Saturday, September 28, 2013

Top Ten Beginning of Autumn List

Fall officially arrived this week, but as usual someone forgot to inform the weather in Illinois.  It actually wasn't too bad this week, but it has been so brutal going back into the classroom this year with the extreme heat that I'm probably a little more impatient than some for cooler temperatures to arrive. 

I love fall.  And winter.  And spring.  And summer.  In short, I can't imagine living in a place where the seasons don't change.  I enjoy the cyclical aspect of living in the Midwest.

 It occurred to me not long ago, that if the average life span is eighty years, I am just at the beginning of autumn in my life.  That suits me just fine.  Autumn is a beautiful place to be each year and in the cycle of life as well.  Winter is coming, yes, but not for many years. (Sorry I could not pass up this Game of Thrones reference opportunity here.  It was too perfect.)  There are lots of things I appreciate about winter as well.

So in a way, I am entering an autumn within an autumn.  With this in mind, I thought I'd share a top ten of what's been going on at the beginning of this particular autumn in the beginning of the autumn of my life.

1. Apples

One of my husband's co-workers lives on what once was a functioning apple orchard.  He has generously given us several boxes of these apples this year. I've made several batches of crockpot applesauce and apple crisp.  I've also taken them to school and fed them to my class for snack at least three times.  I adore apples and eat one for lunch every day all year. 

Homemade applesauce, mmmmm!
2. The Apple Orchard
It probably seems crazy, but the same weekend we were gifted with all these apples, we also made a trip to an apple orchard about 15 miles away.  We had never been to this one before as a family, although both of my kids went on a class field trip in kindergarten.  We've always gone to a larger one that is farther away for some reason.  This one is really lovely.  It is smaller but less commercial. 

3. Apple Decorations
Yes, I am one of those people who change my decorations each month.  Although I am sad to see my August sunflowers go, I love my September apples.

4. Football
My daughter is on a junior cheerleader squad for a junior football league this year.  She's enjoyed this, and it has been fun to see some of the boys she's been in school with since preschool play football.
5. Arts in the Park
Our city has a yearly juried art fair in our Central Park.  Somehow it is always on the most gorgeous fall weekend.  My daughter and I always enjoy going.  They have an incredible art boutique where only children can shop.  I may or may not have had my daughter purchase a picture for my classroom for me since I am not allowed to buy anything.
They had the most fabulous face painter there.  She was painting faces for free!

The spoils of the afternoon

6. Caramel Apples
We have a local popcorn store that makes its own caramel.  It's not fall until we have caramel apples from Del's.
7. The Return of Crockpot Oatmeal
Last year in the fall I started making a monthly menu plan.  I can't tell you how this has simplified things in our house.  My husband gets off of work earlier than I do and does a lot of the cooking.  Before menu planning, he would call me at 5:00 sometimes and say, "What are your thoughts on dinner?"  It was the last thing either of wanted to think about at the end of the work day.  It wasn't that he didn't want to make it.  He just didn't want to decide.  Adding to the problems, I did all the grocery shopping.  Sometimes what he thought he would make just wasn't in the cupboards.  Now we have a menu for the month so I know what to buy and neither one of us has to try to be creative with two cranky, hungry kids to feed in the evening.  I know what to buy; he knows what to cook. In the fall and winter, we have crockpot oatmeal once or twice a month.  Throw in some dried cranberries or frozen blueberries, pop some toast in the toaster, and warm up some turkey bacon and you've got yourself a meal.  It's been several months since it's been on the menu, but it's baaaaack.  So good and so easy!  I set it on low before I leave for work in the morning, and it's ready by the time we are ready for dinner.  Check out the recipe here.
Dried cranberries.....
or blueberries!

8. Hello, old friend
I don't know how I missed that this book was in the works, but I did.  It made my day when I saw it was being released late September.  I pre-ordered it.  It was delivered to my Kindle this week, waiting for me like an old friend.

9. And you as well, old friend

Although I didn't have to wait as long for the return of Kinsey Milhone, it made me happy to see her again this fall.  It also means there are only three letters left in this series. (Sniffle, sniffle)

10. A Late Surprise

Although we only got a few of these flowers, it was a meaningful surprise that we did.  You can read about why that is here.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Dreams May Come (Again and Again)

So last week I had a very vivid dream.  Forgive me if you are my friend of Facebook, as you will have already heard this story.  I am in my classroom teaching when out of the corner of my eye, I see a bear on the playground.  He is very large with long shaggy hair and a white patch on his chest and hindquarters.  I run down the hallway to tell the secretary to announce to all the classrooms to stay inside.  On my way back, I run into one of the younger teachers, who is taking her class outside.  I urge her to stay in because there is a bear outside.  But it's too late.  Half of her class is out the door, and she doesn't really seem to believe me anyway.  I go back to my classroom.  Inexplicably the entire staff is at my window now.  I yell and point frantically to the bear, who is now bigger than the jungle gym.  I experience a moment of triumph when they all see the bear.

Any thoughts?

I'm pretty sure I know what this dream means.  I frequently feel like I did in this dream at work and in life in general.  I try to point out why things won't work or don't make sense or are just plain absurd.  It often feels like people just go on their way.  Or that I'm viewed as Negative Nelly.  No one really wants to believe it or think about it or deal with it.  At least in my dream I got some validation at the end.  I shared my dream on Facebook because I thought others would get a kick out of it.  I came in to work Friday to find this at my computer...

Guess there are others who can appreciate my feelings.

I don't think I am a negative person in general, but I do think of myself as a realist.  While some think the glass is half full and some think half empty, I'm inclined to think, "Yep, that's a glass.  And there's water in it. Let's not jump to any conclusions."  Then there's this little gem...

This may be a little more accurate.  That is me, I will admit.  I don't really think that makes me negative.  If you can't be honest about the way things are, how will you ever improve them?  If you want to improve things, you're not a pessimist.

Dreams are fascinating to me.  I have a few recurring dreams.  One is that I forgot I am in college and haven't gone to class all semester.  Oh no!  It's finals day and I'm completely in the dark.  Another is that my husband and I aren't really married.  Somewhere along the way, he never proposed.  I have one from time to time where I'm at the prom and am not dressed appropriately (pajamas, underwear, etc.) Then there's the naked dream.  I know - that one's pretty common.  Interestingly enough, I had it again right after I invited people to read my blog.  Wonder what that means? ;)

Yes, all my recurring dreams are anxiety driven.  I don't know if that's normal, but I would guess it might be.  Maybe there are some insanely confident, optimistic people who have recurring dreams in which they fly or score the winning touchdown every time.  Good for them. I am inclined to dislike and mistrust these people at least a little bit.  I'll take someone who can relate to a good bear dream anytime.