Happy Halloween!

Check out my awesome pumpkins this year. I did a lovely job of gutting them out, and roasting their seeds, and my boyfriend used his amazing carving skills to yield the knife and produce these masterpieces.

The initial tracing of pumpkin #2

Pumpkin #2 completed!

Pumpkin #2

My plans for the evening consist of dinner in a supposedly haunted restaurant in Toronto, followed by a ghost tour of the city. There are apparently about 10 haunted locations in the city, which are eerily very close to my condo…

Happy Halloween everyone!!!!

 

 

Trick or treat? How about both.

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One more day until my favorite holiday, Halloween.

Here are some of my favorite tricks I would love to try:

  • Fill a briefcase with marbles and crackers. Write on it, “Top Secret” in big letters. When trick-or-treaters come, look around suspiciously, say, “It’s about time you got here,” give them the briefcase, and quickly shut the door.
  • After you give them candy, hand the trick-or-treaters a bill.
  • Hand out menus to the trick-or-treaters and let them order their own candy. Keep asking if anyone wants to see the wine list.
  • Get about 30 people to wait in your living room. When trick-or-treaters come to the door, say, “Come in.” When they do, have everyone yell, “Surprise!!!” Act like it’s a surprise party.

AND here is my favorite TREAT

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Spiderweb Pumpkin Cheesecake (from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • SPIDERWEB GARNISH:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted

Directions

  1. Combine wafer crumbs and butter; press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 10-in. springform pan. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugars until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Whisk in pumpkin, cornstarch, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice just until blended. Pour into crust. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine topping ingredients; spread over filling. Bake at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minute. Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan; set aside.
  3. For spiderwebs, draw six 3-in. x 2-in. half circles on two sheets of parchment paper on top; tape both securely to work surface. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, cream of tartar and water to a boil over medium heat. Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns a light amber color and candy thermometer reads 350 degrees F. Immediately remove from the heat and stir. Cool, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until hot sugar mixture falls off a metal spoon in a fine thread.
  4. Using a spoon or meat fork, carefully drizzle syrup over half-circle outlines and inside the outlines to form spiderwebs; reheat syrup if needed. Cool completely. Place melted chocolate in a resealable plastic bag; cut a small hole in a corner of bag. Pipe 1-in. spiders onto parchment or foil; cool completely. With remaining melted chocolate, pipe two or three dots on each web; attach spiders.
  5. Remove sides of springform pan. Cut cheesecake; place a web on top of each slice and remaining spiders on the side. Refrigerate leftovers.

Halloween traditions from around the world

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Did you know that in some parts of England, Halloween was called ‘Mischief Night‘? And it really just meant that. People would cause a ruckus, like taking doors off their hinges and throwing them into ponds, or would hide them for no one to find? Hilarious!
I found some very funny, spooky, and interesting traditions for Halloween all around the world. Listen to some of these from Halloween Around the World.

Ireland

Thousands of years ago there was a tribe of farmers called the Celts. They knew that the sun helped make their crops grow, so when autumn came the sun began to fade and they believed that the sun would be winter’s prisoner for six months.

They were worried that the sun would not return so to make sure it did they held a festival on October 31. During which, they asked the sun to return safely in the summer. All the cooking fires were put out and a huge bonfire was lit on the hillside. Here they prayed the sun would shine brightly after winter was over.

The next morning they would return to the hillside take a piece of the burning wood from the remains of the bonfire and light new fires so as to bring good luck. Feasts were held over the new fires and people would dress up in costumes made out of animal skins. It was believed these costumes would protect people from bad luck.

China

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The Feast of the Hungry Ghosts: In China the souls of the dead, particularly during the seventh lunar month, wander the earth in search of affection. They are known as the hungry ghosts because of their hunger for recognition and care.

Czech Republic

In Czechoslovakia chairs are placed by the fireside. There is a chair for each family member and one for each family member’s spirit.

Germany

Here, people put their knives away. This is done as they do not want to risk hurting the returning spirits.

Hong Kong

During the Hungry Ghosts Festival or Yue Lan, ghosts and spirits roam the world for 24 hours. Some people burn pictures of fruit or money. This was believed to reach the spirit world and comfort the ghosts on this day.

Italy

In Southern Italy families prepare a special feast for the souls of the departed on All Souls’ Day. The families would set the table with a bountiful meal. Then they would all go to church to pray for the souls of the deceased. They stayed there all day, leaving their home open so that the spirits could enter and enjoy the feast.

When the family came home to find that their offerings hadn’t been consumed it meant that the spirits disapproved of their home and would work evil against them during the coming year.

Poland

In Poland doors and windows are left open to welcome the spirits or the visiting souls.

Portugal

In Portugal they have feasts of wine and chestnuts at the cemetery.

Russia

In Russia the blue cat is said to bring good luck. Blue cats such as Russian Blue, British Blue and Burmese.

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Fantasy Friday – Celebrate Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca

My favorite time of the year – Halloween. I love celebrating this spooky holiday every year. Beautiful autumn leaves, bright orange pumpkins, and crisp cool air all appeal to me.

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So why not daydream today about heading down to Mexico to celebrate with them, their most important holiday! They know how to do this the right way – that’s for sure!

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From the article “Day of the Dead or El Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca” by Maria Diaz, I discovered what I might expect when I visit Oaxaca myself (hopefully some day!)

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During the last week in October, voyeurs come to observe and to photograph the “picturesque” practices of “quaint” indigenous Mexicans. The idea of reunions at family gravesites, complete with music, food and gaiety strike foreigners as strange, to say the least. They stare in wonder at shops filled with candy skulls and calaveras (skeletons) made of wood, paper mache, clay, wax and sugar. Dressed as doctors, judges, teachers, tennis players and prostitutes, the calaveras engage in all kinds of activities from dancing and drinking to hair styling and singing. Every conceivable profession and pastime is burlesqued. Their human-like antics draw smiles from passersby. And indeed, Mexicans view skeletons as funny and friendly rather than spooky and scary.

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Today, far from an occasion for curious onlookers, traditions associated with the Day of the Dead reflect the Mexican belief in the duality of life and death. While they mourn and miss their dead loved ones, they also believe that death is just an extension of life. It’s part of a natural progression, not an end. The dead continue to exist and return annually to visit their loved ones. Many of the customs, such as home altars and cemetery vigils, are to help them find their way and to welcome them home.

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Important dates for Day of the Dead:

  • October 31 evening – Xoxocotlan, later that night – Santa María Atzompa
  • November 1 – San Miguel (Panteón General) in the city all day and evening.
  • November 2 late afternoon – San Antonino (sometimes this date changes depending on day of week – all travel agencies and tourist information centers should know of any changes).
  • November 2, evening and night – San Felipe del Agua
  • The City of Oaxaca also arranges events at the San Miguel Cemetery, such as exhibition/competition of altars, music, etc.

Hmmm, sounds spook-tacular! For more ideas on where to go and what to see in Oaxaca, visit Oaxaca’s Tourist Guide, where I disovered a town full of lagoons, caves, and majestic waterfalls.

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Travel and Nature Twitterers to follow

I’ve really fallen for this Twitter social media service in the past few weeks. I am so up-to-date with all my news now, and have so many fabulous recipes in my virtual recipe book that are just waiting to be tested out.

So I thought I would share some of my favorite Twitter personalities, in which I eagerly wait on my account (@JeebsC) for their next Tweet.

Happy tweeting!

Photograph of the day – black bear alert!

This is my background on my mac book at the moment. I just discovered this photograph of my favorite black bear in Waterton on my memory card…forgotten to be downloaded.

He was so shy yet so hungry at the same time. Every time I made a noise, he meant to pick up and leave, but just couldn’t seem to leave those sweet sweet huckleberries.

Farms away!

I found a great service on the weekend as I was searching for a better way to find fresh vegetables and support local farmers.

Fresh City Farms looks like a great experiment to try out, and to test out my creative cooking skills.

They even give you recipes to try out, with the produce you recieve weekly, or bi-weekly. I would try out this:

Twice Baked Butternut Squash

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 butternut squash (about 9 pounds total)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat sour cream (or non-dairy, sour cream alternative)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 6 fresh chives, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees with the rack in center.
  2. Halve squash lengthwise, and remove seeds and fibers. Sprinkle squash halves with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Fill a roasting pan with 1/4 inch water. Place squash in pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 35 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, transfer squash to a cool surface, and let cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  5. Use a spoon to scoop baked flesh out of each half into a large bowl, leaving a 1/4-inch border around six of the halves so they will keep their shape.
  6. To the bowl, add sour cream, paprika, chives, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix with a handheld electric mixer or potato masher until smooth and well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Fill six squash halves with mixture (discard remaining six empty halves). Sprinkle tops with toasted breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake until golden brown and warm throughout, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve.

Serves 6 people.