Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall Favorites

As sad as I am to see the summer coming to an end, there are a lot of wonderful things about the fall that I love, and that I look forward to eagerly every year. Here are some of my favorite things about fall:

The Afternoon Light
As annoying as it sometimes is when the slant of the light blinds you on your afternoon commute in the early autumn, there’s also a beautiful golden cast to that afternoon sunlight that puts a kind of an aura around everything. I love to sit on my porch and watch the glow of the sun over the trees, or see the sunlight catch my daughter’s blond locks or my son’s light brown waves and give them an angelic halo.

Warm Days, Cold Nights
One of the first changes that tells me that autumn is here is the return of good sleeping weather. The days are still warm, the sunshine still heats everything up during the day, but once the sun goes down in September, a chill falls. I love slipping in between the cool sheets of my bed, snuggling underneath my fluffy comforter, putting my cold feet on my husband’s warm legs, and slowly but surely getting all toasty and cozy.

Casseroles and Crock Pots
I’m mainly a comfort food cook, so planning dinners in the summer is always a challenge for me. I tend to rely on my husband’s grilling skills most of the time. But when the weather cools enough that a) using the stove doesn’t cause anyone in the kitchen to faint from the heat, and b) my family is happy to sit down to a hot meal, I pull out all my casserole and crock pot recipes. Shepherd’s pie, chicken and rice casserole, chili, chicken pot pie, lasagna, pork chops and applesauce…I love to make them and I love to eat them.

Autumn Smells
Autumn has so many wonderful smells, both indoors and out. Outside, there’s a smell of burning leaves, of upturned earth from fall plantings, of rainstorms that somehow smell different in the fall. Inside, there’s lingering wood smoke from the first fire in the fireplace, that funny musty smell from the first time the furnace kicks on, and the wonderful kitchen smells from the above-mentioned casserole and crock pot cooking. Sometimes in September I just take a few moments to just stand still and take in that wonderful fall smell.

Fall Decorations
In July, everyone decorates their houses with bunting, American flags, stars, wooden Uncle Sam dolls, all things patriotic. But once that comes down, there’s not much themed decoration until September, when people break out the big pots of purple and orange and gold chrysanthemums, the wreaths of autumn leaves, the Indian corn, the scarecrows, and the pumpkins.

Fall Flavors
Speaking of pumpkins, fall is when all the local supermarkets and bakeries and coffee chains start putting out their wonderful fall flavors, mainly pumpkin-themed, with a bit of apples and cider and cinnamon and spices thrown in. Dunkin’ Donuts has pumpkin donuts, pumpkin munchkins, and pumpkin muffins; and pumpkin spice, pumpkin white chocolate, and pumpkin mocha coffee and lattes. Starbucks offers a pumpkin spice latte and a special Thanksgiving blend coffee. Many restaurants and bars offer fall-themed cocktails featuring cider and spices and cranberries, like caramel apple martinis and cranberry sangria and hot toddies and mulled wine. Mmmm, the taste of fall.

Cozy Clothes
By September, I am so sick of my summer wardrobe, and I am so ready to start wearing my cozy sweaters and turtlenecks and cute wool skirts and fabulous leather jackets and tall boots. I look forward to packing away all my sleeveless tops and T-shirts and cotton shorts and sandals in favor of long sleeves and khaki pants and tennis shoes. All those pastels can give way to my beloved forest greens and burgundies and navy blues and rich browns. The exhibitionism of summer gives way to the safe, protective comfort and cover of long sleeves, long hems, and baggy cuts that I can retreat into like a hermit crab vanishing into his shell.

The Unexpected Exception

And one of my very favorite parts of early fall is the occasional exceptions to the above rules. Every once in a while, September will sneak in a day, like today, when the temperature shoots back up to 90 degrees, when I have to dig out a pair of shorts from the box I just packed away, when I make a last-minute menu change to throw some pork chops on the grill instead of baking them in the oven, when ordering that pumpkin latte just feels wrong, when the scarecrow on the porch looks out of place and premature. Those moments remind me that even though I love the heat of summer, I’m ready for the coolness and changes that fall brings. 

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