About Those Christmas Lights

The jokes abound about leaving up the outdoor Christmas lights well into January. It’s always more fun to put them up than to take them down (says the woman who does neither). The outdoor lights are my husband’s thing.

That said, I had a vested interest in their removal this year after noticing a small deposit of bird droppings at the corner of the front steps just before Christmas. I looked up hoping to see a bird’s nest but alas, no nest in sight.

I got a jug of warm soapy water, rinsed the steps and carried on with my day.

A few days later the droppings were back, but still no sign of my feathered neighbor.

As luck would have it, we drove up the driveway around 5 pm one evening and I got out of the car to fetch some packages. In the process I startled a small red-breasted bird who is apparently sleeping on the edge of the extension cord used to hang the Christmas lights.

Bay Area House Finch

Possibly a house finch, common to the area, and probably male with the red breast

House finch under the eaves

House Finch under the eaves, December 28, 2018

My feathered guest leaves during the day, then returns at dusk for the night. He tucks his head toward the edge of the overhang, perched on the cord, and though it looks inhospitable to me, he’s clearly content. We replaced our Christmas lights several years ago with long-lasting, cool-to-the-touch LED’s so it’s not the heat that attracted him. Why he’s chosen this corner we’ll never know, but when the lights came down yesterday, the extension cord remained.

House finch under the eaves

Still visiting, January 2, 2019

It’s a lovely start to the new year and a softening of the inevitable melancholy that follows when both boys head back to university for another term. I’m immeasurably happy to see this little bird perched there each night, and hope he remains year round.

What’s new in your corner of the world?

Bay Area Birds

Halloween Traditions: You’ve Been Boo-ed!

Have you been ‘Boo-ed?”

The act of ‘Booing’ also known as ‘Ghosting’ is popular in our neighborhood and it goes something like this: Someone rings your doorbell after dark. (This already sounds ominous, right?) You look out the window and no-one is there. (Scary, still). Your kids get a bit nervous, but when you finally check outside, a Halloween surprise awaits you.  Over the years our boys received small toys, candy treats, light-up wands and even Halloween liquid soap.

Along with the kids loot are instructions to ‘Boo’ two more neighbors within two nights, and the tradition carries on.  Our boys loved receiving the surprise at the door year after year, and they were equally delighted to ring and run when it was our turn.

As our neighborhood ages and small ones become teenagers we see fewer and fewer little ones on our street. Rather than abandon the tradition, someone in the hood added a new twist. A friend posted a photo on Facebook of a plate of home-made cupcakes and a bottle of wine along with the ‘You’ve been Boo-ed’ sign. I guess you can’t keep a fun tradition down.

I’ve created my own small tradition revolving around fairy gardens. A few times a year, at Halloween and at Christmas, I put together a small bag of fairy garden treasures for two little girls across the way. Only their mom knows its me. She  graciously shares photos so I get a little window into their joy. This weekend I made a couple of pumpkin cards using tag board. I added ink and vintage pages from a small book about a Faerie Queen. I stamped a pumpkin on a couple of cotton treat bags, added beads, and filled them with origami paper, foam pumpkins, erasers and other small items to use in their garden. I hope it continues to bring them the joy that it brings me.

fairy garden halloween treasures

Fairy Garden Halloween Treasures

Traditions might be fun but they can also be taxing.  I know that more than one mom on our street dreaded the idea of ‘one more thing to do’ this time of year. I read something similar in an article as well.

I think it’s fun making up your own traditions, removing all expectations with an established goal of having fun. Do you have family traditions that are uniquely your own?

No-Candy Countdown:

Yes, folks, the gardener remains candy-free.

candy-free countdown

Candy-free Countdown

Under-the-sea Costume Update:

Mike bought a helmet to go with his guardian of the sea costume. The crescent on the top is reminiscent of a wave.  I regret not taking ‘before’ photos, but we’re having fun modifying it from its original state.

I save and re-purpose my wall calendars every year, but this is the first time I’ve used one on a costume. I took a page from last year’s sailing calendar, and tore the edges to suggest waves.

Guardian of the Sea Helmet

Guardian of the Sea Helmet

It’s a photograph of a sailboat in dark seas. I tore a few layers, glued them to the helmet crest, then sanded the paper for a textured look. I added a bit of dark green ink, and in a happy accident, realized the glue dots, once sanded, looked like bolts.  We’ve more to add in the way of seashells and a bit of glitter shimmer. It is under the sea after all.

Pumpkins on Parade:

Aloha! Today’s pumpkin is ready for a tall, cool drink under a palm tree. Her grass skirt is nearby when the music begins. She’s kicked off her sandals for a walk in the cool grass.

aloha pumpkin

Aloha Pumpkin

aloha pumpkin closeup

Please hold my calls

She’ll be back tomorrow, refreshed and contemplating the latest wardrobe change. We hope to see you then.

Pumpkins: Just the Facts, Ma’am

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Pumpkins are so entrenched in our North American culture this time of year, that it’s easy to forget they’re not equally popular the world over.  They’re native to Central America and Mexico, but they’ve been grown in North America for five thousand years.

Bob's Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Bob’s Pumpkin Farm, Half Moon Bay

Pilgrims learned to cultivate, grow and store pumpkins from the Native Americans.  Without them, they would have starved in those early 1600s winters. Pumpkin pie is traditionally served  at the Thanksgiving meal.  It’s easy to forget what a significant role it played in the early Pilgrim’s lives.

White pumpkin with flowers

Thanksgiving flower arrangement

We have a number of pumpkin festivals and pumpkin “patches” in our community.  We attended many of them when our boys were young, and were sorry when a few closed to make room for development.

The immensely popular Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, dubbed the World Pumpkin Capital celebrates 42 years in 2012. The festival highlight for those of us serious about pumpkins, is the great pumpkin weigh-off.  Last year’s winning pumpkin tipped the scales at a mind-boggling 1,704 pounds. Unfortunately, the festival has grown so popular that it can take upwards of an hour to get to the center of town.  We joined friends for an off weekend last year, so we could drive through Half Moon Bay and along the beautiful coast, while avoiding the traffic nightmare.

Bob's Pumpkin Farm

Lifting Weights at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm

I dream of growing our own “Atlantic Giant,” out back, but lack the stamina and will power of the serious growers. It’s fun to read about the efforts the hard-core growers employ, and to see the amazing results.  It was quite the thrill growing a 62 pound beauty this year.

I can’t wait to see what the seeds and flesh are like inside.  My husband lovingly carves our pumpkins year after year.  We dry and store seeds for the following season and the cycle begins anew.

assorted pumpkins

2011 Pumpkin Crop

Pumpkin Facts

  • Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini.
  • The largest pumpkin pie ever baked was in 2005 and weighed 2,020 pounds.
  •  In 1584, after French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America, he reported finding “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
  • Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron.
  • The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz and was presented by Chris Stevens at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minnesota, in October 2010.
  • Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.

 U.S. Census Bureau and the Guinness Book of World Records

Resources:

Halloween Countdown

Pumpkins and Flowers

Pumpkins and Flowers