It’s Fall Break at Clemson, which means:
a) Son1 came home with a basket of laundry and a ravenous appetite ready to be treated to several home-cooked meals while nestled in the coziness of his family
b) Son1 came home with a basket of laundry and a grocery list because he and Lovely and some friends are going camping
If you guessed “b,” then you are correct.  I would be misleading you if I told you that he hadn’t checked his plans with us.  To say he asked permission would be serious overstatement, but he did tell me of their plans a few days ago.  Knowing how much he loves hiking and camping, we gave our blessing.  He’ll be back in time to eat plenty of home-cooked food and watch football with Middle.  Tomorrow, we’ll go to church, and then tomorrow night, we’ve invited some of his friends and their parents over for a slightly spooky supper.  The next day, he’s headed to Blowing Rock to visit some friends at App State; Tuesday, he’s home to vote and then back to school.
So, with a Halloween supper for 15 to 20 on my mind, I headed to Costco.   I like that the staples are affordable there, and I love that Costco offers a lot of not-so-staple products, too.  Products like Dave’s Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce, which, inexplicably, although I’d never heard of Dave’s Gourmet, I could not resist buying.  That’s the trouble with Costco.  Or maybe that’s the trouble with me.IMG_2596
Once home, with all my plunder safely in the pantry, I eyed the squash sauce warily.  I looked carefully at the label.  Where were the recipes?  the menu suggestions?  Nothing.  Fine, I like a challenge.  So out comes, the bowtie pasta and into the pot.    IMG_2600Here’s the recipe I devised based on what I had on hand. I would definitely make it again.  The Mister loved it! 
12 oz farfalle or bowtie pasta
1 jar Dave’s Gourmet Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
1 15 oz bag baby spinach
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 or 2 tbsp sundried tomatoes, drained and julienned or chopped into small bits
1 tbsp chopped pecans, toasted
1 tbsp crumbled bleu cheese (preferably Clemson bleu cheese)
Cook pasta in lightly salted boiling water.  Drain.  While pasta is cooking, saute the spinach in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add garlic, if desired.  Mix the spinach into the pasta  and add the bacon and sundried tomatoes. Toss all with the butternut squash sauce.   This makes four generous servings.  Sprinkle each with chopped pecans and crumbled bleu cheese, if desired.
Dave’s Gourmet is made from butternut squash grown organically in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  The squash is mixed with tomato, onion, and spices to give a robust flavor with a slightly sweet undertone.  I’m interested in hearing other ideas for using the squash sauce; after all, I have three more jars. 
squash sauce
Now, that’s the trouble with Costco.

I was not compensated by Dave’s Gourmet or by Costco for this post.

Will You Walk into My Parlor?

So begins the charming and slightly spooky poem “The Spider and the Fly,” published by British author Mary Howitt (1799-1888) in 1829. After offering such an innocent-sounding invitation, the crafty spider goes on to tell the fly that hers is the “prettiest little parlor that you ever did spy.”  Although I’m certain that my parlor is not the prettiest, I do, like Miss Spider, “have many curious things to show when you are there." 
Collecting Halloween ephemera is not something I set out to do.  Because of my Christian faith, I’m far more inspired and interested in celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  Beyond carving a Jack O’Lantern, decorating for Halloween is kind of new to me.  It all started years ago when I was sorting through some family Christmas ornaments, and I came across these tin noisemakers that had been my mother’s when she was a girl in the 1940s.  Called clickers or crickets, these party favors actually make a loud, hollow pop!  I instantly loved them because of the great graphics and because they had been my mother’s. 

After a little research, I found that they most likely were manufactured by the Kirchhof Company of New Jersey.  The firm also produced Braille printers and ticker-tape machines. Kirchhof entered the holiday market initially by making Christmas tree candle holders, then noisemakers.  Kirchhof is thought to have supplied American soldiers with the crickets (clickers) used at the World War II Invasion of Normandy. Clickers were used by Allied paratroopers as a way of identifying friend from foe. A soldier would click once, and if two clicks were received in return from an unidentifiable soldier then his identification was confirmed.  But, I digress.

Of course, my clickers had to be displayed, but since they were small, I needed to provide a setting for them.  Naturally, papier mache Jack O’Lanterns provided the perfect background.  In an earlier post about fall decorating, Falling Into Place, I mentioned a few of my self-imposed decorating rules.  Let me just say, I realize I’m on mighty thin ice with Rule Number Three!
IMG_2513 Nevertheless, here’s the drop-leaf table in the family room.   It’s really the focal point of all our Halloween decorating.IMG_2514    Other than the clickers, none of this is old or even vintage, but I think it has the right look.  The eyeball pails add the perfect twist, in my opinion.IMG_2520IMG_2518IMG_2510 I tried something new in the dining room this year, adding a few homemade bats the children made years ago.  The paper bat garland is a Martha Stewart whimsy.  One end is trailing down to the pumpkins in this photo, but, don’t fear, it’s been re-affixed.IMG_2525   Back in the family room, a totem pole of Jacks and a wooden cat cozy up to an old framed postcard that readsIMG_2524
Sing a song of Halloween
Pumpkins everywhere,
Cats and bats and witches
are flying through the air!
And, there you have it—a quick tour through my parlor.  I hope you enjoyed it!

A Ghost Story

When I was a little girl, watching television was only a small part of my big day of playing and pretending.  In fact, the only show I remember seeing regularly was Captain Kangaroo.   Bob Keeshan and his team put together arguably the finest children’s programming ever.  Parked in a child-sized wooden rocker with a glass of milk and a graham cracker, I sat mesmerized for an hour while my mother enjoyed a bit of peace.  I am sure I laughed at the antics of Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose, Dancing Bear, and Mister Greenjeans, but my favorite part of the show was when Captain Kangaroo would read a story.  Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel, Mary Ann; Caps for Sale; Make Way for Ducklings; and A Snowy Day were a few of my favorites, and they are books that I read to my own children years later.  One book that the Captain read that I absolutely loved was Georgie, a tale of a sweet and curious ghost. georgie I loved Georgie’s shyness.  georgie 1The line drawings of a quaint New England  house and its owners, the Whittakers captivated me, and I loved the simple prose  that author Robert Bright used to tell his ghostly tales.georgie 2IMG_2526When we were in New York this past fall, we spent a delightful rainy Sunday morning browsing through the Corner Bookstore, where I found another favorite ghost story, Ghosts in the House!  This charming picture book tells the story of a  little girl who buys a house only to discover it is full of ghosts.  She makes quick work of catching them, promptly tosses them in the washer, and then stitches them up as curtains and bed linens.  It is a delightful book, and I highly recommend you get it for your children or your grandchildren or nieces or nephews or just for yourself, as I did!  
So, these were the books I was thinking of when I devised this extremely inexpensive and easy and non-scary way to add some subtle Halloween charm to the T&C house.
Start with white tissue paper, the same kind with which you would line a gift box.  You’ll need at least one sheet for each of your front or street side windows.  Butcher paper would work well for this project, too.IMG_2512
  Next, simply draw out some ghostly shapes, with loose, gentle curves.  I tried to leave one corner of each tissue paper intact, to serve as my guide for placement and to prevent the ghosts from looking like blobs!  Cut out the shapes with scissors.IMG_2527 Here’s our dining room table, covered with a variety of ghost bodies.IMG_2530 Next, using a wide-tipped black Sharpie draw simple round eyes and smiles or O-shaped mouths.  I made some of each. Be sure to use some newspaper or scrap paper underneath your tissue paper because the Sharpie bleeds through!IMG_2537 Finally, place your ghosts in your windows using Magic Scotch tape.   IMG_2533It was hard to get a good picture because of the glare, but as you can see there’s a ghost in each window, a few are placed upside down in hopes of giving the appearance of fun-loving spooks whooshing through the house!   IMG_2536I found it easiest to put a tiny piece of tape at the top of the ghost’s head to get it into position, and then to tape the body into place.  Above is one of the ghosts during the day.IMG_2548
And, here’s the twilight shot.
Happy Haunting!

Tiger Tailgate 201

The college football season continues in full swing with top-ranked teams toppling, and underdogs celebrating across the country.   I’ve wanted to do a follow-up post  to Tiger Tailgate 101 about game day at Clemson, one of the country’s top-ranking tailgating schools according to the Huffington Post, but the Tigers couldn’t seem to eek out a victory the past few Saturdays.  Today, however, they won decisively over competitor Georgia Tech, so, here’s another look at Tiger Tailgating.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, these pictures were made at the Clemson-Miami game a few weeks ago.)
Lovely Girlfriend’s parents invited us to tailgate with them, and Lovely’s mother and I had a great time planning our menu.  A few of our favorite students invited friends to stop by and grab a ham biscuit before the game. IMG_2464T and her mom Miami gameHere’s Lovely and her sweet mom, who has three children enrolled at Clemson this fall—a senior, a junior, and a freshman!
tiger tailgate Miami gameMister T&C and I are excited to see Son1, Lovely, and all their friends.IMG_2460Pink Martinis and Pearls, a brilliant baker and devoted college mom, inspired me to make these cupcake toppers for a fun dessert.  The cake is just a simple yellow cake; the chocolate butter cream frosting is from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook.  Four dozen of these went pretty quickly!IMG_2461Lovely and Son1 are standing at the bottom of the hill that all the little kids slide down on cardboard.  I have seen a few tipsy adults try to “surf” the hill, as well. 

One of the Mister’s favorite tailgate foods is Bean Salad.  It’s fat-free and extremely tasty, perfect with tortilla chips or even as a side dish with a light supper.  The original recipe is from Southern Living magazine, which you can find on their website.  Below is my slightly adjusted version.bean saladBean Salad
Mix together:
1  (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1  (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1  cup  frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1  small red onion, finely chopped
1  (4.5-ounce) can diced green chiles 
1/4  cup  fresh lime juice
1  or 2 teaspoons  hot sauce, such as Texas Pete or Tabasco
1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
1/2  teaspoon  Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt
Chill overnight.  For best flavor, serve at room temperature. 
IMG_2466 Our dear friends, the Rs, also joined us for the pre-game festivitiesIMG_2469 Lovely, Little, and I in our Tiger orange.  The girls are standing on the curb, about six inches higher than where I am, so that I will not “tower above them.”  IMG_2468Lovely and her family are Tigers through and through!
The weather was perfect for an afternoon game.  It was chilly in the morning and late afternoon, but plenty warm during the game.  For a hot dish, we served macaroni and cheese, a Southern classic.  On some menus down South, it’s even listed as a vegetable!  Don’t I wish.  Son1’s roommate’s mom graciously shared her recipe, which makes a great side dish for Sunday or holiday dinners.macaroni-and-cheese Macaroni and Cheese
10 oz elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
2 cups of cottage cheese (not fat free)
1 cup of sour cream (not fat free)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
3 cups of shredded cheese (I use 2 cups sharp cheddar and 1 cup mozzarella—reserving 1 cup of the cheddar to use on top)
Mix all ingredients together and top with one cup of the cheese.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
T and friends Miami gameSon1 and Lovely with their friends, way up in the upper deck, on top of the world.
Ah, college.

Barbara Billingsley, Ode to June

As most readers must surely know, actress Barbara Billingsley, died this past week.  Billingsley, best known for her role as loving wife and mother on the television show Leave It to Beaver,  became an American icon, representing to many the ideal mid-century woman.  She did make it all look rather effortless; I think it’s important to remember that Billingsley was an actress portraying a character.  Nevertheless, by all accounts, Barbara Billingsley was as lovely and gracious as June Cleaver, who frequently did her housework while wearing a simple string of pearls.  For that reason, the also lovely and gracious Suburban Princess has declared October 22 as June Cleaver Day, asking everyone to wear their pearls to honor Barbara Billingsley. 
  Here you can see I’m wearing pearls on my sweater, stitched on black grosgrain ribbon, as well as my black pearl earrings.IMG_2541And, here’s the pearl and ribbon detail of the sweater once more.  I must say, it is quite sobering to look at pictures of one’s neck when you reach a certain age!  Although I seldom write about fashion, I will say that I paired the sweater with a black pencil skirt and flat black boots, to sort of balance things a bit. 
Lastly, in tribute to June, Barbara, and my own mother, who clipped this recipe for me years ago, here, allegedly, is Barbara Billingsley’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.June-cleaverJune Cleaver’s Cookies from Barbara Billingsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 1 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 beaten egg, and 2 tsp vanilla.  Blend 2 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp soda.  Stir into sugar mixture.  Mix in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Drop rounded teaspoonfuls ontoo an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake about 10 minutes.  Watch closely.  Yield: 5 dozen

And, if you’re too young (as I am!) to have watched Leave It to Beaver when it originally aired, I highly recommend picking up a dvd for an evening’s entertainment.  You’ll find plenty of mid-century fashion as well as some seriously good parenting tips and wholesome humor.

Phantom of the Neighborhood

The vibrant October blue sky darkened quickly, and the long shadows of the towering tulip poplar, oak, and hickory trees faded into the dusk.  The dry leaves rustled on the sidewalk, and in the distance a forlorn dog barked, urging his master to hurry home.  The Mister and I were companionably clearing the supper dishes in the warm glow of the kitchen when it happened.

The doorbell rang sharply; we thought we heard a bit of a scuffle.  Then nothing.  We opened the door and found no one.  Then we looked down and discovered that we had been booed!
First, we found a note that looked like this!
The note was attached to this,
which was filled with this!
Also tucked inside the darling black cat bag were the following instructions:
The phantom ghost has come to town
To leave some goodies to be found.
If you wish to make this a happier fall,
Continue this greeting, this phantom call.
Make two treats and two copies of this poem
Deliver them to neighbors, try to stay calm.
You’ve only one day to act, so be quick!
Leave your treats at doors the Phantom hasn’t  hit!
Deliver at dusk when there isn’t much light.
Ring the doorbell and run; stay out of sight!
This is all in good fun and the spirit of play,
Happy Halloween and Have a Great Day!

What a fun neighborhood treat!  Even though my tricksters are no longer little, they are excited to be part of this!  We will be making our phantom calls tomorrow evening with caramel corn and stickers and, of course, candy!  The question is, who to boo?
Does your neighborhood “boo”? 

Sweet Taste of Autumn

When the first truly chilly day of fall arrives—usually mid-October here in the South, everyone in my family clamors for one of our favorite fall snacks—caramel corn! 
halloween-christmas-popcorn-balls For years I tried to make yummy popcorn balls, but the humidity of Florida was my adversary.  I generally ended up with sticky, gummy mounds of popcorn, which is a treat that should be crisp and crunchy.  Then, my sister-in-law, Miss Pynn, saved the day with her three-ingredient caramel corn recipe, and I’ve been making it ever since!
Caramel corn packaged in cellophane bags and tied with raffia or twine makes the perfect Halloween treat for teachers and classmates.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this as a homeroom parent, and how many times teachers have requested the recipe! 

It’s great for tailgates and parties, too; I love serving it in kraft paper cones. 
And it’s a T&C family Halloween tradition to enjoy a big bowl of caramel corn while watching the Don Knott’s comedy classic The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Miss Pynn’s Caramel Corn
1 six-serving bag microwave popcorn (we like Orville Redenbacher’s Simply Salted)
1/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Pop the popcorn, and set aside in a large bowl.
Melt together the butter and the brown sugar.  I do this in the microwave for one minute, then stir, and microwave a few more seconds, if needed. 
Whisk butter and sugar together well, and pour over popcorn.  Stir popcorn well. (A table knife works great for this.)  At this point, you can spread the popcorn out on waxed paper or parchment, and scoop into bags or cones for treats, or simply enjoy straight from the bowl.  One bag of microwave popcorn yields eight to 10 treat bags or cones.

I’d love to hear about your favorite fall snacks!  And, I’d love to hear what you think about Miss Pynn’s Caramel Corn—I promise you won’t believe how tasty (and addictive) it is!

Boys will be . . .

Many of you dear readers have kindly written an email or comment to check in with me to see how I am handling having Son1 away at college.  I do miss him, and occasionally find myself still setting a place for him for supper or wondering if he could pick up Little from school, before I remember that he’s away.  It’s hard to be blue for long, though, because he loves his college life.  He’s made new friends, and he’s challenged by his classes—particularly calculus.  Of course, just to make sure that I’m not moping around, God seems to have increased the testosterone output around the house lately.  In other words, Middle is taking up the slack.

Middle has started conditioning for lacrosse, and that provides plenty of sweaty gym clothes to keep the washer and dryer humming.   Not too long ago I opened the dishwasher to find his lacrosse helmet cozied up to the dinner plates and silverware.  Me:  “Son, why is your helmet in the dishwasher?”  “Oh, um, it was really gross and kind of it stinks.”  File that under Ask a stupid question.  I regret I didn’t get a picture.

Imagine my delight to find a plastic dish full of slugs and sliced bananas next to my kitchen sink.   It seems that Middle’s biology honors class is comparing slug adhesive to familiar household adhesives like glue sticks and Scotch tape.  Me: “Is this lid on tight?”HOBBIES GARDENING SLUGS 7/18
From biology, Middle moved straight to physics.  Did you know that if you attempt to throw a large stick (small limb) over your house that the arc of the stick will be compromised if you are also wearing a bookbag with 40 pounds of books on your back?   And, that if you are goofing around and throw the stick as hard as you can, there’s a really good chance it will shatter the double-paned Pella window in your parent’s bedroom?  And, from physics, let’s move on to statistics.  Did you know that if you break your parents’ bedroom window, there is a 100 percent chance that it will be a special order window with a ten-day wait?  There’s also a 100 percent chance that the “thrower” is the “payer.”  Hard lesson learned, indeed. IMG_2477Nevertheless, I can assure you that adolescent boy humor is alive and well at the T&C home.  When I pulled out the Pumpkin Curd and Tart Filling given to me by a  neighbor to make a little treat, I discovered that a certain boy had had a little fun with a Sharpie. Because boys will be boys.IMG_2482
Now if you’d like to make your own little pumpkin treat, take:
1 can pumpkin
1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 Tbsp 10x sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
Beat well with an electric mixer and chill.  Serve as a spread with crisp gingersnap cookies.

Oh, boy!

October Gave a Party

October’s Party by George Cooper
tree fall-leaves October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came.
The Chestnuts, Oaks and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
treefall eikenhout The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
tree yellow The Chestnuts came in yellow,
The Oaks in crimson dressed;
The lovely Misses maple
In scarlet looked their best.
treered All balanced to their partners,
And gaily fluttered by;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky.tree autumn_leaves_scene
Then in the rustic hollow
At hide-and-seek they played;
The party closed at sundown
And everybody stayed.
Professor Wind played louder;
They flew along the ground;
And then the party ended
In jolly "hands around."

So.  I thought I was finished blogging.  None of my ideas seemed worth writing.  My camera has given me fits, and we are short one computer, which means that my laptop is required for hours of  homework every night.  I have still been reading and even leaving a few comments; I just convinced myself that I was finished writing a blog. After all, I work about 30 hours a week, and boringexcusesboringexcusesboringexcuses. 

And then.  I had an idea.  And then another one.  And so, Happy October!  I think I have some fun posts coming up—just bear with me, and in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed George Cooper’s charming poem.

Do children still have to memorize poetry in school?  Mine have memorized precious little, and I think it’s a shame.
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