Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall Preparedness on the Last Day of September


Italian Apple Dishes, at Sur La Table

Do you have all the things you'll need for fall? Fire logs, matches, rain boots, raincoats, leaf bags, a rake, caramel or pumpkin scented candles? Kleenex packets for coat pockets? Caramel for dipping apples as an occasional treat? Decorative pumpkins, gourds and ornamental corn?

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

- Take inventory of fall supplies like firelogs and matches, and add anything you need to your shopping list.

- Start thinking about making a Christmas shopping list. My Christmas shopping is usually done by November 15. I sincerely enjoy all that extra time in December that comes from not running around frantically to finish my shopping.

- Plan a quiet evening at home into your schedule for next week.

- Do you need to make an appointment (or schedule time yourself) for someone to come check your gutters?

- Do mid-week tidying. De-clutter the living room and mail table, empty the dishwasher and put dirty dishes in it, wipe kitchen counter and sink, empty trash, wipe down bathroom mirrors, counters and sinks.

Look back over the last month. Did you get everything cleaned and sorted that you wanted to? Made it to your hair, vet and doctor appointments? Got the kids supplied for and settled in school? Remembered all the birthdays you needed to? Called and wrote relatives to stay in touch? Wrote in your journal, painted or drew in your sketchbook, worked on your knitting or craft projects? Read your book for your book club? Tried cooking something new?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Prep

As the days grow colder, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new season. New types of produce become available at the farmer's markets and grocery stores, and we crave different foods - hot soups, crusty breads, pies, apples, pears, and hearty vegetables.

Those of us who live in cold weather climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months, staying home for quiet meals, even having just two or three other people over for dinner. (Plus in this economy it's probably a good idea to eat at home as much as possible to save money).

It's time to start gearing up for fall cooking, baking, feeding overnight guests, and entertaining. Time to sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities.

Even if you hate cooking personally or don't consider yourself a cook, you'll need to get your kitchen in order so someone who does the cooking in your household (be it a husband, boyfriend, child, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and attacks your kitchen) has all the tools and supplies they need.

Go through your stack or folder of takeout menus from various restaurants. Throw away duplicates or out-of-date menus, and organize your collection. Store near the phone for easy access. There'll no doubt be cold nights when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out, and those menus will come in handy. Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights. (And tip the poor, frozen deliveryperson well!)

- Go through your potholders and kitchen towels and immediately discard any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." It's ok to transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.

Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list, and don't forget to grab some next time you are at the grocery store. Many stores are actually carrying attractive, non-cutesy towels nowadays, so you should easily be able to find something you like.

If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy towels.

Speaking of towels, check your paper towel inventory and be sure you have a good supply.

Get yourself in the fall cooking mood, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines, by treating yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog - or read their websites to save money. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea and something to munch on as you browse - looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and amazing mail-order pastries. Get on your TIVO and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.

(If you absolutely despise cooking and are angry at me for even mentioning the topic, go to your favorite fashion website and drool over fall fashions instead!) Have fun looking at beautiful things today, because we have a lot of work to do tomorrow and the rest of this week.

101 Cookbooks

Crate and Barrel

Dean & Deluca

Epicurious

Pottery Barn

Sur la Table

Williams-Sonoma

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Only 13 Weeks Til Christmas (Kat's Money Corner)

Orzotto is Simpler Than Risotto (NY Times)

Ripe for Autumn's Hearth (NY Times)

Save Money by Winterizing Your Home (Canoe)

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