Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pumpkin Spice: Breaking the Addiction

The leaves are beginning to fall, the morning air is crisp and cool, and you can practically smell nutmeg wafting on every gentle breeze. It's pumpkin spice season, also (less commonly) known as fall, and the flavor is turning up everywhere. With this addictive substance now being pushed on every corner, pumpkin spice is getting its hooks into more and more of us, and its hold is strong. My completely fabricated statistic shows that one in three Americans is addicted to pumpkin spice. Consider the following list of symptoms to see if you, too, have fallen prey to the spice phenomenon:

Do you find yourself anxiously awaiting the arrival of autumn, simply because you know pumpkin spice will start showing up on shelves?

Are you afraid to bypass any pumpkin spice product, for fear of missing out on some delicious, far-too-fleeting seasonal experience?

Have you stockpiled as many sources of pumpkin spice ecstasy as humanly possible? Does your inventory include cookies, cakes, cupcakes, coffee, coffee creamer, pies, muffins, cream cheese, jam, bread, and (gasp) even beer?

Do everyday activities seem arduous without the aid of pumpkin spice? Do you find yourself thinking that you could get through the task at hand much easier if you had a pumpkin spice latte within your grasp?

You are not alone in this compulsion. Personally, I don't even drink coffee--Starbucks holds very little fascination for me--and yet, I begin jonesing for a pumpkin spice latte in early September. Once I hear that an acquaintance has scored a hit, I practically jump out of my skin until I, too, can get my fix. And once that high wears off, all I can think about is when I can get my hands on more of that glorious stuff. Pumpkin spice (also nicknamed p-spice by pushers and junkies) has become a street drug, people, and a powerful one at that.

Just to show how serious my condition is, I want you all to know that I willingly and eagerly bought these a couple of weeks ago (the fact that there is still some product remaining over a two week period should tell you something about the taste):

This is a dire situation, indeed. I'm not usually a connoisseur of fine chia and flaxseed products, but you throw a pumpkin seed in there and suddenly, I am powerless to resist. I have even given into the temptation and purchased pumpkin spice protein the name of fall fitness, of course.

If any of these situations rings familiar for you, you should know that you are not alone, and that there is help. I'm pretty sure that last week, while snacking on a Little Debbie Pumpkin Delight cake, I read that the first step is admitting you have a problem. I was contemplating whether or not Pumpkin Spice Oreos were a worthwhile purchase when I came across the second step, which is admitting that you are powerless over pumpkin spice. I'm ready to agree with both of those, in an effort to move forward with healing.

In addition to those first, courageous steps, I think the most effective way to break the cycle of p-spice addiction is to bombard your senses with all things pumpkin and spice. It's a daunting commitment, but you have to take your well-being into your own hands and risk drastic measures. Indulge yourself in sinful amounts of cinnamon, mega doses of nutmeg, and copious amounts of cloves. Sooner or later, our taste buds will be desensitized to the deliciousness, and this pumpkin spice spell will be broken, right?

If you find yourself still in the throes of codependency, take heart in the notion that soon it will be entirely possible to wean yourself off the rush of a spiced, seasonal gourd by gradually making the switch to our next round of limited-time treats. This is also known as the third step in the recovery process: turning it over to a higher power, which in this case, clearly means such holiday-inspired flavors as eggnog, gingerbread, and peppermint. Put down the pumpkin, and reach for the hand of a gingerbread man. Resist the lure of the p-spice, and let the soothing sensation of peppermint wash over you. Think calming thoughts of eggnog and caramel brulee. We can, and we will, persevere and come out on the other side of this, come hell, high water, or chestnut praline latte. Because, above all else, we are pumpkin spice survivors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween Costumes--Let's Get Awesome

Halloween is less than three weeks away, and whether you've got a party to attend or just want to get in the spirit of the holiday, it's time to start planning a costume. And while the Caitlyn Jenner getup does exist, I think we're all more than tired of keeping up with the Kardashians. So put down that white corset and let's see what other options abound, shall we?

I've learned over the years to avoid the costume extremes. Politely say no to things labeled "sexy"--this includes sexy nurse, sexy pirate, sexy police officer, sexy fairy...because in the world of Party City dress up, sexy is code for trashy. On the other end of the spectrum, no one wants to spend their Halloween looking exceptionally homely either. A few years ago, Clint and I dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl. His costume included big, faux muscles and a trusty corn cob pipe; mine came with a homely black wig and a dress only a bargain bin could love. He felt like a rock star, I felt like crawling under a rock. Ever since, I've collected a few costume ideas--for individual costumes and couples costumes--that might be a little less painful to sport.

Let's start with some timeless fun. Personally, I have never met a carbohydrate I didn't like, so I was particularly taken with this macaroni and cheese costume I saw on Pinterest. I haven't made this one myself, but allegedly, in Pinterest speak, all you really need is a laundry basket with a homemade label to serve as your cup, and spray painted toilet paper rolls for noodles. (If you find yourself ill-prepared and don't have 50 toilet paper rolls just lying around, toilet papering yards is also considering a fun Halloween festivity. Now your costume gets bonus points for mischief making, in addition to looking delicious).

Macaroni and cheese? Yes, please.

If that bowl of noodles feels a little too cumbersome, I love this easy option for guys. I'm a sucker for any and every pun that there is, and funny costumes are always top prize winners in my book. You could easily make this chick magnet with some cardboard and paint, but for less than $25 you can buy the real deal here and really look the part. If it were me, I would also hand out Peeps left and right, but I'm not a chick magnet per se, so it's only a suggestion.

For the man who's already a chick magnet the other 364 days a year.

I also love trendy and timely costumes--those that capitalize on the headlines and pop culture of the moment. If you think I'm suggesting you dress as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle this year, you have ever-so-slightly missed the mark. No matter what your political preferences might be, here are a couple of options that might be right up your left or right wing alley.

We actually have this milk carton costume in our attic, a leftover remnant from Halloweens gone by (because it's a ridiculously easy costume that I can convince my hubby to wear when he has willfully resisted all other options). It's available on Amazon and all over the Internet. Typically, it looks as though your face is on the side of a milk carton, aka you are dressed as a missing person. To make this costume more current, don the same "missing" costume and go as Hillary Clinton's emails (minus the FBI investigation). Suddenly, you're so 2015.

Have you seen Hillary's emails? I have a feeling there's a reward.

I have to admit, this next option is a personal favorite of mine. even if it does include the wearing of booty shorts. It's the (and I promised we would steer clear of this option, but this simply has to be an exception) sexy Donald Trump costume. The hat and wig are sold separately, but don't you dare show up without them. Get into character by telling everyone that your costume is the best, most amazing costume ever and all other costumes are stupid and fat. If I were going to a party and asked to bring a dish, I would change the label on a box of Bugles to "Trump-ets"--perfect for snacking, or tooting your own horn. 

Trump all the other costumes with this one. Make Halloween great again.

Couples costumes can also present a dress-up challenge. You want to find that special pairing that is complimentary, but not gag-inducing. Let's shy away from that electrical outlet and plug (please, just no), and we all know you can't throw a piece of candy corn without hitting a flapper and her gangster companion. What the ideal couple's costume seeks to convey is the sense that they are the perfect pair, made for each other. What better way to illustrate that than by dressing as Paula Deen and her passionate lover, butter? For the record, I would absolutely give out Butterfinger candy bars if this were my costume choice.

We love each other, y'all.

If the idea of being a walking stick of butter doesn't exactly thrill you, here's another out-of-the-box option that really "struck" me: how about a bolt of lightening and a person who has been struck? 

Clearly, their attraction is electric.

One last "thrilling" option for couples or for a group is to outfit yourself as roller coaster riders (raised hands and screaming optional, but encouraged). Get a little crafty and make yourself a cardboard seat with a stuffed pair of pants and some old shoes for legs, add a safety harness and you are ready to ride, so to speak.

Roller coaster costume--a real scream.

If all else fails, you can always cut some holes in a sheet and go as a ghost (or add a halo and go as "holy sheet"). Or write "life" on a plain white t-shirt and hand out lemons. Or don your designer everything, a ridiculously tall pair of high heels, add a glass of champagne, and be a Real Housewife of anywhere--just to be sure to create a scene and/or cat fight everywhere you go or your costume won't be authentic. Whatever you choose to be this Halloween, go all out, have plenty of fun with it, and when you win that Best Costume trophy, maybe give me a mention in your acceptance speech. 

Happy Costuming!