Let me be clear: There is no such thing as “fall” in Florida.
We generally have two seasons down here in the subtropics, Summer and Not-Summer. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get something that resembles “Spring,” but don’t count on it.
One day, usually in November or December, you wake up and it’s 60 degrees outside. The sky is full of sunshine, the humidity has lessened, and for the next 3 hours you may be able to wear a sweater without sweating. And then it dawns on you… It’s Not-Summer.
While the rest of the continental United States is currently experiencing the beauty of changing leaves, a changing wardrobe, and crackling fireplaces, South Floridians are slogging through the heat and humidity, eyes glued to hurricane reports on television, donning shorts, t-shirts, and even our bathing suits. (As I finish this post, we are monitoring Hurricane Matthew, a storm prepared to pummel our Atlantic coastline over the next three days.)
So, how do we manage through this season of non-season? With great difficulty and jealousy, my Northern friends. However, when you get hit by that blizzard in February while we’re sipping daiquiris on the beach, our lack of fall is looking like a pretty darn good trade-off.
Here’s “fall” in Florida:
Pumpkin Spice Lattes
Iced. Always. Because it’s just too darn hot to hold an even hotter beverage in your hand while navigating an outdoor shopping mall in the blazing September sun. (In case you didn’t know, everything in Florida is outdoors – malls, schools, festivals, concerts, weddings… it’s like architects, contractors, and event planners think it doesn’t rain here.) And it’s too hot to drink a scalding coffee when you get into your 110 degree car that roasted in the parking lot all day.
P.S. Think again before you order that Starbucks coffee. Check out this exposé by one of my favorite bloggers and organic food activists, Food Babe.
P.P.S. See a recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice iced coffee at the end of this post.
This is always a lose-lose situation. It can (a) be as hot as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks on Halloween, causing your chocolate candy to melt, your child to sweat to death in their costume designed for cooler climates, and make trick-or-treating seem like a walk through the Sahara desert. Or (b) Not-Summer can come weeks early, making your usually Florida “fall” appropriate costume completely unwearable.
Case in point: When I was in Kindergarten, I wanted to be a ballerina for Halloween. My parents decided I was going to wear my hot pink sequined ballet recital costume, which was a glorified one-piece bathing suit with a tutu and ruffles. Much to my six-year old disappointment, we had an extreme cold front blow through (by Florida standards) the night before Halloween, making it impossible to wear my tutu. I was completely mortified when I was forced to wear my cousin’s white karate uniform and tell everyone I was a ninja. Halloween dreams dashed.
I always get a slight sinking feeling in my stomach when stores at the mall begin rotating their stock, putting shorts on clearance and filling the shelves with scarves and sweaters. When is anyone who lives here going to wear any of these things? One lone day in February when the temperature drops below 70 degrees? It’s always a relief to walk into our Lilly Pulitzer store, where it’s summer year round. Mimosas, macarons, and pink and green for the win.
Raking Leaves / Hurricane Clean-up
Hurricane Wilma hit Palm Beach County on the weekend of my 18th birthday in October 2005. We spent the next week without electricity, running our generator for ceiling fans and the well pump. And we cleaned. Unlike the crisp, fall foliage you lucky Northerners get to rake, we slugged through layers of mushy, mucky leaf sediment, waiting for a cottonmouth snake to slither out from underneath. I picked up dozens of shingles that flew off the roof, wearing my mom’s leather gardening gloves. We sweated. JUP Mama had to get into our swimming pool, which was full to the brim with pine needles, to scoop out all of the debris. She is more brave than I will ever be. Daddy used a chainsaw to cut down the fallen slash pines. He dismantled our wooden deck, which had been torn into 100 pieces by darling Wilma. Please don’t complain about raking leaves, my friends north of the Mason-Dixon Line. At the very least, you don’t even have to break a sweat.
That First Cool Morning
THIS is what all Floridians look forward to. Fresh, cool air. A steaming mug of coffee. Wrapping in a blanket on the porch. Heck, even the dogs get frisky. You can open the windows and shut off the AC. You can walk around the block and not die of heat exhaustion. You can style your hair without it falling limp in the humidity. Maybe tonight you’ll even roast marshmallows over a bonfire. If you’re lucky, you can pull out that pair boots you’ve been dying to wear and give them a spin. It may only last a day or two (or worse, an hour or two), but for a fleeting moment we can experience “Fall,” the only way us Florida gals and guys know how.
Happy fall y’all,
JUP Girl’s Homemade Pumpkin Spice Iced Coffee (with help from Better Homes and Gardens)
2 cups of half-and-half
1 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk (Whole Foods sells an organic version)
3 Tbsp. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla
In a 1-quart canning jar (or whatever you have available), combine all of the ingredients and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Shake before serving. Recipe makes 3 1/2 cups.
I like to add this to my iced coffee in the afternoons. I buy the Greenwise breakfast blend from Publix.
*Featured image is from the Orlando Sentinel.