Here in Southern California, we can't rely on the usual signs that summer is over and that fall is on the way. Our school district is year-round, so for my kids, back-to-school time was in the middle of July. And come September, there is no real turning of leaves. I've noticed the one deciduous tree over my driveway sheds it's leave continuously, with a major mess dropping in early summer, not autumn.
But I love autumn, it's the best time of year, so I do look forward to the few clear signs that it's almost here.
1. The heat breaks, and I can turn off the air conditioning. August can be brutally hot. While the weather is mild year-round here, if we are going to have a heat wave, it happens in august. We live a good 25 minutes from the beach, so we have fewer breezes, no marine layer, and long, long days of unadulterated clear blue skies. Every. Single. Day. No clouds, no rain, no merciful low-pressure fronts bringing thunder storms. What I wouldn't give for a good afternoon thunder-shower.
2. I stock up on cake mix for birthdays. My son's birthday is in October, and my oldest daughter's is in September. Just this week I made cupcakes for her preschool class, a cake for our family after her birthday dinner, and I have one more to make for her actual party on Friday. This is a ridiculous amount of cake in one week. But I love making homemade (read: messy) birthday cakes, and this year, I successfully made all-natural pink frosting tinted with beet juice. I've come a long way since the Red-Dye Incident of 2004.
3. Pumpkin Spice Latte returns to Starbucks. Need I say more?
4. The corn maze is gettin' high. I always drive a convoluted back road route to get to the highway, because the fast-connecting newish highway has a mind-boggling toll of $2.50. I refuse to pay it, unless I am seriously running late for an appointment. I like the back way, because the valley is filled with heady aromas of sage and eucalyptus, and sometimes, just past the hand-lettered sign that reads "Andalusion Stallion at Stud," we see horses out for a walk past the golf course. I recently drove my friend to the Navy hospital when she was in serious labor, and on autopilot I passed the connector and headed down the backroads. I was afraid she was going to get upset, but she was so busy with contractions and practically smacking out the windows of her Volvo with her hand that she didn't notice or say anything. So, along this back route is a christmas tree farm/pumpkin patch that is vacant all summer, but when we can see the pumpkins growing and the corn maze getting high, we know fall is just around the corner. My kids get excited when the hay bales appear and lights are strung, they happily remind me that it's almost pumpkin season.
5. The new fall season of television. I'm not that excited about it this year, because I don't watch many prime time shows. I'm still waiting for Big Love, and Biggest Loser, and the new American Idol. I feel a little guilty about it, but I do enjoy Desperate Housewives. Normally, my husband and I love all the Law and Orders, but I can't watch when he's deployed because it'll make me think too much about violent crime and then I'll never get any sleep. I am really enjoying Jay Leno at 10, it's just what I need as I get ready for bed, a little amusing and timely monologue that I don't have to sit through the local news to get to.
I do miss the traditional shopping for school supplies and sweaters and corduroys, and the crunching fall leaves waiting to be raked into big piles for kids to jump in. I am an East Coaster at heart. But I picked up a couple of short corduroy skirts at Old Navy, which coordinate nicely with my brown flip flops. And Trader Joe's has some nice looking chrysanthemums. This fall also brings another Homecoming, when my husband's carrier returns home to San Diego next month. It's going to be a great autumn.