Pamper with a pumpkin spa night

Autumn in Virginia tip: if you do this pumpkin spa night, the meditation, light the candle and the pumpkin smoothie, you can check off 4 self-care activities on the October Self-Care Challenge!

With a little advance preparation, you can have an at-home spa night that is just right for October relaxation and self-care.

Gather your pampering supplies:

  • Herbal tea, mineral water or “spa” water (chill water with cucumber or lemon slices). Or enjoy a pumpkin smoothie.
  • Fragranced bath products. Bath and Body Works has lots of seasonal fragranced products if you like fragrant bubbles.
  • Epsom salts for healing and calming magnesium. Add some honey to your bath, if you like.
  • Some water-safe crystals to set around your bath, such as autumn-colored carnelian, citrine and Tiger Eye, as well as good ol’ quartz.
  • Six drops each of red and yellow food coloring turns the bathwater pumpkin orange!
  • A pumpkin-scented candle (like the Pumpkin Chai candle, $1, Dollar Tree).
  • Music, ambient sounds or a seasonal guided meditation.
  • One of these homemade pumpkin mask or scrub recipes. I’m using a home-made mixture of 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, 1 Tbsp. each of honey and olive oil and 1 tsp. each of cinnamon and nutmeg to leave on my face for 15 minutes.
  • Your favorite seasonal hue of polish for your toenails.

Light the candle, draw a bath and soak for 20 minutes (play the guided meditation if you have trouble relaxing completely).  Don’t forget to bring an unbreakable drink container so you can hydrate while in the bath.

Afterwards, continue your evening of relaxation by moisturizing your skin with a delicious lotion, donning spa socks and cuddling up with an intriguing seasonal story, such as The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo.

Take a light dinner early in the evening and turn in early for a good night’s sleep.

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Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi! Watch “The Raven” free

Happy Birthday, Bela Lugosi! He is one of my favorite actors and Dracula (1931) is one of my all-time favorite movies.  Dracula was a tremednous success for Universal Pictures and helped launch the film studio’s horror movie enterprise.

The vampire was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.

He had previously appeared as Dracula on the Broadway stage to critical acclaim.

Every actor’s greatest ambition is to create his own, definite and original role, a character with which he will always be identified. In my case, that role was Dracula.

Born in Hungary in 1882, Lugosi was tall and strikingly handsome, as well as talented.

In Hungary, acting is a career for which one fits himself as earnestly and studiously as one studies for a degree in medicine, law or philosophy. In Hungary, acting is a profession.

He served in World War I and received a medal. In addition to Dracula, Bela Lugosi appeared on Broadway and in many other films, including Hungarian and German silent films. After movig to the United States, he appeared in chiefly horror movies after Dracula, White Zombie, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat, The Raven, The Wolfman and many more. He also had a cameo in Ninotchka.

Every producer in Hollywood had set me down as a type. I was both amused and disappointed.

He was underpaid for his work and typecast into horror roles, which he found frustating:

I’d like to quit the supernatural roles and play just an interesting, down-to-earth person.

He died at the age of 73, while acting in Ed Wood’s film, “Planet 9 From Outer Space.”

I guess I’m pretty much of a lone wolf. I don’t say I don’t like people at all, but, to tell you the truth, I only like it when I have a chance to look deep into their hearts and their minds.

You can watch Mr. Lugosi in The Raven, a 1935 horror movie also featuring Boris Karloff, for free at Here a sneak peek 🙂 Enoy!


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Easy Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkin is a low-calorie food that is full of nutrients, including vitamins C and A. This pumpkin smoothie is easy to make and tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass!

In a blender, add

  • 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • A big dash of cinnamon
  • A small dash each of nutmeg, ground ginger and ground cloves
  • 1/2 cap of vanilla extract (pour extract into cap to measure)
  • A splash of apple juice or water
  • 6 ice cubes
  • Sweetener to taste: 1 to 2 tsp honey, brown sugar, maple syrup or regular sugar

Blend until smooth and pour into glass. If desired, top with whipped cream (from a can) and a drizzle of Hershey’s caramel syrup or extra shake of cinnamon.

P.S. You’ll have canned pumpkin leftover. Put in a container and refrigerator for more smoothies. Discard any leftover pumpkin after 5 to 7 days.

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Spooky Word of the Week: Lycanthropy

Many a man who is pure of heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms
And the autumn moon shines bright.

Tonight, in honor of the full moon this week, our spoooky word of the week is lycanthropy.

Lycanthropy is a combination of two Greek words “lykos” (wolk) and “anthropos” (man).

The earliest use of the word that is known is from Europe in the 16th century when there was a hysteria of reports about murders and attacks attributed to werewolves. Sadly, many people in Europe were tried and executed because of this superstition, just as people who were erroneously thought to be witches.

Today, the use of the word lycanthropy is as a clinical term that describes a delusion in which a person believes they can transform into an animal. There are various legends of “were” animals in different cultures. But the most renown is surely the legend of the werewolf.

Enjoy this clip featuring the inimitable Maria Ouspenskaya.

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Creature Double Feature: The Mummy and The Old Dark House

As a special treat, is making a selection of classic Universal horror movies free to view online in October. I thought I would feature two classic horror films a week, just as I used to watch them in second-run movie theaters as a young girl.

Our double feature tonight includes two eerie Boris Karloff movies.

The tomb of Tutunkhammen had been opened and caused a sensation in 1922. Not ten years later, Universal movie founder Carl Laemmle asked writers to come up with a plot for a new horror movie featuring a mummy. It was Karl Freund’s directorial debut but he  had been the cinematographer for Dracula and Metropolis previously. Jack Pierce, the makeup artist for Frankenstein, created the look of the mummy. It took 8 hours to apply the makeup and bandages and 2 hours to remove it.

The Old Dark House was directed by James Whale, the director of Frankenstein, and is acknowledged to be one of his best films. Boris Karloff plays the menacing butler, Morgan. The cast features Melvyn Douglas and Gloria Stuart, both big stars in their day. The movie was based on a novel about post-World War I disillusionment and the character Douglas plays reflects that nonchalant wit.

I am partial to pre-Code movies from the early 1930s. The pacing and blocking are slower than movies of subsequent decades because the actors often had acted on the stage and in silent movies. There is a type of elegance to the way actors gesture, walk, position themselves and intone their lines that is dramatic and almost dream-like. I think this slower tempo of pacing accentuates the drama of the script, shows costumes off to their best advantage and adds qualities of suspense and eeriness to the 1930s Universal horror movies. Even the music and dancing were slower tempo at that time.

By the 1940s, movie pacing had picked up speed, just as popular music and dancing had. Carl Laemmle had lost his studio after financial losses by 1938. Subsequent producers did not assign large budgets to horror films, consigning the genre to B movie status. Of course, there were war concerns and restraints, so that was a factor. Particularly in the “mummy” movies, clips were re-used and scenery and music was borrowed from other films. The 1940s movies tend to focus more on reomantic plots, comic relief and less refined characters and relied on less on English-accented actors and European settings. I still watch movies of that era but I return again and again to the brilliance of films produced by Carl Laemmle and Universal Studios in the 1930s.

I hope you enjoy these movies!

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Are you scared? Be very scared…

Because today is Face Your Fears Day.

It’s normal to be afraid of some things. But phobias are different. Phobias are strong and irrational fears or aversions. Phobias plague you when you know you shouldn’t be afraid but you just can’t help yourself. Do you have an irrational fear or phobia?

I am not down with the clown.

Personally, I am afraid of clowns.  It is an irrational fear because a clown has never hurt me, yet, even the thought of clowns makes me anxious.

And no, I have not seen IT, nor do I intend to, thank you very much.

My son informed me that there is a name for the williness people have about clowns: Coulrophobia. 

Some people have strong aversions that are not precisely fears but have the same, net effect. For example, I had a friend in high school who did not like the feel of velvet. You could not even say the word “velvet” to him without him shuddering all over. That is how much velvet freaked him out.

How about you? Do you have a phobia? Maybe you have a fear or aversion to…

  • Acrophobia  – fear of heights
  • Claustrophobia – fear of small, enclosed spaces
  • Agoraphobia – fear of public spaces
  • Trypanophobia – fear of needles (like shots)
  • Nyctophobia – fear of the dark
  • Mavrogatphobia- fear of black cats
  • Phasmaphobia – fear of ghosts
  • Wiccaphobia – fear of witches or witchcraft 
  • Samhainophobia – fear of Halloween (for real)
  • Cucurbitophobia – fear of pumpkins (I do not make this stuff up, I swear)
  • Phobophobia – fear of fear!

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who evidently had phobophobia)

Psychologists say people should overcome their phobias through exposure therapy. That is, you expose yourself to that which you fear.

Well, now I have a phobia of psychologists because I think that is a simply rotten idea. No way am I signing up for “more clowns.” Nope. Not doing it. 

Do you have a phobia that is, well, bigger than your bravery? List it in the comments!

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Spooky Word of the Week: Phantasmagoria

If you are a film buff, I think you will take a special interest in this week’s spooky word. Phantasmagoria is a word with a fascinating history. In current usage, phantasmagoria means a sequence of imaginary and often scary images, like those seen in a dream. The word combines phantasm (a figment of the imagination; a ghost) and agoria (an assembly). But do you know what phantasmagoria used to mean?

“Phantasmagoria” shows were a popular and eerie form of entertainment in 19th century Europe; the word came into usage around 1802. These shows may be considered to be the precursor to the modern-day horror movie. The event involved the use of a “magic lantern” to project nightmarish images of devils, demons, ghosts and skeletons on screens or walls in a darkened room. The presenters added sound effects or motion effects to enhance the realism. Some event promoters even encouraged the audience to fast or take drugs to further their suspension of disbelief.

I have been the spectator of a form of phantasmagoria myself. Years ago, I attended a Halloween party at the State Theater in Falls Church. While a band played on stage, cameras projected images of ghosts, vampires and bats whirling around the walls of the darkened theater, as well as clips from old horror movies on projected screens on the stage. The images created an unforgettably spooky ambience for the Halloween party.

I would like to share two videos with you today. The first reproduces a phantasmagoria production as might be seen by a 19th century audience. The second video is a mini-documentary in which historians and preservationists describe the technical innovations of these early horror theatres. I hope you enjoy them!

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Creature Double Feature: Dracula and Dracula’s Daughter

For the Halloween month of October, is making a number of classic Universal horror movies free to watch online. I am showcasing a “double-feature” of films each week. This week, I have selected Dracula (1931) and Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  I thought it would be interesting for you to see them back to back as the second film picks up a little bit where the first one left off.

Starring Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931) is one of the most famous and influential horror movies in history. It was also produced in Spanish (with a different cast) and in a silent version, as not all movie theaters had been wired for sound in 1931. Bela Lugosi had appeared in previous films and on Broadway, including as Dracula, and the role typecast him for horror roles. The movie has been selected by the Library of Congress for being culturally significant. It is a splendid movie and one of my very great favorites.

Dracula is a pre-Code movie but in 1934, the Production Code Administration was established and it censored scripts and films. Dracula’s Daughter went through many iterations before it was finally approved by the PCA, who was particularly concerned about lesbian sexual overtones in the plot (not to mention suggestions of BDSM, which was also cut out).

Starring Gloria Holden, the 1936 movie is not considered to be as fine a movie as Dracula, but Dracula’s Daughter has some particular strengths that make it worth viewing, not the least of which is that a woman appears as the protagonist, which was unusual for horror films of the period. In that, there are some subtle explorations of power between the sexes. It has some almost poetic scenes, such as when she casts a spell or when she debates with her Sandor, her Hungarian drudge. Gloria Holden was a model and she used that grace of movement to appear sophisticated, beautiful and elegant…a sharp contrast to her monstrous appetites. Sandor is an interesting foil ot her character. The sexual rivalry between the two women for the doctor’s attentions is an intriguing plot element, as is the early portrayal of psychiatric treatment. And the lesbian overtones were not completely wiped out by the censors. But what is most fascinating to me about this film is the great conflict she experiences between her vampiric urges and her wish to live a normal life as a human, and how that struggle plays out.

I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I have.

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Happy Haunted House Day!

Yes, today is officially Haunted House Day.  I have some ideas for you…

Make this paper haunted house craft with the kids. The template makes it easy.

Continue reading

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Create an autumn sacred space

Many people have a space in their home where they display pictures, cards, trophies, religious items and other mementos of love, reverence and pride.  Think about how people use mantels and decorate them for the holidays and throughout the year. I don’t have a mantel, so I use my bookcases, but the idea is the same.

This is, effectively, a sacred space; a space of honor. You may not think of it as an altar but it many ways, it is similar. Some people who celebrate the October observance of Samhain construct altars in their homes that are a tribute to the season of fall and the cycle of death and rebirth — decorating them with leaves, flowers, fruit, candles, crystals, bones or symbolic objects. In Mexico, families create home ofrendas to honor their departed loved ones during the Dias de los Muertos. They decorate these elaborate altars with photos of their departed family members, memorabilia, marigold flowers and offerings of food and drink for visiting spirits.

Your home sacred space or altar can be anything you like. It can be small and simple or elaborate. Decorate a mantel, sideboard, table, dresser top or bookcase. Some items you might like to include

  • Photos of loved ones, living and departed
  • Mementos
  • Seasonal decor, such as real or imitation pumpkins or jack o’lanterns
  • Natural items you find on walks: leaves, acorns, dandelions, etc.
  • Tea lights, prayer candles or candles in fall scents or orange and black
  • Seasonal fairy lights or garlands
  • A vase of real, dried or imitation flowers, some mums or marigolds
  • Herbs and plants associated with home, family, protection and prosperity. such as rosemary sprigs, lavender, cedar twigs, cinnamon sticks or star anise, apples or  pomegrantes
  • Crystals in warm, seasonal hues
  • Art work/crafts by you or your children
  • Special or seasonal books
  • Seasonal or Halloween cards you have received
  • Items of religious or cultural significance

Do you have a sacred space in your home? What did you put there?

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