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Thursday, October 31, 2013




ALL HALLOWSTIDE

October brings with it the promise of cooler temperatures and an array of beautiful colored leaves.  Each year I look forward to the decorations Mother Nature provides, but it also seems that we humans are adding our own decorations to the season as well.

Earlier and earlier, I see ghosts, spider webs, skeletons, and witches adorning the yards around the city.  Next to Christmas, Halloween is the most decorated holiday, and it seems to begin way before October even gets here.

I like Halloween, but for a completely different reason.  Halloween is rooted in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced SOW-en).  This was a harvest festival and it was at this time that root vegetables and squash were harvested.  It was also a “Thin Time."




Samhain was both the end of the year and the beginning of the year, and so the ancients believed that the veil between this world and the next was the thinnest.  They believed that the spirits of their ancestors could walk the earth on this night – especially those who had died the previous year - and so they remembered the ancestors at this time

During this time, they would place lit candles in their windows, and carve lanterns out of turnips and place them outside of their homes lit with candles.  These would light the way of the Spirits so they would pass by their homes.





They would also set food out for the spirits so they wouldn’t cause any mischief at their home.  Is this beginning sound like any holiday that we celebrate today?  Like Halloween perhaps?  Our celebration of Halloween today is celebrated more closely to the ancient ways than of our other holidays.

To further the connection, Samhain was always celebrated on the evening of October 31st, so the placement of Halloween was a given.  When the Church began celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1st, Samhain became known as All Hallows Eve - our current name, Halloween, derives from that.  When the Church later added the feast of All Souls on November 2nd (think Day of the Dead), the three days became known as All Hallowstide, and was a time to remember the ancestors.



I love genealogy and learning about my heritage and ancestors, so this is a natural time for me to visit cemeteries.  I learn so much from them.  Rather than being the home of ghosts and goblins, they are a source of so much history and tradition, and a wealth of information.

This Halloween as you prepare for the trick-or-treaters, please try to spend some time remembering and honoring the ancestors.











Happy All Hallowstide!!!















Wednesday, October 30, 2013




A NOT SO SINCERE PUMPKIN PATCH

Earlier this month I went apple picking with friends.  The orchard that we went to was great and I was able to pick and purchase apples which were used to bake my first ever apple pie.  This orchard had many pumpkins as well, but I waited with those because I was planning a trip later to another orchard and would get pumpkins there.

This follow-up trip happened last week and wasn’t as much fun as the first.  The apple “picking” experience at this orchard was much different.  While it was a lot of fun to watch the conveyer belt in their store move the freshly picked apples along the line where workers packaged them neatly into boxes and plastic bags, that wasn’t enough to enhance the experience. 




In addition to picking our own apples, the first orchard we had visited allowed us to bag our own additional apples in the store.  After choosing the size of paper bag we wanted – peck or half-peck - we could then select our apples from the bins in the store.  The orchard last week had the apples pre-bagged in plastic bags sitting in small apple baskets.  The experience was rather cold and impersonal, sort of like going to the local supermarket and grabbing a bag of apples off the shelf.  The first orchard engaged us more in the process and was simply a much better experience, but as I said, I wasn’t searching for apples this time.  My quest was for pumpkins, one to bake into a pie and one to carve (ever since I was a child I’ve had a Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween).  This is where I was most disappointed.

Their pumpkin patch was very sparse.  It may have been that the pumpkins were picked over by the time we went, or maybe they simply didn’t have many, but they had very few pumpkins and many were broken and scattered throughout the patches.   We walked through three patches before I finally found a pumpkin that would be good for carving into my Jack-O-Lantern.

I never did find a pie pumpkin because when they harvested them this year, they mixed them in with all of the others and even the workers at the patch couldn’t find them.  I ended up having to buy a pie pumpkin at my local Farmer's Market. 


The pumpkin I found at the patch to carve and the pie pumpkin 
bought at the local Farmer's Market.

On the upside the d├ęcor of the store had some wonderful displays and there was an amazing quilt show being held on the weekend we were there, but even those things weren’t enough to make this an enjoyable outing.  






In the Charlie Brown Halloween Special, Linus was searching for the most sincere pumpkin patch, so that the Great Pumpkin would visit him there.  The pumpkin patch I visited last week was definitely NOT sincere.  Next year we will simply choose a different orchard or maybe we'll make two trips to the first one we visited to this year.












Sunday, October 27, 2013






BEYOND THE GOLF COURSE:  THE LOVE OF ARGYLE SOCKS

I’m a late comer to argyle socks.  Growing up, I thought they were mostly the tacky footwear worn by senior citizens, and so I dismissed them.  Boy, was I wrong.  Fortunately, as my taste and style evolved and developed post-college, that mindset changed.

It all began in my mid-twenties when I added a couple of very nice cotton argyle sweater vests (in spring pastel shades) to my wardrobe.  This was shortly followed by my first pair of argyle socks in red, black, and yellow, on a white background.  From that point on I was hooked, and I have always had several pairs of argyle socks in my collection.

While I enjoy pastel argyles in the spring, I think it’s the earth-toned colored argyles of fall that I love the most. The weave and pattern of argyle just sort of say “fall” to me.  So as we celebrate this colorful season, let’s take a look at the history of these wonderful socks.


The argyle pattern of overlapping diamonds (or lozenges) had its origins in western Scotland, and is derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell who lived by the town of Argyll (by the way the Clan Chieftain is also the Duke of Argyll).  The argyle pattern was used on kilts and plaids, and was also knitted into socks (sometimes known as “tartan hose”) that were worn by the Scottish Highlanders since at least the 17th century.

Following World War I, Pringle of Scotland, known for the premium knitwear they produced, made a sweater in the argyle pattern of the Clan Campbell.  The Duke of Windsor fell in love with it and began wearing both argyle sweaters and socks on the golf course.  The Duke, as I mentioned in a previous post, was very much a fashion trendsetter, and whatever he wore, all of the fashionable gentlemen wore.  Thus argyle clothing was enshrined as a men’s wardrobe staple.

These great argyles from Ralph Lauren Polo really show the beautiful tartan plaid. 

In the 1920’s Brooks Brothers became the first American retailer to manufacture argyle socks for men, and the rest is history.  These wonderful socks have remained popular for almost one hundred years now. 

I have grown to love argyle socks, but have a special affinity for them in the fall.  The layered diamond pattern seems to especially shine when combined with the rich hues and colors of the season.













Thursday, October 24, 2013





THE FOLIAGE OF FALL

While I love all of the seasons of the year, I think fall might be my favorite.  I love it when the air starts to feel cool and crisp, and the leaves turn lovely shades of red, orange and yellow.  The colors give us one last blast of beauty before winters chill covers everything with a mantel of white.




While summer sun brings with it a host of outdoor activities, here in Minnesota, it also can bring unbearable humidity.  People here will sometimes retreat indoors, enjoying the comfort of their air conditioning, to escape the often brutal heat and humidity, so when the breezes of fall begin it's a much welcomed event.




In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”  For me this is true.  Once the cooler weather tempers the summer heat, I feel a tremendous excitement.  I look forward to layering on warm cozy sweaters, and spending time sitting around bonfires and fire rings.  There is a renewed energy all around, and I love to bask in it.

Fall by Lake Calhoun.



Here’s hoping that you will have time to enjoy the spectacular show of color that Mother Nature offers us each fall.

The sumacs tress are the first to change colors once fall arrives.


*This photo of a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River was added later to this post.




“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby












Wednesday, October 23, 2013





IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS: SHIRTS AND SOCKS

A while back at a work meeting, one of the women who attends came over to me at the break and said, “So I have to ask you.  What color are your socks?”  I looked at her a bit confused as I answered “Pink.”  Her face lit up in a smile as she exclaimed, “I knew it! In fact I think I would have been disappointed if they hadn’t been.”

At first I was a little puzzled by this interaction, but then it dawned on me that I was also wearing a pink shirt.  Her question and response was based on the fact that I will often match my socks to the color of the shirt I’m wearing. 

Here are the infamous pink shirt and socks along with their navy counterparts.  Ralph Lauren Polo offers socks in a wide variety of colors which makes matching easy.

Next, the lavender shirt is paired up with socks from Goldtoe, will the gray shirt has 
matching socks from Calvin Klein.

I’m not sure when I first started doing this, but it has been going on for a number of years.  For me, it’s that extra step in paying attention to the small details - I do that with a number of my other accessories as well, but that will be another post.   For now I’ll just share a few examples of my shirt and sock combinations.

Finally, we see the combinations in olive green and yellow.  
The matching socks are again from Polo.

I like the look that is created when I match my shirts and socks.  That “bookend” effect gives a much more finished look to my outfit, and shows that I care enough to go that extra step.  For me, the difference between being dressed, and being well dressed, truly is in the details.













Monday, October 14, 2013





THE APPLE OF MY PIE

The October weather here in Minnesota has been fluctuating from cold and damp to sunny and warm, but one thing is certain, there is definitely a crisp coolness in the air.  Yes, fall has arrived.  I love this time of year as it heralds warm sweaters, bonfires, pumpkins, and APPLES! 

Arriving at the orchard.


The apples await!


One of my favorite things to do in early October is to go apple picking.  I love being out in the cool autumn air as I wander up and down the rows of apple trees at the orchard.  This year was an especially good year for apples and the trees were abundant, and full. 

The Corn Maze at the orchard . . .

. . . Was well guarded.

Yes!  This is REAL!

The Twin Cities area is blessed with several apple orchards and last weekend I went apple picking with a couple of friends at Apple Jack Orchards just west of Minneapolis.  My goal was to pick apples to be used in my first ever attempt to bake a homemade apple pie from scratch.

The Cow Train was great fun for the youngsters.



The day turned out to be somewhat rainy so I was worried about how our adventure would turn out.  Luck was on our side though, as it rained on the way to the orchard and on the way home, but not while we were at the orchard.  As far as the pie, I picked Haralson, Hoenycrisp and Macoun apples that would find their way into that wonderful delicacy. 

A visit to the gift shop was a delightful way to end our day at the orchard.


Like I said this was my first attempt at baking an apple pie from scratch, and I think it turned out pretty well.  I owe a huge “Thank You” to Muffy Aldrich.  Her blog, The Daily Prep, is one that I follow religiously, and a few weeks back she posted her favorite apple pie recipe – including the crust.  While I made a few slight adjustments for personal taste, the basic recipe came from her. 

My Grandmother's pie plate, mixing bowl, and rolling pin.

The end result!

There are still a couple more weeks left for apple picking, and if you haven’t done so already, I suggest you load up the family and head out to an orchard near you.  There truly isn’t a better way to spend a wonderful fall day.  Happy Picking!