Fall is one of my favourite times of the year, and I’m always looking for ways to celebrate the season. I also really love hosting people in our home, and creating events and spaces where our friends and family feel welcome.
If you’ve been following me for awhile then you’ll already know that we did a major overhaul in our backyard this last summer, which resulted in our own little backyard oasis. The only downside was that it took almost the entire summer for us to complete the project, so I was feeling like we hadn’t had much time to enjoy it by the time September rolled around.
That’s when I began brainstorming ideas for how I could use the space one more time for a fall activity. I was inspired by Joanna Gaines’ fall edition of The Magnolia Journal and decided to host a chilli cook-off with some of our closest friends and family. I loved the concept of cozy sweaters, warm food, and the crisp outdoor weather culminating in perfect fall festivities.
I also really wanted this fall to be different from last fall. Last fall was hard; it was full of NICU visits, doctors appointment, trips to the emergency room, and being limited in almost every capacity while waiting to have heart surgery. I felt like I needed to make up for lost time, and this activity – a celebration of the season, and the people who matter most – was the perfect choice. Keep reading to see how we pulled off our Fall Chilli Cook-off!
For this get-together, we decided to stick with inviting some of our closest friends and family, so that it would be a more intimate experience. I envisioned people sitting on our deck, or huddled around the fire-pit, visiting and connecting with one another. I wanted our kids to be playing on the playset, and running around in the yard with Moose (our dog). I know this is all very idyllic, but I had a vision for this experience and knew it would be most meaningful to share with family.
Deciding on chilli for the meal was an easy choice. Chilli is comfort food; it’s warmth on a cool day, and it’s often associated with traditions or memories of childhood; we all have our own way of making it, and there’s beauty and simplicity in the idea that there’s really NO wrong way to mix up your favourite pot of combined ingredients and call it “chilli” – or some version of, anyway.
I decided to ask each family in attendance to bring their own version of Chilli, and then we added a friendly, competitive aspect where everyone would vote on the various options and there would be a “winning” pot of chilli.
We had three entries – a traditional chilli, a ground turkey & sweet potato chilli, and finally a cream-based italian sausage chilli. It was so hard to pick a winner – each entry was so delicious and so unique!
In addition to the chilli, a mulled cider was served (kid-friendly), and for dessert we had a s’mores charcuterie around an open fire. It was honestly such a perfect combination!
Because there were several kids in attendance, I also wanted to incorporate some fun activities. We made sure that the kids were all involved in the voting system for the various chilli options by printing off scorecards with a range of categories for attendees to rank each chilli. The kids had so much fun with this activity and it was great to see the older kids helping out the younger ones so that everyone could participate.
We also had pumpkin painting in the afternoon; each of the kids received a pumpkin and we provided washable paint, paint brushes, and pumpkin decorating kits so the kids could each create their own special pumpkin for the season. This activity was a huge hit! Because the entire day was spent outside, it was also really easy to set up and then take down as well, with minimal mess! The kids were all so proud of their pumpkins!
You know that for me, one of my favourite parts about hosting events is decorating for them; I know it isn’t necessary, and I don’t do it because I think I’m some sort of superwoman or to make anyone else feel like they should also be doing it. I decorate because it brings me joy and it’s another creative outlet. I also really love for people to feel special when they come to my events, and I find that creating the perfect atmosphere does that.
Because everything was outside, I had to get creative with my decor. We already had patio lights strung, so I added some harvest-themed decorations to the picnic table, outdoor coffee table, and chilli-buffet table. I hung a festive wreath, added a paper pumpkin garland, and used the pumpkins for the painting activity as additional deck decor prior to painting. I used a linen table cloth and a jute table runner to complete the look, and then labeled each pot of chilli with the cutest little leaf labels I found at Homesense.
I also purchased some fun mini bowls – ceramic for the adults and paper for the kids – themed plastic cutlery, paper plates, and harvest napkins, all of which were found at PartyCity in Saskatoon. I find it’s often the smallest details that have the biggest impact!
Overall, this was such a fun way to celebrate the fall season! In Saskatchewan, our fall season often feels far too short as winter approaches quickly (and often ferociously), so I’m so grateful we were able to enjoy a perfect fall day with our family and friends. I hope our home is a place where people know they are welcome and associate with these kinds of fun experiences for years to come!
How do you celebrate fall, and what should we add to our Chilli Cook-Off next year?! I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions in the comments below!