It's really fall and surely we'll see no return of 90-plus temperatures until, oh, March, at least. You've put away the swimsuits and unpacked the sweaters. So naturally you want your house to take on a fall-like demeanor.
Here are some quick and easy ideas for creating a fall feeling outside your home:Pumpkins: Along with red and gold leaves and dropping temperatures, nothing implies fall as much as these cucurbits. Even without being carved into jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween, pumpkins create an autumn atmosphere.
For jack-o'-lanterns, you can always carve them the old-fashioned way - hacking away with a knife to create triangular eyes and a snaggle-tooth grin. But nowadays there are easier ways to devise even more elaborate creations.
Pumpkin-carving kits, available from crafts stores, include tools such as scoops (for carving out the pulp) and miniature saws and drills. The kits come with patterns, too, in such designs as frightful faces, black cats, haunted houses and Frankenstein.
As an alternative, if you're the least bit artistic (or capable of tracing a pattern), you can paint designs on pumpkins. Kathy Shearer, creative developer with MJ-Designs, suggests drawing the design on the pumpkin with chalk before you begin to paint, using acrylic paints. You can also buy pumpkin-painting kits, appropriate for small children.
But you don't have to carve or paint on pumpkins to use them in pleasing arrangements. You can hollow them out and place potted chrysanthemums in the cavity, Shearer suggested. "Those are very attractive," she said.
Or simply pile them into a bushel basket, perhaps with some raffia and colorful leaves (real or artificial) tucked in.
If pumpkins' typical orange hue clashes with your exterior color scheme, you can create a fall-like setting using white- or green-hued gourds, or even white pump-kins.
Fall door decoration: There's nothing new about using natural materials in a wreath or swag to hang on the front door, but they're wonderfully appropriate nevertheless. Wreath bases made of grapevines, straw and corn husks, available at crafts stores, lend themselves to fall-style decorations. Shearer suggested adding Indian corn, leaves, raffia and ribbons in a multitude of autumn prints.
"I prefer hot glue because it's so quick and permanent," she said, but you can also wire materials onto a wreath. Mini-pumpkins or gourds, dried herbs or flowers, vines and twigs also can be worked into such arrangements.
Scarecrow: To enjoy a scarecrow, you don't need a garden to scare hungry birds away from. "Go to a thrift shop and buy clothing" to dress your straw man in, Shearer suggested. "Just take a piece of burlap to make a head, or a paper sack," and paint a face on it, she advised. Stuff the head and body with rags, straw, even newspaper, and leave shreds of raffia sticking out the cuffs and ragged knee holes. Top it off with a straw hat.
An application of acrylic spray varnish will help protect the scarecrow from the weather, Shearer suggested; nevertheless, you'll probably want to place it on a covered porch or in some other protected spot. Prop it up on a hay bale or perch it on an old chair. Pumpkins piled around add to the atmosphere.
Flag: Decorative flags come in designs reflecting all seasons (as well as nonseasonal designs). For fall, you might choose pumpkins, autumn leaves, ghosts, witches, turkeys or black cats. One pumpkin-face flag is even outfitted with miniature Christmas lights, for a true jack-o'-lantern effect. It runs on electricity, not batteries, so you need an exterior electrical outlet.
These colorful decorations have been flown for years on the East Coast, only recently making their way to Texas, said Jim Stanton, owner of Candy Plants and Flags in Fort Worth.
Unlike American flags, which are usually flown with the pole mounted on a building at a 90-degree angle, decorative flags are flown at 70- to 90-degree angles for a better view of the design, with brackets adjustable accordingly, Stanton said.