What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?

Have you heard of the “Teal Pumpkin Project®”?  Having a young family member with notable food restrictions, the Teal Pumpkin Project is something we strongly support and recommend for the safety of food-sensitive children and a way to allow all to fully participate and enjoy the fun of Halloween and trick-or-treating.

Prompted by childhood food allergies, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a worldwide movement to create a safer, healthier, and happy Halloween experience for all children, including those with food allergies, which can be life-altering and life-threatening. One in thirteen children suffers from some sort of food allergy today.  Among the project’s goals is to raise awareness of food allergies and to promote inclusion for all little trick-or-treaters during the Halloween season.

Halloween can be an especially challenging time for children, parents, and families managing food allergies on a daily basis. Many “mini” or “fun-sized” treats are not labeled with food ingredients and/or contain different ingredients than their full-sized counterparts, making managing for parents even more difficult.

The goal is to offer non-food treats for children dealing with allergies, as well as others for whom candy treats may not be an option. The whole purpose is not only food safety for those with allergies but also kindness and inclusion. Small children confronted with allergy issues will be delighted to receive a small non-food, non-threatening treat alternative, while other children can still receive traditional Halloween treats. No one left out of the fun. That’s the Little Red Bear way!


Participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project is easy.

  • Simply provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
  • Place a Teal Pumpkin (‘teal’ is the chosen color of Food Allergy Awareness) in front of your home to indicate that you have non-food treats available for trick-or-treaters, or in lieu of a Teal Pumpkin, a sign or poster placed on your door or window.

Where do I get a Teal Pumpkin to put on my front porch?

  • Obtaining a Teal Pumpkin for Halloween is fairly simple — paint your own!  Grab some teal paint and make it a family project. If you have children of your own, it will be a wonderful learning opportunity to involve them to help educate and raise their awareness of food allergy issues. Perhaps they have friends who are affected by allergies, making it even more personal and beneficial to be included in the process.
  • If you cannot paint a pumpkin yourself, no worries. Teal pumpkins should hopefully be available for purchase both online and in local shopping outlets. As the movement continues to grow each year, they will become readily available.
  • If painting is not an option and teal pumpkins are not available in your local stores, all you really need to do is display a sign or teal pumpkin printout at your door or in a window, letting everyone know that you have non-food treats available. Tap on the image on the right to download the sign and print out a copy for your home. Participating is as simple as that.

What are acceptable Non-Food Treats?

  • Children love to do artwork — Pencils, Pens, Crayons, Markers, Stencils!
  • Children love to do artwork outdoors — Sidewalk Chalk!
  • Children love to blow bubbles — Bubble Blowers!
  • Halloween Erasers and Pencil Toppers are really cool.
  • Children love to remind us that they are around — Whistles, Kazoos, Clappers, and Noisemakers (parents will love you!)
  •  Bouncy Balls (small children never have enough bouncy balls!)
  • Glow Sticks!
  • Small Stuffed Animals!
  • Jumping Ropes!
  • Paddle Balls!
  • Stickers!
  • Small Playing Cards and Games!
  • Finger Puppets and Novelty Toys!
  • Simple Bracelets, Wrist Bands, and Necklaces!
  • Mini Yo-Yo’s or Slinkies!
  • Mini Wooden Airplanes!
  • And of course, the perennial Halloween favorite — Fake Dracula Teeth!
  • Note — When selecting non-food items, it is best to omit moldable clays which may contain wheat products, and to steer away from any items made of or containing latex, for those latex-sensitive individuals.

A quick trip to the local dollar or discount store should provide all you need, and may very likely be cheaper than high-priced candy these days, keeping in mind that if you do go the non-food treat route only one in thirteen children will be seeking the non-food treats, so not talking about a great deal of items. Just enough to include a little something for everyone. Time spent in making an extra trip each Halloween will be more than offset by the warm feeling of knowing that you are doing something not only nice but also beneficial for the kids, and by the smiles and happiness of those receiving your special treat items on Halloween night.


This year, Little Red Bear and I urge you to join us in taking the pledge —


If you would like to learn more about food allergies and The Teal Pumpkin Project simply tap the link to visit the Food Allergy Research & Education page, where more suggestions for non-food treats and other ways to participate and help the movement are available. You can also read more about How The Teal Pumpkin Project Began.

Here is a resource site for downloadable Free Signs, Flyers & More!

Thanks always for visiting with us.  We hope that you will join Little Red Bear and me in The Teal Pumpkin Project and helping to make this a safe, healthy, and enjoyable Halloween — for Everyone! — Jim (and Red!)


“Thank God for little children; when our skies turn cold and gray, They come as sunshine to our hearts, and charm our cares away.” – Frances Watkins Harper

“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.” –  Thomas Carlyle


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

                 “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.”             — Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa Lakota)


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today, because together we can do so much!

With the help of patrons, each month we are able to donate free print copies of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” to Senior Citizens,  School Libraries and Classrooms, and to those who could otherwise not obtain a copy.

Patrons also help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as a non-monetized, ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes while sharing positive messages of happiness, inspiration, and kindness with everyone. We invite you to join us in making a positive difference in the world!


“Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.” – Richard L. Evans

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” –  John F. Kennedy



For Our New Visitors Wondering — 

“Who is Little Red Bear?”

 Meet Little Red Bear and His Friends in this short introduction to the stories —  “Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”



 

“Little Red Bear’s — Happy Halloween Spooktacularly Good Recipes Special II”

Welcome to Little Red Bear’s special “Happy Halloween Spooktacularly Good Recipes — Volume  II.”

Last year’s Halloween Treat Recipes were so well received that Little Red Bear felt we should do it again. If you missed last year’s “Halloween Spooktacularly Good Recipes”, simply tap here to find more fun Halloween recipes and ideas!


It’s Autumn and October,

Frightful things will soon be waking,

Rising from restless graveyard slumbers,

Craving tasty treats left for their taking!

So gather ye ‘round for recipes,

See what kitchen witches have in store,

‘Tis time to fire up kettles and cauldrons,

Ere hungry ghosts and ghouls be at the door!


Trust us. Being fans of eggs best used in omelets and toilet paper best stored in the linen closet and not on trees, it’s best to be prepared when little goblins come knocking on Halloween.

Some little treat and candy-craving spirits handle disappointment better than others. And you really do not want to be in the position of having to hand out pennies.

Or rocks.  Always try to avoid being in the position of having to resort to handing out rocks. Even if they are the fancy painted ones going around so popularly nowadays. No rocks.  Treats are always well received.



Accordingly then, here is an assortment of Halloween goodies to appease both adult partygoers and those wandering little treat-seekers that come knocking at the door on Halloween night.  Simply tap on either the link or image to find a recipe.

Proceed on, stirring spoon and bowl in hand if you have the courage, for spookily delightful Halloween recipes unearthed by Little Red Bear and his friends.


Halloween Ghost Pancakes

How to start a Halloween morning?  With Ghost Pancakes, of course! Featuring orange pancakes, a special dark chocolate ganache, and whipped cream ghosts.

Halloween Ghost Pancakes by The Novice Chef


Screaming Chocolate Pretzels

These chocolate-covered pretzels will be “howling” for attention at your Halloween party this year!

Screaming Chocolate Pretzels by Fun 365 Oriental Trading


Rice Krispie Treat Monsters

These cute little Rice Krispie Treat Monsters will be a colorful fun favorite for little ones and perfectly sized for small hands!

Rice Krispie Treat Monsters by “One Little Project At A Time”


Apple Pie Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples were a Halloween staple growing up in the midwest years ago. This recipe takes them to a whole new Apple Pie level for the Autumn Season, beginning with a caramel coating covered by a luscious layer of white chocolate, then rolled in a Cinnamon-Sugar mixture and drizzled with more white chocolate!  If caramel apples were a treat years ago, then this new version is treat-a-licious!

Apple Pie Caramel Apples by Leigh Anne Wilkes , “Your Homebased Mom”


Reese’s Peanut Butter Captain Crunch Bars

Made with peanut butter, marshmallows, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Captain Crunch cereal, topped with Reese’s Peanut Butter Pieces.  I love Halloween!

Reese’s Peanut Butter Captain Crunch Bars by This Is Not Diet Food


Everyone loves Halloween for different reasons. For me, the approach of Halloween each year ushers in the arrival of Candy Corn Season!  Like the poor little innocent but polarizing Peeps at Easter, varying opinions aside, I am an unapologetic lover of Candy Corn, and here are three Candy Corn inspired recipes for you too, if so inclined.

Candy Corn Swirled Fudge

If Michelangelo could have found Candy Corn Swirled Marble similar to this gorgeous fudge, just think of the masterpieces he could have created. As it is, we still have the fudge, and that works for me!

Candy Corn Swirled Fudge by The Café Sucre Farine

Candy Corn Poke Cake

Made in a 9″ x 13″ sheet cake pan, this simple but beautiful cake will serve many and is certain to be a talked about highlight of any Halloween event! Keep the recipe handy for when guests inquire.

Candy Corn Poke Cake by Wine and Glue

Candy Corn Jello

Candy Corn Jello?  Oh, someone pinch me — I must be dreaming!

Candy Corn Jello by Cincy Shopper


Peeping Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cute little Chocolate Chip Sandwich Monster Cookies for little ghosts and goblins!

Peeping Chocolate Chip Cookies by Cadbury Kitchen


Pumpkin Blondies

If you have been patiently waiting for a Pumpkin related recipe, your time has come! Pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice baked into a blondie bar for Autumn get-togethers and Halloween treats! Don’t you just love Autumn?

Pumpkin Blondies by Cookies & Cups


Witch’s Brew Brownies

If we have Blondies, then the Brownies cannot be far behind! Add all sorts of spooky and leftover candy toppings to these brownies to make them extra special.

Witch’s Brew Brownies by Home Made Interest


Great Pumpkin Cake

Everyone who follows me on Facebook and other sites knows that I am a life-long fan of the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles Schulz, featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang.

And of course, Linus, who each year spends Halloween night in a pumpkin patch foregoing trick or treating with his friends to await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, who arises each year from the most sincere pumpkin patch to then fly around handing out toys to sincere and believing children on Halloween. It goes without saying that Linus is the only one who believes in the Great Pumpkin, yet remains steadfast in his beliefs and undaunted in his support, despite the withering criticism of others.

So, how could we not share a Great Pumpkin Cake for faithful Linus and Halloween this year?!?  Hint — You will need your most sincere fluted tube pan for this one!

Great Pumpkin Cake by Kraft Recipes


Brownie Cupcakes

With a brownie bottom and orange cake mix layer, these colorful cupcakes will be a Halloween party treat!  Be sure to add a candy pumpkin or sprinkles on top!

Brownie Cupcakes by Two Sisters Crafting


Boozy Pumpkin Milkshake

No longer the sole domain of youngsters, it seems that each year an increasing number of adults from all age groups seek to reclaim Halloween celebrations and fun.  The treats may have taken on a new flavor or two over the years, however.  Here is a little something for the older treat-seekers.  One may find several other party ideas on this site, as well. Just please remember to celebrate responsibly.

Boozy Pumpkin Milkshake by Wine and Glue


Halloween Trifle

As we have endeavored to point out, Hungry Halloween Spirits and Goblins are certainly nothing to be trifled with. Unless your trifle happens to contain a number of Halloween goodies inside it, of course!

Halloween Trifle by Dancing Through The Rain


Thank You for visiting with us!  Please feel to share this special Halloween post and our site with friends and family for their Halloween fun.

When out this Halloween, please remember to celebrate safely, drive carefully in neighborhoods, and watch for little ones on the roadways who most likely will not be watching out for you while rushing to the next candy stop.

And remember, if you happen across an unattended broomstick on Halloween, just leave it be.  We’ll talk more about that another time in our upcoming “Interview With A Witch”. Until then, just ignore the broom and pass on by.  Witches are not fond of walking, and we’ll simply leave it at that for now. Watch for the interview here soon!

Also please keep an eye out for our upcoming “Autumn Recipes” special soon, along with another fun little poem this week. Follow the blog now to be notified of every new post in your email box. Never any Spam. Little Red Bear only likes his Spam from the little can, never in the mail.

Happy Halloween to everyone!  Fire up the wood stoves and let the holiday candy and treat making begin! — Jim (and Red!)          


                                            “Halloween isn’t just about candies and treats.                                               No, wait — of course, it is.” — Little Red Bear

“A candy a day keeps the monsters under the bed away.” — Cinnamon Charlie


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

“A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” — Erma Bombeck


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today, because together we can do so much!

With the help of patrons, last month we were able to donate six print copies of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” to a Senior Citizens Library and Residents!

Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes while sharing positive messages of happiness, inspiration, and kindness with everyone. We invite you to join us in making a positive difference in the world!


“If you are out of treats, I would prefer cash.” — Slick the Weasel

“Keep calm, Trick or Treat, and carry on.” – Oliver Wendell Ghostbody



For Our New Readers Wondering — 

“Who is Little Red Bear?”

 Meet Little Red Bear and His Friends in this short introduction to the stories —  “Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”



 

Little Red Bear’s Special Easter Recipes & Ideas To Please Everybunny!

When Little Red Bear and I are not trying to scrub Easter Egg dye from our hands (paws), we like to discover interesting and fun new recipes and treats to make for family and friends.

It has been a few months since Little Red Bear shared some of his special recipe finds with the holiday season so busy and everyone having their own family favorites, but with the Easter Bunny working overtime and the holiday drawing near he thought it a good time to get going again and share some Easter treats and information. Let’s get hopping!

Starting off with a healthier treat for the little ones because being about Easter treats and goodies it’s likely to become more sugary sweet as we go along.

As usual, simply tap on the link to view the original recipe and provider’s page.


Peep Fruit Kabobs

An alternative to sugary sweets, little ones should ‘Peep!’ with delight over these.

Peep Fruit Kabobs Recipe


Krispie Treat Goodies

Krispie Treats are among Little Red Bear and my favorites for Easter and any time of year!  Here are three different Krispie Treat ideas to make up for Easter.

Fruity Pebble Krispie Treats — My personal favorite kind of marshmallow cereal treat, made with Fruity Pebbles cereal for a different and fun take on the original.

Rice Krispies Treat Easter Eggs — Fun for the whole family!  Simply use plastic eggs to form the fun egg shapes for these.

Easter Rice Krispie Cake — Neither Little Red Bear nor I had ever seen a cake made from Rice Krispie Treats before and couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t thought of it sooner ourselves!


Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters

Creamy, crunchy, peanutty, and beautiful for a brunch buffet or candy dish. Three ingredients plus your choice of sprinkles, prepared in the crock pot while you do other things. What could be better?

Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters Recipe


Easter No Bake Birds’ Nest Cookies

Made with oats, corn flakes, mini candy eggs, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and peanut butter, kids (and adults!) will love this Easter treat.

Easter No Bake Bird’s Nest Cookies Recipe


Easter Sugar Cookies

Everybody likes sugar cookies! Wouldn’t the kids love to find a fun-shaped and brightly-decorated Easter Cookie in their basket? Little Red Bear wants one. Or, a dozen.

Easter Sugar Cookies Recipe


Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles

Another delightful and beautiful Easter treat to make up ahead of time for family and guests. And who doesn’t love cookie dough?

Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles Recipe


Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars

Cookie Bars are always a perfect treat for buffets and treat dishes for holiday gatherings, a perfect “hand food” as they say, and able to be made ahead of time. These Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars come with a sugar advisory — they are loaded!  Packed to the max with oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, springtime confetti sprinkles, and five (5!) different kinds of candy bars, this treat will not disappoint. You may want to put these delights up out of the reach of little ones if planning to get any sleep the next week. Little Red Bear is already busy whipping up a batch of these! I see some late night writing sessions on the horizon.

Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars Recipe


Easter Trifles

Do you have a trifle bowl tucked safely away after the Christmas holidays? You may want to bring it back out for one of these delicious Easter Trifles!

Cotton Candy Easter Trifle — One white cake mix as the cake filling baked in separate smaller cake pans and dyed with food coloring, with cream cheese, whipped cream, and candy bits of your choice make for a colorful buffet presentation.

Mini Egg Trifle — Using brownies and chocolate pudding mixed with cream cheese and crushed Oreo Cookies, then topped off with whipped cream and mini eggs, this trifle will delight chocolate lovers.

Rainbow Peeps Trifle — This vivid trifle features swirled cake pieces, Cool Whip, lemon pie filling for a touch of spring freshness, and colorful Easter Peeps for decoration.


Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling

I love traditional Cadbury Eggs and these remind me of those — with a creamy, lemony cheesecake filling and yummy apricot sauce for the ‘yolk’.  If the kids turn up their noses at these and opt for the sweet treats, that simply means more of these amazing creations for the adults!

Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling Recipe


Easter Cathedral Candy

Another amazing no-bake recipe to prepare ahead of time, these beautiful candies require only three ingredients — vanilla flavored melting wafers or almond bark, colored mini marshmallows, and sweetened coconut.  Mix, chill, slice, and serve!

Easter Cathedral Candy Recipe


Easter Eggs and Creative Hunt & Craft ideas!

For anyone who may be new to hard-boiling (or struggling with it as we seemed to somehow always do each year) and coloring Easter Eggs, or who may be looking for some exciting and different new decorating ideas, check out the helpful links below.

How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

A Handy Food Coloring Custom Mixing Chart

Making Tie Dye Easter Eggs

How To Dye Easter Eggs with Kool-Aid

Decorating Natural Brown Easter Eggs

How To Make Marbelized Easter Eggs

How To Host The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever

Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Toddlers

More Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Small Children

Fun New Easter Egg Hunt Ideas

Fun (and Educational) Easter Egg Hunt Ideas For Children

18 Simple Easter Crafts for Kids



Find over 600 more Easter Holiday features on my Easter Treats, Fun Crafts, and Activities Board on Pinterest. To find today’s features and all of the recipes we have shared so far, visit our Little Red Bear’s Hand-picked Blog Recipes Board. Visit and Like my Writer’s Facebook Page to see daily recipes and features we share.

Thanks as always for spending part of your day with us! We would be honored if you recommended our site and pages to friends and family.  Little Red Bear and I look forward to your visits here, and hope that in our own way we help to make your day special, too! And if you are not familiar with Little Red Bear yet, I invite you to tap on the links below to find out more about Red and his family-friendly adventure stories.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and Happy Easter! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” — Janine di Giovanni

“Easter combines the best of the present with the traditions of the past – like Cadbury Cream Eggs with hunting and gathering.” — Melanie White 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Easter is so disappointing. You suffer all the way through Lent, and what do you get for it? A ham.” — Garrison Keillor   


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes. Because together we can do so much!


             “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”        – Matthew Jacobson


 

 

 

 

Happy National Oreo Cookie Day!


Did you wake up feeling a little happier and bouncier than usual this morning and perhaps wondering why?  Chances are it’s not your birthday.  Or Christmas.  Or anniversary. So, what is it then?

It’s March 6th —  National Oreo Cookie Day, of course!

Oreos — That little creme-filled bundle of crispy, chocolaty goodness we have come to love over the years. Since its introduction years ago, the Oreo Cookie has become the best-selling cookie in the United States. No surprise there. A mere glance at my cupboard would confirm that fact.

Nabisco (originally The National Biscuit Company) first developed and produced the “Oreo Biscuit” in 1912 at its Chelsea factory in New York City. The block on which the factory was originally located is now known as “Oreo Way”.  Wouldn’t you like to go to work each morning to a place called “Oreo Way?”

Here are some other fun facts about Oreos from the National Day Calendar folks —

  • The name “Oreo” was first trademarked on March 14, 1912.
  • The first Oreo cookies in the United States sold for 25 cents a pound in clear, glass-topped novelty cans.
  • In 1912, the Oreo Biscuit was renamed to “Oreo Sandwich”.
  • In 1948, the Oreo Sandwich was renamed to “Oreo Creme Sandwich”.
  • William A. Turnier developed the modern-day Oreo design in 1952 to include the Nabisco logo.
  • Nabisco’s principal food scientist, Sam Procello, developed the modern Oreo cookie filling.

Oreos now come in a wide variety of flavors, including Banana Split, Berry Burst Ice Cream, Birthday Cake, Candy Cane, Candy Corn, Cool Mint, Creamsicle, Pumpkin Spice, and many others. And of course, not to leave out Golden Oreos, and maybe my personal favorite, the Double Stuf Oreos!

What is your favorite way to enjoy an Oreo Cookie?  Do you dunk it?  Bite into and crunch it?  Or are you a twister, like me?  My favorite way is to carefully twist the two cookie halves apart, crunch and enjoy the plain half first, and then slowly savor the creamy goodness of the other half.  Mmmm — creamy goodness.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Now, go treat yourself — it’s National Oreo Cookie Day! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Happiness is a tall glass of milk and Oreo Cookie in each paw.” — Little Red Bear

         “Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.”          — Robert Redford


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


 

“Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus . . . . . . and More!”

Most everyone is familiar with the phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” but may not be familiar with the interesting historical information behind it.

The phrase comes from an editorial entitled “Is There a Santa Claus?” first appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of ‘The (New York) Sun’ newspaper in reply to a question sent in by a young girl. The editorial response has since become the most reprinted newspaper editorial in the English language.

As the story goes, eight-year-old Laura Virginia O’Hanlon first asked her father the question “Is there a Santa Claus?”  Virginia’s father, Dr. Phillip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant in Manhattan, suggested that she write a letter to the prominent ‘Sun’ newspaper, advising that “If you see it in ‘The Sun’, it’s so.”

There is some question due to the wording if Virginia actually completely penned the letter herself at age eight, or more likely with the aid of her father. Regardless, the query arrived at ‘The Sun’. Few may be aware of the rest of the story.

The editor who prepared the response to Virginia’s question was named Francis Pharcellus Church. Interestingly, Mr. Church had been a war correspondent during the devastating and horrific American Civil War and suffered from a great loss of faith and hope in society afterward.  He was a hardened cynic, an atheist not given to superstition, curmudgeonly, and wanted no part of writing the newspaper’s reply, to the point of initially not allowing his name to even be attached to the piece.

Nevertheless, Mr. Church’s response turned out to be a masterful testimony much more far-reaching than the original, simple Santa Claus question. Addressing the philosophical issues of not only the existence of Santa Claus, he uncharacteristically affirmed hope, encouragement, generosity, love, and faith, as well.

Despite being placed seventh in order on the newspaper’s editorial page, even appearing below an article on the newly-invented chainless bicycle, Mr. Church’s reply was both noticed and well-received by readers, taking on a subsequent life of its own which has endured over a century and still going strong.

Reprinting here for everyone, should you wish to share this inspiring piece with your family this holiday season . . . .


“We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

“We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”


Virginia went on later in life to become an educator, receiving a doctorate from Fordham University in 1930, with her dissertation on ‘The Importance of Play’, a theme later echoed famously by Fred (Mr.) Rogers, that play is actually the work of childhood.  Later in life, she credited Mr. Church’s editorial response to her Santa Claus letter to influencing and shaping the direction of her life in a positive manner. She passed away on May 13, 1971, at the age of eighty-one.

At the time of the editorial reply, Francis Pharcellus Church was fifty-eight years old. He passed away a few years later at the age of sixty-seven and is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. He had no children.

One wonders what forces of the Universe combined to bring together such an unlikely pairing? An innocent young girl and her curiosity about Santa Claus, and a childless curmudgeon, to inspire a timeless literary piece of love, generosity, and devotion.

What would the world be and what would we do without Santa Claus? Without Kindness, Hope, Faith, Love, Compassion, Generosity, and Charity? Without Santa Claus embodying the Spirit of Christmas?  Without our faith and belief in the unseen? Truly, there is nothing more real, indeed. May the Spirit of Christmas continue to live within and inspire us all.

Thank You always for visiting and spending part of your day with us! And in the words of Charles Dickens thru Tiny Tim —“God bless us, every one!”  — Jim  (and Red!)


“They err who think Santa Claus enters through the chimney. He enters through the heart.” — Charles W. Howard

“Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do.            So the Lord has spread the task among us all. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus.        I am. You are.” — Truman Capote


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Whenever you give someone a present or sing a holiday song, you’re helping Santa Claus. To me, that’s what Christmas is all about. Helping Santa Claus!” — Louis Sachar


“To say there is no Santa Claus is the most erroneous statement in the world. Santa Claus is a thought that is passed from generation to generation. After time this thought takes on a human form. Maybe if all children and adults understand the symbolism of this thought                             we can actually attain Peace on Earth and good will to men everywhere.”                 —  Charles W. Howard


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus. Christmas Eve was the time when everybody was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because          everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy.         And in the morning you saw what that had done.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder


 

 

“That’s What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown . . . .”

The morning of December 9th, 1965 found me one week away from my 16th birthday, approaching nearly not fast enough at the time, as you may well imagine. That evening featured the debut of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on the CBS television network, based on my favorite comic strip “Peanuts” by creator Charles Schulz. The show remains a much-anticipated classic and delight each holiday season for millions of viewers to this day. Fifty-two years have not diluted the show’s message.

While there are many discussion themes running thru the story, the most poignant for me has always been Linus’s speech on stage, responding to a frustrated Charlie Brown’s question of — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!?”

At this time of year, trying to keep our wits about us while navigating thru and around all the hustle and bustle of crowded malls, traffic, grocery shopping, cookie exchanges, decorating, children’s school plays and activities, holiday parties, family pictures and greeting cards, boxes, packages, wrappings, and bows, all while trying to out-maneuver porch pirates from swiping online deliveries, do you ever find yourself wondering the same question — “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Sometimes we simply need to pause, taking a moment to catch our breath and reflect.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought,                doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”            — Dr. Seuss

As one of my sometimes forgetful uncles used to say years ago — “I don’t need to be told, but I do occasionally need to be reminded.”

In reply to his friend Charlie Brown, Linus took the stage to remind us all —

“Lights, please . . . .”


“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them — “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

“And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.””


And that is what Christmas is all about. For Charlie Brown. For Linus, Lucy, and Snoopy. For us all. The reason for the season, as they say. Christmas, it turns out, does indeed mean a little bit more.


Linus is famously noted for carrying around his trusted security blanket with him wherever he goes. Held tightly fast and never let go lest panic ensues. Have you ever noticed that at the point when Linus repeats the words of the angel “Fear not!” that the blanket is suddenly on the floor beside him, confidently lain aside until he once again retrieves it at the end of the speech?  There are subtle messages and lessons awaiting us in that simple action and demonstration of faith, too.


As Ebineezer Scrooge even came to realize in the end — “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”

Peace, Good Will, Kindness, Generosity, Charity, Compassion, Empathy, Love — none of these are or should be exclusive or seasonal things, as we should truly keep them in our hearts throughout the year.  The Christmas Season is an annual reminder of how we should be always, for everyone and all things in this miraculous and beautiful world we all share and call home.

Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and holiday season! A simple act of kindness or encouraging word can change someone’s entire life around. Will you do that for someone today? In the Spirit of Christmas.  — Jim  (and Red!)


            “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”          – Peg Bracken

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.” – Helen Steiner Rice


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.” – Eric Sevareid


“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” – Washington Irving


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.” – Dale Evans Rogers


 

A Christmas Poem — “Blue House on the Hill”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Photos, pictures, and works of art frequently inspire me to write stories or poems about them.  Such was the case recently when I viewed a wonderful artwork featuring a beautiful blue house in winter.

Offering a new little Christmas poem, inspired by the “Dusk” painting by artist Trisha Romance, below.

“Blue House on the Hill”

Our old blue house sat up high on the hill,

Inside warm and safe from winter’s raw chill.

Cookies, cakes, and pies all scented our home,

None of us a thought to venture or roam.

Recalling holidays in memories now,

And longing to return, if only somehow.

Our Christmas tree twinkling with lights shining bright,

We awoke Christmas mornings, filled with delight.

Brightly-wrapped packages beneath the tree,

We dove in to open them with happiness and glee.

Our parents observed (from a safe distance),

Unwrapping packages never called for assistance.

New clothes and gifts always gave me great pleasure,

But now looking back, it’s the memories I treasure.

Wrappings, ribbons, bows, and gifts — all works of art,

But the thoughts behind them are what truly warmed the heart.

Family would visit later to come Christmas Calling,

We always shoveled the sidewalk to avoid any falling.

Each person bearing gifts, as we had presents for them, too,

Every Christmas an over-sized sweater, handmade by Aunt Sue.

Gathered at the table for dinner, someone then to say grace,

Silent moments, recalling ones now in a Heavenly place.

Christmas with roast turkey, dressing, potatoes, hot gravy, biscuits, and more,

Grown-ups would then visit and chat, tired children napped — fast asleep on the floor.

Desserts, goodies, and treats would all then come later,

Even though still full, making waistlines the greater.

Spiced punch for adults, eggnog for those not of age,

Mother’s spiced fruitcake always taking center stage.

I would like to go back to our little blue house,

Sneaking in to watch from a corner like a mouse.

Again, seeing Christmas thru youthful, wide-open eyes,

Knowing now the gifts and presents weren’t really the prize.

Oh, the joy-filled Christmases of my past,

So many memories, and still they last.


 As always, Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us. Sending the very best wishes your way for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!  — Jim  (and Red!)

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”  — Bob Hope
 
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” — Roy L. Smith

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood.”  — Richard Paul Evans



“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” — Charles Schulz 


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  — Andy Rooney


Christmas Trains — Tracking Memories Beneath the Tree

Looking back now over Christmases in my childhood, railroad trains were as integral a part and essential to the holiday itself as Santa Claus, Snickerdoodles, and Christmas trees. We are not talking 1940 as in Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story’, but not far removed, being more early 1950’s for me, being born at the tail end of 1949.

Every year my family would devote one December Saturday for an annual pilgrimage to downtown St. Louis to see the big department store window displays with their trains running around and around, shop a bit, crane our necks up at the tall buildings, and have lunch at Miss Hullings’ Cafeteria. It was magical, at a time when all meals were made at home and “going out” was something that just wasn’t done except on rare occasion. The annual Train Window Displays certainly counted as a special occasion.

When very young, let’s just say around three to five years old for discussion purposes as memories before that are a bit more foggy, we lived in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Every year, Santa Claus would arrive at the Kirkwood Railroad Station on a train pulled by a huff-chuffing steam locomotive, complete with whistles and bells. Santa would be greeted by applause and cheers by the crowd, step out of the train, wave, and then come inside the station for each of us to take our turns sitting on his lap for a photo while confiding our seasonal wish list.  Memories like that tend not to fade over the years. And I still have the photos of me on his lap. Somewhere.

I have not submitted to an official DNA test but would bet the next rent check that I inherited my train-loving gene from my father. Beyond the real world Santa train and department store window displays, my father was as big a train fan as I remain today. My third birthday (yes, I remember because it was that special) brought a Marx Passenger Train set from Santa, just like the one he arrived in at the station each year. Within minutes my father had the little train circling around the base of the Christmas tree. There is no doubt that train logged as many miles circling the tree as Santa’s reindeer that Christmas.  For an over-the-road truck driver, my dad made a crackerjack engineer!

The following Christmas brought another train, a Lionel Freight Train with a huffing, puffing steam locomotive that actually had a working headlight and put out tiny puffs of smoke as it ran around the tracks. The technology was advancing by leaps and bounds in the early ’50’s! We had two trains circling the Christmas tree that year, in opposite directions so the make-believe engineers could wave at each other as they passed each time around. It was dizzyingly awesome.

That was to be my last complete train set package for many years, as each subsequent Christmas brought more Lionel train cars, buildings, tiny people to be painted, bridges, trees, telephone poles, tunnels, and accessories. Adding on to the established base. Before long, my father and I had a complete, working Lionel model train layout going each holiday, complete with plastic buildings, Cowboys and Indians, army men, horses, pigs, and cows. It continued to build and grow for several years.

Buildings were lit from the inside.  Working switches were added.  A new transformer arrived later with a whistle button and a cool, side-mounted throttle. Two pre-fab tunnels were added, one tunnel with a little blue lake painted on top and the other, longer tunnel curved to fit over a matching curve at the far end. A tall tower with a revolving red and green lantern at the top arrived one year, along with crossing gates that blinked red lights and went down and then back up as trains rumbled by. We had a long, silver metal bridge which merely sat on the floor, bridging over nothing, but it was neat to see the train travel thru it. A few years later, a new flat car appeared, which at the push of a button launched a helicopter flying off thru the air in someone’s direction. The future had arrived right in our living room!

Meanwhile, apart from the ever-burgeoning Lionel empire, the old Marx passenger train dutifully encircled the Christmas tree on our living room floor each year. I don’t think our Christmas trees would have remained upright without that Marx train holding their roots in place over the years. It had a job and it did it well.

At some point around the age of nine or so, my older sister moved out to be on her own, leaving her bedroom vacant. It was just the right size to fit a 4′ x 8′ plywood board atop sawhorses for a permanent set-up, and it wasn’t long before my father and I were hurrying to construct a bonafide model train layout to be ready by Christmas, just a few months away. It was awesome and took up nearly the whole room.

But, and please pardon me if I get a little technical here in explanation, it wasn’t long before we reached the inherent problem presented by the old Lionel trains, the point where the train layout reached its limits. There was no more room for expansion.

In model trains ‘Scale’ represents the ratio of the model size to the real-life prototype. Lionel trains were ‘O’ scale, modeled on a scale of 1:48, where 1 inch on the model equals 48 inches in real life, making for fairly good-sized model trains which required a goodly amount of space to operate. Especially around curves, since trains do not handle 90 degree turns as well as automobiles and bicycles, having a much larger turning radius. Which in turn limits how much track and modeling can be done in a given space.

Still with me? Good — because now we’re getting to the dramatic part. Reaching my eleventh birthday, buoyed by a decent fifth-grade education by this point and having been exposed to Boy’s Life Magazine and the modern world thru the Boy Scouts, I had become aware of the newest, modern new thing in model railroading — ‘HO’ scale — ‘HO’ itself standing for “Half of O” scale.

‘HO’ scale modeling was at a 1: 87.1 modeling ratio, meaning one inch of model equaled 87.1 inches in real life. The decimal point alone made it much more scientific and cutting edge to the knowledgeable fifth-grader. In short, ‘HO’ model trains were about half the size of the old (and “out of date” in my young mind) ‘O’ scale Lionel trains while at the same time being much more detailed and realistic. The early train sets were truly more ‘toys’ while the new ‘HO’ trains were ‘models’, and to me at age eleven and now a Boy Scout, a vast difference. Madison Avenue and the marketers had my full attention. “Models” were for serious folk, while “toys” were for kids. And at age eleven and going on campouts and hikes, I no longer considered myself a kid, already being a Second Class Scout, after all.

In addition, it was all supported by the obvious fact that our Lionel train ran around on three silver tracks — Three! — while the new ‘HO’ trains ran on two more realistic, copper-colored rails with faux-wooden ties. Two tracks, like trains in the real world. Not to mention that my best friend down the street had an American Flyer set which ran on two rails like the real trains, which he constantly reminded me of.

The new ‘HO’ scale meant that in the same amount of space one could do twice as much modeling, track, and scenery work, with a much more realistic than “toyish” (three rails!) layout. Converting to HO meant that suddenly our 4′ x 8′ layout would not be maxed out, after all. The wonders of the modern age!

But, this is where my father and I parted ways. His affection for our early Lionel trains was deep-rooted and his opinions set in stone. I suppose, looking back with an understanding not yet acquired by age eleven, that he was emotionally invested in them. By advocating for the new ‘HO’ model trains, as far as he was concerned my position was pure heresy spoken by a greenhorn still wet behind the ears who didn’t know anything.

But, of course, in the fifth grade,  if really not quite knowing it all, I was aware of the unfortunate fact that if anything ‘HO’ related was going to appear under the Christmas tree that year, it wasn’t going to be delivered by Santa Claus. I negotiated, bargained, pleaded, and threw myself on the mercy of the court that year to no avail. Ol’ Dad wouldn’t budge. — No ‘HO’ — period.

And that’s where it stood for another three years. In my mind, he was being hard-headed and unreasonable, denying modern science. In his mind, I was simply out of mine. The ‘Marx’ train locomotive eventually wore out and was dutifully replaced under the tree by the old Lionel train set each Christmas, no longer running along the rails on the bedroom train layout which had long since been dismantled following the Great ‘O’ vs ‘HO’ debate of a few years past. As well as our having grown bored with it since any more work or expansion was out of the question due to having run out of space. The big Lionel was reduced to annually running its course on the floor, around and around and around beneath the tree once a year at Christmas time.

My father and I still had a good relationship, mind you. We just seldom if ever spoke about trains anymore, except in debate. With the determination and fortitude of Ralphie and his “Red Ryder BB Gun With A Compass In The Stock”, each year I would ask, plot, scheme, and maneuver for an ‘HO’ train set for Christmas, only to find myself with a pair of gloves or something else “more my age” now.

And then something happened that still to this day I cannot explain. Perhaps it was a Motherly Intervention. I have no idea and can only relate the event as it occurred.

One chilly, late October Friday night my Scoutmaster appeared in our home for an inexplicable reason, with three ‘HO’ scale, little ore car kits he was working on and building. He was seated at the kitchen table with my mother and father, explaining all about them, showing a completed model, one in progress about half-finished, and the other in pieces, still untouched in the box. I was called in to see them, and of course, I was mesmerized. The idea of building your own rolling stock from kits was fascinating to someone already loving to do handwork, and this was all being demonstrated by my Scoutmaster, nonetheless. The man who had taught me how to put up a tent, build a fire, and to make a foil pack hamburger dinner in a campfire!

If I had ‘HO’ fever already, I popped the top off the thermometer that night. After a while and having talked about all things ‘HO’ over a few cups of coffee, the mysterious discussion was over and he left. None of it ever to be discussed or mentioned again over the following months. I can only compare the strangeness of it all to Thomas Edison suddenly appearing unannounced in a colonial town square, switching on a light bulb, and then everyone going back to their candles and never mentioning it again.

And then followed the Christmas of my fourteenth year, two months later. With my birthday on December 16th, nine days before Christmas, one soon gets used to birthday and Christmas presents being combined into one, which worked out well sometimes for a larger gift than one might expect singularly for either event on its own. Other times not. But number fourteen was one of those auspicious times when it did.

That birthday was a swing and miss with something I do not recall, being told that we were just exceptionally poor and money was tight that year. I understood as we were admittedly and firmly entrenched in the “middle class — lower third” and subject to its economic ups and downs over the years, never in that “upper class” which we talked about in school.

On Christmas Eve, I opened the unusually large package which had been cleverly buried and hidden behind the Christmas tree in utter disbelief and amazement to find a brand spanking new ‘HO’ train set including my favorite — a smoke-puffing steam engine! An exact, half-size version of the old Lionel steam engine! Birds sang — Bells rang — Angels smiled — and I did a Happy Dance! The Universe was once again back in order.

Over the next year, my Father and I worked together again, in the basement this time, on a new 5′ x 9′ layout even larger than the old one, with a special “quieter” board he had come home with one day from the hardware store made specifically for train layouts, he maintained. Later as we went along, Dad protested, grumped, and griped all the way in typical fatherly fashion, complaining about the tiny ‘HO’ parts and concept in general to save face, but couldn’t hide the fact that he loved it all every bit as much as I did.

We ditched the old, pre-fab Lionel tunnels and constructed towering mountains from screen wire and plaster in their place with cuts and tunnels at two different levels. We sculpted rock cliffs, constructed trestles, built buildings, and formed trees and bushes. We wired automatic switches and every building with lights, had a working sawmill with its saw going up and down on mock logs, and a turning water wheel on a riverside mill. We had a building which “caught fire” (flickering lights, of course) and at the turn of a switch, firemen pumped real water into it to extinguish the “blaze”. To top it off, right before the next Christmas, we added an honest-to-goodness working waterfall behind which the trains passed thru another tunnel while real water drizzled down the mountainside in front. We were back loving our trains. Trains had made us “We” again.

A few years later brought the most-prized Christmas present I ever received — ever. Something I had wanted for years and had little hope of affording myself at the time — “The General”. Unwrapping the package, I remember being so excited that my sock-covered feet slipped out from under me on the newly-waxed floor! I hung suspended in mid-air for a moment and then crashed to the floor in a heap, all while carefully cradling the box in my hands to protect my new prize.

“The General” was a famed, wood-burning steam locomotive involved in a daring raid in the Civil War, when on April 12, 1862, Northern infiltrators stole the locomotive and headed back north, intent on sabotaging rebel railroad lines and bridges deep behind enemy lines as they went. They were pursued by another locomotive, “The Texas”, and eventually captured before much damage could be done. But, Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett and Walt Disney fame, had made a 1956 movie about it, “The Great Locomotive Chase”, and that was enough to have peaked my interest. “The General” was not cheap, and there it was in my hands!  I still have “The General” safely stored in its original box. Best Christmas present ever. Magic under the tree.

Nowadays, the old Marx train, worn out as it is but much too valued to be discarded, rests in a box. Emotional investment again, I suppose. The old Lionel train, together with all the attendant pieces and accessories, waits in two boxes on top of it. My collected ‘HO’ trains and materials gathered over the years? They reside in three boxes alongside. Boxed treasures of Christmases and times past. I cannot think of Christmas without thinking about trains. And cannot think of trains without recalling the times with my father. And perhaps my mother’s inserted influence. Hopefully, all to be resurrected and shown the light of day again soon following another move in the coming year, even if inoperable.  Memories on display and stories yet to be told.

Memories. And stories. That’s what holidays and Christmases are all about, aren’t they? The cherished memories we build together in our families and with our friends over the years?  Most are good.  Others maybe not so much, sometimes.  That’s the way life is. But, some of them are outstandingly special that remain with us forever.  My fondest family traditions and Christmas memories seem to run thru tunnels, over bridges, and along train tracks thru the years.

What memories of Christmases and family do you hold close to your heart? What are your most-treasured holiday traditions and stories?  Please feel free to share them in the ‘Comments’ section with us! And, I encourage you to visit my wonderful author and blogger friends listed below as they each share their cherished holiday traditions and reminiscences with us, as well.

Cat Michaels — “Holiday Traditions To Ring In Our Season”

Sandra Bennet — “Tis The Season For Holiday Traditions”

Rebecca Lyndsey — “Let’s Talk Holiday Traditions”

Rosie Russell — “Holiday Traditions Blog Hop” 

K. Lamb– “The Smell of Christmas”

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us!  Your visits here are special to us, and we hope that in some way we help to make your day special, too.  Wishing you and yours a very Happy, Healthy, and Safe Holiday Season from Little Red Bear land! — Jim (and Red!)


From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other.” — Emily Matthews

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” — Mary Ellen Chase 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”  — Bob Hope


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The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” — Burton Hillis


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” — Norman Vincent Peale


 

 

 

 

 

A Halloween Special — “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

Dusting off a longtime favorite to help set the mood for Halloween weekend.

There are many works of literature and poetry that have stuck with me as favorites over the years, long after being required to dissect, analyze, and memorize them for literature classes in school some years ago.  Now, they may simply be enjoyed as entertainment on their own merits as originally intended by the authors.

One such piece is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, a very appropriate share as we approach Halloween.  This narrative poem was originally attributed to Poe in the ‘New York Evening Mirror’ on January 29, 1845.

Though not bringing much financial benefit in and of itself, “The Raven” served to make Poe very popular in his time.  The poem remains one of the most well-liked poems ever written, and always one of my personal favorites.  Frequently associated with Halloween now, the poem features a distraught lover sadly lamenting the loss of his love, Lenore, on a bleak December night.  He is visited by a talking raven, and the poem follows his slow descent into madness.

As Poe stated of himself — “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

Here then, for your Halloween festivities — “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe . . . .


“THE RAVEN”

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, 

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— 

    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, 

As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. 

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— 

            Only this and nothing more.” 

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; 

And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. 

    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow 

    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— 

For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore— 

            Nameless here for evermore. 

    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain 

Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; 

    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating 

    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door— 

Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;— 

            This it is and nothing more.” 

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, 

“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; 

    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, 

    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, 

That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;— 

            Darkness there and nothing more. 

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, 

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; 

    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, 

    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?” 

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”— 

            Merely this and nothing more. 

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, 

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before. 

    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice; 

      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore— 

Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;— 

            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!” 

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, 

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; 

    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; 

    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— 

Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door— 

            Perched, and sat, and nothing more. 

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, 

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, 

“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven, 

Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore— 

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!” 

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, 

Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore; 

    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being 

    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door— 

Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, 

            With such name as “Nevermore.” 

    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only 

That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. 

    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered— 

    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before— 

On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.” 

            Then the bird said “Nevermore.” 

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, 

“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store 

    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster 

    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore— 

Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore 

            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.” 

    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling, 

Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door; 

    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking 

    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore— 

What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore 

            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.” 

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing 

To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core; 

    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining 

    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er, 

But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er, 

            She shall press, ah, nevermore! 

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer 

Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. 

    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee 

    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore; 

Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!” 

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!— 

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, 

    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted— 

    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore— 

Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!” 

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil! 

By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore— 

    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, 

    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore— 

Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” 

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting— 

“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore! 

    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! 

    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! 

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!” 

            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting 

On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; 

    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, 

    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; 

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor 

            Shall be lifted—nevermore!

By — Edgar Allan Poe


One of my favorite renditions of “The Raven” was performed by James Earl Jones on “The Simpsons” first “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween Special, on October 25, 1990, also a true classic in its own rite!


Thanks as always for visiting!  Wishing everyone a fun, but safe Halloween, because —  we’re never quite sure who may be rapping on the door.

Rapping, tapping, tapping, rapping on our door, bearing frightful tricks of yore.

Or perhaps, should we then choose to open it — Nevermore?  — Jim  (and Red!)


         “I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.”          — Edgar Allan Poe

 “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”   — Stephen King


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

                 “Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with Angels and Ghosts.”          — John Cameron Mitchell


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With the help of patrons, each month we are able to donate free print copies of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” to Senior Citizens,  School Libraries and Classrooms, and to those who could otherwise not obtain a copy.

Patrons also help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as a non-monetized, ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes while sharing positive messages of happiness, inspiration, and kindness with everyone. We invite you to join us in making a positive difference in the world!


“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary  . . . ” — Edgar Allan Poe


 

Wishing a Very Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend, celebrating Mothers and Motherhood!

Being a Mother is more than having given birth to a child. It is also the loving and caring for a little life completely dependent. Sleepless hours.  Healing, treating wounds and comforting. Worrying.  Nurturing. Teaching, reading, and guiding. Watching falls and helping back up to fall again. Reassuring. Laughter, tears, heartache and joy.  Holidays, birthdays, celebrations. Cheering, building up, and supporting. Encouraging. Letting go.

Mothering — it’s all of that — and more. 

Looking back now, my own Mother has been and continues to be a great influence on my life all these years later, with her Irish, Native American and homespun pearls of wisdom and advice still guiding and informing my thoughts; influencing choices and decisions in my life, writing and creative work every day.

“A Mother is she who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take.” — Cardinal Gaspard Mermillod

“It may be possible to gild pure gold, but who can make his Mother more beautiful?” — Mahatma Gandhi

“Happy Mudders Day, Mommy!”

           “Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”                             ― Robert A. Heinlein

Abraham Lincoln may have expressed it best — “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”

Or maybe it was Rudyard Kipling — “God could not be everywhere, and therefore, he made Mothers.”

Or perhaps, it was William Makepeace Thackeray, who said — “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”

Adding my own wishes . . . . . .

Surely I am not the first,

and hopefully (poetically) not the worst,

to say it now — truer than true —

Wishing a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend to you!

Wishing a beautiful Mother’s Day Weekend to all the Mothers! Where would we all be without you?  Be the reason your Mother smiles today!  —  Jim  (and Red!)


“A Mother understands what a child does not say.” — Jewish Proverb

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” — Oprah Winfrey


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

When hugging a child, always be the last to let go. You never know how long they need it.


 

Haddon Sundblom, Coca-Cola and Santa Claus

If you were to pause for a moment, close your eyes, and then conjure up the vision of Santa Claus in your mind — what would he look like?

Chances are he would be rather large, plump and portly in shape, dressed in a red outfit with white fur trim and a wide black belt, wearing boots, have a long white beard and of jolly disposition.  Am I close?

If so, thank the artist and illustrator Haddon Sundblom (‘Sund-bloom’). Haddon Sundblom is regarded as the Father of Modern Christmas by many, and was instrumental in defining the mental image of Santa Claus for my generation and for generations to come.

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Haddon “Sunny” Sundblom (1899 – 1976) was a Michigan-born American illustrator and artist of Finnish and Swedish descent, best known for the images of Santa Claus which he created for The Coca-Cola Company.  Previously, Santa Claus had been portrayed in sundry ways, from a spooky-looking little elf to a tall thin man, and wearing anything from Bishop’s robes to animal skins. Coca-Cola sought a more realistic and symbolic image for Santa Claus.

Artist and Illustrator Haddon Sundblom (1899 - 1976)

Beginning to place advertisements in popular magazines, in 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa.

For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, or as more commonly known — “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Moore’s descriptions led Sundblom to create an image of a more warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa Claus, using neighbor friend Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman, as his model. Children in the paintings were two little girls who were neighbors as well, although he decided to paint one as a boy to appeal to both girls and boys.

The first Coca-Cola advertisement with the new Sundblom Santa appeared in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1931, along with “Ladies Home Journal”, “The New Yorker”, “National Geographic”, and others.

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From 1931 to 1964, Sundblom’s creations for Coca-Cola had Santa Claus pictured as doing everything from delivering toys (and playing with them!), pausing to read letters, visiting with children who had waited up to meet him on Christmas Eve, raiding the refrigerators of several homes, warming his feet by the fire, and other activities — always with a bottle of Coke in hand or nearby. The Sundblom Santa became so popular that the images spread from print ads on to billboards, posters, calendars, plush dolls and more.

Haddon Sundblom created his final Santa image for Coca-Cola in 1964, incorporating the neighborhood florist’s grey poodle, painted black to stand out more in the image. The company continued to use the popular Santa image for several more decades. Various items bearing the Sundblom Santa image are popular collectibles to this day.

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In 2001, Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus was creatively brought to life in a Coca-Cola ad video tribute, animated by the Academy Award-winning animator Alexandre Petrov.

So the next time you envision Santa Claus and maybe even have a simultaneous unexplained craving for a Coca-Cola, please give a wink and nod to the artist Haddon Sundblom.  He was instrumental in defining the image of Santa Claus for us all.

Wishing the very best of the holiday season to everyone!

If you have not yet checked out our Christmas Holiday Story featuring Little Red Bear, Cinnamon Charlie and their friends, “Pine Holler Christmas” is available now on Amazon!

Wonder how Haddon Sundblom might have drawn Little Red Bear? Thanks as always for visiting.    — Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times 

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Check out the new Little Red Bear Adventure– “Pine Holler Christmas” on Amazon! Tap Here For A Free Preview!

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we all gather together with families and take time to reflect on our blessings and everything we are grateful and thankful for, Little Red Bear and I would like to take just a moment to extend our very best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Art by Norman Rockwell

“Thanksgiving” by Norman Rockwell

We are thankful for so much, including each and every one who supports and encourages us thru following, reading, liking, sharing and commenting as we go along. Wishing everyone a wonderful day together with family and loved ones.

"Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey" by Norman Rockwell. Cover of 'Country Gentleman' Magazine, 1917

“Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey” by Norman Rockwell, cover of ‘Country Gentleman’ Magazine, 1917

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is Thank You, it will be enough.” ~ Meister Eckhart

"Freedom From Want" by Norman Rockwell, 1942

“Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell, 1942

Thanks as always for visiting and Happy Thanksgiving!   —  Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times 

quote-gratitude-via-country-love-faith-and-family-fun-fb-uncredited-2

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.