The Fall Fun List, 2021 edition

I truly love fall. It helps that fall tends to be beautiful around here — not too cold until December, but with all the color and crispness that comes from being at least semi-northern. I love hiking and biking and those tend to be marvelous fall activities, to say nothing of harvest-themed agricultural tourism. In particular, I think November is an under-rated month. The beginning still features full fall color here in southeastern PA (our annual family photos are scheduled for the first week of November) and then the month ends in the coziness of holiday anticipation.

Fall is spectacular, but it is also fleeting. Blink with the busyness of work and kid activities and you can miss the peak loveliness. So creating a Fall Fun List helps keep me accountable. These are the things I want to do to best enjoy the season. (Note: We have already gone apple picking! My favorite Honeycrisp apples turned out to be a late August harvest. However, there may be another opportunity….)

Visit the beach. Seeing the Maine coast over Labor Day weekend — as the first hints of fall color appeared on vines and underbrush — reminded me how beautiful seaside scenery can be off-season. I will probably go to Cape May for a day but it might be elsewhere.

Go to Hawk Mountain. We’ll be able to see the bird migrations and fall scenery in one place. I will accept another Pocono destination as a substitute.

Do fall puzzles. I have a few on order already — free thanks to my Amazon rewards points… Maybe I will work on them while sipping apple ciders or fall-themed craft beers. So that means finding some fun fall beverages (not pumpkin spice lattes — not my thing).

Enjoy some fall-themed art. I will do my research and figure out which fall paintings are in the local art museums. And I can listen to fall-themed music. Maybe read a fall-themed book? I would love to find some fall-themed children’s books to read with the 6-year-old, as our bedtime reading has felt a bit stale. I welcome suggestions!

Take a family bike ride. We now have four independent bikers!

Do the family photo shoot and print up some photos. I’d also like to use some of my own fall photos as art in the new house — so I need to take fall photos.

Do some morning runs. I can usually do one weekend morning, and the way we’re setting up the weekday schedule it’s possible I’ll be able to do a weekday or two as well. I’m running a half-marathon very soon.

Decorate with mums. This is a must as we will probably be listing the house during peak fall color season, so it would be good to have the outside look nice. (I need to declutter/clean the house in general…but this is a fall not-fun item). I also want to learn the names of several fall-blooming wildflowers, so I can identify them.

Go leaf-peeping in upstate New York. My little brother is hosting an in-person wedding celebration this fall (he and his wife got married in a Zoom ceremony last December) and so we’ll be in northern New York during one of the peak October weekends. They’ve already got apple picking and cider on the schedule.

Procure adorable Halloween costumes plenty in advance. Go to at least one community Halloween event (we went to a ton last fall…because I didn’t want the kids to realize they weren’t officially trick-or-treating).

NaNoWriMo? Maybe? Anyone else in….? I might have my next time management book mostly edited by November. Maybe a fall-themed novel…

What’s on your fall fun list?

In other news: We got four kids on three different buses yesterday morning. The toddler went out to see each of them off, and he wanted to go on the bus too! The mornings are long but so far going OK. This morning my husband drove the high schooler to school, but apparently the car line was absolutely ridiculous.

Today’s house decision is which color to use for the master bedroom closet. There is a huge price differential between “summer breeze” and “casting at first light.” I’m thinking maybe I go cheap(er – nothing home-related seems cheap these days) and spend the difference on nice clothes to go in the closet…

Photo: Maine, with just the tiniest hint of fall color

20 thoughts on “The Fall Fun List, 2021 edition

  1. Thanks for sharing this fall fun list! I feel badly for the summer-loving people that their season is over, but fall and Christmas time are my faves! Here in NC there aren’t as many traditaionl ‘autumn’ things – even after 2 decades here it still feels funny to have such warm temps all through fall. But I LOVE being able to get out and do things without the oppressive heat. And we enjoy apple cider and fall crafts, even though we are still in shorts!

  2. Sometimes 5 minutes earlier or later makes a huge difference for traffic/school dropoff, so you might want to pay attention and tweak your departure over the next few weeks. My kids mostly take the bus, but I offer to drive when the weather is bad, and I’ve figured out a route to the high school that avoids the always-red light and the worst dropoff area.

  3. Fall food is on my list! Stuffed pumpkin, mulled cranberry apple cider (+whiskey if desired), root veggies…perhaps a cinnamon monkey bread.
    Pumpkin painting! I grew up carving pumpkins, but I find painting them just as much fun, it’s much less messy, and the pumpkins last longer since they’re not cut open.
    I would like to visit a hard cidery in the area that I haven’t been to.
    And of course, Halloween, fall leaves, etc as you’ve mentioned! I already put up my painting of a pile of pumpkins 🙂

  4. I LOVE fall. It’s just entirely too short here in Minnesota. November is typically not a nice month like it is for you! Last year we got over a foot of snow the week before Halloween. We had pics of our toddler jumping in leaves on a Sunday and then standing in 1’+ of snow on Tuesday. It was bananas. So I start thinking about and celebrating fall earlier – like Sept 1. I’ve started to pull out our fall/Halloween books because I knew the toddler would be excited about them. Our favorites are “Room on the Broom” and “Pumpkin Soup.” They are both pictures books so your 6yo would probably like them as well! I need to get more from the library and will maybe order a few new ones.

    We typically have a pumpkin carving party that has gone from being bigger to being just us and another couple. It’s too overwhelming otherwise since it needs to be indoors at that time of year (it can be pretty darn cold here in late October). 4 kids (all boys!) and 4 adults is all we can handle in our house. Ha. But it’s a really fun tradition!

    One new thing for me this year is running a 10 mile race on marathon weekend in the Twin Cities. I haven’t raced since the 2015 marathon so I am excited to get back out there, although “race” is maybe not the word to use since I’m just focusing on having fun/doing something for myself. I had hip surgery in 2016 and then got pregnant in 2017 and had complicated pregnancies but I’m FINALLY bad to running!

  5. This is a bit off-topic but I’m currently going through renovations myself and losing my mind to the stress and decisions involved with the process. I for one would really appreciate a blog post that details how you’re juggling the reno in addition to a very busy life. What amount of time does it consume in your day, how do you divide the reno “work” with your husband and, more generally, how do you avoid losing your mind (at least publically on your website!!!) from the stress of it all?

    Choosing colours, debating price points, learning all the new lingo, thinking through permits and inspections – I’m really struggling with all of this right now and would love to hear some of the time management (and mental health) strategies you’re using to cope and push through all the inertia and decision making that comes with renos.

    Also – love the fall fun list. Fall is definitely my favourite season!

    1. We built a house 5-6 years ago and it was absolutely hell. I hated almost all of it. I don’t like interior design and find choosing things to be a struggle. We fought all the time. Everything that could go wrong went wrong . Eventually finished and stayed married but to be honest I still have a lot of negative feelings about the house. I feel like it cost me a year of my life. And I can’t say this to anyone because it sounds very spoiled.

      1. @Anon- understood completely. Yes, it is taking a lot of time. And I am making a lot of decisions, and I am not sure that all of them have been correct. I could probably do a post on this soon…

      2. @Anon. Oh this sounds so much like me!! I have A LOT of anxiety wrapped up in our home but also feel like I shouldn’t communicate this to others because doing renovations IS a privilege…yet I hate every minute of it. I even dread when it’s over because then I critique every decision I’ve made. Sigh.

        After YEARS of apartment living, four years ago we purchased our first house (where we still live). It was older and needed work, but had solid “bones.” Within a week we discovered major issues that required jackhammering a giant hole in our basement floor and excavating the entire perimeter of our house. All the mature landscaping we loved – gone. Beautiful lush lawn; now a giant mud pit. It was so demoralizing. Most of the major work happened when I was solo-parenting (my husband traveled about 60% of the time for work) in the middle of a particularly cold, miserable winter. So I was suddenly juggling little kids, contractors, decisions, legal battles, extensive work on insurance claims, and major bills. I lost 10 pounds in a handful of weeks from the stress.

        I actually started to “fear” our house; it had been such a traumatic start.

        Now we’re doing more fun (?) updates – replacing 50-year old windows, upgrading the old wood facade on the exterior of our house, building a small addition. I wake up with a pit in my stomach most days even though reno work is currently paused. I just know another wave is coming soon! I keep waiting for this house anxiety to resolve…but maybe it won’t until if/when we move?

        The contractor comes tonight so we can make a giant push in ordering materials. I guess the only way through is through…right?! This too shall pass.

        1. @Elisabeth – oh, so sorry about the basement/foundation issues. Those are the worst. But yes, this too shall pass.

    2. We did a big addition/interior reconfig to our house back in 2014 with a 4yo and a 1yo. Some things hat helped: we hired a remodeling co that served as the General Contractor and also had a person who coordinated the “design choices”, not an actual interior designer but she would tell us when it was time to pick out tile, carpet, etc. One of the things that saved a TON of time and stress was giving her parameters up front. So instead of poring over ALL THE POSSIBLE tile choices, I’d tell her that we wanted an ivory matte 12×24 tile or ivory patterned berber carpet, and could she narrow it down to 5 or fewer choices. This was amazing and I wish I had figured that out sooner. I’m also a satisficer so I didn’t need the absolutely “perfect” one, I just needed one that I liked and figured there would be a lot. Same for paint colors. I told them “warm white” and asked them to bring me 3-5 choices and I picked one. We also hired our 23yo neighbor who was in interior design school to help with some of the more “interesting” choices, and I wish I had reached out to her earlier bc she had some great suggestions. Her price was very reasonable since she was still a student but she also knew a lot of current trends and materials from her classwork.

  6. I enjoyed reading “Sophie’s Squash” by Pat Zietlow Miller with my older child, and your list made me want to check the book out from the library so I can read it with my younger one.
    Your seasonal fun lists inspired me to start creating my own a couple of years ago. I write it in marker and add little pictures (with help from my kids) and post it on the fridge. I’ll be writing my fall 2021 list this week!

  7. I think November is underrated, too! My husband and I got married in November so celebrating our anniversary is another nice thing to look forward to during that month. Also, I do love Christmas, but Thanksgiving is the only holiday where we are guaranteed four days off in a row, and it’s more chill than Christmas 🙂

    I really like the muted fall colors of November in New England and will also put in a plug for getting family photos done early in the month. Photographers aren’t as stressed as they will be closer to the holidays, we don’t usually need to be completely bundled up here, and it’s still close enough to the holidays so that my kid looks about the same two months later and I can use the photos for Christmas cards.

    1. ohhh, brilliant tip re: family photos. thank you! I also love November because it’s when it FINALLY cools down in Phoenix 🙂

  8. “Fletcher and the falling Leaves”! I love the book as much as my kids do. This year my 6 year old can read it to us. It has beautiful illustrations and ties in a nice story about the seasons.

  9. Fall is up in the air for us, as my husband had a medical procedure that ended up having complications, and he needs to be cleared to travel.
    Here is my (tentative )Fall fun list:
    1. Get to the Jersey Shore for a solo beach day one more time. Done! Lovely sunny day yesterday, but windy.
    2. Do so more trail walks in local parks. Did one last week. Went alone to a place called Black Run Preserve in Marlton, NJ which gets good reviews. Fun to see a former cranberry bog inside the park. It was a little creepy because I went alone and there was a guy sitting in a car alone in the parking lot. Also saw a sign that said “hunting with permission” in one location. Thought I heard gunshots in the distance…..
    3. Head to Florida for 5 weeks if husband is medically cleared. He is retired, and I am semi-retired. Hoping that we can go…….
    4. If we go to Florida, I am thinking of staying near (but not at) Disney for 3 nights and doing Disney things that do not involve theme park entry. While I love Disney, we would be there at the start of the 50th-anniversary celebration, which is predicted to draw huge crowds. No thanks. The book, “Disney World Hacks,” by Dia Adams, has a section devoted to enjoying Disney without a theme park admission.
    5. Bake something with the lingering canned pumpkin in the pantry.
    6. Buy fall mums. Done! Found some pretty tricolor ones at the farm stand that our CSA runs.
    7. Continue wading through my TBR stack on the nightstand. Recent progress has been made-reading large tomes makes a difference! I read, “The Time In Between” and “A Little Life.” The former was a really great historical fiction saga about a woman living in Spain and Morocco during the Spanish Civil War and WWII. The latter was a very beautifully written book about the lifelong friendship among 4 friends who met in college. I loved it, but it is very dark. Now reading “In the Unlikely Event” by children’s book author Judy Blume.
    8. Conjure up uses for the acorn, butternut, spaghetti and delicata squashes that we managed to grow on our deck this summer.
    9. Visit my mom out of state for a delayed 93rd birthday visit.
    10. Locate my all time favorite apples (Macoun) to either buy locally at a grocery store or pick myself. They are more of a New England apple, so it may be challenging to find them in South Jersey.

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