Monday, October 6, 2014

I'll tell you what to do with your pumpkin spice...

         Ahhh, it's fall again. The season of fall gets a lot of abuse in this blog and it's not even the worst time of year really- just a manifestation of all my summer dreams being crushed and a herald of the frigid, frozen onslaught of a messy work commute to come. I was talking to a friend who shares a November birthday with me and we agreed there is always one day in fall, and it's usually a day in our birthday month, where the beautiful part of the season is officially over. You know this day. This is the day the once colored leaves have all fallen and there is frost on the ground. You're losing feeling in your fingers and you have to suck it up and turn on the heat in your home, and then, and this is the kicker, the sounds of crickets now a thing of the past, on this day, there is a lone crow cawing outside. This became hilarious as we recounted this all-too-real day over dinner this summer, but now it doesn't seem quite as funny. That crow is the harbinger of emotional hibernation. To quote another friend: "#SeasonofDeath".

          I hope in years to come when the husband reminisces on the early years of our love, that he remembers his summer wife. I often tell him during those months to savor things and create a mental picture because I am my best in the summer. My hair is curlier and wild, I can't stay out of the ocean, I want to venture everywhere, and most importantly, I'm not a moody, light-deprived maniac.

          And I know all you fall-lovers out there are going to remind me about pumpkin flavored things, apple-picking, cider donuts, scarves and scented candles. To which I say: yes, I already know about those things because they are the only things that keep me from weeping in my pajamas while listening to Joni Mitchell twenty four hours a day- well, that and the mound of crap I have to do. But thank you nonetheless. Feel free to keep your annoying fall joy confined to the internet. This is what keeps pinterest chock full of slow cooker recipes after all.

          I'm going to pick a bone with apple-picking this year though.  Basically, apple-picking day is like the New England hipster National holiday.  You can put on your scarves, boots, and hats pretend you live in 19th century Massachusetts for a day, or with Instagram filters, 1970's New Hampshire.  (We surely do romanticize this era of our parents' youth more than any other.)  

          I'll admit it.  I've gone apple-picking and shamelessly shared my photos on Instagram and Facebook myself.  There is nothing quite like a filtered photo of apples so glistening they look like part of the set of The Wizard of Oz, and if you can get the sun to glint ever so slightly, it will set the hearts of your 600 or so hipster Facebook friends a aflame with nostalgia and envy.  

          This year, B and I are basically booked every weekend from now until Christmas, so we snagged just a few hours to go apple-picking last week.  This truly is a Massachusetts thing.  Growing up in Connecticut, we would sometimes go pumpkin-picking, and there was a great "Haunted Hayride" nearby, but I never used to feel this annual compulsion for heading to the nearest apple farm.  Turns out, the nearest farm that we could get to with just three hours to spare this year, has become a bit of a tourist-trap circus.  We paid $38 for admission and a very small, tiny really, bag to fill with apples.  Then we had to board a miniature train with a gaggle of screaming toddlers and were dropped off in the middle of a field, and since none of the signs were visible from the train, we found ourselves surrounded by nothing but a bunch of Asian pears.  But no matter, it was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day.  After wandering around for a while longer and filling our bag to a satisfactory level of actual apples, we decided to hit the store to look for cider donuts, which is surely the only other tangible reason people go apple-picking.  I mean, hello?  I can get apples in Stop & Shop.  But there is nothing quite like a freshly baked, warm apple cider donut.

          And then this happened:

          That's right, nearly 40 bones later and not an apple cider donut to show for it.  Fall, you are going to have to try a little harder to convert me to your fan base next year.

Here's to Jo-Anna: An oldie but goodie

That's my mom's seasonal mannequin, wearing her eighth grade graduation dress.

          We celebrated my mom's 70th birthday in a pretty big way this summer. As my mom's big decade change approached, I suggested to my dad that we throw her a party and make it a surprise if possible. He thought this idea was ridiculous since she would start planning her own party. He was right.

          My mother called me up and said she wanted to have a party, she wanted it to be at the Lodge- the restaurant they formerly owned- and she wanted it to have a rock 'n' roll theme. I said; "Great!", but because I had this crazy idea that she shouldn't be the sole person planning her own party and that she might like a surprise or two sprinkled in there, I told her I wanted to try and take care of much of it. Apparently our wedding last year wasn't enough party-planning masochism for me. Let's add some of that stress onto this year too! So invitations went out to family and friends, and at my urging, included a note that 1950's and 60's attire was not required but encouraged. (Some of the invitations came back or never made it to their destinations because Paper Source doesn't like to put ugly "extra postage required" markings on their non-standard envelope size... but I digress.)

          Semi-planning a party with my mother is an interesting process. I would come up with an idea to surprise her with and she would intercept. No sooner would I think: I'll get a bunch of vintage 45's to use as decor than my mother would call and say she pulled up the old 45's from the basement to use as decor. I'd think I'll order a cannoli cake from Eddy's Bakery and she'd call to tell me she ordered a cannoli cake from Eddy's. You get the idea. At one point I said "Do you want there to be any surprises here?" So while people were thanking me for organizing things, I'd tell them not to give me too much credit. It was more of a 50/50 process.

          Most of the planning went off without a hitch, but the weekend of the big day was, we'll say interesting for me. I didn't have to worry about food or presentation or anything like that because Martha and the Lodge employees had that all well in hand and my mother had of course, already selected the buffet menu. My friends Molly, Rachele, and Jamie generously offered to help me set up the flower arrangements and my mother-in-law generously contributed a dozen vases for said arrangements.

Hitch #1: The day before I head down to CT, I tell my mom that I'd bought a fabulous new, but vintage style ivory lace and green satin evening dress. At this point my mother says: "Oh, I just thought I'd wear one of my comfortable jersey dresses." So yes, the guest of honor, who had the idea for the 1950's and 60's theme, who also owns approximately six closets full of vintage buys and old prom gowns, wanted to wear a 21st century knit jersey dress to the party because you know, "comfortable"...

I just couldn't... nope.

          By the time I'd reached home however, she'd either sensed the frustration in my voice or realized the errors of her bizarre logic and had laid out several beautiful 1950's wardrobe options to choose from for herself.

Hitch #2: We had a surprise slideshow planned full of photos of Mom through the years. Through a mis-communication, it wasn't quite clear if we had any way of projecting it. Keep in mind, all this is happening while my mom was flitting about baking things for out-of-town guests because you know, sitting still on one's party day is not an option in her world.

          So we were sneaking around on the front porch trying to investigate the situation. My dad returns from the Lodge to tell me that there is bad news. And this part is SO my dad. While I am on pins and needles wondering about the status on the projector, he leads with "So two things. First, the guestbook does have lines in it." And then he proceeds to expatiate on the completely benign details of that situation and when I interrupt him for the second piece of bad news, he says; "Yeah, there's no projector". You might have led with that one, Dad.

          My husband saved the day on this one. B quietly made calls to every rental place in the tri-town area and scored us a projector and even went down to the Lodge for the guy's arrival to make sure it was set up and ready to go. Crisis averted.

Hitch #3: Some of our great family friends were hanging out with us all that day and were a huge help as well during all of said minor glitches. After much planning about what time we would need to be ready, everyone agreed that we'd all need to be ready by about 3:30. The first car would head out first to set up the flower centerpieces. The next group would head out 15 minutes later because the photographer would be there early to take some posed family photos. It was at about 3:00 that everyone in the house decided to sit down and watch the end of the Clint Eastwood movie they'd started the night before...

          Every time I emerged from my room with another addition to my ensemble, there they all were sitting exactly where I had left them in their regular old street clothes. Apparently, the literal cliffhanging scene of this film was very engrossing. For me, it was like one of those anxiety dreams where no one realizes the timeline you'd set up and you can't get your dress on and the clock is ticking and no one seems to care but you. I wish I could say that that was the first time I felt that way with regards to my family's virtual clock but alas. Someone is constantly waiting for someone else because it's in the last two minutes that everyone loses all sense of time. The last minute is designated specifically for one or two people to start losing their minds with panic.

          On this day, I just kept returning from whence I came shaking my head. When my friends arrived to the house a bit late, they apologized and I assured them not to worry. No one here had felt any sense of urgency whatsoever. Then there was the typical mad dash out the door and my mother insisting loudly that I help my dad's so that his outfit would not resemble Larry David too much. This time, it was perfectly acceptable for him to channel Buddy Hollly at least, since he was planning on wearing an old plaid jacket which my mother had actually made him to fit in with the retro theme.

          In the end, the actual party went off without a hitch, I'd say. People appeared in fabulous costumes, the food was delicious, the dance floor was hoppin', the slideshow was a hit, and the speeches were plentiful and heartfelt. My mom is a very generous friend and overall inspiring woman after all. She's inspired much of this blog with her eccentricities and big heart and we wanted her to have a great celebration. B noted how the next day, my mom said she could hardly fall asleep that night because she remained so amped up at all the fun she'd had.

Below are some of the fab images from the evening in all their retro glory:

Jo-Anna, woman of style, put that vintage dress over that under-layer.  They weren't sold together.

Yes, that plaid jacket is actually a fabric that my dad picked out at one time.

When my little cousins showed up for photos in coordinated poodle skirts, we actually broke into applause.