Crossing off things on my fall bucket list: How quintessential fall activities hold up 

Black and white shih tzu dog next to pumpkins

Right now, it’s that perfect sweet spot between autumn and winter when I don’t quite have to turn on my SAD lamp just yet. The days are still warm, but the nights are just cool enough for me to enjoy sipping on my Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Tea (which, let’s face it, is basically warm apple juice). Pumpkins and animatronic skeletons line the neighborhood, and the leaves are just starting to turn colors. 

So, what have I been up to this autumn? Other than avoiding the urge to stockpile fall decor and knit multiple chunky blankets, I’ve made a concerted effort to do more fall-themed things, especially fall-themed things that involve me leaving the house. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of me crossing off things on my autumn bucket list. Fall activities…are they worth it? Let’s do some reflecting. 

Instax of pumpkin pile

Going to cozy autumn festivals

I live between farmland and suburbia, and parts of my town feel like they’re soundtracked by the sentimental la-la-la’s in Gilmore Girls. Throughout the year, there are plenty of cozy, family-oriented events, including a pumpkin fair and book festival in the fall. For two consecutive weekends in October, I went to these events for the *fall vibes*. 

And I think that’s about enough mass-socializing for me for the rest of the quarter…HAHA. It was a fun time, it was an overwhelming time. If you’re looking for a proper outing, autumn festivals are cheap, amusing alternatives to theme parks and haunted attractions. I no longer have the social stamina to be around this many people at a time, but it’s a good time for someone! 

Pumpkin patch

Heading to a pumpkin patch

Pumpkin patches are more my speed than full-blown pumpkin fairs or sprawling family farms, and I’m lucky enough to live by so many farm stands that have decked out patches with a good variety of pumpkins, from Cinderella to tiger to sparkler ones. While heading to my local farm stand one day, I discovered that my go-to spot had a decked outpumpkin display with dozens of different gourds and squashes to choose from. The prices were decent as well, significantly more affordable than The Home Depot or even some supermarkets. 

I’m not sure if I’d recommend a patch attraction with an admission fee as opposed to just a farmers market or farm stand. I appreciated the fact that this was all relatively low maintenance – I stocked up on my fruits and veggies, got decorative gourds, snapped photos, and bolted in ten minutes. 

Junji Ito Fragments of Horror

Reading horrors and thrillers 

Reading spooky books during spooky season is an S-tier autumn activity, especially if you’re too tired to stare at a screen! It’s the perfect activity for curling up with a nice cup of chai, or for working on a craft if you’re listening to a scary audiobook. And yes, I consider it an effortful autumn activity because I put in effort to choose my books and pick them up from the library! 

Instead of watching scary movies, I’ve been reading spooky and twisty books lately; my current reads are Rebecca and The Midnight Club. Though my love for romance has cooled down lately, I’ve been coming to realize my fondness for genre and popular fiction, which includes horror and thriller pageturners you could probably find at Target. My latest spooky reads include Agatha Christie’s Halloween Party, Junji Ito’s Fragments of Horror, Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens, and Junji Ito’s The Liminal Zone — while I didn’t love all of these, they were all easy ways to pass time! 

Dogs in pumpkin outfits

Taking Halloween dog pictures

You all knew this was coming. I took Luna to The Home Depot to take some pumpkin pictures with her, but the display at my local store was fairly underwhelming. So instead, I decided to make some memories in the backyard, with the aim of producing department store photography studio quality pictures. 

Luna had a pumpkin costume from last year, so of course, I made all three of the dogs wear it while posing next to a bunch of gourds in their artificial poo turf. Unfortunately, when your subjects are food motivated and you don’t have an ample supply of snacks, you end up getting 3,000 steps in while chasing them around getting them to pose just right. 50 photos in my overstuffed iCloud and one hour later, I successfully captured canine autumnal joy. 

Cup of tea

Drinking a pumpkin drink 

I’m not much of a pumpkin enthusiast when it comes to pumpkin consumption. I got a pumpkin cream cold brew from Starbucks early during the season, and five  dollars and a severe lactose intolerant reaction later, I decided that pumpkin beverages aren’t worth the hype. The flavor isn’t particularly appealing to me — pumpkins feel more like a savory food to me. That said, I’m not opposed to dumping pumpkin spice seasoning into my coffee and tea at home. 

The apple crisp oatmilk macchiato, though? That’s exactly what I want. Pure sugar. Nothing in that drink even tastes remotely real, but the sickly sweet artificial apple flavor with the spiced caramel hits just right — it’s like drinking a melted Yankee Candle. I don’t care what the haters have to say! (Even if they’re right.)

Apple galette

Baking an apple pie 

OK, I baked an apple galette, pie’s freewheeling cousin, because I’m incredibly lazy. My Martha Stewart plum galette was tasty and simple to whip together, so I thought I could easily replicate it — and I did! I stress baked all throughout college, but baking isn’t something that naturally appeals to me because it’s really an exact science. Still, baking a fruit dessert is a quintessential autumn activity, so why not squeeze it into my fall agenda? Here’s how to make an apple galette: 

  1. Mix together dry ingredients (1 cup all purpose flour, ¼ cup old fashioned oatmeal, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar) with wet ingredients (squirt of vanilla extract, 1 egg yolk, ¾ stick of butter) in a food processor. Chill dough in plastic wrap for an hour-ish. 
  2. Thinly slice a big Fuji apple and mix with  ⅕ cup of white sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and a generous sprinkling of pumpkin pie seasoning. Also add a squirt of water and vanilla to mix everything together. 
  3. Take great effort to roll out the dough and shove it inside of an oven-safe soup bowl lined with parchment paper. Delicately layer the apple slice filling and fold the dough upwards in a rustic fashion. Chill for an hour in the fridge. 
  4. Preheat the microwave oven to 375 degrees on pizza mode and bake the galette for 45 minutes. 
  5. Cut a slice and serve with vanilla ice cream!

With extra oven space, I also tossed in squash I picked up at the farmers market. Not into the pie — ew — but just on the side wrapped up in aluminum foil. I didn’t season anything, so the roasted squash was perfectly safe for the pups, too. 

Anyway, I’ve yet to go leaf peeping or hayriding, but the season is still young. Right now, I’m settling into the quieter aspects of autumn, giving myself a temporary reprieve until the holiday season comes jingling in all merry and bright. 

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