I was recently asked via the Rungway mentoring app, “how do you get over the Summer blues now that the cold weather is approaching?” If I was asked that question this time last year, I would have probably joined in to complain, but, I now know that camaraderie via commiseration really doesn’t make either person any happier!
So….I was delighted to instead to respond about looking forward to Fall; the colorful leaves, the perfect weather for walking, pumpkin and apple picking, Halloween, Thanksgiving…so many opportunities to engage the senses, embrace the wonders of nature, spend time cozying up with family, and of course we can’t forget pumpkin spice lattes……KIDDING! (I think I will take this moment to tell you all how I despise anything with cinnamon in it so a pumpkin spice latte would be the absolute last thing that would get me motivated about the Fall, but…..I digress and to each their own!)
This interaction with a stranger across the other side of the world actually motivated me to think about the change of seasons myself and what could make me happy this time of year. I am a “Summer person” - I love the sun, the heat, the lack of snow, the lack of cold… you get it! But, I have been trying to turn any negative thinking around and embrace all aspects of life, which in Chicago includes a pretty severe change in seasons! I decided to reach out to my family and bring us all together for a Fall Birthday Celebration! We have three birthdays in our family in October, so this was a perfect opportunity to celebrate them all in one shot. I love to host and always have, but in the past that didn’t stop me from being a crazed, stressed lunatic shouting and directing my husband. This time, however, was different, not 100% perfect by any means….my husband still drove me insane by choosing to mop the floor at the exact time I had five pots going (and I only have a four-top stove so just think about that!). But overall, I chose to mindfully engage in the experience. I enjoyed the shopping and cooking and told myself to calm down and take it one step at a time. Following are the steps I took to create a Fall Birthday Celebration with enjoyment, mindfulness, and an intact head of hair!!
- Step 1: (2 days prior to party) – Ok, I invited everyone to this event a couple of weeks prior, but work and life decided to be especially inconsiderate and managed to steal a little time from me without my even realizing! So yes, I officially began preparations two days before the event! I started with my table, the central place of gathering. I did a little Pinterest scouting for inspiration and pulled together a red, yellow, orange and green colored Fall table; a Fall colored table runner, some small gourds, and pumpkins, a few candles, large square vases filled in thirds with popcorn seeds, kidney beans and green split peas (might sound odd but it looked so pretty and unique). On my lunch break, I ran out to a spice shop and grabbed a box of 4 Fall spices (I will reveal why later!)
- Step 2: (1 day prior, AM) – Create the menu. I knew I planned to keep it relatively simple so I wanted to have some olives, chips and some nice Cherry salsa we purchased the weekend before in MI along with a lemon sage cocktail (passed that baton to Alan quickly…he is the bar connoisseur). I then decided on butternut squash, pecan and ricotta bruschetta for appetizer, a roast chicken and potatoes entrée (all mashed together with garlic, lemon and thyme with the chicken wrapped in bacon for good measure!), and accompanied with sides of a pear, goat cheese and arugula salad, parsnip, carrot and fennel mash. Dessert was easy, and also picked up the week before at a cute bakery in MI, pecan pie and rhubarb tart with fluffy whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
- Step 3: (1 day prior, PM) – I made my shopping list in a jiffy over coffee and headed out with my youngest and a giant bag of cheerios and blueberries (the greatest of shopping companions for a 1-year old), and I swept through the grocery store with rapid speed! It’s amazing how quickly one can shop when you have a 1-year old as a potential break-down alarm clock that could go off any second! On any other day in the past, I would have completed this task under utter stress but today was different…I chose my mindset to be calm, and I had fun shopping while my little one giggled when I sped up and down the cart in the aisles!
- Step 4: (1 day prior, later PM!) – Open wine. Start the mammoth of vegetable peeling with said wine. Direct husband to put kids to bed and then vacuum, mop and tidy. Ok yes, I have a great team partner in my husband. The only advice I can give here is either train them up or ship them out…ok kidding, you may have to add another day to your timeline as needed but I am a strong believer that women take on way too much of the burden for these types of hosting events, get your partners on board, I don’t actually feel I am lucky at all…I somewhat just expect help and don’t feel guilty for taking it! Try it!
- Step 5: (Event Day, AM) – Open wine…..did I say wine? I meant have coffee of course! Again, this would be about the time I start losing my mind, running around like a lunatic, stressing and complaining but instead I got up early, read through my lists and just started the work while listening to some music…I prepped sauces, salads and completed the chopping. I pulled out dishes and whipped the cream. I prepared the appetizer and got the chicken ready for the oven. I focused on just the tasks I was working on (mindfulness) and enjoyed it so much more. I even had time to stop and take my son to piano all before the guests arrive at 1 pm.
- Step 6: (The Event) -- I always say I love hosting and yet, I have realized lately that I get so caught up in my own head that I sail through the day worrying about everything being perfect and thinking ahead to the next thing that needs to be put in or out of the oven and only half listen to people’s conversations. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is first to realize that I tend to do this and to be able to make a conscious effort to engage in the moment instead. I focused on the conversations, our kids playing, people enjoying and complimenting the food and the house, the laughter, the smells, the gripping noise of family. It was a whole new day for me and even though there was a ton of clean-up, and my back genuinely was aching by the end of the day, I feel like it was the most relaxing and rewarding event I have hosted to date.
My sensory moment: I decided to do something a little playful for the party and created a sensory theme for everyone to embark on! Taste was pretty self-explanatory and even if I do say so myself the chicken was deliciously moist and the sides were scrummy! We played a fun spice smelling game where everyone had to guess the smell of a particular spice without seeing the spice. I gave a fun box of spices to the winner. For sight, my son was scheduled to take the whole family on a Fall nature walk but unfortunately the weather did not co-operate and nobody seemed interested in seeing the Fall in the lashing rain (ah well, next time). For sound, I noted the sound of family, cheer, music and maybe a few tunes performed by myself and my son who are taking piano lessons together. And finally, for touch I joked about a family hug but I think everyone just wants to snuggle the little babies in our family right now…I can’t think of a better touch experience than that!