The fall season is easy to recognize in Minnesota: it’s that time of year when Minnesotan Orange Vests stop carrying “Drive Slow” signs while hunting for pot holes. Leaving the road sides and hot asphalt behind as winter approaches, Minnesotan Orange Vests migrate to the woods. There, the native Orange Vests take up their rifles, on an eternal hunt for the elusive “tirty-point buck.”
While fall is appealing as that brief span between the end of road construction and the beginning of the snow flying, the beauty of fall extends way beyond the Minnesotan humor. Fall is a glorious time of year around here. Red leaves on the maples, yellow school buses on the road, orange pumpkins outside the stores, green combines in the field, and clear blue sky on crisp mornings–it’s those things that make life worth living.
–Canoeing down the Root River on the last warm Sunday in September with 15 of my family members. My favorite moments: Nursing my one-year-old while paddling and successfully steering the canoe, channeling my inner Sacajawea. Hearing my brother burst out in “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” on the river at the mere mention of the band Meatloaf. On the last stretch of trip, moving the paddle through deep, quiet water with the depth of the river below, trees all around, blue sky above, flanked by four canoes filled with family. Outdoor time on the water with family is a slice of Minnesota at its best.
–Speaking of meatloaf, Sunday dinner at Mom’s, with a big pan of Mom’s signature meatloaf, with mashed potatoes and squash liberally coated in brown sugar and butter. It was the quintessential fall meal on a day that glittered with sun in the afternoon and had a shivering chill in the evening. Family sat around, bellies filled with all sorts of homemade goodness.
–Pulling in the driveway at home on that crisp Sunday evening, to a world of a completely silent, star-lit night with cool fall air all around, that tingling cold that chills and is alive with energy. If there hadn’t been four exhausted kids, I would’ve suggested lighting a bonfire and sitting there until way past a sensible bed time.
–Watching my nephew’s first 7th grade touchdown, replayed instantly during Sunday brunch from his phone, through the crazy wonders of modern technology.
–Our baby sleeping in my arms on Sunday morning in church.
–Seeing my sister move back home to Minnesota again, after 20 years in another state.
–Heading out to take care of feeding chickens on a rainy morning with our two little kids in a running stroller. I stood out in the drizzle hanging out with kids and chickens, filling the waterer, watching chickens on the hunt for morsels in the grass while kids trying to catch them.
–Having my husband notice this scene from the upstairs office, and open up the window and yell, “I love you!” because he married such a darn amazing woman.
–Crunching leaves underfoot.
–Getting to vicariously relive high school joys by seeing my three adorable nieces’ homecoming dresses.
–The smell of wood smoke curling into the air on a chilly day and a big stack of wood ready for the coming winter.
–“Playing” in Mom’s attic with my younger sister, rescuing some dresses from attic oblivion. We dug out another sister’s old prom dress, Mom’s 10th class reunion dress, and someone’s prairie dress from the 70’s or so.
–Seeing the vintage dresses put on again: my niece tried on her mom’s prom dress (amazingly stylish by 2012 standards), my daughter with extravagant dress taste choose that 35-year-old prairie girl dress for her first day of school, my sister tried on my mom’s 10th reunion dress, a classic little black Audrey Hepburn number.
–Good neighbors…who have kittens. Four new kittens, one for each of our kids, are the perfect addition to our place in the country. Softer, friendlier and more cuddly than chickens, our kids are in love, even if they won’t ever lay eggs for us. The kittens will, however, spend some time in a bike basket and probably have to wear a doll dress at some point. That’s a cat’s job.
–Good neighbors, part two…Good neighbors who come bearing gifts of a trailer full of wood, and then help out with cutting up more for another load. And the goodness of getting to have those neighbors over for a Saturday night supper of pot roast and steamy bowls of fall vegetables and rhubarb apple crisp dessert.
–Homecoming in our new hometown, watching our kindergartner and first-grader excited and proud to walk down the street in the homecoming parade in Lanesboro, MN.
–Standing next to my first grade daughter during the school song at the pep rally, and glancing over to see her proudly knowing the words and belting them out in support of her new alma mater and hometown. Seeing her feel completely a part of this place even though we’re still new around here got this mom a little choked up.
–Beginning a Friday Movie Night at our house. Relaxing on the couch after we’re all tired from a week of “the grind” is just what the momma ordered. A chilly night makes hanging out close to home all the more appealing, so I implemented (yes, our relaxing is serious business) pizza, popcorn and movie night . The movies? Until we run out of good ideas, we’re going to show our kids “the classics” from our childhood, all the movies that we loved seeing growing up. We started with “Charlotte’s Web.” I almost never sit down and watch TV, much less watch something with my kids. Intentionally watching a movie, snuggled up on the couch with pizza, popcorn made on the stove, and some kids clamoring to sit close, makes a perfect fall night. It’s just the sort of thing that makes endless dirty dishes and laundry all worthwhile.
What do you love about fall? What makes life worth living? Popcorn does it for me. On a chilly evening, why not take ten minutes and amaze your family with a batch of stove top popcorn. In the age of microwave popcorn with fake butter, this forgotten delight is nothing but the real deal.
Stove Top Popcorn
(Homemade Buttery, Salty Deliciousness)
3-4 T. oil
1/2 c. popcorn kernels
3-4 T. butter
Salt to taste
In a 2 qt. saucepan, heat oil on medium high heat. Put 3-4 popcorn kernels in the oil as it heats. When these kernels pop, the oil is warm enough, so pour in the rest of the popcorn. Give the pan a shake to coat popcorn with oil, and cover with a lid. Next, lift the pan off of the burner for 30 seconds, before returning it to the burner to pop the corn. (Removing the popcorn from direct heat for 30 seconds allows the kernels to come to the same temperature without scorching them.) As kernels start to pop, occasionally shake the pan to sift unpopped kernels down to the bottom. When popping ends, pour popcorn into a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over popcorn. Salt to taste (a few good dashes will do), and give the popcorn a stir to mix it all up. Do your best to share.