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i woke up feeling meh. to be honest, i hadn’t felt myself the entire weekend. but i wouldn’t let my own pettiness wreck what had planned to be a perfect sunday funday. so i gave myself a pep talk, put on a cute outfit, and waited for S to pick me up.

seeing as we had gone the entire month of october without doing anything “fall-ish,” S and i had planned on visiting a local pumpkin patch to hopefully capitalize on a pumpkin fire sale (everything must go!). turns out, north county pumpkin patches don’t have fire sales. not even a locals discount. rude. we arrived to a very kid-dominated patch (as expected) with almost as many bounce houses as there were pumpkins. i looked around in dismay. this is definitely not how i envisioned our experience to be, i thought quietly to myself. we perused what little pumpkin inventory they had, and while there were certainly fair contenders, i still couldn’t quite justify spending $12-15 on an oversized gourd we were really only buying to gut and extract the seeds for roasting. so i suggested that perhaps we go to trader joe’s or sprouts instead. sure, the patch provided the ambiance we had been seeking, but maybe it was the realist in me making decisions that day, because at that point a grocery store seemed as good of a place as any to purchase our pumpkin.

so nearly as quickly as we arrived did we head back to his truck.

when we got to sprouts, we found their pumpkin inventory in the front of a store. dozens of orange spheres were strewn about in a cardboard corral. again, this certainly wasn’t bates nut farm, but the price tag read “$2.99” and all of a sudden i didn’t care about ambiance anymore. S carried around our prized pumpkin as we searched the aisles for the last ingredient for our sunday supper -creamed corn for the creamed corn cornbread (how could we go without it, the ingredient is in the name!). but even after calling in recruits (a sprouts staff member), our creamed corn search proved futile. womp womp. trying to be efficient as possible, we returned the pumpkin back to its resting spot and piled back into the car for what we hoped to be the last stop on our pumpkin parade. albertson’s. having visited it recently for their in-store starbuck’s, i knew they had an adequate inventory of pumpkins. and as far as our creamed corn search was concerned, if albertson’s didn’t carry it, it probably couldn’t be found. turns out, third time’s a charm. we walked out of albertson’s with a pumpkin, a can of creamed corn, and a few other miscellaneous items to complete our sunday ambitions.

when we arrived home, we got to work. S handled cutting open the pumpkin and extracting the seeds, and i pre-heated the oven and prepared the cookie sheet for roasting said seeds. once the seeds were washed, drained, boiled, and drained again, i massaged them with a little olive oil and spread them out over the foiled sheet, dusting them with salt before popping them into the pre-heated 325-degree oven. they baked for about 10 minutes, and then for about 10 minutes more. the recipe had been very adamant about avoiding a “golden brown” coloring since that would tend to indicate that the inner seed (pepita, if you will) was burnt-slash-no-longer-tasty. luckily, our batch came out a slightly tanned color, and after letting them cool for a minute or two, a taste test confirmed that i had successfully kept them edible. hooray!

once the seeds had been roasted, we turned our attention to the chili. first step, brown the meat in a saute pan. S, that’s all you. in a matter of moments the ground turkey was cooked and ready for the slow cooker. he dumped it into the ceramic oval-shaped dish and i followed with the bell peppers i had chopped earlier. then went in the onions, two cans of tomato sauce, a large can of fire roasted tomatoes, and the first can of kidney beans. i took account of how quickly we were filling up the dish. how many more ingredients do we need to add? i thought.  WILL ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS FIT IN THE POT?! i took a deep breath, swished around what items we had already added (in an attempt at create more space) and proceeded with the rest of the recipe. in went another can of kidney beans and a can of black ones, too. some chili powder, cumin, and salt. then the frozen corn and the entire jar of tamed jalapenos. at this point it was very clear we had reached pot capacity. in fact, we had probably far surpassed it. i looked back at the counter, “uh, babe? we still have one extra can of black beans to add.” i confessed sheepishly to S. we looked at each other and already knew. not today, black beans. there simply wasn’t enough room. we attempted to squash down our menagerie of tomatoes, peppers, meat and corn the best we could before topping the cooker with its glass lid. we pushed the button marked “6 hours” for the prescribed cook-time, set it, and forget it. and also said a few prayers that i wouldn’t have an overflow of tomato sauce running down my kitchen cabinets in the interim.

flash forward a few hours later. all of a sudden, it seemed, an audible bubbling sound emerged from the kitchen. oh no, i thought. i braced myself as i leapt from the couch to tend to what i hoped wasn’t the great chili eruption of 2014. there was definite overflow, but thankfully it was relatively minor. S helped me maneuver an old dishcloth beneath the pot so any leftover spillage would land there over the clean counter top. crisis semi-averted. we waited another hour or so before scooping ourselves portions to pair with the cornbread S had whipped up during the course of our six-hour wait time.

and it was delicious. seriously, i had two bowls. and so did he.

and thankfully so were the pumpkin seeds. and the cornbread. in fact, the food was about the only thing we did right that day.

because what i failed to mention was that S ended up cutting his thumb pretty bad while carving the pumpkin and then burnt his hand accidentally grabbing the still very hot handle of the cast iron skillet. never one to let him one up me, i burnt my tongue on the initial bites of chili. and later soon discovered that the overflow of tomato juices had not only corroded on the inside of the ceramic pot, but inside the metal part of the cooker as well. peachy. added to the previous events of the day and my overall feeling of ickiness, sunday was far from the glamorous “quintessential fall day” i had planned and envisioned in my head.

but as S has mentioned to me before, our life is not a movie. these less-than-instagram-worthy moments are real life. and life is messy. it’s burnt tongues and hands and taking three trips just to find a pumpkin. it’s having to adjust the recipe just to ensure all of the ingredients fit inside the pot, and then having the pot overflow anyway.

it’s having half of the cornbread stick to the pan when you try to flip it out of the skillet (true story).

it’s all of it.

but i’d take this messy life over anything portrayed in a nicholas sparks novel. because i get to spend these perfectly imperfect moments with my best friend. one who can cut his finger and still manage to turn out an amazing batch of cornbread and a perfectly carved pumpkin.

image via paintings by loren mccutcheon



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