Mary’s Christmas Playlist

In the midst of all the negativity surrounding the election and my Facebook feed, my hope is that this post brings you a little joy.

It’s November! This means we are even closer to it being Christmas and I’m allowed to play Christmas music in my apartment when Bret is home! (Even though I started playing it when he wasn’t home in mid-October).

As I mentioned before, the time period between October to December is my favorite time of year. I think it’s partly because the music is the BEST!

However, Christmas music has meant a lot more to me lately than it has in years past. Every day I log onto my computer and see the latest news surrounding the protests. As I stated in my previous post, this saddens me. Therefore, I have relied on Christmas music to cheer me up. All day, every day.

I am serious when I say I listen to Christmas music all the time. I listen in the car, at work, when studying, while cleaning, and when I’m just trying to relax. I can do this because I have several different Pandora stations that help put me in the Christmas mood.

Need to study? Listen to instrumental Christmas music. Need to clean? Listen to classic Christmas music. Need to relax? Listen to Christmas music centered around Jesus.

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So without further ado….

Here are my top ten favorite songs for the Christmas season that I constantly have on repeat:

10. “A Soldier’s Silent Night” by Mannheim Steamroller & Father Ted Berndt
The first time I heard this on the radio, my Mom and I fell silent and were crying by the end of it. A beautiful poem by Lance Corporal James Schmidt depicts Santa finding a solider sleeping in an apartment with nothing, not even a bed. I can’t begin to describe how much I love this poem and song.

9. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra
Oh, Frank. Who doesn’t love Frank Sinatra?! His voice just fits this song so wonderfully; it’s a Christmas classic. This song always makes me want to grab a mug of peppermint hot chocolate, curl up on the couch with the Christmas tree lit, and read a book. When this song is on, I know it’s Christmas!

8. “The Christmas Canon” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
I love instrumental musical, especially Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller. But this version of Pachelbel’s Canon in D is just beautiful and has me doing my best impersonation of a conductor.

7. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Michael Buble
I love Mariah’s version but there is something so pure and real about Michael’s version. This is one song I always love singing along to when it comes on my Pandora station. When I hear Mariah’s version, I think of the movie Love Actually and it makes me want to dance around the room. But hearing Michael’s version make me feel the realness of what someone with a broken heart is feeling around the holidays.

6.Β “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Casting Crowns
I never really cared for this song until I heard Casting Crowns version. The piano in the beginning and background choir really elevate it to a beautiful rendition. I also just love Mark Hall’s voice. Casting Crowns’ entire Christmas album, Peace on Earth, is a season favorite and constantly on repeat.

5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Josh Groban
I love every rendition of this song but especially Josh’s rendition. I love when Josh Groban sings anything because his voice is perfect. But this song has always had a special place in my heart. When I was in high school, I sang this song as a solo in a Christmas musical. Then, in my first year of college, I sent my mom a video of snowing falling while I sang this. I could not wait to be home for Christmas that year. This song always reminds me that no matter where I am or what stage of life I am in, I will always be home for Christmas.

4. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
Ah, the quintessential Christmas song! I grew up watching White Christmas and it will always be my favorite Christmas movie. I just love the ending when Bing, Rosemary, Danny, and Vera-Ellen come out in Santa suits and dresses singing this song. This song always puts me in a joyous mood.

3. “Joseph’s Lullaby” by MercyMe
Most Christmas songs are about Jesus or Mary, but rarely do you find one about Joseph. Growing up, I never really thought about Joseph or his role in Jesus’ life. But when I heard this song my first year of college, it made me look at Joseph in a different light. This song is beautiful and is a reminder of the impact Jesus had on Joseph, not just Mary.

2. “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)” by Amy Grant
I cannot imagine how scared Mary must have been when she was told she would give birth to Jesus. I love this song because it’s not a traditional Christmas song. It really makes you think about Mary as a scared young woman who is pleading for the Lord to help her, to guide her, and give her strength. It’s a song I can definitely relate to, as I constantly find myself praying for similar things.

1. “O Holy Night” by Celine Dion
This song is by far my favorite no matter who sings it. However, Celine sings it with a certain je ne sais quoi. Her rendition is beautiful and has, on occasion, caused dust to find its way into my eyes…


As an added bonus, here are my three favorite Pandora Christmas stations to listen to:

Christmas Radio
This station is full of the classic Christmas songs sung by the original artists to more contemporary artists.
Good for cleaning because most of the songs are upbeat and easy to sing along to!

MercyMe (Holiday) Radio
I love this station because it’s more centered on songs about Christ and Mary, usually sung by Christian artists and bands.
Good for relaxing and remembering why Jesus is the reason for the season!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Holiday) Radio
This station is primarily instrumental holiday music. I love to play this station when I’m cleaning because the music is more upbeat and fast paced.
Good for studying or quiet time! (Also can be good for cleaning because there are some upbeat instrumental songs)


Hopefully you like my top ten and if you haven’t heard a song or two, give them a listen!

Let me know what your favorite Christmas songs are in the comments below!

The Great Divide

I sat in Wills & Trusts on the night of Nov. 8, half paying attention to the professor and half paying attention to the three internet tabs I had open to Fox, CNN, and Yahoo.

I watched in disbelief as Trump’s electoral number rose. My professor had started the class by saying he wanted to get through the material quickly because the world was changing while we sat in our bubble learning the law.

When class finished 15 minutes early, my professor immediately asked what the count was. Three people, including myself, chimed in saying that Trump was leading the polls. He asked the status of several states, Florida, Ohio, the Carolinas, Michigan, all of which were headed towards Trump but had not been called.

The look on his face was that of shock, but there was wisdom in his eyes. He came over to where we sat and looked at our computer screens while telling us, “I knew this would happen.” But his tone was not that of a Trump supporter who knew Trump would win. He spoke as a once Bernie-turned-Hillary supporter who knew the DNC had done wrong in picking her.

We all sat and watched the popular votes climb for both candidates. My professor bid us goodnight and I raced home to continue watching this historic night.

We all know what happened next. Trump won.

If you are reading this with the thought that I will reveal who I voted for, you are mistaken. While I have my very strong opinions, I do not plan on adding to the fire of the Trump and Clinton supporters. This platform will not be used to gloat, it will not be used to mourn.

What prompts this post is not who won, but rather how the world is handling the news.


I love politics. I come from a family who was involved in politics and who loves to research and talk about it. My grandfather was an Assemblyman for California, and my dad was heavily involved in our community. My brother, the genius of the family, loves to research candidates and read about past presidents. He may not talk a lot, but when he does, I listen.

My family is also historically conservative and Republican. However, the rising generation (i.e. my cousins and siblings) have not all followed this rhetoric. This hasn’t created a divide in our family. At dinner, my dad can still sit in peace with my siblings without getting into a heated argument over candidates.

However, my family does not vote a red ticket. My dad once asked my grandfather (the Assemblyman) if he only voted for the Republican. To my dad’s disbelief, my grandfather responded that he votes for the candidate best suited for the position. Since then, my dad has done the same, and has taught me to do the same.

As I said before, I love politics. But by that, I mean I love our country and our history. I love learning about presidents and what they accomplished during their term. I like knowing what is going on in the world, with our foreign relations, and, in general, the political history of some of the greatest nations in the world.

I do not enjoy how politics changes people.

During the summer between my second and third year of college, I interned for a Congressman and State Senator. During my time with the Congressman, there was a protest; one of the protesters happened to be my fourth grade teacher. While hugging me, she asked me why I was working for him and how I should be ashamed.

I do not understand how people can preach tolerance, when they themselves are not tolerant.


I attend one of the most diverse law schools in the country. I love my school and am very happy I chose to go here. While here, I have come to know so many people from all different backgrounds and cultures. I have learned things that I could never read in a book.

However, this election has changed that. I was afraid to go to school on Wednesday after the election. Not because of who won, but because of how people had been handling it.

As I watched Trump’s victory speech and my Facebook feed, I became nervous.

My Facebook friends were outraged. People who don’t normally post political posts, were coming out and exclaiming their anger. Friends, my friends, were saying such hurtful things, things I didn’t think they were capable of.

Before the election, there were a select few outspoken Clinton supporters. One, in particular, posted memes about Christians, because clearly all Republicans are the same. While the memes bothered me, and I could have corrected him several times, I chose not to get involved.

But I sat in bed staring at my computer while Bret slept and thought, “I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.”

There was one open Trump supporter at my school. She was ridiculed to filth. So if that’s how my friends treated someone different before the election, how would they treat some one after the election?

I arrived at my 11:15 am class and there was a select number of people talking about the election. One of those was the person I previously mentioned (the Christian meme guy). This group of people said they hoped they didn’t see the Trump supporter today, because if they did, there is no telling what they’d do or say to her.

I sat at my desk and looked down at my phone. I wasn’t even looking at anything. I wanted to cry. Not because I’m a Trump or Clinton supporter, but because people were so hateful.


I don’t understand, and may never understand, why this election has turned to hate. I understand the view that Trump “started it” because of things he has said and done, but that does not give anyone else the right to act similarly.

I’m mostly confused because the people who are preaching tolerance and love are projecting hate and fear.

So in this time of need, I do what I always do. I turn to Jesus.

On Election Day, I found myself praying constantly. I prayed for the winner, I prayed for the loser. I prayed for my friends and family. I prayed for people I didn’t even know. I prayed for the health and safety of our nation.

But after the election, I find myself praying for Jesus to find himself in the hearts of those who do not know him.

As I watch these riots on Facebook and Snapchat, I shake my head and a little piece of my heart gets chipped away. This is Satan’s work. Satan is driving a wedge between Trump supporters and the rest of the nation. He is causing a fraction so deep that the amount of good and love that would be needed to fix it is insurmountable.

After Trump won, people said “How am I going to wake my child up in the morning and tell them he won?” or “How am I supposed to raise my child in a country he runs?”

I don’t have a child, but I have a niece. She is my best friend and is basically the little sister I never had. She’s the one I think about in situations when parents think about their children.

However, my thoughts are not those that are shared by my fellow Americans. I do not fear the idea of my niece being raised in a country Trump runs.

No, my first thought is, “How do we (my family) raise a child in a country so full of hate and intolerance?”

My niece is a beautiful, creative individual. She is different from all her friends because of her kind heart, modern 80’s clothing choices, and love of cats. Her heart is so pure. I cry knowing she has to witness this much hate in the world.

In elementary school, she was bullied by other students and girls she thought were her friends were constantly mean to her. She would come to me and ask why. Why the hate? Back then, it was hard for me to witness her go through that. But now?

All that comes to mind is: hurt people hurt people.

People who have been hurt continue the cycle by hurting others. As someone who has been bullied and sexually assaulted, I try to break the cycle every day of my life.

I was raised as a Christian, but didn’t truly find God until two years ago when I sat on my bed covered in my blood. I found Jesus by climbing out of the deep, dark pit Satan had thrown me into. My world was full of hate and fear, not for others, but for myself.

I have overcome so much to be where I am today, and I don’t want the reactions and riots of this election to reverse that progress. It truly breaks my heart to see my friends being ridiculed for their presidential choice by my other friends who oppose their views.


I love this country and I love its people. But I love Jesus more.

As we all watch the country get overrun by turmoil and hate by our fellow Americans, I pray Jesus finds his way into their hearts. I pray they realize what is more important in life. I pray their hearts change to become more inclusive and tolerant of opposing opinions. I pray we can come together and move forward during this time, because it’s hard on everyone, not just one group of people.

I may not know you or your story or your views, but I love you. I have never hated anyone (you can ask my mom). There has always been love in my heart for all. So if you feel like you have no one because the president-elect is going to change everything, you have me. You have Jesus. Trump may be president, come January. But always remember who is King.

Love always,
Mary

October in Review

Hey y’all!

What a first week of November it has been! I spent most of it sick and unable to get out of bed (sleep, tea, and Gilmore Girls are the best remedy). But I am back, and I have a lot of fun posts planned.

At the beginning of each month I plan on reviewing the activities of the previous month. Starting with this one!


Oct 1: I got to spend some time with my sister’s cats! Jack (the black cat) and Oliver, aka Ollie (the orange cat). Ollie is basically my best friend.

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Oct 8: My dad and I took a day trip to Arizona for a funeral. We left San Diego at 3:30 AM to make it to the church by 10 AM (we arrived at 9:10 AM). Although we were going to say goodbye to a family member, we got to see my cousin, Clark, in the afternoon. He took us to Topgolf! Let me tell you, that is one cool place!

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Oct 11: If you read my post from this day, you’ll remember that Oct 11 would have been my Grandma’s 100th birthday. That morning, Bret and I went to the beach with coffee and donuts to celebrate her life. It was the perfect way to start the day.

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Oct 17: I love painting my nails! And, on this day, I finally learned how to paint cheetah nails!!!! I was so excited! I literally did not want to wash them off. They were so cute! I have a subscription to Julep, where I get nail polish every month. Find out more here!

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Oct 23: BATES NUT FARM!! I did a whole post on this day (here). This really was one fun day!! I loved spending time with my family picking out pumpkins!

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Oct 29: For Bret’s birthday (back in July), I bought us tickets to see two of our favorite bands: Shinedown and Five Finger Death Punch….yes, I like hard rock and heavy metal. It was, by far, the best concert I have been! Shinedown used pyrotechnics and 5FDP had a really light show and the drummer had an amazing solo.

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Oct 31: Our Halloween plans consisted of dressing up and passing out candy to the kids who came to our door. We dressed as our vision of human Jack and Sally from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Bret even asked for make-up! Our costumes were a hit with the kids and their parents, especially since our pumpkins matched us. For dinner we went to Panda Express in costume…everyone stared at us. Oh well!

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Well, that is it for October! I cannot believe it is already over and we are in November. It won’t be too long until Thanksgiving arrives. If you didn’t already know, I get a little excited for Christmas, so we’ve already pulled out our tree. (Don’t judge!)

When do you and your family decorate for Christmas? Before or after Thanksgiving?

The Pumpkin King & Queen

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Y’ALL!!
First of all, I hope you have a spooky day filled with pumpkin flavored goodies, clever costumes, and enough candy to keep your dentist in business.

After our fun adventure at Bates Nut Farm, we finally carved our pumpkins!

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Bret was kind enough to clean the dirt off our pumpkins, and then we were ready to work. I set up our stations on our dining room table. I opted to keep the table cloth on the table, and instead put plastic wrap and tin foil down so we didn’t make a huge mess (this was also very easy to clean up!).

We cut the tops of our pumpkins and gutted out the inside. We both scraped our pumpkin so you could not even see a piece of the pumpkin gut that had once inhabited it.

I thought of our pumpkin design, which I won’t tell you now. You’ll just have to wait and see how they turned out!

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mary-carving

I was really excited about this carving time. One, because I love carving pumpkins. Two years ago I decided to try a new technique: shaving. Instead of going through the pumpkin completely, you shave down a piece. This creates a really cool effect, almost like a shadow. The pumpkin below was the first pumpkin where I used this technique. My design is of a mason jar with fireflies flying around it.

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Bret’s design didn’t call for any shaving…which was probably good because this was only the second time he’s ever carved a pumpkin. The first time was when he was 14 years old! Ten years ago!!!! I almost fell out of my chair. But then I had to remind myself that he came from a family that didn’t celebrate holidays.

And now time for the big reveal, drum roll please!

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I think our pumpkins turned out great! I’m really proud of the work we both did. Bret did the top design and I did the bottom.

If you are not sure of who our designs are of, check out Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. It is a 90s stop-motion animated film that is simply wonderful. It’s constantly playing at our house for two reasons: (1) the music is my favorite, and (2) it’s a combination of Halloween and Christmas so you can watch it all season long!

Did you and your family carve a pumpkin this year? What are your plans for Halloween?
I hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!

Our First Pumpkin Patch

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This holiday season has been more exciting than past years.

Why, Mary? You may ask.

Because I have a boyfriend and he’s never (really) celebrated the holidays!!!

Yes, you read that correctly. A grown 24 year-old man has never truly celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

My boyfriend, Bret, and I started dating in May, but we’ve known each other for a long time. He recently left the church he grew up in and can now make his own way.

So naturally I decided he needed to do that by going all out for the three biggest holidays of the year.

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We grew very differently. My family goes all out for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We decorate every inch of our house, bake desserts and cook food to our little hearts content, and we play an excessive amount of Christmas movies and music (even when it’s not December). On the other hand, Bret grew up in a family that doesn’t celebrate holidays.

The first major thing we did this year was go to a pumpkin patch. We went to Bates Nut Farm with my mom, sister, brother-in-law, and niece. I cannot even begin to describe how excited I was for this trip.

Luckily in Southern California, there are a ton of places to get pumpkins. Bates is probably one of the more well-known places. But if you travel to Ramona, Julian, or Valley Center, there are plenty of family farms. If you don’t want to travel that far to get pumpkins on a family farm, you can easily find a little makeshift farm in a town in San Diego County. Tom’s Adventures is a local favorite!

Bates Nut Farm is a great place to spend time with family. In addition to the field and mounds of pumpkins, Bates has two cute gift shops, games and face painting, and a petting zoo. We fed some of the goats and sheep, and we almost walked out of the gift shops with more Christmas decorations.

Besides spending the morning with my family, one of my favorite moments was Bret pushing Layla (my niece) in the wheelbarrow all around the farm. At one point she asked him: “Am I your nephew?”

First of all, how stinkin’ adorable is she? She’s 11 years old and truly the person who makes my heart beat. We have such a special bond and I always tell people how much she means to me.

Secondly, I am seeing a common thread among young kids who think their “status” changes depending on if they have an aunt or uncle. Know what I mean? She thought if she has an uncle, then she is a nephew, and if she has an aunt, then she is a niece.

Well, I set her straight, but it kept Bret and I smiling for the rest of the day.

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Now that we have our pumpkins, we need to think of a design and carve them. I suggested Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. Although we may come up with something super random! And, not to toot my own horn, but pumpkin carving is a certain non-resume skill I happen to excel at.

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Have you and your family gotten your pumpkins or visited a pumpkin patch this month? If so, what design do you plan on carving into your pumpkin?
Let me know in the comments below!


My Fall To-Do List:
Make s’mores over an open fire
Go to a pumpkin patch
Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Wear every blanket scarf in my closet
Play in a pile of leaves
Carve a pumpkin
Go for a night stroll
Visit the farmers market
Go apple picking
Make chili and have a living room picnic
Go through a corn maze
Have a Halloween movie marathon (minimum of 3 movies)
Go on a hike

All Things Pumpkin

If you’ve read any of my past posts, seen my Instagram, or follow me on Snapchat, you may have noticed I am a little pumpkin obsessed.

Now, when I say pumpkin obsessed, I don’t mean pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice cereal, and pumpkin spice Oreos (although my best friend did say those are actually tasty). What I mean is I am obsessed with pumpkin baked goods!

This month, I have already baked pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and now (drum roll please) pumpkin muffins!

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Last year was the first time I ever had a pumpkin muffin. My friends and I were having our dinner break and we decided to go to Souplantation. Souplantation is a soup and salad buffet, and it’s actually delicious. Each month they feature a different ingredient depending on the season. October/November is usually pumpkin.

Last year, Souplantation had pumpkin muffins and maple butter. My friends, that combination sent my taste buds to Heaven. I’m pretty sure I even did a little dance in my seat while I ate them (I usually do that when I like what I’m eating).

Luckily for me, my mom and I went to Souplantation a couple weeks ago. Lo and behold, they brought back the muffins and butter. Praise Jesus, God is good!

That’s when it hit me that I could probably bake them! And, to Pinterest I go!! I was a little nervous looking at all the recipes because they all called for coconut oil. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a traditional baker, none of that modern and healthy coconut oil stuff. However, I then found out that coconut oil makes muffins a little more soft and melty (that’s not a word but that’s the only adjective that is coming to mind).

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I decided to go for it and try out one of the recipes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the process was so smooth and the muffins taste just like Souplantations! (Now I just need the maple butter)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree*
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extra
*I used a large 29 oz can of pumpkin puree, so instead I added 1 3/4 cups to my mixture because I didn’t have a way of measuring out 15 oz.

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, both sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. (I actually used a whisk instead of my hand beater, you could probably use either but a whisk did the job just fine!)
4. Mix in dry ingredients to the large bowl with the wet ingredients.
5. Scoop muffins into muffin tin lined with muffin cups. I use an ice cream scoop to do the job (I use this for cookies and cupcakes too).

Remember to fill the batter to just below the top of the muffin cup (cupcakes is where you want only half the cup to be filled). The reason for this is to achieve the dome. On muffins, you want the dome/muffin top. Whereas on cupcakes, you want a flat top because you are presumably putting icing on top. The more batter you put in, the more it will rise.

I did try a little something different by adding pecans to four muffins. I love pecans in baked goods. I think it adds a something-something to it.

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After I had mixed the batter, I scooped three servings into a separate bowl and added pecans. I mixed in the pecans and then scooped the servings into different muffin cups. I used orange for regular pumpkin and black and white for the ones with pecans so I could easily tell which one was which.

This recipe was found on Pinterest HERE.

Have fun trying this recipe, I know I did!

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Living Room Picnic

One of the things on my fall to-do list is to have a living room picnic with homemade chili.

Chili is one of my favorite meals to have on a cool fall night.I usually make chili in the crock pot and let it simmer all day (recipe post to come soon). When done this way, my apartment smells so delicious the entire day. However, on this night, my boyfriend decided to make his chili for me.He had yet to make me chili so this was a treat!

While Bret cooked the chili, I set up the picnic in the living room. We have a rather small apartment. We do have a dining room but the table is always covered with school stuff because it doubles as my desk. So instead of eating at the dining room table, I set up the picnic on the coffee table.

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We rarely get to enjoy dinner together because Bret currently works 2:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Ugh. So we cherish the nights when we actually get to enjoy dinner together. I also like it because we make something homemade, rather than opening a can of soup (my go-to).

I wanted the picnic to be festive so I covered the coffee table with some fall patterned fabric. I love grabbing fabric from Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and making them into table runners for the dining room table or table cloths for the coffee table.

Once Bret was done cooking, we sat on the floor eating the chili and drinking wine. It was a nice change of pace since we usually eat in front of the TV.

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Below is my to-do list tally…I still have a long way to go. But! I’m going to a pumpkin patch this weekend and will be making cookies this week too!

My Fall To-Do List:
Make s’mores over an open fire
Go to a pumpkin patch
Make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
Wear every blanket scarf in my closet
Play in a pile of leaves
Carve a pumpkin
Go for a night stroll
Visit the farmers market
Go apple picking
Make chili and have a living room picnic
Go through a corn maze
Have a Halloween movie marathon (minimum of 3 movies)
Go on a hike