I Keep Forgetting to Tell You…

Does this happen to you? I start telling a story in great detail, only to realize midway that I’ve told the story before. My friends are polite and would never interrupt. The “tell” is a patient look on their face, and I’m suddenly aware of my faux pas.

Conversely, I’ll assume I’ve shared a story, in the same great detail, only to have my friend say “this is the first I’ve heard this.” or “I had no idea.”

I’m a woman of a certain age, so I can chalk this up to the number of birthdays I have under my belt though I suspect I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Today’s post is about those little things I keep meaning to tell you, promises I made to “share in a future post” and just a couple of random things I would share if we could sit down together and share a cuppa.

Feel free to roll your eyes skyward if you’ve heard this one before. The magic of the internet is I’ll never know.

First up, my sister’s Halloween costume. Sharon based her costume last year on Pauline King’s gorgeous piece of art . I blogged about it last October.

Pauline King’s gift to my sister Sharon: The Wise Woman

I promised to share pictures of Sharon’s costume which turned out beautifully. We shared the same wig since we needed it on different days and she already had the hat and a simple black dress. I found the knotted walking stick (actually a cane) at a costume shop for $7 and had my husband saw off the hook. I bought her the cape, and as you see in the photo below, art imitates life which imitates art.

Halloween costume The Wise Woman

Sharon’s Halloween costume based on Pauline King’s art piece The Wise Woman

Next up is an unexpected blogging connection from my friends Dan and Rosie. After their older dog passed, my friends started looking at rescue organizations for another black Labrador retriever. Dan fell in love with black labs as a little boy when his dad snuck one into his room one night.

A few weeks into their search, Dan sent me a photo of them posing with a Golden Retriever named Ginger. (I’m pretty sure Ginger is also part horse). They missed having a dog so they expanded their search. I immediately recognized the bench they were sitting on because I’ve seen it often on Audrey’s blog.

That’s right; my friends adopted a dog from a rescue organization called Homeward Bound.  I’ve been followed Audrey’s blog for years. She’s a terrific writer and a good soul who helped revitalize the Memorial Garden featured in this photo and on her blog. You can follow along at Gardens For Goldens.

rescue dog

In the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden with Ginger

rescue dog

Meeting Ginger last summer. She’s a sweetie.

I’ve also been meaning to share photos of Mike sporting his beautifully woven scarves from fellow blogger Kerry at Love Those Hands at Home. Kerry and her husband took up weaving a few years ago, and now offer their wares on Etsy. She offered to make a couple of scarves for Mike so he could choose one, but he loved them both. The scarves drape beautifully, and are both soft and warm. Here’s Mike over a year ago wearing the two scarves sporting his before and after beard. We both had the flu, so shaving dropped off the list until he was well.

As I write this I’ve just finished a hot cup of Rooibos”tea“. We had multiple power outages throughout the night during a heavy storm but the power is back on and our fence is leaning but still standing. Lot’s of people are happy to replace the fence, but we can’t find a soul that will come and re-pour the improper footings. Twenty years ago we might have re-poured those fittings ourselves, but we’re not feeling it now.

Just one more share: Here’s  34 seconds of Tessa chirping at a flying insect near the window…

…and snuggling in to a pile of sheets on our bed.

Tessa snuggled in the sheets.

What would you share if we could sit down for a cuppa?

Halloween 2017: It’s a Wrap

pumpkin penduncles

Three pumpkins, three unique peduncles

In a flurry of activity, Halloween came and went. October 31st landed on a Tuesday this year, but trick-or-treating children continued to ring the bell until 8:30 that night. There were fewer than last year, but we still had about 300 costumed little ones at the door.

costumed children

Our driveway at the height of the evening

Passing out Halloween candy

Mike passing out candy at the door

Baby in pumpkin costume

Ray and Sara’s darling “pumpkin” stopped by for a visit and a photo-op

Mike took the day off of work so he would have time to carve pumpkins. It’s become a yearly tradition. We ended up with six pumpkins this year. I planted three from Bonnie Plant starters, and the squirrels planted three more. One of the pumpkins rotted in the week leading up to Halloween, but the others were hale and hearty.
The pumpkins went from this

To this

and finally this: I’ve had as much fun watching the squirrels “clean up” as I did when the pumpkins were whole and carved.

Mike came up with our costume idea this year. We dressed as “aging” (ha) black and white screen stars. We rented costumes from a local place called Natasha’s Attic. I bought a black wig but Mike’s hair is naturally dark so he just had to wear a hat. We applied grey theatrical makeup to any exposed skin, then used black mascara and white makeup for highlight and shadows.  If you follow this link, you’ll see the stunning example we worked from. We’re makeup novices, but we made do with our limited skills and had fun.

I helped my sister pull together her costume again this year. We’ve always enjoyed dressing up for Halloween. Sharon has MS and relies on a motorized scooter to get around so her costume has to be easy to put on and off.

Last year I bought a small, decorative cat from my friend Lexi’s Etsy shop. I knew Sharon would love it, and could use it to decorate the front of her scooter. That cute little cat inspired this year’s costume!  She decided to dress up like the little cat.

I made a small tulle apron to match the one on the kitty, and I used one of my soft pumpkins for her wrist. I added a scrap of green ribbon, then sewed the pumpkin to a hair tie. I picked up the cute glasses at a paper store of all places. If you follow this link to Kelly’s blog, you’ll see the two of us sporting a pair. Sharon popped out the lenses, then wore the kitty glasses over her own.  The small skeleton came from a shop in Willow Glen, and Sharon bought the faux fur scarf online. She’s always cold, so she really liked the warmth it provided.  I think she’s adorable.

At long last, we’re enjoying autumn-like weather. Halloween, 2017, is a wrap.

The Clock is Running Down: Four More Days of Halloween Fun

Who knows where this month went. It was here just a moment ago, a freshly turned page on my wall calendar. I think the unseasonably warm weather led me to believe it was still August…or September. Is it really October 28th? Only four more days of Halloween fun.

Just chilling in the wee garden

Just chilling in the wee garden

I had a restless night with so much rattling around in my brain. I got up around 5 am and finished Mike’s costume. We have a party tonight and two more tomorrow. I really cut things close this year. Life doesn’t stop just because I want to play all month-long. That said, I squeezed in a lot.

October 1/2:

I celebrated my birthday weekend in Santa Cruz. It coincided with Mike’s company picnic along the Boardwalk, so we celebrated with work friends, then slipped away for some shopping, dinner, a movie and a night’s stay at Chaminade.  We had lovely weather and a relaxing time.

santa-cruz-weekend-october-2016

All month-long, friends and family treated me to dinner, high tea, a movie, a live show, wonderful cards and thoughtful gifts making me feel just like one of those entitled white men we’re always hearing about. (cough-cough) It’s nice to be pampered, eh?

October 8:

I took a four-hour crafting class with my sister where we created a mixed media Haunted Graveyard. It inspired lots of additional Halloween card making at home. She took me out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants at Santana Row, then we browsed the glass pumpkins on display.

glass-pumpkins-santana-row

The last of the pumpkins are off the vine. In the end, three different plants produced seven pumpkins. What a generous bounty. I enjoy arranging them in different places around the house, as they await carving day. That makes me smile.

Over the course of this month, I’ve spent hours pruning three vines away from the side yard fence. Up and down the ladder I went, using best practices to remain safe and still favoring my surgical foot. There will be no accidents on my watch! Now that the vines are off the fence, I need to start getting quotes to replace it. Broken boards, dry rot and possible termite damage stayed hidden behind the vines. No wonder I’ve been putting off this big job.

It’s finally done and I have the sore neck, dull tools and blisters to prove it. And since I’m a blogger, I have pictures too. Ha!

pruning-the-side-yard-vines

Vines intertwined in the lattice-work made it tricky to free the tangled mess. That’s Mouse the Cat’s tail exploring the scattered vines.

October 28/29th:

We’ve been invited to three costume parties this season, but only one with a specific theme: Sweeney Todd. If you’re not familiar with this gruesome musical, you can read about it here. It’s been a penny dreadful serial, a stage musical, and most recently a film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. We rented the movie to learn more about the characters, and frankly I found it dark and dreary, beginning to end. There are only three female characters, Mrs. Lovett the baker, Sweeney Todd’s young wife shown in brief flashbacks, and later his teenage daughter. Not a lot to choose from. Since I like to mix things up a bit, I decided to dress as the baker, and make my husband into one of her meat pies. They’re not any old pies, by the way. After the barber slits his client’s throat, they’re cooked in the oven and baked into pies. Did I mention how gruesome the story is?

meat-pie-costume-back

Paper bag pattern (my favorite), distressed inks and stains, silver lame fabric covering a pie-shaped piece of foam, distressed fabric and the back side of the pie tin.

meat-pie-costume-front

I cut two circles of tan-colored felt, then sprayed the edges with stain for a distressed (baked) look. I hand-sewed the two pieces together, stuffed with batting and made slits for various gruesome body parts. A bit of theatrical blood adds drama.

I rented my costume from a family owned shop called Natasha’s Attic. They pulled together all the pieces I needed including Victorian era boots, tights, lace gloves and layers of dresses. I love that place and all the wonderfully creative people who work there.  I bought a crazy wig ’cause that’s how I roll, and if I get the makeup just so I’ll be unrecognizable. Stay tuned for pics of both of us in costume.

Of course I had to make time to bewitch the fairy gardens. The succulents loved this summer’s heat, and doubled in size, making the garden look over-grown. Perfect for Halloween! How do I get so lucky?

fairy-garden-over-head

Setting the Scene

overgrown-fairy-garden

It’s a fairy garden jungle

fairy-garden-background

Hollowed trees and gauzy skies (the neighboring tree shed’s its bark in late summer. I picked up a few pieces and saved them for the bewitched fairy garden

fairy-garden-boo

A little fairy garden haunting (tombstones from my son’s long ago Halloween crafts)

tea-in-the-fairy-garden

Come join the ghosts for tea and pumpkin soup (I found the tea set at a craft store for $3)

Happy Halloween!

10 Reasons to Love October

October is my favorite month. I’m not alone. October ranks in the top three in a number of surveys, vying with May for the top spot.

Here is my personal, unscientific top ten reasons to love October.

10. October starts with my birthday and ends with Halloween

Okay, so not everyone is born in October, but if you love cooler weather, falling leaves and crisp air, this is the birthday month for you. If you’re mad for Halloween, also like me, you have 31 days of fun in store.

alys' birthday

Mike finds beautiful Halloween cards for my birthday

9. It’s a lovely month in both hemispheres

I’ve learned a lot about the southern hemisphere in my years of blogging. Most of us complain about the bitter winter months, but October is the start of spring for my friends in New Zealand and Australia, and the beginning of autumn here in San Jose. Everybody wins!

8. The return of gardening weather

Finally! The earth tilts on its axis as we head toward winter and cooler weather prevails. I can water the plants, pull weeds and put the garden in order without risking heat stroke.

hydrangea-closeup

Hydrangea’s fall colors

7. Pumpkins

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ll know that I dedicate a lot of blog “real estate” to growing, care-taking, harvesting and decorating with pumpkins. My husband takes over on Halloween, carving the pumpkins we grow into lovely works of art. We save some of the seeds to plant the following year. We offer the pulp and a generous helping of seeds to the squirrels to who are busy foraging for the winter. The neighborhood squirrels planted their extra seeds this year, turning out all the lovely pumpkins in this photo. I’ve even dedicated a page to our love of pumpkins. Can you see it at the top of the blog?

pumpkin-collage-october-2016

Growing and harvesting pumpkins

6. Planning a Halloween costume

My love of theater and sewing merge in October. I get to plan and create a costume for a couple of parties and if I’m not too tired, I’ll wear it on Halloween night. My sister Sharon and I have always had fun dressing up. I gave it up for many years, turning my attention to the boy’s costumes instead. In recent years, I’m back in the swing of things and I always have fun. This year I’m actually renting my costume, but sewing one for my husband. Stay tuned for the silly details.

5. National Chocolate Day

It should come as no surprise that the National Confectioners Associate designated October 28th as National Chocolate Day. As a lifetime chocolate lover working hard to keep sugar at bay, I’m thinking this might be just the day for me. I can choose to indulge in this delectable treat once a year, banishing it from my daily diet and making it a special treat. As always, I’m a work in progress.

chocolate-pumpkin

This chocolate pumpkin was a gift from a friend one year

4. National Cat Day

Every day is cat day in this household. That said, I appreciate the intentions of this charitable organization. They seek to:

” help the public recognize the number of cats that need to be rescued. The day also encourages cat lovers to celebrate the cats in their lives for the unconditional love and companionship that they bestow upon them.

This day is sponsored by the Animal Miracle Foundation and was created by Pet Lifestyle Expert and Animal Welfare Advocate, Colleen Paige, in 2005. Since its inception, it has helped save the lives of more than one million cats.” Source: National Day Calendar

inflatable-cats-and-mouse

My son’s larger-than-life, inflatable cat. Mouse the cat is the real deal.

3. Rain in the Forecast

After months of dry weather, October kicks off our rainy season. I love the rain as much as I love pumpkins. You know that is saying a lot.

tree reflecting in rain on deck

Once upon a time it rained in San Jose

2. Snuggle weather

After months of hot, dry days, it’s a delight to curl up under a warm blanket with a hot mug of tea at hand. Longer evenings give themselves over to more indoor leisure like assembling a puzzle, reading a thick book (or more blogs!) and making crafts.

1. Halloween

Halloween is the second most popular holiday in America, behind Christmas. It evolved over the years “from Medieval rituals to the 1950’s kid-centered activity it is today.”  You can follow this link to history.com to watch a two-minute video on the origins of the day. My youngest son, now 16, still enjoys the festivities. He and a friend create a “haunted deck” each year, using black plastic sheeting and an assortment of props. We live in a neighborhood populated with young children and words gets around. Last year we handed out candy to nearly 400 trick-or-treating children. There are knocks at the door for nearly three hours. It’s festive and fun. Everyone’s exhausted by November 1st, ready to settle in to cooler days, but until then, Halloween is great fun.

Is October your favorite month?

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Birthday Wishes

My sister celebrates another trip around the sun today. We’re only 13 months apart so we always shared a room, many hobbies and lots of laughs. We also share a passion for dress up and especially Halloween.

Sharon prefers scary costumes and has put together some doozies over the years. The bloodier the better. Two years ago we collaborated on a costume together: the Corpse Bride from the Tim Burton movie of the same name. Her friend Kim did her makeup. Doesn’t she look amazing?

sharon halloween corpse bride

Check out Sharon’s costume history, below:

Happy birthday, Sharon. Wishing you a wonderfully ‘scary’, music-filled, purple-enriched day.

Hostess Gift: A Praying Mantis

We hosted our 8th annual Halloween party this afternoon. Mother Nature graced us with a clear, warm, spectacular day.  My sister and I enjoyed donning our costumes and posing for photos on the garden deck. My sister dressed as The Corpse Bride from the animated Tim Burton film of the same name.  I made a dress to emulate artist and greeting card designer, Bela Pillar.   Our friends came and went all afternoon.  We had a blast.

Corpse Bride and Bela Pilar Dress

Corpse Bride and Papyrus Greeting Card

One of the first guests to arrive lives just a few houses over. Bobbie and his son came bearing an awesome hostess gift: a full-grown praying mantis (mantid). They spotted it on the walk over and knew how much I would appreciate it.  Awesome!

We all gathered around the plant to watch the mantid in motion. He was quite active, and at one point swiveled his triangular head and looked directly at us, before turning back and reaching up to the next set of leaves.  I could have watched him all day.

Mantis (or mantid) can live up to a year, shedding their skin several times as they grow.  This one is fully grown, probably about six inches long (15 cm). These pious bugs are great for the garden, since they dine on unwanted insects and bugs. You can buy praying mantis egg sacks at local nurseries to organically control bug infestations.

praying mantis
praying mantis 2
praying mantis 3Once the party guests went home, and the house was back in order, I went outside in the dark with a flashlight hoping to spot him.  Instead I saw a katydid sitting on a flower, wondering why on earth I was snooping around in the bushes after dark.

Perhaps she had a point.  I’ll check back tomorrow and I’ll let you know.

Halloween Countdown

party going pumpkin

Charlotte’s Pumpkin