Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Small-town Fall Fun: Bonfires & Block Parties

What’s a better way to enjoy a chilly fall night than snuggled up in front of a fire? Throw in a few hotdogs cooked over the fire and some s’mores and you’ve just created a perfect autumn night.

Growing up in Southern Illinois I spent many fall nights with friends and family sitting by a campfire. Even though my friends and I were usually more interested in what we were wearing and who was with us, a few of my favorite memories from high school revolve around a campfire and hay rides through the back roads of Southern Illinois. 

This fall was the first time in many years that I was able to take part in this fall favorite and it reminded me just how good small-town life can be at times.

Another benefit of small-town life: block parties. JC and I recently moved to a really nice, quiet neighborhood in the outskirts of Decatur. Our neighbors have been extremely friendly and welcoming. One of the first things all of our neighbors mentioned when we met them was to be sure to mark our calendars for the annual fall block party. So when we received the flyer in the mail – the calendar was marked!

The block party was a nice, small gathering of our mostly adult neighborhood. We got to know a few neighbors we’d not met before and experienced our first-ever block party as a married couple. 

JC making the cream cheese frosting for the Pumpkin Bars.
For our weekend of fall fun I made a tasty fall treat: pumpkin bars. This was my first time making the recipe, but I used a great recipe from my former boss’ wife’s website.  The Pumpkin Bars were delicious!

Pumpkin Bars Recipe
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large can (29 oz) pumpkin
  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Chocolate Chips (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a bowl.
  3. Mix together eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin. Fold in dry ingredients and pour into jelly roll pan, 13 x 18 baking sheet pan.
  4. If using chocolate chips sprinkle the chips over the pumpkin mixture.
  5. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Frost with cream cheese frosting, if using.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese
  • 8 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla.

Here's the link to Gina Marie's Kitchen for this recipe and many more.

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