Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

As I made ready for Halloween, I couldn’t help but remember the years of taking my own little boy in search for candy.  JT loved Halloween when he was little and from August onward, he plotted each year’s costumes.  He was Peter Pan in kindergarten.

For first grade, he was a politically incorrect Indian, a costume he loved so much that he wore it around for the next two years, in the house but also at the grocery store, Home Depot, and Target.

The next year he was a black cat.

In third grade, he was an alien.

In fourth grade, he got in touch with his Scottish ancestry.

In fifth grade, baseball had taken hold of his soul.  That year, JT went out dressed as the Pandoval, from the San Francisco Giants.

In the sixth grade, his last year as a trick-or-treater, the boy dressed up as a St. Louis Cardinal.  His friend D was a variation of a gory dude, one of his favorite costumes over the years.  

Those days have passed and now it’s my job to admire the costumes of the children who are out and about.  T and I both enjoyed the kids who showed up on the porch.   There were plenty of princesses, musclemen, and undead.  We saw a handful of vampires and devils and a few Star Wars characters.  My favorite was the little boy dressed as a pumpkin.  No ghosts and only a few witches turned up this year.  As usual, I hassled the older boys who came out with no costumes.  But there was candy for everyone who stepped on the porch at Sassafras House.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I don’t watch a great deal of television but I love the sound of a baseball game.  From July to September, my evenings are often accompanied by the sound of a game on the television.  Between ESPN, the MLB channel, and the broadcast of my two local teams, I can usually listen to a game or two every day.  Sometimes I sit down to watch, but often I’m simply listening to the play as other tasks are completed.  

A June ball game is a whole different animal from a September game, when the stakes have begun to be significant.  In June, the games can feel leisurely, as teams find their pace and style of game.  There are sometimes amazing plays; just as often there is confusion in the field as the teams find their way.  Things have changed by October, when every game seems meaningful because most are important; games that will determine whether or not a team advances in the playoffs.  

Left to my own devices, I’m a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants.  Daughter of my father that I am, I’ve a soft spot for the Oakland As and I hate the Dodgers.  T is a Royals fan from way back, and of late they have been a fun team to watch, so I keep up with them.  My boss is a diehard Mets fan, as is JT’s baseball coach, and some of my 7th graders.  They are a local team and I can always watch or hear the broadcast, so I know that team well.  This year, Mets games have been such a treat that I’ve seen or heard nearly every game they’ve played since August.  

I’ve a Sunday night habit of turning on ESPN’s Sunday Night game.  That tradition is done for the season but for most Sundays since the regular season ended, there has been a playoff game to watch.  This past weekend, there was no baseball game to be heard on Sunday and my evening felt oddly quiet.  I realized that I’m staring down the tunnel of months without a baseball game to think about.  I’ll use football to fill the gaps, though my growing awareness of concussion injuries makes that game less fun.  Soon enough, college basketball will ramp up and I’ll have those games as the sound of my evenings.  But it’s baseball that I most enjoy.

In the meantime, there are at least a few games left in the World Series.  It’s a particular irony to me that the Series features the Royals and the Mets, two deserving teams that I like and know so well.  It’s a battle between tremendous pitching and scrappy hitting.  With two games in the books, the series is shaping up to be some very good baseball, the sort of struggle that fans can chew on for years to come:.  When it’s over, I’ll enter a long drought without baseball.  I’ll miss the sounds and feel of a baseball game in my days.  It won’t be long until I start counting the days until pitchers and catchers report.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Walk in the Woods

Last Friday, I had a dentist appointment to finish the new crown on my tooth (so, yes, royalty now).  My car needed a tuneup and oil change and I was scheduled to work a school event for half the day on Saturday, so I took the whole day off.  After the crown on my tooth was complete, I made a trip to a Hacklebarney State Park to walk the trails and enjoy the Fall air.

In the minds of folks who don’t live in New Jersey, it's a state of turnpikes, traffic, and smokestacks.  It’s a shame that’s our public face, because this state has also has acres of history and lovely woods to enjoy.

Of course, I brought a book to read and found a bench for a nice break.

The sky was the clear and shaded the vivid blue that we often experience in the month of October.

Many leaves had already made their way to the ground.

Still other trees were nowhere near done with their Fall chores.

There is a lovely light to fall days like these and this one was a welcome respite in a very busy time of year.  That’s happy!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dogwood Monday

Though there are plenty of trees in my neighborhood still dressed in green, the dogwood is showing off.  

I’m always surprised at how quickly a tree makes the transition to its fall colors.  Old man tree has also gotten in on the act.

I expect that within the next few weeks, a windy day will send all of these leaves to the ground.  So I’ll enjoy the color while it lasts.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gratitude is a Verb

On Saturday, my school organized for a morning of school-wide community service.  The day started at 7:30 am and ended by early afternoon.  I volunteered to help out, but it must be said that I was there out of duty, not in the spirit of willingness.  I’m ashamed to admit that now, but it’s the truth: I resented not being able to sleep in and spend my Saturday morning as I please.

With a fellow faculty member and six students, I helped to make 180 bag lunches to be distributed by Elijah’s Promise, a local organization that provides food and services to a population of people in need.  In addition to the lunches, we made 300 packets of silverware to be used by the food bank for their annual Thanksgiving feast.

In a little less over three hours, the eight of us put together meals that will feed hungry people in need of a meal.  

I hope that the food is a reminder that someone cares.  Heaven knows that the effort reminded of all the things for which I should be grateful:  my world with plenty to eat, an abundance of people to love, and a warm, safe home.  Mine is a world of privilege and yesterday I had a much-needed reminder of all the ways I should be grateful.   Not a bad way to spend a few hours of my time.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fall Chores

We’ve had a lovely Fall, with warm and sunny days that have enabled me to successfully pretend that Winter is far away.  Though I switched quilts and added a blanket to my bed, I’ve mostly denied the end of Summer.  Flip flops still litter the floor of my bedroom.  I’ve not yet filled my closet with cool weather clothes, instead grabbing a few cardigans as a hedge against the early morning chill.  But it’s clear that this arrangement can’t last.  Last weekend was unseasonably cold and it’s now impossible to deny that the Summer season is over.  I started some of my Fall chores, including what I anticipate will be the final mowing of the grass.  The front yard looks lovely.

There are signs of Fall everywhere, from the fading leaves of the peony to the rhododendrons getting ready for Winter.

In the backyard, old man tree is well on his way to changing colors.

When I ran the mower over the grass, I mulched the leaves that had fallen.  But it’s clear that plenty more will fall in the days ahead.  

The fairies in my fairy garden have snuck back through their secret door for the Winter, though I’m already making plans to expand the fairy neighborhood come Spring.

JT is looking forward to snow and I expect that when the flakes begin to fall, I will enjoy the view of the backyard, as I always do.  The older I get, the faster the seasons of the year seem to pass by.  I suppose that’s the pace of life and by now I know there's no point is resisting the passage of time.  So I don'r resist, but I certainly do pause to appreciate the pleasures each season affords.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Adventures in Home Repair: Flushed with Success edition

On Sunday evening, as the weekend was coming to a close, JT announced that the upstairs toilet no longer flushed.  The handle had broken off the lever inside the toilet, resulting in cracked plastic arm and a failing flush mechanism.  This is generally an easy thing to repair but not at 9 pm on a Sunday.  I removed the toilet lid and announced that we would gently use the cracked arm to flush the toilet, a reasonable plan until I could find time to get to Home Depot and secure the supplies to repair the toilet.

On Monday and Tuesday, I watched toilet repair videos on You Tube and got a plan.  It still involved weekend repair of the toilet because weekdays are already busy around here.  But on Tuesday, the gentle giant who shares the bathroom with me broke the plastic arm off while flushing the toilet.  

I was annoyed and rather than wait for the weekend, I made an 8 pm run to Home Depot.  Thanks to the toilet repair videos, I was feeling knowledgable about what needed to be done.


The first toilet repair kit had a bolt I could not remove, despite instructions on the package ordering me to do just that.  It was now nearly 9 pm and to say that I was enraged is to understate the situation.  I emphatically do not enjoy being unable to solve a problem.  JT backed away from me; T offered to come over and effect the repair.  The cats steered clear. 

My first toilet repair plan was flushed away.

On Wednesday, I made a second trip to Home Depot, returned the poor functioning toilet repair kit, and selected a new repair kit.  This one was a success.

We are once again in business and as for me, well, I’m flushed by my success.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dogwood Monday

When the dogwood tree has its collection of shiny red berries, that’s a sure sign that we’re approaching peak leaf season.  

The colors on the tree are lovely. 

Just as the dogwood is my early herald of Spring, it makes the Fall seasonal transition earlier than the rest of the yard.

In this way, I am given an early reminder of the charms of the season and a chance to appreciate the change in the air.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Addiction Secure

Friday evening, T brought me a new coffee grinder, the treatment for Thursday's disaster.  In doing so, she has secured the gratitude of everyone who must deal with me today.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two is One and One is None

I am a serious coffee drinker.  On most mornings, I will drink four cups of coffee; it’s not unknown for me to pour as many as six.  The routine (and let’s face it, the caffeine) are a jump start to my days.  I take my coffee seriously. 

Each evening, I set out my coffee cup and the creamer of choice, ready soldiers for my day.  Then I grind my coffee beans and set the timer on my coffee pot so that there will be fresh-brewed coffee when I slink downstairs in the early morning.

A few months ago, my coffee bean grinder seemed about to give up the ghost.  T offered to buy me a new one but I demurred and (miraculously), the grinder recovered.  On Wednesday evening, the grinder didn’t work.  I checked the blade, re-seated it in the bin and it worked again.  I made a mental note that a replacement grinder is in order and then I went to bed.  Thursday morning, there was coffee for me to enjoy and I promptly forgot my grinder-troubles.

In hindsight, that was an error.  Thursday evening, I poured coffee beans into the grinder cup, set the lid on, pushed the button and heard a less than robust motor sound.  I removed the lid and had a look.  Uh-oh.

I tried to work the same magic that had paid off on Wednesday night.  The grinder motor ran, but the blade wasn’t turning.  I took out the beans, removed the cup and had a look.  The bolt that runs the grinder blade was stripped.

Game over.

I attempted to use my immersion blender to grind the beans.  This was not a success.

T, informed of my plight, offered up the suggestion that when I hit the store for a new grinder, I secure two.  Her justification?  The old military and disaster-preparedness motto:  Two is one and one is none.  Last night, that seemed like a bit of overkill.

This morning, with my empty coffee cup, it seems like a sensible plan.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pretty Packages

I had some birthday packages to wrap last weekend.  That means an excuse to delve into my supply of wrapping paper, ribbons, and tags.

That’s happy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dogwood Monday: October 12

The fall seems determined to be lovely.  There are sunny days with temps in the lows 70s and near-perfect nighttime sleeping weather.  I know that cold weather is on the horizon and days like this seem like borrowed time.  The morning light that shines on my dogwood tree looks to confirm my view.

Old man tree is also changing color, though at a slower pace.  The rest of the backyard is holding on to the green leaves just a little bit longer.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Me, in Peanuts Form

If you haven't yet had a look at the website that allows you to make a Peanuts drawing of yourself, then I highly recommend it.  You can find it here.  I made one of me, Sassafras Mama in Peanuts form.

Then I did it a second time, in the event that I opt to wear my contact lenses.

I could do this for hours, though strictly speaking I am not nearly as glamorous as the Peanuts girls......

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Embracing October

The September weather was so pleasantly warm that I decided to leave the front porch decked out in its summer finery.  But October has most certainly arrived.  The air conditioning is off, nights are cool, Halloween is on the horizon and it’s time for some fall colors on the front porch.  On the last weekend in September, T bought me some pumpkins.  This past weekend, I got some mums.  JT helped me to swap out the plants and the flag.  Saying goodbye to these lovely double begonias wasn’t easy, so they went to the back deck to soak up the last of the sun.

The front porch table has my vintage Halloween tablecloth and a collection of Halloween decorations.

I really love the little pumpkin add-ons that I scored from Plow and Hearth.  Up close, they are charming.

There’s a Halloween flag and a sign that suggests trouble behind the front door.

I've hung a string of cafe lights and set a timer to to turn them on.  Now they will welcome us if the sun sets before we get home.

It’s all come together quite nicely, I think.  I may even find a few warm days for sitting outside.

After all, there's room for a book and a warm mug of tea on that table by the rocking chair.