Thursday, October 31, 2013



Since I've been working on some picture book manuscripts lately, I thought it might be fun to share some fun reads for the youngest audience members. These are all guaranteed to please and are not too frightening. 

1. Big Pumpkin – Erica Silverman, S. D. Schindler – All witch wants is a pumpkin pie for Halloween. But her pumpkin is too big for her to move. Her friends all volunteer to help, but none of them can budge the heavy pumpkin. Then the solution to the problem arrives in an unlikely hero.

2. Bone Soup – Cambria Evans – a retelling of Stone Soup with grizzly ingredients. When the hungry skeleton comes into town, he’s hoping for a feast, but no one wants to share their food with the greedy goblin. So he uses trickery and persuasion to use the town folk to help him concoct a savory meal for all of them to share.

3. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat – Doreen Cronin  & Betsy Lewin – Click,Clack, Moo with a Halloween theme. The animals are out at the barn, ready for some Halloween fun, but Farmer Brown wants to curl up in his footie jammies and call it a night. Guess who wins the battle.

4. Five Little Pumpkins – illustrated by Dan Yaccarino – This song is a favorite with all the preschoolers and kindergartners, and the fun illustrations make it even more enjoyable.

5. Goodnight Goon – A Petrifying Parody – illustrated by Michael Rex - A little werewolf can’t go to sleep so he tells everyone and everything goodnight. Then a mischievous goon wreaks havoc.

6. In the Haunted House – Eve Bunting, Susan Meddaugh – Rhyming text and a fun story of what it’s like to walk through a haunted house. The identity of the two moving through the house isn’t revealed until the very last page.

7. Room on the Broom – Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler – Another fun rhyming tale that centers around a witch and her adventures on her broom. A great opportunity to teach the rewards of sharing and helping others.

8. Scary, Scary Halloween – Eve Bunting, Jan Brett – Someone – or something – is watching a parade of frightening creatures pass by. Soon more eyes begin observing this scary scene. A cute tale with a possibly surprising twist.

9. Ten Timid Ghosts – Jennifer O’Connell – When a witch moves into the ghosts’ house, she doesn’t want to share, so she frightens them off one by one by disguising as different scary monsters. But the last ghost isn’t quite so timid, and when he discovers the truth, he tells his friends, who are now angry ghosts. Do they get their house back? You’ll have to read it to see

10. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat – Lucille Colandro, Jared Lee – Another parody that is loads of fun during this haunting season. And the fact that she doesn’t die should make it easier to swallow.

11. Where’s My Mummy – Caroline Crimi, John Manders – In an effort to delay bedtime, Baby Mummy asks for another game of hide and shriek. He comes across all kinds of scary creatures, but it’s an unlikely fright that has mommy mummy running to his rescue.

12. Who’s There, Little Hoo? – Brenda Ponnay – The young owl is experiencing his first Halloween, and not sure he’s brave enough. But every time there’s a knock on the door, he discovers one of his friends dressed in a costume. Cute for the youngest audiences.

13. Who’s There on Halloween? – Susan Hagen Nipp, Pamela Conn Beall, Charles Reasoner – Each page has clues as to which Halloween creature is on the following page.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, October 30, 2013



The corn maze (or maize maze) has become a huge attraction for the fall season. It seems like every organized group of young people here in the Midwest incorporate a trip to a maze as part of their Halloween celebrations. I've traveled through mazes with scout troops, church groups, school groups, to name a few, and enjoy the exercise, and I marvel at the inventiveness of people who create these mazes.

If you've never visited a corn maze, you might want to give one a try. It's a great way to get out and enjoy some fresh country air, and it's more of a workout than you might expect. In fact, take along a bottle of water because you might become disoriented, and the corn has a habit of blocking off air flow, so the heat can be a factor, even in October.

In case you aren't familiar with mazes, here are a few little factoids about them that you might find interesting. 

Corn for a maze is often planted about 3 months later than corn crops intended solely for crop usage. This allows the corn to still be green when maze season comes around, which cuts down on the opportunity for people to 'cheat' as they traverse the paths. The crop is also usually planted at a higher population - in other words, the corn is planted up to twice the volume it normally would be in the field. This makes the stalks closer together, again discouraging 'cheating'.

To plan the maze, a GPS system is used to first record the coordinates of the four corners of the field, and later to walk the field during cutting the pattern in. Once the coordinates are determined, the pattern for the maze can be planned and adjusted to fit. Some of these patterns are quite intricate and are a joy to see from the air.

Once the corn is approximately 12 to 24 inches tall, the pattern is cut. This is often done with a riding mower. One person walks the pattern using a handheld GPS, while the mower follows along behind.

In many mazes, check points are set up along the way so that maze goers can mark their progress. Sometimes these are quite elaborate, consisting of small boxes covered in plexiglass with riddles or clues that the mazers must solve before moving on. Once the riddle is solved, instructions are given for moving on to the next stage. If you don't solve the riddle, you can wander around aimlessly for hours inside the maze.

I've been to some mazes where platforms were erected around the maze that allowed watches to look down over the maze to make sure everyone is safe and to help out if someone can't find the correct path.

Usually, after all clues are deciphered and the maze is complete, a reward or prize is given out at the end. This is always fun for the kids, but the real fun and satisfaction often comes from maneuvering through the maze without assistance from an adult.

A lot of the mazes in our area have additional attractions, as well. Some provide pumpkin cannons, hay rack rides, assorted crafts, and other good, clean fun, along with a variety of homemade snacks and goodies.

If you haven't experienced the fun of a fall maze, why not try it? My advice would be to hit it on a dry day when the mud factor is at a minimum. It's a great way to spend time with friends and family. Or leave the younger kids with a sitter and take the older ones for a moonlit maze experience. Those are a lot of fun, too.

Until next time,


Cordelia Dinsmore

Tuesday, October 29, 2013



As I shared yesterday, I'm a baby boomer. I was growing up during the late 50's and 60's, and Halloween was something I looked forward to every year with much anticipation.

Costumes in those days were never a problem. We mostly made our own from flotsam we found around the house or something from a junk store. One year, for my first boy/girl party, I had a very fancy ballgown that I'd convinced my mom to buy me for 50 cents. I felt so grown up in that dress, and the fact that I could keep the strapless garment up was a source of girlish pride. I'm pretty sure that only happened because my mom sewed several darts into the bodice that made it so tight an imaginary gnat couldn't have slipped past. 

Another year I went Trick-or-Treating as a sack of potatoes. My dad had ordered something through the mail, and it came in this heavy, brown paper sack that was nearly as long as I was tall. I instantly realized the potential in such a sack, and confiscated it before my siblings could get their hands on it. 

We lived in the suburbs of Kansas City, and in those days we were confident of our safety as we roamed the neighborhood. We went in small groups, with no parents involved for the most part. Usually only the youngest kids were accompanied by an older sibling or an adult. And we wouldn't have been caught dead venturing out until after dark. It simply wasn't the thing!

We were invited into many of the houses so that the treaters could get a good look at our costumes and guess our true identity. That was a big part of the game. We stood mutely in doorways or on porches while the homeowners plied us with goodies and tried their best to engage us in conversation so they could recognize us by our voices. 

And the treats were often special. Some of the parents purchased candy from the stores, but they usually consisted of full-sized candy bars. A few houses even gave out cash! Of course, they could usually figure out about how many Trick-or-Treaters to expect based on the number of neighborhood kids, because very few of us ventured beyond our own stomping grounds until we became teenagers, and by then we weren't so much interested in candy as we were in spending time with members of the opposite sex.

The best treats, however, were the homemade ones. These far out-numbered those purchased from a store ready to eat. Popcorn balls, caramel apples, homemade cookies, and even cupcakes were not unusual fare on Halloween night. We also received small waxed bags filled with candy corn and the little pumpkin mix. None of us thought twice about waiting until we got home to eat any or all of these yummy goodies.

Of course, once we did return home with our remaining stash, we gathered in a circle and dumped it all out on the dining room table. Each of the three of us had their favorites. My older brother tried to claim all the bubble gum and tootsie rolls. My sister loved the little waxed bottles of drink mix, and chick-o-sticks. My favorite was always the peanut butter taffy, those wrapped in the orange or black paper.

I love taking my own kids and now my granddaughter out Trick-or-Treating, but I often wish we could go back to the older ways of doing it. 

Do you have special memories of Trick-or-Treating you'd like to share? We'd all love to hear them.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Monday, October 28, 2013



Okay - it was definitely not a Trick-or-Treat prank that left my blog without a post for the weekend. Life simply became overly busy with all the Halloween festivities and I messed up. My most sincere apologies to all.

Today I wanted to write about the joys of Trick-or-Treating. Or, at least, the Trick. I want to save the Treat for tomorrow's post.

In parts of Europe, in days past, a version of Trick-or-Treating involved guisers. People would go out in disguise, with vegetable lanterns, to ward off evil spirits and tricky fairies. This occurred during Samhain, after harvest was complete, supposedly the night most conducive for mischief makers to inflict their trickery. When the traditions came across the ocean, they eventually changed into what we participate in today.

The wildly popular phenomenon of Trick-or-Treating made its debut in the United States sometimes in the 1930s. Originally, it seems to have been more of an opportunity for the young people to prank their elders than a chance to beg candy from their neighbors.

I wasn't around during that era, but I've heard tales from my father and father-in-law, among others, about the tricks they got up to while celebrating Halloween. These antics were all popular for kids living in small towns or out in the country. I don't have any knowledge of what occurred in the city.

One favorite was to wait for the teacher to make a trip to the outhouse, and then nail the door shut. That left the students free for awhile to enjoy an extra recess or two. When hearing this story, I never received a solid answer as to whether or not they always let the teacher out before the end of the school day. Definitely not a good way to expect treats in return, I would say.

Another favorite involved moving the neighbor's outhouse to the top of his barn, or some other unlikely place. This prank was always performed during the late hours of the night, probably because it's pretty hard to hide an outhouse behind your back if someone steps out of the house unexpectedly. 

I don't know what the preoccupation was with outhouses, but it seemed to be a popular target for early tricksters.

The tale I always thought was most interesting was one my father-in-law told me involving a covered bridge not far from his boyhood home. He and his friends would go out late in the evening and wait down the bank near one end of the bridge. They would have already "borrowed" two large hog panels (that's a section of heavy wire fencing that's used to make temporary hog pens) from home or from another nearby farm. They would wire one panel across one end of the bridge. Then they'd wait in the dark for a car to come along. As soon as the car cleared the near end of the bridge, the boys would climb up the bank and wire the other hog panel to that end of the bridge, trapping the car, at least temporarily, in the middle. Then they would run, knowing that the motorist would be busy for a while, unless he happened to carry wire cutters with him.

I'm sure that was all hilarious fun, but those early forays into Halloween revelry didn't seem to include much opportunity for treats. 

Do you have stories of bygone days that include Halloween trickery? I'd love to hear them.

In the meantime, 


Cordelia Dinsmore

Friday, October 25, 2013



My apologies for being so late this morning, but life gets busy around here every once in awhile.

I've given a lot of thought to monsters lately, as I planned these Halloween posts. Monsters come in many different shapes and sizes, and range from terrifying to ridiculously funny. But there does seem to be a limit on varieties. 

Whether werewolf, vampire, witch, ogre, zombie, etc., monsters can conger up fear, or at least shivers of apprehension, in all ages. And for some reason, no matter how repulsive or terrifying they are, monsters have appeal. I wonder why that is?

So, while I've been dwelling on monsters, I began thinking about my own preferences in monsters. I definitely do not care for zombies. Something about eating brains just turns me off. Why that should bother me more than something that sucks blood, I have no clue. But brain eating doesn't appeal to me, although I know zombies appeal to many of the younger generation.

No, I'm more an ogre or witch gal. Let's face it, these are two monsters that are capable of all sorts of mischief, not just consuming our gray matter. There's a saying about variety being the spice of life, and I guess that applies to monsters, as well, at least for me.

My ideal monster isn't a Halloween monster, although he certainly could be. Actually, he may have appeared in some type of Halloween special and I'm simply not aware of it. I'm speaking of Sweetums, the ogre creation of Jim Henson.

Sweetums made his acting debut in one of my favorite Muppet productions ever; The Frog Prince. We met him for the first time in 1971, along with his witch mistress, Taminella. While Taminella was indeed frightening, Sweetums left me in fits of giggles.

In this particular rendition of The Frog Prince, Kermit meets a young frog who claims to be the prince, Sir Robin the Brave. Sir Robin is such a tiny, unassuming frog, that Kermit and the others hanging out at the old watering hole dismiss his claims with laughter. But when Robin declares he's going to befriend the princess and convince her to kiss him, Kermit decides to follow along and watch out for the little fellow.

Of course, the princess has been placed under a special enchantment by the conniving Taminella, who is planning to usurp the princesses place and have herself crowned queen. The princess is aware of this, but her enchantment makes it impossible for anyone to understand her warnings.

But Robin understands the princess - at least, most of the time - and so the two become friends. Unfortunately, Taminella discovers that the two are determined to undermine her evil plot, so she captures Robin and throws him in the dungeon.

Can you guess who lives in the dungeon? That's right - our dear old Sweetums. He's a terrifying sight, towering over everyone and swinging his shaggy head around while his sharp fangs are waiting to devour little Robin - at Taminella's encouragement, of course.

My favorite scene is when Sweetums completely destroys the dungeon as he lunges for Robin, swinging his club and crashing into everything, while he sings about his plans to make Robin his lunch.

I won't give away the ending, but it IS the story of the frog prince, so you can figure it out. I never tire of watching these characters and their entertaining antics. But as funny as they are, there's enough of a fear factor to worry the younger audience members. That's why I always dig it out at Halloween and let these incredible muppets send shivers of apprehension down the little ones' backs. You should check it out. 

Until next time,


Cordelia Dinsmore

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I thought it would be fun to share a short story I wrote some time back for a contest. It was a pretty big hit, so I hope you all enjoy it.


“Fifth graders,” bellowed Mr. Bradley. “I’d hate for us to miss the field trip due to your poor organizational skills.”

The noise in the room quieted to a dull roar as kids began scrambling. I sighed and slammed my geography book closed, shoved it into my desk, and began gathering scraps of trash from the floor. I was just rising with my hands full of pencil shavings when I cracked heads with my best friend, Hunter.

“Good one, Josh,” said Hunter, rubbing his forehead.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, then stepped around Hunter and prepared to head off toward the trash can. Hunter grabbed my ankle and hissed, “I gotta tell you something.”

I glanced over to make sure Mr. Bradley wasn’t watching, then bent down. “What’s up?”

Hunter had barely opened his mouth when a pair of pink Sketchers stopped directly in front of us. “Too late,” whispered Hunter. He began shoving odds and ends into his desk.

I stood and faced Donna Poindexter, or public enemy number one. She stood there with her pointy nose, freckles, and attitude, smirking like I was toe jam. “What do you want?” I asked.

 Her smirk grew. “Wow, Josh, I know you have like no class or anything, but by now even you should have figured out how to engage in appropriate conversation.”

I tossed the trash back on the floor and picked up my chair to place it upside down on my desk, making sure it came close enough to Donna’s face to make her back up. “Hey, watch out!” she cried.

“You watch out,” I said. “In fact, why don’t you watch out the window and see if your broom is ready. You are taking it to the pumpkin farm, aren’t you?” A snicker from Hunter made me smile, even though what I really wanted was for Donna to just leave.

But she didn’t. So I scooped up the shavings once again and headed over to the trash. She stayed with me like a bad case of stomach flu. And her mouth was still running. “I just wanted to let you know that Felicia Warden is going to ask you to sit with her on the bus. Bye.” She opened her lips in her version of a smile, and turned with a flip of her lame pony tail.

Against my will, my gaze searched the room until it zeroed in on Felicia. She was a new kid – had moved into the old Anderson place a couple of weeks ago. I wished Felicia was a boy, because I wanted to get into that house and see what it was really like. The older kids said it was haunted, ever since old man Anderson had been found hanging from the rafters in the tower. Hunter and I had been planning for years to break into the place and check it out, but now that we had finally found the courage, the place had sold and the Warden’s had moved in. No way was I going to some girl’s house, even if it was to check for ghosts.

I went to get my jacket and almost ran smack into Felicia. She was even scarier than most girls. Her glossy black hair hung loosely halfway down her back, and it had an unreal shine to it, almost like the light came from her hair rather than reflected off it. Her wide eyes were too intense, like she knew what you were thinking. Too weird. And her skin looked so soft, I almost wanted to reach out and touch it. Some of the guys called her a witch, but I didn’t think so. She was scary, but in some way I hadn’t figured out yet.

I was backing away in a hasty retreat when Mr. Bradley’s voice jarred into my skull once again. “Okay, folks, time to load up. And since we’re running late, forget your usual buddy. Grab the person closest to you and head out.”

I spun around, looking for Hunter. He was still over by our desks, and Donna had a death grip on his arm. Hunter was staring at me, a wild-animal-caught-in-a-snare look on his face. Then I felt a warm hand on my arm, and a tug toward the door. “Come on,” said Felicia. “Let’s hurry so we can get good seats.”

The ride to the pumpkin farm turned out okay. Felicia wasn’t anything like Donna. She asked questions about me. What sports I like. My favorite movie. If I like to read. And when I told her that Hunter and I were interested in paranormal stuff, she seemed interested and asked intelligent questions. It wasn’t a bad ride, even though I would have preferred being with Hunter. But I figured I’d catch up with him once we unloaded.

Hunter was waiting for me just outside the bus, with that blood-sucking leech, Donna, still attached to his arm. I jerked my head toward him. “Come on, let’s go shoot the corncob cannon.”

He cleared his throat. “Yeah, about that. Donna thought it might be nice if the four of us went through the corn maze together. That okay with you?”

I stared at him. This was my best friend, who knew better than anyone how much I detested all girls, especially Donna. What had she done to him during that ride that couldn’t have been more than what, a half hour? I looked at Donna's mean face. I knew those were fangs peaking out of the corners of her smirky smile. Then I looked at the traitor who had been my best friend since preschool. “Sure, Hunter, that’s fine. Just let me stab myself in the heart first.” I turned and stalked off in the opposite direction.

We’re supposed to stay with our buddy on field trips, but I no longer had one. I wandered around for a while in the middle of the pumpkin patch and threw stones at the fat orange pumpkins. I noticed a really big one up the hill a little way, with some kind of strange growth on top. I made my way in that direction to check it out.

When I got closer to the pumpkin, I laughed out loud. What I thought was a growth turned out to be a big black cat, curled up on top of the pumpkin, sleeping in the sun. He opened one eye as I approached, and I gasped in surprise. Then a voice behind me made me jump. “Isn’t he beautiful?”

Great. You sit with a girl on the bus, and she decides she owns you. What else could ruin my day? But Felicia had been nice, so I turned to her and returned the favor. “I thought only white cats could have blue eyes.”

“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “Maybe he’s a magic cat.” Then she smiled.

I looked closely to see if she was making fun of me. Apparently not. “Don’t let Donna hear you say that,” I warned. “You’ll find out what she’s really like if you do. She says there’s no such thing as magic, and she’ll never let you live it down if she thinks you do.”

Her laugh surprised me. “I’m not afraid of Donna,” she said. Then she changed the subject. “Have you picked out your pumpkin yet?”

I looked at the cat again. He was still sprawled out on top of the big pumpkin and was watching us intently. He didn’t look particularly threatening, so I reached out toward him. When he let me pet him, I could feel the heat coming off him from lying in the sun. It felt good. He must have liked it, too, because he began to purr loudly.

“I kinda like this one,” I said to Felicia, meaning the cat.

She misunderstood. “I think he’s already picked this one for his own. He might not like it if you take his favorite napping spot.”

I wasn’t sure if she was laughing at me, but I still felt my cheeks heat up. “Yeah, well, it’s probably too big to carry back to the bus, anyway. I’ll find something else.” I turned and headed down the hill.

“Hey, come back,” called Felicia. I turned and saw her standing beside the pumpkin. The cat was nowhere in sight. I walked back up the hill, but only to figure out where the cat had run off to.

Felicia pointed toward the pumpkin. “I’ll help you carry it if you’d like,” she said. “Or we can get a wagon.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” I was still looking for the cat. I turned back to Felicia. “Did you see where he went?”

She waved a hand in dismissal. “He said he had to find a mouse for an afternoon snack.”

I looked at her again. Most girls would never say something like that without pretending to gag, or shudder in disgust. Then I realized exactly what she’d said. “The cat told you he was looking for a snack?”

“Sure,” she said. “Cats talk to me all the time. Now let’s get this pumpkin down the hill so we can challenge Hunter and Donna in the maze. I’m sure we can beat them.”

That afternoon, we were all gathered around the craft table, preparing to carve our pumpkins. Of course, Donna made a point of telling the whole class how much bigger and better her pumpkin was than mine. I looked over at Hunter and rolled my eyes. Then an unexpected voice had everyone in the room turning toward Felicia. “Your pumpkin may be bigger than Josh’s, but I don’t think it’s better. In fact, I think his will surprise everyone.”

I couldn’t help glancing over at Donna. Her face contorted in anger. Great. Now she would make Felicia’s life miserable, too, and Felicia wasn’t bad for a girl. In fact, I kind of liked her. In a non guy/girl kind of way, of course.

Donna’s waspy voice stung. “And why would that be, Felicia? Because you like him?”

“Okay, class, let’s get back to business,” said Mr. Bradley. 

I’d never been more relieved to hear his voice. I picked up my plastic pumpkin carving blade and prepared to plunge it into the top of the pumpkin, imagining it was Donna’s black heart.

“Stop,” whispered Felicia as she reached out and put her hand over mine. A burst of snickers echoed around the room, and I quickly dropped the tool and pulled my hand away. Not like her hand burned me or anything. It was warm, but not that warm.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I just think it would be better if you made small, careful cuts.” She smiled shyly. “It’s such a nice pumpkin. You don’t want to accidentally mess it up.”

I looked around, but everyone was busy with their own pumpkins. Everyone except Donna, that is. Her eyes were nearly popping out of her face as she gaped at Felicia and me. Then she put her hand over her partner’s ear and began whispering loudly. I heard loser, and girlfriend and witch before turning back to my pumpkin.

When I had carefully cut a huge circle around the top of the pumpkin, I put down the carving tool and began wiggling the stalk back and forth to loosen it up. Then I pulled it off, and got the surprise of my life.

A large black cat with sky blue eyes lay curled in the bottom of the pumpkin. He slowly stood, stretched, and leaped out onto the craft table. 

Everyone gasped, including me. Then the whole room erupted into chaos as we began wondering aloud how the cat had managed to get into the pumpkin. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I knew. When I turned to face Felicia, she smiled, and I noticed for the first time how perfect her face was.

“Nice pumpkin, Josh,” she said. Then she leaned over and said, in a voice just loud enough for me to hear, “Come by after school and I’ll show you around our house. It’s haunted, you know.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013



Today I'm hosting the Tween the Weekend post over on our Emblazoner blog. So I thought I would share my post here, since it fits in with my Halloween theme.

I've had Erik, from the This Kid Reviews Books blog, on here as a guest before, and he's such an interesting kid that I wanted to learn something about a typical Halloween for him. He graciously said he would be happy to help me out, so I sent him the following questions. His answers are a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

For those of you who might not know, Erik is eleven years old and has written and published a book of his own. The title is The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, and is available on Amazon. 

So, Erik, here we go. 

1. Do you have any Halloween traditions at your house?

 Yes, we do – we have tons of… FUN!!! And we also have a tradition of getting lots of candy *hee hee* and us kids have to get some candy that our parents like. :(
One tradition is that my mom usually hand makes our costumes. We get to design them how we want. It is really fun to do.

Oh, we make sure our kids save us all the tootsie rolls! It's always nice to share with your parents.

2.  What was the most awesome Halloween costume you ever had?

A home-made steampunk costume that Mom made. A couple of the parts to it are store-bought but then we customized it. We also found a derby hat and painted NERF guns and made goggles and gadgets and… Ta-da! Awesomeness, in a suit! :) Josie also dressed up like a steampunk kid too.

Steampunk is nice! I'll bet you were both adorable.

3. What was your most disastrous Halloween costume?

A “Batman Ninja.”  It was store-bought and very complicated to put together. I’m not even sure if I did put it on right. My parents couldn’t figure it out. No one really knew who I was either.

That had to have been disappointing. Says something for the home-made costumes, doesn't it? They're the best in my book.

4. Do you decorate for Halloween, and if so, how?

Yes. We carve pumpkins and put glowsticks in them (it looks pretty cool and we don’t have to worry about candles burning). We also have some simple decorations around our house. We don’t get any trick or treaters at our house because we live out in the country.

Oh, the glowstick idea is a great one. Our house is over 100 years old, so we don't use candles except for birthday cakes. I really like that idea and may steal it. We also live in the country, so I know what you mean about no trick-or-treaters. It's very disappointing, but we always go to town and join in trunk or treat there.

5. Speaking of trick-or-treat, what is your favorite Halloween candy or treat?

Caramel apples! I love caramel! I love apples! Apples + Caramel + On a Stick = YUM YUM YUM!!!

Oh, I'm with you on that one,  Erik, all the way.

6. Who is your favorite Halloween monster or personality

My favorite Halloween monster is the Frankenstein monster. He really isn’t bad is he? I think he’s just misunderstood. Who wouldn’t get cranky when people are chasing you with pitch forks and torches?

Oh, I agree. And I just finished watching Alvin and the Chipmunks meet Frankenstein, and you're right, he wasn't bad at all. Great choice.

7. So, since your favorite monster is Frankenstein, what is your favorite Halloween movie?

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown – I really like classics, and this is the best of the best. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Snoopy.  :)

Well, no Frankenstein there, but it's hard to go wrong with Charlie Brown.

8. But speaking of Charlie Brown (I can't help but think of the theme song) do you have a favorite Halloween song?

Purple People Eater and the Monster Mash. They are funny and I like funny. I guess they aren’t so spooky, but again I am not into spooky. J

Oh, I'm so glad to know you're familiar with Purple People  Eater. Do you know, I used to have a Purple People Eater hat when I was a child? It was plastic, and very, very purple, and I thought I was soooo cool wearing that silly hat.

9. Do you have a favorite Halloween book?

I’m not into scary books that much. I like books that are a little spooky or mysterious. My favorite spooky story is a picture book that I first read as a toddler. It’s called A Big, Spooky House by Donna Washington. It is about a big tough guy who isn’t afraid of anything. When he goes into a vacant dark mansion for shelter from the rain, he finds something to be scared of.

I haven't heard of that book, but I'll definitely check it out for my granddaughter. We aren't into scary, either, and it sounds intriguing.

10. Speaking of scary, Erik, have you ever had a Halloween fright? If so, what was the worst?

When I was buried in hay on the hay-ride at my little sister’s Halloween party... I was afraid of suffocating because there was a bunch of first-graders piled on top of me.

Then there was the time my aunt's boyfriend crouched down behind the door at my grandmom’s house and when I went to trick or treat there, he jumped up in this mask that had an eyeball hanging out and said “BOO!” I was like 5 at the time. I still remember it. I couldn’t breathe I was so scared.
Oh my goodness, Erik, that would have scared me half to death. I hope you can laugh about it now, though. Sometimes you have to forgive us grown-ups, we do things without thinking.

11. Speaking of scary, have you ever visited a haunted house? If so, what were your impressions?

Yes. It was horrible. A local amusement park has a terrifying haunted house. I tried it after I got over-confident from Disney World’s Haunted Mansion (which wasn’t that scary at all. I don’t think I ever went into a real haunted house (or supposedly real)). If I did, I don’t want to know!

Oh, I'm sorry that happened to you. I stay out of haunted houses, except the one at Disney World. That's more my speed. Although I've been told my house is haunted, I've never found any ghosts lurking around.

12. How far have you traveled to go Trick or Treating?

120 miles! We surprised out grandparents once. They were not expecting us to show up! We don’t usually go too far. We usually go into town to go trick or treating.

That must have been a load of fun! It might also be a record for distance traveled for trick-or-treating. 

13. One final question, Erik. Are there any specific Halloween traditions you plan to pass a long to your own kids?

First off, is it a coincidence that the last question is number 13? Just curious. ;)

To answer your question: Besides Trick-or-Treating, I would pass down carving pumpkins, costume making, and getting candy that your parents like. ;)

Those are all great traditions to pass along. And, yes, 13 was deliberate on my part. 

Thank you so much, Erik, for joining me in this little bit of fun. I loved reading your answers, and I think others will, too. If you'd like to check out some other great posts for Tween the Weekend, just click on the link and it will take you over to the Emblazoners' blog. 

I'll be back tomorrow with more Halloween fun. Until then


Cordelia Dinsmore



Why did the vampires cancel the baseball game? Because he couldn’t find their bats.

What do you call a witch at the beach? A sand witch.

How do monsters tell their future? They read their horrorscopes.

Why don’t mummies have hobbies? Because they’re too wrapped up in their work.

Why did the Cyclops give up teaching? He only had one pupil.

Why didn’t the skeleton go to the Halloween party? Because he had no body to go with.

How do you make a skeleton laugh? Tickle his funny bone.

What don’t mummies go on vacation? They’re afraid they’ll relax and unwind.

What kind of streets do zombies live on? Dead ends.

What do you call a skeleton who won’t work? Lazy bones.

What’s the first thing ghosts do when they get in the car? Buckle their sheet belts.

Which ghost is the best dancer? The Boogie Man.

Why don’t ghosts like rain? It dampens their spirits.

Monday, October 21, 2013



Apologies to you all, but my right hand is temporarily incapacitated, so my typing skills are limited today. I had a different post in mind, but this one will have to do.

I can’t think of Halloween fun without including caramel corn. In the past, I’ve always baked it in the oven for hours, stirring every twenty minutes or so. Now that free time is hard to come by, I look for recipes that are quick and easy, but still retain that homemade yumminess.

This one is available from If it isn’t to your liking, there are quite a few others available.

3 pkg microwave popcorn, popped
2 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Pop and set aside the popcorn. These need to be full-sized bags and not the single serve. Be sure to remove any unpopped kernels.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 270 – 290 degrees Fahrenheit, or until a small amount of the syrup dropped into cold water forms hard but pliable threads.

Remove mixture from the heat and carefully pour in the can of sweetened, condensed milk. Mix and stir mixture until it has a smooth consistency.

Pour ¼ of the caramel at a time over the popcorn, stirring until all of the popcorn is coated. Cool thoroughly before eating to avoid burns.


Cordelia Dinsmore

Sunday, October 20, 2013



Pumpkin carving has been around for decades, and has become an art unto itself in recent years. But I still love to see the creations of the younger generation that decorate porches on Halloween night. I decided it might be fun to look back and read some of the history of the Jack-o’-Lantern, and I found a few facts I didn’t know.

In my research, I discovered that there isn’t much definitive proof of how the use of carved vegetables became part of the Halloween celebration. Most of my sources indicate that they have been used for centuries, mostly in Europe, as part of the end of harvest celebrations. Some of these celebrations were of a Christian persuasion, but others were pagan.

I used Wikipedia for the following enlightenment regarding this subject.

Ignis fatuus, (foolish fire), or will-o’-the-wisp in English, folklore dates back to the 1660’s. A wisp was a bundle of paper or sticks used as a torch. The bundle was shoved into some kind of container and lit.

The origin of Jack-O-Lantern carving is uncertain. According to Wiki sources, gourds, turnips, beets and other vegetables have been used for carving. Gourds reportedly were the earliest plant species domesticated by humans around 10,000 years ago, mainly because they were easy to carve. Gourds were carved into lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago.

Some believe that the tradition of carving Jack-o-Lanterns came to the US via Ireland sometime during the 19th century. These carvings were often made from turnips or squashes and were used as lanterns to light the way for guisers during Samhain celebrations. Others claim that the carvings originated with All Saints Day and represented souls in purgatory. The carvings were often left on window sills to protect the home from evil spirits during a time when fairies and other mischief makers were most prone to roam during the night.

According to Wiki, there is no historical evidence that turnips were ever carved into lanterns in Ireland for use on Halloween. But by the 1880’s, American children were certainly carving pumpkins into grotesque faces to use in their own version of fall revelry.

Do you enjoy pumpkin carving? Do you save the seeds for roasting and the 'guts' for creating pumpkin pie? Describe the coolest pumpkin carving you've ever seen.

Happy Carving!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Saturday, October 19, 2013


My 13 Favorite Halloween Movies

I decided for October to dedicate my blog to Halloween observances and minutia. This is a very busy time for me, so some of these posts will be rather short. But hopefully they are still sweet enough to remind us all of the upcoming festivities with all the candy they involve.

To begin with, I am going to share my top favorite movies for the season. Not all of these are Halloween themed, but they all have a bit of a fright factor. Keep in mind, since this is a kid-friendly blog, the movies are all family appropriate. Horror is a fine genre, but Psycho scarred me for life, so I won't be including any recommendations for something I couldn't handle.

I have placed these in alphabetical order, not in the particular order of my personal preferences. They are all a lot of fun.

1. Casper - starring Christina Ricci and featuring the voice of Malachi Pearson as Casper the ghost. The villains were all over-the-top failures and that helps take some of the scary factor out of them.

2. E.T. - this one is a bit more intense, but still a safe bet for most of the youngest audience members. My favorite scene is when Gerty takes the little alien trick-or-treating.

3. Halloweentown - I think this series is only available on television, but it's well worth the watch. 

4. Hocus Pocus - okay, I absolutely love this one. The make-up is deliciously hideous and the three witches are evil enough to make me shiver.

5. Hotel Transylvania - I like everything about this film. Just all-around fun.

6. Labyrinth - David Bowie is pretty scary in this one, but I loved the Muppets and the story itself.

7. Nightmare Before Christmas - some may argue that this is a Christmas story, and it is. But it's also a great Halloween story. I love Tim Burton's work, and this is one of my favorites of his.

8. Pooh's Heffelump Halloween Movie - This is a fun watch for even the youngest audience member. Poor Pooh is always thinking of his rumbly tummy, so of course he's going to eat all the Halloween candy. The Heffelumps and Woozles have always been some of my favorite Milne characters.

9. Something Wicked This Way Comes - a little intense for the youngest viewers, but a good thriller-type movie for those a bit older. Some really creepy scenes that sent chills down my spine.

10. The Addams Family movies - I'm old enough to remember when The Addams Family made their television review, so I was happy to see them make a come-back in these silly movies. 

11. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - This 1949 Disney production is a lot of fun. 

12. The Witches - Another incident of great make-up! These are some fairly frightening witches, and the hotel is rampant with them, so you might want to be near in case it's too intense for the younger ages. 

13. Twitches - I love watching this story of magical twins. More of a chick flick for the younger set, but still a worthwhile watch.

That's my list of favorites. I'd love to know if I've missed any that you particularly enjoy.

I'll be back tomorrow with a post about Jack-O-Lanterns. Hope to see you then.

Happy Reading!

Cordelia Dinsmore

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

A short while back I decided to try an audio book for the first time. The book I chose was Kathi Appelt's newest novel, the True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Unfortunately, the experiment was a bust. The failure had nothing to do with Lyle Lovett's amazing narration of the story, and it certainly wasn't due to Ms. Appelt's phenomenal writing skills. The problem arose from the noise levels I'm surrounded with while driving my minivan filled with kids. I simply could not concentrate.

I did glean enough from the tale, however, to become intrigued. So I ran back to the library and filled out an inter-library loan slip for the actual hard copy. Fortunately, the book arrived in a timely manner and I began to devour it.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a tale of what can be accomplished when even an unlikely group of creatures share a common goal. In this case, the swamp, which is the home to everyone involved, is being threatened by one of their own, Sonny Boy Beaucoup. He has teamed up with a female alligator wrestler with the intent to destroy the swamp for their own greedy good, with no thought to the lives that will be destroyed along with it.

The fact that most of the characters are non-human detracts not one whit from the logic and emotion they exude as they unwittingly work together to outwit the nefarious Beaucoup. I loved how Ms. Appelt brought all of these characters together to work on a common goal without them realizing the fact that they were being used for such purposes.

The tale is a tall one, and filled with humor and the unbelievable. But the love she invests in her characters is reflected in the heartwarming feeling they evoke in the readers. Underneath (no pun intended) all the fun are lessons we can all take to heart for the preservation of the gifts we have been given. From the Ivory-billed woodpecker (or Lord God Bird, as it is often referred to), to the honoring of traditions and memories of those passed, there is a touch of nostalgia for many of us in this beautifully rendered work of art.

I highly recommend this book as a read-aloud in classrooms, as a bedtime treat, or as a read alone for the slightly older reader.