“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 . . . .”



 

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


Like and Follow My Writer’s Page on Facebook For Daily Inspiration and More!


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


 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween! — A Nostalgic Look Back at Trick or Treating in Days of Yore

Happy Halloween!

          It’s that magical time of the year, when little ghosts and goblins appear.                                       Scampering up and down the streets, scurrying around with bags of treats.                     Trick or treating back when I was eight; oh, the candy bars then were truly great!

Halloween has changed much over the years. Halloween Trick or Treating in my neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri growing up in the 1950’s and early 60’s  frequently featured homemade baked goods like cookies, cupcakes, brownies, Rice Krispie treats, homemade popcorn balls, and more —  all carefully bundled in plastic wrap. Homemade candied apples were a real treat, along with homemade taffy and fudge at some homes.

And every year — without fail — a few slices of cake wrapped in plastic wrap which always seemed to find their way to the bottom of the treat bag to inevitably end up smashed flat or crumbled before I got home. But cake crumbs are cake nonetheless, so nothing ever went to waste.

Cupcakes, cookies, and brownies always seemed to survive better in the bag than a slice of cake for some reason. Despite being young, even then I appreciated the all-day effort of having baked and decorated what had to be several handmade cakes for slicing, wrapping, and handing out on Halloween night, and knew their hearts were in the right place with it all. But still find myself asking and wondering to this day — really, what were those folks thinking to hand out a wrapped slice of cake for a treat bag?

Appearing a few decades ahead of their time perhaps, there were also a few health conscious homes in the neighborhood who handed out fresh apples along with the occasional orange, banana, or assorted nuts tossed into the bag. We politely said “thank you”, never wanting ungratefulness to poison the well for next year in case they came to their senses at some point, but shaking our heads leaving just the same.

Older folks were known for frequently giving out pennies and other loose change, along with an occasional pencil or two. I always just figured they were older and not able to travel to the store easily to stock up on the really good stuff, but trying as best they could, nevertheless. And that was good enough for us, with “old people” perhaps more highly regarded and respected in those days. We don’t hear the term “hardening of the arteries” much anymore. I think that’s because the medical and drug folks can all charge more for terms like “arteriosclerosis” and “atherosclerosis” because it sounds much more serious. But, may be wrong. Getting back to Halloween, then.

Bubble Gum, Tootsie Roll Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Wax Bottles,  Caramels, Jaw Breakers (always a favorite of mine!), Sugar Daddies, Jelly Beans, Candy Corn, Boston Baked Beans, Milk Duds, Caramels, Saf-T-Pop Suckers with their looped handles, Circus Peanuts, Licorice, and boxes of Cracker Jacks helped fill out the treat bag. Red Spanish Peanuts were popular, too.  Many of the items simply tossed loose and unwrapped into the bag, of course. Individually wrapped packages were only just beginning to come onto the scene at the time.

Some folks didn’t bother with the process of making a popcorn ball, choosing instead to merely wrap the loose popcorn in plastic wrap gathered and tied with a twisty tie. I usually jammed those into a side pocket for a handy street snack along the way later. It was good because it was both filling and wouldn’t sticky-up your hands like candy.

All of this, and of course not to leave out the truly treasured and most sought-after Halloween prize — Candy Bars!  There were only two sizes of candy bars generally available at that time — ‘Full Size’ and the larger “I May Need Help Carrying This One Home Size”.

Some homes offered cold apple cider to refresh on an occasionally warm evening, or hot chocolate in paper cups on especially chilly nights.  Every home seemed warm and welcoming, and homes without a front porch light on to welcome and light the way for visitors were rare indeed.

Growing up in the Midwest, Halloween nights could and did vary from warm to chilly to bone-shivering cold. Nobody under the age of adult ever wanted to cover their costume with a raincoat or parka!

I remember trick or treating in the snow twice. How could one forget something so truly magical as that? And recall more than a few rainy nights in the time when trick or treat bags were truly paper bags in every sense of the word, long before plastic bags and plastic tote pumpkins arrived on the scene. More than a few friends had the bottom burst on a rain-soaked bag, dumping all of their Halloween treasures on the wet sidewalk.

Fortunately, I escaped that calamitous fate thru the years, likely due in no small part to my beloved Mother making me carry an umbrella with me, no doubt. Carefully tilted to protect the treat bag held high and dry, naturally.

It almost goes without saying that every stop required us to actually come inside the house and perform in the living room — tell a joke, tell a story, sing a song, dance, do a trick, stand on our head, or do “something” to earn our Treats. Unearned giveaways were rare. Somersaults were always a big hit for the littlest kids to do.

A good costume got you in the door, but that alone would not fill the treat bag. We were all expected to work for our candy and treats, patiently standing in line awaiting our turn to perform. With only three channels on the black and white television sets and dodgy reception most times, a steady line of kids performing was great entertainment rivaling and surpassing anything on the TV for the night. So, entertain we did. Milton Berle and Jack Benny would have to wait for their turns that night, too.

“Knock Knock” jokes, while usually not earning the highest performance awards of a candy bar, were always reliable in a pinch to rescue the situation when the strange kid in front of you stole your best joke or trick, so the astute Trick or Treater always kept a few entertaining jokes in reserve just in case.

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you going to give me some candy?

Although that particular little diddy ran the risk of getting you an orange instead of a Baby Ruth.

But a good “Knock Knock” joke could usually be relied upon to be rewarded with at least a popcorn ball.  If the household had just heard the same joke three times before you arrived, you were probably doomed for pennies, though. And maybe a short lecture about coming better prepared next year.

And it did happen occasionally, as hot new jokes seemed to cycle thru the neighborhood in a given year —“Better tell me another one son, or it’s three pennies for you.  I just heard that one five times before you got here!  What else you got in your trick bag?”

Holiday- Halloween- Art 4

Trick or Treating done correctly was literally a performance art, requiring hours and hours of pre-planning, preparation, and dedication.  And on Halloween night, it was a process that could not be rushed if anticipated rewards were to be realized.  A good performance took both time and commitment to the craft.  On a successful night, multiple stops home might be needed to offload full bags and then head back out for more.  Candy bars being the truly sought-after prize, of course!

It was good to work together, not only in your group so everyone had their own unique performance art for the night, but also coordinating with other groups on the street, as it could save a lot of walking and shoe leather. We never realized at the time that Halloween night was a great exercise in developing teamwork skills.

“Don’t bother stopping here, Jim.  Old lady Jones is already out of candy and dumped pennies in our bags.  But the Haskins has still got Snickers I heard.”

Forewarned, time could be saved by heading only towards the high rollers still handing out candy bars and cupcakes.  By 6:45, everybody on the street knew which house was giving out what, which naturally led to candy bar homes running out before the Bazooka Gum, safety suckers, and fruit houses.

When you spied groups of kids running towards a particular house, you knew to hurry there next.  When you saw kids walking down the driveway shaking their sacks and hearing “thump, thump, thump,” you knew they’d been fruited.  So unless really hungry for an apple, best to pass that one by and come back later.  Chances were pretty good they’d still be open for business at nine.

Can’t speak for others, but on a few occasions, I was treated with Silver Dollars. Honest-to-goodness, better-than-Musketeers, real Silver Dollars!  Sometimes it was wise not to be “too” disguised when visiting favorite neighbors, or those you had helped with summer yard work or fall leaf-raking.

But that was without a doubt at the same time both the awesomest and bothersomest treat one could receive, being simply too special to spend and convert to candy.  Gather enough pennies and nickles from the bottom of the bag and you could quickly convert that into cool, hard, candy. Not so with silver dollars. That just never seemed right to even consider doing.

I still have Halloween silver dollars stashed safely away in the back of a dresser drawer tucked beneath layers of underwear for safekeeping. Back in the day, no self-respecting burglar (or sister) would think of rummaging thru someone’s underwear drawer for loot.  The same silver dollars still tucked safely away from years ago I should perhaps add, not the same underwear, of course. Just, to be clear on that point.

It probably goes without saying, but that stashing away part never would have happened with a Three Musketeers.

Holiday- Halloween- Art 7

Costumes were usually homemade, wholly or at least partly by the kids themselves. Big-footed clowns, cowboys and Lone Rangers with masks, knights with aluminum foil helmets carrying cardboard or wooden swords and shields, Indians in feathers and war paint, policemen, miniature firefighters, princesses with capes and crowns, angels with halos and wings, red-caped devils complete with garden pitchforks, army soldiers in their fathers’ oversized WWII and Korean War gear and helmets, scarecrows stuffed with straw, and ugly-nosed, warty witches with brooms.  A few Tinmen from Oz here and there,  but that was a hard costume to pull off without a lot of help from parents.

Along with many a hobo, most patterned after Red Skelton’s famous “Freddie the Freeloader” character at the time. It was a fun costume which I employed a few times, raiding Dad’s closet for over-sized, baggy clothes, and a hat. He never would part with one of his cigars in order to pull off the complete ensemble look, though.

All accompanied by the predictable number of white-sheeted ghosts floating over the sidewalks, of course.  Skeletons were fairly rare in those days because that was mostly a store-bought costume that neither kids nor parents wanted to admit to having to resort to, as everyone took pride in their self-made costumery.

We talked about them a lot in name but no one ever really knew what a Goblin was to make a costume for it.  It was just a creature of myth and folklore that we did not want to run into on the street that night because chances were pretty good it wouldn’t be a kid in a costume.  Ghosts with eye holes were generally considered pretty safe to approach, though.

Clearly the most outstanding costume I remember was when the older, bigger, “I’m-better-than-you-are” neighbor kid across the street’s father made him the scariest and true-to-life realistic Headless Horseman costume since Ichabod Crane galloped on a plow horse thru Sleepy Hollow, complete with fake dripping blood around the collar and a glowing pumpkin carried on a stick for his head.

Apparently, his dad had worked on the Headless Horseman costume all summer in the garage, keeping it a secret from the neighborhood.  Yeah, every block had one of those kids.  Looking back on it now, he rather sadly always went out on Halloween as a group of one, by himself with his father in tow, helping to carry the bags of candy his son accumulated along the way. Yes — bags — plural. My father was at home, warm and dry, being entertained by endless troops of kids in the living room. His father was serving as a pack mule in the cold and wet. He only needed the costume, he was already doing all the work.

Sometimes I wondered if the Headless Horseman might have been happier in a white sheet running along with the rest of the neighborhood candy scroungers.  It was hard to tell, even back then, if a jerk was alone because he was a jerk or if he was a jerk because he was alone.  Whichever, receiving double rations and more from almost every house, the Headless Horseman made a record haul of candy that year that no one ever came close to matching and that we never heard the end of.

Runner-up for the best-ever costume was the same kid the year before, a square-headed Frankenstein costume his dad whipped up complete with bolts coming out of his neck and walking on platform shoes and getting double-treated again.  Jerk.

Stampa

Trick or Treating certainly isn’t anything like it used to be.  Many more costumes come off racks in the store or delivered straight to the door from online ordering rather than pridefully homemade nowadays. The only Super Heroes in our minds back then were the parents giving out candy bars on the block.

Kids in our neighborhood now look at you like you have worms crawling out of your ears (which might actually be a good look for Halloween) if you ask them to do anything beyond hold their bag open to toss the candy inside. Forget the carefully staged and choreographed song and dance numbers in the living room. Some don’t even hold the bag open, expecting you to bend over and do that, too.

And regrettably, there are all the safety issues that never even crossed anyone’s mind in our time. Carrying a flashlight in order to “see and be seen” was all we were warned about. X-rays weren’t for candy. They were for broken bones when you missed the last porch step in the dark.

Most curious of all, candy now comes in the “Fun Sized” version, which try as I might, I still don’t see much fun in it. Talk about the ultimate Halloween trick!

Times change. But the Halloween magic of little children trick or treating doesn’t, and they aren’t seeing the night thru our memories, busily having fun and making memories of their own.  Want to make a special memory for a little princess or cowboy?  Give them a full-sized candy bar and watch their eyes light up!  Although, you better be prepared for the onslaught up the driveway when the word hits the street!  Some things never change.


Here are a few Halloween Safety Tips and Guidelines from the National Safety Council to help keep your children and little neighborhood trick-or-treaters safe on Halloween night.


Happy Halloween!  Here’s hoping full-sized candy bars and overflowing treat bags for everyone!  Please keep an eye out for the little Trick or Treaters in the streets, keep the front porch light on, and remember to “Scare Safe!”

Thanks as always for stopping by for a visit and spending part of your day with us! Little Red Bear and I are off now to work on our costumes. Think I’ll be a cowboy this year. I was going to go as an author, but Little Red Bear quickly pointed out that I masquerade as a writer every day so should try something different for Halloween.  Yeah, that kind of took the fun out of that one, so a cowboy it is.

Happy Halloween!  — Jim (and Red!)


“Every pumpkin knows that a Smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks!”

“A full bag, tired feet, dry socks, and sticky fingers meant it was a Happy Halloween.”– JRM


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational 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

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On Fly Fishing — Teach a Bear to Tie a Fly (And You Will Have Accomplished Something!)

Right off the bat, I must admit that the title may be a bit optimistic and premature, because I haven’t accomplished anything quite yet teaching Little Red Bear about tying flies and fly fishing.  But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

One of my favorite uncles, my mother’s youngest brother, was a first class fly fisherman in the day.  One of his best friends was a conservation officer with the Missouri Department of Conservation at the time, and they would spend every chance they got fly fishing the Ozarks streams. Like my mother, he had grown up in the country and was all about nature and the outdoors.  He had served in the Pacific on Iwo Jima and Okinawa among others in WWII not too many years before, and I always figured maybe the peacefulness of fly fishing is what may have so appealed to him after it all.

Uncle Paul firmly maintained that anyone could catch a fish if they hooked up a worm, used bait and fed them, but it was a true challenge and art to catch a fish on a lure that you had made yourself.  So he taught me how to make and tie my own flies and to fly fish as a boy.  He reassured me that the hungrier I got, the better I would get at making them.

I don’t know whose idea it was that I should learn how to tie flies at the age of nine, my mother’s or my uncle’s (it certainly wasn’t my father’s because he was a city kid, thru and thru), but there I was sitting at his kitchen table one Saturday morning learning all about the different kinds of flies and bugs to imitate. Shiny Mylar strips, tinsels, miniature corks, colored wires, hooks of all sizes, chenille stems, horse hairs, bits of assorted furs, spools of thread, and tools and miniature vices I had never seen before all spread out on the table before me.

And all sorts of wondrous feathers — peacock eye feathers, guinea fowl, pheasant, grouse, quail, marabou, ostrich, ducks, roosters, chickens and others.  Feathers from all over the world from birds I had only seen and read about in Encyclopedias!  All a small boy’s imagination could hope for and a whole new world suddenly opened.

As it turned out, fly fishing is the only kind of fishing I ever really enjoyed, to tell the truth.  And now steadfastly agree with my mentor.  Tossing a worm-baited hook into the water is not only lacking in challenge, but also an insult to the intelligence of the fish.  And since they spend so much time in schools, they do tend to take it rather personally.

There is just something about fly fishing.  The excitement and sudden rush of spotting a flash of silver under the water in the distance.  Working and playing out the fly line, back and forth, back and forth in a relaxing zen-like rhythm imitating soft lapping waves along the shoreline, the heavy line artfully arched over your head.  Cast out and land the lure in exactly the right spot where you just saw a riffle on the water, widening circlets across the way. Being at the water’s edge with the songbirds in the background while water ripples around you.  A turtle pops up to say ‘Good morning!’  and forest critters edge cautiously to the shoreline for a drink. Frogs croak their greetings as red-winged blackbirds cheer you on from the nearby reeds. Simply — magical. Nature speaks to you, if you listen. For myself, I just could never find that same joy in any other type of fishing.

I would spend hours on summer afternoons, just as Uncle Paul showed me, fly rod in hand in the backyard practicing to drop a fly inside a hula hoop target laid on the ground at the back of the yard. Eventually the larger hula hoop was replaced with a smaller metal bucket. I always look back on all that, together with the time my uncle spent with me infusing his love of the outdoors and respect for wildlife, as probably where my life-long love of nature and conservation got its start at an early age.  We never know at what precise moment the stars may align and how a few minutes spent with a child may influence their whole life to come.  And there’s a lesson there in itself.

We would visit my uncle’s home regularly thru the year on Saturday mornings, me in the kitchen learning to tie flies at the kitchen table with Uncle Paul, working side by side each of us with our own vise and every time a different type; while my mother visited with Aunt Laura in the living room. Wrapping and making the Wooly Bugger Worm was always my favorite.

It was Uncle Paul who gave me my first hunk of beeswax and taught me to always wax the sewing thread to keep it from tangling while tying the flies.  A trick I still use today when hand sewing teddy bears and things.

Some of the little tools, grips, vices, supplies and books used back then are still with me today.  We made frequent trips to visit the Culver Lures store on Missouri Avenue in south St. Louis at the time. A somewhat dark little store because the two smallish front windows were cluttered with merchandise, with a white wooden store front and wooden floors too, as I recall, overflowing with every fly tying and rod making item imaginable.  Stand at the counter, tell the man smoking the stubby cigar what I needed and he would go find it and ring it all up on the cash register.  Hand over the cash and away we’d go to make more lures. The store is long gone now and remodeled into a condo. A different time.

Used to have an honest-to-goodness fisherman’s straw hat with flies stuck in all over it, too. Don’t know where that might have went over the years, sadly.  I suspect my mother may have pricked her finger on a hook dusting it one too many times when I was away at college and it was shown the door.  But just a guess.  No one ever seemed to recall its whereabouts or fate later, whenever queried.

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It turns out Uncle Paul was right — there are few thrills in life to compare to catching and landing a fish on a lure that you have handmade yourself.  Marriage and the birth of children are certainly at the top, but that first fish is right up there on the list, too!

And that all brings me to Little Red Bear.  Being an avid fisherman himself with his assortment of bamboo and stick poles and always up for a challenge, Little Red Bear now wants me to teach him how to make his own lures and teach him how to fly fish.

Red has always been a “throw out the bait and wait” type, as he puts it.  Not my thing, as I said.  So I can readily see his wanting to move up the fishing ladder, so to speak.  The only problem is, with those big bear paws of his, I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge of teaching him.  Showing him how to make biscuits is one thing, and admittedly his are better than mine now (although I still make the best cornbread). But Little Red Bear sitting and tying teeny little fishing flies?  Not so sure.

Still, I’ve yet to see Little Red Bear not accomplish something he sets his mind to, so we’ll see.  There was that time at Perch Lake when he hauled that giant, cantankerous and ill-tempered . . . . .   Well, I really should let you read and enjoy that ‘Sir Snapsalot’ story for yourself.  He even tells folk how to make their own bamboo fishing poles in that one!  Red’s famous for them in these parts.

In the meantime, I wonder what Uncle Paul would think now about the time he spent with a young nephew years ago, teaching him how to tie flies and fish, and who grew up to later write stories about conservation and an uncommonly special bear and his friends in the Ozarks Mountain Country that we visited and fished together ourselves? I like to think he might enjoy them. Time is never wasted when spending it with a child.

Thanks as always for visiting.  I will keep you posted, and we’ll see how this fly tying adventure goes with Little Red Bear, I suppose.  I can’t say ‘no’ to someone looking to learn and try something new.  Even if it seems as though it may be a mighty challenge along the way.  — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

~ Children Learn To Read on the Laps of Their Parents ~

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

 

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!

 

 

Family Sunday — “The Falling Leaves of Autumn”

Happy Autumn – Sunday – Family Day!

I  grew up raking leaves and jumping over and into leaf piles on Sunday afternoons. Then later raking them all into a pile over to where the summer vegetable garden had been and setting the pile on fire to burn them. Wonderful for improving the following season’s garden soil.  One of the most delightful scents of the year — burning leaves.  Crisp chilly days and the scent of burning leaves filling the air, an annual fall tradition and harbinger of the rapidly approaching holiday season and winter to follow.

"Falling Leaves" by John Sloane

“Falling Leaves” by John Sloane

I miss that. Many probably do not know the soul-comforting smell of burning leaves in the autumn air anymore. Nowadays the distinctive scents of autumn are gone, replaced by the endless droning of leaf blowers. Not the same to be sure, but as long as there are leaf piles to bury someone in, and to jump in and over until the legs call for a stop,  the back yards and front yards on a crisp autumn day can still be loads of family fun.

"Autumn Mood" by John Sloane

“Autumn Mood” by John Sloane

Autumn is a magical time of year. Shorter days. Chilly nights just right for a warming fire and sitting by the hearth. A refreshing cider or hot chocolate in hand.  Healthy exercise. Tossing a football and Frisbee, ultimately falling into the leaf pile with each catch.   A marvelous fall day to gather up all the family and head outdoors for a fun day of leaf raking – jumping – burying – leaping – collecting. Fresh air and exercise! And quality family time together, learning about the seasons and cycles of Mother Nature.

"Autumn Leaves" by John Sloane

“Autumn Leaves” by John Sloane

There are many old superstitions and beliefs about catching leaves in the fall.   Some folk believe it is good luck to catch a falling leaf.   Some even say that if you catch a falling leaf in autumn that you  will have a whole month of good luck. Others say that you should make a wish if you catch a falling leaf. There’s another school of thought that says if you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter!

Pagan Europeans and some native North American cultures revered the oak tree and its leaves as sacred. Opinions differ on the professed benefits that accrue from catching falling leaves, whether on the actual first day of autumn or anytime during the autumn season.   Personally, I just think it’s fun, and made even more so on a windy day. “There it goes!”, and the chase is on.

Autumn Painting by John Sloane

Autumn Painting by John Sloane

Yet another tradition holds that you must keep the captured leaves until new green buds appear on the trees in the spring.  Only then can you safely dispose of them without the risk of ruining your fortunes.   As for me, I like to press them in heavy books with weights on top, and then coat them in Modge Podge, a clear coating to preserve and enjoy them all thru the year.  If you do that, be sure to catch them sooner than later, as newly-fallen leaves, more soft and supple to the touch, preserve and hold onto their colors much better than do the dried up, crinkly ones.

Here are some neat leaf projects to do with the little ones — Helping to teach them how to sew with Sewing Patterns on Leaves, Making Leaf Foxes, Leaf Chalk Art, and Making Fall Leaf Prints . And here is information on How To Preserve Fall Leaves. Check out and follow my Pinterest Boards for more ways to preserve autumn leaves, fun projects and information.  And more things “Autumn.”

"Autumn Shadows" by John Sloane

“Autumn Shadows” by John Sloane

So round up the family and head outdoors for a day of leaf-themed play.  Rake leaves. Gather and collect the most beautifully colored leaves and save them to press.  Catch a Frisbee and fall into a leaf pile.  See who can jump the biggest pile. Make some Leaf Art.  And most of all —  have fun!  The glorious season of autumn only comes once each year and is soon gone, giving way to winter.  So let’s enjoy it while we can.

Today’s Family Sunday writing featured the artwork of one of my favorite country artists, John Sloane. Visit his John Sloane Art Page for upcoming calendars and more information.

Thanks as always for visiting! And have a wonderful Family Day!  — Jim (and Red!)

ps — work on a special Christmas holiday short story featuring Little Red Bear and some of his friends is coming right along. Watch for it in December!

"Country Life" by John Sloane

“Country Life” by John Sloane

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

Sunday Family-Pumpkin-Costume-Prepare for Halloween Day!

Happy Sunday Family Day — the day before Halloween!  Do you have the pumpkins carved and costumes ready?  Today is the day to get the kids together and prepare  for the big day.  The little Trick-or-Treaters are anxious to get started!

Via 6sqft.com

Carving pumpkins in our day was a much simpler task.  Two large triangles for the eyes.  A smaller triangle for the nose.  And a big mouth with as many or few teeth as the artist spirit called for.  Some years I went with a lot of teeth, sharp and pointy, interlocking in a scissors bite like a Great White Shark. Frightfully scary. Other years, my pumpkin friend took on a much more simple look with just a few, broad, flat teeth in a wide, friendly, beckoning and happy smile.  It all depended on the seasonal mood, I suppose.

Nowadays it can be much more complicated, with traceable designs that are very intricate and complex, truly raising the bar on skill, talent, perseverance and Pumpkin Art in general.

It seems important to mention, whether you go “old school” or “new school” with your Jack O’Lantern designs, safety is paramount when working with children and little carvers, and close supervision required around sharp tools and knives.  A small hand is no match for a paring knife.

And for heaven’s sake, please do not toss away the seeds!  Pumpkin seeds are a healthy, nutritious snack and unbelievably tasty when made at home.  If you have never made them yourself before, trust me — roasted pumpkin seeds are quick, easy to prepare, and delicious!  Here is my favorite way to prepare them, plain and simple.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 cup Pumpkin Seeds, 1 teaspoon safflower or canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce or salt, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and paprika to taste.

Carefully clean any pumpkin pulp from the seeds and wash them if necessary.  Brush oil on a rimmed baking sheet, place the seeds on the sheet, spread out evenly, and roast in a 350°F oven until they begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes or so.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to evenly coat the seeds.  Continue baking until the seeds are crispy, about another 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on not to burn.  This method can be used to roast any squash family seeds for snacks. (Adapted from the “Vegetarian Times Cookbook”, 1984)

Here are some more links to my Autumn Board on Pinterest for more adventurous ways to prepare them —  Honey Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Cinnamon and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds in Six Different Flavors.

How about the costumes for the little ones?  All set?  How about one for yourself, either greeting neighborhood Trick-or-Treaters at the door or at a party?  I do not recall ever wearing a “store-bought” costume when I was little.  All of my mine and my friends’ were homemade.  At the time when Walt Disney’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was new and all the rage, the boy across the street’s father made him a Headless Horseman outfit one year.  Needless to say, he had to pull a wagon to haul home all the treats he received in the neighborhood for that one!

When all else failed and we did not have a costume prepared ahead of time, the last minute fall back for all of our group was the never-fail “Hobo” outfit.  Grab up some baggy clothes and suspenders from Dad (or Mom, depending), tie a rope around your waist to hold up the pants in case the suspenders snapped, grab one of Dad’s old hats, smear some coffee grounds (and once outside and out of parents’ sight — real dirt) on your face and you were set.  One of Dad’s big red, work handkerchiefs tied to a stick over the shoulder completed the outfit.  Pick out an old pillowcase to carry home the loot and out the door we went, flashlight and high hopes in hand.

Back in the day, the practice of Trick-or-Treating was much safer in every respect than it has become now.  Parents only accompanied the very smallest kids, and the rest of us were on our own to go as far as our legs and the weather would allow.  I remember Trick-or-Treating in the snow one year — 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri.  I was only going on five at the time, but memories like that tend to stick with you.

Treats into the bag included apples, oranges, and bananas.  Homemade treats like cookies, cupcakes, slices of cake, candy apples and popcorn balls rounded out the list.  I never did get a slice of cake home in one piece though, and always really wondered what was on that lady’s mind with that, to be honest. But we all gave her credit for trying.  And I have never known the kid who would toss away a piece of perfectly good smashed cake and crumbs, anyway.

Some homes tossed coins into your bag, ranging from a few pennies to a by-gosh, honest-to-goodness Silver Dollar.  But those were admittedly rare and given only by neighbors who recognized and thought very highly of you, of course.  It goes without saying, that the most sought-after and coveted treat prize was a Candy Bar.  And that was before some silly-head invented “Fun Size.”  Seriously?   Fun size?  I have never really seen ‘loads of fun’ in a bite-sized candy bar, myself.

Anyway, ‘fun sized’ aside,  wishing everyone a ‘Full Sized’ safe and fun Halloween!  Make today a family day carving the Jack O’Lanterns, getting costumes and make-ups assembled, and getting everything ready for the big night.  And for goodness sake — make up some Pumpkin Seeds for a real treat.  The family will thank you.

And I thank you as always for visiting!  Family time.  It’s the best time. — Jim   (and Red!)

A Princess and Lava Girl Amongst the Pumpkins by Charles Morris.

A Princess and Lava Girl Amongst the Pumpkins by Charles Morris Photography.

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

 

 

A Look Back — “Ode to Summer”

“Ode to Summer”

Vacation trips, adventures, off-roading and more,

Fun with friends and family, summer’s never a bore.

Splashing dog washes and sudsy car washes,

Out in the backyards with our gardens and squashes.

We went to the beach (with kites!) and combed the seashore,

Searching for shells and pirates and treasures of yore.

Snorkeled and swam and played in the ocean,

Slathered with sunscreen and all sorts of lotion.

Towering castles we built entirely of sand,

And it was so much fun to step off dry land.

Barbeques, grilling, picnics, cookouts and parties,

Tossing candy to kids— to each a sweet roll of Smarties!

Jumping in puddles with muddy galoshes,

Searching for Bigfoot and hairy Sasquatches.

Trips to the park and we stayed out after dark,

Watching fireflies and cheering each July firework’s spark.

Fishing, camping, biking, hiking, and parasailing,

We did it all until the wallet was wailing.

We sat in the porch swing, relaxing with tea.

Oh! What a summer we had, you next to me.

Too soon summer has ended and its now the fall season,

But it’s fun to look back, as if we needed a reason.

Artwork by John Sloane -- "Good Old Summertime"

Artwork by John Sloane — “Good Old Summertime”

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

Little Red Bear Unable to Attend Book Signing Event

Still mending from a leg injury suffered on the writing set a week ago, Little Red Bear will not be able to make the scheduled book signing and personal appearance at “McNickle’s Famous Pickles & Pork Rinds” this coming Saturday, located on Shady Holler Road, just west of Knob Lick.  The country store is located about half a mile past Turner’s red barn and across from the split pin oak if you’re unfamiliar with the area.  If you find yourself sitting in front of the Post Office, chances are you most likely missed the barn and went too far.  Remember, the barn sits back from the road a bit behind the row of hedge apples, so you need to be on the lookout for it.  And if that’s the case, it’s best to just start over from where you left and try again.

Bobo and Lily, black bears and recurring featured characters in the “Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, will be taking Red’s place and happy to do so, being the good friends and neighbors that they are. They will be bringing a good supply of autographed Little Red Bear pictures, along with pre-signed books available for purchase, and will be autographing books themselves, as well.  Lily has even volunteered to demonstrate the famous “Lily Bear Shuffle” if Earl and Lester bring their banjos along.

 Village Country Store, Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ

Village Country Store, Cold Spring Village, Cape May, NJ

Ethel McNickle will generously be giving away free samples of her prize-winning pickles and pork rinds, famous countywide, to all in attendance.  Ethel’s second cousin once removed  will also be there for the event, with samples of her new and locally grown “Lorene’s Greens & Beans”.  As you may recall, McNickle’s Pickles was founded many years ago by Ethel’s twin grandfathers,  Fickle and Tickle McNickle, who always used to say — “If your pickle don’t snap, it ain’t worth a cr–!”  (it’s a ‘G’ rated blog)

And be sure to check out Ethel’s blue ribbon Plumberry Preserves while there, too.   Bobo won’t be leaving without a few jars, so you might want to show up early before they run out.

So, we’re sorry to say that Little Red Bear will miss the event and he feels just gosh-awful terrible about it, but be assured that Bobo and Lily will more than make the trip worthwhile for you.  Not to mention Ethel’s pickles and pork rinds.  And if someone tosses Bobo a beach ball, well — there’s no telling the show he may put on!  As a note though, just so you’re not disappointed, Lily has been instructed not to let Bobo anywhere near a bicycle.  Our Backwoods Indemnity and Bite Casualty Insurance plan is stretched past the limits with Little Red Bear’s injury, and poor Aunt Ivy has nearly picked her herb garden clean already, this being so early in the season and all. Simply can’t risk any more character injuries at the moment and still meet the bills next month.

The Vermont Country Store

The Vermont Country Store, Weston, Vermont — September 2012 via The Mr. Hunter Wall Blog

And just one more thing before we let you go.  While he is laid up, now is a good time to remind everyone to send in their questions for the “Ask Little Red Bear” feature.  If you have a question that you’ve been sitting on about any of Red’s past or coming adventures, there’s no need to sit any longer waiting for it to hatch.  Don’t be shy — just ask away!  Red and I will be happy to try to find or make up an answer for you.  No dating or relationship questions though.  We need all the advice and help we can get in that area ourselves.

Thanks as always for visiting with us.  Hope you get a chance to drop by McNickle’s Pickles on Saturday!  If I can get away from writing with Little Red Bear while he takes a restful nap in the afternoon, maybe I’ll be able to drop in myself for a few minutes.  I do love those pork rinds!  And someone please save me a jar of Plumberry Preserves.  — Jim  ( and Red!)

Artwork -- "Mt. Airy Old Country Store II" by Dan Carmichael. (Prints available at dan-carmichael.pixels.com)

Artwork — “Mt. Airy Old Country Store II” by Dan Carmichael. (Prints available at dan-carmichael.pixels.com)

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” Available on Amazon

Short Stories About An Uncommonly Special Bear & His Friends!

A Guest Post — “Christmases of My Childhood” by Kathleen Creighton

I am honored to be able to share a Christmas remembrance from friend and renowned author Kathleen Creighton.  With more than 50 books published and two million copies sold, Kathleen has long been a powerhouse of the romance genre. Her books have earned her five RITA awards, as well as a place in the Romance Writers Hall of Fame.  Please join Kathleen for a fond look back at childhood Christmases in Southern California.

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“The Christmases of my childhood and young adulthood were always spent at my grandparents’ house. A few days before Christmas, we’d pile into my grandfather’s old pickup—-Mom and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Russell and any cousins and friends who wanted to come along—-and drive up the canyon to cut a tree. We’d find a nice, hardy little pinon and Papa would chop it down, and we’d take turns dragging it back to the pickup. The tree would be installed in the living room on a base made from an old tire. It was Mary’s job to decorate it, because she was the only one who could put the tinsel on right. In the later years, we had electric lights, but when I was very small, I remember, we still used candles. They were only lit once, on Christmas Night.

“On Christmas Day, the family would gather for dinner. If the weather was nice—-and it often was at that time of the year in that lovely little valley tucked between the arid Tehachapi Mountains and the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada—-the children would sit out on the porch. The grown-ups sat at the big dining room table, expanded for the occasion so that it stuck out into the living room, with Papa in his overalls presiding at the head and Grandmother flitting back and forth between the table and the kitchen, ignoring everyone’s pleas to “Sit down, Mama, please!”

“In the evening, after the livestock had been fed and the cows milked, everyone gathered again around the Christmas tree. The old farmhouse wasn’t large, but somehow it always seemed to hold everyone–sons and daughters and in-laws, all the children and babies—-especially the babies! There were always a few “extras,” too, because anyone who didn’t have a place to go on Christmas was welcome at my grandparents’ house. And Grandmother saw to it that every person there had a package under the tree. We’d sing carols for a while, until the kids got restless. Then we’d light the candles on the tree and sit in their glow and sing “Silent Night.”

“Once the candles had been blown out, it was pandemonium, with kids yelling and paper and ribbons flying. Papa’s special gift was always a five-pound box of See’s chocolates, which, for the rest of the evening, he took great pleasure in passing around. Finally, stuffed with pumpkin pie and chocolate, loaded down with packages and sleepy children, everyone would drift away. But never very far away. Because to each and every one of us, that old farmhouse was home. And every day my grandparents lived in it was Christmas.

“When I was very small, we lived for a time with my grandparents. On one of those long-ago Christmases, a box arrived from far away—-no one seemed to know where. In the box was a beautiful, brand-new Lionel electric train. Everyone thought Papa must have bought it, though he steadfastly denied it, and to be sure, it wasn’t his way to be modest about his gifts. I think he would have been proud as punch to be the bestower of that wonderful train, as he was with his annual Christmas box of chocolates. So we never knew where it came from, and if Papa knew, he took the secret with him when he left us.

“In any event, on this and every Christmas, I wish for you the gifts my grandparents gave to me and to everyone—-kin or stranger—-who came into their home.

“Simple gifts: Warmth and welcome and unconditional love.” — by Kathleen Creighton

❅     ❅     ❅

Please visit Kathleen Creighton’s Author Page on Amazon and her Web Site.  This Christmas memory first appeared as the Author’s Note to Kathleen’s novella, “The Mysterious Gift”, available for Kindle and eReaders, in which she also included her famous Christmas Cookie recipe at the end as a special bonus ‘Thank You’.  Check it out.  Please visit and follow Kathleen on Facebook and Twitter.

Big Bear Hugs and Thank You’s to Kathleen Creighton for allowing me to share her wonderful memories with you.  And also to you, for visiting and reading.  Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Holiday Season!  —  Jim (and Red!)

Christmas- Old-fashioned Christmas- 2

A Look Back — Christmas Thru The Window Glass

The last few days before Christmas!  Santa’s sleigh is in the shed for its scheduled maintenance check and going over.  The reindeer are out on the training  ground for their final pre-flight practice and run thru.  Elves are working overtime finishing, polishing, prepping and wrapping.  Mrs. Claus is busy in the kitchen keeping everyone fed and on their toes as the clock ticks down to Christmas Eve.  Gallons of hot chocolate!

Vintage Santa Claus in his Workshop Making Toys

Vintage Santa Claus in his Workshop Making Toys

How are things going for you?  In a rush to get ready? Shopping yet to be done? Gifts to wrap? Cookies and treats to be made? Final decorations and stockings to be hung? Things can get hectic this time of year.

I’m sure other folks my age remember the old-fashioned holiday window displays in the department store windows. New dolls and toys on display.  Bicycles, BB Guns and Baseball Gloves.  Red wagons.  Teddy Bears.  Model trains running thru tunnels, across bridges and round and round.  Airplanes flying thru the air.  Cold little noses pressed to the window glass to get the closest look.  Wished-for presents and dreams just out of reach!  Call me old-fashioned, but I miss these.

As a kid, the display windows seemed to make Christmas even more special. It was a highly anticipated trip all in itself to visit the department stores downtown at Christmas to see the display windows and visit with Santa Claus. Lunch out at the cafeteria nearby when home cooking was the norm and dining out reserved only for very special occasions. And the yearly trip to see the store windows and Santa Claus qualified as a very special occasion indeed!

I know you’re busy so won’t keep you.  Just taking this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the Joys, Happiness  and Peace of the Holiday Season!   Maybe you better go check the kids now.  Looks like they are getting their own preparations in order!  — Jim (and Red!)

Joyeux Noël !  ¡Feliz Navidad!  Buon Natale!  Frohe Weihnachten!  Merry Christmas!