Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween, Urban Legends, and Setting the Record Straight

Just in case you are paralyzed by fear about taking the kids out to have some ghoulish fun, here's some proof that once again we have let rumors and unwarranted fear get the best of us. So here are the facts about some tricky Halloween events.

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Holiday Used to be Less Tricky

I love this time of year but I have to say that part of the magic of it is stolen by Christmas decorations that now appear in July.  When we were kids didn't Santa hold off long enough to let The Great Pumpkin have his day?  Greedy old man.  Other things have changed too. Halloween decorations are dragged out and the real cobwebs are swept off the fake ones in September.  How is any child supposed to be frightened of plastic tombstones they've been looking at for a month? Oh wait, those pint sized gremlins aren't coming to the door anyway because once again in their zeal to completely sanitize and child proof a perfectly good holiday, modern parents drive their children to officially non scary, candy inspected, "events".

I remember well riding the bus home from school on Halloween DAY and listening to everyone talk about how they were going to decorate. What made it scary when you walked up to a door was that you didn't know what to expect.  Dads who were good sports (like mine) were known to run around in sheets scaring children as they walked to the next house. I don't remember anyone being worried if any of us were going to be emotionally scarred for life by this or if we were inadvertently paying homage to Satan. Wasn't innocence grand?

It was simple too.  There are pictures of me in a store bought costume when I look to be maybe 2 or 3, but for the most part every kid I knew had a costume he'd made himself.  So out we'd go with pillow cases (I'm holding fast to the idea that childhood was at its best when it was low tech) and without adults.  Routes were plotted carefully. A child who could not remember how to add fractions for a test had no problem remembering which house gave out full size candy bars the year before (we call those priorities).  It really did seem as if magic was afoot some years. I remember hitting over a hundred houses one night with a giant harvest moon looking on, beyond trees made suddenly spooky in their bareness.  It was cold, my shoes were wet, and I was overjoyed at the ever increasing weight of my treasure.

Once home the second part of the ritual began. This constituted dumping our our ill gotten gains and comparing with siblings while parents insisted that all their favorites did indeed need to be carefully "inspected" (a great game in which they pretended they were actually going to EAT part of your loot).  The trading began; I hated candy corn and always traded it away. Sometimes there were homemade popcorn balls which we were allowed to eat even if our parents didn't have the social security number of the maker.  Some wise guy dad who was a dentist always gave out fruit (I never understood his business plan) and the really cheap parents always had those terrible peanut butter things in orange and black wax wrappers.

 The next day at school the mischief of the previous evening was recounted and embellished to no end.  The Halloween decorations of the houses were carefully critiqued as were the candy choices of the owners. Costumes were judged posthumously, exaggerations of all kinds were allowed and encouraged.  It was all glorious, simple fun that has for the most part been replaced by something called "Trunk or Treat" and "Fall Fests".  BOO!

Here's a little extra "treat" for you, this Halloween looks very fun..."I am the most horrible" scene from Meet Me in St. Louis.

Monday, October 18, 2010

History, Love, and Pudgy Dead Englishmen

So last year I fell in love. I know, not the kind of confession you expect from this normally quite sensible housewife. Okay, okay, it was with a book (ah, now you're thinking that's more like it), or more precisely an author.  I read an article by Dr. Thomas Sowell that made me determine to break down and read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a book that had long been on my "list" (which is endless). The author of this classic tome, Edward Gibbon became the object of my desire...okay curiosity. (Can't a girl have a little fun?) I do always seem enamored with the dead ones...Jefferson, Lewis, Gibbon.  Oh well.

 Now the size of his magnum opus is daunting at first. But charge on I did and soon became so mesmerized by the way in which he strung together words and phrases, I set out to find the unabridged version, a biography on the author and a book of his private letters (you know how I love those). Fortunately for me, though very far away, a certain professor was willing to answer my endless questions and read my incessant ramblings on the subject.

Now The Decline (let's call it that for short) was in some ways frightening, mostly when I found myself thinking..."gee, this sounds eerily familiar," a bit like yesterday's newspaper or news report. I couldn't help imagining Wolf Blitzer reporting live from down at the Forum, or Helen Thomas interviewing Diocletian  (she was only a young Forum correspondent then). It seemed some days that only the backdrop would change. It was also sometimes funny as it was when Gibbon describes the physical attributes of Zenobia and reminds us " speaking of a lady these trifles become important"  (my, how little some things change with time). However toward the end it left me depressed... as he recounts the final days.  But it was in the books ABOUT the man who would devote a large part of his life to such a work that I found the most entertainment. More about that in a later post.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fashion Redux

Here's a secret. I mean just between you and me, right? I don't like new and over priced if I can get used and free, or nearly free.  I have been doing most of my shopping for clothes in thrift stores for over 20 years. Does it show?  (If it did you'd tell me, wouldn't you?)              

It is these days  getting more crowded at the Goodwill. When I became addicted to the thrill of the thrift store hunt in the mid eighties the stores were a little to put this ...scary.  Generally it was just me and a bunch of folks who looked like they just got out of prison. These days I'm trying to find a place to park amid shiny Jaguars and BMWs.  Oh, the leveling effect of a rotten economy. 

My most favorite pieces of clothing ever have been things I've paid un-dearly for. I treasured the moss green cashmere Calvin Klein "sweatshirt".  I swooned when I found the huge silk hand painted scarf, vintage handbags cause absolute gasps of delight.

I adore labels like this one.

I'm generally looking for something unusual, with special details, or made from high quality fabrics.  Want examples? Here are a few:

Recently when my son graduated from high school I couldn't decide what to wear and so posted pictures of these outfits on my Facebook page and let my friends vote. Hey, I'm raising indecisiveness to an art form...or at least cheap entertainment for my friends.

The winning outfit.
This is how it looked on.

This lovely neutral number is completely (yes, including shoes and bag -but not jewelry) a thrift store ensemble. Silk skirt and top, name brand, less than $10. 


This little silk skirt is a retread from a local thrift store. The silk scarf- less than $2 at an antique store.  I adore the ruffle at the bottom. A ruffle can make a girl very happy.

Another silk skirt. See a pattern? Something about this reminds me of the story book, Madelaine. I have a thing for squiggly lines.

For you experienced bargain hunters, home decorating by means of the infamous "Road Side Pickup" will be covered in another post.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Delayed Den Details...Done.

I posted the "after" picture of the den and told you there were a few details to finish. The main thing that I'd been putting off (because I was intimidated) was the tiling of the hearth.

I thought I would try to mimic the floor tile which is broken.
So this involved buying perfectly lovely tiles, bringing them home, wrapping them in a towel and hitting them with a hammer. 

The kitchen / den floor
I spent a lot of time arranging and rearranging the tiles like a puzzle.  I was worried that I might not remember how they were laid out so I numbered them and photographed them to use as a guide.

Once the tiles were in the mastic I wiped off the numbers.

May be time for a new mixer...
The pictures on the grout bag didn't show an egg beater to mix the grout, but hey, maybe men just don't know how well it works.

So I was pretty happy with the way this turned out.  Projects that are permanent make me nervous. I'd much rather paint something or rearrange books.

The one other little detail that needed finishing was the hanging of a musket over the back door.  (Thanks, Farmer Fred!)

You never can tell when Pa might need to grab it and run outside to shoot a wolf...or a Yankee.