Friday, October 26, 2012

Anniversary Pictures :)

Sorry I've been gone! I'm so busy right now it isn't even funny!

I want to share these with you guys though.  My 5 year anniversary pictures. I couldn't have asked for a more awesome photographer :)  Check her out on Facebook: Just Be Photojennic

Hope you love them as much as I do :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Watch It Wednesday! - The premire of American Horror Story: Asylum

I'm a slacker, I know... but things are busy :)  I know you guys understand ;)

I did want to make everyone aware that tonight is the premiere of American Horror Story: Asylum on FX at 10PM (check your guides, because I don't know if that's Central time or not).

Last season I really enjoyed the first season of American Horror Story, which was a totally different story line from this season.  You can read my original review of it here: American Horror Story Season 1

To get the scoop on this season, got here: American Horror Story: Asylum

Picture source:

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Black Plant

When I'm not busy Halloweening, gardening is another passion that I enjoy.  I'm always finding ways to intertwine my passion for Halloween and gardening, by using Halloween colored plants in my garden. Orange is relatively easy to find for the garden, but black is a little more tricky, although in recent years, black plants are a little easier to come by.  In any case, I'm obsessed with black plants :)   This weekend, I found my newest addition:

Behold, the Black Diamond Crape Myrtle!

Last year, I had almost bought a Chocolate Crape Myrtle, but the leaves were very brown, making the plant look dead and dried out.  The Black Diamond's leaves are much darker and the beautiful, bright pinkish-red flowers offer a stark contrast.

I'm thinking about going to pick up another one :)

Traditional Thursday - Trick R' Treating

Ever wonder how trick r' treating started?  When  you think about it, it's kind of a funny tradition, children (and sometimes adults) dressing up as all sorts of things and going door to door, begging for candy.

Once again we have to visit the Celts for our answer.  During their festival of Samhain, the Celts believe that the barrier between the living and the dead was the thinnest, thus allowing all sorts of spirits passage to the living world.  It was believed people who had passed on during that year, traveled to the "other world" on Halloween night.  In researching, I've read that Celts would set a place at their tables in honor of passed loved ones, leaving offering of food.  I also read that some would bury apples by the road side, to help out lost and wandering spirits. 

There was also a belief in mischievous or vengeful spirits and prankster nature creatures such as trolls, that would torment the living.  To deter these acts, people would dress as spirits, if they were out alone at dark, in order to fool the real spirits into believing that they were also a spirit, so that they would pass them by.  In addition, offerings of fruit and nuts were left on door steps to please these malevolent spirits, so that they wouldn't play tricks on people of the house.

As Romans conquered the Celts and their traditions meshed, Catholicism influenced these traditions further.  With the declaration of All Saints day, by  Pope Boniface IV and All Souls day, by Pope Gregory III, the season became more of a celebration of prayer for the deceased.  Souling became a tradition in 19th century Europe, where beggars would go door to door offering prayers for the deceased loved ones of the home-owner, in return for a soul cake.  Soul cakes were sweet breads, seasoned with cinnamon and frequently had raisins or currents baked into the top of them, in the symbol of a cross.  It was believed that souls spent a certain amount of time in purgatory before they passed on to heaven.  In order to expedite the soul's passage to heaven, people prayed for them.  The more prayers that the soul received, the quicker their assent to heaven.

Another tradition tied into Trick r' Treating's origins is guising.  This was a tradition held in Scotland and Ireland, where children dressed as mischievous spirits (going along with the earlier Celt's beliefs) and went door to door, receiving fruit and nuts in return for their reciting a poem, song or joke.  This act was representative of the the offerings that were left for the mischievous spirits, by the Celts, in hopes that they would pass their houses by and not play tricks on them.

Today, our tradition very closely represents guising, with the exception that we don't get a song or poem or joke told to us when we give the little spirits our offerings of sugary candy.  Knowing that they go home on a major sugar high, maybe the parents should beg for the fruit and nut offerings of the past, to keep their hyper little spirits at bay ;)

Who knows how the tradition can develop from here.  All that we Halloween lovers can hope for, is that it continues with some semblance of what it is now, or what it was originally.

Happy souling, guising, spirit deterring to you all :)

Manic Grin Monday!

I know that I've been a slacker.  I hope this week is better.  I'm still going to try to post Thursday's entry.  I have it started and the research done, I just need to get it all down ;)

In any case, here's one of my favorite ceramic pumpkins, which I had all lit up on Saturday night, while watching, The Raven :)  Very good Edgar Allan Poe movie.  Quite sad though.

Hope you all have a wicked good Monday!

Freaky Music Friday - Night on Bald Mountain

On of my favorite classical Halloween compositions is Night on Bald Mountain, composed by Modest Mussorgsky in 1867.   I was introduced to it by way of Disney's Fantasia, which was released in 1968. 
It's a haunting, beautiful piece of work.

Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Remembering Edgar...

Every October 7th, Edgar's stone goes out in my yard, accompanied by fresh flowers.  October 7, 1849 was his actual death date.  I read that his funeral was attended by less than 10 people :( I thought that was pretty sad, so I make sure to remember him on his day.

Watch It Wednesday! Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow

Released in November of 1999, this movie continues to be a must watch for me, during Halloween and any other time of year when I need a dose of Halloween goodness. 

Directed by Tim Burton, with a musical score composed by Danny Elfman, and lead roles held by Johnny Depp & Christina Ricci, this movie couldn't be anything other than amazing.

The movie undoubtedly has Tim Burton's stamp on it.  From his trade mark creepy twisted tree, to the beautiful monochromatic look of the film, to the toothy, grinning jack o' lanterns, I believe that Burton did justice to the original story, which was written by Washington Ivring in 1820.

Elfman's score lends a haunting, deep, dramatic & foreboding element to the film.  It's a perfect mix of soft sleepy melodies, which gently lead the viewer through the Hollow, mixed with chilling violin chords and blasting tuba's eliciting goosebumps during the haunting/action portions of the movie.

Depp gives a superbly dramatic and often humorous performance as Ichabod Crane.  I think that my favorite thing about the character was his squeamishness toward the gruesome things that he encounters in the film. 

Below is the original trailer which shows a lot of very nice clips from the film.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tasty Tuesday - Halloween Themed Breakfast

More and more breakfast food manufacturers are capitalizing on our lovely holiday, which in my opinion is a great thing!

Just in the past two years, a lot of Halloween breakfast delicacies have hit the shelves.

Let's take a peek at a few:

First off, the much covited Pumpkin Pie Poptarts:

Two years ago, these beauties made their debut in very limited locations.  All over the Halloween blog-o-sphere, Halloween lovers in northern states were raving about these hard to find treats.  I scoured every Target in a 40 mile radius of where I work and live and couldn't find them.  Last year, I started my search early and found them, but only at Target... so I bought a BUNCH and guess what?  They are good for about 10 months after you buy them so no reason not to stockpile ;)  Thankfully, this year, they've gone mainstream, making apperances in Wal-Mart and a few other grocery stores. 

So, was it worth searching for these things?  ABSOLUTLY! Hot or right out of the package, they taste like a piece of pumpkin pie.  They have the perfect balance of pastry, pumpkin and cinnamon.  I promise, these guys will not disappoint.

Next up, Coffe Mate Pumpkin Spice Creamer:

This creamer came out with a whole holiday line of creamers that Coffee-mate created.  I first tried/found it about two years ago.  This is another really great product.  It comes in liquid and powder form, although, I have not seen the powdered one yet this year, so I'm starting to wonder if they discontinued it.  The liquid one is definately available though and I prefer it in the liquid form.  This is a really nice combo of pumpkin spices.  I cannot say that it tastes a lot like pumpkin, but it does taste like all of the delicious spices that are used in pumkin pies and breads.  It's amazing in coffee and a way cheaper alternative to the delicious, but expensive Pumpkin Spice Latte that a certain coffee shop (which I love) produces.  It's also good in tea... I'm just sayin ;)

Speaking of coffee:

Dunkin' Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee.  If you're not into flavored creamer, then maybe flavored coffee is the way to go for you. This is a great flavored coffee.  The pumpkin spice flavor is unmistakeable.  I find that with some flavored coffees, the aroma is great and then the taste of the flavoring is weak, but that isn't the case with this one.  It's a little pricier than your average bag of coffe. I think that it's about $10.00 for a pound down here in the south, which isn't horrible. As soon as I find it this year, I'll certainly buy another bag.

New to me this year, Peppridge Farm Pumpkin Spice Swirl bread:

Pepperidge Farm put this product out along with a Caramel Apple flavored one, that I have not tried yet.  I was super excited when I found it so easily in Wal-mart.  Toasted or regular, to me it just tastes like cinammon bread.  It's not bad, the flavor just doesn't say "pumpkin spice" to me.  If you like cinammon bread, give it a whirl, but don't go run out and buy it because of the nice fall packaging.

But don't fret my friends.  If you want the pumpkin spicy goodness on your morning toast, I highly recommend this little gem:

Country Crock Pumpkin Spice spread... YUMMMMM!!!  Yes, good things do come in small packages. In only a 6 oz container, this delicious spread is everything that pumpkin spice should be.  It's also a beautiful orange color and you can see the spices swirled in with it.  I actually put this on what's left of my Pepperidge Farm bread and it's fabulous, but I've also had it on regular toast, and it's just as good.  I haven't tried it on a sweet potato yet, but it's on my list and I'm sure that it will be a wonderful pairing!

I hope that you all have access to these products.  Let me know what  you thought if you've tried them.
Also, if you've had the pleasure of trying any breakfast foods that I haven't listed, fill me in!

Manic Grin Monday!

Today is 'technically' my Monday, since I didn't have work yesterday due to Christopher Columbus day, or as I celebrate it, Edgar Allan Poe remembrance day. 

Here are a bunch of lovely smiling jacko's, carved by my mom and I in 2009 :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Freaky Music Friday!

Since yesterday's post took SO long to write, I'm going to make Friday an easy day :) lol Hope you all don't mind ;) 

This past week I read on a lovely fellow blogger's blog, Justine's Halloween that she wanted to do a Halloween mixed tape trade with her blog followers. I naturally LOVED the idea and I've been working on the CD that I'm sending to her.  All the while, I'm getting to listen to my favorite Halloween music which gave me the idea for my Friday blog entries :)  I'll share some of my holiday favorites and feature some Halloween musicians.  Fair enough?

Today, I have for you a Danny Elfman classic, 'This is Halloween' from Tim Burton's, Nightmare Before Christmas'

But that's not all, I also want to share Marilyn Manson's version, from the Nightmare Revisited album, which I also love ;)

Happy Friday and Fifth Day of October everyone!

Traditional Thursday - Halloween Origins

At this time of the year, Halloween lovers are a flurry of activity.  Shopping for costumes, decorating yards and houses, buying candy for Trick r' treaters, carving pumpkin and hanging out ghosts.  By why are we doing these things?  We celebrate it with the same symbols every year, pumpkins, skeletons & ghosts, devils and demons, costumes and candy, but why? 

To find out the answer, we have to look way, way, way back in history.  Around 800 BC, there was an ancient society of people known as the Celts.  They populated what is now known as Ireland, Northern France and the United Kingdom.  They were a nomadic people, living off of the land that they traveled.

The Celts relied so much on the land for their existence, that their celebrations and festivals were centered around the seasons.  Fall was the time of harvest and storing away as much food as they could in order to survive through the winter.  Winter was a difficult time for these pastoral people, since they relied on nature.  Often times, not having enough food and supplies stored had deadly consequences.  That is why the Celts associated this season with death.

The Celts believed that nature and mother Earth would be reborn in the spring through the death of Winter. They knew that the world around them as entering a dormant period.  Plants are bare of their leaves and fruit; dormant until spring.  Days are shorter and the nights longer. 

November 1st was the Celtic New year and they celebrated the harvest in a festival known as Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween).  This was the time when crops were harvested, live stock was brought in from pastures and everyone readied for the long, cold,  winter months.

The Celts believed that this was also the only time of the year, where the dead could mingle with the living. The Celts believed that during this time, the souls of the deceased, who had passed on that year, would travel into the spirit world.   Bonfires were lit, sacrifices of their harvest and their stock were made, all in order to guide the deceased loved ones to the spirit world.

Over the course of time, these traditions were altered by other religions and groups of people who took over the Celtic land.  The Romans who first took over Celtic land, also celebrated their fest day of the dead,  Feralia, in late October.  Catholicism left it's footprint on the holiday when  Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, thus creating the Catholic fest, All Saints Day, which is now celebrated on November 1st. In 1000 A.D. Pope Gregory III declared November 2nd as All Souls Day, a fest which also honored deceased relatives.

Halloween didn't become mainstream in America until 1846.  The heavy Protestant influences suppressed the ancient traditions of honoring the dead.  But, due to the Great Potato Famine that devastated Ireland in 1846, droves of  Irish immigrants found their new home in America and brought their anciently rooted Halloween customs with them. 

Thank the Great Pumpkin for the Irish! 

I personally think that it's amazing to see how this holiday has developed from what it was, for the Celts, to what it is now.  Knowing where this holiday is rooted, gives me a deeper appreication of it.  It is gives me educated information to share with those who regard Halloween as something evil.  In my opinion, this is such a naturally rooted holiday.  It's about life and it's about death.  It's about the seasons of the Earth and the seasons of our lives. Those are things that unite all humans.

In closing, I just want to say that this is a VERY condensed explanation of Halloween's roots.  I could research this for a month and probably write a novel on it, which doesn't sound like a bad idea, because there is a LOT of information out there about Halloween.  That's half the reason it took me so long to write this post.  It was difficult keeping it all straight :)

In the coming Thursdays, I'll be writing about how modern day Halloween traditions sprang from Samhain traditions and the ancient Celtic beliefs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Watch It Wednesday!

Watch It Wednesday, will be my day to share video clips of some of my favorite Halloween programs.
For my first Watch It Wednesday, I want to share with you my all time favorite cartoon to watch for Halloween, Disney's Silly Symphony - The Skeleton Dance

The Skeleton Dance made it's debut in 1929 and was the first animated short in the Disney Silly Symphony collection.  It was produced and directed by Mr. Walt Disney himself and animated by Ub Lweks. The Skeleton Dance is what sold management at Columbia Pictures on obtaining exclusive distribution rights to the Silly Symphony collection.  In 1994 The Skeleton Dance was ranked #18 on the top 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time, which was voted on by members of the animation field.

Upon my research for this post, I also discovered that this quirky cartoon is considered an example of a medieval allegorical genre known as 'Danse Macabre' or 'The Dance of Death'.  The driving theme of this genre is that death unites all humans, no matter what their status in life is... which is a pretty heavy message to be linked to such a whimiscal cartoon! 

I hope that you enjoy this cartoon as much as I always have.  My parents have really fond memories of my brother and I watching it over and over again and actually re-enacting the dance :) 

In addition to my clips, I'll also be posting the link below every week.  It's a great list of Halloween themed shows that will be airing!  How great is that to have it all in one place?!?!  Be ready to set your DVR's because there are a LOT of fun things airing, that I'm sure you won't want to miss!

Happy 3rd of October Everyone!!!


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tasty Tuesday - Candy Corn Foods

What better way to start off Tuesdays, than with a super dose of Halloween foodie goodness!  There are a LOT of Halloween flavored foods out there and I intend on trying as many as I can!  In return, I'll report to you guys on what is good and worth hunting for, and what is better left on the shelves.

Today, we're going to start off with candy corn flavored foods.  Candy corn is undoubtedly a staple candy of Halloween.  Whether you love it or hate it candy corn is here to stay.  It was created by George Renninger sometime in the late 1800's, thus making the confection roughly over 100 years old. Also, the National Confectioner's Association reports that 35 million pounds of candy corn are produced annually!  That equates to about 9 BILLION pieces of candy corn!  Talk about a sweet tooth!

These days, you can find all kinds of fun candy corn flavored goodies around Halloween.  I LOVE candy corn, so of course, I've tried quite a few of these candy corn delicacies myself.

The first candy corn flavored food that I tried was the limited edition Candy Corn flavored Jones soda.

I first discovered this in October of 2006, I believe at Target.  I was super excited, upon seeing the festively decorated can and even more so when I realized that the contents were candy corn flavored.  Of course I bought a 4 pack of the mini cans (8oz.), brought them home and had enough will power to stick them in the fridge to chill before actually cracking one open.  First impressions, it tasted like VERY strong cream soda and it was super sweet.  Even though it was only 8 oz., it was rough to get through the whole can.  A sip or two were good, but after that, it was just too much. I'm really not sure whether or not these are still available, because I never looked for them again... and I didn't drink the rest of my 4 pack.  That being said, I only give this product 2 stars. 

Hershey's has been trying a lot of new flavored Kisses over the years and candy corn was no exception. From the fun colored wrappers, to the great coloration of the actual Kiss, these earn 4 stars in my book. The flavor is delightful and extremely rich. It's easy to eat one or two in a sitting, but more than that and it's over-kill.  They are packed with sickeningly sweet candy corn flavor.  Again, I'm not sure if these have been produced in the last few years, but if you can find a bag, I definitely suggest giving them a try :)

M&M's, another Halloween staple and what way to make them even better, than to flavor them  like Halloween's other staple candy. These have been out for about 2 years and they are certainly still available (I have a bag in my pantry right now :).  Holding true to candy corn's colors, the bag is full of beautiful orange, yellow and white candies.  They are white chocolate, candy corn flavored goodness!  Again, these are extremely rich and sweet.  I guess it's the combination of the white chocolate and the candy corn flavor that makes eating only a few satisfactory and more than that, an over-load.  They are a great candy corn treat, without the gummy stick-in-your-teeth consistency of real candy corn.  I give these 5 STARS!  Go get a bag now! :)

Finally, we have the newest addition to candy corn flavored foods... OREOS!  Just when you thought that Oreo's delicious cookies couldn't become anymore addictive, these beauties showed up.  Exclusively available at Target and just released about 3 weeks ago, these are by FAR my favorite of the candy corn flavored foods.  If I could give them 10 stars, I would... wait, this is my review... so I will ;)  10 STARS for Candy Corn Oreos! The packaging is gorgeous.  The treat is composed of two vanilla flavored cookies with a delicious, very rich, very sweet, very vanilla-ish candy corn creamy, orange & yellow center (way too many adjectives there, but this cookie is worth it).  One cookie and you're hooked, two cookies and you want a third, three cookies and you want another bag, four cookies and you cry because you notice LIMITED EDITION printed in big, red, evil letters on the package... and before you can eat the 5th cookie, you find yourself standing in Target's check-out line with a stock pile of these babies, because you just don't know if you can make it through the rest of the year without them!  Seriously, these are great.  Remember, if you're looking for them, only Target has them and in my experience, not every Target has them.  If you don't see them, ask someone at the store for them.  I haven't actually seen them on the shelves yet.  The package that I acquired was given to me by a store manager who had to get them out of the stock room :)  Yes, I am persistent ;)  Then candy corn obsessed woman gets the cookie.  In any case, I don't know if they will be located by the Halloween stuff or on the cookie isle.  If anyone figures this out, let me know. I only have three left and I need more :)

So there you have it!  National Candy Corn day is October 30th, so now you know what foods to celebrate with ;)  If any of you try them, let me know what you think!  Also, if you know of any that I've missed, let me know!

Happy October 2nd Everyone :)

-The Countess

Monday, October 1, 2012

Manic Monday!

Happy October 1st everyone!!!

This is also my first post for the Annual Countdown to Halloween :)
I've decided to do a theme for everyday of the week this year.  Monday's will be Manic Monday's, which will always start with a lovely, manic JOL grin :) I figure that's a great way to start the week.  We all need a little extra encouragement on Mondays :)