MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR
If you read my “September Fun Family Traditions” post, you know how much I enjoy the autumn months. I’ve spent 33 years as a mother, 35 years as a wife, and 6 1/2 years as a grandmother (not to mention well over half a century with extended family) enjoying these months the most—the traditions we hold dear and the warm pace of crafts, cooking, snuggles, day trips, scenery and celebrations. I treasure them.
Marjan van Zeyl, Building A Fort
October is the time of year for me when nature really begins her exhale and gives us an autumn gift.
Someone asked me once why I loved October so much. I didn’t have to think too hard about that. Here’s what spilled out of my mouth.
October--To me, you are birthdays, pumpkin breads and steaming chai tea. You are Burgundy stews, squash soups and apple pies that I can’t resist. You are turn-on-the-heater for the first time this year, reading mysterious books, listening to crackling fireplaces and wrapping up in cozy blankets. You are crisp autumn air with the scent of leaf piles teasing us with anticipation of what’s to come. You are Canadian geese conversing through the skies and gray clouds filled with diffused sunlight peeking through. You are costumes and decorations, cider and bonfires too. With last minute forts in the woods and raindrops anew. And as you fall asleep for the season, you show me your foxes, rabbits and owls up close. Your squirrels stay tucked in later each day and the black bears begin to swim away. And long, warm hugs and love of family are near. October, you are the best month for me; this is clear.
(*Our black bears swim to a nearby island to hibernate.)
A SLOWER, BATTY, SQUIRRELY, FIRE CRAZY MONTH
October is a slower month for our family than September. Besides Halloween, some seasonal recipes and a few scary or mystery books, we like to get a little batty, squirrel around some and go a little fire crazy. First, the easy ones. October is “Bat Appreciation Month” with many online and in person batty events during Bat Appreciation Week, which is October 24 - 31 every year. Find out Bat Basics and History here, and find many Batty resources for children and homeschool here.
October is also Squirrel Awareness Month (even though Squirrel Appreciation Day is in January—so squirrely!). And to me, this also means a perfect time to weave in holistic home school units and outdoor time with my family about squirrels, nature, autumn, foraging, foods, animal adaptations…well, you get it.
A LITTLE BATTY
As a biologist, I have always appreciated the role bats play in our world, so I taught this appreciation and understanding to my children, as well as my grandchildren, which is so fun. Here's a link to my post about bats and using them to engage children in holistic learning.
Marjan van Zeyl, Squirrel
As for squirrels…they just make my family and me laugh. Even though they get into the bird feeder, they put on quite the little clown show to do so, and we just love them. But you’ll be surprised at the diversity of squirrels in our world. Read our posts here to learn more about squirrels or how to use them as a learning unit.
A Little Acrobat in Action
As for getting a little fire crazy, there’s a reason. Growing up in Texas, we always had fire department field trips at school in October. At home, my dad, also a full-time firefighter and paramedic, cleaned the chimney and lit the living room fire for the first time each year towards the end of October. We'd roast peanuts over the fire or mom would fix hot cocoa to drink while sitting in front of the fireplace. I can still hear the crackling fire, smell the dry wood burning and the wafting, steamy cocoa, envision my dad in his flannel jacket shaking the peanuts in a mesh roaster basket—those are some great childhood memories that have stuck with me always. And all because of…October.
The fire trucks would also drive through the neighborhoods in October and give all of us kids a ride on the truck while they checked the fire hydrants. Now I know why. We weren’t just some fire department obsessed little town whose fire fighters loved kids as much as we loved them! October is actually “National Fire Safety Month” and has an entire week devoted to Fire Prevention. I was in my mid-thirties before I discovered this, and it’s been around in some form every October since 1912! Sometimes, I just have to shake my head at my own obliviousness.
Fire Safety Month is a great time to create a community helper unit for younger children or a unit over the elements of fire and how heat is transferred for older children, while encouraging them to help with gratitude and acts of kindness. Call your local fire department and ask if they offer tours to children. Many of them do! Maybe we are still a little fire safety month enthusiastic around here, but it does end up being quite fun.
ALL HALLOW’S EVE
The best part of October for me, of course, is putting out the Halloween decorations and planning our costumes. I try to make a new Halloween craft (or two or ten) every year, and this year is no exception. This year we‘re making the most adorable ghost garland, and I thought I’d share it with you. After the ghost garland, I've also listed some Halloween crafts, books and traditional Halloween recipes! Enjoy and Happy Halloween!
- 2 mm white macrame rope (or really any yarn would work too, you would just use more)
- Thin white cotton string (or yarn)
- Cardboard or book or mini clipboard between 4x6 to 5x7 size
- Optional: measuring tape
Materials for Ghost Garland
1. Cut a length of macrame cord or yarn the length you want your garland to be plus about 12" extra so you can tie it across a wall or mantle or similar. Set that aside.
2. Start winding your macrame cord around your cardboard piece. If you use the long sides, you will get shorter ghosts and if you use the short sides, you will get longer ghosts. I wrapped mine about 20 times around the short sides.
3. Carefully slip your loops off the cardboard and tie a 6 inch long piece of cotton string through and onto one end of the loops to hold all the loops together. This end will eventually be the head, too. DON’T TRIM THE LOOSE ENDS OF THE STRING. This will be how we tie the ghost to the garland.
4. Tie another 6” piece of string horizontally around the loops to form a 'neck' on the same end as the first string you tied, but about 1/4 of the way down. You are separating the head from the bottom with this string. (See photo above).
5.Take your scissors and cut through the BOTTOM loops so the strings are all hanging freely. Trim ends if needed to make them all the same length (or not the same length, if that’s your preference).
6. Optional: Carefully unravel the strings at the bottom of your macrame cord to give your ghost a fuller, fringe look.
6. Fluff your ghost then tie to the garland.
8. Spread your ghost out so there is some space in between. How far apart you tie them is up to you.
9. Hang your ghost garland and say “wwhhaaooo” in a scary voice and enjoy.
Our Favorite Halloween Things This Year
- Ghost Garland This video is very similar to mine, but they use yarn, whereas I used 2mm Macrame rope. I don't think the ghosts mind which you use.
- Spooky Slime (website) you may need to make a free account to access this
- Halloween Potions (same website) you may need to make a free account to access this
- Story: How the Jack O'Lantern originated, an Irish Myth (we tell this story to our older children with just the fire crackling and the rest of the lights out)
- Face Paint Kits can be used on Halloween of course, but we also use them as a kind of countdown the week of; each day we have a different fun face paint decoration for dinner
- Costumes! This will link you back to our shop for some inspiration. We buy creative and well-made items that stand the test of time and last well beyond Halloween to be used as pretend play for imagination, as well. High quality materials are used such as wool and real wood for the majority.
- Barmbrack, Ireland's Traditional Halloween Fruit Bread
- Mash O' Nine Sorts, Traditional English Halloween dish
- Homemade Candied Orange Peels (we use this candied grapefruit peel recipe from David Lebovitz but with orange peels too...boiling three times is the key!)
- Pumpkin Jam from the David Lebovitz Blog
- Homemade Marshmallows (our FAVORITE! We turn these into ghosts or make round plops then dip them in white chocolate colored orange to become pumpkins or cut into squares and dip in milk chocolate and make spiders), Recipe from David Lebovitz Blog
Some of Our Favorite Halloween Books
Gilbert the Ghost by Guido Van Genechten, Clavis Publishing, Ages 4-7 yrs.
The Little Ghost Who Was A Quilt by Riel Nason, Tundra Books, Ages 3-7 yrs.
Ghosts in the House by Kazuhiro Kohara, Square Fish, Ages 3-6 yrs.
The Ghosts Go Marching by Maria Modugno, Random House Books for Young Readers, Ages 2-4 yrs.
The Little Ghost Who Lost Her Boo by Elaine Bickell, Flamingo Books, Ages 4-8 yrs.
A Wee Boo by Jessica Boyd, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 3-5 yrs.
For Older Kids:
The Graveyard Book, Award Winning, by Neil Gaiman, Harper Collins, Ages 10+ yrs, Middle Grade Fiction
The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars, by Shivaun Plozza, Clarion Books, Ages 9 - 12 yrs., Middle Grade Fiction
November gets a bit busier than October.
We’ll try to be back soon for November (if we aren’t too busy baking and eating yummy autumn pies)!