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Happy Halloween!

Whenever I think of Halloween, I think of one of the only songs I remember from elementary school:

H – A – Double “L” – O – W – Double “E” – N spells Halloween!

Singing that song to myself not only helps me make sure I’ve spelled “Halloween” correctly, but also takes me back to celebrating as a kid. I go back some of my different costumed identities: a cowgirl with a cap gun and stick horse, a pioneer girl with a straw hat, Cat Woman in a plastic mask, and way back in the day one darn cute pumpkin. I go back to Halloween parties and parades at school, and carving pumpkins and hanging fall decorations at home. I go back to trick-or-treating – rural living style – having my mom drive us around to the far-flung neighbors because there were long driveways, no sidewalks and miles in between. And I go back to hearing about how my dad, left home while we were trick-or-treating, scared the bejesus out of a poor neighbor kid who came to the door for candy.

Now that I’m all grown up and too old for trick-or-treating, I’m treating myself to the other joys of one of my favorite season’s main holidays.

Last year, my boyfriend and I went to a u-pick pumpkin farm owned by a friend and spent the evening carving pumpkins.

Pumpkin Picking

We found our pumpkins! For the record, I picked the big one and he was the gentleman for carrying that behemoth.

Carving station

Carving station

All done!

All done!

This year, the weekend he was in town and we had planned to go pumpkin picking, the weather refused to cooperate and rained the entire time. So, I’m making do with one of the ceramic pumpkins that decorated the house when I was growing up.

Pumpkin

With the move earlier this year, I’m also getting hit with Halloween spirit as I walk around my new neighborhood. There are lots of families in the area, so I’m treated to house after house covered in spider webs and other spooky wares as Weasley and I go for our daily walks.

Ghoulish Graveyard

Ghoulish Graveyard

Spider's Web

Spider’s Web

Halloween Hotspot

Halloween Hotspot

Probably the best thing about my neighborhood’s Halloween spirit is the parade that shut down the main street on Sunday afternoon. Everyone was invited to dress up and walk in the parade and there were costume categories for pets, kids, strollers and the like. Even the costume judges marched in the parade and got into the spirit!

The Distinguished Judges

The Distinguished Judges

Weasley and I didn’t get dressed up, but we did make our way down to help line the parade route for everyone else. And was the parade route packed! Between paraders and parade goers, it was tough to see to the next block.

Parade

And I must say, I was impressed by the creativity of the costumes I saw. We didn’t stick around to see which costumes won, but here were some of my favorites:

UPS

The little boy inside was even dressed head to toe in brown.

NSA

The NSA kept watch as the tank made its way down the street

Pirate

In my opinion, the best 3-legged dog costume…and yes there was more than one 3-legged dog at the parade.

Ghost

I loved the old school sheet ghost costume. When everyone tries to be witty and original, I can’t help but love the classic.

I think the hardest part of growing up and not going trick-or-treating is deciding whether or not you’re going to dress up at all. Last year, I forwent the costume and met up with some friends downtown for drinks and window seats to DC’s Halloween spectacle, complete with napkin score cards to rate the passers by. This year I’m dressing up [sort of] to partake in my office’s Halloween Spooktacular party and to hand out candy. It’s yet to be determined if any trick-or-treaters will make their way to my apartment building, but I’ll be ready with some candy for them [I made sure to pace myself and not eat it all before the big day] just in case they do.

Trick-or-Treat!

Trick-or-Treat!

Then, like a good Catholic, I’ll make my way to Mass tomorrow for All Saints Day [or All Hallows Day if you’re old school…hence the reason we’re celebrating “All Hallows Eve” tonight] to say a prayer in honor of all those who have died and attained sainthood.

I guess grown-up Halloween isn’t all that bad!

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Summer Reading

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I passed this sign every day on my way to and from work over the summer. About the time this message appeared, I started reading just for me again. Coincidence or subliminal messaging?

It’s not like a didn’t read before I saw this sign. I actually love to read; have ever since I was a kid. One of the first books I remember knowing how to “read” is Just Go to Bed, although that memory also includes being told I wasn’t actually reading it, just reciting a story I’d heard so many times that I’d committed it to memory. Needless to say, I did eventually learn to read that book and anything else I picked up. Growing up, I also spent a lot of time at our local library, picking out books and reading while my mom ran other errands. I still carry my childhood library card in my wallet [well one of them because I tended to lose or leave them places].

Somewhere along the way, reading just for me became more intermittent. Required reading in high school and college cut into time I would have spent reading for pleasure. Fast forward a few years, and even though it’s not in book form, I now do a decent amount of reading at work, proofreading and updating letters, resource material, etc. No matter how much I enjoy reading, my brain can only handle so much in one day.

Many people save their “just because” reading for travel and, for the past few years, I have been no exception.

With a 30-minute commute on the train each way each day, I’ve had more time to devote to travel reading than your average non-city dweller. But books add extra weight to a purse already bursting with shoes for the office, an umbrella in case it rains and just about everything else you could possibly need in a day [the joys of taking public transportation to work], so they often gave way to the disposable daily paper so I could keep up on current events while still fulfilling some of the desire to read. Then I moved and my commute was cut in half – great for adding time back into my day, terrible for my reading on the train regimen.

In addition to my daily commute, I started traveling more for work and to visit my boyfriend. These plane trips created great opportunities for long, uninterrupted reading. Then work hit the slow travel season and my boyfriend moved within driving distance – great for my free time and last minute trips to visit him, terrible for my reading on the plane regimen.

On top of all the travel, there’s actually working, post-work activities, errands, cooking and my often out-of-control DVR. There are only so many hours in a day and mine were quickly claimed by things other than reading.

Then, with shrinking door-to-door travel time, the reclamation of my nights and weekends from constant travel, spring changing into summer, and season finales leading to the taming of my out-of-control DVR, the sign appeared on my daily walk.

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I started turning off the TV in the evenings and on weekend afternoons [especially after my technology-free vacation] and picking up the stack of books I’d purchased but never read [and let’s be honest, I bought more books]. I started reading a chapter or two before bed or in bed with my Sunday morning tea as Weasley snoozed. I read classics like A Farewell to Arms [my boyfriend claims that I’m the only person who’s ever ready Hemingway for fun] and best sellers like The Paris Wife and J.K. Rowling’s very un-Harry Potter-ish novel, The Casual Vacancy. Instead of books on my commute, I carried magazines. I kept up to date on the happenings around town by subscribing to Washingtonian, and on the latest fashion and thought-provoking essays with Vogue [at this point I should probably subscribe to it too]. And since I started spending more time driving in the car to visit my boyfriend, I added audiobooks to my reading repertoire.

And the great thing is that I started this trend back at the beginning of summer, and it’s still going strong now that fall is in full swing. It may not be the days of my youth where I’d spend whole days doing nothing but reading and finishing books in a single afternoon, but it’s something. No matter the medium, it’s a nice to be reading again.