Arriving late off a flight, I was not sure what my pumpkin item would turn out to be, but I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with pumpkin chocolate spheres upon my arrival! I didn’t find the pumpkin spice flavour to be very prominent in the chocolate, but the mild flavour paired well with it nonetheless.
Friends, it is one of the greatest times of the year: The Pumpkin Challenge.
This is my 7th annual challenge where I take on each day of October and consume something containing pumpkin in some way. It could be in the form of the gourd’s seeds, spices in a syrup, or pureed goodness in baking. Whatever its shape, I will consume it if it is a day in the month of October.
You may have noticed that we are almost halfway through the month – fret not, for I have been consuming every day despite my neglected documentation of it on the blog. My Instagram has been covering everything, and my photography page and account will also be updated soon.
What started as a challenge fueled by store-bought goods has turned into a baking adventure and mission to explore local cafes, bakeries, and restaurants – especially if they’re serving up vegan options!
Favourites across time have included pumpkin croquette from the beloved Sun Sushi in Vancouver, Nature’s Path pumpkin spice waffles and granola, and even some pumpkin green smoothies (yes, there is more than one recipe for this online).
Now that I have moved to a new city, this month feels extra-important as it is the first time I’ve done it away from home and gives me a small challenge to overcome every day and some structure to my weeks as I adjust – I either need to bake or create something at home or I need to go discover some new establishment that is serving up pumpkin goodness to match the season. It can be stressful ensuring that I find something every day when I’m busy or sick or just unmotivated, but it has brought some familiarity and comfort, as well as some unfamiliarity that is necessary to make myself feel like I have a place here.
Finally – it is time to go home! My last stretch of airports is upon me as I fly from Warsaw to Munich. My flight in Warsaw is delayed by almost an hour and I sprint across terminals trying to catch my critical connecting flight – and I miss it.
I stand in line for probably at least another hour before learning that there are no more flights out of Munich to Vancouver for another 24 hours. I had been so mentally prepared to go home that I almost cried on the spot – I had no more money to spend on hanging out in Europe and I didn’t want to get a free night in a hotel only to have to spend an entire day in the airport trying to kill time the next day while I waited for a flight. So, I met with a very kind German customer service fellow who offered me an alternative: Fly to Frankfurt, stay the night, fly to Vancouver the next morning.
An incredibly stressful sprint to the airport took me from Brussels to Warsaw, where I stayed for the night before heading to my final major destination: Katowice!
I will admit to having lost my emotional composure multiple times between Brussels and Warsaw, and then again more intensely between Warsaw and Katowice – misinterpreting which airport I was to go to, trying to store large luggage overnight in different languages, avoiding having my phone casually stolen on the bus, and lacking decent sleep for weeks. It could have been a lot worse, but I was quite shaken by the time I arrived in Katowice. Thankfully, my cousin had given me directions to my first stop in the town: Veganka.
Full of traditional Polish food that has been veganized, a very kind employee translated every menu item for me and I found myself with a sour sausage soup and a vegan ice cream sandwich (VERY GOOD). My cousin met up with me, and we began a whirlwind tour of the area that would last for only a couple of days.
I tiredly landed in Brussels after an amazing last meal in Dublin and 2 hours of sleep. I lugged my luggage across the city, which I found to be a bit… Browner, than others I had landed in (the splashes of colour would come). I found my way to G.M., who was working, so I wandered around and ate a delicious (and inexpensive) sandwich. My short trip to Brussels quickly checked items off the list: Frites, beer, chocolate, waffles.
There wasn’t a particular vision I had in mind when I made my way to Ireland, but I was blown away by its natural beauty when I arrived!
… And funky bars.
I did not realize just how much I valued how the ocean feels until I was standing on a coastline again and seeing waves crash and hearing sea birds fly overhead. It was so refreshing to be outside and enjoying good company in such a lovely place.