the october cocktail hour: of pumpkins, birthdays, autumn leaves and halloween

Tuesday, October 31:  It’s time for our October cocktail hour, and I’m ecstatic that the weather is finally getting cooler, the air is becoming more crisp, and the leaves are shouting their last vibrant hurrah before winter sets in.  Farm market displays are bursting with fresh apples, pumpkins, gourds and pumpkin & apple butter. Everywhere in suburban yards, straw scarecrows stand on sticks, ghosts float overhead on tree branches, gravestones and skulls lurk in the shadows.  It’s my favorite time of year, and on top of the normal October pleasures, I celebrated another birthday on October 25.  I’m now the venerable age of 62, but still feeling much younger than that truth-telling number.

Topping off everything else, yesterday morning, there were the Mueller indictments.  I don’t plan to say much about it here, but suffice it to say, this was a fantastic belated birthday present.  I hope it will be the gift that keeps on giving!

Autumn colors in Oakton

Please come in and take one of my Pottery Barn furry blankets.  Wrap yourself up; we’ll sit out on the screened-in porch. It’s cool but not yet too cold.  While on our trip, Mike and I became a bit addicted to local Czech beers, especially Pilsner Urquell and Budějovický (Budweiser) Budvar. Mike managed to find the Pilsner Urquell here in the U.S., so I have those to offer.  We also have red and white wines, seltzer water and orange juice (always a refreshing combination for those of you who don’t drink), Vanilla Coke Zero, sparkling water and of course my old standby, Bud Light Lime. 🙂

I hope October has been good to you so far.  Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, binge-watched any television series? Have you been to the theater or to a concert? Have you encountered any new songs?  Have you welcomed any visitors? Have you wandered or journeyed; have you dreamed any dreams? Have you had any massages? Gone to any exotic restaurants, cooked any new dishes?  Have you embarked on any new endeavors?

Autumn colors in Oakton

Our first week in October was the second week of our two-week holiday to Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic. From October 1st on, we were in Czech Republic, namely Český Krumlov and Prague, and we returned home on October 7.  I’ve been writing, slowly but surely, about our trip on my Europe blog: in search of a thousand cafes.

At the same time, I’m alternating writing about my last 10 days in Japan (catbird in japan).  It’s all slow going, but eventually the story will be told. 🙂  Throughout the month, I continued to follow Jill’s Scene, who just completed the Camino de Santiago in late October.  She and her husband started the 800km walk in early September; I still have dreams of doing it myself in September-October of 2018.  I continued to add to my notes about her journey, the weather and challenges she encountered.  I haven’t wavered in my dream to do this next year.

As for books, I’m way behind on my goal to read 40 books in 2017.  I basically didn’t read much of anything the four months I was in Japan.  I was simply too busy.  But as of this month, I’ve managed to read 20 books, finishing Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, which I enjoyed, and How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, which was okay.

On the plane to Budapest and the flight back from Prague, I binge-watched the Emmy-award winning HBO mini-series Big Little Lies, which I loved. Listening to the opening credits soundtrack repeatedly, I became enamored of the song Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka. Now I’ve added it to my October playlist on Spotify.  On my daily 3-mile walks, I listen to my various soundtracks, including that song, ad infinitum, as well as the podcast Modern Love from the New York Times column of the same name, hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR).

Autumn colors in Oakton

Strangely, I haven’t seen one movie in the cinema this month, but Mike and I did see Native Gardens at Arena Stage in Washington on October 14.  Appropriately themed as a reflection of our current antagonistic political environment in Washington, the play is about two neighbors, an older stodgy white couple, the Butleys and a young couple of Latino background, the Del Valles (the husband is Chilean and the pregnant wife a native New Mexican).  There’s a generation gap, a cultural gap, and a gap in the actual property line; when the Del Valles want to quickly replace the decrepit fence between the properties so they can have an outdoor BBQ for the husband’s law firm, a surveyor finds their property line goes another couple of feet into the Butleys’ yard, encroaching on Frank Butley’s beloved garden. A huge altercation ensues addressing issues of race, environment, and politics.  Entertaining as pure surface comedy, it didn’t address in a serious way the actual political divisions we face in our country today.

Here’s a great review of the play: Washington City Paper: Arena Stage Skewers Neighborhood Drama in Native Gardens.

Playbill for Native Gardens

Our youngest son Adam left for Melbourne, Australia right before we went on our holiday.  He went for nearly a month to visit his girlfriend, Maddy, who he met in Hawaii. He informed us the day before he returned that he was bringing Maddy home with him.  He had hinted at this before he left, but I didn’t know if it would actually happen.  I went to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to pick them up on Wednesday evening, October 18, and since I arrived early to avoid the Beltway traffic, I spent an hour or so having a light dinner at Season 52 at Columbia Mall.  Here’s a musical sculpture at the mall.

at Columbia Mall while waiting for Adam and Maddy to arrive at BWI

Adam, keen to show Maddy all around in one fell swoop, wore himself out quickly and ended up in excruciating pain from rupturing his eardrum, leaving poor Maddy to fend for herself.  I told him that no matter how bad he felt, she was his guest and he was obligated to take care of her.

Despite the fact that, before he left for Australia, he was being disciplined, working hard, saving money and doing some interesting podcasts while taking a course on making podcasts, after he returned, he was suddenly ill, making no effort to return to work, and had his girlfriend here (who is very nice and seems to have a good head on her shoulders, by the way!).  In my eyes, he was shirking all his duties and the promises he made to us to have a full-time job if we allowed him to live at home.  Every day that he’s not moving forward in his life, career-wise, makes me feel like he’s completely irresponsible and we are total failures as parents, not demanding enough from him or having high enough expectations.  Not only that, but feeding into the tension I feel is my fear he will be as indecisive as I have always been about my career.  All of this has made for a tense atmosphere in the house since October 21, although I had to force myself let go of my anger and frustration and just accept that he is sick and his girlfriend will leave soon and he can get back to figuring out his life.

It’s so challenging to be a parent, especially when I had such horrible role models and when I seem to have no natural instincts for parenting.

Alex came down from Richmond and since Adam was sick and Maddy wanted to stay with him, Mike, Alex and I enjoyed a pleasant evening at Artie’s in Fairfax on the evening before my birthday.  On my birthday, a Wednesday, Adam and Maddy invited me to go with them to sit at a park and then pick up pumpkins, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as the day was on their terms and I felt annoyed that I didn’t do what I wanted, which was to go see a movie.

The day after my birthday, I escaped the house and went to Baltimore to see my sister Joan, who was babysitting her 9-month-old grandson Elliott at my niece Kelsey’s house.  It was fun to finally meet my little great-nephew, to have lunch out with Joan and Elliott, and to see Kelsey when she got home from work.

Kelsey and Elliot

After my visit, I stopped in Bethesda, Maryland to have White Sangria and tapas at my favorite restaurant there, Jaleo.  After dinner, I went to the Writer’s Center to hear an interview of author Alice McDermott by Bob Levey of The Washington Post.  I always get inspired listening to writers talk. 🙂

On Friday night, Mike and I went out on our own to celebrate my birthday at Nostos Restaurant, which, according to the website presents a “fresh, modern take on Greek culinary culture.”  “Nostos” is at the root of the word nostalgia and means a return to one’s origins, a longing for a special time in the past; the restaurant attempts to stimulate senses with a variety of traditional and new Greek dishes.

On my birthday at Nostos Restaurant

We ordered an array of mezedes, including: Avgolemono Soup (traditional chicken soup with egg lemon finish), Greek Beans (northern beans with scallions, parsley, olive oil and lemon), Garides Saganaki (sautéed shrimp with feta cheese, tomatoes, pine nuts and raisins), Haloumi Skaras (grilled Cypriot sheep and goat cheese served with greek style taboule).

Mike ordered an entrée of Mousaka (layers of thinly sliced baby eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and seasoned ground beef topped with a rich béchamel).

We shared all the dishes, accompanied by wine and dessert (Portokalopita: orange cake with vanilla ice cream).  They brought out the cake with one candle, which I had to blow out. I was glad there weren’t 62 candles!

me blowing out my one candle (I”m so young!)

On Saturday, Mike and I went on a hike at Hawksbill Gap in Shenandoah National Park.  Here are a few pictures of our hike, but I’ll write more about it in a separate post.

At the summit, we had great views of the valley.  It has been unseasonably warm this October, so it didn’t seem the leaves were yet at their peak.

Me with Mike at Hawksbill Gap
Hawksbill Gap

We went out to Lebanese Taverna for yet another family birthday dinner on Monday night, this time with Mike’s sister Barbara, Adam and Maddy.

And finally, to end the month, Adam and Maddy carved their Halloween pumpkins.

Maddy and Adam and their pumpkins
Adam’s pumpkin in front and Maddy’s in back

We had a couple of visitors on Halloween night, including one particularly funny group of dinosaurs.

triplet dinosaurs

Happy Halloween and happy autumn.  Please do tell me about your month!  I hope it’s been a good one. 🙂

34 thoughts on “the october cocktail hour: of pumpkins, birthdays, autumn leaves and halloween

  1. I think red wine, please. Beer is more a summer drink for me. Have I done anything of interest? No. Do I have dreams? Ah yes, far too many probably. Kat and I are talking about April in Paris and April 2019 in Greece. Because dreams matter.
    As to what makes a good parent – when some of your children are responsible and some are not, is it parenting or genetic? Is it maybe something that just happens, without rhyme or reason? You might end up doing the tough love thing again, but no matter what the time comes when it is not your responsibility anymore. Hugs and best wishes.

    1. Red wine it is, Carol. Cheers! Your dreams of April in Paris and the following April in Greece are good ones; I hope they’ll come true. Thanks for the good wishes regarding parenting. We may have to resort to the tough love thing again, although I don’t relish it. Right now we’re just waiting until Maddy leaves, which will be soon, and then we’ll be right on top of him again. It’s so nice to be in love, but not at the expense of moving forward with your life. Right now, that’s where he is, but it can’t last forever. And you’re right, ultimately, the decisions he makes are not my responsibility. I just want him out of my house while he’s making them. I’m hoping the future will bring better relations!

  2. Ups and downs – sorry to read about the downs but one of the ups has to be you stretched your birthday celebration w-a-y out! That hike looks glorious, I don’t think we’ve done that one, look forward to reading more.

    1. I have a reprieve from the downs now as son and girlfriend have gone on a road trip to North Carolina until Friday; I have a bit of a breather, and have my house to myself. I always try my best to stretch my birthday out over the entire month of October and then some! I love birthdays! I’m going to post soon about our hike to Hawksbill Summit. 🙂

  3. I haven’t had time to keep up with your Hungarian adventures, Cathy, and I feel I could fill about 15 pages here single-handedly, but I won’t 🙂 🙂 Who’s to say what successful child-rearing is? He hasn’t taken a shotgun and massacred half a school. There’s a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t strict enough with James when he was small but he has a good heart and he’s turning out ok. Go on living your life and making the very best of the bounty you have, Cathy. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Sending hugs, darlin!

    1. I’m glad James is turning out okay, Jo. I hope Adam will in the end. He also has a good heart, but he is so idealistic that anything less than changing the world is beneath him. He just can’t accept that he has to start small! It’s very frustrating, but I’m still hoping for the best, that he will be able to channel his intelligence to something meaningful. I’m going to keep trying to live my life, and I do have so much to be thankful for, but it’s just hard when he’s under our roof and not moving forward like I would like him to. Hugs back to you, Jo! It looks like you’ve been having a great time in Tavira. 🙂

      1. I always love him, Jo, but am disappointed he’s not even close to realizing his potential. I know it’s not helpful for me to fret, so I’m trying my best to step back and take a deep breath. He and Maddy just left for a road trip to North Carolina. I’m happy to have the house back to myself. 🙂

  4. What a busy, busy month you’ve had Cathy. And a belated happy birthday. My month has been mainly quiet. Now I’m back blogging I have not been doing much art, but I go to an art group each Wednesday which is fun, a great inspiring bunch of women. My garden is a continual joy, it has been a fantastic growing season. Most of my reading has been non fiction and at the moment I’m concentrating on calligraphy. Definitely use tough love, it works…. well now onto November, hope it doesn’t get too cold for you. Our heat is building.

    1. Thanks for your belated birthday wishes, Pauline, and I hope you’ll forgive me for my belated response. It’s so nice for you that you’ve found camaraderie in a women’s art group. I bet that’s fun. And that you take such pleasure in your garden. And calligraphy too! You are quite diverse in your artistic interests. I love it!

      As for my son, I’ve had people give me advice to stop fretting, and to just love him (which of course I do), to using the tough love approach. We’ve tried both so far to no avail. Something will have to give sometime! I wonder what would happen if we sold our house and moved away!!

      I’m loving November’s colder weather, but then I always prefer the cold to the heat. 🙂

  5. White wine. I need the wine just to take in all you did in October! That was overwhelming!!! Thanks for stopping by my blog for my walk along Lake Michigan.

    1. Ok, wine it is, and welcome to my cocktail hour, Dawn. I try to keep busy although sometimes it overwhelms even me! It was fun to see Lake Michigan again after too many years (I was there in 1980!). Thanks for taking us along. 🙂

  6. Happy Belated Birthday! Another Scorpio like me (I turned 60 on the 31st :-o). You certainly celebrated the month in style. I’m envious of your various travels from Europe to hiking in the mountains. You know how to make a splash. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Eliza, and happy belated Halloween birthday to you! I love to drag out my birthday celebration over the entire month if at all possible. I love to travel, and I’ve been all over Asia, Europe and some parts of the Middle East. I need to travel more in South America and Africa though! 🙂

  7. Ooops! I meant to come back here to wish you a happy birthday Cathy as I saw your post late at night, and then forgot to come back and comment! Tsk! Anyway it seems you had a great time without my wishes 😀
    I had to smile when I read your comment about selling the house to get rid of Adam (or at least make him stand on his own two feet) as I did exactly that when I met David and moved to Shropshire to be with him, making my Alex homeless! Well he had a friend to stay with, just slack about moving in, until the last minute! Hasn’t done him any harm in the long run, though he took a while to grow up. Having had the time to chat to him whilst he stayed with me recovering from his operation he admitted that he made lots of mistakes when he was young (got into debt, lost jobs because he was late to work etc.) and whilst he is far from perfect now, he understands where he went wrong. Your lad is still young, so give him time and don’t feel guilty about making him get on with life. Some kids fly the nest on their own accord, others need a nudge!
    Jude xx

    1. Thanks, Jude, for coming back to comment. I really appreciate your sharing your experience. It helps to see how another person deals with similar challenges and also makes me not feel alone in my frustration! I’m glad to know your Alex turned out fine, as I hope Adam will. I guess I have to accept that it probably won’t happen on my timetable. He’s turning 25 in December. By that time I was already married with a house and a full-time job with benefits. (Not saying that was the best decision either, as that first marriage ended in divorce!) But Mike keeps reminding me things are different and more difficult for kids these days. I’m trying my best to step back, although it was a lot easier when he was living in Hawaii instead of under our roof! Thanks again, Jude. 🙂 xx

      1. Now I’ve heard through the grapevine that they have broken up! He didn’t tell me, but he told my other son who told me. She’s leaving Monday; it’s too bad about the breakup, as I do really like her. So, I guess he won’t be moving to Australia.

      2. Oh, such a shame. She might have been a good influence on him. He must have saved up some money for the trip over to Australia. Let’s hope he finds some other incentive to work! Or will he head back to Hawaii do you think? He seemed to do alright there.

  8. I’d like white wine please, if I may. Your birthday celebrations sound great – a whole week of them. I feel very pleased if mine lasts a couple of days. 🙂 My October was filled mainly with a trip to California where I enjoyed wonderful weather, blue skies, beach walks, lovely food and the company of entertaining people. I’m sorry to hear that Adam is still undecided about what he’s going to do with his life. Perhaps the girlfriend will have changed him in some way (even though you have just heard that they have broken up) and when he’s home on his own again he’ll be able to focus on moving forward.

    1. White wine it is, Elaine! Thanks for joining. I do manage to stretch my birthday out to the max each year; why not? I’ve never seen any sense in bemoaning birthdays. I’m so glad you had wonderful weather, beach walks, good company and a generally good time in California. As for Adam, who knows what will happen. All I can do is hope he decides to grow up and become a man soon. He at least is back to work now that his girlfriend has left. 🙂

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