If you’re like me, you’re probably looking at the calendar and feeling a little sad that summer's ending. It’s back to school and back to business, but it's time to shake off the idea that fall is the end of fun.
Fall is actually the BEST time in the Hudson Valley for gorgeous decorating, delicious food, and outstanding entertaining opportunities.
Growing up, I was the kid who set the table for dinner every Sunday, and each week, year-round, I’d grab an array of seasonal things out of the yard and put them in various vessels around my grandmother’s house. I was definitely happiest with my palette in the fall. So, whether you’re making your house pretty for all those visiting leaf peepers, a party, or just your family, fall is rife with stunning décor ready for harvesting.
Leaves. I pick them based on size and color, just as I’d choose flowers for a floral arrangement. Showcase them in an unusual vase, like a jug or an old oilcan, and arrange them so that each variety can be seen. My favorite focal point is a deep red branch or two from my crimson maple. To help cut branches last longer, peel up the bark from around the cut a quarter inch or so to expose the inner fiber and encourage more water absorption. Want an interesting tablescape? Forget the tablecloth—cover the table in a variety of leaves. When I have kids visiting, I give them the mission to find a collection of as many shapes and colors as possible. They’re always happy to sit at the table and see the results of their autumnal hunt.
Pumpkins. Create a pumpkin planter or vase. I love making a trip to the pumpkin patch to pick the perfect, round, plump specimen. Simply wash the outside of a pumpkin, cut a hole in the top, and clean out the guts. Line with a plastic bag, fill three-quarters with potting soil, and use as a planter for a mum. Or pick your favorite fall flowers and use a pumpkin as you would a vase. Want it even easier? Fill several clear glass vases with miniature pumpkins for an instant chic centerpiece. I’ve also gilded apples with gold spray paint and surrounded the base with candles for an elegant, glimmering look. If time is short, you can’t go wrong by piling a variety of pumpkins on a table and let the casualness be a statement in and of itself.
Corn stalks. I’m not big on white sheet ghosts and fake spider webs, but I do love the look of bunched cornstalks. Take ten or so stalks, tie them together with twine or fall-colored ribbon, and place them on either side of your front door. It’s quick, easy, and inexpensive and says, “See, we’re decorated.”
Fall is not the time yet to bring out the heavy dinner courses of ham or pot roast, but the cooler weather is the perfect time for chili, gumbo, and a clambake. All are low effort and high return.
Surprise your guests by dragging your dining table outside and setting it just as if you were indoors. Sneaking a last warm night under the calico of trees will be memorable.
When a guest comes to my house for a party, I love offering them a creative cocktail as soon as they walk in the door. Fall offers some great ingredients for clever concoctions.
Spiked hot cider.
For cooler nights, this makes the house smell great!
Apple cobbler cocktail.
In a shaker, mix equal parts Irish cream (Bailey’s), cinnamon schnapps (Goldschlager), and apple schnapps. Shake and serve in a martini glass with an apple slice garnish.
Don’t have time to make a fancy cocktail? Cut a hole in a pumpkin, scoop out the seeds, and fill it with ice. Use it as your wine bucket.
Caramel apple a la mode. Grab yourself a bunch of locally grown apples from a farm market or pick your own, and make a “bowl” out of each apple by cutting out the core. Leave the bottom intact. Fill with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle caramel on the top. Fun, pretty, and yummy.
Now that you’re nicely decorated and have some food and drink ideas, the most important mission in the fall is to find a reason to get outside with friends and family to catch a last warm day or a first cool, crisp night. Here are three party ideas to help you savor the season.
The Hoedown. This is your chance to bob for apples! Cover your tables in gingham, use hay bales as benches and bandanas as napkins. Tell your guests to wear their best plaid shirts and cowboy hats. Make a country playlist, light up the grill, and you’re set for a fabulous hee-haw.
A Night of a Million Stars. Go to the iTunes store and get the Star Walk app. It’s a beautiful thing. Point your iPhone at the night sky, and you’ll see the stars, planets, satellites, and constellations in their place from your location. Spread blankets on the lawn, chill some nice rose, and invite your friends over to gaze at the sky. They’ll love the view and you.
Halloween. Last and certainly not least, I believe adults should take every opportunity to dress up. Whether throwing or going, make it your mission to pull together a costume this fall and party. Trust me, the photos will be proof for years to come of the fun you had.
Bruce Littlefield is a NY Times best-selling author and lifestyle expert. His latest book, Moving In, is his most personal to date. This time he takes readers on a wild and often hysterical ride through the first year spent fixing up a historic old house with partner (and unwitting handyman) Scott Stewart, one of Manhattan’s top real estate brokers. www.brucelittlefield.com