Author Archives: lydias

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Halloween Treats

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

A pumpkin tin filled with candy corn. Tin cutouts of a pumpkin's eyes and mouth are sitting next to the candy on a linen tablecloth.Okay, so that title wasn’t super bookish. Let’s amend it to be My Favourite Halloween Treats While Reading.

Sometimes there’s something to be said for snacking on festive foods while reading something spooky.

My mind has decided that all orange foods are vaguely Halloween-ish. It’s made the same association with crunchy stuff like apples, celery, and popcorn because they’re foods I tend to eat more of during the cold half of the year in Ontario.

Everything else should be fairy self-explanatory, I’d imagine.

  • Apple Cider (the non-alcoholic kind)
  • Popcorn
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Orange Sweet Peppers
  • Celery
  • Jokerz (a chocolate, peanut, nougat, and caramel candy bar that’s similar to Snickers)
  • Cleo’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Candy Corn
  • Skittles

Due to my food allergies and intolerances, I can’t eat many of the most common candies and other sweets that are sold at this time of the year. This has taught me to be grateful for what I can eat as well as for all of the awesome allergen-free substitutes out there.

Happy Halloween to everyone who celebrates it! I love this holiday and am still coming up with ways to celebrate it this year.

What are your favourite snacks to eat during Halloween season or during the cooler portions of the year in general?

 

A Photo Essay of Toronto in October

A tree bursting with bright yellow leaves in October. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the ninth instalment of this series.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, and September  to read the earlier posts. October’s photos were taken on multiple visits to the park this time for two reasons:

Reason #1: Climate change has brought about season creep in temperate climates like this one. Among many other changes, this means that plants here tend to bud earlier and hang onto their leaves longer than they used to. Not every species changes colour at the same time, either!

Reason #2: October can be quite rainy in southern Ontario. This isn’t a good time for making firm outdoors plans weeks or even days in advance. Instead, we take advantage of nice, sunny weather whenever it happens.

The temperature was generally between 10 and 15 Celsius (50 to 60 Fahrenheit) on my visits this month. I wore pants (or trousers if you’re from the U.K.), a t-shirt, sneakers, and a light to medium jacket depending on how cold and sharp the wind was. It’s almost always windy now, and my curls would like you all to know they formally disapprove of that hairstyle-mussing nonsense.

There will come a time when it will be too cold, wet, and icy to enjoy a leisurely visit to park. Luckily, that is still a few months away yet. For now such things are still possible on most days. Landscape photo of a World War I monument behind a crosswalk and in front of several trees that are changing from green to yellow as autumn deepens.

Some trees are still mostly green. Others are well into the process of changing into their autumn colours.

close-up shot of a World War I monument in a park whose trees have begun turning colours in October.

The  bushes by the monument are still green. If memory serves, they may remain this way until December. Let’s see if I’m right!

A somewhat damp running trail at a park. It is flanked by trees whose leaves are just beginning to turn from green to yellow

But I don’t want to give you a false impression of what the park is like. There are still many (mostly) green trees in it, although if you look carefully at their leaves you’ll see  hints of the colours they’ll fully reveal in the near future.

The other difference between the running trail between now and last month is that it’s softening up again. There’s little dust to be found there now. All of that autumn rain has to soak into somewhere, and it will eventually make this trail too muddy and slippery to use as winter approaches and we begin getting snow and ice, too.

Fewer people are using it now than at the peak, but I still see joggers and walkers doing their laps every time I visit.

A tree whose leaves are red on the topmost branches and still green on the bottom ones.

This is a striking season of change. We’re inching closer and closer to the time when our trees will be at their peak of autumn beauty, but we’re not quite there yet.

The average person wouldn’t notice many differences in the landscape from the end of May to the beginning of September, but now you can find differences from one day to the next!

A maple tree filled with bright red leaves on a cloudless October day.

You can often see trees that are nearly at their peak of colour next to ones that have only barely begun to change. The juxtaposition between the two is striking. (Yes, that is my shadow in the photo).

A canopy of leaves. Some are still green, while others have begun turning yellow or orange in the autumn season.

The famous canopy remains. It rustles even more now than ever before, and there are bright splashes of colour almost everywhere you look.

Dozens of leaves lying on a grassy patch of land.

The ground is changing, too. Not only is it beginning to be covered by fallen leaves, you can also feel and see acorns, twigs, and sticks on it. I walk a bit more slowly on it now than I did in the spring and summer.

Since the land can be bumpy and uneven in places, spraining an ankle or tripping is easier now than it was in the summer (although still much less likely than on an icy or snowy day).

My hope for November is to show you all photos of what the forest floor looks like when most of the leaves have fallen. It can be several inches or more of debris to wade through. I often can’t see my shoes at all when I walk through it the deepest parts!

A branch filled with red berries. Here are some plump red berries in the park. I hope the squirrels and other wildlife are enjoying them as we settle into what will soon be the depths of autumn.

Speaking of the squirrels, this is the time of year when they are very busy gathering up food for the winter. A park where several black squirrels are collecting nuts off of the forest floor.

You’ll see them everywhere you look. Sometimes they even chase each other up and down the trunks of their favourite trees.

A tree that lost half of its branches and some of its trunk in a 2020 storm has begun to change from green to yellow autumn leaves.

How are our tree friends doing?

The one that lost about half of its branches is well on the way to reaching peak autumn colour. I look forward to seeing how it does over the winter. It’s really seemed to have grown well this year.

A tree that lost a third of its branches in a 2020 winter storm has begun to turn orange for the autumn 2020 season.

And I continue to worry about our friend who lost about a third of its branches. The remaining branches continue to droop, and the gash in its trunk is filled with wood that looks oddly wet. Is this part of the healing process, or is the wood rotting? Only time will tell.

A tree-lined path in a park. Most of the leaves are still green, but a few are turning yellow.

But there are still green portions of the park. If you don’t peer at individual leaves too closely and ignore the chill in the air, one can almost pretend its still summer on a sunny day.

I look forward to sharing more striking autumn photos next month. Perhaps I’ll mix them in with later photos of the trees as they lose most of their leaves. (Some brown, dead leaves hang on well into winter). As you’ve all noticed, we still have a ways to go before we reach peak colour.

This series will conclude in January, but I’m thinking about providing a spring update once we know the winter fates of these two unlucky trees if you’re all interested in that.

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

Harvest - A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch book cover. Image on cover is of silhoutte of man with a pumpkin for a head walking in a pumpkin field while a full moon glows behind him. I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention.

Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch

Author: Jason H. Abbott

Publisher: Blue Boar Press

Publication Date: October 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Equal parts eerie, humorous and heartwarming, Harvest is a short story of down-home fantasy and a fairytale for grown-ups best told in the dark…

With whimsical humor and eccentric fantasy dappled in darkness, fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this short tale of kindness found in odd places. If quirky characters with a country twang and a fairytale detoured to the pumpkin patch sound good to you, then Harvest will surely prove an entertaining read!

Review:

It’s not every day that horror and humour coexist in the same plot.

Imagine waking up in a pumpkin field and not being able to see or speak. That idea sure made me shudder, especially once Edgar (the protagonist) realized that his head felt like a pumpkin instead of flesh and bone.

What intrigued me even more about it was the fact that this scene was written humorously even more than it was meant to frighten anyone. If horror isn’t a genre you typically read, consider giving this a try anyway. While there was one scary moment near the beginning, the plot has so much else going on in it that I think it will appeal to a lot of different reading demographics.

Sometimes this felt like the opening chapter of a long fantasy novel. There were hints sprinkled here and there to explain what was going on with Edgar’s head and how other folks were dealing with the strange phenomenon on this farm. They quickly coalesced into a surprisingly thorough explanation of how this world worked, especially given the fact that the author had less than twenty pages to work with.

While I was satisfied with what the narrator revealed, I also wanted more. I enjoyed the way the author wrote a short, encapsulated story that also left a lot of room for readers to come up with our own theories about what might happen to the Edgar and Emelia, the woman who helped him, next.

The fairy tale elements of the storyline are best left to new readers to discover for themselves. As much as I want to gush about them, they’re revealed late enough that I don’t want to share any plot twists. Let’s just say that this is a truly magical farm where anything can happen.

Do note that the full blurb for this tale contains spoilers, so reader beware if you’re like me and prefer to be surprised by a book.

If you love Halloween or the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch.

 

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Earliest Memory

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

I’d forgotten this, but it turns out that WWBC had this same prompt last year! I talked about eating apples that were still attached to the apple tree in our front yard then, so I’ll talk about our tire swing this time.

A baby sitting in a tire swing
Baby Lydia in a tire swing.

If you’re unfamiliar with this sort of toy, know that they’re made from old tires that are no longer fit for traditional things like driving. My thrifty, environmentally-conscious uncle made the one you’ll see in these photographs!

A tire swing meant for young children is cut open lengthwise to create a safe pouch for little ones to sit in.

If you’re small enough to fit into it, you may still need a grownup or older child to push you.

I have such happy memories of gently being pushed back and forth as I sat in it.  The specific adults in question are hazy but always warm and attentive. Sometimes my parents no doubt did it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other relatives took turns as well.

I was the first grandchild on one side of the family, so there were lots of older kids and grownups around who relished playing with a little one again.

A preschooler swinging in a tire swing
Swinging by myself like a big kid.

Those early experiences gave me a lifelong love of swings. There’s nothing like the sensation of riding in one. It almost feels like you’re flying if you go fast and high enough!

This memory probably formed when I was a tad older than the age I was when I took tiny bites out of apples that I couldn’t quite manage to pull off of the tree.

My family moved away from that house when I was about four, so this was a very early memory no matter which one technically formed first.

I’ll end this post with one final tire swing photo so that you will all know there was a time when my first brother and I were small enough to fit into a tire swing together. (Someday I’ll gush about my other sibling and other relatives in their own special posts, too. Everyone is equally loved in our family. 🙂 )

A young girl and her infant brother cuddling together in a tire swing
Tire swing cuddles

This sibling of mine is about six feel tall now and has his own kids to chase around!  It’s a joy to see him make his wife and kids laugh. He can find the humour in anything.

He also gives the biggest, nicest bearhugs you can possibly imagine.

Looking at this photo makes me yearn for the day when I can hug him and everyone else in the family again. Someday the U.S. and Canadian borders will reopen and that will happen.

I’ll leave it up to him to reveal his identity or remain anonymous depending on what he prefers.

But look at those little munchkins. What a sweet moment in time.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

This week’s prompt was a little tricky for me because it’s been a while since I’ve received a memorable book recommendation. I can be a bit picky about what I read, so I definitely don’t blame anyone for that. It’s just hard for some folks to figure out my tastes well enough to recommend things I end up loving.

These recommendations were all hits, though! They’re loosely arranged by how old I was when they were first recommended to me.

Title and Author: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)
by C.S. Lewis

Who Recommended It: My uncle sent this entire seven-book series to me when I was in elementary school. I adored it immediately.

 

Title and Author: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Who Recommended It: I believe my fifth grade teacher recommended it during or after we did a history unit on the Holocaust. Anne’s stories about living in hiding as well as the truth about what happened to her gave this era a personal touch that made it easier for my young mind to grasp the horrors of it all.

 

Title and Author: Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

Who Recommended It: My ninth grade English teacher. She didn’t recommend this specific book, but she did an in-depth unit on his work in general that turned me into a lifelong fan of his stories.

 

Title and Author: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Who Recommended It: A book display at my high school library. I knew nothing about this author or tale, but I thought I’d give it a try. Jane won me over from the beginning.

 

Title and Author: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Who Recommended It: A high school study hall teacher. She had a shelf filled with books for us to read if we’d finished all of our homework. I picked this title out from it and was mesmerized from the first page.

 

Title and Author: Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Who Recommended It: My aunt. She had a large personal library that I was allowed to borrow books from while she was away at college and later graduate school, and I believe this was one of the titles she thought I’d particularly enjoy. Yes, she was completely right.

 

Pile of opened books stacked on top of each other Title and Author: The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison

Who Recommended It: A librarian at the local public library if my memory is correct. I’d mentioned enjoying Beloved, and she immediately told me to read this next. I’m glad I listened to her!

 

Title and Author: Indian Horse  by Richard Wagamese

Who Recommended It: A coworker. I asked him for recommendations of Canadian books at some point after I moved up here, and this was one of his ideas.

Title and Author: The Stone Angel  by Margaret Laurence

Who Recommended It: The same coworker who recommended Indian Horse. I enjoyed both of these titles.

 

Title and Author: Annabel  by Kathleen Winter

Who Recommended It: A display of new Canadian books at one of the Toronto Public Library branches. I borrowed it with no knowledge of who the author was and had a great time reading it.

A Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Recipe for Halloween and Thanksgiving

I’m veering a little off-topic today and sharing one of my favourite autumn recipes.This is something I found on a vegan blog many years ago. If that site still existed, I’d link to it and give credit. Not only is this cake dairy-free, it can be soy, egg, and nut-free as well as long as… Read More

Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us

Content warning: mental illness, blood, violence, and trauma. Us is a 2019 American horror film about a family who was terrorized by their doppelgängers while they were on what was supposed to be a peaceful beach vacation. It was directed by Jordan Peele, the same director who released Get Out in 2017. This is one… Read More

Top Ten Tuesday: Super Long Titles

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl Kudos to whomever came up with this prompt! I’d never think to sort books out in this manner. 1. Among the Missing: An Anecdotal History of Missing Persons from 1800 to the Present by Jay Robert Nash 2. Stories from the Front of the Room: How Higher Education Faculty of… Read More