How to embrace the wonder of fall before winter hits

There is something about the change in the weather, the calm before the holiday chaos and the clear night skies that makes fall the perfect time to take stock of where you’ve been and what the coming months may bring. This season take pleasure in the small, simple things, like collecting acorns, pressing oak leaves and wrapping up in warm blankets to count the stars overhead. These suggestions will help you feather and enjoy your nest.

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John J. Kehoe Photography, original photo on Houzz

1. Press leaves. Sitting under a big September moon in the crisp evening air, I found myself thinking about the past nine months and how thankful I was to be right there in that moment. Fall feels like a desperately needed time-out to me, and it’s an opportunity to celebrate the natural world and the little gifts it leaves, literally, on my doorstep.

If you have kids, it’s a wonderful time of year to get them involved in decorating the house for the change of season. Have them gather up fallen leaves of different colors, shapes and sizes. Press the leaves between two sheets of paper for a few nights, and when they’re dried, attach them to cardstock with double-sided tape. You can display them garland-style on a mirror or mantel by clipping them with clothespins to a length of twine, or you can get a little fancy and arrange them gallery-style in a well-used space.

2. Collect seedpods. One of the simplest and yet most gratifying things to do is to stop and marvel about what nature has to offer at this time of year. Fallen leaves start to blanket the landscape, empty nests provide a window into a bird’s world, and long, sinewy branches rattle in the breeze.

Whether you live in a small studio in a big city or a rambling ranch home far away from prying eyes, small things of beauty are everywhere. Take time to collect a bowlful of unexpected seedpods or other fallen curios and display them in a place that invites others to pick them up, check them out and admire the treasures of the natural world.

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 Rikki Snyder, original photo on Houzz

3. Find your happy place. Wind down and calm your mind by savoring the last few rays of the day. Try soaking up that sunlight splashed across your favorite chair or stand outside on the balcony to take a few deep breaths. If you haven’t yet set aside a place where you can be still for a few minutes, now’s the time. Put a chair in the bedroom corner and keep it free of clutter so you can sink in and give yourself a break before jumping into the next set of chores. Put a bench on the back porch or throw a blanket on the grass and make a point of sitting on it as day turns to dusk. I often sit on my back steps to catch the evening breeze, because when space is limited, you’ve got to make the most of what you have.

4. Upgrade your bedding. During hot and humid times, a good night’s rest is often found under a single top sheet, but when the weather changes and the nighttime temperatures drop, adding to your bedding can significantly improve the quality and maybe even the amount of your sleep.

Summer is a time for coverlets; fall calls for adding a more substantial blanket. It’s not yet time to break out the heavy comforter, but blankets are perfect for layering when the nights get a little colder. Choose a material that feels good against your skin and envelops you in comfort. If you’re soothed by scents, spritz your blankets with organic rose, geranium or lavender water (as opposed to oils, which stain fabric), before you put them in the dryer, and they’ll come out with a subtle hint of your favorite relaxing floral.

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Vintage Chair, original photo on Houzz

5. Turn a few pages. In every room of my house there are books, magazines and catalogs in various stages of being looked at or read, and all have at least one dog-eared page. No matter how voracious a reader you are, carving out time to read a few pages or interesting articles every couple of days can do a great deal to refocus your mind, put complex things into perspective and allow you to unplug from the world for a minute.

6. Take a long soak. One of the most basic human comforts is warmth, and a hot bath is the perfect way to make everything feel a little less overwhelming. I’ve long dreamed of having a soaking tub with a view of the night sky, but right now I have a shower-tub combo with a view of my neighbor’s two-story. If you’re in a similar situation, dim the lights or turn them off altogether in favor of candlelight to create a more Zen-like atmosphere. Put a small stool within reach so you can bring in a cup of tea or glass of wine. Add a few drops of essential oil to your soak and let go of everything on your mind, or just spend uninterrupted time thinking about what’s most important to you.

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House Port LLC/Hally Thacher, original photo on Houzz

7. Create a special table setting. You don’t need to be a party planner to host a memorable evening. You probably have everything you need in your cupboards and drawers to set a warm and welcoming table.

Mismatched plates with a hodgepodge of flatware don’t matter nearly as much as the people surrounding the table and adding their lives and laughter to the mix. Drape a table with an uncommon cover — think vintage Mexican serapes or Turkish towels. Candleholders are easy to come by, and tea lights are sold by the extra-huge bag at most discount stores. In a pinch use small juice glasses for votives and vary the height and selection for a more relaxed feeling.

8. Start a fire. Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes, from built-ins to small, movable models and even non-wood designs, so there’s really something for everyone, assuming you have a safe space to have one. Keep them well away from anything flammable, and monitor them at all times. Movable fire pits can be surrounded by lounge chairs to set a campout sort of mood. Be sure to think about your neighbors and consider a smokeless variety when air quality is a concern.

Roast a few marshmallows and pop them in mugs of pumpkin-spiced cocoa to underscore that fall feeling. A big basket full of throw blankets lets you stay cozy while the fire winds down. Write down some wishes on slips of paper and toss them into the embers. Let the ashes keep your hopes secure while you ponder the months to come.

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