Boo

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, happy Halloween. Samhain greetings.

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There were a few surprised faces when I answered the door yesterday.

And that was before I applied the make up (ba boom)

Five hyped up 8/9 year old girls.

And three trying to be cool but also actually quite hyped up nearly teenage boys.

I was ready for bed by 9.30.

But they were still going at 1am.

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A bowl of eyeballs

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Apple bobbing

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Red velvet blood cakes ready for decorating

And

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Death by chocolate cake.

The streets were packed with trick or treaters.

But I think the noise levels from our small group of girls outdid the rest of them put together.

Ears were bleeding πŸ™‚

May your Winter to come be a snug and cosy one.

Books for Halloween

I would normally be talking about books on a Friday, but what the heck! It is the season for anarchy and turmoil after all πŸ™‚

I love to try and match at least some of my reading to the season. I try to encourage the children to do the same. So, from our bookshelves, a few spooky, or at least seasonally apt, books that we can recommend…

For Young Children (3-6 years)

20131031-064141.jpg A colourful, cheery, lift the flap romp through the contents of the Witch’s kitchen, fridge, pantry etc. Good fun!

20131031-064303.jpg Nicely illustrated tale of what happens when you try to change who you are in order to fit in. A bit of magic and mayhem but not scary – so no disrupted bedtimes πŸ™‚

For Young Independent Readers

20131031-064604.jpg Dahl at his anarchic best. My youngest loved this one but was absolutely floored by the fact that it doesn’t have a neat, everything-is-solved-and-all-is-right-with-the-world, ending. I think it’s great to mix in a few books where there is a darker thread running through the story, where there isn’t a complete, happy resolution – because life isn’t always neat and happy. Sadly.

20131031-065525.jpg Another Dahl book. Because he does it so well. And because there is a real dearth of well written, disturbing and challenging books for this age group. Frankly if I go into another bookshop and find myself staring at shelves upon shelves of stories about lost puppy dogs, troublesome kittens and frolicsome fairies I may be driven to a bit of book burning myself.

Erm, did I say that out loud?

Anyways, the BFG is another Dahl classic. My oldest child refused to listen to it when he was younger as he found the concept of a giant stealing a little girl from her own bedroom far too scary a thought to be going to bed with. My younger child is absolutely loving it. (And oldest child can now often be found listening to, and enjoying, the story from outside his sisters bedroom door – where he thinks no one will spot him).

Older Children

20131031-070707.jpg As you can probably tell from my previous comments, my oldest child gets spooked easily and really does not like scary stories, so we don’t have many examples on his shelves for me to share. Bartimaeus by Jonathan Stroud isn’t a ghost story, it isn’t scary or spooky, but it does feature wizards, djinni, afrits and foliots. So that’s alright then.
Set in England in an alternative reality where Wizards run the government, it’s the story of what happens when a young trainee magician summons a djinni with attitude and sends him to steal an amulet from another, much more powerful magician. Bartimaeus is a wonderfully funny, engaging, lippy character; the descriptions of London in this reality are beautifully drawn; and the story zips along at a fair old pace keeping the reader hooked all the way through.
Brilliant.

Friends have also recommended Darren Shan

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Skulduggery Pleasant

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And Goosebumps

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But oldest child was not interested in trying any of them so these recommendations are not based on personal experience at all.

And Now For The Grown Ups

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I love Phil Rickman. A friend and I recently spent a happy long weekend travelling around the Welsh Marches photographing the places that feature in his novels. Ok that’s slightly creepy and stalkerish in itself. But really, his books are superb. They are cross-genre offerings- but pigeon holing them as horror/crime doesn’t do them justice. A little bit of murder, a little bit of new-age spookiness, a little bit of theology, a little bit of rock-n-roll. Go on, give yourself a treat and try them.

20131031-072340.jpgA few years old, but I really enjoyed this one. A vampire tale with a twist.

20131031-072433.jpg I’m reading this at the moment. It’s a bit of an odd one. The author seems to be very young and this shows in the writing – which is overblown in some places, embarrassingly bad in others. And yet, it is actually quite an enjoyable read. It is trying to plug into the Dark Fantasy genre which has been so ably tapped by Charlaine Harris et al; but it is too innocent and Mills and Boon to really fit comfortably there. Dark and tortured, yet extremely good looking anti hero? Tick. Beautiful and innocent yet feisty heroine? Tick. Heaving bosoms? Tick. Bare, manly chests? Tick. Damsel in distress scenes? Tick.
It’s not very original, but as a good romp through well trodden territory, it’s worth a couple of hours of your time.

And of course, Charlaine Harris is great for on trend, risquΓ© vampire tales.
Carrie Vaughn is good fun if you prefer your supernaturals to be a bit furrier

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And for a good old fashioned ghost story (or two), MR James takes some beating. Whistle and I’ll Come? ( shudder)

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Non-fiction

20131031-073359.jpg If you would like an interesting, erudite yet accessible, guide to the origins of the ritual year, including Halloween/Samhain then this is worth a look. Hutton is one of our more eccentric academics, but his writing is enjoyable as well as scholarly. It’s good to see the history of folk customs given due consideration and gravitas.

20131031-073837.jpg And if you feel sick at the thought of Halloween crafting with glue stick and black and orange glitter then this is the antidote for you. Stylish crafting with a subversive note. Probably not one for the kids. πŸ™‚

Halloween crafts

We’ve been invited to a Halloween party.

Yay.

Of course it would be positively rude to turn up without a present for this hostess. Preferably an edible one (the present, not the hostess).

And as it’s Halloween it has to be something that would strike fear and horror into the soul of any self respecting child.

What could be more apt than cakes made of, gasp, vegetables?

Cakes that are, moreover, a fetching shade of blood red?

Chocolate and beetroot cupcakes (cue manic laughter)

I used a recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery, but a similar one can be found on the BBC website.

I must admit to feeling a bit sceptical about this. I love pickled beetroot, but find that beets can be a little bit earthy without the tang of the vinegar, and I was concerned this earthiness would add an unpleasant mustiness to the cakes.

I shouldn’t have worried.

The recipe is delightful. The batter starts of a scary pink but this quickly turns to a deep red as the beetroot mixes with the cocoa powder

20131030-205426.jpgred velvet.

Once baked the cakes are dense and moist and very, very chocolatey. The beetroot just seems to enhance the fudginess of the crumb, and adds depth to the chocolate flavour.

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A delicious, sophisticated recipe.

Until

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Cupcake with bloodshot eyeball topping anyone?