From the Archives: 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." 
IMG_2523Collecting 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_2513Nevertheless, here’s the drop-leaf table in the family room.   It’s really the focal point of all our Halloween decorating.IMG_2514Other 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_2510I 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!


Two of our three children have facebook accounts, and from time to time, I like to do what I consider “checking in”—scrolling through their wall posts, clicking on photos, looking at a few of their close friends’ pages.  You know, normal mom stuff. IMG_4505 I would never do something so mortifying to them as actually post a comment on their wall.  (I have, however, sent a text directing one of them to remove a comment he made.)  It’s part of the deal at the T&C House.  As long as the Mister and I are paying the bills, then we determine where your so-called privacy begins and ends.  The Mister and I are careful not to abuse our authority, but I have occasionally been accused of “creepin.’”
IMG_4503Really, they have no idea of the “wall creeping” of which I’m capable.
Do you check up on your kids’ online activity?  Do you hang giant spiders on your house?

A Friendly Ghost

I suspect by now you’ve seen these cuties on Pinterest.  The news is that not only did I “pin” this idea, but I also actually made these treats.  IMG_4507One for the piano teacher and one for her husband.  One each for the tutor, her husband, and toddler.  And a few for sweet friends.    IMG_4506
Assemble a couple of Graham crackers, a fun-sized Hershey bar, and a Peeps ghost in a cellophane sack, and you have a frighteningly simple treat!  After the s’more is re-assembled, microwave for about ten seconds, and enjoy!
What’s your favorite Halloween treat?

From the Archives: A Ghost Story

I received so many sweet comments when I posted this last year that I decided to post it again for anyone who might have missed it.

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 wasCaptain 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 Daywere 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.georgieI 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_2527Here’s our dining room table, covered with a variety of ghost bodies.IMG_2530Next, 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_2537Finally, 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!

One Holiday at a Time!

This makes me want to buy something there, how about you?

Really Great Pumpkin

Here at the T&C house, we always manage to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” at least once during October.  When the children were little, watching “The Great Pumpkin” meant lights out, pajamas on, and a big bowl of homemade caramel corn.  Happily, our brood still enjoys the tradition, the difficulty is getting everyone together.  We’re hoping for an evening during Big’s fall break.its-the-great-pumpkin One of my favorite quotes from the Peanuts gang is when Linus says, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin.”  I love Linus; he’s so earnest.
I also am crazy about this Krusteaz  mix that I found recently at Costco.  Typically, I’m not too keen on using baking mixes as it’s not really much trouble to bake from scratch, but I decided to give this a try.  IMG_4384I already have a terrific pumpkin bread recipe, but the recipes for pancakes and cookies definitely caught my eye.  I made the cookies, adding semi-sweet chocolate chips, for our picnic cruise and for tailgating at Clemson.  They were a big hit at both events.IMG_4386The pumpkin spice flavor is surprisingly good!  
IMG_4388The baking time is only about 12 minutes, which is about twice as long as it takes Middle to polish a dozen off, along with a gallon of milk, of course!  I did manage to bake a batch on the sly, so that the Mister and I could have something in hand when we went to meet the new neighbors.pumpkincookies
Welcome to the neighborhood, Erin and Phil!
What is your favorite pumpkin-flavored treat?  Sweet or savory?

Maybe you can help . . .

Have you ever worked in an office where one of your co-workers was constantly hitting you up to buy chocolate or wrapping paper or oranges to help their child's school or troop or band?  Or maybe your location was more low-key, and when you stopped to re-fill your coffee cup you noticed a sign-up sheet to order a box of Girl Scout cookies.  Well, today, I am that obnoxious person, and it's not really something I'm comfortable doing.  In fact--and Little, Middle, and Big will all verify this--whenever they had to sell something for some organization, I would bite my tongue, buy the minimum, and send in my check.  I am the PTA mother who says, "if every parent would just write a check for $20, we could be done with Boxtops and carnivals and all the rest."  

But Big asked me to post this for his friend and pastor of the church he attends while at school.  After watching it, how could I not?  So, if you are led, then please help a beginning artist share a story of redemption by making a small contribution in the next 24 hours.  

Click here to make a contribution as small as $10, payable through your secure Amazon account.  If KT doesn't raise the money, then you won't be charged, but I hope to see you at the movies!

A Wing and a Prayer

A few years ago, I routinely found myself in one of those odd little time windows peculiar to mothers of young children.  I don’t remember all the details, only that on Friday mornings I had a little over an hour to spend before I had to pick up Little from nursery school.  There wasn’t enough time to run back home and get anything accomplished, and I couldn’t do the grocery shopping because I wasn’t going directly home afterward.  I  think.  As I said, the details escape me now. 


One morning I decided to cross the parking lot from the nursery school and pop in the parish office of the small Episcopal church where we were members.  I was probably looking for coffee or hoping to buy a stamp.  Instead I encountered two women, in their early 80s I’d guess, companionably folding the weekly bulletins.  Vivian and Anna.   Vivian, who was dressed in a track suit, instructed me to pull up a chair and make myself useful.  I did.  The time passed quickly.  They asked me questions about our young family, one of only a handful in the small parish, and Vivian filled me in on her grown children, who were scattered but making plans to come home for Thanksgiving.  Anna, a tiny lady who wore a caramel-colored cardigan and brown tweed skirt told me she was spending the rest of her afternoon looking for lampshades for her apartment.  Her sister was coming to visit.good morning, st edward Each morning, we would say, “Good morning, Saint Edward!”

I fell into the easy habit of joining Vivian and Anna in the paneled conference room each Friday.  As we grew more familiar with one another, we began to share tidbits of parish news and opinions about changes in our small town of Mount Dora.  Spry Vivian was the outspoken one, but she was goodhearted and funny.  Anna was content to fold and smile and occasionally ask a question.  One Friday, when I arrived Anna was alone; Vivian had gone to visit one of her children.  At last, I would get to hear some of Anna’s story!  I began asking the questions I’d unknowingly saved for Anna—how long have you lived in Mount Dora? Where did you live before?  Details began to surface .  Interesting details.  I pressed on, gently,  How did you meet your husband? Anna’s black eyes sparkled beneath her snow white cropped cut, “ Well, I was a Pan Am stewardess, and we met on a flight to Cairo.”  Bingo! pan am 1It all fit—Anna’s classic and stylish good looks at 80; her demure yet confident manner.  pan am 3 Where did she fly? “All over the world, of course!”  Although, she didn’t get to South America as often as she would’ve liked.

pan am 4Was it as glamorous as I imagined? “We were treated very, very well and met lots of interesting people.”   Dignitaries? Movie stars?  “Oh, yes, even royalty flew Pan Am.”pan am 7Anna and her husband, who had passed away some years earlier, didn’t have any children, and so the Mister and I adopted Anna.  She began to join us for Christmas Day and for our annual Easter Brunch and Egg Hunt. She had such great stories and always kept our guests mesmerized.  We moved away a little more than five years ago, and sadly, we have not kept in touch, but when ABC’s new series Pan Am debuted a few Sundays ago, you can bet that I was watching and thinking of Anna.  And I am determined to check in on her next time we’re in the Sunshine State.pan-am-tv-show-promo-image-abc-01-600x337  As for the show, I am completely hooked.

How ‘bout you?  Have you watched Pan Am?  Are you a fan?

The Supper of the Boating Party

Probably like most of you, dear readers, I have a few memories of nursery school and kindergarten days that have informed me, that offer clues as to who I really am and what, perhaps, I really seek.  One of these early memories is of the art museum docent who regularly visited our nursery school, bringing with her a poster-sized print of a famous work of art.

Once, she brought Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and I have never forgotten it.  Oh, of course, I don’t remember anything she had to say, I just recall being drawn into the painting, loving the colors, the exuberance of the outing depicted.  At the time, I loved—still do, actually—Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town book, and I think this painting opened a similar door for my young mind—it was visually engaging, full of stories I could tell myself.    So, dear docent wherever you are, thank you.  I have loved art ever since, and my life has been richer for it.

As much as I am enriched by visual art, it is the art of friendship that really feeds my soul.  And the Mister and I are blessed to have great friends, both near and far.  Somewhere in the middle distance is my dear friend, D, who found a deal (Groupon, perhaps) and planned a Sunday evening outing for friends.

The Mister and I packed a few goodies and drove to Charlotte to meet our pals.        

IMG_4329We toted our picnic to the end of the dock, where an electric boat awaited us.  b and d outing Longtime and dear friends, the Ws, guaranteed safe passage for the flowers.IMG_4323D’s husband, S, piloted us out of the marina and around the coves of Lake Norman.  The day was overcast and cool, perfect for a fall cruise.IMG_4324D and B have our snack supper buffet ready to serve.  Spinach rolls, parmesan chicken fingers, Palmetto Cheese and crackers, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.IMG_4326It’s possible that adult beverages were proffered.IMG_4328 The Mister and I had a great time, being on the water with old friends, great (and uninterrupted!) conversation, and delicious nibbles.

Cheers to the Supper of the Boating Party!

So, what’s the most fun deal you’ve ever purchased through Groupon, Living Social, or a similar daily deal site?

Fall de Rol

It seems as if autumn has at last settled on the beautiful upcountry of South Carolina.  The dogwood trees, always the earliest to change, have begun to turn their velvety garnet; the skies are cloudless blue; and pumpkins and chrysanthemums are appearing on neighboring  porches.  Of course, I was eager to add some touches of fall around the T&C house, and I decided to start with the front door.  Typically, I buy some pumpkins and gourds from the farmers’ market and do my best to artfully arrange them on the brick steps, but this year I determined to add a wreath.  This is because I am secretly rather rebellious.IMG_4379You see, earlier this summer I read a column by one of my favorite essayists, Julia Reed, in one of my favorite publications, Garden & Gun.  Miss Reed proposed that one should have only Christmas wreaths, implying that all others were tacky.  Well!  I’ve never had a fall wreath before, but after reading Miss Reed’s tongue-in-cheek column, I wanted to give it a go.  (Admittedly, finding a corn husk wreath for half price didn’t hurt either.)  The monogram was kind of an afterthought and perhaps a little more overtly cutesy-preppy than I would usually go, but as I told myself, lighten up, it’s not Winterthur you’re decorating! IMG_4370Once inside, I have a wonderful, subtle potpourri mix on an old chest in the front hall.  Middle and Little found the unusual pinecone when we were visiting the Mister’s parents this past summer.IMG_4363In the family room and living room, I like to use some of the blue and white porcelain and Imari bowls I’ve collected as well as wooden ware to bring a bit of fall indoors. IMG_4369A tiny black lacquer tray holds a few gourds and leaves on the desk in the kitchen.IMG_4367 In the summer, these containers sometimes hold lemons or seashells. IMG_2432 In the family room, an old wooden tray rests on the walnut drop leaf sofa table. IMG_4366In front of the fireplace, an old basket holds a mix of gourds and berries.  IMG_4368A few fresh flowers in an old earthenware crock add an appealing scent.IMG_4375IMG_4374On the dining room table, barley twist candlesticks and pedestals are the perfect place to add a few more touches of fall, including Indian corn, dried pomegranates and artichokes, and preserved leaves and acorns. IMG_4371On the sideboard, I added a few white and metallic pumpkins, in hopes of bringing out the colors in my grandmother’s vases and the tole tray.  I’m not sure which one of my darling children stuck the feather, which was subtly tucked in the arrangement, up stick straight, but that’s kind of the way things go around here.  I’m worried this display looks a little “retail,” but it’s awfully nice by candlelight.
I’m still working out the details of our mantel.  I have some oversize glass urns that I’ve filled with river stones, and I have clipped some small branches of colored leaves to fill them out.  Little is keen to decorate for Halloween, but I’ve told her we have to wait a bit and enjoy autumn for itself.
What about you?  Do you have any favorite fall traditions?
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