Making our home feel like the holidays has always been important to me. September rolls around and my kids are begging…”Can we decorate? Can we make cookies?” I revisit my Pinterest board for everything pumpkin and apple and I beg my barista to make me a Pumpkin Spice Latte (still, not available on this side of the world). There is so much I love about the season and things I miss from home…the cooler weather, blue skies, the beauty of the changing leaves, the Blue Ridge Parkway, a new wardrobe, the Interstate Fair, visiting the farm with cousins, corn mazes, our fellowship’s fall festival, pumpkin picking, early Christmas shopping with my mom and mother in law, high school football games, and SEC football.

I don’t have all those things here, but my life is still so full. We make holiday memories by enjoying where we are at and bringing in some of our home country traditions. I decorate and cook our holiday favorites while my boys happily wake up at all crazy hours of the night to cheer on their Florida Gators, Tennessee Vols, and Auburn Tigers.

I’d love to share with you some things that we like to do here that have made the fall holiday season fun and enjoyable for our family.  You might want to sit back, relax, and fix a cup of coffee or tea.  Because if you are reading about fall and thinking about fall you might as well taste fall.    And oh how I wish I could just sit and have coffee with you in person!!

Let us get started on our fall adventure by gathering our supplies from near and far.

fall candy

Holiday planning for me often involves pre-planning and shopping while we are still in America. I have been known to pack the following in my suitcase:

  • Fall scented Jar Candles…my favorites are Yankee, Bath and Body Works, and Walmart brand. The large Yankee jar (Autumn Harvest is my favorite scent) will last well through the September- November months, and is worth the weight in your luggage. If there’s still some left over, just put the lid on and save it for next year. Ah…nothing like the smell of a good candle!
  • Fall leaves, silk leaves/flowers. I always shop clearance after the holidays while I’m in the US. If you are there during the fall look for the 50-75% off deals. Once I even hit 90% off at Hobby Lobby! Score!
  • Fall paper goods for hosting. Small paper plates take up less room than the dinner sized, so I usually bring those to use on the dessert table.  Festive holiday napkins are great to have as well.
  • Fall scented hand soaps for the bathroom make a special treat for you and your guests. Fall scented hand sanitizers are fun to keep in your purse.
  • Baking supplies like liners, sprinkles, and cookie cutters to have on hand when it’s baking time. It is fun to share a holiday wrapped treat…you never know when a special fall goodie will brighten a friend’s day.
  • Lightweight decorative items such as fall colored table cloths, runners, banners, something to hang on the wall or set on a table.

Don’t be dismayed if you won’t be in your passport country soon.  You can always request a few of the following things in your next care package.

  • Candy Corn and candy pumpkins
  • Fall candies/chocolates
  • Cheezits
  • Reese’s Pieces (perfect fall colors…yellow, orange, and brown)
  • Velveeta (it’s football season, too…we need cheese dip for that)
  • Fall sprinkles, cupcake liners, baking products
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Poultry seasoning and cornmeal (for the dressing)
  • Pumpkin spice marshmallows (a friend sent me some and I made Pumpkin Rice Krispie treats)
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Cinnamon Chips
  • Pecans…for the pecan pie y’all
  • Flavored Coffee Creamer
  • Marshmallows for sweet potato casserole
  • Flavored teas and Apple Cider Mixes
  • Fall Scented Candles
  • Decorative kitchen items such as hand towels and small serving dishes

Those are all things from America, so how do I do it with things we can find locally?  

Thankfully, we have lived in countries where pumpkins can be found year-round. This is good news for fall decorating and cooking! Head to your local market or grocery store and look for pumpkins. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors.

rattan baskets

Buy rattan baskets or wooden bowls to set on your table and fill with apples or small pumpkins. Ask a local rattan seller to make you a cornucopia to use as a centerpiece for your table. Have glass jars handy for candles, decorations, or fall snacks.

Visit the local fabric market for fall colored fabric, yarn, felt, and ribbon. Sometimes bookstores will have a small section of craft items that you could use. I have found washable paint, felt, ribbon (not as wide a section as at the market), yarn, raffia, burlap and twine.

Visit a local seamstress or start a project with national friends teaching them to make holiday tablecloths, runners, or banners that you can decorate with.

Have a local print shop print Scripture verses and pictures on canvas or to frame. Use a chalkboard or make a chalkboard wall to decorate.

See if there is a local bakery store in your city. You can stock up on basic baking necessities, food coloring, sprinkles, nuts, chocolate, cupcake liners, and parchment paper. I like to stock up on cake boxes, individual cupcake/muffin boxes, and clear plastic bags or containers for gift giving. You may be able to find some specialty items like Wilton products, seasonal sprinkles, cookie cutters and holiday liners.

At the grocery store I like to stock up on these items:

Korean Corn Syrup (works just like Caro Corn Syrup), molasses (1 T molasses plus 1 C sugar=brown sugar). Spices, dried and powdered. Cinnamon sticks, star anise, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

Ingredients for trail mix and snacks like peanuts, popcorn, cheese balls, cheese crackers, raisins, M&Ms or a local brand (pick out the non-fall colors first and eat them ☺), roasted pumpkin seeds, cereal, etc. Ginger cookies and caramel sauce. Ingredients for flavored coffee creamers and spiced teas.

The ideas are limitless when we start thinking creatively.  How about you? What kind of things can you find locally that make your home feel special for the fall?

I am looking forward to Part 2 and sharing some of my favorite fall traditions, holiday recipes, crafts and decorating ideas. Stay tuned!
Photo Credit: aussiegall via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: blavandmaster via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Cape Cod Cyclist via Compfight cc