Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is the day for ghost stories so I thought I would share one with you! This is a story that someone told me in Elementary school and I always thought it was a fun one.

Yellow Ribbon


Jane wore a yellow ribbon around her neck everyday. And I mean everyday, rain or shine, whether it matched her outfit or not. It annoyed her best friend Johnny after awhile. He was her next door neighbor and had known Jane since she was three. When he was young, he had barely noticed the yellow ribbon, but now they were in high school together, it bothered him.

“Why do you wear that yellow ribbon around your neck, Jane?” he’d ask her every day. But she wouldn’t tell him.

Still, in spite of this aggravation, Johnny thought she was cute. He asked her to the soda shoppe for an ice cream sundae. Then he asked her to watch him play in the football game. Then he started seeing her home. And come the spring, he asked her to the dance. Jane always said yes when he asked her out. And she always wore a yellow dress to match the ribbon around her neck.

It finally occurred to Johnny that he and Jane were going steady, and he still didn’t know why she wore the yellow ribbon around her neck. So he asked her about it yet again, and yet again she did not tell him. “Maybe someday I’ll tell you about it,” she’d reply. Someday! That answer annoyed Johnny, but he shrugged it off, because Jane was so cute and fun to be with.

Well, time flew past, as it has a habit of doing, and one day Johnny proposed to Jane and was accepted. They planned a big wedding, and Jane hinted that she might tell him about the yellow ribbon around her neck on their wedding day. But somehow, what with the preparations and his beautiful bride, and the lovely reception, Johnny never got around to asking Jane about it. And when he did remember, she got a bit teary-eyed, and said: “We are so happy together, what difference does it make?” And Johnny decided she was right.

Johnny and Jane raised a family of four, with the usual ups and downs, laughter and tears. When their golden anniversary rolled around, Johnny once again asked Jane about the yellow ribbon around her neck. It was the first time he’d brought it up since the week after their wedding. Whenever their children asked him about it, he’d always hushed them, and somehow none of the kids had dared ask their mother. Jane gave Johnny as sad look and said: “Johnny, you’ve waited this long. You can wait awhile longer.”

And Johnny agreed. It was not until Jane was on her death bed a year later that Johnny, seeing his last chance slip away, asked Jane one final time about the yellow ribbon she wore around her neck. She shook her head a bit at his persistence, and then said with a sad smile: “Okay Johnny, you can go ahead and untie it.”

With shaking hands, Johnny fumbled for the knot and untied the yellow ribbon around his wife’s neck.
And Jane’s head fell off.



Happy Halloween Everyone!



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Hallow's Eve

There is so much history to Halloween that many don't know, or don't remember hearing about until they research it. I assumed that the phrase "All Hallow's Eve" referred to the evening before Halloween. But, I found myself incorrect and learned a few other things along the way...

 
All Hallow's eve is believed to be in reference to the eve before honoring the dead (which Jairica will share  about November 1st). There are many other names by which people have referred to October 31 throughout history.



-Hallowe'en or now Halloween a contraction for "All Hallow's Evening" 

-All Saint's Eve

As with many holidays, there are traditions and staples that evolve over time that are far different and detached from the original meaning and purpose of the holiday. For example, Trick-or-Treating: Our purpose for trick-or-treating now is to either give candy or try and trick someone by scaring them (or some other minor prank). Originally, the purpose was the poor going door to door for food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Saint's Day (November 1 evening-November 2).

We of course are left with other common aspects of Halloween such as costumes, pumpkins, scary movies, haunted houses, ghost stories at bonfires, fear of cemeteries and the woods, fears of black cats, and so many more!



Monday, October 29, 2012

Jairica Stepford's Halloween Take Five

I love Halloween. It might just be my favorite holiday of all time, though I usually change my mind about that sometime in December. These are the five things I like most about Halloween...and believe me it is tough to pick only five things!

#1 Leaves Changing Color



This is more of a fall thing than a Halloween thing, but the two merge together when you are trick or treating and the leaves are cascading down on you in all their colorful glory.





#2 Carving Pumpkins


I like reaching in and pulling out the "guts", I just can't help it. They are slimy and gooey and delightful in every way. The actual carving with a knife I leave to my husband, but I love coming up with the designs. This owl is the one Shannon carved this year.

#3 Eating Pumpkin Flavored ANYTHING!

 

As you may have guessed from my many pumpkin recipe posts of soups, main dishes, breakfast and desserts I love the flavor of pumpkin! In fact, my wonderful husband just bought me twelve pumpkin doughnuts and I am going to eat them all (not at once)!

#4 Playing Dress up 


As a kid I used to love playing dress up (what little girl doesn't?) and I never really grew out of it. Sometimes Shannon comes home to find me dressed like a gypsy or a princess or a 50's housewife for no reason at all. Halloween legitimizes it for me!

#5 Reese's Pumpkins


They are my third favorite Reese Cup....I like the eggs the best, then the trees, then the pumpkins...and lastly the hearts...yeah I know I am weird, but can anyone honestly say they feel it should be in a different order?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stephanie Stepford's Halloween Take Five

I love traditions. They make you feel young again, comfortable, and give you something to look forward to. There are certain things I automatically think about and associate with Halloween, and here is my top five list of things I look forward to at Halloween.

5. Wax Lips I don't know what it is about fake lips that don't even taste that good, but I get brought back many many years when I think about these lips. They are fun, goofy, and sometimes hard to find!



4. Ernest Scared Stupid This movie is something else, but is the very first movie I think of when I think about Halloween. I have seen this movie nearly every year and I think of as a classic!





 
3. Candy Corn Candy corn isn't as much of a specialty Halloween item anymore because it can be purchased year round through many different brands. That doesn't change my memories as a child about this wonderful candy though! I am pretty picky, and I feel like I can tell the difference if the candy corn isn't white, orange and yellow. Some brands add a green or a brown, but it just isn't the same. Candy corn in any other shape...also not the same! The best way I found as a child to eat candy corn was to eat the white tip (off every piece) then the orange, then the best was saved for last...the rounded smooth yellow! There was confusion if any piece was not colored correctly but somehow I managed and grew up to be a normally functioning human being (according to some!).

2. Scented Jack-O-Lantern
This is an adult twist to a childhood favorite! I am traditional and still like to use tea light candles to illuminate our jack o lanterns. As an added perk to the jack o lantern,  I love to sprinkle cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon inside the pumpkin and after a short while the flame from the candle will start warming it and produce a yummy aroma! Be warned, the pumpkin is likely to grow mold and rot much faster with the spices than without, so wait until trick-or-treat night (or Halloween).

1. The Circleville Pumpkin Show
This memory is certainly biased based upon my home state of Ohio. The pumpkin show is also more about fall than it is about Halloween, but because it is such a big deal to me and my family (and it happens within two weeks of Halloween it becomes one and the same to Halloween preparation to me. There is pumpkin flavored everything, and of course you can't forget the prizes for pumpkins (biggest, smallest, weirdest, prettiest, etc.)  They also hold the record for the world's largest pumpkin pie (a few years ago at their 100th anniversary), and make pumpkin towers.

Fun facts about the biggest pumpkins: the winners each year tend to be an ongoing rivalry amongst 2-3 families, the farmers keep seeds from their biggest pumpkins and keep growing giants, after being picked from their farm these pumpkins start loosing weight because of evaporating water so they weigh them quickly for the highest possible weight.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Horror Movies You May not Have Seen....But Totally Should



Horror movies are a staple of Halloween. Everyone knows the classics, the younger kids watch Halloween Town and The Great Pumpkin while the older ones scare themselves with classic horror films or new and scary hack and slash thrillers. I wanted to share with you a few of my own recommendations that you might not have seen or even heard of yet.




Funny Games


This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Two men take a family hostage "betting" the whole family will die by the next morning. Though this is a thriller/horror movie it is like none I have ever seen before. The director has the actors break down the fourth wall and draw you into their evil schemes, thus torturing the audience as well as the family trapped in the movie. It is not just an exercise in sadistic manipulation or another torture porn flick, but rather a commentary on the ways we are inevitably manipulated by the medium of film. In fact, you could call it an anti-horror movie...but don't think that means it isn't horrific.

The original (in German) is superior to the American version in that the Germans allow for more realistically long pauses, avoid the more explicit forms of titillation (no full nudity or gory death blows are actually shown), and keep the antagonists more stoic, leaner, and meaner. The American version keeps things moving at a faster pace for those with shorter attention spans, but I think when something truly horrific happens it calls for a pause, you need to let it sink in. The plots are identical though, and of course the German version is subtitled, so just pick the version you think you would enjoy most. Either way, prepare to be horrified. This movie is sick, twisted, and leaves most speechless. I would not recommend this movie to children or young teens.

Ginger Snaps

 

This is a horror film which uses werewolfism as a metaphor for puberty. That idea isn't a new one, there are plenty of natural parallels between lycanthropy and puberty. During puberty, the human body changes dramatically. These changes can seem foreign, and they're definitely beyond a young person's control. In Ginger Snaps we meet two sisters, Ginger and  Brigitte who see themselves as outsiders, it is them against the world. While sneaking out of the house, the elder of the two (Ginger), is attacked by something in the woods, thus beginning her transformation.

As Brigitte watches Ginger slowly turn into an unrecognizable monster she desperately attempts to get her sister back, no matter how cruel Ginger becomes. This is especially touching because in many ways Ginger’s behavior is just an exaggeration of normal puberty and growing up. I feel that this movie is sort of an allegory of the unique and ever changing relationship between two sisters...that also happens to include lots of gore, death, and destruction. Though not rated I would still advise to treat it as a PG 13 movie not suitable for young children.

Black Sheep


No, I do not mean the Chris Farley movie, though Black Sheep IS a comedy...a horrific one! This New Zeland movie explores the dangerous consequences of genetically altering sheep. Though the sheep are not actually zombies, most of my friends call this "the zombie sheep movie". It has the classic elements of a zombie movie with all the gore and guts, and interesting things do happen to those bitten by the genetically mutated sheep, but not eaten. They do a great job with make-up and special effects and I really appreciate that none of it is CGI. The best part however, is the story itself. Even through the terrors of being surrounded by a flock of angry man-eating sheep, everything manages to have an air of light-hearted fun about it. The key is that this movie does not take itself too seriously and allows the viewers to just enjoy the ridiculousness without feeling ridiculous for enjoying it. With a tag line of  "There are forty million sheep in New Zealand...and they're pissed off!" how could it NOT be hilariously awesome? Be warned however, that there is some bestiality and plenty of gore, so it isn't really suitable for young children.

Suspiria 



Dario Argento is a horror legend and this movie is legendary. Rotton Tomatoes calls it a "candy-colored nightmare" and they hit it right on the nose. Dario Argento uses such creativity when it comes to color, lighting, and music that it has a very dream like quality. It was the last European film to be shot in technicolor, a process hailed for its saturated levels of color, and Argento made sure the process went out with a bang.

 





Based on essays in Thomas DeQuincey's Suspiria de Profundis, this film deals with one of the "Three Mothers" who are ancient and powerful witches living in various places around the world in an effort to spread their evil. Mater Suspiriorum (the mother of sighs)  lives in Germany and occupies the Freiburg Academy of ballet which is the focus of Suspiria.

 The Village Voice ranked Suspiria number 100 on their list of the 100 greatest films made in the 20th century. Entertainment Weekly ranked Suspiria number 18 on their list of the 25 scariest films ever and a poll of critics of Total Film ranked it number 3 on their list of the 50 greatest horror films ever. It is well worth the watch if you aren't too squeamish about evil killers plunging their knives into exposed beating hearts and trapping young ballet dancers in rooms of barbed wire.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Trick or Treat Safety

Every year children get very excited to go trick-or-treating to collect candy and goodies from others. There are a few things we can do as parents to make sure it stays a fun activity, and safe as well!

1. Go along with younger children.
 
This goes without saying, but younger children should be accompanied by adults or older and responsible siblings. With children going to many strangers homes, and all in costume, it would be a scary situation to not know where your child was. Younger children might become disoriented and confused while trick-or-treating and not know what street they are on, this is especially true if your city has trick-or-treat at night.

2. Check your child's candy before they eat it.

It has happened in the past that children get candy that has been laced with poison or razor blades. This occurrence is very small and is not really much of a concern, but why take the chance? It only takes one strange person to make this possibility real. Most hospitals will offer free x-rays of your child's candy (check for availability and dates/times).  My husband worked as an x-ray technician in the past and personally never found anything of concern while scanning the loot. You can still give a quick check for each piece of candy if you choose to by-pass the hospital check. Even if you aren't checking for drugs, poison, or razor blades, it is still a good idea to make sure the candy wrappers are still intact to insure the candy hasn't been contaminated naturally or become stale.

3. Sidewalks, Flashlights and Reflectors.

Most people are smart enough to not be driving around during trick-or-treat unless they can help it. Still, there are lots of children on the streets and distractions everywhere for drivers. Use sidewalks as much as possible, and try to avoid crossing the street more than necessary. If you are out at night, try to have a flashlight or reflectors on your costume.

4. Homemade Treats or Drinks

This goes along with number 2, but it should receive special attention. If you are given a treat that was homemade, you should make sure you know the person that gave it to you. If you are unfamiliar with the treat giver, it is safest not to consume their gift. Most people will realize this and have an alternatively "sealed" treat for those trick-or-treaters they don't know.

5. Costume Safety

So many times, I see young trick-or-treaters walking down the street and they are tripping over their costume, can't see through their mask and run into something, or have shoes that are too big or are rubbing blisters. All of these things make your trick-or-treat experience less than it should be and can easily be fixed or prevented by assessing your costume ahead of time! I guess you should also make sure the costume is flame resistant. If you are at a bonfire this is a no-brainer, but for regular trick-or-treating I'm going to guess this isn't a specifically pressing issue to look into.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Planning Ahead for Homemade Christmas Gifts

Every once in a while, we reach a point in our lives where there are several people we think about near Christmas time, but that aren't specifically included on our Christmas gift list. There are several great, and fairly cheap (after divided out into multiples) homemade gifts that are thoughtful, useful, and personalized.


With anything homemade, attention to detail is important, so I'm sharing these ideas before the big holiday rush so that time and attention can be given to these gift ideas.

1. canning preserves or cookie mix with instruction card




This was a big hit around 10 years ago when someone realized you could give someone homemade cookie mix (minus wet ingredients), attach a recipe card, and give it as a gift. The idea behind this is still just as great! If you are lucky, you can even find Ball or Kerr jars on clearance right now! This is a gift giving idea best done in bulk because you can make multiples for virtually no more effort than making one singly. 
If you already have a jam, preserve, sauce, or other food people love that you can this is simple-stick with that! If this is something you haven't done you can get creative with what you want to give. 

Go to allrecipies.com and search cookie in a jar to find many flavors and the necessary card to attach to the jar!

2. spray bottle with essential oils body or room sprays 

 
I personally greatly enjoy my doTerra certified therapeutic grade oils, and like to find many ways to utilize them (and get others to try and enjoy as well). After you have invested in the oils, they can be mixed to make other products. An idea is to make your own body mist or room spray from them. Make sure you identify your spray as all the great things it is (natural, therapeutic, pure, organic, etc) based on truth from the ingredients you use. I suggest distilled water or fractionated coconut oil as the main ingredient in your spray (the oils being the second (and only other) ingredient) The container store sells aluminum 2 and 4 oz. empty spray bottles. The shiny look of the bottle makes the product look even more special!

3. homemade lotion bars

Photo of home-made coconut oil hard lotion bar

Homemade soap can be made with many different ingredients and scents, but for a simple gift, try making the coconut lotion bars shared previously Coconut Oil-For the Body with one of these twists:
  • Add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil for scent.
  • Add 10 drops of peppermint essential oil and 1/2 tsp of powdered ginger for use on sore muscles after working out.
4. nail and thread art

 

I discovered this idea last year before Christmas, and found that it made a great gift for people that have everything or that you don't know what they want. I already had most of the thread colors in my sewing box and was able to find a $1 wooden cutting board that already had finished round edges that I could use as my base. I used tempura paint to paint the wood, used a clear spray paint coating, then hammered the nails into the wood in the pattern desired and wrapped sewing thread around them. The key to this gift is time. You must take the time to wait for the paint to dry, then you must take the time to make a template or measure out your design. The results are pretty amazing, and if you personalize with names or other custom feature they will know for sure you made it! Look around on Pinterest for many design and color ideas. Ideas I have tried are scarlet and grey thread on the outline of a block "O" (Ohio State fan) and the outline of the state of Ohio with the family surname beneath it.
 
5. hand made stationary, cards, or gift tags

Emily Summers Design and Nonsense  DIY Gift Tags from scrapbook paper! scrapbook paper greeting cards

This last idea also requires time, and is best done in bulk. If you have many people to give gifts to this year, you can save a lot of time and money by purchasing scrap booking paper in large packages and using a paper cutter to cut multiple pieces at once. This way you can take the time to measure once, then not waste time cutting many duplicates. Hobby stores sell bulk plain cards and envelopes (in packs of 50) and packs of "coordinating" scrap booking paper. You can customize size, shape, color-just about any and every aspect of this idea. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pomegrantes-They Are Wonderful

Pomegranates have become much more popular in recent years, and there are still uses and facts about them that many people do not know. Up until 5 years ago, I can honestly say I had never seen a pomegranate, let alone tasted one. Once I tried it I fell in love with it and quickly wore myself out on the flavor. Over time though, I have been able to enjoy the fruit in moderation and reap the nutritional benefits as well!

First thing is first about pomegranates-color and size are everything. I never purchase the first pomegranates that show up in the grocery stores. They tend to be pricey and it is for a smaller and less juicy fruit. The best deal you will likely find is for $1 per fruit, but plan on $2-3 depending on season and quality. Pomegranate is already tart, but when it is perfectly ripe and ready for eating the tart juice has a sweetness to it.

The hardest part about buying a pomegranate fruit is getting the individual pieces out without busting them open. I have found the easiest and cleanest method for getting the seed sacks (kernels) out of the fruit is to cut the pomegranate in half (or thirds) and pull it apart with your fingers while it is underwater in a bowl. The purpose for opening the fruit underwater is it prevents the dark colored juice from accidentally staining anything as well as it allows the white membrane to separate away from the part you will eat. The seeds should sink and the membrane should float.


Eating a pomegranate in its fresh natural state is a unique experience. Each kernel of pomegranate has an edible seed inside of it. I find the most satisfying way to eat the pomegranate is buy eating it half a handful at a time. This method allows you to get a bit of the juice at once when you bite the kernels open, then it gives you some texture to chew once the juice has come out of the kernel.

If all of this preparation is too time consuming and messy, you can still enjoy the flavor and benefits of the fruit through juice such as POM Wonderful.

The following are some of the widely believed health benefits of the fruit (from healthdiaries.com):

Fights Breast Cancer
Studies in Israel show that pomegranate juice destroys breast cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. It may also prevent breast cancer cells from forming.

Lung Cancer Prevention
Studies in mice show that pomegranate juice may inhibit the development of lung cancer.

Slows Prostate Cancer
It slowed the growth of prostate cancer in mice.

Keeps PSA Levels Stable
In a study of 50 men who had undergone treatment for prostate cancer, 8 ounces of pomegranate juice per day kept PSA levels stable, reducing the need for further treatment such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

Protects the Neonatal Brain
Studies show that maternal consumption of pomegranate juice may protect the neonatal brain from damage after injury.

Prevention of Osteoarthritis
Several studies indicate that pomegranate juice may prevent cartilage deterioration.

Protects the Arteries
It prevents plaque from building up in the arteries and may reverse previous plaque buildup.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pregnancy Hip Pain

 
Any other pregnant Mommies having hip pain? I'm finding it nearly impossible to sleep on my sides because my hips are protesting, I have already started a waddle like walk! I've tried heat and ice and nothing works...I think it's probably the relaxin loosening me up for the big day, but still, it's annoying!



Here are some tips to help you with your hip pain:


  • During the day, too much walking will make it worse. I would suggest staying off your feet if you can, but when you can't try wearing a belly support belt when you have to be on your feet a lot.


  • Ease your aching hips by using your body pillow to elevate your leg when you sleep.


  • Try sleeping in a recliner so you are on your back instead of your side.


  • Use an exercise ball to stretch the hips, as well as any other trunk or thigh exercises to strengthen those support muscles.


  • Try water aerobics to exercise but still stay off your feet.


  • Remember the pain should go away after you give birth and soon it will be just a distant memory.

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