Author Donna Everhart Tells Us Why Fall In North Carolina Is The Best
By Donna Everhart
Those of us from the South know how summer can take its sweet time relinquishing its grip on the region. Like many places, our seasonal changes can be fickle, teasing us with a quick dose of crisp, cool air one day, only to skyrocket to something akin to sweltering the next. While I love summertime, I certainly appreciate the respite from the heat, humidity, and all that comes with it – as in, goodbye and good riddance mosquitoes and gnats! It wasn’t all that long ago I begged summer to come, longed for lengthier days that allowed more time to sit on the porch while the low, distinctive hum of cicadas serenaded me into a balmy evening. After several months, I’m a feeling a little wilted by the dog days, as we call them, and I’m definitely over smelling like bug spray.
When fall eventually arrives – and decides to stay – it’s like getting reacquainted with an old friend. I want to hug it! This transitional season brings a sense of slowing down as Mother Nature goes dormant. Fields lie fallow, the scent of fresh cut grass is long gone, as are those extended daylight hours. I think this is a perfect time of year to open windows because, unlike spring, there’s no yellow pollen to contend with! For some, there will be days mild enough to do just that. Quite honestly, after several months of air conditioning, there’s nothing more refreshing than letting in a natural cool breeze. Fall also gifts us with lower humidity, and believe me, after months of stepping into the sauna like outdoors, the air, noticeably drier, is truly welcome.
I feel fortunate to live in North Carolina where we have the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in the western part of the state, and pristine beaches on the East coast. If one happens to be smack dab in the middle – like me – both are an easy day trip, but fall is the time when a trip to visit our gorgeous mountains is a must. Nothing could be finer than the jaw dropping views of impressive colors. A simple Google search reveals peak periods, so it’s always easy to make the best of it, but if you happened to have missed the fall foliage this year, our Piedmont area is still showcasing some extraordinary colors, as I saw the other day with this sugar maple. There’s a bit of science behind why colors are so bright one year only to be dull the next. While no one can point to a special formula per se, studies reveal a warm, rainy spring, a summer not too brutally hot, and then typical cooler days mixed with a few chilly nights (no frost) make for the best outcome.
Recently another contributor mentioned throwing on a sweater when temperatures dip below seventy. (Hello, Karen White). We are in total agreement, because this southerner starts shivering as the mercury drops to, oh, about seventy. So, while I thoroughly enjoy the seasonal change, being cold is not my thing. This means it’s time to bring out the fall attire, which, in my opinion, is almost like having a new wardrobe. I always find items I’ve forgotten about, and what’s even better is if I caught a clearance sale at the end of last season. I often find a few pieces of clothing with the tags still on I’d completely forgot about. Surprise! It’s like receiving an early Christmas present!
Aside from bundling up in warmer clothes, there’s something comforting in placing heavy quilts and blankets at the we can enjoy cozy evenings by a fire, inside or out. Many of us love spending time on our patios and because of the convenience of fire pits, we can continue to do so. Whether inside or outside, gas logs, or the real deal – meaning cords of wood stacked nearby – most everyone enjoys the comfort and warmth a fire brings, no matter the location.
And, I admit it. Yes, it’s totally true. Southerners aren’t necessarily good at dealing with that white stuff that falls from the heavens, which means you’ll find me right along with everyone else in the grocery store, buying – guess what? That’s right, bread, milk and eggs at the mere mention of a dusting. Which brings to mind comfort foods. That nip in the air makes me want to get in the kitchen, and make big pots of soup, stews, or spicy chili. I also relish sipping on hot cider or hot chocolate, and, let’s not forget about all things pumpkin! Yes! Pumpkin spice flavored products are back, and the craze has delivered some eye opening variations. For instance, I spotted this box of Frosted Flakes on the shelves last year, and concluded internet rumors were true; pumpkin spice flavors are considered for just about everything! Personally, one of my favorite pumpkin flavored foods might be what got this craze started to begin with, as in, pumpkin bread.
I’m sharing this recipe for a version my family loves.
The Best Ever Pumpkin Bread
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves (optional)
¼ teaspoon ginger (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
You can make this as directed using the loaf pans, but I like to make mini-muffins and mini-loaves. You will need to adjust the baking times as appropriate for each variation, about 20 minutes for the mini-muffins and about 30 minutes for the mini-loaves. The mini-muffins are perfect little bite-sized morsels – and I have to be careful or I’ll keep popping them into my mouth until they’re gone! Meanwhile, mini-loaves are perfect for sharing with someone, or giving out to family, friends and neighbors. All freeze well, so be sure to put up extras for doing just that during the upcoming holiday season – which just so happens to be right around the corner!
About The Author
Donna Everhart is a USA Today best selling author.
She writes stories of family hardship and troubled times in a bygone south. A native of North Carolina, she resides in her home state with her husband and their tiny heart stealing Yorkshire terrier, Mister.
She is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and was selected as the Author of the Year in Fiction (2018) for her novel, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET by the Southeastern Library Association (SELA).
Learn more about Donna at https://www.donnaeverhart.com.