Sunday, November 29, 2009

An alarming situation at Thanksgiving

“I left the power cords in the car dear, would you please get them for me?” Mr. Hall rose and reached for his keys. The Halls were visiting the one of the more lively branches of the family tree in Brighton MI that morning and had just settled in. The big black car had traveled at record speed to make it to the home of Rick and Gail Pranitis, host and hostess extraordinaire, for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thursday morning they were up before their hosts and hoping to check the obituary columns in their hometown rags. Mrs. Hall had just opened her laptop, when she heard a small beep. It started slowly but quickly gained momentum. “Better tell Rick”, she said softly, but before they could scale the steps, the beeping escalated to a shrill siren. Mr. Hall, in his haste to acquire the power cords from his car, had tripped the security alarms on the front door. Rick keyed in the code and silence fell upon the house again. “I know it’s a big turkey and all,” he said, “Really too much for just us, but there must be a better way to invite folks than bringing in the local law enforcement.” With the coffee brewing and most of the merry band now awake, the remainder of the morning passed without incident.
Once the turkey was prepared and ceremonially placed in the oven, the real business of holiday fun could commence. While the boys relaxed in the living room, indulging in every football game being broadcast to the western hemisphere that day, the rest of the clan immersed themselves in a cutthroat game of Scrabble. Halfway through, play halted to receive a teleconference from Master Chris down in Alabama. Foul was called on Mrs. Hall, who, taking advantage of current technology to video chat over the internet, could be seen beaming her scrabble hand to Chris for some outside help.
The Halls could not have been more pampered: Rick, having perfected his Manhattan making, was Johnny-on-the-spot with the refills, and Gail outdid herself with the turkey and the dressing. With barely a square inch of dining table real estate left uncovered, they sat down for blessings and the feast.
Just as television repeats the cartoon classics and newspapers reprint those wonderful old yarns, when we come together as a family, there is something inside of us that longs to hear the old stories again. The cumulative effects of good food and ample wine were sufficiently relaxing enough to tease fond memories of childhood fun and even a song or two out of the merry band. Eventually managing to push away from the table, Gail, Mrs. H. and the kids slipped upstairs to watch a movie together. It was a perfect ending to a lovely visit. Bright and early the next morning, the Halls hit the roads back home, full of good cheer and packed with more than enough turkey sandwiches to get them safely to Syracuse again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This could squash your happy holiday plans

Those of you who regularly feast yourselves senseless on turkey and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, then wake up the following Friday morning swollen, sullen and unable to make any other breakfast than one that simply requires a toaster and some syrup, may be in for trouble this year.
The rain soaked fields of pumpkins in Morton, IL are so sodden with precip this year that the harvesting machines can’t bring in the remaining Select Dickinson pumpkins needed to fill the cans at Libby’s. It looks like by Thanksgiving, they will be all out. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, apparently the heavy rains are also responsible for closing down the plant in Georgia that makes those heavenly Eggo waffles. To Americans, who have moved long past making their own healthy breakfasts and have come to rely on the frozen toaster treats in the morning, this may sound like the end of days. All across the country, hearing fork-wielding small children (or perhaps a hungry spouse) spouting the refrain “Leggo my Eggo” may come to take on a much darker, sinister tone.
Authorities have urged calm. While some supermarkets have declared they will not raise their prices because of high demand, it can only be a matter of time before other grocers look to the little orange sugar pies leftover from Halloween and see gold. Frantic mothers have been embossing slices of white bread by pressing them onto computer keyboards and trying to pass them off as waffles to the younger set. Various websites have tried helpfully to suggest substitutes, such as using zucchini instead of pumpkin in bread; but these are a dismal alternative in pies.
The Monitor is happy to report that the state of pumpkin and Eggos at the Hall is stable; dual control over the refrigerator has ensured the steady but contained flow of Eggos over the past month, and coming upon an untapped lode of canisters at the local Wal-Mart, Mrs. Hall was able to stock up on sufficient supplies of the now coveted puree to last her through January. Should the upstate New York area experience any post atomic annihilation or mutant zombie attack scenarios, they are well prepared to barter in what very well may be the new coin of the realm: all the raw materials to make gooey sweet food obsessions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drivers License

“Hurry up, hurry up,’ said Master Ian. Mrs. H. climbed into the family flivver and off they toddled, over to Auburn for his driver’s exam. Ian had been waiting not so patiently ever since he had been assigned a date online from the DMV, and finally, that date had arrived. Punctuality is one thing, remarked Mrs. Hall, but she noted they were a clear thirty minutes ahead of their reserved time. However, Ian’s insistence had paid off- six other drivers pulled in queue behind them at the curb. Their appointment was for eleven, and somewhere about 11:10 (the longest ten minutes of Ian’s life!) the examiners decided to show up. Mrs. H. got out of the car and stepped to the sidewalk to wait with the other expectant parents. When they returned, the examiner gave no clue to the outcome as she passed, and Mrs. Hall could barely bring herself to peek into the van at Ian, but when she did, he was sporting a grin so large it could hardly be contained in the car. A couple of hardy backslaps later, they were off to McDonald’s for the traditional lunch served to all new drivers at the Hall.
The following week, Ian showed off his driving skills on the highways around town, as the Halls assembled Wednesday afternoon for the cake-cutting ceremony at the recruiter’s office in Mattydale. Each year, the Marines celebrate the anniversary of their inception on Nov. 11th, and this year marked their 234th year of service to our country. With some minor pomp and circumstance, the officers marked the day, cut the cake with a ceremonial sword and stood for the Marine Hymn. About twenty new recruits enjoyed the festivities, a large showing for the district and a welcome sign that patriotism and service still rank high amongst the goals of today’s youths.

Indian Summer

Earlier this week Marcellus residents were amazed to see the mercury rise to record heights. Basking in a balmy 75 degrees, the crows were polishing off the seeds that spilled out of the melted pumpkin carcasses leftover from Halloween. Killer was spread out on the front sidewalk, dreaming of her next meal. Pushing back her baseball cap and surveying the back forty, Mrs. Hall reflected on the warm sunshine, the upcoming snows and how she was going to bribe Ian and some of his heftier friends into moving the lawn tractor into the shed and getting the snow blower out; a tactical maneuver that closely resembled solving one of those old fashioned number-slide puzzles.
While Mr. Hall "watched" the football game inside, Mrs. H. chuckled to herself for having outwitted the weather gods this year in their annual parlor game. Usually the first snow, early in October, incites all manner of activity in the neighborhood. Mowers get stowed and snow blowers pop up in garages everywhere, thus prompting record breaking warmth and sufficient rain to require one last crew cut of the old fescue. But unprecedented cunning (or perhaps just some of the casual procrastination espoused by Mr. H.) had persuaded them to leave the lawn tractor out back long enough this year to allow for some final touchups.

Ghosts in the machine

Somewhat late for Halloween, mischievous gremlins managed to reek a little havoc on the office of the Monitor last week. Posting has been delayed, but not daunted. Stay tuned for updates- the hamster wheels should be running shortly!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Red sky in the morning...

....Ghosties take warning! High winds and a raw atmosphere prevailed all Friday evening. Mr. Hall had retired upstairs, well-sated from his weekly indulgence at Daniel's and Colleen and Mrs. Hall had remained down- huddled in the dark, watching "The Haunting" late into the night. So it was through heavy-lidded eyes, as red as the sky, that they greeted the Halloween morn. The decorations were all about, properly arranged for maximum scary effect. Some sort of mushy fungal blight had befallen half of this year's crop of pumpkins, and for a while it appeared as though they were going to be way scarier than their healthy counterparts; but scooping up (and scooping out!) the remaining survivors, the Halls were able to compile a worthy assortment of scowling spooks for the front porch. Helpful household tip: gather up your leftover jar candles half-used and no longer as fragrant, and stick them in the pumpkins. They burn beautifully and aren't as likely to be blown out by the wind. The Hall had several colorful jars to chose from and not only did they do the job admirably outside- the porch, while appropriately scary, never smelled so sweet!
Anything that glows, makes noise or sparks is always appreciated around the Hall, but Mrs. H. had noticed there were several tubes of unused glowstick necklaces still lurking around the bar cabinets, remainders from last year's Fallout Party (and other festive events requiring luminous accessories.) Stashing them between the fog machine and the Big Tub 'O Candy by the front door, she was able to hand out glowsticks to all the little kids that came by. It was a dark night to be sure, but visitors to Penguin Hall could be distinguished all the way down the block by the glowing rings around their necks, bouncing and laughing down the street. There was a steady stream of trick-or-treaters until around 8:30 pm, and then the crowd turned into one of mainly older children and teens. Usually this signals a general want of imagination in the group, but Mrs. Hall was singularly impressed this year by the unique vision of the youths in their neighborhood. One chap, sporting a huge purple and green shiner on his face, arrived alone at the door. Mrs. Hall called Mr. H. over, paraphrasing Longfellow: "The shades of night were falling fast, as through the little suburb passed, a youth, who bore through frost and ice, the sweatshirt with the strange device: The Letter P". "Do you know what I am?" he spake, and both Halls stood dumbfounded- "I'm a black-eyed pea!" he shouted, and grabbing a handful of candy from the tub, ran off.
A number of Colleen's friends from one party arrived at the door; it looked as if they were going to miss Colleen altogether (she was at another party) but suddenly the doorbell rang and Colleen and some stragglers from her group arrived. Milling about just long enough to finish the pizza, the rest of the Halloween candy and comment on the spiced pumpkin seeds, they sat for a moment and then were off. Mr. Hall viewed the devastation in the kitchen. Thank God it comes but once a year, he muttered as he turned off the outside lights and unplugged the fog machine. But Mrs. H. just smiled as she poured a well-earned sherry and warmed up the VCR for some vintage horror tapes- another happy Halloween behind them.

Tell your friends!