November 8, 2011

last days of the jack-o-lanterns

After a few days of frosty temperatures following Halloween, the weather suddenly turned almost summerlike. Less than ideal jack-o-lantern preservation weather.

I may have to part with them soon. I don't think I can bear to just sit by and watch them deteriorate.

November 2, 2011

Halloween Night

The Great Pumpkin would have been pleased.

Sunday's rain and wind subsided and left in their wake a day of clear skies, crisp late-October air, and just enough of a breeze to rustle the leaves on the ground.  Perfection.  More than 150 enthusiastic trick-or-treaters.  And enough candy left over for a late-evening (and next day's breakfast) snack.

Sincerity as far as the eye could see.

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It's a matter of priorities.

Monday is the busiest day of my work week.  Ten hours of work and a return home at 6 p.m. is not uncommon.  It is a day packed with Halloween-destroying potential.  So I did the only sensible thing.  I took the day off.

Instead of getting up at 5:30 a.m. and rushing home exhausted at 6:00 p.m., I have given myself  the Halloween gift of time.  Time to assemble 160 treat bags for the evening's visitors.  Time to enjoy a cup of pumpkin spice coffee.  And perhaps a last pumpkin spice latte.  Time to watch one more classic horror movie.  Time to catch up on the reading of the Halloween Countdown blog posts on which I have fallen far, far behind.  Time to venture out into the yard to repair the damage done by yesterday's storm.  Time to truly enjoy the day.  I think I may give myself this gift every year.

Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2011

the final four

My four remaining pumpkins got their faces yesterday and are sitting comfortably on the front porch, watching the wind and rain. They don't appear to have noticed the absence the the fifth. Whom I traded for a plate of nachos earlier this weekend.

This year marked the end of an era of family pumpkin carving.  Only my daughter and I were involved.  The others expressed sentiments ranging from indifference to disinterest.  I sincerely hope the Great Pumpkin wasn't watching.

October 29, 2011

the first of five

The first of the crop of pumpkins from my front yard garden was carved last night.  Four more will follow. This guy was first for a particular reason.  I had discovered that my local pub was encouraging people to donate jack-o-lanterns to its Halloween display in preparation for Halloween weekend. So eager were they to gather a large collection of pumpkins that they were offering two drinks and an appetizer to each person who contributed a jack-o-lantern.

That's all I needed to hear.  As much as I love my little pumpkin crop, I love Finbars' nachos more.  He looked happy in his new home.

October 28, 2011

the rise of the pumpkin people

There is a small town about an hour's drive away that, for many years now, has devoted the month of October to its "Pumpkin People".  Townspeople were encouraged to create pumpkin-headed scarecrows in their front yards and more elaborate displays were created in public spaces.  In the beginning, it was an impressive sight to behold.  Each year was organized around a theme. From Lord of the Rings.  To an all-pumpkin orchestra.  People drove from miles around to see the pumpkin people.  But after several years, it seemed that the dreaded "Pumpkin People Fatigue" had begun to set in.  Fewer townspeople participated.  The numbers of pumpkin people dwindled.  And the sight of them was less impressive with each passing year. Yes, it appeared that the sun was setting on the era of the Pumpkin People.

But then, something astonishing happened.

As the once-proud Pumpkin People cried out in their collective agony, their voice was heard.  And there was a response.  A rallying cry of support.  And that rallying cry clearly came from my neighbours.  Because suddenly, pumpkin people fever has taken hold on the streets that surround me. Suddenly, pumpkin people are springing up where none had existed before.  Suddenly, my neighbours have taken up the pumpkin people torch and are holding it high.

There are pumpkin witches.

And pumpkin teenagers.

Pumpkin farmers.

And pumpkin vampires.

And even pumpkin smurfs.  

Far from being at death's door, it seems the pumpkin people are alive and well.  And living in my neighbourhood.

October 27, 2011

Dracula by the sea

I began the month of October with a classic monster.  It seemed only appropriate to end it with one.

And so it was that I spent a suddenly wintry late-October evening in a park that juts out into the North Atlantic.  Mercifully, Shakespeare-By-The-Sea's production of Dracula was held in its indoor theatre. Rather than outside in the open air as their summer productions are.

The play was very creatively assembled. With a cast of five taking on bit parts as well as their main roles. It was a mix of genuine creepiness and occasional flashes of humour that worked well.  It's impressive what can be done with a small room hung with black fabric and containing only three basic props.  Oh . . . and puppets.  I was skeptical at first.  But the puppets were a highlight of the evening.

October 26, 2011

feeling deflated

While it is heartening to see far fewer "happy scarecrows" loitering around my neighbourhood this year, giant inflatables seem to be making a comeback.  Even if some of them are a little less inflated than others.

Frankenstein's monster lives down the street from me.  Looks like he's had a few too many late nights this season.

October 25, 2011

resistance is futile

Each year around this time, my resolve breaks down. And I buy a bag of miniature Halloween chocolate bars.  Not for trick-or-treaters.  Just to snack on.  Sort of a reward for seeing these in stores since August and always walking past them.  Looking away.  But now, with Halloween so close, I think, what's the harm in buying a bag?  Or two.  So I do.  And I bring the bag of bars home and empty it into one of my Halloween candy dishes.

The problem is . . . I don't live alone.  I live with three other people who have even less willpower than I have when standing in close proximity to candy.

These might last 24 hours.

October 24, 2011

wooden expressions

Even though I've abandoned more my ambitious plans for my yard this Halloween. Even though I've resigned myself to simply putting together an amalgam of previous years' props.  I've still felt the need to create something new.  But with little more than a week until Halloween night, that "something new" was going to have to be something simple.

Then, to my rescue, came my old faithful tree stumps.

The tree stumps have had quite a long history with me.  They came into being almost ten years ago.  After a hurricane resulted in the downfall of a large pine tree in our backyard.  My father-in-law's chainsaw carved that tree up into multiple pieces to allow for easier disposal.  But  I believed the larger stumps might have some practical use. So I kept them.  And over the years, they've rarely let me down.  They've served as side tables at outdoor barbecues.   They've been the support for temporary benches.  They've acted as the "bodies" of seated props in early Halloween displays.  And they've provided support for lightweight props in later ones.

But lately, I've had to acknowledge that my faithful tree stumps had deteriorated. The wind and the rain, the snow and the ice, had not been kind to them.  Many were literally falling apart under the strain.  And it was that  process of deterioration in one of the larger stumps that reminded me of an open, jagged mouth.

I wanted a "last-minute" prop.  It doesn't get much more "last-minute" than this.

October 23, 2011

at long last . . . sun

The sun finally emerged after an especially rainy and windy week.  There was no time to lose. I live in a coastal city.  Precipitation could return at any moment.  So I took advantage of the sunshine and warmth to freshen up a few tombstones and build an addition to my rickety fence.

It was a perfect Saturday.

October 22, 2011

Nocturne 2011: Year of the Bubbles

For the fourth consecutive year, Halifax has held a city-wide nighttime art show.  Nocturne. Free admission to galleries.  Temporary installations created throughout the city.  It's a wonderful event.  And one that I look forward to each October.  But this year, I noticed some . . . differences.

Perhaps in the beginning, contributors were inspired by the darkness that would surround their work.  Or maybe by the timing of the event in mid-October.  Because many of those early installations possessed an aura of creepiness.

From ghostly figures on lamp posts.

To a dimly-lit graveyard of suitcases.

To a decaying mermaid.

This year, however, the over-riding theme appeared to be bubbles and balloons.  Still enjoyable, but overall, a shinier, happier Nocturne.

I painted with light at the Discovery Centre while bubbles spilled out into the street.  I listened to my heartbeat amplified through a pulsating pink and white, fibre optic jellyfish.  I re-created the experience of a car (sort of) while passing through the Happy Wash.

In retrospect, I think the creepiest part of the night had to be the two giant birds who built a room full of balloons containing the live Tweets they received during the evening.

But then again, I find most feathered creatures disturbing.

October 21, 2011

bell, book and pumpkin spice coffee

I rarely enter contests on blogs. It's not that I don't want to. It's simply that, rather than respond immediately, I make a mental note to go back.  Then my mental note gets lost.  And the next thing I know, winners are being announced.  But when I noticed that Wendy (the very good witch) was hosting a contest at The Halloween Tree, I acted immediately.  Why?  Because the prize was a copy of Bell, Book and Candle.  One of those movies that I have long wanted to see but for one reason or another, have never gotten around to. 

But the Halloween gods smiled upon me.   I won!   And after days of waiting and watching, my DVD was in the mailbox. 

But there was much more in the package than a DVD.  There was a skeleton and candy and pencils and pumpkins and lavender.  And pumpkin spice coffee!

And of course, the DVD for which I had been waiting.  Thank you, Wendy!

I know how I'll be spending my Friday evening.  I expect this to be a nice change of pace from the largely mediocre horror movies that have comprised this season's viewing so far.

But I may have some competition for the pumpkin spice coffee.

October 20, 2011

it's a conspiracy

I'm not usually a paranoid person.  But I think the weather is conspiring against me.

It happens every year.  No sooner do I begin to set up my front yard for Halloween than it begins.  Rain.  Torrential rain.  And wind.  Raging wind.  And I spend the remainder of October doing Halloween damage control.  As I write this, the wind and rain are finally subsiding.  And I'm afraid to look outside.

I think I'll just spend the evening inside with my candles, where it's warm and dry.

October 19, 2011

pumpkin cake

My mother loved to bake. And I loved to eat what she baked. Most of it. Unless it was a new recipe she was trying out that involved vegetables. Or fruit disguised as vegetables. Because as far as I was concerned, baked goods and vegetables simply did not belong together.  In my world, there would be no zucchini bread.  No carrot cake.  And certainly no pumpkin cake.  It just wasn't natural.

Eventually, I relaxed this iron-clad rule.  Thanks to my mother's pumpkin cake.  Because as revolted as I was by the idea of it, I could not resist the aroma of this freshly baked dessert.  And it served as a gateway to other vegetable-based cakes.

So when I found the recipe in an old collection recently, I thought, why not try to re-capture those early pumpkin memories?  Most of my early pumpkin memories are of the plastic variety; it would be nice to revisit a truly organic one.  I silently forgave my mother for her misspelling of "pumkin" in the recipe, and I set to work.  With my personal contribution of chocolate chips.  Because there are few things in this world that can't be improved upon by the addition of chocolate.

Naturally, my pumpkin cake did not turn out as incredibly delicious as my mother's. Likely because she might have made modifications as she went along that were not included in the recipe.  As I will make some modifications next time.  Most notably, I'll use butter instead of oil.  And I will double, or perhaps triple, the amounts of the spices.  The cinnamon and cloves were woefully under-represented.  The chocolate chips, however, were perfect.  No modification required.

October 18, 2011

new in town

Halloween decorations in my neighbourhood tend to follow the popular trends. One year, the area was besieged by witches flying into trees. Another year, smiling scarecrows had taken over.  Then there was the year that the front of at least one house on every street was obscured by a giant inflatable. But it has been a long time since the heyday of tree ghosts.

 Too long.

I believe the occupants of this house just moved in this year.  Good to see they're ghost-friendly people.

October 17, 2011

The Mad Monster

After an enjoyable version of The Bat, my Halloween movie viewing takes a sharp turn back to mediocrity with The Mad Monster.

Dr. Cameron is a scientist (why are scientists always loony in these old movies?) who has developed a serum from the blood of wolves that will turn people into homicidal werewolves.  He believes it's a brilliant idea with many practical applications.  His colleagues disagree and ridicule him.  So he and his adult daughter, who is oblivious to her father's "experiments", pack up and move to the country, where he can continue his important work in peace.  And conduct imaginary meetings with his former colleagues.

Conveniently, his new house in the country comes equipped with a mentally-challenged gardener.  The perfect subject for the serum's human trials.

The harmless gardener soon transforms into a ferocious werewolf.  He is released from the lab by Dr. Cameron, kills someone, and then calmly returns to the lab.  Where he is restored to his human form with no memory of what has happened.  Delighted with the success of his experiment, Cameron takes the next logical step.  He plots the deaths of his former colleagues at the hands of his monster/gardener.

His plan is moving along swimmingly, until his daughter finally becomes somewhat suspicious of her father's true motives and confides in her journalist boyfriend. Because she certainly couldn't be expected to deal with this on her own.

Clues are assembled quickly and the plot unravels before too many sane scientists are killed.

But not before the film's highlight.  Watching Dr. Cameron hold up a vial of his serum and laugh maniacally. As only a mad scientist can.

That laugh never gets old.

October 16, 2011

grocery store horror

Time was, grocery store displays were mild, innocuous affairs.  In autumn, you could count on a lovely harvest scene.  Hay bales.  Apples.  Pumpkins.  And approaching Halloween, perhaps a few friendly, smiling jack-o-lanterns.

But apparently, all that has changed.

My local grocery store has become positively terrifying.  I wonder of "Farm Fresh" refers to the apples or to the severed hand resting on them.

October 15, 2011

sun and wind and flowers

As part of my "everything old is new again" theme this year, I took last year's Halloween flowers into the backyard/workshop for some fresh air and some fresh paint.

All it took was a collection of logs and bricks to hold everything down and prevent it from blowing away.  It was a blustery day.  But with little more than two weeks until Halloween, I don't have the luxury of waiting for the wind to stop.