Monday, October 31, 2011


Several weeks ago, I convinced Andrew to carve pumpkins with me. The 80 degree "fall" weather was beginning to depress me, and I wanted an excuse to make pumpkin cookies and roast pumpkin seeds. He agreed, and after our festivities, I readily set the pumpkins on our front porch so that all could see what a merry and festive family we were. I even lit some tea candles in the pumpkins so that our neighbors could behold our glee, even at night.

The next day, however, I took a walk around our neighborhood and noticed that no other house on our whole block had any carved pumpkins out front. Suddenly, I began to question my squash sculptures: do people here still carve pumpkins? Because the South is ultra religious, are they going to think I'm a pagan of sorts? Not backing down, I left my pumpkins on the porch.

Then, one week later, I had my answer.


Though I have been in Georgia for a year and a half, I still manage to underestimate the power of humidity. I had essentially placed rotting vegetables on my porch, in 80 degree weather, and assumed that the outcome would be jolly and spirited. I wanted to tell people that in Oregon, you can carve pumpkins and set them on your porch and the cold weather will preserve them, not devour them. But it was too late. The mold had eaten the pumpkins alive, from the inside out. The cute beady-eyed little pumpkin was now a fuzzy-eyed little pumpkin and their mouths were no longer housing little tea candles, but large dark clouds of things I would rather not describe.

I'm sure my neighbors did think I was crazy, and I have since learned that southerners do in fact carve pumpkins, they just typically set their pumpkins out the day before Halloween.

While this story is mildly embarrassing and disgusting, I believe it can still work to my advantage.

Last year, I grossly underestimated the amount of children who would be trick-or-treating in my neighborhood. I bought 1 bag of candy, and anxiously waited for the small people to arrive (I grew up on a farm-like orchard, and hence have never had the opportunity to give candy out on Halloween...I think I've romanticized it a bit). When the children finally began to arrive, I opened my door, went outside to greet them, and was immediately alarmed. Swarms, I tell you, swarms of children were crawling down the street. Obviously, within minutes, I was out of candy (to be fair, I was a little too lenient last year with my candy rules. This year, "No, you may not have two," and "I don't care if you don't like Whoppers" will become my new mantras).

Seeing that I live on a quiet and idyllic street, I thought the masked children would understand why I was out of candy. But when the next set arrived and I displayed my empty candy bowl, an uproar began. The group began shouting in all different directions: "She's out candy! She's out! She doesn't have any candy!" Suddenly, an echo of sorts picked up down the streets and everyone began repeating the shameful news and pointing at my house. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I gave a few half-hearted waves and head nods and tried to slowly walk backwards into my house. At the same time, I caught sight of a mom whose children were just relaying the news of my candy failures: "She's out!?" she cried. "Already? Well....then...Take her pumpkins! We deserve something!" With swift movements, her little minion ran onto my porch and started trying to carry off my (uncarved) pumpkins. As he began to pick them up, the mom laughed and called him off. And he hung his head and slowly stomped off my porch. I stood in disbelief, not five-feet from the kid, unsure of what sort of place I had moved to. They all laughed about the little escapade and the mom passive-aggressively joked that although she had been kidding, maybe I shouldn't run out of candy next year.

This year, I'm fully stocked up and supplied for tonight.

But I may run out on purpose, just to see what happens.


Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Anniversary Story {in which I am a pretentious know-it-all towards all things Charleston}

Recently, Andrew and I celebrated our three-year wedding anniversary. Since we've been in the South, I've been begging to go to Charleston. I seem to have some romanticized notion of Charleston that may stem from Scarlett O'Hara, or country music, or my feelings that South Carolina is like the California of the South. Thankfully, Andrew doesn't have romanticized notions about anything in life and definitely not about cities he's never been to, so he let me navigate the weekend celebration.

While there are many things to do in Charleston, somehow I got it into my head that I really wanted to visit a plantation (that is a southern thing to do, right?). So I found the oldest and largest plantation that South Carolina had to offer, and Andrew and I started our anniversary bash with a trip to Magnolia Plantation.

All seemed impressive enough. There were large mansions:

Some famously photographed bridges:

And even some friendly Flannery O'Connor peacocks:

Things went a bit south for me (punnn), though, when we decided to take a trolley ride around the premises. It seemed innocent enough. We were happy. Someone had given Andrew a green sticker. And it was only 95 degrees instead of 105:

But...I'm not sure where I missed the memo that this entire plantation is built on a swamp:

And by entire plantation I mean most of the South. There was a little too much of this:

And a little more of this:

And a bajillion of these. There were seriously the biggest banana spiders, an arms length away, on every single tree we passed. This caused a rather large case of immediate onset PTSD (Post Traumatic Spider Disorder) in which I basically started to, in the words of Andrew, "freak out."  I then copped some type of, to use a southern word, "ugly" attitude (as in, "I wanted the guests to leave my house, but I could never be ugly to them").

I thus felt it necessary to share the following advice with Mr. Tour Guide Trolley Man: calling them "Golden Silk Spiders" for their "golden" webs does not make me think they are pretty or valuable. 

The spiders, coupled with the heat, tripled with the alligators and quadrupled with the gnats, led to a minor nervous breakdown.

But like any childlike tantrum, my attitude was pacified by diversion. So we left Spider Farms to go see the final Harry Potter installment. I thought this would be a good idea, but then I remembered why I haven't gone to see the movie yet: Because once I did, I would have nothing to live for. Ever again. Except maybe this.

I need you, Peter Jackson. Now more than ever.

Finally, on our way home, we stopped at a little roadside stand to try some boiled peanuts (this has been on my southern to-do list for awhile). Unfortunately, where I come from, "boiled" means you do in fact eat the product that has been boiled. Thus I tried to eat the whole thing, shell and all, which was a bit like chewing on a stick, before choking violently and being informed matter-of-factly by the store owner that you do indeed have to peel boiled peanuts.

My advice to Roadside Cider Ma'am: Maybe you should have a sign with instructions? Not all of us know how to eat boiled peanuts. Or jambalaya or low-country boil for that matter. 

In the end, though, I feel I owe Charleston an apology. While the hostile wildlife and tree-bark-eating experience made me feel unwelcome, the locals should be respected for their knowledge of arachnids and legumes, and my husband should be allowed to enjoy a swamp vacation if he so desires.

And on my end, I did receive two of the best lattes ever (complete with organic milk from glass bottles), and I am easily persuaded by all things coffee. So I think we can call it even.