Halloween Revisited and a Few Lasting Impressions

With my youngest son away at university our household Halloween mojo has been split in two, severed if you will, covered in cobwebs and devoid of life.

fall garden, pumpkins, ghost

Fall garden, pumpkins and obligatory ghost

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I knew Halloween would feel different this year. My youngest has enormous Halloween spirit, and that spirit has momentarily left the building.

I shook off my wistfulness and set about decorating in my abbreviated style. We didn’t set up the inflatables this year, and there are no teenagers at home to “build” a haunted house.

The light-catcher is up in the window, and my pumpkin collection adorns the table, now set with two places, not four. There are a few night lights lighting the way to the bathroom in the dark hours of the night. Both lights were gifts from friends.

We have pumpkins, of course. The squirrels planted a few seeds last fall, and most of the vines grew in the planting box.

My Halloween cards are also simple this year. I pulled out my Big Shot and a few watercolor postcards and made pumpkin leaf impressions. The transfers turned out really well with the extra moisture from the leaf absorbed into the paper. They have a nice, organic scent to them too, though I’m not sure it will last. Who doesn’t love the smell of chlorophyl?

The process is simple. While the leaves are freshly harvested, you sandwich the leaf against the water-color paper, then insert between folded scrap paper before running it through the Big Shot. The leaves have a lot of moisture, so the extra paper helps absorb it.

After drying, and pressing the cards between a hefty volume of Shakespeare, I hand-stamped a few images on the front and back of the card.

I found beautiful dragon postage stamps at our local post office in orange, purple, and gold. They’re the perfect finishing touch.

We attended one Halloween party this year, and as usual had a wonderful time. The theme this year: horror kitsch. We struggled with a concept, till one of the women at our favorite costume shop, Natasha’s Attic suggested the ghosts from the Haunted Mansion Disneyland ride. I love Natasha’s and the folks who work there. It’s a family owned business here in San Jose.  They’ve been around since 1977. It takes me back to my theatre roots whenever I’m there.

Natasha’s pulled together vintage pieces for us from their costume shop. We bought shoes from a charity thrift store, donned wigs and painted our faces a ghostly tint. My friend Isaac suggested seed lights to add to the ghostly effect. I sewed one strand under my skirt and another strand under Mike’s cravat.

Mike’s makeup is superior to mine *and* he did it all himself. He applied latex, then makeup, and even bought a pair of “rotten teeth” for full effect.

With the horrific news of this past week, Halloween gave us a welcome respite from the madness. If I haven’t said it lately, thank you for being here. My heart sings a little song with each comment and like.

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.

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Fairy Garden Halloween

fairy garden moon

Fairy Garden at Dusk

The wall is silence, the grass is sleep,
Tall trees of peace their vigil keep,
And the Fairy of Dreams with moth-wings furled
Plays soft on her flute to the drowsy world.

~Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

fairy garden halloween house

Welcome

fairy garden bench

Please have a seat

We call them faerie. We don’t believe in them. Our loss.

~Charles de Lint

fairy garden succulent fence

We’re over here. Please come join us.

And as the seasons come and go, here’s something you might like to know.
There are fairies everywhere: under bushes, in the air,
playing games just like you play, singing through their busy day.
So listen, touch, and look around – in the air and on the ground. And if you watch
all nature’s things, you might just see a fairy’s wing

~Author Unknown

fairy garden kitty

We’re playing hide and seek

fairy door

Is anybody home?

A rustle in the wind reminds us a fairy is near.

~Author Unknown

fairy garden lantern

Do you hear the rustle in the wind?

fairy garden pumpkins

Happy Halloween

Special thanks to Everything Fairyland for the wonderful compilation of quotes.

Falling for Halloween

Monday is August 31st.

Guess what that means?

Halloween is only two months away! October 31st heralds the arrival of wee trick-or-treaters and the heady, intoxicating fall air.

I’m ready.

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while you’ll know that autumn is my favorite time of year. I love growing and decorating with pumpkins, planning or attending costume parties, helping my son “spookify” the front yard and tossing treats into wee little bags on Halloween night.  The changing of the seasons is more of a slow burn in California. The days shorten and the stale summer air finally gives way to the smog-free version I long for. By the calendar, autumn arrives in late September, but it’s not till mid-October that we start to notice the difference.

In the garden, the signs are everywhere.

Lone Pumpkin Turns Orange

The pantyhose trick is keeping teeth-gnashers at bay while nature takes care of the rest.

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Pumpkin protected by pantyhose

Did you know that pumpkins turn orange for the same reason leaves do? As the days grow shorter, “the green pigment, necessary for photosynthesis, degrades and the carotenoids are revealed, causing the pumpkin to change color to shades of orange, red and yellow.”¹

Pretty cool, eh?

Pumpkin Shell Survives Composting

It’s true! A few small, late season pumpkins avoided last season’s squash bug onslaught. They were too hard to carve, so I lined them up on the paved wall instead. They remained a point of interest for many months, subject to occasional rearranging by the neighborhood day care kids. It was months before the snails showed up. Then one by one they started to rot. I tossed this one in the compost bin assuming it would also turn to mush.

hollow pumpkin shell

Small pumpkin shell survives the compost pile

When I upended the compost for my sheet mulching project, out rolled the shell. I’ve dusted it off, checked for invading bugs, and brought it indoors. The decorating possibilities are endless and simply looking at it makes me smile.

A (Not so Itsy) Spider Weaves a Wondrous Web

Nothing says Halloween better than a scary-looking spider web.

garden spider web

I’m glad I found this web with my camera and not my face

spider web side view

Spider web in profile

Am I right?

You can buy fake ones at the local Halloween store, or you might get lucky and have one custom-built in the garden.

My hat is off to the photographers of the world that capture beautiful shots of spiders in webs. I could focus on the spider or the web but never both. There is a good chance I’ve offended her, since she took down her web by early afternoon when I wasn’t looking.

Beware.

Halloween is coming soon. I. Can’t. Wait!

¹Source: Children’s Museum Indianapolis

October 31st: A Journal

pumpkin carving

Mike’s carvings 2014

Today’s post is a tiny departure from the norm. Since you’ve followed my Halloween preparations throughout October, I wanted to share details from our action-packed day. Here we go.

6:40

I woke up without an alarm to overcast skies.  Rain in the forecast.  Super excited, except that it’s Halloween. Hopefully it will rain before and after the candy gatherers come out to play.

7:30

Carpool three teens to school.

7:45

Wait for the school parking lot traffic to clear.Read a few of my favorite blogs. Leave a long comment on Pauline’s fabulous garden post (one of my favorite subjects of course) but apparently never hit the ‘post’ key. I’ll head back there today, trying to recapture in detail how much I love her garden and her post.

8:15

Tidy the kitchen and start some laundry. I live a glamorous life.

Under strict instructions from my youngest son, I remove all items from the deck. The fairy garden isn’t scary enough.

Line the walkway with pumpkins, candles and the aforementioned fairy garden.

lining the deck with pumpkins and candles

Lining the walkway/ramp with candles and home-grown pumpkins

Inside, Mike guts three pumpkins and decides what to carve. He traveled the day before, up at 4:00 am and home at 10 so he’s tired.  Lindy offers moral support. Mike chooses three of his pattern favorites.

lindy offers moral support

Lindy offers moral support

Mike carving pumpkin

Carving the deadly diva

The skies open up. Puddles form. Honest to goodness rain in San Jose. Giddy with excitement, but still hoping it stops by 5:00 pm. Go out to brunch with Mike, an incredibly rare treat on his day off from work.

rain in the gutters

Rain!

halloween garden in the rain

The rain makes everything look off-kilter

2:00

Well, someone has to fold the laundry.

2:30

Gather the teens from school. It’s still raining so my youngest son is indecisive about hanging black plastic on the deck awning. He waits.

tasty treat trifecta

Tasty treat trifecta: Candy corn for Mike, kitty treats for Lindy, and left over seeds and pulp for the neighborhood squirrels

2:45

Pick up a self-bake pizza, narrowly avoiding a car accident in the process. To my tremendous surprise, the driver follows me into the pizza place and apologizes! Life is good. Note: Halloween is the biggest take-out pizza day of the year. Back home, I review college application materials with my oldest son. UC applications open November 1st. He’s ready to go.

4:00

It’s now or never. With Mike’s help, my youngest son covers the awning and sides of the deck with heavy black plastic, saved from year to year for this purpose.  His friend arrives around 5:00 and they scope out hiding places, adding black lights and string. The boys ready their masks. I repeat firm instructions:  they’re not to scare anyone under the age of 14.

scary halloween deck 2014

Converting the deck into a frightful state

5:15

Pizza in the oven.

5:17

Pizza devoured.

5:30

Race down the hall to get ready for the second of three Halloween parties. The boys man the door as the trick or treating begins in earnest.

Attaching the false eyelashes is always the trickiest part for me. I don’t wear much makeup throughout the year, so I’m always out of practice.

6:00

Dressed and ready to go, I continue passing out little bags of pretzels. Most of the little girls at the door ask if I’m Elsa from Frozen. I nod and said yes. I was going to make bookmarks to go with them. When did I think I was going to find the time? Next year?

8:00

We’ve passed out all the pretzels, a box of gummy candy, packets of cookies and granola bars from our pantry and anything else we can think of. 240 bags and buckets have passed by our door. The supply of acceptable give-away treats depleted, we post a note of apology and close up shop.

8:45

Walk through a cool mist to Lisa and Roy’s Halloween party a few blocks away. Eat. Socialize. Try really hard not to drift off in the comfy chair.

party hosts

Halloween Party Hosts Mary Poppins and Bert the Chimney Sweep

Late

At this point I am so tired that I’ve lost track of time. I manage to remove my makeup before crawling into bed, though briefly considered sleeping with it on. Yes, I was that tired. Drift off, patting myself on the back for finishing off my no-candy countdown.

decal and makeup

Decal eye makeup, false eyelashes and some eyeshadow in between

If you’re still here, thanks for reading.

Today I’m readying our garage for voting tomorrow.  Friends in the States, don’t forget to vote November 4th.

A Fairy Garden Boo!

Do you remember me telling you about the tradition of ghosting or booing someone? You gather a few treats, secretly place them on your neighbor’s doorstep, ring the bell and run like mad. We’ve been taking part for years.

While we were away choosing pumpkins on Sunday, something magical happened. Our wonderful neighbor ‘booed’ the fairy garden! You can’t imagine the grin on my face when I saw it. Two tiny pumpkins and an inquisitive ghost planted firmly in the soil, with a tiny tree trunk sign saying ‘You’ve been booed.’

Fairy Garden Boo!

Fairy Garden Boo!

I can’t think of a sweeter treat to ring in Hallow’s Eve.  Though I’m not supposed to know my secret giver, the girl next door tipped me off.  That made me chuckle. She also voiced her disappointment that she hadn’t been booed, so I made quick work of a basket and the tradition carries on.  I think I might be aging backwards.

fairy garden haunting

Fairy Garden Haunting

fairy garden house

Do you think the witch will head down the chimney?

 

boo

Boo!

I added a few spooky touches to the fairy garden this afternoon. I caught a whisper in the wind about a midnight Halloween gathering. There are plenty of tombstones for hiding and one sinister looking tree, courtesy of my son. We did Halloween crafts together for years, but all those creative treasures are now cast offs. The tree was destined for the trash last year, before I spirited it away.

No-Candy Countdown:

Tomorrow is Halloween! Thank you for counting down with me this month. I’m feeling energized and more in control and happy to be candy-free. Just one more day and I’ll have met my goal.

Pumpkins on Parade:

I’m closing out the month with one of the miniature, late-season pumpkins. She’s busy brewing up a magic potion designed to keep squash bugs at bay. If it works, I’ll let you know. She’s looking confident and happy so I remain hopeful.

pumpkin witch

Witch’s Brew Pumpkin

halloween fairy garden 2014

Happy Halloween from the fairy garden

Gardener in Repose

skeleton doppleganger 2014

Ms. Doppelganger

October isn’t over yet, but my skeletal doppelgänger is putting her feet up for a spell.  That gnarly pumpkin is the perfect foot rest for her bone-weary feet.  Check out that gorgeous gardening apron, beautifully hand-made and gifted via Gjeometry’s Pay it Forward last year. Her seamstress skills are legendary along with her famous cat.

The original skeleton’s head is long gone, so I improvised with a plush pumpkin. A guest brought it to our boys Halloween party one year. Isn’t it a dream?

Ms. Doppelganger is holding a carrot that is just a few weeks shy of its one year anniversary. Somehow it escaped harvest, continued to grow, bloomed and just now went to seed. I’m amazed by nature’s gifts every day.

carrot anniversary 2014

Carrot Anniversary

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve been reading about my (mostly) green thumb.  Here is a never-before-seen picture of the green thumb at rest. Are you suitably impressed?

green thumb

My Green Thumb

We’ve left the rocking chair available for drop-in guests. If you’re feeling weary, please stop by, pull up a pumpkin and sit a spell. I’ll press a cup of steaming hot tea in your hand and we can shoot the breeze.

halloween on deck 2014

Please put your feet up and sit a spell

No-Candy Countdown:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Candy is sweet

But my resolve is too.

October 29th, still candy-free.

Pumpkins on Parade:

I’ve never seen the iconic movie Napoleon Dynamite, but it was one of the suggestions for this month’s pumpkin dress up. I’ve done a frightful job creating this one. The darn wig refused to stay put. It was fun crafting a pair of glasses from a scrap of wire found in the garage. That said, I better stick to my day job.

Julia of Defeat Despair, thank you for the fun suggestion. I hope this makes you smile.

Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite