spent in the kitchen with my Mom and grandmothers, wearing aprons too big for me and getting more flour in my hair and clothes than in the mixing bowl.  Today, whenever I make something that reminds me of a family recipe, I’ll take a picture and text it to my Mom and it feels like we’re back in the same kitchen, baking and laughing together.

My Mom’s harvest pumpkin loaf is one of my favorite things she bakes.  I always look forward to it this time of year.  Since I won’t be able to have any until we visit over Thanksgiving, I decided to try making my own version.  It’s a bit different than hers–I added cranberries and left out the nuts and glaze topping–but it smells and looks just as good!

bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Quick Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf

Ingredients:
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground gloves
1 container vanilla or pumpkin-flavored yogurt
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×5 baking pan.  In a large bowl, beat together pumpkin, yogurt, honey, egg and vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.  Once even combined, stir in cranberries then chocolate chips.  Spoon batter into pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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Mom’s Visit to Atlanta

mom and me

Blue shirts, blue house. We take matching seriously in this family.

This past weekend was one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating weekends I’ve had in a long time.  We had a busy summer full of weddings and a family vacation, and even now that we’re traveling less, we’ve still been very busy lately getting settled into our home.  My Mom paid us a visit, arriving last Friday and staying through the weekend…our first overnight house guest!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch...thanks Mom & Dad!

The rocking chairs are the perfect addition to our porch…thanks Mom & Dad!

It was nice not to have a set “agenda” for the weekend.  Back when Drew’s or my parents would come to visit when we were still living in the apartment, we would try to pack our schedule with lots of things to see and do, just so we wouldn’t be all crammed in a small space.  Now, it’s nice to relax on the front porch, go for a walk around the neighborhood, and cook a delicious dinner…or do nothing at all.  One of my favorite memories of visiting my parents during my college years were the late nights we’d spend curled up on the couch, talking for hours.  Years later, nothing has changed.

Mom love her granddog grandchild

Mom loves her grand-dog grandchild

Shortly after Mom arrived on Friday night, we went to Miller Union for dinner.  I’d been once before for a work dinner, but this was Drew’s and Mom’s first time.  The atmosphere is very lively but classic, and I could definitely see Drew and I going back sometime soon for a date night, or to just sit at the bar and watch the bartenders make cocktails from scratch.  We all enjoyed our dinner but the highlight of the evening was definitely dessert (duh).

Homemade s'mores with cherry cordial ice cream, and chocolate truffle cake with black pepper ice cream.

Black pepper ice cream…sounds strange. Verdict? Surprisingly delicious.

The weather was perfect all weekend long and we spent the majority of Saturday walking around Atlantic Station, and exploring shops on the Westside.  We didn’t even go back to Midtown, our old stomping grounds.  That’s one of my favorite things about Atlanta: there are numerous neighborhoods to explore and each pocket has its own charm and hidden gems.  Even though Miller Union was delicious, the two dinners we cooked at the house were just as tasty.  We made cajun shrimp pasta and toasted Drew’s homemade bread.  Mom picked up a bottle of red wine for us at a wine shop earlier in the day which accompanied the meal perfectly.  Sunday night we grilled veggies, chicken and salmon, and Mom made brownies for dessert.  Drew has definitely become a pro at using the grill!

us cooking

pasta dinner

The weekend ended far too soon, as it always does when you have friends or family visiting.  It was just the quality time I needed until I’m able to see everyone again during Thanksgiving…the holidays will be here before we know it!  And every time I sit in one of our porch rocking chairs (my parents’ housewarming gift to us), I’ll think of them.  Drew’s grandparents and parents will also be visiting in the coming weeks, so we’re looking forward to playing hosts again very soon.