|Picture by Tami Melissa Photography, caramel apple by Johnson's Corner Farm in Medford, NJ|
This mostly unintentional process has had some really great results for me. When every month has its carols and rituals, I feel more connected to the changes going on in nature, even when I'm stuck in the middle of the city. I feel a little bit of the festivity of November and December, the rich association of memories with smells and tastes and sounds, at every changing season. I'm so glad I got married in the fall, because our anniversary feels like a full-blown holiday to me. Those memories fit so perfectly into the festivities of fall that I recreate each year. I keep the feeling alive through what I cook, what I see and hear, what I keep on my mind. It's a great way to keep life feeling like a celebration.
So, I'm going to make a list of stuff that I celebrate each season with, aside from the obvious like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the Monster Mash. A lot of this is really personal to my own experiences, so I'll give a little explanation where I can.
I made this post "part 1" just in case I think of enough stuff after the fact for a part 2.
Also I realized about half way through that this was reading a lot like a hippy version of Oprah's favorite things so... sorry about that. Unlike Oprah's stuff, though, I think the most expensive thing on here is $25, and you can find most of it in the Amazon box at the bottom or linked in the text.
For your listening pleasure, I made you this playlist thing! It consists of (in order): Espers, Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine, Loreena McKennitt, and The Village soundtrack. Starts out with folky, sometimes psychedelicy music with windchimes here and there, just the thing for a drive to the apple orchard or the Ren Faire; a cool, sunny afternoon or a gray autumn storm; a homemade pumpkin pie. And then there's Loreena McKennitt, of course- she has something for the hippies in every season, including a few Samhain tunes. And the Middle Eastern stuff? I don't know what makes it have to do with fall, I just love it and it does somehow.
We'll talk about The Village more later, but even if you hate it, you have to love the soundtrack. It is amazing atmospheric autumn beauty that will make you want to cry. James Newton Howard is my favorite composer (Joe Hisaishi, Miyazaki's composer, is a close second.) I walked down the aisle to the beginning of The Gravel Road, and we walked back up it to the end of Those We Don't Speak Of.
Are you asleep yet? Sorry, I like my music pretty and chill. Loud rock is reserved for the summer. If you need to wake up I also save Kings of Leon for the fall, although I really couldn't say why- probably just cause I heard Sex On Fire so many times the fall it came out.
Many of the above are also acceptable for a summer day, so long as it is below 80 degrees. Don't try to understand my madness.
Here's some stuff you should get.
1. Cinnamon Broom. You've probably seen (or smelled) these hanging out in the front of your local chain grocery store at this time of year, sometimes accompanied by clove scented pine cones. They're awesome! Makes the house smell wonderful, and if you have any kind of witchy decor going on, so much the better.
2. Cinnamon stick stirrers. Basically, they are extra long cinnamon sticks. I bought mine at Costco. They don't just look cute, they really do add to the flavor of the drink, especially if it's hot. Masala chai, hot spiced apple cider, maybe with a splash of buttershots in it? Oh and stay tuned for a delectable autumn cocktail on October 10, which this is also great for.
3. Juniper Ridge Incense. I mentioned this once before, but can't stress how much I love it. The smell of woodsmoke, whether from a bonfire or woodstove or real fireplace, is intoxicating to me. It's one of my favorite things about fall (and winter) and not being able to have any crackling fires of my own is a serious bummer. This is just like the real thing, cause that's what it is- made of wood, and no fake stuff. This is actually the only type of incense I can burn because scented kinds make me black out. I have no idea why, I just know I can't stay in my favorite knicknack shop in Philly Chinatown for more than 4 minutes if I want to remain conscious.
|henna puts the highlights where they belong instead of streaky fake ones!|
5. Burt's Bees medicated lip balm with clove oil. IT'S THE BEST! It's supposed to be medicated for cold sores, I don't get those but I do get super chapped lips in the fall and winter and this works like nothing else to soothe them, plus it smells amazing. It also says not to use it more than 3-4 times a day. I have not died from blatantly disregarding this warning.
6. Bath & Body Works Candles. I am all about scented stuff. Herby, spicy, flowery, fruity, woodsy - if it smells natural and strong, I love it. B&BW is always coming out with seasonal scents that are really fantastic, and unlike Yankee candles, which I smell when I put my face in the jar but not when they're burning, they fill the house with good smelliness. They have the big 3-wick jars on sale 2 for $20 a lot. I haven't been to the store yet to stock up, so I don't know what they've got this year - they seem to tweak them a lot between seasons, but there's usually some form of acorn & fig, all kinds of pumpkin, apple and spice, and some woodsy earthy leafy ones. Some of those smell like nasty man cologne, but some of them are really nice. I also buy their foamy hand soaps in seasonal scents, even though I know antibacterial soap is totally unnecessary and bad because it's creating resistant superbugs and apparently the chemicals cause heart failure. BUT THEY SMELL SO GOOD!
Food. Yes, occasionally, I will buy a food that I'm not making from scratch. OCCASIONALLY.
1. Whole Foods Triple Squash Soup. (Edit: here it is!) Haven't got any yet this year but I always have in years past, it is delish.
2. Japanese "Vermont" Curry. Get this from your local Asian mart - if you don't have one of those, you can probably get it on Amazon. If you have a crock pot, throw in some cubed beef or chicken, chop up a few onions, carrots and potatoes (I also add mushrooms when I have them, but I put them in everything) and you've got a yummy dinner with this cube of curry goodness. Of course you can make it in a pot on the stovetop too. It has a little bit of sweet apple flavor (thus the Vermont, I guess?) which, with the spices and warm stewiness, makes it a great fall meal. I am actually eating some right now, with Kokuho Rose short grain rice. My other favorite rice brand is Kagayaki. Note: Like Lush's henna, the curry looks like a bar of chocolate. It is not.
3. Buttershots. aka butterscotch Schnapps, made by DeKuyper. Let me tell you how delicious this stuff is. I am not a drinker. I don't like wine, I don't like beer, and I don't like anything made at normal strength unless it's a pina colada. And sometimes those are too strong too. I've never been buzzed in my life, but I have, on occasion, felt like I was getting a migraine minus the migraine, and if that's what it's supposed to feel like then people who drink must be extremely masochistic. I'm going to feature two drink recipes using buttershots this year, but I would put this in just about anything. Any soda. Any tea. Apple cider, hot or cold. It tastes like candy and not at all like booze and it makes all fall flavored things delicious!
4. Do you live near Philadelphia or PA Dutch Country? If so, LUCKY YOU! You can drink the best apple cider EVER!! It is available at Kauffman's Fruit Farm and Market and also at the Reading Terminal Market Wednesday-Friday 8-5. I no longer live there and so I cannot drink gallons of this delicious ambrosia as I did in college, but if you can, you should! Also at the Lancaster County location, the BEST apple cider donuts! Must be made with Amish magic.
1-2. Coraline and The Graveyard Book, both by Neil Gaiman. When Halloween is coming, you need to read these. Read them to your kids, read them to yourself, just know that they're amazing and Neil Gaiman can do no wrong.
3. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold. The Chalion series was recommended to me by my awesome friend Ruth of The Five Wits and, short of whoever first told me I should read Lord of the Rings, it's probably the best recommendation I've ever gotten. The Curse of Chalion is the first book in the series, but you could easily read this one first because it's not set in the same time or with the same characters. In this world there are five gods, and four of them are based on the seasons: The Son of Autumn, the Father of Winter, the Mother of Summer, and the Daughter of Spring. The way Bujold writes her characters struggling with their lives and with their faith, and eventually coming face to face with their gods, is incredibly deft and beautiful. I cried. And I am eagerly awaiting additions to this series, but I doubt I could love anything as much as this book. Read it!!!
There is no other fall movie for me. I watch this every week. In fact, I am popping it in as I write this so that I may be inspired to express my undying love for this incredibly underrated film. I think a lot of the reason that people don't like this and my other Shyamalan favorite, Lady in the Water, has to do with bad advertising and expectations. Ever since The Sixth Sense, someone has felt the need to make promo trailers and commercials for all of his movies that make them out to be horror flicks or at least suspense thrillers. This is just not the case. I was dragged along to see The Village with Jay and some guy friends, and was none too happy about the prospect - I HATE scary movies. They left the theater tsking and rolling their eyes, I left completely in love.
Now I'm not defending everything Shyamalan has done since. He killed Avatar so as far as I'm concerned, I'm done with him. But The Village is a work of art. Why should you love it? I'll tell you. And just to be fair, we'll skip over how I think Bryce Dallas Howard is a beautiful goddess who I collect pictures of to use for illustration reference and I think it's a crime she hasn't been cast as an Elf. Yes so, skipping that...
|Andrew Wyeth, Pennsylvania Land|
Art direction. This movie is an Andrew Wyeth brought to life. Not only is it filmed near where he lived (if you visit the Brandywine River Museum and the Wyeth house and studio, you can see the beautiful area as well as paintings from three generations of Wyeths, highly recommend it!) everything about the houses and costumes, the amazing attention to color, the whole atmosphere was inspired by Wyeth's work.
|taken by me on the Wyeth estate, 2010|
The soundtrack! As I said above, I used it in my wedding ceremony. That's how much I love it. Go listen.
The heart. This movie is not about porcupine monsters, it's not about "the twist!!!1" which I thought was fine, by the way. It's about love! "The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe." It's about the desire to make a simple, joyful life away from the mess of the modern world. It's about sacrifice and loss, courage and fear, and the human folly that comes from the best of intentions. It's about hope, and the potential for innocence and love to triumph over it all. It's certainly not a "scary movie." Maybe it's a chick flick. It's definitely a Hippy Elf Chick flick, and it's my favorite.
Maybe next post I will talk about my favorite places to go in fall, though it may be painful to do so since we're not taking a vacation this year. Tell me your favorite fall traditions! And have a happy season!