Gather your flannels and prepare your harvests, fall is finally upon us! Saturday, September 23 at 2:50a is the official date and time for this year’s autumnal equinox, and following a summer of record-setting heat I am beyond ready for longer nights and cooler temperatures. Beyond the fact that cold weather months are my preferred time to thrive in general, there are certain things about this time of year that bring me immense joy that you may or may not already know about. For that reason and to avoid gatekeeping, I am going to share with you my list of Fall Favorite Things – look out Oprah!
This wouldn’t be a Kathie Scalf certified list without starting at food and beverage. While it’s hard to beat the farm-fresh produce of summer, I must admit I’m a fan of the heartier fare that accompanies cozy nights indoors. Root veggies and roasts, red wines and whiskeys, these are definitely a few of my favorite things! All your fine dining and boutique restaurants will be switching their menus in the surrounding weeks to reflect the season; make your reservations now to be first in line to sample hearty soups, slow roasted meats and spiced desserts. These changes extend far beyond the kitchen and into the lounge as well. Any bar worth their margarita salt will roll out fresh features that incorporate seasonal herbs and flavors into their signature cocktails and update their wine lists to compliment the new cuisine. Summer-centric flavors like melon, lime, basil, and mint will take a backseat to ginger, sage, cinnamon, apples, oranges and nuts, while wines featured by-the-glass will swap light, crisp whites and rose’s for earthy and robust reds. I haven’t confirmed, but I would imagine Juniper, Gourmet, and Timber will be leading the pack in the Tri-Cities when it comes to exceptional seasonal menus.
Long, cold nights are also the perfect time for staying home, which is why another one of my fall favorite things is hosting house parties. Not the kind we all snuck out to in high school of course, but elevated home experiences that are intimate and relaxed and perfect bonding with close family and friends. Start by making custom simmer pots for natural air infusions that will greet your guests from the time they step through the door and create an aroma illusion that sets the tone for a warm, cozy evening. Simply toss orange peels, apple slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves into a pot of boiling water and let it simmer all day, adding fresh water as needed. These pots will not only perfume the air inside your home, it will also add much-needed humidity that is stripped away from constantly running the heat during winter months. Theme nights are always fun and encourage guest participation; choose a topic like “charcuterie,” “Italian,” “soups,” or “Friendsgiving” and go potluck style. Create an online group invite where everyone can list 1 food and 1 beverage item they’re bringing to prevent duplicates, then fill in the gaps as needed. No cold-weather get-together would be complete without a fire, so invest in a firepit for after-dinner drinks, discussions and s’mores. Everyone will save money and be able to avoid crowded, noisy bars full of people they don’t like and bad music they don’t want to listen to.
Autumn is also the best time of year for festivals. I hate nothing more than suffering through outdoor events in summer months; during September and October the weather is much more agreeable and predictable. From Oktoberfests to Pumpkinfests to harvest grape stomps, it’s time to get your butts outside this Fall. The Tri-Cities is centrally situated for enjoying all of autumn’s splendor and everywhere you turn, folks are celebrating within a 1 hour radius. A quick Google search of “festivals in Tri-Cities TN/western NC” will return more options than you’ll ever have time to commit to and fill your weekends with outdoor family fun.
Finally, there’s never a bad time to focus on mental health matters, but October being Depression Awareness Month shines an extra bright light on an issue that affects most everyone I know at some time or the other. I’m someone who has lived with bouts of depression for as long as I can remember, so I will probably do a more in-depth feature article in the coming weeks in honor of this dedicated awareness holiday. In the meantime, we can all use the changing of the seasons to really look inward and work toward improving our headspace. For me, I always have better mental clarity when my living spaces are less cluttered and organized, so it’s nice to use the longer evenings stuck indoors to do some housekeeping. Remove things that no longer serve a purpose to make room for the new- that advice can go for your home OR your head. Also use the extra time at home to get in the habit of journaling and reading; sometimes just getting intangible thing out of your brain and making them tangible on paper is enough to clear the muck. Align your mind with the seasons and remember that like leaves on trees, there is beauty in letting go of dying things and that new growth will soon be right around the corner.
These are a just a handful of my favorite fall things, but the list could go on. Create your own list and start ticking things off, because before we know it we will be in full holiday chaos!