By TMoM Team Member Sydney D. Richardson, Ph. D.

Fall began this week and what better way to kick off the season than with a list of things to do. It may not sound exciting, but let me explain. I am, what some may call, an introvert. I love being at my home. I enjoy my backyard, bedroom, front porch, living room, and definitely my kitchen. One of my favorite things to do is curl up under a soft blanket and read a book or watch a movie. Also, I was lucky enough to find someone who is the same way. Hooray for me!

However, I do not have introverted children. While they enjoy being at home, they wake up by 6:30am asking what we are going to do for the day. My daughter will plan our day if I don’t, and my son will ask what we’re doing next when we’re in the middle of an activity! They wake up early and wired, until we make them go to bed. I thought that this was a phase, but I have accepted defeat: my children need things to do and they always will. I also accepted that I am not one who comes up with great ideas at the last minute. I need a plan and time to prep.

That led me to an idea for this fall: a fall bucket list!  I saw a bucket list challenge last year and decided to do it this year.  The directions are pretty simple: every 30 days, until the end of fall, the family lists things that they would like to do. Each day, complete the activity listed or chosen.

So, I sat down with my family and we came up with activities to do for the first 30 days. I had to give the kids parameters such as choosing one free activity for every activity that costs money. Another rule was that some activities had to include nature. It actually didn’t take long to think of a few things: mountain hiking, going to a trampoline park, collecting leaves, trying a new recipe, having family movie night in Mom and Dad’s bed, and a host of other ideas. The kids got so excited that they picked the first activity: making pumpkin muffins! Normally, we are sweet potato people, but the muffins looked so good online that I had to try it.

Now, there is something to know about me. I never follow recipes and I always put my own spin on any dish. I did the same thing with the muffins. While guiding the kids, what started as a recipe for pumpkin muffins turned into a pumpkin chocolate chip cake with cream cheese icing.  You read that right. The kids put everything together, and I put the cast iron pan into the oven (everything’s better in cast iron). Even my husband, who cannot stand anything pumpkin, gave this dessert a huge thumbs up!

I am always excited about the fall, but I’m even more excited with this bucket list and warm pumpkin chocolate chip cake. I encourage everyone to start on a bucket list and then repeat the list for the winter.

Bucket List Instructions
Plan activities to do for the next 30 days. The activities are not supposed to be stressful or expensive. They can be as simple as a trail walk or carving pumpkins. They can even be a little fancy, such as taking the family to a nice dinner. You can either plan this out on a calendar, where the activity completed is the one assigned for the day. Another idea is to create a bucket list jar, with an activity written on slips of paper. The chosen activity for the day is the activity chosen from the jar.  Have fun with it!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix a box of spice cake mix (just the cake mix), a 15oz can of pumpkin puree, ½ of a teaspoon of cinnamon, ½ of a teaspoon of allspice (or mace), and a tablespoon of melted butter in a bowl until everything is smooth.  Add two cups (or more) of chocolate chips and mix again. Pour the batter into an oiled 9×13 pan (or cast iron pan) and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Spread cream cheese icing on the top when the cake is done. Enjoy!

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