and I'm happy.

I tend to get cranky with the changing of the seasons. Happens every dang time.

As much as I'd love to be the all-season girl who easily rolls with the changes, it turns out I'm actually the girl who spends big bucks on two bags of mini gourds and a wonky ghost pumpkin.

And boots.
But that's a given.

As luck would have it, just as that tweedy, golden-hued, nubby, brisk-aired itch blew through the back screen door, Howard arrived. That's him up there. Isn't he dapper?


(everyone keeps calling him a hobo. we're working on it.)

I love him.

Let me just say, once more for the record, I don't get you "Fall is my favorite season" people with your chunky knits and your leaf frolics. I don't get football or candy corn. I don't really like apple cider. (Is that a real Fall thing? Because I feel like it might be and I do not really like it. Unless it's served with donuts. I like donuts. or chocolate. or caramel. (Now I'm just being silly).)

The main problem is that Fall robs me of my beloved Summer. It makes me angry cold. It makes me wear socks and flannel pajama pants to a bed fitted with fleece~y sheets, and then I'm velcroed in. I can't move. Sleeping gets kinda awkward.

But the real problem is, I live in Mayberry RFD now. And you cannot imagine how beautiful this little town can be in October. Even when it's raining, and the sky looks like soggy cardboard, all I see is gold.

Maybe my love for Fall is deeper than I even knew.

All I know is, you're a looker, Fall.

and how cool is it that you thought ahead to make different kinds of leaves turn different colors for your visit? You must have known how happy tie-dyed leaves covering everything would make some of us.

I don't get it all, but I do get that much.

It'll have to be enough.

In your honor, I'm kicking it. I'm going to go with the flow, even though Kohl's has Christmas decorations out, and I think about summer on the hour, I'm here for you.

I present a list of all I could love about you. pumpkin anything! soups and stews (chili and corn bread). cable knit cardigans. crunchy leaves. boots. filtered sunshine. cozy striped socks (and argyle!). caramel apples. horror movies. Fall spices~cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. scarves (a serious weakness). English tea w/milk. hikes. duvets. corduroy. oatmeal breakfasts. oh, and have your skies always been so blue?

 So today, here I am, with my festive fall foliage, my beef stew and my Frye boots. I'm standing in crunchy leaves, without a coat, sunshine overhead.

And I'm happy.

just sayin'

 {Pumpkin Spice Muffin with Cream Cheese Filling}
I make this muffin one of two ways: with streusel or without streusel.  Pictured is a "non-streusel",  obviously, they are amazing either way. 

Yields: 20-24 muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pans.

Muffin batter:
1 Spice Cake Mix
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/4 tsp. Cloves
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
A few dashes of Ginger
2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2 eggs
1tsp. Vanilla extract
1 15oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1. Combine cake mix and spices.
2. Combine all wet ingredients.
3. Combine wet and dry and mix very well.

 Cream Cheese Filling:
1 -8oz. Package of cream cheese, softened
A few dashes of allspice
¼ tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tbsp. Sugar

1. Stir cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
2. Add vanilla, sugar and allspice.
3. Mix well.

 Streusel topping (optional):
½ c. flour
½ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
dash of Salt
¼ c. walnuts
1 stick of cold butter

 1. Cut butter into chunks.
2. Combine butter and dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined and crumbs are about pea-sized or smaller.
3. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembling the muffins:
*Try to do this as quickly as possible...the faster the better! You don't want flat muffins.

1. Place enough batter in each muffin cup to cover the bottom. Do this carefully...it's easy to go overboard and not have enough to cover the filling.
2. Make a little well in the center of the batter with the back of a teaspoon.
3. Put a rounded teaspoon of cream cheese filling in each well.
4. Cover each glob of filling with more muffin batter.
5. Lightly smooth the tops of the batter to cover the cream cheese.
6. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over all of the muffins. If you like them really “streuselly”, use it all, if not, you'll have some for another recipe!
7. Bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes. (When you check these, just check around the edge since the middle will obviously be gooey!)
8. Remove from pan to a wire rack after about 2-3 minutes of cooling.


tender heart.

I have not really been on my best behavior lately. I am in my second day month of unrelenting procrastination. The puppies are sporting fur do's worthy of a Tibetan winter. The weeds are winning won. I have some new health issues to deal with. The weather is finding new and exciting ways to torture and cause irrevocable damage to my moods. I am trying to clean out the garage (which I suck at). I still have not finished the laundry or reorganized my office. I know, right! I feel as though the only thing I have accomplished lately is to sweep up small piles of debris from the floor and whine occasionally. By the time evening crawls around, I am only fit to watch sappy lifetime movies and schmaltzy season premieres. I am only slightly concerned that my sleep routines may now become dependent upon the soothing sounds and muted palette of a media which usually lulls me to sleep by the first commercial break. Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what to do with these itchy, bone shifting kinda feelings I've been having. Seriously, I would have thought that after all these years I would know, right? Well, maybe not.

Maybe I'm waiting for my head to stop spinning. I feel twelve years old again, my emotions all over the place, sentences running together, just came home from camp feeling. Wanting to talk about all I saw, re-live every little thing. It's all right there beneath the surface waiting to bubble up. Oh and summer, I will miss you so! I know I have said nice things about Fall in the past, I do have feelings for her but it is nothing serious. Please don't leave me. You are still my favorite season and I will love you forever. Though you should know you kinda kicked my butt this year. P.S. Think about coming earlier next year and staying a little longer and really, about the humidity, not so much. okay?

I suppose also that I may worry too much that things will change, or that they will stay the same...but it's hard not to when I feel so grateful. treasure every moment of the day. cherish the love, light and laughter. dance around in the colors and music that fill my life. bask in the steadfast belief that things are exactly the way they are meant to be. I still have a pocket full of dreams. a heart to follow. yet, I am in a kind of transitional, funky place. I feel things shifting, if ever so slightly. I calmly await the ebb and flow of the every day. I know, the tide that goes out, always, always comes back in. I have been more quiet than usual. waiting. listening. hoping. clearing out clutter and making my space more breathable. There are certain things that I can only whisper about. to myself. when no one else is around. This makes me sad, but I am learning to live with it. and to tread lightly here because as you  know, I have a tender heart. 

I spent the last day of summer outside. In the sunshine. soaking it all up. At one point I had to let go of the hundreds of things I wanted to do. settle on a few unforgettable. So, I took what I could get and walked away happy. once I did that it made breathing easier, and besides what other choice was there? Because pretty soon you run out of summer. see, some things are impossible to hold onto. I made my peace with it and moved on.  sorta. still...I had a terrible yearn for you yesterday. it came out of nowhere. Fall makes it worse, that was the first time I saw you. It was also the last. In the Fall when the leaves fell. It wasn't shouty tears, or anything blatant or flashy, just a huge tide of emotion that rose up in me like a swell at sea. I miss you. always. I was not intending to talk about you. out loud. because you know I never do that. but. my heart still aches for the loss. even after all this time. I actually thought that with time I might give up the ghost. that the hurt would fade away. if even just a bit. because, at first I thought this might finish me. turns out I am made of stronger stuff. there are times when I can even dance. when I sing the songs in my heart. When I am filled up with life and spirit. and others, when the grief finds a way to catch onto a jagged edge of my broken heart that never quite mended properly.

I made peanut butter cookies, I know they were your favorite and somehow this comforts me.

just sayin'.

peanut butter cookies

3 cups unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (smooth) peanut butter
makes about 3 dozen cookies

For the dough, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and allspice (if using) onto a sheet of waxed paper. 
Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding electric mixer on moderate speed for 3 minutes. Add the light brown sugar in two additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added. Add the granulated sugar and beat for two minutes longer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract. Add the peanut butter and blend until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the dough even-textured. On low speed, beat in half of the sifted mixture, then the balance of the sifted mixture. The dough will be moderately dense, creamy-textured, and sticky. Divide the dough into thirds and enclose each portion, patted into a flat slab about 1 inch thick (more or less), in a sheet of plastic wrap. Chill the dough, covered, for 3 hours (or overnight, if you wish).

Preheat the oven to 350* in advance of baking.

Line several heavy cookie sheets or rimmed sheet pans with oven-proof parchment paper. 
Scoop up heaping 2 tablespoon-size mounds of dough, roll into balls, and place on prepared baking sheets, placing about 3 inches apart. Gently flatten the cookie in a crisscross pattern with the tines of a fork dipped in sugar (or flour). 

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until set. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheets for 1 minute, then transfer them to cooling racks, using a wide off-set metal spatula. Cool completely. Store in an airtight tin.

* coarsely chopped roasted peanuts, 1 cup lightly salted or unsalted, can be added to the dough after the first half of the sifted ingredients are incorporated, using lightly salted peanuts creates a cookie with a salty-sweet contrast, unsalted peanuts a gentler flavor (if using lightly salted peanuts, reduce the amount of salt to 1/4 teaspoon)


harvest song.

I stretched out my hands and snatched up so many gorgeous September days that they are spilling through my fingers.

Buying pumpkins in short sleeves. You cannot top it.

At least not in September.

In keeping with Fallishness, I've hauled out the flannel shirts and the water resistant boots.

 Let the record show that I love like don't hate Fall.

Even tho I've spent my entire life boldly proclaiming my love of Summer.
I live for Summer.
Long for Summer.
If I had a daughter, I would have named her Summer (or Sunshine).
My Granddaughter's name is Summer. (I had nothing to do with it).

In my usual fashion, I'm hanging on to Summer with all I've got.
My knuckles are officially white and tired.
I will not go down without a fight because I know what's coming. (brrrr)  It's not so much that I dislike it, but I'm more aware than ever that Fall signals Winter's imminent descent. And winter, He's extra mean here in Northern Ohio, what with the lake effect snow and all. so my issues run deep, I can't let myself just relax and enjoy Fall completely, there is the ever looming feeling that the axe snow could fall at any moment. There's that chance that I may not get another glorious, golden lighted, blue skied, brisk and beautiful day. This year has brought the best September I can remember in a long time. Snappy mornings and warm afternoons all glowing in the slanted rays of a sun that's headed south for the Winter, a Winter that can come quickly here. Once it comes, it's usually here to stay for awhile.

And yo, I feel like this past Summer was kind of a gyp. I had already lost my flip flop tan-lines by late June.

In other Fallish news, my trees and bushes are trying to toughen up as the temperatures dip. It's pretty cold at night now, and I can hear their knees knocking from my bedroom window. Keeps me up. But, I know they are just gearing up for the fall show when they get all showy and braggy.

Doesn't that make you want to cry?

I'm not one to protest an autumn field full of pumpkins, gourds and sunflowers, but they can't compare to the summer fields of wildflowers and corn which circle 'round me like a three month hug.

Still, it's harvest time, and I'm blanketed thick and woolly at the thought of hay wagons, storing up for the months ahead. In every field, flanneled farmers do the dance. Up, down. Up, down. I take day trips under the thrumming of their motors. I eat my soup with the droning still in my ears.

This is my Fall now. It is new to me.

Last year Fall found me plunking down a twenty for mums that would inevitably die. I had been known to drop pumpkin-scented candles thoughtlessly into my shopping cart. Trolling websites for cute and cozy slippers that I would probably only wear on Sundays.

I never noticed the harvest song.

This Fall I am determined to wrap my arms around the things I already have, the things that are every bit as special and infinitely more unexpected. So, Fall is finding hand-me-down kicks, just in the nick of time.

Fall is hydrangea bushes that just won't quit. Fall is a long-forgotten tomato still on the vine.

I'm spending my evenings cuddled up, putting soup on the menu for three nights out of five. The air around me seems to be slowing and I am once again scratching that baking itch.

But, this air. this air, I've officially decided is the reason I don't hate fall. Well, that and the cozy days, cable-knit tights and the stay-in-your-pajama-pants-all-day-because-it's-cold-and-wet-outside.

I love it best, and maybe only, when the blue sky has a pinkish cast and dry leaves crunch beneath flip-flops that should've been thrown out a month ago. I love it when my arms are bare and I'm cutting perennials back and it just smells like a new start. It smells like a familiar beginning, like something is blooming even as it fades.

My love for fall is situational. I've accepted it.

So, tomorrow may sequester all of us with gloom and rain that chases those leaves right to the ground, stealing their pluck, drowning them into sodden brown.

But today?

Today I drank tea in the fall-scented sun.

I left my jacket on it's hook.

Today, right now, I know that this is right. It is right to feel my Fall in a brand new way. It's right for me to look closer at gifts that can't be bought. It's right for me to bake muffins in my kitchen with the sun streaming in and the windows cracked open just enough for me to hear the song of the season.

It turns out, Fall can be felt even without twenty dollar mums flanking the sidewalk.

Yesterday I worked and I played and it was hard to even say which was which, because it was just that kind of day. I wore stripes with polka dots with mismatched socks and didn't brush my hair until I really had no other choice.

It didn't matter that I didn't match, because it was just me and I'm pretty forgiving.

And then I went and bought groceries. and I didn't change one darn thing, because it's ok to wear your personality on your sleeve. It's ok to just be.

The leaves on certain trees slid from luminous into withered in just the span of one day and I'm happy to say that I noticed.

This year, I'm letting my guard down and for now anyway, my heart belongs to September and spiced pumpkin cake and hand me down mums.

 just sayin'.
                          Chocolate Chip Harvest Cake with Cinnamon Nutmeg Whipped Cream

For the cake:
15 oz can Pumpkin
1/2 c oil
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 c chocolate chips

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy cream
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together pumpkin, oil, applesauce, sugars and vanilla until well blended. In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients and then add to wet ingredients until just blended and then fold in chocolate chips. Pour into well greased bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour or until firm. Let completely cool before removing from pan. Serve with Cinnamon Nutmeg Whipped Cream.

Notes: I always use fresh ground nutmeg and just eyeball those measurements. Also, it is helpful to reserve about 1/4 c of your flour to toss with your chocolate chips so they don't all sink to the bottom of your pan. You could use all oil for this recipe but the applesauce lightens it up and you don't miss the extra oil at all. I will probably try it soon with all applesauce just to see.

This cake was incredibly moist and even more so the next day. I couldn't stay out of the cake the next day so I cubed it and froze it and will make a trifle out of the leftover sometime soon.