Halloween Movies to Get You into the Spirit

I’m in my room, burning a spiced pumpkin candle, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Life just doesn’t get much better.  Megan and I absolutely love fall, and with Halloween fast approaching, there are certain rituals that must be adhered to.   My favorite fall ritual, besides baking apple crisp, pumpkin pie, etc., is watching Halloween movies.  Maybe it goes back to my childhood and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin” when it aired on TV.  It was a special night I looked forward to every year.  I’ve always loved The Peanuts, and still do.  It brings back the warm fuzzies I felt when watching those CBS specials as a child.  So now I own “It’s the Great Pumpkin” on DVD and watch it every year.  I watch it by myself (does that sound pathetic?) but I like to have my nieces over to watch it too.  They are good about humoring me!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I remember watching “The Birds” as a kid at our old house.  It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall and I just came across it on TV.  I was in our “hobby room,” which was like a little family room.  It had dark paneling and orange plaid carpet, and it was my favorite room in the house.  Hey, it was built in the 70’s!  Anyway, I watched “The Birds” and got really creeped out.  I didn’t see it again until I bought the DVD a few years ago to show my kids.  I told them how scary it was, how I remembered it.  We brought the movie to my friend Jennifer’s house and our families watched it together (after we dressed up like zombies and played zombie tag).  My kids teased me about how NOT scary it was and Sander said “well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back,” after watching it.  Sander at 12…..now that’s scary.  I just noticed this year that “The Birds” is based on a book written by Daphne Du Maurier.   She also wrote My Cousin Rachel, which I just read this summer.

Alfred Hitchock's The Birds

Another must-see Halloween movie is Disney’s “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”  I remember watching it as a kid, but Kendal for years has put the movie on for the kids after trick-or-treating.  “Hocus Pocus” is a favorite too….it will get you into the Halloween spirit.  My girls grew up watching the “Halloweentown” movies on Disney channel and Manon says it’s not Halloween until she’s watched it.  Movies like these are a fun part of childhood, or in my case, adulthood!

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

My daughter Marek loves Tyler Perry’s Madea movies, so last year we saw “Boo!  A Madea Halloween” at the theater.  It was hysterically funny.  The sequel comes out in a few days and we can’t wait to see it.  So whatever your fall and Halloween traditions, make sure you include a few movie nights.  Pop popcorn, make treats, light a candle, invite friends over, and watch a Halloween movie.  Or if you’re like me and your kids won’t watch them with you, watch them alone or invite your nieces over.  Enjoy the season because Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!

Mardi

What’s your favorite Halloween movie?

“The Right Stuff” to Read

This summer, I was obsessed with reading.  I read at least 6 books and I’m not a fast reader.  To be perfectly honest, three were Mary Balogh romances, but to my credit, they were each almost 400 pages.  but the two most interesting books I read The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe.

the right stuff by tom wolfe

I’ve never been interested in science or space, but I love history.  These books painted vivid pictures of the history of test flight and space exploration.  This year I saw the movie “The Right Stuff” on Netflix and loved it.  I liked learning about the pilots, astronauts, their families, and the time periods.  As I was shopping on Amazon looking for something to read, I came across The Astronaut Wives Club.  The cover of the book had a picture of the wives of the Mercury 7 astronauts.  They looked like fashion plates from the 1960’s.  Their hair, their smiles, their red lipstick….I was sold!  I know in elementary school we were taught to not judge a book by its cover, but that is exactly what I did.  I wasn’t disappointed wither, I could hardly put the book down!  Each astronaut had a wife and family behind him, keeping the home fires burning.  They stretched their husbands’ meager salary (before they were famous, anyway), raised their children mostly by themselves, and dealt with the constant fear of their husbands dying in an accident.  They went to the funerals of their husbands’ friends and coworkers, always wondering when they would be the woman wearing black.  They dealt with the wondering and worrying about the “cape cookies,” as the pilots called them – the women who hung around the Cape and “entertained” the pilots.  The astronauts worked and trained at the Cape and it was an understood rule among the pilots that no wives were allowed there.  Even before the launch of Mercury 7, the astronauts started receiving amazing perks, including $500,000 to split between the seven.  This was from Life Magazine, in return for exclusive access to the families and their stories, etc.  The astronauts received sportscars for only $1 a year…..custom Corvettes, etc. which they drove around the Cape.  Unfortunately, many marriages ended due to the separation, strain, and extramarital affairs.  swas made into a television series and just came out on DVD.  I can’t wait to see it.

I had to read The Right Stuff next, of course.  Though I’d seen the movie, the book was better.  The danger of flight test, as the pilots called it, was unbelievable.  The pilots, many former decorated war heroes, flew because they loved flying and the adrenal rush of “pushing the envelope.”  They certainly didn’t fly because of the pay.

My favorite pilot highlighted in the book was Chuck Yeager.  Yeager was an unassuming, gifted pilot from West Virginia.  In World War II, he was shot down over German-occupied French territory, picked up by the French underground , which smuggled him into Spain disguised as a peasant.  While in Spain, he was jailed briefly, then released.  He somehow made it back to England and returned to combat during the Allied invasion of France.  Whew!  All that by the ripe old age of 21!  On October 14 1947, Chuck Yeager flew the X-1 and reached the speed of Mach 1.05, breaking the sound barrier.  Amazingly, he accomplished this feat with two broken ribs.  Two days before the historic flight, Yeager and his wife chased each other on horseback through the desert at night.  He fell off the horse, went to a doctor off base, and kept this little tidbit from the Air Force.  he only told his flight engineer Jack Ridley, who fashioned a handle out of a saw-off broom handle.  With the broom handle, he could shut the door of the X-1 (kind of necessary, right?).

Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, making his regular Army captain’s pay of $283 a month!  No extra, no bonuses, just doing the job that he loved.  Since the flight was top secret, he received no fame or notoriety until a year later.  So many test pilots died or risked their lives to fly experimental and new planes.  We never knew their names, their deaths never made the news.  But they were American heroes.  Without their bravery, we wouldn’t have aeronautical advancements.  That book really made me think about how so many Americans look up to professional athletes and celebrities.  Pro athletes and celebrities make enormous wages and are practically worshipped.  But what did they sacrifice?  They certainly haven’t risked their lives while making meager incomes like the test pilots.  Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox!  Now that I’ve told you all about the books, you may not have to read them anymore….but you’ll want to!

Mardi

What’s one of your favorite books?  I’d love to know!


Fall Barn Party

Fall barn party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Barn Party

Last week, we had a barn party.  We had been talking about having one for three years now and decided that this was the year.  A picture in a Country Living magazine of a table set up with hay bales for chairs in the main aisle of a barn was the inspiration for our party.  We started working on it a week before so we didn’t have to do everything the last minute.  B-u-t, we still had a ton to do and were busy running around getting everything done right up until guests arrived.  Of course.  That just seems to be how we roll.  And we couldn’t ask the horses to quit pooping for a week, so what’s a girl (or two) to do!

hydrangeas
Beautiful hydrangeas from mom’s yard made the perfect decorations
The barn all decked out and spider web, manure, and almost dust free!

Also, since it was set for September 23rd, we thought it would be perfect fall weather, and a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of the season.  So we envisioned cool, crisp air and thought a soup bar would be an easy way to feed a lot of people.  Wrong.  Mother Nature did not cooperate at all!  It was 90 degrees and hotter than heck.  Who would have thought?!  We sure didn’t, since that kind of weather is extremely rare in the summer here in Michigan, let alone late September.

The chalkboard wasn’t big enough to list everything on the menu!

Well, all week we swept, vacuumed, dusted, knocked down cobwebs, strung lights (zillions!), hauled tables and chairs, decorated, and followed behind the horses with a manure rake to pick up every little poop (okay, not quite, but almost).  All while we sweated our bras off and wondered if it would all be worth it.  And despite the heat, it surely was.  For one, the barn was cleaner than our houses last weekend.

wheelbarrow with mums and pumpkins
An old wheelbarrow is the perfect container for mums and pumpkins

 

Fynn and one of the barn cats

Fall Barn Party

We also had a great turnout!  It was so fun hosting the party at the barn with the horses being nosy and hanging out by the fence checking everything out.  Adults and kids alike enjoyed each other’s company visiting with one another and eating lots of good food.  We made six different soups that were all delicious…chili, taco soup, stuffed green pepper soup, cheesy potato, chicken noodle, and white chicken chili.  We had bread, cornbread, cheese, and crackers.  And between us, Kendal, and our mom, we had a huge dessert table!  Mom made peanut butter fudge and Kendal made apple crisp.  Mardi made sweet and salty Chex mix, almond bars, scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and pecan pie bars.  Megan made monster cookie bars, smore’s brownies, and southern pecan praline cake.  We also had some friends bring dessert, too!  It was like dessert heaven!

Fall Barn Party
The bales were a little low…but it just made us all feel like kids!
Manon and Jenna enjoying the hay ride!
More Hay Ride Fun!

We set up a craft table outside for kids, which stayed busy pretty much the whole night.  The older boys played football and the older girls helped out with the little kids.  Chris drove the tractor and gave hayrides through the woods and down the road.  And once the sun went down, we were all much more comfortable.  The trees down the drive were lit up, as well as the inside of the barn, and it just looked so pretty.  We clipped hydrangeas from our mom’s yard and they made the prettiest centerpieces, especially since they were free!  A clipped branch from the woods strung with fairy lights provided decoration for the food tables, along with little baskets of apples and cattails.  Cornstalks adorned the barn inside and out.  And the string lights hanging from the ceiling provided just enough light to keep it festive.  I wish we had beautiful pictures to show you all, but we were so busy visiting that we failed to get great shots.  You’ll just have to use your imagination, as these pictures just don’t do it justice.

Colin wants to make a craft, too! He stayed by the fence all night, trying to join the festivities.
Bryce giving Baby Rye some love.
Milla having fun helping out with our little guests
Can’t beat a good old-fashioned hay ride!

Whew!  You probably weren’t interested in all of the little details, so forgive us.  We are just having fun reliving it, especially since it might never happen again!  Okay, we’re joking…we loved it.  We just haven’t quite forgotten how much work it was yet!  Give us a year!

Fall Barn Party
After the party

Fall Barn Party

Fall Barn Party

In case you are interested in any of the recipes we used, see below for links to any we used online.

No-flour Monster Cookie Bars by Together as Family make a whole jelly roll pan, so they are great for a crowd!

Fudgy S’mores Brownies by Mandy’s Recipe Box…I cheated and used a brownie mix, but they were still delish!


Southern Pecan Praline Cake by The Country Cook uses a cake mix, so easy peasy!

The Best Pecan Pie Bars

The Best Pecan Pie Bars by Rockrecipes.com

 

Almond Bars by Sometimeshomemade.com

The Best Sweet Cornbread from thegirlwhoateeverything.com

And stay tuned for a post on the soup recipes we used, since soup season is finally here…even if it wasn’t the day of the party!

Thanks for reading to the end, friends!  Happy Fall to you all!

Megan and Mardi

The Found Cottage Mercantile Market

Did I mention that my sisters and a good friend of ours and I went to an the Found Cottage Mercantile Market at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds a few weeks ago? It was sooo much fun, you guys! If flea markets, antiques, vintage stuff, clothes, baked goods, home décor, or fresh flowers make your heart pitter patter, you would have loved it as much as we did!

My Grandma Fazak’s old hutch decorated for Fall with a new garland

All four of us found something(s) we had to have. And all four of us saw things we really wanted to take home with us, but didn’t. There was a limit to how much the truck could haul back, after all. And I for one, am a little fearful that my husband may disown me if I bring one more antique side table home. But, as it turns out, not so fearful that it kept me from doing just that! I think it is actually an old desk, and I got all heart-eyed the second I saw it. And when I opened the drawer and saw all of the signatures and dates written on the inside, I had to have it. The oldest date inscribed is 1906, and there is even an “atta boy” on the drawer! I don’t know what it is about old handwriting, but it sucks me in every time! I also picked up a really cute garland and a collapsible blue hat/coat hanger.

See? Doesn’t my sewing machine look perfect on this table?
Just one of many signatures in my new old desk!
Paid just a few bucks for this vintage collapsible hanger that will hold Milla’s cowgirl hat in her bedroom.

It was a beautiful night that felt a little like Fall. Much more so than recently!  We enjoyed pork barbecue sandwiches from one of the food trucks and had a great time laughing and talking. There was just so much fun stuff to look at, and it made us want to go home and decorate for Fall. I’m hoping that it becomes an annual event, but if not, I can always go to The Found Cottage store in Hudsonville. They organized the event and have an amazing store with all kinds of home décor, antiques, florals, clothes, locally made soaps and candles, and more.  Even if you don’t have any money to spend, it is a great place for home dec inspiration.  It’s amazing how the proprietors take salvaged everyday items and turn them into something useful and pretty.

So if you are looking for a fun new store to check out, head to Hudsonville. There is another store down the road from The Found Cottage called the Painted Farmgirl, which is also super neat and similar in nature. In fact, they just hosted the Farmgirl Flea Market last weekend.  Good thing Mardi and I were busy with barn party preparations, or I would have gone for sure!  And I probably would have wanted to bring home another table!

Megan

Labor Day Shrimp Boil

How was your Labor Day weekend?  Ours was nice and pretty low-key.  We don’t usually make big plans for Labor Day since this mom needs to get mentally prepared for the start of school.  And not just mentally.  Oh, the organizing of backpacks and school supplies and paperwork.  And grocery shopping for all of those cold lunches (can you hear the whining?  I hate making cold lunches…well, actually I kind of hate making any meal, but I guess I just don’t like doing them even more the same time as breakfast!) .  And don’t forget about picking out the First Day outfit and actually getting it ironed the night before!  Picking out clothes and ironing them the night before usually lasts about two or three days, and then we are winging it again.  Or we just don’t iron at all…  But hey, they always have clothes on.  So you can see why this procrastinator needs the weekend to prepare.  No camping for me!

My mom and dad usually have a little picnic on Labor Day, but this year they had the nerve to go on vacation without all of their children and grandchildren.  I still can’t believe it.  So Mardi, Kendal, and I had to take matters into our own hands and plan a little get together with just us and Mardi’s in-laws.  We’ve been wanting to do a shrimp boil all summer and just haven’t made it happen, so we decided Labor Day was a good excuse to try it out.  I have to say it turned out pretty well.  We used this recipe from Hearth and Vine, but doubled it.  Chris boiled it in his deep fryer, and Rob made homemade hushpuppies in another one.  Kendal also made coleslaw and grape salad.  And we rolled brown paper on the tables so we didn’t need to use plates, but I still had to anyway.  Just habit, I guess.  It made for easy clean-up, though!  It was nothing fancy, but it was different and fun, and I’m glad we tried it.  I think it might be a fun new tradition.  And maybe I’ll eat it right off the table next time!

Please excuse the horrible picture-taking and lack of pictures.  I guess I was in such a hurry to eat that I neglected to take decent pictures!!  Oh, and I’m sure you are super impressed with the high quality paper plate, too!

I made a peach dump cake for dessert with canned peaches and a cake mix.  I added about 1/2 cup of oatmeal on top, and it was really good for being not-quite homemade,  Best of all, it was super easy!    Which was good, because I had to do all of the school prep stuff that I had waited until the last day to do.  Maybe now that summer vacation is over, I will be a little more organized and disciplined…well, one can only hope!

If you’ve never done a shrimp boil, give it a try.  It’s a great way to feed a crowd, and also a nice alternative to the “if-I-eat-one-more-hot dog/hamburg-this-summer” feeling you get by the end of August.  Here’s wishing you all had a great end to the summer and a successful jump into a new school year!

Megan

 

September 11

Today is September 11.  One of those days that bring back lots of memories and emotions…almost all of them not very pleasant.  Most people remember what happened on this day sixteen years ago very clearly.  All of the details remain startlingly clear in my memory…where I was when I first heard a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers, who I was with as I watched another plane hit the second twin tower, and the sick feeling in my stomach as I wondered what was going to happen next.  I worked as a secretary at my church and watched it all unfold on tv with other church staff members.  It was so surreal and scary, and I pray that our country never witnesses such horror unfold again.

But it is also a day that makes me feel proud to be an American.  And besides the 4th of July, there is perhaps no other day that stirs such intense feelings of patriotism in my heart.  In the midst of the destruction and evil committed by people with a deep hatred for our country, so many stories unfolded of brave men and women sacrificing their very lives for the sake of their fellow man.  I think of all of the firemen and first responders who ran into a burning building knowing they were probably going to die, but doing so out of selfless love and sacrificial duty.  I think of the men and women on United Flight 93 that stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash so that it wouldn’t be used as a weapon on another building.  I think of all of the men and women who rushed to enlist in the armed forces to defend our land.  Can you imagine their fear?  Can you imagine the courage and bravery all of these people must have possessed?  I can’t.  I just can’t even imagine.  And I am so incredibly grateful for them.  They are heroes in my eyes.  They are the epitome of love, courage, and utter selflessness.  How humbled I am to know that their ultimate sacrifice was for me, for you, for us.

America isn’t perfect.  As a nation, we have our sins, flaws, and shortcomings.  There are many things that we could probably do better.  But isn’t that each one of us?  We all fall short.  We all sin.  We all could do better.  Despite this, I believe most people have a decent nature…one that is kind and good and willing to help out a neighbor or even a stranger.  Similarly, America isn’t perfect, but we have some of the most giving, generous, compassionate citizens this side of heaven.  September 11, 2001 is the perfect example.  As Governor George Pataki put it, “On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.”  So if you ever have any doubt about the heart of this country and the symbolism of our flag, remember all of the heroes of September 11.  And be proud to be an American.

Megan