Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween


There's a chill in the air when the sun sets down
to rest his head this night.
From the west comes the sound of a thousand souls
bringing with them ghoulish delight.

Over there, what's that!
Why it's only the cat,
named Oliver, he's black you see.

If he crosses your path,
you should probably retract
your paces and run home to be

safe in the arms
of your home without harm
from the beasties that bump 'cross the land.

For on Halloween night,
under full moon's light,
all souls once more take a stand.

Happy haunting!
Jen
PS: The image above is from one of my favorite movies, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. If you're staying home this Halloween night, why not cozy up to the telly for some good old fashioned spooky fun :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trick or Treat

The house is lit in orange and gold, the smell of pumpkin spice permeates the air. I walk from room to room, lighting candles, checking windows. It's cold out and I don't want a rogue draft to tip toe in and chill. In the living room, the fire is blazing, and I toss another log on just to be sure. The wind outside is howling, branches scraping the roof of the porch. The jack-o-lanterns are lit, the cobwebs are secured. I wait, a cup of hot cocoa between my hands. An old movie is on, you know, the kind with the old house, haunted by the spirit of a long dead sea captain.

Under a blanket I lie in wait for the first pitter-pat of feet. They come every year, the same time, without fail. Ever since I moved in I've been graced with their presence. On All Hallows Eve, when the clock strikes twelve, a gaggle of ghouls tromps up my front steps. I hear them, voices coming from the dark, whispering and giggling and adjusting masks and sheets. I wait. They shuffle up the steps, making soft sounds, like the wings of tiny birds, very unlike the children from my old neighborhood who would race up to the door and pound.

A tapping on the glass, a soft voice utters, "trick or treat". I smile and make my way to the basket in the foyer. Filled with apples and bread, crackers and cheeses, this is no usual Halloween fare. There's a chocolate or three for each one, but I know what they seek. I open the door, they look up eager, the only house around that welcomes them. No words are exchanged, just the treats. They look into their worn out bags, look up at me and smile through broken masks and tattered sheets. As they turn to go, one little girl rushes back and hugs me, clings to my leg sending a chill up my spine. I pat her head gently, feeling the wisps of her hair, like ice on my cocoa warmed fingers.

"Thank you," she breathes.

"I'll see you next year," I sigh.

I watch them go and the moon comes out, shining full on the little band. As the moon beams cross them, I wrap my blanket about me closer. You think I'd get used to it, the group of spectral children who come from the woods. But every year, as the moon light flows, I can see the trees of the dark forest through them. They turn, they wave, then, in a puff of mist, they are gone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

There is a Soul to Fall

Spring kisses the earth with sun
Summer wraps her in his arms
Winter whispers dreams
But there is a soul to Fall

Spring steps in gently
The kiss of birth and life anew
Summer rushes by
A tumult of wild abandon
Winter floats lazily
On frost covered wings
But there is a soul to Fall

A soul of mystery, of magic, of mischief
The sun can sink behind a thousand clouds of grey
Or pierce the earth with shafts of light intense
Leaves turn out their festive garb
Coming dressed to kill in hues of unbridled passion

Fall is spontaneity
Beauty in the mountains
Apprehension by the sea
A biting, gentle wind
Which whips imagination into being

Clouds dislodge themselves
Creating spectres along the road
The sky a screaming blue
It rains, it snows
Fall is everything, and nothing
An ending, a beginning

Black cats and pumpkins
Time of giving and giving thanks
In Fall there is a time to reflect
A time to be everything you dream

Campfires, marshmallows
Musty books and mugs of tea
Honey gold and deep, red wine

Fall will kiss you with her frosty lips
And transport you to a land of vision
The land of enchantment
In which we grew up
And of which, too soon, out grew

The is a soul to Fall
If we can capture her
Placing her upon the mantle of our souls
Keeping her spirit kindled despite her outward passion
Maybe we will believe again
Hope in all there is to hope
To accomplish the implausible, improbably, impossible

Welcome her, this biting,
Ripping, gentle, wailing
Frightening, comforting
Chilling soul of Fall

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grubby Candles and Quirky Ravens

There's a hint of winter in the air. Just a hint, mind you. Autumn is here and for that I am glad. I got a post card in the mail Saturday. A familiar, brown post card that calls to mind crinkly paper bag lunches and the smell of ink, a smell, to me, like a mixture of blood and fresh air. You know, the thick kind that comes in an ink well for those of us who still enjoy the struggle of a dip nib and the eternal stains between thumb and forefinger, tell-tale signs of an old fashioned writer. The post card announced a sale at a shop my parents introduced me to years ago. The Homestead House sits off a quiet street in North Georgia, a 300 year old cabin, converted to house an assortment of rustic goodies and primitive treasures. The card is hand drawn, hand written, and makes me smile every single time I get it.

I don't get to go for every seasonal sale they have. I maybe get up there twice a year. But it's a treat, a time to look forward to. It brings back memories of my father. He loved the spicy smelling candles, you know, the ones that smell like Halloween smacked into Thanksgiving and oozed happily into Christmas. I still have a jar that one of his favorites came it. I don't have the heart to get rid of it. I'm sure I'll up cycle it into something new, something that makes me smile every time I see it.

The porch of Homestead House groans under the weight of boots and trainers. You have to squeeze in single file the door is so small. The original cabin portion of the shop is tiny; hard to imagine a family living there, working, praying, laughing in that small space. People were closer to each other back then. They had no choice! Every available speck of floor is home to the most luscious displays of folk art delights. Woolly sheep, pillows made from feed sacks, various candles and other wax nick-knacks. My husband jokes that if you can dip it in wax and roll it in cinnamon, you can sell it! I have to agree and intend to do just that one day in my own shop. Ravens perch everywhere! On wardrobes, sofas, stair rails, candle holders, iron chandeliers, even the cash register. I was never a fan of the greedy birds, but their handmade counterparts have stolen my heart as easily as the real thing steals the eggs from other nests. I am the proud owner of one such stuffed "nevermore". He sits on the banister, a little paper flag proudly proclaiming "Primitive" under one wing, a spool for a perch.

A narrow hallway connects the old cabin to the newer portion, still drafty, still creaking under foot. Bottle brush trees decorated with stars, hearts, and pumpkins twinkle with Christmas lights year round. In the autumn, everywhere you turn there are apples, pumpkins, weeping willow motifs and black cats. With Cheshire grins the cats play peek-a-boo from cupboards and corners, some even hanging from the rafters.

They wrap your purchases is plain brown butcher's paper. The bags are paper, with a simple stamp on the front proclaiming simply from where your treasures came. There are soaps that smell like home, candles that smell like fog in the mountains, and potpourri that smells oddly like something in between. I can never quite make it out of there without something. "It followed me home" I tell my husband with a sheepish grin. He smiles, shakes his head, and kisses my forehead. Of course it followed me home. But I encouraged it!

I come away from my visits filled to overflowing with ideas. My fingers itch with creative projects that must be completed. I have notebooks filled with them, all sketched out and ready to go for when I have a few idle moments. I intend to fill my days with cinnamon wax candles and quirky little ravens, and as many of their cousins as I can find the time to make. Perhaps one day my shop dreams will go from idea to online to shop around the corner. I wouldn't carry only rustic findings but I can assure you, you won't have to look far to find a little black cat, a few dozen pumpkins, or a candle that smells suspiciously like my father.
image of raven hooked run from Homestead House website

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Award Ceremony

"Thank you, thank you. I'd like to thank the Academy, my agent, and all the co-stars that made this award possible."

*ahem* That would be all of YOU!!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom sent me a most fabulous Dragon's Loyalty Award. Wander on over to her blog when you have a moment. Her posts always put a smile on my face and make me day! Thanks DG!

Jen

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Praise of Fall

My earliest recollection of fall is of a large tree that once stood in my parents back yard. This large, magnificent maple was sadly lost in one of the many random severe storms that happened one summer. Its arms stretched proudly against the sky and swayed softly with the wind. In the spring and summer, its leaves were full and bright; in the winter, bare branches stood out stark against a gunmetal sky. But in the fall, when the first whisper of cooling temperatures could be heard over the sigh of the pines, the maple's branches filled to over flowing with gold, amber and red. this riot of color was set off by the brilliant blue of an early autumn sky. I remember as a child running around the yard trying to catch the leaves from this tree as they fell. They would tumble and topple, tempting my outstretched fingers and then, just as I was about to claim my prize, dodge my eager grasp and flutter to the ground. In all my years of chasing these elusive treasures, I caught (maybe) three, but the fun I had was worth every foiled attempt.

Fall brings with it a quietness, a calm before the winter holiday storm if you will. There are quiet celebrations all over the world during this time of year: harvest festivals to celebrate the blessings of food and friends. Fall is a chance to "thank you" to God for His bountiful care and to friends and family without whom our lives would be dull and barren.

Every season has its share of celebrations, but to me, fall takes the cake! In my opinion, if Christmas and my birthday came in October, fall would be perfect! It brings to mind turning leaves and farmers bringing in the bulk of summer's bounty. The mountains are alive with boldly painted foliage and the music and dancing of a million festivals. Scents of cinnamon and apple and pumpkin spice mingle with the crispness of the early evening air. Herbs are harvested and the wonderful musk of earth is thick on the gardener's hands.

October rolls in with an entourage of black cats, jack-o-lanterns, the call of a raven and the hoot of a barn owl. Kids of all ages relish in the one night out of the year they can be anyone or anything they want, and eat candy until their stomachs pop!

Yes, I adore fall. It's a feast for the senses and I'm here to tempt you to indulge them. Drive north and take in the beauty of the changing leaves. Sit outside at night and feel the cool mist as it rises off the land. Leave your windows open on a cool night and hear the song of the night birds. Feast upon new recipes which will bring a new sense of delight to your holiday table. Breathe deeply while lingering over hot apple pie, fresh burning wood in a bonfire or the slow engulfing of a marshmallow in flames! It's an excuse to celebrate life. Don't let it pass you by.

Cheers!
Jen
(image found here)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walk in the Rain

Her feet were bare but no matter. The water would wash away the dirt and grime from a long, hard day. A day of high heels and pressed khakis. A day of waiting for the phone to ring just so she could listen to someone else complain about a fax not working, an email not receiving, a monitor screen turned sideways.

She breathed in deeply, inhaling the smell of autumn rain. Her eyes closed and she exhaled, letting out the stress and frustration of her day. The wind picked up, blew leaves about her, sticking them to her ankles, her knees. Her skirt was wet about an inch up from the hem. She pulled her yellow rain coat about her and stepped out into the mist.

On cue, the clouds opened up and she was caught in a deluge, blurring the world around her, turning the trees, the ivy covered wall into a water color painting. She crossed the brick walkway to the parking lot, to where the rain ran in a small river down hill to the trees which divided her loft from the outside world. The sparrows which resided in the ivy twittered and fluttered in vain attempts to keep their feathers dry. The water ran over her feet, between her toes. A red maple leaf stuck briefly beside her then continued on to the puddle which would be it's final resting place.

She sighed and pushed back her hood. Stretching out her arms, she looked up into the heavens and let the rain wash away everything but that deepest portion of her soul, the part she had to suppress in her day to day. Now she was free. Now she could breathe. Now she was.
(image found here)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Commonplace

Commonplace Book: (n) a book in which noteworthy quotations, comments, etc. are written.

My Thursday posts (um...Friday?!) are intended to be just that. Little vignettes (snippets if you will) of seasonal delights for your enjoyment.

October

Autumn Ingredients for Fall Recipes ~ From the Farm Stand

One of the first things I enjoy doing when the weather starts to get a wee bit cooler is to stop by a local produce stand. The deep colors of pumpkins and squash, the aroma of cider and boiled peanuts wafting to your nostrils as soon as you step out of your car...there's no way you can't help but smile! Potted mums sit atop hay bales, scarecrows with humorous grins slouch in rocking chairs, stuffed ravens clinging to their shoulders. I ooh and ahh at the gourds, deliberate between types of apples, and always (ALWAYS) find a way to carry home a bag of boiled peanuts (a sacred and necessary vegetable here in the South). Indian corn stands in rows of maroon, black, yellow and white and I'm in the mood for fall! Once I'm home, my arms laden with brown paper bags, the fun begins in figuring out just what on earth to do with all this bounty. Here's a few ideas I've gathered ~

Apples ~ baked, fried, sauced with cinnamon, heated in a cider, as a side dish with pork and, of course, in a pie

Squash ~ stuffed into ravioli, baked with butter and brown sugar

Root Veggies ~ parsnips with herb butter, herb roasted chicken with a variety of root veg (carrots, potatoes)

Hearty Greens ~ broccoli, chard, bruschetta topped with spinach or collards

Potatoes ~ baked, fried, champ, bubble and squeak, au gratin, potato salad, pan roasted with rosemary and sea salt, french fries, hash browns, basting in the juice of a succulent roast

Pears ~ baked with cinnamon and brown sugar, poached, stuffed with a bitter cheese such as Gorgonzola, caramelized, raw with a selection of cheeses, along side crisp apples, part of an impromptu smorgasbord of fruits, cheese and wine

Speaking of cider, here's an interesting idea. Have a go at making Lambswool. I promise, no carding, spinning or knitting is required. Lambswool is a special type of wassail (a spiced punch usually made with liquor) which combines roasted apples, raw sugar, grated nutmeg, and shaved ginger with warm, strong ale and served with tiny sweet-cakes floating on its surface. I'm a sucker for cider but I have yet to try this one. It's an old recipe but sounds like just the thing to warm your spirits on a chilly autumn night. I for one would forgo the floating cakes; I hate soggy bread!

Lambswool was usually drunk on 01 November in celebration of the fruits and seeds of the harvest and the spirits which, the ancients believed, watched over them. Sounds like a good libation for a Halloween party, no? This day, known by other names such as All Saints Day and Samhain, was known as "la mas ubal" (pronounced "lamasool" and later "lambswool") which means "The Day of the Apple".

I know we're a month away from "la mas ubal" but there's no harm in brewing up a good old cauldron of Lambswool for all your autumn celebrations. Give it a try this fall, but remember: drink responsibly and you can always do an unleaded version by leaving out the ale. I for one would like to try it both ways. Let me know if you make some! I'm curious :) The closest I've come to having Lambswool was a Hot Toddy in Ireland. Talk about cider with a kick! If that doesn't cure what ails you, I don't know what will.

Have a wonderful weekend, Jen

PS: I just posted the first of a series of posts on Halloween over at my other blog, The Gypsy Scribe. Stop by and take a peak :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Good to be Back


Good morning!

A long rest was just the thing I needed to get my creative juices back in action. I've been working on several new projects at "The Manor" and there are stories a'brewing in my head. I feel like one of those witches in the old Halloween films, standing over a bubbling cauldron. Only instead of eye of newt and leg of worm, I'm chanting adjectives and cursing dangling participles and writer's block!

I hope you are all doing well. It's a lovely grey Tuesday here in Georgia and fall is definitely in the air. The leaves are just beginning to turn. Harvest time is here and people are gearing up for Halloween celebrations, Fall Festivals and Harvest Home gatherings.

I've had wonderful feed back so far on my new blog designs! I thought the vintage Halloween background would make for a whimsical touch for the month of October. I'm initiating a new posting schedule for this blog (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and will be posting on my other two on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I do hope you'll join me at each of those. The links are on the side bar (The Gypsy Scribe and Woolgathering).

Instead of waxing poetical about nothing in particular (a rather Lewis Carroll habit I have cultivated over the years), I thought I'd start this season out with a note of thanks and a little trip down memory lane:

I was raised to love simple things: wood burning stoves, collecting rocks while driving down old dirt roads. We used to pile in the van on Saturdays, stop by the "Cupboard" for a Coke, a Dr. Pepper, two Sprites, peanuts and cream filled crackers. Dad would pour the peanuts into his Coke, Mom would lazily sip her Dr. Pepper, and my sister and I would lick the cream out from between the cookies then toss the empty chocolate shells out of the open windows. Food for the birds, we reasoned. We made up songs about boiled peanuts and groaned when our parents would put in cassettes of that "mountain music". We grew up with vegetable gardens, hammered dulcimers, playing Indians. We bought stuffed black bears and drums every year from Pigeon Forge and erasers that smelled like school boxes from China Berry General Store. Grilled cheese at Cracker Barrel, off the beaten path herb gardens in Shaker and Amish country, old quilts, hurricane lamps, dried flowers from Maine. These things and more-rocking chairs, old Coca Cola crates, Moon Pies-pull me back to the past, to my family, to what really matters. Here's to you, Mom and Dad: Thanks for raising me to love old things and country back roads. And thanks to Boochie, for painting your face red with lipstick and riding the Rudy Coaster 42 times in a row! (Love, Sissy)

Hope your fall is filled with happy memories. Here's to making many, many more.

Cheers!
Jen

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stay Tuned...


I do hope everyone is well! I start my new posting schedule tomorrow. I'll be back in the nest and ready to fly! (Does that even make sense?) I look forward to "seeing" you here again soon :) I have updated my other blogs as well. They are on a different schedule that this one so wander on over and take a peak if you like! The links are on the side bar. Let me know what you think about all my "remodeling".

Happy Monday,
Jen