Autumn officially ushered in on Sept. 22, which means that it's time to have some fall fun with your family. But go beyond jumping into a pile of raked leaves, carving pumpkins or making candied apples. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Things to do with apples:
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- Buy them at the orchard. Several orchards around Smithsburg have roadside stands with fresh apples in dozens of varieties. One is Lewis Orchards, which has apples and pears for sale for $8 to $18 for a half-bushel. Their new stand is at 11739 Mapleville Road, Cavetown. Call 301-824-2962.
- Make dessert. Buy crisp, baking apples like Cortlands, Jonathans or Honey Crisps. With your children helping, put 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoons each of nutmeg and cinnamon in a pan on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Core a half-dozen apples and fill them with a mixture of raisins and nuts. Put the stuffed apples in an ovenproof pan, pour the brown-sugar syrup over them and bake them in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes, until tender.
- Make shrunken heads. Take large Red Delicious apples, peel them and draw a face on the flesh with a water-based marker. Using a potato peeler, core the apple and then carefully carve facial features. Leave big noses, prominent cheekbones and chins, and deep eye sockets. Don't worry about mistakes; they will shrink as the apple shrinks. After carving, set apples in a warm, dry place for three days or more until they are dry and spongy. Decorate with yarn for hair and scraps of fabric for hats or pirate bandannas. Use black beans for eyes and rice for teeth, if desired.
Go for a walk:
- Look for signs of autumn. Walk around your neighborhood or a local park and watch for squirrels carrying or burying nuts, tree leaves turning color, birds migrating, acorns falling from oak trees.
- Fall photo op. Visit a nearby national or state park for an autumn afternoon. Eat a picnic, hike on trails, take family photos with colorful trees.
- Take a tree-identification hike. Borrow a tree-ID book from the library and go to a nearby park. Compare bark, leaves and seeds to pictures in the book and see if you can learn how to identify 10 trees.
- Visit a corn maze. There are half a dozen corn mazes in the area. Kids of all ages can find their way from beginning to end. Be patient, expect to get lost at least once or twice, and have fun.
- Go to a historical village and see how early Americans or Colonists prepared for winter. The Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, at 7313 Sharpsburg Pike near Sharpsburg, hosts its third annual Living History Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, with demonstrations of blacksmithing, hearth cooking, rug hooking and more. Call 240-420-1714.
- Step into an early American village. Visit Old Bedford Village near Bedford, Pa. This extensive collection of historical buildings is open Thursday through Sunday and features re-enactors doing household and farm activities common in villages and farms 200 years ago. The site is 1 1/2 hours away from Hagerstown. Call 814-623-1156.
Make a craft:
- Make pressed-leaf art. Collect 50 to 100 leaves in all colors, shapes and sizes. Press them between the pages of phone books, dictionaries and other large books. Press them under heavy books and let them dry for two weeks. To make pictures, lay out the pressed leaves and glue them to stiff paper or cardboard. To make a bird, use a large leaf for the body, an oval leaf for the head, long skinny leaves for legs, toes and beak, and a small round leaf for the eye. Use regular white glue.
- Build a fairy house. Collect leaves, nuts, pebbles, moss, twigs and other natural items. Get a small to medium-size food-package box and draw a door and windows on it.
- Bake some fun. Make autumn-themed cookies or cupcakes with children helping. Kids can measure ingredients, mix things with a spoon or pour batter into cupcake tins. Use fall-colored frosting or cut cookies into fall-leaf shapes.