Friday, September 16, 2011

Scents of Fall

Last year I talked a bit about what I love about the fall in a general sense, but this year I want to tell you a bit about one of the other things I love about the fall - and those are the beautiful smells that start to abound this time of year. Every season has its share of odors, and fall is one that has some of the most distinct and memory-invoking.

Cinnamon & Spice: Whether it's in cider, pumpkin spice lattes, or warm apple crisps - one of the things that happens in the fall is that the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and other similar spices can be met in many of the kitchens or restaurants you walk into. There's something about looking out over the changing trees, holding a cup of warm mulled cider in your hands, and letting the scents of cinnamon mixed with apple blanket you in comfort.

Leaves: Remember when you were a kid and you'd waddle through a pile of leaves? First of all - I have no idea why we did this as kids, as the pass-time seems a bit silly at this point. I can't tell you how many pairs of tights I ruined trudging through leaf piles. Either way - even to this day there's something pleasant that I find about the smell that is kicked up when a pile of leaves is rustled. It's like nature's own fall scratch-n-sniff sticker.

Apples: This is the time of year when people who live in an area that has access to it begin to flock to the apple orchards and pick their own apples. If you go to a GOOD orchard, they let you eat the apples as you pick them so you know if you want to gather more from that area of the orchard or not. As people pluck the apples and take a few bites - they end up on the ground around the bases of the trees. When this happens, what you get is a general scent of apple throughout the area... not that you wouldn't anyways because, you know, it's an orchard - but that adds to it for sure.

Friday Night: Popcorn, Hot Chocolate & Sweat Trifecta: Go to a high school football game and you'll know what I mean by this bizarre mix of scents. I haven't experienced this in many years, but just thinking of it reminds me of going to games both as a regular student and as a member of the marching band all 4 years of high school. Some Fridays, there's not much I can think of that would be more enjoyable than heading back to Nicholson Field in Methuen and catching a game... just for old time's sake.

Thanksgiving: Turkey in the oven, cornbread stuffing with sage, simmering fresh cranberry sauce, cider in the Crockpot... there are few more comforting things I can think of than the way a home smells the day of Thanksgiving. Thinking of the crisp chill in the air every year with the warmth of food and family inside our home is a beautiful picture on my heart. In fact, right now I'm thinking about it and I just want to pop a turkey in the oven over the weekend for the sake of having this smell in my house.

Now for the ulterior motive to this post... to tell you about a GIVEAWAY I heard about... one of the blogs I follow - Fashion Meets Food - is having a giveaway of 2 sets of Bath & Body Works candles in their fall scent line up! Since fall is one of my favorite seasons... ok, definitely my favorite season... I had to a) enter this contest myself and b) share it with my few readers out there so that you could try to get these candles as well.

To enter - just leave a comment on the post (link below) telling the author which set you would prefer and what your favorite part about the fall is. For extra entries, you can follow her blog and/or tweet/blog/post about her giveaway on Facebook. Super easy to enter this contest to get some fantastic fall smells for your home!

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Love & Freeze Pops

I remember being young, running around in the hot summer heat, and finding respite in a tube of frozen flavored sugar water. My mom would cut the top off with a pair of scissors and hand it to me. I would sit in front of a fan or the window and enjoy my freeze-pop. I would chomp on the ice, suck the cold "juice" from the tube when it was gone, and appreciate every second of coolness that the frozen tube of goodness would provide.

We didn't have air conditioning... this was how we found a bit of a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

One day last week I was driving to work and needed a break from the baseball talk that was on the radio, so I switched over to NPR. There I heard David Boeri reporting on the hot conditions of a Cambridge jail. The jail - which is designed to hold 160 - is currently home to over 400 inmates who are waiting for trial to find out what their fate will be. The jails in the state of Massachusetts are notoriously falling apart and overcrowded, and as anyone knows when you get too many people crammed into one place - it is rare that anything good comes from that.

Add to that a lack of air conditioning during some of the hottest days of the year, as well as the presumed short-fuses that many criminals tend to have - and what you have on your hands is a potential for disaster.

Unless... unless you remember that these are human beings being kept within the overcrowded walls of the jail. Human beings who are overheating and anxious as they have no idea what the fate of the next months or years of their lives will be. Human beings with families that they are likely stressed about whether or not they'll ever see again. Human beings that may be living with the guilt of their crimes.

Human beings who, at their core, want nothing more than compassion and love just like the rest of us.

So when you come to this realization, what do you do with it? Do you ignore it and write these people off as mere criminals who should rot in the cells and suffer with their emotions & heat? If you are one of the officers of this facility, do you ignore it... or do you listen to the strings being pulled on your heart and offer an ounce of compassion?

In this case... they chose compassion.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 
 Matthew 25:35-40

If you've never had a freeze pop, it really is a quick way to boost your sugar level and cool off for a few minutes when you're drained in hot, disgusting weather. And they are incredibly inexpensive - as the folks in the story mention, they are about $0.03/each. These little tubes of sugar water can be incredibly refreshing when you think that the heat will never end. I don't know what it was that inspired the prison worker who's idea this was to hand these out, but whatever the inspiration it clearly was one with heart behind it. I don't know the prison worker's religious standing, but we can certainly look at his simple actions as an act of what Jesus has called us to... compassion, love for one another, and a heart for those in our society who have been outcast - in this case because of their actions.

But all 400-odd prisoners are God's children. They may have strayed, but they still belong to Him and in each of them - He is there.

I think back to those sweat-drenching summer days, trying to find the article of clothing that would best keep me cool to wear that day and hoping there were freeze pops on-hand someplace to give me a bit of respite. I would like to think that maybe the worker's inspiration came from a memory similar to mine, and maybe in those few moments while they're chomping on sugar ice for a bit of a cool down the inmates can close their eyes and have similar nostalgic moments. I picture a group of 5 or 6 inmates, sitting near a fan or window, eyes closed, freeze pop tube to their lips, finding those brief moments of respite from the heat.

And maybe for the first time in a long time feeling like someone cares enough about them to notice how they're feeling. Cares enough to reach out and even with a simple gesture acknowledge that even though they are caged... they are still God's children, they are still loved.

In the simple act of a freeze-pop, these inmates are able to experience a bit of love & heaven in an otherwise hellish atmosphere.

“’s a nice gesture — it says that ‘We care that you’re hot, cool you down for a few minutes,’ you know, they don’t have to do this. They treat you good here. They treat you like human beings.” - Robert Asarian, prisoner - one year away from trial

Click here to read the whole story - At the Middlesex Jail, Simple Gestures Help Keep the Peace