To My Fellow “Fraidy Cats”

By Shannon Boatwright

five orange and one white pupkinsBy the time this blog is posted, Halloween will have come and gone. And that’s ok, but I’m hoping there might just be some folks out there who can relate to what I have to say. I’m all for spooky fun. I’m all for mysterious fun. But add in the gore and realistically bloody grossness, and, well, I’m out. PEACE OUT. Shannon OUT!

The irony is that some of my closest friends from growing up, still to this day pick on me for being a “fraidy cat” and not being able to handle horror movies.  Even as adults, at a movie outing together they’ll say “Girls, we can’t see a horror movie, cuz Shannon can’t handle it!”  My response to that is “Kiss my grits!” Y’all will have to forgive me for not wanting to pay good money to see something that will totally haunt and horrify me. To each her own – so I’ll pass!

Maybe it’s the logic in me. Maybe it’s the prude in me. I don’t care what you call it, but I have no desire to pay to be scared, much less horrified. To me, the whole concept of that is simply idiotic.

As an entertainer though, I do value the premise and concept of scaring the heck out of people, leaving them on the edge of their seats and in turn making money off the experience. It’s a lot easier being the scare-er than the scare-e! Again, to each her own! If you want to be horrified by gory, horrid drama, go for it! But I personally have no desire to watch disgusting zombies with decaying flesh or characters with body parts cut off or bitten off by some psychotic clown. I have enough drama in my real life. I don’t need some ridiculous horror movie creating trauma and plaguing my sleep because I can’t get visions of the goriness out of my mind. I apparently have too vivid of an imagination. While I might forget a simple task or someone’s name, I’ll forever remember a horrific scene from a movie. It’s a curse. I’ll literally never forget it.

I’d watch a mysterious vampire any day rather than a zombie with decaying flesh! It’s just plain gross! I joke with my zombie-loving friends that when the day comes, and there is a zombie apocalypse, while they’re all screaming their heads off and frozen with fear, I’ll be the one jumping into action, battling the evil and saving the day.

So, to all my fellow fraidy cats, may we always avoid the blood and guts and in turn, save our souls and maybe actually sleep tight at night!  I’m going to go watch a lovely, fun, romantic comedy now and fill my heart and mind with joy, not gore. 😉

Faith-Based Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating

By Rachel Sircy

I believe I mentioned in my last post (the one about gluten-free trick or treating) that my family and I don’t actually celebrate Halloween. I’ve never made a big deal about this before because I honestly didn’t know anyone outside of my own church who abstained from Halloween celebrations. Last week, however, I was talking to the mom of my daughter’s school friend who asked me if I had any good ideas for Halloween alternatives for small children. This was the first time since I’d moved to Columbia that anyone had asked me that question, and it made me realize that perhaps there are many of us out there who would like something to do with our kids on October 31st that doesn’t involve traditional Halloween celebrations.

pumpkin

If you look online, there are tons of ideas for Christian alternatives to Halloween celebrations for parents to do with their kids at home. I read several blogs, each with some great basic ideas that any family can make their own. You can throw a fall-themed costume party for your children on October 31st and include fun games with candy prizes. One blog suggested doing a treasure hunt (similar to an Easter Egg hunt, I guess) and fill objects with candy. These activities can be religiously themed and designed to teach a faith-filled lesson. One of my favorite ideas was using pumpkin carving to teach a lesson about receiving the Holy Spirit: cleaning out the pumpkin is analogous to what Jesus does to us when we repent and the light that we put inside the pumpkin can represent what happens when Christ puts His Spirit in us. Other sites suggested doing a kid-friendly movie marathon at home, involving popcorn, candy and letting your kids watch fun movies until they fall asleep. These parties can be family-only celebrations or involve neighbors and friends. If you have the luxury of getting out of town, one blogger mom suggested taking your kids on a small weekend trip. Getting out of the house may be a good idea if you’re opposed to handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (personally, I hate telling little kids “no,” so if I stay home, I always plan on handing out some candy. If you’re trying to build your Halloween alternative into a neighborhood party, it might not be a bad idea to hand out candy and spread the word for next year’s party!).

And don’t forget, many area churches put on Halloween alternatives in the form of Fall Festivals or “Hallelujah Nights.” A few I saw online that might be worth looking up near Columbia are Redbank Baptist Church’s Fall Festival night; Family Worship Center’s Hallelujah Night, and Harvest Collaborator’s Hallelujah Praise Night. If your church is having a fall festival or Halloween alternative night, you can feel free to share it in the comments.

Happy holiday alternatives, everyone! 

How to Navigate Trick or Treat Time with a Gluten Free Child

by Rachel Sircy

image1It’s that (frustrating) time of year again when everyone in the world seems to want to give our kids candy. The thing is, this candy-giving-extravaganza seems to start at Halloween and doesn’t seem to really end until after Easter. Besides the fact that candy is unhealthy and can cause dental problems, diabetes, etc., those of you out there who have celiac or gluten-sensitive children probably dread this time of year because the likelihood that your child will be given something unsafe to eat goes through the roof. Trick-or-Treat has a whole different meaning to those of us who have (or whose children have) food allergies and intolerances. While it may not be possible for every parent to monitor everything that your child is given to eat during this candy-crazed time of year, there are some preventative measures that you can take to ensure that your child is as safe as possible.

The first thing is for you, as a parent to make sure that you know what candies/treats/etc. are safe for your child to eat. You can begin your research here. Once you feel certain that you know what is and is not safe for your child to eat, you can decide how to proceed. My family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but if yours does and you plan on trick-or-treating, you have several options to try. If your neighborhood has an HOA or a Neighborhood Watch, this might be the place to bring up the fact that your child has a food allergy/intolerance, and to request that your neighbors try to pass out safe candy. Be sure to have a written list prepared for the HOA or Neighborhood Watch to pass out. If you’re in a community where you know your neighbors, you can personally give them a list of the safe treats for your child and ask that they be mindful of what they give your youngster. Another thing to keep in mind in HOA and Neighborhood Watch communities is the possibility of having a different night for allergy sufferers to trick-or-treat on or creating a different neighborhood-wide activity that would be inclusive of everyone. Consider this zany alternative to Halloween trick-or-treating that has been in place in Des Moines, Iowa since the 1940s.

If it’s not possible to pass out a list of safe treats, or if you will be trick or treating in an area where you don’t know the people who’ll be passing out the candy, you can speak to your child ahead of time and let them know that they will have to give you any unsafe candy that they receive. You can then decide what kind of treat you’d like to replace it with, whether you pay them a penny for each piece of unsafe candy or replace the candy with safe choices that you have already stocked at home. You can also take all of the unsafe candy and either find a local business (these are usually dentists, so check with your dental office first) who will buy the candy back from your child, or you can donate the unsafe candy to anyone who was unable to go trick-or-treating.

If you need to have even more control of what your child eats, as in the case of a severe allergy, it may be best to avoid trick-or-treating altogether. To make sure that your child doesn’t feel left out, you can (if time and money allow) throw an allergy-friendly party yourself for your child. If parties aren’t your thing, but you don’t feel it’s safe to allow others to give your child candy, why not try to adapt classic kid-friendly activities, such as Easter egg hunts. Why not do a candy-filled egg hunt in the fall and allow your child to dress in costume? Just remember to keep it fun!

As is the case with all food-allergy sufferers, it’s important that close friends and family understand, in detail, what your child can and cannot be exposed to. Make sure to share this information with your child’s school as well, just in case there are any parents of other children who may want to provide treats to the class, or in case the school has its own trick-or-treat or holiday party.

Safe eating, everyone!

Gluten Free Trick or Treating

By Rachel Sircy

Just like buffets at restaurants, the holidays can be a bit of a nightmare for celiacs. Picking your way through food from unknown sources can be a bit like taking a stroll through a minefield: guess wrong and you could really be in some pain. So, what do we do about trick or treating with kids who need to be gluten free? Or, if you’re having an office party and candy is present, how do you decide what’s safe to eat and what’s not?

Well, I must confess that I’ve made some real blunders through this minefield myself. The thing is, some candy just seems so innocent. Like the Hershey’s Special Dark Bar. It’s a bit mind boggling that this block of solid chocolate would contain gluten, but it does. It’s not like the Hershey company keeps this a secret, it’s just that I never bothered to look. For a long time, I kept getting sick and I couldn’t figure out why. My advice to anyone who has an issue with gluten, don’t think you can just look at something and take a good guess and be okay. Always do your research. This year, I’m going to point you toward some places that can help you do that.

The Hershey company keeps a fairly comprehensive list of gluten free products in the US at this website:< https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/products/dietary-needs.html>

They update this list regularly, so check it periodically to make sure that they haven’t changed how or where they make certain products. Also, beware that many variations of certain gluten free candies – as in most seasonal specialty candies (i.e., Reese’s Pumpkins) and even the fun-size versions – are NOT gluten free. Hershey’s list of gluten free products will let you know which variation is okay to eat. For example they state that all Almond Joy products are gluten free EXCEPT Almond Joy Pieces candy.

Another very comprehensive list is maintained by the Celiac Foundation and can be found at https://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/lifestyle/gluten-free-candy-lists/gluten-free-lifestyle/general-candy-list/   The Celiac Foundation also maintains a yearly Halloween Candy list that is printable…

Again, I would encourage anyone who has a gluten intolerance or allergy to check these lists regularly because companies can change the ingredients in a product and/or where a product is produced at any time.

And, for your convenience, I have copied from the Celiac Foundation list some of what I suspect will be common items in your child’s trick or treat bag which ARE gluten free:

  • Hershey’s Milk Duds
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (all except Unwrapped Minis and Seasonal Shaped Items)
  • Reese’s Pieces (all except Eggs)
  • Sour Patch Kids (includes Sour Patch Xtreme, Sour Patch Xploders, Sour Patch Watermelon and Swedish Fish)
  • Smarties (according to their website almost all Smarties products except Gummies are gluten free and made in a gluten free facility)
  • Mike and Ike, Original Fruits, Mummy and Vampire Mix, Berry Blast, Lemonade Blends, Zours
  • Hot Tamales
  • Peeps Vampires
  • Butterfingers (original flavor ONLY. The seasonal shaped pumpkins and any other variety are NOT gluten free.)
  • Laffy Taffy (including Laffy Taffy Rope and Fruitarts Chews)
  • Pixy Stix
  • SweetTarts

AND, I saw this at the store and it just made my day…

According to Tootsie Roll Industries ALL of their confections are gluten free!

Happy trick or treating!

 

 

 

One thing at a time: Happy Halloween!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I was in a large national discount chain store that shall not be named but whose name rhymes with Stall-Wart a couple weeks ago. This was September, mind you – and what to my wondering eyes should appear but … well, not quite a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer, but most of what goes along with that. Yes, Christmas decorations. Lots of them. In September.

C’mon, people. We haven’t even had Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving or even the end of Daylight Savings Time (or is it the beginning? Whichever one is “fall back”) yet. Can’t we reign in our reindeer just a tad?

So I’m focusing on Halloween today. One of my favorite Halloween memories was when I was nine years old and my grandmother made me a genie costume. The TV show “I Dream of Jeannie” was all the rage in those days, and my name is Jeanne, so I just had to have that costume.

I Dream of JeannieAnd boy, did I think I looked good in it. Picture Barbara Eden (eek, I just saw online that she’s 86 now – my mother’s age) … except as a chubby nine-year-old … and plain brown hair instead of blonde … and a sweatshirt on top of the whole thing because it was cooold that Halloween night, even in our northern California neighborhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) no photo evidence remains to show you what a great costume it was.

And it would probably be a great costume even today (although a tad tight and short on my current adult frame). Halloween is an incredibly popular adult holiday these days. Travel & Leisure magazine even has an article on the best Halloween events and festivals of the year. (Spoiler alert: Greenwich Village, New York and West Hollywood, California top the list. Won’t be making either of those.)

Franz &amp; HansMaybe you yourself are one of those people who can’t wait to dress up as a sexy French maid or sexy vampire or sexy anything (do you sense a theme here?). Apparently you have plenty of company. Personally, I’ve always favored creative homemade costumes, like the time my husband I donned gray sweatsuits and stuffed the thighs and arms with newspaper ala Hans and Franz of Saturday Night Live fame. Didn’t cost a dime, plus it was a lot more comfortable than a sexy costume. The only thing I had to worry about falling out was some crumpled newspaper.

And then there’s the candy. There are two camps here: Those who buy just enough for the expected number of trick-or-treaters, and those who buy extra … you know, so there’ll be leftovers. Since I tend to buy cheap candy or varieties I wouldn’t eat (because I will), I fall in the first camp. So consider this fair warning: If you want those miniature Hershey’s bars or SweetTarts, head next door.

At least it’s better than my former neighbors, the retired Army dentists. Yep, toothbrushes and dental floss.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

 

 

Halloween Themed Weddings

By: Shannon Shull

I have attended many weddings; more than I can count. But until about two years ago, I had never attended a Halloween-themed wedding.

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

Courtesy of David R. Walters Photography

My sister, Jordan, had a traditional ceremony but a Halloween-themed reception. She got married close to Halloween and she and her man love the holiday. I have to admit that when I first heard she was going all-out with a Halloween theme, I did not know what to expect! Needless to say, I was blown away with the cool and classy nature of the spooky themed reception. It was so cool and a lot of fun, too! I was really impressed, to say the least. The incredible skull cake from my sister’s wedding was made by Vicki Dooley using my sister Jordan’s design. The skulls around the bottom of the layers are lace made in Japan that was special ordered.

Fall wedding

Halloween wedding

Cake by Vicki Dooley, using my sister Jordan’s design.

Halloween wedding

Cake by Vicki Dooley, using my sister Jordan’s design.

Halloween wedding

Halloween wedding

Halloween wedding

A year later, I just had the privilege of attending another Halloween-themed wedding on October 19th. My dear friend and hair stylist, Cara Sullivan Branham, really impressed her guests with a classy Halloween-themed wedding that I will never forget.

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween Weddiing

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

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Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween Wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Fall wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

IMG_8539

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Fall wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

She and her man required all guests to come dressed up in a costume. They warned everyone that if they did not show up dressed up, the Grim Reaper would turn them away. We took the leap and showed up in costume, praying we wouldn’t be the only ones! Lo and behold, all the guests were dressed in costume and we all had a blast milling about striking up conversations left and right about each other’s costumes. This was all part of the bride and grooms’ plan – they wanted their guests to have fun reasons to interact and boy did we ever. And it wasn’t just goofy Halloween fun; they really put a classy spin on the entire event. The décor was like something right out of a magazine and the guests not only had the privilege of witnessing a beautiful wedding ceremony but engaging in a festive, unique celebration of love.

IMG_8387

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography. Cake by Bonnie Brunt Cakes.

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography. Cake by Bonnie Brunt Cakes.

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Halloween wedding

Courtesy of Nikki Morgan Photography

Love and best wishes go to my precious sister and sweet friend – I wish them the very best and I applaud their unique coolness!

Check out the cool classiness of these two Halloween-themed special events, thanks to the amazing photographers that captured the beauty and fun at these special weddings.

A big thank you to David Walters Photography, who took the awesome pictures at my sister’s wedding and to Nikki Morgan, who took the amazing pictures at Cara and Dustin’s wedding.

Halloween

By: Leah Prescott

Am I the only one who thinks that Halloween has gotten completely out of control? Once upon a time, Halloween was a night; now it is its own season. I suppose because we Americans are so addicted to sugar, it has somehow earned itself an extension into the whole month of October, stealing the thunder, in my opinion, from a lot of awesome stuff like autumn leaves and apple picking. When I was a child, we got candy on Halloween night (regular candy, like tootsie rolls and jolly ranchers), and that’s all it took to make us happy. Back then, the candy didn’t have to be orange or shaped like a brain or a mummy for us to enjoy it. And we certainly didn’t expect Jack-o-Lantern cookies and bat-themed fruit snacks to be served everywhere we went for the entire month.

Halloween

Remember when costumes were homemade? And not Pinterest-y homemade – I mean creatively cobbled together from whatever was lying around the house. Here’s a picture of my siblings and I at a Fall Festival on Halloween night many years ago.

Notice we are all in “costume” and yet none of us paid a penny to get into character. We were even dressed in theme: Noah’s Ark. I am the “dove” at the top (in my old ballet leotard). One of my brothers is Noah with the mop on his chin and the other one has a tiger costume literally made from a paper bag. My sister was wearing overalls because I guess caring for the tiger was a messy job. See how much fun we are having?

halloween

Now-a-days, costumes are amazingly elaborate and expensive. As if we don’t have enough to worry about with Christmas, birthdays and all the days in between, now Halloween has become an intense parade of Disney princesses and Marvel super heroes (and all those other boy things I can’t yet identify because my son is only two years old). People ask what your children are going to be for Halloween when October has barely begun. (I guess you have to start saving for those pricey costumes just when you finished shelling out all that cash for back to school.) I read that this year consumers are expected to pay $7.4 billion dollars on Halloween costumes. Now, I’m no mathematician or social trends expert, but I’m guessing that is, at a minimum, way, way, way more money than we have to spend as a country. And that doesn’t include all the extras like candy and event tickets. Just like so many other things in America, Halloween has become an opportunity for indulgence.

Pumpkin

I guess my takeaway from this post is that I want to enjoy Fall without orange and black pushing aside the yellows and burnt oranges. I want my kids to know they can create whatever their imaginations dream up, if they are willing to pull out the Mod Podge and poster paint. I want to minimize the sugar high and entitlement and look ahead to the attitude of gratitude that November brings. Mostly, I just don’t want my daughter to be one of 11 other Elsa’s at the costume party. Because where’s the fun in that?