It’s Still Fall, Y’all

This is why I love my town of Corinth, Miss.: There is a gorgeous house literally on every corner. I was walking around recently in that lovely winter-is-on-its-way autumn twilight — which, this being Mississippi, means a drop in temperature from 95 degrees to 50-something — and found myself in front of this home. The combination of the scrolling black iron fence with the soft orange decor against the darkening sky was a perfect Halloween moment, even if this was a couple of days past Oct. 31. I’ll take it, though.  And of course I want to know how the gourds in the urns on either side of the door remain perfectly stacked: Glue? Gravity? Zenful balance? This being Corinth and Mississippi, I probably could simply walk up the steps and knock on the door and ask. But I think I’ll preserve the mystery.

Only for October — Promise!

You can discover a lot about a person when you describe a creepy Victorian house in your neighborhood that’s sporting huge inflatable black devil-eyed cats, which are menacing passers-by from the second-story gables, and this person says, “Oh, is that for Halloween?”

When Pumpkins Lead to Social Angst

I love these pumpkins I spied on a morning walk around the neighborhood today. I mean, somebody just took  ribbon and paint or markers and created something different and eye-catching. Actually, these look like they were originally party decorations — maybe for a dance or a dinner or something involving a school with black and gold colors (Vanderbilt?) — and got re-purposed. And now I’m wondering what sort of party it was and where it was and what I would have worn IF I had been invited and would my husband have been able to come and who was was there and why was I NOT invited? No matter that I have no idea who lives here or if they’re the sort of folks who throw good parties and so maybe I wouldn’t even have WANTED to go to their silly little party anyway, so there. But they do know their way around pumpkins. And I obviously have way too much time on my hands.

September Needs Its Meds

Is it fall? Is it summer? Let’s examine the evidence. First, it’s after Labor Day and students of all ages are back in school. Score one for fall. However, second, it’s still danged hot outside, and Boot Day — that first wonderful crisp and chilly morning when you can wear those  cool new boots you snagged for 75 percent off this past April — seems like weeks away. So, a point for summer. We’re tied at one-one. Are Halloween decorations in local stores? Fall. Are people still swimming in their outdoor pools? Summer. It’s two-all. Football? Fall. Baseball? Summer. Three-three. Even produce markets seem confused, giving us juicy and sweet watermelons along with plump orange pumpkins & marigolds along with impatiens. Conclusion: Here in the mid-South, September is the month with an identity crisis combined with minor climate disorder. September needs a good counselor. And a meds refill.

Signs of Fall

Everybody here in the South agrees that this is one of the best falls ever. Usuallyf we go straight from summer into winter, but this year we’ve actually had the warm days & cool nights of autumn.  The leaves are getting gorgeous, but there are other signs of fall. Such as scarecrows, as pictured on the left. And you thought that was a photo of me on my daily walk through the forest! You should know that I never would pair red devil horns with a red handbag AND red shoes — too matchy-match. No, this actually is “The Devil Wears Prada”‘s Miranda Priestly on the Huntsville Botanical Garden‘s annual Scarecrow Trail. Created by the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama,  Ms. Scarecrow Priestly accessories her Halloween look with a zebra-print blazer — and until only a year or so ago I owned an almost identical blazer. You know you need a closet redo when your outfits show up on a devil scarecrow — albeit a stylish one. Fall also is the time when autumnal art work shows up on refrigerators. It’s been a long dry spell between our now 20-something-year-old daughters bringing home their falling-leaves pictures and our 3 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable adding to the collection. The Captain stayed with Husband JP and I a few days ago, and I went through his backpack a couple of his papers from Spanish class fell out of his backpack, so I claimed them.  To finish off the refrigerator decor, Capt. Adorable arranged the alphabet magnets into a train, which I thought was very creative and brilliant of him. Genius baby!


Oh you silly people who thought that just because the calendar says “July” we are still in summer. Wrong! It apparently is time to start counting your orange  napkins and trying to remember where you put the box of jack-o-lantern lights and, hey, how long can leftover Halloween candy stay in the freezer anyway? I’d heard rumors that a few craft retailers were in holiday mode already — Christmas truly is in July at Hobby Lobby — but that seems reasonable to me when you’re talking about getting a head start on handcrafting your memories. However, I’m just not sure I’m ready to start shopping for fall decor yet. I mean, I haven’t even worn all my summer clothes yet. Even the employees at this Cracker Barrel seemed embarrassed. “We’ve got some Thanksgiving things over there,” one whispered, grimacing, “and I hear Christmas is coming next week.” Oh, dear. Actually, my main concern is not the ever-earlier starting bell for holiday spending but a deep dismay that fall coming to Cracker Barrel means that the seasonal summer specials soon will be gone and my new favorite breakfast of Blueberry Streusel French Toast will be … well, toast. Have you had this yet? I’m telling you, it’s like the warmest freshest blueberry muffin/doughnut/pancake/pastry/pie ever. Ever. Go get some. Right now. Just please don’t bring back a black-cat coffee mug. Until late September, at least.


I don’t know what it is about me and my two daughters, but we absolutely adore any combination of bread, fruit and Apple and cheese sandwichescheese — particularly if it’s all warm and melty. Y’all already know about Younger Daughter’s signature Banana and Peanut Butter Breakfast Sandwiches — — and it’s true that I’ve been obsessively enjoying a fresh fig and Laughing Cow cheese panini for lunch almost every day this Halloween fall, but I think the high point of our bread-fruit-cheese adventures came this past weekend when Older Daughter wanted a quick, tasty and nutritious pre-trick-or-treating supper before introducing 19-month-old Capt. Adorable to the joys of free candy. After much negotiating — Should we use the Foreman, a skillet or the Halloween hairstylesbroiler? — we came up with these open-face apple-and-cheese sandwiches. First we toasted thick-sliced whole-grain sourdough bread under the broiler, then we added various cheeses (our favorite turned out to be simple cheddar) and thinly sliced Honeycrisp apples, sprinkling dark brown sugar and cinnamon on some of the sandwiches. Then we popped them back under the broiler, watching carefully since we’re prone to wander away and start entirely new projects while we’re cooking — not good. Anyway, our apple and cheese sandwiches turned out easy, yummy and fun. And the Captain loved trick-or-treating! Maybe next year his mom will actually let him have some of the candy.

And if you’re still struggling to adjust to this past weekend’s time change back to Standard Time as well as Halloween candy overload, you’re not alone. Read my weekly newspaper column at to find out who are the only members of my family remaining unaffected by our annual falling back.

Haunted Houses — and History

Florence, AlabamaSweetwater Mansion in Florence, AlabamaI do not like scary, bloody or gory stuff. I can barely sit through a CSI or Shark Week episode. Okay, that’s a lie — I cannot sit through a CSI or Shark Week episode. This is why I stay away from the “haunted houses” that open up during October around here. Other folks love to pay good money to scream and run away from axe-wielding zombies and come-to-life mummies, but not me, thank you very much. So when a haunted house opened up in Florence, Alabama, with the promise of only slightly spooky stories and a tramp around the grounds of a historic mansion, I was in. This is the HistorySweetwater Mansion, home to Robert M. Patton, who completed the home in 1835 (his father-in-law had started it a few years earlier). Patton was Alabama’s governor from 1865 to 1868. Sweetwater was a showplace that once included 3,800 acres of land and played host to many Civil War politicians and officers. Today, it’s neglected and deteriorating and surrounded by traffic and development — there’s a convenience store practically in the front yard. Owned by Susan Smithson, a former Shoals resident now living in Atlanta, Sweetwater and its remaining 22 acres are for sale, priced at several million dollars. Volunteers have banded together  to raise money for historic repairs and renovation and are sponsoring a haunted house this month. Some friends and I bundled up, fortified ourselves with a thermos of hot coffee and paid our $20 each. Our tour guide took us to five storytelling stations around the house and grounds (including the family graveyard), where we heard creepy ghost stories that scared us just enough and got close-up views of the house, the kitchen and the repair work that was underway. One of my friends took photos that showed spooky sort of orbs floating around. I didn’t get any of those on my photos — but losing this historic gem is scary enough. Learn more about the Sweetwater mansion at


Tate Farms in Meridianville, AlabamaPumpkin patchOctober truly is my favorite month. Who can resist 31 days of family fun, gorgeous weather, marching band half-time shows endless football games and pumpkins everywhere you look? Not to mention free candy just for the asking! Could it get any better??? Read more about why October is on my best-ever  list at my weekly newspaper column for the TimesDaily in Florence, Alabama: