The spooky time of year is here

The week past went by all too quickly, it seemed that it was barely Monday and it was already Friday and it seemed as if I was busy the whole time! On Monday morning, I manned the table where we were selling raffle tickets on our quilt and had numerous things to do in the afternoon. Later in the week, I managed to get some sewing done, and next thing I knew, the week was gone, the rains had quit for a while and Sunday was a beautiful sunshiny day.
My weekend was quiet, Saturday I sewed and cleaned around the house and Sunday we had a special Mass service with one of the church related groups I am in and my sister and I were part of the honor guard. After Mass, another group was selling breakfast tacos and my brother-in-law not only bought my taco, he invited me to their home for coffee and breakfast. At noon, my friend and I went to town and bought plates that were part of another churches fundraiser and then went out to her home and had lunch together. The rest of my afternoon was spent at my sisters as we had a craft project going on and her husband put fajitas on the grill and we had a wonderful fajita taco supper! There’s nothing like eating all three meals out in one day. This evening when I got home, my welcome mat really welcomed me, my cats had killed a coral snake and it was in numerous pieces on the mat. I gripe about these cats all the time, but tonight, I really appreciated them!
It’s hard to believe, but it is already time for Halloween. The weather is cooler; the stores have had candy, costumes and paper goods out for a month, and next Wednesday the day will be upon us.
How did Halloween get started? Where did the idea of dressing up begin? Whose idea was it to reward each costumed (and some not costumed) person with a treat? How did ghosts become involved in Halloween?
The origins of Halloween date back to the Celts. They lived in the area that is now known as England, northern France and Ireland. It was the Celts who traditionally celebrated a holiday called Samhain that was celebrated on the night before the New Year began, marked the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the long, cold winter. They believed that on this night, witches and ghosts ruled, and that the souls of the dead would rise to visit the places where they had lived. Fires were built to frighten the witches away, but food and lanterns were set out to welcome the ghosts and dead souls.
At a later time, Roman conquerors combined their own celebration of the dead with the Samhain. November 1 was named as “All Saints Day” or “All Hallows Even”, way back in the 800s. Although churches attempted to turn the people away from these celebrations, tradition and myth prevailed. People kept their beliefs in the wandering of the dead on this evening. That probably accounts for ghosts being associated with Halloween.
However, many Pagan ideas and customs still remained. The people in Ireland lit candles and lights to frighten the unwelcome ghosts and spirits away on Halloween night. They wore masks and costumes to ward off spirits and ghosts if they ventured away from their homes. Another invention of the Irish was trick or treating. Villagers, in groups, would go from house to house begging for food for a community feast. Those who gave generously received promises of a prosperous year; those who gave little were cursed and threatened.
Costumes have changed quite a lot since I was a child. Some of the children had masks shaped like a dog or cat or some other animal, but most of us wore the little “Lone Ranger” type of mask that had an elastic band that went around our head. (Also, probably because this type of mask only cost a dime and that was all a lot of people could afford.) Many of today’s costumes and masks are really elaborate, with the masks being made of rubber and covering the whole head. You can be almost anyone or anything you want to be, from the president of the United States to a rock star, or almost any animal or hobgoblin you choose.
I really do not remember doing a lot of trick or treating; however, I do remember friends, classmates or relatives having Halloween parties that we attended. And, our mothers brought treats to school for the class, which is not so common these days, due to allergic reactions to some foods and because many schools do not allow them.
Halloween was always a fun time for my kids. We did costumes some years and only masks on other years. What we did do, was have a group of children from two, three or maybe even four families, with at least one parent from each family take the children trick or treating. Everyone always had a good time; however, you heard a lot of: “Mom, she got more candy than I did”, or “Mom, he/she’s taking candy from my bag”. At this time, of course, the candy was confiscated, and everyone was sent to bed! Back in those days, people were trusting, and the kids started eating their candy, and trading back and forth as soon as they got back in the car.
Have a great Halloween, enjoy your trick or treating, be careful with your costume, making sure you can both see and be seen, and have you Mom or another adult check your candy before you eat it!
If you don’t want to buy a costume, here is a ‘recipe’ for face paint that will be a safe alternative to a mask.
Halloween Face Paint
(Enough for 1 face)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon water
½ teaspoon cold cream
2 drops food coloring
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. This will be a very pastel shade. For a deeper tone, use a little more food coloring. Make this up in different colors and you will have enough for several children.
Jack-‘O-Lantern Cookies
2/3 cups shortening
1¼ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Red & yellow food coloring
Green food coloring
Lemon flavor Life-Savers® candy, or lemon drops
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line three or four cookie sheets with foil and set aside. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Thoroughly cream together the shortening, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla, add dry ingredients and mix by hand until well combined. Tint about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the dough green with the green food coloring for the stems and set aside. Tint the remaining dough orange. Roll out dough to ½-inch thickness and cut with pumpkin shaped cookie cutter or knife, cutting out eyes, nose and mouth to make a Jack-“O-Lantern. Place on prepared cookie sheets.
To make stem, shape a small amount of the green dough and place at the top of the pumpkin shape on the cookie sheets. Crush the Life-Savers® candies and generously fill the eyes, nose and mouth shapes of the cut-out cookies with the crushed candy. Bake in pre-heated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove foil and cookies at the same time and set aside to cool. When cool, remove cookies from the foil, the candy will have melted and make the cookies look as if they are lit from inside. If you do not have a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter, just use a large round one and cut out the features and place a stem at the top.
Now, here is the avocado recipe for this week! This recipe appeared on the front page of the classified section of The Victoria Advocate right after I moved to Yoakum. It sounds rather unusual to me and I haven’t tried it. My daughter said it sounds gross to her!
Guacamole with a holiday twist – Would you like to know to do with those avocados you found at your local farmers market? We have found a way to add a holiday twist to an old favorite that will also add a dash of color to your table.
Cranberry Guacamole
2 ripe avocados, pitted peeled and coarsely mashed (use your potato masher for this)
1/2 cup salsa verde
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 jalapeño, seeded and deveined, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse garlic salt (Haven’t a clue as to where to find this)
2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water, drained and squeezed dry
Coarsely mash avocados. Fold in remaining ingredients. Guacamole is best made as close to serving time as possible. For short-term storage, seal in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the guacamole. .
German Chocolate Up-side Down Cake
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix*
3 large eggs
1¼ cups water
¼ cup oil
1 package (8-oz) cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter or margarine
1 box powdered sugar (16-oz)
Grease a 13×9” pan, line with waxed paper cut to fit. Grease waxed paper. Sprinkle coconut and pecans into pan evenly. Set aside.
Combine cake mix, eggs, water and oil. Mix according to directions on package. Spoon and spread batter evenly over coconut/nut mixture.
Place butter/margarine and cream cheese in a small saucepan; cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. This can be done in the microwave if desired.
Add sifted powdered sugar and mix together well; spoon mixture evenly over the cake batter.
Bake at 350ºF for 40 to 50 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Remove and discard waxed paper. (To cut waxed paper to size: Tear off a sheet of waxed paper about 2” bigger than pan. Set bottom of pan on paper and trace around the pan with the tip of your scissors or a pencil. Cut along the traced lines). *Since cake mixes have changed size, follow the directions on the box of cake mix.