This past Saturday, my best friend got engaged.
Yes, Kaitlyn, the girl I have known since the first day of kindergarten, with her pin-straight yellow hair and the cutest freckled, dimple-face. After 5 months of planning with her boyfriend TJ, and best friend Kara, us three girls went to the Westport Winery for a “girl’s day” of wine tasting and picnicking. Little did Kait know that TJ and their families would be arriving shortly after to wait in the vineyard while we wine tasted, killing time, and getting in some last precious minutes with our about-to-be-engaged friend.
The weather was gentle, like the first days of fall should be. The morning was cold, and there was a swift breeze, but the sun was cozy in spots. It was quiet at the winery, people were playing on back lawn, spotted with picnic tables. There was a wine and paint event happening on the side.
After we finished our wine tasting, we had to stall a few minutes while the rest of the family members were just arriving. I ate my oyster crackers really slowly, even though I hate oyster crackers. (They have no flavor; I don’t get it.)
Kara kept making wide-eyes at me, like, “Are they here yet? What’s going on!” and every time Kait went to innocently look out the window, we had to distract her.
Finally, TJ texted me that he was ready. We told Kait we wanted to go for a walk through the vines to take pictures. We walked over, hearts racing; Kara and I both thought we were going to throw up right then and there.
As we turned the corner, TJ was standing alone on a white path of rocks, between stretching rows of grape vines, with their families on either side. Kait was so shocked; TJ got down on one-knee; she said yes; the ring is to die for; and the moment was magic. I am smiling just thinking about it all over again. I couldn’t be happier for them; for Kaitlyn, who has found her person, to love and be loved by unconditionally, to make her feel special and set a fire off in her heart, to keep her on her toes, to challenge her, and to excite her, to do life with.
At the end of the day, no matter how happy we tell ourselves we are, that’s what you want to feel.
And then there’s me: All I really need is pumpkin spice everything right now.
For the first week of fall, I was doing really well. I had not caved into the sweet temptation of anything pumpkin; I flirted with a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, but quickly batted my eyelashes towards the cold brew. But then I went to Trader Joes, bustling with people on a Sunday morning as usual, and came across a shrine, basically, of all things pumpkin spice: Pumpkin Spice Granola, Pumpkin Spice Scones, Pumpkin Bread, canned pumpkin, Pumpkin Butter Spread, Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds (my newest addiction, see below), not to mention pumpkin tortilla chips with pumpkin salsa AND a pumpkin pasta sauce. HOLY CRAP YAS. I grabbed it all.
Then I got home and began to cook up a storm. Isn’t that what Sundays are for, if not football games, cleaning the yoga studio, and 2 mile walks along the Charles River with Jenna? Here we have some maple roasted chickpeas (warning: can be mistaken for candy) to sprinkle on top of my butternut squash soup in the slow cooker.
For the soup:
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled gutted and cubed
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cubed
- 1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
- 1 organic carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 sprigs of sage
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- ½ cup canned coconut milk
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- A pinch of salt, pepper
Place all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or pour cups of soup into blender, one by one, to blend.
Add salt and pepper for taste, a swirl of plain Greek yogurt, and additional toppings.
For the chickpeas:
- 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and dried (Discard any skin that falls off)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp brown sugar/cinnamon
- Pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 450. Place parchment paper over a baking sheet and pour chickpeas over it. Roast for 30 minutes, remove from oven, and pour chickpeas into a bowl. Pour the maple mixture, and stir to coat. Return chickpeas to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes or until slightly darkened, crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle.