Grim Grinning Ghosts in Turtlenecks

Happy Halloween cozy does it community! After over a week of constant cloud cover, intermittent torrential downpours, and wind gusts, the sun is peeking through the clouds on this chilly Halloween morning. We missed the vibrant colors of fall while they were still pinned to the tree branches and now the ground is covered with unsatisfying, soggy crunchiness like stale potato chips from a bag you forgot you’d opened and chip-clipped, then revisited a few days later.

As my first fall here was not all I dreamed in would be, I find myself turning to attempts to simulate that crisp coziness I am eager to fulfill. Wooden and fabric pumpkins garnish our white and tan television stand – a little twinkle of autumn hygge added to our regular minimal d├ęcor. A mug of chai with steamed milk is never far from reach and a hearty pot roast dinner is curating magically in the Crock Pot as I type by the window in one of our outdoor chairs which has moved inside for the off-season.

Earlier, I announced to Mike that I was going to get dressed after which I changed from my “yoga” pants to different “yoga” pants (I don’t yoga) and a layered turtleneck/sweatshirt combo, a la 1990s trend.

I actually think of Halloween whenever I don an article of clothing over a turtleneck, as I know many other American 90s girls do. As a 90s lady child, the turtleneck was a versatile, core fashion staple in my wardrobe along with “stirrup pants”.

Stirrup pants: leggings that pull themselves down as you move around due to the convenient elastic band wrapped around the arch of each of your feet.

In case you were not aware, the turtleneck and stirrup pants were classic additions to any costume that didn’t appropriately suit an American 90s girl’s age or the Halloween forecast. Princess Jasmine? She 100% wore a white turtleneck under her turquoise bikini top in the movie, right? The Little Mermaid? Even under the sea, the look was all the rage. Ballerina or Sky Dancer? Time to break out the full set: a pink or white turtleneck and pink stirrup pants. Any Disney princess for that matter – I’m sure detailed in their original fairytale version as wearing a white, cotton turtleneck – was fair game with the right staple accessories paired.

In my adult life, Halloween has become synonymous with (family-friendly) spooky movie classics, a la Tim Burton, Harry Potter, or the Disney Channel Original variety. Sometimes I switch it up with a Halloween Parks and Rec or Psych tv episode. I cannot watch movies that are actually scary (here’s looking at you “I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House”). Even the trailers freak me out for days…

No, I’d much rather bake something pumpkin-y or nutmeg-y (or both) and sit back with a nice crisp Sam October. I may take part of this cold Halloween day to read something spooky or magical. I might opt to flip through the crispy pages of a Harry Potter book, jumping straight into my favorite chapters which usually involve time spent at Ron’s family home, The Burrow, or one of the grand and mystical Great Hall feasts, or a getaway to The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

It is still fall and while not as colorful, crispy, and crunchy as I hoped it would be, I am determined to bring some coziness to our home and to our activities this season. We have a lineup of jigsaw puzzles in our seasonal dugout and a bright, sunny day to lift our spirits. If you are braving going out for any All Hallows Eve activities tonight, watch out for other spirits lifting as they may not be as cozily intentioned.

Boo!

Sirena

This morning, it’s time to dust off those keyboard cobwebs and get some words down. Since my last post, the temperatures in our corner of New Jersey have been cooling on a slow simmer, seasoned with a pinch of chill and a splash of crispness. The daylight hours have a bluer tinge and grow more fleeting with late September’s progression. The trees have started pulling out a few of their fall colors from vacuum-sealed space bags in Mother Nature’s walk-in closet and the crowds no longer flock to the beaches down the shore.

When people think of the fall season, I assume many do not associate it with the beach. I, however, do, and am particularly excited to be reacquainted with fall at the shore this year.

Ever since my mom’s family starting renting the family shore house during the off season for the past I – lost – count – how – many years, I have been nostalgic for the empty beaches that result from the change in season, the expansive shoreline carpeted in cold sand, littered with the treasures of washed ashore sand dollars, backdropped by the dunes’ mountainous terrain, a fortress to hold back the salty tides during storms.

The shallows are warmest now, in early fall, after cooking under the hot sun throughout the summer months. Jelly salps dot the shoreline like sparkling, solid bubbles and the towel and umbrella colonies and impromptu nerf football games have vanished until Memorial Day Weekend. The crowds are gone and peace settles heavy on the sand, adjusting the arms of its Tommy Bahama beach chair until the back is at a comfortable angle.

And once fall is settled on the shore and summer put to rest in a storage bin with its corresponding seasonal items, it is time to allow the crash of the waves and whispering pull of the tide to echo as it reverberates off the dunes. It is time to let the sirenas’ sea song surround you, an intimate audience, in a fluid turned dissonant composition, mystifying and overwhelming in its power.

The Hospitality of Cheese

Any person who has been a guest in our home is likely familiar with being greeted with a hearty, “Welcome!” and a platter or cutting board full of sliced summer sausage, neat columns or concentric circles of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, and fresh-off-the-block slices of Kerry Gold Irish Cheddar. I learned the tried and true hospitality trick of providing immediately accessible snacks for guests by growing up as part of a large extended family who held frequent family gatherings.

Hosting guests is one of my all time favorite activities, likely because I grew up with the fond experiences of being a welcomed guest and learning how to be a host from the happy examples set by my immediate and extended family. These examples just always happened to involve appetizers and plentiful beverages.

When we lived in Williamsburg, we had the fortune of hosting guests frequently. We were not usually the main destination or reason to visit New York for most of our out of town guests. No, we were usually just a stopover for a night after a flight into JFK or Laguardia or a birthday dinner, Broadway show, or holiday party, but it always felt nice to be a stop on their list.

Our railroad style apartment on Union Avenue was full of cozy character and hosted countless guests over the years, some frequent visitors, and some one time only stays. When we first saw the apartment in March of 2015, I was sold immediately, standing in what would be our kitchen for the next five years, a warmth in my heart and a tingle on my skin, not yet knowing how many happy memories were waiting to be made within the confines of its red brick walls, and honey hardwood and rust tile floors.

The brick brownstone with six units was estimated built in 1895 and some of the accents would attest to that estimation. Our large, sunlit bedroom had an old, sealed-off brick fireplace growing up the wall like English ivy and our modern stove was nestled in what used to be a brick kitchen hearth. The light wooden cabinets and laminate-topped peninsula counter added practical function and a homely, cottage appearance to the atmosphere of our space and contradicted the metropolis environment of the bustling city that surrounded us.

Our Union Avenue apartment was a place where guests knew they were welcome to a hearty snack, warm meal, cold beer and red wine in the evening, clean sheets and blankets for a comfortable night’s rest on our turquoise couch, and fresh Brooklyn bagels with a mug of hot tea or coffee in the morning.

Writing about it now makes me miss our old home so much.

We pushed up our move by a week this past March when things started shutting down left and right in the city due to the pandemic. If the pandemic had not happened, we’d have been hosting some of my cousins from California that week and taking daily adventures from a meticulously planned itinerary full of truly New York and Brooklyn experiences, things that would give my cousins memories that were unique to our city while also providing Mike and me a chance to give a proper send-off to our regular neighborhood haunts.

But the pandemic did happen.

My cousins made the decision to cancel their trip after their airline offered them vouchers if they chose to cancel and after I let them know it was probably a good idea to cancel as bars, restaurants, theaters, and visiting with our Nana and our cousin’s months old son became either impossible or too risky.

We ended up moving four days after closing on our condo. We did not really get a chance to linger in our goodbyes with our home of five years before driving away in the Uhaul and car, but maybe that is a good thing. It would have made it so hard to allow that emotion to hit me, for my gaze to linger on the nail holes in the walls where our pictures used to hang, on the shiny rectangle on the floor where our warm, multi-colored, striped, shag area rug had been, and to hear the faint echo of laughter, late night chats, Friendsgiving gatherings, and regalings of recent travels from guests just arrived from the airport.

Five months after moving to our new home, the time has finally come to christen this place as a hub of hospitality. Our pictures hang on new walls now and our turquoise couch is still the same with new neighboring furniture to get to know. We no longer have our long, red brick living room wall and brick fireplace and kitchen hearth, but I’m not ever going to complain about our expansive view of the Atlantic that we get to look upon every day. My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and will be our first overnight guests. With much improved scenery, more space to move around, and an actual guest room with four walls and a door, I have high hopes that this place will live up to the cozy memories of gatherings past, conversations shared, trips planned and discussed, and memories made on Union Avenue.

But first, I must buy some cheese.