Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween and the Jack o' Lantern

There is no symbol more emblematic of Halloween than the jack o' lantern.
According to,
the jack o' lantern is based on Irish tradition and folklore.
It seems there was an Irishman named Jack who 
was constantly aggravating the devil.

First he asks the devil to turn himself into a coin
so Jack can buy a wee bit of rye whiskey.
The devil complies, but Jack pockets the coin
along with a small silver cross, so the devil is trapped.
Jack released the devil after getting him to promise he would leave Jack alone for a year.
As you can guess, Jack continued to outsmart the devil in one way or another.

Eventually Jack dies. God refuses to allow such a trickster into heaven,
and the devil bans Jack from hell 
but tosses a lighted coal to him as a final insult.
Jack puts the coal in a carved out turnip and uses it to provide a glimmer of light
in his eternally dark world.
So "jack of the lantern," now wanders in the night with only a lighted turnip to guide him.

Of course nowadays, a lighted turnip doesn't have the same cachet  as a lighted pumpkin, 
so I doubt we'll see carved Halloween turnips in the US any time soon.
But next year, you might tuck one in with your carved pumpkins,
and whisper a little prayer for old Jack.

Happy Halloween!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Amazing Jack o' Lanterns

In recent years, people have become wildly creative 
with their jack o'lanterns.
Once all you needed was a sharp knife and a candle
to create a glowing lantern out of a pumpkin.
But today, you need a drill, a knife set, sculpting tools, and a lot of artistic talent.
For example, look at these squashes and gourds:
Spooky Halloween Emblem: Jack-o'-lantern; Scary Faces for Halloween 2011 [Zombie Pumpkin PHOTOS]

Or how about this expressive creature?

Pretty amazing, this one:

Or you could just zip it:

You might grimace too if you had a small pumpkin
stuck in your forehead.
Is this what it looks like when a pumpkin gets a little headache?

This last one is clearly contemplative--
probably wondering how long he has 
before he's carted off to the compost pile.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October Nights, Halloween Lights

October Nights, Halloween Lights

Last night I came home after dark and noticed for the first time
a number of Halloween lights sparkling in the blackness.
Putting up Halloween lights is become increasingly customary.
I know people complain about the commercialization of holidays,
but I have to admit that I love to see colored lights decorating the night.
Following are some images of Halloween Lights from the internet.

As a ghostly mist rises in the background, 
white lighted pumpkins and a glittering tree take on an eerie glow:

I like the white lights above,
but I prefer the pumpkin-orange lights for Halloween.
These two shrubs really say pumpkin:

This house incorporates violet, orange, and white lights.
I would hate to meet the spider that fit that sparkly web:

I think this last one is my favorite.
What a fun place this would be to trick or treat
or attend a party. I've never seen so  many jack-o-lanterns.

It would be great to sit on that porch
with a mug of hot cider and a few cookies.
Or a dozen cookies.
And, okay, a few chocolate candy bars ...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Vultures and Cats at Halloween

When  Vultures and Cats Appear

This morning as I was driving on the parkway near my house,
I noticed one, two, three, four, five vultures on one light pole.
That many dark vultures perched on such a small frame 
made quite a visual impact, especially since we are so close to Halloween.

Then I drove a little further. 
and passed by a house I've driven by hundreds of times.
But today, suddenly the curtains parted in an upstairs window
and a large orange tabby cat appeared.
If it had been a black cat, I might have begun to wonder
about such coincidences this close to Halloween.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Clever Halloween Costumes

A fun part of Halloween is choosing one's costume.
Here are a few for toddlers that are really cute.
I don't think you can look at these without smiling:

How about some lobster?

Peanuts, anyone?

Maybe you'd prefer some dough? It's Pop 'n Fresh:

Too much Halloween candy could make you sluggish:

And finally, if  you see a mouse...
give it a hug:

Now that's a clever costume.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Humor

I thought I'd share a few examples of 
Halloween humor that I've run across on the web.
I will just preface this by saying that humor, like beauty, 
is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
I thought this first one was kind of funny:


This is a classic:

Apparently this next photo was first published in a British newspaper
 with a caption explaining the meeting of squirrel and Halloween decoration
was completely serendipitous.

Here's a little medical humor:

This last one is my favorite:

Tomorrow, more Halloween fun.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Treats

A couple of years ago,
 President Obama joked on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno
that Michelle had given out lots of fruit and raisins
as White House Halloween treats,
but they were going to have to start giving out some candy 
or they were going to get egged.
Funny...and so true.
 I've mentioned in this blog before
how my sisters and brothers and I dreaded trick-or-treating
at our great Aunt Rose's house because she always 
put an unwrapped oatmeal cookie in our treat bags
and then tossed an apple in on top of it.
It wasn't only that we had to dust cookie crumbs off all the candy
at the end of the night, it was that for our loot gathering,
we were only in it for the chocolate.
I guess that makes us typically American.
An article in the Daily Mail says 
that 75% of Americans prefer chocolate treats over any other.
If you want to be the most popular house on the block,
the Daily Mail says to hand out Reese's peanut butter cups.
Second place: M & Ms.
Third place: Snickers.
American un-favorites?
Gummy bears, hard candy, lollipops, mints, and gum
are all at the bottom of the list.
So leave those out of your Halloween treat bowl 
unless you want to give out a trick instead of a treat.
And if that idea appeals to you,
don't forget to toss in an oatmeal cookie and an apple.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Homemade Halloween Decorations

You know Halloween has become a cultural mainstay
when even middle-aged men start talking about how they plan to celebrate.

So with every one wanting to get in on the joys of the holiday,
let's continue our countdown to Halloween.
I thought I'd share some ideas for homemade Halloween decorations
that I've found on the internet.

First up, friendly little ghosts.
These are from Country Living magazine.
The Country Living link includes step-by-step directions
and they are super easy to make using balloons, cheesecloth,
and fabric stiffener.

cheesecloth ghost craft project
Photo: Laura Moss

Aren't these felt bats clever?
These are from Country Living magazine online also.
The instructions say all you need is a pair of scissors,
but I have a feeling there's a bit more expertise required.
Here's a link to the instructions: 

Photo: Mikkel Vang

Aren't these glow in the dark ghosts cute?
They are made by inserting a couple of 8-hour glow-in-the-dark light sticks
and then painting on a face using black magic marker. 
Click on the link below the photo for instructions.

Here's another use for glow sticks from
Use paper towel or toilet paper cardboard and cut different eye shapes
and then fill them with a light stick.
The Listotic instructions say that these can be placed in shrubs and trees
so only glowing eyes are visible once darkness comes.
Sounds like fun.

This last one is super easy. 
All you need is fallen leaves and an old pair of boots.

But if you don't have piles of leaves or old boots,
how about this: 
put a fake raven in a cage and call it done.

Tomorrow, more Halloween fun.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Halloween Party Favors

As we get closer to Halloween,
thoughts naturally turn to parties and gatherings.
I think the idea of a party favor is charming,
and it is a custom that goes back several centuries
in one mode or another.
Some of the earliest party favors were small bags of sugar--
 which was very expensive--
or sugar coated almonds.

Following are some cute party favors I found on the web.
Aren't these little tissue paper pumpkins a cute idea?
are filled with candy and small toys or rings:

Here are some transparent bags of popcorn
fixed up to look like friendly little ghosts:

I don't think you can ever go wrong with decorated sugar cookies
like these Halloween shapes from Cookies by Design in Fort Worth:

These orange and black boxes filled with candy corn
by Jean M. Stationery and Accessories blog
are simple and fun:

that has 21 Halloween part favors and they are all cute.
Here is my favorite, a bat whose wings fold over a candy bar:

I'm not sure I like this one the best 
because it's clever to have the wings fold over to close the package
 or if I like it because there is a candy bar involved.
Either way, it would be delightful to leave the party with one.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Inflatable Halloween Decorations

In a little more than a week,
we will be celebrating All Hallow's Eve,
commonly known as Halloween.
I love to see the Halloween decorations on houses around town.
They seem to become more elaborate every year
with colored lights and jack-o-lanterns being the most simple of choices.
I thought it would be fun to count down to Halloween
by looking at different types of decoration.
First, let's start with the most recent craze,
inflatable decor.

On Sunday, we passed by a house 
that had one of these purple big boys "climbing" up a fence:

Who wouldn't enjoy seeing this next group waiting on the lawn?
My neighbor has a pop up ghost on her front porch, 
but I'm not sure its face is as sweet as the ghost's in this photo:

This is one cool cat:

This last one has to be the most ambitious one I've seen.
Talk about pulling out all the stops.
I wonder why they didn't go all the way 
and  throw in a cat and some candy corn:

Tomorrow, we'll look at some more Halloween decorations.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Perfect Autumn Day

Yesterday was a perfect autumn day.
The sky was blue, the sunshine warm,
the trees fanned across the landscape 
in their customary reds, greens, golds, and oranges.

We were driving through Isle of Wight County 
on our way to Richmond and back again, 
so there were lots of fields 
of soybeans and cotton, corn and peanuts.
Lots of roadside pumpkin stands, too.
We passed by a large field of wheat that was so emerald green
it made everyone look twice.

I thought the mist was rising over the fields 
as we made our way back in the late afternoon,
but it turns out that was dust from the harvesting of peanuts.
That is a pretty dirty job. 

Google Images

I Googled "perfect autumn day" and saw a number of different opinions
about what constitutes a perfect autumn day--
from french toast for breakfast to pumpkin spice lattes
to taking long drives to see the turning leaves.
I guess the perfect autumn day is a lot like everything else--
its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But somehow, we all know it when we see it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Moon at Night

I awoke in the middle of the night and opened my eyes.
There, framed in the window, was a bright and silvery moon
shining in the darkness.
It was a strange and wonderful moment.

I was reminded of a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson
called fittingly, "The Moon."
Here are a few of my favorite lines:

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall ...
She shines ... on streets and fields and harbour quays
and birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
... All love to be out by the light of the moon.

There's nothing more wondrous than a shiny silver moon at night.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Oyster Roast

Living in the Shire means 
we can enjoy various kinds of local shellfish.
Oysters are common in the tidal rivers here 
and have been for hundreds of years.

In fact, archaeologists recently uncovered 400-year-old oyster shells
at Jamestown Colony.
And often we can see oyster shells embedded 
in the foundations of old buildings and in old walls.
The shells were a common addition to cement and mortar.

Here's a garland of oyster shells:

Of course, today, most oysters are for eating, not building.
A lot of local people eat oysters.
I'm not one of them, but a lot of people love them.

Tonight we went to an oyster roast.
The night was warm--unusual for this time of October--and damp. 
But the light sprinkles of rain 
seemed to make the twinkle lights twinkle even more.
The fall decorations were beautiful:
orange and yellow fall leaves, pumpkins and a wreath or two.
And one faux crow sitting in a holly tree surveyed the scene.

Twinkle lights in trees add a festive touch to any gathering:

In the house on the other side, 
a golden lab rested its chin on the window sill
and watched the party unfolding below. 
It might be my imagination, but I'd swear she looked right in my eyes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hunter's Moon

So the night of Friday, October 18th hosts a full moon
called the Hunter's Moon.
Supposedly this full moon is called the Hunter's Moon
because it lights the night,
enabling hunters to hunt later and stock up on food 
before winter's cold dark days and long nights begin.

Image: Hunter's Moon over Athens
Photo Credit: Elias Chasiotis

This October full moon is different 
because the shadow of the earth is supposed to be visible
on the moon's surface.
this is called the penumbral lunar eclipse.

Walking under the light of a full moon
is pretty cool because its light shines bright enough
 that you can see where you are going in the darkness.
Or, you could dance.

The lyrics from the 1844 American standard "Buffalo Gals"
would be a good song to hum while you're out there:

Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight
won't you come out tonight...
and dance by the light of the moon.

What else have you got to do?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October at Night

I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.
                                          --Lucy Maud Montgomery

Yesterday and today, the sun returned to the Shire
after an absence of several days.
It felt wonderful to see bright blue skies
and fluffy white clouds over and above us.
There's nothing more beautiful than red and gold leaves
against a cerulean blue background.
And the temperatures are a little warmer this fall
than last year--and that always makes me happy.
I would say that warm nights are one of the best parts about living in the South.

And tonight, like last night, the clear skies
allowed the moon to shine like a pearl and the stars to twinkle.
There were just enough wispy clouds gliding across the moon 
to give it an air of mystery.

Google images

October nights are filled with moonlight and wood smoke
and the rustle of wind through the trees.
I like to hear the chirping of blackbirds as they settle into the trees for the night,
and sometimes the whistle of a train as it moves through the distance.