What’s for supper? Vol. 316: All Fall

We made it through Halloween and the Spooky Triduum! Plenty of cozy fall foods this week, although no applesauce as of yet. Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

By popular request. Your choice of ciabatta rolls or sourdough bread, roast chicken breast, bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar, slices of tart Granny Smith apples, and honey mustard dressing.

Just an excellent sandwich. Nestle plate in among fabric paint and other craft materials because you are still frantically finishing up Halloween costumes. 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and ragù; garlic bread; blueberry and pumpkin walnut ice cream 

Damien made this, following the Deadspin recipe. It turns out a little different each time. This time was a little spicy, and wonderfully — look, nobody likes it when I describe a meat sauce as “fluffy,” but the English language is just not helping me out. Here, have a picture:

If you’re thinking of pasta with a standard sluggish tomato sauce with some ground meat thrown in, think that no more. This is entirely different, and absolutely scrumptious. 

The kids miraculously scooped out the pumpkins on Friday while we were out of town, sorted out the pulp and seeds, and cleaned up. I know! So over the weekend, they carved their pumpkins, and all I had to do was roast the seeds.

I spread them in shallow pans, drizzled them with oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, then cooked them in a 250 oven, stirring them occasionally, and switching the pans once so they’d cook evenly, until they are crunchy but not burnt.

I never know how long this takes because I always, always forget they are in the oven and almost burn them. Maybe forty minutes? I have no idea. 

I had a slightly better handle on dessert. Blueberries were on sale, so I bought a few pints, planning to make ice cream, with lemon pound cake from a mix. But then I felt bad that I hadn’t made any kind of Halloween-themed meal or dessert, so I decided it was important to make pumpkin ice cream.  (In the past, for Halloween I have made SPOOKY MEATLOAF

and once I made those mummy hot dogs

and you know, that was not a good use of my time. As usual, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to come up with this stuff. Anyway, the ice cream turned out to be a great idea. I thought the two flavors would be terrible together (Watch: This Food Blogger Thinks Dessert Will Be Terrible But Makes It Anyway For Some Reason!), but they were actually great.

The blueberry was sweet and a tiny bit tart, and the pumpkin had all the comfy, custardy flavors of pumpkin pie, and somehow together they worked in the same way that peanut butter and jelly work together. They didn’t taste like peanut butter and jelly, you understand; it was just the same kind of combination. Fruity + earthy, or something. 

I did also make the lemon pound cake mix, but overbaked it, and I was worried the lemon would not go well with the other flavors (I had bought it just thinking lemon + blueberry), and this time I was right. Should have just skipped the cake. Oh well!

Imma have to come back later and write out the ice cream directions. I used Ben and Jerry’s recipes for both, except that I doubled the amount of blueberries for one, and added walnuts to the other, and increased the spices a bit. They both use the basic sweet cream base and do not require cooking. I will say that double blueberry was too much, and the berries clumped together in a way that wasn’t completely pleasant, because the tiny seeds get a little gritty one you get a certain volume of blueberry (they were macerated but not cooked). Next time I’ll just follow the recipe! But the walnuts were an excellent addition to the pumpkin ice cream, and I stand by that. I may make this again for Thanksgiving, or possibly this butternut squash ice cream with candied curry pecans.

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets; candy

Halloween! Dinner is only there to keep child protective services away. The kids had parties at school and ate all kinds of nonsense, then we zipped home and hurried to get costumes on for trick or treating. 

Benny and Corrie were Sarah and Duck

and I assisted them as Scarf Lady 

Lucy, Sophia, and Irene were Doc Ock, Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, and a robot 

You can’t really tell, but the robot has three special features: It lights up in several colors, it has a little secret compartment for storing things, and it is wearing a fanny pack full of diabetic supplies for its sister, so as not to mess up her Doc Ock costume.

The other kids dispersed to various parties and promised me they would send pictures, but they did not!

TUESDAY
Bagel, sausage, egg, cheese sandwiches; caramel apples

On Tuesday I had an easy meal planned (bagels with sausages, egg, and cheese)

because everyone was exhausted and of course we had to get to Mass for All Saints Day, but I also suddenly couldn’t stand how there were apples all over the place, so I made caramel apples. We usually get the easy-peasy kind where you just stretch a sheet of caramel over the apple and warm it up to meld it on, but the boxes can be a little misleading, so I had two kits of the kind you need a candy thermometer.

Which reminds me of the last time we attempted this, which was one of my favorite Irene moments, when she was about seven. 

Irene, stirring caramel: “We don’t want it to get too hot. Not hard ball. Or hard crack. Or . . . [peering at thermometer] fish donut.”

WELL, THAT’S WHAT IT SAYS. The adult world can be very confusing, and you just have to go with it, even if it sounds a little fish donut.

So I made about 20 apples. 

They turned out lovely, but I surely did not have room for 20 sticky apples to cool and harden in the fridge, so I just left them out all afternoon. Usually our kitchen is about as cool as a refrigerator anyway, but we’re having a little warm snap, and by evening, the caramel had ooooozed its way downward until what I had was a panful of apples, each with its own caramel penumbra, sitting in a pool of caramel. Oh well! At least I got rid of the apples. Some weeks, cooking is like a game whose goal is to get rid of all the food. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken and salad; soul cakes

This was an okay idea that didn’t quite come off. I had the vague idea to serve a Greek-inspired salad with chicken. While I was out, Damien roasted some chicken breasts with plenty of lemon pepper seasoning, and I sliced up the meat and served it with a big green salad, black olives, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and cucumbers and tomatoes.

I think the tomatoes were the mistake.  You really can’t have tomatoes on pomegranates in the same plate. They threw the whole thing off. Also I forgot to buy any kind of dressing, so we were forced to dig through the fridge and take our chances. Damien found some creamy Italian dressing, and I was trying to tell him that we also had some kind of vinaigrette, but I couldn’t think of the word, so I called it “greasy Italian.” Which goes to show that describing things accurately is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I also just this minute remembered that I bought pita chips to go with this salad, and totally forgot about them. 

Regarding the pomegranates, I briefly considered looking up some clever TikTok idea for how to get the seeds off the rind in no time flat, but these things never, ever work for me. It’s always a video of some sun-kissed woman with shining, blue-black hair and a peasant blouse, standing in her garden going, “Oh, you cut up your pineapple with a knife, you DUMBASS? Try it like this!” and she grins at the camera and sticks a toothpick in the bottom, and all the pineapple just falls out into a basin in perfect little edible chunks and she eats one with very white teeth. Or else there is some perky dude with weirdly inflated biceps bopping around a spotless kitchen showing us how, when he wants 400 cloves of peeled garlic, all he does is make a little slit in the side and then tap it with a spoon, and the garlic absolutely cannot wait to scurry off and arrange itself into useful rows, all perfectly peeled and not a bit wasted. So I watch this stuff and it looks quite easy, so I imitate them exactly, and somehow slice the tips off my three favorite fingers, and then I have to explain to the ER nurse that I was trying to be like someone on TikTok.

So I decided to just cut the pomegranate into quarters and then just sort of scrabble at it until the seeds came out. And I got a bowlful that way. 

And then I took a picture, so there. 

OH, I also made soul cakes on Wednesday. I guess soul cakes are the original treats that people would give to beggars who would come to their house, and offer to pray for the souls of the dead in exchange for a cookie? I don’t know. I still had a shit ton of apples left, so I was getting ready to make applesauce when I suddenly remembered that the kids had asked about soul cakes, so that’s what I made. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s a very quick recipe, and I do like the taste. They have a faint cidery flavor from the cider vinegar, and they’re soft and a little spicy, very nice. I cut out two kinds and told the kids they represented souls before and after being prayed for. 

Raisins in purgatory, and then you upgrade to half a dried apricot when you go to heaven. That’s some high octane theology for you. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls and beans

Everyone was pretty excited about this meal. I actually started marinating the meat the night before. 

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I had already cut up the meat before marinating it, so I just fried it up in a giant pan along with the marinade. 

Earlier in the day, I made a big bowl of guacamole

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and a pot of black beans. The beans were completely yummy,

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but I wish I had cooked them with the lid off for a little longer (they were in the Instant Pot on “slow cook” most of the day) to simmer off more of the liquid. 

But all in all, a very tasty meal.  I made a big pot of rice, put out salsa, chopped scallions, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips, shredded some cheese, and heated up some corn. Everyone found something they liked to eat.

Mmm, I think I will have leftover beans for lunch. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Lots of leftover fixins from Thursday’s meal, so I’m just going to make plain cheese quesadillas and people can dress it up as they like. I also bought some plantain chips, which I will no doubt forget to serve. 

Happy Friday! If you want some apples, come over. I have a lot. 

Soul cakes

Servings 18 flat cakes the size of large biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, chilled
  • 3-3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp allspice (can sub cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar (can sub white vinegar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp milk
  • powdered sugar to sprinkle on top

optional:

  • raisins, currants, nuts, candied citrus peels, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350

  2. Put the flour in a large bowl. Grate the chilled butter on a vegetable grater and incorporate it lightly into the flour.

  3. Stir in the sugar and spices until evenly distributed.

  4. In a smaller bowl, beat together the eggs, vinegar and milk. Stir this into the flour mixture until it forms a stiff dough.

  5. Knead for several minutes until smooth and roll out to 1/4 thick.

  6. Grease a baking pan. Cut the dough into rounds (or other shapes if you like) and lay them on the pan, leaving a bit of room in between (they puff up a bit, but not a lot). If you're adding raisins or other toppings, poke them into the top of the cakes, in a cross shape if you like. Prick cakes with fork.

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until very lightly browned on top.

  8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while they are warm

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

 

Instant Pot black beans

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 16-oz cans black beans with liquid
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil pot of Instant Pot. Press "saute" button. Add diced onion and minced garlic. Saute, stirring, for a few minutes until onion is soft. Press "cancel."

  2. Add beans with liquid. Add cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Close the lid, close the vent, and press "slow cook."

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 313: The eptimistic kitchen

You did it! You made it to Friday! In lieu of a treat, here is a little food post.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

I think people may be well and truly burnt out on grilled ham and cheese, even with the good sourdough bread. We had a good run. I’ll try again in May or so. Or next time I cannot think of literally any other kind of food that people eat for dinner. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza 

We were supposed to go apple picking on Saturday, but people were too busy, and then Sunday, but then someone threw up, so, no. 

We did go ahead and make the long-promised giant garbage bag spider. As the name implies, this is made with garbage bags, plus packing tape zip ties. The legs are stuffed with giant weeds, and the body is stuffed with a slightly deflated pool floatie. It looks . . . fine. 

It’s just not what I was hoping. I think if I make a second big round part and make that be the head, and put a lot more eyes on it, and maybe fangs. And maybe give the skeletons some swords, or maybe a fly swatter. I don’t know. It’s just a little lackluster. But I did get it done, and being able to cross “giant garbage bag spider” off your list is not nothing. 

MONDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin empanadas 

Nobody was throwing up, so we thought maybe possibly we’d go apple picking on Monday, because nobody had school, except a few people did, and then also oops, I had therapy, but we could still go after that, but then it rained. It was also only about 50 degrees and windy, and driving an hour and half in the afternoon to pick wet apples in the cold wind and then driving home in the dark honestly just did not sound like a lot of fun, even by our standards, even if we stopped to plant crocus bulbs on my parents’ grave, which, yes, was part of my fun-fun plan. So we didn’t do any of that, and instead I stayed home and made soup and empanadas, and that was actually quite nice. 

First beef barley soup of the season. Pretty popular meal in a family that is fairly soup skeptical. It’s just so full of tasty things, and it’s so cozy and colorful. Plenty of carrots and onions and garlic, beef and mushrooms, tomatoes and barley, and the broth is made with red wine. Super easy and if give it plenty of time to cook, the beef gets wonderfully tender. 

This recipe has instructions for stovetop and Instant Pot. 
Jump to Recipe

I got some empanada dough discs at the supermarket, after the NYT comments section clued me in that Goya frozen dough was just as good as homemade, and it’s like $2 for a package of ten.  The Goya dough discs are very easy to work with. They go from totally frozen to workable within about twenty minutes, and they stretch well and don’t tear easily. You can bake or fry them.

For the filling, I sorta followed this recipe, which is just canned pumpkin, vanilla, brown sugar, and pumpkin spice. (I think I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.) I decreased the amount of sugar by about 25% and it was still a bit sweeter than I thought was necessary. You just cook it in a pot for a few minutes, then spoon a heaping spoonful onto the discs, seal them up with a fork, brush them with egg wash, and bake them on parchment paper.

I was a little concerned that the empanadas wouldn’t hold together, because the filling was the consistency of thick homemade applesauce. I briefly considered adding egg or flour, but it didn’t seem like a good day for winging anything, and in the end they didn’t leak. I do think something more solid would have been a bit more appealing, though. Here’s the inside:

This isn’t a flaw of the recipe, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted (even though it was exactly what I made, duh). They certainly were easy to put together, and they came out of the oven glossy and cheery. This particular dough is flavored with annatto, which gives it a very mild peppery taste and a pleasant ruddy color. 

Corrie has been having homemade empanadas for breakfast and packing them in her lunch all week, which I am telling myself offsets the fact that it took me three days to notice her lunchbox is moldy.

Someone said something about pineapple empanadas, and this intrigues me! And I did, in fact, buy another several packs of empanada discs to keep in the freezer for next time. Maybe pineapple empanadas next time we have chili verde, or tacos al pastor. Maybe apple empanadas next time we go apple picking. Which we’re going to do if it kills us. 

TUESDAY
Ham, peas, mashed potatoes

We are contractually obligated to have this exact meal at least three times a year. I know it’s because they like to make little sculptures with it, and I don’t care, because it’s a damn tasty meal. Ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. 

Also, last time I made mashed potatoes, they came gross, because  I left the skins on and then slightly undercooked and undermashed them, so this was my chance to redeem myself. 

I also redeemed myself by having leftover soup for lunch.

This is a very specific kind of redemption, redemption soup. Limited in its way, but also very tasty, and full of carrots. All I ever have, / redemption soup.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros

Yes. Yes. Gyro time. In the morning, I cut up a big, cheap pork shoulder into thin strips and marinated it. I made the marinade with honey, wine vinegar, olive oil, fresh garlic, red onions, fresh rosemary and oregano (the very last from the garden), and then some dried oregano, too, just to be on the safe side. This is a pleasantly mild, somewhat sweet, herby-tasting marinade, and it makes the meat nicely tender. 

Jump to Recipe

At dinner time, I just spread it in a shallow pan and roasted it with the marinade, stirring it up a bit halfway through to keep it from burning

while cooking some french fries in a second pan. I sliced up some more red onions, then cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and made a big dish of garlicky lemony yogurt sauce, and gathered up plenty of big pieces of fresh wild mint.

AND THEN WE FEASTED.

I skipped the french fries in mine and just went for plenty of yogurt and hot sauce. A perfectly satisfying meal, the tender juicy meat and hot sauce and the cool, garlicky yogurt all playing so nicely with the crunchy fresh vegetables. Just couldn’t be better.  The fresh mint leaves really put it over the top. 

THURSDAY
Meatball subs, veg and dig

I often make the meatballs in the oven, but this time I felt like frying them, which really does make them better. I just browned them in a pan in batches

with the help of a supervisor

and then let them finish cooking in the oven, went to pick up the kids, and then moved the meatballs to a pot of red sauce to continue heating up until supper. 

Nothing extraordinary, but good for a rainy fall day. 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein

For some reason, the price of frozen shrimp has remained the same while everything else has expanded to … the opposite of shrimp-like, in price size.

That reminds me, Corrie is very interested in opposites lately. She wanted to know the opposite of optimistic, and when I told her, she informed me that Sonny is optimistic, but the cat is pessimistic. Which is true.

Then the next day, she forgot the word “pessimistic” and referred to something as “eptimistic,” and was embarrassed; so we decided that eptimistic was a perfectly good word that must mean the opposite of being inept. Like if you know how to cook, you’re pretty eptimistic in the kitchen. Let’s make this happen, everybody. Let’s eptimistically whip up a quick little lo mein sauce, and make a surprisingly simple, tasty dinner

Jump to Recipe

with a couple pounds of store brand fettuccine and maybe some chopped up zucchini and yellow bell pepper. Won’t that be pretty? I’m feeling fairly optimistic about it. 

And we are going to go apple picking this weekend if it kills us. And it will! 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

5 from 1 vote
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honey garlic marinade for gyros

Marinate thin strips of pork for several hours, then grill or broil. This is a mild, somewhat sweet marinade that makes the meat quite tender.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs pork shoulder or butt, sliced into thin strips
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • small bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
  • small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
5 from 1 vote
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Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

Halloween roundup! Samhain, witch burning, pumpkin carving, werewolf movies, and SPOOKY MISC.

I’ve made my annual pilgrimage to Walmart to get more hot glue sticks while wearing embarrassing pajamas, so I guess I’m just about ready for Halloween. Last night I made progress on an Athena costume (helmet, spear, and aegis) for Corrie, and Clara saved the day by sewing a pirate skirt for Benny. I did my part by buying bootlaces that don’t perpetually untie themselves, and honestly, that may have saved Halloween, too. 

I’ve been saving up a few interesting bits of reading to share, more or less Halloween related:

Is Halloween ackshully pagan?

Samhain photo by Robin Canfield on Unsplash 

Short answer: No. Long answer: No, it’s Catholic, always has been, you absolute shoehorning no-history-knowing nits. So says Tim O’Neill of History for Atheists, and he has the goods. The idea that religious people stole Samhain or some other pre-christian tradition from pagans is popular but completely without historical merit. A longish and fascinating read from a guy who can’t be accused of having a religious agenda.

Sorta related: Who burned the witches? This is an older article by Salon co-founder Laura Miller published in 2005, challenging the idea that, when we say “witch burning,” we mean some concerted effort by the big bad church to quash rebellious wise women who knew too much about how to gather healing herbs and whatnot.

Photo by Evgeniy Kletsov on Unsplash 

Nobody really comes out looking especially awesome in the witch trial era, but it really seems to have been mostly a case of people being like people be, which is horrible enough in itself:

The mass of detail can be numbing, but what it reveals is important: not a sweeping, coordinated effort to exert control by a major historical player, but something more like what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil.” Witch hunts were a collaboration between lower-level authorities and commonfolk succumbing to garden-variety pettiness, vindictiveness, superstition and hysteria. Seen that way, it’s a pattern that recurs over and over again in various forms throughout human history, whether or not an evil international church or a ruthless patriarchy is involved, in places as different as Seattle and Rwanda.

This is, in fact, more or less how it was taught to us in public school when I was growing up. I appreciate the attempt to bring some balance to the conversation, which, if anything, has gotten dumber since this article came out. And I wish people would be willing to consider this less conspiratorial, more mundane explanation more often for . . . everything. When we can explain everything bad with a conspiracy, that’s thrilling and satisfying, and lets us imagine that there are clear cut bad guys who aren’t us; but it’s far more likely that people everywhere are petty and vengeful and prone to letting their bad impulses get out of control. Nobody wants to hear it, because it means it’s something we’re all susceptible to. 
 
What else? Pumpkins! Just a few more days until we get our dining room table back. 
 
 
If I put the pumpkins outside now, they’ll be freezing cold when we bring them in to scoop them out. And I also haven’t super duper found spots for all the frost-damaged plants I brought in, yet. So this is how we live. At least the cookie is happy. Somewhere in there is a spool of wire I bought to make the snakes for Athena’s aegis, but I can’t find it, so I got more in my pajamas.
 
I finally got my anxious paws on those pumpkins yesterday, after searching no fewer than seven stores and coming up empty and getting more and more nervous about having to carve, like, cauliflowers for Halloween this year. I told the Home Depot lady that probably Covid made people sad, which made them want to decorate more, which made them buy extra pumpkins, and she said that sounded exactly right, but even I could tell it was stupid. In real life, I blame the Masons, or possibly the Jews. Anyway, now we have ten lovely fat pumpkins to carve. I got a Dremel for Christmas last year, and I’ve barely used it, so I think I will make something splendid this year.  Check out #11. Okay, realistically speaking, I will make a sloppy attempt at it, and my family will be really supportive and nice about it. I can live with this. 
 
 
And finally, a Halloween family watching suggestion, not a new one but a solid choice: Over the Garden Wall
 

I’m still amazed it got broadcast, because it’s so weird and beautiful and thoughtful. It’s an animated miniseries of 12 short episodes, and every one is gorgeous, creepy, funny, and strangely moving, with crazy, memorable music.

Two half-brothers find themselves lost in the woods on Halloween, and as they try to make their way home, they become entangled in some terrifying otherworldly business. It’s loosely inspired by The Divine Comedy, but I wouldn’t push that too far. 

Each episode is about 11 minutes, so you can watch the entire series in about two hours. We split it into two nights. Here’s the first episode, which is pretty representative:

It’s rated PG, but some of the characters and situations are extremely creepy, so while we did let our six-year-old watch it, she has a very high tolerance for scary stuff, and some kids under the age of eight or nine could find it too scary. (Here’s a specific list of creepy stuff.) There is a lot of very silly and hilarious stuff that fixes you right up when you get creeped out. No gore, graphic violence, or sex. There is a persistent melancholy tone, but all the relationships in the show get worked out very satisfactorily, and familial love is the true theme of the miniseries, and all is restored in the end. 

This show also contains one of the most realistic depictions of a goofy little boy we’ve ever seen. We’ve come to burgle your turts! Lots of quotes and songs have become part of our family culture.

Here’s a beast costume

a Wirt costume

and a Wirt and Greg cake:

The whole thing is crowded with allusions and suggestions and portents, and you can either pursue them or just enjoy them. It originally ran on Cartoon Network in 2014. It doesn’t appear to be streaming for free anywhere right now. We bought it to stream on Amazon.

We haven’t settled on a scary movie to watch on Halloween night. We’ve seen Young Frankenstein too recently. We’ve seen Army of Darkness a million times. I may push for renting Silver Bullet (1985), which is the only good werewolf movie ever made. FIGHT ME. Here’s where you can watch it (nowhere for free right now, that I can see.)
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1dClCykQys
 
And I guess that’s it. We have never managed to do anything for All Saint’s Day, but if you do, here’s my list of costumes that will do double duty, and work for saints and their spookier counterparts as well. I should update it to add Matt Swaim’s suggestion:
 

And if you’re really ahead of the game, here is my All Soul’s Day cheat sheet: A recipe for eggs in purgatory, a recipe for soul cakes, and a quick prayer for the dead. Donezo. 

Even you can make this Thanksgiving centerpiece

The other day, because I was overwhelmed by the way we hadn’t put away sandals and sneakers but we had taken out boots, and the way we hadn’t put away light jackets but had taken out snow pants, and by how all of these things were on the dining room floor and everyone was stepping on them with their muddy feet while eating corn flakes, and also there was a broken washing machine in the dining room, I got out my hot glue gun.

Here, I should warn you that this craft post is just a craft post. I have no larger point about life and failure and beauty and self-knowledge. Sometimes a glue gun is just a glue gun.

We had a leftover pumpkin that nobody carved on Halloween, so I started doodling flowers and leaves on it with hot glue.

When I ran out of ideas, I Googled “quilling flower patterns,” because quilling designs are made with strips of paper, so I figured that would translate well into hot glue lines.

Then I filled in the gaps with squiggles, spirals, leaves, and little chains of circles.

I had the idea that if I spray painted it gold, it would would look like A Thing. And I wasn’t wrong!

I am a huge sucker for anything spray painted gold, and I thought it was pretty like this.

BUT THEN, I realized I could peel the hot glue off, and it would have a sort of batik effect. AND I WASN’T WRONG.

 

I can’t be the only one who’s discovered you can do this, but I’m still very proud of myself.

Plus, it was tons of fun to pull off the hot glue shapes. They held together surprisingly well, and stayed intact.

 

I was afraid the paint on the pumpkin would chip or get scratched as I picked the glue off, but it did not, so I let Corrie help peel.

 

I used Rust-oleum American Accents 2x Extra Cover metallic bright gold, but I have no idea if that’s the only kind of paint you can use on pumpkins or what. Also, I let it dry for three days before I had time to bring it back inside, so I would say “let dry thoroughly” — both the glue and the paint, before you try to peel anything.

Also, I now have these excellent flexible gold shapes to play with. Maybe I will put them on the Advent wreath or something.

So, here it is: My attempt at a fancy centerpiece.

So you could put this in the middle of a wreath, in a basket, on a platter, or whatever, and put greenery or little pumpkins or candles or whatever shit you have lying around. I just grabbed the wool blanket for the contrast, but a smaller cloth in green or purple or brown would look swell.

You can see that I actually had little, centerpiece-size pumpkins lying around, too. If I had actually planned this project out, rather than goofing around to put off work, I would have used them but I still like it. No doubt the kids will have carved “PEE FART” into it before the day is up, but at least my camera beat the little creeps. They haven’t eaten all my flowers yet, so that’s something.

 

You could also write “LIVE LAUGH LOVE” on it, instead of flowers and leaves, what do I care. Write “HAPPY THANKSGIVING.” You could have a series of mini pumpkins laid out across your mantelpiece spelling out “T-H-A-T-S-E-N-O-U-G-H -P-I-E- A-U-N-T -B-R-E-N-D-A.” Be bold and fierce with chevrons; no one’s stopping you.