Reflections on Halloween 2009

First off an observation……This blogger in training needs to do a better job of documenting things from start to finish. Sad to realize I didn’t take any in-process photos yesterday…the counter covered in newspaper, 5 pumpkins in varying states of being carved, piles of raw seeds, the patterns, carving tools, carved out chunks of pumpkin, my son and I covered in pumpkin gunk. Good times. Instead just have the final outcome of Halloween 2009 at our house.

We ended up with 6 carved pumpkins, one carved the day before at day care, the rest carved on Halloween morning at home. Final tally, I’d only carved 2, son did rest. I was responsible for all the pumpkin cleaning, pulling out the slimy guts, separating the seeds from the fleshy, gooey threads that connect them to the actual fruit. And boy, did we have seeds.

Son mentioned at the day care, they’d roasted the seeds two ways, with salt and then with cinnamon sugar. Then voted on favorite, where he voted “BOTH”. I’ve only ever done salt – somewhat evolving that to a savory garlic and herb version. Ended up splitting the seeds to to pans – on the right is the normal salt version, left is with a small bit of butter, brown sugar and common pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger). Would have to agree and vote “both”!

Trick or Treat in our town was from 5-7:30. My 10yo son had a friend spending the night, both going as versions of Star Wars clones. This was going to be the first year he trick or treated without parents, so I was a little worried, but we’d laid out the ground rules, they knew which streets they couldn’t cross, where they could go. A bit after 5pm, armed with flashlights, glow sticks and candy bags they set off. The boys were back well before 7:30 – first to grab additional coats, and later cuz they were tired of walking.


I donned my Cruella costume and the dog put on his Robin costume. We had maybe 40 trick-or-treaters. Lots of comments about the pumpkins from the parents, a few little ones nervous by the talking decorations and spooky music, but overall a good time. No dalmatians tho’, which would have been kinda fun!

Today it’s more or less back to normal, Halloween decorations packed away, pumpkins remain, and now time to tackle the masses and masses of leaves in the yard!

They say Karma’s a bitch……

Or payback is hell.

But the brilliant thing is that the flip side to bad karma coming back and biting you in the ass is that sometimes getting what you deserve or earned is a good thing. And that appears to have happened to my son and I this weekend.

Last December armed with our first ever Disney annual passes, my son and I had a 5 day pre-Christmas trip to Disney World planned. This grown-up but kid at heart Disney fanatic has always wanted to see the parks and the resorts in their Christmas finery. Each day was well planned with dining reservations, carefully researched park plans to avoid the “extra magic hour” crowds, not to mention a list of shows and resorts to visit. And then the great snow of December 19th hit Milwaukee. Closing the airport. And for the next 2 1/2 days my very patient 9 year old son and I were in airport stand-by hell. Somehow our Friday 6am direct flight turned into a 7pm Saturday connecting flight through Atlanta. We tried to stand by on every flight in between. No luck. And then of course, our flight to Atlanta was delayed and we found ourselves stuck in Atlanta, a city we never planned to visit for the night. Sunday morning brought more stand by flights, and a melt down and tears from the grown-up, and continued brave face from the 9 year old. Finally at 2pm Sunday, 62 hours later we were in Disney.

And I swore I would make it up to my son. (OK, yeah, me too) Upon returning home, using frequent flier miles, timeshare points and of course knowing we had annual passes, I booked a Halloween trip back to Disney.

From start to finish this trip was a dream. Flights going and coming were on time. Car rental no line, no problem. Sure a 6am flight made an awfully early start, but we managed – and boy, did we manage getting all the highlights done.

Some of the highlights: While the parks were fairly crowded, it was primarily Food & Wine Festival attendees and folks with young children. Which meant lines for the attractions requiring folks to be over 40″ tall were not bad, not bad at all. So much so, we hit all our favorite rides, most with literally no wait. On rides like Everest Expedition, Test Track, and Rock-n-Roller Coaster we employed single rider strategy. If you aren’t familiar with this, some rides have a third line in addition to the normal line and the fastpass line. You will not be sitting with your party as they use the singles to fill in the odd numbered groups. However in most every instance we were in the same “car” or train or whatever that is called. Others, such as Tower of Terror (my #1 fav ride) simply had no waits. You could ride them as fast as it took to walk through the queue. All said in our three days, the final tally was Everest Expedition 6 times (son did 7), Tower of Terror and Big Thunder Mountain 5 times, Test track 4 times, Splash Mountain, Kali River Ride, andStar Tours 2 times plus a trip on the Great Movie Ride, The Backlot tour, Soarin’, Maelstrom, Mission Space, Haunted Mansion, Pirates……Oh, and I got to be one of the “actors” in the Pearl Harbor scene on the Backlot tour!

Of course, I had to get my fireworks fix. The first day we were worn out from our 6am plane flight and considered skipping fireworks. Instead we headed to Beaches and Cream for burgers and ice cream. Remarkably we had no wait for a table, and finished dinner just in time to walk in the back entrance of EPCOT and snag a great view at a spot between USA and Japan. The park was crowded but somehow, just as the announcer blew out the fires, there was a two person opening along the fence. The next night was Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party where we enjoyed Halloween Wishes from our fav spot front and center of the castle. Finally the third night, son wanted to repeat the Beaches and Cream / Illumination plan. This time we scored a spot between China and Germany with a perfect view of Illuminations but also a goo view of Wishes just to the left of Spaceship Earth – huge bonus for this fireworks lover.

One of my favorite memories was the morning after Mickey’s Halloween party, when my son in all seriousness asked, “Mom, did you feel like a kid again last night?” I replied, “What do you mean?”. “well, you were wearing a costume and went trick or treating”. And, yes, he was right, I did feel like a kid again, and both he and I thought that was pretty darn cool.

Finally, in keeping with family tradition of documenting our accommodations. Shots from the 1 bedroom unit at Wyndham Vacation Resort at Bonnet Creek. I own a decent amount of points in the Wyndham timeshare system (all purchased on eBay, which is a whole other story). Their new resorts are quite nice, and the point system allows me to book 3-4 night long weekends. (Like the one in November to Wyndham Glacier Canyon at the Wisconsin Dells or the December weekend at Wyndham Grand Desert Las Vegas – which will include doing the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The location of this resort is pretty incredible – within the World, next to the Caribbean Beach Resort, very close to EPCOT, the Boardwalk and Hollywood Studios. Will return to this one!

Random Thoughts from the Saddle

1) When geese are spooked and caused to take off as a flock, many of them poop in the process. If you are riding down a bike path and flush a flock of geese directly in front of you, not only do you have to worry about a 20 lb goose hitting your head, you have to dodge a shower of crap. According to my husband this is quite funny to watch from behind; take it from me, it is less fun to experience.

2) Leaning right when only your left foot is out of the clipless pedals – not smart. That makes two falls since I got bike shoes and clipless pedals. Both in my driveway. The first hurt, really hurt – stll have a bruise and knot on my right, uh, glute. This second one yesterday evening (after several rides and more than 75 miles of city riding w/ no incidents) just hurt my pride.

3) Speaking of falling, it is amazing how many thoughts can run through your head in a split second. On Sunday’s ride, another cyclist coming the opposite direction passed wide , really wide, way into my “lane” of the trail, running me off the trail. My bike got squirrley, I went sideways. In the split second of realizing I was about to wipe out hard among all kinds of people; I went through a whole series of thoughts and emotions – anger, denial, fear, embarrassment, acceptance – and then remarkably relief, as I somehow regained my balance, got the wheels under me and kept on rolling.

4) Walnut balls make formidable road hazards. There is an especially egregious downhill section of road full of them right by my house….from a tree in my own yard.

5) Since I’ve started riding bikes, I am much more aware of hills while driving. From the gentle ones around my house, to the many not so gentle ones in the area. There’s basically no flat land to be found around here.

Stop reading now if you know me and have this view of me as a prim and proper thing – or if you are offended by talk of bodily functions.

6) Cold weather riding makes my nose run, really run. And try as I might I don’t quite have the moving snot rocket thing down. I don’t think the goal is to catch them on your sleeve. Of course, my 10 year old son thinks it’s very cool that his mom is even trying……..

Self-Image Mindshift


This weekend brought a couple of unrelated incidents that made me realize how my mental image of myself has, or maybe more accurately, is changing. Hubby and I were down in Chicago celebrating our 10th Anniversary. First up was a surprise trip to the spa for a massage and facial. When the massage therapist asked me if there were any areas in particular for her to focus on, I caught myself saying, “Well, I have a tendency to hold tension in my traps and my IT bands really need work”. Say what….

After the massage as I was waiting for the facial technician in the “relaxation” room, it hit me that I really was relaxing, fully comfortable in the robe they had supplied. That I hadn’t had to ask for a larger robe, or sit there in one that didn’t quite close – or worst of all, sized up by the receptionist at check-in and offered to swap out the usual robe for a plus sized one. Instead I was perfectly comfortable sitting there waiting in the normal robe, which actually felt large, wrapped over completely in front. Such a nice feeling, couldn’t help but smile.

Then again none of this really should have surprised me. Hell, we’d brought our bikes on this trip; planning to take advantage of Chicago’s Lakeshore trail and a promise of sunny not too cool weather. That would never have happened 15 months and 65 pounds ago. Yet as I’ve made these changes to healthier foods, healthier eating, regular exercise, gone down several clothing sizes; I’ve never really thought about the changes to my mindset to the way I thought about myself, the boxes I put myself into.

But this weekend, I realized that I think of myself as a bit of an athlete. That being active is not something I do, it is something I am. And that while my weight loss journey is not over (35 pounds to go), I have taken great strides forward, I have changed not only my body, but my mind.

Which leads to this morning’s ride. The trail along Lake Michigan is a gem. One enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Sure there were plenty of people out for a casual stroll, but for the most part on this Sunday morning the path was populated by other athletes – folks out for a serious work out. Some passed us, plenty we passed. It felt good, I felt strong. We rode 32 miles on the trail – a loop north to Foster Avenuse and south to about a mile past the Science and Industry Museum. But best of all, I felt like I belonged.

Once again a Chicago post….more lustworthy plants and plantings

The streetscape, Chicago urban plantings, I’ve highlighted in my June post and the one earlier this week were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more. I’m sure that I have barely scratched the surface in my walks – which have always been no more than a few blocks east or west of Michigan Avenue – from a southern point of the Blackstone Hotel north to the North Avenue beach. A tiny, but vibrant slice of this great city. Great plant combos, incredible use of color, texture. Mixes of annuals, perennials. Can’t help but share a few more, random sightings. In the center of one of the main promenade entrances to Millennium park, is this planting centered by what I assume is some sort of dark leaved sugar cane or Saccharum arundinaceum. Unfortunately, I struggle with my blackberry to find the perfect shot to highlight the scale and drama of this beauty.

The most striking aspect of any plant focused stroll through the heart of Chicago is the wide variety of plantings. Sure some plants, like the Angel wing begonias are repeated, but with different partners, in different ways.

But even in variety is repetition, bringing both drama and cohesiveness to an area.

And, I must acknowledge the individual plants who caught my eye, grabbed my heart. The striped maize noticed on the walk to the start line of the Chicago Rock-n-Roll half marathon, the unknown silvery beauty, and of course, the oft mentioned un-named yellow dahlia.

The Lurie garden in Millennium Park has offered a full season of ever-changing vistas with the current scene dominated by the Japanese Anemones, Russian Sage, Ornamental Oreganos and a late season second bloom of perennial salvias.

My late September visit to the Lurie Garden was the first time I noticed the use of twig “fences”, used to both keep the plants from the paths – and I’m sure keep the people out of the plants!

I have a running joke with my world-traveler Mom about her opinion that when you stand on the shores of Lake Michigan and look out, you have a view that could be anywhere – the Baltic Sea, Downtown Chicago, the Atlantic Ocean. This planting at the Oak Street Beach really helps blur that line.

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