What comes to mind when you think of Fall? For me it’s the scent of crisp apples, warm colors–red, gold, burnt orange, and the nip in the air in the early morning. Fall is my favorite season! Here in New England, we love the festivities that autumn brings–hay rides at local farm fairs, cinnamon spiced cider, and of course pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins! Just thinking about it makes me want to grab a slice of pie.
It’s also the time of year when we love to get cozy–swapping out cotton tees for brushed flannels, and pairing leggings with various heights of suede, leather, or vegan boots. We feather our nests with freshly laundered throws in anticipation of Netflix nights. Our salad cravings give way to warmer indulgences.
But Fall is not all warm and fuzzy. Those of us with kiddos in the house are also distinctly aware that it comes with a catch: back to school. (Oh, the grade schoolers’ groaning and teenagers’ door slams!) Inching back from late bedtimes and summer days filled with popsicles and play dates is no small feat. And the reintroduction of homework is often enough to bring everyone to tears–parents included!
Getting back on a regular schedule can be really challenging. The shorter days can affect our mood and productivity, adding to the difficulty. So, how might we head into Fall to maximize its gifts while easing into its demands?
START WITH WHAT YOU LOVE
Attitude can be everything. Remember the fairs and pie? Bringing mindfulness to our Fall favorites helps us focus on what we love about the season. Schedule the road trip to go apple picking. Look up the county fair dates. Get that ginger pudding recipe from your co-worker. Personally, my attitude improves exponentially when I have something to look forward to.
Having a few fun activities on the calendar can also help those aforementioned kiddos keep moving: “Yes, your AP Chem teacher is THE WORST for scheduling a test tomorrow. Text a friend, we’ll go to the Fryeburg Fair this weekend.” (For more parenting tips/bribes, follow me.)
Perhaps leaf peeping is more your speed. Is there a little B&B you adore in the White Mountains/VT/insert your scenic locale of choice? How about a relaxing grown ups only weekend to connect with one another under a canopy of colorful fall foliage? Or a glamping trip with cool hikes? You could take the dog on those trails in your neighborhood you’ve been meaning to investigate. What is important is that you find joy in the activity. Sometimes simply having tea with a good friend is just what we need to stay grounded.
Think about what you love, and give yourself those gifts in a tangible way.
A LITTLE ORGANIZATION CAN HELP
Admittedly, I am Type A. (Full disclosure: I’ve already ordered myself a 2024 Tomoe River paper planner because that’s how I roll.) If you are a free spirit who can get by on your wit and the good vibes of your ancestors, feel free to skip this discussion on organizational tools.
I have found it to be generally true that a little organization on the front end can help avoid frustration when in the thick of things. Using a personal planner to keep track of responsibilities and commitments can be a useful starting place. A planner–whether paper or electronic–is a purposeful tool to make our lives easier. I think of it as a sort of ‘home base’ where I can revisit appointments, readjust plans as needed, set goals, etc. Along with being useful for us as individuals, for those who care for aging parents or who juggle the schedules of multiple children, a planner is indispensable.
It’s also worth noting that besides keeping appointments, there are planners geared towards personal reflection, as well as journaling or creating art. So beyond keeping us organized, a planner can help us check in with ourselves–which is always a healthy practice. I find that when my schedule is particularly busy, it helps me to follow through on taking restorative breaks when I’ve penciled them in.
Paper planners can be as basic as a spiral bound Blue Sky, or the well-known Moleskine. There are different types of paper for an upscale experience, like Tomoe River paper–which is used by Hobonichi. The styles and layouts across various brands are really endless.
Apps, too, are available for every niche. For example, I recently learned that there are organizational apps geared specifically for those with ADHD. My husband has taken to using Microsoft To Do, but there are a wide variety of types based on specific needs. For students, apps like Google Calendar or iHomework2, the latter of which actually helps with accomplishing longer term assignments, can assist with staying on target. Strides is one of many personal goal setting apps available that allows you to set goals at your own pace.
As we get back into regular routines this Fall, it’s a great time to organize our schedules, create goals, and continue (or start new) healthy habits.
Summer may be over, but spending time outdoors is ideally something we take advantage of year round. The health benefits that come with being out in nature have been well documented. For example, in Japan, the term “Forest bathing”–shinrin-yoku–emerged in the 1980’s to combat tech fatigue and encourage residents to reconnect with the country’s national forests. By the 90’s, there was ample evidence to support the benefits of this form of ecotherapy. Spending time in nature was linked to lowered stress and anxiety levels, a more robust immune system, elevated mood, increased energy and focus, and decreased blood pressure.
Fun fact: the phytoncides that trees produce not only have antibacterial and antifungal properties that help them fight disease, but when we breathe these chemicals in, our own bodies begin to increase our production and quantity of powerful disease fighting cells (called NK or “Natural Killer” cells) that fight viruses and tumors. Thank you, Mother Nature!
It isn’t necessary to have access to an entire forest to reap these health benefits. A nature bath can be enjoyed wherever there are a few trees, and where we can be mindful of our surroundings–our backyard, a local park, a nature reserve or trail system.
An example of a 5-10 minute nature bath: (For maximum benefit, stow electronics away.)
- Sit (or walk) with openness and intention. Become aware of all that is available to your senses: the feeling of sunlight on your skin, a gentle breeze, perhaps the scent of cedar, the flutter of birds as they chirp from higher branches, the soft moss growing near the tree roots…
- Consider your connection to this living world as you take it in.
- Become mindful of your breath.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Take a deep breath in from your belly, hold a moment, then release the breath slowly. Notice your muscles relaxing and your mind begin to quiet. Another deep breath in, hold, then release.
- Allow yourself to feel supported by the earth beneath you.
- Let your brow relax. Keep breathing–slow, deep breaths.
- Know that you are part of this beauty.
- Inhale clean, clear air, exhale any tightness or stress in your body. Repeat as many times as you wish.
- Slowly become aware again of your surroundings–the trees, the birds, the dappled sunlight.
- Let your breath become regular, as you bring that feeling of calm with you throughout your day.
Guided meditations for nature bathing are available online, and it’s also worth a google search to see what in person experiences might be offered in your area. For those here on the seacoast, Wells Reserve at Laudholm has held Fall guided forest bathing on their trails in past years.
Two reminders: after any outdoor activity, remember those tick checks! Also, it’s time to restart taking Vitamin D. The more subtle autumn sun is not enough by itself to keep us at healthy levels here in New England. QFH recommends a vitamin D supplement from now until late Spring.
CROCKPOT SAVES THE DAY
If I had personal headlines running through my mind, this is a story that would be featured repeatedly. A slow cooker, IMHO, is a must have…especially for those of us living where the temperatures trend downward as Fall sets in. For one thing, who doesn’t love coming home from a busy day to dinner already being done? Preparing a meal earlier on when we have more energy can make the process more enjoyable. Having a meal ready to go at day’s end also increases the likelihood that we will eat something nutritious, as we won’t be tempted to munch on sea salt and vinegar potato chips instead of cooking. (Anyone?! Just me?)
The cooler months are a perfect time to start making comforting one pot meals: chilis, stews, soups… We can play with seasonal squash offerings: butternut or pumpkin squash adds depth to stews and soups.
If your slow cooker is of the Instant Pot varieties, the pressure cook setting opens up even more options. Making a vegetable or chicken rice/noodle soup can be done super fast. This is handy on days when prepping food in the morning wasn’t an option. (See: Sleeping Through My Alarm.) To maximize time efficiency, I put the broth into the pot and set it on “Saute” (my machine’s high heat setting) so that the liquid will be nice and hot by the time I’m ready to add the chopped veggies. Using leftover/precooked chicken means less cooking time as well. Once everything is in the Instant Pot, it only takes 7-12 minutes on high pressure for the soup to cook–depending upon the ingredients and what size the chopped vegetables are.
Summer must inevitably come to a close, but autumn offers its own brand of warmth. It’s a season of becoming cozy, renewing (or beginning) healthy routines, enjoying vibrant colors and spices, and making soothing comfort food.
As we head into Fall, may we enjoy in good health all that it has to offer.
From our Quinn Family Health family to yours,
Front Desk Staff
GLUTEN FREE PUMPKIN PANCAKES (King Arthur Baking. Kathryn likes to add grated apple to the mixture.)
GLUTEN FREE SHEPHERD’S PIE (Gluten Free & More)
CREAMY CHICKEN POT PIE SOUP (A favorite of Rachel’s)
- 2-3 cooked and shredded chicken breasts
- 32 oz chicken bone broth
- 2 cans of Pacific Foods organic cream of chicken soup
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3-4 stalks celery, chopped
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 bag frozen peas
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 or 3 potatoes, sliced and diced
- Bayleaves (2-3)
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1.5 tsp dried)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Juice of half a lemon
- Cornstarch slurry
Saute onions, garlic and celery until soft — add to crockpot.
Add all other veggies, chicken, broth and herbs to the crockpot, stir well.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8.
Before serving, add slurry to the bubbling crockpot, stir well. Then add juice of half a lemon to brighten flavors, remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Serve with cornbread or biscuits, if desired.
GLUTEN FREE ROASTED SQUASH SOUP (Taste tested by Nancy)
- 1 butternut squash (2.5 lbs)
- 1 C chopped onion
- 1 tbsp minced fresh sage OR 1 tsp rubbed sage
- Pinch ground allspice
- 2 tbsp butter or margarine (or vegan margarine)
- 4 C chicken broth*
- 1 small, tart apple, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ tsp lemon OR lime juice
- Pepper to taste
- ⅓ C sour cream**
- ½ tsp lemon OR lime juice
- ¼ tsp grated lemon OR lime peel
*Vegetable broth can be substituted for vegans/vegetarians.
**Plant based or lactose free sour cream can be substituted, if desired.
Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place squash cut side down in a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until tender.
When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash. Place squash in a bowl and mash; set aside.
In a large saucepan, saute onion, sage and allspice in butter until tender. Add broth and apple. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer until the apple is tender, about 8 minutes. Add reserved squash. Simmer for 5 minutes longer. Cool until lukewarm.
Process in small batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. (Or use a hand blender to process.) Return to the pan. Add the lemon juice and pepper. Heat through.
Combine topping ingredients. Place a dollop on each serving.