Fall 2020 To-Do List

Fall is officially here! I love the changing of the seasons, and there always seems to be an extra pep in my step when the cool mornings of fall begin to descend upon us (which, of course, sometimes doesn’t come until October here in Raleigh!). I have long adored making seasonal to-do lists (see my fall 2019, fall 2018fall 2017fall 2015fall 2014fall 2013 lists here), and this year is no exception! I have to admit, it makes me a little sad to think that autumn will be a bit different than we usually know it. I don’t see too many grand adventures or large gatherings with friends or big travels being taken, at least for us. As much as I wish we could do all of our usual fall traditions, we are still plan on making this season memorable, meaningful, and filled with as many happy new memories as we can! We also plan on spending as much time outdoors as possible before the cold of winter sets in and to soak up all this glorious season has to offer.

Autumn is definitely one of my favorite times of the year, and there is much to look forward to with the changing seasons. Now that it’s officially fall, I’m ready to welcome it with open arms! I adore the crisp air and crunchy leaves, the vibrant trees and leaves, anything and everything pumpkin and apple, constantly being outside enjoying the season, trips to the mountains, red wine and hot apple cider, the upcoming holidays… there is so much to look forward to as the season changes!

Fall 2020 Bucket List

  • visit the mountains for two day trips and to enjoy the fall foliage
  • decorate our house and front porch for fall
  • go apple picking
  • host a chili dinner party on our deck
  • go for lots of walks and play tennis a couple times a week
  • enjoy our football Sunday traditions together
  • go to the farmers market and cook a special seasonal meal together
  • enjoy mornings and dinners on our deck
  • go hiking amongst the autumn leaves
  • make “thankful” treats for friends & family for Thanksgiving
  • celebrate Thanksgiving with family that we haven’t seen in almost a year!!
  • bake several pumpkin and apple recipes (I have a long list already made!) and share with friends and neighbors
  • make mulled red wine and salted caramel apple cider

It’s a little hard to see so many of our favorite fall adventures and trips removed from our usual to-do list, but we still plan on embracing this season, finding ways to be creative, finding joy, and having as much fun as we can while making new memories!

What are you most looking forward to this fall? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

If you want to host a fall dinner party or cook my favorite fall recipes or throw a chili + cornbread party – then don’t miss these wonderful posts from years past!

Flowers at the NC Museum of Art

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The glorious flower fields are in bloom at the NC Museum of Art! The NCMA is one of our very favorite spots in all of Raleigh, and though the museum itself is still closed, the spacious parks, greenways, and fields are wide open for use. We go to the NCMA all the time, and in more normal times, we love visiting the art museum, taking visitors from out of town here, and enjoying movies in the park on summertime weekends. Thankfully, we can still enjoy the copious amounts of outdoor space, and the NCMA was our very first destination in mid-July when we finally left our neighborhood.

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Last summer, the NCMA planted thousands of sunflowers, and it was the perfect spot to enjoy the bright blooming sunflowers away from too many crowds (as opposed to Dorothea Dix Park, which I adore but was so much more crowded!). It felt like our own secret sunflower field when we went a couple times last summer!

This summer, we’ve enjoyed a few long walks around the greenways and paths, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting any blooms in the flower fields. I was so, so pleased to see that the NCMA planted not only sunflowers but zinnias and cosmos, as well! The colorful, towering flower fields are a sight to behold and such a beautiful burst of color. I adore sunflowers in the summertime (and has been hoping we’d get to see some this summer), and cosmos are a lofelong favorite flower, as they always remind me of my grandpa, since he had an abundance of cosmos in their garden every summer. Seeing the vibrant cosmos and zinnias juxtaposed with the yellow, orange, and red sunflowers just takes your breath away and is even more impressive in person!

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We have gone a couple times already over the past two weeks, and I can’t recommend a trip enough! It feels so good to get some fresh air, admire such simple and sweet beauty, go for a walk, and bonus: it has been so, so quiet and empty when we’ve gone! When we went for the first time, there was one other person in the entire field, and he was still at least a hundred yards away. Butterflies were flitting around everywhere, which makes it even more magical. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the spacious park, put on your running shoes, take your dog for a walk, and enjoy some time in beautiful nature… just minutes from downtown Raleigh!

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You can easily find the flowering fields when you arrive to the NC Museum of Art. Basically, find the main walking paths that lead down the big hill by the open fields. There are the three towering terracotta-colored rings (we jokingly call them onion rings), and the flowering fields are just past the three massive rings down to the right. You can’t really miss it!

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Articles Club

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I realized I haven’t actually written a blog post on Articles Club since we launched it over five years ago! After having a few requests to share more about it and how to start your own, it is time to happily oblige and share more about one of my very  favorite evenings each month!

I first learned about the idea of an Articles Club from the blog Cup of Jo, way back in 2014. I lived in Washington, DC at the time, and my friends and I decided to start our own articles club there. We met monthly til I moved, and they continue to meet all of these years later! I was very involved in a book club during my six years in DC (which is also still going strong), and I thought it would be really fun to do something similar – yet different – with another group of friends in DC. I love reading books and read 72 each year, on average, but not everyone has the time or desire to commit to reading so many books. What is an Articles Club, you ask?! Essentially, it’s a book club… but with articles instead of books! Every month, we gather together and discuss 2-4 articles on a given subject that’s been decided together in advance. An articles club is the perfect blend and a much shorter time commitment to prepare for meeting: simply reading a few articles beforehand, which could easily be done during your lunch break or on the metro to your destination!

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When I moved to Raleigh in 2015, I knew I wanted to have an articles club here, and I also wanted to meet new friends who had similar interests. I reached out to my friend Emily (we had known each other online before my move) to see if she was interested in hosting an articles club with me, and the rest, as they say, is history! Emily and I each shared about the articles club online and invited strangers to be a part of our little group. It worked out better than we ever could have dreamed, and in October, we will be celebrating five whole years (and not a month missed!) of our beloved articles club! These strangers have become the dearest of friends, for sure.

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It’s hard to put into words just how special articles club has become and how much these friends mean to me. It really is one of my very favorite evenings of every month and is such a highlight of life in Raleigh. Almost every one of these ladies became a dear friend simply through articles club, as I didn’t know most of them before it. I treasure these friendships and our time together every month, and articles club is so highly anticipated. From the gathering of friends to the delicious meals we share to gathering around the table together to laughing and talking for hours, every get together is magical. I am incredibly grateful for each lady’s friendship, laughter, insight, wisdom, thoughts, experiences, and love. I learn so much from them and am a better and more loving, open-minded, thoughtful person because of it. Most of us have been around since the very beginning five years ago, and a lot of life has been lived together over the years: from first babies to second babies to dating/engagements/weddings/marriages to new jobs and some moves (we miss those friends so much!) and everything in between. It is a joy to walk through life with one another, and I can’t adequately express just how much these friends mean to me!

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Here’s how to host your own articles club:

Just do it!! Jump right in and start one today, even if it’s meeting virtually for now. I’m not too shy about meeting new people or getting something started, and I would encourage you to begin anywhere and dive right in. Don’t be too nervous about whether things are perfect, if anyone will want to be a part, or anything else: it’s so, so worth it to put ourselves out there, to try to build community and make new friends, to open our schedules and hearts to new experiences, and to try something you may be afraid to start!

I’d also go into it with a fairly solid game plan: if you’d like to share hosting duties, find a co-host or friend to coordinate and plan with! Decide how many people you’d ideally like to have (and how many can fit in your space). We have about 12 very, very active articles club members and usually 10 come each month. Anywhere from 4-10 sounds like an ideal number to me: it’s so much more about the community, conversation, and developing friendships than the number present.

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Decide where and when you’ll meet. I know times are so uncertain and abnormal right now, and gathering is so much harder to do than ever before, but find something that works for you and is allowed. Before the pandemic, Emily and I alternated hosting every month. We typically meet on the second Tuesday of each month (occasionally it’s the third Tuesday), so everyone knows to keep that Tuesday open. We both love hosting and inviting friends into our homes, so we have both been very glad to have articles club in our houses (pre-pandemic, of course). We figured it was easier to alternate between two locations than to constantly rotate amongst everyone’s homes or to have one person host every single month. We live about thirty minutes apart, so my house is closer for some ladies and her house is closer for others. Find what works best for you! Since March, we have been meeting online every month at our normal time, and while that’s been great… it’s just not the same. A couple days ago, we finally decided it was time to meet together in person and see each other face to face! We decided to meet at a very large, spacious park in Raleigh, bring our own blankets or chairs, sit 6+ feet apart from one another and have masks, bring our own dinners and drinks, and be especially cautious in this day and age. It was 100% worth it to gather (safely) in person, and it was a magical evening being back together in person! So whatever you need to do to be safe and cautious about gathering, it will be worth it. I’m so, so glad we haven’t let the pandemic diminish our friendship or our time together!

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In pre-pandemic times, we gather at 7:30pm at either mine or Emily’s house, and everyone brings an item for dinner! At the previous month’s articles club, we decide which date we’ll gather the following month, what our general theme of the next month’s articles will be and who will choose the articles, and decide what our dinner theme will be.

For the first 1.5 years or so, we just did appetizers, desserts, and drinks, and making the switch to dinner was one of the best things we’ve ever done. There’s just something about gathering around the table with dear friends for a few hours and sharing a meal and conversation with one another. It feels so much more intimate and fosters even better conversation, for sure. I send out a Sign-Up Genius a few weeks prior to our articles club with the dinner theme, and everyone signs up for one or two items (main dish, sides, drinks, and/or dessert). It’s worked out incredibly well for us… and it’s a totally judgment-free zone! Store bought items are perfect, while others have more time (if they work from home or don’t have children) or desire to cook something from scratch. Either way, every month is the best meal, truly! We always joke that we need to write a cookbook together, as we’ve had exceptional dishes and meals every single time. We often coincide our dinner themes with the articles we’re reading or the season. Some of our dinner themes include: Mexican night, Asian food, a British tea party, salads, family recipes, summer cookouts, Thanksgiving food, Greek food, a baked potato bar, a mac and cheese bar, cheese and charcuterie boards, soup and salads, and dozens of other delicious and fun meals.

Some of the fascinating topics that we’ve discussed over the years include:

family, friendship, mindfulness, kids and technology, etiquette, relationships, poverty, money, work and the gender gap, aging and dying, minimalism, self-improvement, the Enneagram (comes up all the time!), patriotism, routines, race in America, sustainable fashion, parenting now, the magic of summer, being stuck, how our families shape us, being a nuanced American, books and reading, raising curious kids, blogging and privacy, millennial burnout, becoming a parent (or not), the worth of work, and so much more!

Whoever chooses the 2-4 articles for the month typically comes prepared with a couple questions to get us going… but we honestly could talk for many hours straight and our conversation and discussion is very, very organic and natural.

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Emily has done an excellent job of recapping and directly linking all of the articles we’ve read over the last five years, and I’d love to share those with you:

year 1

year 2

year 3

year 4

year 5: coming soon!

Here’s to embracing a fun new venture all of those years ago, great articles that foster conversation and learning, delicious meals and gathering around the table, magical evenings together, and to strangers turned friends that remind you of the very best parts of life!