Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm Ready For Those Spooks!

Last year I thought I was ready for Halloween night.  I had purchased 150 treats and thought that was a bit overkill.  Unbelievably, those little spooks just kept coming, and after 150 Halloweeners, sadly I had to turn out the light and shut the door.

So, this year I'm ready.  I have two cartons full of snack packs of the best pretzels in the entire world.  (Yes, this is my family's pretzel company, of course.)  I'm ready for 216 Trick or Treaters.  Bring 'em.

Some folks may say giving pretzels instead of candy is a lame idea, but when I've done it before most parents seem gushingly grateful.  In some years I have given candy, in others I gave pretzels.  And one odd year I gave out small containers of play dough.

Note to self:  Remember that if you buy candy, it may not make it to Halloween night, and then you will have to go out at the last minute and buy more.

I recently read in the October 2013 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine that the shocking amount Americans spend on Halloween - $8 billion - is second only to Christmas in holiday outlay.  That's an eight with lots of zeros, or  $8,000,000,000 to be exact.  The typical family spends $80 for decorations, costumes, and candy.  I had no idea.

I should have expected this, though, just from noticing how elaborate yard decorations have become.  Driving through a thoroughly decorated neighborhood one evening, I remember asking myself if Halloween had now become as big a deal as Christmas.

And not only that, it seems that Halloween costumes and decorations just keep getting scarier and scarier.

Speaking of "scary,"  I came across a website, The Accuracy Project, that lists many names of towns having scary Halloween-related names.  Here are just a few that caught my eye:

Frankenstein, Osage County, Missouri
Bat Cave, Henderson County, North Carolina
15 places in the U.S. are called Pumpkin Center
Screamer, Henry County, Alabama
Transylvania, East Carroll Parish, Louisiana
Slaughter, kent County, Delaware
Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona
Skullbone, Gibson County, Tennessee
Spook City, Saguache County, Colorado

Some people are tired of the scary, dangerous aspects of this holiday.  A growing number of communities and churches are skipping house calls and instead, providing trunk-or-treating, where families park decorated cars in one neighborhood or church parking lot and pass out candy from the trunks of the cars.  In some ways it is like a festive tailgate party.

Last year our church held one of these Trunk-or-Treat events, with church members donating the candy and the young adults group dressed in non-scary costumes that kids would recognize.  A whopping 650 kids came Trunk-or-Treating.  It was a great outreach effort by the church, and a safe and fun evening for the kids and families.

Son Caleb,

transformed himself into the old man from the movie "Up" for the event.  He stationed his geriatric self near one of the trunks and helped hand out candy.  Many of the young kids who had seen the movie thought he was the real deal.

Up movie costume

Soon the doorbell will be ringing.  Trick or Treat hours in my town are 6:00 to 9:00 PM tonight.  I'd better go get into position.

However you celebrate, stay safe, stay warm, and have fun.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our Rustic Cabin

I have come down off the mountain and returned again to civilization, following a restful long weekend up there.

Just in time for the Halloween festivities.

And, with just enough time to wash the clothing and repack for another long weekend up there.

Although I come and go a lot, one wouldn't exactly call me a jetsetter.  It's not as if our digs up there in the woods are ultra-glamorous or anything.  In fact, they are fairly rustic.  And actually, most people would feel that our little place up there on the mountaintop is just too primitive for their liking.

However, I've been going there for weekends and vacations for the last fifty years or so, and I've grown to love the place.   I have so many fond memories of adventures that happened there when I was a child, and since then when I take my own children and grandchildren.

Many people have asked me what it's like up there where we go so often, as it's a fairly private place, waaaaaaaay back into the woods.

Since I've shown exterior photos before, this time I'll show a smattering of quirky photos from inside the cabin - things that have been there as long almost as I can remember, things that are part of the personality of the place.

Here is our custom propane hot water heater, installed in the corner of the kitchen.  It is so efficient that it even heats the entire kitchen.  We use the hot water heater when baths are needed or mountains of dishes needing to be washed.  The little glass tube on the upper right side is an indicator to show us the water level.  I wish I had a photo of the rudimentary hot water heater that preceded this one.

Since there is no electricity to our cabin, everything is powered by propane - propane lights, water heater, stove, and refrigerator.  In addition to light, these propane lights give off a lot of heat.

We have simple plumbing.  A pump at the sink, some water lines running into the bathroom, and a flushable toilet.  Usually it's flushable, unless the water in the spring is low.  Then we have to dump a bucket of water in the toilet bowl to force flush it.  We always keep two buckets filled with water near the toilet for this purpose.

Although some of the roads on the property have been upgraded recently, in general a four wheel drive vehicle is necessary to get around.  Here is a very old map of some of the roads:

If a room or rooms aren't being used, we generally keep them closed off in order to preserve the heat in the other rooms.  This is an old heavily used door stop:

Being located in such a remote place, we are all keenly attuned to safety in every way.  Wearing orange during any hunting season is a must, whether we are hunting or not.  Even our puppy has a wide hunters' orange collar.

A plaque hanging by the front door pretty much sums up all our feelings.

No electricity means no exterior illumination.  Notice the "porch light" hanging there right inside the front door.

My father made these two toy guns for my two brothers and I when we were very young children.

Even way back then, he began instilling in us the importance of handling weapons safely.  He didn't necessarily care if we were to become hunters or not;  he just wanted us to be proficient in handling firearms and to be safe.  To the best of my calculations these toy guns are over fifty years old.

Being so far into the woods, once in a while a mouse thinks it's OK to get into our cabin.  Although we keep mouse traps set just in case, we also developed a way to keep our food pantry mouse proof.  Because the wooden doors had somewhat warped over the years, we installed tighteners at the top and bottom.

Since we've put the tighteners on, no mouse has gotten into our food stocks.  We can go for years without any evidence of mice, then one stinker gets in and we have to trap the mouse, and find and seal the entrance crack.

Since we are so far from civilization, in case of a fire, we are on our own.  These three large fire extinguishers are always kept in an easy to reach spot.

I realize that this sort of rustic getaway may not appeal to everybody, but it has suited our family well.

No, we are not all hunters.  In fact, only one family member still actively traps and hunts.  The rest of us are just generally lovers of nature and the outdoors.

We are just blessed to have a place to gather and enjoy each other, and one certainly can't put a price on that.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Child's Trick or Treat Prayer

Dear God,

I'm contacting you two whole days before THE BIG NIGHT, just so you will have plenty of time to remind the neighbors and other grownups to be all good and ready when we come trick or treating.

Now God, can you please speak very loud and clear to them so they get it right this year when we come and ring their doorbells.  As you know, last year they didn't hear you exactly right, and well, you know what that means.

In case you have forgotten, God, I would like to remind you of all the important details, so that you can remind them, so that we can get as much candy as possible have a very fun time trick or treating this year.

First God, let's talk about this business of handing out apples, or even oranges.  My parents have told me scary stories about bad people years ago putting razor blades in apples and then giving them to small children.  Perhaps you should just nix in every adult's mind the thought of even putting a piece of fruit into the bag.  I know fruit is healthy and all, but don't you think it's just not worth the risk?

And another thing God, how about those neighbors who always put out a big bowl of pennies, and believe kids will act on the honor system and just take a few?  I know those bigger kids go and just take them all, and somehow they always manage to get there before me.  They don't know the meaning of SHARE.  So God, could you arrange it on Halloween night so that those big boys have a late dinner, so I can get some pennies for a change?

And God, could you please work it out so none of our neighbors gets it in his head to hand out those gross popcorn balls.  Especially not the store bought ones, but really not any of them.  Nobody wants them.  You can't even trade ten of them for one good item, they're that bad.

Oh, and along with the popcorn balls, can you eliminate those nasty packs of cheese crackers?  Those are meant for old people to put in their lunch boxes.

Now God, in case you've forgotten, let me remind you what works best, so the neighbors can enjoy themselves the most by making us trick or treaters the happiest.  It boils down to this:

Reese's peanut butter cups
Twizzlers, red and brown are best
Milky Way candy bars, the larger size
Packages of swedish fish, the large packs not the small ones, but either the large fish or the small ones are fine
Kit Kats, the larger size
Skittles, but definitely not those mini boxes
M & M's, plain or peanut are fine
Good and Plenty's, the large box

Between you and me, God, I think this is gonna be a great Halloween.  Especially if you do the reminding, which I am pretty sure you will do, since you love me so much.

Thanks for all your help, and I look forward to getting so so so much candy  enjoying the holiday with my buddies.

Your wonderful little friend,
me (you know who)

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Gal's Thoughts Are All Over the Place

Yeah.  Today I'm just full of loads of random stuff.  Grandkids, puppies, travels.  You name it, I was probably layin' awake last night thinking of it.

And so now I'm gonna torment you share with you some of what's rattling around this brain on this fun Friday.

1.  Now, in addition to washi tape, I'm becoming obsessed with those tiny little libraries that are popping up all over.  First I read about them in a magazine, and then just a few days later I saw one in a nearby town.

Then, days after that, I saw two of them, right here in my own town, installed in front of a local church.

Here's a closer view, in case you've never seen one of them:

These tiny take-a-book-give-a-book libraries have spread the written word from Utah to Uganda.  I'm a voracious reader and I completely support literacy efforts of any sort, so that's why these little book boxes intrigue me.

In fact, I think I've decided that I MUST have one of these mini free libraries, and I want it right out front of my house.  Isn't this one beautiful?  Wouldn't it go nicely on the corner of my cedar fencing?

For more information, or to see other tiny libraries, go to the Little Free Library website.

2.  Son Caleb, who has a job as a fitness coach (see his fitness transformation and website here), sometimes has trouble with healthy portion control.  Especially when eating pretzels.

3.  Daughter Lindsay is an amazing hair stylist.  Isn't granddaughter Ellie looking so sweet with this unique hairstyle?  I love her to pieces.

4.  I learned this piece of trivia recently:  The first known manicures were done about 4000 years ago.  The practice began in Babylonia with tools made from gold.

I've decided to STOP getting manicures.  I call it "Financial Practicing for Retirement."

5.  I'm heading up into the mountains again, spending time with some family members relaxing in the family cabin.  Hopefully there will be lots of good books, a crackling fireplace, and plenty of good food.  Lord knows I've got enough of it packed to go,

and you're not even seeing the filled coolers.  We just might starve.

Puppy Sheila has her belongings ready to go too.  Last time her master Caleb packed a bit light on her puppy chow.  She loves to go up into the mountains.  Eat sticks, run around in the dry leaves, sniff bear poo.  It doesn't get any better than that.

6.  Today was picture day for the second graders at the elementary school.  Here are grandtwins Tori and Brianna, looking quite spiffy for the occasion.  Let's just hope pictures happen BEFORE recess.

So off I go.  I need to package up my scattered thoughts, oh, and the refrigerated foods, too.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tom Hanks Does It Again

Usually I have an objection to paying the prices they want nowadays to see a movie in the theater.  Real objection.  For just a bit more than the price of two or three movie tickets, you can just wait and rent or buy the movie when it comes out on DVD.

However, that being said, I paid twice in the last four days to see movies in the theater, and I don't regret the money spent because the experiences were both awesome.

First I saw the space movie, "Gravity," in an Imax theater in 3-D.  You can read my brief review of that movie in this post.

I had also been reading some favorable reviews of the movie "Captain Phillips," so somehow we headed out again for the theater last night.  (Because of our extravagant expenditure, I'll be eating grass for the next week.)

It's not rocket science to understand that if Tom Hanks stars in a movie, it is most likely a winner.  And once again, he did a spectacular job.  It is highly likely that he could receive an Academy Award for his performance in just the last five minutes of the film.

The MV Maersk Alabama is a cargo ship on east African routes.  It has been subjected to several attempted pirate attacks and hijackings, most notably in April 2009, when Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage.

The movie "Captain Phillips" is the gripping account of that event.  It gives a glimpse into the lacking income-making opportunities available to ordinary Somolian people in a war torn, poor land.

Some movie reviewers claim that the point of "Captain Phillips" is to highlight the awesome performance of the US Navy in the resolution of this conflict.  

Confident sharpshooting marksmen aim at the pirates through the windows of their lifeboat.  Hi-tech intelligence agents shock the hijackers by addressing them by their full names.  Frogmen leap out of their planes, drifting with their parachutes under the stealth of night towards the lifeboat.

Simply put, the US Navy takes care of business.  Swiftly, intelligently, and completely.

If you like flicks that keep you on the edge of your seat, and if you don't mind snacking on fingernails, this is the movie for you.  

What were those pirates thinking, anyway?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mammogram Concerns and Some Halloween Decor

Yesterday I wrote about how I went and had my yearly mammogram.  Then, this morning the phone rang, and it was THAT call.  That dreaded call when the doctor told me, "Your mammogram is abnormal.  There is an area of concern.  Please come back for further testing."

To quickly condense what happened after a long day of wondering and waiting, hoping and praying for the best, I returned for more tests.  After a brief wait while the radiologist read the tests, I was pronounced free of cancer, and directed to come back in one year to do it all again.

For me, it seems that approximately every other year I get an abnormal result.  Then there are more pictures, ultrasounds, poking, prodding, needles, biopsies, and lots of worry.  However, every time I've been dismissed at the end of it, labeled cancer free.

And that's the bottom line.

I wanted to keep myself busy today while waiting for those additional tests, and so I got out my box of Halloween decorations and spread them all around.

I keep a pretty light-hearted take on Halloween, nothing too gory or scary.  I recently read a Facebook comment from a woman who walked past a home with Halloween decor involving two bodies in the driveway.  Blood and gore was spread all around making it look as if one person was run over and the other was smashed under the garage door.

To me, this is just way over the line of what's acceptable.  Imagine a young child seeing that display and being upset for a very long time.  It's just wrong.

So back to my little bit of decorating.  Of course there are plenty of fabric pumpkins all around now.

Our puppy, Sheila, particularly loves to bite and carry around that small orange one there on the end table.

Now to the mantle.

I have a variety of items I use up there, including three characters in their own "Halloween Parade."

Some painted wooden blocks:

A tiny spooky decorated tree:

To finish the mantle display, I scattered small black tea lights throughout the display that have orange "flames."

Finally, I put a friendly scarecrow greeter on our front door.  All that decorating kept me pretty much occupied until I went in for those nasty tests.

For me, staying busy helps me to worry less.  As it turned out, I needn't have worried at all.

Easier said than done.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boobs Everywhere

Yes, there's boobs, brassieres, and pink stuff, everywhere I turn these days.

Apparently October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many businesses and individuals are showing that they are AWARE.

On the main street in my little town, there is an abundance of pink displays, all bringing attention to keeping the boobs healthy.

Years ago you didn't hear people talk about boobs.  Oh maybe, if your female posse was having a girls night or a pajama party, the subject of boobs might come up, along with plenty of self conscious giggling.

Local hotel pink decor
Nowadays, discussions and displays regarding boobs are commonplace.

And so, I'm just gonna go ahead and talk about boobs.  My boobs, others' boobs.

Breast cancer is no stranger to my family.  My grandmother had a double mastectomy, due to lumps and cancer.  My mother-in-law and my husband's sister both had treatment for cancerous lumps.  My brother's wife is mounting a valiant fight against breast cancer as I write this post.  I myself have had suspicious lumps biopsied.

There is probably not a person out there that hasn't been affected in some way by breast cancer - either by experiencing it first hand or having a loved one who has.  It is a good thing that the awareness of this disease is increasing, and likewise its preventions and treatments.

In fact, as I walked in our downtown area the other day, I couldn't help but notice this "advertisement" for Breast Cancer Awareness:

Not only that, one of those lower hanging brassieres nearly snagged me by the nose as I walked by.

Ironically, my yearly date with torture mammogram appointment was scheduled for yesterday - right smack dab in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  How appropriate.

So I went and did the deed.

Getting a mammogram is never pleasant, and usually is downright painful for me.  However, I do what I need to do, every year, because I'm convinced it's right to do so.  Studies have shown that getting regular mammograms can possibly catch cancer before it is too far gone, enabling a plan of treatment and hopefully cure.

Notice I wrote the word "can."  I also know of numerous cases of cancer that mammograms didn't detect.

Even the waiting room at the hospital where I get my annual mammograms was decorated with boobs for the month of October:

Waiting for the test in a hospital waiting room, wearing nothing but a flimsy hospital gown that doesn't quite tie shut enough over the body parts it needs to cover is stressful enough.  However, this little busty pumpkin gave me a chuckle while I waited.

Four times my boobs were smashed flat as pancakes  digital photos were taken, and then I was on my way headed back home.

Now I wait for the phone call that more tests are needed, or the "see you back in one year" letter.  Of course, I, like every other woman, hopes it's the latter.

The husband/lover/bringer of great comfort met me after I got home with this in hand:

What a guy!  Every year he encourages me to go and get the test.  And every year he brings me flowers afterwards and takes me out to dinner.

I'm a lucky gal, whatever the test results may be.