Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Punkin' Carving Time

One of my annual traditions is carving pumpkins with my nephew in hopes that the Halloween bug has been passed on. I am happy to report that this year, he asked for scary decorations to make his house like Uncle Scary's house. Yes!!

Our Awesome Neighbors!

As a yard haunter, nothing brings me more joy than seeing our community respond to our Halloween display. I always wonder if people think we're nuts, obsessed, or crazy. It's so awesome that they love it and took the time to write us a handcrafted card. Wow! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rocky Horror Picture Show (2016) ~ Review

Having a theater background, I am accustomed to seeing different productions of a show from different companies. For me, remakes of films also fall into this category, although I'm not suggesting that remakes are necessarily needed. When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was announced on Fox, I was incredibly nervous. This is not an ideal musical for a primetime network, and let's be honest, no one could ever fill Tim Curry's heels in the iconic role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. I've spent over 30 years with the beloved original and have memorized every intonation, nuance and cadence. To my surprise, I found the new production to be fun, energetic, vividly candy-colored, and incredibly strange. If you're going to remake a turd, might as well polish it up.

The biggest concern was the original's lascivious nature, suggestive humor, weirdness, and unapologetic queerness. Moving this to a major network during primetime was inevitably going to tame down the production which is a shame given it's subversive, anti-establishment roots. Thankfully, the lyrics remained mostly untouched. And, Laverne Cox while an inspired choice as the sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania provided a substantial question mark in the gender politics debate.

I enjoyed the cast. Reeve Carney as Riff Raff was his usual delight. Ryan McCartan as Brad Majors was adorable and could SING! Victoria Justice as Janet was precious. And Annaleigh Ashford and Christina Milian as Columbia and Magenta were kooky wonderful. Staz Nair as Rocky stole every scene with his mugging and physical comedy – quite a feat considering he has such few lines and meant only to be screen candy. And I loved seeing our beloved Tim Curry, who suffered a major stroke in 2012, as the narrator.

There were some stumbles. Dr. Frank-N-Further's first appearance should have been showstopping. Instead she was swung in on a crane wearing some weird head mask. The miscast Adam Lambert brought the house party to a shrieking halt. Also unnecessary was the audience partici...pation that broke the fourth wall. The movie within a movie conceit was a nod to fans of the original's midnight showings where the audience calls back with fill-in lines and props. Adding this in for the TV version took you right out of the moment.

Ultimately, I realized that this remake is not for us old, haggard fans, but for a new generation who are seeing Rocky Horror for the first time. It should also be noted that for a major network to embrace something so strangely queer with a trans woman in the lead is quite the milestone. Nostalgia is wonderful but at times it can be a little toxic at not letting us move ahead with new things. Was this remake perfect? No. But it was fun, decadent, and light entertainment for the Halloween season and it gave me some terrible thrills.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Music for Halloween 2016

Now is the time to get your playlists ready for that epic Halloween party next week! Here are some recent discoveries that I love:

Now That's What I Call Spooky
These mixtapes from BoJo in Tennessee are just what you need: a great collection of songs from a variety of artists, each track sure to please someone. Best part is that you can download them for free! Find them at https://bojospookymixtapes.bandcamp.com/.

Halloween at High Noon: Decayed
The purveyors of original, sinister ambient music is High Noon Records and we all look forward to their Halloween collections. This it's called Decayed and features some perfect background music some of it quite dance-y for your haunted house.

Espectrostatic: Silhouette
Alex Cuervo of Espectrostatic calls his music "horror movie music" and his latest collection definitely echoes the work of John Carpenter and Fabio Frizzi with a deep punk/garage aesthetic. It is absorbing, and a must for Halloween fans.

Little Steven's Underground Garage presents Halloween a Go-Go
One of the coolest collection comes from the uber talented Steven Van Zandt (a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), feature an eclectic mix of rock music sure to please anyone over 30 (maybe 40).

Sam Haynes: Something Wicked
Sam Haynes creates terrifying soundtracks for your horror-filled Halloween. His latest creation is a classic repertoire of classic, spooky music perfectly suited for a haunt. His penchant for 80s influenced electronica has been toned down for this collection opting for a more timeless feel. An he's an artist that always gives back to community, allowing his music to be featured on a videos, podcasts, and anywhere that needs a chilling score – for free! Learn more at the Sam Haynes Bandcamp page.

If you can't decide what to listen to, try HalloweenRadio.net. The endless online stream of Halloween music features everything: monster mashed classics, exorcism themes, new music and even sound effects. It's Halloween gold. They are supported by donations (so donate if you listen).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pumpkin Goods at Sprouts

Sprouts, a health-y food supermarket with 240 stores in 13 states has gone gourd crazy. It appears to be in direct competition with Trader Joes (in Northern California at least) for the most pumpkin products offered in store as witnessed in the Fall 2016 circular (below). I have been working my way through all the products. Some are winners (Pumpkin Molasses Barbecue Sauce, Maple Pumpkin Butter), some are in-te-res-ting (Pumpkin Spice Salsa, Pumpkin Vinaigrette), and some are downright questionable and someone should be fired (Pumpkin Spice Kale Chips, Pumpkin Pasta Sauce).

I love Sprouts and the site features plenty of recipes, tips and tricks. Two of the biggest winners for Halloween parties are a simple soda float punch, and a twist (with very authentic preparation) for horchata, a sweet Mexican rice drink.

Pumpkin Witches Brew

1 bottle Sprouts Sparkling Pumpkin Spices Apple Cider
1 container Sprouts Organic Cinnamon Pumpkin Ice Cream

1. In a large bowl, add desired amount of ice cream.
2. Cover ice cream with sparkling ale and enjoy!

Pumpkin Horchata

5 cups water
1 cup white rice
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup coconut milk or vanilla almond milk
2/3 cup agave (or sugar)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1. Combine water, rice and cinnamon stick in a blender and pulse to coarsely grind. Soak at room temperature for 3 hours or refrigerate over night.

2. Once rice mixture has soaked, puree in a blender in batches until smooth.

3. Strain rice milk through cheesecloth or a fine mesh colander into a pitcher.

4. In a large mixing bowl combine pumpkin puree, coconut milk, agave and pumpkin pie spice. Combine pumpkin mixture with strained rice milk. Chill and serve over ice. Garnish with extra pumpkin pie spice and add a cinnamon stick if desired. (Note: Like most authentic horchata, you'll need to give this a good stir before serving.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Halloween at the Checkout Lane

You're standing in line at the grocery store and waiting for a sweet, old hag to thoughtfully fill out a check. The pumpkin spice gelato is melting onto your pumpkin spice donuts, and then your glance over to the magazine rack that lines the aisle. Halloween magazines – everywhere! Okay. There's a lot of cutesy, cheesy stuff and none of it's your scary style but they're fairly fun for your October coffee table or breakfast nook. Here are some of my better recent finds:

Make: Halloween
This special issue of Make magazine features some pretty nifty projects, but be warned that this intended for serious tech junkies. Many of the projects come with warnings of death (due to electrocution or projectiles) but makers around the country rejoice. The project that I most want to try is the Ultimate Fog Chiller for low-lying fog. It ramps up the cooler concept ten-fold and requires low-tech and only 6 materials.


100 Best Pumpkin Recipes
From the editors of Better Homes and Gardens comes this pumpkin-centric issue and yes, most of it features with sweets. Pumpkin doesn't havee too much flavor on its own, but add sugar and spices and you've got something great. The stands out for me where the two pumpkin bread puddings and the pumpkin tiramisu. The few savory recipes teeter between questionable (pumpkin mac and cheese, pumpkin tortilla chicken casserole), intriguing (pumpkin risotto, pumpkin ginger soup).

Better Homes and Gardens: Halloween Tricks & Treats
While I'm not the demographic for BHG, I find their Halloween issues to be really packed with ideas. So much is thrown onto the wall that inevitably some of it sticks. The photography evokes early Martha Halloweens though never quite as dark. I was surprised by the level of sophistication of some of the decor (like the Eerie Elegant Soiree and the Sinfully Sweet Glampire Cake). It's a family friendly affair for sure, but I could see taking some of these things to the dark side.

Martha Stewart Living: October 2016 Issue
The single most disappointing magazine is Martha Stewart's October issue. Halloween is almost completely absent. In previous years a companion Halloween-centric issue was released alongside the issue but not so this year (to my knowledge). First, Meredith Corp. took over day-to-day operations of the magazine, then Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was sold last summer, and now little is left of the senior creative staff. Fans worried about the creative direction of the magazine and this proves once for all that the elegant party is over.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Get Ready for Pumpkin Carving

'Tis the season to hack away at pumpkins with sharp knives! Make your life easier and carving more fun with a miracle product by Sulky called Stick 'n Carve. Download a pattern, print it out onto the special sheet, stick it on your pumpkin and carve with ease (no more poking holes to trace a pattern).

The sticky sheet can be repositioned and removed easily, and for more intricate patterns, you can rinse off and dissolve the sheet away. Since these tacky sheets stick to just about anything, I use them on foam for lettering for tombstones.

Order them in packs of 3, 10 or 24 and right now they are 20% off at Sulky.com using promo code "Scary20".

In need of a wicked pumpkin pattern? The best site for everything pumpkins is ZombiePumpkins.com where you can find unique downloadable patterns from monsters to kid-friendly designs, along with detailed tutorials, carving supplies (including the Stick 'n Carve sheets), and really cool tees.

Every year the theme of the entire site (!) changes and this year it's Carnival of the Zombie Pumpkins, complete with a clown pumpkin mascot! Several subscription options are available starting at $2, and for $20 you get a Monster V.I.P. subscription with over 378 patterns, unlimited downloads, access to exclusive V.I.P. patterns plus a donation to a selected charity.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Clean Up with Halloween Soap

Who doesn't want to wash their hands with vampire blood? Bath and Body Works finally brought their wicked Vampire Blood hand soap to their stores this year in a pretty cool bottle. Don't worry, it's not scented like nickel and regret. It has a clean plum scent and even though it's red, will not stain everything pink. This joins their other Halloween scents which include Purrfect Pumpkin, Ghoul Friend (berry) and Web of Lies (apple/citrus).

However, if you want a great pumpkin scented hand soap and would rather not deal with mall parking lots, visit your neighborhood Target for the Method Pumpkin Clove hand soap. It's cheaper, has a classy bottle design, and the scent is like washing your hands with pumpkin pie – but not in a weird way. Ok. Maybe it's weird. But I find this soap much easier on the skin.

For a more sophisticated line of bar soaps, head over to Villainess Soaps. They carry one of the most unique lines of products including my favorite soap (for no particular reason) called BLOOD. It has a figgy-winey scent and is deep crimson red like dried blood. It feels much more natural and does leave a bit of mess, thanks to the iron oxide pigments used. AWESOME, I know.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

Winning 2016 logo design by Tony Barney 
The San Francisco Bay Area officially kicks off Halloween with the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, now in its 46th year! The two-day event is this weekend and features local artists, crafts, a pumpkin weigh off, pumpkin carving demos, costume and pie eating contests, live music, and of course everything pumpkin to eat from pumpkin mac-n-cheese to pumpkin craft beer and cocktails.

This year a 1910-pound pumpkin took top honors in the 2016 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. The gourd was grown by Cindy Tobeck, an elementary teacher from Washington who will take home a $11,460 prize ($6 a pound). The world record stands at 2,232 pounds but a reported pumpkin weighing 2,624 pounds was grown in Belgium.

Photo credit: KGO-TV

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror 27

Set the DVR now for The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVII (27), airing October 16 on FOX.  This also the long-running series' landmark 600th episode!