A Little Hallo-Fun!

Halloween is a great time to throw a party! Fall has arrived, there’s a chill in the air and everyone is ready for a little mischief & Hallo-fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning for children, teens or adults, because everyone loves a Halloween party!

Get in the spirit and share the magic no matter where you are by sending ecards via mobile, or post them to facebook. Here’s a great tip to get double duty out of your ecard: Use the personal message section within the ecard as a save-the-date for your upcoming Halloween party. You can let everyone know that you’re planning on throwing a ghoulishly fun get-together so they can keep their eye out for an invitation.

Make it a costume party! Everyone will be willing to dress up because it’s Halloween, so why not go one step further and create a specific theme for the costumes. Here are some great ideas:

Famous Couples throughout history

Literary Characters

Renaissance Era

Roaring 20’s

Gods & Goddesses

Wild-Wild West

Zombies VS Aliens

It’s always fun to have a “best costume” contest at a Halloween party, so have a few prizes on-hand for the winners – nothing extravagant – think anything from candy treat bags to scratch-off lottery tickets. Another great idea is to keep some disposable cameras around and encourage your guests to snap away during the night.

And don’t forget that any good Halloween party includes an abundance of deadly-sweet treats! Here are a few of our favorite ghoulishly great recipes!

Creepy-Crawly Spider Cupcakes

Hot Dog Mummies

Wicked Cupcakes

Halloween Boo-Scotti



A Little Hallo-History

A little hallo-history to get us in the Halloween spirit. Halloween, derived from “All Hallows Eve,” is a combination of ancient Celtic, Roman and Catholic origins, with European folklore traditions thrown into the mix.

Dating back to the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain, which celebrated the Celtic New Year every November 1, it was believed that spirits would attempt to inhabit the living, as the boundaries between the two were blurred around this time of year. In order to keep the spirits from wreaking havoc, crops were burned and animals were sacrificed into bonfires built by the Druids (Celtic priests), with the skins used as costumes as they told each others’ fortunes.

When the Romans conquered the Celtic territory in the first century, they adopted the traditions of Samhain and combined it with two Roman festivals: Feralia, a day which honored the deceased, and another festival honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruit and trees. Symbolized by the apple, it is believed that Pomona’s inclusion in Samhain led to the modern day tradition of bobbing for apples.

By the turn of the ninth century, Christianity had spread throughout the Celtic territory. Pope Boniface IV had declared November 1 as All Saint’s Day—a time to honor saints and martyrs—two centuries prior. It was believed the Pope wished to eradicate the Celtic festivals, substituting them with a church-sanctioned observance instead.

When Europeans immigrated to America, many brought with them the various customs and celebrations, although they were not practiced evenly throughout the colonies. Frowned upon by the strict Protestants in the New England area, traditions were mostly carried out in the more southern colonies. Mixed with American Indian beliefs, The American update of Halloween began to blossom. Harvest celebrations, fortune-telling, singing and dancing, as well as stories of the dead took root. Jack-o-lanterns, of Celtic folklore using turnips in their legend, became pumpkins once the Irish came to America and noticed the abundance of pumpkins instead.

As the centuries progressed, Halloween became more of a secular, community-oriented holiday whose religious origins had faded. Celebrated by both children and adults in the early to mid-twentieth century, vandalism became commonplace around Halloween. In an effort to make celebrations in the streets safer, community leaders quashed vandalism attempts and children became the focus of the October holiday. The “spookiness” factor also subsided, as parents wanted to make Halloween safer and less frightening for young children. Trick-or-treating, an old Irish custom of going door-to-door for money and food, transformed into children seeking sweet treats.

Although sanitized for the younger set, Halloween is rich in tradition and textured in custom, with a blend of celebrations mixed from many parts of the world over millennia. The religious rituals of this nighttime celebration may have escaped modern participants, but historians will undoubtedly recall what marked the occasion and keep its spirit alive.

Happy Halloween!



Adopt a Shelter Dog

October is adopt a shelter dog month, and if you’ve ever had a shelter dog in your life, you know they are very special furry friends. With so many great shelters around the country, you don’t have to travel very far to meet the perfect addition to your family.

Once you know you’re ready for the commitment of a dog, the best question you can ask yourself when starting the adopting process is “What am I looking for?” Are you looking for an exercise buddy, a best friend and confidant for your children, a partner in agility competitions or just a fuzzy face to greet you after a hard day work? Chances are every one of those kinds of dogs can be found at your local animal shelter.

A common misconception people carry about shelter dogs is that there must be something wrong with them if they ended up in a shelter – this is just simply not the case. Occasionally, families simply aren’t as ready for the addition of a dog as they thought, other times people move and can’t bring their dogs with them. Sometimes a child will develop an allergy and the family is forced to get rid of their pet, and many times shelters find dogs of all breeds and ages on the street with no home at all.

If you know someone who is planning to get a dog but hasn’t decided to adopt, please share this list with them.

5 Reasons to Adopt a Dog

  1. You WILL make a difference. If the problem of pets dying in shelters seems overwhelming, think about this: If just one in three people opted to adopt rather than buy a dog, no adoptable dogs would need to be euthanized for lack of a home.
  2. You will find your perfect match. With more than 174,600 adoptable dogs posted on sites like Petfinder (an estimated 25% of them purebreds), you’re certain to find your perfect match.
  3. You’ll save time and money. Sure, shelters and rescue groups charge adoption fees, but you can easily find a pet who has been vaccinated, spayed or neutered and, quite often, trained. If you were to pay for those services yourself, you’d spend much more.
  4. You will receive unconditional love. Ask anyone who’s adopted: Rescued dogs just seem to know you saved them (especially older dogs), and they repay that act of kindness a thousandfold. How many times have we heard someone say their shelter pet in fact rescued them?
  5. You will not be supporting cruelty. Each dog adopted rather than purchased means less of a market for unhealthy, inbred puppies produced under cruel conditions in puppy mill operations throughout the country.



Staying in the Pink!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and though one out of eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, nearly 2.5 million women have become breast cancer survivors.  Aggressive campaigns over the past twenty years have helped to raise awareness and bring hope and new life to women confronted with the disease.  Each year, awareness is promoted through pink ribbons, digital billboards, walk-a-thons, and fundraisers to keep women actively involved in their own treatment and health.

Going from fear to cancer free is not an easy task and each woman bears her own badge of honor in the fight.  Survivors inspire each other, encourage each other and ease the way no matter what it takes.

One survivor said that it was her husband’s ability to make her laugh that really helped affect her cure.  She said she laughed her way to good health, totally believing that the disease would not defeat her.   Another woman said that the gift of cancer brought a realization that she suddenly wanted more out of life and wanted everything to be more meaningful.  Happily, she was given that chance.

Nothing stirs the heart, blazes a new trail and instills confidence like facing something really big and really scary and bravely overcoming it. Breast cancer survivors teach all of us the lesson that we need to embrace life and take nothing for granted.  They teach us lessons in perseverance.  One writer said, “Perseverance is the sister of patience, the daughter of constancy, the friend of peace, the cementer of friendships, the bond of harmony and the bulwark of holiness.”

Today we salute all women who live with such incredible courage, persisting in the fight and patiently believing in the good yet to be.  We are grateful for those who have survived and serve as beacons of light for those who follow in their steps.  We thank them for being constant reminders of the gratitude we get to feel as we rise again with each new day.

Thanks to all of you for staying in the pink!



Happy Sweetest Day

Sweetest Day dates back to 1922 and actually has quite an interesting history. The holiday first started when Birch Kingston wanted to bring cheer to local orphans, elderly and service people in Cleveland, OH. He acknowledged that many of these people may feel forgotten during other holidays, and because he worked for a local candy company, he started giving out special sweets to the community.
Following his initial efforts, local candy makers in Cleveland began to continue the tradition of giving and called it “The sweetest day of the year.” They distributed over 10,000 boxes of candy to over 26 Cleveland area charities in their first year alone. As time went on, Sweetest Day became more romance-focused, and today, many view the holiday as a second Valentine’s Day.
Wouldn’t it be great to bring Sweetest Day back to its roots this year? Check out a few yummy recipes below that would make a sweet gift for anyone deserving a little pick-me-up. Bake some cookies for a local charity, or bring a batch to a loving neighbor down the street.

Chocolate Truffles –
• 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
• 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
• 2 tablespoons water
• 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
• 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs
• 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
• 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds or macadamia nuts
• chocolate jimmies, finely chopped almonds or macadamia, or more cookie crumbs for coating
In top of double boiler over hot water, combine chocolate chips, coffee granules, water, corn syrup, and vanilla. Stirring frequently, heat until chocolate is melted. Beat with electric hand-held mixer or whisk until smooth; remove from heat. Stir in the cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Mix until well blended; let stand for about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Shape mixture into small balls; roll in chocolate jimmies, finely chopped nuts, or cookie crumbs. Place truffles on waxed paper; cover loosely and chill overnight. Store in a tightly covered container.
Makes about 3 to 4 dozen chocolate truffles.

Divinity Fudge –
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 egg whites
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1 cup maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon vinegar
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 1 teaspoon corn syrup
• 1 teaspoon rose extract
• 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 cup maple sugar
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 cup water
Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, maple sugar, vinegar, and cup of water into a saucepan. Heat, while stirring continuously, until the mixture reaches 290°. Remove from heat and add the rose extract. Add the sugar and 1/2 cup of water to a different saucepan. Heat until it reaches 240°. Add the egg whites, almond extract, and the contents of the other saucepan. Stir until the mixture becomes creamy. Add the nuts. Pour mixture into greased pans. Let cool and then cut into squares.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies –
• 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg, unbeaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 squares semisweet chocolate, melted
• 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir before measuring
• 1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 325°.
Cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in salt and sugar. Add egg; beat well. Blend in vanilla and chocolate. Mix in flour then chopped hazelnuts, mixing until well-blended. Drop level tablespoonfuls of dough, 2 inches apart, onto greased cookie sheets. Stamp lightly with a flat bottom glass covered with a damp cloth. If desired sprinkle more finely chopped hazelnuts over the top of each cookie. Bake for about 15 minutes, until done.
Makes about 2 to 3 dozen chocolate hazelnut cookies.



Happy Columbus Day

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
_ Anonymous

Columbus Day is a public holiday in many parts of the United States that honors the achievements of Christopher Columbus, and for some, celebrates Italian-American heritage.
It was in August, 1492 that Columbus and 90 hopeful crewmen boarded the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria, and boldly set sail to find a quicker route to the prosperous Chinese trade markets.
Imagine for a minute, embarking on a journey in uncharted waters to unknown lands with no GPS system. In fact, the only navigational tools used by Columbus and his crew were rudimentary at best and used to measure the angle between objects above the ocean such as the stars or the sun.
It was not the treasures of China that Columbus discovered on October 12, but rather the shores of the Bahamas – although an accident, the discovery marked the first intertwining of Europe with the Americas, which led to the establishment of European colonies in the New World. It also proved that our globe was much larger than even Columbus had imagined.
The first Columbus Day celebration on record occurred on October 12, 1792, when a ceremony organized by the Columbian Order was held in New York City honoring the 300th anniversary of his landing in the Bahamas. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison helped make the holiday official with this proclamation, “recommending to the people the observance in all their localities of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America…” and describing Columbus as “the pioneer of progress and enlightenment.” In 1971, Columbus Day was designated as the second Monday in October as well as a federal holiday.
It should be noted that controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus, as the ‘first person’ to discover the Americas, has existed since the 18th century. So, while most states celebrate Columbus Day as an official state holiday, others mark it as a ‘Day of Observance’ and two states do not recognize it at all.
San Francisco still claims the oldest continuously existing celebration with the Italian-American community’s annual Columbus Day Parade, established in 1868, while New York boasts the largest. No matter where you live or how you plan to celebrate today, you may want to take a moment to reflect on the courage and adventurous spirit of Columbus and his crew.



Happy Birthday John Lennon

John Winston Lennon was born October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England, to Julia Stanley and Alfred Lennon during a World War 2 German air raid.

A merchant seaman, Alfred was rarely present in John’s life, even absent at his birth. His frequent and lengthy time away from home eventually led Julia to separate from him when John was four, and he ultimately ended up living with his Aunt Mimi and her husband, George Smith, throughout his youth. It was John’s mother, though, who gave him a life-changing gift while he was in his teens – his first guitar.

July 6, 1957 marked a turning point in John’s life when he met Paul McCartney at a church outing and soon after joined a band with him called The Quarrymen. Soon after, Paul introduced George Harrison to Lennon, followed by several college friends. Other musicians came and went over a few short years, and in 1962 Ringo Starr joined as drummer, replacing the original drummer, Pete Best. The band’s name changed as well. Inspired by Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets, The Quarrymen became The Beatles.

Several early singles became big hits in Britain, including Love Me Do, Please Please Me, I Want To Hold Your Hand, and She Loves You, but on February 9, 1964, Beatlemania was launched on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the “British Invasion” began.

Lennon’s life wasn’t without its quieter side. In 1962, he married Cynthia Powell and had a son, Julian. The couple eventually divorced and he met Japanese artist Yoko Ono, in 1966. John and Yoko’s artistic endeavors caused friction for The Beatles with their political activism and peaceful protests. These even resulted in threats of deportation by the Nixon administration, which masked its real reason—Lennon’s protest against the Vietnam War—with a 1968 marijuana conviction in Britain.

Lennon departed from The Beatles in 1969 shortly after recording Abbey Road and continued his musical life. Solo albums included Wedding Album, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, and Imagine. In 1973, he and Ono separated, during which time Lennon continued to record in what he called his “lost weekend”. He and Ono rekindled in 1975, having a son, Sean, in October of that year. At that point, Lennon took a break from the music industry to concentrate on his family. He and Yoko returned to the music scene in 1980 with what would be John’s comeback album, Double Fantasy. An extensive extravaganza was planned: interviews, tours, follow-ups, and more.

All of this came to a grinding halt on December 8, 1980. Crazed fan, Mark David Chapman, who’d had memorabilia signed by Lennon earlier that day, shot John Lennon in the back multiple times as he and Ono were entering their New York apartment. Lennon was pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital later that night.

With all of the controversy and hysteria he stirred up over the years—with The Beatles and solo—Lennon led a legendary life of music, activism, family, friends, and followers. Even with all of the personal heartbreak and creative tension among those closest to him, his adoring fans will remember him as an icon and humanitarian, reminding the world that despite all of our hardships, in the end, all you need is love.



Your October Birthday – Oh Iridescent, Remarkable You!

The Latin word for your birthstone means “Precious Jewel” and that’s what most people would say about you. You’re a gem of a friend, an indescribable treasure and a gift to those around you. You attract people with your kind heart and gentle qualities and make others feel safe and protected. Your friends admire your easy diplomacy and subtle abilities to lead.

Your birthstone, the Opal, was believed to have come from heaven in a flash of lightening. The Romans referred to the stone as “a child beautiful as love.” It was believed to have protective powers and could ward off evil and promote healthy eyesight. It could even be ground to a fine powder and consumed to prevent nightmares and offer other mysterious healing powers. The Opal is as old as the dinosaurs and was built around geothermal hot springs. If it is given as a gift, it represents faithfulness and confidence. That’s one of the reasons the stone fits you so well. You inspire confidence in others and you’re always a faithful and loyal friend. You can be trusted to keep your word and to be thoughtful about what you say and do.

The flower that represents October birthdays is the calendula, from the Latin Kalendae, meaning ‘first day of the month,’ which is when it usually blooms. Because of its strong connection to the sun, the calendula represents characteristics such as warmth and friendliness. From a religious standpoint, this flower also represents the Virgin Mary.

Happily for you, your nature is to bring passion and love to all you do and to speak up about the people and things you believe in. You express yourself well and that endears you to others. You have a little psychic awareness too and often know the motives of those close to you before they do, but with your kind heart and loving ways, you make it easy for them to grow on their own terms.

Yes, you’re quite remarkable and since it’s your birthday, celebrate your October birthday in a way that reflects all the colors of the rainbow. After all, you’re opalescent all the time! Happy Birthday to you!