Halloween and Movies

We went to a friend’s house for dinner tonight.  It was a good time, some mellow hanging out and a meal together.  Then we headed out for some trick or treating, one stop at a house along the way and then to the neighborhood in town.  The town threw a party and half of us went to that.  The kids hauled in some good loot.

I took my son to the video store.  It is going out of business, so all the films are for sale.  We picked up a few.  He got to show off his tractor costume which was, as at every stop, a hit.  He picked out a few Thomas the Tank Engine videos and that made him happy as a kid on Halloween.

We have a pile of candy now, right on the floor with the children sorting through it.  I just polished off a peanut butter cup.  Tasty.  We tossed a couple of random gelatin type jobbers.  They look fun but were probably made in China and who needs more lead?  We will still have plenty for many days.

Happy Halloween.  No costumed children visiting this house with its long long driveway, even if we do leave the light on.  In fact, we left a bowl of the sweet stuff on the deck with the porch light on while we were out.  No takers.  All the more for us, right?  It’s just what we need.

Snow on the Ground

Last night snow fell and the sunrise seeping through the gray clouds let us see an inch of snow stuck to the trees, the grass, the road, the roof, everything.  I rose early and ran in the dark.  The darkness seemed brighter for the fresh snow, wet from fall’s warmer air and unfrozen ground.  Fall and winter have begun their discussion over who gets to spend the night.  We need to get our snow stakes planted, so the snow plow driver knows where to aim, before the ground gets too hard.

I drove to Montpelier today and was stunned repeatedly my the morning’s beauty.  I feel that way a lot, but this was a doozer.  I passed through the Winooski River Valley that cuts through the ridge of the Green Mountains and felt small with the beauty of this world looking so new.  The first true snow of fall has a clarity to it.  Leaves still cling to branches and green still dresses the ground.  The cover of snow says winter is on the way and let’s celebrate with an art show.  The snow on the mountains is the show’s highlight.

I went to a workshop this morning where we discussed the power of stories.  One element of this was the identification of “significant events” in our lives.  I have had some that would qualify for sure–running fifty miles, climbing Mount Shasta, kayaking whitewater, having children.  But I also listed rising in the morning, and my children’s laughter, and weather.

Like saving energy in a home, where there often isn’t one change that will make a huge impact, but where many small changes will add up, those small everyday moments add up to significant events.  I think about the weather each day, and not just to see what to wear or what my commute will be like.  I watch the sun rise, or admire the late day light on the hills, or feel the wind on my cheeks.  I find power in these moments daily, and their sum adds to more than any one event in my life.

Today’s snow was money in the wonder bank.  After I got home, after my elation that I got to see the wet snow still clinging to the trees rather than slumped to the ground as I had expected, my children wanted to bust out the sleds.  It wasn’t the slickest sledding, with grass patched through the white across the hill, but they had a blast.  They laughed a lot and so, of course, did I.

Who knows what things will look like in the morning?  I love that I cannot know until there is enough light to see it.  Sure, I can look at the weather forecast, but it won’t tell me if the last of the goldenrod will still carry snow, or if the maple will have shed its leaves in the night, or if the crescent moon will peak out from the line of low clouds.  For that, I have to wait.


We have way too much candy around here. We got some to hand out for Halloween, of course, most of which we are simply just eating ourselves. And we got some for the party we had this weekend, most of which we still have and are just eating ourselves. And we got some from the Halloween parade, which…

The parade was a grand affair for the children, with floats and firetrucks and costumes and, of course, candy. Parades have become a forum for tossing candy to children so that they can learn how to run out into the street, but this parade tops them all. Halloween is all about candy, so every person on every float tosses candy, and they they have someone walking the curb to hand it out as well.

We walked away from the parade with two pretty good sized bags full of dented chocolate bars and shattered lollipops (all that tossing takes its toll). Right now we have three bowls with candy in them, as well as a large Tupperware bin of stuff we weeded out to give away. It is a good thing that last one has a cover or we would be digging into it as well.

I have had a few pieces today. I was working in a high school and I forgot a fork and couldn’t go get one for a while, so I ate the candy I had in the meantime. It didn’t sit like that tofu pot pie I made last night would have sat. But it was pretty tasty in the moment I ate it. That is the problem, of course. It is tasty for a bit and then gone, and then I want that tastiness back. In fact, those bowls are calling right now…

Clothesline Success

The rain stopped some time in the night but we ended up getting a lot of it, 3/4 of an inch to an inch.  Things were wet this morning.  But the sky was clear and the wind blew.  It was a perfect day for the clothesline.

I got the first load of laundry in early and I was out by 10:00 AM.  OK, this may not sound early, but the sun doesn’t swing around to hit the clothesline until after 9:30, so it was just about right.  I ended up getting in three loads of laundry and hanging it all on the clothesline today.  The first and second loads were not a problem but by the third load I was running out of space.

We have one of those spider web type clotheslines, what they call an umbrella dryer.  I had to pull down some of the lightweight items that were dry from the first load both to create enough space and to provide the clothespins to hang everything.  We had waited all week–longer actually–to do laundry and we lucked out with the weather.  I just needed to puzzle out how to make room for everything for our family of four, including children who love mud.

Here is the basic set up:

Umbrella That Won't Work in the Rain

Umbrella That Won't Work in the Rain

The thing is, I love to use the clothesline.  It is meditative, I suppose, whatever one may think of that term.  I love the smell of wet clean clothes and the feel of sun and wind as I hang them.  I like to take the time outside to avoid using the dryer.  We have a dryer and we use it, but I am not a huge fan.

I like the clothesline because our clothes feel better when they have dried in the air.  I like it because our clothes last longer.  I don’t need to iron my shirts if I hang them out.  And best of all, we save energy.

Whenever I use the dryer (think January, cloudy, light snow, ten degrees) I have pangs at the electricity we use.  The clothesline gets the job done for free, with no air pollution and no wasted energy.  Is that a bargain or what?  My breakfast fuels the job, rather than Hydro Quebec’s dams or Vermont Yankee’s nuclear plant.  Seems smart to me.

I did spend some time today strategizing how to get it all done.  If the laundry stays out too late, the dew sets in and the drying gets negated.  I zipped out ten minutes before we planned to leave today (for a Halloween parade no less) to make sure I took down everything I could.  But in the end it all got dried, folded and put away for the next wearing.  I took the last pair of jeans down just before the sun ducked behind the trees.

I did wear mud boots to hang the shirts and towels and sheets.  The rain may have ended, but it left behind some saturated ground.  At one point I dropped a dish towel.  It was instantly muddy.  Now that’s a functional towel, I thought, if it can soak up moisture that quickly.  I held off on hanging that one.  It made its way back to the laundry bin.  It will have its day in the sun the next time.

Pie and Kites and Rain

So we had this fall/harvest/Halloween shindig this afternoon and it was a blast. I spent about four hours in the kitchen making soup and pie. The soup was pretty easy and relatively quick. The pie took a while but I managed to make two of them, apple of course.

The first pie was a recipe from a cookbook (or most of a recipe). It has cheddar cheese right in the crust and the usual truckload of butter, a dash of cinnamon, vanilla, sugar. I used mostly Macintosh apples but I also added a bit of Honey Crisp, since we had a few of those hanging around the house. It turned out well, as it has for me in the past.

I made the second apple pie with a crust recipe my mother gave me years ago. That crust contains vinegar. The pie was all Macs this time but I spiced it differently, with a little cinnamon but also with cardamom. It, as well, turned out to be a winner.

I made both crusts by hand, literally. Instead of using the food processor shortcut, as I often do, I worked the dough with my fingers. This makes a far better crust, even better than using one of those pastry cutter jobbers. These crusts, while different, were flaky and tasty. They held up but could be peeled apart. They were crispy and sweet. That worked for me.

Once the soup and pies were consumed and the children were rounded up and the conversations ended and the gang took off, I did what any party host does. I cleaned. But then my son suggested we go fly kites, so I dropped the sponge and headed outside.

The wind was blowing from the southeast and it was strong. We got a couple of kites in the air for a little while, but the wind was fickle. We had a few nosedives. Plus, it started to rain. As the rain fell harder and harder, the wind petered out more and more. I brought the kites inside to dry and we called it good. I hung them in the mudroom. One of them has a long tail, maybe fifteen feet, so I had to drape it over multiple hooks.

Now, after dark, the children tucked into bed, the rain falls hard. They fear the power failing. Before bed they asked if it would go out. What could I say but what I always say? “I don’t know,” I told them. They fell asleep anyway. They sleep to the sound of rain and wind. And I think about having another piece of pie.

Burning My Fingers

We are having a bunch of friends over tomorrow and i was planning to make them some soup.  I baked up a bunch of butternut squash, an hour and a quarter at 350 degrees, and let it sit for a while.  I thought it had cooled enough, but 350 degrees is pretty hot.  I toasted my fingertips.

I have done plenty of cooking.  I do most of the cooking in our house.  i try hard to come up with something wholesome and fresh and tasty, so we don’t end up eating reheated pasta with tater tots.  I have made soup a number of times this fall.  I have to use the pumpkins we grew.  This time I used something different.

I look forward to making soup tomorrow, but my fingertips are really sore.  In fact, typing this right now is uncomfortable.  What was I thinking?

Whatever.  Tomorrow I will whip up the soup.  And a couple of pies.  Crap, the oven is going to be busy all day.  So much for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.  Maybe it will balance out.  Local squash and apples instead of California squash and Washington apples.  A day of baking can’t pump out too much carbon compared to shipping food thousands of miles can it?

After a day of baking I am hoping my fingers will have cooled a bit.  I suppose even if they haven’t, some apple pie will distract me long enough to forget about it.

Mercury in the Morning

I rose early this morning.  I had to get out of the house to meet a group of students.  We are taking a trip down to the Rutland area to visit some colleges.  I had to get up in the dark.  This morning, that worked out well.

For the next few days, Mercury rises on the eastern horizon just before sunrise.  At 6:30 I could see it glowing just above the pale horizon.  It was the only celestial body I could see, with the exception of one star, just above it.  By 6:45 the sky was too bright for me to see it.  It is a fleeting planet, like the god after which it is named.

I have not seen Mercury much in my life, although I have tried to see it many times.  Seeing Mercury is one of those things to pursue throughout a lifetime, so I know I will have many chances to see it again.  I have thought for a long time of investing in a telescope, one powerful enough to the see the moons of Saturn.  One of these days I will splurge on that.

Perhaps tomorrow I will rise early enough again to spy the other red planet.  If I am lucky the clouds will have drifted off.  If I do not see it again, I will have a few days left to do so, and I am sure I will see other small wonders in any case.  That is the deal with rising early–there is always something wonderful to see.

First Snow

This morning was chilly.  It was a hard morning to get up.  The sky was gray and rain pattered against the windows, tossed by the north wind.  Leaves blew around the driveway or stuck to the side of the house.  It was dark when we needed to rise.  We all got up, however, and were eating our various breakfast items when we noticed it was snowing.

This was our first snow of the season.  We all had later schedules this morning so we had a family walk to the end of the driveway to meet the school bus.  The wind was strong and we were mostly dressed for the weather.  My wife likes to hang on to summer, so she wore a skirt and flip flops.  She did wear a knit hat with a hood, but she was a tad cold.

I carried an umbrella, which worked well on the way out.  The snow batted it as I held it over my shoulder.  On the way back to the house, however, the wind would have filled its bowl and sailed out of my hands if I held it the same way.  I carried it in front of me but gave up after a bit of semi-blind struggling and folded it up.

These first snows are some of the most beautiful.  They elate me with their gift of the change of seasons.  I always feel a sense of wonder and joy when the seasons change.  I anticipate all the things we have not done in months.  We will soon be carrying in wood and stoking the fire.  We will soon sled down our hill.  We will soon feel the contrast of warm home and cold outdoors.

They are also beautiful because the white snow covers the green grass and the remaining orange and red leaves.  The grass in the field stands tall with various browns and some lingering purple asters.  Once winter has settled in, the colors will be fewer and muted.  Gray will often predominate.  Today, however, the snow gave all the colors of fall new highlights.

The walk out to meet the school bus always offers a moment of reflection.  Today, as on so many other mornings, I had the chance to look around me.  I was with people I love, and realized, yet again, how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.  A beautiful day in a beautiful place with beautiful people.  Not a bad way to start the day.

Apple Tree

We inherited an old apple tree when we moved into this house.  The previous owner told us that it never bore fruit.  It blossomed each spring but no apples appeared.  The first fall we were here, a couple of years ago, I pruned that baby good.  I cut lots of wood from it and, behold, we had apples the next year.

We had a lot of apples this fall.  Too many, in fact.  I haven’t gotten the equipment to make applesauce or cider or to can what I might make.  Part of the challenge is that apples are Red Delicious.  They are tasty, but they do not ripen until October.  Maybe in September we will get a few, but we have a narrow window between ripe and hard frost to get to them.  It just doesn’t happen as well as I’d like.

Recently, I was listening to The Splendid Table, a program on Vermont Public Radio.  The hosts were talking about apples, since this is the season, and they dissed the Red Delicious.  Granted, I would agree with them if they were referring to the mushy and sort-of sweet Red Delicious that gets piled up in supermarkets and whose silhouette has become the symbol of appleness.  But the apples on our tree (once they finally get ripe) are way sweeter and juicier than those sad pretenders.  I was sorry to hear them put down a variety in its entirety.  Those fruitists!

We have a flock of wild turkeys that like to hang around here.  These days they can be found late in the day and early in the morning, those crepuscular hours when the light is muted, bobbing about under the apple tree, poking at the drops.  They have gotten a few meals there.  I don’t begrudge them, especially when they snack on the mealy ones taken over by worms.  They can have those.  Plus, those ugly drops keep them from flapping into the branches and taking the good ones.

I will take some time to prune the tree this fall or perhaps in the first days of spring.  We will get more apples next spring I am sure.  What I need to do is plant a couple more trees, give us some species variety, as well as an earlier crop.   It would be nice to count on having some apples in September.  And we should get our hands in a cider press, have a good old fashioned cider pressing party.

That would make those late apples, even the ones that might not offer their full flavor, well worth it.  I don’t care what reputation Red Delicious may have.