Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Morning

Little Sis made the Jack Skellington pumpkin!

Happy Halloween!

Tonight, we will trick-or-treat, then head to the Torchlight Tour at the historical museum. (Exploring the museum with flashlights is fun!) The girls couldn't wear their costumes to school this year, and we weren't able to attend some of our favorite Halloween events around town this year, so I took each girl out for a photo shoot in their costumes this week.

Little Sis, who turns seven tomorrow, opted to be her hero, Amelia Earhart.


She already had the hat and scarf. I ordered the jacket from Burlington Coat Factory. It's nice and warm, which is wonderful.  After hovering in the 90s last weekend, today's temperature has plummeted. The high will be 50 degrees, and it's supposed to get down into the 20s tonight!  Crazy Kansas weather!


I did make the airplane.  I eyeballed the pictures on this lovely blog, and to some extent, this one, too. We spray-painted it red to match the red Lockheed Vega 5B that Amelia flew in her solo trip across the Atlantic. I even wrote the numbers on the wings! Then we used aluminum foil to recreate the metal parts.

Her teacher loaned her this book that day! [It was also the same day this news story was released. A big thank you to all my friends who sent me that link, knowing my little Amelia fan would be interested!]


Big Sis came up with the idea that she would be Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red is her favorite character in Into the Woods, and she loves the look of a red cape. She didn't want to be just any Little Red Riding Hood, though. Perhaps taking a cue from Once Upon A Time (we're finally on Season 4!), in attitude if not in plot device, she wanted her Little Red to be a lot tougher. Enter Little Red Riding Hood, Wolf Hunter! She's out to defend herself and any other children (or little pigs) from Big Bad Wolves everywhere!


I did order her cape online, and I wound up springing for a new toy bow and arrow set, as the arrows in her old toy set were all broken. The rest of the costume came from pieces we had at home. The bow bag was made by a friend of ours for her daughter's Brave birthday party a couple years ago.


We took her photos in the beautiful, historic Maple Grove Cemetery.





A wonderful Halloween to all who celebrate it! Otherwise, a very Merry Weekend, Happy Reading! to you!


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pediophobia 2014


Welcome to my 2014 creepy doll party!  After last year's fun with pediophobia, I felt another installment was in order!

Because I love old dolls.  I love creepy, ghost-like bisque dolls from Europe...


I love pretty, matronly old china dolls...


I love that Little Sis loves collecting doll parts to use as decor.  I love that she decided to share them with us for Halloween!  She put them out for display on the fireplace blower.

Meet Jennifer...

and this one has been named both Owen and Noah, depending on her mood. (Note Cousin Brain, in the jar...)

I don't have quite as many creepy doll books to share with you this year.  We saw a couple more at the Scholastic Book Fair this year, but we already owned The Doll Graveyard (see below), and only opted to purchase Doll Bones, which Big Sis is still reading.

Ghost Doll and Jasper
by Fiona McDonald.
Sky Pony Press, 2012.
This graphic novel isn't terribly scary, but it is definitely suspenseful and interesting. One evening, a star explodes, and a tiny spark flies through the roof of an old abandoned house, and lands on the forehead of an old forgotten doll.  The doll comes to life, but in a see-through, ghostly shape.  An old cat, Jasper, is there, and offers to help her escape the attic, as the house is scheduled for demolition the next day.  Jasper and the Ghost Doll wander the streets, looking for shelter (for her) and food (for him).  Meanwhile, a very creepy doctor and his army of pumped-up rats are on the hunt for the stardust, and it's up to Jasper and his alley cat friends to save the day.  A very different sort of read, but I liked it!




The Doll Graveyard by Lois Ruby.
Scholastic, 2014.
We bought this one during a summer visit to Barnes & Noble, and we're reading it aloud right now. (Shhh - I skipped ahead and finished the book today.  Don't tell.)  This one is part of a new series by Scholastic called Hauntings, and when we saw the cover, we laughed and knew we had to add it to our spooky book collection.  In addition to the fabulous cover, the book was written by Lois Ruby. Ruby lives in New Mexico now, but when I was growing up, she lived right here in Wichita! She would visit schools and do Q&A with students.  This isn't one of her best-written books, but it's a lot of pulpy fun. Shelby's Great-Aunt Amelia dies, leaving Shelby's mother an old sprawling house they didn't even know she owned. Shelby's parents are divorced and her father has remarried, so Shelby is already an angry mess. Upon arriving in the museum-like house, Shelby and her younger brother discover a strange dollhouse in the attic, an exact replica of their house. But it's what they find in the backyard, a doll graveyard, that's especially chilling. Especially when the dolls fail to stay buried. Or when Shelby starts to hear voices. The ending was too quick and neat for my taste, especially since all the conclusions seemed based more on assumptions than proof, but for kids looking for a fun Halloween scare, it does its job.


As far as stuff to watch goes: I'm not sure if you can view it outside of the US - there is no YouTube link - but the girls have been watching Nickelodeon's Deadtime Stories on Amazon Prime.Instant. It's kind of the modern version of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and they've watched all the episodes of that that are available. (They've also watched some episodes of Goosebumps and RL Stine's The Haunting Hour on Netflix, but I had to put a stop to it. The episodes were causing sleep problems for Little Sis!)    Anway, episode one of Deadtime Stories is called "Grave Secrets," and has to do with a creepy doll, buried in a backyard.  (Shades of The Doll in the Garden...)  The full episode is posted on the Nick website, and it's on Amazon. The girls love it. Apparently, the show is based on a book series, and there is a book for this one, also called "Grave Secrets."  I should check those out someday.

Oh, and if you want to read something scary-fun, check out the real story behind the movie Annabelle. Considering the number of Raggedy Ann dolls in my house, I think the original story seems much scarier!

Last, I thought I'd leave with a sneak peek at Little Sis's birthday present. Her birthday is Saturday, All Saints' Day - the day after Halloween. For over a year now, her dream has been to own a Little Miss No Name doll.  How on earth did a child born in 2007 ever find out about Little Miss No Name, a strange doll from 1965, you ask?

Well, Little Sis loves to sit on my lap and look at old doll photos on the computer. Antique bisque and china dolls, like the ones at the top of this post. DyDee Babies from the 1930s. (The wetting mechanism eroded the composition, so few of these dolls are in decent shape today.) After a friend of ours compared photos of non-smiling Little Sis to the Big Eye paintings of the 1960s, we found ourselves looking at photos of dolls inspired by Margaret Keane and her contemporaries: Blythe, Susie Sad Eyes, Lonely Lisa, Love Me Linda, and Little Miss No Name.

Little Miss No Name also made appearances on Modern Kiddo and Babble.

So I'd been checking eBay off and on for a year, trying to get a hold of a Little Miss No Name that was not astronomically priced, and lo and behold, I finally managed to win one!

Not gonna lie. She creeped me out.

She's much larger than I expected, and those eyes? Utterly ginormous. But she was clean! No bad smells.


Okay, that may have been an original tear, but it had to go. The peg had broken off into the hole under her eye, and someone had glued the tear down. It was gross. It looked like someone hocked a loogie on her face. I was worried about marring her, but I lucked out. I used a flat pocket knife to dig out the peg, and the tear popped right off.


Big Sis and I gave her a bath, and I worked with her hair as much as I could. I'm not sure what else I can do.


Her dress is rather orange, while it shows up as brown in every picture I've seen. I'm thinking it might be a replica. They sell replica tears and headbands on eBay, so I may buy some down the road.

Mabel was unfazed by Little Miss No Name.


Here she is, begging on the front porch.  Poor Little Miss No Name.  Someone is going to be thrilled to meet her, this weekend.


Doesn't she look perfect among the pumpkins, though?


Note: The photos of the china and bisque porcelain dolls were taken at the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, MO.  A fabulous place to visit, should you ever find yourself in southwest Missouri!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Little Boo

Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli, illustrated by Tim Zeltner.
Henry Holt and Company, 2014.

Another new Halloween picture book - thank you, library!  This one features a little pumpkin seed so cute, it almost makes me feel guilty for craving yummy roasted seeds.  Almost.

Well, barely.  Actually, I wish I had a bowl right now.



This is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book about a little seed, who longs to be scary.



Through the fall and into the winter, the seed tries to be scary, but is laughed at by a leaf, a grub, the snowflakes.  Finally the wind steps in to care for the little seed.


The seed falls asleep.  When  he wakes, the sun is warm overhead and he is starting to sprout!  The little sprout tries to be scary, but it isn't yet time.


All the while, the kind wind looks after the seed-sprout-plant, telling it "soooooon."


Then one day, the big, ripe pumpkin the seed has become is picked.



You can probably guess what happens after that.




You can find an activity kit for the book at the Macmillan website.  There are pumpkin carving templates, a maze, and a "growing activity."





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Monday, October 27, 2014

Obsessive Nostalgia Halloween Disorder: Elementary School Halloween


RIP School Halloween

There will be no parties this year, no costume parade. Instead, the kids will gather for an assembly about being drug-free, and are encouraged to wear red that day. Part of me isn't surprised, given the number of kids who would come to school dressed in very scary costumes, despite the "no scary costumes" rule, or the very short skirts on little girls in their store-bought costumes.  (What the heck is wrong with costume manufacturers? Do none of them have children of their own?) There are, of course, a number of families who do not celebrate Halloween for various reasons, which is why parties were called "Fall Parties," and actual Halloween-themed items and crafts were discouraged. I tend to be pretty politically correct at school, and said, "Okay." Our costumes are seldom scary, and last year, we did a very mild version of our zombie costumes for school. But now, even that is over.

Which makes me think of Halloween when I was a kid.

I didn't even know there were people who didn't celebrate Halloween. I never heard of it being an issue at my school. We always wore our costumes (witch, cat, Nancy Drew book, "punk rocker" - twice) and had a party that day. During the week leading up to Halloween, in music class, we always sang Halloween songs. 

For most of my grade school career, I attended the neighborhood school in my tiny little suburb. [I was bussed in fifth grade, to the school my girls attend now, before it became a magnet school. I went back to my old school for sixth grade.] Our music teacher was an older woman named Mrs. Longstaff. It was the 1980s, but Mrs. Longstaff looked like she stepped out of the pages of an old black-and-white yearbook.  Her short brown hair was curled in such a way that it resembled a beehive, and she wore old-fashioned glasses, the kind hip vintage-loving girls would kill to get a hold of now. If she became mad, she would reveal a slight stammer. When we had school assemblies or music concerts, we would all sit in the gym bleachers, and she would wheel her upright piano from grade to grade in front of us. There were usually a couple of older kids there to help with that. If you were lucky, you might be picked to accompany her on bells, tone block, maracas, sand blocks, or rhythm sticks...

Mrs. Longstaff used our elementary school music books, of course. She would also pass out paper printouts about composers or musical artists. Sometimes she veered away from our school books. She had big easel notepads, like giant reporters' notepads, hanging from the chalkboard at the front of the room.  There, she had written songs that were not in our books. Some were popular songs, some were old folk songs, some were songs she must have written the words to herself.

"At Chisholm Trail, we love our school (CLAP 4 X) / Blazing a trail through learning..."
Those were the first two lines to our school song, sung to the tune of "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

There were three Halloween songs I remember best, and I think all three were printed on those big flip pads. Two were old folk songs, sung by elementary kids all over the US, and the last one was set to the melody of a famous piece of spooky classical music. My sister and I would sing them to my little brother in the '90s, and I sing them to my daughters now.

 Have you seen the ghost of John? / Long white bones with the skin all gone / Ooooo-oooo / Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on?


This one makes an appearance in In a Dark, Dark Room.

There was an old woman all skin and bones / Ooo oooo ooooo / She lived down by the old graveyard / Ooo ooo oooo / One night she thought she'd take a walk / Ooo ooo oooo / She saw the bones all laying around / Ooo ooo oooo / She went to the closet to get a broom / Ooo ooo oooo / She opened the door and BOO!


The louder the "Boo!" the better, of course.  Raffi recorded this one. Also, see
Oh have you heard the merry tune / That skeletons play on their fiddles brown? / Their bones are tapping to keep time / On All Hallows' Eve as they dance around / Oh, owls and skeletons swoop and bound / While witches go flying from sky to ground / The jack o' lanterns grin at you / And wait 'til you turn and they cry out BOO!


We sang this one to the tune of the solo violin part of Danse Macabre. We repeated the melody
for the second verse, and as with "Skin and Bones," the louder the "Boo!" the better.


I don't know that I appreciated Mrs. Longstaff at the time, but now, her old-fashioned style makes me smile. It's been a number of years since a friend told me she'd passed away.

So this Friday, on Halloween Day, my girls will wear red. I'll still get to bring pumpkin cupcakes to Little Sis's classroom that afternoon, since her actual birthday is the next day (Saturday). Then we'll rush home and transform them from Big Sis and Little Sis to Little Red Riding Hood: Wolf Hunter and Amelia Earhart. It will be okay. The girls just shrugged, a little disappointed perhaps, but willing to roll with the punches. I'm just feeling a bit nostalgic for my own childhood, and my own ignorant bliss.


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Sunday, October 26, 2014

More October Reading


Howdy, ghouls and guys!  It is Sunday, and I have a few books to dump on you today, as I was rather busy Friday and Saturday.  I made an airplane(!) and both girls danced during the big Halloween shindig at the children's theatre.  Little Sis decorated this mini pumpkin after her dance.  Isn't it cute? It's actually... tasteful this year. Less gloppy with glitter glue!

So anyway...  Books.

What I Read


Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block.  HarperTeen, 2014.

Confession: This was my first time reading Francesca Lia Block, best known for her Weetzie Bat series.  Those books were off my radar during my teens, and while I always thought the covers of her books were intriguing, (And she writes about magic and fairies and fairy tales, which you know appeals to me!)  I never got around to checking them out.  But this book, with its Ouija board cover and ghostly vibe, made it into my Halloween pile, and after reading it, I bought a copy of the Weetzie Bat omnibus, Dangerous Angels.  I loved this book.  Julie and her mother have recently moved into an apartment, after her grandmother dies and Julie's mom loses her screenwriting job.  The first friend she makes at her new school, Clark, loves hats, health food, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Julie finds an old Ouija board in her bedroom, left behind by a previous tenant, and convinces Clark to help her use the board to contact her beloved grandmother. Clark, however, has some secrets of his own, and the two make contact with someone else. While the book has the whole spirit and Ouija board scare thing going, it's really about overcoming grief and living in the moment.  A wonderful YA read.


What We Read for Halloween



 Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Poor Farmer Brown hates Halloween, because of course he does. If you're familiar with Click, Clack, Moo! and the other books in the series, you know that Farmer Brown is rather humorless and that his farm animals are very gifted. The animals are throwing a big Halloween bash, and they have lots of tricks in store for Farmer Brown.

Very cute.



Gus and the Baby Ghost by Jane Thayer, illustrated by Seymour Fleishman. William Morrow and Co., 1972.

We own this one. I got it at a short-lived used bookstore, and while I set it out last year, we never actually got around to reading it together! The girls kept giggling and aww-ing at how cute it was. I know it's a bit of a vintage classic, but it isn't one I grew up with. I've never read any of the other Gus the Ghost books, either.  Gus watches over the historical museum at night, while Mr. Frizzle manages things during the day. One night, a baby ghost arrives at the museum, and Gus, Cora the Cat, and Mouse the Mouse, must care for it.  No idea how the little baby came to be at the museum.  It's just cute.  Go with it.



Books That Aren't Really for Halloween, But Have a Vibe That Works Here Anyway

 Flashlight by Lizi Boyd. Chronicle Books, 2014.

This is a beautifully illustrated wordless picture book about being out in the woods with a flashlight.  (See?  That whole out-in-the-woods-in-the-dark thing gives out a nice October vibe, right?)  It has some cute, funny moments.  Great for very young readers.





Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, 2014.

Microbes. The ultimate heebie-jeebie producers, right? See, perfect for the month of October!  (Tee hee.) However, the book is by Nicola Davies, who has become one of my favorite science and nature picture book authors. The book is very informative, without being creepy. Emily Sutton's illustrations are gorgeous. There is much to love here. I highly recommend it.




Merry Sunday!  Happy Reading!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween on YouTube


It's a dreary, rainy day here in Doo-Dah.  A perfect day to bake some pumpkin muffins and watch creepy things on the telly or computer. May I suggest this recipe from Cookie & Kate?  I only had a quarter cup of maple syrup and NO honey, so I used a quarter cup of molasses.  Oh, and I added chocolate chips, because pumpkin and chocolate taste heavenly together.  And if you overbake your muffins, like I did, it doesn't matter - they are still the moistest, most delicious pumpkin muffins I ever made.  Seriously.  So, bake yourself some muffins and watch some fun stuff!  I'll get you started:

How about some old Muppet Show episodes...





Some old Disney cartoons...




Some Mighty Mouse, followed by a little Casper the Friendly Ghost...




  • For a few music-related videos, click here.
  • For some more cartoons, music, and silent films, click here.
  • For some '90s Nickelodeon nostalgia, click here.
  • In the mood for the kitschiest Halloween special the '70s ever produced?  Click here.
  • If your Halloween experience must include some Tim Curry, click here.
  • More Disney?  Click here.
  • Disney made-for-TV fun?  Click here.
  • I'm working on a new Pediophobia post. For last year's post, and some cool videos, click here.


We haven't watched a lot of new stuff this year.  I did get a VHS copy of Hocus Pocus for the girls from the library.  I was in high school when the movie came out, and honestly, it just didn't appeal to me then.  It still isn't a favorite, but both daughters liked it, especially Big Sis.

I'll have my usual Friday book round-up tomorrow!  Stay tuned!


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Proud Pumpkin

Proud Pumpkin by Nora S. Unwin. E.P. Dutton & Co, 1953.
(See eBay for listings of the book with its jacket.)

Here is a delightful, old-fashioned treat.  They don't make 'em like this anymore.  From the basement storage area from our city's main public library, I present Proud Pumpkin, written and illustrated by Nora S. Unwin.



This is the story of a big, beautiful pumpkin.  He is quite proud of his appearance, telling all the brother pumpkins he will never, ever be eaten.  He swells with pride, growing plumper and tougher each day.  Then one day, the farmer cuts him off the vine and takes him to the vegetable cellar.

 
"Not to be eaten!" he shouts to the other pumpkins, as they watch him go. He watches as other pumpkins disappear upstairs to the kitchen.


Then one day, a boy named Billy knocks on the farmer's door.  Billy is looking for a nice big pumpkin.  He is hosting a Halloween party the following night.



The other pumpkins snicker as they watch Proud Pumpkin leave.  "But not to eaten, not to be eaten," he calls out behind him.


It feels weird to have his insides scooped out, and strange having his flesh cut.  But Billy declares him a handsome fellow, the best jack o'lantern he ever made.  The pumpkin's pride returns.  The next evening, he is quite the star of the party.


Then the party ends.  Billy blows out the candle and leaves the pumpkin outside, alone in the dark.


And there the pumpkin remains.


His pride sags with his rotting face.  Mice scurry about, making a meal of what's left inside.  One day, his lid collapses.  "This so frightened the mice nibbling inside, that they thought the end of the world had come."


The mice only leave when the cat chases them away.


Finally, one cold, cold day, a little chipmunk approaches the once-proud pumpkin.  The chipmunk is looking for a home for the winter.  He asks the pumpkin if he might move in.


"Residence!" grunted Proud Pumpkin. "I've never been called that before."
"I'll promise not to eat you," urged the chipmunk, "if you'll only let me come inside and make a nest."


The chipmunk builds his nest, then collects acorns "for his spring breakfast."  Once he's ready, he crawls inside the pumpkin, curls into a ball, and goes to sleep.


His warm little presence began to send a small glow of pleasure all through the old pumpkin.  But it wasn't the glow of pride this time.
"It's nice to be useful after all," the pumpkin sighed to himself. "It makes you feel good."


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