Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter

And suddenly, the year is almost over.

We've had a fun and busy fall and, just like life always is, a constant state of juggling. 
I overall enjoy the level of busy that our family lives in, because it's not too much and not too little, but with it still comes the common frustration that I'm not an actual superhero and can only juggle so many balls at once. So if there's a week or month that I'm able to keep up with all of the laundry, AND the kids are on track with their schoolwork, AND maybe I'm able to get through a book or two that I've been wanting to read... then that probably means that I haven't exercised, OR been able to write much, OR caught up with my closest friends in a while. And vice versa. 
Which leaves me with the continual decision to choose to be content in life with the things I am doing, even in spite of the things I'm not. Some balls get juggled while other balls don't. Then sometimes we need to put certain balls down so that others can get picked up again. There are some seasons when we have the energy and bandwidth to juggle more balls than usual, and some seasons where we can only do the bare minimum.
And THAT... is ok. 
And we just have to keep encouraging ourselves that it is.

And now that I've said the word BALLS enough, here's what we've been up to the past couple months: 

1.) Boaz and Vienna are a part of their christian scout clubs, Trail Life USA and American Heritage Girls.

Luke has been taking Boaz to Trail Life since last January, but then Vienna just joined it's female counterpart, American Heritage Girls, this last September. It's been such a blessing for them to go to weekly meetings at our church, where they earn badges for community service and learning knowledge and skills about anything from outdoor/wilderness expertise to the arts to cooking to travel to history to botany, and so on and so forth. They totally love it and it's become a sweet community of familiar friends.
 But obviously one of the most exciting parts about it for them is: The Uniform.
Such class. Such distinction. 
Is there anything better than doing an activity that has it's own outfit?
Not to us, there's not!

Here's Luke with Boaz and one of his best buddies, Azriel, who totally love each other because they are two overly-energetic peas in a pod. His mom and I have shared many fond memories wandering around the church together, looking for our sons who are usually off somewhere letting their vivacious curiosity get the better of them.
Last month the dads and their sons did the pinewood derby car race, and Boaz's car won 3rd place for design. It was definitely a proud mom moment for me, and it made his heart happy to come home with a little trophy. 

2.) I signed the kids up for swim lessons, starting the first week of school, because I'm A CRAZY PERSON.

I mean, yes, swimming is one of those important life skills that I'd prefer my kids have a handle on for the sake of my own anxiety their survival, but WHO in their right mind decides that September, out of all the months, would be a good time to add ONE MORE THING to their calendar?
Well, I did and I don't understand what insane ambition to came over me while I typed and clicked away on their registration forms, but I am begging you.... please don't let me ever do this again.
Because putting your kids in swimsuits at 5pm every Thursday (you know, the time to be EATING DINNER), when you have something going on almost every other day of the week, is what lunatics do. 
But whatever, they're that much closer to never drowning, so we sucked it up for 8 weeks of extra-busyness and called it a win. 

Oh and hey, speaking of more lunacy..

3.) We also decided to pack up and go camping the first week of school!

Here's an approximate timeline of my thought process:

Me and Luke, in late July: Hey! We should totally go camping up north in early September because we homeschool and have the freedom to take random trips whenever we want!

Me, in August: Huh..our schedule is filling up a lot for that month, I wonder if we might have not thought this camping thing all the way through.. Ooh look, a discounted swim class available! *registers*

Me, after Labor Day, trying to juggle starting school at home and at co-op, swim lessons, sunday school, new volunteer positions, and now packing up to pretend to be homeless in a state park for 3 days: 

But even though the timing of getting ready for it was totally chaotic, the trip itself was actually really amazing. 

We drove our truck and pop-up camper a couple hours north to Savannah Portage State Park, and ended up being on one of the best lots of the whole campground.

I mean...THIS was the view from our camper.
That lake and dock was so quiet and beautifully peaceful, it was almost unreal. And being able to just soak in all of the fall colors made our time there that much more amazing.

We spent the weekend going on fun hikes and building bonfires and carving wood and making food together, and in spite of the initial stress of trying to get ready for it, it was exactly the trip our family needed.
Although, I will say pancakes-made-on-a-cast-iron-griddle game needs some work. I'm way too perfectionistic about food to tolerate this burnt on the outside, uncooked on the inside nonsense that an overly-hot griddle ends up giving you.
 I mean, is it too much to ask for a place to hook up a quality electric griddle to make some decent pancakes in the wilderness? I don't think so! Because WE'RE NOT ACTUALLY HOMELESS, JUST PRETENDING.

Anyway, our initial fall pandemonium simmered down, we got into a groove, and I learned some hard lessons in not over-scheduling us in future Septembers. And then one day, fall was basically over.
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family and then immediately rearranged our house to bedazzle it for Christmas. 

My favorite decoration has become this collection of all of our family's Christmas cards that we've sent out since Vienna was a baby. I don't know how or why I had saved a copy from all of those early years, but my hoarding turned out to be a huge blessing when I decided to start doing this in 2017.

Anyway, that basically catches us up to now. We've been in the throws of holiday to-do's, which has thankfully just been good and not soul-sucking, because we say 'No' to a lot during the holidays, so that we can keep it enjoyably peaceful. 
(Note to myself: You know these good boundaries you have that helps you balance the holidays pretty well? HAVE THOSE IN AUGUST TOO.)

 Well, even though Fall has basically been declared over, I am a believer that pumpkin-themed foods transcend both fall AND winter, so I wanted to share a recipe of a Pumpkin Soup I made in October which was delicious and psst, is even more delicious if you add bourbon. And bacon. And goat cheese. And bread.
I guess you could technically just have bourbon, bacon, cheese, and bread for the entire meal and just skip the soup altogether!

But in case you wanted a dinner with more of the food pyramid involved than just booze and carbs, here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Sage Soup
courtesy of Aldi US

3 medium onions, peeled and diced 
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 
3 ribs of celery, halved and sliced 
4 cloves of garlic, peeled 
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced 
3 large Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and diced 
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced 
1/2 cup Brown Sugar 
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
3 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper, divided 
3 teaspoons Iodized Salt, divided 
4 15-ounce cans  100% Pure Canned Pumpkin
2 32-ounce cartons Vegetable Stock
16 ounces Heavy Whipping Cream 
1 French Baguette, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices on an angle
 Gouda, sliced
 Fresh Parsley, chopped, as garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. 
  2. Combine onion, carrots, celery, garlic, apples, potatoes, sage and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add olive oil, 2 teaspoons black pepper and 2 teaspoons salt and mix thoroughly. Place in a roasting pan and roast in oven for 30 minutes until fork tender. Halfway through the cooking process, stir vegetables to ensure even cooking. 
  3. In a large pot, combine roasted vegetable mixture, pumpkin, vegetable stock, 
    1 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  4. Transfer mixture, in batches, to blender and process until smooth. 
  5. Return soup to pot. {Elise's Advice: add 1/4 cup of bourbon right now and let simmer for 10 minutes.) Add cream, adjust seasoning, if needed. 
  6. Place slices of baguette on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, top each slice with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes until cheese is melted. 
  7. Divide soup into bowls, place two slices of baguette onto each bowl of soup and garnish with parsley. (Elise's Advice: Top with chopped bacon and goat cheese)


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