Saturday, October 31, 2009

orange you glad it's Halloween again?

A day to be anything or anyone you want to be: a knight, a princess, a scary monster. I remember boxed costumes, now vintage collector's items:  Casper the Friendly Ghost and Felix the Cat. Then there were the pillowcase clowns, winning first prize in a neighborhood parade and taking home a candle in the shape of a witch. One year my best friend was a nurse in a uniform borrowed from her mother. And, always, hot dogs for supper. 

Dusk falls, costumes are donned, candy is collected house to house to house until the whole neighborhood's been canvassed. Then the 'after-party,' sorting it all out on a big tray, trading some (I'll take your miniature Heath Bars and Butterfingers!), giving the Mary Janes away to grown-ups with a taste for nostalgia. Little wonder that children of all ages love Halloween. 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wishing you an idyllic October weekend: a long leaf walk, wins for your favorite teams, all treats (no tricks), a pillowcase full of miniature candy bars, a book you can't put down and - poof! - a magical extra autumn hour.  

Thursday, October 29, 2009

food is love

Is it written somewhere that people who love to cook are also kind and generous and full of life? Lucky for us, some of them are seasoned writers as well. I'm thinking Julia, of course, and now also of Molly Wizenberg. Every sweet and tender word of kitchen table conversation in A Homemade Life is as nourishing as the accompanying recipes. As the Butternut soup with pears, cider and vanilla bean; the carmelized cauliflower with salsa verde; the banana bread with chocolate and chrystallized ginger. Right down to the Italy-inspired eggs she makes for her father near the end of his life. The main ingredient on every page is love.   

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

school of life

This may not be the semester you're taking Honors Physics, or are privy to any kind of formal schooling for that matter. But we're all still learning. I read that a good journal prompt is to list 5 things you learned in a particular day. It's interesting what bubbles up when you start framing life like this. It doesn't take an Einstein to realize that great teachers are all around: workmates, a friend, a stranger, your 85-year-old neighbor, your own child, nature, the dog. I've also learned that listing 5 only scratches the surface:
1. Put a stack of irresistible books on a child's nightstand and they will get read.
2. 'Without a plan, a dream is just a dream.' (Chris Gardner)
3. The key to easy soup making is an immersion blender.
4. Storing up good memories should be a daily quest; they are 
nuggets of gold in the heart's bank.
5. The maples on Maryland Avenue are brilliant right now.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

it's sew important

Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Monday, October 26, 2009

learning curve

The oldest schoolhouse in America is thought to be this one in St. Augustine, Florida. I can personally vouch for its ancient relic nature, having stood in the ghosty little classroom during my own elementary school days. Dating back to the early 1700s, the tiny cedar and cypress structure is held together by wooden pegs and handmade nails, and there's definitely an aura about it. Then again, I'm awestruck any time I'm in a schoolhouse, even the modern ones of today with their computer labs and white boards.  I stand in awe of the teachers, too, teaching at this particular place in history. And of schoolchildren throughout time, who can be so difficult and so dear. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

as legend has it

Did pompous Brem Bones chase Ichabod Crane out of Sleepy Hollow so he could have lovely (and rich!) Katrina Van Tassel to himself? Or did an even worse fate become the skitterish schoolteacher? The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving was published in 1820 and set in the Hudson Valley area of New York settled by Dutch colonists. It's a must-read during this month of scary ghost stories. And a delight to read any time.  
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor

Friday, October 16, 2009

stray thoughts

"What memories do we bring with us out of childhood? The significant ones? I think we do, even though they often seem unimportant, unrelated to one another. Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit, and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."  Susan B. Anthony

Thursday, October 15, 2009

treat yourself

The Great Pumpkin delivered this treat yesterday, making her rounds a little earlier than usual with a stop by Trader Joe's on the way. Can't wait to get out the waffle iron on Saturday morning and make a batch.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

month at a glance

The calendula, also known as the field marigold, is part of the great big happy daisy family. It's also the flower denoting the month of October. Opal is the birthstone and you better not wear one if you weren't born this month, because they're said to crack if you do. Other observations I've made about Octoberians is that they come alive when there's a nip in the air yet cherish curling up in front of a crackling fire. They don't mind a ghost or goblin or gypsy at the door or a silky black cat crossing their path.  And they seem to have a great propensity for appreciating the mysteries of life. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

must be Monday

It's either a can't-wait-to-tackle-the-world or a pull-the-covers-back-up kind of morning, usually nowhere in the middle. Mondays are funny like that. If yours is bumbling along in the latter category, try giving your desk a mini-makeover. Combine all of the little sticky note reminders into one neat list.  Prioritize the piles. Check off a tedious task or two and let the energy from doing that spur you onward. Keep the coffee going, or the Earl Grey, and the Brandenburg concertoes. Toss up a prayer that what you do will bless someone else. Like all of the other days of our lives, this particular Monday is a precious gift. Even if it's enveloped in ordinary.  

Saturday, October 10, 2009

collage of cozy

This beauty arrived in the mail from artist friend Laurie McGuire Richardson. Scribbled on the back was a note that said 'please come for soup.' 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wishing you a windy, wonderful weekend of autumn pursuits . . . a pumpkin ale, a poem by Poe, a pile of leaves to toss in the air.  

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And 'a' is for abundance

'A' is also for apples, which are in great abundance right now. Just takes a few to make this humble, homey autumn dessert, worth the minimal effort for the fragrance alone. It's cooking from scratch at its easiest best. 'H' is for homemade. And hooray!

Apple Brown Betty 

4 cups of sliced apples, mixed varieties
sprinkle of orange juice
1 stick of butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt

Place apple slices in a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with orange juice.  Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly and spoon it over the apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until topping is golden crisp. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

goodbye Gourmet

The recipes were sometimes too complicated for a humble home cook, but oh the inspiration: the cover art, the fine writing and lush photography, the dispatches from distant places. Gourmet expanded horizons of its readers, both in the kitchen and out in the world. Now it's become another casualty of our recession-weary, computerized culture. An online presence will continue, the magazine says. This comes as small consolation to subscribers. A treat in hand is much more satisfying to us than anything on a screen. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

pausing for prayer

"Prayer is a remarkable form of energy. It always changes the one who prays. It always changes the one for whom she prays, too, although the pray-er may never know how. And prayer changes the world, as well, bit by bit: it is the creative energy of God passing through our minds and hearts into life here on earth where we live." (Rev. Barbara Crafton)
A young girl in prayer, 1925. By Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic (1883-1962)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

autumn story

My hand went right to it on the shelf this morning, the picture book that captures autumn better than any other. Mysterious and lyrical, like all of Chris Van Allsburg's gems, The Stranger is about a farmer, his family and a curious man who visits them as summer turns to fall. It's an October story. Read it and see if you don't get caught up in the season yourself.