The weather’s changing, summer’s finally over, and there’s a definite chill in the air many days. Now we can look forward to some of those fun activities that only happen in the autumn: Collecting leaves and pine cones for wreaths and other decorations; heading out to the local pumpkin patch; baking fresh apple and pumpkin pies; brewing hot spiced apple cider (hey, I can smell it simmering just thinking about it).
At the end of November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day. One of our family traditions for this particular holiday is making a Thanksgiving Tree. People tell me every year that they like this particular idea so much, I repeat sharing it (sorry if it’s a repeat for you!).
Anyway, we make a tree trunk with bare branches out of black craft paper and tape the “tree” to the dining room wall. Then we cut out individual autumn-colored leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown) from more craft paper.
As someone in the family thinks of something or someone they’re thankful for, they write the item or person’s name onto one of the leaves and then tape the leaf to the tree branches.
We try to put the Thanksgiving Tree in place by mid-November so our family has at least a full week to add more leaves to the tree. By Thanksgiving Day, the tree is FULL with the names of people, events and things we’re thankful for. This is great fun for the kids and a meaningful addition to our family’s holiday traditions.
And what would holidays be like without a few special treats?
My favorite recipe for hot spiced apple cider is one of those throw-it-together-as-you-go recipes, but I’ll try to explain the process as best I can. First, I take a large jug of apple juice (a gallon if we’re entertaining). Then I pour the juice into a large pot on the stove (or into the slow cooker if I don’t want to use a burner). Heat to a simmer.
Then add the following ingredients to the pot:
- about one cup of frozen orange juice concentrate (this ingredient is a MUST)
- approximately two teaspoons (more or less) of EACH of the following: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves (whole or ground)
- and sometimes I add about one cup (or less) of cranberry juice cocktail
Let it all simmer for awhile (half an hour at least). The smell wafting through the house while the cider is simmering is simply heaven. Mmmmm … Serve the hot spiced cider in mugs. For a nice touch, add a whole cinnamon stick to each mug.
Having a large pot of cider simmering on the stove when company arrives is a sure way to make them very happy that they chose to come over to your house.
And for another treat, make some baked pumpkin seeds (you can also do this with acorn squash seeds). After all the pumpkin carving or pie making, don’t throw out the seeds. Separate the seeds from the stringy pulp (don’t rinse or remove every last bit of the pulp — the pulp adds flavor). Place the seeds on a cookie sheet, stir in about 1/4 cup of melted butter, sprinkle with a small amount of salt and then bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Enjoy!
And if you’re wondering what to do with the leftover stringy part of the pumpkin guts, visit my friend Diana’s blog for a tasty recipe: Pumpkin Gut Bread
Happy autumn to you and yours!
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NOTE: People often ask about our family’s homeschooling journey, so I pooled together my responses from several online interviews and you can now read the combined interviews here: Interview with Debi
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