Tag Archives: Halloween

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 fairly 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?

 

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.

 

A Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Recipe for Halloween and Thanksgiving

A slice of pumpkin chocolate chip cake on a black and white side plate

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 you select allergen-safe chocolate chips for it.

This means that it can be shared with many different types of people who are often otherwise left out of the dessert festivities during Thanksgiving, Halloween, and other holidays.

And who doesn’t love inclusive desserts?

 

Ingredients

Cupcakes (double these measurements for a cake)

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (all purpose)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cinnamon Icing (Optional)

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted vegan margarine (or similar oil/fat substitute)
1 Tbsp non dairy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

A pumpkin chocolate chip cupcake on a decorative side plate

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, stir the first 5 ingredients. Then sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a second bowl. Stir with a fork as using a hand mixer will make the batter gummy. Once combined, fold in chocolate chips.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full (if making cupcakes) and bake for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick pushed into the middle of one of them comes out clean.

If you’re making a cake, lightly grease an 11×7 baking pan, pour it in, and bake it while using the same toothpick trick to see when it’s done. This takes about 30-35 minutes in my oven.

Cool completely before icing them.

To make the icing, stir all of those ingredients together gently. The icing will naturally be a bit runny, so you really don’t want to be using it on a warm cake that will only make it runnier.

Like I said before, double this recipe for a cake.

Yes, you can use any sort of oil you have on hand. I recommend using white flour for it, but do let me know how it is with whole wheat pastry flour if you decide to go that route.

The pumpkin puree makes this cake quite moist and dense. The sugar and chocolate chips create a pretty sweet treat, so I generally skip the icing altogether.

This cake freezes well. Let it thaw gently at room temperature for a few hours or until it’s soft all the way through.

My local grocery store sells chocolate chips that are free of the top eight allergens, including milk, soy, eggs, and nuts. If you can’t find something similar at your local grocery store, check any health food stores that might be nearby. You could also order them online in many areas if you plan ahead a little.

Enjoy!

6 Toronto Urban Legends for Halloween

Since most of the people who read this site don’t live in Toronto and Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year by far, this seemed like the perfect time to share some of our spooky local urban legends.

Blurry photo taken of a moving subway trainThe Lady in Red

Lower Bay subway station was built in 1966 and shut down six months later because the Toronto Transit Commission realized that any delays at that stop would shut down our entire subway system.

A new subway station was built on top of it, and the original one is only rarely available for public viewing.

Legend has it that a woman wearing a red dress wanders around Lower Bay station, but no one knows who she is

. There are no records of accidents that might explain why this spirit spooks TTC employees and the occasional film crew that wander around down there.

We do know that this patch of land was once a Potter’s Field whose coffins were partially cleared out when the city wanted space for public transit, so she might be the ghost of someone who either had no next of kin when she died or who was abandoned by them.

The Underwater UFO Base in Lake Ontario

Multiple people have reported seeing lights shimmering over, plunging into, or leaping out of Lake Ontario. These sightings have given rise to the legend that there is an underwater UFO base located in the bottom of this lake.

Perhaps the aliens come from an aquatic planet and wouldn’t do well out here on dry land?

Nessie Lives in Lake Ontario

You’ve heard of the Loch Ness monster, right?

The Seneca First Nations tribe were the first people to record sightings of our own sea monster. As early as the 1850s, white settlers claimed to see something much bigger than the average fish swimming around in Lake Ontario as well. They described it as a blue-grey serpent that was about 50 feet long.

A Haunting at Old Finch Road

There are many different versions of this tale. They all tend agree that a girl was murdered on Old Finch Road, possibly near a bridge.

Many versions say she died on her birthday and will appear to you if you sing Happy Birthday to her because the person who murdered her wrote “Happy Birthday, Susie” on a nearby rock after killing her. (Although the victim’s name changes quite a bit depending on which version of the story you hear).

Some people have also claimed to hear screams and moans when travelling along this road.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island

gibraltar point lighthouse on Toronto Island in Toronto, Ontario
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Mr. John Paul Rademuller was the first lighthouse keeper on this little island back when it was still a peninsula. In order to make some extra money, he was a brewer and bootlegger as well.

Legend has it that two drunken sailors came to visit him one day to buy some of his beer. When Rademuller refused to sell it to them, they killed him, dismembered his body, and buried pieces of it around the island.

In some versions of this tale, it is said that parts of him were eventually found but that his head was never recovered at all. Other versions say his ghost still continues to wander the island because his killers were never punished for their crime and not because parts of his skeleton might still be waiting to be found.

Allegedly, there were some bones found near the lighthouse in 1893, but investigators didn’t yet have the scientific tools to tell if they belonged to Mr. Rademuller or not.

Mrs. Jemima Howard’s Last Days

The unique thing about Mrs. Howard is that we have many historical records that document her life. She was the wife of John G. Howard, and they both gave the land that would later become High Park to the city of Toronto after their deaths.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard lived happily in Colborne Lodge for many years. They never had children, but they doted on their nieces and nephews who temporarily came to live with them while  finishing their educations.

Sadly, Jemima Howard was diagnosed with breast cancer long before we had any treatments for it other than morphine and laudanum for her pain. She died at home in her own bed surrounded by loved ones. If she looked out her window, she could see the spot where she (and later her husband) would be buried.

Their headstone is the only one allowed in High Park, and it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot a short distance from their home.

Some visitors to Colborne Lodge have reported seeing a woman peering out of the second story bedroom where Jemima spent her last days. Others have reported cold spots and poltergeist activity.

Maybe Jemima never left home after all.

What is your favourite urban legend from your city, town, or community?

Vengeance: A Review of Ceremony of Ashes

Ceremony of Ashes - A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance by Jayson Robert Ducharme book cover. Image on the cover is of a silhoutte of someone holding a large staffTitle: Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance

Author: Jayson Robert Ducharme

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 1, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary

Length: 135 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 stars

Blurb:

Something wicked descends upon Leinster Village
Adrian Holloway’s life is turned upside down after receiving a disquieting phone call. His sister and niece have gone missing, and his mother is in shambles.
Something malicious is lurking in his old hometown. Children are going missing and their mothers are turning up dead. People are afraid to go out. Rumors spread from house to house. Blood. Ritual murder. Sacrifice and mutilation.
Sins of the past become unearthed. A woman, whose powers are beyond imagination, is soon to extract her vengeance on the entire town. She can make the dead talk, breathe fire, and turn a man into an animal.
Only Adrian and a young female constable know the truth. Only they can stop her.
CEREMONY OF ASHES is a 135 page novella about witchcraft, vengeance, and how our destinies are sometimes forged before we are even born.
Fans of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and Nikolai Gogol are in for a treat with this fast-faced, violent and uncompromising novella of terror.

Review:

Content warning: blood, ritual murder, sacrifice, and mutilation. I will briefly discuss these things in my next paragraph but will not go into detail about them.

Many of the items in that list happened before or after new scenes occurred. While this was firmly rooted in the horror genre for sure and did include some gory scenes, I was glad that so much of the rest of it was left up to the reader’s imagination.Filling in those moments for yourself can be so much scarier than having them all spelled out.

There’s more to Halloween than costumes and trick-or-treating in Leinster Village village this year.

Reading this novella was like eating a chocolate bar in the very best sense of that metaphor. I digested it quickly and enjoyed it for what it was without searching for a deeper meaning to it or anything like that. This was something that didn’t require analyzation or interpretation. It was simply a nice, scary distraction from everything going on the real world. Sometimes that’s exactly what a reader needs!

There were times when I had trouble keeping the dozens of characters straight. Some of them played pretty minor roles in the plot, so when they popped up again it often took me a while to remember who they were and how they might have been connected to the characters who were featured more prominently.

Small town life was captured nicely here. The characters I was able to keep good track of were connected to each other in multiple ways in many cases. I liked the way the many ways their lives overlapped was slowly revealed. It reminded me a lot of my own experiences living in small towns and how closely everyone’s lives end up intersecting regardless of whether they’re relatives of some sort or genetically unrelated to each other.

I would have liked to see more time spent on character development. While this was a heavily plot-driven tale and I certainly wouldn’t have expected it to be as introspective as something character-driven, it still would have been nice to get to know the main characters on a deeper level. They tended to be boxed into specific roles. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in moderation, it happened so much in this particular story that I didn’t get to know the characters as individuals like I wanted to.

The witchcraft aspect was handled well. One thing I look for in speculative fiction books that include this topic is a sense that the author has put some thought into why they chose a witch as their antagonist. Rest assured there were excellent reasons for this decision that will be revealed later on in the storyline.

I’d recommend Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance to anyone who loves the dark side of the horror genre.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Holiday of the Year and Why

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. Halloween is by far my favourite holiday of the year for the following reasons: There Is Assorted Candy. I only eat candy occasionally, but when I do… Read More

A Review of Beyond Death – Tales of the Macabre

Title: Beyond Death – Tales of the Macabre Author: Natasha Duncan-Drake & Sophie Duncan Publisher: Wittegen Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal Length: 27 pages Source: I received a free copy from the authors. Rating: 4 Stars Blurb: Two tales that look past death into the terror beyond. The Cup Runneth Over by… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Things That Scare Me

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. What an open-ended prompt this week!  Was it supposed to be used for for lighthearted, Halloween-friendly fears or more serious topics? I’m assuming it’s the former, but I’ll include one darker fear in case that is what Long and Short Reviews was actually hoping we’d do. Only time will… Read More