Halloween Observations

Hope you all had a great Halloween!  Me??  WELL. Saturday night I took my younger daughter Trick-or-Treating.  Being new to the neighborhood, I was on HIGH ALERT.  Paying extra special attention to everything.  Such as, Why do so many people here have curtains? And why do these be-curtained people not have their porch lights on?  Or answer their doorbells?  Even when we rang more than once.  I could see faint light through these window treatments, so they were obviously inside, watching TV or playing on the computer.  But they weren’t answering their doors.  Granted, I had to stick our candy out front in a bowl while we went trick-or-treating ourselves.  Long story short: my husband & our older daughter were out of town, so we didn’t have anyone to “tend” to the house like we usually would.  And our jack-o-lantern must have blown out (it was windy).  Our 250 yr old house doesn’t have a porch light, and we also don’t have a door bell.  And no one was home.  SO it may have LOOKED like we were not participating in Halloween, even though I spent $25 on candy that sat outside in a bowl, uneaten.  What I am saying here – is my new neighborhood is way quiet.

I have come up w/ 7 Levels of Halloween Participation.  I had lots of time between Trick-or-Treats to do this.

1) The Die-Hard.

Grown adults who retain the spirit of Halloween they had as children.  These folks go the full 9 yards.  They don costumes.  Their houses don costumes.  Put simply: Die Hards DO Halloween.  They spend months in advance preparing for the Big Night.  They assemble props.  They install theatrics.  They make constructions worthy of awards.  These are the houses all the children want to visit, though their spooky extravagance may leave little ones cringing in fear.

2) The Holiday Enthusiast.

These people like Halloween b/c they like holidays in general.  They do window displays.  They hang flags.  If they have a front yard, they own at least one large inflatable.  Often these inflatables cover multiple themes, such as Holiday + Local Sports Team (i.e., satan wearing an Eagles jersey).  The Holiday Enthusiast celebrates Halloween the same way they celebrate all holidays.  With eagerness and commercial support.

3) The Tepid Observer.

These people give out candy only b/c it’s expected.  They really do not want to, but are afraid if they don’t they will garner negative attention.  A few are secretly afraid of being egged. or T.P.’ed.  They never decorate for the holiday.  To do so would garner unwanted attention.  Mostly they just want to be left alone, but it’s hard to be left alone when people expect candy.  So on Halloween they answer the door and smile wanly as they drop a single KitKat into your bag.  Then they close the door and retreat into blessed solitude once more.

4) The Reveler.

This category covers those who like to PAR-TAY!  No need to elaborate.

5) The Non-Committal.

These Halloween participants are there in name only.  Not b.c they don’t want to celebrate Halloween, but b.c circumstance gets in the way.  These are the folks who leave a bowl of candy out on the front porch w/ the light on.  They may or may not decorate.  They may or may not have a lit jack-o-lantern.  Many parents fall into this category.  Also, older people.  Or the young.  Pretty much anyone who has a life and cannot stick around on a Saturday night to dole out candy.

6) The Hell Raiser.

This person believes October 31st belongs to the devil and trick-or-treating is akin to satan worship.  All who participate in Halloween ritual are pagans.  These people will not be home Halloween night b.c they are at church celebrating something not called Halloween but for which most of them are costumed and receiving candy.

7) The Unexcused.

This category encompasses the rest of the world.  Who say TO HELL! with Halloween – not for any religious reason, but for sheer (INSERT WHATEVER LAME-O EXCUSE YOU CAN COME UP W/ HERE).  These people cannot be bothered to buy a bag of candy.  They have more important things to do w. their time.  Like stay home on a Saturday night, watching TV or playing video games.  Behind their iron fortress of curtains. While the costumed stand outside ringing in the dark.  Treatless.

Egg hunt with the chicks

Happy Easter everyone! Sending candy-coated wishes to you all. Here at the palatial West Philly estate, we are still recovering from the FIVE HOUR LONG birthday party we sponsored yesterday, which was super fun & super successful, but left us reaching for the bottle well into last night. Well. o-kay, just me.

This morning my husband, live-in tech whiz supremo that he is – recorded the ladies egg hunt, which of course I just KNEW you’d be dying to see, even though we have not showered and are not wearing any fancy pants Easter costumes or anything. So w/out further ado, Click here for the HUNT.

Great ideas for Valentine’s Day. Creative. Thoughtful. AND CHEAP!!

This post was inspired by my blog buddy, Hayden, who just wrote about The Big Day. And it got me thinking. I’ve done lots of sweet things for my husband on Valentine’s Day, I really should share some of them. So whether you lack creativity or money (or both), here are some ideas to make V-day sizzle. JUST REMEMBER: You do not have to spend a lot of money to make someone’s Valentine’s Day the best they’ve ever had. Romance is in the eye of the beholder and thoughtfulness always trumps money when it comes to true love.
Now.. onto the ideas!!

Image courtesy of ValentinesDayIdeas

1) I don’t normally toot company horns, but this one is so great, I am making an exception. My husband and I made books – REAL books – as presents for some of our loved ones this year, and they were fabulous. It was beyond easy to do and truly affordable. Go to BLURB.COM and download their bookmaking software for FREE. Then upload photos of you and your sweetheart, personalize everything, and order. Blurb.com does the rest. Choose from soft and hardback styles. We’ve done both and they are simply AWESOME. Your loved one will be touched beyond belief.

2) Not into that? Then make your own scrapbook. I have made several of these for my husband. One with all of the emails we exchanged in college. Sweet and silly. Another with all of our wedding mementos. Another with poems. You get the picture. All that matters is that it’s from you, filled with loving memories of your time together. They will LOVE IT.

Image courtesy of BlissTree

3) Make a gift basket filled with treats he or she especially loves. This does NOT have to be expensive! One year, I went to the dollar store and bought a brand new woven wicker trash can, a silk red rose garland, and every single Reese’s peanut butter cup variation I could find – 12 packs, singles, white chocolate, candy bar interpretations, etc. I went home and arranged everything artfully in the basket, wound the garland round the top, then delivered it Valentine’s Day to my husband’s office as a surprise. I cannot tell you how many women SQUEALED IN DELIGHT!! when they saw me coming. My husband was floored when he came back to find this sitting on his desk. They charge a fortune for this stuff online. DO IT YOURSELF. Just vary the basket filling according to what your significant other likes. Candy bars, snacks, health food, fruit, specialty foods, beer, wine, arts & crafts supplies, beauty supplies, sporting goods, you name it. IT’S ALL GOOD.

Image courtesy of Cookerie-Girl

4) Decorate your bedroom to set the mood. One year I went to the Dollar Store and bought a bag full of party decorations. Streamers, hanging lanterns, hanging hearts, etc. Then I pulled out some white Christmas lights and I decorated our bedroom, weaving the lights around our bed, hanging the hearts above, etc. My husband was so surprised!! And it was so lovely with the fairy lights and everything, it looked like our own private wonderland. We kept the stuff up for weeks afterward it was so nice.

Image courtesy of DesignFling

5) Instead of taking him/her out to eat, cook dinner yourself – or hire a friend, family member, someone else to. I dated a chef years ago – he made me dinner one night at his apartment and I still remember the meal – figs stuffed with cheese, softshell crabs. Amazing. But you don’t have to be a professional cook to impress. Check my website for recipes! Heck, email me and I will even talk you through it. Just take the time to show your loved one how much you care. Skip the expense of a faceless meal. Make your own. Or pick up take out food and pretend it’s your own. Still impressive! You can confess later, after you’re both full and happy.

Image courtesy of TripAdvisor

6) Couples massage ROCKS. But you don’t have to pay a professional to touch the one you love. DIY, baby! Buy a bottle of scented massage cream or oil, at home place a clean sheet over the bed, dim the lights or better yet, light some candles, and put on some relaxing music. Invite them to their very own “spa”. Crack your knuckles and work it. They will LOVE YOU for it. Trust me.

Image courtesy of SheKnows

7) Make your loved one a card. Hallmark doesn’t know them, BUT YOU DO. What is it about them that you love? Their smell? Their eyes? Their sense of humor? EVERYTHING? WONDERFUL!! If you’re good with words, write your own poem for them. They will never forget this most simple gesture, ever. If you’re not good with poetry, just write out your feelings. That’s all that matters. Even just, Honey, I love you. Always. For a woman this is everything.
I still have the only secret admirer valentine I’ve ever gotten. It was handmade, just a piece of plain white paper with blue pen. 18 years later, I still think it’s one of the sweetest things anyone’s ever given me.

Image courtesy of HomeLifeWeekly

8) Plan a date night out. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE!! Be thoughtful. What does your s/o like? Art – take him/her to a museum. Nature? Go to a local park or arboretum. Sports? Take them to an event. Music? Go see a local live band. And so on. For our first Valentine’s Day together, my husband – then boyfriend- and I were flat-out broke. He took me ice skating along the Delaware River. It was magical and cost almost nothing.

Image courtesy of LakeGeorge

9) Instead of buying chocolates, make your own. Check my website for a decadent peanut butter truffle recipe. Bake them a heart-shaped cake, or a big tin of cookies. DELICIOUS + MADE IT YOURSELF > CRAP CHOCOLATES IN HEART-SHAPED BOX FROM CVS

10) Print and frame a nice photo of the 2 of you. My husband framed my favorite picture of us and gave it to me as a Christmas present this year. I burst into tears, it was so sweet. I LOVE IT. And he/she will too.

Image courtesy of PersonalizationMall

11) Have a special skill or talent? SHARE IT. Are you good at making things? Then make something for your loved one. Write them a story. Draw them a picture. Build them a birdhouse/ bookshelf/ mailbox. Good at fixing stuff? Fix that broken cabinet that’s been annoying her. Or the car. Or the dishwasher. EVEN If you’re totally talent-less, you can still do something thoughtful. CLEAN THE HOUSE! Or the basement, or the WHATEVER. Do the laundry. The dishes. You get the picture. I know you don’t want to do it, but neither does she, and trust me, she WILL REMEMBER THIS, and in a GOOD WAY.

Image courtesy of Anonymous8

12) This one’s more for the men out there. Buy something to pamper her, especially something that she wouldn’t normally buy herself. A treat. Is she a waitress, a chef, a nurse or doctor? Someone on her feet all day? Buy her a foot bath, foot cream, and give her a foot massage. Is she an overworked mom? Give her a night of relaxation away from the kids. FOR INSTANCE: at Trader Joe’s they sell gorgeous French-milled natural soaps, with scents like lavender and lemon verbena. Since they go for $4-5 bucks EACH, she won’t splurge on herself, but YOU CAN. Buy her four different scents, along with a new thick bath towel, scrub brush, and a scented candle. Throw in a CD of her favorite relaxation music – I recommend Astrud Gilberto. Chill a bottle of wine for her. Fill the tub. Then take the kids to the park.

Image courtesy of SupremeMassage

13) Are you musical? Write her a song and she will be yours forever. Can’t carry a tune? Then make her a mix-tape of songs that remind you of her. Even if you can’t sing, they can. And that will woo her far better than you crooning the hits if you can’t croon, though she’d probably still like it anyway.

Image courtesy of IndiaForums

14) This one may take some doing, so it’s good I’m posting this early. Make her a movie or simple video asking her to marry you, or just proclaiming your love. You can upload it to YouTube, or put it on your own website – or even just email it to her. Or you could invite her over for a special screening. Be creative.

Image Courtesy of GreenvilleDailyPhoto

15) NEW!! JUST ADDED!!!!!!! Order a one-of-a-kind portrait of you & your sweetie!!

***Whatever you do, IT’S the gesture that counts. If it comes from the heart, it’ll be amazing. Just think of the person you love, only of them and what they enjoy. Then imagine how you can make them happy. Can you bring them something? Do something for them? It’s often the simplest things – not the most expensive or elaborate – which mean the most.

The one TRUE New Year’s Eve

I am really truly psyched for this weekend. Not only am I feeling terrific, but my husband & I have managed to secure a babysitter – and not just for tonight – BUT FOR TOMORROW NIGHT AS WELL. I know, UNBELIEVABLE.

So all of this excitement and anticipation and giddiness has left me reeling and today I find myself feeling positively like a Russian orthodox. What? Well, you know how they celebrate Christmas roughly 2 weeks after the rest of us? Well, PREPARE YOURSELVES FOR WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY. I don’t know if any of you realize, or are open enough to even ponder the possibility, but this weekend may actually be the one TRUE New Year’s Eve.

You see, having spent Christmas 2007 out of town, by the time we got home the OLD Near Year’s Eve was upon us. And although we’d been invited to a kickin house party here in West Philly, scrambling for a babysitter 2 days before the big event was no picnic. Even my husband’s 86 year-old grandmother had plans. So rather than indulging in a night of wild revelry, dragging our bleary-eyed selves home at 5 am, we did what any other babysitter-less couple would do. We spent the day dragging our kids through the art museum, torturing all of the sensitive types, so I could catch the Renoir exhibit. As Aunt Esther would say:

“Take THAT, Suckas.”

Although we went Mummering New Years Day like all good Philadelphians do and of course MUST, we certainly did not celebrate NYE in quite the same manner as the rest of the world. And so we have decided, after much prolonged and brain-aching deliberation, to SCHISM from the rest of you. We will from now on (or at the very least, this year) be celebrating the one and only TRUE New Year’s Eve holiday tomorrow, January 12th. And in keeping with this Orthodoxy, we will be celebrating in a familiar, but DIFFERENT sort of way. Gone will be the masses of blithering idiots, drunken beyond speech. Public vomiting and lewdness are optional, not mandatory! No Dick Clark and his dropping ball. Our holiday – the new TRUE New Year’s Eve – will retain its preciousness like no other.

And so, I must cut this post short. Lots to squeeze in before 2008!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Home again home again jiggety jig

Returned from Atlanta last night, about 1 am. It was a LONG trip. 13-1/2 hrs there and another 13 back, and it rained both ways. I don’t mind driving, but 800 miles in a torrential downpour is a test of wills. I made a point of renting audio books from the library to pass the time. We listened to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory on the first leg and a Wrinkle in Time on the 2nd. I enjoyed both greatly, but Wrinkle seemed to terrify as much entertain my older daughter and had her asking questions a little too perplexing for a road trip. Is it possible to condense a rudimentary explanation of Evil into a 5-minute potty break at a rest stop?? Note to self: throbbing disembodied brains not for 7-year-olds.

Christmas itself was lovely. We got way too many presents, my mom & I cooked and we all feasted merrily.

The rest of the week was spent relaxing. We hit the wine cellar, did a little mindless shopping, ate out a few times. Explored my parents’ property. Watched TV (my parents have CABLE!!) and I especially loved the holiday Dirty Jobs marathon. We also watched a bunch of episodes of Arrested Development from my sister’s box set (*Annyong*) – that show is absolutely hysterical. I got a new board game called EAT IT! which is a lot like trivial pursuit for snack food junkies. My mom, the eternal gambler, staked a $5 Starbucks card for the winner, which turned out to be my sister, Queen of Cookies. We played quite a few games, which we haven’t done as a family in a long time, and it was really fun.

Today we did just what you want to do after spending a day and a half in the car. We drove to Bucks County & back, returning the rented minivan and picking up our beloved pets.

Don’t I look thrilled? I think I may have carbuncles. Fortunately, we do have a whole host of new CDs to listen to. I have to say the best of new order is awesome. I must be old.

Unfortunately, we spotted this poor creature by the side of the road:


You might be able to swing this into a joke about Santa’s sleigh or some such nonsense, but I will not. I took it simply as one more reason to get the hell out of the car.

For the rest of the photos, click HERE.