The Ultimate Fall To-Do List (No Apple Picking or Pumpkin Spice Lattes Necessary)


That Christmas song got it all wrong: the most wonderful time of year is fall. Everyone knows that. But beyond hitting the pumpkin patches and apple orchards, wrapping yourself in blanket-like sweaters and eating your fair share of root vegetables, what else should you do during the fleeting fall? Here, some slightly-less-cliché autumn-time ideas for you.

+ Get all the fall feels listening to this playlist.
It was curated just for you, dear reader, by my music aficionado friend Ben! It’s longing, it’s reflective, it begs for the death of one season, the life of another and an over-poured glass of Bordeaux.

  • “Pale September” – Fiona Apple. It’s a big middle finger to your emotions.
  • “The Past and The Pending” – The Shins. Because who doesn’t “settle down to cut ourselves apart” this time of year?
  • “Let’s Get Lost” – Elliott Smith. The most depressing song you could play for your SO while winding through unknown roads looking at leaves.
  • “Roslyn” – Bon Iver & St. Vincent. Any Bon Iver song would do, but his duet with St. Vincent for the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack (don’t judge a song by its terrible movie placement) is spooky wonderful.
  • “I Need a Forest Fire” – James Blake (feat. Bon Iver). Nothing says fall like a song about clearing out the emotional brush in your life.
  • “Our Light Miles” – Iron & Wine. This gem from the band equivalent of a knit throw and mug of cider’s new album has basic fall Instagram lyrics embedded throughout.
  • “Apple Orchard” – Beach House. To feel so meta it hurts, play this while at an actual, well, you know where…
  • “Wallow Lake Monster” – Sufjan Stevens. This newly released track from Ultimate Feelings Feeler Sufjan is an immediate classic.
  • “Harvest Moon” – Neil Young. It wouldn’t be a fall playlist without it.
  • “Satyr and the Faun” – PHOX. Who isn’t running away from something during this transitional time?
  • “Summer Skin” – Death Cab for Cutie. I mean, really.

+ Love the fall foliage? Of course, you do. Then donate to an environmental cause to help ensure we’ll still have leaves and trees and all the critters that depend on them.
How about the Environmental Defense Fund? Or there’s the Natural Resources Defense Council, which fights to protect the essentials – air, land, and water – and help all humans have access to clean air and water. For premium leaf peeping, get yourself to a national park; the National Park Foundation needs our never-ending love and support now more than ever. 

+ Three words: Squashio! E! Pepe!
Butternut squash + cacio e pepe = thank you/damn you, Bon Appetit. I may not eat a leafy green again until spring.

+ You’re dead to us, pumpkin spice. (Kidding! Kinda!)
But we are totally tired of pumpkin spice everything. How about sipping away your calories with a red velvet hot chocolate instead? London-based café + bar + restaurant Grind has a concoction that’s sure to rival the PSL.

+ Read Mary Oliver’s poem “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness.”
Mary gets it right. Every time.

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends
into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground

to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world

be true?
So let us go on

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

+ Apple cider donuts, good. Caramel apple clafoutis, way better.
A cla-what-is? Basically breaks down step-by-step how to make this apple clafoutis, a French flan-like dessert. If you do go apple picking, despite the title of this article, this will put your freshly-picked apples from the orchard to good use.

+ Make your own autumn-y potpourri.
How about a little fall scent-spiration – without having your house smell like a Bath & Body Works? Combine a variety of fall goodies, your choosing, into your prettiest bowl. Simply mix colors and textures for visual interest. Hello Glow breaks down an ultra easy-to-replicate recipe:

  • Dried orange slices
  • Whole nuts in shells
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • Juniper berries
  • Dried rose hips
  • Laurel (bay) leaves
  • Pine cones
  • Cedarwood, clove, cinnamon, orange + pine essential oils

+ Draw some design inspiration from this fall color palette.
The interior work of Dimore Studio, an Italian design duo, is giving us serious heart eye emoji face. Their tones are dusty yet rich; their vibe is opulent but not intimidating. Incorporate a hint of their aesthetic into your own home this fall in bite-sized ways: paint an accent wall burnt sienna or throw Persian green velvet pillows onto your couch.

+ Admit how you really feel about Halloween.
Want to dress up in a costume that took you weeks to plan and go out? Go for it. Want to stay home and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters? Somebody has to. Want to close the blinds, pretend not to be home and count down the minutes until November 1st? Also okay. This year has been hard enough, let go of silly holiday pressure once, for all, forever.

+ Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to gear up the gratitude.
Once the temps drop into the negative and you spend every morning scraping the ice off your car, you’re going to need a bank of good gratitude to get you through the wintry days. I text this image (below, found long ago on the Internet – does anyone know where it originates?) to various stuck-with-me-forever friends from time to time, cheekily asking them to send it to their parents for me. A little “proud of you” or “thinking of you” goes a long way. A little list in a journal of things you’re grateful for – big or small, clean bill of health or a new pair of slippers – does too.

Now tell us, what’s on your sweater weather to-do list?

Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3


Megan McCarty is a writer, editor, etc.-er who has written about life, love and – shh, don’t tell her mother – s-e-x for Garance Doré, Apartment 34, Rue and more. While based in Minneapolis, she’s always ready, willing and oh-so eager to pack a bag, board a plane and wander new streets.