September 2021 in Review

Happy Autumn and happy October, my friends! Oh! And happy Friday! I know I say this every year, but I absolutely adore this season. As I’m typing this, the sun is highlighting the golden leaves on the tree outside of my window, and there’s a crispness to the air that my body has been craving. I’m breathing deeper and releasing what no longer serves me. There is something so inspiring about the way nature goes through these changes – I’m reminded to let go and adapt to subtle transitions and enjoy these moments to start anew. In a sense, I’m shedding the skin of the past and welcoming whatever comes my way.

Notice how the trees do not cling to their leaves. Fall is about releasing the old to make way for the new.


September was a bit of a doozy mentally and emotionally, but I have some incredible friends and family to thank for supporting me every step of the way. And of course, my therapist. The thing about depression is that it can ebb and flow, like good days and bad. It’s important to be honest with those feelings and not bury them. You can only distract yourself and put on a front for so long before it catches up with you. There is zero shame in hitting those harder times. I think a lot of factors played into my mental health last month, but a few things really helped me:

  • Exercise! I hit a patch of a couple of weeks where I lost motivation and made excuses to not workout, which definitely did not help with my depression. My go-to for the last few months has been Grow With Jo on YouTube because her energy is contagious, she’s super positive, upbeat, and fun. I’ve been making a habit of doing one of her videos 4-5 times a week.
  • Daily walks. Having a dog obviously helps with keeping this routine, but I also look forward to the time outside – fresh air and sunshine does wonders for the soul.
  • Unplug. My little family started a tradition of being tech-free once a week. Either Wednesday or Thursday (Josh’s days off) we put our phones away for the day and are fully present with one another. It’s easy to get distracted or rely on technology, so it’s really nice to just be. We’ll spend the day playing board games, reading, cooking together, or adventuring outdoors somewhere.
  • New adventures. In September we spent a couple of nights at a new-to-us campground, and the following week we enjoyed two nights at a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere. Lots of extra time outside and exploring new areas was incredibly relaxing. (see details and photos below)
  • Immersing myself in projects. While I can’t speak for everyone who battles depression, I know that for me, I feel better when I have a sense of purpose and direction. When I have something specific that I need to be dedicated to. I’ve been volunteering more with The Rawley Project (in ways other than fostering), and I am a contributor to The Dog Guide Bend! I’m writing an article for them once a month – there’s a great team of contributors working together to provide an awesome resource for dog lovers! Check out their website and their socials (Instagram and Facebook). You can find my article for September HERE.
  • Talking it out & Connecting with friends and family. The simple act of a phone conversation, a face to face coffee chat, or just a text to check in helped a ton. Being reminded that you’re not alone. People care and want to be there, and often times through open communication you might find that your struggles are their struggles, too.

Crescent Lake Campground

We pretty much had the lake to ourselves, so it was extra peaceful. We soaked up some sunshine, played in the water, did some reading, and gazed up at the clear night sky – SO many stars. The view from our tent was very beautiful (bottom right photo). The nights dropped down to the upper 30’s, and Hank was not a fan! Luckily we brought some extra blankets and bundled him up!

Getaway Cabin: Mount Adams (Glenwood, WA)

This was definitely a major highlight from September! I randomly received an email about these cabins and decided to look into it – it’s a step up from camping, but with an obvious increase in price. We used some anniversary money to book a two night stay, and we would love to go back! They have a handful of locations (Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, Southeast, and West) – click HERE to learn more! They’re dog friendly, you just have to let them know when you make the reservation, as there’s an additional charge. It was great to only have to worry about packing food, clothes, and toiletries…There’s a bathroom (with vegan shampoo, conditioner, and body wash), a little kitchen (complete with a pan, pot, dishware, utensils, soap + dish sponge), a mini fridge, stove, A/C and heat, a small table to eat at, beds, and a great outdoor seating area with a firepit. Unfortunately, we’re under a campfire/fire ban, but they provided a small electric grill for outdoor cooking. Since there was the three of us, we got a cabin with queen bunk beds, and that worked out great! We took multiple walks a day, relaxed inside, and both evenings around 4:30, we watched cows graze outside of our window! The best part….There was ZERO cell service, so you are completely unplugged. A landline is provided in each cabin in case of emergencies. Oh! And they supplied food + water bowls for Hank, dog waste bags, and a bag of treats. Such a great place to escape to – super welcoming and cozy!

And a few days ago, we brought home a new foster, pup! Here’s April! She gets along pretty great with Hank and everyone else in our home…With the exception of Rockford – he’s not a fan of any dogs. Hank is trying to teach April that kale is pretty awesome 🙂 As soon as he hears me cutting any fruit or veggie, he comes running!

P R O D U C T S :

Trader Joe’s Kale & Cauliflower Chili with Navy Beans

Josh and I enjoyed this one night as a quick dinner option, and we paired it with brown rice and some sweet potato fries. This was an all around hearty, comforting meal, and the cinnamon was an excellent flavor addition to the chili. Like most premade soups, it was saltier than I would have liked, but other than that I didn’t have any other complaints.

Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage

Not as good as the Maple Oat Beverage, but delicious nonetheless. Creamy texture, sweet, and nicely spiced. We enjoyed ours in a glass with dessert or added to coffee.

Trader Joe’s Sweet Cinnamon Filled Korean Pancakes

This was a fun treat and definitely one I would indulge in again! It’s a cross between a pancake and a donut with a gooey, decadent filling. The bag provided a few different methods for cooking, and we opted for the air fryer route – which made for a slightly crispy, yet tender pancake and a perfectly warmed filling. Highly recommend buying a bag or two!

Quinn Plant Based Cheezy Style Filled Pretzel Nuggets

We have a mini tradition – anytime we have a camping trip or road trip planned, we grab some fun new treats or our old, tried + true favorites. Willow and I stopped into Whole Foods the day before our trip to the cabin and found these pretzel nuggets! We love this brand, and normally we buy their sticks or twists and then get a tub of Miyoko’s Roadhouse Cheddar, so it was nice to grab a simplified option! Salty, crispy/crunchy with a pretty impressive cheeze filling. Our only complaint was that the bag was too small 🙂

Forager Cashew Yogurt + Oats & Seeds >> Maple Date

This was another Whole Foods find, and one that I most likely wouldn’t purchase again. The yogurt had a great texture and flavor, but I found it to be way too sweet. It wasn’t until later that I read the label and noticed it was sweetened not only with maple syrup and dates, but also cane sugar! This little container had a whopping total of 13g of sugar – In my opinion, there was zero need to add the extra sweetener.

R E C I P E S :

Puppy Chow Bars >> Feasting on Fruit

I don’t know about you, but Puppy Chow (aka Muddy Buddies) takes me back to being a kid. It was a treat, snack, dessert that I associate with holidays or special occasion. Well, we made these bars as a just-for-the-heck-of-it, midweek treat! I did make a couple of minor adjustments and used what we had on hand: peanut butter instead of chocolate SunButter and Barbara’s Oat Crunch cereal in place of rice chex. We were really impressed with how this cereal worked out – held its form perfectly and added an extra crunch. These were better than how I remember puppy chow being and easier to keep track of consumption! Rather than having a whole container calling my name to eat by the handfuls, these bars provided individual serving sizes…Unless you cut the bars really big! The three of us were covered in chocolate and sad when the last bar disappeared. We will definitely make these again.

Applesauce Cake >> Chocolate Covered Katie

Whenever we have an open jar of applesauce that needs to get used up, I Google a new recipe to try. This is what popped up in my most recent search, and it did not disappoint! She provided a few different options for flours, and I used all-purpose, because that is what I had in my pantry. I would love to try using oat flour next time for a gluten-free option. I’m not sure if it’s our old, frustrating oven or a misprint in the directions, but I had to pretty much double the baking time. If any of you decide to make this, definitely check it at the 15 minute mark and increase the time as needed. We didn’t frost it, but Willow and Josh added a little bit of pumpkin spice cream cheese to their slices. This was fluffy and moist, not too sweet, and even better the next day. Speaking of sweet, I used half coconut sugar and half monk fruit as the sweetener.

B O O K S :

It was a bit of a slower reading month for me as I had to adjust to bit of a fuller schedule (homeschooling, volunteering, etc.) and the mental health hiccups, but I’m getting into a better rhythm!

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really wish I would have saved this one for my October TBR list, but I couldn’t wait. The setting for this one is eerie and haunting, and while the writing didn’t blow me away, the atmosphere did. I caught myself holding my breath a few times and had to swap it out for something lighter before bed. It’s been ages since I read it, but The Book of Accidents gave off some serious Pet Sematary vibes. This was a great mix of horror, paranormal, and sci-fi…and it had my head spinning. The storyline did feel all over the place at times, but ended with a satisfying bang.

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4.5 stars rounded up

This was a slow burn – lots of world and character building, and the writing….goodness, the writing blew me away at times. The author did an amazing job of showing me, rather than telling. His descriptions and details really made the book.

I especially enjoyed the flashbacks where we learn about Fetch’s past, how he got his marks, and what led to present day events. Those parts are what allowed me to gain a better understanding of his character. This was set to be a five star, but then something happened that felt a heck of a lot darker than it needed to be. Other than that, this was a great book, and I’m planning to read the second installment soon!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4.5 rounded up

Well that was surprisingly good!! I did NOT see that major twist coming! Even though part of the ending had me rolling my eyes a bit, I had to round up to five stars. This was incredibly entertaining, full of suspense, and had my heart racing a few times. I enjoyed how the chapters bounced between perspectives of Amelia and Adam, with chapters of love letters written to Adam. Gosh, this was good. I finished it a while ago and I’m still thinking about it. Atmospheric writing and an excellent storyline!

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Another light, fluffy read to break things up a bit! I enjoyed Esme’s character – a single mom trying to do what’s best for her family, her strength + independence, and way to prioritize. Once again the author took a simple storyline and added in deeper aspects, emotions, and a character with autism. Khai annoyed me at times (a lot), but he also made up for it with how he helped Esme. A quick, entertaining read with a happy ending…definitely needed that!

I am currently halfway through the chunky beast of a book (1,200+ pages): Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, and I’m also reading What Happened to You? by Bruce D. Perry & Oprah Winfrey. Both of them are excellent so far, and I hope to have reviews for them next month.

If you read this post in it’s entirety all the way to the end, thank you! Let me know in a comment below or message me privately, I would love to hear how your month was. I’m wishing all of you a wonderful month ahead! My hope is to get my act together and share some new recipe creations soon…So stay tuned!