Fall Bucket List

Although summer is my favorite time of year, there are so many fun activities to do during the fall. Most of these things we have already done. One will hopefully be done in the next couple weeks……before all of the leaves fall off of the trees.

Our Fall Bucket List:

Scarecrow Fest  – We love this fest! I previously wrote about Scarecrow Fest and how we celebrate it in a blog post that you can find here. Scarecrows. Pumpkins. Food. Carnival rides. And a yearly staycation at a resort? Yes, please!


Apple picking – There are so many great orchards in the Chicago suburbs. We’ve been to several different ones. But, our favorite place for apple picking is Jonamac Orchard. This orchard has lots of activities in the farm, great apple picking, and a cider house – with tastings of their ciders and wines!


Pumpkin picking – Just like apple picking, there are several fun pumpkin patches to check out in the Chicago suburbs. However, just like with the apple orchards, we have a favorite pumpkin farm. We love________.

Boo at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo – This is a yearly must-do for us. Our family membership at Brookfield Zoo was one of the first things that we purchased after we moved to the suburbs. And for a family of four, a membership is a great deal. It basically pays for itself after just a few trips. Boo at the Zoo has trick-or-treating, pumpkin smashing, lots of fun decor, and many fall-themed animal encounters.


Go on a walk/hike in the woods – This one we haven’t done yet. We’ve had something every single weekend and most evenings. And, our bathroom renovation (which I’ll be blogging about soon) is altering our regular schedule in a huge way. But, we all love hitting the trails in the Forest Preserves.  There are so many great trails and the forest preserves are free. Stay tuned for some upcoming hiking.



So now I want to know, what’s on your fall bucket list? What do you try to do every fall?

Going Stir Crazy? Stir Some Batter.

The kiddos are definitely already ready for spring. It’s just sooooooo cold. I can’t blame them. I’ve been ready for spring since December 26th. But, the girls are now old enough that when they get bored, they start arguing. I told Ryan that I’m looking forward to a time in the future (far future) when we have a two story house and I can tell the girls to “go downstairs!” Or, “go upstairs!” *sigh* That’ll be awesome.

Since we have a one-story ranch house, my solution to the bickering came in the shape of a box of bread mix. (And, the fact that our bananas were ripe…..very ripe…..very very ripe.) So, the girls and I made two loaves of pumpkin bread (with three bananas mixed in). Bread and muffin mixes are some of my favorite pantry staples. Many times, I want to bake something but I just don’t have the time to mix and mix and mix. And many mixes are actually delicious or can be made delicious by throwing in a few ingredients (chopped nuts, dried fruit, bananas that are very, very, very ripe).


And yes, they stopped fighting the entire time that we were preparing the bread. Ten minutes later they were arguing again but that short time was peaceful……

A running tutu

I recently ran a 5K that was held in a corn maze. There were lots of welcome-to-fall activities for the kiddos and at the end of the 5K I got a complimentary pumpkin and cup of cider. Yay fall! A friend of mine who was gonna run with me and I both decided that we needed to have some fun with this run by making tutus. Now, I’ve never made a tutu before so I basically made it up as we went on.

What I learned this time around:

  • Um, you will need way (!!!!!!!!!!) more fabric than you ever would’ve thought. At this point, I actually have no idea how much tulle I used. 12 yards maybe? I could’ve used less but I wanted the finished tutu to be really full and fluffy.
  • I started making a long tutu but changed my mind after I had reached the halfway point with the tulle. Not only did cutting the pieces into shorter pieces save me a bunch of fabric, I think it will also be better for running since the tutu will stick straight out instead of clinging to my legs.

I used ribbon as the base. This means that I’ll have to tie it to wear it. For me, this is fine. If I were to do it again, I think that I would try to make it with elastic. I feel that it would probably stay in place better.

It ended up being huge. Kinda surprisingly huge. I felt kind of like I had a innertube made of tulle.

Big pile of tulle

Big pile of tulle

Seriously. Seriously big.

Sorry. No more room in the car.....

Sorry. No more room in the car…..

But, it was a lot easier than I thought that it would be. And now, I’m looking forward to more running tutus for myself. 🙂


Bargain Baking

One of my favorite things about shopping after the holidays are over is that you can frequently get a great deal on mixes for baked goods simply because they are holiday flavors.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I love pumpkin bread any time of the year.  And, I am always willing to try a new fun flavor of waffle mix.

I do enjoy trying new mixes but I do have an important rule that I make myself follow when shopping after holiday (any holiday) sales for baking mixes.  The price of the mix needs to be less than what the price would be if I bought the ingredients separately.  That pumpkin bread mix makes two full loaves and is really heavy because of the can of pumpkin in the box.  This was a good deal.  The scone and waffles mixes were purchased for just a couple bucks each.  Also, great deals.

Mmmmmm…..holiday food after the holiday…..

Mmmmmm…..holiday food after the holiday…..

Do you buy holiday mixes? What are your favorites?

Banana Pumpkin Bread and What To Do If You Are Out of Pumpkin Pie Spice

I had two bananas that were in desperate need of being made into banana bread.  In the past several months, I’ve been making a Weight Watchers recipe for banana oatmeal bread.  It’s a fine bread.  Simple to put together.  But I wanted something a little different this time.

There are many cans of pumpkin in the pantry since I stocked up after the holidays were over.  And, I found a recipe for a banana pumpkin bread that had some good reviews.  You can find the recipe here.  I took a look in the pantry to be sure that I had all of the other ingredients and I did, with the exception of pumpkin pie spice.  Pumpkin pie spice is one of those ingredients that really make a big difference in the final product.  Luckily, I also found a substitute for pumpkin pie spice that you can make with ingredients that you probably already have.  You can find that recipe here.

It came together very easily.

On a side note:  I don’t usually bake with a lot of honey.  But when the honey hit the other ingredients, the smell swept me back to my childhood.  My Nana and Papa gave me a cookbook for my 8th birthday – one of many cookbooks that they gave me.  This cookbook was amazing.  I would cook something out of it quite frequently.  And, of course, I still have it.


I flipped through it and could remember the recipes that I had tried when I was a kid.  It’s amazing how powerfully connected the sense of smell is to memories.  The smell of the honey in the bread recipe brought me back to one of my favorite recipes that I would make.


Oh man.  Banana frothies.  So good!

Out of all of the cookbooks that I was given as a child, this one was probably one of my favorites.  Nana would usually inscribe something on the front cover.  Like, “Happy Birthday” or the hopeful “I’m sure you’ll become a great chef.”  Nana, I am not going to be a great chef as I get distracted when cooking and have destroyed too many pots by cooking rice and forgetting about it.  But, I think that you would be proud of my pastry chef abilities.

Anyways.  Back to the bread.  Here’s what it looked like on the way into the oven.Image

Not really a pretty bread but it did smell pretty good.

The outcome: this recipe has a weird baking time.  I noticed in several of the reviews that others had issues with the baking time.  This bread was in the oven for almost 25 minutes longer than the recipe called for.  The toothpick finally came out clean after 25 extra minutes but it seemed to take forever to get to that point.  The poor bread is covered in holes since I had to test it so many times!  It is also a lot darker than I thought it would be and I hope that the top isn’t baked too much.

The taste: I’m going to try it toasted.  The taste is pretty mild.  Sometimes banana breads and/or pumpkin breads are very strong because those two fruits can have very strong flavors.  But this is actually pretty light.  If I can ever figure out the actual baking time, this could become a favorite recipe.


Baking My Way Through Baked – The 12th Recipe

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote a Baking My Way Through Baked post.  Until recently, I haven’t done much baking.  Honestly, I’ve done absolutely no baking until about two months ago.  So, now I’m back into baking mode and jumping back into one of my favorite cookbooks.

Step 1: Buy this book!  Seriously.  Baked is really one of my favorite cookbooks.  Even when I’m not planning on baking something, I love just looking at the pictures.  I have yet to purchase the second and third cookbooks by these guys but I’m just going to assume that they are equally full of deliciousness.


The next recipe that I tried was the pumpkin chocolate chip loaf.  Since December, I’ve already made the recipe twice.  This is one of my new fave breakfast bread recipes.  There aren’t a lot of ingredients.  It makes two loaves.  And you don’t have to dirty up a lot of dishes to make it (just two large bowls and your measuring utensils).  That may actually be my favorite reason since we do not have a dishwasher.

The bread is not too sweet and stays nice and soft.  There is a really great crust on the outside.  Yep.  It’s good.



Baking My Way Through Baked – The Second Recipe

I love pumpkins.  I love picking pumpkins.  I love decorating pumpkins.  I love eating food with pumpkins in it.  So, I was excited when we got pumpkins in our CSA delivery and even more excited when I found the recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies in Baked.  Now, I’ve never had a whoopie pie.  At least, I don’t think that I have.  But the picture looked delicious so I decided to give this recipe a try.  It’s been a while since I last baked anything so I was excited to getting back into the kitchen.

Buddy is excited that I am in the kitchen. She just hides her excitement well.

In addition to baking whoopie pies for the first time ever, I would be baking with fresh pumpkin for the first time ever.  I used this website to make the pumpkin puree.  Let me say that the website is useful and I’m sure that this is as easy as making pumpkin puree could be.  And after attempting this, I can say with great certainty that pumpkin puree comes in a can for a reason!  First, if you don’t have a really great knife you may just as well try throwing the pumpkin on the ground to try to cut into it.  Trying to cut the pumpkin into pieces was just ridiculous.  And then, once you get the pumpkin cut, you have to spoon out all of the seeds and that in itself is pretty ridiculous.  My arms were exhausted from the cutting and the slicing and the scooping.  Ugh.  Then you have to use a sieve to make sure that all of the puree is nice and smooth.  Ryan and I were both using a spatula and a sieve to try to get this to go by faster.  Lesson learned: Buy pumpkin puree from a can.

A couple cups of puree? Hardly seems worth it.

I made one small adjustment to the recipe.  I thought that I had way more dark brown sugar but I only had a little over one cup left.  I used some muscovado sugar to complete the darn brown sugar amount.  I had no idea when I did it if it would change anything but I guessed that it would be ok. Once I added all of the dry ingredients together, I could tell that this was going to be pretty delicious.  The combination of cloves, ginger, and cinnamon made the kitchen smell like Thanksgiving.  The dry and wet ingredients came together pretty easily.

So, the recipe is really easy to follow.  However, I don’t know if this just this recipe or if I’ll see this throughout baking my way through Baked, but the recipe said to bake for about 11 minutes.  This was definitely not what I found, though.  It took closer to 14 or 15 minutes of baking before the toothpicks came out clean.  Once they came out of the oven, the smell of pumpkin pie filled the kitchen.

They are quite darker than the cookbook pic...but smell delicious!

Once the cookies were baked, it was time to start the filling.  Is there anything more delicious than a really great cream cheese frosting?  Answer: No, not really.  This frosting is your basic cream cheese frosting but something made it taste even sweeter.  I have a feeling that it was the three cups of confectioner’s sugar.

Everything is improved by the addition of frosting.

The final product?  They were a big hit.  The problem with whoopie pies is that they are so huge and so filling that it is difficult to finish all of them.  That’s when it is helpful to have a large family gathering to go to, like a Thanksgiving dinner, where you can toss whoopie pies at everyone so that you can get rid of them.  The taste of the cake and the frosting was really good and I do think that I’ll make these again.  I might even try to play with ingredients to make different variations of whoopie pies.  But, I’ll never again make my own pumpkin puree.


Never again.