Bringing Autumn Home

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It’s challenging facing Autumn in Arizona if you’re originally from another part of the country. For many of us who originated in states with four seasons, this time of year always promised chillier weather, crisp evenings and the start of fall leaves turning.

But if you’re new to Arizona and used to digging out your sweaters and crockpots to make chili and your mom’s chicken soup, it may seem strange to face the fact that here in the middle of September we’re all still wearing shorts every day. But for those of us who have been here a while, we have developed some habits to make it feel at least a little bit like fall. Here are a few suggestions:

Showcase fall colors: Use table runners, placemats, or add some pillows and throws on your sofa to pull some of the colors of autumn into your home. Yes, you’ll still see bright greens outside, but you can add gold, rust and brown to your interiors.

Bring your autumn accessories out: Pick up a few small pumpkins, gourds, pine cones or whatever takes your fancy. If you want you can even go to a hobby shop for some branches with silk autumn leaves. Then have at it on coffee and side tables. Make your home look like you’ve been wandering outside and brought some gleanings in from the woods.

Fix some cocoa: OK, it may still be too warm for that chili recipe, but a mug of hot cocoa with a few marshmallows might be a nice preview of the treats you’ll enjoy in the cooler days to come. After all, our evenings really are starting to cool down. And eventually we will get to see some leaves turn and drop… in December!

Step into Autumn: Travel

autumn-travelmorgue-webWhile we don’t get any fall colors in the Phoenix area this time of year there are a number of places to visit for a weekend or a day to get our fill of autumn without leaving the state. The trick is to go North and go up! Here are some recommendations.

Oak Creek Canyon: About 2 ½ hours from Phoenix, you can find yourself in the kind of world you expect to see in New England. Oaks and other deciduous trees change colors, and the Creek itself along with rocks makes the scenery spectacular in the fall. Colors are at their best from late October to early November, but you might want to make a call to see how they’re shaping up this year. And on your way in or out, be sure to stop at the roadside stand selling fresh squeezed cider to really capture the season!

Flagstaff:  Spend a weekend and take the time to ask locals for the best drives. Leaves generally peak up there in mid-to-late October. While you’re visiting, wander around Northern Arizona University’s campus to capture the mood of college students caught up in the semester.

Visit some of Northern Arizona’s ski areas: Altitude helps create color in the fall. Snowbowl road is one great choice. Also look into ski areas in the White Mountains. These options are more suited to a weekend trip than an overnight, but pre-snow prices can make the trip a bargain.

Check with AAA, the State of Arizona visitor’s bureau and chambers of commerce in some of our Northern towns to get more ideas. And get on the road to find your fall color!

Step up to Autumn: Food

autumn-food-morgue-webEven though we’re still dealing with summer temperatures here in Arizona, autumn has arrived and it’s worth your time to remind your family that the season is changing. One great way to do that is by taking advantage of the bounty of fall foods available. Here are a few ideas.

Apples: They are coming off the tree right now which makes them extra fresh and well-priced. How about buying three or four varieties and holding an apple tasting? You can have baked apples or dip them in hot caramel for dessert.

Winter squash: The grocery stores are filled with a variety of fresh winter squash, providing a healthful and tasty side dish for almost any meal. Try cutting a butternut or other winter squash into half to one inch squares and roast to bring out the sweetness. Simply place the squash in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, butter, or a combination and add salt and pepper. For some extra sweetness add several tablespoons of maple syrup. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20-40 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring every 15-20 minutes and pulling out when the squash is soft and starting to brown. You may find that even your picky eaters will enjoy the rich caramel flavor.

Pumpkin bread: Recipes abound for pumpkin baked goods, and pumpkin bread is one of the best. Experiment with adding additional pumpkin for more flavor and richness, double the cinnamon and consider grating your own nutmeg to get the freshest flavor. Some people like to add raisins, nuts or even chopped dates before baking to add personality.

Pumpkin and pecan pies: Fall is the perfect time to introduce some special hot desserts. Both these pies require some baking skill, but one cook’s secret is to explore some store-bought options. One warehouse store in particular makes a pumpkin pie every year that can put even county fair winners to shame.

What other fall options are your favorites? How about baked apples or cider donuts? Maybe you have a frosted pumpkin bar recipe that you haven’t made since last autumn. Well, it’s time to pull out your favorites and bring the taste of fall into your home.

Step Up to Autumn: Décor

autumn-decor-morguewebWe’re moving into autumn, but here in Arizona it still feels like summer. You can change your home’s mood to reflect the season even if outside we’re still dealing with temperatures in the 90’s. Here are some tips to give your home that fall flavor.

Wreaths: Start your autumn mood with a wreath on your front door. Many hobby shops and florists have options available for purchase, or make your own with dried flowers, leaves and seed pods. You can add multi-colored ears of corn and even small pumpkins to make it even more interesting.

Fabrics: Change out throw pillows and add lap quilts across the tops of sofas and chairs. Although you have no need for their warmth at this time of year, they still set the mood. There are lots of choices available in fall colors in almost any store. Consider some of the discount stores for a bevy of fall tones on a budget.

Accessories: Why not select one or two surfaces in your home to host a fall display? Start with an interesting branch from outside to integrate everything, add a few pumpkins – fabrics such as burlap help create the mood. Although out leaves aren’t turning here, you can pick up a few fall leaf branches or garlands at your nearest hobby shop to add the sense of autumn. Finish up with some acorns or nuts in their shells.

With a few strategic décor decisions, you can create an autumn mood in Arizona even if it still feels like summer.

Fall Tablescapes

7843574_SAre you ready to bring your dinner table into autumn? If you’ve started making stews and homemade baked beans again because you just can’t wait any longer, how about making the table itself feel like fall?

Start with a walk through your neighborhood. Even desert landscaping may have some dried branches around that have fallen off a nearby tree. If you don’t find anything, visit your local hobby store or florist to pick up some dried branches, pinecones or any other dried plants or branches.

Next, wander through your kitchen for pottery vases or bowls that mirror the fall colors. Any natural-color basket or wood container would also work well.

Fall flowers can be found in every grocery and warehouse market. Consider sunflowers in traditional yellow or bright dark orange coupled with Japanese lanterns and fall berries in dark reds and greens. Fill in with mums, which come in every color of fall. Add a few of those dried branches and you have a floral masterpiece to echo the season.

Because fall is harvest time, you can add almost any combination of fruit or vegetables and have the mix work. Look for pomegranates, bosc or other yellow or brown pears, apples, and dark red or purple grapes.

Do you have a fall table runner? That’s a good place to start. Now, set all of your discoveries on the table and move things around until it looks right. Those branches may work well in a tall vase or pitcher, or maybe just lay them along the center of the table. Pile fruit in a bowl – a couple of apples, a pear, an eggplant and a few fall leaves and you have created the vision of a harvest feast.

Above all, enjoy the process. Celebrate the changing of the seasons with complementary changes in your home, and you can welcome autumn‘s bounty along with the cooling temperatures. For more ideas, we invite you to visit Fulton Home’s Pinterest board: Seasonal décor.

Bring Fall Colors into your Home

14387115_SFor those of us who live in the Phoenix area, September is greeted with relief that the hot weather will soon be gone. But if you’re originally from the Midwest or anywhere further North, you may find yourself missing the magic of leaves that turn golden, red and every shade of fall.

If you fit into that category, you can drive up to Sedona or Flagstaff in a few weeks, or you can pull some of those colors into your home right now.

You might start by shopping your closets. All of those russet tones that seemed too hot to bear in June and July will look more appetizing now. Do you have a throw or two, a pillow or tablecloth in fall tones? Showcase them in your home for the next few months.

Discount and department stores are showing off fall colors. Picking up a few placemats or some serving containers shaped like pumpkins add a feeling of fall. Incorporate just a few fall shapes into your year-round accessories and create a sudden autumn impression in your home.

16396871_SDon’t forget grocery stores. Pumpkins of all sizes, gourds, apples and pears, and mixed nuts in their shells can be used to create a wonderful autumn centerpiece on your dining table or buffet. If you’re a sewist, fabric stores carry a rich selection of fall-toned fabrics which just beg to be made into a runner.

Finally, Pinterest has become a favorite place to grab images of fall. How about printing some spectacular photos of fall scenery and hanging them through the house, temporarily replacing some less seasonal art? Warehouse and office supply stores will make larger prints at a very reasonable cost.

We may not see fall leaves in metropolitan Phoenix, or at least not until December, but you can use these ideas to bring fall into your home even as temperatures still hover around 100 degrees.

Setting a Lovely Thanksgiving Table

For most people, Thanksgiving is about food and family – generally in that order! But with a few extra minutes of time, you can also make it about the beauty of the season.

There’s a saying that people eat first with their eyes, and building a Thanksgiving table that captures attention and represents the best of autumn can make even a rather dry turkey taste better.

The photo to the left shows a fully-planned table. With fresh sunflowers, votives, tablecloth, plates, napkins and napkin rings all coordinated to create a Thanksgiving feeling, it looks like a decorator was hired to fix it.

If you have the skills, budget and time to put something like this together, that’s wonderful. But many of us don’t have the Martha Stewart gene, and are rushed just trying to get the dinner on the table let alone make it look this fancy.

Instead, consider something like the photo on the right. A simple gold tablecloth, one or two interesting candles, a pumpkin or two and some apples and pine cones and you’re finished.

White or neutral plates allow you to decorate for any season without needing closets full of dishes. Add the good silverware and some nice glasses and you have a beautiful table with minimal time and effort.

If you’re going to present Thanksgiving buffet-style, how about a simple display among the dishes? A few fall leaves, a couple of candles, one of those mini-pumpkins and some nuts and dried plants and you quickly add charm to your buffet table. Walk through your yard or visit a hobby shop and pick up just a few special items that you can use and rearrange every year to make your Thanksgiving table as special as the holiday itself.

Unique but Simple Halloween Decorating

If you want to decorate the outside of your home for Halloween but would like to create something much more unusual than the choices available in stores, here are a couple of ideas to spark up the front of your home that rely on imagination and creativity rather than a lot of effort or dollars.

This first choice requires you to expand beyond the standard rounded pumpkin. Look for pumpkins, gourds and squash with unusual shapes and colors such as the three elongated ones shown here. You could also add one of the newer white “ghost pumpkins.” You only need to carve a few of them, but create unique faces. Set in front of a group of uncut pumpkins and gourds, you create a gathering of Halloween creatures.

Another option that is a bit more complex but very entertaining is placing two pumpkins together to show a conversation between them.

The pumpkin on the right has a more complex carving approach. There are directions and patterns on the Internet to help you create one of these, but you could stick with the standard carving style and still get an interesting vignette.

The stick hand on the right pumpkin also pushes this Halloween display out of the ordinary. Adding hands and feet to your carvings adds personality and charm.

You could add fall leaves to these arrangements, use props such as hats or other accessories, and even tell a simple story with your pumpkins. Halloween provides a terrific opportunity to stretch your imagination by thinking outside the squash.

Warm Up your Dining Table

With autumn bringing family holidays, adding some special touches to your dining table or buffet can turn a simple dinner into something special. A fall-themed centerpiece or other elements also provide additional warmth to your home. Here are a few ideas.

Table runners: Catalogs, home shops and even discount stores all can be great resources for lovely table runners. Place a runner on your table and add a couple of candlesticks and brighten up your dining room very simply. Add placemats and dinner is ready. Table runners also work well to embellish simple tablecloths. Switching a runner is one of the fastest ways to change a room’s mood.

Flowers: Chrysanthemums – either in a pot or a vase – say fall easily and inexpensively. Place a few pots on either side of your buffet or one large vase in the center of your dining table. For a simpler and easy look, cut flowers shorter and put in a series of juice glasses. Use rubber bands to hold the stems together – making the small flower arrangements appealing and organized.

Centerpieces: Don’t limit your ideas to flowers and candles. Gourds, a bowl of mixed nuts, fall leaves – real or silk – and some apples or pears can be combined with baskets or pottery bowls and platters to create a tablescape that catches the eye. Just add place settings and you’re ready for a party or family gathering.

Candles: Whether you choose tall tapers or small votives, candlelight adds warmth and charm to any room. if you are concerned about fire and small children, look for battery-powered LED lights that mimic flames.

With just a few minutes and a little thought, you can turn your dining room from a place to eat to an inviting and appealing space. Take the time to make your dining table special and your family and friends will appreciate the result.

Fall Home Maintenance

For those of us who live in the Sonoran desert, our fall maintenance requirements are much simpler than for people in colder areas. However, it still pays to tackle several areas now that temperatures are starting to drop. Here are a few suggestions:

Check your home’s exterior. We had quite a bit of rain and wind in this summer’s monsoon. It’s smart to pop up on the roof and make sure everything is still in place. This is particularly important with an older home. While you’re up there, make sure your gutters are clean and operational. Finally, take a walk all around your home to look for signs of termites or other home challenges.

Test your heat. We will eventually get to an evening cold enough that we’ll be ready to turn the heat on again. It pays to check your heat before then to make sure it’s working well. Also, if you haven’t changed your filter recently, do so. The summer’s air conditioning demands really take their toll on filters and you will have better energy efficiency if you stay on top of them.

Trim your landscaping. In the heat of summer, it’s risky to trim bushes and trees because of the risk of sunburn on previously-protected foliage. Now that it’s cooling off you can start trimming back those plants that have gotten carried away this summer. For some plants such as citrus and roses, wait until December or January for serious trimming.

Paint your home’s exterior. The best temperatures for exterior paint are between 50 and 85 degrees. Because of our significant temperature variations between day and night, there is a small window when painting is ideal. The next month should be a great time for getting your house looking its best with a new coat of paint.

Now that the weather is nicer, outdoor maintenance feels like less of a chore, so take advantage and make sure your home looks and performs at its best.