Review: Halloween

I don’t think I actually saw the original Halloween (1978) until after college.  Perhaps I saw it earlier and just didn’t remember it, but I don’t think I actually saw it until relatively late in life.  Growing up, I wasn’t really into “slasher movies,” though the Friday the 13th franchise was frequently on TV, so I caught a few of those here and there.  I’ve seen parts of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but never the whole thing.  The 1980s were the heyday of slasher franchises, so I remember going to the Gerbes in Columbia to check out movies available for rental and seeing all of the covers for lots of movies I’d only later be old enough to actually watch.

The thing I really appreciate about the first Halloween movie is that it a). kicked off the “slasher” genre, and b). contains no blood.  Not a drop.  There’s tension, there’s violence.  But there’s no gore to it.  Not that I’m against such things, but I think it sets itself apart from other movies that came out in that era and later that leaned so hard into gross-out territory that it wasn’t really scary so much as it was shocking.  Later movies in the Halloween franchise definitely kicked things up a few notches, but they weren’t better for it.  In fact, the movies were barely comprehensible, aside from a few examples that weren’t utter train wrecks.

This brings us to Halloween (2018), technically the third movie to bear that name (there was another reboot in 2007 that wasn’t all that bad).  This film has a few things going for it that piqued my interest.  Firstly, it ignores all of the other movies except the original, which is a crazy thing for a franchise to do.  Secondly, it takes place, in real time, 40 years later, so the passage of time is integral to the story being told.  Lastly, they got Jamie Lee Curtis back to portray Laurie Strode, but with 40 years of trauma built in that turned her into a secluded “prepper,” who is ready for the return of Michael Meyers.

As the original is probably my favorite horror movie of all time, it isn’t surprising that I liked this one, too.  I like the direction it took, the story it told, and the characters involved in telling it.  This new iteration was, in some ways a “remake” of the original, which has been the trend in Hollywood to “tell a new story” by “retelling the old one” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes to mind).  However, I think this one leaned more toward “callback” than “retelling.”  Some similar story beats were totally there, like the psychiatrist and sheriff pairing up to find Michael, or the babysitter connected to the main characters being a target on Halloween night, and so on.  But I think the writers did a good job of acknowledging the original movie while putting enough twists in the plot to make it a new thing.  The fact that I knew certain main characters wouldn’t die (because they’re main characters…), but I still felt tense at the edge of my seat, is a testament to what they were able to craft here.

So yeah, it was good.  Was it as good as the original?  Probably not.  But this movie still didn’t have all that much gore to it.  There’s totally violence and, this time, there’s blood in there…but it wasn’t over-done like some horror films will do.  It wasn’t as much “shocking” as it was “tense,” and I think that’s about as true to the original as you can get.

Upgrades

Well, that looks different…

The front porch has been in need of repair for…years…really…  We weren’t entirely sure if they were the original floors or not (ca. 1906), but we knew they were very old and that the edges nearest the concrete steps were disintegrating with each step the postal worker takes onto our porch.  Thus, it was one of my “summer projects” to figure it out.

I checked around a little bit, once with someone who was recommended by a neighbor but never called me back, and then a second group recommended by a different neighbor who did finally call me back.  Their price seemed reasonable, though higher than we really wanted to pay for it (like anything), but we figured it would be worth it.  Firstly, it wouldn’t take extra time on my part.  Secondly, it would be done by professionals (i.e. correctly).  Thirdly, and importantly, we weren’t even entirely sure how to complete the work by ourselves because of the way the columns were on the porch.  The columns needed to be removed and the roof propped up with posts if we were going to replace the whole floor, so we figured the pros was the way to go.

So save a little bit on the total bill, once we knew exactly when the work was happening (and it took over a month from “yes, we’ll do it” to “actually starting”…), Brooke and I tore up as many of the boards as possible.  We also removed the railings and scraped them down so they can be re-painted.  While I was working on the floorboards, Brooke cleaned, sanded and started priming the lattice covers that go down closer to the ground.  

Our “Labor Day” was rather labor intensive…

We couldn’t remove the boards under the columns, so we saw that coming, but the boards in front of the door, we thought we’d be able to remove.  Sadly, they were pinched underneath a 2×4 that was a part of the doorjam, so no matter what we did, we couldn’t get them out.  Ultimately, we think we saved the pros some time, but we kinda hoped we could do more.

We did notice another set of nails underneath the existing slats, so it’s likely this was at least the second set of floorboards on that porch.  Still, they were old, so they’ve at least been on a few decades…just maybe not 100 years…

Anyway, they started on Tuesday morning and got some of the work done, but not as much as I’d hoped.  Rain is a substantial issue this week, so we’ve been keeping an eye on the weather for when exactly we could prime and paint the new boards, so having it all done in one day would have been ideal, but alas, home improvement rarely happens according to schedule.

They got the columns removed and propped up the roof with boards and removed the extra floor slats we weren’t able to (somehow).  They also switched out some of the more rotten joists that have been there since the beginning of time.

And that was about all they got done that first day.  The rest of the boards had to wait until today, when the rain was scheduled to hit.

Thankfully, the rain was pushed back into late-afternoon (parts of Missouri are expecting 7″ or more…so yeah…rain is coming…), so they were able to get everything finished up by early afternoon.

Brooke came home early after stopping to pick up primer and paint.  I left work a little early to help, and it’s good I did because the clouds were coming in…

The new boards are made of pine, rather than the red oak that we used to have.  Sure, they won’t last as many years as the last ones, but if we keep them painted appropriately, maybe we’ll get a few decades out of them.

Speaking of which, Brooke was slapping on primer when I got home, so between the two of us, we were able to get it mostly primed before the rain hit.  Unfortunately, it did start raining before it was dry, so some of the spots we primed are lighter than others, but hopefully that single coat does some good in keeping the rain off the boards these first few days.

We’re going to prime the columns, too, once the rain is finally over in a few days.  We’ll still go with a “gray” of some kind on the floor and paint the columns and other panels white, much like it’s been for the last few decades.  The railings will be painted black as well, but again, we’ve got to get through a few days of rain before we can start on a few of those things, and even then, we have to let them dry before we can put them up again.

Therefore, I’m posting this now because, frankly, I have no idea when all of it will actually be done.  Hopefully we can get to some of it this weekend, but the way the weather is going (the remnants of Hurricane Gordon are making their way up toward us as I write this…), it may be next week before we can actually sit some of that stuff outside for painting and drying.  The garage is full of the wicker furniture for the porch, so there’s not a ton of room in there, but if we get ancy, perhaps we can rearrange a bit to make more progress.

Regardless, we’re happy with it!  More pictures will come after it’s all done!

Garden Update: Mid-August

Thar be tomatoes here!!!

We finally have some tomatoes coming off the vine after what seemed like an eternity.  The paste-type tomatoes Brooke planted have been hanging around for a few weeks, but very slow to actually start turning red.  We also finally got some rain in the past few weeks, so while that’s been good for the garden, as a whole, the tomato ripening has slowed due to slightly cooler temperatures and the cloud cover.  I guess I can’t complain all that much…

Brooke is officially “done” with the pickles.  She ended up with around 12 pints of dill pickles and lots of the aforementioned lime pickles.  I’m honestly pretty surprised how many of these things we got this year, as compared with other things we’ve planted in that spot (e.g. watermelons, pumpkins), so I suspect we’ll put more of them in next year.  I guess that depends on how many pickles we have left in March 2019…

Still workin’ on those pole beans…

The pole beans keep trucking along, but we haven’t gotten all that many of them yet.  Brooke’s been filling up a jar, but it’s only a handful so far.  They’re relatively far for the garden hose to reach, so I haven’t kept up on watering them much, but the rain recently has helped them survive just a bit longer.

Bigger pods than we get from the soup beans

The soup beans are being processed, too.  Meg’s gone through a few handfuls of bean pods in the last week, so she’s working on an ice cream bucket of them.  We’ve still got some from last year downstairs, so we didn’t plant nearly as many as before, but hey…it seems weird not to grow at least some, right?

Did I tell you we’re getting tomatoes now???

We’re also getting a ton of green peppers.  I feel like the harvest is substantially better than from previous years.  We’ve got poblano, “margaret,” coyame, and something else that Brooke can’t remember growing and all of them have tons of peppers.  Brooke’s thinking she’ll prep some “chili veggies” ahead of time and vacuum-seal them for later on in the Fall, so whatever we don’t use fresh, at least we’ll be able to store.

The garden’s starting to wind down a tad, but based on how much is on there still, I think we’ll be picking well into September!

Grand Tour of Missouri State Parks

Look at those happy campers!
Look at those happy campers!

We like to think of ourselves as “outdoorsy” types and, thankfully, we’ve got a really good Department of Natural Resources in Missouri to provide us with some great opportunities around the state.  When we traveled the Oregon Trail last year, Brooke and I found that many other states out that direction had some very unimpressive parks to visit, especially with regards to how much they charge to camp there relative to the quality of the facilities provided.  Thankfully, Missouri has cheap rates (even for non-residents), and some really nice places to visit.

Therefore, we decided it would be cool to hit every state park in Missouri before both kids graduate from high school.  There are 54 state parks and another 33 historic sites, many of which are also associated with the parks.  We’ve already visited a few of them as a family of four, so if we visit a few each year, we should be able to pull it off rather easily.  We’ll probably camp at most of them, but some of them like Rock Bridge State Park and Van Meter State Park, we may just visit.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be making a few posts about previous visits that both kids have been present for, so you may see some old pictures showing up.  Apparently, I didn’t post about many of those trips, so I guess I need to catch up.  Still, this will be a lengthy series of posts, so enjoy!

Garden Update: Mid-June

The main garden area...
The main garden area…

It’s about time I updated everyone on how the garden’s going.  Again, we bought this place with the intention of taking advantage of the extra lot next door to the house with growing some fruits and vegetables, so we’ve been busy trying to get that going.

I say “trying” because rain has been something of an issue.  It seems like Marshall has been getting the brunt of the weather these past few weeks, with at least 10 inches falling since the last few weeks of May.  It has slowed down this week, though, giving us a chance to get some work done and let the sun come out to do its thing.

In the picture above, you can see the green beans pretty plainly in the middle of the garden.  Soup beans are planted in the bottom-left, and broccoli is slowly making headway in the upper-left.  The far-right has peas that are ready for picking, so we’ve been working on those a bit recently.  Our neighbors have been picking theirs for at least a week now, but they planted a bit earlier than we did.  The carrots have been in the ground about as long as the peas, though they still seem a bit on the small side.

Brooke also planted a row of corn where the radishes used to be.  I say “used to” because I pulled them up a few weeks ago.  Of all the things we planted, they were the only ones to really adhere to their prescribed schedule.  They grew pretty well, incidentally, as we got quite a few big ones!

Yes, that's a radish.
Yes, that’s a radish.

That row of radishes turned out pretty well, so I suspect we’ll move forward with them again next year, even though I’m about the only one in the house that likes them (Brooke will eat them on salads…Calvin just spits them out…).

In the background of the picture far above, you’ll also see an A-frame of sorts, where Brooke planted some sweet potatoes.  We haven’t grown any since we were up in Iowa, when Meg would eat them constantly.  We’ll see if we’re as successful this time around – at least we can make fries out of them…

Tomatoes and berry bushes...
Tomatoes and berry bushes…

The other garden plot still needs some work, obviously.  Lots of weeds growing in the front portion (where we still plan on putting some green pepper plants), but we finally got the tomatoes in a few weeks ago.  Brooke started most of them as seeds on our back porch using a heating pad she picked up from Menard’s, but I supplemented with some plants I stole from students at school (they left for summer…oh well…).  A few of those plants disappeared, likely due to rabbits or squirrels, so we’re having to keep them protected with milk jugs until they get big enough.

You’ll also notice the trellises we set up between rows of tomatoes.  We’ve tried a few different methods in the past and have never been all that happy with any of them.  Before we moved last year, we tried making A-frames using PVC pipes.  That generally worked, but a). the middle of the A-frame got zero sun, so no tomatoes grew, and b). we moved before we actually got to harvest anything…grrrr…  This time, we spaced things out a bit more and made two trellises, so we’ll see how they hold up.

In the background, you’ll also see a white frame where blackberries and raspberries have been planted.  I suspect we’ve got critters munching on them as well, but we weren’t expecting to get much out of those plants this year, anyway.  At least their root systems will get established this summer.

Lastly, in the top picture, you’ll notice we’re slowly surrounding the garden(s) with concrete blocks.  We’ve been making them using disposable aluminum cooking trays with leftover Quickrete from our other long-term project:

The concrete path we're making to the side of the house.
The concrete path we’re making to the side of the house.

We debated how to handle this, exactly, and went back and forth between stone pavers, a mulch path, and everything in between.  The problem with that spot is that grass doesn’t really grow there, tree roots are all over the place, and it gets really muddy after it rains at all.  So, we needed some kind of pathway to get from our backyard down to the side area where the garden is.

Brooke eventually found a concrete form that lets you make individual stones from Quickrete, so we’ve been slowly grabbing (heavy) bags and making stones when we get a chance (or when the sun comes out…which, again, has been an issue…).  It’s coming along alright, though the pathway isn’t exactly “uniform” in how each stone looks.  Once we’re done, we’ll spread some sand around it and try to fill in some of the gaps to make it look like they’ve been there awhile, or so they’re more integrated into the dirt.

I think that’s plenty for now!  I’m just hoping those tomatoes get going soon…getting hungry…