Five Favorite Fall Things


The smell of fresh coffee on a cold morning.

Making a huge pot of chili on a weekend afternoon, football on in the background.

Putting on that first sweater.

Listening to a new song in the car and realizing that it’ll remind you of the changing seasons every fall from now on.

New to me this year: planning a birthday party for my daughter.

Nesting and Hash Browns: Some November Thoughts

First Day of November Thoughts | Freckled Italian

I always thought "nesting" was kind of bullshit but now I know it's real--these past few days I've gotten more done than I have in weeks. Between writing, teaching, cooking, putting together furniture, cleaning, and folding itty bitty onesies, I've never felt more productive in work or at home, which is kind of beautiful because most of the time I feel like I'm failing at both.

Everything I've cooked lately has been enough for 10 people. Last weekend we had Rob's cousin and her boyfriend over for brunch after we got home from an early dog training session with Ender, and as I prepared stuff for a little BLT bar I also diced up what ended up being 5 pounds of potatoes for hash browns. I made them in batches and transferred them to the oven to stay warm--I figured whatever was left over could go in the freezer. Our house is mostly clean and the kitchen window is always open and as I made food that I knew I would defrost and eat at some random time in the future with a baby in my arms, I really couldn't help but feel anything but joy.

November has always been my favorite month--there are no birthdays or special occasions other than Thanksgiving but I love that it's the first month when you really can't deny fall anymore. The leaves have changed and the air is chilly and has that crisp scent that might be the smell of leaves or rain or maybe just anticipation, wrapped up in a sweater. I light candles and sweep the floor and fold clean laundry and really just savor the act of slowing down, of one-pot meals in the crock-pot, of long walks with the dog as we crunch through the leaves.

And now this November there will be a birthday, a baby, a whole new chapter of our lives. I'm looking forward to all of it, but happy to spend these next couple weeks assembling furniture in the nursery on a Friday night; wrapped up and cozy under the covers on a Sunday morning, lingering in the warmth of Rob's arms before I tip toe into the kitchen to make two lattes.

On The Equals Record | Seasons Change

In Lynchburg, Virginia, home of Liberty University and just an hour away from my own alma mater, there are always Paneras and Starbucks full of Baptists fresh from Bible Study...zipped snugly into their North Face jackets and so surely into their faith. The leaves have changed color and the air is crisp and chilly and smells like campfires in that grey morning fog and when I am home for Thanksgiving, I pass through on my way to the J.Crew Factory store and even now, I will feel just a little bit jealous of them.

I wrote this short essay about fall and faith for The Equals Record three years ago and I just came across it again this weekend. I'm so thankful for blogging--it's strange and wonderful to have this little snapshot of me in Minneapolis, still thinking about the things I thought about in Charlotte and now California.

And I needed this reminder from my past self: I feel overwhelmed with the possibilities, and grateful that, even when it's hard, I didn't stay in one place forever.

Read the full piece here.

Then Labor Day Came and Went

Then Labor Day Came and Went | Freckled Italian

Early yesterday morning after coming home from the gym I poured myself a hot cup of coffee and sat on the back porch, enjoying the cool 66 degree temperature and that dreamy dew that settles gently onto the grass until it burns off in the still-summer afternoon heat. Ender won't step into the wet yard unless someone goes with him so together we hopped off the deck and took a few steps around, both of us searching for the green S-shaped toy he sometimes likes to chase after if I throw it enthusiastically enough.

My birthday was on Sunday and every year it hits me with the same combination of emotions--excitement for another year and another autumn; gratitude for the past twelve months and all the people in my life who love me so well; and a healthy dose of nostalgia, every time.

I spent the earliest part of the weekend in Roanoke getting ready for my friend Raquel's wedding, and with a bridal party that consisted of both our childhood friends and college roommates, I was overwhelmed with the realization that some relationships really do stand the test of time. High school lunches on the stage of the cafeteria--for whatever reason we never sat at a table and would all sit on the floor with our backs against the wall and our lunches on our laps. We went to Miller School every summer and belted out Disney songs on early-morning trail runs in the middle of the woods.

And then we grew up a little (but not a lot) and went to college, where Caroline joined our tribe and we'd drink big disgusting bottles of Arbor Mist and drag ourselves to the dining hall for weekend brunches or big family-style pancake breakfasts in our own apartment. We've had falling outs over the years but we always found each other again and we've always been a family. 

I had a moment as I passed out sparklers to Raquel's wedding guests after the reception where I realized that no matter where we live, these people and the love we've shared for so many years can't be taken away from us. It was 11 PM on Friday night and we all stood in the center of the market downtown in Roanoke, where I grew up, and the air was cool and it felt like fall was finally on its way. The sparklers started sparkling and left that holiday haze of smoke that smells like summer and a little bit of sulfur, and for the first time I imagined us in California for however many years and felt totally at peace.

The next day we drove home to Charlotte and planned a pretty last-minute Labor Day cookout at our house with our friends down here. Everyone came and we grilled burgers and roasted s'mores and passed around the season's first pumpkin beer from NoDa Brewing Co. After everyone left, Rob and I cleaned up and kissed in our kitchen and as the sun set I felt so proud of the life we've built here.

It is going to be so hard to leave--that I know. But remembering where we came from and all the friendships we've nurtured over the years despite the distance was enough encouragement to keep me focused. California is far. But our hearts are big.

I'd like remember that when we hit the road.

Another Autumn

Last week I stood in my back yard and noticed that we've reached the time of year for that subtle shift to set in--where summer starts to nod to fall as it dozes off around the edges of the day. 

Sure, it's still 90 degrees in the late afternoon and you have to peel yourself out of your car, but in the morning the air is refreshing and you begin to think about taking your coffee hot again. In the evening, when the sun starts to go down, Ender and I play fetch in the yard and the grass is cool beneath my bare feet. 

Rob is currently home for a twelve day stay but last week before he had returned from California I found myself reminded of a time before Ender, before we had Charlotte friends, when the thought of moving to the Bay Area was just a vague dream we sometimes talked about. We were so focused on getting settled in North Carolina that everything else was unclear. Now he's back for over a week and it's like he was always here.

When our neighborhood as we knew it was just the walk from our apartment to Pike's Soda Shop, and the smell of fried dough in the air from the Honey Bun factory down the street. Rob would take the light rail into Uptown and I'd walk to the station with him before going back home to unpack boxes and write and drink coffee and talk to my mom on the phone. I had nowhere to be so I would often pack a bag and hop on the train later in the afternoon for a latte at 7th Street Public Market, and I'd sit and write and Rob would walk down from his office and meet me for lunch.

And then there are the newer memories that feel so much like home: the cute house we will have to leave, the smell of fresh-cut grass every Monday morning after the landscapers come, our big open kitchen where we've entertained so many of our friends, Ender snoozing in the sun on our back patio. I finally have an office here but didn't unpack it until last week because I didn't want to get too used to it.

There are rowing workouts early every Tuesday and Thursday morning followed by an iced latte or an almond milk cappuccino with my friend Kristen--we sit outside and feel the cool morning air on our sweaty shoulders and once again I'm back to that almost-autumn magic state of mind, where anything is possible--even another autumn spent making a home in a new city.