Nobody celebrates pumpkin season better (or bigger) than the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Its annual Pumpkin Village includes 75,000 colorful pumpkins, gourds and squash arranged in amazingly creative ways amid 150,000 fall-blooming flowers, including banks of chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses, copper plants and firebush. The arrangements include crowd favorites Cinderella’s Carriage and Old Texas Town Houses, plus other zones like the Great Pumpkin Search, a Hay Bale Maze and the Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch (where pumpkins are sold). It’s no wonder the massive display was named one of “America’s Best Pumpkin Festivals” by Fodor’s Travel. It’s open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Nov. 25. Free with regular admission ($10-$15).
Bake Bread Together
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The only thing that surpasses the joy of breaking bread together around the family dinner table is baking fresh bread together. When the air outside turns crisp, we gather our little ones and delight in their wide-eyed curiosity as they measure ingredients, knead dough and watch it rise. The aroma that fills the house as it’s baking to golden perfection becomes spellbinding. If you’re short on time to make bread from scratch, consider a quick-bread mix in a seasonal flavor such as cinnamon pecan or gingerbread. Williams-Sonoma makes some of the best taste-like-scratch mixes out there, and their Nordic Ware Elegant Pumpkin Loaf Pan ($32.95-$44.95) and Fall Cakelet Pan ($36.95-$48.95) bring beauty to baking by creating breads and cakes that can turn out in the shapes of pumpkins, acorns and leaves.
Plant and Bloom
Cool-weather blooms like chrysanthemums are a welcome sight after our summer flowers have faded (or burned up), and the fiery colors of crotons and crossandra (also called Firecracker Flower) set landscapes ablaze. Designers at local nurseries like Calloway’s are available to suggest seasonal favorites to plant. They’ll even create customized arrangements accented with fall favorites like petunias, sweet potato vine, cabbage and kale, plus decorative touches such as ornamental peppers and miniature pumpkins; arrangements shown, $39.99-$79.99.
Breathe in the Season
Fall is a particularly special time for filling each room of the home with the authentic, comforting fragrances that encourage cold-weather nesting. You don’t have to go far (or spend too much money) to find candles that invite the season inside. Bath & Body Works embraces autumn’s arrival with fragrant candles, soaps, lotions and body sprays bearing names like Bright Autumn Day, Sweater Weather and Fall Lakeside Breeze. And the scent of the season — pumpkin — is paired with everything from apples and cinnamon to marshmallow, latte and waffles. While Pumpkin Pecan Waffles is always a bestseller, new scentsations include Pumpkin Spiced Cheesecake and Brown Sugar Allspice; candles, $4-$22.50.
In Texas, it can be hard to give up the sleeveless fashion of our sweltering summers. But textured sweaters certainly ease the transition. On trend for the season: duster-length sweaters that wrap you in a cloud of comfort whether you’re in jeans on the weekend or a pencil skirt at the office. A good example is a Spicy Cinnamon Coatigan found at The Loft ($98). Part coat, part sweater, it has a mix of orange and blue stripes on a fabric with 31 percent Merino wool and 10 percent baby alpaca. What could be finer?
Want to know the true signal that fall has arrived? It’s when the bags of candy corn start showing up on the candy aisle, of course. These little white, orange and yellow triangles are pure deliciousness (and pure sugar, too). But did you know: It was invented in the 1880s, has been manufactured since 1900 and was once called Chicken Feed? (Haters claim candy corn still exists from that very first batch.) More than 9 billion pieces will be produced this year at about 7 calories per kernel. There’s no correct way to eat it. And you can celebrate National Candy Corn Day with a big handful every Oct. 30. Oh, candy corn, you never let us down. And it wouldn’t be fall without it.
An Apple a Day
After a long and delicious summer of juicy peaches, sweet berries and mouthwatering melons, the first bite into a crisp apple is a welcome change of pace for our produce-loving tastebuds. Apples are perfectly portable, healthful to snack on and can be used in dishes both sweet and savory. (We cooked up a delicious Martha Stewart recipe for porkchops with apples and onions for Labor Day dinner.) Gala, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Rome, Braeburn, Granny Smith — there’s a red, yellow or green variety for anyone with apple inclinations. And — we’re kind of experts in this area — all pair well with white wine and cheese. Right now, we’re crunching on Honeycrisp, which are so sweet and fresh, they’re a treat on their own. Even better? Dipped or drizzled in caramel.
Shake that Pumpkin Spice
Blame Starbucks, maybe, but we’ll choose to applaud them. They’re responsible for introducing the world to the Pumpkin Spice Latte 12 years ago and elevating pumpkin spice flavor to culinary juggernaut status. They fanned the flames of devotion again this year by announcing their pumpkin spice latte would be made using real pumpkin, not just spices and artificial flavorings. According to The Washington Post, sales of pumpkin-flavored anything-and-everything hit more than $360 million for the year ending this July. And we’ve been the first ones in line for it all — pumpkin spice yogurt, cookies, doughnuts, coffee creamer, and — to heck with creamer — pumpkin spice Kahlua to pour in our after-dinner coffee. You can’t shake a gourd without hitting a restaurant menu featuring a pumpkin spice-something. Family-friendly Italian eatery Olive Garden goes orange for the first time this season, rolling out a pumpkin cheesecake topped with caramel and ginger cookie crumbles ($6.99 by the slice or $39.99 for the entire pie). To that, we raise a fork and a big glass of milk and say, “Yum-kin!”
A Welcome at the Door
Nothing welcomes the season at the front door quite like an autumn wreath. Pottery Barn’s Harvest Pumpkin Wreath and matching garland sport faux gourds on top of oak leaves and berries. The 24-inch wreath costs $99; the 16-inch wreath and garland are each $39.50. (Online only.) For more of a farmland feel, the Corn Husk Collection features a softer color scheme and twigs and husks on a generously-sized 30-inch wreath ($149). The matching 60-inch garland costs $129.
When it’s time to pack away the sandals and pull out the close-toed shoes, soft-suede boots make it easy to step out in style. This season, fringe is part of the boho chic trend making its way from the runways to our closets — showing up on coats, vests and boots — and suede sweetens the look. Among our new favorites: Journee Collection Fringed Booties available in beige or khaki ($69.99) and a Sonoma life + style crossbody purse in cognac ($60). Both available at Kohl’s.
Set the Mood
The image of swirling leaves on a blustery fall day is a popular one in decor. And why not? It carries us all the way through Thanksgiving. Pier 1 Imports adds variety to the leaf-loving craze with the Beaded Leaves Table Runner ($49), Layered Maple Leaves Placemats ($5.95) and Harvest Leaves Painted Stemware ($8.95-$9.95). Shedding some extra light on either a tablescape or a mantel, two heights of Leafy Pedestal Hurricanes wrap candles in wrought iron and glass ($39.95 and $44.95), while 10-inch. leaf-shaped LED Glimmer Strings ($22.95) light the way. For extra convenience, the lights can be turned on and off with a remote control (sold separately).
Get in the Game
It’s tailgating season, and grills and coolers are essential for gameday. Get the party started with Grill2Go ICE Tailgating Grill from Char-Broil, which brilliantly allows football fans to combine the two while saving space in the trunk. The grill easily collapses for storage, but at full height fits two ice coolers for beverages and food. The wheels make it easy to maneuver, and the side shelves provide a handy workspace. $199.99. Available online at www.charbroil.com and at Sports Authority, Academy and Target.
Recipes to Fall For
As thoughts turn toward autumn’s heavenly harvests, there’s no better time to dive into a cookbook to discover new mouthwatering ways to celebrate the fare-fabulous holidays ahead. Two out this month fit the bill perfectly. Farmhouse Rules: Simple, Seasonal Meals for the Whole Family (Grand Central Life & Style, $30) is based on the popular Food Network TV show of the same name and features family-friendly recipes from the show’s star, Nancy Fuller, who whips up tasty, ultra-fresh treats on her picture-perfect farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. Fuller’s cornucopia of ideas ranges from a Simply Savory Perfect Pear Tart and Butternut Because Soup to Pot Roast Done Easy and Farmer’s Favorite Molasses Ginger Cookies. If your taste buds lie firmly south of the Mason-Dixon, settle in with The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories by the editors of Garden and Gun (Harper Wave, $35). More than 100 recipes are packed into what the publisher calls an “heirloom-quality” guide, which hits shelves Oct. 27. Not to be missed: Mardi Gras Moon Pies and an updated King Ranch casserole recipe with buttery béchamel sauce and freshly roasted poblanos.
Toast to Ocktoberfest
Beer lovers are at their happiest in October whenOktoberfest celebrations mean flavorful German brews. Style your own Oktoberfest-themed home celebration with a quick trip to Whole Foods Market, where beers sold by the six-pack include Ballast Point Brewing Co.’s Dead Ringer Oktoberfest ($9.99), Boulevard Brewing Co. Funky Pumpkin ($9.99) and Odell Oktoberfest Märzen Style Lager ($10.49). Besides preparing a selection of German-themed menus on the hot bar and selling house-made bratwurst and sausages in October and into November, Whole Foods’ Colleyville store will keep special beer options on tap, including Rahr & Sons Warsteiner. Prost!
Fleece and faux-fur throws start showing up on store shelves this time of year, and most will do a fine job of keeping the chills at bay. The selection of color options and brands found at HomeGoods, however, practically creates a throw store within a home store. Discounted prices on name brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Isaac Mizrahi New York and Lauren Ralph Lauren make it easy to color coordinate comfy throws throughout the house. Offerings include a plush, knitted cream throw and a loose-weave throw in pumpkin-spice tones, both from Cynthia Rowley ($30 and $20, respectively).