Help me autumn the eff out of autumn
September 21, 2019 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Fall is my favorite season. October is my favorite month. I’ve had a lot of personal upheaval/uncertainty in the past few years but I’m finally feeling settled again. So: I’m bound and determined not to let October pass me by without really Octobering the fuck out of it. Some ideas I already have had below the jump!

1) Make cozy foods like stews, breads (favorite recipes?)
2) Bake fall treats (spiced cookies, carrot cake, pumpkin! (favorite recipes, once again?)
3) Decorate my apartment for Halloween/fall (out of the box ideas?)
4) Do an October scary movie challenge. I like this one I’ve found, but open to others
5) Local fall/Halloween events

What ideas/rituals/practices do you have that would be appropriate for a single male apartment-dweller living in a big city? No kids.
posted by Automocar to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the Philly area super well, but if available to you, driving to the mountains to see leaves and to get fresh apple cider/pie/butter is always something we try to do in the fall. A lot of orchards will let you pick your own apples, too.
posted by solotoro at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used to host a chili night for friends in mid-October. I’d serve chili, biscuits or cornbread, and some sort of apple dessert like cobbler with vanilla ice cream. We’d combine that with going to a nearby corn maze (not sure if that’s doable for you). It became an October tradition and I hosted it for several years.
posted by bookmammal at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2019

There was a thread a little bit ago that had some good ideas. A few to add to that for this thread

- CIDER, put some in your fridge, have it be your drink
- APPLES, so many good varietals out there, try to find some you've never tasted at a farmer's market. I make my own applesauce and love it, house smells so good
- CHILI/STEW, really you can't go wrong with any of these, but if you eat meat, something like this (or super simple: hobo dinner). I'm a huge fan of cast iron skillet cornbread (sample recipe)
- SCARVES and WALKS, get outside somewhere on a chilly day even if it's just a really tree-y park and put on your favorite sweater and get your scarf and some sort of fancy coffee drink you like (doesn't have to be pumpkin spice bu it could) and enjoy the changing seasons)
- SCENTS, you can simmer some of that cider on the stove with mulling spices and really keep it on low all day
posted by jessamyn at 8:29 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just came across this pumpkin-cider bread that looks good. This is my grandmother's pumpkin log. And here is my grandma's apple pudding. We love sour cream apple pie. I make this Jewish apple cake last weeked and it was a hit at home and at work.
posted by kathrynm at 8:31 AM on September 21, 2019

This beef, leek, and barley soup is east, and really delicious.

Get a bunch of decorative gourds and arrange them on your dining table as a centerpiece.

Drive out towards Manayunk and check out the foliage!
posted by ananci at 8:50 AM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Pick seed heads of grasses and flowers for an autumn bouquet.
posted by Botanizer at 9:09 AM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

In Colorado it's a traditional thing to drive up and listen to the Elk bugle (mating season). There are even bus tours. Maybe you have something similar in your area.
Moonlight cemetery tours are offered in October in some areas.
Check out your local Botanical gardens.
Have a pumpkin carving party.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2019

Oh nice, that ask didn’t come up in search!

Great ideas, keep ‘em coming
posted by Automocar at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2019

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table.
posted by caek at 11:56 AM on September 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

I would also recommend walking or driving through an autumnal forest, if your region lends itself to such things.

I recently discovered how to make apple chips, and I will offer this recipe, because it’s dead easy and fantastic. Equipment recommended: a mandolin, but if you have a good sharp knife, you can still get it done.


SWEET apples, like Gala, Ambrosia or Fuji. Tart apples don’t taste great in this recipe, so if you like tart apples, slice and bake them without the spices.
Maple syrup

1. Core and slice an apple into chips of 1/8” thickness (not thin enough to see through, not too thick)
2. Toss in a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup, until all slices are thinly coated
3. Lay out on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
4. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees
5. Remove from oven and turn over all the slices
6. Put back in oven for 1 hour
7. Cool for about 5 minutes

After the chips cool, they’ll be crispy like potato chips, but sweet. As an additional bonus, your apartment will smell incredible.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:19 PM on September 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

Find out when leaves are likely to have peak color change, pack a picnic of hearty soup, crusty bread, apple cider, go for a scenic drive. If it's clear and you're in an area without too much light, stay and checkout the night sky. I saw a bit of the Milky Way the other evening.
Cider donuts are a thing in Maine, a *good* thing.
If you have a fire pit, it's perfect for fall - crisp air, fire, beer, roast a few hot dogs, sing.
Wear sweaters.
posted by theora55 at 2:22 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Around here big chrysanthemums are de rigeur for the front stoop, or you could try flowering kale.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 3:04 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Decorating your home is highly recommended! A few years ago, we hosted an orphan friend at Christmas and decided to Christmas the fuck out of our house (tree, lights, stockings, wreaths, tchotchkes, etc.) and it was so wonderful. Hadn’t done that since I lived with my parents.

At minimum, gourds, dried flower arrangements, classic Halloween decorations. I say go classic and you’ll perk up any time you come home.
posted by dngrangl at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

We always do Halloween Mystery Bags for the trick or treaters. Our neighborhood gets a fair number of trick or treaters. We probably have more fun than the kids do. In our house, shopping for and making Halloween Mystery Bags is a tradition like decorating the Christmas tree or coloring Easter eggs. If you do Halloween Mystery Bags, don't wait until the last minute to get started. Buying the non-perishable prizes in September helps spread out the expense. Here's how it works:

1) Get X number of brown paper sacks, the kind a kid might take his school lunch in. They sell them in the grocery store. Last Halloween we made 40 Mystery Bags. We always run out of Mystery Bags before we run out of trick or treaters.

2) Number the bags 1 through X with a big magic marker so it's easy to read, then shuffle them into random order.

3) Get some cool things for the kids and some zonk booby prizes. The dollar store has some cool but cheap things for kids: A package of glow in the dark bracelets or necklaces, a package of colored markers, whatever looks like it would be fun for a kid to get. You can get $1 flashlights at Harbor Freight. We always give out a few $2 bills too. I put a note on the $2 bill so the kid will know it's real money and not just throw it away. The zonks are things like a bag of acorns, a carrot, a potato, a package of ramen, or some dog biscuits. Look through the acorns and discard any with a small hole in the shell. If the acorn has a hole, there's a worm inside the acorn. You don't want to give a kid a bag of acorns and worms. We will also give out a ziploc bag with FISH TACO written in marker, and inside is a tortilla and a package of Swedish Fish. The Mystery Bag cool prizes/zonks are never anything gross, dangerous, or inappropriate. Each numbered bag gets either a prize or a zonk, plus some candy. Zonk bags get more candy than prize bags and a small note that says OH NO YOU GOT A ZONK! BETTER LUCK NEXT HALLOWEEN. Every kid at least gets some candy. Since the prizes/zonks go in the numbered bags randomly, it's a double blind situation for you and the kid what is in each Mystery Bag. Fold the tops over and staple the Mystery Bags shut. A good ratio is 80% cool prizes and 20% zonks.

4) Put the bags back in numerical order so you can find them quickly. We use a big plastic tote to hold them in numerical order for quick access.

5) Put a sign on the door that says CANDY OR MYSTERY BAG, WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE? I usually also put a sign on the door that says WHEN THE DOOR OPENS, INSTEAD OF SAYING TRICK OR TREAT, BARK LIKE A DOG or moo like a cow or make giraffe noises or monkey sounds, whatever I think of that year. Most kids think it's hilarious.

6) I use a spreadsheet program to make a matrix of numbers 1 through X with a large font, same as the number of Mystery Bags, print it on a single sheet of paper, and put it on a clipboard by the Mystery Bags and a big bowl of candy.

7) When a kid rings the doorbell, explain that they can choose some candy or a Mystery Bag, then explain that the Mystery Bag may be a cool prize like a flashlight, or a zonk like a potato, but odds are it's a cool prize. 9 out of 10 kids choose a Mystery Bag. Kids remember the Mystery Bags from previous Halloweens. It's surprising how many kids think it's funny when they get something like a potato.

8) If a kid chooses to take a Mystery Bag, show them the the matrix and tell them to pick a number. When the kid picks a number, put a big X through it with a Sharpie so subsequent kids can see what number Mystery Bags are gone and which are still left to choose from. Give the kid the numbered Mystery Bag they chose and wish them good luck and happy Halloween. It's helpful to have one person manning the clipboard and a second person finding the correct numbered Mystery Bag because trick or treaters often travel in small herds. If an unadventurous kid chooses candy, give them a handful of candy. If you're having lots of fun doing it, it's more fun for the kids.

9) Leave the porch light on and put out a Jack-o-lantern or 4 so kids know it's not a stingy curmudgeon's house and they should stop by and ring your doorbell. Pro tip: Use an electric jigsaw for cutting the top off the pumpkin and carving the face. Draw your design on first with a Sharpie. It's not hard to wipe off any mistakes, especially if you put a bit of hairspray on a paper towel.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:58 PM on September 21, 2019 [8 favorites]

Leaf-peeping tips if you're in the Philly area:
  • Valley Forge is gorgeous in autumn.
  • Without going that far afield, there's Wissahickon Park, which is chock-a-block with hiking, walking, and biking trails, for surrounding yourself with that autumn-leavesy smell.
  • Lots of towns nearby have great rail trails that go through the woods, like in Bala Cynwyd/Lower Merion
  • A drive up to New Hope is always nice, and if you go the weekend of Sept 28/29, you can visit their art festival for an October kick-off :)

Also, if you're not already following VisitPhilly or Uwishunu on social media, you should. You can find out about a lot of great area events.
posted by leticia at 3:53 AM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you decide that you want to go up toward New Hope, definitely take the scenic route - Rt. 32/River Road. It is *such* a pretty ride. I did it a couple times coming back from dropping my daughter at summer programs outside Philly and still think of it often.

New Hope is nice to walk around. Marsha Brown's is a great place to eat. It's an old church converted into a stunning restaurant with great food. Not necessarily super cheap, but even if you just go in for drinks, the place is remarkably designed. Right across the bridge, Lambertville has all kinds of weekend stuff to do. Very walkable, so many different types of stores and foodie places.

Princeton is always nice. Working Dog Winery in Robbinsville is dog friendly and not far from there, if that might interest you. Terhune Orchards is in Princeton, where you can pick your own stuff (apples!). There's also some seriously bad ass ice cream in Palmer Square, along with the best toy store ever called JaZams!! No joke, it's like Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium. I loooove that place!

Finally, if you've never been, The Grounds For Sculpture is definitely worth the ride. It is a mostly outdoor experience that you take at your own pace, so you will definitely get to experience "Fall". The sculptures are beautiful, as are the grounds. There are a few different restaurants and the food is very good. I attended a large birthday party at Rat's; it was excellent. The grounds are large enough that you make a full day of it very easily. It's in Hamilton, NJ, maybe 45ish minutes from Philly.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:20 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

My tradition is to make some hot cider, then set aside some time to myself while I read the ultimate fall manifesto:
posted by chrisamiller at 5:56 AM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

We made Autumnheart's apple chips today and they are delicious. We are going back for more apples tomorrow to make a big batch and set some aside for gifts. I did increase the mixture as the apples were large and Mr. Botanizer cut them quite thin.
posted by Botanizer at 3:45 PM on September 25, 2019

On the "scary movie challenge" front, this is the one I do every year. There's a checklist to complete, plus a movie of the day and a theme of the day, which are all good for inspiration. (Don't be scared off by the breadth/intensity -- all of the goals, including the 100+ movies in one month, are completely optional. It's totally fine to ignore some or all of them and just watch what you want. Feel free to memail me if you're intrigued but can't sort through the somewhat overwhelming thread.)

Hooptober on Letterboxd is also a popular one, more along the lines of the horrorhound one you linked.
posted by alyxstarr at 1:34 PM on September 30, 2019

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