By JUDY A. TOTTS
Russet and amber leaves waltz down the wind like bright feathers, swirling across the sidewalks, crunching underfoot. Mornings wrap themselves in the scent of brittle gardens and lingering silver frost. Night windows frame new constellations, and cut-out orange pumpkins decorate the windows of the elementary schools.
The year turns its face toward winter, but fall remains a celebration of harvest and home. As days grow chilly, itâ€™s time to pull out sweaters and cozy up the house with afghans and clusters of candles. Tracey McBride, author of â€œFrugal Luxuries by the Seasons,â€ suggests filling bowls with pinecones, gourds and bouquets of leaves, with Indian corn for accent.
Tie together corn stalks and prop them up near a straw bale for outdoor decorations. Or make a scarecrow stuffed with old newspapers to welcome guests. A paper bag with a face drawn on, topped with a straw hat, makes a good head. Perch a crow crafted from black felt on its shoulder or hat.
McBride turns fall into a season of light with a small ceremony to welcome in autumn â€” this might also serve as a new way to bless the Thanksgiving dinner along with a prayer. Everyone old enough to safely hold a lighted candle receives a candle and a match. At the count of three, everyone lights their candle and makes a silent wish. McBride likes to do this before a meal, calling it a minor rite that â€œreminds us of the importance of bringing light into the world, even if it is for only one meal.â€
You can modify the practice by lighting one large candle, such as one in the centerpiece at the table, and invite one person to begin by lighting his candle then â€œpassing the flameâ€ to the person beside him, and the candlelight continues around the table. For Thanksgiving, each participant may offer a short blessing or something to be thankful for.
Need some holiday candleholders but the budget is in a bind? Lisa Kothari, president and founder of Peppers and Pollywogs, a Web-based kidsâ€™ party-planning company, suggests coring a fat apple to accommodate a candle snuggly. This works with mini pumpkins, too â€” just be sure the candle is not too tall for the holder so it remains stable.
Let kids craft holiday decorations and invitations to Halloween or Thanksgiving get-togethers by tracing around a pumpkin cookie cutter placed on orange paper.
Go to FamilyFun.com for more kid-friendly projects, like corn-husk or apple dolls, leaf print placemats or leaf and line animal drawings, puppets and fall necklaces. Access Kothariâ€™s site at www.pepperspollywogs.
com for more party plans and ideas.
Every season brings its own signature foods, and autumn is no exception. Chilly mornings conjure up bowls of hot oatmeal laced with brown sugar and cinnamon. On cold evenings, after hours of raking leaves and tucking the garden into its winter bed, cozy up to a cup of hot chocolate, tea or cider. For simple suppers or a weekend lunch, try soup simmered slowly on the stove â€” it beats a scented candle any day. Add muffins or a loaf of warm bread with butter and honey.
Once the jack oâ€™lantern shines on the porch steps, what can you do with the seeds?
Toasted pumpkin seeds still receive rave reviews as snacks. Wash the seeds and pick out any stringy pulp.
A colander makes the job a little easier. Dry the seeds on paper towels, then spread them on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let them cool before munching.
Even if youâ€™ve never baked bread before, itâ€™s difficult to go wrong with this easy recipe.
Serve it with butter as a side with bowls of spicy, steaming chili.
1 box hot roll mix (yeast packet included)
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
Â½ teaspoon oregano
Â¼ teaspoon basil
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Extra flour for kneading
Spray a 9- by 5-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Add a little flour to coat the bottom and sides of the pan; shake out excess.
In a large bowl, follow the general directions on the hot roll mix package, adding spices and onion to the dry ingredients. Add the cheese when you mix in the liquid ingredients; mix well. The dough will be sticky, so add flour, a few tablespoons at a time, as you turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently for about five minutes. When the surface springs back at a touch, put the dough in the prepared pan and let it rise according to package directions (the dough will almost fill the pan when itâ€™s time to put it in the oven).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake loaf 25 to 30 minutes. Turn out of the pan and cool a bit on a wire rack â€” cut when still warm and arrange on a seasonal cloth in a wooden basket.
Talking Turkey (soup)
Itâ€™s not too early to think about the magic act of transforming leftover turkey into something palatable once the stuffing vanishes.
Think turkey soup (and maybe some of the cheese bread) for an after-holiday supper.
Itâ€™s a good recipe to meditate over as you chop onions, celery and carrots to strengthen and season the broth, a good time to reflect on the season.
You can make homemade soup stock or purchase canned broth.
Homemade broth: If you donâ€™t have a stockpot large enough to hold at least four quarts of water plus the turkey carcass, borrow one.
Break up the carcass and add it and about four quarts of water in the pot.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour, uncovered.
While it bubbles gently, wash and chop up three or four carrots and a few stalks of celery. (Use up the leftovers from the relish tray.)
Add a small onion to the chopping block and mince a garlic or two of garlic.
Toss the veggies into the stock pot, cover and let it simmer about three hours.
Strain the broth into a large container (this will produce about 3 quarts of stock) and chill.
Skim off the fat that rises to the surface and youâ€™re good to go.
Freeze any surplus if you donâ€™t make a huge batch of soup.
Turkey Rice Soup
1Â½ to 2 quarts soup stock (homemade or canned)
2 to 3 cups diced turkey meat
1 cup of sliced celery
1Â½ cup diced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
Â½ cup frozen peas, thawed
Â½ to Â¾ cup rice (brown or white)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring broth to a boil, add meat and veggies, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add the rice and cook until tender.
Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.