Ahh, fall, it's good to have you back again

I am jumping the gun a bit with that headline.

Fall doesn't officially start until the autumnal equinox occurs at 1:49 a.m. Saturday. But we're close enough (especially when TV folk started observing "meteorological fall" Sept. 1).

Fall, as many of you know, is my favorite season. I frankly don't understand why that's not true for everyone, given all there is to recommend it.

I will admit I have warmed up to summer since my daughter was born 14 years ago. I think it has something to do with an appreciation for not having to bundle up a kid from head to toe every time you head out the door. And summer has plenty to recommend it, like vacations and days at the beach and the lush green landscape you see everywhere you turn.

Even with all its perks, I used to get tired of summer by August. These days I'm content with summer extending into September. But now that the start of fall is imminent, I've had enough.

People get all geeked up about summer produce, but fall has some spectacular offerings as well, from winter squash and root vegetables to apples and pumpkins. Fall is the time to enjoy a hearty bowl or chili or a roasted veggie salad or a delicious apple crisp.

I will not, however, be indulging in any pumpkin spice food or drink this month. I love pumpkin spice season as much as the next gal, but it has a firm Oct. 1 start date for me. Like many angry people whose posts you might have seen on Facebook, I do not find the idea of pumpkin-flavored food or drink appealing when the temperature is 85 degrees. But October - when the days are more often in the 60s - is the perfect time for pumpkin spice lattes or smoothies or oatmeal or gelato or, well, just about anything (unless it's too weird, like pumpkin spice "caviar" or Spam or ramen - and yes, these are real products).

Fall is a season of great clothes, too, from comfy flannel shirts and cashmere turtlenecks to wool trousers and supple leather boots.

Of course I can't forget the season's No. 1 attraction - spectacular foliage. And while there's nothing wrong with making a trip to Vermont to see the season's best - if you can get away - Illinois has plenty of places to go leaf peeping as well. Enjoyillinois.com identifies 12, with a "close to Chicago" trio of Millennium Park, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum counting as one. The other 11 range from relatively nearby sites to ones close to Missouri and Kentucky: Galena, the Great River Road (550 miles from Galena to the Cahokia Mounds), the Meeting of the Great Rivers, the Ohio River Scenic Byway, Route 66 (from Chicago to the Mississippi River), Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest, Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park, Anderson Japanese Gardens, the Quad City Botanical Center and Rim Rick's Dogwood Cabins. (Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook is another picturesque spot and, while it didn't make the list, is much closer to home.)

The fall season also boasts two great holidays that feature free candy and excessive feasting with no need to buy presents or send greeting cards.

Yes, fall has an awful lot going for it - and I didn't even mention football! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean