The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!

Cook

 Events (Twin Cities)

Do

  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn

Make

Go (Minnesota)

DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign

DIY Outdoor Vertical Sign Collage

When I saw this  “Believe” sign (by Creative Raisins), I was inspired to make a similar sign.

In fact,  I liked it so much, I wanted to make an outdoor sign for both fall and Christmas. But while I found plenty of great vertical sign ideas (FALL, JOYBe Merry), none applied to both.

BUT, every board has 2 sides…SO, I decided to make 2 different signs with the same board. Multipurpose and cost-saving.

GRATEFUL for the fall season.

BELIEVE for Christmas.

A wood board was painted with 2 colors of chalk paint, distressed, and stenciled. The sign was sealed using spray Outdoor spar-Urethane. Our sign has been outside for 2 weeks and is holding up nicely despite rain, and most recently, snow. So far, so good!

After researching online, a finished (one-sided) vertical wood sign similar to this goes for $60-$120, and would likely need to be sealed for outdoor use. The cost for all the materials used here was $23 and both the Urethane and paint have plenty leftover for future projects.

Materials

  • 1 inch x 8 inch x 6 foot Common Board
    • Money Saving Tip: These go for ~$4, but after digging in the Home Depot cull lumber pile, I found a slightly warped and roughed up board for 70% off and paid just over $1. Who cares if a DISTRESSED, outdoor sign is a little warped or beat up?
  • Chalk Paint – 2 colors
    • I used Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint in Cascade and Rich Black
    • Money Saving Tip: Plan ahead and use a Jo-Ann’s 50%-off coupon on the Chalk Paint, Spouncer and Stencils. Sign up for their free mailing list, and be aware that they may accept coupons from Michaels. Plan ahead and buy ALL with a coupon; there no reason to pay full price, well, EVER, when they mail coupons regularly
  • Fine and Rough Sandpaper
    • For prep and distressing
  • Paint Brushes
    • Money Saving Tip: Planning to distress? Any paint brush will do; use an old one
  • Letter Stencils
  • ‘Spouncer’ or ‘Dabber’ 
    • You might ask, what on earth is that? Essentially, it’s a round foam ‘stamp’ used to apply paint. It gives you nice clean edges without paint bleeding under the stencil. Trust me, you want to use this. It saves time and makes stenciling oh-so-easy!
  • Outdoor or Marine Grade Urethane or Sealer

 

Process Used

1. Prepare to Paint

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor

  • The board was placed on two boxes to get it off the ground (I used 2 cases of diapers)
  • Both sides were lightly sanded using FINE sandpaper to remove any loose wood pieces (can be important when using cull lumber which may be a little beat up)
    • Don’t worry about sanding to make the entire surface smooth, especially if planning to distress. Imperfections give character and makes distressing look more realistic
  • Wipe down both sides to remove any saw dust or debris

2. Apply Base Paint Color

Apply the base color of paint

Apply the base color of paint

  • Apply the base color of chalk paint (Rich Black). Not going to distress? Skip this step
  • It’s the base so it’s OK if coverage isn’t perfect. Go ahead and work quickly, but get paint into any deep crevices so when distressed, you see base color, not bare wood
  • Allow to FULLY DRY, then flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated. Then allow to FULLY DRY

3. Apply Contrasting Color

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

Layer with a contrasting color of paint

  • Before applying the second color, determine how you plan to distress the paint. I tried two ways:
    1. Paint with FULL coverage, then sand to distress after the paint dries, OR
    2. Paint roughly, allowing the first color to show through – see below (MUCH EASIER)
Apply the second color roughly so the first color shows through

Apply the second paint color roughly so the first color shows through

  • Apply the second contrasting color (Cascade)
  • Allow to FULLY DRY and flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated.
  • NOTE: You COULD use a different color on each side so you end up with two unique sides 

4. Distress the Surface (if desired)

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper to remove the top layer of paint. Use care not to remove the base coat and expose bare wood if you desire to see contrast

  • Use rough and fine sandpaper to distress the paint in RANDOM areas. Decide if you want to distress where the letters will be stenciled (I did not)
  • Use FINE sandpaper on the edges so the base shows without going down to bare wood
  • Use coarse sandpaper on flat surfaces if the fine requires too much elbow-grease
  • If you go too far, or don’t like it, go back, add paint as needed and repeat until you like it

5. Paint Stenciled Letters

Stencils

  • Align your stencils and tape to in place
  • Transfer a small amount of chalk paint to a plate or bowl
  • Apply paint to the end of the spouncer and blot slightly to remove excess paint
Dip the Spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray before 'stamping'. Slightly overlap the spouncer with the stencil and opening to prevent bleeding. Blot until paint is no longer transferred and go back over the thicker areas to evenly distribute paint

Dip the spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray to remove excess paint. Stamp so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until paint is no longer transferred, then go over painted areas to evenly distribute paint

  • Press down to ‘stamp’ paint so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until no more paint transfers
  • Use the now somewhat dry spouncer to go back over thickly painted spots and stamp to evenly distribute paint
  • Continue applying paint until all letters are stenciled
  • Remove stencils carefully once paint is fully dry

6. Seal for Outdoor Use

  • Place the sign on a large tarp in a well-ventilated area (garage with door wide open)
  • Use an appropriate mask to protect yourself from fumes
  • Read the can to be sure you apply properly and in the correct temperature range
    • Follow the same process (see here) as spray painting furniture for even application
    • Don’t forget to spray all edges
    • The spray I used had a special nozzle to prevent over-spray – a MUST HAVE feature!
  • Apply multiple coats according to manufacturer recommendations. The manufacturer of this spray recommended 3 coats for outdoor use. I applied 4 to be sure.
  • Allow to dry 72 hours before using outdoors or as manufacturer recommends

 

Here are the pictures of the sealed, finished product in front of our house. When I was taking these pictures for the blog, a random woman stopped her car and asked me where I got it. Hopefully it means my neighbors won’t think it’s an eyesore!

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed GRATEFUL sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

Completed BELIEVE sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you think of it? Please post a picture of your DIY vertical sign, I’d love to see it!

 

 

 

 

Practice Gratitude: enJOY fall through the eyes of a 4 year old

psalm 11824

Isn’t it funny as you listen to people chat idly about the weather, or read their facebook posts – People either LOVE or HATE fall. 

There’s no middle ground.

Either you enjoy the change of seasons, crisp air, and gorgeous trees, OR you dread fall and its daily reminder that WINTER is looming.

I have spent many years loathing fall and the coming winter.

I won’t mince words here. Winter is not my favorite time of year, it’s my LEAST favorite. I don’t relish the coats, boots, mittens, hats, shovels, salt, sand, wind and traffic jams. After the rough (no let’s be honest – BRUTAL) weather last year, it requires very little searching to find others who are like-minded.

But this year, I was stopped in my tracks by the way my 4 year old son SEES fall.  He views the changing weather and tree leaves as new and exciting, and is filled with JOY.

Having trouble seeing fall as a JOYFUL experience? You may want to try looking at it through the eyes of a child.

This MN fall season has produced more beauty, and has lasted longer than any I recall. In past years, it seems like the trees changed color quickly, and then dropped their leaves overnight in freezing rain, or snow, as winter simply plopped into our laps and was here to stay.

For weeks, I’ve been hearing my son exclaim from the backseat of the car that ‘those trees are changing’. He tells me which color leaf is his favorite, over and over. I’d love to tell you which color IS his favorite, but it changes day by day, and sometimes minute by minute.

He has questions about WHY the leaves are changing, how the change, why the green is gone, why the leaves fall off. While I LOVE any chance to give a scientific explanation, it has been my pleasure to also explain that GOD MADE THE TREES THAT WAY – for HIS and OUR pleasure.

We’ve been driving different routes, to see what wonders lie on different streets, and parking in random neighborhoods to walk a new trail. A few times I’ve brought my camera. We stop and look at all kinds of things, and we take photos of things from my son’s eye-level.

Most of the time we’re looking straight UP.

I’ll tell you what – from his point of view, fall changes are mighty wonderful, awe-inspiring, and make ME want to join in his exclamations of the glory of it all.

It is my JOY to listen to his observations of wonder. I’ve found MYSELF noticing the intricate details, the variation in colors and types of trees, and the glory of the Lord God who created EACH one. AND how he made them and put them here for US to see, enjoy and marvel at.

It is refreshing to remind myself that these fall changes are not only eye-catching, but changes that allow the tree to survive the winter and be ready to sprout green leaves in the spring.

Could ALL of this in all its complexity be CHANCE?

I just don’t think so.

In fact, by faith, I know so. 

Are YOU marveling at the trees? Or are you concerned that with every falling leaf, the season is fleeting?

Why spend time worrying and perseverating on the coming winter when fall is here NOW to enjoy?

The Bible is clear that we can’t stop the seasons:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:22

Today I drop down to eye-level with a 4 year old to look anew at things that haven’t been perceived with WONDER like this for a very LONG time.

Instead of dreading the winter months to come, I CHOOSE to be PRESENT, in THIS day, surrounded by God’s amazing creation, undergoing intentional change.

There is no denying it, the Lord has outdone Himself with fall this year. Winter can come when it will, but I will be grateful for what we have today; a sunny, 60 degree day, with crisp air, brilliantly blue sky and an array of colors, as far as my eyes can see.

This FALL, I am grateful for the season, and find myself getting caught up in the JOY and WONDER of it all.

“This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalms 118:24

Thank you, Lord.

Here’s a few of the photos my son and I took to give you a FRESH view of fall from a 4 year old’s eyes (along with his comments, verbatim).

Red berries where leaves have dropped, in a backdrop of yellow

“Mom, look at those red things that didn’t fall off! Where did the leaves go and why is that tree YELLOW? I think I like those red things the best. Are those cherries? I like cherries”

Not everything is ready to change color quite yet

” Ooh, flowers! Those flowers aren’t changing yet. They might change someday too, won’t they?”

Even the fading colors are pretty

“Leaves! No green left. They look brown. I think they’re dead”

My son was amazed that while some leaves were turning brown, new flowers were still blooming

“Look at those brown leaves and how some of them are brown. Why are some of them green and some of them brown and some yellow? How come those flowers are still green and not dying? “

Brilliant reds

“I LOVE those red leaves, they’re my favorite”

Some trees are bare, stark against the sky

“That tree is dead mom, like the one in our yard, but God will give it leave next year, wont HE? I think God loves it”

Fall Yellows

“Look, MOM! Those yellow leaves are pretty! THOSE are my favorite!” (yes, these too, are his favorite)

Sun streaming through the clouds yesterday

“Look at the sun hiding behind those black clouds. I think it might rain. The sun is peeking out, I think”

Even the weeds are changing!

“Even the weeds are changing!”

Hardly any change yet...the fall is lasting a LONG time

“How come the trees are green over here?”

Red-orange leaves in the sun

“Those leaves are BRIGHT! Maybe from the sun”

Multi-colored leaves

“Look, those leaves are red but have yellow on them! They have 2 colors!”

Happy Fall.

A Favorite Fall Recipe: Easy Vegetable Soup

If you live in Minnesota, you know that last night we were reminded that winter is looming; it sleeted. Last night, we sat inside, furnace on, drinking hot cider, as ice pellets fell and the howling wind made sure we could hear the sleet pelting our windows.

Sigh.

At least it didn’t sleet in September… AND, at least none of it remained when the sun came up.

What the sleet left behind is the realization that FALL is here and it may not last long!

It’s time to enjoy those fall colors. Time to get outside and enjoy ANY and ALL days when the temperature is above freezing.

Enjoy Fall

Our family decided to make the most of the day; we went to the MN Zoo.

We saw all the indoor animals and when it finally reached about 40 degrees outside, we put on hats and coats and wrapped the kids in a blanket to do a quick round of the outdoor trails. We enjoyed the warmth of the sun (and walked briskly through the shade).

It was great to be outside, and we were home in time for lunch and naps.

The chill of the morning left me wanting something warm and comforting for dinner. What better than my favorite vegetable soup?

 

Easy Vegetable Soup

15-18 servings

Ingredients

Fresh Vegetables

  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion: chopped and separated
  • 8 medium baby red potatoes (if they seem small, use 10): cleaned, cubed, leaving skin ON
  • 4 large carrots: peeled, and sliced (cut large slices in half)
  • 2 medium zucchini: quarter lengthwise, and slice
  • 4 long stalks celery: washed and sliced (it is OK to throw the leaves in for extra flavor)
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional): chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley: finely chopped – RESERVE UNTIL END

Pantry Ingredients

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil (I buy the Extra Virgin, light tasting)
  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas): drained, and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans: drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can great northern beans: drained and rinsed
  • 3 cans diced tomato with Italian Herbs (or sub diced tomato in basil, oregano and garlic) – DO NOT DRAIN
  • 32 oz (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 64 oz (8 cups) beef broth (or sub 6 more cups veggie broth, if desired)

Frozen

  • 10 oz chopped, frozen spinach (optional)

Seasonings

  • 1.5 Tsp dried basil
  • 1 Tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf, whole

 

Preparation:

  • Wash and prep all fresh vegetables.
  • Heat 1 TBS olive oil on med-high heat in a large skillet
  • Add half the garlic and cook until fragrant
  • Add half the vegetables (reserve parsley until the end) and saute until softened
Saute vegetables until softened

Saute vegetables until softened

  • Transfer softened vegetables to a large soup pot
  • Return skillet to med-high heat and heat the remaining 1 TBS olive oil and remaining garlic
  • Add the other half of the vegetables and saute until softened
  • Transfer softened vegetables to the soup pot
  • Add the drained kidney beans, great northern beans and garbanzo beans, un-drained diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and beef broth to the soup pot
  • Add the dried basil and oregano, salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste), and whole bay leaf to the soup pot and mix well
  • Bring contents of the soup pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
  • Simmer, covered, for 30 – 60 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender
  • Add 10 oz chopped frozen spinach, if using, and stir until melted and distributed throughout the soup
  • Add chopped parsley and stir to mix
  • Return the soup to a simmer and cook 10 more minutes

 

Notes:

  • Top with grated cheese (Parmesan or cheddar), and warmed, crusty bread, or maybe with grilled cheese (yum!)
  • My kids don’t like soup broth, which is fine by me (messy!), so I use a slotted spoon and give them a pile of cooked veggies
  • We usually freeze half of this soup since the recipe is so large (or we use it to feed a large group). I recommend freezing in either single portions (for lunches), or with enough servings for your family to have a meal together. To freeze: Cool fully and transfer to labeled freezer zip-lock bags and freeze flat or transfer to plastic containers with lids
  • You can add cooked shredded rotisserie chicken to add protein and a little extra flavor to this soup. Just make sure it is finely shredded or chopped
  • You can throw everything in a (LARGE) crock pot and cook on HIGH 2-3 hours or LOW 5 hours (or until veggies are tender). Just wait to add Parsley and Spinach until 20 minutes before turning the crock pot off (I have a smaller crock pot and this recipe does not fit!).

 

What’s you favorite FALL recipe?

5 Questions to Consider When Setting Your Family’s Fall Schedule

5 Questions To Consider When Setting Your Family's Fall Schedule | thisgratefulmama.com

Hello September.

I can’t believe my second summer as a stay-at-home mom is finished already. Unlike last year, our mornings were free since our daughter dropped her morning nap. With no scheduled activities, we kept a very loose schedule.

The freedom…It. Was. Lovely.

We met friends at parks, went to the zoo (A LOT), ran errands on rainy days, and spent a lot of time relaxing, reading books, and playing at home.

My husband and I allowed bed and nap times to be more flexible than the rest of the year. If neighbor children were outside, we allowed the kids to play longer, and stayed later at events. We also allowed our little one to even skip naps for special family events (although she and WE all paid for that!).

The loose schedule did sometimes yield overtired, overstimulated, unruly and exhausted children. But, because it was summer, we simply stayed home the next day (or two) to get back on track.

While I have enjoyed the flexibility, I am ready for a change of pace.

With no structured activities, I had very few opportunities to spend time with adults (away from the kids). I miss it. Without it, I find myself less patient, and more easily frustrated. Not the way I want to be.

My son will be attending preschool two half-days a week.  I am excited for him to experience new things and meet new kids, but also feel unexpectedly emotional at the same time. He will never be home with me as much as he is now. Starting now, time devoted to school, sports and friends will increase year by year.

This realization that the time we have at home is fleeting makes me committed to make the most of our time this year (of course, while making a concerted effort NOT to smother them). I am looking to maximize quality time at home, while exposing both kids to educational and social opportunities. This summer, we were barraged by flyers for sports, ECFE, swimming lessons, church activities and more. I had a pile of things that looked worthwhile. So much to do…So little time.

As we set the schedule for fall, there is a real need for balance. It is imperative that we avoid the danger of being TOO busy. Being TOO busy will run children and parents ragged. Suddenly activities that are supposed to be fun and begin to cause stress, angst, and lose their effectiveness.

There are SO MANY great opportunities to learn and play, but we CANNOT and WILL NOT do them all.

Here are 5 questions we considered when setting our family’s fall schedule.  These questions helped us sort through what was important and to choose activities wisely. Our answers are noted with each question.

5 Questions to Consider When Setting Your Family’s Fall Schedule:

1. What takes priority?

What are the priorities for your family this year? What activities MUST happen each day/week? This may be different depending on the season. As a general rule, if anything interferes with these priorities, it is unlikely that we will participate.

Our family:

  • We put God first. Church and Small Group every other Sunday night are a MUST.
  • The kids will be allowed to sleep until they wake up MOST days
  • My daughter will have a consistent afternoon nap, otherwise she just is not herself
  • I am committed to staying home all day with the kids at least one day a week to just enjoy them
  • Family dinners are priority
  • Bedtime will be consistent
  • The schedule needs to allow me to run errands, and keep the house in order

2. What is necessary and what ‘would-be-nice’?

Is the activity something that NEEDS to be done? Or is it something that would be fun, or nice to do if time allows?

Our family:

  • Aiden: NEEDS to attend preschool. Swimming lessons, maybe a sport or two during the year, or time to play with other kids ‘would-be-nice’
  • Adelyn: NEEDS the opportunity to spend time away from me and to interact with other children. Swimming lessons ‘would-be-nice’
  • I: NEED one activity during the week that allows me to interact with other adults away from my children. It ‘would-be-nice to have more than one since my husband travels a lot
  • My husband: NEEDS to meet with a group of men from church before work

3. Is the schedule fair?

Once you have the list of activities you’ll participate in, determine if it is balanced (for children AND adults). Each member of the family is ONE of {insert size of family}; the schedule won’t work if it is at the expense of any ONE. Can everyone benefit from this schedule? Does the schedule meet the NEEDS of everyone? 

Our family:

  • The kids and I will attend Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) on Thursday mornings and the women’s bible study at church on Tuesdays. These precious hours allow me to study God’s word and get to know some amazing women. The kids learn about God and play with some very sweet children. These breaks leave me feeling refreshed and restored; they allow me to be a better wife and to parent with more patience and grace
  • My son will attend preschool, two days a week, in the afternoons. He will go just after lunch, and my daughter will go down for her nap right after we drop him off. This gives ample time for her to rest, and I am especially looking forward to some special time alone with her before we go pick him up.
  • We signed my son up for a 4-week gymnastics class during the month of September, along with 2 neighbor kids. It starts early enough in the evening that we can have family dinners when we get home (as long as I plan ahead), and is a chance for us to see how things go having another activity in the schedule.  

4. Is it feasible?

Can you meet your priorities, and make it to everything without undue stress? Is there enough time between activities?

Our family:

  • Our current planned schedule does allow me to run errands and clean the house during the week
  • Our schedule will allow me time to prep meals and for family dinners, and does not interfere with the kids waking up, nap time, or bedtime.
  • Our Thursday schedule was NOT feasible. We were going to attend a BSF class across town (where our friends are) but it would not be feasible to get eat lunch, and get to preschool on time without undue stress (and even then we might be late). SO, we transferred to a different class, which allows us more time

5. What needs to go?

If the schedule looks full, are there some activities you can put off until later in the year? Is there an activity that needs to be given up? Have you taken time to ASK your child what they want to continue doing, or if there is anything they would rather do instead?

Our family:

  • We want both kids to do swimming lessons this year. With the school year just starting, we’ll get into the swing of things and see if we can add classes on Saturday mornings during the second fall session
  • If any activity is causing undue stress, frustration, over-stimulation, fear, or just isn’t going well – we will reassess and determine if we will continue or not

 

5 Questions to Consider When Setting Your Family’s Fall Schedule | thisgratefulmama.com