Thursday, 20 October 2011
Falling for Fall
Fall really is my favourite time of year on Long Island.
Summers are fun here in some ways - you have reliably warm weather, sandy beaches, barbecues, a community pool and of course the wonders of summer camp. But on the downside, there are mosquitoes, poison ivy, excessive heat and humidity; oh, and of course, the odd hurricane.
Winters have their pleasures; reliable snow means sledging and skiing, and it tends to be sunnier than in the UK. But they are long and relentless, and the snow gets ridiculous after a while. Spring is sweet but short; you can go from freezing cold to hot and humid in a matter of weeks.
But fall is long; cool, crisp or even pleasantly mild weather can last until early December before winter really sets in in. The turning leaves and foliage are stunning, and the Fall customs - pumpkins outside the door, apple picking and hayrides, and even the over-the-top Halloween celebrations - are really growing on me.
Looking back at last year's blog posts (including this Halloween homes 'n' gardens display) , I seemed to have become obsessed (possessed?) about Halloween so this year I wanted to highlight some other autumnal traditions over here.
First of all are 'Mums'. (No, not the 'Moms' - the Moms are just the same as in Fall as in other times, with the addition perhaps of Ugg boots and a polystyrene cup of hot, rather than iced, Starbucks latte). I'm talking about the 'Mums, as in chrysanthemums; Americans always having to abbreviate any long words, you see. I'm not sure/can't remember if we share this enthusiasm for 'Mums in England, but it really is a phenomenon here - I wonder if the whole of America is just as obsessed? The moment September approaches, huge displays of 'mums' are on show outside supermarkets, garden centers and private houses, and on roadsides you will see painted signs excitedly proclaiming 'Mums! Now! $4.99' (or similar) everywhere. When I was first here, I wasn't sure what this was all about, but this year I have joined in (well, for $4.99, who wouldn't?) and am sporting a potted 'Mum' on my doorstep as well as the obligatory pumpkins (see above). At the New York Botanical Gardens last weekend, we saw an incredible hothouse display of Japanese chrysanthemums, as well as some fantastic carved pumpkins.
Pumpkins are, of course, a massive part of the autumnal decoration tradition. They are not just about Halloween by any means. Quite often you will see displays of giant pumpkins, gourds and squashes outside people's houses, together with a corn dolly or two. (If you want to combine pumpkins and 'mums', there are are 'mums' in jack-o-lantern style pots you can buy). Every town has a 'Pumpkin Patch' or two where you go to select your pumpkin or twelve. You can get a Pumpkin spiced latte at Starbucks (which I haven't actually dared try - it just doesn't sound right to me).
Decorating one's table in an autumnal/harvest style is de rigeur - I am now the proud owner of pumpkin candleholders and an 'autumn harvest' tablecloth. Chances are your children will produce some attractive pumpkin-style craft from school, too (pictured below is Littleboy 1's offering from last year, which I rather love).
Fall is also about apples galore. Whereas in the UK we might go apple picking in the back garden, here, there is a whole industry devoted to going to an apple orchard, usually with a 'hayride' thrown in and some apple cider. The latter is not your Strongbow or Scrumpy - that is known as 'hard cider' in the US - but instead a pulpy apple juice, sold in huge vats and on offer at farmers' markets, fairs and the like. It can be served hot or cold. In the shops and farmers' markets, there are fresh apples from upstate New York. It took me a while to get to know the different varieties, as they don't have, for example, Cox's or Bramley's out here, and don't seem to differentiate so much between cooking and eating apples, but if you pick the right kind, they are just right at the moment.
So, while others are bemoaning the end of summer (New Yorkers love to complain about the weather just as much as the Brits, by the way), I'm a fully paid up fan of Fall. I'm currently unearthing my sweaters, loving the lack of biting insects, and looking forward to the turning of the leaves (following, as always, the Foliage report in the New York Times). And after that? Well, there's always ski-ing....