Halloween

October 31 is not only Halloween, but is also a special day for several related holidays. I’ll get to those in a minute. Halloween came to us from Celtic Samhain, which I wrote about last year. You can find the link to that here. (I’m reusing the same quotes, so if you do go there, you won’t need to read them.)

Today, rather than marking the end of harvest, Halloween is a chance to dress up, pig out on candy, and give everyone a chance to see one’s children in costume on Facebook. But Halloween has spawned a multitude of similarly themed holidays on this day. October 31 is also Books for Treats Day, or in another version, All Hallows Read. It is Carve a Pumpkin Day, National Candy Apple Day, National Knock-Knock Jokes Day, National Doorbell Day, National Increase Your Psychic Powers Day, National Magic Day, Scare a Friend Day, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Day, and Sneak Some of the Candy Yourself Before the Kids Start Knocking Day.

So you see, you have a wide variety to choose from!

Halloween isn’t a popular as it was when I was a child, or at least not in the same way. I lived in a subdivision, and we had dozens of houses to go to to ask for treats. My mother used to give out over 200 pieces of candy each year. But for the last few years I had no children at all come to my door. Still, it is nice to see the creative Halloween decorations in stores right now. I hope you have a safe and joyous holiday.

Quotes about Halloween

A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.–Erma Bombeck

Never let your kids buy an off-the-shelf Halloween costume. Forbid it, no matter how close you may be to the witching hour. Instead, help them make their own. Encourage them to use their imaginations and their ingenuity. Show them that what can be created is often better than what can be bought. And besides, don’t the darkest, most frightening things live inside us anyway?–Joe Kita

Hold on, man. We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.–From Scooby-Doo

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author unknown

I don’t know that there are real ghosts and goblins, but there are always more trick-or-treaters than neighborhood kids.–Robert Brault

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”–Dexter Kozen

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~ Scottish saying

Nothing beats a haunted moonlit night on All Hallows Eve… And on this fatal night, at this witching time, the starless sky laments black and unmoving. The somber hues of an ominous, dark forest are suddenly illuminated under the emerging face of the full moon.–Kim Elizabeth

The worst thing about Halloween is, of course, candy corn. It’s unbelievable to me. Candy corn is the only candy in the history of America that’s never been advertised. And there’s a reason. All of the candy corn that was ever made was made in 1911. And so, since nobody eats that stuff, every year there’s a ton of it left over.–Lewis Black

It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin – and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.–Erin Morgenster

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National Hermit Day

For some of us, October 29 comes as a welcome holiday, since we naturally lean towards a more solitary life. For others, this sounds like a difficult thing to do, as they are more socially minded. But whatever your natural bent, today is a day to stand back from the crowd and be on your own.

St. Colman of Ireland lived as a hermit in in the Burren Forest in a cave for seven years. He died on October 29, and it is believed that today’s holiday is in honor of him. People who want to get away from the pressures of the world and live by themselves, may be found in all over the world. For many, this is a spiritual practice, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the third century CE onwards. The Irish are also noted for this practice. There are no deserts in Ireland, so the Irish hermits tended to find remote, rocky places to build a small hut away from others.

These hermits attracted others, both because of their lifestyle and piety. They sometimes formed small communities, or monasteries. In Ireland these would be presided over by a male or female abbot, and were sometimes had both male and female members.

Today, for most of us, this doesn’t appeal as a permanent lifestyle. Yet, though humans are social animals, we also need a certain amount of alone time to gather our thoughts and to unwind from the demands of life. Today is the day to do that without feeling guilty. Detach from social media. Turn off your phone and television. Shut the door and read a book, or write your thoughts or simply meditate. Take whatever time feels right for you, whether that’s a snatched fifteen minutes, or an entire day. Feel what it’s like to be quiet and alone, at least for a little while.

Quotes about solitude.

All humans are frightened of their own solitude. But only in solitude can we learn to know ourselves, learn to handle our own eternal aloneness.–Han Suyin

Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.–Alice Koller

Do not rely completely on any other human being, however dear. We meet all life’s greatest tests alone.–Agnes Macphail

Each of us is alone in the world. It takes great courage to meet the full force of your aloneness. … When you face your aloneness, something begins to happen. Gradually, the sense of bleakness changes into a sense of true belonging. This is a slow and open-ended transition but it is utterly vital in order to come into rhythm with your own individuality. –John O’Donohue

I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church. It’s the light of grace for me. I never close my door behind me without the awareness that I am carrying out an act of mercy toward myself.–Peter Hoeg

I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.–Audrey Hepburn

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.–Henry David Thoreau

Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up.–Pearl S. Buck

It is in solitude that the works of hand, heart and mind are always conceived, and in solitude that individuality must be affirmed.–Robert Lindner

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.–Aldous Huxley

Solitude can be frightening because it invites us to meet a stranger we think we may not want to know–ourselves.–Melvyn Kinder

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Potato Day

According to one Web site I found, today is National Potato Day. I’m not totally convinced that it is accurate, but since I am currently in Ireland, how could I pass up a day to celebrate potatoes? French fries, that is, chips, are particularly popular here. You can get chips with anything, including Chinese take away.

Potatoes have been important to Irish life for a long time. Back in the middle eighteenth century, most poor people depended on them almost exclusively, so when a potato blight hit in 1845 and again in the next several years, it caused massive disruption. From a population of eight million, historians tell us that a million people died, and another million emigrated.

The potato was first cultivated inn Peru, some seven to ten thousand years ago. Spanish conquistadors brought the vegetable to Europe in the 1500s. Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Ireland in 1589 on the 40,000 acres of land near Cork. It took nearly four decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe.

There are something like four thousand varieties of potatoes, divided into a few main groups, such as russets, reds, whites, yellows (also called Yukons) and purples—based on common characteristics. For cooking, varieties are differentiated by their characteristics. Floury, or mealy (baking) potatoes have more starch (20–22%) than waxy (boiling) potatoes (16–18%).

In recent years, scientists have genetically engineered potatoes to protect them from the blight I mentioned above, and various insects, such as the Colorado potato beetle, which can also infest them.

So whether you prefer them mashed, boiled, or fried, potatoes are a perfect comfort food. And they are so versatile, being eaten for breakfast as hash browns, or for lunch or supper in stews, or soups, or formed into potato pancakes, we celebrate the potato today.

Quotes about potatoes

My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with.–Oprah Winfrey

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

They who derive their worth from their ancestors resemble potatoes, the most valuable part of which is underground.–Francis Bacon

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.–Alan Watts

What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.–A. A. Milne

Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.–Diane Duane

I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine, except for that, I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.–Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Both sides of my family had come from Ireland in the 19th century for the same reason: There was nothing to eat over there. Since then, I’ve tried to make up for the potato famine by making the potato the only vegetable that passes these lips.–Art Donovan

For me, a plain baked potato is the most delicious one….It is soothing and enough.–M. F. K. Fisher

If shoppers looked at crooked carrots, misshapen potatoes, slightly dinged apples or too-small peaches and thought, wow, that looks delicious, imagine the benefits for struggling farmers.–Dana Cowin

In life, one is entitled to a side dish of either coleslaw or potato salad, and the choice must be made in terror, with the knowledge that not only is our time on earth limited but most kitchens close at ten.–Woody Allen

My childhood favourite is mum’s shepherd’s pie, Yorkshire pudding and roasted potatoes. I remember coming home from school and going to the kitchen to help her. It’s because of her that I discovered my love for cooking.–Gordon Ramsay

Judging foods without regard to price is a rich mans game, and yet poor people can be gourmets able to discern a good potato from a bad one.–Mark Kurlansky

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International Artists Day

Since 2004, we have celebrated October 25 as International Artists Day. This holiday was founded by Chris MacClure, a Canadian artist who specializes in the style known as “Romantic Realism.” Art scholar John Baur described this art type as “a form of realism modified to express a romantic attitude or meaning.” If that still leaves you confused, you are not alone! Looking at the paintings done by Chris MacClure, it seems to me his art conveys the optimistic side of life, and the beauty of nature, but I am no expert.

At any rate, this day was created to honor all the contributions artists have given society, and to raise awareness of art and artists. Art has been an important part of the human experience for time out of mind. The first records of the world are not written in books, but are captured in paintings, sculptures, and music, which helps to paint a picture of world lost to the past. But it is not only a day to remember the artistic endeavors of the past, but also to celebrate living artists.

By the way, this day is not just to honor painters. Artists work with many different mediums. They include painters, photographers, sculptors, musicians, dancers, writers, actors, digital artists and more. I would also include those who do what might be called practical art, such as working in fiber or clay or wood, to make those things we use every day.

The very best way to celebrate this day is to support a local artist. But if that is not possible, then attend a concert or go to an art gallery or to a museum to see arts of the past. At the very least stop to appreciate those who make the world a more beautiful place.

Quotes about art

The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance.—Aristotle

All great art … creates in the beholder not self-satisfaction but wonder and awe. Its great liberation is to lift us out of ourselves.–Dorothy Thompson

Any form of art is a form of power, it has impact, it can affect change–it can not only move us, it makes us move.–Ossie Davis

Art affirms all that is best in man — hope, faith, love, beauty, prayer…What he dreams of and what he hopes for. What is art? Like a declaration of love: the consciousness of our dependence on each other. A confession. An unconscious act that none the less reflects the true meaning of life—love and sacrifice.–Andrei Tarkovsk

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.–Pablo Picasso

[The artist] speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation–and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear…which binds together all humanity–the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.–Joseph Conrad

The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.–G. K. Chesterton

The finest works of art are precious, among other reasons, because they make it possible for us to know, if only imperfectly and for a little while, what it actually feels like to think subtly and feel nobly.–Aldous Huxley

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.–Anais Nin

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Mole Day

It has been a while since I have done a chemistry themed blog, but today, October 23 is the day to do one. Although you might think of the small furry creatures when someone mentions a mole, today’s mole is a unit of measurement in chemistry. This seems a little technical, but I’ll try to make it understandable. If chemistry or math makes your eyes cross, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

A water molecule is made up of 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom. If you look at a periodical table, you see that hydrogen is the first element and oxygen the sixteenth. These numbers are related to the mass of the atom. A water molecule has a mass of 16 plus 2 (1 for each of the hydrogen atoms), which equals 18, so one mole of water weighs 18 grams. But now comes the reason for October 23 being Mole Day.

To figure out how many atoms make up one mole of anything, you multiply the mass by something called Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x 1023), which is 6.02 times 10 with 23 zeros after it. Therefore, mole day is celebrated from 6:02 am to 6:02 pm on 10/23, or October 23 written in American date notation.

The National Mole Day Foundation created this holiday in 1991 to foster interest in chemistry. When I was writing this blog, their Web site had been down for about a month, but you can find them on Facebook, where they have information about the day, and mole-themed merchandise to buy.

Mole Day typically falls during National Chemistry Week—an annual event that unites American Chemical Society Local Sections, businesses, schools, and individuals in communicating the importance of chemistry in everyday life.

And to end, here is a terrible mole pun:
What did one mole say to the other?… We make great chemistry together.

Quotes about chemistry

Engineering, too, owes its most useful materials to the achievements of chemists in identifying, separating, and transforming materials: structural steel for the framework of bridges and buildings, Portland cement for roadways and aqueducts, pure copper for the electrical industries, aluminum alloys for automobiles and airplanes, porcelain for spark plugs and electrical insulators. The triumphs of engineering skill rest on a chemical foundation.–Horace G. Deming

Chemistry itself knows altogether too well that – given the real fear that the scarcity of global resources and energy might threaten the unity of mankind – chemistry is in a position to make a contribution towards securing a true peace on earth.–Kenichi Fukui

Few scientists acquainted with the chemistry of biological systems at the molecular level can avoid being inspired.–Donald Cram

I try to show the public that chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics is life. It is not some separate subject that you have to be pulled into a corner to be taught about.–Neil deGrasse Tyson

I can’t explain chemistry. I really can’t. I haven’t got a clue what it’s all about. It just happens. It’s like falling in love. You can’t explain why you fall in love or explain why it’s this particular person.–Elaine Stritch

Now in the 21st century, the boundaries separating chemistry, physics, and medicine have become blurred, and as happened during the Renaissance, scientists are following their curiosities even when they run beyond the formal limits of their training.–Peter Agre

My eyes are constantly wide open to the extraordinary fact of existence. Not just human existence, but the existence of life and how this breathtakingly powerful process, which is natural selection, has managed to take the very simple facts of physics and chemistry and build them up to redwood trees and humans.–Richard Dawkins

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

Although October 21 is merely Pumpkin Cheesecake Day, I want to broaden that out, and acknowledge what seems to have become the pumpkin spice season.

Since it is its official day, I’ll start with pumpkin cheesecake. I have had this and it is quite good. For an easy recipe, go to the Philadelphia Cream Cheese page, and make one of your own.

But cheesecake is only one of multitudes of pumpkin spice items that appear in the autumn. One of the first to look for is the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. Their web page says, “Our signature espresso and milk are highlighted by flavor notes of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove to create this incredible beverage that’s a fall favorite. Enjoy it topped with whipped cream and real pumpkin pie spices.”

From one of the original pumpkin spice foods, we go to one of the newest – pumpkin spice pizza, which the Delish site (among others) announced, adding, “Lord help us.”

You can also make your own pumpkin pie spice. Betty Crocker has the recipe at their site. [

Here’s a rundown of only some of the other foods you can buy.

  • Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Caramel Squares
  • Birch Benders Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix
  • Terra’s Pumpkin Spice Potato Chips (Crisps)
  • Einstein Pumpkin Bagels
  • Nutrigrain Pumpkin Spice Bars
  • Pumpkin Spice Special K
  • Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spicemallows
  • Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
  • Dunkin Donuts’ Pumpkin Spice Macchiato
  • Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos
  • Godiva Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Truffles
  • Pumpkin Spice Cheerios
  • Wolfermans’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins
  • Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini Wheats
  • Pumpkin Spice Peeps
  • The Popcorn Factory’s Pumpkin Spice Popcorn
  • Pepperidge Farm’s Pumpkin Swirl Bread

As you can see, you need to get started if you are going to try even some of these!

Quotes about pumpkin spice season (that is, autumn)

All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.–Thomas Wolfe

Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.–Carol Bishop Hipps

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.–L. M. Montgomery

October is a symphony of permanence and change.–Borono W. Overstreet

October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.–Hal Borland

October is the month for painted leaves…. As fruits and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting. October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.–Henry David Thoreau

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.–Nathaniel Hawthorne

Autumn begins to decorate the ground
with its fragile bits of loosened gold.–Teresita Fernandez

Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.–Faith Baldwin

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.–Albert Camus

Autumn … makes a double demand. It asks that we prepare for the future–that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go–to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness.–Bonaro W. Overstreet

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.–George Eliot

Let Autumn be our teacher; Everything must sleep and die, To rise and live again.–John E. Vance

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Travel

Since I am posting this while I’m on an eleven-day tour of Ireland, October 19 seemed an appropriate day to talk about travel. I love to travel and see new places. But it turns out that travel is also good for you. Though I am not a huge Deepak Chopra fan, I do like what his website has to say about the benefits of travel.

  • Travel promotes heart health. When you travel, you are likely to move more than you do at home, especially if you are retired, or have a desk job. People who travel regularly tend to be healthier.
  • Travel keeps the mind sharp. When you travel, you meet new situations, new cultures, and new people. It is good for your brain to have to engage with different experiences.
  • Travel enhances creativity. Engaging with a new culture opens different pathways in the brain, especially if you are immersed in the culture and the new experiences. For a writer like myself, this is especially helpful.
  • Travel relieves stress and boosts mental health. Getting away from everyday stresses can be very healthy. In addition, just the pleasure you get from planning the trip can improve your outlook on life, because you have something to look forward to.
  • Travel shifts perspective. Getting outside your comfort zone is ultimately a positive experience. It is also educational to see how other people view life, and perhaps even how they view your country.
  • Travel increases connection to others and self. Travel gives you a chance to meet new people, particularly if you are on a tour of any length. It can also give you a chance to better get to know the person you are traveling with.

So there you go – if you need an excuse to travel, you now have it! (I highly recommend Ireland.)

Quotes about travel

Any successful journey begins by packing your luggage full of imagination.–Kathrine Palmer Peterson

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate lovingly, our own.–Margaret Mead

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.–Miriam Beard

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.–Robert Louis Stevenson

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.–Lao Tzu

I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.–Jack Kerouac

The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.–Agnes Repplier

The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.–Shirley MacLaine

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.–Maya Angelou

To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.–Charles Horton Cooley

To travel is to take a journey into yourself.–Danny Kaye

Traveling provides occasions for shaking oneself up but not, as people believe, freedom. Indeed it involves a kind of reduction: deprived of one’s usual setting, the customary routine stripped away like to much wrapping paper, the traveler finds himself reduced to more modest proportion – but also more open to curiosity, to intuition, to love at first sight.–Nicolas Bouvier

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.–Saint Augustine

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