Little cracks, little fixes

I fully support all the measures our government has recommended during this pandemic – I wear a reusable mask in all public indoor spaces, wash my hands thoroughly as soon as I get home and stay home as much as I can without going stir-crazy. In fact, everyone in our neighbourhood seems to be doing the same, regularly hanging out in their yards.

I’m extremely grateful to have a back yard to safely spend time in, and I feel for everyone living in apartments or condos these days. We’re even hoping to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my brother on our patio in three weeks if the weather holds out. We may have to bundle up in toasty sweaters and sip hot cocoa to ward off the chill as we eat surrounded by fall colours, but that will be half the fun.

But this sudden press of humanity on a daily basis has its pros and cons. We’ve chatted with our neighbours more this summer than any time in the past, from a safe distance of course. The flip side has been a sometimes disconcerting lack of privacy. My hubby and I have remedied that as much as possible by putting a small privacy garden along our back fence, with trees that should grow in fairly quickly so that it stops feeling like we’re in two fish bowls side by side.

No one’s talked about what to do if you have aggravating neighbours, though – in our case, kids who haven’t been taught to respect boundaries. Over the years I’ve loved the sound of generations of kids playing on the large island we have in our cul-de-sac, but this summer with everyone home most of the time, several neighbours have complained to one family in particular about hockey pucks hitting their parked vehicles, toys left all over the road and on other people’s lawns, and repeated trespassing. Not the worst problem to have (judging by what I’ve been reading online), but after several months it’s gotten pretty tiresome.

Yesterday, before I blew my stack and turned into a complete witch, I decided a better idea would be to take a break. Channeling Sheldon Cooper, first I did a restocking run to our local pharmacy. There’s something satisfying about foraging for all the things that help to make your life more comfortable, even in small ways – a sense of accomplishment, especially now when so much is on hold.

After that, I checked out the new Halloween stock at our Home Sense store, then hit the country roads for some fresh-air R&R.

First purchase was an assortment of pumpkins for our front porch – a vermilion Cinderella, a squat blue pumpkin and a fat white one, and of course a big orange pumpkin for carving next month. A small pumpkin pie also came home with me for an after-dinner treat. To me, pumpkins are the icons of fall – so warm and homey-looking, and so delicious in pies and Pumpkin Spice Lattes!

Next I spent some time at our local botanical garden. It must be a well-kept secret because whenever I’ve visited this year I’ve largely had the place to myself, even though the gardens are extensive and free to visit.

Entrance to the gardens is lined with benches amid lush planters

The peacefulness of soft sun and a light breeze on my face, the chirping of birds in the trees and bees buzzing around the flowers, never fails to help me decompress, and I love taking photos of all the artistic details – the glow of sun through leaves, the sculptural quality of plants as they bend over the water, a butterfly flitting among the bright fall-tinted flowers.

Next time you’re out in nature, lose yourself for a while in admiring the details – of an intricate flower pistil, the undersides of flowers, bees industriously gathering pollen, the juxtaposition of colours and shapes. Several gardeners were pruning and clearing, and one of them chatted pleasantly with me as I strolled by.

Gardens are magical healing places if you take the time to enjoy all their layers, even if you just sit on a bench for a while and close your eyes to steep yourself in the scents and sounds.

As I turned home, I stopped in at my favourite roadside market to buy some fresh fruit and vegetables – it’s always a treat to see what’s filling their baskets and bushels that can be turned into something delectable for our next few meals.

Feeling much better, my hubby and I had a nice, easy meal topped off with freshly-baked pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and we relaxed for the evening. It’s easy to get caught up in the news and pandemic politics, and in trying to manage daily life while things are all cockeyed, so take a break once in a while and do something that restores your equanimity. And since we’re all in this together, be mindful of everyone around you. Kindness and consideration will help smooth a lot of the journey.

All photos by me and all rights reserved.

Filling your dreams to the brim with fright…

Entrance to Disneyland on Halloween night - photo by E. Jurus
Entrance to Disneyland on Halloween night – photo by E. Jurus

Entrance to Disneyland Hotel - photo by E Jurus
Entrance to Disneyland Hotel – photo by E Jurus

If you’re thinking of spending a Halloween with Disney, now’s the time to start planning! Tickets will go on sale next month, and they go quickly.
My husband and I went to Disneyland for October 30 & 31 two years ago, and we had a blast. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel, which overlooks Downtown Disney. In California everything’s accessible by foot – we walked out from our hotel into the thick of the shops, restaurants and entertainment ‘downtown’, and a further 10 minute walk brought us to the gates of both Disneyland and California Adventure.

Shop window on Main Street USA - photo by E Jurus
Shop window on Main Street USA – photo by E Jurus

Signs of Halloween were everywhere – hay bales, pumpkins both real and faux (including a giant pumpkin-head Mickey at the entrance to Main Street USA, Halloween treats for sale in shops and restaurants, and lots of creepy/cute merchandise in the shops.

On Halloween, Disneyland closes to the general public around 3pm, and re-opens at 6pm for people with tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. These tickets must be reserved in advance and are an additional cost over and above your park-hopper passes, but they’re well worth the extra cost! During the late afternoon on October 31st there’s an air of excitement – people dressed up in costume ( both children and adults) begin heading for the park, street entertainers come out, and the lights at the entrance to Disneyland start to glow. The atmosphere is like a big street party.

Food is available in the parks in the evening, but we chose to fortify ourselves at one of the restaurants in Downtown Disney first, then went back to the hotel to change. If you’re going, please note that the temperature can drop considerably at night even in the sunny states, and our night was no exception. I had on a long-sleeved costume and was still chilled by the end of the party.

Once inside the park, there are loads of things to do. All the day’s rides are open, but there are also dance

Main St USA on Halloween Night - photo by E Jurus
Main St USA on Halloween Night – photo by E Jurus

parties in different locations, the opportunity to have your  photo taken in front of the giant pumpkin Mickey (the professional photographer will use either his own camera or yours, or both – you pick) trick-or-treat stations that were patronized just as much by adults as kids when we were there, the opportunity to meet and pose with your favourite Disney villain (very popular and they rotate shifts, so if this is a must-do for you line up early before your character leaves for a break), shops galore, fireworks and a Halloween parade as the finale.

Adults lined up at the trick-or-treat station along the lagoon - photo by E Jurus
Adults lined up at the trick-or-treat station along the lagoon – photo by E Jurus

Glowing ghostly Mickey heads light your way around the park, an eerie blue fog billows across the lagoon and haunting music makes your feet itch to dance. It’s a night to celebrate all that’s dark and creepy, Disney style. Lest you think this party is just for children, let me tell you that at least half the people there that night were adults, and most of them were in costume. Although I’m not a fan of the commercialism that has crept into the Disney parks, nobody does parties like they do! This was an item on my bucket list, and it didn’t disappoint.

I haven’t been to Disney World for Halloween, so I can’t compare between the two, but there is

The gates to the Haunted Mansion, Jack Skellington-style - photo by E Jurus
The gates to the Haunted Mansion, Jack Skellington-style – photo by E Jurus

one significant difference: in Disneyland, for the Halloween season the Haunted Mansion is converted into The Nightmare Before Christmas both indoors and out – the plantation-style mansion drips with Spanish moss, special black & white-ribboned Halloween flower arrangements, pumpkins and Jack Skellington’s Christmas list, and of course Jack himself presides over the entire thing.

Inside, the ride has been transformed as well, into a spectacular multi-coloured journey tweaked with Jack’s special style – it’s so cool, even my hubby was impressed. Disneyland also sells a lot of Jack Skellington merchandise, so if you’re a fan, that might be an added incentive. My hubby bought a ‘Tall, Dark & Gruesome’ t-shirt that he wore under his lab coat as a mad scientist; I was his freaky-looking re-stitched and partially-revived creation.

photo by E Jurus
photo by E Jurus

Planning tips:

  • When I booked, tickets went on sale at the beginning of July for Disney club members, and later in the month for non-members. The online order system had gone down, so I spent a dedicated 45 minutes on the phone calling back repeatedly until I got a live person.
  • There are rules for dressing in costume at Disney: 1) you can dress as a Disney character but you’re not allowed to pose for photos with people you don’t know; 2) costumes can’t drag on the ground (tripping/ride machinery hazard); 3) your eyes must be visible (coloured contacts are allowed – mine were dead white); 4) your costume can’t scare small children. Most people do dress as Disney characters, but you don’t have to, although doing that will likely increase your chance of being selected to ride in the parade.
  • Daytime temps are quite nice but, as I mentioned previously, the temperature can drop quite a bit after dark, so be prepared – I saw quite a few women shivering in sleeveless outfits.
  • Buying an ‘all-inclusive’ package can save you some money. You get vouchers for meals that are supposed to be specific to certain restaurants and meals, but when we were there the serving staff encouraged us to use them for just about any meal.
  • Wear comfy shoes; even in Disneyland, which is more compact, you’ll still do lots of walking.
  • If you’re interested in doing the Disneyland version, there’s transportation between the airport (LAX) and Disneyland. In Los Angeles, there are tons of things to see, including the original Universal Studios park, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood, other movie studios, the fabulous Getty Museum…the list is practically endless. If you rent a car, you can drive up the coast to Malibu, visit beautiful Santa Barbara, and generally enjoy the wonderful California weather, scented with the ocean and eucalyptus trees.
  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party runs on selected nights throughout the Halloween season, so if you can’t make it for Halloween night itself, there are still plenty of other dates to enjoy it. The one on Halloween itself wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was afraid it might be, just a nice amount of people wandering around and enjoying the ambience. Please check this year’s dates and times on the Disney websites (Disneyland and Disney Worldfor the most up-to-date information.