Without a doubt, fall is my favorite season of the year. I absolutely love the vibrant colors of the leaves in October. I love throwing on a cozy jacket and scarf and warming up my hands with a hot drink. I just love it all.
This past week, I went all out on fall. It started on a whim this Thursday. Every day, I take the scenic route on Lake Drive from my workplace in the northern part of Milwaukee County back to my apartment downtown. This time, rather than just getting home and cozying up inside for the rest of the day, I threw on a heavier coat, boots and scarf, grabbed my Canon and ran back outside. For the next two hours, I made my way down a stretch of Milwaukee’s lakefront, stopping briefly for hot tea at Colectivo so I could warm up and share a few of my photos with my family and friends.
I wasn’t done yet.
Fast-forward to Saturday morning. Ever since I started working third-shift, it’s been nearly impossible for me to sleep in on weekends. From 5:00 a.m. onward, I usually toss and turn and wait for a socially-acceptable time to get up, so that I’m not the person in my group of friends bailing on plans at 4:00 p.m. because it’s “too late.” But this time, I decided to make the most of the morning. I threw on a few layers, grabbed the only glove I could find (making a mental note right now to buy a full pair before winter arrives) and drove back down to the lakefront, where the sun was due to rise in approximately 30 minutes.
It was so serene. The only other person outside that morning was another photographer, who gave me a quick rundown of her favorite places and times of the year to take photographs (Note: Lake Michigan is an absolute must after the first snow). Even after the sun rose, I still wasn’t ready to call it quits for the morning. So, I hopped in my car and drove up to Shorewood, to stop at a park with a gorgeous sculpture that always catches the sun and moonlight in the most stunning way.
I still wasn’t finished with my fall festivities.
My friend from work invited me to check out Nieman Orchards in Cedarburg Saturday afternoon with her and a couple of her friends… and fall-themed outfits were a must! I filled up a bag with a peck of apples, even managing to snag some Honeycrisp and McIntosh apples along the way. After that, we stopped at Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, sampling some of their fall bottles before heading back to Milwaukee.
You’d think I’d be done with fall by this point, right? I mean, I’m getting tired just typing up this summary. But nope, there’s more…
To cap it all off, I headed out to Holy Hill in Washington County with another friend from work. Every year, Travel Wisconsin lists Holy Hill, the Ice Age Trail and Pike Lake as some of the top places to get photos of the fall foliage in October. Because the scenic tower at Holy Hill doesn’t open until 1:30 on Sundays, we decided to check out the Ice Age Trail and Pike Lake at Kettle Moraine State Forest while we waited. Every turn along each trail reminded me of my favorite quote:
“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien
But here’s the thing: we definitely did get lost in Kettle Moraine State Forest after we climbed to the top of the Powder Hill Overlook to check out Pike Lake. What should have been a “15-minute leisurely walk” along the trail back to the parking lot turned into 20 minutes on the wrong path, followed by 15 minutes on the main roadway within the park. By the time we went to Holy Hill to finally climb up to the top of the tower, hundreds of people were waiting to do the exact same thing. Needless to say, we wrapped up our day a little earlier than planned. But that’s okay, because I still walked away with some absolutely incredible photos.
So, what do you do with lots of photos and a dozens of apples? You find a new recipe to try out so you can write a post like this. With the temperatures dropping by the day around here (it even snowed overnight), I knew I’d need some hot apple cider this week. I tried out a slow-cooker cider recipe from Bless This Mess that did not disappoint. Seriously, if you picked way too many apples at an orchard this weekend and just want to curl up with a hot drink while watching Parks and Rec or Friends for the millionth time, this recipe is an absolute must.
Slow Cooker Apple Cider
Homemade Apple Cider
- 15 apples Assorted
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon Can use 3 cinnamon sticks instead
- 1 tsp ground cloves Can use 2 whole cloves instead
- 1/2 orange
- 1/2 cup brown sugar can substitute honey or maple syrup if preferred
- 10-14 cups water
Slice apples and orange into quarters. No need to worry about getting rid of stems and seeds. Add to slow cooker, along with cinnamon and cloves.
Turn on high heat and cook covered for three hours.
After three hours, use a potato masher or large spoon to mash up all the apples and the orange in the cooker. Return the lid and cook for another hour on high.
Pour mixture through a sieve to reduce it to just the liquid, then return the liquid back to the slow cooker.
Turn slow cooker setting to low heat and add brown sugar. Stir it up until the sugar dissolves, and then serve.
Recipe adapted from Slow Cooker Apple Cider - Bless This Mess.