October 30, 2012

Halloween : A love/hate story

Can you feel it in the air? It’s coming. The time is drawing near. Tomorrow is that crazy, over-done, bizarre holiday. I sorta love it. But truthfully I kinda hate it. It’s Halloween.

Like a moth to the flame every year I get caught up in the whirlwind of it all -  plugging in my pumpkin-scented air freshener, humming an eerie little tune, making spooky crafts, planning costumes. But at the same time I find the actual day, the 31st, a rather chaotic nightmare of sorts. Mostly it just makes me tired.

The season starts off innocently enough. I spend two hours of my Saturday crawling and crashing around in the storage closet trying to find the Halloween decorations, then the kids and I get busy hanging lights with miniature smiling pumpkins and sticking clingy ghosts to the windows. There’s a skeleton for the front porch and ghost salt and pepper shakers for the table (with last year’s salt hardened into a brick inside). We finish with some pumpkin tea-light holders and string up some cotton “spider-webs” on the porch . . . all this, and my husband hasn’t once looked up from the football game (but hey, that’s a whole other joyous part of Fall that I won’t go into right now).

“Can we go to that cool costume store?” my daughters ask. They’re referring to this huge mega-Halloween store that comes into town just during the month of October. I think it’s a national chain, and they move in each year and transform a vacant commercial building into a living nightmare of costumes and decorative paraphenalia. It’s amazing — and amazingly overpriced.

I agree to take them, and prep for the journey with a pair of ibuprofen washed down with a Diet Coke. Once inside, we navigate our way through the aisles. Did you know you can buy extremely realists scabs, gashes and head wounds? You can even get them with maggots munching on the exposed muscle or under-the-skin worm infestations. It's so icky and they are so real looking that I can hardly stomach standing near the displays

There are actual walking mummies, headless men holding chainsaws, and severed hands that crawl across the floor. There are full-sized gravestones to decorate your yard (some come with a half-decayed guy crawling out of the bottom), flying bats, screaming skulls with red glowing lights in their eye sockets, and a corpse bride holding a champagne glass full of her own blood. They’re everywhere, surrounding you like the zombie people in the Thriller video. I cannot get out of there fast enough.

When did Halloween become so crazy and overblown? When I was little we just gathered stuff from around the house to create our own costumes. I would put on my robe, a bath cap and slippers, then grab a doll and Voila! I was an “exhausted mother.” Or we’d throw on Dad’s woodworking goggles and toolbelt to go as a carpenter. One year I borrowed my Aunt’s beekeeping suit and clomped through the neighborhood as a beekeeper. Ah, the simple days. Not to mention the financial advantages. But as my kids would remind me, it’s not 1975, and dressing as a hobo isn’t acceptable anymore. Aside from the fact that the days of riding the rails with a knapsack are pretty much over, dressing as a homeless, marginalized member of our society seems terribly distasteful.

So we open our door to the latest trends and watch as hundreds of children become pop culture icons and characters from Disney’s latest endeavors. We host slews of Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles at our door. Last year there was a long line of Dora the Explorers, their bobbed wigs slightly askew. There were princesses in sparkly dresses paired with dirty sneakers, a couple Obamas, a Pikachu, Lady Gaga, and several 1980s girls traveling with a gaggle of Batmen.

Usually the evening starts in mass chaos. I try to fork a few bites of broccoli casserole into the kid’s mouths and take a few photos for posterity while they argue against wearing a coat over their outfits (it’s like 10 degrees outside!), and call all their friends to map-out their route.

My husband is in his element as designated “flashlight finder.” His duties include locating a few of the ever-elusive 50 flashlights we own, then hunting down a handful of working batteries. There is a bit of swearing and fussing involved. “Why are there never any flashlights when we need them?” he yells, at me of course, since I obviously spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning by flashlight light (NOT!). 

The kids head out and I settle in for a night of opening the door to an assortment of kiddos – all those red-nosed children, peering awkwardly through the eyeholes of plastic masks, tripping over their ghostly sheets, and crashing through my chrysanthemums as they clamor off the front porch. It’s like a painting by Norman Rockwell, except for the part where the mom (that'd be me) keeps eating piece after piece of the 'Pal' gum from the candy bowl. Within an hour I’ve exhausted most of the supply and my jaw is making a weird clicking sound from all the hard chewing. If you’ve ever had one of those little gum pieces you know how addictive they can be. They’re so sugarydelicious when you first chew them, it’s like tasting heaven – though I hope the flavor in heaven lasts a longer than the flavor of Pal gum. Within two minutes you have a nasty acrid taste in your mouth and you must IMMEDIATELY spew the gum into the trash. THEN, however, you think about the gum and how tasty it was in the beginning and. . . it starts all over again.

Another part Norman would never paint is the part where the night turns shady. The part where the older kids throw on their camouflage coats and start slinking up to the door in large groups. By this point my own kids have come home, counted their loot, and brushed their teeth extra-hard (per my instruction). Then, just as I plop onto the couch to watch the news and sip my bedtime tea, the real goblins start to bang on the door. These aren’t princesses or robots. They’re . . . (gasp here) large teenagers! Some have stubble, some even look old enough to drive my carpool, and no, they’re not even dressed up. They’re wearing their usual teen garb. They’re holding pillowcases filled ¾ full, and in case you didn’t know . . . that’s a LOT of candy. They have nose piercings and pink hair and wear sweatshirts that say “Kiss my A*$.”

Normally I might be tempted to say something like “Aren’t you getting a little old to be Trick-or-Treating?” but it’s really dark, these kids are the size of giants (I’m a mere 5’2”, and that’s on a good day), and they look extremely hormonal. So I don’t say a word. I just nod cooly and throw a couple Snickers in their bags. They turn without saying a word (occasionally one will grunt) and vanish into the darkness. It’s scary – on so many levels. Oh, and heaven-forbid you run out of candy! That could mean eggs on the back of the car, pumpkins smashed on the mailbox, and probably other shenanigans that I can’t even dream up. To avoid the wrath one year I had to scavenge the house – cough drops, peppermints from the last time we ate at Pizza Hut, a couple Pepto-Bismol tablets. I barely made it, but I had something for everyone.  

The night usually ends with a migraine and jitters from all the Pal gum. I drift to sleep, penciling a post-holiday list in my mind: tear down the decorations, dig wrappers out of the bushes in the yard, eventually use a shovel to scrape the rotten jack-o-lanterns off the front steps. I ponder the issue of candy allotment and distribution that I will deal with for the months to follow. Do you let them eat it at-will, suffering through the sugar highs and lows? Do you dole it slowly, meanwhile risking that you’ll give in to your nightly cravings and end up betraying your child's trust as well as putting on ten pounds? Do you have them binge for a week and toss the rest? Ahhh, the decisions and indecisions of parenthood.

Happy Halloween!

October 29, 2012


I was a wee bit leery when I ordered this drink — but it was quite tasty and very "Octobery." The bartender was kind enough to jot down the recipe for me.

Pumpkin Martini Recipe
courtesy of Sean Kelly's Irish Pub downtown Missoula

~ Absolut vodka
~ Bailey's Irish cream liqueur
~ Pumpkin flavored liqueur (like Hiram Walker)
~ Splash of half and half

Combine in a cocktail shaker over ice. Cover and shake until the outside of the shaker has frosted. 

Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg to serve.


On a side note -  I pick my pumpkins based largely on the beauty of the stem. I love a nice twisty, curled pumpkin stem.

October 26, 2012

She refuses to come inside

October 25, 2012

The beginning of the end

Suddenly Autumn was at the height of perfection, every leaf an exquisitely painted gift, every breeze carrying a shivery wisp of sublime October. I was in pure, seasonal heaven.

Then along came a deeper chill, a gust of dense wind from the North, and the trees were shedding their leaves in waves. The air was alive with golds and reds. 

And then . . . white. 

Snowflakes!? Already?! 

Piper is in Norweigen Elkhound bliss. She tries to eat the flakes as they fall. She SMILES. It's as though somewhere deep in her gut she knows she comes from long lines of dogs who love such weather. 

For those of us who aren't as fond of the cold it means a little bit of sadness. Fall is my favorite time of year and it's beauty is so fleeting, you look away for a second and it's gone. 

As I type this the evening is gathering and it is snowing like crazy. Huge, heavy flakes are blanketing the ground at an alarming rate. *sigh* It's all good though. November is silently beautiful and magic in its own way too. And the best news is that I finished Emma's blanket last night, not a day too early.  

October 24, 2012

Life imitating art

So I walk in the bedroom to find Izzy pulling off a lovely rendition of the Andrew Wyeth "Master Bedroom" print framed on the wall behind her. 

As my 6th grader would say "Totes presh" (which is short for "totally precious").

October 22, 2012

It's Good to LOL

Here's my LOL for the day, click here to watch a gal who's discovered the joys of the distortion camera. Remember the first time you tried it? I remember my whole family was mesmerized for hours and in tears with laughter.

I love when it hits around the one minute mark and she laughs so hard she's silent for a few seconds.

For another chuckle you could read Natalie's post about her sons' preparation for a zombie party over at Chicken Blog. She cracks me up. 

Wishing everyone a good laugh at least once this week. Feels good, don't it?!

October 18, 2012

The Blustery Day

The weather in Missoula yesterday felt like something out of Winnie-the-Pooh's Blustery Day story. The wind and the rain began before dawn and although it quit raining by late morning the winds continued to howl and ominous clouds crisscrossed the sky all day. Fallen leaves hurricaned along the streets and sidewalks in multicolored cyclones and clustered in the sheltered spaces around the foundation of the house.

All day long I kept thinking how glad I was for the rain. I felt as though a weight had been lifted. At some point in the afternoon I realized I was feeling relief because I've been reading so much on the Dust Bowl (dirt blocking out daylight, cows choking to death on dust, children eating pickled tumbleweed to survive). I think in some crazy way I was feeling relieved for all of those parched 1930s folks. Sadly it's 80 years too late.

I drove to the top of the hill across the way to take a photo of our neighborhood (that last photo is the one — see the cluster of tiny houses?). Our house is nestled in the trees along the creek bed. 

What you can't tell from this photo is how crazywindy it was out there. I couldn't even see straight and my hair kept whipping me in the face and getting stuck in my mouth. But from this vantage point everything looked so delicious and peaceful that I could hardly stop looking. I should drive up there more often.


Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  
— John Muir

October 17, 2012

Hand Lettering Ideas

Back at the end of August I started a little homeschooling project for myself. I drew up a very loose course description on several subjects I wanted to delve into a bit this Fall and got busy trying to live up to my own expectations (sadly this is never easy for me).

I have to say that my "school" been so fun and mostly successful. Aside from skipping almost every one of my "Walking 201" classes (in my defense it was horridly smokey until 2 weeks ago but my instructor (me) is turning up her nose to my excuses) I've been carving out bits of time to do a little work in each area and I'm already mulling over class options for next semester.

My handwriting class met last week and I did some practice work on different lettering styles from the book Hand Lettering by Marci Donley & DeAnn Singh.

The book is filled with lots of good info — from the authors' favorite writing tools to full sets of alphabets that you can follow.

Aren't the fern letters tasty! You could make the leaves into holly for Christmas, add tulip tops for Spring . . . lot o' possibilities.

There were lots of fun embellishment ideas throughout as well.

I'm looking forward to using some new lettering techniques to address cards and packages for the holidays!

Yay for the dying art of hand lettering!

October 16, 2012

Feeling youngish in an oldish body

So . . . this weekend I tried to do this dance move called a "scale" that Kate's been practicing where you grab the toes of one foot and lift your leg behind your head. I could actually do it pretty well and even held the position for a few seconds. Then I tried to put my leg back down and ziiiinnnngg — complete back muscle spasm. Now my back hurts and I'm taking Advil and trying to act like everything's all groovy so Gary won't realize I've injured myself. 


Several years ago I did something similar when Emma came home trying to do the "jump-full-turn" they were working on in her kindergarten gymnastics class. Thinking myself a spry, hip mom I decided to provide some instruction . . . "Okay, honey, watch. You just tuck your arms to your chest, focus on an object ahead of you, then jump and spin like this—ahhh, whoaaaa, CRASH, SMACK (those are the sounds of me wiping out and flying backwards, smacking my head on the cupboards as I fall flat on my butt on the floor).

Getting older really sucks. Especially when inside you keep feeling like you're still 12 and completely capable of doing a perfect scale or a jump-full-turn.

It's truly SUCH a monstrous bummer.

(And by the way, this cartoon lady looks a lot younger than I feel right now, but I dig her hair, so I'm using her for this post).

October 15, 2012

Comforts of Home

While Gary and Emma drove to Bozeman on Saturday for Emma's final club soccer games of the season Kate and I propped ourselves up on the couch with yarn, hooks, and a steady stream of Home & Garden TV. Kate's working on her first big hooky project, a baby-blue scarf, and I'm giddy over having my very own crochet partner. Chat. Stitch. Chat. Stitch.

When I needed a break from crocheting I made a few hanging ghosts from some white fabric I found in my studio. They're hanging from the light over the kitchen table.

Sunday was a menagerie of projects — everyone moving around the house to their own beat — mowing the grass, sorting laundry, laboring over homework, filing stacks of bills. All of those tasks that nag at you, annoy you, yet when they're done you feel ten tons lighter.

Sometimes happiness is a quiet weekend at home.

October 12, 2012


When I was growing up my grandparents lived in Ohio, the Buckeye State, and I have vivid memories of my grandpa and I collecting Buckeyes (the large seeds) and playing games with them. Sometimes we'd plop them into the running water in the ditch, then race across the street and wait for them to journey through the pipe and come floating out the other side.

I had completely forgotten about Buckeyes until the other day when I came across hundreds scattered under a tree in the park (Who knew the tree can grow in the West?!). It was like seeing an old friend from 35+ years ago. I dropped to my knees and gathered as many as I could fit in my sweatshirt pocket. 

Back home I layered them in a glass hurricane vase with a candle. I'm going to go collect some more this weekend. They're so smooth and a fabulous reddish-brown color. Perfect for Fall decorating. And remembering my grandpa.

October 11, 2012

20,500 SCREAMING Girls

{or how I took my daughters to see Justin Bieber} 

How to go to a Justin Bieber concert:

1. Buy tickets in May

2. Watch daughters scream, jump up and down and CRY when you tell them 

3. Wait for many long months, plan, make a purple poster to take along

4. Drive 8 hours to Tacoma, Washington 

5. Stay in hotel next to the Tacoma Dome

6. See tour buses the morning of the concert and . . . 

7. Spend all day standing outside with a large group of girls hoping he'll come out to see the fans (he never did) 

8. Get dressed in Bieber shirts and purple hair ribbons, scream/dance a lot 

9. File into Tacoma Dome with 20,500 people 

10. Scream/cry/cheer through a really fun show

11. Moms - look around at thousands of darling, elated faces and wish they could all be chosen as the "one less lonely girl"

12. Lose hearing for a while after show 

13. Stand in a ginormous claustrophobic mob for almost an hour to buy t-shirt 

14. Go back to hotel, talk it over 

15. finally sleep 

16. Drive home 8 hours, sleep (if you're a kid) and listen to Justin's CD 

17. Give your mom a sweet card saying thank you and how it was the best day of your life and you'll never forget this

18. Lay in your own bed with JB songs stuck in your head until you finally sleep

I'm so tired.

October 6, 2012

Bunting Bonanza/Garlands Galore

I've gone a little crazy with my needle and thread the last few days. Anything lying around that looks like it could be strung up is fair game. Felt scraps, festive paper bits, $1 craft leaves, fake fruits. Just try an' stop me. 

October 3, 2012

Thomas Wolfe, on October

“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea,
travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and
the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken”

~Thomas Wolfe 

You can see childhood photos of Thomas Wolfe and other famous writers here. So sweet and real, all of them.

October 2, 2012

October at a Glance


October is here in all it's painted glory. I feel all orangey-gold with joy and anticipation — so many celebrations and so much excitement awaits us this month. Are you ready?

Flocks of southbound geese, piles of fallen leaves, clear chilly nights, scarey movies, bright moons, pots of soup, costume planning, pressed leaves in thick books, ripe red apples, carved pumpkins.

Some odd and interesting tidbits about October:

~ October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (Sadly, I just cannot get a fourth dog folks. People would start to wonder about my sanity and frankly I would too)

~ October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Go get your mammograms ladies. Buy yourself a Pumpkin Spice latte, some McDonalds fries, or your favorite fun treat when it's over. It's your life we're talking about here.)

~ Today (Oct 2) is National Name Your Car Day. (Hmmm. My first thought was "Olive" cuz my car's black and it would be fun to say "Let's go - everyone get in the Olive")

~Week 1 is Get Organized Week (I desperately need to honor this one. If you could see my house . . . oh boy, oh boy.)

~ It's national sarcastic month (in my nastiest teenage girl voice "okay. whatever. I am SO not gonna do this one))

For a whole list of October holidays, events and happenings click here.

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
   ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

October 1, 2012

We're goin' to Jackson

{Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that is - couldn't help referencing the Johnny Cash song in the title}

Autumn is in full swing in Jackson Hole. At 6,200 feet, the town sits nearly 3,000 feet above our hometown, so things felt a lot cooler and the leaves were several weeks ahead of ours. It was wonderfully crisp and slightly breezy. 

A few photos of the place where we stayed, Teton Mountain Lodge. I bet this lobby is so cozy in the winter when there's a crazy blizzard outside and a hot fire blazing in that incredible fireplace.

Before the snow flies you can take the lift to the top of the ski hill and ride your bike down (see small bikers coming down the grassy slope?). It looked like oodles of fun.

Emma and Kate under one of the four antler arches on the town's main square. Whew - that's a lot of elk antlers.

Inside the famous "Cowboy Bar" where you can literally "saddle up to the bar" for a drink.

The quaint, very western-themed (and surprisingly very crowded!) downtown offers lots of shopping, if you're made of money or don't mind paying an arm and a leg for things. In one store, rock and gem enthusiasts could purchase a four-foot-tall geode for a mere $20,000. In another you could buy a taxidermied grizzly bear for $120,000.

Kate sat next to Einstein to ponder the absurdity of it all. Incidentally, this bronze bench/sculpture could be yours too, for a price was so high that they didn't even list it. You had to call a phone number to find out the damage.

Final analysis: Jackson Hole is a beyond-words beautiful place.