Posts in "Fall"
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.

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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. 

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Autumn Traditions: Campfires at the Lake
Campfire Chili | Freckled Italian

At least once every summer and fall, my brother and Rob and I try get together at the lake for a fire. Summer is always fun, but I'm totally into fall campfires. A few weeks ago, we made some turkey chili, grabbed a couple of blankets, and headed outside for a cozy dinner by the fire.

I don't know if there's anything more comforting on a chilly night than a bowl of, well, chili! There's just something about the way it takes all day to simmer away on the stove that makes it feel so special. My brother and I came up with our own recipe and I'm going to be making it all fall and winter long.

Campfire Chili | Freckled Italian

Sean usually builds the campfire while I finish up the food inside, but since the chili is pretty low-maintenance, I decided to help him outside and see if I could learn a thing or two about building a fire. Here's what I learned, in case you are ever in need of a campfire but without the help of an Eagle scout:

  • Keep buckets of water or, ideally, a hose nearby. Spray down the edges of your campfire circle and any trees or bushes that are within close proximity to the fire pit.
  • Start small. Begin with thin, dry branches no larger than the size of your pinky finger. Use newspaper or dry leaves to get it started.
  • Move on to larger pieces of wood, this time the size of your thumb, twice that size, and then to the size of your wrist. Make sure you let the fire catch up before moving on to larger pieces of wood.
  • Once you get the fire going, don't be afraid to let it die down so you have a good bed of coals to work with--this is especially important if you're going to be heating up food in a pot, like our chili. If you're doing hot dogs or s'mores, though, you'll want to keep some flames going.
  • When you've decided that you're done, spread the fire around with a large stick and spray it down with water until there's no more smoke. Don't ever leave the fire unattended until it's totally out and you don't see any more embers or smoke.
Campfire Chili | Freckled Italian

Don't forget to visit the La Crema blog for my turkey chili recipe

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of La Crema. The opinions and text are all mine.

Photos by Sarah Gatrell for Freckled Italian.

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