Autumn


Last night I tried out this recipe from Real Simple. Risotto can sound scary, but this recipe is super easy to follow, making it a nice way to step into the world of gooey rice. I added carrots and used two types of sweet potatoes for variety, but otherwise I followed the steps to a T and it came out really well. The stirring is demanding, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go in the pot before you even put the oil on. 

from RealSimple.com

from RealSimple.com

TheKitchn.com has a similar recipe for risotto with squash and sage. While I choose sweet potatoes over squash and day, I love love love the idea of serving this in a hollowed out squash. Not only will your guests be blown away with your cooking (risotto easily impresses and unique serving takes it to a new level), but it will help control portion sizes. It’s easy to get greedy with these dishes and the meal will lay like a rock in your stomach.

 

Risotto served in squash

Risotto served in squash

I was in Anthropologie today and saw these candles on sale for $7.95 each. I plan on going back to pick up a few. Fair warning- the scents are pretty powerful, but for a large, open space, they’ll be quite nice. 

Available in three: mulled wine, hot buttered rum, balsam fir (pictured)

 

Balsam Fir

Balsam Fir

I saw a post recently on Simply Stated about Christmas music taking over this time of year. While I do enjoy holiday music more than I probably should (Wonderful Christmastime and Last Christmas are on top, with Dominick the Donkey close behind), I got to thinking about what makes music appropriate for the seasons. The problem with Christmas music is that after the New Year it hardly seems appropriate, but we have a loooong way to go before spring comes around. I think I’ll put together a winter playlist to get through those months.

In the meantime, while we still have a few weeks of autumn left, I started thinking about good fall music. While summer owns lazy, drawn out, folksy music, and winter seems to have a lock on crooners even after the holidays, autumn is harder to pin down. 

After some digging, however, I found really in-depth playlists on iTunes. Some of it’s a bit literal, even kinda hokey — Frank Sinatra’s “Autumn in New York” doesn’t really mesh well with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” by the White Stripes. But a few of the songs are dead on, either through theme or tone.

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I picked through their selections and added my own to come up with this playlist, which will definitely be on my iPod over the weeks to come:

1. Pink Moon – Nick Drake

2. Nightswimming — R.E.M.

3. Who Knows Where the Time Goes? — Fairport Convention

4. Autumn Sweater – Yo La Tengo

5. Lonelily – Damien Rice

6. Harvest – Neil Young

7. Naked As We Came – Iron & Wine

8. Pale September – Fiona Apple

9. The Past and Pending – The Shins

10. September – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

11. Changes – David Bowie

12. Harvest Moon — Neil Young

13. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) — The Byrds

14. Sideways – Citizen Cope

15. The Little Acorn – Fruit Bats

16. Wish I Could – Norah Jones

After putting this together, I realize that autumn does have a distinct sound. It’s sort of mellow, low tempo, and very introspective. It seems like this is the time of year we get a bit down about summer being over and another year quickly disappearing behind us. It can be sad, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I chose “Wish I Could” as the last song, because any time I start navel gazing, I have to find a way out of it with something hopeful I can work toward.

And, well, even if my Autumn 08 playlist is a downer, at least it’s not Christmas music.

A friend of mine had a party last night night (making this morning in need of a hearty brunch), and one guest brought a hot wine mix. It was delish! I can’t find the brand of the mix anywhere, but a quick google search brought up a simple recipe: 

 

1 1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 lemon, sliced
3 sticks cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1 lg. bottle Burgundy, Claret or other red inner wine
Nutmeg

 

Combine boiling water, sugar, lemon, cinnamon and cloves; stir until sugar dissolves. Add wine; simmer 20 minutes. (DO NOT BOIL!) Strain. Serve hot with a sprinkling of nutmeg.
This was the first time I’ve had it, and I think it will be a staple until spring.
hot-wine

Martha Stewart posted today on her tree peony seed experiment, which took a lot of work and care with a fabulous payoff. My parents always had gorgeous peonies outside their front door, and, as much as I love roses, these flowers are show-stoppers. As Martha wrote, “Unlike herbaceous peonies, which die back to the ground every fall, tree peonies are woody-stemmed shrubs that produce large and elegant flowers.”

What really struck me about her post, however, was the slide show, which includes photos of her garden (immaculate, of course) in the summer and in the autumn, showing that the shrub remains even after the flowers die off. While the summer photo is more ready for a magazine spread: 

 

Summer Garden

Summer Garden

Her autumn garden is just as beautiful. Obviously Martha Stewart planned it that way, but it’s a great example of how we should consider gardening for all four seasons, not just one burst of showy flowers.

 

Autumn Garden

Autumn Garden

Anyway, I love this photo. While in the summer all you see are flowers, in the autumn (and throughout winter), you notice the shape of the trees, the placement of the shrubs, and all the variations in colors from green to orange to brown to red. And you know it smells heavenly and earthly all at once.

Apartment Therapy directed visitors to Nettleton Hollow the other day. It’s a great source for finding branches to decorate with, and it inspired me to pull together some branch-centric ideas. While buying sticks and branches retail guarantees quality and variety, there is no reason you can’t just bring some in from your yard. We are talking about plain ol’ sticks here.

AT had a post devoted to branch ideas last week, but the photos reminded me more of a beach house look and aren’t really my style. Cool to see people decorating with them, though. 

For the autumn I really like these birch branches, either in natural or white:

birch-branches-y-256-516

Tie a bundle together with a gorgeous orange, plum, or brown sash for a seasonal touch. 

Pottery Barn also sells a faux persimmon branch, which is pretty and not too badly priced ($14 each). A large bundle of branches is what I call “white noise” in decorating. It’s there, but not the central focus and easily overlooked. Instead, a group of sticks leaning up against a wall adds to the overall feel of a space without drawing attention. On the other hand, a singe branch in a pretty vase can be used as a centerpiece on a dining room or coffee table. Used together, these two ideas can bring a blank room up to date, with a seasonal touch that steers clear of kitsch. 

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pavement

I started this blog with a few goals in mind. First, like many amateur bloggers, I wanted a place to catalog random finds and thoughts I come across in real life and online. Second, my day job occasionally lets me interact with design/home/lifestyle Web sites, and I wanted to join the community to pursue my own interests outside of work.

But finally (here comes my manifesto), if anyone else comes across this blog I want it to be a reminder to me and an inspiration to others that we need to take time to enjoy the changing seasons, the months, the weeks, the world as it passes us by. We need to be paying attention to new foods, new scents, new emotions, and embrace them. Otherwise we will suddenly end up five years from now wondering where the time went. I think this is the reason cultures have holidays. Besides the obvious ties to seasonal customs, they help us pause and embrace the day. 

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and it is one of my absolute favorite days of the year. As a harvest holiday, it brings all the wonderful seasonal food, which in turn bring perfect colors and aromas into the home. And as a holiday with no expectations of presents, or excessive drinking, or late night partying, we all get to enjoy each others’ company. Now I know many people find their families stressful and cooking for a full house can really put the pressure on, but there is no reason to take the day so seriously. 

Just pause, take it easy, and remember to enjoy what you are experiencing. BoingBoing linked to this wonderful photo taken in the UK of leaves permanently frozen in a just-paved street. The person who took the photo grabbed this moment in time because she was paying attention. My goal with this project is to get others to pay attention so we can all enjoy these perfect, fleeting moments.

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