Letting Autumn Inside, and Classic Hot Chocolate (Non-Dairy Style)

“What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.”

Ecclesiastes 3:15

Dear Joey,

Autumn is here again. I usually run out the door before she arrives, arms outstretched and ready to receive her warm, familiar hug, but this year I stayed inside as she walked toward the doorstep alone and started knocking. I wasn’t really ready for her to show up yet, and so I hid from her. She stayed out there a long time calling to me, her voice feeble and melancholy to my indifferent ears. My attention was elsewhere, and the poetry written in the changing color of the trees and whispered in the crisp evening breeze wasn’t making my soul sing.

Last week when September faded into October, I wanted to welcome the new month with the same sort of wistfulness Anne Shirley did in Anne of Green Gables when she says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” But I didn’t. Instead, I sort of rolled my eyes.


I tried to get into the spirit of Fall before October came. I bought a new banner for the mantel, hung my sunflower wreath on the front door and filled Grandma Adeline’s candy dish with the candy corn everyone around here has come to expect this time of year. I even made Baked Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Sage on the first day of Fall. That is as far as I got because when we turned the calendar to October, I didn’t have time for anything else. I was too busy stroking feverish brows with cool washcloths, refilling sippy cups with icy-cold white grape juice, wiping up the mess made by an upset tummy, and snuggling each child as much or as little as they needed. There wasn’t much time to day dream about what is usually my favorite time of the year, let alone enjoy it once it arrived.


And so last Saturday night you practically kicked me out of the house once evening fell. Mia had crawled into bed on her own and fallen asleep a whole hour early, wiped out from the fever as she was. Emery practically skipped toward his crib when we told him it was bedtime, and once he was asleep you told me to just go–you didn’t care where. Several days spent at home tending to very-needy children drained my reserves, and you knew it. You saw it. So out I went, begrudgingly.

I drove to Starbucks and ordered hot chocolate instead of the Pumpkin Spice Latte you suggested when trying to convince me to get out of the house because I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking one that night. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, so I chose hot chocolate instead, and it soothed me and gave me a bit of perspective: I didn’t have to hurry up to be excited about all-things-Fall just because everyone else (whoever they are) is thrilling at the idea of apple cider anything and pumpkin everything. I usually do too, but this year, I am not.


I halfheartedly walked over to the bookstore, and as soon as I saw its warmly lit windows my heart smiled the way it does whenever I see an old friend again. I sipped my way through its endless aisles and let myself get lost for awhile. When I got home, I unloaded my goodies and told you a little bit about each of them. You chuckled a little at my jumble of disjointed selections, telling me it was like that scene from the movie Dan in Real Life where Dan walks around the tiny old bookstore piling up book after random book in his arms, doing so just to be there, in that moment, happy. And I was happy in those few stolen moments, and even more so when I got to come home to you refreshed and ready to take on another day or two of the sick kids around here. Sunday’s blustery grey afternoon almost convinced me I would start enjoying Autumn the way I usually do soon enough, but even if that doesn’t happen this time around, there is always next year.

Perhaps I am feeling the melancholy some folks feel when the last luxurious unhurried day of summer waves goodbye and Autumn arrives with shorter days, bursting at the seams with busyness that makes it hard to be still and enjoy. Or maybe on some deep level the changing colors of my own heart are feeling like brown leaves blown off scraggly tree branches that sit decaying in the gutter, wet and forgotten. I wandered around the bookstore, plucking book after book from the crowded clearance rack, collecting them as if they were fallen leaves. I saw beauty in those cast off editions no one seemed to want anymore. New books come out all the time and with them new stories and new perspectives and new ideas that replace the old. I felt a sort of sorrow for those books, and so they came home with me that night.


Having that stack of books hang around helped me come to terms with the fact that Autumn is here now because they are symbols of what has been and a reminder that new things will always turn up, but that those new things eventually fade into old things too. What has been, will be; and what will be, has been. And so I dug out bits and pieces of mismatched decorations yesterday afternoon and finally got around to putting them up, juggling a very clingy Emery as I did so. I finally let Autumn inside our home and my heart.


Autumn is the season for gathering up all the beautiful bits of the year behind us and putting them on display, I think. It is a time to give thanks for what was and give thanks for what will be–because we all know another year is coming, full of new chapters to be lived whether we feel ready for it or not. I don’t quite feel ready to say goodbye to the year behind us because I am not sure I am ready to face the new chapters waiting for us just around the corner yet.  I think that is why the change in season was hard for me this year: change is here and more is coming because change always comes. I’m not quite ready to say I’m excited for what will be yet, but at least now I am ready to say Thank you for what was.



Classic Hot Chocolate, Non-Dairy Style (GF/DF/THM S)


A good cup of steaming hot chocolate soothes me unlike much else, perhaps because it’s something my parents used to make me when I was a child, and sipping on it now takes me back to those days when small things like making homemade hot chocolate were really the big, enduring things. Since Emery is allergic to dairy, I cannot make hot chocolate for him the way my parents made it for me, exactly, so I knew one day I would take on the challenge of transforming non-dairy milk into a creamy, satisfying cup of piping hot chocolate. My visit to Starbucks three days ago was the tipping point for me, and so today was the day I made it happen. For my Trim Healthy Mama friends out there, this is an S. For anyone allergic or averse to almond milk, use rice milk or soy milk (or whatever your non-dairy beverage of choice might be), but just be sure to start with the unsweetened kind otherwise the end result will be far too sweet. Of course, regular old dairy milk will do the trick here, too. This recipe makes one large 12-oz mug full, or two smaller 6-oz mugs. Double or triple it if a larger batch is necessary.


6-oz. full fat coconut milk (from a can)

6-oz. unsweetened original almond milk

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

3 1/2 teaspoons Pyure Organic Stevia Blend (or 7 teaspoons regular sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional, but essential in my opinion)

pinch of kosher salt


Warm the coconut and almond milks in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the cocoa powder, stevia blend (or sugar), vanilla extract and salt. Whisk constantly (and carefully) until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the milk. After that, continue to warm the mixture until steaming hot. Remove from heat and pour into your favorite mug to enjoy.


2 thoughts on “Letting Autumn Inside, and Classic Hot Chocolate (Non-Dairy Style)

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