Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Hallows' Eve!

During all the years we lived in our old house the tiny city near the capital, before we moved to the country house near my small college on the hill, I loved when Halloween arrived. I would don my witch's hat, with its hanging red-eyed spiders hanging from its creepy veil, and at least one child each time would either burst into tears or refuse to come near me until I took off the hat.

But after we moved away, Halloween ceased to be what it was because our country house was on a country road with no sidewalks and no one traversed it on foot to beg for candy on a night such as this one. Ever since we moved back here early this year, I've looked forward to tonight. It did not disappoint.

In the past, we had hundreds of children who stopped by for their treat and, although this was a miserably cold and drizzly night, we still had lots of children and actually ran out of candy and had to start digging into our own "private stash" of Hershey's Kisses (my favorite).

While sitting outside with my heaviest parka on to fend off the impending chill wasn't exactly what I had in mind, it didn't dampen the fun that Halloween provides for me, as the children come by in their costumes, some store-bought, many home-made. Like Halloweens past, there was one little girl who refused to come up to get candy from me until I took off my witch's hat.

It's sad that Halloween goes by so quickly. But now I can start looking forward to next year!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fallish things

Now that I can only walk the dogs four of the seven days of the week, since I have to leave for work before dawn on the days I teach at my small college on the hill, I am taking more time on the days I do walk them to pay attention to the sights of fall.

This bush at the back of our house, for example, doesn't say much for most of the year, but in fall it explodes in scarlet, which makes it a lovely sight.

October is also a good month to enjoy butternut squash, one of my favorites. I recently got a recipe from  Martha Stewart Living for a "mash," and since I'm leaning more toward vegetarian dishes nowadays (have lost some of my interest in eating even chicken, a lifelong favorite), I welcomed the opportunity to fix the squash in a way that was meant to conserve most of its minerals and flavors. That's because the recipe didn't call for boiling the squash but for sauteeing and then letting it "sweat," with a little added water, in the pot. The result was delicious and low calorie, even though I did cheat and added two tablespoons of margarine.

These are also the days of diminishing hours of daylight when Chiquita will make the most of a little patch of sunlight for her naps.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On a beautiful day

If on a clear day you can see forever, on a partially cloudy day you can see wonders, too. Yesterday, my husband and I rebelled against the idea of frittering away another beautiful early afternoon on a weekend by working the whole day so we leashed up the dogs and went to the part of a nearby metro park that we hadn't visited before.

I love it when we go for strolls like this, especially when we can enjoy the outdoors and see new sights. At Heron Pond (photo above), the ducks were in the water, with their white tails sticking up in the air as they submerged in search of food. My phone doesn't do justice to the image, but it's enough to paint a picture.

The sun shimmering in the water, a sight my father loved, was lovely.  (I remember the day he taught me the word "riela" in Spanish to describe how the sun makes the water sparkle.)

The puffy clouds over the horizon, looking down on a lone burnt-red tree, were a treat to the eye, too. Again, the phone camera fell short (it couldn't find something to focus on), but I like the almost Impressionistic effect that it gives the landscape.

Lizzy, hunter dog that she is, enjoyed the outing, and was especially excited by the ducks and the geese, pulling on the leash to be let into the water to chase them. Of course, she did not get her wish.

The outing was short and fun and marked a highlight in a quiet, tranquil day spent at home, a much-needed break after having to travel up to my small college on the hill every day of this past week.

I try to keep myself uncommitted the two days a week I don't have to commute for teaching, but this past week was unusually busy. On Monday night, we had a the Reading of Latin American and Latin@ Authors to cap Hispanic Heritage Month, which ended on October 15. The event was a great success again (last year we had 18 people who read and, this year, we had 24!), but it ended past 7 p.m. Mondays are my roughest day because my morning office hours are usually full and then I teach the three-hour honors seminar in the afternoon. Thankfully, dear friends put me up that night so I didn't have to drive home after night had fallen.

Tuesday was its usual busy self, when I teach two classes and hold office hours, and this Tuesday I also had a meeting to decide on the honors proposals; on Wednesday I had a faculty seminar at which I presented; on Thursday I gave a writing workshop for  KEEP and REACH students after my classes ended at 4 p.m.; and, on Friday I drove up for the Parent's Reception, where I talked to five sets of parents over the hour-long activity.

On top of a crazy-busy week, on Friday morning I had to go to the orthopedic doctor because my right hand (especially my thumb and wrist) had been hurting incrementally for about a week or more. He diagnosed tendonitis, and gave me a cortisone shot at the base of my right thumb, and a hand brace. Today, I'm doing a lot better but I was glad I had all of yesterday to recover from an exhausting week, and from the cortisone shot (which hurt as much as the doctor said it would).

I'm ready to welcome this coming week, which is a more normal one. Then my mom will come visit for my birthday, and then there's Halloween, so there's a lot to look forward to as my favorite month of the year comes to its usual shining close.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Feasts of fall

October is my favorite month, and not just for the obvious reason that my birthday falls within it. The feast of fall is color full this month and I find myself feeling blessed and grateful for the breathtaking glory of the dark oranges, yellows, and greens this month regales us with. It is a gift to the eyes and the spirit, which they eagerly consume before the denuded trees of winter make them hunger for green again.

At the home front, our old new house is now ready for Halloween, a tradition I missed during all the years we lived near my small college on the hill. Our house there was on a country road, which no child or parent would want to traverse that or any other night except in a car and on the way somewhere else. While my wonderful husband humored me and helped decorate the house with our lighted pumpkin in the window and the little bat lights on the porch, I couldn't help the creeping sadness of knowing no tiny trick or treaters would be coming over. For several years, my wonderful witch's hat, which has black plastic spiders with red eyes hanging from its ghastly veil, was tucked away in an attic, purposeless.

Not this year! Now that we're back and that Halloween falls on a Wednesday, when I do not have to be up at work, I plan to don my scary hat (which is known to have made at least one trick or treating toddler cry!) and stock up on treats for all the tiny trick or treaters who come from all around this area and enjoy a pre-sunset stroll with their parents or older siblings through the safer streets of our neighborhood.

The lighted pumpkin, with its wicked grin, is at the window, as are the little purple bat lights that we can't even remember how old they are, as are the real pumpkins awaiting to be carved for that spooky night. On the night that my husband took this photograph, our very own black cat, Hamlet, dutifully looked out of our window and one of his eyes glittered, appropriately, for the picture.