Fancy a Cuppa Cuppa? Fall Beauty Essentials

Greetings, lovely people! A few months back, I shared some of my favorite beauty tips and products to help you survive the face-meltingly hot New York summer. Now, thankfully, fall has turned the air crisp and brought the mercury down. Autumn has always been my favorite season for fashion and beauty, from snuggly scarves and leather boots to dark lips and nails. The cozy sweaters, the structured jackets, the layers galore — it all puts me in mind of new school years and days spent curled up with a book in a coffee shop, by a fire, or sprawled across scarlet and umber leaves on a green. As October rolls into November, here are some of my essential products and favorite looks for fall.


1. Gentle Face Wash: The first and most important step in great make-up is great skincare. Fall’s cool crisp air may be lovely for ambience, but it can be rough on your face, especially if, like mine, your skin tends to be sensitive and dry out easily. I got the Nuxe Rêve de Miel Facial Cleansing and Make-Up Removing Gel as a sample in my Birchbox a few months ago and immediately used up the tester tube. It’s really gentle, plus the scrumptious honey scent puts me in mind of steaming mugs of tea, another fall essential.

2. Moisturizer: Like I said, those smoky October winds can have a tendency to suck all the moisture right out of your skin, and it only gets worse as we move into winter. So it’s super important to replenish your skin with a rich moisturizer. My go-to, especially in the drier months, is the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré. I love this guy, which I purchased in Paris on the recommendation of my far more beauty savvy roommate (not to worry, barring a plane ticket you can find it online or even in some drug stores in the U.S.). It’s nourishing but not heavy, leaving my skin soft without clogging up my pores. A little goes a long way with this stuff; a pea-sized dollop is usually enough for my whole face. I especially like putting it on after my shower so I start the day well-hydrated and ready to face the outside.

3. Face Masks: As the days turn shorter and the nights turn colder, one of my favorite things to do is have a cozy evening in — something hot to drink, something fun on Netflix, and something special to pamper my skin. Face masks are a super quick and easy treat for your skin, to give it a little something extra once a week. Two of my favorites lately have been the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask and the Royal Apothic Cuppa Cuppa Firming Tea Treatment Mask (which may have the best name of any skincare product I’ve ever used).


4. Bronzer: We all have our special gifts in this world…and getting tan is not one of mine. My natural state is vampire-level pale. I would have been a hit on the Victorian social circuit, but alas, I live in the 21st century, when my pale skin garners not so much admiration as concern for the state of my health or iron levels. In summer, I can get a decent enough glow from sunshine alone, but by October 1st I have reverted to my natural, un-sun-kissed state. So instead, I turn to bronzer, to make me look like I have left my cave at least once in the past month. But while I want to look bronzed, I do not want to reach Oompa Loompa levels of orange, so I use the Physician’s Formula Summer Eclipse Bronzing and Shimmery Face Powder. It gives me a natural-looking color boost that isn’t overpowering, plus the touch of gold shimmer adds a subtle glow. A little sweep of this stuff on my cheekbones, forehead, and the bridge of my nose, and I’m good to join the mortals.

5. Eye Highlighter: I’m not a big eye make-up person — one swipe of mascara and I’m usually good to go — but lately I have been adding a bit of gold to brighten my eyes up. Benefit’s Watt’s Up Cream-to-Powder Highlighter is technically meant for your full face, but I have a little sample tube that works perfectly for my lids (if you get the full-sized version, a little eye brush would do the trick nicely). A swipe along my brow bone, in the corners of my eyes, and along my lower lash line, plus a little blend, and I immediately look like I got at least two extra hours of sleep. Plus the gold pairs perfectly with autumn leaves and blue skies.


6. Berry Lips: I love a good statement lip, any time of year, but fall is when I really start to break out the reds and burgundies I love. Crimson is my go-to classic look all year round — it’s impossible not to feel glamorous with a red lip — but this fall I’ve been tending more towards a dark berry, for a more seasonal touch. My favorite berry lipstick is Benefit’s Full-Finish Lipstick in Espionage. It’s a rich, dark berry (that, coincidentally, complements a gold eye look), and it goes on really smooth with lots of pigment. Not ready to tackle the full-on statement lip? Try Fresh Cosmetics’ Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Berry. I keep it in my purse for a slight pop of color and to keep my lips from getting chapped; it also layers really well on top of lipstick for a little shine and a more intense color.

7. Copper Nails: Blame it on my recent foray into British beauty guru land, or on my coveting Scout’s recent Louisville manicure, but my copper obsession has officially reached my hands. I’m normally a red, berry, or dark purple girl come fall, but Essie’s Penny Talk made its way onto my fingers this week and it may just stay there until Thanksgiving. I’m obsessed. Also on my list of favorite nail things? Essie’s Gel-Setter Top Coat. It goes on smooth and not gloopy (unlike other top coats I’ve tried), dries super quickly, and keeps my nails chip-free for a few days at least (which, for me, is a feat).


October Round Up

We’re so glad we live in a world with Octobers — the month of changing leaves and freshly picked apples, cozy evenings and crisp walks, birthdays and bourbon and hot lattes (pumpkin spiced or otherwise). October is our favorite, and our only complaint is that this one flew by way too quickly, in a haze of work and parties and more work and brief ventures out of the city and more work and then work some more. Important events included Scout’s 26th birthday (fêted in style with burrito bowls, chocolate pudding trifle, and many singalongs), Zelda’s housewarming in her new pad (nearly three months after she moved in, but hey, no judging), and a heavy dose of culture (The King and I, Something Rotten, MoMA, Motion City Soundtrack — our interests are wide-ranging). As November’s chill creeps in and the sunshine seeps away, we’re pulling our scarves a little tighter, brewing up a hot mug of something yummy, and getting our cozy on. Only one month until the Christmas music takes over.


What We’re Doing: We kicked off this month with a Bless Your Heart, New York about one of the most trying features of living in New York: apartment hunting. After that traumatic experience, we leapt fully into October with celebrations of football (and football movies), spooky Southern Gothic-inspired music, and fall’s favorite fruit, apples. Zelda recounted her favorite things about New York in the fall, and Scout declared war on the cult of pumpkin flavor.


What We’re Listening To: This month’s playlist was a little darker, a little spookier, full of Southern Gothic serenades for the things that creep in the shadows and lurk just beyond the campfire’s glow, hiding among the Spanish moss. Perennial favorites like Audra Mae, The Milk Carton Kids, Houndmouth, and The Secret Sisters joined newcomers Kacy & Clayton, The Tallest Man on Earth, Pistol Annies, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and more. This wasn’t just a playlist: It was a ghost story.

We also love: We’re admittedly a little late to this bandwagon, but Zelda has gotten obsessed with British bass crooner George Ezra, and has been doing her darnedest to get Scout on board, too. Wanted On Voyage has been the soundtrack to her commutes of late, especially “Budapest.” Also in things we love made by peeps we think are awesome, YouTuber Troye Sivan’s EP Wild. It’s T. Swift and Z&S approved.

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What We’re Watching: Speaking of T. Swift, girl has been killing our online video game as of late. In particular, we love this three part series on Grammy Pro, in which she sits down with the Nashville Chapter and the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy to talk about the production process for her album 1989, working with a wide-range of collaborators from Max  Martin to Jack Antonoff to Imogen Heap. And then there’s this video over on GQ, in which Ryan Adams interviews Lady Swift about songwriting, Siri, and his recent homage to her (featured in our September favorites).

We also love: iZombie is back, brainiacs! And our love for Liv, Ravi, and the gang (especially Ravi) remains strong. Scout got Zelda hooked on The Supersizers…, which recently hit Hulu and combines our love of history, food shows, and Sue Perkins in all forms. The Wicked YouTube channel’s new series “Out of Oz” gifted our eardrums with this gem, featuring Rachel Tucker and our fav Aaron Tveit. And we’re just going to leave this little beauty right here as our gift to you. Trust us. You want to click it.


What We’re Reading: This New York Times profile of awesome human and exemplary Canadian Ellen Page. This New Yorker story about Harry Everett Smith and his paper airplane collection, and the things it reveals about humanity in general and New York City in particular. This Buzzfeed dive into the world of British ex-pat podcasters Men in Blazers, and how they’re going to make soccer the American sport of the 21st century. This goddamn beautiful compilation of all the lyrics to Hamilton, annotated (basically Scout’s Bible). This reenvisioning of the history of literature as a geographical map, part of 17-year old (yep, you read that right) Martin Vargic’s new book, Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps: Mapping Out the Modern World (out in December and already added to our Christmukah lists) and featured on Vox. This conversation between two of the awesomest ladies we know, badass comedienne Amy Poehler and Broadway baby Sydney Lucas (thanks, Lenny Letter!). And this Atlantic homage to the list in all its forms, inspired by the launch of The List App (brainchild of B.J. Novak, Zelda’s new favorite thing on her phone). [ATTENTION: This list has been updated to include the best news everbut also the most nerve-wracking, because we love all of these characters so much and we have already imagined their futures. But if anyone can pull it off, Amy Sherman-Palladino can!]


What We’re Eating: In addition to our Eat This, Drink That foray into biscuit making (apple + cheddar + sage = yum), we’re also using this article as a guide, beginning (continuing?) our search for the best biscuits in New York. We know they’ll never live up to the standards of the Southern kitchens we grew up with, but we can hope for a distant second within subway distance of our apartments.IMG_9150

What We’re Drinking: We’re sticking to our guns this month and going with bourbon and beer. But, with it being autumn and all, we’re adding some ginger, apples, and other fall flavors to the mix. The Apple Ginger Bourbon Delight we made was a hit in this month’s Eat This, Drink That (and proved just as popular made by the gallon and served en masse to the attendees of Zelda’s housewarming party). Also this month, we are obsessed with hard root beer — it’s so tasty and alcoholic. Our favorites are from Coney Island Brewing Company and Small Town Brewery. Drink it or pour it over ice cream, it’s fantastic either way.


What’s On Our Wishlist: Fall has Zelda lusting after copper — all copper, all day, everywhere, but especially in the kitchen. Scout, on the other hand, is looking for more comfortable work shoes, all the scarves, and sweaters that double as blankets.  

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Down With Our Pumpkin Overlords

Everyone has that one thing that they don’t like that everyone else can’t seem to understand. For my roommate, Steph, that thing is bananas. She doesn’t understand why people feel the need to put bananas in bread, flavor candy with their abhorrent presence, or ruin ice cream with their potassium-filled yellowness. How Steph feels about bananas (coincidentally one of my all-time favorite flavors) is how I feel about pumpkin.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against pumpkins aesthetically. I am as pumped for #DecorativeGourdSeason as the next girl, and I’m a huge fan of them as holiday symbols. I would happily carve jack-o-lanterns forever while I wait with Linus for the Great Pumpkin. But the onset of autumn brings out a nationwide fanaticism for pumpkin of a different sort — that spice blend known as pumpkin flavor– and suddenly I find it everywhere, an adjective sprinkled in front of everything from bread to beer and more.


Maybe I just wasn’t brought up with this delusion that pumpkin “tastes like fall!” It’s certainly not what I think of when I think of things that taste like autumn, it being my favorite of the four seasons. Maybe it’s because pumpkin pie was never a tradition in my family, and since I didn’t drink coffee until I moved to New York, I missed the initial induction into the cult of the pumpkin spice latte.

But as I walk the streets of the city, woefully under-dressed and sullen because I fear we may have skipped beloved autumn altogether this year and moved directly to winter (with a bizarre week-long detour back to summer — Mother Nature, what are you doing to me?!), I find myself overwhelmed by the reign of that orange vegetable (I work in Midtown, where there’s a Starbucks every 100 feet, so I am never free from that basic betch drink of choice: PSL is always watching).

To me, fall tastes like smokey charcoal on a tailgate grill, crisp apples picked directly from the tree or made into cider, hot black tea with an earthy aroma, shortbread cookies and cinnamon, and sweet potatoes fried with honey for dipping. So to you, out there in the ether, I say, “Down with our pumpkin overlords! May a new taste of fall arise!” Here are some suggestions if you’re with me and you want to avoid the all-too-prevalent cult of the pumpkin.


Firstly, coffee: The over-exposure of the pumpkin spice latte must end. It’s everywhere — Trevor Noah is even making jokes about it on The Daily Show, — so I think it’s high time for a new flavor of fall. Allow me to introduce maple. New Yorkers, Brooklyn Roasting Company has your hook-up with their signature Maple Shay (basically a maple latte, but named for a presumably delightful individual named Shay). More of a drip coffee person? Swap out your usual sugar or simple syrup for maple syrup. Mmm, the taste of fall.


Secondly, beer. All of my friends know that I just don’t understand the clamor over pumpkin beer. I don’t like it, and yet it still invades the shelves of my favorite stores with its gaudy orange labels and artificial fall-ness. To me, the best fall beers are not so in your face with their autumn flavors. As an alternative to all the Pumkings, the Punkin’s, and the He Saids, go for a Rauchbier, whose smokey taste always reminds me of fall. My favorite is the Schlenkerla Marzen, a German style traditionally served at Oktoberfest (how appropriate). Runners up include Stillwater’s Autumnal (for those who want that subtler roastiness and farmhouse yeast) and Moody Tongue’s Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter (because chocolate+ churro+beer=magic).


Thirdly, dessert. Oh Schmackary’s, you bastion of New York Noms, thou failed me when you put out your pumpkin spice cookie. [Zelda’s note: BUT IT’S SO DAMN DELICIOUS!] It’s okay, I understand; there was a market demand, and as an independent business you had to meet that demand, but why must people demand pumpkin spice when you have so many other amazing fall flavors to choose from? Next time you’re at my favorite New York cookie shop craving a fall fix, may I suggest the Candied Yam or Sweet Corn cookies. These flavor substitutes work for colder treats as well: Sweet Corn Ice Cream, I promise, will change your life (I had it on a hot summer night in Ohio from local purveyor Jeni’s, but I’m positive ‘twould suit the harvest season just as well).

Now go forth, my pretties, topple our pumpkin overlords with the power of new and old fall flavors! Bring them down with maple lattes and sweet corn ice cream. Raise a glass full of Rauchbier to a new era in autumnal dining. And lest I forget, do not hesitate to be apple AF (’tis the season after all). As for pumpkins, they’re more than welcome to take over my decor: Just stay away from my diet.


Eat This, Drink That: Applepalooza

Fall is upon us! As we’ve said before, it is absolutely our favorite quarter of the year. The air is crisp, the leaves are changing, and apples are ripe for the harvesting. Zelda recently took a trip out of the city to pick some of said apples, and so we decided it was only appropriate for this month’s “Eat This, Drink That” to cook with the fruit of the season.

We set out looking for something both quintessentially Southern and acceptably apple-y. We settled upon this Apple, Sage, and Cheddar Biscuit recipe from Brian at A Thought for Food. Biscuits, a Southern staple, combined with our fresh apples, plus cheese (always a good idea) and some sage to make it classy? We had ourselves a winner.


The recipe is pretty simple. Combine 2 cups of flour, ¼ cup of sugar, 1¼ tsp of baking powder, ¼ tsp of baking soda, ½ tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of black pepper in a large bowl. Whisk together to combine, then add ½ cup of butter, cut into small chunks and chilled (this last piece is VERY IMPORTANT — as Scout learned, the chill factor of the butter is the key to making your biscuits the fluffiest they can be). Use a pastry cutter, fork, or food processor to blend the butter into the flour; pea-sized chunks are ok, but nothing bigger. Once the butter has been successfully integrated with the dry ingredients, slowly add ½ cup of heavy cream, stirring to combine. Gently fold in 1 tablespoon of chopped sage and two peeled and cut apples (approximately one inch cubes).

Move the dough to a lightly floured surface (we used a baking mat, but any old (clean) counter will do), knead a few times. Then, flatten your dough out into a circle, about 9 inches wide and 1 ½  inches thick. Cut out your biscuits, about 2 ¾ inches in diameter (the top of a pint glass does the trick nicely if you don’t have a bona fide biscuit cutter on hand), lay your circles out on a parchment paper-covered pan, and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the tops are golden brown.


All in all, everything went pretty swimmingly, until the last step. Our dough was slightly stickier than we anticipated. We aren’t sure if this was because Scout may have over-kneaded the dough when combining the apples and sage, or possibly because we didn’t use the Gala apples the recipe called for, but instead the Empires we had on hand (fresh from the orchard!), which may have been slightly juicier than prescribed. Regardless, the excess stickiness forced us to use a heavily floured surface and get our hands slightly messier than expected.


With our dough on the sticky side, and a bit overworked, we were slightly worried about the consistency of the biscuits. But while they didn’t rise as much as we would have liked, looks aren’t everything, and they tasted fantastic — sweet and savory at the same time, and only slightly addictive.


On the cocktail side, Zelda also went appletastic. In a real departure from form for us, we made…another bourbon cocktail. What can we say: We’re all about that Kentucky brown. This month’s project? Self-Proclaimed Foodie’s Apple Ginger Bourbon Delight.


The best thing about this cocktail is that it is both insanely easy and insanely delicious. It requires only three ingredients: apple cider, ginger beer, and, of course, bourbon. The assembly is simple as well. Fill a glass with ice. Add 2 oz cider and 2 oz bourbon, and stir to combine. Top with 2 oz ginger beer and enjoy! Bonus points if you use a fancy striped straw, like the Pinterest goddess you are.

The result was delicious (and potent) — eye-crossing good. It tasted of fall and hay rides, although we both agreed it could have done with a cinnamon stick garnish to really take it to the next level. With a healthy amount of cider and three ginger beers still left in her fridge, Zelda will definitely be whipping these up again.

Don’t You Just Love New York in the Fall?

It makes me want to buy school supplies, and do all of the things on this list. New York in the fall is New York at its best, conjuring up Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner visions of a city gone sepia-toned. You can keep your summer rooftop bars and your springtime row boats and your Rockfeller Center Christmas tree, lovely though they are. New York in autumn is my favorite, having stolen my heart on a couch long ago as Meg Ryan twirled across the Upper West Side. Here are 22 reasons why.IMG_2516

1. Park Weather: Whether Central or Prospect is your jam, fall in New York was made for enjoying the city’s greener patches, in all their Olmsteadian glory.

2. Sweater Weather: Best explained by this SNL sketch featuring funny ladies/awesome humans Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler.

3. Boots Crunching Leaves on Sidewalks: Fall is a walking season, and New York is a walking city, so bringing the two together is a match made in pedestrian heaven.

4. The Smell of Leaves and Smoke in the Air: How is it that even with nary a chimney in sight, October air always manages to smell slightly of bonfires? It’s witchcraft, I tell you.


5. Hot Coffee at Brooklyn Coffee Shops: I love me an iced coffee, but there’s something so cozy about holding a perfectly steamed latte between your chilled fingers as you stroll the sidewalks or sit dreaming up blog posts. Some of my favorite spots include Variety, Little Skips, and Brooklyn Roasting Company.

6. Fall Light on Brownstones: They call it magic hour for a reason. Hot damn.

7. Fewer Tourists Clogging the Streets: Especially as someone who works in Midtown (your groans of sympathy are much appreciated), I greet the end of the high season with the most rousing of cheers, and a big sigh of relief…at least until the Christmas hordes descend.


8. People Watching: Take advantage of the glorious (and fleeting) weather to peruse the wide spectrum of humanity that calls this metropolis home. Bonus: Fall fashion is New Yorkers at their well-layered best.

9. Pumpkins and Donuts at Farmers Markets: My personal favorite is the Union Square Greenmarket, but even your neighborhood stand tends to go festive come fall, turning Bushwick or Crown Heights into your own little Halloweentown.

10. Pumpkin Beers from the Local Breweries: SOME PEOPLE LIKE THESE THINGS SCOUT! (More on Scout’s inexplicable hatred of the seasonal glory that is pumpkin spice next week.)


11. Apple Picking: This one is admittedly easier if you have access to a car, but they don’t call it the Big Apple for nothing. New York is known for its orchards, many of which have open picking days. The roomies and I recently ventured to Dr. Davies Farm, a mere 45 minutes outside the city, and even though its picking operation was on the more basic side, it was still delightful, relaxing, and delicious.

12. Wine Tasting in the Hudson Valley: Again, easier if you have a car, but still doable by train. And automatically makes you classier than all your friends who spent their weekend doing pickle backs at the bar.


13. Reading in the MoMA Sculpture Garden: Really any outdoor space with seating will do, but this is my favorite spot of late, namely because it a. makes me feel cultured and classy and b. puts me within walking distance of Scout when she decides to take a lunch (i.e. Chipotle) break.

14. Stargazing on the High Line: Every Tuesday through October, from dusk until 11 p.m., the good folks at Friends of the High Line set up free telescopes along the promenade. Plus there are astronomers on hand to answer questions and help guide your scopes. The more you know!

15. Walking. Everywhere.: No winter slush to slow you down, no summer heat to melt your face, and no spring pollen to launch a vicious assault on your sinuses. Explore a new corner of the city, or stroll around a familiar haunt with fresh eyes. 


16. New Crop of Broadway Shows: Fall is when the theatres start to break out the big guns, packing up last year’s awards offerings and launching their contenders for the next round of Tony’s. This season has so far added Hamilton to the top of our wishlists, with Deaf West’s Spring Awakening coming in close behind.

17. Brooklyn Book Festival: For the literary.

18. The New Yorker Festival: For the classy (and the good planners — those tickets sell out hella fast).

19. New York Film Festival: For that pretentious friend with a Metropolis poster in his/her living room.


20. New York Comic Con: If for no other reason than commuting with a bunch of cosplayers makes the subway ten times more entertaining.

21. Halloween: See above. New York takes Halloween very seriously, as evidenced by the Village Parade and the high percentage of bedraggled witches, vampires, and Donald Trumps to be found on the L train at 3:00 a.m.

22. Getting Warm Cookies from Levain and Strolling through Riverside Park: The piece de resistance for a perfectly perfect, Ephron-worthy fall day. Just like Kathleen and Joe (plus chocolate).

We are the Music Makers

October is upon us. It came with the humidity of an Indian summer swirling in the gusty breezes of fall, the leftovers of Hurricane Joaquin, and its murky grey and overcast skies have us looking for beauty in the decrepit and the overlooked: the slosh of brown and red leaves in puddles, the smell of the air before it rains, the overcast light through a familiar window. We’re a little melancholy amid all this hazy grey, but instead of fighting it we’re opting for a long cozy wallow. We’re going to notice how pretty the deserted rainy streets of Brooklyn can be, how the unforgiving grey sky has a softness to it in certain lights, and we’re going to let that inspire us.

Art: “America Windows” (1977), Marc Chagall

Poem: “A Poem Not About The Brooklyn Bridge,” Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Book: The Alchemist, Paulo Coehlo

Song: ““Tomorrow is a Long Time,” Keb’ Mo’

Video: I Didn’t Write This – Ep. 1: Ode by Arthur O’Shaughnessy (feat. Sean Persaud & Mary Kate Wiles),”  Yulin Kang

Quotation:  “…somewhere, nearby voices filled with dusk, cabs and panhandlers and one drunken girl screeching like a wounded bird – all of it flushed with a warmth and sad beauty I’d never noticed before.” — Marisha Pessl, Night Film


Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Watch These (Movies)

Zelda and I each have a t-shirt from our high school that reads, “LCS Football: Undefeated Since 1915.” Technically, it’s true…on account of the fact that we didn’t actually have a football team. Our 198-person, largely female student body would have had some trouble fielding a team (for lack of numbers, not for lack of boys — girls can kick butt/pigskin too); we had better things to do anyway (see: Quick Recall). But even at our team-less school, high school football reigned supreme during the fall, with their college peers a close second. Without a team of our own, we got sucked into the legendary rivalry between the two biggest all-boys Catholic high schools in town, and their annual face-off was a huge event that drew us, and a stadium’s worth of other folks, to watch the Shamrocks battle the Tigers. So despite my school not fielding its own squad, my childhood and adolescence were still filled with many of the cinematic clichés that come when you grow up around the sport.

I’ve always been around football. It’s been a constant presence in my life since a tender age, and I love it in a nostalgic way that takes me all the way back to being a tiny, blonde (yes, I was blonde then) six-year-old in the stands of Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Those high school games also had an impact; even if I didn’t have any real investment in the outcome, the being there with my peers, sucking down Diet Coke that the more daring upperclassman would spike with something stronger, made the event bigger than the game itself. Football to me is childhood and tailgates, family and friends and family friends who are more kin than acquaintance. It’s the changing seasons and a start of a new school year and being a part of something bigger than yourself. And when the crackling of leaves and the faint scent of a charcoal grill get me all nostalgic for games gone by, I turn to the next best thing: football movies.

I am a huge sucker for sports movies. I love an underdog story with a good message and a triumphant ending, so it makes sense that I am a giant fan of movies that use athletic competition as their main plot device. Now that I reside in Brooklyn, football doesn’t fill up every nearby screen come fall. Plus, with age, I’ve become more enthused for the other football (America’s sport of the future, but more on that another time). So instead I turn to the fictional, or more often fictionalized, sports stories that can be found in my Netflix queue. When the leaves turn and the air goes crisp, I revisit my old friends at T.C. Williams or Permian High. These are seven of my favorite movies about football — a cinematic touchdown (with bonus, non-movie field goal) to guide you through the coming season.

Remember The Titans: “In Virginia, high school football is a way a life.” Sheryl Yoast, our narrator (played by a young Hayden Panettiere), opens the film with these words. While football is the guiding force behind the plot of this film, the story is really about life: race relations in the 1960’s South, a town divided, the understanding that grows as they are united by their first integrated football team. The best sports movies are about more than sports: They use sports as a metaphor, a reflection of life itself. Teams are a symbol of the community, a rallying point during hard times. Remember the Titans is about football, yes, but more so it’s about a town dealing with change and learning to come to grips with its past while stepping into the future. Also, Denzel Washington, Donald Faison, tiny Ryan Gosling.

The Replacements: So my absolute favorite Keanu Reeves-helmed sports  movie is 2001’s Hardball (though Keanu’s performance leaves much to be desired), but this one comes in a close second (unless we count Point Break as a sports movie). Reeves stars as a washed up Ohio State quarterback recruited by Gene Hackman’s character when his pro players go on strike. While Keanu’s Shane Falco may not be as talented as the diva QB he replaced, he’s got more heart for the game, and that wins out every time.

Friday Night Lights (film): Based on a true story, and the book of the same name, this movie follows the Permian High School Panthers of 1988. It’s a story about an Odessa, Texas, team that tries to defy the odds, and the city that fanatically supports them. Like Remember the Titans, it touches on the social issues of the time and place — classism, racism, segregation, poverty — as the team overcomes athletic and personal obstacles to do the impossible (insert inspirational music here).

Friday Night Lights (TV series): Okay, I’m cheating a bit, but hear me out. The movie is good…but honestly I am more enamored with the television series (this may be due to my general tendency towards serial media: Tumblr LOVES this shit). I urge you to venture down the five-season rabbit hole into Dillon, TX. Get to know Saracen, Smash, Riggins, and the other good, non-football-playing folks of this Texas town, and you will root for the Panthers just as hard as the fictional town folk. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

Varsity Blues: Another story of the high expectations surrounding high school football in rural Texas, this one stars a Dawson’s Creek-era James Van Der Beek as a back-up quarterback with Ivy League dreams and an overbearing, football-obsessed father. I love it for the clichés, for the fact that it’s spawned many a parody and a copycat, I love the late 90s soundtrack (Green Day, Foo Fighters, Aaliyah) and the pre-The Fast and the Furious Paul Walker. Bonus: It’s Regina George’s favorite movie.

The Longest YardBest viewed as a double feature, starting with the original starring Burt Reynolds as Paul Crewe, followed by the remake starring Adam Sandler in the same role. Crewe, a disgraced pro quarterback, is sent to jail and asked to form a football team from the rag-tag group of inmates. They embark upon the ultimate underdogs’ journey in an attempt to beat the highly-trained team of prison guards. I really love good remakes, seeing how things were changed to suit a new time period, different actors, etc. Chris Rock is a highlight of the Sandler version, as well as Nelly and Terry Crews. Plus Burt Reynolds returns to play the coach, Nate Scarborough, and brings the whole thing full circle.

EXTRA POINT A future film about one of these ladies: Theresa Dion, the first girl to play on a high school varsity team in the U.S.; Ashley Martin or Katie Hnida, two of the first girls to dress for and score in a NCAA Division 1 game; Erin Dimeglio, who took the field as the all-important quarterback at her high school in Florida; or Haley Abeyta, who’s showing her impressive strength as a linebacker. As much as I love the boys of fall, girls have got game too! And there are a disappointing number of films out there about girls sports, football or otherwise. Each of these stories deserves the cinematic treatment as much as the boys. Cue the poignant music.