Fall Time Fun- Pumpkin Patch, DIY Family Photos & Tomato Soup

So if you haven't noticed, Fall has hit us like a giant Pumpkin spice tsunami. Is it just me or does the month of September seem to drag by every year and October, November and December kind of merge together like one giant, SUPER month. My overly eager neighbors across the street already have Christmas lights up. Lets just say, I am triggered.

This year's trip to the Pumpkin patch was super fun. In Duncan fashion, we did not make it there until 5:15 (it closes at 7), which means we had under 2 hours to not only capture the pics I needed, but actually let the kids enjoy the activities. Jeremiah is now at the stage where he only goes to the Pumpkin Patch because he knows its important to me and Nova is still so little she doesn't have a clue what is going on. Its safe to say that the annual Pumpkin Patch visit is more for me than it is for them.

Since we live in Metro Atlanta, our farm of choice is Southern Belle farm in McDonough, GA. WE LOVE IT HERE. While the prices are a little steep (it was $60 for 4 of us), it is a "pay one time" type of activity. The farm is GIANT and for one price, you can take advantage of ALL of the activities which is a MAJOR score. If you live in Metro Atlanta, it is a MUST visit for family fun and dope fall-time pics.

This Halloween, I decided to make Nova's costume for the 2nd time in a row. Last year, I made Nova a cute Cookie Monster outfit. Thank God the costume wasn't too hard to make because she literally stayed in it for under an hour then fell asleep. This year, we are sticking with the Sesame Street theme and I am making Nova a custom Abby Cadabby costume. If you are not a Sesame Street fanatic like our family is, Abby is a character on Sesame Street who is Elmo's best friend and Nova's absolute favorite. Recreating the Abby character is something I have been planning for longer than I want to admit and I am so excited for Nova to actually get to participate in Halloween festivities this year. While she may not be able to have much candy (we will keep it lol), she is extremely talkative so I know she will understand the concept of trick or treating.

Since it is getting darker earlier, I have felt the need to get dinner on the table much earlier than usual. Finding new meal ideas that are simple and fulfilling has been a major thing on my to-do list because I hate feeling like I am cooking the same thing over and over again. When I am short on time (or energy), one of my favorite quick meals to throw together is homemade tomato soup and sandwiches. I started making homemade tomato soup a few years ago and its always a hit in our house. Depending on how you like your tomato soup, the recipe below is great for colder days when you need something warm to eat that doesn't take 2 hours to make. Add a side of grilled cheese sandwiches or fresh corn bread (my favorite) and you will have a meal that tastes better than Panera Bread (at 1/3 of the cost).

Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

2 cans of whole tomatoes

3 tbs of salted butter

1/2 chopped onion

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Handful of fresh chopped basil

3 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of whipping cream

1 cup of half and half

In a dutch oven (or large stock pot) saute your onion, garlic and 1/2 of your chopped basil on medium heat the butter. Once onions are translucent, add your cans of whole tomatoes. Cook your tomatoes on medium heat. Add salt and pepper.

Once heated, pour your whole tomatoes in a blender (or use an Emerson hand blender) and blend the mixture well. Once blended, pour the tomatoes back into your pot and add your chicken stock, cream and half and half. Heat this mixture on medium heat for 5 minutes stirring well. Add seasoning, remaining chopped basil and salt and pepper, top with a small amount of pre-made pesto.

On the side, I love to serve grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread. If you want your sandwich to have the PERFECT crust to it, grill your sandwich with a thin coat of mayo on the top. I am NOT a mayo fan, but it makes the perfect grilling agent to any sandwich. TRY IT

Family Photos for CHEAP

If you follow me on social media, you already saw my impromptu pregnancy announcement via our annual pumpkin patch visit. Many people assumed that I hired a professional photographer for these pics, but in reality these were shot with my iPhone 10 plus and a random stranger walking by. I am a firm believer that with a bit of practice and Adobe Lightroom, you can create professional(ish) photos for FREE.

Some of my MUST HAVE apps for recreating amazing pics are:

1. Adobe Lightroom- You can use the free version for your phone or computer. So many people sell Lightroom presets that are ready-made filters for your photos and those can be a great start in creating a cohesive IG feed that is visually pleasing. Yes, presets are great but it is also important to not just throw a filter on EVERY photo. Even some of the best Lightroom presets need customizing so your photos look clear and crisp.

2. Facetune- I love Facetune for simple editing. Tools like the "smooth" application can really be game-changers for your photos. Make sure you do not go overboard on editing your photos because people can really tell.

3. Snapseed- Snapseed is a cool app especially for the "healing" tool. The healing tool will allow you to remove certain objects out of your pics that would otherwise be an eyesore.

4. Stories Edit- This app is fairly new to me, but I do like the story templates they have. If you want to upload cohesive "blogger-like" stories, the Stories Edit app is great for that

5. Canva- No list would be complete without Canva. Canva has taken me awhile to master, but I now consider myself an expert at it. Like most design apps, it will take you awhile to master your own "Canva" style. I encourage you to just keep practicing at it.

Remember, taking and editing photos takes practice. In the beginning, it feels incredibly awkward to take photos of yourself that are not "selfies." I remember using my phone tripod and timer and feeling out of breath simply because the angle was NEVER right and I had to keep running over to the phone to re-position it. Using natural lighting, wearing comfortable clothes and not being will make all of the difference in how your pictures come out.

Lastly, with Halloween almost over and Thanksgiving around the corner, I have been working on a new book that I am planning to drop around the holiday. The Purpose with Productivity planner was a true baby of mine and I am so grateful so many of you purchased it during its release. While I am not ready to spill the tea on the new book, just know it revolves around... FOOD.

Are there any recipes that you need? What are your holiday plans? I feel like so much time has past since I was able to connect with all of you. What are you looking forward to the most this holiday season? Drop me a comment below and as always, have an amazing week.

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