Pumpkin spice and everything nice | NNoTW September 30, 2021

Fall has officially…fallen; and with it millions of pumpkin spiced Pinterest boards have sprung up featuring porches and front doors and lawns covered in physical celebrations of autumn.  Obviously, I, too am all aboard the trainful of haybales.  This meme (which I did not make) pretty accurately represents my feelings on the matter:

As opposed to apparently all of North Dakota, however, I have no discernible skill when it comes to seasonal decorating.  For example, I am the only person in Grand Forks incapable of keeping a pot of mums alive.  I was lamenting this to one of my (well-decorated) friends and she said, “It sounds like you’re overwatering it,” and so I bought a new pot of mums and didn’t water it and it died and she said, “Well you have to water it a little,” so I bought another pot and watered it a little and it still died and she said, “Maybe you should try dried grass.”

I partially blame my lack of an orange thumb on the fact that I am Jewish, because I just don’t think the Jews are really in the inner cinnamon circle when it comes to celebration-based porch decorating.  I’m lumping us all into a group, obviously, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve gone over to a fellow Jew’s house and thought, “Man, I sure do like that Fourth of July bunting.”  We Jews actually have a holiday that falls smack in the middle of harvest in which decorations are part of the celebration (we hang up garlands and dried fruit and whatnot around a tent-structure called a Sukkah), but it’s less “Martha Stewart’s Top 5 Sukkah Splashes” and more like, “Get the craft paper and yarn so we can move onto the eating.”

I could be projecting these assumptions based on my own family’s lack of proclivity for all things Hobby Lobby.  My dad is an expert-level gardener, and so my parents’ method of decorating consisted of my mom swapping out the front door wreaths and all of us waiting for the next series of plants and flowers to bloom in and around the yard.  This was/is all well and good for them – but, as decades of mums would tell you, I would either need to lean into a theme of “old crone witch living deep in the forest with buckets of blackened roses and cupboards of poison” or invest all of my resources (and storage) into silk flowers.

Nevertheless, I press on.

We’re in a new house with a lovely front porch that is just perfect for decorating.  It’s so perfect, in fact, that the previous homeowner was known across Grand Forks for her amazing holiday décor, which is definitely the type of pressure I thrive on hahahahahahahahahaha.  When we first moved in, I went and got five beautiful bunches of red zinnias and planted them in big white pots in the hopes that it would trick the universe into thinking the old homeowner was still there and make them bloom into bundles of amazingness.

Unsurprisingly, they died.

Fortunately, they held on just long enough for Fall; and so last Saturday, I pulled those poor formerly-zinnias out of the pots (sorry again, plants) and decided that I would focus all of my efforts on putting up the most amazing autumn tchotchkie display anyone has ever seen.  Then, after Pinteresting ideas and reading an insane number of blogs on “DIY Decorating!,” I downgraded this great plan into one that had me setting out a small amount of pumpkins in a way that didn’t look like crap.

With my ten-year-old off playing with friends, my six-year-old and I loaded up into the car and drove 1,000 feet down the road to the neighbors’ houses, who had dozens of perfect pumpkins and gourds laid out across their yard and a “Pumpkins Sold Here” sign.

The pumpkins were neatly organized into $1, $3, $4, $5, $10, and $12 rows, and my strategy for a “small amount of pumpkins” just about went out the window when Six and I realized we liked ALL of the pumpkins and started stacking a gazillion of them into my trunk.  Finally, being a responsible grownup got the better of me, and we put back all but four of them (plus two little green ones) and rolled back home.  We set the pumpkins on the front steps – one per step – and the two little greenies by the door, shook hands, and Six ran off to play.

I stepped back to admire our work – and frowned.  Something wasn’t Pinterest-y enough about it.

I moved the green pumpkins down to the steps and shifted a few of the oranges over to look a bit more random and stepped back again.  Still not right.

I moved the greenies to the columns next to the door and the oranges all lumped together.  Nope.

I put all of them by the columns.  Nope again.

I moved all of the pumpkins to the bottom step.

Across the street, two teenagers were sunning themselves on the lawn.  Around the third iteration, one of them sat up and was watching me intently.

“Put the orange and green one on the top,” one shouted.  I did that.

“Put two by those columns,” he pointed.  I did it.

“Put the rest on the steps,” he said – and, having exerted all of the necessary effort, returned to lounging.

It looked great.

It still looks great.  It looks so great that I’m thinking about adding a front door wreath.  Obviously, I’ll be taking my neighbor to the store with me.

The photo above is Kyle’s artistic take on the green pumpkins.

This week’s news has an Opening Act, Oktoberfest, and a bad word.  Read on.


Mandan’s Brianna Helbling has been writing songs since she was seven years old, and is now gearing up for the quarter finals of “The Opening Act” competition. (KX Net)

Dickinson’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk raised over $30,000 in support of suicide prevention. [A side note on this: I participated in the Fargo walk – they happen all over the country – at the same time.  What struck me is how.many.sad.people. were there walking for each person lost to suicide.  If you are considering suicide, remember that there are so many people who will miss you and reach out to one of them for help.] (Dickinson Press)

For the next month, Medora will be home to Johnny Cash. (Dickinson Press)

A Williston mom got a letter from her Guard son, courtesy of a clerk at the post office. (KX Net)

Four Grand Forks teenagers were given a Saved by the Belt Award for wearing their seatbelts when their car rolled, saving all of their lives. (Grand Forks Herald)

Bismarck’s Madeline Erickson has been named the Youth Advocate of the Year by the national Tobacco-Free Kids organization for her work to eliminate vaping. (KX Net)

Last Saturday was Hankinson’s 19th annual Oktoberfest celebration, which starts with the traditional tapping of the keg. (Wahpeton Daily News)

Belfield’s Ruth Johnson was honored with the fourth-annual Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award, given to “spotlight positive actions done by local people with the purpose to build morale throughout the county.”  Bonus, the story includes a compliment from a former student, who wrote, “My teach is a b**ch and her name is Mrs. Johnson.” 🙂 (Dickinson Press)

Congratulations to North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year, Bret Dockter of Harvey! (KVRR)

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