Saturday, October 24, 2009

Revenge of the Great Pumpkin

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I like to decorate the house with lights, ghouls and, of course pumpkins. So this spring, I decided to plant a pumpkin patch in my back yard.

My seeds started off strong. I had almost all of my mounds sprout with multiple plants. It wasn't long before I got my first bloom too. As the weeks went by, more blooms would appear but no pumpkins. So I went on-line to find out what the secret was. Apparently, pumpkin vines have male blooms and female blooms. This information would have been useful on the seed package. Anyway, since there is a shortage of bees to transfer pollen from the male blooms to the female blooms, we sometimes have to help them along.

So in order to set the mood for my blooms to get together and make a pumpkin, I dimmed the lights, played a romantic Barry White song on my ipod and left a tray of oysters and chocolates on the ground. When that didn't work, I went back to the Internet which told me how to gently transfer pollen.
Once that was done, amazingly, I had a small pumpkin starting to grow. I knew then that I was going to earn my farmer's tan this year. In my excitement, I visited it everyday and watered it every other day to make sure it wouldn't dry out.

After about two weeks, I noticed my little pumpkin getting smaller and wrinklier and eventually it fell off the vine. I also noticed about half of my plants were getting sick and withering. I thought, maybe I was watering too much. So I let them dry out a while, which seemed to help.

It was quite a while before I got any more female blooms. I guess they are much rarer than males. So I did some more match making when I did get the right blooms, but these pumpkins did the same thing by growing for awhile before dying. This was around the end of August. My garden was looking more pathetic by the day.

So I figured there must be an anti-pumpkin hex on my garden. And the only way to get rid of an A-P hex is with a scarecrow, of course. But even that didn't seem to help.

So a friend of mine suggested that they might not be getting enough sunshine. Since I planted my garden among some shade trees, this could be true.

So I got my chain saw out and leveled all the trees in the backyard. No, I really only trimmed a couple of branches that were hanging over the garden. But by this time, it seemed too late for any pumpkins of size. So I concentrated on nurturing the few small lemon-sized orbs I had.

I watered a little, propped up a few vines a little and prayed a little. But my plants continued to look sickly and miserable.

And then....., a miracle!

On the week before Halloween, my garden exploded with orange spheres of all sizes and shapes. Some were oval. Some round. Small, medium, large and extra large. It was incredible! I could hardly believe it! It was almost as if someone had mysteriously loaded up a truck load of pumpkins from the local farmers market and dumped them into my garden before anyone had a chance to catch him in the act.

I guess my farmer's tan wasn't wasted after all. However the pumpkins got there, they will be put to good use on All Hallow's Eve, frightening and delighting trick-or-treaters of all ages.

I think I will try growing pumpkins again next year. I may also try a few new things just to see what will come out of the ground. I'll have a good eight months to think about it anyway.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Anniversary Caper

Last week, Lady Di and I celebrated fourteen years of wedded bliss. So I went to Hallmark to read the master list of acceptable gifts for number one-four. I searched and searched but could not find any tools on any of the lists. All I could hope for was that this year was the year of the 'it's the thought that counts' gift. No luck. The traditional gift was ivory and the modern gift is gold jewelry. I thought, "Ah come on! Gold for the fourteenth? What ever happened to the golden anniversary being the fiftieth?" I seriously believe that jewelers, most of them women, made sure that some sort of gold was assigned to every four and a half anniversaries to boost sales and their own jewelry boxes. And how was I going to bag an elephant for the traditional ivory gift?

With my options limited to those, I decided to play dumb and go in a different direction.

I started with picking a weekend that I could get someone to watch our kids. Luckily, LD's sister stepped up and magnanimously volunteered to entertain her niece and nephew with a sleep over.

My plan was to trick LD into thinking that we were going to her sister's house for a game night and stay over. Once we arrived at her house, we said good bye to the kids and I hustled LD out to the van before she knew what was going on.

We then drove about twenty miles to a bed and breakfast. I think LD was surprised. We stayed upstairs in the Edna room. After unpacking, we had dinner at the Gasthaus German restaurant. This was the first time either of us had been to one. The food was good and the beer was better.We even had our very own personal accordion player, Hilda. Actually, her name wasn't Hilda and she played for everyone at the restaurant. But we did get to visit with her quite a bit and she even played a song for our anniversary. After dinner we had to decide what to do next. Should we go downtown for a drink or dance the night away at a club? We chose to go back to our bed and breakfast and play Monopoly in our room. I know, the city sure didn't have to call in any extra law enforcement for our wild night out, but sometimes spending a quiet, comfortable evening alone with your spouse is as much fun as anything.Here is a picture of our room. Our bed was very comfortable and we slept very soundly even with that picture of Edna Mulvey on the wall watching us.

Before bed I told LD to set the alarm for the 9am breakfast. She said she was going to sleep in. I told her, we paid for breakfast, we're eating breakfast!

The next morning we ate stuffed french toast with four other couples in the main dining room. I'm always nervous about eating with a group of people I don't know. I'm not very much of a talker. But I didn't need to be because two other people at the table did enough talking for all twelve of us.

Mercifully, the talkers got tired of all of our listening and we were able to get back to our room to pack up and check out.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down the town's main street visiting many boutiques, antique stores and sweet shoppes. Why do retailers think they can charge more just because they have French spelled words over their doors? After much window shopping, I was ready to head for home.

But first, we had to pick up the kids.

They had spent the afternoon at the pumpkin patch. It was great for Auntie Sue and Uncle Tom to take them because we hadn't time all Fall to schedule it in ourselves. They enjoyed carmel apples, face paint and got to run through the corn maze. No one got lost in the corn and they found all of the dinosaur signs.

When we came to pick them up they were pretty exhausted. But not too exhausted for Lego Indiana Jones video game at Auntie's.

They were very disappointed that they couldn't stay with their aunt and uncle longer. We were already missing them and they were complaining that we were there to pick them up. I think we all were a little tired.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bring Out Yer Dead!

Last weekend officially kicked off the outside-of-the-house decorating season. I just happened to have the weekend off, the weather was cool but not cold, and it was October.

I climbed the ladder to the attic to unearth our stock of orange, black and blood. Our supply of Halloween decorations doubled this year due to a clearance sale last year and very generous in-laws taking advantage of said sale for gifts last Christmas.

I know it's still a little early to decorate, but the snow flurries were also too early this year so it seems later than it really is. That's what my excuse is anyway.

First, the orange lights made it atop the porch gutter, luckily without another ladder mishap. I took my phone to the roof with me this time, just in case.

Then it was time to position the lighted ghosts, pumpkins and skulls. The number of skulls in the box seemed to have multiplied since last year. And the number of Styrofoam tombstones more than doubled. It appears that I did not take proper inventory of our tombstones before filling up my cart at Menards this year. But it actually worked out rather well since I was putting up an archway over our sidewalk to look like a cemetery entrance. And cemeteries need tombstones, don't they? Since I am too cheap to buy an archway, I made one from a section of framework to a metal deck gazebo. I zip-clipped some lights and a graveyard sign and now I have a cemetery.

This was actually the least blurry picture I took. I don't know why, but every picture I took that night was jittery. Must be all the excitement for Halloween.

Also new to the haunt is a skeleton swinging from our 'gallows tree' and a bush full of lighted eye balls.

As you can see, my photography was as unsteady as ever. I took three pictures of this tree and all three looked like the leaves were on fire.

Here's our eye bush to make sure trick or treaters don't try any tricks.

The main attraction, however, is our new pet spider. His legs move and Liberty likes to bark at it every morning.

And my camera work made it look even hairier.

Here is a homemade ghoul I made out of an old artificial X-mas tree pole, some black cloth and a Styrofoam jack-o-lantern from the hardware store. His head is white and his eyes light up red. I'm kind of happy of the way it and the photo turned out.

Lastly, I had some left over orange lights without a tree or door to place them on. So I stuck them under the front porch. In the dark they glow up through the deck boards making it look mysterious.

And guess what? It looks like I lit porch on fire.

I just have a few more items to put out on Halloween night along with multiple jack-o-lanterns if I get the time to carve them.

Well, that's enough jumpy, fire photography for tonight. If you want to see our decorations for real, come on by on All Hallow's Eve and you will be sure to get a treat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Go Knights!

Last week was Homecoming Week for our school district. During Homecoming week, every day had a different theme. Sweet Pea was very diligent in reminding us of each day's theme. She had PJ day, rock star day and wacky hair day. And with SP's long hair, the wackiness that Lady Di designed, took about 30 minutes to prepare.

Number One Son's week had similar daily themes. Although, his school included an Erkel day. Firstly, N1S had to ask us who Erkel was. When he found out it was 'nerd' day, he asked me to help him find clothes. Now why would he think I knew anything about nerd clothes? I didn't have the heart to tell him that 'nerd day' was yesterday and everyone at school loved his costume.

Just kidding.

So Friday came and we all were excited to see the football game. Well, N1S and I were excited. SP asked Mom if she could just stay home with her. Which Lady Di was all in favor of, except for the fact that N1S and SP got invited to a friend's house for a pre-homecoming party. When it was time for the game, we picked up the boys from the party to drive them to the game. SP and her friend stayed at the party.

The boys had extra Dr. Pepper fueled school spirit that led them all to paint their faces in school colors.

With faces like those, there was no chance our team would lose.

The evening's weather, however, was not playing fair. The temperature hovered in the upper forties with a cold wind blowing misty/drizzly/rain around. The grandstand's aluminum bench seats are uncomfortable in perfect weather, but when they are cold and wet, you find out just how strong your school support is.

The only true damper to our spirits came when N1S and his group of friends were stopped by a teacher at the game and told to wash off their face paint. Apparently, full face paint is against school policy, due to an unidentifiable game crashing streaker at last year's game. Although, I did see many other kids with similar faces so I asked N1S about that.

He said in a disgusted way, "Yeah, there's only like two teachers at the whole game telling people to wash their faces!". Lucky him, I guess.

Even so, he and his friends had a good time. This was the first game we just let him run on his own. Our team played well too and was ahead 28 to 0 at halftime. After that, the weather was too powerful against our school spirit. We left halfway through the third quarter like quite a few fans. Football players may like to play in cold rain, but fans generally dislike it.

At the end of the night, we gathered both kids and they pretty much fell asleep on their way to bed.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oops! He Did It Again.

This weekend the weather was cold, rainy and windy. A perfect day for an unimaginably long run through the streets of Minneapolis to St. Paul. Or so our nephew, Kubes, thought. This Sunday, Kubes again ran in the Twin Cities marathon. I think this is Kubes' fourth or fifth marathon, so I'm telling everyone it's his eleventh.

Ever the good aunt, Lady Di called him the night before to give him his pep talk. I was just going to tell him to 'run fast'. I also had a piece of advice handed down by my never reticent, Grampa Pete. He would always tell me, "If you get tired of walking, you can always run a ways."

This Sunday morning after church, Lady Di ventured to St. Paul to be at the finish line when Kubes came sprinting by. Kubes estimated about three hours to finish the race so LD would be there at the right time. Kubes official time was three hours and five minutes. I can't believe he was so insensitive to make his poor aunt wait five whole minutes for him.

Still, we are very proud of him and hope he continues to impress us with even lower times.

Lady Di was also inspired by many other runners. Three of our neighbors ran and finished strong. Two other runners ran barefoot. See Kubes, I told you, you should've brought a box of thumbtacks just in case. LD saw a husband and wife team finish hand in hand then break down and cry with each other. Lady Di needed all of her self restraint to keep from jumping the fence and adding her tears to theirs. I know if LD and I had run together, I would have had tears too. But I would have had them at the four and half mile marker from my side ache. LD also cheered on a dad pushing his daughter in her racing wheelchair. It reminded her of the dad from the CAN video. LD was so moved by the day that she vowed to bring more Kleenex tissues next year.

The weather and homework prevented the kids and I from attending. Maybe next year we will get the opportunity to root for our fastest nephew again. Who knows, maybe LD and I will be running side by side with Kubes. For the first hundred feet or so.

Stuff About Me

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.