Sunday, October 31, 2010

Days of Halloween Passed

When I was a kid, Halloween night seemed to last forever. I remember the paths we'd take, up and down neighbourhood avenues and along a particular stretch of a main street, where some stores shelled out all-day suckers and bags of chips to the princesses, ghosts, witches and skeletons which paraded through their shops. We'd dart back and forth across otherwise empty streets to the houses where pumpkins glowed on their front porches.

People were generous, which was a good thing because we kids were greedy, rushing home to empty our heavy, near-full bags to discover that its enormous weight was due to at least a dozen apples. We didn't worry much back then, about finding sinister items in our treats. The only nutcases to be found were those which encased handfuls of loose peanuts. Candy bars were a rare and most welcomed coup. We'd sort the mound of goodies into a few piles - apples, peanuts, molasses candy kisses, chocolate treats and lolli-pops. And gum, which was usually boxed in mini-packets of two Chicklets each. Of course we also always carried around UNICEF boxes, which were usually filled to capacity, and turned in at school the next day.

I think Halloween was my Dad's favourite holiday to capture on film. He used to have a movie camera, and I can remember seeing endless, silent footage of children arriving at our door, holding out bags and waddling off in their over-sized costumes, to ring the next doorbell. Mom also got into the act. As the camera turned in toward our own living room, there was Mom, all dressed up as a hobo in Dad's plaid shirt, baggy pants and a floppy hat. Her ensemble complete with the black paper which came inside boxes of chocolates, secured around her front teeth to create the illusion that she'd been gummin' it for years. She didn't need to be reminded to show off her toothless grin that night. She cracked her own self up, and her smile was ever-present.

A decade later, I can remember my parents hosting a costume party for adults only. My sister and I were too young to be a part of the fun, but old enough to understand why we were excluded. We didn't hang around that night, but we did see the photographs sometime later. Mom decided that she'd be some sort of plumber-toilet hybrid that year. Her costume consisted of an apron, rubber gloves, boots and a plunger. Around her neck sat an actual (unused) opened toilet seat, and a roll of toilet paper perched on top of her head. Dad regressed into infancy, and wore a nightgown and baby bonnet with matching booties. In his mouth was a giant, boob-shaped pacifier. He might not have done much talking that night.

Once I started partying on my own, I hosted a "fictional character" theme costume party, one Halloween. My friend Carol Anne and I worked hard at designing and creating our costumes. My boyfriend and I dressed up as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell respectively, only briefly considering reversing the roles. I used wires, plastic wrap and glitter to make my wings, and aluminum foil was used to wrap up a star-tipped wand. I ended up spreading so much fairy dust glitter around, that I continued to vacuum it from my small apartment for months, perhaps years later. Somewhere I have photos, but I'm sober, and I'm not going to post them.

The best costume, by far, was Carol Anne's "Cat in the Hat" of Dr. Seuss fame. Like I said, we worked long and hard at creating them and just minutes before the party began, I helped her with the finishing touches. The body portion of her costume consisted of all black - leggings and a turtle-neck jersey. A leotard, complete with wiry tail was worn over the first two items, and a hood with ears for the cat's head was tucked inside her collar. Before topping that headpiece off with the famous red and white striped hat, we needed to secure the hood by sewing it into the turtleneck jersey, creating the illusion of an all-in-one piece. Black make-up gave her some cat's eyes, a black nose and whiskers. Once she added the hat, Carol Anne looked great, and quite proud of herself, she happily poured a drink and went about enjoying the party.

Everyone arrived in some amazing costumes, but there was no doubt that The Cat in the Hat was the hit of the party. Carol Anne struck up a conversation with an old friend and she poured herself another drink while he admired her costume. He asked her about how she put it together. Proud of her handiwork, and of our brilliant idea to secure the costume by sewing her into it, she went into detail describing the process. He smiled. Then he laughed. Then he just looked at her and laughed some more. Finally he asked her "How are you supposed to go pee if you're sewn into that thing?"

Carol Anne stood there, quietly blinking. She may have uttered a mild expletive as she put her drink down. She never poured another one for the rest of the night and we both learned something about the value of Velcro.

Fast-forward to today. My kids are now adults - long past the age for trick-or-treat. My older son has a house of his own and will be "shelling out" this year for the first time under his own roof. Their years of running around the streets in costume with a UNICEF box seem to have lasted such a short time. The excitement they felt when getting ready to charge the neighbourhood was contagious. I couldn't help but feel transformed back to my own youth alongside them. I hope that when they think back to those years, they will remember the magic of those special nights, and feel the joy in discovering them all over again with their own children.

What were some of your own, or your kids' favourite
Halloween costumes? Here are a few photos of my kidlets in costume from various days of Halloween past (and a couple of images of how they appear today). Please excuse the poor quality of the photos. They were scanned and enlarged considerably.

From a very young age, Jeffrey knew what he wanted and often figured out a way to achieve it. When he was three, his wish to dress up as an all-season tree had me 'stumped'. I scanned images of autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers and summer apples, and used markers to give them colour. This was back in 1990 and I didn't have a colour printer yet. I cut the shapes out and glued them to a piece of green material. A trip to the craft store provided me with the birds and nest that we perched atop his head. Velcro might have been involved.

Here's Jeffrey all set to put out fires in neighbourhood Jack-O'-Lanterns. By the time he was in Junior Kindergarten, he was fascinated with the idea of becoming a fire fighter - and a doctor, and a garbage collector, and a scientist, and ...

As it turned out, he now dresses like this, an Officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. This photo was taken when I visited his home (about 5 hours from my own) in early September. He's on course for Air Traffic and Air Weapons Control.

Aladdin was very popular when Jeffrey was 6. His birthday was the previous April and he wanted an Aladdin theme party, hence the birthday banner behind him. Six months later he wanted to dress up as his favourite character and hit the streets with his sidekick...

At age 3, Alex was now old enough to join his brother. He was less opinionated than Jeffrey and allowed us to dress him as Abu, the primate that accompanies Aladdin. It quite suited his little monkyish character.

On to scarier costumes. I'm surprised my kids sat still for the make-up jobs that were inflicted upon them over the years, but they happily endured it twice a day - for the school parade and at night. Here's Jeffrey being a not-so-scary vampire.

Alex waddled through the streets dressed as a dinosaur. At 4, he was less inclined to sit still for a full make-up job....

But at aged 5, he showed tremendous patience. Alex loved being a tiger so much that we painted him up the same way for the following Halloween.

He has since abandoned the tiger look and grown his own very impressive lion-like mane. This was taken a few months ago. That guitar seems to be a regular part of his dress code too.

I hope you enjoyed these costume photo from when my kids were little.

Happy Halloween everyone!

This was mostly a repost from a couple of years back. Only the photos and descriptions of my adult sons are recent. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

True Colours Shining Through

It's time for another walk in the park. Care to join me? Of course you do - you know I have recently topped up that flask of spiked cider. Grab your jacket. It's just a bit nippy out there.

My neighbour's front yard sports some lovely mums in brilliant shades of orange.

The trees are just a bit past their peak, but they're just as lovely to see with a blanket of gold beneath them.

There are a number of bikers around the area. This one has left his bike and helmet, and climbed down the hill to explore.

Everywhere we look, there's an explosion of colour. Let's sit here for a bit, and have a sip or two before we move on.

A few remaining flowers attract a Viceroy butterfly - the first such insect I've seen since early September. I think that's worth celebrating with some more cider, don't you?

The sunlight illuminates this maple leaf. It's as if it has its own light source.

Thanks for joining me on this lovely autumn day. Let me know if you'd like to walk again soon. There's plenty more cider and I'm happy to share.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

By Gully, It's the Posts of the Week!

The other day, I walked up to a nearby lake.

Once I arrived, I was greeted by this lovely young bird who was perched on the rail. The gender isn't really obvious but I think this one was a gull because she was hanging around trying to impress the buoys.

She had a good laugh over that one.

Perhaps not.

And now, without further delay, here are the Posts of the week. The icon below is yours for the taking if if your blog post is named as a Post of the Week - either as top post or as a runner up.

This week's top post is an important cause for the blog author. It isn't something I can help him promote in the way that he might hope or expect because I share neither his background nor country, but I respect this blogger and want to help in his cause. This is the best way I know how. It goes to:

Other wonderful posts are categorized below (they may well fit into more than one category but I'm only selecting one for each):

It Could Happen

by Sandra
at Add Humor and Faith

Z Ain't for Zorro
by Travis
at One Word, One Rung, One Day

And He Tried
by Lailani
at The Green Grass Grows All Around

Trouble for Nursery Rhyme Characters
by Nick
at Along These Lines

An Autumn Morning
by Brian
at WayStationOne

Weapons Grade Cute

by Shimp
at Land of Shimp

Gray Geese, Gray Days
by Pauline
at Writing Down the Words

To Sleep in Peace
by Kathleen
at Easy for Me to Say

by TSannie
at The Tombstone Chronicler

Lotus Flowers
by Indrani
at I Share

Nicek Vujicic
by Dave
at Cimba 7200's Thoughts

Still Recovering
by Kat
at Seeking Sanity

I Love Santana
by Snappy Di
at The Blue Ridge Gal!
by Tabor
at Room Without Walls

Please drop by their blogs for a visit and leave a kind comment if you have the time. Also, please feel free to add your own choices (for any blog except this one) for a specific blog post in the comments section below, where others can see them.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Only Words...

... and words are all I have to make a giveaway (apologies to the brothers Gibb).

Thank you everyone for playing along with my Favourite Word giveaway. You all had most interesting words which can be seen in the comments of the previous post.

Names of those who participated and qualified were numbered. I then asked Frank (who never saw the list) to select a number for me. It corresponded to one of my favourite bloggers and a really great guy.

Congratulations to... SULDOG whose favourite word was "SLOBBERKNOCKER." The $100 gift certificate for CSN Stores is yours. Jim, I'll be in touch to let you know how you and YOUR WIFE can claim your prize.

If you don't already visit Jim's wonderful blog, I suggest you add it to your must-read list. He's a fine writer, very funny and as kind a soul as you could ever want to know.

Thanks again to everyone for playing along. You folks are the best!

Below are a few images which were taken over the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy the quotes which accompany them.

"All mushrooms are edible - once" ~ Unknown

“Every path has its puddle” ~ Proverb

“Like dreams, small creeks grow into mighty rivers.” ~ Unknown

"If you keep your feathers well oiled the water of criticism will run off as from a duck's back. " ~ Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards

"May your life be like a wildflower growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day" ~ Native American proverb

"Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature." ~ Gerard De Nerval
(a closeup of the Jerusalem Artichokes seen in the previous image.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favourites - A Giveaway!

EffervescentNostalgiaZephyr BittersweetMischievousPersnickety CurmudgeonSerendipityMeanderFlamboyanceBodaciousPenultimate MagnoliaIridescence

This contest is now closed. The winner is announced here. Thanks for playing along everyone.

These are just a few of my favourite words. And the many of you who visit here regularly and leave such warm comments are some of my favouite people. This post is about combining a couple of my favourites - bloggers and words.

The good folks at CSN have once again come through with a generous offer. I could either select a product and do a review or I could offer up a giveaway. I've opted to do the latter to show my appreciation to the many folks who stop by, read, look at my photos and leave such kind comments.

CSN stores has a huge variety of housewares at a wide range of prices. You could purchase linens, vases, towels, mirrors, furniture and cookware. They have small items like kitchen gadgets or you could get a larger piece like a drop leaf table, all at really reasonable prices. For this giveaway, they will provide one lucky reader with a $100 gift certificate toward any merchandise you fancy (shipping would be extra) at any one of their 200+ online stores.

Unfortunately this giveaway is only open to folks who reside in Canada or the United States but if you live elsewhere, you might want to consider a friend or relative who qualifies. The same goes for those of you who don't necessarily want something for yourself but might want to help a bloggie buddy (anyone but yours truly) double their chances.

So what do you have to do to have a chance to win? Simple. All you have to do for a chance at a $100 gift certificate for yourself or someone in Canada or the U.S., is tell me your favourite word. This will get your name into a random draw. It's as simple as that.

The contest closes at midnight, Eastern Daylight Saving Time on Saturday, October 23. I'll randomly draw one name from all of those who qualify and announce the winner on Sunday, October 24. Please make sure that I know your email address. If I don't receive an email and/or comment reply from the winner within 7 days after that announcement, I'll redraw and award it to someone else.

So good luck to everyone. Now, tell me, what's your favourite word?

Animals are among my favourite subjects to photograph. Here are a few which I recently found around my own place or Frank's.

Six ducks sit by the creek pondering life.

This guy can be seen sunning himself just about every bright day near the dam at my local pond.

Frank discovered this Praying Mantis trying to get into the sliding door which leads to his back yard.

It's spawning season and the salmon are all swimming upstream. Here you can see a couple of them jumping to get up the ladder at the creek's dam. Sadly, you can also see how very many of them have not managed to complete this exhausting trip.

This little critter was simply sitting on a neighbour's front deck. My own neighbour, Caroline said "Take its picture!" and so I did.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Treat and the Posts of the Week

I saw this little interaction between this woman and pooch while out walking the other day. The dog was really hesitant to take the doggie treat which she just happened to have in her pocket. Eventually the pup did accept it and each went on their own way.

Before you head off on your own way, I wanted to let you know that there will be a bit of a treat for you folks tomorrow - in the form of a giveaway. Please be sure to tune in tomorrow morning to read all about it. And of course, there will also be a few photos, as usual.

And now, without further delay, here are the Posts of the week. The icon below is yours for the taking if if your blog post is named as a Post of the Week - either as top post or as a runner up.

This week's top post is:

at Kcinnova's World

Other wonderful posts are categorized below (they may well fit into more than one category but I'm only selecting one for each):

A Seated Massage Just After Lunch Would Be Nice, Too
by Pearl
at Pearl, Why You Little...

by Friko
at Friko's Musings

Of Chilean Miners and Life in General
by Carmi
at Written Inc.

Random Photo Day
by Steviewren

at A Little Birdie Told Me So

Getting All Halloweeny
by Lauren
at Mental P Mama

Exhilarating Winter
by Tabor
at Room Without Walls

A Black and White Issue
by Leah
at The Goat's Lunch Pail

Two Crows and Their Nest
by Bimbimbie
at Bimbimbie

Hoy Somos Todos Los Mineros Chilenos!
by Cloudia

at Comfort Spiral

by Mrs. Mediocrity
at That's Mrs. Mediocrity to You
recommended by Country Girl

Please drop by their blogs for a visit and leave a kind comment if you have the time. Also, please feel free to add your own choices (for any blog except this one) for a specific blog post in the comments section below, where others can see them.

And remember to come back tomorrow for a few photos and a chance to win in the giveaway!

Thank you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Autumn's Palette

Breathe deeply and smell the intoxicating fragrance of autumn - the heady scent of fallen leaves, a smokey wood fire, the spicy perfume of mulled apple cider. Fill a thermos and come with me. Let's enjoy this season's palette of vivid hues.

“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir: We must rise and follow her, When from every hill of flame She calls, and calls each vagabond by name." ~ William Bliss Carman

By the side of a road, beautiful shades of autumn as seen from the bridge above.

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf's a flower." ~ Albert Camus

Have a look down into the water. Brilliant leaves dot the meandering creek.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." ~John Muir

Watch your step along the water's edge. Fallen leaves blanket the shore in shades of yellow, orange and red.

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt." ~William Allingham

A pile of firewood is aglow with the saturated sunlight of late afternoon.

"There is a harmony
In autumn, and a luster in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen.
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!"
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

A never ending road lined with brilliant colour.

“Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.” ~ Faith Baldwin

I think the above quote says it all. This tree reminds me of a torch against a sky of most intense blue.

"Often, while sitting on a log or a rock, mentally adrift in that limbo between bites, I begin to fancy that I'm starting to belong there, that roots are about to spring from my boots and moss may start to form on my arms and legs. I feel I am becoming a part of where I am. " ~Frank P. Baron

This angler reminds me of my favourite fisherman and author - hence the above quote is his from his own book What Fish Don't Want You to Know. I think we should leave him to fish in peace. Besides, I'm ready for a refill of apple cider. Let's add some spiced rum to it this time, shall we?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Marshmallow Tree and Binky's Big Adventures

The problem with spending so much time at the cottage is that I come back with far too many photos. OK, so it's not a serious problem. I know what to do with them - post them here, of course.

What? You've never seen a marshmallow tree before? They only bloom at night, and only by the glow of the campfire. By day, the mallows mysteriously disappear shortly after the young raccoons begin exploring.

Speaking of which, remember Bubbles? She's maturing nicely, don't you think?

She's a little bit shy, but as gentle as can be with her human friends. She now spends her full time up at the cottage (no more going home when Theresa departs for a few days or a week) and all night out on her own to forage for food. She still comes around to the deck for occasional muchies and a bit of socializing. She allows us to hand feed her if we wish, taking cat food from our hands very gently, and she'll accept petting while she eats. She's become a lovely little lady.

Sadly, her banana-eating baby brother Bayley disappeared a few weeks ago, never to return. He was much too young to survive on his own and I'd like to think that some other kind soul found him and cared for him. He was such a sweetie and sorely missed.

About a week after his disappearance, Theresa acquired a new kit named Binky. She's much younger than either of the other two but she thinks she's top dog in the raccoon world. She's a wild little hellion who is part Tasmanian devil and part angel. Binky loves to bite - not aggressively but more like a puppy needs to gnaw on things. Those things happen to be hands and faces.

She's also very dependent on her humans right now, and almost always seeks out a lap in which to settle, groom and fall blissfully asleep. (Photo credit goes to Frank)

She also likes to climb, as any self-respecting raccoon would.

But until recently she was afraid to come back down and needed coaxing. The first time she climbed a tree, it took her at least a half hour to climb down - inch by inch. Once she was finally close enough to grab, she nuzzled into my arms and fell deeply asleep on my lap. That's when I fell deeply in love with her.

One morning, I decided to go for a walk. Theresa's sheepdog, Duncan and Benny tagged along willingly. This was in September, after most folks were no longer up in cottage country - at least not during the week. Benny isn't very road smart and I'm always nervous that someone will drive around one of the curves or over the top of a hill when the dogs are trotting up ahead, so I keep a steady eye on them. We had already walked the long road which leads from the cottage to the main dirt road, when I turned away from the dogs to look glance behind me. I saw something in the middle of the road and it was moving our way...

Not one to be left behind, Binky had followed us up the hill and was trailing behind us on the main road. This photo was taken the next day on the side road when she followed us yet again. And again, every time we attempted to take a walk. If she wasn't so tiny, I'd just let her trot after us but she's much too small to be easily seen by a driver coming over a hill or around a bend. She just as readily followed us back to the cottage each time. Really, this little girl is going to have to learn that she's actually a raccoon.

But for now, we're more than happy to offer her food, warmth, comfort and love. There's plenty of time to grow up and learn the harsh realities of being wild.

Binky won't be released this year. She was hand raised for the few weeks before Theresa got her and she's still much too young to make it on her own. When Theresa brings her home, she settles in with her cats. They all sleep on the same bed. It looks like it's going to be a cozy winter for Miss Binky.