Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

A Day at the Orchard

On Saturday my beau and I headed out to the countryside to go to one of the local apple orchards, bundling up in out coats and scarves. It was a gorgeous day, crisp and brisk, and the drive was beautiful, with sunshine flooding the land stretching out all around us.

The landscape is that middle ground between the sumptuous colors and textures of fall and the spindly elegance of winter: there are still brilliantly richly colored leaves on the trees but they’re falling off, shedding fast to reveal the skeletal lines of the trees beneath. Even the daylight is different: softer, more fragile, delicate even, sluicing everything in a veil of gold. A perfect sunlight for the apple orchard, in fact.

I’ve been going to Edwards Apple Orchard since I was a child, when my family used to go apple picking together, filling up bushels with Granny Smiths, Galas, Honeycrisps and Pink Ladies. (Who gets to name apples? Because I want that job.) We didn’t go apple picking today, but much else has remained the same as when I was a kid. There’s always a crowd of people since it’s a popular local attraction, and the irresistible smell of hot, buttery apple cider donuts wafting in the breeze. We made a beeline for the little cafe-like area (though cafe is too fancy a word for the eating area), where they serve up those apple cider donuts, apple pie, hot and cold cider and other goodies.

These donuts are actually pretty legendary around this area: freshly made, the outside is just perfectly crispy, dusted in sugar, with a delicate crunch when you bite into it — and the inside is a beautifully soft and fluffy contrast, sweet but not too much so, and it really does taste like apple cider in pastry-like form: like a real idea of an apple, not a chemist’s idea of one. I’m biased, but these are the best donuts in the world — and I’ve had plenty of fancy real-deal gourmet desserts in my life, like Laduree macarons, and a pretty incredible ganache at Petrossian. I once begged my mom to Fed Ex me a dozen during the fall semester of my first year in film, and I remember how every night, I’d warm one up in the toaster oven and then have it with a pumpkin spice tea. It was absolutely comforting and rampantly delicious. If God put a gun to my head and said I could only have one baked good for the rest of my life, it’s be an apple cider donut from Edwards Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, Illinois. Together with some hot cider and a warm fire in the Dutch oven nearby, and that’s just about a perfect Midwestern afternoon.


The Fall 2013 To-Do List

Okay, so I did my earnest/serious soul-searching/retreat and I’m deep in the swing of autumn, humming along, busy as a bee, la la la. But it isn’t all hippie productivity or any other kind of productivity! Things should be fun in addition to big-picture epiphany type of stuff, right? So here are some of the more delicious experiences I want to have and mad skills I want to hone for this season. How is your fall going? What would you like to experience in the next few months before the holidays descend upon us?

Go to the Halloween Frightfest at the Amusement Park and Scream My Head Off on Rollercoasters

This is, like, category-one level of importance and priority for this fall. I need to get myself on a rollercoaster soon! What I love about amusement parks is that they have absolutely no utility in them; there’s like no way to make riding rollercoasters my career, my hobby, my side gig, whatever. You go to be amused! I just want to scream and be thrilled and hurled upside down and whipped around, a primal childlike experience. I prefer going in the fall over the summer to an amusement park — I like feeling bundled up in a rollercoaster, you know? Plus, it’s not as hot and there’s something really wonderful about wandering in an amusement park on a crisp fall weekend day.

Start on the Great Adventure That is Real Estate

So I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to be looking at buying a house soon, but like many things, I find real estate to be overwhelming, like the way I imagine taking a trip to Lagos, Nigeria must be overwhelming. It is so unabashedly grown-up, this whole buying-a-home thing, but it’s time to line my ducks up in a row, put on my big-girl panties and channel my favorite business mogul or something so I don’t feel intimidated by banks or the like. Plus, I get to explore the whole weird world of houses and finally understand why people are so riveted when they play “Househunters International” on the TV playing in the women’s locker room at my gym.

Develop a Repertory of Meals

I enjoy the process of making food, though I don’t consider myself a foodie by any means. Nor do I have aspirations of foodie-ism. The type of cook I’d like to be is someone who can just open their fridge, figure out how to make a good meal of what I have there — and then parlay that into a few other meals to stretch out into the week. The type that doesn’t waste food and can turn what would normally be leftovers into the base of something really new and delicious. I’d prefer to be that type of cook with a kind of old-school practical housewife savoir-faire, but a little more Kinfolk-y aesthetic perhaps. (I admit I have a Kinfolk weakness.) So I’ll be experimenting a little, going beyond the bits and bobs I can already make, looking to create a few menus of meals, just five or six recipes I can master and just have at my fingertips to nourish myself and my loved ones.

Make Art

This is so mind-blindingly obvious but a few weeks ago, I remembered, “Hey, I used to make a lot more visual art type of stuff…and it was fun and good for me.” I think I began working under the assumption that in order to be a “master” of writing, I’d need to focus exclusively on my writing and let things like film and photography and design fall by the wayside. It was like, “Gee, I work full-time and I blog and I write fiction and other things…am I going to fritter away my increasingly rare free time on something outside of that?” But now I realize what a nice release it is to be visual, a way to recharge my writing batteries while still engaging in something creative. So I’m hoping to tap into that visual side again…I do miss it.

Go Riding Out on the Trails

I’ve been riding steadily since spring, and I feel pretty good at being able to ride out at least at a walk or trot, no matter what the saddle, route or horse (though the crazy ones still kind of scare me). But there’s nothing better than heading out across a field in the sunshine and wind. I plan on taking side trips to various trails in the area to ride, enjoying both the company of a lovely equine friend and the most beautiful time in nature.

Make Jams and Jellies and Heck, Even Mulled Wine and Cider

I am really intimidated by canning! I like the idea of preserving things and making cute jars of compotes, chutneys, jams and jellies, but then I read the instructions for canning and I’m like “Aaaaahhhhh! Botulism!” Or maybe I retain some childhood trauma from reading Meg’s botched experiments making currant jellies in Little Women. But I plan to get over this hurdle and at least make a few jams or two in time for the holidays. I feel like jams make nice little holiday gifts, no?

Go Somewhere

Somewhere, anywhere! Thinking somewhere in the south, or West Coast….we shall see. Where should I go in the U.S., dear friends?

Write Another Novel

I have so many crazy book-story ideas in my head and they’re all bottlenecking in my brain trying to get out! I’ve been chipping away at an ambitious idea for most of the year, but I think I’m going to bang out something more discrete and less sprawling for Nanowrimo…something for my nieces and nephews to read, something really fantastical and adventurous and exactly what they’d love to read. I’m outlining and planning, and even taking a YA/MG fiction class now…I’m excited!

Monthly Mixtape: In the Name of the Father But Never the Ghost

Most of you know I’m an inveterate music diarist — for years I made a mix tape diary for every semester of school on cassette. This year, because it is modern times and everything is d-i-g-i-t-a-l, I’ve been keeping a monthly playlist online that reflects the songs and music that both captures my heart and drifts in the background during those lovely, fleeting moments in life that I want to remember. This is September’s playlist: a harvest month, full of Indian summer sunshine, the smell of fresh cider donuts, the warmth of bundling up for the first time in a much-missed sweater you haven’t worn for months. September is warmth, the energy of fresh endeavor, reaping what you’ve sown, watching leaves fall onto the ground in the clear, brilliant sunshine.

Grimes, “Oblivion”

This was my favorite song of the month: it is pure ethereal ear candy. People love or hate Grimes: I often explain to people who’ve never heard her before that her music is like if aliens discovered a time capsule of TLC, Aaliyah and Aphex Twin records that was blasted into space during the late 90s. But being aliens, of course, they have no idea about music genres, so if they started their own band based on the examples of human-made music in the capsule, something like Grimes would come out of their oddly-shaped noggins. I not-so-secretly love a lot of electronic music and R&B and I am strangely comforted by the idea of aliens, so of course I am a fan. And have you seen the video for this song? I think it’s my favorite this year — there’s something really oddly beautiful about it, with the lyrical cinematography capturing jock and athletic culture. I spent a lot of time in football stadiums at night during high school as a cheerleader, so this takes me back but in a way that is abstract and almost poetic. But I think it’s hypnotic even without the patina of nostalgia I have for the milieu.

Also: I ran 5 miles on a treadmill listening to this song on repeat, and it did not let me down. Alien lady jock jam, for sure.

Cat Power, “Silent Machine”

I’m really stoked to see Chan Marshall releasing records as she heads into her forties — I think a lot more about how to sail into that decade than I used to, I admit, since I’m on the dark side of my thirties. That she’d release a record as jubilant, left-of-center and experimental as Sun when she could just keep releasing more stark, sad, spare songs about ghosts and heartbreak — to me, that’s a beautiful progression, and it’s great to hear her sound so forceful and even optimistic.

One thing I’m discovering as I get older, your sense of sovereignty over your life and your world grows and grows — and Sun is a truly sovereign record, full of energy, direction and purpose. It may not be my favorite Cat Power album — I think I’ll always be partial to the haunted, dark Moon Pix — but it’s sort of like receiving a sun-worn, travel-weathered postcard from a dear friend telling you about the amazing trip she’s been on and how she wishes you were there with her. You’re just glad she’s doing so well, out in the world having adventures and living her life.

Grizzly Bear, “gun-shy”

I remember seeing Grizzly Bear in tiny crappy clubs when I was still living in NYC, and I think of them oddly like neighbors in my mind, even though they’re big enough now where Jay-Z likes them and they appear on national talk shows and stuff like that. So I feel proud of them when a new record of theirs comes out, in this kind of homebody/neighborhood way that makes no sense, really, because I didn’t ever live in Brooklyn except for half a summer. For awhile I’d been feeling like their music had become more and more beautiful, but also more remote and distant — like their songs were just carapaces for beautiful sonic textures that full-bodied melodies would try to poke out of every now and then. But there’s something nice and immediate about Shields, their latest. I’ve been in a phase where I’m trying to be more open and not be so guarded or cryptic, so it’s nice to hear emotional immediacy reflected elsewhere in my life.

Bob Dylan, “If You See Her, Say Hello”

Sometimes I just can’t make a decision. This month: Neil Young or Bob Dylan? They’re both playing in Chicago this fall, so whose concert should I go to? Who should I shell out for? I admit, I’m a Neilers girl at heart, but Tempest is freaking good. But Neil! But Bob! But Neil! But Bob! At this rate, I’m likely to miss both because I’m paralyzed with indecision. (And, it’s so expensive to see either! Wah!) For awhile I was revisiting my favorite Dylan record, Blood on the Tracks, trying to sway myself one way or the other. Sometimes I think Dylan can be such a jerk about girls, but “If You See Her, Say Hello” is such a wistful, sweet song that I forgive him again and again.

Warpaint, “Shadows”

The Warpaint record came out awhile ago, but I still love it so much — it hits that kind of mysterious, witchy spot that I like so nicely. Sometimes I’ll have my iPod on random and a Warpaint song will come on, and I have to stop what I’m doing and have a moment of reverence. Sometimes I say stuff like “Warpaint’s The Fool is to 16-year-old girls now the way PJ Harvey’s Dry was to teen girls in the early 90s.” That’s me being lofty about records, but I honestly really believe that: there’s something really wraithlike, feminine and yet entirely ungirly about both albums.

Blondie, “Heart of Glass”

Imagine, if you will, a tiny moment of dancing in the car on the highway to “Heart of Glass” after a day of watching sloths stuff themselves into tree trunks and turtles swimming and having very slow sex — what could be better?

Tina Turner, “Private Dancer”

I heard this in a restaurant recently, and it made me think back to listening to Tina Turner as a child. My first exposure to Tina was during her big Private Dancer comeback in the 80s. As a kid I was fascinated initially by the idea of being a “private dancer,” feeling like it was this weird, forbidden thing for a woman to do — maybe it was my first conscious exposure in pop culture to the virgin/whore dichotomy that feminists rail against. I listen to it now, however, and I’m struck by the longing for family and domesticity that creates the undertow of melancholy in the song, and how cleverly it endows a kind of subjectivity to a loaded stereotype.

In a way, no one else but Tina Turner — with her aura of experience and, yes, sovereignty — could do a song like this without becoming a victim of its complexities. I mean, can you imagine Gaga or Katy Perry or Rihanna doing this song justice? Not really. Those ladies, as great and fun as they are as pop stars, are all essentially brands, and you get the sense that underneath their shells, they’re struggling with demons and slightly out of control. (Or too much in control, as the case may be.) But Tina’s pop stardom came after her struggles, and it gave her an aura of authority and power that helped her stake a place against much younger pop stars at the time, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper and others. Is there kind of an equivalent to Tina now, a grande dame who can stand alongside pop ingenues, who can keep current but not become imprisoned by the drive to stay relentlessly contemporary? I don’t know, and it makes me a little sad that there may not be.

Spoon, “Stay Don’t Go”

This song is part of my housecleaning jams playlist on my iPod. Yes, I have a housecleaning jams playlist. Sweeping, wiping and tidying up would be so boring otherwise! Everything on it is very bounceable and singable — it’s like the Tigger of domestic soundtracks. IF any of you having personal housecleaning anthems, please comment and let me know — I need to add them to my roster. You can never have too much bounce when you houseclean.

Lil’ Bob & the Lollipops, “I Got Loaded”

This Louisiana soul classic was playing on the radio during a drive in the countryside. We’d just gotten apple cider donuts and other delicious autumn treats, and the sun was bright and mellow — an archetypal beautiful fall day. This song came on and I thought it was kind of hilarious — it’s such a freaking happy song about getting drunk! He just sounds so jubilant and optimistic and life-affirming about spiraling into alcoholism! What a strange thing to sound so joyous about! Still, the song has such a bounce that it’s hard not to love it at first listen.

My Life in Pictures: A Trip to the Zoo, A Room and An Outfit

The days are bright but cool, the winds setting in, and suddenly everything apple-, cinnamon- or pumpkin-smelling appeals: fall is here! There are speed bumps here and there, but overall, everything feels purposeful and optimistic. I have plans for stories, projects, meals, trips.

But there’s something different about this fall: I’ve carried the feeling of relaxation from the summer with me into the season, and the usually intense, hyper-driven forward push has mellowed a bit. It’s strange: I feel how little time there is in a lifetime sometimes, but that only means more and more that I want to savor the moments I have. So, I guess that’s what these kind of picture posts are: savoring the bits of life that don’t seem so consequential, but add up to what my heart will hold dear in the future.

Last weekend I went to the Brookfield Zoo. I haven’t been there since I was in grade school, and I had forgotten how massive the place is. It was pretty much the last truly summerlike day of the season, and the place was overrun with kids and families: at one point, I turned around in an exhibition room and felt like I was drowning in a sea of strollers, manned by tired, grumpy parents. I guess it’s a zoo — what else do I expect? I still got to see lots of animals, like the critters above. (Okay, that gorilla? So not a “critter”! He was huuuuuge.)

Yep, I think those turtles were feeling a bit frisky? I didn’t see the dolphin show, but the underwater viewing rooms were so peaceful. I’d love to be surrounded by such a serene bright blue. Then I’d sleep like those adorable parrots!

It made me a bit sad in a way, because most of the animals I love — like wolves, for example — are nocturnal. I wish zoos had nighttime hours every now and then; maybe then the rampant stroller factor would be a bit lessened as well. Who’d be up for a zoo happy hour?

Closer to home, my little apartment is coming together slowly but nicely. My bedroom is right about where I like it: spare, serene but pretty. See?

Lately I’ve been using my extra points at Paperback Swap to collect as many of the L.M. Montgomery books I can get. (I’m re-reading all of the Anne of Green Gables books: so much love!) I’ve burned enough candles so that it feels like I’ve cleared out all the old smells, and now I wake up and I’m not so startled or disoriented about where I am. A home takes awhile to pull together (and…it’s so expensive!) I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the living room. I can dress and style a bedroom with no problem, but having a living room all of my own feels slightly daunting, mostly because I haven’t gotten all of the furniture for it.

Outside of home decor musings, I’m taking great pleasure at wearing my cool-weather clothes. Scarves! Sweaters! Boots! Coats! All of my favorite sartorial things. I haven’t bought very much for fall so far (most of my money’s gone to house stuff.) What should I get? What have you been getting for the season?

I paged through the fall magazines and nothing has really caught my eye but a peplum top here and there. I did get a pair of bootleg jeans on a kind of whim, though: I was trying on stuff and threw them in the pile as a bit of a “what the heck” type of thing. But when I tried them on, I really liked them. Lately my eye has tired of the skinny jean silhouette, and I like the 70s-ish feel of a nice bootleg. It feels a bit more subversive to wear than it did in, say, 2000 — such are the cycles of fashion, I guess. (I even subtitled the outfit above “fighting the hegemony of skinny jeans”!) I still wear skinny jeans, mostly with my bigger and longer boots, but it’s definitely weird sometimes to wear a bootleg — it skews your other clothing choices when you consider a new silhouette. Lately I like a vibe that’s basically “dressing like a Neil Young song”: kinda worn-in, melancholy yet sunlit in a way. I like faded florals in gamine yet romantic shapes, cozy textures, kind of gentle colors. Everything natural and with a sense of ease. Kind of like life in early fall, right?