Pumpkins and spice…

Well, good morning, Autumn.  I see Mother Nature has released you from your cage and allowed you to bless us with your presence.  Has she finally forgiven us for whatever transgressions we unknowingly committed against her?  Or has someone at last taken my advise and supplied her with an endless stream of chocolate?

I bet it was the chocolate.  That always fixes what ails me.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, the reason for her reversal of favor doesn’t matter much, just that you have finally arrived.

And so here we find ourselves in mid-October, in the Lone Star State, with our first noticeable cold front of the season, sweeping down from the Rockies.  The air is cool, crisp and refreshing – the endless brutality of the scorching summer just a distant bad memory.  Everywhere you look, fall festivities are in full swing – haunted houses, pumpkin patches, the State Fair.  It is truly the best time of the year.

Now, I must admit that I’m not real big on the fair.  I understand the draw for people who like that sort of thing, but I don’t find it overly enjoyable.  It’s crowded, expensive and well – did I mention expensive?  The pumpkin patch, on the other hand, is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  The price is right, there’s always fresh kettle corn and who doesn’t dig a good old fashion hay ride? The homey, festive feel of these little tracts of land covered in endless rows of pumpkins, hay bales and corn husks never fail to fill me with the spirit of the season.

The year is filled with lots of holidays – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year.  I don’t get excited about any of them.  My least favorite – Christmas.  I’ve been told that I am a bit of a Scrooge McDuck.  I’ll own it.  I would rather spend Christmas on a remote tropical island sipping fruity, frozen cocktails and watching dolphins frolic in the surf.

What?

Don’t you judge me.

I’m not the first person to think Christmas is a royal pain in the ass.  There I said it.  Christmas is painful – from the blood baths at the mall, to the marathon baking, to the cluttered tree trimming, to the infuriating debate over the origins of the holiday.  By New Year’s Day, the overwhelming pressure of it all turns me into a twitchy basket case, in desperate need of a very big glass of tequila.

In spite of my holiday loathing, I love Halloween.

In stark contrast, Halloween is carefree and simple.  It’s all about fantasy and fun.  Caramel apples and pumpkin spiced lattes. Jack-o-lanterns and spooky stories of headless horsemen.  Costumes and pillowcases full of sweet treats.   The best part – no one demands a damn thing from me.

What’s not to love about that?

Unfortunately, fall will give way to winter.  All too soon I will be consumed with hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, elbow deep in cookie dough and gift wrap.  I will curse the traffic, the shoppers, and anyone else who gets in my way and dream of a beach far, far away.  One with fruity, frozen drinks and frolicking dolphins.

For now, though, in the calm before the storm, I am going sit here in my favorite sweatshirt, sipping a warm pumpkin spice latte, and just relish in the feel of fall.

Things I Learned This Week (September 10 – September 16)

I learned this week:

…that my daughter has kicked “Georgie” to the curb.  She took exception to his giving out her phone number without her permission.  “I gave him two chances, Mom.  He’s not getting a third.”  Good girl.  Of course, it came out during casual dinner conversation that his offenses were far greater than just mishandling her private telephone number.  He was two timing her with a 13-year-old.  “I saw them together, Mom.”  Little bastard.  Good riddance.

…that I am getting the hang of this whole elliptical thing.  45 minutes/4.8 miles total.  Lots of calories burned.  I love it when I burn calories and sweat – a lot.  I think my loyalties are waning.

Suzy Allman for the New York Times

…that speaking of loyalties – I have been a Roger Federer fan for years.  Seriously, since he burst onto the scene and became a nagging thorn in Pete Sampras’ side.  However, during the last couple of tennis seasons, I’ve watched while my champion has slowly lost his mojo.  I am disturbed by this because, if he is on his way out, who will be worth of my unwavering devotion?  Nadal?  Egads, no.  There is just something about him that makes me want to box his ears and tell him to stop digging his undies out of his butt crack before every serve.  It’s so….ew.  I didn’t get to watch much of the US Open this year, but I did catch the semis and of course, both the men’s and women’s finals.  I watched the men’s final – well, in two parts.  I was glued to the first two sets, but was forced to drag myself away from it to take Megan to gymnastics.  When I returned an hour or so later, they were still battling it out.  It was a fierce game  – almost as exciting as the 2009 Federer/Roddick  epic Wimbledon final.  Almost.  In the end, Djorkovic dominated Nadal.  I think I may have found my new champion.

…that I was right about Mother Nature’s vindictive side.  Just when we thought we were making a clean break into fall, she zapped us with a few more days of scorching temperature.  I think we’ve been properly chastised, don’t you?  I mean, who are we to think that we are anything more than mere pawns on the board of whatever sick game she is playing?   Let’s hope that the 107* record high on Tuesday was her last little jab at us.  I think it’s time for her to move on and torture someone else for a while.  Perhaps our neighbors to the far north?  I think they are due for a little snow right about now.

…that two people died as the result of a fire on board a cruise ship off the coast of Norway.  First, let me say:  What the heck is going on in Norway?  They seem to be in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way.  Second:  This is one of those “I told you so” moments.  I have come a long way in conquering my fear of boats, but I have steadfastly maintained that nothing – and I mean nothing – would ever possess me to step one foot on board a cruise ship.  Ever.  Not even in the pursuit of personal growth.  I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.  If you would like to read more about this story, you can do so [here].

Justin Lane/Pool via EPA

…that even after ten years and numerous remembrance ceremonies, the footage of 9/11 still breaks my heart and makes me cry.  In a very unpatriotic move, I didn’t watch anything but tennis this past weekend.  I just couldn’t do it.  I feel selfish. 

…that the Iliad was not as difficult or as boring as I remember.   Who knew?  Oedipus Rex is wonderfully tragic and chock full of irony.  I love irony. 

…that caterpillars possess a gene that makes them vulnerable to a certain virus.  What makes this interesting enough for the old Friday blog, you ask?  This virus takes over of the caterpillar’s brain and turns it into a freaking zombie!  Under the control of this virus, the caterpillar climbs to the top branches of a tree, where it is then liquified.  As the oozy remains of the caterpillar rain down from the tree tops, the virus is spread, thereby ensuring its longevity.  Ingenius…but what I want to know is, if it is this evolved now, how long before it mutates and we find ourselves with a real life zombie crisis on our hands?  Quick!  Somebody send me the rules for surviving a zombie attack.  You can read about these caterpillars [here].

…that there are people out there who think Do-it-Yourself botox is a good deal.  And a good idea.  Okay, I can’t even wax my upper lip without taking off my chunks of skin and breaking out in a nasty rash.  Why would anyone attempt to paralyze the muscles of their face with an injectable toxin all by themselves.  Is this stupidity at work or the desperation of a society dying to be what the media and Hollywood have defined as youthful and beautiful.

…and this weeks awww moment:

Anatoly Strakhov/Caters News Agency

Tell me, how on earth could any mother walk away from that face? 

Fall Fever

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.   ~John Donne

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.   ~ Emily Bronte

After such a brutal summer here in North Texas, and really, most of the country, we’ve been granted a slight reprieve.  I am sure it will be short-lived. Mother Nature is a fickle bitch.  She would never let us glide into fall without throwing an obstacle or two in our path.  Something to let us know how unworthy of her time we are.  Or perhaps it is her way of keeping us humble and appreciative of her gifts, however scarce they may be.  Whatever, the case, the taste of cooler temperatures have left us – at least me – craving more.   I refer to this insatiable yearning as Fall Fever. 

If I had to pick a season to be my favorite, it would be fall.  There is something about the air, the smells, the sights, that fill me up with all sorts of things.  Things I couldn’t begin to explain.  I feel my most creative during this time, almost like I’ve been reborn.  A strange notion, I know, given that most everything is in a downward cycle.  Trees are going dormant, annuals are shedding the last of their colorful blooms, birds are flocking to warmer shores.  Soon the first arctic blast will come barreling across the plains, rush in uninvited, and leave the landscape barren.  But until then, I am ready for the magic of autumn. 

I’m not a holiday person. 

Show of hands. Who’s shocked by this?  I didn’t think so. 

My distain for Christmas has earned me the title of Scrooge by many a brave person.  I’ll own that.  It doesn’t bother me, in the least.  I think Christmas is an over-commercialized holiday, shoved down our throats under the guise of being something holy.  I could go into a whole history lesson here, but I will refrain.  It will only piss you off and make me feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.  Who needs that?  Certainly, not me. 

Fall is different.  Fall is all about Halloween and the harvest.  It’s a time of fun and frolic.  Apples, pumpkins, and spice.  Ghouls and goblins.  There is no pressure, just good clean fun.  Soon front yard haunted houses will take shape and pumpkin patches will begin to pop up, here and there.  For some, the State Fair is the event which ushers in the season.  I don’t go to the fair, if I can help it.  It’s one of those things on my list that I’ve done, didn’t enjoy, and will try to avoid at all costs.     

However, I do enjoy a good pumpkin patch with all the fixings.  To me, those are the reason for the season.  On October 1st every year, along FM 1171, the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch opens its gates and allows us onto their quaint and festive property.  There is kettle corn, face painting, a maze, a huge haystack, a hay ride and pumpkins – as far as the eye can see  – lots and lots of pumpkins.  Big ones, small ones, and every size in between.  I love it.  Pumpkins make me smile.  Indeed, a  gourd near and dear to my heart.

Cody, Cory, and Megan

I’ve spent many lazy Sunday afternoons at this particular pumpkin patch.  Usually with Megan and the nephews in tow.  We always have a blast.  The price is always right and they never fail to pick me out the best pumpkins in the place.  

My nephews won’t be here this year, but I plan to spend at least one Sunday in October there.  Hopefully, on a crisp day, with just enough breeze that I have to wear a sweater.   Megan and I will traipse through the dry grass and scan the rows of pumpkins, looking for just the right ones.  Pumpkin choosing is serious business.  After all, they are to sit in sentry at the front entrance .  Devotedly keeping watch as the ghouls and goblins darken my door, in search of candy and treats.  They have an important job, indeed.

A thankless job, however, for as November dawns, they will be forgotten – left to rot on the front porch.  Or worse yet, become a victim of the pumpkin kidnappers and murder in the streets. 

Ahhh…fall.  It is the most wonderful time of the year.

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge