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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

I haven’t carved a pumpkin since living in Florida, because in the Sunshine State it only took about 24 hours for a carved pumpkin to collapse from heat-induced decomposition. Now that I live in a cooler climate I no longer feel the urge to cut a face into a pumpkin. I just buy one and let it sit on the porch and speak for itself. I figure even without carving and a candle inside, the pumpkin and the porch light are indicators that our house is open for Halloween.

We average about a dozen trick-or-treaters each year. One recent favorite was a tiny little girl, possibly three years old, dressed in a purple sweat suit with a Tinker Bell costume on top. Her little wings were adorably magical, but the young lady was all business. Her mom accompanied her onto the porch with a flashlight. I gave Tinker Bell her candy while going on and on about how precious she looked.

Tinker said, “Happy Halloween,” in a clear, strong voice, turned, and marched back down the steps while her mom was still talking to me. Clearly she wanted to keep moving. It was a cold night, and she had candy to collect.

The next day I noticed that my pumpkin had a couple of dents, and places where the white inner rind showed. Had the trick-or-treaters kicked the pumpkin? I certainly hadn’t witnessed anything like that, but perhaps one or two had returned to protest the quality of my candy. Happily, it was not the children—the dents grew larger in the days following Halloween, and soon it was clear that squirrels were to blame. Eventually they gnawed a gaping hole where the pumpkin’s face would be, so that it appeared to be drooling onto the porch.

Because I am still thinking autumnal thoughts about comfort food, I thought I’d share a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding. I got it from a blog called Smitten Kitchen. The writer, Deb, introduced it as a dessert that could cure anything. I’ve always said that my grandmother’s pumpkin bread recipe could cure anything: colds, flu, depression, hives. Perhaps pumpkins truly are magical, as they are in Cinderella. Deb obviously thinks so, as she wrote:

Burrowing our spoons into still warm, bourbon-spiked sweet fall comfort was heavenly, and as I chewed on those buttery bread cubes and pondered the ginger’s edginess, memories of cooking failures fell away, and there was just this, a blissful and eerily wholesome calm.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350° with rack in middle. While preheating, melt butter in bottom of 8″ square baking dish. Once butter melts, remove from oven and toss bread cubes with butter to coat. Whisk together remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Pour mix over bread cubes, stirring to make sure pieces are evenly coated. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Could it be any simpler? But I advise you not to eat it warm. Like revenge, pumpkin bread pudding is a dish best served cold.

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Waiting for the bats in Austin

Transform a recycled umbrella into a very clever bat puppet. ~ Martha Stewart

I like to visit Martha Stewart’s Web site from time to time, and this morning the home page featured an episode wherein Martha made a bat puppet from an old black umbrella.  I didn’t want to watch the episode, which was oddly titled “Halloween Bats and Chinese Cuisine,” so I searched for written instructions. Evidently they aren’t yet posted, but in searching for “umbrella bat” I came across something even nicer: a bat costume made from a black umbrella!

[U]se a bolt cutter to clip metal joints where angled support bars meet spokes; also cut off central rod and handle. Trim all metal as closely as possible; cover any remaining sharp points with black electrical tape. Slit opposite-facing panels midway between spokes, all the way to umbrella top. With pliers, untwist small wire that holds plastic center piece to spokes, and remove both wire and plastic; umbrella should separate into 2 pieces. Discard plastic. To rejoin spokes at top, cut wire in half (or use any similar-gauge wire), and thread a piece through the small holes in spokes of each half; bend in a loop at each end. Secure loose fabric to spokes on each umbrella half: Catch edge of fabric with a 3-inch-long piece of 28-gauge wire, and twist its ends tightly around wire that holds spokes together; trim ends.

There were additional instructions to make a harness to attach the wings to a child. That project called for grosgrain ribbon, hot glue, safety pins, welding equipment, and a tractor. Okay, I made up the last two items, but if I wanted a bat costume, I would buy one. All that wire-clipping and bolt-cutting sounds like a first-class ticket straight to the emergency room.

But it’s nice that Martha has come up with two ways to recycle an old umbrella. It reminded me of my own umbrella-recycling story….

A couple of years ago, in a failed attempt to be more environmentally responsible, I took the Metro to work for several months. It didn’t work out for several reasons that I won’t go into here. But on one of the days when I was still trying to soldier through, my co-worker, Mary, offered me a ride from work to the train station.  I accepted with great pleasure, because it was raining something awful and the prospect of waiting for the bus held no charm.

We walked to Mary’s car with our umbrellas up and angled to protect ourselves from the driving rain and blustery wind. Sadly, the forces of nature overcame my umbrella during the walk, and one-third of it flopped over and became useless. When we got to the car, Mary threw her umbrella into the floor of the back seat, and I threw mine back there too, with slightly more force than necessary. I thought: “Gah. I am not taking that umbrella out of this car. It’s trashed.” 

Now it was very wrong of me to dump my umbrella in Mary’s car simply because I couldn’t be bothered to take it with me and give it a proper burial. I wouldn’t have done it except that I was so fed up with that umbrella that I couldn’t bear to look at it, much less pick it up and carry it somewhere. So I washed my hands of it.

The next morning, Mary stopped at my office and held out my umbrella. “You left your umbrella in my car,” she said.

I explained that I had decided I never wanted to see that umbrella again. 

“Oh, it’s fine now,” she said. “I fixed it.”  And she had!  I told her it was like a fairy tale, where elves come out at night and fix things for people. Not that I deserved it, of course—but if I hadn’t abandoned my umbrella in her car, it wouldn’t have gotten fixed and had a second life. This was truly a Good Thing, because my umbrella was tan, not black, and wouldn’t have been suitable as a bat puppet or bat costume.

Ernesto and I have often talked about putting some bat houses up around our garage. When we were in Austin this past June we walked from our hotel to the Congress Avenue Bridge where spectators line up to watch more than a million bats fly out into the dusk. The bridge was still empty when we got there, so we passed the time before sundown exploring the nice trail along Town Lake, just below the bridge. Ernesto found an informational display about the bats, and he read every word while I sat on a bench and took a couple of pictures. When Ernesto was finished reading every word about bats that he could find, we settled onto a nearby dock that was touted as a good place from which to see the bats.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, more people arrived at our dock, including children. It was difficult for parents to explain to children that they, the parents, didn’t know when the bats might come out, and the children should just be patient (and quiet). The children were neither patient nor quiet. A small boy threw leaves, caring not a bit that they landed on persons not in his own party. A little girl on a Snow White blanket whined incessantly and worried about ticks. That made me worry about ticks.

At long last, someone noticed that the bats were flying. They didn’t emerge from under the bridge in a big swoosh. They were completely silent, and we had to watch the skyline to see that there was a huge number of flying objects in a line up there—a line that went on and on and on.

D. H. Lawrence despised bats, but this passage from his poem “Bat” is a good description of what we witnessed that evening:

Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Swallows with spools of dark thread sewing the shadows together.  

In the poem, the narrator initially mistakes the bats for swallows.  He describes their

serrated wings against the sky,
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light,
And falling back.  

Later, he realizes that he is seeing bats and refers to their “Wings like bits of umbrella.” And so they are.

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