This Is Halloween!

Everyday Adventures

Oh, folks, it is my most favoritest time of the year: Labor Day is done, summer is effectively over, and now we can get to the good stuff: fall and Halloween!

While we’ll wait a little bit to start decorating (our decorating scheme may have to change a bit to be Duncan-proof, but that’s a conversation for another day), I think it’s the perfect time to start watching some of my favorite seasonal movies. Usually I just start in October, but I think this year I’ll start right now (well, last night) with the various Halloween and Halloween-adjacent movies that I love.

Last night’s flick? Practical Magic. As much as Love Actually inaugurates the Christmas movie season, Practical Magic is my go-to witch movie of choice. Not that I restrict viewing of these or any other movies to only one time of year, mind you, but it’s more special this time of year.

And what will I watch for the next 54 days? In no particular order…

  1. Halloweentown
  2. Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge
  3. Halloweentown High
  4. Return to Halloweentown
  5. Hocus Pocus
  6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (we consider this a dual-holiday movie)
  7. Scream
  8. Scream 2
  9. Scream 3
  10. Scream 4
  11. The Craft
  12. Ghostbusters
  13. Ghostbusters 2
  14. House on Haunted Hill, 1959
  15. House on Haunted Hill, 1999 (I’m usually not fond of remakes, but both versions stand pretty well on their own for different reasons)
  16. Little Shop of Horrors
  17. 13 Ghosts
  18. The Haunting, 1963
  19. The Haunting, 1999 (again, another stand-along remake that I can get behind)
  20. The  Birds
  21. The Addams Family
  22. Addams Family Values
  23. Manhunter
  24. Silence of the Lambs
  25. Hannibal
  26. Sleepy Hollow
  27. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
  28. The Others
  29. The Sixth Sense
  30. The Corpse Bride
  31. Devil’s Advocate
  32. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  33. Edward Scissorhands
  34. Rocky Horror Picture Show
  35. Beetlejuice
  36. Monsters Inc
  37. The Faculty
  38. I Know What You Did Last Summer
  39. Skeleton Key
  40. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  41. Idle Hands (a friend of mine’s brother is in this one)
  42. Teen Witch
  43. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the Movie
  44. The Worst Witch
  45. Clue
  46. The Lost Boys
  47. The Haunted Mansion
  48. The Good Witch
  49. Once Bitten
  50. What Lies Beneath
  51. The Woman in Black
  52. Flatliners
  53. The Witches
  54. The Village

I’m sure you can tell I’m not big on the gory side of the horror movie genre. You won’t find me watching slasher flicks or movies intended to give you full-on nightmares. I’d never sleep again! But I like suspense and some tamer horror, along with a lot of fun. Last year I watched several of the Goosebumps movies that were on Netflix, and I’m sure I’ll tumble down some b-movie holes a few times over the next few months.

What are your favorite movies for this time of year? Any must-sees that I’ve left off my list, above?

Fondue for Two at Home


Happy New Year! How did you choose to ring in the new year?

We like to avoid crowds and reckless drivers by celebrating at home and, for the last few years or so, we’ve whipped up a tasty fondue at home as a way to make dinner a little more special.

Our New Year's Eve Feast!

Our New Year’s Eve Feast!

The above picture was pretty popular on my Facebook feed that night, so I thought I’d spill the beans (or cheese, at it was) on just how simple it is to put something like this together. It looks impressive, and tastes divine, but it’s not a lot of work.

First, you need a fondue pot. You can find various types at thrift stores and yard sales, or you can pick up a new one. You can get an electric one or one that uses fuel (like Sterno) or a candle. The one we have was a gift from my mom years ago and it’s the latter type. Intended for chocolate, it calls for a small Sterno can but I can never find the right size. Never underestimate the heating power of a tea light, though–it’s always done a great job of keeping the cheese or chocolate nice and fluid. (For a broth-style fondue, where you’re actually cooking your add-ins, I do bring out the Sterno, even if it doesn’t fit the holder quite right.) You can also use a small slow-cooker for cheese or chocolate fondue. As long as it keeps it hot, you’re golden!

Next, you need a quick and easy fondue recipe. This year’s came from The Fondue Bible (I reviewed it back in 2014) and is super simple.

Bacon Cheese Fondue

adapted from The Fondue Bible, Ilana Simon

6 slices bacon
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz old Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard

Fry (or bake, our preferred method) the bacon until crisp, allow to cool, then crumble. Grate your cheeses and mix with the nutmeg and dry mustard. Do these steps ahead to make night-of preparation easier.

Heat yogurt over low heat until warm. Add handfuls of the grated cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Once all the cheese in in, add the rest of your ingredients, seasoning to taste.

We found this to be a little thick so stirred in a bit of milk (maybe 1/4 cup in total).

Of course, the last think you’ll do is put the fondue together. Save that for last, and start laying out your trays of nibbles.

A cheese fondue is not meant to cook anything, so your dippers need to be okay eaten raw or already cooked. On the cold tray I assembled:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Baby carrots
  • Grapes

Not all of these go into the cheese (though you might be surprised at the different combos you can make), but it’s nice to have some cool palate cleansers set out. Apples and pears are not something I eat very much of (since they’re high FODMAP), but we had both in the house so I decided to indulge. The apples were already sliced and bagged, but the pears came in a Harry & David gift box so needed to be sliced and dunked in a little lemon water to keep them from browning too fast on the tray. I split the carrots and radishes in half for better portion control. The strawberries were small, so I just removed the stems. Very simple and quick.

On the cooked tray I did a mix of hot and cold:

  • Capicola
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Chicken Sausage

The salami, capicola, and prosciutto came in a three-pack from Trader Joe’s; the first two already in a pretty little fall so all you have to do is set it out on a wooden cutting board. The proscuitto had deli paper interleaved and it was easier to crinkle it up in a corner than try to straighten out the slices. Work with what you’ve got. The smoked salmon was sliced thick, so I broke it up for the other corner. Presentation is all about balance. The chicken sausage was fully cooked, but I warmed it up in the microwave while arranging the rest of the tray.

Then there’s the bread. A good cheese fondue just begs for fresh bread, so either pick up a baguette from the bakery or, if you’re shopping far in advance, head to the freezer aisle for a load that can go in the oven while you’re laying out your trays. I found a gluten-free loaf that only needed to come to room temperature, didn’t even need baking, and it was fabulous!

I also added some frozen spinach-artichoke dip from Trader Joe’s that was microwavable–all I did was put it into a pretty dish. It was a last-minute add to the table but we certainly enjoyed it.

Fondue for Two

I hope you’ll consider fondue for your next special night in. It’s great for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or any given date night.

12 Days of Blogmas: Golden Memories

Just for Fun

Today we’re visiting with the ghosts of Christmases past today on the 12 Days of Blogmas.

1979892_10101414172064854_7744281058639567229_nChristmas Stockings

When I was younger (ages 3-6 or so) we lived at my grandmother’s house. There was a rule that I couldn’t wake up the grown-ups on Christmas morning but I could go and get my stocking off the banister and play with whatever was inside while I waited for them. The one Christmas that really stands out in that house, I remember getting up when the house was quiet, getting my stocking, and bringing it back to bed (with my Bambi blanket with the white fringe). On the top of my stocking was an envelope with my name on it and inside were a couple sets of plastic barrettes. I don’t remember what else was in there (though there was probably an orange in the toe–does anyone else have that tradition, too?), but I remember the barrettes.

When I mentioned this to Aunt M a few years back, she told me that she was the one responsible for getting those stockings made and hung up each year; I learned something new!

There’s also a story about the banister, itself. See, this was my grandmother’s dream home and she was adamant that it would be single story. But my grandfather, apparently, couldn’t pass up a good deal, and as he was driving through town they were tearing down a bank and this sweeping staircase was just sitting there. So he bought it and had it hauled to their property and added to the house. It was a very impressive staircase that went up to two, small attic rooms that were never really meant to be. Aunt M used one as a study area when she was still in school and my little cousins used one of the rooms as a bedroom when they stayed there.

I like to think that I’d do the same as my grandfather… it’s a shame to let good architectural salvage go to waste.

* * *

The Great Rum Ball Caper

Another memory from that same time period involves holiday baking. I was too young to really help with all the older cousins, aunts, and everyone in the kitchen, but I could watch from the kitchen table as they make cookies, date loaf, candies, and–my favorite–rum balls. I was allowed one or two when they were made but then they were put away into a stainless steel canister and placed in the pantry.

I was not, apparently, content to settle for the rum balls I was previously allotted, so I took matters into my own hands. At some point later Mom found me, in the dark, walk-in pantry, with the canister of rum balls in my lap as I munched away.

I remember this every time I make rum balls at home.

* * *

Cabbage Patch Madness

Oh, man, when Cabbage Patch kids first came out they were the Tickle Me Elmo of our generation (or, well, Tickle Me Elmo was the Cabbage Patch Kids of the next generation, since they came first, but you know what I mean). They were the It Toy and sold out as soon as they arrived in stores. And, of course, I wanted one just like every girl my age. I remember going to Service Merchandise (does anyone else remember that store?) and seeing the barest aisles where the CPK were supposed to be.

That year was one of the few we went back to Louisiana for Christmas, to visit Mom’s family. And I remember many things from that trip: the sleepover with the distant cousins while they gossiped about Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton; the dance party that my uncle filmed on his Camcorder with various cousins doing the worm, the snake, and the highly questionable dance that simulated cracking an egg on one’s head (and, yes, that video got trotted out every time we’d go home to visit for years); and the grown-ups making us little ones Shirley Temples while they had their beer and cocktails in the other room.

And, of course, I remember getting up on Christmas morning and seeing Cabbage Patch Kids under the tree. It was the first time I’d seen Santa gifts left unwrapped and on display.

My first Cabbage Patch had green eyes and orange hair and was named Eva Eleanor. My cousins had entire nurseries full of CBK, I topped out at two, but I was still giddy to visit the Cabbage Patch Museum in northern Georgia in 2006 when we were nearby visiting friends. (They gave our CPKs Visitor name badges–probably to make sure they didn’t try to charge us when we left, lol.)

* * *

Walking on Thin Ice

One year Mom wanted to get my brothers a swing set for Christmas, but she wanted it to just magically appear in the yard, all put together on Christmas morning. So she had a neighbor put it together in their yard and the plan was that we’d go over and get it after the boys went to bed on Christmas Eve.

That was one of the coldest Christmases I can remember. There was ice on the ground and the steel of the swing set was bitterly cold. But we “walked” the set across three yards, trying not to slip and bust our asses on the ice, in pajamas and robes, in the middle of the night.

Granted, the swing set still couldn’t be played on until holes were dug for the legs and concrete anchors poured, but we pulled off the surprise.

* * *

Bricks Instead of Coal

Growing up it was always Mom who took care of stocking stuffers and, in past relationships, I would take over buying little things for the stockings for others as well as myself. By the time Todd and I got together I’d gotten better at asking for what I wanted as opposed to just waiting for someone to read my mind and step up, so I asked that we include the stockings as part of our Christmas gifts–that he would fill mine and I would fill his. And Todd was cool with that.

(See, folks, when you communicate things get a lot simpler!)

One year in particular we both went a little overboard with the stocking stuffers to the point that the stocking were pulling over the weighted stocking hangers sitting on the mantle. We would each sneak into the living room at different times to fill the stockings and I’d already had to grab a brick from the yard (which I wrapped in foil to make it, uh, festive) to keep Todd’s from tipping over when I heard him having the same sort of trouble from the other room!

It always amuses me when we end up on the same page–be it both wanting froyo on the same night or over-stuffing the stockings the same year.

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!


12 Days of Blogmas: Holiday Quotes

Just for Fun

When you just can’t think of the right thing to say or write inside a card, it never hurts to fall back on some tried and true wisdom from others. (Incidentally, this goes well with Art 33.)


I’m sure this one will find its way on a lot of lists in today’s blog theme.

It came without ribbons!… it came without tags!… it came without packages, boxes, or bags!…Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!

–How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

I mean, really, if that doesn’t sum up the best parts of Christmas I don’t know what does.

My next favorite holiday quote is actually a song lyric, but still counts!

I pray my wish will come true
For my child and your child too
He’ll see the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

–Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy, David Bowie et al.

It’s my favorite version of my least favorite song, all because of the counterpoint. But, really, with all the stress and strife and violence in the world right now, these lyrics really go deep into the core issue: men of good will, that’s what we need now more than ever. Men and women who want more than anything peace and good will to reign instead of terror and fear.

…if you can’t say it at Christmas, when can you?

–Natalie’s Christmas Card, Love, Actually

This one is just so sweet and earnest, it stands out among some truly incredible lines from one of my favorite movies. But it also makes me think a bit, what is actually being said here. Is Christmas a more honest time? Or is it that, with everyone all full of warm holiday thoughts and fuzzy on Christmas cheer, it makes spilling secrets from your heart easier? Is it that the twinkle of Christmas lights gives us hope that our feelings won’t be summarily crushed and that we can trust the person on the other end to at least receive it nicely, even if they can’t or don’t want to reciprocate?

Now, I’d normally stop there because I’m a fan of trios, but it’s the 4th day of Blogmas so four quotes there shall be!

Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.

–Edna Ferber

Obviously I’ve got a theme running, here. Christmas, to me, isn’t about religion.* It isn’t about the commercialization of sales and presents or one-upping the neighbors light display. And it’s not even about family gathering together (we just did that, after all, for Thanksgiving). It’s the spirit of Christmas, the kindness, the smiles, the peace and joy, the hope for better tomorrows, that means the most to me.

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

*Just a note: many Christmas traditions pre-date Christianity and were co-opted by the Church to make conversion more appealing to the reluctant converts. So when I say Christmas isn’t about religion, I’m not trying to negate the religious aspects of it that so many prize, I’m just taking a more historic view of the various winter celebrations across several cultures that have all mixed in to create our modern Christmas. 

12 Days of Blogmas: Signs of the Season

Just for Fun

A common refrain, down here in the South, is how hard it is to get into the Christmas mood when it’s still hot and muggy outside. We usually get a tease of a cold snap in October or November, but there’s just as good a chance we could be sporting shorts on Christmas day as anything else. (Today it’s supposed to get near 80°, for the record, 2 weeks before Christmas.)

So, when we can’t rely on Mother Nature to tell us when the holidays have arrived, what can we be on the lookout for?


The first think I look for is the lights, downtown. Since I still work in Tallahassee I still drive through downtown on my way to and from work and seeing the twinkle lights in the trees on Park Ave. always makes me smile. I think they leave them up all year, of course, but they officially turn them on at the Winter Festival, usually the first weekend of December. Seeing them peek through the leaves while I’m waiting for traffic to move makes me feel all warm and glowy inside.

The next thing is the music. Even though I rebel at listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving (“one holiday at a time” is my mantra), when the local stations start slipping holiday tunes into the rotation (or switch formats completely and only play Christmas tunes) I can’t help but sing along. (Unless it’s Christmas Shoes… that song just needs to go away.) Holiday music is coming up on the 9th day of Blogmas (check back on the 21st) so I won’t go into the songs that are must-plays for me, but the list is long and varied.

One last sign of the season, for me, is the changes that happen at the office. The annual scramble for my coworkers to use up their vacation before the end of the year (we have a use it or lose it policy), the murmurings of when we’ll be closed for the holidays (we’ve got the week leading up to Christmas off, wohoo!), and the ‘don’t forget to do this by the 31st’ notes from our vendors. It’s certainly not a traditional holiday sign for most, but end of the year is a busy time for bookkeepers and it spills over into January and beyond. In fact, as much as I love when we get a week off for the holidays instead of the usual 2 days, the downside is that I still have to accomplish everything I do in a normal month, plus year-end stuff, in fewer days.

Not that I’m volunteering to work that week! My happy butt will be at home finishing up Christmas presents and baking and the paperwork will just have to sort itself out when we get back on the 28th!

Do you have any non-traditional signs of the holiday season?


The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!

The 12 Days of Blogmas is a link-up hosted by The Coastie Couple and The Petite Mrs. Check out either of their blogs to see what everyone else has to say on today’s topic!