Why We Love Fall in Georgia

Fall in Georgia!

Ah, fall in North Georgia. It is an almost magical time of year when the season beings to come alive. People love the south, particularly for the fall season. The landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow as the leaves on the trees begin to change colors. By mid-November, just about any establishment you enter seduces you with Christmas music and nostalgia. And the smells. Oh, the smells of fall. There are few places on can go to escape the tantalizing scents of pumpkin, pecan, maple, and apple. Not to mention the scent of fire burning. A most comforting scent that drums up imagery of sipping hot cocoa in front of a roaring fireplace, whilst nestled under a cozy blanket and watching our cherished family favorite classics on the television set.

Mountain runs and car shows are a few favorite fall events for the car enthusiast. With the turning of the leaves, the scenery is beautiful, and many car groups gather up their members to take a stroll over the curvy mountainous roads of north Georgia. The scenery provides a most picturesque backdrop for both group and individual photos of their treasured cars. Generally, the rides will include lunch at some newly discovered local mom and pop eatery that is tucked away in the mountains and, often, only the locals know about. In addition to mountain drives, fall is also a popular time for car shows. While car shows can, and do, take place year-round, the cooler temperatures of fall tend to bring out more people, both participating with their own vehicles as well as more spectators out enjoying browsing the collection of classic beauties on a crisp cool day.

The highlight of fall can be the kickoff to sweater weather, scarfs, flannels, and boots. Fall fashion is one thing that most people in the fall, particularly females, look forward to all year long. Shopping is a favored hobby for all people in the fall, between the holidays and trendy fall fashion, building up to  Black Friday shopping will remain a top shopping day of the fall season.

Another particularly revered and time-honored tradition in the fall for Georgia natives is to enjoy a taste of warm liquor for those chilly nights. Whether it be a shot of spiced rum in your coca cola, warm apple brandy in your coffee, or just a plain old shot of Fireball straight out of the bottle, there is not doubt the warm liquor will heat you up a few degrees. For those daring enough to try it, there is also the occasional opportunity in the south to partake in a “swig” of good old-fashioned moonshine. Generally taken right out of the mason jar it was stored in. Most old-timers around north Georgia, live and die by the healing properties of pure moonshine and will forbid you to leave the house without a good  hefty swallow if you have any sign of a cough or sniffles in their presence.

Hot drinks to warm the soul.

You cannot say fall in north Georgia without talking about football! From the NFL to college rivalries, to high school playoffs, on thing about it, Georgia loves its football. One would be hard pressed to get out and about on a Saturday afternoon without seeing team colors abound and hearing an endless array of fist pumping dog barking sounds, or Roll Tide or even a War Eagle or two, or ten. Sundays are reserved for NFL team gear and an appropriate display of “game day’ snacks. However, no matter how much the people love their college or NFL teams, there is one thing you can bet your bottom dollar on. When it comes to Fridays, there is something that transpires once those Friday night lights turn on that will transform even the most apathetic football fan into a screaming, standing in the bleachers, excited fanatic. The energy that takes place during a high school football game is unlike anything else. Of course, it also is an unwritten rule that you cannot attend a high school football game without enjoying the display of treats offered up at the concession stand. Nothing like a concession stand hot dog or tray of nachos at the football game to get you in the spirit for a good old time on a Friday night.

Hot cocoa is a must, and most often, a staple in homes across north Georgia in the fall. Sipping hot cocoa while curled up on the couch under a fuzzy blanket and binge-watching Hallmark movies is a time-honored tradition. Not only is hot cocoa enjoyed in the comfort of homes all across north Georgia in the fall, but a must in most of the fall outing festivities enjoyed throughout the state. Football games, hayrides, and holiday shopping are all valid excuses to grab a hot cocoa to sip on and warm up one’s insides, not that any excuse is necessary to indulge.  In addition to hot cocoa, no home in north Georgia is absent the fall favorites chili, and a vast array of hearty soups to suit every taste bud one my possibly have.

Pumpkin farms and hayrides are the literal epitome of fall in north Georgia.  It is almost considered a shameful tragedy, almost a sacrilege of sorts, for anyone to make it through an entire fall season and not make a single visit to a pumpkin farm, or apple house to enjoy a nice family hayride. North Georgia fall is pumpkin farms and hayrides, and you will be blessed with an abundance of them on any given weekend day. In addition to all the local farms, local churches also get into the fall spirit by hosting a variety of fall festivals, that almost always include a fun filled hayride.

OH, Halloween. Haunted houses, haunted hayrides, and haunted hikes are abundant in north Georgia. While north Georgia loves all things fall, Halloween is the first official holiday of the fall season, and, well, they go all out. From makeshift graveyards out on the front lawn, to skeletons hanging from their trees, to dancing ghosts swirling across the front of their homes, Georgia folk love a holiday and they love to celebrate. Halloween parties and trunk or treats begin as soon as the first weekend in October. They start buying up Halloween candy for their expected array of trick or treaters, but not too soon. It can be a much too difficult task for many to hold all those delicious candy treats in the house without breaking into them and eating half of the stash before Halloween night.

Some people are known for starting to ramp up for the Christmas season as early as October. But generally, as soon as Halloween has passed, you can begin to find the happy Christmas décor out in abundance. While there are a few who linger in the fall vibe a little longer, at least until Thanksgiving Day, many get all excited and start on their Christmas season early. For everyone else, they will revel in the fall season as long as possible. Sunflowers, Mums, and pumpkin spice everything is the season they have longed for all year, and they are not willing to cut it short. Even so, fall does provide the Segway into the Christmas season, and beginning in November, there marks the kickoff to the season in various towns. Many north Georgia towns will have their Christmas parades, and official lighting of the town tree during mid to late November. Stores will begin playing the festive Christmas music and putting the holiday décor out to get the local patrons in the holiday shopping season mood.

So, no matter what your passion, your hobby, or your taste is, you are sure to find something in North Georgia during the fall to satisfy each. It is an almost guarantee that you can enjoy a most pleasurable and memorable time in North Georgia, and take back with you, laughs and fond recollections of a time well spent in a place well loved.

What I Look Forward to Most of All, About This Fall.

Ah, Fall! Just the word alone drums up images of vibrant colors abound, the cool, crisp air, and the smells. You can literally smell the pumpkin, just thinking about it. Where I come from, fall is a very prominent season. In fact, it may be the most revered and highly loved season of all. I should dare say, I believe it may well be more loved than summer. I love fall. I always have. But, I believe this year, it may hold a more dear and special meaning than ever before.

For me, no matter how much I loved fall, there was always something not quite fulfilled within me. There had been this unsettled sense of longing for so many years. The first time I stepped out of my car in Biloxi, Mississippi, I learned what that was. The smell of the salty air, the warm coastal Gulf breeze, and the sound of the gentle waves lapping as they made a continual reintroduction of themselves to the shore. I was a beach girl at heart. I had never really been to the beach, save for the local homemade beaches at the lakes around my area, but once in my life. That had been a very long time ago and during a quite tumultuous time in my life, and I do not believe I had to opportunity to really see the beach life for all that it could be. But, after that first trip to Biloxi, it was all over for me. I spend the next nine years obsessing over living in the Gulf of Mexico. It became the status of my ultimate dream life, and eventually, part of my five year plan.

As luck would have it, nine years after I first sank my toes into the sugar sand beach of Biloxi, I had an opportunity presented to me to move to Southwest Florida. It wasn’t exactly the part of the Gulf that I have envisioned living in, but it was still the Gulf. And at that time, given the circumstance, it was the only viable option for me. There was no debate for me. Without even questioning it, I got rid of everything that I could to downsize, packed what I needed to take, and moved to the Gulf of Mexico.

Settling here in my new apartment with its top-notch amenities that included a beautiful fishing lake complete with a walking trail bordering its perimeter, a stunning resort-style pool, grounds around the entire community bathed in the most lush tropical landscaping I had ever seen, and an impeccable gym that featured top of the line workout equipment and windows that overlooked all of the aforementioned, with only a twenty minute drive to the beach, I thought I had it made. Finally, my dream had come to be a reality. I was living life in the Gulf of Mexico. Oddly enough, however, we had made the move here during the last weekend of September and began our official move-in during the first week of October. Up to this point in my life, I had never really had an opportunity for beaches and swimming in October.

Now, it was still relatively warm back home in north Georgia during this time, so it wasn’t initially a huge difference. But as the month progressed, a huge difference was being noted. We made plans to take my granddaughters out to a local farm for some “fall” inspired fun. It was a little difficult to think of pumpkins and fall themed decor, while it was still above ninety degrees here. But we decided to give this a chance. Later that month, we found a local church hosting a trunk or treat just before Halloween, my daughter in law dressed the girls up in their beloved and highly anticipated Halloween costumes and we set out for an evening of fun. Ironically, long before the end of our night, the girls had shed about half of their costume pieces. None of us had ever experienced a ninety degree Halloween before, and we were not acclimating very well. There was still hope for Christmas! Lo and behold, December came around, and things did not change all that much. I knew there had to be some way the South Floridians celebrated the holidays, they deserved fall and Christmas too, right? I found a few local events such as a holiday light show complete with Christmas carols, hot cocoa, and a bonfire. Yes! It was a perfect picture of everything we loved to do back home. The girls were dressed in holiday themed attire and off we went. No one could bear to drink the hot cocoa and we all avoided going anywhere near the bonfire like it was the plague. The temps had begun to fall here in Southwest Florida, but still being in the mid-eighties, it proved far too difficult a task to feel in the holiday vibe. On Christmas day, my husband had the idea to make it a special day and spend our first Christmas here on the beach. After all, that is what we moved to the Gulf for anyway. Well, as luck would have it, we were not even able to get across the bridge to get to the beach. This was the height of “snowbird” season, and everyone in the state seemed to have the same idea. It seemed that living in a beach town was all well and good, until the reality hit that the seasons and the holidays were going to be nothing like they had ever been before. We really missed snow.

As time went on, and luck would have it, there was about to be a shift in our lives that would take us into another direction. Shortly after the beginning of August, and following a recent trip back home to visit family, there was an opportunity for us to go back home. Our family clearly wanted us closer, and Henry was really not as much in love with living the south Florida as I had once hope he would be. Truth be told, I think missing my family began to outweigh the picturesque lifestyle imagery that I had envisioned for myself ten years ago. So, without hesitations, we graciously accepted the offer presented to us and will be making the necessary arrangements to leave the Gulf of Mexico and return home to North Georgia. Our journey home will not be until October, which, ironically, will culminate a year of living the beach life and be at the heart of the Fall season.

It will be with bittersweet emotion that I will bid adieu to the Gulf. Yet, in the same regard, my heart is so happy and full to be returning to my family. And, with that, this year Fall will be so much more special to me this year. In knowing all that I have learned about the value of family and in seeing firsthand what life is like for those who do not get to enjoy a proper fall. What I look forward to most for this fall is taking my grandchildren to the pumpkin farm, and to indulge in hot cocoa or cider to provide a warmth and help knock the chill off. I look forward to getting to wear hoodies. In my entire fall and winter in south Florida, I had to opportunity to wear a hoodie only twice. There is just something about hoodies that are a natural a part of fall as chili and other beloved comfort foods. I look forward to seeing all the children dressed for trick-or-treating on Halloween. I look forward to feeling that first frost, the one that signals snow will be on the horizon. Mostly, I look forward to football. I had to learn the hard way that moving out of state will put you in the network for your new state’s professional sports team, and I missed every single game my football team played last season. But, I really want to bundle up in my favorite hoodie and go out to enjoy a local high school football game. Nothing truly says fall quite like bonfires, pumpkins, and football, and I greatly look forward to getting to experience them all again this fall.

Comfort Foods and New Traditions

Over time, many families develop favorite recipes that are handed down from generation to generation. Those recipes become the tried and true go to dishes that moms, daughters, or aunts always know they can throw together for any social gathering and, in a pinch, present a delicious and filling dish that will win over the hearts of even the most finicky eaters. There is such a dish in my family, not handed down from generations, or found as some otherwise undiscovered page in a recipe book. But this dish has become an absolute favorite for my family, and my own daughter and son have adopted the recipe and now, as adult children, are able to make this dish for themselves without any hesitation. This dish is sure to be a hit with your own family. No matter if you are entertaining friends over for the big game, providing for the company luncheon, taking a dish to the church pot luck, or making a filling appetizer for a family holiday get together, this hearty cheese dip will be sure to please everyone. Utilizing only one pot, this recipe is easy, simple, and sure to become one of your favorite go to dishes.
The first thing you will need to do is assemble your ingredients. There are relatively few ingredients in this dish, but they make a big impact with the result. For this dip, you will need one pound of ground beef, one pound of ground sausage – I usually just get the Tennessee Pride or Jimmy Dean mild, but have used other brands and really do not notice any difference regardless of the brand of sausage used,- one can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis, one can each of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup – in regards to the soup, I have substituted the Campbell’s brand for Walmart and Kroger brands, and I can tell a little difference in that the Campbell’s soup does seem to be more creamy than the store brands,- and you will need one two-pound block of processed cheese for melting. The recipe calls for the Velveeta brand, but given the price difference, I always substitute this for the store brand, and have never noticed a marked difference in the cheese.
Then, you will begin by browning the ground beef and sausage in a large pot. Cook them until no longer pink, and then drain. Add in the cans of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup and the can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. Mix the ingredients together until well blended. Then you can cut the cheese into cubes and begin adding to the mixture. You will want to add a little at a time, and stir continually until the cheese begins to melt. Once you have added all of the cheese to the mixture, you will want to stay close by because this dip is very creamy and cheesy and will stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch very easily. Once the dip is well blended, however, it is an easy to keep dish, by simply turning the stove eye on low and keep it stirred every so often. It also re-heats well in the microwave in just a few seconds, I usually warm in 30 second increments.
Finally, once the cheese has been completely melted and the dip is well blended, you will want to serve up warm with tortilla chips. However, over the many times I have prepared this dish for my family, they have discovered their own ways of wanting to serve the dip up for themselves. Some like to spoon it onto a flour tortilla and roll it up to eat it like a burrito. While others have found that poured over crumbled cornbread into a bowl is a choice way to eat it.
This recipe was taught to me many years ago by a paramedic that I worked with during my time working as and EMT for the county I lived in. It was always a huge hit with the firefighters and other EMTs and Paramedics in our department. When I first began trying the dish at home for my own family, there was no doubt this was going to be a long time traditional favorite food for us for many years to come. No matter what creative ways you or your family and friends decide to enjoy this hearty cheese dip, it will definitely be a fan favorite for any occasion.

The recipe:
1 (16 oz package) ground sausage
1 (lb) ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis
1 (2 LB)package of processed cheese product (like Velveeta)

Directions:
Brown ground beef and sausage in a large pot, drain. Add cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and Ro-tel tomatoes. Blend well. Cut cheese product into cubes and slowly add to mixture until thoroughly melted. Serve warm with tortilla chips.
This recipe can also be placed in a crock pot- once beef and sausage are browned, place all ingredients into crock pot and cook on low for two hours to melt cheese. Place crock pot on keep warm setting, and stir occasionally.

My Favorite Things

As Fall approaches here in beautiful north Georgia, it is a time to reflect on the things that we enjoy most. So, I have compiled a list of five items that are just a few of my favorite things.
1- Books- Oh how I love to read a good book. Sadly, as times have changed, I have given in to the bittersweet progress of digital books. However, nothing is more satisfying than to hold an actual paper laden book in hand. The feel of the paper in hand, and the smell, especially when the book is an old classic, it just has the delectable book smell. I have been recently reading more self-growth books than anything, and one of my particular favorites is “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

2- Music- whether I am driving in my car, or going for a nice little walk, or even working out my frustrations in the gym, music is life. I honestly have said over and over, if I could choose which sense I had to lose between sight and sound, I would opt for sight, because I do not think I could live in a world without music. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood and thoughts at the time. Mostly, though, I listen to the genre of music affectionately referred to as “Emo” music. To me, there is just something so relatable in their raw emotion felt through the song that gives me more of a connection to their music than any other type.

3- Planners- I just love planners. Currently, I am obsessing over The Happy Planner. I like that it is so customizable, and I can set it up to suit whatever needs I may have at the time. I have used many different types of planners in the past, but the key is to find a planner that works for you. After all, the objective is not in the brand of planner, but rather the functionality and whether or not you will use it. I like the feeling of being organized and making lists. My therapist once said that with my adult ADD, I need structure in my life, because chaos and clutter are huge triggers. Thus, began my continual need for planner peace. For an example of The Happy Planner: https://amzn.to/2MNB6Ac

4- The Beach- In reality, who doesn’t love the beach? Well, I suppose there are some people out there who do not. None of which I care to know. The beach is calming, and there is just something about sanding on the verge of such an expanse of sky and ocean that really puts you into perspective. You realize what a small portion of this great world is when you are standing on the heels of something so grand. I can imagine many incredible things in the world can give you that sense of humbleness as well. Such as, the California Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful. However, I have never seen any of those. Therefore, my wonderment is based solely on my personal experience at the beach.

5- Fall- Ah, Fall. It is the epitome of everything that is great about living in the south. Thinking of fall drums up all kinds of nostalgic imagery of things such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, bonfires, and hayrides, and of course, pumpkin flavored everything! Then, there is football. You see, we take our football very seriously in the south. To properly engage in the watching of football, it is required to attend a local (generally your home town) high school football game on Friday night, then you would spend the better part of Saturday watching college football games, and then, finally, Sunday is for the NFL. It is literally a three-day event. Ironically, even though we are mere days away from the first day of fall on the calendar, it is still nearing in the nineties here in North Georgia. But, I know, just the same, I will miss fall this year, as I will be moving to South Florida in one week. I will most definitely miss the frosty chill in the air, and most of all, the changing of the leaves as the north Georgia landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red and orange and yellow.

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