Thursday, November 1, 2018

"When Ghosts and Goblins by the score, Ring the bell on your front door, you'd better not be stingy or Your nightmares will come true."*

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and the day after Halloween is always a come down, much like the sugar crash you have after binging on your horde of assorted chocolate bars, gummies, and lollipops. (Growing up, we had a “post-collection” tradition of dumping out all of the candy on the kitchen table, sorting through our loot, and then trading each other for our favorites. Brother B always ended up getting more than he gave; he was a shrewd negotiator.)

I was sorry to hear this Halloween season that there is a movement out there trying to get Halloween changed from October 31 to the Saturday before October 31. My response to that is: WEAK! Now, the costumes are fun, but the things that really make Halloween great are 1. candy and 2. spooky, and part of the spooky includes running around your neighborhood after dark on a school night when you normally would be at home.

Kids are already “trick or treating” in highly adult supervised environments from the trunks of cars in church or school parking lots; where is the challenge in that? Part of the fun of Halloween for me was the risk. You’d go up to someone’s door (you may know them, know them slightly,  or you may not know them at all depending on how far you traveled while still technically being in “your neighborhood”), ring the bell, and then wait and see. They may open the door; they may not. And you had no idea what they were going to give you for candy. But you’d better yell that “TRICK OR TREAT” as loud as you could to earn that Snickers bar or Reese’s pieces. My dad tells stories from growing up that trick or treating meant going INTO neighbors’ houses and having them admire your costume and “won’t you have a homemade cookie?” before getting their candy and moving on to the next house where the same thing happened all over again. With trunk or treats, everyone who shows up gets a candy whether they even say “trick or treat” or not. AND whether they say “thank you” or not, which is a massive pet peeve of mine. [And don’t get me started on the older middle school/freshmen in high school teens who think that some black on their faces and a hooded sweatshirt counts as a costume because IT DOESN’T. (You don’t have to have a homemade costume, but at least make an effort.)]

This year I went trick or treating with Sister K's family; her two boys were the Hulk and Superman. While we were out, she had left a bowl of candy on her front steps, and we returned to find it virtually untouched. No one else came after we got back relative early (7:15ish). This morning at work several people were talking about how they didn’t get any trick or treaters at all last night, despite the relatively warm temperatures (mid-60s). I wondered aloud if maybe parents were just ready to be done with neighborhood trick or treating after all the activities at schools, the trunk or treats, safe space trick or treating, and Halloween parties and other events put on by communities in an attempt to make Halloween safe for kids. Which seems really controlling and disappointing to me when I compare it to all the fun and freedom I had on Halloween growing up in the 70s and 80s. I don’t have kids so I don’t know firsthand about the fear and concern that parents have sending their kids off to trick or treat by themselves in the neighborhood, but I do think that a there has got to be a corollary with how well we know and trust our neighbors. (An aside: Sister K and her husband know ALL of their neighbors, and their neighbors know their kids. Sister B knows a couple of her neighbors, but they have LOADS of kids in that neighborhood and kids are so good at bringing people together. I have met all but one of my neighbors.)

Last night, one of Sister K’s neighbors related the following anecdote. A friend of hers who lives in Dallas can expect as many as 4,000 trick or treaters on Halloween night; they load up the whole dining room table with candy to prepare. The kids come in on buses. That is the complete opposite of what happened here last night. Can’t we meet somewhere in the middle? Maybe this is just nostalgia, but wouldn’t it be nice if Halloween could go back to the way I remember it: herds of neighborhood kids, prowling for candy, sharing with each other which houses had the good stuff (our parents always had full size chocolate bars), and then heading home: cold, sugar coated, and happy.

*Walt Disney's Trick or Treat

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Three Lighthouses in Provincetown

I had never been to Provincetown, MA until last week, and I actually liked that I got to see this hip, usually packed, summer town on a bleak midwinter's day. It was a cold day (the day before the snow storm), and there weren't very many people out on the street, which made it easier for me to ask to stop the car and take photos.

We walked out on Race Point Beach and froze, but it was stark and beautiful in its barrenness. (I bet in summer it is just jam packed with brave, patient souls who endured the summer traffic up Route 6 - hence my never having been to P'town before.)

Here are the three lighthouses in Provincetown to add to my photo collection of New England lighthouses.
Long Point Light Provincetown, MA
Long Point Light
Wood End Light Provincetown, MA
Wood End Light
Race Point Lighthouse Provincetown, MA
Race Point Light

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, lavender's green,"*

Back in August, I went to the Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth,CT and took some snaps. It's the only lavender farm in CT. They also keep bees, but weren't selling any honey (can you imagine how good that would be?) while we were there.

Lavender Pond Farm

Lavender Pond Farm

Lavender Pond Farm

Lavender Pond Farm

I also got some really good advice about pruning the lavender I have been try to grow am growing at my house (cut back the soft new growth only - not the woody bits). Not only are my plants still blooming, but for the first time ever, I think that the lavender I planted in the front of my house is going to make it through the winter.::fingers crossed::

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days"*

My favorite time of the year is just about to start: FALL! Cool, crisp days; apple cider; chrysanthemums in bloom; red, gold, and orange leaves on the trees and crunchy under foot; pumpkins; Halloween; apple crisp. It always feels to me like the start of something new rather than the end of something. (This is probably tied to the academic calendar and was ingrained at a young age.)

Of course, it doesn't actually FEEL like fall right now with temps in the high 70s F and nearly 90F predicted for Sunday. But the days are growing shorter and soon enough cooler temps will arrive. I think I might put up my fall decorations around the house this weekend.


When I was a kid, my dad had my siblings and me memorize the following poem as an after-dinner contest. (We were always memorizing stuff. Whoever could recite the whole thing by heart first won the contest.) The second stanza has always been one of my favorites; it perfectly captures how I feel about this time of year. 

When the Frost is on the Punkin*
By James Whitcomb Riley 
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"It's great to learn, 'cause knowledge is power."*

I was over my parents house this past Sunday helping my dad with a project in the basement. It was kind of dark, and he warned me not to trip over the base of the Lally column.  I quickly replied that I thought it was called a "lolly column", not a "lally column". And then completely without thought, I started singing "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!" from that old episode of Schoolhouse Rock!

My dad had NO IDEA what I was singing, so I had to explain about Schoolhouse Rock! and how my siblings and I (and pretty much an entire generation) grew up watching it on Saturdays between the cartoons.
Aside: do you know that the big three networks no longer show cartoons on Saturday mornings? WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!?!? Poor kids. What's the point in getting up early on Saturday now? Oh, wait. I think I understand this now...
I found him the video on YouTube so he could actually see what I was talking about, and he has been singing the song ever since. (My mother is not best pleased.)

Cut to Monday night: I am over Sister B's house for dinner. I answer a call from my dad on my cell phone. He has the song all cued up, and it starts playing "Lolly Lolly Lolly, get your adverbs here..." I hang up on him, laughing at having been "Lolly-rolled". Sister B asks me what I am laughing at. I start to tell her the story, as I just did here, about the "lally" columns vs "lolly" columns, and before I even finished my story, she starts singing...

*Schoolhouse Rock! slogan

Friday, July 7, 2017


So the Fourth of July is kind of a downer for me; as an Anglophile, I daydream about what it would be like if the colonies were a part of the Commonwealth, like Canada.  (JUST KIDDING - sort of. Since this year, less on the kidding, more on the wishing.) But for me, the 4th has never lived up to the hype surrounding the holiday. I can't really sum up what's missing, but it's always been anticlimactic for me, especially now that I don't live in Boston anymore.

The most hilarious part of that holiday was receiving the above text message from my friend SJ. She cut the cable/TV cord long before I knew her, but I keep forgetting that and just assume she is in the loop about all the Sunday night PBS shows (which she watches through PBS Passport or other streaming services). The last time I got a similar text was a couple of months ago when she missed the most recent series of "Sherlock".

So for all the folks who cut the cable cord (I WISH I could be one of you), here is my list of Sunday night British PBS shows you should be watching either live, On Demand, or through your streaming service of choice (Amazon Prime, Netflix, PBS Passport - which by the way, is worth the donation - ALL the seasons and masterclasses of the Great British Baking Show. Love it!)

Image result for Poldark1. Poldark: Captain Ross Poldark creates a boatload of drama when he returns home to Cornwall, England. Wounded in the American Revolutionary war, his family thought he was dead, and life has gone on without him: his father has died; the family home is in disrepair and the fortune is depleted; and worst of all, his beloved is about to marry his best friend/cousin. It is up to Ross to rebuild his life, making his fortune while helping out the tenants/miners who are living on his land. He starts a new business venture mining for copper, makes a formidable enemy of the wealthiest businessman in the area, outruns the revenue men while free trading, and finds a new, steady love in his very own kitchen. (Yay, Demelza!) This drama is based on books by Winston Graham and was originally filmed for television back in the 1970s, but this new adaptation is really engaging and has some lovely scenery, both of Cornwall and of the dreamy Aidan Turner ("Being Human", The Hobbit) who plays Ross Poldark. One word: ::scything:: You can thank me later. Series 3 will be starting on Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, October 1, 2017.

Image result for grantchester cricket episode
2. Grantchester: After seeing action in WWII, Canon Sidney Chambers seems to enjoy his quiet life in his small Cambridgeshire village of Grantchester, albeit one complete with whisky and jazz, much to the chagrin of his prim and proper housekeeper, Mrs. M. However, his life is turned on end when he gets involved in a murder investigation, and after that Sidney finds himself entangled in more criminal cases. His ability to listen to people and his compassion for their problems make him an excellent investigator. Unfortunately, he is not as discerning in his own life - the man has a full plate: his attraction to both Amanda, who is engaged to another man, and the intriguing Hildegard, a German widow; instructing his new curate Leonard; house training Dickens, his Labrador; and writing his sermon for Sunday. And whatever will the Archdeacon say about Sidney's new sideline in detecting? More Bakewell tart, anyone? Series 3 is currently running on Masterpiece Mystery.

3. Home Fires: It is the eve of war in the Cheshire village of Great Paxford. In the uncertainty wartime, Joyce, the chair of the local Women's Institute, proposes that the group disband until the end of the conflict, but is opposed by Frances, who realizes that the WI is a lifeline for many of the women in the village. Relaunching and expanding the WI to be more inclusive of class and station, Frances and her friends do their bit for the war effort and bring together women in their community in a way that they had not been united previously.  So if the show is about women, why the picture of the RAF flyer? Because Wing Commander Nick is LOVELY! Series 2 just concluded running on Masterpiece Classic. Sadly, this is the final series because ITV didn't commission a 3rd series, but the official story will continue in eBook form from Amazon. (I have just started reading!)

 4. Prime Suspect: Tennison aka Prime Suspect 1973 is the origin story of Jane Tennison's career at the Metropolitan Police. Viewers of the original "Prime Suspect" mini-serieses know Jane (played by the great Helen Mirren) as one of the first female Detective Chief Inspectors at the Met; this series goes back to her very first murder case at the Met while she is still a probationary WPC. The show is dark, which is typical for Prime Suspects, and there are a number of times where you may find yourself yelling at the television. One thing I liked about it was the little ways in which the young, naive, and idealistic Tennison from this program starts to become the more hardened character we know from Prime Suspect. The series just concluded running on Masterpiece Mystery; sadly, it is just a one off.

5. Endeavour is another origin story: this time of the Oxfordshire police's Inspector Morse, a character made famous by John Thaw. Shaun Evans plays Police Constable Endeavour Morse (it's just "Morse" to you and me), a smart, introverted music lover and Oxford drop-out who learns quickly when he joins the CID that he is going to need all his smarts to solve crimes in the circumspect academic community in Oxford of the swinging 1960s. DI Fred Thursday recognizes that Morse has a lot of potential, taking him under his wing as his "bag man", becoming both Morse's mentor and friend, solving crimes together over a pint and a bagged lunch in the pub. Series 4 has its premiere on Sunday, August 20 on Masterpiece Mystery.

1. While is it great to watch these shows streaming on your own, it's even more fun if you take part in the live Tweet that goes on when the shows air on Masterpiece on Sunday. It's great to read and to join in! The hashtags are usually the showname and then PBS, eg. #PoldarkPBS
2. PBS does shorten episodes so that they can have their sponsorship bits at the beginning and end of episodes. This is most noticeable on Endeavour. Well, at least it is to me, but then again I just rewatched the whole series on Amazon. I caught a bit of a series 2 episode on PBS this past weekend and realized they skipped a very small subplot that had no impact on the mystery.   

All photos from the Masterpiece website
* text message from S-J

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Low Country (Don't worry: this is NOT a post about my mood of late. ...That was an attempt at humor; it may have failed.)

Last year, instead of having a big "to-do" about our ::coughcough:: "not insignificant number that I am not disclosing here" ::coughcough:: college reunion, my college suite mates and I decided to go on a trip. We ended up heading down to South Carolina, where a family member has a home that we were able to use. We had a great time hanging out, watching the Olympics, going to the beach, and site seeing in Charleston and Georgetown (home of the Gullah museum - fascinating!).

Georgetown, SC

Georgetown, SC

In case you haven't noticed my Good Reads list on the blog (it's over there on the right), I am sort of "mad about" fiction set in the Low Country of South Carolina (as in "mad about the boy", not as in "angry at you for the Civil War") and between the works of Karen White, Pat Conroy, and Fannie Flagg (although she doesn't specifically write about the Low Country), I have developed a strong affection for the area. (Don't worry, London, this isn't a competition; you're still my favourite.)

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

Just give me some sweet tea, she-crab soup, and air conditioning, and I am good to go. (Not kidding about the air conditioning. We visited the first week of August, and it was hot. Really hot. Like the OCEAN felt like bathwater hot. I actually got badly dehydrated after a walking tour of Charleston - my fault entirely. But I still had a great time!) These are some of my favorite snaps of that visit.

Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC

I highly recommend visiting Charleston if you have a chance. Probably not in high summer, but if that is what works for you, it is still a really cool place to visit!


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