Posts Tagged ‘spending quality time with family & friends’

Pumpkins In PA, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Back in Minnesota and it’s Halloween. I’m home from the 2400 roundtrip air miles, Minneapolis to Pennsylvania. The road trip with Mom from Pennsylvania to Georgia clocked around 1200 driving miles. Fall is beautiful on the East Coast and we had a lot of fun stopping in Fancy Gap, Virginia on the way down and the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia on the way back to Pennsylvania.

One thing that sticks out for me on this trip is the difference in temperature and light from East to Midwest. When I was snapping sunset photos in Virginia for Twitter, Liz noticed that it was already dark in Minnesota. And this morning when I awoke, the temperatures in Harrisburg and Augusta were surprisingly similar, topping out in the 50’s. Yet in Minneapolis, it was only 32 degrees.

Cold and dark. It’s going to be a crisp evening for the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. My sister told me last week that in Pennsylvania, they trick-or-treat on the Thursday before Halloween, something I had not heard of here. As far as I know, there is only one Halloween evening in our neck of the woods. And that is tonight.

The night before I left Pennsylvania, my sister brought home pumpkins for my niece and nephew to carve. She grabbed a few extra for my mother and I and we went to town. I had not worked that hard on a pumpkin in years. I’m not fond of cleaning out the guts. But my sister and niece were masters at expunging the stringy goo from the hollowed out orange shell. I learned a thing or two about pumpkin carving that night:



place a big plastic table cloth down on the carving surface to catch all the guts and gore that fly through the air



use ice cream scoops and scrapers to remove extra pumpkin goo



draw your design out on in pencil on a white sheet of paper before carving



tape the paper to the outside of the pumpkin


 use an ice pick to punch holes along the lines of the design (when you remove the paper drawing, you have a dotted line pattern of holes to follow)



when carving in groups, you’ll need plenty of sharp knives and serrated pumpkin carving tools



X-Acto knives work well for the more intricate designs



toothpicks can help repair a misaligned cut from a knife that slipped



you’ll need stamina in the wrists, for punching the design with the ice pick and to complete the carving



for those whose wrists can’t take it or who don’t want to carve, painting pumpkins works great


When we finished carving, we placed votive candles and tea lights inside each pumpkin and arranged them on the front porch for photographs. Mom’s is the painted one over by the scarecrow Paul won a few weeks ago (he’s always been lucky like that). The scarecrow lights up in multicolored LED’s, adding another dimension to the overall decor.

It occurred to me that this was the same porch where we celebrated Halloween in the 60’s and 70’s growing up. Ghosts of all the ghouls and goblin costumes Mom created for my five siblings and I in the house where we were raised danced in and out of the breezeway.

3’s Not A Crowd In Pumpkin World (Dark), 3’s Not A Crowd In Pumpkin World (Light), Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Happy Halloween 2009. We’re preparing to watch a scary movie and chuckling at the inventive costumes (check out ybonesy’s daughter’s costume this year) of the little Midwest trick-or-treaters that drop by our door. In two days, it will be the full November Frost Moon (will bats be hibernating?). It’s blustery and chilly in Minnesota. Part of my heart is still in Pennsylvania.

-posted on red Ravine, Halloween Night, Saturday, October 31st, 2009

-related to posts: Halloween Short List: (#2) Build Your Own Casket, halloween haiku, Taking Jack To The Cemetery, The Great Pumpkin Catapult

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Pink Cadillac, Hindsight, outside the Pink Cadillac Diner, Natural Bridge, Virginia, October 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Back in Pennsylvania. I always think I’m going to post more than I do from the road. But at the end of the day, I find myself exhausted. Out as soon as the head hits the pillow. Perhaps it’s the introvert in me. I love traveling West to East, North to South, all the people I see only once a year. I wish there were a dozen of me. Maybe a baker’s dozen.

Yesterday I drove 13 hours back from Georgia with Mom. I spent this October day with my family in Pennsylvania. It’s almost 4am and I find myself wide awake, wanting to write. It’s the best I can do to post a haiku, a note, a few photographs from the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It’s a little off the beaten trail. Mom was finishing up her ice cream cone while I walked out to photograph the Caddy. A young woman strode proudly up behind me with her two daughters, camera in tow.

“My dad took a photo of me in front of this very spot,” she said, “and now I get to take a photo of you.” Snap. I watched her daughters gleaming next to the rusty chrome. “Would you like me to take a photo of all of you together?” I asked. “I’d love that,” she smiled, rushing over to hand me her pocket camera.

Lineage. Family legacies. The things we pass down.

The day was perfect for driving. The light illuminated by Fall. I hung my head out the window and snapped photos of a sunset front over Virginia. There is so much to tell. For the time being, will you settle for the highlights?

  • visiting the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Augusta, Georgia with my mother
  • walking with my dad through the Brick Pond Ecological Park in North Augusta, South Carolina
  • dining on my uncle’s chili he’s been making since he was 12
  • riding on the back of my brother’s Harley Softtail
  • driving through Virginia with the mountains framed in gold
  • visiting my paternal grandparents’ graves for the first time with my aunt
  • photographing a historic Sand Oak at Westover Memorial Park Cemetery
  • standing by the Savannah River on the down side of Clarks Hill Dam
  • spending the day on the Georgia side of Clarks Hill Lake working on family history with Mom
  • watching the Vikings/Steelers game with my family
  • grits, sweet tea, barbecue hash, boiled peanuts
  • seeing the faces of my brother and mom at the airport when I land
  • talking to Liz on the new BlackBerry from Sconyer’s Bar-B-Que (she asked for hushpuppies)
  • Twittering across the Mason-Dixon line (and the rest of the 1200 mile round trip to Georgia) with the same said BlackBerry
  • photographing the October Blood Moon rising over Pennsylvania, setting over Georgia and South Carolina
  • writing haiku in the air, Minnesota to Maryland and Pennsylvania
  • watching my sister-in-law tap dance across her living room floor (and later my niece and brother’s fiancee danced across the same floor)
  • The Beatles Rock Band with my niece, nephew, and brother in his living room
  • attending a huge Halloween bash with my aunt at the Julian Smith Casino building where in the 1950’s my mother used to go to dances and work barbecues to raise money to build a local church
  • laughing with my family, North and South
  • stopping at the Pink Cadillac Diner in Virginia with Mom on the way home from Georgia

season to season
hindsight is 20/20
reflecting the past;
future remains uncertain,
jumps hoops through the looking glass

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, October 25th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, WRITING TOPIC– ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS, you can’t go back — 15 haiku, Cassie’s Porch — Then & Now, Excavating Memories

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Black Button, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Black Button, center detail of Wired mandala, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Pink Pipe Cleaner, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The weekend is winding down. The great thing about Holidays is the opportunity to relax with friends and family, and step out of our normal routines. It wakes us up.

On July 4th, we spent time in the Casket Arts studio with friends, talked about writing, art, politics, played albums, organized, tried to watch a projection movie but that didn’t work out. In the evening, fireworks from Nicollet Island exploded in the sky. Neighborhood kids were setting off bottle rockets in the street below us. A symphony.


Half & Half, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.We turned out the lights to watch the display but could barely see the downtown fireworks for the thick, overgrown branches of elms. Someone suggested we head down to lobby where there are two sets of floor to ceiling windows. We raced each other down the 100-year-old halls. Perfect view. It seemed like the fireworks went on forever, a wonderful end to the day.


Green Wire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.When we were sitting around the table on Friday, we created and colored mandalas; our studio mate made animals out of pieces of wood, wire, and sticks; we drew Animal Cards, listened to music, alphabetized albums, laughed at the faded covers of records we’d collected since the late 1960’s, and had a little mini-picnic.


Circle Squared, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Things rarely slow down enough anymore to hang out like that with friends. To not be moving forward full speed ahead, planning the next thing, or feeling guilty that we’re not being more productive.

We’re heading off this morning to do more practical things, enjoying a few more minutes of peace before walking into the thick of the Midwest summer — July in Minnesota. We’ll also spend part of July in the South. I’m looking forward to Summer. But for the time being, I’m just going to hang out in the present, exactly where I am.

Wired, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Wired, Fourth of July mandala, created from an empty blank circle, Materials: marker paints, oil pastels, Elmer’s glue, coated wire, foam shapes, pipe cleaner, plastic buttons and rings, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, July 6th, 2008

-related to post: Target — May Mandalas

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