1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
My father was a dairy farmer, so he was busy in the barn as soon as he got up from the supper table...so it was up to my aunt and uncle to pick me up on Halloween evening and take me trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and into downtown Outer Podunk. (One of my favorite destinations was the local general store, which gave out chocolate Ice Cubes -- I still love those -- and green apple candies. A less favorite stop, but one done out of social obligation, was at the home of our neighbors, an elderly couple with no children of their own who would pass out kid-unfriendly candy like licorice bridge mix and black walnut nougats. Those treats went directly to the 'rents.)
2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
When my mother was alive, we stopped putting on our porch light for the trick-or-treaters; the interaction with strangers made Mom anxious. Last year, though, Fellow Traveler and I pulled out the stops for Halloween -- she carved almost a dozen pumpkins that we lighted and placed along my driveway; I put eerie green light bulbs in our lamps; we bought a bushel of candy and savory snacks. We ordered pizza for ourselves and spent the evening having an awful lot of fun with a surprisingly large number of little bumblebees and pirates and ghosts. We are dialing back the carving somewhat this year, but still kitting out the yard and stocking up on candy for the trick-or-treaters.
3. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
I am -- gasp -- not much of a candy apple eater; if I have a choice, though, I'll pick the caramel. Fellow Traveler loves candy apples of both kinds. As mentioned above, we do make jack-o-lanterns. After Halloween we throw them out into the woods (a good way to discharge stress, by the way) for the deer and other woodland critters to gnaw on; if we had a compost pile we'd probably chop them up for that.
4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
We do both. I like the harvest motif -- it feels warm and cozy, what we Germans call gemuetlich -- gourds, pumpkins, cornstalks, wheat weavings, swags of ornamental corn. But you can't see a picture of this year's effort because...um...we're not finished yet. Or even much begun, really. Hey -- we have almost a week!
5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?
I haven't been to a costume party in ages; although I did wear my infamous Coat of Many Colors to our office Taco Day fundraiser yesterday and felt a little like Ugly Betty except without braces or a Guadalajara poncho.
Michigan Farmhouse Chili
1 pound pork sausage (I like a little more sausage in mine)
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Michigan maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered sage
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups cooked Michigan navy or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
Brown sausage and onion in a large skillet. Toward end of browning, add celery. When celery is softened, add tomatoes, broth, maple syrup, cumin, sage, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with cheddar cheese and corn bread.