In two weeks, on Sept. 22, the first day of fall will greet us on the South Shore. Today I’m feeling the change of seasons and foods change, too. It’s too soon to start baking cookies, cakes, and casseroles, but it’s a perfect time to prepare energizing eats to help get in the mode of squirrel-like seasonal prep behavior: weatherizing the cabin, getting wood to cozy flannel sheets, and raking fallen pine needles. Speaking of pine needles, this summer came with seasonal challenges of sorts. A few weeks ago, a big yellow jacket flying around the stairs on the front deck stung Simon, my Brittany. I heard a yelp (or five) and iced his leg (or tried to do it). We survived. A few days later, I noticed a few more active insects by the deck, and one afternoon I got stung on my right ankle. On a one to 10 pain scale — 10 being off the charts — I was a feeling a 20. It hurt! Simon was brave. I was not. Hours passed. Nothing helped stop the ache. I tried ice, apple cider vinegar, and sipping a homemade summer fruit smoothie to try and comfort my pain — body, mind, and spirit. Then, energized with the carbs, I put manuka honey (I have a jar of the medicinal stuff in my bathroom) on the inflamed and swollen wound. The pain was gone 100 percent ASAP. But that’s not all.The bug terminator came out to the cabin. I insisted there was a nest of those stinging insects under the stairs. At first, the yellow jacket expert called out, “There’s about 20 of them.” I nodded. Then, I said, “There’s a nest underneath the wooden stairs.” He hesitated. I sensed the brave man didn’t believe me, the intuitive who works as a phone psychic, and left back indoors for safety. Minutes later I heard loud words echoing: “Here’s the nest!” Through the living room window my eyes stared at a gray round mass the size of two large softballs. And after that hot day incident, I’m looking forward to cooler temps and fall fruit smoothies without stinging pests.Banana Orange Smoothie1 banana (peeled, frozen, diced)1/3 cup Greek honey vanilla yogurt1/2 cup premium vanilla ice cream1/3 cup organic 2 percent reduced-fat milk3 tablespoons fresh, premium orange juice5 ice cubes1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1/4 teaspoon cinnamonDash of nutmegIn a blender, mix ingredients until creamy and thick. Add flavoring. Pour into a milkshake or parfait glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Use a straw, long spoon. Serves two.Dried Fruit & Nutty Oatmeal1 cup mixed dried fall fruit (apples, apricots, peaches, plums)1 cup lightly salted cashews1 cup white chocolate chips1 1/2 cups oatmeal, cookedOrange blossom honeyIn a bowl, mix fruit, nuts, and chocolate. Follow directions for oatmeal (either old-fashioned or quick oats). Top cooked oatmeal with 1/2 cup fruit mixture per 3/4 cup oatmeal. Drizzle with honey. Makes two servings. Store fruit and nut mixture in a sealed container; it’s best in the fridge. It can be used with granola, ice cream, yogurt or solo.This morning when I recalled the yellow jacket days, I dished up a bowl of hot oatmeal with a nature’s finest trail mix: a combo of fall fruits, nuts, and chocolate. It’s touted as a Californian’s health nut snack. I paired it with a fresh cup of hazelnut coffee — another autumn delight. But sweet autumn has its surprises, too. A few years ago during autumn, after I brought firewood into my home I took a break. I signed onto my laptop computer. A tickle on my cheek caught my attention and I touched my skin only to be welcomed by a large wolf spider crawling on my keyboard. One tetanus shot later: A red cheek, throbbing, and the film “Arachnophobia” spooked me at night as I endured pain and nibbled on chocolate to feel better (it’s got compounds that promise to fight pain). So, before the new season hits, I’m stocking up on trail mix and smoothie ingredients for peace of mind while sharing life with God’s creatures, big and small, in the mountains.Motto: Convenient energizing, nutritious quick-fix foods can be a blessing during any season. You never know what type of creature can make or break your day.— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) “Animal Attraction: A Collection of Tales & Tails” will be released this fall. Her website is www.calorey.com.
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