13 new Tips to beat the threatening Seasonal Affective Disorder

On the occasion of the first days of November - giving us the first serious beginning of winter in Germany! – I have yet a few more tips designed to help you face the blues brought on by the cold outside! Below you’ll find an entire assortment of new suggestions for making the best of autumn. (It goes without saying that the tips in my previous article on the subject “autumn” remain valid – fortunately something like that won’t expire).
Here we go:

  • September and October are a perfect time to get ready with the help of a multitude of flower bulbs for a colorful spring 2013! This does not necessarily require a garden (although it is great fun to act like a squirrel burying bulbs all over the place, forgetting what is buried where and then to be delighted by the first green shoots emerging in the most surprising places). If there is no garden, a balcony or stairway will do just fine! Filling boxes or pots with dirt, arranging bulbs according to preference – done! The most delightful results are achieved by planting according to the “sandwich-system”: the bulbs are buried in layers on top of each other: The largest bulbs (i.e. daffodils) all the way on the bottom, next the medium sized (i.e. tulips) and then on top the small bulbs (i.e. crocus, snowdrops or winter aconite). Here a protected place is important – if at all possible, the box or pot should be protected from freezing all the way through. When it gets really cold, some material, bubble wrap or burlap provides protection against freeze (for special effects you may want to adorn the latter with a colorful bow). Those who don’t want to spend the winter looking at the pot full of naked earth may prefer to cover it with frost-hardy plants like heather, silver ragwort, tufted pansy or even holly. When the bulbs start coming up in spring, just remove the winter plants to give them space. You don’t have a balcony or a protected entryway? No problem – merely move the floral splendor into the apartment! With bulbs that is easy by fooling them into believing it is winter: Just put the bulbs as closely as possible but without touching each other into a bowl with good drainage and position the entire arrangement in a cool, frost free dark room (not above 23 degrees Fahrenheit!). During the next three months the soil must be kept moist but under no circumstances wet, (the bulbs will rot). When the first shoots appear just move the bowl into the warm apartment and enjoy the awakening of spring in the middle of winter!

  • A propos flowers: Even if you don’t feel like digging holes or doubt your green thumb, this is a great time of the year for colorful readily available and reasonable autumn bouquets. Asters, mums and dahlias are all the rage and branches with berries and autumn foliage provide perfect material for great arrangements. My favorites are sand- and pyracantha branches – just one branch in an unusual vase is a picture to behold with one or two decorative gourds next to it creating a stunning arrangement! During this time of the year in the Palatinate we are privileged to buy artichoke flowers for our vases – they are truly something special . . . give it a try, look around and maybe you’ll get lucky and find them nearby where you are!

  • As a child I always adored to have my father take me and my friends along to built a fire in the garden or somewhere in the fields and roast freshly dug potatoes that we then munched on right away. When doing that you have to be careful not to be disappointed by ending up with something reminiscent of a piece of coal. This will provide you with a hint to avoid that. In addition to butter or herb butter, sour cream is a great supplement. If you have never tried it, you’ll be amazed at the incredibly intensive taste of a potato – there is absolutely nothing like it and beyond comparison to a “baked potato” out of the oven! And this does not even include the bonfire romanticism that is always half the fun all by itself . . .!

  • While we are on the subject of potatoes: In case you prefer something a little more elaborate, may I suggest to check for potato festivals in your neighborhood. You are sure to find dates and locations in your vicinity on the Internet. During this time of the year those are becoming more and more popular. They are frequently accompanied by a potato fire and all kinds of delicious meals all featuring the fabulous spud. By the way, in the old days in Germany the very first day for potato fires was St. Luke’s on 18 October when according to tradition the last potatoes were harvested. On that day the wilted potato leaves were burned on the field – and what could be more natural than cooking a few freshly harvested spuds on that occasion?

  • A little too idyllic for you? Prefer a little more action during that time of the year? Why not consider a trip to next year’s Munich Octoberfest? Those who already love it can’t image the beginning of autumn without it. It may not be for everyone – but why not give it a try? At least then you are qualified to participate in the complaints about the cost of this year’s stein of beer. . . unfortunately this year’s Octoberfest is history but since its necessary to reserve places in the main tent a year in advance, you can at least look forward to next year’s event. You’ll find the official Octoberfest site right here.

  • The season for game, mussels and sushi is upon us and in full swing everywhere! Treat yourself to visiting a specialty restaurant serving something truly delicious or assemble the necessary ingredients and fix something yourself. Its great fun and absolutely delicious. While during this time oft he year game like venison, wild fowl, wild boar or elk, even reindeer is sold by almost any good butcher shop in Europe, in the United States the sale of game, although available is strictly regulated and sold by selected, licensed stores only. Check for them on the Internet. Here is one example: http://gourmetfood.about.com/od/wheretobuygourmetfoods/tp/wildgameshop.htm

  • When the nights get cool and the early morning mist begins to rise off the meadows, Autumn is also red, roe and fallow deer rutting time. If you would rather experience Bambi’s papa and its adult relatives in action than on a plate, you should not miss the opportunity to visit one of the many nature preserves. You have to venture out very, very early in the morning, dress warmly and be patient! (Some go out late at night with a sleeping bag, a thermos and spend the night). The rutting calls of the stags and bucks competing for the females begin at sunup and are something you are not likely to ever forget – you are almost guaranteed to be back next year!!

  • Autumn is also a great time to re-discover the movies, theater and concert auditoriums! Gone are the days when plans and those previously purchased tickets for open-air events were dependent on the weather. Instead, many cultural events open the season with panache and new programs panache as early as in September. This may be a good time to consider theater- or concert season tickets. For those with access, the opera season lets one forget all about the summer! It’s also the peak season for those great new movies.

  • My friends in the US: You may still have a few vacation days left over, (even a long weekend will do!!) and don’t really know how to use them? Want to get a break from the autumn blahs for a few days? How about a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas? Or a 4-day Eastern or Western Caribbean Cruise? The cruise lines offer an incredible assortment of 3- 4- 5 day cruises out of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale at unbeatable prices, in many instances they even include the airfare. Some of the all inclusive resorts like Sandals offer up to 65% discounts. When you consider all those included meals, it beats staying at home. Or maybe a few days golfing on one of the many magnificent golf courses only a “putt” away are bound to brighten the season or, a visit to the fall foliage’s natural wonder in Vermont or Michigan’s UP will do the trick. If skiing is your passion, you’ll find some incredible early snow conditions in Utah or in British Columbia near Vancouver on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains . . . For my European friends Norway beckons with exciting autumn tours to nature preserves: Observing musk oxen close up in the Dovrefejell region (and finally learn about the origin of our own fragrant essences), conducted tours to collect berries and mushroom for the gourmet cooks, river rafting for beginners or advanced and salmon fishing are available as well. Or maybe a visit to Carinthia: Among its many choices is sampling the fare at the many autumn festivals fortified by the many cheeses, polenta, bacon, cider and smoked wild game where wild boar ham is a delicious local specialty. . . or something a little more exercise related such as hiking, biking or Nordic walking . . . or enjoying the alpine autumn in Styria.

  • Feel like a little autumn related poetry? Light a few scented candles or the fireplace, snuggle with a blanket in your favorite easy chair and grab a book of poetry. Some particularly beautiful poems about autumn touch the soul and put you in the mood. William Blake’s “To Autumn” for instance: “O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d / With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit / Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest, / And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe, / And all the daughters of the year shall dance! / Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.“ Feel like more of that? Try this: http://poetry.about.com/od/ourpoemcollections/a/autumnpoems.htm

  • During this time of the year socializing will come into its own and should not be neglected! Now that the grilling season has obviously come to an end (except for those hardy souls who have discovered “winter grilling” for themselves and their longsuffering friends) a fun evening of games with a few good friends accompanied by a glass of hot wine punch and baked brie is bound to brighten the mood. It makes no difference whether you decide on one of the old standby games or something new, its sure going to be fun.

  • A great idea for all wine aficionados who would love to get a little closer and more personal to the origin of this noble mature beverage: This is the perfect time for a short visit to a vineyard! There are many options such as helping with the grape harvesting, witnessing the pressing of the grapes, joining the vintner for a visit into the vault and obviously sampling last year’s finished product because that is half the fun.

  • At this time of the year many dance studios introduce new courses. A great way to meet new people and improve the general emotional ambience! In its positive effect on body and soul, dancing has no equal. Agility, motor skills and coordination are equally being exercised, as are concentration and memory. Learning a better posture and burning as many calories as by jogging with considerable less stress to the joints is an incidental benefit. Dancing also alleviates lipid metabolic disorders or other metabolic diseases and has a reputation as an excellent means to reduce stress. And additionally for all those procrastinating men: Women LOVE men who can dance!! So, may I have this dance??

Those are the additional 13 suggestions to enjoy autumn instead of mourning after the summer! I sincerely hope that you found something for yourself that will help you appreciate autumn.

“The true journey of discovery does not entail searching for new landscapes, but to see them in a new way.” (Marcel Proust)