Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene...pshaw you say; I have candy corn

Dateline: Saturday 27 August 2011, 10:00 AM(ish)

The dread month of August is nearly done.  I don't like August.
August is a strange month to me.  It is the last of the Summer Holiday months, but as I am not a school child this means little to me.  Be that as it may, years of schooling have left me with PTSD apparently, because I still feel weird about the month.  It is not yet Autumn, and it won't be until late September with the equinox that Autumn (Fall) truly begins, but at least September gets things started.  You can begin to plan and act Autumn-ally without looking a kook.  I'm not here to artificially advance the seasons, I just like Fall.  Not so hot and sticky, but not so bitterly cold that I must hide indoors.  It smells better too.
I understand that Autumn is associated with melancholy notions of dying, aging, poetic endings...well sod that.  I like it.  I like the smell of wet leaves slightly decaying and crackling fires as we clean the yard.  It's "man potpourri", those burning leaves.  The beer gets better as the hops laden summer brews, so famed for their "crisp" taste give way to the malted barley's I prefer.  The ubiquitous "pumpkin pie spice", similar to, but distinct from "apple pie spice" appears in a variety of baked goods.  (Herr Punkinstein's Kitchen Tip: When making French Toast or Cinnamon Toast consider instead of simple cinnamon using pumpkin pie spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice {apple pie spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cardamom [cardamom is a popular ingredient in curry powder]} to give your toast an extra special Fall Flavor profile)  The smell of apple harvest and crisp, cold ciders is heavenly.  The funnel cake, cotton candy, hot chocolate smell of the football field concession stand is a cherished memory for me.  While I will continue to eat Key Lime Pie and "yarrr" like the pirate I sometimes claim to be, I don't live in Florida (not for lack of trying mind you...stupid company), the pies become more to my liking, rich, fruity, and dense.  The sight of the lonely scarecrow in his field, now mowed and harvested...
I like Candy Corn.
I can't get to grips with August like I can September.

Since Thursday everything has been about prepping for Hurricane Irene, who made landfall this weekend in North Carolina and up into Virginia (she is a Cat 1 right now, but it is best to be prepared), so naturally all the good residents of the Old Dominion State rushed (actually we sauntered, nearly a mosey, for Virginians are possessed of an unflappable sense of sangfroid in the face of disasters.  "Hurricane coming, let me get an extra case of beer, a bottle of applejack, a loaf of bread and some toilet paper."
I have many, many bags of tea in many flavors, a standard kettle, a barbecue grill and an underdeveloped understanding of the danger of a hurricane.  I'll be okay.

While procuring supplies and whatnot I noticed that Walgreens had 4 varieties of candy corn on the shelf, Halloween cards and some bags of candy.  Yay!  Let's get this Fall consumer season started.  Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING makes me feel better than knowing that business is again embracing the Halloween spirit, regardless of poor economic conditions.
I've mentioned this before, so I'll just touch on it again, while I believe Samhain to be a rustic, traditional time, I love to see consumerism in action, because it ensures the survival of that which I love.
I purchased the standard Candy Corn and the Caramel Apple Candy Corn, eschewing the "Indian Corn" and "Fall Mix" at this time.  I am keeping a weather eye open for the next sign of Autumn's commercial arrival, perhaps this will be Halloween Oreos or Halloween Chips Ahoy.  I know the magazines are starting to appear and here on the Atlantic seaboard apple harvest season begins, reaching its height in the Autumn, but what is the sign that will tell me the show is, officially, as it were, on?
Little Debbie and her PUMPKIN DELIGHTS.
While gathering my supplies for Irene I looked, but did not find, LDPD's.  Thus I know that Summer is still with us...

It is raining, dark and in the mid to high 70's outside; Irene's least force is pounding Virginia Beach and flooding the city of Norfolk.  I like it.

Until next time, keep your pumpkins dry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

(Very) Short Vampire Novel

Detective Stone “Stoney” Hardaz sat at his desk reading the evening paper.  The graveyard shift was always like this, quiet for an hour or so and then, inevitably there would be trouble.  Detective Stone reached for his coffee and took a sip.  The coffee scalded his tongue but he liked it.  His steely gaze roamed over the front page.  Nothing new to see, just the same stories of war and death.  Despite all ordnances to the contrary, Stoney lit a Camel and took a satisfying drag before looking for the sports section.

            Into the room came Detective Perkins.  Stone looked up from his paper with his steely gaze and acknowledged the other man.

            “What’s the word, Tim?” he asked casually.

            “Haven’t you heard?” Perkins replied, “Someone’s been killing Goths downtown.”

“Fuckin’ shame,” Stone replied with a singular lack of interest, “Let’s go get some donuts.”

The END.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I don't think I like Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

I mean, if images are anything to go by, I don't think I'd enjoy it.
And I am saying this as a Disney World fan.
I'm not saying that it has to be scary, although I do like the scary parks, I am saying it needs to feel "Halloweeny".  Disney, which is known for its attention to detail, industry lauded level of effort, and branding is just too bright.
I love the Haunted Mansion and find its particular blend of macabre humor, shocks, chills, and amusements to be the ideal for Disney spooking.  Yet all the photos can find online, on blogs, the Disney website, the Wikipedia and so forth paint a picture that is brightly lit and saturated with a rainbow of color; the Disney way of course.  Which is fine and dandy, but I prefer my Halloween events to be decorated in little less brightly.  It seems, and this is said without direct experience, that Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween party is built around the happy aspects of the ideal, which is like the funny ending bit of Haunted Mansion, but without the tongue-in-cheek humor.
It's for kids, so I respect the notion of a safe, happy and un-spooky holiday.  I'm just not interested in it is all.
So stacks of happy Jack O'Lanterns and smiling scarecrows abound and the pumpkins are almost electric orange they are so brilliantly colored.  It is everything I could want in a safe, warm, happy moment.  Which is to say it has value but my mood for Halloween demands both smiling Jack O'Lantern totem poles AND werewolves that do not want to lick me in a friendly Saint Bernard-like manner, but indeed desire to tear out my throat!
Not the best example of my point, really

When I was a boy, however, they didn't do these sorts of things.  I was a teen when Six Flags over Georgia did their first Fright Fest and I remember it being...adequate.  Memory is not perfect here (it has been awhile) but I remember liking the decorations.  I don't recall if I went into one of the 'haunted houses' they set up.  I kept thinking it was so cool to have a theme park based around Halloween, but thinking also it should be more than it was.  That is to say that there were decorations, but the park didn't feel transformed, just decorated.  Modern theme parks really feel like they transform into the holiday event, rather than simply wearing a hat.  I didn't really get to do seasonal Halloween event theme parks for awhile after that (although I did go to an Autumn Renaissance Faire one year, but that's another story entirely).  Now that I am an adult I love that theme parks stay open longer in the season and put on seasonal events.  They sell fantasy. They sell entertainment.  I'm just glad that they received enough positive test results to make seasonal events a reality for suckers like me.  This is why just looking at the websites for the upcoming fright events makes me happy.  Rather than a simply decoration scheme and extended operating hours, these parks go out of their way to brings you costumed characters walking the streets (absent at my first Fright Fest in Georgia, the characters were at the haunted house only), new sounds piped into the soundtrack system, modified rides, and event snacks and souvenirs.  Believe me, if Six Flags had sold a Fright Fest t-shirt that first year I was there, I'd have bought it.  I'm a sucker for that stuff.

Last year I did reports on my first ever Howl-O-Scream (after nearly almost a decade of living in Virginia I finally made it to Howl-O-Scream) and I talked about Haunted Hunt Club Farms.  To me those are good Halloween set-ups.  I'd love to see the some of the West Coast stuff, like Knott's Scary Farm, but I think I can give Mickey a miss with no regrets.  I do like the silly, fun and childish side of Halloween, but even as a child I remember a sense of Halloween being scary, or at least spooky, and there was a sense of the mythic to it that a bright, shiny, WDW event just won't capture if the reviews and photos I've found online tell the truth.  Ultimately the spirit of Halloween town in The Nightmare Before Christmas (which is part of the winter season at Disney, I believe) and the Haunted portion of the Haunted Mansion should be the style of such an event, and I don't see that happening when Donald Duck, Goofy and Dopey are passing out hugs and pumpkin hats.  And I love pumpkin hats.
I might feel differently if I had kids...
"No, son, he's not just sleeping...he's a blood sucking fiend of the undead and it is our duty to destroy him"
Nah.  I remember being a kid and I'd want my kid to enjoy it like I do.

Pumpkins.  Lit.  If at all possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream (Preview)

I am a fool for amusement parks.  It's true.  Amusement parks and tourist towns are little fantasy worlds built to cater to my consumer whims where somewhat overpriced food and goods are sold under the shadows cast by roller coasters, Ferris wheels, haunted houses and Chambers of Commerce.  I live approximately 30 miles from the Virginia Beach ocean front and I enjoy the variety of t-shirt sops, beach goods shops, salt water taffy shops and mini golf opportunities, although I rarely partake in them.

I am also fortunate to live a mere 40 miles from Williamsburg, VA, where one can find Busch Gardens, voted best landscaping by NAPHA 21 consecutive years running.  Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW) has as its theme "Europe" (although the name has changed a few times, it has always had Europe as its theme) and as such it is divided into "lands" each one representing an idealized fantasy version of a European area, such a Killarney (Ireland) or Germany (all save for New France, which is, in fact, Canada).  As of 2009 Busch Gardens is a nearly year-round operation, opening for weekends in March and then moving through a full 7 day summer, finally going into a weekends only autumn and then a half day winter season, ending at the New Year.

Starting in September, since 1999, the park opens on weekends through Halloween for "Howl-O-Scream", which is perhaps the greatest time to be in the park.  Each land gets decorated in a Halloween themed way, which is apart from the overall theme of that year's event and then there is the mascot, Jack.  He's a sort of pumpkin-head, Jack O' Lantern guy.  If you read the Celtic Pumpkin regularly you've seen him.  Obviously I heartily approve of Jack O'Lantern people.  To give you an example, in 2010 New Canada had a lumberjack-werewolf theme going, Italy had witches (lots of them) and Germany was infested with vampires. It's a good time.  My kinda place.  Ireland is the home of Jack, so they had tons of pumpkins everywhere.  I know, not native to Ireland but I did say "idealized fantasy" world.

The website for 2011 is up but not all the details are on it yet.  I'm excited.  I am.  I love the whole notion of a Halloween themed amusement park as it combines two of my favorite things.  Busch Gardens, long voted most attractive theme park in the world (echo effect effect effect) does decorating right, I can tell you.  What I have learned so far is that Black Widow spiders will overrun New France, Werewolves have overrun Ireland (sure and that will be craic), and a dark carnival (no doubt chockablock with evil clowns) will arrive in Italy.  <<Shudder>>
Much to Frau Punkinstein's discomfort the theme seems to involve roses with eyeballs in the center.  If the advance info on BG Tampa is any indication, zombies will feature heavily this year.  Zombies are so done to death.  (Joey, drums!)
Frau Punkinstein and I have just purchased two-year Annual Passes, so we can actually go multiple times without going broke.  Which is a fine idea to me.

I'll keep updating when I know more.

Let's get those pumpkins lit, people.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feckin irish lately

I am the son of Sunny who is the daughter of William Quentin Carroll, an Irishman.  Red hair, drinkin', the usual.
I don't claim this, usually.  As Tommy Tiernan says, "Everyone wants to be Irish, but they can't tell you why."
So I try not to.  I honestly do.
I know that people seem to think that the Irish all immigrated to Massachusetts and New York and places such as that, but honestly Dixie was heavily populated by Celts.  Where I come from everyone is Scotch-Irish, which is a mythical race created on the spot when Irish came into the Deep South and wanted to avoid anti-Catholic bias and bigotry.  Suddenly the auld sod be damned, we're Scotch-Irish.
Occasionally, from out the bloody blue, and often as October approaches, I get the strange urge to listen to Celtic folk music and drinking songs and tangential bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys and the Pogues.  I consider this part of the Halloween tradition, I mean, it is a Celtic holiday after all.
That completely goes against my argument that Halloween is THE most American of all holidays.  More even than the 4th of July.
Now this usually does not happen around Saint Patrick's Day.  Draw your own conclusions.
Today's Playlist was (in no particular order):
Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced (DM)
Float (FM)
Salty Dog (FM)
Limerick Rake (Pogues)
Rake (Irish Rovers)
Gordon Lightfoot (I know he is a Canadian, but it was a palate cleanser, and anyway it was a good song so feck it)
Mick Maguire (first Clancy Bros, then Irish Rovers)
Limerick Rake (again, but it was the Dubliners)
(which led to) Dingle Puck Goat
(then) Wolfe Tones (for a bit)
And some more Pogues with the Dubliners
I NEVER get tired of posting this insulting as it may be
Not really spooky, but then it is August.
Gratuitous Celtic Pumpkin

Keep your turnips lit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My house is (probably) haunted

I think my house is haunted.  If not my house then the land upon which it stands.  My house and the house beside ours are built on what was once farm land.  The old farm house burned down and since that time the land has been purchased, parceled and new construction has been placed upon it.  My house is a corner lot as well.
Last year's decorations.  I'm just establishing location here, I haven't put up this year's decorations.
When we moved in we noticed strange black marks around the outlets in the walls, but the electrical checked out okay.  Then the fans kept getting switched from 'summer' to 'winter'.  You know, the little switch that controls the direction of airflow, well it kept moving despite our (Frau Punkinstein and I) not flicking it.
Then after a time of hearing noises, dealing with flicking switches and such, things got weird.  Milk spoiling, food spoiling, animals responding to unseen stimuli, that sort of thing.  Frau Punkinstein was most uncomfortable around the attic.  I warded the attic and we did some rituals and prayers and such and finally all was quiet.
Be that as it may, Frau Punkinstein and I tend to...attract things.  Our gifted friend once identified two entities, one definitely malevolent (I took care of her already).  So a few weeks ago all the electronics in the house started going wonky...

Things have been quite for a week or so, but as the seasons change we usually see more weirdness, so I'm getting prepped, if you know what I mean.

Keep your pumpkins lit...I sure as heck will. 

Friday, August 12, 2011


Today I discovered, through the internet, that Halloween City is, in fact, a division of AMSCAN, thus, PARTY CITY.
So that's that mystery solved.  Jenkies.
I think I'd rather have Spirit Halloween in that spot, but I will try to keep an open mind and report on the store when I see it live.

Friday Update: Wending our merry way to Summer's End

Greetings to all.
Today was a day of minor eventfulness.  I'm not entirely sure what I mean by that.  Rather, I know what I mean, but I am not sure what I desire the audience to take from it.  I got home early from work today and had a nap with Frau Punkinstein and all the kittens and cats in the house.  Then we got up and went to get groceries.  If we are shopping for groceries on a Friday afternoon before 6:00 PM we go to Farm Fresh and visit Richard, the wine steward of the establishment, who always has some 6 or 7 bottles to sample and a palate cleanser such as goat cheese.  Always a good time as Richard is a great person and fascinating conversationalist.  Today he was on vacation (2 week cruise to Europe) so the Sam Adams beer lady was in his spot.  She had cold samples of Sam's Octoberfest seasonal brew.
I am not a beer snob, but I could be.
It's a fine enough brew, very malty, very barley, not as hopsey.  I am less a hops fan.  I like sugar in many forms and malted barley provides that natural sugar I like.  I find the flavor bold at start and subtle on the finish (that was beer snobbery), but it is not a "pumpkin ale" which I also like.  I do enjoy the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors of the pumpkin spice ales, but this is not one of those beers.  This is a dark amber brew, but certainly not a porter or stout.  The website describes it as a transitional beer, which is good at bridging the gap and smoothing the transition between the lighter summer beers and the darker, full-bodied winter brews.
Courtesy of the Samuel Adams website.  Note the  Fall decorated label
More importantly: OKTOBERFEST, which means October, which means "Autumn" which means...HALLOWEEN.  I know, I'm sounding like some conspiracy nut making tenuous connections about the Knights Templar, but honestly, that's the vibe it gives me.  Also, Samuel Adams beer spells it OCTOBERFEST, not the traditional German spelling with a "K".
"Looking up the street, it's clear that the layout of the path to brewery makes a Maltese Cross...the sign of the Templars!"
I didn't start this post to talk about beer, so moving on...
As I stood in the line to put my groceries on the conveyor belt I noticed the Pillsbury "Halloween" book.  Small, digest format, maybe a little bigger.  It is the same as last year, but it is out, which is good.  Then I noticed a full magazine format "Halloween" magazine ($9.99 USD), which included not only recipes, but ideas for children's costumes, decorations, the usual.  I purchased neither, but it was good to see them out on the racks.
Yes, the usual unfortunate confluence of gross with scary but what can you do?
As I have established in the past and will no doubt do so again, I do not like the way the Gypsies have somehow been combined with Pirates and Gross has been identified with Scary for Halloween.  Gory may be Gross, but Gross does not mean Scary.  Not by nature anyway.  Most of these recipes, if not all of them, are available online at the Pillsbury website and on various Halloween blogs and non-commercial websites.  We don't need these magazines, but it is still nice to have them.  The pictures are fun and it is a sign that the holiday is still commercially viable, which is the only way things survive the years anymore.

HALLOWEENSIGN: The list thus far, that I can attest to personally
1. Michaels craft store put out its first round of product
2. Yankee Candle had an in-store party/launch event
3. Seasonal beer from Sam Adams
4. Halloween recipe guides presented for impulse purchase on the grocery checkout rack
5. Bloggers stepping up their games

Looks good so far.  I can't wait to see what September holds.

Keep those pumpkins lit.

Monday, August 8, 2011

To GHOST or not to GHOST

What the Hell am I going to be for Halloween this year?
I've been saying and thinking for a few years now that I would be a ghost, but then I end up not.  I'm not sure why this is other than my being "inspired" at the last minute by some other idea or my dissatisfaction with ghost costuming.  The really good ones are wicked expensive or require the use of a shimmering make-up, to which I might be allergic.  I had an incident a few Halloweens back where make-up made my lips go numb, my face tingle, and made me dizzy.  Pretty scary actually.
I am not one to wait until the very last minute.  I might change my mind a few times and spend weeks agonizing over choices, but I like to get started and get done, at least with the bulk of the work, well prior to the event.  I find planning is often the hardest part.
Just the other day, as Frau Punkinstein and I were looking at Halloween decorations at Michaels, I asked her what she wanted to be this Halloween and we briefly kicked around a few ideas.  Again the notion of my ghostly aspirations from years past came back to haunt the conversation, which is most apropos, I should think.
Obviously a costume is a prime example of visual shorthand.  It must be obvious that my costume represents a ghost, otherwise I will spend all night explaining it to people, which is not top of my list of fun things to do.  Like one year in college when I dressed up as Beowulf.  I thought it was perfectly obvious given the huge severed monster arm I was carrying.  Then when I told people who asked, "I'm Beowulf" and showed them the arm, they either nodded quietly as if to say, "Very droll, English Major" or just wandered off somewhere leaving me feeling quite the fool.
I quite liked my Beowulf set up.  The next year when I wrapped some tartan around my waist, painted my face blue and strapped a sword to my back there was no explanation needed.  Lesson to be learned: you have to work with cultural expectations and zeitgeist in these matters.
So again I am thinking ghost.  Mostly because I can't find a traditional undertaker's suit that I like (not that sodding wrestler, but a funeral director).
See, in my mind's eye a ghost should either look like this:
Wallpaper image courtesy of, THE best HM tribute site I know, please check out Chef Mayhem's excellent webpage

Or failing that awesomeness, this:
Awwwww, the Littlest Ghost, he's just so vulnerable and cute
Which means I have a hard time getting a costume I really like.
I'm fond of this one:

Comes with mask, which is nasty, but not pants or cane
It has a real "Grim Grinning Ghost" vibe going on, which I like, being a huge Haunted Mansion fan.

I also like this one, but it might have "unfortunate implications" if you get my meaning
Then there are the really expensive ones that require make-up, which I have stated before, might not work.
Comes with sodding everything
$130.00...BLOODY AMERICAN DOLLARS!!!  So, not so much.
Out of luck maybe?

But then again, I do like scarecrows...
And really it's just a sack on your head and some dirty clothes, right?  Who am I kidding, I nuke it every time.  I will end up wanting that "personal" touch, which means no simple sack for me.

So really the problem is not in the least solved and August is already in its second week.  Bloody.  Hell.

Any guidance would not be frowned upon.  Keep those pumpkins lit.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Halloween Party of the year...

At Yankee Candle in Greenbriar Mall, Chesapeake.
About a 8 days ago Frau Punkinstein and I were at the mall, which is not something we do frequently because malls suck, but we do occasionally find ourselves needing immediate gratification in the shopping arena and/or soft pretzel snacks, so we suck it up and go into one, and we sauntered over to Yankee Candle to see if the Fall collection was out yet.  We were given a flyer.
Well creased and stored in Frau Punkinstein's purse
Hey, free party!  Plus I had it on good insider authority that 2011 is the last year for the morbidly cute "Boney Bunch" line of products.  Did I mention we have never purchased a Boney Bunch product ever?
No matter.
We awoke early and headed over to the Greenbriar Mall to enjoy the event before heading over to the Petsmart where we volunteer for the NSPCA cat adoptions (4 adopted out before we left and a 5th after we left, a good day for adoptions).  It was fun.  The staff wore costumes and there was punch and goodies and we won door prizes.  Frau Punkinstein pulled a skull out of a cauldron and they gave us a $10 off coupon and a SOUNDS OF HORROR CD!  Here it is, 6th of August, and I'm getting TREATS.  So nice.
We purchased only a modest amount of things, but are seriously considering this twisted little Boney Bunch Father Christmas:
Because that's just a perfect fusion and Frau is serious about her Halloween Trees.
So what swag did we get?
There is something deliciously disturbing about that image 
Here is the large Pumpkin patch swirl candle.  It has a buttery, spicey, pumpkin piey sort of scent.  I love the headless pumpkin farmer on the label.  Perfect image.
We chose three of these little things:
Autumn Paintbrush.  I can't describe the scent.
Because we needed a minimum to get that discount.  Thrift, very important when saving up for big Halloween purchases.
Then they gave us a free small jar:
Frau Punkinstein took this picture because she is both technologically more adept than your humble blogger and more artistic when it comes to camera work.  
Witches' Brew!  It's got a smokey after-scent and I like the Boney gent with a bucket full of heads.  It's so happily ghoulish.
The lovely Frau Punkinstein, doing her Price Is Right model impression.   The next item up for bids...a NEW CANDLE!
Yes, the lovely Frau Punkinstein demonstrating the first sniffs of Halloween joy in Punkinhaus.
Candles are, of course, just cool.  They are both rustic and gothic, creepy and homey, they smell good and offer an attractive choice for ambiance in your home.  They also attract unwanted cat attention at times, so just a little warning there.

All in all I enjoyed the Yankee Candle event, as intimate as it was.  It is good to get a little Halloween joy in the late summer when it is so oppressively hot and you miss the spooky imagery.  We will be back again in the coming months I have no doubt.

Keep your candles lit.

What is this HALLOWEEN CITY?

Following up on a tip from Rob and Theo, I headed up to one of our Chesapeake Square minimall sections to see the new Halloween storefront that will open soon.  When Rob called it "Halloween Town" I expected a Spirit Halloween or Halloween Express, both having put up seasonal stores in our little corner of Tidewater in the past several years.
What I saw was a logo on the storefront that read:

What is this?
Naturally I had to find out more...
Only the cloud, or the interwebs, and 3 demons, Balshegor, Hathnepsur, and Tommy could provide no information either.  I did find their webpage:
But proved to be slightly less full of useful information than a State of the Union Address.

Obviously it is a Halloween store, and the website says they are MY costume superstore.  Well, "Your Costume Superstore" so I assumed it was directly sent to me.  I could be wrong.

I love finding a new Halloween store and seeing the leased, but empty, storefront means that it's all coming together.  Yay.
But I want to know more about this company.  I can't find any background info.  I must know.

If anyone out there has some info, please share it with me.  Pretty please with a severed head on top.

Until next time, keep your pumpkins cool and watered.