October 1, 2014

10 Things to do in October

October is one of my favorite months. The scenery here in New England at this time of year is breath-taking. Every year I'm still surprised to look around and see one beautiful scene after another. The air is crisp, the sun is still warm, and there is still time to enjoy the outdoors without too much difficulty. And then there's Halloween...one of my favorite holidays. In fact, the first in the trifectaHalloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It's a magical time of year that goes by much too quickly.

1. Take in the view. No matter where you live, Mother Nature is giving us a gift. Take the time to look around and appreciate it all. I'm not one of those people who grumbles as tourists take up parking spaces this time of year. I just thank them for coming and I hope they enjoy their trip.

2. It's time to cook with pumpkins, play with pumpkins, and have fun with pumpkins. My family and I have already chosen the big guys that sit on our porch, but I still have to buy some jack-be-little's for decorating indoors. There's lots of creative ways to use pumpkins. (And I promise you'll enjoy this Pumpkin Bread recipe, too.)

3. Rake up the leaves. But have fun in the process. Luckily, with all of the trees I have on my property, I don't have to rake too many from the yard. But as I've seen when we've gone trick-or-treating in the past, piles of leaves can be used for other purposes...like hiding scary people. Then it's time to take them to the compost pile. As you may have seen on Instagram (yes, I'm using my account again), David and I have been re-shaping our yard. Leaves come in very handy when you try to fill in holes. Someday those leaf-filled holes become grass. And I don't have to tell you what a wonderful asset they are to gardens of all sizes. I've learned to protect plants from harsh New England winters the hard way.

4. Go on a hayride. We watched children pile into the orchard wagon on Saturday to go pick pumpkins and I couldn't help thinking about all the times the girls did this. Kate assures me that her own children will be tossed up onto the piles of hay. This is a great way to slow down and watch the leaves fall.

5. Get ready for Halloween! I start to haunt the house around mid-month. This is Amanda's favorite holiday, and now that she's a senior in high school, I have to pull out all the stops for this year's bash. I'm not going to tell you what I have planned, but I can assure you that I'll share photos when I'm through. In the meantime, be inspired by checking out past Halloween decorations and costumes.

6. Brew up a spicy scent. I love spicier scents in general whether it's perfume or fragrance for my home. And I adore spicy food. So here are a few spice mixes to use when cooking and one to make your home smell delicious.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground allspice, 1 teaspoon vanilla powder. Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Chili Spice: 2 teaspoon paprika, 4 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Mulling Spice: 3 strips dried orange rind, 2 strips dried lemon rind, 2 tablespoons whole cloves, 1 tbsp. whole allspice, smashed, 1 whole star anise, smashed, 4 cinnamon sticks, smashed. Break larger pieces into quarters, then divide mixture into equal parts. Make a spice bag using cheesecloth and use one spice bag for every 2 quarts of cider (or wine).

Home Fragrance: 1/4 C of fresh cranberries, an orange, a few cinnamon sticks, and a tablespoon of cloves. Place them all in a pot and cover with water, then simmer away.

7. Get ready for winter. New England winters can be brutal, so it's better to take care of things ahead of time than when you're in the middle of a storm. This is why we've been tackling our driveway this year. It was time. If you heat with wood, or just use it for the occasional fire, bring your wood closer to the house, but don't bring it too close. Make sure you start to store firewood inside by the end of the month, too. If those heavy blankets aren't out of storage yet, they should be. Check on your battery and emergency supplies. Now is the time to take stock of what you have on hand for perishables. My basement is filled with shelves of supplieswater, canned foods, toiletrieswhatever you don't want (or can't) go out into the cold to get.

8. Stock up on fall/winter-themed books. I love to read about the seasons when they happen, not the other way around. So anything with a summer theme must wait until then. I also like to challenge myself to read specific titles or genres. Last winter I set a goal to read all 7 Harry Potter books. Well, the 4,175 pages took me until July to finish, but I did it. (Try 20 YA Reads, or one of these titles.)

9. Watch fall-themed movies like Dan in Real Life; Planes, Trains, & Automobiles (a little early for Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd toss it in); Hocus Pocus; Practical Magic; Goodwill Hunting, Autumn in New York; The Blind Side; and Step Mom. I'm looking forward to seeing This is Where I Leave You in theatres.

10. Buy a new sweater. Can you really have enough sweaters? I know I can't. I'm hopelessly in love with cashmere, but I do find sweaters in other materials that can be almost as soft (which is my #1 sweater rule). I found a few here, here, and here. (And here is a little cashmere, too.)