Monday, 31 October 2016

Monday Moaning - October 31, 2016


It's Halloween, the lamps are lit
And round the fire the children sit
Telling ghost tales bit by bit
'Til sister Jane says, "Shush!" 
Who's that creeping cross the kitchen floor?
Who's that peeking round the bedroom door?
Who's that SCREECHING like his throat is sore?
It's a GOBLIN!
I was taught this song in Grade 4 by a very skillful teacher, Mrs. Price. I recall she dimmed the lights in the classroom and added an unexpected sound effect or two! Perhaps that's why the song is etched so clearly in my memory. In those days, there were no costume parades (good thing because I would have hated that) or parties, yet there was no shortage of Hallowe'en themed activities - from art and music to reading, writing and yes even arithmetic. The whole week was haunted with decorations, songs, stories and math problems all featuring ghosts, goblins, witches and jack-o-lanterns. It was fun and a great run up for the big night.

My preferred characters for Trick or Treating were pirates, gypsies and tramps (no thieves - lol), and the outfits were hobbled together from stuff in the house an hour or so before heading out. The one exception was the very special year my parents bought me a pirate costume. Dad made the eye patch. My Mom was not a seamstress, but she did know a thing or two about makeup. There was an awful lot she could do with a burnt cork, baby powder and red lipstick. She also had that big jar of cold cream for getting all the stuff off afterwards.

Yours truly - Hallowe'en 1960

Beyond the orange and black wrapped molasses candies, apples, peanuts in the shell and packages of sunflower seeds, many of the treats were homemade and every kid knew which house in the neighbourhood had the best ones.
For years, our house was #1.

My mother's speciality at Halloween, at any time actually, was conjured up in the kitchen. She made popcorn balls - rounds of white popcorn held together by molasses syrup boiled to the hard crack stage. With buttered hands, so the hot syrup didn't stick, Mom quickly assembled the hardball sized treats. The hot syrup always burned her hands no matter how fast she worked.

Gone now are such delectables, even the apples and peanuts are absent from the treat bag. We've all had to buy into the commercial brands. There will be zombies and vampires out tonight but very few pirates and tramps. And it's been a very long time since I've heard anyone utter my childhood chant, "Shell out! Shell out! The witches are out!"

But pumpkin carving remains a serious business in this house.



The 2016 edition unfolded this way yesterday:

Bloody, serious business...

But worth it...

There truly is nothing like a Hallowe'en in Canada! Costumes have to be both fashionable and endurable. They have to fit over snow suits and galoshes. They have to maintain their integrity in some of the wildest winds and torrential rains. Past years have brought rain and wind, cold and snow, and on occasion, even a balmy evening. According to the latest weather forecast, this night of the Great Pumpkin will be chilly (3C, 37F) but mainly clear - a mitts and snowsuits kind of night.

Our tennis pro, Sophie is at the ready to thwhack away anything that goes bump in the night.

Be safe out there, and have a "Spook-tacular" time.

©2016 April Hoeller

Friday, 28 October 2016

Thursday, or Thereabouts (on Friday) - October 28, 2016

In Praise of the First Snow

Yesterday I awoke to the first snowfall.

Not much white stuff on the ground or deck, but just enough to count; just enough to send a thrill through my veins. Yes, that's right, a THRILL.

On the wings of fresh cool air, amazing, unique crystals of frozen water drift to the ground - a clean white coverlet over fallen leaves.

But more, there is a quickening of my spirit, an eagerness to jump at the invitation to be a child again, wide-eyed with anticipation of the joys that fresh snow brings.

And I can be happily eloquent about snow in no small part because my adult self does not have to work, drive or walk in it.

I can already hear the groans and guffaws of incredulity from those who feel less enamoured with Jack Frost and his cool companions. There are those who truly do suffer in the cold. To them I offer my sympathy and warmest thoughts.

Funchal, Madeira

To the winter whiners, I offer my assurance that come the end of January, I will have chilly words more in line with your sentiments. But in the meantime indulge me a little as I enjoy the white artistry outside my door, this morning caught in sunlight.

I watched winter's reveal, more of just a teaser yesterday and all but gone now, from my favourite room in the house, the kitchen, where I cooked up a storm as flakes fell. Granola, pastry, savoury crackers, pumpkin spice cake and muffins filled the air with the warm scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The enterprise also filled the sink with dishes and by the time those were done and the counters cleared, the sun was setting without a blogpost in sight. No photos of the baking either - I didn't stop to take any. So be it.

A full, fragrant kitchen AND the first snow - priceless.

©2016 April Hoeller

Monday, 24 October 2016

Monday Moanings - October 24, 2016

The Perils of being a Writer - Trying and VERY Trying!

What is it about sitting on your backside all day writing that makes one so hungry?
Yee gads, you'd think I hadn't eaten in days! Good thing there's no junk food in the house...
      ...but is mindless eating on healthy food better than mindless munching on junk food, or is a binge a binge?

Tough questions at the top of this last full week of October. Okay so perhaps not so much tough as vexing.

Who knew writing would be so perilous, so prone to attracting unhealthy food practices?  I thought it would be all about a word-reaching, mind-stretching, heart-rending mission to put down on paper one good sentence, and then another, and another until a book is born.

That can take anywhere from a few weeks to, as in my case, a few years+. Then I'm told the real horror begins. Editting: ripping out the some of the best prose ever written, banishing the neatest characters and dropkicking the most intriguing plot twists.

But I'm not there yet. I'm still sitting here writing and eating good cheddar, nuts and salami.

Then in the middle of a delectable morsel a whole other thought train arrives  A completely different story starts writing itself in my head. That's how this blogpost came into being, one sentence toppling on top of another until I just had to abandon my book and write here, right now.

I still have to produce 300 words, the same single page of coherent writing I've been working on since yesterday, by end of day. It's a query letter to an agent, pitching my memoir as the best ever narrative non-fiction. In the sea of memoirs now swirling in the bookstores? I have never excelled at selling myself. I'm more of a 'here I am, here's my story, you make your own decision' kind of person.

But now I'm heading into town - to go the gym to atone for all the bum-in-chair time and to get some more cheese, nuts and salami to fuel my word habit.

So that's how this writer's Monday is going so far.

©2016 April Hoeller

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Thursday, or Thereabouts - October 20, 2016

Happy and Home Free!

We slipped under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at just past 5:30am Tuesday morning.

Bowed to the grand Lady of Liberty just before 6am - She is such a fine and wonderful sight!

And then on past the lights of lower Manhattan to dock at Pier 88.

Some eight hours later we greeted yet another fine and wonderful sight - Toronto - undiminished in my heart by clouds and mist.

We enjoyed our time away (more about that another time, when the laundry has been dispatched and 5600 photos uploaded), but it is always good to see the lights of home, to come back to familiar places, faces and routines. No haute cuisine for supper tonight, but the comfort of a home-cooked meal has its own rich flavour.

While we were away, Autumn breezed in, her resplendent beauty filling the countryside with vibrant colour. Best of all she seems to have waited for our return before dropping all her fine artwork to the ground.

Even in today's rain, her palette along the street where I live, is on full display.

And around the house, there are still begonia blooms. Nothing prize-winning here, but worthy of special mention because it is October 20, not August 20.

These gourds though do proclaim October fullness.

As do the sumac leaves.

It's time for gathering in all the joys and blessings of life here and now: family, friends and a good homeland.

Deo gratias!

©2016 April Hoeller