Fall Festivities in the Concrete Desert

The Midwest is in its prime during autumn, she’s like the prettiest girl at the ball. The changing of the leaves, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, apple cider mills, spiced donuts, all the things that thrive in areas where there’s too much land and not enough people. After spending my college years in rural Ohio, and growing up in suburban Michigan, I took all these wonderful seasonal activities for granted. And then there’s Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but I cannot take the train to a corn maze. The closest pumpkin patches are about an hours drive (real pumpkin patches), and I have no idea if there are any cider mills in the immediate vicinity, all I know is that the closest thing we have to a nature outing in my neighborhood is the Lincoln Park Conservatory (which is actually very nice, but still). So what is a girl to do? With the help of Pinterest, my roommate, and a 300 page book of Halloween recipes and crafts that my mom got me for my birthday, I have compiled everything you’ll need to get into the fall spirit, even if you haven’t seen a stalk of corn for months.

Step 1: Ambiance (I seem to be a fan of this word lately)

Whether you’re living at home, in a brownstone, or a highrise, making your space as fall-y as possible is key. To accomplish this you will need:

  • Fall scented candles (get Glade, after much trail-and-error we’ve found these are the only ones that actually smell good).
  • Pumpkins, pumpkins, and more pumpkins.
  • Fall wreath (see crafting below).
  • Cheesy Halloween Decorations (if that’s your thing).
  • “Fall” Music aka smooth jazzy music aka King Krule and Frank Sinatra

IMG_2637 IMG_2781

Step 2: Food and Drank

To further add to the autumn ambiance in your home, you need to be constantly cooking fall foods – Martha Stewart it up in this b. You will need: anything that is orange in color, contains pumpkin, cinnamon, or apple. I’ve included a few of my favorites below.

I’m big on soups this time of year because they are easy to make and you have left overs for days. One of my favorites is a Spicy Sweet Potato soup with Chipotle from Gwyneth Paltrow’s recent cookbook It’s All Good , but for copy writing purposes I haven’t included it here. For something a little sweeter, you can try this Creamy Spiced Carrot Soup I made the other day! Essentially, any orange vegetable will make a great fall soup, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, pumpkin, and so on. Not only will the orange color vibe with your fall color scheme, but it will create a warm homey feeling in your place. More Soups

Let’s not forget about fall desserts. I happen to live near Trader Joe’s and they have every pumpkin dessert you could ever want, pumpkin bread, pumpkin chocolate chip bars, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pudding, and so on. If you don’t live near Trader Joe’s… I’m sad for you, but here’s a few other suggestions from Pinterest.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Pumpkin Spice Quinoa Cookies

Pumpkin Krispies Treats

These Look Awesome – Toffee Apples

IMG_2792 (2)IMG_2794 (2)

Now for those of you who like to get your drank on, you have a plethora of options when it comes to fall drinks. Practically every beer company comes out with a seasonal option, but I would have to say my favorite at the moment is Pumpking by Southern Tier Brewing Company, but New Belgium’s Pumpkick is a good alternative. If your more of a wine person, my roommate’s mom came up with the most brilliant idea, put wine in a carved pumpkin. You’ll need:

  • Pumpkin
  • Large knife
  • Large spoon
  • Boxed wine

All you have to do is cut the top off the pumpkin, scoop out all of its innards, take the boxed wine out of the box (it should be in a bag), carve a hole large enough for the spout, and stuff it in. Be careful not to pop the bag when you do this, also don’t keep it in your apartment for more than a week, it WILL rot.


If you’re in the mood for something a little stronger, I suggest making your own hard cider! I got this idea from one of my friends and decided to make my own. I used:

  • Apple cider
  • Apples
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Whiskey
  • Honey

I cut up the apples, poured all of the ingredients into a pot, and brought the batch to a boil, viola. My Witch’s Brew

Step 3: Activities and Crafts

Even though there are no apple orchards or corn mazes within my reach, the city does provide some pretty nice events, although most of the Halloween ones have come and gone, there are still a few things going on in November that you can check out on their website. Or just go for a nice walk along the lake, or to the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory to get your fill of fall foliage.



1. Fall Wreath: If it’s too brisk for you there are so many fun indoor activities! If you haven’t already acquired your fall wreath you can make your own and it’s super easy! For mine all I used was:

  • Plain twig wreath from Michael’s
  • Hot glue gun
  • Fall garlands
  • Miniature gourds and pumpkins

All I did to craft our wreath was wrap the fall garlands around the twig wreath, making sure they were secure, and then glued the gourds and pumpkins around it. If you want to get really into it these are pretty fun.

2. Pumpkin Painting: Carving pumpkins can be messy, time consuming, and tough on your upper arm strength (not to mention dangerous – KNIVES). So go to your local craft store, get some brushes and paint, go van Gogh on that pumpkin. See the beautiful portrait of me that my roommate painted.



3. Costume Making: Looking for a last-minute costume for Halloweekend?  Grab yourself some felt and a glue gun and you’re all set! You can LITERALLY make anything out of felt, pin it to a t-shirt, and you’re good to go. Not only will it be exponentially better than your go-to sexy kitty outfit, but it’s super cheap. Granted, most costumes made out of felt are for children, but the only different between your ninja turtle felt costume, and a little kid’s, is a bit extra felt. I decided to go as pizza this year, mom is unamused, but I’m proud of it.

IMG_4918 IMG_8191

4. Knitting: If you’ve always told yourself you wanted to pick up knitting, this is the perfect time! Grab yourself some orange, yellow, and brown yarn, and go at it. I’m working on an infinity scarf right now, I found a YouTube video that is easy to follow if you’re a beginner.

Knitting is the perfect fall activity because it’s easy to do while watching a movie marathon! So I’ll end with my personal favorite movies for a Halloween movie marathon.


Scream               The Shinning               The Faculty               Dawn of the Dead             The Haunting

28 Days Later    Sleepy Hollow              Halloweentown       The Crow                             Hocus Pocus

Interview with a Vampire                        The Craft              Buffy the Vampire Slayer   Urban Legend

The Nightmare Before Christmas

What does a mummy call his parents?

Mummy and Deady,

Arty the Alien