When I was little, I walked with my dad across the University of Oregon campus just before school started. I held his hand as we meandered under the centuries-old trees and kicked the crackling fallen leaves. I often stooped to pick up acorns and chestnuts.
I’d find them in my pocket all fall and winter long—little treasures squirreled away.
Even now I can’t resist picking them up. I run my thumb over the smooth shell like a worry stone and remember those crisp autumn walks with my dad.
The other day, on one of those cold but bright fall mornings, my girls and I took a walk. It was just chilly enough for me to be grateful for the
furnace baby strapped to my chest, and Peeper stopped every few steps to investigate something or other while Finn waited impatiently.
We approached a chestnut tree and the mess of nuts, shells and leaves surrounding it. Squirrels scolded us overhead while Peeper picked up a handful of chestnuts and talked about how pokey the burst-open shells were.
We brought a bunch home and started a “special project,” as she has taken to calling her art endeavors. We incorporated the treasures into our fall art crafting—take a look and you and your little may love painting with chestnuts, too!
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Warm muffins, melt-in-your-mouth rolls and all the pumpkin spice you could wish for: hello fall! Now that autumn days are cooler and crisper, I’m ready to take my oven out of its summer retirement. It’s no wonder that Peeper has been wanting to help me in the kitchen, too: She asks to help me make muffins at least once a week.
Of course a preschooler’s “help” in anything, especially an activity that involves dumping large quantities of messy flour, requires a certain amount of air quotes. But she loves it—and inviting a child to participate in choosing, preparing and serving food can encourage her to make healthier food choices in the future, according to research. (Um, do chocolate chip cookies count as a healthy food choice?)
Through plenty of experience, I have come across tips on how to bake with kids—without them losing a finger on a hot oven (or you losing your mind).
In case you haven’t looked out your window recently, know this: It’s fall! The best time of year! The season that smells like crisp leaves and votive candles burning inside pumpkins! The months when you get to snuggle in sweaters and flannel and cozy PJs! The time you dress up and eat candy or stay smugly inside and laugh at the fools who spend all that time and energy just to be uncomfortable in their costumes!
There aren’t enough exclamation points!
To take advantage of glorious autumn, we took a trip to the orchard and picked a bucket-full-o’ pears. Red and green Bartletts were in season, and they were easy to pick from the low branches at Sherwood Orchards. Eric was good enough to be primary Peeper wrangler while I focused on picking pears. Because we needed a lot of pears—pears for this almost-too-easy-to-be-true spiced pear sauce.