Death is a man’s job? I don’t think so. There’s a reason why women live longer than men- me. I’m the Grim Reaper. I have been collecting souls since the inception of humankind. You all thought I was a man, right? Typical.
I have been a member of the Evil League of Evil for over a hundred years, the only original member still ticking. (Being the bringer of death does come with a few perks.)
A sight for dead eyes?
At the League’s annual convention this year, the body of one of our own was discovered. While the departing dead are all in a day’s work for me, murder amongst members goes against league codes. Hence, rowdy accusations and seedy discoveries commenced. The heinous was made hilarious, and, eventually, the mystery was solved to everyone’s satisfaction.
My fellow league members may be evil, but I am death.
I won the award for best female costume and received an honorable mention for best female acting. If dressing drably and being crabby makes you eligible for a prize, I should have won something really prestigious back in the Dark Ages.
Thanks Renae and Nathan for hosting a witty and wicked thriller!
It has been months since our halls boomed with the incantations of witches, but the late arrival of a post on the subject is fitting because Jason and I were slower eradicating Halloween this year than ever before. Usually, our crows and maggots are stored away prior to Christmas, but it’s February, and they were only just barely caged. Yes, this year, much more than others, our party experienced some lags.
This year, Jason and I dressed as Victorian circus performers. I was Marvelous Mabel, Tightrope Walker Extraordinaire, and Jason was Leopold Leotard the Great.
Knowing we would be in Europe for half of October, Jason and I wisely started our party preparations extra early. Then, in a momentarily lapse into idiocy, we decided to transform our basement into a wizarding world, a process that required new props and the imaginative rethinking of space. Why this year of all years? Floating candles don’t just float themselves into existence. (Do I need to roll for a sanity check?) Thankfully, we had some transformation help. Over the years, decorating for our event has almost become an event in of itself. On an evening or Saturday afternoon, friends gather and catch up over pizza and creepy scene setters. The conversations are lively, and the assistance is enlivening. This year, Adam even popped in from Washington to put up a few cobwebs; bedecking our spooky halls is that thrilling. Thanks Lee, Drew, Simone, Jacob, Rowley, Adam, and Keith for lending us some of your mystical brainpower and pushpin skills!
Constructing floating candles out of toilet-paper, paper-towel, and wrapping-paper tubes sounds like a short task- it wasn’t.
Jason and I attempted to recreate Hogwarts’ charmed ceiling by painting a long strip of gossamer.
Beyond the hefty task of decorating, fashioning the favors for our party always represent a different type of challenge. Trying to guess the correct combination of adult, teenager, and kid gifts needed is difficult. So, this year, Jason and I opted to give our guests plenty of options from which to pick what they favored, with some appealing to multiple age groups. We assembled 36 kid bags, 12 wizard wands, 24 gothic toiletries, and 20 tween grabs.
The adult favors this year were gothic toiletries from The Bubbling Cauldron, which I dressed up in black.
It was Jason’s brilliant idea to tie the tween bags with rope nooses.
Jason and I arrived home from Europe only days before our get-together. We had pretty severe jet lag the night of our party, so we almost nodded off while tallying the costume contest votes. It’s kind of comical having 85 guests in your house while you can barely stay awake.
We created a selfie spot for Azkaban’s most wanted.
Professional photos are available at our event, so attendees can capture their magnificent costumes.
Not everything was more complicated this year though. Dinky Donuts took some of the common headaches out of catering for us. Their desserts were hot, fresh, and yummy. Better yet, this food truck arrived on time and was ready to handle orders precisely when anticipated. Yeah! That’s a first for our food-truck luck.
The Bingo table is always packed with players.
The preferred craft this year was customizable Harry-Potter-themed potion necklaces- a Rachel original.
Cleaning up the piles of cups and sticky crumbs after our shindig also went much quicker than normal thanks to some kind helpers. Benson, Rowley, Milo, Drew, and Simone all pitched in. You know you’ve mastered the universe when He-Man vacuums your house for you.
We added shelves to a wall and topped them with all the makings of great magic.
Throwing our annual Halloween party is always exhausting, throwing it while experiencing jet lag was almost laughable. A big thank you to the assistants that graciously lent a hand or wand; you are more enchanting than a Scourgify spell. And a thank you to our friends and family that have made this shindig a fall ritual; it wouldn’t be a 17-year-and-still-running tradition without you.
Provence, a region in the southeastern part of France, was the last stop in our scholastic escapades around Europe and a relaxed, sunny escape from Paris’ congestion and crowds.
L’Occitane is surrounded by the terra of Provence.
The very earth in Provence reflects its cultural divergence from France’s busier areas. There, white limestone cliffs jut out beyond waving hills silvered with olive groves or lined with vineyards. Tradition permeates everything, and even time seems hesitant to spoil the splendor of the tranquility with change.
Aix-en-Provence is known as the City of a Thousand Fountains.
Directly after arriving in Provence, we did a business tour at the cosmetic company L’Occitane. Afterward, we headed into Aix-en-Provence, our base for the area. That evening, we ate dinner at an outdoor cafe in one of the town’s squares. The whole plaza was packed with clusters of hodgepodge tables from different restaurants; it looked like a scene from a movie.
Every one of Aix-en-Provence’s many fountains is unique.
The next day, we visited Chateau Virant, a 320-acre winery and olive farm. During our tour, we entered the chateau’s cellar, which was built in 1632, through tunnels constructed hundreds of years ago. There, oak barrels filled with Dionysus’ harvest waited patiently for their moment of perfection. Pretty cool.
Chateau Virant’s cellar fit my imaginings perfectly.
Aix-en-Provence’s town hall dates back to the 14th century.
In the afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Aix-en-Provence and touched the same stones that built Rome 2,000 years ago. Later, we sampled calissons, the local version of marzipan, and walked 50 minutes to buy a community of santons, Provence’s unique hand-painted terracotta nativity figurines. We ate dinner at a restaurant called La Bouchee. In its small space, we felt like flies on a French wall as the only non-French patrons. We sat in a corner taking in the genial interactions between couples and groups of friends while enjoying our yummy cheese ravioli and its truffle cream sauce. It was Jason’s favorite meal of our entire trip.
The Mediterranean Sea looked like a frothy sapphire.
On our last day in France, we spent the morning strolling Aix-en-Provence’s famous Saturday market. There, we bought citrus fruits and scarfs while appreciating the general bazaar ambiance. We encountered bent old men with canes taking home huge bouquets of flowers, a weekly ritual probably performed most of their lives.
In Cassis, brightly-colored boats bobbed just beyond colorful cafes.
In the afternoon, we went to Cassis, a petite town situated picturesquely on the Mediterranean Sea. The coral, lemon, and apricot-colored cafes and shops were charming. We savored a lunch of seafood and pasta at one of these restaurants while the Mediterranean sunshine curled around us like a sleepy cat. We walked along the breezy waterfront and took a boat ride through the crevices of the coastline before heading back to Aix-en-Provence. Our flight for home departed the next morning.
The Calanques, slender inlets bounded by jagged limestone cliffs, are fascinating fingers.
Before closing this traveling trilogy, allow me to pass along two more of our French discoveries: 1. All French beaches are nude beaches whether they indicate so or not. While nothing official labeled the small beach in Cassis as “nude,” that didn’t stop the beachgoers from removing their clothing as convenience dictated. As we walked by, we saw a man pull off his swim shorts and several topless women taking an invigorating stroll together. There were kids playing soccer on this same beach, so, obviously, nudity is considered family friendly in France. Expect accordingly. 2. Despite claims to the contrary, not all of the pastries in France are amazing. Yes, you can find many fantastic bakery delicacies in France, but don’t just pop anything in your mouth expecting it to be worth the calories. Choose selectively.
Cassis felt airy and welcoming.
This busy trip came with a significant amount of cultural revelations, including some discoveries about our own culture. With nearly 40 students in our group, cliques formed over the course of our trip where few preexisted. It was interesting and disturbing to see them develop over just two weeks. Jason and I purposefully avoided being cliquey and invited everyone to come sightseeing with us without exclusions. Come on people, cliques weren’t even cool back in high school. Haven’t we moved past that asinine elitism as adults?
Jason insisted I include this selfie, despite my drool strings.
We came back from Europe depleted within days of our Halloween party, a topic I will address next week without further delay.