A Halloween Homecoming

jack o lanternHalloween’s always been my favorite holiday. I love the costumes, the candy and the camaraderie. Halloween memories burn bright in my mind.

I grew up in a New York City suburb – exurb at the time – where Halloween went something like this: From toddlerhood to the time I got too cool for it, I’d go to school in costume, come home and head out to the neighborhood parade and costume contest. I’d parade around for the contest and whenever I had a homemade costume — my mom was a great seamstress and designer — I’d place. I never won, but the attention, the cider and cookies all combined to produce some serious joy.

The contest took place before trick-or-treating. When we were small children, the adults would rush home from the costume contest to man their doors for us. We’d all hit the houses, trick-or-treating on our way home. And it was good. We got lots of candy and we were done by dinner. After dinner we’d help Mom and Dad hand out candy, admiring the big kids’ costumes. read more


Halloween Party: THAT Mom

 

I forgot to take a picture before we ate all the pigs in a blanket.

I forgot to take a picture before we ate all the pigs in a blanket.

Oh my God, I am finally That Mom. You know the one. She’s a Pinterest queen, pinning origami bats and coffee filter spider webs, making masks out of egg cartons. Her kid wears a hand-crocheted full-tailed peacock hat on her head. Not only does she print out family photos, she mounts them in a scrapbook, with colorful adornments enhancing her memories for eternity.

I was never That Mom. I am not the least bit crafty. If my daughter gets me to color with her, we put my picture up on the refrigerator. But after almost seven years as a mom, I’ve found my muse.

This week we had a Halloween party. I love Halloween and I love throwing parties. This was my chance to shine.

Writing is my first love. Cooking is my second. So when it came time to plan the party menu, it was on. I did some brainstorming. I chose the kids’ food out of the Big Four – Chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and mac and cheese. I went with the first three. Then came the hard part: how to make these foods Halloweenie. read more


So Close and Yet So Far

parrotWe were so excited. After seven long years, we were doing it. We were finally going back to Key West for the Parrot Head convention.  We used to go every year, but that was B.C. (Before Children.) I used to go even Before Husband. I’ve been six times and my husband had gone three times.

The convention, called “Meeting of the Minds,” is a four-day music fest for Jimmy Buffett fans – the hard-core ones that join the Parrot Head Clubs. It’s one big-long party, and for most, it’s like a family reunion. We’d meet people from all over the country and every year we’d reconnect in Key West. We’d see friends who’d moved away from our home clubs, make new friends and broaden our Parrot Head family.

Jimmy Buffett’s band, The Coral Reefers, plays every year, and Jimmy himself shows up about every other year. The year we met, my future husband came down to the convention but he decided on it last minute so he couldn’t officially register. Jimmy came that year, the same day as my husband, and without convention credentials my husband couldn’t get into the concert. I didn’t want him to feel bad, so we spent Jimmy’s concert sitting in a bar by ourselves while the rest of the island saw the show. read more


Mom, Me and the Market

I’ve been thinking about my mom. I lost her in October 2009. Technically I lost her eight years before, when she slipped completely into her Alzheimer’s world, but anyway, she’s on my mind. I haven’t written that much about her in this space, so I thought I would let you get to know her. 

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To my mother, grocery shopping was serious business. Sometimes I would lie on her bed as she fell asleep she would roll over and say, “Ground beef. Lettuce. Mustard.”

Every week we’d go to Waldbaum’s, Grand Union and the A& P because each one possessed a unique quality that was unequaled at the other. Once my mother discovered coupons, the need for specificity grew. Now I know that coupons didn’t come out in my lifetime but they were new to my mom, and Waldbaum’s would have double coupons on Wednesdays — we’d always go there for the best coupon deals. We once had a coupon for $1.25 for free coffee, and they doubled it so they actually paid us to take it. I think we saved 13 dollars that day. Our excitement over the deal inseminated the bargain shopper in me.

Since she was somewhat of an expert, Mom taught me the golden rules of shopping. Buy only name brands. Del Monte tomatoes and canned vegetables, Bird’s Eye frozen vegetables, Ore Ida frozen potatoes, Dairylea milk, Dannon flavored yogurt and Colombo plain yogurt. Never buy pre-chopped meat. Instead, pick out a nice sirloin and have the butcher chop it up. Grated cheese: Pick out a nice Pecorino Romano or Parmesan from the deli and have them grate it for you. I don’t know about then but I bought some grated Pecorino Romano from the deli recently and it was $11 for a quarter pound. Good thing my family had money. read more


Date Night

CoupleWe’d planned the date for weeks. Our son’s preschool had a Parents’ Night Out, where the teachers babysit the kids and the parents get a date night. My four-year-old son gets to hang out with his friends, and our six-year-old daughter loves seeing her friends from camp there, watching movies and getting her nails painted. She’s always asking us when the next night will be.

Everyone was excited. My husband and I had reservations  at a favorite restaurant – we hadn’t been there since we’d moved back. It was a Friday and my husband left work early to give us more alone time. I’d gone shopping and had a choice of new outfits to feel pretty and wow my husband.

It was 6:00. My husband was on his way home. We had reservations for 7:45. I went to the bedroom to change. I had these new black-faux-leather-front-pants that I couldn’t pass up because they brought me right back to the 80s. Always interested in Resurrecting the Heavy-Metal Goddess, I chose a new black shirt with tiny silver chains draped across its front. I tried them on, thinking if they looked too midlife-crisis I could always change. Lamenting the fact that Motley Crue was no longer touring, I looked in the mirror. Oh my God, there was no way I was ever taking them off. I was that girl again. Long dark curly hair, looking all tough with the chains on my shirt, leather pants that I was actually pulling off – those were the days. read more