8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for early fall

I like to keep a list in my bullet journal of the (mostly) little, everyday things bringing me a disproportionate amount of happiness these days. A recent sampling:

1. James Ponti books. Every once in a while my kids stumble upon a new-to-them author or a great series and it makes them—and me!—so happy. They’re reading great books, and I don’t have to do the work of finding them.

Recently my youngest two (ages 10 and 12) blew through the Framed series by James Ponti—which also resulted in the cutest school project. So imagine my delight when this past weekend at SIBA I bumped into the author himself. My kids were over the moon. And I won Mother of the Year—at least in my kids’ eyes—because I returned home with an advance copy (signed and personalized!) of his March 2020 release City Spies.

(Both these kids also adores the Renegades series from Marissa Meyer, and are eagerly anticipating book 3 of her trilogy, coming this November. Too bad I didn’t bump into her at SIBA!)

2. This dress. I’m ready for fall clothes, but the thermostat says we’re nowhere close to sweater weather. This dress is a great compromise: feels like summer, looks like fall. Easy to wear, easy to wash, unfussy and friendly.

3. Tamale pie, because it is fall in my heart and I am ready for a seasonal shift in the kitchen as well. This favorite recipe from Pam Anderson’s cookbook Perfect One-Dish Dinners is mostly made on the stove, so it doesn’t heat up the house much, but it feels like fall comfort food. We serve this with some kind of slaw (keep reading!) so it still feels seasonally appropriate, even when it’s 100 degrees out.

4. Monarch Coffee. When my family was in Kansas City last spring, we visited so many great coffee shops—and to my delight, it’s easy-peasy to order online from KC’s Monarch

I’m a decaf drinker, which suits me fine, but I do get weary of the same old options. That’s why I love to bring home beans when I travel, so I can have some variety at home. I loved Monarch’s light-roasted decaf—something that’s surprisingly hard to find, because most decafs are roasted very, very dark—and now that I’m back home, I can still have it delivered to my door in Kentucky.

A note to you lucky people who can tolerate caffeine: I’m the decaf drinker, but my husband also enjoys trying some new regular beans from Monarch as well. (If you’re in the decaf boat with me, you may want this list of 45 sources for great decaf coffee.)

5. Vinegar slaw with cucumbers and dill. This summer I found and fell in love with this simple recipe from the first Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I love it, my kids love it, it goes with all kinds of summer and fall dishes. And it’s so inexpensive to make.

6. Superhero summer. Readers, I have plenty of friends who rush right out to the theaters every time a new superhero movie comes out, and I never really saw the appeal. But then again, I’d never actually watched one. And then this summer one of our kids came home begging to watch Guardians of the Galaxy. Do you know how hard it is to find a movie six people aged 9 to grown-up will all enjoy? But everyone liked Guardians of the Galaxy, or at least liked it well enough. That’s especially impressive because that was the wrong place to start in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After that, we all wanted to see the next one, and the next one. And so we called it our superhero summer, and attempted to make it through the entire catalog.

We didn’t, but we’re close. (Endgame is in our sights!) If you have a favorite, I’d love to hear about it in comments.

7. Houseplants. I know you’re shocked! To solidify my plant lady status, I brought home an actual tree I’ve been coveting, turned a not-quite-right wall in the dining room into a plant wall, successfully propagated my first philodendron and pothos clippings, and while I resisted buying yet another inexpensive fiddle leaf fig at Trader Joe’s, I did talk two customers into giving one a try, and sent them on their way with pointers on how to care for their new plant babies.

8. Wavy hair. I’m pretty no-fuss when it comes to hair and makeup, but summer hair is particularly challenging. When it’s 90 degrees and a zillion percent humidity, my hair doesn’t want to be straight, but it doesn’t want to be curly, either. The easiest thing to do would be to curl it, but I have no skills.

Out of frustration, I decided to finally try a tool I’ve been eyeing for years, one of those rotating curling irons. Mine is from Beachwaver, it’s the 1.25″ barrel, and I love it.

My hair doesn’t hold curl well, and I didn’t wish to invest a lot of time learning how to do my hair, so when I bought it I thought it was entirely possible I’d return it right away. But it works great, and I can curl all my hair—and I’ve got a lot of it—in five minutes flat. Wavy hair is a small thing, but it makes me happy.

What (mostly) little things are bringing YOU a disproportionate amount of happy lately? I’d love to hear in comments.

P.S. Previous editions of little things I’m loving: 8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for mid-summer9 little things I’m loving this September6 things I’m loving for early summer6 (mostly) little things I’m loving this spring5 late fall/early winter favorites7 little January favorites9 October favorites, and 7 not terribly exciting things making me really happy these days.

P.P.S. I didn’t take that top photo, but can you see why I love it? It’s by Shelby Miller on Unsplash.


Leave A Comment
  1. Sarah R says:

    Draper James should be asking you to model their dresses for them! 🙂
    I’m like you with my hair. I bought the Tigi Beach Waver off Amazon. It’s only $30!

  2. Heather says:

    I just put a hold on the book Framed. I’m always looking for books that my almost 9 year old voracious reader will enjoy and this looks like a good pick! Your Ficus Audrey is beautiful! Is her name Audrey? I follow Hilton Carter and he’s a big proponent of naming your plants or giving them pet names. He mentioned a study (which I had heard before) about how if you talked to a plant lovingly they are more likely to thrive. He thought that by naming them you would probably talk more lovingly to them because they have a name. His idea isn’t backed by research as far as I know, but the idea made sense to me. I only have named my FLF because it’s finicky and I have to talk to it a lot :).

    • Anne says:

      The plant store I got her from had already named her, and it wasn’t Audrey. (I guess they had too many Audreys for that to work?) I still need to get my hands on Hilton Carter’s new book. I love his Instagram.

  3. Lindsey says:

    I love that we were SIBA twinsies in our perfect-for-fall-feels-like-summer jeans dresses! James Ponti was a delight to meet–I confess my MG reading status is woefully behind, but my daughter and husband were so excited by his book. Cool mom here, too. Love your lists as always!

  4. Meagan says:

    I’m loving my new fall doormat and mums (even though I’m afraid they’ll die given the 90+ temps). Being done with boards so I have time to read all the books that have been on hold. Also super excited that the autumn squash soup is back at Panera!

  5. Lisa F. says:

    Three little things bringing me joy right now:
    1. Twinings English Breakfast Honey and Vanilla tea. I add a little honey to my favorite Ideal Bookshelf mug, steep the tea, and then add a teaspoon of cream–so comforting.
    2. Reading A Gentleman in Moscow for the first time and loving every page of beautifully written scenes (did other readers notice how much food seems almost a secondary character?).
    3. Asters–wild and cultivated. I love mums, but asters are my true favorite fall flower. The wild ones look lovely and rustic in a vase with some goldenrod.

    • Lori Erokan says:

      Lisa F, I’ll tell you how much I loved A Gentleman in Moscow: First I read it. Then a few months later, I listened to the audio, beautifully read by Nicolas Guy Smith. You know all those Russian, French, and German words that you kind of skip over? Well Nicholas Guy Smith knows how to pronounce them all! Get ready for 17 hours and 51 minutes of bliss. And then my sister found this recipe for Latvian Pork Stew: https://www.bookclubcookbook.com/gentleman-moscow-latvian-stew-recipe-author-amor-towles/ Remember when the Count recommended it to the young couple, and then ordered it for himself? My sister made it for her book group, and saved me a bowl. And it was SO GOOD that I begged her for the recipe. So I am passing along the favor. Hope you enjoy it!

      • Lisa F. says:

        Hi Lori,
        That is amazing that you mentioned the Latvian stew, as that is the dish that keeps popping into my head! I was just talking to someone yesterday about how I would love to find a recipe for it, so thank you!

      • Sue says:

        Totally agree with you, Lori Erokan—A Gentleman in Moscow is a super delight on audio with Nicholas Guy Smith!! He is perfect and puts the emphasis right on every perfect word coming out of Amor Towles’ pen. And I love your story about the Latvian Stew….I will look it up.

      • Kathy Beal says:

        Lori, it’s so nice to “meet” another giant GiM fan. Oh my goodness, I love this book. It is so brilliantly plotted. It is deep, yet whimsical. I met the author at his book talk in Portland, Oregon. He is a gentleman – kind, humble, and gently genius. 😀

  6. Meg says:

    The dress is really cute, but the hemline seemed to be different on each model on the website. I really prefer my dresses to fall just above the knee –I work at a church, so mid-thigh hemlines won’t cut it!

    As for the MCU, Guardians 2 was probably the first movie I saw–not counting random bits of Iron Man 3 when it was on cable all the time. After seeing Infinity War with my daughter (which I went into with zero advance knowledge), I decided to watch more of the MCU movies, but I used the Entertainment Weekly grading system as a guide. I only watched those that earned an A or A-. The teens were happy to re-watch them with me, and I didn’t have to commit to watching 17 (or more) movies.

  7. Edie says:

    I’ve got to share the love with Pam Anderson’s cookbooks. Her recipes are always good, always dependable and many are staples in my house. I own three of her cookbooks (including the One Dish Dinners – try the cassoulet if you haven’t) and have been loving her newly revised How to Cook Without a Book from the library. It is fantastic! She is by far my favorite cookbook author for weeknight dinner recipes.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Children’s books. I just became a children’s librarian and I am reading ALL the books and finding so much joy in sharing them with people (whether they care or not!). Kid lit isn’t a genre I read super often, but with this new job and nieces and nephews learning to read, I am diving right in and taking all the recs!

  9. Lynn says:

    Love you picture. I too am afraid of plants due to my record but am trying a couple here this fall. Will try your slaw recipe. Love the recommendations for the kids. Always looking for new reads for them. Have a lovely fall.

    • Anne says:

      We’ve been relying heavily on a similar list! (Although I can’t talk some family members into watching Ironman 2 and 3, at least not yet. They REALLY didn’t like the character in the original Ironman. You can tell me how bad it would be to skip the sequels.)

  10. Jaimie Ramsey says:

    The thing that made me happiest here is definitely the Marvel movies! My husband is a huge nerd and converted me when we started dating (10 years ago, so right after the MCU movies started coming out). I love most of them so it’s very hard to pick a favorite. However, Ant-Man ranks high because it’s SO family-friendly and considerably more light-hearted than many of the other MCU movies. I also really like the Iron Man movies because they’re so funny. Guardians of the Galaxy (and sequels) are also pretty hilarious. Doctor Strange was, well, STRANGE. Lots of weird mysticism and a lot of the CGI was very trippy. But a very important part of the overall story arc (which you’ll see when you watch Infinity War and Endgame).

    We also really love the Captain America movies, although Civil War is one of the saddest to watch IMO (but not as bad as Infinity War– no spoilers though if you haven’t seen it yet! 😉 ).

    Anyway, I’ll stop there with the movie commentary! 🙂 I love slaw so I’ll be checking out that recipe, and the tamale pie sounds awesome but I’ll need to tweak it to be lower-carb for my diabetic husband. Bet I can probably figure out a different crust with nut flours. 🙂 Also, LOVE the dress on you! 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad you said this, my family watched Dr Strange without me when I was away (No worries, I knew and was on board with this plan 🙂 ), and I thought it would be no big deal to skip over. Oops!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    There is a new website about to launch called happyhappyhouseplant.com I read about it in Real Simple magazine, and I think it might be right up your alley!

  12. Donna H. says:

    I’m so excited your family is loving the Marvel movies. I’m a HUGE fan and I’d say my favorites are Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and all of the ‘Avenger’ ones that has the whole gang together. I have already signed up for 3 years of Disney+ which has a bunch of Marvel stuff coming along with their other IP (maybe Star Wars will be your next theme, there are some duds but overall it’s a great set of movies and The Mandalorian looks good).

  13. Brandon Harbeke says:

    Most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is high qualtiy (except The Incredible Hulk). My highest recommendations are The Avengers (2012), Ant-Man, and Thor.

    • Anne says:

      Yeah, we were a little surprised by The Incredible Hulk. It just felt so different from the rest of the ones we’d seen—different cinematography, no humor.

  14. Lauren Lahann says:

    I am hooked on those Marvel movies, I caught up on them sometime in 2017 and have been seeing them all opening weekend since then. My absolute favorite is Thor: Ragnarok, it’s just so funny, and I have re-watched it a half dozen times (and I am not typically a movie re-watcher). I also really love the Tom Holland Spider-man movies, and I would think they’d be a hit with the kids too since he’s in HS. The most recent Spider-man is in my top 5, but you can’t watch it until after Endgame. Lastly, have tissues on hand for Endgame – I sobbed (actual tears streaming down the face) three times. It gets really emotional.

  15. Tiffany E. Bell says:

    Oh my, we also had super hero summer here. We started with captain marvel in april and were hooked, we had previously seen guardians of the galaxy which has us confused. We watched in order and finished end games over labor day weekend

  16. Dana Qualls says:

    We also set out to watch all Marvel movies this summer. I had missed a few so had holes in my understanding of the complete story. We are at Captain America: Civil War so we have a little way to go but I am loving the journey. So far my fave was Avengers Age of Ultron. Loved the humor!

  17. sabiha chunawala says:

    My Fall favorites are my cuddly Hygge inspired socks that I received in the most fun book experience box ever (Bibliophilic Excursions https://www.biblioexcur.com/), a warm mug of Aveda Tea (decaf and feels like warm honey going down), and a long novel that allows me to sink in and stay awhile.

  18. Andrea says:

    My son got us all started through the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as well so when Endgame came out, we were all in. It was a really great film even though it was long. But you hardly notice the time. Proof that it is well-done. I’ll give you fair warning though – the final battle scene is super tense, and I must have been vicarious experincing all that tension because it was difficult walk out of the movie theater (!). We went from here to the newest Spiderman movies, including Spider Sense. The Black Panther was also amazing. Enjoy!

  19. Another fabulous round-up! Always love seeing what’s bringing joy 🙂 My mostly-little joy bringer right now is my friend’s teeny tiny dog I’m caring for this weekend – his name is Alfie, he’s curled up next to me right now, making my heart sing! And the big fat book I’ve got waiting for me upstairs… 😀

  20. Cyndi Moskal says:

    What Should I Read Next? is giving me endless happiness during summer’s end. I discovered it very late and am working my way backwards (while still listening to new episodes) and my TBR is exploding! I love it! It’s the first time I have ever wished I had a longer commute.

    And our oldest is senior this year. Looking through 17 years of photos to look for possible yearbook photos has giving me so much joy. I constantly second guess if we do enough things or the right things with our kids. But taking a step back and looking at their lives through the photos we’ve taken floods me with such happiness at all the smiles and silliness and family time we’ve spent.

  21. Caitlyn says:

    I would also recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s not part of the MCU, but it will delight a room full of 9 to grown ups. It’s a cartoon, but please don’t let that turn you off! It’s funny and heartfelt and the art is great!

    I’d love to know more about how you choose your plants. Do you just go to a nursery and ask? Or do you just pick what you like and hope for the best? I think I need a better system for choosing plants!

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t seen this but my kids LOVE that one!

      For plants: sometimes I love the look of a certain plant, and want to find a place to make it work at home. And sometimes I have a spot at home that I think could use a plant. I always ask at my local shops how easy a certain plant is to kill before I bring it home, though. 🙂

  22. Janice Rine says:

    Thanks for the list of decaf coffee. My husband has been downgraded to decaf & very sad. His favorite, so far,is Green Mountain Columbian Decaf. Very good.

  23. Maria says:

    Cutest lil blog post! I feel you on the kids enjoying the books. We just recently started the Harry Potter series – I am over the mean that they are enjoying it

  24. Amy says:

    OOoo, I’ll take those book suggestions. I’m always on the hunt for something my 9 year old son will be interested in reading. Can’t have too many book suggestions! Ragnarok is my favorite MCU movie, but I do love all the Avengers movies. I like having the whole gang together. I’m a wavy haired girl myself. I feel you. I’ll never have straight wash-n-go hair. THAT, I’m envious of.

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