What's So Special About a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch?

What's So Special About a Trip to the Pumpkin Patch? | Writing Between Pauses

Every October, we do a traditional visit to the pumpkin patch with Danny’s parents. They only visit about twice a year, so this is a big occasion for us. Last year, Forrest could have easily spent about 2 or 3 hours in the pumpkin patch. This year, he wasn’t quite as obsessed with pumpkins, but he still had a lot of fun.

We went to Lone Pine Farms in Eugene, which is where we go every year. I suspect they did not have a great pumpkin harvest this year; a lot of the pumpkins were rotten, damaged, or just starting to turn already… and the patch has only been open 2 weeks! We still found quite a few great pumpkins, though, so we can’t complain.

Pumpkin Patch Visit
Say Pumpkins!
Batman and Pumpkins
Lone Pine Farms

It was one of those perfect Fall days that feels absolutely perfect. It wasn’t too hot (mid-60s, a little windy), but it was sunny. The patch was crowded, but not like last year, so crowded that it felt claustrophobic. There was room to take all the photos I wanted of Forrest. It was just a day that felt really perfect and special.

Some of my friends often ask why our trip to the pumpkin patch is such a big deal. Well, first of all, pumpkin patches are really only open for one month a year. October. That’s it! That’s all the pumpkin patch you get! As well, the farm stands attached to pumpkin patches really depend on the business, as they often close for the season on November 1, or shortly after. Visiting local farms during the summer to buy produce, and then buying pumpkins from them instead of from a grocery store, helps me to support a local business.

Second of all, pumpkin patches are fun. There is always a lot to do. Lone Pine even has a whole playground set up so kids can play for a little while as their parents pay or browse the farm stand. There are games. There are hayrides. A cow train. Horses and goats to pet and feed.

It’s a special trip we take every year and one we all look forward to. If you don’t regularly visit a local pumpkin patch, you’re really, really missing out on an opportunity to not just have fun, but support a local business.

Family Photo at Pumpkin Patch

What’s your October tradition?

4 Genius Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time & Money

Every Sunday, I do meal prep. This isn't something I've always done and to be completely honest, I dread it every single week. It's something I cannot do when Forrest is around because he loses his mind the moment he sees food. 

This is my way of saving: meal prep isn't fun. I won't pretend it is. However, I always thank Sunday me when Wednesday rolls around and Forrest is scream-crying because he has a fever from his molars and I just cannot cook

If you're like me and you end up buried up to your eyeballs by halfway through the workweek, then these meal tips are for you. 

1. Set aside one day, two hours, and do it. 

This is the most basic of basic tips, but meal prep doesn't have to take an entire day. In fact, I beseech you: don't torture yourself by meal prepping all day. Here's how I typically meal prep: 

  • I make my husband's lunches for the week (always stir fry). 
  • I make my husband's breakfasts for the week. 
  • I make something we can use in meals every single day (like a huge batch of roasted veggies or a bunch of rice). 
  • I make something I can grab as a quick lunch every single day (like pasta or chicken). 

That's it. I don't make huge batches of overnight oats or cute little jars that take up way too much room in my small fridge. I don't torture myself. Don't torture yourself. Set aside two or three hours in one day, plan a menu for the week, and execute it. 

2. Remember to actually eat the things you prep. 

Okay, another really basic tip: remember to eat all this stuff. Whenever my husband forgets his lunch, I basically want to start tearing the doors off our house. (I don't. But I want to.) Remember to keep a list on your fridge or phone of what you have prepped, as well as a rough outline of things you can make every day. I personally do not like to do a menu plan for each day because, guaranteed, by Tuesday evening, I will rebel. Instead, I just make a list of what I have and what possible combinations can come from that. 

3. It's ok to be simple. 

I recently started following a budgeting program and one of the most revolutionary tips was, dinners don't have to be over-the-top insane, crazy. Dinners don't have to be three or four courses. BLTs and salad is fine. Chicken and veggies is fine too. You don't need to go crazy! It's healthier, and will save you money, to not feel like you have to prep a ton of food for each dinner. My advice is to go after simple meals and items. Chicken with rice and veggies can be just as delicious as a huge, hearty, steak-and-potatoes meal. My husband's favorite dinners are stir fry days, when I literally just reheat roasted veggies with some teriyaki sauce, add some chicken, and cook some chow mein noodles. Minimal effort, truly. 

4. Stretch what you make with bulk items. 

When I prep rice and vegetables for the week, I make sure to have things like pre-cooked chicken, beef, and meatballs in the freezer. I usually keep a batch of turkey meatballs and beef meatballs frozen and thaw as needed. I also cook ground beef with peppers and onions and freeze in bags to use for spaghetti, tacos, lasagna, and more. Chicken is easy to cook in the oven, cool, and freeze in individual servings to be de-thawed as necessary. Having these things in your freezer can be added to your weekly prepped items, like rice and roasted vegetables, for a quick lunch or dinner. Keeping canned goods (like black beans, corn, and chickpeas) on hand can also be a quick addition. 

When you meal prep ahead of time, you save yourself time and you save money. None of these items are particularly expensive and if you shop sales, you can get good deals on ground beef and ground turkey to cook in advance. 

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What Do You Eat for Dinner?

I recently read an article about at-home meal kits, like Blue Apron and Plate. The idea behind these kits is to provide families and individuals with the ingredients necessary to try new meals. Why? Because the average American family eats out about 18 times a month and otherwise, they cycle through about 10 meals that they cook consistently over and over again. 

That fact--that the average family cycles through about 10 meals that they always cook--made me think about what my meal staples are. When the going gets rough and I don't feel like cooking, what do I make? 

  1. Spaghetti. I would say that some form of spaghetti or pasta is on everyone's list of "go-to meals." It might be spaghetti with red sauce (like me) or alfredo or lasagna or something like that, but pasta is on nearly everyone's list in one form of another. 
  2. Salmon with rice & sweet potatoes. This is a pretty standard protein+carb+veggie dish that I make all the time... and I'm sure others do. 
  3. Barbecue chicken sandwiches with coleslaw. This is one of Danny and I's absolute favorite summer meals that we can make a variation of throughout the year thanks to my crockpot. However, after getting pregnant, I couldn't handle shredded chicken so we hadn't enjoyed it for a while. 
  4. Tacos or burritos. Another very standard staple. I use fat free refried beans and ground beef to make a filling that's great for tacos, burritos, salads, etc. 
  5. Pizza/calzone. I make a pretty awesome pizza dough (it's very easy), so I make pizza or calzone at least once a week or so. It's a great way to get the pizza fix without buying a pizza. This way, I can make it a little healthier. 
  6. Hamburgers with box mac & cheese. This is probably the unhealthiest thing in my rotation, but I just love that orange box mac & cheese. 
  7. Grilled cheese & soup. Soups are usually stew; chili; veggie; or potato. Usually homemade, but occasionally I buy potato soup. 
  8. Breakfast for dinner. Pancakes or waffles, eggs, and bacon is my usual go-to for a quick and easy dinner. But if I feel like getting crazy, I will sometimes make biscuits and sausage gravy or some kind of fancy omelette. 

That's it. I can't even think of 10! I have 8 meals I usually make for Danny and I. I can think of some I make a few times a year, like rouladen and colcannon or flautas, but aren't "staples" quite the way these ones are. 

Writing these down made me realize how much I need to add variety to our dinners. (Full disclosure: from February to May, I think I cooked a real dinner twice. And that was because other people were coming over.) I have so many cookbooks that I never use. Maybe it's time to put them to use...

What are your go-to meals? Can you think of 10?