Happy Halloween!

Today’s the day … ghosties, ghouls, and goblins beware. It’s a delightfully scary, spine-chilling night for youngsters and the young-at-heart alike, but where did it all begin?


Photo by Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot, USMC, via Wikimedia Commons

People have been celebrating All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) since ancient times, as a time to remember the dead, saints (hallows), and martyrs. It’s thought to have evolved from the Celtic holiday of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, and also seen as a bridge between the living world and the world of the dead. Celebrations included costumes and merriment, using humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.


“The Green Forest Fairy Book” by Loretta Ellen Brady, illustrated by Alice B. Preston, 1920.

Traditionally, All Hallows’ Eve was a day to abstain from eating meat. Seasonal dishes like apples, colcannon (potatoes with cabbage and kale), and potato pancakes were served instead. Bobbing for apples, anyone?


Bob Apples by Frederick Morgan (1856-1927)

During the Middle Ages, homemakers in Britain and Ireland would also cook up batches of “soul cakes,” little cakes they filled with sweet spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger along with raisins or currants, and marked with a cross on the top to denote that they were offered as alms. “Soulers,” mostly children and the poor, would go door-to-door, singing …

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

… while saying prayers for the dead. Each little cake they ate represented a soul being freed from Purgatory. Trick or treat!


From a farm on Camp Dix, NJ 1914-1918, by Richard, Flickr.com.

Along with humorous costumes used to counterbalance the thought of death, a darker side of costuming also came into play. Dead souls were thought to wander the land of the living until All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), and All Hallows’ Eve was thought to be their last chance to wreak vengeance on anyone who had wronged them in life. So those with a fear of retribution also wore costumes and masks to disguise their identities from the wandering spirits. Jack-o’-lanterns (carved pumpkins with candles inside to illuminate their scary faces) were carried to frighten the evil spirits away.

Lamp pumpkin for witch

Photo by Valdemar Fishmen via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re 9 or 90, a souler or a baker, a trickster or a purveyor of treats, this is the night to scare away the spirits and have yourself a big dose of costumed merriment.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Do you remember the Peter, Paul and Mary version of the song “A soul cake”? I loved their version and it was my first introduction to the fuller history of the Halloween tradition. You know that photo of the women from 1914-1918 at Fort Dix? I wonder if they were part of the women who were working for the War effort? I recognize the WWI army outfit on the far right woman. Maybe they were part of the Women’s Land Army effort to keep the farms going to get the crops in to support our nation and send grain to our starving European allies? The credit says a farm at Fort Dix which makes me think that is what these women were doing. And here they are enjoying a bit of Halloween fun!

  2. I’m all ready with my soul cakes, baked and scored with a cross to be served on All Souls Day .
    Some seasonal words to enjoy:

    ” From Ghoulies and Ghosties and long-leggety Beasties
    And things that go bump in the night,
    Good Lord deliver us ! ”

    Today I think
    Only with scents- scents dead leaves yield,
    And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,
    And the square mustard field,
    Odours that rise
    When the spade wounds the roots of tree,
    Rose, currant, raspberry or goutweed,
    Rhubarb or celery.
    The smoke’s smell too,
    Flowing from there the bonfire burns
    The dead, the waste, the dangerous,
    And all to sweetness turns.
    It is enough
    To smell, to crumble the dark earth,
    While the robin sings over again
    Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
    – Edward Thomas-

    After it lid
    Is cut, the slick
    Seeds and stuck
    Wet strings
    Scooped out, Walls scraped
    Dry and white,
    Face carved, Candle
    Fixed and lit,
    Light creeps
    Into the thick
    Rind: giving
    That dead orange
    Vegetable skull
    A live head
    To hold its
    Sharp gold grin.
    -Valerie Worth-

    • MaryJane says:

      Both great poems. I don’t have any soul cakes ready .. yet. But your post was a real treat. “To smell, to crumble the dark earth,”

    • Winnie Nielsen says:

      Wow, Lisa, I would love to come a’knocking on your door for a soul cake! A soul cake, A soul cake, please good Missus a soul cake. An apple, a pear, A plum , a cherry, anything good to make us all merry. Take one for Peter, Two for Paul, and three for him that made us all !

      Here is the link for Peter, Paul and Mary singing their version.


      Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  3. Karlyne says:

    I remember the song, too, Winnie, but I’d never thought about what the actual “soul cakes” were, let alone made them like you, Lisa! But it’s a tradition I’d like to incorporate in our Halloween (which we also call Cheese Night, because, after all those sweets, we come home to as many cheeses as we can afford to get some protein in us all!).

  4. Connie-Killarney says:

    Happy Halloween!!!

  5. Wow, Winnie thanks for that download link, how wonderful to hear them sing again ! When I was in junior high I got to see them live and it was a marvelous and memorable and sweet concert.

  6. katherine says:

    since i am of a different generation i first heard it on stings ‘a winters’ night’ released back in ’09. love the song! will be making soul cakes along with my caramel apples…

  7. Krista says:

    The history of Halloween is so intriguing. It would be so interesting to live in that time frame and spend Halloween like they would. Now we look at Halloween of today and it has evolved drastically. Many don’t understand the really reason why we have Halloween. While I was reading this I was actually picturing the first part of Hocus Pocus!! Happy Halloween!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Candy Corn

Festively colored and nearly bursting from every grocery-store shelf this time of year, candy corn harkens the arrival of Halloween. But aside from that, what do we really know about this little dentist’s nightmare? I went searching for answers and found out that it’s certainly the candy we love to hate; candy corn has been reported as the least favorite candy by consumers. But ironically, 35 million pounds of the confection are made and sold in the U.S. each year.


Continue reading

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Megan, I am so glad you shared this piece today because I didn’t know Jelly Belly made Candy Corn, which I LOVE!! And the Pumpkins are the BEST!! In the past, I used to purchase Brach’s , but now it is made in Mexico and I don’t want it. I did see on the FoodNetwork channel that Zachery’s is made in the US and offers candy corn in lots of flavors but I haven’t been able to find that brand around here anywhere and you cannot order online. As a result, my Fall season has been devoid of my favorite candy. Don’t you love how cute it looks in those glass pumpkin jars? I know I do. So, I think I am going online to see if I can order some of the Indian Corn candy corn and pumpkins directly from Jelly Belly. Hoping to be ready for November and Thanksgiving.. Thanks so much for sharing this information today. Some things are critical!!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Hey everyone, I just went to Jelly Belly online and ordered some candy corn and their adorable Fall Mix. Guess what? Their site announced that today, October 30 is National Candy Corn Day and Jelly Belly is offering a 15% discount on many of their candy corn selections. It’s a Banner Day!

  3. For my family THE halloween candy was always Schwartze Katze, little black licorice cats made all naturally with real licorice root in Germany and Holland. They are hard to find but that place I mentioned in the earlier Mary Jane candy post, Weaver’s Nuts and Candy:( In the store you can buy much smaller amounts )http://www.weavernut.com/
    carries many other real licorice candies, including adorable black scotties. MaryJane they have licorice beehives too!
    for the candy corn:
    and the zachary candies too:
    hope this brings back memories

  4. CJ Armstrong says:

    I do like candy corn and candy pumpkins. But I can’t eat it anymore so I don’t buy it. 🙁
    It is fun to look at though!

  5. Heather Sandoval says:

    I have always liked candy corn and this time of year it seems to be the freshest. Since I have been a kid, the way to eat it is to nibble off the individual colors of each kernel. Makes a few kernels last quite awhile that way! I had no idea that it was created from the founders of the Jelly Belly line. Yummy!

  6. Claudia Bell says:

    Candy corn mixed with salted Virginia peanuts! YUM!

  7. Love the rooster and candy cane sign.
    Is it for sale?

  8. Donna Southworth says:

    YES!!!!! on the Candy Corn and Virginia Peanuts. Sweet and Salty treat bags at Halloween and Thanksgiving events. Fits the budget too for large gatherings.

  9. Marsha Gulick says:

    Candy Corn was my favorite as a kid! We used to bite off the white part and fool mom into thinking we lost a tooth!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

a new appreciation …

for Lady Gaga. Now, who thought I would ever, ever say that?! I surprise myself sometimes.

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Lady Gaga’s music—a little out of my wheelhouse, which includes traditional Irish dance music (think Riverdance) and soothing birdsong—but what I did know was that she had become rather infamous for her onstage and red-carpet antics, including showing up to the Grammys in a giant transparent egg carried by men in gold short-shorts and workboots, parading down the carpet in a raw meat dress, and recently having a performance artist vomit green goo on her as she sang a disturbing song called “Swine.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather watch Ella Fitzgerald standing regally still on stage while singing her heart out on a classic from the Great American Songbook.

Well, blow me over with a feather, but that’s just what Lady Gaga does on her new duets album with legendary crooner Tony Bennett! Carol, my magazine designer and a serious crooners fan, gave me their new CD, Cheek to Cheek, this week, overriding my hesitation about anything Gaga by saying she was sure I’d like it, and I must admit, I immediately found a new appreciation for Gaga!


photo by luigioss via Wikimedia Commons

Who knew she had a wonderful, full, rich voice well-suited to classic tunes like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Anything Goes”?

Her collaboration with Tony Bennett started back in 2011, when she sang “The Lady Is a Tramp” on his Duets II album. And this unlikely pair formed an immediate bond; not only did they have deep Italian-American roots in common, but Tony recognized a genuine love of jazz under all the crazy trappings of her public persona. “”She is actually a very authentic jazz singer,” he said. “She will turn a phrase, she will make it different, because of the moment that she is singing. And so, what happens is it keeps the songs alive; the interpretations become very intimate and everlasting.”


photo by Tom Beetz via Wikimedia Commons

In a documentary about the making of their CD, Tony said that Lady Gaga, who he sweetly calls “Lady,” actually might be his favorite person to sing with, and that’s saying a lot, since he’s probably sang with just about every wonderful singer in the last 78 years. Because that’s how long Tony Bennett’s been singing publicly. Tony, who recently turned 88, was already singing by age 10, when he performed at the opening of New York City’s Triborough Bridge next to then-mayor La Guardia, who patted him on the head. He’s gone on to enjoy one of the longest singing careers in history, winning 17 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his 100+ albums. And, at 88, he still sounds wonderful—smooth, soothing, and yes, even sexy. (It doesn’t hurt to know that he’s known as one of music’s nicest guys, as well, and as a passionate—and very good—painter.) Just listen to their rendition of 1947’s “But Beautiful” and see if Tony’s line, “And I’m thinking, if you were mine, I’d never let you go,” brings tears to your eyes, like it did to Lady Gaga during their recording session. (Watch it here.) The CD debuted at number one on the Billboard Chart, making Tony the oldest living artist to earn a number one album in the U.S.

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m kinda gaga for Tony and this version of Gaga!


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I happened to have just seen the show on PBS last weekend of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett doing this album. Like you, I was blown away! Her voice was so beautiful and their duets were memorable. Tony Bennett is one of my favorites and like you, I had never thought of Lady Gaga as in the same genre. But she can really sing and the way she smiled and worked with Tony brought tears to my eyes too! Dig around on the PBS site and see if you can find the broadcast. It is part of this Fall’s special musical series that they are doing once a week. To see them together is very, very special!!

  2. Cindi Johnson says:

    I was fortunate enough to hear Lady Gaga before seeing her or learning about any of her antics and so was able to develop an admiration for this incredibly talented young woman uninfluenced by outer appearances. After seeing her with Tony Bennett on CBS Sunday Morning, well, what can I say. She is indeed incredibly talented, classically trained and seems to be deeply sensitive, even fragile. Tony brings out the very best of her. I hope one day (soon!) she realizes that she doesn’t need all of that other stuff in order to be noticed or appreciated.

  3. Susan says:

    The lady’s got pipes! 🙂 Oh MaryJane, this was a pleasure to read this morning! I love music. Almost all music.

  4. Wowie Zowie- they are SO in sync and sound so lovely together, who knew? Thanks MaryJane, for bringing this “duo” to our attention. My step father was a jazz musician, among his many talents. As a child I spent many happy hours listening to music live just like this ( altho not with such famous people, altho I did get to see Duke Ellington throw his arms around Chet, my stepfather in a heartfelt greeting . I was in awe! )

  5. Lisa A says:

    I also caught a little of the PBS special and was very impressed with her. I don’t care for her other music.

  6. Nancy Coughlin says:

    We do, all of us, jump to conclusions because of someone’s outer appearance. I’m as guilty of it as everyone else. But, having read awhile ago about the CD duets these two were doing, I looked again and was truly impressed. I, too, miss those musical performances when people stood on a stage and sang from their hearts. I’ve been to a few live concerts and do not enjoy the loud music, unintelligible words and splashy “special effects” so have sworn off them and use the tickets cost (which is generally outrageous!) to purchase CDs of the ‘special ones’ like these two performers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ghostly sightings

Have you seen these spooktacular specters billowing around the Internet?


Photo courtesy of Shadow Manor



Photo courtesy of Wacky Archives

Oh, the chills, the thrills!

I love the “Wandering Woman” crafted by blogger Lori Nelson of Shabulous Creations:


Photo by Lori Nelson via Shabulous Creations

Crafted of good ol’ chicken wire (poultry netting), these ghostly figures and free-floating dresses are perfect decorations for frightening farmgirl fun on Halloween. Just imagine hopping on a hayride or wandering through a pumpkin patch at dusk …


Photo by Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons

When suddenly you spy strange, ethereal figures drifting through a darkening field …


Plowing at Dusk by Leon Bonvin, 1865, via Wikimedia Commons

Gives you the shivers, doesn’t it?

Whether you have enough acreage to host a hayride or are nestled on a tiny townstead frequented by trick-or-treaters, your visitors would be delighted to find fabulous femmes fatales twining though the twilit shadows on Halloween night. And, you have just enough time to rig up a few ghostly gals using the basic technique in this tutorial from P. Allen Smith (leave out the rebar and pumpkin heads for a simpler project):

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    These are so fun!! I love Halloween and these figures would be awesome. Your idea of a hayride is the best ever! With a little lighting here and there and some carved Pumpkin Moonshines, the ride would be spooktacular!!

  2. Great spooky idea, but you can use agricultural row cover, aka reemay, that is way cheaper than cheesecloth and lighter so it flows better in the wind. I get miles of it ( ok, maybe a little less) for my gardens and always have some on hand. I also make floating ghosts that I hang on the front porch using a balloon or ball as the head, just drape the reemay over it, tie with some string ,hang them up and voila, easy peasy decor. So simple a kid can easily do it, and they can also make mini ones with smaller balls, like tennis balls, and hang them on your trees. Alsoyou can get landscape staples for holding down landscape fabric much cheaper than tent ones or better yet, upcycle some old wire coat hangers and make your own ” staples”.
    So go decorate your place with all the ghosts you want !

  3. Oh what a creative idea using chicken wire to make ghosts and people, How spooky is that in the dawn.

    I love it.

    Nice job!


  4. Mary Wisecup says:

    Wickedly cute! Love, love, love. I will try to make one this fall. Thanks 😊

  5. Victoria Thompson says:

    Just love this!!! And Halloween

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Move over, Frank … it’s Pumpkinstein

In a laboratory deep in the heart of Fillmore, California, a mad scientist named Tony Dighera gave a face to a monster pumpkin … literally.


Photo by Tony Dighera

Tony’s monstrous pumpkins are organic, but that’s not the reason they’ll fetch up to $125 apiece. That’s because these pumpkins aren’t carved, they’re grown into little likenesses of their muse, Mr. Frankenstein himself. Tony came up with the idea to create plastic molds that fit around the pumpkin plant when the fruit’s still small.


Photo by Tony Dighera

But his vision wasn’t … small, that is. He grew over 5,500 pumpkins in his first season on his 40-acre organic farm near L.A. For over 30 years, Tony worked as a tractor operator for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. But his real love was farming, and in 2003, he bought his small farm and struggled to make ends meet as an organic farmer. Then, inspired by a photo of a square watermelon grown in Japan, Tony got the idea to grow his vegetables in shapes, starting with square and heart-shaped watermelons, then imprinting logos onto melons for Whole Foods, then trying his hand at creating a monster. And that’s translating into a monster business … Tony sold his entire crop to suppliers for $75 apiece. Let’s see, roughly 5,000 x $75. Monster math, I mean, monster mash.

  1. Lisa says:

    That is flippin’ awesome!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What an incredible work of art. And edible too!! This is such a unique and fun project that turned into some serious money. The great thing about Tony’s pumpkins are that you can purchase one already with a Halloween face, enjoy it all October and then turn it into favorite pumpkin recipes. I wonder if the meat has a good flavor for cooking?

  3. Ive seen cute molds for gourds and squash, so it was a matter of time before someone with imagination came up with this idea for pumpkins , just super!! Goes way beyond just scratching your name on a pumpkin when it’s young and watching it grow ever so big.

    • MaryJane says:

      My father used to put a young cucumber on the vine into a small mouthed bottle and then once it got large, pluck it and ask the neighborhood kids how they thought he got it in there.

  4. Connie-Killarney says:

    OOOOOOOOOOOO Awesome!!!!!! we are a big family of Halloween lovers!! and MJ I love that cucumber in the bottle! The kids in our family would love that!

  5. Molly Welsh says:

    Great idea!
    Good on Mr. Dighera for his new business.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *