Halloween — Still Simple

This year I didn’t have to convince the kids to trick-or-treat. The memory of being given lots of candy, and the subsequent gorging, was apparently still strong for them. I asked them weeks ago what they’d like to be for Halloween and was delighted when, although some waffling ensued, the only two choices that seemed to occur to them were “spider” and “pumpkin.” (Or, as Ryan calls it, “pumpkin man.”) These both seemed pretty easy to make.


When I was growing up costumes were homemade, with occasionally a store-bought piece thrown in to round something out; Mom did some awesome costumes for me. But in the end I wimped out and did a minimal amount of sewing. Nathan settled on being a spider, so I found a black jacket, cut and stuffed some long tubes from the copious amounts of black material I seem to have around, and pinned them onto the jacket to make spider arms. Ryan had just finalized his decision to be a pumpkin when I saw an inexpensive adult-size jack o’ lantern T-shirt in the store. A few stitches to manage the sleeves and gather the bottom, and he was a pumpkin man.


We went through the obligatory “Can we go yet?” routine after dinner, while the sky darkened by agonizingly slow degrees, but finally we were out on the street. And there were two things about the trick-or-treating that amused me. The first was that, at the same house as last year, a head-in-a-crystal ball decoration turned on and chased Nathan off the porch. Even when Ryan stood up at the door chatting with the woman and poking at the ball, Nathan could not be induced to go get a piece of candy from her. The second was that by the time we finished the single, measly, two-block street that we live on, where a third of the houses were dark, the kids were done. They wanted to come home and count their candy. When I was a kid I remember begging to be allowed to do just a few more houses, because if there was one thing that embodied the spirit of Halloween for me, it was that there was no such thing as too much candy. But I accepted their decision, and even when Dave pointed out to them that there were two more streets they could do if they chose, they were uninterested. They wanted to eat a Snickers right now.


Our Newest Luxury

Recently I had a bad shoulder knot — the kind that hangs around for days and makes things like typing and cooking and everything else highly annoying. As has often happened before when one of us has needed serious rubbing, we floated the idea of getting a massage table of our own.

And this time we did it.


It isn’t fancy, as tables go. It’s definitely for home use, not professional. But it’s comfortable and folds up nicely, and it’s such an unbelievable luxury to get a real massage on it.

The kids were of course intrigued by this new addition to the household, and after they’d climbed on it and peered through the face rest and done all the obvious, natural things with it, they both condescended to get a massage. Nathan liked it all right, but was done quickly. But Ryan was happy to stay for perhaps fifteen minutes, and has asked for massages multiple times since. I think he’s in the process of developing a lifelong addiction.


It was a small cider-making year — small in people attending, and also small in the final volume of cider. The local semi-abandoned orchard that we raid (with blessings) was nearly bare this year, so we went up to Dad’s house bringing only an empty carboy and hope.

Also I forgot the camera. I do that way too often. (I forgot it again when we went to Ape Cave five days later.) I look forward to the day that I can have a camera surgically implanted in my forehead.

But in any case, we did get some juice, and we got to enjoy the process of making juice — from the initial duck-and-flinch as we shook the apples down into a sheet to the final spraying of the equipment. I’m making fun of it a little, but the truth is that I love apple juice making; that and winemaking are the quintessential fall jobs for me, and I’d be happy to be involved even if I didn’t get any of the final product. (That was a hypothetical, not me volunteering to give up my share.)

Since we had so little juice this year, we didn’t use any for wine or hard cider, but canned everything that we didn’t drink fresh. The only exception was that one quart came out to make apple cider caramels, a recipe I’ve been eyeing since last year. Holy Moses. Dave finds them a little too assertive for his tastes, and it’s true that this is the kind of caramel that walks up to you, punches you in the chest, and steals your wallet. But there’s no denying that the apple flavor is transcendent, and I love them.

Next year, when we (hopefully) have more cider, I’ll make another batch in December and stuff the kids’ stockings with them.

Posted in Food. 1 Comment »

Ten Or Twenty

Mom used to take grief from Dad about her projects. The number of projects she had started at a time and the fact that there were unfinished projects stashed about the house were both major targets that Dad liked to aim at. I’ve been thinking of her a lot lately as, thanks to the inspiration of Quilt Night, I’ve been knee deep in projects myself.


You see, there have been four I-really-want-to-get-to-that quilt projects on my mental list for a long time — years, in fact. (The oldest of these is actually a Honeymoon Quilt, using fabric that Dave and I bought on our honeymoon. That would now be more than eleven years ago.) I’d mentioned these to my friends. So at our second quilt night when they saw me digging through my fabrics and assembling a stack of fat quarters, they naturally asked me which of those quilts I was working on.

“None of them,” I was forced to admit. “This is just another idea I had.”

“Is this what you were buying for at Fabric Depot?” asked one of my friends, who’d gone on a recent and totally necessary fabric-buying trip with me.

“Well, no. That’s actually for another project that isn’t one of my four main projects.”


Projects come in waves, don’t they? Who doesn’t always have ten or twenty projects banging around in their head? Right now I’m making good progress on really fun things. And it isn’t as though creativity is really suited to being put on a list and checked off in methodical fashion. Housecleaning or gardening, sure, but not projects.

Mom would totally understand. Dad… well, Dad probably isn’t allowed into my sewing room, and probably has no desire to be.


Growing watermelons is a dubious prospect in our climate. We simply don’t have the long hot summers that most varieties need, and though there are varieties that do better in the northwest, I’ve had mixed luck. Last year I tried planting a seedling from the grocery store and got two fruits: one that I cut open in September to find it unripe, and another that seemed to give up mid-season and wither away on the vine. This year I got seeds for a small seedless variety from Territorial, and they simply failed to germinate. This is the first time ever that I’ve had seeds from Territorial fail.

However, when I planted my corn I discovered a small volunteer watermelon plant poking cautiously up, and decided to leave it there. Why not? It could hang out under the corn and do its thing, and if I got something, great. I had no serious hopes, though. When I saw a melon growing, I still had no serious hopes. It got big — much bigger than the ones I got last year from that space — and I still expected nothing.


Yesterday as I cleared out the old corn stalks I stumbled over the melon again (now ten inches long) and decided that it was time to see what this volunteer had produced. To my surprise, the thing had resisted rotting, and when we split it open it was full of pink, juicy flesh. I can’t say it’s the best watermelon I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly the best that I’ve ever grown.

Not that I can claim credit for anything except not hauling it out by the roots in spring. But this year I’m saving seed, and we’ll see if this phenomenon can be repeated.