Praise the Gourd. Oct 28, 07

Well - i've been making a lot of blog excuses lately haven't I. Sorry. Po, having become a little sassy with her rejuvenated self, managed to have a relapse jumping off of something from somewhere (and YES we watch her like a halk). Anyway - I think it was a good thing, because the minute she started making the Marge Simpson noise and she grumbled back to her bed, it seemed that she might have connected the activity with the cause of the pain. She's absolutely fine again...but this picture of her recuperating I thought was pretty funny. Please note that she is using a pillow.


So I won the pumpkin competition. Yay. To be truthful I won my DIVISION of the pumpkin competition... there were three categories - best dressed, best painted and best carved. And I took best carved. Of course all the other carved pumpkins that had been entered were carved by people to whom I am old enough to have fathered. And, as Rich so astutely stated, "joel you're the only person I know who can stay up all night in a cut-throat competition with a five year old". Well...I didn't KNOW they were going to all be five years old, did I! See the fun gals at the Visitor's Service Bureau said that it was a tough competition. I thought pumpkins would be coming from all over the mid west. Pumpkins submitted by Madame Tussauds. So I wanted to make sure I stepped up to the plate. To be honest, it was a lot of fun, and everybody made a big fuss about the pumpkins... so it was worth it...AND Janice inspired a brilliant plan which I'll tell you about in a bit.

For those of you that wondered - the courthouse was done using this nifty little dremel tool my mom sent me. It's like a low powered drill and it just sands off the surface wherever you skim. It's a great gagdget - but finicky if you are doing fine detail work like I was. But if you are doing a bigger, less intricate design - I'd say it would be a great tool for anyone, no matter what your artistic ability. For more complicated things, you need to get some practice - cuz the tool likes to kind of skate away from you and zip along in areas you don't want it to go if you're not careful. The other one took a really, really long time because I'd never done anything like that before. I literally spent an hour on the nose (because that was the first thing I started - and if I screwed that up (being the longest and deepest depth required) I knew I'd have to start over again. After a few hours getting used to what the pumpkin would and wouldn't let you do...and how deep I could go...I got a ton faster. The important thing to remember is that the pumpkin it behooves you to use that. Cuz a face curves too. It sounds obvious - but I working in a small area on it at a time - you start to think of it as a flat don't realize that you can get the impression of a lot of difference in depth from the front to the sides if you simply use the shape you've been given. I'll be better at that next time. By the time I was getting confident I was hacking off the areas I didn't want with a sharp knife and scooping with a soup spoon (yes, Janice one of YOUR soup spoons :) hee hee hee). The fine, fine lines were done with either a dried out pen tip and the tip of an xacto blade held side ways (using the flat side). And the larger sculpting I did with a couple wood carving tools I got in a package at Walmart for two bucks. And, I didn't empty out the inside first - which I would recommend. See - if you scoop it out before hand you'll remove some of the depth you could use. I shone a light at it from the outside and scooped out to a depth where the light told me it was safe. That's it for the Martha Stewart portion of the blog.

It turns out that the BIG business in the pumpkin competition is the 'dressed' category. It seems, as it was explained to me one one passionate pumpkin-dresser. The local businesses, so it seems, get a pumpkin gussied up and enter it. So, luckily I'm a fledgling local business or we might have ended up with a horse head in our bed. Or a pumpkin head...whatever. But I have to say that there was some very stiff competition in the dressed category...I'll get some pictures and blog them. The one that one is an owl - that I actually INSPECTED because it was so covered in feathers that I wasn't convinced that there was even a pumpkin in use. My favorite was a pumpkin that someone dressed up as a pirate... sounds stupid...but it's awesome, wait till ya see.

So the competition was judged by the Red Hats, who as predicted, went for the local flavor of the courthouse pumpkin rather than the far-more-difficult carving of the other pumpkin. Rich and I were discussing the fact that no matter how much fun Red Hats ever might have, my mother would never join them. Unless they renamed it Beige Turtlenecks. The Beige Mom would be one wild chick. But red hat, purple sweater...not gonna happen for Donna Sue. Anyway - Rich and I were really happy to meet a group of Red Hatters, and tell them about the theatre... and they seemed pretty excited. Which, is great news, because Red Hats are frequently the bread and butter of theaters like ours.

So I won fifty bucks, which was presented to me in an envelope. In all one dollar bills. I wanted to ask them if they were expecting the winner to go straight to a strip club, but decided against it. After it was all over, Rich and I volunteered to help them out putting together the window display - which then somehow transformed into Rich stripping paint off of windows. That pack he a good neighbor, or what! Rich also volunteered to help them with the Huntington Visitor's Center website. He had a long chat with them about it, and they seem really excited. Rich is actually really happy to have the opportunity. They tried to to do a sort of a pumpkin festival thing on Friday night - with a band and stuff. They had this night time dance thing (it really didn't get hopping because it started to rain), and they had the pumpkin competition, and they had day time trick or treating along the main street business.

So after I beat that other pumpkin carver's butt... oh wait...that was me too. Anyway... my triumphant victory meant that the winning pumpkin was to be displayed in the storefront of the visitors service bureau. Like I said, I helped set up the window display under the able and impassioned leadership of one our antique store owning neighbours. It was she who helped me understand that this pumpkin business is taken very, very seriously. When the winners were announced i was asked "what it was like to win" with the sort of hungry longing that Vanessa Redgrave might have asked Marissa Tomei on that fateful night when she felt she got the raw end of the deal. And, although I agreed the finest craftsmanship should have good window real-estate... I thought it was worth sheepishly pointing out that the children might get a kick out of seeing their pumpkins in the window. Since their pumpkins seemed to be um... forgotten. And, since the adults and they were business owners, and had their OWN windows to display all year... it might be nice for the kiddies. Of course, I said this as a WINNER who was guaranteed prime spot anyway. It's easy to be benevolent when you're on top. On top of a wooden stool covered with a nylon black tablecloth, to be precise.

So - the LOSERS were able to pick up their pumpkins if they so wished. Losers. Oh wait.. I was a loser as well. So - that meant that the sculpted pumpkin was free and clear. So... I suddenly leapt on an idea that Janice had suggested earlier in the week. She thought it would be fun to raffle off a pumpkin in exchange for people signing up for our mailing list. See, in the non-profit theatre world...mailing lists are GOLD. People in NY pay thousands of dollars for email addresses to send out e-blasts about their shows. And if we had a show going up tomorrow the only people we could tell directly are Jean Anne and Natalie. And I'm pretty sure their already coming. Jean Anne to see the show (with Kenny highly sedated and in shackles), and Natalie to sneak onstage in a Nun's habit and tell Captain Von Trapp that she'd like to have the exclusive listing for his villa.

So, we decided to raffle off THIS pumpkin. After all, now it was a WINNING PUMPKIN CARVER ORIGINAL. So - we stuck it in the window of the Box Office, and we went to WalMart and got some black fabric and Rich draped it all inside - and when it was lit up it looked REALLY cool. He did an awesome job.

Actually - the pumpkin lighting earlier in the day - had created quite the drama. When I finished carving the courthouse pumpkin at 11pm (I did that one first), I realized that it needed to be lit up to have any impact at all. When you carve a pumpkin with that skimming the surface system, they have to be lit up for you to really see the design. Which meant, if I had a chance at besting the other children, I needed my pumpkin to shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. Which meant getting up early and getting some kind of illumination. Cuz I wasn't going to use a candle - I was sure they wouldn't let me. And I figured Rich wasn't going to let me use the $50 Ryobi rechargeable flashlight that went with our tool kit (which I had used to carve it). So, I set the alarm for eight, and figured we'd go to Walmart. I thought it was be easy. I'd get one of those little battery operated ianterns or battery operated Xmas tree lights. So we headed over there at like nine. The pumpkins were due at ten. They didn't have either. No battery operated xmas tree lights on display yet - and the only battery operated lantern type things that looked vaguely strong enough were a fortune. And Rich insisted that he wait in the car and handle this myself (because probably rightly, he knew that I would stand in front of 800 flashlights paralyzed, incapable of making a decision, and every time he made I suggestion, I would probably offer an army of "but what if's" that would make him want to visit the nearby hunting department. So I settled on one of those little headlamp things that had 3 LED lights in it. I thought that would be perfect...3 lights, right. So we get it home. Nope. It was my fault, really, the pumpkin walls were still too thick - because it wasn't cut all the way through. But I hadn't done this before. So I needed a really strong flashlight. Rich suggests taking apart a scoop light and asking them if we could plug it in at the Visitors Service Bureau. Now, at this point, remember I'm still imagining that Michaelangelo and Rodin are going to be showing up with their pumpkin masterpieces - and I'm shouting at Rich "I can't ask for SPECIAL TREATEMENT...they're not going to let one pumpkin PLUG IN A LIGHT if they other pumpkins can't PLUG IN A LIGHT". And at this point we start re-enacting a very bizarre little known missing scene from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.


(At this evenings performance the role of Sandy Dennis will be played by a flatulent wiener dog.)

So then at twenty minutes to the deadline... (and Rich telling me at this point "I had already given up my chance of getting a good spot" "Spots!!! What do you mean spots?" "Of course they have SPOTS...if you want to win you had to get a good spot. You should have gotten your spot two days ago!!!". "Noooooooooo" Etc.) we race in Mr. Sparkle to Walgreens. Where, as if the heavens opened and a single ray of light shining through a cloud pointed me straight to aisle four...they had PUMPKIN LIGHTS. Of course. How could a pumpkin light NOT light a PUMPKIN? So, not wanting to short change the other pumpkin...but wanting to make sure I was sure to have enough light for the courthouse...I got three. Two for the courthouse. So we get them home. They do nothing. They are fun and turn colors, and I'm sure if you have a pumpkin with big carved triangle eyes and an open mouth - I'm sure it would look neat shining through your window. But as far as the 1000 watt klieg light I was hoping for...even after all three in the same pumpkin... it looked about as lit up to us as it would have to Andrea Bocelli. So, like a chicken with my head off I run over to Jean Anne's... and breathless say:

"Can't talk... pumpkin...emergency...tin meeeeeeeee" Or something like that.

Somewhere, meanwhile, my fellow competitors are telling daddy they did number two in their 'big boy pants'.

Luckily, Jean Anne, as one who reads the blog every morning, had seen the pictures I posted at 4am. So she had already signed on to the pumpkin madness wagon, and was happy to facilitate my lunacy. In FACT she offered me TWO KINDS of aluminum foil. Jean Anne had spent the morning as my press agent. She loved the pumpkin. She carried her laptop around Nick's all day showing people the pictures of it on the blog. Like, not just regulars. People that were from out of town. Cindy, having seen the pumpkin on the blog, had greeted me at the door with 'the face'. I think she and Rich get together and perfect their faces together. Anyway - Cindy's face said something like either just "you're completely insane" or "if you have that much f-in spare time on your hands buster why don't you come over to my house and clean my pool". Of course, deep inside Cindy knows that when all those peppy little volleyballers took their Fabrege-standard papermache pinatas home to show THEIR moms...they said the same thing about her. So I think we should start a support group. OCD crafters anonymous :) ("God help me to accept the pipe-cleaners I cannot change...").

So anyway - I race back home with the aluminum foil. Nope. At this point we literally just stuck five different modes of illumination inside the thing and hoped that a gentle glow would be enough to make clear the pattern. Rich at this point has gone upstairs and logged to Strait Jackets R Us and ordered with expedited shipping.

So solemnly, I carry the pumpkin towards the Visitors Service Bureau at 9:58 with melancholy acceptance of my sure-to-be defeat. Where I am met by my solemn competitors. Who come up to my navel. Doofus, party of one. The kids actually got a really big kick out of the sculpted one, which was fun... but I think suddenly had a brainwave. (One in five months isn't bad, people). I ran home and I printed out the pictures of it lit that I took for the blog, ran it back, and just tucked it under the pumpkin. So I felt much better - cuz then people could see what it looked like at night.

PS - the way the pumpkin is now lit at the visitors service Bureau? Scoop light plugged in to a wall socket. It's not easy being a pack leader.

Anyway - THAT was a tangent, huh, kids?

So - Janice had this idea for the raffle. So we totally did it. We were taking this whole trick or treater thing very seriously - Janice and Rich had decided it was PARAMOUNT that we have WHOLE bars for the tricker treaters - since we were new in town and wanted to make a big splash with the kids and therefore their parents. ("Yes they may be fruity city boys Esther, but they had WHOLE BARS!!" So we got a hundred and thirty candy bars at Sams Club. We even called Jean Anne AT Sams Club to see if that was an ok number. She was sure it would. Keep in mind, later that week I saw Jean Anne had purchased enough candy to give diabetes to the entire Eastern Seaboard. But, she assured me, that was just likes Candy. AND she found cute little gummies that looked like tenderloins. No really. I'll take a picture.

So - we were sure to score with WHOLE BARS. We also wanted something for the parents, so Rich got cases of water. We wanted to do apple cider but a) messy b) messy c) it was actually warm the day before and we thought a hot drink would be icky. So Rich got like seven cases of water and we tucked them in the box office for easy access. So - we were all set. Table set out under the awning - cute halloween tablecloth - WHOLE BAR candy - Pumpkin raffle - sign in sheets. Let the trick or treating begin.

We were out of full bars in thirty minutes. The trick or treating lasted three hours. There were a LOT of kids. Now - luckily - the bulk of them were at the very beginning...but Rich had to do an emergency run to Walmart to get more candy. See - here's the thing. In New York, for the number of families, we would have had enough candy. Here you get like six kids at a time. It was CRRRAAAAAZZZZY. And one or two parents, had they gone out back in NY, people would have assumed that THEY were in costume. But the kids were super cute. We had a really good time (other than kicking ourself for not having enough full size bars - but we know for next time). We learned two very interesting things from this event: a) most popular candy: M and M's. Hands down. Who knew. I was totally shocked. Reeses cups distant second. b) people who have to drag their kids up and down five blocks trick or treating need to hydrate. The kids do too.

The water was a very, very big hit. My favorite thing all day was the little girl who said "I don't really need candy, but could I please have a water". We gave her candy too. We figured the kids would never want water. We gave out like five cases of water. Rich was so smart to think of it - because people were like GRATEFUL for it. It was actually so frenetic at the beginning that I didn't even remember to take pictures... (my favorite was the kid who was dressed up with like elements of four different animal costumes combined and a sign that said "I'm the results of global warming... I'm REALLY scary".)



ok - this kid not only looked adorable (I particularly liked the sensibly layered pink fuzzy jumpsuit beneath the chiffon) - BUT - apparently the night before she informed her mother that she couldn't go dressed as Snow White because she didn't enough dwarves. Snaps for commitment to character. She could be the next Uta Hagen.

The pumpkin raffle also worked out pretty well. There was the one moment where a mother and daughter fought for five minutes about what street they lived on (NOT making this up...really wish I was) but other than that it was great. It took some convincing that it was for free...but once we kind of got our banter sorter out, most people signed up. Natalie, having become bored over at her storefront with her NON whole-bar candy, starting hanging in our hood. And she got VERY into the pumpkin raffle banter. By the end she practically had her own half hour infomercial. The pumpkin started off having taken four hours to carve and by the time she was done I think I had apparently spent six days carving it blindfolded with a grain of rice as a tribute to a dead relative lost in a the New Orleans Tsunami of 9/11. But, hey, we got about fifty people to fill-out forms. Next time we have to say that to be eligible for the drawing you HAVE to list an email address (cuz just a phone number isn't useful to us) - but the majority of people did. And then Sunday morning we had the drawing. And the woman who won it's name is April and when I called her she was super excited. Which made me really happy. And they have trick or treating in their neighborhood on Halloween, and we won't, so kids will get to see it and appreciate it. Which is cool. Here's April and her son picking up their prize.


Rich and I have spent the past two days in no-small amount of turmoil trying to determine how to shape our proposal for the YMCA which is due Monday. It's a huge facility - and a lot to handle if they did pick us. But after working this weekend with Visitors Center, and really getting a sense that we need to try and help Huntington get a little more hopping if we can...we figured this could give us the opportunity to do a lot of community-outreach stuff and events that the theatre couldn't (or shouldn't) house. So we've put something together and we'll see how things develop.

With all this trick or treat related hoopla - and the YMCA stuff - kitchens and bathrooms have suffered since we last spoke. However the linoleum is glued down - and it occurred with no drama at all.


I guess because we'd done it before in the storefront, we had a system. It was messy - but what around here isn't? Rich ran the dishwasher today - which was more exciting than you can imagine. See, there had been a few days where we seriously thought that the dishwasher (which was a gift from a neighbor of Bob and Janice) had become damaged in transit. It just wouldn't drain. Rich spent hours tinkering with it - and we were almost convinced that it had gone home to Jesus... We were just going to wait until Bob was here next for a final second-opinion, but Rich realized the drainage hose was kinked. So we loosened that up - and it's working great. So, the first load of dishes came out of boxes and are in their new cupboard home. Pretty exciting. Tomorrow we'll be back on track, and I'll hopefully install the fourth (yup I broke another one) threshold. This time, and I have no idea how, the new threshold was laying on the floor by the bookcases in the living room. And went to the bookcase, and without even seeing it, stood on it. These things are soooo fragile. The next one we get I'm bringing home in a cooler like they transport transplant organs and installing it IMMEDIATELY. I mean - they TOLD us at lowe's they are really fragile - but this is just becoming a joke. Literally. Rich didn't even get upset when I told him it was broken - it's become funny. We also need to put the kick plates at the bottom of the cabinets and install the bathroom door. And i need to caulk the shower and bath (also needs a trip to Lowes for grey caulk). And after that - although there is some more finishing work in the hallway - we'll be ready to start reaping the fruits of our labor. And then baking the fruit in a pie. And then have somewhere to throw up after eating too much pie. Whoo hoo!!!! :)

Rich has now said that the two things he is most looking forward to having in our new kitchen will be "hot dogs and bread and butter pickles".

I think he's pregnant.

One final thing. They make these fake carve-able pumpkins called Fun-kins. And apparently they are quite popular (cuz you only have to carve a pumpkin ONCE - it doesn't get moldy - and they aren't messy). Anyway - during Trick or Treating, the pumpkin was on display and one woman looks at me and says "Is that a Funkin". And I thought, for a brief second, I was supposed to reply "No, maam, I'm afraid it's Froomkin, with an m". Well, I don't get moldy either.

xo jojo